A great concept for urban interaction from Germany that would definitely fit into the fun category.
A very modern and amazing traffic crosswalk in central Germany that allows you to play a game of pong with someone on the other side of the street while waiting for the light to change:
STREETPONG is a concept of urban interaction by Sandro Engel and Holger Michel, developed at the HAWK Hildesheim, Faculty of Art. It is a simulation, not a permanent installation.
There are a couple of things really neat about this idea.
- You can see the countdown timer for both the pedestrian and vehicle phases (I love the countdown timers on Queen St, I wish we had more of them)
- It allows for interaction which can remove any frustration from waiting for the pedestrian phase. Although not so good if there is no-one on the other side
OK, I admit I haven’t come up with the catchiest title for this post, but it’s a good TL;DR. As I’ve written previously, world oil prices were pretty dang low for 20-odd years: from the mid-80s to the mid-2000s. The price of a litre of petrol in New Zealand reached its lowest point in 1999, and started to rise from then on – with major rises in the last decade.
Petrol Consumption Trends
Our consumption of petrol grew and grew, until 2004. Since then, it’s been going in the downward direction, and more so since the 2008 recession began. Other bloggers have written about related issues such as the decline in drivers’ licenses being issued, less distance being travelled, and lower vehicle ownership.
The trends weren’t confined to New Zealand, either. Kent has written about declining travel in the US, and in fact there have been declines, or at least less growth, throughout the OECD. And it all started happening around 2003-2005.
Various explanations have been floated for this. Could it have been the millenials, too busy spending time on Facebook and smartphones to drive? Was it the recession? Perhaps online shopping?
Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that vehicle travel and fuel consumption started to decline all around the OECD, at around the same time, just as oil prices started to go up dramatically. I consider these higher prices to be the main factor in reduced driving – certainly up until recession hit in 2008. Higher prices were the main kicker which may have started other shifts, e.g. young people becoming less likely to get a license.
Furthermore, fuel prices are likely to stay high, and in fact to increase over time. You would hope that governments would take this into account when determining its transport policy – although ours doesn’t seem very interested in doing so.
Some countries have reported more of a decline in driving amongst young people, and I don’t think this is a coincidence either. Young people would have been particularly hard hit by high prices – their lower incomes mean they had to cut back more, and their travel was often discretionary. Let’s say you are young enough to live at your parents, and you get $20 a week to do whatever you like with. Well, that $20 buys half as much petrol as it would have ten years ago. You can blow your entire pocket money just in getting to a few friends’ houses. It’s no wonder that fewer people are getting licenses. Another factor is that, post-2008, many countries are struggling with high youth unemployment.
In 2007, the excellently named Booz Allen & Hamilton did some research on just how much fuel prices affect travel. They estimated the short run elasticity of petrol consumption at -0.15, or -0.2 in the medium term. Elasticity is a commonly used concept in economics, and you can check out the Wikipedia page for more info – but in brief, an elasticity of -0.2 means that a 10% increase in the price of petrol is associated with a 2% decrease in petrol consumption. If something goes up in price, we buy less of it, right? Petrol is one of those things that we’re not very price sensitive to – the demand is “inelastic” – but it’s naive to think that higher prices don’t have an effect.
And, over the last decade, the increases in petrol prices have been massive. In real terms, they’ve gone from $1.27 in June 2003 to above $2.04 in June 2013. That’s a rise of 60%. In nominal terms, the increase is even larger. And if you look back to June 1999, when prices bottomed out, there’s been a real increase of 80% since then.
Holding other things constant – i.e. forgetting about economic growth, population growth and so on – the numbers from Booz Allen & Hamilton suggest that per-household petrol consumption would have fallen by 12% since 2004. That’s not too different from what we’ve actually seen.
Notwithstanding that elasticity estimates can be a lot less accurate when you get such large percentage changes, we’re certainly talking the right order of magnitude. I think a regression analysis would be likely to show that the main factor in decreased petrol use and driving is, indeed, higher prices.
Taking It Further
I want to point out that a lot of the non-academic debate on changing travel trends has focussed on things other than prices. In fact, even some of the ‘academic’ stuff seems to have ignored prices – see the paper here, although that only presents arguments rather than any kind of quantitative analysis. As an economist, I’m quite stunned by this. Transport fuels are a major part of household budgets (more than $2,300 a year on average), and prices have risen massively in the last ten years, and people don’t think that’s had an impact on the way we get around? I know I drive differently than I would if petrol was still $1.20 a litre. My daily patterns mightn’t change much, but I’d probably go on more road trips, more spontaneous drives in the weekend and so on. I’ll be looking at this more in the future.
