An article on Planetizen a few months back highlights an issue often missed in the debates over roads versus public transport or sprawl versus intensification – the fact that for the last century most government spending and policy has supported car use and lower density development. Yet this is seemingly often ignored by those moaning about how planners are supposedly ’forcing’ people into dense living environments while transport planners are supposedly ‘forcing’ people onto public transport.
Michael Lewyn, the post’s author, asks an interesting hypothetical question to set up his argument that really public investment and policy (essentially public sector intervention) has for an incredibly long time been tilted towards urban form and transport outcomes epitomised by car dependent urban sprawl:
After reading yet more blather about the “war on cars” or “density-pushing planners” I recently had a thought: what if government really did favor transit and compact development as aggressively as they had favored sprawl in the 20th century? How different would planning and transportation rules be?…
For example, in the first half of the 20th century, government at all levels spent public money on roads for automobiles, while giving limited or no support to streetcars (which at first were private). As transit providers began to lose money, government took them over, and the federal government started to support public transit in the 1960s. Today, the federal government spends about four times as much on highways as on public transit. As a result of these policies, many cities have weak public transit systems, while many people and jobs have moved to suburbs served by highways.
This cartoon from Andy Singer springs to mind (he has a heap of other great cartoons on many of the issues we talk about on the blog)
Some examples are then outlined to give us a bit of an idea about how extremely pro public transport and urban intensification policies would need to go in order to truly counter-balance what has existed for around a century in the USA (and in New Zealand). For transport funding:
So if government completely reversed course in the 21st century, it would reverse funding ratios: that is, spend half a century spending several times as much on public transit as on highways, and then spent another half century completely defunding highways (much as it ignored transit in the early and mid-20th century).
For how mortgages for greenfield development were subsidised:
In the 1950s, government heavily subsidized suburbia, through Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending criteria that favored suburbs. For example, FHA refused to subsidize mortgages in racially diverse urban neighborhoods, and favored new single-family homes (which tended to be in suburbs) over renovating existing homes- a policy that encouraged middle-class homeowners to move to suburbs. So to completely reverse course, the FHA would have to spend a couple of decades refusing to insure mortgages in any neighborhood built after the New Deal, while subsidizing mortgages in older neighborhoods.
For density controls:
Since the 1920s, most American zoning codes have mandated that huge swaths of land be limited to low-density residential use, ensuring that many Americans do not live within walking distance of public transit. To truly reverse this policy, government would have to spend the 21st century mandating that new development be at densities sufficient to support transit, and would require a mix of residential and commercial uses to the extent possible.
And how about parking?
Since the 1950s, most zoning codes have also required that commercial landowners and multifamily dwellings provide visitors with parking lots and garages, thus effectively subsidizing driving by making parking more abundant. And because zoning codes also required buildings to be set back from the street, these parking lots were usually in front of buildings, thus ensuring that pedestrians must waste time walking through ugly parking lots in order to reach their destinations. To reverse this policy over the next 60 years, government would have to establish maximum parking requirements (as a few cities have in fact done) and require buildings to be in front of sidewalks so pedestrians could reach them more easily.
Of course this is just a series of hypothetical questions, which highlight that many of the changes to land-use and transport planning that we promote on this blog: things like removing parking minimums, removing/lessening controls that limit development density and promoting a better balance between public transport and road spending are really pretty mild and attempt to shift planning policy and transport spending back much more towards a ‘neutral’ situation. If we really were promoting bias towards intensification instead of sprawl, public transport instead of road spending, that was to the same extent (but opposite direction of course) as what has happened in the past century – we’d have to be WAY more extreme.
Last week’s post about how considering transport costs is an important consideration when really understanding housing affordability has led to a fairly epic comments thread. This is perhaps because many sprawl advocates are so used to hammering the “sprawl is the only way to improve housing affordability” line that they feel quite threatened by a more comprehensive analysis of the situation.
To summarise many of the points made by blog authors within the comments thread:
- The research validly highlights that transport costs rise as you get further from the centre of Auckland and this counter-balances – to some extent – the higher housing prices experienced in some inner areas.
- We think it’s highly hypocritical for people to bang on about the need to remove urban limits while maintaining strong support for the majority of planning rules that limit development potential in already urbanised areas. Councillors such as Dick Quax and Cameron Brewer are particularly bad when it comes to this hypocrisy – surely height limits, building setback requirements, parking minimums, density controls and the like are just as much “social engineering” as urban limits.
- In places where sprawl has resulted in affordable housing (Texan cities are often given as the example) there has been huge (billions upon billions) spending on highways and other infrastructure to support that growth. Hardly the ‘market outcome’ that the proponents suggest.
We have supported urban limits in documents such as the Auckland Plan and the Unitary Plan. In fact we support stronger control over the release of greenfield land in the Unitary Plan compared to what’s currently proposed. The reasons for this are obviously multi-faceted but basically come down to the significant public cost of providing new areas with sufficient transport, water, wastewater, stormwater, schools, parks, medical facilities etc. With so much public investment required to make new development areas liveable, quality communities it’s critical for there to be a carefully staged plan of what areas will be developed when. Not having an urban limit makes this process extremely difficult and potentially undermines the efficiency of public investment because you often see “leap frog” development or a mismatch between where development happens and where public investment has occurred.
Putting that never-ending debate aside though and returning to the issue of how transport costs change our understanding of housing affordability, there are some additional maps in both the journal article referenced in our original post and in the thesis the article is based upon, which provide interesting further information. Please note that we have been asked by the thesis author Kerry Mattingly to not publish the thesis online.
