Kia ora! You’ll be reading this on day 101 of lockdown. Hope you’re all holding up OK. It’s a stacked roundup this week, we’ve got lots of reading for your weekend.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • Monday’s post by Matt dove into plans for the Eastern Busway.
  • Tuesday’s post, by Marita, looked at how services and deliveries can shift modes to make our streets more people-friendly.
  • On Wednesday, a guest post from journalist Hayden Donnell took on the criticisms of the new Medium Density Residential Standards.
  • Yesterday, Matt wrote about AT’s plans to make 60kms of existing painted cyclelanes safer, and progress on a handful of other cycling projects.

Auckland Council’s CCOs welcome next generation interns

Exciting to see next year’s intern directors welcomed onto the boards of Auckland Council’s Council Controlled Organisations. The internship programme is designed to mentor people embarking on a governance career, and increase diversity of the CCOs’ boards.

Congratulations to the four intern directors for 2022-2023: Izzy Horrocks (AT), Jenny Solomon (Auckland Unlimited), Pulotu Selio Solomon (Eke Panuku) and Wi Pere Mita (Watercare Services).

Manukau to Wiri bridge upgrade

The completed Manukau to Wiri bridge looks great, with a bi-directional protected cycleway and some really nicely designed lighting.

Allies in streateries

Still holding out hope for special licensing to emerge that will allow Auckland restaurants, bars and cafes to expand onto the street to create safe dining spaces for our Covid-summer. We haven’t heard of any progress, yet – but look, we’re not the only ones asking.* Comedian Chris Parker’s instagram plea was taken up by Auckland MP Chloe Swarbrick.

Let’s do as Chloe says: but if you want to see it happen, please help us along and start asking for it!

Chloe’s listening to her constituents. Via Instagram

*this guy just wants to dine al fresco, too.

(Two) green bus stops

Presented without comment.

Other than: street trees are another excellent way to respond to the changing climate.

The future is here, and the ferries are electric

The world is going electric, and it’s incredibly exciting. This article on Stuff tells the story of the New Zealand boat-building companies innovating in the electric ferry space.

An all electric 135-seat catamaran built by East by West Ferries is weeks away from joining the company’s cross-harbour fleet. The ferry, named Ika Rere (flying fish), is outperforming the designers’ expectations.

Partners included Whangārei-based McKay – a big marine electrics and electronics builder – and SSC Design in Auckland. So far, Ika Rere has outperformed the design expectations.

“With the boat going faster than we thought, our resistance is down, therefore energy use is below what we expected – we can go further and faster,” said Foote.

The Ika Rere being lowered into the harbour. Source: East by West Ferries

In Auckland, EV Maritime are close to releasing their electric ferry in the Waitematā.

Its hopes are linked to Auckland Transport’s protracted work to devise a new strategy and funding for up to 20 public transport ferries, but it also has eyes overseas.

“Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, all have significant ferry fleets doing long distances, that have to go fast –there are substantial fleets of diesel ferries serving those cities,” said Michael Eaglen, CEO and co-founder.

He said fast electric commuter ferries were a logical part of the market to start in: “They are such busy boats, commuter ferries work hard, so lower operating costs give a real payback for investment.”

A company called Seachange are designing the foiling version:

An illustration of Seachange’s foiling electric ferry

And a company called Zerojet are developing a battery-powered jet propulsion engine for runabouts.

Zerojet hopes to have the first boats in the water before Christmas, aiming for 100 local sales before selling into the world market, where production boat builders have already shown strong interest.

“There’s huge demand from overseas – we’ve got more demand than we know what to do with, and people are very excited about the product,” said Bex Rempel, the co-founder and chief executive.

Pōneke to trial free public transport

Greater Wellington Regional Council has voted in favour of a month-long trial of free or discounted public transport.

It’s reported the month-long trial will be used to sample new fare structures and these would apply to all bus and train services across Wellington.

News of this trail follows hot on the tails of another GRWC & Metlink trail on the use of the Snapper card on Wellington’s Johnsonville line as well as removing cash from some express services.

It looks like the trial will also feed into the development of Project NEXT, Waka Kōtahi’s programme to develop a nationwide ticketing system.

Micro-mobility comes to Palmy

Always interesting to read about transport issues in Aotearoa’s smaller towns and regions. This opinion piece by Steve Sannard on Stuff celebrates the introduction of e-scooter rental to Palmerston North.

My crystal ball tells me that micro-mobility is the future of personal transport in cities, and I’d like to think the introduction of scooters is a forward-thinking approach taken by our city council.

