New Zealand’s migration boom is still going. Honestly, I thought it would have been tailing off by now. I don’t think anybody thought it would last as long, or go as high as it has. This boom is unprecedented – it’s broken records for the last 17 months in a row.
There’s been plenty of media coverage of the boom, but I want to explore a few points which have been overlooked by most people.
Looking at the headline stats, you could be forgiven for thinking that Auckland gets less than half of NZ’s international immigration, with Auckland apparently getting 30,000 out of “a record net gain of 64,900 migrants in the December 2015 year”, or 46% of the total. These results, what I’ve called the “raw” results, are shown below:
However, the way Statistics New Zealand reports these figures is a bit odd. They don’t impute missing data, meaning that when someone coming or going doesn’t specify a New Zealand region, they don’t get assigned to one. This substantially understates the true amount of net immigration to Auckland. I’d estimate the true figure to be more like 38,300 in the last year, or 59% of the national figures.
Those are really big numbers, because in a typical year Auckland’s “natural increase” (births minus deaths) is around 15,000.
Around 17% of immigrants don’t fill out which region they’ll be moving to, and 10% of emigrants don’t fill out which region they left from. It’s understandable that immigrants may not have the clearest idea where in New Zealand they want to live, but the figure for emigrants is high too. Perhaps we just have lousy handwriting?
Anyway, those missing figures turn out to make quite a big difference. Quoting from the Stats NZ page again:
“Just over half of all arrivals who stated an address on their arrival card indicated they would reside in Auckland. Of those who stated an address on their departure card, 42 percent were migrating from the Auckland region. In comparison, the Auckland region is home to 34 percent of New Zealand’s population (at 30 June 2015)”.
The number of people arriving is currently much larger than the number leaving, (giving high ‘net’ migration). The people arriving are also less likely to say what region they’re moving to. These factors combined add up to a big understatement of how much migration Auckland is getting.
I’ve ‘scaled’ the Auckland migration figures in the graph below, allocating migrants who didn’t state a region to Auckland in the same proportions as those who did state a region.* The NZ figures are still the same, but the Auckland ones (blue line) have changed.
What can we take from this?
- Net international migration into Auckland is much higher than most people think.
- Over the last 25 years, Auckland has always gained more people from overseas than it has lost, although there have been times when that gain is very small.
- The picture is very different for the rest of the country. In the 23 years from October 1990 to September 2013, New Zealand excluding Auckland averaged just 9 net migrants a year. The regions fluctuated between gaining people and losing them, with the years of gains cancelled out by the years of losses. The current boom is going some way to changing that.
- We’re not building enough new homes for all the new migrants coming to Auckland, and therefore some of them will be displacing people already here – they’ll most likely be moving to nearby regions like Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland.
- This continues a long-running trend of Auckland losing people to other parts of New Zealand on a net basis (i.e. net internal migration has been negative, although net international migration has been positive).
My next post will look at international students – they’re a big factor in the current migration boom.
* This scaling should be reasonably accurate, and I’ve checked it against another source. One of the questions in the census asks people where they were living five years ago, with one of the answers being “overseas”. And for the 2013 census, 46.3% of the people who were overseas in 2008 were now living in Auckland. My scaled data shows 47.3% of international arrivals settling in Auckland over the five-year period, a pretty close match. This is for arrivals of course – there’s no way of checking it for departures.
Two weeks ago John Key confirmed that the government would cover half of the costs of the City Rail Link and allow for main works to start in 2018. Immediately questions began about how the Auckland Council would cover its share of the expected $2.5 billion cost. Equally quickly Mayor Len Brown was once again raising the issue of road tolling, suggesting it was needed to pay for it.
The government confirmed yesterday it would pay about half the cost of the project, allowing work on part of the project involving a tunnelling machine to begin earlier in 2018.
Mayor Len Brown believes he has the backing of most Aucklanders to introduce higher road taxes and impose tolls to pay for the city’s half of the bill.
But Mr Brown told Morning Report road tolls were part of a range of transport funding options, and in the long term could not be overlooked.
“We know that we don’t have enough money through rates and borrowings, even if we sold things like the airport shares or the port shares, it’s still not enough.
“It is a critical issue with the growth of the city with the transport investment needs that we have and the City Rail Link in the end, with the $65 billion we’ve got to spend over the next 30 years, is only a small part of it.”
Mr Brown said he could not see any other way of raising extra revenue than with a motorway toll.
Quite why Len is suddenly raising the issue of road tolls again is odd for a few reasons.
Long Term Plan
Last year the council spent a lot of effort discussing the Long Term Plan – the 10-year budget. As part of that process they presented Aucklanders with a binary choice of either a programme of works that would build:
- a basic version funded out of rate rises of 3.5% but that built very little over the coming decades.
- almost every transport project ever dreamed up requiring lots of additional funding and still saw congestion predicted to get worse than it is today. To pay for the up to $12 billion extra that would be needed the council proposed either:
- road pricing on motorways
- a combination of additional rates increases and regional fuel taxes
The important thing though is that both versions of the transport plan included the funding for the City Rail Link. That means the project was never subject to the alternative funding options like Len is suggesting now.
