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Guest Post: Airport parking idiocy in Wellington

This is a guest post from reader Andy C

According to media reports, there has been ‘an outbreak of tyre slashing’ in the residential roads around Wellington airport recently. And the cause – people parking legally (yes, within the law) on residential streets.

Like most Wellingtonians (I suspect) I’m keen to see this issue resolved, but I the potential solutions I outline below may not go down too well with some of my fellow local residents as they are a change from the current situation.

But let’s back up a bit and examine what the problem actually is.

For many years, astute Wellingtonians (and some out of towners) have been known to park on the streets around Wellington airport to avoid paying airport parking fees. It seems that in the past three to four years, with passenger numbers increasing markedly, that many more people have started to do this. And in some cases, it is alleged that cars are being abandoned by international travellers when they leave the country. And it is this that has got locals upset.

The main flashpoint has been around Kauri St, marked in red in the image. From there, it is about a 500m walk to the main airport terminal, marked with the red star. And with parking rates at the airport starting at around $33 a day for casual parking, you can see why people are avoiding paying. It is a rational decision and I have been known to leave my car on the local streets for a day or two when I’ve had to fly out of town.

Unfortunately, locals are so upset that all ‘their’ parking is being used by others that they have resorted to putting up barriers on the grass verges (one of which was ruled to have caused the death of a cyclist way back in 2013). And someone has clearly decided to slash tyres, with police confirming they have received ten reports of damage between Nov 26 and Dec 5.

Meanwhile, it feels like Wellington City Council have been sitting on their hands about the whole issue, and in their most recent statement say they will undertake community consultation sometime in January. To me that is an appalling lack of decision making by a Council, given that this issue has been running for some years now.

I have to say, in some ways I am sympathetic to the locals, who are dealing with alleged issues of cars being allegedly abandoned on their streets or blocking their driveways. But at the same time, streets are public spaces and do not belong to any one person. And a quick look at google streetview shows me that the majority of houses along Kauri St (and other local streets) have off-street parking, as you can see in the image below (which is a rarity in most of the rest of Wellington I can personally attest).

So here are my thoughts on some simple ways to reduce the heat in this battle.

Residents parking zone

If residents really are struggling to find a park, then the simplest thing the Council could do is introduce some designated residents parking areas. For years I lived in Mt Victoria in Wellington and paid a yearly fee for a residents permit. Yes it is over $100 a year, but if properly policed, it can work effectively. Yes it would mean that some locals might not be able to park directly outside their houses, but it sets aside space for them if they need it.

3-hour limit on parking

Another option would be to introduce time-limited parking in the area. Perhaps a 3-hour maximum during week days between 9am and 5pm. Again, if properly policed this could work, and it also means locals should not be able to claim that ‘people who come to visit us can never find a park’ as they do at the moment. And best of all, there would be no cost to locals for this (and potentially even some revenue for the Council from issuing parking infringement notices).

Making use of the old school playground

Finally, some people have suggested the large piece of empty land on the left Kauri St in the image above (which used to be a school) could be converted into an open air car park with at a simple daily rate. I understand the land is Crown owned and has been land banked ahead of a possible treaty settlement, so is currently not used. However this would only be a short to medium term solution I suspect and doesn’t introduce any penalty for parking on the street.

Other less effective options

One option raised earlier this year was to offer residents specific parks in the new car parking building being built on airport land. But the reality would be that few would even use it, because it would mean a longer walk home than simply parking in their own driveways.

Another option might be to offer some cheaper parking options at the airport itself to reduce the incentive to park for free, but given the Council owns a reasonable shareholding in the airport, it seems unlikely that they would want to risk cutting down the revenue they receive from that.

My choice

Personally I am all for either a residents parking scheme, a time limit on parks in the area, or a combination of the two. And as a local, the last thing I want to see are any more people being injured or killed because the Council is sitting on its hands leaving locals to do what they like.

So come on WCC, stop wringing your hands, and actually make some decisions.

78 comments to Guest Post: Airport parking idiocy in Wellington

  • Ricardo

    Similar issue in our street in Auckland from abandoned car. Council in total stupidity kept ticketing said car until there were a dozen or more tickets for lack of WOF and rego. In the end we got the car towed. Councils are hopeless! Like your idea of 3 hour parking, could even make it 6, as the problem is cars there for overnight or days. Trouble is you really want them towed, not some twit coming each day to add tickets to the windscreen wipers.

  • An interesting development. However, there is no right to park in public even next to your house and we should not create one. More, it is good to limit the convenience of car parking; I therefore strongly support the status quo.

    If cars are abandoned, OK they should be towed. It is worth considering though that an abandoned car is actually _less_ dangerous to the public than cars that are being driven around and liable to open their blank blank doors in your face.

  • Ran Derson

    It makes sense for the council to intervene here. I like AT’s parking metric, i.e. there should be parks available at any given time.

    For instance, Carlton Gore Road has $1 per hour parking and consequently there are rarely any free parks during the day (office workers). The price needs adjustment!

    • Bevan

      You can let AT know if you think that’s the case and they’ll re-survey the road to check it’s meeting the 85% parking capacity mark and not being left at full capacity with no spare parks during the day.

  • Cargill_Street

    The solution already exists in WCC’s arsenal; coupon parking like the coupon parking areas in Kelburn and surrounds. It’s free for anyone for the first two hours, but for any longer stays, you buy a coupon from the Council and display on the dashboard.

    • Andy C

      Fair comment Cargill_Street – I should have also mentioned coupon parking which can also work well. And as others note – the status quo involves someone (or some people) taking the law into their own hands. So some intervention is necessary here. Happy to hear other options for what that intervention could be.

  • Alex F

    If I were a resident, I would take the option of residents permits + a 3 hour time limit for non-residents and visitors, which I assume would be fully optional to purchase and since many properties have off street parking, it would be redundant to most residents living on this street.

    • curiouskiwicat

      ^this. Avoids the expense of installing parking meters, and also takes away the sense residents have of an entitlement to parking if they have to pay for a year permit to park there. And why a special zone for residents’ parking? You could make the whole area 3 hour time limited, registered and paid-up residents with parking permits excepted.

  • Warren S

    I have just spent the week- end in Wellington. Was somewhat dismayed to see what I believe is a whopping new car-park building being constructed at the Airport.
    Why dismayed? Because it will be a further motor vehicle traffic inducing incentive mechanism. I generally find the Airport Bus works well for me but
    Wellington really needs to come to grips with the construction of an efficient light rail system from the Railway Station to the Airport via Wellington Hospital.
    BUT certainly not any Basin Reserve car flyovers!

  • Dave B (Wellington)

    Please PLEASE GWRC, WCC, NZTA, National Party, Labour Party, NZ First, Peter Dunne, Gareth Morgan, Donald Trump, and anyone else who purports to have a brain, prioritise the extension of Wellington’s regional rail system to the eastern suburbs and airport.

    This is the single most effective thing that could be done for the region at this juncture and it would help solve a whole raft of current problems, regional and local, including the one being discussed here.

    It should have been done decades ago (as should airport rail in Auckland).

    • Matthew W

      Wasnt the BCR calculated to be 1 in 20? How can that be the right solution? If the issue is parking the answer is price.

      • Dave B (Wellington)

        No study (hence no BCR) has been done on extending the “heavy” rail system to the airport, therefore your suggested BCR of 1:20 must refer to something else. The closest there has been to such a study are the De Leuw Cather studies of 1963 and 1966. These only looked at extending as far as Te Aro, but clearly recognised the crucial importance of doing something along these lines. Unfortunately the 1970’s brought the unhelpful political attitudes that turned right away from such projects, including “Robbie’s Rail” in Auckland. In the ensuing 40 years, transport funding for major network-expansion has only gone into roading. Auckland’s CRL represents the first (grudging!) departure from this since the construction of the Hutt Valley suburban line in the 1950’s.

        If your figure of 1:20 refers to output from the recent “Public Transport Spine Study”, you should bear in mind the following:
        – This study had the clear agenda of discrediting anything to do with rail.
        – The heavy rail options purportedly considered were utterly meaningless from a perspective of efficacy (an isolated shuttle along the waterfront basically!)
        – Similarly the light rail options supposedly considered were deliberately loaded with unnecessary costs and hamstrung in terms of benefits.

        No-one, but no-one has done any study to compare the effectiveness of the current $2.4bn Levin-to-Airport motorway-spend, with what could have been achieved by focussing those resources on the regional rail system instead. A nonsensical parliamentary decree has determined that only road schemes can be fully-funded by government, thus in practice public transport is rarely more than a tack-on afterthought.

        • I just can’t see rail to the airport in Wellington being cost effective at any point soon the city just isn’t big enough, especially when it is currently possible to get a bus from the airport to Courtenay Place in 15 minutes. The biggest problem I see in Wellington is the excruciating amount of time it takes a bus to get along the Golden Mile. Some sort of BRT along Customhouse Quay and Kent terrace seems like the ideal solution.

