Auckland Transport have announced that they will be doing a major upgrade to the park and ride at the Albany busway station starting in February and going through to July and this upgrade is pretty significant as it involves doubling the number of carparks at the station to 1100. At first this seems great, adding more car parks will allow more people to use the station however this doesn’t come cheap as the work is expected to cost $5.5m for those 550 carparks which is about $10,000 per carpark (more on that soon).

Here’s AT’s press release and an image of what the carpark will look like.

Auckland Transport is set to begin a major extension of the Albany Park and Ride facility that will see the number of current parking spaces doubled.

The $5.5 million project, which is due to begin in early February, involves a large extension to create an additional 550 parking spaces, bringing the total capacity to 1100. (Click to enlarge map, JPG 3MB)

The facility is part of the Northern Busway initiative which was New Zealand’s first purpose-built road dedicated to bus passenger transport. It forms a key part of Auckland’s Rapid Transport Network whilst improving journey speeds and reliability. ​

The busway provides an attractive alternative to private vehicle use and promotes the use of multiple modes of transport.

The Albany Busway station car park first opened in November 2005 with 370 car parking spaces. An additional 181 were added in May 2007 to meet demand.

Auckland Transport says the 2012 extension provides further evidence that the Northern Busway has significantly changed the way in which people in the area travel.

A sculpture designed by renowned Titirangi artist, Caroline Robinson will also be built on site. The seven metre high limestone tower represents the artist’s impression of the car park’s location near Lucas Creek.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of July 2012.

Now back to those costs, as I said it works out at $10,000 per carpark which is a hell of a lot of money to spend just so an extra 550 can park their car for the day. Even if every single space was used each day for 20 years it still works out at a cost of around $1.36 per day however that doesn’t take into account a lot of factors, looking more closely at how frequently it would be utilised, adding in opex costs and applying a discount rate gives us a massive cost of about $1.94 per trip, you can see the workings here: Albany Station P&R costs.

So what other options do we have, one thing we could do with that money is to buy a number of buses and run them as feeder services to and from the station, $5.5m is enough money for about 4 buses and 4 full time drivers each being paid about $50k per year for 20 years. This is of course a very basic calculation and doesn’t take into account a lot of other costs but lets look at how many people that could deliver to the station. Say the buses only ran at peak times, only did 5 runs per peak period with each bus run carrying an average of 30 passengers per run, that gives us 600 trips per peak which is already more than is provided for by the parking however that amount of money would allow the buses to run for much of the day which means that potentially far more people would be able to use the station than could have otherwise and those services have the potential to provide more local trips as well.

One thing that isn’t often thought about is the cost of the land, for that the councils GIS viewer is a very handy tool as it can give us the rateable land, the highlighted land in the image below is the corner of this new section of Park & Ride yet the land alone is valued at over $2.7m (you can see the existing entrance in the top left hand corner).  It isn’t clear if the land costs are included in the development cost or not but either way it is still a very expensive way to provide some car parks for what will become a very limited number of people.

One other thing to consider is that Auckland transport is currently in the process of creating a new station at Silverdale with its own associated Park & Ride, that development has the potential to take a decent number of the cars that currently use Albany out of the car park freeing it up for others who live in the area.

In saying all of this, for Auckland Transport, I do think it is a bit of a case of damned if you and damned if you don’t,  people will always complain that there isn’t enough parking, or at least not enough free parking yet at the same time others like me get annoyed about how much is spent just to store some cars for the day when that money could be used to give access to potentially a lot more people and not just those that can or want to drive to the station.

With this now going ahead anyway, one final thing I think should be considered is the idea of making part of the car park user pays. What AT could do is section off the closest 300-400 car parks to the station and charge a fee to access them, that would mean that the best spots, closest to the station would be available should people wish to pay and for those that don’t they can still use the free section and walk a bit further if they can find a space. The cost of the paid section could be adjusted over time to ensure that on average there was always a set amount of parks free for those that absolutely need them during the day. This would at least help to recover some of the costs and if done at the same time the new section opened would allow AT to say that even with the new pay scheme there were still more free spaces available than there were before.

