When discussing the pros and cons of projects like the City Rail Link or the shared space upgrades, it is almost inevitable that someone will question the value of spending such a large amount on the City Centre. While questioning any big expenditure is a good idea, the arguments are often quite insular and to be frank, a little selfish. You hear things along the lines of “Nobody I know ever goes into the city”, “The CBD is just full of foreign students” or “why spend money on Queen St, last time I went there is was full of drunks and beggars”. Often it comes down to someone simply saying that they don’t like the central city, or don’t find any value in it.

At the surface level it is quite easy to brush off such complaints because they all follow the same fallacy: taking a personal experience and assuming it holds true for everyone else. It’s understandable why people form these kind of views, after all unless you put some effort into researching a topic you’re own experience is all you have to go on. But at a deeper level we can get past this to a very important consideration, whether enough people actually visit the urban core to justify spending big bucks there. To be objective we need try and get some reliable data on where we should spend our public funds to benefit the greatest number of people.

This leads me to another common argument and the reason I wanted to write this post. Many times I’ve heard someone say “but the CBD has only 10% of Auckland’s jobs, why waste so much on so few people”. Every time I hear this figure I want to shout “balderdash!” and scold them for repeating hearsay to support their Luddite anti urban desires.

… but I can’t, because it’s true.

Well, sort of.

You see it can be true that the CBD has only a 10% share of Auckland jobs, depending squarely upon how you define the CBD. This is the gerrymandering that the title of this post refers to. No it’s not a slight at our dear transport minister, but there definitely is a political element. Gerrymandering is by definition the act of redrawing electoral boundaries to benefit one candidate at the expense of others, literally redrawing a line around the bits you need to get the results you want. This is how we can arrive at the 10% figure, one simply takes a narrow definition of the CBD and a broad definition of Auckland. It’s all too easy to gerrymander the result.

The good folks at Statistics NZ record figures on employment levels for each of our territorial authorities. They also do it by Area Unit, which are little neighbourhood sized blocks that cover all of our cities. A little searching on the website reveals a few simple statistics: In 2011 there were 627,110 job places in the Auckland region, while the two area units called Auckland Central East and West had 61,330 between them. Divide the Auckland Central figure across the region and you get… 9.77%, a smidgen off ten percent.

But what exactly does does that cover? Well at one end using the whole council region is a bit broad for defining Auckland, because it includes all the rural areas and country towns to the north and south. At the other end, well this is the area covered by the CBD according to that definition:

The Auckland CBD according to the narrowest Census Area Unit definition.

Taking a quick look at that we can see it really under cooks the CBD by any definition. For a start it doesn’t even include the downtown waterfront or any of the Britomart precinct, nor a good chunk of the K Rd area, or parts of Grafton, Quay Park or Wynyard Wharf. It doesn’t even meet the traditional definition of the CBD, which is the part of the city bordered by the motorways and harbour. I’ve never really liked that definition of the CBD, mostly because it is just based upon the position of some big barriers rather than any real change in land use. Also the very name is a bit off. Central Business District implies it is a place where only business gets done (and for that matter, the only place where it gets done). Calling it at CBD kinda ignores all the other things that go on there:  the shopping, the services, the restaurants and cafes, the theatres, the library, the galleries, the universities, the apartments, the parks, squares and promenades and yes, even the language schools.

So instead I’d like to propose a new wider definition that I’m calling the “Central City”. This includes the old CBD core around Queen St, but also the waterfront, Newmarket and Grafton, the city side bits of Parnell, Eden Terrace and Ponsonby, the bit of city around Quay Park and the Strand, the commercial parts of St Mary’s Bay stretching up College Hill, and the equivalent over by Newton Rd and first bit of Great North Rd.

It’s a little hard to define exactly why these places are included but it becomes immediately obvious if you look at an aerial photograph of Auckland on Google Maps. The Central City is the generally grey coloured bit with large roofed buildings, not the greeny bit with small separate houses. That way it includes all those other activities and functions. It’s about that simple.

You can also think of it as anywhere within a short walk of the Link Bus, and including most places that would be well served by the rail network if the City Rail Link was built. That’s quite an appropriate measure if we are trying to justify such a project, there is little point in leaving Newton, Newmarket and half of K Rd out out the equation if that is where the trains would actually stop!

Picking out the appropriate Area Units from Statistics New Zealand gives us a Central City that looks like this:

The ‘Central City’ of Auckland.

