A couple of articles in the Herald the other day about caught my attention.
First up is this piece on the environment court proceedings in relation to the proposed residential development above the Milford mall. It seems like his is a battle that has been going on for forever and the article covers of the views of one long-time resident that appear to be fairly common in not just the Milford community but elsewhere – as we saw with the Unitary Plan. I’m going to give my views on some of the comments
The spectre of more than 500 people living in a cluster of towers rising up to 16 levels around the North Shore’s Milford Mall has dismayed an opponent.
William McCandless, a Milford resident since the 1950s, told the Environment Court on Tuesday that he was “gobsmacked” developer Milford Centre would propose 64m-high towers when the height trigger was only 11m.
“I am not comfortable with 500-plus new residents living on the same site as the shopping mall that is closed at night and in a town where there is no entertainment, sports fields, infrastructure or a police station to police them,” he said.
Bronwyn Carruthers for Milford Centre told the court the suburb was identified as a prime location for intensification, developing 250 units was appropriate and negative effects could be managed.
To me this highlights quite strongly one of the key issues with the debate about intensification and that is some see more people as just a problem, not an opportunity. Almost certainly the extra amenities that Mr McCandless quotes don’t exist due to there not being enough people in the area. The comment about the mall is especially intriguing as these residents will be living right on top of it so there is probably a much greater incentive for the mall to be open later. I do find the police station comment a bit odd though, it perhaps suggests a bias that he thinks the only people who would live in apartments are trouble makers. Moving on.
Mr McCandless said the apartment scheme contained nothing for the community and potential adverse effects were plainly obvious and would be significant.
Milford Centre is appealing against Auckland Council’s rejection of its plan.
Mr McCandless said if surrounding shore suburbs had many two- and three-level apartment buildings, he might be convinced of the need to go higher at Milford. But until then he could not see the need for such tall towers on the site.
“I definitely do not support the huge quantum leap to five, eight, 12 and 16-storey as proposed by this plan change,” he said, raising concerns about wind effects on houses nearby, the spectre of flooding and aesthetic issues.
“There will be significant adverse effects. Good Lord, it is 16, 12, eight and five-storey buildings crammed on to one allotment. You can’t screen such buildings out with 64m shrubs. Visible is visible as far as I am concerned, no matter what design it is,” he said, challenging the very concept of intensifying Milford, which he described as a flawed strategy.
“There are other ways of preventing traffic congestion and carbon pollution without giving up our business land and airspace above it,” he said, decrying residential uses for business land.
Once the area was rezoned, it was “gone for good” and so were the potential employment opportunities, he said.
The part that most intrigued me was the suggestion that if there were more low level apartments around the area that it might justify higher height limits in Milford. This is an issue as these types of developments have largely been prevented from being able to occur either because the zoning requirements that mandate single houses or that the zoning hasn’t been sufficient enough to make developments commercially viable i.e. a developer might need three or four storeys to be able to make a profit so if he is limited to two storeys there is no point in doing the development in the first place.
Sadly this will continue as the unitary plan primarily only allows for single houses or Mixed Housing Suburban, both of which still only have two storey height limits. There is a small amount of mixed housing urban in the town centre but I think there isn’t enough to make much difference. There really should have been some THAB in the area like what was originally proposed in the draft. In effect what Mr McCandless is saying is this development shouldn’t go ahead because there aren’t lower level developments in the area but then the local community have also prevented those from happening too. Further as I think Stu pointed on of his posts (can’t find it sorry), the more we restrict more widespread but lower level intensification, the higher and more concentrated any developments will have to be in areas that do allow intensification.
I think his comments also hint at another major issue that I have had in general with some of the arguments surrounding the Unitary Plan. I remember hearing both local board members and councillors talking about progressing upgrading to the city. By that I mean suggesting that they can zone an area for the two storeys Mixed Housing Suburban zone then upgrade it to the three storey Mixed Housing Urban later when needed. Same again in going up to the Terraced Housing and Apartment zone. The issue is that in market desirable areas the best development sites may still have some viability and so the developer will maximise what he can on a site. Once that happens the site (often split up) becomes unavailable for upgrading to a higher density as no developer is going to be able to afford to buy all of the properties and undo what has happened. As such it’s important that we get the zoning right based on how we want the city to look and feel in the future than getting a half arsed and compromised solution.
There are more images from their website however here is one of what one of the towers may look like.
The second article that caught my attention was this one which talks about the future of the city and how it may look with Ludo Campbell-Reid. The first part talks a lot about how the city may feel in the future
The Auckland City of the future is no Blade Runner fantasy, says Auckland Council’s urban design guru Ludo Campbell-Reid. It’s not all gleaming glass towers and sky-high elevators; technology and vertical living.
“That’s an unimaginable city, it’s an horrific city where people are part of the machinery,” he says. “I like a bit of chaos. Chaos is more exciting. People like intimate spaces. People like to walk. People want to see the church at the end of the road they are walking along. They want to see the city around them. They want the city to be about them. That Blade Runner type of modern city scares me.”
What is planned for Auckland over the next two to three decades is more Back to the Future than Brave New World, he says. A place where pedestrians and public transport rule. Where alleys and open spaces take precedence over cars. An inter-linking set of walkways lined with shops and restaurants, joining old and new city parks, creating people spaces above our motorway junctions and evolving a Kiwi urban lifestyle where residents can see the beautiful buildings and distinctive surroundings that give Auckland its character.
Difficult to imagine? The beginnings of this Auckland City of the future is around us now. Take the shared pedestrian/car spaces of Fort Lane and Elliott St. The family-centred parks and promenades of Wynyard Quarter, the rebuilt Auckland Art Gallery, Britomart and Te Wero bridge with its steps enticing children to dangle their toes into the Waitemata Harbour. Auckland City has been undergoing a transformation over the past seven years. Expect to see more of the same over the coming decades.
