Follow us on Twitter

Stuart’s 100 #31: The City Centre is a Local Centre Too

31: The City Centre is a Local Centre Too

31_Local_Shops_&_Services

What if the city centre had local shops like other dense places?

Day 31 continues a series looking at things missing from the city centre; in this case thinking about local shops and services. Relative to other dense but more established residential neighbourhoods in places like Auckland’s city fringe and other long established residential areas, it seems there are a lot of local shops and services that are missing or somewhat underrepresented in the city centre.

Historically there may have been a variety of reasons, such as the much more established nature of other residential areas, wealthier demographics, or at least more families and less transient communities, which have tended to result in more choice and diversity in local shops in at least the most fortunate of these older Auckland neighbourhoods.

But in the city centre – the densest residential area in New Zealand –  it does feel like there are many opportunities going begging for retailers and service providers who recognise not just the demand from the 27,000 odd residents already living here, but also the strong likelihood of that number doubling again in the coming decades. City centre residents are also getting more diverse as we saw in this post a few weeks back.

The city centre is a local centre too. Wouldn’t it be good to see more businesses and community facilities establishing that cater to this local population and its changing demographics?

Stuart Houghton 2014

Give Away!

Film distributors Madman Entertainment have kindly sent us four DVDs of the BBC documentary on the London Underground: The Underground:

Underground DVD

Narrated by Julian Barrett of Mighty Boosh fame, each of the six episodes is an incredibly in-depth and unblinking look at what it takes to keep Four Million people moving under the streets of London everyday. Full of characters and extraordinary information from this unseen world.

Produced for the BBC, THE UNDERGROUND goes behind the scenes of the world’s oldest, biggest and busiest underground train network, during the biggest overhaul in its 150 year history.

The series follows key members of the Tube’s 19,000 staff – from the chief operating officer down to the litter pickers who walk miles of track every night collecting rubbish. Drivers, station staff and emergency response workers all reveal their unique perspective on the passengers. From tourists to suburban commuters to drunks getting the last train home, we capture the life of the Tube in all its guises.

To win a copy just add a comment to this post with the sentence or soundbite that you think should be used to promote Auckland’s own [but of course much smaller] version of underground; the CRL. We will choose the four best ones and send them each a copy. As well as seriously suggest to Auckland Transport that they use one of them!

Thanks to Madman Entertainment.

The emergence of an urban generation of Aucklanders

This is just a quick note about an event on tomorrow night. Our good friend Dr Sudhvir Singh from Generation Zero is speaking at the Sir John Logan Campbell Annual Lecture on “The emergence of an urban generation of Aucklanders”. Details are here.

24 September 2014

6:45 – 8pm

Venue: Reception Lounge, Level 2, Auckland Town Hall

The ‘father of Auckland’, Sir John Logan Campbell initially trained as a doctor before going on to play a key role in Auckland’s early development. During Auckland’s initial planning stages, suburbs were designed for people, and Auckland had some of the highest rates of public transport patronage per capita in the world. Since then, Auckland has grown into an incredibly diverse, outward looking city of 1.5 million people. However decisions made in the 20th century have resulted in a sprawling, car-dependent urban form. Under the new ‘super city’ structure, Auckland’s future shape is being determined. Issues of urban development are highly consequential: cities like Auckland are on the front line of 21st century challenges, from climate change to inequality to the epidemic of ‘non-communicable diseases’ like diabetes and heart disease.

Can smart urban planning provide solutions to these contemporary challenges? Do Auckland’s increasingly multicultural cohort of young people have different preferences to their parents’ generation, and what kind of city do they want to live in in the future? What lessons can be learned from Sir John Logan Campbell’s time? Using his experience as a health professional, a migrant and an advocate for a more liveable city, Sudhvir will share his vision for Auckland, and the potential for Auckland’s first ‘urban generation’ to help influence the future shape of our city.

Where to now for transport in Auckland?

