The two things WCC shouldn't even hesitate to do to get The Parade Upgrade over the line
On Wednesday 2 March WCC's Traffic Resolutions Hearings Panel will hear public feedback on the proposed changes to The Parade. Reading the feedback on the consultation website and in the meeting papers you have to feel sorry for councillors who are going to be bombarded with a completely unnecessary tsunami of angst about the proposed parking changes.
The council has communicated the parking changes really badly. By not producing a parking plan they have not given people the information they need to understand the reality of the proposed changes. Instead the council has simply presented the raw parking reductions, which is unfair and has understandably caused a lot of angst. Here's two things the council should do to show some good faith and instantly defuse some of the heat around parking that they've generated:
Complete the parking plan before proceeding
A parking plan should cover stuff like the current occupancy rate of on-street parking on The Parade, what the parking is being used for (e.g. how much is actually commuter parking) and how much parking is available in the surrounding streets. It should also discuss possible mitigation like residents' parking schemes and more time-limited parking. When people see the parking plan everybody, including councillors, will finally be able to see what the real impact is going to be.
At the 10 November Pūroro Āmua Planning and Environment Committee meeting where a short-term safety improvements option (which prioritises fiscal prudence over retaining parking) was approved by councillors Councillor Fitzsimons had an amendment agreed that specifically asked for a parking plan to be done before detailed design. However, on 22 February WCC sent an email to people who took part in the consultation explaining that:
"Due to a combination of time constraints and the uncertainty associated with Covid, we cannot meet the deadline for completion of the parking plan prior to detailed design. However, work on it is under way and we expect completion in late March 2022.
We intend to provide officer advice to the 10 March Pūroro Āmua Planning and Environment Committee meeting that the November 2021 resolution be amended to reflect the revised timeline for the local parking plan."
You might be wondering why the council doesn't just wait until the parking plan is finished in 4 weeks time and let councillors approve the traffic resolutions then. The answer seems to be that the south end of The Parade is also due to be re-sealed and that is a time-critical task that needs to be done while the weather is good. Council officers were obviously hoping to start the re-seal and the upgrade at the same time. In order to do so they now want to retrospectively change a council decision already made. What that does is leave a whole bunch of unanswered questions about parking and will increase the sense among some that 'the council isn't listening to us'.
On balance I think it would be better for the council to either delay the re-sealing until The Parade Upgrade traffic resolutions are approved or if that can't be done then go ahead and do the re-seal and break the dependency on the upgrade. Considering the parking surveys that are the main input into the parking plan could have been done pretty much any time in the past 4 years this is a problem entirely of the council's own making. Using the need to re-seal to justify over-turning a previously made councillor decision just seems off to me and has echoes of the constant excuses and re-litigation that led to the 2017 decision to upgrade The Parade never being delivered. And let's not forget that the reason the 2017 decision finally got put to bed is because council officers put up an 'MRT might be coming to Island Bay' straw-man that convinced enough councillors that doing something they had previously agreed to do that was already 4 years overdue might one day be seen as a 'a waste of money' because of something that might happen a decade from now.
Keep the angle-parking at the shops
Reading through the feedback it's clear that the majority of the angst about the removal of parking concerns the shops. This one should be a no-brainer. The councillor approved option from 2017 (see below) included cycleways but retained angle parking, which would actually be ok for people on bikes - it's cycling behind angle parking that is particularly dangerous. Council have already agreed to this layout once so it shouldn't even need discussion. I'm no fan of angle-parking but I'm not going to be a hypocrite either. Until November last year the layout agreed in 2017 was what we were still expecting to be delivered and it will be fine. At this point in time it would also represent a genuine compromise and show some willingness by the council to listen to feedback. I don't think there's been an easier decision to make in this whole saga than this one.
If the council does the two things above I think they will take a lot of heat out the current debate about parking on The Parade and we can all finally move on.