However, it’s not all micro-mobility dreams for Palmy: the other transport news in the piece is the planned completion of an 80-year old ring-road plan. Sannard points out how backward this planning is:

So, we are about to construct a roading initiative that was conceived in the 1960s. This was the time of low performing cars like Hillmans and Humbers, and a highway speed limit of 90kph; back when there was a whiff of petrol when starting the engine with the choke fully pulled, and wee breaks at the top of big hills to stop it from overheating.

Liveability learnings in Sydney

There are some fascinating findings in this article on the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on a broad study of the liveability of the cities suburbs. Different qualities were valued by women than by men:

The survey found men and women had different approaches to improving safety: “Men tended to request more surveillance while the solutions proposed by women had a stronger focus on making the space feel safer, especially with adequate lighting along footpaths that link housing and local centres.”

The Covid-19 pandemic exarcerbated preferences for nature and neighbourhood amenities over ease of driving and parking:

Marian Peters grew up in Colyton in western Sydney, but she struggles to name its best features.

“We don’t have trees in the street,” she said. “It’s stale – just cars and tar. There’s nothing refreshing.”

Ms Peters said the suburb near Mount Druitt has few trees or walking paths and cycleways. During the COVID-19 lockdown, her family was stuck indoors because there was “nothing to do outside”.

Single-house zoning could be removed in Toronto

It’s not just Auckland that’s confronting the effects of density-restricting zoning. Toronto, facing a growing affordability crisis, is considering a progressive planning policy that will allow ‘multiplexes’ to be built in its ‘leafy suburbs’ (note that description – sound familiar?).

These are not the questions that city planning in Toronto – or in general – has been asking over the past half-century. Planning has been obsessed with protecting “neighbourhood character.” Toronto’s Neighbourhoods (they get a capital N in city policy documents) are reserved mostly for houses.

This is known as “exclusionary zoning,” and in 2021 it locks down much of the city for multimillionaires. And it is exactly the kind of policy that New Zealand, Vancouver and the states of California and Oregon are aiming to change. Toronto is also considering reform through a planning effort called Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods.

Testing polluter-pays road pricing

Streetsblog reports on the largest-ever study of a ‘polluter pays’ pricing scheme. The Swiss scheme has a sophisticated app that bundles all of the tangible and intangible ‘costs’ of a given trip into one, and then reports back to the user their culmulative transport costs. The study gave users a ‘budget’ and tested incentives, such as giving the balance of the budget back in cash if a user ‘underspent’.

The result? “Introducing a transport pricing scheme based on external costs that raises transport costs, on average, by 10 percent would lead to a reduction in the external costs of transport by 3.1 percent,” the researchers wrote — meaning that when drivers are forced to pay something even a little bit closer to the real costs of their preferred mode, they find ways to drive less.

A flock of tactical road-calming sheep in Switzerland. Not part of the pricing trial, image via Inhabitat

Austin, Texas: the next great biking city

It’s so exciting to hear about mode-shift progress in North American cities, where efforts to build good cycling networks come up against the same kinds of barriers we face here. Austin, Texas has achieved real momentum in the construction of its ‘All Ages and Abilities Cycling Network’ (love that name.) It hasn’t been totally smooth: despite buy-in on the plan since 2014, the first few years of construction were too slow, so in 2018, city leaders intervened.

A significant acceleration of its AAA bicycle network was determined to be the best course of action. MoveATX — a coalition of community leaders, advocates, activists and local organizations — was founded in order to support the city’s efforts, creating a potent partnership with ATD that has achieved far more together than either would have been able to accomplish alone.

And in November 2020, residents of Austin voted for a further expansion of the network that exceeds even Paris’ impressive commitments.

Austin’s cycle network ‘Buildout Status Map’ showing progress on the delivery of the netowork. Source: AAA ArcGIS

The construction of car-dependency

This is super cool (if a bit horrifying): a visual representation of a freeway being built through neighbourhoods and homes in Oakland, California. It’s a great reminder of the radical change that cars wrought on towns and cities – and that we’re capable of radically changing again.

White Castle traffic jam

I don’t know what a White Castle is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not worth the wait.

Hochstetter’s map in 3D

This beautiful 3D rendering of Hochstetter’s map of the Auckland Volcanic Field was created by South Arrow Maps.

Image via South Arrow Maps

Transporty podcasts for your weekend

If you’re a podcast person, you might enjoy listening to:

The excellent Dr. Kirsty Wild from the University of Auckland talking about streetscape reallocation on the This Climate Business podcast.

And on The Daily (spotify link below), an examination of the effects of an expressway on the predominantly black New Orleans community it was built through, and how President Biden can set it right.

