David Killick, “Christchurch needs an eco-neighbourhood like Vauban“, The Press:

PERSPECTIVE: Vauban, in Freiburg, south-west Germany, is one of the world’s most celebrated residential eco-neighbourhoods.

With its solar power, “plus-energy” buildings, and accessible streets, Vauban offers a bold sustainable vision for the future of urban or suburban living. It could even work for Christchurch and Canterbury ­– but only if the authorities and enough people are determined to make it happen.

Vauban actually took shape despite, rather than because of planners. Rather than being a centrally-planned model with solutions prescribed and imposed from on high, it has grown far more organically and is the result of entrepreneurial individuals working together: communities doing it for themselves…

“Vauban’s planning process, which scrapped design regulations in the land-use plan and provided a wide range of different plot sizes, played a particularly important role in achieving the active neighbourly relations and district we see today. The planning process created a diverse mix of individual building projects, groups of building owners, rented and owner-occupied flats, co-operative models as well as inclusive accommodation projects that promote social integration.”

Reaching Vauban couldn’t be easier. A tram ride from the city centre takes us 15 minutes. My first impression is quiet leafy streets and cyclists: young and old, small children being carried on the front of bikes or in bike buggies, and all without helmets.

Cycling does not have to be an extreme endurance contest versus cars, as it is in Christchurch; cyclists and pedestrians take priority. Most cars are tucked away in plant-covered carports on the leafy streets; on residential laneways a 30kmh speed or walking pace limit applies. Some streets are car-free. Community solar and glass garages are fitted with solar panels.

Imran Cronk, “The Transportation Barrier“, The Atlantic:

Past research on health care access has examined the ways in which distance can present a problem for people in rural areas, but poorer people in suburban and urban settings, even though they may live closer to a doctor or hospital, can still have trouble with transportation. Some households don’t have a vehicle, or share one among multiple family members. As Gillian White noted in The Atlantic in May, low-income neighborhoods are hit particularly hard by shoddy transportation infrastructure—subways may not service areas on the fringes of a city, buses may be unreliable, and both are vulnerable to strikes or service suspensions. And for those who are disabled, obese, or chronically ill, riding the bus or the subway can be a difficult undertaking.

As a result, some people may find themselves without a way home after an emergency trip to the hospital, or miss a doctor’s appointment simply because they don’t have a way to get there. In a 2001 survey of 413 adults living at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level in Cleveland, Ohio, published in the journal Health & Social Care in the Community, researchers found that almost one-third of respondents reported that it was “hard” or “very hard” to find transportation to their health care providers—a problem that can mean more than a few missed checkups. A survey of 593 cancer patients in Texas, published in the journal Cancer Practice in 1997, found that in some cases, trouble with transportation led patients to forgo their cancer treatments. The problem was especially prevalent among minority survey respondents; 55 percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic survey respondents reported that transportation was a major barrier to treatment, compared to 38 percent of white respondents.

Erin Millar et al, “What does it cost to run the transportation system?“, Moving Forward:

The amount of money the average Metro Vancouverite pays in motor fuel tax is not even enough to cover one thousandth the cost of a single traffic signal. What can be built for the equivalent of former TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis’s infamously inflated $438,000 salary? Just over half a kilometer of a single lane on one of Metro Vancouver’s major roads.

These are a few of the many numbers emerging from our analysis of transportation costs in the region…


Alex Wrottesley, “A smarter, more digital world must grasp the power of a map“, The Guardian:

Geography underpins all we do – everything happens somewhere. This may seem obvious, but it is only as we have moved into a digital era, with digitalised maps, that the importance of mapping has been fully realised by governments and businesses. Take a brand new iPhone out of its box and the only feature that does not have a location feature is the notes app.

The value of location data and intelligence is rapidly growing. Nokia has just sold its mapping service to BMW, Audi and Mercedes for £2bn – technology that could prove invaluable in the race to develop driverless cars…

Mapping and location data underpins so much of the innovation going on in smart cities and with devices connected to the internet of things. Sensors are increasingly being deployed in urban and rural areas, and a map which shows their locations in real-time is the best way to manage and maintain them.

For example, future public bins will be able to communicate when they are full, and this will need coordinating – the nearest waste disposal vehicles identified and deployed. The ability to present this information in real-time – which in the trade is called interoperability – is the glue that holds this process together and is what makes it efficient in terms of cost savings and fuel waste reduction.

