Park and Ride not really a no-brainer

Building more Park & Ride is often cited as a “no-brainer” way to get more people using public transport – especially by politicians. This election we’ve got a number of political hopefuls promising to build a lot more of them as a way to get many more people using PT, a stance also echoed by the likes of the AA. In a way it’s positive as it at least shows they recognise that PT, and particularly busway, train and ferry services are useful, popular and there is a demand for them. But is it really a no-brainer or are those promoting the idea perhaps guilty of not engaging their own brain first before making these promises.

According to Auckland Transport’s Parking Strategy, there are currently around 5,500 park & ride spaces across the region with the biggest single facility being Albany with 1,100 spaces – those people parked at the northern end are walking over 300m to get to the platforms.

Albany Park and Ride 2

The Albany Park and Ride’s 1,100 fill up early most work days

AT have also said they want to see another 10,000 P&R spaces across the region by 2046, as shown in the map below.

AT PnR strategy map

Before jumping in and building a lot of carparks we first need to question whether they will be effective. The issues generally fall into two categories, patronage and the cost. So let’s look at those two aspects.


Despite the presence of huge carparks, the number of PT trips generated by P&R is surprisingly small. For the most part these carparks will only ever be filled once day on the approximately 250 working days each year. I would assume there is a higher number of single occupant vehicles than normal but let’s use a fairly standard 1.2 people per vehicle. That means each carpark likely generates about 600 PT trips per year (250 days x 1.2 people per car x 2 PT trips per day).

So a large P&R like the one Albany might account for about 660k trips per year. It might sound like a lot but remember we recently saw the latest station boarding stats and it showed over 1.8 million trips began or ended at Albany. In other words, the P&R accounted for only about 36% of all trips to or from the station. Furthermore, Albany is one of the highest percentages of P&R use, for the busway and train stations for which the number of P&R spaces are available, the average number of trips generated is just 19%. Expanding the calculations, the current 5,500 carparks contribute just 3.3 million trips per year while patronage across the entire PT network was 83 million trips. An extra 10,000 would add only 6 million trips, only an extra 7%

Of course all of this assumes that all users of new park and ride facilities are new users. The provision of more carparking is also likely to have the side effect of encouraging some of those who access stations by other means to change their behaviour so the actual gains in patronage are likely to be much less.

Thinking about the future, improving walking, cycling and bus connections (Simplified Fares and New Network) are likely to have a much greater impact. Further for those that believe autonomous vehicles are just around the corner, one of the biggest areas they’re could have a quick impact is in solving the first/last mile problem, shuttling people to and from stations. Of all ways of accessing PT stations, driving and parking is probably the one with the poorest future.



Even basic P&R’s can be incredibly expensive. the most recent one completed was at Swanson where 136 carparks were added for a cost of $2.5 million. That works out as a cost of $18k per space and that’s just for a seeming simple surface level carpark.

Swanson Park n Ride 1

The extension of the Albany carpark a few years ago cost $5.5 million for 550 carparks, or $10k per space – although that may have excluded the cost of the land. More intensive parking facilities such as multi-storey carparks can cost $25,000 per space or more. Then there are the opex costs for lights, security, cleaning etc. Even at $10k per space we’re looking at a minimum of $100 million to add the 10k carparks AT plan, given the more recent figures $200 million+ seems more appropriate and that’s if we can find the physical space for them.

But it’s not just the physical construction and opex costs that need to be considered but also the land use ones too. As the Albany carpark shows, it a lot of space to hold that many cars and the Albany site is about 37,000m². Last time I looked there simply isn’t masses of vacant land just waiting for a carpark to be built next to stations so adding them will require removing existing buildings. Removing houses (in a housing crisis) to provide carparking for a PT station would look as stupid as sounds. Furthermore, more intensive land use next to the station could encourage just as many PT trips, possibly more plus could have other benefits too, such as housing people.

Another issue and also a potential cost is that large carparks can create localised congestion issues which may require expensive road upgrades to address.

Candidates promising prudent financial management and also massive P&R expansions are contradicting themselves. Yes, we absolutely need to improve access to PT stations but the cost of building a carpark should be weighed up against the cost of improving access by other methods. For example, how many new trips could be achieved by focusing that $200m on great walking and cycling facilities to stations (AT are looking at improving access to two stations as part of the Urban Cycleway Fund programme).

High Density Bike Rack - Akoranga 2

At the Akoranga Busway station it can sometimes be hard to find a park

All of this isn’t to say that P&R isn’t useful in some situations. These can include:

  • On the outsides of the main urban area where land is cheaper, PT feeder services poorer and where it is also serving nearby rural populations.
  • Where the parking can be priced appropriately. This can offset some/all of the subsidy to providing parking, encourage use of more efficient modes for accessing stations and also address those local congestion issues. I’ve written before about how Calgary implemented charging.
  • Particularly where the station is provided ahead of surrounding land use – such as at Albany – it can act as form of a landbanking until a high enough land use intensity becomes viable.


