The Council’s Planning Committee meet tomorrow and perhaps the most interesting item on the agenda a paper about the sale and redevelopment of the Downtown Carpark. Concerningly, it shows Auckland Transport still fundamentally misunderstand their and the city’s transport objectives.

The council agreed to put the carpark up for sale last year after COVID wreaked havoc on their budgets. The site itself is huge, at about 6,400m² and given the other nearby developments, could easily support another large tower (or two).

Redeveloping the site has been suggested for some time and it is specifically called out in the City Centre Masterplan, saying:

In particular, the eventual removal of the Lower Hobson Street Flyover, and long-term aspiration to redevelop the Auckland Council-owned downtown car park site, have the collective potential to add:

  • greater intensity
  • higher value
  • more active uses
  • a more engaging and connected public realm that delivers the unrealised place potential in this prime location.

The images below comes from the previous CCMP which also called for it to be redeveloped.

Councillors are being asked to sign off on any redevelopment including a huge amount of space for a bus interchange and parking.

That the Planning Committee:

a) approve the transport outcome of a maximum of 6,000m2 of floor space for a public transport interchange to inform a competitive market process to redevelop the Downtown Carpark site

b) approve a transport outcome of 12,000 – 18,000m2 of floor space for allocation to a transport hub space in addition to the 6000m2 which would:

i) be flexibly designed to support a range of transport uses (and allow for their change over time)

ii) include public access to: short stay parking, car share/ride share, cycling and micromobility, mobility parking, freight distribution and dispatch and also end of trip facilities

iii) be designed to maximise the ease of conversion to non-transport uses over time should this achieve a better strategic outcome for the city centre.

Let’s look at these.

Bus Interchange

AT are wanting to change how buses work in the city centre going forward. I’ll have a more detailed post about this shortly but one thing they want to do is to turn essentially one floor of the redevelopment into a bus interchange and removing the need for the just about to be completed Lower Albert St bus interchange. This interchange would be used by buses from the West and central isthmus (NX1 services will be going elsewhere).

A bus interchange does sound useful on the surface but it does push it further away from connections to Britomart and while the site is big, it’s not that big and a lot of space is going to be needed for dealing with bus circulation. It also seems as if it will require another bridge

Multi-use transport hub Parking

The paper includes this interesting admission from AT that they only had a vision for parking because they didn’t understand the council’s goals – which they would have if they’d ever read any council plans like the CCMP.

AT originally proposed retention of short-stay parking capacity within the redeveloped Downtown site to support council’s objectives around economic and cultural vibrancy in the surrounding area, particularly the Viaduct. However, following the Planning Committee workshops we have understood that the use of AT-managed parking to support city centre activity is now less of a priority. Consequently, the option of leaving additional transport facilities to the developer is also canvassed in this report along with the recommended flexible transport hub. These options are additional to the public transport interchange.

AT say the 12,000m² – 18,000m² of space they want in the redevelopment separate to the bus interchange is a multi-use space but at least initially would be about still providing 400-600 car parks. This is less than exists now but still quite a lot and they even say it will “continue to attract cars into an area that should be increasingly pedestrianised through A4E and will slightly slow the speed of mode change into the city centre” and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. It also reduces the amount of money the council can get for the site.

They give a second option of not putting any parking requirements on and leaving it up to the developer, which would provide a bigger return for the council but AT claim it will have downsides such as still having parking and no ability to have end of journey cycle facilities included.

Of course, they don’t need 18,000m² for end of journey cycle facilities, that requirement could still be retained without needing space for all the parking they still want.

I’m not opposed to there still being some parking on the site but it feels like AT are pushing for more than is needed and overstating their role in providing parking.

A lot of the issue with AT’s position stems from their assumptions as to the amount of vehicle trips to the city centre they need to cater for.

These improvements have enabled the transport network to accommodate an increase in demand for travel to the city centre while yielding a major change in travel behaviour. Based on census data, the share of commuting by car has declined from 59% in 2006 to around 42% in 2018. Meanwhile, more recent and detailed traffic monitoring shows a decline in morning peak private vehicle trips from around 42,000 in 2015 to around 35,000 in 2019. However, during the course of a full day there are an estimated 196,000 trips by private vehicle into the city centre. This indicates a much higher use outside of the peak periods, most likely for business, entertainment or retail purposes.