The first interesting map looks at the proportion of household income that is spent on rent across different parts of Auckland. The author provides a number of reasons for using rent rather than mortgage repayments, which appear sound and supported by previous academic studies.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about this map is the lack of a clear pattern, with proportions being high in some areas (North Shore, southeast and parts of the isthmus) but low in other ‘patches’ – generally areas that appear to correspond to concentrations of Housing New Zealand property.
One map that does show a clear pattern is the mean annual commuter variable cost – which broadly tracks the amount of money each household annually spends on commuting.
Even though the methodology for preparing this map obviously didn’t assume everyone worked in the city centre, we still get a clear pattern that indicates the further you live from the city centre the more you spend on transport. Relatively employment-rich South Auckland sees lower commuting costs than employment poor west Auckland, but still generally not as low as the commuting costs for the inner isthmus.
The upshot of comparing these two maps is simply that when you add transport into the mix, the true ‘affordability’ of different areas changes quite significantly. That’s perhaps best illustrated in this third map – which shows how much (as a percentage of housing cost) transport adds onto the cost of living in a certain area.
This map is a little bit challenging to interpret initially, but basically it shows what proportion of housing cost would need to be added on to reflect the additional cost of commuting in that area. For most of the inner isthmus it’s less than a quarter of the housing cost that’s added on – so the housing costs make up most of the “combined housing and transport cost” that would be faced by someone living here. For areas further out – particularly it seems in the south (despite its relatively large number of jobs) – the proportion is much higher, often meaning that someone may need to add half again to the cost of housing to truly recognise the combined housing and transport cost of that area.
As a final point, I’ve overlaid (just roughly) the approximate location of land zoned future urban in the proposed Unitary Plan on top of the map above (excluding Warkworth as it was too far north to fit for me).
The concerning conclusion from the map above is that most of the land we’re proposing to urbanise over the coming years lies in areas where transport costs will be a huge added burden. In essence, even if the additional greenfield land does provide cheaper housing costs (and the high costs of Flat Bush give reasonable reason to be skeptical of that outcome), that ‘gain’ will probably be significantly undone by the high transport costs experienced by those living in these new parts of Auckland.
When it comes to the debate around sprawl, intensification and housing affordability one of the most persistent arguments for opening up more greenfield land is that land costs at the edge of town are much cheaper and therefore opening it up for development can help in making houses more affordable. We’ve long argued that the looking at the costs of housing alone is only telling one part of the story and that we really should also be taking transport costs into account.
An article in the herald yesterday highlighted that a study on exactly that based on Auckland that had just been published (you’ll need to purchase the paper to be able to read it). The herald writes about it.
Migrating to the outer suburbs may not be the affordable dream many Aucklanders believe, according to a new study which lays bare the true cost of commuting.
Researchers have for the first time created a detailed picture of housing affordability in New Zealand’s largest city when commuting costs are factored in, with surprising results.
One calculation showed that the most affordable homes could even be found in some inner areas of the city.
“When you take into account that people in outlying areas are so much more dependent on automobiles than people in inner-city neighbourhoods, transport costs should play a role in what locations we consider to be affordable or not,” study co-author Kerry Mattingly said.
The researchers created two separate income-based indicators to measure combined commuting and housing affordability across different suburbs of Auckland.
This stands in stark contrast to measures considering housing costs in isolation, which show affordability generally improves with distance from the centre of the city.
One of the indicators, which they said presented a more accurate picture of how affordable an area would be for a typical family to live in, found the most affordable areas were found in the lower central, inner-west and inner-south of Auckland.
Areas close to employment hubs appeared relatively more affordable using the measure due to modest expenditure on commuting.
In some peripheral areas, average annual commuting costs could be five times the amount shouldered by those living in many central Auckland neighbourhoods.
The study highlights that there’s no point in just building a heap more housing out on the urban fringe as that alone won’t make housing more affordable primarily due to people having to drive further. To me this result is completely unsurprising and shows we need to be much smarter about how we develop out city if affordability is something that people are actually concerned about.
Amazingly I have seen some people suggest that without having read it, the study is flawed because it focuses only on people travelling to the CBD however actually reading through the paper shows that this completely false. Using the 2006 census data the researchers looked at individual area units within Auckland, where the people within them were travelling to for work and what mode they used. That means someone travelling to the CBD is treated exactly the same as someone travelling to a different part of Auckland.
Yet despite how detailed the researchers have been there are a still factors that haven’t been taken into account that would likely further impact on affordability. For example parking costs aren’t taken into account and the calculations only take into account the distance travelled, not the time travelled. Both of these are likely to further favour areas where there good PT, walking and cycling connections.
Here’s one of the maps showing housing affordability compared to median income however once again you’ll need to buy the paper to see all of them.
“If you just look at housing costs alone, outlying areas appear really affordable and it initially seems to make sense to say, hey, let’s open up greenfield sites on the urban periphery and develop here,” Mr Mattingly said. “But when you include these broader costs, they are not as affordable as they seem.”
He said the results went against the traditional notion of “drive ’til you qualify”.
When wider social impacts such as increased pollution were taken into account, low-density, urban-fringe expansion was even less ideal, he said.
While increasing the supply of housing may well help to lower the cost of housing, Mr Mattingly said it was the way in which supply was improved that was important.
“In particular, the location and density of residential development will have strong implications for associated transportation costs, combined housing and transport affordability, and long-term environmental sustainability.”
Policy-makers needed to consider the relationship between housing and transport, and strike a balance between an adequate supply of land for development and intensification.
It’s certainly an interesting paper and something I’ve wanted to see more data on for a while so thank to the authors for doing this. The timing is also good being just before the unitary plan submissions close.
