Header image: Christmas Lights on Britomart. By Brett Phibbs via NZ Herald.

Tēnā koutou, and welcome to day one of the traffic-light system in Aotearoa.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • Monday’s post was a guest post by Hamish Mackie, summarising research that followed the various Innovating Streets for People projects around the motu
  • On Tuesday, Jolisa and Marita looked around at the car-clogged carparks of Auckland’s lovely urban beaches and wondered how getting to the beach could work better for everyone.
  • Wednesday’s post, by Matt, looked at the disadvantages of tunnelled light rail over surface light rail, or tunnelled light metro.
  • Yesterday, we published a guest post by Francis McRae challenging some of the critcisms that have been levelled at the Medium Density Residential Standards.

Auckland’s progress on climate change

progress report on Council and Auckland Transport’s Transport Emissions Reductions Plan was presented to the Environment and Climate Change Committee yesterday and it looks good. Modeshift – and especially active modes – have been highlighted as the most important lever. Todd Niall has written briefly about it here.

The mayor is proposing an annual budget that includes a targeted climate rate to create a ringfenced $1 billion climate action package, which should get some much-needed projects up and happening, although his assumption that nearly half will be provided by central government means things could end up messy if this turns out to be overly optimistic.

Jade Kake’s recipe for improving the MDRS

This is a really excellent article by architectural designer and housing advocate Jade Kake on how the Medium Density Resitential Standards can be improved to ensure they achieve both good design and density. Drawing on submissions from groups like The Coalition for More Homes, The New Zealand Green Building Council, and A City for People, she steps through a number of clear improvements to the proposed bill.

Kake covers everything from removing setbacks and height in relation to boundary rules, which many designers and advocates have raised, to introducing mixed-use zoning, to incentivising energy-efficient housing and universal design.

There’s been a lot of debate about the MDRS on Greater Auckland in the last couple of weeks; we think Kake’s article does a great job of stepping through practical suggestions that will make the Standards better.

No known Covid transmission on public transport during Delta outbreak

We were just wondering if anything was known about potential transmission of Covid-19 on public transport, when we came across this article on Stuff from earlier in the week. But it looks like public transport is pretty safe –

AT spokesman Blake Crayton-Brown said none of its employees or passengers had caught Covid-19 while using public transport during the Delta outbreak. That’s despite more than 170 trips being identified as locations of interest.

“Mask-wearing seems to be playing a particularly strong role in helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on public transport.”

A South Korean study simulated the movement of public transport passengers at peak hours and found mandatory mask-wearing reduced infection rates by 93.5 per cent.

City Rail link hits deepest point of K’Rd Station

City Rail Link construction made it to 27.5m below Mercury Lane this week. Read more on the CRL facebook page.

Below Mercury Lane

Innovating Streets helps make Whanganui a City of Design

We can’t wait to check out Whanganui once it’s safe to do so. Here’s a great listen on RNZ talking about the many wonderful features that have led it to being nominated NZ’s only UNESCO City of Design. The successful and popular Innovating Streets project in Whanganui’s Town Centre has certainly had an impact.

Drews Ave Innovating Streets road art and parklet. Image from RNZ

The $1b Australians could have saved on fuel

Australia is famously dragging its feet on climate action – even more than other developed nations – and it turns out that’s costing Australians at the petrol pump, now. Research reported on by The Conversation found that by not adopting internationally recognised clean-car standards 3 years ago, Australia has had years of importing inefficient, high-consumption vehicles that are costing them more to run than the more efficient models sold in other countries.

Available evidence suggests Australian motorists are paying on average almost 30% more for fuel than they should because of the lack of fuel efficiency standards.

The Australian vehicle fleet uses about 32 billion litres of fuel per year.

Using an Australian fleet model described in the TER report, we can make a conservative estimate that the passenger vehicle fleet uses about half of this fuel: 16 billion litres per year. New cars entering the fleet each year would represent about 5% of this: 800 million litres per year.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods prove their worth (over time)

The potential of London’s bicycle economy

Momentun Mag reports on research into the effects of transforming cycle-able car trips in London to bike trips. The research found that turning just 14% of the city’s 4.7million sub-3km car trips into bike trips could create 25,000 green jobs in a ‘bicycle economy’.

