Tēnā koutou katoa. We’re all feeling thoroughly used to these short weeks – hope you’ve enjoyed some rest and quality time over Easter and Anzac weekend. Back to normal a tērā wiki!
The week in Greater Auckland
On Tuesday, Heidi wrote about the Eastern Busway, and proposed a strategy for achieving it without a whole lot of expensive and disruptive property acquisition.
Wednesday’s post covered the exciting announcement that the Waitematā Harbour is soon to get electric ferries.
And yesterday, Matt celebrated the soon-to-open Northern Busway extension and the future improvements to come.
Advocates have their day in court, challenging AT and Council’s decision-making
In August 2021, All Aboard Aotearoa, a coalition of advocacy groups, filed for a judicial review of the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan 2021-31. This week, the case was heard in court.
All Aboard Aotearoa has argued that the RLTP is unlawful, given it will fail to result in a meaningful reduction in emissions:
All Aboard says that the adoption of the RLTP was unlawful because it does not make any material reduction to Auckland’s transport emissions. As the RLTP itself records, it will increase land transport emissions in Auckland by 6% by 2031 compared to 2016 levels (or reduce them by 1% if proposed central government interventions are taken into account, such as biofuels improvements and clean car standards).
As reported by Todd Niall for Stuff, All Aboard says Auckland Transport didn’t sufficiently consider climate change in its ten-year plan for transport:
“Auckland Transport failed to apply a proper climate lens in selecting projects and programmes for the investment programme, and there was no priority given to climate outcomes,” the group said.
[The group’s lawyer, Davey Salmon QC] argued the RLTP had a “wrong starting point[.]” with 93% of spending deemed to be “committed” projects that could not be revisited.
AT and Council’s position is that the RLTP is just “one piece in a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking transport legislation and funding steps” – but as reported below, it seems there may be room for change:
AT and the council said advice had been correct, and if the court found the RLTP to be unlawful, it could be modified, and that setting it aside completely could have “potentially significant consequences” for transport planning and funding.
The judge has now reserved his decision, which means it could be a while before we know the outcome of the case. (In the meantime, the case files – the affidavits, the responses, and the rebuttals – make for very interesting reading.) Of course, in a way this is already a win, in that it highlights the urgency of accounting for climate outcomes in long-term transport decision-making. And the value of alert citizens calling attention to this.
The Spinoff on what Light Rail could bring to Auckland
This is a good broad-brush overview of light rail to share with your non-transport nerd acquaintances. The backstory outlined by Spinoff writer Alice Webb-Liddell will be familiar to many readers of Greater Auckland: the shift to planning for cars in the 50s and 60s, the ever-growing congestion issues, and the return to looking for solutions in public transport strategy. It then goes into the benefits of light rail, and how to make sure it offers a good service to everyone.
We don’t disagree with this statement at all:
So what does light rail give us that a robust bus or train system won’t? For starters, it provides an ease of access that other options, like underground heavy rail, often does not.
“You think about your quintessential European [light rail system] … one of the key things is that they’re at street level, so people can easily get on and they can easily get off,” says Myers.
But which light rail system is it talking about – the one we’re told we’re getting, or the one we wish we were?
EVs won’t save the planet (but they’re a start)
Simon Wilson’s been doing excellent work explaining progressive transport ideas recently – yet again, we want to share his most recent op-ed. This week, Wilson wrote about electric vehicles, and the risk of being duped into thinking EVs will tick our emissions-reduction box for us.
EVs, he reminds us, don’t solve safety – and many new EVs, particularly those coming out of the USA, are just electric versions of the super-sized SUVs that are becoming more common here in Aotearoa.
An EV battery typically weighs about 450kg, compared to the 50kg weight of a typical tank of petrol, and the weight means the car takes longer to stop.
‘Flipping the fleet’ in NZ will take years, and simply won’t happen fast enough to reduce emissions on the scale that’s needed.
The Canadian urban planner Brent Toderian puts it like this: “Here’s the blunt reality — reasonably sized electric vehicles need to be the future of cars, but they can’t be the future of urban mobility. Fewer cars. Less driving. More inviting mobility options. Better communities and cities. These are the four pillars of the real solution.”
World-first transit lane monitoring on Onewa Road
AT’s new cameras on Onewa Road are a world-leading trial of technology designed to monitor vehicle occupancy in T2 and T3 lanes. The Transit Lane Enforcement (TLE) technology will be running by the end of April.
