Kia ora koutou mā, happy Friday and hope you’re doing well. Here’s some roundup goodness for you to enjoy over the weekend.

The week in Greater Auckland

On Tuesday, Matt revived the light rail debate, with a comprehensive list of points explaining the benefits of surface light rail, and asking if a different route would work better for the tunneled version.

Wednesday’s post was a summary of ‘Reshaping Streets’, the excellent package of proposed legislation changes that will make it easier for councils to make positive transformation happen on their streets.

Yesterday, Matt wrote about some interesting findings in the most recent AA survey on congestion charging.

Register to vote or update your details today!

A reminder from your friendly local democracy nerds: if you want to vote in this year’s local body elections, today (the 12th of August) is the last day you can –

  • Register to vote if you’re not already registered
  • Update your details if they’ve changed.

You can do both here!

Ask mayoral candidates Efeso Collins and Viv Beck about transport at Bike Auckland’s Discussion

Come along to the Bike Champions Forum to discuss the future of transport in Tāmaki Makaurau and put your burning questions to these two mayoral electoral candidates.

Register here. Any queries email

Coming soon: the new new Mangere Bridge

Ngā Hau Māngere, the new walking and cycling bridge connecting Mangere to Onehunga, is on track for its planned opening on the 27th of August.

The structure’s deck is 8 metres wide with two fishing bays extending that to 12 metres and bench seating for people to sit and enjoy the harbour views.

“When open, the bridge will provide not only an important strategic connection as part of the wider walking and cycling network in Auckland, but also become a place for whānau and friends to gather, sit and even enjoy a spot of fishing,”

And don’t worry, we’ll remind you about the opening again in weekly roundup on the 26th.

Work in progress photo from July. Image via Waka Kotahi.

A piece of the CRL puzzle to open at Maungawhau

Sorry about that tease of a headline – but it’s still exciting! The Porters Avenue overbridge opens tomorrow. No more level crossing, but a great new pedestrian shortcut instead. Oh, and guess what – it’s rail safety week this week. Good timing!

Haere rā to Papakura to Pukekohe’s diesel train shuttle

The last diesel train in Auckland will be off the tracks after today. The 19kms from Papakura to Pukekohe is going to be electrified, with buses replacing the train until the work is done.

Auckland Transport’s Raymond Siddalls says it’s a bittersweet moment – as the diesel trains saved Auckland’s commuter rail service from likely closure.

Mr Siddalls played a crucial role in getting redundant passenger trains from Perth to Auckland in the early ‘90s.

“The value back then was AUD $56m and we eventually purchased 19 two-car trains. I justified a budget of NZ $10m for the project, this included shipping and interior refurbishment; I also negotiated a 10-year extension to operation contract with the Regional Council to justify this investment,” Mr Siddalls says.

Image via Scoop
Have your say on the name of new South Auckland railway stations

The New Zealand Geographic Board has just opened consultation for the name of new stations on the Papakura-Pukekohe line. The three stations are proposed to be called Paerātā, Ngākōroa, and Drury. Consultation is open until the 9th of November.

Government inquiry to look at inter-regional rail

Here’s an idea whose time has well and truly come. We’re really excited at the news that Goverment’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee has started an inquiry into the possible future of inter-regional rail in Aotearoa. The Committee wants to hear from New Zealanders, and you can make a submission here until October the 6th.

Here’s Greater Auckland’s proposal for a regional rapid rail network, published in 2017.

Thomas Coughlan covered the announcement in the New Zealand Herald, pointing out that our only inter-regional train that isn’t for tourists, Te Huia, had 7609 passengers last month, nearly double the number it had in July 2021.

Another Pōneke cycleway makes it through community consultation

In really encouraging news, three-quarters of people spoken to about the Botanical Gardens to City Centre cycleway supported it. A compromise was made through the consultation that means the cycleway operates between 7am and 10am on the Tinakori Road section – but it’s permanent everywhere else. This cycleway is the first step in a longer route that will eventually stretch into the suburb of Karori.

The Botanic Gardens to City Centre cycleway is the interim version before permanent infrastructure is built.

A public transport success story in the Taranaki

In the Taranaki, half-price public transport fares seem to be getting more people on buses, with one route increasing its patronage by 40%.

Taranaki Regional Council’s transport engagement manager Sarah Hiestand said Waitara patronage rose after the subsidised half-price fares began.

