Image credit: Alec Tang, via twitter

Throughout the world, the pandemic has changed street environments – for better or worse, depending on how they’ve been managed.

It’s clear we’ve been extremely lucky with our Government’s response to the public health situation. But it’s easy to look overseas and dream we could have had a more clever response in transport, too; to wish emergency measures had been used to provide social distancing, and to slow and restrict traffic. Where speed limits, pop-up cycleways and play streets, “filters”, street dining, intersection diets, and widened footpaths delivered quieter, nicer and safer streets. And where the process is consciously used to lead to the permanent changes we’ve been needing for decades.

Instead – last year and this – the streets of Tāmaki Makaurau have become less safe. Streets designed to ‘ease congestion’ and ‘improve throughput’ have been left in this deficient state, without emergency measures, during lockdown. The emptier streets have encouraged reckless driving, and bad driving habits have continued even as traffic volumes returned to normal.

We knew speeds had risen here, and we knew from the US that the pattern could easily lead to increased deaths and serious injuries despite a reduction in miles driven. So it was no surprise when yesterday, the Herald reported on Tamaki Makaurau’s rising death and serious injury (DSI) statistics:

The sharp rise in road fatalities reverses the trend of steadily declining figures from about 65 deaths in 2017 to the mid 40s before it hit a low of 29 last year…

The rise comes after Auckland Transport adopted a Swedish road safety plan called Vision Zero where not one death is acceptable…

Ellison said the 56 deaths on Auckland roads in the last year is disappointing, but denied it was a setback for Vision Zero.

Deaths and serious injuries had been dropping, so this was a sad development.

After the first 2020 lockdown, Auckland Transport (AT) reported to the Ministry of Transport that:

the road safety performance of the network did not deteriorate materially during lockdown.

Yet by September last year, AT’s safety team were worried. Worsening crash statistics on top of a longstanding safety crisis meant trouble, so they commissioned the author of the AT Road Safety Business Improvement Review 2018 to review their progress and advise on the next steps.

A deep dive into Auckland Transport’s programmes followed, with extensive interviews and analysis by the author of the original, confronting safety audit that moved AT towards Vision Zero in the first place.

The results were released in July this year. The AT Road Safety Business Improvement Review 2021 (which I’ll refer to as ‘the Review’) laid out some statistics:

there does not appear to have been any notable improvements to the relative safety of Vulnerable Transport Users on foot, bike and motorcycle since 2017, while there has been some improvement to the DSI for people inside motor vehicles…

For the 2021 year-to-date (YTD) to April, fatalities are tracking at almost double the level at this time last year, and at the same level as in 2017.

(In the light of these chilling statistics, AT also commissioned an independent analysis of the crash statistics for January to June this year, supplied in an Insights Memo dated the 20th August.)

Road deaths by mode of travel on Tāmaki Makaurau roads – January to June 2017-2021 from Insights into the Increase in Road Trauma During First Half of 2021 (V2) by Colin Brodie Consulting, August 2021

One post cannot cover all the strands of safety looked at in the Review – vehicles, streets, public transport, motorbikes, footpaths, cycling, regulations, enforcement, licensing, deterrence of poor driving behaviour. I plan to come back to these subjects later:

  • Vehicles
  • Public transport
  • Deterrence of poor driving behaviour using penalties and demerits
  • Enforcement of drink and drug driving rules
  • Camera enforcement and enforcement levels overall

Nor can one post tell the story of all the different players involved:

  • Auckland Transport (AT)
  • the Ministry of Transport (MoT)
  • Waka Kotahi (WK)
  • the Police
  • and others.

The successes and suggestions for change within Auckland Transport merit their own dedicated post.

Level 4 crash. Image credit: Mike Maguire, via twitter

What I want to talk about in this post is a central finding of the Review, that Central Government has failed Auckland:

Many of the recommendations from AT to the Road to Zero strategy process were not adopted in the published action plan… Ministry of Transport need to be engaged in discussions for AT to better understand why certain issues have not been addressed at this stage and what can be done to close this disconnect in the next action plan…

There are a number of critical intervention issues… which are the direct responsibility of the regional/central government partners and which are unable to be impacted upon due to inadequate policy or legislative or funding or… enforcement capability…

Sensible good international practice measures are not being implemented and many New Zealand lives annually are being unnecessarily lost.

Road to Zero is the Government’s name for their Vision Zero Strategy. It seems there’s a risk that the Ministry of Transport, Waka Kotahi and the Police could repeat their earlier mistakes:

Our previous road safety strategy was Safer Journeys, which had made some progress but was not implemented as intended. Although it was based on a sound approach and compelling evidence, it did not have sufficient buy-in, investment, leadership and accountability to achieve a significant reduction in deaths and injuries.


Interim Targets

Government has a lower level of safety ambition than AT has. The different 2030 interim targets for reduction in deaths and serious injuries (DSI) are:

  • Auckland Transport: a reduction of 65% but
  • Government: a reduction of only 40%.