On the wider scale I think we should also exclude the really rural parts of Auckland Region, and just stick to the city itself and it’s commuter hinterland including places like Orewa. Going back to the area units, we get a reasonable approximation of metropolitan Auckland that looks like this:

One way to define Metropolitan Auckland

Ok so we’ve fiddled with the borders, so what does the job figure look like if we gerrymander back the other way? Well according to Stats NZ, this measure of metropolitan Auckland had 600,194 job places in 2011, while the new area I’ve called the Central City had 140,910. Factor that through and we get 23.5%, revealing that the Central City contains almost a quarter of Auckland’s jobs. So there we have it. By one very precise definition the city centre contains only 10% of our workforce, but by another looser one the figure is almost two and a half times higher.

Moral of the story? Fiddling with the numbers can get you just about any outcome you want, it’s being able to justify the fiddling that’s the important part. Personally I think it is much more justifiable to take a broad definition of the Central City according to it’s form and uses, than to stick with the old narrow CBD defined by where a motorway interchange happens to lie.

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  1. Great post – I have often wondered that the 10% figure seemed low. If you plot the current rail station locations on your map of the central city, it is easy to see how poorly served the area is by rail.

  2. Interesting, according to the Statistics NZ boundary, we still have no rail to the CBD/city centre. Isn’t that a reason for the CRL?

    1. Normally the waterfront CAU is included in the definition of Auckland City Centre. So the first map undercooks the traditional definition a bit (I think if you include the waterfront the % comes up to about 13-14%).

      1. Yep just gerrymandered the numbers again and including the waterfront brings it up to 13.4%. So another definition changes it again, and to get 10% you need to be very narrow in the definition. Actually, to really get the traditional CBD you’d have to do it at a finer level to bring in those extra bits of Grafton and K Rd that are still inside the moat-orway.

        1. CAUs are defined by resident population, meaning that many purely employment areas become so large that they become marginal for any meaningful analysis

  3. Yes interesting post. Great observations on why people dislike the CBD. Made me laugh and cry I guess in their accuracy. The reasons given should be a reason to spend more money on it.

    I think these people don’t understand the importance of having a thriving CBD. It is the window to the world. We compete globally for business and immigrants and this is the showcase and drives the rest of the city. Kill this off and our economy suffers. The CBD also is the catalyst to attract tourists internal and external to the city or country and can bring huge money to the economy.

  4. If you include the designated growth areas that aren’t inside the current contiguous built area (Pukekohe, Warkworth, etc) what does that do to the totals? I’m just thinking for the sake of absolute intellectual honesty it’s probably safest to include places that the Council has determined will see population and economic growth.

    1. The bit I’ve called metropolitan Auckland incorporates 95.7% of all the jobs in the Auckland region, leaving 4.3% across the satellite towns and the truly rural areas. Actually just going over my figures again I did already include Pukekohe in the metropolitan definition (just not on the map), but not Warkworth. For reference Pukekohe had 4,160 jobs in 2011 (0.66% of the region) and Warkworth had 2,930 (0.47%).

      So without doing all the figures again my guess would be very little. Do bear in mind this is a measure of the existing employment levels, so whether or not somewhere might have more jobs in the future isn’t a factor in the equation.

      1. How they contribute now will be some indication of how they’ll contribute in future, though, since most of the growth will be dormitory rather than economic. The people who live in those expanded centres will, mostly, commute elsewhere to work. Many of them will commute to the CBD. So including them helps keep things even if you want to do a future comparison.
        As you say, though, they don’t provide much economic activity at present.

        Also, you haven’t included the 10s-of-000s of students within the CBD. Between AUTU and UoA alone there will be conservatively another 15% of the jobs figure of people who need to get to the CBD to attend education, never mind all the private providers and the non-tertiary education that is based within your expanded CBD: Off the top of my head I see Junior and Senior College, AGGS, Dio, and a heap of primary and intermediate schools.

        1. Yes it is just a measure of employment. Things like education places, retailing, recreation and residential demands aren’t captured by it, so indeed it only tells part of the story.

        2. Is there a statistic for the number of people, total, who are in the central city on a typical weekday? A sum of residents, employment, students, visitors (shoppers/tourists).

          1. I’d assume the Council are getting a very good handle on that with their work developing the City Centre Access Strategy, will be interesting to see the results.

            In the mean time, the City Centre Master Plan cites that “over 200,000 people visit the city centre each day”.
            That’s supported by a few figures: 90,000 workers, 24,000 residents, 60,000 university students, but nothing specifically on shoppers, other students, entertainment seekers and all the rest. Couldn’t actually work out exactly how they defined the city centre though.

          2. That 60k university students cannot possibly be correct. It’s simply not possible. UoA has about 35k FTE students, and that’s spread across campuses at City, Grafton (med school), Tamaki, and Epsom (education), the latter two not being inside the CBD. AUTU is much, much smaller. Those are the only two universities in the CBD, even the expanded CBD. I would be surprised if all the tertiary education in the CBD amounts to 60k daily, to be honest.
            I could believe 60k students across all levels.

