As the new year kicks off, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on some wider trends – as Patrick recently did in this excellent wrap-up of the year just gone. Looking forward, one of the most exciting trends relates to how technology will impact on how we travel. This post marks the first in what I hope to be a long-running series on transport technologies. In this initial post I want to focus on wider factors that might shape changes in transport technologies.

Some people may find this strange. After all isn’t technological change a random gift from the gods, i.e. something which emerges from the ether without any particular rhyme or reason? Au contraire. Technological change doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it arises from entrepreneurial people and businesses anticipating people’s wants and needs. And just because a particular technology is developed doesn’t mean it will find a market and become widely adopted.

For this reason, before we try and portend too much about future transport technologies themselves, I think it is useful to step back and think about the process through which technological change occurs, and in particular the factors that capture the attention of entrepreneurs and/or shape the market for new technologies in other ways. The following sub-sections identify three factors, namely 1) Land use; 2) Public policies; and 3) Demographics, which I expect to direct the arrow of technology change in coming decades.

You may be able to think of others, and I’d be interested to hear what they are.

1. Land use: Denser cities favour space-efficient transport modes

Why begin a conversation about transport technologies by talking about land use? Put simply, the demand for transport (especially when measured in terms of passenger-kilometres travelled) is strongly dependent on the choices people make about where to live in relation to where they want to be. Land use also impacts on the relative effectiveness of different transport modes. For example, when average trip distances are short, then walking and cycling become more viable and vice versa. Hence, trends in land use are likely to have a bearing on the scale and composition of future travel demands.

What is happening to land use in New Zealand? Two over-arching trends emerge from the data: 1) urbanisation, i.e. more people are living in cities and towns and 2) densification, i.e. the dense areas of our cities are growing the most rapidly. The first trend is well-established and has persisted for the best part of a century, so I won’t cover it here. The second trend, however, is not well-understood in some quarters. David Seymour, for example, was recently quoted by The Herald as follows (source):

I don’t believe in 50 years time when we’re a society with vastly more sophisticated transport that people will be as attracted to living so intensely,” he said. “As transport technology improves, as it has for the last 200 years, people will say that’s great and travel farther and faster and we’re going to consume more space,” he said.

Seymour’s forecast runs contrary to observed land use trends over the last two decades or so. The table below is extracted from a paper written by my colleague Peter Nunns, which summarises densities for New Zealand cities in the period 2001 – 2013. We find that most cities that are growing have also experienced increases in density in this period, with Auckland leading the pack with a 33% increase in density.

Densities

I should point out that this table uses “population-weighted densities”, which measures the density at which the average resident lives. Population-weighted densities are a more  accurate indicator of urban density than the more-commonly cited “average density”, for reasons Peter discusses here.

The following two graphs provide strong evidence of how density is changing in Auckland. The first figure shows population growth in Waitemata compared to other parts of Auckland. The second figure then shows population growth in Auckland’s city centre from 1996 to 2015, in which time the population of the city centre grew at an average rate of ~12% p.a.. This is approximately six times higher than the Auckland average, which in turn is higher than the New Zealand average.

Auckland LB Population Change - 2015 2

City Centre Population - 1996-2015 2

It’s reasonable to suggest that where density increases, then we can also expect the value of land to increase – holding other factors constant. Research by Arthur Grimes into land values in Auckland suggests that the “pull” of Auckland’s city centre has indeed increased in the last two years (source).

And where space becomes more valuable, then one might reasonably expect space efficient transport modes to become relatively more attractive. A paper aptly titled “The Future of Motorized Transport” had this to say about the relative space efficiency of different transport modes (source).

Land use per mode

This analysis suggests that, on average, cars require ten times more space than the next least space-efficient transport mode (buses). In my opinion, this seems to indicate that where density increases, and space becomes more valuable, then cars will be placed at an significant disadvantage compared to other transport modes.

Is my hypothesis borne out by data on people’s transport choices? While we can never be sure, I would cautiously answer “yes”. The following figure, for example, shows how the total number people accessing the city centre using cars or public transport has changed in the period from 2001 and 2014.

Basically, all of the growth in travel demands to Auckland’s city centre over the last 15 years (plus some) has been met by public transport. Moreover, the following figure shows total public transport patronage in Auckland since 1920. While much hooplah has been made of recent patronage growth, this figure shows how PT patronage in Auckland has actually been growing at a decent pace since the early 1990s, which is around the same time that the population of central areas started to grow. Coincidence? I suspect not.