In some respects Saturday night’s election result changes nothing from a transport perspective. It seems as though the government that will be formed over the next three years will be remarkably similar to that we’ve had for the past three years and there’s certainly no indication of a change in direction for transport policy from what we’ve had over the past six years. However, this has some important implications:

  • It’s almost certain that Puhoi-Warkworth will be built, with construction likely to start before the 2017 election and the project built/funded as a PPP.
  • There will continue to be a lot of discussion around the timing of City Rail Link and whether the Council or Government budges from their preferred start date.
  • Progress on any alternative funding mechanisms to close the so called “funding gap” for transport seems pretty unlikely. This is despite the fact some government departments have also being doing their own investigations on alternative funding sources due to lower than expected revenues into the National Land Transport Fund.
  • There is likely to be more money for cycling projects thanks to the $100 million for urban cycleways around the country over four years

Cam discussed Puhoi-Warkworth in his post yesterday, so in this post I’m going to focus on the CRL and alternative funding, particularly what the election results means for these two key (although not necessarily connected) issues.

Starting with the CRL, a start on the project as a whole anytime in the next three years now seems fairly unlikely. This means hopes of completing the project by 2021 are probably slim unless the Council can talk government into a very big change of position. The Council is keen to progress talks with government about the timing and funding of CRL, but it seems likely that these talks will focus on funding of the section underneath the downtown shopping centre:

Although the council wants to start CRL by 2016, the previous Government indicated no funding before 2020 unless certain rail patronage and employment targets were met. But [Penny] Hulse remains confident of middle ground.

“We’ve been working well with the Government over the last three years and we don’t expect that to change. The start time and funding are things we need to talk to the Government about,” she said.

This section is particularly important as it is key to delivering not just the redevelopment of the downtown shopping centre site but also a whole raft of projects that are part of the Downtown Framework including making things better for buses on Customs St.

I’m still confident the rail patronage targets set by the government – that patronage will track towards hitting 20 million journeys per year by 2020 – will be met or even exceeded, plus of course there’s still another election in 2017 between now and the government’s current preferred start date. But it seems prudent, for now at least, for the Council to just get on with building the section under the downtown shopping mall – like I said in this previous post. Once CRL is started, it will be much easier to “complete” and the section underneath the downtown shopping centre will make constructing the rest of the project much easier – especially if they can get the bit under Customs Street built as part of this first stage:

So I don’t really think Saturday’s election results change things much for the CRL. I would imagine that the main focus to negotiations over CRL between government and the Council is likely to be around whether the government stumps up with half the cost of the first stage of the project or whether they force Council to fund the whole thing – like has happened so far. I think it would be quite a good look for the government to provide CRL with some financial support for the first stage, to show that it’s serious about believing in the CRL project and to show that it values redevelopment of the city centre.

In relation to alternative transport funding, this might be a bigger hurdle to resolve as the government has been pretty clear on its position previously – no congestion charging and no additional tolls on existing motorways. To some extent this may not be an issue, as I highlighted a few weeks back the “baseline transport programme” (what can be afforded without additional funding with 2.5-3.5% rates increases over the next decade) doesn’t actually look too bad, at least in terms of what big projects are in (CRL, AMETI, new bus network stuff etc.) and out (Penlink). The devil may come in the details of what projects can be afforded when and how much additional walking and cycling funding is available, but at least for now it doesn’t seem like the end of the world if there’s no progress on alternative funding schemes in the next three years. Unless you’re a Penlink supporter, of course!

In saying that it also seems government agencies are becoming increasingly interesting in the issue of alternative funding as a way to provide certainty to the revenues flowing into the National Land Transport Fund (the account that collects all of the transport taxes). It may be a few years away yet but I get the feeling the noise surrounding alternative funding sources is just going to get louder and louder so we’re likely on a course to needing a nationwide discussion about them. When this happens the work put in by the council on the matter is likely to come in quite handy.

The last main issue relates to cycling improvements. From a transport point of view this was one of the highlights of election campaign as every major party (and most of the minor ones) all agreed on the need to spend considerably more on walking and cycling than currently happens. For their part National promised to spend $100 million over four years on urban cycleways. Based on Auckland’s share of the urban population that could see it receiving over $40 million over the four years which would represent an approximate doubling in spending. In saying that a lot will hinge on just how much the council agree to in the Long Term Plan. With the government now seemingly on board with cycling there is a risk the council will try to use the enlarged cycling pot as a chance to cut back on some of the council’s spend. Instead the opposite needs to happen and they need to at least double funding to go on top of whatever the government plan to provide.