Guess you could sum it all up as park & ride is not quite the ‘no-brainer’ some claim.


While on the topic of P&R, A few weeks ago Auckland Transport put out a press release stating they were looking to expand the Papakura Park & Ride and in the process highlighting they’re bloody expensive.

Auckland Transport (AT) is looking at ways to extend one of its busiest park and rides at Papakura Railway Station. AT is set to issue a tender which could see a significant increase to the 327 parking spaces currently at Papakura.

The extension is to cope with the large jump in numbers of people using the Southern rail line; passenger growth has been 19 percent in the past 6 months.

Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Strategic Development, Chris Morgan, says traditional park and rides are expensive because they rely on buying land. “With Auckland’s high land values, a parking bay can cost $25,000 or more, so we are looking at a number of options including the possibility of using pre-fabricated steel decking.”

He says Auckland Transport is in the early stages of investigating a trial for Papakura, but there are still a number of issues to be worked through like design and traffic assessments for the site.

“We want to look at trialling innovative ways to provide more parking at key locations.”

Barney Irvine from the Automobile Association (AA) says the AA supports moves to expand park and ride facilities. “There’s clear demand from our members for more park and ride, and we see it as an excellent way to increase the appeal of public transport.”

In Auckland, there are currently 5,500 park and rides bays. Chris Morgan says there needs to be almost double that number by 2040 and there are plans to put in 800 more bays within 2 years including 400 at Westgate and new spaces at Silverdale, Pukekohe and Hobsonville.

Parking Shuttle flop

Back in March, Auckland Transport announced a special shuttle to link a Park n Ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park to the Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal. At the time it was announced I thought it was a silly idea but said that at least AT were trying things.

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle route

A  LGOIMA request from reader Felix Lee has discovered just how silly the idea is.

He asked:

  1. For the 5 trips being operated each day, can you tell me the average passenger number for each trip?
  2. Can you tell me the cost to operate this service?

The response from AT is below. It covers the period from 21 March when the service started to 21 May, a total of 42 working days (which is only when the service runs).

Half Moon Bay park n ride shuttle patronage

So a grand total of just 23 trips and it would seem that about 9 people didn’t even make the return journey. That seems like an abysmal failure to me.

But then we also need to consider the cost. AT say:

Half Moon Bay park n ride shuttle Cost

So over the 42 days covered above it cost about $7650 to run services on which just 23 trips were made so just over $330 per trip. Based on a quick search, at $175 for a 12 minute flight, it would have been almost half the cost to helicopter them directly to the city.

As I’ve said a number of times before, I believe that park n rides are often over-rated and clearly this example shows that parking then taking a shuttle to catch another PT service just isn’t attractive.

As I also said when this was announced, I think using the park as a park n ride is not a terrible idea but it should really be linked to bus services along Pakuranga Rd which AT have confirmed needs bus lanes in the recent information released about the Reeves Rd Flyover.

One other thing this episode highlights is the arguments over the bus colours recently. If you recall, those opposing the changes baulked at the suggestion that it might cost $9,000 to paint a bus and claimed that money could be better spent on new services instead. Here we have a service that runs just five times a day over ~2.6km for two months costing almost the same amount. This suggests that any meaningful addition to services on other routes will cost a lot more in a year than painting a few buses, the cost of which can be spread out over multi-year contract.

Coming back to the shuttle, the whole thing seems to have been a thoroughly predictable outcome. I guess the only real question is how much longer will AT keep the service running before they finally pull the plug on it?

Park and Ride Shuttle

Auckland Transport started a unique park & ride and shuttle today in East Auckland. It’s something we first learned about in the board report last month. Auckland Transport will use the parking in Lloyd Elsmore Park for commuter parking with a shuttle to the Half Moon Bay ferry terminal for users to connect to ferries.

In a first for Auckland, a local park is being used as a park and ride to service public transport in the eastern suburbs.

The free park and ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga will have a shuttle bus running to and from Half Moon Bay Marina on weekdays. The six month trial begins on Monday (21 March), providing a safe and convenient place for people to park for the day.

AT is providing the service at the request of the Howick Local Board in an attempt to mitigate a lack of parking at the marina.

There will be two trips in the morning and three trips in the afternoon to meet the 8:15am and 10:15am departing ferries and the 5:45pm, 6:20pm and 7:05pm arriving ferries.

Howick Local Board Chairman David Collings says it will provides people living in Pakuranga, Howick and surrounding suburbs with a great option for getting into the city.

“This initiative provides additional parking for ferry users, but simply at a different location. Ideally long term I’d like to see commuters consider walking, cycling or even car-pooling to the ferry.”

