Managing parking is one of the most important tools councils have in addressing many of our urban transport issues. The presence of easy, free or too cheap parking encourages people to drive which can contribute to increased congestion and emissions. Meanwhile on-street parking also takes up valuable space that can better be used to provide safer or faster alternatives such as bike or bus lanes – or as the pandemic has highlighted the need for, more public space or areas that hospitality businesses can use to spread out.

Last Thursday the council’s planning committee signed off on the ‘strategic direction’ for the review of Auckland Transport’s Parking Strategy. If you’re wanting to watch the video of it you can below.

Just to be clear, the strategic direction is not the strategy but general theme to be used for a ‘public discussion document’ that AT will put out this year for feedback. They’ll then use the results of that consultation to create a draft Parking Strategy which will go out for a formal public consultation before they decide on the final version.

So if a consultation for a consultation seems overly cumbersome and bureaucratic, you’re not wrong and is just the latest example of ATs new favourite stalling and deflection tactic, reviewing existing strategies that they have failed to do anything about implementing – they’re doing the same thing with their cycling strategy.

So it seems AT are buying themselves a few more years of not being questioned as to why they haven’t done anything.

AT say there are three key reasons for the review:

  • To update it to reflect changes to council strategy and government policy such as the Unitary Plan, Auckland’s Climate Plan, the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development and in particular the impact that removing parking minimums will have.
  • To provide a new community mandate
  • To enable the delivery of the 10-year Regional Land Transport Plan.

To me, all of these are excuses of some kind. The first point should be a pretty simple update, implementing the existing plan would deal with the third – though to be fair there are some areas where AT could make this easier for themselves after watering down the existing strategy between the draft and final versions. But the second reason is the most egregious. On it, AT’s manager presenting to the council said:

We need to re-engage with the community on parking we haven’t had this conversation for quite a long time and we need to have this conversation to hear and speak to the community about the role of roads and streets and the role of space in roads and streets what it’s going to be used for in order to achieve our goals

This goes to a much wider issue with Auckland Transport that has been concerning us for some time, why hasn’t this been happening before. There is a huge amount of education, conversation and leadership needed on transport issues, be it parking or other topics such as safety, active modes, mode shift etc, and yet for years now AT has been silent, seemingly preferring to make decisions based on talkback radio reckons.

As to the strategic direction itself, overall it is good but then again is basically the same as their existing strategy.

Interestingly here Councillor Chris Darby said there had been significant changes to the strategic direction following workshops with council officers and councillors, which makes you wonder how bad it was to begin with.

The key principle behind the strategic direction is:

As a general principle, road-space will be managed to prioritise safe and efficient movement of people, goods and services alongside the place value of a location. Kerbside space allocation will typically provide for (in order of priority):

  1. Safety
  2. Strategic transport networks (public transport, cycling, walking, freight and general traffic)
  3. Recognise the role/needs of adjacent land uses
  4. Land use overflow parking

This all makes sense and storage of private property should be the lowest rung on the ladder for use of street space.

Also key is around how the strategy is rolled out.

It seems that in workshops the Councillors didn’t like Auckland Transport’s initial options and very “strongly felt that it was it was not appropriate to have a blanket approach to parking management that applied across the region” and that AT have bespoke parking management that is “aligned with the readiness and capacity of an area for change“. The paper says:

This reflects a recognition that, although the ultimate goal is to manage all parking to support a shift to sustainable modes and reduce transport emissions, the immediate approach needs to be more specifically tailored to the wide range of transport options and land uses available across Auckland.

Why shouldn’t we have blanket approach. Are councillors saying we have areas that don’t have a need to rapidly roll out changes to our streets to support active modes or public transport and reduce emissions. As for the ‘readiness for change’, this is based on a three level system.

Where these levels apply across Auckland is shown on the map below.

The paper says

The principles would also mean that:

  1. level 3 areas are generally addressed first, from the center outwards, followed by Level 2 areas – with coverage of all Level 3 & 2 areas expected to be complete before the end of the decade (depending on resourcing). Change in some areas will only be triggered by the completion of new projects, such as rapid transit links.
  2. parking is automatically removed where projects occur on the public transport, cycling & micromobility, freight and general traffic networks (generally arterial roads), without any requirement to mitigate the situation by providing replacement parking elsewhere; and this not being subject to further consultation with local boards.
  3. where parking management occurs in response to demand or other issues, the presumption will be to remove ‘longer-stay’ or unregulated parking in favour of time regulated or priced parking, or outright removal. This will create challenges for carowning Aucklanders who buy properties without off-street parking or have come to rely on the roadway for storage of their vehicles, so we propose the strategy includes a strong communications component emphasising that residents cannot rely on the streets for long-duration parking in the future

Part B of that set off the Herald’s Bernard Orsman labelling it as radical and a war on cars. Mayor Phil Goff jumped on this in the meeting, perhaps somewhat performatively given Orsman also jumped on it.

