Lately I’ve been thinking about how to better join the dots between Auckland’s housing challenges and its transport challenges. We’re all familiar with the common stories about Auckland’s problems: Housing is too expensive, pricing young people out of the market and forcing low-income households into crowded or unhealthy accommodation. The transport system isn’t working as well as it could – key roads are congested, public transport is often unreliable due to our mid-century decision to eschew a rapid transit network, and walking and cycling often feels unsafe, again due to policy choices.

But it strikes me that we aren’t yet telling a clear story about how we could solve Auckland’s challenges. This is an attempt to tell some of that story.

It all starts with the street. When Auckland’s suburbs started to get built in the late 1800s, people did a few things to cut costs. One of those was providing long, narrow residential sites without back alleys or many cross streets. This left behind more saleable land while avoiding the need to provide stormwater or sewerage – people simply dug long-drops at the back of their long sites.

The result was a city that has a dearth of streets. The following map compares my neighbourhood in Auckland with my brother’s neighbourhood in Denver, Colorado – his is a bit further from the city centre but otherwise similar. Note the fine mesh of cross-streets and the closely-spaced arterial roads in Denver, and the spidery mesh in Auckland:

When we zoom out the map, the comparison gets even starker. Not only does Auckland lack a Denver-style street grid, it also has a regional transport network full of gaps and pinch-points caused by its position on two harbours.

This is exacerbated by the fact that we have recently built out most of the space in most designated motorway corridors. Once the Waterview Connection opens, the motorway network will be largely complete and will probably never be significantly expanded again, at least within the city. Contemplate that, for a moment.

In short, we are a growing city that lacks street space and has extremely constrained ability to add more transport corridors virtually anywhere in the city.

This brings me on to the second part of the story: Cars. Cars are wonderful things. They are the best way to get to the West Coast beaches, and the second-best way to get to urban beaches, after cycling. If it weren’t for home delivery, they would be the only way to buy a refrigerator or a tonne of compost for the garden. But we’re not going to be able to fit an ever-growing amount of them on Auckland’s roads at peak times. We don’t have the space for it.

In saying this, I’m not arguing that we should necessarily fear congestion. Auckland’s existing performance isn’t terrible: the aggregate cost of congestion is right about what you’d expect based on data from large Australian cities, and average commute times are reasonable. But the constrained nature of our street grid and regional motorway network leads me to think that it will tend to increase more rapidly as the city grows. Consequently, we will need to do something differently.

[A brief digression: We will face this problem regardless of where new residents end up living. Banning growth in your neighbourhood and insisting that all newcomers move to Drury will not solve the problem: many of those people will simply hop on the road to commute to jobs in the city or in the growing Auckland airport business park. Similarly, banning growth on the fringes won’t fix the problem either: many newcomers will still need to drive to get to jobs spread around the city.]

This leads directly to the third part of the story: What can we do instead, if the current approach won’t keep working?

Basically, there seem to be three things we can do.

One: We can implement congestion pricing – or, as Jarrett Walker calls it, a decongestion charge – to take the edge off peak-period delays on busy corridors. I’ve discussed this extensively in the past so won’t rehash this discussion here. One point that many people raise, though, is that congestion pricing should be paired with a strong focus on improving alternatives to driving, to allow people to avoid the charge.

Two: We need to improve Auckland’s regional rapid transit network to ensure that it is possible to travel longer distances within Auckland both quickly and reliably. Setting aside congestion pricing for a moment, rapid transit is the only way that we can reliably achieve this. If you want to travel 20 kilometres and get to work on time most days, you’re better off being in a train or a busway service than a car.

Rapid transit improvements are likely to be especially important for making greenfield growth work well. People who will soon be living in Dairy Flat, Whenuapai, and Drury can benefit from the option to access fast and reliable transport options.

However, good rapid transit isn’t simply a matter of building a busway out to the wops. Service integration is also essential. What that means is that buses or trains need to connect with each other at key points, offering easy and reliable transfers between services and access to a wider range of destinations. Interchanges like Otahuhu and Panmure are important, but the city centre is even more important, as it will always be the place where most of the lines converge.

In other words, if we want to make rapid transit work well for greenfields, we also need to sort out what’s happening to buses and trains downtown and in the inner urban areas.

Three: We need to improve Auckland’s urban cycleway network to give people new options for short- to medium-distance trips within the existing urban area. Cycling has a lot of unrealised potential in Auckland (and most New Zealand cities): At peak times on congested roads, a bicycle can get you to your destination faster than a car, and technological improvements (ebikes!) are flattening out the hills as we speak.

