Kia ora. Well, this week definitely felt like it had too much news in it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found transport and urbanism angles on pretty much all of it.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • Monday’s post, by Matt, explored the pros and cons of past CRL proposals, going all the way back to 1920.
  • In Tuesday’s post, Matt reported on progress with the Connected Communities New North Road project – the good and the bad.
  • On Wednesday, we published a guest post by Tim Adriaansen looking at how Waka Kotahi has responded to the Minister for Transport’s request to investigate a walking and cycling trial on the harbour bridge.
  • In yesterday’s post, Matt dove into the latest, and largest, round of speed limit changes proposed by AT.

NZ Geographic explores our car-dominated streets

Putting this week’s long-read suggestion right up the top because it’s so good. The always-excellent New Zealand Geographic paired with writer Hayden Donnell on a deep dive into Auckland’s transport history, how it became so utterly dominated by private cars, and the effect that has on all of us.

At first, the downsides of car dependence were rarely articulated, except under subheadings in council transport reports devoted to “externalities”. Over the decades, the toll of those externalities has become more clear. Car use has dislocated us from each other and our built environment. Many people, but especially children, have been slowly shunted out of public spaces by the ever-present danger posed by vehicles. In the 1970s, 20 per cent of Auckland’s intermediate-school children cycled to school. That figure is now 3.9 per cent.

Time for climate action now

The release of the sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report almost got lost in amongst the headlines this week. But this document must be read, understood and acted on. The report describes a rapidly closing window in which we have a chance to slow global warming and prevent widespread environmental collapse. RNZ has a summary here.

Commenting on the summary, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described it as an “atlas of human suffering”. He has no doubt as to where the blame lies. “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”

Lawyers take the Climate Change Commission to court

Meanwhile, here in Aotearoa, Lawyers for Climate Action are arguing in the high court that the Climate Change Commission’s advice to government is insufficient to meet our emmissions reduction targets.

The Lawyers for Climate Action NZ argue the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC – declared in 2018 it was absolutely critical to start slashing emissions before 2030.

But the lawyers contend the CCC’s plan actually lets emissions increase over that time – before dropping away and reaching net zero slightly ahead of the 2050 goal.

The week in flooding

Queensland has been battered with deadly and destructive widespread flooding this week. People in Queensland have noticed that huge rain bombs are coming around more frequently, having experienced a similar event just over a decade ago.

“You know, the 2011 [floods], they called it once in a hundred year flood, well it’s only been 11 years and here we are again.”

These dramatic pictures show just how high the water got.

Closer to home, Auckland-based Australian and urbanist Cam Perkins ponders the effects of increasingly frequent flood events on tunneled light rail.

Be a climate advocate: be a YIMBY

Be a climate advocate: save our trains

Head over to All Railways (NZ) to sign a petition to keep NZ’s intercity passenger rail working.

Trains connect communities and are an important part of climate change action.

Trains have connected friends and families for graduations, weddings, holidays, and business for generations. They have connected towns with the cities, and bought our country together. 

Thinking of Ukraine this week

Our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. It’s a beautiful place full of brave people and we’re hoping for a swift end to the destruction so life can return.

One aspect of the invasion of Ukrain by Putin that has really stood out to us is the role fossil fuels, and investment in them, has played in the response of the rest of the world. Russia supplies huge amounts of fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, to mainland Europe. In the matter of a week, many of those pipelines have literally been closed. Even here in NZ we’re seeing things such as Kiwisaver funds divesting their Russian investments, most of which are oil and gas.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Guardian, Big Oil is (predictably) looking for ways to exploit this war for their own gain. But we shouldn’t forget the role these large companies played in developing Russia’s fossil fuel economy.

Russia never could have become such an oil and gas superpower without the help of western oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, which owns a 20% share of Rosneft, Russia’s state owned oil company.

As big oil tries to defend their investments in Russia, they’re simultaneously making the case that greater production at home will help combat Putin’s influence on the global stage.

In a week when the IPCC has told us that:

Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all

… we just can’t let ourselves be taken in by that.

Appreciating Ukrainian urbanism

Many hundreds of Ukrainians are sheltering underground in Kyiv’s deep and very beautiful metro stations.

Tirana Station, Kyiv metro

Kyiv looks like a lovely city.