That sounds great but the reason why I’ve associated with the first article is the end of be next bit:
There are plans to transform the inner-city roads already housing whole communities into narrower traffic lanes with green spaces for children, such as Hobson St which is already home to 10,000 people. He would like to see a new downtown school, Quay St to become a tree-lined boulevard on the waterfront, with room for some cars and light rail heading up Queen St.
He points to the Vinegar Lane project, currently underway in Ponsonby, as a game-changer for urban living. Built with a supermarket below, surrounded by individually-designed terraced homes and apartments with rooftop gardens, courtyards and offices, it is a village of its own all in the same block.
“In many cities now the space above the ‘big box’ stores and supermarkets are filled with apartments. Those big retail stores need people in them, and we need space.”
In a way, malls are a kind of big box type development and building above them has a lot of potential which is exactly what is proposed to happen at Milford. While most of us probably aren’t huge fans of big box type developments they may end up being hugely important from a land-banking situation. Particularly if we can deal with the minimum parking requirements.
The comments about some of the changes in the CBD are very interesting too. Narrowing Hobson and Nelson St has been on our list for a while a downtown school will likely be needed with the increasing number of people choosing to live in the CBD. Catering for children in the city centre is probably going to be one of the most important and essential things we can do to make the area liveable for everybody.
As for Quay St, it has been talked about for a while now so surely it’s time for Auckland Transport to get some sort of design out to the community so they can see what’s planned. The comment suggests there will still be cars on the street and I don’t have too much problem with this providing AT reduce the number of lanes from what we currently have as we don’t need 6 -7 lanes (when you include medians and parking). Fewer lanes along with upgrades to make it easier for pedestrians to get around will make a huge world of difference to how people use and perceive the street.
As for both articles, let’s just get on with it.
The Herald today has a large amount of op-eds on what is being called Project Auckland which is looking at how Auckland is going to develop and as you would expect, housing and transport features very heavily. Op-eds include
Now I’m not going to comment on every single article but rather some of the general themes within them, although I will pick out a few individual comments that have annoyed me (as I seem to be in a grumpy mood today which is quite unusual).
The really positive thing about all of the pieces is that in general people think the city is heading in the right direction and considering how much has had to be done by the council over the last few years to merge all of the various council plans and policies together. Things could have easily gone quite wrong and so the council staff (from all organisations) and the politicians need to be congratulated for that.
Of course not everything has been plain sailing and there have been (and still are) a number of issues that haven’t been handled ideally. The Unitary Plan is one of those where the lack of clear enough information about what was proposed led to the development of groups like Auckland 2040 that used misinformation and scare tactics to oppose the plan. In the article about the Unitary Plan I wanted to highlight some of the positive comments in relation to it. First from Penny Hulse
“It’s not about cramming in another one million people but having timely infrastructure, so people moving here are not shocked by bad planning. If people don’t arrive as we thought, then the houses won’t get built as fast. That’s life.
“But we can’t let Auckland languish with a housing crisis, and we can’t let shoddy design continue and building take place in the wrong places,” she says. “I’m comfortable where we have got to in the Unitary Plan process, and we can keep building trust about the whole concept of intensification.
“There are huge benefits about being able to walk to the shops and work, and live in a vibrant community. Some people see intensification as frightening but if it’s done well then it can be transformative.”
And from Chief Planning Officer, Roger Blakely
So the traffic problem is resolved within 30 years?
“Yes,” says Blakeley.
“We will have high quality, high frequency rail and bus services. We will have lots of dedicated cycling and walkways. They are more cost- effective than building more roads, and cars are an inefficient way of moving people around the city.
“The city rail link will be finished, and there will be rail to the airport and North Shore (via the second harbour crossing). Bus services will feed into the rail, and the Skypath on the existing harbour bridge will link up the cycling and walking network.
“The 1960s saw cars take over cities around the world with large freeways and parking lots. But the cities lost their human scale,” says Blakeley.
The residential plans are designed to bring a new face to Auckland. “We have to have a flexibility of choice in housing that meets different needs and different budgets. This need is with us now,” Blakeley says.
“Soon there will be more one or two person households than three persons plus – our present housing stock is not geared to meet that need. We need a mix of terraced and town houses, apartments and single houses on a section.”
Hear hear but how we get our transport agencies and the government to understand this is a different story. And this:
“What we noticed in the debate was the generational gap,” Blakeley says. “The older people who went to the meetings organised by Auckland 2040 objected loudly to the intensification.
“But the younger people who were active on social media wanted to live in a more intensified city – they wanted to experience the extra vibrancy that comes with that, including cultural, retail and recreational activity.
“We are talking about international best practice, here,” he says. “Vancouver has done it, and Copenhagen and Vienna are also following the quality, compact city strategy. As the Danish architect Jan Gehl (he’s an adviser to Auckland) said in his book Cities for People, ‘you can’t keep sprawling outwards’.”
Blakeley says “we saw a lot of Nimby (Not In My Backyard) during the Unitary Plan debate. I’m convinced that when more and more people see examples of housing development that embodies flexibility of choice, quality and affordability, they will become comfortable with the idea of intensification.”
He names developments by Hobsonville Land Company at Hobsonville Point and Ockham Investments at Kingsland, Ellerslie and Grey Lynn as examples of future living in Auckland. He says they have a range of sizes and types of housing, ensuring it’s quality at a price people can afford.
“We didn’t get all the intensification we hoped for in the proposed Unitary Plan this time, but it will be reviewed perhaps every five to 10 years, and there will be the opportunity to change the zoning of some areas.”
The generational issue is a serious one. Most of the older people who are objecting to the plan aren’t the ones who will be around in 30 years-time having to live with the outcomes of scaling back the Unitary Plan. We’ve also talked before about how the plan will need to be revisited in the future due to the downscaling that occurred. Once again Auckland 2040 has been allowed to spout a pile of rubbish in the article.
During the Unitary Plan debate, Takapuna neighbours Guy Haddleton and planner Richard Burton formed Auckland 2040 which finished up in an alliance with more than 70 residents’ associations and other groups, including Character Coalition.
Auckland 2040 was opposed to intensification in the suburbs.
