Observations of Auckland, New Zealand

In November 2017, I visited Auckland, New Zealand (map) for the first time (I had changed planes at the airport once before, but that doesn’t count). I attended the ATRF, the Australasian Transport Research Forum, the much smaller antipodean counterpoint to the Transportation Research Board conference.

Auckland Town Hall
Auckland Town Hall

Auckland is a metro area of 1.5M people, making it the largest city of NZ. It has the feel of many British colonial capitals (and their equivalents) (Toronto, Sydney) with trains serving the CBD, stopping near the Harbour (in this case at Britomart, which is, to my relief, not named for a discount store selling cheap imports from the UK, but rather after a Point, named after one of HMS, named for the Greek hunting goddess Britomartis).

The Harbour should be the most valuable piece of real estate, with fabulous views. It is still a working port, and so the best views are had by recently imported Toyota pick-up trucks. Yup, the docks are used for offloading and storing cars. Money is sitting on the table. $20 bills are on the ground.

I walked around the downtown area – a still vibrant area with lots of people on the street in daytime, Ponsonby Road – the main upper middle class shopping street, and took the ferry over to Devonport – an almost resort like suburb. The University is embedded in the city, but the area around the University was not nearly as active as it ought to be.

That week the local Tongan population was celebrating a loss to England in rugby, and making a lot of noise near the city center.

I noted that the pedestrian signals are sometimes dark instead of “don’t walk” or “walk”. This means it is up to the pedestrian’s judgment as to whether to proceed. Pedestrians can push the button if they want for guidance (for instance for a visually impaired person). This is an interesting strategy, I wonder if there is safety evaluation (Google Scholar did not turn up anything obvious).

If Auckland were not so remote, or perhaps if New Zealand wanted to encourage it, the city could be many times larger, as many prospective immigrants would be happy to live in such a place. A friend from California once approvingly said Minneapolis had all the necessary hipster infrastructure. Auckland has all the necessary middle class infrastructure, and then some.

Photo gallery here: