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Flashback Saturday: Auckland Transport’s parking nonsense

This article by Heidi was originally published in July 2019.

AT created a storm that never needed to exist.

Ten years ago, the people of Auckland understood the law. You couldn’t park a car on a curb or trail, and the vehicle crossings were for crossing the trail, not places to park. If you’ve been parked there for longer than a minute or three, you’d be ready to apologize.

Now, cars litter the public domain. Pedestrian malls, public plazas, sidewalks, shoulders, driveways, park edges, blocked service lanes… you name it, if drivers can physically maneuver a car into position, they will.

How did we get into this antisocial and dangerous mess?

AT was created in 2010. Now, except in the city center, any control is only carried out for parking on the tarmacked parts of the sidewalk or the passage of vehicles, and only in response to a complaint. As it has become more evident, anti-social parking has increasingly become a problem.

I don’t know if they ever issued tickets for cars parked on the edges, but Auckland council did. So people asked the question: “Why don’t you enforce the rules against parking on the edge?”

AT referred to a legal issue, while declining to provide specifics, and pointed to the supposed need for further law change or additional signage everywhere.

Other councils did not need this change to act. So when the NZTA consulted about a change, many people rightly considered it unnecessary.

You see, the problem here is not the law. For typical urban streets, the law is pretty clear:

  • The road is the whole of the space accessible to the public.
  • The carriageway is the part of the road intended for the circulation of cars.
  • The sidewalk is a place mainly designed and used by pedestrians. Where there is a curb, the sidewalk includes the curb. The sidewalk is there to prevent traffic from driving over parts of the road that are not designed to support the weight of vehicles. Trail vehicle crossings are part of the trail.

My research is summarized here: Definition of the path and the road margin

Under current law, on a typical Auckland street, a grass berm or shoulder held back by a curb is simply an unpaved part of the footpath.

The rules regarding parking can be found in the road user rule. Rule 6.14 covers curb parking – you cannot park on the curb. Rule 6.2 covers parking on the road and states that you should park off the roadway if possible. In urban areas with curbs, this applies to parking spaces and signposted parking lots. Otherwise, you park on the road. Rule 6.2 does not override rule 6.14 and allows a driver to take over an unpaved portion of the trail.

AT could apply Rule 6.14 to ticket cars parked off the roadway on any part of the trail, paved or unpaved. This includes shoulders and vehicle crossings.

We don’t know what legal advice AT received because they won’t publish it. This advice is either wrong, or based on instruction so limited that he missed the most crucial points, or AT misinterprets it.

Whether or not RUR 6.14 can be enforced directly, the road authority (in Auckland, AT) has broad power to make its own regulations to manage the roads under its control (subject to signage requirements). Christchurch set the example: they clarified that RUR 6.2(1) does not apply to Chistchurch – this clarification has no signage requirement.

AT should have fixed this problem years ago. Instead, they let a once clear situation become murky and now politicized.

Auckland Council had wanted this fixed for years but were misled by the fact that it was a problem with legislation. Instead, it’s a cultural bias toward motorists versus pedestrians and an aversion to law enforcement.

Auckland Transport admits it can issue tickets for cars parked on the paved part of the pathways and in vehicle crossings. They simply choose not to do so most of the time, and only in response to a complaint. Another change in the law would have simply provided them with another law to ignore.

I have been in correspondence with Auckland Transport for almost a year about this. Until last week, I was still hoping they would see reason and take action without me having to blog about it. However, they did not respond on Friday as promised. After yet another disinformation media article on Saturday, I feel compelled to respond.

The required change is not in the legislation. It is within Auckland Transport.

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