Getting more people cycling for everyday transport would go a long way to sorting out the transport challenges associated with new housing development in a city with a fragmented street grid. Every person who rides to the shops or to work is one who isn’t competing for road space and parking space. We will value those people more in the future.

A key barrier to cycling in Auckland is the perception that it is not safe. This doesn’t necessarily dissuade the mid-30s bloke in lycra, but it will keep many schoolkids, middle-aged women, and a whole bunch of other people off their bikes. We can fix this – and get people from ages 8 to 80 cycling – by designing streets better and providing safe cycling infrastructure where it’s most needed.

To summarise: Auckland’s built itself into a bit of a hole, and in order to meet the needs of a growing city, it will have to do things differently. That means congestion pricing (to make the road network work better), a really good regional rapid transit network (to ensure fast and reliable journeys throughout the urban area), and a safe, joined-up network of urban cycleways (to give people more options for shorter trips). This shouldn’t be seen as an alternative that we could pursue once we’re done building motorways: it is now the most realistic way forward for the city.

What do you think Auckland should do in order to address its growth challenges?

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  1. Auckland is a very thin strip surrounded by water east and west. Not really a comparison with Denver where the opportunity existed originally to build out in all directions, there was never a shortage of land. And do you really want boring gridlike lines for streets, a few curves makes it interesting.

    1. Yes I have an old textbook somewhere that says cities are defined by topography, relative accessibility, regulation and dynamic landuse effects (lawyers near courts, car dealers by each other etc). They give Denver as the exception as they have this really big plain they can grow across. It is the constraints on Auckland that make it desirable. Would you rather live in a house on the coast at Whitford in a sprawled out city or in a flat in the valley at Newton in a compact city?

    2. Fair enough, the volcanoes occasionally make it difficult to have a perfectly straight arterial, but exactly what geographical constraint was stopping them putting connections in between Grange Rd and Prospect Tce, or King Edward St and Burnley Tce? It’s not the perfect north-south straightness that’s the point, it’s the connections. And it can’t have been a shortage of land that was worrying them, or they would have picked more efficient section layouts.

      And yes, having tried living in classic North American grid layouts, older Auckland neighbourhoods like Peter’s and ‘modern’ sweeping curves with lots of cul-de-sacs, I pick the grid any time. Easier to find your way, easier and quicker to walk places, and, since those two aspects mean there’s a lot more life on the street, a lot less boring than the other options.

  2. Every day it seems more obvious. Stop investing in new car infra and put it into the other modes. I think the biggest problem is that government lacks strategy. They just want to do everything even if it contradicts. Doing everything is not a strategy.

    I haven’t cycled since my uni days so I am not very confident but I hired an e-bike for the week over the break to test one out. It was incredible.
    I can cycle without breaking a sweat, maybe it isnt much of an exercise, but I picked up lots of free 2degrees data at various parks and public spots where they have been giving it out.
    The hills have just disappeared. I even did some quaxing.

    But the roads are terrible in terms of cycle safety. The e-bike helps a lot because you can get up to a fair speed, but I find it so taxing on the mind constantly looking out for who is going to kill you next.
    The sections that were off road or segregated were wonderful. At the end of my trial I got a flat tire from some glass. Very annoying, so much glass all over the place. But i’m definitely going to be buying an e-bike.

    I think we need massive investment in urban cycle ways and maybe some subsidy to buy an E-bike if you are a regular user of PT. I dislike subsidies, but using e-bikes and PT to promote each other could be beneficial in the long term.

    1. Brent toderian has a nice list of the four stages of urban change, they are something like:
      1) Doing the wrong thing
      2) Doing the wrong thing, but more of it.
      3) Trying to do the wrong thing and the right thing at the same time.
      4) Just doing the right thing.

      Unfortunately we are still somewhere on the cusp of stage 2 and 3. They are finally moving on to the things that will make a difference, but having a last crack at doubling down on another round of motorways, road widening and parking at the same time.

    2. Great Ari, you’ve got it all round. On your first point:

      The North American consultants hired in the 60s to plan AKL transport advised the expansion of two networks: the motorway system, and the Rapid Transit Network. The later being an upgrade and extension of the rail system with bus feeder system to interchange stations (familiar?). But, being small and cash strapped we instead starved the second network to near collapse, and went all in on motorways. This feeding of only one system was of course self reinforcing; more and more kept using the only supported network, which led directly to the mistaken idea, still common in our institutions and some politicians, that this outcome represents some perfect choice. When of course what it represents is rational choice; people will choose to use what works: now there are some improved alternatives to ,always driving people are choosing them too.