Burton says Auckland 2040 “got 70 per cent of what we were after. The rest is detail in the Mixed Housing Suburban zone – that is still very intensive.
“Originally, the draft plan allowed unrestricted apartment building of three or four storeys over 56 per cent of the residential land in Auckland. That has come down to 15 per cent, and from that point of view there’s a degree of rational thinking in the council.
“Their desire is to focus higher intensity development around the town centres and along arterial routes, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Burton is concerned that rules for height to boundary, coverage and yards have been relaxed too much, particularly when they are applied to existing built-in neighbourhoods.
“They will have quite a significant impact – for instance, adjoining rear yards will be one metre each rather than 6 metres and there will be no room for plantings.
A couple of glaring errors in here, first 56% of the residential land in Auckland wasn’t allowed three or four storey apartment buildings, that figure was the amount of land covered by the centres, terraced house and apartment (THAB) zone and the Mixed Housing Zone (MHZ). The MHZ made up the vast majority of that and had a height limit of 8m which is roughly two storeys. Developers would only have been able to go above that with resource consent and even then only to 10m. As a result of the feedback the MHZ was split into two zones Urban (MHU) and Suburban (MHS).
The second major issue is the comment that backyards will be one metre from each other. While the rules for each of the Mixed Housing Zones have a 1m minimum setback on the sides and rear of a house, they also have a requirement for an outdoor living space off the main living area with set conditions i.e. if the living area is on the ground floor there has to be an area with a minimum of 20m² and no dimension less than 4m in length. So while there is technically a minimum of 1m other requirements also need to be taken into account to understand the full picture of what is proposed.
As mentioned the other major theme is transport and as we have come to expect from transport discussion in the city, most of the talk is about how we need to rapidly invest in infrastructure to “catch up”. However as Lester Levy notes, AT also need to improve the way it deals with it’s customer – us the general public.
The other half of the “walnut” essential to making Auckland’s transport system world-class is what I describe as the “software”. This is the mindset and culture within which Auckland Transport needs to deliver a customer-sensitive transport service, which means providing services that are characterised by precision (reliability and punctuality) and responsive service – we and our partners (the providers of our bus, ferry and train services) have much work to do in this area and I have made it my highest priority to finally get this fixed.
The HOP rollout has been dealt with shows we still have a long long way to go on this.
On the infrastructure side though there is a very clear push through quite a number of the pieces about the East-West Link. The project is one that came from obscurity to be ranked one of the most important in the region in The Auckland Plan a few years ago and there has been a strong indication that the council’s support of it was the price to pay for the business community supporting the CRL. It is now being moved well ahead of the CRL in the overall timeline and the government is expected to agree to a funding package for it next year despite there not having even been a business case completed for it yet, let alone a confirmed route – although I’m also hearing that option 4, the route that is the most destructive, most expensive and that has the least benefit for freight is the one that is now the front runner. It makes me wonder if all these mentions of it is part of a concerted effort to soften up the public on the need for it.
I also want to once again highlight one of my biggest bugbears of Auckland Transport underselling the benefits of the CRL.
CRL will mean Britomart becomes a through station, opening the way for 10-minute train services in peak times to Panmure, which in turn will be able to connect with more frequent feeder bus services to suburbs further to the east such as Pakuranga, Howick, Ti Rakau and Botany.
How many times to we have to remind AT that the frequency being talked about in the article is possible in the next year or two and that the CRL allows for double that i.e. 5 minute train services at peak times. It might not sound like that big of a deal but the way people perceive the difference between even 5 and 10 minute services can be quite substantial. The reason AT keep underselling it is they are afraid to promise anything in case they aren’t able to deliver it but they fail to realise that if they keep underselling the project then it risks losing public support.
As I said at the start, the good thing is that we are generally heading in the right direction but we do need some tweaks to get the best outcome.
A story in the NZ Herald yesterday has scratched the surface on of the key problems that do exist with shared spaces.
Everyone knows the Maori language has taken a battering, but in downtown Auckland, a seat in the form of the word “reo” has been put near the middle of the road outside the central library and is now scraped and bent out of shape because of vehicles banging into it.
The Auckland Council spent $95,000 buying the seat and $10,000 installing it.
And now it is likely to have to pay even more to move it.
The three letters, about 0.5m high, and are set well out on Lorne St, a thoroughfare that has been converted into a “shared space” – a paved zone used by cars and pedestrians.
The letters have cast bronze tops and sides supported by a galvanised steel frame. The bronze is a close colour match to the paving that surrounds it.
Council spokesman Glyn Walters said two cars were known to have hit the structure, in August last year and September this year.
But judging by the shape it was in, and considering reports from onlookers, there have been more crashes.
From what I’ve seen of the seat I would say there have been a lot more than two crashes and this seat isn’t alone. Many of the seats in other shared spaces have equally taken a battering from careless drivers and it really does concern me that some drivers aren’t able to see what’s on the road ahead of them – how would they react to a kid standing on a road wearing dark clothing? It’s not like the seat is right at the start of the street and unsuspecting drivers come around the corner and aren’t able to see it, it’s 75m from the entrance of Lorne St which can only be reached by turning off the narrowed Rutland St.
I’ve highlighted the location in red in the image below, also note that vehicles are only allowed to travel north on the street as opposed to the other section of Lorne St on the other side of Wellesley which is South only.
I would suggest that there are two key reasons for the seat being hit
- Drivers are travelling too fast – as noted by one comment in the herald article about a delivery person on a scooter who crashed into it and who was also travelling the wrong way down the street.
- Drivers are being impatient by trying to get around a pedestrian or illegally parked car.
In both situations the problem is not that the seat is there but that drivers aren’t paying enough attention. Here is another image showing the location of the seat in relation to the rest of the street thanks to Craig and as you can see it is a long way down the street (vehicles have to drive towards the camera).
And this is what it looked like shortly after installation
And here is what it looks like now after being battered by cars (as well as skateboards). You can see the R has been bent out of shape and broken. Again thanks to Craig for these photos.
