This post contains an essay submitted as part of student course work for the Planning 100 "Introduction to Planning" course taught by me this year at Planning School, University of Auckland. The topic for the essay is: Comment on the influence of different forms of transport in shaping urban form and the way people live in an urban environment. Investigate and explain the key transport issues facing those responsible for planning Auckland's future. The essay is by Sarah Heritage, who has kindly given permission for it to be published here. (There are two figures which are not included below - however the text provides some explanation.)
Transport is a critical factor in shaping an urban environment and the way people, goods and services interact within it. In the Auckland region, key transportation modes can be seen to have underpinned the resultant urban form of Auckland. Key transport technologies throughout history, and influences of transport developments, have played a significant role in the outcome of urban form, which has had considerable impacts on the way people live in that environment. Today, issues are arising for transport planners as a result of significant transport choices made in the past. To understand these though, the historical development of transport must first be analysed, which can be compared to an international example of London, to see relationships and decisive differences that have created fundamental disparities between them.
Auckland and London experienced transport technologies on completely different temporal and spatial scales. As Auckland is located on an isthmus, and is dominated by volcanic cones it had various geographical restrictions (Social and economic research and monitoring team (SERMT), 2010); evolving around the Waitemata Harbour on the east, and a smaller establishment around the Manukau Harbour. London, on the other hand, developed around the Thames River as an initial access point, and had a much vaster area to expand in to. As England was one of the pioneers in the industrial era, the discovery of coal’s potential for energy and the subsequent development of the steam train in 1830 (Hall, 2002), marked the beginning of a new transport era; and as England was the coloniser of New Zealand, Auckland’s transport developed later than London’s, but caught up by the turn of the twentieth century (Dahms, 1980).
Whilst Auckland could be classed as a ‘mature pedestrian city’ in 1881 (Dahms, 1980), London had already developed an underground steam rail system in 1865, and the electric tube was developed by 1890 (Hall, 2002), whereas Auckland received the electric tram in 1902 (Dahms, 1980), just over a decade later. The provision of railways, and the consequential impacts of the incentives for use, or the inefficiency of them, can be seen to have played a huge part in the use of public transport, and the urban patterns between them. In Auckland, by 1877 issues were being raised by the Government about the fares and use of rail; establishing the Royal Commission, which made the underlining statement that, “no comparison [can] be made between the easy rapid travelling on English Railways at forty or fifty miles per hour, and shaking along New Zealand’s narrow gauge at fifteen miles per hour” (Dahms, 1980, pp2). This is affirmed by Hall, who also agrees that in London “steam trains gave fairly easy and rapid access to middle class commuters and working class, at distances up to fifteen miles from the centre” (Hall, 2002, pp19).
Both cities initially developed as walking cities, with dense small centres around transport lines or employment, allowing expansion up to five kilometres and linear, grid like street patterns from coal trams (Arbury, 2011). Horse- drawn buses and trams were important to both cities to allow dispersal of populations outside of the inner city, as well as links across the city. Electric trams generated a considerably similar pattern, in Auckland and London, and had a vital impact on further expansion of cities outwards; though Auckland’s physical geography had some influence on where lines could develop. The development of the electric tram brought Auckland up to speed with England, after a late and slow adoption of horse-drawn bus and tram, but overall, Auckland grew rapidly in its first 62 years of existence (Dahms, 1980). Arbury (2011) sees the tram and the train as major shapers as they permitted further expansion to thirty kilometres and created commercial and residential subcentres at large stations. Auckland’s present day form is considered as sprawl as a result of extensive motorway network projects between 1950 and 1969, over better public transport systems (SERMT, 2010). Also being referred to as the ‘take-over of the automobile’, expansion up to fifty kilometres saw dispersion of populations to the fringes (Arbury, 2011).
However, London’s city expansion, which is “typical of the later public transport city: was not all a creation of private cars” (Hall, 2002, pp21), but rather speculative flooding that followed main transport lines (Hall). Essentially London and Auckland differ because of the adoption of public transport services in London, versus the development of private car networks in Auckland. The different approaches to transport provision have created distinct patterns and have ultimately determined urban form and have created the issues that planners today are facing.The effects of each of these transport phases have determined where people live, but a big factor to consider is the influences of these transport modes and where they were developed.