There’s no good reason for Government’s lower level of ambition; it arises because the safety programme was limited – through choice – to just those actions with the ‘greatest impact’. Actions with a strong, moderate or slight impact on reducing DSI were not included in the programme, even though they would deliver on other goals – like reducing noise and pollution, improving children’s independence, improving transport choice or reducing emissions. We have a safety crisis, we’re spending record levels of money on transport, so frankly, the Government could have aimed far higher with its ambition for reducing DSI, and allocated more money away from road-building to achieve it.

Prioritising road building over safety is inconsistent with Vision Zero.

I’ve previously blogged about the Ministry of Transport’s rejection of Vision Zero.


Funding

In 2018, AT committed to:

influence senior decision makers (national agency heads and the Minister responsible for Road Safety and the Minister for Police) at national level to make the priority policy changes (including funding to achieve their implementation) to turn around unacceptable road safety performance…

AT did encourage Government to adopt Road to Zero, but wasn’t successful at securing sufficient funding. The funding doesn’t seem to be covering the policy work required:

Likely that MoT does not have resources to address available measures to save many NZ lives annually. Covid-19 may be a factor but this continues a pattern of delayed policy development opportunities and recommendations since 2017.

And a bias at Waka Kotahi means the funding is insufficient for urban road safety improvements:

Press for increased urban road safety treatments in the Safer Network Programme (Waka Kotahi’s Road to Zero programme) which is heavily focused on rural improvements.

This rural bias is a major problem. Our cities need designers to focus on short journeys that can be done on foot and by bike, so that people can get around their city – including to the bus stop or train station – safely and sustainably. Designing for walking and cycling requires an entirely different skillset to that of conventional highway safety engineering, which is focused on making long car journeys safer for car occupants. The engineers need to deprioritise the journeys by car which they’re comfortable designing for. Unfortunately, it seems Waka Kotahi’s highway engineers control the safety budget.

Poor road design leads to poor safety design in Lincoln Rd

To improve the delivery of urban walking and cycling improvements, Waka Kotahi or the Ministry of Transport need to remove obstacles and streamline processes at a national level, so that safety for people on foot and small wheels can be provided without the current consultation and political difficulties. This, too, requires budget.

The United Nations recommends a minimum of 20% of the transport budget is spent on walking and cycling, but our Government continues to ignore this. And it needs to be a targeted budget that doesn’t get swallowed up into placemaking, underground or seawall infrastructure upgrades, or on widening the corridor to keep the traffic flowing.

Despite the erroneous newspaper headlines, funding for projects for walking and cycling is a tiny fraction of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF). In fact, if we don’t count Auckland’s Cycleway Programme for a third time (it was supposed to have been delivered by 2018) and we don’t count an expensive Seawall to protect a State Highway in Wellington, the walking and cycling budget for the coming three years is only:

1.5% of the NLTF

This is an egregious and long-standing failure of our Government.

AT’s request for a dedicated road safety fund was also not taken up:

AT proposed a road safety fund (which would have a focus on additional infrastructure safety investment across New Zealand) to MoT in 2019, drawn from net fines from infringements.

And to top it all off, WK’s own funding criteria are inconsistent with Vision Zero, compromising safety on all projects:

NZTA project assessment systems requiring safety infrastructure projects to offset safety benefits with the time costs of any delays due to the speed or infrastructure treatments as a project funding condition

Vision Zero 101: you must not trade off human life against anything else, not even a few seconds delay at the lights.


The Police

The ongoing lack of Police enforcement of speed and drink driving alone has had tragic consequences:

Currently the price paid for extensively redeploying road police and compromising planned enforcement is additional drink-driving and speeding related fatalities on Auckland’s roads each year – in the order of some 9 to 11 lives. Biggest challenge and opportunity facing Auckland road safety performance today.

The Review notes the Police also need to focus on improving their crash reporting systems:

improved data are required to overcome the systematic (though not deliberate) biases in crash reporting and thus data collection…

strong advocacy and resistance to victim blaming is essential to generating appreciation of the need for safe infrastructure for pedestrians. This may usefully include correcting impressions of pedestrian error as the cause of pedestrian crashes…

Stronger allowance for the cause of a crash being recorded as unknown combined with appropriate training may assist to reduce this data bias, allowing for better informed (less mis-informed) advocacy and safety solutions.

A related issue was also raised in the Insights Memo:

It is widely acknowledged that speed is under-reported by NZ Police, and often only reported when the speed is considered to be excessive.

The Police face many challenges, so if there’s been any work done to address this problem (which was highlighted in 2019) some public communications would be timely.


Speed Limits

Our speed limits are systematically unsafe. The Government has directed Waka Kotahi to change the way speed limits are set, and the Land Transport Rule is being changed to – hopefully – streamline the process. Unfortunately, Waka Kotahi have not taken a default change approach to bring our limits into line with international standards. (For example, blanket 30km/h for local streets in cities, as people can be expected to be walking, biking, and scooting.)