Jarrett Walker, “Explainer: On Transit ‘Integration’ or ‘Seamlessness’“, Human Transit:

…the organization of transit agencies, and especially of their boundaries or seams, needs to respect the geography of demand — as inherited county lines in the US do not always do.

We’ve also arrived at a more realistic notion of “seamlessness.”  There will always be seams in a transit journey, just as there will always be the need to make connections.  The conversation should not be about how to get rid of seams but how to put them in the right places, so that they work for both sides, and how to manage them so that travelers can flow through them easily.

Another way of thinking about the geographic issues I’ve been laying out here is that if you require a connection to continue your trip, there should be a rich payoff in terms of destinations you can reach.  The same is true for any hassles created by seams.  It’s like planes: it’s a drag to change planes, and especially to change between airlines, but it’s kind of cool, while you are changing planes, to look at the departure planes and think about all the other places you could also get to via this connection.  What’s more, all those connections are crucial to making your flights viable for the airline, even if you don’t use them.

The logic of connections is the logic of good seams in general.  They happen in places where it’s already logical for transit services to be discontinuous — either because of a natural boundary or because of a clear division of labor between regional and local service.  Those “good fences”, once found, can make for happy neighboring transit authorities, which will find it easy to work together for the sake of the customer’s liberty.

Living on Earth podcast, “Car-free to become carefree in Helsinki”:

Car-Free To Become Carefree In Helsinki 
(stream / mp3)

Finland’s capital of Helsinki is growing fast and the city’s current transportation system is overstretched and short of money. Helsinki’s Director of Transport and Traffic Planning Ville Lehmuskoski tells host Steve Curwood about the city’s novel “mobility as a service” model and how investing in shared modes of transit based on need will save money, reduce traffic congestion, and improve travel comfort and convenience. (6:25)

Elinor Chisholm, “A minor change to existing provisions“, Public Address:

The good news is that the government is taking action on this as part of the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act announced a couple of weeks ago. There’s far bigger changes, of course, and I’ll write about them in the future, but I wanted to draw attention to this one, as it’s easily overlooked.

It’s way down on page 7 of the Cabinet Social Policy Committee Paper, under the modest title “minor changes to existing provisions”:

j. Currently the Tenancy Tribunal can order a monetary payment as an alternative to a work order (s 78 (2)). Remove this provision in relation to work orders for compliance with smoke alarm and insulation requirements, as well as compliance with the requirements prescribed in the Housing Improvement Regulations (for example functioning sanitation).

This means that in the future, the Tenancy Tribunal has to force the landlord to bring his or her property up to standard. For example, if it’s a damp house (and it’s illegal to rent out a damp home under the Housing Improvement Regulations, as Bierre, Bennett and Howden-Chapman recently pointed out), the dampness problem has to be resolved.

David Zahniser, “LA maps out sweeping transportation overhaul“, LA Times:

Council members are on the verge of approving a sweeping new transportation policy, one that calls for hundreds of miles of new bus-only lanes, bicycle lanes and “traffic calming” measures over the next 20 years. The initiative, dubbed Mobility Plan 2035, has sparked a debate over the ramifications of redesigning major corridors such as Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard…

The plan represents the city’s most significant update of its transportation policy since 1999, a time when the city had considerably fewer rail and rapid bus lines.

The document, which goes to the council for a vote later this month, calls for an additional 300 miles of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traffic by curbs or other physical barriers. It also identifies 117 miles of new bus-only lanes and another 120 miles of streets where bus-only lanes would operate during rush hour.

Some corridors — including Sunset, Venice and Lankershim boulevards — would get both bus-only lanes and protected bike lanes under the plan.

Peter Reidy, “Why railways are valuable to New Zealand“, Dominion Post. The CEO of Kiwirail is, of course, talking up his own book, but it’s nonetheless a good op-ed:

OPINION: The cost of rail to New Zealanders and the value of rail to New Zealanders are two different debates. They are related, but they are not the same.

This financial year, for example, taxpayers will contribute $210 million to KiwiRail. That is one very basic measure of the cost of rail. Also this year, freight trains will replace an estimated 1.4 million trips that would otherwise have been required by trucks on our roads. That is a measure of the value of rail.

The benefits can also be measured in lower carbon emissions because of greater fuel efficiency than road transport, and reduced congestion on the roads.

