During the Unitary Plan submissions process, a number of retailers and shopping centre owners took a pretty conservative stance on transport. They argued for maintaining parking minimums, replacing maximums with minimums in some areas, and so on. Some argued that cars would always be the main way of getting to shops, and this should be written into the Unitary Plan. I’ll tackle that in another post, but for now, let’s talk about parking minimums and competition.

Raising the barriers to entry?

Among their other faults, parking minimums can actually be quite anti-competitive. Looking at supermarkets, for example, reviews both here and in Australia have shown that the biggest “barrier to entry” for new competitors is the difficulty in acquiring suitable sites.

Parking minimums make it even harder to get sites which are large enough. If you want a 3,000 square metre supermarket, say, and the rules say you need to have 1 carpark per 25 square metres of space, then that’s 120 carparks you’ll need. Those will take up about 3,600 square metres, so overall you need to find a site which is 6,600 square metres in size and meets your other location criteria. Not an easy task. If not for the parking minimums, you might decide you’re happy with 60 parks instead, for example. That’d shave 1,800 square metres off the size of the site you’d need. That’s a hypothetical example, and you could make the same argument for department stores, hardware stores, shopping centres, or really any kind of retail development, large or small.

Botany Downs: a popular retail node, but very car-centric

The extra competition from removing parking minimums can mean lower prices at the shops, but it’s not just about that. It also means lower time and travel costs for consumers. If you live 10 km from the nearest supermarket, but then one opens up just 5 km away, you’re better off, even if the prices are the same.

Or making it easier for freeloaders?

Most of these submitters were concerned about freeloading, and they argued for minimums to remain to prevent this. The argument is that another developer could come along, build a store or shopping centre, and not provide enough carparks. Their shoppers would then overflow into other areas, parking in existing carparks on the street or (more relevantly) by existing stores. Those carparks would then become unavailable to the existing stores’ customers.

This is a “negative externality” in economics jargon, and it’s legitimate for retailers to be concerned about it. We’ve probably all been guilty of using one of those carparks when dashing to another store, the post office etc. But the argument is also one which can restrict competition. Parking minimums are often arbitrary – quite ridiculously so for taverns – and different retailers will have very different requirements based on their business model, location, availability of driving alternatives and so on. Generally, those retailers or shopping centres have a good idea of how many parks they will need, and should be free to provide as many or as few as they like, with the costs internalised (more jargon).

What’s the way forward?

The Unitary Plan has to find a balance between two sides. On the one hand, you have retailers who don’t want their carparks being used by freeloaders, with new competitors having an unfair advantage if they don’t have the same requirement to provide parking. On the other hand, parking minimums have their own problems – they can encourage undue reliance on cars, a larger-than-optimal amount of parking, more pressure on the road network, and so on. These are externalities too. Plus, as I’ve argued above, there’s the externality of reducing competition.

We need to be careful with whether we let the car-dependent business models of today to be enshrined into the future; retail should be free to adapt and change. It’s the nature of the beast. The Unitary Plan will last for ten years. A decade is a long time in retail, and the new shops that we build in the Unitary Plan’s lifetime will be around for much longer.

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  1. Freeloading is a moot point. It is so difficult to get across the road as a pedestrian that no-one does it! I just don’t see freeloading being that much of an issue.

    Also, there is such a thing as an underground carpark. The new countdown at Manukau is such a site. Most of the carpark is underground, unused and forgotten. But quite handy when it is raining. When the Manukau Westfield expanded with a cinema, they added a whole lot more parking by building on top of the existing parking.

    I think the problem for certain retailers may be that they make a fair chunk of their money at certain weekends of the year when parking is at a premium so they want as much parking as they can get away with. A mall owned by one group may maximise parking of their own choice. But an ignorant developer that just wants to sell/lease a building may try and minimise parking which could hamper the business or cause this freeloading issue. It is a complicated issue with very passionate people on both sides.

  2. The biggest danger of the PAUP is having different rules depending whether you are in a centre or out of a centre. If parking is limited in centres then the next best alternative will be to try and build retail outside of centres. May as well make a non-complying application for an out of zone retail activity as make a non-complying application to exceed parking limits within a centre.