          3. The claim was about students, not full time equivalents. The former is more relevant for travel demands, part time students still come in to classes very regularly even if they don’t stay on campus all day long.
            A little web search reveals the following:
            UofA had 40,300 students on roll 2011 (actual students, not FTEs). Tamaki and Epsom would have a few thousand each at best, and many of those would take classes between the campuses.

            AUT reports 26,243 students in 2011, comprising 18,518 FTEs. So not actually much much smaller, about two-thirds the student population (although more students are part time). Again most of those would be based at the city campus, only a few thousand at Akoranga. Likewise many students divide their time between the two.

            I think the claim of around 60,000 uni students in the city centre is justified.

          4. @Matt Clouds: AUT has 27141 students back in 2010. UoA has 39940 enrolled in 2011. Tamaki and Epsom campuses have much lower headcounts – Tamaki is only for postgrads, Epsom can account for 5k students according to this page: http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/our-faculty/campus-location#s2c1 . The total number of students in CBD is still around 60k by a comfortable margin. Plus, AUT and UoA are both planning or building new spaces in CBD which will further boost enrolment numbers.

          5. I work at UoA. I’m quite comfortable with the numbers. I’m also very much aware that there’s a huge difference between enrolment and attendance. If every enrolled student was turning up most days, 60k would be reasonable. But they don’t.

          6. It’s also double counting those students that are residents, given that the majority of the hostels are in the CBD. And that’s the first definition, not even the expanded one.

          7. A lot of the residents will be double counted as workers, too, if you sum them together. And if you both work and live in the city centre, you’re unlikely to be catching the train.

            That said, the city rail link would have been great for me a couple of months ago: living right by Britomart, working right by the future Newton station. Bet it’d be quicker than the 277.

          8. @Steve -exactly, the main point being that summing all the figures together gives you a woefully overstated amount. And a station out at Lincoln would have been great for me and all my work mates that live in Manukau, your point being?

          9. > the main point being that summing all the figures together gives you a woefully overstated amount

            That was my point. Even if you can figure out how many people are in the city centre on a typical weekday, so what? The relevant part for people interested in transport issues is how many people want to get in or out of the city centre, and can’t just walk.

  5. I suspect that the official definition relates to density as measured by consumption of utilities such as electricity, gas, telephony/internet, water/wastewater – but that’s just a guess. However I like your wider definition insofar as it distinguishes between predominantly business, predominantly residential and predominantly rural activities.

    1. As far as I know there is no official definition. And I’d suggest that the reason we get hit with the 10-15% figures has nothing to do with land use etc, It’s simply because those two area units happen to have the word “central” in their name (Auckland Central West and East respectively) and so when morons want to do calculations of jobs in the city centre (usually to disparage the latter) they pick those CAUs and deliberately ignore the wider extent.

  6. Nah I think it is just a convenient place to draw the boundary, because there is a huge phsyical boundary there. For example density and consumption of utilities will be higher on the west side of K Rd where the old telecom tower and a couple of other tall buidings are, than the east side where there is a lower scale retail precinct. The only thing separating them is a large cutting full of traffic lanes. Having said that I don’t think there are any official definitions for anything but territorial authority.

  7. “whether or not somewhere might have more jobs in the future isn’t a factor in the equation.”

    Councils have a statutory duty to plan on behalf of future people as well as current ones. Infrastructure lasts many decades and is hard to re-do later.

    The Auckland region’s projected population growth (two thirds of all new New Zaelanders in the next couple of decades) is reason enough to be investing in genuinely sustainable transport infrastructure rather than more and more lanes of costly tarmac.

    The proven benefits of clustering people and businesses are already driving urban planning and town centre development across the region.

    The Core Rail Link merely allows the region’s entire rail network (and associated buslanes and bus-to-rail-hubs links) do its job in several decades. The CBD is important but we really need to tell the whole story. New Lynn, Manukau and other growth centres are part of that too.

    1. Sacha – I’m not exactly sure what you are referring to? Nicolas is specifically talking about the statistical units used city centre and how that relates to population/employment numbers. I don’t disagree with your comments, but they seem a bit off topic …

      1. CBD population/employment numbers are being raised as part of the justification for the Core Rail Link. The cross-region benefits of that need to be better and more consistently conveyed by all concerned, that’s all. Agree that’s a more central focus of other posts. Appreciate the work in this one.

  8. Don’t mean to disparage the great work in this post, btw. We need more like this, especially from public agencies whose job it really is.

    1. The public agencies do do all this sort of work, and to a lot better detail that myself in a quick post, it just isn’t always common knowledge with the general public.

  9. Very good post Nick. That motorway severance keeps tripping Auckland up, not just physically but also in how the place is perceived.