This is 254 Ponsonby Rd.
254 Ponsonby Rd
A low rise and rather miserable example of provincial modernity currently home to a large car park and drive-through, the food retailer Nosh, and a Liquor King.
254 P Rd in context
Just another piece of dross-scape left over from the great auto-age. But what is important about this piece of commercial property is that we own it. We the people that is. The Council bought the site in 2006 for, I believe, around 7.5mil, with the idea that it is a good place for some kind of public space.
It’s ours!: So what should we do with it? There are a few options outlined in the Ponsonby Rd Masterplan here. Discussed in a previous post here.
A small group of very local residents are determined that it must be a public park in its entirety and are running a media campaign to this end which is being reported like this: Battle for Suburb’s Future.
And I kind of agree, this is a bit of a test case about Ponsonby Rd’s future. If this site is deactivated down to simply grass and trees making what would surely be Auckland’s most expensive park per square metre then the idea of Ponsonby Rd being any kind of centre of urban vitality and intensity will have suffered another blow. And the opportunity to patch a gap in the continuity of the streetscape will be missed.
The main argument for this being gardened at public expense is a rough calculation that Ponsonby has proportionately less parkland than other areas. Is this a valid metric for land use decisions?, looks like a crazy bit of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to me. Areas are different, I would hope and expect to see more parkland in outer suburbs and more intensive urban land use in inner city areas. Doesn’t Ponsonby self-describe as a funky inner city area quite unlike most or even all of the rest of Auckland? Do we really want to level it out so that it’s the same as everywhere else? Street culture can only develop from intensity of activity; for Ponsonby to retain its vitality it needs to build up not water down its land use to suburban levels.
Most would agree that city open space is great and hip inner city retail and dinning areas need it too, but living in the area I already enjoy Western Park, Grey Lynn Park, Cox’s Bay Park, Victoria Park and the nearby Tole Reserve [part of which is shown above], but I certainly didn’t come to here all those decades ago because of its supply of open space. Quite the reverse, what is unique and valuable about the area is its built intensity as described in this previous post. We have raised three kids in the area and never once experienced a lack of parks or swings and slides. Vermont St has a park, so does Brown…
But even if we agree that the main problem faced by Ponsonby Rd is a lack of open space [which certainly isn't clear], then we have to ask if this is the best place for it? To answer that we need to ask what sort of open space is ideal for urban centres like Ponsonby Rd? And what is the best use of public money to meet these ends. I agree that Ponsonby Rd’s physical qualities are poor and need investment but this looks awfully like all our eggs in one very expensive basket and with a very questionable result. How about improving the quality of the entire streetscape of this strip? The street, surely that is locus of the public realm in urban places. More trees along the the length of the street [those that are already there are great], raised pedestrian tables on side streets, fine grained and activated ‘laneway’ types of public space, narrowing the tops of streets like Mackelvie St, these sorts of things strike me as much more valuable than one bland plot of inactivity.
Because it is on one of Auckland’s premier shopping streets the land is valuable and potentially generates a healthy rate income for the city. The latest figures we can find is a capital value of 7.5million and the current rundown building pays 57,800 in rates pa. So there is a tremendous opportunity here to fund a whole lot of public realm improvements in the area as well as getting much better use of this site by redeveloping it rather than just making and maintaining a park on this site.
254 Ponsonby Rd
In considering what should happen here it’s important to note that the site has two distinct qualities in terms of its adjacent properties: commercial neighbours up at the Ponsonby Rd end and residential ones down at its western end. Furthermore its Ponsonby Rd face has real public realm responsibilities that the current building certainly completely ignores. So even if it was to be developed to its maximum extent the scale of structures at the bottom end of the site would be governed by those residential neighbours and the top end by its. Especially in terms of massing, height, and proximity to boundaries.
So it’s impossible to put a tower block on it even if that were desirable, but it does give us the opportunity to fix one the many ‘broken teeth’ in the line of commercial buildings on the strip. I, for one, would really like to see a structure at the Ponsonby Rd end of this site at least of a comparable volume to the adjacent Edwardian shops, right up to the footpath to repair the continuity of the built edge. Preferably separated from that building with a narrow laneway down to another running between O’Neill and Tole Sts and a properly urban courtyard towards the middle of the site connecting to all three streets . The western end is ideal for residential at a similar density as its neighbours [and how hypocritical would the neighbours be to complain of that?]. So the protected centre of the site would be public space with connections to existing streets and opportunities for sophisticated paved courtyards and planted, all served by retail.
This would enable commercial activity to continue on the site, it would create a more fine grained public realm, continue the built wall edge to the Ponsonby Rd footpath, with cover from the elements and for pedestrians and the bus stop, remove the awful vehicle crossing currently at the top of the site, and of course release to the city a whole lot of capital and future rating income to make improvements all along Ponsonby Rd’s length or perhaps to concentrate that effort somewhere better nearby.
Ponsonby Rd with St Johns
And I think there is a somewhere else that would make for a much cleverer use of these public funds, including some really much better open space. And it’s just across the road: St Johns:
St Johns Ponsonby
Built in 1882 this timber ‘carpenter’s gothic’ Gothic Revival methodist church is desperately in need of love. Its spire makes it the tallest building on Ponsonby Rd yet somehow it is easy to overlook. It has a Category 2 listing with Historic Places, yet I seriously doubt that the church, no matter how much they love this building, have the resources to maintain it. Maybe it is still used richly by the church but if so this happens very subtly, and certainly doesn’t happen in any public way involving the local community. It seems like it needs a new use in order to justify maintenance let alone restoration. It is fenced off from Ponsonby Rd and has a bunch of very unfortunate additions on its sides and rear and sits in a sea of tarmac on a fantastic site gently tipping towards the city, offering fabulous views, especially at dusk. Instead of a formless park on the 254 site we could have this restored and repurposed Victorian building sitting in an urban space like the new one surrounding St Patricks in the city.
