Header image via twitter user @wildbaynz

Ata mārie everyone. After a week and a half in lockdown you’re probably sick of the internet, but just in case you’re not, here’s our roundup of transport and urbanism reads for the week.

City Rail Link August footage

This drone footage of the Mt Eden station area was taken just before work ceased because of the level 4 lockdown. We’re kind of into the CRL theme music: keep the video going in the background while you read the rest of our roundup for a particularly soothing Friday morning experience.

Getting un-stuck from Business As Usual

Here to remind us that climate change will not be solved by individual action alone: a powerful essay by Josh Drummond on David Farrier’s Webworm website.

Ethical behaviour has been monetised: if you want a clear conscience, you’ll have to pay for it. Even the term “carbon footprint,” now ubiquitous and synonymous with taking individual action on climate change, is compromised: it was created and propagated by (wait for it) BP, in one of the most cynical (and effective) marketing campaigns of all time.

Read to the end for calls-to-action:

The media also need to stop stirring up fear about how much this stuff costs, because the cost of not doing it is almost too much to comprehend: one estimate puts global GDP losses at $610 trillion in cumulative damages to 2100, the equivalent of at least one Covid-sized economic shock per year.

This stupendous figure doubles once you factor in sea-level rise. Instead of asking “how much will this cost?” we need to ask “how much work will this be?

Transport poverty and car dependency a worldwide issue

We often hear the argument that restricting access for cars disadvantages people who rely on their car to travel for work, in particular those already struggling financially. That argument ignores the fact that those people are already disadvantaged by being made to be car dependent. This paper looks at transport inequity across Europe and North America, and how car dependency contributes to poverty.

Car-dependent vaccine centres

Speaking of car dependency, Elliot Street, where a downtown vaccination centre is located, was full of cars on Wednesday.

Persistent Disadvantage Consultation

The Productivity Commission is scoping the terms of reference for an inquiry: A fair chance for all : Breaking the disadvantage cycle. If you have “expertise or an interest in reducing persistent disadvantage” the consultation period ends today. We would like to encourage the Productivity Commission to include the issue of transport poverty in its terms of reference. There are persistent disadvantages in both urban transport and inter-regional transport that need addressing, and issues include poor health, poor access to opportunities, lack of independence, and people locked in to unsustainable, expensive transport modes.

Bulldoze the mall to create a high street

‘We’ve not bought it to run as a shopping centre. We’ve bought it to knock it down’.


The way we use city centres keeps changing, and so city centres must continue to change. A serious re-think of the role of the High Street has happened in a small British town, Stockton-on-Tees. Stockton’s high street was once a shopping destination, but the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a shift – already well underway – to online shopping. In response, the city’s council has re-imagined the downtown as a culture and activity destination.

The ‘post-retail landscape’ includes a big park in place of a defunct mid-century shopping centre. The hope is that Stockton’s city centre will become a place where people will want to spend their free time; with a focus on people, community and identity rather than business and economy.

“What you can do is make it a place that people want to visit, that offers amenities and conveys the general sense that it is a place on the up. It’s genuinely entrepreneurial and creative on the part of the council to take this approach. It’s offering an alternative to the orthodoxy, prioritising the flourishing of the community rather than the competitiveness of the office sector.”

Which would you rather: people space or car space?

It’s often said, and worth repeating: it wasn’t that long ago when there were simply fewer cars, and people felt much safer spending time on our urban streets.

Kids speak up

“It was scary but it made me more brave, because it was for the safety of children,” says an inspiring young champion for bike infrastructure. While cycling to Hebrew class, seven year old David Karon was nearly hit by a car. One thing led to another, and nekminnit he was addressing Wellington City Council, on his wish to get around the city:

“…in a safe way, in a way that makes sure the environment stays clean, with lots of bike lanes. I wish that there were more places like this.”

The video is nicely fronted by Liam Dulver, kid reporter, and features a bonus glimpse of the Brooklyn Hill pop-up cycleway – an Innovating Streets project that the council has just voted unanimously to make permanent.

