Here’s our weekly collection of smaller pieces.

Housing Consents

Stats NZ announced this week that NZ as a whole had reached a 45-year high for new home consents.

“For the first time in 45 years, the annual number of new homes consented rose to over 37,000,” construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said.

There were 37,919 new homes consented in the year ended September 1974, while the overall record is still 40,025 in the February 1974 year.

The population of New Zealand in the mid-1970s was around 3 million, compared with about 4.9 million today.

The number of new homes has been generally increasing since late 2011, coming off lows in 2009 and 2011 when fewer than 14,000 new homes were consented annually.

Nationally, 13 percent more new homes were consented in the November 2019 year compared with a year ago, reaching 14,866 in Auckland, 4,176 in Waikato, and 5,310 in Canterbury.

Canterbury consented 14 percent more new homes than in the previous November year. Although this level is below the 2014 peak, it is still higher than the level before earthquake rebuild activities.

Wellington region consented 3,036 new homes in the latest year, the highest annual number since over 4,000 new homes were consented in the mid-1970s.

So Auckland makes up about 40% of the new homes being consented but we’ve still got some way to go till we get back to those 1994 levels.

Free Public Transport

There have been a few interesting articles about free public transport recently.

The first comes from Finland and quotes researchers saying that free PT doesn’t really impact congestion and takes money away from network improvements.

The head of the research group at Tampere University’s Transport Research Centre Verne, Heikki Liimatainen, said that mere act of making public transport free to customers is not a solution in itself without broader urban development goals and business plans.

“Free public transportation increases the number of passengers, and can increase them significantly, but the shift is mainly from pedestrians and cyclists, and hardly takes drivers from their cars,” Liimatainen said.

According to Liimatainen research in various cities around the world has found that car traffic is not necessarily reduced once public transport fees are waived, but rather when parking costs are increased.

“If a door-to-door journey on public transport takes as long as it does by car, half of commuters will take public transport and half will drive their cars. If the same trip by bus or train is one-and-a-half times longer, public transport use drops by 25 percent. If the journey is twice as long as in a car, then no one other than those who have no other means will use public transport,” Liimatainen said.


Transportation researcher Liimatainen estimated that making public transport totally free would only reduce personal vehicular traffic by a couple of percentage points, but at the same time potentially overburden the transport system.

“Due to the capacity constraints of public transport, they would become congested,” he said, noting such a development would negatively affect the experience of end users.

Flink noted that transport service levels in Tallinn have not been sufficiently developed since they went ticket-free. She said that no new tram lines have been built since 2013 even though new housing developments have sprouted up in the city.

She said municipalities would have to bear the financial burden if ticket revenues disappeared, saying that the threshold to improve or develop services would become very high.

The second comes from the New York Times which understandably has a more American focus –

A handful of experiments in the United States in recent decades, including the cities of Denver and Austin, were viewed as unsuccessful because there was little evidence that they removed cars from the road; new riders tended to be poor people who did not own cars, according to a 2012 review by the National Academies Press.

But in another sense, they were successful: They increased ridership right away, with rises between 20 and 60 percent in the first few months. That statistic accounts for its revival among a new wave of urban progressives, who see transit as a key factor in social and racial inequality.

In both cases it seems that free PT does increase usage but that’s not really from people driving so cities are still left with the congestion and emissions.

Personally I’m not convinced PT should be free when even with relatively expensive fares we have buses and trains groaning at the seams and in need of more investment.

A Paris Success Story

Paris is showing that through rapidly building safe infrastructure for bikes, that a lot of people will use it.

For cyclists in Paris, the last few years have been nothing short of revelatory. New protected bike lanes have led to a doubling, and even tripling, of the number of riders on some busy main roads. The Champs Elysées is lined with segregated cycling lanes, and more residents of the greater Paris region cycle today than take the busiest line of the city’s Metro. Since 2016, the left bank of the Seine River has been free of motor traffic, creating a new public gathering spot where, CityMetric writes, “cyclists mix with boozy sunbathers, tourists on electric scooters, and giggling children.”


