Economic benefits from transport choice and people focused planning
Increasing investment in public transport, public spaces and cycling has ignited debate across Auckland, especially in central areas, about the impact on retailers who fear losing car parking and customers. A proposed Grey Lynn transport project reported on in Ponsonby News by John Elliott over the last few months draws out many of the themes of the wider debate. It also highlights that the benefits to be realised from transport choice and people- focused planning needs to be clear if the changes coming are going to be embraced by everyone.
Earlier in the year when Auckland Transport first proposed bus safety improvements at the Grey Lynn shops resulting in the removal of car parking on Great North Rd it was not surprising that local retailers campaigned for a rethink. There were genuine practical concerns like the need for loading zones but also a perception, shared by John who enjoys driving to the shops, that currently there are “very few car parks”. The Waitematā Local Board asked Auckland Transport to bring data to the table so we could review any proposal based on facts.
A parking occupancy survey of the 214 on- street car parks surrounding the shopping area found an average 40% vacancy rate. Only 10% of spaces are used by people who park in the town centre and take the bus. Another survey found that the majority of shoppers arrive other than in a private car and that the time and money spent in the shopping area was similar for all modes of transport.
A Grey Lynn plan developed by the Grey Lynn Business Association a few years ago in consultation with the community looked to image the future design of the shopping precinct. It includes measures to slow the traffic, and provide more pedestrian links, new crossing points, and more trees. The plan is backed up by results from Auckland and overseas that pedestrian and “people-focused” improvements can boost local economic activity.
Auckland Transport now say they have taken into account the Grey Lynn plan, feedback and the surveys to come up with a much more comprehensive approach. My initial view is that new proposals connecting to other future developments like new cycleways, gateway treatments and new bus routes (as well as working with landlords to make the large amounts of off- street parking tucked behind the shops more accessible) have the potential to be positive for retailers, shoppers and the local community. However it is too soon to reach any conclusions until Auckland Transport’s consultation has been completed.
Ultimately we need to make sure it is good for business when we look after the local people who are choosing to leave the car at home as much as we do the drivers. And motorists like John need to keep feeling welcome to drive to the shops – fortunately when visiting Grey Lynn a car park is pretty much guaranteed!
Published in the October Ponsonby News
Salt Lake City cuts car parking, adds bike lanes, see retail boost Streetblog USA 6 October 2015
Bike lane blues: Why don’t retailers want a 30m pound cycle-friendly upgrade The Guardian 5 October 2015