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Stuart’s 100 #44: Express Lunches

44: Express Lunches

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What if Auckland had better express lunch options?

One thing that has always surprised me is the paucity of good and fast lunch options in the city centre. Trying to get a good, freshly prepared food, and pronto with it, seems a remarkably rare commodity given there are 90,000 odd workers in the city centre. It can often seem easier to grab a great sandwich or salad out in the suburbs. Why is that?

Franklin Rd Upgrade options

One of Auckland Transport’s current projects – as highlighted in the August board report – is a rehabilitation of the iconic Franklin Rd

Photo is copyright to oh.yes.melbourne.

 

 

AT have now released more details about the project. Here’s why they say the project is needed.

Franklin Road is an iconic Auckland street with significant heritage value. It is lined by mature, hundred year old London Plane trees that form a canopy over the road during summer months. During the Christmas festival period residents of Franklin Road host a Christmas lights event which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Franklin Road is also an important connection between Ponsonby and the Central Business District with over 14,000 vehicle trips per day, including buses and over-dimension vehicles. While predominantly residential in nature, there are some small businesses along the road operating from previous homes and larger commercial/retail activities at either end.

Franklin Road is in poor condition creating safety hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Over time tree roots have damaged footpaths, drainage infrastructure and road pavement. A high demand for parking and a lack of well-defined parking spaces often sees drivers parking too close to trees and driving over exposed roots which can damage the trees.

A number of utility providers are also concerned about the condition of their infrastructure in Franklin Road and are planning service renewals and upgrades in the near future.

As part of the improvements AT have come up with two options, both of which include.

  • Moving the kerbline to the other side of the trees and narrowing the roadway enabling the trees to be located within the berm.
  • Parallel parking on both sides of the road in front of the trees.
  • Upgrading the drainage system.
  • Building the new road pavement on top of the existing pavement to reduce the impact on tree roots.
  • Sewer separation and water main replacement by Watercare Services Limited.
  • Improvements to street lighting subject to power undergrounding works by Vector Limited.

The biggest change is that the kerb is being extended to the outside of the trees in a bid to protect their roots. As the space between the trees is currently used for parking that is being pushed out into the carriageway. I think there definitely needs to be some level of on street parking seeing as many houses don’t have off street parking (although some do) but by pushing the parking out into the carriageway it actually creates more parking spaces. As explained soon I wonder if that’s the best use of the space.

Here are the trees on Franklin Rd likely not long after they were planted circa 1880

Franklin Road, Ponsonby, Auckland. Creator of Collection Unknown : Photographs of Auckland and Lyttelton. Ref: 1/2-004185-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22791340

In addition to the features mentioned above there are two separate options on what to do with the remaining carriageway which is 12.3m in width.

Option 1

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A marked on-road cycle lane on the downhill side.
  • The removal of the painted median.

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a dedicated on-road downhill cycle lane to separate quicker cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Maximises the traffic calming effect as vehicle speeds reduce with narrower traffic lanes and being closer to parked vehicles.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • Traffic delays caused by right turning vehicles sitting in the traffic lane waiting to turn.
  • No central refuge area for pedestrians crossing the road.
  • The downhill cycleway is less than the desirable width.

Franklin Road Option 1

The first thing I thought when looking at this was “where’s the uphill cycle lane”, that was until I realised that uphill cyclists were meant to share the footpath with pedestrians. To me that’s a bad outcome as even uphill many cyclists are likely to be much faster than walkers, especially as electric bikes become increasingly common. After that I also wondered why AT are still proposing to use squishy car protectors on the downhill side. Surely the cycle lane should be swapped with the parking lane.

I hoped the design would get better with option 2, sadly I was mistaken.

Option 2

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A wider downhill lane that safely caters for both cyclists and vehicles.
  • A 1 metre wide painted median (narrower than existing).

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a wide shared downhill traffic lane separating faster cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Provides a narrow painted median which should allow most drivers waiting to turn right to sit clear of the through traffic.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • No dedicated on-road cycling facilities (shared downhill lane only).

Franklin Road Option 2

So for this option we get less cycling infrastructure in return for a median strip so that cars don’t have to slow down as much if someone occasionally turns right.

I’m not sure why we keep coming up with seemingly crap designs for projects like this. To me both options seem like they are compromised by the desire to have as much parking as possible and to use both sides of the road. Instead I think AT need to look at having parking space on just one side of the street which should then allow for two (protected) cycle lanes, something like below.