    3. On your bike experience: Yes, it’s like that, can be like a revelation, when you get back on a bike; both how liberating it is, and how terrible our streets are now, although that is improving. And will be considerably better in just a few short years with more connections being made to our nascent cycle network.

      On subsidies: all transport, especially driving is subsidised. Every road is a result of tax and spend, and are not ‘user pays’ as is commonly believed. You shouldn’t fear this, but it is important to try to work out which subsidises, or transfers, are better for society than others.

    1. Maybe we get rid of the grumpy old cynics too? It wouldn’t do much for the transport network, but the reduction in hot air would do wonders for climate change.

      1. You are mistaken. I am not grumpy, today I am absolutely delighted and although I understand less about politics than ever I can’t stop laughing. We wanted free trade so instead they cooked up the TPPA which was more rules than we had ever had. It favoured US corporations and let them trample on our democracy and ability to create laws. We didn’t want it but our elected government forced it on us. Then a Republican president killed it, scoring an own goal against his country. Tell me that isn’t just the funniest thing to happen in ages.

        1. Yes truly peculiar; as ever the world follows the law of unintended consequence.

          I think we can expect many unintended consequences from the election of that child to the presidency… it’s going to be hard to keep up.

        2. I was never a big fan of the TPPA, but I wasn’t fervently opposed either. The final draft seemed to avoid the worst outcomes, while providing some benefits. But it seemed like a bad strategy to try to negotiate a trade agreement with the US given the fact that its domestic politics on trade and IP are a complete clown car. Introducing them seemed to raise the odds that we would lose out on a higher-quality deal with a smaller group of saner countries. Guess that’s turned out to be correct. Complete waste of half a decade of negotiating effort…

  3. Always with the immigration. It’s like your on the sinking Titanic and saying the lack of lifeboats was the fault of too many steerage passengers.

    Immigration isnt the cause. Immigration is just a symptom of living in a great city. The underlying problem would still be there if there were no immigration.
    If tomorrow we had 1km high skyscrapers all over the place with great apartments rented for $1/week would housing still be a problem? No.
    If we had PT so great that no one would need to ever use a car would we still have transport issues? I doubt it.

    So no, immigration isn’t the cause, it is just something that reveals the problem that was always there. That is what this post is about.

    1. The funny thing is he is an immigrant himself, one who chose to move to Auckland and continue to live here putting pressure on housing and transport. Of course “leave Auckland and go back to where you came from” doesn’t apply to him, just everyone else.

  4. “Middle-aged women”? Oh, lordy, yes, my delicate constitution means I tremble at the mere sight of a motor vehicle. Best leave cycling to the menfolk.

    Throwaway comments like that should clear up any confusion you have about why you can’t attract a representative sample of contributors and commenters.

    1. That’s not a throw away comment AJ, the research shows that middle-aged women are hugely underrepresented in cycling, and report safety as the main factor.

      I don’t think he was implying women have a weak constitution, just noting that middle aged males are about the only people who do ride currently.

    2. I read that too and all I could think was watch out Peter, if you offend them there will be millions of women on every continent marching against you. 🙂

    3. 2017, where verbalising your understanding of unique challenges of a particular group and vowing to make specific changes to your outlook to accommodate them better is still offensive to that group.

    4. Fair call that it’s bad wording; no insult was intended. For what it’s worth, I probably know more women who cycle regularly than men.

      BUT! Survey evidence suggests that my circle of friends isn’t representative of the population as a whole. In 2014, 68% of Auckland’s regular cyclists were men. This compares unfavourably to countries with better cycling facilities, where women account for 50% or slightly more of all cycling trips. That seems like an opportunity for improvement.

    5. AJ its not intended as a sexist comment, woman and children *are* considered to be the indicator species for having safe cycling infrastructure.

      Same concept is used in measuring health of an-eco system, if indicator species are missing, then you have a serious ecosystem imbalance which needs addressing.

      If women and children are present in numbers on cycles then Auckland, you are probably building the right sort of cycling infrastructure, if they are not present in numbers, then, yes, you have a problem.

      Ask Barb Cuthbert Chair of Bike Auckland about “cycling indicator species” and you’ll get the same non sexist answer.

