It’s Friday again so here’s another roundup of things that caught my attention this week.


Skypath Feedback

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.


Opposition brewing

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.

I also saw this graphic which I thought was quite good

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.

Have a good weekend.

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29 comments

  1. The car lobby is strong and the battle, car versus PT, has been going on for many years in Auckland. But gradually Auckland CBD is becoming more people friendly. There have been big increases in PT numbers and more apartments being built in the city recently. The Unitary plan has been successful. The mayor and the AT CEO are both supportive of bikeways and better PT. But there are some who strongly oppose more car free areas, more than 10km of bikeways each year, a car free Domain and what would be a very popular move to have a widened Tamaki Drive for bikes, simple bus lanes installed on busy roads. Who is the opposition? Are they listening to the people who want more PT and bikeways and more friendly CBD? Why are they continuing with the costly subsidised taxi service at Devonport or with cheap car parking buildings? Surely they must want an Auckland that can compete with Sydney or Singapore. Do they really think more motorways to the city will reduce congestion and make Auckland more competitive?

  2. “People were on the road because AT blocked the temporary cycleway with signs, that hopefully they’ve now fixed.”

    Yesterday I noticed the sign has been fixed

  3. “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”

    This is a welcome change. Cones remind people of road works and not psychologically inviting.

    I would suggest they go further and also paint the road, and put some fake lawn and some furniture like chairs and table so people who order take away can eat there.

        1. They weren’t stuck behind crawling traffic during the level 4 lockdown but still polluted the air in Queen St.

        2. All diesel vehicles are filthy. The PM10, PM2.5, NOx, CO and other unburnt hydrocarbons emitted are all hazardous to health. These are mostly not visible, if you can see soot coming out, the engine is worn or in a poor state of tune, and level of pollutants obviously even worse. There is no regular vehicle emissions testing in NZ, the only developed country not to have it, and trailing behind many others too, e.g. China. It should not be surprising that pollution is bad if there is no requirement to do anything about it.
          I welcome the council move to only allow electric buses, but the rest of the vehicle fleet needs sorting out too.

    1. Thanks for that link. Will we accept going back?

      “It’s allowed us to question what we have previously accepted as normal. If air pollution returns to its previous levels my waiting room will once again start filling up with children and adults struggling to breathe.”

  4. “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,”

    Just to be clear,this guy is not complaining about AT using road cones, he is complaining about closing lanes to traffic. The organisation is supposed to be Heart of the City, not Heart of a Suburban Shopping Mall.

    I’m really hoping that AT aren’t going to keep cycle lanes from Wellesley to Customs in level 2. We don’t need cycle lanes on a road with only 12 vehicles per hour. The space should just be turned into a footpath!

    1. Yes, it’s an own goal in many ways. The retailers have complained about the various projects creating a loss of footfall. This came because of the focus on keeping traffic flowing at the expense of providing better pedestrian amenity during the projects.

      Extending that to complaining about cones that are intended to improve pedestrian amenity, which will improve pedestrian footfall, makes no sense.

      HoTC usually has a better handle on the benefits of a people-friendly environment where cars don’t dominate. This was hopefully just an unfortunate lapse in concentration.

    2. Yea HoTC is a business association that represents ‘business interests,’ not the public at large.

      They have a belief that they’re competing with other business precincts such as Albany, Sylvia Park, Westfield Newmarket etc; which of course are all very car-centric. The rock bottom $2 per hour (Max $10 on weekends in AT car parks is a HoTC campaign.

      They are seriously behind the eight ball and doing businesses a disservice because city after city around the world has shown that increased pedestrianisation/amenity actually increases customers and business activity Looking at you High St and O’Connell…

      HoTC should actually be trying to remove cars so as to create a point of difference to the suburban strip malls. It would actually be in their interests to do so.

      Obviously a problem with leadership understanding how city centres should actually be designed to support economic activity.

      1. The thing I don’t get though is, even if you believed that businesses are best of if it is easy cheap and to drive to the area and park nearby, you would still want Queen Street to be car free. Cars on Quenn Street aren’t accessing businesses or car parks. They make intersections on Queen Street more complex requiring multiple lanes and long phases. Cars on Queen Street make the experience worse for pedestrians through increased wait times and increased crossing distances (and all customers of any business on Queen Street are pedestrians). Cars on Queen Street also negatively impact cars on the cross streets who could otherwise have a larger share of the time for their movements.

        Cars on Queen Street is worse for everyone except the guys who cruise up their revving their cars or blast sound systems on a Friday and Saturday night.

