Published in THE ISSUES by frog on Sun, August 12th, 2012
Tags: general debate
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I was thinking about Julie Anne Genter’s belief that we can solve the housing affordability problem not by sprawling, but by effectively allowing existing car-parks to be converted into housing (and other) developments.
Though I agree with her that we can now look at allowing parking spaces to compete openly with other uses (no minimum parking requirements), the initiative will, in itself, in no way reduce house prices or prices for goods in the shops. Why?
Because the can’t-change-our-minds-now people making up Auckland council will simply use the possibility of converted car-park space as an excuse to restrict urban fringe development even more aggressively. So what would be the result of Julie’s policy ideas, in today’s political climate?
Nothing more than more intensive densification and more expensive car-parking. And more public transport use (for the right reasons? Remember PT in itself is not a Green initiative). So Julie is not offering what would be a solution. Her ideas will, materially, just help to kill off cars a bit more.
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Where is Auckland going?
Another thought. As New Zealand becomes a nation of renters, and land prices only go up more from political meddling, then one possibility is that we will see companies buying up or building entire apartment complexes (or parts of them), so they can offer total lifestyle packages to prospective staff. And offer efficient shuttle-to-work services for their staff that would, largely, be concentrated at one residential point.
They might need to do this to attract staff into an otherwise incredibly expensive city. (living costs are ultimately company costs, too).
I understand this basic model of lifestyle packages has been done in the USA before, and it has worked. People seem to like being completely ‘taken care of’. Maybe in time this will be the private sectors developmental reaction to Auckland’s forced intensification policy?
Personally, I would describe this model as another great leap into an ever more corporatised society. The far-reaching impacts of this kind of evolution would be interesting to say the least. Indeed, it looks a lot like Bertrand Russel’s utopia described in his book, The Scientific Outlook.
Btw: Bertrand’s thinking is interesting but his ideas are outdated. He could not foresee our technological advances (of course) and his understanding of the human condition, due to his time, was primitive to say the least.
Irrespective of what the CBD planners want to happen, the people (including businesses) are voting with their feet. Satellite towns are the way of the future according to the people and business moving to places like Morrinsville, Tuakau, Huntly, etc.
Planners are like army generals. Always fighting the last war. Joining satellite towns with public transport is the future.
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But Gerrit, planners have got a certificate. They know what to do and it is not for the plebs to question them.
Regarding your satellite towns, agree completely. Maybe CERA should be considing them as well.
Planners do ask people what they want, but they load the question…
It’s “How do you want your city to look?” rather than “How do you personally want to live?”.
The result is that you have people voting on other people’s lifestyles; even though, within reason, other people’s lifestyles should have nothing to do with anyone but the individual.
Auckland council should do a survey on housing preferences to see what proportion of the market has a natural preference for the leafy suburb, and then base their plans on that. People who live in south Auckland should not be voting on how people in the north should live, etc, nor how their part of the city should look. That’s just bullshit.
They are also very economical with the truth. They will never tell their voters that sprawl only = 0.8% of the land area (Ministry for Environment figures). And they will never tell them that public transport is not more energy efficient than cars. They just stand back and let people build false assumptions, knowing full well that they are being misleading. This is how they get their “visions” through. And sorry but the Green party can be just as bad.
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Problem is that the demographics of the population changes throughout ones life.
Fine to live in a CBD apartment when single or hitched without children.
Once they come along the desire for a “back yard” to run around in becomes a priority. Usually found in the suburbs where the sport and social clubs clubs.
Once the kids have left home (change the lock quick) and retirement looms, people like myself will down size and move the seaside, rural, lake or some such.
The population democraphics are constantly changing (hence the corporate ownership of bulk housing wont work (eg Hamilton Block constructed by NZ Steel in Waiuku. Workers are made up from a demographic that is constantly changing and cannot fit into dormitory type suburbs based on trhe employer.
Many people around retirement age and looking at huge rate and cost of living hikes are simply selling up, banking the money and drift around in a motorhome.
No rates, self contained and mobile.
Another changing demographic. Could see many a farmer putting up an ablution block in the front paddock and “grazing” mobile home retirees.
Probably more profit than cows or sheep.
Bet the planners had not even considered that potential on local area councils, health services and retail outlets.
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As well pointed out by Own McShane, one of the advantages of low-density is its adaptability. It can evolve to changing demands. You can add-on to a low density housing format, or segregate and modify an existing home so it becomes a 2-unit apartment, etc.
The point is that you don’t really need to plan so much for low-density suburbia, and future lifestyles and demands can never be securely known. Full-automation transport, alone, will be tremendously disruptive to demand, and that’s only about a decade away.
Rather than being the transport system of the past, rail is increasingly becoming the transport of the future (something Matthew Hooton fails to appreciate).
No doubt rail is the efficiency king for transporting heavy bulk loads over land, long distance. This is where the laden weight is not a problem and where those steel wheels really pay off. And per weight, iron ore (for example) will leave you with an aerodynamic system due to massive concentrated loading. So, it’s about rolling losses – and yeah, again, you can’t beat steel wheels for that.