Auckland city developed around the Waitemata Harbour as the port was the main site for employment and trade. It was the main transport access to international and local settlements, also requiring road infrastructure to move goods locally, for example the development of roads along Commercial Bay, Shortland Street and Queen Street (SERMT, 2010). Houses were built around the city centre such as in Princes Street, where they are today part of the university; as well as areas of Parnell, being of easy access to the city centre. In the 1860’s, a large portion of transport infrastructure was established in fear of Māori rebellion from the south, due to Māori land sales. These included the construction of Great South Road up to Franklin, accompanied by military redoubts through Franklin District, as well as the train to Drury (Carter, 2006), that later became a hub for farming communities. In addition, townships of Howick, Onehunga, Panmure and Otahuhu were developed as defence posts, to make up a defensive line from east to west, and the excavation of Point Britomart to house troops (SERMT, 2010). These were made available by horse-bus and coach, and allowed people to move to the outskirts because they were more readily accessible. Passenger railway development from 1870 (SERMT), had two main lines; one towards Helensville and one towards Waikato that had a separate line to Onehunga. These created patterns of highly dispersed pockets of development (Arbury, 2011), allowing outlying towns of Onehunga, Otahuhu, Papakura, Pukekohe, Henderson, New Lynn and Glen Eden to develop (SERMT 2010), all of which today are now important transport centres for buses and trains.
The relationship between Auckland and its tram lines is strong and has shaped Auckland and many cities abroad (Arbury, 2011, Carter, 2004,). It can be seen that the electric tram posed a key shaper in Aucklands history, but as time progressed the lure of the car took over the city. The electric tram “began the transformation of Auckland from a relatively compact settlement on the Waitemata foreshore, into a sprawling metropolis, spreading across the Tamaki isthmus and beyond” (Dahms, 1980, pp5). This is paralleled in FIGURE 1, which sees a huge expansion of the urban area into the isthmus. (Figure 1 Auckland built up area from1871-1987 (SERMT, 2010, pp6-24)
It enabled a ‘new style of development’, creating linear grid patterns which can be noticed in central areas such as Dominion, Manukau, New North and Mt Eden Roads (SERMT 2010); likewise in Avondale, Meadowbank, Takapuna and Devenport (Carter, 2004). Many of today’s main roads in central Auckland were originally extensive tram networks, which were disregarded and upheaved after the adoption of motorways and highway systems beginning in the 1930’s, but more extensively in the 1950’s. This is said to have had “a fundamental influence on the shape and the nature of the area. The increasing reliance on personal vehicles, along with lenient government lending policies, allowed people to fulfil their desire of detached houses on large lots leading to rapid suburban expansion and a dispersed urban form” (SERMT, 2010, pp15). The harbour bridge construction in 1959, and the development of spaghetti junction, connecting the north, west, and south, also in the 1950’s, created the dependency on cars we are influenced by today. Ian Carter makes the assertion that “road transport ruled Auckland” (Carter, 2004, pp48), which is still typical of today.
It has also been described as an “exceptional dominance of cars and roads in Auckland and elsewhere; a dominance that accelerated with the rejection of the planning model of urban development in the 1950’s” (Chapman, Howden & Stuart, 2010). The Auckland Council also sees the issue of cars the same way, claiming that “the primacy of cars, roads, and prioritising vehicles over cycling or pedestrians reflects Auckland’s physical form” (Auckland Council, 2011, pp163).This has had impacts on urban form, where people live, the destinations they choose and the mode of transport they use. The overall end result is urban sprawl. Arbury (2011) claims that it was” the development and popularisation of cars in the early twentieth century that made urban sprawl possible” (pp21), and that it is the “direct result of a number of policies that conspired powerfully to encourage urban dispersal” (pp22), such as zoning.
The consequences of these urban layouts can be seen in the way people interact, where they live, and what transport mode they use. The cost of transport modes, the price of houses, the place of employment and the income they make, are huge contributions to the outcome of where people live. A prime example is given by SERMT, where they explain how between 1900-1929 “the more affluent headed for the eastern suburbs of Epsom and Remuera, and the North Shore; middle-class earners built new suburbs to the south and west, such as Mount Albert” (SERMT, 2011, pp11) to get away from the more compact inner city. Earlier than this, when the port was the main employment area, merchant traders lived in Parnell to have easier access to work (Carter, 2006). Carter also mentions how local-body politicians were sucked into the idea of a road based solution to transport issues, and urged people on to the roads, including poorer households whom have to devote large portions of their wages into transport (Carter, 2006). The wealth of households and their employment largely reflect where people live, which can be seen in FIGURE2. (Figure 2 Median income of employed people in Auckland 1991-2006 (www.stats.govt.nz)) The increased provision of state housing, infrastructure, roads and tramlines caused increasing suburbanisation in the 1930’s (SERMT, 2010), which can explain the location of many poorer communities, and their set locations throughout Auckland. All of these interactions and transport developments have created various issues and critiques related to the future of Auckland transport, and mistakes made in the past.
