Here’s our weekly roundup of some of the things that caught my attention this week.

Why does Auckland Transport hate pedestrians so much?

During lockdown one of the changes Auckland Transport belatedly made was to set the pedestrian crossings on many intersections to automatic, avoiding the need to push the beg buttons. This was good but the biggest issue was that no one knew which intersections were on automatic and which ones weren’t, despite pleading to AT numerous times, nothing was done about it. Now AT engineers are using the fact they refused to tell anyone about it leading to people having to keep pushing the buttons just in case as one of the many spurious reasons as to why they’ve have turned off the automatic function.

This comes from a report obtained from AT

Here’s the executive summary from the report.

On April 8 2020 all intersections across Auckland excluding mid-block crossings were switched to an automatic pedestrian function between 7am and 7pm. On 10 April, this was modified so that only the top 25% of intersections based on pedestrian demand had automated demands. The driver for this initiative was to enable pedestrians to cross roads without having to touch a button, and to reduce pedestrian delay at intersections.

Our SME recommendation has remained consistent throughout this process. The function should be turned off at all intersections where it has been implemented as a Covid-19 response. We strongly recommend this being done at the earliest opportunity The reasons for this are:

  • Pedestrians are not aware of this initiative and are still pushing the buttons;
  • Pedestrian delay has increased;
  • Jaywalking has increased;
  • Vehicle delay has increased;
  • Accident risk has increased;
  • Customer feedback since introduction has been wholly negative; and
  • 2% of Covid-19 cases are by community transmission.

Let’s just work through these

    1. As mentioned above, nothing was done to tell pedestrians buttons were on automatic. This only needed to be a simple sticker/sign covering the button. They’ve even used these on some crossings in the city that were on automatic anyway.

  1. This is the result of a formula they use which is based on the intersection cycle time including the pedestrian crossing phase. This makes absolutely no sense in the real world as it means more pedestrian crossing phases mean pedestrians wait longer. It also ignores the reality that if you’re approaching an intersection and the crossing goes off, many people can and will speed up or run to ensure they make the crossing and not have to stand waiting for an entire phase.
  2. This is likely a factor of there being less traffic about.
  3. Again this is based on the formula in 2 and ignores that there was much less traffic on roads and therefore overall travel times were probably faster.
  4. The accident risk comes because AT found red light running nearly doubled at 13 random sites where they applied. There are two problems with their conclusion.
    • This is likely related to #3 where people took more risks because traffic was so light they thought they could get away with it
    • They haven’t done any analysis on sites where they didn’t put signals on automatic so they have no way of knowing if this was related to the pedestrian crossings or just behaviour as per above.

  5. Customer feedback will of course be wholly negative if the only thing you count are complaints, like the engineers have. They conducted no analysis of positive feedback over the same time and even their complaints numbers show most complaints came in the first two days and they died off.
  6. This report was written while we were still deep in the middle of Level 4 of lockdown. It seems wholly inappropriate that AT staff appear to be just dismissing health concerns so easily

Overall this shows that AT engineers remain wedded to the idea that the only thing that matters is moving cars. They seem to have no issue with providing automated phases for vehicles, even when there are none around, but suggest pedestrians get the same treatment and they’ll use all sorts of dodgy stats and half-truths justify not doing it.

Small changes in infrastructure could yield major benefits for pedestrians

This is issue, and others such as improving access to train stations, is covered well in this article by University of Sydney professor of transport, David Levinson.

In my home city of Sydney, Australia, the average speed of travel by car is about 20 mph after considering traffic signals and congestion. On highways in rural areas outside the city, the average speed is three times that (60 mph). Yet despite Sydney’s congestion, rational people pay a pretty dear price to live in it, compared to what it would cost to live in rural Australia. Sydney, like many cities, is valuable for reasons other than ease of driving. What it offers is access.

Cities are organized so that many people can reach one another, and important destinations, in a short amount of time, whether on foot, or by bike, bus, train, ferry, or car. The most accessible cities maximize the destinations people can reach in a reasonable amount of time, even at modest speeds. Outside cities, travel speed, particularly by automobile, tends to be higher, but people and places are also farther apart.

