Written by Vicki Holder
One house. Mum and Dad. 3 grown-up kids. One car (leased). No garage. Lots of negotiating. Uber is handy. 5 bikes. 5 HOP cards.
Except this family already lives quite near you, in a quiet Grey Lynn street. You might even know them. It’s the home of Patrick Reynolds, whose striking architectural photography you have no doubt seen. As someone passionate about promoting a better urban form for Auckland, Patrick is also a regular contributor to Transportblog, hosted by the Auckland-based advocacy group Greater Auckland. And he has strong opinions on what’s required to make Auckland’s built form better.
“Opportunity always comes dressed up as a problem. That opportunity is transport.”
Patrick sees enormous opportunity ahead. For the past 60 years, we have only built to meet predicted traffic demand – which has then created more traffic on the roads.
“What you feed grows,” says Patrick. Auckland has fed the hungry beast that is the car, so it has spread across the isthmus. “If you provide for cars, you get more cars and that pushes everything apart. You need wider roads and more of them.”
Auckland, he says, cannot simply keep providing solutions based around the car alone. The future, he believes, takes advantage of more thoughtful urban design as well as new technology, which turns the car into a transport service, where it is no longer a possession afforded the luxury of its own spacious bedroom on our prime real estate.
The ultimate aim, Patrick says, should be to create an urban form that achieves better housing affordability with better access to more destinations.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
“The fact is, the biggest determinant of property value is location. It’s about connectivity. Even more magic is proximity."
"The best cities in the world are unanimously those that have abundant proximity. Not the ones where you have to move long distances to reach anything. But those that offer what you want at your front door.” Auckland Council, Patrick points out, spends enormous amounts of time and energy separating everything through zoning and other regulations. Auto-dependence reinforces this further. Quite simply, he says, using cars to get everywhere doesn’t make for a great city.
“The car is an unrivalled tool for getting around the country. But it’s a terrible way to get to work in a thriving city as everyone tries to do it at once. It works in a small provincial town. But Auckland isn’t one of those anymore and is now subject to the same principles that shape cities everywhere.”
To find solutions for our transport problems, we don’t have to reinvent anything, says Patrick. Just look at other cities of the world.“It is already policy to totally remove cars from the centres of about 15 cities globally. There are very good economic reasons for doing so. We’ve made progress here and now need to accelerate it. Everyone driving in cars by themselves is not working. And we can’t fix it by building more roads.”
Technology doesn't change everything - no app will bend time-space. But it will change our relationship with the car, says Patrick. Uber, Zimride, Liftshare, Getaround, Zipcar, JustShareIt, Jayride, Relayrides…..they’re all apps that make better use of a cars by sharing. And they’re already changing the world as we know it.
To illustrate the point, Patrick explains his family had 2 cars last year. He did the maths and worked out he could use Uber whenever two cars needed. And the cost still wouldn’t catch up to what he would spend having an extra car sitting outside his house depreciating, while he pays for the insurance, registration, fuel and so on. So he ditched one car and now the family is happy to utilise their bikes, buses and the occasional taxi.
“I’ve never felt as free as when I use a bike in the city.
“I find that enormously liberating,” he says. “Getting around Auckland, discovering the improving transport offering” – buses, rail - and riding his bike. "In terms of a personal transport experience, it’s top of the pile.”
TIME FOR ALTERNATIVES
Space is the key economic metric in cities, and cars are inefficient spatially. ”They require huge amounts of space and we run them wastefully – parking them 96% of the time,” says Patrick. “We need to actively develop the alternatives that help create a great city. Expanding the transport options is key to enabling more intensive land use.” Go up instead of out, he says.
Developers are already responding to the call, especially on the city fringes. There are many examples of apartments sold where owners’ drive less because area has better amenity, is closer to employment, and offers more travel options.
“In fact, often these cars are not used at all for the journey to work, but for weekends out of town and nights. They are being used when there is heaps of road capacity and not so much during weekday peaks when congestion is worst.
“That’s the chief attraction of city-proximate dwellings and why a whole lot of people [of course not everyone] are willing to pay more for less space to live somewhere where they don’t need to drive as much, or even at all. People trading space for more personal time.”
SHAPE OF THE FUTURE
So how does Patrick see Auckland’s future?
“I’m extremely excited about Auckland’s possibilities. We currently have a very one-sided and inefficient mono-modal transport system. But these things are changing. It’s feeling a lot more optimistic.”
“Driving will remain the dominant mode. But it will be more complicated with more options for sharing and a reduction in the need to own so many vehicles. We’ll hop in and hop out. They will become electric, and we’re definitely heading towards sharing. We’ll no longer be committing so much equity into our movement devices. We won’t need garages so much. There will be more choice for everyone.”
For many, that future is already here.
More people are moving into the central and city fringe areas. For the 12 months to February 2016 Auckland public transport patronage totalled 81.7 million passengers, an increase of 5.9% on the previous year.
Bus services totalled 60.1 million passenger trips for the 12-months to February 2016, an increase of 2.4% on the previous year. Train services totalled 15.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to February 2016, an increase of 21.6% on the previous year. Train patronage reached 16 million on Wednesday of last week. Ferry services totalled 5.7 million passenger trips for the 12-months to February 2016, an increase of 6.6% on the previous year.
Real estate agents too have caught on. Until recently the only type of transport information you would see in an ad was nearby motorway exit/onramp. Now they include proximity to train stations, bus stops and and bike paths.
Clearly, the revolution, according to Patrick, is well-underway.