Weekly roundups are back! Nau mai, haere mai ki te tau hau. Hope you all had a wonderful break and some well-deserved rest.
The week in Greater Auckland (and a few from last week, in case you missed them)
- We started the year with a look forward to the transport and urbanism issues ahead. It could be an exciting year!
- Later that week, Matt explored the news that Waka Kotahi is worried that too much mode shift will hurt its traditional revenue streams, and then lamented the semi-collapse of Auckland’s ferry system due to a lack of trained staff.
- On Monday this week, Matt wrote about what’s been done over the 2022 rail shutdown, Kiwirail’s most ambitious summer closure yet.
- On Tuesday, Heidi questioned whether Waka Kotahi has the ability and desire to change course, to focus on a more sustainable kind of transport planning
- Wednesday’s post, by Jolisa, broke down the missed opportunity for some joined-up, Vision-Zero thinking in a small parking project in a North Short suburb.
- Yesterday Matt wrote about Waka Kotahi’s just-opened consulation on whether or not Penlink should be tolled. We think it should be. The survey only takes a minute – go on, do it now!
Auckland Transport’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad first week back
Did you try to catch the bus this week? Did you give up partway through the week and decide to drive, only to get stuck in congestion? Auckland Transport made headlines this week for failing to anticipate the numbers of Aucklanders back at work and back on the bus. The city’s public transport system began the week with reduced holiday timetables, leaving passengers stranded, stuffed into overcrowded buses, or waiting a long time for their usually frequent bus to arrive. Auckland Transport explained:
We made the decision to run reduced bus and train services until the beginning of February based on a robust analysis of passenger numbers from previous summers along with the Government’s latest COVID-19 guidance.
If you read Heidi’s piece about Waka Kotahi on Tuesday, you’ll have seen the phrases ‘predict and provide’ and ‘decide and provide’. If we want to promote public transport, shouldn’t we be deciding to provide it no matter the prediction? It’s induced demand – but for buses.
A happy example of joined-up thinking
A Greater Aucklander noticed that the footpath on Halsey Street and the west side of Victoria Park has been upgraded. Until recently this footpath had a busstop-induced pinch point because one side is an AT asset and the park side is an AC asset. It’s much safer and more accessible now!
The big questions for Tāmaki Makaurau in 2022
We enjoyed Todd Niall’s recent essay on the big questions Auckland faces in 2022. Niall is transport- and urbanism-focused in this piece, highlighting issues to do with public transport, reducing emissions, improving the quality of our neighbourhoods, and, of course, the Mayoral elections coming up in October, and what that means for leading Auckland through some big changes.
It’s a local body election year and the mayoralty is likely to be a wide open contest with Phil Goff expected to call it a day after two solid, if unimaginative, terms.
Across the city’s wards and local boards, one million voters will need to think carefully by October 8, about who will deliver the best future for the city, in times likely to be more volatile and challenging than ever before.
Possible futures for Aotearoa
Sticking with the theme of looking ahead, Thomas Nash wrote an imagined ‘report from 2040’, published here on RNZ. I’m looking forward to experiencing this future transport network:
People can access fast, frequent light rail and dedicated busways with low cost fares. Less road space is required for driving, which is more accessible now for those who need it, including disabled people and service vehicles.
People travel between cities primarily via electric rail, managed by a new national passenger rail agency InterCity, which acquired the InterCity regional bus operator in 2023. Through major reforms in 2024, KiwiRail became a dedicated rail freight operator. A new government agency, OnTrack, oversees maintenance and renewal of tracks and rail infrastructure.
Sometimes it feels like we lack a compelling vision of what transformative transport and urban policy could create. As Nash’s piece demonstrate, big, brave changes actually lead to something that’s better for everyone.
Possible futures for the abandoned Waitematā ped-cycle bridge money?
Over at Stuff, Olivia Wannan looks at ways the $785m set aside for the now-defunct walking and cycling Waitematā Harbour Crossing could be used to build active transport infrastructure around the country. Waka Kotahi has a list of active transport projects, but not all of them can be funded by the agency’s current allocated budget.
If the Government wants to build a walking and cycling bridge, Hamilton City Council has a design that will cost $28m, sitting on Waka Kotahi’s waiting list.
In total, projects on the agency’s possible list total $146.3m – less than a fifth of the cash saved by using ferries or buses to shuttle riders in place of the $785m bike bridge.
