Every weekend we dig into the archives. This post by Matt was originally published in July 2013.

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.

parking lot_01

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.

BANKSY Los Angeles 2010
BANKSY Los Angeles 2010

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.

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  1. Can anyone tell me where the maximums landed and how we ended up with the outsize Ponsonby Countdown and Arch Hill Bunnings carparks developed just after this?

    Surely this area would spring to mind as potential for the envisioned ‘Walkable neighbourhoods’ and ‘Quality intensified areas’? The car mode dominance has only gotten worse here recently because of these new ‘amenities’.

      1. Hi Felix,

        Basically we have a system of two parking areas. Area one is the metro, town and local centres and the Terrace Housing and Apartment + Mixed Use zones which don’t require parking, apart from in some circumstances retail. Zone two covers the rest and has fairly middle of the road requirements (such as one park per unit or per 75m2 of warehousing etc). It’s not perfect but it’s a pretty decent compromise as most medium or high density developments don’t need to provide parking if they don’t want to. It normally comes back to the market.

    1. Yes the first thing you need to know is we now have parking minimums for bikes everywhere including the CBD where previously there were no parking minimums at all. If you convert a building in the CBD or build a new one you have to provide parking for bikes and end of trip facilities for cyclists regardless of cost. If you are not building a basement then you have to waste valuable ground floor area on bike parking that probably isn’t going to be used. The rules for bike parking were not based on any demand surveys of any sensible notion of what might be needed. Someone basically pulled some rules out of their arse. There is a dispensation process but good luck getting that past AT regardless of how much work you do proving your case.
      For cars there are maximum rules for the CBD and CBD fringe, a mix of maximums and minimums for the other centres and minimums for development outside of centres.

    2. Maybe I’ll add another related observation:

      If you’re overseas in Asia or Europe, you’ll see a lot of small shops in towns. Usually they simply occupy the ground floor of houses or apartment buildings. It seems like a natural thing to do if you have a house and want to start a shop: clear your living room (or garage if that is on your ground floor) and convert it to a shop.

      So. Who has seen one in Auckland yet? I haven’t, not a single one.

      The separation between residential and shops is total. The typical town centre is uninhabited. Even a corner dairy or fish&chips will sit on a commercial-only enclave within a residential area.

      This is true even for larger town centres like Takapuna. A large commercial centre (which incidentally is not doing too well at the moment) with almost zero population.

      I will say, having a big box shop open in Ponsonby is hardly the most weird thing about shopping here. Don’t forget this is still a low density area.

      1. Roeland
        Yes quite correct that Takapuna is not doing well at the moment. The local business association, and others, put that down to a lack of parking. The two most recent parking surveys in Takapuna show that 50% of the available parks are taken by long term parkers – commuter parkers. Strangely they have not sought to address that issue (maybe because its them and their staff). AC/AT/Panuku want to revitalise the town centre starting with medium rise development on the current car park. Bizarrely Panuku won’t start development of the new town centre until they build another car park.

        I agree with your sentiment that Takapuna should be a mixed residential and business area just as we see overseas, as you say. I guess the Sentinel is such a development as is the Maison. More of that should give an impetus to Takapuna bringing a greater liveliness to the town centre.

        Better frequency of public transport to Takapuna would also help.

        Largely what is happening in Takapuna is the same unenlightened approach that is happening in much of Auckland.

        1. Yes, a lot of people insist on more parking but they don’t want to have charging for it. This often works against them as it fills up again (especially by long term parking) & they still can’t park easily.

      2. Come to Hobsonville Point – there are about five or so living rooms in a row on Hobsonville Point Rd that have been converted to ‘other than residential’ use i.e. a sushi shop, a cake shop, a pilates studio etc.

  2. Very good points Matt.

    I am no expert regarding parking limits, but it seems that Wellington has a better approach than Auckland. From Stuff, talking about Wellington’s new convention centre
    “There would also be no new parking, except for utility purposes, a decision which was in line with the Wellington District Plan, which intended to “suppress parking provision in the Central area”.

    Contrast this with SkyCity who are adding about 1300 car parks to sit alongside the 2000 already available to them. Hopefully when AC/AT next look at parking regulations they look at curtailing the operating models of intensive carbon emission generating businesses such as this.

  3. Out of interest, here’s an article from May 2017 – with a few examples of apartments blocks getting built with little or few carparks provided. I haven’t been to familiar with what the rules really are around this, sounds like it’s complex rules based on different types of developments and areas that we ended up with? Is there a “simple” guide somewhere on this?

    ps Anyone know if the 800 cars added to Auckland’s roads every week is still true, or has it changed somewhat?

    1. The 800 cars a week has never been true. 800 cars a week are imported through ports of Auckland. Many if those are sold outside of Auckland and 100s of cars based in Auckland are deregistered every week.

