This recent post discussed minimum parking requirements in the context of AC’s draft Unitary Plan and highlighted Generation Zero’s campaign to “Bin the Mins”. The campaign encourages Auckland Council to remove minimum parking requirements from the Unitary Plan altogether.

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Our previous post on this topic generated a lot of attention and 184 (occasionally heated) comments.

In light of that interest, I thought it was worth following up on the debate by discussion this talk by Michael Manville, who is a professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University, NY. This video shows Professor Manville speaking to the Planning and Economic Development Committee of Ithaca City Council, NY, which has a population of 100,000 at an average density of 2,000 inhabitants per square kilometre (source). By way of comparison, Auckland is approximately 30% more dense (source).

While Professor Manville makes many good points throughout his talk, I thought his opening statement was particularly noteworthy:

“… I have studied parking policy, and minimum parking requirements in particular, for almost ten years and I fully support any effort by the City of Ithaca to abolish them. I think that minimum parking requirements are probably the greatest and longest-standing mistake in American zoning. They are a way to subsidise driving at the expense of new development. Minimum parking requirements have been extensively studied, they are consistently associated with lower population densities, lower housing densities, higher vehicle ownership, and in most cases more congestion. They make it very difficult to re-develop dense areas and are harmful to downtowns. They essentially increase the cost of housing, while reducing the price of driving, which is essentially the opposite of what most local governments would like to do.”

Strong words.

Professor Manville goes on to discuss the distributional/temporal impacts of minimum parking requirements. He notes that applying minimum parking requirements to new developments is intended to help existing drivers (primarily residents) to find a car-park with relative ease. In doing so, however, Professor Manville argues minimum parking requirements reduce the viability (and hence the supply) of new residential/commercial developments, which will tend to disadvantage future residents.

Therein lies the democratic conundrum that we’ve touched on before. That is, how should Auckland Council balance the demands of existing versus future residents? If one is to believe Professor Manville, then you’d have to conclude that the needs of Auckland’s future generations would be better served by abolishing minimum parking requirements.

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  1. Where is it stated that the plan of the council is this daft 2-cars rule? A quick scan through the transport feedback document ( reveals,

    “The proposed approach to accessory parking in the DUP is … [parking maximums, but no parking minimums in the city centre, town centres and other similar areas]”

    No minimum parking requirements, to the contrary, the DUP specifies MAXIMUM parking spaces in city centre/town centre/apartment type zones of 0.7 spaces per <75m2 apartment.

    Seems like we are all singing from the same hymm sheet, no?

    The only place that the 2-spaces minimum requirements applies is in the "all other area" which I would take to mean: the suburbs. So that suggests a desire to have fewer residents cars parking on streets, and rather, parked in garages, carports and just generally not on the street.

    Well I could only but fully support that policy. Having lived in a wide variety of suburbs, Mt Eden, Sandringham, Glendfield, Bayswater, Torbay, Parnell, Newmarket, Meadowbank, Massey, Mt Albert and Grafton, just to name a few. Those inner city suburbs all suffer from a darth of offstreet parking and it tends to towards car-lined streets that are dangerous for children to be in and all those cars parked on the streets attract nocturnal petty crime.

    #knickers_in_a_knot_over_nothing ?

    1. The whole thrust of removing minumum parking requirements is to let the market decide how much off-street parking should be provided, rather than legislation. The theory is that residential developments will end up with a range of parking provision, just as they currently provide a range of house- and section-sizes, number of bedrooms and toilets, etc. The hope is that operation of the ‘free market’ will best determine who decides to live in which house, ideally offering those who do not want an off-street park a cheaper property price. And this theory should apply in the suburbs just as in more central areas.

      But whether this will translate in reality to developers skimping on providing sufficient off-street parking and thereby causing a problem of excessive on-street parking, remains to be tested. However market-theory would suggest that if they do not provide sufficient parking and as a result, create an over-supply of dwellings without an o.s.park / under-supply of those with, then this will be reflected in the market uptake of their developments. Sure, in this situation people with cars may be forced into accepting properties without o.s. parking and will then clutter the street. This problem can be countered by applying parking restrictions to varying extents (the ultimatet being the restriction of car-ownership to only those who have an off-street park, as happens in certain Japanese cities), and such restrictions should help restore an optimal market-balance. And what we don’t know is how car-ownersip and car-usage will trend over the lives of developments being built today, and whether what may seem appropriate today will still be appropriate in say, 20-30 years,

      Now I admit that everything I have said is ‘as-I-see-it’, rather than having a base of hard-and-fast evidence. But presumably such evidence is available from cities which have advanced further down this track than ours. Prof Manville’s experience strongly appears to vindicate the concept of binning parking minimums. And yes of course there may be negative side-effects. This happens with most things in life. But we need to get a proper handle on the harm that HAVING parking minimums has caused, before we can be dismissive of removing them, based on side-effects which may be a good deal less-harmful than the original problem we are trying to solve.

      1. You’re so right Dave. Market should decide.

        By the same token though, shouldn’t the market decide on maximums too? Why have maximums in UP? Carparks aren’t free. Surely the market can decide whether people want to pay more for carparks. Maximums seem overtly authoritarian.

