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Idealog—in the ideas business

Study: Great things ahead, if Auckland can get its act together

Aucklanders can look forward to an integrated transport system, a third harbour crossing, and improved health and education services by 2040 if the city gets focused, takes action and builds investor confidence, according to a new study issued in response to the Auckland Plan by the Aecom Global Cities Institute.

Joe Brown and Dean Kimpton

Joe Brown and Dean Kimpton

In its book Auckland, Connected, the institute identifies affordability as a key challenge and recommends that Auckland Council be ruthless in its prioritisation of projects that will drive transformational change.

The institute partners with cities to diagnose their most pressing issues and develop solutions to urban challenges, including Beijing and Phoenix, drawing on Aecom's planning, design, engineering and management capabilities. It worked alongside Auckland Council, the New Zealand Institute and the University of Auckland.

Aecom is also said to be bidding for the contract to help prepare the blueprint for central Christchurch.

Key recommendations include co-locating the city’s universities, CRIs and private sector research and development facilities, for example, at a a ‘Grafton Research Quarter’, to attract investment and top students. Creating clustering and agglomerating industries (food, health, education, ICT and marine sectors) through real and virtual connections locally and globally is also floated. If successful, that could lead to international companies relocating to Auckland because of the depth of research available and the city emerging as a leader in food production, medical technology, engineering and science.

The institute states that Auckland lacks a realistic funding model to address public transport. "Realistic" road pricing, which could include user charges and tolling, fuel taxes, city development funding, parking/ congestion charges and levies, tax increment funding and private public partnerships – are cited as options to address this.

It also calls for investment in the city rail link – leading to an integrated system with feeder buses for "door-to-door" transit, and ferry services with fast connections around the harbour.

The book – a  response to the Auckland Plan – draws comparisons between Auckland and other highly ranked liveable cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, and Helsinki) and provides insights from international approaches and how these could be applied locally. For example, it examines transport approaches in Singapore’s Land Transport Authority Land Transport System and the CycleCity initiative in Sydney.

Aecom New Zealand managing director, Dean Kimpton, said Auckland is at a crossroads.

“By 2040, it will be a very different city. Auckland is set to grow from a population of 1.5 million to an estimated 2.4 million. This substantial increase will have a major impact on transport, housing and other infrastructure.

“The investment required to make Auckland the most liveable city is more than council can deliver alone – Auckland needs to be public sector stimulated, but private sector-driven."

Head of the Global Cities Institute and Aecom chief innovation officer Joe Brown said it would be a mistake to consider each of Auckland's problems in isolation.

"Transport for example, needs a designer’s eye. The economy benefits from a guiding social mission. Buildings are just as important as the spaces between them. A beautiful waterfront needs an economic engine to be successful."

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Urban Gondolas. They cost 10-20% of the price of rail over the same distance, require almost no land purchase (one tower every 200m with a small footprint, and the occasional terminal), and are cheap to run.

Lets start with them - if it is true that providing cheap and efficient public transport boosts the economy by more than the cost of installing rail, then we will have generated enough revenue to pay for the trains after a decade or so. If not, we've saved ourselves the enormous burden of debt that rail would have cost.

Think of it like moving in to a cheap place for your first house, then moving to something more flash when you pay it off or get a better job.

Where could I get a copy of “Auckland Connected”??? Thanks

The big question for Auckland is if the government will allow the democratically elected Auckland Council follow through on these plans.

While the government has agreed to help funding electrification of Auckland's rail system, it is reluctant to help fund the city rail tunnel which would alleviate the Britomart bottleneck and allow higher frequency trains and give rail access to the upper end of the CBD.

This reluctance is largely based on the apparent inability of the rail option to stack up against a road based scenario that assumes unconstrained growth of car travel into the CBD. I think that any Aucklander with their eyes open would recognise that the CBD's roads cannot absorb a great increase in traffic and that more cars would make it a more harsh and unpleasant place. And where would all those extra cars park while their drivers are going about their business?

Steve, don't buses need roads? That's public transport isn't it, a bus? An underground rail loop to and from Britomart & K'Rd and back is a monumental waste of money. Can someone please explain how spending $2BN on that idea would help, when you can currently take that trip on .50c bus?

Yes, Johnny, of course buses run on roads, but that's a double edged sword, buses carry many more people per square metre of road space than a car can, but they also need kerb space (which is a finite commodity) to pick up and set down their passengers.

Because trains have their own rails and stations they can carry people without falling over each other and the rail loop means quicker and more frequent trains. As a result the rail loop is forecast to increase boardings by more than 20,000 each morning peak.

Buses have a huge role in connecting the CBD with the North Shore and there is plenty of capacity in the Northern Busway to be exploited. A full lane of buses on the Harbour Bridge would carry more people than the other four lanes combined. But sadly, the day of the .50c bus is long gone.

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