How they will cope with cars?

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Ele­phants are no­to­ri­ous for their long mem­o­ries.

They’re also renowned for their lengthy preg­nan­cies. A long-suf­fer­ing asian ele­phant Az­izah car­ried her 104kg baby for 700 days – 84 longer than the av­er­age – at Whip­snade Zoo, Bed­ford­shire.

All this came to me think­ing about Auck­land’s plan­ning sched­ule – this time it’s about traf­fic tsunamis and fu­ture park­ing. Very ele­phan­tine it seems. Around the world, ci­ties big­ger than ours are reach­ing well be­yond the ‘‘too hard’’ bag look­ing for at­trac­tivesound­ing an­swers.

Ham­burg has plans to di­vert most cars away from the city’s main thor­ough­fares in 20 years.

The aim is to cre­ate what will be a large green net­work af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties con­nect pedes­trian and cy­cle lanes; smooth­ing in­ner city traf­fic flow.

New green ar­eas will bridge ex­ist­ing parks, com­mu­nity gar­dens, and ceme­ter­ies.

The aim is just the re­verse of ur­ban sprawl – bring­ing to­gether the outer skirts of Ham­burg and al­low­ing pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists to reach ev­ery area of the city by foot.

Re­sult: 17,000 acres of green spa­ces, which will make up 40 per cent of the city’s area – and not a milk­ing shed or plas­tic­cov­ered hay in sight!

By cre­at­ing a green ring, the city will blunt the threat of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures and ur­ban flood­ing. Av­er­age tem­per­a­ture in Ger­many’s sec­ond-largest city has risen 9 de­grees Cel­sius in just half a cen­tury.

Fur­ther north, the Finns plan to trans­form Helsinki’s pub­lic trans­port net­work into a com­pre­hen­sive, point-to­point ‘‘mo­bil­ity on de­mand’’ sys­tem by 2025 .

In the­ory, it will be so good no­body would have any rea­son to own a car.

Let’s be hon­est, if our plan­ners had pulled that op­tion out of the hat we’d be very sur­prised and scep­ti­cal.

The Finns de­scribe it as ‘‘mo­bil­ity in real time’’ straight from their smart­phones.

Trav­ellers with an ar­ray of op­tions so cheap, flex­i­ble and well-co-or­di­nated that it be­comes com­pet­i­tive with pri­vate car own­er­ship not merely on cost, but on con­ve­nience and ease of use.

Sub­scribers would spec­ify an ori­gin and a des­ti­na­tion, and per­haps a few pref­er­ences.

The link would then func­tion as both jour­ney plan­ner and uni­ver­sal pay­ment plat­form, knit­ting ev­ery­thing from driver­less cars and nim­ble lit­tle buses to shared bikes and fer­ries into a sin­gle, sup­ple mesh of mo­bil­ity.

Sound a com­plex an­swer to a ma­jor prob­lem, but then so is the in­ter­net and it works.

Helsinki’s con­fi­dence is bol­stered by the Helsinki Re­gional Trans­port Au­thor­ity’s roll­out last year of a strik­ingly in­no­va­tive minibus ser­vice called Kut­su­plus.

Kut­su­plus lets rid­ers spec­ify their own de­sired pick-up points and des­ti­na­tions through smart­phone. Th­ese re­quests are ag­gre­gated, and the ser­vice cal­cu­lat­ing a route that most closely sat­is­fies all of them.

Kut­su­plus costs more than a con­ven­tional jour­ney by bus, but less than a taxi fare over the same dis­tance. As some­one who can’t even open an iPad yet, the project puts a chill through me.

I get the feel­ing that Auck­land’s new elec­tric trains might have had their prob­lems but, at worst, they could be a bet­ter first choice.

Imag­ine typ­ing in ‘‘Pa­pakura’’ and find­ing your­self in Pa­pamoa with a sullen, flat­bat­teried iPad!

What­ever their fi­nal plan you can be sure the con­sci­en­tious Finns will make sure noth­ing spoils that feel­ing.

A top­i­cal foot­note: Fam­ily – co­in­ci­dently re­port­ing from Helsinki – praise it: ‘‘Noth­ing here is ugly’’. Per­haps Auck­land plan­ners could think about that ex­am­ple?

Ele­phan­tine pro­por­tions: Are Auck­land’s longer term plan­ning is­sues sim­ply too big to solve?

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