Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reconfigure for Greater Utilisation

Ever been frustrated by the current parking restrictions, because they don’t seem to match what is actually happening in that part of town?   The buildings have gone but the P5’s and Loading Zones are still there, not being used and just adding more on road decorations where clarity is needed.

Yellow lines, metered spaces, loading zones and time limits – such parking restrictions are an accepted fact of city life as a device in a local authority’s toolkit for managing efficient use of (usually) scarce stock of parking resources.

For most cities around New Zealand, parking provisions have developed organically, over time. But in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes with its crumbling streets and demolished buildings, Christchurch City is facing the prospect of going back to square one and making major changes to the use of many car parks.  The Road Corridor Operations Manager, Paul Burden, decided that there was a need to go through the city and check if all of the currently marked parking and road restrictions were still required or could some be removed and returned to the public for normal use.  An example was, if a building was demolished, did we still need the P5 that was marked on the road outside that premises, which stopped the space being utilized by the normal user.

That process has started with building a picture of the supply of car parks, the signage that was left and the number of spaces and signs damaged by falling buildings and heavy equipment. The Parking Operations Team undertook the survey of on-street parking within the 'Four Avenues', the central city precinct bounded by Moorhouse, Fitzgerald, Bealey and Deans Avenues.

A team of dedicated staff members braved the streets and lumpy footpaths armed with GPS locators to geo-mark every parking sign, road marking, driveway and adjacent land use.  The data was fed into a database and attached to each car park or stretch of road utilising an internal document management tool.  The result is a very sharp (Google type) map (GIS file) in Geo-media, where a user can click on to a space and find out exactly what restriction is on the road, what the relevant Council ‘resolution’ states and provides an ability to run detailed reports. 

The next stage involved matching the current parking provision with the current need as they are now, as the use will likely be in the future very different to what was required in the past. Making changes is no simple task.  All the parking provisions are established legislatively so wherever a change is deemed necessary, the existing provision has to be revoked and a new resolution made to effect the change. And before any new resolutions are put before Council, consultation with affected building and business owners and operators must be completed.

The parking resolutions are being stored in an internal document folder and this is now the destination for all parking and road resolutions.  Collecting all of the resolutions was one of the key outcomes that the Traffic Engineers, Capital Programme, Transitional Project teams and Parking Operations and Enforcement asked for.  It has made all of their lives easier.  With the ‘Viewer’ version of the programme, the up to date information can now be distributed to all teams that have a responsibility to read, write or amend parking resolutions to Council or the Community Boards and at a much higher accuracy level.

The Parking Ops Team walked over 1000’s of kilometres of road, recorded the current use of over 10,000 car parks and returned many car parks back to normal unrestricted use.  More than that, they now have a very accurate tool that can tell you exactly what parking road markings are painted on the street and what is on the sign, without having to leave the building, speeding up the time it takes to make changes to on-street parking.

A further use is to allow a fast response to on-street parking data by giving a small amount of freedom to configuring car parking to allow for better utilisation of parking.  This brings the accepted timelines for configurations down to 12 months to 2 years and allowing the configurations to be changed to match neighbourhood characteristics much quicker rather than few it as an asset and never change it for 10 years.  A block of neighbourhood can cahnge its characteristics in that time to almost not resemble its original use and as such the road parking configurations must also change to keep the parking utilised.

The future steps will be to extend this tool to possible review issues in other high use urban areas and other high traffic areas, with the aim of improving the range of options for improving the utilisation of each and every car park.
Kevin Warwood
Parking Operations Designer
These comments are my own.

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