Within the discussion about my recent post on pedestrian angst there was a bit of ‘back and forth‘ in relation to the vexed issue of on-street parking. On street parking, whether we’re talking about the city centre, implementing bus lanes on arterial roads or dealing with commuter parking in inner suburbs, is a very heated and controversial topic. There are so many different points of view on the issue:

  • Traffic engineers hate on street parking because it uses up road space that could otherwise become additional capacity as well as increasing ‘friction’ for the through movement of vehicles
  • Public transport planners often hate on street parking because it uses up space that could become bus lanes
  • Urban designers are a bit mixed on the issue, but understand its potential to act as a buffer between pedestrians and moving traffic and also its potential to add friction and therefore slow traffic down
  • Local shopkeepers absolutely worship on street parking and think the removal of a single space anywhere near them will mean the certain death of their business, regardless of how often the parking spaces are actually used and regardless of the availability of parking on nearby side-streets
  • Local residents feel the space outside their house on the street belongs absolutely to them and will vigorously oppose any efforts to remove the space, plus they will whine incessantly if the space is being used by commuters or by people visiting nearby shops/offices
  • Transport economists will obsess endlessly over different pricing possibilities to best utilise parking spaces, ignorant to the fact that most people would rather have a root canal than shell out a single cent for parking

OK so perhaps I’m generalising a bit here, but needless to say it’s a pretty passionate debate on all sides. Furthermore, our traditional approach to on-street parking has been pretty blunt. Generally you can either parking as long as you want for nothing or you can’t park at all. In the relatively few places with timed parking, it’s generally a pretty safe bet that you’re not going to get caught unless you park for WAY over your allocated time, and even in the city centre after 6pm you can dump your car on the road side for as long as you like for nothing.

Where I probably sit on the issue is somewhere between the urban designers and the transport economists, while also recognising a dose of reality from the shopkeepers in some situations. I do think on-street parking has many of the benefits urban designers sometimes like about it – it narrows down the street, it shields pedestrians from moving vehicles, plus it supports “pop in” shopping.

But I also think we need to recognise the ‘value’ of our on-street parking spaces to a far greater extent. In places with high demand for parking, someone using up a space for hours and hours is denying many people the opportunity of utilising that space. The classic example is having the parking spaces outside a restaurant being used up by the staff of the restaurant, putting off potential customers. While this is perhaps a simplistic example, it highlights the need to properly value the parking space. Another classic example comes from the USA where many cities stop charging for parking during the Christmas shopping rush to supposedly encourage shoppers downtown. The perverse outcome of this is that everyone parks for much much longer than they would have otherwise and parking spaces actually become much harder to find.

In essence, on-street parking should be all about short-stay parking. Perhaps as long as you aren’t using the space for more than 10 minutes, you should be able to use it for free. But if you want to park on street (in a place with lots of parking demand) all day long, then the cost should be eye-watering enough to put you off from doing so. You really should be in a parking building, or catching public transport for such trips.

In other places where there’s a battle between whether we should have on-street parking or bus priority measures, we should look at the times of day when each different use delivers the greatest benefit. If we’re still shifting huge numbers of people on the bus along Dominion Road between 9-10am or between 6 and 7pm, then that is likely to deliver a greater benefit than enabling a few people to pop in to some shops without having to walk a few more metres from a side street. At  other times when the buses aren’t being held up by congestion in the general lane, then perhaps the greater benefit can be achieved through allowing on-street parking. The transport economist in me suggests we could probably find a nice way of measuring this in a fairly rational manner.

I think Auckland Transport are starting to understand that a more nuanced approach to on-street parking is necessary. Their parking plan for the city centre made a lot of sense in many ways, perhaps apart from highlighting that the point of the very high prices for long-term parking was not for revenue-gouging, but instead to send a strong message that those people will be far better off in a parking building. Obviously we must also get rid of minimum parking requirements everywhere, but that’s a separate (if somewhat connected) issue.

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  1. “Traffic engineers hate on street parking”

    Generalise much?

