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What’s Auckland’s future?

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and try to see the big picture – the “forest for the trees” as the saying goes. While this blog focuses on transport, really it’s interested in Auckland’s future – what will this place be like in 10 years, 30 years, 50 years or even 100 years? The Auckland spatial plan sets a really nice goal for the city in its 30 year timeframe: to be the world’s most liveable city. Considering that we generally score in the top ten in such measurements at the moment, and we have a real focus on improving areas where we generally score poorly (like public transport), it’s a realistic and achievable goal.

But that doesn’t really answer our question particularly much. What will Auckland really be like in the future?

One possible way of almost looking into the future, is to take a look at Sydney. Geographically, Auckland and Sydney have many similarities: a beautiful harbour (well two actually, for both cities), a constrained and complex geography, a clear “North Shore”, an urban form which could be described as ‘dispersed concentration’ (a number of quite sizeable centres) and generally a pretty good lifestyle. Get into a bit more detail and they both have bizarrely pointless towers, they both probably lean a bit too much on their natural beauty and haven’t care as much as their urban beauty as Wellington/Melbourne.

We could do worse than having a future like Sydney – although it’s debatable whether we’ll ever get quite that big due to an ageing population. The most obvious difference, from a transport perspective, between Auckland and Sydney is the extensive rail network they have – upon which the city relies on hugely. That perhaps gives us a clue where our priorities must lie in ensuring adequate infrastructure for a much larger city.

If we really do grow by another million people over the next 30 years, where those extra people go and how they get around will completely define whether we get close to achieving our goal of being the world’s most liveable city. At two and a half million people we could be quite similar to Vancouver – with 150 million rail trips a year and no need to have built any motorways for decades (and generally topping out liveability rankings). Or we could fall into the trap of many US cities at the moment, barely able to pay for their infrastructure, vast tracts of semi-abandoned peripheral urban development, completely car dependent and so on.

Well we obviously have options. I’m going to make a few predictions though:

  • Auckland won’t quite grow as fast as some of the bolder projections, but we won’t be far behind that
  • Many of the greenfield sprawl areas planned for over the next few years might never ever be built
  • Takapuna will end up looking quite a lot like North Sydney, but only if it has a direct rail connection to the north and south
  • The City Rail Link will truly revolutionise West Auckland, by bringing it much much closer to the central city in terms of travel times
  • The City Rail Link probably won’t be completed until after 2022 (but not longer after)
  • We won’t build another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour, ever
  • We will build a rail crossing of the harbour sooner than we had thought
  • House prices will continue to rise (especially in inner heritage suburbs), but we will find ingenious ways of providing more affordable houses
  • Puhoi-Wellsford won’t be fully built until at least 2040, but will be bitten off in logical chunks
  • Full implementation of integrated fares, and the new bus network, will bring staggeringly high patronage increases

I’m sure I have more, and I probably should detail these a bit more – but that can come through in the comments thread. What do you think is Auckland’s future? What are some bold predictions you’re willing to make? What do you think of my predictions?

33 comments to What’s Auckland’s future?

  • Matthew

    Having got rid of the too fat to walk or cycle transport minister who doesn’t believe in walking or cycling, and having built the central rail link, Auckland embarks on an integrated walking, cycling, train and ferry network with secure bike parking at all wharves and stations, lots of bike share at central stations, and forgoes all motorway development so it can fund its ambitious cycleway projects, including the free pedestrian and cyclist link across the Harbour Bridge.

  • Swan

    Driverless vehicles revolutionise transport in Auckland by ending the need for parking and vehicle ownership, as well as ending congestion. Transport ceases to a political issue as road maintenance is the only major expenditure in the urban area. Standards of living vastly increase.

    • Driverless vehicles doing twice as many journeys as necessary powered by fairydust…. owned collectively!? Sounds like public transport, oh wait, but they have to cars right?, so the riders never have to be next to another citizen… and suddenly, through the magic of road maintenance, standards of living vastly [!] increase. Wow, that’s some reality right there.

      • Swan

        Yep it will be public transport. Not sure about people’s desire for privacy, but they will have a continuum of choice on whivh they can weight this preference. Standards of living vastly increase because transportation costs drop significantly. As well as all the other automation that will take place.

    • Ari

      Swan, I would be inclined to agree to an extent. The question is how they may come about. I think most driverless cars will remain privately owned. At least at the start. If I buy my own driverless car, then I can read ATB instead of driving to work. A primary benefit of PT, but in the convenience of my own car. Now that google has a working vehicle on the road legally, I suspect auto-drive will become standard in new vehicles within 15 years. Luxury car manufacturers are already planning it in their top models. If I were to take a stab, most buses and taxis will be replaced with driverless variants as a cost cutting measure by bus companies. They would then invest in driverless car fleets to offer a more expensive form of PT to people who don’t want to wait for a bus or share the bus with the other sick/smelly/poor/noisy head-phone wearing people. From here would grow a form of public transport as people pay for a service rather than buy cars. They could get discount rates if they were willing to car-pool. But overall you would still have lots of people driving alone in cars, thus congestion and parking issues will remain.

