Header image from the CRL newsletter.
Kua tae mai a koanga – spring has arrived and there have been some truly beautiful days in Tāmaki Makaurau this past week.
The week in Greater Auckland
Monday’s post celebrated the opening of Ngā Hau Māngere, and asked why Waka Kotahi is still digging its heels in about trialing a walking and cycling lane on the harbour bridge.
Tuesday’s post was about proposed safety improvements in Pukekohe Town Centre, after a pedestrian was tragically killed at an intersection there last week.
On Wednesday, Matt covered the Government’s plan to make public transport exempt from Fringe Benefit Tax.
Yesterday, Matt wrote about AT’s plans to replace four level crossings around Takanini with safer bridge connections, as part of a plan to remove all level crossing in the rail network.
The Minister for Transport talks transport transformation
Our friends at Cycle Action Network have helpfully released Michael Wood’s recent op-ed from behind the Herald’s paywall. In the piece, the Minister reflects on the opening of Ngā Hau Māngere, and how it reprents a future transport system that’s for people, not cars.
I call it giving people transport choices and taking the challenge of climate change seriously.For the last century, the growth of the automobile has allowed our cities to grow and deliver greater connectivity. However, it hasn’t been without costs.
More and more space has been consumed to provide for motorways and car parks, carbon has been pumped into the atmosphere, our health has suffered, and we are missing out on crucial productivity gains as more of us spend time sitting in traffic. Waiting.
We cannot continue to pump more vehicles into our cities, even if they’re all electric.
And two of the mayoral candidates debate the future of transport in Auckland
Tamariki artwork to be displayed in Te Waihorotiu (Aotea) Station
Artwork made by kids from Tāmaki Makaurau during the COVID-19 lockdowns will become a permanent part of the station’s architecture. During the lockdowns, CRL asked local tamariki to draw a picture of a place they’d love to go.
These young artists who contributed will see their creations printed onto ceramic tiles and placed permanently on a wall inside Te Waihorotiu Station (Aotea) – just below Victoria Street.
Win a spot at the CRL breakthrough at Te Waihorotiu Station!
CRL is offering a few lucky fans the opportunity for a front row seat when Dame Whina Cooper breaks through at Te Waihorotiu station, which will happen on Wednesday September 14th. You can enter here, and entries close on the 7th of September!
(Train) seats for bikes
Apparently this only exists on one train in the network so far, but it’s awesome to see such bike-friendly space in a carriage. The bike-train combo is truly the best form of transport.
A glorious day out on Ngā Hau Māngere
Following on from our first mention this week, here’s Waka Kotahi’s official video diary of the opening. It’s impossible to deny how thrilled people are to be there.
Keeping kids safe on their way to school
One school in Blockhouse Bay is finding it so hard to create a safe crossing environment for its pupils that teachers are having to jump in front of distracted drivers to get their attention. The school has a raised pedestrian crossing, but many cars speed along Blockhouse Bay Road faster than the 40kp/h speed limit and fail to stop in time at the crossing.
On Friday morning, local MP Deborah Russell was at the crossing and said she saw a car drive straight through the patrol signs. “It was an SUV and the driver went right on through. She realised afterwards and looked really shocked,” Russell said. Fortunately, the child crossing had made it across.
Checking in on the Links Ave bus lane
We’re still following the saga of Links Ave, the Mt Maunganui street that was turned into a bus-only street in March in order to make the street safer for kids getting to and from a nearby school. In response to public backlash after more than 17,000 fines were issued to people using the bus lane illegally, a people’s panel was set up to examine the issue and find a new solution. This article on Stuff talks to several members of the panel, and finds that they’re working hard to understand all of the different views and needs in the community.
The panel is made up of 12 members of different ages and situations who live in Links Avenue or the surrounding streets, with one member from Pāpāmoa.
McLean said: “What this has done is brought a whole lot of like-minded people with different ideas and from different backgrounds to the table.”
He acknowledged it was a complex issue to design a solution for, because of the geography, the transport strategy, the health and safety of children, cyclists and pedestrians as well as catering for buses and future-proofing.
The green hydrogen question
An article on the Spinoff asks a question we’re happy to see getting a platform: has the government been fooled by green hydrogen? We’re definitely skeptical, and published a guest post on the topic earlier this year.
[Cambridge professor David] Cebon is unequivocal that using green hydrogen – hailed as an attractive zero-carbon energy source – for freight is a waste of energy. “The physics absolutely proves that it is a waste of energy. The result of wasting energy, in one way or another, is pretty bad for the environment. As far as green hydrogen is concerned it means we need a huge amount of renewable energy – much more than people imagine.”
