Parking management sounds like it’s pretty boring, but actually has huge impacts on both the transport system and the shape of our cities. Parking is, quite literally, where transport and land-use intersect, and we see how much space needs to be dedicated in our cities to vehicle storage.
Over the years we have talked a lot about the need to manage parking better – and there has been good progress such as the elimination of minimum parking requirements and Auckland Transport’s pretty good parking strategies and policies. Unfortunately AT are often reluctant to follow their own policies when it comes to parking (sound familiar?) and seem to have a particular aversion to actually enforcing their parking rules.
Managing parking is a challenge for all successful cities. If parking isn’t a difficult issue for an area, then it suggests that area is either failing or has completely sacrificed everything else so that people find it easy to park.
Complicating things further, parking management is often quite counter-intuitive. Steps that appear to be aimed at making it easier, such as building more parking, making it free or not having time limits, tend to encourage more people to drive and/or stay longer which ends up making it harder to find a space after all.
Furthermore, dedicating so much land to parking – land that has real value and could be used for something else if it wasn’t asphalt – acts as a giant hidden subsidy for driving, increasing the costs of goods and services whether you drive or not and undermining efforts to achieve mode shift as well as create high quality compact urban environments.
It’s in this context that Waka Kotahi have provided some useful guidance to help towns and cities around the country manage parking better. The guidance delivers one of the actions of Waka Kotahi’s Keeping Cities Moving mode shift plan released last year, and helpfully also coincides with the National Policy Statement for Urban Development’s removal of parking minimums (an excellent policy, but one which does need to be accompanied by more active public parking management).
The guidance document itself is quite detailed, and provides good information about a whole pile of things like how to set parking prices, how to assess the ‘resource cost’ of parking provision and how to maximise the benefits of new parking technologies. But perhaps what I found most useful was some of the more strategic stuff – around why it’s so important to manage parking well and what some of the key principles should be that guide parking management.
THE NEED FOR GOOD PARKING MANAGEMENT
Good management of public parking is a crucial component of the overall transport system, and essential for creating vibrant and well-functioning urban areas. It is especially important in areas experiencing growth pressure because:
- There will be a much stronger demand for public parking as urban areas experience intensification and consequential increases in travel activity.
- As minimum parking requirements are removed from district plans following the recently released National Policy Statement on Urban Development (August 2020), private parking stock may not increase as fast as it has historically, placing more demand on the public parking resource. Progressive parking management supports ‘achieving more’ with less parking supply by better utilising supply and managing demand.
- Parking takes up valuable land. Developing high-quality pedestrian, cycling and public transport infrastructure, or even increasing building stock to increase housing supply, is likely to involve reallocating areas currently used for parking. This reduction in parking will necessitate efficient management of the remaining parking supply.
Parking availability and pricing is a key aspect of travel decision making and can fundamentally influence travel behaviour. Strategic parking management can support (or hinder) uptake in a range of travel modes, which can, in turn, impact on demand for the parking supply. While parking can contribute towards the success of a place, poorly managed and designed parking can undermine efforts to create highly liveable urban areas by:
- Subsidising and encouraging excessive demand for car-based travel, leading to congestion, increased vehicle emissions and poorer public health, as well as undermining investment in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure.
- Substituting parking for valuable floor space, thereby increasing development costs, and preventing higher value uses for land, (e.g. community facilities/social services or additional commercial and residential development that contribute more to broader urban objectives).
- Eroding the sense of place and character of a town centre and/or limiting potential streetscape enhancement. The location and design of parking can lead to poor urban design outcomes.
- Adding disproportionate costs to low income households, who may not own a car but pay directly or indirectly for the supply of car parking, either bundled with their housing or publicly subsidised via rates.
- Increasing the direct financial costs to councils to provide and maintain car parking.
- Creating safety issues for other users such as pedestrians (e.g. moving through off-street car parks) and cyclists (e.g. dooring and reversing).
Internationally there is a growing realisation that while many parking management initiatives are well intentioned, they may have done more harm than good when their wider impacts are understood. In particular, efforts to increase parking supply to make it easy for people to find a parking space have had wide reaching (and often negative) impacts on urban form and the overall transport system. Generous parking supply [is a] key part of the cycle of automobile dependency by inducing car-based travel demand, and thus parking demand.
This has led to a change in approach to parking management in many places around the world, which focuses on getting the balance right: providing the ‘right’ amount of parking, in the right place, at the right time, and at the right price.
For a long time parking has been managed in a way that simply thinks about the only problem being “there’s not enough parking“. What’s especially useful about the text above is how it highlights the wide-reaching impacts of parking policies on transport and urban form outcomes – as well as things we might not have thought about like adding disproportionate costs to people who don’t own a car but end up paying for parking indirectly.
This context is then turned into an overall objective for good parking management – which is then supported by a series of principles.
OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES
The overarching objective of good parking management is to:
enable an appropriate and efficiently used level of parking supply in a way that equitably supports wider transport and urban form outcomes.
Key considerations for achieving this overall objective are:
- What is an appropriate level of parking supply? How might it vary by location? What are the negative effects of too much or too little available parking?
- How can parking management help support wider transport outcomes? Is parking making congestion better or worse? Is parking supporting or undermining public transport, walking, and cycling?
- How can parking management help support a better-quality urban form? Is parking undermining a sense of place and character? Is it helping support higher density mixed-use developments?
- Is parking being supplied in an equitable way? Are those who benefit from it paying the true cost? Are those with the greatest need for parking being prioritised?
These considerations and questions help shape the key principles that should be applied to help deliver good parking management:
- prioritise public space to deliver the highest value
- efficiently use space dedicated to parking
- prioritise those with the greatest need for parking
- equitably pay for the costs of parking provision
- ensure parking supports wider transport outcomes
- ensure parking and its location supports a quality urban form
- make evidence-based decisions
- provide a high-quality user experience.
These all seem eminently sensible principles – and it’s particularly good to see recognition in the very first principle that in a lot of cases the highest value use of public space will not be car storage.
Waka Kotahi have published the document as a draft for feedback. If you have any suggestions, email them to ParkingManagement@nzta.govt.nz by 12 March 2021.