Here’s our weekly roundup

RLTP submissions

Submissions for Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) close on Sunday so if you haven’t completed one yet, get on to it. As Heidi wrote the other day, a key flaw in the plan is at best it hopes to hold vehicle travel steady which is at odds with both government and council plans, as well as the draft recommendations from the Climate Change Commission that we need to reduce vehicle travel.

If you’re wanting some more inspiration or help, here are a few submission guides from our friends at Bike Auckland and Generation Zero.

Bike Auckland RLTP Submission Guide

Generation Zero RLTP Submission Guide

Electric CityLink

Last week Auckland Transport launched 12 new electric buses that have now gone into operation on CityLink services.

Darek Koper, Auckland Transport’s Metro Decarbonisation Manager, says two electric buses were trialled on the CityLINK route in 2018.

“We worked with operator NZ Bus to see how the e-buses would cope with the stop-and-go nature of this route – with long operating hours around the city – and they came through with flying colours exceeding performance expectations. We are so happy to unveil the 12 new electric buses today.”

“The CityLINK buses carry more than 1.6 million customers each year and provide an essential link within the city centre, along Queen Street and to the growing business and entertainment hub in Wynyard Quarter.”

“From 25 April, a third of bus services along Queen Street will be zero-emissions, with around 300 electric bus trips. From 20 June, more diesel buses will be relocated from the City Centre making half of all bus trips on Queen Street electric,” Mr Koper says.

“The launch of CityLINK’s electric service will deliver a significant reduction in exhaust and noise emissions in Queen Street valley and contribute to achieving the goals of Auckland’s Climate Action Plan. This launch today follows the earlier deployments of zero emission buses on Waiheke Island and on the AirportLINK route.”

Barry Hinkley, Chief Executive of NZ Bus, says that the 12 buses are from Zhejiang CRRC Electric Vehicle Co Ltd (China Rail).

“These are the first of many state-of-the-art electric buses that NZ Bus will bring to New Zealand in the next few years as our diesel replacement programme accelerates.

“The new buses are air-conditioned and feature 2 plus 1 seat configuration in the front section of the bus. They have wide rear doors to improve customer experience with faster boarding and alighting, allowing more passengers and faster trips on typically short journeys.”

These 12 buses brings the total low-emission buses being used in Auckland to 33. However it’s worth noting we have a bus fleet in excess of 1,300 so there’s a long way to go till they’re all electric.

Road Safety in the Northwest

If you live in the Northwest and particularly if you use Coatesville Riverhead Highway you may want to submit on Waka Kotahi’s proposal to ban right turns from the road onto SH16. This seems a sensible change.

“We’ve heard from the community that a solution is needed now to improve safety at the Coatesville/Riverhead Highway intersection with SH16. We want everyone to get where they are going safely on our roads, so we are proposing changes which can be delivered quickly and cost effectively,” says Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships Steve Mutton.

The proposed change would be in place while the longer-term solution of a roundabout, is being designed, consented and constructed as part of the SH16 Brigham Creek to Waimauku safety project.

The proposal is to:

  • Ban right turns from Coatesville/Riverhead Highway onto SH16.
  • Redirect traffic to use the Taupaki roundabout via Old Railway Road and Old North Road to safely turn right onto SH16.

“Future transport planning and design is shaped by a safe system approach linked to the government’s Road to Zero Strategy, where no deaths or serious injuries while travelling on our roads are acceptable. These interim change will improve safety for all road users now,” says Mr Mutton.”

The alternative along Old Railway Road and then left onto Old North Road will allow drivers to make a safe right turn at Taupaki roundabout. If travelling from Riverhead, this will add approximately 100 meters to the journey. For people approaching from the Coatesville Riverhead Highway between SH16 and Railway Road, the journey is less than 4km longer.

Downtown Trees

With the upgrade of downtown is getting closer to completion. This week the downtown bus interchange was fully opened for the first time since the redevelopment of what is now Commercial Bay began in mid-2016. This week has also seen the trees start to return to Quay St and the new public space Te Wananga including some of the mature Pohutukawa that were moved so the upgrade could happen.

While the city was sleeping, Auckland’s urban ngahere / forest welcomed home the first two of seven mature pōhutukawa to Quay Street in a nine-hour crane operation last night.