The Waitara route bucked the trend of other New Plymouth urban Citylink buses, which were hit hard by the Omicron outbreak and carried eight percent fewer passengers in the year to June.

Other routes have also seen ridership increase, but in places where the service is poor, numbers that dropped during lockdowns haven’t bounced back. Taranaki Regional Council is planning a review of its public transport services. Perhaps half-price fares are going to be the tipping point that gets smaller towns in Aotearoa looking more closely at the potential of the public transport networks?

The crucial first steps to climate solutions

In his op-ed this week, Todd Niall writes about the many aspects of transport transformation required if we are to meet our emissions reduction targets.

The big role of road transport (38%) in the region’s emissions means much less driving needs to occur if a 64% cut in transport emissions is to happen.

One of the big shifts is trebling public transport’s share of the journeys made in Auckland, to nearly 25%.

‘Climate is a keystone of civilization’ – cartoon by Chris Slane, via Climate Quest for a Stable Climate.

Workhorse electric vehicles put to service in Tāmaki

Welcome to the Waitematā…Sparky?

Ports of Auckland have launched their first electric tug, which has a much more respectable name in Māori – Tiaki – than it does in English. But hey, Sparky’s kinda cute?

Dempsey Wood’s BIG EV

Civil construction firm Dempsey Wood have put New Zealand’s first electric traffic control truck on the road. The truck is part of the company’s efforts to reduce emissions on construction sites.

Our EV offers the opportunity to embrace technology that significantly impacts traffic management. As a progressive and innovative company, we take on that challenge, supported by our industry partners to create change within the industry.
The newest member of Dempsey Wood’s traffic control team.

The week in flooding and unprecedented droughts

This week, torrential rain swamped Seoul in South Korea, sending water pouring into subway stations and streets clogged with floating cars. At least three people died, a number of others are missing, and hundreds of people have been displaced.

More than 500 people have been evacuated since heavy rain lashed Seoul Monday night, with the ministry providing tents, blankets and other aid items. Meanwhile, authorities are launching cleanup and rescue services, with the fire department having rescued 145 people as of Wednesday.

The floods gave us this particularly dystopic image, apparently of a journalist perched on a drowned car, waiting to be rescued.

Europe’s watery transport routes dry out

Meanwhile, rivers that are some of Europe’s key transport routes continue to evaporate to new, record lows, and potenial supply chain havoc is looming.

The Rhine — a pillar of the German, Dutch and Swiss economies for centuries — is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint later this week, stymieing vast flows of diesel and coal. The Danube, which snakes its way 1,800 miles through central Europe to the Black Sea, is gummed up too, hampering grain and other trade.

Bloomberg has an excellent map of the Rhine and the many essential industries its shipping routes serve. And it’s not just shipping that the catastrophically low water levels are affecting. These rivers are used to irrigate surrounding farmland, cool nuclear reactors, and in Italy, sustain clam farms.

Shedding the burden of our cars

We noticed a collection of stories this week that talked about going car-free, and the positive effects that can have on lifestyle and stress.

In The Guardian, champion F1 driver Lewis Hamilton talked about how stressful he finds driving a car when he’s not on the racetrack. OK, the article is mostly about Hamilton’s aspirations for his sport, but we can totally relate to his dislike of being stuck in traffic:

While negotiating the busy streets near Nice in his Mercedes Smart car, Hamilton told his interviewer: “Look, we’re on these roads, anything can happen.” Later, as the traffic built up, he went on to say: “This is now stressful for me. This road is crazy. So much going on here. I’m going to turn around in a second.”

Perhaps Hamilton should consider shedding his car, and getting an ebike instead. A recent academic paper studied the effects of ‘car shedding’ – getting rid of a car – on people’s subjective well being. It found that people who get rid of a car for reasons other than affordability tend to experience an increase in happiness for several years afterwards.

Car-shedding is a trend that’s on the rise. A very thorough-looking UK report about changes to transport in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has found that a significant shift has taken place, and there’s still a window of opportunity to bed in these positive transport shifts.

Car ownership has fallen. The sale of used – and, in particular, new – cars has fallen below pre-pandemic levels. There has been a significant increase in the number of households reducing from two cars to one. The pandemic did not lead to a ‘dash to the car’.

The report includes a list of key recommendations to UK decision makers to help them build on positive transport changes of the last two years.