….

Looking forward, a key objective is to ensure there is sufficient transport network capacity to support ongoing growth of the city centre. This is achieved primarily through investment in rapid transit links, along with improved bus capacity and walking and cycling to support mode shift and accommodate increasing demand through higher-capacity sustainable modes. The modelling results suggest car travel reducing from 44% of AM peak motorised trips in 2016 to 25% in 2038, while the interpeak reduces from 66% to 42%. Importantly however, the actual number of car trips is expected to remain relatively constant over time (although these figures do not factor in the requirement for A4E to reduce peak period travel
by 30%).

In summary, the modelling indicates a strong mode shift to sustainable modes as the city centre grows, particularly during the peak periods. However, the overall number of car trips into the city centre is expected to remain similar to today. Car travel will continue to play an important role in interpeak travel and trips for business, entertainment and retail purposes and this is likely to lead to a continued demand for short stay parking.

As they point out, car trips to the city centre in the morning peak fell by about 7,000 over just 4 years and that trend was showing no sign of letting up until COVID came along. There is no reason to assume that trend couldn’t continue or that it couldn’t/doesn’t also apply to all day use too, especially once projects like City Rail Link make off-peak trips even more viable. In fact, if with all the investment occurring we didn’t see a significant shift in interpeak mode share, it should be seen as a massive failure by AT.

Furthermore, it’s AT’s job to reduce car trips, and not just by growing other modes. The Auckland Climate Plan calls for a 12% reduction in kilometres travelled by motorised vehicles as well as significant growth in the modeshare of non-car modes across the region – 12.8% to 37.5% by 2030 and 48% by 2050. AT even note they haven’t factored in 30% reduction in trips as a result of Access For Everyone. While that target is AM Peak focused, it is likely to have a similar impact outside of the peak too.

It’s hard to reconcile that despite all of this, AT assume that private vehicle numbers will stay roughly the same and that they can’t or shouldn’t lead on pushing vehicle numbers down further.

Then there are the issues with just how much parking they say they still need to provide.

AT’s parking operations have undergone significant change over the last decade. On street parking has reduced from 5,000 to 2,460 to support reallocation of road space to other modes and purposes. Meanwhile, the price for commuter parking in Auckland Transport’s buildings has more than doubled to a maximum of $40 per day.

At present, AT currently controls 6,649 car parks in the city centre, of which 4,189 are off-street and 2,460 are on-street. Of these, just over 5,000 are short stay parks intended to support the economic and cultural vibrancy of the city centre. Although this is a small proportion of overall parking in the city centre, AT is a key provider of lower-cost short stay parking.

The Downtown car park has some 1,944 parks, of which 1,148 are for short stay parking and 796 are for lease.

There are two issues here.

  1. AT say it’s their job to provide lower-cost short stay parking. Now this is the role they set for themselves in their parking strategy but the question the council should ask is “should it be their job to provide this?”. Other than “people park and use the carpark”, is there any evidence to the claim that it supports the economic and cultural vibrancy of the city and not just that it’s used because it exists.
  2. While they mention it being a small proportion overall, they don’t quantify that all of AT’s on and off street parking combined is only about 14% of all parking in the city centre.

It’s also worth noting that even pre-covid, the carpark was never all that full

Redeveloping the downtown carpark is a good step. The council should ignore AT though when it comes to parking provision in the redevelopment and if anything, also require any developer to provide even less too. AT should also be required focus into their efforts to make the PT viable for a wider range of trips instead of just the 9-5 commuters they seem to think is all they should serve.

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49 comments

  1. The Planning Committee agenda misinterprets the Waitematā Local Board feedback, so I sent the following clarification to Chair Cr Darby yesterday:

    the Agenda makes the following representation from WLB: “WLB is keen on a balance of transport needs and the needs of the urban realm, and alignment with the Access for Everyone concept. It is concerned about too much potential commercial space being given to buses.” The second sentence is not completely accurate, so I would like to clarify and elaborate.

