As well as Paul Mees’s excellent transport books, another book that should be “required reading” for those interested in public transport issues is The Transit Metropolis by Robert Cervero. Here’s the product description of this book from Amazon:

Around the world, mass transit is struggling to compete with the private automobile, and in many places, its market share is rapidly eroding. Yet a number of metropolitan areas have in recent decades managed to mount cost-effective and resource-conserving transit services that provide respectable alternatives to car travel. What sets these places apart.

In this book, noted transportation expert Robert Cervero provides an on-the-ground look at more than a dozen mass transit success stories, introducing the concept of the “transit metropolis” – a region where a workable fit exists between transit services and urban form. The author has spent more than three years studying cities around the world, and he makes a compelling case that metropolitan areas of any size and with any growth pattern-from highly compact to widely dispersed-can develop successful mass transit systems.

Following an introductory chapter that frames his argument and outlines the main issues, Cervero describes and examines five different types of transit metropolises, with twelve in-depth case studies of cities that represent each type. He considers the key lessons of the case studies and debunks widely-held myths about transit and the city. In addition, he reviews the efforts underway in five North American cities to mount transit programs and discusses the factors working for and against their success. Cities profiled include Stockholm; Singapore; Tokyo; Ottawa; Zurich; Melbourne; Mexico City; Curitiba, Brazil; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; and others.

The Transit Metropolis provides practical lessons on how North American cities can manage sprawl and haphazard highway development by creating successful mass transit systems. While many books discuss the need for a sustainable transportation system, few are able to present examples of successful systems and provide the methods and tools needed to create such a system. This book is a unique and invaluable resource for transportation planners and professionals, urban planners and designers, policymakers and students of planning and urban design.

While I will probably get around to purchasing the book properly one day, thanks to Google Books it is possible to get a pretty good taste for what it is about. One particularly interesting part of the book is when it talks about responses to low-density cities with highly complex and dispersed trip patterns. With only 12% of Auckland’s employment located in the CBD, that kind of city describes Auckland pretty well. Cervero outlines how, in cities like these, one of the best responses for public transport to take is what he calls “Adaptive Transport”. This is briefly detailed below:

There are three different types of “Adaptive Transit” that are described by Cervero: technological solutions such as Adelaide’s O-Bahn, very clever timetabling to make transfers simple and straightforward (Edmonton and Calgary in Canada are given as examples of this), and small door-to-door type services such as “jitneys“. Generally jitneys tend to only work in third-world cities where labour costs are very low.

What I find interesting is the interface between “Adaptive Transit” and land-use planning. This is detailed in the paragraphs below: I am pretty sure that I agree with the main point here – that we should be using transportation policies and projects to help achieve the land-use outcomes that we want, rather than the vice-versa situation. I think in Auckland, over the past 10 years or so, we have been attempting the ‘vice-versa’ situation, of promoting radical changes to our land-use patterns in the hope that these changes will help boost public transport patronage and reduce our automobile dependency. However, because we’ve continued to build motorways like they’re going out of fashion at the same time, there’s been a disconnect between land-use and transport planning which has made it difficult to achieve either the land-use outcomes or the transportation outcomes that we really want.

Now I don’t necessarily think that “Adaptive Transit”, as described by Cervero, is necessarily what Auckland requires. However, I definitely think that we need to be careful about the relationship between land-use and transportation planning. It seems to me as though transportation planning can drive land-use patterns a lot more than land-use patterns can drive transportation outcomes. So therefore, once we’ve worked out the type of city we want Auckland to be – a city that is healthier, safer,  and more enjoyable to live, work and play in – we use transport policies (obviously in conjunction with other planning policies) to help drive us to that outcome. Perhaps we’ve all focused on the opposite situation too much?

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  1. For me a key part of the second section is where he mentions that many American cities developed light rail however to try and solve their transport problems however most of those cities have not enforced their vision and let developers build what they want where they want without paying for the PT side of the development. This has completely undercut the whole purpose of the investment and not solved anything. I think we tend to take the same path.

  2. Yes I think that is quite interesting Matt. Albany, Manukau City, Botany Town Centre and so forth are great examples of terrible urban design making a mockery of any attempts to improve transit to these areas.

  3. One point Paul Mees kept making in lectures is that you can’t effect any real change by just providing more transport options. If you have a heap of people who drive and a lot of freeways for them to drive on, a rail line or share taxi is only going to attract a very small proportion away from that. Mees’ suggested to effect and actual mode shift you need to change rather than supplement transport provision, i.e. stop building heaps of freeways and build other things instead.

    Likewise with urban development. Mees was very critical of the Melbourne approach which demanded all significant developments to occur in established centres…. so the state simply went off and called just about everything in Melbourne and ‘established centre’, from drive up big box retail to Chadstone mall, the largest in Australia.

    On another topic, there is a problem with the ‘jitney’ approach which seems to get glazed over by many theorists, that is the cost of labour. Jitneys are very labour intensive, you need one driver for six or eight passengers at best. While this works in third world countries with low labour standards, no minimum wage and people willing to work 12-14 hour days just to eat, it can’t work in a developed economy.