So overall, aside from the fact we’re near certain to waste three-quarters of the billion dollars plus whatever the PPP costs on Puhoi to Warkworth, I don’t think the election results is too much of an issue for advancing key transport issues in the next few years. It does mean the slower delivery of CRL, but that’s not unexpected and may help ensure key bus infrastructure for the new network can be completed in time. There’s a certain irony that the government’s dislike for alternative transport funding options probably means a delay to Penlink, a project I understand the local National MP has pushed strongly for, but that project’s a waste of money anyway.

Lastly it was disappointing that despite many requests the first time we got to meet transport minister Gerry Brownlee was at the election debate night. I will also be keeping an eye out to see if we get a new transport minister and whoever it is, I hope they become open to meeting with us this term.

Stuart’s 100 #30 Small is Beautiful

30: Small is Beautiful

Day_30_Small_is_Beautiful

What if we decided small can be beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder sees beauty through the lens of what they hold dear. When it comes to lifestyle beauty relates to how we want to live and how we are used to living.

Aucklanders have lived large for a long time. Many of us are now making different choices to live small. This might still seem quite foreign to many Aucklanders accustomed to lots of space and their own personal bubble. But that doesn’t make small inherently bad.

If we decided small can be beautiful, then we will develop a new appreciation for these things. People who choose to live an inner city lifestyle develop an appreciation of the joys of the small apartment, the small car or the folding bicycle, because space is at a premium in every aspect of their city existence. They recognise the trade-offs but are content that they work for them.

A sense of beauty is important but it can be cultivated and trained to grow in different directions. Small can be beautiful.

Stuart Houghton 2014

O’Connell St officially opened, time to close it again?

On Friday evening the new O’Connell St shared space was officially opened. The street is by far the best shared space created in Auckland to date, thanks in large part to the historic buildings in the area which feel like they’ve been brought to life after peeling back the layers of vehicle dominated neglect. This has also been helped by the council having included lighting of the buildings as part of the project – a first for our shared space projects.

The street was closed to vehicles for the opening but what was particularly fantastic was seeing so many people out and enjoying the food and drink being put on by the local businesses. The people (along with the light cubes and band) took the space to another level that also sucked in passers-by eager to join in and enjoy the space, even if they were just making their way home. It did make me wonder if this is the most people the street has had in it – at least in the last 50-60 years.

O'Connell Opening

And here are the light cubes which provided colour and placemaking. Later in the evening, after many of the people attending the opening had left, people out in the city also made use of them.

O'Connell Opening Cubes

It really feels like an intimate people space and it’s one I think we’ll see evolve over the coming years, as I’m predicting a lot more restaurants and bars will open out to the street. While I realise the street has only just opened up again, what the experience from the opening really highlighted to me was the need for us to close the street down to traffic often (arguably it shouldn’t have reopened at all but that’s a discussion for another day). Perhaps the council/AT could start by closing it from around 11am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays which allows time for deliveries in the mornings but then hands the street over to people and the retailers.

One of the fantastic things about O’Connell St, compared to many others, is how easy it would be to shut it down for vehicles. There is only one entrance to the street and even for this event just a single “road closed” sign and a few road cones was all that was needed. On top of that there’s not a single vehicle entrance for the entire length of the street – a rarity in Auckland – which means that other that other than deliveries there’s not a single need for any vehicles to even be in the street.

O'Connell Opening CRoad Closed sign

While on the subject of O’Connell St there are a few other things that spring to mind.

  • It really highlights how much High St is dominated by cars. It makes me wonder if the majority of retailers and building owners who gave in to the cadre of parking obsessed neighbours are ruing the decision.
  • One of the great things about O’Connell St is the view down the street to Commerce St and the harbour. It highlights how important it is that when the old Auckland Star site is eventually developed – hopefully not as just a carpark – that it retains some elements of this.
  • We need to remember that we almost got this street very very wrong. The original plan was to retain a kerb defined carriageway and a handful of the parking spots with just slightly wider and nicer paving. Without many parked cars it would have been a racetrack and the upgrade a disaster. We were amongst many who pushed back on this and urged the council to reconsider. It’s also worth noting that the council originally said the street was too narrow to develop a shared space. With the outcome that’s been achieved I don’t think anyone would say the original plan was the right one.
  • In my opinion the Nikaus in Queen St are often dwarfed by the size of the road, however in O’Connell St I think they work fantastically and add beautifully to the buildings.

