Here’s the roundup for the week.

Good Auckland Transport

Auckland Transport are consulting on a series of short sections of new T2 lanes on the North Shore in order to speed up buses.

Three North Shore areas are set for faster and more reliable bus journeys as Auckland Transport (AT) seeks public feedback on proposed improvements.

Sunnybrae Road in Hillcrest will see two new T2 lanes that will improve bus journey times and reliability.

An approximately 350 metre southbound T2 lane is proposed that would operate 6:30am till 10am, Monday to Friday. An approximately 120 metre northbound T2 lane would operate 4pm till 7pm, Monday to Friday.

Vehicles using the T2 lanes will enjoy travel time savings of up to 100 seconds and 38 seconds respectively. Buses, vehicles carrying two or more people, bicycles, and motorbikes will be permitted to use the T2 lanes.

AT is also seeking public feedback on proposed improvements to Raleigh Road in Northcote, including an AM peak hours bus lane.

The lane would create travel time savings for up to 11 buses an hour, of up to 210 seconds during the busiest part of the morning.

Bicycles and motorbikes will also be permitted to use the bus lane.

Ramsgate Terrace in Mairangi Bay is another road proposed for changes – with a PM peak hours bus lane that will improve bus journey times and reliability.

The bus lane will deliver travel time savings of up to 180 seconds per bus during the busiest times. Bicycles and motorbikes will also be permitted to use it.

Parking will not be permitted within the proposed bus or T2 lanes while they are operating. However, parking surveys indicate there would still be enough parking available on these streets and their nearby streets to accommodate existing parking demand.

This is exactly the type of thing AT should be doing all over Auckland.

Not so good Auckland Transport

Yesterday AT tweeted this image of a new roundabout they’ve installed in Te Atatu South. The intersection is at the bottom of a steep hill and so was quite common to have people speeding.

The issue is they’ve clearly missed something. Namely, where are the pedestrian crossings. Given the whole area is now meant to be a low speed zone why have they not put in raised tables, and zebra crossings on all legs. As bike Te Atatu also tweeted in response yesterday, it seems AT have used the “no one is swimming across the (crocodile filled) river so there is no demand for a bridge” defence.

Meanwhile the low profile nature of it means some drivers are just completely ignoring it

National’s Wairarapa Transport Policy

If you guessed it was more roads then you’re right. Although what they’re proposing does seem reasonable, certainly nothing as grandiose as in their Upper North Island policy.

National’s Wairarapa transport package includes two projects that will be fast-tracked with funding from the $300 million set aside for ‘digger-ready’ projects in National’s $31 billion infrastructure package announced last week.

Those fast-track projects are:

  • The Norfolk Road Roundabout upgrade
  • SH2 Waingawa to Clareville Safety Improvements

National’s Wairarapa transport package also includes:

  • Upgrading the Ngaumutawa intersection in Masterton
  • Safety improvements on the SH2/Chester Road intersection
  • New passing lanes between Masterton and Woodville on SH2
  • Investigating a replacement Waihenga Bridge on SH53 at Martinborough

It does seem however that they’re announcing projects that are already underway. For example earlier this month Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency announced they were already working on the designs for the Norfolk Roundabout, the SH2 Waingawa to Clareville safety improvements (which includes the SH2/Chester intersection) and the Ngamutawa intersection

Given their recently found support for public transport and rail, I’m a little surprised they didn’t announce they would fund Greater Wellington’s plans to buy new bi-mode trains to run on the Wairarapa line.

Musk’s tunnel vision

Elon Musk has been pushing his idea of building small car tunnels and is currently building some in Las Vegas to link up a few hotels and the main convention centre. Yesterday he tweeted an image of what a station would look like.

One of the best replies to this was from Caltrain – a commuter rail line in San Francisco which is currently in the process of being upgraded and electrified.

Imagine if AT acted like that.

He also said

One thing you can see with the image above is that there is no space for the cars that will be accelerating or braking at the station. What this means is that other cars in the system will have to slow down to let departing cars in or so arriving cars can break to avoid accidents – not to mention if all the arrival slots are busy. That in turn means the overall capacity of the system won’t be all that high.

He could even check this before spending lots of money on it. Just mark out some lanes on a regular road and get a bunch of uber drivers to have at it. Even cheaper, just go into town on a Friday night and observe what happens.

