Header image: Queen St, 1940s. Source – Alexander Turnbull via Auckland History Initiative

Kia ora on the eve of what looks like a few days of solid sunshine in Auckland, perfect for picnic season. Here’s our roundup of interesting thoughts, newsy items and good reads for the week.

In case you missed it – the week in Greater Auckland

  • On Monday, Matt wrote about the latest tranche of speed limit changes under consultation.
  • Tuesday’s post was a guest post by Alex Bonham, about the ‘playful city’ and what that means
  • Wednesday’s post by Matt covered the Emissions Reduction Plan, hot off the press. Hope our 10am publishing time didn’t confuse anyone – sorry, we couldn’t publish any sooner!
  • Yesterday we published a guest post by Sam Duncan, an Urban Development student, about his group’s C40 Reinventing Cities-winning masterplan for Northcote Town Centre

Everyone’s noticing that transport is the standout of the ERP

RNZ reports on the absence of detail in Agriculture compared to that provided for Transport, and Greater Auckland’s Matt, quoted in the story, spoke about the big reductions in VKT we’ll need to see in urban areas to meet the targets.

Transport seems to have had more detailed work done on it than the other sectors. This is good; transport affects everyone, every sector, every business, every endeavour. With the transport section being more developed, this hopefully means we can get going quickly on it.

The government’s key message needs to be that a low carbon transport system is something to look forward to. The earlier we can implement the changes, the sooner we’ll start reaping the benefits of quiet and clean streets which are safe for people to travel actively, and more efficient for deliveries.

Enough talk, let’s do this.

And we’ve been brainstorming ERP talking points. Find yourself stuck in a debate with someone who can’t see past cars?  Try this:

Think about how much easier life will be with x% fewer cars  on the road.

Better journeys by bus – than you ever imagined!

Better journeys by bike – than you ever imagined!

Better for everyone – and you won’t have to be stuck in your car anymore.


If the full ERP discussion document itself is a bit much for your lockdown-fried brain, here’s a handy twitter summary:


Auckland’s parks: our secret weapon against Covid-19

It’s been a hard couple of weeks for us all as we contemplate the sustained presence of Delta in the community. Dr Kirsty Wild, writing on Newsroom, finds a silver lining in Auckland’s beautiful beaches, parks, maunga and open spaces.

Spending more time outdoors doesn’t just make lockdowns more sustainable, it can also make them less likely. Throughout history, cities have had to adapt to cope with infectious disease outbreaks. Covid will be no different. Moving more of our lives outside, creating an outdoor ‘ecosystem’ of open-air activities: from recreation, dining, transport, play, schooling, and social opportunities, will all be part of the new ‘urban hygiene’ to help us prevent as well as manage outbreaks. Many cities overseas have already moved to rearrange their public spaces to prioritise outdoor activities in response to the pandemic.

South Auckland train stations moving ahead

A short piece over at RNZ reports on progress with Drury Central and Paerata moving ahead under the Covid-19 Recovery fast-tracking law.

Subject to approval by a fast-track consenting panel, construction on the first two stations is expected to begin in 2023.

“With an additional 100,000 people expected to move into the area over the next 30 years, encouraging people to switch from using their cars will help ease congestion on an already busy road network and reduce carbon emissions in Auckland,” [Kiwirail’s COO for capital projects] David Gordon said.

“We’re working closely with Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi to plan and construct the transport infrastructure required to support the expected growth in South Auckland,” he said.

Central City parking woes worsen in Level 3

We’ve noticed lots of chat on Twitter this week about cars parked all over the central city’s nice paved shared spaces, even more so than they are in normal times. Hopefully MP Chloe Swarbrick turning her attention to AT will make the difference and get some enforcement happening? We’re with you, Chloe!

Generation-defining local body elections in Wellington

With housing density, underground infrastructure, getting Wellington moving, and an ambitious cycling plan all making headlines for Wellington in the last few months, the city is heading into high-stakes local body elections next year. Stuff’s Joel MacManus writes about the issues on the table for the upcoming elections. Watch this space…

The debate around the Wellington Spatial Plan was most divisive of this triennium, as the city argued about how to balance character protections for existing homes with the need for higher-density apartment buildings.

On balance, the pro-density crowd probably won the day. Character protections were slashed and building height limits were raised across the city

The changes were strongly opposed by most residents’ associations – groups that hold enormous sway in the world of local politics.

Will there be a backlash of older, home-owning conservative voters who want these policies stripped back, or will we see a wave of frustrated renters and would-be buyers who push the council to make even more aggressive moves?