To realise either of funding options for the Auckland Plan option it would have required government approval and that didn’t happen. So instead the council ended up implementing a three-year interim transport levy of $99 for households and $159 for businesses with the money from it earmarked primarily for PT, walking and cycling projects. There is absolutely no reason why the transport levy couldn’t be continued in to the future which is enough to effectively fund a sensible middle option of something between the two original LTP transport plans.
Just coming back to the CRL, the council’s own LTP documents show the project already has funding budgeted for it over the next decade. It includes the expected contribution from the government – which the council correctly assumed would be on board by then.
click to enlarge
As you know the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) is currently going on and is reviewing options and timings for future transport projects in Auckland (the CRL and East-West link sat outside of this). In the Terms of Reference it specifically mentions road pricing, saying they will consider (I’ve underlined the important part)
all land transport interventions, including roads, rail, public transport, personal mobility services, walking, cycling, technology, network optimisation and demand management (including pricing for demand management purposes)
In other words, as part of the process they’re looking at what impact road pricing could have but not as a revenue gathering tool like Len wants but as a demand management one. The distinction between the two are important and would likely lead to quite different looking systems. As the name implies a demand management tool is really about trying to optimise the use of transport networks we have by using road pricing to keep roads from becoming congested. We’ve long suggested that if implemented it should be introduced in a revenue neutral way, lowering rates by the amount raised from the road pricing. In our view doing it this way would separate a potentially very useful tool from the more politically fraught issue of raising more money as by tying the two together it’s more likely neither will happen.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of road pricing is that it changes the question from how much traffic do we need to accommodate to how much do we want to accommodate. With it, it will almost certainly change the priority of many projects and it would kill off many projects altogether. For example, spending billions to widen or duplicate a motorway because an (unreliable) traffic model says vehicle volumes will increase in the future likely becomes a thing of the past. Every silly project that is no longer needed means a less extra funding that needs to be raised, easing pressure on Aucklanders and the government.
Of course to really implement road pricing we really need a much more complete range of good quality alternative options but if we know we’re going to do it in the future it should allow us to prioritise what is needed before that happens.
In conclusion, the council’s plans have the CRL clearly in the budget even if we had stuck with the no additional funding option. As such it seems that Len was perhaps trying to reignite the debate about road tolls from last year in a bit to push once again for a more build everything approach. But given the ATAP process is well under-way it seems the best option right now is to wait and see what comes from that. The only other option for why he would suggest it is perhaps to keep the idea in the government’s head so they know the issue hasn’t gone away.
This is a post from our friends at IPENZ
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The Group’s annual conference is New Zealand’s premier forum for the traffic engineering, road safety and transportation planning community. The conference aims to stimulate debate and problem-solving amongst peers. The conference presents a unique opportunity to network and share ideas across our diverse and wide-ranging industry.
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This article was originally posted on Making Christchurch, a group blog set up by Barnaby Bennett in the wake of the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake, at the invitation of Transportblog commenter Brendon Harre. While it’s focused on Christchurch, many of the ideas in the article apply everywhere.
The paradox of the New Zealand economy, to many, is that we are a highly urbanised nation that specialises in trading agricultural commodities. This isn’t a new phenomenon. According to Statistics NZ, New Zealanders have mostly lived in cities for roughly a century:
Economic activity has followed the balance of the population, with the result that the majority of New Zealand’s economic activity is now concentrated in its three main cities. Based on some conservative estimates, the Auckland urban area accounted for 34% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Wellington accounted for 12%, and Christchurch for 10% in 2013.
This has important policy implications. New Zealand’s future economic success will increasingly depend upon what happens in its large cities, Christchurch included. A robust rural economy, while important, is not sufficient to raise our living standards. And, increasingly, the drivers of economic growth in cities are different than the drivers of growth outside cities. Urban economic growth is less about the physical quantity of things being extracted or processed, and more about productivity growth and innovation – doing more different things with fewer inputs.
Agglomeration economies in theory and practice
How does this work?
Economists have used the term “agglomeration economies” as a catch-all description for the economic forces that shape and sustain cities. It describes the productivity gains that arise as a result of urban scale and density. However, the term may conceal as much as it reveals.
Agglomeration is not a single process, but a variety of different types of processes that occur in cities, e.g.:
- Geographical concentration allows firms to reduce supply chain costs and access more specialised inputs
- Increased accessibility between firms and workers allows better skill matching and growth prospects
- Proximity facilitates knowledge spillovers between people with clever ideas to share.
Economies seldom stand still, and agglomeration economies seem to enable them to move forwards faster. That’s backed up by the empirical literature. For example, Graham and Maré (2009) find that when places in New Zealand experience increasing density of employment, they subsequently become more productive. (Other research has also found evidence of bidirectional causality – i.e. productive places also tend to attract more jobs.)
How do cities trade?
A well functioning urban economy – one in which firms can trade with each other, workers can access jobs, and everybody has spaces where they meet and share ideas – will generate new goods and services and proliferate successful innovations widely.
In doing so, cities also rely upon inputs from rural areas and other cities – food, energy, consumer products, investment goods, and so on and so forth. Consequently, they must trade with the outside world. So what do New Zealand cities sell?
