How’s that humidity? Tired of talking about it yet? Well, our brains are a little fried. Thankfully it was another short week.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • On Tuesday, I wrote about the potential for street transformation as a response to the looming Omicron outbreak, and the bigger picture of street reallocation.
  • In Wednesday’s post, Matt looked at how local bridges could create good walking and cycling connections, and reduce short car trips, and readers responded with some great suggestions of their own.
  • Yesterday, we republished a gentle piece of ALR satire that followers of GA on Twitter enjoyed recently…

Greater Auckland in the media

On the topic of light rail… if you’re hungry for discussion and debate (we’re sure we’ll publish more analysis soon, we’ve just been letting the information sink in), check out this episode of the The Detail on RNZ all about light rail in which Matt features, and this interview with Matt on The Spinoff.

Grey Lynn and Westmere cycleways are out for consultation (again)

Once again, Auckland Transport is seeking feedback on their design for two cycleway routes in Grey Lynn and Westmere. The project page is here, and a social pinpoint page is here.

Auckland Transport is delivering walking, cycling and bus improvements along two routes within Grey Lynn and Westmere. The improvements include 5.6km of protected cycleways, new pedestrian crossings, bus stops and raised speed tables at intersections. These changes make it safer and easier to move around the area however people chose to travel.

The two routes in the Grey Lynn and Westmere Cycling and Walking improvements project.

We’re really excited to see this project move forward, and it’s a good design. But it looks pretty similar to the design proposed back in 2018. We’re not sure why it needs to be consulted on again. Based on the Social Pinpoint, the changes seem pretty minor (‘where possible, paired walking and cycling crossings have been added at mid-block points along the route’), and are in response to public feedback as well as updated legislation.

The first design was released in 2016. There are kids who started school at Westmere Primary when the project was first announced, who will leave the school before the construction of their safe cycling route is even begun.

Six years is a lifetime for some of us.

How about just getting on with the construction? In a climate emergency, shouldn’t we be moving fast with projects that can reduce car trips, and therefore emissions?

In any case, we’ve got until February 27th to provide feedback; let’s tell AT to get moving!

Pandemic streateries are coming to Auckland!

Yes, they really are. Nearly two years since many other places around the world started supporting pandemic-struck hospitality industries by allowing them to spread al fresco, Our Auckland reports that

The council has fast-tracked applications for food-only outdoor dining, provided a temporary waiver of outdoor dining fees and worked with city centre business associations to enhance their members’ outdoor dining capacity.

An outdoor dining grant scheme has, to date, supported more than 30 businesses to add new or enhance their outdoor dining spaces with new outdoor equipment – street furniture, shade umbrellas, outdoor heaters and planters.

This streatery already exists, down in Britomart. It’s extra nice because there aren’t any cars on this street.

Barry Soper will be thrilled.

Life’s getting good for people on bikes in Ōtautahi

Christchurch has been steadily building a cycling network that seems to be taking advantage of the city’s wide streets, gridded network, and mostly flat topography. A few cool items floated through our news feeds this week about life on a bike in Christchurch.

The network is enabling more cycling

This letter to the editor explains how the writer has found their cycle commute getting better and better as the network improves. Sue Bidrose really gets it.

“I will commute by bike more often now – and that is one less car in your commuter rush”

Letter to the Editor by Sue Bidrose. Image from Twitter user Sara Templeton
Ōtautahi leads the ‘most improved’ list

Lennart Nout is a dutch cycling infrastructure designer who lived here in Aotearoa for a few years. On a recent trip back, he was able to check out the state of cycling across the country, and rank cities in terms of the progress they’ve made. Christchurch came out on top!

A questionable pun about an awesome bike-friendly feature

Do we have any of these automatic crossings in Auckland? Bikes are clocked as they approach the crossing, and by the time you reach it, the light’s gone green.

The fool’s gold of self-driving cars

If you have any interest in the future of cars, we highly recommend this in-depth analysis at The Washington Post about the current techy buzz around self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles (AVs). We’re extremely skeptical, and so is the author of this piece. Would AVs solve any real problems, or just exacerbate existing ones while creating new, ethically complicated knots for regulating bodies to untangle?

The article draws parallels with the introduction of the automobile to the world’s streets a century ago.