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53 comments

  1. A classic example of the double-edged sword that are park and ride stations. While Albany is on the very edge of the city – and not really much of a town centre – it may make sense (especially if we get some sort of return in the form of payment). But in the long-term, it’s somewhat difficult to see large expanses of the Albany Town Centre remaining asphalt and not making a return.

  2. Good post Matt.

    Even this is a transitional move, with AT funding drivers onto the busway and hoping to encourage them out of their cars for the whole journey with integrated ticketing, it makes sense to be putting an even nominal price on the parking park of the service. Even only two dollars for the whole day paid for by HOP would be hugely helpful as a signal about the real costs for the community as well as going some way towards covering the ongoing costs of running this facility.

    And to do it at the time of expansion is surely going to meet the least resistance, or what?, be accused of ‘taxing drivers’ at some later date when they’ll probably also be facing petrol price rises… Have some confidence AT, this is a good service. Of course you could also put a realistic price on city parking too….

  3. Encouraging many people into feeder buses would provide a good basis to serve the wider Albany area as well as their primary purpose. Without the base of feeding to the NEX these services can’t prosper.
    Albany and the suburbs adjacent are larger employment centres too, not to mention the University and the mall.
    This area is badly served by Public Transport, not helped of course by the terrible urban design.

    I hoped one of the advantages of Auckland Transport would be that they could make tradeoffs between infrastructure investment and service investment. Is ridiculous that people using feeder buses have to pay extra but that park and rides are free. Should be the other way round.

    1. Luke, you have hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph. It is absolutely *ridiculous* that people using feeder buses to the Albany Station pay extra while people using park and ride pay nothing.

      AT have the auto-pilot on when it comes to park and ride policy and it’s taking us down the same bad road that Brisbane is on: Over-investment in expensive, under-utilised P&R that poaches people from other PT as much as they generate new trips.

  4. One of the arguments for BRT when compared with LRT is that you get on one bus and stay on it; rather than getting on a bus and having to change at the station. Thus, this eliminates both a transfer penalty and most need for feeder services, and removes any need for integrated ticketing as well.

    However, what this does not take account of is the length of time needed, if you are travelling bu bus, to get from where you live to the main station. If you look at, say, the current X86 timetable, it allows 20 minutes to get from Browns Bay to Constellation in the am peak, and 30 minutes from Constellation to Browns Bay in the evening peak. Even at the peak, I imagine that you could drive from Browns Bay to Constellation in about fifteen minutes.

    So, using a car saves a lot of time, even if you live directly on the bus route. Once you are off the bus route, and especially once you take account of the 15m frequency for the bus, the time savings by car go up by even more. This is my theory of what is driving actual user decisions.

    Also – if this is important for bus park-and-ride, it is even more important for rail park-and-ride, where the transfer penalty cannot be avoided.

    1. Ross then all more reason to charge for the facility? If people are choosing a time saving they will then be happy to pay for it? Why should those who drive be subsidised?

        1. Patrick R, Stu

          Yes; but at the moment I don’t think that the market is strong enough to bear a charge for parking. Also, it is not quite the case that park and ride is “free” to the users, because they do pay their own car running costs to access the carpark. While I understand where Matt L and you (Stu) are coming from, I would not suggest charging, at this stage anyway.

          Can I venture the opinion that as a policy rule, park and ride is better on the periphery of a service area than within it? In Edinburgh, there are three very large park-and-ride sites on the periphery of the city (just within the bypass road). These are very popular because the bus services outside the city are quite poor by any measure. The arrangement allows users to get to a convenient park – there is even a proper bus station – and from there, get a very frequent service into the city.

