Weekly roundup’s coming to you a day early this week, so we can all have Easter Friday off to focus our energy entirely on chocolate and hot cross buns.

The week in Greater Auckland

Monday’s post, suggesting that ebikes get added to the clean car rebate scheme, got a few of you hopeful due to a slightly deceptive title (sorry!)

On Tuesday, Jolisa posed a few ‘wtf??’s about climate storytelling in the media and a truly disturbing car ad.

Yesterday, Matt echoed the collective eye roll of many in attempting to point out to Chris Luxon that yes, public transport is actually a public good.


Trains offline in Tāmaki this weekend

PSA for those hanging about in Auckland this weekend: Kiwirail has put out a notice warning that trains will not be running on any line for the whole weekend. Buses will replace trains for the weekend, and services will resume on Tuesday.


Getting our heads around the IPCC report

Simon Wilson dove into the latest installment of the sixth IPCC report, just released last week, and pulled out 7 main takewaways. It’s a great, broad-but-pointed summary of the key messages and how they relate to us here in Aotearoa.

Wilson starts with the urgency that can be seen throughout the report, and that takes him straight to the big, hairy transport questions in Auckland:

When the Government’s scheme for tunnelled light rail from the city centre to Māngere (CC2M) was announced, I wrote that it wasn’t the best choice but it was good and now the decision was made, let’s get on with it. That idea is dead now.

And as the briefing paper to Cabinet reveals, the tunnels will increase carbon emissions by 466,400 tonnes between now and 2030, because of all the concrete that must be poured. The net emissions benefit of taking cars off the road won’t even kick in until after 2050. It’s a mass transit programme that will not be finished this decade and will suck up almost all the money that could be spent on other, faster projects.

Bluntly: It’s too late to dig those tunnels. We’ve procrastinated for decades and now we need more urgent solutions.

It’s the same with all long-term trajectories for change. Building construction, for example, is moving to more eco-friendly materials and methods, but far too slowly.

Auckland Transport’s plan to create priority bus and cycle lanes by removing some car parks from the main roads is exactly what we need, but it’s a 10-year plan. It should be done inside two years.

He finishes on transport too – specifically, the very this-minute issue of parking – and one of my favourite change analogies:

The starting point is not whether to save car parks, it’s the need to cut emissions. How are we going to do it?
Perhaps by applying the Plastic Bags Rule for Change. We knew they were bad, but we didn’t stop using them and retailers didn’t stop handing them out. So the Government banned them. And suddenly things were just fine.

Let’s get a 1pm emissions update

Speaking of urgency, we’re in support of the proposal to make our emissions progress a regular 1pm update, as suggested by octogenarian climate activist Bernard Schofield on The Spinoff.

When activist Bernard Schofield answers the phone, he says he is doing only “as good as one can be” given the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In a report issued last week, the IPCC found that emissions need to peak by 2025, ie within the next three years, to give us a 50:50 chance of keeping heating to 1.5℃ and therefore reducing the damage caused by catastrophic floods, droughts, heatwaves and mass extinctions.


Auckland cyclists take direct action

And in an equally urgent story, after a horrific month for people on bikes in Aotearoa, a group of Aucklanders staged a ‘die-in’ at Auckland Transport over the weekend to protest the unsafe and inhospitable conditions for bikes on our roads.

In 2020, 57 per cent of those killed on Auckland roads were not in a car. Cyclists are 14 times more likely to die than motorists.

[protest organiser Philip] Governale said we need to start valuing life over convenience, and does not believe organisations such as Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport have been doing so.

The die-in at Te Komititanga square, downtown. Image via RNZ.
The rally installed a ghost bike at Auckland Transport’s headquarters, symbolising the lives being needlessly lost on our streets. (Image: Greater Auckland)

Kaitaia community takes charge of dangerous speeds

Kaitaia’s got its own group of guerilla safety activists – mostly local business owners whose premises are on a stretch of road that’s notorious for high speeds. The town has spread along State Highway 1, with more businesses operating in places where their driveways meet 70km/h or even 100km/h speed limit areas.

