The other week, I reposted Melissa Bruntlett’s great reflection about gender and urban activism, and asked: Can Transportblog facilitate a broader conversation about urban issues that allows more voices to be heard?

Judging by the diversity of views and perspectives that came out in the comments, Aucklanders from all different walks of life are clearly passionate about the future of their city. As many readers don’t look at the comments section, I thought it would be good to highlight a few of the many great responses we got.

Kurt T calls for a focus on active modes in south Auckland, where people could really benefit from the option to get around without a car:

I’m early 30s, male, brown and interested in transport issues. I am currently studying for a change of career into international business, but the amount of time I spend reading this blog and about transport and urban design issues in Auckland makes me wonder if I’m not missing a trick here and should get some sort of urban planning qualification under my belt.

A different perspective that I can bring to the table growing in Auckland is the need for active modes to be encouraged in poorer areas. It’s no secret that Maori and Polynesians face some pretty horrid health outcomes in NZ and I feel that auto-culture and city design focused on shifting metal boxes as quickly as possible to the detriment of active citizens (as was so tragically demonstrated last week) have played a role in the stats we see today and that better urban design that prioritises humans propelling themselves under their own steam could play a huge role in reversing some of these terrible trends. Priority funding for protected cycleways on all major arterials in South and West Auckland would be a start. There would also be significant cost savings as was demonstrated in one of the posts here not too long ago to Auckland’s poorest citizens forgoing their vehicles and hopping on a bike.

Another is changing the perception among poorer Aucklanders that cycling is a child’s past-time or for middle-class, white males in lycra into something that is far more functional, beneficial and generalised. But I fear that that won’t happen until the infrastructure is built first and people are confident.

Suzanne reports on the realities of transport for someone who’s got both kids and a job:

I read transport blog from time to time – I am definitely interested in improving transport across Auckland. I live in Central-East Auckland, with kids that I have to drop off in neighbouring suburbs each day, followed by a long 50-odd km commute South for work. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the other end of the day. I see horrendous traffic queues coming into the city from the South each day and am very grateful that I am heading away from that traffic. Co-workers from Pukekohe who have to go into town occasionally for work tell me that they need to leave home at 6am in order to have a reasonable commute.

But the thing that bothers me personally is that dropping off my kids each morning in two different places in rush hour can take me an hour before I even leave the city, even though in total I am travelling less than 10km in total for those drop offs. Part of the problem is that before school care and daycare don’t open until 7:30, so I have to travel in rush hour. And there is little alternative with my route but to take a car.

I should add that I am a public transport advocate, who used to use it before the demands of kids and my work. I am happy to develop these options, in order to get more cars off the road.

@ByTheMotorway makes some fascinating and well thought-out points about the value of street grids in providing safety and accessibility for all users:

I find that giving priority to street grids in cycling strategy, is of greater relevance to the non-white, non-cis-male, ability-variant, economically underprivileged, etc., sectors of the population.

[…]

* The Chinese grandparents who do cycle or would cycle short distances on Dominion Rd and its surrounds need neither a cycleway by any motorway, nor a “parallel route” elsewhere. The streetcar-suburb grid matters most — in catchments of front-door-to-front-door trips around local centres and bus stops, not necessarily up a single linear corridor.

* Likewise, the main radial route that matters to a schoolkid in South Auckland is the one that takes them from the front door of their home to the school gate, preferably via Aunty’s house, and not via SH1 or NAL. Except, we have to multiply this in every direction for a targeted proportion of the school population. Secondarily, we can repeat the process for extended family, babysitters, local shops, houses of worship, and PT nodes. Only a local street grid can encompass all of these assets to enable all of these trips and support such a community, space- and cost-efficiently.

* K’Rd is where it is and what it is for a reason. There are a number of streets that could have evolved to do what K’Rd does (Ponsonby, Symonds, Beach, Fort, maybe), but these would all share certain highly-connected network-geometric traits. One function of K’Rd is evident in its massive importance to Auckland’s queer peoples, starving artists and the like, who have historically been underprivileged, and often relied on the social support of this neighbourhood of scale. These same network-geometric qualities are why it is among Auckland’s busiest cycling, walking and PT-carrying streets already, and why it deserves better treatment. (Note: the same geometric rule applies to Queen St and finance, or Shortland St and law, but keep in mind the initial premise of servicing basic need vs discretion.)

Chris seconds Kurt’s points about transport priorities in south Auckland, and adds his voice as a car-using supporter of better public transport and walking and cycling:

There are some exciting PT projects such as the Manukau and Otahuhu interchanges and electrification to Pukekohe which will make a huge difference once they are completed. Such a shame that there is no funding for them yet. What is lacking though in the south, in order to decrease the car dependence, is a focus on creating multimodal streets with cycle networks and bus lanes where suitable. Instead people are expected to park and ride.

