Are we there yet?? Not quite. But nearly! Welcome to our roundup of the week in transport and urbanism stories. Hope you’ve had a good one.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • Monday’s post, by Matt, covered the climate action package in Phil Goff’s 2022-2023 budget
  • Tuesday’s post by Marita looked back at the first Innovating Streets projects and forward into the just-announced Streets for People 2021-24 programme
  • On Wednesday Matt looked at the December AT board papers for us all
  • Yesterday, a guest post by Charlotte Billing explored the planning barriers to urban agriculture

Submit on the Eastern Busway – today

You’ve got until 5pm today to provide feedback on the design for Stage 2 of the Eastern Busway: the stretch between Pakuranga and Botany. Head over to the post Matt wrote about it last month for a refresher. We’ve got some concerns about changes to the design that seem to be mostly about preserving space for cars, and a diversion that requires the removal of 30-40 homes.

Chloe Swarbrick on housing

Auckland Central Green MP Chloe Swarbrick picked up on some of the Greater Auckland’s work on housing in this op-ed in The Herald.

Data crunched by liveable city campaigners Greater Auckland tells us that a large majority of the new homes consented since the 2016 Unitary Plan have been more than 11km from the city centre. Less than half of that have been consented 1km from the city centre. Half that again and you’ve got the amounts consented 2, 3 and 4km from the city centre, respectively.

Chloe is great at getting to the heart of things – recognising that what most of us want is a safe, liveable city that gives our kids freedom.

Dense suburbs and leafy suburbs can be and should be the same thing. It’s what happens when you privilege people’s wellbeing, housing as a human right, and good design. You get those things when you move beyond the binary of ‘tiny boxes in the sky’ or quarter acre bungalows. You get those things when you build, physically and culturally, a walkable neighbourhood.

Housing and Greater Auckland on RNZ

RNZ’s Mediawatch programme picked up on the MDRS furore of the last couple of weeks – not least the somewhat hyperbolic language that came from some of the bill’s opponents. The Mediawatch piece does a great job of highlighting the imbalance in the reporting, which was definitely tilted in the direction of those criticising the bill. Greater Auckland contributor Scott Caldwell features too, in his role as a spokesperson for the Coalition for More Homes.

Coalition For More Homes spokesperson Scott Caldwell said that in that vacuum of debate, some questionable or just wrong claims were put forward unchallenged.

He was disappointed by the regular complaint that the new rules contained in the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill would cause sprawl.

In cities like Auckland and Wellington, the harshest current restrictions on housing are around central suburbs, where building would alleviate sprawl, he said.

“They are stopping development in the central suburbs like Ponsonby, Parnell and Mt Eden where you’ve essentially frozen in amber these historical villas, and they’re pushing the development out to the fringes of the city. What this bill will do is reverse that situation.”

Hurry up then!

A wonderful ad from Waka Kotahi about speed limit reviews. We’re fans of this kind of storytelling!

Sunfield denied fast-track consenting

The prospective 5000-home, car-free development planned for the outskirts of South Auckland had its application for a fast-track consent under the UDA denied. The decision, which falls within Kāinga Ora’s mandate, was made for a number of reasons, mostly to do with the proposal’s location.

Kāinga Ora spokesperson Katja Lietz says says the decision was made for a number of reasons, including concerns the proposal didn’t align with the intention of the UDA, the significant flood risks in the area and that there would be less consultation if Sunfield was approved to be a SDP.

“Proposed infrastructure to address the risk of flooding would only be feasible in willing partnership with Auckland Council. We proposed discussions with council to explore this and the proposer declined,” says Lietz, Kāinga Ora’s general manager for urban planning and design.

From local councillors’ descriptions, it does sound like flooding in the area is a serious issue. And although a car-free development is something we’d love to see tested in Auckland, surely a brownfields location with good public transport and existing urban amenities would have a more positive impact. (Speaking of great storytelling, you might recall we covered their rad ad a while back.)

NZ Post goes electric

Only a couple of weeks after we published a post about the potential to mode-shift services and deliveries, here’s another good news story about logistics shifting to low-carbon transport. NZ post is using ‘green finance’ to fund the electrification of its fleet. The first purchase will be 60 electric delivery vans.

NZ Post aims to have all of its own fleet and a quarter of its contractor fleet electric by 2025 and the balance of the contractor fleet electric by 2030. The postal service has committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. Transport makes up about a fifth of the country’s carbon footprint, and most of that comes from the light vehicle fleet of cars, vans and utes.

