Auckland is such a naturally beautiful city and as Fred Dagg says, “we don’t know how lucky we are”. This is just a simple post showing some amazing pictures of the city and if we can get our urban environment sorted, we will truly be the worlds most liveable city . I’m not sure of the details of who took them so if you want me to add credit for them then just let me know.
The next two are by Richard Wong
And the last one for tonight by Mattglogan
I’ve been feeling suspiciously positive of late. Notwithstanding grumbling about “transport priorities this” and “government policies that”, I am generally optimistic about New Zealand in general, and Auckland in particular.
More specifically, several of my recent posts on this blog have attempted to highlight (with varying degrees of success) the close links between the success of urban and rural parts of NZ. The parochial urban/rural divide is, I think, too simplistic: New Zealand would be much the worse without Auckland, and vice versa. Both need each other.
Indeed one of the reasons I love living in Auckland is that from there I can access so many beautiful and remote places with relative ease, as illustrated below (chocolate fish prize for anyone who guesses the location). In short I’m hoping we can start to get over the urban/rural divide and instead start appreciating the contribution that both make to NZ’s quality of life.
The need for a more inclusive and less parochial perspective was recently highlighted to me by a blog post in the U.S. titled “The Greatest Nation on Earth Isn’t Us”. The blog post starts with the following extract from a T.V. show, where a university student earnestly asks a couple of pundits “why America is the greatest nation in the world.”
To which the subsequent response is (after some heated rhetoric and a few interesting statistics) “there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that America is the number one country in the world … America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” Here’s the full video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=16K6m3Ua2nw
The subsequent blog post then goes on to list several reasons why the author considers New Zealand, rather than the U.S., to be the greatest nation in the world, namely:
- Freedom – “The latest international index of 123 countries released by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank, and Germany’s Liberales Institut, ranked New Zealand number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide … The survey measured the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties – freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly – in each country surveyed, as well as indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women’s freedoms.”
- Business – “So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business? New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.”
- Education – “That would be New Zealand again, first in the world on the basis of performance in three areas: access to education, quality of education and human capital … According to the QS World University Rankings, two of New Zealand’s universities – Auckland and Otago – rank in the top 200 of the 700 best universities in the world, and Auckland in the top 100 (83rd and 133rd respectively). That’s 25% compared to the United State’s 2.06%. All eight universities rank in the top 500, with Auckland University of Technology appearing on the list for the first time this year.”
- Auckland - Auckland is ranked the third best city out of the top five for quality of living, after Vienna and Zurich, nothing in the United States making the list at all.
Reading the blog post and the subsequent comments did make me feel humble – the kind of feeling that you get when you realise how good something was only after looking at an old photo of the event. Or when you receive a lovely letter from a reader of this blog.
At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m not a raging patriot at all – in fact I always feel slightly uncomfortable when confronted with overly patriotic expressions. For this reason I much prefer the respectful but fun celebrations of national identified observed in countries like the Netherlands (Queens Day) and Norway to the pomp and puffery of more Anglo-Saxon countries.
But on the other hand I must say that I really like New Zealand. From the bustling diversity of Auckland, to the rolling green suburbs and blue waters of Dunedin, to the stunning seaside villages of Northland. I’m not sure whether all these places means NZ can lay claim to being the “greatest” – and frankly I don’t care – but it does mean, I think, NZ is a fairly “great” place to be right now. And that we should get on with working hard to make it even better.
At this point I started to see past my suspiciously positive feelings and start to wonder what I would change about New Zealand if I could? Well, “the first step in solving any problem is recognising there is [at least] one”. In that spirit I would just like to highlight a few areas where NZ might improve:
- Child poverty – we should all be concerned about the cycle of child poverty that seems to becoming embedded in our society. I think some big and bold interventionist policies are clearly required.
- Livability of our cities – as discussed at length in this blog, cities are not simply “big towns”; they are very complex beasts that demand targeted policies and investment and a focus on amenity.