  • Ben

    My bold predictions:
    1) CRL completion 2025 along with the second harbour crossing (multi modal)
    2) North Shore, Airport and Botany Lines by 2040
    3) Port of Auckland fully relocated down to Clevedon and the Waterfront fully redeveloped within 25 years
    4) A dual core city (Manukau and the CBD)
    5) Planning Laws semi liberalised
    6) Zonal and integrated ticketing using my bank card to tag on and off

  • Luke C

    Driverless vehicles end parking? If they drive themselves back home that is very inefficient. I thought the main reasons some sorts for not investing in Public Transport was ‘car culture’ and everyone wanting to own V8’s, SUV’s, and customized cars for example. Not to mention flexibility etc. This applied equally to driverless cars, would these cars also drive people to there holiday homes in Coromandel? Presuming these cars are electric vehicles I would add too that list regular rolling blackouts as the grid totally fails to cope with 1 million electric cars, and also massive loss of wealth as minerals for car batteries are found in Coromandel and their extremely high cost helps convoke people that Coromandel can be rehabilitated after being strip mined for rare earth metals.

    • Swan

      You won’t need individual vehicle ownership with driverless vehicles. Think of them as cheap taxis / shuttles / buses. So no need for parking – they just go on to pick up their next passengers, and simply pull over if there is no demand. Certainly no need for a million vehicles. I would guess something like 1 vehicle per 10 or 15 people.

      • So your crazy userpays future is sort of collectivist too. This nirvana will be enforced by what sort of government exactly?, these benefits only accrue if all private cars are banished and suddenly replaced by your state or corporation controlled system? Good luck with that, and with the enormous capital investment. Also pulling over; otherwise know as parking. Still got the fuel problem.

        • Stu Donovan

          Patrick please keep your comments civil or you will find yourself losing the privilege. Unless you terminate my admin privileges first ;).

          • Fair call; perhaps i should simply auto-terminate?…. or perhaps we all should; then the blog can lead the driverless revolution! Forward Comrades!

          • Stu Donovan

            Patrick, for a rabid socialist totalitarian dictator you’re quite likable (don’t you love packaging insults as compliments?). But seriously, I do like you – and Swan too, his perspective is challenging but insightful. Let’s have a great big love-in.

        • Swan

          Sheesh thats some serious driverless vehicle hate. ;)

          Yep there are plenty of unknowns and not a few problems to overcome. But I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of man.

          • My apologies Swan, driverless vehicles are coming, hey they’re already here, like the Sky Train, but like perfect price signals I’m pretty certain they aren’t going to change nearly as much of the world as you imply.

    • Ari

      Luke, regarding power issues with electric vehicles, most people will recharge their cars in the middle of the night (10pm-6am) when few in the country are using power and when power is cheapest. In a country with plenty of geothermal/wind/hyrdo power, power providers would love to sell power that they can’t otherwise. These three sources can produce power 24/7 even if they aren’t selling any power. NZ can easily generate the power needed for vehicles over the night. It would be a different case altogether if we were mostly coal based power. What NZ has a problem with is max capacity at times of the day when everyone has their heaters/tvs/stoves/pc’s on. Also our transmission network is a bit crap. But I agree, battery material technology will need to change, to less toxic/wasteful materials.

  • Just as no city has ever been able to build its way out of congestion, residents of cities never feel that PT is good enough so I predict people will still be complaining about it well into the future.
    I also think the government/council battle over the future of the city will only get bigger and we will see another round of local government reform that will either break up the city once again or more likely move it towards having more autonomous control

    • Stu Donovan

      It’ll be just like Orwell’s “1984”; local government (middle brother) will rally the local community against central government (big brother) while firing missiles (driverless DMUs that are surplus to network requirements) down the main trunk line towards Wellington. The residents of Hamilton and Palmerston North will find their cities are obliterated in the first phase of the war, which is (once the surplus DMUs run out) waged by large “Brownlee-bots” that shoot pies.

      That’s a potential vision for the future; I like Peter’s better.