The herald article ends with
Walters said the seat was installed in 2011 just before the Rugby World Cup. The council was now assessing the cost of repairing or moving it.
“Shared spaces are a new part of Auckland’s city centre public space experience and have so far been well received by the public and local businesses.”
Meanwhile, next month the Auckland City Council plans to install coloured planter pots in Lorne St outside the abandoned St James Theatre.
It’s clear the council need to do something but to me moving it seems to be the worst option. The coloured planter pots sound good so how about using some of those further down on the same side of the street in front of where the seat is or even perhaps some artistic bollards, just something to further alert drivers that they are in a different environment and need to drive more carefully. To me moving the seat would only serve to make the road appear wider for drivers encouraging them to speed even more and making the area less attractive to pedestrians.
I think it would also help immensely if the St James could be reopened and that side of the street activated drawing more people to the area because as the saying goes, there’s safety in numbers.
TomTom have released their annual congestion rankings and reported that Auckland is the 17th most congested city in the world.
The City of Sails is fast becoming the City of Snails, and is rising on a list of the world’s most congested cities compiled by navigation firm TomTom.
The report, which compares congestion levels in 169 cities across six continents, found New Zealand cities were experiencing some of the biggest increases in congestion.
On the list of the most congested cities, Auckland is ranked 15th, Christchurch 17th and Wellington 37th.
New Zealanders now spend a staggering 101 hours annually in peak-hour traffic, with Auckland having the biggest increase in congestion across Australia and New Zealand.
The congestion level for Auckland is measured at 34 per cent in the last June quarter, up from 30 per cent the year before. In Christchurch and Wellington it is 32 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.
At its worst, Aucklanders are stuck in traffic for an average of 47 minutes for each hour driven.
That all sounds pretty bad but is it really? First it pays to look at how they calculate the congestion index. The reports – which can be found here - state that it is calculated as:
With the publication of the TomTom Traffic Index we are aiming to provide the general public, industry and policy makers with unique and unbiased information about congestion levels in urban areas.
The methodology that is used in this report compares the travel times during non-congested periods (free flow) with travel times in peak hours. The difference is expressed as a percentage increase in travel time. We take into account local roads, arterials and highways. All data is based on actual GPS based measurements for each city the sample size is expressed in total number of measured miles for the period.
Straight away there is a major issue with this methodology and that is the comparison is based in just how fast you can travel if no one else was on the road compared to what happens at the during the peak period. This is a serious issue for a few reasons.
1. Cities that have a lot of all-day congestion won’t appear as bad on the report because there is less of a difference between free flow and congested periods.
2. Many of our roads have been built to try and handle peak congestion periods and are relatively empty off peak allowing for much faster speeds. The motorways are a great example as they are often bursting at the seams during the peak but can be comparatively empty off peak allowing for much much faster journeys. The Northwestern motorway is perhaps the prime example of this and is now going through another round of widening.
3. The biggest issue though is that by comparing travel times by in this manner, it ignores what the most efficient speed for moving vehicles is. By that I mean over the same stretch of road more people overall can be moved if they are travelling slow than if they are travelling 100km/h. This is something that was picked up strongly in the research conducted for the NZTA by Ian Wallis and Associates which looked at the cost of congestion. They noted the differences between the definitions of congestion as:
Various definitions of congestion were reviewed and it was found that the concept of congestion is surprisingly ill-defined. A definition commonly used by economists treats all interactions between vehicles as congestion, while a common engineering definition is based on levels of service and recognises congestion only when the road is operating near or in excess of capacity. A definition of congestion based on the road capacity (ie the maximum sustainable flow) was adopted. The costs of congestion on this basis are derived from the difference between the observed travel times and estimated travel times when the road is operating at capacity.
The graph below shows the engineering definition mentioned above.
4. The TomTom report misses one key aspect and that is the ability of people to travel congestion free. Investments in the rail network, Northern busway and even just some of the bus lane network in the old Auckland City Council area have led to dramatic rises in the number of people using Public Transport. In the case of the busway, it has seen the number of people crossing the harbour bridge increase from 18% in 2004 to 41% in 2011. These people are travelling almost completely free of congestion (with the notable exception of in the city centre) yet the amount of time they spend on their commute isn’t captured by this data at all because they are almost certainly not carrying a TomTom with them.
Instead of being a congestion index report, what the report really should be called is a private vehicle travel time variability report.
I do note some interesting responses in the articles about the report. In the herald we get
The New Zealand Transport Agency said it was working to improve traffic flow in cities through investment in public transport services and infrastructure, roading and facilities.
“Our investment in public transport is at unprecedented levels, having risen by over 20 per cent nationwide in just three years,” said agency spokesman Anthony Frith.
“We’re also investing in walking and cycling facilities that will get people out of their cars and onto their bikes or travelling by foot.”
In Auckland, the agency was investing $3.4 billion in the region’s transport system, including $1.6 billion for state highways, $968 million for roads and $890 million for public transport.
Well most of the increase in costs for PT are to pay for the NZTA’s share of the loan for the new electric trains. I’m not saying that isn’t welcome but not necessarily the massive investment suggested. Further a small fraction of that is going towards PT infrastructure.
And from Stuff:
Automobile Association principal infrastructure adviser Barney Irvine said a focus needed to be put on getting more out of the existing network.
“Public transport is an important part of the puzzle but it is only one part.
“The big thing is to try and get more out of the existing network.”
Mr Frith said several initiatives were in place to try to ease congestion in all of the cities.
Auckland had a $3.4b programme of investment in the region’s transport system from 2012 to 2015. This included improvements to state highways, local roads and public transport.
I agree that we need to get more out of the existing network and it’s good to see the AA acknowledging that.
Lastly if we really want to move people around then then the Congestion Free Network would allow people to do that completely free of congestion giving some real choice.
Excellent news today that Lonely Planet has ranked Auckland as one of the best cities to visit.
Auckland has been rated one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit by travel bible Lonely Planet.
