Included with the City Centre Future Access Study documentation released late last year were the answers to a number of questions that the previous Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, had asked in mid 2011. As well as requesting the preparation of what turned into the CCFAS, Joyce requested the following:
- “Finalisation of the spatial plan and master plan including establishing achievable growth projections for the CBD
- Demonstration of a commitment to resolving current CBD issues, for example by improving bus operations and addressing capacity issues
- Evidence of rail patronage increases, particularly in the morning peak, residential intensification and CBD regeneration as a result of current investment
- Beginning implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors
- Implementation of additional park and ride sites, and changes to bus feeder services”
There’s a lot of really interesting information in Auckland Council and Auckland Transport’s response to these questions, but for this post I’m going to look at an element of the third question: evidence of residential intensification as a result of current investment.
To help get an understanding of the level of intensification past/current investment in the rail network might have stimulated, the report compares growth since 2001 in areas with good proximity to the rail network with growth in other areas that were already urbanised in 2001 These are the areas looked at:
A couple of years back Steven Joyce suggested that most intensification in recent years had actually occurred away from the rail corridors, by saying this:
Yep, we should allow the city to increase in density (watch councillors run a mile when it comes time for the district plan changes), and we should support cost-effective transport options that support that. But we also have to understand that people like to live where they want to live, and provide cost-effective transport options (roads even!) for those people too. Amusingly, Auckland has increased in density in recent times. But largely not where the central planners said it would, (along the transport corridors) and instead in the beach-side suburbs. Fancy that.
I suspect that Joyce asked Auckland Council the question about where intensification occurred because he thought he’d be able to say “gotcha!” then the results showed that investment in rail had not had any impact on development patterns.
Comparing the level of growth in Census Area Units near the rail corridors with the level of growth elsewhere in Auckland would test Joyce’s assumption and also help answer his question – of whether the investment in rail upgrades had coincided with higher rates of growth in nearby areas (recognising of course that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
This shows that almost all “higher intensity” housing typologies like apartments and terraced houses constructed within the old Auckland City Council area over the past five years have been in the rail CAUs.
The report concludes that it would seem Steven Joyce was wrong and intensification has definitely been occurring at a higher rate in areas close to the rail system compared to other parts of Auckland:
Both population trends and building consent data indicate that intensification has occurred at a faster rate within the rail CAUs than elsewhere in Auckland since 2001. Development within the rail CAUs has occurred in a variety of different ways, reflecting different development markets in different parts of Auckland. Some important trends include:
- Significant construction of apartments in the city centre.
- A number of larger-scale intensive developments around inner parts of the rail network (e.g. Newmarket, Mt Eden, Kingsland and New Lynn stations).
- New development areas around stations in the outer parts of the network (e.g. Sturges Road and Takanini stations).
- General infill and small-scale intensification across the network.
- Increasing household sizes in the outer Southern Line part of the network.
Combining analysis of population trends and building consent information with economic analysis suggests that improved rail services boost property values and therefore makes intensification more economically viable. It would appear that this process has happened in Auckland over the past decade, although in different ways in different areas – reflecting varying market characteristics across Auckland.
I think the way in which the report notes how intensification has occurred differently in different areas is quite important. I suspect the assumptions made by Steven Joyce (and others) around ‘apartments next to railway lines’ is an over-simplification of how intensification can occur. Apartments are clearly only market attractive in some locations and it’s unrealistic to expect them to be built right throughout the rail corridors any time particularly soon. However, other forms of growth such as general infill, new growth around some stations, small-scale intensification as well as apartments and terraces have happened and overall it seems clear that there has at least been a correlation between the rail corridors and a higher level of development over the past decade.
Not for the first time, it seems that Steven Joyce was wrong.