An article in the New York Times a few months ago summarised quite nicely recent research into connections between transport modes and health outcomes:

Millions of Americans like her pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial.

Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people get less exercise as the distances among where we live, work, shop and socialize increase.

Obviously there’s nothing really new in the fact that obesity creates significant health problems and that our car dependent lifestyles have created a culture where people have to go out of their way to exercise – and therefore many just don’t get around to it. What’s perhaps most interesting though is just how related obesity rates and other health problems appear to be with our urban form and our transport choices:

“In places where people walk more, obesity rates are much lower,” she noted. “New Yorkers, perhaps the ultimate walkers, weigh six or seven pounds less on average than suburban Americans.”

A recent study of 4,297 Texans compared their health with the distances they commuted to and from work.It showed that as these distances increased, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness dropped, and blood pressure, body weight, waist circumference and metabolic risks rose.

The report, published last year in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Christine M. Hoehner and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas, provided causal evidence for earlier findings that linked the time spent driving to an increased risk of cardiovascular death. The study examined the effects of a lengthy commute on health over the course of seven years. It revealed that driving more than 10 miles one way, to and from work, five days a week was associated with an increased risk of developing high blood sugar and high cholesterol. The researchers also linked long driving commutes to a greater risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation, all of which can impair the quality and length of life.

It’s not just in the US, similar results come from a Swedish study:

 A Swedish study has confirmed the international reach of these effects. Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University, found that people who commuted more than 30 miles a day were more likely to have high blood pressure, stress and heart disease. In a second study, Dr. Sandow found that women who lived more than 31 miles from work tended to die sooner than those who lived closer to their jobs. Regardless of how one gets to work, having a job far from home can undermine health. Another Swedish study, directed by Erik Hansson of Lund University, surveyed more than 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 and found that the longer they commuted by car, subway or bus, the more health complaints they had. Lengthy commutes were associated with greater degrees of exhaustion, stress, lack of sleep and days missed from work.

Fortunately it’s not all bad news though. The trends we’re seeing with fewer young people getting driver’s licenses than earlier generations, contributing to the general decline in per capita driving over the past 7 or so years offer some hope to researchers that perhaps we’re finally “turning a corner” on many of these trends:

In her book, Ms. Gallagher happily recounts some important countervailing trends: more young families are electing to live in cities; fewer 17-year-olds are getting driver’s licenses; people are driving fewer miles; and bike sharing is on the rise. More homes and communities are being planned or reconfigured to shorten commutes, reduce car dependence and facilitate positive interactions with other people.

Dr. Richard Jackson, the chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says demographic shifts are fueling an interest in livable cities. Members of Generation Y tend to prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and short commutes, he said, and childless couples and baby boomers who no longer drive often favor urban settings.

While there is still a long way to go before the majority of Americans live in communities that foster good health, more urban planners are now doing health-impact assessments and working closely with architects, with the aim of designing healthier communities less dependent on motorized vehicles for transportation.

Now, about that Unitary Plan that enables a huge amount of sprawl and the Integrated Transport Programme loaded up with poor value roading projects.

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  1. It’s sort of analogous to climate change. You can cite all sort of scientific studies; you can observe that 97% of all scientists hold congruous views on the matter; you can argue your case rationally and logically and in a nuanced fashion; and you can be reasonable and listen to opposing views, but it will be to no avail. I don’t think the National party cabinet as a whole is composed solely of those who opine that climate change is a fraud or that the links between obesity, sprawl and single occupancy motor vehicles, etc, are Greenwash fantasies, but you can’t come between National party politicians and their wallets and think you can get away with it. So, until something big happens, such as the current flooding in the UK, we’re going to continue on a diet of RoNS, sprawl all fed by our apparently endless appetite for hydrocarbons. Time for a change!

    1. You mean (to borrow, from the past – Labour’s 1972 election slogan of) “It’s time”
      So “It’s time for a Labour/Green coalition Government” you think?

      I think that is the only way you’ll get any meaningful action on this any-time soon.
      It would take another oil crisis sized world event to change the current course of action from this Government.

      Classic example today:
      I heard the Minister of Transport (Brownlee) saying today when questioned over why we have no boating and driving laws still even though they were recommended many years ago and we had 2 boating accidents over the past weekend both of which were fortunate to not have cost lives, were apparently drinking related.
      And yet the authorities are powerless to act unless they are caught operating a motor vehicle (or plane) afterwards.

      So Brownlee’s response to this was simply to say how hard it is to test drunk boaties on the water, so because of this fact we shouldn’t bother with any laws to stop “drink boating”.
      Which is pretty much the same head in the sand attitude he has to any non-car dominated transport policies for NZ.

      And of course, he is wrong on both counts. But this is typical Brownlee – when waffling on about something he doesn’t agree with – simply pick up on a minor (but true) point, blow up to enormous proportions to obscure everything else and then say because of this minor detail – the whole idea is preposterous so don’t go there ever.

      We have drug/drive laws in NZ, even if the tests are not done very often, they provide a legal framework in which you can control peoples behaviour and also aid during post-accident investigations so you can legally test for drug impairment or drug involvement with an accident even if its too late to prevent the damage you at least know the true causes.

      We also have similar laws for drink/flying now, and you don’t see the cop’s pulling planes over while in the air to administer a random breath test to the pilot/co-pilots do you?
      No, you do those things before they leave the ground and/or after any accidents as a matter of routine.

      So it should be with drinking and boating, even if no one is suggesting testing people on the water – they can still be tested when they come ashore (before they drive hopefully) and/or before they go on the water and lastly after any accident – just like pilots who operate planes are liable to face.

      And Brownlee also went on about how hard it is to know the level of impairment of a boat skipper, well parliament sets the level at 0.08 blood alcohol level for vehicle drivers so I would think that would be a good starting point. In the US, FAA rules are even stricter on plane pilots as follows:
      “… federal rules prohibit a pilot from operating an aircraft if he or she has a blood-alcohol content of .04 percent or higher—or within eight hours of having consumed an alcoholic beverage,”
      (from this link:

      Minor details that make something difficult are hardly a reason to do nothing, but thats Brownlee 101 for you – bluster, muddle the facts, deny there’s a problem, when you can’t deny a problem, then deny there is anything you can do about it. So in effect the Status Quo is perfectly fine thank you very much.

    2. Christopher T, you don’t seriously think that climate change has anything to do with the Somerset floods, do you? Here’s a hint: dredging of waterways. I’ll leave it to others such as Stu, whose statistical skills far exceed mine, to explain the mythical 97%.

        1. Certainly above average rainfall in that area for January, with other peaks having occurred in the 40s, 80s and 90s, however flooding has been exacerbated by EU constraints on dredging. The point is that as civilisation takes over previous wilderness, recurring natural events need to be managed appropriately.

  2. Even if 100% of scientists agree on something, doesnt make it correct. Not even close. Half those scientists probably arent even experts in the field and just agree because everyone seems to be agreeing. I don’t think any intelligent person can deny that human activities are impacting the environment. But no one knows even with moderate certainty the extent of that impact, the magnitude of the impact or the effectiveness of whether any actions we take will make any difference in the short/medium term. Unlike crappy modelling, you cannot deny empirical evidence. But you can spend all day arging over the cause and effect of relatively complex things like climate change and urban development.

    1. Actually, that 97% figure refers specifically to “climate scientists actively publishing peer-reviewed research on climate change”, i.e. those scientists are experts in the field of climate change (see for details). Of course, there will never be 100% agreement in any scientific field. The gold standard of scientific consensus lies in the publications rather than opinions of scientists, so it’s also worth pointing out that less than 0.2% of peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change published between 1991 and 2012 rejected human-made global warming (

    1. +1.. besides, between jonno1’s and Ari’s comments there are so many obviously egregious assertions I doubt there is much merit in engaging in any meaningful dialogue.

      1. I’m always happy to acknowledge & correct any factual errors on my part TBW. Please advise. Thanks.

        Gary, you’re right about being off-topic, however Christopher’s analogy was so far off the mark it wasn’t even funny.

        1. Fair enough, only one of them is yours.. I am always wary of anecdotes without hard facts, with at least a secondary reference.

          ahoopernz asked a reasonable question about whether the UK floods were attributable at least in part due to massively anomalous rainfall, which you flatly countered with anecdotal and unquantified assertions about historical peaks.

          But the fact of the matter is that ahoopernz is correct..

          “Four of the five wettest years recorded in the UK have occurred from the year 2000 onwards. Over that same period, we have also had the seven warmest years. That is not a coincidence. There is an increasing body of evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, in line with what is expected from fundamental physics, as the Met Office pointed out earlier this week.”

          Nicholas Stern, quoted here

          Note this doesn’t render concerns about flood management irrelevant.. on the contrary.

          But the climate change analogy is appropriate here, some people are not easily convinced by scientific facts and logic, as Christopher put it.. and your comment seems to back him up.

        2. OK, let’s be clear about this. Christopher T referred to, and I quote: “such as the current flooding in the UK”. As to references, here’s a link to the rainfall record for Somerset: (you’ll need to scroll down a bit to see the graph of January rainfall 1910-2014). However, if you wish to look at the UK as a whole, there were autumn floods in 2000 and summer floods in 2007 – see the BBC again:

          So there’s nothing particularly unusual about the rainfall anomaly (although it is a significant one), except that the consequences are much more serious due to meddling with waterway and wetland management. This came about through an EU waste management directive in 1996, supported by the UK Environmental Agency. I’m not debating climate change here – after all, the climate has continually changed over the last 4.8 billion years or so – I’m simply noting that it isn’t a significant factor in the circumstances under discussion.

        3. “I’m not debating climate change.. after all, the climate has continually changed over the last 4.8 billion years or so”

          So, what are you saying? That because the climate has changed before, naturally, long before we started driving our petrol engine cars around the sprawling suburbs, ergo it can’t possibly be that we are, right now, with our “with our RoNS, sprawl and… hydrocarbons” the dominant cause of the present disequilibrium?

          As I said before, there seems to be little point trying to hold a meaningful dialogue based on science, rationality and logic.

  3. I think the reason some people cant accept climate change is that that recognition of it follows a whole heap of environmental scare mongering. First the world was going to end around the first millennium. Maltus claimed the world would run out of food and starve or die of disease in 1798. More recently we were going to be nuked, then overpopulation again, then iceage then pandemic then nuclear winter followed by an ozone hole, then an asteroid would kill us, then peak oil, then Y2K would end society and then global warming. Problem is the last one turned out to actually be a major issue. But is it any wonder that you can’t convince some people?

    1. I know I lost weight when I lived in London even though I ate and drank much more. The 10 minute return walk every day to the tube station is 20 mins walking a day I don’t do here. Also I would walk to friends, shops etc instead of just jumping in the car. I do try and walk places here, but typically there are very few things I do within a 20 or 30 minute walk.

    2. So easy to spot the people who’ve never got by in their professional lives without a car! Walking to and from train stations makes a huge difference. It also means you’ll likely walk to a shop or to a train/bus during your lunch break if you take one, because your personal ‘devil chariot’ won’t be inertly occupying prime real estate.