Its latest valuation is 3.94mil and pays just 207.80 in rates [presumably just for the carparks occupied by local businesses]. I have no idea if the church would be happy to sell, or if there is a way it could still serve them along with new uses but I do know that Ponsonby Rd lacks any theatrical venue [despite its artistic reputation] or other kinds of performance or public meeting space. By taking this on we could get not only a historic building of extremely high value, but also the funds to at least begin to restore it, reconnect it to both the street and the community, a new venue for all sorts of activities, and new open space of value [especially if the additions are removed]. Furthermore this is on the northern and more residential side of the street, so the open space ca be added without causing a break in the activation of the streetscape on the commercial side of the strip.
This idea looks like a huge win/win to me. Financially, certainly, but also in terms of built heritage, public amenity, and it means open space without de-intensifying this urban centre.
I have no idea if the St Johns idea is possible, so it certainly isn’t a case of the Nosh site or St Johns but I do think we need to be creative with opportunities like this. It is, after all very easy to be in favour of preserving our built heritage but it is much more powerful to come up with a means to actually do so. Which essentially means finding vibrant new uses for valuable old buildings.
I understand the concern the direct neighbours will have about any change to the 254 site, especially because it is in public ownership, but having people in houses just like them next door and a whole lot of retail options at the main street end of the site is almost certainly a better outcome than a vapid and windswept public park with all the informal nighttime recreational activities that this will attract, and clearly is better than the car park they currently have now. But also they are not the only ones affected by what happens on this site. The Ponsonby Rd frontage in particular is something owned by us all.
There are a lot of pressures on the whole Ponsonby area, a lot of competing claims and different points of view. And fair enough, but the number of sites for development has already been shrunk to a narrow strip along the ridge so to reduce this further is to undermine the very source of Ponsonby’s identity and success; it’s intensity.
During the unitary plan debate last year I felt there was a lot of unjustified scaremongering about the height and bulk of buildings that the plan allowed for. Even if the Unitary Plan is passed I suspect we will still hear howls of protest from some people who over estimate just how much impact proposed developments greater than a single storey might make. One way to help solve this could be a planning policy from Switzerland known as a Bauprofile (construction profile). This is described by The Guardian.
Clusters of spindly antennae poke up from rooftops and strange boxy frames project from walls. In the distance, a line of balloons hangs improbably in the air, describing a perfect square. This surreal panorama of rods and wires, which form the ghostly apparition of an alternative skyline, is a common sight in any Swiss city, where planning policy requires the erection of the profile of a building before it is granted permission to be built.
Constructed from metal rods or wooden poles, fixed in place by wire guy ropes, the Swiss baugespanne or bauprofile are usually erected for a month, outlining the full height of the proposed development, with protruding markers to indicate the angle of the roof and direction of the walls. For taller buildings, tethered balloons can be used, and helicopters have even been employed to hover at a specified height for the tallest towers. Underground structures are not let off the hook either, usually having to be marked with wooden stakes at their corners.
Here’s some examples of what they look like.
This one is one I found from the blog Urbanizit
The idea is about to be trialled in the UK however I wonder if it is something we should be thinking about too. I don’t necessarily think it should be something required for all construction – although it doesn’t seem overly onerous – but perhaps it could be a useful tool for especially contentious developments to help locals understand what is proposed. I suspect for many projects it would show proposed developments are not something to fear and may help get buy-in from locals on the project or at least less opposition.
What do you think; could it help address issues with those campaigning for no change in our suburbs?
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]…
One of the saddest and most frustrating parts of the Unitary Plan deliberations being held at the moment is the misinformation about density controls and their effects. Phrases such as “unlimited density” create images of high-rise apartment buildings in suburban areas or tiny “chicken coop” sausage flats squeezed onto small suburban sites.
Both of which are simply not possible. Not because some fluffy urban design assessment criteria will stop such things – but because of hard rules like maximums height limits, maximums site coverage controls, minimum dwelling sizes, private open space requirements and more. If we take a look at the residential rules of the Unitary Plan from prior to the Councillors’ changes throughout last week and yesterday (I have been asking the council for a list of all of the changes agreed to but they are ignoring my requests) we find out that a so-called unlimited density development in the different parts of the Mixed Housing zone would have the following development controls applied (as well as requiring a resource consent to even apply to build more than four units and requiring a large site to start with!)
- A building height limit of 8 metres
- Height in relation to boundary rules requiring heights of no more than 3m plus 1m for every metre back from the boundary the part of the building is located.
- Yard controls, including a (stupid in my opinion) front yard requirement of 4m.
- A maximum impervious area control of 60 per cent (i.e. building or paving can’t exceed 60% of the site).
- A maximum building coverage of 40% for sites 400m² or more or 50% for sites less than 400m².
- A requirement to landscape at least 30% of a site, including covering at least 10% of the site in plants or shrubs (including a further requirement for at least one large tree!)
- Outlook spaces of at least 6m by 4m from each main living room, from the principal bedroom of at least 3m by 3m and from other rooms of at least 1m by 1m.
- Building separation requirements, including a requirement for separation from main living rooms of 15m.
- At outdoor living space of at least 40 square metres, including dimension requirements.
- Minimum amounts of glazing in the main living area, bedrooms and out to the street.
- Maximum garage size and impact on the front façade including additional set back controls.
- Maximum building length restrictions.
