There was an excellent post by Pippa Coom who is a member of the Waitemata Local Board on the Shape Auckland website.
How we regulate, control and plan for parking has a huge impact on Auckland’s urban design, the environment, housing affordability and our transport.
The subject provokes strong opinions and calls for free parking. Many decisions about parking have been based on myths, false assumptions and poor evidence. When defining issues in our city as “parking problems”, as “experts” we turn to more parking as the solution.
Regulations made with good intentions, have led to poor results, holding back our city’s potential.
We now have the opportunity, through the Unitary Plan, to put in place a best-practice approach to car parking that has the potential to unleash economic, social and environmental benefits.
UCLA economist Dr Donald Shoup (author of The High Cost of Free Parking) extensively studied parking as a key link between transportation and land use, with important consequences for cities, the economy and the environment. His thinking influenced Auckland Transport’s proposal for a city centre parking zone (implemented late 2012) with the aim of better managing on-street parking as a finite resource competing for other transport priorities. The scheme applies “demand-responsive pricing” and includes the removal of time restrictions, increased on-street parking prices and extended paid parking until 10pm.
It’s early days but all indications are pointing to success with greater availability of parking, a reduction in tickets and more casual visitors. The city also benefited from reduced maintenance costs with 62 per cent of parking poles removed. Other business centres are now looking at applying similar principles to free up on-street parking for customers.
At a Getting Parking Right for Auckland seminar in April we heard that parking supply is not the problem, rather poorly managed oversupply. A total of 80 per cent of off-street parking is privately owned, which hinders its effective use. For example, minimum parking quantities in our current district plans means some car parks are only used during the day by commuters and shoppers while other car parks are used only at night for entertainment. Using land for empty car parks is hugely wasteful.
Traditional city requirements to include car parking with affordable housing have also been a major barrier to higher-density developments as a car park is not always required by inner-city residents.
Parking in the draft Unitary Plan
So how is the draft Unitary Plan shaping up when it comes to car parking requirements? The plan requires that car parking be managed to support:
- intensification in and around the city centre, metropolitan, town and local centres and within mixed-use corridors
- the safe and efficient operation of the transport network
- the use of more sustainable transport options including public transport, cycling and walking
- the economic activity of businesses
- efficient use of land
It proposes that maximum quantities (with no minimums) apply in and around:
- City centre fringe area
- Centres zones: metropolitan, town, local
- Mixed-use zone
- Terrace housing and apartment buildings zone
Everywhere else minimum quantities apply with no maximums – except for offices (to discourage “out-of-centre” development motivated by the ability to provide parking).
The rationale is that in and around centres, maximums and no minimums supports intensification and public transport. Elsewhere the planners have explained that minimums are required as they are less willing to rely on the market to meet parking needs and are more concerned with the effects of “parking overspill”.
The removal of minimum quantities around town centres but retaining them for new developments appears to be a solution for today’s lack of public transport. But it creates a problem for future generations who will have to deal with the oversupply of parking and poor land use (plus the uneconomic bundling of car parking costs with housing).
The rationale for controlling the effect of parking overspill is poorly thought through. Instead we should allow the market to provide the right level of parking, allowing for overspill onto surrounding streets is a good use of otherwise empty road space. If that space reaches capacity – as has happened in our city fringe suburbs – the response should be to better manage the on street parking, for example, with a residents’ parking scheme.
When providing feedback on the draft Unitary Plan’s parking requirements, take the time to consider the evidence that emerges when parking is stripped back. Cities around the world are taking a different approach and being richly rewarded.
As I said, it was an excellent post, the only thing I am going to add is add in the tables from the unitary plan which show the exact requirements proposed in the Unitary Plan. For carparking it says
1. The number of car parking spaces required or permitted accessory to any activity is set out in Table 1. These controls apply unless the Unitary Plan specifies otherwise. The number of car parking spaces must:
a. not exceed the maximum rates specified in tables 1a, 1b and 1c in the locations where these apply
b. meet the minimum rates specified in Table 1c in the locations where these apply
c. meet the minimum rates and not exceed the maximum rates specified in Table 1c in locations where both apply.
2. Where a site supports more than one activity, the parking requirement of each activity must be separately determined. The parking rates for the parts of any activity must also be separately determined where separate rates are listed in the table which applies. If any activity is not represented in Table 1c, the activity closest in nature to the proposed activity must be used.
What’s interesting is to compare these requirements with what is being proposed for the new Convention Centre. The centre will sit on a 14,000m² site and have three floors (each with a height of 12m). At the most that means floor area of 42,000m². Under these rules the maximum parking allowed would be 200 spaces yet SkyCity are planning for 900. What is also odd is that the Heads of Agreement signed between SkyCity and the government actually states a minimum of 780 spaces, well outside even the current requirements of 1:150m² (max 280 parks). Anyway back to the Unitary Plan requirements:
Lastly the council has actually included some minimum requirements for cycle parking as well as other facilities to support it. Hopefully this will help in eventually making cycling more viable for a wider range of people however it is odd that medical facilities are singled out separately.
This a guest post by Tim Kvingedal, a student at the School of Architecture, University of Auckland. Tim is from Norway.
I´ve been living in central Auckland for 11 months now, and you know what? I’m getting sick of waiting for cars. Every time I step out of my flat I feel like I’m wasting my time and this is why I did this research.