  5. As someone who has relied on busway feeder services for the last few months I can say they are fairly disfunctional and right now simply adding on more runs probably wouldn’t generate much patronage. The way forward of course is to sort out a proper integrated fare structure and overhaul routes into a transfer based topography, but in the mean time I can see the value of expanding the park n ride to continue bolstering growth. If anything there is value here from a PR point of view, continuing to make high profile improvements of the sort that gets public support.

    I agree with the calls for pricing. Someone made the suggestion that we could start charging for the closest few hundred spots at the same time as opening these five hundred new spots, perfect opportunity. Over time as Albany develops its way across to that far corner charging of all spots could be phased in, and brought up to something like the market rate. In the long term when the park n ride is the only open land left in Albany for development, these thousand parks could be relocated to a multilevel structure along the motorway side and the land sold for development. By then the parking fees should cover the cost of constructing a parking building, and the council can make a handsome capital gain on the land to pay for other transport improvements.

    1. Nick R – I support your comment on pricing but question your statement on whether feeder buses are contributing to growth.

      The existing park and ride has essentially been full since the busway stations were completed. Nonetheless, considerable growth has occurred on the Northern Busway since around 2007. I just can’t see how this magnitude of growth could occur without any contribution from feeder buses.

      Stated differently, saying that patronage on feeder buses has not grown is equivalent to saying that all of the patronage growth that has occurred in the last 3-4 years has come from additional walk-up / kiss-and-ride. Given the numbers of people that we are talking about I cannot believe this would be true (has anyone seen any data?).

      I agree with you comments on the need for structured parking at Albany in the long term. Unfortunately AT has no formal park and ride policy. Plus, they have not taken this opportunity (of providing more parking) to flag the need for pricing at some point in the near future.

      Without a long term P&R management plan there’s a big risk that all existing P&R gets ‘locked in’ – which has been the experience in similar cities overseas (see for example San Francisco’s experience with BART). So all in all a very disappointing/short-sighted development from AT, IMO.

      1. Not at all Stu, apart from the feeder routes, park n ride and walk up feeding patronage to the Northern Express there are a large number of peak focussed L shaped routes like the 863 and 87x that collect across the suburbs then head along part of the busway for the remainder of the trip.

        I would assume that while NEX patronage has grown from parking, walk up, feeders and drop off (probably in that order), perhaps the lions dhare of overall busway patronage would have come from growth on the L shaped routes.

        I guess the next question is should we be looking at more of these suburban expresses, or is that peak downtown commuter market saturated already?

      2. We don’t know too much about patronage on the services that use the busway aside from the NEX. Our only real opportunity is to look at general growth on North Shore routes: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/nov11-busdetails.jpg

        However, we do have really good data for NEX, which shows continuing growth of around 20% pa over the past few years. Even when the parking is full. I’m as curious as anyone else about the answer to the question: how are all these NEX users getting to the stations? Aside from Sunnynook, all the other stations have almost no residential walk-up catchment.

  6. Charge for the paved carparks (using hop card) and put gravel down for the new spots. More spots and a lot cheaper. The land can later be sold off at a later date as suggested by Nick R.

    Feeder services are the way to go, especially for a developing area like Albany where the feeder services would also service the mall and other businesses. However, until proper integrated ticketing is brought in, tehre will be a major disincentive.

  7. The idea of having a paid section and a free section makes excellent sense, because it starts to educate the general public about why charging for parking is a good idea: that is, it increases the chance of them finding a free spot (as well as providing some sort of return for AT). At the moment the parking is very much on a “first come, first served” basis – meaning that people need to probably travel to the stations earlier than they would have wanted to get a parking space. If they knew spaces were going to be available for longer, then they can trade off a few dollars for an extra half hour in bed!

    In an ideal world, we might actually see the public calling for a greater and greater share of the P & R to be in the “paid zone”, because they will see on a daily basis that that’s the best chance of them being able to get a space. You could even have different prices in different zones to further provide some gradation. A $5 red zone (closest 100 spaces), a $3 green zone (next closest 200 spaces) and the rest in the free white zone.

