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How better parking policies will help Auckland become the world’s most liveable city

I’m proud of Auckland in particular and New Zealand in general. The city has come a long way in a short time, even if much work remains to be done to become the “world’s most liveable city.” One area where Auckland is doing relatively well, but might potentially do even better, is parking policy.

Here are some local examples of what I would consider to be “good” parking initiatives:

  • In the late 1990s, Auckland City Council removed minimum parking requirements (MPRs) from the city centre (discussed in Chapter 2 of this report). By lowering the costs of development in the city centre this policy change is likely to have contributed to increased residential and employment growth, as well as the trend towards lower vehicle ownership.
  • In 2009, Papakura District Council consulted on charging for park and ride at the Papakura train station. This was in response to the excessive demand for P&R, which was an understandable response to improved rail services. Part of the P&R revenue was reinvested into finding lighting and security improvements for the P&R.
  • In 2012, Auckland Transport announced new initiatives for managing parking in the city centre. These initiatives identified demand-responsive prices are the primary management tool. Time-limits for on-street parking have been progressively removed, and people can now park for as long as they want – provided they are prepared to pay for the privilege.
  • In 2013, Auckland Transport opened the McCrae Way car-park in New Lynn. This car-park is intended to support consolidation of parking in New Lynn and also provide P&R access to the adjacent PT interchange. This P&R, however, is not free, with daily prices of $4 being charged. Anecdotally it seems that people are using the facility for P&R.

These initiatives have collectively demonstrated:

  1. Removing minimum parking requirements does not cause the sky to fall on our heads;
  2. On-street parking can be effectively managed with prices, rather than time-limits; and
  3. Charging for P&R generate revenue to improve/expand parking facilities.

They also support abandoning the “predict and provide” approach to parking that has characterised the last 50 years. This approach has sought to shield drivers from paying for parking and, in the process, resulted in highly inefficient transport and land use outcomes (NB: If you’re interested in knowing more about these outcomes then I recommend starting with this presentation by Donald Shoup). For this reason, Auckland – and indeed many other cities around the world – are increasingly choosing to charge drivers for the parking they use, just as they pay for the cars they drive and the roads they drive on.

Over time we can expect Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to implement policies that “unbundle” parking costs from the wider economy, with drivers, households, and businesses paying directly for the parking they use. Ultimately, these explicit price signals can be expected to stimulate a market for parking resources, in which people who have parking make it available for those people who need it. A nascent market for parking already exists in Auckland; my quick look at TradeMe found 20 car-park listings.

Trademe parking search

Earlier this year, Auckland Council’s draft Unitary Plan (dUP) took the first (tentative) steps towards better parking policies, by proposing to remove MPRs from some parts of the city. Under the dUP, the proportion of Aucklanders living in areas *not* covered by MPRs would increase from 0.2% (i.e. just the city centre) to approximately 12% (c.f. page 9 of this report).

More recently Auckland Transport have come to the parking party with their “draft Parking Discussion Document”. In general terms, the PDD seeks to generate discussion on how Auckland Transport might manage parking more consistently and effectively. The PDD (rightly) acknowledges prices are the most effective tool for managing on and off street parking, including P&R.

The PDD is, in my opinion, a small step for Auckland Transport but a giant leap for Aucklanders. It wipes away a rag-tag collection of parking management policies that had been pursued by the previous Councils. It recognises parking, whether it is on-street, off-street, or park and ride, is a valuable resource that should be priced so as to ensure it is used most efficiently.

However, I believe there is one key weakness in the PDD as it currently stands: It falls into the trap of seeing (heavily subsidised) residential parking permit schemes as an enduring policy. For reasons I discuss here and here, I don’t believe this is the case. But does this mean there is no role for residential parking permits to play in the new parking paradigm?

Not quite. Instead, my suggestion is that residential parking permit schemes are a useful *transitional policy*. They can help us shift from where we are now, i.e. social expectation that parking will in general be free, to the situation where we want to be, i.e. widespread acceptance that parking will, in situations of consistently high demand, be priced.

The key policy change to the PDD is this: Auckland Transport only offers residential parking permits to those residents who live in the area at the time it transitions from free to pay parking. These are the people who are potentially the most negatively affected by the change, as they made their decision to live their prior to the implementation of pay parking.

Over time the number of (heavily discounted) residential parking permits will decline as people move out of the area. New people moving into the affected area do so in full awareness that on-street parking is priced and can adjust their locational decisions accordingly, i.e. choose to live somewhere that has sufficient off-street parking for their needs.

Voila. Problem solved.

As it stands, Auckland Transport proposes making residential parking permit schemes a permanent feature of Auckland’s parking landscape. This would, I believe, be a grave and unnecessary mistake. If you agree with me, then I’d encourage you to not only comment on this post, but also submit your feedback to AT here.

Of course feel free to comment on other aspects of the Parking Discussion Document; I’m sure AT appreciate all the informed and considered feedback they can get.

18 comments to How better parking policies will help Auckland become the world’s most liveable city

  • Fred

    I agree transitional is a good idea.

    One risk of shifting away from the current approach too quickly is that we could see a proliferation of ugly new garages in front of heritage houses. Also the kerb cuts to provide off street may reduce on street so much you get an inefficient outcome of a similar number of parking spaces altogether but now many more off street and therefore unavailable to all but the property occupier.