Planners and urban designers recognize that automobiles have a number of negative effects (wasting scarce space, causing pollution and crashes), and they encourage people to walk more and drive less. Yet cities continue to create and maintain traffic systems that favor people in cars over people on foot. There are many ways to improve this situation, short of eliminating private car traffic from busy urban districts — although that should also be considered.

No one will be surprised to hear that cities seeking to increase access must make wise choices about long-term investments in major transport infrastructure, such as subways or highways. But cities must also make intelligent smaller decisions — about streets, intersections, and transit stops. This article is about those latter decisions: modest, local-level steps that are often overlooked by politicians, planners, and engineers who focus on major infrastructure policies and programs. These small decisions could easily improve accessibility by helping people minimize their travel time while walking or taking public transit. Actions like these could help achieve the “30-minute city.”


June Road Deaths

Speaking of returning to normal, 28 people died on our roads in June, the same number as June last year.

Four of those deaths occurred in Auckland and means the region is now sitting at 15 so far this year. That is down on last year but notably, pedestrian deaths have doubled to six, two more were cyclists meaning those active modes account for more than half of the road deaths in Auckland so far.

Bikes for schools campaign

While still on the topic of safety, AT have launched a campaign that will see them donate free bikes, helmets and equipment to two schools near the construction of the Eastern Busway if there are one million tips recorded under 30km/h by April 2021.

A quick look suggests about 20,000 vehicles a day cross the Panmure Bridge. With 43 weeks between now and the end of April next year there are just over 300 days, suggesting that over 6 million trips will occur over that timeframe so 1 million under 30km/h isn’t a huge stretch.

Matakana Link Road Starts

After kicking off construction of the Aotea Station last week, this week the two Phil’s (Twyford and Goff) started construction on the $62 million Matakana Link Rd up in Warkworth.

Driverless Buses?

The hype around driverless cars has died down a bit after being fever-pitched a few years ago. I’ve maintained that if we are to see driverless vehicles, perhaps one of the most logical places for that to occur first will be on buses. Why, because buses tend to run a fixed route that can be more easily mapped out and bus companies will look to save money on drivers wages. Connecticut in the US is going to trial some driverless buses on a dedicated section of busway.

What is it with ticketing projects?

The national integrated ticketing scheme continues to be delayed.

Project NEXT, New Zealand’s troubled plan for a single national public transport card has been quietly delayed yet again.

More than $10 million dollars in funding for the project was part of deferred spending in the Greater Wellington Regional Council annual plan, revealing that the project is running behind schedule.

“The procurement and due-diligence phase of Project NEXT has experienced delays and this work is expected to commence in the new year,” the budget said.

Several international software companies which are in the running for the project contract have asked for more time to put together proposals, New Zealand Transport Agency spokeswoman Rebekah Duffin said.

Some companies had blamed Covid-19 for interrupting schedules, Duffin said.

Snapper is understood to be a major contender for the contract, along with French-based Thales, which operates Auckland’s AT HOP card, and German company INIT, which produced the regional-focused Bee Card.


NZTA first joined the project in 2009, offering to pay 51 per cent of the cost of developing the AT HOP smartcard.

The plan was to expand the HOP card into Wellington and then the rest of the country.

However, in 2015 GWRC rejected the HOP card, claiming it was outdated.

A further five years on and you know what’s really outdated, the paper tickets Wellington still use on their trains

Have a good weekend.

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  1. I was out working in level 3 and didn’t want to touch the pedestrian button so I just gave them a small kick with my shoe. They should make them a bit lower or have a foot option at every approach.

    1. I am often in surgical theatres. Many of the doors open automatically upon swiping your access card, or when you use your shoe to kick a round button that is about 30cm above the ground. I suspect this is a way to reduce pathogen transmission, and can also be applied to pedestrian signals here in Oakland, New Zealand.

  2. I don’t understand the comment that Hop was ‘outdated’ five years ago. In my experience it works flawlessly, the read time is very quick, and it’s dead easy to use.