        1. It would by like business in Sylvia Park lobbying to allow cars to be driven through the middle of the mall.

  5. I still think that extra money should be spent separating the cycle corridors as much as possible from the roads.
    Such as putting up cast-iron bollards that no driver would want to drive their automobile into.

  6. When Labour promised voters Kiwibuild would sort out the housing market at the last election, they had no idea how to implement such a back of an envelope idea. Unsurprisingly when it completely screwed up that promise Labour needed another flagship project and fast. The focus groups said, transport. Get light rail to the airport, get a pathway across the bridge and thousands of voters will forget about building 100,000 houses, they will even forget about child poverty if you make it shiny and sexy and green too! The cost? Just $70 odd million. Ah well, it’s only twice the cost of the old design, heck I just can’t wait to take a selfie on those cool looking viewing platforms, I don’t care about NOX or PM and who needs those houses anyway.

    NZTA stalled on the project because they didn’t want to touch it (they build roads right, and remember that stoush last year?) but behind the scenes, cabinet got heavy because it can’t afford another high profile failure and guess what, the cost has now increased tenfold while the latest self-serving online feedback says “78% support the project, they just want us to get on and build it”. Meanwhile Light Rail to the airport is light years away while Cabinet entertain a private consortium that will send PPP profits off shore to fund the Canadian Pension Fund.

    Light rail to the airport will end up like Kiwibuild, which is just as well as a lucky break really. And the pathway over the harbour? The latest design serves the needs of government more than the needs of community. It’s a political construction that feeds voters in a lolly shop. The stakes are high. Never mind the international consortium taking profits out of the country. Never mind the tourist economic benefit has vanished. Never mind if a pathway could be built using local labour and manufacturing for less than $50 million. It just looks so dam good on the glossy leaflet arriving in your no junk mailbox sometime later in the year, unless our PM decides to delay the election, in the interests of the country of course.

    1. And push back in Albany.
      “Removing two lanes of traffic to create a pop-up cycleway on one of Auckland’s busiest arterial routes is hard to fathom, a councillor who wants the road returned to motorists says.

      Oteha Valley Rd on Auckland’s North Shore is the main access road to the northern motorway for commuters from Albany and the East Coast Bays, but this week Auckland Transport (AT) has cut the lanes down to one each way.

      Albany ward councillor John Watson said the redesign is part of AT’s pop-up cycleway programme in response to the coronavirus pandemic. ”

      This feedback from these Councillors was never a matter of if, but when. These are the same two who are lobbying for unlimited free park and rides at Albany.

      “As more people return to work, and as other roads are also closed in the immediate vicinity, we will have gridlock — at that point, there won’t be much distancing, social or otherwise,” he said.

      So is there a problem now or isn’t there?

      Matt, you rightly asked where is the leadership on climate change coming from? Sadly it isn’t coming from this part of Auckland.

  7. Tamaki Drive needs a massive boardwalk and a total rethink of parking situation. I would contend the Tamaki Drive Masterplan is no longer fit for purpose given literally everyone is ignoring it now and it wasn’t even that ambitious to start with.

    1. BW
      Surely the time is long overdue for NZ/Auckland to take a science based approach to addressing climate change in the way that we have so successfully done with covid 19. The basic principle is the same – we need to flatten the curve, of emissions.
      Then surely we should be examining the source of emissions that we can quickly do without. I agree with you that the Tamaki Drive plan is most likely out of date. Fundamental questions need to be asked, such as whether cars are the appropriate way of accessing leisure areas? Should extra parking be provided? Should parking in those areas be free? Those questions are most likely to be answered by an overall review of emissions and a plan to reduce them. It appears that both Auckland Council and AT are missing in action and a coherent plan has not been developed.

      It seems at the moment that Auckland is let down by politicians making decisions in a “feel good” way (” I feel good that this is most likely to generate votes for me.”). We need to do much, much better.

    2. All interesting and love that density graphic.

      Yes “Skypath” having a direct straight link to the “Seapath” section was definitely a worthy upgrade in design.

      Was actually slightly surprised AT did put full bus timetables back on when we moved to Level 3.

  8. Lots of projects and plans are mentioned on this site, but few seem
    to think of the two projects i think are the most important:
    (1) ensuring Auckland has a reliable water supply now and in the
    future.
    (2) ensuring Auckland has a reliable sewerage system – maybe one
    day we could swim at any beach in Auckland (including the
    Manukau).

    Not very sexy subjects, but very necessary.

    1. Yes. And not just sewerage. Polluted runoff into the harbours is affecting natural water quality as well. There are many actions in transport and planning that central and local government should be taking action to improve this.

    2. And giving more water to Auckland cannot be just taking it from the Waikato at the expense of Hamilton and other uses for that water.

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