- Minimum dwelling size requirements of at least 40 square metres for studios and 45 square metres for one bedroom apartments.
- Minimum dimension requirements for living rooms and even bedrooms.
Most of these rules have some logic and good intentions sitting behind them and are an attempt to ensure that development is of a sufficient quality. But, importantly, all the rules will limit the development density which can occur on a site – at least indirectly. What all these controls really do (aside from the minimum dwelling size and to a lesser extent the minimum dimension requirements) is influence the bulk, location, scale and layout of development – how the development will be perceived from the outside world. What density controls do, over and above these other controls, is basically determine how a building envelop is ‘sliced and diced’ into different dwellings.
Density controls have been pretty common throughout Auckland’s planning documents for the past few decades – with the result being this:
What stands out in the image above is the monotony of this urban form. Each site is roughly the same size, each dwelling takes up roughly the same amount of land on the site, each place is basically the same.
- Large houses on 400-500 square metre sites.
- None of them with particularly large backyards.
- No variety of building types.
Importantly, these areas also lack the provision of any affordable housing – because the only thing being built are huge standalone houses. And the reason why the only things being built are huge standalone houses is because the density controls mean a minimum amount of land needs to be set aside for each dwelling, leading to effectively a minimum size of house in order for the developer to make a profit and therefore a minimum sale price that’s often well north of $500,000.
The frustrating thing about density rules is that the urban form above does not necessarily result in more greenspace or less building bulk or a more spacious urban environment. Those aesthetic outcomes are controlled through the use of regulations like height, site coverage, yard controls and the like.
Sadly, yesterday the Council effectively banned the provision of affordable housing in the widespread Mixed Housing Suburban zone by requiring a density controls to be applied for all developments in that zone. Supposedly they did it to protect the character of the suburbs, but as explained above, density rules don’t affect the bulk, scale and location of development.
Over the last few months we have tried to hold off discussing the unitary plan too much while the council worked through the feedback. Today the council will start the process of going through the changes to the plan so that it can finalised and ultimately notified so we will be having a look at some of the changes and how they might affect some of the outcomes of the overall plan.
We are going to start today with the residential zones. We had already seen a couple of fairly positive developments that have occurred over the intervening time period since the consultation period finished. In particular that the issues around building height had largely resolved by using a more fine grained approach. Another major concern was the extent of the mixed house zone. Some of this related to building height fears while a lot of it related to just straight out fear of change and a lack of understanding about what plans already existed. Once again a more fine grained approach has been adopted with the zone being split in two – like we and others had suggested in our feedback. The split mixed housing zones are now known the Mixed Housing Suburban Zone and the Mixed Housing Urban Zone.
The key reason for proposing that the zone be split is that it appears that it was trying to do the job of two zones but doing each badly. In particular it squeezed out the options of a three storey terraced house – a building typology that has the potential to enable a lot of intensification without the negative issues that result from height discussions. The split zones address this by more specifically targeting parts of Auckland. There are two key differences between the two mixed housing zones which relate to building height and building density. The differences in these are shown below.
Original Mixed House Zone
- Building height limit of 8m or can go to 10m with resource consent.
- One dwelling per 300m² net site area where up to four dwellings are proposed
- No density limits where there are more than five dwellings and certain conditions are met.
Mixed Housing Suburban Zone
- Building height limit of 8m (two storeys)
- Allows for one dwelling per 400m² net site area or
- One dwelling per 300m² net site where certain conditions are met.
- No density limits where there are more than five dwellings proposed and set conditions are met.
Mixed Housing Urban Zone
- Allows for a high limit of 10m (three storeys)
- Allows for one dwelling per 300m² net site area or
- One dwelling per 250m² net site where certain conditions are met.
- No density limits where there are more than five dwellings proposed and set conditions are met.
As you can see, the key differences in height and density are that the suburban zone retains the height limits but has larger sites (i.e. less dense) whereas the urban zone retains the site size but allows greater height (i.e. more dense). Sadly none of the changes seem to allow for the type of small scale subdivision talked about in this post from Patrick.
One of the key problems with this approach of splitting the zones though comes down to balancing where each of the zones are located. If you put too much of the suburban zone in place and not enough of the urban zone in then you reduce the overall capacity of an area meaning potentially growth has to go elsewhere or more greenfield land is required. Put too much of the urban zone in and you upset all of the silly groups like Auckland 2040 who will then fight the plan tooth and nail potentially delaying it for years.
As part of that balancing act the unlimited density controls when very specific conditions are met become even more important as a bit of a safety valve allowing for higher density when a development passes design controls that address key issues with intensification. But now even that that is under attack.
A controversial proposal to allow developers to build unlimited density housing in much of suburban Auckland is set to be rejected by Auckland councillors this week.
Councillor Ann Hartley is unhappy with the latest rules drawn up by council planners for the mixed housing zone, which caused the greatest alarm in public feedback on the draft Unitary Plan.
The latest rules allow for unlimited density in the zone, which has been split into two subzones – a three-storey height limit close to town centres and a two-storey height limit in the suburbs.
Ms Hartley was happy with the unlimited density rule in the so-called mixed housing urban zone, but said allowing unlimited density in the mixed housing suburban zone was unacceptable and undermined what councillors wanted.
She has drawn up 18 amendments to the rules for the mixed housing suburban zone for a three-day meeting of the Auckland Plan committee from tomorrow to wrap up the Unitary Plan for notification.
“I believe I have support to carry the amendments,” said Ms Hartley, a member of Mayor Len Brown’s inner circle.
