Kia ora. While much of the country is settling in to new mayors and councils, Weekly Roundup is here as always to deliver the interesting transport stories.

Header image via modacitylife.

The week in Greater Auckland

On Monday, we delivered a letter to Auckland’s new mayor, spelling out the big transport and urban issues we think he should take a look at. And if you’re interested to compare it to the last letter we wrote to a new mayor, here’s Phil’s.

Tuesday’s post, by Tim Adriaansen, suggested a few key ways AT could respond the planned rail network shutdowns in 2023 and 2024.

On Wednesday, Matt wrote about AT’s consultation for the next iteration of bike lanes on Upper Harbour Drive

Yesterday’s post was about the sudden closure of the Western line due to subsidence in the tracks.

Mayors on the move

Simon Wilson dove into what we know about Wayne Brown’s transport policy, and made some predictions about how Brown might respond to Tāmaki Makaurau’s pressing transport issues. The biggest problem, in Wilson’s opinion, is lack of bus drivers.

This is not just a problem for bus passengers. Because it makes the buses unreliable, it forces people back into their cars. It makes congestion worse.
Anyone “fixing” transport should have this at the top of their agenda. We need hundreds more bus drivers and we will make no progress on most other transport problems until we have them.

If Brown is really serious about fixing transport in Auckland, perhaps he could follow in the footsteps of other mayors around the world, and take a good look at how some of the world’s most successful cities work.

And a message to incoming councils from urbanist twitter: let’s break the cycle.

Charting a course to the future in Tāmaki

Complex Conversations is a University of Auckland reserach project that is exploring new ways of getting citizens involved with decisions about the future of infrastructure. Having already completed a participatory democracy project with Watercare, they’re now running an online ‘conversation’ for the Ministry of Transport, which is asking ordinary people how they think our transport system should be funded. Through the webpage, you can add your own ideas as ‘statements’ to the digital pile, and vote on other people’s ideas too.

The Auckland Climate Festival is on this week, and there are lots of events – from fun to serious – happening around the city centre and beyond for the rest of the month.

Ngā Hau Mangere is ready for a summer of serving its community. In this video from Waka Kotahi, local tamariki explore the new bridge and tell us what they like best about it.

Minister for Transport Michael Wood got a ride in Aotearoa’s first locally manufactured, fully electric bus this week. The e-buses, built here in Auckland by Zemtec are more efficient than any other electric bus on the road right now.

“We’ve been able to take advantage of the new technology and make it much lighter and more comfortable, with a completely flat floor running from the front to the back of the bus.”

Bayes said the E-City is a true new generation zero-emissions bus run on batteries with support from solar panels built into the roof of each bus.

It contains design features which make it 30% more energy-efficient than any other e-bus on the New Zealand market, as well as being safe and comfortable.

Minister Wood is confident that our bus fleet will be fully decarbonised ahead of the 2035 target, which makes sense, given the rapid pace at which electric vehicle technology is increasing around the world.

And down in the city centre, a portal to the (near!) future of public transport in Tāmaki Makaurau has appeared on Victoria Street.

Although Te Huia won’t be able to pick up some of the slack from next year’s planned rail closures, a bit of internal GA data gathering shows that ridership on the intercity train continues to trend up.

Finding freedom on a bicycle

For Dutch teenagers, bikes are freedom. Melissa and Chris Bruntlett tweeted this photo of the bike parking outside their kid’s high school in the Netherlands.

[…]teenagers are among the biggest beneficiaries of Dutch infrastructure.From a young age, they enjoy the freedom of a driver’s license; without the added stress, cost and danger.

Freedom is a bicycle for teens in the Netherlands.

Ebikes are a key part of the future of London’s Santander Cycles, where the latest and freshest public bikeshare wheels are coming with a bit of battery assistance. The ebikes fit right into the existing bikeshare system, which is experiencing a surge in users – over 10 million trips have been made on the bikes so far this year. It’s hoped that the ebikes will attract people who might not otherwise be keen to cycle.

E-congestion is still congestion! We are fans of this ebike advertising, conveying a pretty clear message about the benefits of one kind of electric future over another.

Image via Bike is Best on Twitter.

This surfaced in the twitter feeds of several of us at GA this week, so we had to share it with you.