Kaitaia Tractors owner Ralph Garvin said customers leaving his business were forced to pull out into 100km/h traffic.
A few months ago, a ute turning into his yard was hit from behind by a vehicle travelling south at high speed.
”This is now a built-up area but it’s still being treated like an open highway. Speed limits are being changed everywhere else but this dangerous piece of road is being ignored.”

Fed up with the dangerous speeds, the locals had signs for slower speeds professionally made and installed them over the existing signs. The unofficial signs were soon removed, but Waka Kotahi has agreed to meet with the group to discuss lowering the speed limit.


While in Nelson, it took 6 years to make one street safe

One determined woman in Nelson spent years painstakingly recording evidence of dangerous driving in her street and campaigning for speed-reduction measures. Finally, after a particularly dramatic crash, speed bumps were installed – and the dangerous driving disappeared.

Over six years, she reported every bad driver, took hundreds of photos, documented crashes and recorded speeding drivers with a radar gun. With her daughter’s help, she spent three mornings monitoring road traffic, presenting her findings to the council with a group of children.

Some of the evidence Andrea Warn gathered. Image via Stuff.

Andrea Warn is an inspirational campaigner for safe streets – having slowed her own neighbourhood hotspot, she’s now turning her attention to the places that hinder kids’ safe school journeys.

But Warn isn’t done. She’s on a mission to improve conditions for all the children who have to “navigate 1950s infrastructure” on their walk or cycle to school.


A Vision Zero crisis in the USA

Here’s your long read for the weekend, on Bloomberg: an article which asks why road fatalities are going up in the US, despite Vision Zero having been adopted in many cities during the 2010s.

Vision Zero’s track record in the U.S. contrasts sharply with Europe, where road deaths have been drifting downward for years. In 2019, Helsinki had exactly three traffic fatalities — and none was a pedestrian or cyclist. For comparison, the capital of Finland has roughly as many residents as Las Vegas, a Vision Zero city where 304 people died on the road that same year.

While the United States has traditionally emphasized an individual’s responsibility to travel safely (for example, federally funded road education campaigns like Click It or Ticket), Vision Zero places responsibility for crash reduction squarely on society writ large.

There’s an excellent explanation of what Vision Zero actually means, its history, how it spread around the world, and how it’s led to dramatic reductions in road fatalities in some – but not all – of the places where it has been implemented. So why isn’t Vision Zero working in the USA? It sounds like the obstacles to change are barriers we’d recognise, including opposition from communities, reluctance of middle-management level technocrats, and change-shy leaders.

Many of the core tactics of Vision Zero — installing traffic cameras, creating separated bike lanes, or imposing road diets, for instance — either force drivers to slow down or create safe space for vulnerable road users who have historically been overlooked. But such infrastructural shifts almost always face fierce opposition.

“You need to make radical choices in terms of reallocation of space,” said Vancluysen. “Otherwise the decline in deaths simply is not going to happen.”

We end with a small dose of hope, and a policy we’d love to see in action:

Cambridge [Massachusetts] adopted a City Safety Ordinance stipulating that any road being repaved that is part of the city’s master bike plan must be rebuilt with a protected lane. The rule effectively preempts a debate over whether a protected bike lane will be built; the only questions up for discussion relate to its design.

https://twitter.com/davidzipper/status/1513509373011767305?s=21&t=ZR0SD7OjUHZWZDSmi_tTuw


Does light rail need to cost so much?

BusinessDesk tackled the cost of light rail this week, asking why the projections for Auckland’s planned project are so high when in other countries the same sum would by up to 8 times as much track. The article quotes from research done recently by The Infrastructure Comission into the high prices of NZ infrastructure projects.


Fly through the Mt Eden CRL construction site


It’s easy to get across in Vancouver

Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.

Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.

Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.


Transforming streets into people spaces

In Sydney –

Streets are coming alive in Sydney it seems – they keep popping up in our news feeds! Castlereagh St in downtown Sydney is about to see a significant reallocation of space from cars to provide a bike lane and extended footpath.