- Taxation - I think we need to shift our tax base from labour (income tax) to capital (CGT, land taxes etc). Reductions in company tax would also help, I think, because company tax is primarily a tax on employment/innovation.
Ultimately I think that our success, or otherwise, on these issues amongst others will be determined by reductions in our rates of emigration and/or increasing numbers of expatriates returning home. While some level of emigration is natural and indeed beneficial, the levels NZ currently supports suggests that too many people are being “pushed” rather than “pulled”.
All this should not stop us from reveling in being nominated as the “greatest nation on Earth”, if only by a relatively obscure blog. It’s just food for thought as you all get your feet back under the desk at work and start gearing up for a productive 2013. A kiwi form of thanksgiving if you like; bless.
“..the revolutionary rhetoric of Modernism passed a death sentence on the street.”- Stephen Marshall, Streets and Patterns
Bits of remaining urban fabric- Great North Road
I lobbed a few easy questions at the end of my last post:
“What has happened to Great North Road that makes is so low scoring in this analysis and so seemingly low value on the ground?”
One correct answer, as many suggested, is that Great North Road is affected by motorway severance thus leading to reduced network connectivity. The other answer, one that is not depicted in the simple network analysis, is that the actual accessibility conditions on the ground seriously limit local trips and these two structural conditions work in tandem to yield a disurban environment. Below is a look at Great North Road, pre-motorway. It has a fingerprint very similar to Ponsonby Road or Queen Street where buildings are clustered at intersections along the edge of the street where the real estate value was located.
Great North Road, 1940. Maximising street access.
So while Jane Jacobs argues for the necessity of short blocks, if not so much for their physical properties (which are also important- see Portland’s smalls blocks designed to increase real estate value by providing more corners), but mostly since they allow a variety of movement modes and choices, something not available any more on Great North Road nor along most other corridors in Auckland.
The discussion from the last post inspired me to dig up some of my previous work examining the urban form changes in Auckland’s first ring suburbs.
In Auckland, like virtually all large western cities, there was a concerted effort, sometimes explicit, to disperse the intensity the city centre to the suburbs. This was facilitated by the motorway system and just about every other transportation investment and policy decision. Below are the results of that policy on the ground throughout Eden Terrace. In addition to the motorway, the severance of the ancillary road system like the Dominion Rd Flyover also contributed to radically transform and degrade local neighbourhoods.
1959 figure-field diagram. Eden Terrace was one of the many first ring surburbs conveniently located adjacent to the CBD and with access facilitated by streetcars. Large building footprints are located near the railroad.
2011 figure-field diagram. The completion of Ian MacKinnon Drive joins with the original Dominion Road flyover to significantly transform a traditional first-ring suburb. The original street network is obliterated by the formation of a highway-like facility. The urban form is also radically changed from residential and rail based industry to large scale warehousing and automobile based industries.
Here is a different view of the outcome of this ‘disurban’ experiment as calculated by surface parking and asphalt- a good indicator of anti-urban environments.
Neighbourhood transition: Grey Lynn, Auckland. Surface parking indicated in black.
So in addition to the severance or barrier environment of the motorway, the local street conditions of Great North Road and Dominion Road Extension have helped to atomise the value of the city (accessibility, proximity, and convenience) across the landscape. In the next few posts I’ll be taking a closer look at some of these streets from the ground level.
Continuing Stu’s look at the value of cities and our ongoing book club I thought is was time to pull out Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City again to further unpack the value of the urban world. Ed Glaeser is a professor of Economics at Harvard and this book is the distillation of years of research backed by data, but is also a great read for anyone interested in the direction of society now and the forces that drive these changes across the world.
Triumph of the City
But first where does Auckland fit; demographically, historically, and politically?
