Submissions are due on the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) this Sunday (2nd May). I outlined what is needed back in February: A Climate-Ready RLTP – No Litigation Required.

The sooner we fix this city’s transport system so that it’s quiet, sustainable and safe so our kids get their freedom to walk, scooter and cycle, the sooner we start to reap the benefits of more socially connected communities and more healthy, active people. There are some good projects in the plan. As usual, it fails to deliver cycling infrastructure at anything like the rate required, and it fails to reduce emissions in line with our commitments.

The plan proposes investments that will increase emissions by 6% by 2031 (or decrease them by 12% if government makes policy changes around biofuels and EV uptake):


Auckland Council, on the other hand, laid out in the Auckland Climate Plan that a 64% reduction in transport emissions is required, and the 1Point5 Project believes Auckland’s transport must be largely decarbonised by 2030.

In this post, I want to explore Auckland Transport’s technical misunderstandings that have contributed to this failure.

The draft RLTP ignores the decarbonisation options available

It says:

Because the adoption of EVs cannot happen quickly enough to deliver the required reductions by 2031, meeting the Council’s target would require very strong interventions to reduce demand for private vehicle travel. Potential examples include road pricing schemes that would dramatically increase the cost of driving. While such an approach would achieve climate outcomes, perverse social, cultural and economic outcomes would also be expected under settings this strong. 

This statement may appeal to those fearful of faster and more fundamental change, but honing in on road pricing is a misrepresentation of the decarbonisation options available to Auckland.

The best “very strong interventions” won’t create “perverse” outcomes; they are the systems changes that have long been needed to reduce our reliance on cars and deliver better “social, cultural and economic outcomes” – including far better safety, public health and social cohesion. Reducing transport emissions is simply a co-benefit of these holistic improvements.

The statement is concerning as it is tone deaf to the public discussion this year around the Climate Change Commission’s advice. Many experts, specialising in public health, safety, social wellbeing and equity, have explained that trying to reduce emissions by relying heavily on electrification and pricing will be too expensive, inequitable, and above all, an enormous lost opportunity to fix the many overdue problems in our transport system.

Auckland Transport’s resistance to reducing vehicle travel

Decarbonising transport will occur through two pathways – improving emissions per vehicle (eg electrification) and reducing vehicle traffic.

This draft RLTP does not attempt to reduce traffic volumes but instead shows it continuing to rise:

Vehicle travel is discussed:

What drives transport emissions

Understanding the transport emission challenge

This is a simple statement of fact that is better rearranged to express a definition of the term “average vehicle emissions per km”:

Average vehicle CO2e per km = Total transport CO2e / Vehicle km Travelled

In contrast, the answer to the question, “What drives transport emissions” – or pushes them up – is investing in regressive projects, for example increasing road capacity or carpark space, and allowing the political economy of car dependence to keep ticking along.

However, the RLTP makes some great observations:

The proportion of distance travelled in private vehicles on a weekly basis (around 90 percent) is significantly higher than what we see during the traditional peak period journey to work commute. This is because trips outside peak periods are for a different purpose. They are often social, business and personal trips, are more distributed, generally involve multiple locations, passengers or moving goods, and on average, are longer. They are also less affected by congestion or parking and are harder to serve with public transport.

This means that the traditional transport planning, investment and monitoring focus on peak period trips (typically with congestion in mind) must be broadened to tackle distance travelled across the day and week and year. It’s estimated the proportion of kilometres travelled in the non-peak periods make up 67 percent of all kilometres travelled on the Auckland roading network.

This is important. Congestion is not a driver for modeshift in the non-peak periods, and we do not want it to become one. Our climate response requires modeshift during non peak periods, so the RLTP needs to invest in all-day public transport service and frequency improvements, bus priority, and to adjust parking strategy until these measures do affect travel choice and reduce vehicle travel. 

Instead it says the public transport modeshare increase proposed by the Climate Change Commission cannot be achieved:

Achieving this level of impact would require a substantial acceleration of investment in rapid transit projects across Auckland, including bringing forward completion of the CC2M project, the full A2B project and the final Northwest Rapid Transit project. A significant increase in public transport services would also be required. Meanwhile, meeting Auckland Council’s target of a 50 percent reduction in transport emissions by 2031 is much more challenging than the Climate Change Commission’s mode shift changes.

The draft RLTP’s problem is that it continues to waste too much money on projects that sit in the left hand column of this chart:

Rather than reduce parking supply there’s an increase:

Over $50 million to deliver new and extended park and ride facilities across the region, including in locations that support Auckland’s growth.