[…] NZ Post estimates each diesel van it replaces with an EV will abate an average 7.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum.

Surely there’s something else we can do with this lovely piece of waterfront?

As the tweet implies, nothing like charging for carparking to highlight how little people value it. A tactical activation over summer could be just the way to transition this triangle of asphalt in Devonport back into a place for people.

Hamilton gets streateries

While we’ve seen a few cafes take over adjacent carparks with seats and tables since we shifted into the traffic light system a week ago, these have all been in places where the carpark is privately owned. There’s no word yet on an official pathway for hospitality venues in Auckland to start expanding into road space. But – they’ve figured it out in Hamilton!

In a move to get the sector back on its feet after lockdown, Hamilton City Council gave restaurants and café operators the tick of approval to extend outdoor dining permits, and waived all fees and charges.

But the council took it one step further following an extraordinary council meeting this month.

All fees paid for outdoor dining permits for the 2021/22 year will be refunded and it will be free to apply for or extend an outdoor dining permit through to June 30, 2022.

One cafe owner featured in the article was thrilled to be able to expand out into the grassed, tree-shaded traffic island in front of her business.

“I’ve always wanted to use the island, it was a good excuse to say ‘bring it on,’” café owner Maria Senear said.

“Outdoor dining makes a hell of a difference to us. We normally cram all the tables together, we’re so busy over the weekend we have people waiting at the door.”

There must be a better way?

This is a good companion image to that map of the central city’s cycleways that has a conspicuous gap right down the middle.

What can the success of Dublin’s light rail teach Auckland?

Dublin’s light rail gets a long write-up in the New Zealand Herald, and there’s an Auckland connection. The Luas has possibly the prettiest name of any light rail system in the world – and Dubliners love it. Despite construction fatigue while the network was being built, the city’s residents embraced it when it opened and it exceeded capacity far sooner than anyone expected. The network had to be extended and trams became larger to cope with the demand. In a very short space of time, the Luas transformed the way people all over Dublin got around the city.

“One woman wrote to me saying Luas had changed her life. She used to drive her wheelchair-bound husband everywhere. Then, she dropped him off at the station and he took himself into town to meet his friends.

Light rail in Dublin

And it turns out that Frank Allen, interviewed in the piece as a leading figure in the development of the Luas, is on Auckland Light Rail’s Assurance Panel. We like what he has to say:

He suggested that a street-level light rail system in Auckland would provide adequate capacity for the long term — and it’s more affordable. Queen St was natural for the route and with streetscaping Dominion Rd can be used.

“It makes sense to have small tunnel sections along the route because of the topography. But running at street level means light rail will squeeze the space for cars, and that’s how it should be.

“One of the benefits of light rail is that it enables traffic calming and making it more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists. We started in Dublin with one line and it worked well, and we have now built a network of public transport,” said Allen.

Map of Dublin’s Luas network

No, cycle lanes don’t cause congestion

This article on the New Statesman is a solid takedown of some data that spawned headlines about cycle lanes causing congestion in London. It unpicks the bad reporting and highlights the vested interests of the research company that did the study, Inrix, which is part-owned by a large car company.

Cycle lanes don’t cause congestion, but emotive headlines about cycle lanes will certainly drive clicks, and we’ve seen that play out in media in Auckland many times over.

Road use is an emotive subject because it’s a psychological mess of fear (you or your family could get run over), guilt (you could run someone over), boredom (oh no, Kidbrooke interchange again) and jealousy (look at that lycra-clad cycling clown, how does he get a little road all to himself?). This is absolute nectar to people who can bring more eyeballs to an ad-funded website, or increase their personal brand by stirring these emotions.

Berlin’s rapid transformation from car-dominated to people-focused

We might have to revisit this one because there’s just so much in it. Berlin passed a Mobility Act in 2018, and the city hasn’t wasted any time in making progress on the ground. A San Franciscan transplants to Berlin and writes on Streetsblog SF about the many different elements that are working together to make Berlin a more accessible, people-friendly city.

Did you know that at 86% of journeys, Berlin has the highest share of people walking, cycling and using public transport to get to work of any European capital?

