This is a guest post from our friends Niko and Emma from Generation Zero, cross-posted over at TransportBlog, where the discussion has gotten a great head-start…
Last week we again saw that Northcote residents [a few, anyway, and some from Herne Bay as well – ed.] are still adamant that users of Skypath will be turning up to Skypath in cars, and that this supposedly will have adverse effects on parking in the Northcote neighbourhood beyond what can be mitigated with a residents’ parking scheme.
However this point, which we heard throughout the resource consent hearings, was a huge assumption by [again, some but by no means all – ed.] Northcote residents and was lacking real evidence about Aucklanders’ preferences when using walking and cycling infrastructure for leisure and recreational purposes. Despite this assumption, claims made about the hypothetical effect of parking were (and still are) a realistic threat against Skypath going ahead, and so we decided to unpack the issue for the benefit of the commissioners.
So rather than rely on anecdotal evidence, like the defense, to make a case as to why people would not be turning up in their cars, we went back and asked the 11,000 people who submitted in favour of Skypath in January this year, exactly how they intended to use the future pedestrian bridge.
The intention of our survey was to find out, more exactly and specifically, how people intended to use Skypath. We saw the group who submitted in favour of Skypath as the fairest and most accurate group to ask, as these 11,000 people had already stated they would be likely users of the Skypath service through their submissions. And we think this is a fair subject group, as people who hadn’t submitted in support of Skypath might be less likely to use the Skypath as frequently as those who had taken the time to make a submission. This is because people are more likely to go out of their way to submit on an issue if it directly affects them, and as future users of the bridge, Skypath naturally affects this pool of Aucklanders.
We let the survey run for a day. Mostly due to timing constraints before we had to present at the hearing. We received 1113 responses, which we think is an accurate and fair sample size of our 11,000.
Firstly, we asked those who had submitted on Skypath “What is your main mode of transport?”
58% said Car. This shows accurately the people who filled in our form are not just the cycling community. The results were fairly representative of inner city Auckland in general.
Secondly, we asked “What would your main use of Skypath be?”
The results showed that most people wanted to use Skypath for recreation and leisure, 886 people in total. The rest would use it to get to work or to their place of education. Overwhelming they’re not commuters or tourist, they’re leisure people. This shows that the people in this survey strongly represent the group that is the most difficult to predict how they will use Skypath, information that before this survey, had been missing from research on Skypath. Unlike tourists who are likely to bus or walk or commuters who are likely to cycle, this group of leisure users could understandably drive or bus or walk or cycle. Therefore, understanding this group’s specific preferences in particular is really important for understanding the actual impact of parking and traffic rather than simply speculating “that leisure users are likely to drive”.
Then we asked “If you were to use Skypath during a weekday, how would you get there?”
61% said they would bike, 13% said they would bus, 12% would walk and 11% said they would bring their car. This shows that although cars are currently the main mode of transport for those surveyed, overall they did not have the intention to arrive there by car.
“If you were to use Skypath during a weekend, how would you get there?”
60% said they would bike, 14% said they would come by car. This is a broadly similar outcome to the last question.
“If it was made clear, in Skypath promotional materials, that parking was extremely limited at both ends of Skypath, how would you then get there?
Only 2.2% of people said they would still try to park as close as they could to Skypath. Otherwise, on realising that there would be poor parking facilities, they preferred to take other modes to Skypath or park elsewhere.
The last question we asked – “If safe separated cycle lanes were constructed at each end, how would you then get there?” – got a considerably different result: the number who said they would cycle jumped from 56.5% to 76.1%.
This clearly shows that amongst Skypath’s potential user group there is strong demand for high quality cycling infrastructure. It shows that Auckland Transport’s planned investment over the next 3 years is bang on, and that while Aucklanders may seem to love their cars, this is only because they are waiting for better transport choices.
These results show, more conclusively than anything else we’ve seen, that most people, most of the time, intend to use Skypath in a way that will have minor effects on parking or traffic. While we think it is probably fair that Northcote residents are granted some kind of residents’ parking scheme (to protect against the 2% of Skypath users who intend to try and hunt for nearby parking spots) we don’t think it is reasonable or fair that a few local residents make assumptions about the next generation of transport users moving through their area.
Skypath is going to be brilliant for Auckland. Let’s base its design on evidence and the city we want to create not just the outdated conjecture of a few.