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:
The 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:
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.