  3. Does anyone know why the people ideologically opposed to parking minimums never mention that they are only hard and fast rules for permitted activity applications. You can provide any amount or even no parking at all with a discretionary activity application under the current rules. You just have to work through some assessment criteria which quite frankly let you do almost anything that doesn’t create serious adverse effects.

    1. So you’re fine with pointless and arbitrary rules so long as it’s possible to apply for a dispensation at your own expense?

      You won’t mind if the council puts a minimum horse stabling requirement on your home then. It’s ok you just have to pay for an application telling the council you don’t have any horses.

        1. Yes and in future I will make a living out of helping people provide more parking than the new rules allow. So what?

        2. If you want to justify a rule, you can’t just say that it’s supposedly easy to get around. That’s an argument against having a rule, not an argument in favour of it.

        3. I saying it is easy to get around if you dont have any effects. But larger developments can have significant effects so you need a rule for them. As for your claim I have something to gain I make more money from dud rules than good ones so I will make a hell of a lot more from what is proposed. But that doesn’t mean I like the new rules. I think they are simply wrong.

        4. Except that a fully complying activity becomes non-complying if it doesn’t have enough carparks, thus adding cost! I honestly struggle to see a single positive in car parking minimums, and see nothing in maximums either, but that is another point altogether.

      1. So Frank you are fine with inventing words for other people instead of putting forward a decent argument? The Act requires that adverse effects and avoided remedied and mitigated. Rules and assessment criteria are a good means of doing just that.

        1. Why not go the other way and have parking maximums, with the requirement to show parking in excess of this won’t cause adverse effects?

        2. Which is what Wellington has, I believe, for offices. A maximum, set at the rate of Auckland’s minimum…

        3. mfwic – You said that parking minimums don’t matter because it’s possible to get dispensation. You provided no further justification for the parking minimums themselves. I said the possibility of dispensation at an applicant’s expense is a poor excuse if the rule doesn’t make sense in the first place. Seems like a decent argument to me. If we are going to add costs to people’s actions there should be a good justification for doing so.

    2. mwfic please stop with the weasel words: No one here, as far as I can tell, is “ideologically” opposed to minimum parking requirements.

      People have, however, expressed a view that MPRs are 1) not effective at achieving the desired policy outcomes and 2) in the process tend to have large unintended negative land use and transport impacts.

  4. I’m not saying you are wrong about the general direction of the topic just about this one point: “Parking minimums make it even harder to get sites which are large enough. If you want a 3,000 square metre supermarket, say, and the rules say you need to have 1 carpark per 25 square metres of space, then that’s 120 carparks you’ll need. Those will take up about 3,600 square metres, so overall you need to find a site which is 6,600 square metres in size and meets your other location criteria. Not an easy task.”
    Underground/undercover/rooftop carparking solves that issue (a la Pak n Save Albany, Westgate, Countdown Britomart, Whangaparaoa). You of course still probably would need 4000 sqm for the 3000 sqm supermarket but that’s a lot easier than 6600 sqm.

    In reality except for certain urban centre supermarkets you are quite unlikely to move away from people getting their groceries by car. People just don’t want to carry multiple bags more than about a 5 minute walk. Likewise buses/trains aren’t the most convenient for having grocery bags either. General shopping on the other hand is more suited to public transport.

    1. Hi Bruce, you’re right of course, but parking underground or above ground is much more expensive, and consumers don’t like it as much. I’m sure we’ll see parking increasingly going below or above ground in the future as the city intensifies, but it’s not usually retailers’ first choice.

      1. John – really? Parking buildings linked directly to malls is quite a normal thing is it not? At Westfield etc they have 3 or more floors of parking adjoining to the mall itself. Seems to work fine in Wellington / Santa Monica / most large cities. Aucklanders can’t be that different, surely?

  5. People ought to divorce themselves from the idea that they are obligated to make one massive food haul a week and require a car. A couple of shopping trips by bike throughout the week is quite possible and preferable by some. That’s what paniers and cargo bikes are for.

