In 2015, Auckland Transport adopted a regionwide parking strategy. It represented a big step forward in how parking was to be managed around the region. The biggest problem with it? The fact that AT subsequently completely ignored it.
In 2021, AT decided they needed a new parking strategy and got to work on refreshing it. Last year, they consulted on their proposed new strategy. The proposal was solid – and it should have been, because while the wording was different, for the most part the strategy was identical to the one we already had.
However, AT presented the refreshed strategy as something entirely new. This opened the door for the NZ Herald and then other media to spread misinformation, suggesting it was all part of a plan to force people out of their cars and on to buses and bikes.
The two areas most focused on in the media were AT allowing for removing on-street parking from arterial roads if needed, and charging for parking at park-and-ride sites.
Included in the agenda for tomorrow’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee is a presentation given to a councillor workshop in early April, titled: Room to Move: Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Parking Strategy.
It highlights some high-level outcomes from the consultation on the refreshed parking strategy, along with AT’s proposed responses. Here are a few things that stand out.
Local Board views
The feedback from Local Boards is largely as expected, with local boards wanting a say in any proposed changes to parking in their areas and pushing back against a “blanket approach” that they say “will not suit the diversity of the region.” While 18 out of 21 boards supported the strategy (which three didn’t?),
- “some emphasised the need for a transport response to climate change”
- “many were concerned change is occurring before the community is ready or travel choices are in place”
- “strong concern about impacts that reduction in parking and increasing cost would have on the most disadvantaged”
- “desire to see implementation limited to areas with ‘sufficient’ public transport”
- support for more / better enforcement, and more parking/ availability.
Manawhenua and mātāwaka views
In recent years, the Independent Māori Statutory Board members of Council have put the spotlight on AT improving consultation with Māori, both those who whakapapa to Tāmaki Makaurau (mana whenua) and those have moved here from elsewhere across the motu (mātāwaka).
The presentation notes that Māori have higher car ownership rates than average, with a car-per-household rate of 2.2 vs total population average 1.91, although the presentation doesn’t specify whether that’s just in Auckland, or nationwide.
Climate, health and equity are key concerns:
- Parking management is a kaitiakitanga issue, about governance in managing an in-demand resource
- Acknowledgement of the need to align with Te Tāruke-a-Tāwhiri [Council’s climate action plan], in that car use / parking contributes to air quality concerns
- Access is a key concern for mana whenua, particularly for less able people, and to key cultural locations
- Acknowledgement of the complexity of parking management, and side effects, e.g. parking fines can contribute to a cycle of debt
- We heard from mātāwaka that urban marae face pressures with parking being in-demand and lots of onsite parking with redevelopment. We also heard from Maori healthcare providers about how parts of the transport system work for them in delivering healthcare.
General public feedback
And then there’s the feedback from the general public, under the heading “What Aucklanders Said”. Based on 944 submissions and some follow-up focus groups, people mostly support the strategy. In particular:
- general support for “parking management on the Strategic Transport Network”, i.e. repurposing parking lanes for other uses
- people were “divided” on what to use that space for “with general traffic, transit or bus lanes being more favourably received than bike lanes” – although no data is given on the relative preferences here
- less support for turning parking lanes into other uses, like “loading zones, trees, wider footpaths, cafe dining” – again, no numbers given on the level of support
- opposition to selling off-street parking facilities/ parking buildings
One thing that really stands out is charging for park-and-rides, which was “strongly opposed.” This is unsurprising: asking people if they want to pay for something they’re currently getting for free is unlikely to result in overwhelming support, whatever the subject.
The key slide is below. (If you’re finding it hard to read that text over the blue on the background, note that some of the other slides have blue writing on a blue background).
So, what next for the Parking Strategy?
The AT board has yet to approve these proposed changes, but in short: AT has taken their existing and largely unused parking strategy and watered it down even further.
