@akltransport – Please fill in a form

Social media has become an important tool for many organisations in how they engage with their customers. It’s become a tool for both marketing and customer service, and there are a number of examples organisations who do it right. Some good local ones include Air New Zealand, most of the major banks such as ASB and even the NZTA do a good job of engaging with the public. Most importantly these organisations don’t just use social media for a one way conversation. Below is an example of Air NZ’s twitter feed where you’ll notice a bit of everything, some engagement with the community, a marketing promotion and at the bottom some customer service.

Air NZ Twitter Feed

Auckland Transport’s social media presence is limited to twitter and it used to be decent, similar in many ways to the examples above. Issues affecting roads or public transport were communicated and were generally far more accurate and timely than most other channels AT have. More than once it saved me from running to catch a train that had been cancelled anyway. Importantly customer service did take place and if someone had an issue the details would be passed on to the relevant teams and followed up.

Unfortunately the person who ran the twitter feed left and since then the AT’s engagement with the public through social media has been absolute crap and an unmitigated disaster. In my opinion they are now doing serious damage to their reputation with their poor management of it. The key issue is that there is simply no responsibility being taken to manage customer queries or issues or provide vital information on services to the public. Questions or even complaints get met with an almost stock standard “Please fill in a form” response, that’s if you get anything at all. A few of the many examples are below.

If you’re lucky there’s occasionally a variations such as “Call us to report it”

Of course even if you fill in a form as they want you to, it doesn’t mean they will do anything.

It feels like whoever is running the account at Auckland Transport simply doesn’t care about the customers and is simply pushing out a stock response as that’s the easiest and laziest option for them – if they respond at all. But it’s not just replying to questions or comments that has been substandard, there is now often no information given network issues such as congestion affecting buses or rail issues such as a signal failure. It seems the NZTA have had to pick up some of the slack and it’s not uncommon to see them discuss issues seen as being out of their remit such as on the rail network. Here’s the NZTA even suggesting to use PT.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of this.

My understanding is that a large part of the issue is that the role of managing twitter keeps getting passed around to different departments with little accountability for what’s happening. What I do know is that Auckland Transport are rapidly becoming a very unfunny joke and an example of exactly what not to do when engaging with the public. They need to change this and change it fast.

Is the City Centre Deprived?

*16/10/2014: updated with interactive map*

Radio New Zealand recently ran an article titled “Slum warning over Auckland CBD”, which began:

Auckland’s central city is home to some of the region’s poorest people, living in tiny overcrowded apartments which are threatening to turn some areas into slums.

Census data shows part of the inner city has a deprivation level of 10, which is the same as some of the poorest parts of south Auckland – such as Mangere, Papakura and Otara.

Once you get past the somewhat sensationalist headline and opening, this is actually a relatively informative article, but I think a bit more context is required. My response is possibly a bit too much context, so feel free to skip to the last few paragraphs.

 

What is Deprivation?

According to the University of Otago, who publishes the New Zealand Index of Deprivation, “deprivation has been defined as a state of observable and demonstrable disadvantage relative to the local community or the wider society or nation to which an individual, family or group belongs”. It’s a multi-dimensional and evolving concept, and can be assessed in a number of different ways.

The New Zealand Index of Deprivation uses census data to gauge deprivation at the local (but not individual/ household) level. In the latest index, based on the 2013 census, the following variables are used, in order of decreasing weight in the index:

Dep Index variables

The index uses aggregated data to provide useful information about whether people living in a given area are more or less likely to be deprived. The data is based on what’s available from the census, and is more limited (and less direct) than the range of questions we’d focus on if we were interviewing individuals or households, for example. In fact, the University of Otago has also created a New Zealand Index of Socioeconomic Deprivation for Individuals, which is an interview-based system.

Similarly, Statistics New Zealand ask a wide range of questions in their Household Economic Survey – whether household members have shoes in good condition, or do things like go without good meals, doctor’s visits and so on to save on costs. The survey used to ask “how often in the last twelve months [the interviewee] had stayed in bed longer to save on heating costs – never, occasionally or often”, and I used this variable in my dissertation to look at energy poverty – one of the many dimensions of poverty, which is a related concept to deprivation.