    On 9 March 2021, Panuku presented to WLB. This focused on strategic outcomes, and did not include any designs or required levels of space for a bus facility. WLB gave the following feedback at the time:
    1. Any redevelopment should radically improve streetscape and amenity in the area. This should include at least one laneway through the site.
    2. Any bus facility should be kept to the southern end of the site in order to facilitate the goals above.
    3. Carparking provision should be reduced considerably.
    4. Lower Hobson Street flyover must be demolished.

    Having seen the plans and additional information included in the 1 April Agenda, WLB has additional feedback that we would like considered.
    – WLB supports the inclusion of a bus facility in any redevelopment.
    – Where possible, this should not prevent the activation, streetscape and amenity of the site, or the inclusion of at least one laneway. This may be achieved by elevating it above the level of Quay Street, or by keeping it to the southern end of the site.
    – Carparking provision should be reduced by a greater level. 400-600 carparks contradicts goals of CCMP and A4E. Furthermore, this location has the best public transport connections in the entire country, and is also the nexus of multiple cycleways.
    – WLB supports the inclusion of a high level of bike and micromobility parking on the site. This should be easily accessed (preferably on the ground floor), well lit and highly secure.

  2. The problem here appears to be both philosophical and a power struggle.

    The City Centre Master Plan is just that, a plan. ie a thing to consciously deliver in to improve the city. A shaping document. All of the language coming from AT is passive, about reflecting demand, not shaping it. Lots and lots of numbers to try to imply that while things are changing, they can still find examples of the old way and that for some unexpressed reason THESE MUST ALWAYS BE MAINTAINED, regardless of strategy. The whole thing says; we will not change anything until forced to by a change in public behaviour, which must precede our actions.

    This brings them into conflict with their owner whenever it takes any decision to make meaningful change. And the CCMP is a change plan. Clearly significant parts of AT don’t get it, don’t like it, and have spent years and years resisting it.

    It first was approved in 2012.

  3. I am quite sure all the retailers and commercial landlords in Newmarket, Takapuna, Manukau and West Auckland all fully support removing short stay parking from the CBD.

    1. What the blog said, and what you are of course ignoring, is that the proposal is to remove a percentage of a small percentage of the car parking that is PUBLICLY OWNED. The large remainder of private car parking remains available. I severely doubt there will be any notable impact to retailers. Who of course will continue to claim that everyone drives and that they are doomed (I symphathise with their COVID-related troubles, but parking isn’t the cause of that, nor will reducing the currently-even-more-excessive-than-usual parking availability make their business worse).

      So basically, reducing car parking here is Council reducing their subsidies to cars. Go for it. That’s exactly what we should be doing, and keep voting for (but never seem to get with any enthusiasm from our agencies).

      1. The vast majority of parking spaces in the CBD are not available to the public at all. Most are in private basements where the public get no access. Then there are the many private buildings that were approved in the late 80’s with a condition that they have casual parking. The idea was to provide for customers but they get around that by charging $15 for sixty minutes while only charging $21 for regular all day parking. So no the Downtown isn’t a small percentage of a percentage. It is where people visiting the Downtown and Viaduct areas park to go to a restaurant, shops or attraction.

        1. The only time I drive into the city is on the weekend to go to events or restaurants. The car will have 4-7 people in it, so much cheaper than taking the train. This is normally the carpark I use and from my observation, the public parks are normally pretty full.
          If the only other choice for parking cost the extortionate amount that sky city charges, then we simply wouldn’t give any of the downtown restaurants any patronage.
          If a bus interchange is developed, I would hope that the arrangement is similar to Perth, where buses are accessed via an upstairs concourse.

        2. The top three levels of the Downtown car park always seem to be virtually empty when I park my motorbike there.

        3. Anthony surely the cost of bus/train to the city would be a small percentage of the cost of a restaurant or event?

        4. Agree with Anthony.

          Ideologically we want to PT, but in practice it is not really practical. Families with young children still drives during weekend.