    1. Or delivery. We get all the boring standard stuff delivered, plus an organic vege delivery, every week [and wine less often], and drop in by bike or foot to get particular and fresh food items especially from speciality stores. Never use a supermarket carpark ever- am subsidising parking for all you drivers. You’re welcome, well actually not.

      1. Delivery, organic veges, wine, speciality stores…nice if you can afford it. Many families cannot. They buy in bulk at a supermarket because it’s cheaper and less time-consuming than swanning around a variety of speciality stores.

        1. Yes, supermarket delivery has a long way to go in this country. In the UK it was free for the first half of the week (and a small charge later in the week when it’s more popular) and you got quite a precise slot at a convenient time.

          And it’s not some elitest thing. ASDA (closest equiv to PaknSave) do delivery. 1 quid per delivery midweek. Choose a one hour window between 7am – 10pm. Or unlimited deliveries for 5 quid / month
          http://www.asda.com/delivery-slots/ http://www.asda.com/asda-delivery-pass/

          If you really are struggling to make ends met, then this is far far far cheaper than using a car to do the groceries.

      2. I agree with Pam. I feel this comment reeks of class privilege. Why don’t the plebs just get their shopping delivered? Probably because mum is working two jobs and can’t afford more bread, let alone delivered organic veges, wine and other luxuries.

        I like TransportBlog but so often it ventures off into absurd. It’s this urban planner young white hipster attitude that seems to pervade everything. Despite the lipservice to being an “ally”, it’s completely lacking in contributions or even the acknowledgement of viewpoints from PoC and other discriminated groups in society.

        When you have 5 kids (two under five) you’re not going to get them all kitted out in cycling or walk miles to Pak n Save. Hell you can hardly afford the time to go to shops once, not 4 times a week.

        1. That is a bit hysterical. Countdown and New World deliver. They aren’t exactly elitist organic places.

          Delivery of basic goods could save harried mothers a lot of time.

        2. Hi Jay

          I don’t think your criticism hits the mark. As I wrote yesterday (http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2015/04/27/is-auckland-boring-enough/), transportblog’s focus has always been on the “boring but important” aspects of urban life – good transport and housing in the places where people want to be.

          We don’t generally write posts about our personal consumption habits. I think Matt’s written a few posts about going to the beach in summer, and Stu’s written about his love of taking dogs for walks up volcanic cones. If those are “urban planner young white hipster” habits, well, most of Auckland must be composed of young white hipster planners!

          That being said, we’re always interested in hearing different perspectives. If you have any personal stories to contribute, as opposed to complaints about Patrick’s personal consumption habits, please share them!

        3. Patrick will be delighted to be called a “young white hipster” I’m sure. And it’s hard to have to apologise for being a white male, as David Cunliffe found out to his regret. But it is true, blogging and commenting on blogs is primarily a male oriented activity, although presumably Dolores (and possibly “buttwizard”) and others are female. No idea who is black, brown or white here – and you know what ? – that’s ok. Anyone can speak. I don’t think we need to be feeling guilty of being young, white, or a hipster, even if I am none of those. Or all of them.

          But back to the topic at hand – as usual, NZ suffers from lack of scale. Somewhere like ASDA can afford cheap deliveries in the UK as they have a massive population to serve, with lots of housing all close together, but here we’ve got a monopoly/duopoly with supermarkets and masses of spread out suburbs. Plus a population which seems to be prepared to be price gouged regularly, not only with deliveries, but the price of housing as well… the article on Stuff today is banal, but still, shows how silly Ak has got…

        4. as usual, NZ suffers from lack of scale.

          That’s not really the issue. Easy enough to calculate how many deliveries per truck per day and get the same scale as the UK supermarkets. The problem is that retailers are incentivised to build car parks and offload the costs of getting to and from the store onto the consumers. We need to reverse those incentives simply because we can’t afford them the way that they are.

          Free deliveries would actually cost us less because it uses up less resources and yet our ‘economic’ system has supermarkets charging for deliveries to maximise profits.