I ‘m really worried about where we say we’re gonna automatically remove parking without further consultation with local boards or anyone that may be convenient for Auckland Transport or for or for somebody else but it will look bloody arrogant to the average member of the public that says you’re taking away my parking space and I don’t even have a say on it and I don’t even have any options

You know democracy is about governing with the consent of the people and I’m a little bit worried that we’ll piss people off enough uh that they will simply revolt against us and you won’t have that consent

Since when did council hand over public space for people to own. Moreover it is clear this is about removing parking tied to projects such as delivering bus or bike lanes so this isn’t something that is just happening overnight.

As Councillor Pippa Coom pointed out, it will actually make things easier for drivers

In terms of this being framed as a war on cars, which I just find is almost laughable, because the cars are actually fine. Two thirds of our transport budget goes to roading and cars. [Drivers] are finding the ability to park their cars all over Auckland. And if you come into the city centre even during lockdown, you’ll find that parked cars have taken over a lot of our public spaces including shared spaces. Cars are parking all over berms all over the place even when there’s offstreet parking. We don’t have to worry about cars in our city…

This is actually a strategy that is pro-driving. It helps drivers if we ensure that arterials are flowing freely. It helps business if freight can get around. if there are loading zones. It’s pro equity if we can ensure that the city is moving effectively and the people who need to get around can get around. It’s pro city building… And most importantly, this is pro-children, children who don’t drive, but actually want to be walk and cycle to school safely, use public transport. It’s also pro-accessibility. Because car-oriented infrastructure is often really inaccessible…

So this is all about making arterials working far more effectively, for everybody, and also noting that 30% of Aucklanders don’t actually drive… To not have effective parking management is actually anti-community. I’m really keen for us to move ahead with this pro-community approach to parking.

Another comment I’ve read is that this is in some way a radical plan.

I’d just like to remind members that there’s already a parking strategy. And in that parking strategy that was signed off six years ago now – and you could actually say that it was radical six years ago, but it was when the AT Board didn’t have to bring this anywhere near politicians. They were able to do this just taking an evidence-based approach. And do you know that in the parking strategy at the moment it says:

AT will manage parking on arterial roads by extending clearways or removing parking where it:

    • Inhibits the capacity of the road to carry more people (& goods) particularly in the peak periods, and/or
    • Causes significant delays to the speed and reliability of public transport on the FTN, and/or
    • Causes safety risks for cyclists or impedes quality improvements on the Auckland Cycle Network

So it’s already there.

The real question councillors should be asking is why AT have done absolutely nothing to implement that parking strategy. And it’s not just arterials, for example the strategy says AT should look to implement charging for Park and Rides when they reach 85% full in the morning peak. And yet six years later and with regular complaints about P&R sites being full early in the morning, AT have done nothing to implement pricing – with the recent exception of at Devonport but that was more tied to the changes their subsidised taxi trial.

Why does Auckland Transport never know about the financial details of parking

Another aspect that stood out to me also involved Councillor Coom who asked a question about the report on the agenda where under the heading of Financial Implications it says

Parking revenue helps to offset AT operational costs and therefore ratepayer funding. The cost of parking management by AT is currently around $35M per annum in operational costs. Pre-COVID-19 parking revenue was $49M annually and has been around $40M over the past two years (43% from onstreet parking revenue and 56% from offstreet parking revenue). There are many other indirect costs associated with parking which are not quantified.

Councillor Coom questioned this and if it means AT are only making a net of just $14 million annually from parking, also noting that Wellington City Council, a much smaller organisation, make around $30 million annually in parking revenue. But the AT officers couldn’t answer and said they’d have to get back to them about it.

This isn’t the only time this has happened and exactly the same thing happened in the debate about the downtown carpark where AT couldn’t answer how much revenue it generates.

Surely this kind of information should be one of the first things AT staff working on these policies learns about, or at least should expect to get asked about.

Finally, this is just the first of four areas on parking strategy review AT is developing.

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  1. The problem with saying that all parking has to be private and off the road means fewer sociable encounters on the street, lots of movements across the footpath and cycle lanes which is a poor outcome for kids and pedestrians, not to mention the opportunity cost of putting in concrete driveways over what had been trees and plantings. Would love to see a few consolidated parking areas (maybe even kerbside) in neighbourhoods for city hops, to support the transition away from having a private car.