After 40 years on Quay Street and an 18-month sojourn away from the downtown construction site, one tree was repositioned street-side in Quay Street and the other now takes pride of place in the city’s new Te Wānanga waterfront space.

Reaching out over the water and reuniting the city centre with the sea, Te Wānanga and the much-awaited Quay Street enhancements will open for Aucklanders in June.

It’s great having them back and I’m looking forward to when the metal barriers come down.

CRL nearly ready to start boring

I understand the CRL team are just a week or so away from starting up the boring machine and the 135m long TBM

Hamilton’s future cycle network

Our neighbours to the South are getting more ambitious with cycling.

Getting Hamiltonians out of their cars and on to bikes, scooters and other modes of personal transport will prevent an estimated 126 people from being killed or seriously injured on the city’s roads.

That goal is one of many set out in the just-adopted draft business case of Hamilton City Council’s long-awaited Biking and Micro-mobility Programme.

But saving the environment and people’s lives will come with a hefty price tag: An estimated $700 million to $900m over a 30-year timeframe.

The council’s infrastructure operations committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the draft plan, which will now be put to Waka Kotahi for approval and, it is hoped, some substantial funding.

Although the plan includes a 30-year delivery schedule for numerous cycleways and associated projects, exactly how soon those projects come to fruition will depend on decisions made in various council annual and long term plans over the coming years.

While Tuesday’s committee decision represents just a small step towards that goal, it was reflective of the council’s lofty aspirations of encouraging Hamiltonians to make use of alternatives to cars.

Council surveys had revealed 78 per cent of people were keen to use a more active mode like bicycles, but only if it was safer. Currently, people riding bikes and other forms of micro-mobility made up a very small proportion of total travel in Hamilton – a 3.8 per cent share of all-day trips.

It was hoped to increase this to about 13 per cent – or 23,300 users – by the year 2050.

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Perhaps one way Hamilton could get this built faster is to say it’s part of the motorway network, because if a motorway project had a $700-$900m cost with a benefit cost ratio of 1.9 would be clamouring to get it built.

Sydney Light Rail Surges

An interesting story out of Sydney about how the use of their new light rail system is surging

Sydney’s public transport will not return to pre-pandemic levels until international borders reopen, according to the network’s chief operations officer, but light rail patronage has already surged more than 600 per cent.

While patronage overall has surpassed 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, some modes are busier than others. The city’s much-maligned CBD light rail is outpacing trains and buses.

Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins said light rail patronage had increased by 630 per cent from lockdown in April 2020 to March 2021, compared with trains which bounced back by 220 per cent and buses by 159 per cent.

However, the light rail is returning from a much lower base as it was hit the hardest by the pandemic, down almost 90 per cent during April last year. Ferry patronage is also surging back.

“They’ve both come back much more strongly than other modes … it’s amazing what’s happening with the patronage on light rail,” Mr Collins said.

Average weekday patronage for the first two weeks of April increased by almost 25 per cent since March, measured at more than 76,000 people per day.

Mr Collins believes the light rail – which runs from Circular Quay to Moore Park and onwards to Randwick as well as Kingsford – could be ferrying 100,000 customers per day within a year.

To put that in perspective, just before the pandemic our entire rail network before the pandemic was moving about 89-90k people per day and in the last few weeks of March were averaging just over 50k per weekday, highlighting once again that light rail is light in name only.

Have a good weekend.

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  1. Looks like Sydney have managed to solve the teething problems of long travel times and getting end to end trips down from over 50 mins to about 35.
    Imagine if we had started building the Dominion Road LRT last year, sigh

    1. Seriously. Does the procurement team not even do a simple google search of the supplier? That’s just wrong.

      1. They’re taking their lead from the government, whose policy is to say nothing on the subject for at least several years.

        1. What has that got to do with it? Ambiguous risk from all of Chinese goods is very different from a likely risk for one specific group of companies.

          Once you know, you can’t plead ignorance.

        2. I agree. I also suspect there’s money being used to highlight ethical problems with procurement for low carbon transport projects which isn’t being spent on doing the same for roading contracts / procurement or other high carbon activities.

  2. I came across this the other day about CRL and more generally about lens want for rail in Auckland.

    The conversation has come a long way since this point. Less about heavy rail and more about moving people.
    And the other interesting thing was the way they were selling it. No mention of capacity upgrades being the key driver. I suppose capacity wasn’t currently constrained and it would have taken a gutsy politician to claim it would be this quickly.