The city, which attracts 1.8 million foreign visitors a year, sits alongside iconic places including Paris, Zurich, Shanghai and Vancouver in the ninth annual Best in Travel guide, published today. The book highlights the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year.
Auckland was praised for its newly revitalised waterfront districts such as the Wynyard Quarter, and shopping and dining precincts such as the City Works Depot and Britomart.
Also singled out are black-sand beaches on the west coast, the Waitakere Ranges, Rangitoto Island, Waiheke Island, the 77km Hillary Trail, the SkyWalk atop Auckland’s Sky Tower and the refurbished Auckland Art Gallery.
“Auckland is often overlooked by travellers eager to head for the stellar alpine and lake landscapes further south, but food, arts and exploring the coastal hinterland are all excellent reasons to extend your stay in New Zealand’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city,” the book says.
Auckland’s many festivals and events, vibrant Maori and Pacific culture and impressive line-up of major sporting events also got a mention.
The only criticisms of the city of 1.4 million people are the traffic and the “inconsistent (but always entertaining) form of the Warriors”.
Auckland has some stunning natural beauty with a mix of harbours, islands, mountains, forests, beaches and rural areas which all combine to make the city extremely unique and it’s not surprising to see some of recognised. However it is the praise for the likes of the Wynyard Quarter and Britomart precincts that are the most interesting as they have been showing that Auckland does now have the ability to make some great urban spaces if we put our mind to it. Further as the lonely planet recognition shows, these spaces don’t just benefit locals but can also help tourism and that’s not just good for Auckland but for the whole country as it makes NZ as a whole a more interesting and viable destination.
What’s also notable about the urban areas mentioned is that they aren’t car free but that cars don’t have the same level impact as they do elsewhere. The focus has been improving the pedestrian realm rather than simply moving as many cars through the area as possible. As we have also seen with the shared spaces, this can have considerable positive impacts for nearby businesses. It really makes me wonder that if we are starting to get recognition for a few relatively small areas, just imagine what people will think if we can do other similar and great developments all over the CBD and city fringe. For example around the rest of Wynyard Quarter, around the Aotea, Karangahape Rd and Newton stations CRL stations and in fringe suburbs like Ponsonby, Newmarket and Parnell.
The quality of Wynyard is something picked up on by Brent Toderian who is currently visiting the city and who is speaking tomorrow night (although I think the event is full)
Number one on the list is unsurprisingly Paris which is a tourist mecca however it’s also worth noting one of the things being done to improve the city.
With a push to reduce the cars clogging one of Europe’s most congested cities, Paris has been reborn. Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe has created more pedestrian-friendly areas, particularly along the riverbanks.
The Unitary Plan is definitely far from perfect but is a start in setting out how the city will develop in the future. I say a start as we will likely to need to be revisit the plan in a few years time to allow for more development as in the current version much of the city suffered the fate of elected representatives getting nervous and trying to appease the NIMBYs as the local body elections loomed (with the exception of the West Auckland local boards who thankfully went the opposite way). This was a point also made by Patrick Fontein at an event I attended a month ago at Construkt.
One of the biggest issues facing the plan is that it contains lots of technical details that most of the general public are simply not going to be interested enough to read about it. So for most the only experience of the plan has been the largely boiled down sound bites from the likes of Bernard Orsman which amounted to scaremongering that massive apartment buildings were about to sprout out of the ground like grass on berms after a few weeks of uncut spring growth.
So yesterday it was interesting to see Herald have run a poll about the unitary plan however in typical herald fashion they have completely misrepresented the results.
A sizeable section of Aucklanders appear to prefer more urban sprawl to higher buildings, despite Mayor Len Brown’s goal of a compact city.
A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 people has found more of them deeming the proposed Unitary Plan rule-book unnecessary than those prepared to give unqualified support to more multi-storey buildings and smaller average section sizes.
Only 18.3 per cent believe the plan is the best way to deal with population growth, and will make Auckland a better place to live.
That compares with 28 per cent who said the plan was unnecessary, and that the Auckland Council should let the city grow outwards instead of allowing more high-rises.
But 23.4 per cent supported the plan in principle while believing some proposed changes were going too far.
And 28.6 per cent were undecided, saying they didn’t know enough to comment
So what this is really telling us is that only 28% of people actually favour sprawl. The rest either support the plan as is, support the ideas behind the plan or are unsure. Also note that the figures given don’t add up to 100%, who knows where the missing 1.7% is. The issue of how the numbers are interpreted is picked up on David Gibbs from Construkt.
Urban designer David Gibbs, director of Auckland architecture and master-planning firm Construkt, said the combination of strong and conditional support for the plan, totalling 41.7 per cent, was “not too bad over a very complex issue” but called on the council to do a better job of explaining what was at stake.
“What people are struggling to understand is we are going through quite a societal shift in which almost 50 per cent of our households are one or two-person households,” he told the Weekend Herald.
“So we’ve got a need for 50 per cent of our housing to be for other than nuclear families.”
Mr Gibbs said the type of accommodation suitable for small households, either apartments or terraced housing, were unlikely to be built on city outskirts, where an Australian study calculated the environmental and economic costs of providing new infrastructure and transport links were two to eight times higher than building inside urban limits.
“I think the people of Auckland aren’t getting their minds out of their own suburban situation by thinking: where are our children going to live, or where in fact am I going to live if I become widowed or when the children move out.”
I think David makes some extremely good points. The plan is about setting Auckland up for the future and the big growth that is happening is in one or two person households and many of those may not want the mythical ¼ acre section and big house. Something Dick Quax seems to think we all want.
But councillor Dick Quax, who opposes the Unitary Plan, said the poll provided more evidence that Mr Brown’s claim that Aucklanders loved the idea of the compact city was “a great exaggeration”.
“As it becomes more clear to people what the compact city actually means, they are deciding that really, they don’t want that.”
I guess someone should tell the developers of all of the apartments and terraced houses coming onto the market that they are going to be building things that people don’t want, despite many apparently selling quite well.
It’s also interesting to compare the discussions about the unitary plan and the extremely restrictive zoning with what is happening in San Francisco as pointed out in this article by The Atlantic Cities.