PT Recovery

AT shared this graph on Social Media highlighting how far our PT use in Auckland has come back since lockdown with the city having the strongest recovery so far – although I wonder if that has something to do with other cities still having various levels of restrictions.

Queen St Changes

The changes to Queen St have continued with paint going down on the widened, more permanent space.

But not all retailers are happy and it was revealed at the end of last week that some had employed a QC to return the street to four lanes of traffic.

“The purpose of this letter is to formally request the Council to direct the removal of the Covid19 works urgently and to restore Queen Street,” Nolan writes to Goff.

“They and many other building owners and retailers are appalled at what they describe as unsightly and ‘Third World’ changes made to Queen St by Auckland Transport during Covid19, without consultation and which AT has since failed to remove.

The works have “drastically reduced the amenity and safety on Queen Street” the letter points out.

“The works are ugly and said by some retailers to be a disgrace; the new ‘footpaths’ are not used by pedestrians; they are a trip hazard as they are at a lower level than the formed footpaths; buses now completely block all traffic,” the letter says.

I think they’ll find it’s the buses that are being blocked by all the cars that shouldn’t be there. It’s also amazing that there remain retailers in the city who think that people are driving and parking on Queen St to go shopping.

In reality, their businesses are down because many people are working from home more regularly and there are no tourists about.

The article also contained this

Anne Mazer has owned clothing stores Great Kiwi Yarns and the Country Collection on downtown Queen St since 2017.

The retailer moved to New Zealand from France 11 years ago and said a major Paris street, for example, would never be reduced to a plastic minefield.

“We don’t understand these yellow plastic cones, barriers. When you think of Champs-Elysees, you think Paris, Eiffel Tower, but you don’t think yellow plastic cones,” Mazer said.

“This would never happen for the major streets of the country. It’s the same thing for Broadway in New York.

Perhaps this retailer is unsure about what is actually happening in Paris.

Have a good weekend.

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  1. Lol. The retailer in that last one. What ignorance. Paris is her measure, and Paris is doing cheap and tactical.

  2. the one thing I agree with the retailers about is it is ugly. Why didn’t AT have the balls to do it properly – ban cars extend the footpaths properly and have two central bus lanes?

    1. Those plastic things should be banned, they are revolting. I’m all for tactical urbanism but it has to be done well. I also don’t get why they are walking lanes, why not scooter / bike lanes?
      What would have been better would be wide decking on one side only (the sunny side) with the traffic moved over to the other side. Could have been a nice big decked area with seats, artwork, etc. It wouldn’t have been super cheap but hardly expensive either.

      1. Unfortunately there are so many people who demand everything be perfect before it’s started and fight and delay any plan, those plastic things are the only way to get started. Don’t worry, they are temporary and intended to be replaced with the real deal as soon as everyone stops clutching their pearls.

        They’re not formally scooter and bike lanes because half the councillors, execs and business association leaders have an ideological bile-spitting hatred of bicycles, for some reason. Don’t fret, your bike will still work there.

        Moving traffic would have required active involvement of AT, unfortunately AT are out to lunch and this work has had to be done by the council.

        1. Totally agree about perfection. The cost of the Victoria St, the K’Rd and Tamaki Dr- Quay St bikeways add up to about $100 million.
          So Auckland is building less than 10km of bikeways a year.

        2. Vance, any retail business fighting to survive should welcome more foot-traffic past their door. Cars do not buy anything.

        3. They only cost $100m if you decide to lump all of the streetscape and bus facility upgrades on K Road and lifting Tamaki Drive to stop it flooding and repairing the seawall on Quay Street. I.e. cycleways are only expensive if you count the costs of building a road next to them.

        4. “Easy to say if you’re not running a business that’s fighting for survival.”

          Their survival has nothing to do with retaining car amenity that wasn’t there in the first place.

          What they are saying is they prefer the option of less throughput of potential customers. Private cars can’t stop and shop on Queen St. Buses, bikes and those on foot, can.

        5. The place looks like a dogs breakfast. Main street Eketahuna almost has more appeal. Can’t see too many people being encouraged to shop there as it is.

        6. Nobody cares about your ‘reckons and ‘I cant see’s’ Vance. We live in a world of evidence and data these days, let’s see what that shows us over your boomer opinions.

