Wow what a week. Here’s our weekly roundup

AT’s COVID-19 Response

Auckland Transport’s response to COVID-19 has evolved over the week since the first announcement on Tuesday.

On Wednesday they said that people paying cash on buses would be given a free HOP card in a bid to keep bus drivers safer by minimising physical contact between them and customers. To be honest, even though HOP has a fairly good penetration rate with 93% of bus users already using HOP,  this is a strategy that should have been in place since HOP was introduced.

Yesterday they went a step further and announced that from Monday, buses won’t be accepting cash fares and so you’ll only be able to use them if you have a HOP card. Again this is a step they should have taken long ago in a bid to speed up boarding and is a practice used widely overseas. The previously mentioned free HOP card will still be available but only at AT’s 13 service centres.

I hope both measures will continue in the future once the current crisis has passed.

Lake Rd Consultation

While we’re on the topic of AT, this week they launched a consultation on their plans for Lake Rd on the Devonport Peninsula. Lake Rd is possibly one of the most complained about roads in Auckland

Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking feedback from the community on proposals for a $47M upgrade of Lake Road, Esmonde Road and Bayswater Avenue.

The proposals include fully protected safer cycle lanes along the peninsula, targeted transit lanes (T2 lanes), other safety improvements and intersection upgrades as well as a new shared walking/cycling path on Bayswater Avenue.

These improvements will assist in giving people more opportunity to make shorter trips safely on foot or by bike, or by bus or carpooling, and will free up road space for people who need to drive.

This round of public feedback follows on from previous consultation in 2017, in which the public favoured finding ways to improve the corridor as soon as possible, as well as avoiding an expensive and disruptive road widening project.

The proposals, as well as using new roadside electronic signs to provide real-time traffic updates, will help people in the area make travel choices early to avoid joining the congestion along Lake Road.

The project involves mainly a bunch of cycleway improvements and some transit lanes – although one involves converting an existing bus lane. One of the things they’re trying to avoid is taking property to widen the corridor which is good as that would make the project both very expensive and much more disruptive.

Frustratingly the project continues the tradition of bringing cycle lanes to the outskirts of Takapuna but not continuing them into the town centre.

On Esmonde Rd AT plan to convert the existing citybound bus only lane to a T2 lane. The lane is currently used by the frequent 82 route, which links Takapuna and Milford to the City Centre, and the peak only 802 route. I’m never a fan of downgrading existing bus priority as extra vehicles in the lane are likely to lead to buses being held up, possibly missing light phases at the likes of Barrys Point Rd and Fred Thomas Dr.

As I understand it, the big issue with the plans is how to get those T2 vehicles from the lane to the motorway onramp as they’re not able to use the bus onramp as that leads to the busway. Solutions could range from cheap ideas like taking an existing on-ramp lane through to having to build another whole lane, including bridge over the busway, so T2 cars don’t have to merge with the (stopped) traffic, because if that happens, that will quickly back up into the bus lane and hold up buses.

On Lake Rd itself it appears the biggest change will be making the cycleways safer by separating them from traffic while a few existing traffic lanes will be converted to T2 lanes.

I’ve been told that since renders were produced the design has been improved to add raised tables at intersections like the one above. If you’re submitting it would be worth reinforcing the need for them. What I’m not sure about is the reason for shifting to a two-way cycleway past the golf course. I certainly hope that’s not about trying to retain the existing on-street carparking.

The plans also involve a shared path on Bayswater Ave

It’s not like the road doesn’t have some significant width in places to provide proper safe cycling facilities but again it appears carparking is being prioritised.

The final part of the proposal is for upgrading of the Belmont town centre and is being driven by the council and local board. There are only high-level concept images but what they show is very concerning.

So we’ve got parked cars protected by squishy cyclists, hell the right image above even shows a car queuing over the cycleway – which is accurate I guess. It makes me wonder what century these designers live in because that’s certainly nowhere close to even good practice. This is made worse by the team that produced this appalling design being the one the Auckland Design Office is being sacrificed for and folded in to. It seems the wrong team is being chopped here. Feedback needs to be very clear this design is unacceptable.

Naturally even these plans are already being attacked by many usual suspects who are calling for the cycle lanes to be removed completely.