First a little backdrop of the situation in Auckland
Tim K 2
This map shows all parking, which is run by the big companies like Wilson etc., in Auckland CBD. The ones marked with letters are all multi storey car parks and the red dots are “smaller” ones on the ground. You can also add all the parking that belongs to private offices, shops etc. There are so many parking spots but still not enough for the ridiculous amount of cars. So we need more car parks, you say? Well, if you want to dig your own grave, the answer is yes. If you’re more interested in making Auckland work as a well functioning city in the future public transport is the answer, and by public transport I first of all mean train.
Lets do a quick assessment of what kind of work cars and train are doing best. Well, one single railway has about twelve times more capacity than a single motorway lane. This means that you can ship a large amount of people in and out of the city centre ten times more efficient than a car would do.
On average there are 1.2 people in each car going in and out of Auckland CBD. This means that there is a lot of space wasted to get 1.2 people from A to B. The car is also running on fossil fuels and will pollute a whole lot more than an eco friendly electric train. What the train cannot do is to take you to rural places like your bach, which are miles away from the rail lines. So the car is good at transporting you out from urban places whereas the train is good at taking you in and out of the cities.
For my research I decided to see how much time I wasted on a single trip from my apartment in Union Street to Countdown grocery store next to Queen Street. This should be a 10 minute walk with 7 intersections. Lets see what happened:
I only need to walk 20 meters before my first red man. I started the stopwatch. 30 seconds, 1 minute, still no sign of the green man. So what do you do? Call a friend? Well, with all that traffic noise there’s no point in calling anyone. Better do nothing. So finally, after 1 minute 45s I’m allowed to cross.
I walk up Hobson Street and I spot this gap between two buildings. This is not the only one I’ve seen, Auckland is filled with these gaps and most of them are used for ‘temporary’ car parks. In this gap it looks like it´s one lucky car that found this secret little spot with great view.
The thing about these gaps is that people don’t see them, except people that are in a cars looking for a car park. The street life desperately needs these gaps to be filled, because they’re puncturing the whole experience of walking down the street and being activated by the programmes in the surrounding buildings.
This particular spot would be great for a café or what about just putting a big cow there to activate people walking down the street and open their eyes for that gap and what kind of potential it has.
I start walking again and I see people running like crazy to cross the street before the green man disappears. They simply don’t want to waste their time waiting for cars to cross.
So after a couple of red men and one lucky green I’m standing next to Auckland’s biggest wound, the gap next to Elliot Street. Not surprisingly this is used for parking cars, and this is just devastating for the area. Again, why not do something to activate the area before they start building there? There is already one carousel so yeah let’s have a temporary mini amusement park. Think of all the joy this will spread out to the area. Kids laughing, music, the smell of popcorn. I mean anything is better for the city than another car park.
Another thing that fascinates me when I’m walking are all the cars popping out of buildings like Jack in the box.
As a pedestrian I almost constantly have to be aware of that there might be a car coming out of this slot. It’s not that it’s really dangerous but you still have to be aware of it all the time. On my way home I clocked how long time I’d spent on passing these car slots.
This picture sums up the feeling as a pedestrian with all this cars popping out. It’s a battle:
It’s not just the cars crossing the pedestrian lane that is annoying, but also that the pedestrian lane itself sometimes disappear! There is no marking and no lights telling you when you can cross. So I guess if I want to follow the traffic rules I better go back and try another way?
So after crossing 14 intersections in total I’m home again and these are the stats from the walk:
So thanks to the auto-dominant nature of Auckland I will have wasted 91 hours of my time this year just to buy groceries.
And I’m not sure it’s working out so well for all the drivers either…
Prepare To Stop!
Over on the excellent The Conversation website is a post by Melbourne researcher Leigh Glover entitled:
New freeways cure congestion: time to put that myth to bed.
In which he runs through the usual myths about road building and congestion in the Australian context, where of course everything is bigger, more expensive, and more dramatic.
Myth #1: New freeways reduce congestion
“Not only is this not true, but new freeways increase overall road use and contribute to worsening congestion. If you want to reduce road congestion — an understandably popular goal in our car-dependent capital cities — the only viable option is to reduce the demand for road space.
Not only does international research support this fact, local anecdotal experiences reflect it. We are living through an era of urban freeway building, yet congestion is worsening and travel times are lengthening.
Why does this happen? New roads don’t just divert existing traffic but also attract new users and keep on doing so until they reach capacity. In transport planning jargon, this is the effect of “induced traffic”. The more roads you build, the more traffic you have.
There are also associated effects that flow on from building freeways, such as land use decisions that then reinforce car use and car-dependency.”
This is the point that I like to sum up with this observation: What you feed; grows.
We have observed this with the resurgence of bus and train use after investment in Auckland this century, and of course we have seen it for the last 60 years with driving in Auckland. We have fed it and it has grown. And as Matt showed here, we also dismantled and downgraded transit networks at the same time which of course further reinforced this growth.
This problem is especially exacerbated if we now only invest in the one already dominant mode so that there is little effective choice. Congestion is bad in Auckland, despite the city’s small size internationally, because there is largely little option but to partake in it.
Still the mad logic of investing more in something we have too much of to try to solve the problem of this excess is not confined to this country. Both Sydney and Melbourne have huge urban motorway projects on the books that are likely to proceed simply because they will attract Federal money despite being highly questionable at best. This is the same situation that local bodies in NZ are in; enormous practical pressure to support national government agendas even when they are likely to work in direct opposition to agreed local aims because they come with their own funding. The additional Harbour Crossing and the amount of parking at the new Convention Centre are examples of this.
But also there is the uneven economic situation of these two types of projects.