      Basically, men [transport planers included] are usually too goal-foccused (gotta get training for the next Taupo roudn the lake or whatever) to consider safety aspects and just do it [cycling].

      The rest of us (me included) look at the safety aspect before we set out. If its not seen to be safe, we probably just say no.

      Basically, look at The Nederlands and Denmark, you’ll see lots of women and children (cycling indicator species) there. A good sign.

      Thats what we need to aim for too.

      I’d feel a lot safer cycling that way too, because the more cyclists are present, the more it becomes normalised.
      Its the last 30 years that are the aberration and have truly de-normalised the concept of motor vehicles sharing the road with cycling.

      And as Ari notes above, e-bikes are great way to refresh old legs (and beliefs), but I’ve noticed the sheer amount of crap on the roadsides (glass and gravel being just some of it) is not and acts as a great disincentive to ride on the road (let alone considering the bad behaviour of motorists).

      But right now our cycle lanes, like our bus lanes too, suffer from a lack of joined up-ness (and the planners, a lack of joined up thinking).

      Because AT has this belief that traffic flow is king above everything else. (EXCEPT on-street car parking, which for some reason has an even higher priority in their collective mind). So there cannot be any allowance for seperated cycling lanes anywhere there is to be flow (or car parking).


  5. Just looking at those maps of Auckland and Denver and a thought crossed my mind yet again – is there any reason why the Awhitu peninsula cannot be developed into the urban area? I know there is a regional park in the area but suppose housing development and a city centre can be built around that regional park? (similar to the urban development that goes around the Long Bay regional park in the north shore).

    It would need a big bridge over the manukau heads at Cornwallis to link up with Huia Road. Perhaps fast ferry services to Onehunga to link up with the Onehunga rail? Maybe even ferry services to Ihumatao to link up with the airport rail (if that ever gets off the ground). This may sound dreadful to native bushland lovers but to me, it seems a bit of a waste to have all that land there just across from the Manukau harbour not really being utilised. I don’t really support urban sprawl but if Auckland is going to sprawl, I would prefer it sprawls within it’s geographical footprint around the Manukau harbour instead of just sprawling north to whangarei and south to hamilton.

    1. Please no. It’s lovely, it isn’t proximate to the city, and nor actually is Cornwallis, leave them both wild please. Build the city properly, up, and don’t ruin more farmland and wilderness.

      Sprawl is daft, ugly, and unaffordable. Stop subsidising it. Made to pay for itself it would properly wither, and enable more and better brownfield redevelopment. Of course with high quality Rapid and Active Transit systems.

      1. I broadly agree with you. I’d rather sprawl be kept at bay but I was just thinking if there is going to be sprawl then I’d rather it be around the Manukau harbour rather than running down a never-ending north/south axis towards Waikato and north to whangarei. Might even get some positives with investment pouring in to restore the manukau harbour.

    2. Wow, why not Rangitoto and Motutapu while we’re at it? Much closer to the CBD. And looking at the map, why don’t we just reclaim half the harbour between Te Atatu and Point Chev – there’s already a motorway there…
      Sorry I’m 100% with Patrick on this. There is so much potential for growth within the existing urban boundary.

  6. Wouldn’t an underground rapid public transport network be worth the investment, particularly in Auckland where land space is very important. It might sound expensive now, but the investment in this will pay off ten-folds as it gives Auckland a transport spine with no congestion. Once you get that up, intensification will occur above ground.

  7. That street comparison between Auckland and Denver is very visually useful. I suspect the same applies between Auckland and Melbourne. Sydney is perhaps somewhere in between. Pinch points, but crucially a bit more money behind Sydney in the early days to enable the service lanes out the back etc. When observing some of the recent PT success stories, they rejuvenate or re-invent a service or corridor that was built into the fabric of our city or our nation from the earliest days. Rail and its central city rail link is one item planned and conceived though never properly built from our earliest days.

    Auckland had a stonking good isthmus tram network too. Whether it be through buses, light rail or most likely both, the challenge over coming years will be re-integrating a high quality isthmus PT network into what is now a very busy streetscape….and playing the densification game again with the neighbours. Given what worked in the past on the isthmus, it might not have to be all that denser to do the job. Denser yes, but not to the extent that opponents feared. All of course tied into the Unitary Plan now in any case. The completion of the Mt Albert SH20 motorway extension provides that once off opportunity to get this right.

  8. One piece of low hanging fruit would be to improve bus services for schools. We all notice how much better everything works during school holidays because the little darlings aren’t blocking up the roads while being dropped off at school.