“Improving this historic street will benefit workers, residents, visitors and businesses looking to bounce back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lord mayor said.

The plan for the street reallocation on Castlereagh Street
In NYC –

New York’s City Council has put together a massively ambitious, $3.1billion plan for streetspace reallocation. The plan would build 500 miles of protected bike lanes, at 100 miles of bus lanes a year for 5 years, and fill the city with new parks and plazas to equal the size of Central Park.

That kind of budget is enough to make a London- or Paris-level dent in congestion, and is exactly what those taking our current climate emergency seriously have already called for.

It’s not certain that the City Council will get all the money they’ve asked for, but putting this bold vision forward is changing the conversation:

What this plan does, however, is provide a vision for how the city might work if better streets were a fiscal priority. Not only is increased transportation access the best way to boost economic opportunity, it will also allow the city to reorganize and streamline routes to benefit the neighborhoods that have historically received the least investment,

And an astonishing before-after in London

Which street in your area would you want to see transformed into a beautiful linear park?


Want to win your local body election? Support cycling projects.

Despite Christopher Luxon’s comments this week, there are actually good reasons for people on the right of politics to support cycling infrastructure, and this blog breaks those down. Some of the reasons might seem a bit cynical (e.g. ‘5. Cycling makes for great news stories and tweets‘), but you can’t deny the realism.

Analysis after the May 2021 elections concludes that candidates in London wards that supported cycling infrastructure saw an increase in support – whereas candidates that opposed the right for resident’s to cycle safely tended to fare more badly.

[…]

We must not fall into the trap of listening to the loudest voices in our party – or myths perpetuated by angry groups on Twitter – as reasons for scrapping or never implementing schemes that are popular with the majority of voters.


Long weekend project inspiration

Bridge over the rainbow (gully)

That headline wrote itself – or perhaps it over-wrote itself. Gareth Morgan (yes, him) found himself with an old steel bridge structure on his hands, had it painted rainbow, and installed it on a ridge overlooking Transmission Gully.

“I put it up on the hill, where you wouldn’t expect a bridge at all. I thought, put a bridge there – that will make them look.”

One railway that might be moving this weekend

Well, it won’t get you to Britomart, but if you’re in Dunedin and come across Jarrod Hodson you might be able to ride a train this weekend. Hodson built the narrow-gauge railway, complete with station, in his backyard.

Jarrod Hodson calls in at the Manapouri St Station. Image via Stuff.
And the kid who built his own Tesla

What’s Cruz Graham going to be building when he’s Jarrod Hodson’s (or Gareth Morgan’s) age? Cruz fashioned a wooden frame to an electric mobility scooter and christened it a ‘Tesla’ – which got him a response from Tesla NZ.

Cruz takes his Tesla out for a spin. Image via Stuff.

Good to see the youth of today following in the footsteps of far-sighted Kiwi inventors of yesteryear, like the chap from Timaru who built this unusual proto-electric car in the 1970s.


Enjoy the weekend, hope you get to ride the hobby train of your dreams, and hei te rātū – see you on Tuesday.

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44 comments

  1. 4 days of rail “replacement” busses, thanks for that AT and Kiwirail. You sure do value passenger transport highly.

    Rail replacement busses are simply terrible for pretty much all trips. Why they even bother with these services is beyond me, the standard city busses even with transfers are faster, far less frustrating and don’t tour the raised pedestrian platforms of Auckland.

    1. Frustrating but necessary, paying the price for the decades when nothing at all happened on the Auckland rail network.

      1. I think you missed the point. The rail replacement busses are so hopeless, slow indirect and the city network is now so comparatively good, they may as well not bother with rail replacement busses. Every Train user I know just ignore them and use the normal busses.

        1. It’s not good in South Auckland, the rail buses are the only ones that go direct to the city. Stations like Penrose, you only get buses going to Sylvia Park now. Which is useless if I want to go to Papakura. But all the options are bad compared with the train.

