Are we there yet?? Not quite. But nearly! Welcome to our roundup of the week in transport and urbanism stories. Hope you’ve had a good one.
The week in Greater Auckland
- Monday’s post, by Matt, covered the climate action package in Phil Goff’s 2022-2023 budget
- Tuesday’s post by Marita looked back at the first Innovating Streets projects and forward into the just-announced Streets for People 2021-24 programme
- On Wednesday Matt looked at the December AT board papers for us all
- Yesterday, a guest post by Charlotte Billing explored the planning barriers to urban agriculture
Submit on the Eastern Busway – today
You’ve got until 5pm today to provide feedback on the design for Stage 2 of the Eastern Busway: the stretch between Pakuranga and Botany. Head over to the post Matt wrote about it last month for a refresher. We’ve got some concerns about changes to the design that seem to be mostly about preserving space for cars, and a diversion that requires the removal of 30-40 homes.
Chloe Swarbrick on housing
Auckland Central Green MP Chloe Swarbrick picked up on some of the Greater Auckland’s work on housing in this op-ed in The Herald.
Data crunched by liveable city campaigners Greater Auckland tells us that a large majority of the new homes consented since the 2016 Unitary Plan have been more than 11km from the city centre. Less than half of that have been consented 1km from the city centre. Half that again and you’ve got the amounts consented 2, 3 and 4km from the city centre, respectively.
Chloe is great at getting to the heart of things – recognising that what most of us want is a safe, liveable city that gives our kids freedom.
Dense suburbs and leafy suburbs can be and should be the same thing. It’s what happens when you privilege people’s wellbeing, housing as a human right, and good design. You get those things when you move beyond the binary of ‘tiny boxes in the sky’ or quarter acre bungalows. You get those things when you build, physically and culturally, a walkable neighbourhood.
Housing and Greater Auckland on RNZ
RNZ’s Mediawatch programme picked up on the MDRS furore of the last couple of weeks – not least the somewhat hyperbolic language that came from some of the bill’s opponents. The Mediawatch piece does a great job of highlighting the imbalance in the reporting, which was definitely tilted in the direction of those criticising the bill. Greater Auckland contributor Scott Caldwell features too, in his role as a spokesperson for the Coalition for More Homes.
Coalition For More Homes spokesperson Scott Caldwell said that in that vacuum of debate, some questionable or just wrong claims were put forward unchallenged.
He was disappointed by the regular complaint that the new rules contained in the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill would cause sprawl.
In cities like Auckland and Wellington, the harshest current restrictions on housing are around central suburbs, where building would alleviate sprawl, he said.
“They are stopping development in the central suburbs like Ponsonby, Parnell and Mt Eden where you’ve essentially frozen in amber these historical villas, and they’re pushing the development out to the fringes of the city. What this bill will do is reverse that situation.”
Hurry up then!
A wonderful ad from Waka Kotahi about speed limit reviews. We’re fans of this kind of storytelling!
Sunfield denied fast-track consenting
The prospective 5000-home, car-free development planned for the outskirts of South Auckland had its application for a fast-track consent under the UDA denied. The decision, which falls within Kāinga Ora’s mandate, was made for a number of reasons, mostly to do with the proposal’s location.
Kāinga Ora spokesperson Katja Lietz says says the decision was made for a number of reasons, including concerns the proposal didn’t align with the intention of the UDA, the significant flood risks in the area and that there would be less consultation if Sunfield was approved to be a SDP.
“Proposed infrastructure to address the risk of flooding would only be feasible in willing partnership with Auckland Council. We proposed discussions with council to explore this and the proposer declined,” says Lietz, Kāinga Ora’s general manager for urban planning and design.
From local councillors’ descriptions, it does sound like flooding in the area is a serious issue. And although a car-free development is something we’d love to see tested in Auckland, surely a brownfields location with good public transport and existing urban amenities would have a more positive impact. (Speaking of great storytelling, you might recall we covered their rad ad a while back.)
NZ Post goes electric
Only a couple of weeks after we published a post about the potential to mode-shift services and deliveries, here’s another good news story about logistics shifting to low-carbon transport. NZ post is using ‘green finance’ to fund the electrification of its fleet. The first purchase will be 60 electric delivery vans.
NZ Post aims to have all of its own fleet and a quarter of its contractor fleet electric by 2025 and the balance of the contractor fleet electric by 2030. The postal service has committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. Transport makes up about a fifth of the country’s carbon footprint, and most of that comes from the light vehicle fleet of cars, vans and utes.
[…] NZ Post estimates each diesel van it replaces with an EV will abate an average 7.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum.
Surely there’s something else we can do with this lovely piece of waterfront?
As the tweet implies, nothing like charging for carparking to highlight how little people value it. A tactical activation over summer could be just the way to transition this triangle of asphalt in Devonport back into a place for people.
The long term carpark at the Devonport wharf has been half empty since @AklTransport started charging 50c/hr to use it. Now would be a good time fir @AklCouncil to return this to the foreshore reserve. Swap the tar seal for grass and trees. pic.twitter.com/5g2ffJJwWZ
— Chris Werry (@chriswerry) December 6, 2021
Hamilton gets streateries
While we’ve seen a few cafes take over adjacent carparks with seats and tables since we shifted into the traffic light system a week ago, these have all been in places where the carpark is privately owned. There’s no word yet on an official pathway for hospitality venues in Auckland to start expanding into road space. But – they’ve figured it out in Hamilton!
