In yesterday’s post about minimum parking requirements I noted that the only situation when these regulations have any effect is when the market wants to provide a lower level of parking than the minimum. In that case either the landowner relents and provides more parking than they’d otherwise want to; or they apply for a consent (usually at the cost of quite a few thousand dollars) and ‘try their luck’ at getting a dispensation. impact-of-minimumsThe justification for minimum parking requirements is usually something alone the lines of forcing a higher level of on-site parking to avoid ‘spillover parking’ – typically in the form of on-street parking.  Spillover parking is parking generated from activities on a particular site needing to be accommodated somewhere else (i.e. it “spills over” elsewhere). Given that minimum parking requirements have a huge impact on the development potential of a site (often requiring that more land is set aside for parking than for the actual activity) then one would expect the impacts of “spillover parking” to be utterly horrific. After all, we take some massively drastic steps to avoid this problem.

This conundrum is actually something we can test quite well, because much of Auckland was developed before minimum parking requirements existed. Pretty much all the inner suburbs were built in a way that didn’t require off-street parking and the entire city centre (a bit of a special case) has never had minimum parking requirements. How do these places work? How much of a problem is it that most of the shops along Ponsonby Road do not provide ‘sufficient’ off-street parking to cater for their demand? How terrible is it that some (super expensive) villas in Ponsonby, St Mary’s Bay, Grey Lynn and elsewhere don’t provide any off-street parking? How does a small local shopping area like West Lynn survive without any off-street parking?

West Lynn shops seem to do pretty well even with no off-street parking

It seems to me that these places generally do just fine. Sure, the lack of off-street parking might put some people off buying or renting a particular house – but it’s hardly like we have a plague of abandoned properties in our inner suburbs. Plus not having half the kerb as driveways means a lot more on-street parking is available. And it doesn’t seem as though the lack of off-street parking create a huge amount of congestion along Richmond Road or Ponsonby Road. It also doesn’t seem like these shopping areas struggle due to a lack of parking spaces. I certainly know that I’m usually able to find a parking spot fairly easily – the same for Parnell, Mt Eden Village and other places. Occasionally there will be a shared parking area (though not for most of Ponsonby Road or any of West Lynn shops as far as I know), which seem fairly well used and efficient. Other shared parking areas, like behind the Pt Chev shops on the motorway side, seem completely empty and excessive (a good land-bank for future apartments?)

I suppose the point of this post is fairly simple – to really question what the problem actually is that minimum parking requirements are trying to solve? Does it really matter if there’s on-street parking? Does a lack of off-street parking really seem to undermine the economic viability of shopping areas (more a maximums question than a minimums one by the way)? Going by the evidence of Auckland’s inner suburbs it seems that we get by just fine when spillover parking happens. And this is the problem with minimums, there’s just no real reason for them, there’s no problem for them to fix, there’s just no point in forcing people to provide more off-street parking than they want to. There’s no need to fear Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, they’re perfectly nice places.

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  1. Yes. (Amen!)

    Does anyone know the history of their introduction in Auckland/NZ? Were there real or imagined problems at the time?

    1. I think it’s fair to say that little ol’ NZ really just copied the U.S. and the U.K., who were heading in the same direction post-WWII.

  2. If they are really worried about ‘spillover’ parking onstreet then the answer is simple: if it actually becomes a problem then manage parking. Some combination of time limits, pricing or resident permit schemes will very simply address the issue of spillover, if indeed it happened to be an issue anywhere.

    1. Or as Shoup Dogg suggests create a parking district, charge for parking and spend revenues in local areas… This would be a great neighbourhood to have an annual street party like they do in SF and Seattle.

  3. The former Manukau council required (and still do require) 2 off street parking spaces for each new house whereas other Auckland councils only require one. Over the top and unneccessary pro-car rules.

  4. I think spillover parking effects are more imagined than real. And in reality they cause annoyance rather than any serious hassle. For example for Auntie and Uncle live on a stretch of terrace houses in northern industrial Lancashire. Of course there are no off street parking spaces, so sometimes they might have to park a few hundred metres away from their house. A mild disadvantage but not really a reason to force every house to have a parking space or 2.
    Interestingly the parking seems to have become an issue only quite recently. Probably because of job and retail sprawl (big box stores) and expensive public transport fares pushing more towards car ownership.

  5. Minimum parking requirements are a serious imposition on people’s property rights, quite apart from the urban design problems. The onus is on supporters to justify them.

    If the community wants to control onstreet parking because of negative spillovers, it should do it directly by measures such as the current proposals for Auckland City, or time limits to keep commuters out of city fringe residential areas, or residents’ permits (and these can be arranged to protect the rights of existing residents at a time of rule change).

    Imposing on property owners through MPRs is just a lazy way for public authorities to dodge their job of managing the street.

