62: Carparking inside Character Buildings
What if forgotten spaces within buildings were used for more than just carparks?
When was the last time you looked up? Looked up above the street, often hidden by a crumbling verandah, to see what was happening in the upstairs of older character buildings?
There are many forgotten spaces either lying empty, or being used for very low-rent uses, that could be put to better use. This is of course a good thing, presenting opportunity to those who can see it and providing cheaper alternatives, even in desirable high-rent locations, to the shiny and new. Jane Jacobs knew this. Now everyone in Christchurch does too – they have lost most of theirs.
So it would be good if here in Auckland we started to see more people finding the opportunity in these spaces. Take the upstairs space above Mo’s Bar on the corner of Federal and Wolfe Streets in the city centre. Here we have a whole floor given over to car parking behind a row of huge art deco windows that would make an amazing characterful space. Wouldn’t it be good if spaces like these were used for more than just carparks?
Carparks are ten-a-penny in this town; characterful spaces like this much harder to find. To an extent, these spaces are starting to be rediscovered – nearby here, look at Heavenscent Café above St Patrick’s Square, or The Black Hoof tapas bar and Spitting Feathers pub, both upstairs on Wyndham Street in characterful loft-like spaces. Balmoral shops are bursting with upstairs noodle and dumpling houses. I look forward to seeing more spaces like this rediscovered and put to good use as Auckland continues to grow up into a richer and more diverse little city.
Stuart Houghton 2014
Yesterday Auckland Transport quietly announced that they were finally ending the silly tradition of incentivising people to drive at the time of the day when the roads are at their busiest. Even better is they’re being quite blunt about the reasons.
From 1 December 2014, early bird parking is being discontinued in Auckland Transport’s Downtown, Civic and Victoria Street car park buildings. Our daily rate of $17 will apply to all day parkers.
- Historically AT has subsidised people to drive into the city at peak times, which is adding to congestion.
- Our prices are increasing to dis-incentivise people to drive during one of the busiest times of the day (am peak).
- Moving forward that money will be used to put into public transport, which is our number one priority.
- View public transport options.
- See what AT is proposing with the new public transport network.
This is a good move from AT who have been cheaper than the rest of the market for many many years, something they confirmed in their recent Parking Discussion Document which also hinted that these changes were on the way.
AT is currently charging less than commercial operators for long stay parking – $13 early bird versus $14 on average. Early bird parking encourages commuter trips and generally applies prior to 8:30am in AT car parks and 9:30am in commercial operated car parks. AT can influence a shift commuter demand away from the morning peak by reducing the amount of long stay parking, increasing prices to achieve parity with commercial operators, changing the conditions for early bird parking and moving toward more short stay parking.
They mention they want to focus on short stay parking and the discussion document highlighted the mismatch that exists between long and short stay parking availability. It also highlights how little of the cities off street parking is provided by AT with their parking being dwarfed by the private sector.
Not even all of AT’s carparks are part of this change and in total only around 2,500 carparks in the city.
One of the issues that AT’s carparks have had due to their low prices is that they’ve been too popular and I’ve heard they average over 95% occupancy during the day. The carparks fill up in the mornings with commuters and later in the day when people try to use them – say for a meeting in town or to visit town for shopping – they are often unable to find a space. It’s partly for this reason I suspect that Heart of the City have come out in strong support of the changes.
Of course not everyone will be happy. I expect the Herald and many other outlets give the changes plenty of coverage and there’ll be a steady stream of people ready to complain. Unsurprisingly one of those is the AA (who have been much better of late).
The AA says that if Auckland Transport (AT) wants to reduce the number of private cars commuting to Auckland’s CBD, the focus needs to go on making public transport a more realistic option, not raising parking charges.
AT today announced that Early Bird parking (priced at $13) would be removed from Auckland Council-owned parking buildings from 1 December 2014, and replaced by an all-day rate of $17. Prices for leased parking spaces would also be raised.
“For a lot of people, this change will be a kick in the teeth,” says AA spokesman Barney Irvine.
“Most Auckland AA Members who drive to work in the CBD do so out of necessity. Nearly half use their cars for work during the day, and many others live a long way from the public transport network or have household responsibilities that just don’t fit with taking the bus or the train.”
Public transport in Auckland had come a long way but was still not a viable alternative for many people, said Mr Irvine.
A recent AA survey showed that more than two-thirds of Auckland AA Members opposed an increase to parking charges to encourage greater public transport use.