1920-2015 Auckland Patronage 1

Is Auckland unique in terms of its land use trends? After all, what matters most to technological development is not what’s happening in Auckland but the general trends that are happening globally. It’s hard to say conclusively, and I don’t have time to do a detailed survey in this blog post (please let me know if you know of one). However data does suggest that Auckland is not *alone* in terms of the land use trends that it’s seen over the last two decades or so. For example, here’s what a recent publication had to say about trends in the value of land in Amsterdam (source): “The price of land in the Amsterdam city centre is 200 times as high as that in the countryside … this price difference more than doubled between 1985 and 2007.

Now at this point you might not be convinced by my dot-joining between density, land values, and transport outcomes, and for quite understandable reasons: Not all of the transport outcomes illustrated in the preceding figures will be caused by trends in land use. You might argue that changes in travel demands are likely to reflect a myriad of other factors, such as policy changes and demographic trends. And I think you’d be correct, which brings me to my next two points …

2. Public policy: Slowly recognizing the need for change?

The preceding section argued that trends in land use in Auckland have increasingly favoured space-efficient transport technologies. This raises the question of whether policy-makers have been responding to these trends? The answer, I think, is “yes, albeit rather slowly”. The key point I want to make in this section is that future trends in travel demands will be impacted by shifts in public policies which are already underway. Hence, it is useful to understand these shifts because they are relevant to the question of which technological developments are adopted by people with the most vigour.

Parking is perhaps the most notable example of policy change in the Auckland context. So-called minimum parking requirements, or “MPRs”, were removed from Auckland city centre in the 1990s. For those of you who haven’t heard of MPRs, they are regulations imposed by Councils which require new developments to provide a certain “minimum” amount of parking. The amount is based on predictions about the peak demand for parking at each individual development.

Of course, if you provide a lot of free parking then you are providing a large subsidy to people who drive, and at the same time reducing the density of development. In this recent post, Peter discussed the removal of MPRs in terms of the proposed Commercial Bay development at the foot of Queen Street. He comments as follows:

… if those MPRs still applied to the city centre, Commercial Bay would have required over 2,000 carparks. That’s seven times as much parking as the developers actually want to build … According to Precinct, Commercial Bay will cost $681 million to build. If MPRs required the development to include another 1,750 carparks, at a cost of $30-50,000 apiece, it would add $50-90 million to the cost of the project. That suggests that MPRs would impose a “regulatory tax” of  7-13% on downtown development.

In a nutshell, removing MPRs can be expected to both 1) increase the costs of owning and operating cars and 2) enable more intensive development. For this reason, the Unitary Plan proposes to remove MPRs from areas where they are considered likely to do the most damage, as illustrated by the red areas in the figure below (source).

MPRs

* This map is slightly out of date due to recent changes.

I note that Auckland is not alone in rolling back MPRs: Many cities in New Zealand and overseas are moving in a similar direction. Basically, it seems likely that the size of the red blobs in the figure above will grow over time. In this context, it seems reasonable to suggest that parking policies will increasingly shift in a direction that is, by historical measures, not as favourable to individual car ownership and use.

What other policy shifts might change the way we travel in the future?

The recent “Paris Outcome” on climate change and carbon emissions is an obvious one. Given its multi-lateral nature, the Paris Outcome seems like a policy that might impact on global trends in transport technologies. Personally I think the transport technology game-changed in Paris; our transition to a low carbon economy needs to start immediately and be complete by the middle of the century if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Congestion charging is another potential policy shift. It involves charging differential prices by time and location so as to keep vehicle demands within the available road capacity. Over time, congestion pricing is becoming more attractive as the benefits of adopting such a scheme increases (due to Auckland’s growing population), while the costs of doing so decreases (due to improvements in technology). Congestion charging is supported by the likes of this Blog, the Auckland Council, NZCID, and the Productivity Commission.

The general point I want to make, however, is that public policies are changing in response to wider transport and energy issues. Unfortunately I think it’s all-too-common to focus on how policy should respond to technology, without thinking also about how technology might respond to major policy settings. Widespread adoption of policies associated with parking reform, the Paris Outcome, and congestion charging will change the way we use existing transport technologies in the near future, while also changing the incentives associated with new technologies. There is a mutual dependence between policy and technology that operates in both directions.

The final factor I want to discuss is the question of demographics, i.e. what the hell is New Zealand’s population going to look like in 30 years?

3. Demographic trends: Which horoscope do you prefer?

Demographic trends are increasingly difficult to predict, hence I prefer to talk in terms of “scenarios”, rather than defined outcomes. The two key demographic attributes are size and age.

