No space for parking?! New solutions for a new generation.

queen street historical

Queen Street when the trams were still operational

 

Back in the 1950s, before the tram lines were ripped out, shoppers perambulating up and down the escalator-shaped mass that is our Queen Street would have been able to smell the ocean.

These days, that ocean scent is a masked somewhat by exhaust fumes, as around 60,000 drivers a day stream into the CBD, squeeze themselves into parking buildings or circle each other like sharks, waiting to pounce on the limited on-street parks. The level of traffic in the inner city prompted the Danish architect Jan Gehl to pronounce Auckland a “mini Los Angeles” when he visited in 2007.

He did not mean it as a compliment. Los Angeles is a city devoted to car use, which has fought congestion by building more roads. Unfortunately, this simply resulted in more congestion. Gehl, famous for replacing cars in Melbourne’s inner city with pedestrians and cyclists, felt, “Auckland was in a beautiful harbour setting but a hostile city where too many concessions to the car had been created”.

The younger generations may well resolve this crisis for us in a beautifully simple way: by not driving. 

Cars, it seems, are becoming uncool. In the United States, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Japan and Australia, the coveted Y Generation demographic has propelled a downturn in car use. Gen Y likes to get from A to B by riding a bike or hopping on public transport, or just looking up a map online and walking. It marks its entry into adulthood not with a dangerous, polluting, expensive car, but with a fancy new phone.

And this trend may be catching on here. Transportblog challenges the government’s view that the drop in driving is a temporary blip caused by the after-effects of the global financial crisis, and that more roading capacity is necessary and crucial to our economic growth. It argues we are driving less and buying fewer cars due to concerns about health and the environment, high petrol costs, smartphone-assisted carpooling and cheaper flights.

Added to that is a 12 percent increase of public transport patronage in Auckland since this time last year, and our excitedly awaited City Rail Link, Skypath cycle route and light rail project. Faced with a plethora of public transport options that would embarrass Berlin, whatever will become of good old car parking?

car parking

In the central suburbs, parking has become a source of furious debate. Residential parking schemes, in which residents pay a modest annual fee to park on the street, have sprung up in some areas and are being planned in others. Those in favour of the permits (often, let’s face it, the residents) say it makes up for the lack of parking space around urban apartments and houses; those not in favour claim they are unfair to non-inner-city dwellers and only force up the price of non-permit parking.

But reducing on-street parking can also lead to disaster. The UK study Space to Park focused on suburban housing estates, where local government reduced allocated parks to discourage car ownership. The policy backfired big time. A “car-based mindset” in the estates, compounded by poor access to amenities on foot, led to multiple cars per household. Residents fought over parks while their visitors pulled up onto pavements, verges and lawns. Parking, the study found, is “an emotive issue”.

In an effort to restore peace, the study made recommendations which could equally apply to the leafy inner vales of Auckland. First, it suggested allocating cark parks based on the average requirements of the house size: one park for one unit; two parks for four, etc. It advocated for wider streets and better walking routes to local facilities. It advised finding new and discreet parking solutions such as integral garages in town houses, parks down the sides of houses and rear parking courts.

It’s an ethos that is being embraced in Hobsonville, a former air force base on a peninsula that juts out into Waitemata Harbour, once home to peripatetic air force brats such as myself. We lived in wooden 1930s bungalows, identical apart from the insane 1970s wallpaper within and pastel exterior paint jobs not unlike something out of Edward Scissorhands.

The air force is gone now and Hobsonville is undergoing major redevelopment. Chief among Auckland Council’s concerns is how to accommodate car parking, while boosting public transport and generally reclaim the streets for people, not cars. Fewer cars to encourage more walking and cycling; streets are landscaped to integrate storm water treatment, while providing enhanced pedestrian amenity.

Hobsonville 7 August 2013-4597

Getting parking right: Hobsonville

Hobsonville 7 August 2013-4574

Getting parking right: Hobsonville

 

In Hobsonville, garages are brought well back from the street, or they’re stacked, to free up more space on the street for a range of uses, including visitor parking. Where housing is denser, rear lanes are used to create more room for planting, parking, bike lanes and landscaping. Some parking is also more flexible: a car space can also be used as an outdoor patio if you’re a non-driving millennial.

To bring us some perspective, Space to Park concludes by acknowledging that:

The time may be nigh when car ownership itself might have to be parked.

“The reduction of car use remains important for wider environmental reasons. This needs to be addressed as part of the wider policy agenda rather than through the ineffective tool of parking control.”

The Auckland Design Manual is currently producing a Parking Manual for Auckland.

Tell us what you think about getting parking right in Auckland.  Share your ideas with us in the comments section below.

 

Article by Julie Hill

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3 Responses to “No space for parking?! New solutions for a new generation.”

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  2. amy Says:

    I think we are a long way from seeing the end of the car. With all the infrastructure of roads, car parks and suburbs constructed over the past 50 years which assume car ownership. It will be much easier to adopt the electric car. Which is a shame in a way but there you go.

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