Unrelated to Lake Rd but AT are also consulting on the trial of changes at Matiatia on Waiheke.

Northwestern Path upgrade to go ahead

In some good news, AT announced the upgrade to 850m of the NW path between Eden Terrace and Kingsland will go ahead, starting sometime between July and September.

Improvements will see the Eden Terrace/ Kingsland section upgraded to become a separate cycleway and footpath between Central Road and Haslett Street. From Alexander St to Bright Street, it will be legally reclassified as a pedestrian only zone.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the upgrade responds to strong increases in the number of people using the cycleway.

“Over the past 12 months, the number of people cycling through the area has almost doubled. Close to 1000 bike trips are made per day through the Kingsland section, making it the second busiest cycleway in Auckland,” he says.

“This upgrade will improve safety for people using the cycleway and will encourage more people to cycle or walk to work—helping to reduce traffic congestion on the roads and bring down carbon emissions.”

The path is also a key route for children from Newton Central School, both on bikes and in Walking School Buses.

“The current shared path was built nearly 20 years ago and it’s no longer suitable for the number of people who use it every day” says AT’s Group Manager Network Management, Randhir Karma.

“Last year we committed to fixing this problem following concerns raised by Newton Central School and Bike Auckland. Having completed the investigation phase, it is pleasing to be able to get on with delivering this important upgrade on one of Auckland most strategic cycling links. The new design will mean there will no longer be a dangerous pinch point on the shared path and kids can get to school safely on bike or in a Walking School Bus.

“Infrastructure improvements will also address capacity to ensure the path meets the needs of people using it now and in years to come.”

We need to drive better around schools

A depressing article appeared last week about the issue we have with the state of parents driving around schools. It details a litany of poor and dangerous behaviours by parents just save walking a short distance.

Last week I tried to get out of my driveway at 8am to take my baby to a doctor’s appointment, only to be blocked by parents, making us late.

My husband now leaves for work 90 minutes earlier than he used to, just to avoid being held hostage by bolshy parents.

I decided I had had enough. So I contacted Auckland Transport and discovered the streets surrounding Auckland schools are teeming with Karen and Deb types.

Auckland Transport issued a whopping 11,432 infringements during school patrols in the past 12 months. And while it’s worth noting that this compares to a total of almost 500,000 tickets in the last full financial year, that’s still a Spark Arena-sized crowd of naughty mums and dads putting kids at risk and grinding the gears of residents like me.

I always found it notable that at the old office I used to work at, the most dangerous part of my ride to work was not intersection that dumps me between two lanes of potentially 70km/h traffic but the part where I rode past a primary school.

The article also reminds me of this cartoon.

The importance of priority for buses, bikes and feet

A great recent video on the Downs-Thomson Paradox and the importance of giving our public transport, walking and cycling journeys priority and how doing so is the best way to make cities better not just for the users of those modes, but for drivers too.

Do your buses get stuck in traffic? It’s amazing what a difference it makes to life the city when public transit is treated as a first-class alternative to driving, as it is in Amsterdam, and many other cities in the Netherlands.

Finally COVID-19 has already resulted in some significant changes to our cities as people stay home. Here’s an image from yesterday afternoon showing city streets empty in the afternoon peak.

While in San Francisco, here’s the Bay Bridge

We’re also seeing cities roll out some really great initiatives such as emergency bike networks

Now’s surely the perfect time to close Queen St to cars with a few cones and barriers.

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  1. That ‘rush hour Auckland’ photo is very deceptive as it shows Wellesley St West from the Federal St intersection looking West. The real reason the street is so quiet is that it’s closed at the Albert St intersection (just out of frame). A similar photo could have been taken of the heavier-than-usual traffic on Victoria St (traffic that would normally use Wellesley St) arguing that more people are driving as a result of Corvid-19.

    In saying that, anecdotally the city does seem a lot quieter at rush hour, including foot traffic down Queen St and around Britomart. Pretty sure this is as a result of the various work-from-home initiatives being trialed by a lot of office workers.

  2. I am truly shocked and surprised that the standard of cycleway design has plummeted since the Auckland Transport walking and cycling team was disbanded.

    Truly shocked and surprised.

