Short-term parking in the CBD is set to become more expensive, with the projected loss of half of Auckland Transport’s subsidised parking spots.

On-street parking in central Auckland has more than halved, and plans to retain some council-subsidised short-term parking in the redevelopment of the downtown carpark site are also in doubt.

The issue highlights tension between a council looking to push public transport and make the CBD pedestrian and bike friendly and city businesses wanting to preserve easy access for shoppers and diners.

The council-owned downtown carparking building provides 1148 short-term parks, but is slated for redevelopment with plans to sell it and turn its lower floors into a bus station with a new building on top.

Auckland Transport’s plan put to the council’s planning committee advocates keeping between 400-600 of the cheaper casual car parking spots, which it says are intended to support the economic and cultural vibrancy of the city centre.

However, some councillors are concerned that retaining short-term parking goes against the council’s commitment to move away from support for private vehicles.

Planning documents like the City Centre Masterplan’s Access 4 Everyone transport strategy call for limits to motorised traffic in the CBD and a shift towards walking, cycling and public transport.

“My personal view is that the retention of car parks for single occupant vehicles, even if it’s for short stay, is inconsistent with the Masterplan and Access 4 Everyone,” says councillor Chris Darby, chair of the planning committee that heard Auckland Transport’s proposal.

Darby says he struggles to see the case for the council providing discounted parking in the CBD when there are already plenty of private companies doing so.

“That has a cost to Aucklanders,” he says. “Strategically, it’s inconsistent with those planning documents.”

Waitematā ward councillor Pippa Coom says she wants to see more information from Auckland Transport showing exactly how its plan fits the council’s emissions goals and budget.

“This is not about stopping people getting into the city,” she says.

“The question is: is it in the interest of the ratepayer to subsidise parking on a prime piece of real-estate?”

The proposal is the latest in a long running shift away from Council-supported parking in the CBD.

Auckland Transport’s on-street parking in the city centre has fallen from 5000 to 2460 places the past decade. Meanwhile, the price for longer-term commuter parking has more than doubled over that period to a maximum of $40 per day.

In a statement to Newsroom, Auckland Transport says the loss of the downtown parking building space will not have a huge impact on businesses.

“AT is not the major provider of car parks in central Auckland. Currently the Downtown carpark has 1944 spaces…. less than 4 per cent of the parking in the city.”

However, city centre business association Heart of the City says the loss of the cheaper Auckland Transport parking spaces could lead to local businesses losing out as shoppers choose to go elsewhere.

“Those parks are vital for people coming in for shopping and entertainment,” says Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck. “It’s more affordable and it makes the place more accessible. Not everyone has access to public transport just yet.”

Auckland Transport data shows most people use short-stay parking in the city for business, shopping, and entertainment. A recent survey suggests 75 percent of people parking in the downtown building outside peak times were there for entertainment, dining, or shopping.

However, Auckland Transports advice suggests keeping short-stay parking in the building will  also continue to attract cars into the area, working against the council’s plans to encourage people on to public transport.

The loss of parks at the downtown building, with the removal of on-street parking in favour of walking and cycling, will probably mean higher overall costs for people driving into the city centre. While some shifts to public transport are likely, Auckland Transport says there is also a risk people will choose to go elsewhere for shopping and entertainment.

However Coom is not convinced.

“They need to be upfront about what they want,” she says. “If they want income from parking then they need to say that instead of hiding behind talk about the business and cultural vibrancy of the city centre.”

Another option is to leave the parking up to whichever developer decides to buy the site. This is the option preferred by both Coom and Darby.

“There’s nothing to stop the successful bidder providing the carpark if there is a case for it,” Darby says.

While a decision has yet to be made, Darby doubts the council would require the successful bidder to provide short-stay car parks as part of a potential deal. Instead, he expects to ask the company to provide ability parking, micro-freight, and cycle infrastructure.

The issue could be sorted at a planning committee meeting in June.

Ben Leonard writes on Treaty issues and the environment.

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