    1. Having a graduated charge based on distance is something I was thinking about today as well, I’m thinking I might try to put together another post looking at it a bit more closely

    2. I think you meant “finding an available parking space”, rather than “free”, especially in the context of this discussion.

    3. Having parking available on a first come first served basis has the very desirable benefit of spreading the peak time.

      1. That is true Peter. I’m guessing the day the expanded P & R opens, we’re going to see some extremely overcrowded NEX buses leaving Albany at between 7.30 and 8am.

        1. How long will it be before they tackle Fanshawe Street’s lack of bus priority? Because even putting on extra services out of Albany won’t do much to help people with the Fanshawe leg taking so long.

    4. Yes great thinking, a differentiated rate depending on proximity and quality, like at the airport. People will pay for a clear improvement in service…. important that this expensive subsidy is charged for, especially as there is an additional charge for catching a feeder service. Otherwise it is a distortion, and a very bad one, and negative distortion.

    5. The pay reserved spaces are being used in Calgary for the LRT, following the removal of Park and Ride carparks being completely pay. The result has been most of those reserved spaces are now empty every day and I believe the fee recovery has not been anywhere near what was hoped for. Unfortunately there are many people that will not pay for parking if there is a free alternative, albeit further away. I believe you either may them pay carkparks or free, the hybrid doesn’t seem to work. In my opinion they should be pay carparks, keep the fee just low enough that the carpark is full.

  8. Auckland Transport needs to look at more feeder buses throughout the network if my local train stations are anything to go by. Glen Innes, Meadowbank and Orakei stations have large numbers of passengers arriving for their trains via single-occupancy cars – there has to be scope for some feeder bus services to those stations, especially if you are not penalised for changing from bus to train to complete a journey.

    1. Meadowbank in particular, because of its abysmal location and completely disconnected nature with surrounding areas, would really benefit from feeder buses. Its 800m walking catchment is tiny.

      I can’t help wondering if building a bridge across the estuary and then a path (or two, one near Nehu St and one near Coates Ave) up to Kepa Road wouldn’t be a good idea, as it would widen the catchment quite considerably and would be relatively cheap: I would imagine it’d be well short of $1m, giving some of the benefits of a new station but with a lot less of a price-tag.

    1. true, but a service that follows some of the 655 route (e.g. Gowing Drive), perhaps with smaller buses, could be quite useful. The walk from Meadowbank Rd to the station isn’t very far at all.

    2. Meadowbank needs to move up the hill and be rebuilt with linking bus stops above on/near the site of the current aggregate supply yard above the tunnel entrance. A short bus [and kiss and ride?] route would then deviate off St John’s Road to deliver people from all over the big residential catchment on either side. I know this would move the station from being too close to Orakei to being -as the crow flies- too close to GI station, but because it is over the hill and serving a different geography [physically and socially] I think it is necessary. This area is tricky and probably shouldn’t be done until integrated ticketing is implemented in order to be able to resist calls for P+R instead. Currently both Orakei and Meadowbank are simply free parking for a small number city workers, crazy. I heard a rumour that the council is insisting on a big carpark as part of the development at Orakei, which would be incredibly stupid, especially at that proximity to town and with those land values. That site definitely needs more habitation by humans, not cars.

        1. Not this year, but then if 5.5million wasn’t being dropped on subsidising driving elsewhere we’ed be on the way towards it. Anyway, with integrated ticketing and done properly, it’ll be 20mil well spent. Arguably a better return than Parnell too, BUT it does need real integrated ticketing, so it can delay a bit…

          GI also could do with integrating better with Apirana Ave and Merton Rd buses too, once you add the bus/train infrastructure coming to Panmure you can see how the Eastern Line’s catchment can be hugely transformed by real Integrated ticketing. These investments are how we get the full value out of this existing resource. And show how poor the MoT’s incredibly low prediction of ridership really is. Remember they claim in their hatchet job on the CRL that the EL will never reach capacity!

