Kia ora koutou kātoa. Our Friday roundups are a bit of a treat lately, as last Friday was a very special day on the calendar, and next Friday will be a public holiday. Enjoy this bumper roundup of urbanist and transport-related links and news!
The fortnight in Greater Auckland
On Monday 28 March, Paul Callister looked at the massive potential of Regional Public Transport.
Tuesday 29th’s post by Matt covered AT’s parking strategy refresh, soon to be out for consultation.
On Wednesday 30 Matt highlighted interesting content on the agenda for AT’s March board meeting.
On Thursday 31, we had a guest post by Jessica Rose about the imminently rideable New Lynn to Avondale cycleway.
And on Friday 1 April we got a LOT of people’s hopes up by announcing the end of Greater Auckland. Sorry not sorry!
This Monday, Matt was back in the saddle – making the case PT needs to be better, not just more affordable.
And on Tuesday, Matt outlined the proposed ‘new network’ for West Auckland.
Wednesday featured a guest post by reader Jack Gibbons proposing a bus station for Wairau Valley.
Thursday’s post reminded everyone to give feedback on the New North Road corridor consultation.
The fortnight in parking
We’ve covered AT’s proposed new parking strategy, which isn’t all that different from the old parking strategy, which has yet to be properly implemented. But this was the week the news reached the general public, stoked by a few articles that presented it as pretty much the end of the world.
Nor is it useful, as some have done, to say the people insisting on parking “rights” are “the public”, while bus passengers are not. Isn’t it obviously wrong to hold up a bus full of people because someone parks in the way?
Meanwhile at the Spinoff, Hayden Donnell flipped the script to point out that the ‘radical’ plan isn’t nearly radical enough:
“Under the controversial parking strategy, AT is promising to keep on-road parking on all but 240km of its 7600km network of local roads for the foreseeable future.
Councillors’ decision to back AT’s much more modest plan fits uncomfortably with the more ambitious goals of Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri, the climate plan they passed unanimously in 2020.”
As one contributor puts it:
“We no longer sacrifice human lives to ensure successful crops. No way should we be doing it to ensure successful shops, even unintentionally… We can do so much better for each other than a last-ditch battle over a handful of parking spaces while the world burns.”
Meanwhile, “Who needs parking anyway?” asks an article about life in the car-free Aroha rental apartment building near St Luke’s mall, where residents are saving $1854 per apartment each year.
Epic cycling news from all over
The two-wheeled revolution just keeps building; Wellington’s bid to build the country’s largest cycling network made the micromobility news, and reportedly more people are biking in Christchurch than in any other city.
Meanwhile in Southland, check out this DIY legend who hand-built his own four-wheeled e-bike.
And in Auckland, local lad Luke Christensen took a tiki tour to see how much juice his e-bike battery has in theory, making it from Hamilton to Auckland on one charge, with enough left over to meet friends on Karangahape Road and then bike home.
A bit of a ‘because it’s there’ project, of the sort that gets us to the top of Mt Everest – but also a powerful demonstration of just how achievable and accessible shorter routes will be with that electric boost.
Hamilton to Auckland, 160km, 10 hours 45 minutes all up. pic.twitter.com/nhV7ZdIyNn
— Luke Christensen (@lukechristensen) April 3, 2022
So, how do we get our cycling networks built fast? Here’s a thought. Based on a model from Cambridge, Massachusetts, local advocates in Los Angelers are proposing an ordinance that “requires the city to implement the plans laid out in its Bike Master Plan whenever streets are resurfaced or rebuilt.”:
Connecting the construction of protected biking and walking infrastructure to regularly scheduled street maintenance can speed up the process of rolling out improvements and circumvent the kinds of backlashes and delays that can regularly derail such projects. “Not only does implementing the mobility plan during street repaving save money, but it also will make it safer to walk, bike, take transit, or drive in the city,” says [the plan’s sponsor]. “It will save lives.”
Getting across gets easier in Sydney
While people have been able to bike over Sydney’s harbour bridge for some time, the connection has long been missing a proper ramp on its northern end: people have to carry their bike up a steep set of stairs to get to the bridge’s bike lane, which prevents all but the mist able-bodied bike riders getting across the harbour.
A design by ASPECT Studios has been chosen after a public competition, and the bridge will soon be more accessible to everyone.
