A week or so ago an article in the NZ Herald completely misinterpreted the results of an analysis into parking costs around the world – saying that Auckland had some of the most expensive parking: when in actual fact parking costs for short-term parking were extremely low, while parking for monthly reserved spaces were slightly above average: 41st out of around 120 cities from memory.

Today the Herald makes the same stupid mistakes again – slamming Auckland Transport for raising the cost of its ‘early bird parking’ by a mere one dollar a day.

Price rises at council-owned carparks have come a week after an international study found Auckland one of the most expensive places to park in the world.

Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter confirmed that the early bird rate at the Civic, Victoria St and Downtown carparks has increased by $1, bringing the all-day parking charge to $13.

I work in the city and can’t help but often notice the advertised early-bird parking prices at various points around the city. Most of the privately owned parking buildings seem to have early-bird prices of around $14-17 a day in the heart of the CBD, with the prices obviously falling away in more peripheral areas like around Tank Farm. The following data from Auckland Transport confirms this:

This would suggest that the Council (through Auckland Transport) is already subsidising the price of parking. Considering that the price of parking is a major determinant of whether people use public transport, and Auckland Council/Auckland Transport want to increase PT patronage, it is utterly insane for them to provide parking at a price below market rates.

The AA, with its usual ignorance, chimes in:

Automobile Association spokesman Simon Lambourne said increasing the prices for all-day parking would encourage commuters to park in inner-city suburban streets.

“Ill-considered, ad-hoc measures can have a significant impact on the wider city and region to the detriment of Auckland. We really need to step back before these measures are done.”

It seems pretty ill-considered to me to have subsidised below-market parking rates encouraging people to clog up the roads and discouraging public transport patronage (which reduces its commercial viability leading to more requirement for subsidies).

Heart of the City head Alex Swney hits the nail on the head – noting that early-bird prices in general seem completely nonsensical:

Mr Swney said parking was an “emotive issue” but early bird parking only encouraged further congestion.

“What it says is, ‘Get in your car when it is most congested and we will reward you with cheap parking’.”

But he said the increases in parking would affect only commuters – not shoppers.

I remember back in about 2002 occasionally paying for earlybird parking in the Victoria Street carpark – then operated by Auckland City Council. I am sure that the price then was either $12 or $13 a day – meaning that it hasn’t increased in almost a decade!

Later on the article continues to get things wrong:

Last week, the Colliers International global parking rate survey found Aucklanders are charged some of the highest parking fees in the world.

Motorists in Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Singapore – among many others – pay less.

Auckland rated in the top third, putting it ahead of many capital cities including Washington DC, Ottawa, Berlin and Beijing.

No it did not say that for the type of parking that we’re talking about here: earlybird. It said that monthly reserved parking spaces were more expensive than the cities listed above, but that for non-reserved parking spaces Auckland’s prices were relatively cheap: no doubt related to the fact that Auckland Transport’s current low prices are dragging the market down.

Normally I am not a particularly big fan of asset sales, but in the case of the parking buildings I would be more than happy to see them sold off. Not only would this help generate some useful short-term revenue, but it would mean that we would no longer end up in stupid situations where political pressure is being put on to keep parking prices artificially low, encouraging people to drive during peak times, clogging up our roads and undermining public transport.

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  1. So what are the chances of the Herald having a reporter who is actually educated and able to actually report the facts, not some biased opinion piece.

  2. Herald articles always have a link to the writers email address – how about sending him a link to this article.

  3. The AA guys comment is hilarious. Parking in the suburbs? So drivers are now going to park in Mt Eden and walk into the city. I.e. spend 45 minutes walking to save $2? Yeah right! Even if they did that’s a parking management problem – i.e. charge people for parking in the suburbs. It’s going to happen one-day; Auckland’s just about 10 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to parking policies (in most respects – some things we do well in, eg. meters).

    As for selling parking buildings – I would taiho on that, mainly because many of them are BUTT ugly and intead should be knocked down. If they are not providing commercial rates of return then rather than selling them the council could work with the private sector to redevelop the site. So I would pick the one that is least profitable and knock it down and develop the site. That would also increase the profitability of the remaining buildings!

    1. Unfortunately the AA guy has a point. I lived in Sussex Street, Grey Lynn for a couple of years and that was used as day long parking for people that would walk to their bus. At the time I worked in Albany and to take public transport was a 2 hour proposition (I believe it is a lot better now) so I drove to work (20 minutes). If I returned during the day, to park legally on the street I was often a 15 minute walk away. People will drive and park in areas with free unlimited parking and high frequency buses, and make them effectively park and ride. Obviously one way to discourage this would be to have a 2 hour parking limit during the day except for residents with permits.
      As part of the strategy of improving public transit, viable park and ride is a must. As is more arterial routes (eg trains, Mt Eden Rd, Dominion Rd) with feeder buses. In my opinion high frequency services that make it convenient is one of the best ways to make public transport attractive rather than seen as the poor man’s option.
      My informal survey of asking people parking in my street where they had driven from showed they were mostly coming in from the more distant parts of West Auckland (eg Swanson), which means that they are driving most of the way because of a lack of viable service (this was also prior to the double tracking of the western line). Clearly focus should be on getting people to drive a little way and take public transport for most of their journey.

