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Exploring the right of way in New Zealand

Runstad Fellow and MSRE Candidate 2017 Genevieve Hale-Case kicks off a series of blog posts from the 2015-16 Runstad Affiliate Fellows as they share their experiences in the fair city of Auckland…

Fellows Auckland
Affiliate Fellows Joe David, Barbara Swift, Rick Mohler, Ben Broesamle, Amy Hartman, and Genevieve Hale-Case

The Runstad Fellows spent our spring break in Auckland, New Zealand diving deeper into questions of the right of way.  Auckland is a city that in many ways, is strikingly similar to Seattle. It is a city located on an isthmus of about the same age as Seattle. Auckland is a socially progressive city grappling with issues of rising housing costs, a growing population, the expansion of a transit network in a car-dependent city and the threat of natural disaster. In many ways, we felt right at home.

We spent a jam-packed week meeting with numerous members of Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Auckland’s utility agency, developers, architects, artists and activists. After long days of meetings and tours we would reconvene in the living room of our AirBnB and spend the next several hours processing and compiling our notes from the day.  By about 11pm, we were all so tired we could barely string together a sentence.  Then we’d fall into bed, get up and do it all over again.

Of the many people who very generously gave us their time in Auckland, one in particular made a big impression on us. Darren Davis, a senior transportation planner at Auckland Transport, spent the better part of three days with our group. On our first full day in Auckland, Darren led us on a walking tour of the central city. Even though Darren stands about 5’6”, we had to work to keep up with his brisk pace.  We had to work even harder to keep up with the constant flow of information from his encyclopedic brain. Over the following days, Darren led us on a driving tour of Auckland’s suburbs, through an absolutely packed 3 hour presentation on the past present and future of Auckland Transportation planning, and finally to a happy hour full of the city’s hippest and smartest transit enthusiasts. Darren is a force of nature and we felt so fortunate to spend so much of our time with him.

Since returning, we’ve had a chance to come together in several longer work sessions, always over great food and drink, to distill our very full brains and notebooks into a short list of our biggest take-aways. Of course, you’ll have to stay tuned for the full report but in the meantime, here are a few things we loved and miss about Auckland:

– The flat white: Like a latte but better. The perfect ratio of espresso to milk. And there’s something about New Zealand milk…

– Cycletracks painted hot pink

– An IPA called “Dump the Trump”

– Seeing America’s Cup yachts up close

– Real-time transit maps on board every bus

– Impeccably designed city agency websites

– The car-stacker: straight out of a James Bond movie, a car elevator that dramatically reduces the cost of underground parking by eliminating the cost to condition garage space and using space much more efficiently.