I wrote most of this post back in November, when the latest CBD-specific employment data came out. We didn’t publish it at the time, since we felt we had given the topic enough coverage already, but it seems appropriate to revisit it now that the Ministry of Transport has released some new documents on progress towards the government’s targets for starting the City Rail Link early.
In a way, this can be thought of as an unofficial peer review of one of the MoT documents – a report by Richard Paling Consulting (abbreviated as RPC below). At least, it’s my own attempt to tackle the same questions as that report did, and come up with specific, measurable targets from what was actually a fairly vague government statement. Here goes, with the embedded quotes being parts I wrote in November:
Following on from our earlier posts here and here, let’s take a closer look at National’s employment target for starting to build the City Rail Link early (i.e. around 2015, not 2020). When John Key announced that the government would consider making an early start, he gave two conditions. Auckland doesn’t have to meet these conditions immediately, but simply show that it is on track to meeting them.
The employment target is for “Auckland city centre employment [to increase] by 25 per cent over current levels – that is half the increase predicted in the Future Access Study”
As far as we’re aware, National hasn’t actually explained how the employment condition works. There doesn’t seem to be a formal policy relating to it: just John Key’s initial announcement. There are several questions which need to be answered (and should have been already) if National sticks with its current position:
- What data source is used?
- How is the “city centre” defined?
- What base year is used?
- What final year is used?
What data source is used?
The census is probably the most accurate data source on employment at the local level. The employment results from the 2006 census are out, but the 2013 ones aren’t. The next census is still years away – a year for it hasn’t even been finalised – and the data would come out too late to make a difference to the CRL start date. For a 2016 census, we’d be looking at the data coming out in 2018. Overall, I don’t think the census will be much help in showing whether the city centre is on track to reach National’s target.
The other data source is business demographics. These aren’t as accurate, but they are released each year. This is the data source that National will probably need to base their condition on, and it’s what our analysis has focussed on so far.
RPC reached the same conclusion – that business demographics data are the most suitable for measuring progress against the target.
How is the “city centre” defined?
The definition of the city centre is something we’ve looked at several times on the blog. The “CBD” is usually defined as the area bounded by the motorways. However, when you’re dealing with data, the most common definition is based on Statistics New Zealand boundaries, and those are slightly different. It cuts out the southern side of Karangahape Rd, including Ironbank, and some of Auckland’s more colourful nightlife spots. It cuts out the eastern part of Symonds St south of Wellesley – plenty of university buildings there.
If you limit the CBD definition to the area inside the motorways, you cut out everything west of the Northern Motorway, including Beaumont Quarter, Freemans Bay, the new GHD building, Victoria Park New World, and so on. You cut out everything east of Stanley St, including the Carlaw Park precinct, the creative quarter on the southern side of The Strand, and so on.
As far as I can tell, the City Centre Future Access Study which John Key refers to uses the traditional CBD definition, whether it’s based on the Statistics New Zealand boundaries or something slightly different.
In fact, Nick and Matt have argued that the “central city” covers a larger area than just the traditional CBD. Given that central areas like Newmarket, Parnell, Grafton and Newton will benefit significantly from the CRL, you can make a strong argument for their inclusion.
In short, it’s hard to find a perfect definition for the city centre – but the choice of definition can be pretty important. This is especially true given that the Freemans Bay area unit (immediately west of the CBD and including all those developments west of the Northern Motorway) saw major employment growth in the last year.
RPC included parts of Grafton and Newton in their definition, in order to ensure that all the area inside the motorways was covered – as shown in their map below:
This is a valid definition, one of several that might have been chosen. Again, there’s the difficulty of trying to choose a specific meaning from a vague target. However, I think it’s more of an issue that the target itself reinforces a misleading view – that the CRL is mainly about the CBD. It’s not; the project has many benefits, including dramatically increasing the capacity of the rail network throughout Auckland, reducing congestion for vehicle drivers, and removing an impediment to further employment growth in the CBD. It is a regionally (indeed, nationally) significant piece of infrastructure.
What base year is used?
As for what base year is used, your guess is as good as mine. The City Centre Future Access Study uses a 2006 base year, and the most logical approach National could take would be to do the same. Otherwise, they might try to argue for a 2012 base year, although there isn’t really a clear rationale for doing so, except that they announced their ‘support’ in 2013, and the most recent data available then was 2012.
If 2006 is the base year, then we’ve already come a way since then – using business demographics data, employment in the CBD (based on Statistics New Zealand boundaries) has grown from 80,390 in February 2006 to 91,130 in February 2013. This is 13.3% growth in seven years, much faster than the Auckland or New Zealand average in that time, and despite a very flat economy.