I live in rural Karaka and although I rely on my car, I see much greater merit in govt and council investment in sustainable transport, so well done to the efforts of the transportblog team in advocating for this.

Angela talks about how having children has changed the way she uses and perceives urban transport systems – safety for children walking or cycling by roads is a huge concern:

I’m a women in my 30’s (just) with two young kids. I read your blog daily and find it very interesting. I moved back to NZ in 2008 from HK so used public transport for everything. I was frustrated with the PT here and wanted to understand why it was so poor – this blog has given me some real insights. I’ve seen great improvement since I’ve come back. I do not have the depth of knowledge to write any posts and that is probably why most of the post are written by people in the industry who tend to be male and have more time. A couple of points I’d like to make from family perspective is I didn’t realise how much we were dictated to by cars until I had kids. Then you realise how often you have to stay watch out for the road, cars constantly when you’re out and about. As an adult you’ve learned these things and take it for granted. Shared spaces are great but it is confusing for kids as it seems like a pedestrian area so harder to realise it is a type of road and they need to watch for cars. Also my kids are not school age yet but when they are it will be easier for me to use public transport as they are not reliant on me to get to school. So things like improving walking and road crossings would make a huge difference.

Lastly, an anonymous (female) reader wrote in to discuss the challenges of publicly expressing one’s views while working in government:

The reason I’ve taken it to email rather than in the comments section is that as a public sector employee I am bound by a code of conduct that makes me very wary about commenting in a public forum about matters relevant to my employer that isn’t official policy. As an individual I am very passionate and hold some strong views that are not always in alignment with my employer, but feel I can only express them verbally in the company of friends. So I am a silent voice on the blog, I read it and discuss it with friends, but don’t feel it is appropriate for me to comment. This could be impacting on why some voices are not heard on the blog. Particularly when women are more likely to be employed in the public sector, and often take a more cautious approach interpreting codes of conduct.

Thanks to everyone who responded – please continue the conversation!

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15 comments

  1. I grew up in Manurewa and raised a family there. I biked everywhere as a kid and as a young man. Traffic then was very light but nowadays it is too heavy to ride safely even on local roads. I agree that the local street networks need to be strengthened to encourage walking and cycling. I believe there was a trial in glen Innes where a pocket of streets were converted to community friendly spaces with trees planted in the middle of roads,straight streets were made into obstacle courses for cars and mini parks created on the side and in the middle of streets. We need to do more of that and expand it through out the city. People need to reclaim their streets,after all they do belong to us.(not the traffic engineers )

  2. I’m a fan of public transport….but no mode of transport can be of much use for people who work a long way from where they live and also have to move children – in a car – to some other remote location. It’s a case study of how NOT to structure a life – regardless of transport modes. We bought a house (or rented, if we couldn’t afford to buy) near work and schools…and when the work moved, we sold the house or gave notice and moved, too. We have done the time-wasting, tiring commuting thing and it really is a leech on one’s life and the kids miss out big time through the hours spent moving around or waiting to move around. It’s actually easier to shift and get one’s life under control…including moving around easily on foot or by public transport. My current house is very close to a train station. My last one was 100m from a bus stop on a major route. The house wasn’t my first choice, but the location was what we needed. It’s possible if you make it so. Sure…there may be compromises required. but they are usually worth the time saved by not racing around or sitting in traffic. Of course…no one wants to hear this, so there is little point in saying it, I suppose…..but the way we structure our lives isn’t an accident of nature. We can control it. Operating at the margin of risk tolerance only exposes one to the inevitable disturbances and obstructions that arise in any over-extended, unsustainable arrangement: traffic, weather, whatever…. Eventually this becomes obvious and people adjust accordingly…but in the meantime they are stressed and tired and fell powerless.

  3. To anonymous female. I never considered the issue of appropriateness to comment on a blog and I don’t think there is anything in one’s employment agreement that forbids doing so. (I haven’t checked lately.) Public employees are allowed to have and express opinions as long as they are not trying to influence legislation, violating confidentiality, or being libelous. Transportblog allows pseudonyms, so you would be very hard to identify or track, if anyone thought it was worth the bother. That’s my case. True, you have to give your email to the Blog but I still don’t think there is any risk at all.

    I just say all this because you obviously have a lot to contribute and it would enrich the discussion to hear it.

    1. That may be the law, but I think you’ll find there is a risk for public servants.to put their name to any opinion, particularly one that concerns their area of work. The fear among employees in Wellington is real.

      1. public service worker here (in lunch break). Freedom of speech wins over code of conduct but bosses don’t care about that, hence my anonimity

  4. Think of the children. And the parents. Apart from the nightmare of dropping children off at school, there is also what they do in their free time. One goes to swimming lessons. The other may also go to swimming lessons, but because he is a beginner of course it’s at a different time. Which means you have to drive 4 times to the swimming pool if you’re unlucky. My parents had to keep an entire schedule of required trips.