As well as city-wide plans like public transport extensions and a 3000km bike network, the mobility act allows for ground-up projects run by neighbourhoods and local communities:

Barcelona has its Superillas, Berlin has its Kiezblocks. A Kiez is the Berlin term for neighborhood, each one of which is generally centered around a commercial street and can best be equated with the concept of a fifteen-minute city. Kiezblocks are traffic-calmed neighborhoods in which cut-through traffic has been eliminated to increase safety and allow neighbors to enjoy the streets for other activities. Often these go hand-in-hand with play streets, which are (usually temporarily) closed so families may enjoy some quiet playtime in front of their apartments.

The transformation that’s happening there is all the more fascinating because Berlin is largely a post-war city, rebuilt after WW2 with wide boulevards and large blocks that create a very different urban form to fine-grained European centres.

Slender bollards close off a street in Berlin. Image via Streetsblog SF

It’s the little things

Frankly, we’d use this emoji all the time if we could.

They said we were crazy…

It was one of the original tactical urbanism projects, and I remember the sensation Jeanette Sadik-Khan and her team caused when Times Square was closed to cars. This project set a precedent for urban spaces everywhere. Happy 10-year anniversary, Times Square!

A scene from schoolyards past

Is this the Netherlands?? Nope – Upper Hutt! (As another Twitter wag put it: “Sure, you can do this in Scandinavian places like Upper Hutt but it would never work in New Zealand. Plus what if they had to move a couch.”)

The Friday Poem (or, the GA gift guide again)

We’ll leave you with a poem, on the Spinoff, because it comes from a book of poems to do with housing, and you just might know that person who would love nothing more than a poetry book about architecture for Christmas.

That’s all from us – have a great weekend and see you next week!

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  1. The school picture is truly depressing. Surely one way to reduce a huge chunk of traffic is to have every school in the country come up with a list of infrastructure (cycle lanes etc) needed to increase walking & cycling to school, rather than getting shuttled there in SUV

    1. AT could make cycling to school safer by rolling out changes to the system that take effect tomorrow, others that take effect next month, others next year, and built environment changes around every school within a year if they stopped wasting their focus and resources on the wrong priorities.

      1. School congestion is a self fulfilling prophecy. Helicopter parents worry there’s too much traffic for the kids to walk or bike to school so they all jump in their cars.

        School drop off zones are crazy busy and dangerous for pedestrians and drivers.

        Yes AT could do more but as a society we are so afraid of everything that we create the very dangers that we are so terrified of.

        The streets aren’t safe – there are predators out there. More pedestrians solves this one too.

        1. Not if those pedestrians are only children. 70 years ago I was reminded constantly by my parents to beware of the bogeyman when I walked to and from school. Seems nothing has changed

        2. dm, you read the post that outlined the Auckland research showing:

          “No significant differences were observed between objective neighbourhood built environment measures and parents’ reported neighbourhood needs”

          So you have seen that parents aren’t “helicopter parents” but are simply attempting to keep their children safe in an unsafe system. Yes, they also are exacerbating the problem, but as I said to you in the comments of that post:

          “The point is that until we’ve fixed the underlying problems, parents shouldn’t have the finger pointed at them. The Road Safety Business Review didn’t conclude that parents have created our safety problems; it showed a whole lot of other things that need to change.”

          Systems change first. Behaviour change follows.

      2. Us 70s kids didn’t need protected cycle lanes or lower speed limits. We just biked to school because that is what you did. I don’t recall anyone I was aware of being hit by a vehicle or being killed. We weren’t even wearing helmets.
        Why do we think that drivers are so much worse today that they are going to be running down school kids on bikes every day.
        We allow the fear to stop us having our kids bike and that means the drivers are less familiar with seeing kids on bikes and learning to drive safely around them.
        As for street dining, isn’t Panuku in the process of setting up some parklets with ATs help.

        1. This is a view often expressed but it needs dismantling because it’s quite wrong and very destructive.

          1970’s kids faced a quarter of the traffic that kids do today. Today, cars are much bigger, and faster, somewhat safer for their occupants but far less safe for kids on bikes, and are full of distractions. The roads have been developed using deficient traffic engineering, creating a deficient cycling environment, and the Police are now missing in action.

          And unfortunately, in recent years AT have dug their heels in with bad traffic engineering and transport planning, despite the evidence to change tack being enormous. It’s an internal culture problem that stems from the ELT and a group called the Traffic Control Committee.

          They continue to widen intersections, increase turning radii, trust the completely erroneous model about whether “the network” will be impacted, fail to realise that “unduly impacting traffic” is no longer a thing because their job is to “impact traffic” now that vkt has to be reduced substantially, and have day-to-day operations that favour traffic flow over kids’ safety.

