Do you sometimes wish you could just magic away the traffic?

Not all of it, perhaps, as if you’ve stepped into a car ad fantasy…

… but some of it – like it’s the summer holidays and most people are resting at home or away at the beach?

I do. With less traffic, everything works better:

  • The bus network runs smoothly
  • Walking and cycling is safer
  • It’s quieter and the air is cleaner
  • Traffic isn’t congested

Thankfully, in best practice planning, reducing traffic isn’t wishful thinking. It is core strategy.

This may sound odd, because we have a growing population, so surely we should be helping accommodate their movements? Yes. But not by adding more cars. Our current system doesn’t allow Aucklanders to get around easily or sustainably even with the population we have. Given how much road and parking space cars take up, it’s clear that throwing more cars into the mix won’t improve anything. Driving, buses, walking and cycling will all work better if we reduce traffic, whether our population stays the same or grows substantially.

Or maybe you have assumed this was already happening, given the talk about multi-modality and modeshift? In general, no. There’s still pressure to maintain traffic levels.

Mistakenly, focus has been on reducing congestion, instead of reducing traffic. But in trying to reduce congestion, traffic is often increased instead, with projects that induce traffic:

  • Intersection “improvements”
  • “Optimising” the network
  • Motorway extensions and widening
  • Widening roads, squeezing more traffic lanes in, and using “dynamic” lanes

Ultimately, this extra traffic increases congestion, too. But because the congestion created is at other bottlenecks in the system, rather than in the project location, it’s not attributed to the project.

Our transport planners are stuck trying to improve the bus network, make walking and cycling safer, and reduce air pollution, emissions and congestion, without being able to focus on what’s most effective: reducing traffic levels.

This is where reducing traffic works as both a tool and a goal, creating a positive feedback loop. Reduced traffic levels help achieve faster bus journeys and cleaner, quieter, safer streets. Faster bus journeys and cleaner, quieter, safer streets mean people have more options for how they travel, so many choose to get out of their cars and traffic levels are reduced.

From Streetfilms video about Ghent – see Reinventing Auckland using Lessons from Ghent

Travel demand management (TDM) is defined on wikipedia as:

The application of strategies and policies to reduce travel demand, or to redistribute this demand in space or in time.

In Europe, Civitas has recommended “reducing traffic” for years:

Demand management strategies lead to lower car traffic volumes… Lower car traffic volumes create more space for slow modes… Reduced car traffic means reduced congestion

Europe’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) often include targets for reduced vehicle km travelled and/or vehicle modeshare.

In contrast, New Zealand’s transport sector seems to have shied away from the concept of “reducing traffic”.

ATAP’s recommended strategic approach is:

Making better use of existing networks by improving throughput… maximising the benefits from new transport technology… tackling congestion through investing in strengthening strategic road and public transport networks…

NZTA’s travel demand management has been:

providing options… enabling better travel choices… minimising negative impacts… improving social, economic and environmental outcomes

Auckland Transport considers travel demand management to have three key components:

  • Behaviour Change
  • Network Management
  • Capacity Creation

Lacking an overarching strategy to reduce traffic, “capacity creation” has been misunderstood to include “road building”. But road building induces traffic. With our awareness of traffic’s negative effects on climate, health, access and safety – and on congestion – we need to more clearly limit “capacity creation” to the sustainable modes.

Here’s an example of how a goal to “reduce traffic” would help in planning: To add a bus lane on a motorway, we could convert an existing traffic lane to a bus lane. This would increase the people flowrate, increase the transport options for people, and reduce traffic elsewhere through modeshift.

Instead, because our planners are attempting to maintain traffic volumes, they try to:

  • use the motorway shoulders for buses, a method with resilience and safety downsides, or
  • widen the paved area to add more lanes, which has huge cost and environmental downsides.

Neither approach has the advantage of reducing traffic.

There are many levers that can impact traffic levels. The right hand column of this table includes the tools we can use to reduce traffic.

And the economy has an effect on traffic levels, too.

Our projects currently sit in both the left and right columns. We waste money on projects that increase traffic (left hand column), and then spend more money to mitigate the problems created (right hand column). This reduces the value-for-money of our transport investment. Good planning would see us shift all our activities into the right hand column so they don’t undermine each other.

In Vision Zero, Meet VMT Reductions, Todd Litman points out the safety benefits of setting traffic reduction goals:

Many jurisdictions have vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction targets, intended to reduce congestion and pollution. They can also provide large but often overlooked traffic safety benefits…

all else being equal, increases in motor vehicle travel increase crashes, and vehicle travel reductions increase safety. In other words, the new traffic safety paradigm recognizes exposure, the amount that people drive, as a risk factor.

Reducing traffic needs to be a pillar of our Vision Zero strategy.

The large safety benefits of reducing traffic, added to the climate, health, access and value-for-money benefits, mean central government should require councils to set traffic reduction targets. In Auckland, we need to reduce our vehicle km travelled by at least 5% annually. To meet such targets, our authorities will need to steer away from projects which induce traffic, such as motorway widening or building carparks, and seek out those that will create traffic evaporation.

Traffic reduction targets would change every work programme:

Retrofitting our city for faster transit. Choosing where transit routes can ‘fit’ is both easier and cheaper if the analysis acknowledges it is a benefit – not a drawback – to reduce traffic by converting traffic lanes into transit lanes.

  • Bus lanes are more effective and more easily enforced than T lanes. Currently T lanes are sometimes used – even in new designs where public pressure isn’t a factor – because they “increase productivity”, ie increase traffic!
  • Expensive tunnelling or trenching are best used sparingly where we really want the urban design outcomes they provide, not as standard practice to add transit. Road reallocation makes basic retrofitting of the city much cheaper.

The Connected Communities Programme. AT will find more opportunities to prioritise buses and make walkable streetscapes with safe cycling, if they have traffic reduction targets to meet. These opportunities will be missed if maintaining traffic volumes is a goal.

The Road Network Optimisation Programme has theoretically shifted from a focus on increasing vehicle throughput to being multi-modal. But unless it starts focusing on reducing vehicle throughput, it will compromise outcomes for public and active transport.

Access for Everyone. A4E will civilise the city centre environment, reducing the high risks faced by people walking and cycling. Implementation should be immediate, but it is being held up by misconceptions about needing to increase the traffic capacity of surrounding roads, like The Strand. Cities using low-traffic neighbourhood programmes (like A4E) are not beefing up the roads around the neighbourhoods, because that is neither required (thanks to sufficient traffic evaporation), nor desired (because increasing road capacity wastes the opportunity to decrease traffic).

The city-wide effects are what is being neglected in the conventional modelling approach here. By implementing A4E, the many people who will switch from driving to other modes – because it’s safer and nicer to do so – will be walking or cycling in their own suburbs at the ‘home’ ends of their commutes, and won’t be adding to congestion all the way into town. The city centre also becomes more attractive to live in and live near, so more and more people move into the area. For these people, many trips through the suburbs into the city centre for work, fun, or shopping, etc disappear altogether or become short walking or cycling trips.

Through these mechanisms, A4E removes traffic from a wide swath of Auckland, so buses can be faster, and we can all be safer. The positive feedback loop continues.

UK Low Traffic Neighbourhoods suggest wherever surrounding main roads do receive more traffic from a neighbourhood plan, they are reconfigured as urban boulevards. A boulevard is already planned for The Strand as part of the City Centre Masterplan.

The earlier A4E can be implemented, the more data about traffic evaporation will be available when designing the details for this boulevard.

Delaying A4E until traffic capacity has been added amounts to insisting that unsafe conditions for walking and cycling in the city centre must be retained until driving amenity can be guaranteed to not drop. This is prioritising driving amenity over the basic human right of safety and is indefensible in a Vision Zero system.