And it’s home to this whimsical, pastel-coloured take on low-cost residential housing.

“The only instrument we had to work with was color,” [designer Dmitro Vasyliev] said as he stood inside the entrance to the gated community, marked by a faux windmill that hides an electrical power station. “We used the simplest materials, the simplest techniques. We really just had the color and the lines of the skyline.”

Comfort Town housing in Kyiv. Image via LA times

The future of transport is here: it’s got two wheels and a battery.

An American writer from a group called Strong Towns picks up on something we’ve all noticed here: the ebike explosion has arrived, and it’s definitely not just a fad. The article is a solid long read that explores the advantages and possibilities of ebikes from all sorts of different angles.

What would it mean to hop onto an e-bike to pick your kids up from school five miles away or grab medications at the pharmacy, instead of climbing into a car? Think about the amount of money your family would save if you were able to replace one of your cars with an e-bike.

And this piece of UK research is packed full of numbers, demonstrating the role bikes will – and in fact are already – play in decarbonising transport.

Electric bicycles can potentially play a big role in cleaning up our transport by removing dirty vehicles from our roads and getting people onto two wheels. People who may have previously been unable to travel by bicycle could have an entire new, cleaner way of getting around.

The future of high streets

How should high streets and neighbourhood centres adapt to a changing, post-Covid world? An ‘Urban Age Debate’ organised by the London School of Economics asks exactly that, and finds that traditional retail streets need to move beyond a focus on shopping to become places for people and community. Ewe Westermark, a director of Gehl Studio, noted that –

“During COVID we could see a shift…the retail streets that were more mono-functional, were hurting badly…but the places that had a robust mix of uses, that had invested in adding everyday functions to their centres, such as bringing in schools, adding playgrounds and recreation, were more robust because they had wider reasons for people to come.”

Retrofitting homes into urban spaces

Stuff features an idea we might see a bit more of in the coming years: converting un-used office space into homes. It isn’t always straightforward, but when the bones of buildings allow it a conversion, the concept ticks a lot of boxes. Re-using office space provides density where infrastructure already exists, it populates central urban areas, re-uses existing building fabric, and fills space left vacant as more businesses embrace working from home.

The Domain Collection, an office building redesigned to be apartments. Image via Colliers

A solution for Union/Victoria?

I used to navigate this tricky bit of road by bike most days. It looks like a raised platform is going in. But why can’t this rat-run just be bollarded?

Hamilton’s dutch roundabout gets re-thunk

File this under… depressing. A dutch-style roundabout designed for a street in Hamilton – that will soon become full of pedestrians and cyclists when ACC moves its local office there – has been shelved, because of fears it would increase congestion.

An initial plan to create a Dutch-inspired singe lane roundabout, that would have given priority to pedestrians and cyclists, was ditched after a review of the design found it would have created major traffic congestion.

Instead, council staff now propose to retain the existing roundabout and provide additional off-road shared paths at a cost of $3.15 million.

It’s like a ‘why we can’t have safe streets’ bingo.

We need to make driving more difficult, more annoying, and less convenient, because we just need to drive less. Come on Hamilton, we were so excited when this design was first released!

Get your cowboy costumes here

This is worth a read for the headline and subhead alone:

You Don’t Need A Full-Size Pickup Truck, You Need a Cowboy Costume

The most popular vehicles in America may be the greatest examples of overcompensation ever invented.

The article is an exploration of American’s addiction to ever-embiggening pickup trucks. It asks why people keep buying them, who’s buying them, and what the owners of pickup trucks actually use them for.

According to Edwards’ data, 75 percent of truck owners use their truck for towing one time a year or less (meaning, never). Nearly 70 percent of truck owners go off-road one time a year or less. And a full 35 percent of truck owners use their truck for hauling—putting something in the bed, its ostensible raison d’être—once a year or less.

Bollards are the answer for Parliament grounds

It was hard to peel our eyes away from the shocking escalation of the Parliament Grounds occupation this week. In previous weeks we’ve pondered if a few brave bollards could have prevented much of the disruption, and we also linked to journalist Henry Cooke’s piece about the problem of the protestors’ cars. Watching cars become actual weapons in the last week has been horrifying. It’s clear that it was too easy for a small group of people to claim public space for themselves.