Young advocate David Karon speaks to Kea Kids News (Story: Stuff.co.nz)

Making innovative streets into business as usual

Tasman District Council is building on its own Innovating Streets project to transform business as usual in its 30-year transport plan for the district. Having tested tactical traffic-calming on the ground – speed bumps, planter boxes, traffic filters – those will become “part of the picture” for longer term approaches:

If they succeed in their aims, they could make Richmond the model of a convivial town, where people greet their neighbours as they pass on foot and bike or wait for the bus, and kids are using the streets to get around safely. It may be possible for some people to ditch the car entirely.

The plan itself is very much what would be produced by a planner who set out to reduce Richmond’s greenhouse gas emissions. Given the number of people who express anxiety about climate, including youngsters, it could be cheering to know, as you bike to school or work, that you’re helping to restore the planet.

An example of tactical traffic-calming in Richmond’s Innovating Streets project, near a kindergarten.

Bus lanes go red in Canada

How beautiful are these maple-leaf-red bus lanes in Toronto? The consistent treatment from rural to urban environment sends a strong ‘bus-priority’ message.

Klimaticket: Austria deploys public transport in its fight against climate change

In a bid to encourage people to choose public transport rather than private vehicles, Austria has launched ‘klimaticket’ which, for a flat rate, allows holders to board any public transport in a specific area for 12 months. The ticket covers almost all modes and companies within a geographical area, and represents significant discounts over existing fares. The plan is to scale the ticket up to be fully integrated across Austria’s entire public transport network.

Klimaticket Now isn’t just a ticket. It also enables us to collectively achieve the Paris climate targets and safeguard our future because public transport is a climate-friendly alternative to private motor vehicle transport.

Dream it, draw it, light rail

Have you got a young transport nerd at home? The Auckland Light Rail site is running a kids’ art competition.

We’re inviting kids to imagine what their neighbourhood or city will look like in the future with modern, frequent and environmentally friendly light rail to get around, and send us a drawing of it.

The winning artwork will be displayed in a public bus.

Drawing by Annabelle from Mangere Bridge, who will hopefully be able to ride light rail into the city when she’s a teenager!

Genesis Energy’s City Centre move facilitates mode shift

Genesis Energy’s move to Fanshawe Street has allowed them to implement a number of transport policies that have been well supported by their employees. GA reader JFamilton shared an excerpt from Genesis’ annual report in the comments section on yesterday’s post:

Our new offices in Auckland are in a 6 Green Star rated building, one of only nine in the country. It is more than a physical representation of our commitment to being a sustainable business.

The move provided the catalyst to introduce initiatives that would reduce emissions, traffic congestion and enable active and shared travel. As part of the move we no longer provided staff carparks, removed company cars from salary packages and replaced our corporate car fleet with EV carsharing start-up, Zilch. In their place we provided a 25% subsidy for public transport, car-pool hubs in South and West Auckland, a free shuttle service from the eastern suburbs and with topend changing facilities to encourage staff to ride, run or walk to work.

Our people loved it.

Compared to the travel routines in our previous offices which had 205 carparks, we’ve seen a 50% increase in people taking public transport or using EVs, 102% increase in biking, running, walking or e-scootering to work, 81% of staff have signed up to the public transport subsidy and there are 984 less carbon contributing trips each week (petrol, diesel, motorbike), a reduction of 71%. Staff have collectively reduced carbon emissions by 158t per annum, so far.

Proudly, we are also the first company in the southern hemisphere to add the new, fully electric, Fuso eCanter truck to our commercial fleet.

That’s one way to respond to the NIMBYs

Here’s an apartment building in San Francisco that got bigger in response to local opposition, rather than smaller.

De Haro St apartments. Image credit: BAR Architects

Legislation passed in order to reduce the influence of local councils over developers is changing the politics of housing in California: protective, affluent residents can no longer pressure their local representative to put a stop to development, because the local representative doesn’t have a lot of say.

DM Development CEO Mark MacDonald said he submitted the bigger plan after “it was abundantly clear to us the neighbors were not supportive of the lower scale project.” He added that “if we had gotten support for the original plan we would have kept going down that path.”