RPC adopts a 2012 base year, although they don’t seem to give a reason for this choice. Their interpretation and mine are both valid, although I think mine is more consistent with the reference to the CCFAS in National’s targets. You could take the view that the 25% growth starts from the time of National’s announcement, or that 2012 data – and indeed, the announcement does say growth from “current levels” – but removing six years from the modelling period isn’t really fair. Following that logic, if National had made the announcement in 2017 rather than 2013, the CBD would only have a couple of years to grow by 25% – which clearly wouldn’t be possible.
What final year is used?
Just as important as the choice of base year is the choice of final year. Does employment need to grow by 25% over 10 years, or over 20? Because 14.0% of jobs in Auckland, or 4.7% of jobs in New Zealand, are in the CBD (using the tighter Statistics New Zealand boundaries). The number of jobs which need to be created is significant at the regional and the national level, and they won’t just come from nowhere, overnight.
The City Centre Future Access Study assumes that CBD employment grows by 54% over 35 years, from 2006 to 2041, or annual growth of about 1.24%. National should be giving us around 17 years, i.e. from 2006 to 2023 or so – anything less would be pretty unfair, especially with the recession in the early years of that period, and with the CRL not yet built. That’s a target Auckland could meet easily, and we’re well on track. I doubt National has this kind of timeframe in mind, though, or it wouldn’t be an aspirational target.
National do seem to be talking about a 2020 end date for the 25% growth, and RPC also use this as an end year. I’ve since heard that the CCFAS, using some slightly sketchy modelling, assumed very strong employment growth to 2020 when the CRL was assumed to open, of the order of 25%, and that this was part of the rationale for National choosing the target. With that said, I still stand by what I wrote in November!
National’s targets are pretty arbitrary: they’re poorly defined, and after all, the CRL is about much more than just increasing CBD employment.
Realistically, the Council needs to stick with its current work programme, which is to make all the required preparations to be able to start building the CRL in 2015 or soon after. If National manage to stay in power after the next election, and stick to their guns over their two conditions (and choose their definitions to make them as hard to reach as possible), they could manage to delay the project.
I’d rather point to things such as the higher residential population in the CBD, or the network capacity which the CRL unlocks, or widespread support from both Aucklanders and the business community. There is still a big job to do in advocating for an earlier start to this project.
Of course, Len is now also pointing to several major projects which will be majorly benefited by an early start to the CRL.
On Wednesday it was announced that consent had been granted to build a $350 million, 209 metre skyscraper on the empty site at the corner of Victoria, Albert and Elliott streets. This site is location right up against Aotea Station on the City Rail Link, which will be dug out underneath Albert Street in the block between Wellesley and Victoria Streets.
The map below shows the site’s location in relation to Aotea Station:
We’ve said previously, including in our submission on the CRL’s designation application, that a pedestrian entrance to Aotea Station through this site is an absolute no-brainer – especially an entrance that lined up with where Darby Street meets Elliott Street so there’s a ‘line of sight’ level way of accessing Aotea Station from Queen Street. Whether it can go straight from Darby into the station or whether it needs to be on some sort of angle probably depends on whether the stupid slip lane on Albert Street is retained or not. But different options for some pedestrian connection through the site could work like what’s shown below:
The obvious way to provide the link (whether it’s the blue option or the red one) is through some sort of retail arcade at ground level. This is a “win win” situation as it provides a high quality connection between Queen Street and Aotea Station that is flat (rather than people having to trek up Victoria Street) while also creating a huge amount of foot traffic for a successful retail area for the building owner.
A risk that may arise from any delay to the construction of CRL is the possibility that we may lose this opportunity. As Auckland Transport haven’t designated for access to the station across this site, we are reliant upon the goodwill of the developer to provide the connection (although obviously it’s to their advantage due to the foot traffic). But would they build a major retail arcade without the far end of it linking with Auckland’s busiest train station? There may also be helpful synergies of building both the tower and the station at the same time – in terms of underground services, traffic disruption as well as how the two might link together at the Albert Street boundary.
Compared to the dependency of Precinct’s development on the timing of the CRL this is a fairly minor issue. However there do appear to be some important links between the new skyscraper and Aotea Station – particularly in relation to getting the pedestrian links right. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the developer of the site wouldn’t exactly want a giant construction site right next to their recently opened hotel during the first few years after it’s completed.
Julie Anne Genter questioned Steven Joyce in Parliament today about the City Rail Link. Perhaps the most laughable comment is when Joyce claims they are speeding up the project, not slowing it down. If they were speeding it up then at the very least they would be looking to have it started at the same time the council is wanting for it to happen.
