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):
- Strategic transport networks (public transport, cycling, walking, freight and general traffic)
- Recognise the role/needs of adjacent land uses
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.