Welcome back to Sunday reading.

From the Devonport Ferry. If your commute has tourists taking selfies on it then I’d say it’s probably pretty good:

Devonport Ferry ©Patrick Reynolds 2017

Here is a clipping from yesterday’s Herald Commercial Property section. It neatly encapsulates the value of sorting out planning restrictions [Unitary Plan] and making high quality Transit investments [City Rail Link], naturally, given the context, through a property value lens:

I wouldn’t get too hung up on the salesman’s boosterism in the second paragraph, as the main point is that the only way for tatty low value (in the broadest sense) parts of the city, like the current low rise commercial city fringe, to attract investment and therefore improvement is through value uplift. Outside of large scale direct public investment, that is, which is no straight forward business in these kinds of areas. This is happening in other parts of the city, Tamaki etc, but it is very hard to do everywhere, and anyway is probably not desirable as the only means of development anyway. There is a good role for the private sector in city building. The city and its citizens are winners through either this process, after all no one can live in an apartment that doesn’t get built, nor use or work in a retail or commercial property that isn’t there, so more is certainly more in a thriving city.

All transport infrastructure investments provide opportunities for different groups, and after 65 years of only rewarding ex-urban land bankers and detached house volume builders with tax funded transport investments (motorways) it is good to see a better and more efficient urban form being incentivised here.

And particularly good to see both levers, planning code and Transit investment, being pulled at once, and in the same direction. This is absolutely something that Auckland is getting right. Those interested in these city shaping issues globally will know that it is surprisingly difficult to achieve such obvious coordination. The main barriers to this are fractured governance in cities, so we can put this success down to the amalgamation of Auckland’s previously hopelessly squabbling and disunited political organisation, and subsequent weakness in the city’s dealings with the much more powerful central government.

April sees the Waterview tunnels open. Print media is starting to look forward to the project. I see NZTA are already trying to play down expectations of congestion reduction. As well they might:

It is not a means of removing congestion altogether, especially in peak periods, which is no different to other major cities across the world,” Gliddon [NZTA] said.

Perhaps we should be expecting them to spend our money in smarter ways, like on actual alternatives to everyone always driving for example, then?

Plus some thoughts from this fellow:

Here’s a ripper from the ‘surprising things that generate big efficiencies’ department, here:

UPS drivers don’t turn left—and it saves them 10 million gallons of gas a year

If there is one thing I do like about American traffic management in cities is their enthusiasm to restrict cross traffic turning. Left in their case, right in ours. Our agencies seem obsessed with making horrible oversized intersections with individual lanes and light phases for every possible turn, including the most lethal and disruptive of them all; cross traffic ones. I have long called for the removal of right hand turns into and out of most Queen St intersections for both safety and efficiency reasons. And we all know that AT are just plain wrong on this issue in Mt Albert. Note to traffic engineers; heritage isn’t a thing in your profession; just cos you’ve always done it one way it doesn’t you should keep forcing it on us (actually almost certainly the reverse is true).

UPS have moved away from trying to find the shortest route and now look at other criteria to optimize the journey. One of their methods is to try and avoid turning through oncoming traffic at a junction. Although this might be going in the opposite direction of the final destination, it reduces the chances of an accident and cuts delays caused by waiting for a gap in the traffic, which would also waste fuel.

So now there’s evidence that Traffic Engineering has been wrong all along anyway, as the standard argument for keeping dangerous and delaying right hand turns is that to remove any decreases vehicle efficiency. Busted again Traffic Engineering: I sometimes wonder if there is a discipline with less intellectual curiosity about its habits than this branch of engineering?

Note to AT: MacKelvie St/Ponsonby Rd. So often there is broken glass here, being so close to the Richmond Rd intersection right turning both into and out of this street are seriously disruptive, dangerous, especially with the volume of other road users in this busy retail area (and the bus stop). Stop the right -hand turns and the very wide MacKelvie could be narrowed with widened footpaths and street trees on the southern, sunny side, and the road space on Ponsonby currently as a wide painted median for this manoeuvre used more productively.

This is undeniably true: Decisions about transport investments are really about what kind of future city we desire. For a quick overview, with lots of links, of this claim head to this CityMetric article.

The article questions reliance on cost benefit analysis, where as I think that they are an important part of the evaluation process. I guess the issue really is one of balance. For example we have for many decades had far too much priority given to the results of traffic modelling, whereas these outputs should be of a secondary value in city design, not primary. Because if we build for traffic first, all we get is traffic, and much less city.

Thinking City has a nice post up on cultural representations of cities.

Breaking Bad is amazingly powerful drama, but who thought it would also turn out to be positive for Albuquerque? Not the local authorities, for one. But there were wrong:

The funny thing is, even when a place is portrayed in a negative light, it can actually end up having a positive impact on that area. Take the US city of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest metropolis, home to roughly half a million people. It is also home to the fictional characters in the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, about a teacher with cancer who turns to drug dealing. Following the success of the show, tourism to the New Mexico city was massively boosted – turning around struggling businesses, generating new ones and contributing hugely to the local and state economy.

From the ‘the whole world is an integrated economy’ file, Bloomberg has the fascinating tale of one tiny widget in a nice interactive, click though to the the link for the full experience:


I have always like the line: ‘California must exist for even America needs an America’.

Immigrant Shock: Can California Predict the Nation’s Future?

So it’s interesting to read an article calling California as showing the direction the rest of the US will follow. Is California just America’s dream of its own future? After all in the long run everything follows demographics; economics, politics…

Thank’s for reading, see you next week…

Share this


  1. Interesting read thanks, Patrick. I won’t get too hung up on the crl press clipping but I’m struggling to see the vibrancy gains now for those areas since they ‘value-engineered’ the stations, including neutering K’Rd and removing Newton. Aotea will see the increased vibrancy. It’s interesting how value is reduced from a PT project and yet $2.4 bn is no problem for a roading project whose value creation is already being played down.

  2. I agree if Trump wants to bring back jobs, industries such as film can significantly help, rather than try to resurrect jobs in coal mining which don’t exist anymore.

  3. Good postings Patrick. I definitely agree with you that alongside giving greater freedom for residents (and mix use commercial) to intensify/build our cities upwards we should put in place infrastructure that supports that -whether that be public transport, cycle lanes etc. As you say the two go together.

    What I would like to say is whoever wrote that publicly paid for infrastructure will benefit private property owners is perpetuating a very bad way of thinking. It is socialising the costs and privatising the gains. What we should be aiming for is so much freedom in building (both up and out) that when the economics of a place (amenities, agglomeration, whatever) give an uptick in demand then we should want the response to be more supply -i.e more housing, more businesses, more employment rather than the supply response being higher property prices. This is probably a difficult to achieve ideal -but that is what we should be aiming for.

    In Auckland I think the Unitary Plan was a step towards that -but it is just a step. We need to keep pushing on giving people who want to live on our cities the freedom to build there. Obviously I have pushed some ideas -like looking at how Tokyo is free to intensify or my reciprocal intensification idea. But it could be reducing section sizes, raising height limits, removing car parking limits and so on.

    Note -I like the idea of it being the car owners responsibility when they register their vehicle to prove they have private parking where they can store it -the Green party should make that party policy.

    1. I am also not against building at scale affordably on the periphery -if it is done well -in particular if public transport and walking/cycling is planned from the outset. But our cities cannot keep doubling down on motor car dependence -we are reaching the limits of that type of city growth.

      I am suspicious of city dwellers who advocate that our cities ONLY ‘make room’ on the periphery. In a way they are perpetuating Nimby thinking. What they are saying is city growth can happen somewhere else -that they don’t want to accommodate any growth in their neighbourhood. It is a kind of selfishness, because room was made for them to live in a city and enjoy all the economic and social benefits of that city but they are not willing to ‘pay in forward’ and allow others to do the same in their neighbourhood.

    2. Yes, very much agree. To my mind, rapid transit investment should almost always coincide with rezoning for higher density to ensure that it benefits a wider range of people.

      However, I don’t think we’re at the point where we need to restrict car ownership to people with proof of off-street parking. NZ cities are less dense than Japanese cities, and there tend to be relatively few places with excess demand for on-street parking. In those areas, we’re better off using a graduated range of management techniques – starting with time limits or residents parking permits, and then moving to hourly prices – to manage the issue.

      A further challenge is that residential areas with limited off-street parking are likely to be older parts of the city with regulatory protection for old buildings. So the policy would impose a bit of a catch-22: Can’t own a car without building a garage, but not allowed to redevelop to provide one.

      1. Well over the medium term I do think that MaaS; Mobility as a Service, that fancy new term for relying less on car ownership but on the full range of movement technologies in cities will render much of the space we waste on car storage available for more valuable uses.

        Yesterday I was in Mt Eden checking out the now 10-15 year old (?) redevelopment of the old CHH timber yard site near Mt Eden station, and other than the sorry sight of them rebuilding the very ordinary terrace houses because they are from the leaky era, it is remarkable how much space is lost to car storage there. Not just every ground floor of the sorry terraces but also several large multi-storey garages. Incredibly wasteful use of such a great site. They should be bulldozing the crapy little boxes and building better higher and with much less tin-storage now. AKL has moved on. Of course they can’t, they have to replace like with like. What a shame.

        1. Yes I get that Patrick. But it still annoys me because if someone buys into an area on the basis of that sort of advertising then it creates a widely held belief system that they are ‘entitled’ to capital gains created by publicly provided amenities. Woops this was meant to go under Patrick’s next comment.

    3. Hi Brendon, that clipping is from the property press; it is from an ad, in editorial form, for a property, so is not about the CRL or UP at all except that the agent and writer are saying they add value to the site they’re flogging.

      The change in the last few years to naming proximity to PT and cycle ways in real estate ads has been noticeable and abrupt. They used to only ever mention motorway onramps before!… Very telling of a major culture change; our advocacy aims are now firmly mainstream…. it has been really fast. And is the result of successful implementation of early examples.

  4. There is a lot of “low value” commercial real estate around the city fringe. Last year, consent was granted for a large, mixed use commercial and residential development on the old Kiwi Bacon site in Kingsland. This is exactly the right place for it, well connected to PT with bus at the door and train about 400m away. The whole area along New North Road down from Newton is ripe for re-development, particularly if they can get rid of the excess tarmac at the New North/Ian McKinnon intersection.

  5. If I recall correctly the embrace of internationalism that the former CEO of Ford, then CEO of Boeing championed namely outsourcing for components to save money and for “efficiencies” as he had done at Ford backfired badly, http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/01/21/what-went-wrong-at-boeing/#85165565aad0. They quickly found out Boeing had no real control over quality or timeliness which is unacceptable for an aircraft manufacturer, unlike Ford, which caused delays and led to the 787 having so many developmental issues. The spontaneously exploding lithium batteries was one such example and skin fracturing another that could have taken Boeing into reputation killing territory that hit De Havilland with their Comet in the 50’s, had Boeing carried on.

    Sometimes keeping things in-house is a far better strategy, and something I would like to see Auckland Council and AT do with their organisations.

  6. Nice to read in that Herald ad that the CRL is opening in 2021, thats a nice 2 to 3 years earlier than expected and shown in those AT stage diagrams.

  7. In main roads in Sydney (eg Victoria Rd, Canterbury Rd) It’s quite common to see signs to the effect ‘Next right turn is last right turn for 1km’

  8. Interesting post Patrick. Two points though. First it wasn’t just the ex urbs that benefited from the motorways. Take a look at the background of your shot on the Devonport ferry. The owners of those sites were able to build high buildings because the motorways all ended in the CBD. Second point is I get that you think traffic engineers are stupid and the whole field a waste of time. But if you really want people to look at traffic management and right turn restrictions then AT would have to hire some. It doesn’t happen now because the people who could do it are all working outside the Council and the Council Uncontrolled Organisations. Instead AT figures delay to cars and trucks doesn’t matter and they ‘invest’ their time in cycleways. Maybe they have been reading this blog!

    1. My concern with Traffic Engineering as evidenced in Auckland is its apparent lack of curiosity and intellectual rigour. Of course there are both fantastic people and journeymen in every field, and there are signs of change and hope, but there is something about this end of engineering that seems to have calcified into stasis. I have a little bit to do with other branches of engineering, especially structural, but nothing with the really cutting edge stuff (as described by the School: computer and aerospace). For example I generally know when an architect has done a really exciting structure that the engineers will be be from one or two practices (especially Alistair Catanach, Wellington). But am puzzled by the apparent lack of ambition and, as I say, especially, curiosity, in TE practice in NZ. It seems to entirely consist of applying dated standards and defending discredited ancient practices.

      I get conservatism in engineering and understand that I come from an entirely opposite starting point, but WTF, a computer can apply standards more consistently than any human; where’s the future in that? I am just completely puzzled by the lack of desire in the field for creativity and design. And TE’s are designers, yet they seem to want to reject the whole idea of design, of problem solving. I just don’t get it. Is simply the result of years of trying to defend the indefensible? The killing, hopeless realm that servants of traffic have created? Please help me. I really struggle with this, clearly these people aren’t stupid; but they do seem stuck in a shape they can’t shift….?

      Oh and I reject the idea that the city is a result of motorways; quite the reverse, I argue it succeeds in spite of them….

      1. The expanded city that we call Auckland IS a result of motorways. If they had never been built we would have all lived on top of each other within a mile of the CBD. Cars have their place, and Auckland, and NZ much like the America’s was opened up by roads, roads that could handle volumes. What we have in Auckland (dishonest to say otherwise) is roading infrastructure that is not consistent. The problems we have isn’t too many cars or any similar nonsense but a true lack of consistent lane numbers, poor driving and idiotic policing (obsession with speed limits vs poor driving). Keep left enforced, consistent lane numbers from Bombay to at least Albany, two lanes each way – no parking 24 x7 on all arterials, you know, good common sense approaches and traffic would flow much better than it does now. Personal transport is not the antichrist and it gets very boring the endless tirades suggesting so.

        1. I think it’s worth asking what we mean by “intensification” and “distance”
          In my mind, “intense” is not about proximity not of distance, but of time to cover that distance, so a city where you have 24hr, high-speed trams and buses and trains, but is “sprawly”, is just as intense as some lovely old English town of terraced housing.

        2. Lets look at a real world example of a arterial rd with 2 lanes each way, no bus lane or special lanes and no parking. This is Lincoln Rd and guess what we have in peak, 2 lanes of crawling stop start congestion. So your idea does not hold water.

        3. Exactly Ricardo. The expanded city (in its form and extent) is the result of the investment in motorways and nothing else. The City Centre however, exists, persists, thrives, in spite of them; thrives in fact on the crumbs that were spent on alternative systems. Mfwic claims above, wrongly, that the city centre was built by the motorways:

          ‘Take a look at the background of your shot on the Devonport ferry. The owners of those sites were able to build high buildings because the motorways all ended in the CBD’

          The car eats distance, but also enforces it; motorways make sprawl, and Transit builds the city.

          In 1994 80% of people arriving in the city centre were in a car. Last year this figure was in the mid 40s. Yet the actual numbers of car commuters in each case being about about the same. Therefore all growth in the city centre in over 20 years (the thriving part) has been enabled by Transit, Active, and inner city living.

          Well within a decade the car will deliver fewer than 20% of people to the City Centre in the morning peak. Traffic congestion will largely be an optional irrelevance for the biggest concentration of employment and education in the country. Something many people will see happening on social media, but not take part in. This will be of huge benefit to the productivity, performance and appeal of our biggest city.

        4. The CBD has certainly developed in the last 20 years – as a place for apartments. Look at your photo again (lovely image by the way) and you will see what 3 buildings that are non-residential that have gone up in that time? The motorways allowed a tired old CBD to find a new purpose. Where has most office space gone in the last 20 years? It is outside the CBD core. Had we not had the motorways going to the CBD that would have occurred sooner. Remember that connection between land use and transport?

        5. Your history is too short. So the motorway buildout (the problem was/is that it was ONLY a motorway build) first strangled and bleed the City Centre, that the city persisted, even building some new buildings, is no grounds to praise the motorways. They, their financial and land appetite, diverted investment almost entirely away from the city centre, additionally the concomitant parking demand destroyed buildings there, and still to this day takes whole city blocks out of productive use… Whereas there could have been a highway programme not through the city centre, but around it, with a complementary Rapid Transit network to support better land use, especially in the already intense centre. If only someone proposed that…. oh wait.

          Instead we gutted the city, strangled and severed it with urban motorways, and are now back-engineering intensity back into it! Seems like the hard way to do it, don’t you think?… still that’s where we are, so that’s what we’re doing.

          It’s largely pointless to speculate how it could have been, but much has been lost, but perhaps somebthings will also be better this way? We are getting a largely brand new RT network, have got rid of almost every heritage building so are more flexible about what to do next (e.g. no one opposed Downtown coming down), but we do have the gigantic urban motorways to deal with, oh, and perhaps even more difficult; the institutions that have been built up to make more of them and sustain them. They will have to be entirely reformed one day….

        6. Yes, and that’s without a single car user being added to the am peak.

          So the fastest growing employment, education, and residential area in the whole nation relies entirely on alternative transport investments. Why are they still so hard won?

        7. “Given that Wynyard Quarter/Viadust is in that image it is slightly more than 3!!” There could well be more than three, but the three I see are Lumley, Vero and Price Waterhouse and all three of them are 10 to 15 years old.

        8. Sailor boy says “Vero, ANZ, PWC, Lumley, Deloitte, Telecom Tower, AMP, and Zurich house, all in the last 20 years”

          ANZ was 26 years ago, Deloitte you can have, Telecom I can’t see in the picture maybe your eyes are better than mine, AMP was built in 1980 and Zurich House I think goes back to the early 1970’s but they did put 6 more levels on it. So you are right and I am wrong. The number is now 4 not 3.

        9. Actually the expanded Auckland was the result of the tram network largely, and a few train and ferry routes. Auckland was already fifteen miles in diameter before the first motorway was opened. The motorway only continued the trend of outward expansion on the basis of motorised transport. Auckland hasn’t been a mile wide walking city since the late 1800s.

        10. Well yes there were two great transport infrastructure enabled expansions in Auckland, first the ‘tram-built Bungalow city’, that you mention, in the first half of the 20th century, followed by the motorway enabled auto-dependent sprawl one, in the second.

          There’s probably an argument for dividing the later in two again; the 20th century one, more rambly and dispersed than its 21st century sibling, which is increasingly characterised by ‘dense sprawl’. AKA; The worst of both worlds…

          We can, now, too, add the y axis to this horizontal spread; Auckland has started going up, and has been filling in for quite a while. These spatial movements require Transit and Active transport infra, as they simply can’t work on the car alone.

  9. Don’t compare apples with oranges and then use the example of one specific company to say TE is all wrong. The US isn’t Auckland, the situation is not similar, it is complicated and not really worth the time explaining. They don’t have the same road networks (one-way grid vs spaghetti), road rules, traffic systems (fixed vs adaptive) or drivers (crazy vs crazy). The application to a courier company is very different to someone doing the same commute every day. If you want to argue for right turn bans you should also argue for one way roads because they are far more efficient, but an argument against them is that you have to drive further…

    Having said that, the article does give me an idea about the Auckland CBD traffic lights.

  10. Couriers have known for years the trick of only making left turns. No big deal. But it takes AT Tpt engineers to re-invent it before it gets traction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *