Kia ora. Here’s our roundup of transport news and interesting stories for the week ending mid-February. The cover photo shows Auckland Harbour Bridge closed last weekend when Cyclone Dovi rolled through, Image by David White, from Stuff.
Thanks to Jolisa for co-writing this post!
The week in Greater Auckland
- Monday’s post, by Matt, examined information about the ALR decision in the just released indicative business case documents
- On Tuesday, Matt wrote about the tinkering around the edges approach AT seems to be taking in attempts to make inner-city arterial roads safer.
- In Wednesday’s post, Matt looked at Auckland Light Rail again, asking this time about the longer-term consequences and opportunities of the plan.
- Yesterday, a guest post walked us through the story of Hydrogen, why there’s been so much hype about it, and whether it really has potential export value in Aotearoa.
The week in flooding
A dramatic storm hammered much of the North Island last weekend, after a week of Singapore- and Fiji-level heat and humidity. We were thankfully luckier than Petropolis, a city inland from Rio in Brazil, where a catastrophic flood has left rescuers combing through the rubble for survivors.
Petrópolis is a popular tourist destination in the hills above Rio de Janeiro which used to be the summer getaway for Brazil’s monarchs in the 19th Century.
But after a month’s worth of rain fell on the city in just three hours, much of its regal charm lay in ruins, with homes and shops destroyed by the flooding.
It is the latest in a series of heavy rains to hit Brazil in the past three months, which scientists say are being made worse by climate change.
How much emissions reduction does Auckland’s Climate Action Targeted Rate buy?
Todd Niall’s column on Stuff this week asks how much climate action can be achieved from the new targeted rate. The work that the CATR will fund includes electrifying public transport, and increasing infrastructure for active modes. But, as Niall points out, none of these projects will make a big enough dent in Auckland’s emissions. Unless they’re accompanied by Aucklanders reducing kilometers travelled in cars.
… one risk of CATR is that it might distract both the politicians, as well as Aucklanders, from what really needs to be done. People simply need to drive a lot less.
That will require swift, bold and possibly unpopular political action, and Auckland will need to get on with everything within its power – not necessarily wait for Government action.
The story contains mixed news about how informed Aucklanders are about the challenge ahead, and how empowered they feel to take steps to drive a lot less. What will it take? What would help most?
The scale of the challenge has been highlighted in an opinion survey carried out by council agency Auckland Transport (AT).
Respondents believed in climate change (82 per cent), backed immediate action (78 per cent) and agreed it would impact their lifestyle (59 per cent).
Only 43 per cent said they would reduce driving in the coming year, or at least consider it – even though one estimate is that private motoring will need to shrink by 40 per cent by 2030.
Lack of parking enforcement causes chaos in Pōneke
We don’t want to give the protest around Parliament Lawn too much airtime. But we haven’t been able to help but notice the outsized effect a relatively small cluster of vehicles has had on one corner of Wellington. This is one way private vehicles are all too easily turned into weapons: in this case, to claim public space and make it unsafe for normal members of the community.
Wellingtonians have abandoned this corner of the city, which would usually be full of people walking to and from work, school or uni. And businesses are feeling the loss of foot traffic.
Talking to a number of retailers today, I learned that businesses all along Lambton Quay are suffering a drop in foot traffic and income due to the protest. They said people are afraid to come into the city. I really feel for small business owners, it's their livelihood at risk.
— Beckie (@FitKiwi) February 17, 2022
You can’t help but wonder how useful a few strategically placed bollards might have been at the beginning of all this.
Waka Kōtahi’s Vision Zero message
Here’s Waka Kōtahi’s new Road to Zero ad. It is a sobering, but powerful, watch.
Safety, covered by The War on Cars
The War on Cars is a great transport and urbanism focused podcast. Its name is only a little tongue-in-cheek. In keeping with the safety theme, this recent episode of their podcast examines the way we talk about car ‘accidents’ and how that alters the way responsibility falls on those involved.
According to a new book by journalist Jessie Singer, events that most people describe as accidents are anything but. Singer argues that who lives and dies by accident in America is not random but utterly predictable. Using the word, she says, protects the powerful and leads to “the prevention of prevention.”
The war on cars in postwar Germany
Doug Gordon, co-host of the podcast mentioned above, wrote this piece on The Guardian about one artist’s visual crusade against cars and the effects they had on the streets of 1970s and ’80s German cities. Although now more than forty decades old, many of his messages are depressingly current.
The car’s threat to safety is highlighted in 1987’s “Car from the perspective of a traffic victim,” in which an automobile’s undercarriage takes up almost the entire poster, presenting the car not as the stuff of motorist fantasies but of pedestrian nightmares.
Trains, trains, trains
Not only have the night trains of Europe gone “from being on the verge of extinction to a continent-wide resurgence“, the day trains are looking pretty amazing too. Here’s a list of new routes to dream of riding one day, from A-Z (and that’s just Amsterdam-Zurich, there’s a dozen more!)
Ride along with one happy traveller:
Or, if time travel’s more your thing, relax, drift back to the 1970s, and “let somebody else do the driving, while you do the living…” on the Silver Star, between Auckland and Wellington – “the fastest motel on wheels.”