The Review urged AT to be prepared with an “alternative course of action” if the new regime doesn’t make introducing lower speed limits any simpler:

AT should target a 3 year period ahead in which all planned speed limit reviews across the network in Auckland will be completed. If this does not appear a likely result of the new by-law, AT will need to seek alternative solutions from the government.


The Big Opportunities

The Review isn’t all negative. A lot of work has been done to improve safety in Tāmaki Makaurau. There are topics of information and advice that make really interesting reading.

Best of all, the Review makes the connection between safety in the transport system, and a sustainable, healthy quality of life for society as a whole:

A well-designed Safe System can yield benefits beyond saving lives from traffic crashes…

A Safe System approach to land use can affect trip length and mode; good road design and infrastructure generate safe motorised vehicle speeds and provide for walking, cycling, and mass public transport. Reducing vehicle travel and speeds to improve safety also reduces other negative externalities generated by unconstrained use of private motor vehicles.

Safety and the environment converge when it comes to land use…

Reductions in travel speed not only save lives, they can also deliver economic returns and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and the harmful effects of noise pollution.

Both our climate response and our safety crisis mean we can’t continue to spend money on building roads. New roads to sprawl push our emissions up in many different ways, and we need to be reducing the land area covered in asphalt, to reduce maintenance costs, not increasing it. Reallocating money from road building to improving safety will improve our cities, our future, and take the financial pressure off.

In another post, I’ll show how it appears the various Briefings to the Minister have stopped short of advising the Minister on what he needs to understand about safety.

The work of making our streets safe is sorely overdue. Every “partner organisation” needs to step up.

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61 comments

  1. Thanks for this Heidi.
    Drivers need to be reminded that driving is a privilege, and that charging around in a 2 ton ute or SUV in a city environment puts everyone else at risk.

    The way to remind them is resetting our environment to reflect these risks: cycle lanes and pedestrian priority measures, reduced speed limits. It also needs full enforcement of the traffic laws we have: speed, intersections, indicating, passing, parking.
    This needs police, and AT, to step up their game, and WK and the ministry to provide the funding and tools. With the present settings they seem better at delaying than doing.

  2. The first example above, Newton Rd + side street, is a rat run. It always has been but the changes to K’Rd have made it worse. Beyond that, the hill is steep and cycle speeds are naturally fast. Both cars pulling out of those side streets, and cars entering them from the opposite side of the road have a reduced chance of seeing a cyclist, and even if they do, they may not judge time to impact very well or care. Bicycle brakes are less effective going downhill.
    I sometimes use Newton Rd to get to the NW cycleway connection at the motorway interchange, particularly if I’m tired or in a hurry, and I hate passing those side streets. I find it safer to cycle in the centre lane which takes a bit of nerve and certainly won’t be something all cyclists would want to do.
    I don’t think lowering the speed limit to 30km/h helps much in this case, as speeds are often about that anyway. The road layout and topography is just no good for bikes.
    The Manurewa example is another intersection.
    The best thing that avoids having to cycle past intersections is dedicated offroad cycleways like the NW. Completing the network that runs adjacent to the motorways, rail, parks and other features that allow a cycleway to not have intersections, driveways, corners, etc., should be a priority, however council progress is glacial.

    1. Whilst I’m sure there could be some quick wins in creating paths alongside rail and motorways etc the regular trips people want to take, to school, to shops, to visit friends etc requires the type of changes Heidi is advocating for. I know many people who will not ride on the NW cycleway as they feel it is too dangerous to ride to on their local streets.

      1. “quick wins in creating paths alongside rail and motorways”

        Such paths are ENORMOUSLY expensive, and very difficult to build, as they tend to require extra bridges, need to negotiate pinch points, railway crossings (KiwiRail opposes new at grade crossings, so cycleways get stuck with the cost of new underpasses like at Avondale / New Lynn), motorway interchanges (where it’s the other way around – NZTA opposes funding new overpasses and underpasses, so cyclists are massively delayed).

        Yeah, routes along railway lines and motorways can be mighty convenient. But what they are NOT are quick (or cheap) wins.

        We need to re-allocate roadspace. The reason we have tended to prioritise motorways and rail line paths over the last decades is that it offers a way to build cycleways without affecting drivers. Basically trying to have your cake and eat it too (at high, high financial cost).

        1. Sorry Max, yes agree with your comments. I was referring to the perception that as these are generally away from the public realm as such they face less opposition -fully appreciate the engineering difficulties and cost involved. Yes reallocation of roadspace is where we need to be going.

    2. Anthony, was it during construction on K Rd that Newton Rd became a rat run? Our construction does take too long, for a number of reasons. One is that we don’t use road closures in order to get it done quickly as some other cities do.

      One thing about speed limits and the road layout: I’ve seen excuses given against using appropriate road layouts that would slow the cars to a safer speed, on the basis that street has to be designed for the speed limit. And of course, the authorities are stuck in a myth that they can only reduce speed limits if the operational speeds are close to the new speed limit. Which is a classic feedback loop keeping us stuck.