    1. Embedding “cycling and walking” across the organisation so that every part of the organisation can incorporate the concepts was an approach that didn’t work. It was foolish.

      So it was clear from this precedent what would happen to good design by disbanding the ADO and embedding it across Council. It’s hard to be generous and call this second decision simply foolish when the destruction it would cause is so obvious.

      1. Could be organisations not talking / designing together.

        Likely situation is the Local Board/Council plans for Belmont TC are designed by a different consultant to the Lake Road AT plans.

    2. Yeah, that spreading specialist tasks throughout an organisation is such a great idea. Can save so much by getting rid of pesky experts with their ‘training’ and ‘experience’. Should do it do the accounting and legal teams too; anyone can do a bit of spreadsheeting budgets and google ‘is this legal’ on their lunch break… also engineering; how hard can it be?

      When you think about it just fire everyone and make the whole organisation out of the marketing team; all you need is to just tell a story, details aren’t important, works for Boris Johnson….

    3. I miss them too. They were always a good soft target at hearings. They would demand developers provide things they never would have done themselves.

  3. On Tuesday, the Waitematā Local Board voted for AT to investigate emergency cyclelanes for immediate deployment.
    Symonds Street, Park Road, Great North Road, Broadway, Jervois Road, Ponsonby Road are prime candidates.

  4. Why is it so hard for AT to get their heads around removing car parks?

    A few years back (I think it was in Northcote when the appropriately named NRA kicked up a fuss about losing parks to the sky path). AT came out and told those residents that onstreet parking outside their houses was nothing to do with the house owners, that the house owners boundary stopped at their front fence and AT’s boundary started on that line as well. And that AT would do what they required with the land within their boundary.

    Which sounded so great, no more whining house owner stopping the world from turning because they were losing 5 on street parks.

    But then AT seemed to lose their cajoles and buckle to a handful of whiny residents.

    Much to the detriment of nearly every cycling initiative.

  5. I can’t help but feel that cycleways should be as segregated as much as possible from automobile traffic. Including fencing and bollards imbedded into concrete lane separators down any street/road busy enough to have 4 lanes. And if it’s possible; to run them down streets that run parallel to the main road.
    I think this should be every bit as important as installing traffic lights or building roundabouts. Especially given that a fair % of its intended users are children.

    1. in most cases, it’s better to run cycle lanes run down the main streets, especially if that is where activities are located.

      Trying to route them through side streets almost never works, as it misses intermediate origins/destinations.

      1. In terms of town centres; if it’s more than one high street then that’s a moot point. Bike storage can be off the main street (where it’s safer anyway) and they can leg-it the extra block
        But I was thinking more about between major points. In any case; if someone wants to get to some “intermediate origins/destinations”; they can always just turn the handlebars at the appropriate intersection.

  6. So this week has shown something interesting on the NW: The traffic is noticeably lighter heading West in the PM rush, EXCEPT for the Tat Pen/Tat interchange, which bunches up everything. After that it’s fine and free-flowing. The reduction in traffic makes a major difference everywhere else, but it’s still solid there.

    It would be great to see more work done on a) getting those cars off the motorway and clear of the off-ramp sooner and b) adding more options for Tat so they don’t have to drive in the first place. Do the buses have their own free left turn on the offramp heading West, or do they have to merge in with general traffic at the top of the lane?

    1. No free turn for the buses – yes they are held up in general traffic. They do have a section of bus lane just prior to the off ramp but of course car drivers often ” forget” and use that as well.

      1. There were a few people ‘forgetting’ they weren’t buses on the Royal Road onramp this morning. No sign of a camera or enforcement to speak of.

        As for Tat not having a free turn for buses: why am I not surprised the road that was under construction for years was not finished to a spec that was realistically fit for purpose?

        1. Motorway bus lanes need fixed cameras. It’s unfathomable that they weren’t included as part of the construction.

  7. And this from AT showing cleaning their PT for the virus ;-

    And with the trains it’s something that should happen all the time , as when I was in the USA in “97” I saw Caltrain do it on their service from San Jose to San Fransico and they did this at the end of every trip , i.e when it arrived in San jose and San Fransico so that each time you got a train it smelt clean .