Mitigating vehicles and all their harms

You’ve probably heard about the history of the term ‘jay walking’: an offensive slur propagated by motor vehicle manufacturers and auto clubs to promote the idea that streets were for cars, and pedestrians who ventured into that space were irresponsible ‘jays’. But we didn’t know that in the USA, the 1920s saw the gradual criminalization of ‘Jay Walking’. The whole process of promulgating the law throughout the country is dotted with people who stood to gain from the motor vehicle industry.

In Los Angeles, that law has only recently been repealed with the Freedom to Walk Act. The LA times looks into the history of this new ruling, and what it means for the future of American cities.

[…] the new law is still a remarkable acknowledgment that we need a future in which walking is accommodated, not deterred, and convenient, not constrained.

Like the removal of an old monument or the renaming of a building, the law signals new possibilities. It follows similar initiatives elsewhere, notably in Virginia, where jaywalking ceased to be a primary offense in 2021.

1920s and 30s safety posters. Image via Vox.
Slowing down for safer cities

Speeds are slowing and streets are getting safer all over the world. A study of speeds and crashes in Belfast and Edinburgh found that, in Edinburgh, reducing speeds to 20mph reduced casualties from traffic crashes by 39%. The study’s conclusions found that reducing speeds in a city-wide way was well worth the investment.

The citywide approach in Edinburgh was effective at reducing speed, leading to reductions in collisions and casualties. Public perceptions and compliance with the speed limits also increased. These findings suggest that 20-mph limits can be implemented at scale, lead to positive public health benefits and are likely to be a sensible financial investment.

How does Finland, a country with a harsh climate and many kilometres of lonely rural roads, have an excellent road safety record that continues to improve? Instead of going all-in on motordom in the 1960s, Finland pivoted towards a system that restricts the freedoms of cars and promotes other modes of travel in order to create a safe environment for all.

Designing to encourage slow speeds, imposing high fines on those who break the speed limit, and looking closely at every crash are all strategies that have contributed to Finland’s safe streets. And the Finns definitely don’t rely on autonomous vehicles or techno-fixes.

I asked a group of Helsinki officials what role information technology has played in their success reducing crashes in recent years. “Zero,” replied Palomaki. “We simply slowed down the cars.”

A study of urban traffic and associated CO2 and NOx emissions in London came to many expected conclusions (larger cars, older cars, and higher speeds produce more emissions), and one suprising point that underscores how blatantly inefficient cars are as a mode of transport in urban areas:

A very important and suprising result from the analysis was that the major factor affecting the average journey time was the number of vehicles that pass through each green light cycle. The modelling showed that this is primarily a function of vehicle size and the gap between vehicles as they drive through the lights. If the vehicles are smaller, a larger number of them get through each green light. This results in a lower journey time and a faster average speed.

If everyone in London drove a golf buggy with a top speed of 15mph (24.1km/h), average speeds would be around 8.9mph (14.3km/h), compared to 7.4mph (11.9km/h) for full size vehicles doing 30mph, an improvement in journey times of over 20%.

A perfect metaphor for the connection between land-use planning and traffic…

The perpetuation of the autonomous vehicle fantasy

Our skepticism of autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars is no secret, so we thoroughly enjoyed this scathing analysis of the flailing industry. How long have we been hearing that autonomous vehicles are ‘just around the corner’?

It all sounds great until you encounter an actual robo-taxi in the wild. Which is rare: Six years after companies started offering rides in what they’ve called autonomous cars and almost 20 years after the first self-driving demos, there are vanishingly few such vehicles on the road. And they tend to be confined to a handful of places in the Sun Belt, because they still can’t handle weather patterns trickier than Partly Cloudy. State-of-the-art robot cars also struggle with construction, animals, traffic cones, crossing guards, and what the industry calls “unprotected left turns,” which most of us would call “left turns.”

Relevant to both the Complex Conversations link up top, and the article about jay walking, this wins our award for chart of the week:

Great streets make for great cities

London has been transformed into a cycling city in the last few years – and a lot of that is down to the fast and low-cost infrastructure that was built in the first year of  the COVID-19 pandemic. New bike lanes increased rates of cycling by up to 70% in surrounding areas, and the London’s growing network of Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods have reduced car use and increased walking and cycling. Streetsblog has an analysis of the breadth of the completed and planned infrastructure and its impacts.