As you can see from these questions, there are a range of things that people can end up going without, which many of us may not really come across in our everyday lives (although we may have been through phases of this, e.g. while studying). These are social issues and not generally the domain of this blog, but I mention them for context and to give an idea of what deprivation indices are really trying to get at.

 

Is the Index of Deprivation well suited to looking at the city centre?

The New Zealand Index of Deprivation is an excellent resource and useful for comparing different areas, assessing the need for health and social services and so on. However, I think the Radio New Zealand article above, and the New Zealand Index of Deprivation itself, probably overstates the degree of deprivation in the city centre, although there are certainly deprived people (and arguably even deprived areas) in the city centre.

To give more detail, the index assigns each of the 2,000-odd geographical “area units” across New Zealand a ranking of 1 to 10, with the same number of area units in each decile, and 10 being the most deprived. One of the “area units” in the city centre, Auckland Central East (east of Queen St), was ranked 10 in the 2013 index, whereas Auckland Central West (west of Queen St) was ranked 9 and Auckland Harbourside (north of Customs St, the Viaduct, the Scene apartments etc) was ranked 6.

I’ve listed the variables that go into the index above. and as you can imagine, there are some indicators that are less relevant to a high-density context, and there are others that are less relevant to areas with a younger population. The University is aware of this, and mention in their FAQ here:

What happens if people choose not to own one or more of a house, a car or a phone?

We are restricted to information available from the census forms, which do not include information about choice for these items. However, the NZDep index includes information from six deprivation variables which are unlikely to be relevant to people who make such choices, such as some people living in inner-city apartments, so the index-value for a small area is unlikely to be substantively affected by the lack of choice information for the other three index variables.

An important aspect of deprivation is the lack of choice in going without certain things – it’s really about people who feel forced to go without “a house, a car or a phone”, or from further up in this post, “wearing shoes with holes because you could not afford replacement” and so on, rather than choosing to do without for lifestyle or other reasons. So the first point I’d note is that people often choose to live in the city centre and not own their apartment, a car etc, while I also acknowledge the university’s comments on the other variables in the index.

Secondly, areas with a high proportion of students also tend to come out badly in the index. Students obviously tend to perform poorly on income measures, and also on unemployment ones – based on customised census data, 10.3% of full time students in NZ are unemployed, vs. 4.5% for the general population (and the unemployment rate, which is different, is 22.0%).

In Dunedin, for example, students are heavily concentrated in the “Otago University” and “North Dunedin” area units, both of which have a deprivation index of 9. I lived in this area for 18 months, and while there are certainly students living in substandard conditions, again there’s an element of choice; going without now to earn higher incomes down the track.

That brings me to another important point, which is that deprivation for individual students is likely to be short-lived, rather than entrenched. Student-oriented areas may be “deprived” and remain so over time, but that’s arguably less of a social issue than areas where you have the same people living there for years and remaining deprived.

As you’d expect, the University of Otago is clued up about this. They make some effort to adjust for the student factor, e.g. through leaving the Student Allowance Benefit out of the benefit variable in the index (“it was considered that the majority of people on this benefit were probably not disadvantaged or socioeconomically deprived in the same way as those on the other means tested benefits”), but generally the index is still a bit less meaningful for areas with a large proportion of students.

Thirdly, the city centre, being dominated by apartments, will come out very well on some measures which aren’t recorded in the index – apartments aren’t usually damp and cold, as so many NZ houses are. On the other hand, many of them could still be seen as substandard, in terms of minimal living space, poor facilities, not much natural light or ventilation and so on.

 

So, is the City Centre Deprived?

Here’s a map of the Index of Deprivation scores for meshblocks across the CBD:

I’ve done some analysis on the city centre using the variables which go into the Index of Deprivation, and my conclusions would be that the city centre is still relatively deprived in many ways – but it’s probably not as bad as it looks in the index, and the deprivation for individuals is less likely to be long-term.

Unemployment rates for city centre residents are high however you slice it, for both students and non-students. I expect that a lot of that has to do with the age structure (youth unemployment is much higher) and ethnic mix (unemployment for Asian ethnic groups is somewhat higher).

