Archive | Land use

Private car’s days as symbol of power coming to an end

Never mind those petty rules of staying in your lane, indicating to change, obeying the traffic lights, feeding parking meters, accommodating your vehicle in an approved parking garage. No matter how beat up, or that it’s a polished company vehicle thrust into your care to proclaim your high status. Your car is a symbol of your independence & superiority.

Or, in downtown Auckland, it was.

In March, Auckland Council’s Auckland Development Office will file a report recommending trials to pedestrianise nominated streets in the central business district.

Queen St below Mayoral Drive is the primary candidate. High & Lorne Sts are among the smaller streets also likely to be high on the list.

Quay St would be reduced to 2 lanes, making it much more a pedestrian environment across from the wharves. Eastern suburbs traffic would be directed into the new traffic zones.

But before the trials, other preparation is needed. The development office wants traffic to be guided into zones, and not allowed to cross zones, and the office knows the pedestrians-only trials won’t work unless those preparations are in place.

Turning whole streets over to people on foot – plus bikes, prams, scooters, restricted visits by service vehicles and, in some streets, buses & trams – has been a venture too far for councillors for decades.

When Auckland City Council hired Ludo Campbell-Reid for the new role of urban design specialist in 2006 – coming from Tower Hamlets Council in London after earlier roles as chief executive of Urban Design London and in Cape Town – the notion of pedestrianising Queen St downhill from Mayoral Drive was getting, well, a foot into people’s thinking.

The city council turned down that idea, and also spurned pedestrianising a couple of blocks by a narrow margin. One change that did come, in 2007, was the introduction of bus lanes down Queen St. In addition, Lower Queen St between Customs & Quay Sts, and a couple of side streets – the lower end of Swanson St and Vulcan Lane – had their vehicle access ended.

But Mr Campbell-Reid switched from full-on pedestrianisation for major thoroughfares to the introduction of shared spaces, carried out in Elliot St, part of Fort St, and most recently in O’Connell St.

Meanwhile, gridlock took over, made worse over the last 2 years by the streetworks for the city rail link on Albert, Customs & Victoria Sts. People have watched – I think in awe, certainly not scowling – as they’ve waited at traffic lights and been able to observe the tunnelling below them.

And slowly the tide has turned. By the end of 2021, all going well, those tunnels are going to transport hundreds of passengers every 10 minutes or so into 3 central stations – people who have left the status symbol, the car, at home, or don’t even have one there.

The council development office, which Mr Campbell-Reid heads, can rely on those waves of passengers to lift support for locking cars out of the dominance they’ve long had in the city centre.

Those traffic trials are the biggest changes in the review of the city centre masterplan, approved in 2012, this time combined with the waterfront plan as the City Centre Masterplan 2040.

Proposed digital presentation of the new masterplan will allow for rolling reviews.

Auckland Council’s planning committee agreed unanimously yesterday to the development office’s proposals:

  • Digitisation in time to inform the council’s 2021-31 long-term plan
  • Rolling updates rather than 6-yearly updates
  • New content for public consultation & committee approval by July 2019
  • Maori outcomes
  • Grafton Gully boulevard
  • Access for everyone – the friendlier name for pedestrianisation
  • Trials & tactical urbanism initiatives to test & for consultation
  • Trial an “open streets” initiative in the city centre and work with interested local boards to trial it in other centres

Cllr Richard Hills summed it up: “At the Victoria-Queen St intersection at lunchtime, we’ve got 4500 people crossing & 500 cars. We’ve halved the number of cars coming down Queen St already, from 21,000 to 10,000. We have 7000 bikes/day coming into the city. That’s [the equivalent of] a whole lane from Silverdale.”

Link:
Committee agenda item 9, City centre masterplan 2040   

Earlier story:
12 January 2006: Auckland hires London urban design specialist Campbell-Reid

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.

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Dominion Rd argument raises the question: What are we trying to solve?

How do we get around Auckland? Badly.

How should we get around Auckland? The first answer is: Well. And the argument over how to get between the airport & downtown Auckland is a fine example of how not to achieve that.