  4. Yes I agree that if you want real change you need to both “push” and “pull”. That’s my main criticism of the most recent Regional Land Transport Strategy, that while it has plentiful “pull” factors, it doesn’t really focus on “push” factors, so I don’t know whether it is likely to achieve its goals.

  5. However, if you include “push” factors, you open yourself up to even harsher attacks by those opponents of PT and opponents of urban limits than before, because you are now actively restricting their choices, rather than providing new ones only (“using our tax money to force nanny state rules on us”). We saw at the last election how the accusation of nanny state-ism and the promise of lower taxes work with the electorate.

    So at this time, it is still very much politically suicidal to get too hard on the “push” factors. I would prefer sneakier ways, such as asking for higher development levies in the outer areas compared to the central city. A logical case can be made for that. And the sudden sliding scale would make inner city intensification more attractive to developers without taking away their vaunted “freedom of choice”.

  6. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that Auckland is pretty much unlike any city I can think of given its unique topography- extremely narrow isthmus in the South lots of steep creeks and gullies, two very difficult to cross harbours etc. etc..

    You can’t compare it to Melbourne, Sydney, LA, Toronto which are built on flat plains so have major grid transporation systems. In Auckland cross town trips are ridiculously difficult compared to tehse othe cities.

    This is why transportation is so hugely expensive here. I also makes it unlikely the CBD will be a strong heirarchial centre as it will be too expensive to get large numbers of people in and out easily unless you can develop it and lots of satellite centres with very high densities or an extremely long urbanise corridor north and south.

  7. I agree Max, there are certainly clever push factors that haven’t yet been looked at. Removing minimum parking requirements would be one of them. No real cost to the economy (quite the opposite in fact), definitely not nanny state (quite the opposite in fact) but still a big push factor.

    The ARC’s response to my main submission point on the RLTS was simply that they didn’t think road pricing was appropriate for Auckland quite yet. That response does make me worry that they think road pricing is the only “push factor” out there.

    TopCat, one could also say that Auckland’s geographic situation actually makes it quite suitable for public transport, as most development is along relatively few corridors. We’re a less extreme example of Wellington in that respect. I don’t really buy the argument that it’s difficult for Auckland’s CBD to grow because of the geographical constraints – just look at Wellington. Apparently Auckland and Wellington’s CBDs have around the same number of jobs in them, which is quite extraordinary when you consider how much bigger Auckland’s population is.

    Auckland’s geography means that if we did actually have a top quality public transport system, it could end up being very popular indeed.

  8. Whilst it would be nice to think we could have a compact urban form with a strong CBD, I really can’t see how you can afford to move that many people over a limited number of corridors at an affordable cost. We are struggling to come up with enough money to pay for a CBD rail loop and a second harbour crossing as it is. How could we ever afford numerous four track lines without large (and politically difficult) increases in density. Even if we could, how would people in Browns’ Bay or Whangapharoa be able to work in the CBD and commute by PT?

    In Melbourne for eg you can run 8 train lines into town on a 360 degree circumference, as well as allowing lots of people to cycle, walk, catch trams in. Even then the Melbourne really struggles to get large numbers of commuters in and out. In Auckland you have 2 lines plus a slow bus line over a narrow harbour bridge.

    I’d much prefer to look at ways to help people get their employment closer to where they can get to, not vice-versa. Good PT sould be the means not the end.

    How about we look at ways to cluster mixed use nodes close to PT interchanges, then we could look at ways of linking them up.

  9. Topcat, the answer to move lots of people, in a short period of time, in well developed corridors is rail, 10 times more efficient at it than motorways in fact, Auckland is supremely ideal for rail much more so than say Melbourne or Sydney where a dozen + lines each have not been able to constrain sprawl…

  10. No doubt rail is best for large numbers of people. But who are you moving what from and what to? You can’t put all your schools, hospitals, sports facilities, creches, entertainment etc.. within 5 min walk of a train station.

    Not every one can work in a office in the CBD. If we were all public servants or merchant bankers that would be fine. Remember residential land use makes up less than 1/3 of the area of most cities so you will need to disperse some activities. With Auckland’s geography you can’t just build 2 mega rail lines and expect everything else to fall in line any more than you can expect widening SH1 or SH16 and expect our problems to be solved. Auckland has a service proximity or availability problem as much as it has a transport problem.

  11. TC, you don’t need everything within walking distance of a train station, you need it within walking distance of a interconnected bus, rail and ferry network. No city, bar perhaps central Paris, has rail transit within walking distance of everywhere.

    FYI, all of Melbourne’s rail lines come into the central city via two corridors, with Sydney it is three.

    You say we can’t afford a compact city, I say we certainly can’t afford a sprawling one. The latter takes a lot more capex to build and has much higher operating costs. To be competitive Auckland needs to get clever about it’s transport and urban form. If we can afford a billion dollars on the Waterview connection, one and a half billion on the AMETI roading project, three or four billion on a new harbour crossing… then we can certainly afford rail and bus based alternatives. After all you can build a new railway for half the price of a new motorway, but the rail line can carry nine or ten times more people in a corridor half as wide. Which can’t we afford exactly?!

