As written in the Herald a few weeks ago, sometimes people move. Sometimes they move to Auckland. Sometimes they move out of Auckland. Sometimes they even move country. But paragraphs like this can be a bit misleading:
As house prices in the country’s biggest city spiral out of control, Auckland homeowners are cashing in their chips and buying mansions in the regions.
Thousands of property owners are now sitting on million-dollar goldmines thanks to rampant capital gain. The lure of a traffic-free, laid-back lifestyle with outdoor space for the children is proving tempting for many, and one-in-10 Hawkes Bay sales are now to ex-pat Aucklanders. The Bay of Islands and Marlborough are also drawing “Jafa” homeowners keen to escape the rat race.
I did a writeup on internal migration last year – long story short, of course people move for all sorts of reasons, and for that matter Auckland has had a net loss of people to other regions for some time. But it’s tiny in the context of Auckland’s overall population growth.
Even the largest internal migration loss – between 2001-2006 – was still pretty small compared to those other bars on the graph. The 1996-2001 and 2008-2013 figures are negligibly small.
Incidentally, I expect a larger internal migration loss in the next five years – after all, we’ve got massive international immigration, with many of these new Kiwis heading to Auckland. That has put pressure on our housing supply, and no doubt it is a factor prompting more Aucklanders to sell up and move elsewhere, for retirement or a quieter lifestyle. We did lose more people to other regions over 2001-2006, when we were also seeing major international immigration. That’s probably not a coincidence. We could very well see something similar this time around, especially with many baby boomers at around retirement age. Check back in 2019 to see if I’m right!
Articles like the recent Herald one, though, aren’t very useful for informing the issue, since they only look at people going one way, and rely on anecdotal stories rather than statistics. Here are the actual stats for movements in and out of Auckland in 2008-2013:
We lost a few thousand people to each of the nearby regions, gained a few from Wellington and Canterbury (with the earthquakes probably an influence), and had very little “net” movement to or from other regions. How about the places mentioned by the Herald? We lost a net 132 people to the Hawkes Bay, and gained 12 from Marlborough. The Bay of Islands is part of Northland of course, but looking just at the Far North district we lost 585 people.
Each of these thousands of people have their lives and stories to tell about why they’ve moved, but taking a macro view, the diaspora from Auckland to other parts of New Zealand is more of a trickle than a flood.
I was poking around the Stats NZ site the other day (unrelated to my post on central city employment) when I came across this neat interactive visualisation of the Journey to Work data from the last Census. By clicking on any Area Unit it will show how many people commuted to and from it from every other Area Unit. People commuting to an area are shown in blue while people commuting from the area are shown in Brown while people who live and work in the same area unit aren’t shown on the map but are indicated on the table to the right of the map.
The tool is still in beta and one issue I’ve found is that the thickness of the line can be a bit misleading. It seems the thickness is based on passing a threshold for the numbers of people moving between two area units. As such less than 100 people is shown as a thin line, between 100 and 300 as a medium line and above 300 as a thick line. That said here are a few examples and some interesting observations from briefly playing with the tool.
The difference in the distribution of trips to the eastern and western sides of the CBD are quite pronounced. As mentioned above some of that will be due to there being more jobs in on the Western side as well as the thresholds that have been set but I wonder if there are other factors at play
A chart to the right of the map also provides information on how many travelled to, from or live and work in the area.
As you would expect, most people working in other employment centres tend to live in the surrounding suburbs, an example of this is East Tamaki but it can also be seen in many other employment areas such as Albany, Takapuna, East Tamaki and Manukau. Below is East Tamaki.
The opposite tends to be seen in what are primarily dormitory areas such as Sunnynook below. You can see residents there are primarily travelling to Albany/North Harbour, Wairau Rd-Takapuna or the Central City.
With both the employment areas and residential suburbs what you notice is that in addition to local workers, a lot of people are doing long distance trips across town. That highlights that even if local employment exists, many workers don’t work locally which is likely due to a wide range of factors.
In addition to the map the tables that make up the data for each area unit are also available by selecting the area unit you want and then clicking the tables link at the top of the page or in the chart to the right of the map.