Auckland Transport describes its past projects that increase road capacity (which evidence shows doesn’t deliver the economic benefits promised) as improvements:

capacity improvements on our state highways

reduced travel times

boosted productivity

Intersection improvements

The draft RLTP continues increasing vehicle travel with projects that increase road capacity:

significant investments within this RLTP include:

  • Mill Road Corridor… facilitate growth… provide an additional north-south corridor…
  • Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extension… faster and more reliable travel times
  • SH1 Papakura to Drury South improvements… widen the Southern Motorway to six lanes (three each direction)… a new interchange at Drury South
  • Penlink… relieve pressure on the constrained SH1 Silverdale Interchange, support development… provide significant time savings…
  • Northern Corridor… will complete the Western Ring Route… upgrading the northern end of SH18 to motorway standard, delivers a new SH18-SH1 motorway to-motorway connection, widens SH1…

etc

And in the optimisation programme:

…improving the efficiency and coordination of traffic signals to improve throughput and reduce delays, using dynamic traffic lanes to improve peak traffic flows

Optimisation activities in this RLTP include:

$168 million of investment… Initiatives to be delivered include removing ‘pain points’ along corridors for walking and cycling, public transport and private vehicles, synchronising traffic signals, optimising road layout, dynamic traffic lanes and managing traffic restrictions.

A big chunk of that $168 million could be reallocated to cycling projects immediately.

The Modelling hasn’t been Helpful

The Auckland Forecasting Centre uses a “four step model” in its transport modelling, called the Macro Strategic Model.  The usefulness, shortcomings and common misapplication of the four step model are well understood. It was my realisation in early 2017 that it was still being misapplied that led me to becoming a transport advocate.

This model can be useful to understand traffic demands after strategic investment decisions have already been made. It should not be used to enable “a wide range of transport interventions to be assessed on an equal basis.” Its weakness comes from planners misusing the model to calculate differences in vehicle km travelled (and travel times) between project options. This practice leads to major inaccuracies in the “monetised and non-monetised benefits” used in the Waka Kotahi benefits framework.

In other words, the way it’s misapplied is leading to poor investment decisions.

The decision to model transport emissions in response to the Auckland Climate Plan in 2020 was an opportunity for change; a new situation, in which Auckland Transport staff and management could have demanded a tool or process suitable for emissions reduction planning. The Macro Strategic Model was not built for this work and is not fit for this purpose.

Professional planners and engineers have codes of ethics and this requires refusing to use a methodology that systematically leads to planning decisions which cause climate change and worsen safety. Analysing transport emissions with the wrong model has supported the transport sectors’ skewed belief in the importance of electric vehicles (and aversion to systems change), as expressed by the RLTP:

it is critical to emphasise that the rate of reduction in emissions depends in particular on measures to accelerate the take up of EVs within the fleet. This does not meet Auckland Council’s Climate Action Plan target for 2031, which requires a 50 percent reduction in regional emissions. Beyond 2031, the reduction in emissions is expected to accelerate significantly as more of the vehicle fleet transitions to EVs.

Vehicle travel is an INPUT to planning, not an OUTPUT that requires accommodation

Climate planning requires the desired level of vehicle km travelled (VKT) to be an input to the planning, as many European cities do in their SUMP plans. Auckland Transport treat vehicle km travelled (VKT) as an output of modelling that then needs to be “accommodated” by roading capacity. This is incorrect and regressive, and Auckland Transport has fielded substantial criticism for continuing with this approach.

Their response? Throughout the draft RLTP they claim their job is only to try to accommodate future growth in travel demand in the sustainable modes, not to reduce VKT, and they don’t think their planning can even achieve a reduction in VKT:

…at best, an investment-only approach could only hope to hold private vehicle travel to today’s levels – leaving the problem of existing travel and emissions. 

Auckland’s transport strategy to avoid congestion increasing is to absorb future growth in travel demand by improving the public transport and active mode networks…

Even holding vehicle travel steady at 2018 is something they believe requires additional policy. 

We’ve heard this embarrassing argument before. In contrast, Council show their commitment to reducing VKT as the way to achieve emissions reductions:

The Auckland Climate Plan identified the following “priority action areas”:

Encourage the use of public transport, walking and micro-mobility devices, rather than driving; reduce private vehicle travel and encourage lower emissions travel options by introducing pricing and parking measures (p. 82).

Make travelling by public transport more appealing than using personal vehicles (p. 83). 

Encourage a shift to public transport use, walking and micro-mobility devices, rather than driving (p. 85).

The Auckland Climate Plan sets a specific target of vehicle kilometres travelled being reduced by 12% (p. 47).

By signing the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration 2017, Auckland Council committed to

develop and implement ambitious action plans that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support resilience within our own councils and for our local communities. These plans will: promote walking, cycling, public transport and other low carbon transport options

Similarly the Government Policy Statement says:

Investment decisions will support the rapid transition to a low carbon transport system, and contribute to a resilient transport sector that reduces harmful emissions, giving effect to the emissions reduction target the Climate Change Commission recommended to Cabinet until emissions budgets are released in 2021.