    Old Prof Cumberland made a career out of Gerrymanding the density of Auckland in order to support his desire for a dispersed auto based place. I have often wondered why he so wanted this, apart from it being the fashion of the age. Was it his love of nature? Not that infinite suburbia is a friend of the natural world, but the scale was smaller then, and that trick could be pulled, just. Suburbia could be thought of countryside and driving could be experienced as freedom. Both images persist until everybody is doing it then they collapse under their own contradictions: Albany for example is no longer the lovely bucolic orchardy place it was and sitting stuck in your car on Ak’s motorways is the very opposite of freedom.

    I wonder if his upbringing in Yorkshire gave him a lifelong loathing of those dense little bricky communities and the railways that served them?

    1. I think they genuinely believed they could achieve the best of both worlds, all the agglomeration benefits of living in an urban environment in a bucolic rural-esque setting to avoid the industrial horrors of 19th century Britain. All it needed was personal motorisation to stretch the distances one could cover in a given amount of time. I guess they never really expected what having everyone drive everywhere for every reason would actually do to a city.

  10. Not sure why you would “gerrymander” a suburb full of detached housing(Grey Lynn/Arch Hill)into a city centre classification.

    1. erm….Ponsonby Road and Great North Road – transport and land uses associated there? 10 minutes on a bus or bike from what you would call the downtown? Compared to living in Massey or Flatbush I think you kinda have to concede they are pretty central!

    2. That was to capture the commercial, retail and light industrial uses along Great North and Ponsonby Rds, I can only use the Area Units provided by Stats NZ and that’s where they lay.

      The fact that there is also detached housing in the Unit is totally inconsequential, because I only measured employment (unless you are assuming those detatched suburban houses contain significant job numbers?).

  11. This is a great bit of work – however I think it is wrong to emphasise that the (extended) CBD contains 23% of the jobs, so much as it doesn’t contain 77%
    In particular this piece would seem to reinforce the why would we spend so much for so little rather than disproving it. Surely we are better off providing access to greenfields sites like Highbrook for a fraction of the cost (which would have been less if Len actually had a clue or cared about public transport before building a motorway to it) – and which would service demographics more likely to use it? Because the tradgedy of public transport at the moment is we keep spending more on servicing lawyers, accountants, bankers etc that are most likely to still use a car, than the industrial, retail, services workers who are more likely to both use and need it.

    1. Karl the CRL for example is not a plan to serve the central city instead of the wider city, but one to serve both sectors much better. And connected with Integrated Ticketing and Fares and the reorganised wider PT system [read: buses] AC is working to connect everywhere better. But motorway building? That comes from Wellington so there is very little Len or anyone in Auckland can do about that.

      Part of the point in getting more accurate about the centre is show how silly the idea is that if it does well it is at the expense of other areas in Auckland- it is one interconnected system.

      1. @Patrick Under the presumption the funds are available, then using them on the CRL still delays any alternative projects in the wider city. Agreed integrated ticketing and an overhaul of the fares are required, but also not dependent on the overly expensive CRL. I fail to see how improving the rail links in the area that is already pretty well serviced by buses helps the wider PT system.

        As opposed to doing something like the eastern link line suggested elsewhere on this blog. It would be interesting to know what the comparative cost of that would be – and I would expect that despite the tinkering of accuracy in the CBD ‘numbers’ above that this would quickly show the fallacy of the CRL

        1. Not so kind sir, you make the mistake of assuming that the benefits of the CRL only accrue to the area above the new work. The principle benefit is a systems one; enabling much more frequent and reliable service on the entire currently underutilised rail network. So in fact for the new transfer based bus/ferry/train PT system to work to its optimum we need the rail network to provide turn up and go frequencies and reliability. Which in turn requires the extra capacity and reach that only the CRL can provide.

          1. Which is interesting because for the argument to be valid it has to assume at the same time that the CBD is and isn’t the intended destination.

          2. Of course, the point is to turn a terminating system into a through system. So journeys may or may start or end in and around the centre or not. Completely different from the rail network now which only offers into the centre and back again. This is a transformational project; ie one that will completely change not only how we can use the wider city but also the very idea of Auckland. It is Auckland growing up; changing from just being an overgrown provincial town to becoming a city. A city with an identity and a unifying mechanism.

          3. That’s exactly it Karl, and perfectly valid. The CRL will serve all sorts of trips, including a heap to the central city, plus a heap not going to the central city but passing through between the various lines.

            Were you really suggesting that of the tens of thousands of potential users, they would all have only one single destination?

    2. I think you’ve got that backwards Karl, office workers and students in the CBD are precisely the demographic who use public transport the most (about 55% mode share), while industrial workers in the likes of Highbrook use it the least (perhaps 4%). If we built a 3km rail tunnel with three new stations across Highbrook how many people do you think would use it each day? Maybe 1% of the number that would use it in the city?