Just over a week ago the new Auckland Development Committee held its first meeting. This committee inherits the work of the former Auckland Plan Committee, which largely was taken up by the work on the Unitary Plan. However the cessation of the main body of that work means this committee can now look a wider range of projects. Responsibilities of the committee include the Unitary Plan, Special Housing Areas, Spatial Plans and City Transformation Projects.
The meeting agenda included a wealth of information with updates of progress on a wide variety of the City Transformation Projects, which cover town centre upgrades, CBD upgrades and legacy greenfield projects like Westgate, Flat Bush and Hobsonville. This post will focus on updates in regard to projects featured in the City Centre Masterplan, as this is the first time we have a comprehensive progress update since the plan was released.
Quay Street Upgrade
As we have highlighted before Quay Street is a real missed opportunity for the city, and having 6 lanes of traffic here is totally over the top.
The Concept Plan should see public consultation in 2014. There was a low quality screenshot included, but it doesn’t really give anything away in regards to the final form of the street.
There is some exciting news though in regards to some low-cost place making exercises, and the Albert Street parklet looks like it was the first of these.
“early initiative trials of concept including Placeman, bike event, temporary street furniture, park-let and safety upgrades.
The update notes $25 million was set aside in the LTP, mostly for 2016/17.
Upper Queen Street Cycleway & Gateway upgrade.
The Upper Queen Street motorway over bridge is currently a very miserable windswept place. It is also well over-engineered for the traffic volume it carries, with 3 lanes in each direction. Strangely it even has parking on the bridge itself. However it will all change in the is project which is linked to the Grafton Gully Cycleway project. This is programmed for construction in 2015/16 at a cost of $1.5 million.
Bledisloe Lane Upgrade
Bledisloe Lane is the covered walkway than runs between Wellesley Street and Aotea Square, and helps build on the lane way network as is opposite Elliot Street. Currently is a rather dark and uninviting thoroughfare.
A concept design has been delivered. The construction should start early 2014, and last 6 months. The total cost will be $3.6 million.
Freyberg Place Upgrade
Freyberg Place currently allows cars through at the northern end which is very strange, and negatively affects the whole space. The render shows that car access will totally disappear which is fantastic, as there is no need for cars to short cut through here at all. Will be built 2014 or 2015 at a cost of $2 million.
Upper Khartoum Place
This is the gateway to Auckland’s fabulous Art Gallery, and is in somewhat of a rundown state. It is currently out to tender, construction should start in 2014. Note that the Women’s Suffrage memorial is being retained as part of this redesign, as this has caused issues with previous upgrade proposals.
O’Connell St Upgrade
Costed at $4 million, construction should commence in early 2014. Initial designs for this upgrade showed a very unambitious upgrade, with only minor changes. However public feedback meant that a shared space appears to be the outcome.
Victoria St Linear Park
Victoria Street is a somewhat uninviting streetscape, and the 4 lanes seem unnecessary considering the also wide Wellesley Street is the next block south. The long term plan is to turn it into a Linear Park to link Albert and Victoria Parks which will provide a high-quality East West Link in the mid-cty area, and that is sorely needed.
Again a concept design for was delivered in October. Construction should start in late 2014 or early 2015, and will be delivered in stages out to 2017. First stage will cost $4.7 million, with total cost of $24 million.
Overall is great to see that a number of exciting projects are likely to progress over the next few years, continuing to improve on the massive gains we have seen in the CBD in recent years.
To me, one of the best things about this time of year is the colour we get from flowering Pohutukawa trees. A street near my house is lined with them and they are now coming into bloom creating a wonderful sight (they are also some the straightest Pohutukawa’s I’ve ever seen)
There’s a long running debate over whether the flattening/decline of traffic growth over the past few years is attributable mainly to the rather ‘up and down’ economic situation over a fairly similar time period – or whether this reflects a more fundamental change in travel habits.
This is a critical question – on the one hand if the recent trends are due to the economic situation (certainly the position taken by NZIER economist John Stephenson at the transport conference I went to a few weeks back) then they’re just something of an anomaly and likely to ‘correct’ over time back to normal steady traffic growth. Under this scenario, the long term transport models we have that predict significant traffic growth in the future might be right and there may be some long term justification for many of the motorway we’re either building or planning at the moment (even if we’re perhaps building them too early compared to other transport priorities).
