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 🙂