      1. @nick – I used to hold a similar belief to yours until reading a number of studies pointing out how public transport fails those not in an office environment despite them being the ones needing it the most. Despite being a white collar worker myself (and one that catches the train, right now for example :D) subsidising my transport costs is fundamentally stupid and achieves little. Why do services, industrial workers etc have low rates of PT usage – because we don’t run PT where and when they need it, so low cost car transportation ends up serving them better.

        However Highbrook was a total PT disaste because have a look at the mix of businesses there – it’s primarily high tech with corner stone industrial. It’s also a whole lot of consolidated sites from across the rest of Auckland that would have been well serviced by a freight rail link as well as passenger piggybacking. Instead the opportunity is now gone to get a line heading east towards one of largest commuter bases in Auckland.

        1. Karl, I’d like to make a few points if I may.
          Fundamentally it is harder and more expensive to service industrial and service workers by public transport because the demand density is low. In a office district you might have 50,000 workers within a five minute walk of a transit stop. In a industrial estate like Albany or Highbrook you might have 5,000. That’s a factor of the way we build our cities that translates into how those workers in different sectors use PT. A case in point, the CBD core I looked at first in this post has around 60,000 jobs in an area that could be served by one transit station (i.e. the proposed Aotea station on the CRL). Looking at wider HIghbrook – East Tamaki area unit, that has 16,250 jobs in an area that would need three or four transit stations to cover. So a quarter the jobs in four times the area, or in other words 1/16th the trip density. All other things being equal you’ll get around 1/16th the trips per dollar invested in infrastructure and services. There just isn’t the concentrated demand to justfy bringing rail rapid transit into those sorts of industrial zones, the stations and services would be empty most of the time (or rather service might run once an hour at best).

          I’m not saying that we shouldn’t service the industrial zone by public transport, just that we have to do it in a different way that is appropriate to the land use. In a low density mono-use area like highbrook you’d wan’t targeted buses serving primarily the commute/shift times of the local workers, connecting to a wider all-day rapid transit network. In the Central City given the huge agglomeration of not just jobs, but services, education, residential and whatever, you need the rapid transit to service it directly.

          Anyway, the opportunity to service that area with excellent public transport is not lost, in fact it is only just starting. The Council and AT are pushing ahead with the AMETI busway project and the Public Transport Network Redesign. That will see HIghbrook connected to the rapid transit network at nearby nodes like Otahuhu, Panmure, Manukau and Pakauranga. That will provide excellent transit access to the area.

        2. Here’s a map of employment density (jobs per sq km) in Auckland, from data in (I think) 2006.


          Only the two areas in the ‘official’ definition of the CBD have seriously high employment per sq km (almost 20,000 per sq km), but equally, the next highest density areas are all in those fringe areas that the original post gerrymanders into the central city.

          For example, the airport area is a major employment centre, but doesn’t figure when you consider jobs per unit area, and that is the thing that counts when it comes to efficiently serving transport demand using mass transit. If all those trips to the centre could be taken off the roads and onto PT then it would make an enormous difference to the efficiency of the roads for everyone else!

          1. Thanks David. I specifically shied away from an analysis using density because of the problems of using Census Area Units as a denominator for employment. They’re just too big to be meaningful, the differences in density get averaged out across the whole unit. Take the airport area for example. It actually has a very high employment density, with a good 22,000 jobs all clustered in two chunks of about 2km2 each. So in reality something like 6,000 per sq km. But that doesn’t show up on your map at all because it’s all averaged out across a huge “Mangere South” Area Unit of about 40km2, which returns an average density of about 500 per sq km. The perils of average density across large areas!

            There is a similar effect on the fringe, one related to Geoff H’s concerns. On the fringe there are chunks of very high employment density, sitting shoulder to shoulder with places like Freemans Bay or the Domain (or Spaghetti Junction for that matter) that have almost zero. For employment density to be meaningful we need to go to a finer geographic unit.

            If anyone wants to do employment density to the Meshblock level then please be my guest!

          2. Nick, I wanted to do a point density map, and thought I had the data required for that but turned out I didn’t, only had data aggregated to CAUs. Do they make the employment data available at the meshblock level? I have real trouble navigating the Tablebuilder stuff on Stats NZ – it even seems to have become more difficult since the last time I looked. You are right for this (and many other) purposes, CAUs are too big.

            Saying that, I think the central city’s importance is routinely underestimated in Auckland. Sure, it’s spread out, like everything else here, but across an area from Ponsonby to Parnell, and from the Port to Eden Park there is a pretty high level of employment and economic activity. It peaks in those two ‘Central’ CAUs, but I think your extended notion of where the central city really is is a much truer representation of how things stand with respect to the central city. You only need to look at the existing planning zones to realise that, e.g.:


            Business zoned well beyond the motorway ‘boundary’ of the CBD.

