Perhaps it’s because we’re back to Level 1 but there’s a lot to cover this week.


Commercial Bay opens

Commercial Bay finally opened yesterday, over four year after the old Downtown Mall closed and of course with a couple of rail tunnels running underneath it. It’s fantastic to have it open again and once the other downtown works are completed it will have resulted in a complete transformation of the area. The main lane through the site will be the main link between Britomart and the Lower Albert St bus stops for the NX1 and the lane will be open 24/7. Already it feels like it’s going to work well with the public square outside Britomart.

One downside I have seen noted is that there’s no bike parking included which seems quite an oversight given one side of the development is on Quay St which is one of the key cycle routes in the city. I still think it would have been ideal if we could have put an underground bike parking station under the square instead of just filling it in like they did.

I hope this development gives a wakeup call to the retailers in the likes of Queen St and High St who have opposed changes and want even the meagre changes made recently removed


Mangere Bridge safety improvements

Auckland Transport are finally getting on with works to make Mangere Bridge safer.

After three years of public consultation, work on stage 2 of a $5 million safety upgrade for Māngere Bridge town centre is about to start.

Auckland Transport (AT) has listened to the Māngere Bridge community and is working hard to make the area safer for pedestrians – particularly children walking to and from school.

The work is part of AT’s Safer Communities programme.

After extensive consultation in 2018, just 13 respondents wanted to keep the town centre as it currently is.

The major theme in the feedback was one of general support for the proposed improvements to make walking safer around Māngere Bridge and the village.

It is ridiculous that it’s taken three years to get to this point for what is essentially just minor changes adding a few extra pedestrian crossings. It’s a good example of how AT need to do better in getting projects from inception to delivery. Their consultation processes are particularly troublesome and seem to focus on finding ways to appease a minority of opponents than serving the majority of the public, and the evidence, that support a change.

The issue with Mangere Bridge in particular seems to have been over ATs plans to close one of the entrances to a council own carpark.

Māngere Bridge is currently undergoing roadworks as part of AT’s Safer Communities programme, which seeks to improve road safety and, as part of the works, it wants to install a pedestrian crossing on McIntyre Road.

But the issue is complicated by the fact it would be directly adjacent to one of the entrances of the free council-owned car park at shops along Coronation Road and, as a result, AT wants to close it.

The business association is opposed to the plans, claiming it will increase congestion at the second entrance, and it has been locked in talks with AT over it for the past 18 months.


Medallion Dr project starts

Last week AT announced that the Medallion Drive Link project would start. The project is a $10 million two lane road which will extend Medallion Dr from Oteha Valley Rd through to Fairview Ave in Albany, bypassing a single lane bridge.

One benefit of the project will be that it signalises the intersection with Oteha Valley Rd which will help a little bit in reducing that road from being used like a mini-motorway, something even more important given the school on the south-eastern corner of it.

But it is disappointing they are still building substandard infrastructure. While cars get multiple turning lanes, the new road only includes a 3m shared path on the eastern side with the Western side just a normal footpath. This is despite the Albany Busway station being less than 1km west of this location. Perhaps that’s why even AT’s own images show a cyclist using the footpath here.


Women have fewer transport emissions

Research from Dr Caroline Shaw at the University of Otago has found women have fewer transport emissions than men.

The University of Otago research discovered women use more diverse travel options, as well as walking and using public transport more than men.

When it comes to cycling, more than twice as many men cycled as women – 5 per cent compared to 2 per cent.

However overall, both men and women tended to travel by car, lead researcher Dr Caroline Shaw says.

…..

“Women took more trips, but travelled between 12 and 17 per cent fewer kilometres per day and were more likely to walk and use public transport than men,” Dr Shaw says.

“Thus, women overall had a more diverse and lower greenhouse gas emission travel profile than men.”

Those shorter trips could be replaced with cycling instead, Dr Shaw says.

But it would take improved cycling infrastructure to help encourage people to switch to the bike.

“These would likely require whole street/suburb changes to make them safer and more attractive to walk and cycle for the whole family and be relevant for the places that women travel between, such as shops, schools and libraries, as well as workplaces,” Dr Shaw says.

