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.

AWHC: Where Does all the New Traffic Go?

The Additional Harbour Crossing as currently proposed is a pair of tunnels containing six traffic lanes between the motorway at Esmonde Rd rejoining it at Spaghetti Junction [The CMJ] in the city. The publicly available schemes also show additional rail tunnels between Akoranga and Wynyard Quarter, but no connecting network for any trains to actually use. It is clear to see the appeal for NZTA of straightening and simplifying SH1 past the bridge, but the outcomes for the city are much less certain. Below for example is version T1:

AWHC T1

Clearly this or the other versions that date from 2010 are not the current versions NZTA are developing now, but until new versions are released these are still worth looking at in some detail as neither the various physical constraints or the overall aims that drive these options have changed. The options can be seen here.

Considering these there are several high altitude observations I think are important to begin with:

  • This will be the most expensive urban transport project ever undertaken in NZ; claimed to be $4-$6 billion. Two to three times the cost of the CRL.
  • Not least because of the massive cost it is extremely unlikely that both sets of tunnels and systems would be undertaken at the same time. They will be staged; one will precede the other.
  • The road scheme is essentially a SH1 bridge bypass, and therefore optimises through traffic, however it does not make any new connection that is not currently available nor in fact any increase in capacity on SH1.
  • There is little spare capacity in the CMJ for additional vehicles so the new connection will remain the current three lanes north and a reduction from four to three lanes south.
  • Essentially the bridge becomes a massive on/off ramp for city traffic and unless and until the rail tunnels and line are built more buses on bus lanes across the bridge will be the PT part of the project.

Here’s the set of variations currently available for the city end, all versions involve four tunnels under Victoria Park [3 new ones]:

AWHC Tunnell Options

All schemes also involve massive new interchanges on new reclamations at the North Shore end with flyovers and multiple connections between crossings, not unlike the new interchange at Waterview currently being built. Like the outcomes for traffic on North Shore local roads, the impacts of this project will be neither small nor all positive north of the bridge. However for this post I just want to focus on the city-side implications.

Assuming the road crossing is built first, which is consistent with assertions by politicians and officials with phrases like it will be ‘future proofed for rail’, as well as the lack of any real work yet on a rail crossing, it is worth asking exactly where will the new traffic enabled by the extra capacity across the harbour go once in the city?

Because the new crossing plugs directly into the CMJ, three lanes in and three lanes out, and because there are no planned increases in capacity through the CMJ, nor any space for any without further massive tunnelling, in effect the new capacity will be all on the bridge, so coming from the Shore this new traffic will all have to be accommodated by just three off ramps [same in reverse heading north]:

  • Cook St; with new direct connections through Victoria Park
  • Fanshawe St, especially for buses on new bus lanes
  • Shelly Beach Rd, and then on to Jervois and Ponsonby Rds.

None of these exits can accommodate any increasing in traffic well, or without considerable disbenefit, especially if that increase in traffic is large.

  • Cook St is pointed directly at the heart of the city, so this contradicts policy of reducing vehicle volumes in the city centre and is likely to infarct daily at the peaks as Cook St is close and perpendicular to Hobson and Nelson Sts which serve the Southern and Northwestern motorway flows. Gridlock is likely at the controlled intersections unable to handle large and peaky traffic volumes to and from these motorways. Additionally land use in this area is changing and intensifying making it even less suitable for the high speed motorway offramp it already hosts.
  • Fanshawe will have reduced capacity for general traffic as a multilane Busway will be required to take the increased bus volumes from the bridge, and anyway is already at capacity at the peaks.
  • Shelly Beach Rd is a narrow residential street not suited to the high volumes and high speeds it already suffers from the bridge now. Furthermore there is no benefit and little capacity for the streets beyond Shelly Beach Rd, particularly Jervois and Ponsonby Rds for a large increase in vehicle volumes.

Nonetheless, here are the forecasts they have come up with, Shelly Beach Rd with a 63% increase, is basically filled with bridge traffic by 2026 and the new crossing:

AWHC Forecast Daily traffic flows

20,300 additional cars modelled for Fanshawe + Cook St with the AWHC option (assume that is all day on a weekday?). Even at the best sorts of turnover that would require around 10,000+ new carpark places. The downtown carpark has 1890 spaces. So where exactly do we put six new downtown carpark buildings? And what six streets get sacrificed to feed them?

20,300 cars carry perhaps 25,000 people. The CRL at capacity will carry that entire amount in 40 minutes. As could a North Shore rail line of similar specification. If the net outcome of this project is to take 20,000 commuters to midtown, why not do it with rapid transit at a third the cost with none of the traffic congestion?

“The significant increase in traffic movements conflict with many of the aspirations outlined in current Council policies, strategies, frameworks and master plans.”

P 65 Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Network Plan, NZTA, 2010.

