It may be a shorter week than normal but there’s been a heap of news. Here’s some of the things you may have missed.


PT self-promotion

In a bit of self-promotion about the rise in public transport usage, Auckland Transport revealed that NX2 services will be increased and extended to the Hibiscus Coast.

Last year AT added an additional 13% capacity at peak times to the busiest bus corridors and more services are on the way.

“We’re adding an additional 20 NX2 peak services, these will be express services from Hibiscus Coast station to the city, they’ll start later this month. This will improve travel time for Hibiscus Coast customers by taking away the need to transfer at Albany.

“It will also increase capacity for people who use the service from other busway stations.”

Last year bus patronage grew at almost 9% and ferry passenger numbers were up 2%.

Meanwhile, the first 3 of Auckland’s new trains have arrived. “The trains are currently being tested and certified meaning we can run larger trains during the morning and afternoon peak.”

The remaining 12 will be here before the end of the year bringing the fleet to 72.

That AT are adding so many more services is a testament to the popularity of the busway but at the same time I do worry about making our system even more peak focused. This is because peak services can be extremely expensive to provide as the buses and drivers needed to operate them may only be doing one or maybe two trips a day. I wonder how many extra off-peak services we could have added for the same cost.


Rail Operator Tender

AT are once again looking to re-tender the running of trains in Auckland.

“We have the determination to reinvigorate the region’s rail services. With the City Rail Link to be completed in 2024 and the other recent rail upgrades just announced by central government, the future of Auckland rail is very bright.

“The current rail operating contract for Auckland metropolitan services has been in place since 2004. We’re now to undertake a tendering process for a future rail franchise agreement.

….

AT has made the decision to move towards a more integrated operating environment for rail services, this will see the incoming rail operator having greater responsibility and control for service delivery for the next phase of rail public transport growth in Auckland. This will add to the momentum already evident in the growing passenger numbers.

AT tried to do this in 20145 and after shortlisting three companies (Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev), gave up and just renewed Transdev’s contract.


Police Bikes

Police on bikes is something we’ve seen before but it has tended to have more of a novelty factor to it. That could be about to change as they’re set to trial e-bikes in four cities from next week.

On 12 February selected officers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin will take to the roads on e-bikes to trial them as a new tool to help keep our roads safe.

“Police is trialling e-bikes in four districts to engage with the public and help keep people safe,” says Inspector Gini Welch, Acting National Manager for Road Policing.

“Biking is becoming a more common way of getting around with easy manoeuvrability through traffic, and e-bikes are an environmentally friendly option.

“The idea of Police on bikes is not a new concept, however our focus is much broader now, especially in the area of road policing and crime prevention. And having e-bikes mean our officers also have a little extra power when they need it.”

Police is going to trial e-bikes in four city locations over four weeks to assess the potential benefits they could bring to policing and public safety in central city locations.

“Having officers on e-bikes gives increased visibility of Police in our communities, making us more accessible to you and contributing to people in our communities feeling safe and being safe.

“The bikes provide an opportunity to undertake road policing prevention activities focusing on distracted drivers (cell phones) and people not wearing seatbelts. Another appeal of the bikes is they will help us deter crime such as vehicle theft, burglary, and disorder.”

After the trial a formal evaluation will be completed and the potential for further operational use will be considered.

Being on a bike is one of the easiest ways to spot drivers using cell phones.


Road Deaths

Following the worst December in more than a decade for road deaths, there was some positive news in January with the number of deaths down considerably on the last few years. In total 21 people lost their lives on our roads during the month. That’s 21 too many but is down on the last few years, which from 2016 to 2019 saw 34, 31, 36 and 32 people die.


Toot and wait more

We don’t have too much of an issue with people tooting in Auckland but perhaps we could find some other use for it.


Watering the motorways

The irony levels were high this week after it it turned out that it’s been so warm recently that the NZTA have had to water the motorways to keep them cool enough.

It’s a little surprising that it’s the motorways being watered and yet at the same time we don’t seem to have too many issues with heat restrictions on the rail network.


New council CEO needed

The Auckland Council are now on the hunt for a new Chief Executive after Steven Town, the incumbent, announced he was stepping down.

His role at Auckland Council had been due to end in December, but yesterday Town told the mayor and councillors he would depart early.

He leaves the biggest job in local government, heading a council formed following the merger of eight local bodies in 2010.

Prior to the council, Town was NZTA director for Auckland and Northland and perhaps one disappointment was he was too hands off with the likes of Auckland Transport. Hopefully whoever replaces him will take a more active role in transport outcomes, such as pushing back against AT delays to changes like pedestrianising Queen St.


Stop driving to the city centre

There have been a number of articles recently effectively complaining about the impact of all the construction in the city centre.

Auckland office workers yesterday spent up to 40 minutes stuck in traffic getting out of a busy side street due to roadworks in the CBD.

“It was a nightmare,” said Newstalk ZB newsreader Niva Retimanu.

She spent 38 minutes in the morning getting from her job at NZME to Victoria St, a distance of a few hundred metres along Graham St

We know that already just  over half of all people arriving in the city do so by public transport, walking or cycling (or scootering). Perhaps what’s surprising is that the ‘non-car’ modeshare isn’t higher.

