It’s another Friday so here’s a roundup of news you may not have seen.


Auckland Transport’s new homepage

I have long been frustrated by AT’s user-unfriendly website that has what should be even basic information hidden many layers deep and often across multiple pages. It was epitomised by the homepage which provided no important information and for which its only purpose was to navigate away from.

So it was great to see that last Friday AT updated their homepage to make it a lot more useful and as you can see below, the journey planner and some other key links have been added. For now this is the only part of the website that has been updated and I hope/assume the rest of the site will be updated over time.

As a reminder, here’s what the old homepage looked like. It was introduced in 2014.

For completeness, here’s what it looked like prior to 2014.


Works start again next week

With the country moving back to Level 3 on Tuesday it means all of the projects around the city (as well as the rest of the country I assume) will start up again next week.

City Rail Link were one of the first to announce they’d be back on site on Tuesday.

“Ever since the lockdown began four weeks ago there has been a lot of desk-top planning for a quick re-start and we’re well prepared to come out of the starting blocks fast – we’re champing at the bit and ready to get cracking asap,” Dr Sweeney says. “We’re already inspecting all CRL sites and making them ready for a safe return to work next week.

“Because of our size we’re aware of the big role we have in quickly getting the economy moving again, supporting the contracting and infrastructure industries and seeing our workers safely back on the job.”

…..

Work will resume next Tuesday (28 April) at all CRL sites – the C1 contract at Britomart and LowerQueen Street, C2 in Albert Street, C3 at Aotea in central Auckland, Karangahape Road and at MtEden, and C8 on the southern rail line at Ōtāhuhu.

Dr Sweeney says the paramount priority will be keeping workers, and the wider community, safe. CRL will strictly adhere to Government protocols for working under Alert Level-3.

“We had some pretty strict safety measures in place before the lockdown, but next Tuesday’s return to work will be different. There will be additional constraints – restricted access to our sites, physical distancing, protective clothing and sanitising and cleaning regimes. They will all contribute to a successful re-start in the new COVID-19 work environment, and, just as importantly, they will help ensure our workers get home to family and friends virus-free when they finish their shifts.” Between now and next week all CRL sites will be inspected and made ready for a safe return to work.

Dr Sweeney says it is too early to measure if COVID-19 has impacted on project costs or construction timetables.

“It may be months before we know that once the economy has settled down a bit and we have a clearer picture on the availability of workers, and what sort of shape some of our suppliers both here and overseas are in.”

They also note they’re investigating opportunities to accelerate some work.

Auckland Transport will also be back at work from Tuesday

With the move to Alert Level 3 from Tuesday, 28 April AT is getting its sites up and running again with around 2500 workers due back on the job.

…..

Mr Ellison says while the reduced traffic on our streets is a great chance to get on with the work, back to work doesn’t mean back to normal.

With the city centre in particular likely to remain very quiet, AT should take the opportunity to shut down additional traffic lanes, especially if it means it allows them to get some of these projects back on schedule.


Speaking of closing streets

Almost every day we’ve been seeing more and more cities putting in place measures to provide more space on streets for pedestrians and bikes. One of those is Milan who plan to roll out 35km of transformed streets.

Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport.

The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The Strade Aperte plan, announced on Tuesday, includes low-cost temporary cycle lanes, new and widened pavements, 30kph (20mph) speed limits, and pedestrian and cyclist priority streets. The locations include a low traffic neighbourhood on the site of the former Lazzaretto, a refuge for victims of plague epidemics in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Marco Granelli, a deputy mayor of Milan, said: “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops.

“Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before.

It appears even our former car-centric role model Los Angeles is getting in on the act with local politicians calling for more space and roads to be closed.

Given the lack of traffic, Wersinger says restricting traffic on certain streets would be unlikely to disrupt drivers making essential trips. He also says he’s not worried that opening streets could simply draw more people to the area, further complicating physical distancing efforts.