Franklin Road separate option 1

 

Why it’s not possible to build our way out of congestion

Wired magazine recently published a good, succinct explanation of induced traffic. It’s worth reading in full as it hits upon an incredibly important, often overlooked fact: it’s not possible to eliminate congestion by building more roads. Here are a few of the more interesting excerpts:

The concept is called induced demand, which is economist-speak for when increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more. Though some traffic engineers made note of this phenomenon at least as early as the 1960s, it is only in recent years that social scientists have collected enough data to show how this happens pretty much every time we build new roads. These findings imply that the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless, and that we’d all be spending a lot less time in traffic if we could just be a little more rational.

But before we get to the solutions, we have to take a closer look at the problem. In 2009, two economists—Matthew Turner of the University of Toronto and Gilles Duranton of the University of Pennsylvania—decided to compare the amount of new roads and highways built in different U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000, and the total number of miles driven in those cities over the same period.

“We found that there’s this perfect one-to-one relationship,” said Turner.

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

Los Angeles: Sitting in traffic after ignoring supply and demand for over 50 years.

In their excellent paper on the topic, Duranton and Turner describe this as “the fundamental law of road congestion: New roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.” Their research also digs into a couple of other related and equally interesting phenomena:

  • Better public transport provision doesn’t actually reduce road congestion – but it does enable more people to move without being affected by congestion
  • Reducing road capacity has no measurable impact on congestion – if less road space is available, people take public transport or active modes instead, or avoid making low-value trips.

Urbanist.co also has some further discussion of Duranton and Turner’s work. The economists go on to suggest economists’ favourite answer to congestion: road pricing. (If you’re interested in reading more about that topic, Stu Donovan and I have written several posts about the economics of road pricing.)

So what can be done about all this? How could we actually reduce traffic congestion? Turner explained that the way we use roads right now is a bit like the Soviet Union’s method of distributing bread. Under the communist government, goods were given equally to all, with a central authority setting the price for each commodity. Because that price was often far less than what people were willing to pay for that good, comrades would rush to purchase it, forming lines around the block.

The U.S. government is also in the business of providing people with a good they really want: roads. And just like the old Soviets, Uncle Sam is giving this commodity away for next to nothing. Is the solution then to privatize all roads? Not unless you’re living in some libertarian fantasyland. What Turner and Duranton (and many others who’d like to see more rational transportation policy) actually advocate is known as congestion pricing.

Incidentally, I like Turner’s “Soviet Union” metaphor a lot – I’ve said on occasion that we’re running our transport system like a Polish shipyard.

Lastly, it’s incredibly important to consider induced traffic when making policy recommendations. As I wrote in my review of Alain Bertaud’s talks in Auckland, keeping commute times down is an important part of maintaining an efficient urban labour market. Some people seem to have taken Bertaud’s recommendation that policymakers focus on keeping average car commutes under 30 minutes (and PT commutes under 45 minutes) as a call for more roads. This is a superficially appealing but deeply wrongheaded idea.

Induced traffic means that building roads to keep commute times down will not work. And it will be expensive. While there is often a good case for specific road improvements to remove key bottlenecks or improve safety – the Victoria Park Tunnel comes to mind – Duranton and Turner’s work shows that a strategy of building lots of roads will not succeed in minimising commute times. An alternative approach is needed.

Stuart’s 100 #43: Suprema a Situ

43: Suprema a Situ

MUSEUM_1704

What if we had the confidence to build more strong buildings in our strong landscape?

Some years ago, the Auckland Architecture Association ran an online competition asking the public to vote for their most loved and least loved buildings in Auckland. I can’t recall which building won but after some reflection I voted for the Auckland War Memorial Museum as a clear personal favourite.

A boring or obvious choice perhaps, a solid piece of stripped back neo-classical architecture and not really saying anything about our contemporary identity or culture or future you say. But the reason I chose it was because it is such a great example of something we seem to struggle with in this country: having the confidence to build strongly in our strong landscapes.

Without a doubt, the Auckland Museum is the best sited building in Auckland, it truly is suprema a situ, and rightfully so for such an important cultural institution that is also this city’s monument to our war deadWhen we get this right it can resonate deeply; I’m sure I am not the only one who loves this building and its setting in the Auckland Domain.