    1. A rather bizarre comment. Do be careful about social issues being twisted to fight for car dependence.

      Let’s think about an environment that enhances social connection. It isn’t one where the public space is used to store cars. In Auckland, where the cycling network is lacking, the walking network is deficient and there are insufficient trees and public space for socialising, it’s clear what is needed to encourage “sociable encounters on the street” and it’s an enormous joke to think that public provision of parking is the best way to do that.

      Consolidated parking areas are great – but they should be paid for privately.

      1. Once you reach a certain density the outcome of on-street and off-street parking is almost the same — a row of parked cars in front of the houses. It makes sense to put the parking between the footpath and the road.

        I don’t think it matters much for social encounters, the key thing for that is to keep overall traffic low.

  2. A consultation for consultation, to consider policy they already have. To make things sane in a decades time (subject to further consultation probably).
    This despite the insane weighting they choose to give parking in their consultations right now? What an silly ineffective way to do things.

    1. And basically to take the existing strategy, which does apply to all suburbs, and downgrade it to one that doesn’t.

      1. So the thing they completely ignore anyway, like their vision zero policy and their own design manual, will have its scope reduced at the cost multiple consultations and years of not doing anything, great.

        I am sure the people being pandered to by this process, have no idea whatsoever that is happening.

  3. If the AT Board didn’t click how regressive reviewing a good strategy they haven’t followed is, it’s because AT have pulled the wool over their eyes, again. AT are like the pied piper, playing a tune called “First – let us form strategy” and the Board scurry off behind thinking that it’s good governance.

    Good governance requires the AT Board to understand this stuff.

    Good planning requires transition planning – which involves acting now, today, using the tools already available. Not delaying again for yet another review.

    1. 100% Heidi. There needs to be an enquiry with respect to the non delivery of parking control.

      Of most importance the lack of paid parking. Based on AT’s own Policy it should be everywhere by now.

      The need to ‘re-consult’ with every town centre is a big problem. This next iteration of the Policy will fail once the generally idiotic Business Associations and Local Boards put their spanners in the works and try to salvage free main street parking to save business! Despite the evidence being to the contrary… seriously over it. The emissions, vkt other harms from not valuing the storage of private assets on public space must run rings around Mill Road in erms of net negative effects.

      Would that Climate Action Group be interested to pursue this one? Seems like an opportune time… Just saying/asking for a friend…

      1. Judicial review of this decision to review the strategy is a possibility. It can certainly be demonstrated easily that the AT Board and the Planning Committee are aware of two things:

        – AT aren’t following their own parking strategy, and in the process are exacerbating problems of safety, car dependence and asset damage.

        – AT’s “review” of strategies and plans is used to water things down and delay them; the review of the Roads and Streets Framework leading to the removal of the Healthy Streets material is an excellent example.

        What’s sad is that in the meeting AT gave some excellent communications about the need for reducing on-street parking – WHY didn’t they provide those communications each time they ***reduced on-street parking***?

        1. If someone was an initiator of a Judicial Review, I’d be a supporter and chip in some of the cost.

          If it shook up the whole AT governance, planning and implementation, that would be great.

          Come to think of it, should it be the council initiating, for AT’s failure to follow council direction?

  4. Public organisations love strategies because they are always so far away they never have to implement anything, by the time they do the people who put the strategy in place have well gone. There is never a strategy on what they are going to deliver in the next 2 years or any meaningful timeframe.
    I am starting to think the super city was a bad move. We would probably be better off with local boards making local transport decisions for their area and government doing the big projects. I know our local board is very pro cycling, but they have no money and all the cycling money goes to places like St Heliers where it isn’t being used for cycling at all. AT are too big to do the small stuff that would make a big difference, but too small to do the big stuff like LR and CRL, they are almost pointless.

  5. Interesting idea about the local boards. My local board (waitakere) managed, (with help for NZTA) to get a trial of bike lane. Its pretty meaningless, but it alone is more than AT have done for the last three years.

    1. My local Board (Takapuna/Devonport) have signed off on the downgrading of the only busway and seemingly are trying to destroy proposed intensification around the Bayswater ferry terminal by insisting there has to be a park and ride there.
      It seems that you only get emissions reductions in your area if you are extremely lucky, or there is a mistake or oversight.

  6. AT are seriously proposing to replace a strategy document that could – right now – roll out the cyclelanes and buslanes needed in the outer suburbs to fight transport poverty, car dependence and high emissions…

    … and propose a multiple step process to replace it with something that won’t necessarily allow that roll out at all?

    The TERP team’s best tools are being stripped from them. WTAF.