Half-price public transport kicks in
It seems like the whole country is watching with interest as we start three months of 50% discounted public transport. In Wellington, buses and trains were reported to be noticeably busier on day one of the scheme.
Train commuters will see the most benefit from the half-price fares. A month-long pass from Johnsonville to Wellington station is reduced to $57, from $114. Metlink Explorer day passes, which allow people to travel any route within one day, are discounted to $12.50 from $25.
In Auckland, RNZ’s reporters weren’t as sure that public transport seemed busier, but many of the passengers they spoke to said they planned to travel more because of the discount.
“We are going to an appointment today and we decided to catch the ferry and the train, partly ’cause it’s an adventure but also ’cause we heard it was half-price today. So we’re going to have a good day, we’re gonna use the saved money to buy some sushi for lunch.”
… and a regional PT boomlet
(*by ‘boomlet’ we mean a small, potential boom.)
Public transport can be even more of a challenge for our smaller, rural towns than it is for Aotearoa’s urban areas. In rural areas it’s particularly hard to get around without a car, and people who can’t drive or don’t have access to a car end up missing out.
In Thames-Corommandel, Hauraki, and Matamata-Piako districts, ratepayers are being asked to consider a targeted rate to raise funds for improved public transport services.
A targeted rate could help bring new bus services in Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel districts, and Waikato Regional Council is asking ratepayers what they think of the idea.
And in the Manawatū, Horizons Regional Council are considering a draft public transport plan that aims to triple PT patronage in the area by 2032. It would do this by increasing the scope and frequency of a range of services within and between Manawatū towns, many of which are extremely poorly served by public transport at the moment.
But options are few and far between outside major urban centres, with Tararua having no public transport at all.
Current options are not great either, struggling to stand up to the convenience and viability of private cars.
What happened to Aotearoa’s trains?
Robert McLachlan, writing in The Guardian, examines the state of inter-city rail in New Zealand, pointing out that New Zealanders produce 10x the world average in per-capita aviation emissions. We’re a nation that flies a lot – but we don’t have many other good choices for getting around the motu.
The national rail service operator, KiwiRail, announced in late 2021 that it was suspending the Northern Explorer train. This linked the largest city, Auckland, with the capital, Wellington, along a corridor containing 60% of New Zealand’s population. Also gone is the train linking the ferry port of Picton with the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch. Removing the Northern Explorer leaves New Zealand as the only advanced economy in the world without either a day or a night train linking its largest cities.
…and Sydney’s trains are modernising
Driverless trams will soon arrive at a brand new part of Sydney’s Central Station. A new train line, platform and concourse has been threaded through the station, in what sounds like an incredible feat of logistics and engineering.
Sydney Metro City and Southwest project director Hugh Lawson said upgrading a station used by hundreds of thousands of people every day had posed significant challenges. “Everything was amplified to the maximum. The challenges are more complex,” he said. “We have built this right in the middle of Central Station while it’s been operating.”
If you like watching complicated construction projects, there’s a great video in the story on the Sydney Morning Herald – linked to above.
Once again, no safety improvements have been seen at the sites of recent deaths on our roads. This boggles the mind when you think that after Jane Bishop was killed on her bike on Tamaki Drive in 2010, Auckland Transport made changes within days – removing parking to address a dangerous pinch point. What’s changed in the last decade?
Even worse, it brings us great sadness to note another awful cycling fatality in our city this week, on a 50km/h local road with a painted median and no bike lanes. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Melissa Rays, who was almost at work when the worst happened, as her friend told Stuff news:
[her] new electric bike was her “pride and joy” and it was an “absolute tragedy” for her to have been struck just 150 metres from her workplace
Those who ride locally regard this route as the ‘safer’ alternative for cycling in the area, which tells you a lot about how few options there are. The point is that building limited routes along a handful of arterials will only get a fraction of the riders out there safely to where they’re going. We need a safe cycling city, not (just) a safe cycling network.
If you find yourself asking, once again, “where do we put our fury and our grief?”, here’s one option: a group called Streetsafe is organising a cycling rally tomorrow, Saturday 9 April, meeting at Silo Park at 11am to walk and ride to AT’s headquarters and demand safe streets for all.
The reality on Auckland roads for people on bikes is grim. In just six years between 2014 and 2022, 18 people lost their lives while riding a bicycle. There are also near misses every day that are not reported, or people who sustain long-lasting injuries as a result of our unsafe roads. Very recently, there was yet another unfortunate but preventable death of a young person on a bike at Royal Oak.
