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Belittling the City Centre

The results of leaked release of the Horizon survey and the CCFAS last week has clearly started to cause concern amongst the anti rail councillors with the number of comments from them, and George Wood in particular increasing quite a bit. With this post I want to focus on just one aspect that gets trotted out quite a bit, in this case by Mr Negative himself, Cameron Brewer (because I can’t think of a positive thing he has said for 2 years).

Mr Brewer said he had yet to be convinced about the cost and benefits of the project, including the benefits to nearly 90 per cent of Aucklanders who do not work or live in the CBD

As Nick showed in this post a few months ago, the CBD has traditionally been defined as the area within the moat that is the motorway system however really the central city area that would be impacted by the CRL is actually larger than that and encompasses some of the surrounding suburbs like Newton and Parnell. But even that doesn’t tell the full story as while it puts the central city employment percentage at over 20% it still implies that the are is insignificant regionally . But in reality, even at that level, the central city is head and shoulders above anywhere else in the region so I thought with this post I would try to show that. The map below shows the key employment areas in the regions and how many thousands of jobs are in them.

As you can see the central city with 134,000 jobs (of which 80-90k are within the moat) is far larger than any where else in the region. What’s more here are a couple of other interesting points:

  • There are more jobs in the central city than both the North Shore and West Auckland combined
  • The only group of areas where the number of jobs comes close to the central city is the group of areas from Onehunga to East Tamaki but that covers a massive area and is part of the reason why AMETI is so important.
  • 50% of all jobs in the region are located close to the rail network and so could benefit from increased frequencies that would be able to be justified due to the number of jobs in the central city.
  • Not included in the 134k figure for the city centre are ~60,000 students who attend the universities.

More people working close to jobs in the central city is well and truly much higher than anywhere else, do we really need to be focusing so much on growing that number even more. In a single word, Yes. The reason for that is due to agglomeration benefits which occur when you have a lot of people working close to each together means more economic activity can happen which in turn benefits not only Auckland but the whole country. Of course this applies not just to employment but also to residential density and this post yesterday on The Atlantic Cities looked cities across the US and found that generally cities with more dense urban cores performed better not only economically but across a wide range of factors.

Ever since Jane Jacobs, urban thinkers and economists have argued that clusters of talented and ambitious people increase one another’s productivity and the productivity of the broader community, spurring economic growth. So, what about economic growth: Is it higher in metros where density is more concentrated? The short answer is yes.

Economic growth and development, according to several key measures, is higher in metros that are not just dense, but where density is more concentrated. This is true for productivity, measured as economic output per person, as well as both income and wages.

The CRL allows for a lot more people to access the city centre which in turn will make it more attractive and encourage more jobs and residents in the area. Those additional jobs and residents will most likely provide considerably more economic impact than if they were spread out across the city, or even worse if they were out on the far flung edges. So at the end of the day, by arguing against the CRL on the basis on the current percentages of jobs and people in the CBD, these councillors are actually arguing against one of the best opportunities for economic growth we have.

59 comments to Belittling the City Centre

  • SteveC

    seriously? more jobs in the CBD that the Shore and West combined? I’d like to see you put up some numbers to support these claims as last time I worked it, the CBD was only 11% of regional employment

    • As mentioned in the post, if you only count the areas within the motorway then it is 80-90k jobs which is about 13% however if you count the central city as including the areas of Parnell, Newmarket, Grafton, Newton etc then that number goes ~134k which is 21%.

      There are 85k jobs on the Shore and 46k out west totalling 131k. Last time I checked, that was less than 134k.

      All of these numbers are based off 2010 stats nz employment data

      • TheBigWheel

        That’s an entirely credible number, and as you note in your post Matt, you can add universitiy students for the purposes of counting transit users, so we’re at about 200,000. And heading upwards with the University of Auckland development on the Lion Nathan site.

        We need more “myth busters” like this!

