Yesterday I covered the that the council has revealed it has a $270 million operational cost gap that it needs to fill, largely caused by higher than expected inflation and interest costs. A lot of public discussion has already begun on how to address that and it seems to be focusing on things like selling the council’s airport shares or leasing out port operations.
I suggested a few areas the council could look to too, such as:
- Getting a better deal out of government
- Focusing funding on areas where it’s actually needed
- Selling some publicly owned golf courses
I’ve also been thinking a bit more about some things that could be done in the transport space so I thought I’d share a few more ideas, and ones that could benefit the council not just now but into the future too as well as things that align with the council’s and government’s current long term strategic goals.
More On Street Parking charging
Currently we only charge for on-street parking in a handful of places around the region. Auckland Transport’s draft parking strategy aims to improve the management of parking around Auckland and in many cases that means more proactive management. The strategy even highlights where the initial focus for the management of on-street parking would happen.
With council in need of extra revenue, perhaps one option could be a rapid roll out of paid parking in many of the locations identified by the strategy. As well as raising revenue for the council it will help encourage people to use other modes of transport if they can, helping in reducing both emissions and congestion – which can be exacerbated by people circling looking for a space. Those that want to or need to drive will also find parking easier.
And if you need another reason for why we should charge on-street parking more, a high-level estimate is that ratepayers are currently subsidising free on-street parking to the tune of $1 billion annually:
Better Parking Enforcement and higher fines
Even without charging for more on-street parking, more enforcement is needed. Over the last five or so years it feels like incidences of cars parked on footpaths, in cycle lanes, across driveways, through our public spaces, and more have severely increased. There are a variety of reasons for this but the main one is a lack of fear of enforcement meaning people are weighing up that it’s cheaper to get the odd fine than it is to pay for parking daily, such as this example from Dunedin.
I DID THE MATH. I’ve had $221 in fines in about 37 weeks. Leasing a park would cost about $50 a week (current Wilson special is $48.75, DCC equivalent is $46.50). I’ve saved about $1500. I’m welcome pic.twitter.com/srkxezf54P
— Sinead Gill (@sinead_gill) October 26, 2022
Along with more enforcement, AT need to charge higher fines because as this recent RNZ article notes, AT often make no money from enforcement actions.
AT could issue fines of $40 for footpath parking breaches, and in the last seven months issued almost 6000 of these fines – about $240,000 in total.
However, in issuing an infringement AT had to spend more than $30 on average, plus further costs to tow a vehicle, meaning the organisation could actually lose money enforcing the law.
And if raising fines requires action from the government, then council and AT need to be strongly advocating for that to happen.
Getting vehicles off footpaths is critical, especially for those with disabilities, those who need to use mobility devices and parents with prams, for whom an inconveniently and illegally parked vehicle can cause them to have to go out into traffic or find another route. This also from that RNZ article:
People using wheelchairs often kept to routes with well-designed crossings and kerb ramps which they knew they could safely navigate, she said.
“To suddenly have this barrier in the way of a vehicle inconveniently parked throws you out completely, and you might actually have to reverse your journey and find another route.”
For people with vision impairments, the path could be even more challenging to negotiate.
“There’s suddenly this obstacle in the way… Are they going to step into the road in order to get out of the way?” Naylor said.
“They have no idea what traffic is coming in their direction and the more electric cars we have, the quieter the traffic is going to be.
“That just adds to the hazard of it all.”
Park and Ride charging
Like with on-street parking, AT should be encouraged to urgently implement paid parking at park & ride facilities, and like with on-street parking doing so is also part of the parking strategy.
While park and rides will continue to cater for, and focus on, long stay, they will also be priced to encourage access by other modes where possible, and to recognise the cost to provide parking facilities
Residential parking permits
Auckland Transport have rolled out Residential Parking Permits to 18 locations, most of which are on the fringes of the city centre.
A residential parking zone is an area where eligible residents and businesses can apply for parking permits and coupons that give an exemption from parking restrictions.
The main idea of these areas is that it makes it easier for local residents to park their cars on the street while the normal parking restrictions help discourage commuters who were parking in the streets and often walking or catching a bus the last few kilometres into the city.
For residents in these areas the zones are incredibly valuable as they not only make it easier to park and use their cars, potentially encouraging them to drive more, but for those that do have off-street parking they can make those properties more valuable as that space can be converted for other uses.
The real kicker with these permits is the cost, with them being just $70 per year, an absolute bargain.
My understanding as to why the cost is so low comes down to legislation only allowing for councils to only charge the cost of administration, rather than something closer to the actual value of these spaces. Like with on-street parking, the council and AT probably need to be lobbying for this to change.
Red Light Cameras
Like with illegal parking, red light running has become an epidemic in Auckland and every time it happens there’s a chance it could end in tragedy.
The council should be pushing for a massive roll out of red light cameras and do a deal with the government to ensure that any revenue raised by them is given to the council – ideally every intersection would have them.
None of the ideas above on their own, or even combined, are likely to be enough to plug the $270 million revenue gap – but could help in reducing the size of the gap while also improving other areas like safety. They should at least be in the mix of things looked at.