Here is Alan Davies the Melburbanist discussing the recent crazy urban motorway decision in Victoria, where he includes this image of causality:
This pic shows one of the on-going prices of auto-dependancy that never gets included in any benefit cost analysis of urban motorway projects: so much precious building going to house those individual vehicles.
He then goes on to ask why do road projects of poor value get funded over long discussed rail ones, and it is this point that stands out for me:
The advantages of rail over roads are mostly in economic costs i.e. externalities. Many of these costs are diffuse and don’t affect the state budget directly, or if they do it’s often well into the future when “it’s somebody else’s problem”.
This I think is exactly true, the economic costs of road building are huge but external to the projects directly; they fall to property owners having to build so much parking, to people who die and are maimed in crashes, to the city in its loss of value through auto-domination of urban place, to the environment, to or balance of payments through oil dependancy, to individuals having to buy, run, and insure so many expensive vehicles. These are dispersed costs, and therefore easily ignored and glossed over.
And likewise the economic benefits of Transit infrastructure are huge but also easily downplayed and dismissed, as they to do not immediately arrive in an account like a lotto prize, but rather accrue over time in an equally dispersed way. And if the projects are never built then the whole idea of such value can be dismissed as unlikely or only ever happening in other countries where conditions are always different.
But also we have the peculiar situation of the national [and National] government choosing projects in Auckland knowing that these externalities fall largely locally. Both the costs of the mode they favour and the benefits of those that they don’t. We really need to become much more sophisticated in our economic evaluations, or resign ourselves to life in an underperforming and slowly choking city.
Last week I looked at the costs of parking in parking buildings in the central city. Today I’m going to look at on street parking, in particular the impacts of the changes Auckland Transport made last year. If you don’t remember the changes then here is a quick recap.
Auckland Transport made some quite fundamental changes to how parking in the city centre is managed. The main changes were:
- Remove time limits for Pay & Display parking
- Introduce a graduated tariff structure in the central CBD – initially set at $4.00/hour for the first two hours, then $8.00/hour thereafter
- Implement a new 10 minute grace period
- Extend hours of paid parking until 10:00pm in central CBD
- Reduce off-street casual parking rates from $5.50/hour to $3.00/hour
- Reduce off-street casual daily maximum parking rate from $29.00 to $17.00
- Amend early bird entry time from 9.30am to 8.30am
Crucially AT managed to get the support of Heart of the City which advocates on behalf of the CBD retailers which was a significant achievement. A map of the changes is below.
At the last AT board meeting, one of sections in the business report covered off how the changes had been performing. The report said this about on street parking.
Notable changes in on-street daytime parking since CCPZ implementation have included:
- A decrease in the number of parking receipts by 8%, but an increase in parking revenue by 10%.
- A pleasing reduction in the number of infringements issued by 21%.
We understand that these changes in behaviour are likely the outcome of the removal of time restrictions. No time limits provide customers with choice to decide how long they want to stay, rather than being forced to obey restrictive time limits. Customers are therefore able to maximise their reason for visitation (e.g. business, shopping, dining out, or leisure).
See the table below which covers the period 1 January to 31 March 2013, compared to the same period in 2012:
So we have less people parking on the streets (a good thing) yet increased parking revenue (a good thing) and there were significantly less infringements being issued (a good thing). In other words so far the changes have been extremely successful when looked at just from on street parking alone. AT also note that there was a signification increase in the number of people using their parking buildings for casual parking and that the average time people stayed in them had also increased. Perhaps the only downside is that parking revenue from off street carparks declined $55,000 due to the price reduction. The reduction showed through quite clearly in the parking maps I made for the post last week with AT buildings being the cheapest places to park in the city for casual parking. Even with that price reduction taken into account, AT still saw a net increase in revenue from both on and off street parking of $129,000. In my view that is a very good result and shows that they are heading in the right direction so well done AT.
I had initially planned to write this post earlier and in the meantime the Herald has also looked at these results. The most interesting part I found was right at the end with the comments from Alex Swney
Heart of the City business organisation chief executive Alex Swney said he was pleased at the apparent success of the strategy for getting more motorists into parking buildings, and those choosing to stay on the streets could not complain about paying more for longer stays.
“If I want to stay for longer, I know I am going to have to pay for it.”
Mr Swney said the system would really come into its own in the next financial year, once Auckland Transport introduced $4.5 million of new technology parking meters to the streets, which would warn drivers with smart phones when they were about to face double fees so they could decide whether to move on or use their phones to pay more by remote control.
Linking in parking meters with smart phones sounds like an interesting idea. I am also aware that the new parking meters will allow people to pay for parking with their HOP card, something I think is superb.
Edit: I forgot to add in the changes have also been noticed by some of the other regions with both Tauranga and Hutt city councils looking at the implementation as they want to make similar changes.
We all know that parking in the CBD is expensive, but just how expensive. Well I thought I would not only find out, but map it and here are the results. I have included in these maps all of the carparks managed by Auckland Transport, Tournament Parking, Wilson Parking as well as a couple of others that I am aware of. Not all carparks are created equal though, some are just a handful of spaces on a small site where as others are monstrous buildings housing hundreds, if not thousands of parking spaces.
First up we have early-bird parking. I imagine that this is what the majority of commuters pay and at most carparks, drivers are able to achieve early-bird prices if they arrive before 9:30am or 10am. The big exception to this are the carparks controlled by Auckland Transport which require drivers to enter before 8:30am (K Rd is 9:30am). When you think about it, this is incredibly stupid as it encourages people to drive right at the time when the roads are at their busiest. Also included in this map are any carparks that offer a set all day fee. A few bits of info on the prices:
- It’s hard to give an an average early-bird price as it depends on which sites you include/exclude however in the central city most tend to be in the range of $11-$15 per day.
