Welcome to Friday. Here’s a few of the articles that caught our attention this week.
This Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday Matt looked at how Waka Kotahi were showing their true colours by pausing only walking, cycling and PT projects in advance of a new government.
- On Wednesday Matt covered reporting about how kids walking and cycling are exposed to fewer emissions.
$10 million better from safer speeds
Auckland could be $10 million a year better off after speed limits were lowered on many roads, according to an economic analysis commissioned by a council agency.
The study by economic researchers BERL for Auckland Transport (AT) found the benefits outweighed the costs by a ratio of 2.5 to one, in the three-year-old Safe Speeds programme.
The benefits of lower speeds weighed in at nearly $17m, made up of reduced congestion, lower social costs from crashes, more reliable journey times and health benefits from people being more active.
Most of $6.7m of “disbenefits” came from vehicles running less efficiently, and longer journey times.
The 15 Minute City Conspiracies
Recently both Radio NZ and Stuff have covered how the idea of making cities easier for people to live in without always having to drive has launched conspiracy theories.
It started as a transformational idea about how our cities should look and feel.
Now it’s become a fast-growing world-wide conspiracy.
How did the ’15-minute city’ concept get so out of hand?
Today, The Detail talks to Auckland University senior lecturer in architecture and planning Bill McKay about the concept, and extremism researcher and author Byron C Clark about the conspiracy.
“It stems from a movement that goes back decades called ‘new urbanism’, which was basically saying ‘we’ve spent 100 years commuting from suburbs, mainly in cars, we need to get back to a much more sustainable way of doing things,” McKay says.
“In New Zealand we take it for granted that we live in suburbs and that we commute to where we need to go, whether it’s the supermarket, or dropping kids at school, or going to work,” he says.
“It’s a highly artificial way of living. So the idea of a 15-minute city is taking us back to how cities used to be hundreds of years ago, where you could actually live not too far from where you worked or where you do your shopping.”
He says the car is largely responsible for that change and altering people’s perceptions is hard.
“In a way, New Zealanders see their cars a bit like Americans see guns – ‘don’t you dare try and take that off me’.
“Another way of thinking about cars is they’re like pets. They’re actually bad for the environment and they spend 95 percent of their time lying around doing nothing, they’re way more expensive to keep than you really think, but we love them.
“There’s a mix of a love of cars, suspicion about congestion charges, trying to keep cars out of cities, that is being conflated with the 15-minute city notion.”
The explosion of conspiracy theories around the ‘15-minute city’ brings into focus the question, what is it?
The 15-minute city isn’t a novel idea – it’s how many older parts of older cities already operate – but its growing use as a model for redesigning neighbourhoods has been met with extreme speculation that some proponents of the idea have veiled malevolent intentions.
And while some people with a more conspiratorial outlook see sinister motives, much of the conflict about events as they are happening on the ground seems to be a good old scrap over territory – who gets to use the road.
In essence, the 15-minute city is the idea that a person is able to undertake most of their daily life in a 15-minute radius around where they live, and the conspiracy aspect is about forcing this lifestyle on people.
Among the most alarming conspiracy theories to have emerged are suggestions that a 15-minute city is just a stalking horse to pave the way for climate lockdowns – similar to Covid lockdowns – with residents forcibly confined to their neighbourhoods to control emissions.
Mayor Threatens Eastern Busway
Radio NZ reports that Mayor Wayne Brown is saying he’ll cancel the rest of the Eastern Busway if the incoming National government follows through on it’s plans to cancel the Regional Fuel Tax.
Speaking of Wayne
These are some good comments
“What I like about this is that these areas don’t need a whole lot of infrastructure; it’s already built. And the more people living in the city, the better, rather than developing suburbs way out on good vegetable-growing land. It’s about what’s appropriate. And I like living in the city; it’s good!”
“It’s part of revitalising the city and getting more people living here. I like to have a couple beers around here; it’s well linked with shops, bars, walkways, and cycleways, and I’d like to see more of that. It’s a nice place to spend the weekend. Developments like this add vibrancy to our city, and that makes it safer too.”
Mayor Brown has turned sod at one of Winton’s latest developments, Northbrook Wynyard Quarter.
The Mayor says the residential development made good use of existing amenities and infrastructure, and added to the waterfront.
“What I like about this is that these areas don’t need a… pic.twitter.com/xgmeT1sULI
— Mayor Wayne Brown (@MayorWayneBrown) November 7, 2023
The Limit of EVs
An interesting piece from Vox on how Norway’s big push for electric cars has had drawbacks.
With motor vehicles generating nearly a 10th of global CO2 emissions, governments and environmentalists around the world are scrambling to mitigate the damage. In wealthy countries, strategies often revolve around electrifying cars — and for good reason, many are looking to Norway for inspiration.
Over the last decade, Norway has emerged as the world’s undisputed leader in electric vehicle adoption. With generous government incentives available, 87 percent of the country’s new car sales are now fully electric, a share that dwarfs that of the European Union (13 percent) and the United States (7 percent). Norway’s muscular EV push has garnered headlines in outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian while drawing praise from the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Economic Forum, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “I’d like to thank the people of Norway again for their incredible support of electric vehicles,” he tweeted last December. “Norway rocks!!”
I’ve been writing about transportation for the better part of a decade, so all that fawning international attention piqued my curiosity. Does Norway offer a climate strategy that other countries could copy chapter and verse? Or has the hype outpaced the reality?
Worse, the EV boom has hobbled Norwegian cities’ efforts to untether themselves from the automobile and enable residents to instead travel by transit or bicycle, decisions that do more to reduce emissions, enhance road safety, and enliven urban life than swapping a gas-powered car for an electric one.
Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians responded to the government’s invitation to buy an EV, seemingly saving money and the planet in one fell swoop. But not every EV purchase replaced a gas guzzler; Grimsrud noted that the Norwegians owned 10 percent more cars per capita at the end of the 2010s than they did at the decade’s outset, in large part due to the EV incentives. “The families who could afford a second or third car ran off to the shop and bought one,” he said.
Norway’s incentives have unquestionably reshaped the country’s car market and reduced carbon emissions. EVs’ share of new vehicle sales surged from 1 percent in 2014 to 83 percent today. Around one in four cars on Norwegian roads is now electric, and the country’s surface transportation emissions fell 8.3 percent between 2014 and 2023.
The Planning Reform spreads
Another place follows NZ’s lead on planning reform around public transport.
BREAKING… Transit-oriented housing development will be the law of the land in Metro Vancouver, across BC.
— Kenneth Chan (@iamkennethchan) November 8, 2023
As part of British Columbia's new transit-oriented development legislation, minimum vehicle parking requirements for new buildings will be eliminated within 800 metres of a #SkyTrain station and 400 metres of a bus exchange. #bcpoli #vanpoli #vanrehttps://t.co/7KgAZOPAMU
— Kenneth Chan (@iamkennethchan) November 9, 2023
Speaking of development, this is a neat transformation of a city
Was there anything that stood out to you?
Have a great weekend.