      1. I’ve been of that view myself (and still am), Heidi – that setting speed limits not reinforced by infrastructure is problematic – but I’ve become a bit more nuanced about it, because as you say, too often it is simply used to either not do anything at all, or fragment what should be area action to painstakingly difficult individual-section progress.

        The most damning indication tho to me is that we seem to fail to follow up both ways. We simply don’t do much traffic new calming (except in brand new greenfields) . We’ve had City Centre changes for way over a year now, but most threshold treatments were and still are paint.

        And of course the big SUVs which are getting more prevelant laugh at some of the “spot treatment” traffic calming we are adding with their suspension. We have a lot further to go – narrowing our whole streets for example. But that’s hard to do – will take decades – so I agree we can’t simply shrug and leave speed limits at 50+ until that occurs.

        1. Yeah I think it is just a circular excuse:

          – You can’t lower speed limits because of design.
          – You can’t redesign because of high speed limits.

          Also if you redesign first, won’t people simply learn to drive fast even on slower designs? You can get used to anything.

        2. No, there’s good research showing that if a road is designed right, people drive significantly slower. But that is about more than just adding the odd speed bump / table. Consistent slow speed design needs things like narrow lanes, not too many lanes (four lanes next to each other = speed even if lanes are narrow), compact intersections, and even somewhat counter-intuitive things like ensuring sight distances are limited. A lot of these designs run counter to the “status quo” of what we have for decades taught our engineers and built on our roads, where wide/many/generous was always considered 100% positive, without teaching people the downsides. Effectively, we used design techniques who are (more) appropriate for highways and rural roads and used them on residential streets and in the middle of our cities.

          Yes, there are occasional people speeding on even well-design slow-speed streets. But they are MUCH less common. And even then, they don’t speed as fast as such people do speed on roads designed to enable speed in the first place…

        3. That’s all true, Max. And as you’ve said, it’ll take decades to narrow our streets – conventionally, anyway – with kerb and drain movement or other hard engineering. This, therefore, cannot work fast enough to be the key strategy for lowering speeds. It’s the icing, if you will, when a street is finally treated. Keen to get your thoughts on tactical narrowing.

          AT needs to achieve the 30 km/hr operating speeds throughout the city within 3 years, so they need to harness all levers.

          1a. Change speed limits to 30 km/hr and
          1b. Roll out the full information campaign about the reasons, benefits, opportunities and ethical responsibilities. and
          1c. Enforce comprehensively.

          The above is critical as it does change driving culture and lower speeds. Thinking built environment measures need to come first is simply based on years of any change being drip fed. The solution to push for is the default and comprehensive approach to speed limit changes and enforcement.

          2a. Create LTN’s throughout the entire city, with modal filters, one way streets, single lane entry and exit treatments, etc. Tactically.
          2b. Reallocate space on all the boundary roads to cycling, walking, trees, buses and use bus gates, one way systems, etc as required to give buses sufficient priority to be unaffected by congestion. Tactically.

          This should be where the bulk of the money is going at present. It’s a temporary phase, after which we can shift the money back into hard engineering measures.

          3a. Permanent hard engineering versions of the tactical LTNs and main road designs.
          3b. New walking and cycling bridges to repair severance, over motorways, railways, even some major roads and streams.

          While they continue to use resources on creating, modifying, renewing the current deficient streetscapes, they are wasting our money.

    3. Newton Rd is an official, designed, bespoke, rat-run, that’s all it is!
      It was a local access road, but has been four-laned, hyper-motorised, turned into a traffic sewer solely, expressly on the travel-times-savings for motorists and damn everything else philosophy.

      It is no good complaining; it’s a rat run, exactly! What of course you are saying it is a failing rat run, but then they all are, it’s failed theology, and this is a good example.

      Suck it up driver, just like how every other user; pedestrians, heaven forbid, bike user, or property user in the area, has to suck up (literally) the appalling consequence of this failed ideology.

  3. Great post Heidi.

    Most accidents are avoidable, then there is something wrong with our drivers. These are: not being attentive to the road, not driving to the conditions and the use of the mobile phone. Sadly I keep seeing lot of drivers are still using phone while driving. In one case I saw a driver was looking at the phone going around the bend. Not increasing following distance when it is raining. Beating the red lights at the intersection. Not being courteous, cutting lanes and corners. All these things need to be sorted out.

    1. “Most accidents are avoidable, then there is something wrong with our drivers. These are: not being attentive to the road, not driving to the conditions and the use of the mobile phone.”

      You are exactly repeating the things Vision Zero is NOT about. This has been the credo of (too many) of our transport agencies for decades. All about individual responsibility / education.

      In reality, humans are the same (or close to the same) the world over. Yes, there are some cultural differences, but it’s the SYSTEM and the ENGINEERING of our transport networks that have the biggest influence.