Changing commuter behaviour would require positive incentives rather than punishing motorists.
“That means delivering real improvements in terms of frequency and quality of public transport, and doing more to find out what factors other than price might encourage people to change how they travel to work,” Mr Irvine said.
In any case, the proposed changes would do little to ease congestion.
“AT only controls about 16% of the off-street parking market, and only around half of that is long-stay,” he said. “So all this is going to do is hurt a small group of motorists financially, and open the door to private providers jacking up their prices.”
I wonder how many of those AA members are parking in AT parking buildings compared to other parking options in the city, probably not all that many.
So how does our parking rates compare with other cities. This graph shows the number of spaces per worker compared to their cost between NZ and the major Australian cities.
Sources: Transport Planning Solutions Ltd, Houghton Consulting Ltd and Urbanismplus Ltd (2012) Number of Parking and Loading Spaces Required for the City Centre. Colliers International (2011) Global CBD Parking Rate Survey. Colliers International (2012) Australian CBD Car Parking – The Next Decade.
While Colliers International conduct a parking survey every few years of a huge range of international cities and Auckland doesn’t even rank in the top 50, again well below many of our comparator cities. Auckland is listed with a daily average of $22 (USD $17) which I assume hasn’t taken early bird rates or daily caps into account.
Lastly we also know that improved public transport is working. Over the last 14 years the number of people arriving in the CBD during the morning peak (7am – 9am) via PT has risen from 20k to 35k and combined with active modes have seen the number of people driving to the city falling. Now during the morning peak fewer than 50% arrive in the CBD by car. In fact my biggest concern with these changes is that many of our PT routes are already very full and need extra capacity
I support AT on these changes however it will be interesting to see how they react to the inevitable backlash from those who feel entitled to cheap/free parking.
People sometimes argue that we should provide more public transport because it will reduce households’ transport costs. But is that actually true?
I took a look at this issue in a recent working paper on Location Affordability in New Zealand Cities that I presented at the 2014 New Zealand Association of Economists conference. In that paper, I found that:
…housing costs tend to fall with increasing distance from city centres, while commute distances, which drive variable transport costs, tend to increase. All other things being equal, higher rates of public transport use did not appear to improve transport affordability due to the fact that New Zealand’s public transport fares are comparable to or higher than car operating costs. However, car commuting is likely to be more costly in areas where parking is priced – a factor that we were not able to robustly estimate.
Car ownership rates, which drive a large share of transport costs, tend to be fairly consistent outside of city centres. One of the benefits of providing public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure is that it enables households to reduce car ownership costs. Conversely, policies such as minimum parking regulations tend to encourage higher rates of car ownership by ensuring abundant and low-priced parking.
In short, public transport can save households money, but whether it does in practice depends upon what how much they would pay for parking and whether they own a car or not. (A classic case of an economist saying “on the one hand… on the other hand…“!)
Here, I’d like to take a closer look at transport costs using a concrete example: my regular commute from Mount Eden to Takapuna. Here’s the Google Map view of the route between Mount Eden village and central Takapuna that I use on the days when I have to drive. (Note: The addresses on the map do not show where I live or where I work.) At 12.9 km, it’s a little bit longer than the average Aucklander’s 11.5 km commute:
Time for some maths. According to data from AA’s 2013 Petrol Car Operating Cost Report, a compact car costs approximately $0.25 per kilometre to run. This figure includes the cost of petrol, oil, tyres, and regular repairs and maintenance, but excludes the cost to own the car.
As a result, I’d expect to spend around $6.45 per day commuting by car (12.9km x $0.25/km x 2).
What would the same journey cost on public transport? According to Auckland Transport’s journey planner, the best way to do this is to take the 274/277 bus from Mount Eden village to Symonds St, walk down the hill, and hop on the 839/858/875/879 service, which runs to central Takapuna. Because both buses run frequently all day, this is a really easy connection. (AT’s New Network will be adding frequent, connecting services to many more parts of Auckland – which is really great news for south and west Auckland and the North Shore!)
As I use a HOP card, which offers discounts on the cash fares and also a $0.50 discount if you transfer between services, the entire trip costs me $4.05 – or $8.10 per day to commute in both directions.
So far, driving is coming out ahead – the costs to operate a car are a bit cheaper than the cost of bus fares. But wait: we’ve forgotten to account for parking costs!
