Better parking the answer to inner-city woes?

Posted on October 31, 2010 by

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Ian Athfield, the architect put in charge of heading Christchurch’s post-earthquake design team, has made the claim that bus routes are threatening businesses.

“You look at Sydenham and those quite lovely shops which have had bus lanes put in front of them. Car parks are absolutely essential to those shops,” he said.

I am a bit disappointed to hear someone of such standing make such an ignorant claim. It seems that in Christchurch we just can’t think of the bigger picture and get our heads around the role public transport can play in the development of our city and in rejuvenating neighbourhoods (for example, the CBD). What I find most surprising is that Mr Athfield, although born in Christchurch, currently lives in Wellington! Bus lanes are an accepted norm there! (and I should know as I am currently living/working in Wellington).

Athfield went further when he said the design team was looking at urban design, land use, housing, heritage, road transport and infrastructure. Notice ‘road transport’. Why not ‘road transport and public transport’ or just ‘transport’?

Athfield went on to say that to encourage people to visit and live in the central city, Christchurch needed better parking, slower traffic, a more inviting Cathedral Square and inner-city supermarkets. Once again, as I have stated before many a time, why is there this fixation with ‘better parking’? I’m wondering if Athfield gets out much in Wellington. Christchurch certainly has some of the cheapest most abundant inner-city car parking in New Zealand, definitely cheaper than Wellington which arguably has New Zealand’s most vibrant inner-city (and probably the country’s best public transport infrastructure).

I don’t necessarily disagree that a part of inner-city renewal should include a look at car parking at some stage. However, I do wonder why there is such a focus on it and why it is to the detriment of public transport? Especially when examples around the world (even in New Zealand) demonstrate the opposite. While I generally think he raises some good points with his other suggestions, I think Mr Athfield should really stick to designing buildings and leave the urban planning to those who know what is going on.

Athfield made his comments to the property industry while outlining his views on frustrating planning regulations in Christchurch.

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Posted in: Christchurch, General