Once upon a time in November 2021, Auckland Transport asked for feedback on a proposal to add parking time-limits at some corner shops on Grenada Avenue in Forrest Hill.

The proposed area for parking changes at the local shops on Grenada Ave, Forrest Hill. (Auckland Transport)

At the bottom of the project page was a familiar bit of language about Vision Zero:
This is a common footer on AT’s webpages and emails; a steady drumbeat reminding us that safety is literally the bottom line for all operations.

It’s a handy way to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize – and what a prize! Vision Zero is about safety, but it’s also a “buy one, get one free” deal – it makes streets safer for exactly the sort of low-carbon trips we need more of. But wait, there’s more! Safer streets also mean more freedom for children, more options for accessibility, better mental and physical health overall, less noise and particulate pollution, longer-lived pets, and an inhabitable planet for future generations, etc.

And heck, even if your ‘bottom line’ is the one on the fiscal spreadsheet, improving safety and mode shift via every project is a wise use of resources. Why send a work crew out twice, when you could tick that extra box in one go?

In fact, it’s hard to think of a more effective way to keep AT’s work on track than repeating the Vision Zero principles everywhere. After all, AT’s own Safety Performance Indicators include: % of staff who can confidently explain what Vision Zero is and what it means for their role as well as % of the general public [who] understand and support the Vision Zero approach.

And AT’s Vision Zero action plan 2019-2021 says:

Culture and Transformation will partner with the Safety function to ensure that Vision Zero is part of AT culture and DNA, and build AT Vision Zero advocates

In short: AT should be confidently mentioning and aiming to deliver Vision Zero at every opportunity. Even small-potatoes projects like parking at the local shops. Right?

So what happens when the public understands that Vision Zero is now the bottom line, and asks for more of it? As folk on Twitter put it:

Here’s AT’s formal response to public feedback on the project. (Public opinion is in bold; italics added in replies).

Concern that this proposal is inconsistent with the stated Vision Zero objectives and does nothing to improve the safety of walkers and cyclists at the dangerous intersection of Grenada Avenue and Blakeborough Drive. The Vision Zero statement is included in our consultation material to get the message across to all of our customers. We will try and word this differently in the future. The aim of this minor project is to address parking congestion by implementing time restrictions on existing parking spaces. This project by our parking design team did not set out to address road safety concerns.

Concern that increasing parking availability will increase the appeal of driving, leading to increased death and injury on the road. These changes are intended to support local businesses and customers as future development may lead to residents storing vehicles in the parking area outside the shops.

Suggestion of proposals consistent with Vision Zero principles:

      • Adding cycle parking outside the shops.
      • Adding cycle paths on Grenada Avenue and Blakeborough Drive.
      • Narrowing the mouth of Grenada Avenue and installing a pedestrian crossing.
      • Removing car parking outside the shops and making the car parking parallel to the street to prevent accidents from cars backing out of these car parks.

Thank you for your view on how the proposal could be consistent with Vision Zero principles. While these are all excellent ideas, they are mostly outside the scope of this minor project from the Parking Design team. There are other teams across AT that are involved in these sorts of projects. The Road Safety team look at speed reduction, the Active Modes team looks at cycle paths and cycle parking, and the Traffic Operations team looks at road layout alterations and pedestrian crossings.

If you would like any of these ideas investigated, please call AT on 093553553 or fill out a feedback form and someone from the correct team will be able to respond to you directly.

Suggestion to remove Vision Zero messaging in proposals which are not directly related to safety improvements. The Vision Zero statement is included there to get the message across to all of our customers. However, we appreciate how this may seem incongruous with some projects and will try and word this differently in the future for minor projects like this.

Now, at one level, you can appreciate the situation of the parking team and their comms colleagues. They’re just trying to deliver a minor project “in response to community requests to improve parking availability”. How does Vision Zero come in?