      1. I certainly know of a lot of people who park in inner suburban streets and then catch the bus into town for the ‘last leg’ of their journey to avoid parking costs.

        Might be time to instigate some resident parking schemes to get around this problem though. A resident’s permit might enable you to avoid having to pay for on-street parking, whereas others do. Plus a pile of P120 signs would limit the problem as well.

        Better PT must certainly be part of the mix. However that is a fairly slow process (that this blog spends most of its time arguing for).

        1. Arrgggghhhhhh residents parking schemes are a disaster. All they do is subsidise residents to own cars. Why should residents have access to a car-park in front of their house, rather than someone else who may be visiting their neighbour? No, the best solution is just to charge for parking and let everyone use it who is prepared to pay the cost of doing so.

        2. I’m probably just being pragmatic I suppose. Plus in our heritage/character suburbs we want to discourage people from ruining their houses by building big garages in their front gardens 🙂

          If your goal is to stop commuters parking in certain areas then just apply time limits to parking during daylight hours – probably the simplest solution.

        3. I wouldn’t count on time limits/ residents parking permit schemes as a solution. the street i use to live in (Grafton) had about a 10/50/40 mix of “residents permit holders only/P120 – residential permits excepted/free”. Day workers regularly parked in the 120 limit parks as they worked out it was economically smart to run the risk of getting a fine. Meant the chance of getting a street park if you came home during the day was very low.

          We had a driveway but i parked on street in the free ones to avoid blocking my flatmates motorbike from getting out of the garage.

          Residents will likely oppose the scheme when they fined out they are limited to one pass only (or none if you have a curb cut/off street parking).

          Charging in more distant suburbs than Grafton would be very harmful politically, and costly to meter/enforce with current methods.

      2. But the problem is not that parking in the city is too expensive, it’s the parking in suburbs is too cheap! Pay on-stree parking in inner-city suburbs is what is needed, aka West End in Brisbane. And you know that’s not the sort of solution the AA were advocating for!

  4. Stu, good point about not necessarily selling the parking buildings for now – but rather redevelopment at least one of them (probably Downtown?) into something else. I guess my point is to get the pricing of inner city parking out of the political arena so that we’re not subsidising people driving into the CBD at peak times and clogging up the roads.

    1. And that’s a very good point indeed. Yes, the parking buildings should be managed commercially and knocked down if they can’t turn a profit in their current state.

    2. Downtown would make the best site for the convention centre. It’s close to Britomart and the ferries; there are heaps of hotels, restaurants and bars. I would remove the Hobson Street ramp, build a huge square with a buses only road along Sturdee Street for North Shore buses. Redevelop the site into an extension of the viaduct on the first two floors with the convention centre above and a redevloped Copthorne on Quay Street.

  5. Unfortunately I’ve got a different point of view on that issue. I live in Newmarket, I don’t have a garage and in front of my house I’ve got a 120 mins pay and display. Coming from Europe I didn’t buy a car for a year, thinking public transport in a city would have been sufficient for me and my partner. But I had to buy a car if I wanted to keep my job (I have to be able to go to different places in the city, anytime). At the moment is more convenient for me (and sometimes the only possibility) to drive to the city instead of taking a bus. Because I couldn’t have anywhere to leave the car parked close to home during the day without getting a fine. I could even walk or cycle past Grafton Bridge, instead I add another car to the traffic for the problem of not having a place to leave it.
    I think this is quite emblematic. Probably an extreme situation but a real one.

    1. I would say your situation is probably fairly unusual gianfranco, but quite interesting for us to consider. I know that a lot of people living in the CBD own cars and drive out of the city in the morning to park them somewhere during the day before bringing them back at night after 6pm once parking is free again.

      Not sure whether that’s a good outcome or not – perhaps a sign that we have a way to go before people can live car free?

      1. In a way that’s when car sharing scheme come into play, but otherwise people need to realise that having a carpark in front of their house isn’t always going to be an option, so like it or not you may have to pay for one in a garage – there’re are tons of spaces around that can be leased,

  6. There is no reason why the state should be involved in subsidising people’s parking costs while they go about their private business any more than the state should be involved in subsidising their cappucinos when they stop for a break.

    The right price for a municipal parking station is the same as for any private parking station: what the market will bear.

  7. I think the council should retain its parking buildings. They are needed politically for parking to be reduced on street.

    I would like to see a campaign where adverts on CBD parking meters say: Parking in the [name the nearest] council buildings is at least 30% cheaper than this meter (and you can stay as long as you like) This should encourage more people to park in buildings freeing street spaces for more high priority needs.

    Of course the prices would need to be adjusted to make this statement true.

    The current pricing of parks in the CBD at night is crazy. Having curb side parking cheaper creates the situation where it is jammed full for most of the night compromising its purpose of short term high priory visits. Making matters worse many of the commercial car parks don’t even offer an hourly rate at night forcing you to pay for the full night even if you just want to spend 20 minutes there.