- The cheapest park seems to be the surface level carpark behind the Bledisloe building managed by AT which charges a flat fee of only $6 per day.
- The most expensive is a small Wilson carpark on Swanson St which charges $19 per day.
- If you exclude the two super cheap AT carparks, the best deal for early-bird parking seems to be at Skycity which is $14 however you can use your ticket to get a free coffee from their Rebo Pronto café on the ground floor.
Next I looked at how much it would cost to park in the city casually for two hours. This produced some interesting results (note: there is a different scale).
- In many of the carparks, especially ones managed by Wilsons, it was actually more expensive to park for two hours than it was to use early-bird parking.
- By far the cheapest locations were those managed by Auckland Transport and in many cases they are less than half the price of nearby parks managed by private companies.
- The most expensive place to park is in the SAP tower off Wyndham St which would cost $32 for two hours.
Now one of the reasons that the AT buildings are by far the cheapest comes back to a decision a few months ago to deliberately price them that way in a bid to encourage people to use them, rather than on street car parks and was tied in with the new on street parking prices. It was at this time that AT brought forward the early-bird parking time too. In AT’s latest board report there is some information on the impact those changes had.
Notable changes in off-street parking CBD car park buildings for the period 1 January to 31 March 2013, compared to same period in 2012, have been:
- A 19% (41,000) increase in the total casual customer count, from 216,000 to 257,000. Casual revenue decreased $55,000 for the same period, due to the price reduction, offset by increased patronage.
- Casual customers are on average parking for a longer duration. The average duration in 2012 was 1 hour 30 minutes, while the recent 2013 average duration was 2 hours and 20 minutes. Customers staying less than one hour reduced by 24%.
- A 30% average decline in Early Bird customers across Civic, Downtown and Victoria Street car parks. A 19% growth in Early Bird customers at K Road car park.
- In total, revenue for off-street car parking receipts for the quarter reduced by 9% ($226k).
The graphs below show the number of customers for each product type since the CCPZ was introduced compared to the same period last year.
I will look at the impacts on on-street parking in a separate post.
In this recent post Matt L considered the Government’s proposal to extend fringe benefit tax (FBT) to employer-provided parking in Auckland and Wellington’s CBDs.
The Government is keen to extend FBT to employer-provided parking because the parking being provided has a fairly high (market) value. Hence, in these locations employer-provided parking constitutes a significant non-cash benefit, or a “perk” in common parlance. In principle, the logic behind the proposed change is sound. Given this logical background, much of the opposition to the tax has been what I would call suspiciously vocal.
Under normal circumstances you would expect a fundamentally logical proposal to attract comments like “it’s a good idea, but issues x, y, and z need to be addressed.” If opponents to the extension of FBT to employer-provided parking were advancing arguments of this type, and the issues they were identifying had merit, then I would not be writing this post. What does not wash, however, is how opponents to the FBT change seem to be 1) failing to acknowledge the issues created by the current tax treatment and 2) advancing highly emotive and apparently spurious arguments in support of their position.
The most emotive arguments are originating from unions. Unite leader Matt McCarten, for example, was quoted in the Herald as saying:
… the tax could see night shift employees lose their work car parks, forcing them to walk to their cars parked away from their workplaces in “at unsafe hours in some of the most unsafe parts of the city, risking assault and rape“.
Which naturally causes you to think OH MY GOD PEOPLE ARE GOING TO GET RAPED OR ASSAULTED IF THE GOVERNMENT EXTENDS FBT TO CAR-PARKS. This is what I call an “FBT WTF” moment.
If people walking to their car after work are at risk of being raped or assaulted, then does it not also stand to reason that people walking to their home after work are at similar if not greater risk? And Matt M should know that many people employed in low-paid shift work in the CBD actually live in the CBD as well. The fact that these people can walk to and from work is possibly, just possibly, what attracts them to working there in the first place. Why does he seem to think that employees who walk to cars after finishing work are at greater risk than employees who walk to other destinations?
It may be that Auckland’s criminals are specifically targeting employees who drive to work. That would be rather clever; drivers certainly are on average less fit than their pedestrian-powered colleagues. In which case, maybe Matt M is right, maybe employees that drive to work should be seen as weak and vulnerable wildebeests limping around the CBD savanah while merciless criminals stalk them like hungry hyenas from the shadows. But putting powerful “Lion King” imagery to one side, one does have to wonder whether the risk of being raped or assaulted while you walk to your vehicle after work is quite as high as Matt M makes out.
To provide you with an anecdotal (but real) example, I have been walking home from the CBD late at night on many occasions in the last decade (usually alone, mwahhh mwahhh) and I’ve never had any of these hungry hyena criminals chase me. Now I do understand that I’m not the most attractive (or feminine) social-democratic watermelon in the fruit bin, but I do ride a girl’s bike. I mean goodness gracious, if the risk of being raped or assaulted was as high as Matt makes out then maybe we should require CBD employers fly their employees home in helicopters? Unfortunately not all of us proletariat have rich friends who own helicopters …
Which brings me nicely onto Banksie – who had this to say about the FBT changes:
“I think it is very damaging for small business, particularly in CBD Wellington or Auckland … CBD Auckland is struggling. Small business in the Queen St and precincts are really hurting. It is not easy.”