The city centre also comes out badly on the “living space” variable, as you might expect given high land costs and generally smaller dwelling sizes. Using a simple measure of overcrowding – more than two people per bedroom – 3.5% of CBD dwellings are overcrowded, vs. 1.2% across New Zealand. The index measure is a bit more in depth, and looks at the number of “spare bedrooms” compared to an occupancy standard; if anything, the CBD probably comes out worse on that measure.

On the “support” variable, there are also quite a lot of single parent families in the city centre. So, there are some warning signs here – I’d hope there is a good support structure in place for these families.

So, there is deprivation in the city centre, and it needs to be acknowledged. I don’t think it calls for a hysterical response, but there are social issues which should be recognised and addressed. It’s important that the CBD has good social services in place – and I think it generally does – and that these continue to improve as the CBD’s population continues to grow.

Mapping population changes and young(ish) adults

Yesterday reader Aaron Schiff published this post looking at how population had changed across the country and compared it to how it had changed for the 20-34 age group.

Young adults represent the future of New Zealand’s economy, so I think it’s interesting to look at what is happening to them over time.

Using Census data I’ve made some dotmaps of population changes between 2013 and 2001. In the following maps, there is one blue dot for each new person in census area units that experienced population growth over this time, and one red dot for each person lost in areas where the population shrank.

In each case the maps compare changes in the total “census usually resident” population with that of young adults aged 20 to 34. People in this age group are generally finishing up education, entering the workforce, starting families, and buying houses. The maps show changes in where people live, which reflects a number of factors including earning prospects and cost of living (among other things).

First, the national picture. Total population increased in all of the major cities, most smaller centres, and many rural areas too. In comparison the increase in young population is more concentrated on urban centres.

Aaron Schiff Population - All-NZ-Combined

There’s a couple of interesting things that really stand out here. There’s been growth in large parts of the country which isn’t unexpected but some areas, particularly the far north, East Cape and parts of the central North Island haven’t done so well. Perhaps more interesting is there’s also a couple of places noticeable that have seen general population increasing while flat or declining young populations. This includes some of NZ’s more popular areas due to climate or scenery such as the Coromandel Peninsula, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Queenstown/Wanaka areas. In addition there seems to be a general decline in the youngish population from rural areas. Back to Aaron’s post:

In the Auckland region, total population increased in almost all areas. The changes in young adult population are very different – a big increase in the CBD but reductions in many areas surrounding the CBD, and growth in outlying areas. I would hypothesise that this reflects housing costs more than anything.

Aaron Schiff Population - Auckland-Combined

The areas just to the west of the CBD (Freeman’s Bay, Ponsonby, etc) are especially interesting. The total population in these areas grew very little between 2001 and 2013, while the young adult population reduced significantly.

Aaron Schiff Population - AKL Central

Firstly I’m surprised that some areas have had overall population losses, some like around Glen Innes might be related to a smaller population while Housing NZ start to redevelop their land, something that will almost certainly see the population jump over time. Other areas like that experienced population loss like Herne Bay might be more related to houses being lived in by (wealthier) older couples whose children have left home.

It’s the youngish population that’s seen the most change and what I notice is it’s most prevalent in what are generally higher socio economic areas e.g. both the western and eastern bays, Mt Eden, Devonport, Titirangi. Again to me this likely reflects a combination of factors including:

  • Children of Baby boomers who have left home
  • Generation Xers (born 1960-1980) who might still live in the area with young families but have obviously aged outside the 20-34 age bracket
  • House price rises that have put home ownership out of reach for many younger people in these areas.

As to where the growth in young people has been happening, it’s been incredibly strong in the CBD which reflects the growing number of students who are choosing to live more urban.

All up it’s really interesting to see where the changes are occurring so thanks Aaron. Also if anyone wants to help put the data into an interactive version then please let Aaron know

Factors influencing PT use

A comprehensive US study looks at different factors determining modal choice – in particular looking at what makes particular people more likely to use public transport than others. The key findings are shown below:

transit-choicesNone of the findings are particularly surprising at this level, although it is interesting to note that the basics of getting PT right – fast, reliable and affordable service – are seen as more important than flashy add-ons.