  • John Polkinghorne

    On a similar note, I’m very pleased to see that Waterfront Auckland is requiring that car parks be sold “unbundled” from apartments in Wynyard Quarter (see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11274583).

  • Chris O

    The current St Mary’s Bay parking zone has free parking, with 2 hour limit that residents can exempt themselves from via permit. The “hide and ride” demand probably indicates there is a case for making on-street parking in St Mary’s Bay and Freeman’s Bay paid. I’m fine with Stu’s suggestion for “transitional” residential parking permits for current residents. Instead of ruling them out entirely entire for new residents to the area – how about giving them the option of purchasing market-priced permits? In other words, people who want the inner suburb home *and* somewhere to park their car if the home lacks off-street parking can pay for the privilege.

    • Stu Donovan

      yes, I should have mentioned I fully support market priced permits. But these would not be restricted to residents; indeed anyone from anywhere should be able to buy them. Of course they’re likely to be of most use to residents …

      • Greg N

        How about selling two kinds of permits – One for 7pm to 7am (or 6pm to 8am whichever suits AT parking enforcement) i.e. “overnight” and a separate “day” parking permit for 8am to 6pm.

        Each would half the price of the current “full” (24 hour) permit, but would potentially allow twice the parking space utilisation and would also clearly allow AT to capture for what purpose each permit is being used for.
        i.e. Day permits are probably park n hides, Night permits for residents who work elsewhere.

        A resident who wants all day parking can buy both types for a full 24 hours coverage.
        Commuters (i.e. non-residents) can only buy the day parking.

        That way you ensure that residents get overnight parking – their main requirement and commuters can utilise the parks in the day – their main requirement.

        All of this is of course transitional.

        • Stu Donovan

          completely agree that’s a good idea – and the price of overnight permits would be significantly lower than day-time permits.

          Could be a permanent product if it proved popular …

          • …except it would punish those who work flexible hours in order to beat traffic. We need it to be easier to move around the city off-peak, not entrenching a 9-5 system that contributes heavily to rush hour.

          • Stu Donovan

            I don’t follow you.

            All I’m suggesting is that price of parking permits is based loosely on demand, if parking demand is lower overnight then price for overnight parking permits should also be lower.

  • mfwic

    The MRC report you link to has a section on the economic impact of parking maximums. Is there a reference for the micro section or have you assumed the cost of maximums to be a straight line and did you assume cost was lower than the benefit for some values or is it based on an economic model?

    • Stu Donovan

      the report calculates benefits of maximums (reduced congestion) but not their costs, as the latter were considered too difficult.

      • mfwic

        Thanks. I totally understand. You can do it in theory with a cost function but putting numbers to it is problematic. Just thought you might have cracked it.

        • Stu Donovan

          yes, the other issue with estimating economic impacts of maximums is the agent that is affected, i.e. developers and/or households. In theory you would have two economic impacts: 1) lost value of development (from not being able to provide optimal parking supply, which are borne by developers and 2) increased costs of parking, which are borne by households.

          The report’s primary recommendation was to focus on removing minimums, rather than imposing maximums, as the former has clear and demonstrable benefits.

  • mfwic

    The part that always gets left out of policy debates is the game theory aspects or reaction by participants. If people can’t build what they desire in the place they prefer but they can somewhere they prefer less then what will they chose to do? The 1981 Auckland Plan put maximums parking for offices in the CBD and very few got built until people figured out how to get dispensations then we got the late 80’s boom. After that the maximums became a driver for offices in places like William Pickering Drive and Apollo Drive, Manukau City and everywhere else. If we now apply maximums to metropolitan centres and town centres then the risk is offices will pop up outside of centres where public transport just isnt the same. Parking maximums are only going to be effective if we can be sure the planning system can stop out of zone development otherwise a maximum rule will just lead to an even more car based future.

    • Stu Donovan

      yes I agree these are important. Basically, agents will respond to the incentives created by parking maximums – in which case they will be pushed towards areas where maximums do not apply, which in turn will tend to be areas that are more car dependent. Hence 1) the supply/demand for land use development is not static with/without maximums and 2) the supply/demand response will seek to minimise the effects of the regulation, and by extension its potential benefits will be reduced.

      • Yes, brave or risky to put in maximums in the absence of any developed alternatives to driving. While there is a lot further to go at least there is a real improvement in PT options growing all over the city to support those maximums. It is also worth pointing out that PT has a different image now than in the 80s. It is considered to be much less déclassé than 30 years ago.

        Which is to say that by the time the UP comes into force the context for that modest range of maximums will be considerably different.

        Especially as the Middle East is showing signs of continued disruption.

  • mfwic

    The issue I disagreed on in your earlier posts was the value of residents parking schemes. But in this post you state a position closer to my view. I agree they make sense as a halfway house to full charging. In effect fully paid parking is the best policy as it leads to an efficient use of the resource. The problem is it might be years before people are ready to accept that everywhere leaving us needing a 2nd best policy approach. The benefit of residents parking schemes is they reserve parking for what are probably higher value users. ie most residents (without offstreet parking) would probably be prepared to pay more for the space outside their house than a random commuter would if they could. For example loading yours kids into the car to go to daycare or the doctor or unloading your shopping has a higher level of utility than a commuter who can substitute to PT or walk one more street. So at least if you cant have fully paid parking you can at least allocate spaces to people who will get higher utility from them. (how much they pay is not the point, the value they get is the issue).

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