The only logical solution to achieving the rapid transition to a low carbon transport system required by the GPS, given Auckland Transport have accepted (in the RLTP) that

the adoption of EVs cannot happen quickly enough to deliver the required reductions by 2031

is for Auckland Transport to plan for reductions in vehicle travel. The GPS also lays out how this can be achieved:

Mode shift in urban areas from private vehicles to public transport, walking, and cycling will support efforts to reduce emissions.

This modeshift is proposed as a way to reduce private vehicle travel in order to reduce emissions. It is not provided to simply “hold VKT steady” so that electric vehicles can then reduce emissions.

In short, Auckland Transport are wrong; both Council and the Government have directed Auckland Transport to reduce vehicle km travelled (VKT) and not just attempt to hold it steady.

This misconception is leading to poor investment and planning decision-making, such as for this RLTP, that mean Auckland Transport is putting Auckland Council and Auckland residents at risk in multiple ways.

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65 comments

  1. So very clear when you put the statements together like you have done. the Policy Statement’s requirement: “Investment decisions will support the rapid transition to a low carbon transport system” and AT’s understanding that “the adoption of EVs cannot happen quickly enough to deliver the required reductions by 2031.”

    This leaves no alternative to them but to reduce traffic volumes as you’ve explained so patiently in the past.

    Have you asked whether Auckland Transport considered using other methods, like the European process?

    1. No, I should. I’ve asked plenty of questions about why they keep increasing road capacity when the evidence is clear that it increases VKT and emissions, and about the modelling.

      Most recently they referred to the MSM modelling, saying of its findings, “VKT can be used to inform the efficiency of an intervention at a high level and allow decision makers to understand the impact of VKT changes on priority outcomes such as greenhouse gas emissions.”

      Replies like these are disingenuous. The model’s flaws mean advice is given to decision-makers that projects which increase capacity will have “emissions benefits” from road capacity expansion “reducing congestion”. This comes about from the model’s central error – not recognising the new person trips induced by the extra capacity means the congestion created at pinch points throughout the network doesn’t go into the emissions calculations.

      In fact, evidence simply shows that new road capacity leads to increased emissions; that is the knowledge that decision-makers need to follow, every time.

  2. You’ve been kind on AT calling them tone deaf. I think they’ve blatantly using false equity concerns to drum up opposition to reducing demand for private vehicle travel.

    1. Yep. Makes you wonder if they’ve also modelled the “social, cultural and economic outcomes” of not doing what needs to be done. Those will likely be pretty perverse as well.

      1. To be clear: equity is a an essential requirement for the coming decade and beyond, and we currently have a far from equitable transport system. But we can’t fix it by further entrenching the need to own and run a car, esp when also pushing people further and further from everyday amenities in pursuit of affordable (or any) housing. Once again, all those green levers need to be pulled, at once.

  3. VKT will keep rising at the same rate as the past years. That is literally being set in stone right now. (look at Milldale for example)

    Auckland gives you little choice. Either drive cars, or live a lifestyle similar to a level 3 lockdown, forever. How many people (outside this comment thread) will volunteer?

    1. I volunteer as tribute! But seriously. The numbers show us people are already increasingly “volunteering” by:
      • switching to PT
      • working from home when they can
      • riding bikes, even though a safe bike network is just a sketch on a map (and one that seems to get smaller every time AT revises it)
      • and this is just a guess, love to see some data: batching up errands or changing plans to make fewer car trips, cos the kids have started asking about it, and it’s starting to feel embarrassing to use an SUV as a combined umbrella/ shopping trolley for a short trip or a small load of groceries.

      It’s never been politically or socially easier to nudge, encourage and support the general public to make small lifestyle adjustments for big rewards. Same needs to apply to all the public organisations whose strong but largely invisible hands have a grip on the most important levers.

      1. Yes so either you live in an area where this is unusually practical (eg. the western half of the isthmus which actually has a PT network), or you now know from experience what a crippling limitation that is.

        Is it really easier to nudge these days? We just had this absolutely embarrassing spat on Queen Street. Oh no, no cars can access my shop. Haven’t they heard of delivery hours in pedestrian zones?

        I don’t think Heidi is wrong about this. I think it is even worse — this VKT graph is BS to begin with.

        Actions vs. words. I don’t care about this plan at all. You can’t ride your bicycle on powerpoint slides and acronyms. But I have to admit I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t afford a $10,000 golf membership.

        1. Agree, and I think we’re coming from the same place… all over Auckland, people are voluntarily making changes in the right direction (bus and bike ridership trending up over time; work from home is now officially a thing; and certainly kids are starting to make the kind of behaviour-change noise that shifts household habits.)