We should absolutely be looking at how we can roll out “whole street/suburb” changes.


Density ain’t so bad

Hobsonville Point is showing that when done well, or at least better, higher density living can be positive.

Sense of community is strong in what is, so far, New Zealand’s largest housing development, a new study is finding.

And it’s a finding resident Penny Thorne can attest to.

Once among the “most skeptical” about living in West Auckland’s Hobsonville Point, two years on Thorne has been impressed by both the sense of community and access to the outdoors.

“I’ve made quite a lot of friends in quite a short time,” she said.

…..

Residents said density had made their community more ‘walkable’, with two-thirds stating that their children walked or biked to school.

Fifty per cent indicated they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the level of privacy provided; and fifty per cent also indicated being ‘very satisfied’ with being close to open spaces, such as parks.

Now if we could just get better public transport access to Hobsonville Point so that driving isn’t the default. This is needed in the form of more frequent ferries and more frequent, direct and reliable connections to Westgate and Constellation Dr.


Transmission Gully Video

Given everything that’s going on with Transmission Gully, it seems an odd time for the NZTA to publish a flyover of it, but they have and it shows the scale of the works so far but also highlights there’s a lot left to do.

And while on the subject of PPPs, Newsroom have run a few more good articles recently about this one, including that the contractor is having issues on some of it’s Australian projects, and the issues with PPPs in general.


Self-driving safety

Talk of self-driving vehicles has quietened off over the last year or two but it’s still around. This article covering some research on the topic highlights one of the key issues, they’ll only be safer than humans if they’re designed to be. It may seem a straightforward assumption that they would be but if the trade-off to making them safe was that in some areas they’re slow and cautious, we could see the companies developing them so they’re not so safe.

Planning and deciding errors, such as speeding and illegal maneuvers, were contributing factors in about 40 percent of crashes in the study sample. The fact that deliberate decisions made by drivers can lead to crashes indicates that rider preferences might sometimes conflict with the safety priorities of autonomous vehicles. For self-driving vehicles to live up to their promise of eliminating most crashes, they will have to be designed to focus on safety rather than rider preference when those two are at odds.

Self-driving vehicles will need not only to obey traffic laws but also to adapt to road conditions and implement driving strategies that account for uncertainty about what other road users will do, such as driving more slowly than a human driver would in areas with high pedestrian traffic or in low-visibility conditions.

“Our analysis shows that it will be crucial for designers to prioritize safety over rider preferences if autonomous vehicles are to live up to their promise to be safer than human drivers,” Mueller says.

Personally I’m a big fan of the one kind of self-driving vehicle that exists that we know works properly – trains.


A good illustration how it’s not the roads that are too small but that the cars have gotten bigger

Have a good weekend.

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70 comments

  1. Fresh off the (press? Airwaves?) at RNZ:

    Auckland Light Rail stalls after NZ First refusal

    The Auckland light rail project looks dead in the water for now, with coalition partner New Zealand First refusing to back it before the election.

    The promise to build light rail from downtown Auckland to the airport was made by Jacinda Ardern in her first policy announcement as Labour leader ahead of the 2017 general election.

    But three years on, RNZ has been told New Zealand First plans to stop the multi-billion dollar project dead in its tracks.

    RNZ political reporter Katie Scotcher speaks to Kim Hill.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018750365/auckland-light-rail-stalls-after-nz-first-refusal

      1. That could end up working out quiet well for Labour if they get a majority at the election. No need to take winnie along with them for another 3 years like they’ve said they would do.

        That is of course assuming Mr Twyford doesn’t run with the Canadian Pension fund option.

        Which in turn might be exactly why winnie is opposing it?

        1. It could work out well for the Greens too. They can run in Auckland on delivering light rail and the congestion free rapid transit network.

        2. The Greens have been persona non grata when it comes to Light Rail in Auckland for the last three years. It would be extremely cynical for them to suddenly make it a bottom line after being happy to sit back while nothing happened.

        3. The Greens are more interested in social engineering and turning us into a nation of potheads than anything else.

        4. Yeah Vance, you’re so right. They are going to create a rule that means everyone above the age of 8 has to smoke at least 1 joint a day. It’s crazy! I miss the good old days aye when everything cost 1 Shilling and Lamb and Potatoes was served to us good blokes at 5pm on the dot every day.