How could we forget about parking when there’s so much of it in Auckland? (Photo: Albany park-and-ride)
Wilsons operates the closest parking garage on The Strand in Takapuna. They charge $11 for all-day parking. If I pay them for parking – and I don’t have many other options in the area – that means that a car commute now costs $17.45 ($6.45 + $11). That’s over twice as expensive as taking the bus!
In short, when people must pay for parking, public transport is a much cheaper option. However, a lot of people don’t pay directly for parking, due to the fact that minimum parking rules have resulted in an uneconomic oversupply of parking in many areas. (They still pay for parking indirectly – through lower wages, more expensive groceries, or higher housing costs. But these costs, while significant, aren’t as obvious to people on a day-to-day basis.)
And we haven’t yet accounted for one of the big costs of driving to work – the fixed costs of car ownership. Based on data from the AA’s Petrol Car Operating Cost Report and the Ministry of Transport’s data on the NZ vehicle fleet, I estimated that it costs around $2,900 per annum to own an average car (i.e. not a new car). This includes the cost of registration ($288), insurance ($790), and warrant of fitness ($49, twice a year), as well as the interest payments and depreciation on the car itself (assuming that the average car is worth around $8,000).
$2,900 per car per year is obviously quite a big cost for most households, and I’m sure a lot of people would rather save the money and spend it on other things. Abundant public transport and walking and cycling options can give households the option to downsize on car ownership and save thousands annually.
Here’s a summary of my calculations. As you can see, by taking public transport rather than driving I save $9.35 every day I commute to work. Over the entire working year, this adds up to a lot of money – over $2,300!
And by choosing to take the bus and not to own a car, I save even more money – over $5,200 every year in total. If I choose to save that money instead, it will add up to a large sum of money over time. According to Sorted.org.nz’s savings calculator, if I put an additional $5,200 in my Kiwisaver account every year and get a modest 6% return, I’ll have more than $200,000 in retirement savings after thirty years – which is enough to let me retire three or four years early.
In other words, our driving habit is literally squandering our lives. Sell your car and retire early!
Finally, it’s worth reflecting on the policy implications of this analysis. The maths on transport costs suggest that:
So, what would you do with an extra $5,200 in your pocket every year?
Flikr user Eric Kieboom uploaded a great aerial photograph of Groningen Central Station that shows what a balanced transport system looks like:
The station manages to join up two efficient, high-capacity urban transport systems – cycling and rail – and even provides some space for parking.
Kieboom’s photo really illustrates the spatial trade-offs in transport. Notice how the bike racks take up about the same amount of space as the carparks. (In fact, once you factor in all the space that cars need to back in and out of parks, the cars need quite a bit more space!) But while the bike racks can accommodate over 6,000 cycles, the parking lot only has space for 20 cars.
In other words, bicycle parking is over 300 times more efficient than car-parking. If a city where land prices are high – like Auckland – there should be extremely strong market pressures to use space efficiently. Having an urban transport system that doesn’t expend space in profligate fashion would be a good start.
And think – what would it mean for housing costs if we freed up some of those oceanic swathes of carparking for housing?
48: The Forgotten Triangle
What if the forgotten triangle behind Shortland Street was more than a parking lot?
Continuing the series on forgotten or underutilised spaces within the city, the steeply rising wedge of land between Shortland Street, Albert Park and Princes Street is certainly a stand out example of well-located land that should be valued and utilised for much more than just parking. Certainly, when one looks at historic photos of this part of the city, it is obvious that this area used to packed quite densely with a much more diverse array of buildings and activities than can be found there now.
Looking west over the Chancery Street area from the former Grand Hotel in Princes Street, 1902. (Auckland Council Heritage Images Online).
It is actually quite crazy that this forgotten corner of the city has not been developed for more intensive and higher value uses, if you think about the location, just one block from both the A-grade office space of the corporate towers on Shortland Street and the high value retail of High Street, and bounded by what is a beautiful historic central city park.
The following is a simple four-point plan that is just a start to indicate how the potential of this part of the city could be reconsidered:
- Improve the legibility, crossing opportunities and attractiveness of walking links through the area to Albert Park and the universities on the hill;
- Develop high rise residential towers fronting Kitchener Street similar to the Metropolis tower and Precinct Apartments between Lorne and Kitchener Streets that capitalise on the outlook over the park and up high gain light, air and relative serenity above this quiet part of the city;
- Rediscover and develop the forgotten laneways of Fields and Bacon Lanes, Chancery Lane, Bankside Street and Cruise Lane as back street extensions to the High Street District with opportunities to open out and activate the backs of Shortland Street towers into a gritty but interesting neighbourhood;
- Make more use of the Bowen Park extension of Albert Park as a great public open space in its own right, reflecting its north-facing qualities and great views back to this part of the city skyline.