To highlight how uncertain these projections are, just consider that barely 5 years ago New Zealand was effectively staring down the barrel of a major demographic problem: We’d done so well at exporting young people to more exciting cities overseas that our population growth was slowing and our demographic profile was becoming increasingly imbalanced. This was all occurring at the same time as the first of the baby-boomer generation were entering into their retirement, with all of the associated fiscal costs this implied. Back in 2011, Natalie Jackson from the University of Waikato’s (excellent) NIDEA research group had this to say on the issue of demographics (source):

As elsewhere, New Zealand’s population is ageing. As elsewhere, this ageing has two main drivers: increasing longevity, and declining birth rates, both outcomes of the Demographic Transition. In New Zealand’s case, however, the population is also ageing ‘prematurely’ from another cause, the legacy of net migration loss at young adult ages (typically 20-24 years) which New Zealand experiences in most years, and at 15-19 and 25-29 years in many other years as well. The loss, compounded by the falling birth rates at the time each cohort was born, has created a deep bite in today’s age structure across ages 25-39 years. This bite is not only driving up the median age faster than would otherwise be the case, given that New Zealand has the highest birth rate in the developed world, but has enormous implications for the country as it faces the retirement of its baby boomer generation.

Around the same time, economists working at the NZIER published a separate working paper titled “The Flight of the Kiwi”. This made the following comments on net migration between New Zealand and Australia, which was accompanied by the figure below (source):

If economic growth for the 2010-2025 period in New Zealand and Australia were to be at the rates currently projected by the OECD, then we should expect a net 412,000 people to emigrate between now and 2025. This is the equivalent of the whole population of Wellington, including the Hutt Valley and the Kapiti Coast, moving to Australia.

Actual versus predicted migration

Fortunately, subsequent events have ensured these demographic predictions have not materialised. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that this owes more to Australia’s relative misfortune (due to the collapse in global commodity prices) than it does to New Zealand’s good management. And despite New Zealand’s economic performance relative to Australia’s being about as good as it gets, we still only achieve a net migration gain between the two countries of a couple of hundred people p.a. This suggests that if/when Australia gets on top of its economic/fiscal challenges, then the net outflor might return to the sorts of levels predicted by the NZIER.

Personally, I think volatility in population and demographic statistics is something we need to get used to. In gneeral, New Zealanders seem to be a relatively mobile, skilled group of people who are benefiting from the opportunities afforded by an increasingly globalised world. As such, movements of people appear to be increasingly sensitive to relative socio-economic performance. When New Zealand is not performing well, then tends of thousands of us are likely to take our leave and head offshore (mostly to Australia), and vice versa. This is good for them and generally good for the receiving country. I doubt that it’s good for New Zealand, given the aforementioned demographic issues we face.

This has led me to consider two rather divergent population/demographic scenarios for New Zealand:

  1. The home-coming queen” – New Zealand’s socio-economic performance exceeds that of the countries with which we compete for people, such that fewer people depart while more New Zealanders currently living overseas decide to return home. As a result, New Zealand experiences strong population growth of 2-3% p.a., which helps to grow the workforce and mitigate the demographic imbalance introduced by the baby-boomers; or
  2. The gerontocalypse” – New Zealand’s socio-economic performance lags behind that of the countries with which we compete for people, most notably Australia. Young and/or mobile New Zealanders depart en masse, and population growth to fall to approximately 1% – almost all of which occurs in Auckland. The growth in the workforce is unable to offset increasing costs of health and super, but necessary policy reforms are opposed by baby-boomers. As a result, tax rates rise, further exacerbating the exodus.

The transport implications of these two scenarios are obviously rather different. The “home-coming queen” scenario might require increased transport investment, especially in the upper North Island where most of the population growth is likely to occur. It might also require different types of transport technologies, such as driverless metro systems and/or and inter-city passenger rail between Auckland and surrounding urban centres, namely Hamilton, Tauranga, and possibly even Whangarei. It might a new tunnel under the Kaimai ranges, or Auckland and Tauranga ports to merge into one “super-port” located midway between the two cities. I don’t know.

In contrast, the “gerontocalypse” scenario would be associated with lower economic growth, and lower socio-economic well-being generally. In terms of transport, we’d expect transport budgets to come under pressure. Some roads may need to be closed or sold off, and/or road user charges might need to rise simply to fund maintenance of the existing network let alone new investments.

I don’t know which scenario is more likely, but I know it’s important to discussions of transport technology. There’s a big difference between what technologies might work for a country of 5 million versus a country of 10 million, where most of the growth is located in and around Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga.

Without having answers to such question, it’s hard to frame discussions of which transport technologies might need to be adopted in the future. Dare I say it, perhaps this raises the need for some strategic thinking at the national level about demographic/population changes? It seems like National is betting on our ability to attract young people as a means for mitigating the rising costs of health and super associated with an ageing population. If so then that’s fine – but it would be useful to know this such that it can inform discussions of transport technologies, and the appropriate policy responses.