          1. I don’t think ever. $20m on a station that’s only needed because the current one is in a crap location is a staggering sum of money. Parnell is at least serving a completely new area and filling a very big gap in the line.

      1. I see Meadowbank as being a kind of “Baldwin Ave” station. Not really suitable for any bus connections and serving a quite distinct residential catchment (although only half a catchment for Meadowbank). The advantage is that you don’t need to divert buses down there to serve the area because it has trains.

        Just like we’ll probably see the end of those silly New North Road services that wind their way through the catchment served by Baldwin Ave station in the not too distant future.

        1. Putting on a bus in the morning and evening peak that does nothing more than drive up and down Meadowbank Road would cost very little, but make it possible for people to catch a bus to the shops instead of driving all the way down to the train station.

  9. Somehow Aucklanders think they have a God given right to park for free wherever they want. Look at the comments on Len Brown’s facebook status when he announced this – things like “the parking had better be free” and “great to see this, we need more parking at stations to encourage more busway use”.

    I like the ideas of splitting the parking into various zones and charging different prices. It seems like one step towards getting us to think about parking with the intelligent parts of our brains, not with our reptilian instincts.

    1. Yes Peter, and AT must help us all recover from this affliction by getting the incentives right. Tricky, but softly, softly catchy monkey should do it. Starting by not subsidising parking.

  10. Interesting idea about the gradual paymment and free system for Park and Rides.
    I had raised a question somewhere up there about charges and exemptions – the charges question has been answered, just not the exemption question.

    Although mind you I would most likely park in the free spot any way before catching my train to start my shift at Britomart Station.

  11. We on Waiheke Island have bus feeder services to the ferry but also extensive car parking facilities next or near the wharf. They have graduated parking fees and we have been very cross for years that North Shore busway and ferry passengers, who have other means of getting to town, can park for free while we, who have no other way of getting to town than by ferry, have to pay for parking. It means we subsidize Shoreites in Bayswater and along the busway for their lifestyle choices.

    1. How does the graduated cost system work on Waiheke? Do the most expensive ones fill up last or are people willing to pay a premium to reduce their walk?

      1. Yes, the closer you want to park to the ferry terminal, the higher the cost. The charged-for spaces also have a 24hr limit. Further up the road is a free carpark (about 500 metres walk). And there is a swathe of privately leased car parks.

    1. I now live in Calgary, so here is my take on the situation:
      As noted in a reply of mine above, the carparks for the LRT stations were paid parking only. In the 2010 elections the mayor that was voted in had a mandate to remove the parking fees, which he did in 2011. To recover some money lost in taking away the paid parking (and try the council balance the budget), a reserved section was introduced in the best parts of the parking lot. The reserved system works on a monthly fee, rather than a pay per day type system. For the stations that I use there are only ever a few cars in the reserved spots. There have been a couple of news articles on the low take-up of the reserved section since its introduction. So I don’t believe this has been a successful endeavour.

  12. I only know about it I have read on the internet.

    I find the situation interesting for a number of reasons: Calgary is of a similar size to Auckland, and seems to be loaded with the came “Residents love there cars” mentality that Auckland is. The main reason I find the situation interesting is the recent changes made to park and ride payment policy. As opposed to Auckland Calgary has a lot of park and ride lots (14,588 spaces), also Calgary has a very harsh winter and as such requires policy that can handle the seasonal demand (park and ride is more popular in the winter (think snow/ice). Also some/all? of the lots have (free) electrical outlets for car block heaters (so the engine doesn’t freeze) This means that a full space does cost more in opex than an empty space like in NZ.

