Most Saturdays we dig into the archives. This post by Matt was originally published in October 2014.

Yesterday I had a look some of the changes Auckland has seen over the last decade and as mentioned, here are some predictions for the next decade. To start off I’m going to address the projections made in the Herald by Victoria University Associate Professor Ian Yeoman.

We might not be flying around on jetpacks but we will definitely be using driverless cars, Yeoman says. “By 2024, we won’t need a test because all the cars will be self-drive.”

That will benefit those new to the country and the ageing, more frail population, he says. “Driverless cars will become more important and more mainsteam.”

He expects the electronic car will be more common than the combustion engine. “Electric cars and battery technology have come so far – electric cars are even sexy now… Porsche is doing an electric vehicle.”

Yeoman says the country’s cycleways will be populated by people on electric bikes rather than operating under pedal power. And although jetpacks will probably still be just a fun innovation and not something you’d consider relying on for your daily commute, Yeoman sees potential in the Terraflugia, a car that is licensed for road and flight.

Yeoman tells people: “Everything you saw on Star Trek has come true, except for teletransportation.”

Many many companies are now putting a lot of work into driverless cars yet they still appear to be years away from the market and even if they were available within 5 years, it’s unlikely they will be available or affordable for the mainstream market for considerably longer. What’s more even if they are available within a decade New Zealanders are keeping their cars for longer with the average age of vehicles increasing to 13.5 years old last year. In Auckland the average age is slightly less but also showing the same upward trend. It’s also for this reason that electric cars are likely to remain only a small proportion of the fleet in a decade

Average Vehicle Age

If driverless cars do start to be seen the first and probably biggest impact they will have will be on the taxi industry. Public Transport is the other area that could really benefit from driverless technology, it’s obviously used on some rail networks already although we probably need a more secure network before it’s possible here. Like taxi’s buses represent a huge opportunity as the labour costs are a huge portion of the operational costs.

Johnny Cab Total Recall
Johnny Cab from Total Recall

As for the Terraflugia, that’s still really pie in the sky territory.

Cycling

The one area I do agree with Yeoman on electric bikes which offer the potential to effectively flatten out Auckland’s hills and see a lot more people out on bikes – that is if Auckland Transport pick up their game and build a lot more cycling infrastructure. Getting additional funding for more cycling infrastructure is something I think we will see happening, particularly towards the end of the decade as the number of people on bikes and public and political support for more cycling infrastructure continues to increase.

After being dragged through the environment court Skypath will be built and will be incredibly popular not just for commuters but for tourists too. By the end of the decade most people will be wondering why it wasn’t built sooner and why it wasn’t funded by the government.

Skypath

Public Transport

Public transport is where I think we’ll see the biggest change over the next decade. As mentioned we’re already seeing PT usage increasing faster than Auckland’s population is increasing thanks to the investment that’s already been made however it’s not till the next few years we’ll really see the fruition of many years work become a reality. By 2017 we will have electric trains rolled out across the network and running at good all day frequencies. On top of that will be the dramatically better new bus network along with additional bus priority further improving choice and mobility for many people. Add in ferries and linking everything up with be integrated fares allowing people with HOP substantially easier (and possibly cheaper) trips around the region.

These improvements are of course not new with many cities having made them before however not many would have done them all at the same time. The effects of each project will combine to revolutionise PT in Auckland and I think will see patronage soar ahead of predictions and by 2024 be sitting somewhere between 120 and 140 million trips. On a per capita basis that would likely put Auckland at a similar level that Wellington is at now but which is still below many peer cities.

2024 Future patronage

During the next decade I do think the CRL will be built and completed. The section from Britomart to Wyndham St will start sometime next year as part of the Downtown Shopping Centre redevelopment. My guess is the government will give the green light for funding the rest of the project in 2016 and actual construction will start in 2017 finishing around 2021/22.

As with cycling, I think the growing usage of PT along with the ever increasing public and political appetite for more PT infrastructure will see other major projects be substantially advanced. This includes

  • The Northwest Busway
  • The AMETI Busway
  • Electrification to Pukekohe
  • Designation and perhaps even an extension of the Onehunga line to Mangere as part of a longer term goal of getting the line to the airport.

In short I think the next decade is going to be a fantastic one for public transport.

Roads

There’s a huge amount of construction activity going on at the moment or is just about to start as part of the governments roading binge. All things going to plan in 2017 the Waterview Connection will be completed as well as the widening of SH16 and associated interchange upgrades. Associated with this is the governments $800 million for widening and upgrading other motorways around Auckland. This is likely to have the effect of sucking many more trips on to the motorway, some from alternative routes and some from induced demand. While it will see more people being able to drive around Auckland I suspect the queues on the roads will be just the same as they are now.

