Car parking plan has long-term objectives

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The headline was predictable: “Free parking kicked to the curb”. As we all know though, few things are really “free” and car parking is no exception, because the cost of the two-hour free on-street parking trial in the Tauranga city centre will have to be covered by future users.

The free parking trial introduced in 2020 has served a useful purpose – helping retailers get back on their feet after the Covid-19 lockdowns and business disruptions by encouraging customers to come back to the city centre to do their shopping.

But it was never intended to be a permanent solution, and with increasing evidence that CBD workers were using the available on-street spaces for all-day parking, it was clearly time to ‘tweak’ the strategy.

Central city on-street parks are meant to help retailers and customers, by providing parking close to the shops people want to visit. That requires a high turnover of short-term users and that can’t happen if people are using a lot of the spaces all day.

To discourage that practice, the Tauranga City Council Commission has agreed to a staged return to paid parking in the city centre.

As from 1 December, the cost of an on-street parking space will be charged at $1 an hour for the first two hours and $5 an hour thereafter. From 1 February 2023, the charge for the first two hours will increase to $2 an hour.

Even with those changes, the Council’s parking activity faces a loss of close to $2 million this year. That loss is debt-funded and will have to be repaid from future parking revenue.

Once the full changes outlined below have been implemented, we expect the parking activity to return to a break-even position in 2024.

We think the move to increase the likelihood of being able to park close to your shopping destination will be welcomed by most shoppers, with the low short-term parking cost being an acceptable trade-off.

The city’s parking plan has other, and arguably more important objectives, however.

Tauranga is one of the country’s most car-dependent cities and transport-related carbon emissions make up an unacceptably high proportion of our total emissions.

To start moving towards the carbon-zero status we need to achieve by 2050, we have to get the change process underway. That means encouraging people to think about using a different transport mode – public transport, cycling, walking or ‘scootering’, for example.

The infrastructure to support use of those alternative modes isn’t fully developed yet, so some of the changes we have adopted won’t kick-in until November 2023.

Those changes include extending the current paid on-street parking area and introducing or changing time limits in other areas of the Te Papa peninsula, between March Street and 11th Avenue.

All-day, off-street car parking will still be available for those who have to use a car, but parkers will be paying a fairer share of the true cost of parking provision (to cover the cost of lighting, roadside markings and surface maintenance, parking meters, IT systems and parking building maintenance).

So in summary, this parking plan is a step towards a more sustainable future, which as it gathers pace, will have positive impacts on traffic congestion and carbon emissions. As citizens of a planet increasingly affected by climate change, that’s something we all need to contribute to.

Related: Are there other ways to get our city moving?

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Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley
Tauranga Commission Chair

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