Like cars, autonomous vehicles were born not from public need but from technological opportunity. Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has worked on autonomous technology for more than 25 years, saw classmates developing prototypes that lumbered through Carnegie Mellon’s campus when he was a doctoral student in the late 1980s. “They weren’t solving a societal problem,” he says. “They were solving the ‘It would be cool if we could get cars to drive themselves’ problem.”

The argument for AVs is often that they’ll make streets safer – but this is based on flawed understanding of the role of human error in car crashes. Human error has a role, but so does things like infrastructure design and maintenance, vehicle condition, and cars’ blind spots.

If road safety is the goal, there are already plenty of available technologies that automakers could invest in, rather than leapfrogging to fully autonomous vehicles.

Furthermore, there’s clear evidence that AVs won’t solve congestion, or any of the other problems that cars cause in towns and cities.

To understand why, consider an experiment in Northern California a few years ago, in which 13 people were given a chauffeur to take them anywhere they wanted for a week, effectively replicating the experience of having their own autonomous vehicle. Freed from the hassles of driving, test subjects traveled a whopping 83 percent more miles than when they had to drive themselves.

Let’s not get sucked in by this one.

Minneapolis swaps parking lots for bus passes

File this under good ideas corner: in Minneapolis, a new apartment building provided all its residents with an annual all-you-can-eat transit pass instead of a carpark.

Randi Myhre participated the Residential Pass program during a six-month trial in 2019, and said she is thrilled it will be coming back this fall.

“It’s a wonderful perk,” said Myhre, who lives in Oaks Station Place, an apartment building adjacent to the Blue Line’s 46th Street station in south Minneapolis. “It’s a top amenity,” she said, ranking it higher on her list of priorities than having access to the building’s fitness center, party lounge and theater room.

Because the city of Minneapolis has removed parking mandates entirely, the developers of the apartment building saved about $27,000 per apartment by not building carparks, and used that to provide the transit passes.

Oaks Station apartments, where residents have transit passes instead of carparks

Vancouver’s big rapid transit investment

Vancouver’s just released an ambitious new plan to quadruple the size of its rapid transit network, adding 300kms of new lines by 2050. The rapid transit improvements are complemented by a suite of other projects that will help reduce transport emissions in Vancouver.

The strategy – which has been approved by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and TransLink’s board of directors – outlines over 100 actions to make transit more affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable.

In addition to the 300 kilometres of rapid transit lines which will consist of bus, light rail, subway, or SkyTrain routes, the authority will build an 850-kilometre segregated bikeway network and promote the use of electric and shared vehicles.

Also, how cool is this retro-futuristic style artists’ impression? More of these, please!

An image of Vancouver’s future transit network

And here’s a fun video of the vision for Vancouver’s future network. This is how you tell a story that builds public buy-in, how you get everyone paddling in the same waka.

Access to the city is a gender equality issue

An article on The Conversation summarises the results of a global study that looked at the relationship between gender and how we get around the city. The results are interesting and highlight the importance of considering access and transport through many different lenses – and challenging our biases towards thinking of the active, able-bodied commuter.

In many cities men tend to have greater access to private cars than women. They also commute further in the city.

By contrast, constraints such as childcare and household tasks, fall disproportionately on women. In some cities this means they are confined at home. In others, and despite perceptions of relative vulnerability and safety, women tend to rely on public transport more than men.

Cycling was the mode that varied the most in all of the sample cities. In some, many fewer women used bikes to get around than men did. However, in cities with good, safe cycling infrastructure, they found that there are actually more women than men riding bikes.

A different kind of park

Another example of looking at the places we inhabit with a new lens: this Swedish park was designed in collaboration with local girls, who were asked what they’d like to do and use in their park. The result is something really interesting and different, with spaces for spontaneous and unstructured play.

The focus group, in contrast, emphasized the importance of creating a safe and vibrant space for everyone, where friends, siblings, parents and relatives could spend time together.

The park was designed to appeal to a cross-section of society.

The cure for traffic jam blues?

Life with a cargo bike

I love the joy of this great twitter thread, about life with a cargo bike for one dad-of-two-from-suburbia. Click through for a plethora of practical insights. This was one of my favourites:

Tāmaki transport pasts

Finally, we’ll leave you with a few curiosities marking milestones from Auckland’s transport past. A good reminder than transformation can happen.

Enjoy your weekend! Looks like it’s gonna be… hot and humid.

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    1. I listened this am and at one point the Minister said “we’re on track to meet our emission reduction targets for transport” or words to that effect. WTF? How does he come to that conclusion?

        1. Simple, people aren’t going to be able to afford to drive soon. The market is doing what the minister can’t or won’t.

          I’ve massively reduced VKT because I’m having to spend extra money on things like ‘food’ or ‘power’. It’s a pretty miserable way to live tbh.

  1. and if you missed it there were two regional transport initiatives launched last week. A coalition of rail interest groups, under the umbrella name of the Public Transport Forum NZ launched an initiative known as ‘Connecting Communities 2030’. And while the petition has been going for a few weeks already, the “Save our Trains’ campaign had a media release and as a result there was a bit of publicity via newspapers and radio interviews. and

  2. 6 years to build a small cycleway. How can we give this more airtime and start putting AT under pressure? Writing personal feedback on their consultation forms isn’t enough.

    1. “How can we give this more airtime and start putting AT under pressure? Writing personal feedback on their consultation forms isn’t enough.”

      Many of the delays are caused by the democratic process, whereby everyone and anyone, can make submissions on every proposal, no matter how small.

  3. And sadly in the Week in Flooding Westport has had two “once in a hundred years” floods in the same week.
    Might be time for a new way to categorise the severity of floods

  4. The K’Rd bikeway was finally built after strong protests from local businesses. I wonder if the bikeway been good for business or not?
    Otahuhu town was given a facelift about 2 or 3 years ago. Overhead power lines were removed, the footpaths widened and a shared bikeway built on Station Rd. But the main street still has few pedestrians and the bikeway is pretty empty. The plan to build a bikeway from Otahuhu to Sylvia Park was dropped.
    AT keep building these very expensive bikeways knowing that the money is poorly spent. Panmure bikeway is wasted and the GI to Meadowbank pathway will be unused at least for another 3 years until section 3 to Tamaki drive is complete. but even then I doubt ther will be big numbers of users.

      1. Only 1 or 2 bikeways in Auckland can be regarded as popular. Even The NW and the Tamaki bikeways only have 100s per day. Most others 100s per week or less. Such a big waste of money. Do people working at AT not care about profits, service, benefit cost ratios and the power of attractions and drawcard of Sydney or Melbourne.
        Why is AT not promoting their railway and doing everything to increase patronage. For starters they might take down all those negative posters about fare evaders, warnings, etc and instead give AT Hop cards to all those 80% of reluctant Auckland users

        1. There’s a pandemic happening at the moment called covid, you may have heard of it. Moving to the red light traffic signal saw an instant drop in many things, people responded by staying home. It’s not the right time yet to make judgements about the success or otherwise of these projects while the pandemic rumbles on. It’s nothing to do with the people at AT “caring”.

        2. From my experience of biking around Auckland I can tell you that there are so many missing links to destinations around the city, for example Dominion Road, Newmarket, Great North Road, Ponsonby Road, Reumuera. All of these roads are really unsafe and extremely unpleasant to ride on, but these roads take people to some of the most popular destinations in Auckland. Auckland Transport desperately needs to get safe cycling infrastructure on these arterial roads if they want to get people riding their bikes.

          When Auckland has a network that lets you get from A to B mostly on separated cycleways is when most people will consider their bike to be an option – we’re going to see cycling numbers explode once we get to that point.

        3. JFamilton, people have a right to bike safely. Motorists have a duty to pay what is required to keep them safe from motor vehicles. Don’t let your enthusiasm for public transport – which I share – interfere with your understanding of this basic fact.

          Investment in public transport and in active transport are complementary. You don’t need to see them as in competition with each other.

          And if you can’t see that providing a connected network leads to high cycling ridership, you’re actually not doing a basic level of reading on the subject.

    1. Building a safe connected network that allows people to ride safely increases ridership considerably and gives an enormous return on investment. The data from around the world doesn’t leave any room for doubt on this.

      What we need to discuss for the Auckland context is how to join up a safe network quickly. Some links will be expensive, and many need to be cheap – provided through road reallocation.

    2. Panmure bikeway is not “wasted” – I used it this morning and it was busy with pedestrians, bikes and scooters. The previous arrangement, particularly the river crossing (three lane bridge with a 1m wide footway) was completely unacceptable. It had to be improved and the new provision should set the standard for other links elsewhere in Auckland.

      The completion of GI to Meadowbank will mean that it’s no longer necessary to mix with traffic on Remuera Road. It also joins currently-disparate local networks. There is no way that it will be “unused”.

      1. Looking forwards to this! Sharing with traffic on St Johns Rd/ Remuera Rd is horrendous! I go via Gowing Dr to avoid this – where someone was killed quite recently because of the speeding vehicles. But still it is better, steeper and longer, but better

  5. If anyone dropped their electric bike key, with an Electric Bike Team key tag, on the NW cycleway, it’s waiting for you at the Electric Bike Team.

    1. It is a pity The Speaker cut that last one off. Even as he was getting up tp respond to that one the Minister’s smile indicated it had been a palpable hit.

      1. I appreciated the vid, especially the final quip/grin.

        In terms of the Ministers words though, all of it applies to going to Light Metro instead of tunnelled LR. Penny pinching and screwing over transport to the North and North-West by removing the ability for all of Auckland’s future Rapid Transit routes to be automated. Also the business case having read through seems to understate the benefits of the Light Metro (despite the business case seeming to point towards Light Metro as the best option), given it seems to think that there would be 20TPH max on both fully automated light metro on a totally dedicated ROW, and 20 TPH for tunnelled LR which has drivers and parts where it contains surface running.

        1. Yep, that was exactly what someone else was saying on twitter.

          Counterpoint is that we could use signalling that allows automated operation on the most congested sections (ie the downtown tunnel) while relying on the driver once it leaves this section. Should be able to squeeze a lot of trains through.

          Although this still invites unreliability and will still have lower throughput compared to fully grade separated and automated. But not too big of a penalty.

        2. @Jack but then you’ve got the costs of both automating (high upfront capital) and drivers (opex). Realistically though, we can make anything work, just this is the time to pick the best solution for Auckland in the future, so we don’t have to work around things, as we’ve already designed it in a way it won’t be an issue.

          Like, having drivers over automated won’t be a problem today, or when it comes out etc. – but it will be down the track, and especially for the AWHC (which this will connect to, and this mode will likely determine what mode the north shore and north west have) as that section especially will be all about getting as many trains as practically possible through that at peak.

          Either way though, the business case has Light Metro ahead in everything bar initial cost and emissions. It’s not a small margin between LR/TLR and LM, like double the net benefit, and the BCR for spending the extra from tunnelled LR to Light Metro was 2.4 – which is a fairly great ratio for any project.

          With emissions, tunnelled LR seemed to beat it long-term which I didn’t understand, guessing the road reallocation for tunnelled LR was meant to outweigh the greater number of users? The emissions bit looked weird in the long run between LM and tunnelled LR, but as it didn’t fully explain why they had tunnelled LR ahead, I’m not calling it out as it could just be a factor I missed.

        3. I imagine making the North Shore metro would be a lot more expensive than LR. It needs to be properly dedicated, no one could ever possibly walk on the track type stuff. And would it also need platform screen doors these days so you don’t fall off and get fried?
          Hard to see Auckland ever needing that level TBH.

        4. “I imagine making the North Shore metro would be a lot more expensive than LR. It needs to be properly dedicated, no one could ever possibly walk on the track type stuff. ”

          Literally the entire busway except stations is already like that from Akoranga to Albany. Loads of metros, including brand new ones don’t have platform screen doors.

        5. @Jimbo

          “During the morning peak period, the Auckland Harbour Bridge carries around 10,000 people; this is
          comparable to Auckland rail access to the city centre, or morning peak period alightings at
          . The North Shore RTN is clearly a critical component of Auckland’s transport network.” –

          Basically, a lot of people travel the route each morning, and it’s only predicted to increase disproportionately.

          The extra line is already in the long term planning, it’s more how future proofed it gets. Honestly, the population of Auckland is really a political call. The numbers of people wanting to move to NZ/Auckland is for our purposes infinite (so many more people want to live here than can physically arrive), and intensification is a political call as well.