    “OK so perhaps I’m generalising a bit here”

    Yes 😉 But you are on the dot for most of them anyway. Just have a look at this classical example in the papers recently: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/papakura-courier/7390127/Cycle-plan-outrage

    So maybe cyclists also hate on-street parking? We certainly do where the road is so narrow that we get doored, and we certainly do where (like on a previous project, upper Onehunga Mall), 3 motorists wanting to park on-street can stop a while cycle route project dead in their tracks. Whether the same happens on great South Road, or a more amenable compromise can be found, we’ll have to see. On other cycle projects in the past, AT has gone to quite some cost to “recess” on-street parking into the berm, so that motorist could not accuse them of ignoring them in favour of cycle lanes.

    1. A student of mine did a study of cycling accident hotspots, and while it was only a class project and not conclusive, it appeared that the highest accident rates were associated with local ‘shopping street’ on street parking, such as along Remuera Road. Lots of cars popping in and out, opening doors, not looking >> lots of cyclists getting hit. I’m not surprised cyclists hate on-street parking!

  2. Typo – “whole”, not “while”, obviously. And the comment about “3 motorists” means that that is about as many people I ever see parked on the kilometre or so where the cycle lane should have gone. The actual number of complaints to old Auckland City Council for daring to take away their parking was probably a lot higher.

  3. Hi Max. I was of the understanding that having footpath / cycleway / roadside parking / traffic lane (in that order) was the semi-ideal set up. From what I have read it seems to be the way of a lot of cities overseas.

    1. Yes, that is pretty good – unless you have lots of driveways, when it is generally too unsafe, or results in almost all parking having to be removed anyway to make it safe.

      But either way, the above assumes that you have enough width to do all this. Since we are rarely willing to be satisfied with our arterials having less than four running lanes, we end up with not enough space to get so much car capacity AND also provide for cyclists and parking. It’s a “crowding out” contest, and in Auckland, that contest has been clearly won by moving traffic, then parked traffic, then pedestrians, and at the very bottom of the ladder, public transport and cyclists fight for the scraps.

      1. Yes the ‘Copenhagen’ bike lanes are disastrous where you have more than the occasional driveways or side street. The problem being that motorist pulling out of a side street/driveway need to pull forward right across the cycleway and stop between the parked cars to get a sightline to the road. There is one like that in St Kilda, Melbourne I used to use. Every 30 or 40m or so there would be a driver trying to pull into traffic with their car perpendicular to the cycleway (blocking it entirely), end result is no one used it and cycled on the roadway or footpath anyway.

        It’s also a problem the other way, motorists pulling in to a driveway or side street have their sightline to the cycleway partially blocked by the parked cars.

        I just don’t think its an option for almost anywhere in Auckland.

        1. It works a bit better in countries that have strong legal and road behaviour traditions of giving way to pedestrians and cyclists on side streets, driveways and footpaths. While we technically have pedestrian and cyclist (where on shared path) priority on driveway, many drivers do not behave accordingly – and on side streets, we don’t even have legal through priority for peds and cyclists anyway, let alone a consistent appropriate behaviour from motorists.

          Sadly, it’s hard to convince laypeople wanting “Copenhagen cycleways” of this. At times, I was feeling like they were thinking I was “one of the opposition” when I explained why it won’t do to build them here in many places.

        2. Although, if the cycle lane is on the outside of the parked cars, there is still the risk that cars leaving driveways will not see cyclists, because of parked cars, or park across the cycle way anyway while waiting for traffic to clear. Of course there will be a lot of roads that don’t have the room at all due to a ‘need’ for 4 lanes but I know of plenty of roads where this could happen easily.

        3. I’m not disagreeing with your comments Nick and Max, just trying to see all sides of a problem 🙂

  4. Two comments:

    Onewa road needs yellow lines all the way down it. It is a main arterial!!! ON both sides. The only exception may be around the flower/alcohol shop and the dairy. Everyone else should be parking on their own property.

    I have never understood shop owners who part their sign written cars right out side. Good advertising or pissing off your potential customers who cant find a park?

    1. I presume then Harvey that those who live back in Beachhaven etc, and use Onewa Road as a main arterial would be willing to give up their roadside parking as well? Seems fair.

    2. > Onewa road needs yellow lines all the way down it. It is a main arterial!!! ON both sides.

      Both lanes are packed *24/7*? I didn’t think so.

      > Everyone else should be parking on their own property.

