Auckland's largest new public transport project next year is a $20 million carpark building located among a sea of carparks at Manukau central.
The four-storey, 2000-space carpark costs nearly as much as the $24 million railway station linking central Manukau with the main trunk line at Wiri.
It will be on the western edge of Manukau central, surrounded by carparks held by the shopping centre, civic centre and private users.
Auckland Transport plans to spend $14.05 million on the carpark next year and $6 million the following year.
The $14.05 million spend is more than any other public transport project next year, with the exception of $84 million tagged for new electric trains, which are part of the long-term rail electrification project.
The Manukau carpark was planned by the former Manukau City Council as a park-and-ride facility for the new railway station and parking for the new Manukau Institute of Technology campus.
A spokeswoman for Auckland Transport, Sharon Hunter, yesterday said it would be a revenue-gathering, commercial operation.
Train commuters would be charged for park-and-ride spaces as would general users, she said. Charges had not been set, but modelling had shown it would be a viable money spinner without the need for additional ratepayer funding.
The transport body has leased 1029 of the 2000 spaces to private users and was looking to lease more. There was also an option to build a further storey for an additional 500 parking spaces, Ms Hunter said.
Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee said he had been given no information about the carpark and was puzzled why it was costing so much.
Mr Lee, who is also on the Auckland Transport board, was unsure why the carpark was needed with the Manukau train station about to open.
The city of Manukau has developed largely around the private motor car and has been slow to adopt public transport. For example, it has 3km of bus lanes compared with Auckland City's 36km network of bus lanes.
Auckland Mayor and former Manukau Mayor Len Brown, who has made improving public transport his top priority, supports the carpark.
In a statement, he said it was part of the Manukau transport hub, which combines rail, park and ride, commercial and retail facilities, and a campus for the Manukau Institute of Technology.
"It's the kind of integrated development we need in our region and will help transform the Manukau community," he said.