Rebecca Solnit on COP and what next

Finally, a couple of weeks after the conclusion of COP in Glasgow, here’s an essay we found galvanising, by Rebecca Solnit. As usual, Solnit manages to strike both the enormity of the change the climate crisis demands of us, and a real sense of hope and possibility.

The world as we knew it is coming to an end, and it’s up to us how it ends and what comes after. It’s the end of the age of fossil fuel, but if the fossil-fuel corporations have their way the ending will be delayed as long as possible, with as much carbon burned as possible. If the rest of us prevail, we will radically reduce our use of those fuels by 2030, and almost entirely by 2050. We will meet climate change with real change, and defeat the fossil-fuel industry in the next nine years.

Do head over to The Guardian and read it. Solnit reminds us, among other things, that despite failures at COP, a lot of progress is already happening, that the future is not yet written, and that imagination is our superpower.

That’s all from us – have a wonderful weekend, stay safe and see you on Monday 🙂

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  1. The comment about Toronto’s housing is interesting. Have a read of this:

    “Goal A: Increase supply
    Action: Increase Density + Free up land.
    Promote low-rise infill and intensification within neighbourhoods.
    Expand permission for semis, duplex, triplex, etc ie basement suites, garden suites and laneway suites.
    Promote low to mid-rise intensification along corridors, particularly those with frequent PT.
    Promote mid to high-rise intensification within Centres.

    Goal B: Making Housing Financially Attainable
    Action: Reduce Construction Costs.
    Changes to Building Code (and remove regulatory hurdles).
    Financial Model Opportunities.

    Goal C: Address the Urgency
    Action: Speed up delivery, expedite approvals, incentivise construction methods.”

    Does this sound like NZ Government policy at present? Seems pretty close to me, given the discussion on here earlier this week. We are not the only country suffering from a housing crisis. It’s actually taken directly from a book about Toronto’s housing Crisis, called “House Divided” (Bozikovic et al, 2019), which proposes a three goal solution to Housing Affordability.

  2. Great to see the level of innovation displayed by the Kiwi electric ferry builders. Wouldn’t it be good to see similar Kiwi can do in light and heavy rail instead of Kiwirails ancient Diesel Locomotives hauling ancient but refurbished carriages or purchasing ready to run Electric Multi Units from major world suppliers.
    Light rail to Mount Roskill with Kiwi built train sets.

    1. I’m interested in the speed advantages. How much quicker on some of our routes?

      On the short jaunts like Devonport it would make little difference. But Gulf Harbour at 50mins could do with a trim. And a weekend service.

      1. 85km/h on cook strait for the hydrofoiling electric ferry. For safety around Auckland I doubt they could go any faster. I’ve been on the gulf harbour ferry when evasive action was required to avoid kayakers.

    1. I don’t get anyone would like Sydney. The whole place seems divided by 4 lane roads with 60km speed limits everywhere, and crazy drivers. Even when I was in the city centre I remember having to wait ages for pedestrian crossings. Not many places make Auckland look pedestrian friendly…

      1. Because of the harbour, that’s why ! World’s greatest harbour, made much better use of than in Auckland or Wellington. It’s brilliant…. Ferry services everywhere, houses down to the water’s edge, so many inlets and secret waterways. Maybe you should get off the road Jimbo…

        1. Yes it is lovely to look at. But then you have to try and get around. Try that on a really hot day. Sydney would be great other than:
          Too difficult to get anywhere.
          Too many people all trying to get there at once.
          Too frickin hot.
          Most corruption in Australia ( and that bar is very low).
          Worst police force.
          Expensive housing.
          Everyone seems to be running a scam.

          Other than those problems it would be great.

        2. I enjoyed it. But then I always lived city center/fringe and always had good access to PT when I needed it. In that context its tough to beat.

          Never bought a house, but isnt it cheaper than Auckland (relative to the average wage)?

      2. The inner city is car choked, but at least there is an inner city. They came close to the Auckland model of demolishing it all for motorways everywhere.

  3. As a Manawatu resident, I can say that the ring road around the Palmy CBD in theory would be a great tool to allow drivers to bypass the CBD and make it a safer and more pleasant place for pedestrians and cyclists. The problem is, as long as Church Street goes right through the middle of the city and has plenty of space for traffic, drivers aren’t going to switch to the ring road. The council needs to block of Church Street at some point in the middle (kinda like Auckland’s A4E). This would make using the ring road the most efficient route for thousands more drivers each day.