      And their dinner guests? Delivery trucks that can’t fit in driveways?

      As an example, it’s 700m between Wernham Place and Birkenhead Ave side-streets on the westbound side… 350m+ is a long walk for my grandmother if that’s the closest park I can find which doesn’t require her to run across four lanes of traffic (ain’t gonna happen).

      A “nuanced” approach might mean no parking Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, or in specific directions, or … basically what “makes sense” for “most people”, “most of the time” 🙂 Which is what happens already, though the people most vocal are shopkeepers/residents, and often they seem to be appeased just because they shout.

    3. Harvey I almost agree. I think there should definitely be a westbound peak time clearway in the first instance, possibly extended to other times. I do think though that anytime it is a clearway there should also be a T3 lane in operation. A lot of people travel by bus including “off peak” and on Saturdays.

  5. The only other issue I have with AC’s new parking regime is that I presume ‘early bird’ parking will still be much cheaper than popping down to the shops for an hour or 2.

      1. I realise that but with the ‘on street’ parking getting more expensive then it may be just as cheap to get in early for a whole day’s shopping 🙂

  6. I do so love the ‘clearway’ down New North Road through Kingsland, that sees vehicles parked on-street during peak morning and evening hours. The time wasted as buses have to pull in and out of the lane to dodge the parked cars, and the cyclists that have to contend with the buses being forced to do this (which gives me the heebie-jeebies for the cyclists from a safety perspective even though most of the drivers I’ve seen are very careful). Dear cars who do this, you realise there’s a bus full of people hating on you, and a driver that will shame you with a honk, if you happen to be inside your car?

    1. The other weird thing about that clearway is its timing out of town in the evening: 4-6pm. In practice, the heavy traffic flows are 5-7pm, so for a good part of the time it’s needed it is not in operation. I assume this is due to lobbying from local businesses, particularly restaurants.

  7. High St is a good case for removing all regular parking in favour of shared space/loading-zone/10-min parking, given the high volume of pedestrian traffic and the ridiculous sidewalk width.

    1. Why it already has not been done is beyond me. Every time I go to that area it grates me. The whole Chancery / High St area would be even more brilliant if it were not for cars.

    2. Agree – High Street is a perfect example how “but we need the car parks or our shops will suffer” mindset actually damages your retail sales.

      1. The schadenfreudic irony of that situation is now all the long established High St boutiques have closed shop to relocate down to Britomart and Fort St where there is little or no street parking, but very nice pedestrian environments.

        The local shop operators and landlords campaigned for years to prevent the removal of street parking from High St, and now they are suffering the consequences.

        1. I’m a frequent visitor to Leeds where there is a huge pedestrianised central shopping centre. People come from all over Yorkshire to shop there. My brother has lived there for many years and tells me that when it was first proposed there were howls of outrage from the shopkeepers of the type we hear in Auckland. Now shops on the periphery are clamouring to be included.
          Why can’t we learn from overseas experience?

          BTW: can you get your system to stop trying to “correct” my spelling to USA spelling, which I loathe.

        2. The blog doesn’t check spelling, it’s whatever web browser you are using that does that. Check your settings, I run Google Chrome and have the spell checker set to NZ English.

          Colour, aluminium, bastardise (see!).

        3. Nick- other things to take into account are the “sweetheart leases” offered by Cooper to get sexy fashion down to Britomart.

          Let’s see what happens when they expire and the fashionistas get reamed on the re up?

        4. Patrick- I think that’s exactly what I said.

          With a little something for The Wire fans..

      2. Had an interesting conversation with some friends last night about the shared spaces in Auckland. They feel, as motorists, that the ‘shared spaces’ should actually become ‘service vehicles only’. Case in point, one was driving in Fort St at under 5 km/h (or almost stopped) when a pedestrian who was not taking any notice at all almost walked into the car, only noticing it at the last second, and then proceeded to berate the driver for actually moving (must walk into lamp posts as well I guess). Anyhow, upshot was, they thought it was all a bit too ambiguous.

    3. Couldn’t agree more. What was interesting (concerning) last night was watching a truck having extreme difficulty just driving up the street. It was probably smaller than a fire truck – so what would happen if there was a fire in one of the premises? O’Connell Street has the same problem.

