Following on from yesterday’s post on the “not so good” announcement from the NZTA, here’s the “really good” one.
On Friday the NZTA very quietly launched the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund. The announcement was so quiet they haven’t even put out a press release about it despite it having the potential to have a much larger impact on all New Zealanders than most projects.
In short, the programme is about the agency providing financial, organisational and technical support for tactical urbanism projects. Put another way, making it faster and easier to make our streets safer and more liveable. Here’s what they say about the programme:
Many of us in urban areas want to live in vibrant neighbourhoods, where we easily get to work, and access shops and services. We want to feel safe and comfortable moving around, in ways that are good for our health and take care of the planet.
Tactical urbanism can be used to make quick progress by testing and piloting projects to help demonstrate their value to the community.
This is fantastic news and exactly what we need to see. Already in Auckland and elsewhere we’ve seen a number of projects that are now case studies of the kinds of projects the NZTA are looking to support. These examples include:
- The Sale St Intersection
- The Federal St pop up cycleway
- The fantastic High St footpath widening.
There’s a certain sense of irony that the team that developed and delivered most of these projects, the Auckland Design Office, are in the middle of being disbanded by the council just as their ideas start to get support from the NZTA.
Here’s a description of the sort of projects that NZTA will consider:
Projects could be anything from piloting a new walking or cycling facility to pop-up community-led street events, to trialling a low-traffic neighbourhood or reallocating more street space for people.
- Interim intersection safety improvements (e.g. curve build-outs)
- Projects to improve placemaking
- Projects that reinforce the context of the street (business/economic activity areas, school traffic calming)
- One-off events to help cities embrace other modes of transport
- Regular play-street programmes that build community support for re-purposing streets
- Low-traffic neighbourhoods that aim to reduce vehicle volumes (e.g. filtered permeability)
- Piloting a cycleway-, pedestrian- or public transport-network.
- Emergency bike lanes or footpath expansions to make more space for social distancing in response to Covid-19
We don’t want projects that create more space for cars, or those that are permanent in nature. Projects need to strategically align with both the Innovating Streets programme objectives, and local councils strategies and plans. They must also be able to demonstrate the value of using tactical urbanism to advance a future permanent change, and explain how they will move to permanent changes.
We like that they’ve been so explicit in the types of projects that will be supported and that this fund can’t be used for expanding car capacity. It leaves things in no doubt what the purpose of this is and again it’s great it’s coming through from the NZTA. We’re also thrilled to see Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are listed, as they are the most comprehensive way to calm traffic. And we reiterate our call to Council:
Can Auckland Council commission a low-traffic neighbourhood map for the whole city?
This would coordinate all the applications using this concept, so they work well together.
The package is exciting and its timing is excellent. This is an ideal way to harness the community’s COVID-awakened interest in how to use our public space better for safe walking and cycling.
It’ll be interesting to watch how NZTA uses and helps train practitioners in tactical urbanism, a technique really developed as a guerilla response to the lack of community-involvement and people-friendliness in mainstream transport and urban planning.
Innovating Streets projects seek to deliver:
- Temporary, or semi-permanent, physical changes to streets
- Improvements that test a permanent fix and prototype a street design
- Activations that help communities re-imagine their streets.
While permanent solutions are vital to identify and aim for, their delivery and project steps are not part of Innovating Streets projects.
Already there’s been a huge positive response to the NZTA proposal on social media, particularly from a number of local board members around Auckland keen to see the tools used to change streets in their neighbourhoods. Because the temporary fixtures can always be reversed, this is an opportunity for local boards to try some radical solutions to problems they face.
There are more details on the NZTA’s page for the programme, including more details on the types of support the agency is offering to make this programme a success, as well as how councils and transport agencies can apply for funding.
This is only a $7 million fund, although the language indicates more could be available if needed. Either way it’s a stark contrast with the billions that are going to be sunk into traffic-inducing highway projects.
The Innovating Streets for People pilot fund (more than $7 million) will help councils create more people-friendly spaces in our towns and cities.
The pilot fund will provide councils with a 90% funding assistance rate (FAR) as well as capability building support for successful applicants, including participation in a community of practice.
To make the tactical changes permanent, the road controlling authorities will also need some money further down the track. If there isn’t already a budget allocated for this work, we can expect to see financial officers resisting improvements to a safe but ‘tactical’ state, preferring streets left in a dangerous but ‘finished’ state. To people tasked with balancing the books, tactical projects in a void of progressive strategy simply add stress to their jobs.
We have evidence before our very eyes that reducing traffic gives us clean air and speeds up vehicle travel times: for deliveries, for essential journeys by vehicle, and for buses. We have more safe options for crossing roads on actual ‘desire lines’, and less need to wait for cars before we can cross. And we’re reclaiming space for cycling.
Importantly, this better use of public space doesn’t need to be temporary. As the economy picks up again, we can accommodate the increasing number of trips by using space-efficient public transport and cycling. Any decision to instead return to car dependency, fumes and congestion is a decision to compromise our children’s health, safety, opportunities and chance of a low-carbon future.
We should be scrambling now to lock the improvements in. There are many ways to do so.
For those communities with progressive local boards, councils or road controlling authorities willing to take this opportunity, this could be the start of a journey into a better built environment. For those who don’t, at least there will soon be some good New Zealand examples of how to bring change.
This post was jointly written by Heidi and Matt