Digging into the report’s executive summary highlights a few more interesting results. Firstly, in relation to whether travel trends are changing for cultural/generational reasons or simple economic circumstances:

A central topic of this report is the behavior and attitudes of the Millennial generation as compared to older Americans. Whether the apparent change in travel preferences among Millennials is the result of a true generational change in attitudes— rather than a product of economic or social circumstances—is a topic of fierce debate. We see behavioral evidence to suggest that such a shift is indeed taking place: Parents of school-age children, who are under 30 are, it appears, more likely than parents of school-age children over 30 to use public transit, even when controlling for income.

There are also some potentially counter-intuitive outcomes when looking at the role of upbringing:

We also look at the role of upbringing in mode choice. Investigating the childhood circumstances and travel patterns of Millennials (defined in the report as people under 30) and Baby Boomers (over 60) leads us to a paradox: The Millennial generation seems to be defying its sheltered, suburban upbringing by delaying the acquisition of a driver’s license and choosing transit. Meanwhile, Baby
Boomers, who grew up using transit and were encouraged to do so, are defying their upbringing by avoiding transit now.

Maybe everyone’s just being rebellious?

An area where it seems that the US might differ from New Zealand, Auckland in particular, is the relationship between transit use and income. In the US, it seems like the richer you get, the more likely you are to drive:

transit-use-by-income

Transit Use by Income legendI haven’t seen a similar graph for Auckland, but when you look at areas with higher PT use they don’t exactly stand out as being the poor parts of the city – quite the opposite in fact:

pt-use-by-origin

Many American cities are only just starting to embark on the process of ‘recentralisation’ that Auckland has gone through over the past decade or two (Ponsonby was one of the poorest parts of the city once, Freemans Bay was once a slum). I wonder whether over time they might also see more complex and surprising relationships between PT use and income over time. I also wonder what the causes and implications for Auckland’s poor are from not being higher users of public transport. I suspect the basics of travel time, reliability and cost are significant, especially for those working multiple jobs or that involves travel outside of the peak.

It would be great to see a similar study done in New Zealand, so we can compare with the US patterns and reasons for different transport choices but more than anything this report highlights that if we want more people using PT we need to focus on improving the quality of services.

Stuart’s 100 #38: Local Food and Local Land

38: Local Food and Local Land

Day_38

What if we made the link between local food and local land?

Continuing the food theme; pretty self-explanatory really. But something that doesn’t come through very strongly in the planning and growth debates we have in Auckland. Wouldn’t it be great if we joined the dots more often between local land uses and local food?

Stuart Houghton 2014

Stuart’s 100 #37: AKL Eats at AIAL

37: AKL Eats at AIAL

Day_37

What if our international airport offered a slice of the best Auckland eats?

All airports are all the same, right? Well generally yes, but occasionally one surprises you with something unique or at least a bit different to the norm.

Why doesn’t Auckland International Airport, which is doing very well in customer satisfaction surveys, make the leap to offering a showcase of some of the best eats Auckland and New Zealand has to offer? Imagine an airport branch of Depot Oyster Bar, a Waiheke wine bar, and a food court full to overflowing with the best cheap eats – dumplings and noodles, biryani and burgers.

First world problems you say, and certainly a small thing really, but one that might make a difference next time you or a visitor has time to kill out at that quite lovely spot overlooking the stone fields and Manukau Heads in the last of the setting sun.

Stuart Houghton 2014

Auckland: the world’s friendliest city

UK travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler has just named Auckland the world’s friendliest city in its 2014 rankings. It introduces Auckland with a great photo that highlights the city’s growing urbanity:

Conde Nast auckland friendliest city

FRIENDLIEST: 1. Auckland, New Zealand

Score: 86.0 (tie)

We must admit, we saw this one coming—and so did you. “The people are friendly, and their humor and view on life is something to aspire to attain,” said one reader. “Such a gorgeous city on the water” with “clear air,” “fresh food,” and “amazing culture,” others raved. A trip to the Auckland Museum for its Maori collections and “terrific” cultural performances is highly recommended. If you’ve never been to New Zealand, this “clean, youthful, adventurous, beautiful” city is the “ideal starting place” for seeing the country.

Last year’s world ranking: no. 16 (friendliest).

It’s fantastic to see New Zealand’s urban places start to make it into the travel magazines in their own right rather than as brief stopping-off points on the way to the Southern Alps. More of this please!