“Driving into the city centre from this part of Auckland is time-consuming and costly by the time you take into account car parking. Catching a ferry is a great way to travel and with AT providing this park and ride, it makes it even easier,” he says.

The park and ride is a point-to-point service with no stops along the way and is dedicated which means it will wait for ferries if required. It is free of charge until Zonal Fares are introduced in late July. Trip durations are expected to be 10-20 minutes depending on traffic conditions.

Mark Lambert, General Manager at AT Metro, says the service adds to the numerous successful park and ride services around the city.

“The park and rides at bus, train and ferry interchanges have proved incredibly popular especially the Northern Express. This trial is a slightly novel approach in that we are providing a shuttle service to a ferry terminal.”

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle route

And here are the shuttle times – for some reason there is no shuttle to the earlier sailings or the midday ones.

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle timetable

Regular readers will likely be aware that we’re not a huge fan of park & ride as they can be very expensive and not deliver all that much patronage. But I think the idea of using infrastructure that may have otherwise been sitting idle is a good one – although that changes again when it requires a dedicated shuttle to operate. In many ways it’s good that AT are at least trying stuff.

In saying that the situation also highlights one absurdity with the East Auckland situation. Pakuranga Rd at this point is a 6 lane road plus median – there are no bus or bike lanes. As part of AMETI, Auckland Transport have suggested putting bus lanes on Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park. If they did that it would probably be faster to catch a bus to Panmure and then transfer to a train than it would to catch a bus to the ferry and then ferry to town.

Swanson Developments

I rode out to Swanson on the weekend to have a look at the two developments that have been happening out there.

The first was to see what $2.5 million of Auckland Transport and NZTA money buys us. The answer, a new park n ride facility with 136 carparks. This is in addtion to the small existing carpark. The new addition works out at over $18,000 per carpark highlighting just how expensive it is to add capacity by way of park n ride. If every space is used every working day in a year it would add about 34k trips per year.

Carparks are fairly boring but the images below highlight the location of the carpark in relation to the station. The second image is taken from the platform

Swanson Park n Ride 1

Swanson Park n Ride 2

AT say the works are completed however there’s no sign of the covered walkway or station upgrades as initially mentioned.

The proposed improvements at Swanson include

  • Construction of a Park and Ride with an additional 136 car parks and a covered walkway to the station. This is expected to cost $2.5 million and be completed in March 2015.
  • A station upgrade which will include improved lighting, signage, CCTV, additional platform shelters, walkway canopies to the footbridge and stairs, and new platform surfacing and marking. Design is expected to be completed at the end of 2014.

Note: the original carpark below

Swanson Park n Ride Original

The other and more interesting development is the Penihana North development that’s happening to the south of the tracks.  This is the only greenfield development next to a station served by electric trains and as such it will be interesting to see what impact the development. I’d suggest it will probably lead to a greater gain in patronage than the Park n Ride will – although it obviously takes up more space too. I understand it has taken over 13 years to occur due to a lot of opposition from local residents – some who suggest it will be an urban ghetto (I suspect they don’t know what a real urban ghetto is). Perhaps one positive is I suspect the delay has meant the development is better than it would have been as if if occurred 13 years ago the idea of the station being important wouldn’t have crossed the developers mind.

The development basically covers the area below that is (was) lined with hedges.

Penihana North Area

It seems that a lot of bulk earthworks are going on but I’d suggest we’ll start seeing houses sprouting up later this year as the sections closest to the station look almost ready for them – including with formed roads. In total it is expected there will be about 330 dwellings in the development with those closest to the station being terraced houses. One aspect that I really like that has already been completed – but is not open to the public – is a shared path that runs alongside the tracks from Pooks Rd/Oneils Rd at eastern edge of the development. Importantly the path leads directly in to the station platform where there are also some new bike racks, this is something we need at many more stations. You can see it in the image below along with some of the development.

Perihana North new path to station

Oh and yes there is a small gap in the railing between the platform and the path at the end allowing for more permeability – it just needs some more HOP readers installed.

Perihana North new path to station 2

The new bike racks are slightly protected from the elements by the stairs for the pedestrian bridge.

Perihana North new path to station bike racks

From the station the development stretches up away from the station

Penihana North Development 2


The map below gives an idea of how the development is being laid out

Penihana North Development Concept Plan

My guess is that all the developments at Swanson – including the electric trains – will help considerably boost patronage from the station which has been one of the lesser used on the network

Penihana North Development 1



Auckland’s new Parking Stategy

Last week Auckland Transport finalised their region wide parking strategy which they first consulted on a year ago. All up AT received more than 5,500 submissions.

The strategy is potentially one of the most important that AT have as parking has huge impacts across a wide range of areas so managing it right is critically important. It has the ability to impact on how people live, congestion, what mode they use, the provision of bus and cycle infrastructure and even local economies.