Hamilton city councillor Sarah Thompson points that the money earmarked for the bridge could help cities like hers get crucial active mode transitions moving. For cities such as Hamilton, low-carbon transport is the best opportunity to make a dent in emissions, she said.
“If we lose another three years, it really squeezes that window of time within which we can take action and get that infrastructure out there,” she added. “We know we have to be working a whole lot faster.”
Visualising Wellington’s climate future
This looks cool: Wellington is to get a digital ‘twin’, a virtual-reality model that will be used to reveal and map effects of climate change on the city. Residents will be able to feed data into it to share information about what’s happening now, as well as see the potential future effects of things like sea level rise on their part of the city.
The project is one of 15 cities worldwide to win $1m in funding from the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge.
The Twin uses real-time data like terrain height, satellite imagery, and tidal patterns to recreate the city and surrounding areas using the Unreal Engine – a gaming engine that can create 3D photoreal visuals.
There might not be a future for combustion engine advertising
Car advertisments could be one of those things, like advertising for cigarettes, that we soon look back on with disbelief. This article by Tom Pullar-Stecker at Stuff asks if it’s time we regulate advertisments for petrol cars.
The article explores the bigger picture of the planned shift from ICE vehicles to EVs in Aotearoa, and the speed at which it will have to happen if we’re to catch up to the likes of developed EU nations.
This dramatic transformation might mean that the advertising we’re used to seeing, like the one live at the moment for the latest Toyota Hilux, might not be around for much longer.
The advert features numerous eclectic but still mainly ‘blokey’ Kiwis assembling in their utes on a high country hill, nodding to one another and sharing laconic jokes to the tune of Rawhide, before they race off suddenly on their separate ways.
The tagline of the advert is “The Powerful New 2021 Hilux – An Unbreakable Bond”. […]
Toyota NZ chief executive Neeraj Lala says the company made the strategic decision to “limit the volume of Hilux to focus on emissions reductions, despite demand exceeding supply”.
But then why have a foot on the accelerator of demand?
I think it’s also worthwhile reflecting how far we’ve come. How many of us would have agreed with this line five or ten years ago?
There is no escaping the fact that we are approaching the end of the road for the petrol car.
Auckland Councillors walking the walk on active modes
It was awesome to see both Efeso Collins and Jo Bartley talking about walking, cycling and public transport this week.
Walking from Otahuhu to Otara business assoc meeting – active and public transport definitely the way to go. Let's get those steps up. pic.twitter.com/4T3vmaRL46
— Efeso Collins (@efesocollins) January 18, 2022
Honestly we look like a front cover Council publication on safer streets or something. But just me and my brother and niece and nephew going for family walk. But hey jokes aside we need our streets to be safer for everyone whether you on foot or wheels or paws. pic.twitter.com/VC2pnjDe1W
— Jo Bartley (@jobartleynz) January 18, 2022
The transformative power of an ebike
Greater Auckland’s Jolisa writes a love letter to her ebike in the latest issue of Woman Magazine. After cycling in cities all over the world during a nearly 20-year stint living overseas, Auckland nearly forced Jolisa off her bicycle – until she discovered ebikes.
In every case, the magic was the same: hills lay down and headwinds vanished. I ate up the miles and kept going. Auckland became Amsterdam, if you squinted and ignored the traffic. Taking the hilly but quiet route became a viable option. As my friend Carol describes the e-bike advantage: where once a bike ride across the city required psyching yourself up, “Now I think: ‘Oh, I’ll just go there.’”
Welcome, Mayor Adams
We have a new Mayor to add to the list of Mayors We Wish We Could Borrow: Eric Adams, newly elected Mayor of NYC. He bikes, he rode the subway to work on his first day, rode a Citibike on his second day, and he wants to shrink the City’s municipal vehicle fleet.
.@NYCMayor Adams wants to shrink NYC's massive fleet of nearly 30,000 vehicles down to a "bare bones minimum," or levels not seen since Bloomberg era. “The city must make better use of our subway and buses, and it is time that City Hall led by example." https://t.co/QNEsOxMY8X
— Rich Calder (@Rich_Calder) January 15, 2022
Will Mayor Adams deliver mode-shift transformation for New York? Streetsblog NYC is cautiously optimistic.