      A self-explaining, forgiving, and people/safety-centric road system has much fewer deaths and injuries, even when people check their Facebook while on the road.

      Because they are driving slower, because a crash barrier is there to catch them, and because they may in fact not be checking their Facebook while driving at all, but while walking.

      Vision Zero explictly discusses this. Focus on the system, not on the individual. It’s like climate change: It isn’t solved by encouraging people to recycle, or buy a slightly more fuel-efficient car, it needs SYSTEM change.

  4. Great post Heidi. Thanks.
    We have both an institutionalised under resourcing and a general resistance, to enforcing speed limits. This means there is widespread societal acceptance that exceeding speed limits is for most part just an inconsequential technical offence.
    This is very wrong on a number of accounts.
    Higher speeds lead to increased risk of an “accident” but much worse the laws of kinetic energy magnify the consequences of an “accident ” event.
    Lax enforcement of this particular aspect of of our legal system actually degrades respect for law compliance as a whole. It promotes the idea that not all laws are equal, in terms of societal acceptance. It should never be accepted that some safety laws are more ok to break.
    Waiting for society to change its attitude to speeding before changing enforcement is back to front.
    Leadership has to come from Government and society will follow, just as it did not that long ago when changes to smoking legislation and enforcement were quickly followed by broad changes in our societies acceptance of smoking and smokers behaviour.
    Government you have done a brilliant job of keeping us safe from covid.
    Now please step up and make us a lot safer while on our roads.

  5. I assume that the spike is statistically significant. Passengers, pedestrians and motorcyclists are up but drivers and bikers are down. I see the numbers have gone from 65 down to 29 and then up to 56 over the 5 years. Its pretty sobering there’s injuries as well to consider. A few weeks ago a friend picked me up about 5.00 pm on a Saturday. The traffic was horrendous I told him to slow down. Next day in the newspaper a death was recorded not too far from where we were driving. I drew it to his attention the next time I talked to him. I think he got the message.

  6. Great Britain is adopting changes to its Highway Code for 2021.One of the changes is a hierarchy for road users,the vehicles that cause the most harm ,are deemed to carry the most responsibility. My connection to this is through a road cycling website,of course there is the inevitable backlash against cyclists, but l can see where they are trying to shift the narrative from the rights of a road user to the responsibilities of a road user. It will be a very long game,but without it nothing will change, the UK seem to have a dedicated road policing unit, who have picked up on this vibe, and remind car/ truck drivers of their responsibilities when passing more vulnerable road users.

  7. Thanks Heidi – very informative and thorough analysis as always.

    I would like to see an AKL regional traffic dept reinstated. Maybe then we would possibly start to see the appalling behaviours, lack of skill and attitudes by many motorists rectified.
    Part of an email I recently sent to Michael Wood MP:
    *************************************
    Has there been any discussion in recent years of reviving a regional traffic police department?

    I feel this has a lot of merits:
    – traffic volumes are through the roof
    – police numbers are never adequate to enforce road rules
    – police tend to focus on drink driving and speed.
    – speed enforcement is poor – especially in areas with roadworks. NSW have very strict penalties for speeding through roadworks.
    – red light running is still a massive concern. Camera rollout far too sedate.
    – stop signs away from arterial roads are purely in name only for many drivers. Give way intersections even worse.
    – cell phone use is out of control and fines for both mobiles and red light running are pathetic compared to say QLD.
    – as in other cities, the dept could be partly self-funded through fines and vehicle rego / fossil fuel taxes.
    – revenue to be ploughed back into cycle/pedestrian-way improvements and new builds.

    We also need a major overhaul of the driver licencing system as highlighted recently by Greg Murphy. The standard of driving and the near non-existent consideration for other road users is appalling.

    Getting separated cycleways throughout the city should be an absolute priority. This is the only way to get children and novice cyclists out daily.

    1. I do wonder what our traffic enforcement is going to look like in 5 or 10 years, actually. The Police don’t seem that interested in taking action against offenses that have a big detrimental effect on walking and cycling and on modeshift and liveability, but that don’t really affect drivers much. And camera enforcement is supposed to be moving to Waka Kotahi… I suspect there’s a case for something like a transport enforcement agency.

  8. “ negative externalities generated by unconstrained use of private motor vehicles.”

    That’s it. Bingo.

    Driving is over-subsidised and therefore all of its negative effects are heightened (crash, health, pollution, urban form, poverty), and its benefits are reduced (congestion).

    The whole movement ecosystem needs rebalancing. On all fronts at once:
    Pricing.
    Spatial allocation.
    Design.
    Regulation.
    Enforcement.

  9. > Central Government has failed Auckland
    I’m interested in the causes of this. Is it our ministers’ resistance to change, poor leadership, poor productivity, incompetence, inattention or lack of focus? Or is it our officials’ or is it both?