It is estimated that in June alone, Wellington commuters avoided more than 650,000 car trips by taking a train. Fewer vehicles on the road also means a likely reduction in accidents, and the need for fewer new roads.

Stephen Holland et al, “Analysing environmental benefits from driving electric vehicles“, Vox EU:

In a recent paper (Holland et al. 2015), we study how the environmental benefit of vehicle operation varies from place to place in the US. We combine an econometric model of emissions from the electricity sector with a sophisticated model of damages from pollution to calculate the environmental benefit at the county level, as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1. County-level environmental benefit

  • The benefit is large and positive in many places in the west because the western electricity grid is relatively clean – primarily a mix of hydro, nuclear, and natural gas.
  • The benefit is large and negative in many places in the east because the eastern electricity grid primarily relies more heavily on coal and natural gas.

There are a few exceptions in the east, e.g. places like Atlanta in which the large population implies severe damages from gasoline cars so that electric cars have a small positive environmental benefit in spite of the dirty grid. Aggregating to the level of the state, the environmental benefits imply an electric vehicle purchase subsidy ranging from $3,000 in California to -$4,500 in North Dakota.

Lachlan Forsyth, “Top 10 complaints about cyclists“, Story:

1. Cyclists hate cars.

Not True. I bloody love cars. My dream car is a mint condition BMW E30 M3, but have you seen how much a good one costs?! There’s no way I’m getting that one past the wife. (The Lachlan Forsyth BMW E30 fund is accepting donations c/- TV3, 3 Flower St, Auckland.)

2. Why do cyclists take up so much of the road?

Generally speaking, when it happens, it’s out of safety. Often it’s to stay out of the “car-door zone“.

Sometimes, it’s because the road’s quite skinny and it’s safest to “claim the lane”. Try and imagine what it’s like to have a few tonnes of metal, travelling very quickly, trying to squeeze past you. It’s not pleasant. If you get stuck behind a slow cyclist, there’s no rush. Take a breath, wait a few seconds; it’ll be okay.

3. Cyclists don’t pay their way, so they don’t belong on the roads.

Okay, but they do. Local roads are paid for through rates. Highways are paid for through taxes. There’s no such thing as road tax. There are road user charges and fuel excise, but much of this money simply goes to maintaining the damage done to our roads by motor vehicles.

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  1. Sorry to upset but the article has some obvious errors. “The amount of money the average Metro Vancouverite pays in motor fuel tax is not even enough to cover one thousandth the cost of a single traffic signal.” Seriously? That according to the article would be $141 (one thousandth of a traffic signal) – as fuel tax in Vancouver is around $1.55 gallon that would be less than 100 gallons….which isn’t much at all to consume. You can nit pick and pull the taxes to pieces but sometimes sensational statements require simply sanity checks to determine if they hold true. The cost of the streetscape is fairly irrelevant as all modes of transport use streets. Everything costs.


    Much as I am a fan of electric cars they really don’t cause any less damage to roading than same sized fossil fuel cars, the only real advantage being (esp for NZ with current power generation technologies) that they don’t cause air pollution.

    1. That’s per capita, not per driver. So about 380 liters a year per person. In a four person household, in New Zealand at least, that equates to about $60 a week on petrol, on average. Doesn’t sound too crazy to me.

    2. Heavy vehicles are what cause damage to roads. Footsteps and bikes, not at all. Light passenger vehicles very little too. Pure unarguable physics.

      Road freight does not pay its way given that it causes almost all the damage; it is a business that is subsidised by property taxes, and cross subsidised by private vehicle users. And the uncosted drawn down on the environment.

      But that’s fine; subsidies are everywhere in our economy, what isn’t alright is denying their existence so we don’t debate the value of them rationally.

  2. I think Christchurch needs some new towns like Houten (HT Goosoid). https://www.houten.nl/burgers/verkeer-en-vervoer/fietsen1/cycling1/

    Either using the current existing railway corridors or creating a new rapid transit corridors using dedicated bus or light rail routes.

    I wrote some time ago about a possibility for a new town with a new bridge over the Waimakariri river. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/how-can-we-get-more-kiwis-into-homes/9256824/Housing-crisis-We-need-new-towns

    This idea could be updated with the Houten design principles and a express bus service that went New Town, Airport, University, Riccarton shops, Hospital, Central bus station -hopefully built in such a way that it could be upgraded to light rail if there was demand for it.

