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Sunday Reading 29th November 2015


One day New Zealand’s transport institutions and processes are going to have to get real about induced driving; the vast inconvenient fact of the whole highway expansion business. What we feed grows, what we build will be used, so to try to help justify any transport investment that is likely to make driving a better choice, especially at scale, on lowered emissions or lower energy use etc, requires simultaneously claiming that the project is of so little use it won’t generate new trips. Denial of the syndrome of induced traffic. This is done by treating traffic growth as permanent and exogenous to any transport investment. Clearly this is dubious, if not fraudulent, yet is standard practice. So it was interesting to read of an ongoing scandal in Oregon based on exactly this contradiction:

Here’s a case where a dishonest case for highways was flushed out into the open. David Bragdon, former chief of Portland’s regional planning organization, recently accused state DOT director Matt Garrett of “incompetence or dishonesty.” (Bragdon now directs the nonprofit TransitCenter, based in New York City.) He charged that bogus emissions data from ODOT helped sink a $350 million transportation funding deal in the state legislature.

As we wrote at the time, claims that freeway investments are energy savers usually rely on the false assumption that more free-access lanes reduce idling. That may happen temporarily, but they also tend to induce people to drive more and live further from their destinations.

The answer to this issue is to include the likely impact on overall Vehicle Kilometres Travelled of any particular transport project in the evaluation. So any investment likely to increase access [improve travel times, etc] while reducing overall VKT would do well by this metric, and others would be marked down. This is surely a better way to capture the disbenefit of induced traffic along side the benefits of better access.

Here is an interesting article from Forbes which is relevant to this, Energy Intensity: The Secret Revolution. As it’s from 2014 the data are a little out of date, as we are now seeing US driving bounce back on the back of cheap pump prices, but the arguments remain the same:

Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s advisory board, points out that the U.S. fracking revolution and the consequent 2004–13 rise in domestic oil output displaced oil imports equivalent to 10 percent of domestic consumption—while two little-noticed demand-side trends, less driving and more-efficient vehicles, saved 18 percent, nearly twice as much. Drilling advocates somehow forgot to mention that their impressive achievements were almost lapped by demand-side shifts. Those saved barrels were nearly invisible because we can’t see energy we don’t use or buy.

On the issue of VKT [VMT in the US], yes it is rising again, but is still down on a per capita basis, and is perhaps showing a new elasticity? In other words if it has rebounded on low pump prices isn’t it just as likely to plummet on any change in prices back up? So is this a bounce, or is it a return to last century’s pattern; time will tell. See: No Driving has not hit an all time high.

VMT per capita

But when you adjust VMT for the driving population, you get a very different picture. As it happens, Doug Short at Advisor Perspectives did just that last week. Turns out VMT per capita is on the way up in 2015 but remains a full 6 percent off the all-time peak hit in mid-2005. Instead of suggesting that Americans are driving more than ever, Short describes U.S. driving as being “about where we were as a nation in June of 1997.”

Staying with CityLab, it is always worth keeping an eye on what Richard Florida is writing about and here he has good news for Auckland. Not all American concerns are relevant to us but the issue of urban centres most certainly is, The Connection Between Vibrant Communities and Economic Growth:

The past decade or so has seen the rise of a new formula for urban economic growth and development. While having a solid business climate that attracts companies and jobs remains important, it is also necessary to cultivate a vibrant, exciting community with a wide diversity of talent. This is true not only in cities and urban centers—which have been attracting young people thanks to what Alan Ehrenhalt dubs the “great inversion”—but in the suburbs as well. In fact, a recent study of 84 suburban areas found that vibrant, dense, mixed-use suburban areas performed better and were preferred over lower-density, auto-dependent office parks.

As the authors point out, the study’s findings move us beyond the overly simplistic dichotomy of dense, diverse cities and decentralized, car-dependent suburbs to “a more complex picture” of metros made up of “nodes of vibrancy.” Simply put, it is the vibrancy of a neighborhood—not whether it’s urban or suburban—that attracts high-growth firms and helps bolster a high-growth regional economy.

A theme also taken up by another great North American; Jarrett Walker, Mr Human Transit, in: How important is Downtown:

In North America, the word downtown invites us to imagine the densest and most walkable part of any city, the place where transit and other non-car modes naturally thrive more than anywhere else.  And where this is actually true, it’s logical for all kinds of intercity and local transit services to focus there.

