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:
- Removing minimum parking requirements does not cause the sky to fall on our heads;
- On-street parking can be effectively managed with prices, rather than time-limits; and
- 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.
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.