In other news it appears the issues of lots of cars continuing to park in the street could be over:

All up despite being one of the oldest streets in Auckland, O’Connell St feels like a new fantastic addition to the city which perhaps highlights just how sad and forgotten it had become. Well done to all involved in the upgrade and thanks to the retailers who put up with the disruption while construction occurred.

Economics and the Puhoi Warkworth Board of Inquiry

The final decision from the Board of Inquiry confirming the Puhoi to Warkworth toll road was published on 12th September but, what with one thing and another, I’m only now getting round to writing about it. The final report is largely unchanged from the draft version.

Here’s a reminder of the route, which runs from Puhoi to a point 2km north of Warkworth:

Puhoi to Warkworth toll road

Puhoi to Warkworth toll road

The toll road will be just 700m shorter than the existing SH1 and reduce travel time to the north of Warkworth by just three minutes compared to the current journey time.  Most Warkworth residents will find the new toll road won’t be quicker (and in some cases slower) than the existing SH1.

Probably the most perplexing thing about the BOI Report is the complete absence of any consideration of the economic impacts on the community.

Section 8.5 of the report is headed “Economics” and starts off promisingly, but it is only three paragraphs and really just sets the scene for the Board’s consideration of economic impacts:

[200] It is necessary to consider the economic impacts of the Project in the context of the Act. These impacts are particularly relevant to the Part 2 assessment that the Board conducts later in this Report.

[201] The purpose of the Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources in a manner which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing (s 5). Under s 7 of the Act it is necessary to have particular regard to certain matters
including the efficient use and development of natural and physical resources.

[202] A number of representations and submissions questioned the adequacy of NZTA’s consideration of alternatives. Also questioned were the wisdom of the use of public monies on the motorway Project and whether or not there had been an adequate cost-benefit analysis. These issues are dealt with in another section of this Report.

Regular readers will recall that the toll road hasn’t been subject to any economic analysis (even the standard Economic Evaluation Manual), however the Board discusses this in section 10.5, para 374:

[374] One of the difficulties with which these submissions posed the Board is that no expert evidence was called to challenge the economic and cost benefit assumptions on which NZTA’s applications were based. Nonetheless, the submissions generally, and the statutory status of “alternatives” in particular, require the Board to deal briefly with these issues.

In comments to the Board, CBT responded by pointing out that “no economic evidence in chief was supplied by the applicant in support of the project, so there was no evidence to challenge.”  CBT sought an amendment to the report, asking for some commentary from the Board as to why it considers an economic analysis of the Project’s impact on the community is not necessary, but none was forthcoming in the final version of the report.

Further on, the Board states in paragraph 379:

…Section 7 “alternatives” in the AEE sets out in detail the process whereby NZTA considered the various options and alternatives open to it.The Board is satisfied that the consideration of alternatives to the proposed route and designations by NZTA was conscientious and comprehensive. Many evaluation criteria were deployed, including a “value for money” criterion.

Again, in comments to the Board, the CBT pointed out the “value for money” criterion on p.144 of the AEE refers to the “ability of the option to be tolled”.  In this context, “value for money” refers to value for money for the applicant, and not to the value to the community.  Value to the community, alongside possible negative economic impacts to the community should be the primary consideration of the Board.

Neither of these and other comments resulted in any changes to the draft report. Instead, in a separate document, the Board notes the following with regard to the CBT and Generation Zero’s comments on the draft report in section 1.6

[18] There may, in respect of any proposal, be positive or adverse economic effects. These positive or negative economic effects may impact on entire communities or on individuals. It is also clear law that the financial viability of a proposal is not an appropriate matter for a consent authority to consider.

[19] It was against that background that the Board’s Draft Decision contained the various passages which the Campaign for Better Transport and Generation Zero seek to be further justified. But it is not for the Board to scrutinise the economic viability of the Project (regardless of whether the proposed highway is a toll highway or not).

[20] There were many representations from territorial authorities in Northland and transport groups that the Project would bring significant regional economic benefits and cost savings.