My friends keep moving to Oakland. Gone from San Francisco for greener pastures and cheaper rents, because it’s just gotten too hard, by which I really mean too expensive. Their move signals that something has gone terribly wrong in this most progressive of American cities.
In some ways, we came by the problem innocently. San Francisco had the good fortune to be one of the very few 19th century industrial cities to successfully make the transition to a new, post-industrial economic base. It wasn’t just bohemians who set up shop here—all kinds of entrepreneurs and creative business people decided to call San Francisco home. As wave after wave of older industrial jobs moved out of town, new types of work were created to replace them.
At the same time, San Francisco was a great place to live. Partly from historical inheritance and partly from the work of activists who chose to make the city the focus of their activism, the city remained a walkable, urban paradise compared to most of America.
A great quality of life and a lot of high-paying professional jobs meant that a lot of people wanted to live here. And they still do.
But the city did not allow its housing supply to keep up with demand. San Francisco was down-zoned (that is, the density of housing or permitted expansion of construction was reduced) to protect the “character” that people loved. It created the most byzantine planning process of any major city in the country. Many outspoken citizens did—and continue to do—everything possible to fight new high-density development or, as they saw it, protecting the city from undesirable change.
Unfortunately, it worked: the city was largely “protected” from change. But in so doing, we put out fire with gasoline. Over the past two decades, San Francisco has produced an average of 1,500 new housing units per year. Compare this with Seattle (another 19th century industrial city that now has a tech economy), which has produced about 3,000 units per year over the same time period (and remember it’s starting from a smaller overall population base). While Seattle decided to embrace infill development as a way to save open space at the edge of its region and put more people in neighborhoods where they could walk, San Francisco decided to push regional population growth somewhere else.
Whatever the merits of this strategy might be in terms of preserving the historic fabric of the city, it very clearly accelerated the rise in housing prices. As more people move to the Bay Area, the demand for housing continues to increase far faster than supply.
This all sounds eerily similar to what is happening, particularly in the city fringe suburbs.
The results of a Herald poll this morning seem about as surprising to me as the sun coming up each day. Transport has been voted by the people polled the biggest issue in Auckland.
Poor transport remains Aucklanders’ biggest bugbear, eclipsing the shortage of affordable housing.
A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 Super City dwellers found 43.8 per cent ranked transport as the biggest issue facing Auckland.
It was streets ahead of affordable housing, the chief concern of 17.1 per cent of those surveyed, and balancing the city’s budget (3.4 per cent).
Those were the only three specific issues suggested to survey participants, although 26.9 per cent of those polled volunteered other problems as their chief concerns, including the cost of living (6.1 per cent), Mayor Len Brown’s extra-marital affair (3.3 per cent), rates (3.2 per cent) and a growing population (2.1 per cent).
The reason I found it unsurprising is that we have seen similar results in previous polls including this one from UMR about a year ago and even the AA had similar results from it’s members in a poll a few years ago. Equally unsurprising is that it’s PT solutions that the public are crying out for with over half of the respondents wanting better PT which is more than twice the number that want more/better roads.
Public transport improvements have been nominated by 54.6 per cent of participants in the latest poll, taken last week, as the best way to improve Auckland’s traffic problems.
The $2.86 billion underground rail proposal was considered the most important ingredient by 33.9 per cent of those polled, and buses running every 10 minutes at peak times by 20.7 per cent.
Completing the city’s motorway network and building more roads where necessary won top priority from 20.7 per cent and another harbour crossing from 16.2 per cent.
Support for the 3.5km rail link has rocketed from 8.6 per cent of those surveyed by the same polling company before the 2010 local elections, although rail to the airport and to the North Shore were more popular then, before receding in acknowledgment that tunnelling through Britomart must precede any big increase in train services.
We won’t be getting 10 minute peak frequencies on every route but the new bus network will be delivering significant improvements, especially off peak. As expected Len has been quick to say that we’re on the right track with a mix of projects.
Mayor Len Brown believes the poll’s recipe for tackling traffic congestion shows Auckland is “making progress along the lines that people see that what’s needed is a fully integrated solution – not just roading but the whole thing”.
Mr Brown indicated he would make funding for the underground railway his second-term priority, starting with council consideration of a taskforce’s advice that Aucklanders will face steep fuel tax and rates rises from 2015 unless loans can be raised on a promise yet to be obtained of Government approval of new road charges for drivers.
He promised to rectify a failure in his first term to build more bus lanes, and expected integrated ticketing and electric trains to prove “game-changing” in the way Aucklanders got around.
Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said major reorganisations of bus routes, starting next year in South Auckland with a new emphasis on feeding passengers to the rail network would provide the higher frequency sought by many of those surveyed but a big challenge he intended overcoming was better punctuality and service standards.
However as we have pointed out numerous times, despite the rhetoric the current plans are road heavy with around 70% of the budget going on roading improvements and that is shown in the graph below from the Integrated Transport Programme. There is such a huge mismatch between that what the public want, what they are being told they are getting and what is actually being built. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad and frustrating.
Of course let’s not forget that back in June the government announced a package of transport projects they prioritised motorway projects, bringing some forward some from the third decade in the ITP to be built ahead of the CRL – which they pushed back to 2020.
We have talked quite a bit about how we are in the middle of a generational shift when it comes to transport with the most notable change being that younger people are choosing to drive less than older generations. It seems the mainstream media are finally starting to catch up to this fact with the herald yesterday reporting:
More Kiwi seniors are driving than 10 years ago, while more younger people are opting to be car-free.
A new survey shows the proportion of over 65s who drive has grown by about 10 per cent in the past decade to 91.4 per cent.
That equates to about 170,000 more senior motorists on the road, making over 65s the third largest bloc of road users, behind 35- to 49-year-olds and 50- to 64-year-olds.
The research by Roy Morgan shows seniors are now more likely than under 35s to drive.
“The decline in driving among younger people correlates to an increase in public transport usage,” Roy Morgan general manager Pip Elliott said.