  4. You seem to assume that sprawl will make people travel further to work. But work places can also move out as the city grows out too. New centres and industrial area etc can be created as the town expands. Sure some may argue we lose some economic agglomeration benefits, but those economic costs may be less than those relating to constraining greenfield land supply for housing.

    1. Yes and we’ve continued to do that for the last 50 or so years but it only appears to have made things worse. One issue is that people tend to move jobs more frequently than they move houses. Further with multiple family members in the workforce the chance of both having a job in the same general area is often quite small so still leaves people with long commutes.

      1. Fair point perhaps. The theory of urban containment makes sense. But are you are aware of a fast growing city that has successfully employed an urban containment strategy without experiencing major house supply constraints?

        1. Mission; growth containment not only causes inflated house prices everywhere it is practised, it causes worse traffic congestion too.
          The reason dispersed employment in some cities, like Auckland, has not had the beneficial effects it has in US cities (see my comment further down the thread) is that it has not been supported by planning. Auckland lacks decent wide inter-suburban and intra-suburban roads. These actually matter more than highways and CBD-centric transit systems. CBD-centric systems always tend to find equilibrium at a state of high congestion delays no matter how much they are expanded. But the intensity of the secondary road network is what really matters, because of employment decentralisation.

          The US cities tend to have laid down the wide surface roads as the city grew, not left it until it was going to be fiendishly expensive to do any widening.

        2. “Auckland lacks decent wide inter-suburban and intra-suburban roads.”

          Must be a different Auckland from the one I live in.

        3. Well Im not convinced that the Americans have perfected city planning. But I wonder if we should face the practical and political realities of trying to accommodate most of growth through intensification in Auckland. The second best option of building greenfield areas with good dedicated PT may be the more realistic. And that is what the Unitary Plan may enable if we back it up with the right infrastructure investment (big if I know)

        4. I call bollocks on that. The pro sprawl lobbies own research is that sprawl causes more per capita pollution and driving (refer New Geography Wendell Cox). Of course there may be more congestion in denser areas – but have you considered how much of that is caused by the suburbanites? It’s nonsense to say that Manhattan has congested traffic therefore Manhattanites must drive more than suburbanites (refer as before).

  5. The incidence of walking is nothing to do with the level of sprawl. In so far as walking might be a transport mode, it is everything to do with the level of “sorting” of residents and jobs and other amenities into co-location.

    Concentration of jobs and amenities, concentrates economic land rent, which leads to perverse “pricing out” effects on people which increase travel distances.

    Dispersion dilutes economic land rent, leading to maximum co-location opportunities.

    The co-location of school-age families relative to schools is probably a lot more successful than the co-location of workers with jobs. This is partly because such families regard co-location to the schools as the most important thing, and partly because planners have not got a fetish for concentrating all education into one zone just so the kids can be transported by public transport.

    Obviously if they did, only a tiny percentage of families would end up withing walking distance of the “education zone”, wherever it was. The rest would be priced out into longer and longer trips to school for their kids depending where they could afford a home.

    There are some helpful theoretical papers on the connections between dispersion/concentration and economic land rent.
    Anas and Xu (1999) “Congestion, Land Use, and Job Dispersion”
    William Wheaton (2002) “Commuting, Ricardian Rent and House Price Appreciation in Cities with Dispersed Employment and Mixed Land-Use”

    It really isn’t counter-intuitive at all that left to itself, the market will tend to disperse and co-locate households, jobs and other amenities, the price of housing will fall throughout the urban area, and average commuting distances will fall. This is precisely what has happened in most US cities, which is why their average commute time is 26 minutes while the UK’s is 47 minutes in spite of 6 times higher urban density. And the price of urban land per square foot in the UK’s cities is 100 to 300 times higher than the least-distorted US cities, meaning housing several times as costly in spite of several times smaller size.

    Misguided growth containment planning is just another repeat of failed conceits on top of the planned-economy experiments that collapsed in the 1980’s.

    PT-oriented, centralising planning is inimical to walking. Automobility and cycling and walking all suit dispersion and mixture. Good urban design matters too.

    Frank Lloyd Wright, who understood economic land rent better than most modern economists, advocated low density dispersion, but with apartment buildings dispersed around the place near major locations of dispersed employment, so “bachelors and recent immigrants” could walk to work. His famous “Broadacre City” model included these, if you care to track down images.

    Of course, the above relates to “transport modes”: many people get their exercise by means other than “transport”. They drive to the sports field, bush walk, gym, etc. It is a Procrustean approach to say that major urban form mandates are justified by “the need for exercise”. I have got plenty of exercise in my lifetime in the suburbs, and I fail to see why the location someone lives is any excuse for their sedentariness.

    I am the first to agree that ultra long commutes waste valuable time that could have been spent doing more useful things including exercising; but everywhere there is a serious incidence of ultra long commutes, the cause is “pricing out” and economic land rent is high. And high density cities, period, are just as prone to this effect as the few low or medium density cities that happen to have high economic land rent (still due to fringe growth constraints).

    Here is the data from a collation of cities by commute time – this is the “long” end of the set.

    Canada Toronto, ON 33 minutes
    Europe Madrid, Spain 33
    Australia Sydney, NSW 34
    Europe Paris, France 34
    Europe Praha, Czech Republic 34
    United States New York, NY-NJ-PA 34
    Europe Stockholm, Sweden 35
    Japan Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto 36
    Europe London, UK 37
    Singapore Singapore 38
    Korea Seoul 42
    China Hong Kong 46
    Japan Tokyo 46

    I don’t see any cities there where low density is the cause of the higher commute times. In fact all the low density cities are spread from the middle to the shorter-commute end of the data set.

      1. Houstonites complain and insist something is done about it. Hence they have built freeways and improved their congestion situation. Their congestion delay per 1 hour of driving at peak is 33 minutes versus LA’s 40 minutes and Auckland’s 47 minutes. And Houston grew from 4 million people in 2000 to 5 million people in 2010. Aren’t they doing quite well considering? Give them time to catch up with their highway building…….

        There is very little “pricing out” effect in Houston; people are not usually priced out of moving closer to their job if they want to. The trend is always towards greater sorting of this kind.

        1. “Give them time to catch up with their highway building…….”

          Give the induced demand some time to catch up* and they will be back to square one in terms of congestion, but with a lot less money.

          *Unless external trends such as people driving less or wanting to settle closer to the CBD come to their rescue, in which case they still invested in the wrong thing.

        2. I know what you are saying is an article of faith, but it actually isn’t true. Induced traffic is over-rated and is even more of a reason to not bother with public transport “investments”.

          If providing more road space “induces” driving, then any driver who switches to public transport leaves space on the road that induces a driver. The cost of inducing a driver by PT is a lot more than inducing one by building more road space, because the PT cost is ongoing opex whereas the road is almost all one-off capex.

          Houston is the only city in the world I am aware of that has reduced its congestion even as VMT rose; and it did this by building more highways.

          “Not building roads” actually has everywhere resulted in worse congestion than building them. The drivers of massively increased VMT have not been traffic “induced by building more road space”, but by women joining the workforce and generally getting liberated, the elderly driving more, and more and more democratisation of vehicle ownership and use. (The real cost of automobility has steadily fallen even as crude oil prices have risen). Almost all the increase in VMT comes anyway even if roads are NOT built.

          I recently suggested on this forum that the only data I can find so far, suggests that Indianapolis has about 25% more VMT than Auckland yet its congestion delay per hour of driving at peak is 15 minutes versus Auckland’s 47 minutes, because Indianapolis has literally 3 times the lane-miles of highways and arterial roads that Auckland does.

          I think civilised people have lost their marbles if they think road lane miles will fill up faster than we can build them, therefore we shouldn’t build any more.

        3. I suggest those people who think roads cause congestion go and visit urban areas without roads. I once watched a documentary about a South American favela. They had just installed an extensive cableway transport system. The presenter took a 2 minute ride on the cableway. Two fit boys went the cross country route, no more than two steps didn’t involve a change in direction. It took them hours.

        4. Erm, if you ‘induce’ a driver to take the place of someone shifting to PT you are moving two people. If you induce a driver by building g more road space you are only moving one more. So the PT option is twice as effective.

        5. Compared to what? Where’s your data? Where’s your data that shows that a high density city of Houston’s population and growth has shorter commute times?

    1. Fetish, really?

      Schools, particularly primary schools, are distributed more or less evenly so that they can be within walking distance of everywhere, in general terms. This is because primary schooling is a standardised and regulated process, every primary school in the country teaches the same curriculum and has to meet the same standards. There are some unique exceptions to this, for example Auckland has one French language primary school. This is centralised in Freemans Bay and attracts students from all over Auckland and not just Freemans Bay.

      Jobs on the other hand, are not identical and standardised. You couldn’t just put one standardised workplace in the middle of each suburb and have everyone work at their nearest one. Well maybe if we had some kind of soviet approach to labour that standardised and regulated employment to the same level as education, and treated workers as just simple and equivalent labour units.

      A primary school can function on a catchment of local students in any location, because any and all schools and students are basically the same. Likewise with supermarkets and gas stations, you can and should disperse them around because they are more or less identical, it doesn’t matter which one you go to.

      Most workplaces could not. The need specific staff with specific skills, abilities and training. There are thousands of different types of job out there. Are we to have a thousand job types in each neighbourhood so that people can work wherever they live? Or are we to have people to live depending on what they do for a living? What happens when more than one person in a household has a job? Or if someone changes job?

      1. Interestingly lots of cross town commuting with Secondary schools. What may well have saved the Auckland rail network in the dark days of 20 years ago was kids from wealthy Eastern Suburbs using train to get to Kings! Lots of School children also use train to get into central city schools from the South and West too. Always a bus load waiting at Britomart for the 020 to go to Auckland Girls Grammar, and big users of Grafton school kids too.

      2. NickR, I like your points. They support what I am saying. The fact that jobs are not standardised like education is, is an even stronger reason to allow them to decentralise and not restrict them to a major central node and a few subsidiary nodes; largely because PT viability is being regarded as an end in itself.

        You are arguing like someone who thinks everything has to be planned. Type-specific agglomerations evolve, they are not planned. Allowing them to evolve just “wherever” maximises the benefit from them and minimises congestion disbenefit.

        Employment will disperse, but with optimum clustering effects, if you simply let it. Cramming all employment into only a few locations means that many cluster types will actually not evolve at all, and there will be dis-economies of non-complementary businesses forced into proximity. Not to mention the barriers to new entry, of high land-related business costs. And the land rent effect that prices people out according to what they can afford, will be maximised. Of course a UGB multiplies the impact of this last effect.

        1. “Type-specific agglomerations evolve, they are not planned.”

          Spoken like someone who doesn’t understand how rigid zoning had become in past decades. Most jurisdictions didn’t even have the idea of mixed-use.

          Natural agglomeration and “like settling by like” exists, no question. But the extreme segregation between work and residential was as much an INTENTIONAL goal of decades of city planning as it was a natural tendency in part.

        2. I’m actually arguing against much planning and letting employment locate where it naturally works best. Again you seem to be taking a “planners under the bed” view and campaigning against us as your archetypal boogeyman without actually bothering to understand my position?