Below, Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood sets out his view of how to set the course for a decision:

Stephen Selwood.

Lingering debate over the form of rapid transit to Auckland Airport reveals a lack of clarity about the role for light & heavy rail, and this issue must be resolved when the business case is released.

The public is understandably confused about the purpose of the Dominion Rd light rail project & its role within the wider transport system. They are also confused about the potential for heavy rail connections to & from the airport.

This is a symptom of a wider strategic issue around how heavy rail is to support the future growth & development of Auckland, given the significant investment in the central rail link currently underway.

Under standard practice, we would normally first ask what issue we’re trying to address – congestion, urban regeneration or access to the airport? – and then we would decide what investments are required.

With the decision to proceed with light rail effectively made before a business case has been developed, best practice has been diluted, but not the need to be clear about what we’re trying to achieve.

Is Dominion Rd light rail designed to reduce congestion, support urban development or provide a rapid transit link to the airport? Is it all 3 or something different?

If the purpose is to improve access to the airport, then the business case should demonstrate that light rail better serves this objective than alternatives, including heavy rail.

If the purpose of the project is to reduce congestion, then business case analysis must demonstrate improved travel times for general traffic commensurate with the investment being made by road users.

Alternatively, if the purpose of Dominion Rd light rail is to unlock & enable urban development, then the business case must present a co-ordinated land use plan indicating the residential & commercial property opportunity linked to the project’s delivery. This should include the rezoning which is required and the timeframes for development.

Importantly, if the objective is urban development, and if congestion & other transport benefits are not improved, then funding should be primarily sourced from urban development, rather than the National Land Transport Fund.

Targeted rates, capital gains taxes & land acquisition via an urban development authority are all options which should be assessed.

A strong, transparent business case, clarifying why the project is being delivered, its costs, benefits & how it will be funded & delivered will address public confusion over the reason for light rail and resolve the question of light or heavy rail to the airport.

Attribution: Stephen Selwood, chief executive Infrastructure NZ.

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Case studies make for difficult infrastructure cost comparisons

Auckland has a new “cost of growth” study with a new name – the Cost of residential servicing study – and it won’t satisfy the critics who want to be able to say compact is definitely more expensive than sprawl, or vice versa.

The study findings will go to Auckland Council’s Auckland development committee on Thursday.

The study has figures, but they’re from case studies, so the authors have pointed out that they can’t be taken as gospel for pricing in a particular category, although there are averages for different parts of the region.

Those geographic averages show developments in the north are the most expensive to service, costing around $40,374/dwelling. The south’s average was $38,736, the central area $30,967 and those in the west cost $29,496.

Cost differences between sites reflect a number of different factors. For the greenfield areas the costs are typically driven by the need to expand network infrastructure, water, wastewater & transport.

In brownfield areas, the network infrastructure is generally already in place and, where there is spare capacity in the network, the marginal cost of providing infrastructure to an additional household in these locations is found to be comparatively low.

However, the average cost of expanding the network to cater for growth in these locations may well be higher than in greenfield sites. Consequently, it is important that there is a good level of understanding about the level of excess capacity in the existing networks when planning the location of future developments.

A breakdown of the infrastructure costs by development type, from the case study analysis, showed the low density developments were, on average, the most expensive to service, costing an average of $33,890/dwelling, while the high density developments cost an average of $28,077/dwelling. However, there was a considerable variation in costs between sites of a similar density.

The study was prepared in response to action 15 of Auckland Council’s housing action plan, adopted in December 2012.

The council commissioned CIE (the Centre for International Economics, Australia) & engineering consultancy Arup to undertake the Cost of residential servicing study in 2013. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment cosponsored it. The purpose of the report was to undertake more thorough empirical research showing the true cost of servicing different types of development and assessing the impacts of location & typology.

The 12 case studies were a mix of residential developments completed & underway) in different areas and of varying scale & density. Infrastructure cost information was sought for water, wastewater, stormwater, transport, schools, community services & parklands.

Link: Cost of residential servicing study

Attribution: Council report.

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