Battery swap stations outnumber gas stations in Taiwain
This is a cool system in Taiwan that I’ve never heard of. Electric scooter company Gogoro has battery swap stations all over Taiwan, and this year, the number of swap stations could outpace the number of gas stations in the country.
Users of Gogoro’s batteries (which include scooters of many different brands thanks to its partnerships), simply roll up to a station and swap out their depleted battery for a freshly charged unit. A subscription service makes it a quick and easy process that takes just a few seconds.
London’s pollution leads to drivers being asked to leave the car at home
You may have heard about pollution hitting dangerous levels in London this week. A high pressure zone meant that emissions and pollutants weren’t moved out of the city they way they normally would be, prompting a number of urgent health advisories to be released. The event prompted Mayor Sadiq Kahn to emphasise the need to reduce vehicle emissions.
Earlier this week Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said car use had returned to close to pre-pandemic levels, and that the effect on residents could be disastrous. “If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future, we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.”
A watch recommendation
Did you watch Don’t Look Up over the break? (You probably did, it was one of the most watched movies on Netflix this month). If, like us, you painfully cry-laughed your way through it, you got the satirical point. Head over to The Guardian to read how much worse it was for climate activist George Monbiot to watch the movie.
So, as we race towards Earth system collapse, trying to raise the alarm feels like being trapped behind a thick plate of glass. People can see our mouths opening and closing, but they struggle to hear what we are saying. As we frantically bang the glass, we look ever crazier. And feel it.
This is why all the 1900 words of this post exist. We’re banging our heads on a small corner of that glass, too.
And finally, on the post-Covid future of cities
Here’s a longer read for your weekend, from The Conversation, on what has been learned about how the coronavirus responds to different kinds of urban environments. The answers, perhaps unsurprisingly, are all to do with good, common-sense, human-focused urbanism.
First, we should create more walkable neighbourhoods. COVID-19 spread at a much slower pace in highly walkable neighbourhoods. Residents in these neighbourhoods can travel shorter distances on wider and better maintained sidewalks, which may reduce their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Similarly, green space mitigates the spread of COVID-19 in lower-income, but not higher-income, neighbourhoods. Housing units in low-income neighbourhoods are likely smaller, overcrowded, less well-maintained and have poorer ventilation. Residents of low-income neighbourhoods may thus face greater difficulty adhering to stay-at-home policies. Large green spaces in such neighbourhoods may provide a safe space where residents can get clean air and safely practice social distancing.
Good that we’re learning how to quickly (and affordably) create walkable places and green spaces, eh?
These picnic tables and seats are popular. Simple stuff. pic.twitter.com/IJFdYAkxYF
— Kent Lundberg (@kentslundberg) January 14, 2022
That’s all from us. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂
I would love to see Gogoro electric scooters rolled out in Auckland. The battery exchanges could be set up at every bus and train station, along with better and more scooter parking.
Maybe this could be facilitated through the Council’s targeted rates to reduce emissions?
If they treat E bikes as motorcycles, because that is what they are, register them and they pay road user charges, then that revenue could be diverted into infrastructure.
They’re more like mopeds than motorbikes, and even then, are supposed to be ~30km/hr.
Even then, would I pay whatever the equivalent charge (accounting for weight, pollution, space, bodily harm caused, weight on the healthcare system etc) in return for the kind of level of infrastructure service that drivers get today. Shit yes.
Ok, Team. If this is the change you want to see in the world make it happen. Unlike the reallocation of road space, more frequent buses or shorter dwell times this is a change that is within your capability to envisage and to deliver.
There are entrepreneurs bringing EV change to our farms and forests (http://www.applestone-utv.com/435070943). You can bring it to our urban environment. Get out and do it, don’t wait for the next guy.
Thanks for the link MrPlod.
I never thought about the electric side by side possibilities. That would be a huge market and advantage. Very few regulations, so far easier to enter than the car market. Electricity on farm is ubiquitous, and the nature of the work means there will be overnight charging available, and a topup when parked for lunch on most days for 1/2 hour would make a big difference, the actual distance traveled isn’t much, usually driving between jobs etc. Businesses have access to lots of credit, so any upfront cost issues are no real problem if it saves money in the long term.
There would be big running cost advantage because petrol is really expensive and those little side by side engines are really inefficient. Plus not running on the roads (that much) will mean they will probably get out of the impending EV RUC exemption ending. Plus those small petrol engines are very cheap and maintenance heavy. The savings from the maintenance callouts could be huge.
