15 February 2018

Carparking Game Changer

The Unitary Plan helps Auckland move away from its focus on cars by removing minimum car parking requirements in Metropolitan, Town and Local Centres and Mixed Use Zones.


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If you want affordable living in the city, don't expect your apartment to come with a carpark anymore.

The Unitary Plan rules are a game changer. They promote more efficient use of land, enable town centres to grow where people live in apartments and need to use their cars less.

They encourage better urban design outcomes, support public transport and in turn reduce traffic congestion – something most of us gripe about every day.

Why do you see so many cranes rising across the city skyline and along arterial transport routes? The new Plan has taken away a huge and costly barrier to development by giving developers the opportunity to build on sites that previously never stacked up financially. 

Because carparking is expensive. Each space adds tens of thousands of dollars to build and thousands of dollars annually for electricity and maintenance. For cars, which on average spend 95% parked, gathering dust waiting to take that occasional trip - that just doesn’t make sense either.

The Auckland skyline is dotted with new builds.

The Auckland skyline is dotted with new builds.

The good news is, eliminating or reducing on-site carparking brings down the cost of construction considerably. Some estimate between 20 to 30%. That makes it possible for developers to deliver more affordable housing. Which is what Auckland needs.

It’s a trend that’s happening globally. Increasingly cities are rethinking their approach to carparking as they start to prioritise walkable urban development, bike lanes, public transport and a type of city living that doesn’t require a car for every trip.

Many garages are seeing less and less use in central locations with the increased emphasis on urban collective transit and alternatives to cars.

In Seattle, Boston and Miami, a wave of new residential construction projects close to transit routes are showing that modern US cities can build housing without any carparking on site.

Closer to home, in Australia, property developers are replacing private car spaces with bike parking and car share spaces as people seek better transport and living conditions in increasingly crowded suburbs. According to developers, buyers are now looking out for residential developments with car share, making it an important factor in their purchasing decision. 

Uber self-driving cars have been allowed to run tests in San Francisco.

Uber self-driving cars have been allowed to run tests in San Francisco.

Then there’s driverless car technology. If the revolution comes as soon as predicted, carparking buildings will become obsolete in the near future.

A Stanford University study by economist Tony Seba Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030 predicts that by 2025 people will stop driving altogether and all new vehicles will be electric. Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. There will be a mass stranding of existing vehicles, according to Seba.

Already countries like India is drawing up plans to phase out all petrol and diesel cars by 2032 and China is moving in parallel, pushing for 7 million electric vehicles by 2025.

Many people are forgoing having a car and in places like the UK, a huge reduction in drivers’ licence applications indicates more and more young people aren’t even bothering to get their drivers’ licence. They’re thinking about the future, and the environment. In Auckland, over 30% of emissions come from the transport sector and 80% are from domestic cars.

Statistics show millenials – those in the 18 to 35 year old age group, who are more concerned about sustainability issues – own fewer cars and are more interested in alternative ways of commuting. At the same time, this generation wants to live closer to urban centres. But they are frustrated by the lack of affordable apartments. 

Giant billboard rising above the parking lot it is advertising in New York.

Giant billboard rising above the parking lot it is advertising in New York.

Some cities are coming up with creative solutions to make use of hulking great carparking spaces that are being used less and less. There are at least 105 million parking spaces in US cities and a growing number of those – about 50% - are under-used.

In Atlanta, one academic asked: “If obsolete warehouses and factories could be transformed into lofts, why not convert carparks into cutting edge housing?” Christian Sottile, dean of the School of building Arts at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) got his students to explore ways to create micro-apartments that fit into carparks and he’s come up with mini villages that maximise the experience of living in minimalist spaces.

Designed for millennials by millennials, their core motivation was considering the future of cities and urban housing new possibilities. Sottile suggests: “You can live large in a small space.” 

Given the advance of driverless vehicles and Auckland’s new urban planning rules, that could well be a snapshot of our future too.

With smaller, smarter housing options, better transport systems and a Council that has finally accepted that we need to grow up, literally, a new paradigm shift is on its way.

So, climb on board to this new of thinking Aucklanders, as we step into the future.

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