This is a guest post by reader John Wood.

When most Kiwis talk of Italy, Milan does not often figure as part of the conversation. However, it is a very important city and one that Auckland could learn from in terms of transport transformation.

From Wikipedia: Milan is the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome:

  • the city proper has a population of 1,395,274
  • the metropolitan city has a population of 3,257,535
  • the continuously built-up urban area has a population of about 5,270,000 (over 1,891 square kilometres, or 730 square miles)

Milan is the destination of 8 million overseas visitors every year, attracted by its museums and art galleries that include some of the most important collections in the world, including major works by Leonardo da Vinci.

Milan is considered a leading alpha global city,[11] with strengths in the field of artcommercedesigneducationentertainmentfashionfinancehealthcaremedia,servicesresearch and tourism. Its business district hosts Italy’s stock exchange (Italian: Borsa Italiana), and the headquarters of national and international banks and companies. In terms of GDP, it has the third-largest economy among European cities after Paris and London, but the fastest in growth among the three, and is the wealthiest among European non-capital cities.

Milan’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan

For transport enthusiasts, this is the most exciting part of Milan. I was first alerted to this aspect by my daughter’s friend, Elena, a native of Milano and resident near the city centre. She proudly told me of a scheme that “we” (the citizens) have agreed. When you move around the city you can see why it engenders pride. Milan looks and feels very different from most other cities that I have visited.

Milan’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) represents an important change to the city’s mobility and transport policy. Planning started in 2013, with implementation beginning in 2015. It aims to make the city more liveable, safe and accessible, and ensure social equity and sustainable mobility. The way it attempts to do this is by enhancing public transport, giving value to urban space and shifting the urban mobility focus from private car ownership to a model based on shared mobility services (such as car- and scooter-sharing) across the whole metropolitan area.

The Milan SUMP arose from the decision of the City Council Committee to update the Milan Urban Mobility Plan and carry out a Strategic Environmental Evaluation.

In addition to the consultation process envisaged by this evaluation, the SUMP has been developed through a participation process which has involved:

  • public authorities (the Municipality, the Mobility Agency, PT operators),
  • stakeholders (professional associations, local associations, companies, residents’ associations) and
  • citizens.

These groups contributed to the identification of agreed strategies and actions of the plan.

The relevant themes discussed were:

  • urban development, innovation and sustainability;
  • putting the policy focus on environment and life quality;
  • adopting an integrated approach to urban mobility management; and
  • defining priorities, tools and resources.

The participation process consisted of an information campaign, thematic meetings, and publication on the municipality’s and mobility agency’s website of the presentations held during the meetings and their minutes and reports.

SUMP – the Details

These graphics are from a slideshow from 2016 showing what was underway for the SUMP at that stage.

The expected impacts of the SUMP compared to the current situation relate to the following three areas: mobility, environmental quality, and human health and safety.


  • The PT modal share is expected to grow up to 63 per cent inside the city, while car share is expected to decrease by 24 percentage points.
  • The cycling network, which currently accounts for 9 per cent of the urban road network, will cover 25 per cent.
  • The average trip time is expected to decrease by 8.3 per cent (by 9.5 per cent inside the city) and road congestion, measured according to suitable network indicators[1], by 10 per cent.
  • The PT service offer (seat-km) is expected to increase by 20 per cent and PT commercial speed by 17.5 per cent.

Environmental quality

  • Air-polluting emissions are expected to decrease by 10 to 17 per cent (in particular CO, NOx and PM10 by 14, 10 and 14 per cent respectively), while greenhouse gas emissions by 13 to 15 per cent (in particular, CO2 by 15 per cent).
  • Energy consumption is expected to decrease by 12 per cent.

Human health and safety

  • Citizens’ average exposure to air pollutants is expected to decrease by 13 per cent.
  • As for citizens’ average exposure to acoustic pollution, 37.4 per cent of the population will experience a decrease in noise levels, 14.1 per cent an increase, and the remainder will experience no changes.
  • The number of road accidents is expected to decrease by 75 per cent between 2013 (about 10 000 accidents/year) and 2024 (about 2 500 accidents/year)


The goals under the three categories outlined above are very significant. Where are Auckland’s comparable aims for the next ten years?

Is ATAP or any other mechanism delivering the specific goals that will deliver environmental quality and transport outcomes to take Auckland forward?

Would an overall SUMP framework provide the overall structure that Auckland needs to create a 21st century sustainable transport model?

