50 Years of waiting for an Auckland Rapid Transit system.

My father, Ian Reynolds 1922-2005, was an architect (as was my mother). He was also a what was then called a Town and Country Planner. After returning from working in England after the war he spent the rest of his career as partner in a big multidisciplinary practice in Auckland (missing the city of his youth: Wellington. Office in Wakefield St, where the AUT business school is now). There he was responsible for a chunk of our post-war modernist heritage, as well as a lot of planning work. Especially at the University of Auckland, master-planning the campuses and involved in the campaign to retain the city one, which thankfully won out. Notable design work includes the School of Engineering and …
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The New Old World Order

The demolition of the Downtown Centre for the start of the CRL and the replacement of this 1960s structure by Precinct Properties’ Commercial Bay office and retail development is an important moment for Auckland on many levels. Along with the obvious boon of the actual beginning of the CRL there is also something deeply symbolic here. The entire conception of the previous building was anti-urban, it was a suburban mall stuck right in the heart of the city. I have always been struck by the semiotics of this backwards invasion; instead of the usual order of things, where a smaller centre tries to present its developments as a new sophistication by reference to a bigger more …
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CRL Cost Blowout Overblown

CRL Cost Blowout OverblownOn Saturday the Herald proclaimed that the cost of the City Rail Link had blown out by $500 million which came on the heels of Prime Minister John Key saying that the project will “almost certainly cost more than they thought” The cost of Auckland’s most expensive project – the $2.5 billion City Rail Link (CRL) – has jumped to more than $3b. Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton says the project needs more money in the rail network that could easily take the “combined project cost” above $3b. He understood that Prime Minister John Key was referring to additional investment in the rail network when he claimed last month …
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The alternative route

Congestion pricing has once again hit the political radar, with the news that the Auckland Transport Alignment Project has recommended it as an option to more efficiently manage the transport network. They find that variable road tolls – highest during peak periods on busy roads and low (or even zero) at off-peak times – are the single most effective intervention to improve traffic flow. On the whole, it looks like support for the idea is on the rise, which is positive. That suggests that the work that Auckland Council’s consensus building group did a few years back has contributed towards a better public conversation on the issue. That’s good, as …
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The strange side effects of parking subsidies

Parking policies are frequently bizarre. Parking is, after all, a private good – it is both rivalrous (two cars can’t park in the same space at the same time) and excludable (if you don’t want someone parking in your space, you can keep them out). In that respect, it is more like a refrigerator than a public park. But unlike a refrigerator, there are all sorts of public subsidies and regulations affecting parking. Although refrigerators are arguably more of a necessity of life than parking, councils don’t impose minimum refrigerator requirement for homes and offices. Central government doesn’t provide a tax subsidy for employer-provided refrigerators. And councils don’t invest in …
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Apartments and housing affordability

The NZ Herald’s been running a series on Auckland’s housing affordability crisis. The articles thus far have ranged from thoughtful and thought-provoking to downright imbecilic – such as a mortgage broker’s suggestion that young people could afford homes if they gave up their Sky subscription. I think there’s a Tui ad for that. Cancelling basic Sky subscription and banking savings can net you a $100k deposit for house. Will only take 70 years, 4 months to achieve. — Matt Nippert (@MattNippert) October 28, 2014 One of the best bits, however, is the interactive map of housing affordability that data journalist Caleb Tutty put together. Here it is in animated gif …
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Let’s ban everything dangerous, like walking

This week, the Herald on Sunday published an article calling out a dangerous new practice: walking under the influence of a smartphone. According to them, careless walking causes literally dozens of injuries a year and should possibly be criminalised: Now legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would slap a US$50 ($72) fine and possible jail time on pedestrians caught using phones while they cross. And in the German city of Augsburg, traffic lights have been embedded in the pavement – so people looking down at their phones will see them. The Herald on Sunday carried out an unscientific experiment at the busy intersection of Victoria and Queen Sts …
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Herald finds Aucklanders like bikes

It was wonderful to wake up on a Saturday morning to such a positive article on cycling in Auckland, and in the herald no less – although unfortunately the amounts talked about are wrong. Eventually, Aucklanders will be able to cycle from one side of the city to the other on an intricate labyrinth of bike lanes which weave through suburbs, past beaches and over gullies. More than $20 million has been allocated to building key sections of the network over the next three years with routes open to public feedback and others set to be opened later this year. The projects under consultation at the moment are the 3km …
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The Unitary Plan Roller-Coaster

The Unitary Plan Roller-CoasterSince first talked about back in 2013, the Unitary Plan has been like a roller-coaster ride. There’s been the hope and anticipation for a better future for Auckland as the cart climbs a steep hill followed by that brief micro second of confusion before you realise you’re falling as groups opposing housing pipped up and were egged on further by one sided reporting from the Herald. Then came the twists and turns of the debate before that feeling of weightlessness as you go through a loop waiting for the councillors to make a decision. After catching your breath for a second there was then the smaller and less intense second stage as the process was …
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Three storeys does not equal highrise

The debate about intensification has come roaring back to life in the last day or so following a beat up by Bernard Orsman in the Herald about the unitary plan process. Tens of thousands of homes in Auckland’s leafy residential suburbs are being rezoned for multiple townhouses and apartments and Auckland Council says homeowners will not be notified about the changes. The central isthmus suburbs of Pt Chevalier, Epsom, Mt Eden, Mt Albert, Glendowie and St Heliers; the North Shore suburbs of Birkenhead, Glenfield and Takapuna; Whangaparaoa Peninsula, rural towns such as Kumeu and the southern suburbs of Howick and Mangere Bridge are among areas affected by the changes taking place behind …
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