          3. Yeah the table builder can be a real dog to use, and seems to get harder ever time! Luckily they are testing a replacement system which I hope will be more straightforward.

            I would assume that employment is available at the meshblock level, but only in census years (I doubt they’d bother running projections to that level of detail), and then it would probably be something you’d need to order specially. Even then it would be a bit problematic to use the meshblock area for employment density, because the are designed to have roughly even population which can have little relevance to employment. For example it still looks like there is only one meshblock covering all the airport proper, including a huge area of runway and stuff even though the activity is all clustered in the terminals and service buildings. Although in that case it is painfully obvious which part contains the jobs and which doesn’t, so you could manually adjust it.

      2. Also for the cost of the CRL I think you’d find that you’d actually reach Highbrook for your first stop, and nearly make it to Botany town centre for the 3rd. Then how much extra patronage as a substitution for car usage do I think you’d get? About 5 times as much as the CRL. In fact I’m happy to be proven wrong but while I expect the CRL will drive down bus usage I think it will do sweet FA to car commuting.

        1. Right…..except we cannot build any other railway lines until the CRL is completed because there is nowhere for any extra trains to go. Once we build the CRL then you can get onto building lines to Botany, Airport/Mangere, Albany.

        2. I don’t think the CRL will do a single thing for car usage, not one iota of substitution. Furthermore I don’t think it will do it with buses either, bus patronage will just continue to rise. I don’t think there would be any appreciable substitution for car usage in the city or in Botany.

          What it would mean is development, land use changes and an increase in economic activity totally independent from traffic and the constraints of the road network. That’s what the CRL is about, providing huge capacity for new trips, not simply shuffling around the old ones.

          Trip demand isn’t fixed and invariant, it’s not a zero sum game. If the CRL carries an extra 20,000 trips an hour, that isn’t 20,000 less cars on the road. Sure 20,000 city commuters might shift to trains, but 20,000 other people will take their place on the road. There is a huge demand for road travel and our city has a massive latent base of individuals who have access to vehicles. It’s close to one car per adult in Auckland. You’ll never see an appreciable reduction in traffic volumes due to a non road alternative, if you want that you’ll have to restrict capacity or limit demand through pricing.

          So the net change isn’t one of substitution, it’s an increase. It’s 20,000 more people able to go about their business at the same time, or in development terms 20,000 more jobs or education places or whatever. The best part is we shift the proportion of the city’s trips that run off road. We increase the proportion of people that can travel on a mode that consumes low amounts of energy per capital, and requires very little land for the guideway (especially as we have the main trunk lines built already). Moving 20,000 more people by car, and to a lesser extent bus, means a lot more roadspace is required, plus parking, vehicles and imported fossil fuels.

          1. Nick I’m not so certain, but that depends on other choices we make [plus other external push factors]. The CRL and other the PT changes already underway will allow us to choose to ‘discourage’ vehicles from places that we want to improve with more ease. And this is particularly in those places under the most stress from auto-dominance by design; the centre city, Newmarket. By pricing drivers out with street design and parking costs and restrictions more will, as they are now, move from driving to other modes. When I say pricing I mean adding not only financial costs but time and convenience costs. These are habit changing drivers and are observable around the world. And of course we are talking about changing percentages not everyone.

            Take the wider city as a whole and you could be right, especially if all we do is build more road amenity and sprawl more, but we sure as hell can change the quality of a huge number of people’s experience of urban life, and thereby lift the performance of the whole place.

            When the CRL is running my money is on a considerably lower VKT per capita in Auckland. And yes substitution. And the CRL will do a significant job of making that possible without the whole city just declining.

          2. Well yes we may see some shift in vehicle useage by reallocating roadspace, changes in parking and cutting back on traffic priority. But that’s not a function of increasing rail trips. It’s something that becomes easier if we do build the CRL, but it’s not a direct outcome. I.e., we could not build the CRL and still modify our street design, parking etc to achieve the same VKT outcomes.

            “considerably lower VKT per capita in Auckland”
            Of course, but I think this will come from meeting growth in travel demand (due to population growth and increased economic activity) with non-vehicle travel, or by reducing priority given to vehicles, not by any appreciable reduction in gross vehicle kms due to the CRL itself.

            So it’s more about changing the way we grow going forward. I don’t expect we’ll see a huge change in VKT from what we have now, but the salient thing is that we’ll (hopefully) have grown by another million people and whatever associated GDP without increasing VKT anywhere near to the same extent.

          3. Simple question then; PT use has been rising pretty consistently across all modes this century, has this increase been faster than the increase in population? If so where are the new riders from if not converted car drivers?