[21] Consent authorities and Boards established under the Act are required to make planning judgments which inevitably (as is the case with all decision makers) engage the common sense and life-experience of Board members. The effects of a heavy truck and trailer unit moving slowly up a steep hill, with other traffic stretching out behind it, on fuel consumption and journey times is self evident and need not be a matter for direct evidence.

[22] Whether or not improved highways designed for vehicular transport of goods and private motorists, with the resulting consumption of fuel, is desirable (economically, socially, or otherwise), or whether motor vehicle use should be discouraged and public transport enhanced, are indeed “high policy” matters and cannot properly be dictated or influenced by this Board.

[23] The Board accepts that Mr Pitches’ cross-examination of NZTA’s Traffic Report as it related to traffic flows in and around Warkworth5 indeed challenged some of the information provided by NZTA. But it was not, in the circumstances, necessary for the Board to make further factual findings beyond those which it did relating to Warkworth traffic generally and the Hill Street intersection in particular.

[24] As stated, the Board has noted the comments of the Campaign for Better Transport and Generation Zero. It is unnecessary, however, for the Board to do anything further. The economic concerns of both organisations were, to the extent that they can be, carefully considered. Those concerns certainly cannot be described as minor or technical.

And that’s it. So the Board hasn’t considered any evidence about the economic impacts on the community at all, as they set out to do in section 8.5.  Instead they conflate the economic viability of the project (which they don’t have to consider) with the economic impact on the community (which they do). It is also worth pointing out that the representations referred to in para 20 didn’t contain any economic evidence either. The Northland territorial authorities simply asserted that the toll road would be good for Northland’s economy.

So, all in all, a disappointing decision that doesn’t really address economic impacts on the community, other than accepting the assertions of the applicant which aren’t based on any hard economic studies.  I’m not an RMA lawyer, but potentially I see this as setting a precedent for all future infrastructure projects whereby economic benefit cost studies need not be supplied at all.

The decision is also in stark contrast to the Basin Bridge decision, which declined the Basin Reserve flyover. In that decision, the Board carefully discusses economic effects in the context of a cost benefit framework.  In the consideration of alternatives, the Board appointed its own peer reviewer and found that consideration had been inadequate.

NB: Any appeal would need to be lodged by the 3rd October, however the CBT decided at its last Committee meeting that we will not be pursing this option. The cost and effort would be prohibitive and the result of an appeal would simply direct the Board to reconsider their decision.

Election results, my first thoughts and so on

So, the 2014 election results are in, with an emphatic win for National. Six years into his Prime Ministership, and having just been re-elected for a third term, John Key has achieved what very few NZ politicians have done before him; he remains trusted, respected, admired and even liked by a large proportion of the public.

Transport

As regular readers of the blog will have gathered, we consider National’s policies on transport, urban issues and climate change to be outdated and misguided. From that perspective, their election win is unfortunate, but transport doesn’t seem to get a lot of discussion at (central government) election time; urban issues and climate change are even more minor.

And, to be fair, when you look at the government financial accounts you realise that transport is actually a pretty small part of what the government does:

Transport and communications spending

Of a budget of around $90 billion, the central government spends around $9-$10 billion a year on “transport and communications”. However, there’s only around $2.8 billion that comes through the National Land Transport Fund each year, and that’s essentially the transport part of the budget. Of that $2.8 billion, half of it gets passed through to councils for them to spend (although central government still gets to have quite a say in how the councils spend it, via the Government Policy Statement).

So, transport is not a big component of the government budget. It’s quite understandable that people aren’t going to cast their vote based on it. And while the Roads of National Significance program is a deeply flawed one, and many of the roads themselves are very inefficient, there’s some comfort in knowing that this wasted spending is just a small part of a large economy.

…That’s not the last word, I do have more to say on this below…

Urban issues

This is a broad topic and I won’t try to address it here, but long story short, I don’t see much to inspire me in either Labour’s or National’s urban policies. I think there are people at the top of both parties who have a good understanding of urban issues, but this gets swamped by populist policies which are not well thought out. Urban issues are mainly a job for local government, but the central government still has a big role to play. I’m confident that both major parties are likely to eventually figure this stuff out.