One answer is that they export things that are difficult to measure properly. Service exports, for example, tend to be difficult to measure as they leave through fibre optic cables or in the heads of business travellers rather than on container ships. But even acknowledging the measurement difficulties, New Zealand cities don’t seem to directly export that many services. The available data for Auckland suggests that it exports goods and services at about half of the rate of the overall New Zealand economy. Christchurch probably performs similarly.
However, overseas trade is only part of the picture. As the Productivity Commission highlighted in a recent inquiry, urban service firms can play an important role in goods exporters’ value chains. In other words, the cities pay their way in part by “exporting” services to the countryside:
In a related report, entitled “Trade over distance for New Zealand firms: measurement and implications“, Productivity Commission researchers took a closer look at the location of domestically tradable service industries. Among other things, they found that Auckland had specialised in tradable services. Is Christchurch similar?
Here’s a quick look at the issue based on the Productivity Commission’s data. Among the service industries, there is a negative correlation between tradability and Christchurch’s share of national employment. Christchurch has a below-average share of employment in highly tradable service industries like finance and insurance and information, media, and telecommunications. On the other hand, it does have an above-average share of employment in manufacturing, a relatively tradable sector.
How is the Christchurch economy evolving?
This is high level industry data and undoubtedly does not capture many of Christchurch’s particular areas of specialisation. But it does suggest that the city may still be working on finding a strong niche in national and international markets. There is definitely a risk that Christchurch remains a large “market town” for the Canterbury Plains.
But how is the Christchurch economy evolving? Is it moving into relatively tradable or knowledge-based industries that may foster stronger agglomeration economies?
We can use detailed industry- and location-specific employment data published by Statistics NZ to examine how local economies have evolved in recent years. While there have been some other broader shifts taking place – manufacturing job losses starting in the mid-2000s and slow growth in retail and distribution sectors – I want to focus on two industries that have experienced significant amounts of change.
The following chart compares employment growth in construction and in professional, scientific, and technical services with overall employment growth in Christchurch. Both have generally grown more rapidly than average over the last decade, and experienced further growth following the Canterbury Earthquakes.
The construction industry plays an important part in cities: it builds (or rebuilds) urban places. Building jobs have doubled in number since the earthquakes, as people migrate in or enter the workforce. But this is a temporary phenomenon – construction employment will subside once the insurance payouts and anchor projects stop.
Professional service firms also play a role in building cities. They provide architectural and planning advice, design transport networks, and assist people in thinking about where and how to invest in the built environment. Furthermore, these firms tend to benefit strongly from agglomeration economies as they often rely upon proximity to customers, competitors, and collaborators. A well-built city is a good place for an innovative professional service firm to be.
What are Christchurch’s future prospects?
Ultimately, it is hard to tell where a city is going from a distance. Individual residents and entrepreneurs are better placed to understand which opportunities are being grasped and which are slipping away.
That being said, it is worth talking about the nature of the opportunities created by the Canterbury Earthquake. The common assumption is that the rebuild will benefit the city in two ways: first, by providing a short-term injection of economic activity; and second, by leaving the city with a set of buildings and places that it can enjoy in the future.
However, the real long-term benefits may lie elsewhere. Rebuilding a city is hard. Not many cities have the capability to manage it themselves: they must import materials and people and ideas from elsewhere to get the job done well. This creates a valuable opportunity for “learning by doing”, as local firms acquire knowledge and test it out themselves.
As the great urbanist Jane Jacobs argued, this process is integral to urban economic growth. Innovation often begins when cities import new goods and services – and then figure out how to make them locally or adapt them to the local context. As she says, “economic life develops by grace of innovating; it expands by grace of import-replacing.”
The rebuild has the potential to encourage this process in Christchurch. So we might ask: what are the builders and professional service firms learning in the process? Are they figuring out how to adapt other cities’ ideas and shape them to fit in the New Zealand context? And when the road works end and the cranes clear out, what will they do next?
The Additional Harbour Crossing as currently proposed is a pair of tunnels containing six traffic lanes between the motorway at Esmonde Rd rejoining it at Spaghetti Junction [The CMJ] in the city. The publicly available schemes also show additional rail tunnels between Akoranga and Wynyard Quarter, but no connecting network for any trains to actually use. It is clear to see the appeal for NZTA of straightening and simplifying SH1 past the bridge, but the outcomes for the city are much less certain. Below for example is version T1:
Clearly this or the other versions that date from 2010 are not the current versions NZTA are developing now, but until new versions are released these are still worth looking at in some detail as neither the various physical constraints or the overall aims that drive these options have changed. The options can be seen here.
Considering these there are several high altitude observations I think are important to begin with:
- This will be the most expensive urban transport project ever undertaken in NZ; claimed to be $4-$6 billion. Two to three times the cost of the CRL.
- Not least because of the massive cost it is extremely unlikely that both sets of tunnels and systems would be undertaken at the same time. They will be staged; one will precede the other.
- The road scheme is essentially a SH1 bridge bypass, and therefore optimises through traffic, however it does not make any new connection that is not currently available nor in fact any increase in capacity on SH1.
