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Roads for people, not parking

airport light rail [1]

by Sam Donald for FIT Wellington
Roads are public space and are primarily intended for the safe and efficient movement of people and freight, by whatever means is most appropriate and cognisant of the declaration of climate and ecological emergency, which must remain front and centre of all of the Wellington City Council’s decision making.

Following our promotion of Mass Rapid Transit, walking and cycling during the initial LGWM consultation, FIT Wellington have continued to advocate for the best ways to move more people with fewer vehicles.

The distribution of road space needs to be equitable and comply with the Sustainable Transport Hierarchy which WCC follows, that being:

Note that it doesn’t have parking at the front of it, as seems to have been perpetuated by a number of individuals and some local media as of late, which would look like this:

If we were to add parking where it should be (including parking for the movement of freight), it might look more like this:

Where there is a need for road space to be allocated to the parking of vehicles, due to a lack of public, private or commercially operated off-street parking options, priority needs to be given to car share programmes. A well-managed car share programme can take away 10 private vehicles for each shared car made available. This would be a great opportunity for Wellington, where we have major constraints on road space and many users, and many uses, vying for their fair share of it.

Under the existing structure of Residential Parking, car share programmes need to be allowed to use these spaces. A continuation of the Residents’ Parking scheme reinforces New Zealanders’ 20th Century mentality that parking a private vehicle in close proximity to one’s dwelling is a right.

It isn’t, it is a privilege.

Any individual, household or business that believes they have a right to park a private vehicle (or invite their customers to park their private vehicles) on public space free of charge, or below its true cost, needs to realise that nothing is free (whether that be in initial infrastructure cost, opportunity cost for the loss of developable/rentable space, or in ongoing maintenance cost to the city) and anyone else who doesn’t take up that supposed ‘right’ to do the same is in fact paying to subsidise that space. On-street parking needs to be priced at its actual cost and not be subsidised by rates.

We need to avoid linking rights to on-street parking spaces to residential building typologies or the age of construction. Any system that prioritises existing, older dwellings in obtaining Residential Parking Permits will lead to pressure on developers to include off-street parking in new developments, which will add dramatically to the cost of new dwellings whilst making it all too easy for residents to continue with the status quo of ownership of a private vehicle, despite other options.

The great, liveable cities of the world aren’t great places to live because they make it easy or cheap to park a car – they do precisely the opposite. Many cities around the world are taking bold steps to shift the balance away from parked cars to allow more space for walking, cycling, scootering, dining, playing etc.

Some residential developments recognise the true value high quality private and communal ground level open space and go to great effort, at great cost, to locate parking underground to enable this to happen. The local Zavos Corner apartment project, by Parsonson Architects, is an example of this approach. However with the prohibitive costs of subterranean parking, and with the high value of ground level space in close proximity to the city centre, it isn’t a particularly viable solution – or a replicable model – in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

corner zavos 2 [2]

The Zavos Corner project (in Brougham Street on Mt Victoria) delivered eight warm, dry, comfortable, light filled dwellings to replace one dark and damp old one. This level of density needs to be encouraged, not discouraged, without cost barriers caused by unnecessary on-site parking – but with access to plentiful on-street car-share, combined with world-class infrastructure for walking, cycling, scootering and using public transport instead.

Space and funds can then be re-allocated to sustainable, people focused initiatives that will make the city even more liveable. Developments can include on-site water storage and productive gardens, bicycle and scooter parking, composting and worm farms with spaces and facilities for communal indoor and outdoor living that might otherwise be given over to stationary cars.

Let’s reprioritise our the makeup of our city to make a safer, more inviting, people-centred place with the aim of a reallocation of road space away from parking cars to providing spaces for people.

Let’s use smart technology and pricing techniques. This may involve increasing costs over time, but without time limits, to maintain free spaces at a level that ensures people can find a car park most of the time within a short walking distance of their destination.

Let’s not be a follower, playing catchup to Auckland.

Let’s be a bold innovator and leaf-frog New Zealand ahead on the world stage, with smarter parking policies that will be appropriate for the next 10-20 years or more, not just the next few.

And while we are at it, let’s work to remove minimum parking requirements. All of them. Everywhere. Because more people driving makes cities worse. More people walking, cycling, scootering and using public transport makes cities better.

rush hour vivian street [3]

[1] From Wellington Urban Growth Plan, Page 44, REAL TRANSPORT CHOICES

This is an edited version of a submission to the Wellington City Council presented yesterday by Sam Donald on behalf of Fair Intelligent Transition Wellington (formerly known as Fair Intelligent Transport Wellington.)