  • Making people accessible to each other is a fundamental need for an economy, and largely defines a city. But how does density affect accessibility, exactly? Not as much as you might assume, because over-density leads to severe traffic congestion which makes travel times slow. I can’t remember where exactly but Phil McDermott has provided some research which argues against findings that claim density is a critical value for economic development (I might try to find it later). And remember that cars are king for integrating two separate points efficiently – rail certainly isn’t. Also, the value of density (or making something CBD based) will be very different amongst different functions. Not all industries are going to get any benefit from being located in a high-density zone; and whatever those advantages are might be may be completely overwhelmed by costly land, of course. And how will communications technology (and full-automation transport technology for that matter) affect the *modern* structural optimum form of a city? The CBD as we know it was built on the back of an ‘old world’ reality. Measuring the development of old-world cities based on old-world technology might not be very relevant for where we should be moving in the future today.

  • Feijoa

    I’m genuinely interested in whether Mr Brewer has anything constructive to add to a debate, rather than his well known complaining.

    Have you considered inviting him to stop writing press releases for an hour and put together a guest post for this blog? I’m genuinely interested to hear what answers, if any, he has.

    • Rob Mayo

      Both Brewer and Wood are making a play for the Mayoralty and now that the election is less than 12 months away, they’ve begun their campaign in earnest. Expect similar fact-light tirades from them in the coming months.

  • Ash

    “But the next question is if the number ofther. More people working close to jobs in the central city is well and truly much higher than anywhere else, do we really need to be focusing so much on growing that number even more.”

    …could read a bit better.

  • Great work Matt. And once we have the new Frequent bus and ferry Network connecting to the faster Rapid Transit Network [Rail + Northern Busway] with penalty free transfers that 50% of the population having good fast Transit access to the rest of the city will be much much closer to 100%.

    Zone based fares, fast modern electric trains every 10 minutes, cleaner more modern buses [with more street privilege]. All coming over the next few years. There’s a lot that Brewer could be cheering but he has nailed his colours to the sinking ship of last century’s model.

  • George is at it again with the CRL this morning on Facebook. Both his posts are public so non facebook users can see them if one would like to click the following links and then cry out of utter frustration
    Oh just go here, has a nice list of them and what the city is actually up against http://www.facebook.com/george.wood.566

    But in any case as it has been banged on here and else where with the CRL, the mega project benefits the ENTIRE City – CBD and beyond through unlocking the network and allowing to even expand the network into places like (oh look) the North Shore and if we decide not to build Matt’s Bus-way – Botany. Now which Councillors reside in those Wards.

    • Ash

      Unbelieveable what George Wood is trying to pull on the public. Here’s what I just posted regarding his claim that the CRL will cost $700 million per year for 30 years:

      ‘George it is totally disingenuous to state that the CRL rail tunnel will cost $700 million for 30 years. The figures given are for $15 billion of spending, most of which is on roading in Auckland. Why are you trying to hang all of that money on the $2.5 billion CRL? It’s right there on page 15:

      “The size of the proposed programme is a significant
      challenge, with the Auckland Plan estimating $10 to
      $15 billion in additional funding will be needed over
      the next 30 years to deliver the proposed transport
      programme.

      Even if 50% of these costs were met by central
      government, Auckland Council has not identified how
      it would fund its share. If it is also to co-fund other
      planned road and rail improvements, the Auckland
      Council share increases to at least $15 billion. To
      provide a context for the size of this challenge, if this
      was to be funded by debt, the annual payments of
      principal and interest over 30 years would exceed
      $700 million – equivalent to a 50% increase in
      Auckland Council rates or up to 45 cents per litre
      regional petrol tax.” ‘

      • I know, I know. Bernard Orsman just called him out on that and I called George out using a Urban Design Competition idea for development of the stations and their surrounds to assist in transforming Auckland.

        But currently the Centre and Far Right are hitting me from all angles on Facebook with the same trotted answers one might expect – no matter which why one returns fire.