But when we project this model of downtown onto every city, we encounter fatal confusions.  Downtown implies a single place; there’s just one per city or metro area.  But some cities aren’t like that.  Los Angeles and Houston, two take two famous examples, have a place called downtown, but it’s really just a slightly larger cluster of towers among many clusters of towers dotted across the region.  Downtown in this model is not like a center of energy around which the whole city revolves.  It’s like the brightest of a bunch of stars in a constellation, and not even the brightest by much.  

Auckland does, contrary to some popular belief, have a significantly dominant downtown, and one that is currently reasserting its dominance with strong growth in office construction which will lead to employment growth [currently capacity constrained], a powerful education sector, and a huge return to inner city living. And a clearly separate retail identity, as reported in the Herald yesterday: Stores pull crowds in Queen St.

Chief executive of Heart of the City Viv Beck said it was a “really telling story of growth”.

“It offers great diversity for those living, working and visiting Auckland.”

Retail New Zealand’s general manager of public affairs Greg Harford said Queen St’s luxury brands and local boutique offerings gave it a point of difference to the suburban malls.


City Centre Population - 1996-2015 2

But looking longer into the future the Auckland city centre is firmly spatially constrained; yes it is now and will grow up a great deal, will become much denser, but the boundaries are pretty permanent. That motorway noose and the dormitory suburbs beyond create a finite limit. The fact is Auckland will have to grow alternative centres. Newmarket, and Manukau City look likely, as do Takapuna and others. The Airport company want to make that area a big player but it is severely constrained by the lack of a high quality RTN connection. This need fixing, as it does for Takapuna. But also the city will need to revisit height and density restrictions on these and other places if Auckland is to live up to its potential.

On another scale, Both Hamilton and Tauranga are likely to continue to grow strongly with spillover effects from Auckland over the coming decades. Especially perhaps Tauranga, the correlation of warm weather and urban growth has been very strong, especially since the invention of aircon. So now is the time to identify and reserve Rapid Transit routes in these cities. Or will we condemn them to total and permanent autodependency and congestion like Pakuranga and other Auckland sprawl boom areas? Surely we ought to head the lesson from that earlier growth and keep aside some well chosen routes while the land is still bare? Because we know both places are sprawling. Planning!

Topically, here is Dr Eric Crampton surprising himself with a newfound sympathy for planners:

Last week’s town hall meeting in Khandallah on Wellington City Council’s proposed medium-density re-zoning was an eye-opener. I have been exceptionally frustrated by town planners’ inability to zone enough housing to meet the demands of a growing population. But attending just one of these meetings can really make you sympathise with the council planning officers.

The ‘war on the car’ UK Edition: Lessons from Leicester:

This nibbling – known by transport wonks as the “reallocation of road space” – is far from finished, but before-and-after photographs displayed at public consultations for the Connecting Leicester urban plan show that designing cities for cars results in an excess of vehicles. Leicester’s fight back includes narrowing a four-lane gyratory, with the fourth lane converted into wider pavements and bike paths. A flyover close to the city centre was demolished in 2014. The elevated highways that long hemmed in a 15th-century gatehouse – the Magazine – were removed some years ago, and have not been mourned.

And finally, how’s this; Italian Town Pays People to Bike to Work:

The council in Massarosa, just north of Pisa, says the pilot scheme will see cyclists paid 25 cents per kilometre travelled, up to a monthly cap of 50 euros (£35), the regional Il Tirreno news website reports. That means commuters who switch to two wheels could pocket up to 600 euros (£424) in a year. It’s said to be the first such scheme in Italy.


New NZTA CEO has strong PT background

Some interesting news late yesterday with the NZTA announcing they have hired Fergus Gamie to be their next CEO – which comes after current CEO Geoff Dangerfield announced a few months ago that he would step down from the role. We’ve been waiting with interest to see who would get the role as it’s one that obviously has a massive impact on transport throughout NZ but also has big implications within Auckland as the CEO gets an non-voting seat on the Auckland Transport board. The NZTA having a seat at the AT board was something many criticised originally however from many discussions I’ve had it turned out to be quite a positive thing and instrumental in getting wider support for projects like the CRL.

What’s most interesting about the appointment of Fergus is his background. He was the Chief Executive of the old Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) which ran public transport in Auckland prior to the creation of Auckland Transport. He then became Chief Operating officer of AT to the end of 2011 before he left to take up senior roles at Transport for New South Wales including running their PT system. That’s meant he’s been heavily involved in public transport for many years and locally been involved in projects such as the upgrading of the rail network, the northern busway and integrated ticketing amongst other things.