In my opinion, Auckland Transport and the Council need to be much clearer in the message that if you want to go to the city, don’t drive. They also need to be doing more to take advantage of the disruption and ensure that changes like temporary closures become more permanent.

This is becoming even more important as next month the closures step up another level with the entire Albert/Wellesley St intersection closing till next year for City Rail Link works.

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45 comments

  1. The NZTA use sea water to spray the roads rather than precious tap water.
    I have read that in Singapore sea water is used for flushing toilets etc

    1. That doesn’t sound right. We don’t salt our roads in parts of the country where ice occurs due to the environmental impacts and corrosive impacts on cars, I’d be surprised it is allowed on the motorway network.

    2. Hong Kong flushes toilets with seawater, not Singapore.
      Singapore treats its sewer water sufficiently for it to be reconsumed, “new water”. It’s there as a contingency but only gets used for industrial purposes.

  2. AT mean they added 13% capacity at peak times in the peak direction. On the Northern busway that means you watch as even more empty not in service buses go past when you are trying to get into town in the evenings. Eventually a bus stops and they fill that one to capacity.

    1. providing for travel in the contra-peak direction is a long time blindspot for PT providers in Auckland

      for too long the focus has been on CBD travel when there is growing employment in sub regional centres

  3. Have been watching the police guys take bike training and awareness around the Viaduct from work.

    AT should be doing more to communicate that cross town driving should be avoided, but why aren’t people calling in and scolding that Newstalk reader (apart from the fact its Newstalk), she shouldn’t be driving that at the best of times.

    1. If her start or finish times are outside service hours, maybe she has a case, unless her employer was progressive enough to offer other options for the end that wasn’t covered by service.

      Of course this is assuming that she lives in an area with a service pattern that doesn’t make it an odyessy to get to and from the locations she needs, which is something the peak focus of the PT system doesn’t do well at for a range of users.

      1. I lived a couple of blocks south from there, and over there my Hop card wasn’t worth the plastic it was printed on.

        And it is all good pointing and laughing at the congestion… until you realize Victoria Street doesn’t have bus lanes.

  4. “AT tried to do this in 20145 and after shortlisting three companies (Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev), gave up and just renewed Transdev’s contract.”

    I think AT still need to do the tendering process to give pressure to Transdev to up its game. Otherwise Transdev will be monopoly and have no motivation to up its game.

    1. And I hope whoever wins the tender don’t try the same trick that Transdev have tried but not succeeding by getting rid of the TM’s/Conductors .

  5. Police bosses are going to have a hard time prying those e-bikes from officers ‘cold dead hands’ after the trial finishes!

  6. Police on pushbikes will be fantastic, with the added bonus that it will be a great perspective shifter for both them and motorists.

  7. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if AT introduced off-peak discounts to encourage more people to travel outside of the times with the highest demand. I’m quite sure that there are quite a few people who could potentially work flexible hours in order to take advantage of this. This would also relieve pressure on the peak services. Honestly, I do not understand the fixation on these services. I live in Avondale and have 3 peak-only services – 221x, 223x and 22a. I can’t say that they are full. By the looks of things these passengers could easily use the regular services and there are plenty of these.

    1. Worth a go IMO. Surprised AT haven’t done already.
      Wellington is expanding its off-peak fares from Monday next week with the addition of an earlybird discount for boarding before 7am (buses only at this stage using Snapper smartcard). Existing off-peak hours are 9am-3pm & after 6:30pm weekdays, all day weekends & public holidays. Discount is 25% off the standard adult Snapper smartcard (bus) or 10-trip (train) fare.

      Details/background in council order paper:
      http://www.gw.govt.nz/committee-meetings-calendar/detail/7663

      1. Wouldn’t it be better to examine the whole picture of peak traffic? It is not peak PT demand that is costing Auckland dearly, but peak vehicle demand. It is the number of cars that have caused $700 million to be spent on the Northern motorway and goodness knows how much on the Southern motorway and next Mill Rd and Penlink.

        I know that some think that removing cars from peak will simply mean that this space is filled by other cars, but European cities are a testament that this is not necessarily true.

        Lets have some economic modelling of what is the best overall economic solution. Heidi advocates the SUMP model and this seems to have a lot of merit if we judge major cities like Milan.

        It amazes me that anyone would hold Wellington up to be a PT model that we should follow. If you want to look at a successful model pick a city from the Wikipedia modal share table, most of which are in Europe.

      1. No smartcard on the trains really shows when it comes to discount. You have to sink a money into multiple trips wheras bus users get it on every trip with snapper.

    2. I was just thinking today actually that dominion road has peak limited stop express services. Why not instead have a third route to Green Bay that runs all day with limited stops? Looks like plenty of room for bus lanes to Green Bay, with limited stops it could be a fairly quick service (without spending billions)

  8. Why couldn’t that person from Newstalk ZB just walk those few hundred metres up the road ? or is she a Mike Hosking wantabe .