The report highlights the progress that is already underway. In 2020, increasing levels of cycling in London helped avoid around 270 premature deaths, nearly 1,900 serious illnesses, around 216 million vehicle kilometers, and thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.

The daily commute in London. Image from Momentum Mag.

The week in cities that are investing in cycling

Fresh news off the big-cycling-announcements block: Milan, a city described as ‘smog filled’, and as having one of the highest rates of car ownership in the EU, is putting serious money into becoming a city full of people on bikes.

A few months ago, The Independent reported on the way the Covid-19 pandemic opened the door for cycling in Milan.

When Covid struck Italy hard back in early 2020, the national lockdown had an unintended side effect in Milan. Traffic was slashed by almost 75 per cent – and Milan’s infamous smog temporarily disappeared too.

With cleaner air, clarity of thinking followed. During that initial lockdown and the months immediately after, city planners embarked on an ambitious period of change: they redesigned major parts of the city’s street plan in favour of bicycles, not cars.

Earlier on in the Pandemic, temporary cycleways, calmed streets, and quiet routes got Milanese out on bikes en masse, and with the roll-out of the planned cycling network, the city’s new cycle culture looks to be here to stay.

Link between urban density and physical activity

Common-sense information, but it’s always good to see in a graph: this research shows that in denser urban environments, people move more and are healthier.

Re-thinking parking

The subheading on this article about Toronto is: Parking reform is reaching new frontiers. Toronto, like many other cities around the world, is looking at the role carparking plays in the city’s emissions and car-dependency.

A Toronto City Council committee heard a staff report on earlier this month that included a number of recommendations that could help remake transportation planning in the fourth most populous city on the continent, ranging from expanding bicycle parking and electric vehicle infrastructure to the aforementioned parking requirement reforms.

But where will we park the EVs?

Meanwhile, car ownership continues to grow at a rate that oustrips population growth in many parts of the world. The BBC points out the situation we could be in in a decade or so’s time as more people buy electric cars.

But while exhaust emissions might fall, the so-called “embedded emissions” needed to build, charge and maintain this army of cars – will increase with growing car ownership.

Congestion and traffic jams come down to one simple fact – cars are space-inefficient. They take up seven times the space of a bike but usually carry only up to five people. Often this number is much lower – and that’s only when they’re moving.

In June, the RAC Foundation published a report that revealed cars are empty and parked 23 hours out of every 24. They’re only used for an hour a day. And there aren’t enough car parking spaces to go round.

Thirteenth-Century tax dodging

Images of streets past: when kids ruled the streets

Liverpool, 1979. Photo by Ian Clegg, via Twitter.

Guidelines for streets future: kids rule anew!

Last week, Waka Kotahi (in conjunction with Sport NZ) launched new Play Street Guidelines, aimed at making it easier for councils to support temporarily closing streets to traffic, to open up space for social connection. What could be more timely?

The guidelines, which emerge from tactical test runs in Tāmaki Makaurau, Hutt City and Napier, focus on “small, resident-led, local events, held on quiet neighbourhood streets during daylight hours.” Bring on the cul-de-sac hacky sack and meet-your-neighbour BBQs!

As the lovely launch video shows, play streets are wonderful ways of bringing communities together and making room for kids to be kids. Hopefully these guidelines will quickly help councils all over the motu remove any hurdles to heaps of happy hyperlocal happenings.

Greater Auckland’s official Christmas gift guide

OK, we haven’t discussed if this will be an actual thing, but the odd very niche suggestion might slip into the next few weekly roundups. If you know someone who’s a fan of music, New Zealand poetry, and ah … bridges, this album featuring poetry about bridges by Bill Manhire is precisely the gift for them!

Bifröst is an album of songs featuring the poetry of Bill Manhire, with music by Norman Meehan, Hannah Griffin, Andrew Laking, Blair Latham, Lance Philip, Neil Aldridge, and Michael Sutherland. Drawing from Old Norse tales and poems including the medieval Norwegian ‘Draumkvæde’ (‘Dreamsong’) and supplementing these with his own texts, New Zealand poet Bill Manhire composed a suite of poems that together form an episodic narrative that traces a variety of “crossings-over”, journeys – from place to place, from forgetfulness to remembering – that comprise the heart of Bifröst.

The cover art of Bifröst

Meri Kirihimete in Te Kōmititanga

This sounds cool: Heart of the City are putting on a Christmas lightshow downtown, centred on Britomart and Te Kōmititanga.