        2. How would you provide access to Middlemore or Sylvia park without the rail buses. Its a long drag out to Pukekohe from Britomart in a rail replacement bus. Maybe we could have a motorway route calling at Manukau and Papakura. There’s a fair bit of duplication between the rail and buses maybe there can be some streamlining but its a bit hard to see how. And work on the third main project is not even half finished so plenty more replacement buses yet.

        3. City busses. I avoid rail replacement busses like the plague. Out West they are particularly terrible perhaps.

          The bus network is about to have a substantial increase in service, with Goffs climate thing.

    2. Funny how people want network improvement, including the third main, but don’t want weekend shutdowns.

      You can’t have both!

      Better start moaning now about the Papakura-Pukekohe train withdrawal from June.

        1. “Why can most other rail networks in the world continue with maintenance without constant closures?’

          The dont. When they do major maintenance, the lines are closed.

        2. 2 reasons:
          Many other railways have more than one route or at least more than one track available, so one can close one while trains are diverted over the other. Kiwirail tries to do this where possible, but capacity is reduced and everything becomes a juggling act.
          Modern safety requirements have curtailed the amount and nature of work that can be done on railways with trains still running. Pity these same requirements don’t apply to roads, where traffic can continue to rumble past work-sites.
          Pity also that we haven’t had the same emphasis on building 4-track railways as we have on building 4-Lane roads.

        3. I some closures need to happen. I think they are far too frequent and kiwi rail/ AT do not make the most of them. When the trains are running but you hear a/the freight train running daily, it’s easy it assume very little happening.

          How many rail systems have and a system wide shut down for more than a month, every single year.

      1. Yea nah. While I do think the level of disruptions is probably a bit much (right now week days have weekends frequencies) I fully understand the need for them. I was just more pointing out how terrible the rail replacement busses are.

        Have they really not even started the 2 year shut down of Pukekohe?

        1. That is suppose to happen in September when the DMU’s finish their last run and they start the Rail Buses .

  2. The Bloomberg article by the Mayor of Trostyanets (just after the vision zero thing) is disturbing. We need to do more. Crimea was like Putin’s Sudetenland and Ukraine seems like Czechoslovakia in 1938-39.

    1. Thanks for directing our attention to that. On a lighter note, I’m holding my Miffy nail clippers, gifted to me by a student in Japan 20 years ago. Although a little worn, they are as sharp as ever.

  3. Do you ever think we are over planning if we know that tunnelled light rail will emit 466,400 tonnes of CO2 what ever happened to making it up as you go along. In the latest copy of the rail observer there is an article on a new traffic for Kiwirail carting coal in containers from Mai Mai near Reefton to the Fonterra dairy plant near Darfield. Some how this involves carting it via Greymouth and Christchurch. I suggest you have a look at a map if you are a little hazy with the South Island. This is a five day service with 24 coal containers on each train. I expect this is the Max number that can be loaded and unloaded in the time available. My calculation is 80,000 tonnes per annum. Speaking off complex logistic apparently Ukraine is trying to rail grain into Romania to get around the blockade of its Black sea ports. This involves a change of Gauge at the Border then loading the grain onto barges which takes it down the Danube where it is loaded onto bulk carriers for export. At the border the wagons are jacked up and the wide gauge bogies are replaced with standard gauge ones.

    1. I think the rule with greenhouse gases is you only have to count the ones you reduce and not the ones you increase.

  4. The Mt Eden flyover highlights how little road traffic there is on the aerterials, massive opportunity for road reallocation ,right now. Christchurch ,probably ,the only city pushing ahead with cycle lanes ,while the going is good.
    Would love to know the numbers for the Harbour Bridge,I’m picking a lane or two could easily be reallocated,at present. Michael Wood has asked WK to have a rethink
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10160577559108606&id=97548423605

  5. From the Bloomberg ‘Vision Zero’ piece, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Director on drivers sacrificing speed or road space: It feels like a fundamental assault on your way of life.

    The speaker could have been a New Zealander, though most of us aren’t as eloquent as Americans.