        7. Vance, I too insist on shopping based on whether the adjacent thoroughfare sports vibrant planterboxes, tasteful lightglobes and wistful jugglers rather than on which retailers are there. Priorities!

      2. “I’m all for tactical urbanism but it has to be done well.”

        No. You’ve missed the point. Tactical urbanism needs to be done. By definition it doesn’t have to be done well it has to be done fast, and be allowed to fail fast or succeed fast, and be improved fast.

        Residents in Auckland need wholescale changes to their pedestrian and cycling environment. Queen St should have had the cars banned and the road space reallocated quickly and cheaply and then AT should have moved to the next bit, and then the next bit, and then the next bit.

        Prettiness doesn’t improve air quality and prevent babies from being born prematurely.

        1. I guess I’m not a fan then, road cones and cheap plastic stuff makes things worse IMO. Do we really need a temporary solution to prove that Queen Street shouldn’t have cars!
          I am definitely a fan of good solutions that are much cheaper than the super priced complete rebuild however.

        2. Cones are fine if they are temporary and signal the change that’s coming next. It gets things started quickly.

          And by temporary I mean the cones that were in place before Queen St got these new bus lanes, not the temporary RWC2011 Cloud…

        3. “I guess I’m not a fan then, road cones and cheap plastic stuff makes things worse IMO. Do we really need a temporary solution to prove that Queen Street shouldn’t have cars!”

          Yes. Large parts of the public have never thought about this and most people are change averse. Temporary/trial measures are really effective at getting support for those types of changes as many people will protest against removing the trial layouts. This is pretty much exactly what happened with Queen Street. So many people preferred the temporary Covid layout that they have moved from a temporary lines and signs to an interim solution.

          This blog and several councillors have been advocating to remove cars for over a decade but inertia meant that the council could never commit to the expense of ‘doing it properly’. It took two weeks of the public seeing a temporary layout to make it happen.

        4. I think 99% of the city thinks Queen Street should be car free (everyone except the boy racers and Hosking). But now the retailers probably aren’t keen either.
          Is AT honestly not removing cars from Queen Street because they think less than 50% of people want that? I assumed it was because they didn’t have the money to do a complete rebuild.

        5. It doesn’t have to be 50%. If even 5% don’t want change that is usually enough to kill high profile projects. Those 5% will rally up the 50% who are generally nervous about any change. This is almost exactly what happened with the Point Chev cycling projects.

          I feel like most people who don’t work in the industry have no idea how hard it actually is to get *any* change in town centres.

    2. exactly. completely agree. everything from AT is half effort work (look at that roundabout, it’s just criminal to waste taxpayers money like that) which makes it worse than no work at all.

    1. And the expected response from National: “This policy statement from Phil Twyford is madness. Congestion in cities is already a big issue and this will only exacerbate the problem as more cars jostle for fewer spaces. Public transport works for some but realistically it’s not a suitable option for everyone.”

      So because public transport “doesn’t work for everyone” National believe everyone should be forced to pay for carparks regardless of whether they will use them! Which policy is madness?
      And I thought they didn’t like red tape?

      1. If you read a bit further down a different National MP contradicts her haha.

        The most concerning thing for me is that National’s urban development spokesperson is the MP for one of the least urbanised electorates in the country (source: I grew up there). Shows how important the party thinks urban development is.

      2. The National spokesperson for urban development demanding parking minimum is about as ironic as the Labour minister for workplace relations having relations in his workplace.

        1. She needs to be pulled up not just for using disabled people as a crutch for her own knee jerk reaction, but for her deeply flawed misunderstanding about congestion.

    2. This is good but why restrict it to “tier 1” cities – Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch, and Hamilton? A denser small city has the same benefits.
      Also forcing disabled carparks into a building means vehicle entrances still have to be allowed for, which will cross footpaths/cycleways and otherwise potentially detract from a development and I’d wonder if making a building disabled accessible from the footpath should be sufficient?

  3. This is a Policy statement but has been issued under the RMA. Can someone please illuminate the gravitas of this change. i.e is it now enshrined as law and gazumps all District Plans etc/ Territorial Authorities views or is it merely guidance?