          Re platform screen doors, I think they’re a good idea even at existing stations, but it’s more a cost to lives/disruption calculus. I also don’t see them doing anything other than just tunnelling a new route (which is dedicated anyway) due to the ease of spending a bit more to make everyone happy, so there will likely be a dedicated ROW (with no one allowed to be walking on the tracks, like literally every other RT route in Auckland)

  6. Whilst any business will be disappointed with disruptions on their doorstep, K Rd businesses were not against the bikeway/footpath improvements. A few years back council paid for a survey and the K Rd businesses were surprised to hear the majority of their customers arrived on foot, bike or PT – so were keen to see something that supported their customers

    1. So the council had to actially organise and pay for a survey, that showed that their knowledge, or rather assumed knowledge, of their own customer base was seriously deficient.
      It was great the retailers at least learnt something from this.

      Unfortunately the same cannot be said for AT, (and the Council in general) who continue to give over much emphasis to, probably equally flawed, views of retailers, when allocating street space.

  7. “There are kids who started school at Westmere Primary when the project was first announced, who will leave the school before the construction of their safe cycling route is even begun.

    Six years is a lifetime for some of us.”

    This really does my head in. Even where there’s a small pocket of plans to make a neighbourhood safer for kids to get around, by the time those plans are delivered, those kids aren’t kids any more.

    As well as continually missing the opportunity to show everyone how a walk-bike-scoot-friendly neighbourhood could look and feel, the ongoing delay tells thousands of young citizens that their needs just don’t count.

    And children all across the city will be bearing the brunt of this delayed action – in terms of health, climate, connection, social resilience, everything – in the stressful context of the last few years of disruption (a lifetime for some of us) and the uncertainties ahead.

    The hope rests in a general consensus that kids’ freedom and health is really important. So what’s the gap between people acknowledging that, and accepting small local changes like safer streets? In practical terms, will it actually take for everyone to join the dots on this?

    1. Car-free Queen Street has been a thought exercise for my tertiary study and now a good chunk of my professional career.

      It’s so disheartening to live in a city where the most basic of changes become almost generational. At this rate I have zero faith I will be still alive to actually use light rail in Auckland when it is finally built.

      1. I think generational is the right way to put it.

        Getting around by other means than driving is seen as not something “normal” people do. Shifting back will be a very slow process, similar to for example the increasing acceptance of gay marriage. These processes are measured in generations, not in years.

        Maybe in 50 years, public transport and cycling will be “normal” again.

    2. Is there anything happening with the Pt Chev improvements? We got the temporary roundabout (massive improvement for driving, but was just as bad walking or biking there) but now it’s gone.

  8. And after heading South on both the Te Huia and the Eastern line service passing through Meadowbank and looking at the work that has been done to the Tamaki Shared Path is amazing and looking at it , it doesn’t seem that far off from being completed . I put this together with a view from a train going up the hill to it’s final point on Kohimarama Rd . ;-

  9. Streateateries are great but a lot of the outdoor eating areas are along busy roads with parked cars blocking the view. That’s one of the reasons I really don’t see too much appeal in Mission Bay or St Hieliers. All you can see when sitting in a cafe are countless cars rather than the trees, beach and the ocean.

    1. Yes.

      It’s also why Mission Bay is nicer as a beach than Kohi or St Heliers – the buffer between it and the road. And why Pt Chevalier beach has so much appeal despite being further up the harbour.

      There’s so much we could do to improve this situation, whether for people who eat at streateries or people who indulge in the frugal hedonist approach of picnics in public places.

    2. Even the infamously ugly Belgian coast gets this basing thing right. Keep the street right next to the beach car free.

      Although one reason why they can do that is they have flat land behind the coast, so the main road and the coast tram are a short distance inland.

  10. No flood report this week, but Westport has now had three major floods in 8 months. Will this town become the first permanent casualty of climate change? With some properties already uninsurable and a population in decline is the only option left to abandon this town.
    My heart goes out to those people who are living their lives in an increasing state of trauma.

  11. If you were offered a limo, but only for a week, wouldn’t you use it to the max?

    To be a useful comparison it would need to be for 3 months or so.

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