          It’s appalling in dozens of ways. They basically treat cycling as if it’s a problem to be resisted, not even a “nice to have” – instead of part of the safety improvements they committed to “in full and without question” in 2018 when the safety crisis was realised fully.

          This is about basic rights to healthy development for kids. They don’t have independent mobility. The problem is the system, not their parents. The academic research is solid on this.

          What you expressed was probably simply stemming from not having thought it through. But once you do, you’ll see that its every adult’s job to dismantle the myth and do what they can to improve safety for children in whatever way they can.

        2. Maybe it is a case of cars still being more expensive than today, so there weren’t quite as many of them.

          There is also a strong undercurrent of thought now that those cyclists should stay off our roads. How was that back then?

        3. Much of the road space used by cyclists in the 1970s was ‘repurposed’ by the mass introduction of painted flush medians sometime in the late 1980s, effectively pushing the traffic lanes left. Along with the flood of used import cars and the helmet law, everything was being done to remove cycling as an attractive transport option at the time.

        4. I think there was a certain safety in numbers. With bikes everywhere at 3.20 motorists slowed down. Cars were also narrower, and there were fewer parked on the road side. The road toll was also terrible in the 1970s and 1980s and I can remember a child being killed cycling across a Hamilton bridge. The bridge was later widened to add a cycle lane. Then a mayor decided roads should be “for everyone” and replaced the cycle lanes with traffic lanes. Now cycling across that bridge is dangerous, and the road layout makes pedestrians take a lengthy detour to walk into town.

        5. Back in the 70s there were almost no cars parked on the sides of the road. Now we have chock-a block of car parked on the sides road. Plus the drivers has no distraction i.e. mobile phone the drivers were lot more cautious.

        6. And in the 70’s people were much less safety conscious and life expectancy was much lower. People also found it OK to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, drive around without a seat belt, build a house without scaffolding, etc.

  2. The former Auckland City Council were about to build a centre running busway with cycle lanes on Dominion Road until the amalgamation where AT canned both of those. But they did build some stupid parallel routes (where their definition of parallel leaves a lot to the imagination). Great progress AT.

  3. Queenstown has sprawled over good farmland and has been losing character. It has serious congestion problems and high commuting costs for workers.
    So it is good news to read about a $billion Queenstown development that will consist of five residential buildings of between 9 and 13 storeys and contain 370 units, including about 140 “co-living units” on a 10-hectare site near the Skyline gondola.

  4. WK should stick to building roads and not TV commercials. That ad is appalling. I’ll mannered children(??). Unintelligible dialogue. It shows only an intention to investigate not to actually do anything. Wouldn’t it have been far more effective to have Mr Clipboard actually changing the speed sign?

  5. Every day another house get demolished out here in the South to be replaced by units. Sooner or later this housing construction will come to a screeching halt. If the inner suburbs can delay for a few months more they will be able to resist intensification. I can also imagine there will be a few empty sections left after the music stops with developers demolishing houses then finding they can’t build new ones. My elderly neighbour well she’s older than me remarked that every second house on Station Road Papatoetoe has being replaced with multi unit dwellings. Still as far as I can tell it seems good quality and on frequent bus routes adjacent to a railway station. I wonder if CDB workers will be attracted to move here or is that all over. I notice trains are near empty as is the park n ride. Still anything could happen for instance the Govt could increase immigration if rents start to drop.

    1. Why would construction suddenly come to a halt? House prices are at record levels and planning restrictions are constantly being loosened. Lets hope interest rates don’t go up too quickly so we can get as much construction done as possible before prices fall

      1. We have seen this before. In fact the times we are living through reminds me of 1972 to 1975. Overstimulated economy record house price rise and construction followed by years of stagnation and stagflation. Back then it was the oil price hike now its covid. Interesting to remember the period before the oil price rise was the worst ever for road deaths every one could afford a car now is the same even the poor can afford one they have to get their food from a food bank but at least they have their motoring fix. Unemployment was super low workers standing around doing nothing in their workplace on the roads and railways. We are living through a rerun. By 1976 jobs we’re hard to find the road toll plummeted house prices slumped while govts worldwide inflated the debt they had run up away.