On the other hand, if the flattening or decline of traffic volumes is more independent of the economic situation then it may be a sign of longer term changes to travel habits. These longer term shifts potentially arise from changes such as a fundamental increase in the price of petrol, technological advances which mean that cars aren’t needed to interact with friends in the way they once were, urban structure changes which reflect a ‘re-urbanisation’, improved public transport and so on. The key point here is that these changes are likely to be fairly long-lived – fundamentally impacting upon future predicted travel growth, completely debunking transport models and having an absolutely massive impact on future transport needs.
A new study from the US PIRG institute looks at this question in a bit more detail – to try and understand in more detail the changing travel patterns across the USA over the past few years. Some key headline findings outline in the report include:
- The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data. (New Orleans was the only exception here).
- From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate Federal Highway Administration data are available (54 out of 74 urban areas).
- The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
- The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
- The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.
Perhaps the most interesting findings from the report arise when the economic performance of different cities over the past few years is compared with the average number of vehicle miles driven per person. You might expect that cities which have struggle economically over the past few years would have the biggest decline in per capita travel – because of higher unemployment, reduced business travel, generally less wealth to spend on cars etc. However, the report’s analysis actually shows the opposite is true:
What the data appears to be showing is that cities which experienced the greatest decrease in per capita VMT between 2006 and 2011 were the cities which fared best in terms of lower unemployment, higher median income and a lower level of increase in poverty.
The report’s authors make some pretty heavy hitting conclusions and recommendations for policymakers:
The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. On the contrary, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.
“Government should support transportation initiatives that reflect these travel trends,” said Baxandall. “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to enlarge our grandfather’s Interstate Highway System, we should invest in the kinds of transportation options that the public increasingly favors.”
I’m guessing that if someone were to study what is happening with the economy locally we would see some similar trends. Meanwhile Auckland continues to gear up for a giant spend-up on motorways.
Some good news, Auckland Transport has now confirmed what the new bus network for South Auckland will look like following on from the consultation a few months ago. Here is the press release.
Auckland Transport has released its final New Network for bus services in South Auckland.
This follows public consultation earlier this year which resulted in more than 1100 submissions and three petitions. Overall, 56 per cent of submitters supported the proposed New Network and 22 per cent were opposed.
By far the most commonly mentioned positive attribute of the New Network was the proposed increase in service frequencies. Participants felt this would mean less waiting at bus stops, and faster journey times, especially during the weekend.
Public Transport Network Manager, Anthony Cross says he is pleased with the level of support and public interest in the New Network.
“Overall people got what the New Network is all about. Many submitters raised some valid concerns and made suggestions about our proposals. Of the 28 original proposed routes within the south Auckland area, we are making changes to 20 of those routes.
“In addition we are creating one new route and retaining a limited express service from Papakura to the CBD. As a result of consultation feedback there are 30 routes under the final South Auckland New Network.
Along with analysing the public submissions a team of public transport planners went out driving the routes in buses to clarify issues raised.
“On such a large scale as this we understand the final routes will not please everyone but we believe we have genuinely listened to what people said. We have had to make some trade-offs, we took things on board and where necessary or possible we made changes to improve the network to suit people’s needs, says Mr Cross.
Implementation of the routes is currently planned for mid-2015, subject to their affordability as determined by the tendering of bus services, and completion of the Otahuhu bus-train Interchange and other important infrastructure. New Network timetables will be available approximately two months prior to implementation to allow people time to plan their travel. A comprehensive public information campaign will also be carried out prior to any services changing.
For a copy of the final summary consultation report go to www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork
Under the New Network, Auckland Transport is moving to a simpler and more integrated public transport network. This will deliver a network of buses and trains that will change the way people travel – including the need for some passengers to transfer at key interchanges. In return it will allow more passengers to simply ‘turn up and go’ rather than planning trips around a timetable. It will offer flexible travel options over large parts of the city, making public transport more useful for a range of travel purposes.
The current bus network is considered complex, mostly infrequent and in many places, duplicates what trains do. It is inefficient to operate and does not always provide a suitable alternative to the car, or give ratepayers, taxpayers and customers the best value for money.
This new frequent network will have trains and buses timetabled at least every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. They will be supported by a network of connector routes and local and peak services.
Due to the large scale of change; consultation and implementation for Auckland’s New Network has been broken into several phases, starting with South Auckland, which was the focus of this consultation. Other parts of Auckland will be consulted over the next few years.