      1. Why couldn’t that Newstalk person simply go the other way? Graham St and Victoria have been messy for quite some time and a logical response from someone in a car is to take another route. There are people all over Auckland who sit for ages in buses with no alternative because that is the way the bus goes. I think this is one of those comments that reflects on the writer more than it does the situation.

  9. Yes there is a risk that a cost recovery based peak bus run setup is going to slowly erode our new network over time into the old one with huge spaces between bus runs on some routes in the middle of the day, early morning and late nights then all saved up for the peaks. Then slowly all sort of odd bod services trying to deliver people without transfers (as the waits are too long) from door to door locations.

    1. ah miffy, still stuck in the previous century with all of its failed tropes, we all know how that one turned out; nobody does go the city centre anymore, cos it’s too crowded…

      …and of course cos suburbia is so glorious.

  10. At least one of those police officers on those pushbikes does not inspire much confidence in me for the fitness of the Police force.
    Surely; the police force should need to meet physical fitness standards?

    Anyway; Police on bicycles is a good idea. It’s interesting to me that Policing in NZ is moving away from being done almost exclusively from automobiles. I might be the only one, but it always seemed odd to me how the NZ Police got all of those stab-proof vests when hardly any of them walk the beat anymore and almost all of them move around in cars. But then again; I never understood why the Police also always got those overheavy Aussie cars instead of something that might be smaller and more nippy and mobile.

    Maybe the NZ Police will move back away from being almost exclusively operating in automobiles and more will use bicycles and walk the beat. I won’t be expecting them to bring back those Police mounted on Horses though.
    Maybe they might bring back those Bobby hats? I remember when they got rid of them and they said it was because they didn’t need them anymore (as hardly any of them walked the beat) and they didn’t offer good enough sun protection, which didn’t make much sense given that the Peaked cap that replaced it doesn’t offer much protection from the sun either. I saw in the news lately that some young Police officer has pushed to get the peaked cap replaced with this lame-looking American/Australian style baseball cap. I’m sure that will offer a ton of Protection and command respect from the Public (en sarc).

    1. “But then again; I never understood why the Police also always got those overheavy Aussie cars instead of something that might be smaller and more nippy and mobile.”

      Because of frequent use of the back seats, not only for “guests” but officers too. In fact one of the key complaints about the smaller ZB Commodores when they hit the fleet was the lack of rear space and headroom.

  11. The Climate Change Commission has set up some technical working groups. They’ll be holding public meetings over the next few months. The transport group is:

    David Crawford, Motor Industry Association
    Malia Vehikite, Kiwi Rail
    John Nicholson, Aviation New Zealand
    Rosie Mercer, Ports of Auckland
    John Davies, Auckland Forecasting Centre
    Simon McManus, Intelligent Transport System NZ
    Mark Gilbert, Drive Electric
    Kayne Davis, Air New Zealand
    Simon Kingham (observer), Ministry of Transport
    Rob Hannaby (observer), NZTA
    Joanna Pohatu (observer), Ministry of Transport
    Mitchell Trezona-Le Comte (observer), EECA

    Last week I talked to James Renwick who is on the CCC. Of course I couldn’t ask him about specifics, and their first official report is a year away, but still, my impression is that the CCC is in good hands.

    https://blog.planetaryecology.org/2020/02/08/climate-commission-is-cleared-for-takeoff-james-renwick-talks-ice-snow-and-climate-action/

    1. The problem I see is, firstly that public transport provision is only obliquely represented by the MTA, KiwiRail and Air New Zealand. Non motorised transport, cycling and walking, does not have an industry group, therefore is without representation.
      Yet better provision of Public Transport, and walking and cycling provision is the most significant route to reduce transport emissions that are a large contributor to climate change.
      Am I missing something?

  12. Police bikes are a great initiative and if, as stated, it makes it easier to spot people using cellphones, I look forward to more tickets being handed out for this offence.

    1. I agree, Vance. Seatbelts too. And it’d be good if they could nab all the parents sitting in their cars outside schools with their engines running, polluting the air for the kids walking and cycling home.

        1. Do you mean by what legislation? That’s a tricky one, and I have found one law that should work – if interpreted in the spirit intended (ha!) Clearly, people aren’t being considerate of our children’s basic need for clean air, and aren’t going to step up responsibly without legislation and enforcement.

  13. In 2018 people manufactured a crisis using dodgy stats.
    If you used the 2012 to 2016 comparison, you get minor improvement. No crisis.
    If you used 2013-2016 to compare with, you get a massive increase. Oh no! Its a Crisis!! The wonder of stats. Make them say whatever you want.

    2017-2020 AT does nothing much about road safety.
    2017-2020 Jacinda talks a lot but does nothing much about road safety.

    2020 January road deaths down by a third for no reason at all.
    We did nothing and lives are saved! Let’s continue to do nothing!

    Can we stop bleating about the made-up safety crisis now?
    The whole “crisis” was based on dodgy use of statistics to work up a panic.
    Now it just looks discredited. I think we could be approaching a crisis, but we aren’t there yet and we need to scrap the histrionics and focus on advocating for more safety spending.

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