Walking, and Congestion Pricing

Wikipedia suggest that the inhabitants of Milan are very active walkers with that mode share at 17%.

Walking in the central city is made more pleasant because the central area has congestion pricing. This area is an 8.2 square kilometer (3.2 square mile) Congestion Charge zone in the central Cerchia dei Bastioni area of the city of Milan with restricted vehicle access. To enter this area with a vehicle you have to pay a congestion charge by purchasing a special entrance ticket. As at 2016:

When it was introduced in 2011 it was contentious with some, and an Italian court suspended the pricing in July 2012, although this was subsequently overturned and reinstated on September 17 of that year. A study showed that Milan experienced plenty of benefits for the whole of 2012 despite the eight-week halt. Paolo Beria of the Polytechnic University of Milan reports that traffic was down 31 percent on the year before, particulate matter was down 18 percent, and carbon emissions fell 35 percent. The program generated 13 million euros for the year—money reinvested in public transit and bike-share.

This was a great area of the city to visit. The space given to pedestrians, and the low traffic volumes allowed for leisurely ambling.

Shared Bikes / Micro cars / Cars

-a focus of the SUMP


The first thing that is noticeable is that some of the fleet are quite old. I guess there is always a tension in how money is spent, capex or opex. The same dilemma exists in Auckland, are we better served by new double deckers, or better frequency?

Tram stops are also sometimes simple affairs with the stop being a sign on the side of the street, or sometimes on an island in the middle of a street.

Driverless Metro

This is a fairly recently completed line.

The M5 metro, or Purple Line has 19 stations. It starts operating at 12:00 AM and ends at 11:52 PM. The total trip duration for the 12.8km route is approximately 23 minutes which represents an average speed of about 30kph.

The Line was built in two stages with the first tunnelling started in 2008. The Metro Line 5 extension was approved in July 2010. The 7km extension route was fast-tracked by performing excavation activities on two different fronts simultaneously using four tunnel boring machines rather than the original plan of using two TBMs. The project was completed in 2015.

The 21-train fleet serves Line 5 at a headway of 3 min during peak hours. The passenger capacity of the entire Metro Line 5 (Bignami to San Siro Stadium, home of both AC Milan and Internazionale football teams,) is 25,600 passengers an hour, in each direction.

I was interested in this project because Auckland is obviously considering light metro to the airport and metro does have distinct advantages.

Despite what I think to be reasonable business literacy I have not been able to find any article that sufficiently explains the funding. What I will say is that this project was financed by money from the State, local authority, the developer and project bonds. With the current low interest rates prevailing in NZ then are project bonds, or infrastructure bonds an option to finance Auckland projects?

Public Transport Pricing

There seems to be a common theme to the way that public transport is priced in many European cities. The clear intention seems to be to encourage a huge number of people to use it very regularly. Some factors are common

  1. Single trips regardless of when they occur are the most expensive way to travel.
  2. Significant discounts are made for those who buy weekly, monthly and yearly discounts with the discount increasing.

I appreciate that many have a contrary view of pricing mechanisms believing that transport should be priced to take advantage of spare capacity at off peak times. The European experience seems to show that the greatest public transport ridership is achieved by using weekly, monthly and annual passes that become progressively cheaper on a per day basis.

The Milan model has a huge number of steps that could be overlaid almost directly on top of the current Auckland fare structure and provide a huge incentive to travel more by public transport for those who hold a weekly/monthly/annual pass.

Learnings from Milan

Many will say, this is Europe and population is denser there, it will never work in Auckland. But of course it did work in a much less dense Auckland when we had trams through to the 1950’s. We had a greater PT ridership than we do now even though most of the Auckland isthmus was only single storey dwellings on larger sites.

It is almost certain that Auckland will become denser as the price of carbon increases most likely causing an increase in petrol prices. Just as happened post the oil crisis of last century people will look to locate nearer their place of work, or adjacent to transport hubs.

Many will also say that Auckland’s public transport system lacks proximity to much of the population, or lacks frequency.  It will be a challenge for Aucklanders whether we accept some personal inconvenience and use our public transport system as it is; or continue to grow our transport carbon emissions because cars are more convenient.

The pricing model of Milan is worthy of investigation if Auckland wants to dramatically increase PT ridership while looking to maximise revenue.

The SUMP scheme is exciting in the magnitude of change that it looks to achieve in ten years.