Something has to change.
Five years ago today my dad went for a bike ride and never came home. He was struck and killed by a man driving a truck.
My conclusion five years later? Streets should bring people together. In New Zealand they tear us apart.https://t.co/JeUGTVN1Zf
— Matt Leach (@Not_A_Yoga_Matt) April 5, 2022
Then, as we were finishing up this post we came across this Auckland cyclist’s terrifying near miss – from just this Thursday evening.
Okay people… I'm not one to keep my mouth shut when I see bad driving, so I think the silence speaks volumes. pic.twitter.com/9bwaskAJ8z
— Les Gates (@lesgates) April 7, 2022
The fortnight in flooding
Yes, it’s still very wet in places – the scientists are being proven right, with extreme flood events appearing as early warning signs of an increasingly unstable climate.
In the Hawkes Bay, a 1-in-50 year flood ripped through the Tarewa Swing Bridge, a key link in the Tukituki Trails.
The swingbridge, connecting the two banks of the Tukituki downstream from Waipukurau, was opened in 2017 as a vital part of the Tukituki Trails network, used by local cyclists and walkers as well as attracting visitors to the area.
Friends of the Tukituki Trails are determined to rebuild the bridge and are fundraising already.
Meanwhile, across the (much bigger, saltier) ditch, it’s been extremely wet in Sydney. The city surpassed its annual yearly rainfall this week, nine months ahead of schedule. This wet weather comes only a few weeks after storms brought widespread flooding to much of Australia’s east coast in March.
The week in climate action
This week, the third installment of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report was released. This installment is about mitigation of climate change. The message is simple: we can still mitigate the worst effects, but we must act now.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
Sustainable transport choices are an essential part of the solution.
Transport solutions are all through this post: removing parking is climate action, affordable public transport is climate action, buses in small towns are climate action, inter-city trains are climate action, and streets that are safe to cycle on are definitely climate action.
Ebikes are climate action.
Bill McKibben, one of the worlds foremost climate activists, usually writes about big fossil fuel extraction projects and the political machinations that get them built. But in his substack newsletter this week, he zeroed in on the humble bicycle.
Other changes require shifts in how we actually behave. But not impossible ones. Take, for instance, e-bikes: if you were looking for a perfect transportation mode in a climate-conscious era, this might be it, since it delivers mobility at a fraction of the environmental cost even of an electric car. E-bikes are outselling electric cars in America; in Europe, they’re so popular that they may soon be outselling all cars.
Happy cities are climate action too.
You know what else is climate action? Urban design – looking after people by building better cities. The Guardian has published an excellent info-comic strip (graphic essay?) about bringing nature-based solutions to urban places while looking after and sustaining existing communities.
And one more: trees, which are climate action in cities and in forests. The topic of shade, and who is privileged enough to have it, is explored in this beautifully produced mixed-media piece on Stuff. The maps show an obvious correlation between the poorest parts of Auckland and the lowest tree cover.
We need demand destruction, not demand induction
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shone a light on the way oil and gas dependence puts money and power in the hands of violent autocrats. As a result the conversation about getting off oil, and creating local energy resilience, has been elevated.
But what’s also become clear is that few countries are actually trying to reduce demand, and many are doing the opposite. This article on Bloomberg examines the many regressive fossil fuel tax cuts that have been introduced in response to the energy crisis of the last months.
From Germany to New Zealand, and from England to California, policymakers are either cutting taxes on gasoline and diesel or offering blanket, untargeted energy subsidies. Both will probably boost oil demand at the worst possible time.
Doing what we can.
Gotcha! You’re not perfect. Anyway, what can one person do? pic.twitter.com/BCiCwdkDG5
— @firstname.lastname@example.org (@climate_quest) February 13, 2022
Low-vulpine circulation plan
Proof, perhaps, that the low-traffic neighbourhood concept is part of the natural order of things.
Been asked reshare this map showing GPS-tracked wolves in six different packs around Voyageurs National Park. The wolf packs clearly avoid each other's territory. Source: https://t.co/uUwMAg2Ol2… pic.twitter.com/9tY2ZV52h9
— Simon Kuestenmacher (@simongerman600) March 27, 2022
Kia pai ake tōu rā whakatā! Stay safe and see you next week.