All of this means we know will have a CEO of the NZTA who has a very strong background in public transport. This isn’t to say the NZTA is about to start focusing exclusively on public transport, obviously a large chunk of it’s focus needs to remain on keeping our state highways working well but hopefully we’ll see the agency step up on PT more. I don’t know who else applied but this does seem like a positive announcement.

On behalf of the NZ Transport Agency Board, Chairman Chris Moller has announced the appointment of Fergus Gammie as the new Chief Executive of the NZ Transport Agency.

Mr Moller says the Board has made this appointment after an international recruitment process that attracted a very strong field of candidates. Mr Gammie will take up his position on 1 March 2016 and the Board is looking forward to working with him in creating transport solutions to meet the Government’s objective of a thriving New Zealand.

“Fergus joins the Transport Agency with a passion for transport and the difference it can make to a country,” says Mr Moller. “He brings to the role deep experience in the transport sector both here and in Australia.”

Mr Gammie is a former Chief Executive of Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), Chief Operating Officer of Auckland Transport, Deputy Director General Transport Services of Transport for New South Wales and currently Deputy Secretary Infrastructure & Services with the same organisation. In this latter capacity he is responsible for leading a team of 1,300 staff, managing an annual operating budget of A$5 billion and infrastructure and systems projects totalling A$11 billion over the next four years.

Mr Gammie holds a BA from Victoria University in Wellington and a Certificate in Management from Henley Management College.

A native Kiwi, Mr Gammie commented, “I am delighted to be returning home to a role and organisation that makes a significant contribution to New Zealand.”

With strong relationship skills and an ability to engage and build rapport, Mr Gammie will bring a good mix of leadership, inspiration, operational experience, technical breadth and long-term thinking to the land transport sector in New Zealand.

Mr Gammie’s appointment follows the decision of Geoff Dangerfield to step down as CE, effective 18 December.

“The Board is very grateful for the dedicated service and the consistently high results which Geoff has delivered over the past seven years,” said Mr Moller. “The Board is confident that Geoff leaves the Transport Agency with the right strategy in place and in very good shape.”

Transport Agency Group Manager for Planning and Investment Dave Brash will act as CE over the interim period from 18 December until Mr Gammie takes up his role on 1 March 2016. There will be no loss of momentum in respect of Transport Agency deliverables during this period.

Park(ing) Day 2015 Video

You may recall Park(ing) day from September. The council have released a video about it.

Earlier this year we transformed car parks on Lorne and High streets into places for people.

As you can see from the video, the response was pretty positive. We’re now looking at installing a parklet in this area long term.

About PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day is an annual global event where people turn parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces – temporary public places – for the day.

MoTs Future Vision for Transport

Meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife.

That’s the what immediately popped into my head after seeing the future vision for transport released by the Ministry of Transport yesterday. The visions look about 30 years into the future and the reason for doing the work is explained as:

The Ministry of Transport is taking a whole of system, long-term view of the future of transport to help in our role as the Government’s adviser on transport. We want to stimulate wider debate and generate ideas on the possible future of New Zealand’s transport system by sharing our visions of how we think the transport system could look in the future.

The visions we are sharing are not predictions about what will happen, just what could happen.

A lot of the premise for this work seems to be the idea that we’re about to see fundamental change in transport as a result of technology. There are repeated analogies made to the level of change experienced in the early and mid-20th century with them noting how the first cars came to NZ in 1898, that by the 1930’s they were becoming more common while around 30 years later we had wide-bodied passenger jets and had landed a man on the moon.

The technological change expected over the coming three decades is primarily about making our transport system more intelligent. For example the likes of autonomous vehicles and using data to better organise trips.

The ministry have been looking at what the future holds for a while, starting last year with their work on future travel demand. From it they found that in most possible scenarios the level of personal travel – i.e. how far we collectively travel – would decline.


That work also produced this chart which is one of my favourites and shows that their previous predictions of vehicle kilometres travelled have continued to be over optimistic.


The visions released so far are not all of them but do cover off a lot of transport sphere. They note that at least one more they are working on is looking at the future of public transport and I’m taking a trip to Wellington shortly to discuss this with them.