One of the reasons Lens suggestion of a $250 million kick start to the CRL is so interesting is that there are a heap of large private sector projects underway along the cut and cover portion of the route and it there is likely to be a lot of value working in with them as they are being built rather than waiting till they finish construction only to dig up the road in front of them for a few more years.
Today Len Brown has announced one of the biggest of these projects with the news that the Elliott Tower has gained resource consent approval from the council (the previous plan for the site had consent however the new owners have made a few alterations). I had heard that this project had been going on quietly in the background so it’s nice to finally be out in the public..
Plans for New Zealand’s tallest skyscaper, to rise in the heart of Auckland, have been unveiled today.
A $350 million 52-level 209m skyscraper has been announced for a CBD site left vacant since the 1980s when Chase Corporation demolished the Royal International Hotel.
Chinese developer New Development Group is to build the tower, known now as NDG Auckland Centre, on the site of a carpark and bungy jump bounded by Elliot St, Albert St and Victoria St.
Auckland Council has granted resource consent for the giant which will only be dwarfed by the 328m Sky Tower. A building consent is still pending.
And here is the image the herald have. If anyone has a higher quality image of what it will look like then please let me know.
This adds to a big list of developments that are being lined up in the CBD and particularly along or very close to the CRL route.
“It’s also an example of the major commercial opportunities created by the City Rail Link project. To date the private sector has confirmed more than a billion dollars of new investments along the proposed route, including Precinct Properties’ downtown retail and office development ($300m+) the NZ International Convention Centre ($400m+) and Elliott Towers ($350m+),” he said.
To add to that there are also two or three apartment towers planned along Albert St including this one and a few more on the same block.
When you think about all of the projects planned, spending $250 million to get infrastructure in place to work in with those buildings at the same time appears a pretty good idea. You also have to wonder if Len has been holding this announcement up his sleeve in case his initial suggestion got turned down (which it did). This will definitely add pressure to the government to support the kick start idea.
News today that Len Brown is pushing for an earlier start on part of the CRL.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown is offering $250 million of the city’s money to kick-start the $2.86 billion underground rail project before the Government starts contributing.
He has told Prime Minister John Key his council will pay for an “early works” programme from next year to get the project out of its starting blocks at Britomart and under much of Albert St.
The council, through Auckland Transport, has already spent more than $100 million on property purchases and other route preparation work, and has included $193 million for the “transformational” project in its draft budget for 2014-15.
This is exactly what I have predicted might happen for some time and I first suggested it might have been a good idea back in July last year when it was announced that Precinct Properties were planning to get started on redeveloping the Downtown Shopping Centre and that they would build the section of tunnel under their site at the same time. The reasons the council/AT might want to carry on with the CRL work are simple in that there are a huge amount of public and private sector projects, both announced and unannounced that are currently being worked on. All of them would benefit from the construction of the most disruptive elements of the CRL being completed earlier. It’s the private sector ones that Len is rightly focusing on as they are the ones most likely to get the governments attention.
In his letter to Mr Key, he listed a string of private sector projects likely to be affected by construction of the 3.5km rail link from Britomart to Mt Eden.
They included a $300 million-plus redevelopment of the Downtown shopping centre above the route, and the convention centre which Sky City intends building for the Government in return for being allowed to install extra gambling machines.
Mr Brown said an early start to the rail project would minimise disruption and provide “a more effective and investment-friendly approach to the overall development of Auckland’s CBD”.
Precinct Properties wants to start rebuilding the Downtown centre next year into a possible 41-storey tower. It will co-ordinate foundation work with excavations for a “cut and cover” section of two rail tunnels between Britomart and a new underground station near Aotea Square.
Mr Brown said Aucklanders had shown overwhelming support for the rail project, and the private sector was making investment plans around it.
“We are saying to the Government, there is a big head of wind coming in behind this project from the private sector, and do we want to hold them up while we continue to dally, or do we want to move.”
As mentioned earlier it is more than just Precinct Properties that have plans in motion, many of which aren’t public knowledge yet and I doubt none of the private developers want to have just completed a massive investment and have their gleaming new buildings almost inaccessible due to the CRL construction just getting under way. I wonder how many jobs all of the planned projects would enable and interestingly how much they would contribute towards achieving the government’s condition of a 25% increase in CBD employment to agree to an early start to the project as a whole.
There are also a number of council projects dependant (or at least very much affected) by the need for the CBD parts of the CRL to be completed. These include:
- Quay St Upgrade – Quay St will probably need to be available to handle Customs St traffic while the tunnel is built under the Customs St/Albert St intersection.
