Here’s our roundup for the week.
City Centre Bus Changes Consultation
New North Rd and Symonds St Consultation
Following on from our post earlier in the week about the proposed new train stations in Drury and Paerata, it seems the changes to Pukekohe Station to enable electrification will mean the station building needs to go by November.
After more than a century, Pukekohe’s railway station building must be demolished or moved, to make way for electrification of the train lines.
The Franklin Historical Society wants the building to live on in Pukekohe, but say they need the community’s help.
KiwiRail has said the building cannot stay on site as it will need the space it occupies for stabling the trains and electrification.
New overhead masts will be built along 19km of track between Papakura and Pukekohe to power electric trains for passengers, and Pukekohe station will be redeveloped to allow for more services and longer trains.
The image above comes from this video from some sessions Kiwirail and Supporting Growth ran recently.
Fringe Benefit Tax Break
Stuff reports that government officials considered making vehicles exempt from Fringe Benefit Tax in response to COVID.
It’s the tax exemption blamed for New Zealand’s extraordinarily high uptake of polluting double cab utes, but instead of closing the loophole the Government actually looked at extending it to all vehicles for the period of the Covid-19 lockdown – at a cost of $36 million.
Papers obtained by Stuff under the Official Information Act show tax officials drew up plans to exempt all motor vehicles from paying Fringe Benefit Tax or FBT whenever the country was in a level 4 lockdown, costing roughly $36m.
Fringe benefit tax or FBT is used to make sure that companies pay tax on benefits they give to their employees. It’s designed to make sure that companies and employees don’t use generous work perks as a way of getting around paying tax on ordinary income.
The most common type of work perk is being allowed to use a company car in personal time.
Whenever the car is being used for personal rather than work-related purpose, the owner should be paying tax.
If anything, the government should be looking to close the FBT loopholes on vehicles and removing it from public transport.
Get the cars out now
Even more evidence that we need to get the cars out of Queen St now.
Air quality on Auckland’s Queen St is worsening year on year, and a councillor says it provides strong evidence to make it a zero-emissions zone “as soon as possible”.
Auckland’s State of the Environment Report 2020, released today and the third such report since 2009, provides the most up-to-date snapshot of the region’s air, land and water.
While many minor improvements have been made even since the last report in 2015, it highlights the challenges of catering for a city experiencing unprecedented levels of growth, with the current population of 1.7 million people expected to top 2.3m by 2050.
It paints a picture of slow improvements on major legacy issues such as deforestation and the state of our beaches, but also major concerns around urban development swallowing up pastoral land, sediment from developments choking waterways and estuaries, and highly-polluted city streams.
While air quality overall appears to be improving for the region, roadside testing shows increasing levels of nitrogen oxide, and in particular Queen St in the CBD has seen the gas along with particulate matter (including black carbon) breach targets each year from 2017 to 2019.
Data for 2020 is not known yet, but is unlikely to exceed annual targets due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
These pollutants are known to cause and enhance breathing problems, including asthma.
According to the report declining air quality is likely from diesel cars, delivery vehicles, buses, construction vehicles and construction work at the lower end of Queen St reducing ventilation.
Chair of the climate and environment Committee Richard Hills said this evidence added to the impetus to make the CBD a zero-emissions zone “as soon as possible”.
Later this year the City Link buses will go electric but at the same time there will be more buses using the street as a result of CRL diversions. Getting the cars out of Queen St asap will mean at least those buses are moving and not idling in traffic.
If the unseen, miserable, premature deaths caused by black carbon on Q St were recognised by business reps maybe they would back retail workers most exposed & quit working behind the scenes to halt removal of general thru traffic between Mayoral-Customs.
— Chris DARBY (@DarbyatCouncil) February 24, 2021
City Rail Link
The CRL team have put out the latest drone footage of the works at Mt Eden Station. Helpfully the drone is lower in the sky and that helps to give a greater sense of the work going on at the site, including making the trench approaching the tunnel entrance much clearer.
They’re also starting to put together the first segments of the Tunnel Boring Machine, which will take till mid-march, ahead of tunnelling starting in April.
Auckland Transport put out this video on a visit to Puhinui Station by Transport Minister Michael Wood and other central and local government politicians.
A few quick things
An update on fixing the new Tamaki Dr cycleway
We have been working with our contractor Downers to smoothen the riding surface on the new Tamaki Drive cycleway. Downers will start the work in mid-March and it should take about 2 weeks to complete. Some sections of the cycleway will be replaced while others will be repaired. pic.twitter.com/SmkMT0ftGL
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) February 24, 2021
Nice mask Phil but why not take a photo wearing it on a bus or a train?
— Phil Goff (@phil_goff) February 22, 2021
New South Wales is making including walking and cycling mandatory in all projects.
Providing for Walking and Cycling in Transport Projects Policy requires that every transport project funded by Transport for NSW must include provision for walking and cycling, and must be delivered from the outset of every transport project.https://t.co/LxpkZZR7BV pic.twitter.com/QiiKJkqDWt
— Sara Stace (@sara_stace) February 22, 2021
There is one potential risk with this approach is if there’s a fixed walking and cycling budget which could result in funding being diverted from standalone walking and cycling projects that might be a higher priority to fix from a network point of view.
While requiring all projects to including walking and cycling is good, my preference is for something like what the UK are planning which will tie the government’s share of funding for non-walking and cycling projects to how fast and how well local authorities roll out safe cycling infrastructure.
The other thing that stood out in that letter above is the comment about this decision being about helping to drive behavioural change. Sadly, despite agreeing to a mode shift policy and it being required by the Auckland Climate Plan, Auckland Transport don’t seem to believe they’re in the business of “helping to drive behavioural change”.
Have a good weekend.