To me the visions as shown in the slides below are a mixed bag. Some seem fairly likely such as the suggestion that we will buy mobility as a service – which is starting to happen right now as a result of companies like Uber – and  that high-density urban villages will allow for more trips to be made by walking and cycling which will improve health. However other ideas seem much more fanciful such as the people will be able to commute by plane from a regional centre to a job in Auckland in the same length of time as those who live in Auckland or that we’ll have airships carting freight around.

Some ideas aren’t in the slides but in supporting documents (like this one). One that we’ve seen raised before has been that we turn our rail network – outside of Auckland and Wellington – into guided truckways occupied by trucks platooning together.

The challenge with these road trains is they will probably require dedicated freight lanes. We think New Zealand has unique opportunities in this space.  The rail network, outside of Auckland and Wellington, already provides a separated corridor that could be transformed into a high-speed freight network. The space already allocated means we can potentially be an early mover when
the right technology comes along. Imagine platooned trucks, not guided by a physical set of rails, but by a system that allows them to operate safety on narrow concrete pads on dedicated freight corridors. Imagine the productivity gains for our supply chains, and the avoided costs, by not having to extend the road network to accommodate these systems.

We are not advocating we close rail transport in New Zealand, but there may be whole new ways we could utilise existing rail networks and corridors.

Or you know we could just make trains more efficient and not have to pave all the tracks in concrete.

Here’s a couple more videos about the work, one from the MoT CEO and one from the Deputy CEO.

Have you looked through it and what are your visions for the future and do they align with the Ministry’s? Now, where are those moon colonies and how do I get to them.

Google Tackling Urban Mobility

Google is turning some of its attention to helping cities tackle urban mobility problems by using some of the vast amounts of data it collects. They’ve already been working on some pilot programmes in cities in Europe. In their blog post about the work they highlight one such example from the Netherlands

It’s still early days, but preliminary results have been positive. In the Netherlands, TNO ran tests on a 10km stretch of highway that regularly faces traffic jams, using our anonymized traffic statistics instead of physical road sensors. They found that they could still accurately detect traffic jams at the right moment and at the correct location on the road without the sensors, potentially saving 50K Euro per year if the redundant sensors were removed. Other pilots are starting to show similarly positive results.

They’ve put together a little video talking about what they’re doing.


Traffic congestion in urban areas wastes time, fuel, causes air pollution, and generally increases the cost of living. So with cities and research partners, we began exploring how traffic information could be used to improve urban mobility for everyone.

In a series of pilot projects we are working together to minimize traffic congestion, speed up journeys, improve safety, and reduce the amount of money spent on infrastructure. We’re excited by the promise that these initial projects have shown and pleased to announce that we’re expanding our pilot programme.

Perhaps Auckland Transport and/or the NZTA should consider looking at this. Do you have any suggestions as to what they could use data from google for?

25 Years of New Zealand Travel

Last week the Ministry of Transport released a very interesting report looking at how travel in NZ has changed over the last 25 years. The data is based on the ministry’s Household Travel Survey (HTS) they conduct which monitors the travel of all members of a large number of households all across New Zealand. One of the advantages of the over the other sources like the census is that the HTS covers trips for all activities and not just trips to work like the Census currently does. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect but it does at least provide a different picture.

One of the strong themes that comes through in the report is one that we’ve talked about a lot which is that young people are starting to behave differently to older generations. They’re getting drivers licences later, driving less and using alternative modes to get around (or live in closer proximity to their destinations). This is shown a few ways.

  1. Fewer young people are getting their drivers licence. Part of this will be the driving licence changes of a few years ago but it for many it appears they’re simply not interested in doing so.
    HTS 25 year - Driver Licences
  2. Younger people – and the 25-34 age group especially – are driving less than they have in the past.
    HTS 25 year - Distance driven by age

One of the big questions is whether the trend will continue or if it is just a blip, will those 25-34 year-olds continue to drive less as they shift into the older age brackets. Given the 25-34 age group decline has been going on since the late 1990’s it seems to be the former. My guess is that in places like Auckland where the city and its transport systems are evolving so rapidly that we’ll see the trend start to flow though.

Travel to Work

This is a measure that hasn’t changed a lot over the last 25 years and seeing as the data is at a nationwide level it isn’t likely to do so much in the future either. At a city level I think Auckland in particular will start to see much more change coming through as transport options improve.

HTS 25 year - Travel to Work

But work isn’t the only place people are travelling too, in fact it’s one of the smallest destinations.

