Last time I wrote an editorial about my wishlist for this city in election year, councillor Matt Cowley emailed me to say he was already taking my concerns about our transport infrastructure into one of their meetings the following week. I'll take that as a win (even if the wheels were in motion before I had my say), so let's see if we can get two from two?
My next wish concerns parking. I know this is a contentious issue and my view is different to many locals, but that's okay. It just means we'll have a good, robust debate.
As we know, Tauranga is the fifth largest city in New Zealand. We have fought long and hard to be considered more than just another regional centre by those big city folk north of the Bombays and south of the Rimutakas. But we will never be a real city until we stop expecting to park right outside our destination for free.
Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the look on my Auckland friends' faces when I take them to my favourite Mount cafe and we park right outside for free, any time of day, any day of the week. But I'm also acutely aware that parking outside your destination for free is a luxury reserved for those who live in small villages. And while we may have once been that, we are no longer.
I love that we're a city now. I love that our council is looking at giving us some wicked new amenities, the kind that are reserved for big cities. But if we're to be a big city, we need to grow up and start accepting that there are certain sacrifices to be made if we're to reap those big city benefits. Paying for parking is one of those.
Before you start in on me saying that we already pay for parking, I really don't think we do, not to the extent we should be. Take the Mount, for example. It's free. Pretty much always. That's right, you can park, for free, on the street at one of our main shopping destinations. Or our CBD. You'll pay in the CBD, but only between 9am and 3pm on weekdays at $1 per hour. Or you can park at the waterfront, where your vehicle will benefit from the best view in the city for just $5.50 per day. So all the hundreds of people who work in the CBD are parking for free for as many as four hours each day. That is absolutely ludicrous. We should at least be charged from 8am till 6pm on weekdays. We are never going to get people car-pooling or using public transport if it's cheaper and more convenient to park in the middle of the city than it is to use public transport. Traffic is never going to improve unless we all work together to get cars off the road as much as we build infrastructure to fix bottle-necks and congestion hotspots.
We need to limit parking on the streets and embrace parking buildings. We need to learn to pay for a car park and walk a short distance to our destination. And we need to accept that paying for parking is a normal part of living in a big city. If you want to park for free, you can park further away in the fringe suburbs and walk a bit further to your destination. That's how it is in cities across the world. We can't just expect council to provide us with all the awesome things we want for our city if we're not willing to sacrifice a bit to achieve it. If you think we'll have it tough, spare a thought for all those poor Aucklanders who will soon be paying more than $60 per day to park on the street in their CBD.