4. Conclusion

Discussions of future transport technologies often occur within a “transport silo”, where the interaction with wider socio-economic factors is downplayed. In reality, the development and adoption of transport technologies does not happen in a vacuum but is instead shaped by prevailing socio-economic factors. Current trends in land use and public policy, for example, indicate that transport technologies which are space and energy efficient are likely to have a comparative advantage in the future. Demographic outcomes are something of a wild-card. Whether New Zealand is able to address its demographic imbalances, and more specifically maintain socio-economic performance at levels comparable to the countries with which we compete for skilled migrants, may have a large bearing on the transport technologies needed over the coming decades.

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57 comments

  1. Excellent post Stu. Fascinating migration projection from NZIER; again the difficulty of relying on extrapolation in an age of discontinuity….

    There is likely a feed-back loop at work in city success at this time, this is observable in the rather unfair way that the globally successful cities seem to keep attracting more people no matter how problematic issues such as dwelling affordability become as a result. There certainly was a negative one at work in the 70s-90s in Auckland; the suburban boom made the city really dreary, we all left, and the spiral of dullness continued as the population aged and dispersed. Thankfully that turned around, and on the evidence of PT use 1994 may have been the nadir of intensity for life in AKL [the turn around in part thanks to the end of MPRs in the CBD? If so, what a spectacular policy success!].

    The fascinating question is; has AKL, in the last 20 years, made a fundamental shift from dull provincial town towards dynamic small city? I think there is plenty of evidence it has, and that this is gathering pace. As at a certain tipping point it becomes self-reinforcing. More is more, when it comes to population and density for urban quality. Basically, Auckland is much more attractive to live and work in for younger people in comparison to Australian Cities than it used to be.

    If we add to that that the boom in Aus hard commodities is undergoing a structural shift, which is not unlikely, especially given that China seems to be leaving its huge infrastructure building up phase, [the Aus economy is relying more on its urban centres too] we could be experiencing a significant change in demographics between the two countries…

    1. Furthermore, if this analysis is correct; urban form policy decisions have very very real and lasting outcomes for economic performance, and that currently what works most clearly are policy settings that support more intensification, then we have the power to shape the success or otherwise of our currently growing city. And decisions around the Unitary Plan and which infrastructure to fund are absolutely critical. Clearly more ‘up rather than out’ development and the density supporting infrastructure of Rapid Transit and investments in walkability and place quality are certain to repay us all in improved economic performance over additional dispersal…

  2. I think a macro policy where we aim to be 5:1 with Australia and equal to Queensland would be a decent guide.
    At present this is in balance, Aus c.22m NZ 4.6m and Qld 4.7m

    If NZ is viewed (as it is) as the unofficial 7th state, this would keep us relevant.
    Our goal could be to try and be the 3rd largest state in both population and economy in Australasia, currently we rank 4th and 5th respectively

    Australia is looking for growth towards 40-50m by 2050, so NZ should plan for 8-10m with a Melbourne (2015) sized Auckland 2050.

    1. Where did you get those Australian population forecasts? They seem quite rapid considering that it took them ~45 years to double from 10 to 20 million people. (And Australia’s increasingly challenging environmental constraints.)

      1. Thanks John – appreciate the references. It’s interesting to compare the Australian projections with Stats NZ’s most recent NZ projections (projected growth here; assumptions here).

        It looks like we’re picking a lower rate of population growth – 0.6% to 1% per annum, compared with the Australian projections of 1% to 1.5% per annum. This is in spite of slightly higher fertility rates in NZ. Conclusion: Australia expects much higher net migration than New Zealand.

        That, to my mind, is a projection that could very easily be wrong, especially if their current economic misfortune is compounded by climate change hazards and poor policy responses.

        1. AKL region doesn’t reach 2 mil till 2033!? I think this is too conservative, or at least reflects our current reluctance to build new dwellings. I see AKL’s appeal to both returning NZers and new ones to keep growing over this period. I also see the world entering another age of great migrations due to geopolitical upheavals and Climate Change, and while NZ is at the end of this chain, only a small number of the total need to want to come here to make a real difference. The politics of this will dominate much discourse in the years ahead.

    2. I think something between series A and B is likely for Australia.

      1.8-1.9 births per woman with migrant gains, the real rocket of increased population, being 280k+ p.a. (220k+ as of 2012.)

      So I could easily see 40-45m by 2050-60 unless there was dedicated policy AGAINST it.