Alternative Waitemata Harbour Crossing. More road capacity over the harbour creates more traffic. Clear traffic reduction targets will keep the focus on developing a better harbour crossing for our sustainable transport networks instead.

Walking, Cycling and Safety Programmes all benefit from lower traffic and have more opportunities for transformation if traffic reduction techniques are employed.

Land-Use Planning and Parking Strategy. Traffic reduction targets would give both of these a boost in the right direction.

What we need is a Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods Programme. It would apply the concepts used in Barcelona, Ghent, London, etc, to solve multiple challenges: congestion, safety, establishing a cycling network, and bus priority. As an example, if AT designed the area around Puhinui Rd as a Low-Traffic Neighbourhood, the airport buses wouldn’t be held up, the trees could be retained, and the cyclelanes they’re removing would be able to stay. Central to how it works, of course, is traffic reduction.

From Streetfilms video about Ghent – see Reinventing Auckland using Lessons from Ghent

Cities which are improving their public spaces, gaining pleasant footpaths, clean air, safe streets and efficient public transport, are achieving this through planning for traffic reductions, not by attempting to maintain traffic volumes.

We will make faster progress on building a better city when we finally realise traffic reduction needs to be an overarching goal, too.

It should be easy to sell the idea politically – who wouldn’t want less traffic?

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  1. The thrust of this article is wrong. The way to reduce congestion is to make car driving not the best option. It is completely insufficient to make active and public transport better, they need to be the BEST. This is how Holland has such high use of active and public transport and also is rated as the best place to drive. This is because when people do need to drive (mainly out off cities rather than into them) they have uncongested roads. And a crucial way they make cars not the best way to get into and around cities is to block off through routes for cars through cites – cars have to go the long way round, going back out to a ring road, going round and back in.

    1. Your example fits into “Use Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods Layouts”, one of the levers I’ve listed in the right hand column.

      You’re actually saying a very similar thing to what I’m saying.

      First, (and I think this is minor; you’ve just fallen for the trap of accepting the language and concepts that need overturning): “The way to reduce congestion is to make car driving not the best option.” Our goal is a safer, healthier, more sustainable transport system. Reducing congestion isn’t the central goal, but it will drop if we aim to reduce traffic.

      Secondly, and more fundamentally, yes it’s important to make active and sustainable modes the best option for people. Reducing traffic is a major stepping stone towards that. It enables the changes that make active and sustainable modes the best option for people. But not through making driving less convenient – unless that’s a natural outcome of reallocation of space and resources and the best people-friendly street designs.

      1. I absoolutely agree with the post and your suggested changes.

        The only issue is talking about “reducing congestion”. I think this is a counterproductive thing to say as PT and cycling have never lead to less congestion. Even the Netherlands has congestion at peak times, I have seen it.

        There may be less cars per capita in the Netherlands but that just means the roads are smaller. Induced deamnd just means anybody who switches to cycling or PT has there place taken by someone else.

        The only thing that has ever led to real reduction in congestion is road pricing a la Stockholm and Singapore.

        Your suggestions will lead to more people travelling on the same piece of road, but not necessarily less cars, or less congestion. But it doesnt matter – moving more people, without building more road, is an achievement in itself.

        1. I see where you’re coming from, and this is why I say it’s important to shift the focus away from reducing congestion, and onto reducing traffic.

          But reduced congestion is not a fantasy. It’s still a good outcome. And different cities do have different levels of congestion.

          Research in the US shows that their strategy for addressing congestion via road building has failed to do so. Congestion is worse, “even though” they’ve been adding km of motorway at a far higher rate than their population has grown.

          I contend that the reverse occurs as well; that we can reduce congestion through using traffic evaporation techniques and halting the road building. Not by making reduced congestion the goal, but as an outcome of creating a better transport system.

        2. Goosoid you can only eliminate road congestion if you make car commuting not the best option. Do that and the surplus road capacity is not used up. And the way it is done in many Dutch cities is to make cars take the long way round. Stop them driving through the centre of the city, block off the through routes to cars – so they have to go back ut to the ring road, round and back in. Meaning it is far faster by bike or PT.

        3. We want to reduce CONGESTION, not Traffic Volume. If a city increases in population then absolute traffic volumes will increase. Our target is faster trips, not less vehicles on the road. To make journeys faster get light rail done.

        4. North Shore Tramper, traffic volumes depend on many things. Cities that are being planned well have traffic volumes decreasing even while populations rise.

  2. Thanks Heidi, another great post and I couldn’t agree more. It is high time that our authorities accept that reducing traffic is their responsibility as an essential component of stated goals in achieving mode shift, improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions etc. Reducing traffic in the city centre could be achieved relatively quickly by reducing AT parking buildings and re-allocating more general traffic lanes to other modes. I also don’t buy the argument that congestion pricing needs to wait until all rapid transit lines are in place.

  3. The demand management thing has a long history in Auckland. The ARA pushed to get parking maximums in the Auckland CBD. It had two effects. 1/Retail sprung up everywhere else. 2/ Office development came to a total halt leading to the Auckland City Council approving a multitude dispensations for new office buildings each with their own massive carpark in order to get things happening again. It was called the 1980’s, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

    1. And 40 years later most people take public transport to the CBD, more people live in town than drive to it, and they are building an underground train line.

      1. Get your facts straight please. You mean that -most of the people who go to the CBD- get the bus to it. ‘Most people’ don’t go to the CBD regularly. More people live in the CBD than drive to it because after retail collapsed in the 80’s and then office building came to a halt in the early 1990’s the land owners had little option but to build apartments. What you see there now is because they killed off everything else and turned Auckland into a collection of centres with an big inner city suburb in the middle.

        1. “What you see there now is because they killed off everything else and turned Auckland into a collection of centres with an big inner city suburb in the middle.”
          As long as all of those centres have good connections to public transport: That’s not a bad thing.

        2. Collapse?! Maybe briefly, decades ago.

          More people work in the CBD than ever before, more people shop in the CBD than ever before, more people study in the CBD than ever before, and more people live in the CBD than ever before.

          Yes, of the quarter million people that visit the CBD each weekday, the majority don’t drive there.

        3. Yes, the ‘collection of centres’ pattern is common in Europe (compare to the ‘huge ink blob’ pattern in Auckland). Something you can have there, and not here, is regional level public transport with a meaningful amount of people having access to each station.

          Auckland could already have had that pattern. For example I would think of Orewa and Silverdale as an outlying centres outside Auckland. A regional PT line would then have to connect this to the city centre in under an hour to be viable. But Millwater got built in the completely wrong way for this, and buses don’t quite make it in an hour.

        4. Yes pedant or another way of saying it is that 97% of Aucklanders don’t live in the CBD, 85% of Auckland jobs are not in the CBD and the vast majority of retail sales are also outside the CBD. Simple fact is the CBD isn’t relevant to most Aucklanders every day lives (other than a drain on our taxes).

        5. Nowhere relevant to most Aucklanders every day lives, what’s your point? You’re the only one claiming that one place should be?

        6. 99% of Aucklanders don’t go to Whangaparaoa every day yet my fucking taxes are still paying for Penlink.

        7. I’m not exactly an admirer of this Miffy.
          But surely whoever it is can do better than this lame “OK Boomer” American zoomer meme?

    2. I am struggling with your view of history. The 80’s was the age of the property developer (Chase, Equiticorp etc) and they were successful partly because they built cheaply. I can’t recall massive car parks because that didn’t sit alongside cheap.

      1. Practically every office building that went up in the CBD in that building boom except the Reserve Bank on Customs Street had parking in basements (one floor of the RBNZ building was still vacant 10 years later). It is why there are now some 20-30,000 parking spaces in the CBD. The maximum parking rules made parking more valuable and made it likely to appreciate so many developers got dispensations to provide even more spaces than the rules allowed. Even the ARC who had pushed to get the rules got a dispensation to provide additional parking in their own development.
        Some developers successfully argued that casual parking was permitted so they built carparks and put up a sign every morning saying casual parking full, having leased every space.

  4. Heidi – we’ve got a bit of a traffic problem too down in Wellington and I’d appreciate your thoughts on a solution. There is a current discussion going on as to whether a second tunnel through Mt Victoria would help or hinder the situation. It wouldn’t actually “solve” the traffic problem without a concurrent extensive (and expensive) 4 landing of the urban motorway all the way through Te Aro – which we can’t afford and therefore can never do. So in a way, there is no point in even starting – plus, if we did create faster flowing traffic, then that’s going to mean even more traffic. However, no one really wants to have thousands of cars sitting there stuck in traffic every day.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Guy, I’d suggest you use your funding to work on the right hand side of the table only. I know you’ve been denied the ability to implement some of them, which really sucks.

      Look at vkt numbers to meet the carbon emissions reductions goals of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees, and work back from there. Or look at the level of vkt associated with the sustainable and active transport system you need to prevent unnecessary road trauma, and work back from there. You won’t need the tunnel, and it’s a huge waste of money that is better spent on the other levers.

      But you do need a vision of what will work, and the key will be in establishing low traffic neighbourhoods across the entire city.

      1. Its more complicated than that Dan, which is why I ask. The traffic appears, to the average taxi-driver, to be stuck at the Basin. But the Basin Bridge enquiry established that actually it was not the Basin itself that was the issue, it was more the routes on either side that was the problem: Mt Vic tunnel, Ruahine St and Wellington Road on one side and the traffic lights at Taranaki, Cuba, Victoria, and Willis on the other side, as well as chronic mismanagement of the lane-marking painting around the Basin itself.

        So while the car-driving public (including, lets face it, the masses of taxi-drivers) keep baying for a second Mt Vic tunnel to “resolve” traffic (which, I agree, will just fill with more traffic), I don’t think that they understand that this will, in itself, solve nothing. They could spend a few hundred million digging that hole and still have no traffic improvements whatsoever in the long run.

        What I – and many others – are trying to do, is to come up with a solution that will deliver the best for all of Wellington. Some people are desperately pro-tunnel and some are hugely anti-tunnel. I think there are probably some other solutions which will work better, for all.

        1. You’ve reminded me I need to put Uber and its ilk into the chart.

          Even they’ve admitted they create vkt. And not every city allowed them to operate. It’s something within our control.

          “it was not the Basin itself that was the issue, it was more the routes on either side that was the problem:” … so the key is to get the traffic volumes down on those routes by working on the source of that traffic.

        2. The problem is that far too many people in Wellington use their car to commute to work.
          Kilbirnie and Hataitai and Newtown are all actually within walking distance of the CBD (as long at it’s not raining). And the bus network still provides people with convenient enough transit.

          A solution? Take the hard and unpopular decision of congestion charges, bus lanes, etc. to make the unnecessary automobile transit less popular.

        3. I should add: increasing parking fees and local fuel surcharges would help too.

          At some stage in the future: The supply of second-hand Japanese cars will end. When that day comes; you’ll see a decline in private automobile ownage and usage across NZ, mark my words.

  5. Which is more effective? Supply side measures, like those proposed here, or demand side measures, like road pricing (London), or increasing fuel taxes or taxing car ownership (Singapore) or (as in wartime) fuel rationing or even banning “driving for pleasure” (USA in WW2)?

    While I like what’s proposed in the post, I worry that it will take too long. If we were to treat the climate crisis for what it is (a crisis) what combination do we need to deliver the transport related emissions reductions needed at the pace needed?

    1. The chart has both supply and demand side measures.

      It’s a competition as to which could be the slowest to roll out… :/ which shouldn’t be that way!

      I agree focusing on what will deliver at the pace we need is key. The snail’s pace of progress on rolling out cyclelanes and bus lanes is an example here: We need a city-wide approach and it needs to be tactical first, with the pretty designs added after the concepts have been applied in a rough and ready way everywhere first.

      But even that isn’t looking at it fundamentally enough – to implement those bus lanes and cycle lanes without pushing traffic to rat run even more through the neighbourhoods (which will reduce walking and cycling) we need to start with creating the low traffic neighbourhoods first.

      And that doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. We’re talking planter boxes and bollards. Cheap as chips.

  6. Good post, thanks.

    The “positive feedback loop” is what we’re after. I’m so sick of this: “We waste money on projects that increase traffic (left hand column), and then spend more money to mitigate the problems created (right hand column). This reduces the value-for-money of our transport investment.”

    It just makes us look like fools.

  7. On the bright side: Wilsons are already on the ball with increasing the price of parking in central Auckland.

  8. Great post Heidi. Looking at the table, which of the levers do you think are the most practical and could gain the most support? For example raising fuel prices ticks a lot of boxes but it’s not really even worth putting it on the table for now.

    1. Rolling out low traffic neighbourhoods through the entire city is where I’d start. (And making them 30 km/hr as per the Stockholm Declaration.) I’ll post about this soon. It’s cheap, it’s empowering, it provides instant better access and safety, and it prevents improvements on the main roads from creating ratrunning issues.

      And I’d roll out cheap tactical changes to the main roads. They need to provide:

      – buses that flow and aren’t held up by traffic. We won’t have space for bus lanes everywhere, so that’s why traffic reduction through widespread low traffic neighbourhood rollout is critical. This may have to be targeted on some main roads, requiring a full circulation plan that allows general traffic access everywhere, but not through-running.
      – an instant cycling network so people can leave their own low traffic neighbourhood, go across town, and enter another one. Protected cyclelanes, not painted lines. But it doesn’t have to be beautiful yet.
      – improved walkability, which means retaining the trees there are and putting in plenty more. It means putting in heaps of pedestrian crossings, reclaiming space at intersections (these car storage areas are Auckland’s most visible stamp of failed traffic engineering understanding.)

      That’s what I’d focus on because it’s what hasn’t been understood or implemented to date. But we need to work on all the levers at once. We have people who understand bus networks and train networks very well, for example, and they need to be able to do their best work. Some levers are understood and implementation is just held up because the dinosaurs are taking the funding for doing the wrong things – the things in the left hand column.

      1. This is great Heidi – both actionable and affordable. To it I would only add getting rid of the many black spots where there are infrequent bus services, and immediately providing at least 15-minute frequency so that everyone has an alternative to driving.

      2. Heidi this is fantastic. You should package this up like the Congestion Free Network – there would still be time for Labour to steal this policy and take it to the election!

  9. Excellent post Heidi.
    Really interesting. The other really key piece of the puzzle for me is parking supply. Apart from your Sunday driver….99.99% of car journeys are undertaken with an end destination in mind. In the same way that additional road capacity induces driving so does freely available and cheap/free parking.

    Leaving aside levies and targeted rates, which Council should look at for private suppliers as well as apartments

    The one thing the Council should do ASAP is put its central city car parks (Downtown, Victoria and Fanshawe) on the market with a covenant that they need to essentially be apartments with servicing facilities in the basement for the wider area. Such as waste management, and cycle/micro-mobility parking. A few reasons why it doesn’t make sense for them to remain as car parks:

    Parking induces driving – This goes against A4E, carbon reduction and generally making the city more pedestrian friendly.

    Poor land use allocation – These buildings are all prime city locations. If we want a more compact liveable city then converting it to housing both reduces traffic (parking supply) and means more people can live, work and play without being car dependent. This would be an extremely positive feedback loop.