Climate change

I’ve previously made my views clear on National’s climate change policy, and I hope they come around to acknowledging this issue as a serious one. However, climate change barely registered on the agenda this election. I can’t even remember it being mentioned in the Green Party’s collateral that ended up in my letterbox, and I barely saw it anywhere else either. I’m sure these issues will return to the public consciousness at some point; I’m just disappointed at all the opportunities we’re missing, the low hanging fruit, and the likelihood that there will be much higher costs if we wait. In the meantime, NZ’s emissions continue to increase, and there’s absolutely no leadership being taken on making any serious reductions to those emissions. This issue is strongly linked to transport, and those are where many of the reductions will need to be made. We need to take steps to decarbonise our transport system, starting right away. National have not shown any interest in doing so, and are actually doing their best to head in the opposite direction.

Summing up

We strive to be non-political, or non-partisan, or both – I’m not even sure what wording we’re going for, but hopefully you get the idea – but transport is a political issue in NZ, so inevitably we do end up taking stances on issues which are deemed to be political. I’m optimistic about some of this stuff, though. I think we are working towards a point where there is broad recognition that we can’t go on doing things the way we always have, spending all our transport money on roads and cars and having no thought to anything else. Labour and the Greens (and even New Zealand First) are well ahead of National on this, but I expect even National to figure it out in the next few years. There will be more of a common direction set, and the Roads of National Significance binge will be the last one. A few billion dollars will be wasted, and that’s sad, but as I said above, it’s a small part of a large economy.

Likewise, I’m optimistic on our cities, with the possible exception of Christchurch. I’m pretty sure that people will figure this stuff out in the next few years. In the meantime, some decisions are being made which we’ll look back on as bad ideas, and that will cost the country, but it’s surmountable and it’s not the end of the world. I’m less optimistic about climate change; the fact that it barely rates as an issue worries me. The fact that we’re not taking steps now to future proof our transport systems and cities worries me. The first step is to get climate change back on the agenda. It hasn’t gone away because we’ve stopped talking about it; it’s kept happening, and the need to take action is growing ever more pressing.

I think this blog has an important role to play in all of these issues. I want us to educate the public, critique the silly decisions that are made on these topics, push for better solutions, and work towards a broader consensus across the country as to how they should be handled. We should do that through reaching the public, councils, and the government. And we should strive to get more agreement on these issues, so they can be depoliticised and people can get back to voting on the real issues like class sizes and whether we’re providing enough funding for cosmetic surgery and which leader has better hair and who said or did something inappropriate and that kind of thing.

Three Kings Quarry Development

Fletcher Residential have lodged two plan changes with the council to develop the Three Kings Quarry.

Fletcher Residential has lodged two private plan change applications with Auckland Council for the redevelopment of Three Kings Quarry. These applications outline two ways to transform the area into a new urban precinct.

The quarry is located at the southern end of Mt Eden Road, eight kilometres from Auckland’s central business district. New links will be created to connect the development’s housing precincts with Three Kings town centre and the volcanic cone
Te Tatua a Riukiuta Maunga (Big King).

The Three Kings development promotes housing diversity with a range of high quality dwellings including two-to-three storey terrace homes, three-to-four storey apartments and 10-storey cascading apartments set against the quarry slope.

Fletcher Residential’s preferred plan change application involves exchanging land to better utilise surrounding Crown land. This will create significant recreational space with two sports fields, a Town Square connecting the precinct to the Three Kings town centre, a convention centre and the historic Three Kings Oval.

The second plan change appears to be a backup should they not be able to exchange land and contains the same residential development however they say it has less extensive community spaces and sports fields than the preferred proposal.

Below is the location of the Quarry along Mt Eden Rd and what it looks like at the moment. At its deepest it is over 3o below the level of Mt Eden Rd.

Quarry Now and Location

Fletcher’s estimate their plans will deliver 1,200-1,500 dwellings which would equate to 2,500 to 3,500 extra residents. They’ve also launched a site for the development showing some concept images of what it would be look like. Below are some of those along with how they describe the development (so warning marketing speak).

A clear view ahead

Urban design has been carefully considered to incorporate multiple vistas of Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King. Street level views and improved access will restore Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King’s position as a key feature of Auckland, and by doing so give the site a strong sense of location and connection with the wider city.