Aucklanders will embark on a Christmas adventure starting in the heart of the city, before traveling by magic stardust to the North Pole and into Santa’s Workshop. Along the way, they can dance with mischievous elves, watch as toys and presents are made and wrapped, and spot Santa’s sleigh as he wings his way to the Southern Hemisphere, spreading some much-needed Christmas joy in his wake.

Christmas Lights on Britomart. Image by Brett Phibbs via NZ Herald.

The Britomart light show runs between 8:45 and 11pm daily until Christmas Eve, and is accompanied by other light installations.

Kia pai, kia haumaru tōu wikini! Hope you get to enjoy a safe meal or beverage in a location that’s not your home or the side or the road for the first time in months.

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  1. Noted that visible work has begun sometime in the last few days on the cycle path connecting Blockhouse Bay Rd to Avondale station. Its a bridge structure rather than just paving the existing access track at the BBRd end.

  2. The trains and busses have the air conditioning turned to a low 16 or 18 degrees and I find it too cold. At Britomart the train doors are open for 10 or more minutes and the AC is on working hard. The busses parked at Sylvia Park often have the motors idling for 10min and the exhaust is directly facing the bus shelter and is overwhelming on a hot day. We need to cut our emissions. I am looking forward to the electric busses that wont be idling

    1. Well there’s always that problem where old people and women want the A/C set to stifling while the rest of us find 16-18 degrees ideal, especially in summer. Maybe put some more clothes on.

    2. We have an airborne disease is air conditioning enabling its spread.
      A few years ago I was on a flight from Hong Kong home and there was a real fuss between some of the older passengers and the crew over the low temp. And it was too low I slept much better when it was increased plus I think they may have increased the cabin pressure. Constantly changing between hot and humid and cold and dry is a good way to catch a cold why not covid.

      1. The cabin air on a modern wide body aircraft is completely replaced every few minutes.
        It’s not the aircon that will give you a cold, it’s traveling in economy. It’s a well known fact that free range chickens get less bird flu than battery hens 🙂

    3. PT generally is way, way too hot. People who like it hot can wear a jumper, I can’t strip nude to deal with 22 degrees inside and you don’t want me sweating next to you for 20 minutes.

  3. Parking Consultation Document also published…


    I think the old policy was reasonably good, but i think the overwhelming feedback needs to be the need to just get on and deliver.

    AT are so cowardly and buckle everytime the local ‘Anti’ Business Association threatens to go to war over moving a few on-street car parks.

    PSA – Smoking kills, removing parking and/or charging for it, doesn’t kill town centres.

    Why AT keeps bowing down to the ‘I reckon’ brigade is maddening. Back your own policies and back evidence based decision making.
    Let’s get on with

    The Policy should be the consultation and the mandate to push on. Getting caught up re-consulting about minor changes i.e moving a car park here and there has led to incredible paralysis…

    Most provincial cities in NZ now have paid parking. Most of our city is a free for all; and people wonder why we have a congestion issue.

    1. Some great dissenting views from both the Green Party and Act (!).
      The Bill is a rushed sham, and makes a mockery of democracy with it’s minimal consultation.

      1. Every piece of consultation I’ve seen has failed to properly harness the views of the marginalised and failed to amplify the voices of the ones who will be affected the most – the young.

        I’d prefer to see a system in which Labour, if it gained 50% of the MP’s vote, could have simply built tens of thousands of apartments well, in its first term, and then either been voted out, or voted back in.

        Or a system that involved having a proper national conversation in which we acknowledged the benefits of delegating decision-making to those who were prepared to upskill properly on the subject, including all the intergenerational equity aspects.

        The sham is pretending that consultation as practised in NZ is capable of responding to the inequity created by our economic system and to the problem of climate change with the urgency required.

  4. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/peter-davis-a-tale-of-two-crises
    If workers at Auckland Hospital who you think would be among the better informed section of the population can’t or won’t bike, walk or take public transport to work what hope have we got of turning car congestion around.

    “””A fundamental problem is car dependency. A survey of staff found that nearly half lived within eight kilometres of the site, and yet few walked, cycled, or used public transport. This is not just a health sector problem, but an Auckland and New Zealand one.”””