    As it is people in Browns Bay can catch a busway bus to the CBD, and connect to other routes. The answer isn’t really about building massive wide rail networks like Melbourne has, it is about doing it smarter. Part of that involves having plenty of employment, education and retailing in non-CBD centres that can be accessed easily from the public transport system.

    Auckland is actually very poorly suited to a road based sprawling transport network, it is those large, flat unconstrained cities that most support dispersed road grid. The ironic thing is the two harbours and mountains constrain Auckland’s development along distinct linear corridors (e.g. north, west and south)of which the transport corridors must run through a series of choke points. This is ideal for rapid transit, but not for roads!

  12. Also I don’t think Auckland can get by with two rail lines only, we need a line out to the airport, through east Auckland and when the Busway hits capacity over the shore, plus of course a CBD tunnel to allow all the lines to operate…

    A radial system like this would suit Auckland’s size and would be comparable to Sydney’s and Melbourne’s systems (per head)… Off this system you have feeder buses…

    This is about $10 – $15 billion dollars of work and after the completion of the WRR it is what we should be spending ALL our transport money on (apart from essentials such as maintanance)…

  13. I think john-ston worked out that there are basically 6 main corridors onto the isthmus.

    1) Harbour Bridge
    2) SH16
    3) Great North Road/Ash Street
    4) Mangere Bridge
    5) Southern Motorway/Great South Road
    6) Pakuranga Road/Southeast Highway

    We already have railway lines at two of them (number 3 and number 5), but eventually you could link up most of the city with the isthmus and then into the inner area through having either a busway or a railway line along each of those corridors.

  14. Auckland’s problem are the choke points. If you were starting from scratch and you had unlimited money you could run large numbers of trains trams and buses through them, but it haven’t seen any plan to do this that is economically viable.

    The other problem is that as soon as you introduce multi-modal changes or bus/train exchanges PT usage drops off rapidly.

    I agree, wider motorways will only make our problems worse- for solutions though I do think we should think outside the square a little.

  15. TopCat, I must ask what your evidence is for the assertion that once you introduce multi-modal exchanges, patronage drops off. In cities like Toronto and Perth, the vast majority of people using the rail system arrived at their station on the bus. Both cities have vastly higher PT use than Auckland, where transfers are avoided like the plague.

  16. “I agree Max, there are certainly clever push factors that haven’t yet been looked at. Removing minimum parking requirements would be one of them. No real cost to the economy (quite the opposite in fact), definitely not nanny state (quite the opposite in fact) but still a big push factor.”

    That’s not adding a push factor for PT. That’s REMOVING a push factor towards car dependance. All for it.

  17. Admin:
    //TopCat, I must ask what your evidence is for the assertion that once you introduce multi-modal exchanges, patronage drops off. In cities like Toronto and Perth, the vast majority of people using the rail system arrived at their station on the bus. Both cities have vastly higher PT use than Auckland, where transfers are avoided like the plague//

    I think I agree with Topcat, that the market *in Auckland* simply doesn’t want to transfer in the course of a journey, and therefore, introducing multi-modal exchanges wouldn’t help matters overmuch. Example: the railway station carparks are crowded, and any new capacity would fill up very quickly. And that even applies to the busway, where you can take a single journey from Browns Bay, say, to the city without having to transfer. Instead, a lot of the busway market would rather drive to a station. Given that they have a direct no-transfers link, why?

    How you influence the market to take multi-mode trips is a really good question – but a lot of it is about service standards at the periphery. A 15m bus frequency to a railway station doesn’t cut it.

  18. You need to look at the costs and benefits of shifting to a “transfer-based system” though. The cost is pretty obvious – the annoyance and time lost during transfering. However, the benefits can be significant – with resources used more efficiently you might have routes running at 5-10 min frequencies rather than 20-30 min frequencies. Overseas cities tend to show that benefits outweigh costs in this regards, as cities with transfer based systems seem to have much higher patronage.

    I don’t buy the argument that Auckland is different. We make logical choices about transport just like everyone else. The problem is at the moment the logical choice for 90% of people is to drive.

  19. We cannot consider the current situation in Auckland to be anything approaching a properly run system, Auckland is an example of ‘worlds worst practice’.

    If a transfer based system affords the traveller a faster journey end-to-end with little inconvenience along the way then people will flock to it, it is that simple. Transfers are basically the only way that you can build an affordable system that allows people to travel quickly between any two points, anything else is either rediculously expensive or has such poor frequencies that most people don’t even bother. Auckland has a little of the first and a lot of the second at the moment. It isn’t really due to a lack of money or services, it’s due to the ideological myth that people wont transfer even when it has a better outcome for them that prevents effective and efficient service patterns from being provided.

    In regard to the busway, just because the car parking takes up a lot of room and is very visible that doesn’t mean thats where all the people come from. For example between Constellation and Albany Stations there are enough parks for approximately 1,400 cars which equates to 1,800 people at typical occupancy rates. This is about 40 bus loads woth of people, which is about the number of buses that moves along the busway in twenty-five minutes of the morning peak. The vast majority of busway uses get there by bus.

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