One of a family

Designated viewing areas will let residents greet the morning or usher out the evening with views to Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to the east and Maungawhau (Mt Eden) to the north.

1. Regenerated native bush will extend Big King’s footprint for greater connection between neighbourhood and nature.

2. Enhanced pathways will be created to open up Big King for recreational access.

3. Key sightlines to Big King as well as to neighbouring volcanic cones will be preserved.

Three Kings Plan 1

Around the edge of the quarry are meant to be a series of cascading apartments up to 10 storeys high against the Quarry wall. I would certainly hope there’s publicly accessible lifts to help provide good connectivity between the development and the road. It also seems odd to me that the housing would go in the northern part which would likely to be the most shaded part while the sports fields would be in the south which is also the area closes to the town centre.

Fresh air living

Interconnected open spaces encourage outdoor activities – both relaxed and active. Two new sand-carpeted sports fields connected to the Big King Reserve will be created for year-round activity, and significant areas of passive open space will be provided for relaxation and reflection.

Human scale

Pedestrian trails, boardwalks, ramps, stairways and a proposed elevated walkway to Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King enable exploration by foot and reduce the need for motorised transport throughout the area.

A natural fit

Stepped apartments will cascade down the quarry slopes to both transform and complement the existing landscape. Living spaces are to the front, with car parking hidden behind, preserving front door access to parkland and walkways.

1. 7.5 hectares of high-quality open spaces enable a wide variety of recreational activities.

2. Key pedestrian linkages will be provided to and through the site.

3. Contemporary urban design provides for an active interface between residences and park spaces.

Three Kings Concept 1

Three Kings Concept 2

Viva variety

A diverse mix of people and cultures will come together to create an integrated urban community. With residences on the doorstep of a thriving town centre, meeting and mingling will be a part of daily life.

A vibrant heart

Residents and visitors alike will find plenty to see and do in the town square – a vibrant gathering place that puts people at the centre, and draws on the energy of the surrounding retail, recreational and residential areas.

Home for all

A blend of retirees, young families, solo dwellers and working professionals living side-by-side. With a balanced mix of terrace houses and apartments, the new area will cater to a wide range of lifestyles and life stages.

1. When completed, 1200—1500 dwellings will become home to 2500—3500 people.

2. Located just 6.5 km from the heart of Auckland, the area will attract a diverse mix of cultures and lifestyles.

3. An activated town square will foster a lively retail scene.

Three Kings Concept 3

Three Kings Concept 4

Multiple connections

Situated in the heart of an already thriving suburb, the proposed development offers access to nearby amenities that make life easy: Three Kings School, a major supermarket, shops and services, and public transport.

Out and about

Shows, live music, book readings, community classes and more are just a short walk away at the Fickling Centre and the Mount Roskill Library. Special care will be taken to ensure the new site is closely linked to these popular civic facilities.

A sense of flow

Movement of people is a key element of community. With a series of walkways, stairs and potentially a public lift, the town square is designed to connect the existing suburb to amenities and open spaces within the development.

1. Opening up space for shared and public use is a key component of the overall design.

2. A ‘village within a city’ will be created by integrating retail, recreational and residential spaces.

3. Residents will be able to make use of existing amenities in the surrounding area.

Three Kings Concept 5

I know some in the community aren’t happy about the proposal as they were keen to see the giant hole filled in before being developed while I also understand the local board are keen for the local community to have more say on the shape of the development so I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion from them over the coming weeks and months.

Rail and congestion relief

A conference by the Traffic Institute – a group primarily made up of councillors and officers from a number of local authorities around the country to represent views on road safety and traffic management – held its annual conference earlier this week. There have been a few articles emerge from the conference and the one I’m going to focus on today is one titled Metro Rail won’t fix congestion which relates to a talk at the conference by Dr Dinesh Mohan from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Metro rail systems such as Auckland’s proposed $2.4 billion link from Britomart to Mt Eden do nothing to reduce congestion in the long run, says a visiting international transport expert.

“With metro, all you do is create extra capacity,” Dr Dinesh Mohan told the Traffic Institute at its annual conference in Auckland today.

“Then, after two years, all the roads are congested again – and the metro is full.

“You just increase transport, you don’t reduce congestion.”

