Parking is seen as a public good that should be supplied to everyone… Resistance to parking management is tied in a nostalgic way to “the good old days” and used as a form of coded language to complain about increases in population density or changes in community demographics or class structure.
Intelligent people often seem to get less intelligent when they discuss parking. – Parking Management for Smart Growth
Parking supply has become one of those awkward subjects, often because the “equity” argument is used as an excuse for resisting change.
Yet we must discuss it. All these different documents are under consultation, or under review:
- The Climate Action Framework,
- The National Policy Statement for Urban Planning,
- The Roads and Streets Framework,
- The Auckland Transport Parking Strategy.
Well beyond parking minimums, there are implications about:
- legal and illegal parking supply,
- private and public parking supply,
- streetscapes and the public realm,
- how to increase integration of strategies and practice.
So let’s get the basics right. The evidence is clear that excessive parking supply encourages people to drive more, inducing traffic. More traffic makes other modes less attractive, creating modeshift to driving and preventing modeshift from driving. For our transport networks to improve and our city to become more liveable and sustainable, we need a much reduced volume of traffic.
The idea that even drivers would be better off if parking was reduced might be seen as a truism, like the satirical statistics reported by The Onion, that 98 percent of Americans support the use of mass transit by others.
While car parking was a non-negotiable amenity for baby boomers, it is an eyesore to millennials and the up-and-coming iGen. Newer generations want more city and fewer cars. Globally, scrapping car parking is the latest trend in urban planning – The Conversation
We can prevent this being a generational issue. Younger people may be more willing to question the status quo, but everyone is affected by too much parking provision, including how it ruins urban form and limits transport choices.
If you are challenged by the idea that excessive parking makes life harder for people who drive, read on.
Examples of how a reduced supply of parking would benefit people who drive:
Do you feel tied to having to drive because the bus is just too slow for the trips you do? A reduction of car parking can improve the travel time of both your driving trip and the alternative bus trip. That means there’ll be less of your day wasted in traffic, and the option of public transport might come within reach.
Do you live further than you want from your work and the places you like to go, and feel stuck driving long distances? If we could replace the excessive car parking with housing and other amenities, you’ll have more choices in housing location. This would allow some people to cut their commute and move to the new high-density housing opportunities, while those who prefer to stay put can enjoy the lower traffic volumes.
Reduced parking supply also improves safety, and since everybody walks, including people who drive, this benefits us all.
Examples of how a reduced supply of parking would benefit people who use public transport, and who walk and cycle:
Do you want your children to be able to walk to their friends’ places, the local parks, their activities and to school, but are worried about traffic fumes and danger en route? Auckland has a deficient walking environment, and the danger from motor vehicles to people walking is high. NZTA has a hierarchy of treatments to solve this issue, and say “reduction in traffic volumes” is the first treatment that should be considered:
Do you like to take the bus to go shopping, but find the “last leg” of the trip unpleasant or unsafe? Reducing car parking near the shopping centres, and thus reducing traffic, means less congestion at those intersections. With less demand to accommodate high traffic volumes, you should see the removal of the dangerous slip lanes, shorter crossing distances due to fewer turning lanes, wider footpaths, and more pedestrian priority at the traffic signals.
Reducing traffic volumes is also a prerequisite of creating a cycling network. Trying to install cycle infrastructure within our current too-high traffic volumes simply keeps the danger at high levels wherever cycles and motor vehicles cross.
Are you trying to cycle to work, but give up for a while each time you get spooked where you cross or mix with traffic? Reducing car parking, and thus reducing traffic, will decrease the danger for you, and help your ride become safer and more comfortable.
Reducing parking supply improves the amenity and safety for people walking, cycling, and using public transport. This means fewer people need to drive, and that benefits us all. Our parking supply is, essentially, forcing people from the “could take public transport” and “could cycle” category into the “need to drive” category.
Parking can directly compromise the adoption of active and sustainable modes of transport.
Firstly, free and easily accessible parking contributes to induced driving and car ownership. For example, researchers from Oslo’s Institute of Transport Economics found that access to private household parking facilities triples the likelihood of car ownership, whereas increasing the distance between parking and destinations reduces car mode share…
Secondly, on-street parking can directly compete for limited road space, inhibiting the ability to reallocate street space to improved pedestrian or cycling infrastructure (such as bicycle lanes), or to create priority lanes for road-based public transport (such as buses or trams).