One of the things I really like about the strategy is that it fairly clearly sets out what the various parking management options are and also what the trigger points are for changes. The types of parking restriction listed are:

  • Loading Zones
  • Mobility Parking
  • Motorcycle Parking
  • Taxi Stands
  • Buses and tour coach parking
  • Car Share Parking
  • Time Restrictions
  • Bicycle Parking

For each of these there is a description of what the restriction is for and the policies around it. An example of this is below:

Parking Strategy - Descriptions

As mentioned there are trigger points as to when parking management might change, the example below is for on-street parking and shows the magic number for change is an occupancy of 85%.

Parking Strategy - One Street Interventions

There is additional information for priced parking that addresses issues such as how frequently AT will review parking demand, how it will adjust prices, the times of operation and for off-street parking this includes issues like yield targets and pass options. In addition to managing parking there are policies that cover topics such as the investment in new or divestment of off street parking facilities.


Residential parking schemes have been started to be introduced in some areas and have been proposed in others. In general our view is that residential parking schemes are unwise however they are often popular with locals and AT have created policies to deal with these. Some of the components in the parking schemes include

  • Time restrictions for those without a permit.
  • A cap on the number of parking permits issued based on a percentage of total car parks available,
  • The ability for people to stay longer than the permit by paying a daily charge – residents also get a number of free days per year for visitors.
  • Restrictions on permits to only dwellings built before the council’s Unitary Plan was notified.
  • Permits that will be issued based on an order of priority which is below.

Parking Strategy - Permit priority

Arterial roads get special mention and importantly AT say that they will manage parking on arterial roads by potentially removing parking if it:

  • Causes significant delays to the speed and reliability of public transport on the FTN, and/or
  • Causes safety risks for cyclists or impedes quality improvements on the Auckland Cycle Network

Actually acknowledging that bus and cycle infrastructure is more important than parking is hopefully a significant step in AT being able to stand up to locals who claim the sky will fall if a single carpark is removed.

There are a few other policies covered in the document however the last one I want to address is Park & Ride (P&R). AT say there are currently about 5,500 P&R spaces around Auckland (with about 20% of those at Albany Busway station alone) and 80% are at capacity by 8am. AT want up to an extra 10,000 P&R spaces over the next 30 years. I’m not convinced pursuing lots of P&R is a great strategy as while they get used, they don’t actually contribute that many customers to the network. Even if 10,000 new spaces appeared tomorrow and they were all used by people who don’t currently use PT, that’s only around 2.5 million extra trips per year which is nothing really. If they do get more P&R one thing I like is they talk about opportunities including making better use of locations near stations that have an excess of parking during the week, examples include shopping centres, sports fields and even churches.

One aspect that will cause some concern is the suggestion that P&R could be charged if occupancy is high to manage demand. Many will complain however experience from Calgary shows it can be done without losing patronage. The map below shows the potential sites to investigate adding & P&R. If these come to pass there will end up a lot of space dedicated to parking and as I mentioned earlier, not that much extra patronage for it. On this AT do mention that P&R is almost a form of land banking.

Potential Park and rides

Overall the document is fairly good and a welcome addition to the landscape.

On This Day… Park-and-ride, boon or boondoggle?

Today’s “On this Day” post comes from 2012 and was written by Stu Donovan.

Matt L has just dissected AT’s recent announcement regarding the expansion of the Albany Park and Ride.

Park and ride is a vexed transport planning issue: It’s very popular with middle-class commuters and as a result tends to receive a lot of public/political support.  On the other hand, P&R’s merits are often not well understood.  Is P&R really the boon it is made out to be?

Let’s consider the arguments usually put forward in discussions on P&R; turning first to the downsides:

  1. P&R requires considerable tracts of land.  For this reason it tends to be very, very expensive to provide within the urban area, unless opportunistic (read CHEAP) land parcels are identified (more on this later).  Given the cost of land and the general constraints on PT funding in Auckland, it is quite reasonable to ask whether P&R in urban locations represent value for money – compared to other possible PT improvements.
  2. The second issue is a logical extension of the first: Because P&R requires so much land it squeezes out opportunities for intensive land use development, often in the very locations that have good PT access.  This second issue is very important, because it means that P&R may actually generate relatively few *additional* trips per sqm, above and beyond what would be generated by the intensive land uses that would exist in the absence of the P&R.
  3. The third major issue with P&R is that it competes with other modes to provide access to PT stations.  Surveys of the Northern Busway have shown that approximately 50% of users previously used local buses.  The message is that providing free P&R can encourage people to drive down the road and park, when they previously waited for a local bus (which is typically going to run anyway, i.e. relatively low marginal economic costs).
  4. The final major issue with P&R is that it concentrates vehicles on what are often strategic locations in the road network. In the case of Albany, the provision of 1,100 car-parks within the town centre itself represents about one full lane of traffic.  By concentrating vehicle volumes at these locations, large amounts of P&R may soak up capacity in the surrounding road network and cause localised congestion.