But it’s not too much to ask that an organisation’s overriding strategy be aligned across every part of the organisation. If the goal is to “ensure that Vision Zero is part of AT culture and DNA“, Vision Zero should be shaping every project. And even the tiniest budget, without exception, should reflect the strategy.

To quote some great New Zealanders:

“Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops.”

— Kate Sheppard

‘We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think.”

–Ernest Rutherford

“We’re placing human wellbeing and liveability, for all, at the heart of our transport network… Vision Zero will come to life by putting he tangata at the centre of our transport system.”

–Auckland Transport

Let’s take another look at the project and what it’s trying to achieve.

What’s here: A medical centre, a hair salon, a mower and chainsaw shop, a takeaways, a superette, a tutoring centre, and a pharmacy. In front of the shops are two mobility spaces (dating from 2016-2017) and twelve marked parking slots, plus parallel parking for around another eight or so vehicles on the paved off-road area that wraps around the corner. There’s also some parking behind the shops for half a dozen vehicles. And there’s an intermediate school a block away.

The shops in question include a medical centre, a hair salon, a mower and chainsaw shop, a takeaways, a superette, a tutoring centre, and a pharmacy. (Image: Google Streetview)

What’s not here: There is no bike parking, and no nearby bike infrastructure. There are no nearby pedestrian crossings or pedestrian refuges. There is no attempt to prioritise vulnerable road users: the paved parking blends into the roadway, and all corners feature extremely wide curves that make it easy for cars to swing round, and less safe for people to cross the road.

Another angle on the shops, and the cars that bring people to them. What’s missing from this picture? (Image: Google Streetview)

So what’s the problem this minor project is trying to solve, exactly? The stated aims are to “respond to community requests to improve parking availability”, to “address parking congestion”, and to “support local businesses and customers”.

In which case:

  • Did AT survey local customers (of all ages) about how they currently get to the shops, or how they’d like to?
  • Is AT currently enforcing poor parking, and will it guarantee enforcement of the time-limits on parking?
  • Did the parking team consider adding bike parking?
  • Did Vision Zero come up in the discussion at any point?
  • And how about mode shift for climate action?

That last question is critical. Helping people switch from cars to walking, cycling, or scooting for short trips is essential to achieving the city’s carbon targets. But improving parking turnover at the local shops – without doing anything to address the car-first road design – just makes it more likely locals will keep jumping in the car to get to the dairy, the takeaways, the doctor, the pharmacy, the after-school tutoring session.

Note, too, the suggestion that adding P120 signs will help with “future development [that] may lead to residents storing vehicles in the parking area.” Will it? And is this how AT plans to address parking wherever there’s development in the city? If so, this isn’t small potatoes at all. This is a reactive systematic response that’s missing the opportunity to make a real difference.

The white line shows the area of a typical low-traffic neighbourhood, superimposed on this part of Forrest Hill. The area inside the white line is one square kilometre. Really not too far to walk or bike, for those who can… or those who feel safe to. (Image: Greater Auckland)

It might sound like we’re loading an awful lot onto the shoulders of the dedicated parking team and a very minor project. Fair point. This is just about putting up some new signs, after all. Simple. Why make a fuss?

Because this one small example shows how very siloed AT’s processes still are – and how urgently we need the system-wide strategies to dissolve those silos.

Also: how inspiring it could be when that starts to happen.

Flip the script: how else might a “minor project” solve this situation? How could AT save their (and our) money and time by empowering its teams to break out of their boxes?

Lots of space to play with here – look how much is currently wasted by inviting the cars to park with their noses practically inside the shops, like importunate ponies. (Image: Greater Auckland)

How about: sketch out the shape of a low-traffic neighbourhood for Forrest Hill, so people can start thinking about what’s possible. Coordinate with the nearby intermediate school, the shopkeepers and doctors, neighbours, service clubs, anyone keen to get involved, to discuss what to do with this particular corner.

Bring forward everything you’ve learned from Innovating Streets projects – the processes, and maybe even some of the leftover materials. Maybe even take a field trip to towns that have got the gist. And take a close look at how cities around the world are creating breathing room to help keep local businesses (and their customers) alive through the waves of Covid-19.

