Time to park the frenzy over parking
OPINION: Sometimes it helps to understand something by starting at the end and working backwards. That’s the case for the highly emotive debate over the future of public parking in Auckland.
As part of global commitments to stop the planet’s warming trajectory and make it a better place for future generations, Auckland has committed to halving carbon emissions by 2030. No small task.
Because transport makes up 40 per cent of Auckland’s current carbon emissions, that means a 64 reduction in transport emissions. A really, really big task. No matter the impact of cleaner technology, Aucklanders will have to drive less (40 per cent less by one estimate), meaning either fewer trips or doing those trips on public transport, walking or cycling.
For many motorists, public transport will only be considered when it is more efficient, easier to get onto, and gets them where they want to go faster.
Cycling and walking will need to become much safer for both adults and children, meaning more and safer cycleways, separated from traffic.
Those improvements are happening, albeit slower than many would want in Auckland.
When they do happen some time over the next decade or so, and there’s kerbside parking in the way, those car park blockages will be removed. Even if they are outside shops.
That is what the draft update of the Auckland Parking Strategy proposes.
Car parks won’t be removed for removal’s sake. They’ll go when it’s time to build a better use for that stretch of road. And we’re talking about 3 per cent of Auckland’s roads – 20 per cent of its ‘‘Strategic Transport Network’’.
The thousands of car parks provided free at Park and Rides will carry a charge of $2-4 a day. That will start happening in a few years’ time when new ATHOP ticketing technology is in place.
That’s not a new idea. It is in the existing Parking Strategy, approved in 2015.
And there’s this: ‘‘Policy Action 7.7: Identify the circumstances, if any, under which charges should be applied at park and ride facilities, including the use that should be made of the resulting revenues.’’
No, that’s not from the latest draft strategy, nor is it from the 2015 strategy. It is from the 2009 Auckland Regional Parking Strategy, signed off in the final months of the Auckland Regional Council.
It’s a very old idea, waiting for politicians committed enough to implement it.
Yet the step of simply putting the proposed policy out for public consultation almost stumbled when 10 of 23 Auckland councillors and members of the Independent Māori Statutory Board voted ‘‘no’’.
How that got to that point is unclear, but there are some pointers.
Auckland Transport’s media briefing plan prior to the release of the draft went awry, leaving some outlets scrambling.
Auckland Transport itself is not a champion of plain English documents, and even the media summary ran to 20 pages.
Nowhere did it mention the figure that only 3.25 per cent of Auckland’s roads would be affected by the downgrading of parking’s priority when competing uses were proposed.
The heated public reaction prior to Thursday’s planning committee meeting clearly rattled some politicians.
The narrow vote, and some of the arguments voiced against sending the plan out for consultation, will help undermine the reception it gets over the next month.
While Auckland Transport is in charge of the strategy, it is only doing what the politicians ask it to – but the politicians, not Auckland Transport, owns the job of delivering the change that reduces emissions.
There was already a suggestion the councillors should not make final decisions on the strategy in August, but leave it to the next council – the next one elected in October.
That would be a can-kicking that Auckland’s climate change action could do without.