  7. “The cost of parking management by AT is currently around $35M per annum in operational costs”

    That is an eye watering amount of money, when I assume that a majority of the parking is on street; i.e. maybe some painted lines on the road

    Then “But the AT officers couldn’t answer and said they’d have to get back to them about it.

    FFS, I would be embarrassed to turn up to a governance meeting that unprepared and so lacking of understanding of the basics of the job I am paid to do.

    The Park’n Ride thing is also an embarrassment.

    I was using Albany Park’nRide 10 years ago and it was over 85% full in the morning, and the obvious solution was to start charging so that people who really needed it could opt to add the cost to their Hop card. I would have been happy to pay if I could reliably get a park as a result. Instead they started charging for on street parking in the area, making the problem worse.

    Even knowing the right thing to do (I understand a decision was made to introduce parking charges in 2015) they still too scared to just do the things they are supposed to do

  8. The wide busy intersection Botany/Te Rakau is a challenge for pedestrians and very few people do it. Slip lanes, 5 lanes of traffic each way. Speed cameras. Red light runners. So when I walk across I need to constantly check over my left and right shoulder. After a long wait for my turn I must walk in front of the cars lined up with their engines reving and breathe the emissions. They are all watching me and wondering why I am a pedestian and why can’t I walk faster.

  9. It makes you want to cry doesnt it…

    The focus should be on how poorly executed the AT Parking strategy has been over the past 6 years. only a fraction of the city has paid parking (almost every town centre should (based on a peak occupancy of 85%). The Board needs to order an enquiry as to why delivery has failed.

    The issues as i see it:

    – Consultative paralysis –> the parking policy should be a mandate to deliver.

    The work done consulting on the policy should be treated as the consultation. Instead AT goes and re-litigates every time that the policy is to be implemented (St Heliers etc). As a result you get a very uneven application depending on the voracity of the local (anti) Business Associations and Local Boards. AT uses all their energy trying to please the NIMBY politicians. Other (poor) Local Boards get ignored.

    Resolution Process –> It is clunky and slow.

    If AT could identify a programme of works to roll out the Policy at pace with minimal ‘Re- Consultation’ then there would be huge economies of scale to deliver in concert with the private sector. the Comprehensive Parking Management Plans they do, whilst extremely detailed often dont get delivered anyway and AT only manages a few year. This should be done as a matter of priortiy for every single Metro and Twn centre.

    1. “As a result you get a very uneven application depending on the voracity of the local (anti) Business Associations and Local Boards. AT uses all their energy trying to please the NIMBY politicians. Other (poor) Local Boards get ignored.”

      This even happens within Local Board areas. AT seems more interested in butting heads than making progress where it would be welcomed.

  10. I agree with this. Why is it that parking control is ‘democratised’*?

    Most people have no idea how it works in terms of supporting modal shift and better healthier outcomes for all.

    We don’t vote on how aircraft control should be run for example or how a car’s safety system be designed… Why is it then that everyone speaks their mind on parking.

    While the negative externalities of a plane crash are obvious and stark. The negative externalities of a ‘free for all’ parking system is constantly leaking negative externalities.

    It’s like death from a thousand paper cuts as opposed to a one off fireball when a plane crashes…

    *It isn’t democratised at all… Business Associations and their Local Board cronies have all the say. Where is the voice for vulnerable road users? Children? Families? Disabled? the poor?

  11. Listening to the meeting, AT and Ac officer’s did do a great job explaining the need for parking management but I was confused because their existing parking strategy already does what they say they want it to do. Maybe they would be better off reviewing their communications and engagement strategy?

    1. Shirley, they would be better making the strategy a by-law so that it is enforceable, and then just apply the strategy. As you say, it is largely fit for purpose.

    2. I’ve listened to much of it now, too… skipped a few Councillor speeches for sanity’s sake. (So much for the work I had to do this morning.) Yes, the AT staff were great. This is what strikes me:

      AT are fully aware that councillors don’t discuss this with balance and will argue for drivers’ “rights”. (Goff in particular appalled me). So AT can look like they’re presenting evidence-based policy and that it’s the councillors who are holding things back, when in fact AT are really choosing to stir up political problems, and it’s unnecessary – but takes the heat off AT.

      1. Goff’s reckons about the “average member of the public” are galling, aren’t they? It seems he sees the car ownership stats and assumes this indicates “revealed preference” whereas if he scraped the surface of public sentiment even slightly he’d see that the public keep saying they want children and elderly people to be safe walking, they want AT to build cycle lanes and give buses priority, they want better public places, and more street trees.

        Council officers should be informing the elected members better about the rights of future generations and children, and giving them tools for dealing with misinformed reckons from the loud minority voices.