Whereas Wellington’s NIMBY / YIMBY discussion is underway on the power poles

Image Credit: PYasbek via twitter. 
Image Credit: Jonny via twitter.

Covering the last mile by e-cargo bike

You’ll probably have heard about the big changes happening in Paris to reduce emissions and traffic. Carrefour, a massive French supermarket chain, is getting amongst the changes and using electric-assist bike trailers to transport goods to the store.

A very British bus odyssey

We’re seriously impressed by the dedication of this Londoner, who decided to work out how far it was possible to travel from the centre of London in 24 hours. After working out a precise timetable, Jo Kibble then tested the journey in real time. His trip generated a twitter storm, with people pointing him towards their favourite bus stations, and debating the state of public transport in the UK.

Among messages reminiscing about favourite bus journeys or tips about local hidden gems to visit, Mr Kibble said he was pleased to see “a serious policy discussion” break out.

“People were interested in seeing how the system works and how it’s linked to politics and the geography of the area.

“Bus networks are a very important part of building a fairer country and an economic system that works for more people.

Keep Welly weird

If we did a ‘bike of the day’ competition, this would surely blow the field to pieces for the rest of the year. Whoever you are cruising down Lyall Bay in such style, if you read Greater Auckland, please get in touch; we want to tell your story!

Weekend long reads…

Turns out cranking out daily reckons makes people a bit, well, cranky.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the role of professional pundit should be viewed in similar terms to those workers who had to shovel debris at Chernobyl. No one should do it for very long, and ideally, no one would do it at all.

A deep dive into the benefits of communal living, from the New Yorker:

The dynamics I saw at Treehouse, in its current, small-scale incarnation, were different. The residents weren’t just sharing space; they were woven into one another’s lives. The whole broke into groups, but the groups were overlapping, flexible, and always changing… What emerges from a small community like Treehouse, then, is a theory of togetherness that might inform a larger community.

Who put this useless hunk of metal here?

Thank you for reading, stay home, stay safe, and have a great weekend.

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  1. In the section “Which would you rather: people space or car space?” We didn’t just have fewer cars not that long ago, cars were also much smaller, and no one would have considered using a ute as a car

  2. Two Youtube channels did bike rides from the city centre (one chose a train station, the other a library) to a big box about 10km out to see which was better. To measure this, they scored everything they liked +1 and everything they disliked -2. Someone should do this in Auckland when lockdown ends.


    Is it just me or is the state of the roads in Calgary absolutely awful?

  3. Most weeks I read stories about renewables and have some hope.
    Australia has many solar farms covering several hectares producing huge amounts of power and this week supplied half of all their power.
    Australia to build solar farm in NT to send to Asia.
    Chinese firm announces giant 264-meter tall offshore wind turbine
    China added 71.6 GW of wind power generation capacity to reach a total capacity of 281GW.
    USA added 14 GW renewables in 2020 and has a capacity of 118 GW the second largest in the world
    In the UK renewables generate about 43% of their electricity
    Singapore opens one of the worlds largest floating solar farms
    In Germany renewable energy produced more electricity than all fossil fuels at 45 % of demand.
    New Zealand has 17 wind farms. Genesis Energy and Tilt Renewables partner in a new 75MW Northland wind farm.

    1. JF
      I don’t share your enthusiasm. It is clear from the recent power shortages that NZ desperately needs more power to not only meet the current demand, but also to meet the significantly growing demand from EVs and other requirements.
      And then we have Genesis from their Stock Exchange announcement of yesterday still increasing dividends when major investment in new capacity is required.

       Dividends continue to grow, with FY21
      dividend of 17.40 cps – a 1.2% increase over
      FY20. The seventh consecutive year of dividend
       Pay-out ratio of 96% or 76% when the impact of
      Carbon FPO and prior year arbitration are

      The NZ gentailers benefit from a shortage of electricity and Genesis benefits because they have to operate Huntly.