The monitoring technology will then go live from Tuesday 26 April, with AT issuing warning letters for 3 weeks with advice on the correct use of the lanes. There is a break of one week between warning letters being sent and infringements starting to be issued from 24 May for incorrect use.
Catch the outdoor extension at Basement this weekend
It’s your last chance to enjoy an al fresco performance at Basement’s outdoor area this weekend, a space supported by an Auckland Council Outdoor Dining Grant. According to the theatre itself, shows are heading back inside for winter, but “you can still enjoy a drink and a hangout in our outside space all year round.” Phew!
We love this al fresco performance space/beer garden @Basementspace, which received support from an Outdoor Dining Grant thanks to @aklcouncil and the city centre targeted rate. It’s your last chance to check out a show there this weekend! pic.twitter.com/wZtuiqX8jP
— Heart of the City (@hotcity_akl) April 27, 2022
Wellington’s green carpet comes with solid climate messaging
The comms around Wellington’s bike network roll-out are excellent. Local advocate Patrick Morgan attended an event and shared some of the storytelling online. The information signage leads with the big story – climate action. We’re rolling out the green carpet, says the headline, followed by:
Work is underway on our new bike and bus lanes, connecting Newtown to the city. This is part of Paneke Pōneke, Wellington’s bike network plan – working to reduce our emissions by providing more low-carbon choices, and addressing housing density demands.
— Patrick Morgan (@patrickmorgan) April 27, 2022
(And of course Auckland is set to enjoy the same green carpet treatment by replacing parking with bus priority and bike lanes for all, on <checks notes> as much as 3% of its road network over the next <squints at paper> ten years…)
Free fares in Sydney cause jump in public transport use
Sydney’s ‘Opal’ public transport system recently had 12 days of free fares which saw people come out in droves to use PT. The most noticeable jumps were in off-peak travel times, as people took advantage of free ferry trips in particular over the school holidays.
Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins said 7.7 million free trips had been taken on the public transport network since the start of the fare-free period, and almost 250,000 people travelled on ferries over the Easter long weekend.
Some 87,000 people also travelled on Sydney’s light rail services on Wednesday, which was the largest-ever daily patronage for that mode of transport.
But are free fares the most environmental solution to transport problems?
It’s a debate we keep on having. Fare-free public transport sounds great on the surface: wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could get on a bus, whether they’ve got money in their pocket or not? David Zipper examines the case for free fares in this article on Bloomberg, leading with a long list of American cities and states that have recently dabbled with free public transport.
After more than a decade of transit agencies around the world experimenting with free trips, it’s far from clear that dropping fares delivers an environmental upside.
It boils down to this: If fare-free transit doesn’t substantially reduce driving, it’s not mitigating emissions or slowing climate change. And all signs suggest that it doesn’t.
To reduce emissions, fare-free public transport needs to get people out of their cars and onto the bus, and for many drivers, that shift happens for a range of reasons – not just cost. Experiments with fare-free PT in Estonia and Chile found that the scheme increased public transport patronage, but didn’t reduce car trips in any measurable way.
Increasing the quality of public transport and disincentivizing driving, making public transport more attractive than taking the car, is what’s needed to reduce transport emissions.
There is a lesson here: Serious efforts to entice drivers to become transit riders won’t come cheap; local leaders must allocate significant dollars and political capital toward expanding transit service and curtailing the preferential treatment of cars.
Could cars be on the way out of Melbourne’s city centre?
Pedestrianisation is a trend in Melbourne, and some in the city are starting to talk about the possibility of a Ghent-style car-free, city centre. Melbourne already has slow-speed pedestrian friendly laneways, a high pedestrian trip rate, and a growing network of pandemic-era cyclelanes.
About 89 per cent of trips that start and end in the CBD are on foot, according to Melbourne City Council, yet cars and parking utilise 60 per cent of road space.
The city has been looking to Barcelona, London and Oslo as examples of the path it could take towards a ‘car-lighter’ city centre.
The cars are gone from (the middle of) Golden Gate Park
After a long campaign by community and advocates, San Francisco’s board of supervisors have voted to keep the park’s central avenue, John F Kennedy Drive, free of cars. It’s been closed to cars since the pandemic started, and advocates argued that ‘a car-free JFK was in line with the city’s commitment to safer streets and clean air.’