          But individual action only gets us so far (which is not very). The sheer scale of change we need depends on a principled, determined and rapid transformation of the transport system. The levers are there, and clearly labeled. Key people in the big transport orgs just need to get a grip on ’em.

      2. Julia,also a volunteer,love the analogy as a car as an umbrella,wet weather adds 1 minute to my 10 k commute enough time to put on my raincoat

        1. Agree.

          Although I don’t think of it as protection against rain (it is a nice bonus) but as protection against the hostile and dangerous street environments.

    2. What’s wrong with the Milldale? With the Weiti bridge the walk to the NEX station is under 30 minutes and cycle is under 10 minutes, if I were living there I cant imagine myself driving to the NEX. Off course cycleway to the NEX somewhere along the motorway would be a lot better option.

      1. Mainly *where* it is, it is so isolated that many people will drive due to sheer distance to other things.

        (it is actually more than 5km to Silverdale station, via Wainui Road, are they building another bridge over the motorway?)

        Nearby Millwater isn’t far from the station either and by far the majority drives to work. We will see how many people take up other options.

  4. Thanks Heidi – perfect.
    AT’s car and car park fetish must be countered by AC’s fear of high court action on non-delivery of climate emergency action. I’m sure the CCO review stated AC has the levers of power to control AT – but has never used them. More VKT is not the Auckland i want in 10 years time. Do better AT/AC

  5. A very good post. Thank you.
    It only shows how entrenched in their thinking AT is. Reading about other cities rolling out vast cycling networks in a matter of years I really wonder if AT could simply do that and stop asking drivers for permission to do something similar over here. Just sticking to the rollout and making it a ‘default’ position would make a huge difference over time. Also in everyone’s perception. As is the growth VKT is treated as impossible to change.

    1. Agree, Pshem. The “just do it” option is always available. AT styles itself as a “delivery organisation” and it’s being required to deliver something different. So, let’s go.

  6. All of these kinds of projections are based on a future prediction of population.
    There needs to be some discussion around what is sustainable and achievable.
    I don’t think we can achieve what is necessary if we carry on with the projected population growth.
    If the population were to remain closer to static there would not be the need for building more houses, roads, water infrastructure, etc. and the goal of decarbonizing the economy would become more doable.

  7. I’m not entirely sure how you can reduce the population growth though? One would have thought that housing prices, rents and commute times already provide a big disincentive when it comes to living in Auckland.

    1. Given that natural population growth in NZ is below replacement value (ie well under 2.2 – nearer 1.8 from what I understand), it is fairly clear that population growth comes from internal and external migration. Auckland is where the jobs are at. Exorbitant house prices, rents and commute times are the equivalent of the natural predator that keeps our rampant population in check. But still: Auckland grows by tens of thousands each year.

      So, to answer your question, reducing population growth in Auckland can probably only be achieved by even higher house prices, rents and commute times. Ironically therefore, the current house building boom and new roads are probably just making it worse…

      1. What a load of round about poppy-cock.
        To reduce population increase you turn down external migration. The rest takes care of itself.

  8. Average vehicle CO2 per km isn’t an independent input and the concept hides a lot of sins. Travel speed and congestion sits in there along with engine size, proportion of electric vehicles and if and where people have jobs . AT have practically no control over any of these matters so it is one of the many bits of flannel among a fairly pointless document. If the RLTP wasn’t required to tick a box by a statute then nobody would bother writing one.

    1. The RLTP shapes our future options, more investment in driving mode incentivises more driving, more investment in alternatives incentivises more more-shift. Agree AT can’t force us to drive slightly less pollutingly, but they sure as can help us to drive a lot less, which is the way way more powerful and important means to lowering the carbon intensity of the Auckland transport sector.

      That they don’t get this, and clearly start from the assumption that our extremely high driving modeshare is permanent and not a function of the world they maintain and create, is clearly the at the very heart of the problem.

      Fair enough, the whole sector is struggling to re-calibrate. I would suggest, however, that those that want to get ahead in this industry ought to get ahead of this change, as it’s coming, ready or not.*

      * = here now.

      1. I don’t think the RLTP shapes anything. They just make up want they want to do as they go along. Light rail wasn’t in, and then suddenly their boss wanted it, so it became a project and they then stuck in into the next RLTP. If they want to do something that isn’t in the document they will do it. Alternately if they don’t want to do something that is in the document then the don’t do it. They control the RLTP and the RLTP doesn’t control them. But my second point was VKT isn’t determined by AT and they don’t possess the policy levers to change it. So whether they make it a goal or not just doesn’t matter. It is a diversion.

        1. Reallocating street space from parking and extra turning lanes and flush medians to cycling lanes, wider footpaths and trees for walkability reduces VKT.