The short-term actions we identify are important, but they are only one part of the debate about where next. There will inevitably be a desire to ‘put this behind us’ and ‘get back to normal’, but it is essential that we learn from this experience in order to be more resilient to future shocks, including fuel price rises, recession and supply chain disruptions. We really have seen that ‘less is more’ in many circumstances: the accessibility of key services locally, easily reached by foot or on bike, has been essential. The replacement of large elements of commuting by digital connectivity and hybrid working was the foundation stone of adaptive capacity for individuals and businesses.

And here’s a timely question. How about a financial incentive for not buying any car at all?

Shed your car, get an ebike

Yes, we can get a little repetitive about bikes and particularly ebikes here. But do you know anyone who has an ebike who doesn’t claim it’s changed their life?

The Financial Times has an excellent, digestible video about the ebike revolution that’s hitting Europe. As we’ve said here before, ebikes sales far outstrip electric vehicle sales in Europe. In Germany, one in six people already owns an ebike, and cities are thinking about how bike infrastructure needs to be designed to suit their faster speeds.

Ebikes are very obviously on the rise here in Aotearoa too, and the NZ Herald has a handy article for the ebike-curious, about how to choose, and which trails to dabble in when you’ve got your electric wheels.

Stranded in paradise during Covid, New Zealanders have been lightning quick to switch on. Recent research into use of the Great Rides shows that domestic travellers have gone batty for e-biking thanks to exponential e-bike imports and an explosion in trails to ride them on.

Reviving streets by getting the cars out

George Monbiot explores the virulent opposition to low-traffic neighbourhoods in a piece on The Guardian. Low-traffic neighbourhoods, he points out, are simply very sensible policy. They aim to keep through traffic on main roads, where it should be, and where it mostly was until satnavs and google maps started finding shortcuts for drivers.

What happened? The general introduction of satnavs. Not only have they made urban driving easier, encouraging a wider trend, but they’ve directed all the extra traffic through rat-runs. In London, journeys on minor roads increased by 63% between 2009 and 2019.

A thriving car-free street in London. Image via London Living Streets.

Few public policies have incited as much violent and outspoken opposition as London and Oxford’s LTNs. He describes scenes even more dramatic than the Onehunga forklift driver:

But certain men (CCTV footage suggests that all of them are men) find this transition intolerable. They began by spraying graffiti on the streets and flower planters. Before long, they started ripping out the new bollards. When local people, calling themselves “human bollards”, took the place of the vandalised fittings to defend their streets at peak times, these men resorted to threats, abuse and violence. In some cases, they left their vehicles to shove and punch the street defenders. In one case, recorded on film, a driver used his car to shunt a person out of the way. One man, using a powerful accelerant, torched two of the bollards.

Experience, however, shows that with time – and not much time at all – opposition to these projects melts away and a vast majority of residents vote in favour of keeping their LTNs in place. In Oxford, the UK’s most ambitious collection of LTNs are going to be made permanent.

Those crucial first few months of an LTN trial are the essential first step towards gentler, friendlier, and greener streets.

A bike network for Tel Aviv

It’s always exciting to see solid cycling infrastructure in unexpected places. In this video, Tel Aviv has a pretty impressive collection of joined-up bike lanes.

Crosswalk Collective: taking pedestrian safety into their own hands

Crosswalk collective are guerilla transport engineers, an anonymous group who paint pedestrian crossings on streets where they should be.

“It was just the accumulation of years of watching the city not take action while so many pedestrians and cyclists were being injured and killed,” they wrote. Members of the group have long petitioned the city for safety improvements through the traditional channels: writing your council member, attending planning meetings, emailing the Department of Transportation. “We saw firsthand the excuses and delays or even just non-responsiveness for months or years after requests had been made,” they wrote.

Crosswalk collective carry out their work in broad daylight, to send a message to Councils.

A bit of bollard fun

Our favourite twitter account keeps bringing the joy. Now we’re eyeing up those new retractable bollards on Te Komititanga…

Weekend long read: when the ice sheets are gone

Rebecca Priestly is an extraordinary science writer, and published a memoir of sorts based around her experiences in Antarctica. In this beautiful – and heart-wrenching – essay on the Griffith Review, she ponders sea level rise and ice sheet collapse through the lens of conversations with scientists over the years.

I’ve camped, driven a Ski-­Doo and ridden in a Hägglund on the Ross Ice Shelf. It’s massive, the biggest ice shelf in the world, the size of France or Texas. The ice shelves help keep the ice sheets in place. I’ve heard scientists say we’ll lose the Ross Ice Shelf by the end of this century. And after that there will be nothing holding back the massive glaciers that drain the ice sheets, and they’ll flow down into the warming sea and they will flow and they will flow and the ice sheet will get thinner and thinner and the seas will rise and rise and rise.