As we progressed through Europe it was evident how some cities have been transformed by significant and constant investment in public transport opex and capex, and the life of the city seems better for it. In Europe the current directives from the EU to reduce emissions have helped, but the most successful cities seem to be those with the best leadership.

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  1. “The M5 metro, or Purple Line has 19 stations. It starts operating at 12:00 AM and ends at 11:52 PM”

    So … an 8-minute break

    1. I think the article said 3 min during peak hours

      Driver-less train is disruptive. It allows many small trains to run at very high frequency without any extra driver costs.

      It is the best of both worlds, very high frequency and very low OPEX

      1. But with high capex costs. There ain’t no free lunch.

        The signal control system and collision detection systems, and the need to be entirely grade separated can add billions to a network.

        1. Yes metro does come with a high capital cost, compare the high proposed cost of the NZ Super plan to the airport. The trade off then becomes one of capex v opex over whatever life span is thought appropriate.

        2. I am not sure why AT are even still in the parking game.

          They are providing parking at a subsidy in a market where there are plenty of other providers. Plus the fact it (induced driving) is in contrast to stated goals of A4E, people-friendly streets, climate action etc.

  2. Thanks for the article John. Very good. In the commuter space AT Metro is competing with private operators and AT Parking options. Humans are terrible at rationalizing sunk costs. I.e if I’ve paid for my all you you can eat carpark lease then I’m going to get my monies worth and use it all the time. If we extend this logic then we should be trying to encourage all you can eat PT passes. I work in city 4 days a week and travel 4 zones. It still doesn’t stack up for me. To buy a monthly pass .. so I pay as I go and sometimes drive. If I had a yearly pass that I spent say $1500 on maybe I would bus and train more as the pain of spending extra on driving when ive already sunk $1500 might be too much for ape brain to handle. Would be great to know what the split between pay as you go and monthly passes is? I’d imagine it would be mainly used by people that either dont drive and/or work at office 5 days a week. With remote working the 5 day commuter is becoming rarer.

    1. Wookie
      I don’t know the split for Milan. I can tell you that Vienna, population about 1.8 million, has just reached annual pass sales of 800k for a year. Many European cities are designing public transport systems so that they become the primary source of transport for most trips and not just the work commute.

      1. Agree that trips other than just commuting is the end game. However I think to win the hearts and minds first you need to get the PT cost down to less than parking at least. People will then use PT for more non work trips as like I said they’ve already made a substantial investment in a pass so want to get their monies worth.

        1. “In the commuter space AT Metro is competing with…….. AT Parking options”

          Ridiculous, isn’t it. Not only is AT parking in competition, its doing so at less than market rates in some cases.

  3. I went to Milan 5 years ago lovely place amazing cathedral.
    I walked into the Galleria and thought so what then I had another look and realised the shear scale of the place with all the famous Italian brand displayed its an all together different experience to the Manukau Mall. Apparently it was the worlds first mall and not a carpark in sight. I rode the yellow trams. The central city is flat and there is a river which reminded me a little of the Avon in Christchurch. So a good place to go. I was there in August so it coincided with their holidays so the city had an empty feeling after all the tourists in Rome. And yes the place is not overwhelmed by cars. So think Christchurch not Auckland if you want to make a comparison so I expect it would be a lot easier place to build a Metro or light rail. I arrived and left on rail so didn’t see or don’t have any recollection of the outer suburbs.

    1. There are parking buildings a street away, including a six level carpark, but you wouldn’t have seen them if you used the Metro which has a very convenient stop immediately adjascent to the galleria.
      The central city is indeed a great place for tourists and very walkable.

  4. These various European case studies both inspire and depress. Inspire in terms of what is possible, depress in relation to how rare it is to have this wider vision in New Zealand. In my own local situation (southern North Island) we fight for improvements for each pedestrian crossing, speed hump, slow zones outside schools, cycleways past shops. Occasionally we win but after lots of lobbying. Councillors turn up to meetings in their SUVs and talk about ‘sustainable transport’ in terms of buses they will never use themselves. Meanwhile congratulating the government when it announces new roading projects. Locals head to Europe to do cycle trips, love the experience, but fight when a car park or two are threatened outside a local shop. And Wellington Council vote against congestion charges. We need a major mindshift in NZ. Keep the articles coming as eventually the decision makers might be convinced.

    1. Congratulations on your election as District Councillor. Please find enclosed your bus and rail passes and a voucher for the bicycle, e-bike, or e-scooter of your choice. Please deposit your SUV which will be returned to you in three years.

