Ata mārie everyone and welcome to the month of Hongongoi-July.
The week in Greater Auckland
On Monday, Scott argued that ‘zoning’ isn’t helping constructive development and should be abolished.
In Tuesday’s post, Matt wondered if there’s a bigger story behind a recent sponsored NZ Herald article about Auckland Light Rail.
Wednesday’s post cheered on the first of AT’s planned low-cost cycleway barriers (on Upper Harbour Drive), in the face of some pretty vicious backlash.
And on Thursday, Matt broke down the items on yesterday’s AT Board Meeting agenda.
Good news for Waiheke Ferries
This week, the Minister for Transport announced that he’s beginning the legal process to bring Waiheke ferries into the public transport system. At the moment, Fullers has an exemption to run the Waiheke ferries outside of the public transport network. This means that Waiheke residents have missed out on the advantages of government-subsidised public transport.
The company announced an 8.4% fare rise in late June, while the rest of the subsidised public transport network is enjoying half-price fares due to government funding until the end of August.
Removing the exemption will take some time, but Michael Wood hopes it will be changed by the end of the year.
The change should come this year, but is not simple as it still requires agreement by Fullers or another ferry operator, to provide the new regulated public transport services.
“This exemption removal process will take some time, and I remain hopeful that the two parties will come to an agreement,” said Wood.
Ockham to bring more homes to Avondale
Just announced on Eke Panuku’s blog, Ockham has purchased a 1.58 hectare site in Avondale right next to the proposed new library and town centre development.
With easy access to transport links, the development of this central site is destined to offer more than 500 homes directly adjoining the future site of Auckland Council’s eagerly anticipated multimillion-dollar investment in a new town square, multi-purpose library and community facility, as well as provide new retail and commercial premises along the site’s Great North Road edge.
The project will be just down the road from Ockham’s under-construction Aroha development and a block from its earlier development, Set. Could Avondale become one of the best examples we have of a medium-density, thriving local centre?
We haven’t solved housing yet, though.
Steps forward, steps back. The debate about density, where it’s allowed to go, and when a villa is worth more than a dozen decent homes stumbles on.
In Wellington last week, the much-agonised-over Spatial Plan was enshrined into the District Plan after 6.5 hour council meeting that came with a fresh round of agony for, well, everyone. This should have been a straightforward transfer of a set of agreed decisions and principles into a zoning plan.
Instead, “a very slim majority of councillors, a couple, changed their votes and undid a year’s worth of work, and probably millions of dollars’ worth” of planning, according to pro-density councillor Rebecca Matthews.
In particular, an 11th-hour amendment by mayor Andy Foster – who is yet to announce whether he is running for re-election this year – made two major last-minute changes that will likely lead to less high-density housing being built.
Those two changes included reducing the City Centre walking catchement (which allows buildings up to 6 storeys within it) be reduced from 15mins to 10mins, and a redefinition of the Johnsonville Train Line from a rapid transit line, which would significantly reduce the amount of housing that can be built around it.
The Johnsonville amendment was re-worded after Council was informed that the change was illegal, but the re-worded version is still legally shaky.
Meanwhile, in Auckland…
Moving incrementally forward? At Thursday afternoon’s planning committee, the question of ‘which house is prettiest’ continued to get quite a bit more airtime than ‘how can we make sure fewer people are trapped in housing poverty?’
However, homes did win out over fretwork – narrowly. A motion to widen the criteria for special character areas to include ‘Category 4’ homes was voted down, 11 to 10.
Shane Henderson, Councillor for Waitakere, expressed his impatience with fellow Councillors who support density in theory but don’t turn up with the votes.
— Hayden Donnell (@HaydenDonnell) June 30, 2022
Councillor Cooper was equally frustrated:
The same people make the same arguments. They say they want a more compact urban form, they say they want to reduce emissions, but when it comes to the hard decisions they’ll go and vote for their area. We just can’t do that.
And Councillor Dalton spoke about the reality of a changing city:
Yes, that includes reducing emissions. I got stick for voting for the parking strategy, for the cycling plan, and I’ll get stick for this – but I will be consistent. The city has no choice but to change.
Mode shift is Wellington’s future
A big Let’s Get Wellington Moving announcement came this week. The Government revealed that it’s backing Option 1 of the four major LGWM investment options. That’s the option which builds a new car and transit tunnel through Mt Victoria, turns the existing tunnel into a walking and cycling link, and sends light rail out to Island Bay.