      1. Shareholders need to get a dividend. Companies need to make profits.
        Genesis is one on NZs biggest companies and the share price has gone up from $2.40 5 years ago to about $3.40 today. All NZers with Kiwi saver are being rewarded. For any company to invest in large new projects they need the support of shareholders otherwise people will switch to another company

        1. JF
          You are half right. Investors typically invest in companies for either dividends or share price growth. No one is disputing the need for profit. I am talking about the need for super profit.

          Have a look at just two articles about the gentailers. It has been a great ride for their shareholders over the last few years with strong share price appreciation and dividend growth. The best of both worlds.

          It has been a less satisfying experience for NZ Inc in these regards: we still have Huntly coal (due to close on 2018) because of the collective failure to invest in new infrastructure (although there has even been investment in Australia); power prices are high because of that lack of investment; and arguably there does not seem to be a commitment to build infrastructure to match increasing demand.


          Disclosure: I have been a share market investor over the last 40 years, but describe myself as an eco capitalist.

  4. Genesis with their dirty energy that is causing carbon emissions in NZ to grow deserve credit for little.

    What their transport moves do show is that if the cost of driving is priced near to its cost some people will choose other modes. Parking immediately adjacent to Genesis on Fanshawe is $26 per day. That measure in itself is an incentive to cause many to use public transport.

    It is interesting by comparison to look at ATs car park pricing. For a short trip to the city you can find AT parking at $4 per hour. These prices are easily bottom of the market. From many locations it is cheaper to drive than take public transport.

    When AT say that they rely on government to make changes to decrease emissions, AT just need to try harder, or at least try.

  5. More on 300 De Haro St apartments:
    Senate Bill 35, adopted in 2017, mandates that local governments which have failed to build enough affordable housing must approve residential projects that meet legal criteria, including having two-thirds of square footage dedicated to residential use and not demolishing a structure that’s on a national, state, or local historic register. “The building we are proposing is not the maximum allowed under the State Density Bonus Program. Instead, the plan optimizes light and air quality for our nearby neighbors on 16th and 17th streets”.
    I’d like to see taller building around Aucklands transport hubs, rather than a middling compromise. Think about what scale of building would be appropriate in 50 years time, so that it might be refitted, rather than demolished with something else rebuilt. Certainly none of our housing is affordable any more.

    1. +1, Panuku are looking at a masterplan for old Papatoetoe. The master plan buildings are 2-4 storeys in the town centre. They should be 10-20, ffs. Papatoetoe is a central, accessible location. The sites are a stones throw from the train station and in the town centre. If Panuku, who are meant to be transformational, get it that wrong, what hope do we have?

        1. “4 stories pretty much everywhere is more efficient for density and human scaled than a few taller blocks.”

          And four stories everywhere except for town centres, which are higher, is even more efficient.

      1. Yes I agree.
        When living in an apartment building there is little difference between living on the 4th or the 7th floor. The upper floors of the of the new apartment buildings in the CBD are highly sought after.
        More people are enjoying living in a modern apartment.
        Less people like living in a distant suburb where the family is spending too much time and money commuting.
        The cost of housing in NZ is too high because we are hugely overspending on developing new suburbs on good farmland.

    1. Very interesting, first I have heard of this. Is this “change for change’s sake”, or was Auckland One Rail’s bid so much better than the Transdev-consortium’s bid that it is worth the inevitable disruption of changing providers?
      Presumably KiwiRail and their consortium did not put in a tender, unlike in Wellington (2016) when they lost out to Transdev.

      1. “was Auckland One Rail’s bid so much better than the Transdev-consortium’s bid”

        Answer: Yes. If you read the announcement fearful, you will see that the new operator is also responsible for security and station management, plus a raft of other tasks, so AT will no longer be doing those things.

        1. OOPs

          “was Auckland One Rail’s bid so much better than the Transdev-consortium’s bid”

          Answer: Yes. If you read the announcement carefully, you will see that the new operator is also responsible for security and station management, plus a raft of other tasks, so AT will no longer be doing those things

        2. BusDriver, the fact that extra tasks have been added into the new contract cannot be the reason for changing suppliers. Aka Tangata (Transdev consortium) would surely have included these in their bid also, or they would not have got to the point of being a credible rival tenderer. The fact that Transdev’s present contract does not include station maintenance and security does not mean their new bid would have been lacking these things.

