Auckland Star April 1973. Back in the Dark Ages it was considered appropriate to near kill the patient in order to help them. In the 1970s Central government transport planners nearly succeeded in killing the Auckland City Centre through the subtle act of flattening its densest and most proximate dormitory suburbs, then cutting it off any still standing from the city, and turning city streets into motorway off ramps. The charm and glory of these multi-year campaigns are still with us today on the beautiful avenues of Hobson and Nelson Sts, the terrible road pattern and wasted landuse of Union and Cook St, and the blighted devalued areas of K Rd and Newton. And of course the violated and severing gullies themselves. The scale of this ‘surgery’ can be seen in this spread.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_01_800px

The accompanying text is fairly flat and informational.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_02_800px

It seems the desire for a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate, like those postwar planners had in Europe, was so great that we made our own ‘bombsite’.

Happily now we live in more enlightened times and the next city surgery of scale will be much more sophisticated, the City Rail link which as an incision compared to this earlier work is laparoscopic; minimal invasive surgery. No need to maim the patient. Once done no one will even see it, except for that high value resource of people flooding on to city streets not in a car looking for a parking space. And will supply at least as much capacity as the three motorways that meet at this point do today*.  So the CRL will double the accessibility to the nation’s most concentrated, biggest, and highest value employment centre, and fastest growing residential area, seamlessly. After the recovery from a few precise cuts, that is.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_03_800

*Show your work, as Peter always says:

CRL 24 trains per hour each way 750 per train [not crush load; that’s 1000] ~ 36k [crush 48k]

M’ways 12 lanes @2160 [1800 vehicles @1.2 occupants] per lane hour ~ 26k

Of course the buses on the Bridge land some 9000 souls currently too.

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  1. The CRL Modern stents for Aucklands almost blocked coronary arteries.

    Invisible. Safe. Effective. And a shit load cheaper than a heart transplant.

  2. And 50 years from now when we are all gone what will commentators even ‘more enlightened’ think of the current ‘enlightened’ efforts and proposals? Technology and society changes all the time and no doubt whatever is the ‘greatest thing’ or best idea now will be considered to lack in times to come.

    1. Yes, but not always. Most Victorian cities of scale are incredibly fortunate to have the railways built in that era. I was reflecting on this at Sydney’s Central Station last week. All of that massive track work and huge hall, built for what was the combined airport and freight hub of its day is now being thoroughly used just for intra-city people movement. And relied upon. In fact I’d go so far as to say that so many cities have coasted on the huge infrastructure build by those vigorous Victorians and Edwardians, What London and Paris and Boston haven’t had to build because what they inherited, real wealth.

      Also think how grateful Paris is for Hausman’s rebuliding. Barcelona for the Extension. etc etc. We should be careful with abandoning hard won infrastructure inherited from our forebears. I shudder to think how close Auckland came to losing its rail network in the Dark Ages hinted at above.

      But in general you are right; we should all be humble about how certain we are with that whatever new thing is in fashion…. where’s my jetpack and moonbase….?

      1. Your grandchildren will laugh at you Patrick, for not having foreseen the coming age of hover boards and quantum molecular travel….

        1. The implementation of a reliable quantum compensator and “tell me ten times” transfer protocol for long range teleportation is left as an exercise to the viewer 🙂

    2. Based on life expectancy tables, I’ll still be alive at that point. I’m sure the kids will all be riding hoverboards or downloading themselves into robots for transport. Can’t wait to find out!

      But seriously, urban rail systems (and underground rail) have been around for over 150 years. Almost every city that built one has kept it and in most cases expanded it. The cities that ripped out their rail systems, like LA, are now rebuilding them. They seem to be a good long-term investment, in other words.

    3. What will they think of us? Interesting question to ponder, but there is no way to know. Our responsibility is to learn from past mistakes – our own and others’ – and consider in our analyses that we might be wrong. We also have to learn from successes, too. Fact is, so many things were done in olden days with very little analysis or “strategic thinking” (a term they surely did not have) that success was hit or miss.

