How they will cope with cars?
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?