I think it would be great to be able to group together various area units – such as the central city ones but overall a very neat and useful visualisation – one that I’m likely to use a lot. I also certainly hope that Stats NZ start doing more visualisations like this.
While most of Auckland basked in glorious sunshine on Tuesday morning, a patch fog enveloped the area around the upper harbour making Auckland’s second harbour crossing disappear into the distance.
On March 28 the (normally safe) National-held electorate of Northland heads for a bye-election. The outcome of the bye-election will be fascinating for several reasons.
The first reason is that it’s politically important. If Winston Peters wins then it will be more difficult for National to pass controversial legislation, because they will need the votes of not just one but two support parties.
Legislation like the Sky City casino-for-convention-centre deal and RMA reforms suddenly become pawns in a three-way game of arbitrage between parties with somewhat different support bases and philosophies. Amusingly, National could end up leading a government not too dissimilar to what they warned the opposition would have been like, had the latter prevailed at the last election.
The second reason the bye-election is so interesting is that transport has, somewhat unexpectedly, become a major campaign issue.
Early in the campaign, the Minister of Transport (Simon Bridges) suddenly found $69 million in previously stretched transport budgets for two-laning a number of bridges in Northland. This funding announcement was apparently made without any information or advice being sought, or received, from transport officials. This is an announcement that Winston himself would be proud of, indeed he’s pulled similar stunts in the past.
The reality for National, however, is that few people seem to have been impressed by the transport funding announcement. Instead, it has received considerable attention for delving so blatantly into pork-barrel politics.
Questions have also been raised about the effectiveness of the spend. For many of the locals interviewed by Campbell Live, two-waying bridges seem to be far from the top of the priorities list.
National have also apparently linked funding for the Puhoi-Wellsford highway to the outcome of the bye-election. Amazing how an apparently essential piece of transport infrastructure can so suddenly becomes not so important when there is a bye-election.
I’ve personally found it interesting watching National’s transport pork-barrel approach in Northland, especially in light of recent political happenings in Australia, where I am currently based.
In Victoria, Dennis Nathpine’s Liberal Government tied their political fortunes to the eye-wateringly expensive $18 billion “East-West Link”. It was a bad pick, with polls showing the East-West link had levels of support that were half of comparable metro rail projects. Napthine was subsequently kicked out of office.
Meanwhile, in Queensland, Campbell-Newman built a reputation for delivering large, expensive, and largely unnecessary motorway tunnels. His Government’s promises of more roading pork were spectacularly dismissed after only one term in office after a 12% swing back to Labour.
And at the Federal level Tony Abbott’s unwillingness to fund passenger transport improvements in Australia’s rapidly growing cities is receiving growing criticism. This is in stark contrast to the former (and possible future) Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who supports passenger transport.
As an economist, I think there’s a key message for National in all of these events. It’s not just that roading pork hasn’t been sufficient to save political bacon, but also that there is often a large gap between stated and revealed preferences.
Why is this important? Well, I suspect what all of these conservative parties have done, including National, is held focus groups where they’ve asked people whether they support more investment in roads. In response, many of these people have said “yes”. Something like these guys.
The problem with stated preference surveys is the trade-offs are usually not made explicit. More specifically, when you invest more in roads, you often find that you don’t get much bang for your buck.
So while people say they want more investment in roads, after a couple of years of fluffing about with largely ineffective road investments, they suddenly realise that they’re not actually much better off. Political strategies based on stated preferences may therefore work in the short run, but they are likely to run out of gas in the long run.
The lesson for National in all this, I think, is that they increasingly run the risk that people will catch onto the fact that their transport pork is failing to return much value. Every new road that opens which fails to meet forecasts, every new business case that is shown to be baloney, eventually creates the case for your opponents to shred your credibility. It won’t happen overnight, but it probably will happen.
This is especially true when you’re foolish enough to do what National have done, i.e. hang your dirty transport laundry out to dry in the blazing heat of a Northland bye-election.