  5. I think Milan must be the second largest economy in Europe behind Paris…

    [the remainder of the comment has been deleted. Off-topic.]

    1. They did and it will all work out fine. A customs border in the Irish Sea will prompt a border referendum in Northern Ireland leading to reunification of a United Ireland in Europe.
      Scotland will secede from the Union because they were told being in the Union was the only way to be in Europe when the opposite was actually true.
      That will leave England and Wales to form the country of Britain.

      1. “They did”
        No they didn’t. They did no such thing.

        “and it will all work out fine”
        Hahahaha no it won’t.

        “A customs border in the Irish Sea will prompt a border referendum in Northern Ireland…”
        Highly unlikely. And the majority of the population in Northern Ireland are Ulster Scots who would vote for remaining part of the UK anyway.

        And the rest of your predictions aren’t likely either.

        What’s most likely to happen is that the intact UK inflicts a long period of economic recessions and stagnations and slips behind the other G7 nations before applying to get back in the EU again.

    2. No British people, people from Britain which is England and Wales. The term british also gets applied to Scots as they live on the island of Great Britain and it gets applied incorrectly to Irish people living in the six counties north of Ireland.

      1. No I really do mean English people.

        Only the English voted in favor of Brexit overall, and then only the English living outside of London and the home counties.

        Welsh voted to remain… as did the Scots and Northern Irish, and those poor souls living in Gibraltar. Of course the English are the vast majority of the British population, but the other nations of Britain were definitely in the remain camp.

    3. “it has the third-largest economy among European cities after Paris and London,”
      Miffy, well spotted that this was written about a month ago.

  6. “When most Kiwis talk of Italy, Milan does not often figure as part of the conversation”
    I don’t know who you talk to John Wood, but it’s usually in conversations I might have about Italy. It is after-all the largest industrial and largest financial hub in the country…

    1. Not part of the spoken conversation perhaps, but I give Milan a mention every time I sing Right Said Fred’s classic, “I’m Too Sexy”!

      1. [Apologies in advance to the ad-mins for more off-topic]:
        If Itay usually comes up in conversation it;’s often in relation to:
        * attire & fashion. So Milan is extremely relevant to that with Prada, D&G, Gucci, etc.
        * Soccer. Inter Milan & AC Milan say no more.
        * Food. Ossobuco stew on saffron risotto or Corn Polenta, Cotoletta/Schnitzel with fried capsicums, etc. that come from Milan.

        1. Daniel, yes good that you mention the two football clubs because of course they provide the anchor at one end for the metro line.

  7. Thanks, John. Great article.

    It’s fascinating how each city is using SUMP in different ways to meet their goals. The focus here on share bikes and EV’s is very different to places that have focused on other aspects.

    It shows how innovative and adaptable people can be. There are many ways to solve our problems one the dinosaurs get out of the way.

    1. Thanks Heidi
      Yes a focus on share bikes and evs, but a coordinated approach it seems. So when you scroll down the PT pricing table to “Ordinary Travel Cards” you see the annual travel pass for the urban zone is 330 euros and out at zone 9 becomes 761 euros or about $1270.

      When you look at AT’s solitary monthly passes and multiply by 12 its $2580.

      One of these cities is serious about PT and one isn’t.

      I thought that you would comment on the ambitions for the cycle network. What is Auckland’s ambition? 10km this year?

  8. Wow, that’s how you fast track a metro: “The 7km extension route was fast-tracked by performing excavation activities on two different fronts simultaneously using four tunnel boring machines rather than the original plan of using two TBMs.”

    …and that driverless metro frequency is great.

    Thanks for the post, interesting.

  9. That 1,891 square kilometres or urban area is pretty big it seems. Don’t know much about these measurements but urban Auckland according to a 2009 Wikipedia reference: “The greater Auckland urban area—as it is defined by Statistics New Zealand—spans 1,102.9 square kilometres (425.8 sq mi)[3] and extends to Waiwera in the north, Kumeu in the north-west, and Runciman in the south. It is not contiguous; “

  10. Apologies for this off topic post. I have just returned from a five year work contract in USA and tried to connect to transportblog to catch up on what’s happening in Auckland with metro rail and busways. But it links to this greaterauckland blog that seems more to do with housing and town planning issues, reviewing overseas city planning and cycling
    Is there another transportblog type site for Auckland? Thanks

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