- There is little spare capacity in the CMJ for additional vehicles so the new connection will remain the current three lanes north and a reduction from four to three lanes south.
- Essentially the bridge becomes a massive on/off ramp for city traffic and unless and until the rail tunnels and line are built more buses on bus lanes across the bridge will be the PT part of the project.
Here’s the set of variations currently available for the city end, all versions involve four tunnels under Victoria Park [3 new ones]:
All schemes also involve massive new interchanges on new reclamations at the North Shore end with flyovers and multiple connections between crossings, not unlike the new interchange at Waterview currently being built. Like the outcomes for traffic on North Shore local roads, the impacts of this project will be neither small nor all positive north of the bridge. However for this post I just want to focus on the city-side implications.
Assuming the road crossing is built first, which is consistent with assertions by politicians and officials with phrases like it will be ‘future proofed for rail’, as well as the lack of any real work yet on a rail crossing, it is worth asking exactly where will the new traffic enabled by the extra capacity across the harbour go once in the city?
Because the new crossing plugs directly into the CMJ, three lanes in and three lanes out, and because there are no planned increases in capacity through the CMJ, nor any space for any without further massive tunnelling, in effect the new capacity will be all on the bridge, so coming from the Shore this new traffic will all have to be accommodated by just three off ramps [same in reverse heading north]:
- Cook St; with new direct connections through Victoria Park
- Fanshawe St, especially for buses on new bus lanes
- Shelly Beach Rd, and then on to Jervois and Ponsonby Rds.
None of these exits can accommodate any increasing in traffic well, or without considerable disbenefit, especially if that increase in traffic is large.
- Cook St is pointed directly at the heart of the city, so this contradicts policy of reducing vehicle volumes in the city centre and is likely to infarct daily at the peaks as Cook St is close and perpendicular to Hobson and Nelson Sts which serve the Southern and Northwestern motorway flows. Gridlock is likely at the controlled intersections unable to handle large and peaky traffic volumes to and from these motorways. Additionally land use in this area is changing and intensifying making it even less suitable for the high speed motorway offramp it already hosts.
- Fanshawe will have reduced capacity for general traffic as a multilane Busway will be required to take the increased bus volumes from the bridge, and anyway is already at capacity at the peaks.
- Shelly Beach Rd is a narrow residential street not suited to the high volumes and high speeds it already suffers from the bridge now. Furthermore there is no benefit and little capacity for the streets beyond Shelly Beach Rd, particularly Jervois and Ponsonby Rds for a large increase in vehicle volumes.
Nonetheless, here are the forecasts they have come up with, Shelly Beach Rd with a 63% increase, is basically filled with bridge traffic by 2026 and the new crossing:
20,300 additional cars modelled for Fanshawe + Cook St with the AWHC option (assume that is all day on a weekday?). Even at the best sorts of turnover that would require around 10,000+ new carpark places. The downtown carpark has 1890 spaces. So where exactly do we put six new downtown carpark buildings? And what six streets get sacrificed to feed them?
20,300 cars carry perhaps 25,000 people. The CRL at capacity will carry that entire amount in 40 minutes. As could a North Shore rail line of similar specification. If the net outcome of this project is to take 20,000 commuters to midtown, why not do it with rapid transit at a third the cost with none of the traffic congestion?
“The significant increase in traffic movements conflict with many of the aspirations outlined in current Council policies, strategies, frameworks and master plans.”
–P 65 Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Network Plan, NZTA, 2010.
Obviously these higher traffic volumes are not good for every pedestrian, resident, and general city user in these areas but there is one other group that this situation in particular is going to make miserable, and that’s the motorist. There is a word for all this additional driving everywhere on city streets: congestion. Yup this increase in capacity across the harbour may speed that part of the journey but it’s going to make arriving anywhere in the city in your car much more hellish than it is now. And don’t even think about finding or affording somewhere to park.
What NZTA’s consultants say about this:
The increased traffic flows through St Marys Bay on both Shelley Beach rd and Curran St look to lead to particularly poor and unfixable outcomes:
It seems optimistic to say that because there are cafes, and strongly increasing pedestrian volumes, on Ponsonby Rd, that drivers won’t try to drive there, especially if other bridge exits are controlled or too busy. After all the first rule of urban traffic is that it will expand to wherever it is allowed to go. So, in the end, taking measures to dis-incentivise drivers to use these exits, is the consultant’s advice:
It does seem kind of odd to spend $4-6 billion to increase capacity across the harbour only to then introduce other measures to try to stop people using it.
And it won’t be just parking, there’s also likely to be tolls, it appears the model says they can pretty much eliminate the traffic problem with an $8 toll!:
If only there was a way to enable more trips without inducing more and more cars to also be driven into the crowded city streets. After all the City Centre has been growing strongly without adding more cars most of this century:
In fact it looks like we are already at or even above the limit of desirable vehicle numbers in the city, and future developments like replacing car access to Queen St with Light Rail are likely to make even current numbers face pressure.