    What about that makes it outdated? About a million of them are in circulation and the surveys say about half of adults in Auckland carry one with them daily. So obviously its an effective system.

    About the only thing missing is integration with phones and credit card payments, which was planned to be delivered on Hop until NZTA decided to use a different system and it got parked.

    1. “Read time is very quick”? Are you having a laugh?
      Read time is about double what I’ve experienced in other countries and it doesn’t seem to work so well if you try to say keep it in your wallet for example (while it does work in some others doing that).
      Admittedly sometimes it seems to read a bit faster.
      Also topping up seems to be a bit of an issue for many people (although whether that is the system, or ATs other systems that are the problem?).

      1. Not at all, it’s about the fastest card system I’ve used anywhere. Faster than Opal, Myki or Go Card, certainly faster than Octopus, Oyster, OV-Chipkaart.

        I do keep it in my wallet, it often reads so fast it’s tagged on and read again and giving the ‘already tagged on’ message before I’ve had a chance to pull my wallet back.

        The only thing is you can’t keep it next to another RF card, or the system will try and read both and give an error on the one that isn’t Hop. But I imagine this must be the case for all such systems.

        1. No way, Oyster, Octopus, EZ-Link are all much faster than HOP (and they were so even a decade+ ago in the case of Oyster)

        2. No offence intended but are you sure you are using it properly? I can’t see how you believe this in good faith. Hop isn’t good if you have the card in a stack with other paywave type cards, but if not it works immediately through a wallet or bag without any perceptible delay. At least that is my experience, and I’ve been using it across buses, trains and ferries daily since it first started.

      2. The issues topping up are unrelated to the card, that’s all AT’s IT and payment processing.

      3. The read time is very quick. I’ve used systems in many cities and Hop is fast.
        Also, I can’t remember the last time I took the card out of my wallet; it works flawlessly.

        1. After most of the initial teething troubles were sorted out,HOP works very well. If only it was used nationwide as originally planned instead of the current mish mash of systems, it would have been a great investment of taxpayers/ratepayers money. Now we have HOP, BEE plus the schemozzle in Wellington, something else in Christchurch?

    2. The reason HOP is outdated can be stated in 2 words.

      “Technology Rot.”

      HOP suffers from the same problem all complex software systems suffer from – while the functionality may be ok the underlying technology its built from and requires is outdated.

      This leads to situations where the cost to keep the system running balloons rapidly and even exponentially.

      Think about trying to get an iPhone generation 3 to be usable in todays world.
      The world has moved on leaving it obsolete in every sense of the word.

      Its not just a NZTA or AT problem either. I know of a NZ company who I won’t name.
      Who have just replaced all their ancient Windows 2003 servers with newer ones – to prolong the life of their 12 year old main IT systems by 3 more years.

      Think about that – a business running on Microsoft technology and software that is over 17 years old. Thats ancient “came with the Ark” type of age in IT terms. Yet, not old for people. Or trains.

      And there have been even recently stories of many ATMs around the world *still* using Windows XP [that came out in 2001 BTW]. Even worse, stories persist of some really old systems still running on Windows 95 [which came out, you guessed it, in 1995].

      Using old technology like that for your systems you use for handing out cash, not so good.

      Using old tech thats even half that old for the backbone of your payment system for your Auckland wide PT system?

      A truly dumb fuck idea.

      And HOP is likely over that point already.

      1. Using Windows XP is a smart idea. That was peak Windows and it was all downhill from there. Microsoft changed it to sell new product not because the old software didn’t work. Remember Steve Ballmer, the CEO at Microsoft. He made himself rich by sacking himself. The day he quit the shares rallied at the good news and all the shares and options he owned made him a killing.

        1. I have always thought Windows 3.1 was the better one after that I could never find where my files were. Now I am past caring.

      2. I can’t see why snapper doesn’t replace cash fares on the trains in Wellington.

        Also find it odd I can use my debit card to pay for trains in London but not Wellington.