      3. Actually Patrick we are subsidising your shopping. The supermarkets have lower prices because they establish a few large format stores that let them reduce transport costs while gaining cheaper prices from bulk buying. The model works because they get us to drive there. If most of us didn’t drive then the supermarket as we know it wouldn’t exist and we would all be paying higher prices at the local shop.

        1. You could argue that a local shop may have higher transport costs for the retailer, but that society (not just the buyer) benefits due to reduced transport costs/lengths for the purchaser. If I don’t need to drive to get my shopping (or if my drive is significantly shorter), that has a lot of economic advantages overall. The risk is to concentrate only on the price listed in the aisle. That – if overdone in importance – is a race to the bottom ignoring all other downsides. But that’s one of the key risks of capitalism for you right there.

        2. Or if everyone did what Patrick did you’d have a very cheap and efficient system of centralised regional delivery hubs (with zero parking, and zero retail), and a smattering of small grocery/dairy/specialty goods dotted around each neighborhood.

        3. Yep – if everyone got their groceries delivered (and it’s not difficult), supermarkets would be able to do away with serving customers altogether, and theoretically pass their savings on to the consumer. That’s why internet-only businesses have such low overheads (in theory) – they don’t need a shop front.

    2. I agree, a big factor is the force of habit.

      But it would help if the traffic code and street layout don’t make it prohibitively cumbersome/slow/dangerous to go shopping by bicycle or on foot. In a lot of places it’s abundantly clear you’re not supposed to move around while you’re outside your car.

    3. For me, in Auckland, it is far more time efficient to shop once every two weeks than several times in the same period. There are time overheads there that cannot be removed by any form of PT. When I lived in Germany I lived in an apartment down the road from the supermarket so I walked all the time and shopped every other day. Doesn’t work for me in Auckland and never will for many Aucklanders. Some people (like me) don’t want to waste time biking or walking even if it is safe and direct, but it can’t hurt having that infra there.

        1. Pretty much yes. Big fridge/freezer, but I have a large family so we also go through it all pretty quickly. I stockpile a lot and I don’t eat a lot of fresh fruits or vegetables given that frozen is proven to be just as nutritious. But I do walk down to the local Saturday market to by fresh produce if the weather is nice.

  6. Urban households are usually smaller, and tend to make smaller grocery purchases but more often, then carry on foot or by public transport. They also eat out more, so fewer groceries are needed. At Melbourne’s QV Centre there is a basement carpark that is very quiet compared with the shopping centre above. When Melbourne’s DFO Spencer Street shopping centre opened the shopping centre was packed and the car park virtually empty. The owners had to find another use for their carpark for event and casual parking.

    1. This is true provided you can get to your apartment within about 5 minutes of the supermarket/metromarket.
      Any further than that and it becomes too far for most to comfortably carry their groceries or to squeeze past others on a bus without breaking the eggs etc. When you do live close to a supermarket then a lot of people actually pop in every couple of days (if not daily) so aren’t having to carry a large amount.

    2. Spencer St shopping carpark is $17 per hour. No wonder it’s empty! QV’s is $10 per hour. It is priced too high.

      As for eating out more, the price of it is still too high compared to home cooking to justify eating out more than once or twice a week.

      However it is very true that urban households tend to be smaller and carries groceries by pt or foot more often.

      1. There are discounts on parking through shopper dockets, but that’s till not enough to encourage the apartment dwellers into their cars (if they have them).

        Re restaurants, there a ethnic places in Swanston St where you can get a good meal for less than $10 per head. This changes the economics of cooking for yourself vs eating out. With over 30,000 residents in the CBD (many of them Asian), this is a huge price-sensitive market for restaurants with “everyday” prices. This is one of the hidden benefits of residential towers, that the market size brings restaurants with prices that are attractive to residents in the surrounding low-rise areas.

        1. Also allows us to justify a vast array of very diverse shops in the city centre. Very good ethnic food shops on Hobson/Nelson.

        2. The discounts are a joke. Even after the discount, you still pay $8.50 per hour (on street is $5.50). What rational person would pay that rate in a mall that is inside a gigantic train station.