          Widening intersections (under the name of improvements) increases VKT.

          Collecting revenue by pricing parking lots they control and using it to prevent PT fares from having to rise and even lowering them a bit, reduces VKT.

          Improving non peak bus frequencies to enhance the network effect reduces the need for car ownership and reduces VKT.

          AT have plenty of influence over VKT. Even those that require legislative changes from government are things AT could have influenced if they’d been highlighting the need for them for the last decade instead of ignoring them. What do you make of this bit of the RLTP, miffy?

          “For the first time this draft RLTP includes a programme of activities targeted at policy and regulatory interventions which will provide Aucklanders with better outcomes from their transport system.”

        2. Firstly AT can do all or none of that regardless of whether it is in the RLTP. The RLTP is just a paper tiger. Given there are only two road controlling authorities in Auckland and given that AT put in anything Waka Kotahi tell them to put in then the RLTP doesn’t even have the minor coordinating benefit that other regions get from writing one.
          Second pricing travel and improving buses might reduce VKT but all the others might just increase fuel use through making the travel less efficient. In my view the only ‘policies’ worth bothering with are those that make people pay their true costs. But that is an old fashioned view as we are run by people who all started out as policy analysts who believe policy can fix any problem.

        3. But your second point was “VKT isn’t determined by AT and they don’t possess the policy levers to change it.” and I’ve shown they do. Sure, there are problems with intention.

          On this: “all the others might just increase fuel use through making the travel less efficient.” This simply isn’t true. It’s fine if you’re not interested in modeshift to be following the experiments, the research and the successful planning that’s going on, but please don’t revert to archaic ideas about making vehicle travel less efficient as if they are current or true. You’re missing out the real world data about people changing modes when walking, cycling and public transport are made safe and relatively attractive.

        4. Most studies focus on making a change and recording the mode shift response and give themselves a pat. Economists call that a substitution. But very few transport studies try and figure out the rest of the response. When a price goes up (or an increase in travel cost) people substitute to goods (other modes or other destinations and in some cases other origins). And some people go without, that is the wealth effect. One persons improved amenity due to fewer lanes is a cost to someone else. Few transport planners bother looking at that.
          I know we will disagree but I am not even sure reducing VKT is a worthy goal. If people gain more benefit through travelling than the cost of that movement then why shouldn’t they get that benefit? Do we know what welfare increase people gain from moving? Can we say they will still gain the same level of welfare if we make them do something else?

        5. “Most studies focus on making a change and recording the mode shift response and give themselves a pat.”

          miffy, head out of whatever book you’re in, please. The monitoring and analysis of the UK LTN’s is very good. The monitoring of similar work all over the world is very good. The monitoring and analysis of the Covid works is very good.

          Far better than whatever modeshift stuff you read in the past, clearly.

          All you’re doing is showing that you think the natural order involves cars, car dependence, and motorcars, and that even friendly traffic engineers and trolls will put up a fight to bring in anything else.

        6. Good point about the Covid works. If the policy goal was to reduce VKT we could achieve that through a level 4 lockdown. But that requires a significant loss of welfare so we don’t do that. People move around because it gives them benefits, we actually know very little about valuing those benefits despite what you might read. Impeding people moving reduces their benefits. Walking, cycling and using a bus are not perfect substitutes for cars, trucks and vans so reducing their use of those vehicles must have a wealth effect. I can’t tell you how much but I can tell you it exists. LTNs reduce traffic and reduce car and van ownership in those areas. Reducing demand using non-price barriers doesn’t mean there isn’t a loss to those people. There will also be winners (the people who didn’t have to travel far or the people whose hobby is not using a car) in those neighbourhoods but there are also losers.

        7. “ Walking, cycling and using a bus are not perfect substitutes for cars, trucks and vans”
          I agree, They are not perfect substitutes [for all trips] but for plenty (I’d argue most) trips they would be perfect substitutes, or perhaps even better. If that’s what we concentrated our infrastructure spending on.

          “There will also be winners (the people who didn’t have to travel far or the people whose hobby is not using a car) in those neighbourhoods but there are also losers.“
          I also agree with this statement. And I think if we considered the LTN idea in a vacuum with no other improvements to the city then the losers would be in the majority (I speculate). But I would hope that AT doesn’t consider these in a vacuum. And PT / long distance cycling improvements continue to roll on. If that were the case then I think the overall system, and outcomes for people overall would be much improved over the current system. There would still be losers though.

  9. Great article, thank you. If you look where the money goes in the RLTP I’m not sure there is great commitment to active transport or PT. eg only $49 million for new footpaths for all of Auckland over 10 years, that’s no where near enough. Developments are happening and intensification happening and there is no PT. eg Milldale, Albany Heights and Scott Point. The RLTP says that without significant increases in investment they will not deliver public transport to these areas. Its no wonder then that they have to spend money on unclogging roads and building more roads as no-one has any alternative but to drive.