    The above concerns ‘MPRs to protect the amenity of the street or local residents’. Another meme, which should be distinguished, is ‘MPRs to protect the interests of the motoring public by ensuring there is enough parking available’.

    This requires us to accept that –
    – ‘enough parking’ is a non-negotiable community standard, something like the health and safety standards that prompt building regulations; AND
    – the unregulated market would not provide it.

    This should be rejected. How much parking is enough is highly arguable. It is not a community standard like ‘enough ventilation’ or ‘enough fire escapes’. It should be left to the market to decide (after doing whatever is wanted to protect the public realm, as above).

    As people go about their business it’s not the government’s job to find them a parking space any more than it’s the government’s job to pay for their cappuccinos when they have a break.

    It’s interesting that right wing libertarians, who should hate MPRs because of the imposition on property rights, tend to be a bit conflicted about this. Possibly this is because they also love the freedom of the private car yada yada, so they are distracted by the meme ‘MPRs to protect the interests of the motoring public by ensuring there is enough parking available’.

  6. Great post Mr. A. Last version of the Unitary Plan I saw still had minimums in it. We hassled them directly and also got the Local Board to submit against them.
    If they’re in the Draft Unitary we’ll know all the “consultation” is just box ticking…

    I hope everyone submits anti it if they get the chance!

    And yes- Ponsonby and Grey Lynn are perfectly perfect, come visit sometime!

    1. Great work Geoff, for me personally it’s extremely heartening to see some momentum building around this critical issue because I have been “active in this space” (as they say) for more than 5 years.

      Progress has been slow but steady; and I think Auckland is now on the threshold of making major improvements to its parking policy that have major “spillover” benefits for all sorts of areas, but most notably housing affordability, traffic congestion, public transport, and urban sprawl.

      Please keep piling on the pressure – from my experience many of the more conservative politicians and some of the more confused planners consider the issue all too hard to deal with “on their watch”. In turn they try to ignore it in the vain hope that people will eventually get bored and move on – leaving them free to persist with the status quo. A status quo that is so damaging.

      Nonetheless I’m convinced that some tenacity and persistence, as well as not inconsiderable amounts of logic and evidence, from a wide range of people, such as Nemo and yourself, will eventually carry the day and we will rid ourselves of these pesky minimums.

  7. I live in Kingsland, one bus stage from the CBD. My street has a mix of residential sites with one or two off street car parks and sites with none. The street is narrow and has on-street parking only on one side. Because of the proximity to the bus routes, the on-street parking used by residents at night is used by commuters during the day, but visitors can usually get a park , particularly further down the hill.
    Our equilibrium was shattered for several years when the Raffles educational establishment opened up at the top of the hill. They did not supply sufficient parking – theoretically they had rented off-site parking – but it was a long way away and not used. Their students parked everywhere, over driveways, on the berms, on the yellow lines etc.
    We could not get anything delivered, there was no visitor parking, and at times, we could hardly get into our narrow street. I was on the phone to the Council every day to get vehicles ticketed or moved.
    Fortunately, Raffles eventually moved on and we went back to our relative parking peace.

    1. I think that more goes to show that PT needs to be improved such as more people are using that rather than driving, Auckland uni doesn’t provide any parking for its students either.

    2. Resident parking permits are the way to control both the informal park and riders and the spill over from a new business. Plus enforcement of existing parking regs for the more creative parkers; a few tickets and they’ll get the message. MPRs are a very poor and expensive way to ensure legal parking!

      1. Be careful re Resident parking permits- it now means you have to pay to park outside your house, without any guarantee of being able to do so.

        St marys bay residents are getting peeved about the “Trial” version they didn’t want (but got anyway) and now various nutters are rumoured to be pushing for the whole western bays to be permit parking.

        As our correspondent from Kingsland said- it’s about equilibrium. Res parking permits are are an extra unneeded level of bureaucracy and cost to residents and visitors alike.

        If residents are that put out by not being able to get a park if they nip home at lunch time- petition Council to put put up “Max stay 180 min” signs. Far less costly and counterproductive than permits imho…

        1. Yeah, I can see the potential for a backlash from the residents which would possibly encourage MPR’s on residential lots. I think there are probably good examples overseas to see how it can be done effectively.

          1. No, the experience from overseas suggests that residential parking permits are a nightmare – and once you implement them you can’t get rid of them, i.e. you create a property right and a sense of entitlement.

            I strongly believe that AT should in general not be specifying who can use parking, but instead just manage demand using common techniques, e.g. prices and/or time-limits. Anything else is oh so problematic …

        2. Lindsey, why do you think that local residents should have prioritised access to on-street parking?

          From what I can tell the problem is not with the students, but with residents’ expectation for oodles of on-street parking to be reserved for them and their visitors. Students, workers, and shoppers have just as much right to those on-street car-parks as local residents. If the latter really want parking then they should either 1) find somewhere to live that has off-street parking or 2) arrange access (i.e. negotiate/rent) to an off-street car-park somewhere close-by.

