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Christchurch commuters may need to divorce their cars: beginner's guide to the city's parking chaos

All day parking on Tuam St closed by road works. The problem is not so much how many, but where they are, and how to get to them through all the road works.

The Christchurch love affair with car travel may have to undergo a divorce.

After the earthquakes residents contributing to the city council's Share an Idea campaign called for a clean, green, safe, and accessible Christchurch. 

The An Accessible City plan was supposed to deliver on that collective wish list, but the getting there is proving somewhat painful.

Along with concerns about the impact of narrowing busy feeder streets, the lack of parking in certain parts of the city is getting right up commuters' noses. 

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Do we have fewer car parks than before the earthquakes?

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The Innovation Precinct parking building, on the corner of Madras St at Lichfield St, is one of the new parking buildings servicing central Christchurch.

Surprisingly enough, the answer is probably not.

The problem is not so much how many, but where they are, and how to get to them through all the road works. 

Pre-earthquakes there were 15,500 on and off street parks managed by council and commercial operators such as Wilson Parking.

As of December 2016, the council estimates that figure at 15,589 parking spaces. 

Four new car park buildings and a fifth opening in September will provide close to 3000 spaces.

Developer Antony Gough has plans for a building beside The Terrace hospitality precinct and Ballantynes department store is also understood to be looking at building some on-site parking.

The council's focus is on getting people out of their cars and onto bikes or buses.

Why is it so hard to find a car park?

The council estimates 7000 people will return to the central city over the next 12 months, and according to Colliers Real Estate there will be 14,100 office workers west of Colombo St by next year. 

Construction workers on the Justice Precinct and Christchurch Hospital rebuild are competing for parking in an area that attracts more than 6500 hospital staff, patients and visitors on a daily basis.

The West End car park building between Cashel and Hereford streets will be opening in April.

An Accessible City street works have sucked up close to 400 on-street car parks, and an unknown number have also disappeared into the Metro Sports and Convention Centre sites.

Demolition sites used for temporary car parking are slowly being built on.

Before the earthquakes CBD office buildings had to include a specified number of car parks, but the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan changed that and now only mobility and bike parking are compulsory.

As a result large office blocks lacking parking bays are scrambling to lease spaces in nearby commercial parking buildings.

For example, the Canterbury District Health Board's corporate offices in Oxford Terrace house 400 staff but have no car parking.

So where are the hot spots?

Council transport operations manager Aaron Haymes​ says that although there is a reasonable amount of parking within the Four Avenues, there are shortfalls.

The council is working on a business case for a parking building for the performing arts precinct where the new central library and convention centre between them will cater for up to 4000 people a day. 

South Colombo is another problem area, in part due to demand from Ara Institute of Technology students, but the most serious parking issues are around the hospital.

The Canterbury District Health Board, council and crown agency Otakaro are working on a number of temporary options.

The council and CDHB reckon 1400 parks are needed to service the hospital but the bottom line is that a permanent solution is unlikely before 2019.

The cost of parking

Wilson Parking currently has about 1200 parks on empty lots and prices range from $1 to $5 per hour, or $3 to $15 a day.

Parking buildings tend to sit around the $4 an hour and $12 a day mark.

Parkable​ is the new kid on the block and aims to have 1000 Christchurch spaces listed on its website by the end of August.

The Auckland-based company has an app that matches up commuters with private property owners who have spaces to let. 

They range from vacant driveways to spare car parks at empty office buildings still seeking tenants. Hourly prices are between $1 and $3, with a maximum of $12 per day.

The city council earns $4.5m a year in parking charges and almost the same from parking fines and enforcement. Once costs are deducted parking makes a $555,284 surplus.

Haymes says charges for the council's new Lichfield Street parking building are likely to be similar to those of other parking buildings, and a proposed upgrade of street parking meter software would introduce credit card "tap and go" payments. 

He says they are also working with CBD businesses so that car park users may get a discount if they purchase something from a contributing retailer. 

But he's clear any subsidy would be met by the businesses involved and not the council. 

With only $6m left in its budget for car parking the council is keen to get private sector developers involved in any future car park buildings – understandable given new buildings cost anywhere between $30 and $50m.

Blow the cars, what about the bikes?

The council's focus is on getting people out of their cars and onto bikes or buses.

As well as providing secure bike parks it is proposing "bike hubs" with showers, lockers, changing rooms, and laundry and mechanic facilities.

Haymes​ says they are actively looking to find a gym operator for the bottom of the Lichfield street car park so cyclists could get access to showers and lockers as part of their membership.

Colliers International commercial leasing director Brynn​ Burrows says office buildings increasingly provide showers for staff who bike to work.

The main issue is whether to place them in the basement to avoid having sweaty employees riding in the lift with clients, or putting them on each floor. 

And what about residential parking in the central city?

As the influx of office workers gathers pace it's likely there will be more demand for free parking in residential areas, such as on streets running up to Bealey Ave.

Victoria Street Neighbourhood Association spokesman Dave Kelly says it's something they've lived with for years, and he can foresee it spreading further afield as commuters hunt for free parking, even if it means a long walk.

The council's parking plan says the impact of long stay parking on residential streets would need to be monitored and park and ride facilities might be needed for commuters. 

Stuff

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