To get 56% of people support the proposal is fairly impressive when you consider how much change was being proposed and these types of consultations often only bring out people who like things the way they are, especially when it involves how they get around the city. I think it is a credit to Auckland Transport as to how well they conducted the consultation, not only explaining what was changing but why things needed to change. By comparison recent consultation in Brisbane consisted largely of just saying what routes were changing without any real explanation as to why and as such it saw a lot of negative submissions leading to the changes not going ahead. In saying that I’m sure there were things that AT could have done better but I’m sure they will learn from that for next round that they do.
Almost all routes from the original proposal have had changes of some sort. Most appear to be fairly minor consisting of small diversions which will add some travel time in return for more coverage. An example of this is below with the original proposal on the left and the final version on the right. In this case the 325 will now take a loop around Tennessee Ave and Blake Rd instead of the faster and more direct Farmer St.
Thankfully these little loop additions have only been made to the secondary or local network routes with the Frequent networks remaining more direct. Two of the frequent routes have seen changes though. In the original proposal two of the routes, the 31 and 33 split into lower frequency routes for part of their journey. Following the consultation they have both had one leg of their route upgraded to frequent status with the other leg being run as a separate service. AT are also retaining a peak only express bus service from Papakura, this is something we saw a few people commenting on here about – although the current service runs all the way from Pukekohe. However AT does say that the retention of the service is transitional and will be reviewed again in the future once the new network, electrification and integrated fares have all been in for a reasonable amount of time.
Here is the map of what was originally consulted on:
And here is the final version:
It’s really great to finally have this stage of the process finished however if I have one concern it is that we won’t be seeing any changes till mid-2015, over 1½ years away and is subject to infrastructure like the new Otahuhu interchange which is just being consulted on now. Slippages in that infrastructure and/or funding constraints could have the risk of further delaying the roll-out of these key changes.
Lastly there is the report analysing the feedback AT received. I won’t delve into it too much as this post is already long enough however I found the following two charts really interesting. 31% of all respondents said the new network would encourage them to use PT more compared to 36% saying it would make no difference and 22% saying they would use it less with 11% unsure. Of the 31% who would use it more the following reasons were given.
This is unsurprising and as Jarrett Walker says, Frequency is Freedom. People are obviously responding to this. On the other side are those that said they won’t use the new network more often with transfers highlighted as the biggest concern.
All up I think the new network is a really positive development and I can’t wait for it to be implemented, not just in the south but across the entire city.
A great TED talk by Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia who did so much to help transform the city through rapid improvements to the cities bus and cycle infrastructure. The title of his talk is
“An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport,” argues Enrique Peñalosa. In this spirited talk, the former mayor of Bogotá shares some of the tactics he used to change the transportation dynamic in the Colombian capital… and suggests ways to think about building smart cities of the future.
Enrique Peñalosa was the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, between 1998 and 2000. He advocates for sustainability and mobility in the cities of the future.
Queen St hums with people most days. Time for some more pedestrian space?
Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne
I think that introducing fun in to the PT experience is essential and something that we need to be doing. It’s something I’ve talked about before and believe it could have big opportunities in Auckland to make people think different about public transport. I was searching for something the other day when I came across this post from a few years ago which is a collection of 25 cool and unusual bus stops from around the world. You can see them all at the link however here are some of my favourites. As you will see they work to make the PT experience unique and interesting.
Football goal posts in Brazil to promote the world cup – not that it probably needs much promotion there.
A swing for a seat at a London bus stop, there are normal seats to the side.
And here’s a video of it
Seeing as this one was advertising the Playstation 2 it is obviously a bit old now but what I like is the bubble wrap on the walls. It creates an interesting distraction for people waiting at the bus stop because who doesn’t like popping bubble wrap.
Again another take on the distraction/fun element, this time a hammock at a bus stop.
From Paris an interactive bus stop in which people waiting can interact with a touch screen that is also affected by pedestrians that pass by the larger screen on the back of the shelter.
From Japan a series of quirky bus stops designed like fruit.
As I said, making the PT experience fun and interesting is something I think that is really important. It doesn’t mean every bus stop should be like the ones above but perhaps Auckland Transport should have a programme to make fun a handful of bus stops each year.
And one final one that I think could have the opposite effect, the seat has been turned into a scale that displays your weight on the side of the bus stop.
The wonderful Cornwall Park
Photos are credited to oh.yes.melbourne