    Read the summary of this documant: http://agendaminutes.calgary.ca/sirepub/cache/2/qb3xbr21lj5unt45fmvu0m22/3244101142012062454332.PDF

    Basic summary:

    Pre March 2009 – Parking lots over full, spillover etc, constant call for lots to be expanded, no money available for the council to do so. – Reserved car-parks at CAD $50 / mouth trialed at some stations

    March 2009 – CAD $3/day charge introduced on all parking spaces (except between 6pm and 2am) utilization drops to approx 55% ((although it does increase in the next year).

    April 1 2011 (no joke 😉 – Mayor removes fee (as part of an election promise/bribe), replaces it with part free parking part reserved bays (from 2am-10am) at CAN $70/mouth.

    Current situation – seems to be general discontent with the current situation, in particular the inefficiency of reserved monthly parking (many bays sit empty during the reserved time), parking space reserves want there bays to be reserved later in the day than 10am, revenue is low for the council, Inadequacy solution for those who commute casually. Seems the council there is just going to tinker and add a CAD $5 daily reservation option.

    I think the key point to take out of this is to ensure any introduction fee is low enough that uptake is still above 80% (and vary fee by parking lot). It seems that those who parked in a nearly full (popular) lot were grateful for the fee while those who lived near less popular lots saw it as a tax on low to middle income people that reduced transit ridership.

    To me it seems that the priced reserved bays option is inferior to having a (appropriate -> yielding 80-95% peak utilization) daily charge, and it should only be considered when the latter is not politically possible.

    1. What a dog’s dinner! Democracy at work again!….

      Why not make the bus free and charge alike mad for the car park? They’re both transit services… why do people assume carparking should be free but accept that the journey should be paid for? It’s just how we’re conditioned.

  13. Sounds like AT were out at the P&R handing out flyes saying they would be doubling the number of car parks and that they would be free.

  14. Interesting article in the Herald today about the project. Quite mixed reactions and many references to the high cost and the need for better bus services.

  15. I would delete the 7m high limestone artwork tower from the wish list -the P&R station looks nice already (and half the time you leave/arrive, it’s dark anyway).

    I’d like to see a 50c – $1 extra for every ticket clipped at the P&R station, integrated within the (electronic) ticket price. Unfortunately this would penalise people who walked or cycled to the P&R station, so perhaps a new (free) connection between Mega Centre/Uni and the P&R could be provided at peak times?

    That said, the economic benefit of taking 550 more cars off the roads is significant and shouldn’t be ignored. Does the $5.5m cost not come out of our petrol tax/surcharge? Anyway, the project probably stacks up well compared with anything in the highways budget!

    1. “I’d like to see a 50c – $1 extra for every ticket clipped at the P&R station”

      Charge everybody who rides from a park and ride station extra just because there happens to be a park and ride facility at their nearest station regardless of how they got there. Doesn’t seem equitable at all. If you want to charge for parking why not do it directly. Collection costs via either pay and display or entry/exit barriers should be manageable.

      I think the 5.5m comes from rates, via the public transport budget, but I could be wrong about that.

      Other than the obvious in-efficient allocation of parking spaces (to those who start work/study early rather than those who value it highly) I don’t like how the free council park and ride effectively crushes the prospect of a private provider competing. For example if the Albany park and ride was $1.50 a day the owner of a nearby vacant lot might let people park on the grass for 50c a day. This would result in greater park and ride availability and more PT patronage.

  16. The feeder buses cost money, yet the P&R is free is indeed a perversion.

    But funnily enough with most P&R I’ve ever seen the bike lockers (where they exist) cost money, yet the carparks are free.

    That’s truly perverse.

    Everything should be about incentivising people out of their cars as much as possible including getting to the P&R.

  17. Instead of gobbling up more land, build a bloody multi storey car park ! 1100 carparks means 1100 cars off the road per day – what a load of rubbish – its not even a small dent on the daily traffic in/out of Auckland. Next it will be that putting a Permapave grate on one drain will save Auckland Harbour !

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