Auckland is New Zealand’s only city of scale yet at 1.5m people in global terms it’s pretty small. And has only recently reached both its current size and arguably its self-identity as a city proper this century- the creation of the single unified authority for Auckland has been the critical point in this it is now becoming clear. Auckland is of course part of a nation with a vital and powerful rural sector and [like other colonial societies] a culture that has a vestigal founding mythology based on rural individualism and rugged sporting and military achievement. This can be still seen in the tired clichés that the advertising industry regularly insults us with when flogging watery beer or soapy cheese…. if TV ads were the only clues available to someone trying to find out what NZ is like they would have to conclude that all 4.5 million of us inhabit a high country farm. I exaggerate but you get my point- this is a self image that the persuasion industry loves to play on, so still clearly has some life in it.
And it is a self-image that easily slips into a suspicion of urban and intellectual life. Add to that Auckland’s relatively nouveau or arriviste status within the nation; to many outside our fair city Auckland is a ‘johnny come lately‘ an undeserving upstart with neither breeding nor legitimacy. Therefore its scale and continuing growth are matters for concern and complaint and its difference; a thing to be feared. What are these differences? Certainly its racial make-up is significantly other from the rest of the nation. It is now and is increasingly becoming more Pacifica and more Asian than the rest of NZ. But so is its urban scale and culture. More of us live in apartments or do other things, say, than follow rugby than the rest of the nation. To many Auckland just feels a bit foreign. And now Auckland even wants foreign things like a subway/metro/tube system.
On recent trips to Australia I have found myself reflecting on the differences and similarities with cities there, after all they are our closest comparisons both historically and culturally. According to these numbers Auckland comes in below Perth but above Adelaide in the population stakes, so only the 5th biggest city in Australasia.
AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST CITIES, JUNE 2011
But what also strikes me as instructive about comparing Auckland to these Australian cities is that they are all primary cities within their states as Auckland is within New Zealand but that Auckland is the only one that isn’t also the political centre. I think that this is another problem for Auckland attracting sufficient attention and funding for its institutions and infrastructure. Despite the new unity of the territorial authority, at the national level [and here I am comparing our nation in scale and responsibility to an Australian State] we are still played off against each other by a government that essentially represents a largely provincial, anti-Urban and therefore anti-Auckland worldview.
Which not to criticise the provincial worldview as such, it is after all wholly appropriate for the country-side, but simply to point out how it no longer fits with Auckland’s condition and may in fact be holding back our biggest city’s potential to the detriment of the whole nation.
So to summarise, Auckland struggles to gain traction within the city itself and the nation as a whole because:
1. Its scale and urban qualities, problems, and needs are relatively new.
2. The nation’s dominant culture is not that receptive to these ideas and needs.
3. It is not a centre of political power, and nor does it present a unified force on the national stage.
Does any of this matter? We’re a farming nation aren’t we? Isn’t Auckland just a big fat anomaly that doesn’t produce any milk?
Well it does generate a full third of the nation’s GDP and perhaps it could contribute even more if it was unleashed. To support the idea that the urban realm is something to be excited and optimistic about, and indeed fought for, especially with regards to the nation’s economic performance, here is a taste of the conclusions of the good professor’s research:
‘There is a near-perfect correlation between urbanisation and prosperity across nations.’ p7
‘We should simply eschew the simplistic view that better long-distance communication will reduce our desire and need to be near one another.’ P15
‘…the virtues of the great pre- and post-industrial cities: competition, connection, and human capital.’ P43
‘…human creativity is strong, especially when reinforced by urban density.’ P67
‘…the city’s core purpose, lifting the country by connecting talented people with each other and the outside world.’ P96
‘Urban enjoyments help determine a city’s success. Talent is mobile, and it seeks out good places to consume as well as produce.’ P118
‘Today successful cities, young or old, attract smart entrepreneurial people, in part, by being urban theme parks.’ p11
‘People are increasingly choosing areas on the basis of quality of life, and the skilled people who come to attractive areas then provide the new ideas that fuel the local economy. Smart, entrepreneurial people are the ultimate source of a city’s economic power, and as those people become more prosperous, they care more about quality of life.’ P132
‘… the magic of urban proximity’ p136
‘Cities are ultimately about connections among people.’ P142
‘…human diversity demands a variety of living arrangements’ p147
‘Great cities are not static- they constantly change with the world round them.’