          Those with cars tend to go to Chadstone (biggest mall in southern hemisphere and has 10k car spaces), High Point, Southland etc etc

          Personally, I quite like the restaurants on Swanston St. There’s this really nice place that serves pho for about $8 close to the Little Bourke St intersection. Unfortunately, still more expensive than home made, but it is more price competitive than Akld and much more than Welly. Yes the density and the mostly Asian population of the CBD allow the price competition and variety to happen. I really wonder why the locals are pretty much shunning apartments even though they are affordable-ish..

  7. I have looked into PaknSave Lincoln North (PSLN) as part of my undergraduate assignment. Waitakere City District Plan (or now Auckland Council District Plan Operative Waitakere Section) had a minimum parking requirement of “1 on-site car park for every 20m2 of gross floor area”, which resulted in over 400 car park spaces (over 65% of a 30,000 sqm section). If you have a section that big, I doubt the developer would bother spending any money on building underground car park (and the existing bigbox stores on Lincoln Road doesn’t help either). The district plan also required PSLN to specifically consider “the extent to which driveways, carparking, and road access provide for safe and efficient provision for motor vehicle”, which further encouraged people to drive to PSLN.
    With the PSLN located in a super block of 600m by 500m, it is simply unrealistic for most people to walk and the heavy traffic on Lincoln Road and Universal Drive would put most people off cycling too (even though there is a short cycle lane on Universal Drive).
    I am really hope the Council would be more proactive in encouraging sustainable transport, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon especially when they haven’t done anything that encourages sustainable transport in the new developments (most notably the new Westgate ‘town centre’. The Council claimed it’s a brand new concept, but as far as I can see it is still car-orientated and single-use zoning).

  8. The original question John has posed is do parking minima restrict competition? I have never yet worked on a supermarket job (either for, against or for the Council) where they wanted to provide less parking and couldn’t. So if the rules don’t bite then how can they be a restriction on competition? Both major supermarket operators are submitters and are seeking to make sure they can provide enough parking. Given that do you think any new entrant would want to establish in Auckland without enough parking to support their business? It seems to me the exact opposite is going to be the case. Parking maxima if they are actually applied will limit supermarkets to incumbents only who have existing use rights to parking.

    1. As I made clear in the post, I’m not only talking about supermarkets; that was just a simple example. And I’m not calling for parking maxima either – I said retailers “should be free to provide as many or as few as they like, with the costs internalised”. As you’ll be very aware from your wider professional experience, it is very common for retailers and retail property developers to seek dispensation to provide fewer parks than the minimums require, as it is in other property sectors.

    2. How much would the dispensation application cost? That is all additional start up costs. Even if it was guaranteed you will get it, those costs still need to be paid.

      The argument that it is really easy to get a dispensation begs the obvious counter argument, why not just scrap the minimum parking and just let the market decide? From what you are saying, it would not affect supermarket behaviour at all. They would supply exactly the same parking.

      Some other businesses might choose to gamble on less parking. It might work, it might not. That is capitalism and the all powerful, all knowing market.

      1. A dispensation costs hardly anything for a large development but can be a significant part of the startup cost for small scale development. For example changing a shop to a restaurant is almost always approved but needs a small parking dispensation. And because the Council are pedantic they ask for comments from AT and a parking survey and a report. The intention of allowing up to six as a restricted discretionary was supposed to avoid all of that. My view is the best way would be keep parking minima but grant automatic dispensations for small applications (say less than 10 spaces) because no one wants the street littered with small carparks anyway.

        1. I don’t see why we shouldn’t get rid of them for small changes of use or changing old buildings in established areas. But if we don’t require any in growth areas there are these outcomes possible. 1/ Existing owners with parking find it used more and more by people shopping at the neighbour’s site. That is the free-rider problem which is a form of market failure. 2/ Businesses that rely on parking in growth areas decide not to go there as they can’t be sure of parking supply. There is a wealth effect in them not establishing and it reduces competition. 3/ Incumbents with a lot of parking secure it so others cant use it giving them a market advantage. The new maximums then act as a barrier to entry to new businesses. 4/ Businesses react by not providing parking causing a big local problem that people then demand the Council fix. That means our rates get spent sorting it out. That is pretty much how every existing council carpark got built. Do you think politicians will resist public pressure?

