With the final version of the City Centre Master Plan now approved, a key element of achieving the vision for the city centre that the Council wants will be achieving what seems – at first glance – to be an impossibility. How do you decrease road traffic, to free up space for pedestrians, while dramatically increasing the number of people living, working and visiting the city centre? Many more people visiting the city centre surely means, even with improved public transport, walking and cycling facilities, that more car trips are likely – right?
Well Vancouver’s experience over the past 45 years suggests perhaps not. As noted recently in the excellent Price Tags blog. Looking at a graph showing inbound and outbound vehicle volumes to Vancouver’s city centre for 1960, 1976 and today, the blog post reports a City transportation engineer noting the following:
When I plot our current volumes on this, it is slightly higher than 1960 and lower than 1976. So I approximated a date of 1965 that would be similar volumes for vehicles entering the downtown.
And here’s the graph. The background chart (black lines) is from the 1976 report on Transportation. The volumes added in green and brown lines are from the 2010 screenline count of the downtown, October 2010.
The volume of vehicles heading into Auckland’s city centre has been steady, or declining, for a number of years now. This is largely due to the rapid uptake in public transport – which has enabled total travel numbers to the city centre to grow, but without the number of vehicles accessing the city centre growing. The bottom line of the table below shows the change in PT trips to the city centre since the early 1990s over the past 25 years, with pretty steady growth over the past decade (table from here):
Vancouver shows us that not only can better public transport keep traffic to (and inevitably around and through) the city centre from growing, even when employment and dwelling numbers increase dramatically, but actually that it’s also realistic to think we can decrease the number of vehicles without impacting on the viability of the city centre.
From reading the details of the final version of the City Centre Master Plan, and how it compares to the Draft Plan, I sense there’s a bit of fear in reducing transport capacity in the CBD. The experience of Vancouver over the past few decades suggests we needn’t fear this outcome – as it’s entirely feasible to reduce vehicle numbers over a sustained period of time. That should be Auckland’s goal.