But could we still be allowed to build this today? Even for such significant civic reasons as the construction of a museum and war memorial?

It is easy for people on all sides of the argument to be hysterical about the Resource Management Act and what it allows and doesn’t allow. It is very easy to get hysterical about protecting the natural environment. But people who also care about the built environment of our towns and cities should be concerned that too often arguments around the impact of urban development and activities on natural landscapes and environmental resources are not framed around the fact that these limited parts of our total landmass are the only places where we have the opportunity to live intensively on the land.

The bigger picture sustainability-wise is to provide for urban life in those locations to keep development away from less modified locations. That means putting more weight on human needs in our cities; moments that inspire and uplift us every time we encounter them as we go about life in the city are important. Stronger and more memorable design responses in our architecture and built environment can result in a kiwi urbanism as good as the splendours of our natural landscape.

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Stuart Houghton 2014 Photo @Patrick Reynolds model Rainer Majsa

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

Stuart’s 100 #42: Connected Communities

42: Connected Communities

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What if we saw Auckland as connected communities not villages apart?

Two simple diagrams that express very different ways of understanding the different communities of Auckland and how they relate to one another.

To misquote Winston Churchill, the way we have shaped the city then shapes how we feel about each other and the city in which we all live. How do we view community; or relate to any sense of a greater Auckland, or not? Is there any sense of belonging to an Auckland that is greater than the sum of its parts? What might this mean for the future? Are we better off together or apart?

These might seem big and nebulous questions but in many ways they sit behind the public discussion and debate as both Auckland and Aucklanders grow up.

The first diagram is certainly the way Auckland has been in the past. Clearly, from some of the commentary one reads around the unitary plan or long term plan funding, it is still the way many of us see it. But Auckland will never reach its potential to become a truly great city until the majority of people feel not just a sense of togetherness but recognise they are better off connected to something bigger than their immediate suburb. The new Auckland Council understands this. It is time more Aucklanders did too.

This is a fundamental premise of urban life; that we are better off together than apart.

We should be thinking about these things in thinking about Auckland’s future.

Stuart Houghton 2014

A Tamaki TOD?

Potential good news in the Commercial property section of the Herald on Saturday:

Town centre could rise around new rail station

Tamaki Site

Colin Taylor writes:

One of the biggest remaining parcels of development land in metropolitan Auckland is being promoted for sale as offering a chance to master-plan and develop a big mixed-use project around a major suburban transport hub.

The 5.8ha block of Mt Wellington land is on 14 titles at 81-107 Jellicoe Rd, 127-131 and 143 Pilkington Rd.

Located 9km south-east of the Auckland CBD, the land is zoned Business 4 and has a zoning of Mixed Use Tamaki Sub Precinct A under the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

“The property is located within the Tamaki Edge Precinct, which has been given the thumbs-up for commercial, transportation and residential redevelopment by the central government and Auckland Council,” says Peter Herdson of Colliers International who, with colleagues John Goddard and Jason Seymour, is marketing it for sale by private treaty closing at 4pm on November 6 unless it sells beforehand by negotiation.

The site is bounded on its western edge by the disused Tamaki Station on the Eastern Line, roughly equidistant from Panmure and Glen Innes Stations which are 2.2km apart. A new station here could be worth building so long as the new development is big enough to warrant it. Ideally this would mean working with more than this holding alone, especially taking the development across the rail line to the container storage yard and the go-cart track and perhaps more properties fronting Tainui Rd.

This would make the new station centred on a catchment of scale rather than being liminal to the site like the station down the line at Sylvia Park. Naturally this scale of development could be staged as sites became available, but it is important to plan at scale from the beginning. Any new development on the western side would offer the opportunity to improve access from the new and poorly connected Stonefields to the new Station, especially for walking and cycling.

Indicative plans for Tamaki Station show ground floor retail and hospitality premises, with apartment-styled dwellings on upper levels. Townhouses and multi-level apartments arranged around parks and green spaces are envisaged over the balance of the site. There have also been preliminary discussions around the development of a new Tamaki railway station to further boost the site’s connections to the wider Auckland region.

“It is envisaged to become a major transport hub with supporting retail, cafes, restaurants, key services and around 2000 higher-density homes,” Herdson says.