        1. Easily done and again a reason / opportunity for NZ to be optimistic.

          Bulk shipping of freshwater to Australia out of the West Coast (Western areas of NZ forecast to be EVEN wetter) and Australia farming less.

          But who would base policy on climate science that we have no real way of modelling… oh right the world… I digress 🙂

          1. “Bulk shipping of freshwater…”

            Wouldn’t desalination be a lot more efficient? Has anybody had success with shipping freshwater at scale?

          2. Both desal and shipping are gross stupidities: basically turning FF into H2O. Solar desal excepted. Saudi Arabia has 29 oil fired desal plants; this is a sign of how insane and precarious that nation is.

            Melbourne’s recent desal venture has been a vast cock-up.

          3. “But who would base policy on climate science that we have no real way of modelling”

            We have effective and robust models to demonstrate the likely impacts of climate change.

          4. The costs / benefits of shipping water at scale (in 2050) are as variable as predicting Australia’s climate and their ability to water x amount of people in 2050.
            You can argue for and against both, say one is stupid impossible etc but you have know way of knowing… so a moot point.

          5. I don’t want to get into a climate debate – I will respectfully disagree about the climate models and their robustness, I was being flippant.
            I have a Climate Science background but have left it, I sure hope the modelling has improved.

            Climate is changing (it always is) and humans are a cause, a visible signal in the data; but how precise you get from there in something so complex is up to huge interpretation and agenda.

          6. John there is an enormous difference between the assertion that CC will have impacts, especially on a water stressed place like Australia (my view) and claiming to have a model that is completely accurate in predicting the details of this ( no one here’s view).

          7. I welcome the push to carbon neutrality from an innovation perspective more than a CC issue / imperative – it is just smart and sustainable to do it.
            There will be climate variation regardless.

            Australia’s carrying capacity feels like something I have read before, 40m feels like the sweet-spot to me from memory; making 8m NZ’s target – seems reasonable.

            Also agree with the migrant push – when NZ wants to turn that tap on it will be attractive (all things continuing to be equal.)

            “We have effective and robust models to demonstrate the likely impacts of climate change.” Sailor Boy’s view.

          8. Fair enough, didn’t see SB’s comment, I have seen enough models of all sorts of things, especially traffic, to be much less certain of the quantum but the direction is much more certain.

  3. So, the age old question arises that is never answered on this blog. At what size (population) will people be happy with for Auckland, or do we keep compacting people until we end up like Asian cities (Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong etc) where the cost per sq metre is horrific and the quality of life is markedly less? Endless ‘growth’ in an enlightened age is not necessarily something to aspire to.

    1. Stu and I have answered this question over and over. It’s just that you’ve never agreed with the answer.

      I will reiterate:
      1. There are no hard and fast rules about the ideal maximum size or density for a city. There is far too much variation in actually existing cities to allow us to draw any robust conclusions. In this context, the best way we have for determining whether a city is “big enough” is whether more people are entering it (through birth or immigration) than are leaving (through death or emigration). Attractive places attract people. Unattractive places don’t.
      2. The corollary to this is that if you want to cap the size of the city, you must make it unattractive as a place to live. You could do this by engineering economic failure, high levels of pollution and poor environmental quality, extremely unaffordable housing, or draconian violations of civil liberties. If you want to “cap” Auckland’s size, feel free to advocate for these policies. I will respectfully disagree.
      3. Finally, even if you don’t like population growth, you might still prefer it to the alternatives, which include having your children move overseas and never seeing them, and not having anyone around to pay your superannuation.

    2. Well JK has just said was he thinks, and I think there is no chance of Auckland ever reaching the densities and size of Manilla etc, as you clearly fear.

      I am more interested in its potential form than population size; ie a smaller physical footprint with more people would clearly be more efficient and more environmentally sustainable, and more culturally dynamic; more prosperous, vibrant and resilient.

      There’s no need to go to the extreme of Hong Kong, but somewhere in that direction is preferable; after all if all of AKL lived and worked at HK densities AKL would take up the land mass of only half of Waiheke Island! Everything else could be some combination of national park and productive farms. Now I know that isn’t going to happen but it does highlight the extraordinary environmental and productivity cost of the auto-dependant sprawl habitation pattern.

      And now that the economic and social benefits of two decades of re-densifying is obvious it is clearly unthinkable we would return to the disastrous policies of enforced dispersal of the second half of last century.

      Anyway we can’t; our government has signed us up to massive carbon reduction; that means we must now build a compact city, with haste and determination. Very good news.

    3. Growth won’t be endless since global population is predicted to stabilise this century. In Auckland specifically younger generations will have less children and the boomers will die off meaning Auckland will not really top 5-6 million.