          It seems we are arguing for the same thing but perhaps have different views on what the outcome would be.

          Jobs are allowed to decentralise, in Auckland they have zoning for employment activities everywhere from Wellsford to Pukekohe, including right across the suburbs. You can build 40 story office towers in Albany next to warehouses and factories if you like, and there are acres of land sitting there empty waiting for it. We have buisiness areas across every suburb, on main streets and job clusters, and of course people can work from home at either the home office or cottage industry scale. Employment can and does disperse, so there is no case for “allowing them to decentralise” because we already do. There is no restriction.

          My point is that for a lot, but not all, of the job market centralisation is the natural unfettered outcome. In the unspecialised world of supermarkets and equivalent services decentralisation and distribution is the norm, sure. But in specialised world businesses will centralise for two main reasons, to maximise their potential pool of talented workers, and to maximise their exposure to clients and suppliers. It is a simple and inescapable fact of geometry that the middle of a region has the greatest net accessibility and the shortest distances to all points. If you are a specialised business that can base themselves in one location, the middle is the best place to serve a region from. My company for example would never locate in Kumeu, we would never have more than one office. If we are to operate in Auckland, it is in the centre. Luckily it is very cheap for us to locate and do business here. We have a half a floor of a building and it’s simple and cheap with good access for all our workers.

          By all means remove all the zoning constraints and urban growth boundary at the same time. The evolution you will see is even greater intensity of jobs in the centre, among other things.

        3. Where are the rules forcing jobs into centres. The opposite has been playing out recently with lots of new jobs popping in places like Highbrook, Airport, East Tamaki and North Harbour. Also all these places have terrible traffic congestion, which affects freight movements in these important industrial areas. Large reason for them having bad congestion is the total lack of alternatives, partially because hard to design efficient PT services in these areas due to rubbish urban design.
          10 large offices next to each other can give a nice town centre, with ability for good PT. The same 10 offices as islands of low density jobs equals no amenities and no chance of decent PT.

    2. If your commute is a healthy walk followed by sitting on a train browsing the internet on your phone, it is more like leisure than work.
      If your commute involves concentrating while driving and being stressed in traffic for 40 minutes, it is more like work then leisure.
      So it isn’t just the length of the commute, it is the type of commute. You can’t switch off when you are driving, you can when you are walking or on PT (or even cycling to an extent).

      1. My experience of driving to work was sitting in a queue unwinding and listening to my favourite music. It was just what I needed. My experience of public transport was crowded trains on the Northern line and cross people. Then later having squeeze into an over full Thameslink train because the next one along would be just as full. Two people can make opposite choices and yet both are maximising their utility. The important thing is we must make sure the choice is available and not removed from us by local government who think we are wrong and only their choice is right.

        1. Exactly John, the government should stop trying to force us to choose driving with their ridiculous budget allocation

  6. Thankfully, after seeing your base argument I can stop reading:

    “The incidence of walking is nothing to do with the level of sprawl. In so far as walking might be a transport mode, it is everything to do with the level of “sorting” of residents and jobs and other amenities into co-location.”

    So, how do you propose to “sort” residents and jobs into an “appropriate” neighbourhood? Any historic examples?

    1. Employment dispersion is the historical norm. Did you think centralisation of it was the norm, or something?

      Sorting is what the free market does. What do you think does it? Boards of aparatchiks?

      How do you think low density cities in the USA have shorter commute to work times than high density cities in the UK, if there is not quite efficient, totally unplanned sorting going on?

      Alex Anas: (SUNY Buffalo) writes:

      “The data on the largest U.S. MSAs show that commute times increase only slightly
      with city size: the elasticity of the average commute time with respect to the number
      of workers was about 0.1 in 1990 and 2000. With jobs and population sprawling to the suburbs, the average road distance between home and job and home and shop can become shortened as congestion increases on the average mile, so that travel time per consumer remains stable. These results suggest that urban sprawl itself has not been the cause of significant travel cost increases. Meanwhile, theoretical models of urban areas with polycentric and dispersed employment show that more sprawl, not less, is often needed to offset the negative externality of unpriced congestion and improve efficiency”.

      1. “Employment dispersion is the historical norm. Did you think centralisation of it was the norm, or something?”

        With a comment like that, I’m curious as to your views on the history of urbanisation. For example, what is your view on the development of, for example, London in the period 1800-1900, or perhaps New York between say, 1890-1950?

  7. Living in Swanson, I breathe fresh air off the Tasman and go for lengthy walks in the countryside looking at the stars. The CBD is an irrelevance to me. A place I go perhaps twice a year, so clearly sprawl hasn’t harmed my health in the least. On the contrary, it’s enhanced it.

    People in the city breathe pollution 24/7, suffer light and noise pollution, and never see the stars. If you want to take a decade off your life – live in the city!

    Sprawl isn’t the killer – the choice to work far from where you live is. As more and more jobs are put in the CBD, that problem will worsen. The solution is to decentralise employment, and make it possible for a greater number of people to work in the suburbs where they live.

    1. However is sprawl was allowed to continue westwards there would be no countryside, no bush, and no stars visible. Lucky you are at the very end of urban growth, with no prospect of it heading further. 20 years lots of people would have had the same experience with their property in Albany, now because of sprawl the experience is gone.
      Note similar experiences can also be had living in the CBD, within 20 minutes bike ride can be in Mission Bay, walking around Hobson Bay, or the Western Bays beaches. Because of Auckland’s topography very easy to escape to peace and quiet in the city.

    2. Living in Bayswater, I breathe fresh air off the Hauraki Gulf and go for lengthy walks on the beaches looking at the stars. The CBD is an integral part of my life. A place I go to almost every day by ferry, so clearly inner city living hasn’t harmed my health in the least. On the contrary, it’s enhanced it.

      So now we have two anecdotes – which proves – nothing. I couldnt imagine anything worse than living where you do, with no urban life around – I would be bored out of my brain.

      “make it possible for a greater number of people to work in the suburbs where they live” – You still havent addressed the issue with dispersed employment of what happens when you change jobs or if your partner/child/boarder has a different job. In fact no matter how many times I ask you, you just ignore the question – I assume because you have no answer.

      How do you address that? Or are you saying that we would have to relocate our entire family if one of us changes jobs? So we would have to remove all our kids from school and make them leave their friends? Or will the State impose identity cards to force us only to find jobs within a certain distance of our home?

      You are about 30 years out of date, living in a world where people have one job for the whole of their lives. If dispersion of employment was the answer, Auckland wouldnt have a problem as our employment has become quite dispersed – much more than in the past.

  8. So what do you have lined up for tomorrows post? Sprawl causes Americas Cup Loss! Irish troubles caused by urban sprawl! “Sprawl made me an Alcoholic” says model.

      1. Best we dont build CRL then as it will just encourage people to commute and that might cause them to get fat. Sorry if I can’t join in the anti car anti sprawl, two wheels good four wheels bad baaaaaaaah nonsense

        1. Sorry. Apologies for my last two posts on this thread, I can and will do better. First the peer review science used cross sectional data so it showed a correlation not causation, it was the journalist in her book who made that leap. The journal articles did not then prescribe forcing people into a CBD apartment as a way of improving their health nor did it suggest forcing up property prices would enhance anyone life particularly those prone to obesity or working too much. If the commuting is the health issue then we would need to know the benefits outweigh the costs of making a change if sprawl really is a public health issue. And maybe just maybe there are other things at play here. Maybe people who can afford an affluent lifestyle can also afford a house in the burbs.

        2. “forcing people into a CBD apartment as a way of improving their health nor did it suggest forcing up property prices would enhance anyone life particularly those prone to obesity or working too much” – why do you insist on using that word “force”? The complete dishonesty of that term in that context really detracts from your argument. Noone is being forced to do anything.

          Lets say it another way: “forcing people into a low density suburb on the city fringes as a way of improving their health” – that is just as true isnt it – i.e. not true at all?

          Are you denying that if people lived in neighbourhoods that encouraged them to cycle and walk that their health wouldnt improve? Do you think that sprawling suburbs like Flat Bush or Botany Downs encourage that kind of lifestyle? Go and look at any comparison between NZ and the Dutch in obesity or traffic deaths and then say therei sno benefit in encouraging cycling. By the way – the Dutch actually own more cars per capita than the British (though far less than NZ) so we shouldnt confuse car ownership and car use.

        3. goosoid the articles didn’t say recommend forcing people into apartments nor did they suggest removing choice. There is nothing dishonest in my statement, it is true that they didnt say that. The second part of your statement ‘ “forcing people into a low density suburb on the city fringes as a way of improving their health” – that is just as true isnt it ‘ the words you put in quotes are not my words. You wrote that not me. Your process of constructing an argument of quoting something I didnt say is the part that is dishonest here. You invented a quote to presumably attribute to me. That detracts from your argument.
          As for your argument about neighbourhoods that encourage walking and cycling well that can occur any distance from the CBD. People walk and cycle where I live miles from the CBD. Kids can walk to school. Their parents wouldnt let them in the inner city. Part of the reason parents choose to live further from work is so their kids can enjoy that type of life. Who in the inner city lets their 9 year old walk to school on their own. Who lets their young teenage daughter walk the dog. And finally if we allow the Council to push up land and therefore house prices and people hacve to take a second job then maybe that will be worse than commuting in a bus on a train or by car.

    1. It’s a stretch goosoid to attribute obesity to a single factor, even if it is a component. Obesity is actually about personal and parental responsibility (excluding metabolic disorders). For example, my grandchildren all drink water by preference but also enjoy “fizzy” and maybe KFC or McDonalds on occasion as a treat. They’re all incredibly active and walk to school (the exception being the rural ones where it’s just too far). So I certainly don’t expect them to become obese adults.

      1. Of course – but it is an amazing coincidence that 3 of the 4 most obese countries are known for high car ownership and sprawling cities. I am not sure why Mexico figures so highly. American cultural influences on food?

        It is certainly marked the difference in the size of people when you move from Europe to NZ.

        1. Did you think the English are thin Goosoid? I agree the continental Europeans seem to be thinner but then they all seem to smoke as well – tobacco being quite an appetite suppressant.
          Diet makes people fat – walking 20 mins a day losses about 180 calories (for a lardy) – A moro bar is about 300 calories – work out what fat people should do!

        2. 180 calories a day extra equals four Moro bars a week equals 9kg of body fat a year. Plus there are super additive effects of exercise and fitness.

          Few people are going to lose wait driving between the desk and the couch.

        3. Nick – If a lard ass walks 20 mins a day walking to the bus stop and back that will be 900 cals a week (assuming they work 5 days a week). Moro bars are about 300 cals each so it would be the equivalent of encouraging a lardy to eat 3 small bars of chocolate a week less.
          To lose 1 kg of fat you need to burn 7700 calories. That is 42 days of walking to the bus and back! And this is walking at brisk pace – if you walk slowly you will burn significantly less.
          You should also consider that driving burns 163 calories an hour, double the calories burnt sitting on a bus or train.
          Any exercise is better than no exercise but pretending that using PT will lose you weight is a stretch. If you want to lose weight you diet – if you want to get fit you exercise.