“The impetus for this came from the owner’s aspiration to enable the development of a mixed-use neighbourhood hub around a new station,” he says.

“This would provide a further transport link to the Auckland CBD, while benefiting from Auckland Council’s plan to significantly improve the bus and roading network immediately around the site.”

Goddard says proposed zoning changes under the Unitary Plan make the site a most compelling opportunity for developers.

“The current owners have worked with Auckland Council to put in place proposed zoning changes that have effectively repositioned the property to a much higher-value end use than it can provide under its current zoning.”

However, the proposed zoning under the Unitary Plan enables intensive mixed commercial and residential development on the land, retail of up to 4500sq m in combined gross floor area and height up to 16.5m.

“This increased planning flexibility afforded to the property opens up its potential uses significantly – handing the new owner multiple options to create a new, staged, mixed-use precinct that will become an attractive and convenient place to live near to shops, cafes and a vastly-improved transport infrastructure.”

This area is one of the best opportunities for real mixed used urban development on the existing Rapid Transit network within the city. This line will be running the new electric trains at ten minute frequencies from the the end of the year. Because of existing landuse constraints only really New Lynn, Morningside, and Onehunga offer similar upzoning potential for future TODs [Transit Oriented Development].

But it has to be done well. And much better than recent examples, like Stonefields, which is not mixed use nor well connected, nor like the big-box centres going up on the fringes of the city now to the north and north-west. And Auckland Transport’s traffic engineers will have to restrained from insisting on swamping the area with over-scaled place ruining roading, as they did in New Lynn.

So how to do it? There are a number of ways this could be structured to expedite a high quality outcome at this location.

  • A private developer working closely with Council through the Unitary Plan. But only very big players could take this on.
  • A private development with Housing NZ buying or leasing a proportion of dwellings from the outset. Say 20-30%, this gives some certainty to the developer and funders. Also best practice for social housing is to distribute dwellings throughout the whole city rather than to build or manage concentrations in clumps and government has announced it is rebalancing HNZ’s property portfolio.
  • A PPP with Council Properties CCO. Wouldn’t it be great to get a more active property department at Council? But then would likely be undercapitalised so would probably need to work closely with the private sector, which would probably be a good thing.
  • A de-aggregatted development like Vinegar Lane in Ponsonby where a big redevelopment is masterplaned but then sites are sold to individual holders to build but within the intensively structure conditions. This spreads the funding burden and increases building variation within a controlled plan. I wrote about this last year. And as buildings are now about to start going up there I will do new post on it soon.

With a well scaled development here then an additional station on the line would almost certainly be good thing but it is important to consider the impact this would have on the network. All network design seeks to strike a balance between speed, which means making as few stops as possible, and connectivity, which favours more. So yes another stop would slow the journeys of other users, especially poor for those from further out commuting into the city.

Well happily soon this line will only be operating as far as Manukau City, as Pukekohe and Papakura trains will all be travelling via Newmarket from later this year. But also increasingly we are seeing the rail system in general change both in use and design from a soley Commuter Rail style system to more of a Metro one. This means becoming less focussed on peak commutes from dormitory suburbs to the city centre and, while still serving this core task, also offering all day high frequencies across all lines in both directions for many other types of journeys.

However those longer journeys are still among the most valuable services that the rail network provide as they substitute long car trips so perhaps the best way to manage the speed/connectivity balance is to skip an underused station elsewhere on the network like Westfield, so the net speed cost for longer journeys is zero, and the connectivity and access benefits of the new station are without a network time burden for most.

Potentially this is a very good opportunity for the whole city as it should spark regeneration in a area ready for it and with potential for more, while also offering more variety to our dwelling stock both in terms of location [not ex-urban], connectivity [a Rapid Transit TOD], and price point [not in Ponsonby or Orakei, so the land cost must be lower].

And therefore housing and movement more choice for more people.

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.

Great upcoming talks

There are a number of events coming up that readers may be interested in.

Tomorrow – IPENZ Talk by Steven Burgess on Designing for safety how safe road design doesn’t make safe streets

IPENZ Talk - Steven Burgess

Next WeekBrent Toderian is back in Auckland and giving another Auckland Conversations talk, this time on Vibrant Waterfronts

Auckland Conversatons - Brent Toderian

4th NovemberVancouver Cycle Chic are here to talk about emerging bike culture

Auckland Conversatons - Bruntletts