Reflections on Melbourne and Sydney

2014 was an auspicious year. Whether by cosmic alignment or fickle chance, Easter Monday and Anzac Day fell in the same week, and I was able to shoot off to Melbourne and Sydney for ten days with only three days off from work. We talk about these larger cities a fair bit on the blog – they’re both almost three times the population – but I think there’s still some interesting points left to make.

Getting by with fewer cars

In Melbourne, I stayed with a friend in the outskirts of the city, 35 km away from the CBD. Despite living this far out, he and his partner get by with a single car. They commute to the CBD by bus and train, and only really use the car in the weekends. With car licensing at $700 a year, and the other costs of car ownership that go with it, they don’t see the need for a second vehicle.

I also caught up with a couple of friends who live more centrally in Melbourne, and who work centrally as well, and neither of them own a car. Likewise, the friends I saw in Sydney were a couple with just one car between them. The people I’m talking about are all professionals, but they manage to get by with fewer cars then they would in Auckland. There’s a real cost saving there.

This observation also comes through in the census data. The average Auckland household has 1.7 cars, compared with 1.6 in Melbourne and 1.5 in Sydney (actually, the figures will be slightly higher than that… I’ve assumed that all households with “three or more” motor vehicles only have three).

Better transport options – public, active modes and so on – make all the difference. Auckland is very well placed to make some big changes on that front, a point Peter made very well here. We just need to take advantage of those opportunities.

P1000031 small

Don’t forget to publicise the shiny new things. Not that this tram was particularly shiny, but you get the idea.

Metro Rail Networks/ City Rail Link equivalents

Of course, and as we’ve discussed previously on the blog, Melbourne and Sydney both have much more extensive train networks than Auckland. They’re also adding new lines as we speak – the Sydney routes map below shows two new lines currently under construction. The Melbourne map doesn’t show what’s currently being built, but the Regional Rail Link is underway and due for completion in 2016.

Also visible from these two maps, of course, is that both Melbourne and Sydney have their own version of the City Rail Link – looped track through the city centre. Brisbane and Perth do as well, for that matter… more on those in another post.

Smart card bundling

Melbourne has recently stopped accepting cash or paper tickets on all public transport services. You’ve got to have a smart card, called “myki”.

A myki costs AUD $6, and you can also buy a “myki Visitor Value Pack” for $14 – it’s preloaded with a day’s worth of unlimited Zone 1 travel (covering the CBD and most of the inner suburbs where tourists would want to go). However, the thing I really like about this pack is that it bundles the myki card with discounts for 15 of Melbourne’s major attractions, including the aquarium and Eureka Skydeck. The discounts are pretty good in some cases, up to around 20% off admission.

This is a great way of getting myki cards into the hands of tourists who might otherwise be put off by the fact that they can’t pay with cash when they’re only in town for a short visit. It shows a pretty good understanding of consumer behaviour, and it’d be good to see something similar here – how about it, Auckland Transport/ council? For starters, there are the council-run attractions such as the zoo and museum… Or for that matter, why don’t the private sector guys – Kelly Tarlton’s, Skytower, and so on – get the ball rolling on this?

*Update – as Matt wrote this morning, it turns out that AT are already working on this: “concept development for 1/3/7 day and customized HOP cards for visitor / tourist PT and tourist attraction discounted access is nearing completion”, and AT are hoping to release something for January 2015 to tie in with the next Auckland Nines. Good stuff!

Variable quality cycling infrastructure

Melbourne has some pretty good quality infrastructure, with a number of separated cycle paths and trails, and a large network of bike lanes. However, the city is let down by the Australian laws which require cyclists to wear helmets – as for New Zealand. According to cycle-helmets.com, which has a wide range of resources on the topic:

In Melbourne, surveys at the same 64 observation sites (PDF 535kb) in May 1990 and May 1991 [before and after the introduction of compulsory helmet legislation] found there were 29% fewer adults and 42% fewer child cyclists (36% overall). Each site was observed for two 5 hour periods chosen from the four time blocks of weekday morning, weekend morning, weekday afternoon and weekend afternoon, representing a total of 640 hours of observation. The weather was broadly similar for both surveys. Victoria introduced compulsory bike helmet legislation in late 1990.