In short, the extent of the protected bikeway network in Greater London is planned to expand dramatically by 2025, partly stimulated by the special incentives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the longer term, Greater London’s Strategic Cycling Plan aims for 70 percent of the population to live within 400 kilometers of a high-quality bikeway by 2041.

One of London’s 85 LTNs. Image from Transport for London, via Streetsblog.

What’s the sound of a city? You’ll enjoy playing with this super cool data visualisation that uses audio and GIS to demonstrate how loud different parts of Brussels are.

Brussels, colour-coded by noise levels.

For more nostalgic urban sounds, step back in time to Barcelona in 1909, and travel through its city streets on a tram in this restored video (and count the bicycles along the way):

Soothing distractions and good ideas

Green, living spaces improve patients experience in healthcare facilities: check out these examples of hospitals and health centres cleverly designed to give people access to nature throughout the building.

A care centre in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

Finally, a very long read for your weekend: the rise and fall of pneumatic tubes as an essential part of telecommunications systems in the 19th Century. It’s always reassuring, in a strange way, to reflect on the cutting-edge technologies of the past and remember that things will continue to change.

By 1875, the CTO [Central Telegraph Office] had 450 telegraphic instruments on three floors, linked by 68 pneumatic house tubes in a highly integrated system. The longest internal tube transit time was only 10 seconds. The London system grew steadily and the Post Office had at one point 11 miles of house tubes and 74 miles of street tubes, connecting cable companies, branch offices, two railway termini, a bank, and three newspapers on Fleet Street. By 1891, over 32 million telegrams a year were being sent world-wide. Half of which were sent in the United Kingdom, with half of those passing via the CTO in London.

Enjoy a rest and recharge this weekend. Hei te rāhina!

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  1. “Helpful flow-chart to help decide who should pay for roading infrastructure”

    +1 & needs to include the arrow from the traffic signals to drivers should pay.

    There are many many other things drivers should pay for as well.

  2. ‘to live within 400 kilometers of a high-quality bikeway by 2041’
    Yeah, it does not make sense to connect the last 400 kilometers of your journey to bikeways. Those will just be residential streets anyway!

  3. I’m surprised that Greater Auckland hasn’t replied to the triumphalism from Right-wing anti-PT trolls, not only in these comments but on Twitter. The guy who spammed the comments here about how Code Brown’s victory was the GREATEST DAY EVER. The other guy on Twitter who told GA that “you lost, your ideas are irrelevant, cycle home, cry more and cope”. The sheer bile from these people has me shook.

    Public transport has become a culture war thing – regardless of whether Code Brown can be flattered into doing something good in his role, there is a hate-filled mass movement that will do their best to crush any progress. And I don’t see a strategy to deal with that.

    1. Ignore them. They are a sad minority who have lots of gripes with the world, for their sad little irrelevant lives. Everything will be a culture war because everything wrong with their lives is caused by someone else moving forward.

      Let them have their vent and move on to their next, pointless, crusade.

    2. Remember how in the Springfield Film Festival, Barney’s film had heart, but ‘Football in the Groin’ had a football in the groin? That’s somewhere near the differing levels of good faith you’re dealing with when you see comments like this from ranting Twitter types.

      They want to feel like they’re somehow oppressed and this is a victory for the ‘little guy’ but they’ve also just won an landslide. That they can hold these beliefs at the same time is kind of impressive, but also nonsense.

      I feel the same way about the people who think that we should be punishing people for the hubris of driving to work or implying that motorists are actively making a choice to kill cyclists. It’s fringe nonsense that’s not helpful and the people who genuinely care about this kind of thing are too focused on contributing meaningfully to even notice it.

      Let the babies have their bottle. They’ll have to find to a way to convince themselves that things are better in three years time when the most likely outcome is just nothing happening and things just getting progressively worse. My guess is they’ll find some other lightning rod in their quest for victim-hood.

      1. Just a quibble: Getting a majority of a sub-40% turnout is always a minority, so they have good reason to feel insecure.

        It’s easy to vote, but who to vote for? Engaging with candidates is the hard bit.