Obviously these higher traffic volumes are not good for every pedestrian, resident, and general city user in these areas but there is one other group that this situation in particular is going to make miserable, and that’s the motorist. There is a word for all this additional driving everywhere on city streets: congestion. Yup this increase in capacity across the harbour may speed that part of the journey but it’s going to make arriving anywhere in the city in your car much more hellish than it is now. And don’t even think about finding or affording somewhere to park.

What NZTA’s consultants say about this:

AWHC City exits

The increased traffic flows through St Marys Bay on both Shelley Beach rd and Curran St look to lead to particularly poor and unfixable outcomes:

AWHC Local Roads

It seems optimistic to say that because there are cafes, and strongly increasing pedestrian volumes, on Ponsonby Rd, that drivers won’t try to drive there, especially if other bridge exits are controlled or too busy. After all the first rule of urban traffic is that it will expand to wherever it is allowed to go. So, in the end, taking measures to dis-incentivise drivers to use these exits, is the consultant’s advice:

AWHC City Streets

It does seem kind of odd to spend $4-6 billion to increase capacity across the harbour only to then introduce other measures to try to stop people using it.

And it won’t be just parking, there’s also likely to be tolls, it appears the model says they can pretty much eliminate the traffic problem with an $8 toll!:

AWHC Tolling both crossings

If only there was a way to enable more trips without inducing more and more cars to also be driven into the crowded city streets. After all the City Centre has been growing strongly without adding more cars most of this century:

CBD Transport Change

In fact it looks like we are already at or even above the limit of desirable vehicle numbers in the city, and future developments like replacing car access to Queen St with Light Rail are likely to make even current numbers face pressure.

Additionally there is an issue with bus volumes as well as car numbers on the city streets, even though the New Bus Network, the CRL, and Light Rail, if it happens, will reduce bus numbers from other parts of the city, there is certainly a limit to the numbers of buses from the Shore that can be comfortably accommodated too. Below is the predicted year of maximum bus capacity at major entry points to the city. The role of the CRL in reducing bus number pressure from the Isthmus is obvious, so why not do the same thing for buses from the Shore?

AWHC Year of Buslane max capacity

So perhaps the answer is to reverse the assumed staging and build the rail Rapid Transit tunnels first, leaving space for the road crossing to come later. This certainly looks physically possible in the maps above. This would enable all of those possible trips across the Harbour that NZTA identifies to still be served but without any of the traffic disbenefits that so clearly dog the road only crossing. In terms of people capacity two rail tracks can carry twice the volume of six traffic lanes. Furthermore it can be built without disturbing the current crossing and its connections. And rail crossings have proven in the past to be good alternative routes in an emergency.

This would add the real resilience of a whole other high capacity mode across the Harbour instead of simply more of the same. It would make our Harbour infrastructure more closely resemble Sydney’s where most of the heavy lifting in terms of people numbers is done by Rapid Transit, as shown below. We already have ferries, buses, and cars bringing people across, isn’t it time we added the particular efficiency of electric rail?

Sydney Harbour am peak

It seems particularly clear that whatever we add next really can’t involve trying to shove ever more vehicles [cars and buses] onto our crowded city streets; that will simple hold everyone up.

All the information above was gleaned from the work done some six years ago for NZTA, from here, and Auckland has moved on a great deal from where it was then. Among other things that have been proven recently is that when we are offered a high quality rail system we will use it. We are also discovering the value of our City Centre as a place to live, and work, and just be in, and how this is only possible to continue this improvement with fewer cars on every street. We certainly believe that there are more options for a far greater Auckland than the simple binary ones studied above: the road crossing ‘future proofed’ for rail, or the ‘Do Minimum’ which is nothing.

So we have asked, as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Process, for a Rapid Transit crossing as the next additional crossing to be modelled too. So we can compare the status quo with the road crossing, and with a Rapid Transit crossing separately. Additionally we know that AT are now working on how various rail systems could work so in time there will be properly developed rail options to compare with the road one.

There is time as well as the need to get this right, the Western Ring Route will begin to become more complete next year with the opening of the Waterview tunnels, and that whole multi billion dollar system is of course an alternative harbour crossing system and will alter both the performance of  both the Bridge and the CMJ. Similarly decisions about AT’s proposed LRT system too has a bearing on options, as will the opening of the CRL next decade. Not least because the addition of these high quality systems will make movement through the city without a car much more common, as is the case in many overseas cities of Auckland’s size and quality.

The road crossing looks very much like an extremely expensive ‘nice to have’, that duplicates and tidies up the State Highway route, something to add when the missing alternatives have been built and there is spare budget to spend on duplication. Because on balance the road first additional crossing proposal really achieves little more than this:

AWHC 'City Roads' image

end.

Investment in Cycling Infrastructure: What is it Good For?

While the answers to this question are largely sell-evident, it’s great that NZTA have recently released a summary of their view: Benefits of Investing in Cycling in New Zealand.

Follow the link for the full PDF, below is a summary of the seven ways NZTA have identified as beneficial. Followed up by a few images that do the same thing.