    1. The Takapuna Esmonde Road proposal is an absolute and complete disgrace. The map I saw on the Local Board Chairmans blog showed Takapuna/Milford/Devonport traffic joining the Northern bus way; that is with every NEX1, NEX2 along with all local buses. As they merge with other motorway traffic this would lead to a complete shambles.
      Miffy, I see why you hold AT in such regard.

  8. Both Auckland and Wellington have banned cash fare on public transport from March 23rd.
    Pretty straight forward in Auckland with the NZTA v1/Thales/AT card now being given out, to those that don’t have it and it covers all public transport trips.
    But Wellington has been caught short. Their resistance to adopting the NZTA v1/Thales card in favour of retaining Snapper for buses and paper based tickets on trains in the meantime, and then in very long and indeterminate future, a yet to be developed NZTA v2 card based system, has now left them without a viable method of payment for many customers. For casual customers boarding at an unstaffed station, how do they pay?

    1. Milk tokens? About the same vintage as the Wellington rail ticketing system. There’s just a complete lack of urgency about fixing up the ticketing mess in Wellington and too much politicking while ignoring the actual users of the rail network.

        1. You can have hand held Snapper card readers and hand held Visa/Mastercard contactless machines for train crews to use. Unfortunately, it is to hard for GWRC to think about.

  9. What a week indeed! We are only just starting to feel the effects of Covid-19. This will be a protracted and long winded affair testing people’s mental resiliency as much as anything…

    In 12-18 months, if we get this thing under control we will look at the charred remains of our current systems.

    The bigger fear for me is that we will be too stupid to realise that this virus is basically a negative feedback loop trying to tell us to change the way we treat our planet and the way we order our lives. Wars of the past have been between armies this is a war with nature itself. We need to understand we won’t win and we shouldn’t try to. The Judeo-Chirstian paradigm that nature and all other ‘non-sentient’ beings as being subservient to man is overdue for reform by about 2000 years.

    Trying to simply ‘rebuild’ and get back to BAU (i.e the consumption system which does not account for its negative externalities) will just indebt us further for the next big shock which will be future disease/viruses, climate instability, food/water shortages, inevitable war (most likely nuclear at some point when all hope is lost).

    We need to change, and this needs to happen now. Social return on investment metrics needs to be at the centre of every decision now on. Air quality, water quality, amenity, safety, our fellow creatures need to be the key stakeholders we look to provide a good return to… not shareholders.

    If we can’t do this then the human species isn’t worthy of existence and we will die out rapidly.

    1. Jeez, what a Debbie Downer you are, could you possibly be any more pessimistic? What about taking a positive attitude and appreciate the good things of life rather than bemoan a doom and gloom future.

      1. It made sense to me.

        ‘Air quality, water quality, amenity, safety, our fellow creatures need to be the key stakeholders we look to provide a good return to’

        We’ve needed a wakeup call here it is.

        1. Made sense to me as well. I can well imagine that the world stumbles into a climate change emergency where we are ravaged by drought and adverse weather events; loss of biodiversity; swathes on land inundated; and drastic action is required.
          Nothing will be learnt from this corona virus tragedy – hell the government is still unveiling mass roading plans.

      2. ‘Debbie Downer’ haven’t heard that one in ages. Classic! 80s bully fodder right there.

        Call me pessimistic all you want Paul. I just worry how many more catastrophes, do we need until the masses start to wake up and crawl out of the cave and see the light. Will it be too little too late? Time will tell.

        Will indeed be a ‘Debbie Downer’ if we have to tell our Grand Children that the sixth great extinction is now just a matter of time.

        But who cares about bio-diversity eh; when the Warriors are still playing this weekend!! *rolls over back to sleep*

        1. +1000 – Completely agree. Everything is sweet in life until it’s not. The whole unyielding positivity starts to have a self-help aisle feel to it after a while. We need to take stock. Wake up and realise what is happening, even if it is pessimistic.

          In the last two decades we’ve had SARS, MERS, Ebola and now Covid. These viruses are Mother Nature’s way of trying to balance the books. Destroying habitats and bringing an array of exotic creatures together which in the normal course of events would never co-mingle is symptomatic of how fark-tarded we are! This is just one example of a myriad of ways we are desecrating our planet. People need to understand nature is us and we are nature. There is no division.