          Next they will be legalising alcohol and turning us into a Nation of drinkers! PC gone mad!

        5. Ha, in grumpy old man land even *un-banning* something and giving people the freedom to smoke it if they want to still counts as ‘social engineering’.

    1. TBH I would have been stunned if something did happen with light rail before the election given it is less than 100 days away.

      What this does tell us though is that light rail to the airport will be very hard to progress if NZ First hold the balance of power again.

      I’d be interested to know NZ First’s view on North West LR as that seems to be the more logical project to start with now given the hit air travel has taken.

      1. NZ First is anti Auckland, anti urban, anti intensification.

        Winnies latest speech was “we’re for heavy rail’ and started on about freight upgrades to Northland, which shows how much he cares about transport problems in Auckland.

        1. Mostly agree. It comes down to whether it is a bottom line for them though, if not it becomes a negotiation in the same way refugee numbers and the ban on oil and gas exploration were.

          I could see them opposing it though as it effectively makes passenger HR to Kumeu irrelevant.

        2. JBM, the only reason Labour is in government right now is because of NZ First. Without Winston, we would currently have a National government.

          But I’m sure you understood that when dissing Winston.

        3. Without NZF, Labour and Greens could potentially have governed alone. All the party does is bleed off a few Labour seats on an anti-establishment anti immigrant bent and keep it from doing anything useful.

          We’ll see if Winston can scrape together enough seats to survive in September, and well see if that matters or if he’ll sit out his last term on the cross benches.

        4. NZF probably very instrumental in getting some good regional rail freight things moving ahead which is a plus in ways I don’t have to explain on this blog. They are trying to distinguish themselves leading up to the election as always happens with the smaller parties in the coalition.

          Agree with jezza, probably better to get on withe NW light rail instead & would be a lot less of a political football. Once an airport has something to do with rail etc it seems to be a nightmare. Let that one prove itself and you should get more support for the Mangere/Airport scheme.

  2. That last point about cars getting bigger is particularly relevant in NZ where the most popular new ‘car’ is the Ford ranger. It’s about time we required commercial driving licenses to drive them and also taxed vehicles based on size and emissions

  3. I’ve been thinking about the car size thing a lot over the last week or so and figuring out my new tax scheme to nigh on price ‘truck size cars’ off the road. This was after I saw a guy drive past in a Datsun 180b which was the first car I owned and we had one for a family car for a while, the thing was tiny!

    First up – Diesel is 50c/l more exp than petrol, you want a stinky diesel, that’s fine but you pay. (I own one)

    Vehicles over a certain weight, looking at you range rover vogue/porsche/hilux/ranger rego costs will go up 10 fold. (I own one)

    Vehicles over a certain brake horse power (I don’t know bhp but say 2500cc) will incur a similar rego cost. (I own one)

    Vehicles that meet both the weight and cc category’s above will have 50% of the new car price added to them when bought new. Your $70K Ranger is now $100K+, your $150K range rover is now well north of $200K.

    Exemption so far are people movers and maybe vans as well.
    Commercial vehicles over 3t also?
    Trucks over 10t on the extra fuel charge?

    All funds collected to be diverted to EV subsidies and active modes?

    1. +1 to car size. A few weeks ago I saw a tiny little yellow car approaching on the the highway. I thought it was a Mini. Turned out to be an early 90s ute.

      All your ideas are sound are essentially what is already done in most European countries. 50,000 Ford Rangers are sold each year in the whole of Europe compared to 10,000 a year in New Zealand. The problem is that these measures are thought to be not politically viable in New Zealand at the moment. What’s the solution to that?

    2. You need to join the labor party, they are the “lets tax everything” party, however they did loose the plot on the “Sugar Tax” so when the new tax idea does not come in there must be a under the table payment fiddle going on.

  4. Also just want to say part of the reason vehicles got so big is because the older ones weren’t that safe, for people inside and out. I’d say changing that is a good thing, wouldn’t you?

    Also, the Mini one is a false comparison, the one in the picture is comparing a Countryman which is an SUV with an old three door. There are still much smaller three-door Minis – you can even get yourself a three-door EV Cooper if you have a spare $60K rattling around.