Some, including Julie Ann Genter, have pointed out that that means choosing the most expensive and difficult option, which comes with high embedded carbon. On the other hand, Minister Wood sent a strong message about mode shift in the announcement.
Pumping as many cars through the city as possible was “1960s thinking”, Wood said. Mode shift was “what every successful dynamic international city is doing”.
Perhaps the Minister actually did make it to Paris’ Coronapistes, or Ghent’s low-traffic area in his recent trip to Europe…
What mode shift really means for the people of Pōneke
We’ll really miss the Dominion Post’s Mode Shift series now that the month of June is behind us. It’s done an excellent job of talking about transport issues with a more human, less catastrophic tone than what we’re used to seeing in the media. Here are a couple of highlights from the last week.
Lily Chalmers is a bike activist who understands that access to cycling is about more than just the infrastructure. When the Hutt City cycleway opened last year, she realised that many in her community didn’t have bikes – they couldn’t afford them, and there wasn’t even a bike shop in the neighbourhood. So Chalmers started Bike Box, a charity that repairs and gives away unused bikes to people who need them.
She says hard infrastructure needs to be backed up with initiatives that encourage and enable cycling, particularly in areas where people otherwise wouldn’t have the means to get themselves mobile.
Chalmers points out that bikes allow people to participate in their community, which is exactly what a cargo bike has meant for six year old Elliot, who lives with a brain tumor. Elliot’s family’s cargo bike has become the main form of transport for Elliot and her sister, and it gives them access to the city and the people in it in a way a car never could.
“Those small pleasures and little adventures you can have every day, it’s been life changing for her. She can have that sense of normality and childhood fun,” [Elliot’s mum Caroline] Beech said.
Why we need Vision Zero
Spotted on The Spinoff this week: a fantastic plain-language summary of Vision Zero (Road to Zero) and why we need it, produced in partnership with Waka Kotahi and beautifully illustrated by Hope McConnell.
And the month of June was a particularly awful reminder of why Vision Zero changes of all kinds desperately need to be rolled out all over the motu. The 2022 mid-year road toll is now the highest its been since 2018. New Zealand is, along with the USA, one of the only developed nations in which the road toll isn’t decreasing.
Then, on Monday, 28-year-old Jessica Moser was killed by a truck on a central city street in Hamilton when she was cycling to work. At an intersection that’s known to be dangerous and where planned improvements haven’t happened.
If Jessica’s tragic and untimely death is not a reason to speed up safety improvements to make streets safer for vulnerable road users – and to re-think how heavy freight works, then what is?
Trucks not trains for Bay of Plenty to Waikato supply chain?
A collection of freight industry stakeholders have come together to work on plans to deal with anticipated pressure on supply chain infrastructure between the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato. Capacity will increase across sectors, but there’s a disproportionate focus on roading projects and the trucking industry above rail.
Choosing trucks over trains is not aligned with our Vision Zero goals, nor the climate emergency and our national commitments to reduce transport emissions.
Major investments planned included spending $88.6 million on rail between FY22 and FY24, completion and use of the Ruakura inland port in Hamilton and annual roading investments in Waikato and Bay of Plenty of around $800m and $400m respectively. Proposed and approved National Land Transport Fund investments for the two regions totalled $2.6 billion.
Head down into the CRL tunnel boring machine
This CRL update video follows communications coordinators Olivia and Nicole down into the tunnel that’s being bored at the moment for a tour of the many different parts of the tunnel boring machine itself – including its lunch room and pilot’s cabin, and walks them through a typical safety induction.
Depaving for climate
The topic of ‘depaving’ – removing asphalt and concrete to make way for green and blue ‘infrastructure’ – popped up in our feed this week, and got us thinking…
Vienna depaves with style
In Vienna, Austria, depaving is done in the service of cooling the city down, and has happened alongside the addition of misters, green meadows and an artificial lake.
Depaving freeways to create space for people
In a growing worldwide trend, space-hungry motorways and freeways are being reimagined as space for homes…
[THREAD] Want to see what's possible when you get freeways out of downtown? When Providence relocated its I-195 freeway out of downtown, it freed up 20 acres of downtown development. Let's see what's come from this land that used to be a freeway: (1/10) pic.twitter.com/imEY6QniIt
— Hayden Clarkin (@the_transit_guy) June 27, 2022
…and for expansive boulevards, like this transformation in Rio de Janeiro.