    Some perspective on biking to school: in Belgium the government was concerned a few months ago because so few children are riding their bike to school. The percentage had dropped to 25%.

  5. Some readers of the blog hate my car-orientated drivel, but I’ll add some points to the discussion. As an 18 year old, I’ll say this…we need to maximize the convenience of all modes, without sacrificing other modes so we could maximise efficiency and capacity in the Auckland transport network. This means building as many infrastructure projects as possible. Auckland should have both an efficient roading and public transit system. At the moment, it has neither. This means that CRL should proceed as soon as possible, for instance as well as arterial roads and motorway upgrades, more cycle lanes, and more busways etc. In my opinion a loss of urban space is fine, as long as new urban space is created close to the affected area and it is a better quality than the one that was ‘lost.’

    However, the thing that is most important for me is not transport options (still very important though), rather, it is the cost of necessities – food, water, clothing and housing. I’ll be entering the housing market in ten years time, therefore the price of housing is a large factor when deciding what town to move to. What we need is more high quality affordable housing, regardless if it is high rise apartments, terraced housing or stand-alone housing. The relationship between transport and housing is strong as high density housing makes public transit, cycling and walking more effective. Honestly, if there was a good quality 2 bedroom apartment (with a carpark) near the Albany mall and bus stop, for $400,000, then I would purchase one, however, something like this isn’t available at the moment. That is the issue we face as there would be more and more first home buyers who are locked out of the market. Therefore, what we need is more homes closer to transport hubs and closer to town, as well as more sprawl, as long as it is done well. Overall, this would mean an absolute increase in the supply of housing is necessary. BTW, one reason why transit is growing as much as it is now could be that using public transit is much more affordable than driving and that households are now ‘worse off’ as they pay more for housing….

    Regarding the blog’s and Gen Zero’s plan to intensify housing, I do have two concerns.1) How do we ensure that all of it is of a high quality and that most of it is affordable? 2) Will we see the kind of housing bubble we are in today, again in fifteen years time except this time with smaller, high density homes, rather than the stand alone houses we see today?

    I will leave you with some food for thought. A city is like a child. It needs nurturing and care. It will grow and change. Some say that he or she isn’t growing or changing fast enough or is changing too fast, however it will grow and it will change. Some children prefer to do everything, some like to do only one activity. No two children are the same. Finally, it requires a large amount of money to look after and grow one.

      1. Wow. Cheers for that. Let’s hope the price stays at that level for the next ten years…btw, is there anything closer to the 70-80m2 mark as 48m2 seems a bit small for 2 bedrooms

    1. “we need to maximize the convenience of all modes, without sacrificing other modes so we could maximise efficiency and capacity in the Auckland transport network.”

      That is the problem this blog wants to address. For a long period since the 50’s the only thing that was maximized was throughput of cars at peak time, nothing else.

      So we ended up in a city which, compared to any other city I’ve ever visited, is just utterly hostile to anyone outside a car, and in need of much better public transit. You could say it didn’t get proper nurturing. Now we need to restore balance between driving, walking, bicycling, bus, train and others.

      1. Exactly, we need to improve improve biking, transit and walking amnesties so that those who choose to use these modes aren’t shafted. The difficult thing here is that I believe that we shouldn’t have to reduce vehicular capacity on arterial roads except as a last resort or where it is definitely not needed (e.g. Nelson Street). We do have to improve some parts of the roading network so that those who use private vehicles (because they are more convenient in certain situations) and that 40% of homes under the Unitary Plan is basically “sprawled housing”. In my opinion, Auckland has nearly enough (not yet enough though) roading minerals and a large deficit in active and transit vitamins 😛 . Obviously, when there are road widening projects, better cycling amnesties should be put in as well if possible. Unlike some other commentators, I fully support the Auckland plan minus Penlink…however, maybe we do need more than just two or three options. Maybe we also need to look at other more equitable funding options than a rates and petrol tax hike, or a motorway tax…

      1. By ‘housing market’ I mean purchasing a home in the ‘housing market’. Right now I am in the ‘rental market’ in Melbourne. I’ve got to say, the cost of renting a studio here in insane, compared to a one or two bedroom unit. Even those units are still quite expensive…

        Therefore, when I say ‘housing market,’ I am talking about buying or selling a home. When I talk about the ‘rental market,’ I talk about renting a home

  6. http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/67544729/Bus-driver-flouts-rule-on-mums-with-prams
    something perhaps relevant to this discussion – to quote from above
    “Wellington city councillor Iona Pannett, who had been lobbying the regional council to change its guidelines since 2013, said the driver’s response was disappointing. Even if he had not known the new rules, it would have been common courtesy to let Jones on with her unfolded pram.

    Pannett, who has children aged 5 and 3, said after last week’s rule change: “The only time I’ve ever felt like a second-class citizen, as a woman and a mother, is when I’ve got on a bus.” “

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