Trains dominate planes in Italy

CNN reports that Italy’s national airline has hemorrhaged passengers to the country’s high speed trains over the last decade. Now, more than two-thirds of travellers between Rome and Milan, Italy’s busiest business route, travel by train.

Traveling those near-400 miles between Milan and Rome takes as little as 2 hours and 59 minutes. And, of course, the train stations are in the city center, and there’s no need to turn up long before your train — the doors close two minutes before departure.
Contrast that to a minimum half-hour drive to Rome’s Fiumicino, checking in 90 minutes before departure, an hour in the air and then landing outside Milan — Linate airport, the closest, is about 20 minutes’ drive into town — and it’s obvious why people are opting for the train.
Which leads you to wonder, as Italy’s national airline prepares to shut down on October 15 — did the high-speed railways kill Alitalia?
An Italian high speed train station, via CNN

The effect of freeways on European and American cities

Let’s stay in Italy (if only!) with this twitter thread comparing the way freeways were built in American and European cities. Italy embarked on a comprehensive road building programme in the middle of last century, just like the USA, but the effects on its cities were very different. From further down the thread:

The single main difference is maybe less in the quantity and rapidity of the development, but how it was developed: the Italian one, was essentially intended as an intercity network that barely brushed past cities quite far from the core.


Electrification of mass transit

A fascinating long read at the New York Times about the ‘quiet revolution’ of mass transit in places as diverse as Berlin, Bogota, and the Norwegian Fjords.

Berlin is reviving electric tram lines that were ripped out when the Berlin Wall went up. Bogotá is building cable cars that cut through the clouds to connect working-class communities perched on faraway hills. Bergen, a city by the fjords in western Norway, is moving its public ferries away from diesel and onto batteries — a remarkable shift in a petrostate that has for decades enriched itself from the sale of oil and gas and that now wants to be a leader in marine vessels for the electric age.

For these cites, electrification of mass transport is one way they’re tackling their climate emissions. Transport accounts for about a third of emissions in urban areas. These cities are still on the forefront of the change.

At the moment, only 16 percent of city buses worldwide are electric. The electric switch will need to accelerate, and cities will have to make mass transit more attractive, so fewer people rely on automobiles.

“It has become a reasonable position to advocate for less space for cars,” said Felix Creutzig, a transportation specialist at the Mercator Research Center in Berlin. “Ten years ago, it was not even allowed to be said. But now you can say it.”

Other forms of transport are going electric too, such as the TransMiCable gondolas in Bogota.

… for Fredy Cuesta Valencia, a Bogotá schoolteacher, what really matters is that the TransMiCable has given him back his time.

He used to spend two hours, on two slow buses, crawling through the hills to reach the school where he teaches. Once, he said, traffic was so backed up none of the teachers could arrive on time. Students waited outside for hours.

Now, it takes him 40 minutes to get to work, an hour at worst. There’s Wi-Fi. Clouds. Rooftops below.

“It’s a lot less stress,” said Mr. Cuesta, 60, a folk dance teacher. “I check my phone, I look at the city, I relax.”

The TransMiCable Gondolas in Bogota – via The New York Times

The best things in life are freeing: open streets in New York City

We’ve mentioned NYC’s covid-response open streets programme on here before, and  have covered the New York cycling boom and things like the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane. It looks like momentum is still behind the programme. Here’s a video from venerable streets-for-people advocates at Transportation Alternatives:

And school kids thronging an open street in Queens:

The sections of open streets are mapped on Google Maps. The section in the tweet above is huge, stretching more than 20 blocks:

Open streets in Queens, from Google Maps

A public living room for the city: Oslo’s new library

Oslo’s new public library sits on the city’s waterfront, just behind the architecturally famous Opera house. It’s been designed as a big, multi-functional public space and it looks incredible.


Kyoto Station and all of its escalators

We’re just including this because we know some (most??) of you will enjoy looking at it as much as we did:

12 floors of escalators in Kyoto Station, via Reddit

The Central Area Plan

A fascinating article on The Auckland History Initiative by Nancy Mitchelson about the 1970s Central Area Plan for Auckland’s downtown. The issues then are familiar to us now: pedestrianisation of Queen Street, the demands of motor cars, provision for residents in the city centre, comprehensive public transport.

The pedestrianisation of part of Queen Street was considered as an option in Central Area Proposals (1971). However, it was left out of the Central Area Plan due to proposed underground rail works.[14] The planned rail works, seemingly like many other council projects at the time, came to a swift end, completely disregarding the need for a multi modal public transport network as recommended by the 1954 De Leuw Cather Report.[15]

A tram-filled Queen Street in the 1940s. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A816.

Kua mutu mātau. That’s all from us – have a lovely weekend, and enjoy those parks and beaches in the spring sunshine.