        4. Really Phil?

          I ate 5000cal a day last year twice the recommended intake and lost weight die to exercise.

          You are also ignoring the others benefits of exercise especially mental health and thst a fit overweight person is healthier than an unfit person of the same weight

        5. If you consumed 5000 cal a day and lost weight exercising then you were burning a huge amount of calories. Not many people would want to be eating 5000 cals a day. That is the sort of diet you might expect on an Everest expedition or rowing the Atlantic or a professional rugby player. As an example I try to keep my cal intake to 1500 a day and Im burning around 6000 – 8000 a week in exercise. That is quite a lot of hours of cardio and I don’t think many people would do that. I am truly impressed SB if you are burning the sort of cals you must o lose weight on a 5000 cal intake diet. Good for you.
          My point though remains – 180 cals of burn 5 times a week is hardly worth the effort and doesn’t qualify for life saving change in my book although any exercise is better than none.

        6. No not at all. When I say Europeans I never mean the UK or Ireland – the same for when the British and Irish say it.

          The weight problems of the English and Irish really illustrate the point – they are far more auto dependent than most Europeans. And even within Europe as you move further east and the car ownership drops, you really see the difference in size of people. Perhaps other than the cycling populations in Northern Europe who are quite slim.

        7. Quite right Phil, for every six weeks or so of walking to the bus and back each day you would lose about a kilo. At the end of the year you would have lost nine kilos, all else being equal.

          Doctors recommend half an hour of moderate exercise a day. Your average bus user would get most of that just through their daily transport.

          Indeed not eating those Moro bars would be a good idea too, and keeping fit and healthy requires both exercise and sensible diet. For anyone who drives from home to office job then back to watch tv on the couch, injecting even ten minutes walk each way would have big effects. But yes if you’re already a sports enthusiast like sailor boy or hit the gym every day it would get lost in the rounding.

        8. Also heard it said (don’t ask for sources – haven’t got time to search), that regular moderate exercise increases the body’s basic metabolic rate beyond the immediate “burning-off” effect during a particular session. It seems that a regular pattern of moderate exercise may boost the body’s general ability to eat and burn-off, even during times of inactivity. By effectively supplanting the need for moderate exercise, the car – or at least our over-dependence on it – may have done far more damage to the overall health of populations than people realise. Watch this debate unfold over the coming years, as the penny starts to drop!

  9. This better health outcome argument was used with great success for ‘concentrators’ in Greater Christchurch in 2006 when a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) confirmed that stricter zoning throughout the Greater Christchurch area was the preferred option.

    This was despite finding that concentration would lead to increased land costs.

    “It is likely that the concentration option will increase land costs in the urban centres thus driving up house prices. Proactive strategies will need be needed to manage this risk.” P.47

    The HIA found that hoped for gains in increased exercise reducing obesity, heart disease etc. would be greater than the actual measurably health care costs of poor housing from communicable diseases, poorly heated and ventilated housing, reduced disposable income leading poor diet and inadequate access to health care services. See the healthcare section of this article I wrote

    So the HIA influenced the powers that be to further concentrate development in Canterbury supposedly for the greater good.

    “This Health Impact Assessment confirms that “Concentration is more likely than Business as Usual” to result in good health outcomes” P.65

    “Of concern in this report is the potential impact of future Greater Christchurch UDS (Urban Development Strategy) decisions on the Greater Christchurch’s most vulnerable communities.” (Sir) Bob Parker P. 2

    How has that turned out. The Christchurch earthquakes inflicted a natural experiment of what would happen to a ‘concentrated’ urban environment when there is a massive increase in demand for new housing.

    Well housing costs have increased by 50% impacting on the most vulnerable. and even putting in jeopardy a generation’s work of moving the mentally ill into the community

    The healthcare benefits from ‘concentrators’ are all hoped for pie in the sky stuff whilst the healthcare costs of poor housing is an unfortunate reality for many.

    1. 1. Brendon you cannot discuss dwelling cost in ChCh without discussing the earthquakes as they obviously deeply affected both supply quantity and construction cost to say the least.

      2. Also chrischurch IS highly dispersed. Hard to imagine how it could have a lower density short of ceasing to be a city at all. All the fanboys of high dispersal and auto dependency will be able to point to how glorious Chch is in a few years with its detached houses spread out across the plain and its little wee centre with big carparks.

      And to some degree I agree it will be lovely; the centre will be very leafy and at least they are putting real effort into enabling the return of cycling at scale which will do much to ameliorate the blight on place that all that driving and parking will cause.

      But, it will struggle for intensity, which is a polite way of saying it will be relatively boring for a city, will have the quality of a provincial town. It will be highly auto dependent; therefore be both quiet but dominated by cars (like say Pakuranga in AKL). And not that cheap to live and work there because all this dispersal will increase distance and travel costs except for those that can reduce their lives to local activity and in as much as local centres develop connected to neighbourhoods. A place to retire to, then.

      NZ is, it would seem, conducting a bit of an urban form experiment. Ak, WGTN, and Dunedin are intensifying, or at least not spread so much, and Chch, Tauranga, and Hamilton are still sprawling. Interesting to watch, and people can choose the kind of place that suits them best.

    2. Patrick R the demand shock of the earthquakes is Christchurch’s version of Auckland’s demand shock from migration. Both have retained a strict ‘concentrate’ zoning system in the face of these challenges. The result is massively inflated residential land and house prices, because house supply is inelastic in the face of rising demand. In Christchurch a big local builder -Mike Greer commented that 10 years ago a section in a Halswell subdivision cost $70,000 now a new subdivision across the road sections cost $240,000.

      Any health benefits from increased density has been massively outweighed by the health costs resulting from the rapidly escalating housing costs. This is all quite predictable by anyone with a basic understanding of economics and now that it has happened easily quantifiably measured.

      I find your attitude callous. You don’t seem to care that people are really suffering because of this. Your argument is no longer rational and reasoned. You have resorted to sneering and not so subtle put downs, for some reason attacking Christchurch, “it will be a relatively boring…. quality of a provincial town… a place to retire to…

      1. Sigh. Just being descriptive Brendon. For a lot of people quietness and lack of busy-ness are attractive attributes. And like I say, people can and will choose. But also pointing out that lack of busy-ness also means a reduction in business.

        In my view both you and Phil H overstate the role of one regulation in dwelling cost and ignore too many other features, though I agree you do seem to less extreme than PH about this. He appears on this thread to be a single issue obsessive.

        I agree transport investment should be handled more at the regional level however it is generally our view that there is no need for any increase in spending but rather a change in the way current sums are spent.

        1. I don’t get your point Patrick about quietness and lack of busy-ness. Christchurch is New Zealand’s second biggest city. It has the second busiest international airport in NZ. Despite the earthquakes it is the only place in NZ that can conceivably rival Auckland. Wellington and Dunedin haven’t grown in years. Christchurch is much bigger than Hamilton, Tauranga and Queenstown the other fast growing places.

          And size isn’t everything. Google Nokia the town to find out where Nokia originates from or Lego. These are not big places. Is Germany’s Mittlestad based in big cities or small towns?

          Your attitude is condescending. Not that much different from assuming Maori were going to die out, so there needs were unimportant. I think your “Sigh. Just being descriptive Brendon” attitude hides the fact your world view is crumbling. The evidence doesn’t support your myths. I know lots of people down here who have been fed myths of greenbelts, council mergers, Greater Christchurch development strategies and other ‘concentrated’ forced density requirements will automatically change us into some model European city. It just doesn’t work that way.

          New Zealand needs to wake up.

        2. Downtown Auckland and the activity there now, compared to 20 years ago, proves that a denser city is a vibrant city. I would rather the Auckland we have now than the one i moved back to in 1994. Density allows public investment in libraries, PT, roads etc.

  10. I am not against density as a concept, the purpose of a city is to be dense. I just think in NZ we are going about it in the wrong way. We are trying to achieve an increase in urban density by driving up residential land prices. It isn’t working and is having all sorts of bad consequences that me and Phil Hayward have described.

    I am less dogmatic than Phil. I am not ideologically opposed to PT or apartments or high density nodes. I think they have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. I think we in a mess because our transport infrastructure/public amenities are years behind what our urban growth requires.

    Did you know that 100+ years ago NZ was a world leader in transport infrastructure provision. We had more rail per capita than anywhere in the world, except for the US (Belich). The Christchurch/Lyttleton rail tunnel was the world’s longest tunnel through volcanic rock. Now in parts of NZ we are heading to third world status. We are having difficulty maintaining what we have let alone improving the transport system in the face of growth and change. In Christchurch we can only afford to partially repair/patch up earthquake damaged roads.

    “This means most roads throughout the city will be partially repaired or patched rather than fully reconstructed,” a Scirt spokesman said. Mackie said any roads not surfaced after the project ended in 2016 would go into the council’s normal maintenance schedule. “They may not be fixed under this schedule for years.”

    NZ needs to massively increase transport funding and try to get ahead of demand. An example of this would be the new town idea. Note it has provision for PT and a high density node.

    I believe the increased transport funding should be handled by Local government, maybe at the regional level. So for Auckland that is the Super-city. Christchurch it is Ecan. I think this is important because transport needs to be planned, LG does that. Transport infrastructure land is purchased by eminent domain -compulsory purchase so needs to be handled by a public body. LG deals with housing zoning/planning and affordable housing and transport go hand in hand and there should be an explicit goal of achieving affordable housing + transport costs. Having many LG deal with transport infrastructure allows the case by case examination of what is needed, while introducing an element of intra regional competition that will help keep the bureaucrats honest. Not provincial sneering from the big city that we seem to be getting now Patrick.

    1. Brendon – I am from Chch and I think you are being a little unfair on Patrick. He isnt being callous but rather pointing out that the city being proposed (other than the cycling components and 30km/h zones) may not contain many of the attributes that a city needs to be vibrant. Now that may be fine for some but I suspect it will only lead to more and more of the excellent talent produced by my alma mater, the University of Canterbury, leaving for Auckland. That is already happening and the question is whether you want Chch to just become a large rural service town – basically a big Ashburton.

      Personally, I think that would be sad as the Chch I grew up in was a vibrant place and was getting more so until the earthquakes.

      On New Towns – I think they are a great concept. However my fear is that we will not see new towns like Houten in the Netherlands ( – a cycle and walking focused towns with excellent rail connections to nearby Utrecht) or Vauban ( – a car free community of 5,000 connected by tram to nearby Freiburg) but just more auto dependent dross like Marsden City (

      Even something like the finger plan of Copenhagen ( would be a way to use a cluster and connect model for new towns that would get us away from the auto dependent sprawl of the past. Chch is superbly suited to these models with a flat topography and let’s not forget that for 40 years Chch was likely the number two cycle city in the world (and no doubt number one in the Southern Hemisphere).

      However, we need real political will to change things. From my point of view, what Phil H is proposing is just more of the same mistakes NZ has made since 1950 that will do nothing to change our increasingly sedentary lifestyle or lower our appalling child road death stats (

      “Among the 24 OECD countries with road user death rates by age, New Zealand (with Greece and Poland) had the highest death rate for children under 15 years. At 2.6 deaths per 100,000, it was double the OECD median of 1.3. New Zealand also had the highest rate for 15–17 year olds, with 15.0 deaths per 100,000, more than double the OECD median of 7.3.”