Just to re-cap the points made above: 1) P&R can be expensive to provide (because of the land that it occupies); 2) may generate little additional patronage (above and beyond what we would get anyway); 3) tends to compete with other modes of access to PT stations (which are often more cost-effective); and 4) can cause localised congestion.

Given these issues you might reasonably ask under what circumstances would you ever want to develop P&R?  The answer is that P&R can be useful where:

  1. Alternative means of PT access (primarily local bus services) are ineffective.  In these situations P&R can help to focus PT demands to a level that supports a modicum of PT service.  This tends to be outside the main urban area, where land is cheaper to provide (especially where you can identify opportunistic land parcels, such as sites beneath high-voltage power lines or in flood prone areas, as is done for some P&R sites in Vancouver).
  2. It is priced appropriately.  Charging people to use P&R generates revenue from users and mitigates two of the issues noted above.  Namely, the cost (or subsidy) of providing P&R goes down, while also reducing the degree to which  P&R competes with other (substitutable) modes of access.  Pricing P&R really just levels the playing field with other possible ways of getting to the PT station.  It can also reduce the congestion caused by P&R.
  3. The PT station has been provided in advance of more intensive land use development.  Here P&R simply becomes an interim land use, until such time as development is ready to occur.  At this point the land on which the P&R sits can be sold and the costs recovered.  This practise of “landbanking” is not a bad strategy, especially where the interim P&R allows PT services to build to the point where they support relatively intensive development.

Given these pros and cons, as well as the general public/political pressure, it is perhaps not unsurprising that PT agencies struggle to find an appropriate role for P&R. In my experience most cities have relatively ad-hoc approaches to the development P&R.

So where to from here?  Well, I thought I’d round out this post with a few takeaway P&R messages that I’ve collected during my years working as a transport consultant working in New Zealand and Australia:

  1. The party rarely lasts – P&R is usually an interim activity.  P&R should be viewed less as a permanent feature of the PT network and more as an interim activity that is redeveloped at some point in the future.  Rose-tinted press-releases (such as that released for Albany) create the illusion of a never-ending feast of free P&R and build a public rod to beat the backs of future decision-makers (as an aside, there is a general need for transport agencies to better manage public/political expectations).
  2. Ain’t no party like a policy party – the development of P&R should be governed by policy.  Experiences in cities overseas has highlighted the issues that may arise with ad-hoc P&R development.   In San Francisco, the (private) operators of BART had a pig of a time trying to redevelop and/or charge for P&R decades after the development of the system, even though the land on which the P&R sat was wholly privately owned.
  3. No party is that cool – P&R is just another form of PT investment.  Ultimately, P&R is just another way of getting people onto the PT system.  As such, any proposed investment should be compared against other possible uses of that money.

Following these three P&R ‘party rules’ can help ensure that investments in P&R are a boon, not a boondoggle.


We haven’t seen much actual expansion of park and rides in Auckland over the three years since this post was published. However, the Draft Parking Discussion Document – released by Auckland Transport last year – did seem to have quite a strong focus on expanding Auckland’s park and ride capacity.

As Stu articulated in the post, park and ride is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it all depends on the situation. A park and ride at Drury or Silverdale clearly makes sense – capturing PT riders who would be very inefficient to capture in other ways. The park and ride at Orakei is clearly insane.

How to charge for P&R

The parking discussion document released yesterday one of the suggested outcomes related to the pricing of park and ride. The document notes:

Park and ride sites in Auckland are free to users which do not reflect the true costs and benefits of using park and ride, and can provide a disincentive to walk, cycle or users of the feeder bus services. Most park and ride facilities are at capacity early in the morning and consequently some customers cannot find parking. Pricing park and ride will allow the demand for parking to be managed, ensuring that customers can always find a park if they are willing to pay.

The RPTP includes an action to introduce charges for park and ride facilities where appropriate, to manage demand and ensure that facilities complement the wider public transport system. park and ride charges must be integrated with public transport fares, using the AT HOP card where practical.

Notwithstanding the above, park and ride provision is an important driver for public transport patronage and the demand for park and ride facilities generally exceeds the capacity provided. Introducing pricing for park and ride too early could have a negative impact on public transport patronage. Pricing park and ride would depend on the price and the availability of alternative car parking spaces, and linked to the roll-out of integrated fares.

The last paragraph along with the “What do you think of this approach” box seems like they’re basically AT’s get out of jail card on actually having to implement pricing however it is interesting to think about just how they might do it. Lots of other cities do charge for P&R already so that gives us some examples to look at.

