A week or so ago the Council considered feedback on the Unitary Plan’s approach to parking and made a few recommendations around potential changes:
Rules on parking requirements for residential dwellings, and retail and business locations were considered by councillors and local board chairs at the Auckland Plan Committee workshop on the draft unitary plan today.
“The discussion reflected just how complex an issue it can be in trying to match expectations of individuals and businesses with the greater shift towards public transport,” said committee deputy chair Councillor George Wood.
“The general approach is to reduce the need for parking spaces where appropriate in those areas well serviced by public transport and where better public transport is planned.”
The draft unitary plan approach recognised that people will continue to use and depend on cars but this will reduce with the increase in more walkable neighbourhoods and quality intensified areas as envisioned by the Auckland Plan.
The general direction given is that it is appropriate to apply maximum parking provisions in our metro, town and local centres, and mixed use zone. These maximums need to recognise that retail businesses require more parking than other activities because of their dependence on short-term parking for customers. Minimums would apply outside these areas.
It supported no minimum parking allowance in the city centre but a maximum of one park per 200m2 of gross floor area.
Council staff will report back on allowances for outer centres, such as Wellsford, Warkworth and Pukekohe that are not well served by public transport.
For residential rules, there was general agreement on retaining maximums of one space per studio/1 bedroom dwellings; 2 spaces per 2+ bedroom dwellings; and 0.2 visitor spaces per dwelling in the city fringe area, metro, town and local centres, terrace house and apartment building and mixed use zones. No minimum parking requirements would apply to residential developments in these areas but would still apply outside these areas.
Further work is being done on the parking rules for the mixed housing zone.
As we’ve discussed many time before on this blog, while the Unitary Plan is certainly a step in the right direction in shifting away from parking minimums just about everywhere, there are still valid questions around whether it goes far enough. Especially in the Mixed Housing Zone. It will be interesting to see the result of further work being done on parking requirements for that zone – as hinted at in the final line the above release.
Like Auckland, many other cities around the world are reconsidering the traditional approach of requiring parking with every development. Washington DC is the latest to go down this path:
D.C. city planners, watching the town’s car-ownership rate fall year after year, are finally asking that question themselves. At the end of this month, they plan to propose to the city’s Zoning Commission that parking requirements for buildings near transit stops be eliminated, following the lead of other cities like Denver, Philadelphia, L.A., and Brooklyn that have reduced or eliminated mandatory parking quotas.
One of the prime reasons for getting rid of parking requirements is that they’re actually enormously expensive to comply with:
The average parking lot cost is $4,000 per space, with a space in an above-grade structure costing $20,000, and a space in an underground garage $30,000-$40,000. To give us some sense of the opportunity lost, [author Elan Ben-Joseph] says 1,713 square miles (the estimated size of all surface parking lots in the U.S. put together) could instead be used for spaces that generate 1 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power. With just 50 percent of that space covered with trees, this space could handle 2 billion cubic meters of stormwater runoff, generate 822,264 tons of oxygen, and remove 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Another article notes that there are a number of horror stories of requiring incredibly expensive parking provision – only to watch it go unused a lot of the time:
In 2008, the District spent $47 million to build a 1,000-space parking garage under the new DC USA multilevel shopping center. The city’s zoning code mandated four parking spots for every 1,000 square feet of commercial space. But the developer, Grid Properties, persuaded city officials to cut the required total by nearly half.
Still, those 1,000 spaces turned out to be more than needed, because many shoppers ride the Metro to the mall. The garage languished more than half empty until the city courted nearby businesses to let employees park there. “That really hurt, to pay for a parking garage that was hardly used,” [Harriet Tregoning, director of the city’s Office of Planning,] said.
That’s a lot of money to have wasted unnecessarily.
Reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements doesn’t mean that you’re getting rid of the ability for parking to be provided. In fact, you’re creating a market for parking to be provided in a more central location that can be much more space efficient (because parking can be shared between different uses that might have different peak demand times). Technological developments over time may also further enhance the efficiency of dedicated parking structures – as it happening in New York City:
To park at the garage, drivers will pull their cars into one of 12 entry rooms, where plasma screens, mirrors and laser scanners help direct the vehicle into the correct position. The driver then locks the car, takes the keys and heads to a kiosk to answer a few safety questions before swiping a credit card or key fob and leaving.
Light sensors measure the car’s dimensions and cameras photograph the vehicle from several angles. Once that is complete, the car is lowered into a parking vault, where it is moved into a parking bay. The cars are parked side-to-side and bumper-to-bumper, two levels deep. Special machinery allows access to the cars in narrow and limited spaces. Upon returning, the driver simply swipes the same credit card or key fob at the kiosk, and the car is returned to the entry room, which is supposed to take no more than two minutes.
Crazily enough, this behemoth will cost only about half as much to build as a conventional garage, and the director of planning for Automotion, the company building it, points out that it cuts down on the emissions cars create while circling a typical garage looking for a spot.
The shift away from parking minimums in the Unitary Plan, especially if extended to much of the Mixed Housing Zone, may well be one of the most important changes made to Auckland’s planning framework – enabling land to be used far more efficiently than has previously been possible.