Looking at the “proposed changes”, most concerning is that despite AT saying that people generally supported their approach to parking on arterials, any changes to the strategic network will now take longer and be more likely to result in a status quo situation:
- focus on more dynamic space, changing through the day [i.e. timed bus lanes/ parking]
- undertake a business impact analysis for any changes and develop mitigations (including relocating parking to side streets)
- provide a clear definition of the circumstances where changes will not occur.
In key centres, the proposal is for “less significant change to parking” – meaning AT will scale back on plans to proactively manage parking in many smaller centres around the region, places like Te Atatu Peninsula, Browns Bay and Howick. This includes the “removal of provisions seeking off-street parking removal” and “a more gradual transition of parking from long-stay to short-stay”.
There’ll also be more discussion and process built into parking management plans.
And in response to the public pushback, AT says it won’t generally charge for park and ride, with two exceptions:
- a charge for people who park but don’t ride – which raises the question of how will this be enforced?
- and a premium paid service that lets you book a space, starting with 10-15% of spaces to test the demand. While a pre-booked service is better than nothing, it will almost certainly rely heavily on enforcement – which is something AT has been terrible at.
In an era where both Council and AT are desperate for more money to be able to do things like run more buses, not introducing a general charge for park-and-ride means leaving a fair bit of money on the table. AT has estimated a $3 charge (per day) could have raised $4.8 million in annual revenue:
McGill said detailed financial modelling had not been carried out for the proposed blanket charge which would have been between $2 to $4 per weekday.
However, with approximately 6500 car parking spaces across AT’s park and rides and on the assumption of every space used once per weekday and charged $3, full utilisation would generate around $4.8 million in revenue each year.
However, this doesn’t account for costs associated with setting up, operating and enforcing the system and is a very high level estimate, McGill said.
As I said last year, I think AT has done a really poor job of communicating much of this strategy. For example, on the P&R charges there was no real conversation about how charging for parking can improve accessibility for a wider range of people. And no real discussion of how many people who currently use the park-and-rides often live on or near to bus feeder routes, meaning they have options other than driving to the park-and-ride.
The final proposed change is “Changes to policy wording to provide better clarity and align the [Parking] Strategy to latest Council direction.” What does this mean exactly? Council and AT are surely still directed by existing plans and strategies, including Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri, and the transport pathway laid out in the TERP.
The major elephants in the room here are climate, and safety, particularly for vulnerable modes. The 2015 parking strategy had safety as its number one concern, and it explicitly called for on-street parking to be removed wherever it would improve safety for people cycling.
On-street parking on busy streets especially through town centres creates a foreseeable and fixable risk, as we’ve seen with the death of Levi James and the ongoing DSI from “dooring” incidents. There was also a tragic death yesterday, with a person reportedly hit by a passing vehicle while getting into or out of their parked car.
Addressing this ever-present risk should be front of mind for AT, which has overseen a very concerning recent rise in deaths and serious injuries of people outside of cars, as noted by councillors at recent meetings of the Transport an Infrastructure Committee.
Also, repurposing kerbside parking lanes for micromobility is also a fast, smart, affordable way to roll out a connected and protected bike/ scoot network. This is a no-brainer for delivering climate action while expanding transport choice, as called for by the TERP and other Council and AT strategies and the Government Policy Statement on Transport.
So, next questions:
- Will Council’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee draw out these missing angles at Thursday’s meeting? Will it direct AT to remember its commitments to safety and climate – and reshape its parking strategy to help boost the budget?
- Will the AT Board question any of these missed opportunities when it meets next in May?
Catch up on our previous coverage of parking issues
Less Parking, Please covered the case for reducing parking availability to achieve safety and climate outcomes, and why “equity” isn’t the argument people think it is.
Simply repeating “getting people out of their cars” is not a communications strategy, on AT’s clumsy communications around mode shift and the role of park-and-rides.
Too little, too late: what now for safety? on town centre safety changes that prioritise saving parking over saving lives.