In a move to get the sector back on its feet after lockdown, Hamilton City Council gave restaurants and café operators the tick of approval to extend outdoor dining permits, and waived all fees and charges.
But the council took it one step further following an extraordinary council meeting this month.
All fees paid for outdoor dining permits for the 2021/22 year will be refunded and it will be free to apply for or extend an outdoor dining permit through to June 30, 2022.
One cafe owner featured in the article was thrilled to be able to expand out into the grassed, tree-shaded traffic island in front of her business.
“I’ve always wanted to use the island, it was a good excuse to say ‘bring it on,’” café owner Maria Senear said.
“Outdoor dining makes a hell of a difference to us. We normally cram all the tables together, we’re so busy over the weekend we have people waiting at the door.”
There must be a better way?
This is a good companion image to that map of the central city’s cycleways that has a conspicuous gap right down the middle.
city centre — mt roskill by cycleway. if only it was possible to build a more direct route. alas, pic.twitter.com/mdCtttlADq
— scoot! (@ScootFoundation) December 5, 2021
What can the success of Dublin’s light rail teach Auckland?
Dublin’s light rail gets a long write-up in the New Zealand Herald, and there’s an Auckland connection. The Luas has possibly the prettiest name of any light rail system in the world – and Dubliners love it. Despite construction fatigue while the network was being built, the city’s residents embraced it when it opened and it exceeded capacity far sooner than anyone expected. The network had to be extended and trams became larger to cope with the demand. In a very short space of time, the Luas transformed the way people all over Dublin got around the city.
“One woman wrote to me saying Luas had changed her life. She used to drive her wheelchair-bound husband everywhere. Then, she dropped him off at the station and he took himself into town to meet his friends.
And it turns out that Frank Allen, interviewed in the piece as a leading figure in the development of the Luas, is on Auckland Light Rail’s Assurance Panel. We like what he has to say:
He suggested that a street-level light rail system in Auckland would provide adequate capacity for the long term — and it’s more affordable. Queen St was natural for the route and with streetscaping Dominion Rd can be used.
“It makes sense to have small tunnel sections along the route because of the topography. But running at street level means light rail will squeeze the space for cars, and that’s how it should be.
“One of the benefits of light rail is that it enables traffic calming and making it more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists. We started in Dublin with one line and it worked well, and we have now built a network of public transport,” said Allen.
No, cycle lanes don’t cause congestion
This article on the New Statesman is a solid takedown of some data that spawned headlines about cycle lanes causing congestion in London. It unpicks the bad reporting and highlights the vested interests of the research company that did the study, Inrix, which is part-owned by a large car company.
Cycle lanes don’t cause congestion, but emotive headlines about cycle lanes will certainly drive clicks, and we’ve seen that play out in media in Auckland many times over.
Road use is an emotive subject because it’s a psychological mess of fear (you or your family could get run over), guilt (you could run someone over), boredom (oh no, Kidbrooke interchange again) and jealousy (look at that lycra-clad cycling clown, how does he get a little road all to himself?). This is absolute nectar to people who can bring more eyeballs to an ad-funded website, or increase their personal brand by stirring these emotions.
Berlin’s rapid transformation from car-dominated to people-focused
We might have to revisit this one because there’s just so much in it. Berlin passed a Mobility Act in 2018, and the city hasn’t wasted any time in making progress on the ground. A San Franciscan transplants to Berlin and writes on Streetsblog SF about the many different elements that are working together to make Berlin a more accessible, people-friendly city.
Did you know that at 86% of journeys, Berlin has the highest share of people walking, cycling and using public transport to get to work of any European capital?
As well as city-wide plans like public transport extensions and a 3000km bike network, the mobility act allows for ground-up projects run by neighbourhoods and local communities:
Barcelona has its Superillas, Berlin has its Kiezblocks. A Kiez is the Berlin term for neighborhood, each one of which is generally centered around a commercial street and can best be equated with the concept of a fifteen-minute city. Kiezblocks are traffic-calmed neighborhoods in which cut-through traffic has been eliminated to increase safety and allow neighbors to enjoy the streets for other activities. Often these go hand-in-hand with play streets, which are (usually temporarily) closed so families may enjoy some quiet playtime in front of their apartments.
The transformation that’s happening there is all the more fascinating because Berlin is largely a post-war city, rebuilt after WW2 with wide boulevards and large blocks that create a very different urban form to fine-grained European centres.
It’s the little things
Frankly, we’d use this emoji all the time if we could.
Just another way that our systems are biased against people. https://t.co/b64WSR2ob3
— The Urbanist (@UrbanistOrg) December 4, 2021
They said we were crazy…
It was one of the original tactical urbanism projects, and I remember the sensation Jeanette Sadik-Khan and her team caused when Times Square was closed to cars. This project set a precedent for urban spaces everywhere. Happy 10-year anniversary, Times Square!
A scene from schoolyards past
Is this the Netherlands?? Nope – Upper Hutt! (As another Twitter wag put it: “Sure, you can do this in Scandinavian places like Upper Hutt but it would never work in New Zealand. Plus what if they had to move a couch.”)
The Friday Poem (or, the GA gift guide again)
We’ll leave you with a poem, on the Spinoff, because it comes from a book of poems to do with housing, and you just might know that person who would love nothing more than a poetry book about architecture for Christmas.
That’s all from us – have a great weekend and see you next week!