Oh really? A tax on car-parks is going to hurt small businesses on Queen Street? The same Queen Street that has, like, zero car-parks? Hmmm … can’t fault your logic there John. The other thing to note is the use of the word “small” in front of business. Is he right? Will the costs of the FBT change be borne disproportionately by small businesses? I think not.
Let’s put our thinking caps on for a second and answer this question: Consider two companies; company A which employs 1,000 people and company B which employs 10. Of these two companies, which do you think is more likely to provide free parking for employees? I think you’d have to be a deranged hyena to answer Company B. It seems obvious to me that large companies go for bigger, newer buildings that are far, far more likely to have car-parking attached to them. They also tend to be sucky employers who use taxpayer funded perks as a way of coaxing employees to stick around.
Here’s a real world case study, which demonstrates the (supposed) parking requirements for a NZ-based global dairy giant (who shall remain nameless), which is currently looking for a new corporate HQ in Auckland’s CBD:
This suggests F%&$#@~a want a total of 200 car-parks for their employees. In comparison, the company I manage employs about 10 people. And how many car-parks do we have? Zero, zilch, nada. There you have it: Another undeniable personal anecdote that is slightly less emotive than the arguments advanced by the opponents to the FBT change. More seriously, my gut feeling is that while SMEs do account for 80% of the commercial sector (i.e. they are a large proportion of all businesses), they probably do not provide an equivalent proportion of free car-parking for employees – hence they will be impacted disproportionately less by this change than big business.
Once one gets past the emotional hyperbole about rapists and small business, there is one somewhat substantive argument advanced by opponents of the FBT change in support of their position, namely the issue of “compliance costs”. High compliance costs are usually a valid reason to oppose a tax: After all most taxes are designed to collect revenue, so it would be pointless if the costs of complying with said tax outweighed the revenue that it generated. In such cases the Government would be better off taxing businesses through existing broad-based taxes, such as corporate tax.
But in this situation the compliance cost issue is, I think, a big fat red herring (BFRH). The reason it’s a BFRH relates to the very essence of FBT, namely that the tax is designed to stop employers from providing non-cash benefits, such as free parking, to their employees. And if employers stop providing free parking to their employees, then they won’t get hit with FBT and, by extension, they will avoid the dreaded “compliance costs”.
Stated differently, the opponents to this change are trying to portray FBT as a tax meteorite they cannot dodge.
In reality, employers do have a choice. And quite frankly they’d be stupid to keep doing what they’re currently doing, because in doing so they would incur a tax rate of 50%. Thus the whole idea of FBT is to stop employers from paying their employees non-cash benefits. The best way to avoid taxes on cigarettes is, you guessed it, to stop smoking. Or buy all your ciggies at the airport …
Anyway, my key point is that the compliance costs of extending FBT to employer-provided parking will, for most rational small businesses like mine (hah!), be close to zero – because they will stop doing it. Similarly, the revenue the Government earns from extending FBT to parking will be close to zero. But this does not mean the tax change is pointless from a revenue perspective, because the value of employer-provided parking will now flow through normal (broader) taxes, such as PAYE and – to a lesser extent – corporate tax. Both of which have lower compliance costs than FBT FYI.
Interestingly, it seems David Farrar over at KiwiBlog came to a similar position. Social-democratic watermelons of a feather flock together huh?
Ultimately, the suspiciously vocal opposition to the extension of FBT to employer-provided car-parking seems likely to originate with organisations that are guilty of putting their hand in the tax cookie jar – and now they are squealing like little piggies about the lid possibly being slammed shut. When you look at the issue in a relatively objective light then changes to the tax treatment of employer-provided parking seems to be something that obviously needs to happen at some point (NB: Opponents would do well to start every sentence on this topic with a statement to that effect, lest they wish to undermine their credibility even further).
I’m sure there’s a worthwhile debate to be had about whether FBT is the best way to slam shut the car-parking cookie jar – and that’s a debate I’d like to have. Without the hyperbole.
So yesterday saw the launch of the Draft Unitary Plan, which is now open to feedback between now and the end of May. Mayor Len Brown kicked off the launch with a fairly rousing speech, fighting back against many of the crazy things Central Government has been going on about in recent times:
We could continue to do things the way they were always done from the 1950s on.
More sprawling suburbs. More roads. More laissez-faire development. And what would happen?
There would be more congestion. There would be even less of a sense of pride in being Aucklanders, as we live in far-flung suburbs and centres.
We would see the loss of more of our farmland – some of the most productive land in New Zealand – as it was turned into roads and pavements.
And there would be more costs on ratepayers – because of the huge infrastructure costs associated with sprawling cities.
So onto the Plan itself – my first impression is that while the zoning map comes across as fairly simple, there’s a heap of detail in the text that will take a while to work through to actually understand it. Unlike the Auckland Plan, this isn’t a “pretty” and nicely worded document that’s easy to make sense out of and explains itself particularly well. This is, despite the great innovations of the online text and the GIS mapping system, still a complex and detailed resource management plan that isn’t easy to work out what it actually means quickly.
First, let’s analyse the positive things. Looking across the Auckland isthmus there seems to be some quite bold zoning changes, with fairly extensive use of the apartment/terraced (orange) and the mixed use (light-purple) zones: the two zones where intensification seems like it’s most easily undertaken:
Full map legend here: http://acmaps.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/unitaryplan/FlexViewer/help/pdfs/UnitaryPlanLegend.pdf
It seems as though there’s a good concentration of ‘upzoning’ around the rail network and around key town centres like Royal Oak, Mt Roskill, Panmure and Avondale as well as along major arterials with frequent bus services – such as Sandringham and Dominion Roads. Most areas zoned for single dwellings (the lightest colour) on the isthmus appears as though they have been zoned that way for heritage/character protection reasons – although that actually affects smaller proportions of places like Grey Lynn, Sandringham or Balmoral than I might have anticipated.