“For instance, in the year to August 2003, 25 per cent of all 25-34 year-olds travelled by bus within an average three months; in the year to August 2013, this had risen to 30 per cent.”
The increase in over 65s is likely to be the baby boomer generation – the most keen driving generation of them all – starting to move into the over 65 category. The article also notes:
In all age groups except over 65s, the proportion of the population who drive has dropped over the past 10 years.
Nationwide there are now three million drivers, an increase of almost 400,000 over the past decade, but the overall proportion of drivers in the population has declined slightly to 84.3 per cent.
We have shown before that we are seeing this trend through a number of different measures. The number of driver licences being issued has fallen dramatically over the last few years.
Some of the more recent changes are due to the increasing of the age limit for learners but that happened in 2011 and we still aren’t seeing any increases despite higher pass rates.
On other measures we are seeing trends with the number of new cars and the distance people travel also decreasing on a per capita basis and especially in Auckland.
With all of this going on, it’s interesting to see that the NZTA has obviously also noticed the trend and recently put out a request for some research on what was needed for public transport to serve younger generations. It is titled Public transport and the next generation and the key parts of the request are:
What does Generation Y want out of Public Transport (PT)? How do we meet the needs of Generation Y and are there any significant barriers to Generation Y using PT? Will Generation Y shift from PT to private vehicles at the same rate as previous generations?
Generation Y is also known as the Millennials and consists of those born from about the early 1980s onward. Today they are aged between about 16 and 32. There are some international indicators that this group is driving less and using other modes like public transport and cycling in greater numbers than the previous generation.
This research should explore the transport patterns of Generation Y in New Zealand and identify whether they are following international trends of driving less.
The research should also identify any barriers inherent in our PT system for the next generation. In particular it would be beneficial to know what features of PT are attractive and valuable to this next generation.
This sounds like really interesting research and something we will keep a close eye on.
Slightly unrelated but at the same time as that piece of research was being advertised the NZTA also put out another request for research on public transport that we will keep a close eye on the results of. It is titled Benefits and risks from improvements to public transport infrastructure such as improvements to or new bus interchanges, bus stops and bus lanes.
What are the NZ specific benefits, and risks to be managed, as a result of new and improved public transport infrastructure particularly bus interchanges, bus stops and bus lanes ?
What strategies and methods can be employed to justify and encourage optimal provision for public transport infrastructure such as bus interchanges, bus stops and bus lanes on major public transport corridors and in city centres where there is plenty of commercial and residential car parking?
There is a need for an evidence base that can demonstrate to the benefits, including economic value, of investing in public transport infrastructure and facilities.
The sector lacks evidence, specifically robust NZ evidence, of the economic, social and environmental benefits that can be achieved as a result of improved infrastructure associated with public transport bus services.
For example, there is growing realisation that poorly conceived car parking policies are an impediment to creating an effective and balanced urban transport system, and that this can exacerbate traffic congestion and air pollution. It can also result in a less liveable city environment.
Evidence of this knowledge gap is often demonstrated when car parking spaces next to shops are removed or intended to be removed and replaced with a bus interchange, bus stop or bus lane.
At present there is insufficient knowledge of the evidence to convince business owners, political leaders and other stakeholders that investment in public transport infrastructure like bus interchanges, bus stops and bus lanes should be made at the expense of car parking in some cases. There is also insufficient evidence on how to manage the risks associated with these improvements.
Reading both those research proposals almost brings a tear to the eye so great work NZTA for actually looking into them.
Wow who is this and what have they done with the real Herald. The editorial this morning nails the issues surrounding Maurice Williamson’s statements following the early release of the census data.
According to a phrase usually attributed to Mark Twain, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”. It was his way of saying we should be wary of figures that are used to boost weak arguments. Perhaps, most particularly, we should be cautious about statistics given so dogmatically there is no apparent room for debate. Pronouncements like, for example, that of Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson, who declared the first Census data in seven years contained a surprise “bigger than Ben Hur”.
The finding that so enraptured the minister was that New Zealand’s population growth had halved since the last Census. The population had increased by 31,000 a year, or 0.75 per cent, over the past seven years, compared to 58,000 a year in the previous 2001-2006 period. This, trumpeted Mr Williamson, should prompt a revision of Auckland’s infrastructure plans, such as an increase in high-rise apartments and the construction of an inner-city rail loop.
The growth rate is, indeed, surprisingly slow. But what that means for Auckland must be subject to a couple of important caveats. First, the data so far released – annoyingly, the Census findings are being drip-fed – does not reveal the extent of Auckland’s long-term growth.
It then goes on to talk about some of the likely reasons why the population figures are lower than expected including the large amount of migration that has occurred in recent years. But the key point is below
This doesn’t mean no notice should be taken of the Census data. The council’s planning for the next 30 years, as outlined in its Unitary Plan, is based on the prediction that the number of Auckland residents will grow by one million, or 2.2 per cent a year. The plan is hugely important because of the impact on Auckland of constraining most of the city’s growth within existing urban limits and encouraging higher-density development close to public transport. The prospect of intensified housing is by no means universally applauded, and the Census findings for Auckland, when they are finally released, warrant close attention in terms of the population assumption.
Contrary to Mr Williamson’s view, however, the same cannot be said of the inner-city rail loop. Its construction is not predicated on population growth. Rather, it is about the shape of Auckland, the number of people who live and work in the central city, and creating an essential and efficient public transport artery. Debate over it should revolve primarily around issues such as potential patronage and funding options, not projected population.
This distinction has never been appreciated by the Government. While endorsing the rail loop in principle in June, it scheduled it for 2020, five years later than the council wants. The Government said a start could be made earlier if Auckland’s population growth led to increased inner-city employment. It needs to understand that a start on the project should not depend on such a link.
Clearly, much of Mr Williamson’s gusto doesn’t withstand too much scrutiny. Nonetheless, he has ensured that attention will be paid to Census regional growth findings when they are released next week. If there are genuine reasons to question the assumptions underpinning the Unitary Plan, they will be found there.
