Last night we hosted Janette Sadik-Khan, the woman who transformed New York City’s notoriously contested streets as Mayor Bloomberg’s Transportation Commissioner 2007-13. We are extremely grateful that she found  time on her four day visit to Auckland to share her wisdom and experience with us advocates.


Despite arriving at 5am that morning JSK and her team gave us all a great deal of attention and engagement [colleague Seth Solomonow said of the flight: “why’d y’all have to be so far away?”]. JSK still works with Michael Bloomberg at his new not-for-profit post-Mayoral agency Bloomberg Associates. Here is the opening line their mission statement:

Bloomberg Associates, an international consulting service founded by Michael R. Bloomberg as a philanthropic venture, helps city governments improve the quality of life of their citizens.

So the first recommendation from JSK last night is that Mayor Brown contact ex-Mayor Bloomberg to see how Auckland get to see a whole lot more of JSK and here team to help improve our city in more detail.

Other soundbites from the night include:

  • Changing the Streetscape and adding to the movement options can hugely improve the economic vitality of the whole city as well as individual areas.
  • You have to try out radical changes to the streetscape cheaply, quickly, and temporarily.
  • Don’t just do part of what’s needed; be bold keep it cheap and temporary so whole areas can be done together.
  • Be prepared change it, or even change it back to how it was, if it isn’t working.
  • If half the city doesn’t hate what you’re doing you probably aren’t doing anything.

She also said the reason she made it a priority to meet with us was that groups like ours in NY had been hugely influential in enabling change. Particularly streetsblog, a clear role model for transportblog.

Also it was just a great night down at Imperial Lane:


We are now looking forward to her presentation at Auckland Conversations on Monday. And thanks to the Auckland Conversations team for hosting her visit, and in particular lending her to us for the evening.

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  1. Looking forward to hearing her speak on Monday. What the long term reaction to her Will be the test for Auckland council and the rest of the cco’s

  2. Really looking forward to Monday, thanks in advance to the Council. With over a thousand people in attendance, it should be a great talk with massive positive influence into the future.

    Just one question: How does one get on the A-list to get invites to such events in future? 😉

  3. I’m sure Mayor Brown will be right into that idea if it means a trip to New York paid for by ratepayers, of course accompanied by a suitable assistant.

    1. We don’t send Brown, or anyone, to NYC. We bring JSK to Auckland and get her involved here. What a great investment that would be.

      1. Absolutely. We can bring the best people here, and get the best results.

        And for the record, I support any elected official travelling if it means good outcomes for Auckland. People who don’t know MPs or mayors seem to assume that travel is a perk. It isn’t. It’s long flights, early starts, meetings, and usually a bit of a blur. It isn’t like leisure travel.

        1. I’m ok with people travelling as well. I wish some would go to the Netherlands and take one of David Hembrow’s cycling tours to see what real cycle infrastructure is.

      2. Make her CEO of Auckland Transport. I know for a fact she would get paid way more here than she would in NY. US public servants get paid ‘peanuts’ compared to ours.

  4. But seriously, I don’t think what’s holding us back in Auckland is that we don’t understand the What and the How of what happened in New York. So I’m not sure how much liaison with these guys is going to do. What’s holding Auckland back is more the fundamental attitude of many Aucklanders, and AT employees to transport. I believe Aucklanders are far more in love with driving than New Yorkers ever were. After all, it’s a city where public transport, in the form of the subway, trains and buses has long played a massive role. I’m not sure how you shift that mindset, but I’m not sure that seeing what wonders they worked in New York with some paint and planters is going to help much. I agree with another recent post on this blog that suggested cities such as LA have far more in common with Auckland. I just don’t think New York is a relevant example for us.

    1. The old ‘in love with driving’ twaddle. If this describes you and you live in Auckland then prepare to have your heart broken, or move to Tauranga. It isn’t hard to understand what is happening in Auckland, it’s simply an issue of scale and geography. Auckland is no longer a little provincial town that can accommodate everyone in a car for all journeys, and it has plenty of natural choke points that make Transit even more efficient; that’s all. It now needs city-shaped solutions to movement and place issues, and will get them.

      Furthermore perhaps you haven’t been to NY, or only to Manhattan? They so have autodependent suburbia on Statten Island and Long Island, for example, so it isn’t in fact that different in theme, although it is in scale. True that AKL has underinvested in Rapid Transit infrastructure but that is being fixed too, belatedly, and a great system is not that out of reach.

      1. You really don’t meet many people in Auckland who relish the idea of driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the motorway every day. Many people see it as inevitable or natural, but how many people do you honestly meet who actually love driving? As opposed to just rationally picking it as the best of the half-arsed options available to them?

        Frankly, I think when it comes to organising their travel, most people are far more rational and less emotional than our city planners and transport managers are.

  5. It’s not about how much AKL is similar to NY or not, its about how to manage change in cities. These guys have a great deal of experience about bringing about change successfully. That’s the area they can help us with.

  6. I remember when Fosters gained permission in London to change Trafalgar Square from being a traffic roundabout, to what it is now: a place for people, freely connecting between the National Gallery and the central square with Nelson up on his column. I was all keen just to go out and cone off the roads that night, get things started, etc. it had already been over two years in the planning, getting permission from the bus companies, the taxi drivers, the postal service, etc etc, even the pigeon fanciers who used to reside in the square. But, it took another two or three years more of officialdom and expensive granite kerbs etc before we got there. I like JSK’s method best!
    Re Nick1234’s comment – yes, he is right, Manhatten especially is pedestrian. The statistic I recall is something like 85% of Manhattenites get to work by either walking or public transport. Figures for the other four Boroughs are obviously different, but regardless, Auckland will obviously never get anything like those figures (Wellington is much more similar to anew York in that respect than Auckland ever could be). But you’ve gotta start somewhere. Good on you with this first move!

  7. This is a stand out blog with some well considered commentary. one the best I know of. I hope Janette’s visit was the shot in the arm that Auckland needs. We are of course different to NY and our car addiction so much more ingrained. So little of the right infrastructure investment for so long. Its a long road back but we are tracking well, have some runs on the board and are building momentum. I can sense the shift and the public are getting impatient for more – faster, quicker, cheaper and bolder. This is a good thing. Our shared spaces point the way, but its time for serious community partnered tactical short term action inspired by what Janette and team achieved. Let’s get together please and decide what, when, how and who. Who do I talk to and how can we help you? We’ve got some good ideas but we’d love to hear your ideas. Thanks Ludo (Design Champion – Auckland Council)

    1. Ludo – some months ago AT came asking for feed back and quick wins directly in the PT space. I know you are not AT but surely some of those ideas would be worth running and looking at? I can’t recall ever getting feedback on progress after the winners were announced. Thanks for bring JSK to Auckland yesterday. Another excellent evening but I think people have had enough conversation and want more than a little action. Get the paint, cones and beach chairs out NOW for bus lanes and ped spaces please.

    2. Hi Ludo, thanks for dropping by. We have a pretty long list of possible interventions that we’ed love to bring to the BEU, and of course we have a very good portal now to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ right here, that is a resource just waiting to be exploited by Council. I will contact you off line. Cheers.

      1. Excellent. Janette’s presence was a watershed for Auckland. There were many important decision-makers in the room who heard the powerful desires of the audience. After 50 years of talking it is certainly time for action. There are some projects that we of course need to lead, design, champion and deliver on behalf of the community. Some projects we should light the touch paper and simply get out of the way! Looking forward to catching up to discuss. Ludo

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