- Customs St – We’re likely to need a proper bus priority on Customs St but that can’t happen until the CRL tunnel disruption has been completed.
- Victoria St Linear Park – Again while some parts of it can be built without the CRL, some of the key parts can only happen once the CRL has been built under Victoria St
- Wellesley St – The Victoria St linear park will reduce Victoria St to one lane each way and so all buses through the middle of the CBD are likely to shift to Wellesley St which will require proper bus priority, probably even a full busway.
There are a number of other potential street upgrades in the CBD that will be on hold they will be needed to help handle the disruption caused by the CRL construction. We know Len really likes focussing on the big projects but the reality is that without the most disruptive elements of the CRL construction being completed then many of the smaller but vital projects to make Auckland a more liveable city simply can’t happen.
So the interesting question is how much will $250 million get us? Well because much of the property acquisition and design has already taken place then it will get us quite a bit really. Here are the project costs from the original business case in 2010 (so they are bound to be slightly different now).
It can be a bit hard to read but the Britomart to Aotea section of cut and cover tunnel is costed at just ~$81 million while the Aotea station itself is costed at ~$138 million, about $220 million all up (not including rails or other fit out costs). It’s these two parts of the project that will be most disruption to the CBD and $250 million would get them out of the way. Here in orange the section that AT have been seeking a surface designation for to allow for the cut and cover tunnels (as opposed to a sub-strata designation where the bored tunnels will be in blue to the upper right hand part of the image).
And here’s how the cut and cover section would be built.
I’m not sure if this would allow for the Aotea Station to be used by trains or not. If it did it might crucially allow for a couple of extra services on the network during peak times giving some crucial extra capacity earlier than planned.
It will be interesting to see how the government responds.
Over the next few days I’ll be doing a series of posts recapping the year before beginning the new year by looking at what we can expect in the year ahead. For me when it comes to transport, 2013 was always going to be a bit of an “in progress” year. By that I mean that a heap of projects (both PT and road) would be advanced throughout the year however there would be nothing major completed that would fundamentally change transport in Auckland – that will change in 2014. For this post, I’m just going to be recapping public transport.
Wires are now a familiar sight across much of the rail network with primarily just the Eastern Line and the inner parts of the Western Line still to be completed however this was originally meant to have been completed by September. Back in May we revealed that the project was running late and is unlikely to be fully completed till March/April with Kiwirail saying it will be all done by the time the first electric trains are running in April. Britomart and the Eastern line are the focus over the Christmas shutdown and as I was in town yesterday I popped into Britomart which was a hive of activity and flashing lights with crews and vehicles working on each track.
While the case for extending electrification to Pukekohe came out in 2012, the new development that is now expected to occur along the rail corridor thanks to the Unitary Plan is likely to help bring forward the need and justification for it. At the other extreme of the network Auckland Transport announced this year that the Waitakere station would close due to a combination of stubbornly low patronage and high costs to run a diesel shuttle service. The outcomes of two more stations – Westfield and Te Mahia – are still under review after it was suggested they would be closed too.
At Wiri the new state of the art depot to maintain our new electric trains was completed in time for the arrival of the first train.
The first of our new electric trains arrived at the end of August and staff have been busy testing it. Since then it has been joined by three others with more due to arrive soon. The trains are arriving at a rate of two every month till December when they increase to four per month. From my personal experiences of riding on them, I think they’re fantastic and people will be surprised when they first get to try the out next year.
City Rail Link
The City Rail Link perhaps provided the biggest surprise of the year when in June the government suddenly turned around and agreed that it was needed and said they would help fund half of it. This was quite a change from the position they had previously taken, especially their earlier responses including to the City Centre Future Access Study which even Ministry of Transport officials had been a part of. It is believed a large part of the reason the government had such a change of heart was that their polling was showing a lot of unhappiness amongst Aucklanders about the lack of support towards the regions preferred transport and housing solutions.
While the announcement saw the government finally support the project it doesn’t mean they agree with everything about it as the government don’t want to start the project till 2020, roughly the time the council want it finished. They have set some aggressive but potentially achievable targets for starting early. Regardless some parts of the project will actually start next year (or in 2015) following an agreement between the council and Precinct Properties (who now own the Downtown Mall) for part of the tunnel to be built when they redevelop their site. That removed potentially one of the biggest issues from the consenting process which has been proceeding fairly quietly in the background. We should hear the results of that in the new year.
We here at the blog had been getting pretty frustrated with the way the project was being sold by AT (and others). Finally in November we saw a decent effort by AT with this video.