      In those times government had far more influence than it does now, and far more money in comparison. They built subways because they needed subways. They didn’t have to do ridership projections, enter into “Transport Alignment Projects” with central government, or consult the public. The market was not overlord. They were also addressing problems we don’t have – squalor, disease, a totally fetid environment, housing in name only.

      More recently, as we have seen ourselves, there have been planning fads – urban freeways perhaps the worst of them, and all perpetrated with public money with the best of intentions. There has been slum clearance replaced with high-rise public housing, turning failing inner-ring commercial areas (a result of the motorways) into “suburban-type malls” (mainly a US disease), also in the US the festival market phenomenon about three of which are still operating, convention centres, stadiums, and casinos. The thing is, they (in some cases we) didn’t know we were making or, worse, compounding mistakes. Such things were in fashion and everyone wants to be fashionable. Now, we’re talking about old stuff – density, rail, walkability, small-scale development – the very things we so recently tried to get away from. Is that the right thing to do? If so, are we doing it right? Are we learning the lessons of history, or are we repeating them? Or learning the wrong lessons? Something to contemplate for the weekend, but contemplate it too much and nothing will ever get done. This has been your Philosophical Minute for today.

  3. My biggest ‘hate’ is any motorway that is more than 2 lanes wide each way and the prospect of motorways that are 10 lanes wide fills me with horror as I see what we are doing to our cities. I can truly say I was dismayed when the Northern Motorway went beyond the Northcote Road/Smales Farm area back in the early 1960’s.
    The reality is that motorways in the city are thoroughly unpleasant and severing constructions and noisy too.
    So bring on the City Rail Link, Airport Rail and and metro rail to the North Shore asap. i.e. Pronto
    It’s a better way……………………

  4. Come on guys – have some balance in your reporting and comments. The reality is that Newton Gully was a shit hole of cheap and shoddy housing. K’road was where you went for a tattoo and strippers. Grafton gully was a grave yard (literally) and Hobson street was so run down the Princes of Wales pub got turned into a shelter for the homeless.

    Imagine the way Auckland, especially the shore and western suburbs would have faltered if the motorway connections that by passed the city had not been built. Either population growth would have been sent further south or the CBD would have been choked with cars crossing between motorways.

    As for rail – an google of London will show you that rail lines into cities are also wide sewers of transportation. Even taking a small city like Zurich the train lines have cut the city in half where the motorways are mostly underground.

    You guys talk about Auckland as if it is some awful place ruined by the motorcar and yet ‘reflect on Sydney’ as if it is somehow better. Aucklanders should be thankful we are not like Sydney with the awful shared road/rail sewer that is the Cahill expressway. Talk about cut a city ff from its harbour 🙁

    1. “shit hole of cheap and shoddy housing” – Like Ponsonby was you mean?

      The original plan was for what is now SH20 to be SH1 (via the route of what is now the Waterview tunnel – no tunnel needed at the time of course) and then the city would still have been bypassed but without motorway right through the middle – like Vancouver. I don’t see why that would have made Western or Northern expansion less desirable, it would have just resulted in a different route. Let alone if the 1949 government hadn’t scrapped the rail/bus network that was planned in favour of solely motorway led development. This would have included the equivalent of the CRL.

      It was the mayor at the time who insisted SH1 join the bridge to be sure the tolling didn’t fail. So we could have had a good motorway system without slicing the city in half.

      I don’t think anyone has suggested Sydney is some kind of model for roading in Auckland. Only that its rail network is better than ours – for example it goes across the harbour bridge. A massive difference. I doubt any Australasian city would be considered a model for Auckland. Vancouver may be a better one.

      Why do you assume what happened in Auckland was inevitable or the result of some unstoppable process? It is the result of decisions made by wholly fallible people who were capable of making, and did make, mistakes. If things had been done differently the city could be different, and likely better.

  5. What is left of that “cheap and shoddy housing” is now the Residential 1 heritage zone and costs a fortune. I moved into my house in the Eden Terrace end of Kingsland at the beginning of 1981 when the NW motorway had just been completed and the big scar of the severance of the Newton gully was still red raw on the landscape. The Government was practically paying people to move back into the remnants of the community – it was the CHIPS area where if you were a first home buyer and were going to live in the house, you could get a Housing Corp first mortgage and the princely sum of $12,500 for essential repairs and renovations. It took until well into the 1990’s for the area to recover.

