It’s been another busy week with so many interesting articles I’m struggling to fit things in.
Auckland Transport to buy only electric buses from now on
Some great news yesterday with Todd Niall reporting that new buses are likely to only be electric from now on.
New buses added to Auckland’s commuter fleet are likely to be electric from now on.
Auckland Transport hoped up to 30 electric buses each year will join the city’s fleet to soak up rising patronage and replace diesels that reach their 19-year limit.
The council-owned agency said the electrification of the current fleet of 1360 buses can be paid for out existing budget for the next few years. However, the ramp-up from 2023, when contracts with bus companies are due for renewal, might need additional funding.
The pace of the roll-out means additional electric buses will not reduce the carbon emissions of Auckland’s fleet, but will stop them rising.
“The priority for us will be focussing on how to improve air quality in the city centre,” said Darek Koper, Auckland Transport’s manager of bus services.
Making roads in Mangere Bridge safer
Walking to school in Māngere Bridge will now be safer for children, thanks to Auckland Transport’s Safer Communities programme.
The Māngere- Ōtāhuhu Local Board area has a high rate of road death and serious injury. 80% of all road deaths and serious injuries occur on 50km/h roads like in Māngere Bridge.
Nearly half of those deaths and serious injuries involve elderly or children walking or scootering to school.
Māngere Bridge is the second community to benefit under the programme after Mt Roskill.
Safety improvements will see wider footpaths – with clearer boundaries between them and surrounding properties.
There will also be raised pedestrian crossings and raised speed tables to encourage safer speeds.
Drury Town Centre
Last week in the Herald’s Project Auckland series that also contained my Light Rail piece, was also something from the government about the investments announced for the NZ Upgrade Programme and how three of them combined were also helping in the development of Drury. That was then followed up with a press release about it.
NZ Upgrade transport investments in South Auckland will lay the foundations for a future town at Drury and represent a new way to help our biggest city grow, Minister of Transport and Urban Development Phil Twyford says.
“Our Government is investing $2.4 billion in roads and rail to unlock growth in South Auckland and support a new town at Drury, as well as further development at Paerata, Pukekohe and Karaka,” Phil Twyford said.
“This includes $1.35 billion to build Mill Road, $371 million to extend the electrified rail network to Pukekohe, $247 million for new railway stations, a park and ride facility, and a bus and rail interchange at Drury, and $423 million to improve State Highway 1 between Papakura and Drury South.
“This is a break from the ad hoc way we have previously planned our towns and suburbs. Instead of transport infrastructure having the catch up with housing development, we are investing in the roads and rail from the outset. For the first time, we’re putting the horse before the cart.
“Drury will be a well-planned community with all the jobs, facilities, retail and public spaces people want. Families who want to move there will be able to do so without needing to have a car as there will already be two train stations, and connecting walkways and cycleways.
The press release also included this image of the design for the Drury development. There does appear to be some good density in the development but it also raises many questions, such as:
- Why does it appear the station is basically half in a park and not have much immediately around it?
- Why is the ‘town heart’ not focused on the train station?
- Why does the main access road from the motorway pass between the station and town centre? That feels like it will create significant severance at peak times from steams of cars.
- Are all those green buildings part of the medical precinct, if so why so many.
- Why are we still building big box (Homemaker Precinct) where the focus is on having the shops hidden behind parking which just encourages people to drive, not just to the area but even between each shop. Why can’t we at least put the shops in the middle (focused around that intersection) and have the parking hidden behind them.
- I still don’t get how this station and the one about 1.5km down the tracks are costing $247 million given rebuilding Puhinui into a likely much more significant station is $60 million. Is that extra cost for all the park & ride they seem to be planning to build?
Hamilton to Auckland Train
The trial of the train that will run between Hamilton and Auckland finally has a start date, 3rd August.
The Te Huia service will consist of two morning trains from Hamilton, with two return evening trains each week day and a single return train on Saturday.
“As the Waikato and Auckland grow closer together, this new passenger train will become a crucial connection between these two major centres.
“It will allow up to 300 people to get to and from Auckland each day, helping reduce congestion on our highways and transport emissions.
“Not only will it take the stress out of driving, the carriages will be comfortable and equipped with Wi-Fi, which will allow passengers to use the two-hour, twenty-minute travel time productively.”
I’m fully supportive of running trains between Auckland and Hamilton but with only two services to Auckland in the morning and only two back again in the evening it makes it hard to be excited about this as it will be next to useless for most people who might consider it an option for use. At the very least surely it should have a few services from Auckland to Hamilton in the morning.
The service will run between Hamilton and Papakura using some of the old locomotive hauled SA/SD trains that used to operate in Auckland prior to electrification and which are being refurbished.
At the same time we’ve also had the Waikato Regional Council suggesting boring another tunnel through the Kaimai’s for passenger rail to be extended to Tauranga with this quote
“There is an existing freight tunnel but it is too toxic to use, the drivers have to wear masks through that tunnel.”
How about we just electrify the tunnel and line which would also benefit freight.
Huntly Bypass Opens
The Huntly bypass was officially opened in the middle of February but this week it finally opened to drivers.
The $384 million Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway opened to traffic this morning.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors removed cones and barriers from the country’s newest road just before noon and traffic switched from the old State Highway 1 route via Huntly.
The 15km four-lane highway takes State Highway 1 east of Huntly town, across lowlands and streams and over Taupiri Range, which is sacred to Waikato-Tainui Māori.
Waka Kotahi Waikato Portfolio Manager Darryl Coalter says the Transport Agency is thrilled to see traffic flowing on the new highway, and thanks motorists for their patience while the finishing touches were applied to the new road.
Passing lane to Cycleway
The NZTA also announced this week what seems like a great little project, turning a passing lane into a cycleway in the Hawkes Bay.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will begin construction this month on making access to Hohepa and Waitangi Regional Park safer, and providing a new direct cycle path on State Highway 51 between Ngaruroro and Clive rivers.
The northbound passing lane on this section of State Highway 51 has become increasingly unsafe and will be removed.
“Safety is a top priority for the Transport Agency, and we know from our monitoring of the area and our engagement with the community that this passing lane has become increasingly unsafe,” Transport Agency Regional Transport Systems Manager Oliver Postings says.
“With the new Whakatu Arterial Route taking a lot of the heavy vehicles towards the Hawke’s Bay Expressway, the passing lane no longer serves its original purpose.
“By removing the entire passing lane, access to Hohepa can be made safer and improvements can be made to the cycleway connection between Clive and Napier. This is great news for the Clive community and local cyclists.”
State Highway 51 used to be SH2 but was changed last year with the Hawkes Bay Expressway getting the SH2 designation.
Use PT or traffic will get worse
On the motorway, most of the cars were only carrying one person.
Use of the city’s public transport is only growing by about five percent year on year, which isn’t fast enough according to Auckland Transport.
“We’ve got to at least double that to keep congestion levels the same,” executive general manager of integrated networks Mark Lambert says.
“We have to build more bus lanes, more cycle lanes, and increase the quality and usability of public transport so more people feel good about using public transport.”
And if we don’t, all signs point to congestion “getting a lot worse”.
High St changes a success
Trainers Manager Beau Jeffries says while he was initially apprehensive about the changes, he was proven wrong.
“I was sure lots of our customers parked near our store, so I was dubious about the impact of having fewer car parks outside,” he says.
“Then immediately, the first day of having wider footpaths, we had people come into the store who had walked past every day without noticing us. Suddenly people had more room to look at what was around them; they could stop without somebody bumping into them.
“I was happy to be proven wrong.”