      2. Construction will come to a halt if house prices fall as developers will be scared off by the chance of a loss. There is every chance that house prices will fall in Auckland due to rising interest rates, tax changes for investors, and a increasing supply with a decreasing population. The only hope in that situation is that the government starts rapidly building or guaranteeing developments to take up the slack.

  6. The antipathy towards cycling,is mostly borne from a sense of frustration ,the motorist is cooped up in his/her car,surrounded by others,impeding their progress. The sight of a cyclist riding past, weaving through to the front of the queue, invokes a form of ,”lf l can’t do that ,why should he/she”. To double down on that ,by actually providing a cycle lane,is almost to much to bear.
    The government talks about improving our mental health,can l suggest they start by building active mode networks.

  7. Wooo that Dublin article in the Herald. How did it get past the editor?

    And with the Allen guy on the assurance panel, um, does this mean… the right decision will be arrived at after all? Or is there some dinosaur who’s going to even overrule that level of experience?

    1. Dublin struggles to build a much-needed metro (won’t be open ’til the mid 2030s) and doesn’t envisage building its own version of the CRL until beyond 2042 (Dart underground/interconnector – much larger, of course). Luas was doable, though.
      Maybe ‘expertise’ from the anglophone world is not the best. Dublin did manage to build Luas, though. So, so can we!
      But what about Cork (maybe: it’s in the news, see Wellington), Galway and Limerick? No Luas for them?
      Ireland is a great mirror in which to observe your own nation’s inclinations.

  8. 50c an hour and the absolutely/completely rammed Devonport ferry car park is pretty much emptied out. Does AT even consider this when they talk about the demand for parking. If you give it away for free (well subsidized by ratepayers) of course people will use it but a small charge that probably doesn’t even cover the opportunity cost and demand drops to close to zero. Was this even part of the analysis when it was determined Takapuna needed a new car park? Or is free parking for all AT’s policy?

    1. Trevor, the Takapuna car park is an absolute disgrace. It is a shining example of why the present Auckland Transport Parking Strategy does not work. It doesn’t work because AT ignore it. They can ignore it because it is not enshrined in law.

      I have researched this project extensively. As best I can find, the AT Board decided that by 2050 Takapuna needed a certain number of extra car parks so they started to build them immediately. The car park only met, at best, three of the seven criteria in the Parking Strategy.

      The folly continues. Just two days after the Mayor said that Council would “pull every lever” that they could to change mode share. AT, well used to operating in the dark, instead of pulling the lever, pushed it, and the price of parking came down from $1.50 per hour to only $0.50 per hour for last Sunday.

      If you use the search tool and use “car park” you can see a piece that I have written about Toka Puia.

      1. Trevor, I absolutely agree with you that parking is undervalued. And nothing seems likely to change. When the Mayor talks about charging every rate payer another $1.10 per week per week to address climate change, wouldn’t a more equitable solution be to charge the polluters? Heidi seems to be a classic example. Why should a family who is making huge efforts to reduce emissions by walking, biking and using PT pay the same as others who do nothing.

        Every car park outside a persons house has a cost of about $20k. If you want to use it then a residents parking permit like occurs in parts of Takapuna seems to be a fairer part of the solution of raising revenue.

        We live in that part of Takapuna and for the first time for years our visitors have a chance to park close by. Only a chance though because it appears to be badly enforced. That is part of the reason Toka Puia is empty I imagine.

    1. Logan, great amenity. Now AT needs to prevent the shared streets around there from being blocked by cars, and ensuring that drivers travel at 10kph to make it safe. I wonder if they have any ideas?

      1. AT? That same AT who again today stopped the 66 bus at Walker Park because it’s easier to piss all over the idea of transport decarbonisation, modeshift, access and equity, than it is to proactively enforce the parking up at Coyle Park?

        They must be covering their eyes and ears if they don’t have the ideas; the world is bursting with proven solutions to these problems – from low tech to high tech, for every mix of capex and opex you could care to consider.

        To AT it seems it’s not about having ideas but having excuses not to use them. This has gone beyond incompetence into what seems to be a fight to the end. And that’s all that is clear. We don’t know why. We don’t know what they’re fighting for. All we know is that they will fight and fight again, just to make sure they don’t have to do their job.

        And the Councillors might write a letter.

  9. And something I saw at the new Puhinui Station on Wednesday was a group of workers getting of an EMU with measuring devices to check the distance between the Platform and the doors of the Carriages , I was told later that some of the doors are not opening because the gap is out or incorrect ;-

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