Here’s our roundup of items for the week. If you’re a Western Line user I hope you’re found other solutions for today as the line is closed for works.
Queen St Pedestrian Mall
The area in front of Britomart is currently undergoing a massive renovation into a public space now that the City Rail Link tunnels have been built underneath it. Auckland Transport are now looking to formalise this and to extend the public space down either side of the former Chief Post Office building – on Tyler and Galway streets. As such they have a consultation out which ends on Monday.
We propose to:
- amend the lower Queen Street ‘pedestrian mall’ to no longer allow any vehicles such as buses or private motor vehicles to transit through the area*
- extend the pedestrian mall onto parts of Galway and Tyler Streets
- erect bollards on Galway Street, Tyler Street, and at the intersections of lower Queen Street / Quay Street and lower Queen Street / Customs Street.
*Exemptions to this will include bicycles, e-scooters, emergency service vehicles, and authorised vehicles with prior permission from AT to undertake maintenance, make essential deliveries and collections, or to support events.
One thing I find weird is AT talk about there being 17,000 people using Britomart every day. While current usage of Britomart will drop a bit after the CRL opens, it’s worth noting that Britomart is already estimated to see more than that.
As mentioned, the consultation for this closes on Monday so get submitting in support.
Pt Chev Cycleway to go ahead but ….
AT announced yesterday that following consultation at the end of last year, the improvements to roads around Pt Chevalier will go ahead, but subject to funding approval. Their feedback report shows there was strong support for cycleways and other changes although exactly what gets built is still being finalised.
Speaking of funding ….
Council Budget Approved
The council yesterday voted on its emergency budget and approved the 3.5% rates increase option.
Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee today voted to endorse Mayor Phil Goff’s proposal for the Emergency Budget 2020/2021, which responds to the $750 million fiscal hole caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the urgent need for more water infrastructure to avoid increased water restrictions.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said it was one of the most difficult budgets in the council’s history.
“The COVID-19 lockdown has had a huge impact on Aucklanders and many businesses and like many, Auckland Council has also taken a severe financial hit, with a revenue shortfall of $475 million this financial year,” he said.
“On top of this, we have had to find a further $224 million for new water infrastructure to reduce the risk of severe water restrictions.
“We have also been able to increase transport investment by $40 million, including safety funding which is absolutely vital to ensure we are saving more lives on our roads.
Why aren’t they encouraging the use of PT?
On a regular basis, AT and the team working on the many downtown projects put out an email update of the project. This typically includes an update on the parts of the project they’re currently working on and advertising the local businesses impacted by the works. However, last Friday’s letter includes a section raising the question of how much thought goes into this.
Why aren’t AT encouraging people to drive to the city to shop and not to come via public transport, which has abundant access to this part of the city.
City Rail Link halfway
The main works for the city rail link have only really just started to ramp up but the overall project is has reached the halfway milestone.
Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL) is “on schedule and on budget” as the eight-year, multi billion-dollar project, officially ticks past its halfway point.
The $4.4 billion CRL is the largest transport infrastructure project in New Zealand.
Then-Auckland mayor Len Brown, then-Transport Minister Simon Bridges and then Prime Minister John Key formally marked the start of construction at the downtown Britomart Train Station, in 2016.
Four years on and the site looks a lot different, with tunnels cut right the way under the CBD looping Britomart with three major central stations.
Chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney said to date, about $1.4b had been spent, with major works still to complete.
“We are on track, we’ve just resolved our last two major contract packages, so we are good to go,” he said.
“We are probably a third of the way through in terms of expenditure. There were the early packages, and then a bit of a hiatus while we waited for Crown funding and procured the rest of the job.”
Road deaths sadly continuing on
Since we came out of lockdown at the beginning of June, New Zealanders have clearly been hitting the roads and we’ve seen a surge in road deaths. For the first half of July the country has seen 20 people die on our roads, more than number that had by this time last year. One thing that’s notable about this number is that this has occurred with no foreign tourists on our roads, suggesting that
- the demagoguery that often occurs towards foreign drivers is misplaced
- that if anything, foreign drivers probably help in managing speeds on the open road.
A case for investing in public transport services
The managing director for Transdev has put had an excellent piece published in The Spinoff on why we should invest in more PT services and not just infrastructure.
But not everything needs a ribbon-cutting ceremony to deliver economic results – let’s think about “shovel-ready services” too.
One of the simplest ways to help trigger a recovery (and to fight climate change, which must not be forgotten about) is an idea that has been around for a long time. Essentially, this idea is about funding public transport to the tune of how we want our cities to work in the future, rather than disproportionately basing that funding on the number of people who have used public transport in the previous 12 months.
Currently, the government requires half the cost of providing public transport services to be paid for by fares.
There are two problems with this.
The first is that public transport benefits far more people than just those who use it. For instance, if you commute by car, think how much longer that would take if all those people on buses, trains and ferries were also using cars. Fewer cars on the roads also allows trucking operators to better conduct their essential business. Less congestion also means cleaner air, fewer emissions, more efficient use of space (less land is taken up by roads that often have to be widened over time), and stronger communities (which are bisected by busy roads that are dangerous and unpleasant to cross).
The second problem with basing so much public transport funding on current fare revenue is that trains, buses and ferries can’t be bought, and drivers can’t be trained and hired, once there’s a queue of people wanting to get on board. Public transport networks need to anticipate demand, not follow it.
The Covid crisis will likely have one positive legacy: accelerating the shift from morning and afternoon peaks, as a result of employers allowing office workers more flexible working conditions. “Flattening the curve” of public transport timetables – so that higher frequencies are maintained throughout the day rather than just having a morning and evening peak – has a huge benefit. Many of us want to hang onto more flexible working hours and public transport needs to respond to this. Many people in the coming months will need to access retraining opportunities, education and new employment. But of course you can’t have higher frequencies without more drivers, more buses, trains and ferries. Once again, the need to move away from basing decisions on current fare revenue is clear.
What is also clear is that investing in services will be just as good for our economic recovery, for jobs and, more importantly, for our cities and our climate, as the shovel-ready projects.
That’s it for this week.