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At the end of 2012 Gordon Price @pricetags visited Auckland and spoke at an Auckland Conversations event on Moving beyond Motordom.

Auckland and Vancouver – The New Post-sustainability City: Allies from Unexpected Places

Gordon Price – Director of City Programme, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
Tuesday 25 February, doors open 5pm, welcome 5.30pm
Upper NZI Conference Room, Aotea Centre, central Auckland


Has sustainability had its time? Given the doubling down on fossil fuels and carbon transfer by countries like Canada and Australia, is there any point to pursuing modest and inconsequential strategies in our cities?

Are post-motordom cities like Vancouver able to resist the development of sprawl-feeding road infrastructure, the squandering of valuable agricultural land and an unwillingness to finance sustainable transportation infrastructure?

While the challenges of sustainable development are more important than ever, local leaders need new alliances to build the post-sustainability city. Gordon Price will dissect current trends, pose some provocative scenarios and, using Vancouver as an example, offer some alternatives.

Gordon speaks on urban issues and the development of Vancouver in cities around the world, and is also a regular lecturer on transportation and land use for the City of Portland, Oregon and Portland State University
Gordon was elected for six consecutive terms as a Councilor during Vancouver’s most transformative years and which lead the city to be voted the world’s most liveable city.

Gordon Price is Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University.

Gordon was a Councillor at City Council in Vancouver, British Columbia for six terms from 1986 to 2002. He served on the Board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver) and was appointed to the first board of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink).

Gordon is a long-time columnist for Business in Vancouver.

He curates the influential blog-site Price Tags, which comments on urban issues. He covers the fundamental transportation choices; the relationship between city hall and developers; and the political will required to carry through on intensification.

Gordon is an enthusiastic photographer and has been documenting Vancouver and other cities since the early 1980s.

Gordon has written several essays on Vancouver and transportation issues (The Deceptive City , Local Politician’s Guide to Urban Transportation).

In 2003, he received the Plan Canada Award for Article of the Year – “Land Use and Transportation: The View from ’56″ – from the Canadian Institute of Planners.

You can register here.

In some more great news it was confirmed yesterday that Janette Sadik-Kahn has agreed to come to Auckland in May. That is almost certain to result in another Auckland Conversations event.

This is great news and just in case you haven’t seen it already, this is her talking about some of the changes she made to New York.

Lastly I just worked out that this happens to be my 1,000th post published on the blog (wasn’t counting, honest). I’d hate to think of how many hours that entails.

Transforming New York’s Streets – lessons for Auckland?

Here’s a great video of New York City transport commission Janette Sadik-Khan, talking about the transformation of many streets within New York City over the past few years to be much friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists:

Perhaps the best suggestion she highlights are the benefits from changing streets quickly, cheaply and in a way that can be reversible if it doesn’t work. While Auckland’s shared spaces are fantastic, they take an awfully long time to implement and are pretty expensive. It would be great to see some quick improvements using paint, moveable chairs and other reversible approaches.

For a start, how about closing off the section of Queen Street between Wellesley and Victoria to anything but buses – narrow the street down to half its current width and then cover the pedestrianised half with paint, moveable furniture and a few umbrellas for shade? It’d be great for the upcoming summer.

And a question I keep asking myself, who’s going to be Auckland’s Janette Sadik-Khan?

What would New York do?

“One of our greatest innovations is our ability to move quickly. The normal capital construction program takes about five years. But we’ve been able to transform city streets virtually overnight. You can literally paint the city you want to see. You can do it with two traffic cones, a can of paint, and stone planters.” JSK BusinessWeek.

Related to the evolving #pieceofcake project, this is a bit of an inspirational detour. Over the holidays I did some research on the work that New York City has done over the last few years under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership. Spearheading the initiative is the  highly quotable Tranportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn.

“It’s not only a safety project, it’s not only a livability project, it’s an economic development project”- JSK 

Regular readers are likley familiar with the ambitious work that has been conducted to return the streets back to the people including re-purposing street right-of-way for plazas, adding separated bike facilities and sponsoring “open streets” events like – Summer Streets. For every Madison Square and Broadway Street there has been about a dozen less complicated interventions designed to re-allocate pubic space for both better mobility and public realm improvements. These programs are developed from a highly organised system where city staff are engaged to develop innovative designs and implement them outside the traditional planning/construction delivery time frames.

Particularly inspiring is the use of inexpensive materials to test designs and to create as Randy Wade, Group Director, NYCDOC Pedestrian Projects  calls, “ a 3D environmental impact report” one that can be evaluated and tweaked on site, or even dismantled if necesarry. As part of the program the City has developed a toolbox of materials used to re-gain public space including textured paint, ‘flexible delineators’, salvaged granite blocks, planter boxes, and my favourite- bell bollards used in combination with raised concrete islands to further protect pedestrians from vehicles. The City often enlists local sponsors (i.e. business groups) to maintain the spaces.

Here are some examples of projects that may be relevant to Auckland. Note the simple materials and solutions- many of which were installed overnight.

Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Water + Whitehall Streets Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Water + Whitehgall Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Schermerhorn Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Schermerhorn Street After (Source: NYCDOT)


Union Square Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Union Square Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

For the bean counters here is a comprehensive report on the mobility efficiencies, safety and economic benefits of these projects (PDF).

Here are a couple of intersections in Auckland that have been identified in the #pieceofcake project thus far. How hard would it be to reclaim some of this space for better use? What would they do in New York?

Victoria Street before

Victoria Street before


K Rd / Queen St Before

K Rd / Queen St Before