        I am not sure whether I just “give up” or keeping plugging away at them with the elections coming up next year

        Right I need more coffee… :P

        • Ben ask your mate Wood if he supports the real ‘black hole’ of Auckland: the additional road harbour crossing. If he does then you’ve proved he is not rational, consistent, nor working for Auckland’s best interests at all but just a old man living in the past…. 5billion to ruin the city, reinforce auto-dependency, and undermine the busway [that he supports]. 5 billion that would be way way better spent elsewhere, including taking rail to Takapuna.

          • Bryce P

            Exactly, after all we’re only 4 years away from having spent $4b on building an alternative route North away from the CBD. Why build another one?

          • Patrick do I need even go bother with answering that kind of question knowing what I will get as an answer.

            However right now that stupid Simpsons Monorail song is doing the rounds…

  • Luke C

    This is excellent to show not only the primacy of the wider CBD for jobs, but also that rail goes right through a large portion of the other main employment areas. This totally destroys any arguments that rail is only useful for those working in CBD too.
    Rail serves 10 out of 18 of the main job centres, the Northern busway serves 3 of those remaining, you could add another 2 with a NW busway, another one with Airport rail, another with the SH20 railway. That only leaves Highbrook/East Tamaki missing.
    Of course getting good street levels connections to the lower density areas is a different matter, but the bones are there.
    A really fantastic chart by the way, did you make it with GIS, or just go through the CAU’s manually?

  • Gary Holmes

    I think some people are missing the point that the creation of the CRL is perhaps more about increasing Auckland’s productivity than just providing a transport mode. While acknowledging that rail is damn expensive, it does have a major impact on land use and density – and thus productivity – than say buses.The more dense a city is, the more productive it is. Around the world, in major cities, the establishment of rail encourages new development and investment because it offers high capacity and is permanent. The Docklands Light Rail system in the UK is an example of the power of “build it and they will come”. The truth is that productivity benefits from high density outweigh the additional transport costs in the long run.

  • Hamish O

    I took your map Matt and overlaid transit corridors.

    red = existing rail

    blue = other existing RTN (busway)

    green = CRL

    purple = proposed RTNs

    • Filde

      Exactly what I was thinking. This proves that it isn’t just about CBD but the rail network as a whole; which is the key reason for the link!!!! From this map, by my calculation this CBD rail link serves 80% of jobs in Auckland. That is ignoring students, which as someone mentioned is a huge amount of people.

      • Not quite, rail is close to 50% of all jobs in the region but that of course includes jobs out in rural areas as well as towns away from the urban area like in Kumeu, Helensville, Warkworth etc. I will have to look at what the % of jobs in the urban area is.

        • JohnP

          Very few jobs are outside the urban areas – from some work I did recently for a client (using SNZ business demographics data, as at Feb 2011) the number of employees within the Auckland urban zones are:

          North Auckland 98,570 includes North Shore, Orewa/ Silverdale/ Whangaparaoa
          West Auckland 47,702
          Central Auckland 308,430
          South Auckland 143,425 includes Manukau, Takanini, Papakura
          Urban Auckland 598,127 (subtotal)

          Total Auckland region had around 630,000 jobs.

          So with the urban area as defined by SNZ, 95% of Auckland region jobs are within the urban area. This was using 2006 urban area boundaries, so the percentage will probably have crept up slightly higher using the 2011 boundaries. But you can say with confidence that it’s 95% or more.

    • Put img tags around your post so the pic shows in the comments

  • That map is a slam dunk: After the CRL and AMETI, clearly Mangere is the next big centre that needs to be on the RTN.

  • axio

    I think the type of jobs in each area is important as well. The Onehunga thru East Tamaki area is primarily industrial with a low number of workers with a (generally) lower skill level vs the CBD which is commercial and of a higher skill level. I believe that a key agglomeration benefit is the ability for firms to find ‘experts’ – something which generally only develops when there is a pool of employment to attract them . Experts require employers needing high skill, and these are primarily found in commercial areas.

