Around 90 percent of New Zealand's people now live in areas where parking mandates have been abolished.
This bold step was part of national efforts to tackle one of the world's worst housing affordability crises.
The episode (and the article below) is a lively discussion on the inspiring parking-reform progress in New Zealand and in its main cities.
I was joined by Scott Ebbet and Jym Clark. Both played key roles.
Scroll down to read a summary. Or listen with the player below..
Why should you care, even if you are far from New Zealand?
This case offers insights for parking reformers everywhere on how change can happen.
For example, here are three possible lessons (among others) to take from the episode:
- Bringing 'parking rock star', Professor Donald Shoup, to your city could be a huge boost to your parking-reform momentum!
- Parking reform can be central in efforts on housing affordability and abundance.
- Parking reform at higher levels of government, rather than the local level, is a promising path forward.
Here is a list of key points from this encouraging episode about New Zealand
Scroll further down for much more detail on each point.
- Introducing my guests, Scott and Jym
- An overview of the key points from the episode ("The Big Picture") [7:00]
- National parking mandates abolition
- Key steps in Auckland
- Donald Shoup's influential 2010 visit
- Off-street and on-street reforms went hand in hand in Auckland [12:02]
- How Auckland avoided backlash [14:10]
- More details on the nation-wide abolition of parking mandates [16:44]
- NZ's housing crisis drove the national reforms [17:48]
- Remarkably little opposition to abolition of parking mandates[19:36]
- Jym became a "far parker" [21:04]
- Local councils CAN still require accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities [22:20]
- Only the most rural places were excluded from the abolition of parking mandates [22:40]
- Despite being exempted, some small settlements are joining the trend [23:37]
- Abolishing parking mandates has a high benefits to cost ratio! [24:19]
- Different parts of cities see different costs and benefits from removing parking mandates [25:14]
- Park-once-and-walk planning in post-earthquake Christchurch [25:48]
- National reform passed easily. But are there local backlashes? [26:40]
- Is national abolition of parking mandates having the desired effects? Early signs say yes [35:40]
- A possible loophole to keep an eye on [28:15]
- National guidance to help boost on-street parking management [29:19]
- Paid on-street parking is surprisingly common in New Zealand. Why? [30:06]
- An instructive experiment: Hastings removed on-street parking fees but quickly changed its mind [31:00]
- Demand-based parking fees in Auckland since 2015 [32:59]
- Don't be Anti-Dessert! Manage parking with pricing not time-limits! [34:20]
- Removing time-limits for on-street parking in commercial areas was a key to winning business support for Auckland's on-street parking strategy.
- Demand-based pricing instead of time-limits also reduced parking infringements by 25% [34:50]
- If car-dependent New Zealand can do this, anywhere can [38:03]
I also spoke briefly with Tony Jordan, President of the Parking Reform Network.
He shared some news:
- The Parking Reform Network website has had a total makeover.
- PRN keeps on improving the Mandates Map of cities making progress on parking mandates.
- PRN just launched a useful new resource: "Parking Benefit Districts: A Guide for Activists". Parking Benefit Districts make parking fees more palatable by using a portion of the revenue to improve the area.
Reinventing Parking is the official podcast of the Parking Reform Network.
My guests for "How to get parking reform done: the New Zealand story" were:
- Scott Ebbett works on parking across New Zealand as a principal consultant with the consulting firm, MR Cagney. Before that, he worked in Auckland Transport as a parking design and policy manager for 10 years in which there were huge improvements to parking policy.
- Jym Clark is senior policy analyst in the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment where he played a key role in developing the National Policy Statement for Urban Development, which abolished most parking minimums. He previously spent two years with the city of Toronto and five years with Auckland Council as a planner, working on the Unitary Plan, in which many parking mandates were abolished.
The Big Picture
Starting at about the 7 minute mark (after my chat with Tony Jordan),
Scott gave a rapid overview of key parking reforms in New Zealand since
about 2010. Each of these were also discussed in more detail later in the episode.