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1. Investing in cycling is giving people what they want

People want cycling infrastructure. Many people say they’d like to cycle more, especially if separated cycling infrastructure was provided.

2. Cycling makes towns and cities really liveable

Cycling improves quality of life in towns and cities. ‘Quality of life’ rankings consistently show bike-friendly cities at the top.

3. Cycling makes travelling around urban areas better for everyone

More people cycling potentially improves traffic flow so travel times are shorter, more predictable and reliable, and the transport network performs better. Bicycles are considered to impose 95 percent less impact on travel flow than an average car.

Getting just a few people onto bikes can15 make a di erence to tra c ows. On the congested 5km Petone to Ngauranga section of State Highway 2, for example, research suggests that only 10-30 vehicles out of the 250-280 vehicles occupying the space at congested times are causing the congestion.16 Evaluation of Hastings’ iWay cycling network indicates there was a 3.6 percent reduction in tra c volumes soon after it was built.17

4. Cycling is great for the local economy

Cycling saves people money to spend in their local communities. With no fuel, registration, warrant of fitness and parking costs, and much lower purchasing, maintenance and insurance costs compared to operating a car, people who cycle have more money to spend on other things.

Cycling potentially also boosts retail spend. Various studies have shown that cycling infrastructure can lead to an increase in retail sales.25 People who cycle have been found to be more likely to stop and visit shops more often, and to spend more money at those shops over time, than people who drive.26 Cycleways that run past shop doors can be a very good thing for retailers.

5. More cycling means reduced costs for the council

An increase in cycling saves councils money. This is especially clear where populations are expected to grow. In Christchurch, for example, where 50,000 additional car trips per day are predicted in the city by 2041 unless there is a mode shift to walking, cycling and public transport31, more cycling would mean reduced costs for additional road capacity, maintenance and operations.

6. Cycling is great for the environment overall

A small reduction in short vehicle trips potentially generates signi cant reduction in carbon emissions. Shifting 5 percent of car trips to bicycle could reduce emission impacts by up to 8 percent.33 Similarly, reducing trips by car can reduce the amount of other air pollutants.

7. Cycling makes people healthier and more productive

Cycling reduces the incidence of a range of serious illnesses.

In New Zealand, physical inactivity contributes to around 8 percent of all deaths37, and one in three adults and one in ve children are overweight38. The Ministry of Health reports that only 50.5 percent of New Zealand adults are regarded as sufficiently active for health benefits and physical inactivity is the second leading risk factor of disability adjusted life years.

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Building a better city: Policies and perspectives (part 1 of 2)

This is the first half of a two-part series of posts. It summarises a few ideas that have been banging around the back of my head for a while – basically, an attempt to answer the question: “What can economics do for cities?” In this part, I discuss a couple of important concepts: agglomeration economies, which underpin cities’ existence and ongoing success, and the potential role of pricing mechanisms for managing urban ills.

What do cities do?

Cities mean different things to different people. They are places to work, places to play, places to invest, places to consume, places to conduct politics, places to realise one’s individuality, places to blend into the crowd. (And many, many more things beside.)

In fact, one of the features of a successful city is that it can mean different things to different people, and attract and retain them for different reasons. Cities exist because they are efficient and diverse.

Economists use the term agglomeration economies to describe the advantages of urban scale and density. If you operate a business, locating in a city will allow you to access more workers, more customers, and more new ideas. But even if not, an urban location still offers advantages – more restaurants and retailers, a larger dating pool, better access to education and healthcare, and more choices about how to work, live, and get around.

New research from the Netherlands finds that agglomeration economies in both production and consumption are important, albeit to a different extent in different cities. Furthermore, ignoring agglomeration economies is a risky proposition for cities:

As history has shown (see, for example, what happened to Detroit or the decline in the population of Amsterdam and Rotterdam referred to above), current successes provide no guarantees for the future. This is what Gibrat’s law tells us, growth is independent of current size. Future growth is therefore largely independent of past success. The chances for policymakers that try to row against the tide are small. A successful policy requires to ‘go with the flow’. Large investments in infrastructure in a declining city do not satisfy any real demand but lead to large financial burdens for the local population, making these cities even less attractive. However, policy can make a difference in growing cities. In order to remain on the short list of hot spots, policymakers in these cities have two margins to work on.

  • First, the city has to be attractive for innovative entrepreneurs and enterprises to locate their business.
  • Second, the city has to be an attractive choice for high-educated top talent as a place to live in.

In other words, urban success is a dynamic process. Cities can’t stand still – they must be capable of attracting new people and generating new ideas and opportunities. Simply identifying some things that people like about a city and then freezing them in amber is a recipe for long-term urban failure.

1. Incentives and prices matter, so it’s important to get them right

We need change, but we don’t necessarily need change at all cost. Most development is good, but some has deleterious side-effects. A new factory may contaminate local air and water quality. A coal-fired power plant will damage our climate. A new subdivision may pump traffic onto congested roads. A new retailer may attract more people to park on already-crowded streets.