    1. I think that will be a big aspect of driving the need for the Light Rail conversion on the Shore – it’s mostly going to move people, it doesn’t have to connect to the CRL and the cost savings of a bridge vs. a tunnel could probably pay for a much longer line for the same money. LRT-Penlink anyone?

      1. It’s going to be very interesting if these 2nd bridge plans firm up, PT and active travel bridge to Wynyard would be a massive shift in thinking

        1. Yes PT+walking+cycling bridge to Wynyard gets my vote.

          It’s a far shorter route to/from the city and away from the traffic noise.

      2. “need for the Light Rail conversion on the Shore”
        I talked to the someone at the NZTA about this tangentially, and they were very skeptical about the ability to do a conversion. Particularly around platform heights. I suspect this is where all those…. interesting… proposals about the future north shore rail came from.

        1. You should have challenged the person at NZTA as they are either uninformed or concern trolling. Light rail can have 300mm platform heights, if the NZTA can change existing roads into four lane motorways, then they can raise kerbs by 150mm.

    2. Wow that polished speech, though a bit dated now in thinking, certainly was inspirational compared to any of our pro mode shift politicians these days. Len certainly was an important figure in our recent rail and public transport renaissance.
      Don’t think I had seen that video or perhaps I did way back.

      1. I think the stand out feature was the leadership and almost salesmanship involved. Especially on a project that wasn’t even remotely close to fruition, and was opposed by the central govt.

    3. It’s a shame he got voted out as listening to his speech he was more powerful than the one we have now , who everytime he talks there is a sound of laughter in His voice like what I’m telling is total “BS” and you are going to believe me no matter what .

      And if Len was still there we may have had rail to the Airport also by now . And possibly some thing towards the Northshore coming up ? .

      1. I thought he didn’t rerun, in light of his bedroom misdoings. Also there’s the whole having a hidden bathroom built in his office in the new council building.

        I wonder if the northwest would have been given the priority. I know I would. And maybe have got AMETI through sooner

        1. Seems crazy that we would axe a guy who is obviously good at his job just because of his personal life (Well maybe we didn’t technically axe him but I assume he would not have been re-elected). Would rather have a shagger than a do-nothing.

  3. Pohutukawa have an invasive root system, I’m not sure they’re the best option in a built-up area with lots of underground cables and pipes.

    1. Agree. They are beautiful, but this is a common landscape specification and a contentious point between designers and asset owners. It’s also dangerous during construction to dig the big holes around the services!

    2. These have been put in concrete shells underground that should contain the roots. And I was also under the impression that pohutakawa aren’t the worst. Not perfect, but not terrible.

      1. Correct, contained in a tree pit (concrete) with a whole bunch of cool stuff that trees need in the urban environment. Pohutukawa roots can be controlled via a couple of techniques and this solution will create a nice home for these taonga.

    3. I see contractors using truck mounted huge suction machines to dig service trenches around trees. Avoids damage to root and is also useful around pipes, wires and fibre. Its a very slow process though and I expect pretty heavy on emission’s of carbon. Another high emitting process is the mobile chippers roaring their heads of every time a tree is pruned or removed. I suppose they will need to be converted to battery at some stage if we are going to be net carbon neutral.

    4. Yeah, from what I saw they are in encased in concrete/steel so I think they are probably good for several decades. After which the whole area will be underwater anyway.

        1. Yes if you mean icon in the Russian Orthodox sense. I can well imagine Council tree types praying before one of these gloomy trees giving thanks to the tree god that at least they aren’t dark and depressing for 52 weeks of the year.

      1. I think the pohutukawa look much less “gloomy” than deciduous trees in the winter. Having everything look dead for 5 months of the year sucks. At least they are green all year round. The more evergreen trees the merrier (to a point).

        1. I have two gleditsias that prove that wrong. They are on my northern fenceline and they are at their best in winter. The branches are all corners and bends and if the sun hits it after a shower of rain the whole thing looks like Christmas lights made of bright rain drops with some diffracting so some drops are bright red or green. The pohutukawa and rata get good press because they are not dull all year, only most of the year.

