Global Streets: The New Lanes of Auckland

A contribution by the Global Designing Cities Initiative in partnership with the  National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) in New York, showing how one heavily auto-centric city is in the process of working its way toward a very different life style (painfully and only partially!). We might think of it as one step in the right direction. Let’s have a look.

Global Streets: Short Movies

This series of short films is exploring street conditions in various cities as they move to provide a better sense of space, speed, and sensorial experience of various streets contexts. Check out their Global Map with the embedded web links to view more videos! They would like to encourage you to make your own movies about the streets in your city and share them with all of us on the Global Expert Network.

And now for a bit of necessary context.

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About Auckland

The following short background note  has been taken with light editing from the Wikipedia entry at

Auckland  in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country. Auckland has a population of 1,413,700, some 31 percent of the country’s population. It is part of the wider Auckland Region, which includes the areas and towns north and south of the urban area, plus the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,527,100 governed by the Auckland Council. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. In Māori, Auckland’s name is Tāmaki Makaurau .

Auckland’s status as the largest commercial centre of the country reflects in the high median personal income (per working person, per year) which was approx. US$39,000 for the region in 2014.

Auckland has also been called a very pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly city, though some efforts are being made to change this.

New Zealand - Auckland - rush how traffic

Morning traffic coming into the city

Getting around in Auckland

What is remarkable about the progress being registered in the lanes of the city which are becoming more people friendly, is the extent to which they contrast with the transport realities of day to day life for most Aucklanders. This is, in fact, work and transition in progress. And for as much as anything else, this makes the short video worth seeing and thinking about.

The bottom line reality is that private vehicles are the main form of transportation, with around 7% of journeys in the region being undertaken by bus (2006 data), and 2% undertaken by train and ferry. For trips to the city centre at peak times the use of public transport is much higher, with more than half of trips are undertaken by bus, train or ferry. Auckland still ranks quite low in its use of public transport, having only 46 public transport trips per capita per year.  This strong roading focus results in substantial traffic congestion during peak times.  

Transport Policies

Research at Griffith University has indicated that in the last 50 years, Auckland has engaged in some of the most pro-automobile transport policies anywhere in the world.] With public transport declining heavily during the second half of the 20th century (a trend mirrored in most Western countries such as the US), and increased spending on roads and cars, New Zealand (and specifically Auckland) now has the second-highest vehicle ownership rate in the world, with around 578 vehicles per 1000 people.

Auckland has also been called a very pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly city, though some efforts are being made to change this. At the same, high-profile gaps in the network, such as the inability for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Waitemata Harbour, will probably remain for the foreseeable future, with councils generally not considering the costs involved as sensible expense.

Downtown Framework Plan

As an example of the shift in thinking about transport and public space policy, a new framework plan setting the outline for a world-class downtown Auckland has received strong political and citizen support.  

Launched in September 2014, the downtown framework sets out 12 major programmes of work, over the next 10 years to create a world class area that makes full use of its stunning, waterfront setting. Led by Auckland Council’s City Centre Integration Team it brings the City Centre Masterplan, Waterfront Plan, Regional Land Transport Programme, Economic Development Strategy and Auckland Unitary Plan to life.

New Zealand - Auckland -street traffic

Auckland Debates: Should High Street be a Shared Space?

Reader Commentary:

From Paul Minett, 

Chairman:  Ridesharing Institute and Aarque Group. Auckland –

I think most people in Auckland would consider this to be a very selective representation of our streets – or rather our ‘lanes’ as most of the thoroughfares in the video are lanes.

There have been several implementations of ‘shared space’ in Auckland, and I think they work quite well (all depicted in the video).  But they certainly do not represent ‘the streets of Auckland’.

On the other hand, except for photos such as the one you show of traffic leaving the city heading north, it is difficult to capture the frustration of everyday driving in traffic.  And while traffic is considered to be the number one negative of the city, it is a lot less bad here than in many other places (IMHO).  Tomtom statistics make Auckland look bad, for example.  I think you understand this and hence you have asked my comment.

If nothing else I would suggest changing the title:  Some Streets, well, Lanes then, of Auckland.  (At least locals would not want to shoot you.)

The Wikipedia info is a little out of date.  There has just been a decision to make a cycle/ped lane across the harbour bridge (tolled).  There has been a more recent census and so the 7% by bus data is probably out of date, since there has been a bit of an upswing in PT use – mainly on the trains though.

From Aut Karndacharuk

Principal Consent Specialist. Auckland Transport.

Our draft narrow street policy — — effectively suggests 12m as a minimum for designing and vesting a new public street. In the context of Auckland housing crisis, this is particularly important for greenfield areas where developers want to maximise land for new lots at the expense of street amenity and other functions e.g. water sensitive design and utility provisions.

For urban local streets in Auckland’s activity centres, I think it’s a matter of time (and money) for them to be progressively transformed to a safer, more people friendly space in accordance with the goals promoted in the Auckland Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan.

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The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit association that represents large cities on transportation issues of local, regional and national significance. NACTO views the transportation departments of major cities as effective and necessary partners in regional and national transportation efforts, promoting their interests in federal decision-making. We facilitate the exchange of transportation ideas, insights and best practices among large cities, while fostering a cooperative approach to key issues facing cities and metropolitan areas. As a coalition of city transportation departments, NACTO is committed to raising the state of the practice for street design and transportation by building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences, and regular communication among member cities. We believe that by working together, cities can save time and money, while more effectively achieving their policy goals and objectives.

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Skye Duncan, Global Designing Cities Director
National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
120 Park Ave, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017
C: (917) 8372544  P: (646) 3249275 | @nacto |@GlobalStreets

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Francis Eric Knight-Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent non-profit advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at, @ericbritton. @worldstreets and

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