This is a guest post from reader Warren S
Back on 7 January Kent Lundberg posted a comprehensive review of Jeff Speck’s ‘Walkable City’ a most companionable book which manages to be highly informative and highly entertaining at the same time.
If you were influenced in any way by Kent’s review and read ‘Walkable City’ it is now time to read ‘Transport for Suburbia’ by the recently deceased Australian Paul Mees.
This book is especially valuable because it doesn’t just deal with far away American cities. The early part of the book reviews in some detail, why and how our Auckland allowed its existing comprehensive public transport to utterly collapse. The author relates how strong opposition from Professor Kenneth Cumberland with his dual role as head of Geography at Auckland University and Chairman of the Auckland City Council Town Planning Committee, and from the long serving City Engineer at that time A. J. Dickson, clandestinely scuppered the railway tunnel proposal of the day championed by Dove Myer Robinson, to focus on motorway provision for motor cars. This was especially interesting for me personally because as a boy in Remuera in my parent’s house, we lived only seven houses away from those recent arrivals from Yorkshire – the Cumberlands! Needless to say, I didn’t know about and wasn’t interested in the issue, at that time.
The book however does much more than deal with what went wrong in Auckland. For instance, Zurich where the initial challenges were quite similar, but the eventful outcome very different, is explored in some depth. Toronto, Melbourne, Ottawa and Curitiba are also reviewed.
The book however does much more than deal with what went wrong in Auckland. Set out below is a list of specific matters which will be of interest to regular readers of the Transport Blog:
- Transport and climate change.
- Oil prices and sustainable autopia
- The desirability of congestion for single occupant vehicles as a practical method of promoting transit.
- The density debate.
- Freeway revolts.
- New transit technologies are less practical than 19th as rail, trams and buses.
- High densities are not required for successful urban rail.
- Markets sometimes fail. Deregulation is not the best – a public agency is necessary for strategic and tactical reasons but not necessarily at operational level – read the book for a definition of these three levels of activity.
- Creating an effective Transport Agency
- Public transport network planning and timed connections
- The need for pooling revenue through the agency even though the provision of services may for practical reason be contracted out to private operators. Five must read pages for cyclists – everything may not be as you believe.
- The Politics of Public Transport
This is a major work. I believe that so many of our official decisions regarding transport are made by local and national politicians for the wrong reasons, undefined objectives or because they just don’t really understand what they are doing. And like bad architecture, citizens live with the outcome for a long time. The important thing about Paul Mees’ book is that he has done the research and then commented on it, in an unbiased and logical manner, with which it is easy to identify.
Paul’s book sets out very clearly the way forward for Auckland in its elusive quest as the most desirable, mid-size city on the planet. And after reading it, I become ever more hopeful that if we make the right decisions now, the goal is certainly achievable.
Transport for Suburbia’ is quite different in style from Jeff Speck’s ‘Walkable City’ but it is well written and easily read. It should be a mandatory read for every Auckland Councillor, every employee of NZTA and Auckland Transport, but most of all by those holders of the Transport purse strings John Key, Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee, who really need to make properly informed choices, about the most beneficial taxpayer monies expenditure, for Auckland and the nation.