HTS 25 year - Travel Purpose


Travel to School

The travel to school data helps show one of the areas where there has been the most significant change over 25 years and also the one of the biggest areas of opportunity. As of the last survey 57% of kids aged 5-12 are now driven to school compared with 32% in 1990. Public Transport mode share has remained about the same and so the biggest contributors to the loss have been from walking and cycling which respectively have gone from 42% to 29% (thanks to a small recovery recently) and 12% to 2%.

HTS 25 year - Travel to School

It all reminds me very much of this cartoon

Walk to School cartoon

Interestingly though secondary school students are actually walking to school more than in the past and catching public transport more too. The biggest change has been cycling dropping from 19% in 1990 to just 3% now.

HTS 25 year - Travel to School - 13-17

The MoT look at cycling to school for both age groups separately in the chart below. Statistics NZ estimate there are around 487,000 5-12 year olds and 306,000 13-17 year olds. If they were cycling at the same rate as they did in 1990 instead of being driven it could potentially take over 40,000 car trips off the road in Auckland and 100,000 nationwide. Of course some of the current driving figures will be the result of a parent dropping the kids at school on their way to work so it wouldn’t necessarily result in a reduction of car use in the immediate term – just a shifting of where and maybe when it occurs. Instead the process of getting back to those kind of mode share will certainly involve much better bike infrastructure and that will get others using it too.

HTS 25 year - Cycle to School

Public Transport

With the PT data there isn’t the long term charts like above but there is some very interesting information from the most recent survey.

The chart below shows the frequency of usage of PT across different age groups and as you can see the 13-17 and 18-29 age groups are the ones most likely to catch a bus, train or ferry.

HTS 25 year - PT frequency of use

Around 2/3 of all those who used PT during the survey used it to get to work or to education but another third were doing so for other reasons.

HTS 25 year - PT use reasons

Lastly the report includes a section on how much time is spent drinking alcohol per week. It seems this was put in the survey in the context of drunk driving. What I found fascinating is how much the younger generations have taken reduced the amount of time spent drinking. It seems to only be those 65+ who are drinking more than they were

HTS 25 year - Hours spent drinking

All up some very interesting stats and a good report from the Ministry


Hi Bike Auckland

Our good friends at Cycle Action Auckland have been undertaking a bit of change and yesterday became Bike Auckland.

The voice of bike advocacy in Auckland has a fresh set of wheels. As of Tuesday 24 November 2015, Cycle Action Auckland is… Bike Auckland!

In welcoming this new era, we salute all the heroes who’ve brought us this far. Longterm advocacy is the work of many hands, hearts and minds, and we are where we are now thanks to the tireless efforts of Cycle Action Auckland’s teams over the years, in tougher times, with less recognition. You know who you are: we stand on your shoulders.

Under the name Cycle Action, we’ve been part of a revolution in transport across almost two decades, especially so over the past 5 years. Our evolution into Bike Auckland reflects the surge of energy, investment and public demand for biking in our city.

We’ll continue to be a strong voice for our hundreds of members and many thousands of supporters – and for all Aucklanders who want safe streets and connected cycleways, so that riding a bike is as natural and obvious an option as walking, driving, or taking public transport. Our representation at the top table to help make this happen is secure.

I attended their launch party yesterday along with a number of readers, politicians from both sides of the political fence as well as staff from various organisations including the The Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and NZTA which was great to see.

Well done on the change and the logo looks great.


Issues to repeat for Santa Parade

It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Auckland’s city centre to watch the Santa Parade. The parade this year is being held on Sunday 29th at 1pm (it’s been at 2pm in the past).


In the past we’ve criticised Auckland Transport for how they’ve handled various aspects of the parade. In particular this has been the transport arrangements they create for getting to the parade and how they deal with Queen St and people afterwards. So what are they doing this year?

First on the transport arrangements AT have published information about this and while a slight improvement over last year, once again I’m left disappointed.

The good thing is that on many routes extra buses, trains and ferries have been put on and AT are being clear about where these are. Last year AT made it clear about the extra trains and ferries didn’t say anything about extra buses despite actually putting them on – putting extra services on for events and not communicating it has been a common issue for AT. The website lists all the bus routes which will have extra services and the times they will run so well that’s a good thing.