        1. Because integrated ticketing in Wellington is only two years away. Just like it has been for at least 20 years.

        2. Snapper is owned by infratil, one of the bus companies, who demand to have all user data and charge for other to use it. Snapper is obviously extremely keen to have private control of fares in Wellington, but greater Wellington isn’t.

        3. @JohnD
          Snapper & NZ Bus were both sold in 2019 to different owners. Snapper is no longer associated with any bus company.
          “…but greater Wellington isn’t”
          Snapper is contracted by GWRC, fares and fare data go to GWRC.

        4. I find the rabid support for Snapper in Wellington depressing. Why reject Hop? It’s nothing amazing, but it works well enough and it’s here now. There are plenty of other things out of Wellington that are way more worth fighting for.

        5. @bjfoeh
          Some strange initial choices by AT made HOP look and bit crap & half arse. E.g. auto top up blacklist + inability to un-blacklist cards. Really damaged the public image of HOP outside Auckland. Also IIRC GW had some mistaken ideas about HOP & its potential capabilities (I think issues around use of contactless credit/debit cards).
          “it works well enough and it’s here now”
          Ditto Snapper on buses … (largely explains public support for Snapper & why many would like to see it on trains+ferries). Only serious PT tragics (probably many here (including me)) care about the real detail, others just want something that works ASAP.

        6. Yes, I remember it well, there was a huge outcry over the auto top up blacklist + inability to un-blacklist cards. It was on the front pages for weeks, just as well Wellington managed to avoid that by sticking to a mish mash of Snapper and paper tickets. BTW has Snapper managed to even get an auto top facility yet or is still coming? Imagine if HOP had been introduced into the Wellington region as originally planned, they would have had the auto top option all these years, blacklist or not, how terrible would that have been?

        7. @Zippo
          HOP in Wellington would’ve been fine, NZTA was spineless (should’ve just told GW where to go & rammed it through). Wellington integrated ticketing is a decades long farcical joke (an earlier scheme was proposed in late 1980s, I understand it was sunk by 1990s flog off of buses & the BS notion of “competition”).
          “BTW has Snapper managed to even get an auto top facility yet or is still coming?”
          As you’ll know if you’ve been following things, new features on legacy systems have been canned. (Political, not technical.)

      3. Don’t mention the US unemployment payment system using COBOL programming language on a mainframe etc from what I heard. When the recent big increase in unemployed due to COVID-19 hit the system couldn’t keep up and they were calling out for ancient often retired programmers to tweak the system to cope.

        1. Or Imperial College’s Fortran Covid-19 model that predicted everyone would die- smothered by format statements.

      4. My Mum still uses an iPhone generation 2, every day, and is perfectly happy with it. Just saying.

      5. GregN, you’ve not really given an argument for why older technology is bad, other than the cost of keeping it running could balloon exponentially. The rest is begging the question by saying that old technology is a bad idea, because its a bad idea to use old technology.
        Is that the crux of it, it might cost a lot to keep going in the future?

        I’m not sure this is always a problem. Vancouver’s entire metro system runs on a train control programme written in 1987. It worked flawlessly in 1987 and continues to do so (they have never had an accident under automatic control), despite originally fitting on a single floppy disc.

        It is certainly a problem to have wellington continue to not have integrated ticketing five years after they made the call of ‘old technology’. Indeed at the author writes, a old paper ticket from a clippy is certainly old technology, but arguably its not obsolete!

    3. Plenty of obsolescent and obsolete technologies do a perfectly fine job in their applications.

  3. On red light running: AT appear to have chosen the statistic that suits their narrative. For a lot of those intersections the total number of red light runners actually decreased. The only reason the percentage of red light runners increased was because the traffic volumes dropped so dramatically.

  4. I think the CEO should get to the bottom of whether that pedestrian signal mis-analysis was due to incompetence or ideology. Either way we shouldn’t have to put up with it.