The bulk of the whole city’s residential land actually seems to fall into something called the “Mixed Housing Zone” (the colour that sits between the very light brown of the single dwelling zone and the orange of the apartment/terraced zone). Because this zone is so widespread, the extent to which it enables intensification, the ease of getting consent for intensification and the quality controls which exist to ensure that intensification will be done well, will all be pretty essential in determining whether the Unitary Plan can achieve the delicate balance it wants: enabling intensification but in a quality way.
Working through the details of the Mixed Housing zone suggests that small-scale intensification isn’t going to be much easier than it is now (there’s a density controls of 1 unit per 300 square metres which is only slightly more generous than most residential zones at the moment), although minor units seem like they can be added in most zones as long as they form part of the main building. However on sites larger than 1200 square metres it seems the density rules drop away and much more flexibility is possible – though still up to two levels in height and this will require a resource consent.
The need for a resource consent seems like it will be pretty common under the Unitary Plan, with other rules like pre 1944 demolition controls covering pretty vast sections of the city, while any development in the terraced housing and apartment zone, and most of the business zones, will require some level of consent. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as it means there can be discussion over the proposal’s quality), but the uncertainty of a consent may dissuade some from developing – potentially undermining the intention of the more intensive zones to actually enable growth in a relatively painless way.
Of course the other part of the Unitary Plan that we’ve taken great interest in is parking – whether the plan would retain minimum parking requirements, whether it would impose maximums, where there might be minimums or maximums and what levels those rates might be. Looking through the relevant section it seems as though there have been some improvements on the current system of minimums pretty much everywhere except the CBD – however I think the plan could still go a lot further. This is my summary of the approach:Perhaps what’s most striking from the outset is that there’s nowhere where parking isn’t controlled in some way or another (except for some outdoor recreational activities it seems). The Unitary Plan either limits the amount of parking you can provide or it forces at least a certain amount of parking to be provided. In some cases it seems as though the rates are fairly similar – but depending on the zone you can’t provide any more, or any less, than this magical number of spaces.
I guess to be fair there are some important wins here. The zones where minimum parking requirements have been removed are the most important zones for that to have happened. All centres, the Mixed Use zone, the whole city fringe area, the apartment and terraced zone: these are the main locations where intensification and new business (retail and office) activity seems likely to occur in the future and it’s simply fantastic to see minimums completely gone from these areas – in this respect Auckland is probably fairly world-leading in removing minimum parking requirements from such a large chunk of the city (should this survive through to the Plan becoming operative).
Yet I’m still not sure whether the Mixed Housing zone needs to control parking provision at all, and to be honest I’m not sure whether maximum parking restrictions will be justifiable in all the locations where they’re proposed. Just because we might want to remove minimums doesn’t necessarily mean we need to apply maximums.
So to summarise my initial thoughts on the two key areas of interest in the Unitary Plan (how easy is intensification and have we got rid of minimum parking requirements) are mixed. I still find myself with a lot of questions:
- What is the Mixed Housing zone really trying to achieve? If quite a lot of small-scale intensification is envisaged for that zone then the density controls and the minimum parking requirements might need to go.
- Is the Apartment/Terraced zone extensive enough to achieve the level of intensification envisaged? Should we really be lumping apartments and terraced houses together anyway – as it seems likely terraced housing would be acceptable in a far wider range of situations than apartments will be?
- Could the height limits in the Mixed Use zone vary a bit more than what’s proposed? It seems like there are higher limits in places like Newton but those higher limits may also be appropriate in areas like along the inner part of Great North Road or around Morningside train station.
- Can maximum parking requirements really be justified in all the places where minimums aren’t wanted anymore? Aren’t there some areas where we might want to just not regulate parking?
My big fear for the plan is that it’s been sold as something far bolder than it actually is – and the public outcry may result in what’s potentially just a semi-bold plan being wound back to not much change at all. I’d be keen for some analysis of the residential, mixed use and business zones to get a feel for how bold they actually are, especially when the details of development controls are taken into consideration.
News hit yesterday of an unlikely alliance between a business association and one of the large unions. They were teaming up together to fight a proposal by the government make employer provided carparks subject to fringe benefit tax (FBT).
Unionists and business groups have joined forces in a rare alliance to lash out at a new tax on employees who receive free carparks as part of their remuneration packages.
The government is planning to extend a fringe benefit tax (FBT) of almost 50 per cent to employer-provided parking in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs.
The newly formed FBT Action Group is protesting that the legislation, now before a select committee, is discriminatory and pointless.
It says the new proposal means businesses would pay an extra $1,500 per year for every on-site car park, and almost $2,400 for commercially supplied parks.
The group’s founding members include the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Northern, the Property Council, and parking company Tournament.
The Unite Union, headed by Matt McCarten, is also ready to throw its weight behind the campaign.
McCarten said that while the tax appeared to target the untaxed benefits of well-paid workers, it would also capture the blue-collar workers who could least afford it.