    1. Can you explain how a larger vehicle is safer for those outside it such as cyclists and pedestrians?

      Also the main reason for cars being safer is the vast list of design improvements that have been made in the last sixty years, size is a very small part of this.

      I can’t see any logic to needing to drive a high clearance 4WD with bullbars for example in an area with high pedestrian counts other than because people are allowed to.

      1. “Also the main reason for cars being safer is the vast list of design improvements that have been made in the last sixty years, size is a very small part of this.”

        …except in the case of the Mini, where the original car couldn’t be updated pre-BMW takeover due to crash testing and homologation issues – bit hard to make a car with no room for safety features safer.

        1. Agree the old mini was too small to make useful safety improvements to. However, that is a red herring as the majority of cars on the road in days gone by were not minis.

          Size is not vital to safety, the Mazda 3 scores as well if not better than the CX9 for safety and is much more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

        2. Oh you’ll get no argument from me about the sheer size of a lot of vehicles. Some of the most interesting cars ever built were from the time where getting the fast bits to fit in small spaces was a real challenge. I just find the Mini comparison a little dishonest above as it’s not comparing a modern hatchback to a classic one.

    2. Observe how VW first introduced the Polo and then the Lupo/Fox to still have a small car as model sizes have crept up. However the main increase in size is people switching first to SUVs and cross-overs, and now to utes. So yeah, we should compare a Corolla to a Hilux.

      Go to Westgate, and observe that it has larger parking bays than most older parts of Auckland to accommodate those utes.

      Apart from space another problem is visibility. You can’t look over the roof when walking even as an adult. Kids can’t even look over the bonnet. You also can’t look over the bonnet when driving a sedan or hatchback. This will make it increasingly difficult to drive those smaller cars through intersections. Eventually everyone else will be forced to ‘upgrade’ or get out.

    3. I saw a new Honda Civic yesterday, huge compared with the 1970s original. Length 4662mm vs 3755mm, width 1799mm vs 1505mm.

    4. They’re certainly safer for drivers but I question the claim they’re safer for people outside – bigger, heavier, built for speed and isolation from the outside world. Bigger vehicles also make it harder for other drivers – my vision of oncoming vehicles, when turning, is blocked when one of these utes pulls up alongside – they have a good view but no one else, and they’re oblivious if anyone lower than their very high vehicle walks past.

    1. They’re already happening and only psychological inertia is holding them back.
      It will take longer for private automobiles. But you’ll first see public-owned utility vehicles (ambulances, rubbish trucks, buses) become automated. Then it will be the taxi companies and couriers, etc. It’ll be disruptive but the bottom line will drive it.

  5. Amen to Hobsonville Point needing better public transport. Westgate to Constellation is supposed to be future rapid, but currently only has the 120 bus running every 30 minutes (~15 during peak). It is run with short buses that are often full to capacity in the morning as it’s also used by the school kids from Greenhithe. I take the bus to Constellation, then NX to the city, about 1h door to door.
    For my wife with toddler, driving is the only practical option to get to Albany.
    I have lived in Hobsonville Point 5 months now and have only taken the ferry once: as the latest option to get home from town at 10:30pm. For commuting, it would be more expensive and take at least just as long.

    1. A peninsula on the far end of the harbour must be about the worst possible location for a “high density” development when it comes to access by PT (apart from going all the way into the wop wops). Why did it not happen where Westgate is now?

  6. Two observations on Commercial Bay opening.

    Properly understood this is the start of the new Auckland transformed by the CRL. A number of significant private developments and new public realm will open before a train carries a soul through the tunnels, but either would not be at all, or not to the standards they are without the CRL. CB is the first significant one. The surrounding public realm and Lower Albert St will be next.

    If the retailers of the Queen St valley ever needed encouragement to support upgrading their streets, surely this is it. CB will bring people to the city, but what will draw them across Customs St and up the valley? Diesel fumes and the same old vehicle dominated streets last substantially changed in the 1970s? Here comes a hard learning for any stick-in-the-muds. They should be screaming for the Vic St Linear Park and the full realisation of the Laneway network to be fast-tracked with temporary interventions; have a story to tell to get people to want to check out all that’s new in the city centre.

