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?