Policy responses to these challenges can heavy-handed and inefficient. While negative (and positive!) spillovers are abundant in cities, some cures may be worse than the disease. A good example is minimum parking requirements, or MPRs, which require new developments to provide a defined minimum amount of parking. The aim of this policy is to prevent parking from spilling over onto neighbouring streets and properties.

Unfortunately, MPRs tend to be both inefficient and ineffective. They are inefficient because (a) there is usually poor evidence for choosing minimum ratios, meaning that many businesses and households are compelled to purchase more parking than they need and (b) they tend to be more costly than alternative approaches to parking management. Furthermore, they are often ineffective, as people continue to complain about a lack of parking even in places where MPRs have led to a major oversupply.

Better pricing is often a better alternative to blunt policy instruments. As any economist will tell you, if you want less of something, put up the price! This approach is applicable to a wide range of policy areas, especially in cities. For example:

There are several important advantages to using prices, rather than regulations or construction, to discourage negative spillovers. First, pricing respects people’s ability to make good choices. If we had a carbon tax, it wouldn’t prevent someone from burning petrol or farming cows. But it would make them pay the full social cost of those choices.

Second, prices can change in response to new information. AT’s new parking policy is a good example of this – they will monitor demand for on-street parking and tweak the prices up if occupancy is too high. This reduces the risk of screwing things up due to forecasting errors.

Third, and most importantly, prices provide governments, businesses, and households better information, which can enable them to make better decisions. Over time, this will result in significant dynamic efficiencies. For example, congestion pricing will help transport agencies plan infrastructure upgrades. Rather than having to guess whether people will value expanded roads – which frequently leads to errors – they will be able to measure the actual value that people place on travel.

Tomorrow: Part 2.

Parking must pay its way

Parking, parking, parking! In many places in many cities – even eco-friendly German cities – the price of parking is distorted by minimum parking requirements (MPRs). In these places, local governments regulate an over-supply of parking, which in turn holds down prices.

The Auckland city centre is not one of those places, as MPRs were removed from the area inside the motorway cordon in the late 1990s. As a consequence:

  • New developments provide a lot less parking. For example, the new Commercial Bay building would have had to provide over 2000 carparks if it was subject to the same MPRs as the rest of the Auckland isthmus. It’s actually providing 278 carparks – 85% less.
  • The price of parking is higher, as new parking garages must “compete” with other land uses, such as valuable commercial, retail, and residential space. If parking doesn’t pay its way, it doesn’t get built.

Furthermore, the price of parking will tend to rise over time as a result of supply and demand interactions. New demand for parking will tend to be met with increased supply. However, new parking supply will tend to be costlier, as cheap surface carparks are likely to be redeveloped and new city centre parking will increasingly be provided in expensive structures.

In fact, parking fees has been rising. In November 2014, Auckland Transport announced that it would end earlybird discounts – meaning that all commuters would pay an all-day rate of $17 to park. In July 2015, AT hiked the all-day price to $24. Other operators have followed suit. For example, Sky City now charges $22 for earlybird parking – whereas it only charged $14 in 2013.

Of course, not everybody pays to park. According to a 2007 survey of city centre parking spaces summarised in a recent report, there were 22,639 public carparks in the city centre, and 22,121 private non-residential carparks attached to businesses. Here’s the table:

Auckland city centre parking supply 2007

In the Auckland city centre, it is almost always necessary to pay to use public parking – e.g. parking garages or on-street parking. Private carparks attached to businesses may be offered as part of compensation packages, which means that people give up a bit of salary in exchange for a carpark that they don’t have to pay to use on a daily basis. Alternatively, employers may choose to rent them out for a monthly fee.

But here’s the thing. This data suggests that at most 50% of the nonresidential parking in the city centre is being offered free of charge. People using the other 50% must pay to park, either on an hourly or daily basis. The price to park for a day is now in the range of $20, and hourly prices tend to be higher.

In other words, the average price that people pay to park in the city centre could easily be $10/day or more, assuming that 50% of drivers get “free” employer-provided carparks and the remaining 50% pay market rates of around $20/day. Furthermore, the cost for the marginal parking user will tend to be higher, as the removal of MPRs means that they will be more likely to pay full market rates for parking.

This leads me on to the curious case of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC). Or rather, the peculiar assumptions about city centre parking prices that are incorporated into the transport modelling for AWHC.

If constructed, AWHC would be New Zealand’s most expensive single transport project – coming in at a cost of $5-6 billion to bore road tunnels under the Waitemata Harbour. A project of this magnitude demands extra-special care to validate all the model inputs and workings and ensure that they are as realistic as possible. Errors on a major project can have costly ramifications.

