In the Ponsonby Rd Masterplan, here and here, there are proposals for much improved cycling and walking amenity along this important road as well as small tweaks that should lift the performance and appeal of the buses serving the area. The better of these proposals do reduce the number of onstreet parks by a few spaces so I thought it would be useful to look at other changes to the availability of parking on the strip.
Here’s the newly expanded at grade park for about 60 cars behind Ponsonby Central.
Lot 3, 134 Ponsonby Rd, a mixed use retail and commercial development on the old petrol station site. Most recently the site of the Mini Garage. 100+ new carparks over 2 subterranean levels.
On The Way:
Vinegar Lane. Last I heard there are to be some 650+ new spaces here:
And let’s not forget its former glory for the sentimentalists out there:
Ponsonby Rd is getting some 800 additional carparks. Of course these are all coming with new projects that will increase demand for all ways of getting around the area. The danger here is that if we only build more car parking but fail to improve quality of the alternatives to driving then Ponsonby Rd and the surrounding streets will become ever more clogged with vehicles getting to and from these parks as people use the only fully supported transport system available; driving. So if we don’t find ways to improve the quality, speed, and frequency of the bus services in the area, and persist in keeping cycling a dangerous and unappealing proposition then Ponsonby Rd is likely to become as exciting as an edge city shopping mall on a Tuesday morning:
Ponsonby residents and especially Ponsonby retailers and business people ought to be very mindful of the need to enhance the area’s characteristics and competitive edge. Easy parking and driving is something that places like Botany and Flatbush beat Ponsonby hands down on. These suburban conveniences aren’t Ponsonby’s soul or selling point; character and forward thinking are.
I am not suggesting anything very radical here, simply that it would be a huge mistake to not grasp the opportunities as expressed in the Masterplan to upgrade the urban design and quality of place for pedestrians, and the expanded appeal to attract people by bike or on the buses. This is a great opportunity to keep Ponsonby up with international trends, attractive to younger people, and ahead of other centres in the city.
There are however other parking issues that I do think need attention and which would be more useful for retailers and others wishing to attract and retain customers. Anyone local knows that because so much of the road side parking spaces in the area are not controlled that they are very attractive to informal park-n-riders. People that drive to the limit of paid parking to use free on-street parking and a short Transit trip in order to get to work. A single zone bus fare is a bargain compared to paid parking in the city. These spaces therefore do nothing for the cafes and shops on the strip because they are locked up all day by hide-n-riders. Here is an example:
This is the very top of Summer St, a wonderfully narrow Victorian street, with absolutely no parking restrictions, even outside the few commercial buildings at the top. This shot was taken at 5:30pm on Monday. What is remarkable about this scene is the almost total absence of cars [except an inevitable Audi]. The Hide-n-Riders have ridden the Link bus up Ponsonby Rd and driven back to their outer suburb homes. This street will fill up again in the morning. It is always full all week by all day parkers. Contrast this with the top of Vermont where there are always parks because there is an hour limit.
Same spot at 11am this morning. And the same cars were still there when I came by again, although that was only half an hour later:
Instead of fighting to prevent improved cycling, walking, and bus amenity on Ponsonby Rd because a few parking spaces will be removed, local business operators should be appealing for timed parking, at least during business hours, on these streets, or parts of these streets near Ponsonby Rd. Hide-n-riders are unlikely to be great spenders here being more intent on getting to work or home as they pass through. And of course their car being stored for free on the publicly owned street does nothing for the businesses in the area nor the local residents.
Local business owners should also remember that getting people out of their cars and walking is the best way to get them into the bar, cafe, shop, or business. Parking right outside a destination is not always the best outcome for the commercial area as a whole; the opportunity for chancing upon something that the shopper wasn’t looking for is an important function of street and place appeal. And we know that people actually prefer a walk from a car park if the area has other attractors, as described in this NZTA study:
The study also identified that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shops. Shoppers value high-quality pedestrian and urban design features in shopping areas more than they value parking and those who drive are willing to walk to the shopping precinct from other locally available parking areas.
And that cyclists, walkers, and Transit users are good spenders:
The data shows that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in the shopping areas and account for 37% of all shoppers who completed the survey. The data indicates the pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas.
Ponsonby Rd needs to stay ahead of the pack, and adding more car parking just won’t do it. Ponsonby Rd risks becoming unappealingly car-choked through the constant addition of more car parking so is in desperate need of improvements for all other modes. Now.
A start: The new bike park on Ponsonby Rd also this morning, 11-ish, five bikes instead of one car, and with room for five more. Connect this up to real bike lanes and it will become a real customer fountain for the surrounding businesses. And without clogging the surrounding streets. It would be especially good if the staff in the cafes around here used this mode instead of filling the residential streets for the length of their shifts. Full bike lanes are the way to encourage that.