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  1. And also from Wellington this week was a story about a cycling midwife. On TV there is the popular series “Call the Midwife”. In the past in London midwives did travel by bike. With 15 minute neighbourhoods providing such services by bike becomes possible (with electric or biofueled powered ambulances still there in case of emergencies) https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/126581956/kpiti-midwife-who-cycles-to-births-aims-to-deliver-on-cycling-campaign-for-safer-street-crossing

    1. A few words of advice…

      Don’t forget you bag in the restaurant at the top of those 12 escalators when you are running late for your train and realise once you have reached the bottom.

    2. Kyoto is easy and stress free.
      Shinjuku is an absolute warren. Not fun when navigating a short connection from train to the last service of the day of a small bus company with the wife & kids in tow. There are multiple bus terminals on multiple levels from multiple exits.
      Something of note from the Kyoto escalators is the direct connections and short walking distances between them. Contrast to K’Rd station Beresford entrance.

      1. With Shinjuku at least if you know what entrance you’re at and where the line you need to be is, you can follow the signs (it’s the same at Kyoto, tbf). But the only issue I had with Kyoto is that the sheer distance between the top and bottom level means that it feels like you’re gonna miss your next service lol

  2. “transport has 40% of the material (28 out of 71 pages) out the seven sectors”

    Still undercooked I’d say, given transport is responsible for 47% of Auckland’s emissions.

  3. Apparently AT will start enforcing the illegal parking in the city centre today: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/local-government/126673381/covid19-illegal-auckland-parkers-face-tickets-during-lockdown-after-political-nudge

    Shouldn’t have to take an MP to step in, AT. And there are a couple of problems:

    1/ What about the rest of the city? Do we not matter? Cars – and particularly utes, at the moment – are blocking our footpaths, forcing us onto the roads that should have emergency speed limits on them, but don’t. It’s not safe.

    2/ Who gave AT the right to forego revenue anyway, given the Covid budgetary pressures? The decision is financially irresponsible. The Council CEO should be able to understand $ even if he can’t understand other risks.

    3/ “Auckland Transport (AT) had maintained until midweek that it would only ticket where safety was an issue, or in response to complaints of obstruction, but succumbed to mounting complaints.” – AT’s version of “where safety is an issue” is clearly at complete odds with everyone else’s – and doesn’t match their own Vision Zero strategy.

    The Councillors have been fighting this for so long, but I think it’s time they got down to the really basic stuff: Whoever in AT is making the decisions about parking enforcement are making “safety” shit up. This needs to be tackled.

    1. Would kill for an app where people can self report parking. Something that links in the time, GPS data and photos you take to cut out the parking wardens. Would be a boon for liveability in the city

      1. The current system is broken. I reported a car obstructing our drive and three hours later it was still there. And then the next day the driver parked it in the same place.

        The reporting system is also clumsy and cumbersome.

    2. “Who gave AT the right to forego revenue anyway, given the Covid budgetary pressures? ”
      And an even more general question, who gave AT the mandate to forgo revenue at any time by pricing some parking at the same price it was at least five years ago i.e. weekend car park building prices.

      Why doesn’t the AT Parking Strategy provide that, as a base increase, all parking prices will move by the increase in inflation each year?

    1. They were given four hours to install it… hmmm… imagine that here.

      Actually, what we need here is a coordinated programme for installing walking and cycling bridges, designed for easy installation – but it might be pushing too much to try to get the design streamlined for installation within four hours.

        1. I dont know that that bridge would be legal here. Doesn’t meet any disability requirements, not even any landings for people to rest on. I’m honestly surprised they can build that in the UK

          The design is nice though, looks very light and low cost. Make the ramps longer, a bit of dirt at the ends of the ramp for an embankment would cut down on a bit of cost there. They could have the same weight parts, they might just need a couple extra sections to make the ramps long.

        2. Ooh thank you for that. They are nice! Happy to see a programme is underway – thought it was NZ at first.

          Now I need to ask WK what they’re doing. And if cycling can be included.

  4. From the ERP:
    “In the first budget period, we will:
     make regulatory changes to streamline public consultation requirements and make it easier for councils to trial street/road changes that support travel by public transport, walking, and cycling, including low-traffic neighbourhoods.
     Work with Waka Kotahi to rapidly change streets nationwide that promote multimodal transport
     investigate changes to policy and funding settings to ensure that Waka Kotahi and road- controlling authorities maximise opportunities to ‘build back better’ when doing street renewals, to better utilise road space for multimodal transport
     give extra support for community programmes promoting street reallocation.
    Change regulation to make it easier for local government to reallocate road/street space rapidly for public transport, walking, cycling and shared mobility in urban areas, and create an expectation that this will occur. ”

    Moving in the right direction but I suspect “make it easier” won’t be enough. It will have to be a requirement accompanied by wholesale changes of funding.

