On Sunday Transport Minister Michael Wood jetted off to Oslo to for “the International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS), hosted by the European Association for Electromobility”
“EVS is the leading international gathering to address all the electromobility issues. The conference brings together government Ministers, policymakers, representatives from industry, relevant research communities and NGOs to discuss how we can enhance the transition to electric vehicles.
“We have a positive story to share about how we are putting policies in place to help foster EV uptake. Key to us accelerating the programme is locking in a secure supply of EVs.
“My message to vehicle manufacturers is clear. New Zealand is open for business. We are investing in supporting kiwi families and our economy’s transition to carbon neutral through initiatives like the Clean Car Discount, the decarbonisation of the public transport bus fleet and the Clean Car Upgrade funded through Budget 22.
We don’t make vehicles locally, so it is vitally important that New Zealand is seen as a viable market for low emissions vehicle manufacturers. I will be selling that message in Oslo.
While in Europe he’s also got a couple of other visits too.
“I will also meet with ministerial counterparts from other countries to discuss their experiences decarbonising their transport sectors and see what lessons we can learn.
Michael Wood will also visit Geneva to meet with the International Labour Organisation and Global Road Safety Partnership to discuss Fair Pay Agreements and the Government’s Road to Zero strategy respectively. This will be followed by a visit to London to meet with Ministerial counterparts, civil society groups and departments to progress Government priorities in the Transport and Workplace Relations and Safety portfolios.
“As we build our way out of our decades-long infrastructure deficit, we can benefit and learn from the experiences of others who have tackled these challenges head on,” Michael Wood said.
Electric vehicles are obviously an important part of our transport future, but going all the way to Europe largely for just an EV conference seems like a wasted opportunity given some of the really interesting things going on there right now, including other major transport events.
I’m sure he already has a fairly full schedule but if he’s got any spare time, here’s a few other things the Minister should be sending postcards home about.
While in Oslo
Beyond the EV conference, the Minister should absolutely explore Oslo’s public transport system as a model for local consideration.
The wider Oslo metro area is home to about 1.5 million people, and prior to COVID, the city’s metro, tram and bus networks carried around 297 million trips annually.
Some of that high level of patronage is obviously due to legacy networks – but it’s notable that usage had nearly doubled in the 15 years since 2004 (when it was just under 150 million annually). On top of this, there were around another 110 million trips annually on regional buses and trains and ferries.
They’re clearly doing something right. One striking example is a new tram line through Bjørvika, an area of urban redevelopment on the city’s waterfront, which opened in late 2020. It’s easy to picture how something like that would be desirable on, say, Dominion Road. And it shows you don’t need an underground tunnel to get great outcomes for both housing and transit.
Even more impressively, this is what it used to look like:
Meanwhile, in London
Plenty that should be on a transport minister’s agenda in London. The obvious place to start is the fantastic work to deliver dozens of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which has further accelerated since the pandemic started, with schemes moving from temporary to permanent almost every week.
It would be ideal for the minister to to visit a couple of examples in person – say, the original Waltham Forest, and maybe a more recent example, like Railton or Lewisham – and talk with politicians and officials about how they’ve done it, and how they’ve moved beyond initial resistance to deliver more results for more people.
The most recent research on the results shows impressive outcomes for not just healthier daily travels, but quieter streets, cleaner air and livelier shopping streets.
Time to draw a line under the LTN debate. New independent report shows LTNs
✅make roads safer
✅cut car use
✅increase walking & cyclinghttps://t.co/RHFAjfM4SA
Future LTNs need more public engagement & be part of a package of measures.
But LTNs work & are here to stay
— Will Norman (@willnorman) June 9, 2022
LTNs now cover more than half the area in north and east London, and more are planned.
I think people have trouble visualising low-traffic neighbourhoods on a map… you get people saying they're for ‘a select few' or whatever… but look how much of north/east London is covered. (the blue shaded areas are LTNs, pink areas are consulted/ planned) pic.twitter.com/BIkXLVjgLu
— Jon Stone (@joncstone) April 27, 2022
In London, the Minister should also be sure to catch up with his counterparts and their advisers in the British Government. One aspect that should absolutely be on the agenda is to discuss their ambitious Cycling and Walking plan for England – called Gear Change and its review a year later. The plan calls for half of all journeys in towns and cities to be made by walking or cycling. It also established an Active Travel Commissioner, whoour minister should meet, to assess delivery by local authorities of walking and cycling schemes. The plan even suggests those assessments will influence the funding allocations for other non-walking and cycling projects.
There are others to meet too, such as London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman who has been involved in many of the things above.
How about also talking with officials about their Low Emissions Zones and world leading truck safety standards?
Why not swing by Ljubljana?
Velo-city is the major fixture on the active transport calendar, and Ljubljana is the first opportunity since the pandemic postponed the 2020 event to gather again in-person with the luminaries and leaders from around the world who are transforming their cities for everyday two-wheeled transport. Everyone who’s anyone will be there.
Frankly, given the rhetoric from the government about the need for change in transport, this should be the conference the Minister was travelling to attend, rather than the electric car one.
And it’s not just the conference itself – Ljubljana is an inspiring example of rapid, and rapidly accepted, transformation.
To great uncertainty and controversy, in 2007, Ljubljana closed 12 hectares of its city center to private cars. Just 40% of residents approved.
A decade later, no less than 97% were against reopening to motor traffic: “None of us can really imagine cars ever staging a comeback”. pic.twitter.com/BVzLDQqDNt
— Melissa & Chris Bruntlett (@modacitylife) June 12, 2022
Since the introduction of a car-free zone in 2007, the auto mode share in Ljubljana has dropped by 32%.
The concentrations of black carbon emissions has reduced 70% and noise pollution is down six decibels.
Most importantly, it’s a more pleasant place to spend time (and money). pic.twitter.com/Sq9VU9zJap
— Melissa & Chris Bruntlett (@modacitylife) June 12, 2022
It would be interesting to know if the Ministry or his advisers even suggested some of these, especially Velo-city, as an option.
There’s so much to see and learn that would be useful for helping move forward the government’s stated ambitions on transport. It will always be hard to take everything in on one relatively short trip, especially as I’m sure he’s also keen to get back to his family. But with overseas travel a more precious opportunity than ever, it’s really worth making the most of these serendipitous chances to connect with the change-makers, taste the transformations, and bring home some tangible souvenirs for the rest of us.
Readers: what else would you suggest as a must-see on a transport minister’s brief OE?