Christchurch Hospital Parking

Christchurch hospital car parking has long since captured the imagination of the Christchurch populous.

The hospital has little on-site car parking. If you want to drive to the hospital there are plenty of pick-up drop-off spaces, but if you want to store your vehicle for any length of time you have to put it in either on-street parking nearby, or the multi-story parking building on Lichfield Street (800m walk or take the free hospital shuttle).


This is a strange situation for Christchurch folk, who are used to seeing swathes of free, unrestricted asphalt surrounding every building in the city. It takes a certain mental shift to consider parking a little further away, walking/scootering, riding a bike, or catching a bus to the hospital. And at a hospital there are special situations where parking hassles are more annoying than normal – my friend missed the birth of his child because he was cruising up and down Riccarton Ave looking for a carpark.

The situation is further complicated by the blurry line between who should provide parking at a hospital. There seems to be a lot of pressure directed at city councillors and the mayor has even waded into the debate at times, when in reality it is not so much the responsibility of City Council as the Canterbury District Health Board. Generally if a land-owner wants more parking for their activity, it is up to them to provide it, not Council. The only exception is in the city centre where Council provide some parking buildings because it is not practical (nor desirable) for each site to have their own parking.

Another thing complicating the issues is that the Health Board has a vested interest, with a vision  “To improve, promote, and protect the health and well-being of the Canterbury community.”  With links between travel choice and health being very strongly understood now, part of achieving this vision means encouraging more people to walk, cycle and take public transport, and discouraging people from driving. This is what the Health Board have said previously about the cycleways programme:

“One of the key ways of tackling our rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease is to change our environment so that it’s easier to get active. This is exactly what cycle lanes help to do,” Dr Humphrey says.

“Not only do cycle lanes lead to a healthier population, they’re great for our environment. More cyclists means fewer cars, and that means lower carbon emissions. In a time when the world is grappling with how to respond to climate change, cycle lanes stand out as an easy way to lower emissions and protect our planet.”

Dr Humphrey says replacing car parks with space for bicycles also makes economic sense.

A couple of months ago someone put up the idea of building an absolute behemoth of a carpark underneath Hagley Park. It would contain 1,451 carparks. For context, the 8-storey Lichfield Street building contains 805 carparks.

Christchurch architect Graham McDermid has proposed an underground car park across the road from Christchurch Hospital in South Hagley Park.

Here is another image of the proposed carpark with the existing hospital footprint. The carpark is larger than the entire hospital.

Capture.PNG He did some costs and figured it would cost about $116 million to build.  This is a lot of money. It equates to $80,000 per car park. If they were leased at the going rate of $6 per day every day of their existence, you’d still only make a rate of return of 2.7%.

For a grasp of the scale, here are some alternative things we could buy for $116m:

  • A quarter of a light rail route to the University
  • A third of a new motorway
  • The remainder of the city-wide cycleways network, with a whole lot leftover to boot
  • About a zillion more bike parks at the hospital – a nurse has told me previously she wants to bike to the hospital (she lives quite close) but can’t on certain shifts because all of the limited bike parking gets filled up. So she drives on those days instead.
  • We could roughly double the number of buses servicing the hospital (and everywhere else along those routes), from a bus every 5 minutes to a bus every 2-3 minutes (the interest on $116m would cover costs into infinity).
  • We could extend the hours that buses run so shift workers can use them
  • We could add more bus routes so more staff and visitors can use them
  • Manage nearby on-street parking in a way that reflects the high demand and ensures some spaces are always available (raise prices)
  • Pay for a fleet of 40 free taxis to drive around the city collecting and dropping off people (the interest on $116m would cover costs into infinity)
  • Use the money for treating sick people (crazy idea I know):
    • Last year the hospital had to do a massive fundraising run just to scrape together half a million for a new helipad that they desperately needed.
    • Pay doctors, nurses and pharmacists more so they don’t have to strike.
    • Reduce wait times for critical treatments.
    • Build a whole new hospital somewhere (Greymouth recently built their’s for $80m)

I’m not sure which of these uses is the best option, but I think we can be fairly confident that a giant underground vehicle storage facility is not it.

5 thoughts on “Christchurch Hospital Parking

  1. I do appreciate that some of the people accessing hospitals are there for uniquely distressing events. But I do also suspect those make up a relatively small proportion of trips – a massive chunk of the travel demand is just from the 7,000 odd staff who work there. I think the CDHB’s first priority needs to be to enable the staff and visitors who want to walk, bike and bus to do so – by sorting out their bike parking problems, pressuring NZTA to resolve the delays to the surrounding cycleways programme, and working with the GCJPTC to get hospital public transport to a much better level of service. And managing the parking they have to be solely for the ones who really need it (through pricing, time restrictions, other restrictions etc). Only after that’s done should they be seeing if there is still a parking problem or not.


    1. Pricing restrictions is not a good way to provide parking for people who need it in an emergency. The hospital needs to be immediately accessible for people in a emergency, so a park and ride is not a good option, nor is putting people in a difficult spot about whether to pay through the nose for some parking or risk their condition deteriorating by having to park further away. Yes everything should be done to enable those who can to bike and bus in to the hospital, and a park and ride can work for visitors, but there must be a car park available for those in an emergency situation


    2. Increasing pricing is never popular but it doesn’t make any sense to not do it. As with any scarce resource, if we are giving away parking for less than it’s true value then there is always going to be a shortage. I think parking should be priced at a fair market rate and then if some people can’t afford that we can look at giving them targeted help, like refunding people in certain situations, or giving certain patients free parking. But you can’t just universally give away parking for free/cheap to everybody and then be surprised when people take that up.


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