With that in mind, here are the parking price assumptions from the 2010 business case for the project. (They can be found on page 42 of the project’s transport modelling report.) They assume that the average price to park in the city centre was $2.83 in 2006, rising to $7.72 in 2041:

AWHC parking price assumptions

It is not clear how these assumptions were chosen, but they do not seem plausible. As I discussed above, the average parking cost in the city centre today could easily be higher than the modelling is assuming for 2041. Getting parking prices back in line with the modelling assumptions would require them to fall by perhaps 30% over the next decade.

A reduction in parking prices is highly unlikely without a major policy shift and a boat-load of investment in uneconomic city centre parking garages. In the absence of MPRs, parking must pay its way. It will not be built if it does not provide a competitive return to business or residential floorspace. This means that new parking will tend to be supplied at a considerably higher price than the AWHC modelling envisages.

Lastly, it is worth noting that parking prices can have a significant impact on transport outcomes. Public transport tends to be cheaper than driving if you have to pay for parking – but more expensive otherwise. Consequently, unrealistically low parking price assumptions will bias transport modelling results by inflating demand for driving and depressing demand for public transport and other non-car modes.

What do you think will happen to city centre parking prices?

The high cost of free parking

The announcement of the Commercial Bay development last week got me thinking about minimum parking requirements.

MPRs were removed from the city centre back in the late 1990s. Prior to that point,all new developments were required to provide parking at roughly the same rate as suburban developments. After that point, individual developers, businesses, and residents got to choice how much parking they wanted.

I’ve always thought that this was a strong factor in the downtown revival we’ve seen since then. If they hadn’t been removed, money that has gone into developing housing and space for businesses would have been diverted into unproductive parking spaces instead.

City Centre Population - 1996-2015 2

Precinct’s new 39-storey tower on the waterfront shows what a difference MPRs make to development. Commercial Bay will ultimately have 39,000 m2 of commercial office space, 18,000 m2 of retail space, and 278 carparks. It’s going to be a big, bold addition to the waterfront. But it simply wouldn’t be possible if MPRs were still in place.

Tower 1

To get a sense of the difference that MPRs would make, I went back to the Auckland isthmus district plan, which will soon be replaced by the Unitary Plan. For developments outside the city centre, it required:

  • one carpark for every 40m2 of office space, and
  • one carpark for every 17m2 of retail space.

In other words, if those MPRs still applied to the city centre, Commercial Bay would have required over 2000 carparks. That’s seven times as much parking as the developers actually want to build. Effectively, it would mean constructing the equivalent of AT’s Downtown Car Park at the bottom of the tower. Say goodbye to ground-floor retail. Say goodbye to laneways through the building. Say hello to bad air quality and inhospitable accessways cutting up the footpath.

Furthermore, MPRs would have dire financial implications for the project. According to Precinct, Commercial Bay will cost $681 million to build. If MPRs required the development to include another 1750 carparks, at a cost of $30-50,000 apiece, it would add $50-90 million to the cost of the project. That suggests that MPRs would impose a “regulatory tax” of  7-13% on downtown development.

But would all those extra carparks have any value? In a word, no. The fact that Precinct chose not to build them suggests that they don’t see the value in providing parking spaces rather than office or retail space. And, as a corollary, it’s likely that their tenants and customers don’t see the value in having seven times as much parking, either.

It’s not as though there are any pressing social requirements for another 1750 carparks, either. Three six-car electric trains can deliver the same number of people to the city centre. At present, Britomart can do that every ten minutes at peak times. After the City Rail Link is constructed, it will be possible to double rail frequencies through the city centre. And our public transport system can do all of this without adding to road congestion – which you can’t say about people driving into the city centre.

AT Rail Capacity Image

The high costs of minimum parking requirements aren’t limited to the city centre. Down in Christchurch, for example, a neighbourhood bar and restaurant is having to shut up shop due to MPRs:

Two Christchurch business owners are “disgusted” by the city council’s ruling they need to create 62 extra car parks to continue operating as is, saying they will likely close their bar.

Dwayne and Tiffany Vaughan, who run Kaizuka Eatery and Garden Bar in Cashmere, have been engaged in a year-long stoush with the Christchurch City Council over its licensing arrangements.

The council said the owners changed the scale of the business operating under the on-licence. The cafe was initially a small part of a garden centre but had grown to take over the premises.

The owners needed an on-licence variation that would in turn trigger resource management and building consent requirements.

According to the City Plan, 10 carpark spaces were required per 100 square metres of public floor area, but reductions could apply. The 800sqm bar had 18 car parks, meaning it would need another 62 to meet the requirements.

Setting aside the complete insanity of even having MPRs for bars – why on earth would we want to encourage people to drive to the pub? – this requirement imposes large costs for parking spaces that don’t seem to be necessary for the business. (After all, it’s been operating since March 2014 with the current number of parking spaces.)

It would probably cost over $1 million for the bar’s owners to comply with MPRs, assuming that they would have to spend around $20,000 to buy land and build carparks. The benefits of this policy are vaguely defined and potentially negative, if abundant parking encourages more people to drive and drink.

All of which begs the question: Why do we still have this costly and useless policy?