As mentioned the whole purpose of the various design controls required to be completed to meet the criteria for unlimited density are there to ensure the various issues are fully addressed. Of course being an Orsman article about the unitary plan the 2040 group get plenty of space.
Richard Burton, spokesman for the Auckland 2040 movement set up to oppose haphazard development, supported the two subzones when they were proposed last month but said the devil would be in the detail.
Yesterday, Mr Burton said the planners were hijacking the process by trying to set the same unlimited density rules for both subzones.
He said the planners’ argument for providing enough capacity for growth was wrong because there was a lot of potential in more intensified zones around town centres.
As Richard says, the devil is in the detail. We know that the various local boards and councillors have been having numerous workshops to look at where each of the zones should sit but we will have to wait till new versions of the maps come out to see just how balanced they might be. However we can get a bit of an idea from this document. The maps show where some of the conflicts still exist between planners and local boards however the first one gives a good overview of much of the isthmus. It appears that the mixed housing urban zone has retained the beige colour from the original unitary plan maps while the suburban zone has a light yellow colour.
Compare that with what was originally proposed.
You can see that within the isthmus there is almost no mixed housing urban zone with almost the entire previous mixed housing zone being converted to either the suburban zone or the single house zone. Some of the THAB zones appear to have been made slightly bigger but not but much and definitely not by enough to offset the reduction in zoning from using the suburban zone everywhere. Interestingly the only place you can really see any change in the other direction is in my local board, Henderson-Massey where you can see some quite substantial extensions to the THAB zone, especially on the Te Atatu Peninsula. Perhaps they are the only board to remember that this is a 30 year plan and that zoning for higher density doesn’t mean it will suddenly appear overnight.
These maps make it even more important that intensification is allowed through the unlimited density provisions if the right conditions are met. Without those provisions it will be impossible for Auckland to cater for the projected number of people the plan is meant to be designed for meaning even more growth will have to happen in greenfield land. Seriously if Anne Hartley and any other councillor that vote to remove this clause they should really give themselves an uppercut. Hell they and the local boards (Henderson-Massey excluded) should probably do that anyway for the shameful mapping exercise above.
Further it seems I’m not the only one concerned about this sudden lurch to a fear of change based on this press release from the NZ Institute of Architects.
NZIA Cautions Against Dilution of Draft Unitary Plan
As Auckland councillors head into a three-day meeting on the draft Unitary Plan the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) urges them to carefully consider the effect of any decisions that will dilute rules allowing for a more intensely populated city.
“We believe most Aucklanders agree with the Council’s position that growth largely within the existing urban boundary and around existing centres is far more desirable and sustainable than the alternative, which is a costly sprawl across the isthmus and into the countryside,” says Richard Goldie, chair of the NZIA’s Auckland branch.
“The Council has been careful to limit building heights in the mixed housing zone, with the trade-off being the possibility of more intensive use of building sites within the zone,” Goldie says.
“We think this strikes the right balance between a popular preference for lower buildings and the acknowledged need for more housing.”
The Council has put huge effort into producing the draft Unitary Plan, Goldie says, and rather than compromise its intent Councillors might be better to turn their attention to the issue of the quality of buildings within the mixed housing zone’s two ‘sub-zones’ – the mixed housing urban zone and mixed housing suburban zone.
“Community concerns about density are often really concerns about building quality. Auckland has many examples of well-designed and well-built medium-density housing, but unfortunately there is also a legacy of too many poorly planned apartment complexes.”
“The challenge for the Council, and for the construction sector – developers, architects and contractors – is to convince Aucklanders that intensive development does not mean mediocre buildings.”
“Work on intensification should go hand-in-hand with work on improving the quality of building design and construction,” Goldie says. “We think this should be a focus of Councillors’ attention.”
“The pressing issue for Auckland and for its Council is not how much building will be allowed in the mixed housing zone, but what standards are expected.”
We will be watching with interest what happens to the proposed residential zones.
Fascinating infographics from the New York Times illustrating the revitalisation of that great metropolis under Mayor Bloomberg:
Showing new buildings, areas where re-zoning has help spur development [below]
And of course the 450 miles of bike lanes added by repurposing traffic lanes:
It also briefly mentions concern around rising property values, a complex issue which is of course on one hand a sign of success but that also creates exclusion some sections of community.
A nice piece of work by the Times and a good illustration of how much and what ways cities are changing this century. Hat tip to regular reader George D for the link, be sure to check it out.
As hinted at in these posts here and here the editorial team at ATB in collaboration with Generation Zero believe there is a much better way forward for Auckland than the expensive and ineffectual road-heavy ‘build everything’ transport scheme identified in the Auckland Plan, and set out and analysed in the Integrated Transport Plan. This post describes how Auckland can build a world class public transport network that is both affordable and will be the envy of every comparable city worldwide. How in only 17 years Auckland can leapfrog its rivals and transform from a very inefficient mono-modal auto-dependent city to a much more dynamic, multidimensional, and effective and exciting place.
Our plans isolate the top layer of the Public Transport Network and show how these can be expanded and connected while remaining integrated with the other layers of the public transport system, especially the Frequent and Local Bus Networks, to form a complete system to compliment the existing and mature road network. It is important to note that this should also be developed in parallel to a region wide cycling network which both ATB and Generation Zero are extremely supportive of but is outside of the scope of this project [but complimentary to it]. Perhaps Cycle Action Auckland will take up this challenge?
In order to show how we think we should do this we have developed a staged process at five year intervals from 2015-2030 illustrated in four maps below [big thanks to Niko Elsen from GenZero for the graphics and to the great Henry 'Harry' Beck for the inspiration of his genius London Underground map; a project also produced without official sanction but eventually adopted to great success].