  • Luke C

    Another interesting point is what employment areas will see the most growth. Alot of the most recently built employment areas like East Tamaki/ Highbrook, North Harbour, Rosebank, Henderson North are actually built out, so will not experience much further employment growth. These are the places with the worst Public Transport access.
    On the other hand new development will continue at the Airport as there is no other foreseeable use for the land further to the west of the Airport (Ihumatao) and Puhinui to the east. This is a shame as is lovely outlook and reasonable distance to CBD , but probably not suitable for residential due to airport. Westgate and Silverdale will be the greenfield sites however these much more isolated than recent devlopements so may see more lower density employment here, rather than head offices.
    Other areas that will grow due to changing use are the Onehunga, Penrose, Otahuhu due to the large number of older sites here.
    Some (esp near Onehunga) may go to residential, and others will see buildings a few stories high replacing single story ones.
    All of this areas have good public transport due to numerous rail stations and frequent network buses.

    However the CBD is probably an area with the largest growth potential, especially the West side. A large number of undeveloped sites here so with the CBDRL can help drive the redevelopment of this poorly utilised land, and as posts of last few days go could provide a big boost in rental income for the council.
    All in all future employment growth looks positive for Public Transport, most unlike last few decades where it has been very troublesome.

  • I used CAUs and grouped them together into what I considered distinct groups e.g. I feel the office parks around Ellerslie should be separate from the more industrial Penrose even though they kind of form a continuous employment area.

  • Ari

    highbrook still has plenty of space for commercial growth. the problem is that highbrook drive is almost at capacity as it is. I also strongly dispute the 80% figure for job reach by rail. that figure is highly subjective to interpretation.

    • Kent Lundberg

      “highbrook still has plenty of space for commercial growth. the problem is that highbrook drive is almost at capacity as it is.”
      You’ve identified the problem. Urban growth is limited when a place is designed for, and accessed predominantly by cars.

      • Luke C

        Areas like Highbrook are especially bad, as it it more medium job density area, but the overall density is very mixed. This means there are high density employment like offices and research mixed in with warehouses thta employ a handful of people over a large area. This creates a hopeless pedestrian atmosphere due to roads being designed to take huge trucks, and long warehouses adding to the windswept feel of the place. Thus difficult to provide quality PT, and even harder to attract people to it, as passengers much less likely to walk 500m to 800m to catch it, unlike CBD or nice suburban street.
        What really needs to happen is more Land Use controls to keep higher density employment areas out of industrial parks, and make them part of town centres, where is much easier to serve with quality PT. I like to call the problem job sprawl, which is actually more destructive than most residential sprawl.

        • SteveC

          if you consider a business like F&P Healthcare, then there are definite efficiencies in having the research and manufacture under one roof in terms of implementation, process and continuous improvement, I’d rather see a viable economic entity than planners trying to second guess optimal business decisions

  • Another interesting point that I didn’t think about when writing this post is how many job, particularly trade jobs are based in other parts of the region but do most of their work in places like the CBD e.g. my father is a self employed electrification but does a lot of work in the CBD.

    • Josh

      Another very intelligent post. Well done.
      Your point here Matt about trade jobs and how the city employs a mass of this type of trademen is spot on. The CBD caters for a variety of skills, those that are highly skilled, lower skilled, and that in the like. Here’s my point – trades people can’t use the CRL because they use tools and in fact most in this field deduct petrol from their income, your scenario of better employment opportunities and more productivity relate to those individuals that commute within the CRL perimeter. Therefore, if your theory is contributing a massive percentage of Aucklands workforce to the CBD it’s completely flawed, you have no idea where these people live and commute from. Those that would actually use the CRL..I say hook up greater Auckland before the CRL is built, mate!

      • This is the thing. Greater Auckland IS, right now, getting hooked up to the RTN through the coming Frequent Network and the new transfer enabling ticketing system and the new frequencies on the rail network that electrification provides. So where is the problem? In the separated and bottlenecked centre. We need to fix the heart so the limbs get blood. This is the point of the CRL. Again.