    4. Why is the comparison ‘horrible’ Asian mega cities. Why not New York, London or Paris. Or why not the clean, healthy and efficient Asian mega cities like Tokyo or the Kansai region.

      You know one of the most densely developed places in the world is Copacabana Beach in Rio, another is Monte Carlo in Monaco. Maybe that is something to aspire to!

  4. Fantastic post, Stu. I’m looking forward to the next parts of the series!

    I’ve been thinking about the connection between demographics and the land price gradient. One factor that’s been under-played in the debate, I think, is that a lot of currently middle-aged people are going to have to relocate to more walkable/accessible places as they grow old and cease driving. That seems like the condition for a further ratcheting up of inner suburban land prices and a collapse in lifestyle block prices. Thoughts?

    1. In Auckland, unfortunately yes. In a typical city this wouldn’t be a problem.

      Typically retirement would be one of the roles fulfilled by outer suburbs, retirees trade their high utility value inner suburban properties for lower value outer. Younger people with high requirement for the utility of being close to other people move into the inner areas and an increase of density is occurs as construction offers affordable living for younger people. Process repeats and we get an affordable city with a dense centre and a slowly expanding suburbia. This process has occurred in quite a few cities world wide.

      Unfortunately we live in Auckland, new outer suburbs are forbidden. In Auckland retirees camp in place in the inner suburbs driving up land prices or decamp to Tauranga taking their capital with them. Younger people are unable to easily access inner areas, rents soar and construction is retarded.

      1. Angus it is clear you are obsessed with this idea but it simply isn’t true; have a look at the special housing areas, not only are new suburbs not illegal but they are being subsidised and fast tracked.

        1. I’ve had a look around Auckland, cycling through the hinterlands, looking at the llama farms. You can go for hours though land where development is forbidden, then pass through a SHA and back into the forbidden zone.

          1. So because not everywhere is open slather -> it is illegal? Daft reasoning. There are huge greenfields sites, too many in my view, as these will be a drag on us all economically, environmentally, and socially.

          2. You want Auckland land supply to be restricted even more and yet desire the building of a dense liveable Auckland. You want construction costs to increase and you want more buildings to be built. Perhaps you should just decide which of these two conflicting goals matters most to you.

            I urgently want a dense liveable Auckland and for that reason see the need to make land costs go down. High land costs retard the building industry.

          3. Well you have it backwards; high land value justifies more intense use. Your position is the confused one; you say you want a denser more liveable city by sprawling all the way to Hamilton and Whangarei! Can’t be done.

          4. “High land value justifies more intense use.”

            I agree, but in a simple equation: Value – Cost = Profit. So I’ll point out again – high land cost negates more intense use.

            If you want a high intensity city, but plan to make it too expensive to build one – it won’t happen.

            I like cities like New York and Tokyo. Massive urban agglomerations act to create exciting, high value places to live.

      2. Low density car-dependent suburbia is socially isolating – terrible for non-drivers, of course, but also to some extent for everyone: you hardly ever see the neighbours except by appointment, and there’s no unplanned social interaction in the street.
        Why should this matter less for older people? It will matter more: the connections made through the local school are dropping away, and of course one day you won’t be driving.
        I’ve spent my child-rearing years in dull, car-dependent suburbia (in the monoculture of my city it was all that was available). As a househusband, luckily I’m still fit enough for the daily 20-minute walk to the coffee shop which I do just to get out of the house. But where I live now would be a terrible place to grow old in.
        For the non-driving or less-driving elderly, walkability is more important than ever.

  5. The sort of people who leave for overseas because NZ tax rates are “too high” are the sort of people we don’t need (I know, mostly off-topic, but it grinds my gears when people treat people as purely selfish self-maximisers when we should be viewing them as tools to strengthen national power).

    More on topic: while you are right about the last 10-20 years, do you think there’s any validity to the prospect that teleworking will indeed remove any need to live close together?

    Asimov showed us in foundation that once humanity reaches “homo superior” state, the likely result is individuals living in seclusion; robots and technology carry out all required tasks. Is it possible we could move towards that a little once jobs become either fully teleworkable e.g. policy analysis, or completely mobile e.g. a plumber?

    In 2050, why do we need offices in the CBD?

    I know that if I could work from home every day, I’d do so. And never need to go any further than Lynnmall (which I can walk to)

    1. Personally I have no faith in this whatsoever. Most employees actually prefer human contact in the office and employers do too. It’s far better for employment productivity too.

      1. I love human contact.
        But, at the end of the day, wouldn’t it be better to work from home, do some Tinder swiping, and then perhaps stroll/drive out for a date and the necessary socialisation rather than have to commute via plane, train, bus, or car each day?