    Auckland already has so much parking supply –
    AC has effectively privatised the off-street parking market by granting Resource Consent to all of these other private suppliers. They cant then expect AT to manage it’s car parks and compete with corporates; whilst reducing traffic at the same time. A 4 year old could understand this logic is flawed.

    1. Absolutely. The opportunity to turn that traffic-inducing parking space into compact city-forming apartments is huge. It’s a substantial contribution to the process of reducing our carbon emissions via reducing pkt.

      If we did everything else right, this would make the difference between unsustainable carbon emissions and meeting our targets.

    2. KK
      Yes I absolutely agree that AT needs to start selling its car park buildings. They currently offer nothing to the city except cheap parking; parking which adds to congestion; pollution, emissions and extra costs as the city fights to overcome the induced demand. Most of the sites would be great for apartments with good PT accessibility.
      An immediate advantage is that the base price would be removed from the market (apart from SkyCity) allowing prices to rise, most likely assisting a mode swing.

  10. “ATAP’s recommended strategic approach is: … improving throughput… strengthening strategic road… networks…”

    This is very bad. How do we get ATAP changed?

  11. Funny how a week can change everything. Now the whole idea of crowding people into apartments and forcing them to use public transport looks like a VERY BAD IDEA to most people. Which it was all along anyway.

    1. Have the public health authorities said that the health downsides of a car-dominated transport network have decreased? Last I looked they were still massive. Imagine if everyone on public transport in Auckland who could drive, was driving. The travel times, oho! The air pollution would be intense, meaning many more people would be sick from respiratory illnesses, including being more susceptible to all forms of flu. Imagine being one of the children walking to school in the midst of all that… it’s a way to sicken our population fast.

      1. Heidi I was thinking more along the lines of a pleasant low density suburb at the fringes – and kids would be walking to school though a park. Like NZ used to be before the compact city zealots stopped us being able to live like this.

        1. Still plenty of places in the provinces that fit your ideal. Suggest that you sod off there (good luck finding a job).
          Nice that you’ve finally confirmed what you’ve previously denied: that you have an ideological hatred of public transport and cities.

        2. The irony is more kids “walk to school through a park” in inner city suburbs than these mythical pleasant low density fringe suburbs where no one walks and everyone drives.

        3. You can’t live in an apartment AND walk through a park to school?

          Is that a legislative restriction? Or one in your mind?

        4. “low density suburb at the fringes” … still exists… big time…

          The only problem people might have is that the house they bought 20 years ago in the “low density suburb at the fringes” is no longer on the fringes, and is now a “low density suburb in the middle of car-dominated suburbia”, with ever-widening arterial roads and ever-worsening ratrunning, because the fringes have grown further out, (a bit like mycelium)… and are full of car dependent people with zero transport choice.

        5. In theory kids in high density areas will live on average closer to their school. In practice there is no school in the city centre, so kids have to walk from the city centre to the surrounding low density suburbs. The irony.

          In lower density suburbs, you’re a bit further from the school but you can usually still cycle that distance. But kids largely stopped cycling to school. More than half is dropped off by car. And that is not because 10 km up the road we have a bunch of apartments, obviously.

          It is perfectly possible to build apartments in pleasant suburbs, we just refuse to do it in places where it would work (which is the inner ring of suburbs around the city centre).

        6. Don’t feed the trolls. “Like NZ used to be before the compact city zealots stopped us being able to live like this”. Graeme knows perfectly well that his remarks are silly, but you’re all biting none the less…

          As all powerful as Greater Auckland is, I don’t think even it has the power to stop people living / doing / being whatever they want to. I think we would find that Graeme’s drive to the outer fringe of the leafy suburbs is actually the cause of the problems he ascribes…

          And actually, as an apartment dweller myself, I anticipate that it will work admirably well as a Quarantine station myself. Hardly ever see or hear from the neighbours. So no problem there G !

        7. The low density zealots haven’t stopped people living like that. They have just pushed up the price of doing so.
          Front page of today’s Herald says Herne Bay houses have increased in value by $815,000 in the last 5 years. A massive part of all house price increases was due to the numpties at the ARC and their Regional Growth Strategy. The result has been windfall gains for the wealthy and homelessness for the poor.
          It should be compulsory education for anyone who thinks policy is the solution to the world’s problems.

        8. Yes, Heidi, this I fully agree with:

          “The only problem people might have is that the house they bought 20 years ago in the “low density suburb at the fringes” is no longer on the fringes, and is now a “low density suburb in the middle of car-dominated suburbia”, with ever-widening arterial roads and ever-worsening ratrunning, because the fringes have grown further out, (a bit like mycelium)… and are full of car dependent people with zero transport choice”

          Also I guess Hobsonville Pt, to some extent, is a NZ example of high density living with been able to walk to School easily. Seems more children needing access to the schools than perhaps they planned for from what I’ve heard?

        9. “and kids would be walking to school though a park. Like NZ used to be before the compact city zealots stopped us being able to live like this”

          Ahahahaha ah no.
          Kids are still free to walk to school unless their parents stop them. And most parents stopped their children from walking to/from school during the ’90s and instead drove them in their SUV’s. Because of “stranger danger” and mere… …fashion.

        10. Graeme – We have a warming planet that is gradually warming every hour of every day. NZ needs to adapt to this becoming sustainable and environmentally friendly all aspects of day to day living as we adopt to a warming plant.

          Auckland is already already a victim to car based urban sprawl and this rate of Auckland and other main and provincial cities in regards to sprawl is unsustainable, not environmental friendly. For every square kilometre of unsustainable, non environmental friendly urban sprawl will increase the mean average temperature of a town/city which is additional to the natural warming of said town/city that is cause by a warming planet.

          Heidi is correct in here comment, land usage, pollution, health, social costs of urban is damaging to human health and the health system.

          There is no if or buts about, continual urban sprawl needs to stop and better sustainable and environmental friendly usage of brown fields needs to happen now.

    2. Most New Zealanders don’t even get the bare minimum of physical activity and cardiopulmonary diseases are the leading cause of death in New Zealand. Which urban form is a bad idea?

    3. Your immune system is tuned up by constant exposure to the “hoards” so that when a real epidemic comes along it’s easier to fight off the bug.

    4. I’m sorry to hear you suffer from a weak immune system. Improving driving conditions for the minority of the population who do have health issues like this is one of the goals of reducing traffic. Clearly it doesn’t work if healthy able-bodied people all try to drive as well, but it’s important in cases like yours.

      Another option for you is perhaps cycling? If your immune system is compromised through insufficient exercise it might be the best solution.

      Good luck with it.

    5. “Now the whole idea of crowding people into apartments and forcing them to use public transport looks like a VERY BAD IDEA to most people.”
      No. It looks like a bad idea to the same people it always did.

      “Which it was all along anyway.”
      Yah. Because the rest of the world has it wrong but people in NZ know somehow know better. Good one.

  12. Politically it will be a suicide if the voters found out the politicians are going to reduce driving capacity. It could back fire. Pro PT pelicans will lose and replaced by car supporting politicians and the existing progress get reversed.

    A wiser approach is to leave the driving capacity uncharged (status of quo) but significantly improves the alternatives such as PT and active mode.

    1. Especially given the still unattractive state of PT in most of Auckland. Now where are those light rail lines?

      1. Those light rail lines are probably not happening because the traffic reduction involved in reallocating road space was presented as a downside instead of the benefit that it is. So the politicians were sitting ducks for a hugely expensive scheme that preserved general traffic lanes.

        As with bus lanes and cycle lanes, we will continue to struggle to implement LR while the traffic engineers keep working to maintain driving capacity.

    2. If it was wise, Kelvin, it would have worked. It’s a failed approach. Continuing to try to do what hasn’t worked is the definition of insanity.

      The “it will upset the voters” line is a classic truism, and a weak argument when the politicians aren’t establishing good public engagement and education programmes nor supporting tactical demonstration projects.

      We know that low-traffic neighbourhoods and radical modeshift is extremely popular once it’s implemented. This isn’t rocket science. This simply needs leadership and proper citizen engagement and education.

      A good place to start is with people like yourself, Kelvin. You’re a supporter of PT and of looking at urban form with a fresh vision. Look at where our emissions need to be – not when we’ve finally changed our fleet in 25 years, but in 10 years’ time. Calculate the vkt reduction that’s required for this, and then tell me that we can continue by trying to just improve public transport without cutting traffic volumes.

      Or, consider it from the point of view of a child. The system is deficient and dangerous for children, due to the traffic volumes. Are you really happy to argue this should be retained until after PT has been improved? That’s the wrong attitude. Children deserve better.

    3. This is the elephant in the room. You can’t significantly improve alternatives such as PT and active mode while leaving driving capacity unchanged.

      We simply can’t afford to widen roads to add extra PT and active lanes, most of them have already been widened to the maximum for cars. More widening now means buying up and demolishing all the properties along one side, something that would cost $200m a km and be fought to the death.

      We have few corridors where we can just add on parallel PT routes or paths (a few bits along parts of motorways are left perhaps), and we could barely afford even a single new grade separated rail or metro line, let alone a whole network of them.

      The only viable solution is to shift some road-space from the very spatially inefficient mode (driving) to more spatially efficient modes (walking, cycling, bus, light rail.

    4. Or increase congestion/parking pricing. Capacity remains unchanged but demand will fall – if you need to take a car then it works but you have to pay for the privilege. Meanwhile your tax goes towards funding public transport options. Pricing/tax is the most effective way to manage demand.

      1. It’s important but is not a cure-all. It doesn’t have the co-benefits that low traffic neighbourhoods and an improved cycling and walking network have – of creating healthy streets. It just keeps traffic below a certain level; it doesn’t return independent mobility to children or to the public in general.

    5. But every election for the last 10 years the winning mayoral candidate has supported systems that will make driving haredr in the CBD. meanwhile candidates like Tamihori with a pro car fantasy platform get smashed.

      If anything they should double down and be more aggressive.

  13. Something needs to be done now to stop the wasted money on Auckland public transport, otherwise if someone comes along and chops out the buses that almost run empty, that is going to make the system less trustworthy for public transport users and have a flow on effect to other public transport to make people use their car.. The root problem is Auckland population is too spread out compared to other citys around the world to have a efficient public transport system.

    With news a few months ago on the latest budget blow out on the underground rail project between Britomart and Mt Eden, with shrinking rate payers and growing rent payers, not too mention public transport users we will all have to pay for it one way or another. If someone can save money using more efficient uses of buses and trains without cutting services, any idea should be improved on.

    One suggestion to pick on the north-shore for example is to keep the rush hour workers buses the same until or unless cheaper improvements can be made without making workers worse off in anyway for getting to work on time.

    At the moment there is
    NX1 buses going between Hibiscus Coast bus station & Albany to Britomart.
    NX2 buses going between Albany and Auckland University of Technology & Auckland University, (however we have to be careful with the NX2 as I have noticed it is often near full throughout the day.)

    Sometimes I have noticed while on the NX1 bus between Hibiscus coast to Britomart, as the NX1 gets into Albany bus station, The NX2 bus is just leaving, there is no way to get a direct transfer, without having to wait at the bus station for the next scheduled NX2 that could be as much as 15 minutes.

    The Sunday #981 bus between Hibiscus coast bus station & Orewa,
    The latest 30th September 2018 timetable shows that the #981 on Sunday comes to a abrupt end at 7:45pm, while NX1 buses keep leaving Hibiscus coast station to Auckland CBD until 11.05pm.
    The strangest thing about it, there is half hour buses needed for phantom Sunday rush hour passengers for most of the day that run empty.

    The #981 & #984
    Based on the previous “phantom Sunday rush hour passengers” paragraph. I am sure they could alternate times between the #981 & #984 each half hour on Sunday and there would not be too much hardship compared to how it would look if no buses ran at all, due to lack of money to run the buses from very poor or zero passenger numbers.

    As I use a NX1 and it travels between Akoranga bus station and Constellation bus station along the “Northern Busway”. I can not help but notice the frequent almost empty NX1, NX2 buses coming the other way. I have to ask “Could there be a more efficient use of buses between 9am to 3pm weekday outside the rush hour times, ultimately to save money” like having a “busway link service” similar to the four different link buses that operate from Auckland CBD that started with the dollar a trip inner link bus. The busway link would go only on the busway route. Akoranga bus station and Constellation bus station(or better still to Albany bus station), lets call it for this example NX-link.
    So between 9am to 3pm a NX1, bus only goes between Britomart and Akoranga bus station, The NX2 between the two universities and Akoranga bus station. The #866 could be replaced with for this example NX866 and only go between Newmarket and Akoranga bus station, no doubt there could be many more NX? options tried out going directly to other parts of Auckland, such as the Museum of transport & Technology and the zoo in the weekends, just to give one destination example.

    Go to
    or go to , zoom out of Europe and zoom into Auckland city.

    1. The biggest waste of money is on roading, still. By a long shot. That’s where the focus for change needs to be. Which is not to say AT isn’t making some silly decisions in changing the bus operations; but most of those silly decisions are about cutting services.

      1. Yes exactly that is why I suggested changing the system to make it more efficient, before someone comes along and chops up the timetable to a skeleton to save spending lots of money on empty buses

        1. Yes, I know what you mean.

          If I was to lobby AT to change something in bus operations, it would be to change their priorities in making changes to the network. The world-class New Network was established by a team who knew their stuff. What’s been happening since is exactly what you mean – those staff left who are good are forced to ignore the easy improvements, and to ruin the network due to short-sighted and destructive priorities.

          The board probably needs some straight talking – or some good workshops – from a network expert to explain the importance of a full timetable and how the network will gradually deteriorate if they continue to treat services as isolated entities with no effect on the whole.

    2. You realise the main issue with PT in Auckland is supply, not dxemand?

      And also that Auckland is the second densest city in Australasia?

      Though I am sure you won’t let facts interfere with your opinion.

  14. So basically the complete opposite of transmission gully, a multi billion dollar traffic inducement program.

    1. Whilst I agree with you, the reality is, Transmission Gully is future proofing the main north western road access in and out of Wellington against sea level raise, as Centennial Highway between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay will be plagued be raising sea levels.

      1. With a focus on reducing vkt, reduction in capacity is critical. IF this boondoggle was the only way to provide resilience in the face of rising sea level, the Centennial Highway capacity would need to be removed. Places in Europe manage this by using rising bollards to slow the flow rate right down.

        The road could be re-imagined as a coastal slow-speed people-friendly access road with safe cycling. Be great for local tourism.

        The concept is so far from NZTA highway engineers’ thinking as to be a joke, of course. But this is the radical difference between accepting vkt reduction as a good, and assuming rising vkt is some sort of public good, and that it will rise indefinitely.

        1. Heidi – You know that the planet is warming every hour of every day which is going to affect Centennial Highway with more closures and disruption on SH 1N which has happened in the past.. Whilst I not happy about the building of Transmission to environmental issues, I do know future proofing the north western link for Wellington is important is important for sea level rises and a possible natural disasters.

          The hill side above the Centennial Highway and the NIMT rail line, is made up of unstable rock between between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay, that can block both the rail and road in good earthquake.

          There are some roading projects that are important and Transmission Gully is one of them, as it is one of two strategic access routes (excluding the NIMT rail line) in and out of Wellington that why I support it reluctantly.

  15. Many of the issues are captured in the article. But VKT reduction shouldn’t be an objective, its an outcome.

    1) We should be optimizing the transport system from a socio-economic perspective. This does mean cost-benefit assessment but ensuring all costs and benefits are captured. E.g. even the simple 4 laning of a road can have significant community severance costs which should be counted, a motorway even more so.

    2) Transport needs to be properly priced. I.e congestion tolls, trucks paying their full costs, full health system costs levied on road users, vehicle air pollution tax

    3) Freeing up the RMA to go effects based with no/limited zoning restrictions – naturally allow TODs to develop

    4) All public parking should be priced (return on asset & demand management & all private commuter parking levied. Developments should not be regulated to provide parking. If there are demand issues they should be regulated to be forced to price their parking

    5) Transport economic assessment should take into account future carbon prices.

    6) There should be a national infrastructure standard based on vision zero as the minimum design standard for new works and improvements.

    1. “But VKT reduction shouldn’t be an objective, its an outcome.”

      This is what I’m challenging, Kiwi Overseas.

      For a child walking along an arterial road, reduced vkt makes it safer, quieter, cleaner, with more opportunities to cross side roads without having to pause (or to walk up the side road before crossing and back again, as many have to here), so the child has a quicker, easier, and sometimes more direct journey. Lower vkt gives a real boost to children’s independent mobility.

      So reduced vkt should indeed be an objective. It changes the environment for the better.

      It’s also an outcome of other actions.

      And it’s a way to shape practice. Make it a target, and it shapes investment decisions.

      I don’t disagree with any of your points. But it’s important to start designing what we want instead of just trying to set up the economic drivers to try to achieve what we want. And that takes seeing vkt for what it is.

  16. Great post. That chart makes it so clear how we generally in Auckland do the left side items offsetting the right side benefits we are working on as well.

    1. I am struggling with your view of history. The 80’s was the age of the property developer (Chase, Equiticorp etc) and they were successful partly because they built cheaply. I can’t recall massive car parks because that didn’t sit alongside cheap.

  17. These type of articles where world-views shine through without being declared are not helping us achieve better transport. When authors have an obvious bias and make assumptions about what’s ‘right’ that’s not supported by present , start by declaring the world-view so the reader is given transparency. Unfortunately I believe Heidi consistently fails in this regard.

    So a humble suggestion would be to reduce the bias from articles and instead focus on key issues, written without a political lens or worldviews that may not be shared wit others. Tat way the site can keep being a site where not just one political class finds their information. The impact from being neutral and purely factual on key decisions, no matter how strongly one feel about green agendas, is what provides results.

    1. Which “world-view” is shining through that isn’t declared, Exile?

      Clearly I’m an advocate for better walking and cycling amenity, for improved public transport, and for a safer transport network where children are able to be safe and independent. Clearly climate change is a growing concern; I believe transport is where Auckland can make a big reduction in emissions and therefore must.

      Clearly I’m critical of the roads bias in our transport planning. And I don’t mince my words that we’re wasting money by continuing to shun best-practice transport planning.

      In short, clearly I’m an advocate for a Greater Auckland, with a healthier, safer, more sustainable transport network.

      If you’re worried about a political bias – I’m not a member of any political party, and I believe climate change, safety and making economically-wise transport decisions shouldn’t even be political.

      Something’s made you uncomfortable. That’s fascinating. What is it about comparing New Zealand’s travel demand management with what they do elsewhere that is challenging? What is it about paring back some of the myths that seems biased to you?

      I haven’t made up that the SUMP plans include vkt reduction targets. I haven’t made up that I see decisions being made constantly that compromise outcomes for placemaking and for the sustainable modes on the basis that vehicle flow and traffic volumes can’t be affected.

      Rather than use words like “bias” and “world-view” and “political class” how about enter the discussion and let us know what bothers you?

      1. ‘If you’re worried about a political bias – I’m not a member of any political party, and I believe climate change, safety and making economically-wise transport decisions shouldn’t even be political.’

        Couldn’t agree more. If Exile see’s this article as political its only because they are looking for their own political validation in a non-political article.

  18. Just tried to put this view (traffic reduction, reduced car-dependency etc) to our local MP Greg O’Connor (Lab), in a letter to the editor. Got a very “left hand column” reply. He clearly supports a huge proportion of the $12bn surplus going on moar roads. Big disappointment Labour.
    And where the hell are the Greens? Have they contracted laryngitis and lost their voice on transport-matters? Seems like it.

    Excellent article Heidi. We need you down here.

    1. Keep trying, Dave. And thanks. There are a couple of things that will make the big parties wake up – hopefully sooner rather than later.

      As you know we can’t reduce our transport carbon emissions in line with our reduction targets without reducing vkt. The MfE has confirmed this is so under all scenarios that they’ve modelled – and they were only looking at the Paris targets, not the 1.5 degree commitment we’ve made.

      Now that carbon border measures might not be too far away, NZ has to choose between trade partners who are working to combat climate change, and those who refuse… I’d be very surprised if NZ chooses to limit itself to the dark side.

      Secondly, our safety stats are appalling and will increasingly shame NZ. With moves like the Stockholm Declaration it’s clear that international pressure to save lives and reduce trauma will grow. Reducing vkt is a key part of that.

      And thirdly, NZers have put up with a growing gap between our worsening and deficient urban environments and the increasingly people-friendly urban environments of some overseas cities. The call to do something about it is strong and getting urgent.

      1. “we can’t reduce our transport carbon emissions in line with our reduction targets without reducing vkt”

        That’s completely untrue. You don’t have to reduce vkt to reduce transport emissions. You just need to stop using fossil fuels.

        And I don’t think vkt reduction is going to get us anywhere near avoiding the transport share of the 1.5 degree target by itself, unless you are proposing draconian measures. So, we would need to either plant trees or stop using fossil fuels for transport anyway.

        1. Sherwood, the MoT’s 2017 Future Outlook report said:

          “Under the 2016 Paris Agreement, New Zealand has committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. New Zealand has made no specific commitments with regard to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. Emissions for transport alone would not achieve this 30% reduction by 2030 under any of the scenarios examined here, but there would be an approximate 30% reduction in road transport emissions by 2040 in the Staying Close to the Action scenario. Additional actions beyond the widespread uptake of electric vehicles would be required if New Zealand seeks a 30% reduction in road transport emissions by 2030.”

          As you know, Auckland has been a member of C40 since 2015. Our targets are more stringent than the Paris commitments, and are basically to reduce emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2030. The Zero Carbon Act also refers to no more than 1.5 degrees… which equates to at least the C40 measures, but implies we may have to do more.

          In terms of EV’s then, the MoT’s report shows that electrification of the fleet is unable to meet the old commitments, (and is in no way capable of meeting the new commitments).

          There may be more optimistic predictions for fleet replacement now? But I think the fact that our vehicles have been getting heavier is pushing things in the wrong direction. If you have more up to date info, please let me know.

        2. Also, you may be interested to read the UK’s

          House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets Twentieth Report of Session 2017–19

          “In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emissions versions.”

        3. You said “we can’t reduce our transport carbon emissions in line with our reduction targets without reducing vkt”. That’s untrue. Whatever emissions reductions we could achieve by reducing vkt, we could also achieve by swapping petrol cars over to EVs for example. If you reduced vkt by 20%, you could achieve the same emissions cuts by electrifying just over 20% of the fleet or thereabouts.

          That passage from the MoT report doesn’t address your point. The MoT report is saying that even if we eliminate all transport emissions, that wouldn’t be enough to get an economy wide 30% reduction in emissions. Which is just another way saying that transport emissions make up less than 30% of total emissions.

          That’s got nothing to do with the question of whether vkt reduction is essential for meeting our emissions reduction targets, which is what you were arguing.