      1. Thanks for replying Goosoid -I too believe Christchurch should have a vibrant future. I suspect there is no one ‘ideal’ urban model. I imagine if you visited a German town or city and then went to the Texan equivalent they would be completely different. But they both have systems in place to ensure low housing inflation and affordable housing. This affordability gives them vibrancy. German has not lost its manufacturing base and is the world’s largest exporter. Texas is attracting a mass migration from more expensive places like California.

        I have nothing against cycle ways and 30km/hr zones but I do know from personal experience and having talked to my Finnish in laws that for cycle lanes to work you need to remove some of the traffic, hence my talk of motorways, that is what they have done in Helsinki, Copenhagen… Biking in Christchurch is scary because the radial roads -Riccarton, Blenheim etc are so busy it is difficult to cross both car lanes to turn right. Bike lanes will not solve that problem. So Christchurch needs a massive investment in transport spending, an extended cycle-lane system is something like $70 million, Christchurch can’t fix up damage roads. We haven’t added any transport infrastructure to cope with the movement of people north, west and south due to the red zone in the east. Surely you can see the problem.

        I believe if we do increase transport spending we should be quite clear what the objective is. Alain Bertaud says it clearly

        “As a city develops, nothing is more important than maintaining mobility and housing affordability.

        Mobility takes two forms: first, the ability to travel in less than an hour from one part of a city to another; and second, the ability to trade dwellings easily with low transactions costs.

        Housing mobility allows households to move to the location that best maximize their welfare. Affordability is the ability for any urban household to be able to rent a dwelling for less than a 25% of its monthly income, or to buy one for less than about three time its yearly income.”

        If we get this right in Christchurch we can expect vibrancy to return. Get it wrong and we get unnecessary suffering.

        1. “for cycle lanes to work you need to remove some of the traffic, hence my talk of motorways” – Dave B has said it well below but just to add my two cents.

          Traffic is not removed by inducing more with motorways – it is removed by making other forms of transport more attractive and useful. Helsinki is not actually a great example of a cycle city as the modal share is not particularly high there, nor in Norway. To see what can be achieved you really only need to look at the Netherlands. Even Denmark is a distance second.

          I know it is scary but I am talking about changing Chch. Just like it changed before from a city defined by trams and the bicycle to one where the car was king. There is no reason why Chch (of all NZ major cities) cant go back to that structure.

          We just need to admit this change was a mistake and that cars cannot meet all our transport needs. In the Netherlands, there is no community based organisation like CAN, CAA or Transport Blog calling for cars to be given priority and free parking put back in the cities. There is no call for bicycles to be discouraged by building lots of large inner city roads and removing cycle paths.

          That is because a roading system that is centred around the bicycle is actually more pleasant, more convenient and much safer than one ruled by the car. How long do we need to allow so many children to die before we admit that?

        2. Goosoid if a new transport network for Christchurch can be devised based around cycling and it doesn’t force up house prices I will not be opposing it. I am not so arrogant to think I have all the answers. Blogs like this are good to discuss our options. But for this blog to have any relevance it has to honestly discuss how transport affects other parts of NZ society such as the planning system and housing costs.

      2. I like the Copenhagen finger plan of radiating trunk transport infrastructure. If would need some/a lot of ring connections depending on mobility requirements. I also like the idea of instead of green belts having radiating spurs of parks, natural forest or other natural eco systems plus market gardens. The area between those fingers could accommodate this sort of space. I think this is more likely to be a permanent resource for the city whereas my observation of greenbelts is they are gradually released at enormous cost to the buying public.

    2. “We are trying to achieve an increase in urban density by driving up residential land prices.” Increased density reduces dwelling price. 2 houses on a quarter acre are each cheaper than one. More density provides more funders per km of your roads. Of course NZ can’t afford to maintain transport infrastructure with people like you and Phil campaigning to maximise the amount of road per tax/rate payer.

      1. It doesn’t work like that aa. Increased density is forced by land supply restrictions which push up land prices. See Arthur Grimes work “Our data indicate that Auckland house prices as a whole have risen substantially relative to other urban (Hamilton and Wellington) prices in the North Island. This rise in relative values is likely to reflect, at least in part, the increasingly binding impact of the MUL over time.”
        Some people choose to live in a high density situation but many more given the choice want a house where they can raise a family but they are getting priced out in large part due to the squeeze put on land supply by the ARC in 1998. Like any price rise it has both a substitution effect and a wealth effect. People with money substitute to terraces, apartments of smaller sections, the wealth effect is the dead weight loss where some who would have bought miss out. The overall net result is the community is worse off for having the rule.

        1. “Increased density is forced by land supply restrictions” – Why do you keep using the word “forced”? You are juts palying on emotions to suggest some plot – that plot doesn’t exist.

          If I say, “sprawl is forced by density restrictions”, is that any less true?

          Until we see a city that has no restrictions on whether the city spreads out (RUB) or up (exclusionary zoning rules) and property owners are given back the right to do what they like with their land (like in NZ cities before WW2) then we wont know what people really want. Up to that point, whatever system is put in place is “forcing” people towards a certain result and is a form of social engineering.

          “Some people choose to live in a high density situation but many more given the choice want a house where they can raise a family” – You are making a massive assumption that people cant or dont want to raise families in a dense urban situation. Many people (including me) are prepared to trade a smaller home (e.g. terraced 100sqm house on 200sqm lot) for an urban location that is more walking/cycling friendly and has more going on. The flood of people to big cities shows that a lot of people dont want to live in small towns and cities.

          Unless you can point to a city with no up or out restrictions where people have overwhelmingly chosen auto dependent, low density sprawl, you are merely imposing your own preferences on other people. The same goes for pro-density people – I dont want any restrictions other than some land use restrictions on heavy industry as past experience shows this is unsuitable for inner city life.

          Pro-sprawl people seldom want that however in my experience. They think that exclusionary zoning rules are necessary and should remain.

        2. Yes you are right I can’t point to a city with no out and up restrictions. The up restrictions as you call them are to protect against externalities which is the main purpose of town planning. The height to boundary and maximum height are set to protect daylight to neighbours and overall amenity in an area. As an extreme example see this photo that was in National Geographic in 1988.

          The height controls do come at a cost and I am not going to fall into the trap of being their defender. But the traditioanl place for cheap land is on the edge of a city. We don’t have that now thanks to Council rules so some people miss out on housing. They miss out.

        3. Look on Trademe. You can already buy your dream freestanding 3 bed commuter fringe house in Auckland for under $300K. What you want more of is the one segment of the Auckland market that has been losing value relative to inflation over the last few years. Auckland is not Christchurch. Christchurch is a provincial town, not a city. Christchurch solutions aren’t Auckland’s.

        4. Last time I checked this was not and the article was about “Driving and sprawl are killing you” in general not specifically in Auckland. I am making an argument using statistics from Christchurch New Zealand’s second biggest city disputing this.

        5. There’s nothing wrong with being a provincial town – everyone can drive cars everywhere, which just doesn’t work in a city. In Anglo tradition you do require a cathedral to be a city.

        6. I believe the name change (it was aucklandtransportblog) had more to do with the confusion with Auckland Transport rather than tackling the entire countries transport problems, although these are touched upon from time to time.

        7. You were the one who introduced Christchurch into JohnP comment stream. You said “Auckland is not Christchurch. Christchurch is a provincial town, not a city. Christchurch solutions aren’t Auckland’s.”

          You guys are using these immature arguments because you have difficulty accepting that the planning/transport system we currently use in NZ, particularly in Christchurch and Auckland has had the effect of increasing house prices with all sorts of negative social consequences.

        8. Brendon – “planning/transport system” – you mean the mono modal, auto dependent transport system that currently exists in NZ with almost no provision for grade separated PT or cycling?

          No I personally am fully prepared to believe that this, combined with restrictions on the natural density that cities tend towards over time (and the too are closely related), has contributed to high land prices. Are you?

          I am also prepared to accept there may also be some effect from the boundaries we have placed on the spread of the city outwards but, without eliminating both up and out restrictions, we will never know what the real cause has been. The fact is though that “out” is more politically attractive while “up” is just all too hard and may require us to actually change things – as I said, scary stuff this change.

        9. I like how you guys don’t answer reasonable questions, change topic and label arguments ‘immature’ etc. when you don’t have a logical response.

        10. aa what is your reasonable question? My reasonable question is design and promote a plan for our cities that results in affordable housing.

        11. Once again start with:

          1. explain what’s so smart about trying to maximise the amount of road (and other services) that each household has to finance construction and maintenance of. i.e how does making less people paying for more roading/infrastructure make it cheaper.

          2. explain why even though you demonstrate below that density makes dwellings cheaper (both now and 10 years ago) you claim that density makes dwellings more expensive?

        12. 3. explain why even more cheap sprawl in Auckland will bring house prices down when the existing cheap fringe sprawl won’t sell. I can only assume you’re from Christchurch and not aware that a $300K 2 bed apartment in central suburbs will sell in moments compared to a $300K 3 bed fringe sprawl house which will sit unsold for months.

        13. I have a clear idea that removing the UGB and putting in a mixture of PT, road and cycle links into these free to build areas close to Christchurch, with the odd patch bought at rural prices by compulsory purchase (see below comment about my three article) will bring down the cost of housing. Because the housing growth areas will be a lot closer than Rangiora and Rolleston and the other satellite towns, transport will be cheaper as well as housing.

          I believe this should be the responsibility of local government funded by local taxes.

          What you do in Auckland is up to you to decide.

      2. But it is not cheaper. Look at the Halswell example. In 10 years one section has gone from $70,000 to $240,000. So what if we put two houses on one section now and they cost $140,000 each ( I added a bit for the cost of installing twice as many services etc.) Section costs have doubled in price in 10 years but halved in size. Have wages doubled? Doesn’t seem like it to me. What happens in the next 10 years? Another doubling in prices and halving in size. This is what is happening in the UK. They have the smallest new houses in Europe and the houses they are building today are smaller than the houses built in the 1920’s.

        aa you need to read a bit wider and try to understand how the market for residential land is created. As I said I have nothing against density. I used to live in a five story apartment. There are other ways to achieve density/make new urban areas but what we are doing now is not working.

        1. You are claiming that a $140,000 house is more expensive than a $240,000 house. I say that’s rubbish.

        2. I am saying a $70,000 800sqm section has become either a $140,000 400sqm section in 10 years or a $240,000 800sqm section in 10 years. Both a ridiculously over priced compared to what you could buy 10 years ago. Both are massively overinflated compared to wages. Thus putting unnecessary pressure on the property -less working class.

        3. So you are saying that time can make property more expensive. That’s quite different to saying that density makes dwellings more expensive.

        4. Could you explain what’s so smart about trying to maximise the amount of road (and other services) that each household has to finance construction and maintenance of.

        5. I am not advocating for the planning system to maximise the amount of road per city inhabitant. It seems you are advocating for the minimum amount of space per city inhabitant i.e. maximum density is your goal. As I have said repeatedly I think the goal should be affordability and mobility as explained by Alain Bertaud. Try reading it or my articles like Dave B did before you judge me.