In a single year, from September 2018 to 2019, the number of Parisians using bikes rose 54 percent, according to the Paris mayor’s office. It’s “the culmination of years of growing restrictions on cars, the introduction of bike-sharing services, and most recently the construction of bike lanes across the French capital,” said journalist François Picard, the host of “The Debate” on the Paris-based TV channel France 24. That’s not all. The buildout of space for bikes in the City of Light has contributed to a 5 percent drop in car trips since 2010. In Paris and its surrounding Île-de-France region, cyclists now take 840,000 trips per day, more than motorcycles or scooters. Paris leapt from 13th place in 2017 to 8th in 2019 on Wired’s list of the 20 most bike-friendly cities in the world.

In Auckland we’re only just starting a bunch of projects that were meant to have been completed by 2018. We need leadership like is being seen in Paris to push through changes such as getting the cars out of Queen St and rolling out connected and safe cycle networks over the objections to losing a few carparks.

Dealing with 2021

Stuff’s Todd Niall has been doing a series of articles on the plans for 2021 when we have a number of major events including the America’s Cup and APEC. Yesterday he looked at transport.

As part of dealing with the disruption these events will cause I think AT need to look at options such as running peak timetables all day and to use road closures as an opportunity to test the city as a more pedestrian friendly area.


It’s only taken I don’t know how many years but Auckland Transport have finally installed a pedestrian crossing across Shortland St between Jean Batten Pl and High St.

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  1. I’d love to see a graph of home area (m^2) constructed v time. I’m sure that this measure would be way ahead, but benefiting fewer people.

  2. I’m starting to think Queen St will never go car free. I understand the need for traffic to go across it, but what is the thing stopping us from trying something like bus-only traffic on Sundays in summer, etc – even just as a trial?

    1. That’s the most frustrating thing about making Queen St car free: It’s so easy!

      Doesn’t require any regulatory changes. Doesn’t cut off driveway access for anyone. All that needs to happen is that its lanes are classified as bus lanes (either full time or during certain hours) and appropriate signage installed.

      1. If I was one of the Councillors who’d made it clear to AT that it needed to be brought forward, and if my questions were getting nowhere, I’d be looking at taking action.

        Because whatever’s holding it up is probably holding up other progress, too. It’ll be a mindset problem, and whoever has the mindset needs to move on.

        1. Yes and its one of the few improvements I think almost all citizens would agree with. Even Hosking might approve (unlikely but you never know). There just seems to be no real reason to drive on Queen Street – but plenty of reasons to walk/cycle/scooter!
          Another option: Electric vehicles only (including electric buses only). EV uptake would probably increase if you can get a sweet park on Queen Street! Wouldn’t want them circling around the block though…

  3. With free PT: I wonder if free off peak PT would be a good idea? It would smooth out the demand a lot and potentially move people from peak into off peak. The buses are running anyway (often almost empty) and I imagine the current off peak revenue isn’t that big to lose. It would encourage people who always drive onto a bus for the first time (they may even like it!), and allow people who do use peak PT to get rid of the car knowing that the bus is free at other times.

    1. Even just an off-peak discount would be a great start. I wonder why we don’t hear more about that? Seems it would be easy implemented with hop.

    2. Off peak revenue is about 65% of total revenue, because the majority of transit use is off peak.

      The key factor is that for every hour of peak service each week, there are six hours of off peak service.

  4. Now is the hour. CRL works means Queen St will be full of new bus routes, in order for them to function at all well, and not fume up the all ready dangerously polluted air there even more, something has to give. And that can only mean removing the rat-running cars.

    AT has got to stop fiddling with silly traffic models, these are irrelevant in an age of modeshift strategy, less than no help, they just spit out distracting disinformation from the car-first era. And do the obvious thing only. Oh and run a clear campaign urging people to try the many alternatives to accessing the city centre. Clearer service communications.