    Yes, it’s disappointing that the ERP is still in such a partial state, but pause to remember what a huge change it represents from the past and present.

    1. Yes, and I think the CCC has helped move this conversation forward. The MoT seems to have entered a much more progressive phase.

      I’m not seeing the required shift at management levels of WK, though, who seem to be the fly in the ointment, despite having progress staff lower down.

  5. I read many good stories of progressive cities in the world introducing bikeways and active transport. But in NZ we are very resistant. Here we have too many conservative people who won’t accept apartments above 3 levels, who support sprawl on good farmland, who think that most families should be spending hours on the road each day, who expect petrol prices will always be low and parking free, who don’t care about the $billions spent on needless infrastructure, who don’t care about climate change and the coming threats to our coastlines.
    We have many enlightened people living here and we should expect better.
    But Waka Kotahi and AT are both opaque organisations. On a regular basis they are obstructing progress.
    No bikeways near schools, overly expensive,$70mil, train stations, cycle bridge so expensive so as to create division, new roads with low benefit/cost, low use bikeways alongside rail lines or highways, no pedestrian crossings at highways or busy intersections, traffic lights against pedestrians, no enforcement of parking, low cost car parks, train stations built in wrong place (Parnell, Drury), slip lanes installed to benefit cars, only 2% of money spent on bikeways, unconnected bikways such as to the airport which stops 1km short of the place and people won’t use it, long consultations on just about every pathway such as at Kingsland school on the NW.
    Those people in AT and Waka Kotahi are happily spending huge $30 billion on projects that wont’t do much for NZs productivity. They will happily spend this money on gold plated low benefit projects. They don’t care about our education and health sectors which need more. Just a $billion invested in research and development in our businesses would create more jobs. The threat from multinationals to our NZ businesses is real and we need to support our own companies and lower their costs.

  6. Not to mention the fuel price is creeping closer to $3/litre. People will want to use alternative form of transport ie e-bikes, bikes, scooters and public transports etc, in order to keep the cost down. We do not have a full network cycleways and buslanes in Auckland. These should be the priority.

    1. I am watching that fuel price very closely also good point about networks get them in place even if frequency of public transport is not flash in the first instance. Ditto the bike and walking have a coherent network. And see my comment below on Intercity travel. The alternative to car dependency is to have a low carbon alternative.

  7. I have closely examined the Stuff article on the Emissions Reduction Plan I couldn’t face the real thing. Nothing about long distant buses. Surely they have the potential to reduce VKT’s. I won’t get into another rural/town/urban debate so no figures from me but if anyone has some numbers I would like to see them. So my suggestion because I don’t do anti car parking stuff is Govt works with Intercity to electrify their fleet and provide charging infrastructure. In addition Govt provides grants for Councils to provide bus stations in town centres and a limited number of bus stops on route. The bus stops could be mandated in exchange for ECCA grants for electrification. It would be good to avoid the situation where a bus sails right past where the passenger wants to go and dumps them in the middle of town where they then need to either catch another bus or taxi or summon a friend or family member to pick them up. I know this would be a different model to other Public transport but why not.

    1. Here you go: “We also need to provide better travel choices in New Zealand’s regions and rural areas, including by public transport. Too many parts of regional New Zealand are only accessible by private vehicle. In the first budget period [2022-25] we will develop clearer guidance on the viability of interregional passenger rail, coach, and bus services, and improve the way these projects are planned, funded, and delivered. We will look at travel options for [rural and provincial] areas, particularly for the transport disadvantaged… Several submissions on Hīkina te Kohupara highlighted the need for greater consideration of the role of public transport, walking and cycling in rural communities, and the importance of interregional connections.”

      1. I actually think we should run inter-urban buses in the same way we run urban ones. I.e. the government sets the fares, routes, and schedules and collects revenues then just pays a company to run the buses.

      2. They’re talking rubbish.
        There is no ‘ better travel choices in New Zealand’s regions and rural areas’ than a car.
        It’s that simple.

        1. I think by better travel choices, they mean that there should be more than one option available for choice. Not that somehow a comprehensive bus system should be a better option than driving.

          It shouldn’t be physically impossible to live in a small community without access to a car / licence. My widowed grandma shouldn’t really be forced out of home and into a rest home as soon as she is no longer capable of driving. It leads to poor options all round. Inevitably the police and courts are extremely hesitant to take peoples licences, and leads to unsafe road conditions for everyone. There was a motorcyclist killed from a confused wrong way driver on a motorway in Wellington for example a couple years ago. Should never have happened that she still had a licence, but pressure from elderly political groups, because of these issues, keeps there from being a comprehensive driver testing program for elderly.