The week in flooding
In Australia, areas that have already seen devastating floods are being warned to brace for more and prepare for months of wet weather as a La Nina weather event is likely to form later this year.
Bureau senior climatologist, Greg Browning, told a press conference at Parliament House there was a “very high probability of above average rain” across the east coast. He warned that since many of those areas were already experiencing high amounts of moisture in the soil, further rainfall may not be absorbed and will instead move into rivers and again cause flooding.
Meanwhile, the fallout from last week’s flooding will be felt for years in Nelson-Tasman, Marlborough, and Wellington. In Nelson, excavators and contractors are out in force trying to clean up the mess.
Saturday morning at 3am was “just chaos”, trying to divert water so it didn’t flood a heap of houses down below.
[drain layer Kyle Whiting] said he was involved in post flood clean-ups in 2010 and 2011, but says this year’s event was “next level”
“I’ve never seen so much damage. It’s just everywhere.”
And one hillside in Wellington has made its pitch to join the war on cars.
Climate change is going to create a maintenance headache for Waka Kotahi, which is working on a climate action plan that aims to make roads more resilient to natural disasters. This article on Stuff explores the effects of climate change that we’re already seeing on the roading network, and how that flows on to businesses that depend on roads for freight, tourism or other travel.
In the Marlborough Sounds, the recent extreme weather was the worst ever experienced by Te Mahia Bay Resort owners Jann and Trevor Hook in 30 years. They are still recovering from last year’s storm damage, and have no idea when roads will be passable enough for guests to get in after last week’s multiple slips, some of them hundreds of metres long.
Entering the springtime of our growing unease
A new understanding of the seasons…
Around We Go- today’s cartoon for The Echidna pic.twitter.com/nn5uXAKo9N
— Fiona Katauskas (@FionaKatauskas) August 28, 2022
The week in everyone wants trains
We’ve got to admit, we’re having a bit of trouble accepting that our interest in trains just isn’t that niche anymore. Everyone wants them!
Stuff has an article that you must read if you want to indulge in visions of a Europe-wide high speed rail network as well as expansions to the already quite good high speed rail in China and Japan.
This is the new and golden age of rail. After decades in which flying became ever-cheaper and more popular, the pendulum is swinging back. Driven by the need to combat the climate crisis, countries around the world are investing heavily in rail, creating exciting new travel options for passengers.
In Sweden, overnight rail has become such a popular way to get around that they’re taking old carriages out of storage to serve the demand.
Until recently, Swedes were among the most profligate flyers on the planet. This love affair with flying is fading fast because the climate crisis is particularly noticeable in Sweden.
Travelling by train instead of flying certainly feels more virtuous. There’s even a Swedish neologism for this feeling: tagskryt – “train bragging” – or how some people, myself included, crow about their long-distance journeys by train when others fly.
The next five hours are among the most relaxing I’ve experienced in Vietnam. There’s no panic about getting to the airport on time; no need for endless queues at the airport and the hassle of removing half your clothing at security; no delays. Nope, for the next five hours we are finally able to cast our eyes over the Vietnamese countryside (something else you can’t from a plane).
Meanwhile, in Aotearoa, a private startup called Miro Rail is working on a prototype of electric battery powered rail cars. The company has hopes they could create a train that could make extremely fast trips – definitely rivaling plane travel.
The company is forecasting an Auckland to Christchurch trip in seven hours, including crossing Cook Strait with a battery-powered hydrofoil. The railcar could link Christchurch to Dunedin in three hours, and Canterbury town Rolleston to central Christchurch in 12 minutes.
While we’re not entirely convinced such speeds would be possible on our current network, we are totally on board with the enthusiasm!
Charting the travel patterns of Germany’s 9 Euro ticket
Yeah, we know we keep coming back to this – but like the Links Ave trial (in a way), it’s an excellent test case of some very current ideas. This chart caught our eye this week, comparing the % change in tourism journeys by car and train once the ticket was introduced.
And apparently it reduced inflation by 0,7% + reduced air pollution by 6-7%. https://t.co/buZChzcj9d
— Jessica de Heij (@jdeheij) August 28, 2022
Parking reform passes in California
Coming several years after New Zealand abolished minimum parking requirements, California has passed A.B. 2097, a bill that bans parking mandates anywhere that’s within half a mile of public transport stops. Streetsblog wrote about the bill when it was in the senate.