  10. Reading the draft plan suggests to me that AT don’t expect it to be approved. Or perhaps there’s a tug between the people making the decisions and the ones writing the words.

    “This does not meet Auckland Council’s Climate Action Plan target for 2031”

    Either the management is trying to get more money from government (the cost of this is getting crazy) or the report-writer is ensuring that the plan’s failings are missed by no-one, crying for help.

  11. The adoption of EVs and other carbon neutral vehicles in NZ will happen when the rest of the world says so not when our governing bodies, both at national and regional levels say so. NZ is completely dependent on what happens overseas, and in the case of cars when they trickle into NZ in the form of JUCs. What we will probably see quicker is the adoption of hydrogen technology for heavy vehicles, because advances in that is happened at a very fast rate overseas, in both Europe and the US, and with new vehicles dominating the transport fleets (as opposed to second hand imports), that would come into NZ almost as soon as it happens overseas.

  12. Thanks, Heidi. This was a useful (albeit depressing) post that prompted me to submit. I’m so disappointed that they still pretend that our future is locked into more cars just because that’s what the model says. It makes me so angry.

    1. I’m angry too. Hard to know how to channel it when AT’s bad decisions just continue on and on and on.

  13. I was always thinking what’s wrong with urbanists. The things they say are so logical, so correct but usually a first urge when reading or listening to the urbanist is to whack him. I’ve just realized why. Urbanists think about abstract optimization and abstract futures, abstract people just as units walking or sitting in the traffic and living in the grid of apartment blocks. They consider work and commute a primary function of a person. It’s kind of totalitarian. Generally I just want to live while work and commute are just to maintain my existence.

    I think the biggest mistake urbanists make is that they propose intensification of land use. Why? They say this will allow to build proper public transport, give more infrastructure and so on… This is wrong. Have you seen monster cities like Paris, Moscow, Beijing? They have very intense land use, they have great public transport, they are TALL, they are packed. In Moscow and Beijing the average person lives in an average 17 floor apartment block and commutes in underground trains. Very urbanistic. Really horrible. The population density creates more jobs and it sucks people like a black hole and cities keep growing in height and width. What’s next? Build 1000 floor skyscrapers where everyone could travel in the lift? Speaking of Auckland, CBD with all it’s high rises is also horrible, it will remain horrible with all possible improvements as long as it is that tall.

    I talked to many adults and asked this question. Nobody on his or her free will would want to live neither in 17 nor in 5 floor block. Pretty much everyone agreed that they would really like to live in a freestanding house, with “not a very big” backyard. Infrastructure? What people usually want is just a school, some kind of walking path or a bus to the school, bakery, pharmacy, GP, hardware store, and that’s pretty much it and it’s already available almost in any village.

    I think the question is why that many companies must have offices in the CBD and why is this CBD needed at all? Why must Auckland be that populated? Why can’t this be more decentralized?

    Not sure about Beijing and Paris, but Moscow and Auckland are similar in their meaninglessness – both New Zealand and Russia are almost uninhabited, why the hell on the earth the single city should suck more than 10% of the population? This probably means that something is fundamentally wrong with regulations and policies in these countries.

    Maybe I don’t understand urbanistics as it is. Maybe somebody can explain.

    P.S. I’m not one of those petrol heads, I have a car, but I drive approximately once a month for some unusual travel, such as visiting specialist doctors.

    1. The thing is, you only need 25% of people who would prefer to live in a new, modern 2 or 3 bedroom apartment close to work rather than a house 1 hour away for things to change massively.

      What you’re getting wrong is the assumption is that by building loads of apartments that people wont be able to live in houses. In fact the more people who choose to live in apartments, the more people who want to live in houses can afford to buy houses. Apartments don’t make sense 1 hour away from the city centre, so they are built centrally. All we want is the ability for people to have this choice

      1. Off course blocks will do in short perspective, there’s certainly not enough in areas like Grey Lynn and near. However, these blocks will also house some more offices, and this process will eventually make the CBD expand and become bigger and will make even more people who for some reason can’t leave near rush towards the new bigger CBD. The question is why jobs can’t be in Silverdale, Warkworth, Drury?

        I think together with building some more residential blocks in the city fringe there should be some restriction on new office spaces in the CBD, maybe a lot higher rates for offices in the CBD.