I suspect that one of the key reasons that both employers and unions are so keen to fight the proposal is that they both know just how useful carparks are when it comes time for salary/ wage negotiations. It allows businesses to provide a benefit to workers without it directly impacting their salary budgets. But by its very definition that is a benefit that an employee is receiving outside of their salary and the exact reason that we have FBT for in the first place. This group, along with Labour have also attacked the idea due to the fact it is only expected to bring in around $17m of extra tax but that ignores an important point. We currently have a loophole in our tax system that helps to create distortions in our transport policy.
The distortion comes about because an employer providing a free car park can do so without paying FBT yet if they were to pay for an PT fares of an employee, they would have to pay FBT on them. I can understand why business groups and unions object but opposing proposals like this is one of he things that should make people question Labours commitment to improving transport, particularly public transport.
If it turns out that this is just too hard politically hard to get though, perhaps an alternate idea could be proposed that removes FBT from employer provided PT passes. Along with that we should also consider similar rules as to what exists in California where employees that are provided with a free carpark are allowed to swap it for an equivalent increase in their salary/wages.
There was an article in the NZ Herald yesterday about the price of parking in the city centre. This is always a pretty sensitive issue as nobody likes paying for parking, leading to some rather interesting statements.
New Zealanders living in the country’s largest cities are paying up to $32 more for casual private parking than those in smaller towns.
In Auckland, the private carpark company duopoly of Tournament and Wilson have come under pressure to lower their rates to match the council’s.
Four hours’ casual parking at one of Tournament’s sites in Auckland’s CBD costs $32 ($4 per half hour) – the same as the carpark’s daily rate. And in Wellington, the same amount of time costs $40 ($5 per half hour).
But in Dunedin, four hours costs only $8 at a rate of $2 an hour.
Well duh of course parking in Auckland will be more expensive than in Dunedin – because there’s much greater demand in Auckland and probably a much higher willingness to pay for parking. The price of parking in Sydney would probably make our eyes water, I imagine the same is true in London and other very large cities.
And of course trust Cameron Brewer to enter into the discussion:
Mr Brewer, chairman of the Business Advisory Panel, said the council had “done well” to reduce its charges in its three main parking buildings in the central city.
On November 19, Auckland Transport made its first changes to pricing since 2005. The change was part of an effort to steer people away from on-street parking for long periods in the central city and towards parking buildings.
Parking in the city after 6pm used to be free but the start time is now 10pm. Auckland Transport also reduced the peak casual hourly rate from $5.50 for the first two hours and $4 or $5 per hour thereafter to $3 an hour in the Civic, Downtown and Victoria St carparks. A daily maximum charge of $17 replaced the old maximum of $29.
“However if the private providers keep ramping theirs up, they run counter to the mayor’s vision of creating a world-class city centre. They will only put people off the CBD,” Mr Brewer said.
Along with most others on the blog, I was reasonably supportive of the parking changes – especially as on-street parking will eventually be charged in a way that relates to the level of demand in that area. I also think that short-stay parking in the city centre has been over-priced in the past (and long-stay under-priced) leading to daft outcomes like people being better off if they drove into the city at peak times to take advantage of the cheap earlybird pricing. Also from observation the price of earlybird parking hasn’t actually changed particularly much in the past decade, probably reflecting a decline in the number of vehicles entering the city during peak times.
And some interesting points are made by Tournament Parking:
Tournament’s national business manager, Matt Ryan, said the “huge disparity” in pricing across the country was due to demand on parking resources.
“In saying that, the carparking market across the main centres is actually very competitive … so the reality is that if a parking company prices too high, customers will walk.”
Mr Ryan said the Auckland Council’s plan had become “very focused on short-term parkers in an attempt to increase patronage in the CBD”.
“We applaud this move as it is breathing more life into the CBD. However their strategy does not appear to provide any recourse for daily commuters who actually comprise most CBD parkers.
“The reality is that until Auckland’s public transport services are improved, motor vehicles shall still pour into the city each morning at increasing rates, and these commuters do need to be catered for – and that’s where the private parking companies have a significant role to play.”
Mr Ryan said more than 85 per cent of Tournament’s daily parkers pay Early Bird rates which are cheaper than Auckland Council’s daily rate of $17.
There’s an interesting dynamic in the parking business where declining demand (due to better public transport) will probably lead them to lower parking prices, potentially attracting people back from public transport to using their car. Hopefully Auckland Transport (who operate the council’s parking buildings) will remove themselves from the commuter parking business in the not too distant future so they stop undermining the public transport we’re subsidising and also so they can focus on short-stay parking which actually provides some economic benefit through encouraging shoppers into the central city. In the longer run it would probably be good for Auckland Transport to get out of the off-street parking business completely and leave it to the private market as there doesn’t seem to be too much public benefit in having them involved.
Finally, most of the sites managed by Tournament Parking are absolute blights on the cityscape so hopefully over time those sites get redeveloped while the declining number of car commuters into town will mean these aren’t replaced.
This post is replicated with permission from Sydney from Eye On Auckland
This is PART 1 of a 3 PART series:
I walk around the city on a daily basis and I have subsequently noticed that illegal parking is out of control. If nothing is done to curb the problem soon we are heading for disaster. I have lived in a Country where you let this slide and then you let that slide, before you know it matters are out of control and there is no way of getting things back to the way they were. I partially blame Shared Spaces (more on this mess in a future post) for the chaos that is ensuing on our inner-city streets. The rules for Shared Spaces stipulate that no parking or loading is allowed before or after the following hours, 6am-11am (Monday to Sunday, including public holidays). Unfortunately the complete opposite is taking place. Auckland Transport and The Auckland Council are turning a blind eye and allowing vehicle users to park in shared spaces at all times of the day.