    If it gazumps and is now hard law, then this is huge!! Although let’s not let Mike Hosking and the like know it has happened… Stealthy

    1. It forces the impacted councils to change their plans to be in line with it, within 2 years. So it does have the force of law but doesn’t go into force immediately.

    2. It’s massive. Not just on gazumping minimum parking requirements, but also directing 6 storey intensification within walkable catchments of stops on Rapid Transit networks.
      The journos seem asleep at the wheel on this. There will be outrage from NIMBYs once it’s impact is understood…

      1. Awesome team… thanks for clarifying.

        Very cool. Auckland, the goofy teenager that it is, might finally lose its braces…

      2. That NPS could be awesome. Though could also be a lawyers field day. Specifically I’d like to know what rapid transit is (is 4 trains an hour enough – the JVille line), what a walkable catchment is, and how policy 4 modifies policy 3. It sounds like maybe a heritage overlay could still apply? I find it hard to believe most of Mt Vic and Mt Eden are now 6 story zones. Finally, concerned that housing NIMBYs now have reason to oppose transit purely for zoning effects.

        1. I think any train station would qualify.
          Heritage will be an ‘out’, also potentially ‘special character’ however the NPS sets a high bar in terms of evidence to turnover the 6 storey directive.

  4. Bus lanes could be easily added on Te Rakau Drive. It is a wide road and the 5km trip between Pakuranga and Botany is painful taking about 30 min at peak times.

  5. Just referring to the Musk transit image. And Matts comments about it.

    I don’t think Matt or the other commentators understand the system.
    I’m not cheerleading it.

    But it seems to me that Musk is not just doing what many other folks have done to date with PT. He is not saying “the answer is electric cars running in tunnels, whats your problem?”

    It appears he has put some first principles thinking around urban transport along the lines of what would the ideal transport system look like. How would it work in an end-to-end fashion. And has rethought it from the ground up, without trying to shoehorn the existing PT solutions with their compromises into the system.

    This system will clearly have all vehicles in the tunnels operating without any human drivers. They will operate in convoys as needed [basically like a train with smaller carriages of 6 or so passengers per carriage] so the system knows what each vehicle is doing and where its going to be stopping at. Each carriage can leave or join the convoy at any station [unlike existing trains or buses].
    And repeat, there are no crappy at driving humans at the wheel in this system.

    The road past the parked vehicles is two lane, so clearly it is intended most vehicles in the tunnels will continue through the stations without stopping, until they get to their ultimate destination. And if a vehicle is slowing down, these are electric, so no fumes, they will accelerate and slow down way quicker than any bus or train can or does now. And the vehicles will all be communicating at all times with each other so the will be able to co-ordinate their travel, slowing down, stopping and rejoining the traffic streams silently and seamlessly.

    Having everyone on a train (or bus) forced to stop at every single station on the route is a simple hangover of the transportation systems. Its not ideal for most of the users already on the PT who don’t want to alight there. And having everyone stop for the few who want on or off? Pretty inefficient when you actually stand back and look at it. But we accept that as its the only option we have had – til now.

    In a system like Musk’s one, the users would use an app [as they’d do with Uber] to select where they are going to. It knows where they are now. So can plan a route accordingly.
    So everyone in a given vehicle will be going to that same destination [station]. So there is no need to stop anywhere else en-route.

    And of course, the system will have empty vehicles repositioning to ensure there are empty vehicles available to collect riders from stations if insufficient people are arriving there. Something which peak one-way flows would require anyway. We have that now with buses and taxis. Deadhead running is a feature of any tidal transport system.

    I don’t think this system will be able to carry way more than a similarly scaled automated metro system line would. But it wouldn’t cost as much to build either.

    And even if its not perfect, it would be easily 2-5 times more efficient than any current system using the roads we have now are. Especially when the roads are chock full of cars with 1 point something passengers per vehicle.

    Of course, this system would be way lower carbon intense than current PT or private cars options (like Uber, Taxis) mainly due to being electric powered but also not subject to endless congestion.

    And it will likely cost a shitload less money and time to build than any underground railway system would.

    All up I think its a lots less dumbfuck of an idea than it first looks. And worth trialling.

    Lets see how it works in practice. Then make our minds up after that – for once.

    1. Musks mistake is that he sees having to share public transport vehicles with strangers as a bug not a feature.

      In dense cities the best transport systems are those that make the most efficient use of space. That is, those systems that can transport the most people per hour per cubic metre. This is just physics.