But, the open and welcoming sense of Parliament Grounds is an historic and important tradition. We don’t want to see a fence.

Bollards to the rescue?

Greenlane west pedestrian safety improvements

Head over to AT’s website to provide feedback on the proposal to put a signalised pedestrian crossing outside 191 Greenlane West. The location of the proposed crossing is just east of Maungakiekie/Cornwall Park, by Maungakiekie Ave.

More fun by bike

Please watch this video: it will, as my mum would say, warm the cockles of your heart. It might also make you want to strap rollerblades to your kids’ feet and tow them around the city on your bike this weekend.

Whew, it’s been quite the week. Hope you get some quality, news-free time this weekend. High tide’s at 10:21 (Saturday) and 11:05 (Sunday) in the morning this weekend, and it’s definitely still warm enough for a swim.

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  1. Certainly a fairly depressing week, not a lot of good news anywhere,kids being towed on rollerblades,without fear,highlights what good infrastructure can produce.
    My hope for the next week/month is the judiciary do,what our elected officials seem incapable of,and compel change. The planet needs some champions,right now,after a lot of lawlessness ,just maybe the law prevail.

  2. I recently attended a hunterway dog trial my son was competing in near Napier. Talk about double cab utes I thought I was in a Toyota add. I have also got a photo of wall to wall double cab utes parked up with boat trailers at a beautiful harbour on the north side of Mahia peninsula. The fish don’t have a chance. Imagine if we ran out of diesel and petrol.
    One thing cars provide is a level of security for your stuff while you are travelling about. Bikes and E bikes not so much. I have being travelling around on Inter city buses over the summer. Passenger numbers were low presumably because of the pandemic. In some cases the buses were replaced by Pacific Horizon mini buses towing a trailer for luggage. I suppose Kiwirail could put on smaller trains but they have nil flexibility. Looking at the trailers I thought why can’t we have bike trailers on Intercity buses maybe even trailers that can carry bikes and bike trailers so people can carry a bit of stuff around. I was using or over using a wheely suitcase the wheels gave up the ghost in Wellington as I wheeled it past the protest on my way to the station to board the Intercity bus home.
    It was good to see the bike carriers on buses in Christchurch. Some of them were being used. Lastly Timaru has a clockwise and an anticlockwise bus route which circles the urban area. In addition they have an app based on demand service (My Way) which will pick you up from selected bus stops and deliver you to your destination. It is setup with lifts etc to handle wheel chairs. I suppose it operates in a similar fashion to the Devonport trial but with diesel min buses. It fills in the gaps not served by the bus routes.

    1. Good thoughts about bikes on bus trailers, Royce.

      The Timaru on demand service replaced bus routes, at twice the cost. I think the buses had been hourly, with a two hour break for the driver’s lunch break. With the same funding increase they could have vastly improved the bus service and had a much bigger ridership gain.

      1. The loop runs both ways every 40 mins and took me exactly where I wanted to go so that is better than hourly with a siesta. I expect trailers on Intercity buses would be awkward at some stops like Manukau or Napier where buses need to back out or they may be too long for some stops. However they have shown they can use them on smaller buses.

  3. Tunnel light rail/metro and flooding events.

    Look overseas to tropical areas that are used to heavy downpours on a regular basis, don’t use the NYC subway or London underground style entrances. If you look at the MRT blue line stations in Bangkok all of the entrances are elevated so when it floods, either localised from a 200mm downpour in 4 hours or wide spread like the 2011 floods the stations and tunnels stay dry. See this picture from 2011 when Don Mueang airport was closed for months.

    For the elevated lines line the BTS any escalators start on similar raised platforms to reduce maintenance. Singapore has similar entrance structures.

    1. Singapore has underground metro too. KL has a mix of both. Doesn’t seem a problem.

      Anyway, elevated stations are horrendously expensive although given the tunneling they want to do, maybe its cost comparative. The support beams take out a lane or two on the ground too. Then there is also the small matter of putting an elevated structure through a neighbourhood and outside the front of apartments on places like Dom Rd. Find me someone who is keen on that.

      As a completely wacky solution, maybe surface level light rail (more than one line) with small covered stops? Anyone tried that?

      1. The picture that I linked to is an underground station, it is just that unlike London or NYC where the steps down start at street level in Bangkok and Singapore you go up 4-6 steps and then go down.