    Removing free night time parking will take some political balls but it needs to happen.

    John, I don’t think the council should maximise profit from its parking. I think it should instead use price as a demand management too to ensure an approximately 80% occupancy rate, ensuring high level of public resource utilization while minimizing “trawling” for parks. The council abusing its monopolistic position with street parking and pricing it so high that average occupancy is well below 80% would not be good for the city.

  8. While parking is owned by the council it will always be subject to political pressure. I wonder if a solution is for the council to lease out the buildings at commercial rates to a parking operator like Wilsons who can then set the rate at what ever they like. That way the council still owns them and and in the future can have them redeveloped but in the mean time they or the CCO won’t be involved the day to day running of it with the issues that entails.

  9. In the same week that Auckland City raised the early bird rate from $12 to $13 day, the new Britomart Car park lowered their early bird rate from $12 to $9. Go figure.

  10. The main issue I have with the council selling off the parking buildings is that we’ll get a repeat of what happened on Albert Street where a developer just built an apartment block right on top, removing the chance that the building will be demolished any time soon. The council either needs to contract out the management rights and say they’re leaving the freemarket to decide a fair price (hence preventing them coming under political pressure to keep prices low) or they sell development rights and keep a tight control on what happens to the sites. I also think the Council should consider doing what Zurich does in that whenever someone wants to build a new carpark they have to buy and close down one somewhere else – the current buildings would in affect act like landbanking, as the cheap carparks were bought up, the council could sell these ones off and make a good deal of money. It probably won’t happen but who knows.

  11. Good to see your comment about this issue marked letter of the week in the Weekend Herald this morning, Josh. I agree with your point that it is crazy for the council to be subsidising parking for political reasons.

    1. Thanks for that. I might have gone a bit over the top in calling for the council to sell all the parking buildings, but I think the main point got through that there are conflicting interests.

  12. Yes- very interesting. A large article and photo critical of parking costs and a paltry $1 a day increase. The next day a 4 line apology which reads: “The herald reported yesterday that Aucklands parking rates were among the world’s most costly. This refers to monthly rates. The daily rates are amongst the cheapest”.
    Not surprising that most people would have missed it.
    Wally Thomas
    Auckland Transport

    1. I bet you guys get sick of being used by the Herald to stir controversy to sell newspapers. Those articles did not accurately represent the content of the report they were covering. I expected better from them.

  13. I wanted to post what I posted on Britomart car park’s Facebook page here today. Reason being because I returned to their page today and found my post removed, funny enough. Where’s the balls to face the music. Hard work is it? Obviously took the easy route out. Gave them a chance to have their say, on their own page. But removing my post encouraged alternative options for me to have my say. So please feel free to comment.

    Date of Event: 12/01/21012
    Customer service was appalling at Britomart car park. Receptionist whose name I shall not mention was very blunt, with no space to understand my circumstances. Today was the first day I had to bring my car in on a week day, first time I used the facility without my Britomart car park card, first time I needed to leave the facility by 12.30pm for my son’s appointment at Greenlane clinical centre, first time I took a normal car park ticket and was in before 7.30am so believed without my car park card I would be fine and only have to pay $12 max. What happened was I got to the pay booth and my parking fee came up to $34 for only 4 and a half hours, then had a brief discussion with the receptionist and told her I came in early. She said early bird fee of $12 only available if you enter early in the morning and leave between 3pm-9pm. So then I went back to work in a rush because schedule was tight already to get my Britomart car park card. Returned to reception then tried to pay with car park card and was told I had to use it when I initially entered. Asked if I could transfer parking ticket to my card which sounded reasonable and was told there’s absolutely nothing they could do. Receptionist didn’t take the time to understand my situation or hear me out and all I really heard is CAN’T, WE CAN’T and CAN’T, which fuelled the fire. I used funds I didn’t have because there wasn’t anyone else I could call upon in a second and in enough time to be on time for my son’s appointment. I would have done the logical thing and kept my car in the car park till 3pm but my son’s appointment commitment was set with the specialist. It took a while for us to get the appointment in the first place so didn’t have a choice to miss it. I also had to make plans with my work for it so you might see why I’m upset. I would not have predicted all these variables otherwise I would have planned more, however had a lot already on my plate making sure I had everything ready for my son’s appointment. Thank you Britomart Car Park for making what was a good day miserable. Thank you for not taking the time to hear me. Thank you for not helping me and Thank you for making me late to my son’s appointment. Suggestion to remove the time period for early bird parking would be a start and then maybe I might bring my business back. Like they say negative feedback is much more effective then positive feedback and quoting read the terms and conditions will not help.

    Signed: No longer your customer

  14. Ha! Held hostage to an Early Bird fee. One wonders at the financial modelling that produced a T&C that effectively forces people to stay longer than they may want to, thereby denying the car park company the opportunity of SELLING THE PARKING SPACE AGAIN!

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