    4. “High St is a good case for removing all regular parking in favour of shared space/loading-zone/10-min parking” I disagree, just fully pedestrianize it.

      1. Illegal parking by service trucks everywhere & cyclists “breaking the law” by just being in the saddle? No thanks.

  8. The parking plan was a good idea in general. But as I said previously I do worry about enforcing this 10 minute free parking limit? Plain clothed officers? CCTV?

    1. If they do like the Warehouse Newmarket and require a free XX minute ticket be printed from a meter and displayed enforcement will be easy. Don’t know if it will happen though, walking to the meter and back to the vehicle may be deemed to be too arduous for sub 10minute parking.

        1. What I meant was it would be much the same enforcement as now, except they wait ten minutes before issuing the infringment for not paying and displaying, rather than doing it immediately. The ten minute thing probably won’t be enforced very closely, more that people not paying at all or having an expired ticket would get stung.

          So maybe that de jure ten minutes becomes and defacto fifteen or twenty in practice, so be it. That still results in a higher turn over of parking and greater accessibility for short stays.

        2. Nick R, that’s the problem. 10 minutes is too short to walk your whole (reasonable sized) beat and come back and check whether the same cars have now exceeded the grace period. And you can’t expect every enforcement officer to just stand around 10minutes every couple spaces and wait just to see IF one of the occupants doesn’t return…

  9. In almost every (recent) photo I have seen of High St, the majority of vehicles parked have been those making deliveries or tradesmans utes.

    So these are the vehicles whose passengers are so vital to the financial survival of businesses on that street?

    1. It is common overseas to have a time especially for deliveries, typically in the morning, on streets where the traffic is more controlled. This in fact makes deliveries more efficient. But of course will still be fought by both retailers and delivery companies here I suspect. Well until delivery companies discover that they can save a huge amount of time by not competing with the low value traffic that is currently hogging these streets.

      Access for emergency vehicles would improve enormously on High St without all that parking too.

      1. Yes, and that is backed by the initial report on shared spaces with “75% of delivery services found it ‘much easier’ to make their deliveries” – http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2012/05/17/fort-st-shared-space-a-success/

        High st. has been talked about for years now and everyone, (bar the shop owners ?) seem to understand how pointless the parking here is. It should really be pedestrian only with retractable bollards for delivery & service vehicles (like the ones down at Te Wero bridge). Hopefully further success of the shared spaces will spur this on.

        Also, I would disagree that the exodus down to Britomart is because of better pedestrian amenities but more due to agglomeration – their streets are hardly any better for walking and are also crying out to be restricted or closed off completely. It’s not like there is a shortage of parking with their shiny new parking building and, oh look, a train station.

  10. http://parkingday.org is coming up 21st Sept- take over a parking space and make it a park for the day.
    Maybe transportbloggers(readers) could get together and run a park(ing) space or 2 for fun?
    We’re planning one on Upper Queen St.

  11. @ Bryce, you said “Although, if the cycle lane is on the outside of the parked cars, there is still the risk that cars leaving driveways will not see cyclists, because of parked cars, or park across the cycle way anyway while waiting for traffic to clear. Of course there will be a lot of roads that don’t have the room at all due to a ‘need’ for 4 lanes but I know of plenty of roads where this could happen easily.”

    But I think it would be easier for the cyclist in this case to swerve out into the road a little. But in the other case, you would be trapped between parked cars and footpath. So you’d either a) get run over if you didn’t see the car or b) have to sit and wait for them to pull out and then you would probably get fed up and go on the road/footpath anyway. But I say that without having ever used a cycle lane that ran between parked cars and the footpath. Just imagining…

    1. Hi Lucy. Hypothetical of course but, what if you took a piece of road that is capable of providing 30 car parks but reduce that to 15 angle parks. This would take up a bit of room I realise but, theoretically, there would be enough room for a car to drive up and stop clear of a cycle path while waiting for traffic. The reduction in the number of parking spaces would also enable better sight lines. After all, a cyclist swerving further onto the road is not ideal either. The on-road cycle ways are god for experienced riders but less so for children.
      I’m no expert, just trying to crack a problem of how to get kids to school, safely, on a busy wide road (that does not need 4 lanes btw). At present locals are upset because they lost their on-street parking for a one way, on road cycle lane but the kids use the footpath anyway as it is on the correct side to get to school and crossing the road to get to the dedicated cycle way is a) inconvenient and b) dangerous. Suggestions Max?