Various issues have arisen from Auckland’s transport systems, and the biggest complaint is usually around the inadequacy of public transport. Carter (2006) provides a bold critique of Auckland’s transport system and its providers, pointing to the deficiency of motorway systems as well exceeding planned capacity, and accusing government and councils of forcing people into driving, as roads and motorways create an incentive to use private cars, as the fastest way to a destination. He argues how they had the option to create “more elaborate suburban railways to link the city with outlying suburbs” (Carter, 2006, pp60), but chose highways, and continue to do so as a “preferred major solution for the regions traffic woes, both for the socially-comfortable CitRat majority on Auckland City Council and for that happy-clappy, holyroller United Future Party with which Labour Party climbed into bed with after the 2002 general election” (Carter, pp61). Within this he also notes, “to ensure speed competitiveness of public transport in any city is to develop a quality rail system” (Carter, 2006,pp61) and buses are also key to support rail systems.
The Auckland Council also acknowledges these issues and agrees that motorways and roads are neither sustainable, or possible for the future (Auckland Council, 2011). This is also confirmed in the Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy, as seeing need of “an effective and reliable transport system and addressing Auckland’s long-standing transport infrastructure deficit [as] critically important to the region’s and New Zealand’s economy, and to the well-being of Aucklanders”( Auckland Regional Council(ARC), 2010, pp7). They also note that citizens are constantly bemoaning about traffic congestion, poor public transport and air pollution (ARC, 2010). If Auckland were to continue with its rapid expansion of roads and motorways, the risk of vulnerability to oil prices and climate change could prove to be detrimental to the quality of life and restrict access for many people. Carter (2006) also mentions the fact that citizens have been telling their councils for years that traffic and a lack of quality public transport should be the council’s main concern. It seems now that the council has finally listened, by addressing the transport issues in the Auckland draft Plan 2011. They have created four key priorities for Auckland’s transport. The first is to develop a single system approach, to provide a better balance of transport services and encourage other modes of transport through tolls, plans and intensification. The second relates to the increase of integration between transport infrastructure and land use development, to create better access and reliable journey times, and contribute to place shaping. It is crucial for Auckland’s future growth to invest in a city rail link and second harbour bridge crossing. Thirdly, the use of management to better prioritise and optimise investment across different transport modes, by seeing transport as a shaper and enabler; and finally , to find new ways of funding projects through the use of tolls, parking increases, road pricing and passenger fees, despite the chances that these will only move congestion to other areas.
Auckland City has been heavily shaped by trams and trains from the late 1800s, as well as private vehicles later in the early twentieth century. Distinct patterns can be related to key transport development phases and have produced our urban layout. The extensive dependency on cars and motorways has been a trend enforced by government policy and has influenced the way we interact. Although trams played a key role in the initial establishment of Auckland City, it has largely been the car that has dominated our history. Issues concerning public transport are common for this reason and may finally be acknowledged and reformed to produce a more liveable city with the Auckland Plan 2011.
Arbury, Joshua. (2011). The rise of urban sprawl. From urban sprawl to compact city- An analysis of urban growth management in Auckland (pp 19-29). New Zealand.
Auckland Council. (2011). Aucklands Transport, Draft Auckland Plan (pp163-171). Auckland Carter, Ian. (2004). Moving targets: Auckland transport, in I. Carter, D. Craig & S. Matthewman, Almighty Auckland (pp48-66) Dunmore Press Ltd. New Zealand.
Hall. P. (2002). The origins: urban growth from 1800 to 1940. In P.Hall (ed), Urban and Regional Planning (4th ed. Pp13-25) London: Routledge.
Social and Economic Research and Monitoring Team. (2010). A brief history of Auckland’s urban form (pp3-26) Auckland Regional Council. Auckland.
Dahms, Fred. (1980). Urban passenger transport and population distribution in Auckland 1860-1961. New Zealand Geographer. 36(1), (pp2-10)
Chapman, Howden & Stuart. (2010). Urban form and transport- the transition to resilient cities. In Editors Chapman, Howden & Stuarts, Sizing up the city. New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities, Wellington.
Auckland Regional Council. (2010) Auckland regional land transport strategy 2010-2040.(pp7)