‘The Vibe’, a public space in Thames, with The Villager Cafe behind enjoying a view of reclaimed tarmac. This project won a Keep NZ Beautiful award.

Shake loose a little of the safety budget, a bit of the climate action budget. Won’t take much – and besides, when was the last time this neighbourhood saw investment along these lines?

Then take some of that swathe of asphalt and turn it into a nice place for people. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just somewhere to sit and socialise. Because there’s definitely enough retail there to support a gathering place, and it can easily be developed over time. Food truck Fridays? Musical Mondays? Or just somewhere to sit and eat your ice cream after school?

A super simple Nelson cafe dining bump-out with built in bike parking

There are some really great models for how to do this sort of project, in exactly this sort of location. The Fantame St project in Porirua springs to mind:

There’s still plenty of room for a couple of mobility parks, a couple of paid parks, a couple of P120 parks – and a couple of bike parks!  And the rest of it can support a local version of a new vision. Tamaki Makaurau: the compact, active, accessible, healthy low-carbon city.

And repeat. All over the city. Micro projects for macro impact.

In other words, please don’t remove the Vision Zero messaging, Auckland Transport – keep it firmly on the page so we’re all on the same page! Do wrap Vision Zero into your wider vision for low-carbon neighbourhoods. And let that combined vision infuse every project, every team, every street you touch, everything you do, with more life.

My thanks to Heidi O’Callahan for her help with this post

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  1. Shouldn’t AT have applied the Parking Strategy? In contentious areas the Strategy requires timely monitoring, so if the first step doesn’t work then paid parking is introduced etc.

    This doesn’t happen because, as you say Jolisa, AT’s processes are siloed. In this case it is looking at project by project solutions. So of course the shop owners will say, why are our customers paying for parking when in Milford it is free. The whole situation regarding parking is broken, where currently changes seem to occur, or not, based on the strength of local lobby groups – invariably business associations.

    Bizarre results happen such as Huron St in Takapuna. This street is a wind tunnel and so would benefit from a few trees. It also has a 400 space car park. Waka Kotahi’s proposal to claim a few car parks for trees and outdoor eating was canned because the need for free parking won.

    In a climate emergency there can never be a need for more car parks given that there are so many, with such an appalling rate of financial return. The other situation is that AT simply cannot afford them. The current budget needs to be re-prioritised so that much more is spent on active modes and PT.

    1. You raise a good point, Taka-ite – Vision Zero aside, was the Parking Strategy applied to this project? If not, why have one?

      It’ll be interesting to see what emerges from the Parking Strategy refresh, for which feedback just closed. On the one hand, it clears the way (again, but this time with teeth?) for removing parking on strategic routes, especially for the safety of people walking, cycling, scooting, rolling. On the other hand, still not quite a fully cohesive vision for handling the wider picture: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/11/08/ats-parking-strategy-review-strategic-direction/

      1. According to the strategy, the first step would be timed parking, then priced parking, but ALSO according to the strategy, parking supply should be managed to “reduce car travel” and “reduce dependence on car travel” and “enhance walkability”…

        AT have a rich history of selectively implementing the Parking Strategy, so they should definitely be using those parts that assist Vision Zero and the climate goals.

    2. We can make a list of strange things about parking on just this one street.

      AT built a large parking building, with hundreds of spaces. It is half empty at the moment. You can’t get a monthly lease in this building. This throws away the biggest advantage of having this building there: people living in this area could rent a spot in this building. This in turn removes the need to have on-site parking for every apartment or townhouse. Having to fit in parking everywhere all but guarantees that your townhouses and apartments will suck.

      This is a “metropolitan centre”. Land is so valuable that it makes sense to convert a single story shop (the Baby Factory) and convert it to — plot twist — a surface parking lot. What is this, Christchurch? We learn from the rates assessment that the estimated land value amounts to about $68,000 per parking spot, it is appx. $3.4m for 50 spots. Wasn’t the cost per parking space in that big parking building also about that much?