Ka kite, enjoy the sunshine this weekend.

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  1. Lewis Hamilton is quite comfortable zipping around an F1 pitlane on a scooter, can handle 200mph and weaving through tight corners at Monaco, but general traffic makes him nervous despite him having the reflexes of several cats taped together.

    Which makes a lot of Kiwi driver’s attitudes even more confusing and perplexing. If snowplows were legal, I swear 50% of cars and 100% of utes would have them all year round.

    1. I’ve done a fair amount of amateur track driving and agree, Auckland traffic is more stressful!

      “the reflexes of several cats taped together” that is brilliant.

  2. “The Rhine — a pillar of the German, Dutch and Swiss economies for centuries — is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint later this week, stymieing vast flows of diesel and coal.”

    1. Germany also has to or rather wants to move towards more coal for energy production for the near future as gas is rare and expensive due to the Russian war in Ukraine. This coal is supposed to be shipped up the Rhine to the power plants.
      France on the other hand relied more on nuclear power plants that are supposed to be cooled by rivers.
      If there only was a power source that could benefit from warmth and sunshine…

    2. Nature is ironic,it constantly reminds us of our obligations to it,which we ignore at our peril. Wellington,IMO,is poised on a knife edge,a moderate earthquake,whilst the earth is saturated,could prove disastrous.

  3. If you have time it worth reading the Herald article. Apparently the tax payer has put 8.6 billion dollars into rail since 2017. This is mainly to the benefit of Kiwirails corporate customers. In my view its time to give some benefits back to the people. So instead of Kiwirail charging top dollar for long distance and regional passenger trains it should runs these services at cost plus a little. They are currantly sourcing new locomotives which will be able to be used on Passenger services. Given that they don’t pay any dividend to the Govt and the locomotives are essentially a gift from the people of New Zealand I would suggest that the usual accountancy practice of charging to cover replacement costs of depreciating assets is just a joke. It certainly should not be charged for as part of the operational cost of a train service because the next time they need new locomotives it will also be a gift. One more thing there is a spare set of Te Huia carriages sitting around at Te Rapa where can they be deployed. More locomotives would be needed to use them particularly if two locomotives per train is required. I would expect any new locomotives would be double cabbed it makes train operation much easier.

  4. Just for precision, The inquiry to look at inter-regional rail isn’t being undertaken by the Government, its a Parliamentary enquiry.

    There is a difference, which was demonstrated in the Budget when the Government declined to fund the Wellington Regional Council to upgrade its long distance regional trains, ( which would also offer inter-regional services to Palmy)

    1. And the three major parties support the committee for very different reasons. National and Act sound like they will focus on the unsustainable (in their minds) subsidy.

  5. It found that people who get rid of a car for reasons other than affordability tend to experience an increase in happiness for several years afterwards.

    This is a really important qualifier. The happiness also seemed to depend a lot on whether or not you could still reach the places where you wanted to go after you shed your car.

    And I think that is where a story like this falls flat in Auckland. If you can still reach stuff by public transport or by bicycle it is pretty good. But for a lot of people car shedding will just leave you home bound and miserable.

  6. “. . . our only inter-regional train that isn’t for tourists, Te Huia . . .”

    The Capital Connection has been running between Palmerston North and Wellington since 1991. (Palmerston North to Wellington by rail is 136 km; Hamilton to Auckland is 138 km.)

    It’s good that more people are using Te Huia but the numbers are inflated by SuperGold Card holders who travel for free.

    On the other hand, services at present are designed for people wanting to travel from Waikato to Auckland rather than from Auckland to Waikato.

    1. Don’t forget the Wairarapa trains. There are at least four journeys each way during the week and two in the week-ends.

      Wellington-Masterton is 100km and separated geographically by the Remutaka mountain range which should classify it as inter-regional.

      1. I took the train from Wellington to Masterton and back last Saturday; it cost just $12.50 return.

        Masterton is in Wairarapa but formally Wairarapa is part of the Wellington Region.

    2. As a Supergold card holder when the Te Huia 1st Started I had to pay full fare going there and back ant then Hamilton changed the rules making the Supergold Card available all day without the cut off times , and also with the tax coming out my pension I’m still paying forr the trip but in around about way . And one day you also will benefit from the Card so stop moaning , also do you parents use it ? .