      A lane of traffic filled with single occupant cars is notoriously bad by this measurement. A bus lane is better. A light rail / light metro line is much better still. A heavy rail line is possibly incrementally better than light metro (based on current rolling stock tech).

      Musk’s system involves self-driving cars in a tunnel. They should be able to travel nearly bumper to bumper but that’ll still put passengers on average much further away from each other than they’d be in a bus. But the line of cars can be nearly continuous. So maybe the system achieves similar throughput to a bus lane.

      The tunnels will still need the same ventilation, emergency lighting, fire suppression and evacuation systems as any rail tunnel (possibly even more so with all those lithium ion batteries). Cars running on rubber tyres will be less efficient and likely require more maintenance than EMUs with steel wheels on steel rails.

      So after all that the only cost saving the system can make is by using slightly narrower tunnels. But we’ve had the technology to do this for some time. The Glasgow Subway operates in a tunnel of only 3.4m diameter, operates rolling stock with a capacity of 270 people per train and began operation away back in 1896.

      1. I imagine Musk is also trying to eliminate the need to stop at every station regardless of whether you need to. This would probably halve the travel time.
        I always wondered if this was possible with a train. Something like it very quickly drops the last carriage off and picks up a new one at every stop. If you want to get off you need to be in the last carriage.

        1. Yes that’s probably what he has in mind. But if each station needs another lane for vehicles to pull over, slow down, stop, drop off passengers, pick up passengers, accelerate and merge then the stations need to be even larger, even more expensive and even less efficient in their use of space. Considering that stations are the most expensive bits of underground mass transit systems then this isn’t a good thing.

          Slip coaches were, back in the age of steam trains, carriages that got decoupled from trains while in motion and then slowed to a stop at the station (while the train didn’t stop). They became obsolete once train brakes and acceleration got better.

    2. Wow, I always assumed you drove your own car into it (or it drove itself). So it is basically an underground metro except with dedicated “public” cars instead of trains?

        1. Great elevator pitch, Sailor Boy. We’d better keep you socially distanced from Twyford or you could have him derailed again. 🙂

        2. In a way, this detail is super. It makes the system incompatible with using a private car. And of course there’s no way the entire road network can be duplicated underground.

          Chuckle. The idea is nuts – the reality of it would appeal to no-one – apart from some elements of the road lobby who’ll milk it as a distraction from reducing their hold on the transport system.

        3. I think this and similar systems are a very future technology thing where all cars would be fitted with a compatible system & would have limited use in probably niche settings like this. Certainly not mass people moving power. We will always have mass transit in a more traditional train/bus or even pod type sense. The two can coexist, mass transit won’t be replaced.

    3. “Having everyone on a train (or bus) forced to stop at every single station on the route is a simple hangover of the transportation systems.”

      I would say instead that “Having everyone in a separate vehicle” is a simple hangover of the era of wasteful fossil fuel use. Prior to that, a lot of the movement of people around cities happened by walking or cycling.

      We’ve developed a whole lot of systems that are energy inefficient because we’ve treated the world’s fossil carbon as if it’s a steady income stream whereas in fact it’s precious capital, and nor have we paid for the damage it does.

      Continuing with ideas like shifting each person or pair of people around a city within their own vehicle (which is much heavier than they are) – but ‘electrifying’ the system – is ignoring the inherent energy inefficiency of having to move around a whole lot of matter as well as the person themselves.

      So I agree with Logarithmic Bear. The space efficiency doesn’t stack up. And nor does the energy efficiency.

  6. I think with the size of that intersection, an American style all way stop would’ve been safer than a round about

      1. Not necessarily a 4 way stop…some have more than 4 sides needing to stop and others have only 3 which is why All Way Stop was the word used

  7. “Three North Shore areas are set for faster and more reliable bus journeys as Auckland Transport (AT) seeks public feedback on proposed improvements.”

    Three steps forward – one step, back with AT currently working on downgrading the Esmonde Road bus lane to a T2.

    My guess is that AT will hugely increase the running time of the 82 by this change and traffic coming from the new PEE carpark on Huron St. Hugely disappointing.

        1. To downgrade the bus lane? I believe it is Chris Derby and that it dates back to his time on the Local Board.

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