On an admittedly brief look around the net it seems there are generally three primary pricing schemes for P&R although some cities combine multiple ones..

  1. Free – like we have now
  2. A set daily charge
  3. A monthly reserved carpark

One thing in common with free systems is they seem to have the same problem we do in that they are often completely full quite early and people are constantly complaining about it and calling for more. When it comes to the charged options both have pro’s and con’s and it can be hard to work out which one is best however thankfully one city has not only tried them all (including free) and has reports showing the outcome. It’s Calgary which is a city I’ve talked about before as being an extremely useful comparison for us to use for a whole bunch of reasons.

Looking at many of the city’s attributes Calgary shouldn’t be a big PT city yet it does quite well with about double the number of trips per capita that Auckland has and the key reason behind that has been the development of its increasingly extensive Rapid Transit Network over the last few decades. Park and ride featured strongly in the development of many of Calgary’s initial RTN lines to the South, North East and North West with facilities developed at many stations. These varied in size from less than 100 spaces to the largest over 1700 – that’s about 60% larger than what exists at Albany. The P&R spaces also weren’t just on the RTN network but on a few bus routes too.

Two reports provide details on the charging schemes that Calgary has tried. Costs mentioned are all Canadian dollars and not adjusted for inflation.

The first report is from early 2011 and provides some of the key background information. Calgary had been developing Park and Ride facilities since the 1980’s and had over 14,500 spaced around the city. That’s about 3 times what Auckland Transport say they have however the spaces only accounted for less than 10% of the systems patronage. In addition the facilities took up over 150 acres of valuable land. Despite the huge number of carparks they were constantly full and it was almost impossible to get a carpark after 7:30am. The public were constantly demanding more spaces be built, each of which would cost at least $11,000 to construct and $100-$200 per year to maintain (more if a multi-storey building). Many people who wanted to use the P&R and the PT system simply gave up and drove all the way to the city. That’s probably a situation we have happening in Auckland already.

In 2002 Calgary introduced a system whereby people could reserve one of a few hundred spaces at one of the larger P&R spots for a fee of $50, it was immensely popular even after the fee was doubled to $90 a month. In 2009 the city changed all P&R facilities to a $3 daily charge across the P&R network. The fee was not just about managing demand but the city also promised to increase security, cleaning and maintenance of both the P&R facilities and the stations they served. The impact of the changes on P&R usage, revenues and costs are below and shows that from a financial perspective the first year was worse than before the change however it seems that things quickly started to turn around in 2010 as more people accepted the charges.

Year Parking usage Operating Costs Revenue
2008 Full $1,000,000 $0
2009 55% $4,400,000 $3,140,000
2010 65% $4,500,000 $4,960,000

In terms of outcomes, they found that patronage dropped by 1% in 2009 however it was also at the same time as massive economic upheaval caused by the GFC. In 2010 patronage recovered as did the economy and so it appears the decrease has little or nothing to do with the implementation of charging for P&R. That in itself is important as one of the common arguments against charging is that it will put people of using PT.

Public reaction to the charging scheme was mixed with many locals expressing the view that free parking was essentially a right they had. This sounds like the same type of feedback that happens the world over when parking is changed. More interesting are the changes in behaviour that were identified in a survey in early 2011, in particular these ones seem key:

  • Most customers who stopped using P&R continued to access the station by bus, walking, cycling or being dropped off.
  • There was an increase in parking in local streets near stations however some people previously using those locations switched to paying for a closer space.
  • The majority said it made their convenience and ability to use PT hadn’t changed and in some cases had improved.

Despite this in 2011 the council decided to scrap the daily fee and it was replaced with a monthly reserved space system, the impact of which are contained in this report which shows the results of a self-selecting survey. The monthly reserved system works by setting aside up to 50% of spaces at stations that people can reserve for a fee of $70 per month on a first in first served basis. As the carparks can be quite large, the benefit to reserving means you can get one of the spots closer to the platform, an example of which is shown below (the platform goes north/south to the east of the highlighted areas). If a reserved space is not used by 10am it becomes free to use by anybody as with the rest of the parking.

P&R calgary - reserved example

There lots of interesting outcomes from the survey however perhaps the most important one was that 67% of the people trying to get a free park arrived before 7am while only 31% of those reserving a space did. 51% of those reserving spaces arrived between 7am and 8am. This shows that allowing people to reserve a space let them be more flexible in what time they got to work, leaving home when they wanted to rather than when they had to if they wanted a space. The users reserving a space found they were less stressed and had higher satisfaction ratings to the P&R service.

In contrast those trying for the free spaces were unhappier and often resented the fact they could see spaces that had been reserved but that someone hadn’t turned up to use yet. They felt they should be able to park in the reserved spaces. Many also were paying the $3 daily fee but felt they didn’t use PT enough to benefit from reserving a space permanently.