    Improved cycle infra would also help so that more kids can ride to school.
    The problem has become noticeably worse lately (and I notice it particularly in suburbs with high levels of Asian immigrants. Speaking to some of them they say that it is a bit of a status symbol to be able to drive their kids to school – couple with a bit of paranoia from their unsafe homeland about child safety – I guess with a 1 child policy that is an issue). So we have roads for several km in each direction from large schools blocked up with BMW/Audi/Range Rover/VW etc SUVs to drop the kids 3km away at school – marvellous!

    1. Just on the school thing, while I agree better bus service could be worth a look, it’s not just the school kids that cause the change. What really makes the school holiday effect so pronounced is the fact that a large proportion of parents are forced to take their leave from work during school holidays, and correspondingly not able to take leave during the term.

      So yes kids not being driven to school, but perhaps a 15% to 20% shift in the workforce not driving to work either.

    2. For kids going to school, it makes more sense to focus on bicycling and walking. These are much more effective than taking the bus for distances of a couple of km.

  9. Pricing young people out of the housing market. Yeah like it’s only young people that matter right?
    ALL ages are priced out of the market. Your ramapant ageisim showing again!

    1. Good grief Harry, why so touchy?, yes it is more difficult to every new entrant to the housing market, but these tend to be younger people, older people are more likely to already be in the market so therefore are also beneficiaries of the price spike too. Of course not every older person is a dwelling owner, but almost no younger person is, except by inheritance, that is the general trend.

    2. Also the entire discussion about housing is dominated by a group of mostly old people, who already own houses and therefore don’t give a damn about whether other people can have a place to live not.

      There was this highly entertaining meeting about a year ago, which made this painfully obvious.

  10. Make public transport SOOOOO ATTRACTIVE that the bulk of people will enthusiastically choose to leave their cars at home – make all public transport fare-free with a fleet of modern, comfortable, no-emission buses & trains on direct integrated routes. Make it publicly owned & operated. This can be implemented in stages at a fraction of the cost of building more extravagant motorways, tunnels and flyovers that just encourage more traffic chaos.

  11. Okay Ill cover this more over my end but:
    What do you think Auckland should do in order to address its growth challenges?

    1) Draw a map of Auckland
    2) Divide that map into the following sub regions: Central and West (former Auckland City Council and Waitakere City Council), North (North Shore, Albany and Rodney) and the South (Manukau City Council, Papakura and Franklin District Councils)
    3) Place the City Centre, Manukau City Centre and Albany Metropolitan Centre. Also place the Airport and the Port
    4) Now add in the other eight Metropolitan Centres and Pukekohe
    5) Add in the five heavy industrial complexes (Onehunga-Southdown-Mt Wellington, Wiri, Airport surrounds, East Tamaki/Highbrook, and Drury South)
    6) Connect the above listed in 3-5 with lines, this forms your Rapid Transit Network
    7) Allocate your growth to the sub regions with best placed existing infrastructure or able to get in new infrastructure quickly- you will find this is the South. After the South is allocated then allocate the next best place and continue until you get to the worst placed (so Central, West then the entire North).
    8) Hope the Government pulls finger

    Without full Government support there is no way Auckland is in a position to handle growth scatter gunned right through out the region it is simply too expensive and equally as disruptive to both the environment and social fabric. So let’s focus to the sub regions in best position first to try and lessen the pains of growth.

  12. Yes please more cycle lanes, segregated where possible! Cycling on bus lanes/ T2 lane is a joke. I’m not a lycra mid-30s bloke, I’m a girl who is not confident riding on roads but would love to use my bike more often

  13. A fundamental limitation for PT in Auckland is the low density. A few short km from the city hall, we’re in suburbs like Ponsonby or Grey Lynn, in a population density of less than 5000 people per km². This is very low for being this close to the centre of a city of a million.

    The thing with PT is that it’s slow. The thing we call “rapid transit” will usually not go much faster than 30 km/h. On a bus you often won’t cover much more than 10 km in an hour. Driving, even in moderate congestion, is much faster than that, especially once you get on the motorway. If you look at your average Auckland suburb, the bus will get you 5 km away in half an hour. Unfortunately there’s usually almost nothing to see within 5 km. Now think about how much stuff you can reach within a 30 minute drive. It’s absolutely huge compared to those few spots you can reach on a bus.

    In contrast, the tube in London isn’t great because you can cover huge distances in a short time. It’s great because, even though you only cover a short distance, the high density of the city means there’s a lot of stuff within that short distance.

