Residents of central Auckland fringe suburbs such as Mt Eden, Parnell and Orakei are getting riled at their streets becoming free parking lots for commuters skimping on bus or rail fares.
Mt Eden resident Diane Morton says her previously quiet cul-de-sac near a busy bus route has become a mecca for students parking there for long hours each weekday, leaving little room for her and her neighbours to squeeze back in if they return home before late in the afternoon.
Commuters are increasingly driving cars to streets within a $1.90, one-stage bus or rail trip to the CBD, and clogging up suburbs from Freemans Bay to Orakei, from where trains take just eight minutes to reach Britomart.
Mrs Morton said she was often forced to park across her own Bourne St driveway when bringing grandchildren to her home. Her garage was too rundown to store her car and she did not want to turn her front-yard vegetable garden into a parking lot.
She believed Auckland Council planners were failing to taking parking demand into account in their urban intensification plans.
She had distributed leaflets to her neighbours asking what they thought could be done. She wanted some form of parking priority, although she disagreed with a $70 charge imposed on St Marys Bay householders in a trial scheme which Auckland Transport hopes may become a model for other fringe suburbs.
Councillor Christine Fletcher, who lives at the end of Bourne St and is a member of the transport organisation's board, said that although she had off-street parking she sympathised with Mrs Morton and other neighbours.
The problem was particularly acute in suburbs such as Mt Eden and Parnell hosting "character" houses which were built before cars were invented, and needed to be protected rather than modified for off-street parking.
But although she had taken up the issue several times with Auckland Transport, she believed it should be given a chance to assess the St Marys Bay trial before rolling out similar schemes elsewhere.
Council transport chairman Mike Lee said parking schemes were just treating symptoms of a wider problem, which he suspected was caused by excessive bus and rail fares.
"Rather than suburb-by-suburb and street-by-street I think we need to take a comprehensive overview of the problem and it seems to me that recent fare increases are acting as market signals," said Mr Lee, who is also an Auckland Transport board member. "Not only do we have a decline in public transport use overall, but we also have behaviour which seems to be influenced by getting a cheap fare."
Automobile Association spokesman Simon Lambourne said that although the organisation supported parking management in suburbs in principle, it was concerned at a large number of empty spaces left by the St Marys Bay scheme, as commuters who previously parked there crowded into neighbouring streets.
But although Auckland Transport acknowledges spaces in the 17 streets involved in the scheme are only about 50 per cent occupied on average, St Marys Bay Association chairman Tony Skelton said last night that the whole point was to free up the area not just for residents but also for visitors able to find parks and stay there for up to 120 minutes while doing business in nearby Ponsonby.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said about half the vehicles parking in the scheme zone had residents' permits and the rest were there for short stays, which was an "encouraging" result for the 12-month trial, which is due to run until July.
LOCALS BATTLE TO KEEP PARKING SPACES
Deborah Hill Cone has mobilised her Parnell neighbourhood against an Auckland Transport plan to strip dedicated residents' parking spots from outside historic homes built before the car became king.
The Herald columnist, who is one of just a handful of homeowners in Scarborough Terrace with residents' permits for street parking, said even neighbours with off-street facilities had joined what had become a community preservation battle.
She supported public transport, but needed a car for errands with her two small children and believed the invasion of the suburb by commuters parking there rather than catching buses from their own homes was undermining professed council objectives.
"The council wants people to use public transport and to live in the inner city to make it liveable, yet this [parking] policy they are suggesting seems to go against both those objectives," said Ms Hill Cone, whose home was built around 1900.
"If you want to make the inner city liveable for families and communities, not full of just tenants who rent and are transient but people who are settled and contribute to the community, you can't make it so there is nowhere to park near your house."
But she was pleased that after a packed public meeting attended by Auckland Transport, the council body had conducted a survey of her street, and intended discussing the results with residents next month.
SUBURBAN HOT SPOTS
Mt Eden, Parnell, Freemans Bay, St Marys Bay, Kingsland, Ponsonby, Newmarket, Grafton, Orakei.
Streets with residents' parking priority schemes, whether providing exclusive use to allocated spaces or general use by permit holders:
*St Marys Bay (trial area-wide scheme) - 17 streets
*Auckland Central - 5
*Newmarket and Grafton - 14
*Mt Eden - 3
*Parnell - 12
*Freemans Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, St Marys Bay - 26
*Epsom - 4