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.

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.

One of Klaus Staecks’ posters, from The Guardian’s gallery
One of Klaus Staecks’ posters, from The Guardian’s gallery

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.

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…

Image: David White for Stuff.

Meanwhile, concerns and official recommendations around safe travel in the age of Omicron are raising good questions, like this one:

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.

Chch rising!

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.”

Not a render – just real live Christchurchians enjoying their pedestrianised central city. (Stuff)

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!

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).

Questions, questions

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.)

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 🙂

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  1. “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.”

    Why does there need to be a concrete barrier? How can they even say that given the state of most state highways which hardly even have a shoulder and are far more dangerous. Why not just make the bridge speed lower?

    1. Surely a lighter weight steel barrier would be more appropriate for the bridge? Beyond that, I’d hope the bridge load capacity per lane is higher than a string of concrete barrier considering the weight of trucks and double decker buses.
      The main argument against liberating a lane is capacity. Travel demand management on the bridge is scheduled for 2025. Perhaps it could be brought forward to reduce traffic now? All the technology and systems already exist for NZs toll roads, there should be noting preventing it.

      1. Yes, a lighter weight steel barrier is available, and WK have chosen to not advise the minister about it. There actually needs to be an inquiry now, into the multiple stages of poor advice they’ve given.

        1. Water filled plastic barriers and concrete barriers sit there under their own weight. The steel barriers you’re thinking of need to be anchored to the surface they’re sitting on using bolts, so there may be a valid concern about the holes decreasing the life of the bridge deck.

          Still I agree that WK/NZTA could find a way if they really wanted to and the advice they’re giving the minister is poor. The situation sounds like something out of Yes Minister.

        2. I believe there are approved freestanding steel barriers that don’t require bolts, which interlock to each other, and are half the weight of the concrete barriers.

        3. Heidi, what’s the point of a free-standing barrier? It doesn’t sound safe at all, all the pedestrians and cyclists would just get mashed between the barrier and the side of the bridge if a vehicle drove into it.

        4. Peter, there’ll be some strength from the stable shape and the tension from being part of a train of interlocked barriers. Remember that heavy vehicles aren’t allowed on the clipons.

    2. Why concrete, rather than a lighter material? Isn’t the extra barrier weight more than offset by the reduced weight of vehicles?

    3. Obviously it has to stop trucks and buses so a lightweight barrier and a non fixed barrier will not suffice.

      And what speed is safe? 30 km/hr is the go to isn’t it?

      1. The trucks that will soon be off this road, that should be using the central lanes right now anyway? I trust bus drivers to not hit me in unprotected lanes all the time, with this much space, for a tiny distance, no issue.

        Why NZTA so concerned with protecting bike users and pedestrians here and not anywhere else on their entire network? How about the express ways vehicles are moving much faster?

        A steel barrier, lower road speeds or something else Would be fine. They are taking the piss.

        1. It’s a motorway, that’s why!

          And as a motorcyclist, it gets plenty unsteady up there in side winds even on a bike weighing 200 kg.

      2. “It’s a motorway” is a. meaningless statement, when there expressways that have speeds 30km higher.

        Re wind, the barrier to keep bike users in does not have to be concrete. Also if get really windy they will close the road like last Sunday. Why are you going though the bad faith takes?

        1% of NZ population got ebikes last year, there needs to be a way to cross this one Km of water.

  2. “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.”

    Bingo. It is bizarre that KR can’t see the opportunity to get more income out of the same train. Why make up a random tour schedule when regular daily trains are how the rest of the world runs trains, with good reason.

    1. Let’s see what they come up with. I don’t believe the train will run to Otorohanga and stop while all the people trip off to see the caves. Its more likely the train will keep going and another service will pick them up. So there may be room for through passengers its just there will be activities and accomandation at some stops. I am not sure how many carriages are available but maybe we could have shorter trains and more services. And there is the possibility to link them up with the capital connection and Te Huia meaning they would only need to run between Palmerston North and Hamilton. So effectively there would be a tour company and a rail service. The tour company would arrange all connections either by bus or train.