National Parking Mandates Abolition:
In 2020, under the National
Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) all local
governments that administer "urban environments"
(settlements with more than 10,000 people) were banned from including minimum car parking requirements in their district plans.
|Infographic from the New Zealand Government with highlights from the NPS-UD 2020.|
Auckland's key steps:
The national parking mandates abolition had been preceded by important earlier steps in Auckland, which is the country's largest city by far.
The 2010 amalgamation of Auckland's many councils into a single Auckland Council provided the opportunity for an overhaul of planning regulations. The subsequent Unitary Plan removed minimum parking requirements from town centers and from high density, residential areas.
These changes were complemented by the development by Scott and his team of a new parking strategy for the city in 2015.
By the way, Auckland's parking policy efforts also featured in an earlier episode of Reinventing Parking.
A 2010 Visit from Donald Shoup had helped build momentum!
In 2010, Professor Donald Shoup visited New Zealand. His visit included a well-attended talk and one-day workshop on parking.
Both Scott and Jym cited this event as a huge influence on each of them, as well as a great boost for parking reform in the country.
More highlights from "How to get parking reform done: the New Zealand story"
Off-street and on-street reforms went hand in hand in Auckland [12:02]
Scott and his colleagues therefore developed the first Auckland Transport parking strategy to address those concerns.
A high-profile element was an effort to better manage parking in the residential areas close to central Auckland. This greatly reduced the level of commuter parking in those areas.
Scott explains in the episode that most areas of Auckland had not actually seen much on-street residential parking. So a modest increase in street parking was not seen by the team as much of a problem.
But, in any case, the new strategy contained clear guidelines on what to do if parking in any such street did ever become a problem.
How Auckland avoided backlash while expanding paid on-street parking [14:10]
Of course, on-street parking changes, especially expansions to new areas, always require a public engagement effort. And in Auckland, this effort was extensive.
But crucially, this was NOT about specific changes to specific streets or neighborhoods. It focused on the strategy, not the specific street-by-street outcomes.
The public engagement energy concentrated on questions such as what parking management steps would be warranted if any street reached certain parking conditions, such as parking occupancy levels or the incidence of illegal parking.
When the time came to take action in specific places, Auckland's parking team could point out that they were following the strategy that had been consulted on and broadly endorsed.
It also helped that some of the elected officials who had to defend these steps had attended Donald Shoup's 2010 events and had a good grasp of parking issues.
More details on the nation-wide abolition of parking mandates [16:44]
Jym explained that under the 2020 National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD 2020), local councils had to remove their minimum car parking requirements by February 2022. They also had to remove all policies and objectives which would otherwise require parking. No stealth parking mandates!
Interestingly, some councils followed through sooner. More on this near the end.
In addition to parking reform, the NPS-UD had several other key thrusts, such as a push for more evidence-based and data-driven processes in developing planning documents, including housing and business assessments, to improve long-term spatial strategies.
The NPS-UD also included striking intensification requirements. For example, councils were required to zone for at least six storeys around a train station, within the walkable catchment.
A horrendous housing crisis drove these national reforms [17:48]
New Zealand has been suffering an enormous housing affordability crisis. It has one of the highest house price to income ratios in the world, especially in Auckland.
But New Zealand's primary motivation for abolishing parking mandates was about making housing more affordable.
The abolition of most parking mandates faced remarkably little opposition [19:36]
I expressed surprise that the NPS parking changes didn't spark more ferocious opposition.Proponents successfully framed the reforms in ways that won the day.
New Zealand has so far managed to mostly avoid having parking reform become embroiled in the culture wars.
According to Jym, some centre-right politicians did flirt with opposing the changes but that the party leadership decided to support removing car parking mandates. They liked the idea of moving from a regulatory-based to a market-based system for parking supply.
A key message was the idea of offering more choice when buying a house, to decouple housing and car parking.
Let's allow other people, not government planners, to be the experts in car parking and let other people to be the experts in building houses, said Jym.