    5. One of the major features of the rebuild of Quay Street was that all of the services were put in a shared trench, specifically to enable trees with root systems away from utilities.

      1. Nice and I’m sure some article in a paper somewhere will attribute all the cost to of the downtown works to the cycleway.

        Like the Franklin Road upgrade, as we know, it was much more than a cycleway.

        1. I’ve seen articles doing just that for both Quay Street and Tamaki Drive. Both of them are essentially seawall and bridge reconstructions with a cycle lane built in the same road closure, yet some media will pretend that the whole cost is cycleways.

  4. “Currently, people riding bikes and other forms of micro-mobility made up a very small proportion of total travel in Hamilton – a 3.8 per cent share of all-day trips.”

    Lol, in Auckland an area with a 3.8% cycling mode share is called a cycling hotspot.

  5. Its easy to see where the cycling backlash comes from,a $700 to $900 million dollar spend for 23,000 daily users in 25 years time,is a hard sell in my book,surely you would expect a better uptake than that,shows that mode shift is difficult.Most of the economic benefit is in a healthier population, and to do nothing is to ignore” vision zero”,unacceptable nowdays .Will be interesting to see WK’s response

    1. Yes, selling an unconnected network is a hard sell. Imagine if our Roads just stopped and you had to figure out how to safely get your car to the next section of road..would you use your car still? So yes, $700 is a hard sell because it isn’t enough to make a connected network. Funnily the parts that are connected, such as North Western into CBD gets huge numbers, go figure!

    2. “a $700 to $900 million dollar spend for 23,000 daily users in 25 years time, is a hard sell in my book”

      We spent several billion dollars on the Waikato expressway for about 20,000 daily users. The only reason that it is a hard sell is because most people don’t think of themselves as cyclists at the moment, whereas most people in the upper North Island probably think of themselves driving on the expressway at least once a year.

    3. It’s only a hard sell if you only look at current stats instead of the demand from a complete network in the future. Also, the capacity of the cycle lanes are very good, so you are future-proofed for probably decades of growth.

      1. Yes, quite. And this is also about whether we plan by looking at what we have and how we can tinker with it, or if we look at where we need to be, and work backwards from there on how to achieve it. The latter method, which is the only way to deal with the challenges we face, mean cycling will be a big part of our plans.

  6. Another important item of news this week I forgot to remind Matt about is from Germany:

    “Germany’s climate change laws are insufficient and violate fundamental freedoms by putting the burden of curbing CO2 emissions on the young, its highest court has ruled.

    “It says the law fails to give enough detail on cutting CO2 emissions after current targets end in 2030.

    ” “The provisions irreversibly offload major emission reduction burdens on to periods after 2030,” it found.

    “The government will now have to revise the law by the end of the next year.”

    1. The shutting down of Germany’s nuke plants and subsequent huge increase in brown coal burning is a crime. They already had the (relatively) golden goose solution and they took it out back and shot it.

        1. @Donald : Coal mining is an important economical asset for some regions in Germany, irrespective of the environmental impact. Keeping a few additional nuclear reactors operational wouldn’t have changed this. Likewise, if Germany had decided to invest in new reactors like France or the UK back in the mid-2000s, these would likely not be operational yet anyway. The “EPR” built in France (which was originally designed in partnership with the Germans) is taking 15 years (will likely take 20 in total) to complete and cost 32 billion NZD (probably well over 40 billion when the project will finally be completed).

        2. Last time i was in Germany, I was amazed at how many wind turbines and solar PV panels they have there. Just about every farmer has PV on the roof of their barn, their pigsty, their farmhouse – clearly the monetary payback has been organised to make it well worthwhile. Meanwhile, the train zips past at 350km/h while hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines happily co-exist with the cows and sheep in the paddocks. It is a very well organised country with regard to energy – even though it is largely flat and has little hydro-electric generation – it took out the old nuclear power at the overwhelming wishes of the majority. NZ should learn from their energy direction – we could easily be 100% free from gas powered stations as well if we tried.

  7. I have a Question . As I got the ferry from Waiheke this and tag on at Matiati and when we arrived in the city we docked at pier 1A and we were told that to tag off we had to go to Hop readers at pier 1C . Why is that ? as there are muiltiple card readers all along Queens Wharf . So don’t they read all the different Ferries or are they set for the different Ferries that come from different ports ? .

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