    2. I note that the list of Key Performance Measures that AT stipulates, is all about reliability, punctuality, cleanliness etc, with zero mention of any incentivization for shorter journey-times or sharper timetabling. Does this imply a continuation of padded timetables, conservative driving techniques and over-long station-dwells for the whole of the new contract period?

      1. A move towards driver only operation? Some of the other companies under the ugl umbrella have driver only expertise.

        1. So that will mean if they get rid of the TM more hooligans will be on board the units and don’t tell me that the drivers can see what is happening inside the carriages , where the TM can .

          I’ve been on board one southern service where the TM has threaten Vappers with expulsion as they were setting off thew smoke alarms , so if no TM will the driver stop the train in the middle of nowhere and deal with them ? .

        2. Driver-only operation means that the driver does all the operating, so any other staff on board can focus on passenger issues (such as those mentioned) without being distracted by train operations.

        3. It would also free up the TM people to wander the network more and not be tied to a single train. Instead if theres an issue they could be at the next station and get on the specific carriage when it rolls in. Also allowing them to respond to issues at stations. And in general be much more flexible.

          David, its vaping, one p rather than 2. I don’t know if you’re doing it on purpose or not. Might be some joke going over my head

        4. Jack that was an honest spelling mistake , but the Vaping on the train did happen and the rest of the passengers were wondering what was happening when the TM had a go at the 3 passengers and those were like under 25 .

  6. That BP/ carbon footprint article is fascinating… the middle paragraph here, wow…

    “Doyle concludes BP sought to explain what a carbon footprint is “in a way which assigns responsibility for climate impact to the individual, while BP registers its own concerns by appearing already to be doing something about it.”

    Yet in a society largely powered by fossil fuels, even someone without a car, home, or job will still carry a sizable carbon footprint. A few years after BP began promoting the “carbon footprint,” MIT researchers calculated the carbon emissions for “a homeless person who ate in soup kitchens and slept in homeless shelters” in the U.S. That destitute individual will still indirectly emit some 8.5 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

    “Even a homeless person living in a fossil fuel powered society has an unsustainably high carbon footprint,” said Stanford’s Franta. “As long as fossil fuels are the basis for the energy system, you could never have a sustainable carbon footprint. You simply can’t do it.””

    1. As long as fossil fuels are the basis for the energy system, you could never have a sustainable carbon footprint. You simply can’t do it.””

      There’s the truth right there.
      The 2nd part of this equation is that there is nowhere near enough alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels.
      Climate change is baked into the economy.

  7. In today’s Herald (not paywalled) the Auckland Royal and Grange golf club has managed to get a rates subsidy through being rezoned from residential to open space.
    Some locals had wanted the space redeveloped for housing or a public park.

    1. Yimby
      yes fascinating. Here is part of the article:
      “Planning commissioners who approved the rezoning said it was unlikely the land would be freed up by the club anytime soon, making it unlikely housing would even be possible, so it made no sense to keep it zoned that way.”

      “If at some future time the club decides to reduce the area of its site used for golfing purposes or dispose of the site in its entirety, then the appropriateness of the zoning of these areas can be revisited at that time,” the commissioners said, according to the NZ.”

      The decision seems to display a complete ignorance of economics 101. Many of these golf courses only exist because someone subsidises them in some way or another. (Here we see cheap rates and with other courses we see cheap Council leases.) It therefore becomes very unlikely, “that at some future time the club decides to reduce the area of its site used for golfing purposes.”

      If they do decide to dispose of it for other reasons, after a period of land banking, then that saving from cheap rates will be transferred from the rate payer to the owners.

  8. That drone-footage of the CRL construction at Mt Eden is impressive. Coming myself from the Transmission Folly Capital where major construction Youtubes are all about motorway-building, to see a major rail project taking shape in NZ is inspiring.