This brings me to the point that I am trying to make – if rules are there to be broken without any form of repercussions then why should anybody care where they park ? Free parking for all, where ever and when ever you like. It appears that the entire city is one big Shared Space. To hell with pedestrians, to hell with the handicapped, to hell with the visually impaired, to hell with parents who have strollers and to hell with the children who use the sidewalks. This is the sort of attitude that is becoming increasingly prevalent in our city. On the other hand, the Auckland Council is promising us a people-friendly city where people come first and foremost, they sell us a dream i.e. the World’s most liveable city. Yes it is possible – for automobiles and not people.
The next set of photographs will leave you dumbstruck. Where is Auckland Transport ? Who is responsible for this mess ? as ratepayers and proud citizens of this wonderful city we deserve some answers and immediate action. Meet the ignorant, lazy and selfish drivers that reside in our fair city:
1. Wai-atarau Plaza [formerly known as The Rob Roy Plaza] – located between Franklin Road, Victoria Street West and Union Street:
Recently refurbished and part of The Victoria Park Tunnel Project, Wai-atarau Plaza (thanks toArchitectureNow and our very own Patrick Reynolds for the photographs) is a pleasant and modern space for people to use but some people have other ideas and would much rather use the plaza as a car park. Quite frankly they couldn’t care less. Parking on the plaza gives you front door access to The Victoria Park Markets, it is free and extremely convenient. I took it upon myself to contact Auckland Transport and I provided them with details of illegal parking on the Plaza. I was told that a warden will be there soon. I waited for an hour and ten minutes and nobody showed. During that time cars had gone, more arrived and then they were gone – so it continued. The offenders got away with it and will continue to do so.
What is even more ridiculous is the fact that these cars would drive on and off the plaza between the traffic lights where people stand to cross the road and at the pedestrian crossings. Is this some Mickey Mouse society we live in ? Let’s not forget that small children are taught that they are safe on the pavement. They are also taught that they can run around and play on public plazas. In lieu of this fact I contacted Auckland Transport on the 12th of October 2012 and I made the suggestion that they install bollards where there is easy access onto the plaza. I received the following response from Auckland Transport:
“To prevent access to the plaza would require a large number of bollards and access would still need to be maintained for service vehicles. This is not currently considered justified, however we will monitor the situation, and may make changes at a later stage”.
Will Auckland Transport take responsibility for the death of a toddler because they didn’t take the necessary precautions to prevent people from driving and parking on a public plaza. Will it only be justifiable when it is too late ? The installation of 3, maybe 4, bollards is all it will take and I am willing to show them where to place them. Access is easy if you have a key to remove the bollards, which most service vehicles should have. There are simply no excuses when lives are put at risk and quite frankly we don’t want our plazas to be used as free-for-all car parks. These are just some of the images that I have captured over the last couple of days:
2.Victoria Park Markets – Union Street:
Directly across the road from Wai-atarua Plaza is The Victoria Park Markets. Nobody can forget how awful The Victoria Park Markets were but that was then and this is now. I for one love the new look and it is shaping up to be a market full of promise. The only issue is the public access on Union Street. Here cars block pedestrian access without a care in the World. I don’t know if the blame for this bad design lies with the developers of The Victoria Park Markets or with the Auckland Council but it needs to be fixed.
The bollards are in the wrong position and should be placed closer to the edge of the pavement so that cars can’t park there and consequently obstruct pedestrian access. People in wheelchairs or parents with strollers have to use the street and let’s not even begin to imagine how the visually impaired will have to cope. Come on people, use a couple of brain cells when you plan these things and do it right from the start – think about people first and foremost, not vehicles.
3. Victoria Skatepark – Beaumont Street:
Yet another great addition to the area, just a shame that we have a few who would like to spoil it for everybody else. This is an area frequented by children of all ages. As I have stated before, we teach our children that it is safe on the sidewalks and grass verges but that is unfortunately not entirely true in Auckland. All it will take is for some small child to sit on the grass verge behind a parked car and/or for some child to be skating along the pavement to be knocked over by an over-zealous buffoon.
Now before anybody tells me that there isn’t enough parking, think again. I have seen lots of parking spaces available in the surrounding area. There is no excuse for this sort of behaviour. It is against the law to park on grass verges and where there are yellow markings on the road.
If it’s a problem to find parking there are other solutions. Use public transport, walk, ride your bike, skate or scoot. If I had been involved with the planning of this area I would have made provisions for bollards along the entire skatepark periphery – we are dealing with “challenged” teenagers here who couldn’t care less about the safety of others. I have also reported the issue of illegal parking at Victoria Skatepark to Auckland Transport on numerous occasions and one would think that they would patrol the area on a regular and daily basis but to no avail.
In the photograph below it is quite clear to see that there are tyre tracks on the pavement, proof enough that cars are driving here:
The solution to the problem is to place similar bollards as the ones that already exist at Victoria Park along the periphery of the skatepark on the road side – along the entire length of the skatepark and not just two or three. The solution is easy and children’s lives could be saved. Parents should not tolerate this kind of ad-hoc planning:
PART 2 [Wynyard Quarter | Viaduct | Quay Street | Queen Street] is guaranteed to blow your mind when you see how badly planned things are in Auckland. Vehicles are still the top priority and people come second. Auckland Council is going to have to put their money where their mouth is, lip service doesn’t cut it anymore and this issue is not going to go away, I will be keeping an Eye on Auckland with my camera at the ready to capture these dimwits in action until I see results.