One of the things we highlighted during the recent debate on the Council’s Emergency Budget was that Auckland Transport should start charging for park & ride regardless of what rates option is chosen and not only if councillors are derelict in their duty and choose something other than the 3.5% increase.
AT have been incredibly reluctant to consider charging for P&R, worried it will hurt PT ridership, ignoring the fact that many people using those P&R spaces could access the stations by other methods and that there are many people who can’t or don’t want to get to a station before 7:30 and would be prepared to pay. Their own Parking Strategy suggests they should look to price P&R when additional capacity is provided and/or when demand during the morning peak consistently exceeds 85% occupancy – although in both these cases they’ve written themselves some ‘out’ clauses so they don’t have to do it.
The main argument against charging for P&R is that with many of the facilities at stations near the urban periphery, that they’re needed to serve the rural areas that don’t have feeder bus services – although sometimes this is applied to suburban areas without feeder buses too.
So it was interesting to see a series of maps from Auckland Transport where they’ve plotted the registered addresses for cars parked in the Albany, Orakei and Hibiscus Coast P&R facilities. They were provided to me by Councillor Chris Darby who got them as part of a response he’d had from AT on a number of questions relating to P&R. Some caution needs to be taken with these maps as a vehicle’s registered address may not be where the vehicle was driven from but in most cases it will be, and overall the maps tell a interesting picture.
You can see from the first map which shows there are clearly some people living in rural areas but that most users are in the suburban areas to the northeast of Albany. There are also quite a few from up around Orewa and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula area who are driving past the P&R at Silverdale. Perhaps it was full or they want the better frequency and options (such as the NX2) provided at Albany or perhaps they just want a slightly cheaper fare. I’m also guessing the dots in the lower North Shore and even West Auckland are people not using the bus but are instead working nearby in Albany and using the P&R for free parking – so not even contributing to ridership numbers.
The next map takes a closer look, focusing on those within 5km of the station. It appears from this that many of those driving to the station live in relatively close proximity to a number of bus routes.
The Orakei P&R is quite a bit smaller than Albany so there are fewer dots but again you can see most are clustered within 2km of the station, which would be very easily cyclable if AT were to put safe facilities in place. Some of the outliers are quite interesting too with them having driven past a few very frequent bus routes and even other train stations in order to park at Orakei.
Like with Albany, there is clearly a smattering of rural users at this P&R, including some from Warkworth, and unfortunately a bit hard to see on this map, but the vast majority are from the surrounding suburban areas.
Again it’s the 5km version that provides some fascinating insight. Like the previous maps, there appear to be quite a few people living on feeder bus routes.
Another thing that stands out to me is the large cluster of users in the southwest of Millwater (just north of the station). Millwater is a classic example of car centric planning as the street network and urban form, such as the location of schools etc, means there is no easy way to thread a feeder bus through there that doesn’t either skip a lot of people or be so wiggly and slow that no one would choose to use it.
In all of these examples there are clearly a lot of people driving from close by who could easily get to the station by another method and it begs the question of what AT are doing to promote and improve these connections. Charging would help encourage this a shift too, and if nothing else, give AT another revenue stream. It seems strange that they’re so hesitant about it.
Related to all this, previously it has been suggested that charging for P&R happen by way of integration with HOP. Another interesting aspect in the response to Clr Darby was that AT no longer intend to do this. They say it would cost around $500k to do this and that it doesn’t stack up because most P&R users are already PT users – although this seems to be mainly in relation to stopping people not making PT trips from using the facilities. As such, any charging for P&R will by via their AT Park app and Licence Plate meters.
Developing P&R Stations
P&R is topical for another reason too. Recently AT have been visiting a number of local boards about ideas to develop some of the existing facilities, which they’re doing in partnership with Panuku. This has come about as part of an “Integrated Development Strategy” they’ve created. We first heard they were looking to develop some sites back in 2018.
The agencies have come up with 10 of AT’s P&R sites they’re looking to develop with any proceeds used for other transport projects. An example of the report to the local boards is here and in it they say:
3. Several credible development companies have enquired with Panuku Development Auckland and Auckland Transport about the prospect of partnering to progress opportunities. Potentially significant opportunities have remained untapped to date. Panuku Development Auckland and Auckland Transport have worked together to scope the opportunities which exist in the AT managed portfolio and develop a framework to progress the opportunities. Our proposed strategy seeks to integrate transport service requirements at designated council owned park and ride sites with mixed use development. The focus is on current park and ride sites which have the potential for the airspace above the site to be sold for development or another disposal component, while the underlying transport asset is retained in council ownership.
4. The Panuku and AT Park and Ride Integrated Development strategy seeks to achieve increased public transport patronage and strong urban regeneration and urban design outcomes at selected park and ride sites. It also seeks to increase density and intensification around transport nodes and provide the Auckland region with additional housing supply and a range of housing typologies
The objectives of the Panuku and AT Park and Ride Integrated Development strategy are:
- increased public transport patronage, active modes and safe access;
- strong urban regeneration and urban design outcomes;
- increasing density and intensification around transport nodes;
- increasing housing supply and delivery of a range of housing typologies as a priority;
- the ability to partner with developers capable of delivery;
- the release of capital / latent value from park and ride sites; and
- future proofing for imminent strategic transport requirements.
It’s good that Panuku are involved, when we last heard about this concept for Constellation was shown.
What worries me about this proposal overall is that like they’ve done in Takapuna in order to let Panuku develop the Anzac St carpark site, AT will likely try to use this process to demand an increase in the number of carparks as the base requirement. And with them only selling the air rights above the P&R, that we’ll end up with a bunch of townhouses, or maybe apartments plonked on top of a podium of carparking – much like was done at New Lynn.
I’m also concerned what message these kinds of developments will send. The council through its various plans wants more people living closer to and using high-quality public transport. These sites will of course be very close yet the people who would ultimately live in these developments are the ones who will be paying to allow those living in the suburbs to have free (or heavily subsidised) parking. They’re also the ones who will have to put up with the noise, emissions and local congestion caused by those people accessing the carparks. If anything it should be the other way around with the drivers subsidising the development.
The ten P&R sites they’re looking at first are:
- Orakei Train Station
- Manurewa Train Station
- Selwyn Rd, Manurewa
- Homai Train Station
- Sturges Rd Train Station
- Papakura Train Station
- Constellation Train Station
- Albany Train Station
- Next to 20-26 Symonds St – this is where they want to build a large city centre bus station but haven’t yet been able to justify it.
Before any of this happens though, the first step needs to be that AT start charging for P&R. Doing so would give a better feel for just how much demand there is for more capacity and can also help financially contribute towards the construction of that capacity.