  7. “but the numbers are inflated by SuperGold Card holders who travel for free.”

    Do you have a link to the stats on this?

  8. Despite good intentions, random guerilla painting of pedestrian crossings which may sound cool to some could be seriously dangerous. If located near a bend in the road (horizontal or vertical) the crossings may not have optimal sightlines for approaching vehicles – plus I doubt that they will have a full set of signage to alert drivers that they are approaching a proper crossing point. If overdone (i.e too many crossing markings in a given location) they may test driver patience – in other words fewer safely designed crossing points are preferable to a plethora of randomly located signs. A decade or two ago Auckland City Council actually removed a few poorly located crossings after an elderly man was litteraly blown out of his sandals on a crossing with sub-optimal sight lines.

      1. I read that as a pragmatic point about unintended consequences – if drivers get annoyed by crossing markings which they know may be fake, they may start ignoring them, which could be more dangerous than not having them.

  9. Crosswalks are not equivalent to zebra crossings. In most states of the USA, drivers are required to give way to or stop for pedestrians when entering or exiting a side road. Crosswalks are used to visually reinforce this requirement. Painting a crosswalk does not change the obligations on any road user.

    It is a sad indictment of 00s traffic engineering that when a pedestrian is injured at a crossing place the crossing facility was removed instead of the crossing point being made safe.

    1. The location of the removed pedestrian crossing was unsafe (not the crossing itself) – very difficult to make it safe at that point. So, as I say, be very wary of taking it upon yourself to paint a crossing without proper evaluation of the site. At least the Crosswalk Collective in the USA appear to have some relevant expertise behind their efforts.

      1. Literally no one is suggesting painting zebras.

        FYI, a crossing place can be safe at any location. What you actually mean is that the RCA was unwilling to make changes to the road or the crossing facility to make the crossing place safe. The crossing place is still unsafe if you remove the crossing facility.

  10. The one place I’m tempted to paint a crossing is over the Nelson St off-ramp free turn into Union St. With no crossing ALL responsibilities are lumped onto the pedestrian if they want to cross the slip road and get to the island to use the controlled crossing to cross Union St. When I asked AT about this their response was “walk down to Wellington St and use the crossings there” because “insufficient sight lines to install a crossing”. If that’s the case it’s obviously too dangerous to use at all and they should rip up the footpath all the way down to Wellington St so it’s not possible to get to that point & try to cross.

  11. With the last day’s running of Pukekohe – Papakura Shuttle, I thought that you would have highlighted the quality issues with the rail replacement bus services, such as a 41 minute journey, instead of 17 to 19 minutes on the train, meaning commuters then deciding to drive to Papakura – more single car use, what about global warming, congestion and parking issues. Papakura to Drury SH1 being widened at the same time as the train service is stopped, so resilience in the wider transport network is compromised. The time of the upgrade, does the time of the upgrade compare favourably with similar international infrastructural projects? Could a limited rail service have been run, as I thought that the line is in the process of being upgraded for bi directional running?

    1. I was at Pukekohe station this morning (Saturday) at 9.30 am.
      There was about a dozen people wandering about, trying to work out
      what was going on ( or not).
      No timetables for the buses on the info boards, and no sign of anyone
      from AT. Great start.

      1. I bet they were the same ones that tried to flip off the AT staff in pink coats at Papakura yesterday afternoon trying to tell people that it was the final day the DMU’s were running .

      2. Did you see any track or electrification work, as we were promised, that when the trains were stopped, we would have the work starting off with a big bang and we would have images similar to the mass of workers building the dams during the ‘New Deal’ Programme in thirties USA i.e a mass of workers getting the job done quickly for the common good? I was out today and all I saw was a couple of workers checking some trackside kit, could have been axle counters. Nothing at Pukekohe. We should post updates, if we see some work for the electrification being undertaken. Greater Auckland Blog – Can we have a part of the blog page for this to happen?

        1. I have been thinking how we can see progress on the Pukekohe/
          Papakura project. Parts of the line can be seen from the road,
          and it had ocurred to me the Hamilton/Auckland train will still
          be running, so I might be forced to to take more free trips on
          that. Last week I noticed that new rail ‘traffic lights’ had been
          erected, and a row of large RSJ’s are been pounded into the
          ground just before the Kumeu SH1 bridges – possibly for a
          retaining wall ?

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