        It means that there needs to be close to a metre of water on the road before the station floods, which give you enough time to start sandbagging. But as I said Bangkok spent 8 weeks underwater without the subway flooding.

        Bangkok also has a mix of elevated and underground lines, the underground lines are drier during the rainy season as the elevated stations have open sides.

      2. I have mentioned it before on here, but I got to know KL transport system pretty well when living/working there.

        I was really impressed by KL Sentral station; big mall, residential complexes, hotel and offices clustered around a station that had MRT, light rail, heavy rail, fast dedicated high speed rail link to an international airport area and even a monorail. Included integrated buses and Grab (Uber) cars. I really didn’t need a car in my time there.

        I think hubs like KL Sentral show that you don’t have to decide between LRT vs HR, but can have them all. MRT was fast/quiet so normally took that most places, but to avoid having to go deep underground to catch the train, would occasionally take the monorail just for a bit of a view.

  4. It will be interesting to see if drivers turning into Union St can get their heads around the need to give way to cyclists on the Victoria St cycle lane. The speed table, new signs and road markings ‘should’ help but then we have all thought that before and then not been surprised to be disappointed. But no, you can’t just block off Union St with bollards. Once a road has been constructed for vehicles there are only two legal powers available to the road controlling authority to permanently block it off – road stopping (so it looses all road status) or creating a pedestrian mall.

    1. Union Street is waiting for Access 4 Everyone to come up with a plan for the precinct. Some bits of the city are difficult, but can’t be insoluble. A circuit of Victoria Park to make a left turn in would be quite scenic. and the delivery van plaza under the viaduct isn’t brilliant, for all the paving that was done after Victoria Park Tunnel.

    2. Streets in Auckland have been constructed for people, not for “vehicles”. Installing bollards doesn’t require road stopping or creating a pedestrian mall. You can still access every property on Union St. AT change the use of sections of street to become loading zones or bus stops or bus advance lanes, etc, all the time, though they certainly like to find “legal difficulties” when it suits. A simple change here would be to make it no right turn – assisted with a median island, with left turn still allowed. That would reduce the danger considerably.

  5. Bollards the answer? That was a missed opportunity. If I was the Dictator I would have build a concrete wall around that park to keep those people in.

    1. Parliament already has bollards on the entrances off the adjacent roads – nice shiny steel cylinders with glowing red lights. Didn’t stop people parking up elsewhere, wherever they could maximise the inconvenience, and walking in.

      1. Nah, not that mob. They didn’t have legitimate concerns, just a bunch of entitled whining and tinfoil hat conspiracies. Their complete lack of respect for tangata whenua showed them as they really were.

      2. Democracy just means you get to choose your own government. Which we do, by voting every three years.

        What you have here is a classic case of “I personally think the government should do X but when they do not cater to my specfic needs which are acknowledged as being in a tiny minority, I will commit criminal trespass, threaten the media and destroy public property”.

        When toddlers do this on a smaller scale, it’s called a ‘tantrum’.

  6. No surprise the Dutch roundabout proposal for the Collingwood Tristram st intersection was dropped, Hamilton prioritises car traffic above everything, most intersections in the city ignore pedestrians altogether. The council is extremely reluctant to install actual zebra crossings anywhere, most have been removed. I would doubt there will be any change to the roundabout until after the ACC campus opens and the complaints force some minor action ie a “courtesy crossing 100 m from the actual intersection.

    1. Here’s the proposed “upgrade”.

      In fact, they’re not doing anything significant at the intersection itself apart from raised crossings on Collingwood st. The real danger is getting across the dual lanes at the Tristram st entry and exit to the roundabout. The council’s solution; turn refuges 100 m away into raised zebra crossings. They even admit the crossings are nowhere near the desire lines but won’t get any closer because traffic flow.

      1. The proposed changes are on p153 (using the numbers that a web browser will generate). I know the people in the active modes team at HCC pretty well and they are really good and really passionate about making the city better for walking and cycling. Looking at the design, you can clearly see that they’re doing their best, but it’s hard when councillors won’t allow you to remove any car parking or remove any traffic lanes :/

        1. The not-on-the-way pedestrian crossings are hopeless and it’s really disappointing to see such a promising proposal for Hamilton fall at the final hurdle.