I suspect a big challenge for Simon Bridges over the next 3-4 years will be thinking through what the government will do next with transport in Auckland. The reality is almost all state highway projects in Auckland will have been done or nearing completion within half a decade. Further as these projects are completed it is likely to free up substantial sums of money (some of which will likely be used by the NZTA in other parts of the country. I do think we’ll see another couple of major motorway projects in Auckland in the form of widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate (something that seems to have dropped off the radar) and from extending the SH16 motorway to Kumeu (the section from Brigham Creek Rd to Kumeu is one of the busier single lane roads in the region with well over 20,000 vehicles per day.

On the metrics I think we’ll continue to see per capita vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) remain flat although the total number of km travelled will increase slightly.

Governance and Funding

I’m not going to make any predictions about what will happen with governance but I do suspect Len Brown will stand again in 2016. Once again transport is likely to be the hot topic issue. I don’t think we’ll see any mayoral candidates oppose the CRL although some candidates for councillor will do. What happens further out than that is way too hard to predict.

Over the next half decade or so the issues around transport funding are likely to become more obvious and while they have been reluctant too so far, I think the government will start looking at how they can raise additional money to pay for transport projects and supplement fuel taxes which won’t be growing as people continue shifting to more fuel efficient vehicles and people don’t drive as much as predicted.

Urban Spaces and development

Auckland has seen some impressive change over the last few years and I expect that will continue in the coming decade. We’ll see huge changes in the CBD in particular as projects included in the Downtown Framework (and the other frameworks start to be delivered. These projects will continue to transform Auckland into a more people friendly place and I suspect it will have an effect not just on the liveability of the city but in attracting visitors to check out Auckland.

I think we’ll also see some of the strongest opposition to intensification and change reduce as people start to see better and better examples of good design. This isn’t to say there’ll be no opposition to development but just not quite the level of fear that currently exists.

Overall I think Auckland in 10 years time is going to be a very interesting place, one that has started to make huge inroads to fixing its scars from the second half of the 20th century. There’s a lot to be positive about.

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6 comments

  1. I admire your optimism! Of course, that leaves you open to disappointment.

    On the plus side, the CRL should open by 2025. However it doesn’t matter what kind of rail infrastructure Auckland has as long as we don’t maintain the tracks.

    Running trains somewhat frequently (every 10 minutes at peak) 365 days a year sounds reasonable – but we can’t do it.

    Apparently there is a climate emergency and we should be reducing transport emissions. Instead we are driving even more, many of us in XL vehicles, encouraged by fossil fuel subsidies.

    How about public transport? The graph shows that in 1990 one million Aucklanders made about 45 million public transport trips. In the year to June 2022, 1.7 million of us made just 41 million trips.

    It’s clear most people aren’t fussed about transport emissions, even if thousands of New Zealanders die prematurely every year as a result of inhaling nitrogen dioxide from the cars they themselves drive.

    Anyway, enjoy the pleasant weather and go for a walk or bike ride – away from busy roads, of course!

    1. “How about public transport? The graph shows that in 1990 one million Aucklanders made about 45 million public transport trips. In the year to June 2022, 1.7 million of us made just 41 million trips.”

      To be fair though that 41 million is for a period that includes last years lockdowns, so I think we will see a modest improvement in the 12 month rolling figures (to around 50 – 55 million or so) before everything well and truly goes to pot next year.

      Patronage peaked at 103 million trips in the year prior to February 2020 up from 74 million in the year prior to October 2014 when this post was originally published so everything was actually tracking along nicely until Covid came and messed things up.

  2. Regarding the last part on urban spaces and development, there is a series of articles on the Sydney Morning Herald site, looking back on the Bangaroo development – the good, the bad and the ugly.

    Auckland is, to me, a city of opportunities, but sadly not realised. None more so than the waterfront. From the Viaduct and going west, its largely OK for what it was supposed to be and will get infintely better once the Wynyard Park eventuates. But East of there is a waste. Queens Wharf was supposed to be a public space, but its really just a busy, cluttered, transport hub. We should be getting Captain Cook back as the green space and the new Mayor has high hopes for Bledisloe. The new space over the water near the Ferry Building and the cycleway are bright spots.

    Back to the articles on smh.com.au (you can read some for free before the paywall kicks in), there are lots of images of the designs that did not eventuate and at almost 20yrs old, they are far more innovative and exciting than anything even currently proposed for Auckland. We can probably skip the casino though….

  3. “By 2024, we won’t need a test because all the cars will be self-drive.” – wow that dude couldn’t have been more (predictably) wrong! By 2024 there won’t be a single car in the world that can self drive under all conditions without a licensed driver.
    Back then I thought it was more like 30 years away due to the lag time between becoming possible to becoming affordable to replacing existing fleet. It looks like it’s still another 30 years away at least.

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