    2. While I too am fond of Asimov, his technological predictions have not all come to pass. For example, his “I, Robot” series predicted that robots with positronic brains, the capacity for independent thought, and individual personalities would be widely commercially available by the late 1990s or early 2000s.

      Working from home has not increased in popularity over the last 20 years, in spite of a significant increase in the speed and uptake of internet services. People seem to value physical proximity.

      1. Across the world CBDs have grown and strengthened as distance communication has radically improved. There is absolutely no evidence to correlate improvements in mobile and Internet technologies with the decline of city centres. The active despoilment of centres with expensive traffic funnelling projects and economic decline (often both at once, or one after the other) or war, are the proven ways to cause urban decline.

        Suburban business parks and malls are in decline in the US, that we are still building them probably reflects simple path dependency, and how physically constrained our CBD is.
        A strong trend is the rise of the local in the centre and smaller centres. I expect this to continue. Place quality and proximity.

        Also I expect aging boomers to split into two groups; those who downsize to quieter towns, and those who mimic younger people and head in. Many Boomers don’t like to miss a trend, or accept that they’re old!

        1. That’s patently false. Look at Rome circa 100 AD or London circa 1500 AD. Much stronger/denser CBDs than today at least partly related to poor communications.

      2. My two cents on working from home…

        I’m with a large (global) consulting firm which is going through a transformation in terms of work space. In summary, no dedicated desks, hot-desking, encouragement to work from home and as such, less office space and rental costs.

        On the working from home issue, its really interesting the comments I hear from junior staff and the very senior staff: neither want to be at home for any long period of time. The former because they want to be socialising in and out of the office, the latter because can’t work with kids or other people around and need have regular meetings with staff and clients.

        My own take is that 1-2 days a week is ideal, but otherwise I need to be in the office meeting with colleagues and bouncing around ideas, or I am out at the clients.

        I suspect the above applies in the rest of the professional services (or non-trade) industries.

  6. One trend you didn’t mention will be the development of the mega mall. As parking rules are relaxed in the small centres the resulting parking problems will make retail more difficult for high value businesses. A ‘tragedy of the commons’ where the lowest value retailers will add more space without limit will cause the high value business to flee to areas under single ownership where the externaiities can be internalised and addressed. Expect a fewer shopping centres but each one much much larger than we are used to. These areas will be multi-purpose and include retail, offices and even professional services like medical specialists. The other centers will change to the next best use to serve a walk up catchment.

    1. “These areas will be multi-purpose and include retail, offices and even professional services like medical specialists”

      Currently the only area that truly can be described like this is the only one where no maximum parking requirements are enforced. The CBD is the biggest retail and office destination, and (if you exclude Grafton) many smaller medical practices, dentistry, general practice, orthodontistry, radiology, etc.

      1. The problem with the CBD is nobody is able to manage the parking there. So as we get fewer hubs that people can drive to from anywhere in the region it seems to me more likely they will be places under single ownership. The CBD will continue its current path towards being an inner city suburb with some very expensive housing and a lot of tenements. The medical facilities in there will continue to be for the local walk ups. Destination retail left the CBD years ago.

        1. You mean ‘driving destination retail’, Prada etc is certainly destination retail. Those stuck in auto-dependency always think a place is unreachable in total if not super accessible by private vehicle. Until good alternatives are available, and they try them that is… increasingly they are more alternative means of access available especially in the City Centre, and increasingly the previously auto-dependant are trying them them and finding they work.

          1. “Super accessible” by any means. No transit system likely in the near future is likely to give the same travel times as the current car for shopping trips; transit may be superior for work commutes, but not on a spur-of-the-moment 11am dash to the shops.

          2. At 11am from the shore the NEX is far quicker.

            Also, loads of destination retail in town, Prada and Dior, but also TopShop, Cotton On’s flagship store, Huffer, etc. for those not filling their luxury yacht’s spa with cash.

          3. Bicycles will continue to be the best option for “a spur-of-the-moment 11am dash to the shops”.

            And before you ask the obligatory auto dependent question, the answer is cargo bikes. #quaxing

          4. Pat I am not so sure that Prada is creating trips into the CBD. It seems it seems to me it is selling to people already in there for work or staying in a hotel or on a cruise. So it is probably very expensive convenience retail. The big regional stores of the future will be at St Lukes or Sylvia Park which might open a small shop in the CBD to serve those already in there but will put their main store somewhere else accessible to a regional catchment. I see your Cotton on and little Top Shop and raise you a big Zara and H & M.