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            1. If the city (read: Region) isn’t big enough for a rail extension, how come it is magically big enough for a $2.4bn motorway (or whatever it ultimately ends up costing).

            2. The current “Airport Flyer” bus is timetabled at 40min from the Station to the airport for many (not all) a.m. peak journeys. This is a crawler, not a flyer. Timetabled-time from Courtenay Place to the airport for these same services is 29-30min. Still hopeless. The best timing from Courtenay Pl-airport is 20min. I don’t know where you get your 15min from.

            Wellington needs a new, dedicated rapid transit route through the CBD and that might as well be heavy rail. Current suggestions to put either BRT or LRT down the “Slowdown Mile” do not constitute Rapid Transit in any shape or form.

          • Sorry, poor use of the work ‘currently’ as it’s been a couple of years since I last caught the Airport flyer. Have they changed the route recently as I used to time it as about 15 mins to Courtenay Place? Also I don’t support expensive RONS but I also don’t support just transferring this money to another dubious project.

          • Last time i took the the airport flyer the line of people waiting to get on the bus was so long, a whole 2 busses were filled before I was able to get on the third one. It was nearly 2 hours for me to get to the railway station, + another 2 hour train ride to the wairarapa. Basically a whole nother day of travel just to get to the airport. I will admit that I am guilty of using this street to park my car on, but only when dropping off/picking up people. I parked my car there for a couple of hours, because the same amount of time would have been ridiculous in charges at the airport. I refuse to pay that much for such a small time. 10/15 minutes free is not enough. especially when an arriving flight is delayed.

        • Nick R

          Dave, two comments:
          1) You’d be very lucky to get from Wellington Station to the airport with heavy rail for anything like $2.4b.
          2) Wasting money on motorways isn’t a good reason to waste money elsewhere too.

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            I agree, $2.4b may well not achieve Station-Airport, but until some serious feasibility-work is done, including whatever ‘smarts’ can be come up with, then we will never know.

            On the other hand, the $2.4b Levin-Airport motorway is widely acknowledged to be merely the start of a long and expensive process to cram more traffic into the region. Spawning from this we already have the Petone-Grenada Link, the Hutt Valley East-West link, and these don’t even start to address the effects on Wellington City itself. Expect the “roading solution” cost to climb and climb.

            Major spending to free-up Wellington seems inescapable, but the present plan is utterly self-defeating.

          • Guy M

            $2.4 billion ?!? How do you figure that out? The PWC report last year said something like $600 million – so you appear to be out by a factor of 4 ?

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            Guy, I am talking about an extension of the existing rail system to the Eastern Suburbs and airport, i.e. heavy rail. Doing the job properly, in my view, so that the hugely-effective system we already have can do what it should do and that is include this major “missing” part of the city and region in the network. I do not accept that a light rail system that perpetuates an “all-change” requirement at the main station is doing the job properly. Equally, I do not accept that a tram sharing the streets with pedestrians and other traffic is appropriate as a continuation to an arterial main-line railway that currently delivers about 9,000pph at peak times (and that is NOW, in the absence of any such continuation!). A proper extension of the rail system was recognized as necessary in the 1960’s and the need is even greater now.

    • Andy C

      Thanks Dave. While I would love to see some sort of rail to the airport, even if politicians agreed, it would be 5-10 years away. In the meantime, hows about better bus lanes for most of the journey?

      And to be honest, having been caught in the traffic heading to Auckland airport on Thursday last week, I’d be keen to see a transit solution there before Wellington as the need is greater.

      • Dave B (Wellington)

        Agreed, a quick-and-easy solution to this particular problem is needed in the short-term.
        I just wanted to draw attention to the reality that a failure of transport-authorities to exploit the rail mode over many decades has set the scene for this problem to occur, in addition of course to a whole range of much-more fundamental problems.

        And yes, Auckland’s need is more urgent. However a huge amount is already being spent in Wellington, on a motorway which even NZTA acknowledges will make traffic worse!

  • The Real Matthew

    The six contributors above me seem to have missed the rather obvious problem that the airport is price gouging by charging a ridiculous $33 per day for parking.

    If they made it a more reasonable rate passengers would park at the airport rather than 500 metres away.

    The model to follow is that of Auckland Airport which has private parking operators in competition with the airport.