California has bold plans to build housing and reduce carbon emissions, but these goals are being quietly foiled by local zoning. Parking requirements get us less housing, and the housing we get is, by law, oriented around cars. A good first step in our battle against climate change and housing insecurity is to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.
And it’s only right to celebrate the person who’s been helping everyone understand about parking for years.
A post of appreciation for a man who waged a decades-long war against the parking addiction secretly destroying our cities, environment, and cost of living.
Today the legislature voted to end parking mandates near transit across California.
— TobyHardtospell@Urbanists.Social (@tobyhardtospell) August 30, 2022
Streets without parking
Nice tweet with pictures illustrating the effect of Japan’s ‘proof of parking’ law which dates back to 1962, and stipulates that a person buying a car has to prove they have somewhere to park it so it doesn’t end up on city streets:
The future of transport is people
New York City Department of Transportation legend Janette Sadik Khan speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the the most exciting and progressive trends for the future of city streets.
The future of urban transportation isn’t driverless cars, flying cars and drones. The most inspiring trend before, during and after the pandemic has been the rise of the ‘car-free’ city, where people, not cars , are the central planning principle.
Cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam haven’t always been “pedestrian meccas,” says @JSadikKhan. It took years of work. Other cities can learn from them.
Our conversation from today’s GPS: pic.twitter.com/QMFZRe4CoT
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) August 28, 2022
And the future of cars is collective ownership
In an op-ed on Stuff, the founder of Mevo, talks about the benefits of not having to own a car. Car sharing could contribute to helping reduce both emissions from transport and congestion. What people really need isn’t a car, it’s access to transport, and many of us won’t need to own an entire vehicle ourselves.
By giving people access to a private car, without feeding the cycle of car dependency, car sharing encourages people to take a multi-modal approach to how they get around. This allows for other transport “species” – busing, walking, cycling, micro-mobility, and ride-hailing – to flourish and find their natural equilibriums.
Because who’d be Mr Wheeler when you could be Mr Walker?
However, we’ll soon be on the other side of peak car
We might not be able to see it yet, but it’s definitely coming. This essay on The Guardian about the end of the ‘car is king’ era is packed full of statistics about the car and all its harms.
The auto-magic that has entranced societies for a century has gone. When the cost of living crisis started to bite, Ireland, Italy and others (although not the UK) cut public transport fares by as much as 90% (in Germany). Spain has gone a step further, announcing that train travel on many routes will be free from September to the end of the year. Global car sales, already stuttering before the pandemic, are now declining in China, Russia and Germany.
Intersections to get lost in
Is it an intersection, or an escape room? You tell us, and see if you can find your way through on streetview, for extra thrills.
VKT does not equal economic GDP
In another good chart, here’s one that points out when vehicle miles travelled (or kilometres, for us in the metric system), diverged from GDP growth.
this is hilarious, the graph is cut off in 1998 because that's when the relationship between VMT and GDP diverged
— sam (@sam_d_1995) August 26, 2022
Neighbourhoods are forever
Street calming, bike lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods often get greeted with cries of ‘but it will be terrible for business!’ It’s important to keep that in perspective: businesses come and go. Neighbourhoods are for life.
Top gear presenter makes a U-Turn on cars
Huh, welcome to the war on cars, James May. It seems that London’s COVID-19 lockdowns made the Top Gear presenter see the city in an entirely different light. We agree, cars are clutter. But have hope, James, it’s entirely possible to have our streets back again!
"I'm saying this as somebody who's made his living talking about cars for the best part of 30 years, when all the cars disappear, it's just nicer"
James May, motoring journalist and Top Gear presenter pic.twitter.com/1AeMHIXg2q
— Kentish Town LTN (@KentishTownLTN) August 26, 2022
Streets come alive in Queens, NYC
We’ll leave you with this heartwarming and joyful tale of the 30-block long Open Street in Queens, New York. 34th Ave is the longest of New York’s permanent open streets. It’s 1.3 miles long, and it closes to vehicles from 7am until 8pm. The community is currently working through physical changes that will replace the pop-up interventions and make it permanently closed to through-traffic.
34th Avenue Open Street combines and iterates on the existing street design toolkit of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). Curb extensions, “shared streets,” plastic delineators, and street furniture are now common currency in New York City’s streetscape. But in terms of typology—residential, not commercial—and different needs—like strong ADA accessibility, schools, and mobility—34th Avenue Open Street in Jackson Heights is unlike anything before it.
Enjoy the first weekend of spring. A tērā wiki!