    1. On some of the matters raised in the Safety Review, I’ve done a thorough search of the Briefings to the Minister that I can find, and in general, the issues are either not raised, or they’re presented as if everything is proceeding normally. I’ll post on that soon, too. From this, and the fact that the problems are very longstanding, I do not believe this is a problem with the Minister of Transport. From everything I’ve seen, he appears to have a handle on this as well as we could expect of any well-meaning, intelligent, busy politician who wants to improve transport outcomes.

      The transport organisations all have what I call “Barons” – incumbent powerful people who will lose power if the transport system becomes less focused on road building or if their area of expertise (in whatever aspect of car dependent planning) is no longer valued. The budgets are generally controlled by these people.

      I’ve not studied the Police and there’s a different cultural problem going on there which I don’t understand.

      And then there’s Cabinet, and that’s where the leadership needs to come from. If I had time to write about their understanding of transport transformation and their perception of the role of leadership and government in the task, well, I think it’d be really interesting.

      1. Rather suspect you hit the nail on the head there. ‘Barons’ in all three agencies of government: the ministry; Waka Kotahi and, of course, Auckland Transport. Unfortunately, as bad old King John discovered in 1215, barons are extremely difficult to remove. Certainly our current bunch of politicians—from the minister to various councillors—no matter how well intentioned, are also being stymied.

    2. Look at where they’re based. Almost everyone senior enough to have any influence working for Treasury, MoT, WK/NZTA etc lives and works in Wellington because that’s a requirement for their job. As a result they make extremely Wellington-centric decisions and Wellington gets a massively disproportionate share of new spending.

      The bureaucratic status quo lets down Auckland but it lets down the rest of the country too. For example after the Christchurch earthquakes there were some extremely poorly-informed decisions forced on the city by Central Government. Regional NZ also gets a raw deal.

      Auckland is so much larger than any other urban centre in NZ that the magnitude of the city’s problems are hard to fully appreciate if you don’t live here. This is why the rest of the country thinks Auckland seems self-absorbed because they don’t really understand what it’s like.

      Of course this can’t be the only cause. There must be other causes (poor leadership, status-quo bias, dinosaur transport planners) that are contributing to this mess.

  10. When traveling about during lockdown, to get vaccinated, l couldn’t help but notice,trucks,delivery vans in abundance on our roads. They must think there are in Nirvana at present,able to access the roading network without delays.
    I do wonder how much of this will be absorbed by trucking lobby groups, the next time they demand that a road/ intersection be” fixed” to improve traffic flow,they should be al over measures that reduce VKT,massive economic benefit to them.
    Not so good from trucking lobby,re Covid testing,reinforcing the stereotype that men don’t visit their GP’s.

  11. By the way, are there any researchers about actual public transport emissions per passenger kilometre at current state of NZ generation and distribution losses?

    I recently done some computation and it seems like when I’m driving my entire family of 5 in my family sedan from past millennia it produces less CO2 than 9 or 7L diesel Scania bus. If imagine I replaced my car with something modern like Honda Jazz e:hev and I carry at least one passenger than in terms of emissions it can’t be beaten by anything else even by electric train, with full capacity of 5 passengers it can only be beaten by cycling.

    A slightly relevant UK article:
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/jul/16/electric-trains-diesel-green-carbon

    1. What numbers are you using for this?
      full train and full car?
      congestion (something that doubling down on car infra wouldn’t improve)
      regen braking on the train?
      average train occupancy and average car occupancy (1.2)
      whole of life or carbon cost of doing that one extra trip

      It would be interesting research. I would heavily assume that the cleanest possible (averaged / achievable over the whole city ie average occupancies of cars well under 2) car setup would fall a long way short of the cleanest PT setup per km travelled. How clean our PT is now compared to how clean one of the newer greener vehicles on the road might speak more to how much we can improve our PT, rather than double down on car infra.

      1. I googled different models and it seems that average 12 meters bus produces something like 800+ g/km. Assuming 15 passengers occupancy this would be 53 g/km per passenger. My ancient family sedan emits something like 140 g/km which when divided by 5 makes it makes something 28 g/km. Honda Jazz e:HEV emits 64.1g/km, with two passengers this would be 32g/m and with five passengers is about 13 g/km. According to that link above full Jazz emits less than any kind of public transport. Used 2017 Nissan Note e-power or Toyota Aqua produce presumably around 90g/km, which with 2 passengers makes under 50g/km per passenger. If that British article is correct it is less than majority of electric trains.

        My computations assume this is an off-peak family trip. Peak travel doesn’t make sense for reasons other than emissions.

        1. If the bus is going anyway, any car journey produces additional emissions to the bus’s emissions. Unless you’re thinking of reducing PT service levels, which initiates a spiral of reduced ridership and results in a much higher dependency on cars and higher emissions.

        2. Heidi, I won’t be really frustrated if all these disgusting busses are completely gone or replaced with something on rails or on two wheels. I still remember my last 15 hours bus trip in 2018, it was worse than pulling wisdom tooth.

          Forgive me my egoism.

