Auckland Transport bosses are limiting spending on park and ride facilities in an attempt to get people out of cars and into public transport.
This follows evidence compiled by the Herald this week that the city's park and ride facilities are full to bursting by 8am and motorists are parking on verges and side streets to catch buses and trains.
When it comes to transport spending in Auckland, expanding the existing park and ride stations and building new ones is well down the pecking order.
The public loves park and ride, and they're crying out for more.
Auckland Council and the Government have agreed to spend $28 billion on transport over the next 10 years, of which AT is budgeting to spend $79.8 million on park and rides, or about 2.5 per cent.
Looking at it another way, Auckland Council plans to collect $1.5b over the next decade from the new regional petrol tax, of which $24m is set aside for park and rides. This is less than 2 per cent of the tax collected at petrol pumps.
When the Herald visited four park and ride stations across the city this week, most were full by 8am. Only at Swanson, in West Auckland, was it possible to get a parking space after 8am.
Even then, the 136 spaces were taken by 8.30am and after that, commuter Graham Dykes said, commuters get creative by parking on the verge and side streets.
Auckland Transport, the council body responsible for parking issues, says the 5863 park and ride spaces across the city are 85 per cent full by 7.30am and nearly full by 8.30am.
AT chairman Lester Levy and chief executive Shane Ellison say the council's transport body is continuing to invest in park and rides, but their focus is on getting people out of cars and into public transport.
Levy says AT is looking hard at "first leg, last leg" feeder bus services, a bone of contention with commuters when the Herald visited the Albany park and ride station 12 months ago.
"When I get back (to the park and ride station) at the end of the day there is no guarantee that I'm going to get a bus easily. Really the car is a whole lot more convenient," said University of Auckland lecturer David Hayward.
Levy says AT is also looking at new technology and new modes of transport offering more cost-effective and customer friendly alternatives to expensive park and ride spaces, costing $18,000 on average each in open-air car parks and $24,000 in multi-storey buildings.
He said park and ride facilities have a more legitimate role on the city's outskirts where there are fewer feeder buses.
Ellison says the rollout of new bus services across the city have been "overwhelmingly successful" and the last rollout on the North Shore late next month will add a lot more services and capacity feeding the Northern busway.
In the past year, AT has opened 481 new park and ride spaces at the Hibiscus Coast busway station costing $10.25m and 87 spaces as part of the $15.4m upgrade of Pukekohe train station.
It plans to build 1900 spaces over the next decade using money from the regional petrol tax and is looking at sites in the Hibiscus Coast area, around Westgate and Kumeu in the north-west and Drury and Paerata in the south.
The Automobile Association, which last year called for 10,000 more spaces over the next 10 years, said the 1900 figures is a "long way short" of what is needed.
AA spokesman Barney Irvine said the level of park and ride supply in Auckland was "a joke" compared to Wellington with 5200 spaces for a city of 500,000, and cities in Australia and America.
"The public loves park and ride, and they're crying out for more. AT is missing a golden opportunity to build public support for, and confidence in, public transport," he said.
Irvine said AA members have said they would be prepared to pay at least $2 or $3 a day for a park and ride space.
AT has set criteria before introducing charging for park and ride, including the rollout of the new bus network. Levy and Ellison would not commit to charging at this stage.
Over the past week the Herald visited four park and ride stations in Auckland. This is what we found.
At the city's largest park and ride station with 1100 spaces, cars started to pour in before 7am and by 7.45am it was completely full with commuters jumping on express buses leaving every five minutes to the city.
Commuter Nikki Te Huia said the express bus is fantastic, but the lack of parking sucks. She has to be at the station by 7am to guarantee a park for her job starting at 9am.
"The time I save from sitting in motorway traffic is transferred into me finding somewhere to sit around for two hours until work starts."
Auckland Transport plans to add 135 parks by the end of the year.
The park and ride station with 71 spaces is full by 7am and a second carpark a couple of hundred metres down the road with 70 spaces is full by 8am.
One commuter who usually arrives about 6.40am said the main carpark is half-full by then and completely full by 6.50am. The other carpark down the road is generally full by 7.20am.
"If you are any later than 7.20am you have to try and find a park somewhere else, which is not easy around the shopping centres," the commuter said.
AT has no plans to expand facilities at Glen Innes.
There are 230 car parks at the park & ride, but 7am is the cut-off point for a prime spot.
At 6.30am when the Herald visited the first of two parking lots had only two spaces left, which were quickly snapped up. On the other side of the tracks, all but a couple of spaces were full by 7am.
Olive Robson said the park & ride had really good facilities, but would like to see more spaces.
"If you miss out here, at least you have local street areas to park - and it's pretty safe."
AT plans to begin construction in May next year for a multi-level park & ride building, potentially with an additional 300 spaces, costing $11.7m.
At the end of the western line, the 30 or 40 parks outside the old Swanson station building were full by 6.40am and the nearby park & ride station with 136 spaces was chocker at 8.30am.
Graham Dykes often arrives later at the station and says he doesn't even bother looking for a space after 9am, because it is always full.
By that time, he says, commuters "start getting creative (by) parking on the verge and the side streets".
AT has no plans to expand facilities at Swanson.