'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19410723-34-27'
‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19410723-34-27’

Hi y’all and welcome to Sunday Reading. Here’s a collection of stuff I found interesting over the week. Please add your links in the comments below.

Whoops, we forgot to build housing. During all the backslapping about the urban renaissance it has become clear that not providing/allowing for housing has crippled the opportunity engine of city living. Marl Gimein, “Why the high cost of big-city living is bad for everyone“, The New Yorker.

With all the advantages of hindsight, it’s hard to believe that anybody didn’t see the skyrocketing cost of housing coming in New York and San Francisco (and other cities around the globe like London, Singapore, and Washington, D.C.). But, in fact, for many years the conventional thinking pointed in the opposite direction. Urban planners such as Oppermann saw growing cities as an overcrowded traffic puzzle. Later, it was said that the deterioration of old urban cores would push everyone who could afford it out to “edge cities.” Most recently, we were promised that information tech and the virtual office would make cities largely unnecessary.

The price of the creation of these imperial cities is that they actually provide decreasing opportunities for many of those who already live in them, or for those who move to them and are not already armed with resources, status, and education. Everyone living in New York or San Francisco understands the general contours of this. Artists get pushed out of the center, the middle class gets pushed into the suburbs, and bus riders are asked to make way (literally) for tech workers.

Toby Manhire,  “One in three Aucklanders has recently considered quitting Auckland because of house prices – poll”, The Spinoff.

One in three of those surveyed – or 32.2% if you insist on being absolutely precise – answered yes to the question, “Have you in the last two years considered moving away from Auckland because of house prices?” A further 36.3% selected the option, “No, but it’s a good idea”, and the remaining 31.5% said it’s not something they’d considered.

Like parking management reform, there is an urgent need to reform antiquate zoning laws. This story introduces the excellent term “opportunity hoarding”- Richard V. Reeves, “How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families“, Brookings.

NIMBYism is motivated by a rational desire to accumulate financial capital by enhancing home values. But for parents, it is also about helping their children accumulate human capital by controlling access to local schools. According to Jonathan Rothwell, there is a strong link between zoning and educational disparities. Homes near good elementary schools are more expensive: about two and half times as much as those near the poorer-performing schools. But in metropolitan areas with more restrictive zoning, this gap is even wider. Loosening zoning regulations would reduce the housing cost gap and therefore narrow the school test-score gap by 4 to 7 percentiles, Rothwell finds.

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Here’s one of the many recent breaking stories on driverless  vehicles. This sleek box has a top speed of 10kph. Even something like this would need to be located on a direct, fixed route to make any sense. It does have the capability to wander around to pick people up if you’re into a hellish airport shuttle experience. Alison DeNisco, “Driverless bus hits the streets in Finland, could revolutionize public transportation“, Tech Republic.

Residents of Helsinki, Finland will soon be used to the sight of buses with no drivers roaming the city streets. One of the world’s first autonomous bus pilot programs has begun in the Hernesaari district, and will run through mid-September.

The robotic buses could be used in addition to existing public transportation options in the future, Santamala said. “Their purpose is to supplement but not to replace it,” he added. “For example, the goal could be to use them as a feeder service for high-volume bus or metro traffic… In other words, the mini-bus would know when the connecting service is coming and it would get you there on time.”

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In compiling this list of links, I set out NOT to include anything on parking. Auckland may be peerless with its rapid adoption of progressive parking reforms. While not perfect, and definitely far from over, the major battles have been won.  At the final hour, I came across this article and couldn’t resist the urge for this “next level” parking content.

Stephen Joseph, “Why other cities should copy Nottingham’s revolutionary parking levy“, CityMetric.

Nottingham City Transport..has implemented a levy on workplace parking spaces, the money from which goes towards transport projects in the city.

The results are becoming clear to see. Public transport use, already high, has now nudged above 40 per cent of journeys in the city, a very high percentage for the UK.

The wider economic impacts are perhaps more interesting: all the predictions of loss of jobs and businesses have proved unfounded. (In fact, the genesis of this piece was a comment on these pages that Nottingham had grown when many similar cities had shrunk.) Recent statistics show jobs growth in Nottingham has been faster than other cities, while traffic congestion has fallen. The levy, with the other measures, has also helped Nottingham reach its carbon reduction target a few years early.

Although every city is different, there might be some wider lessons here. One, for the transport economist geeks, might be to stop obsessing with congestion charging. Efficient in economic theory though this might be, Nottingham looked at it and decided that it would be very costly – all those cameras and enforcement – and would not target peak hour traffic jams and single-occupancy car commuting as effectively as the levy would.

Have a great Sunday.

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8 comments

  1. Very interesting indeed about the parking levy. Is it captured here by fbt? If not how much difference do you think it would make in Auckland?

  2. Some CBD businesses are moving away from providing employees free carparking. Many now lease excess parks to employees at cost or a discounted rate. Adding a levy on top of that would have the effect of pricing some employees out of the market and onto PT, a bike or ridesharing. Could be a good part of the mix and certainly simpler to implement than congestion charging.

  3. With regards to “peerless with its rapid adoption of progressive parking reforms”, what San Francisco has done with its SFpark system is nothing short of genius. And they got that working rather swiftly over a large area. They didn’t cover all of their CBD because it was a pilot project and they needed a ‘control area’ to see how effective it is. Almost everybody appears to love it (yes, structural changes to how parking is managed and people like it) – residents, shoppers, shop keepers, and politicians. It’s worth reading up on.

    1. yes, SF is a leader inn demand-responsive parking management.

      I think where Auckland does better is that we have combined 1) demand-responsive parking management with 2) removal of minimum parking requirements.

      1. I wish they would monitor more than one spot for occupancy though. I sent an enquiry to AT a while ago to ask them if they plan on adjusting the green zone, because in evenings most parking spots west of Mayoral Drive tend to be full. I thought that’s the exact thing they wanted to avoid.

        Their response indicates they are unaware of anything, and included the standard notice that I should “not rely on on-street parking for their parking needs”. Which is fair enough for people living there, but that’s not an option for tradies or any other people visiting you in the evening.

        1. what do you mean “monitor more than one spot”?

          My understanding is that the entire city centre is divided into zones, and each zone is surveyed on a rolling cycle every 3-6-12 months or so. When I say surveyed, I mean that the occupancy of every car-park in a zone will be monitored for a couple of weekdays. Or at least that’s my understanding.

          The evening thing is interesting though: I remember a couple of years ago AT proposed to extend the hours of pay and display and residents fought it tooth and nail. I think they backed down, although that may have changed once the new parking that was adopted.

          1. I mean one fixed spot for each zone. I read once where those spots are, but I forgot where. I think for the green zone it’s somewhere around K’road.

            In the evenings a lot of residents indeed park their cars on the street. If you do the numbers, let’s assume you leave to work at 9 the morning, and come back after the clearway hours. So you pay $3 in the morning (one hour). If you don’t go out you pay $10 on Saturday to park all day (8am–6pm @ $1/hour). That’s a total of $25 per week, which is massively undercutting both renting a car park ($55 to $65 per week) and leasing a parking spot ($70 and more per week).

            Since the crunch happens mostly on evenings, extending the paying hours is the logical next step. Of course there will be complaints. Probably from the same people who complain they can’t find an unoccupied parking spot.

            A few months ago the yellow zone was adjusted upwards, so let’s see when the green zone is due.

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