  4. ‘free’ parking at pretty much every supermarket is a major annoyance to me, Im basically subsidising motorists’ parking in my grocery prices when I walk to the supermarket.

    1. I mean feel free to ignore the economies of scale you get from all those people also shopping at your supermarket, I guess?

      1. Economies of scale would still apply if all supermarkets charged for their parking and could lower the grocery prices. There’d be a modeshift in how people get there, and probably more frequent, smaller purchases. But there’d be no drop in economy of scale.

        It would just stop the subsidy from people who don’t use that carpark space to those who do.

    2. No the car drivers are subsidising you. If they didn’t spend their money driving to the supermarket then all you would have is a small dairy charging high prices for the things you want.

      1. People being dependent on cars in order to get their food is a pathetic situation. The vast majority of people in my suburb are able-bodied and could be keeping the suburb safe and pleasant for everyone by walking or cycling to the supermarket. It’s their car dependency that has them driving instead. That’s not ideal for anyone. Not the people who really do need to drive, who can’t find a park. Nor for the people who are walking or cycling, and endangered by the people driving. Nor for any of us having to pay for the public health costs of all that unnecessary sedentary living.

        1. Yes but if you don’t provide for cars then the catchment of the store will be smaller. Smaller catchments mean smaller stores and higher prices. I accept all of your points but the fact is people who walk or cycle are not subsidising those who drive.

        2. Catchment size is a barely a consideration in most places on the isthmus. People drive not because of distance but because of lack of safe cycling and walking infrastructure and because it hasn’t occurred to them.

        1. The proof is there if you look Beni. Where there isn’t a supermarket there is a little shop selling things at high prices to the people in walking distance. The car drivers are internalising the cost of transporting their groceries from the supermarket to their home. If they didn’t do that then local people would pay more for a reduced selection of goods.

        2. Nope and irrelevant. The Lim Chhour supermarket up the road doesn’t have any parking and it’s way cheaper. Also both the big chains are running stores without parking in the city centre now. Even the Countdown folks know they have oversupplied parking, which is why they rent it to commuters now

        3. It must depend on density. A suburban supermarket without a car park probably wouldn’t have a big enough catchment to be viable. But in the high density areas it would and in a those areas parking is very expensive.

        4. exactly , and my comment was that in this very specific area of anticipated intensification there are two brand new massive waste-of-space carpark centred retailers that degrade the local environment with the subsequent effects on traffic inducement and urban form, and questioning whether our planning is .
          im not saying that the pak-n-save business model should be outlawed everywhere (yet).

        5. There is no anticipated intensification in Ponsonby and surrounding areas. Check the Unitary Plan maps.

          A few area units in the inner ring suburbs actually decreased in population between 2006 and 2013 census. Ponsonby stayed about the same. (now where is that 2018 data.)

        6. I have 1000 new neighbours on my block.
          ponsonby rd, freemans bay, k rd, gnr are going up.
          the trains are going in and k road being 6 minutes or less from britomart will be bigger than people even realise…
          do you think the inadequacies of our planning is an argument for the adequacy of our planning?

        7. Inadequate planning (absurdly low maximum density) gives weird outcomes (shop wants big parking). That is hardly a surprise.

          Did anyone count the mode share among shoppers in Ponsonby recently? I would not be surprised if half of the shoppers still arrive in a car.

  5. Parking maximums are necessary because we have worked out that the market model does not work. We don’t have enough space or money for all the roads that we need. It is strange that “the market” does not have enough money.

    1. transport is nowhere near a free market so hard to say the market isn’t working.
      Isn’t the solution to not having enough space and money to build roads just to build no new roads? Why do the council tell Bob that he can’t have any cars on his land but Jim must have 2 cars on his land? Why not just let Bob and Jim decide for themselves?

    2. Parking maximums are a useful demand management tool when used in the right place. From memory they are only used in the Unitary Plan in the city centre (where clearly there is very limited road capacity so maximums act to limit the demand for vehicles to drive into the city centre) or for office activities, which generate high demand at peak times that is best suited to public transport.

      Aside from the city centre, I’m pretty sure there are no maximums on residential dwellings anywhere. If Jim and Bob want to build a stupidly expensive garage for their 9 cars then they can.

      1. I thought a friend said their THAB site in Pt Chev had parking maximums, and there are maximums specified in Table 3 here (seems to be the Unitary Plan):


        Table 3: Parking rates for sites within the City Centre Fringe overlay and the Metropolitan, Town, Local Centres, Mixed Use and Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings zones. Applies in the following zones: Metropolitan Centre, Town and Local Centre (other than those centres listed as excluded in clause 3.2.1b), Mixed Use, Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings zone. Applies in the City Centre Fringe overlay

        With clause 3.2.1b) giving exceptions mainly in far-flung areas.

        However, I’ve found a consultants’ site that seems to agree with you, Mt Wannahockaloogie

        Could this mean that in reality they easily waive it, or that I’m looking at an early version?

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