  • Good list Peter

    Auckland won’t quite grow as fast as some of the bolder projections, but we won’t be far behind that
    -looking that way; too many fleeing the opportunity hoarding of a dominant polity
    Many of the greenfield sprawl areas planned for over the next few years might never ever be built
    – or at least not successfully
    Takapuna will end up looking quite a lot like North Sydney, but only if it has a direct rail connection to the north and south
    – I certainly hope so, could be fantastic and would be a very efficient way to grow
    The City Rail Link will truly revolutionise West Auckland, by bringing it much much closer to the central city in terms of travel times
    -and will totally transform the very idea of Auckland, eg there will be people who currently don’t understand it who will be congratulating themselves and their city for its sophistication when it is finally built.
    The City Rail Link probably won’t be completed until after 2022 (but not longer after)
    – hmmmm, regrettably
    We won’t build another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour, ever
    – if we’re smart
    We will build a rail crossing of the harbour sooner than we had thought
    -if we’re really smart
    House prices will continue to rise (especially in inner heritage suburbs), but we will find ingenious ways of providing more affordable houses
    – Not sure about this as world may be heading into a deflationary cycle, which we won’t be able to escape, there are few current signs that affordability is being addressed, and further convulsions will make this harder
    Puhoi-Wellsford won’t be fully built until at least 2040, but will be bitten off in logical chunks
    -likely
    Full implementation of integrated fares, and the new bus network, will bring staggeringly high patronage increases
    – and along with the EMUs will mean that AK will at last regain some balance to its transport mix, providing, for example, that many, many more households in Ak will be able to reduce their car ownership, or at least drive less [when they choose to], which given our current auto-dependence would make a huge difference to the number of cars trips and save us a fortune in further destructive urban road building and imported fuel purchase.

    I would add that resource price and supply issues are going to be a much bigger influence on transport and other decisions through this period than now and that the OECD will not go back to years of cumulative growth of the 20th century.
    I don’t see the port moving, but will reduce in importance for import/export as Tauranga and possibly Marsden Pt grow.

  • I will add that implementation of Integrated ticketing will see a jump in rail patronage from if nothing else, more accurate data instead of the silly situation we have now.

  • jonno1

    I’m surprised no-one’s suggested Segways or Yike bikes. Brilliant for local transportation, especially for those with mobility issues. I’ve not tried a Yike bike although I’ve seen one buzzing around Auckland. It’s advantage is that it folds up and can be carried on a bus or train, or in a car for that matter (for “the last mile” – solves CBD-type parking issues). But I do use a Segway regularly (unless it’s raining heavily when the Beemer suddenly becomes very attractive).

  • Linda

    An aside to transport minister point, did you see Bill English saying one of the selling points of NZ over Australia is you can take a bike ride at lunch time? Thought it interesting to say from a government that appears pro-roads? Auckland by the way has 3 harbours.

    • Max

      Linda, well, if he actually put some money behind his comments – we currently spend less than half a % of our transport capex budget on our cycle network. And a “ride at lunch” isn’t transport, in most cases, it’s just a toodle for recreation. Once we have a transport minister who (at least occasionally, and not just for photo ops) rides a bike TO work, I’ll consider most of such politician’s comments as greenwash.

      Same for the opportunity provided by electric bikes / yike bikes / segways etc… – apart from issues with battery endurance and price, they will only ever be able to take off if cycling safety is improved.

      Getting back to the topic at hand, I can’t quite believe Matthew’s hope that we will become a bike paradise, but I think it is realistic that we will, in 10-20 years, have a great set of backbone routes, and numerous improved local routes, which, if not exactly turning us into Copenhagen, at least provide everyday people with a choice to bike whenever they want to.

  • Icebird

    Hmmm, bold predictions?

    – Houses will still be expensive, and Hugh Pavlevich / Owen McShane and Co. will still blame restrictive land use policies no matter how much greenfield space is opened up for development.

    – Someone, somewhere will build an urban-scale PRT system, but it will take longer than you would think. Once its up and running, many other cities will want one.

    – High-capacity PRT will roll out somewhere, but again it will take longer than you would think. Once its up and running, every city will want one. Except Auckland, which will probably just be getting round to turning the first sod on the CRL.

    – The CRL finally gets built and is successful. National claims they were behind it all along, and only their diligence in insisting on a robust business case made it a success.

    – The government of 2030 discovers 7 new “Roads of National Significance”.

    – People will complain about public transport.

    • “The CRL finally gets built and is successful. National claims they were behind it all along, and only their diligence in insisting on a robust business case made it a success.”
      You just made me cry little poignant, nodding tears.

  • Matthew

    Aren’t PRT, electric cars and self driving cars just techno-narcissism for people too shy or afraid to mingle with other people on public transport?

  • Ari

    PRT. Cheaper than owning a car and more convenient than taking a bus. Plus no sick/coughing/annoying people unless you want a discount. I see PRT as working in combination with bus/rail, not a replacement of either.

  • Problems with PRT? There’s only three; the fact that it’s neither Personal, Rapid, nor Transit. Other than that it’s just great.

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