    • $33 per day seems indeed a bit excessive. But if their parking lot is full at that price point, neither them, nor any residents nearby will gain anything from the airport lowering the price.

      Otherwise they should lower the price, or we get the same stupid situation as you get in Auckland during weekends — full of parking buildings which are very expensive to park in and almost completely empty. And meanwhile a major PITA on the streets with lots of car drivers trying to find on-street parking.

    • John Polkinghorne

      The airport is entitled to charge whatever it likes for its parking. Presumably it does so with the aim of maximising profit.
      There’s not as much ‘competition’ at Auckland Airport as you might think – the airport owns the land and leases it to various operators who run their own parking/ shuttle schemes. They’re still collecting rent off the land, similarly to the revenue they receive from their own carparks.

  • Allister

    My understanding (from local newspapers) is that the Council offered to change the area to a Residents Parking Zone a few years ago, but the response was essentially ‘we don’t want to pay to park on our “own” street’. I have parked there in the past when PT hasn’t worked and have sustained some damage to my car but haven’t been sure if it was intentional or accidental.

  • Smart locals could rent space on their property to travellers at somewhere between $1 and $33 per day.

  • mfwic

    Just a sign at either end of the street that says “Locals only! All other cars get 1 dent per day” should do the trick.

  • Sailor Boy

    You missed by far the most obvious solution:

    Pay and display.

    People have no right to expect free and exclusive use of the public realm

    • Andy C

      True Sailor Boy – pay and display is an option but could be more expensive to implement (or maybe not – I don’t know what one of those machines costs). Certainly I am keen for some sort of intervention here – because when you have a good that is free to use, but in short supply, it will invariably be oversubscribed.

    • Totally agree, albeit it should be everywhere.
      Combined with light rail there would a strong positive outcome

  • In Dunedin, some people are happy to walk upward of 1.3km, much to the Airport company’s chagrin
    https://goo.gl/maps/gpUxeDefguJ2

    • Peter Nunns

      Parking at Dunedin airport is apparently $22. It should take no more than 15-20 minutes to walk 1.3 kilometres. I’d say that people are being very sensible. You’d have to value your time at upwards of $80/hour before passing up that deal!

  • Anthony

    Comparing passenger numbers 2011 to 2016 (the last five years) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_in_New_Zealand
    Wellington has increased by 13.9% or 2.6% p.a.
    By comparison, Auckland has increased by 26% or 4.7% p.a

    So Wellington hasn’t had a particularly significant increase in passenger numbers.
    Clearly somebody has either moved into the area or got aggravated sufficiently to act, and the media have reported it.

    $33 per day for parking is cheap compared with Auckland.
    I’d agree that rail to the airport, like many airports overseas, would be a good public amenity

  • Jeff T

    Dang those houses are close to the airport.

    • mfwic

      Yes. Those residents cop all the noise that goes with having an airport in the middle of a residential area. They also cop a bunch of pricks parking in their street, not in parking spaces but on the ornamental grass that they are expected to mow for the Council. So much for mitigating your adverse effects. The airport simply dumps their effects on these people. And then the miserable gits who park there wonder why the residents get annoyed.

  • Guy M

    It is ironic – most people in inner Wellington have no off-street parking at all, and so the use Resident’s parking so that they have at least a small chance of parking their car somewhere near their own street. Miramar and Island Bay are some of the few suburbs where off-street parking is not only possible, but almost universal. Therefore, there is bugger all need for them to have any possible further use of on-street parking, except for the rare occasion when someone comes round to visit and can’t fit their Toyota in the drive behind your Honda. The verge, can, and should, stay unsullied by resident’s wheels, leaving no problem for passing Wellingtonians who just want to avoid getting gouged by prohibitively expensive parking costs at the actual airport, and can’t be convinced that the bus is a good use of time, or that the taxis are a good use of money.

    The Airport company is building a large ugly box structure for parking in, which will be complete within a year. But I bet it will still cost heaps to park in. Probably won’t actually solve the problem. Light rail to the airport would work much better!

    I think there is currently parking for 3 bicycles at the airport, in case you’re wondering…

    • Simon

      No there are various bike racks next to pillars in the existing parking structure but they always look full when I see them. Presumably used moreso by staff than travellers (but then again the local parking problem might be exacerbated by staff parking needs too).