Additionally there is an issue with bus volumes as well as car numbers on the city streets, even though the New Bus Network, the CRL, and Light Rail, if it happens, will reduce bus numbers from other parts of the city, there is certainly a limit to the numbers of buses from the Shore that can be comfortably accommodated too. Below is the predicted year of maximum bus capacity at major entry points to the city. The role of the CRL in reducing bus number pressure from the Isthmus is obvious, so why not do the same thing for buses from the Shore?
So perhaps the answer is to reverse the assumed staging and build the rail Rapid Transit tunnels first, leaving space for the road crossing to come later. This certainly looks physically possible in the maps above. This would enable all of those possible trips across the Harbour that NZTA identifies to still be served but without any of the traffic disbenefits that so clearly dog the road only crossing. In terms of people capacity two rail tracks can carry twice the volume of six traffic lanes. Furthermore it can be built without disturbing the current crossing and its connections. And rail crossings have proven in the past to be good alternative routes in an emergency.
This would add the real resilience of a whole other high capacity mode across the Harbour instead of simply more of the same. It would make our Harbour infrastructure more closely resemble Sydney’s where most of the heavy lifting in terms of people numbers is done by Rapid Transit, as shown below. We already have ferries, buses, and cars bringing people across, isn’t it time we added the particular efficiency of electric rail?
It seems particularly clear that whatever we add next really can’t involve trying to shove ever more vehicles [cars and buses] onto our crowded city streets; that will simple hold everyone up.
All the information above was gleaned from the work done some six years ago for NZTA, from here, and Auckland has moved on a great deal from where it was then. Among other things that have been proven recently is that when we are offered a high quality rail system we will use it. We are also discovering the value of our City Centre as a place to live, and work, and just be in, and how this is only possible to continue this improvement with fewer cars on every street. We certainly believe that there are more options for a far greater Auckland than the simple binary ones studied above: the road crossing ‘future proofed’ for rail, or the ‘Do Minimum’ which is nothing.
So we have asked, as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Process, for a Rapid Transit crossing as the next additional crossing to be modelled too. So we can compare the status quo with the road crossing, and with a Rapid Transit crossing separately. Additionally we know that AT are now working on how various rail systems could work so in time there will be properly developed rail options to compare with the road one.
There is time as well as the need to get this right, the Western Ring Route will begin to become more complete next year with the opening of the Waterview tunnels, and that whole multi billion dollar system is of course an alternative harbour crossing system and will alter both the performance of both the Bridge and the CMJ. Similarly decisions about AT’s proposed LRT system too has a bearing on options, as will the opening of the CRL next decade. Not least because the addition of these high quality systems will make movement through the city without a car much more common, as is the case in many overseas cities of Auckland’s size and quality.
The road crossing looks very much like an extremely expensive ‘nice to have’, that duplicates and tidies up the State Highway route, something to add when the missing alternatives have been built and there is spare budget to spend on duplication. Because on balance the road first additional crossing proposal really achieves little more than this:
Copenhagen, Photo by Alex MacLean.
Here’s a great collection of aerial European landscapes by Alex MacLean, “Energy Landscapes: An Aerial View Of Europe’s Carbon Footprint“, Yale Environment 360.
The summer calendar is jam packed with city-friendly events that have been helpfully compiled by Bike Auckland. Summer of bike love – Go By Bike Day and other upcoming events. This week includes the following bike-related events:
Go By Bike (bike-to-work day) 10 February.
Bike Love-in @ Silo Markets 12 February.
Bike Rave, 14 February.
And on biking, here is an article from the Bike Lobby™ claiming that 70% of American mayors would like to see better provision for cycling on city streets. Caitlin Giddings, Most Mayors Agree—Add More Bike Lanes Instead of Parking, Bicycling.
In terms of infrastructure priorities, one in five mayors also listed “bicycle friendliness” as a top three area for new infrastructure spending. And when given the opportunity to spend a hypothetical unrestricted small grant on an infrastructure project, bike/pedestrian projects emerged as the top choice—ahead of parks, roads, and city buildings. (For a hypothetical unrestricted large grant, “roads” was the top choice—but, encouragingly, only after “mass transit.”)
While Portland Oregon has been a poster child for progressive, people-first city planning and design the mode share for cycling has been stuck at around 6% for several years now. The city is now taking the sensible step in requiring high quality, separated facilities on streets with more than 3,000 vehicle a day. Michael Andersen, Portland Is First U.S. City to Make Protection Default for All New Bike Lanes, StreetsBlog USA.
The key is to build our system well, to build it to be safe, and to strive for the highest quality bikeways possible.
There is a growing body of research and experience across the U.S., North America and the world demonstrating the effectiveness and desirability of protected bicycle lanes to encourage more bicycle transportation. It is also a key element of our Vision Zero strategy for people when riding bicycles. That is why I am asking our engineers, project managers and planners to make protected bicycle lanes the preferred design on roadways where separation is called for. I am asking for this design standard for retrofits of existing roadways as well as to new construction.
Via Ian Lockwood
And from the the state that brought us the Katy Freeway here is one Texas politician now talking some sense. New Houston Mayor to Texas DOT: Wider Roads Mean More Traffic City Lab, Eric Jaffe.