The hearing leading up to the vote took a gruelling 9 hours, and included one local musician singing a song in favour of keeping the road car-free.
“Keep it car-free so the kids can play,” [John] Elliott sang at the podium while strumming his guitar. “Car-free to scoot and skate and ride. Car free so we can all have a place to safely move outside. Car free for 100 years.”
When the roads in our own Cornwall Park were closed to traffic during 2021’s lockdown, they filled instead with families, kids on bikes and scooters, adults on bikes, joggers, walkers and pets. We suddenly saw how much space there was for play, once through-traffic was out of the picture. So there’s one we could make permanent here in Tāmaki Makaurau – and how about the Auckland Domain, too?
New York gets nearly $1billion to make its streets safer
A few roundups ago, we linked to the story of New York City’s attempt to get $3.1b in funding approved for street safety and public space upgrades. Well – they’ve been granted $900m, which may only be a third of what was sought, but it’s still a huge injection into the city’s streets.
The announcement, by Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, included strong messaging about reclaiming space from cars.
“Today, we are announcing $904 million to reclaim space from cars on our streets. We will be building even more bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes as well as new plaza and other public space,” said Rodriguez. “We know we have a lot of work to do to address reckless driving, at the same time we announce this investment. Help reduce dependency on dangerous cars. The future of our city depends on alternative forms of transportation.”
North-East London becomes a network of Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods
We were super excited to see this map shared by UK journalist Jon Stone. It shows that the extent of LTNs now covers more than half of North-East London, proving wrong critics who claim that LTNs only serve a select few. In the map, blue areas are LTNs already in place, and the pink areas are planned LTNs.
London’s illegal e-scooter ‘problem’
E-scooters are everywhere. They’re all over New Zealand, and all over the rest of the world too (except, perhaps, certain European cities that were already full of people on bikes). In the United Kingdom, there are nearly a million e-scooters – and they’re all being ridden illegally, because it’s not technically legal to ride e-scooters on public land in the UK.
The Guardian tackles the e-scooter phenomenon in the UK, where, just as in NZ, e-scooters have experienced a sudden boom. The article looks at who’s using them and why, their benefits and disadvantages, and the element of moral panic evident in concerns about e-scooter safety.
These deaths attracted national media attention due to the novelty of e-scooters, but it’s worth putting them into context: about four people die each day on our roads, and these deaths pass largely unnoticed, while newspapers fulminate about the “e-scooter menace” on our streets.
Quit driving, be happier
Share this enthusiastic endorsement of public transport with your PT-sceptic friends and whānau!
Here's the story of why I quit driving and became a full-time bus boy. pic.twitter.com/ifMZd4fsQm
— Adam Conover (@adamconover) April 16, 2022
Yes but how am I supposed to transport my new dining suite if I don’t have a car?
Like this Berliner, just pile it all onto a trolley and roll onto the S-Bahn. Follow the link to the Twitter thread to see what happens next…
— Nicolas Reid (@Nicolas_Reid) April 26, 2022
It really is amazing what you can do on trains in Berlin, as per this classic 2015 video shared in Nick’s thread, with the refrain “Is mir egal”, i.e. I don’t mind. The video speaks for itself, but if you need a translation, here it is. (How about an AT re-make, with the refrain “It’s all good”?)
A kōrero with the awa
A lovely little bit of placemaking on one of Ōtautahi’s beautiful river paths.
Tell the river your worries and let them float away. pic.twitter.com/dHaDINDmuC
— Marion Ogier (@MonzaGT) April 25, 2022
The joy of walking
We loved this ode to walking by Chris Arnade. Arnade argues that walking is the best way to explore the detail, grit and reality of a new city, the best way to encounter its ordinary residents, its habits and rhythms.
Because walking forces you to see a city at its most granular. You can’t zoom past anything. You can’t fast forward to the “interesting parts.” It is being forced to watch the whole movie, and more often then not, realizing the best parts are largely unseen by tourists.
Walking also changes how the city sees you, and consequently, how you see the city. As a pedestrian you are fully immersed in what is around you, literally one of the crowd. It allows for an anonymity, that if used right, breaks down barriers and expectations. It forces you to deal with and interact with things and people as a resident does. You’re another person going about your day, rather than a tourist looking to buy or be sold whatever stuff and image a place wants to sell you.
We’ll leave you with this to ponder over the weekend. If it’s not real, it should be…
— bolty (@AmbJohnBoIton) March 31, 2022