‘Whereas the typical 19C city was located in a place where factories had and edge in production [I would add distribution too], the typical 21C is more likely to be a place where workers have an edge in consumption.’ P118
‘Education is, after temperature, the most reliable predictor of urban [economic] growth, especially among older cities. Per capita productivity rises sharply with metropolitan area size if the city is well educated, but not if it isn’t. Cities and schools complement each other, and for that reason, education policy is a vital ingredient in urban success.’ P253
‘Above all, we must free ourselves from our tendency to see cities as their buildings, and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete.’ P15
‘The magic of cities comes from their people, but they must be well served by the bricks and mortar that surround them.’ P160
And of course what has a huge influence on the shape of cities?
‘Transportation technologies have always determined urban form.’ P12
‘Transportation technologies shape cities’ p140
‘[Cars] also require space when they’re standing still. A typical parking space can often be more than 40 sqm- about the size of a standard work cubicle. Bringing a car to work essentially doubles the amount of space that someone needs on the job.’ P178
And finally, is this the case with Auckland currently?
‘Too many countries have stacked the deck against urban areas…Cities don’t need handout’s, but they need a level playing field.’ P250
So. What are cities good for, what are Auckland’s increasing urban qualities good for?
Potentially: Absolutely Everything.
Accident severity (source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/)
This is one of the more common traffic diagrams depicting how vehicle speed leads to increase accident severity. I have seen versions of this in different languages and the two common measurement systems. I would expect this information to be imparted to transport professionals on day one or two of school. Upon arriving to New Zealand I was shocked to learn that streets have the default speed limit of 50 kph which includes most residential areas in Auckland. There is some progress to address the issue around school zones but raises the question of why aren’t other places designed and controlled to consider people’s safety and accessibility.
Below is an embarrassing effort to slow traffic to 40 around a school zone in Auckland. Do kids not come and go to school at different times? It also fails to consider that other, non-students, would be using the school as a community facility who might also benefit from lower speeds. Check out the time range as well. I’m sure someone cleverly determined that it takes the students 10 minutes less time to leave school than to arrive.
If you can read this sign, you’re not going 50
This one is a beaut as well. After heroic efforts by Walk Auckland to successfully lower speed limits on Ponsonby Road to 40kph, this narrow residential side street remains posted at 50kph. Even the most psychotic hoon wouldn’t take this stretch at 50, so why in this rare case of a properly scaled, people-friendly street would a sign be posted to suggest higher speeds? This is street design on v. 1970 auto-pilot mode.
Narrow residential ‘queuing’ style street posted at 50k
Children, of course, are particularly vulnerable road users. A 2011 study at Royal Holloway, University of London revealed that school-aged children do not have the ‘perceptual acuity’ to properly distinguish vehicle distances when vehicles are traveling fast than 20mph (32kph). Professor John Wann, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, who led the research, says:
“This is not a matter of children not paying attention, but a problem related to low-level visual detection mechanisms, so even when children are paying very close attention they may fail to detect a fast approaching vehicle.”
I was reminded of this research when walking my kids to school last week. I saw these poor kids waiting on the street corner waiting for a gap in the stream of cars winding through our street. I had to cross the street myself to help them get across (Boy Scout points!). For a variety reasons the streets in our residential neighbourhood are unnecessarily dangerous. There are some tacked on bits and bobs that are an attempt to improve safety and comfort, but they are mostly half-assed.
Looking both ways
The inability of people to simply get around without a car also contributes to further health problems. Recently the associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation called on the local Governments to adopt 20mph (32kph) limits on streets in order to provide safer conditions and to encourage more walking and physical activity.