          5. Actually Newmarket is probably the better example now that I think about it. Either way, people won’t drive to the mega malls at anywhere near the rate that they do to existing malls. Sylvia Park probably can’t actually grow retail through parking due to capacity constraints on road and in the carpark/ entrances.

          6. No they dont have to grow it through more parking but through providing an accessible managed site. Council’s are incapable of running successful shopping centres. No one lets them charge higher rates to the little specialty stores and lower rents to anchor tenants. Council’s cant run parking other than to see it as a business or worse give it away on a first stays all day basis. Private enterprise can. They charge much lower rentals to anchors to bring in shoppers and then get it back from the little shops that benefit. They provide parking, not as a parking business but as a means to make the retail actually work. The private sector can deal with positive externalities by owning everything and taking the costs in exchange for greater benefits. The Government is hopeless at that and Councils even worse. It is worth remembering the original tragedy of the commons was solved through the Enclosure Acts that allowed private owners to manage the land efficiently and prevent everyone adding more livestock numbers. It wasn’t solved through missing markets or Pigouvian taxes. Both require a strong government or authority to enforce them and both get cheated. (Also partly because those methods had not been invented- a minor point).

          7. Clearly in AKL both CC and suburban centres are growing, but it interesting that of the sub centres Sylvia Park in particular is getting new brands, its growth and growing sophistication seems to be paralleled by the huge boom in the Eastern Line. And the station itself has been flying up the boardings and alighting leader board. Especially interesting as it really only serves that destination [unlike say New Lynn or Newmarket].

            However, ‘destination retail’ is exactly what the future doesn’t look like; more mixed use is the trend. Proximity over mobility.

          8. If you want convenience, walking always wins. It doesn’t matter that Queen Street has no parking lot, there are lots of people living within walking distance (and presumably lots of people can easily reach Queen Street via PT).

            But other than that, some of you guys are vastly overestimating how good public transport is over here.

            @sailor boy — Taking the NEX is a fast option, but only if you live near one of the stations. This is true only for a very small minority of people living on the North Shore. Both Akoranga and Smales Farm are flanked by respectively greenspace and a golf course, and a motorway. Apart from commuting, for almost all trips driving is much faster. For counter-peak commutes driving is also usually faster.

            My preferred option was cycling to a NEX station and catching the bus. But fact is, for most people cycling on Auckland streets is out of the question.

            @Patrick — I used to live on the North Shore, and over there for most people driving is the only option. Wishing it otherwise doesn’t make it so. Most areas are also absurdly hostile to bicyclists. For public transport, the proposed ‘new network’ will be an improvement but it will still only really cater to commuters.

            I currently live on Hobson Street. before the CRL works started, that area too had very poor public transit connections. Early Commuter is right. One of the first things I looked up was if it was possible to do a spur of the moment shopping trip to Newmarket. Basically it wasn’t possible unless you walked all the way to Symonds Street. Going to the North Shore always involved either a very cumbersome detour via Britomart, or a walk to Fanshawe Street. The same for taking the train.

            It has improved somewhat with the CRL works, but still, I wouldn’t say I could go anywhere outside the CBD on PT in a spur of the moment during the weekend.

          9. Takapuna, Newmarket, Ponsonby Road, Albany are all a short trip away on a frequent bus from Wellesley with the new network.

          10. Yes, with the new network. That is still a few years away. Many people will simply accept that traveling by bus is prohibitively cumbersome, buy a car, and not bother with PT anymore. So for now, in many parts of town, the assumption that you’re unreachable without a car park is correct. Auto-dependency is very real in large parts of Auckland.

            Another observation:
            – the AUT North Shore campus is right next to Akoranga Station
            – and the city campus is right next to Symonds Street
            – Both are supposed to have excellent public transport, but despite that, AUT runs its own shuttle between the two. Even despite the fact that the 881 is a direct service between the two.

    2. I don’t spend a lot of time in malls, but they undoubtedly have their good sides. They are a nice illustration of the value of shared parking facilities, and also of the market’s ability to respond to parking spillover. So, as you say, I’d expect them to continue to play an important role in the retail scene.

      However, I think you might be underestimating three other factors:
      1. Quaxing – as transport options improve, an increasing share of retail trips will be made by non-car modes.
      2. Parking management policies – time limits and paid parking will mitigate the effects of parking spillover and undermine business models that rely upon externalising all of their parking needs. (Paid parking is also likely to provide valuable market signals, enabling people to know when there is a financial case to invest in new parking facilities, or, alternatively, disinvest in existing ones.)
      3. Online retail – I think NZ’s still on the trailing edge of this, but it’s really hammering malls in the US. I’d expect it to undermine the business model of many anchor retail chains.

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