Jym also highlighted that this wasn't going to be just about paying for car parking. But if you want to make the choice to park exactly at your destination, then may have to pay. You may have to pay (for a permit, say) if you want to park right outside your house on the street in a high density area. There is plenty of car parking but if you want it for free, then you might just have to walk further.
Jym became a "far parker" [21:04]
At this point, Jym said he is happy to walk a little between parking and final destination. He described himself as a "far parker".
That was a new one for me!It seems "far parkers", having neared their destination and started a search for parking, are content to park in the first space they find. They don't keep hunting for that elusive closest or best space.
Paid parking would be so much more palatable if we could persuade more people to be "far parkers"!
Local councils CAN still require accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities [22:20]
These far-parker comments reminded us that not everyone has that choice. Some are not able to walk very far.
Indeed, New Zealand's NPS-UD did not ban local councils from imposing parking mandates for accessible car parking spaces for the use of people with disabilities.
Only the most rural places were excluded from the abolition of parking mandates [22:40]
Was the abolition of parking mandates was truly nation-wide? The answer is almost.
Jym estimated that roughly 90% of the population has had car parking minimums abolished in their municipality.
But parking mandates were not banned for very small councils in charge of very small settlements and rural areas, except where those rural areas are part of a larger urban local government.
Despite being exempted, some small settlements are joining the trend [23:37]
I wondered if some places that are not required to end parking mandates might end up doing so anyway, as they see how it works everywhere else.
Jym mentioned that the small town of Hāwera in south Taranaki, with less than 5,000 people, has indeed voluntarily removed parking minimums before being required to.
Abolishing parking mandates has a high benefits to cost ratio! [24:19]
Research was another key to the passage of the national parking reforms, in particular research that pointed to a very high benefits to costs ratios for abolishing parking minimums.
Scott reminded us of the analysis by consulting firm, PwC, that found:
"We estimate that removing minimum parking requirements (MPRs) in the five major urban
centres for which data was available would result in indicative benefits of $670m, compared to indicative costs of approximately $78m for a cost benefit ratio of 8.6."
(Source: PwC New Zealand, Cost - benefit analysis for a National Policy Statement on Urban Development.
Final report for the Ministry for the Environment, July, 2020)
Wow! Eight point six!
Different parts of cities see different costs and benefits from removing parking mandates [25:14]
An interesting detail, mentioned by Jym, was the way costs and benefits vary from place to place.
These patterns should encourage even more widespread abolition of parking mandates.
Yes, the highest benefits from ending parking mandates are in dense, mixed-use areas of large cities.
And yes, if we look at more suburban locations and smaller cities, there are smaller benefits from the reform. But there are ALSO much smaller costs in such places.
Removing minimum parking requirements has benefits that outweigh costs even in small towns and in outer suburbs, and even in places with weak public transport.
National reform passed easily. But are there local backlashes now? [26:40]
Like Auckland's earlier reforms, public consultations on the national reforms focused at a strategic level, rather than the local level and very far removed from specific building proposals.
But now, as every affected local government has now abolished the parking minimums, and buildings no longer require parking, is there a backlash, I asked?
Scott explained that councils had no choice. They did not consult on removing their minimum parking rules. There was no point.
For the councils, Scott's view was they they realize they now need to have a strong public parking management policies and capacities to deal with any on-street impacts that may emerge over time.
Is national abolition of parking mandates having the desired effects? Early signs say yes [35:40]
Near the end of the episode, I asked if there are any early signs of results from these national reforms. Is there evidence of change in the pipeline of real-estate developments as a result?
Jym certainly sees a trend for developers building with less parking than before.
Scott mentioned research he has been involved in that looked at trends in the Hutt Valley, which is part of the greater Wellington metropolitan area.
Hutt City Council was very quick to abolish its parking mandates, almost immediately after the NPS-UD was gazetted, and long before the deadline of February 2022.