          Wishing them to use PT under the current pricing and off peak frequency is not realistic. Most will choose not to visit city in that way.

          The end result will effect a lot of viaduct business during weekends.

        5. I wasn’t aware that with demolition of the carpark, families will be banned from driving to the CDB on weekends?

        6. You will in practice always have a 2 zone fare to the city centre. That is $7.80 per person for a return. If you go to the city for a fancy place then maybe it doesn’t matter (it is still almost 25% of $40 so not that small).

          Or maybe you’ll end up going to a restaurant closer to home. It is hard to avoid winners and losers if things change.

        7. “….only other choice for parking cost the extortionate amount that sky city charges”

          That “extortionate amount” is the market rate, Anthony.

        8. Kelvin and Anthony, our city centre has excessive levels of parking provision due to poor parking strategy over the last few decades. Far more than Sydney, for example. We need to remove more carparks per year from the city centre than there are in the Downtown Carpark building alone.

          The city centre is the part of the city that’s best served by public transport so the modeshift it encourages is not fantasty stuff; it’s real. And it’s equitable even for people who need to drive because reducing traffic by removing parking reduces congestion throughout the network. This makes driving easier for the people who do need to drive – wherever in the city it is that they’re going. Think of those places where public transport isn’t so good – by reducing this city centre parking, the network improvements for driving mean those other places will involve shorter driving times.

        9. “Anthony surely the cost of bus/train to the city would be a small percentage of the cost of a restaurant or event?”

          The larger the family / group, the more the car (car park) cost decreases proportionally compared to all of the visitors each paying for one ticket.

          But yeah, convenience is king. Only good PT can compete with the ease of off-peak driving in the first place.

        10. @miffy etc Think how much much cheaper or improved public transport could be funded from the sale of the building or for that matter a retained asset but redeveloped site that acquired greater returns than parking ever could. Weekend public transport could be made very cheap for example and children by and large are already free. The walkability would be improved so would be far nicer than Newmarket and Takapuna from r example anyway.

        11. Anthony rather than Sky City why not use one of the other 3 AT car parks in the city centre?

        12. @Grant. None of the money they get will be used to subsidise public transport. Think about why every shopping mall owner in the country provides free parking or parking at cost in order to make their centre a success. Perhaps if the Council tried running the central area along the lines that commercial operators work then think about how great the CBD could be.

    2. “I am quite sure all the retailers and commercial landlords in Newmarket, Takapuna, Manukau and West Auckland all fully support removing short stay parking from the CBD.”

      Yes, because the 100k people living or working in the CBD everyday will take this decision as a sign to stop shopping in their ‘hood and go to the suburbs.

      Probably by PT

  4. Some of that stuff from AT seems bizzare. They could just as easily mandate a maximum of X car parks and minimum Xm2 of end of trip cycle facilities.

    The proposed bus interchange seems like it has the potential to majorly f$#k over the lower few levels of any new building and the surrounding streetscape. Id be cautious about offering up anything other than qualified support subject to more detailed design and investigation.

  5. Groan. This is bad on so many levels. :/

    “It also reduces the amount of money the council can get for the site.” Have AT presented any evidence for the value of the site with and without this requirement? Has Council independently checked this?

    The WLB feedback is good, but it looks to me like they were having to support a bus facility without sufficient information about whether it was even possible without preventing the “activation, streetscape and amenity of the site, or the inclusion of at least one laneway.”

    AT’s misunderstandings seem more and more comprehensive.

  6. Wait, what was that about the NX1 going somewhere else? Totally get it that the Downtown carpark is a ridiculously ugly and just plain wrong thing to have on this site. But if the flyover goes and the NX1 bus can’t get in and out of the area, then where is it going to terminate. It is kind of the most successful bus service on the entire network and some of that is going to be because of where it ends up and restarts from in the city. If it gets pushed further away from Britomart and the Link services is that going to just make it less popular and useful?

    1. All in good time. But plan is for it to carry on along (bus lanes) on Customs St to a new terminal on the on Beach Rd, likely those sites near the stand are owned by Waka Kotahi that were recently demolished. I think this is a better outcome than them using Lower Albert St and also improves access to eastern waterfront

  7. What kind of bus facility are we even talking? Any sort of bus station for terminating city buses will have to be pretty big, no?

