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
— Su Yin Khoo (@ksuyin) June 30, 2020
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
- 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.
- 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.
- This is likely a factor of there being less traffic about.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.