MR Cagney has tracked medium density housing developments in Hutt City and found that between 2019 and this year, car parking spaces per apartment dropped from about one per unit to about 0.5 per unit. There has also been a lot more development.
Furthermore, house prices have begun to drop a little. Remember, housing affordability was a key goal of all this.
Scott is convinced that the parking reforms have played a part. The cost of providing parking has dropped. And many of these developments would not have happened if they still had to provide one car parking space per unit.
A possible loophole to keep an eye on [28:15]
Jym does foresee one potential problem.
The national policy removed the parking mandates but compromised by not removing the ability of councils to consider the effects of car parking spillover when evaluating planning applications. An advisory body felt that would be going too far.
Some local government planners may be tempted to try to negotiate for more on-site car parking rather instead of staying hands-off over parking supply, as the national policy intended.
Time will tell if this becomes a problem. Jym's hope is that most will focus instead on other ways of managing parking rather than trying to impose on-site parking like before.
National guidance to help boost on-street parking management [29:19]
The NDS-UP does strongly encourage local councils to manage the effects of a new parking supply and demand situation through comprehensive parking management plans instead of parking minimums.
Furthermore, Scott highlighted that the New Zealand transport agency, Waka Kotahi, has developed a national parking guidance document which councils around the country can use to understand best practice parking management principles and guidelines. He is aware of various councils that are making use of that guidance to improve on-street parking management.
Paid on-street parking is surprisingly common in New Zealand. Why? [30:06]
That reminded me to ask about something that surprised me as I researched this episode.
Paid on-street parking is surprisingly common in New Zealand, especially compared with my home country, Australia.
Of course, I should not be surprised if councils and business lobbies see the wisdom of managing parking to achieve enough turnover. But Australian cities should see that too.
So what's your secret? How do the Kiwis do it, I asked.
Scott's joked, "Oh, we're very different from Australians."
Jym wasn't certain but guessed that it might be because centralized funding regime means that local councils in New Zealand find it difficult to raise funds.
An instructive experiment: Hastings removed on-street parking fees but quickly changed its mind [31:00]
Both Scott and Jym talked about the small city of Hastings, which removed on-street parking charging for a while after the council was pressured to make parking free.
However, the results were not what free-parking proponents had promised. The council lost NZ$60,000 in revenue, yet there was little or no difference in visitation and local business.
So the council consulted the community again, asking if people preferred parking to be paid for through an increase in local taxes or if parking should be user pays. User pays won.
This result was obviously helped by the fact that the previous situation had been paid parking. So there was a revenue loss that needed to be covered. But this was an instructive example.
Demand-based parking fees in Auckland since 2015 [32:59]
We returned to the Auckland story near the end.
I asked Scott about the demand-based approach to on-street parking fees that was part of the parking strategy in 2015.
Scott confirmed that this is still working, with price reviews every year or 18 months based on parking occupancy surveys. The pandemic interrupted the process for a while, however.
Auckland has also successfully shifted some new areas from free parking to paid parking under this demand-based approach.
Don't be Anti-Dessert! Manage parking with pricing not time-limits! [34:20]
Scott made the point that removing time-limits for on-street parking in commercial areas was a key to winning business support for Auckland's on-street parking strategy.His team at Auckland Transport proved to local business interests that the one hour time limits that had been in place in many areas were actually bad for business.
If you support one hour time limits instead of the right prices for parking, then you are anti dessert!
Demand-based pricing instead of time-limits also reduced parking infringements by 25% [34:50]
Auckland's shift away from time restrictions to right-pricing also had another major benefit.
Central city parking infringements dropped by 25%.
That's important for various reasons, not least that getting a parking ticket is a very negative experience which is clearly bad for downtown business.
If car-dependent New Zealand can do this, anywhere can [38:03]
Jym's final point was that it is amazing to see that New Zealand has carried out such bold parking reforms, when we realise that it has perhaps the highest car ownership levels in the world, with over 90% of households having at least one car.
Car dependence is not a reason to refrain from abolishing parking mandates. Quite the reverse in fact.
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