  11. The other issue that is adding to cost is stormwater treatment. For 20 years new subdivisions have been collecting water into ponds to settle out stuff and then releasing it. The problem is they now know that ponds don’t work as a treatment. The Auckland Unitary plan is pushing for either wetlands or mechanical treatment devices, both of which cost a bundle. Remember this is rain water that is getting treated. I don’t recall any great outcry from the public demanding that rainwater runoff be treated and yet costs of housing will rise. In all the older areas the water just flows to the sea. And this from Auckland City a council that allows crap to flow into the sea each time it rains.

  12. @ Brendon Harre: “for cycle lanes to work you need to remove some of the traffic, hence my talk of motorways”

    How disingenuous can you get!. Suggesting you can’t have effective cycle lanes without building more motorways?!! This scrapes the barrel of ridiculous excuses for building more unjustifiable motorways.

    A good cycle-lane network will either be off-road, will utilise existing quiet streets, or a combination of both. Such a network is not dependent on traffic-reduction on urban main roads, to which the network is intended to provide an traffic-free alternative.

    A second-rate cycle lane will be on an existing main road and will be delineated by paint or kerbing in some form. If such a lane requires removal of an existing traffic lane then it could be argued that lost traffic-capacity may need to be replaced. But even this is a long way from justifying a MOTORWAY! Normally a cycle lane can be squeezed in by narrowing-up traffic lanes slightly, without taking lanes away. This can actually aid the flow of traffic by slowing it to a more efficient speed at which throughput is greater.

    If a road is either so busy, or so narrow, or so dangerous that even a second-rate cycle lane cannot be accommodated, then the answer is to find a way of build a first-rate off-road cycleway on a new alignment. While this will be more expensive, it will be an order of magnitude cheaper than building a M O T O R W A Y !!**!

    Just to set the record straight. Motorways do not reduce traffic. They may divert it from certain existing roads, but they generally serve to encourage more driving and hence create more traffic overall.

    So please Brendon (and I have heard the same specious argument from Phil H), stop trying to use cyclists as an absurd form of leverage to justify your unjustifiable pet motorway schemes. Even if you believe your own arguments, I doubt anyone else does.

  13. Dave B I do not oppose a bike centric or any other non-car centric city if it means houses are affordable.

    I am with Alain Bertaud in thinking “Urban planners have been inventing all sorts of abstractly worded objectives to justify their plans for our future cities – smart growth, liveability, sustainability, are among the most recent fads. There is nothing wrong, of course, for a city to try to be smart, liveable, or sustainable. But for some reasons these vague and benign sounding objectives usually become a proxy for imposing planning regulations that severely limit the supply of buildable land and the number of housing units built, resulting in ever higher housing prices.”

    I reserve the right to call out plans that support this sort of thinking. Someone has to stand up for those whose lives have been made unnecessarily difficult due to escalating house prices.

    1. Brendon it seems you are getting poor advice, dwelling cost is a multilayered issue and it appears M Bertaud doesn’t have a good grasp of the facts. The demonising of this group ‘Urban Planners’ is to invent a conspiracy where none exists, no matter how comforting it may be for him to find a scapegoat.

    2. OK, but my particular concern is over vague and benign-sounding objectives for justifying more motorways where conventional analysis fails to do so. Such as “motorways are needed in order for cyclists to have cycle lanes”. I am also hearing “motorways are needed in order to have affordable housing”. It all smacks of an “I want motorways” agenda, and “here are all the reasons I can dredge up to justify what I want”. Where it becomes totally pernicious is when beneficial rail-based initiatives come under attack for allegedly hindering the transformation of our cities into a few people’s idea of sprawling motorway utopia, and the assumption that this is somehow best and what everyone should want. This is what seems to be lurking behind these arguments.

      1. Not at all mate. I have written three articles on housing and transport. The first was a general discussion of the costs of housing and wondering why local government is not more concerned.

        The second was about infrastructure and how I think we have inadequate local government infrastructure provided transport infrastructure. I compared NZ to US, a motorway/automobile centric country and Finland a mix of motorway and public transport centric country. My conclusion was NZ has an under provided with transport infrastructure. I did not conclude which was better motorways or a mixture of motorways and public transport was better.

        The third was a possible new town near Christchurch as a response to rising house prices. Admittedly this did involve new roads and bridges, but I left it open on their nature, single lane, double lane, motorway. I specifically detailed how this new town could fit into an idea to put light rail from the CBD via the University to the Airport. I also think a high speed bus connection could work well on a similar route. I Included planning for a high density hub around the stops for these public transport options.

        None of these articles which I have put considerable thought and research into have I blindly promoted a pro motorway agenda. I think for a public transport centric model you would need to do more compulsory purchase of land for housing around future stations/stops and possibly special rates for existing property owners so that private property owners do not capture all the capital gains. But I think it is doable on a case by case basis.

        1. Thanks for those links. Interesting articles and interesting comments. My apologies for insinuating that you have a pro-motorway/anti-rail bias. My intended target of these sentiments was more Phil Hayward than you, though he has been surprisingly quiet on this thread.

        2. I strongly agree with Phil Hayward regarding housing issues, in particular the artificial scarcity of residential land. I don’t think he has proven conclusively that you cannot provide a mixture of road and public transport whilst still maintaining housing affordability. He may disagree with me. I think it is better if the two issues are kept separate.

        3. Brendon – I have read your articles and I respect you a lot for your even handed approach on mode bias – I am with you that it is about balance. I am only concerned that the focus right now should be to undo the effects of 60 years of mono-modal investment in roading to bring about that balance. That doesnt have to be rail, busways are a fantastic way to move lots of people and I think the right approach for Chch.

          “artificial scarcity of residential land” – Agreed a massive problem – but again, dont assume that scarcity is only created by limits on outward expansion. It is also created by limits on density (minimum lot size, minimum setbacks, maximum coverage) and upward expansion (even quite modest upwards expansion).

          There is no way that Chch needs high rise apartments – but I am sure in Finland and elsewhere in Europe you have seen lots of very nice 4 storey apartment blocks and attractive terraced housing. That is so hard to do in most of Chch because of exclusionary zoning and we need to ask if that is a good thing before we start flooding the Canterbury plains (some of the best farmland in the world, especially for dry stock) with residential housing.

          New Towns – I am with you but again look at those European examples I gave you above (Houten, Vauban). Why cant we have new towns like that rather than Milton Keynes or Marsden City? Or a finger plan like Copenhagen?

        4. Thanks goosoid. Yes 4 to 5 story apartments can be done well (I have lived in some good ones in Finland) and it would be nice if that was an option in our cities.

          A female lecturer in Canterbury? Kumidek? wrote an article about converting a big block around Canterbury University from typical poorly insulate standalone housing to high density apartments (sorry can’t find the link).

          I would actually support that sort of thing. If combined with transport upgrades (say the light rail or fast bus discussed for the New town ) and an elimination of UGB, greenbelts and some nice new towns. So we get a combination of up and out. It is important we do the out part too (or at least allow it as an option), so the pressure on residential land prices is reduced. Then doing the up part becomes less expensive. Artificial scarcity where the capital gains are captured by private individuals or wasted by a bureaucratic elite doesn’t help the proper provision of density within our cities either.

          But lets be clear these projects will cost money from the public purse. There is no magic bullet that solves these sorts of problems by a few simple planning regulations. Local government reform is essential with regard to taxation, responsibility for transport and ensuring an elastic affordable market response to housing.

          We have to promote these ideas and show the public how it will lead to a better outcome for all, with respect to affordable housing, mobility, healthy lifestyle, choice and so on.

          I will have to check out your European examples of new towns. : )

        5. I think Houten would be a perfect model for my proposed new town as Utrecht is about the size of Christchurch and distances between new town and city are about the same. My proposed new town could be bike friendly within the town like Houten and could have a fantastic bike route along the Waimakariri river bank.

          I think a carless bike centric village would need to be closer to Christchurch, say between Halswell and Tai Tapu with bike lanes back to the city and across to Lincoln University. This would be a fantastic option to give to the people in Christchurch.

          Currently only very expensive lifestyle blocks are sold in TaiTapu Canterbury >Selwyn >Tai Tapu. At $400,000 for 4 hectares for one house these are well beyond the reach of the medium worker, but if you put 10 carless houses on one hectare. The raw land would cost $10,000. How much could the land development costs be, the 3 waters (fresh water, sewage and storm water), a few roads to an external car park, lots of paths and open spaces with the village. Say $100,000. House cost? -no garage, with a maximum of 150sqm, say $1600 per sqm build costs, so a maximum of $240,000. So all up maximum house and land package for a carless village is $350,000. Given the increasing popularity of electric bikes this could be a really viable urban development option.

          Both these ideas could be done in a way that combines ‘liveability’ with affordability.

          We need more vision for the Christchurch rebuild, ideas such as these would be a great start.

          I put the links again so other readers can check these options out.

        6. That indicates a bike centric urban development system is possible to do affordably. If the land between Halswell, Tai Tapu and Lincoln which is currently zoned rural, so the minimum lot size is 4 hectare was rezoned to give carless villages the right to build then the above could happen in a competitive market and should result in similar prices. The government or Council could do the first one as ‘proof of concept’ and then rezone a big area and leave it to the market.

          A carless village would be defined as houses with no garages, a communal car park on the periphery of village. Motorised vehicles only allowed within the village for drop offs and pick ups.

        7. Rezone all the rural zone land between Halswell, Prebbleton, Lincoln and Tai Tapu to right to build carless village zoning. An area roughly 25 to 30 sq km

        8. I think Houten would be a perfect model for my proposed new town as Utrecht is about the size of Christchurch and distances between new town and city are about the same. My proposed new town could be bike friendly within the town like Houten and could have a fantastic bike route along the Waimakariri river bank.

          I think a carless bike centric village would need to be closer to Christchurch, say between Halswell and Tai Tapu with bike lanes back to the city and across to Lincoln University. This would be a fantastic option to give to the people in Christchurch.

          Currently only very expensive lifestyle blocks are sold in TaiTapu Canterbury >Selwyn >Tai Tapu. At $400,000 for 4 hectares for one housing site these are well beyond the reach of the medium worker, but if you could put 10 carless houses on one hectare. The raw land would cost $10,000. How much would the land development costs be? The 3 waters (fresh water, sewage and storm water), a few roads to an external car park, lots of paths and open spaces within the village. Say $100,000. House cost? -no garage, with a maximum of 150sqm, say $1600 per sqm build costs, so a maximum of $240,000. So all up maximum house and land package for a carless village is $350,000. Given the increasing popularity of electric bikes this could be a really viable urban development option.

          Both these ideas could be done in a way that combines ‘liveability’ with affordability.

          We need more vision for the Christchurch rebuild, ideas such as these would be a great start.

          I put the links again so other readers can check these options out.

        9. And, I think, very popular Brendon. We need to mix higher density downtown, with new, Euro style town development on greenfields, to get what we need. There is no one silver bullet. Unfortunately, we are still developing these towns as low density, sprawl if their own with no quality links to the main centres (ie busways or rail).