      And for reasons I don’t understand, short term parking on Wilson parking lots is MUCH more expensive than staying all day. It is usually something like $12 for an entire day, but also $4 per half hour for casual parking.

      1. That “Baby Factory” carpark is a strange twist because isn’t that land owned by AT? When they built the carpark my recollection is that they put it in the middle of the site leaving portions on each side. If they are leasing land to Wilsons to destroy returns from the parking building that is bizarre.

        I suspect each car park in the building cost about $85k – building cost $26m plus land.

        So what would be a fair annual lease? 6% = $5100 per year?

        But why would AC start to invest in car parks for individuals? Surely equity considerations would have Council investing in accomodation long before they ever even considered parking.

        1. I have no idea about who owns what. 14 Huron Street used to be part of the council car park (this is still visible on Google Maps satellite view) and is now not used at all, not even for parking. Maybe that is owned by the council.

          But why? Your guess is as good as mine. This parking building is now actually there, so we might just as well think about how we can put it to better use than to fill it halfway with casual parking.

    3. ‘Shouldn’t AT have applied the Parking Strategy? ‘ It looks like that is exactly what AT were doing. Somebody complained so they are introducing time limits. All the rest is a beat up.

      1. But there is nothing in the AT Parking Strategy that requires them to consult before they implement it, or implement it again. Presumably that is why they consulted on the Strategy before they first implemented it.

        1. Yes if they made any mistake it was asking people what they think. Because then people told them and most of it wasn’t relevant in any way to the job they were doing or the budget they had to do it.

  2. Hopefully new blood in charge at AT,will bring about change. AT are probably baffled about,why a simple change to parking,stirs up such a response. The answer is ,of course,whatever changes are made , are setting the course for the future,(this is how we see the area in 10 years time). To then fob off suggestions, that it is out of scope is disappointing,l get its bureaucracy, but, really, we owe in to our future generations, to do better than this.

  3. And I can hear the spluttering, “the budget is tiny!!!” All that means how you spend it is even more critical. Why use it on P120 signs when you could install a bike stand for a few bikes?

    Increased vehicle turnover vs increased access by bike.
    Induced local vehicle travel vs enabled bike travel. Hmmm….

    This should be standard fare, and happening without wasting money on consultation, in fact.

    1. So instead the budget is wasted dealing with Twitter trolls instead. All it proves is that 1990s style consultation was a good idea then but pointless in the age of social media. It allows enthusiasts to use the project to signal to society that they are clever by suggesting solutions to different problems, then when someone gives them a polite and honest response they can do yet another tweet and claim the system is broken.

      If future AT should talk to the shop keepers and do a letter drop to the people opposite and not put this stuff on their website. I don’t want my rates wasted having to answer social media fake outrage.

      1. There’s nothing normal about AT’s consultation processes, miffy, so don’t pretend it’s the baseline from which to compare things.

        In other countries, a fairly junior engineer or planner will simply have a budget for a certain type of improvement, and will be able to prioritise where in the city the annual budget for that improvement type is to occur. Yes, then they’d maybe just talk to the shop keepers and the schools and do a letter drop…

        But the difference is that the improvements planned should be derived from safe and sustainable planning. And that’s what we’ve not got.

        THAT is why people are having to suggest things when AT gets it wrong.

        1. Except any improvement gets exploited by someone looking for more clicks and followers and even the smallest job turns into a comms exercise. What is actually the problem? Probably one or two people are parking cars outside the shops permanently. What is the solution? Stick up some P120 signs. What did they actually do? They gave some Twit (a person who uses twitter) the chance to try and further his ambitions to be an ‘influencer’.

        2. What is actually the problem is that a road environment as deficient and life threatening as this has one of our traffic engineers saying “What is actually the problem?” and thinking that a P120 sign will solve it.