Spot on, the business case for the CRL isn’t based on high growth projections and more important than population growth is just how many people might use it. As the post this morning on Calgary shows, you don’t have to have a high population to get high patronage or CBD employment, what you need is a strong, connected network that works together and that provides real options and on that front the CRL is crucial to the future development of the network. To be honest I’m even sceptical of the patronage projections and suspect they are way under estimated and we have seen with past investments – like with Britomart – that we way underestimated the demand
They also make a valid point that the shape of the city is also important in the discussion on the need for the CRL. We have seen from the Unitary Plan that a huge amount of growth has been allowed for out west along the rail line, and even if only a small amount of it every fully happens, it will add huge demand for travel which the CRL can greatly assist with. Further the greenfields developments in the South have a similar effect and I have heard in the past that ironically the more sprawl that happens down that way, the greater the demand for the CRL becomes.
It’s so nice and refreshing to see this stance from the Herald for a change, even if they still refer to the project as a loop.
One area that we have been particularly unimpressed on over the last three years has been the complete lack of any new bus lanes – or even just bus priority measures – over the last three years. In fact bus lanes have actually been removed as the Remuera Rd bus lane was downgraded to a T3 lane.
There are a couple of key reasons for us to be annoyed at this lack of action. Bus lanes can perform an incredibly important function as they can:
- Speed up trips by allowing buses to avoid congestion and thus make PT more attractive (increases PT patronage).
- Increase the amount of people able to move through a specific road corridor thus making better use of our roading infrastructure.
- Reduce ongoing operating costs and therefore reduce the amount of subsidy needed to run services.
I suspect the first two points should be fairly straightforward so I just want to expand on the last one a little bit. My understanding is that most buses in Auckland have an average travel speed of about 20 km per hour. I say most because buses that can use good bus infrastructure (Northern busway buses & roads with existing bus lanes) are able to travel considerably faster – perhaps up to twice as fast – thanks to the infrastructure. What that means is that where in the past a bus might have only been able to do one run during the morning peak they could now do two so. That means we can get one of the following outcomes:
- Less buses and therefore expenditure is needed to maintain the same level of service meaning we can reduce the amount of funding needed and therefore improve cost recovery.
- Use the freed up budget to run more buses, increasing the attractiveness of services and therefore improving cost recovery.
The key point is that the investment in the infrastructure can have huge impacts on operational expenditure. This is similar to what Stu talked about earlier this week. The one downside to bus lanes is that they are often unpopular with motorists, especially those who feel they have an entitlement to as much asphalt as possible (and then some). Those noisy motorists tend to quickly gain the attention of councillors meaning we often see any proposed projects quickly killed off to appease the road gods. The separation of the political aspects of transport from the operational ones was meant to be one of the key reasons for setting up Auckland Transport however more and more it appears they are simply too scared to make the changes necessary.
It is this situation that led us to the tweet below.
The tweet was quickly picked up on by the herald who seem desperate to find anything to beat up the council up over
Len Brown has not built a single metre of bus lane in his first term as mayor of the Super City.
Mr Brown, who says fixing public transport, including better bus services, is his top priority, has splurged $770 million on public transport and $1.2 billion on roads and footpaths in the past three years.
But not a cent has gone on new lanes to improve bus services, which have drawn criticism and seen a fall of 2.9 per cent in patronage over the past year, from 55.1 million bus trips to 53.5 million.
Auckland Transport yesterday confirmed a tweet on the Auckland Transport Blog that after the “stupid” 2010 election distraction of bus-lane enforcement, not one had been built.
An Auckland Transport spokesman said the main change on bus lanes was allowing cars with three or more passengers to use the 5km Remuera Rd bus lane.
He said a lot of work had been done on signage and marking of bus lanes to make things clearer for motorists after the 2010 issues.
Bus priority work continued on major projects such as Dominion Rd and Ameti in southeast Auckland and a major revamp of bus services, the spokesman said.
Yes work is progressing on Dominion Rd which should upgrade the existing bus lanes to a near busway status and the first tentative parts of AMETI have started but most of the bus lanes on that project aren’t going to come into use for many many years. Working on signage appears to have been the only really visible change on this list of completed tasks from this AT board paper at the beginning of the year on the topic.
Following the release of The Bus and Transit Lane Review: Planning and Implementation Model for Auckland, July 2011, AT has made significant advances in implementing the associated action plan. This report provides an update on the work streams outlined in the action plan.
The following key milestones have been completed:
- Formation of the bus and transit lane steering group;
- Region wide review of effectiveness of priority bus and transit lanes;
- Change of Remuera Road bus lane to a T3 lane;
- Completion of a productivity analysis for all bus and transit lanes in the region;
- Development of an on-going productivity analysis programme;
- Implementation of trial bus and transit lane signage and marking improvement measures;
- Completion of Grafton Bridge bus lane upgrade measures – signage and road markings
- Audit of Onewa Road T3 lane and implementation of measures to allow enforcement.
The following tasks are still outstanding:
- Audit of all existing bus and transit lanes;
- Roll out of education campaigns in support of new bus and transit lane signage;
- Including bus and transit lane changes in the New Zealand Road Code.
The planning and implementation model mentioned can be found here and it looked at how AT would assess potential bus lanes in the future. It also considered that on some routes where there are less buses but where we want to provide improvements that T2/3 lanes might be more appropriate and I agree. While I’m not always a huge fan of T2/3 I do think it creates a useful stepping stone on the way to a full bus lanes and so can provide many of the benefits of a dedicated lane without as much negative reaction from drivers.
So which routes should AT really rolling T2/3 lanes or bus lanes out to? Well really they should be on roads with a frequent bus route and the proposed new bus network provides a blueprint for just that.
So come on AT, you need to get some more bus lanes, or at least some T2/3 rolled out to help support the bus network.
Note: Mayoral Candiatate John Palino predictably picked up on the herald article and used it to complain about Len Brown however was silent when asked if he would actually do anything about it.