          Even some once a day each way, flag down service between settlements of 100+ People is pretty feasible and functional. Could be integrated into the rural school bus system. Would give huge freedom to kids too. I grew up on a farm and its a prison compared to the options available to kids in cities.

        2. They know exactly what they’re saying jack.
          It’s the same cars are bad mkay crap over and over as though a few buses and cycle lanes will make everything perfect and peachy and people are gonna skip off into the sunset in a low energy nirvana.

        3. Its pretty clear they mean better choices, not better options.

          Which is of course, reasonable. Unless you just hate anything thats not a car getting a share of the transport spend.

        4. You have a point, public transport works better within and between dense population centres. Most of NZ is the opposite of that.

          What if we did better connecting the regional and local hubs by bus, coach and train?

          Imagine mum dropping the teens off at the station for their daytrip into the Smoke, then picking them up in the evening, back to the farm.

  8. Does anyone see a future for public transport ?

    Who wants to share a bus or train with someone who refuses to wear a mask
    or get vaccinated against Covid ?

    How about seperate train carriages, like the old days ?

    1. Plenty of other countries who had a far rougher time with covid are going ahead with, or continuing to expand transit plans.

      It changes little in my mind, perhaps we should concentrate more on non stereotypical commuter trips, off peak or counter peak. There are quite a few PT investment opportunities that would concentrate on those kinds of trips. But honestly that change should have happened long ago.

      Some more accommodations should be made to increase airflow through vehicles, and maybe make more surfaces anti-microbial. Like translink in Vancouver has been experimenting with, with copper surfaces.

      All of the reasons public transit made sense before, still make sense today. The questions about city center office demand and how work from home would impact things are all worked out, almost every company brought people back in last time, little reason to think that this time is any different. Especially because its looking like companies will be able to enact vaccine mandates. Transit oriented development will continue apace.

      Who wants to share a bus or train with someone who refuses to wear a mask or get vaccinated against Covid ?
      Going by sickness rates of the vaccinated, those unvaccinated taking the train have a lot more to be worried about.

      The only thing I’m worried about is this being the next mike hosking talking point. And that the Greater Auckland and / or the general transport conversation is going to have to put a lot of energy into again proving this (like all the others) talking point wrong.

  9. Gondolas are have got quite popular recently. Not a general solution (speed is too slow) but can be a cheap way over some difficult routes.

    I did a little article looking at options in Auckland. Started with a line over the harbour near the Bridge. It works although I’m not convinced of the demand.

    An option I found more promising was Elliot Street to The University to Parnell Station to Parnell. Roughly 10 minutes end-to-end and with a city station right next to Aotea CRL Station it could be quite busy.


    I couldn’t find any other good routes but the Aotea to Parnell one might be work more study.

    1. Very interesting, SimonL.

      I think there is an ongoing proposal to open the Albert park tunnels, which would (I think, from memory), link Parnell to Aotea via the University.

      Regarding the Harbour Bridge, i think that idea would be trumped either by the relinquishing of a lane or via the combined PT-active mode bridge. Which is a bit of a shame because I think this would be a great solution on a number of fronts.

      Do you know if the Queenstown proposal is going ahead? Many years back, a group promoted one in Palmy (PalmyLink) up Fitzherbert Ave, linking the University with The Square. Didn’t eventuate though. An extension from the Square to the railway station would have been interesting – its a straight, flat line, until you get to the University. But I guess the cost-benefit of these things often lose out to better bus frequency.

      1. I’m not sure how the tunnels will get to Parnell. Big drop in height from the University down to Grafton Gully and then back up to Parnell.

        The hills are what give the cable car an advantage. Cable cars work best across difficult terrain where they can take a direct route while others options involve expensive tunnels/bridges or going a roundabout way.

        The Queenstown upgrade seems to be going ahead, although delayed by covid.

        Here is a video on the Massey line. Looks plausible although 9 minutes seems optimistic, probably closer to 12. Like you say an improved bus route won out. The route is double the length of the Elliot St to Parnell route.

  10. Trains are not killing Alitalia, the Unions are.
    The first flights every morning between Milan and Rome are basically full of staff that insist they have the right to live 400 kms away from their place of work and it’s up to their employer to get them to work.
    Also the Unions are mafia controlled. In the early 2000’s the airline was in dispute with the engineers union. They then found an aircraft that had the bolts that connect the tail fin to the fuselage had all been loosened.

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