          Need to take a good look in the mirror and start listening to scientists rather than chill out Debbie naysayers.

          P.s I have 2500 rolls of toilet paper. So everything will be fine

        2. ghgh , so with those 2500 rolls of toilet paper are you going to use them as note note paper when all this is over to complain that the virus missed your place ? . So you couldn’t go into self isolation and no use them .

        3. david L – Sometime in the year 2088 a tear will roll down my great grand child’s face as he scrunches the last of roll number 2500. It will be a mix of both gratitude for his for-bearer’s wisdom, mixed with pangs of fear as the realisation of future toilet paper insecurity washes over him…

      3. Paul Rees – Unfortunately, planet warming does care about you or any other humans, animals, planet live.etc. The last major climatic upheaval nearly wiped out humans.

        The message is to either adapt or face the consequences .

        1. Sky’s been falling since time began.

          You’re just another wrong doomsdayer in a long list of doonsdayers.

        2. KK
          I was listening to National Radio this morning and a leading British scientist was saying the same as you have – the world is out of balance – but that’s nothing new to those who read, listen and process material about this subject matter. The sad thing for me is that we still have a significant number who belong to the “Flat Earth Club”, or the “I’m doing bloody well at the moment and I won’t change that for anyone Society”, or some other group rooted in our past.
          With strong evidence that the world may not recover from this for 12 -18 months, and economically for years what is the point of some of NZs planned infrastructure projects? If they don’t contribute to improving our environment scrap them. If the airline industry is faced with not having a “pipeline” of tourists then there can be little rational argument that the a road construction industry needs a stacked pipeline of projects.

        3. Our world has changed at an unbelievable speed. Obviously it is better to keep people employed doing useful things. But what is useful has also changed. Building more facilities for tourists for more tourists that may never eventuate is questionable. But rebuilding time expired utility networks, water, waste water, stormwater, power and telecoms networks, must be accelerated. But just as important is enhancing more energy, emission discharging, and space efficient transport and housing systems. Our objectives must be raised from restoring what we had as quickly as possible, to creating something much better.

      1. Bob – Unfortunately, planet warming does care about you or any other humans, animals, planet live.etc. The last major climatic upheaval nearly wiped out humans.

        The message is to either adapt or face the consequences .

    2. The “Judaeo-Christian paradigm” is that God assigned man to work the earth *and take care of it* (Genesis 2:15). Not wreck it.

      Promoting a moral calculus where people are no more important than animals, plants or rocks won’t fly, and is also a distraction. There are plenty of good human-centric (and even God-centric) reasons to nurture the planet, preserve biodiversity, and battle inequality.

      1. Unfortunately, planet warming does care about you or any other humans, animals, planet live.etc. The last major climatic upheaval nearly wiped out humans.

        The message is to either adapt or face the consequences .

    3. Kintyre Kid – I totally agree with you. This moderate man induced COVID-19 pandemic is a glimpse to what to expect when the associated disrupted effects of planet warming starts to have an impact of the planet including human society.

      We need to take off our ‘here and now’ tinted glasses and start adapting and planning now.

  10. “a litany of poor and dangerous behaviours by parents just save walking a short distance.”

    Its so much worse than just 5 or 10 years ago, too with more cars, more SUV’s. So many think it’s OK to turn around in driveways just when kids are walking along the footpath, making the kids stop, forgetting the kids have right of way. And parking all over the place, like orange lines and steps up to plazas mean nothing.

  11. The Lake Rd stuff is confusing. I don’t understand why AT is consulting on it but part of it is ‘being driven by the council and local board.’ I don’t even know what I think about that. I really want Council to demand high standards of AT, but when Council themselves produce something that’s inferior, I’d really want AT to be able to advise them.

    Is this the blind leading the blind, or wot?

    And then there’s this, too:

    ‘I’ve been told that since renders were produced the design has been improved to add raised tables at intersections like the one above.’

    So why didn’t they redo the renders? Did you ask?

    I can’t imagine being in a job where it was considered OK to put out old renders to the client. Maybe for an interim report, if the details didn’t matter to the substance of the job, yes, but then there would be stamps over the images alerting the client.

        1. The part of the bus lane that is being stolen past the motorway overbridge is controlled by NZTA.

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