    1. I live in the central city and regularly walk past the hospital. I don’t blame the staff for their current travel choices.
      – The hospital campus is isolated from where people actually live. There are significant severance effects from the surrounding motorways, railways and the Domain.
      – The footpath infrastructure is so poor as to be hostile, particularly on Grafton Bridge.
      – The cycle infrastructure is non-existent.
      – The adjacent PT services have limited geographic reach and very limited operating hours. Not adequate to meet the needs of shift workers.

      1. Does Park Road have a bus lane in both directions yet? I have had the pleasure before of spending 20 minutes on a green bus sitting on Grafton Bridge. I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence because that was obviously the last time I took that bus. No good if you have to be somewhere on time.

        When living in the city centre I went to Newmarket a couple of times, and driving was the easiest, fastest (by a WIDE margin) and most convenient way of going there.

        1. Westward: From Khyber Pass Rd to Grafton Bridge, yes.
          Eastward: From Grafton Bridge to the hospital, no. From the hospital to Khyber Pass Rd, yes.

          The bus lanes are an improvement but unfortunately the roads in the area are still very car-centric.

  5. I would add to this list AT announcement from yesterday saying that even though everything is going to be open from today they will still run a reduced service… which is just bizarre, shameful and lazy. I was waiting for the traffic light system to ditch my car and go back to taking a bus to work but with reduced timetable it’s too unreliable for me (especially with transfers) so I’ll stick to my car. To be honest right now I probably shouldn’t expect to switch at all in the future.

    1. Matt Z,the main reason for not ramping up services is lack of drivers,ChCh is scaling back services,re lack of driver’s. Anecdotally,l have heard that major Auckland PT (bus),are at least 25% understaffed

    2. Yep, thought I’d get the ferry but no, still on an hourly timetable from Devonport/ Auckland; and the Bayswater/Birkenhead/Auckland loop transforms a 15 minute trip into a 45 minute one if you are going 2 stops…

  6. Who would have thought,the humble bicycle,would hold the key to the worlds’ congestion problems. Probably mankind’s greatest mechanical invention, it sits there waiting for the modern thinkers to recognize its potential and set it free.
    I do often wonder if the reluctance to acknowledge the bicycle as a remedy,is because it is hard to monetarize, no one will get fabulously weathly,by championing it’s cause,a true “peasants” machine.

    1. Bicycles are the answer to so many questions!
      Congestion – check
      Climate change / VKT – check
      Community building – check
      Physical health – check
      Mental wellbeing – check
      “This machine kills fascists” as the man said.

      1. Something I read once has always stuck with me: People in cars wish all other cars would disappear. People on bikes just want more people on bikes around them.

  7. Yes I agree MattZ reduced services for Public Transport means less people using it. More traffic congestion & emissions as a result.

  8. Good on Milan, Italy for putting money toward cycling infrastructure and PT. Pity the same thing does not apply to Auckland.

  9. The Mayors $1B plan includes 18km of new cycleways in the next 10 yrs if adopted
    Ford Ranger is NZ’s most popular car
    No Footpath on Auckland Harbour Bridge and nothing in the pipeline
    Agricultures carbon pass – means more carbon tax for the rest of us.
    Young protestors arrested for stopping a Fonterra coal trail.
    Freedom marchers denying the public access to shopping in newmarket
    we’re fooookd

    1. Does this cheer you up?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sGy4kS9T2w
      (or make it worse? 🙂 )

      There are no excuses for how bad the decisions have been and how badly things have gone, but… let’s try to think of some hopeful things. I do feel inspired by TERP – there is good work being done there. I think the bus improvements in the $1B plan are good. Plus, it’s useful that everything in transport that’s going wrong is, fundamentally, due to the same central problem in traffic engineering. Overturning it is going to take lots of work from lots of people, but the process has started, and it’ll gain momentum and then probably there’ll be a cascade of improvements. The ITF is looking for ways to help countries change the central way transport is planned at a fundamental level.

      1. Thanks Heidi, yep great things are happening, and some around us.
        Im an optimist – and working hard for a better future. Thats easy.
        The failure in central planning you refer is still calling the shots – and they are business as usual, despite the headlines.

        Things must change. Fast – and as per TERP – no more incrementalism.

  10. A hangover from not wanting to disrupt
    decide the best place for the stop, and from a network perspective, consider all safety implications.

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