Campbell Live’s great urban episode

On Monday night Campbell Live dedicated an entire show to urban issues.

The first segment looked at density in Seattle showing that done well it can be popular and not a blight on the landscape.

Campbell Live - Seattle

Next up was an interview with Janette Sadik-Khan

Campbell Live - JSK

And lastly a few vox-pops from what appears to be on Ponsonby Rd.

Campbell Live - city views

I do find it funny when people slam the central city but then say they haven’t been there for five years. Back then Wynyard Quarter didn’t exist, the shared spaces didn’t exist and places like Britomart weren’t as developed and neat as they are today. It’s easy to forget that they are only really new additions to our urban landscape.

All up it was a great show and I hope more mainstream media start looking at these issues.

Janette Sadik-Khan on Radio NZ

As part of her recent visit, Janette Sadik-Khan undertook a couple of media interviews. Her chat with Kim Hill on Radio NZ was aired on Saturday and can be listened to here.

Or listen here

I believe she’ll also be on Campbell Live later tonight

Watch JSKs Auckland Conversations talk

If you missed Janette Sadik-Kahn’s awesome talk on Monday you can now watch it online (here). At 90 minutes for the whole thing it’s quite long but definitely worth it as it was a great talk.

JSK event

I’ve been hearing a l has a lot of talk from the council and Auckland Transport staff about getting on with making this city better using some of the ideas and techniques from JSK. There’s certainly plenty of projects we could however we’ll have to wait to see if that happens in reality. At the end Lester Levy talks about creating a “Statement of Imagination”. I really look forward to seeing that and imagine that many of our readers would have some great ideas for it.

New York’s transformative transport commissioner comes to town

This is a guest post Christina Bellis from Frocks on Bikes

It’s not often you hear “transportation bureaucrat” and “celebrity” in one phrase, but Janette Sadik-Khan has shaken up one of the world’s most famous cities – and most famously dense – and started it flowing again.

Her approach is profoundly common-sense but – unsurprisingly – it’s quite uncommon. It’s a “have a go, see what happens”.  The Department of Transportation (DoT) does things to New York’s transport-scape that are “radical”, and does them as temporary trials – with paint, cones, orange-painted drums, cheap furniture. There is a lot of communication, monitoring and assessment, and the promise that if it doesn’t work it’s abandoned.

New York is a tough gig. Like many other cities we can name, it’s been car-centric for decades and marginalised other transport modes – to the point where it’s “radical” to argue that their contribution (and share of city space) should be greater.

On becoming Commissioner of Transportation in 2007, Sadik-Khan promptly began doing profoundly “radical” things with a strong mandate from the Mayor of New York.  These initiatives are freeing up New York’s famously car-congested streets, hitherto hostile to pedestrians, bikes and buses alike.  It’s been controversial, but to many people’s astonishment the addition of bike lanes, bike hire, pedestrian space and bus priority has not only made the city dramatically more liveable, it’s made all New York’s traffic more mobile.  “You have to design your streets for everyone. The cities that have safe streets, that are easy to get around, are the ones that will grow and thrive in the 21st century”, says Sadik-Khan.  It’s something that New Zealand’s traffic engineers seem to hear, but not actually understand – meaning our urban and transportation design tends to languish in a 1950s paradigm that’s gradually choking our cities while gobbling scarce resources. One of the main reasons: the social and political barriers that see forward-thinking design branded “anti-car”, “greenie” or “utopian”.

We could learn a lot from the way New York has started to push back the car-focused hegemony.  Under Sadik-Khan the DoT is quickly and cheaply piloting new things, boldly and on the right scale – e.g. a trial pedestrian area in the places people actually want to go, rather than a space that’s chosen because it’s not in high demand for parking.  But they’re trialled in a way that people clearly understand to be temporary.  The materials are cheap and look transient – orange barrels, cones, paint, cheap furniture, astro-turf.  There’s lots of communication with the public and neighbours. And the city’s transport system is being re-designed with people’s mobility and the city’s liveability at heart – not vehicles’ mobility.

The result? Success on three fronts:

  1. Because the pilots are chosen and executed well, they’re genuine trials of a decent example of the initiatives. Where they’re good, people actually use ’em.  The trials are heavily monitored, and the ones that work go to the next stage of implementation. (Those that don’t are quickly and openly rejected, without city officials nervous of losing face for having committed lots of money and reputation to it.)
  2. Good design, plus clearly temporary materials and lots of communication, prevents the fear that “They’ve already decided” which all too often results from even innocuous initiatives in New Zealand. Without the public fearing that “They’ve already decided”, there’s less angst at the outset from those who’re opposed in principle. The pilot initiatives have a chance to demonstrate their merits with the “undecided majority”, and if they’re heavily used, the evidence speaks for itself and makes the tradeoffs more compelling.
  3. There’s no “mode vs mode” approach – it’s about getting people around New York in a way that makes the city work better for people.  It’s recognising the ways the different modes contribute, and reconciling them on the ground – buses, bikes, taxis, private cars, pedestrians, commercial traffic – so they each contribute fully to the city’s transport ecosystem.

So, there are some clever people in New York’s DoT and a bold innovator at its head.  But New Zealand transportation engineers and local authorities are bright people, and no less intelligent than their New York counterparts. And our small budgets compared to New York’s are even more reason to start thinking intelligently about our transportation – and intelligently about how we trial, select, design and implement things.  We might be surprised how quickly the “radical” can become acceptable, preferred and mainstream.

Janette Sadik-Khan in Auckland

Later this month is going to be one of the biggest Auckland Conversations events so far with former New York Transport Commissioner Janette Sadik Kahn visiting Auckland. I understand that already over 1500 people have signed up and the council want even more to do so. If you haven’t already registered make sure you do.

JSK Talk

And if you haven’t seen it already watch her TED talk to get an idea of some of the things she has done for New York.

See @pricetags next week

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