          If this is how we make decisions in the face of climate disaster then frankly we are all doomed. When we’re sitting on what remains of the habitable earth, at least someone can say “…on the bright side, we maintained the peak-time vehicle level of service in Hamilton.”

          This is why nice-sounding statements about “balancing” road users’ requirements don’t work. Road-controlling authorities need to be able to PRIORITISE public and active transport, with the necessary political support.

        2. The quality of the walking and cycling team showed through in the high quality of the original roundabout design. I think this project should be studied by an academic or consultant as a way to understand what has gone wrong in our democratic decision making.

        3. Too bad for the climate emergency, but it seems too unthinkable to deprioritise cars. It will be a big cultural shift. Compare it to last century — how long did it take to legalize abortus or gay marriage? That stuff takes generations.

          I don’t know if it is possible to speed up a cultural change like this. It took, what, 60 years to go from “trams are a thing” to “only cars matter”. Maybe it will now take us 60 years to go back.

        4. Do you remember when people thought masks were something we culturally wouldn’t accept? I actually remember discussing if they were in fact unhygienic by harbouring bugs. That change happened quickly. People stopped smoking in bars and it very quickly became weird to imagine that we’d ever allowed it.

          I truly don’t believe people’s adaptability is the limiting factor here. Rather, leadership is. Jacinda Ardern has the skills to lead us towards a human-centred vision. She has the humanity to want to. But she doesn’t have the understanding about what the vision should be, how the future can look. And worst of all, she doesn’t seem to be taking any steps to understanding how to gauge public sentiment, its elasticity nor how to overcome the negative effects of vested interests and their supporters in the mainstream media.

        5. Yes I am kind of hoping for that, however, these exact observations prove this point.


          – wearing masks: well OK then
          – actually taking cycling serious: no that is a bridge too far (sorry for the bad pun)

          Not smoking everywhere is one of those generational examples, this was already well underway 30 years ago.

  7. Meanwhile in Wellington…

    Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson told Newstalk ZB’s Nick Mills if it really was a matter of safety, then an overbridge should be built.

    “You’re still putting people at risk with an at-grade crossing across four lanes. It’s bewildering.

    “It would be the equivalent of trying to build a cross walk across Transmission Gully if it ever opens. There’s just no logic to it.”

    Sanderson said the airport would be considering its options.

    “Certainly we will consider legal options once we’ve seen all the decision papers and how we take this forward, but they [LGWM] should be on notice.”

    1. “It would be the equivalent of trying to build a cross walk across Transmission Gully if it ever opens. There’s just no logic to it.”

      What kind of world does this guy live in.

      An urban road is an entirely different class of infrastructure to a rural expressway. It has almost nothing in relation to TG at all.
      The one commonality of it being SH1 is dumb anyway. SH1 should end at the ferry as that is where its national importance diminishes greatly.

      1. Yeah, nah. It’s hardly an urban road. It’s more like an expressway. Current speed limit of 70 or 80. Put a bridge over it.

        1. An expressway that hardly has any of the features of an expressway?
          No barriers
          Heaps of trees, light poles to hit
          An unprotected footpath, an unprotected cycle path
          At grade intersections
          Funnels directly into a residential street :
          allows cycling on it

          The limit is being axed to 60, and 50 on the actual residential street parts.
          It’s an urban arterial by best practice standards.

  8. The Auckland/Wellington and Picton/Christchurch rail services would be saved by the return of tourists from overseas. Beyond that they fall into the same trap as Te Huia, they’re too slow and buses are competitive.

    1. Yeah it does seem like mode bias doesn’t it. We already had buses from Auckland to Hamilton that weren’t getting a lot of use, why spend $100 million on a slower train.

  9. I am really quite enjoying the bollard appreciation society & follow the world bollard association on twitter (#WorldBollardAssociation)

    Not even ironically

    I am learning to appreciate a decent bollard, and when cycling really nice to ride between a couple and slip in to a protected space where I can relax, listen to music and pedal along

    1. Bollards and bikes are the perfect marriage. Both such simple technology – but so good at doing the job they need to do.

    2. “really nice to ride between a couple and slip in to a protected space”

      Yet Auckland Transport insist they are too risky for preventing cars invading bike lanes. Presumably because cyclists are too incompetent to steer around them.

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