      2. Again, people don’t commute for commute’s sake. Offices attract them. Offices cause traffic, not roads or drivers.

        1. Offices aren’t in Drury for the same reason they aren’t in Timaru. Your office in the centre of the city gives you the maximum amount of candidates to hire and customers to attract. The CBD getting bigger is much better for everyone than the city just getting bigger so we can force everyone to live in 5 bed houses with double garages so they can then spend 2 hours a day in their cars going to and from work

        2. Btw theres nothing stopping business putting offices in Drury or Silverdale and yet they don’t, even though costs would be much lower. Yet there are plenty of rules and laws that don’t allow intensification in central suburbs, that is the issue here

        3. Karut, yes that’s obvious – businesses created to make profit and they do what’s more profitable for them, not necessarily what’s better for people. If they could make you live in the Hong-Kong style cage apartment and work for a bowl of rice – they would.

          It is a chain-reaction turning cities into a black hole. Why one 2M city is better than 10 200K cities? 2M is clearly far too much.

          Let’s look at a particular example. I made a mistake when I was young and begun a career in Software Development, now I’m convicted to live in big cities for the rest of my life. Northland has population of about 200K, I searched for Java vacancies for myself – I found zero, 99% of them are in Auckland CBD. I found 2 in Rodney, 2 in Waikato (outside of Hamilton). Is it because cities like Whangarei don’t have talented people? Don’t think so, I know quite a few talented developers who grew up in Whangarei they are now sucked into the Auckland and you want Auckland to be even bigger to suck in even more people. It is the same for many other sorts specialists, for whom, honestly speaking, it is absolutely unnecessary to be caged in Auckland, and these people themselves keep magnetizing in others producing even less attractive lifestyle.

          This is saddening. This is the end of New Zealand.

          You Urbanists are kind of Socialists, right? You claim to be doing something good for society and for the environment? Are giant multi-million cities making societies better? Are they better for the environment? Giant cities destroy environment around them, they have unhealthy decomposed societies. People who live next door on the same floor of the apartment block don’t know each other. There’s no ownership in the area, it quickly turns into a landfill and a den for narcomaniacs… look at some bigger cities when authorities fail to remove rubbish? It just turns into a landfill, this could not happen in a smaller town.

        4. Sounds like you need to propose a different sort of economy.

          Meanwhile, be careful what you wish for, because smaller townships with more local economies might be what you’re envisaging (if you could only get the companies to do what you’re wanting them to do) but resisting intensification simply leads to sprawl and car dependence – which means loads more driving and loads of space wasted on driving and storing cars.

          https://twitter.com/pawelwargan/status/1386707394017865731

        5. Heidi, I lived in Moscow for a few years. It is probably interesting to observe it as a tourist or live there for a few years, as a student. But otherwise It’s just horrible if you must live in this city, I hated to live there and most of Muscovites hate their city. Auckland is a lot better just because it’s smaller. Moscow is simply too big and all these parks and playgrounds next to every block simply don’t work and don’t help with stress from living in such an anthill.

        6. You know what? I just decided to move to Hamilton while searching for some facts for this discussion. There are quite a few jobs which match my requirements, it is possible to walk to work from a HOUSE from almost any part of that city. It’s under 200K inhabitants. Marks all checkboxes. Maybe I will change my opinion after some time living there, but it certainly worth trying.

        7. Yes, smaller places should offer good walkability and access to services. We’ve ignored them in our national planning for a long time, I reckon. You may be interested in the National Public Transport Network posts that Paul Callister and I have written – one of the problems for smaller towns and cities has been leaving them without a functioning public transport network to other places.

          And I’m not surprised you’ve found a place that meets your needs, because you want a house. People have different needs and wants, and those who want an apartment don’t have the same level of choice yet.

        8. Heidi, there are 2bdm under 400k apartments on Nelson and Hobson streets. You don’t need public transport if you live there. But are you sure you want to live in this getto? I lived there for almost a decade I’d say it’s really harmful for mental health to even step into this area where you can’t see the sunlight.

        9. I lived there for a while as well, and access to sunlight is by far not the biggest problem over there.

          Maybe the absurd level of noise pollution, or the fact that almost every square meter outside is either parking or roadway. Or the fact that the area doesn’t actually function as a city (for instance many apartments have no park within easy walking distance, and there are barely any businesses nearby).

          Most of these are consequences of choices made by the council.

          But sunlight? Hobson Street is more than wide enough to let sunlight in between these apartments.

        10. Just google “agglomeration benefits”. People have congregated into cities since the earliest age of civilisation. Even within the cities, there is a further effect as centralisation of key functions makes conducting business more efficient. Within our office tower, most meetings i need to go to i can walk to. Several of our service providers are within the same tower. Setting up so that everyone goes to the same place makes sense as you get equal access and economies of scale. You try to put satellites at every corner of the isthmus, and only people who live in that area will be able to efficiently access workplace or leisure on a regular basis.

          CBD’s have happened organically, to force it otherwise would be the authoritarian move.