      2. I assumed it was more of a ‘get stuffed’ vote. A bit like the Trump types. Mr Fix-it doesn’t seem to have ever fixed anything. His main objective appears to be to stop things happening. I guess we will see if he turns out to be just another 90s style babyboomer management bully. We will be able to measure that by the payouts and settlements to staff. Pressuring people to resign through the media isn’t a great start.

    3. I am pro-cycling, pro-PT, pro-intensification, etc. but it goes to show how bad the situation is that I think the new mayor’s solution of clearing out the boards of the CCOs (AT, Panuku, etc.) is the best change we’ve had in years?

  4. Thank you for the mention of Auckland Climate Festival! It’s taking place across the whole month of October and many events are online as well if you can’t make them in person.

  5. I wonder if anyone can give any background onto new Mayor Wayne Brown. He was formerly a Mayor of somewhere in the Far North, I believe? And before that, he was running a hospital, or DHB or something? Any more detail?

    It is just that he is so clearly very confident in his own abilities – and I’d like to know if he has the actual track record to back that up. I’m a bit suspicious of belligerent men who crow about their own achievements – there was a former President of the USA who was like that, and he ended up as the country’s worst disaster ever. Keen to hear about some real achievements from Wayne.

    1. Heres a summary from Hayden Donnell of his previous public office career. There are further links to many of the *ahem* issues raised in the article, found here:

      Wayne Brown’s tenure as Far North mayor was a bonanza for government investigators. In two terms he prompted an Auditor General inquiry and a Serious Fraud Office investigation. A confidential council inquiry and a District Court case followed soon after he was defeated. He’s remembered for cutting staff numbers to the bone, allegedly getting offside with councillors and staff, and writing Herald columns taunting people who marched in opposition to mining on conservation land as “ill-informed urban dwellers” or “misguided celebrity actress Lucy Lawless”.

      Before he was mayor of the Far North, he was the chairman of several DHBs, and that was scandal-free also very filled with scandals. In Auckland, he was the subject of calls to resign after overseeing the decision to relieve Diagnostic Medlabs of the contract for medical testing and hand it to the Australian outlet Labtests. He also allegedly suggested renaming Starship Hospital as “Ratshit”, which, while funny, is not a great name for a children’s hospital.

      He’s not breathing, get him to Ratshit, stat!
      During his mayoral campaign, Brown’s been criticised by multiple iwi for insinuating Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is the only iwi with mana whenua status in Tāmaki Makaurau. He’s referred to Chinese migrants as “Chinamen”, spoken about the “transactional” nature of East Asian constituents and joked about sticking pictures of Herald journalist Simon Wilson to the urinals. In the latest Metro, former Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey describes him as “a stick of dynamite in search of a match”.

      And now he’s the mayor! But the spotlight will be on Brown like never before. If he ends up screaming at Mike Lee, pushing Richard Hills down a flight of stairs, tweeting abuse at Maurice Williamson or renaming the Town Hall the “Shit Hall”, the government could deem his administration to be dysfunctional and step in, as it has in Tauranga. Maybe the true winner of this election will be the commissioners that earned millions of future dollars along the way.

  6. It will be interesting to see what effect the new, even slower, timetable has on use of Te Huia.

    At least I understand the name now. It’s because trains in Auckland are severely endangered.

    1. At least with the return to Hamilton they may make up a bit of time if they have the right Drivers , as this has happened on a few that I have caught this year , even if it a few minutes .

  7. “TGH has an eye to reopening a long-mothballed underground train station. The station, owned by KiwiRail, is under Hamilton city’s Centreplace retail complex, which TGH, with joint venture partner Kiwi Property, plans to reinvigorate as part of a wider redevelopment of the central city. Joblin is confident the Waikato region will end up with urban metro rail and predicts a fast rail link between Hamilton and Auckland will be “hugely successful”. The technology is there for Hamilton CBD to Britomart in under an hour. The station had only a single track when a double would be needed, and electrification of the line would be required. The Ministry of Transport said it was working to complete the business case on the viability of a faster rail service to connect Hamilton and Auckland. An interim business case had been developed between December 2018 and July 2020, when the transport minister had asked for the work to be extended to consider fast rail to Tauranga. The work considered introduction of a faster rail service in the next 30 to 50 years, the ministry said.”
    I doubt 30-50 years is the timeframe that TGH has in mind.

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