  6. Local resident – You are quite wrong in your allegation that K Road was only about tattoo and strippers. The main part of K Road was Auckland’s main secondary shopping area and the location of George Court, Flacksons, Rendells, Levenes and other prominent retailers and was an important tram interchange. If the motorway which effectively killed it, hadn’t been burst through there, K Rd would still have been as important as Newmarket is today. And Hobson Street only deteriorated when it was turned into a one way raceway. So please don’t hand us that nonsense as fact.

  7. Warren S – you are absolutely right about the shopping in K Rd. In the 1980’s when I worked at Trades Hall in Gt North Road I did most of my shopping in K Rd. It had a great fish shop and there was a McKenzies there also. Bit dodgy at night – but not much different to now.

  8. Cities attract cars – into and around them. The current motorway model is the correct plan. Using SH20 as the main north/south corridor would have been madness and left the North Shore a traffic nightmare. That is unless you seriously think it should have continued with the car ferry.
    Sometimes you have some reasonable ideas but assuming you can build a model city without motorways is childish.

    1. Cities need motorways to quickly get from one side to another but Central Business Districts do not need them. Motorways use up too much space and if they try to service a CBD then they end up causing more harm than good.

      1. And railways don’t chop up cities? Have you ever seen a real rail station aka not the silly little Britomart.

    2. @ Local resident

      London is an example of a city which hasn’t allowed motorways to cut through its centre. Those motorways which head into London stop short of the CBD. Historically the incoming arterials fed into an arrangement of ring-roads such as the North and South Circulars. Today, the M25 performs this function, of enabling through traffic to bypass the city without scything through it. Paris has done things similarly.

      An interesting comparison of the keep-motorways-out or allow-cut-through alternatives can be found in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The former allowed the M8 to slice right through and the ambience of the city has been adversely affected ever since. The latter strongly resisted the encroachment of motorways and has retained its historic beauty. True, traffic-congestion affected this over the years, but aggressive pro-public-trasport policies have done much to mitigate this.

  9. If you look at the pictures you will see most of the inner city residential area around Newton and Wellington Street had already changed to low intensity commercial activities. The houses that were knocked down were probably still there simply because the National Roads Board had bought them or designated them. In terms of the effects of the motorway- I am still not convinced by anything presented on this blog to date that there were not significant benefits to the CBD of being an accessible core. There are quaint old cities and there are busy cities, most of us came to Auckland from elsewhere and most of us came because it is busy not for the chance to live in a worn out old villa.

      1. You can see that effect very clearly in aerial photographs of the late ’50s and early ’60s of the “Motorway trench”.
        In the late ’50s they are all busy areas, lots of houses and factories and people all busy making money and a community.
        K’Rd was a major shopping destination

        By 1963, it all looked like a Ghetto down there – car parks for Africa, a few run down houses, empty lots and little else.

        The difference? Motorway designations – so calling that area “clapped out” and due for a demo before the motorway arrived completely ignores the designations that preceded the motorway building by a decade or more which caused the decline.

        Same goes for Grafton Gulley – it was not a rat infested hell hole with nothing else to speak of, it was a popular suburb full of large houses on large sections and a stream that ran down the valley.
        Before the bulldozers arrived anyway.

    1. No Tony, it’s about not putting this kind of infrastructure in the city’s front yard but keeping it in the back; bypass, not through-pass. The scale of the CMJ and its severing location is a mistake, the biggest urban interchange in Australasia cutting off the city, and for such a relatively small city.

      But it’s there now, and any attentive reader will see the post is really about what we do next, not about trying to wish away the past, in fact it is important that we extract as much value out of this ‘mistake’ into the future as possible, but also not double down on it by repeating it. Always learn from the past.

      One thing to avoid is trying to stuff ever more traffic into this system, which is way we believe the third Harbour crossing in its current form is unwise and needs a re-think. Fairly confident sanity will prevail about this.

      The CRL offers a huge way to heal this cut by providing so much access with such an invisible footprint. And a similar route to the Shore is also an important and necessary next step. But we will also have to invest in improving surface connections over this wound too.