      1. Bryce, if you have the political will to lose half the car parks on a road, you’re already sweet. Just stick all the parking on one side! That gives you enough space to do all sorts of varieties of high-class cycle facilities. For example on-street cycle lanes with physical dividers on the non-parking side (http://caa.org.nz/auckland-transport/triangle-road-now-open-for-cyclists-again/), potentially even two-way (works best if you have traffic signals rather than many priority side roads, though).

        If you are willing to spend enough physical works and have some space, it’s also perfectly feasible to put a cycleway on the footpath, but make the footpath so wide it’s NOT a shared path – i.e. cyclists are on the upper level above cars, which already gives them some protection from entering / exiting cars if you build the driveways right, but they also have an internal kerb separating them from the pedestrians, who are yet another kerb level higher up.

        But being able to lose half the parking might even mean that you have enough space for a traditional Copenhagen lane, if the driveways are residential only (i.e. low volume). You’d essentially end up with a pattern of 2-3 spaces gap (at each driveway), 2-3 spaces parking, 2-3 spaces gap… and have a cycleway behind the cars. Doesn’t work if you have stuff like a supermarket or office car park or similar though, because of the risk of the constant blocking of the cycleway.

        1. Max, the other thing I have noticed while studying this Netherlands thing a bit is that, in side roads that were obviously designed for cars, they either never had any of our 1 -1.5m grass verges or they have used them for the cycle way. As you have said, they build parking onto the road with build outs to keep the road narrow and then build the cycle way and footpath on the inside.

          Cool video here. Check out the cycle crossing at the 5min mark. Imagine that in NZ.


        2. What is the point of those verges? Are they just for somewhere to stick lamp posts and road signs, or is there some other function?

  12. “… it’s generally a pretty safe bet that you’re not going to get caught unless you park for WAY over your allocated time, and even in the city centre after 6pm you can dump your car on the road side for as long as you like for nothing.”

    See, that’s all the proof I need that this blog is written in Auckland and not Wellington.

    Wellington parking enforcement is, as far as I can tell, a 24 hour business and they’re pretty damn ruthless.

  13. I am not sure that getting people off the road (where the money goes to AT/Council) and into parking buildings is moral.

    Parking buildings are privately owned; forcing people into them merely creates additional profit for private enterprise.

    It is not the Council (or AT)’s role to create market distortions that favour private enterprise.

    I’d love to take public transport but it simply doesn’t run early enough from where I live to get me where I need to be at the right time. I have actually spreadsheeted this and worked out that shifting to PT would cost me approximately 45 minutes per day (when you drive in at 0550, PT is much slower than trafficm compared to the relativities at say 0800). I have also worked out that the cheapest monthly parking building would cost me an additional $96 a month (based on 5$/day parking at a 50c/hour spot on the very outskirts of town).

    If the Council/AT wants the stick of higher on street parking fees, it also needs the carrot of more PT to handle increased demand.

    And believe me, where I park does not create congestion.

    1. The council owns five massive parking buildings in the Auckland CBD. They aren’t trying to distort the the market in favour of private enterprise, what they are trying to do is price short stay street parking so it works as short stay parking (i.e. with high turnover and about 90% occupancy so people can find a park). The point is to direct longer stays into parking buildings, which are actually cheaper than parking on street as it is.

      It’s not an exercise in ‘sticking’ people away from driving onto PT, it’s about pricing the various types of parking appropriately to promote efficient utilisation of the resource. It really has nothing to do with public transport.

      1. And what is the matter with it if it WAS related to PT? If society doesn’t have the right to encourage some behaviours (use of PT to the CBD) and discourage other behaviours (driving in certain areas), then why have a society at all? As to whether a Council SHOULD do this encouragement / discouragement, will have to be seen on a case-by-case basis. But they should have (and have) the right to do so. They are elected to do just that kind of stuff, and if you don’t like the choices they make in the public’s name, elect someone else the next time.

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