There are extra trains being run too however if you want to catch one keep an eye on the timetables. On many of the lines the extra services are only doing a short run, for example on the Western Line they will only run from New Lynn which means if you live further out you only have the normal half hourly services. When it comes time to head home things may be a little crowded too, out west there’s only one extra train on each of the three main lines to take people home

The downside of it all is that normal fares still apply. Given the $24 family pass can only be purchased from a few train stations it cab makes travel very expensive for many families. For example a family of four travelling from Papatoetoe would have to pay almost $31 for their journey to and from the city and that’s only if they all had HOP cards. If they didn’t have HOP cards that cost goes up to $42.

Note: Stations that you can buy a family pass from are Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe.

With prices like those many families will likely opt to drive, especially considering that once again Auckland Transport are offering free carparking in their city centre buildings

If you are planning to drive to the parade, please be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic (parking will be limited at Civic) car parks for vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm.

Given those buildings combined only have capacity for about 2,000 vehicles it’s amazing that AT once again offered this.

The other main issue we’ve had in the past is a rush by AT and the likes of the Police to shuffle families on just so that they can reopen Queen St as fast as possible to a handful of drivers.


AT haven’t yet stated what time they’ll reopen Queen St to traffic however in my view they should leave it closed for the day, helping encourage people linger in the city. The numbers in Queen St at this time easily eclipse most other days. This can easily be seen from the excellent data Heart of the City collect through a network of automated pedestrian counters and which they publish online.

As you can see below, pedestrian volumes at 210 and 261 Queen St on the day of the Santa Parade were considerably higher than the year before and well above normal (volumes are just for one side of the road)

Santa Parade Ped Volumes

It will be interesting to see what they do about the Santa Parade next year seeing as a key part of the route – up Albert St – is going to be in the midst of construction of the CRL and many other buildings.

Why is Auckland growing?

Auckland is growing. In fact, it’s among the fastest-growing places in New Zealand, both in the short term and over the last century. (We must be doing something right!)

But why is Auckland growing? Where are the people coming from? There is a surprising amount of confusion about this issue.

Some people seem to think that Auckland is growing mainly due to immigration, and that if we “turn off the tap” growth would slow down to a more sedate pace. This perception has been fed by historically high levels of net migration to NZ over the last year – even though this has mainly been caused by New Zealanders not moving to Australia:

New Zealand has had a record net gain in migrants of 61,200 in the September year, driven by more Kiwis coming home and fewer leaving for Australia.

The annual gain in migrants has been setting new records for the past 14 months, and there were 118,800 arrivals in the September year and 57,600 departures…

There was also a net gain of 100 migrants from Australia, the sixth month in a row to show a net gain, reflecting weaker economic conditions across the Tasman.

The fall in migrant departures was mainly due to fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia. Departures of Kiwis to Australia fell 15 per cent to 21,500 in the September year, which is less than half the peak departures set in the December 2010 year.

However, when we look at the data, it turns out that migration is not the main cause of Auckland’s rapid population growth. In fact, most of the growth over the last three decades – and most of the forecast growth over the next three decades – comes from “natural increase”. Auckland is growing mainly because Aucklanders are having children.

But don’t just take my word for it – let’s take a look at the data.

I’ve gone to Statistics New Zealand’s surprisingly unusable Infoshare tool and downloaded the following data:

  • annual permanent and long-term international arrivals and departures to the Auckland region (from the International Travel and Migration – ITM category)
  • annual live births for the Auckland region (from the Births – VSB category)
  • annual deaths in the Auckland region (from the Deaths – VSD category).

I used these data series to calculate annual net migration (arrivals – departures) and natural increase (births – deaths) from 1992 to 2015. I’ve ignored a third source of growth – migration between regions – as it’s relatively small. John P has previously taken a good look at that issue. Here’s the chart:

Auckland sources of population growth chart 1992-2015

This graph shows us several important things:

  • First, net migration – those scary red bars – has been really high in some years, but really low (or even negative) in other years. It fluctuates quite a lot.
  • Second, natural increase is much more consistent over time, although it looks like there may have been a bit of a baby boom during the prosperous Clark years.
  • Third, natural increase is almost always larger than net migration. In 18 of the last 24 years, natural increase accounted for a majority of Auckland’s population growth.

Natural increase accounted for 58% of Auckland’s growth over this period, while net migration accounted for the rest. We’re growing mainly because people are having babies. I have yet to see a proposal to turn off the “baby tap” that does not involve violations of people’s privacy and human rights.

