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Free parking axed on weekends

From September, Wellingtonians driving to the city on the weekend will have to pay up to $5:00 for two hours’ parking in what were formerly free parking spaces. Charges for coupon parking and permits have also been increased.

by Mark Cubey

A meeting of the City Strategy Committee of the Wellington City Council voted today to introduce a two-tier hourly parking fee system on weekends in the city from 8 September.

The decision aims to encourage higher turnover of parking spaces on weekends, allowing more people to access the city, and keeping rates affordable.

It will transfer the cost of maintaining city centre amenities from local businesses currently paying the Downtown Levy to users of parking spaces.

If the Council had not passed the resolution, it would have to increase rates in future years to recover the lost parking revenue.

A charge of $2:50 per hour will be applied in all areas that currently have a weekday rate of $3:00 or more, currently 2,638 parks, with a rate of $1:50 for outlying areas charging a lower rate (358 parks).

The two-hour time limit on street parking remains unchanged.

The new parking fee areas will be in operation from 8 September.

An amendment to retain free parking on Sundays until 10:00am, to accommodate church services, as well as parking for overnight guests at inner city residences, and shoppers at vegetable markets was narrowly defeated by 8-7, with the Mayor’s casting vote.

The Committee also voted to increase charges for parking coupons and permits, which have remained unchanged since 2010. Council’s costs in running these services have seen inflationary increases every year.

Daily public parking coupons will now cost $7:50, an increase of a dollar, with an increase of $15 from the current $120:00 for monthly coupons, and a range of increases for trade coupons.

A 12-month resident parking permit will increase from $115:00 to $126:50, and there are also increases for exemption, guesthouse and loading permits.

Parking time limits remain unchanged.

A full-day weekend central city trade coupon will be introduced at a rate of $22:50.

During consultation for the council’s Long Term Plan 2018-2028 earlier this year, over 2000 public responses were received on the proposed introduction of weekend parking fees alongside other transport related initiatives. Around 38 per cent of public submissions were in support of introducing weekend parking charges with 47 per cent opposing, and 15 per cent indifferent to the proposal.

Subsequent public notification of the introduction of weekend parking fees, inviting the public to provide comments in writing resulted in 599 submitters, with just 8 per cent in support of the initiative and 92 per cent against.

Submissions on the increased charges for coupon parking and permits saw around 12 per cent in support, and 88 per cent against.

Many submitters complained that trying to find a parking space in the city was already too hard, presumably unaware that increased turnover of spaces is one of the presumed benefits of the weekend charges.

Others were of the opinion that the two-hour free parking limit was already too low, or were unaware of any limit to free parking at all.

A popular claim among those opposing the removal of what is effectively a subsidy for weekend motorists accessing the city, was the view that weekend parking charges will induce them to drive to Petone, or malls in Porirua or Lower Hutt, as these areas have free parking. CBD businesses would be affected as a result, they said

In a response to this kind of claim, Mayor Justin Lester pointed out on Twitter that driving to Queensgate will cost around $5:00 to $10:00 in petrol for a return trip compared with $1.50 for an hour’s parking on the fringe of the CBD and “you’ll have a much better experience in the CBD”.

There was widespread concern expressed in submissions that the move would disproportionately impact poor people.

A number of submissions opposing the resolution came from churchgoers concerned about the impact on the attendance of Sunday morning services, and from members of the Point Nicholson Yacht Club, concerned about the loss of their all-day free parking.

Mount Victoria residents were worried that coupon and residents’ parking would be nabbed by visitors trying to avoid payment when coming to town on the weekend. Coupon parking is free for the first two hours of parking.

Those in favour of the charges were keen on a user-pays model, increased parking space turnover, greater promotion of public transport, cycling and walking,

The full list of submissions can be read here.

The resolution will now go to the 29 August meeting of the Wellington City Council for rubberstamp approval, with a public awareness campaign commencing the next day, and enforcement commencing 8 September.