It may be a short week and in the middle of a nationwide lockdown but there’s still plenty to talk about. Here’s a roundup of a few things that caught my attention recently.
Real time train capacity
As I’ve talked about before, it’s been impressive the number of changes and improvements Auckland Transport have been able to make in just a few weeks. Although, much of it is stuff they really should have been delivering anyway – perhaps a good example of a crisis clearing the way of obstructions and giving staff more freedom to get changes made. Hopefully will keep once things start to get back to normal they will keep much/most of these changes in place. Examples of some of the changes include
- Buses not accepting cash fares (services are now free anyway but AT still want you to tag on with your HOP card to help manage demand/services).
- Rear door boarding on buses
- Putting pedestrian crossings on some intersections on automatic so people don’t need to push the beg buttons to cross. Although they should do this to all crossings and also have signs up telling people they don’t need to push them. Perhaps something simple like below.
— Liz Allen (@place_creative_) April 7, 2020
Note: While removing more beg buttons is great, it has been highlighted to me that it hasn’t changed the overall traffic phasing cycles and in some places, like on Fanshawe St, there can still be a very long wait for the pedestrian crossing to trigger, often with no sign of any vehicles. It would be good if AT could also adjust the signals to phase faster to address this.
Just over a week ago AT implemented a good change to their mobile app showing real-time capacity levels on buses, which is why they still want people to tag on. This week they’ve implemented the same feature for trains.
Again this is something I hope they keep/adapt for use after the crisis is over. It’s a feature used overseas, particularly on busy metros to help people find which carriages are less crowded, thus helping spread the load and speeding up dwell times. While this isn’t quite that detailed, it could help people make decisions about how they travel, for example do they try and catch the next bus/train or grab a coffee and get the next one etc.
Traffic volumes down
Unsurprisingly traffic volumes are down considerably on what they were prior to the lockdown and the NZTA are now publishing just how much it is based of a the weekly traffic counts at a number of sites around the country. In Auckland they are so far only showing the results for traffic on SH1 at Rosehill (south of Papakura) which happens to be one of the quietest places on the Auckland Motorway network but nonetheless shows a dramatic drop.
Across the sites they’re showing they say
- Auckland traffic is down 75.9% compared to last year, and when compared to last week there is a 66.2% drop in light traffic and a 50.0% drop for heavy traffic.
- Wellington traffic is down 81.7% compared to last year, and when compared to last week there is a 65.9% drop in light traffic and a 74.6% drop for heavy traffic. Please note that heavy traffic figures will be affected by an accident on Saturday 28 March that has left the Aotea Quay offramp closed (so some heavy traffic will be going via the Hutt Road instead).
- Christchurch traffic is down 77.2% compared to last year, and when compared to last week there is a 60.6% drop in light traffic and a 61.2% drop for heavy traffic.
- Hamilton traffic is down 74.3% compared to last year, and when compared to last week there is a 62.5% drop in light traffic and a 47.8% drop for heavy traffic.
- Dunedin traffic is down 80.6% compared to last year, and when compared to last week there is a 63.9% drop in light traffic and a 54.5% drop for heavy traffic.
Here’s the Auckland graph for light vehicles.
Road Deaths update
One thing we’re definitely hoping to see during the lockdown is a reduction in the number of people killed and injured on our roads and which for the last few years has been tracking around one person per day.
We went into lockdown on 26 March and things had already started getting quieter on the roads before then but we still ended up with 31 people dying on our roads in March which is not that different from the previous few years.
The real example will be what happens this month as the 4-week lockdown will extend till at least 22 April and therefore rules out Easter travel which can be one of the more deadly times of year on the roads. As of the 7th, we’re sitting at four deaths so far in April. As a comparison, the month with the lowest ever number of road deaths was April 2012 when we had eleven.
Birmingham’s Transport Plan
Internationally one of the big themes for cities right now is a focus on making them better for people (instead of cars). This is all part of tackling the big issues such as climate change, congestion and safety. Cities that get it right are making themselves more liveable for residents and therefore more attractive to businesses. Across many cities there now seems to be almost a competition going on as to how can transform their city the fastest.
Birmingham have put up this video of their transport plan. It’s less than two minutes long but clearly lays out the four ways they’ll improve transport in the city. One of the things l like about it is that it’s incredibly clear, there’s no ambiguity in what they want to do which is reduce the use of cars, including by restricting their use in places.
This is what we need to be doing too, and also essentially what Access for Everyone in the city centre is. But we need Auckland Council and Transport to be much more explicit about it. Currently it still feels like we’re in the stage of trying to have it all, of adding some good things but only if it doesn’t impact on the ability to drive everywhere.
Both Auckland Transport and the NZTA have pushed back the window for consultation on a number of projects. These are
Matiatia layout – Extended to 21 April.
SH16 Brigham Creek to Waimauku
Work to make SH16 between Brigham Creek and Waimauku safer will start to kick off once the COVID-19 lockdown finishes now that design work to “widening the road and bridges, adding a flush median, flexible safety barriers and making it safer to make right-hand turns” has finished. Work will start on the Huapai to Waimauku section starting with enabling works to shift a gas main.
Design of the Brigham Creek to Kumeu section is still underway and construction is not likely to start till late next year. They say this is in part due to the need to now build a shared path at the same time meaning they need more funding.
Vehicles are the low-hanging fruit
Finally today, an interesting podcast featuring Dr Paul Winton from 1point5.org.nz on why transport is the lowest hanging fruit to meet our emissions reductions goals