Mayor Sylvester Turner told a told the Texas Transportation Commission that it was time for a “paradigm shift” away from the ineffective approach of widening highways:
This example, and many others in Houston and around the state, have clearly demonstrated that the traditional strategy of adding capacity, especially single occupant vehicle capacity on the periphery of our urban areas, exacerbates urban congestion problems. These types of projects are not creating the kind of vibrant, economically strong cities that we all desire.
Susanna Rustin, Car fumes are killing us. So why isn’t anyone telling us not to drive?, The Guardian.
In October it became illegal to smoke in a car with a child, while Dame Tessa Jowell, runner-up in the Labour mayoral selection contest, made a big thing of her plan to ban smoking in parks. Yet when there is a bad pollution episode no one tells people to stop driving, as the mayor of Paris did last year. Instead, people with asthma are warned not to go out. It’s as if, rather than banning smoking in public places in England in 2007, the government had advised people wishing to avoid lung cancer to stay away from pubs.
Good news and bad news from Australia. Australians aged 80+ are now more likely to drive than 18-24 year-olds! Roy Morgan.
Over the past eight years, the proportion of Australians aged 80+ who get behind the wheel has steadily increased—while 18-24 year-olds have become less inclined to drive. For the first time, in 2015 the oldies surpassed the youngsters as the more likely group to drive: 69% of 80+ (up from 59% in 2007) compared with 68% of 18-24 (down from 72%).
Removing centrelines make streets safer and slows vehicles. This is well understood and standard practice in the Netherlands. We covered this story a year ago. If safety wasn’t motivation enough, think of how much money could be saved on the routine re-painting of centrelines across Auckland.
Linda Poon, Can Removing Centerlines Make Roads Safer? CityLab.
The agency is currently testing centerline removal on at least three roads with a speed limit of 30 mph, and the results so far show promise, according to the report. TFL found that drivers slowed down, on average, by five to nine miles per hour. Researchers also observed that speeds were particularly lower when drivers were passing oncoming traffic.
The removal of road markings is to be celebrated. We are safer without them. The Guardian.
Behind this demarking lies the concept of “shared space” and “naked streets”, developed in the 1990s by the late Dutch engineer, Hans Monderman. He held that traffic was safest when road users were “self-policing” and streets were cleared of controlling clutter. His innovations, now adopted in some 400 towns across Europe, have led to dramatic falls in accidents. Yet for some reason Monderman’s ideas remain starkly uninfluential in the world of “big” health and safety, especially in Britain.
Please share other links in the comments section.
Auckland Transport have today kicked off another large cycling project today – the Waterview Shared Path. This is a project that came about as a result of the advocacy of locals and groups like Bike Auckland during the consenting for the Waterview Connection project and the Board of Inquiry make its construction one of the requirements of the project – although not paid for as part of the motorway project.
The Alford St Bridge – Looking East
Construction is beginning on one of Auckland‘s biggest cycling and walking project’s which will improve connections for people travelling through the Auckland suburbs of Mount Albert and Waterview.
The first sod was turned today by the Hon. Paula Bennett representing the NZ Government on the 2.5km Waterview Shared Path in the grounds of Metro Football Club in Phyllis St Reserve.
It was attended by representatives from the organisations collaborating to fund and deliver the path as well as members of the local community.
The Waterview Shared Path is part of the Waterview Connection tunnel and interchange project and will join with other shared paths that are part of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Programme.
The 3.5 metre wide shared cycling and walking path follows Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek) between the Alan Wood Reserve in Mt Albert and Great North Rd in Waterview and will be a convenient way to access local parks, sports grounds, and the Unitec campus. Walkers and cyclists of all ages and abilities will easily be able to access the shared path as it includes low hill gradients to assist prams and elderly people to use it.
The scenic route travels through an area of Mahoe forest and includes three bridges. The bridge crossing Oakley Creek, connecting Great North Road and Unitec, will be 90 metres long, a similar length to Grafton Bridge in the city centre.
The Government through the NZ Transport Agency, together with Auckland Transport (AT) and Albert Eden Local Board have contributed funding for the project which will be built by the Well Connected Alliance (WCA), which is delivering the $1.4bn Waterview Connection project.
The Alford St Bridge – Looking South
Starting from the south, the path will begin at New North Rd where it connects with the shared path being build as part of the Waterview Connection project it will cross over to Soljak Pl via a new set of traffic lights that will be installed. It will then pass over the rail line on a new bridge before travelling through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves which will be connected via a 70m long boardwalk. It passes through part of the Unitec site including right through the middle of one of the carparks before getting to the 16m high and 90m long Alford St Bridge where it will connect with the shared path on Gt North Rd.
And here’s what the bridge over the rail line will look like, it has screens to prevent things being thrown on to the rail line and wires.
Unless you’ve avoided either the city or the news for the last day you’ll know that yesterday thousands of people descended on the CBD to protest the signing of the TPP. This post isn’t about the TPP – there are plenty of other places for you to discuss it – but rather about the impact the protests had on the city which I think highlighted a number of key issues we frequently advocate for. I wasn’t there so these are based on observations from others and images on social media.
