The Streets for People programme was launched yesterday at Newtown School in Wellington. This is a $30m boost from Waka Kotahi to help councils around the country make adaptable changes to streets and public spaces.
The event was covered by Stuff, RNZ,and Newshub, with some pretty cute footage of the Transport Minister and Mayor of Wellington riding bikes alongside locals of all sizes. (Updated to add: also a nice interview on Nine to Noon this morning, with Waka Kotahi urban mobility manager Kathryn King, and Ellen Young from Whanganui District Council.)
The new programme builds on the work of Innovating Streets, which coincided with Covid and installed 62 projects around the country. Many of those are still in place and were successful at their aims, despite what you might have read in some headlines. For example, Project WAVE in Auckland, the Ferry Road cycleway in Christchurch, neighbourhood treatments in Nelson and Napier, and some cool town centre treatments in Thames and Whanganui.
Kathryn King of Waka Kotahi says:
Our new programme, Streets for People will help us move towards a healthier and safer future for us all, by putting people and place at the heart of our streets.”
“Streets for People enables councils to partner with their communities more easily, to create more welcoming spaces for people quickly. Letting towns and cities across Aotearoa see the difference, and enjoy the advantages of low-cost improvements now, while working towards more permanent solutions.
“It’s becoming clear that our communities across Aotearoa New Zealand want safer and healthier streets that cater for everyone, and Streets for People is a step in the right direction to help achieve that.”
The new Streets for People programme looks to have a tighter focus and a more ambitious scope than Innovating Streets. There are 13 participating councils, a smaller cohort than previously. Some of them will deliver more than one project, with work to be in place by mid-2024.
Community involvement is important, Minister Michael Wood said:
“We’re committed to making it safer, quicker and more attractive for people to use public transport, walk, scoot and ride bikes in urban centres right across Aotearoa New Zealand People want to be able to live and work in communities with modernised transport options.
The Streets for People programme aims to make it easier and faster for councils to partner with communities to upgrade their streets in this way.
Auckland Transport, Central Hawkes Bay District Council, Christchurch City Council, Gisborne District Council, Hastings District Council, Hutt City Council, Napier City Council, Nelson City Council, Palmerston North City Council, Tasman District Council, Timaru District Council, Wellington City Council, and Whanganui District Council.
The proposals include things like safer town centres, walking and cycling links, linear parks, connections to schools, and community spaces. Lots of them take an area-wide approach, which is a broader scope than the one-offs and gap-fillers of the pilot phase.
Councils have been quick off the mark explaining their plans, which is great to see:
Mr Ngata and his fellow volunteer trustees are all parents and caregivers, they all work with youth and their vision is to start transitioning our city, and people’s minds.
“There are massive issues with our community not feeling safe using the roads here. And that’s warranted right now.
“Let’s look at roads differently. How do we take our foot off the gas to look after all our road users?
Some of the money would go towards turning the bus stations next to Countdown in the lower St Hill St area into an “active transport hub” to help support a high-frequency bus trial being rolled out next year.
“The hub will allow us to create an attractive streetscape around all-weather bus shelters to bring some fresh energy to the experience of catching the bus, as well as improving the area for cyclists and pedestrians.”
“The project will take a non-pedestrian-friendly link and transform it into an attractive green way for those choosing to walk or cycle which will reconnect our city to its major coastal recreation and tourist sites,” Ratahi said.
Over the next two years, the council would “create and improve spaces” for safer cycling on Salisbury Rd, Wensley Rd, Queen St, Hill St and Champion Rd in Richmond as well as Aranui Rd in Māpua, linking places where people lived with schools, commercial centres and the wider existing network of cycle trails.
One thing to note is that $30m over three years is a drop in the bucket for Waka Kotahi, which has an annual budget of around $6 billion. So, this is a good step but it’s the first of many if they want to seriously shift the transport landscape.
The press release also mentioned the Transport Choices package, funded via the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF). At a reported $350m, this is another good step, but still only a small fraction of the leverage Waka Kotahi has power over:
Through our Transport Choices package in Budget 22, we are helping to improve transport options by funding the rapid roll-out of at least 100 km of safe urban cycleways to build more connected networks at pace; create significant safety improvements in around 25 pedestrian areas, and support safer, greener, and healthier travel to 75-100 schools. The package is also investing in improvements to public transport infrastructure.
Interestingly the Auckland projects aren’t specified yet, while the other council projects sound quite detailed. Presumably AT along with many councils will also be applying for support for transport projects through the Transport Packages fund.
One other thing that struck me in the reporting was RNZ’s line that this will “inevitably” mean less space on the road for cars. Climate change will do that too, as we can see with all the slips and flooding recently.
Hopefully rolling out a whole bunch of this work at once helps people understand that more positive changes are also inevitable, and can be inspiring.
As Waka Kotahi chief executive Nicole Rosie says in the video about the programme,
“The transport sector has ambitious targets for Aotearoa New Zealand’s emergency reduction plan. So we’re working on a number of initiatives to support better transport choices. Streets for People is one of them: an incredible opportunity to think about our streets differently, so we can speed up our response to the climate emergency.
By opening our streets to everyone, we can reduce our emissions, make it safer nd easier for people to move around, and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of our communities.
It’s the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do.”