          4. It’s a bit of a stretch to assume that anyone taking trips by bus would otherwise take the same trips the same amount of times by car. I just don’t see it as a one or the other equation. So if not refered car drivers, how about people just travelling more often? Perhaps it is just greater mobility and activity. I’m talking on a net basis here of course, certainly there will be individuals whose will personally shift to a train or a bus instead of driving, some might even give up their cars completely, but are they going to leave an empty peak lane behind if the do?

            Anyway that’s getting a bit far from my point, which was that even something as revolutionary as the City Rail Link won’t have the pull power to empty out the streets. To do so we’d have to assume it were such an amazingly superior alternative that people wouldn’t want to drive even if the roads had no congestion. But it doesn’t have to to be a roaring sucess, all it needs to do is move people where they want to go efficiently. If we shift another 50,000 workers around the region at peak hour while traffic levels stay the same then that is a huge win.

            IMHO what is keeping traffic levels static in the face of increasing population is a push factor from the driving end, the cost or the frustration or whatever it is.That’s the sort of thing that will make people not want to drive. I think we’ve hit our city’s acceptable equilibrium and will probably stay here while other transport takes a bigger role in providing mobility. Arguably one of the main roles of the CRL is to have a central city that can double in size without any net change in traffic. That’s still not taking cars off the road mind.

    3. The thing is that 23% or whatever it is in one place more or less while a location like Highbrook on its own has a much smaller proportion of the employment and commercial activity – and even if its connection via PT is massively improved it is unlikely that percentage will increase greatly. The other issue is the one that others have pointed out: without the CRL the network limitations make it impossible to connect anywhere better!

  12. @Patrick – with regards to motorway building and Highbrook this was completely within manukau councils control. That’s why they got 7.6 mil from the developers as a part payment towards the 74 million they spent on building the Highbrook off ramp and Highbrook drive. Now they could have taken John Banks approach (at Sylvia park) where the consent made the developer fund the train stop and bus stop infrastructure – but instead decided a nice new road would be better for a new area with lots of new jobs (and a friggin logistics centre for NZPost and Converga for goodness sake!)

    1. Yes well one look at Manukau City and we can see that the whole place was planned by some car crazed insane types. Like Willimont or what ever he is called; a complete nutjob who is still banging on about the need for infinite quantities of more motorways in Auckland. Hopefully that culture is/has changed with the advent of the City Super? I think Len has been a fairly recent convert to seeing what is so poor with the urban form of AK but my spies inform me that he is nonetheless a very committed and sincere one…. we shall see.

      1. Len, like his Labour ties, is very committed to whatever message gets him votes.
        He doesn’t have the experience or conviction to do anything of this scale competently.

        Hence why the main plank in his election campaign still hasn’t started, for the reasons pointed out to him during the campaign which he ignored and fobbed off.

          1. When he said they would be funded by PPP’s or infrastructure bonds and not ratepayers or taxpayers – YES IT’S HIS FAULT!

          2. Funny Karl, well I guess we’ll see; let’s change the government and perhaps you’ll then be able get even angrier when the big fat ‘road block’ in wellington is removed.

  13. The “pink” CBD area includes the hospital – so may jobs and students. It also would include patients (about 1,000 who you could count as residents or visitors) depending on how you want to count them of course. Also many hospital visitors and outpatient visits.
    Would more attend students attend if transport was better? I heard some say they were not going to come to Uni when NZ bus had stop work meeting last Friday.

  14. Problem is Karl, you can’t have a rail line to Highbrook – or to Botany Town center or anywhere else – until you build the CRL. I can’t believe this point still has to be raised….

    You seem to argue that there are better places to spend the money on rail, places that need(ed)rail, but ignore the fact the the network does not (or will not in a few years) have the capacity to provide for those extra services. You are stuck with the current network – and all its limitations – until the CRL is built.

    If our motorway network was reaching capacity we’d have no trouble justifying $2bn to fix that (albeit temporarily). But a network that carries 11m journeys a year and growing (30,000 a day – translate that into cars on the road), can’t get a penny.

    There’s no silver bullet to congestion but rail has its part to play. If only those with the purse strings would let it.

  15. Nick- Great post, but a fair bit of your own gerrymandering too…

    The reason the CBD/ ICC/ City Centre/ acronym du jour is generally recognised to be the area bounded by the steel and concrete rivers is because it has been this way for 60 ish years. People have adapted to that. Freemans Bay is now the area west of SH1 to Ponsonby Rd, with the old eastern half now CBD West, Newton has been chopped into three parts, things have changed.