    1. Covid-19 will have those retailers suffering for the foreseeable future; no cruise ship passengers, barely any other tourists, no international students, fewer CBD office workers etc. This comes on top of increased competition out in the suburbs (Westfield Newmarket, the coming Sylvia Park extension and so forth).

      I think proposing streetscape enhancements will split them into two camps. There’ll be some that see a quiet trading period as the best time to make long-term improvements. There’ll be others who are terrified that construction disruption will scare customers away and push their business over the edge. The latter group will be by far the loudest.

      Convincing those opponents will be a difficult sell. I really don’t think AT/AC are up to it. However retailers aren’t the only stakeholders in the CBD. The CBD has a lot of residents, workers and landlords. It’s important that consultations let their voices be heard too. Not to mention canvassing people who might visit the CBD more often if it was a more pleasant experience.

    2. Tautoko! There’s a few things (dumb rules) that need changing. Council policies that restrict the placement of chairs and tables on Queen Street need to be changed. (let this sink in…there’s so many people walking on the footpaths that there’s not enough space for people to stop and appreciate the place…not enough space for tables and chairs…so someone made a rule about no stopping. Applying movement logic to a place.)

      Then wrestling the “premier retail strip” stranglehold is another one. Its a single use facade line – need to have a mix of services, offerings, experiences. Otherwise what’s the reason to be there…?

      Its been interesting watching retail change over the years, seeing that “Public space is your new anchor tenant”. They’re now doing it so well!!

      1. “Its a single use facade line – need to have a mix of services, offerings, experiences. Otherwise what’s the reason to be there…?”

        Have you been to Queen Street recently? It certainly isn’t retail only. There is a fair bit of service stuff such as banks and travel agents at ground level with entrances to second floor lawyers, healthcare, etc. there is also a lot of hositality; cafes, bars, restaurants.

        The only thing Queen Street needs is closure to general traffic from Mayoral Drive to the sea tomorrow.

    3. “Properly understood this is the start of the new Auckland transformed by the CRL. ”
      +1 Patrick, I weirdly almost disconnected this from the CRL in my mind as seems so far off til opening.

  7. That NZTA video is clearly a PR stunt to reassure people after the bad news. Notice how there’s no videos of the long steep inclines?

  8. The Pilot will be the best way to get these “new ways” (old ways) in place.

    Which is where it needs to get to. The fantasies of CB bringing a steady and reliable stream of people in to the city centre are just that. As you say @Patrick, need to recognise that people need a reason to explore further.

  9. Some who know me may be shocked to hear this, but I don’t have strong objections to Transmission Gully in principle, since I grew up on the Kapiti Coast and honestly an inland route from Paekakariki to the Porirua Basin is a good idea.

    That said, the PPP is a freakin’ disaster of epic proportions which should make it clear that doing something similar with Auckland light rail should not be considered for a moment.

  10. If going for shared paths, surely there would be a shared path on both sides of the street? Is that seriously a bidirectional shared path on one side? How weird.

    Maybe they looked at the census and observed there are only a few dozen cyclists in that entire area. Where is that “leading infrastructure” when you need it?

    1. Apparently you are supposed to hoon down a shared path then when you get to the bottom step your bike sideways into one of the two- cycle stop boxes within the road carriageway. Going up the hill was simply too hard for them and they gave up at that point. Maybe the model said bikes only go east!

      1. At least stepping the bike sideways from shared paths into advance stop boxes is something Aucklanders are practised at if they’re bold enough to cycle on the road at all. And we wouldn’t want to raise expectations of anything like a continuous, unbroken path.

  11. The research by Caroline Shaw is important; Auckland Transport (and NZTA) need to look at the assumptions underpinning their drive to prioritise attending to peak hour commuter needs.

    To reduce emissions, increase local access, and provide modeshift opportunities there are low hanging fruit they can address that have nothing to do with the peak hour commuter needs. It’s not that peak hour doesn’t matter, it’s that work to improve it shouldn’t crowd out other opportunities, like cycleways, low traffic neighbourhoods and functioning frequencies for interpeak, morning and evening public transport.