Looks like a total winner, shame I’m not an electrical / mechanical engineer.
Rego for the weediest motorcycle ($394.21 p.a. for 0-60cc or electric) is more than triple that for the fattest gas chugging petrol car ($109.16, any capacity), which seems a little punitive.
Moped rates are $163.96, petrol or electric, so higher capacity pedelec e-bikes are also already charged to use the road.
The e-bikes escaping rego right now don’t exceed 300 watts, about one fifth the power of a decent hair dryer.
“The battery exchanges could be set up at every bus and train station”
Hold up there sparky.
Nice idea, and I like it, but right now I would just settle for the ability to even just get a HOP card at every bus and train station.
Took a day trip to Waiheke over the break, leaving from Devonport. My wife found that her Hop card had been borrowed long-term on a no return basis by my daughter, so went to buy a new card at the ferry terminal in Devonport. Turns out you can’t even buy a Hop card – would have had to hike out of Devonport village.
When I think back to Melbourne, where you seem to be able to pick up a Myki card everywhere, we seem to be a long way from ubiquitous access via card or phone much less battery swap stations
Our just use a credit/debit/EFTPOS card like the rest of the world. Separate travel cards are very much 1990s tech. Outdated. I’ve not used my Oyster card here in London since 2016 and have never used Singapore’s dedicated card. Get into the 21st century NZ.
Bit depressing reading the timeline for a group of consultants working on the public transport card system:
Idea has been around since 2009.
The WK working group started in 2016 with finally figuring out that a nationally coordinated approach would be a good idea.
Actually, I am not totally convinced this is a great idea, rather than just getting Auckland’s system improved and encourage other cities to re-use the same system rather than re-invent, but OK
“In early 2018, the procurement phase of the National Ticketing Programme was given the working title ‘Project NEXT’”.
OK, not surprised that after two years of highly paid consultants meetings, they ended up coming up with a name for the project. Starting to sound like an episode of Utopia – two years of work and they announce that they project name and logo
Only two years of hard work later in April 2020, they released an RFP. To be fair, an RFP can take a bunch of work, though guessing there was already RFPs sitting there from HOP card work, ready for an update.
Now, another couple of years have gone by, and winner of the RFP has not been announced, so behind schedule?. Again, having done this before, it can take a while to evaluate responses to an RFP. On the other supplier side, half the time I respond to an RFP, I think WTF are they asking for that, and that requirement makes no sense, or why don’t they just do X rather than asking for Y etc.
National rollout planned by 2026 when Hop card contract gets renewed, but going to predict that planned pilot rollout in Canterbury later this year will run late ‘due to Covid’
Back before Hop cards, I was part of a small team that implemented a smart card based system across a bunch of difference devices in Australia in about 18 months. It’s hard,. but not that hard, the biggest problem is getting some sense of urgency into big teams spread across lots of organizations
They sell them at the Waiheke ferry terminal .
And we ended up buying a new Hop card in Waiheke terminal & taking the new electric buses to whizz around the island
But Devonport is a relatively major ferry terminal, so really surprised that you are supposed to walk up hill more than a kilometer to a diary to get a new Hop card when there is already a top up machine sitting there and the Fullers manned ticket office
When tourists come back, I hope AT gets some pack together where somebody coming off a cruise ship can easily grab a $20 Hop card pack and job on and off ferries/buses (and eBikes?) and see more of Auckland
Grant B , There are 3 places on the Island that sell them but of those 3 only 2 of those places are where you can top them up .
You want to borrow a borderline fascist who happens to ride a bike? I suppose you’ll want Boris Johnson next
If you have any articles from traditionally-neutral sources I’d be happy to read those.
This one gets paywalled if you have read them too often, which is what it’s doing to me atm, but iirc this was the article that showed me he was a mixed bag: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/nyregion/eric-adams-mayor-nyc.html
Hmm, yes – maybe we could break him down to his constituent parts and just import the active modes enthusiasm? It will be interesting to see what Adams’ big transport moves are. As the Streetsblog post says, he’s inheriting the biggest bike boom NYC has ever had. Will he build on that?
I did the Penlink toll survey, super easy. I don’t live in Auckland but we’re all paying for the road and its consequences. Great that they are considering peak/off-peak tolling, this is a huge development, but I don’t think $4 vs $3 is enough to make a difference. I suggested $6 vs $3. Of course, just like Puhoi-to-Warkworth (where WK said anything more than $2.40 would lead to too low usage to justify the motorway – and even that was thrown out by cabinet), details of the model that leads to these numbers are not published.
Just read your comment, but funnily enough I also did the survey and said the same thing.
I did a job up in Gulf Harbour recently, and $6 vs $3 would have been enough (even if the company paying) to maybe just go after 9am as I was flexible. $4 vs $3 I wouldn’t bother
Point I made was that shifting traffic peak has flow on effects, not just to the penlink segment but to local roads and downstream motorway.
One thing missed off your list, the Hamilton Bypass – is that not due for completion this year? That is one major road project that I am actually looking forward to seeing completed.
Its time to put the network back into our railway especially for passengers and light freight. I see four routes operating between Auckland and Wellington using interconnecting trains, buses and trucks.
Auckland to Kawerau with buses via Gisborne then reconnect to rail at Napier.
Auckland to Tokoroa with buses via Taupo then reconnect to rail at Napier.
Auckland to Te Kuiti with buses to reconnect with rail at New Plymouth.
Auckland to Wellington via Main Trunk.
In addition to these four routes we would have Auckland to Otiria on rail and buses further North and Masterton trains with connections to Palmerston North by bus. Obviously Northland requires work.
Overtime all historic rail stations on these lines would be reopened. So between Hamilton and Tokoroa we could have stations at Morrinsville , Waharoa, Matamata Tirau and Putararu. I would suggest a fleet of multiple units bi modal or tri modal with batteries so trains can run off the wire where it is available. Also we can have electric or hydrogen powered buses as technology allows. Buses and trains could carry a small amount of freight although dedicated freight services are would be needed. Kiwirail doesn’t operate in this space. Trains and buses would connect to local bus services run by councils. I would suggest the Provincial train services would run from Auckland and Wellington in the morning and back in the afternoon. These would be counter current to the Te Huia and the capital connection so no conflict. The main trunk would have a day and night train. I haven’t put too much thought into the freight side of things. But I believe the same network of routes would be useful for nationwide distribution of light freight.
Northland could be via the (eventual) north shore rail extended past Silverdale to Wellsford. If its HR it can carry on via the North Auckland line.
HR is expensive of course but if we are implementing a more direct route for freight and the trains could join the lines south of the bridge, it might stack up.
Would probably need to bypass Silverdale, head straight up SH1 and in stages go to Warkworth, then Puhoi, then Wellsford. Orewa would have direct services to/from the south via a separate spur
Freight would bave to be big part of the business case though. Because it would be eye-wateringly expensive.
I don’t think the CRL can take freight, so that’s unlikely. Plus, ‘bypassing Silverdale’ would be one of the main population centres on the route that you’d need to justify it over Light Rail for any passenger, so that also seems like an unwise idea.
Tis a shame the Railways got rid of the 4 wheelers which could have gone through the CRL tunnels .
I am not holding my breath for rail on the Northshore seems to me the busway is doing okay. The way things are going I expect the Northern Busway will extend most of the way to Wellsford where it would connect to the train anyway. Its possible if passenger services were run to the North more passengers would get on the train at Wellsford than at Britomart but a train through Helensville would serve a different catchment.
I have tried to envisage more linear freight and passenger routes rather than the hub and spoke arrangement we have moved too since land transport was deregulated back in the 1980’s. For Instance Palmerston North has become the lower North Island Hub. Trainloads of freight arrive there from Auckland. The freight is then loaded onto trucks and distributed around the lower North Island and in some cases probably to Napier, Gisborne, Wellington and New Plymouth. A more linear approach would require more terminals but it would lower tonne kilometres. The six routes I have identified provide good coverage for passengers as well.
I am not sure if you guys have seen this already, but AT is currently seeking a Senior Active Modes Specialist. https://careers.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/jobdetails?ajid=AWYha
Thought some people on here might be interested
What’s the link to the conversation post?
Here (and now linked in the post too, thanks for picking that up!): https://theconversation.com/inclusion-walkability-will-be-key-to-rebuilding-cities-after-the-covid-19-pandemic-174313
“Battery swap stations outnumber gas stations in Taiwain”
It’s Taiwan as per the first sentence of the article
We have a Puhinui stop on the Te Huia. Cool.
I believe the government should treat petrol and diesel like tobacco, no advertising.