There are countless examples of unnecessary swathes of asphalt in Auckland, from wide residential cul-de-sacs, to complex knots of intersections and traffic islands like this on in Blockhouse Bay. What would you do with it?
Would fare-free PT be good for Auckland?
A report commissioned by the Trade Unions PSA and First Union is claiming that dropping fares on public transport would improve social equity and people’s perception of the services.
Report author Dr Jen McArthur, Associate Professor of Urban Infrastructure and Public Policy at University College London, told Morning Report three international cities who had implemented the policy were studied – Tallinn in Estonia, and Kansas and Boston in the United States. She said the benefits were apparent.
“They all had different experiments going free and had slightly different ways of implementing it,” she said.
“But across the board it shows if you do it well – it’s not just about making the fares free but having a holistic package about improving the transport and going free as part of having a number of measures for improving accessibility, it definitely has gained.”
We’ve argued in the past that free fares aren’t the answer – improving services across the board, and making sure everyone has access to good PT options is what really matters. And that’s kind of what the study seems to be saying: that getting rid of fares alone isn’t enough, it has to come with improvements to the service too.
We’re expecting to see more of this debate, because it’s Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins’ flagship policy.
Gas Station bans becoming a reality
We touched on the future of gas stations last week, and it’s surfaced again, this time on Los Angeles, which might be the first big american city to ban new gas stations.
Proponents of the policy say that the destructive wildfires, killer heat waves, and heavy flooding that have hit the U.S. recently, fueled by climate change, are a sign that it’s time to stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. They also point out that gas stations can cause lasting health effects, releasing benzene — a known carcinogen — and contaminating the air, water, and soil. Shuttered gas stations make up half of the country’s 450,000 contaminated brownfield sites, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That number is sure to grow as electric vehicles take over the road in the coming years, cutting the demand for gasoline.
What the ‘war on cars’ is really about
Here’s a reflective weekend long-read, by Doug Gordon of the War on Cars podcast, on reclaiming the ‘ban cars’ language from alarmist TV hosts, and the deeper thinking behind the tongue-in-cheek name of the movement.
Given the aggregate ways in which cars negatively impact individual lives, communities, and the planet, I believe a good-faith understanding of “the ban cars movement” is actually less radical than maintaining the status quo, which often seems to take the shape of a ban on everything but cars.
The joys of collective transport: cargo bikes on the rise
We shared the Dom Post’s story of the joy Elliot Beech and her family get from their cargo bike earlier in the post, and now here’s the New York Times with an article that’s both an explainer and ode to the cargo bike.
The humble little box on wheels — the Dutch word for cargo bike is bakfiets, or box bike — can do everything, from helping families with their errands to increasing efficiency for companies delivering products and services, all while reducing emissions and congestion and increasing safety, experts say.
Across the Atlantic, cargo bikes are an essential part of Paris’ hot cycling summer
While the Japanese have known about cargo bikes for a long time…
… they’re several steps ahead with this tall and narrow, double height three wheeled pedal-powered machine. This is the kind of futuristic innovation we can get excited about!
The future of red carpet transport
Or, how we like to think we look on our bike commutes into the city.
Limousines out, bikes and e-bikes in: almost 20 well-known faces of German film rolled to the German Film Award in Berlin on @swapfiets. The bike subscription leader even rolled for them a blue carper ahead of the traditional red one. “For more sustainable movie production.” pic.twitter.com/TYNoNoV7EX
— Roman Meliška (@happy_roman) June 25, 2022
Tamaki cycleway is brimming with tamariki
The indicator species was spotted on the Glenn Innes to Tāmaki cycleway in the weekend.
A revolution in transport planning
This might well be our longest weekly roundup up yet, but this final piece is too good not to include. In a concise summary, Lisa Kane pulls out five key points from Karel Martens’ book Transport Justice. These key points, Kane argues, ask for nothing less than a revolution in transport planning methods.
Thinking about human beings first means thinking more about the ability of all kinds of people to travel (by whatever means). It broadens our possible toolkit beyond infrastructure and vehicles and traditional transport planning. Thinking transport justice is not about a focus on people as an add-on or as an after-thought, says Karel Martens, it’s about completely new methodologies. We need transport planning processes which intentionally focus on those we serve, and this means starting afresh from the ground up.
Whew! Hope you enjoy this bumper roundup edition on what’s looking to be a rainy weekend. See you next week.