    1. Agree Heidi. The one that really annoys me is when they deliberately split pedestrian crossings into 2 or more and make pedestrians beg multiple times to cross one road. I remember trying to cross the motorway at maioro street I had to wait 4 cycles took about 5 mins. The intersection was deliberately designed that way so pedestrian crossings were broken into multiple crossings so more cars can get through. This intersection is not that old and is part of the south western cycle way.
      Why is multiple red lights at one intersection acceptable for a pedestrian but not a car?

  5. I’ve been saying for 5 years, and yeah I know it’s a long time, that driverless automobiles WILL happen at some stage. And they will eventually change everything.

    Obviously there’s human psychological inertia and regulations, infrastructure, etc stalling it. But it’s going to happen just like how mobile phones, EFT-POS, the automobile itself, and plenty of other technologies that proved “disruptive”; took some time and a few initial flops before eventually becoming the norm.
    And they WILL impact just about everything and will go from merely being an adaption of existing automobiles to finding a different form altogether. And I predict they will begin with vehicles like Buses, Taxis, Ambulances, delivery lorries, any vehicle where people are paid to drive.

    1. Driverless cars won’t happen, beyond a few inner city taxi gimmicks, for the simple reason that nobody ever wants to talk about – they have no demand.

      As a car driver, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to hand over control to a computer. Neither do I have any reason to do so.

      Where are all the thousands of people lobbying for their cars to be driverless? There are none. No one actually wants one, and no company is going to build something that nobody wants.

      1. Pretty sure there is no lack of demand, the lack of supply is the issue. People love to compare them to other rapidly advancing tech like phones, but there really is a big difference. A phone is just a tool, it doesn’t need to coexist with humans, sure their is some machine learning, but we largely tell it what to do. A car trying to be a human is a whole different thing. It may happen one day, but not for a long time.

      2. Sorry but that’s just wrong headed BS. Most people don’t want to do the driving. If they did, automatic transmission wouldn’t have become so popular so quickly after it was introduced. For most people it’s a way of doing less of the driving. Not hard to extrapolate from there.

        Anyway, practically all businesses that own vehicles would leap at autonomous vehicles if they could be relied on – just for the labour savings.

        Feasibility is the main near-term problem for autonomous cars.

      3. If nobody wants driverless automobiles; then how is it that so much money is being sunk into developing them?

        Of course; there are parties who DO want them, which is why they’re being developed, and those are parties who pay people to drive their vehicles. If vehicles are produced that don’t need a driver; they don’t have to pay a driver to drive that taxi, delivery lorry, bus, ambulance, fire engine, etc. and that’s a major running cost eliminated.

        And yes I’m predicting that private automobiles will be the last to be automated. But when you see the benefits of driverless automobiles (because the technology will be established and cheap); you’ll start changing your mind. When you realize that you can spend your commute working or catch up on sleep you missed or munching on that breakfast or reading those headlines while the car drives you to work. Maybe not you, but some people might end-up dispensing with their automobiles altogether and instead using some communal automated van shuttle.

        I’m sure that when AT&T built those mobile telephone towers along the US eastern seaboard during the late 1940s; there were people who said they’d never want any clunky phone in their truck or car dashboard to carrying (what they imagined would be) a big clunky mobile telephone around on a backpack…

      4. Geoff, where were all the people lobbying for a smart phone in 1998. Or a car in 1898… ?autonomous is inevitable…the data around safety already stacks up, the economics is coming. Eventually governments around the world will outlaw human driving. One day my grandchild will think I’m a serious bad ass how I once rode my 2tonne steel horse at 100kmh around twisty roads.

        1. Economics is very much affected by whether people choose to make economically rationale decisions. e.g. most tradesmen would improve the bottom line of their business if they bought a van or a ute (like they used to) instead of a 4×4 that both costs more and has far higher operating expenditure.

    2. I get your point but until we remove all human controlled vehicles from the road driverless isn’t going to work as it should.

      1. Agree. All the travel time savings only occur when all cars are automated. I imagine that is at least 20 years from the time the first genuine automated car arrives here.