Get out the Yellow Paint

I’ve been getting thoroughly fed up of inconsiderate drivers parking cars on footpaths and readers may remember a post I wrote about this less than a month ago. In the last few days the issue has become front page news at the herald who are encouraging outrage that some people were ticketed for the practice. I wish the media would show the same outrage when a person in a wheelchair or pushing a pram can’t get past a car parked on a kerb

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is backing furious residents of the two Orakei streets after the Weekend Herald revealed that Auckland Council parking wardens fined 27 residents in the early morning sting on cars with two wheels on the kerb.

Residents on Orakei’s Apihai and Tautari streets woke on Thursday to find $40 fines on their windscreens.

“The trouble with Auckland Council is its choice to apply blanket rules rather than common sense,” said Carmel Claridge, a spokesperson for the Ratepayers’ Alliance.

“Here a community have done the right thing by parking on the kerb to allow unimpeded access and reduce the hazard. Rather than let them be, the Council swans in with its ‘we know best’ attitude.”

Claridge said her son lives on the affected Tautari Street and believed if residents followed the rules the space left would make it impossible for emergency service vehicles to pass.

Auckland Transport is sticking by the decision, saying the road is not considered narrow and road markings are not needed to prescribe correct parking.

And you can listen to Carmel on Radio live talking about it here.

I can imagine in other situations where a ratepayers group would be furious if council/AT employed people who then didn’t do their job, a ‘what are we paying them for’ type argument. There can also be an issue – particularly in older suburbs – that vehicles can damage infrastructure just below the service, in particular water pipes. When that happens that can result in significant costs to ratepayers to fix.

Interestingly even on Google Streetview you can see the practice is pretty common.

Kerb Parking Herald

Although a quick check of streetview shows it’s not just cars blocking footpaths. For example there’s this on Apihai St showing little regard for those using the footpath

Kerb Parking Herald 2

The article contains a number of other comments blended in with what appears to be a healthy dose of entitlement.

“The people who live on this street, no one complains about it because everyone has to do it and has done it for years.”

One resident who received a ticket, Lyzadie Renault, said it was safer and more courteous to park half on the footpath.

Her home has no driveway and the family’s Range Rover does not fit inside their old, small garage that sits at street level.

“It’s common sense, it just means that people can get through easily and the whole street does it for that exact reason – nobody is trying to break the rules or is fully blocking the sidewalk, it’s being considerate for people using the road.

“When two cars are parked fully on the road, even if you have a normal-sized car, you have to go really slow, let alone for emergency vehicles or all the construction trucks and vans in this neighbourhood, plus rubbish trucks on Thursdays.”

So we’ve got ‘we’ve always parked illegally so why should we stop now’, ‘I brought a vehicle too big for my garage so should be able to park illegally’ and ‘if people didn’t do this I might have to slow down a little’.

And as you might expect, certain people/groups are jumping in to support the parkers.

Cameron Brewer thinks residents should be able to do what they want because they live in expensive houses.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer condemned the blitz as ridiculous. “These people pay huge rates and mean no malice but are being picked on because they’re most likely to stump up the cash to help fill Auckland Transport’s coffers.

“It’s completely unfair and uncalled for. These tickets should be waived forthwith.”

Local board chair Desley Simpson is oddly blaming intensification on something the residents say they’ve done for years

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson said Auckland Transport needed to address the growing issues associated with narrow streets.

“Intensification and narrow streets are causing problems in our older inner-city suburbs,” she said. “Sadly, AT haven’t stepped up to look at options to address this.”

And the AA says people should be able to break rules.

But AA’s senior policy analyst, Mark Stockdale, backs the residents and said the agency should be looking for solutions.

“The public have been ticketed out of the blue for trying to do the right thing by leaving the road clear and not blocking the footpath,” he said.

“It’s the stick instead of the carrot. Yes, the rules are the rules but sometimes the rules don’t make sense – just fining people is not a solution.”

If fining people isn’t the solution and the residents continue to claim that the road is too narrow then it seems there is a quick, cheap and simple solution for Auckland Transport. They should get out the yellow paint and put some dashed lines down at least one side of the road. That’ll solve the problem but somehow I don’t think the residents like the outcome.

Time to cut the kerb parking

A trend I and others have been noticing lately is an ever increasing number of vehicles parking on the kerb or footpath – and it’s really starting to annoy me. It ranges from a couple of tires up on the edge of the kerb to full blown parking over footpaths and blocking pedestrians. From what I can tell a couple of common reasons seem to be

  • the presence of yellow no park lines where it seems that some drivers think that if they mount the kerb it doesn’t really count as parking
  • trying to take up less space on the road, perhaps trying to give other drivers more space to reduce the chance of their vehicle being side-swiped (I can’t imagine this happens often).

Or course in both situations the result is it’s primarily those on foot who suffer, sometimes even having to walk out on to busy roads to get around the vehicle. For someone like me able bodied like me that’s primarily an inconvenience but for other segments of society such as some of those with prams/small children, those with disabilities or the elderly it can be a real safety risk, especially if the vehicle also blocks ramps on to the road.