There are a number of other findings from this survey however my reading of it seems to suggest that that from a customer satisfaction point of view the daily charge was best option for most people.

All up despite the changes to introduce pricing for the carparks patronage has continued to increase and even appears to have accelerated in recent years. One of the most interesting outcomes to charging was that people who previously used P&R to access the PT network continued to use PT but accessed it differently while the presence of a charge actually helped to attract new users who previously couldn’t find a space.

Calgary Ridership

From this it appears that the best option for charging is simply to introduce a daily fee on carparks perhaps with a hybrid system of letting people reserve a space close to the platform too. The discussion document talks about how pricing should be able to be made with HOP which is what AT should be doing and would make things super easy. It will be a while before we see charging for P&R however as AT say other prerequisites are that there are frequent feeder services to stations and that we have integrated fares. Both of those things are while away from implementation yet.

The Downside of Park and Ride

Flicking back through older Atlantic Cities posts led to one from last year about Park and Ride catching my eye. It’s a fairly well reasoned cautionary tale which highlights the pitfalls and potential perverse outcomes from something that would appear to be a good thing that encourages public transport use.

On paper, park-and-ride facilities seem like the ultimate transport compromise. Free or cheap parking near transit stations should, if the theory holds, make partial transit riders of metro area residents who used to drive the whole way into work. The system acts like a nicotine gum for daily commutes — weaning people slowly off the single-occupancy car.

The ‘nicotine gum’ analogy is not a bad one actually. Park & ride can be a useful “entry point” to public transport for those who are very much used to driving. This does, in theory at least, make them an important part of achieving ‘modal shift’ away from driving and towards public transport. So what are the pitfalls?

In reality, some transport experts wonder whether park-and-ride does more harm than good. A study of park-and-ride facilities from the early 1990s found they don’t necessarily ease congestion because they unleash latent demand for road space. Other research has come out similarly skeptical that park-and-ride reduces car use, though much of it has centered on bus-based transit.

A new study of park-and-ride at rail-based transit stations doesn’t offer much in the way of encouragement. In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Transport Geography, Dutch researcher Giuliano Mingardo reports that park-and-ride facilities in two major metro areas create four measurable “unintended effects” that not only limit the benefits of transit but may even increase vehicle travel in the metro area.

Mingardo surveyed more than 700 travelers at nine rail-based park-and-rides around the Rotterdam and The Hague a couple years back — ranging in size from 15 parking spaces to 730. His questionnaires, given to people at afternoon rush, focused on what riders would do in the absence of the park-and-ride facility. Mingardo also conducted concurrent field observations of various stations.

Across both metro areas he found evidence for four unintended effects of park-and-ride facilities — two of which (asterisked) had never been documented:

  • Abstraction from transit. People who had once made the entire commute by transit now drove to the transit station.
  • *Abstraction from bike. People who had once made some or all of the commute on their bicycle now drove to the station.
  • Trip generation. People made more trips in general because the overall cost of transportation was lower.
  • *Park and walk. People parked at the station but walked somewhere nearby and didn’t use transit at all — potentially displacing transit riders and disrupting the area parking market.

In Rotterdam, Mingardo found that only about a quarter of park-and-ride users said they would use a car for their entire commute in the absence of the facility — which is the desired effect. The rest fell into one of the above categories. As a result, Mingardo calculates that there’s a net addition of 1,272 vehicle kilometers traveled, as well as an increase in carbon emissions.

All park and rides did not perform equally though – with some having more obvious positive impacts than others.

The situation wasn’t universally flawed. “Remote” stations — meaning park-and-ride facilities deep into the suburbs that captured city commuters early into the trip — performed well. And in The Hague, Mingardo did find a slight net reduction in vehicle travel and emissions. Still, even there, the presence of unintended effects seemed to mute most benefits of park-and-ride.

Generally speaking, in accordance with previous research, he believes that park-and-ride facilities “do present a net increase in traffic volume rather than a reduction”:

Indeed, the number of car-km saved from the P&R site to the inner city is usually more than compensated by the increase in car-km travelled to reach the P&R site by those users who switched from public transport services and bikes, those that were previously not travelling and (possibly) the Park and walk users.

Despite the findings, the takeaway here is not necessarily that park-and-ride doesn’t work. These facilities should certainly be monitored by cities to make sure they’re meeting policy goals — especially if that goal is traffic reduction. Additionally, it seems clear that suburban or “remote” park-and-rides fulfill more of that goal than those closer to the city center.

There are no huge surprises here. Park and rides “further out” are likely to serve areas where feeder buses, walking and cycling to access rapid transit are less viable options – both in terms of attractiveness and cost-effectiveness in their provision. But in more inner areas the benefits become decidedly dodgier – most likely because feeder buses, walking and cycling would work as alternatives to park and ride.