    So we have to get both PT and the spatial planning to support it. This is a catch 22: until we have proper PT in place, trying to increase the density will just lead to horrible congestion. And until we have high density, PT will be useless for most purposes.

    Nitpick: that fridge usually won’t fit in your car either.

    1. Yes; the two, density and quality Transit, rise together, are positively correlated [plus walkability]….and in AKL both are improving together. It’s a process. We are improving both the planning opportunities [UP] and the Transit service, there’s no other way to do it. Certainly we could go faster and in a more coordinated way, but it is observable….

    2. Auckland’s actually not *that* low-density – I’d say that it’s consistently at the middle to upper end of suburban population densities. Of course, there aren’t many parts of the city that have taken the next step to midrise and townhouses. There are few parts of the city where there are too few people around to populate a bus, provided that the bus is reliable, frequent, and goes somewhere useful.

      That being said, speed *is* essential for growing PT patronage in the outer suburbs, as they tend to be far from dense concentrations of employment. That’s why it’s important to emphasise the “rapid” part of RTN. It should be possible to get to Britomart in under 45 minutes from (say) Papakura, Silverdale, Kumeu, Flat Bush, etc. (All of those are under 35km, so this seems feasible.) Once you get to Britomart (or another interchange point) it should be fast and convenient to transfer between services. And so on and so forth.

      The fridge goes on *top* of the car, obviously.

      1. Depends on how you define suburbs. It’s in the middle probably because higher density areas are usually called “urban”. So alternatively Auckland has only a little area which is “urban” and most of it is “suburban”.

        Also the idea that rapid transit between Papakura, Silverdale, etc. and the city will help is a fallacy. It takes time to get to that rapid transit. To give a concrete example: imagine you’re standing at the Auckland city police station. It will take 20 minutes, either on foot or trying to catch a bus, to reach Britomart. It’s not possible in any way to reach Newmarket in less than 30 minutes. So even though places like Mount Albert or Sylvia Park are on the RTN, it still takes ages to reach them on PT. And OK, in this specific case the CRL will solve that problem, but you have this problem (usually worse) in the suburbs as well.

        The “goes somewhere useful” is the biggest problem. The reason why you need a car to buy a fridge is not the possibility to strap it on the roof (good luck getting it off at home). It’s that the places where you can buy that fridge are unreachable on PT.

        1. The fact that it takes ages to get from A to B to C on Auckland PT isn’t a fault of PT, it’s a result of decades of underinvestment in PT in Auckland (and in NZ in general) and an irrational fear of density.

    3. “Unfortunately there’s usually almost nothing to see within 5 km” – Then you must live in an auto dependent suburb where nothing has been built close to housing. In my area I could comfortably live with everything within 5kms of me. For me, 5kms is max 20mins by bicycle.

      Or maybe because you drive everywhere you have never taken the time to see what is actually around the place. Get on a bike and cycle 5kms. I suspect you will be surprised by 1. how far 5kms actually is and 2. what is within 5kms.

      On buses, the only reason a bus would take an hour to go 10kms is if it is stuck in traffic. On the busway, 10kms takes about 15 mins.

      1. The NEX is indeed faster than local buses, that’s why it’s called rapid transit.

        Local buses are slow, and sometimes follow indirect routes. In the example above Newmarket is 4 km away from the police station, yet it is unreachable via PT in less than 30 minutes. The Outer Link will spend over 10 minutes just waiting for the schedule to catch up.

        You’re right about bicycling, that’s usually far more useful than taking the bus for short distances. For starters, you can cycle in any direction, but when taking PT you’re usually restricted to reaching a dozen or so stops along 1 or 2 lines. But that point is mostly moot in Auckland, cyclists are so unwelcome over here that most people will not think about cycling anywhere. You can look up for yourself how many kids cycle to school over here.

        And yes there’s plenty of places where you’re within easy reach of a lot of stuff. But due to the uniformly low density, there’s not a lot of dwellings in those areas. See my point about spatial planning above. The dwellings which are there tend to be horrendously expensive. That’s OK as long as you’re flatting with a bunch of other people, but if you at some point want a place for your own, it’s game over.

    4. Hello Roeland at 11:14
      Would be interested why you use 5,000 people per km2 as bench-mark in relationship to transit city.
      Why wouldn’t you use 2,000 ppkm2 as bench-mark?
      Here is reference showing close to a quarter of NZs electorates are over 2,000 ppkm2
      At the end of post you find this quote
      “At the core of Mees’s book, for example, is a table that compares the gross residential density of a bunch of urban areas with the transit performance in each area. The point of the table is to show that there’s really no relationship between the two”

      And here is second reference density.