          I’m all for cutting through the crap too, miffy. But there’s nothing normal about how our streets look and function, and it really wouldn’t take much to fix them up. It just takes reallocating the funding – and I’ve already pointed out that there are crap projects to reallocate it from: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/12/14/lets-discuss-priorities/

        3. There have been no crashes, injury or non-injury at these shops in the last five years. North Shore City would have had a junior person stick up a sign as you say. Part of the issue is that NSCC didn’t put signs and markings everywhere, they waited until there was an issue. For example Esmonde Road didn’t have no stopping restrictions over most of it because nobody was silly enough to park there. Similarly there are no P120 signs at these shops because nobody had any reason to leave there car there.

          But if you consult on a minor matters you are simply inviting people to make mountains of molehills to enhance their own egos. That is all that has happened here- and we get to pay the costs incurred.

    1. Lots out west too, but the one I’m most familiar with is Rua and Eastglen Roads (near Fruitvale Station). Shop corner includes probably the most popular cafe in Glen Eden surrounds, sitting on a sphincter-clenching high speed rat run between two major arterial roads that had a fairly high-profile hit and run pedestrian fatality a few years back.

  4. I am finding car parking to be a bit of a pain as I age. Probably I am just to stiff in the neck to be able to look in about four directions at the same time. I think I would prefer the end on parking to the parallel parking if I had to drive to the shops featured in this post. I suppose that’s what reversing cameras are for but I really can’t be bothered with it. So buy a new car that can park itself well no I don’t want to do that. However I think I would walk or catch a bus if its a bit further away. As for biking I am not sure its the silver bullet you people think it is. Bike security at home and your destination, safety and all that stuff. One thing is if petrol prices keep increasing then expect people to look at all options however an Omicron spread will send people back to their cars.

    1. This is my worry re Omicron too. Seeing the rise in people using their cars as a form of PPE is scary. Even in NYC, car ownership has skyrocketed with covid as people use the car as a form of protection.

      1. I can see why people prefer cars. I was in a train yesterday, from
        Sylvia Park to Puhunui. There was six adult males in the carriage I
        was in (including myself) and all of us had face masks on. Sadly,
        four of the said passengers didn’t cover their noses with the masks,
        making them virtually useless. Scares the heck out of me, but
        does’nt seem to bother those in charge.

        1. if it helps, I did some research late last year into the spread of covid on PT and its pretty uncommon and the environment is very low risk for spreading covid

  5. Seems like typical government bureaucracy. Where there are multiple teams and non of the teams want to deal with it.

    Real things happens only when a powerful person or a lobby group request it. So the senior management priorities it and have the team look into it.

    Otherwise nothing will happen.

  6. All projects,large or small,should have the Vision Zero, Climate Change lenses shone on them,what was the point of committing to either,without meaningful action. If this leads to paralysis, I say good,far better to do nothing,than lock in poor solutions,that will be difficult to undo.

  7. It will take a paradigm shift for every transport agency worldwide that adopts vision zero.

    1) It has to embedded into an agency’s integrated program/project development process so that all projects are required to integrate vision zero. Project development should not even start unless they pass a strategic objectives/policies checklist first & then before committing to implementation they should have to pass a detailed review against policy & objectives.

    2) There isn’t sufficient funding to implement a project now as “towards vision zero” and then have to upgrade it again to actually reach vision zero. What is built now needs to be vision zero.

    3) We need a nationwide vision zero/zero carbon transport infrastructure standard, with exceptions only by specific signoff & liability attached to that signoff.

  8. Thanks – Great article – and clearly articulates vision zero and our reality.

    It strikes me that there is no accountability – who are the people designing and implementing these “minor changes”.

    Own your solutions AT – eg “this car park was designed by XXX” or at the very least, the name of the team who put it together.

    Seems when we get suboptimal, counter-policy outcomes from scoped down (not our department) consultations, we only get to rail at “AT” which is pretty meaningless. Didnt we just have a CCO review that talked to this …

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