Stuart Houghton 2014
*For a bit more on this area there is this previous post -PR
Lone Commuter Passes Lines of Private Property Stored on Public Land
A useful, if somewhat earnest, little video from Streetfilms about how we can manage parking in better ways to contribute to nicer cities.
The Unitary Plan and Auckland Transport’s parking strategy make important steps towards managing parking a lot smarter in the future in Auckland.
6: Making Better Use of Rooftops on Parking Buildings
What if we made better use of rooftops on our parking buildings?
There is an ongoing debate about whether it is possible to dispose of and redevelop some of the publicly-owned parking buildings in the city centre and elsewhere. This is a good discussion to be having.
In the meantime, wouldn’t it be good if we made better use of some of the most valuable space for better, higher value uses? This sentiment could equally apply to making better use of the ground floor space fronting shopping streets.
Franks Campari Bar opens every summer on the rooftop of a parking building in Peckham, London.
Example of an Urban Allotment Garden.
Auckland Transport have had their Draft Parking Discussion Document (2mb file) out for consultation over the last couple of months, but this closes at midnight on Thursday. This covers the full range of parking issues around the city, including on-street, off-street and park and ride. The aim is to have a more standardised approach around Auckland, and simplify the large range of legacy rules in this area. It also should be noted that this is an overarching discussion document, with detailed consultation to be undertaken on individual and local proposals once the strategy has been finalised.
No life but lots of free parking. Shaddock St, Eden Terrace.
Feedback on the parking strategy can be made on the Auckland Transport website here. Today AT announced that over 2000 submissions have already been made. However I suspect a large amount of these would have been made by vocal local residents groups, so it would be great to have a wide range of submissions, so I encourage our readers to submit.
Albany Mall – Aucklands most modern Metropolitan Centre…
The feedback form asks people to rank each of the 7 issues identified, then ask for specific comment if people like or dislike any issues. There is also the option on the final page of adding any supporting documents with a full written submissions.
The 7 issues identified are as follows:
Managing demand for parking in the City Centre, metropolitan and town centres
Competing demands for parking in residential streets
Managing off-street parking facilities
Inconsistent on-street parking restrictions across Auckland
The conflict between parking on arterial roads and improving public transport provision
Managing the demand for parking permits amongst competing users
Addressing the shortage of park and ride facilities to support public transport patronage.
Things I will be writing about in my submission include:
- ensuring inner city parking buildings are not undercharging or encouraging people to commute to the city at peak times
- issues with free on-street parking for local residents
- need to remove parking on certain roads to allow for bus lanes and cycle lanes
- supporting charging of park and rides once feeder buses and integrated fares rolled out
- questioning need for major investment in new parking and rides in the urban areas, and ensure new park and rides
Albany Park and Ride – bus station hidden behind sea of parking. Is this what we want in our urban areas?
The blog has already covered some of the issues in depth is if you are writing a submission may be worth reading over some of these posts.
Please submit online here to ensure a wide representation of voices are heard, you have until midnight Thursday to do so.
A good little video from Streetfilms and the non profit Institute for Transportation Development Policy on the issues of parking, particularly parking minimums.
Streetfilms is proud to partner with ITDP to bring you this fun animation that’s sort of a cross between those catchy Schoolhouse Rock shorts and a 1960s-style, Saul Bass film credits sequence.
For too long cities sought to make parking a core feature of the urban fabric, only to discover that yielding to parking demand caused that fabric to tear apart. Parking requirements for new buildings have quietly been changing the landscape of how people live. Chipping away at walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods has been a slow process that finally turned cities across the U.S. into parking craters and a few in Europe into parking swamps.
Many cities around the world are now changing course by eliminating the requirements while also investing in compact walking, cycling and public transit oriented neighborhoods. Soon cities in the developing world will follow, providing many new lessons of their own.
At Streetfilms, we realize that while parking is a difficult topic for most to comprehend, it is at the core of the transportation problems of most cities. We all hope this film helps change some minds and enlighten others
Perhaps this is something the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board need to watch after they had the Council submit this on the Unitary Plan.