Protesters walking down Queen St are nothing new but what was very interesting this time is that a number of groups went and blocked major intersections all around the city. This included blocking roads such as Albert St, Fanshawe St, Hobson St, Nelson St and Wellesley St. Given that Hobson and Nelson in particular are one way, it leaves them completely empty downstream of where they were blocked off. This had the effect in instantly turning many roads within the city over to people.
From these and many other comments I saw it made many parts of the city that are often quite hostile to those on foot actually very pleasant, pedestrian paradises if you will. There is obviously a lot going on in the city right now with the CRL getting under way and a number of large commercial building projects on the go but at the same time plans like the City Centre Master Plan call for making the city centre more people friendly – among other things. For example, it lists this as one of its outcomes and targets
A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.
Target 1: More kilometres of pedestrian footpaths/walkways
Target 2: More kilometres of cycleways
Target 3: Reduction in pedestrian waiting times at intersections
Target 4: Reduction in use of left-turn slip lanes
Target 5: New mid-block pedestrian crossings
Over the last few years we’ve had numerous international guest speakers visit Auckland talking about how we can do many of these things, do them quickly and do them cheaply. This includes people such as Janette Sadik-Kahn and Mike Lydon and many others.
It all begs the question of whether we’re moving fast enough to reach the city’s goals. Now obviously there’s a need for cars to be in some parts of the city but we do need to get the balance right. What the protests showed us yesterday is that almost completely shutting many roads in the city didn’t cause the sky to suddenly fall in. Perhaps the lesson we can take from it all is for the council and Auckland Transport to be bolder about making changes, throw some cones or planter boxes out on the street and block off a lane or two. It would allow quick changes to be made in response to the impacts generated and would probably end up with a faster, cheaper and superior result to the current process of modelling every change to the nth degree first.
To me the protest also helped highlight just how valuable the CRL is going to be once complete. Protests might not be that regular an event but disruption caused by traffic certainly is. Trains using the CRL are able to completely bypass any issues on the surface. Of course this doesn’t guarantee that in a protest situation that those protesting don’t try to shut the rail network too. Further, as it stands right now, for many of projects to make the CBD more people friendly the CRL happens to be a key lynch pin. For example, key parts of the proposed Victoria St Linear Park can’t happen till the CRL is built as two of the entrances sit within that future linear park.
I also thought of this in the terms of the impact to light rail should we have protests in the future. Obviously a line down Queen St would have been blocked by the protesters so in a situation like yesterday. One advantage it has is that it’s relatively easy to turn them around needing only a crossover track rather than circling a block. Designing light rail to ensure this is a possibility will be important for Auckland.
Lastly a little bouquet to Auckland Transport. Not only were the TPP protests going on but NZ Bus drivers were having a union meeting disrupting or cancelling services. Given they only had one day’s notice about the bus drivers I thought they did well to get some services on some key routes covered by buses and drivers from other bus companies. In hindsight having both the TPP and bus drivers meeting on the same day might have been a good situation as the buses would have been equally held up by the protesters. At least it meant only one day of disruption.
The council have released a draft 20-year master plan for the Auckland Domain that if enacted would see some major and positive changes to how people access and use Auckland’s oldest and one of its largest parks. The purpose of the master plan is described as:
The purpose of the Auckland Domain Masterplan is to identify all the various projects and work streams impacting on Auckland Domain, and to create a coordinating plan that consolidates its position as Auckland’s premier park. The masterplan is a twenty year aspiration for how the park can develop and help to achieve the Auckland Plan’s vision to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
The implementation of the Auckland Domain Masterplan will help to realise the particular Auckland Plan outcomes of:
- A fair, safe and healthy Auckland
- A green Auckland
- A well connected and accessible Auckland
- A beautiful Auckland that is loved by its people
- A Maori identity that is Auckland’s point of difference.
There are seven key principles behind the master plan and for each the draft plan lists observations and key proposals.
- Enhancing the Domain for peaceful respite.
- Enhancing the role of the Domain as an important cultural and heritage site.
- Creating safe, people friendly places and routes with high amenity.
- Improving connectivity to the Domain and to the key features within it.
- Improving the Domain as a recreation and event destination.
- Enhancing and maintaining the amenities and facilities within the Domain.
- Creating an environmentally sustainable park that is an exemplar on the world stage.
Of those number 3 and 4 are ones that will have some significant implications, especially on transport. The observation for number 3 says:
Since the introduction of motor vehicles to New Zealand, Auckland Domain has catered for their use, enabling vehicle access to the doorstep of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and throughout the park. This philosophy of a carfriendly park has carried on unchallenged for almost a century and even the Auckland Domain Management Plan 1993 is permissive of continuing their dominance of the park. The car and tour bus domination of Auckland Domain detracts from the safety and amenity of pedestrian and cyclist experiences.
Further, it prevents the full potential for creating high quality pedestrian environments in key areas of the park, such as those adjacent to the Museum. Cars and buses also detract from significant and important views from within the Domain, such as those to the Museum.
As part of the plan the council are proposing to close some of the roads within the park, upgrading and turning them over to people and bikes. This includes all of the roads currently circling the museum and the surface carpark at the southern entrance. Where vehicle access is retained it’s also suggested reduce the dominance of it by narrowing roads and reducing the numbers of carparks. The image below shows where they plan to improve walking and cycling options with the lines in red roads that will be closed. As you can see there are a lot of interesting projects on the list.