Integrated Ticketing and Fares
Integrated ticketing has one of those projects where if something can go wrong it will, frequently stumbling from one issue to the next with deadlines frequently missed as a result. The project had already been delayed multiple times in the lead up to 2013 and this year showed no sign of that changing with more deadlines missed. This year we were told the roll-out of AT HOP to buses would be completed by the end of the year however issues with the change overs pushed that back again. Birkenhead, Urban express and NZ Bus buses have now all been converted to AT HOP and fingers crossed the rest will be complete within the first few months of 2014. It will mean that for the first time people will be able to get around the city on PT with a single ticket (which is different to a single fare).
While getting integrated ticketing is a good step, integrating fares will be one of the keys to unlocking the system and making it more usable. While it has always been mentioned that integrated fares would come sometime after integrated ticketing, many at AT had previously given off the impression that it was more of a nice to have and there had been no real push. From what I have heard there has be finally been a shift and realisation within AT that integrated fares are desperately needed, especially to support the new bus network and as such work has been going on behind the scenes on this so it should become a reality.
New Bus Network
Early in the year we saw that there was a hugely positive response to the Regional Public Transport Plan of which one of the key features was the new bus network. This enabled AT to go out to the first detailed consultation which was in South Auckland. Once again there was a overwhelmingly positive response to the proposed changes. Auckland Transport deserve a lot of credit for this result as wasn’t just that the new network was good but that AT took their time to explain the reasoning behind it. Despite consultation now being complete in the South, we won’t actually see the changes made till 2015 as AT still need to work though significant issues like contracting with the bus companies. The video below is one AT put together to help accompany the consultation and explained excellently much of what is happening.
Patronage growth was fairly stubborn throughout 2013 after a poor few years partially exaggerated by the Rugby World Cup. However there have finally been signs of improvement in the last few months, especially on the rail network. I suspect we will start to see some decent growth occurring once again in 2014.
Along with some of the big projects mentioned above, below are some of the other important things that have happened over the year:
Anything major PT wise I’ve missed? Upcoming posts will look at and recap what’s happened with road network, walking/cycling, development/planning and finally the blog itself.
A view from new Britomart bar and restaurant Ostro that seems to perfectly express the contradictory current phase in Auckland City’s development.
What a great scene:
Sitting here amidst the sophistication of the latest addition to the our reborn downtown with all the perfectly prepared kai moana you could want, reassuringly expensive wines from every viticultured corner of the country, the cruise liners slipping around North Head, and the sculptural forms of the gantry cranes lined up and waiting patiently in the late afternoon sun like a row of giant robotic footmen, it is hard not to marvel at how lovely Auckland can be and at how far it has come recently.
Britomart is surely the best example of a Transport Orientated Development around, showing not just what can be achieved by coordinating land use and Transit investment well, but also just what a great resource there is in our urban centres if only we redevelop them properly. Central Auckland is really beginning to show extraordinary promise for what quite recently was an very dreary place, and it is not difficult to predict that these improvements are only going to accelerate over the years ahead. It’s like we’ve suddenly discovered that the city is by the sea.
With the successes of Britomart, both the train station itself and the redevelopment of the commercial buildings above; the Shared Spaces, which now surely will spread [not least down into the Britomart block itself]; and the first phases of Wynyard Quarter, the quality of Auckland’s City Centre is poised to explode in vitality, desirability, and productivity.
The next phase should be even more dramatic: The transformation of big city streets into more interesting and specialised uses; Victoria hosting a Linear Park on half its width uniting the two parks on either side of the city, Victoria and Albert; Wellesley a Transit corridor, efficiently bringing thousands of bus riders into the heart of the city: Queen and Quay, downscaling and becoming more pedestrian and place focussed [Quay also an important cycle route], Fanshaw and Customs moving ever more people both in more efficient bus systems and, like Mayoral, focussing of carrying general traffic across town.
Along with the big build at Wynyard, the city will also get new towers at Downtown and on the corner of Victoria and Albert, along with the apartment building boom that is already underway all over the city.
This is no guess about the future but rather the continuation of what has already begun; the latest census revealed that central Auckland’s residential population grew 46.5% between 2006-13 by far the greatest growth in the whole country. Vacant commercial floor space is drying up and demand is rising. Like all over the western world, inner city living and working is not just back, it’s hot. Auckland is already surfing the urbanising zeitgiest well.
Interestingly both the the new towers mentioned above will sit on top of the City Rail Link that in 2015 will begin to be constructed at least for the section below the new Downtown Centre. And as is clear from the growth listed above that the city will urgently need this resource in order to bring, circulate, and disperse back out to the city’s extremities all the people that will work, live, and recreate in this transforming city.
