« is speed obsolete? professor condon responds | Main | should fares be higher during peak hours? »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

David in Ottawa

"The most remarkable transformation now underway [...] is the consolidation of the entire urban area, and its inner ring of surrounding rural districts -- into a single enormous City of Auckland. Such a step is barely imaginable in Australia and inconceivable in a North American context."

It might just be 'inconceivable' in an American context, but it sure isn't inconceivable in a *North* American context.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there were wholesale municipal amalgamations in the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The most prominent were those of the large metropolitan areas, but all sorts of towns, townships and villages disappeared while many counties were completely reorganized from two-tier to single-tier municipalities (no longer strictly "counties" but the title often remained in the name of the new entity). Forced annexations of developed rural areas to the central town or city were also part of the mix.

Toronto became a 'megacity' (often "mispronounced" as "meg-ass-i-ty") when the old City of Toronto and five surrounding suburban cities were amalgamated in 1998. Ottawa followed suit in 2001, as did a number of other Ontario municipalities. Montreal and several metropolitan regions in Quebec followed in 2002.

Nor were these the first. Winnipeg and environs went through this in the 1970s.

One would think that if one were writing about "consolidation efforts in the developed world" one would look to where it has already happened in the developed world rather than speak of one yet-to-happen as a future reference.

Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg are all in Canada, btw. You know, the big country north of the US... the one where Vancouver is located. I dislike the sometime Canadian tendency to jump up and down waving maple leafs for attention, but seriously, sometimes it seems to be needed. This kind of ignorance is appalling, it really is.

Corey Burger

David, don't forget Halifax, which was merged in 1996. Interestingly, the Community Charter in BC now precludes the provincial gov't from amalgamating municipalities without their explicit consent via a referendum.

Alon Levy

The US has examples of amalgamation in Columbus and Indianapolis, about which Aaron Renn has written in length on the Urbanophile.

David in Ottawa

Corey: I knew of Halifax's amalgamation but had considered Halifax's population a bit small for comparison. However, I do note that Halifax (like Ottawa) includes a significant rural ring in the amalgamated city, just like the Auckland proposal. Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg didn't really have this extensive rural component in their amalgamations.

One of the difficulties with these amalgamations is that they're sort of like closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted. By the time the overseeing level of government gets around to carrying out these amalgamations, the metropolitan area has already sprawled and the outlying suburbs have already long engaged in beggar-thy-neighbour policies. Once their populations are brought into a single city they seem to think that they should continue to be able to enjoy urban services at suburban tax rates, and they vote accordingly. This happened in Winnipeg and it essentially happened in Ottawa. Toronto sort of suffered from this, but amalgamation there didn't grab the second ring of suburbs (Mississauga, Markham, etc), either. I can't even fathom what went on in Montreal since its municipal structure looked more like a map of 19th century pre-Bismarck Germany than a city. Really - I'm not joking:


David in Ottawa

Sorry, that was *after* the 2002 merger. This was what it looked like before:


Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Thanks for the correction re Ottawa. I've softened the language slightly in response. I lived in Vancouver for a year, so I obviously know where Canada is. Any chauvinism in my knowledge is of an east-west variety, not north-south as David implies.


A similar sort of process to the amalgamation has started in the UK, except it's much more tentative and bottom up. From next year the third and fourth biggest conurbations (Manchester and Leeds-Bradford) will be governed by new authorities created to manage regional issues including transport.

This is a step to undo much of the damage done to metropolitan politics by the abolition of the metropolitan councils in 80s, so it's more of an evolution than a revolution; but like in Auckland it will be interesting to see how the tensions between the city and the country are worked out.


Great to have you here in Auckland Jarrett, and to meet you last night. Thanks for the kind words about my blog.

A few comments on parts of your post.

Firstly, we did have a "catastrophic money" phase during the 1980s where we demolished most of our heritage buildings in the CBD and either built ugly glass boxes to replace them or simply left the sites vacant for the next 30 years. Our central motorway junction ripped out whole inner suburbs leading to the odd situation now where our CBD is effectively an island surrounded by motorways.

In terms of "has the battle for PT been won?" I would say 'partly'. The rhetoric is very supportive, but when you delve into "where's the money going?" the answer is usually around 85% for roads and 15% for public transport. That said, there are enough important projects underway now (such as rail electrification) that we've got enough momentum now it's possible to be quite optimistic about where things are going. It's just a shame that the Minister of Transport in central government is effectively a puppet for the trucking lobby.

In terms of the local government reorganisation, or what we call the "Super City", it's hard to see how this will turn out. There are certainly some big advantages - in that urban planning and transport will be operated regionally, which is great. However, as part of the reorganisation we are seeing transport split off from council into its own agency - which will make integration between transport and planning very difficult.

Hope you're enjoying your stay. And also hope that you don't get killed on the pedestrian unfriendly city streets!

Brent Palmer

@ David in Montreal: "I can't even fathom what went on in Montreal since its municipal structure looked more like a map of 19th century pre-Bismarck Germany than a city"

That map looks like your typical Australian state capital (although each level might have a different set of responsibilities in either country). The exception is Brisbane, where 20 councils were combined to create a "super-council" in 1925. A rare (perhaps only) occurrence of Brisbane being ahead of its time!

