There were a couple of news articles that caught my attention over the weekend.
Public Transport in Christchurch
The Press ran a great piece on Saturday about the trade-off between driving and public transport.
Commuting by bus could save Christchurch drivers about $7500 a year, but mean spending an extra two weeks in traffic. DOMINIC HARRIS crunches the numbers for commuters.
Drivers could make huge savings on weekly journeys to Christchurch for work, pocketing thousands of dollars a year by ditching their own vehicles for public transport.
Taking the bus would also save up to $7 a day in parking – or $1680 a year.
But the financial gain comes with the sacrifice of convenience and what for some is a frustrating caveat – spending up to two weeks longer a year stuck in traffic.
The article goes into some detail with a number of scenarios highlighting the trade-offs, which boil down to you can either save money or save time. In all cases, catching a bus took longer than driving. It’s probably also not helping that the shape of the city has changed thanks to the earthquakes and public transport has still not recovered to the level of usage it was before the quakes.
There are other factors that will determine the level of usage but imagine how different the results would be if there wasn’t the time penalty for using PT. Of course, this applies not just to Christchurch but to other cities, including Auckland, too. The few routes and times of the day where we’ve made public transport time competitive with driving we see significant levels of usage, for example over 70% of people entering the city from the North Shore do so on a bus thanks to the busway and bus lanes on routes like Onewa Rd.
On the question of more motorways, at least there is some hope.
But Professor Simon Kingham, a transport expert at Canterbury University who was recently appointed chief science adviser at the Ministry of Transport, believes part of the answer to congestion may actually appear counterintuitive – to build fewer roads.
“There is evidence that congestion can suppress demand. You talk to anybody and ask them if they have changed their plans or the time they are going to travel because they know the road is going to be congested, people say ‘yes, of course I have’.
“When roads get congested people either change modes [of transport] if there are alternatives, or they go at different times, or they don’t travel.
“But as soon as you create more road space you actually release more people who use those roads. So if we were to build extra lanes and roads up to Amberley, we would actually find more people come and use those roads.
“If you close roads, what you find is that people don’t want to sit in congested traffic, so a number of people change what they do – they either travel at a different time or by different mode, and that’s where you need alternatives.”
Kingham says it would only take between 5 and 10 per cent of people switching from driving to solve congestion in the short-term, but that would require good quality alternatives.
Sprawl king says he has the answers
On Sunday the Herald ran a piece about one of the country’s biggest property developers. In it, he effectively claims to have the solution to our housing crisis
“But the more I look at it, the more I firmly believe that these people – both Labour and National – don’t actually want to solve the problem. They don’t want to hear what’s going to fix it and have gone so far down the wrong road it’s ridiculous. We will still be ploughing the same field for the next 20 years if they don’t stop chasing their tails and actually adopt a plan that works.”
He believes the Government needs to embrace the expert knowledge of New Zealand’s successful developers who have “weathered the storms over the years and come out the other end”.
“I want every New Zealander to have their own home, their own lawn to mow, roof to paint and driveway to sweep. With that ownership, goals and dreams, comes a lot of pride and self-respect, and I believe that a lot of our drug, alcohol and family violence problems would disappear overnight, if we can just empower the people to realise their dream to have and own their own home we’d grow a nation of proud people, not people looking to self-medicate because they are drowning in unrealised potential.
“Buying a home in today’s climate puts a massive strain on people’s lives – their marriages, businesses, health. Everything is at breaking point; there’s no head room left as the prices spiral out of control. It’s just wrong. I just don’t get why we can’t do it. It is perfectly logical and if one of the governments of the day just stops for a breath, resets its destination, gets back on the bus and gets the job done, it won’t even take long once they fully understand where they need to go and how to get there.”
He’s willing to stake his reputation on solving the crisis – and will happily stake his own hard-earned reserves on it.
“If the Government won’t help the community achieve this, then I’ll roll my sleeves up and pay for and do the job myself.”
Of all the benefits of owning a home, painting a roof or sweeping a driveway have to be some of the last things I imagine most people want to do. Mowing lawns would probably fit in that category for most too. Perhaps not the best examples to use. And far from just being the financial strain, other things that put a huge strain on people’s lives are long, soul destroying commutes, which is relevant given his history earlier in the piece suggests what his solutions would be.
He has helped mastermind some of Auckland’s most substantial new housing developments, including Milldale, Millwater, Silverdale, Flat Bush, Pokeno, Karaka, Tuakau and Drury, turning over billions of dollars, while personally owning great swathes of land.
These developments are some of most ‘drive till you qualify’, auto-dependent developments in Auckland. Developments that are some of the most difficult to serve with quality public transport which only serves to exacerbate Auckland’s congestion issues. For example
Millwater’s loopy street pattern makes extremely difficult to run a bus that doesn’t exclude a large number of houses.
Flat Bush’s ‘off-line’ results in buses between Manukau and Botany having to take a lengthy detour which is a poor outcome for all others who might use that route.
And of course Pokeno which is outside Auckland but has no public transport (or other amenities) but is sold on its proximity to Auckland and most residents still battle the Southern motorway daily.
He even highlights in a Kaikoura development a trend that’s been employed a lot in Auckland over the years by land bankers, selectively releasing land to prop up values.
He also bought the balance on the open market, while rethinking “a new pricing structure” and direction for the sites – surrounded by a long-established golf course, winery, prime fishing spots, 3km of walkways, and 170,000 newly planted native plants – and has decided to limit the number of sites for sale annually.
“I want to ensure the land values reflect the quality and cost invested in the development and the world-class scenery on offer. It’s only by doing this will we be able to realise the full potential of the development and economic benefit
The guy has clearly been successful at what he does but that doesn’t mean it’s an example we should look to replicate on a larger scale.
City Rail Link and Mt Eden development
Metro Magazine ran an interesting article on the redevelopment of the area around the Mt Eden train station following the completion of the City Rail Link. One of the most interesting parts was right at the end highlighting how much the market has changed in a short space of time about carparks with apartments.
“My dad converted the old Hellabies on Hohiperi Street [behind what was then the Winstones building],” says McEwan. “We’re picking sites now where cars aren’t important. In 2014 when we did 38 carparks for 24 apartments in Grey Lynn, nimbys said that was terrible, not even two carparks per apartment. This year, we’re halfway through selling 59 France [former Kings Arms] and we’ve sold 19 carparks for 50 apartments.”
“Younger ones aren’t buying cars, they’re walking everywhere,” he says. “You can buy an awful lot of Uber rides for the price of owning a car and a carpark. They have faith in technology solving problems, and they’ve not grown up with that urban divide between western suburbs and eastern suburbs.”