Over the coming days we will analyse the costs and benefits associated with our plans and show that they will not only lead to a higher quality and better functioning city but are also more affordable than the ineffective current plans as described in the ITP [Link here]. In fact investing in the ‘missing modes’ in Auckland’s transport mix before further expanding the road network so expensively will almost certainly turn out to be much cheaper and more efficient for the city and the nation as well as actually being more in sync with the times. Especially as many of the most expensive and invasive road projects will prove to be unnecessary once Auckland has this powerful additional network in place. Our plan will also greatly improve Auckland’s performance in other harder to calculate but vital areas such as air quality, carbon emissions, oil dependency, urban form, and public health outcomes.
Before we get to the maps it’s important to clarify that the networks we are showing are built on what we already have in Auckland and what is proposed in varying senarios by Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, NZTA, and other professional bodies, and are all predicated on maximising value from existing infrastructure. In other words these are all possible and realistic projects. They are both buildable and fit into efficient operating models as well as being focused on unlocking hidden capacity and other benefits latent in our existing networks. They are in sync with the proposed directions of Auckland’s future growth [both up and out] and have been selected with quality of place outcomes in mind as well as likely changes in movement demand.
The other important point is that these routes represent the highest quality Public Transit corridors, what are known as Class A routes, as described here in this hierarchy of transit Right of Ways. They include a variety of modes, Train, Bus, Ferry, and maybe even Light Rail, chosen for each corridor on a case by case process. The key point is that by growing this network Aucklanders will have the option to move across the whole city at speed completely avoiding road traffic. By connecting the existing rail and busway to new high quality bus and rail routes the usefulness of our current small and disjointed Rapid Transit Network can become a real option for millions of new trips each year. At once taking pressure off the increasingly crowded roads by offering such an effective alternative to always driving, as well as providing a way around this problem.
The Congestion Free Network is both a solution to our overcrowded roads and a way of being able choose to avoid them altogether for many more people at many more times and for many more journeys.
Definitions and Qualifications
To qualify for the Congestion Free Network a Transit service needs to fulfil two conditions:
1. It should have its own separate Class A Right of Way.
2. And offer a high frequency service, the ‘turn-up-and-go’ rate of a ride at least every ten minutes or better.
In other words these are the top of the line services from Auckland Transport and their partners. As we will explain we have taken some liberties with these two definitions out of necessity, with some services for various reasons not quite fulfilling one of the criteria above. But where we have opted to bend the definitions a little there is good reason to believe that the deficiency can be fixed on the route in question, and in fact its inclusion on the CFN map is part of the process for showing why that should be the case.
There is a third condition that we are confident will be maintained on this network and that is the quality of the vehicles themselves along with important attractors such as free WIFI on board and at stations:
OK, to the maps. On all maps Rail Lines are solid, Bus Lines are striped, and Ferry routes dashed, but all should be considered as approaching as much as possible those two main criteria above in order to qualify as Congestion Free.
This is all on the way: The the newly electrified rail network with its higher frequency brand new electric trains plus the Northern Busway, and the Devonport Ferry. These are as close to the only Class A and high frequency dedicated transit routes that we will have in Auckland at this time. We have taken some liberties with our definition of some services above. The trains on the Onehunga Line cannot be frequent enough to qualify until the track is improved, and the Devonport Ferry does not run at ten minute cycles all day, but it is frequent enough at the peaks to just qualify. And the Busway, although running at very high frequencies, suffers from an inconsistent degree of separation from traffic, once it gets to the Bridge and through the city, but we are confident that by 2015 or soon after the level of bus priority will have improved especially through Fanshaw and Customs Sts.
We are also confident that these improvements plus the others already underway now and rolling out through 2013-2016, such as integrated fares and the New Bus Network at the next layer down, will mean that more and more people will be choosing to use our nascent core network and it will justify rapid extension.
So how could we extend this next, and which projects are the most urgent? Here’s what we think: Filling in the Gaps:
This is in many ways is the biggest jump; but then it’s really seven and a half years from now so is the longest time period covered and shows the completion of a whole lot of projects that are already at least in the planning stage right now: Unlocking the Core and Accessing the Suburbs:
1. The CRL; the ‘Killer App’ for unlocking capacity and value in the rail network, and all the improvements we have invested in on the whole rail network this century.
2. Two relatively cheap and easy rail network extensions: The Mt Roskill branch line and electrification to Pukekohe and new stations to serve planned new housing in the south.
3. Extensions to each end of the Northern Busway; from the new bus lanes on Customs St up the Central Connector through the University, the Hospital, Grafton Station and the adjacent new Uni Campus, and on to Newmarket. And in the north; extension from Constellation Station to Albany and three new stations to serve the expanding suburbs there.
4. Forms of high quality bus priority on Great North Rd through Grey Lynn, up the North Western motorway all the way to Westgate. Not completely grade separate all the way but proper new stations to connect with new bus services on the Frequent Network and;
5. The Upper Harbour Bus Line, running from Henderson Station up Lincoln Rd, Westgate, and across to connect with the Northern Busway at Constellation on SH18 with new stations.
6. Further south the extension of the AMETI project both past Panmure along the Mt Wellington Highway on dedicated lanes to link with Ellerslie Station and looping the other way down to Botany and on to Manukau City and the Southern Line at Puhinui.
The next phase is all about consolidation and extension, most notably though the neglected Southwest: Mangere and the Airport:
1.The Airport is connected by both the extension of the Onehunga Line through Mangere with important local stations and the extension of the South Eastern Bus Line from Puhinui.
2. The south east also gets proper bus priority up the Pakuranga Highway to Howick, linked through a Pakuranga interchange all the way to Panmure and Ellerslie.
