06 October 2009

Intensification for Auckland

One of the core philosophies of the Auckland Regional Council's planning approach for the region is intensification. It believes it is good to encourage people to live in higher density housing, close to "nodes", which happen to be railway stations. Indeed it is one of the key reasons why the ARC has embraced rail transport instead of bus transport. You see at one point, the then ARA advocated converting most of the rail lines into busways, busways would mean buses could travel around the central city hop on a busway, then exit to reach your home in the suburbs. However that wouldn't meet the intensification objective, as it would mean you'd STILL live on your quarter-acre section in the suburbs, when you SHOULD live in an apartment or semi-detached townhouse close to others. That is one key reason why taxpayers are being forced to pay for rail instead of bus.

So the theory is simple, people live closer together near a railway station, means they walk to the train to go to work, less people drive, all sounds good right?


For starters it assumes that putting more people together means less driving, but it appears not to be the case. For if the development works, and there is retail and more reasons to go to the "transit oriented development" location, people drive there from further afield. It attracts people who go by car as well.

Secondly it assumes that because the railway is there, your job is on another station on the line. Wrong. Most jobs are not located within walking distance of the line people live on, and even if it was originally, as jobs change you may be less likely to find another job located also on that line.

Don't believe me? The LA Times did an investigative report into some such developments there, and the conclusions were rather clear. They did nothing.

This is one conclusion of the LA Times:

"In Los Angeles alone, billions of public and private dollars have been lavished on transit-oriented projects such as Hollywood & Vine, with more than 20,000 residential units approved within a quarter mile of transit stations between 2001 and 2005.

But there is little research to back up the rosy predictions. Among the few academic studies of the subject, one that looked at buildings in the Los Angeles area showed that transit-based development successfully weaned relatively few residents from their cars. It also found that, over time, no more people in the buildings studied were taking transit 10 years after a project opened than when it was first built."

Now it went on to claim Portland is working, but is it? Cascade Policy Institute, based in Oregon, says there is precious little evidence of this. It gave evidence to Portland City Council using official stats to demonstrate:

1. Despite high spending on public transport, the share of public transport for commutes into downtown Portland declined between 2001 and 2008 from 46 to 43%. It was static across Portland at 15% between 1998 and 2008. The goal of 60% share for downtown commutes by 2010 looks unattainable.

2. Portland's light rail system achieves ever growing ridership, although this isn't attracted from car users. However the proportion of operating costs paid for by users is less than 3%.

3. Dense housing advocated by Portland costs around 100% more than lower density housing, per person.

The question to advocates of the great Auckland experiment is this.

Where is the evidence that intensification and rail electrification will be any different for Auckland? Who should pay if it fails?



Why should people be forced to live side by side in little boxes when we have so much open space here and so few people?

Brent C said...

You make living in an apartment sound like a living nightmare. However I do not share this same view. Why spend all weekend being a full time gardener? Or pay people to clear up my yard? I am a people orientated person and enjoy being around areas which are busy and full of excitement. I don't want to live a lonley life on a lifestyle block forever mowing my lawn.
I don't believe you can force people to live anywhere. Its people that make those decisions themselves. But at the same time I would say I'm forced to live in a quater acer section because where I live I cannot live in an apartment block easily.

Libertyscott said...

" don't believe you can force people to live anywhere. Its people that make those decisions themselves. But at the same time I would say I'm forced to live in a quater acer section because where I live I cannot live in an apartment block easily"

Do you always live in a world of contradictions? Nobody is forcing you. If you're that keen on an apartment move to one or pay for one.

Given the sheer cost of a fully detached house in London, you can be sure that most people want space and no adjoining walls.

If you don't want to force people then oppose any zoning that requires intensification and oppose urban growth limits. Let people live as they want, but pay for the transport they use. That will become self correcting if priced properly, but it means giving up the instinct to "plan".

Brent C said...

They still haven't built apartments in Levin. Maybe one day if I get my way there could be one or two.

I cannot imagine people wanting to pay for a quater acre dream in London as it would cost too much (depending on wealth), especially if they can get a nice apartment with a view for less. But for me, I cannot live in an apartment as the cost is too much for me to build one.

There has to be some kind of ability to practice planning, because if not done, infrastructure costs will tend to go through the roof. That will just become an extra cost to the already angry ratepayer.