    Surely this would be better than mindlessly sprawling out to the automobile centric satellite towns of Rollston and Rangiora etc or to lifestyle blocks that consume vast blocks of the Canterbury plains.

    1. Seems Commuter Rail is getting a second look in, at Christchurch these days.

      This time from the Christchurch City Council – rather than Environment Canterbury, that well known hot-bed of Government appointees – ever since National sacked the entire eCan board prior to the ‘quakes ostensibly for ‘mismanaging’ the allocation of water resources in North Canterbury.

      So maybe those old carriages from Auckland could get a permanent home once AT sorts it shut out with regards the rail patronage problems it has now.

      But of course Brendon wouldn’t your new town be near the flight path of the Crhsitchurch airport – even if its on the other side of the river and to one side?
      And you’d need a road and rail bridge to be built, and can’t see NZTA coughing up for that, and KR doesn’t have the moolah for one either.

      1. Greg to answer some questions. No the township could be built west enough to be out of the noise control zone. I believe planes land on a north to south axis at Christchurch airport. An engineer from NZTA has informed me at first glance a new bridge over the Waimak would not be impossibly expensive. It would connect 50,000 Waimakariri Council residents with a similar number in Selwyn so it would be a well utilised route.

        In an ideal world Canterbury would get a 3rd Waimak bridge + newtown and passenger rail with TOD along the rail corridors. In some ways the the two schemes compliment each other by adding the airport, university and hospital to a rapid transit network. This could be further enhanced by a express bus service linking a new Belfast train station, a super hub at the airport, a new Hornby train station and Lincoln university.

        I would be ok with either scheme in the short to medium term.

  3. Not all Vancouverites drive by any stretch of the imagination, and many drive very litlle. That tax may well include other components so it may well be close to 250 gallons per vehicle which works out to about 250km a week per car If we assume half of all Vancouverites have a car that they actually drive and 1/4 of the tax is not fuel tax, and a fuel efficiency of 8L/100k. Sanity Check passed.

    The advantages are reduces pollution and reduced CO2 emissions, domestic power use is declining power capacity freed by domestic uses can be replaced by EVs, especially as all of our power will be renewables or NG in 3 years.

    1. “Ever since Roger Ulrich discovered in 1984 that hospital patients appear to recover more quickly from surgery in rooms with green views, a growing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated the health – and wealth – benefits of trees in cities.”

      Seems this sort of obvious-when-you-think-about-it information, causes history to go round in circles – where the Christchurch Town Hall now stands, used to be a Private Hospital called The Limes Private Hospital so named, because of all the mature Lime trees that lined the river bank on its southern edge.
      This hospital was used by many and in particular, convalescing WWI soldiers, and no doubt all the adjacent trees helped with that recovery process however you were injured, especially in those pre-Antibiotic days, when hospitals were more often know as a place of death than healing.

      I’m sure the good doctors who founded this establishment either implicitly knew, or discovered this fact long before Roger Ulrich above rediscovered it 30 years ago.

      The Lime trees all got the chop to make way for the Town Hall building in the ’70s, but their name lives on in “The Limes Room” in the Christchurch Town Hall which from memory was on the southern part of the Town Hall close to the river Avon.
      And maybe soon, the Christchurch Town Hall will be able to be right as rain now that its going to be fixed rather than demoed.

    1. Several hundred kilos of galv.steel, the LED lightbulb, the sensors, the wiring, the foundations. \i see it pretty easy.

    2. Its BS. The article is wrong. They don’t cost that much. Each lantern is like $2k. Mastarm like 10k. Its probably 140k for all the lanterns and poles at the whole intersection.

  4. “””For example, if it’s a damp house (and it’s illegal to rent out a damp home under the Housing Improvement Regulations, as Bierre, Bennett and Howden-Chapman recently pointed out), the dampness problem has to be resolved.”””

    This is a worry. Very few houses are intrisically ‘damp’, and would have to have a material defect such as a defective damp-proof-course or inadequate stormwater/groundwater-control in order to be so.

    In the vast majority of cases, dampness in houses is caused by those living in them – cooking, showering, laundering, breathing, and failing to deal properly with the inevitable moisture produced. And worst of all are those dreadful portable bottle-gas heaters.

    Landlords can certainly install ventilation systems but in general the causes of dampness are not the Landlord’s fault and are usually manageable by tenants that understand the issues regarding moisture and how to deal with it.

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