        2. mfwic:
          “1/ Existing owners with parking find it used more and more by people shopping at the neighbour’s site.
          3/ Incumbents with a lot of parking secure it so others cant use it giving them a market advantage”.

          These points contradict each other. You are saying mins are required to stop people free riding on other people’s parking. AND that not being able to free ride on other people’s parking is a loss.

          I don’t see how private parking being used by others is a public problem. It is a private problem that can be solved by securing or monitoring the parking lot.

          How are incumbents provided with a market advantage? Parking minimums don’t stop newcomers from providing parking, they just allow them to not provide parking if they don’t want to. We are not talking about parking maximums here. They are a separate issue. It seems like you bring up parking maximums to confuse the argument.

        3. Yes Frank that is not a weakness in the argument just a reflection that different outcomes will occur in different places. Some businesses are loathe to tow people away as there is a huge downside if they tow one of their own customers. Similarly barriers and payment options are a very last resort as they lose customers. If their neighbours are providing their share of parking most owners are happy to design in a way that allows people to walk between activities like a defacto centre. Some on the other hand will go the Berlin Wall way and design to prevent it. By far the biggest risk is that the rest of the community will not be as happy as the hipster bloggers are with a lack of parking and then demand public provison. That means our rates will get spent.
          The PAUP doesn’t stop at removing minimums it replaces them with maximums. Incumbents have parking and new entrants wont have parking. That will be an advantage created by regulation.

        4. If parking maximums are being proposed, then I would oppose them as well. But you are making an assumption that those are in place.

          If there were no parking maximum or minimum, that surely has to be the best outcome for the city. I accept what you are saying about people claiming parking “problems” but they do that even where there are parking minimums. Lack of parking appears to be the go to excuse for any failing shopping area or small retail business in NZ.

          “the rest of the community will not be as happy as the hipster bloggers are with a lack of parking and then demand public provison” – nice ad hominem attack but many people think parking minimum are a bad idea who in no way can be called hipster. So you have to actually come up with proper arguments not just attack the people who’s opinion you don’t like.

          If people are demanding the Council spend public money on parking, that should be refused or funded through some targeted rates. Why should the public purse prop up private business? Unless they are car companies or banks of course.

        5. “The PAUP doesn’t stop at removing minimums it replaces them with maximums. Incumbents have parking and new entrants wont have parking. That will be an advantage created by regulation.”

          That would be the case if the maximums were set at zero. They are not. They’re high enough in fact that they would rarely ever be binding. And on the rare occasions they are binding it would be possible to get dispensation as you are so fond of pointing out. Not that I’m defending maximums. But their existence does not justify minimums.

          “By far the biggest risk is that the rest of the community will not be as happy as the hipster bloggers are with a lack of parking and then demand public provison. That means our rates will get spent.”

          If a lack of parking really was a public problem (I believe it isn’t), then it would be preferable for ratepayers to absorb this cost than to put it on to private parties against their will. Though of course you will argue that those private parties should pay because they are imposing a cost on the public.

          “as happy as the hipster bloggers are with a lack of parking and then demand public provison.”

          What even is a “hipster”? I can’t wait for that trite buzzword to be put into retirement.

  9. The oversupply of parking at the downtown Countdown is ridiculous. Notwithstanding the fact that the majority of people parking there are not actual Countdown customers, merely visitors to the city centre taking advantage of free parking, there is always plenty of spare spaces. Feels like a terrible waste of space.

    Would be interesting to see how a ticketing system and boom gates would change things. Especially considering the decent and improving cycling infrastructure on nearby Beach Road.

      1. My observations. Most customers are doing small shops and walking out the front door. I shop there 3 or 4 times a week. I know I would certainly park there if I was driving into the city; easy to get in and out, no ticket required, never seen an enforcement officer.

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