    1. Not really, given we have no off-street facilities for buses now? So anything, even a few bays, would be an improvement.

      1. True, but unless it’s where all city bound buses terminate, is there much point? Or will this just remove a handful of on-street bus stops around the lower CBD

  8. So they are finally talking about a Bus Interchange! Somewhere you can go to catch a bus instead of knowing which of the current million and one places you need to go.
    Seems like a brilliant idea to me. Absolute game changer.

    1. Didn’t Britomart used to be a bus interchange. A horrible desolate place, but still somewhere multiple bus regions terminated at.

      1. Yep. Horrible place, but it worked quite well. Used it many times. I have wondered how Auckland could work without it since its demolition and replacement with a twee shopping precinct. Sort of inclined to say that we should bring the bus terminal back….
        …mind you, anything would be better than that Sky City hell hole up Albert St. God, that’s awful.

    2. Good wayfinding design and deployment for the existing bus service stop locations in the downtown / mid-town areas, removes the need for a bus service interchange on the site of the current AT Downtown Car Parking Building. That site development needs to have all its car parking removed and be a mixed use build with covered walking connections in various directions.

    3. Not really, a bus interchange for buses from a few routes so they don’t use the facility they’ve just built for exactly this purpose in order to get them off Quay St, with other buses in other streets and other bus interchanges elsewhere.

      1. Matt
        I’d love to see what the design model is for this interchange. The Manukau facility where buses forward in and reverse out just seems slow and cumbersome. Maybe it’s a model that suits intercity buses where time isn’t of the essence, but local buses?
        And that far from Britomart – what about connectivity? It reeks of the 82 and NEX at Victoria Park. It worked really well and then they spread the changeover by 200m. Good on a good day.

  9. Taking out that flyover sounds fantastic for improving connection between Quay Street and the Viaduct Basin area, which would improve access to public transport at the Ferry Terminal and Britomart. Add in a bus station and a bicycle terminus and that improves yet more. That should enable decreased car parking on the site and open up more space for downtown living & working.
    From memory there are other car parking buildings in the immediate area, which will continue to serve short-term visitors to the restaurants, etc. for whom public transport doesn’t work. I understand the “families with children” argument, but the best answer to that is an actual rapid transport network across the region, so the PT trip is not too hard. (Or better still – it turns out your local frequent bus takes you past local shopping areas with equally good restaurants, so there is less need to go all the way in to town).

  10. “AT say it’s their job to provide lower-cost short stay parking. Now this is the role they set for themselves in their parking strategy but the question the council should ask is “should it be their job to provide this?”

    https://at.govt.nz/media/1119147/Auckland-Transport-Parking-Strategy-May-2015.pdf#:~:text=Parking%20in%20Auckland%20The%20strategic%20direction%20for%20the,spatial%20framework%20for%20the%20growth%20and%20development%20of
    Does it in fact say this in the Auckland Parking Strategy? I have read this document endless times and I have not seen it.

    Does AT believe this is the way that they should operate? Definitely yes.

    Unfortunately in almost all city traffic matters, AT are the problem and not a part of the solution. You just have to look at their policies compared to the cities who are managing changing car mode share really well (and that’s not Wellington, or anywhere in Australia, but some European cities.) Low priced parking is a major part of that problem. Weekend parking at $2 per hour and week day parking encourages car use. Only if you live within one zone can you take the bus for less.

    Get rid of parking at Downtown in its entirety. There is an over supply and it is noticeable post covid that city car parking is cheaper. All day parking is now sub $20 when it was previously sub $30. There is no doubt in my mind that this is part of the reason for the slow rebound in PT ridership. AT’s previous research has pointed to the strong correlation between parking prices and PT ridership.

    And don’t stop with the Downtown car park. Victoria St would be a great location for high rise development with its proximity to the Aotea Station.

  11. This is infuriating. What will it take for Council to remove AT’s board members one by one until they follow directions?