    But if you’ve never challenged where your own mindset comes from you won’t prioritise these low-hanging fruit. Good to recognise one’s own demographically-influenced prejudices. Looking at you, AT ELT.

  12. Looking at LQS why haven’t they built a canopy across from Britomart to the new Commercial Bay ? . I would have thought people like Matt L would have mentioned that also as he would be one of those affected on wet days , as he uses both the train and buses in his everyday travels when it rains and the cleaning staff would also be happy not having to mope water all day .

    1. Why would they mop it? It’s an outdoor laneway paved for outdoor use. The square is uncovered to allow for flexible use.

      1. I was talking about the entrances to the enclosed buildings with those little signs that say danger wet floors . LQS tiles are so designed to not be slippery were as the tiles inside are highly polished and can be dangerous when wet .

    2. There used to be a pedestrian underpass under Lower Queen St that linked to the old shopping mall and also under Customs St (one of the entrances is still there). It wouldn’t have been possible to preserve this when they dug everything up for CRL, plus it probably didn’t meet modern standards for disability access. However it’s a mystery to me why no underpass was reinstated. From my time working on CRL1 there was certainly no technical reason why it couldn’t be done. I suspect it came down to cost cutting.

      Having pedestrian underpasses improving the walk-up catchment of public transit stations is a no-brainer. Go overseas and they’re a standard feature of train stations. Even the capital of the Solomon Islands (Honiara, population <100,000) has a pedestrian underpass between the central market bus station and the strip of bale shops on the other side of the road.

      1. The old underpass had a lift to get up ad onto LQS to get to the buses besides the stairs that were there . They could have reinsatated it if they had split the underground plant room . It then could hve given them easier access in 2 directions to the plant room and to the new Commericial Bay Building , but then again would CMB be want another lift to take over retail space ? .

      2. It was intentional to remove it, it was poorly used, leaked and an expensive to replace component.

        And as there is no longer a road to go under the square will be freely available for people to walk across in any direction.

        Sure it rains, but it rains all across downtown. Having the first 30m underground doesn’t really change the situation.

      3. Log Bear – I think the Customs St entrance you mention may be for
        an underground toilet, which was closed many years ago.
        I was scared to use it in the 1960’s – it was bad even then.
        I will miss the subway between Britomart and the old building – it was
        great in wet weather.

        1. There also use to 1 in Vctoria st also which closed when the Fay/Richwhite building was put up and they opened a door in the side of the building for the public to use and that never was seemed to be opened .

  13. I now live in Sydney but so happy to see this open. Great to see so much foot traffic (amazing what happens when you put great public transport connections next to places to shop). So very proud of our country in recent months and to have level one now so far ahead of other countries is fantastic. Here in Sydney, there are still significant restrictions (although they are slowly easing).

    Auckland is a work in progress but slowly and surely it is getting better after so many years of groups like this blog fighting for public transport and public space change.

  14. I have heard that as part of the Council’s half-a-billion dollar financial hole, cutbacks mean the Quay St improvements won’t extend any further east past Commerce St now?

    1. This is what I saw on the 7thMay along Quay St and it hasn’t changed that much since I walked along there just after Xmas ;-

  15. What a way to go screw public transport with wasted empty buses such as rush hour sunday ghost passengers riders like a 981 & 984 bus that goes the same time and much most the same route empty, then stop the timetable at 7pm so no one can get a NEX bus into the city that runs a few more hours, when all the money runs out we can all use the roads, lets build more roads, we need more and more roads so more and more no passenger cars can choke them up

  16. Re car sizes. Yes some of those new SUV’s are ridiculously sized monsters. You really notice when you walk around one. Sure they are all safe inside them but no one else is.

    1. +1 We had a local children’s football match the other day. Just about all the parents arrived in large SUVs. And today i cycled to a local mountain bike park. Again just about all the cars in the park carrying mountain bikes were giant SUVs. If more and more young people are buying them it is unlikely they will ever want to go back to anything smaller. Maybe in the longer term they will simply move into giant electric SUVs. Scary for cyclists and walkers.

  17. Surprising the Medallion Dr project is going ahead. I thought they had cancelled all CAPEX that wasnt already underway.

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