In the first year of compulsory helmet legislation in Victoria, child cycling went down by 36% and child head injuries went down by 32%. Surveys taken in May/June 1990, 1991 and 1992, reported by Cameron et al. (1992), indicated that total children’s bicycling activity in Victoria had reduced by 36% in the first year of the helmet law, and by a total of 45% in the second year.

There’s some more on this topic here – written, funnily enough, by a libertarian think tank. It was good to see the ACT party picking up on this earlier this year, and saying their policy would be to scrap the helmet law.

P1000030 small

A bike hire scheme run by a hotel called The Olsen – not sure if it’s available to the general public

Stuff happening

There seemed to be cranes everywhere in the Melbourne and Sydney CBDs – reflecting a country which didn’t have the same slowdown we had here in New Zealand. Of course, and as reported by the Herald, we’re starting to get things going again in Auckland as well. Construction activity is picking up in many parts of the city and in most sectors.

 

White elephants

As many will know, the Sydney monorail was decommissioned last year, after just 25 years of operation. I’m no expert on monorails, but according to a newspaper article from the time, light rail would have cost 33% less, and could have carried 60% more passengers per hour. And now the monorail’s been torn down, so the government can put in light rail after all. Go figure.

P1000269 small

There’s probably a couple of lessons that can be taken out of this. Firstly, monorails tend to be a waste of money. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s important for public (or private, for that matter) transport infrastructure to be well thought out, and provide value. This is why our Congestion Free Network delays investment in some public transport projects which we don’t think give good value for money, and brings forward others which do. It’s also why we advocate different solutions for different corridors – heavy rail for some, light rail (potentially) for others, busways for others.

Bike to the Future

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Bike to the Future. 28 September 2014. Photo: Tamara Josephine.

The wunderkinds at Generation Zero put on a great event yesterday. Part celebration, part protest, the Bike to the Future event was attended by about 400 (500?) people, including young kids, oldies and a couple of dogs. Surprisingly the weather cooperated – making the attendance even more impressive.

The event is part of a bigger campaign for the provision of separated bike lanes along Karangahape Road. Of course re-allocating road space for spatially efficient modes makes a whole lot of sense for safety, convenience and economic reasons. Most importantly the event shows what Auckland will look like in the future; and if the smiles, good cheer and overflowing cafes were any indication the future can’t come soon enough.

Below is media from Tamara Josephine, @bythemotorway (more photos here: 1, 2, 3), and @wheeledped (website).

Photo by @bythemotorway

Photo by @bythemotorway

 

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Photo: Tamara Josephine.

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Photo: @bythemotorway

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Photo: Tamara Josephine.

The emergence of an urban generation of Aucklanders

This is just a quick note about an event on tomorrow night. Our good friend Dr Sudhvir Singh from Generation Zero is speaking at the Sir John Logan Campbell Annual Lecture on “The emergence of an urban generation of Aucklanders”. Details are here.

24 September 2014

6:45 – 8pm

Venue: Reception Lounge, Level 2, Auckland Town Hall

The ‘father of Auckland’, Sir John Logan Campbell initially trained as a doctor before going on to play a key role in Auckland’s early development. During Auckland’s initial planning stages, suburbs were designed for people, and Auckland had some of the highest rates of public transport patronage per capita in the world. Since then, Auckland has grown into an incredibly diverse, outward looking city of 1.5 million people. However decisions made in the 20th century have resulted in a sprawling, car-dependent urban form. Under the new ‘super city’ structure, Auckland’s future shape is being determined. Issues of urban development are highly consequential: cities like Auckland are on the front line of 21st century challenges, from climate change to inequality to the epidemic of ‘non-communicable diseases’ like diabetes and heart disease.

Can smart urban planning provide solutions to these contemporary challenges? Do Auckland’s increasingly multicultural cohort of young people have different preferences to their parents’ generation, and what kind of city do they want to live in in the future? What lessons can be learned from Sir John Logan Campbell’s time? Using his experience as a health professional, a migrant and an advocate for a more liveable city, Sudhvir will share his vision for Auckland, and the potential for Auckland’s first ‘urban generation’ to help influence the future shape of our city.