      2. Another interesting article. It speculates that biking produces total footprint of 21 g/km, allegedly caused by “extra food”.
        https://www.bikeradar.com/features/long-reads/cycling-environmental-impact/

        Same article estimates electricity only emissions of a e-bike at 1.5 g/km and total of production, food and electricity at 14 g/km.

        The same article estimates total car footprint on average with average 1.16 passengers at 271g. Because these are average numbers I think we can just do 271*1.16/5 to get 63 per passenger of average car with 5 passengers.

    2. The real point is that we/you DON’T drive your family of 5 in a car (often).

      The average car occupancy in western cities – including in Auckland – hovers around 1.2-3 or so. Even (and especially) in peak traffic.

      This fact makes all the above comparisons go out of the window. Even before we also look at the space needs per person (which is what drives congestion).

      Yep, public transport gets less efficient (including in climate change terms) the less it gets used. But that is a joint problem of how bad our PT is, and where / how much low-density sprawl we have. For our cities, PT is and will always be the most efficient method of transport. Some towns and most rural areas? Nope. But that’s not the point.

      1. That is 1.2 to 1.3, not 3, by the way, sorry for the slightly unclear writing.

        I’m not sure whether even cities in places like India or Nigeria ever reach car occupancy of 3.

  12. On top of poor road safety statistics, our country and Auckland Council both declared climate emergency, and response has been timid and static. I really want to ask why it is so hard to put a blanket rule for local streets to have a speed limit of 30km/h. We have studies back up slower vehicle speed will reduce injuries and death, which aligns with the goals in Vision Zero.
    Why we are allowing sale of high emission vehicles like SUVs or UTEs in a highly urbanised environment like Auckland? We know these vehicles can kill and hurt more, as well as more environmentally damaging.
    Is there a technology that able to automatically apply different congestion charges based on the size and type of vehicles?

    1. “Why we are allowing sale of high emission vehicles like SUVs or UTEs in a highly urbanised environment like Auckland?”

      Well all the ute sellers would just shift to some northern Waikato town, and everyone would drive down there to buy them. Wouldn’t help at all.

      “Is there a technology that able to automatically apply different congestion charges based on the size and type of vehicles?”

      I think that this is the way to go, and it shouldn’t be impossible. Congestion charging should be charged for how much congestion you cause, ie how much space you take up on the roads. Larger longer vehicles should absolutely get charged more.
      When they send the toll bills, they look up some NZTA database for that vehicle and get the owners info from that. I’m sure the data for exact make and model is around there somewhere and from that you could fairly reliably work out the length * width of the vehicle. (width probably doesn’t matter so much, but maybe should still be included)

      1. ““Is there a technology that able to automatically apply different congestion charges based on the size and type of vehicles?””

        Yes, Automatic number plate recognition. We already apply different charges for different vehicles on all of New Zealand’s toll roads.

        In terms of actually preventing the effects that we want to prevent, we would probably be better to have congestion charging per vehicle with a minimum clean car standard in dnser areas.

    2. “Is there a technology that able to automatically apply different congestion charges based on the size and type of vehicles?”

      Yep. It’s called a vehicle license.

      [You may think that’s flippant, but that’s as simple as can be, and would be very effective. But as the feebate stouch has shown, it really works as a red cloth to the bull of those who believe big cars are not only a right, but something our society should encourage and be proud of]

  13. Not surprised. There was the big fuss about a safety crisis a few years back, relying only on a very skewed look at the stats. Some expensive reports full of waffle were made and lots of loud speeches were heard. And then, nothing.

    Controversial safety projects that garner public outrage get left high and dry. Zero push or support from any major political leaders. So why would teams bother trying to rock the boat. So the status quo remains.

    I don’t expect to see any change until I see the mayor championing the cause and AT actually spending money on active modes intsead of window dressing. AT is still focused on moving cars.

    1. The gains in safety in the past decades were achieved by making cars safer for people in them, and by ensuring everyone is always inside a car. Now that we are regressing on that second part safety stats are getting worse again.

      What are the statistics? Riding a bicycle is 10 times more dangerous than driving? And cycling happens mostly on relatively safe routes. Who knows what the spread is on areas where nobody rides a bike at the moment.

  14. “This rural bias is a major problem”

    Perhaps Waka Kotahi feel, rightly so IMHO, that road speeds are higher in the rural environment and therefore roads need to be in better condition.

    As soon as I can get out of this godforsaken city I am moving to a new build in rural Waikato. SH27 is in terrible condition in places, probably as it is the heavy traffic bypass for SH1, and urgently needs work on it.

    1. The spending focus like you say should be weighted towards rural due to speeds etc. But the significant majority of the money should still be spent in urban areas, its where far more of the population lives, spending here will impact far more people.

      I think the focus of the sentence should have been more on rural bias for large projects. Overall less rural spending, but far better safety value for money.
      WK clearly have a preference for large motorway extensions rather than doing a decent upgrade job across much more of the state highway network.