    Claiming that “The Central City is the generally grey coloured bit with large roofed buildings, not the greeny bit with small separate houses.” in your lilac coloured map is disingenuous, as well as a patent hyper-exaggeration. Freemans Bay is about 90% greeny with small seperate houses, St Marys Bay- the same. Ponsonby East and Grey Lynn East, also in your “Central City” are almost entirely green with thin bands of shops along Ponsonby and Great North Rds and a small area of the dreaded Mixed Use in Pons and Grey Lynn.

    Relying on the Census Dept’s areas also gives us the preposterous notion that people at the Grey Lynn shops would even think of walking to a CRL station 2.3 kilometres away.

    Big-upping the benefits of the CRL is good, but taking extreme liberties with the make-up of the Western Bays, not so much…

    Oh, and Stu is right- the waterfront Census area is part of the CBD.

    Enjoy the movie!

    1. “the preposterous notion that people at the Grey Lynn shops would even think of walking to a CRL station 2.3 kilometres away”

      They’d catch an (integrated) bus.

    2. Way to miss the point Geoff. The whole idea of this post is to show that the answers you get depend on how you define the question.

      I addressed your concerns in a comment above, I really should have made this redundantly clear because I knew someone would get their knickers in a twist over it.

      The pink map of the Central CIty shows the Census Area Units that I had to include to take in the bands of ‘grey coloured roofs’ that stretch along Ponsonby Rd, Great North, etc. Census Area Units are reasonably broad. I’ll just make this perfectly clear, I was measuring employment numbers and employment numbers only. It doesn’t matter if bits of greeny residential get included in the spill over because they have no appreciable employment. They are not counted in either the numerator or the denominator of the equation. The only reason the boundary pops out to the corner of Grey Lynn shops is because that’s the corner of the Area Unit that also covers the employment zone at the start of Great North Rd and around Pollen St at the other end. I’ll make that point one final time. It is completely inconsequential if I include some Grey Lynn villas in that zone also because I’m only measuring job places. Don’t worry, it’s not some conspiracy to have them included in the “CBD” so we can demolish them to build glass skyscrapers in their place!

      And no, I don’t think people would walk to the CRL station 2.3 kilometres away, but they would catch a bus to or from K Rd station. With integrated fares, the new frequent all day network and a trip time of about six minutes the residents, workers and shoppers of Grey Lynn can benefit from the CRL just as much as anyone else in the central area.

      1. Fair enough Nick.

        There is an organised “Fringing” happening that needs to have a eye kept on.

        I still say Western Bays is a bunch of inner city suburbs but not a C B D of any description. If its not said loud enough and often enough the glass scrapers will come. ..

        Go the CRL!

        1. I wasn’t really talking about the old CBD, I was talking about a wider definition of the Central City or some such term. I have absolutely no problem with having inner city historic suburbs with in the central city. There is nothing intrinsic in a city centre that demands everything be demolished in favour of glass towers!

  16. Karl – I wouldn’t be praising John Banks for Sylvia Park’s rail station unless you know something I don’t.

    Firstly it was required in the plan change prior to Banks becoming mayor so would have been under Christine Fletcher and maybe even Les Mill’s watch (Plan Change 4, version approved by Council in 2000 here: http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/documents/district/updates/t004/PlanMod004.pdf), although the consent was approved under his watch. Secondly, and harder to prove either way, the mayor at any time would probably have had a limited amount of involvement.

    In my opinion they’re also not really the same situation – it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to get someone to put a rail station next to their site on an existing rail line than to build an entire new line. To get any developer to contribute to that I would expect the Council would have had to have an existing plan in place for the rail line and be able to show that there is a realistically likelihood of funding the rest in the nearish future.

  17. Nick – I think the real issue is what a CBD is. Then you look at areas. I’m happy motorway (10% employment is pretty accurate). To me a Central Business district supports a wider city economy. It has a premium cost to being in the “centre”, and brings together key industry sectors to need to co-locate ie Finance and Banking, Professional servcies – Lawyers Accountants etc. Every city has that sort of hub. And yes some may be traditional, when your lawyer had to physically go to another lawyer/bank to do a settlement. But despite technology that has carried on.
    There is also a transport component, in that people from all areas can travel there easily – which allows these firms to select the best employees from the whole city/region. To me that is why the “fringe” areas do not form a true CBD.
    For example advertising / IT firms don’t inter-relate as much with those CBD sectors, so tend to move out to cheaper more spacious offices.
    In fact you could argue the “CBD” is now Victoria St north and will be west to Wynyard soon.
    the point is the CBD is just a part of Central Auckland – which is your wider area. It then becomes a residential/education/tourist area – with different needs – inclduing different transport needs.

    1. Indeed, I think the old concept of a CBD (which probably is just that Queen St valley core) is out of date and not very useful to us. The wider fringe area is very much the same economic and cultural space as the core, so why make a distinction? The traditional CBD is but one part of the Central City.

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