Here are just a few examples I and others have seen recently however there are likely to be multiple examples every day where this occurs.

Outside Countdown Takapuna, it’s not like there wasn’t a near empty parking lot 10m away (just to the right of the image. I’ve also regularly seen small trucks in the same spot delivering things.

Kerb Parking 1

These guys couldn’t find a carpark so they made one up (they were also sitting in the car and weren’t too polite about me pointing out they were blocking a footpath)

Kerb Parking 4

This driver and their boat blocked not just the footpath but the cycle lane too.

Kerb Parking 5

“Its ok, the hazard lights are on” This was another driver who was very abusive at the suggestion he shouldn’t have been parking here.

Kerb Parking 6

And a few examples from twitter

High St footpaths are narrow enough without this happening

Trailers seem to be a common occurrence

As are couriers

https://twitter.com/aw_nz/status/608871069793976320

Looks like a ladder on the roof, tradie?

Deliveries here are obviously a challenge but perhaps not delivering at 8:30am when people are walking to work might be a good idea.

Kerb Parking 3-1

The loading zone was full so the driver decided to wait, blocking the footpath – again Countdown Takapuna.

Kerb Parking 2

5 Star removals, 0 star parkers

To their credit when the cases in the CBD at least have been raised on twitter, Auckland Transport have been fairly quick to say they’ll get a parking warden out as soon as possible but my concern is the hundreds of other times these situations aren’t reported and/or they are in areas without parking wardens nearby. AT seem more than happy to put on advertising and gimmicks encouraging pedestrians to cross the road safely so there should be no reason they can’t also put effort into stamping out this potentially dangerous practice.

Are you noticing an increase in kerb/footpath parking and what do you think needs to happen to address it?

The equity implications of minimum parking requirements

Transportblog’s written at length about the economic harm caused by minimum parking requirements (MPRs). By requiring every new development to adopt a “one size fits all” to parking provision, MPRs consume expensive land, drive up costs for businesses and households, and encouraging more congestion and less use of public transport, walking, and cycling.

Of course, even in the absence of MPRs many businesses and households would want to provide parking. But others might not. Different people have different needs and desires, and a one size fits all MPR doesn’t respond well to that.

Fortunately, many New Zealand cities are starting to cut back on MPRs. In Auckland, the proposed Unitary Plan removes them from town centres (following on from the highly successful removal of MPRs from the city centre in the late 1990s) and the higher-density residential zone. But it’s still leaving them in place in most residential zones, which cover the majority of the city.

Is this a good idea? One could argue, I suppose, that MPRs in residential zones won’t be very costly because the households living in these areas will all own cars and will therefore all want parking. This argument is a bit circular – if it were true, it would actually mean that there is little need to have MPRs. But is it true?

In order to find out, I took a look at Statistics NZ’s data on household car ownership from the 2013 Census. Every Census, Stats NZ gathers data on the number of cars owned by each household throughout the country. This data can give us rich insights into the demographics and location of Auckland’s car-free households.

Here’s one look at the data. I’ve broken down Auckland’s approximately 470,000 households by the number of cars that they own. As you can see, the vast majority of Auckland households own cars. This is a costly proposition, but frequently a necessary one due to Auckland’s under-investment in frequent public transport and safe walking and cycling options.

But let’s not look only at the mean: the variance is equally important when considering the impact of planning regulations. Approximately 33,500 households, or 7.6% of all Auckland households, own no cars. (My household falls into this category – three people, zero cars.) MPRs will require car-free households to buy parking spaces or garages that they don’t need. Sure, it’s possible for them to use garages for storage or workshop space, but it would be better to have another bedroom (or a smaller, cheaper dwelling) instead.

Car-free households face a double budgetary whammy from MPRs. Because they require retailers to over-provide parking, parking costs are bundled into the price of everyone’s merchandise rather than charged directly to drivers. This means that every time someone who doesn’t own a car goes to the supermarket or mall, they are effectively subsidising people who drove there.

Auckland household car ownership chart

In short, MPRs can be costly for households who don’t own cars. When considering the effects of this policy, it’s necessary to ask: Can those households afford to bear those costs?

Here’s some relevant data from the Census. It shows the share of households in each income band who don’t own cars. Almost all high-income households own cars, but a large share of low-income households don’t own cars. Almost one-third of households earning less than $20,000 and one-fifth of households earning between $20,000 and $30,000 own no cars.

Overall, two-thirds (66.7%) of car-free households earned less than $50,000 a year. For comparison, Census data shows that the median household income in Auckland was $76,500 in 2013. Car-free households are overwhelmingly concentrated in the bottom quartile of the income distribution, which means that MPRs are a sharply regressive policy. They impose high costs on the people who are least able to pay, while having few effects on high-income households.