        10. Bryce P I think these ideas could be very effective and very popular. I am trying to tell some politicians to get something happening….

          Maybe some other transportbloggers should email these links to the appropriate politician if this is the sort of city you want to live in. : )

        11. The person and link I referred to above was Susan Krumdieck who wrote “Urban sprawl threatens Christchurch”. Susan is a lecturer of engineering.

          She makes the same mistake as aa does. They look at some urban land, thinks that if more ‘stuff’ was on it, it would be more efficient. So they argue we should impose strict limits on going ‘out’ so we can do this efficient ‘up’ stuff. But they cannot dictate this process, at best urban land use is a mixture of government rules and public amenities combined with the needs and wants of private individuals using the marketplace.

          So you have to understand, monopoly land banking, artificial scarcity, elasticity of supply etc, to see what affordably can be done.

          So as a engineer Susan might be right, there probably is better use of land around Canterbury University than old, cold, stand alone housing. But to go from what exists now to something better she needs to understand how the ‘marketplace’ works and how government can influence it for the better or worse. Rather than just moaning that people don’t understand….

        12. Brendon, glad you saw the poetntial benefits in those European examples. Houten is a particular favourite of mine and you can see how it was so popular they built another train station and basically another town around that. That could happen ad infinitum into the Canterbury plains – but maybe with a busway instead of a rail line.

          I also agree with you about up vs out. I dont want to impose my preferences on everyone else. Some people will always want to live miles out of the city on a massive piece of land and we should provide for them too. I just think we need to offer a real range of options to people (not just varying levels of sprawl) and the best way to do that is through supply and demand.

          Right now developers are hamstrung by both outward and infill/upward limits. That means there is really no mechanism to produce the right result.

          I am passionate about cycling and we know from history that Chch is perfectly set up for it – flat, with a big university and with short distances, a 20km ride will get you pretty much to anywhere in Chch from anywhere in Chch.

          If you really want a sense of how much of a cycle city Chch used to be, read the book “Ride” by the Kennet Brothers. Even with what I knew I was blown away by how cycling dominated Chch culture until the 1970s.

          If we want we can create a city that gives that option (note it is an option, not a complusion) to the (I believe) substantial minority (or even majority) who would take that option up. Maybe we can stop the flood of young people out of the city once they are raised in that cycle culture and realise they cant get it elsewhere.

        13. Goodsoid I drove from Halswell to Tai Tapu to Lincoln to Hornby today with my Finnish sister in law. We could really see the area was suitable for ‘bike zoning’.

          Their are at least three potential markets within this zone.

          Between Halswell and Tai Tapu my sister in law felt was the nicest area in Canterbury. Nice micro-climate, access and views to the Port Hills and with the beautiful Halswell River. Also closest to Christchurch. So excellent place for car-less villages.

          Then around Lincoln University you have a big community of students, lecturers, tutors and researchers who might like the bike centric lifestyle. So another excellent place for car-less villages.

          Finally around Prebbleton and Hornby you have an area very close to one of Canterbury’s largest industrial areas. Lots of workers might want a healthy, affordable lifestyle. So another excellent place for a car-less village.

          If this area was zoned as a combined ‘bike zone’ and rural zone (what it is currently). So only car-less villages and rural new developments are allowed. It is a large area so lots of competition to provide the best car-less village and lots of competition from landowners to get the best value raw land. No land scarcity values.

          This would also create a large area to put bike-lane connections between and enough economies of scale to justify some high quality PT connections from the four key Towns/suburbs I travelled through today.

          Given the way E bikes are developing and the escalating cost of fossil fuelled vehicles this is a definitely a good option to put alongside a Houten like new town and a Susan Krumdieck type ‘up’ development.

        14. The good point about allowing a combination of free to build car less villages, new town(s) and apartment/terrace ‘up’ developments is the free to build carless villages have access to huge amounts of rural land, that they can get for rural prices. A community or developer that wants to make a new bike centric car-less village just has to wait for a suitable lifestyle block or farm to come on the market and pay the current rural land prices. Thus instead of constantly rising ‘artificially’ scarce buildable land prices, we will have prices dictated by the market conditions of the rural land economy. These land prices should be a lot more affordable and a lot more stable.

          These new land price signals then get transferred through the market place and will make the ‘land’ component of new towns and also apartment/terrace up developments more affordable too.

        15. This is a much more ambitious vision of how develop our urban areas compared to traditional motorway centric sprawl or our ‘concentrate’ within existing limits approach that up until now is the only choices offered to kiwis.

          But why not try it? It seems to me to combine the best attributes of liveability and affordability.

  14. Patrick R houses are either affordable or not. For most of last century in NZ the medium income worker could afford the medium income house with three times the household income. Now it is nearly six in most of NZ and eight in Auckland. Urban planners should be trying work out how to return the affordability numbers back to three.

    Alain Bertaud is the former Principal Planner of the World Bank, I think he knows a thing or two about the fads of ‘Urban Planners’.

    1. My current apartment cost 2.3 times my annual household income. My first unit was under 2.0. Perhaps considering more land and resource efficient housing types might be a way to start?

      No one has yet told me why the median household income should be able to afford the median house price. Does the median household need to afford the median car sale price for cars to be affordable? What is wrong with the lower quartile, or quintile? That’s a true measure of affordability. Or for that matter, why do households have to buy houses at all? Why not look at actual housing costs rather than sale prices.

      1. Nick R there is nothing to say the medium income household has to buy the medium valued house. They could choose to buy a cheaper apartment like you did or a doer upper. Maybe they choose to spend more to be closer to work, family, schools….

        All it is a simple but effective statistical measure of housing affordability that can both show changes in affordability over time and between cities. It is widely accepted by international agencies.

      2. Alain Bertaud also uses the measure, rents as a percentage of income. Saying affordable accommodation is no greater than 25%.

      3. Alex Steffen wrote a good article recently:
        “Our only choice is to build, build, build” – but he’s not advocating sprawl: “We can build some housing incrementally, without changing the skyline or cityscape, but not anything like enough. To produce enough homes to matter, fast enough, we’re going to have to fundamentally alter parts of our cities.”
        The Unitary plan isn’t nearly bold enough- it favours the baby boomers at the cost of their grandchildren.

        1. Yeah go Alex. I wish I could write like that. That really captures the vision, the idea, we need to be bold….

        2. I assume you trying sarcasm as this article calls for density, ” compact and walkable communities” etc. and is disparaging of “sprawling low-density slums”? It even calls for less roads “convert excess roads and parking lots into great streets, green spaces and parks,…”.

          Kind of the opposite of everything you want?

        3. The first two sentences say “A basic lack of homes is taking a terrible urban toll – affordability is social justice. Our only choice is to build, build, build” I agree with the sentiment and kind of similar to what I have been saying…..

          I am all for affordable housing. I don’t care if it is traditional sprawl, car-less villages, Dutch new Towns as long as it is affordable. Force me to choose between traditional sprawl and what we are doing now -unaffordable artificially scarce land development then I choose traditional sprawl. Give me a genuine choice and I say we give Bryce P idea a go “mix higher density downtown, with new, Euro style town developments on greenfields (lots and lots of them to allow competition to bring down land prices), to get what we need. There is no one silver bullet.”

          Please aa read what I am writing, do not prejudge me on some notion that I am a typical sprawler or whatever is going on in your head.

        4. I can only respond to what you write. “Force me to choose between traditional sprawl and what we are doing now -unaffordable artificially scarce land development”, “We are trying to achieve an increase in urban density by driving up residential land prices.”.
          (what does that even mean?), “[density] is not cheaper”. In Auckland we have basically only ever had traditional sprawl zoning (so how come smart growth etc. we’ve never had be the problem and more sprawl – which is all we’ve ever had – be the solution?). Existing affordable fringe dwellings don’t sell (only expensive sprawl is worth doing). So the notion that removing the MUL will lead to affordability just doesn’t wash.

  15. Instead of just arguing to and fro about statistics, here is my general theory about employment dispersion, roads and congestion.

    Employment is pretty much dispersed in all modern cities. Including Auckland.

    But strangely, it only seems to result in “stability of commute time”, in the lower density cities. I say there is two reasons for this.

    One is that more efficient sorting of workforces and their jobs into more efficient proximity, occurs in the lower density cities because they are affordable. Higher density cities are all unaffordable, and in unaffordable cities, the population is spatially sorted “by income” regardless of where they work. In the affordable cities, location choice is much more democratised.

    Reason two is that in the lower density cities there is by default, more road lane miles per capita. This means much less “breakdown” congestion; i.e. stop-start conditions, which actually reduce the throughput of the road even as more vehicles are trying to use it. “Breakdown” congestion causes further “spill-backs” and people seeking alternative routes on parallel suburban roads.

    We have been for decades focusing on radial commuting patterns, which seem to always find equilibrium in conditions of congestion, in cities of all overall density levels. But dispersed commuting patterns seem to be more capable of congestion-free equilibria.

    I think it is self-evident that the least congested urban areas will be this way because their employment dispersion is well-matched with a grid of suburban arterial roads.Unlike with radial commuting patterns converging on the regional CBD, there is no focus of all the traffic into one small catchment with resulting congestion; the network tends to be used in both directions at all times of the day; this is an immediate 100% increase in utilisation of road space compared to radial commuting.

    If these roads are two lanes each way instead of one, this is a massive advantage. This is literally ANOTHER 100% more capacity, right where it matters for “MOST TRAVEL”. Three lanes instead of two is another 50% more capacity.

    And the best system of all will have extensive grade separation of directional conflicts.

    Interestingly, Frank Lloyd Wright had thought all this through very well for his “Broadacre City” utopias.

    Public transport is pretty much irrelevant to these outcomes.

    1. Broad acre was a shitty plan, more evidence that architects should stick to architecture and forget urban design (LeCorbusier I’m looking at you). The requirements it had for motorway infrastructure were entirely infeasible at the population density proposed. It was something like one c loverleaf interchange and ten miles of freeway for every ten households. Plus he basically admitted that even with the proposed 120mile an hour speed limits people would have such long journey times that the rich would have to use private helicopters.

    2. “In the affordable cities, location choice is much more democratised.”

      Well evidence suggests otherwise:

      Not only is it bad for racial and income intergration, it is also bad for social mobility. Not great.

      1. Yes, so much for sprawl being equitable; this from Atlanta as sure a poster boy for sprawl as is Houston:

        “The boundaries of race and class in Atlanta have long had a distinctly geographic component, one that has not disappeared in the 50 years since the peak of the civil rights movement. During the postwar heyday, as in many cities across the country, Atlanta’s was a story of urban flight, sprawl, and, eventually, faltering downtown renewal schemes. For Mike Dobbins, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a former commissioner of planning and community development for the city, these processes are directly linked to the nearly unparalleled economic inequality among the region’s residents. “It’s bothered me ever since I got here; it bothers me more and more,” Dobbins says. “It’s the worst city for people born poor to be anything other than poor.”

        1. Have you read this whole comment thread? Several people have addressed me by name. aa accused me of sarcasm just a few comments up.

        2. Brendon. This is how it works; when replying to a comment the answer indents below the comment you are answering. All of these were answering Phil H’s comment above. Sorry but no one above was engaging with you.

