Auckland: unsung parking reform champ

Auckland, New Zealand, which has carried out progressive parking reforms that were remarkably bold and successful, is the focus for Episode 8 of the Reinventing Parking podcast. 

[Reinventing Parking is back after an illness-induced break. I am well again and back in action. Sorry for the long gap since the last post/episode.]

I found Auckland's parking progress really encouraging. I hope you do too.

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Auckland abolished most (although not all) of its parking minimums a few years ago and is reaping the dividends.
A graphic from Auckland's Generation Zero during the successful
campaign to rid Auckland of its formerly excessive parking minimums.

It has also set up an effective approach to on-street parking management, including demand-responsive parking fees. It has rolled these out to busy areas across the city, not just in the city centre.

Not bad for a car-dependent city (struggling to turn itself around).

And it's a measure of Auckland's parking success that the changes are now broadly accepted. There was controversy at first, but now it mostly just works as intended. 

My informant on Auckland's parking is Matt Lowrie, coordinator and writer on the Greater Auckland blog, which was one of several organizations that helped bring about Auckland’s parking reforms. 

By the way, Matt (and his colleague, Patrick Reynolds) also featured in a recent episode of the Reinventing Transport podcast about Auckland’s transport transformation and the role of the Greater Auckland blog.

How to digest this: 
  • READ the brief highlights below, and follow the links in the 'Learn More' section. 
  • LISTEN with the player above. 
  • There is a Youtube version (also embedded below).
  • Get it as a podcast. Listen with your usual podcast player app and subscribe (it's free). Search for 'Reinventing Parking' in your podcast player app or you can click the symbol that looks like a wifi icon in the player above.

Highlights from the conversation

[2:11] We started by talking about Auckland's on-street parking reforms.  

These involve:
  • a new consistent approach with clear warrants based on data to trigger different kinds of parking management intervention, depending on the situation. 
  • a demand-based approach to setting the parking prices. The prices are adjusted up or down in regular price reviews with the aim of always having a few vacancies. 
  • This started in the city centre and has since been expanded to various other areas. 
  • A ten-minute grace period was introduced to allow quick errands without messing with parking payments. 
The system seems to be working well. It met with some early scepticism from motoring organisations and retailers but now seems uncontroversial.

In fact, it has been rolled out to new areas (even some that never had parking meters before) and has been well received. Retailers and motorists have found that it is easier to find parking and less circling for parking. And it has encouraged use of existing off-street parking.

A pilot-like approach helped too, with six-month trials of the new pricing approach as it expanded. The step-by-step expansion of the demand-based parking pricing system also allowed early successes in the initial areas help persuade people in other centres that it was worth a try.

Some areas got parking fees for the first time, always a tougher proposition. Kingsland, a hip inner area near the Eden Park stadium was an example. Nevertheless, the successes elsewhere helped win over the local business association, which lobbied its members to accept parking pricing for the first time and to try the new approach to price setting.

So far there are no time-of-day variations in price but the on-street price per hour does escalate after the first hour to emphasise that on-street parking is for short-stay parking.

The revenue surplus is not earmarked for local purposes (as in Shoupista lore) but does go to Auckland Transport itself, not the general revenue pot.

[14:12]  Then we moved on to Auckland's partial abolition of parking minimums. 

The opportunity for change grew out of the council amalgamation that created the metropolitan-wide City of Auckland.

The subsequent process to create a Unitary Plan for the new local body had an important requirement - it had to be evidence based.

This opened the way for the well-known critiques of the flimsy evidence base for parking minimums to come into play. And a growing coalition, including Generation Zero and the Greater Auckland blog (then Transport Blog) got involved.

The city centre had for some time already had maximums and no minimums. This was also helpful because experience there showed various benefits and few problems.

The result was that the Unitary Plan abolished parking minimums across most zones types across the city. The main exception is areas zoned for single family housing.  There are also some modest compromises on retail due to lobbying by large retailers, who opposed the changes, seeking to keep their competitive advantage over traditional main streets and smaller retail clusters.

The effects of the change are already evident with 'parking lite' and even zero parking buildings appearing in various places, even (transit-oriented) places far from the city centre.

Of course, Auckland hears the usual fears about residents and users of such buildings clogging the streets with their parking. But Matt said Auckland Transport pushes back on these. It is confident its on-street parking management toolbox is up to any such challenges.

The inner suburbs are seeing more and more buildings with unbundled parking. Many new apartments buildings have fewer than one car park per apartment and these are sold separately from the apartments. You only buy one if you need a parking space.

Towards the end of our conversation ...

We wrapped up with several specific examples of parking controversies in particular areas of Auckland.

These highlighted how the parking changes are playing out, how attitudes have been changing (and in some cases not changing) and how things are generally moving in a very positive and encouraging direction.

The parking changes have enabled numerous other good things to happen, including bus lanes through previously unthinkable locations, bicycle lanes, and sensitive infill development that was previously blocked by parking concerns.

Again, taking things step by step seems to be key.

Here's where you can find out more about Auckland's parking changes, debates and policies

Greater Auckland blog (with searches for parking terms)

Chapter E27 (pdf) of Auckland's Unitary Plan has the details on current parking requirements (or the lack of them in many areas). Page 2 has a concise summary of the key facts on the parking minimums and maximums.

Find out more from Auckland Transport about their parking management strategies. And here is a short video they produced.

About Matt Lowrie 

Matt Lowrie is long-time coordinator of the Greater Auckland blog (formerly Transport Blog) and one of its most prolific writers.

This profile/interview provides more insight into Matt and Greater Auckland and its influence on Auckland's urban and transport debates. It has a picture of Matt too!


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  1. Great Interview.

    Further progress towards parking reforms in Auckland / NZ could be progressed if Central Government:

    (i) Allowed Auckland Transport to charge more than the administrative cost for residential parking schemes. Ideally these should be Dutch Auctions with a cap per household.

    (ii) Increased the fine for parking in a bus lane to same level as driving in the bus lane. If you drive in a bus lane the fine is $150NZ, but if you have your car parked in a bus lane, high occupancy lane, clearway the fine is $40NZ.


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