  12. There is something fishy with the parking figures. They have roughly 2000 car parks, 700 odd are leases (which do not support short-stay visitors) and there are still roughly 1000 empty spaces at peak times? That means that only about 300 car parks are being used for short-stay at peak times?

    Does anyone know how many car parks are actually being used by short-stay visitors at peak times? And follow up question if these were all lost from downtown couldn’t they be accommodated in the other AT car parks if they kicked out all the long-stay parkers and leaseholders from those car parks?

    1. What’s the bet those 700 leases are getting a below-market-rate as an enticement, a subsidy by ratepayers.

      Cut them loose and let them find something at the market rate, including any remaining AT carparks (price adjusted).

      Stop distorting the market and driving unnecessary behavior at the expense of ratepayers. Where is the Citizens & Ratepayers group on this? (sarcasm)

  13. Can’t they just compulsory buy Britomart car park and Les Mills and be done with it? Close to Britomart Station and enough space to terminate all buses entering the CBD.

    1. We already have loads of spaces for bus terminals. The space is called streets. We have solved bus terminating infrastructure on streets in the CCMP, we just need to get on and do it.

  14. AT needs to move from being a supplier of parking, to a manger of parking demand. For that reason alone the downtown car park should go, and the money used for something of greater public benefit.

    The revenue stream can also be replaced by an annual levy on the owners of city car parking spaces, to reflect the cost of road infrastructure needed to access them. Otherwise parking restrictions create an untaxed windfall monopoly profit to city car park owners.

    Most Australian cities already do this. The levies range from $1000 to $2000 per space per year. In Auckland that would generate $55 million+ per annum.

    1. Yeah I am very surprised this hasn’t even been raised publicly by the Council, considering how strapped for cash they are and how easy it would be to apply to the Auckland CBD

      1. And ownership of city carparks is a big money business. Wilsons are owned by the billionaire Kwok family of Hong Kong investors. No reason not to have a levy on them that reflects their cost. All the profits leave the country.

    2. I’m more of a fan of charging for using the roads and driving itself (which is the issue), rather than some proxy like parking spaces. Seems like there is a much better solution with automatic tolling. One issue with a parking levy It makes downtown / apartment living slightly less attractive for little reason, while we really want to be encouraging it, or at least not discouraging it. I’ll use my hopefully future self as an example. My sport (tramping / climbing) essentially requires a car to access and always will. Some of these road ends get a couple people there a day. I own a car I use every couple weekends, this would directly discourage me for living in a more efficient /better for the city way. Encouraging more suburban living. The parking levy also doesn’t impact taxi or Uber drivers.

      You could say why not both, but then you’ve implemented the tolling for road use, why not charge that more? Vehicle kms is what we want to discourage, the tolling would directly charge this. The parking charge is just a poor proxy for this.

  15. The Downtown carpark is very useful for coming into the city in the weekend or evenings. Do need a element of cost effective parking in the city to cater for people living outside the CBD. Not going to take the family on the bus

      1. I’m presuming: Cost, time, perceived (probably the bigger barrier) and legitimate safety / rif-raf concerns.

        Off peak travel is where PT doesn’t exactly shine in Auckland. It’s usually vastly quicker to use a car. Single occupant commutes in cars are usually more expensive than on the bus, but 2 adult fares plus a couple kids on the bus is usually much more expensive than the marginal cost of driving (not total cost, but the cost of adding this trip). On the bus one time I legitimately had to sit through several mongrel mob members barking (yes like actual dogs, woof woof) into a phone interspersed with less savoury conversion. Not usually an issue when you’re driving a private vehicle. And while I don’t really care and find it somewhat entertaining I probably wouldn’t want my young or teenage kids there. Plus there’s the bus drivers semi regularly copping legitimate abuse, usually racist too, from people who’s hop cards fail.

        Off peak travel really needs to be more viable with infrastructure / bus lane hour / station integration, and the price does need to be brought down. However there does still remain significant sentiment that busses are “looser cruisers” in the general population, and that isn’t good imo. Talk about actual issues sure, but general hating on something with no legitimate reason isn’t on.

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