An extra 90 all-day carparks have opened up in the Tauranga CBD, costing commuters half as much as a return bus trip to the city centre.
The demolition of the former Tauranga Community Foodbank building on Dive Crescent has allowed for an additional 30 spaces, and an extra 60 spaces are up and running in Cliff Rd.
Both parking lots cost less for a day's parking than a return trip to the city by bus, which costs $5.04 with a Smartride card.
Tauranga City Council transport manager Martin Parkes said in general, off-street parking areas nearest to the city centre were at full capacity.
The two parking buildings were usually full by 9.30am and there was added pressure on the Elizabeth St building at the moment because spaces had been lost while an extra floor was being built. Once the new floor opened it would add 119 spaces.
"The most cost-effective all-day parking is at Cliff Rd and Dive Crescent. Recent feedback received is mostly about parking availability. The demand has been trending this way for the past six months and now it is very noticeable."
Mr Parkes said a healthy parking system operated with about 15 per cent of spaces available at any one time, but the inner city was generally pushing full occupancy between 10.30am and 2.30pm.
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Garry Maloney, transport policy manager at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, said travel by bus or private vehicle was a personal decision based on a number of factors such as costs, other personal commitments, activity and convenience.
Figures collected by the council showed that at peak travel periods during the week, passenger numbers were high and reflected the value passengers found in using the public bus service to travel to work, Mr Maloney said.
So far this year, patronage during peak travel times had increased 1.5 per cent, while off-peak patronage had dropped 1.5 per cent and weekend trips decreased 10.5 per cent.
The number of bus trips per capita had been increasing steadily since 2005, except for a small dip in the most recent financial year.
Mr Maloney said the regional council was unable to capture real-time data on the running times of buses.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said that as the city grew and more jobs were created in the CBD, it was only reasonable for people to expect to pay more for the privilege to drive to work.
"Most of us are used to driving into work in our cars. You could say it's one of those luxuries we've got used to with living in a city like Tauranga - not like in the bigger centres where there is more of a commuter mentality and you're better off leaving the car at home.
"But if we want a vibrant city centre that draws people to live and work in the city, then we have to start learning to make more trade-offs like this."
Mr Gregec said he did not see a crisis yet. He said he still saw a lot of empty buses driving past at different times of the day, so he did not feel there was a lack of bus services.
Bill Campbell, owner of Fancy That and campaigner for free parking in the Tauranga CBD, said that with Trustpower coming into the CBD with 500-odd employees there would be a real shortage of parks for both city employees and shoppers.