It’s Friday again so here’s another roundup of things that caught my attention this week.
At the end of March, Waka Kotahi NZTA kicked off a new consultation for Skypath and in particular the focusing on the landings. This included a new design for the landing at Northcote Point that would require them to take out the remaining few houses on the eastern side of the motorway.
This week they announced the first results of the feedback from that
The three-week consultation ended on Sunday 19 April with 1194 submissions through the online survey or email. That’s nearly three times the number of submissions from the project’s last public consultation in August/September. The survey responses were 78% in support of the project.
Waka Kotahi Senior Manager Project Delivery, Andrew Thackwray, says most of the feedback affirms public calls to ‘just get on with building it’. It’s widely understood that the pathway will offer a safer, cleaner and healthier transport alternative, and connect people to a good range of cycling and walking facilities and communities across the city and North Shore.
“There were a lot of themes raised in the consultation, which we were expecting. While most people are very pleased with the pathway design refinements, some expressed concern about Waka Kotahi acquiring properties to build the pathway. There were questions about access, parking and safety as well as how we’ll manage cyclists, e-bikes, scooters and pedestrians on the pathway.”
“It’s great that people have come forward with their views and questions. The challenge now for the project team is to respond to those questions as the design is finalised for the pathway that will serve generations of Aucklanders for years to come.”
The project team will now analyse the survey feedback, form their responses, and publish a report to the project website. They will also finalise and document the pathway design before Waka Kotahi lodges Notices of Requirement and resource consent applications in mid-2020.
Consultations like this aren’t a popularity contest but regardless, 78% support is significant.
More to come on Queen St
It’s been great to see Auckland Transport stepping up to deliver some temporary cycleways. The works on Queen St, even if only a small section, are particularly exciting given previous discussions of taking cars out of it. On Wednesday, AT confirmed the changes and announced that the car-free section would be extended as far as Mayoral Dr within the next two weeks
On Tuesday morning, one lane was temporarily removed in each direction on Queen Street between Customs Street and Shortland Street. The space has been repurposed to give people walking, using bikes and waiting for buses more space. New temporary platforms adjacent to existing stops will help people getting on and off buses. Bus routes will not be affected and loading zones for deliveries will continue to be provided. Private vehicles will also be restricted from making through trips on Queen Street, with movements banned at some locations.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says that with the numbers of people using Queen Street every day, making quick, temporary changes to provide additional space for people is needed to meet physical distancing requirements.
“These changes mean that Queen Street will prioritise access for essential business traffic, loading and servicing, emergency vehicles, public transport, and those needing to access private car parking, while ensuring that pedestrians can maintain physical distance to help break the chain of COVID-19 transmission,” he says.
North Shore Councillor and Planning Committee Chair Chris Darby says, “Council teams have been putting in the hard yards over Anzac Day weekend, quickly repurposing Queen Street to prepare for the influx of pedestrians needing more breathing room.
“Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users will all benefit from these changes, which build towards a more walk-friendly city-centre throughout Level 3 and beyond.”
Over the next fortnight, similar changes will be applied further up Queen Street, as far south as Mayoral Drive. The changes will be monitored and may be adjusted over time depending on what is required. Both AT and Auckland Council will continue to work with city centre businesses and residents, as well as people using Queen Street.
While cones are being used along Queen Street as we enter Alert Level 3, AT will look to replace these with more creative separators, like planter boxes, ahead of Alert Level 2.
Sadly, opposition to these improvements is already starting to rear its head.
In the city, Heart of the City seem to be lining up to oppose the changes.
Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck recognised the need for social distancing under level 3 but has big concerns about placing more cones in Queen St as the city centre reopens for retailers and business.
“We have to make the central city a conducive environment for trading and customers.
“We have had significant patches coned off for a considerable period of time. We know the impact of that. It is not positive. I’m expecting a lot better,” said Beck.
I agree that cones aren’t ideal but they are quick and as per above AT have already promised improvements are on the way. I understand there will also be provision for things like deliveries so I’m not entirely sure what they’re upset about. No one drives to Queen St with the expectation of getting a carpark to go shopping and what carparks there are have a 15 minute time limit.
Whilst to the east, the Orakei Local Board are objecting to the Tamaki Dr works.
Orakei Local Board chairman Scott Milne said “the cycling pendulum is swinging too far and too fast,” saying he had heard the trial could become permanent.
He said the makeshift lane on Tamaki Drive was poorly orchestrated, poorly communicated and poorly delivered and called for it to be discontinued.