In a similar vein, it’s also worth looking at the composition of net migration. Here’s a chart comparing permanent and long-term international arrivals to Auckland with departures from Auckland:

Auckland arrivals and departures 1992-2015 chart

Notice how the two sets of bars tend to move in tandem. When we get an influx of arrivals, we also get a decrease in departures from Auckland. What this means, in practical terms, is that it capping net migration would force us to cut immigration quite severely in a boom time, to compensate for the fact that fewer New Zealanders leave overseas during these periods. This does not seem like a great policy, as it will hamper businesses’ ability to recruit staff at a time when they are expanding fastest.

So that’s the recent past. What might the future look like? According to Stats NZ’s most recent population projections, Aucklanders having babies will continue to account for the majority of the city’s population growth. 62% of Auckland’s population growth over the next three decades is expected to come from natural increase. Here’s the chart. Net migration is running hot right at the moment – ahead of Stats NZ’s medium projections to 2018 – but it will cool off in the future:

Auckland sources of projected population growth 2013-2043 chart

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we did succeed in significantly reducing net migration to Auckland. Setting aside the question of whether this would be a good idea – I don’t personally think it would be – we need to ask how much of a difference it would actually make.

So here’s a quick and dirty simulation. I’ve taken Stats NZ’s population projections and reduced projected net migration by 50% – which I think we can all agree is a significant reduction. The results are shown in the following table:

Year Stats NZ medium projection Population projection with half as much net migration
2013 1,493,200 1,493,200
2018 1,646,500 1,606,500
2023 1,767,500 1,707,500
2028 1,890,900 1,810,900
2033 2,010,500 1,910,500
2038 2,123,000 2,003,000
2043 2,229,300 2,089,300
Average annual growth rate 2013-2043 1.34% 1.13%

As you can see, a major reduction in net migration to Auckland would have very little impact on the city’s population growth. Instead of growing to 2.2 million by 2043, it would only grow to… 2.1 million. Furthermore, the city’s projected annual average growth rate would fall to 1.13%, but that is still much faster growth than Stats NZ is picking for other regions.

It’s tempting to think that we could avoid growth pressures by cutting immigration. However, the historical data and population projections suggest that we’d be dealing with substantial growth due to natural increase. Conclusion: it makes much more sense to focus on improving our ability to supply new dwellings.

Laying down the pink

In just over a week on December 3rd what will be one of Auckland’s most iconic cycleways will be officially opened. The old Nelson St offramp and the cycleway down Nelson St as far as Victoria St are both nearing completion and for the offramp that means they’re laying down the pink surface that will make it so distinctive. Patrick and I took a quick look at it on Sunday when workers were busy adding some colour to the city. Since then a lot more has been done with pictures today showing some parts pink across the full width.

Nelson St Off-Ramp - Half Pink

It’s certainly both bright and very distinctive. It’ll be interesting to see it from satellite images.

Nelson St Off-Ramp - Half Pink 2

Nelson St Off-Ramp - Half Pink - being laid

A cloud of pink flies through the air

Here’s a pick that our friends at Bike Auckland tweeted today showing one section that has now been fully pinked

The good folks at Bike Auckland are already an evening ride planned for the night of the third to celebrate the opening the cycleway.

Lights, colour, action! Dec 3rd marks the official opening of the Nelson Street bike path opening. Bike Auckland (aka Cycle Action) want to invite all people on two wheels to come up and be the first to see the amazing design and infrastructure collaboration lit up in it’s night time glory.

This is a casual roll up event, we recommend you arrive from around 7.30pm so that you are ready to hit the Upper Queen / Canada St entrance at 8.00pm. Then we can make our way down the steadily widening path to meet the sudden full-scale panorama of harbour and city in time for the sun setting at 8.24pm.

Afterward the night is your own, follow the route down Victoria Street to finish at Rockefella for Champagne & Oysters, or ride a loop back via Pitt Street and join K’rds First Thursday event. We’ll be posting ideas on the page. For those going to Bike Rave, it’s a good excuse for a practice ride.

If you want something to do between work and 7.30, there are a multitude of local places to meet, not the least – grabbing a bite to eat at the infamous Mercury Food Plaza. There are going to be films showing the length of K’Rd and her surrounding streets – make a night of it!

I didn’t take any photos of Victoria St but one thing I can say is I was suprised by how easy the grade was, much better than I had been expecting.

I’m looking forward to this being open.