This seems to be a timely and early lesson for Simon Bridges: Emulating the pork-barrel approach employed by Joyce and Brownlee will not necessarily bring you enduring political success. Just ask Nathpine, Campbell-Newman, and Abbott if you want to see the proof in that political pudding.
This interesting image popped up on twitter today showing an earlier plan for the area behind the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
It looks like it would have been a fairly grand boulevard to complement the museum but it obviously never happened. This is how it currently looks.
The last census was two years ago and there’s already been a lot of analysis of the results of it. In terms of transport the census asks about Journeys to Work and while it is a fairly flawed metric due to it ignoring other trip generators like journeys to education – a large component of the morning peak in particular – it still has shown some interesting results. From it we know that in Auckland the number of people commuting to work by car increased, however it has partially come from fewer people carpooling and even more importantly it was eclipsed by the number commuting by PT. Add in the strong growth in people using active modes and there’s been the below shifts in modeshare.
PV = private vehicle
I just happened to be looking at Stats NZ a few days ago and came across data giving a demographic break down of the results which is something I haven’t seen before and the results are fascinating. In particular the results that caught my attention the most were those by age and gender and how that had changed over time.
First up the total number of people who said they worked on Census day and you can clearly see from this the aging of the baby boomer generation.
Unsurprisingly the number of people driving a private vehicle to work looks fairly similar to the graph above. What is interesting are the other private vehicle categories of driving a company vehicle, driving a motorbike or scooter and being a passenger in a car.
Moving on to public transport I’ve only shown bus and train below because ferries are included in the Other category. What’s remarkable about the changes is that it so clearly shows that the growth in PT is being driven by the younger generations. The question is what the people in these younger age groups will do once they start getting older and having families etc. The changes in the older age groups suggest that the numbers using PT won’t drop off as much as they have in the past which will have big implications for mode share in the future.
I’ve also looked at the data for Wellington and while most categories have a fairly similar profile to Auckland, the one that stands out as being dramatically different is in train use. I suspect that as Auckland’s network matures it will start to look more like Wellington’s does now.
Next up are the active modes of walking and cycling with two very different trends. For walking its young people driving the change whereas for cycling it’s older generations making the shift.
Lastly it’s the Other – which is likely to primarily be ferries – and those who worked from home. The latter is primarily made up of people who live in rural areas and the wealthier coastal areas places within the urban area.
Overall there are some very interesting changes happening with how we travel and those are primarily occurring in non-car modes. If the younger generations continue to keep the current trends up then it’s likely to have big implications for how people get around in the future. The question is whether what we’re building is going to support that change or hinder it.
The other piece of demographic information available is mode usage based on gender. Unlike age the gender split over each mode doesn’t seem to be changing much over time but what the data does highlight is that there is quite a lot of variance between the two based on which mode is looked at. Overall 54% of those who said they were working are men versus 46% women.
In the graph below are the total numbers of each gender for each mode – with the exception of Driving a Private Car as it’s so large it makes it difficult to see the other results. The first thing you notice is how over represented men are in driving a company vehicle. This is also the case for riding motorbike or cycling. In the other modes more women than men are likely to be a car passenger, use PT, walk or work from home.
To highlight the degree of over or under representation the graph below shows this for females (the opposite can obviously bee seen for males). Of these the quickest and easiest I think that we could change would be cycling and to do that it is essential we make our roads safer through far greater use of cycle infrastructure.
If anyone wants to look into this deeper this info is also available by local board level which I’m sure would show some interesting results between different parts of Auckland.
Every week we read more than we can write about on the blog. To avoid letting good commentary and research fall by the wayside, we’re going to publish weekly excerpts from what we’ve been reading.
Joel Leider, “House price-to-rent ratios in major US markets: a data visualization case study“:
My wife and I are buying (and selling) a house, and the metric I always return to is price-to-rent ratio. Sure, the real estate agent will show you comps for similar homes in the area. And all your friends, family, in-laws will chime in as to what they think a proper price. But price-to-rent ratio has the beauty of simplicity. It’s like a stock’s p/e ratio, and gives us a contingency plan. If you keep your price-to-rent ratio –price / (rent * 12)– below 20, at today’s interest rates you could rent out your house and still pay your mortgage plus tax. […]
Let’s look at price-to-rent ratios for some major markets. Below are the ratios for the Portland, OR metro area. In the city center, as well as some desirable suburbs, the ratio is getting high. In my situation, my wife and I are moving from Sherwood to Beaverton (ratio goes from 16 to 14). Sherwood is pink, but pretty far from the city center. With its amazing schools, it attracts the kind of people willing to pay somewhat of a premium to own over renting.