However, for urban transport the laden weight is hugely important because you’re constantly re-accelerating the massive train, and people don’t weigh much and the trains are not highly loaded on average. So the applications are night and day – can’t compare.
For NZ, I always had a problem with selling off the railways only because the rights-of-way could be worth a killing in the future when converted to a more ‘applicable’ transport system – such as a specialised fully autonomous freight and passenger system, made up of smaller cars and containers. (Did you know that 2x the weight = 16x the damage on the ground? It pays to disperse the load!).
As for the future, I think the following could have a lot of promise. A hybrid system.
It makes excellent sense to me to have a standard truck that employs retractable steel wheels, for load bearing only. You can do this with steer-by-wire and rear wheel steering, like the BladeRunner system is doing. You can easily electrify with this format as well.
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Thanks for that link, Andrew. I feel the current government has a back to the future approach to transport, think where we would be if the $12 billion set aside for motorways was spent on looking into alternatives and investing in systems that have future capabilities.
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RIP Greg. Such great memories and what a gem Tiri Tiri is
RIP Greg great memories from a great island
AA – light weight electric units can run on the same tracks as heavy locos and wagons and they can use regenerative braking. This allows them to be more efficient than buses for stop-start operation – even hybrid buses. They can return their regenerative braking energy to the supply line and therefore don’t need heavy storage batteries like hybrid vehicles, and of course they don’t need a fuel tank or infernal-combustion engine.
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Regenerative breaking in trains is limited in terms of what it can save, due to structural complexities with the process. I think it gives about a 20% energy saving if you’re lucky. Passenger rail is heavy in terms of vehicle laden weight. Light rail is not really “light”.
Buses are more energy efficient than trains alround – though you will see variances in applications, of course. In NZ buses will always be more efficient because you can’t get the extreme passenger loadings that you get from massive cities with giant old-world CBD’s (Paris, NY, Tokyo, etc).
Regenerative breaking: I have long been a fan of employing compressed air as a system of regenerative breaking for buses. No extreme electrical peak-loads, light regenerative system, buses have constant stop-and-go so it pays off well, and with rapid storage-to-recovery cycles (at a bus stop) you don’t have to worry about significant thermal losses with air compression. It can also make the buses quieter on take off. Regenerative breaking via compressed air could, I approximate, make buses as much as 50% more energy efficient if done well.
Rich and ignorant
It may be that te reo is not spoken in the limited circles Rodney Hide and Bob Jones move in, however it is far from obsolete…
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Watch out for this. If they are releasing reserves they see something coming that we are in a way to profit from… IFF we sell them our produce instead of our farms.
AA – I fail to see why electric units running on electrified rail tracks would be any heavier than buses which can carry the same number of people. Even if they were heavier, their lower rolling resistance and more efficient use of regenerated energy should make their overall efficiency better.
Even if the efficiency were not as good as buses, it would still be worth doing as electricity is easier to obtain from renewable resources than fuel for buses.
As I indicated earlier, how are city planners dealing with new demographic?
The more I look at it the more appealing it becomes. One could even load the mobile home onto a boat and travel around Australia as well.
See you Len, no more rates for out of me. Build those roads, baby, build I say.
Well, regardless of what you fail to see trains are less efficient than buses. That’s a statistical fact. I would imagine that the trucking system in rail is very heavy, and trains are comparatively large…
Other things being equal the larger a structure is the more heavy it must be for a given load bearing, as you increase the length of the spans. (take a look at a bridge with 2x the span, and look at the huge increase in structural support required per-length).
If you really want to know the difference in efficiency between buses and trains, for a given application, then you have to model buses operating with the exact same service origin-to-destination pattern of the train, and compare the apples to apples. Buses would be about 2x as fast and consume maybe 3x less energy on a direct comparison basis. Why? Among other things they don’t have to stop at all stations, and you don’t have to take the entire train set out to the end of the trip so the bus has better real passenger loading’s. It’s also MUCH cheaper.
If we’re really worried about carbon emissions then use induction in the ground to power the electric bus (along with its batteries). Maybe in the future, when we’re 100% non-carbon electricity generation, it will reduce Auckland’s total co2 emissions by 0.05%, or something like that.
Rail systems are like schoolteachers – super political, because they have to be to survive, because they are BULL.SHIT.
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AA – I said “electric units” not “trains”. Your statistics for heavy trains pulled by a loco at the front aren’t relevant. Neither is your imagination about “trucking systems”. And so what if the entire train has to travel all the way to the last stop? Linking several carriages together reduces the wind resistance compared to separate buses, and the rolling resistance is much lower, plus the better regeneration efficiency (through not having to store the energy) means the penalty for taking the entire train all the way is small, and can be outweighed by the manpower savings of not having multiple drivers.
You haven’t got the perspective. You are seeing little advantages as big, and big penalties as small. Aerodynamic gains on a train from linking is small (and you can platoon buses too, I will add). Regenerative breaking gains are small (no more than 20% recovery). The cost of low average passenger loading’s is major, and the cost of operating and maintenance of heavy rail cars/tracks is huge.
“Your statistics for heavy trains pulled by a loco at the front aren’t relevant.”…
They are when you see propagandists using efficiency statistics on freight rail being *cautiously* mis-associated with passenger rail in an urban context. It happens.