          As far as the UK Commons Committee goes, clearly the UK government has taken an entirely different view given they’ve banned fossil fuel vehicles from 2035, rather than all vehicles.

        4. To borrow your words, Sherwood 🙂 this is “completely untrue”:

          “The MoT report is saying that even if we eliminate all transport emissions, that wouldn’t be enough to get an economy wide 30% reduction in emissions.”

          Hopefully it is clearer for you from the wider paragraph about their modelling:

          “With more EVs in the vehicle fleet and more fuel-efficient conventional vehicles, road transport emissions are projected to fall. The Government has made an economy-wide commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Although there is no specific target for road transport emissions, these emissions are not projected to fall 30% by 2030 under any of the scenarios examined here. Additional actions will be required if New Zealand were to target a 30% fall in road transport emissions by 2030. ”

          What they’re saying here is that the economy-wide emissions target is 30% below 2005 levels, and that the road transport emissions are not predicted to fall to 30% below 2005 levels under any of the scenarios they looked at, so additional actions will be required if that is to be the target.

          Note that the scenarios already assumed 40% of the fleet would be electric by 2040 and there’d be various amounts of vehicle sharing. They consider this “widespread uptake of electric vehicles”. The reason the MoT didn’t have higher of the fleet electric is that it’s not feasible. Play with a higher proportion of the EV fleet by 2040 or 2050 if you like, but it’s quite unrealistic to think we’ll have a big fleet change by 2030.

          And what I’m saying is that the target should be more stringent than this. Even when they wrote that, Auckland had already committed to C40, so the target in Auckland should have been put at 50% below 1990, not 30% below 2005. And now the Zero Carbon Bill essentially matches Auckland’s targets.

          We’re talking about a lot of emissions to be cut. Different regions of New Zealand will find different sectors easier. In Auckland, I believe that other sectors will be very difficult. We’re hardly going to close Glenbrook. Transport is our biggest opportunity. And as it has negative marginal abatement costs, and reducing vkt has lots of co-benefits, we need to focus on it.

          If you’re going to assert that the conclusion of the MoT:

          “Additional actions beyond the widespread uptake of electric vehicles would be required if New Zealand seeks a 30% reduction in road transport emissions by 2030”

          is incorrect, you’ll have to provide evidence.

          Until then, we must accept that additional actions are required. And that since the targets are much more stringent than the MoT was looking at, those additional actions must be quite drastic. Luckily, we can harness our ability to innovate and turn this into an opportunity.

        5. I looked at the MoT report more closely. But it doesn’t change the picture much.

          You’re pointing out that the MoT determined that electrification of the light vehicle wouldn’t achieve enough for that electrification alone to result in a 30% reduction in all transport emissions (including the emissions coming from light commercial vehicles, trucks, planes, rail and shipping) below 1990 levels.

          While that is a finding of some interest, it’s quite different from saying that “we can’t reduce our transport carbon emissions in line with our reduction targets without reducing vkt.”

          For a start, if we electrify the whole light vehicle fleet, and electricity generation becomes 100% renewable then, then all light vehicle emissions are avoided. Once that occurred, vkt reduction won’t be able to achieve any more reduction in light vehicle emissions, and you wouldn’t need any vkt reduction to get there. Even if electricity generation stops at 95% renewables, vkt reduction wouldn’t provide much extra emissions reduction once the fleet had electrified.

          The Zero Carbon Act doesn’t have any specific targets for transport and I doubt the Paris Agreement does either. We could subsequently decide that we want to achieve a 30% reduction in transport emissions across all modes below 1990 levels, but if we do that we could of course look at achieving cuts in the emissions from the other transportation modes. There is no obligation for light vehicles to shoulder the burden for achieving the cuts for all types of transport, and reduction in light vehicle emissions (whether achieved by electrification, vkt reduction or other means) isn’t the only option for reducing total transport emissions.

          And of course our 2030 targets aren’t our only emissions reduction targets.

          Now, If you want to talk about the practicality and likelihood of different things happening over the next ten years that’s an interesting discussion, but it’s a separate discussion from saying that vkt reduction is the only option available to achieve climate reduction goals. And you haven’t yet provided any estimate of what vkt reduction could practically achieve.

          Have you got a source for saying that vkt reduction has negative abatement costs? Either way it has a lot of impacts and backlash risks.

        6. “You’re pointing out that the MoT determined that electrification of the light vehicle wouldn’t achieve enough for that electrification alone to result in a 30% reduction in all transport emissions (including the emissions coming from light commercial vehicles, trucks, planes, rail and shipping) below 1990 levels.”

          No, read my comments again. I’m not saying that. Read the report again. I think you are choosing to not understand it.

          “For a start, if we electrify the whole light vehicle fleet, and electricity generation becomes 100% renewable then, then all light vehicle emissions are avoided… Now, If you want to talk about the practicality and likelihood of different things happening over the next ten years that’s an interesting discussion”

          We cannot electrify the whole fleet in ten years. I’m limiting my discussion to what’s feasible and it would be appreciated if you would do the same.

          “The Zero Carbon Act doesn’t have any specific targets for transport and I doubt the Paris Agreement does either… There is no obligation for light vehicles to shoulder the burden for achieving the cuts for all types of transport”

          The IPCC has said we need to work in all sectors, at all levels, and we need to step up our efforts beyond the Paris Agreement. Other types of transport have their own challenges, and so do other sectors.

          “it’s a separate discussion from saying that vkt reduction is the only option available to achieve climate reduction goals.”

          I’ve never said that vkt reduction is the only option. Indeed, I’ve said the opposite – that we need to call on all levers. Electrification and removing the most polluting vehicles from the fleet are absolutely needed.

          There are many ways to try to stall progress, and none of them are appreciated.

        7. You said “we can’t reduce our transport carbon emissions … without reducing vkt”. Saying that something can’t be done without vkt reduction is the same as saying there is no other option but vkt reduction.

          But it’s good you are finally saying that it is not the case. I don’t know why you didn’t say that when I first challenged you.

          Your argument about how under current scenarios electric vehicles alone won’t achieve a 10 year target across the whole transportation sector that doesn’t exist in any official agreement was really just a red herring.

          As far as emissions reduction goes, unless you are proposing draconian measures which have no chance of public or political support, the discussion is just about what sort of extra contribution reasonable traffic reduction measures can make on top of other measures in the interim until transport otherwise becomes emissions free. I’m still waiting for an estimate of what that might amount to.

      2. Thanks Heidi. Really difficult to get any traction at the moment in spite of the 3R’s you mention (reduce VKT, reduce Carbon, reduce DSI). There is a pervasive view out there that EVs will solve the carbon issue, and that some soon-to-be-delivered autonomy will solve the DSI, therefore there is no need to reduce VKT, and with a growing population in love with mobility it would be wrong to try. Never mind the inconvenient truths that EVs are a long way off replacing the fossil-fleet, that autonomous vehicles are probably even further off, and that there are many other good reasons to reduce VKT apart from C02 and DSI. But this was the thrust of Greg O’Connor’s reply – “The increasingly electrified fleet will still need roads to drive on. . .” (One gets sick of having to refute that, as if no roads actually exist at the moment!), and “Ohariu residents who have sat in long lines of traffic . . .spewing fumes . . . through Horowhenua. . . will welcome the four-lane highway from Otaki to north of Levin.” (Wgtn’s version of the Holiday-highway, congested for a few hours on a few holiday-weekends every year).

        Labour made all the right noises when touting for office in 2017 but have lurched towards National ‘s “build more roads whether the facts support it or not”-strategy, since coming into both a budget-surplus and an election-year. Principles for wise spending have gone out of the window in favour of election-bribing. I just hope the Greens resurrect transport as one of their main platforms.

