Here’s our weekly Roundup.
On display this week were two stark examples of cause and effect: The vacuum of political leadership, and its consequence.
Queen St Saga
Last week the council launched a surprise and very quiet consultation which proposed changing the design of improvements to give in to the group pushing for it to be more focused on cars.
On Wednesday the outcome of that was announced. The good news is the council aren’t going ahead with the proposed changes
More than 900 people have taken part in a survey conducted by Auckland Council that shows a majority support the council’s planned design for the northern end of Queen Street, between Customs and Shortland Streets.
The survey, conducted last week, came about after a group of Queen Street stakeholders expressed concerns that the design might negatively impact businesses in the area.
In the survey, people were asked if the original council design or an alternative plan suggested by the business group aligned better with the principles created in the Wai Horotiu Queen Street Pilot with the Queen Street community.
Those principles prioritised improved access, movement, environment and people’s experience.
A total of 57.5 per cent “agree” or “strongly agree” that the Customs to Shortland Street enhancements (Zone 1) deliver on the overall principles, and 54.8 per cent either “agree” or “strongly agree” that the Fort Street pocket park (Zone 2) meets the overall pilot principles.
Respondents also showed a clear preference for the original design for the Customs to Shortland Street enhancements (Zone 1).
One of the incredible things about the consultation is that it seems no one knew it was coming. Councillors and the Mayor appear to have been as surprised by it as everyone else was. Meanwhile it appears the group pushing for making Queen St worse was claiming they had agreements with council officials to change the street. This begs a few questions
- Why do we have council officials undermining every council strategy and plan by giving in to those wanting cars prioritised on Queen St. Especially so immediately after the council won a court case over it.
- What would have happened if we and others hadn’t noticed and encouraged submissions and the consultation outcome went the other way?
When we’ve got these plans and strategies in place, getting them implemented with the right outcomes shouldn’t have to rely on advocates being in constant watchdog mode for surprise consultations as a result of rogue employees.
The low traffic neighbourhood trial around Arthur and Grey St in Onehunga has come to an abrupt halt.
Following a meeting last week where the local board decided to continue the trial, some locals took it upon themselves to damage the installation with a forklift. But instead of standing up to these bullies who think they can take things into their own hands, the local board have stopped it.
Over the past 72 hours, the instalments – wooden crates, traffic management signage, metal dividers – in the Low Traffic Area around Arthur and Grey Streets were illegally moved and damaged, causing serious road and pedestrian safety issues and with significant costs involved in reinstallation and temporary traffic management measures.
The temporary installations, aimed at slowing traffic and making it safer for people walking or biking around the Arthur and Grey Streets neighbourhood, have been divisive since being installed in April of this year.
“There was a concerning escalation of criminal activity by a minority which has resulted in serious public safety issues, including a number of reported near-misses involving cars and pedestrians. In the face of threats to continue this dangerous behaviour, the board felt the only response was to call an end to the trial,” says Maria Meredith chair of Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board.
“It was clear to us that there was an increasing social cost falling on local board members, the teams working on the project and indeed a widening divide within the community.”
This is now the second time we’ve seen vandalism bring street changes to a halt, with the same thing happening a few years ago and which resulted in Auckland Transport stopping the entire cycling programme.
Giving in to these bullies isn’t going to make things safer for those on the street and video shortly after the damage already showed vehicles speeding through the area. The only thing it achieves is to further embolden them, and will make the next trial or cycleway that much harder as these antics will continue to be repeated. It also further empowers the status quo warriors in agencies like Auckland Transport who don’t want change.
I can understand why some of the local board wanted to back down on this. I understand some of them were getting personal threats. But the wider issue is the lack of leadership, especially from the top. Mayor Phil Goff has been completely missing in action. He should be leading the discussion about why we need safer streets and why we need to reduce the amount of driving we collectively do. Politicians like him leading that high-level strategy would help put more context around why changes are needed, so trials like this don’t come as such a shock to some people.
Yesterday the government delivered their latest budget. The most significant transport announcement was that the government would spend $1.3 billion on rail. This is made up of:
Rolling Stock and Mechanical Depots: $722.7 million
- Train (Locomotive and shunt) replacement
- Replaces the remaining 40 (of 65) new mainline freight locomotives for the South Island.
- Replaces the last 20 (of 50) shunt locomotives.
