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Is New Zealand Falling Behind the US? Part 1

This is my first post on Josh’s blog – hopefully over time having two perspectives (though generally similar, but potentially slightly different on some matter) on Auckland’s transport will lead to even more posts, even more discussion and debate and even more knowledge about where Auckland’s transport is going wrong and how it could be made better.

This is also the first in a 3 part series of posts comparing the US to NZ and asking; is NZ the last country to be putting all it’s eggs in the car basket?

As many readers will know the United States has been the mecca of car based sprawl and freeway driven city settlement but recently there has been a subtle yet noticable change. The politican’s rhethoric regarding public transport is turning into commitment and projects are getting built. Much of this has been driven by the greater sustainability of older cities who had subways built before the rise of the automobile and the example of the amazing city of Portland which has had much of its development in the car dominated city planning period and is providing a guide for how a previously car based city can begin the transition to a more liveable, healthy, sustainable one.

So what has Portland done? Firstly it fought a proposed new freeway and won! The proposed Mt. Hood Freeway, now one could say Auckland did something similar in our defeat of the Eastern Motorway however there were some big differences, the main difference being Portland put the freeway money instead into light rail.

This map shows Portland’s Freeway system proposed by the infamous Robert Moses, the red is the freeways that have been built, the green the proposed but as yet unbuilt ones:

PortlandsProposedFreewaysThe Mt. Hood Freeway would have cut a huge divide through the city’s eastern suburbs. Today citizens of Portland proudly proclaim this freeway will never be built and are very proud of their city’s efforts to find alternatives to car based transport, their city gets better everyday, they call it Urban Liveability.

I believe the lesson for Auckland is that after the Western Ring Route is completed we must say enough is enough and demand a moratorium on new motorway construction and organise to stop any new motorways if there is an obvious alternative.

Secondly Portland has actually managed to remove a section of freeway that was cutting the CBD off from their river waterfront and put a park its place, a formula also followed in San Francisco and recently in Boston as part of their “Big Dig“, this has inspired citizen groups around the country as evidenced by this video from a group in Louisville Kentucky fighting a new 23 lane interchange in their downtown:

http://www.8664.org/mt-static/8664/demo/imagine_portland/index.html

So will we learn from these US cities? We will push for a moratorium on new motorways? Will we have the courage to examine the possibility the sky might not fall if we were to remove some motorway, say Grafton Gully and return it to the green lung of the CBD it was in yesteryear?

Still to come in the series, US Cycling and US Transit.

7 comments to Is New Zealand Falling Behind the US? Part 1

  • Luke

    I don’t think we’re going to be able to lose the Grafton Gully motorway anytime soon. The planned extension of this is one of very few motorway projects in Auckland I would actually support. This is because of the access to the Port, especially for containers. Although rail can, and should handle a much larger volume of containers going to the point, the road will stay as an important link because of the short distance to the port from industry.
    If this is to be extended I think it may be good if the road was split into 2 two-lane sections. Half would be to give the port traffic a quick run through to the port. The other half would be to return Stanley St/The Strand to being a pedestrian friendly local access road. To make this work the port traffic section would need to be prioritised for port traffic, and at the same time force port traffic to use this route. Maybe a toll and/or limiting turns at intersections would achieve this purpose.
    Going back to the point of the post it does seem we certainly have fallen behind numerous US cities in our thinking, and certainly our action.

  • I thought I’d throw an example out there to get the idea of motorway removal ruminating around some minds…

  • What will be interesting to follow is if Sydney ever get rid of their Cahill Expressway.

    Ever since the Sydney Harbour Tunnel was completed, this link has become rather redundant.

    Another interesting highway that might be demolished in the future is the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.

  • Luke

    I too would really love to see a motorway removed but I think the best we can hope for is getting rid of some of the crazy arterials roads in the CBD that think they are motorways. Maybe the awful Fanshawe St/Lower Hobson viaducts would be a great start once we have rail to the shore. Also the New North Road/Dominion interchange is dreadful and should be got rid of when we have our Dominion Road light rail.

  • Well when some of these structures start suffering from concrete cancer and need replacement it’ll be interesting to see what happens…

  • sydneyhasatunnel

    I’m not sure what the problem is with a few motorways/viaducts here and there? Talking about rail to the shore or trams on Dominion road like they’re certainties. Those things are at best in the distant future, or just something nice to dream about. Whats wrong with keeping good roads maintained so that people can drive through the city. Trains aren’t for everyone.

  • Sydney, I guess the point is that CMJ kinda ruins central Auckland. See this post for more information: http://transportblog.co.nz/2009/11/19/two-maps/

    Jeremy, yeah it will be fascinating to see what happens once concrete cancer kicks in. I think the Dominion Rd/New North Road interchange was built around the same time as the Newmarket Viaduct – so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there in the future. I always thought it was kinda cool as a kid, a kind of semi-motorway, but it certainly dominates the area.

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