    AT has nothing to lose but its confusion!

    1. Exactly. Just put in temporary footpaths like they have done in High Street over the current bus lanes, paint the current general traffic lanes as bus only lanes and there you have it – a transit mall. At least between Customs and Victoria.

      As with High Street, if it doesnt work just take out the temporary footpath and reinstate the general traffic lanes.

      At least TRY!!!

    2. Last time i visited Auckland i was amazed there were still cars running along Queen Street. They hold up walkers crossing at the lights and when i caught a bus down Queen Street i decided it was virtually quicker walking due to all the stops at lights often to let cars through..

    3. I’m just confused about Queen St. I thought it was announced already. Nobody I know would drive there. Who does? And if someone really needs for a good reason, can’t there be an exception for them, because for the rest of us, the cars are just horrible. What is getting in the way?


        But this couldn’t possibly work for Queen St, because it just couldn’t.

        Retail would never survive, although we walked Mariahilfer last year, three years after it was completed, and it was a bustling, thriving street even on chilly May days.

        People wouldn’t cope as it would take longer to move around; but what is more valuable, a little more personal time, or reducing emissions that could improve the outcome for millions?

        As an eco-capitalist I feel we need to give things like this a go because it will improve Auckland in so many ways.

        1. Queen St needs something to invigorate it and I think pedestrianising it into a high amenity space is key.
          Do something really amazing with pavements, art and landscaping

  5. “If the journey is twice as long as in a car, then no one other than those who have no other means will use public transport,”

    This is a important point. Some of our PT are pretty slow comparable to cars, especially during off peak.

    Examples included :

    -Henderson trainstation to Britomart, 22 minutes driving vs 45 minutes using Train
    -Howick village to Britomart, 25 minutes driving vs 51 minutes using Train + 72bus
    -Westgate mall to Britomart, 18 minutes driving vs 55 minutes 110 bus + walking
    -Takaini train station to Britomart, 26 minutes driving vs 45 minutes train

    These estimates already excluded time that need to walk to train station.

    That explains why our PT are so empty during off peak.

    The key is to improve our train and bus. Train still runs at conservative speed with excessive dwell time. And bus still missing important bus lanes and traffic light priority.

    1. What is it that causes the trains to run so slowly in comparison to a car? I’m originally from the UK and (when they ran on time) taking a train between towns could easily be much faster than by car because of the speed a train can travel compared to a car (legally at least).

      1. You can’t compare Urban and Intercity Rail…but yes, they should be able to speed trains up somewhat due to reasons mentioned previously.

    2. Do those times include the time spent walking from wherever you parked the car to Britomart, paying for parking, driivng round looking for a park? People driving cars never count that time.

      I am also assuming those are best scenario off peak times for the car.

      One great thing about travelling by PT (at least PT with its own ROW) and bicycle, is that it almost always takes the same amount of time. Sometimes that is worth a longer journey.

      1. To make the time comparison fairer:
        The time excluded parking the car as well as the last leg time walking to the train station.

        Bus really depends on the level of ROW. Northshore NEX and Birkenhead has fast journey time, but others are quite slow.

        For train, Eastern Line and Onehunga Express is as fast as car, but Western line and Southern line journey speed is not very appealing

  6. It’s interesting that the Waikato is now well ahead of Wellington in new house-building consents and isn’t far behind Christchurch.
    All the more reason why the govt needs to start getting serious about providing and long-term planning Public Transport in Canterbury and the Waikato.

  7. That Paris article is actually more about leadership than cycling.

    Auckland City Centre currently lacks the strong clear leadership it desperately needs from the office designed to deliver it…

  8. Just a thought they could run the rail replacement buses double frequency to make up for their lack of speed so at least there is less waiting around. Pretty low operating cost compared to a train.

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