And, hey presto, some people have compiled a similar set of figures for Auckland’s suburbs:
Peter Nunns, Hadyn Hitchins and Paul Owen, “To buy or not to buy? A spatial analysis of house prices and rents in Auckland, 2001-2013” (pdf), Auckland Council technical publication:
We observe significant geographical variations in the relationship between rents and prices. Indicative rental yields are significantly lower in some areas than others, indicating that prices are high relative to rents.
Broadly speaking, the city centre fringe areas, along with beach-side suburbs in east Auckland and the North Shore, tend to have lower rental yields. These geographic variations remained relatively constant over time – i.e. the areas with the lowest indicative rental yields in 2001 tended to also have the lowest yields in 2013.
These persistently low yields present a conundrum for interpretation. They highlight an important feature of the housing market: that dwellings are both simultaneously investment and consumption goods (Henderson & Ioannides, 1987). Low yields could be interpreted as an indication that buyers in some areas are investing in the expectation that prices will rise rapidly in the future. On the other hand, buyers may not be seeking investment, but rather placing a premium on the high amenity values in these areas. This is supported by the fact that owner-occupation in area units with less than 3 per cent rental yield is higher (68%) than those areas with a higher yield (58%).
Adele Peters, “7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free“, FastCoexist:
After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around.
Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A U.K. study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots.
Forty years ago, traffic was as bad in Copenhagen as any other large city. Now, over half of the city’s population bikes to work every day—nine times more bike commuters than in Portland, Oregon, the city with the most bike commuters in the U.S.
Copenhagen started introducing pedestrian zones in the 1960s in the city center, and car-free zones slowly spread over the next few decades. The city now has over 200 miles of bike lanes, with new bike superhighways under development to reach surrounding suburbs. The city has one of the lowest rates of car ownership in Europe.
Carlton Reid, “The demise and rebirth of cycling in Britain“, The Guardian:
In car-centric Britain planners assumed that cycling was teetering on the edge of extinction, and by omission they would do all they could to hasten this demise. Civil engineer and planner Professor Colin Buchanan wrote a highly-influential 1963 transport report for the government which recommended that nothing be done at all to encourage urban cycling. Buchanan’s Traffic in Towns was used by town planners to bulldoze motorways through British cities.
Dave Hansford, “The Agony of Vanuatu and the New Climate Colonialism“, Public Address:
Aotearoa has become a pariah at climate talks, not least because it leads a camp seeking “opt-in, opt-out” provisions, and a ban on any legally-enforceable penalties should national targets be missed. It also seeks to have the warming effect of methane – one of New Zealand’s most voluminous pollutants – redefined so as to lessen our total emissions.
It insists that, given our preponderance of hydro power, there’s little more we can do to curtail energy emissions, as though our almost entirely fossil-fuelled land transport and industrial energy sectors were not, in fact, the fastest-growing sources of new emissions. As though this Government hadn’t borrowed billions for an orgy of motorway building. As though it hadn’t slashed spending on public transport, walking and cycling, even as it woed oil and gas companies with $8m of enticements last year.
Frederick Melo, “The Green Line at 6 months: How’s it doing?“, Twin Cities Pioneer Press:
Metro Transit’s Green Line debuted six months ago, promising a comfortable, modern light-rail connection between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Fans and foes instantly squared off, foreseeing a big boost to economic development along University Avenue or the demise of longstanding businesses.
Six months in, one thing is clear: Ridership has nearly surpassed projections for the year 2030. From June 14 through the end of November, about 5.6 million passengers rode the line, averaging more than 1 million rides per month. The state’s first light-rail project, the Hiawatha Line, or Blue Line, debuted in June 2004 and took more than two years to reach that level.
Emily Badger, “Why parking spaces shouldn’t be wasted on cars“, Wonkblog:
For the last few years, Philadelphia has converted a handful of parking spots in front of neighborhood businesses into temporary “parklets” no bigger than the space that might fit one or two cars (these tiny interventions are now popular in a lot of cities). Records from adjacent businesses show sales went up about 20 percent immediately after the parks were installed, relative to right beforehand.
David Roos, “Cycling to Work in Vancouver“: A nice little photo-essay that shows the city from a bike’s-eye view. It does a good job of highlighting Vancouver’s built form and partially-completed cycle network:
I live on a designated quiet street (Haro) on the edge of the West End in Vancouver and work Downtown on the corner of Hornby and Dunsmuir Streets – the two best downtown cycleways – making me a good candidate for cycling to work. Walking takes around 15 minutes. Cycling takes a variable amount of time, depending on how much excitement I want in my life.
Helmets are required by law. I see about 70/30 (helmets/no helmets). I’ve not yet been fined.
Josie Pagani, “Process, not pork the problem for National”, Pundit:
There’s nothing wrong with building bridges in Northland or roads in Tauranga, or even politicians promising to do these things in by-elections. Investing in infrastructure – roads, rail, energy – stimulates the economy when it is otherwise starved of capital.
The problem is process. You have to weight up the cost of spending $69 million on bridges up North against building bridges somewhere else, or building a new school or a hospital. You need a mechanism for deciding if a project is fully funded by government or costs are shared with private capital.
Sean Hollister, “Elon Musk describes the future of self-driving cars“, Gizmodo:
We’re a very long way from that, because there’s always going to be some—for a very long time there will be some legacy cars on the road.
And it is important to just appreciate the size of the automotive industrial base. It’s not as though when somebody makes an autonomous car, that suddenly all the cars will be autonomous. There’s two billion of them. The total number of cars and trucks on the road is two billion and climbing… The capacity of car/truck production is about 100 million a year.
So if tomorrow all cars were autonomous, it would take 20 years to replace the fleet, assuming the fleet stayed the same size. Arguably it could get smaller if things were autonomous, but still it’s maybe 15 years or something and it’s not all going to transition immediately. It’s going to take quite a while. And it’s the same for electrification of cars. Changing that industrial base to be electric — if all cars tomorrow produced were electric, it would still take 20 years to replace the fleet. And right now it’s 1 percent.
Adam Hengels, “Urban[ism] Legend: The Free Market Can’t Provide Affordable Housing“, Market Urbanism:
“Relaxing” won’t do the trick in a city where prices are high enough to justify skyscrapers with four to ten times the density currently allowed. When considering a supply cap that only allows a fraction of what the market demands, one can not reasonably conclude “Unlimited FAR” (building density) would merely result in a bit more development here and there. A radically liberalized land-use regime would deliver numbers of units several times what is permitted under current regulation.
Ms. Cort correctly concludes that because of today’s construction costs, new construction would not provide housing at prices affordable to low income people. This will certainly be the case in the most expensive areas where developers would be allowed to meet market demands by building 60 story skyscrapers. Advocates of land-use liberalization who understand the costs of construction would not claim that dense new construction will house the poor. But if enough supply is allowed to come to market today, today’s new construction will become tomorrow’s affordable housing.
Last Monday the council held an Auckland Conversations event to discuss transport funding in the Long Term Plan. Overall I thought it turned out to be a very good discussion and you if you didn’t happen to be there or watch it online live you can view the recording here.
This was also where Generation Zero launched their Essential Transport Budget which in a case of the old and young combining has even been backed by Grey Power. You can see that specific part here.
However there was a bit of noise created before the event by the curmudgeouns Dick Quax and George Wood.
