Santiago de Chile is home to some 6m+ souls, its origins date back to the 16th Century, and it has south American largest, and still expanding, Metro system. But, like almost all cities coming out of the 20th Century, its city centre streets have been allowed to be dominated by vehicles, with all of the disbenefits this brings. Happily, this is now changing, and attracting a lot of positive attention, as this Streetfilms film describes:

This is a great model for the Auckland City Centre, where it will be even easier to achieve, and is in fact already underway, as the current trends in both declining vehicle mode-share and rising Transit and Active mode-share show. We have so far sort of bumbled into this success, with some parts of local government leading it and some resisting it. And the time is now perfect for the city to at last make this a conscious and consistently worked towards process.

In my view it is past time to implement clear policy to support the already reducing vehicle numbers using city streets, in order to allow their re-purposing to higher value and higher capacity uses; walking, cycling, and Transit. And as for place quality as well, as streets, now more than ever, offer greater value as more than just movement engines, or just as car storage facilities, but to support the all important urban services and travel economy.

This of course needs to be executed at detail and over time, by highly skilled urban designers and transportation professionals, with skill, sensitivity, and rational analysis. For as in every city all streets have competing uses, and these must be balanced and prioritised cleverly.

But the is nothing about that process that obviates the need for clear and conscious over-arching policy to guide these decisions. And that policy must be to build the successful city for this age: The more prosperous, people-focussed, greener, and more equitable 21st Century walkable transit rich city.

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8 comments

  1. Santiago is just another example from the developing world where transport is done so much better. My impression when I visited was that the large number of people using public transport decongested the roads for the fewer number who seemed to want to drive.
    Their subway is impressive with their speedy trains some on rubber wheels. (How can our operator manage to run ours at a barely greater speed than the old diesels? It is almost the time where a head or two needs to roll over this).
    I loved the concept of one of their major malls where you arrive by public transport, or walk up, and you enter into an open indoor/outdoor food court that has a relaxing feel unlike any NZ mall I have ever visited. It was pleasant to walk on the wide side walks near the city centre as described in the video.
    Absolutely lets change the configuration of our city centre and I am sure that while it initially will be met with huge resistance it will quickly suit the majority.

    1. Recent experience actually suggests that the majority are in favour of significant change in how we prioritise the City Centre streets, the main resistance comes from within AT itself and small section of the public who just seem to be against change in any form. The desire for change on the streets its in fact pretty clearly widespread, as it is for rapid improvement in public and active transport provision, so I think those in official positions might be surprised at how popular doing this in Auckland now would be. Of course if you are in charge of the execution, as AT are with the CRL, you will have a tendency to focus on the difficulties of both the process of change and all fears about the outcome, this is natural, but can lead to a loss of perspective, an elevation of problems over wins. But this is where leadership is required, to carry the organisation through process to outcome.

      Have we got sufficient focus on outcome over process right now? This is a leadership question for both Council and AT….

  2. Patrick, when I look at issues such as there being no more bus lanes than there were three years ago, I wonder whether there is focus on either outcome or process? Where have the recent successes been with public transport? I suspect that they are paralyzed by a government that has bullied them into inertia.
    I was gobsmacked that in Lester Levy’s last “vision” speech what should pop up but self drive vehicles. It’s marvelous that he is on the same page as Minister Roads and Bridges.

  3. The biggest thing I notice when in Santiago is how little on-street parking there is. The streets (other than the main boulevards) are generally narrower than Auckland’s, but they have more capacity.

  4. Santiago is a characterful city with heart, soul and inventiveness, much like Chile itself. With Pinochet, his regime and the accompanying Chicago School of Economics agenda still in living memory, citizens and the business community are still very much evolving their relationships together. Santiago and Chile will become one of the great economic and social centres of the 21st century.

    1. …..gosh that comment above doesn’t even begin to do justice to the challenges and potential of the place. I encourage parents to get their kids to learn Spanish at school….. And, dealing with the detail, reclaiming those wonderful streets in Santiago for pedestrians is part of a great awakening for the the city.

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