- Wagon replacement
- Replaces the last 1,900 (of 3,004) old wagons (Note: around 1,500 of these will be assembled at Hillside, once the facility has been built. KiwiRail needs to purchase around 400 from overseas now to maintain existing capacity prior to wagon assembly beginning).
- Wellington metropolitan rail safety improvements
- Equips the KiwiRail locomotive fleet entering the Wellington metropolitan area with modem vigilance, condition monitoring, and movement authority control system (which has already been funded for Auckland freight trains and is operational on Auckland metro trains).
- Mechanical maintenance facility upgrades
- Final investment to build a new South Island Mechanical Maintenance Hub at Waltham, building on the $39 million invested through the COVID-19 Recovery and Relief Fund in July 2020 – supporting approximately 300 construction jobs (over 3 years), as well as supporting existing KiwiRail jobs and apprentices. The Hub creates an improved working/learning environment, which will help increase participation of female apprenticeships.
- Funding to complete upgrades on smaller regional depots (eg, New Plymouth, Kawerau, Palmerston North, Westport, etc). This work supports some local construction and trades contractors.
Rail Network Investment Programme (RNIP): $449.9 million
- This investment is for maintenance and renewals across KiwiRail’s 3,700 km national network.
- It supports the continued employment of KiwiRail’s current workforce of around 4,000 and (subject to finalisation of the investment programme through the RNIP) is expected to help support a further 150 new KiwiRail jobs (eg, engineers, track staff, trainees, etc.) across Aotearoa New Zealand.
- As the funding is for an ongoing renewal and maintenance programme, it will also provide a pipeline of works for the engineering and civil construction sector. We expect this to be of a similar scale.
Core Asset Management: $87.3 million
- This initiative provides an instalment of working capital into KiwiRail, ensuring core freight, tourism, and property services can be maintained until, and positioned for, the commissioning of the new replacement assets. This funding also includes a new freight ICT system, which will offer a better customer experience (eg, real-time freight tracking) and allow a more efficient allocation of rolling stock.
- This funding, in the short term, will maintain service continuity and reliability.
- Longer term, this initiative, together with the broader Budget funding (rolling stock and network investment, etc.) will also maintain and:
- improve the safety environment for the public and KiwiRail staff
- improve customer experience
- increase productivity.
Domestic Rail Workshops: $85 million
- Construction of a local wagon assembly facility at Hillside, Dunedin will support up to 150 construction jobs and up to 45 operational KiwiRail jobs, including apprenticeships.
- An estimated half of the new operational staff will gain skills and go through apprenticeships or training programmes. Indirect benefits include downstream employment (service and training support).
- In addition, the assembly facility will permanently improve KiwiRail’s maintenance capacity, enabling faster safety and efficiency upgrades over the next few decades
AT Daily Fare Cap
From Sunday Auckland Transport will have a $20 daily fare cap in place:
This means you will be able to travel all day on trains, buses and inner harbour ferries tagging on and off with your AT HOP card, and never pay more than $20.
With the fare cap it’s now not necessary to pay in advance for a whole day of travel. The system is automatic, so as long as you tag on and off with your AT HOP card, you’ll not be charged more than $20 no matter how many train, bus and inner harbour ferries you take in the same day (to the last trip in the evening – even if that trip runs in the early hours of the next day).
The only exclusions are mid and outer-harbour ferries, SkyBus services and Waiheke ferry serivce. Bayswater, Birkenhead, Northcote Point and Devonport Inner Harbour ferries are included.
Customers can still purchase the AT HOP Day Pass if they want to for $18.
A daily fare cap is good but it’s set so high I would be surprised if it benefited more than a handful of people – which leads me to think it’s more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. If AT were serious about fare caps it would be set based on the longest journey you make within the day and/or be capped for the week or month. It’s also a bit silly that there’s still a pre-purchased day pass that’s cheaper. At the very least they should cost the same.
Sorry it’s been a bit of a negative wrap-up today. I’m not normally a fan of advertising on the side of public transport, but here’s a tweet I saw this week which I thought was a brilliant way of showing the spatial efficiency of public transport where in the space of five cars you could move at least 120 people.
— Stein van Oosteren (@LCyclable) May 17, 2021
Finally if you want more of a look at the progress of the Karangahape Rd CRL station, Seven Sharp got a trip underground (FYI CRL people we’d love one too).
Have a good weekend.