“I think giving people a little more room to breathe doesn’t mean people are going to be coming there looking for a place to play,” he says.

Auckland Transport however remains silent and unless they announce something soon, look set to miss one of the biggest opportunities for change in many years. In fact their attitude seems to be to about putting the responsibility for not getting hit as a result of their inaction on pedestrians and cyclists and not those piloting the multi-ton vehicles that cause the damage.


Trains Remain in Spain

The locked down world has also impacted on the delivery of Auckland’s new trains with nearly half of the 15 new ones still in production and will now be delayed.

Nearly half of Auckland’s latest batch of new electric trains may be late arriving due to global disruption caused by Covid-19.

Seven of the 15 three-car units are still in production in northern Spain, where trainmaker CAF has only recently re-opened after a shutdown.

“The combination of the hiatus in Chinese (component) production in January and February and the current lockdown measures in Spain mean that these will be significantly delayed,” said an Auckland Council report.

Given the main reason we were buying more was to increase capacity, having some of them delayed by a few months is not likely to be a major issue.


Headway management

Here’s a change AT need to make, shifting to a focus on headway management, particularly on the Link buses

Have a good weekend.

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39 comments

  1. Working 24/7 would be a great way to speed up finishing the CRL, minimising disruption and spending more money faster, hopefully helping the country come out of recession rather than slipping into depression.
    If the spanish trains are delayed, what about the chinese TBM’s?

    1. From what I know from before COVID, the big civil construction timeline wasn’t the biggest concern. The bigger concern was the timeline for the rail systems contract (rails, signals etc) which they’re still working though. This is tough because there’s been a lot of international consolidation of late and only a couple of companies capable of doing it and they’re flat out.

      1. With the rails why can’t they make them here in New Zealand ? As we have 2 steel mills that could possibly make them , Pacific Steel was able to make the over size reinforcing for the 1st section of the CRL so why not the rails . And Glenbrook could produce the billets for the rail .

        1. Rails require hot rolling from billet. The only hot mills in NZ are for coil, plate and rebar. Rail would require a dedicated mill several hundred metres long and costing well over a hundred million dollars. To justify that cost there would have to be sufficient demand to run 24/7.
          There isn’t.

        2. MFD is correct – very few places have the facilities to make rails these days. Even the UK, which is full of railways, is now losing the ability to roll their own rails, as their British Steel mills have long been taken over by other countries and huge chunks have been shut down. NZ’s market is tiny by comparison.

    2. I live right next to the Mt Eden station construction site, whilst I love seeing improvements to public transport noise has been unbearable at times. Going to extended hours, compounded with working from home will drive me insane.

      1. I worked on the vector at the turn of the century and the only section we weren’t allowed to make loud noises was Hobson St entrance , but the other 2 at New Market and Penrose we were able to work 24/7 and there were no complaints from surrounding neighbours as most of the work was underground , except for the 2 deep shafts . which had to be done at all times of day and night .

        1. Unfortunately Mt Eden isnt underground like you mention, rather it sites as an open construction site with a spaghetti junction of rail lines that are at grade or open trenched. The level of noise of both construction and general train noise has really made me rethink placing apartments next to rail lines.
          I now think general spatial planning should prevent residential within 100m of a train line. A nice crust of light industrial / commercial etc. could be used to buffer the tracks and then residential in the sweet spot of 100m to 800m.

        2. But there will a period when they set up the TBM and dig down for the new Station area where they have to obey the consent rules but when they go underground the only noise most likely be putting section in to the tunnel . So it should only sound like normal road noise .

  2. That’s great news about the CRL starting back again.

    Criticism of the AT tweet has gone viral hasnt it? Gee, its like Covid has woken people up about how bad it has all been. Except AT themselves.

  3. Wouldn’t it be great if this 2-week period of level 3 lockdown is used by AT & NZTA to perform remedial work on the roads and install miles of bike lanes? Then when the rest of us come back to life in level 2, it’ll all be done and ready for a changed world.