    1. Very cool footage.
      You can start to see the alignment of the various tracks now too. Going to be the highest capacity rail junction in the country (I’m pretty sure) with every direction and movement grade separated.

    2. One potential good from TMG might be the ability to close the coast road for a period to conduct earthworks for double tracking & tunnel daylighting above the soon to be former sh1? Then you can see some impressive drone footage

  9. Does anyone know the differential cost of concrete vs. asphalt vs red asphalt? The red stuff looks really good, I just wonder how much extra it costs!

  10. A story that broke yesterday about congestion charging-
    “Goff says if it does get the greenlight charging could start in the mid-2020s when more public transport alternatives are available.”

    Ah true to form, always an excuse to do do something tomorrow. So if that argument is extended, that congestion pricing is dependent on more public transport options being available, does the Shore receive it only when light rail arrives?

    Perhaps the Mayor can tell us what public transport alternatives will be available to the city centre in 2025 that aren’t available now. How is the CRL an alternative?

    Sadly the Mayor, Council and AT are sitting on their hands and for the sake of reducing congestion and emissions the mid 2020’s is not the time to do it – it is now.

    1. CRL, hopefully the full eastern busway, and better bus lanes in the city center.
      It depends on the exact cordon. I would pick that it wont be a charge for entering the city centre surface streets, but also for going through the CMJ.
      In that case, the CRL, Aotea station, and better bus lanes will allow much better interchanges, and significantly improve cross town PT trips, which are a bit slow at the moment.

      1. Jack, why would you pick that it is for trips going through the CMJ when the best served place for PT trips is the city centre? The other aspect of the city centre is that it has the highest paid workforce, therefore a charge is more affordable for them. Then there is the example of cities like London, Milan and others who have had spectacular success in reducing inner city traffic. When you reduce traffic massively bus lanes become less necessary, again read the figures for London. And why would you want to give a free ride to the Shore, because those people going to the city don’t need to use the CMJ?

        1. Just to clarify, it was a bit ambiguous. The charge should be for the city center AND the CMJ, not just the motorway, that would be very bad.

          Its a congestion charge, congestion is worst on the motorway (arguably)
          There is a ring route that through traffic should use and be encouraged to with money.
          if you’re going through the CMJ, you’re going very close to various radial PT lines. Why not get on one earlier, you go through the same place anyway, fairly likely to a destination on one (although not guaranteed)

          I’ve been looking for a stat recently, maybe I imagined it, that over half the traffic southbound in the morning over the harbor bridge is bound not for the city center, but going past to other destinations. If we want to decrease congestion, these trips should probably be targeted too.

          Although now I’m not so sure that they would charge for the CMJ. Who knows.

    2. “does the Shore receive it only when light rail arrives?”

      Sheesh, get over yourselves. You already have a rapid transit service.

      1. “Ive been looking for a stat recently, maybe I imagined it, that over half the traffic southbound in the morning over the harbor bridge is bound not for the city center, but going past to other destinations. If we want to decrease congestion, these trips should probably be targeted too.”

        You are right. I think I have seen that stat. Certainly anecdotally it is true. I regularly do that trip, by bus, and a much smaller proportion head for the city.

        I would toll the whole motorway. I like the Sao Paulo system where you encounter toll scanners at say 10km intervals. If you choose to live in Browns Bay and work in Highbrook then you may pay two tolls. It is highly unlikely that such a tolling system would catch the process worker.

  11. Sasha
    You misread what I was saying. I was extending the Mayor’s argument to produce another non sensical outcome.
    I am absolutely in favour of, say the Harbour Bridge being tolled. I have written previously of something like the old Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority to collect those tolls to provide seed capital for light metro to the Shore.
    I absolutely agree with you that other parts of Auckland are served less well by PT. I also accept that the more affluent should pay for the PT needs of others. However I recognise this is not an position that has wide support on the Shore.

  12. great pictures from old Ponsonby and Lyall Bay. Great project in Brooklyn. Aucklanders can only dream about those kind of improvements.

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