I assume they are primarily directing the comment at Patrick, Pippa and Sudhvir. One area I do happen to agree with them on is that it would have been good to see someone there representing the road lobby – for example perhaps the Road Transport Forum. However what I want to question is the idea that pushing for better walking, cycling and public transport – at least in the way that we and Generation Zero do – is somehow “leftist”. In fact if you look at the actual detail of much of the advocacy we do it could easily be classified as sitting on right of the political spectrum. Here are just a few examples:
The idea that individuals should have the personal freedom to make their own choices is often considered a strong aspect of right wing politics and that’s something we agree with. In the area of transport in New Zealand our politics has focused on associating freedom with the ability to drive cars. I’m not sure of the exact reason for this, I assume it’s probably a combination of successful car company marketing, the fact that PT workers are/were unionised, that cars don’t need a timetable plus provide point to point transport and similar messaging coming out of countries we followed like the US.
Putting the messaging aside, for decades on only focused on building one mode of transport. Like almost everywhere else in the world we’re rational beings and the outcome of all that investment meant the only rational decision was to drive – and that’s what most people do. What we’re seeing now is that when high quality options such as the Northern Busway or the rail network are provided then people respond positively and will happily change behaviour.
One of the key reasons for our support of greater public transport, walking and cycling investment is that it improves the choice people have for how they get around. It means the only realistic option isn’t sitting in a car (in traffic) but being able to choose the best option for the trip/s they want to make (which may still be a car).
We’ve been constantly appalled by the council’s transport plans which effectively seek to build everything ever thought up of over many many years. It’s the build everything approach that has contributed to the $12 billion shortfall which the council is trying to find a way to fund and is looking at either tolls or increased rates and fuel taxes. Over the years we’ve frequently looked for ways that we can both reduce spending but at the same time improve outcomes and of course that was one of the key reasons behind the Congestion Free Network.
We’ve taken the same approach with government spending. Some of the Roads of National Significance simply don’t provide good value for money and we’ve suggested some be cut back or cancelled as a result. The money saved from doing so can then be used deliver projects that will deliver better overall outcomes.
None of this approach is about being anti-car but improving what we build
One thing that both advocates and transport agencies agree on is that we need to get more out of the transport system we already have. That means we need to move more people and goods via already scarce transport resources. In an urban area private vehicles take up massive amounts of space. One of the big advantages of public transport, walking and cycling is that they have the ability to move large numbers of people in less space so can play a bit part in improving the efficiency of our transport networks. Of course for those alternative options to be used we have to invest in them to make them usable to a wider segment of society.
To get people using PT though we need to improve the quality of the PT offering and the old business analogy of “you have to spend money to make money” seems quite appropriate. By investing in the network in the right way it allows us to improve PT and ultimately reduce the amount of subsidies required. As an example a bus lane allows buses to travel faster along its route by no longer subjecting it to normal congestion. Faster journeys are great for existing passengers and help accelerating patronage growth. However bus lanes are also good from a subsidy point of view. By speeding buses up you either need less of them to do the same job or can run more services for the same amount of money – thereby attracting more people to use it. Either way you reduce the level of subsidies needed which is good for ratepayers and taxpayers.
We’ve seen both locally and internationally that when there is a focus on improving the walkability and the pedestrian environment (that includes wheeled pedestrians) a couple of significant things happen. One is that people shop more boosting local retail, perhaps the best example of this is the upgrade of Fort St to a shared space which has seen the hospitality retailers revenue increase by a staggering 400%. The second thing is that people walking (and cycling) more is good for them, improving health and therefore reducing long term costs to the health system. This is further enhanced as often these improvements also see a reduction in traffic crashes. So once again we see a case where we can lower costs while also increasing revenue and therefore tax at the same time.
There are probably many more examples like the ones above, but they give a good overview of why transport policy (and land-use policy) really doesn’t fit well into a traditional “left-right” ideological spectrum.
A few weeks back the fantastic Westhaven Promenade officially opened significantly improving pedestrian and cycle access to the area.
As part of the opening Waterfront Auckland sent me these images showing what the area used to look like. One thing is for sure, we’ve significantly changed the area.
St Marys Bay circa. 1904
St Mary’s Bay Pier and Slipways circa. 1920
Shelly Beach circa. 1930
St Mary’s Bay and Shelly Beach circa. 1930