Now I’m sure many of you will assume that this post is going to be about the old thing on rails in the middle of this picture but that isn’t what interests me the most about this beautifully framed shot – I just love the separation of the dark shaded foliage on the left from the brightly lit trees on the other side by that narrow stream of sky. A good lesson on why it often helps photographers to think in black and white, at least when learning. But I digress. No what I see more than anything else here are trees.
Beautiful orderly trees. Two lines of that most perfect of city street tree; the London Plane. So not just some greenery but really a whole architecture of planting; dominating and defining the streetscape. We are lucky enough to still have a few of these streets in Auckland, like Hakanoa St in Grey Lynn below.
I am not sure exactly when the Jervois Rd Planes were planted or even precisely when they were destroyed, but basically they went with the trams, not that you need one to have the other, but to resist the claims that the car will make to all road width it certainly helps to have an effective and less space hungry system of movement to leave room for such splendour.
I am fully aware of why we don’t have trams on Jervois Rd anymore; they were removed in order to not get in the way of the cars, and to not compete with them. But were the trees also removed to allow more road space for these things? It seems likely, traffic lanes do go out to the full width at the intersections and at mid block where there are only [!] four traffic lanes the excess is occupied by parking and the painted median.
Or was it a Council cost saving measure?, you know- no leaves to pick up, or something about overhead wires?, but then they seemed to co-exist with trams that used overhead wires. Or did the locals want them gone? A bit hard to believe- shade in summer and sun in winter, a lovely buffer to the traffic….And of course we all know that a leafy neighbourhood commands higher property values. Checkout this on the Economics of Urban Trees from Atlantic Cities.
In a 2010 paper in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, Donovan and Butry found that a tree in front of a Portland property added more than $7,000 [PDF] to its sale price. Earlier this year another team of economists reported that walkability, in the form of nearby businesses, raises a Portland home’s value by about $3,500 in a treeless neighborhood, but more than $22,000 [PDF] in a tree-lined one.
I know there has been a community led campaign to return Plane trees to Jervois and Ponsonby Rd [Ponsonby Rd was the same- Planes all the way along it] and this is great but they are rather sporadic, having as they do to fit around now dominant road infrastructure, nothing like the glory of the evenly spaced and carefully maintained beauties above. There is a real lesson in this picture with both the tram and the trees; once you lose an amenity in a city it is very hard to get it back. And if you look at the picture above clearly you will see that the trees were not on the footpath, as the new ones are, but between the traffic and pedestrian space, like they still are in Franklin Rd.
And what is very hard to understand is why the trees had to go to all, there are parking spaces between them, much nicer to park in the shade. Was it fears about safety; a driver might not see someone or some vehicle coming out from behind a tree? If so yet another reason to bemoan the effects of the auto-age and its total domination by the perceived need of the car. Whatever the reason the traffic engineers have taken full advantage and hogged the whole width once the trees went.
Because there is a lot we know about the great benefits of trees on a place and its society. Take this post from Grist which investigates the relationship between tree planting and crime reduction in the home The Wire- Baltimore:
According to the study, a 10 percent increase in trees roughly equaled a 12 percent decrease in crime.
Which then brings us to really interesting idea: Could a programme of transformation of our streetscapes through planting both increase the value of neighbourhood properties; their walkability, their economic performance, and even reduce crime? Trees, along with high quality public transit are probably the best two tools in the battle to regain higher quality of place in our cities where it has been sacrificed in the rush to speed the movement and storage of vehicles.
Again from Grist here is a startling observation: The treelessness of poorer neighbourhoods means you can tell the relative worth of areas from as far away as outer space.
De Chant has collected images from four U.S. cities and two international cities, and in every one, the wealthier areas are conspicuously more leafy.