3. The North Western gets extended to the growing hub of Kumeu/Huapai
4. The Northern Line now reaches Silverdale.
5. More frequency is presumed to be required by this time on the ferries heading up the harbour to complete a useful circuit on the Waitemata.
One project dominates the next period: The Shore Line:
1. The Shore Line. There are various versions of this important project, but it is clear that no version should add any more road lanes. The one illustrated here is a rail only crossing and the track doesn’t join directly with the existing rail lines so can be a completely separate technology like the system used in Vancouver’s extremely cost effective SkyTrain [as well as elsewhere], commonly known as Light Metro. This line could be staged by first building the Aotea-Wynyard-Onewa-Akoranga-Takapuna section and keeping the best part of the busway going with a transfer station at Akoranga, but one of the great advantages of the Light Metro train technology is that it can fit on the existing alignments of the busway with very little alterartion and therefore can be extended all the way to Constellation, Albany, or beyond at much lower cost than the Standard Rail used elsewhere on the Network.
2. Also included here is the suggestion of Light Rail for the important Dominion Rd/Queen St bus route.
Notes and Queries.
There are a number of differing options in many parts of these schemes all with various advantages and disadvantages and many have been debated sometimes fairly vigorously amongst those of us working on the maps. These conversations are still ongoing so the maps as they are now should not be considered some kind of final position by the members of either ATB or Generation Zero, but certainly do represent the areas of focus with top contenders for the best solutions. For example here is an alternative city extension of the North Shore Line:
There also is much to be discussed around the detail and the timing of these projects, and we look forward to your views on all of that. To finish it’s probably worth reminding everyone that what is shown here in all these maps are only the best of the best Class A, fast and frequent Transit services that sit at the very top of the public transport pecking order. Below them sit other much more widespread and also improved more widespread services that will still also be running and linking up with these new flash routes. Here is the official AT map of the bus system for 2016, that includes services on our Congestion Free Network but that also shows the wider Frequent Network, and of course there even more local services beneath these:
Mode Selection and the Conceptual Foundation of the Network.
We know there is a lot of attachment to various transport modes by experts and laypeople alike, we experience this everyday in the comment section on this site. There is a tendency for people to focus on the advantages of their favoured mode in a way that expresses their general priorities; some feel spending less on capital works is always the most important issue and others value the quality of the ROW and the permanence of the investment above all else so take a longer view on the costs. We have sought to balance all these considerations when deciding on the most appropriate technology for each corridor. We know that train fans will be disappointed by the amount of bus routes above and that the budget obsessed will be appalled by what they will see as lavish spending on ‘expensive’ rail. And of course the road lobby will see no need for any of this especially as we wish to downscale, delay, or delete many of their pet motorway projects in order to fast track it all and to reduce the disbenefits of reinforcing auto-domination and auto-dependency on Auckland that their projects also bring.
We also have ignored the current government’s particular obsession with only using the National Land Transport Fund for road investments, for, as we have just seen, governments are capable of changing their policies, but also because the public are more than capable of changing governments, and will have at least five such opportunities to do so throughout this period.
The 2016 FTN map directly above clearly shows that a number of the new routes on our maps are current or planned bus routes that we are picking to deserve a greater level of quality as time goes by, maybe not as early as we have by demand alone, but when seen in the context of this new conceptual reading of the city that is The Congestion Free Network, we believe there is additional value in completing parts of this network occasionally ahead of demand [especially where it is more cost effective to do so]. The CFN is a city-shaping tool as well as a movement programme. As of course are all transport networks. This is, in many ways, the most critical point about the changes required in Auckland now. Transport funding decisions must not remain siloed in the transport sector, or worse be captured by institutionalised mode bias as has been the case for most of the last 60 years. Urban transport is, after all, simply a means to an end. And that end is the quality of life for all those in the city and beyond. These involve much wider issues than we have been considering in Auckland in the recent past. It’s time we got more sophisticated.
So in many cases, especially towards the edges of the city, the best way to achieve completion of the network is simply to upgrade the quality of existing bus routes by improving the physical separation of the route and the efficiency and frequency of their running patterns as well as the provision of interchange stations. These routes tend to be further into the suburbs usually where there is freer available roadspace [eg SH18] or closer in where because of new routes older roads have space that can be repurposed for transit [and cycleways] like Great North Rd through Grey Lynn.
However in a few high profile cases the demands and conditions are different, on these routes it could be there is demand for a very high capacity system and just no spare roadspace [the CRL] or where there is already a rail RTN that is worth extending or improving [The CRL, Mt Roskill, Pukekohe, the Mangere and Airport Line], or a combination of the two plus a unique physical barrier [The Shore Line]. In these cases we have, on balance, agreed that the particular characteristics of rail provide solutions that justify the higher capital cost.
It is also worth noting that the three major rail investments, one in each of the three time periods, are the ones that Mayor Len Brown campaigned on to become the first leader of a unified Auckland. So we know they are popular, but their inclusion here is not just because of that. They are here because they are also the rational choice when all issues are considered. The same cannot be said for the congestion promoting motorway projects that Len Brown has subsequently signed up for in some kind of Faustian trade off as expressed in the ITP. So part of this campaign is to get the Mayor, as he faces re-election, to get his transport thinking ‘back on track’.
So lets leave the last word to Len Brown from his inauguration speech in 2010:
“it is time to stop imagining how to improve Auckland’s transport system and other infrastructure and time to start acting.”
Note: the maps can be accessed in PDF form by clicking on the titles above each one- feel free to download, print, distribute, draw on, set alight, decorate your room, or re-blog….