The bus and train systems are complementary but for hauling a lot of people around a city there is no substitute for a good rail system.
Having used a GOOD system I can also guarantee you that it will be at least twice as fast or faster than the buses. I don’t know where you get your data from.
One reason is that the trains take less space and are often arranged with vertical interchanges where individuals change direction of travel. This is not possible on surface streets with cars and it is damned hard with buses.
I used to live in New York, and LA, and Adelaide, and Norfolk and Charleston, and St Louis, and Boston, and Tampa, and Sydney and Moscow before I lived in Wellington or saw Auckland. The obvious shortcomings of the non-rail based systems, are just that. Obvious.
You can’t ignore them, and the fact that people in those cities that have ‘em are not that eager to use cars should be a clue.
You will not platoon buses on the public roads. Worse as they do not fill and arrive in sequence. Forget that as it isn’t going to happen, even for buses all going the same place. Such a setup would become a safety hazard for the drivers of cars.
Regenerative gains are better than none at all – we can accept your 20% though it will be low for a local commuter system.
Whatever made you think we are talking about “heavy” rail?
Lots of assumptions going on on both sides here.
I do weary of the automobile advocates, even your notional autonomous automatic vehicles, running down rail when there is absolutely no physical way to put as many individual units of ANYTHING on the surface roads, as you’d need to handle the morning rush… and the buses break down the roads a lot faster than the cars do.
Maintenance costs will go up with the number of engines and powertrains you are using.
I’ve seen a lot of systems and the ones that work put anything based on individual cars OR buses in the shade. They ain’t cheap until they’ve been running a decade and people are used to them and using them, but after that they are better, faster and cheaper.
Rail is dependent on huge cities with massive CBD’s to be competitive. Congestion charge the roads and rail can’t compete with buses.
Auckland is an essentially poly-centric city. Rail is not appropriate for this smaller population city with dispersed demand (that rail can never catch). Congestion charge the roads and use buses.
I disagree with your characterization of Auckland… it could be made QUITE appropriate, if an appropriate design of the system had been done. It wanted a rail loop back when rail was first put in. It also wanted a tunnel back before time began… but it didn’t get either and I hate driving there. No choice.
There are over a million people there now and there appears to be no real limit to the number who WANT to be there. Far too much of it is already paved over. People who would like to live there in apartments can find no useful apartments.
I refer you to the Upper West Side of NYC where an “apartment” includes dining room, kitchen, laundry, lounge, 2 or 3 bedrooms, ample storage and elevator service. Within walking distance of large parks, the grocery store and the subway… with no car park at all. Those apartments are fought for and precious things… because they are big enough to house actual families. Families stacked 20 stories high who can reach the theatre district in 10 minutes… but not by car OR bus.
I would like to live in such an apartment, or something smaller, after my kids are grown. I need no car in that case. I do not have that choice. Auckland transit was designed improperly from the start.
Loops (to me) mean TWO tracks and trains in both directions and a lot of automation and service on the loop. Spokes to the more remote Southern and Northern ‘burbs. More of the city becomes available for people because a lot less is paved over. What it has in its heart right now are shocking concrete canyons with motorways that are overcrowded on the day they’re opened and an inevitable resulting constriction of its heart. Can enough aspirin (congestion charges) keep it alive? I think not, because the paved over chunks prevent the actual heart from growing to meet the demands of the rest.
bjchip – if you dont like driving then dont. Take the train or the bus now. You dont have to wait for the loop. Te buses go just as fast as the trains anyway.
When I come to Auckland, it is from Hamilton
Moreover, it is not a matter of the trains being “as fast” as the buses. None of the modes serves properly (including the cars).
It is not my preference for driving or not either. I actually like to drive. I simply know the difference between the quality of life in cities that have working systems, and the quality of life in those that don’t… and I LIKE cities (well sometimes).
Andrew, what do you envisage as a liveable city?
Suicide linked to economic conditions
Clearly there is a socioeconomic model of suicide… Therefore responsibility for New Zealand’s increasing rate of suicide is the governments. Political policy and fiscal flexibility in particular can cause or mitigate the effects of economic cycles on suicide, that’s why the suicide rate is a good indicator of how well a government is performing…
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National don’t to ethics, legalities are a struggle and fiscal prudence need only apply to beneficiaries…
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The despite the worst economic recesion in our lifetime, and a reasonable increase in population, the suicide rate is nearly 25% down on just over a decade ago.
Then we get surprising and rare praise from Jackal for the govt “that’s why the suicide rate is a good indicator of how well a government is performing…”
Nice try photon, but the fact of the matter is that the suicide rate is increasing again under a national government because of its repressive and archaic policies, while other countries around the world have been able to ensure their rate of suicide has decreased despite the recession.
Dame Anne Salmond – Hero of the week
Dame Anne Salmond’s article is a breath of fresh air of intelligent and professional writing that is all too often missing from our mainstream media…
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Paula Bennett should resign
What a complete fail for a Minister to not even be aware of (or not want to acknowledge) the information provided by her own ministry…
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