A really interesting article in yesterday’s Herald, analysing an idea put forward by a Parnell community group looking into ways of increasing the number of houses by taking back a few of the more pointless roads in the area.
The Auckland Council is being urged to use roads for housing as a way of solving the city’s accommodation crisis. What’s more, the promoter of the idea, the Parnell Community Committee, has nominated several roads in the inner-city suburb for housing and community uses.
“It’s really quite obvious,” says Jenni Goulding, a planning consultant to the committee. “Roading takes up a large percentage of Auckland spatially and Parnell has indicated the city needs to provide an inventory of roading that may be suitable for intensification.”
The idea is certainly a little out of left field, but makes quite a lot of sense if you can find the right roads that can be narrowed or closed.
The committee’s plan for the future of the suburb, Tomorrow Parnell, suggests some residential roads carrying small volumes of traffic that could be “more efficiently” used as bare land for residential or commercial building and community use.
They include Augustus Tce at the bottom of Fraser Park and the northern end of Balfour Rd, opposite the Gladstone Tennis Club.
Other roading space that could be turned into community uses, such as new parkland or even a community vegetable glass house, are the Parnell Rd side of Fraser Park and the top end of St Georges Bay Rd.
I’m not particularly familiar with the roads suggested, but looking at the diagram in the print edition of the NZ Herald today they seemed like relatively short stretches of road which didn’t really serve much useful purpose. I’m a little wary of reducing the connectivity of neighbourhoods by closing too many roads (turning a grid into a defacto cul-se-sac dominated area would be a step backwards) but I think a few locations could probably be chosen where this would work.
Interestingly, Auckland Transport don’t seem too keen on the idea. Their comments give away a lot about the mentality of that organisation:
An Auckland Transport spokesman said a myriad of issues would have to be looked at before any road space could be used for housing.
They included legal and access issues, the impact on services like power and water, the implications for public transport, needs for future development and road user demand.
“Vehicles are more of a liquid than a gas. Vehicles don’t disappear if roads are closed for some reason. They spill onto surrounding streets, so we would have to look at the impacts on other suburban or nearby arterials,” the spokesman said.
Oh dear, too many former civil engineers getting into the transport business I think. Actually traffic is very much like a gas and really does just disappear if roads are closed. There are many examples of this from around the world, such as the removal of the infamous Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco.