Welcome back to Sunday Reading. Let’s start off with a critical look at driverless cars. Peter Calthorpe and Jerry Walters, “Autonomous Vehicles: Hype and Potential“, ULI.

The reality is that some forms of AV could actually make things worse. The convenience of AVs could result in more miles traveled—up to 35 percent more for personal AVs and an amazing 90 percent more for single-passenger AV taxis, according to Urban Mobility: System Upgrade, a 2014 study by the International Transit Forum (ITF) and the Corporate Partnership Board (CPB). This increase is the result of riders acquiring a greater tolerance for long commutes, and vehicles running “deadhead” trips to look for new riders or cheap parking and running errands. The only thing worse than a single-occupant vehicle is a zero-occupant vehicle (ZOV)…

In contrast, application of autonomous rapid transit (ART) would use the technology in small express buses and minivans traveling in dedicated lanes or auto-free zones. This would provide low-cost, 24/7 service without squandering miles in ZOVs or suffering the inefficiencies of mixed flow—combining cars, buses, trucks, and bikes in the same lanes. If ART became dominant, it could reduce VMT by 37 percent while eliminating congestion and 95 percent of public parking, according to Shared Mobility; Innovation for Livable Cities, a 2016 ITF/CPB study. In the end, all three types of AV will exist, but in what sequence, in which environments, and in what proportions?

Cities don’t have to passively accept transport technology changes. For example, in Auckland we have experienced a big change in how taxis serve customers, but our street management remains largely unchanged. I think we need more proactive kerbside management techniques like the use of pick-up and drop-off zones.

Vancouver is not waiting around to see how driverless cars will change the city. Instead they are actively investigating how technology changes can help to deliver its Transportation 2040 Plan goals. “Vancouver Prepares For a Driverless Future That Includes Extra Space for Walking, Cycling, and Transit“, Modacity.

Central to that Transportation 2040 plan – passed unanimously by Council in October 2012 – is a key policy direction that explicitly prohibits a net increase in motor vehicle capacity on City of Vancouver streets. Once driverless dreams become a reality, this creates an exciting opportunity for building complete streets that include wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and bus rapid transit lines.

“Take a major, six-lane arterial – we have a few of them in Vancouver – which would typically carry 30,000 vehicles per day. That’s 5,000 cars per day per lane,” Bracewell explains. The ability for cars to connect, communicate, and therefore travel much closer to one another changes that dynamic altogether. “When driverless cars arrive, each lane is suddenly capable of moving 10,000 cars per day, and we can immediately go down to four narrower travel lanes while car capacity remains the same. We can then use that extra space for walking, cycling, and transit.”

Another area where Vancouver is leading its North American counterparts is in cycleway planning and development. Vancouver has adopted an All Ages and Abilities (AAA) approach to cycleway design that will attract a wide range of users. Designing for this audience means that facilities must minimise traffic stress. Here is a nice guide (PDF) that illustrates the principles behind their AAA philosophy.

Speaking of cycling, Mapzen has been building some nice looking tools to create cycle maps- “Spring into cycling with Mapzen’s new bike map“.

Here’s an interesting Radio NZ interview with Grant Morris discussing past immigration booms –   “The history of immigration booms in NZ“, Radio New Zealand

We are currently experiencing an immigration boom. The last two years have seen annual net migration of over 70,000 – 1.5 percent increase in population.

But New Zealand is an immigrant nation. So how does the current immigration boom compare to previous ones?

Coinciding with our recent population boom, New Zealand GDP numbers have been pretty good. Bernard Hickey digs a little deeper to reveal that our productivity is still dismal compared to other OECD countries and Australia. Bernard Hickey,”It’s the productivity, stupid“, Newroom.

But it disguised an awful productivity performance that is now turning into a five year trend where growth was produced by simply throwing more resources and people into the economy. That 3.1 percent GDP growth only came after our population grew 2.1 percent.

The GDP figures showed per capita GDP actually fell 0.2 percent in the December quarter and was up just 0.9 percent for the full 2016 year. That is the second consecutive year of less than 1 percent growth in GDP per capita. It’s not a healthy performance, but it’s also not a true measure of productivity because New Zealanders could have worked fewer hours to get that extra output — thus improving productivity. If only.

That’s all for this week. Please add your links/articles in the comments below.

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  1. technology rarely turns out the way people expect too, my grandfather was promised free electricity when nuclear tech developed, they even tested it in japan but 70 years later we still dont have free electricity.

  2. No surprises really… National opened the immigration floodgate to make the GDP numbers look better and to line the pockets of its supporters and certain businesses.
    In reality all it has done is create a new under class of people unable to afford to not only buy but also rent, while creating a huge infrastructure problem.
    Benefits? Almost non-existent for New Zealander’s with only the immigrants themselves and National’s buddies/some baby boomers with short term gains. Of course long term now that people can’t afford to live here much less raise a family the demographics mean that superannuation is going to be a huge problem and those boomers will be lucky to see the grandkids (that’s if there are any to see in the first place). No wonder why John Key decided to bail out before the election.

    1. Correction, policies allowing this started under Labour – Helen Clark. Research. We need facts here not conjecture.

  3. I think car ownership will vanish and everyone will go to transport subscription services. MaaS etc.
    Especially if the government increases road user charges.

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