Back to the future, in 2022 our intercity rail is making a “journey into the future”, with fresh plans for the paused Northern Explorer (Auckland to Wellington) and the Coastal Pacific (Picton to Christchurch) routes.
Interesting to see that the working assumption is that people prefer “multi-day experiences that showcase the best of New Zealand, both on and off the track.” Top tip: people can also do a multi-day train trip (and stop at interesting places along the way) (and replace plane journeys with train journeys) if the trains run every day. Just an idea…
For the Te Huia Fans…
Here she is calling into Puhinui Staion.
And Te Huia comes into Puhinui Station. pic.twitter.com/NDVQtUTJL2
— The 2018 Christmas Express (@2018Express) February 14, 2022
Still not over it
Equal access for cars and bikes and pedestrians was briefly achieved last Sunday, when the Auckland Harbour Bridge was closed for a large chunk of the day due to high winds from Cyclone Dovi. This striking image from Stuff news shows lanes looking mighty reallocatable…
Meanwhile, concerns and official recommendations around safe travel in the age of Omicron are raising good questions, like this one:
"travel solo, to, from and around work or between jobs (the worker cannot use public transport)"https://t.co/N8cv6Sasf5
— Nicholas Lee (@stateless) February 14, 2022
So what’s happening for bridge access, whether for climate action reasons or essential worker access? In conversation with Thomas Coughlan on his podcast On The Tiles, transport minister Michael Wood touched on the ongoing work on how to give Auckland the active transport link it so plainly needs across the harbour.
Wood told On the Tiles the original Northern Pathway plan that would have seen a new walking and cycling path clipped on to the existing Harbour Bridge had broad support, but the Government was told it was not technically feasible to go ahead with it.
The bridge was what officials recommended in its place.
“Clearly, it crossed a line in terms of public appetite in terms of cost: $360 million, people could bear; $680 million crossed a point where people didn’t have a level of comfort with it,” Wood said.
“I guess the best thing I can say about that is we listened pretty close for several months. The message was pretty clear we needed to do this in a different way that didn’t cost so much. We heard that, we made the change.”
He said options would be put forward to the public this year for the future of a new crossing for the harbour, but he had asked for trial options to be considered for the existing bridge.
Those options were coming soon, Wood said, but noted there were some complexities that needed to be worked through and it was “technically much more difficult” than people thought.
“If you do one lane, you’d have to put concrete median barriers along it. The weight of that on the clip-ons would create resilience issues. You’d have to take two lanes, so you’d start to get into a more difficult technical solution.”
And so we wait. Just as we have done since, well, ages ago. Here’s a striking story from four decades ago – a lifetime, for some of us.
Ōtautahi rises again, with the central city population higher than before the quakes, thanks to record levels of house-building, with “one in 10 of all homes approved by the city council last year in the central city.” The article quotes some new arrivals who’re finding Chch quite chichi.
One central city resident is Sam Brookland, who said he found it quiet when he first rented in town after arriving from suburban Auckland.
But in the 18 months since he and partner Adam Taylor bought a home and moved in, they have seen “a sense of community” develop.
“I’m a real champion for the central city now. There’s real vibrancy and we love it.”
They do not miss gardening, and enjoy the cafes and bars, Brookland said.
“I think this sort of density is going to become more a way of living in future. The city can’t just keep on sprawling.”
Fellow central city resident Annabelle Cole bought her home during lockdown, and moved south from Wellington for work.
She travels by e-bike and does not own a car, and has found the city much more lively than she expected.
“Christchurch has surprised me in some ways.”
Christchurch was also blessed with a coveted international nod this week, when its splendid riverfront rising bollards drew the attention of the (satirical) World Bollard Association. An honour of which Auckland can only dream!
— World Bollard Association™ (@WorldBollard) February 14, 2022
Comedian tackles density and NIMBYs
White Man Behind a Desk, AKA comedian Robbie Nicol, heads off on a pointed and entertaining rant about the flawed logic of NIMBYs (and the outsize influence they have on our cities right now).
It’s not that we get all our news via Twitter, but we couldn’t help spotting this thread about an Automobile Association survey, shared by Mayor Aaron Hawkins of Dunedin. Obviously the survey is attempting to gather information about the potential for mode-shift – for example, what kinds of trips people would be prepared to make some other way than with a car, and what the perceived barriers are to just hopping on a bike or walking. But the scenarios are kinda wild.
Like: imagine you’re home, on a dark and stormy night, making dinner, but without access to a car. Quick, what’s the worst that could happen?
Nope, worse than that.
Nope, keep guessing…
That’s right: tasteless noodles! (Really, this is a horror story about when car culture is so entrenched that you don’t know your neighbours well enough to borrow some spices, and you’re not confident about asking a family member to run a quick errand on foot or on bike when it’s dark and rainy out there.)
Tasteless noodles! Dark and stormy weather!
This survey by the Automobile Association is hilarious pic.twitter.com/7VkGVXMCdE
— Aaron Hawkins (@A_G_Hawkins) February 16, 2022
The question is, what kind of noodles? Are we talking spaghetti? South-east Asian? Some kind of light soupy thing? Or thick and meaty Xi’an style? Because all of those lead towards a very different answer…
We sincerely hope no-one suffers from tasteless noodles this weekend! See you next week 🙂