    Or are we just going back to Auckland being a car-hog?

      1. That’s true but largely irrelevant. A quick look at the Census journey to work data will show you that the majority of Manukau residents commute within the Manukau area.

  4. Kiwirail has made some interesting changes to schedules.
    Train 126 was replaced by Train 124 Mon to Fri leaving at 20:33.
    Now Train 124 has been replaced bu Train 126 leaving at 09:33.
    My assumption is that this allows for a Mon to Thur Block of Line during the normal workday for some of the NAL Upgrade work.

  5. Nelson St and Hobson St must be pretty darn quiet right now, if any 2 streets deserve some wider footpaths these 2 should be high on the list for some quick work.

    1. Basically empty, I routinely now just ride up and down these streets on my bike rather as it’s faster and more direct and easy than any of the piecemeal or non-existent cycle lanes which when present, have light phasing making them even slower.

  6. Does anyone know if the standard routine Kiwirail line maintenance primarily replaces iron track, crossovers, signals that will likely fail soon or do they “smooth out” minor kinks, bumps? ie More the base support along track sections I’m wondering to give a smoother ride? I guess both would provide a faster track speed limit sometimes too.

  7. Good news here: https://at.govt.nz/about-us/news-events/improved-facilities-for-those-walking-cycling-across-auckland/

    Pictures of Tamaki Drive emergency cycle lanes here:
    https://twitter.com/AklTransport/status/1253540733866381313

    “Other locations Auckland Transport is installing new walking and cycling measures:

    Queen Street
    Quay Street
    Customs St/Queen Street intersection
    Ponsonby Road
    Oteha Valley Road
    Lonely Track Road
    Mangere town centre
    Otara town centre
    Manukau town centre.”

    Great stuff.

    1. Great news, nothing out West it seems though, unless not on the PDF by accident or not needed.
      Be interesting how wide they do the Customs St/Queen Street intersection & how it copes, that has a lot of people normally around there.

    1. J
      What absurd rubbish. We were crossing Lake Road Takapuna on foot earlier in the week and had to take evasive action from a car coming towards us, 2m into our lane, as he drove head down texting.

      Up to six months ago I would have reported the incident and most likely written to Minister Genter again about the perils of people who text and drive. I now regard this as a complete waste of time as years on she is still investigating.

      More tragically, ask the four police officers in Melbourne whether they walked in front of the drugged driver who killed them.

      Unfortunately all over NZ examples abound of poor driving that results in pedestrians and cyclists being killed.

      1. Even with the ultra low traffic volumes of the lockout, the feral drivers are still out despite being obvious to any passing policemen. I guess that explains the remarkable number of single vehicle accidents in the past week.

      2. Just to clarify johnwood, the drugged driver didn’t kill the police in Melbourne, not directly anyway.

        They had pulled over the speeding (and drugged) driver on the side of the motorway, when they were hit by a truck whose driver had fallen unconscious due to a medical event.

        1. Riccardo
          Yes I accept that.
          The point remains the police didn’t step out in front of the truck.

        2. The truck driver had a meth pipe in his cab. Now under police guard in hospital, presumably for protection from the public.

  8. Something that didn’t make the Roundup because it probably came afterwards, but great thinking from Gen Zero,
    “Pippa Chang, Dunedin co-convenor and national spokeswoman of youth activist organisation Generation Zero, would like to see the Government reconsider the $6.8b infrastructure spending plan it set out amid fanfare in January, which was mostly earmarked for roading developments.

    With more people working from home and fewer tourists travelling the country the case for some roading investments may have weakened, and Chang questions whether roading will provide the best bang for the buck in terms of employment.

    She would rather see the Government lock-in the silver-lining that the pandemic has provided in the form of lower carbon emissions “so future generations don’t have to stress as much about the climate”.

    The fundamental question is, as Pippa rightly asks, does NZ need a pipeline of projects for the roading industry, and even more importantly, a growing volume of work for that industry.

    For that to be necessary it assumes that NZ will have just as many cars as we do today, or more. How are those cars going to be produced in a carbon neutral way? – the mining of the iron ore and other metals; the oil for the plastics; and the energy for steel making etc. How sustainable is mining rare earth metals?

    NZ has greatly down scaled important industries before and logically we should do it again. NZ’s earliest economic success was in part built on freezing meat, predominantly sheep, and NZ supported that for a long time with a scheme known as SMPs. Financially it was unsustainable. When it was removed it led to massive change in the provinces with Hastings alone loosing the long established Whakatu and Tomoana works with the direct loss of about 4000 jobs. Albeit slowly those areas moved on.

    The road building industry by comparison is not greatly labour intensive. No one is proposing closing it because there will always be need for repair and resurfacing and the civil works for new building projects.

    By contrast this type of thinking is unhelpful:
    “Transport Minister Phil Twyford indicates there will be no reprioritisation of spending away from roading, though.

    “We aren’t considering changing any of the announced projects.

    “Now more than ever, the construction industry needs a fully-funded pipeline of infrastructure projects to create jobs and provide certainty, which the ‘NZ Upgrade Programme’ does,” he says.

    This type of thinking is rooted in what used to be the norm. Sadly it also seems pervasive of National party thinking.

    Will Wellington need four lanes to the planes when Air NZ may not even fly internationally out of Wellington. What does Air NZ’s down sizing by one third say of their long term aspirations and the number of international visits?

    Lastly I want to talk of what I believe is the most important comment from Gen Zero; “We definitely want intergenerational justice, making sure young people are supported.”

    This generation is already facing: an unsustainable superannuation scheme; mounting health costs and most likely an unsustainable health system; ameliorating the costs of climate change; and now repaying virus borrowing. The last thing they need is ill directed spending that could be better used to at least address one of the issues on the above list. What about de-carbonising the grid? Didn’t we use the last great depression to build power stations?

    1. I agree with you except for Wellington’s ‘four lanes to the planes’ or the missing of SH 1between the Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels to divert no essential traffic away from the central city area which needs to happen regardless of which way it is viewed.

  9. There will never be a time like the next 2 weeks yet there is a telling zone of silence from the Council, Mayor and Councillors and AT.
    They smugly rejoiced in their meaningless declaration of a climate emergency and post the odd social media suggesting one day we might close the lower part of Queen St. Now is the time to be bold.
    It won’t take big money, huge infrastructure, just the few cones that NY did around Times Square.
    If we don’t see the sort of action enlightened cities are taking, we must vote out those councillors next time around.
    Pity about AT. They just show once again they are genuinely car-centric and the Mayor and Council are too lame to touch them.
    This from today’s New York Times editorial. Anyone locally listening?

    Has there ever been a better time to experiment with street closures? Recent smartphone location data compiled by
    Streetlight Data showed that traffic has declined 83 percent in San Francisco, 77 percent in Washington, D.C., and 67 percent in New York.
    In Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf is taking up the challenge. Oakland’s open streets initiative — which opened 74 miles of streets to pedestrians and cyclists this month — was particularly easy to carry out because the city used traffic data already collected for the creation of its bike lanes.“Traffic is wildly reduced and people are behaving in a kinder way, so it’s an ideal moment to roll out an initiative that’s about joy, repurposing the commons and health,” Ms. Schaaf said in an interview Thursday.

    1. Hopping
      I agree with you completely.
      What if Auckland was to embrace the bold move that Sao Paulo, one of the world’s biggest cities, has made? Close off a huge chunk of motorway during the day on Sunday. What about a lane of the Harbour Bridge to encourage cyclists/visitors into the city on just one day of the week.
      Of course there will be all sorts of reasons why it can’t be done – hard to believe that we used to be a “can do” country.

      1. You could close Queen St north of mayoral drive tomorrow, leaving just buses, cycles and emergency or delivery vehicles.

        No one driving a private car would notice.

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