When you see a picture of Hobart, at first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it is Wellington. I wanted to find a city that was comparable to Wellington, rather than some multi-million population metropolis in Europe, and see what issues they faced and how they were planning to deal with them.
Yes, we are leaving the election for a moment, though in some ways this is relevant. As I’ve discussed in previous posts it is my opinion that policy is lacking innovation and vision. This might give some candidates new ideas.
The resemblances between Hobart and Wellington are many. A city surrounded by harbour, hilly terrain, open to extreme weather, on a very similar latitude, a similar population size, a capital city, and diverse in terms of its people.
The challenges are the same. Climate change, a housing crisis, homelessness, sub-optimal public transport, the same traffic problems, the list goes on.
Hobart has adopted some innovative plans and projects across the city under a “Connected Hobart Smart City Framework and Action Plan.” It’s an ambitious plan that seeks to use a mixture of people and technology to support the city as it grows.
While Wellington has it’s own “Toward 2040: Smart Capital” it pales in comparison to Hobart’s actionable plan.
Often, we see Wellington City able to identify principles and outcomes but fail to turn that into an actual plan, the Climate Emergency is a good example of that, and we need to move beyond dreaming to doing.
You can read Hobart’s plan at the link above; it has a lot of information and dozens of innovative ideas to help the city head toward being smarter. That’s something we need in Wellington because our urban planning is still trapped in twentieth-century thinking. I also know that the Council itself has some Officers that would not only dearly love to explore these kinds of options and are very skilled in the area but are most likely constrained by the dinosaurs at senior levels.
The other approach, particularly to transport, that Hobart has taken is one of balance (as we will see), whereas Wellington has allowed the discussion to become polarised with walking and cycling well entrenched in one corner and motorised traffic in the other, while public transport lies broken in the middle.
Here are some of the ideas that Hobart has come up with to help support their city.
Paying people to cycle
Traffic is, uncannily so, like Wellington. Travel times have doubled in the last decade, cars are the predominant form of transport, single accidents grind the city to a halt, and the Eastern corridor is the worst for congestion, eerily like our city.
Hobart is looking at trialling paying people to cycle to the city. Riders would register with an App that would pay them a nominal fee per kilometre rode. That money would be transferred to the rider’s account each month.
Also, they are exploring incentivising walking and use of public transport as well, though what the incentives could be are not decided.
Weirdly, while the initial reaction would be that this would be an additional cost to the city, Hobart believes if can be balanced because the city effectively subsidises cars that travel to the city already, for example, provision of car parks.
The city is going to trial automated vehicles within the CBD. Like us, they’ve discovered that continually investing in roads and private vehicle infrastructure is ultimately a negative for a CBD. They also recognise that for the near future, cars are part of the equation.
The trial will look at high-volume routes that are not covered by public transport to allow different parts of the CBD to connect. Long-term that could include a fleet of automated cars that are Council owned and controlled, think of it as public transport on a minor scale to supplement a bus.
If nothing else, it allows the city to be automated car “ready,” providing for when automated vehicles eventually become more mainstream.
In the case of Hobart, one of the driving forces between creating a drone fleet is to manage the risk of bushfire, something that Wellington does not need to contend with, yet.
Drones can also provide a lot of data about how a city is working in real-time, monitoring pollution for example. Internationally, drone ports are becoming more prevalent with trials looking at replacing courier deliveries within a CBD, monitoring of large pieces of infrastructure, many medical applications, monitoring the environment (tree growth and health in hard to get places), food delivery, mapping, and eventually, people transport.
I did giggle a little about this project, imagining the chaos that a standard Wellington southerly would bring to a drone network over the city, effectively grounding them.
However, a lot of these applications take more vehicle movements off the roads while providing additional information for the city to plan for the future.
The city is proposing to provide a service that allows people to track their pets. This is quite a clever initiative because it a) gives people are very useful service, b) allows residents to engage with the city in an easy way, and c) tells the city exactly where every pet is in real-time, again, allowing planning to be more accurate.
Technology Free Zones
This initiative identifies areas where there are technology dead spots, then promotes them as restful places to be. No wifi, cellphone signals, Bluetooth, or any other electronic interference.
Open City Dashboard
An accessible dashboard either via the internet or in some physical locations that shows the entire city eco-system in real-time. Think of it as a fitness watch for your city.
Other ideas include provision of bicycle smart locker & destination facilities, translation services for visitors, smart street furniture, crime prevention initiatives, assistive technologies for lesser abled residents, augmented reality to support heritage, sharing economies, EV charging, work from home support, and dozens of others all wrapped in strong governance, ethics, and privacy frameworks.
Hobart is very similar to Wellington and has unlocked dozens of innovative ideas that support the ecosystem of the city across multiple pain points. Those pain points, challenges, are eerily like Wellington’s issues.
Hobart has an actionable plan to progress these ideas.
Wellington is showing its age and needs to consider how to unlock innovation in a cross-partisan way to make the city better. City leaders need to enter the twenty-first century and put aside ageing models that are no longer fit for purpose.