        A friend of mine has a small portfolio of apartment buildings and she was saying that apartments that come with carparks are like hen’s teeth. So maybe the market is already working? …

        1. If minimums exist (they do) and are binding on at least some new developments (they are) then the market is not able to work. By definition.

    2. “We are based in clean, green New Zealand.”

      What feature of car lined streets are dangerous for children versus say driveways?

      1. Exactly. It is not parked cars that kill children but fast moving cars. Parked cars can actually slow traffic down and make the street safer by narrowing the road. And as you point out Conan, no driveways makes for a much safer environment as driveways are a real blind spot and red zone for cyclists and pedestrians.

        This article and the embedded video shows how the Dutch turned an auto centric 1960s development in Utrecht into a cycle and pedestrian friendly neighbourhood. They did that by narrowing the roads and removing the centre lines but didnt remove any car parks or almost any separated cycle paths. Notice the young girl at the end of the video happily riding in front of the Audi – happy and safe because the car does not dominate the street. That is a safe environment for children.

        Motorists drive faster and more dangerously when they have a clear uncluttered path and a designated area. When they have a narrow road and no priority, they tend to drive slower and safer.

        A lot of this stuff is counter intuitive because we have been through 60+ years (and counting) of car centred development where “safe” means “safe for cars to drive as fast as possible” not “safe for all road users”. That is why lovely old streets like Jervois Road were widened and had all the trees ripped out, so that cars could then drive as fast as possible without any impediments.

  2. Yes the UP certainly improves on the current plans. However the ‘apartment’ areas of town are very small, only a few percent. Attached housing and units are able to be built throughout the Mixed Housing Zone. The current plans suggest 1 parking space is mandatory for 1 bedroom apartments in Mixed Housing Urban areas, which are close to town centers. This is bizzare due to the high quality PT that serves many of these areas.
    I really don’t understand your horror stories about on-street parking either, and suggesting that inner city suburbs should have 2 parking spaces per unit is really bizzare. Do all families need to 2 cars, and should they be required to pay huge amounts of money for parking spaces they do not need?

    1. I didn’t really think I was advocating for inner city suburbs to have 2 off street parking spaces per unit. I was relating my experiences with inner city suburbs that have poor parking and a glut of cars on roads and comparing that to the suburbs where the cars are neatly tucked off streets.

      But Dave B makes a very good point about letting the market decide. If people want off street parking badly enough they can and should pay more for it. Certainly around Grafton where I currently live most people have to just deal with leaving their car on the street and hoping that the car alarm they hear at 2am isn’t their car.

      But hey! That’s the price of owning car. Which is why I am happy to be a bike owner.

      1. Jason I live on a narrow Victorian inner suburb street and on the weekday mornings I head out early it is largely empty, but by 9am it is fully parked with ‘hide-n-ride’ outer suburb commuters taking advantage of free parking and hoping on the bus. No amount of city mandated off street parking would keep our street clear of parked cars. Anyway, what’s the big problem? I’m very happy for our little street to be parked up as it slows the speeding rat runners right down and in fact makes it a much safer place for all our kids.

        1. What we need to do is to formalise the parking, by utilising parking bays so that there are gaps in between the cars. This slows traffic down, allows parking (reduces by a small amount), and provides better line of sight for drivers and other users. In my opinion it will also remove the expectation that drivers have of cyclists using empty parking to ride in. Having to weave in and out of parked cars is dangerous.

  3. Of course the other context of our campaign is the Congestion Free Network. The Unitary Plan will be in force until about 2030, at which time our transport system will be radically better. This will allow far more people to live without cars. Having planning rules that force developments to have expensive and ugly carparking areas is totally counter productive to the housing affordability and urban design outcomes we are looking for.

    1. especially when one considers that most buildings will last for several decades. I’d wager that a fair few of the developments that go up now will still be in use in 50 years time. Which begs the question of whether we will need so much parking in 50 years time? Generation Zero seem to think not, and I tend to agree with them.

  4. @ SF Lauren –
    The idea is that if there really are as few people as you suggest who don’t want an off-street carpark on their suburban property, then market-pressure from the other 99.998% who do want off street parking will ensure that developers provide it WITHOUT THE NEED FOR COMPULSION. And that way the 0.002% are free to develop their properties without parking if they want. Sounds like win-win to me.

    And if your percentages are wrong (after all, 0.002% of 4½ million is only 90 people!) and there is actually a bigger market slice that doesn’t want off-street parking, then why should the market not be allowed to provide for this? What is so threatening about allowing the market to operate in this situation, without compulsion?

  5. A great article here about Vienna.

    The relevant part for this post is the apartment bloc built with only 1 car park for every two apartments but a lot of bicyle storage and parking:

    “The rents here are affordable because the builders have saved money by not having car parking – they have built only 50 spaces, rather than one per flat, as is usual. People still have cars,” he says, “but people who live here make 25% of all trips by bicycle, as opposed to 6% of other Viennese.”

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