      1. It’s not a benchmark, just the observation that the density very quickly falls off to below that level. IIRC Ponsonby is between 4000 and 5000. Those cities in Europe with their great PT usually have larger areas with a population density over 10,000. It’s not critical for good PT but it definitely helps.

        1. That figure is an average density of an area, so you have to be careful. There is some farmland and some industrial area included. Note also that this development is over 10 km away from the centre of Rotterdam. This is really an outer suburb on the edge of the city.

          I looked at Brussels, and there are a few numbers on Wikipedia [1]:
          – the average density of the Brussels-Capital Region is over 7,000 ppl / km². This is a political entity which encompasses most of the urban area, excluding some outer suburbs.
          – Brussels is still chopped up into over a dozen of municipalities, so population figures for those smaller areas are easy to find. Densities vary, mainly because some of them are partially covered by forest. There are a couple with a density well over 10,000.

          Brussels is larger than Auckland, but not by a huge margin.

          Now a low population density doesn’t have to be a big problem. Our tramway era suburbs have been served in the past by tramways after all. It becomes more of a problem in combination with the hostility to cycling, which greatly reduces the catchment of PT. (Those stations in Spijkenisse probably have plenty of parking for bicycles.)

          And PT is only as useful as the destinations on the other end, if these are scattered all over the place, it becomes really cumbersome to get anything done on PT. With Auckland being built around automobiles for the past 60 years or so, many shops ended up being scattered around mainly those light industrial areas like Wairau Valley. These are almost impossible to navigate without a car.

          [1] .

  14. Why set aside congestion pricing though? Rapid transit is great. It is also expensive and takes a long time to construct. We have an extensive existing road network that is very innefficiently utilised. Its like saying “setting aside the fact we supply irrigation water to farmers for free and allow them to use inefficient irrigation techniques, the only way to secure the water supply is to build a big new dam for the city”.

    1. Because it is pretty clear that a fairly complete Transit network is a prerequisite to Road Pricing being politically accepted. In other words not only will a full RTN enable Road Pricing to function better, but it is also likely impossible to even get RP introduced without this complementary network largely existing.

      1. The issue with that idea is that one of the main benefits of pricing is to prevent unnecessary spending on infrastructure. For Auckland the contemporaneous benefit to PT of road pricing is likely to be higher than any rapid transit network than can feasible built within the next 10-15 years.

    2. Because I’ve already written heaps about congestion pricing and hence have linked to some of those posts rather than reiterating myself.

      1. A more subtle point, by the way, is that congestion pricing won’t *end* the need for new transport infrastructure, but it will hopefully mean that we go out and build new infrastructure if and only if tolls are sufficiently high to pay for an upgrade. At that point, there will be value in having done the advance planning and design for future transport networks, particularly RTN expansions, to enable us to quickly respond to rising tolls.

  15. There is only one future that can work for Auckland. The answer is to do as you’ve done: look at a map and go from there.

    1. Where can you well service an area with transit? Spend your dollars there.

    1a. Suburban cul-de-sac strewen hell-holes don’t get any spend. Sorry (not sorry) but you chose to live there, it’s impossible to serve with transit unless you knock it all down and start over. Enjoy your endless traffic and long commutes. A lot of Auckland will be (infrastructurally) abandoned, but no matter how wrong you think I am, there is no alternative to cars here – that’s by design. (No cycle lanes either (sorry Bike Burbs), diminishing returns there – too much distance, too many cars)

    2. Zone areas with (possible) good transit as per #1 for (radially) higher density and make sure people have opportunities to make the choice to live a transit oriented lifestyle.
    2a. Good luck to everyone else. You made a poor choice, or were forced too, but we have to break this habit before it kills us
    2b. massive upspend in public places, parks, community supportgroups, education and policing to make these the most desirable places in the country (but make lots of them to counter the inevitable price pressures!)