        1. Nope. As below… Data already shows that autonomous is safer than human. Even when driven amongst humans.

    3. 100% agree. Things like delivery vehicles wont even look like current day vehicles. Computers dont need a cab… Rightly or wrongly we live in a capitalist driven world. The efficiency gains will be too tasty too ignore… google, GM etc have already done millions of miles of real world autinomous testing with human driven cars. The data is already clear that autonomous is infinitely safer than human.

  6. “intelligent smaller decisions”

    If Twyford was wanting a 30 minute city, maybe he should’ve started with these, and built up slowly.

  7. Re- Beg buttons.
    On my regular walk during L4 and L3, only 2 of the 5 traffic lights at intersections had the auto-beg button activated. Confusing, and silly – either do them all or none at all.
    Agree that stickers could have been put at all crossings with a quick explanation.
    I just used my elbow or knee to press, but would always have to keep my 3 year old away as he loves pressing the button!

  8. We need a new profession – Pedestrian flow and satisfaction engineer. Will solve the problem of only having the voice of (vehicle) traffic engineer

    1. I think that’s what caused the problem in the first place , Traffic engineers got so specialized they lost touch with reality.
      Although I assume you’re joking..

    2. Nah.
      Legs to provide locomotion is considered pre historic technology and therefore support for this transport mode should no longer to be provided for by forward looking transport engineers. Similarly transport by cycles and other unpowered methods of transport must also be considered obsolete and should be discouraged or certainly no longer offered maintenance upgrades before withdrawing support entirely.
      The future is, as forward looking transport engineers and urban shapers know, is quickly moving autonomous transport bubbles, but they do need to claim and create more near obstruction free rights to the existing roadways first.

  9. Re crossing beg buttons: the city cycle way crossings are particularly infuriating. The signs always have the “don’t cycle” icon lit, which implies the button has been pushed. But if you don’t push it, you never get a “cycle now”. It’s happened numerous times I haven’t been first to arrive at the intersection, so I mistakenly assume the person in front has pushed the button, and we miss the phase.

  10. What’s wrong with the paper tickets in Wellington? You can pay various different ways, you don’t need to worry about pre-buying, the trains still have staff so haven’t developed the security issues Auckland has, the fares are cheaper, and best of all, the trains are faster.

    1. A big problem is the lack of free transfers between buses and trains – so that it’s more expensive to include a train journey with your bus trip.

    2. You have to have a separate train ticket and a Snapper card if your transferring in-between, in Auckland all you need is a Hop card.

  11. Far out I do not believe what I read, all one has to do is to look across the road and if you see a “red pedestrian” lit up then you do not have to press the “cross now” button is that just so simple or what.
    If it is not lit up you might notice it will light up as soon as you press the “cross now” button.

    It seems today people have trouble connecting the dots. On the trains, the doors open by themselves either that or “ghost” passengers get off and on the trains, that must be why the train system runs at a loss.

    Also another reason why passengers have such short term memory , they have to be told by a intercom announcement to take all their belongings with them as they get off the train at Britomart train station

    Have a read of this

    1. You’re right there has been a dumbing down of society but it’s mostly people like yourselves who manage to completely miss the point.

      The most obvious example is the fact that you think the doors open automatically on trains because people don’t realise they need to press the button. It has nothing to do with that, it’s done between 6am and 7pm weekdays to help speed up the trains.

      1. Now tell me you work for the city council because you have trouble thinking inside the square,
        Is that your real name or do you just like insulting others with a fake identity

  12. Japan with a population of 126 million has several stored value cards that work on every train and bus system in the country, apart from a few rural systems that are still catching up. When travelling there last year I could use either a PASMO stored value card for buses and trains, or a Japan Rail Pass. The stored value cards were always super quick.

  13. Aside from covid transmission, what are the benefits of beg buttons on automatic? Never had an issue with the buttons myself.

    1. I found it a pain when they were automated as it often lengthened the cycle as it went through every pedestrian phase even though no one was crossing, meaning I waited longer to get my opportunity to cross.

      The best thing that could be done for pedestrians would be to improve priority. Say if you push the beg button the wait is no longer than 30 seconds.

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