      1. I actually considered taking the Northern Explorer up from Wellington to Auckland yesterday (after the ill-timed death of my car in Picton) – but as these are “paused” for now am taking the bus instead. The bus takes the same amount of time as a train, but the train would be much more comfortable. It wouldn’t make any sense for the train to stop for tourist stops – much better to have more frequent services.

    2. The mind boggles. The whole point of the Northern Explorer was ALWAYS that you could stop off along the way and hop on the train again the next day. They must think we are so dense that we haven’t noticed they are simply removing the service. My guess is that they are trying to position it as an alternative to ocean cruises (for international tourists??) but again, that could easily have been done with the normal service. It’s the lowest carbon link between the two biggest cities, and they are removing access to it.

      1. Lol. Thanks Heidi. I was looking at his dinner and trying to figure out how much I would be prepared to pay to not have to eat that. Beef and gravy, mashed spud, peas and half a tomato dropped on to demonstrate 70s culinary ability. I settled on $50 to $100, if someone paid me that much I might eat it.

        1. How much would they have to fork out to get you to sleep overnight on a train between Wellington and Auckland?

        2. Did that trip on New Years Day Evening 1974 and the food was delicious compared to what they served up at Taihape on the Silver Fern . The only complaint I had with the Silver Star the Beds were a bit short but were comfortable . And both ways they served underage persons Alcohol namely yours truly .

        3. Heidi the asbestos on the Silver Star would put me off, so would Covid-19. Mrs mfwic and I drove down the Wellington in January to stay with Miss mfwic. It is an easy drive, faster than a train, less covid than a plane and 100% cow flesh free.

        4. Miffy how old is the house that you live in as most of them built in the mid 70’s and going further back all have Asbestos in them in some form or other and it doesn’t kill straight away as you may have to wait 40years or more . When I was learning my trade as a a carpenter we cut it with a grinder and no one wore face masks of any kind and were we installed it was kindergartens and high schools , so the Silver Star was safe unless you rip off the wall panelings .

        5. I have one square of vinyl in the hot water cupboard that probably has asbestos. I glued a newer piece over it years ago. The soffits are the only part that came back positive when I got tests done. So I keep them covered in paint and have never drilled or cut them. It is tricky getting rid of it in Auckland because we have a useless council. In Wellington the Council gives you a permit and you take it to the tip double bagged and labelled. You put it in a steel bin the size of a small shed and they arrange burial somewhere.

      2. Heidi, I always imagined Miffy looking like that too, but with a couple of fingers upraised, gesticulating at the rest of the world.

        1. I am quite a friendly guy. If I get covid I might head for Wellington and hug as many protestors as I can.

    1. “Think I might grow my hair and a moustache and get me a brown suede jacket like that 70s dude on the Silver Star.”

      You’d fit right in on K Road, and you’re lucky you’ll find one of the local joints doing an ironic beef and gravy special for only $59 a plate (mash and steamed vegetables extra).

  3. As with the Te Huia they need to Advertise it more through the visual media , I know there are a lot on youtube e.t.c. but you don’t see much out in the Media unless they are moaning about what it costs to both the Ratepayers and Taxpayers , as what was shown on Newshub the night before it restarted on the 24th Jan as shown in this , what they need is more positive feedback from media and all . ;-

    1. It needs to go direct into Britomart like all diesel powered trains did, via Newmarket with as few Auckland stops as possible. The transfer side of it and use of metro trains is a major choke point in its efficiency.

      Otherwise it’s doomed to failure as it’s too slow.

      1. Link ;- the AT removed the extraction fans from Britomart as they didn’t want to spend $600K plus and they tried to get KR to pay for the upgrade so the Northener could still use Britomart , and with the new upgrade of Briotmart the Platform for intercity trains is on the chopping block also .

        The slowest part of the trip is going through the 14km single stretch of track through the swamp .

        And it doomsayers like you that are to scared to use it , so one day do a 1day round trip to Hamilton and back then decide if it any good , as so far this year I have done 2 round trips and have another coming up next weekend and I do own a car but I don’t want to spend $140 for a return trip on a ferry to get it to Auckland so I can drive to Hamilton and suffer the traffic on the Motorway .

        1. What is the new upgrade? Surely they’ll still leave at least 2 central platforms for regional services to use

        2. Still two central platforms once the CRL starts. What’s going is KRs dedicated fifth platform that was squeezed in to the Britomart design (was originally four tracks with two big broad platforms) then used once a day.