More total travel with the same amount of congestion/car use is exactly the point and primary purpose of the City Rail Link. The CRL network will move a lot more people around the region regardless of traffic. It’s also why we need greater investment in bus infrastructure both in the city centre and across the region as it allows us to get more use out of our road networks. The table below shows this, it comes from the City Centre Future Access Study released at the end of 2012. Regardless of the solution investigated (the integrated CRL and surface bus option was chosen as the best) vehicle traffic didn’t decline – although I think this is in part due to poor transport modelling.

CCFAS - City Centre Access
Of course it also means that if projects that don’t reduce congestion long term are not worth building then you can say goodbye to any future road widening programmes. Instead we’d look at getting a better outcome from the existing road resource, which leads us to this point.

“The only way to reduce carbon dioxide is to reduce road area, there is no other way.”

One way to do that was to allocate a lane along every road for buses, and another for cyclists and pedestrians.

Great we agree again, so when do we start? I look forward to a network of bus and cycle lanes made from reclaimed traffic lanes. Projects like painting new bus and cycle lanes often have very high economic returns due to being comparatively cheap to construct (often just some paint is needed) and benefiting a lot of passengers.

He also addresses climate change

Only 25 per cent of the “life-cycle” energy costs of underground passenger trains went on running them, but that left the production of concrete, steel and other infrastructure components contributing the remaining 75 per cent.

“Putting anything underground increases carbon dioxide,” he said.

I guess it’s a good thing then that the vast majority of the other ~90km of the Auckland Rail network ins’t underground.  As mentioned the point of the CRL is to unlock the latent capacity in the existing network so we can use it better. If we were building a full underground metro from scratch then he might have a point. But the City Rail Link is a mere 3km of tunnel turns that whole 90km legacy rail network into a highly efficient regional rapid transit system. To achieve the equivalent outcome with buses would similarly require a bus tunnel of some 3km, given that all the surface corridors are  busy carrying hundreds of buses already. But that’s not the end of it, a bus solution would also require the construction of three or four new busways, in addition to those already planned, to do the same job as the rail network with the CRL.

I’m pretty sure that a bus tunnel and three brand new suburban busways will result in a lot more emissions that a rail tunnel alone.

Also from this article he talks about his figures for carbon emissions being based on coal fired power plants which is something we have very little of.

So, he reasons, if you have a transport system that operates underground or is elevated there are huge amounts in investments in tunnels, bridges and so on. Much more cement, concrete, electricity (for air-conditioning, lighting and so on) gets used, all of which is related to life-cycle costs in which “anything that uses more infrastructure comes off worse”.

Therefore, since most of energy in India is from coal, the carbon emission and energy consumption per passenger in the metro is higher than a bus

He then suggests that deep down everyone wants to drive.

“You must have congestion for the public to use public transport – if you don’t have congestion, you would be very stupid to use public transport, because you could get there faster by car.”

I guess someone better tell the thousands of people who catch PT off peak when the roads are flowing that they are stupid.  The reality is that many people will happily use PT if it’s fast, frequent and reliable (not necessarily in that order). Increasingly people are just fed up of driving, parking and congestion, whatever the time of day. Classic examples of this are on the Northern Busway where there are often queues to get on even after hours as this tweet from the other day highlights:

And lastly

Told about Auckland Transport’s goal of making trains circulate through the central business district rather than having to back out of Britomart, he wondered whether the planners had considered running buses in a circuit instead.

Asked where London would be without its Underground, he said that was an unfair question as the system was built in the 19th Century when there were no buses, which did not become efficient people-carriers until the 1950s.

Well yes buses have been considered in depth, in fact buses featured strongly in the 46 different options considered as part of the CCFAS and enhanced bus operations are part of the preferred option together with the CRL. Bus options included the options below and multiple variations of each one:

  • Best use of existing infrastructure
  • Enhanced Bus operation – this builds on the previous options with additional bus priority through things like double bus lanes, bus priority at intersections etc.
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – both surface BRT options and ones elevated through the city.
  • Underground Bus – various tunnel alignments and operating patterns.

Overall it seems like his quoted comments are a case of him making a judgement about solutions for Auckland without having looked at any of the details. On the positive side it seems the Herald are finally calling the CRL a Metro Rail system rather than a just a rail loop.