The map below shows more explicitly the areas that vehicles will have access to if this plan is approved.
Here are a few impressions of what the changes could mean.
The surface level carpark at the Museum could become a people space – although it looks like it needs some more activation to ensure it isn’t just an expanse of unused paving.
The Crescent would be narrowed and a shared path added.
The Grandstand Road would also become a shared path.
Through parks shared paths probably aren’t too bad but it does seem odd that they’re suggested to be so narrow at only around 3m in width and slightly less on the Grandstand Road one. Given how popular the Domain is, they would be used by a lot of people on foot and on bike. At the very least wider paths are needed.
Here is a list of some of the other amenity improvements that are included in the plan.
Overall there looks to be some good ideas in the draft plan that will make the park even better. Submissions are on it are open till the end of the month and there is an open day on Saturday February 13 at the cricket pavilion from 11am to 2pm.
Over the last 50 or 60 years, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of other countries have pursued a “roads first” approach to transport policy. There have been significant public investments in (generally un-tolled) roads, and relatively few investments in competing transport modes.
It’s hard to justify this approach based on preexisting travel patterns. Take Auckland as an example. According to Paul Mees [Transport for Suburbia, p. 21], in 1954 Auckland’s public transport network “accounted for 58 per cent of trips by motorized modes, private transport only 42 per cent. When walking and cycling, which were not surveyed, are taken into account, it is likely that fewer than a third of daily trips were by car.”
However, from this date onward roads – not public transport, and certainly not walking or cycling – have dominated transport spending. Spending on a new system of motorways and arterial roads was considerably higher than spending on other modes that carried more journeys. In other words, public spending to enable car travel did not respond to existing demand – it was intended to shape future demand. (And in doing so, change the shape of the city.)
Another potential justification for disproportionate spending on roads is that it’s just what people wanted. Cars were invented and then cheaply mass produced, people wanted to use them to travel everywhere, so transport agencies had to build more roads.
There is some truth to this. Cars are very convenient for many journeys. But it can also be convenient and cost-effective not to own a car. PT tends to be cheaper than driving to places where you have to pay for parking, and cycling is often quicker than driving, and more enjoyable if there are enough safe bike lanes.
But this argument also ignores other policy factors that shape transport demands. In particular, planning regulations enacted and progressively tightened throughout the 20th century have tended to:
- Make it more difficult for people to live near where they work, by zoning different areas exclusively for different uses
- Discourage people from living at medium or high density by limiting building heights and setting minimum lot sizes for dwellings
- Subsidise the ownership and use of cars by requiring all new buildings to have a significant amount of on-site parking.
But what, then, should we make of Houston, which lacks a zoning code but nonetheless has ended up with lots of driving, low public transport ridership, and a low-density urban footprint? Is Houston evidence that in the absence of planning regulations that distort people’s location choices, people will choose to live at a distance and drive to get around?
In a word: no.
It turns out that Houston is not actually as unregulated as people make it out to be. While the city lacks a comprehensive zoning code that rigorously separates different uses, several other planning regulations (and similar measures) have distorted its urban form and transport choices. A 2005 article by law professor Michael Lewyn identifies four important ways in which planning has influenced transport outcomes in Houston:
- Houston enforces a byzantine and quite restrictive set of minimum parking requirements (MPRs). As I discussed last year, these include a parking requirement for bars that defies all concepts of prudent regulation. These requirements make parking cheap, and walking to the shops hard.
- While Houston doesn’t formally limit building height, it does establish a minimum lot size of 5000 sq ft (or around 460m2) throughout most of the city. This discourages PT, walking and cycling by increasing the distance between dwellings and discouraging space-efficient typologies like terraced houses and small apartment buildings.
- Houston requires streets to be wide, blocks to be long, and buildings to be set back a considerable distance from arterial roads. All of these policies make it dangerous and unpleasant to walk there.
- Lastly, new developments in Houston make extensive use of private covenants that restrict uses and building designs. These agreements often simulate zoning, with the result that Houston has similar levels of racial, income, and housing segregation to (zoned) Dallas. Houston has chosen to imbue private covenants with the force of public authority – the city will pay to enforce them even if the people subject to the covenant would rather not.
As a result of these policies, Houstonians cannot make free choices about where to live, where to work, and how to get around. Their decisions are strongly influenced by a suite of planning regulations that, as in many other cities, conspires against density and against non-car travel. Houston’s heavy use of the car is not a natural outcome, but one that has been engineered by policy.
Seen from this perspective, “roads first” transport policies seem less like an exercise in meeting demands, and more of a component of a large social engineering programme.
The results are not necessarily stellar. While the city is known for low house prices, Todd Litman points out that Houston is relatively unaffordable for its residents, compared with other large US cities, once transport expenditures are factored in:
Furthermore, Houston’s commuters experience more hours of delay in traffic than most other US cities. New York, on the other hand, looks pretty good. Although it is large and congested, many commuters choose to opt out and take the subway instead. In Houston, they lack that choice:
What do you think would happen if we tried to facilitate choice instead?