  • Adrian

    Why not just arrest the people who are damaging property i.e. the NZ Police should police the area. The abandoning of vehicles is an issue everywhere – Dubai airport has more than their fair share of luxury cars being abandoned. This needs to be addressed in most councils not just near the airport.
    No one has a right to park on a public road – the only issue I can see is allegedly locals damaging property. Arrest them rather than allowing this violent action to affect a political outcome (terrorism I think).

  • Jezza

    I noticed when I was down in Queenstown recently the council has put 48 hour parking restrictions in the streets of Frankton immediately surrounding the airport. This appears to work quite well, the streets there used to be full of parked cars.

  • Well said, though real answer is good public transport to airport. If the airport bus was every 10 min from the CBD, and didn’t double as a local bus taking people from Kilbirnie, why would you drive to the airport?

    • Mike (the longstanding one)

      The airport bus does run to/from the CBD every 10 minutes during the peaks, and there are just two intermediate stops – Kilbirnie and Hataitai. People tend not to use it as a local bus because it’s much more expensive (except for SuperGold card holders, who travel free off peak).

      • Bigted

        Ok Mike if PT is not the answer what are your ideas?

      • Alphatron

        The airport bus costs $9 from the CBD but does stop at a number of stops in the city before passing through the Pirie St bus tunnel. Not expensive but only really practical if you are travelling to / from the city.

      • The biggest issue with the airport bus is the fact it takes about as long to get along the golden mile as it does from the Airport to Courtenay Place, it’s excruciating if you are heading to the Railway Station end of town.

      • OK – the frequency has improved since I last took the bus. But ideally you wouldn’t have to consult a timetable, and the detours through Haitaitai and Kilbirnie add to the journey time. Gold Card holders (and I’m now one!) can be a surprisingly large proportion of the patronage from the suburbs, adding to the loading time.

        • Mike (the longstanding one)

          Kilbirnie is a minor detour (faster then the main road at times); Hataitai is on the direct route through the bus tunnel, so no detour involved; and SuperGold card holders board and alight faster than anyone else, just having to flash the card at the driver on boarding.

    • mfwic

      If you can get a taxi to Wellington Airport for $20 why would anyone ride on a bus for $9?

      • I’ve never had a taxi from the Airport to the CBD for anywhere near $20, the airport charge alone is around $7.

        • conan gorbey

          Yep, looking at my expenses quickly they seem to be in the range $32 to 40. This is to/from mid town.

          • mfwic

            Then you are using the wrong company. Capital Taxis do a $20 set fare to the airport from the central area or $25 from The Terrace or the rail station.

          • Worse, it’s your tax dollars using the wrong company not my wallet personally. I will check that out, but I’m sure the bureaucracy will tell me I need to keep using the expensive company.

          • mfwic

            You will want to stick with the more expensive taxi from the airport as Capital pick up at Burger King to avoid the airport charge. But if you are on your own coin it might be worth it.

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            mfwic – according to their website Capital Taxis’ $20/$25 CBD cash specials aren’t available to (just from) the CBD, but a $20 shuttle fare is advertised in the baggage claim area.

          • mfwic

            Mike they told me they do pick ups from the Burger King by the Z service station at the airport. I have never bothered because that means walking down the road a bit. They don’t pick up at the airport as they dont pay the airport a cut like the other taxis do.

      • Warren S

        mfwic……….$20? My wife had to pay $32 from the airport to The Terrace a couple of months ago. Furthermore she finds the bus route pleasing and just a little away from the main route…………………………

      • Nick

        To save $11? That’s actually important to some people.

        • mfwic

          Yes as Peter might say saving the $11 saving is worthwhile for the extra 15 minutes if your time is worth less than $44 per hour.

          • I’m amazed by people at work using Park and Ride (when travelling to work). I’d want to add add an extra half hour buffer if depending on a shuttle to actually show up. My time is defiantly worth more than the fairly minor cost savings on short duration trips, especially if it’s an early departure.

    • The Kilbirnie stop is necessary for transfer to buses going to Newtown and other south-western suburbs.

  • Benidorm

    Paid parking. Charged per hour, prices set to meet 85% occupancy levels. Residents get 50% discount on hourly rate. Payment via app or phone (no need for machines). Revenue generated over and above scheme operating costs ring-fenced and spent on whatever the local residents want.
    Shoup 101

  • Matthew

    Perhaps if you find the airport bus too inconvienient, you could visit Sao Paulo in Brasil and see what a real bus ride to the airport feels like. You tend to have more time to read when you catch a bus too. Not that the average JAFA is any better when it comes to car mania. Is there a train to the airport lobby in Wellington?

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