          I also agree with Geoff here – residents parking permits are not an effective policy. Not only is there no reason to prioritise parking for residents, residents parking permit schemes themselves simply don’t work very well in the long run. They are an administrative nightmare, extremely prone to cheating, and only serve to increase resident’s unreasonable sense of entitlement to on-street parking. For example, cities such as Amsterdam now have a 3-5 year waiting list for parking permits in many areas; there are numerous urban legends of people actually dying while waiting to get a permit!

          IMHO if parking demand increases in a particular area (for whatever reason) then all AT should do is manage demand as they do in other parts of the city, through a combination of prices and/or time-restrictions. Parking meters are probably overkill (too suburban), but a “park and phone” payment system for people needing to park for more than 2 hours could work well. That would mean that you can park for free for up to 2 hours, but if you need longer then you have to call a (free-phone) council number and register your car and arrange payment by credit card and/or HOP balance.

          Of course if parking demands continue to increase over time then you would simply move to permanent meters …

          1. In Melbourne used to rent out our two parking permits (no cost attached, two issued to every dwelling) at a price that almost paid for two transit passes. Sweet deal, we get issued a property right we don’t need or use for free, and can sublet that to someone who does.

          2. You don’t need to look abroad for examples. Wellington has a residents parking permit / coupon parking scheme which you can read about –

            Although you’ve got to manage parking demand somehow, residents should have first crack at the parks that there are. If visitors can’t park then that affects only one trip, to an area with relatively good PT. If residents can’t park then they can’t own a car at all, given the heritage restrictions that make adding off-street parking pretty much impossible for some people, and unaffordable for others. In a city where plenty of jobs, educational, social and recreational opportunities are only available to people with a car, a much bigger blow.

            And do you really want to encourage off-street parking as a solution? Each driveway removes an on-street space, just as that car would if it were parked there, and it does so 24/7, not just while the car is actually there.

          3. “And do you really want to encourage off-street parking as a solution? Each driveway removes an on-street space, just as that car would if it were parked there, and it does so 24/7, not just while the car is actually there.”

            Steve- it gets worse than that- come round and check the 15 METRE WIDE no parking zone across from my house that caters for exactly ONE house.

            Talk about a waste…

          4. Let us extend Shoup’s concept of the market clearing price for street parking in a business area.

            In older inner urban residential areas with little offstreet parking, let the local authority establish communal parking lots in suitable places where they minimise detriments to the amenity of the street. They could be for casual use or annual subscription. Set the price to aim for a small proportion of vacant spaces at any time. The prices would have to be tested at first but would probably become stable over time.

            The concept would be similar to Melbourne’s bike cages which subscribers access with smartcards – see for example It’s not much different from the communal parking lot of any high rise development.

            Communal parking lots would be a far more efficient use of space than minimum parking requirements, since
            – you would probably have a higher ratio of actual parking spaces to driveways & crossovers;
            – the same space will liikely have more turnover per day (as opposed to the utter stupidity of forcing the boutique office developer to provide parks that will be empty in the evening, and forcing the restaurant next door to provide parks that will be empty during the day).

            You would have to accept that if you want to live in such an area you may have a 100m walk from your home to your car. But at least you would know that parking is available, .And with swipe card access and CCTV you might well feel that your car is safer in the parking lot at the end of the street than it would be outside your house.

            Since residents would know that parking is available, the political pressure for residents parking schemes would be reduced. If residents complain that the price is too high, the answer is to build more parking lots, not to introduce residents parking schemes (after considering the other urban design issues around how much parking you want, of course).

            The idea that a resident has a special right to free use of public street space outside their house should be resisted. If you want to live in these areas, you need to factor in the cost of parking in exactly the same way as you need to factor in all the other benefits and disbenefits of inner urban living.

          5. John- this sounds terrible. Oodles of pointless bureaucracy. The big question of course is where do the land for these communal car parks magically appear from? There isn’t any…

          6. I suggest this only as an alternative to the residents parking schemes that other commenters have problems with.

            The urban design issues around what proportion of your inner urban land do you want to allocate to parking in total should always have priority.

            If there are no suitable sites, it doesn’t happen.

            Also, it should only be done on a commercial basis – that is, the charge can cover the land value and the administrative costs. I’m not suggesting that the public authority should use such a scheme to subsidise residents’ parking costs. If the necessary minimum charge finds no customers, it doesn’t happen, which is fine as it shows that people in these areas don’t value parking as much as perhaps you thought.

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