‘Parents want to see safer streets – the Government must change the standard speed limit to 20mph on the streets where we live, work and play”
And finally, here is a quote from an excerpt of what looks to be an excellent new book called Walkable City describing how cities are moving to much slower residential streets:
There are currently more than 87 “Twenty’s Plenty” campaigns in the UK, and about 25 British jurisdictions, with a combined population of over six million, have committed to a 20 mph speed limit in residential areas. In June, 2011, the European Union Transport Committee recommended such a rule for the entire continent. It is easy to imagine 20 mph becoming a standard throughout Europe in the near future.
I know Hamilton City is working on changing their speed limit regime. Auckland needs to play catch up. As a starting point all residential streets should have blanket speed limit of 40kph. Justification for higher speeds based on network function could then be made on a case to case basis.
It is always interesting comparing one place to another so that’s why I was really interested when I saw the image below. It has been created by Spotila on the Skyscrapercity Forums and shows the size of Auckland compared to Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier/Hastings and Sydney. Apart from the sheer physical size of Sydney what interested me was just how big those other NZ cities are. Each of them have populations of around the 100k-130k mark yet physically they are similar or perhaps even bigger than say West Auckland with a population of around 200k.
He has also mapped out a lot of other cities from around the world to more clearly show their urban area and you can find some of his amazing images here, it is worth looking at the size of some of the US cities which are truly massive.
Looking west from Queen Street down Wellesley Street West, Auckland. (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1162)
My last post discussed the inherent tension between through and to movement. I argued that where there is increased pedestrian angst there is a place dividend that naturally seeks to be realised. This post takes a related theoretical understanding of streets and urbanism and applies it to Auckland’s city centre.
I have used Steve Mouzon’s work as inspiration. In this excellent blog post, The Speed Burden, he describes how designing cities for the purpose of moving cars quickly devours valuable real estate and is anti-antithetical to the functions of cities in the first place.
Busy streets, for almost all of human history, created the greatest real estate value because they delivered customers and clients to the businesses operating there. This in turn cultivated the highest tax revenues in town, both from higher property taxes and from elevated sales taxes. But you can’t set up shop on the side of an expressway. How can cities afford to spend so much to create thoroughfares with no adjoining property value?
Steve begins by diagramming an area in Florida to demonstrate how much land is wasted in road space.
“green land: has real estate value ~ red land: no real estate value” http://www.originalgreen.org
His mapping exercise becomes more nuanced by considering whether streets provide “frontage” value. This is similar to the Link and Place framework. Real estate value is generated at the street frontage where the place of human exchange and transaction takes place. He maps them accordingly: Full Value, Compromised Value, and Worthless.
“green frontages: full value ~ olive frontages: partial value ~ red frontages: worthless” http://www.originalgreen.org
Taking the exercise one step further and using Auckland as a case study, I sampled current land values for properties and applied a relative score to each street segment to depict “street frontage value”. I removed the dollar values from the scores, but there is an actual monetary value difference between the colours. For example, RED is 6 times as valuable as DARK GREEN.
Street Frontage Value: From Green (Low) to Red (High)
Most interesting to me is the location premium that still exists for property in the lower Queen Street valley. Who could have predicted that 100+ years from the heyday of downtown Auckland that the highest land values would still be centred on Queen St and its associated network of quirky lanes, arcades and back streets. What will it be like in the next 100 years? What ever happened to “place doesn’t matter”?
Clearly motorways defeat both spatial integration and thus urbanism as described in Patrick’s Severance City post. Everything adjacent to the motorway exists under an “edge” or barrier environment. This would also be revealed if I ran the Urban Network Analysis process since it is a simple geometric reality.
I like this analysis framework for two reasons- first, it helps to graphically represent how the streets and lanes are the actual conduit for exchange/transaction which provides (real estate) value in cities. When street frontages are compromised by conditions such as excessive traffic, real estate value declines and building forms start to take defensive positions (such as turning away or sitting back from the street edge) further degrading the actual potential of place and leading to a condition of entropy.
Building form responds to street design. Nelson Street, Auckland.
Second, it depicts the importance of urban structure which is why some uses (such as micro retail) can exist in some places but would be untenable in others. For example, the high value streets are all nested in a highly connected and central location. Patrick Kennedy from Walkable DFW further describes this phenomenon:
The greater the accessibility to a variety of people, places, and things, creates value, which instills demand, and thus density. Network integration is the release valve of demand, instilling opportunity and access to markets.
I originally started this post as mapping exercise to investigate whether turning slip lanes were erosive to city life. I got sidetracked and this analysis is probably jumping to the conclusion.
In the future I will overlay sliplanes, kerb cuts, multiple-lane one-way streets, surface parking lots and streets with excessive vehicle speeds to see if there are relationships. Also, if I can locate Jan Gehl’s street life data I will add it. I wonder if there will be any patterns?
Kent is an urban planner at Isthmus.
It is said that the government and the Auckland council agree on 95% of what was in the Auckland Plan but the problem though is that some of the things they didn’t agree on are the big bits like the CRL or perhaps even more importantly how the city develops over the coming decades. In particular views about whether we should accommodate future population growth within our existing city boundaries or whether we should allow for much more greenfield development seem to be largely driven by ideology and emotion rather than evidence. There was work done by the former Auckland Regional Council that was incorporated by the new Auckland Council on the environmental and social costs of different development options but I think some people viewed that as justifying an existing ideological position.
That’s why it was interesting to read an announcement while I was away that went largely unnoticed about a government funded research project to look into the issue of how we should develop our cities.
The Government is spending $9 million on a research project that will try to work out the best way for cities to develop.
The Otago University-led project received one of the largest grants in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s $133 million funding round announced this week.
Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, director of the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities which is leading the project, said the research “basically pulls together everyone working on the issue in New Zealand”.
“Very, very” little work had been done in this country on urban issues such as whether urban limits should be imposed or whether infill housing should be built, she said.
“This research will make a big difference to the way our cities will look in future, we hope.”
Otago University said the project – called Resilient Urban Futures and awarded $9.2 million over four years – linked the universities of Otago, Victoria, Auckland, Massey and Canterbury, Niwa and the Motu Public Policy Research Group, with councils, government, iwi groups, developers and community groups.
Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch cities would be involved, with the research comparing the broad costs and benefits and qualities of two possible urban development paths.
The first path emphasised more compact development within existing urban areas, while the other focused on further greenfield development on the outskirts of cities.
The research would enable government, developers and iwi to have a clear idea of the broad future consequences of different urban investment decisions, Prof Howden-Chapman said.
“We’re very excited about the impact this can have on the lives we all live in cities.”
While the project would provide much better information for making decisions about regulations, its aim was not to look at what laws should be changed, rather it was about understanding how cities worked.
The agenda for the research came from four years of consultation with councils and central government, Prof Howden-Chapman said.
The researchers would be looking at many different models for cities.
For example, a polycentric model being followed by many new cities in China had clusters of housing linked by public transport routes, rather than having a central core.
“We’re interested in the advantages and disadvantages of doing things in different ways,” she said.
Development was usually driven by what had worked in the past, but that had led to some pretty spectacular failures.
While the Government was concerned about the costs or regulation, costs could also be incurred without regulation, as happened with leaky buildings.
“It’s obviously a balance.”
Part of the research also involves analysing the impact of ultra-fast broadband, and possible transport link efficiencies between the ports in Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei, and the proposed inland port at Hamilton.
Prof Howden-Chapman said people could be a bit parochial about the ports, but there was a need to think about them together and look for efficiencies.
This will be quite interesting research and with so many organisations working together there should be quite a bit of knowledge that can be drawn upon. The research is meant to take four years so it is probably going to take a while for us to see any results from it but at the end of it there will at least be some good widely accepted information that can be used to base decisions on, providing that people are willing to listen to it.
Also on the topic of how cities develop, one of the things I have been thinking about is just what kind of urban density Auckland will have in 30 years at the completion of the Auckland plan. One of the big myths that has existed over the last 50+ years is that Auckland is one of the most spread out cities on the planet. Our previous admin looked into this quite some time ago to show that it was simply not the case as there are many different ways of calculating density. One way is to look at just the urban density which compares the urban population with the urban area rather than regional or municipality boundaries. Demographia (who normally use their research to push for a more auto dependant future) have done some interesting work looking at urban densities around the world and describe the urban area as:
An urban area is best thought of as the “urban footprint” — the lighted area that can be observed from an airplane (or satellite) on a clear night.
Based on that definition they currently calculate the Auckland urban area at 544 km² with an urban population of around 1.3m with the remaining ~200k being in the rural parts of Auckland. That gives us an urban density of around 2400 people per km² which makes Auckland not only the most dense city in New Zealand (I found it interesting that Hamilton is second at 2200) but it is also more dense than any of the Australian cities with the closest being Sydney with an average of 2100 per km².
So what would Auckland be like as a result of the Auckland plan? The aim is for 70% of new development to be within the existing urban limits (note: some of that is still greenfield land at the moment) but that planning should take place for a worst case scenario of 60% within the existing limits. The MUL was last changed in 2010 where it was extended around the areas of Westgate and is shown in the map below. By my calculation it covers approximately 570 km².
The MUL boundaries according to the Auckland Council
As mentioned earlier the Auckland plan aims for around 60-70% of development to occur within the 2010 MUL and that up to another 1 million people will call Auckland home over that period. Choosing the midpoint of 65% within the existing MUL that would mean an additional 650,000 people living within that 570 km². That would mean that just under 2 million people will live within the existing MUL area giving it an average density of around 3400 people per km². That doesn’t take into account the what impact we will see from land that will be developed outside of the current boundaries but I would expect that it is likely to be done at a higher density than we have seen on the fringes in recent times, likely taking its queue from the research mentioned at the top of the post.
But how does that compare to international cities today. Here are a few cities with similar populations around that that level of density?
An nice mix of cities there and I think that at an average of around 3400 people per km² Auckland would have a very interesting mix of housing options along with some potentially great urban areas without feeling squashed in by massive buildings but I’m interested to hear what you think.
This is a Gust Post by Kent Lundberg, who is an Urban Planner at Isthmus where this blog post was first published.
Bike boxes are appearing all over the Auckland city centre. They are a widely debated technique to provide more awareness to cyclists at intersections and in some cases to provide maneuvering room for turns.
New bike box on Victoria St West, Auckland.
While bike boxes may be good in theory, if they are not carefully considered they can do more harm than good. The particular problem with these boxes is that by design they invite cyclists to use the space, implying that this is the best place to wait. This is mostly fine unless vehicle movements entirely compromise their function. The most blatant problem is when they are used in conjunction with a left turn on green arrow such as on Franklin Road when it cross Victoria Street West or on Karangahape Road where it intersects with Ponsonby Road.
New bike box on Franklin Rd and Victoria St West, Auckland.
In this case the paint and markings are telling cyclists to wait in front of the cars, meanwhile the turning signal is giving cars exclusive movement priority through that same space with a left turn arrow. “Required” guidance from the mostly excellent NACTO guide says the following about bike advance boxes:
In cities that permit right [read: left] turns on red signal indications, a “No Turn on Red” sign shall be installed overhead to prevent vehicles from entering the Bike Box.
Clearly this guidance doesn’t reflect our local roads rules, but it is highlighting the inherent danger of using the bike boxes without careful signalisation controls and/or timing.
I hesitate to even mention guidelines or standards. To me these things can be figured out on an intuitive level. As a regular, confident cyclist, I have learned to avoid the these troublesome applications. But what about novice cyclists or the so-called “interested but concerned” types that are using this for the first time? If we are hoping to provide either comfort and/or safety to interested cyclists the last thing we should be doing is building confusing infrastructure at busy intersections.