Auckland share of households with no cars chart

Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the geographical distribution of Auckland’s 33,500 car-free households. One of the ways in which households can avoid the costs of car ownership is to live in places which offer other ways of getting around or good proximity to jobs, shops, and amenities.

I’ve put together a quick map showing the number of car-free households in each Auckland area unit. Dark blue shows areas with more car-free households, while yellow shows areas with few car-free households. A few things pop out from this map. The first is that the largest concentrations of car-free households are in the city centre – fewer than half of city centre households own cars. This is not surprising – it’s costly to warehouse cars downtown and easy to get by without one.

But don’t let that fool you: car-free households are distributed widely throughout Auckland’s urbanised area. Only 16% of the region’s car-free households live in the city centre. Many, many more people are living without cars in west Auckland, south Auckland, the isthmus and even the North Shore. Orewa has a surprisingly large number of car-free households due to its status as a retirement community.

Auckland car-free households map

Because car-free households are living more or less everywhere in Auckland, the blanket application of MPRs in residential areas is likely to be inappropriate. And, because low-income households are more likely to own no cars, MPRs will tend to be heavily regressive. It’s a policy that many Aucklanders simply can’t afford.

Fortunately, it’s possible to imagine and implement better policies. As Transportblog has consistently argued, we can:

  • Let people make up their own mind about parking – if they don’t want it, don’t make them buy it!
  • Give people better transport choices by providing frequent, reliable public transport services and safe walking and cycling options – in other words, give them the choice to go without a car
  • Make it easier for people to live in areas where they don’t need cars, and make it easier for people to “retrofit” underperforming car-based places like Manukau centre.

What do you think about the equity impacts of MPRs? Do you think we could do things better?

Changes to CBD Parking costs

Auckland Transport have announced that the price of parking in their city centre carparks will be changing. Currently their Downtown, Civic and Victoria Street car parking buildings have an hourly cost of $3 which is capped at $17 for the day. They also have evening rates of $2 per hour capped at $7.50 for the Downtown and Victoria St buildings and $8 for the Civic building. The reason for the different cap for the Civic building is it more frequently fills up from events.

The hourly charges aren’t changing but from 1 August AT will increase the caps at the three carparks. The changes are:

  • The day rate in the Downtown, Civic and Victoria Street car parking buildings will increase from $17 to $24.
  • Evening and maximum rates: Civic: Flat fee of $12 (post 6pm). Victoria and Downtown: Increase from $7.50 to $10.

The rationale for the changes is below

  • Historically AT has subsidised people to drive into the city at peak times, which is adding to congestion.
  • AT is continuing to move towards the customer pays for their stay approach. This replicates AT’s central city on-street parking approach
  • Our prices are increasing further to dis-incentivise people from driving during one of the busiest times of the day (am peak).
  • AT anticipates this move will free up some peak hour occupancy in its off-street parking facilities while continuing to provide for short stay users encouraging turn-over and availability
  • The removal of the Early Bird option in December 2014 has not had the desired impact in changing customer behaviour. A further step is needed to assist in modal shift behaviour from cars to public transport, walking or cycling.
  • Additional note: AT has a small percentage of off street car parking spaces in the central city and region wide. Downtown: 1937 spaces. Civic: 939 spaces. Victoria Street car park: 888 spaces.

On that last point, the chart below just how few carparks AT has compared to what else is in the city centre. In addition there’s likely to be significant increases in carpark supply over the coming years from new developments – the biggest of which is the new Convention Centre for which SkyCity want to add over 1,400 spaces. A number of other developments are adding 200-300 carparks each.

CBD Parking Supply

I suspect there could be one more reason why AT are pushing this now and that’s related to the CRL. Starting later this year AT start the enabling works which will see the CRL tunnels dug along Albert St as far as Wyndham St (actually tunnelling won’t begin till next year). This is going to cause immense disruption to buses and cars and as such it makes sense to try and reduce that as much as possible. Shifting more people to public transport is one way of get more capacity out of the transport system. I guess if you think about incentivising change as a case of using carrots and sticks, this change represents AT using a bigger stick.

Of course none of these facts are likely to matter to those who use the carparks and I expect there will be howls of outrage about the change – in fact I’d be surprised if it hasn’t yet been picked up by the likes of the Herald (I wrote this on Sunday). I suspect that in particular they’ll come under attack for being so honest about their desire to get more people out of their cars and using public transport. The reality is that’s kind of been happening for a long time now.

Data from the council’s annual Screenline Survey shows that from 2001-2014 all of the growth in trips to the city centre in the AM peak has come by way of public transport and most of that via the Rapid Transit Network (Rail and Busway). The number of people driving has actually declined slightly. Unfortunately despite the survey being conducted annually since the 1980’s we don’t have any data for 2015 as the council stopped it in a bid to cut costs. Hopefully AT will find a way to replicate the survey with data from systems like HOP and traffic counters as it provides an incredibly useful measure as to how various initiatives are working.

CBD Transport Change CBD Transport Change #