        Funny about tradies, you’d be surprised, not that they are the proportion of workers in the City that you seem to imagine, but I remember sharing the Tube in London with chippies and sparkies and all sorts with their tools and everything… I’m sure they’d rather be in a Ute though so no one is depending on these workers to fill the trains!

      • Where else needs to be hooked up. The point about tradies and other service type jobs is that a lot of them probably aren’t being counted in the figures, although there might not be a huge number they still have to travel to the city. I have no problem with saying that most need to use the roads to get in but how much easier would it be for them if others who didn’t need to be on the roads weren’t. With the CRL it would be much more attractive for people who don’t need to drive (commuters) therefore make things easier for the likes of tradies. The additional development of the city centre that the CRL enables would also create more jobs for people to maintain buildings/provide ancillary services.

  • Sacha

    Great work Matt. However, is amping the CBD a good way to counter critics who say the Core Rail Link does not benefit the rest of the region? Councillors are elected in wards, so they will always be looking for local benefit. Cnetral agglomeration benefits are fine, but most Aucklanders will still work elsewhere, including closer to their homes.

    Showing how the upcoming transit network smoothly feeds bus passengers into rail hubs with double the line capacity, speed and reliability might be a winner.

  • Sacha

    I agree both are important. But the post says it is addressing critics about benefits beyond the CBD. Saying the CBD is bigger isn’t a good answer to that particular point, is it?

    I’d like to be able to point people here to read a self-contained post, not rely on them having read months of discussion to make sense of the argument. Really do appreciate all the work – and the maps. Just aware that the underhand arguing against the Core Rail Link and suchlike will only increase as local elections loom and pressure increases on fantasy economics at national level.

  • Sacha

    Totally agree. I mean each post has one angle. And you have an impressive archive to link back to for context.

    • Peter M

      There’s a CRL page that we hope to slowly continually update to provide further info. Kind of waiting for the most recent information (CCFAS and supporting documents) to inform that page.

  • Richard D

    Axio
    I thought that agglomoration benefits work their way all the way down the “food chain”. A better transport network improves every skill-set’s opportunity to reach more productive jobs.

    • axio

      Yes an advantage of agglomeration is that there is a bigger pool to access at all levels. I single out the top end because high skilled commercial jobs tend to have a better return per employee than low skilled ones, and they add to the overall knowledge pool in NZ, opening the potential for further enterprise. If there are not enough people that can fill highly specalized positions then businesses can’t thrive to their potential. Agglomeration increases the chance of finding highly specalized staff.

  • Riccardo

    Keep in mind people that many of these two bit politicians are property developers (or wannabees) who may well be able to play in the kiddie pool that is the outer suburbs, but are not able to swim in the deep end of the CBD, where people spend hundreds of millions on tall buildings.

    That type of developer certainly isn’t afraid of rail or city development overall.

  • Riccardo

    If you were able to get a little bit more maturity into the debate, you might be able to reach Sydney level.

    There, the traditional CBD is also a small fraction of employment, but only because of efforts to deliberately build alternative, traditional CBD types in other locations, because of transport and urban planning considerations. Among these transport considerations are that rail needs to be prime mode in shifting people to and from not just Sydney, but Parramatta, Chatswood, Macquarie Park and so on.

    So it isn’t a rail VERSUS decentralisation argument, but a decentralisation USING rail argument. And that’s Sydney, which, those of us on this side of the water would argue still has a long, long way to go in shifting the traditional rail/density vs road/sprawl debate.

  • Adam

    While I agree with the post, and most of the comments, one thing has me puzzled

    Where are the 18k jobs in the greenlane/ellerslie region?

    The bubble cuts out half way up rockfield road, so misses the hubs around penrose, and misses the marua road/lunn ave hub

    Has the greenlane hospital, greenlane foodtown, the wilkinson road hub, but where the heck are all the rest of the jobs around there????

  • Sacha

    See previous discussion here on the topic – reckon my wording explains what it does better.

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