On-street parking: let’s get it right(er) in Wellington city

Aah, street parking our old friend. We’re wising up to you… and it’s time to get smarter about what you give us and take from us

On-street car parking. It’s the space where entitlement, expectation, geometry and need collide. It’s a political nettle that many local body politicians are reluctant to grasp.

But Wellington has too much. Until we reduce the amount of on-street parking, it is going to be extremely difficult to allocate space on our streets in ways that are pro-people and pro-environment: ways that permit space for people to walk, and cycle, and scoot, and sit and talk. [Ed: Current example: the entire “e-scooters on footpaths” débacle.]

Space is valuable in cities. The more people and more things people want to do, the more we value places to do stuff and make things happen. Public space is especially precious, because it’s the rarest. Yet we consecrate a staggering amount of inner-city public space to one, exclusive use: car parking. And when we do it, we don’t even charge enough for it (a good summary of the economics is here).

Te Aro, an eyeball assessment of street parking on publicly-owned land (note it doesn’t include the masses of off-street parking)

Our city will always need some parking on some streets, sometime. There are legitimate uses for cars and trucks – such as mobility parking and deliveries –  and there are legitimate reasons why they need to be able to be left in suitable places for varying periods of time.

But the predominant belief – that it’s acceptable to store large privately-owned metal boxes on cities’ public roads for long periods – has toxic consequences for the life of our cities. (See further reading below for some summaries of the evidence.)

One day a year, on PARK(ing) Day, we get to feel what streets would be like if we could do Other Stuff with (some of) those blocks of space

But street parking does good too / But we don’t trust Council to get it right!

Some groups like Living Streets Aotearoa will point out, correctly that walking alongside a busy fast road feels much safer with a series of metal separators between you and the trafficked lane. But you can do a lot of better things to make people feel safe: widen footpaths, slow traffic, reduce traffic, and ultimately, use a type of barrier that’s doing other jobs too: providing shade and green (street trees and hedges), or helping treat stormwater (rain garden), or being a place to sit (any handy size/shape surface).

And of course, officials don’t always get it right every time – and we can all point to local examples of parking rearrangements that didn’t work.

But that doesn’t hide the overwhelming fact that Wellington’s ability to get better is hamstrung by our current oversupply of parking. And we have to get over the notion that it’s a sacred cow that can’t be touched to our city’s peril. (See pretty much any coverage of “parking reduction” or “parking charge increase” in Wellington to see the sacred cow attitude in force.)

If we want to change this mindset, we – the people – need to act. It’s always “the public” howling in defence of imperilled street parking that brings down good initiatives to better use our streets. Street trees, parklets, rori iti, bus stops, bus lanes, micromobility parking, bike parking, pedestrian crossings – time and again, good initiatives are either killed off or proceed at snail’s pace Because Parking.

Here’s our chance!

One thing you can do right now is give your feedback on the ins and outs of Wellington City Council’s new parking policy, here.

You can explore Wellington’s current parking policies and recommend changes. The officials who wrote the info know what’s what, and they echo Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s statement (on the FAQ page) that “More road space will be needed for walking, cycling and public transport. To allow for this, it’s likely on-street parking on some streets and/or at certain times of the day will need to be removed.”,

Including off-street parking

It’s good to hear some facts – uncomfortable truths perhaps, for some of us, but truths that don’t go away because we don’t like them. So get in there and add your voice to supporting a fact-based, good-practice approach to managing parking.

And it’ll help to say explicitly that you support the reduction of on-street parking, and why. It’s not hard – you know already the essence of it: making higher value use of our street space, improving walkabilty / prettiness / safety / commerce / bus reliability / micromobility safety…

Get into it!

Bonus action: Submit on specific parking resolutions

Even Councillors who support parking removal in general sometimes back down when it comes down to removing car parks on a particular street. WCC also has a range of specific parking resolutions that are open for consultation till 14 August.

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of parking policy and stiffen councillors’ spines to change specific on-street car parks to better uses, this is the place to do that.

Further reading

Image credits:

  • Banner – Rob Kitchin / Stuff.co.nz
  • Maps – a friendly Talk Wellington reader
  • PARK(ing) Day 2018 parklet on Cuba St – Piper / Jarrett / Orr / Bickers

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