        1. I am not a fan of Goff, but he is right re what the average member the public would think in this case.
          Despite the echo chamber that is GA, in the real world people want on street parking and he would soon find himself looking for a UN job if any serious action was taken.

  12. Interestingly enough ,l got a reply from AT re valuations
    of parking buildings and revenue from same.Says l can’t republish information. So l will ask economists on here ,if you owned business assets approaching half a billion dollars,what would you expect in annual return.

    1. If you OIA’d that information, then I believe you’re entitled to share it.

      And the definition of an OIA is surprisingly broad. So long as you weren’t in any sort of contract with them.

    2. Bryan
      My previous OIA on this issue showed a return on parking assets, excluding parking buildings, of 0.7%. You don’t have to be an economist to know that this is shithouse – sorry, a boomer expression.

      Is this close to what you found?

      And what rubbish about republishing it, when anyone who asks for it must be given the information. Your are welcome to send it to me and I will publish it. I love scrapping with AT, you invariably end up on the sensible side of the argument.

      In the figures they supplied me they fudged the figures. There was no cost of borrowing – logically they have to borrow against something, apart from Watercare assets. There was also no account taken of overheads, that is, the cost of the AT parking division.

      The last returns that I saw for the Ronwood Avenue car park is that it made enough money to pay for new LED lights – wow.

      None of this should be surprising though. When some accuse Wilsons of price gouging they are achieving a commercially acceptable rate of return.

      Sell the car parking buildings for redevelopment. Its a win-win. AT offload buildings that barely return the cost of capital and the city has some wonderful sites for redevelopment, all close to PT hubs. The parking workforce could also be downsized.

      Parking costs in Auckland would rise and that would likely increase PT ridership.

      1. So they could sell up, put it in the bank, and even with the current dire interest rates, make more money for less hassle?

        1. Government isn’t a business and doesn’t need to make a profit (they can compel you to pay for things based on where you live! Or just by citizenship like the US of A).

          You could argue that they are running parking as a utility within the context of a publicly-funded road network, where people access it through buying/hiring a suitable vehicle (this would include bicycles -if there were a safe bike network). They need space to park those vehicles or this model doesn’t work. In this private vehicle model, parking is the equivalent of bus-stops, train stations and rail sidings…

          Parking “demand” is not evenly distributed (very little is). If you only have private parking, those entities get to pocket an economic rent off of publicly funded infrastructure (It’s nice to make money in your sleep).

          For utilities, cost recovery is the financial goal, and that goal is down the list of priorities.

          If you want to argue against parking, then do so on the basis of its wastefulness: of space, energy, public purchasing power. As well as it’s negative externalities: pollution, injuries, inactivity etc.

      2. I thought Wilsons is land banking.

        And also they seem to not want the hassle of casual parking. Some buildings in the city centre are outright closed in the weekend. I’m pretty sure they’re gauging the occasional sucker who doesn’t know where the AT buildings are.

  13. Yep, when Matt and Heidi say that Auckland’s parking system is broken, it is, seriously broken. If I was a Board member I would be embarrassed, if in fact I cared. A target of only 1% emissions reductions by 2030 suggest that I mightn’t.

  14. OK, so AT: PnR. I just don’t get it.

    You’re giving away parking spaces for free but when we need money for basic safety improvements to keep our kids safe, there’s no money to be had. What’s the reasoning there?

    Pretty sure we’re ALSO having to pay for you to keep making more PnR. What’s the reasoning there?

    This is actually just horrible. You know, it just feels like AT hates people.

  15. It’s funny how everyone here criticises AT and at the same time also criticises BIDs and democractically elected local boards. If AT do not listen to them, they get hauled over hot coal. I don’t think people who don’t work in AT understand this. I used to work there and there are very dedicated people who want to improve transport in Auckland but they are hamstrung by the very people we all elect and the BIDs, because they have all the connections to elected politicians. So how do the people commenting here propose AT manage its affairs? I see only criticism and no constructive engagement. If you say ‘by-pass’ local boards and don’t follow legislation, aren’t you going down the path of anarchy? And AT has no intention of upsetting local boards and other powerful stakeholders who hold it to ransom. I feel for my ex-colleagues in AT; they are in a no-win situation with you guys saying they’re useless and with politicians refusing to back them up when it really matters.

  16. “This will create challenges for carowning Aucklanders who buy properties without off-street parking or have come to rely on the roadway for storage of their vehicles, so we propose the strategy includes a strong communications component emphasising that residents cannot rely on the streets for long-duration parking in the future”

    This is too slow. Early prevention is better than dealing with angry owners who expected to be able to park on street when they bought the units. It will get ugry.

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