Brent Palmer

Could rail electrification eventually make re-introduction of trolleybus lines on the isthmus a possibility? Most of New Zealand's electricity's from hydro.


Well Brent, the differences between Montreal and, say, Melbourne, is that nowhere in Melbourne is so dominant as pre-merger Montreal, but on the other hand there are no enclaves, exclaves, or otherwise discontinuous municipalities.

Note that the councils in metropolitan Melbourne were merged in the 1990s; we now have around thirty. I don't know how many we had beforehand, or if a simple comparison can be done.

In Australia it kinda makes sense, because most states are so dominated by their capital city, that anything that can't be done by local government, might as well get done by the state government. On the other hand, I would absolutely love it if planning near train stations and on major roads (i.e. those with decent public transport) was taken away from local councils and given to ... well ... even no-one (i.e. a developer free-for-all) would be better than the current situation, which amounts to parents and older childless people stealing from their children and other young people.

Tom West

Picking up the Canadian examples about how merging cities with their surronding suburbs is too late... in Alberta, the provincial policy seems to be that cities must contain land for future development *within* their boundaries, annexing land from surronding rural counties as needed. This means that any subrubs ar firmly within the city's control (for better or worse). See Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, etc. (Edmonton/St Albert is the exception).

Art Busman

It's nothing like Seattle or Vancouver except perhaps in the winter which is what it is now there. During their summer, the place is like Hawaii. While the Kiwi's are drastically different from other Commonwealthers in their civility and almost Midwestern nature, unfortunately, they keep aspiring to be POMS. Centralizing the Auckland area under one strong City government and I'm assuming the City of Waitakere is the WRONG idea. The decentralization of government is EXACTLY why the place seems so in touch with nature and its habitat. Now you'll have an unwieldly bureaucracy that will conspire with corporations to convert Auckland into a Seattle or San Francisco, an uncivil civic armpit.

Art Busman

It's one thing to quote Jane Jacobs, but don't forget Robert Moses her nemesis, the embodiment of Hitleresque urban planning, the centralization of vision and decision making, great master plans bulldozing small communities and neighborhoods. That's exactly what Auckland needs huh.

Dan S.

Jarrett, I don't recall Jane Jacobs talking about "catastrophic money" but she does talk about "cataclysmic money." At least by calling it cataclysmic, we acknowledge that the money may have been intended for the greater good whether or not it lead to catastrophe. I feel that this is an important distinction.


The urban consolidation is not foreign to the US... Our two largest cities were result of amalgamation: New York City was result of massive consolidation of several boroughs (e.g. equivalent of "cities"); and Los Angeles, which annexed the cities of Venice, San Pedro, and Hollywood as well as vast track of unincorporated land in the San Fernando Valley and the Harbor area.

Anyway... change of subject...

I used to live in Auckland and so I fully agree with Jarrett that the city is very beautiful. However, I think Jarrett is perhaps a bit glassy eyed because Auckland metro area is basically a LA-style suburban sprawl with multi-polar anchors in different corners. In land area, Auckland metro area nearly matches Los Angeles but with only 1/20 of the population. Low density sprawl type development predominates and public transportation system is rudimentary. The Western and Southern suburbs could use better commuter train service but I'm not sure how effective rail investment will be for the rest of the area. BRT is probably the way to go to link the spwaling Eastern suburbs (Mt Wellington, Pakuranga, Howick etc) and North Shore with city center.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Dan S. re 'cataclysmic money".  Thanks, and corrected.

@bzcat.  While some US cities do encompass much of their suburbia (Houston and San Antonio come to mind) I'm not aware of a major US city where literally the entire continuous urban agglomeration -- the entire patch of lights visible from an airplane -- is under a single municipal government, along with a substantial surrounding rural buffer sufficient to encompass most areas that benefit from urban proximity.  That's what's new about the Auckland city structure.

I agree that Auckland has a lot of sprawl.  But as I've argued elsewhere, the multi-polar structure -- with the outer highrise centres of Takapuna and Manukau and other such centres under development -- is a positive feature for effective transit.  See:  http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/how-paris-is-like-los-angeles.html

@Art Busman.  Auckland's winter lows are a little higher than Vancouver's, but summer is certainly not like Hawaii.  Wikipedia: 

"The average daily maximum temperature is 23.7 °C in
February, and 14.5 °C in July. ... High levels of rainfall occur almost year-round with an average of
1240 mm per year spread over 137 'rain days'."

Main difference from Seattle/Vancouver is that rain is evenly spread around the year, whereas Seattle/Vancouver is relatively dry in the summer.  Summer nights in Auckland are also relatively cool, cooler than in Vancouver and certainly much cooler than in Hawaii.

Matt Fisher

Also in my native Newfoundland and Labrador. I lived in St. John's and was born there, and in 1990, the town of Wedgewood Park (where I lived) and the town of Goulds amalgamated into the present city of St. John's.

Matt Fisher

Oh, and also, most of Manitoba's electricity is from hydro too. This would be ideal to run light rail in Winnipeg, as well as in Auckland over the Northern Busway (a switch of the BRT to LRT is planned).

The comments to this entry are closed.

the firm

Jarrett is now in ...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...