It had not helped with social distancing because cyclists initially chose to ride on the road and although things had improved slightly “it did not achieve what it was trying to achieve”, Milne said.
“People in the eastern suburbs and along Tamaki Drive have sorted themselves out with social distancing, including the cyclists. There is far less social distancing in our local supermarket.”
People were on the road because AT blocked the temporary cycleway with signs, that hopefully they’ve now fixed.
But for his main point, he seems to be suggesting that carparking along what should be one of the world’s most iconic waterfront promenades is more important than catering to thousands of pedestrians and cyclists. AT note that cycling numbers on Tamaki Dr are up 91% to about 3,000 per day.
Let us also not forget that the Local Board’s Tamaki Dr Masterplan says
in the context of a wider parking plan for the Tāmaki Drive Masterplan area, consolidate car parking to appropriate locations away from Tāmaki Drive, improving people’s ability to enjoy walking and cycling along the coastal edge
and includes images of improved pedestrian and cycling facilities – with parking removed in some showing parking removed completely.
What is concerning is that AT already appear to be setting themselves up to fold on this
He said AT chief executive Shane Ellison had made it very clear this is not a “trial” for permanent arrangements.
Be more like Paris
We need someone, particularly the Mayor, to take a stronger stand on issues like this. He could learn something from his Paris counterpart Anne Hidalgo.
Returning to a Paris dominated by cars after lockdown ends is “out of the question,” according to the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Speaking Tuesday at a special session of the Paris City Council on transitioning after France’s national lockdown eases on May 11, Hidalgo was emphatic about maintaining the anti-pollution and anti-congestion measures introduced during her tenure, even as cities rethink transportation policies to avoid Covid-19 transmission.
“I say in all firmness that it is out of the question that we allow ourselves to be invaded by cars, and by pollution,” she said. “It will make the health crisis worse. Pollution is already in itself a health crisis and a danger — and pollution joined up with coronavirus is a particularly dangerous cocktail. So it’s out of the question to think that arriving in the heart of the city by car is any sort of solution, when it could actually aggravate the situation.”
Paris are looking to roll out about 650km of new cycleways as part of their response to COVID-19.
The Pollution is back already
One thing many people noticed during the lockdown was the improvement in air quality as a result of fewer people driving. With the country moving to level 3 this week, many people have been back in their cars and despite a lot of people still working from home, it seems pollution is already back and worse than it was before.
Following the country’s move to alert level 3, Auckland’s traffic pollution has soared to levels higher than before the city was in a coronavirus lockdown, a Niwa scientist has revealed.
At the end of March, Auckland’s nitrogen oxide levels saw a steep drop off, by as much as 90 per cent at times, for the first time in more than a decade.
But scientific analysis of nitrogen oxide levels caused by road traffic exhaust shows levels in the past three days has exceeded readings leading up to March 26 when the country was effectively closed.
Niwa air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley said high levels on Wednesday and Thursday, recorded at morning rush hour, were partly due to very light winds which had an amplified the effect.
Sadly, it could take at least a decade to get back to the levels we saw during lockdown
Dr Longley said that up until lockdown, there was a consistent downward trend in nitrogen oxide levels which was connected to the improvements in vehicle technology.
“However, if pollution levels revert to pre-lockdown levels and the same downward trend continued, it will take to the 2030s before air quality improves to that experienced during Level 4,” he said.
Lockdown showed us the kind of state we need to get to to help address climate change, we now need our politicians and officials to focus on how we can get back to that level much sooner than the previous path we were on.
A few shorter ones
We’ve already seen some suggestions that lower density and more reliance on cars is key to fighting the virus. Seems that doesn’t even play out in New York which alone has more confirmed cases than any country.
Them: Cars will stop COVID-19
You: Hold my beer pic.twitter.com/SY3Rw46d9a
— Aaron Carr (@aaronAcarr) April 29, 2020
I also saw this graphic which I thought was quite good
— Aaron 🥑🚈🌲🏀 (@aceckhouse) April 28, 2020
And finally, public transport use has almost tripled this week as we moved to level 3, but that is still only about 10% of what it was pre-covid.
During lockdown, on average 12,000 trips were being made on Auckland’s public transport network. First day of Level 3 and that jumped up up to 35,000. Awesome to see people jumping back on board ❤️🚊🚌🛳@AklTransport pic.twitter.com/0efCej5xMX
— John (@johnage) April 30, 2020
Have a good weekend.