        11. Brutus Iscariot, I can’t disagree with you, you’re absolutely right. On the other side the value of physical gatherings is clearly exaggerated, one company could have multiple offices in different parts of the city if employees is something valuable for them.
          Most importantly people want to see their families, not service providers or train walls.

        12. “… there are 2bdm under 400k apartments on Nelson and Hobson streets.”
          Not sure what all this discussion is about but noticed these referenced and they are probably the worst urban planning examples of apartments in Auckland and NZ for that matter and shouldn’t be used for any comparisons of dense city living vrs ?? anything, just no on so many levels.

      3. The thing is that you need more than just apartments. Having tried to live in an apartment closer to the city centre with children I can see that we’re long way away from it being a solution:
        – no actual local parks with playgrounds
        – still a long way away from a supermarket (had to drive there, as PT was simply not an option due to transfers and time required). Perhaps if I was better organised I could do online shopping, but that didn’t work for me.
        – no local medical centre of any sorts (which you tend to visit a lot with children)
        – but most importantly – no easy access to a primary school – the only option was to drive my children there (due to zone boundaries).

        I have lived in European cities too. Where all those things are in fact accessible via walking/cycling/PT, so its possible. But here I ended up in the suburbs, where I can cycle to my supermarket, medical centre or local school. That comes at the commute cost to work. Obviously all weekend activities still force me to drive – the distance is too big to cover on a bike.

        1. Even if you order online, then what. There is no enforcement of loading zones. They will simply not able to get the groceries to your apartment. Maybe they can park on the footpath.

          The observation about that medical centre, school, supermarket, or local park is true for almost everything else. Did you see any butcher? A bakery? I guess the particular street environment has a chilling effect on business. You’re effectively living in an apartment in a particularly shitty suburb.

          (by the way, did anyone else notice how no school is planned in Wynyard Quarter?)

          Maybe our particular settlement pattern sheds some light on this:

          https://observablehq.com/@roelandschoukens/mode-share-map?mode=density-high&sa=1

          Zoom in on the city centre. The blocks with apartments have very high density, often well over 100k/km². So you get all the disadvantages, like crowding, nuisance, lack of space, etc.

          However they cover only a small area. As a whole the city centre has much lower density. So in terms of having things nearby you get only few of the advantages.

  14. You know what? I just decided to move to Hamilton while searching for some facts for this discussion. There are quite a few jobs which match my requirements, it is possible to walk to work from a HOUSE from almost any part of that city. It’s under 200K inhabitants. Marks all checkboxes. Maybe I will change my opinion after some time living there, but it certainly worth trying.

  15. Your times are way off. Walking from the eastern end of the new Weiti bridge is 3km and 39 min according to Google Maps. Cycling is 14 min. The topography is very hilly. Plus the walk along noisy and busy Hibiscus Coast Highway is very unpleasant. Cycling? Yeah right. The result is that walking or cycling to the bus station remains very unattractive for most of Silverdale’s residents. Car is the only option. The undeveloped land to the north of John Creek/Silverdale Park/Bunnings cuts off Millwater and Milldale from the bus station. AT have already announced they’re ditching previously planned connections due to cost. So it’s just a cul-de-sac type fail. Never mind reality – it all looks good on a plan though, so let’s all pat each other on the back and say well done.

    1. Population growth is a global problem, that’s for sure. But our emissions would have to radically drop per capita even if our population wasn’t rising. We need a transport transformation and we need to invest in it.

      Luckily, population growth can be harnessed to help with this. And locally, *how* we house the rising population can determine the kind of strain on transport and housing.

      Any level of sprawl increases travel distances for new and existing residents, keeps people in car dependence and misses a huge opportunity.

      Housing new residents along new and existing frequent or rapid transit corridors is cheaper, brings amenity to existing populations, and thus reduces everyone’s travel distances.

      1. The housing crisis will help to chunk all these immigrants into taller and taller buildings in CBD with no need for transport at all. Next step is Hong Kong style cage houses. Very environmentally friendly and small land impact. Urbanists will love it.

        1. You are indeed limited to a choice between a house in an OK area if you can afford it vs. a shitty apartment block (*). This is however completely artificial, and completely unnecessary. It is due to 2 strange council policies:

          1 — the Villa Belt. The area around the city centre is artificially kept at a very low density by zoning code. (I think the idea that the city centre is constrained by the motorway collar is a myth. It is actually the Villa Belt)

          2 — the Inner City Slum. For whatever reason the streets where all the apartments are are some of the most unpleasant streets to be in all of Auckland. The council doesn’t even do basic things like maintaining footpaths.

          (*) if you don’t have to ask you can also get an apartment in Wynyard Quarter or the Viaduct. However this is not relevant to the bottom 99% of earners.

        2. roeland, don’t take my irony too seriously. There should be different housing for different needs. Auckland is clearly decades if not centuries away from today’s HK density.

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