Here’s our weekly collection of smaller pieces.
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.
Our temporary Shortland Street zebra was installed last night and proving popular this morning. Even in quiet traffic, most people appeared to be choosing to use the crossing rather than follow their natural desire line. #teamADO #tacticalurbanism #peoplefirst #streetsforpeople pic.twitter.com/86W5MEAVDG
— Claire Davis (@Claire_AKL) January 12, 2020