Because if there is one uniting theme to all of this improvement it is the increase in the numbers of people entering the City without a corresponding increase in the numbers of cars- if not their actual decrease. All the growth in number of those entering the Central City this century has been on the improved Transit systems, especially rail and the buses of the Northern Busway, but also ferries and cycling and walking. This has to continue if not accelerate, because the place quality improvements require a reduction in the domination of place by vehicles, or at least are impossible to achieve while the city is swamped in cars. Essentially there is a very simple equation observable in urban renewal:
More People + Fewer Cars = Better City
So in order to achieve this the city needs to be attractive and accessible to people and efficient and productive for business. How are these aims best achieved at the planning and investment level? It seems very clear all across the world that there are three investments that have proven to consistently achieve these outcomes in urban development, whether it’s London, or, Barcelona, or Shanghai, or Amsterdam, or Portland, or Bilboa, or Sydney or Brisbane, or Wellington or where-ever, these are every city’s best best:
- repurposed mixed use Waterfronts with
- dynamic Public Spaces and Activities served by
- high quality Public Transit + Walking + Cycling amenity
The last to efficiently bring and circulate large numbers of people in ways that do not adversely affect place, in fact ideally enhance it, the second to attract, entertain, and retain residents, workers, and businesses, and the first because the whole new venture is so much more desirable and therefore valuable if it’s by the sea, a lake, or along a river, making the investment much more likely to be viable. But the essential component is that these all have to come together in a centre in order for the attractions and vitality to double up on themselves, for these improvements to agglomerate.*
[*There are three other investments that cities often try to use as springboards for improvement but that all have much more fraught outcomes around the world: Casinos, Stadia, and Convention Centres, and all have a common theme; they usually have the same big blank walled city-blocking form, intermittent use, and internalised programmes- and are often built on an auto-dependent model with vast parking garages and motorway like access routes right up to them; both highly anti-urban place ruining systems.]
So it is clear both that Auckland is largely on the right track and that there are enormous challenges ahead. Wynyard Quarter is not being built in the best order, in the way that Britomart has been: Ideally you built at least the bones of the High Quality Transit system first, Wynyard is going to quickly have to get better and more permanent Transit systems in place as the building sites currently used as car parks start to get built on and these will at least at first have to be bus systems- the only near term way of moving high volumes of people- and surely they will have to get those buses working in a trainlike way, ie with stations more than stops, while working towards upgrading some bus routes to a modern light rail system.
The problem of funding the City Rail Link needs to be addressed in 2014, which on the one hand means either changing the government or changing the government’s mind, as well as working out an efficient way for the Council to fund its share of the capital cost too. Increasingly I think this could be around a PPP for the three new stations as there will be changes in land value to be captured there.
Then there is the related issue of the accommodating hundreds of buses in the city, the CRL will in time limit the need to endlessly grow the numbers of buses on city streets but even once it’s open there will still be a need for a lot of buses in the city, especially from the North Shore. Hopefully the new plans for concentrating these onto specific routes and speeding their passage through the city will be done well and make a huge difference. But also I think it’s vital that the quality of the buses themselves are improved, that they aren’t walled off with blocking advertising and that their exhaust and noise standards are improved radically, ideally that emissions are eliminated all together. Therefore the electrification of all our urban transport systems should be a matter of higher priority. Electricity is, after all, our great local resource and so much better for the increasingly contested city streets for everyone.
All of which brings us back to the image:
Also clearly visible here are hundreds and hundreds of new cars, well at least new to NZ , freshly off-loaded and ready for our streets and roads. So if [leaving aside the issue of whether this is the best use of these warves], as I predict, these vehicles will increasingly be less and less welcome on the streets of the City Centre then where are they headed? Out to the suburbs and the exurbs I suppose; the more dispersed the living the more ideal the car becomes. Auckland is becoming a Mullet City. It is surely getting more and more bi-level like the famous westie haircut: Increasingly urbane, more European in form, more walkable, ridable and lively in the centre. But still largely auto-dependent, low rise, dispersed and spread out, more American-new-city in form, the further out you go.
To some degree this is inevitable, and is in the very nature of cities, but I hope this doesn’t become too extreme, Auckland could develop a number of great and happily more intense metropolitan centres. So I hope it’s more blurred than this, but the latest version of the Draft Unitary Plan doesn’t inspire confidence. Councillors facing reelection and a vocal anti-change lobby greatly reduced the areas that can enjoy the great gift of the city; the ‘power of nearness’, intensity, and if it stays like this then growth and intensity will be concentrated into just a few areas, and in particular the Centre. This will reinforce a contrasting bi-level city. This form is increasingly apparent globally as The Great Inversion unfolds and City Centres and Inner Suburbs become more desirable and therefore expensive, and as this partly reflects differences in transport value of place, or relative inaccessibility, so the provision of affordable transport options throughout the wider city is critical to ameliorating this tendency [the existing reach of the rail network will become increasingly valuable for equalising access; especially after it is more essential to Auckland once the CRL is operational and the New Bus Network is integrated with it with new interchange stations].
But then there are many ways the suburbs can improve. Auckland’s older tram built suburbs are already relatively dense, are pleasantly leafy and walkable [remnant pathways linking through to old tram stops are sign of this], and have enough old shops and mixed commercial parts to give them great bones. Many simply need improvements in Transit service and cycling amenity to become really good; work for the rest of this decade. Then if we can get the Unitary Plan to allow some decent mixed use density in the centres that serve these suburbs many may find their own neighbourhood pretty well has everything they need as well as being well connected to the big City and other Centres. The newer further out sprawl-burbs are more difficult to bring into this century, but simply calming residential streets and serving those missing modes will go along way to repairing those urban form monocultures.
All of this is to say that 2013 has been great for Auckland’s urban quality and I’m confident 2014 will see this accelerate. So thanks for visiting the site and have a wonderful summer: In the City or as far away as you can get [a perfect use for our cars]…
We have been extremely critical of Auckland Transport for how they have undersold the City Rail Link to the general public through vague statements that suggest things like that services will actually be worse than they are now or will be with electrification. So it’s good to see them starting to take some of that feedback on-board in their latest video to explain the project. A couple of points I really like:
- That the CRL is described as the heart of the transport system.
- That it is explained that Britomart is a dead end.
- That the CRL doubles the number of trains and that we will get really good frequencies as a result.
- That the CRL greatly increases capacity, especially compared to a motorway lane.
- That the CRL enables the rail network to be expanded in the future.
While there are probably a few minor points, all up it is a much improved effort from AT so well done.
As Matt wrote yesterday, it’s clear that central Auckland is becoming increasingly important for employment. So that’s good news for the City Rail Link, right? Well, it’s probably fair to call it mixed news.
National’s ‘support’ of the CRL came loaded with a lot of conditions. They wanted to delay construction until 2020 – five years later than the Auckland Council wants. They said they’d consider starting it earlier, but with two fairly tough conditions:
- Public transport patronage had to start increasing towards a goal of 20 million passengers a year.
- Employment in the CBD had to be on trajectory to grow by 25%, half the increase discussed in the City Centre Future Access Study.
Matt took a good look at these conditions back in June – check out his post here. He mentioned that the employment condition was going to be tricky.
Well, it’s now looking a bit trickier – probably – although this depends on a range of factors, which I’ll look at tomorrow. For now, I’ll use the most common definition of the CBD, which is (more or less) the area bounded by the motorways.
In the last couple of years, the CBD was adding 5,000 employees a year, but the latest data from Statistics New Zealand shows a slowdown in the year to February 2013. The CBD added just 1,590 employees, to reach a new high of 91,130.
Auckland CBD Employment, 2000-2013
Employment growth was pretty slow for Auckland as a whole in the last year – growing by just 1.0%, or 6,290 employees. The CBD increase of 1.8% is actually not too bad in that context. New Zealand employment grew by just 0.6%. But this still isn’t helping us get towards the targets which National have set.
I’m hoping that employment growth improves in the next year as the economic recovery continues, but there’s a long way to go unfortunately.
More people are working in the central city (including the CBD), and that improves the case for the CRL. But in terms of National’s conditions for support, the latest data will probably make them harder to reach.
Earlier today I said that it would be a few months before we hear anything about what the outcome of the City Rail Link Notice of Requirement was. While that is true for the final outcome, the hearings panel have just sent out an update which includes information on what the outstanding issues are.
The hearing on the Notices of Requirement lodged by Auckland Transport for the City Rail Link was held on 7-20 August 2013.
By the end of 20 August, the hearing panel had heard the requiring authority’s case, evidence and submissions on behalf of submitters and the interim closing submissions from the requiring authority.
The hearing panel indicated that it considered further information or clarification was required in relation to some specific matters. They also concluded that some further amendments to the draft conditions would be necessary. Accordingly, the hearing was not closed and the panel indicated that it would be issuing a Direction relating to the process for completion of the hearing, specifying any further information which the panel requires from the requiring authority and from Auckland Council reporting officers. A copy of that Direction has been attached for the submitters who attended the hearing (as per paragraph 7A). A copy is also available upon request.
In accordance with paragraph 7B of the Direction, the hearing will be reconvening on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 October 2013 at 9.30am in the Limelights Room, Aotea Centre, Mayoral Drive, Auckland CBD.
In reality this is actually a bit of a delay as the date the hearings will recommence is about when Auckland Transport had originally been hoping to hear back from the commissioners hearing the notice of requirement. At the last board meeting it was mentioned by AT staff that a delay of a few months shouldn’t really cause any issues but any longer than that and it could start to impact on timelines if construction is to start in 2015/16. This is because there are bound to be some submitters who complain to the Environment court and that will take some time to work through.
In addition to the letter above, the the hearings panel have also released this document. Perhaps the key part is below
While it’s not really expected that the NoR would have been declined, there wass always the chance so this is fairly positive result and suggests things are going in the right direction.
In addition they highlight some of the specific issues of which the biggest appears to be that of TV3 which is concerned about the impact of noise and vibration on their studios. The further information the hearings panel have requested is:
The Requiring Authority has usefully responded to our queries during the hearing to date. There are however a number of areas where we consider it would be useful for the Requiring Authority to provide further information. These are as follows:
a) A summary of the relative financial and time delay costs, and the relative environmental benefits (noise, vibration, dust and traffic) of extending the proposed top-down construction method from upper Albert Street and the Aotea Station, to lower Albert Street as compared to the current cut and cover proposal.
b) Evidence as to the consideration given by AT to this option (and any other options to reduce construction impacts along Albert Street) and why such options were rejected.
c) Evidence as to whether there are any changes to the currently proposed construction methods and staging along lower Albert Street which could be adopted to reduce disruption.
d) Evidence as to what consideration was given to planning alternatives to NOR 3 and at what stage of the process.
e) If possible, provide as part of the information requested, a reduction in the volume of NOR 3 so that it is limited to the extent that is reasonably necessary for the protection of the completed project.
f) Alternatively, outline a proposal to modify NOR3 prior to confirmation, so as to limit it to what is reasonably necessary to protect the constructed works.
g) A comparison of the project completion and cost, impacts of adopting 25, 30, or 35 dba regenerated noise limits in relation to the Media Works site.
h) The results of the testing in relation to Media Works, particularly relating to what limit of regenerated noise it is able to work with and the impacts of the three different sound levels referred to above in relation to broadcast quality.
i) An outline/structure and provisional table of contents for the CEMP and all of the other proposed plans apart from site specific plans.
j) Where not already provided, a clear statement within the draft conditions as to the mitigation objective(s) for each of the proposed plans.
k) A timeline for provision of the draft CEMP and all associated plans to stakeholders for comment.
l) A response (both legal and evidential) as to the merits and legality of the condition proposed by Life Church. An indication of whether AT is prepared to make a commitment to assist the Life Church to relocate to a suitable site and equivalent building and to meet any difference between the costs of the new building and any PWA payment for the current property. Alternatively, an explanation as to why that is not considered to be an appropriate way of mitigating the effect of the NOR/designation on Life Church.
m) Legal submission (and advice from counsel for the reporting team) as to whether we are required to ensure that adverse effects on individuals/businesses are adequately avoided remedied or mitigated. (In contrast to just weight residual effects as part of the overall balancing).
n) An indication/clarification of any proposals to mitigate the specific effects of construction or operational effects on the following businesses/activities (including any specific requirements in the draft conditions dated 20 August 2013) and any particular objectives for management plans which may be relevant) :
- Media Works (largely addressed above)
- Tram Lease (access issues and potential loss of tenants)
- Stamford Plaza (minimising construction impacts on guest amenity and compensating for any loss of business)…specific amendments proposed.
- Five Flowers and Radiation Limited (requested condition or commitment relating to acquisition of tenancies)
- Dilworth Trust Board (specific amendments to conditions proposed)
- Chapman Tripp (specific amendments proposed)
- Precinct Properties (specific amendments proposed)
- St Patrick’s Cathedral and Presbytery
- Bear Park (specific noise and traffic issues raised)
- Body Corporate 184960 and Tenham Investments
- Other directly affected submitters who not indicated acceptance of the current proposals.
o) A specific response to any proposals advanced by those parties at the hearing.
p) An outline of a Business Disruption Management Plan, including measures to assess temporary business disruption and resulting economic loss. An outline of measures which will or may, be adopted to minimise business disruption and any specific standards or objectives relating to that.
q) An outline of the process for input from affected businesses and for dispute resolution (whether by AC officers or otherwise).
r) An outline of measures (if any) to provide for compensation for any significant loss of business which cannot be addressed under the Public Works Act provisions.
s) If such measures are not to be provided, legal submissions to support that approach.