If you’ve been scrolling through the news headlines on your app and not finding the time to dig into the detail, you’ll be forgiven for thinking Auckland Transport are being radical carpark removers and are attempting to force us all into the bike lane. On the 31st March the Auckland Council Planning Committee approved the Auckland Transport Parking Strategy to go out for public consultation with Aucklanders. Having spent that same week in isolation with a Covid-infested family, I found the time to listen to the 3 hour long Governing Body debate that hashed out both the merits and issues with this strategy, and I think it’s important that we all know what’s being proposed here, because it’s a good time for you to have your say. In fact, there's only 4 days left to have your say.
There are a few accepted truths we might use as a starting point: Aucklanders need more transport choice. Aucklanders would be more inclined to use public transport (PT) if it’s reliable and gets us to where we want to go. Auckland needs to reduce its emissions profile and respond to the challenges of climate change. We can agree that roads are valuable public space and are ultimately there to help people reach their desired destinations. We recognise that widening road corridors to create additional space is expensive, time consuming, and disruptive for those whose properties need to be acquired.
If we are aligned on the above, then we can begin to see how Auckland Transport landed where it did in this parking strategy. What has been proposed is that roads in our strategic transport network (the roads considered most important for moving people, goods & services) are likely to experience a repurposing of carparks to create space for new PT/T2/T3 lanes, bike lanes, or pedestrian improvements. Auckland Transport has identified these roads as being critical to improving travel productivity and are now seeking your approval to move forward with this plan. On the surface it sounds pretty radical, removing carparks, but the truth is it’s only a little over 3% of the city’s roads and the changes will be executed over the next ten years and only when a transport project has been funded.
The lens they’ve applied to this proposal is a productivity lens – how do we realign our road corridor to benefit the majority rather than a single person who needs a car park. How do we ensure there are travel options so that jumping on a bike is actually a safe and straight forward proposal? How do we ensure buses aren’t forced into the congested traffic stream because road has been allocated to the parking of cars? How do we make mode shift more desirable for those who are able to do so?
It all seems pretty logical but if you listened to the debate when it came to approving the strategy, not all Councillors were on the same page. Some were concerned that Auckland Transport shouldn’t be consulting on the potential removal of carparks when there aren’t currently a bunch of funded transport projects ready to go. Members of the independent Māori statutory board were asking where the consultation with mana whenua and mata waka was? There was a question about impacts on businesses. There was also a concern raised with the proposal to charge for parking at Park’n’ride facilities. Auckland Transport are aware that the carparks at these facilities are being filled up early, at times by people who work nearby, rather than bus users. Their proposal to charge up to $4 a day for parking is intended to deter that behaviour; however some Councillors felt that this proposal was punishing those who had already changed their behaviour and were using PT.
What no one seemed to disagree with, however, was that the region needs to change. We have enormous challenges around growth, tackling climate change, and safety. The National Policy Statement on Urban Development has removed the requirement for carparking in developments and this is going to shift cars onto our roadside for private parking. This parking strategy is one way we can mitigate the impacts of that, by offering people quality transport choice so that they can indeed move into one of those developments without the need for a private vehicle. For these reasons, the motion to consult on the strategy was passed 13 to 10.
My personal take is that this proposal makes good sense, but what I am concerned about is the real battle, finding the capital to get those transport projects online. With a covid-cash-strapped Council, rising costs, issues in supply and what I expect will soon be a new brain drain, making the most of this parking strategy isn’t going to be easy.
It would be good for you to submit your thoughts and you can do so online. Public feedback is open until May 15th. Have your say at at.govt.nz and search ‘Draft Parking Strategy.’
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.