    1. Someone born when the last tram was ripped out of Auckland is now 65 years old. We have a couple of generations now for whom the idea of walking onto a street to go to a supermarket is as absurd as swimming across the harbour to go to the supermarket.

      1. I met a woman at the urban walking festival last year who recalled riding the trams in the 1950s (or earlier). She had made her way to the city for the walking event by bus.

        There was another woman who would also have been in her seventies. She lived in Ponsonby; I asked how long it would take her to go home. She replied, “Twelve minutes.” She was e-biking.

      2. I think it is the older generation that has largely allowed itself to be sucked into car-dependency. The younger generation, or at least some of it and for a number of reasons, is showing signs of pulling back. I walked a lonely road 50 years ago, when as a youngster I refused to embrace car-dependency.

        1. Thanks for your sacrifice, Dave.

          Actually Wellington is a good city for walking. Most of the streets are narrow and there are a number of zigzags and other paths for pedestrians; even the climate encourages people to move when outside. And the lack of an airport bus isn’t a problem either – you can walk to the central city.

        2. 35 years ago I embraced car independency. I never looked back. Maybe you should try it Dave.

  6. On light rail: “The net emissions benefit of taking cars off the road won’t even kick in until after 2050” and then proposes not building it.

    2050. 20-25 years after opening, on a piece of infrastructure with a 100 year life… Sounds like a failure in reasoning to conclude that it’s not worth doing.

    1. Not worth tunnelling anyway. But surface level with road-space allocation… now you’re getting somewhere. And cheaper too.

  7. “Want to win your local body election? Support cycling projects.”

    An important story…is there meant to be a link?

  8. So if it’s to late to tunnel,
    Should we build a wooden viaduct above the street and use stone for columns, real old school, or buy and demolish 100s of homes and build a line at grade, yes I know the obvious option is to run a tram line at grade.
    But what happens when we need more capacity?

  9. With the comments from Luxon the other day about the TE Huia he may have trouble finding a seat on it , as there were around 150+ passengers on Board and they also include a 3rd crew member s earlier in the year they were down to 2 .
    If you look a the last 2 carriages there was still about a 3rd of the passengers still going to Frankton ;-

    1. Good to see it being used. And it will only get better/quicker/more useful, as improvements come. It will continue to grow – provision of good service stimulates transit use the world over. There is nothing different about NZ.

  10. Auckland has a $900M hole in its budget. This article says it can’t fund the current levels of PT past June. The annual transport budget is $715M. Patronage is only 40% of prepandemic levels which may result in PT costs hitting $900M-$1B.
    Hopefully with the change to Orange life will become more normal and patronage will recover. Else it appears service cuts will be enevitable.
    Cuts and deferrals to other projects are also a worry. Roads in my area are broken, rutted and potholed, and have been like this for more than a year. New Lynn cycleway and Kingsland upgrade are on the go slow, and there are some quality aspects that are lacking poles in lane, bumps between surfaces, dangerous projections at the side of lanes, changes of width and abrupt transitions to footpath and road.. Pt Chev-Meola….
    The council brings in a huge amount of money via rates. I’m worried about how it’s being spent.
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-councils-900-million-shortfall-amid-covid-transport-decline-more-budget-cuts-likely/DBALTBGDQUROX6E257YKCIUKUI/

    1. That hole is a concern, isn’t it? Public transport and other services will be cut, and when services are cut patronage is unlikely to increase.

      From 100 million trips in 2019 to maybe 40 million in 2022. The latter figure is about 25 trips per capita. Has that number ever been lower? Will we ever get back to 2019 levels?

  11. This one figure, $900 million, shows why PT can never be free, because we simply cannot afford it. However, European pricing models where those who use PT the least (tourists and single trip riders) are charged the most; and regular users who pay the least through monthly and yearly passes could be the way to a financially sustainable PT system.

  12. Thanks for sharing the video, David. I should take Te Huia soon to complete the trifecta of North Island inter-urban train trips.

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