    1. The PN council does have traffic calming in the CBD on its agenda but I’m not sure how far along it is. A lot of CBD traffic is through traffic or is cruising for an on-street parking space. Unfortunately the single step they have taken so far, stopping right turns from Church Street into The Square, was met with a chorus of complaint and was reversed almost immediately. The SE corner of The Square now has a traffic jam most of the day. Amongst other things this holds up the buses on their way to the central bus station. But the planned response is not to reduce cars, it’s to divert buses away from The Square to the east, which would make journeys to the west side longer.

      1. The city centre seemed a horrible mess of cars last time I was there. Everyone drives everywhere because they can.

  4. The green bus stops make me laugh.

    I had a longer than usual wait at Victoria Park recently for the Outer Link bus. I had to go and sit on the footpath at a distance from the bus shelters, as they were starting to make me sweat and give me a headache. Those horrid dynamic advertising ends to the bus shelters are noisy and hot, and clearly waste a whole lot of energy.

    There’s a certain pattern to good sustainable practice, and it does indeed involve knocking out the most stupid and unsustainable practices first. I’m also sick of the bus network having to support itself with advertising dollar revenue when the driving mode continues to impose enormous externalities on society.

      1. Funding the transport system is a big subject, Bus Driver, as I’m sure you’re aware. There are two general thrusts: capturing the externalities imposed by driving, via higher charges for vehicle ownership, driving and parking, so that less of the taxes and rates are used to subsidise driving. And investing properly in the sustainable modes in order to increase ridership to the point where the networks become more self-supporting.

    1. At least there is still a bus stop. I attempted to catch the 82 where I often catch it, near the old CityWorks depot. For those who don’t know the area, this is close to the one of the highest densities of residential accommodation in Auckland (the Zest and other apartments, with more development occurring). The 82 goes to a metropolitan centre. Why has AT decided to remove such a stop? Ah that’s right – to free up kerbside space. For parking? Sometimes I wonder whether there is anyone in AT who cares about the minutiae of PT transport systems, with regular stops in high density areas being important. A fast bus journey is not a huge advantage if it takes 10 minutes to get on the bus.
      It’s important to add that AT don’t even care about the fast journey with the 82 bus lane about to be removed. @chrisdarby, simply a disgrace. And Richard Hills, you are supposedly leading the city’s climate response – this is an embarrassing start!

  5. Proposed GWRC free public transport trial is weekends only and to do with accessing the impact of weekly fare caps (which would effectively give free weekend trips if used daily during the week). (See order paper for 25/11/21 GWRC Transport Committee meeting.) Snapper is disappointing disintegrated:

    [rant] GWRC is, as usual, timid & useless on integrated fares & ticketing. Having introduced Snapper on the Johnsonville line, you’d think there would be no transfer penalty for a bus-train connection (same fares & fare structure for bus & train). But no this is Wellington, where passengers have to be charged extra for the inconvience. FFS this is the 21st century, GWRC sort it out. Stop the endless clowning round, the endless ‘trials’ to find out what is already known from elsewhere, & actually get on do it. Christchurch has had daily & weekly fare caps for over 10 years. And managed to do so with technology much more basic than the current Snapper system. [/rant]

    1. It wasn’t that long ago they were charging bicycles an extra adult fare to discourage them being taken on trains. Even on an empty Sunday afternoon service. Of course, cash only and no ticket machines.

    2. “Proposed GWRC free public transport trial is weekends only”

      could we stop calling it “Free public transport” It is not free. It is paid for by ratepayers. It should be called Ratepayer Funded Public Transport. The same applies to “free public event” or “free public art” or “free classical music concert”

  6. Potentially cities could compete more for residents on housing costs. Arguably this is what Texas has been doing by having minimal zoning laws. The climate is awful, and social services are poor, but because housing is affordable population growth has been high. Some relatively left-leaning low-growth cities like Minneapolis in Minnesota have also been abolishing single house zoning to make housing more affordable. The same could be done by some NZ cities, although the conservatism of the older residents who dominate local govt politics may stand in the way. However, if NZ continues to have high housing affordability there is likely to continue to be a population outflow overseas.

    1. If they keep our immigration rate low then this may occur. I think Auckland’s population has already decreased, it would be a real wake up call to the council if that continued. (FYI I am not arguing they should keep immigration low, just that it could have that outcome).

    2. NZ has had high housing affordability for years now, any population outflow during that time was completely swamped by a massive inflow. It took Immigration Minister Covid to get it under control.

      1. So it’s under control at the moment, is it? Funny that: I hadn’t noticed anything like that. I thought it was more out of control than ever?

  7. For those that are interested the Tunnel under K’rd has marked a completion milestone with the work’s of their Roadheaders that have now completed their work in forming the station tunnels with the final stage in boring through to the underside of the station building in Mercury lane , and the TBM getting closer to the next stage to Aotea .

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