        1. Visionary, tough politicians get the changes through. They face awful media and political resistance, but healthy streets is something the public love when it happens. We’re seeing that in many cities.

          All we can do is help prepare the ground for such a politician as best we can, through education and campaigning. It’s worth it. And somebody will step up eventually. It’s just a crying shame that our health has to suffer so much, with so many premature deaths, and that our kids are going to have such a financial burden to pay with all this stupid overspending on roads.

  19. Has anyone ever crunched the numbers to see what sort of emissions reductions could be achieved through these sorts of traffic reduction measures in a relatively short period of time?

    The municipalities featured in the SUMP articles have given their emissions reduction targets. They usually give a percentage reduction target, and presumably they are talking about some percentage of the emissions in each city, but it’s not clear how large the geographical area is over which the reduction applies, and how much of total transport or even light vehicle emissions originate from areas like that. If they are just talking about emissions in the city centre for example, the overall reduction in emissions will be pretty small.

    1. People are crunching the numbers but there’s going to be an element of suck-it-and-see, because no-one has done this at the scale of a whole city before.

      1. I think getting some sort of estimate of the possible range of cuts is an essential step if you’re going to argue that we should be adopting traffic reduction measures in order to achieve emissions reductions.

        If those measures were ever adopted on a widespread basis there could be a lot of backlash. If climate change is cited as a reason for adopting traffic reduction measures, I’d be concerned that the backlash against those measures would undermine support for wider climate change mitigation measures. Particularly if the traffic reduction measures didn’t actually achieve much emissions reduction, and while there were other means available to avoid those transport emissions.

        1. Thanks for your concern, Sherwood. Of course I’m working from calculations of possible emissions reductions. I’m simply saying that in any new endeavour there will be unknowns.

          The status quo involves reductions that are too slow to prevent run-away climate change. There is no moral mandate to keep this as the “normal state” from which we are only allowed to deviate if we can prove backlash won’t ensue and “undermine support for wider climate change mitigation measures”. Indeed, from experience to date, continuing with failed practices that don’t reduce emissions is known to “undermine support for wider climate change mitigation measures” as strongly as anything.

          We must innovate. We must be nimble. So it’s best to stop resisting promising ideas.

        2. I’m not arguing for the status quo by any means. And I don’t think its realistic to suggest that all other options have failed. Most of them haven’t been tried yet. Maintaining public and political support for them is going to be an uphill challenge though, and we need to be careful that support isn’t squandered.

          I’ll keep a look out for those numbers.

  20. “And I don’t think its realistic to suggest that all other options have failed. Most of them haven’t been tried yet. ”

    I never said this.

  21. Long term we should be working towards a city where pedestrians and cyclists come first. We can’t jump there straight away. In the interim we need to make incremental changes to get people to get out of cars, by increasing capacity. For PT and active modes.

    Removing a general traffic lane and putting in a bus lane automatically increases capacity. Significantly. Are you saying we shouldn’t do this and turn that lane into a footpath or cycleway instead? A footpath or cycleway have good capacity too, but are hardly likely to ever reach that capacity and will just be empty most the time.

    I’m not sure I understand the crux of your argument about reducing traffic. People walking and people on bikes are traffic too. I assume you mean reducing car usage. I can understand reducing vkt, because that will happen if everyone is on a bus or train or whatever.

    I would think the target should be modal shift, not traffic reduction.

    1. Pedestrians and cyclists can come first immediately, Ari. Indeed they must, as they are the most vulnerable. This priority is written into our plans, and into the guidelines from international bodies. Now we must put it into action and improve our safety outcomes. We must lift our rankings for pedestrian deaths per km walked and cyclist deaths per km cycled, which so clearly demonstrate that we’ve prioritised the wrong things.

      Prioritising vulnerable road users may have you worry that public transport will be undermined, but this priority is coming anyway. What I’m suggesting provides the necessary priority, but creates a system where public transport is improved more than if we use business-as-usual planning. Here are two points to mull on:

      1/ all public transport users are pedestrians too. If people (of a wide range of mobility and maturity levels) can’t get to the public transport safely, public transport is no use to them.

      2/ by reducing private vehicle traffic levels, both safety and bus speed are improved. We don’t need to choose between active modes and public transport – they complement each other and are both in competition for road space with general traffic.

      “Removing a general traffic lane and putting in a bus lane automatically increases capacity. Significantly. Are you saying we shouldn’t do this and turn that lane into a footpath or cycleway instead? A footpath or cycleway have good capacity too, but are hardly likely to ever reach that capacity and will just be empty most the time.”

      No, I’m not saying that. First, we create the low traffic neighbourhoods – in general, buses don’t drive within these neighbourhoods. So in these locations, there is no competition between buses and pedestrians or cyclists. These neighbourhoods create huge modeshift.

      Then, we look at the main roads. Because we’ve done the low traffic neighbourhoods city-wide, the level of modeshift is considerable, but the people walking and cycling to the main roads now need safe amenity, whether they’re continuing on foot or bike, or taking the bus. You’re right that this will be the trickiest bit where road space is most scarce. The goals are safety, faster bus flow, and access by vehicles.

      Sometimes traffic lanes may become cyclelanes.
      Sometimes traffic lanes may become buslanes.
      Parking will often need to be removed from the main roads.
      Sometimes footpaths may have to become shared paths.
      Sometimes streets may have to become one way for general traffic.
      Sometimes bus gates will be needed to divert through-traffic into a circulation path, so the vehicle traffic levels are low enough for the buses to flow.

      Prioritising on the main roads is an existing challenge. The advantage of reducing traffic as a core strategy is it reduces pressure and all these decisions become easier. There are fewer cars to deal with in each situation so more opportunities open up.

      Whereas what we’re doing at the moment, with road building and network optimisation constantly adding vkt, each decision is harder, with road users pitted against each other.

      [“Traffic” can be used the way I have used in this post, or it can be used to include all road users. In this post, I’ve chosen to use “traffic” as the public understand it, because “vkt” is a term that loses a lot of readers. I believe the meaning was clear from the context.]

  22. Perhaps the most effective way to reduce city traffic congestion is also one of the simplest solutions: Carpool! Carpooling reduces the number of vehicles on the road, which helps to reduce traffic issues… thank you for this topic! Find an incredible site having lots of ideas and tips that can be handy

    1. I’d love to see any research you have on the city-wide effects of encouraging carpooling, measured in a way that compares effects against other policy options for the same money. Carpooling can be effective for individuals, and good systems can help employers can make it easy for employees to find people to match up with.

      The downsides of carpooling as a policy are:

      – for employers, research shows that if emissions reductions is their goal, their money is better spent on encouraging employees to shift modes and to live closer to work than on carpooling.

      – carpooling is a practice that is very fragile. A very slight change in pricing or timing or relationship and the parties return to driving individually. Carpooling prevents the paradigmatic mindshift that other ways to reduce emissions bring (which are more permanent in nature).

      – if carpooling is encouraged by the provision of T3 lanes, this is often a lost opportunity for instead providing buslanes. Buses are more space efficient and reduce traffic more than carpooling does.

  23. The problem with carpooling like adding public transport is that you might be adding capacity to the roads and that added capacity just induces more traffic just as much as building extra lanes. What we really need to get our heads around is that we need to make car commuting not the best option. It is that simple. If car commuting is still the best option for most people why should we be surprised that most people take the best option? Really until we make cars go the really long way round like they do in Ghent (where you have to go back out to the ring road to get across to the other side in a car but can go direct by public and active transport. now 35% of trips are by active and public transport. Other than that or as well as that decongestion pricing to make car commuting less attractive but at the same time ring fencing the income from that to give people good options to avoid the congestion charges like better, cheaper more frequent buses and trains, better cycleways, a more complete protected cycle path network anywhere where their aren’t 20-30kph shared zones.

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