What’s not outlined in the Atlantic Cities post, but is also a clear potential disbenefit of park & ride in more inner areas, is the effect on land-use. One of the main purposes of high quality public transport is to shape the urban form and encourage the development of successful “transit oriented development” around train (and busway) stations. A sea of asphalt around the stations to provide park and ride is pretty much the antithesis of achieving successful land-use transport integration and transit oriented developments. This is important as one study I’ve seen (but can’t find right now) found that if the land used to provide parking was otherwise used to provide dwellings or employment for an equivalent number of people that you can get greater patronage gains. That provides a useful trigger point as to when we should be developing P&R sites and places like Orakei and Devonport surely fall into this category.

Fortunately, Auckland Transport’s Regional Public Transport Plan seems quite aware of the ‘balancing act’ in its policies on park & ride and only suggests that they be located in “selected peripheral locations to extend the catchment area of the public transport network and encourage patronage growth”. In saying that there are obviously some park n rides close to the city in the form of the ferry terminals and Orakei train station. How Auckland transitions away from these will be interesting to watch. They are also still planning for a huge amount of new parking to be built and are aiming to add around 10,000 carparks to the PT network for a minimum cost of $100 million.

AT Park n Ride plan

Glen Eden Park and Ride

I was reading the Western Leader that came on Friday and a letter to the editor caught my eye:

I regret that Gayle Marshall is right (Western Leader, June 22, 2012)
Auckland Transport is proposing to delay for two years the introduction of further Park and Ride in Glen Eden.
The local board was stunned when the decision was made.
I for one had understood that it was proposed, programmed and funded to start pretty quickly but it was delayed because of last minute funding cuts to Auckland Transport.
Certainly the Waitakere Ranges Local Board fully supported the original proposal and I wanted to be there when the ribbon was cut, and soon.
I agree that the current situation is not acceptable. The existing Park and Ride is full by 7:30am and if Auckland wants more people to use public transport then more parking must be provided.
I am not sure where the money went to but there is no a capital fund that local boards can access to promote local transport projects and I am hoping that this can be used to speed up the creation of the Park and Ride.
I can not think of a more important local project.
Glen Eden has a great future and will become part of a vibrant transport hub as more and more people used the imoproved train system.
But only if we get the local infrastructure right

Greg Presland
Waitakere Ranges Local Board member

I have highlighted the part that annoys me the most. Now I do agree that park and ride places are useful but I would caveat that with the point that they are only useful in the right situations. The reason for this is simply due to the sheer amount of land they take up compared to the number of extra people they allow to drive to the station. The current park and ride (oddly it isn’t listed on MAXX as even existing) has space for about 80 cars right across the road from the train station. That land however is probably a prime piece of real estate for future development being right next to the station and the Glen Eden town centre.

Auckland Transport has already done some investigation into the issue and in a report to the local board have said:

The feasibility study is at the final stages and the draft report has been submitted. An at – grade car park on KiwiRail land located to the south of Waikumete Road (site 2) is the best option overall in the short to medium term, and the most economically efficient. This option also involves retaining the existing Park and Ride site off West Coast Road (site 3).
In the longer term, there may be a case to provide additional park and ride facilities in Glen Eden. The most cost effective option is likely to involve the construction of a multi-storey car park on KiwiRail land located to the south of Waikumete Road (site 2) and developing the existing Park and Ride site off West Coast Road (site 3).

Here is the location of site 2 which is considered to be the best option, the blue line shows the walk to the station would be about 200m so not too bad. The piece of land highlighted is roughly twice the size of the existing park and ride and lets estimate that we could probably get around 200 car parks in there.

I don’t have any idea on how much this car park  is expected to cost but based on the recent extension to the Albany car park, lets assume costs are about $10k for each park. That would put the cost at about $2m and that is not including the land which I suspect that being on Kiwirail land that AT would take a lease out rather than purchace the land (as they are doing in Swanson). My main issue though is the thought that we have to provide car parking if we want people to catch PT. We can actually work out the impact of this facility fairly easily, that is because these car parks are almost exclusively going to be used by commuters who are working Monday to Friday which means the parks would perhaps allow for an extra 400 trips per day. By comparison there are over 40,000 train trips on weekdays so even if the parking was filled only with new passengers then we would have only increased patronage by less than 1%. Another way to look at it is that over the course of a year (lets say 50 weeks to account for things like public holidays) it would only contribute 100,000 trips to the rail network which is pretty tiny in the grand scheme of things.

I guess at the end of the day I do agree that park and ride is important but lets be realistic and realise that it is only part of the problem and that even today only a small number of people who are using the rail network do so in a park and ride. If we want much higher usage of trains in the future then we need politicians to start realising that spending millions on car parks isn’t going to be the way to do it.