Gareth Hughes

Growing in a way that makes us happy

by Gareth Hughes

According to a piece in the Herald today, people with longer commutes are less likely to be healthy, happy or stay married.

The study found that if you commute for 45 minutes plus then your chance of getting divorced is 40% higher than for those with shorter journeys.

This is good news for me (and my wife) given that we live in central Wellington just 15 minutes walk from Parliament.

Also today the Auckland Transport Blog put up a piece showing a new tool that’s been created called Mapnificent which allows you to find out on google maps which locations can be reached within a certain time by public transport.

As the Auckland Transport Blog points out, it’s interesting to run the maps on Auckland. You can see that a lot of areas which are most inaccessible (e.g., Flat Bush) are the areas where there has been major development in Auckland over the last 10 years.

These two pieces made me think about the launch of a book I attended last week called Growth Misconduct: Can We Do Better on Urban Intensification?

The book was based on a range of presentations made in 2010 at a conference on sustainable cities and you can see more about what they covered here.

The presenters at the launch gave some amazing examples of medium and high density developments overseas which have lots of units, flats and terraced housing but still give the residents awesome facilities like private green space, water features, playgrounds etc

Overall, the presentations just reinforced my belief that we have to start thinking harder about how to grow our cities in ways that make us happy.

If there was an Urban Design portfolio I’d be keen to take it because I believe these issues are particularly relevant to people of my own generation. Many people of my age can’t afford the type of quarter acre block that the Baby Boomers aspired to and brought.

In particular, we have to remember that before encouraging new development on the fringes of our city (as the National government would like us to do in Auckland) we should put in place good public transport links first.

Otherwise we will just have more unhappy commuters clogging up our roads.