      The widening for wire ropes and shoulders is much cheaper and could feasibly be rolled out to a good portion of the SH network, rather than another few km of motorway like they’ve been doing.

      SH1 dome valley is great, no need for a motorway extension any more, most of the safety upgrades benefit that they quoted in the business case is gone now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9clsaAcbRa8

      1. I’m rural these days, and I support money going to the city more than it has. In fact, stop the constant focus on extra car *CAPACITY* and we’d easily have enough money for rural AND urban safety improvements aplenty.

        People forget it was Julie Anne Genter and the Greens which got a big rural safety programme funded (but not as big as they wanted) . Previous (and current) government get blinkered and instead promise big new motorways and four lanes to the planes and four lanes to Northland instead of doing the hard yards of actually fixing the real safety issues across the country – instead they create gold-plated solutions in a few isolated spots for the ribbon cutting, while my local old SH 25 bridge (itself decades old and clearly never designed for a state highway) sprouts new potholes every year.

    2. “that road speeds are higher in the rural environment and therefore roads need to be in better condition.”

      Safety spending should be weighted by *how many deaths and injuries occur* somewhere. Rural roads may have higher average speeds, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically causing more injuries – there’s fewer people on them, and even fewer vulnerable users.

      Under this logic we could argue that we should target more and more of our funding on motorways, because that’s where the highest speeds and highest volumes are – despite the fact that motorways are also our safest roads.

      Oh, wait, plowing billions and billions into more and more motorways HAS been our national policy for decades!

  15. What I was seeing driving a truck around town before the current lockout was a huge deterioration in driving standards – and I am not talking about ute drivers here. What we saw was people taking note of the advertising hoardings telling them to drive in their own bubble, and taking their car to work instead of public transport, and quick frankly I would not trust quite a few of them to ride a bicycle safely, let alone drive a car. Before the first big lock down I was lucky to see one or two nose to tails a year. Now I am seeing three or four a day. What we are also seeing a lot these days are drivers, specially those from a certain overseas country, driving with white ear phones and chatting away on their cellphones. They aren’t breaking the law because they havn’t got the phones to their ears, but their concentration is probably on their conversation, not on the road.

  16. Let me provide another anecdote. This is Auckland’s longest lockdown since the “original”. We are now entering spring and streets are getting busier particular on sunny days. During the March 2020 lockdown, AT used road cones to create a pop up cycle lane along the entire seaward length of Tamaki Drive from Ngapipi Road (replacing car parks), creating extra space for cyclists and distancing space for pedestrians. They have not done so this time. Not only are they endangering pedestrians and cyclists via interactions with each other and cars, they are compromising public health goals by making distancing impossible on a 2.5m wide footpath.

    It’s all the more ludicrous considering people are supposed to be exercising in their local area, therefore should be zero demand for carparking now on Tamaki Drive. Locals will walk there. The only conclusion is that AT are rotten to the core.

  17. It is clear that there is some resistance to any changes that will slow traffic. Comments on social media about the Surrey Crescent changes commented that there had “only” been two serious accidents, although another accident occurred after Lisa Prager delayed work there. In addition, there is considerable resistance to lower speed limits in NZ. The police in Gore also seemed to sympathise with elderly motorists who has problems with slightly changed road layouts, rather than suggesting that it was time they gave up driving.

    https://www.facebook.com/onehungakotahiunite/
    Lisa Prager writes about the dangers of the ‘Innovating Streets’ temporary design outside Grey Lynn Primary School on Surrey Crescent to supposedly make the street safer, yet NZTA information says that there have been zero fatal accidents, 2 serious injuries and 11 minor injuries since 2000 (21 years). Gael Baldock’s article talks about the ‘Social Engineering’ forced upon us in this experiment!

    1. “zero fatal accidents, 2 serious injuries and 11 minor injuries since 2000 (21 years”
      Haha, what world do these people live in where this is acceptable outside of a school.

      I read the rest of that rant article on the link. They’re also claiming that high street is a failure? That one is an objective success.

      “It is no secret that creating congestion is Auckland Council’s policy.” now that children is called a “conspiracy theory”

  18. What a surprise……
    The failure of lower speed limits to not only lower road deaths (but has actually increased them!) is spun by GA into something completely different and blame shifting!

    1. Read the Safety Review yourself. That is absolutely not the case. Arguing that it is makes you a part of the problem; a contributor to the cause of the tragedies.

  19. Is the root-problem this: A perception among some (many?) that “Kiwis love their cars” so much (read: Kiwis are so addicted to their car-based lifestyles), that any meaningful change is seen as a threat to human rights and therefore should be resisted at every turn?
    Is this the reason why so many people – from our top politicians downwards, our enforcement agencies, legal entities, managerial classes . . . to the average motorist-in-the-street, workers, shoppers, recreational drivers, parents, even mums that drive their precious cargoes to school – don’t really want change?
    How has our societal thinking, irrespective of status or intelligence level, managed to become so utterly blinkered?

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