A Herald article yesterday bemoaned the apparent lack of emphasis being placed on expanding Auckland’s Park & Rides over the next decade:
Auckland Transport (AT) is planning to add 1900 parking spaces across its park and ride stations, but the Automobile Association says it is still a “long way short” of what’s needed…
…AA spokesman Barney Irvine said the level of park and ride supply in Auckland was “a joke” compared to Wellington, and cities in Australia and America.
“We’re missing out on the opportunity to generate piles of new public transport users,” Irvine said.
“AT has to start taking it more seriously … we need to see a commitment made to delivering far more parking spaces – that means multi-storey buildings.”
Park and Rides for the Northern Busway are frequently filled up pretty early in the morning, despite the Albany site being expanded on multiple occasions over the last few years.
Park and Rides perform two useful roles in the public transport system:
- They enable people who live in areas beyond the edge of the city, where feeder buses, walking or cycling would be impractical or inefficient, to access core public transport routes.
- They are a useful “gateway” to public transport to support immediate ridership on new routes or encourage new people onto PT.
However, they obviously come with a lot of trade-offs. For one, as you can see in the picture above, the Albany Park and Ride uses up a huge amount of pretty prime land in a metropolitan centre right next to rapid transit. This is a big chunk of land that could provide a lot of housing or other activity in a location right next to really high quality rapid transit. Secondly (and obviously related), Park and Rides cost a lot of money. A surface level parking space generally can be costed at $20-30k while each space in a parking building usually averages out at a cost of $50-60k.
To put some context around those numbers, a space in a parking building would need to charge $8 a day to cover its costs, if you assumed no interest or operational costs. If you add those in, alongside a reasonable rate of return to reflect that you’re not able to use the land for something else, this number balloons to around $25 a day. There are clearly some benefits to the public that could warrant a bit of subsidy, but ultimately Park and Rides are a very expensive way to build ridership. Only one-sixth of Albany station’s daily boardings are from people using the park and ride, while out of the whole 5.5 million annual trips along the busway, my calculations (1500 spaces between Albany and Constellation stations, 2 trips a day per space, 250 days a year of full use) suggest that only 750,000 of these 5.5 million annual trips comes from Park and Ride.
Clearly Park and Ride does have a role to play in the public transport system, where land is relatively cheap and where providing other ways for people to access public transport are less viable. Another important consideration is bringing in a daily charge for people using the facilities, to both help cover their costs but also to provide a bit of choice for people who would pay a bit to ensure they had a space available at the time they wished to travel. The Herald article picks up some of the huge “time cost” the current “first in, first served” creates for commuters:
Commuter Nikki Te Huia, 29, a sales executive, said she has to leave two hours early because of the lack of parking in Albany.
Her work day starts at 9am, but she has to be at the bus station about 7am to ensure she gets a park.
“The express bus service is fantastic, but honestly the lack of parking sucks,” Te Huia said.
“The time I save from sitting in motorway traffic is transferred into me finding somewhere to sit around for two hours until work starts.”
If half the Albany Park and Ride moved to a dynamic pricing system, priced to a level that there were still a few spots available up until 9am, people like Nikki wouldn’t need to waste hours of their lives. This seems like a no brainer next step to do at Albany, and also at other places where the facilities are filled up early in the morning.