      This century is shaping up to being the Enlightenment to last century’s Dark Ages. Here’s hoping.

      1. Well said. Trying to cram more lanes and more cars through SH1 choke point by adding 6 more motorway lanes under the harbour is absolute madness. Why on earth do we even need 6 more lanes under the harbour after the waterview tunnel is built is beyond me. Waterview will present a massive new secondary motorway route bypassing the city and will take a lot of the traffic pressure off the harbour bridge.

        1. Went north over the bridge at 5:15 pm yesterday. Could have had the barriers in the middle and 4 lanes each way. No problem.

        2. An NZTA Highway Network planner admitted to me that they have no idea how drivers will react to the completion of the Waterview tunnel and the rest of the Ring Route. It will be fascinating to see. I think there is a good chance that it will lead to both release of some pressure on the CMJ and Bridge from SH1 north and south [or not; doesn’t it incentivise joining SH1 to get to those points on SH20 and beyond?], but a considerable increase from SH16. Currently traffic from the west is rationed by relative narrowness of SH16, and the lack of a connection from SH20. Both these conditions are about end, big time. Vehicles will flood instead of be rationed towards the CMJ from the west in sudden lumps.

          It will be very interesting to see what occurs. NZTA still see value in rationing SH1 at Mt Wellington [choked to 2 lanes!]. But are widening approaches north of the bridge, and all through SH16 and adding SH20’s three new lanes at Pt Chev. The CMJ has only 4 lanes from SH16, two to the city, and the two, one north and one south facing to SH1. And these look likely to me to infarct immediately….

          Anyway there is absolutely no point in NZTA making anything but the vaguest of claims about additional road lanes across the Harbour and into the CMJ until we get some years of this huge change to the network operating.

          Anyone willing to make a stab at likely out comes?; anyone read the modelling?

        3. Sames goes for the East West link – last year NZTA admitted they had absolutely no idea of how WRR opening will impact Onehunga.
          They also said they won’t know for quite some time AFTER WRR opens, so all decisions on EastWest links at Onehunga are simply fingers in the air (or in some other place, depending on how charitable you want to be).

          As for models – we all know that they are only as good as the assumptions, and NZTA seems to be particularly poor at getting those right as well.
          So any models will be absolute rubbish anyway.

      2. We have motorways that go into the CBD and we have motorways that by pass it – this is called ‘providing transport options’. Why would someone working in Northcote want to drive all the way round via SH20 to go to work in Penrose? Under your proposal the only other option would have been to drive through the CBD…. Can you imagine the chaos of every car journey from Birkenhead, Northcote, Takapuna, Devonport etc going through the CBD twice a day to get to South Auckland….Perhaps you are thinking the alternative motorway via SH20 would have been acceptable to those commuters – a small price to pay for avoiding Spag junc. How about the additional fuel burn for this extra long journey Patrick? Remember, it was the 70’s and there were two oil spikes that decade.
        If you had lived in London you would know the traffic nightmare of crossing the CBD. It is ridiculous that you can not go from East to West or North to South seamlessly. If you take a road option you are forced to take either the North/south circular or the M25, both needlessly long journeys that create a massive unnecessary additional carbon footprint. London should have built motorway tunnels, it would have been far more preferable to the mess they have today of a choked A40, A4, A1 North and South circular and M25. It is not even like you can take a train across London. The East/West line (Crossrail) is still years away and there is no plan for a north/south rail crossing.
        The motorway system Auckland has, given the budget available, is good. The AWHC will add benefit to Aucklands transport system and perhaps, if you do not want to live with it, you can apply for a job in London and live next to the A4.

    1. Local resident is our very own troll, fittingly living under the bridge and refusing to let non-motorised travelers pass by appealing Skypath.

  10. @Localresident. There is a north/ south railway through London. It’s called Thameslink and has been moving passengers via then then reopened Snow Hill link since 1987 and the glory days of Network South East. If you count the ELL and WLL there are now 3 N/S links.

    Crossrail is due to open in 2017. A poster mentioned Edinburgh. There was a plan to drive a motorway straight through Princes Street ala the M8 did in Glasgow. Can you imagine the annihilated urban fabric which would have followed?

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