In case you’re worried that drivers would ‘cruise’ for parking more, the answer lies in managing – with pricing – the parking supply we retain:
Management tools reduce overall parking demand and cruising for parking— the process of circling for parking spaces. Reduced cruising lessens vehicle miles traveled, congestion, and instances of distracted drivers, which makes pedestrians and cyclists safer. – Parking Management for Smart Growth
Why would people with limited finances want to see a reduced supply of parking?
Reducing traffic volumes and encouraging modeshift reduces the overall cost of the transport network, because driving is a very expensive mode. The roading infrastructure can be put to much better use, without widening projects, if it is used by space-efficient modes. That reduces everyone’s costs, something that will be felt most keenly by those with the least money. With society losing less money to congestion, there should be more money available to ensure everyone gets a decent wage and can afford the transport choices they make. Retaining excessive parking and making everyone suffer from the resulting traffic congestion is not a wise way to provide affordable transport for anyone.
What about people with limited mobility?
In many cities with quality footpath and public transport networks, people with reduced mobility prefer the public transport system because they feel more independent than relying on others to drive them. Auckland should have a goal, too, of providing people with limited mobility as many choices as possible. Mobility parks and parking management to ensure there are always spaces available are all compatible with a lower overall supply of parking.
Some cities have been reducing their parking spaces for a long time.
Zurich capped its car park numbers at 1990 levels back in 1996.
Philadelphia reduced its off-street parking around downtown, between 2010 and 2015:
by about 3,000 spaces, a 7% reduction. Most of that is tied to the replacement of surface lots with new development.
Until recently, Mexico City was
building more parking than housing. Now new reforms are pushing the parking aside and returning the pavement to the people.
Amsterdam plans to:
remove up to 11,200 parking spaces from its streets by the end of 2025… As room for cars is removed, it will be replaced by trees, bike parking, and wider sidewalks…
Brussels is shedding 65,000 car parks over the next decade:
Yet Auckland’s struggling with the concept.
Far from managing to reduce our carparks, we’re still building new ones!
Of all the regressive development happening in our city, the building of new parking lots and the inclusion of levels of parking provided in new buildings is one of the biggest concerns. Here are a few of the many developments with excessive additional parking:
- Wynyard Quarter will see another 1015 car park spaces, that will be managed as ‘bulk leasing’ at the new Infratil building.
- Les Mills will be adding 299 new carpark spaces to its Victoria Street gym.
- Sky City’s new Convention Centre will add 1415 car park spaces to their existing 1960 car park spaces.
- Westfield Newmarket is opening with 2800 car park spaces, up from 1121 at 277 Broadway before the development. This will bring the precinct’s car parking capacity to around 7,800.
- Costco is coming to Westgate with 800 car park spaces.
- Westfields St Lukes plans to double in size, with the number of car park spaces increasing by 1479 spaces to 3497.
None of these areas need more traffic, with more cars crossing over the footpaths and cycle lanes, and clogging intersections. A well-planned city that is growing in population will add amenities and facilities while removing carparking. In this way, the traffic volumes can reduce as is required for the increasing number of people living, walking and cycling in the city.
The extra traffic induced by parking is, of course, a cause of climate change. As the UN says:
Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent… Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society…
The draft Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Action Framework describes “What we want for the future”:
Cars no longer dominate the urban landscape and public spaces are put to better use.
Of course, retailers are better off with less parking too.
In case none of this convinces you, what’s your economic position on it?
If parking was priced at the full cost of the land plus the costs imposed by the driving it induces, many people would choose not to pay it. Is it right that the whole network should be slowed down – and people forced into modes or into danger they don’t want – just because we subsidise this parking by making it free or cheap?
We’re investing money in strategies to encourage people to take up the healthy, low-carbon transport modes. We’re also going to be spending billions of dollars to mitigate our excessive carbon emissions. What is the point of wasting all that money by creating modeshift in the opposite direction, through the retention of excessive parking supply?
As I outlined in the post about “good density,” we need to steadily and consistently take steps in the right direction. Reducing parking supply forms part of a responsible integrated climate, economic, land use, health and transport strategy.