          To respond to some other comment put your answer under it.

  16. Frank, Auckland could try the Perth model of putting a motorway and with a commuter train down the middle and allow a new town or city to develop on a huge area zoned residential/commercial with no artificial scarcity land values, say 10 km north or south of the current UGB.

    It would require a better deal with Central government than you are getting now, but it could be done.

    Don’t settle for high liveability combined with low affordability….

      1. This is a bit weird because I was replying to someone who has since chosen to remove their comment. So it wasn’t a well thought out idea, more a conceptual idea rather than a specific plan.

        I am not from Auckland so I do not know the Pukekohe and Wesley Special Housing Area but I would suggest between Papakura and Clarks Beach looks appealing on Google map satellite images. I would those of you who live in Auckland might have some good ideas where a neighbouring city might appeal.

        It would need extensive infrastructure but I would suggest as a region or nation it is better to spend the money on actually building things than bidding up prices on what is already there.

        1. Seems the Transport Blog has been “moderating” again.

          Any how Papakura to Clarks Beach kind of development has been ruled out by the Unitary Plan.

          Long story short the Council chose a southern Rural Urban Boundary which ruled out Karaka North and West for urban development. Karaka North and West would have been your Papakura to Clarks Beach urban development.

          Instead Council chose a Rural Urban Boundary that followed State Highway 22 and the rail corridor from Drury to Pukekohe with a greenbelt at the Drury end. The Wesley Special Housing Area falls in this chosen RUB area.

          As for neighbouring “cities” as such this debate is been had with the Unitary Plan at the moment in regards to what is called the Metropolitan Centres within existing Auckland already, and the Satellite Towns of Warkworth, Pukekohe and Helensville.

          Beyond that is a inter-regional debate between Auckland and the Waikato and the possibility of satellite centres springing up between Auckland and Hamilton.

        2. Do you think the neighbouring city concept would get greater support if ACC got the power to tax petrol or impose road user charges?

          “Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman, Phil Twyford, says Labour now backs Mayor Len Brown’s bid to levy an extra charge on Auckland road users through road or congestion charges or a regional fuel tax.

          He said Labour had been wary of road-user charges in the past because of the effect on working Aucklanders, but now says they are already paying a high price for congested roads and lack of public transport.”

          Do you think Labour could do a deal that gives Local government greater taxation power and in exchange Local government accepts greater responsibility for providing through the planning system and infrastructure provision the responsibility to provide affordable housing?

  17. So what are people’s thoughts on this, and housing affordability in relation to Auckland’s Unitary plan? There appears to be a real lack of intensification in the inner central suburbs, even those which are well serviced by PT. Surely this will push prices up in the inner suburbs even more, making properties more unaffordable/unattainable than they are now? I’m unclear as to the rational behind Auckland Councils proposal of low density housing surrounding the CBD.

  18. I wonder how many people on this blog have actually lived in a high density housing environment? A loft apartment in New York is not the same as a shity 2 bedroom up/down on a London council estate.
    High density, even if you have the money to live in a nice large apartment, can get pretty tiresome. Tripping over your neighbours, not being able to have privacy, having to negotiate with a body corporate – they all get annoying at times.
    Kiwis (most of us) got to grow up in reasonable sized homes with 1/4 or 1/8 acre sections – room to kick a ball around. Most of the world dream about that freedom – be careful when you wish to give that up – you might be depriving your children of something very special.

    1. I do, so does Stu, and I think Nick might as well. It’s not for everyone, and it might work better for some life stages than others, but it’s pretty good for me at the moment. Phil, there’s a heck of a lot of singles, couples without children, and empty nesters in Auckland; even if that was the only market for apartments, it’d still be a very big (and rapidly growing) one.
      At any rate, only a very small fraction of Aucklanders live in high-density housing with no outdoor space, and that fraction will continue to be very small for the foreseeable future.

      1. Very big, it’s the majority actually. About 60% of NZ households have only one or two people in them.

        And yes I live in an apartment. Don’t trip over my neighbours though, they funnily enough tend to prefer their own apartment. And privacy is not an issue, I never hear nor see the neighbours and again, they don’t come inside my home unless I invite them. I couldn’t say that for some of the houses I’ve lived in though… Which just goes to show that massive generalisation are useless.

    2. I have lived in a wide range of high density housing including a “sidliste” (the Czech term for the long rows of Communist built housing estates) in Prague. If you saw them Phil your high caste little heart would fall – they look at least as bad as the Council estates in Britain. They looked like the nightmare self entitled people wake up in a sweat from.

      I actually didnt mind it at all except that Krc, where it was located, was quite far from the city and my commute was a bit of a pain (by Prague standards, i.e. I didnt have a tram right outside my door every 5 mins). The Metro station was a 5min bus ride from the sidliste. Once on the Metro (train every 10mins max off peak) it was about 20mins to the centre.

      The towers (about 15 storeys high) had football fields and tennis courts in between and lots of children would be playing there in the summer – not safely inside on their Playstations. There was also a nice forest nearby where I used to go running. There were lots of schools nearby so the children could just walk there and also supermarkets and other shops. There was also parking provided offroad.

      The apartment was very warm in winter (in fact too warm for me). Overall it wasnt too bad and was very cheap, even on an English teacher’s salary.

      “Tripping over your neighbours, not being able to have privacy” – I barely saw my neighbours other than to say hello, but my Czech wasnt that good. Privacy? Once I was in my apartment I had complete privacy. I could walk around in the nude if I wanted (and knowing the Czechs they probably did). It was as private as my house is now in Auckland. What do you get up to that you need such complete privacy?

      I imagine if you asked the people living in the sidliste’s, most would have an ambition to buy one of the nearby villas, a more central apartment or a big house in the countryside – and some people I knew did do that but with a long commute by bus or train. However, the sidliste supplied cheap, warm clean housing for working class people with good transport links.

      I also lived in a wide variety of low level, central city apartments in Normandy (once in the loft of a 17th century house – horribly cold), Prague and Bucharest. Some were better than others but I didnt experience any of the problems you are talking about. Well except once in Prague when we had a neighbour who was very noisy in bed. But more amusing than annoying.

      Have you ever lived in such housing Phil? Maybe I juts like people more than you. I realise it must be hard being made to associate with lower caste people but being from a working class background and so low caste myself, it didnt worry me.

  19. Phil I think the key is a range of (quality) housing options. A backyard is a must for many families with young children, but not essential for all households. That is why I am confused by the lack of intensification proposed in the inner suburbs compared to west auckland for example. Many young families are priced out of inner auckland, so purchase further out from the city. If the outer suburbs are then intensified and section sizes greatly reduced here, does that then mean the only kids who have backyards to “kick a ball around” are the children of the very rich who can afford the large central suburb sections?

    1. On another blog, someone once said that inner Auckland was ringed by many, many thousands of state homes. Most of them standalone houses on large sections. Would it be possible to systematically convert blocks of these to European style terrace and 4 story apartment blocks. Half to remain as state housing the other half to be sold to the private sector?

      Again I think if NZ regions were given the resources and incentivised to aim for affordability as well liveability then solutions would be found. There would be no one silver bullet. But a range of different solutions that local people through a local democratic process would agree to.

      I believe affordability in our urban areas could be dramatically improved by this approach.

      1. That medium-density stuff would be great, and indeed is what would really make the difference for Auckland; this city’s intensification won’t be about high-rise high-density for the most part. Unfortunately, the proposed zoning and heritage provisions in the Unitary Plan make it very difficult for this to occur in the suburbs close to the CBD (not many state homes on large sections either). You need to move a bit further out, to the suburbs like Mt Roskill, Sandringham, Glen Innes, etc. And Housing New Zealand is doing something very similar to what you propose around Glen Innes (part of the Tamaki transformation programme).

      2. Yes Brendon, and indeed it is already happening. Check out the Glen Innes North redevelopment that HNZ is doing. Turning a bunch of old state houses on big sections into new terraces, and selling some to the private market and private housing agencies.

    2. “A backyard is a must for many families with young children” – billions of people are raised in the world without this and they dont seem to be too traumatised. I think people mainly want big backyards for “entertaining” – i.e. showing off to friends and family how great their house is. Personally, from my experience living in apartments, much better is a large terrace/deck for a bbq and some seating.

      I agree open space is good for children but I fail to see how a backyard is so vital, especially with such small families nowadays. Maybe when it was 4/5/10 kids playing together, yes, but now I think kids would be better off down at the park interacting with other kids.

      In my area we have Navy housing with massive (800sqm+) sections. I have yet to see a child playing in a backyard. However, I see lots at the local park and I see even more getting driven around by their parents – presumably to recreation destinations elsewhere.

      Of course, there is nothing wrong with big backyards but giving our children the freedom to roam neighbourhoods safely on foot or by bicycle would be even more valuable. I had the privilege of being able to do that and I imagine so did a lot of other people here.

      For people born after about 1985 in NZ, that is a mythical utopia – the back seat of an SUV watching the neighbourhood go by is the closest they ever get. For children in many cities in Northern Europe that is still a reality – and they have the happiest and slimmest children in the world, without massive backyards.

      And if a big backyard is so vital for a young family, maybe choosing to raise that family in the biggest, most autodependent city in NZ wasnt such a good choice?

      1. I think this is a reasonable comment. I lived in an apartment in Finland with toddlers. We had a communal park for 45 apartments it was nice, but quite intensive parenting wise as the kids needed constant supervision as close to roads, railways. But the thing I missed the most was we were forbidden to bbq on the balcony or outside.

        1. Good read. We could easily make a point of difference for NZ towns and cities as being family friendly.

        2. We’ve done exactly this. We sold our 3.5brm bungalow on 1300sqm and have moved into an apartment in a development 30 minutes from downtown Auckland. Here is our new backyard from out balcony!11040&authkey=!ACL0ZOyHfff_9Ug&v=3&ithint=photo%2c.jpg. There is also a communal bbq area (and we’re allowed bbq’s on our balconies as well.). Traffic speeds are limited and our 6 year old can roam the neighbourhood freely with little risk.

        3. Nice place Bryce – I can see why you say it is safe for your child on the roads.

          I wonder why you are allowed to post a picture of your place but the mods removed my post where I put the street addresses of my places so people could google map the differences in density? Perhaps Pat, Matt, and John were just looking out for my plants…..

  20. Wow – this is the longest comment thread I have ever seen! I don’t quite understand it. It seems that looking at all cities that have high economic output, low energy intensity, vibrancy…. you see one thing very clearly – DIVERSITY. If you are in Hokatika your urban form will have a couple of zones you can drive between. you can’t just keep that pattern going when you get to a city the size of Auckland. You MUST have areas with high activity and residential density. There are very few cities outside Asia that have no single family detached dwelling areas of the city. So I do not see what you seem to be debating for pages and pages and pages. You will only know when you have too many urban apartments when the vacancy rate gets high and prices fall. Then property developers probably won’t build any more for a while. I seriously doubt that the density police are going to round up people from the suburbs and force them to live in apartments. I really don’t get the “debate”. The real issue is getting the connections between areas transitioning form automobile dependence, get some more diversity into the transport options.

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