        3. Kraut , Platform 3 is suppose to go and they are suppose to widen what is now platforms 1-2 and 4-5 as someone has said those 2 are to narrow .

      2. That depends on where you’re going. Changing to suburban trains at Puhinui works well – better than Britomart would – for a bunch of destinations.

  4. And with that Tweet showing the Te Huia coming in from the Strand the end of this video shows it departing Puhinui to the Strand and at Puhinui the AT security was trying to get those that got off to tag on so he could put the covers back on the Hop readers ;-

  5. Todays recipe:

    a) Take a traffic lane,
    b) Put up a safety barrier
    b) Add ped/cycling/micromobilty facilities
    d) Add a dynamically priced congestion toll

    The revenue can go towards a 2nd crossing.

    Technically there are no issues providing cost effective, safe W/C/MM movement across the bridge.

    1. If they hadn’t made the Harbour bridge Toll free all those years ago , there would be by now enough in the pot to build a 2nd crossing be it a Bridge or Tunnel ‘

      1. If they had maintained the toll rate at the level it started, in today’s terms about $6, now there would be a bright new metro system running all the way to Albany. Maybe some of the stations would even be located close to traffic flows such as Albany Mall?

  6. When does AT typically approve feedback for their social pinpoint thing? The prior ones I’ve used have been NZTA, and they don’t require approval for things, but I added feedback a week ago for the Westmere cycle improvements, and they still haven’t appeared on the map (nor the feedback of anyone else).

    1. I realise I didn’t continue when my feedback didn’t appear as I thought something wasn’t working. I’ve heard unofficially that they decided not to show the feedback. Can anyone confirm? I could imagine that people start commenting on other people’s comments rather than concentrating on thinking through the issues with the area and making unique personal observations.

      1. My prior NZTA experience people posted like normal, and then posted on each others ideas – the comments on peoples observations were pretty important/upvoting the ideas agreed on etc. It’s kind of taking away the whole social pinpointing part of social pinpoint.

        I haven’t tried one with AT before, but I was expecting it was more like some intern was tasked with approving each post to ensure there wasn’t bad words in them, and they just haven’t got round to it yet a week or so later. If it is a deliberate decision to not show any feedback, I disagree wholeheartedly with it, but for now I’m just hoping someone needs a nudge to mass accept feedback (or check to see why feedback isn’t appearing if it isn’t queued to be accepted)

    This was released yesterday. It is contrary to what the Minister wants.

    I am not a cyclist, but this is a disgrace. If one of the busiest streets in one of the largest cities in the world (Paulista Aveneue in Sao Paulo) can be turned over to cyclists every Sunday then why not the Harbour Bridge? I am not buying that WK cannot make it as safe as they make the rest of the roading network. It’s not a high bar to reach.

    WK has a climate change obligation and largely they seem to be doing little, or worsening matters. For example, in my area the downgrading of a buslane will not be helpful. They (WK and AT) are already wondering how this change will impact on the biggest apartment development in Takapuna.)

    WK, you need to do better, much much better, and adapt to a world that requires emissions reductions.

  8. Thanks GA – Brilliant weekly wrap up. More please.

    Great to have “Equal access for cars and bikes and pedestrians” last weekend 🙂

    NZTA fighting hard to keep Aucklanders off our bridge is a generational battle – “team status quo” is winning. The 1980’s comment “auckland harbour barrier [to cycling and walking]” is so apt to this day.

    Eyes on the prize GA if we want to move Auckland forward, this excellent vid still makes me smile and is so the answer. A bunch of “rats in lycra” pulled together $700,000 worth of management and advertising on a stunning day in Auckland.

    1. Frustrating there is somehow a movement to bring it down before the 3 year period for which funding has already been locked in

      1. Kraut , I bet they are the same type of person that would have complained when ARC got the DMU’s for the Auckland Network.
        And on another network a person turned around and said why didn’t they spend the money on ICU’s , didn’t they realise when the money was locked in there was no pandemic .
        So what they should do to get the numbers is some POSITIVE ADVERTISING to show what and how good the service is .

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