    3. Stop widening motorways and supersizing roads – build dedicated Bus lanes/LRT lines with the money instead between your newly zoned transit oriented areas.
    3a. Introduce congestion charging on motorways through the city, CBD and town centers
    3b. Pedestrianise CBD, town centers, shopping streetsban cars from people oriented areas
    3b. Perpetually Shrinking parking availability in CBD/town centres

    4. No more good choices subsidising bad ones (strong towns!). If we truly believe in free markets then we must make them truly free.
    4a. Rates should reflect true cost of services – price of exurban sprawl must reflect the true cost. (Remote Land values decrease as a result?)
    4b. Emissions and pollution taxes in place to ensure costs reflect choices – stormwater overflows, airpollution, recycling costs built into prices, emissions capture and disposal fees (tired of breathing in your subsidised smog!) etc…

    5. Legislation to reflect pedestrian priority (and bicycles where appropriate) and put onus on motorists for injuries and damaged incurred while they were in responsible for the vehicle. The motorist is always at fault in town centers in the New Auckland. You chose to drive.

    There will be the whingers that it’s not fair that they can’t drive everywhere, that this sort of proposal is some liberal conspiracy and I’m Stalin and they are being specifically targetted and it’s anti-car and their way of life is under attack. They can adapt or they can remain excluded from the New Auckalnd. If they get there way then Auckland dies.

    ps. “Stop all immigration” does not address my questions, this isn’t bout new people or turning Auckland in to Hong Kong – our “way of life” is already unsustainable and must be fixed.

    Good luck with all that….

    1. Right but I am guessing you are all in favour of taxing the cul-de-sac strewn hell-holes to pay the $1.7billion needed to fix up the sewers in the older bits of Auckland. Part of the total cost that was left out of the modelling that resulted in up-zoning of all the central parts. Seems like culs-de-sac are using for something. You can force the people who live there to join up a half baked super city and then tax the crap out of them.

      1. No, intensification should pay for itself. If it doesn’t work out cheaper than building all new developments in greenfields then we are probably doing it wrong, however.

    2. There are so many cul-de-sac hellholes that we can’t afford to ignore them, though. My preferred strategy would be mitigation – in most places it would be possible to pick a few strategically located properties, demolish or relocate the buildings, and build foot/cycle paths to connect up the cul-de-sacs. (Optional extra: build medium-density housing on the remaining land before selling it.) Do enough of that and driving is still ridiculously circuitous but walking and biking can be more direct. It would be prohibitively difficult to do all at once, but if AT/Panuku/whoever kept a wishlist and bought when a strategic property came on the market, connectivity would gradually improve. (And a 30km/h speed limit is a cheap and effective way of encouraging cycling.)

      1. I’m completely open to this concept, but zoning has to change in step – we have to allow stores and businesses into the suburbs. This regeneration can be done in parallel with my list for New Auckland. The communities that are most willing to adapt can be brought into the fold again.

    3. I think the thing is to work out how move on from here, rather than to be punitive to some existing built part of the city. We did that in the sprawl era when we rated the be-jaysus out of the city centre to fund expansion at the edges, which turned out to be destructive over the medium turn.

      So first let’s just let the costs fall where they lie. If that figure of ~$200k in infrastructure for each new ex-urban dwelling is right, then that simple act of allowing cost to fall on the cause of the cost will be self correcting. New sprawl will perforce cease to be rampant.

      The city centre pays additional targeted rates for local amenity, why not then ex-urbia? Because the plan is to corral low income people there? That is surely short term thinking. Most of the ‘feasible new dwellings’ identified in the UP are brownfields anyway; let’s be sure we aren’t needs;essay subsidising away from these potential dwellings with existing amenity as a start.

      1. I don’t aim to be punitive, but I believe that to truly fix this then there has to be a realistic tradeoff. Some situations require someone to lose out for the better of the whole, that is the basis of society.

        As you say, make it costs what it costs – intesification will then be inevitable and (lord help me) the market will guide development. But I’m arguing to stop throwing good money after bad. There is no point investing with such little returns.

  16. Progress – Fairfax notices the implausible blowout on estimated cost for the East-West Truckway:

    The uppermost estimate of $1.85 billion for the East West link’s new “escalated cost” would drop the benefit-cost ratio below zero. Despite this, NZTA highway manager Brett Gliddon says the project is still progressing along the same benefit-cost ratio as in the original NZTA business case.

    Pickford has his doubts about this: “If they’re claiming inflationary costs increases, then there must, for the benefit-cost ratio to be unchanged, be similar increases on the benefits side, which doesn’t seem plausible in this sort of non-inflationary world which we’re currently living.”

    1. That quote says “drop the benefit-cost ratio below zero”, but it means “below 1” (which is what in fact NZTA’s document says). For a BCR to be below zero either the costs or the benefits would have to be negative, which is something even NZTA would find hard to achieve.

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