Kia ora. Welcome to January’s last (!) Weekly Roundup.

The week in Greater Auckland

Monday’s post raised the possibility of a Manukau Road light rail route.

On Tuesday, Matt wondered what the outcomes of this year’s rail network shutdowns will be now that the first, from Ōtāhuhu to Newmarket, is underway.

On Wednesday, Scott dove into this week’s outrage (fanned more than a little by the media) over a… proposed three-storey development in Beach Haven.

Yesterday, Matt responded to the Mayor’s recent op-ed about light rail.

Moving along in Tāmaki Makaurau

Maybe we’re growing up – or starting to move on from NIMBYism after all: two great responses to the Beach Haven 3! Storeys! kerfuffle were published this week. On Stuff, Caroline Williams got quotes from Coalition for More Homes, Auckland Transport, and Watercare all in support of the development.

Auckland Transport principal service network planner Dave Hilson said there were great public transport options near the proposed development.

“AT would strongly encourage development of this nature at Beach Haven, which is within walking distance of so many public transport services.”

Meanwhile, writing on his substack The Kākā, Bernard Hickey drew parallels between opposition to housing developments and the case of one child caught up in the housing crisis who ended up living in a hotel for over 600 days.

The end result is fast population growth without the infrastructure, especially for housing, at the same time as falling Budget deficits, less Government debt, lower interest rates and higher house prices. That is actually a formula median-voting home owners love, but that means we have tens of thousands of people stuck on housing waiting lists and hundreds of kids living in motels.

Pivoting sharply south to the city centre, ‘New Zealand’s biggest ever transport engineering project’, AKA the CRL, features in this apparently extremely popular YouTube channel (that we’d never heard of), The B1M. Watch for a thorough breeze through the what and the why of the whole project, as well as some great TBM content.

If you’ve wandered down Queen Street on  a sunny afternoon this summer you’ll have noticed it’s both bustling and calm, because the cars have nearly disappeared. We’re here for releasing streets from traffic noise! Will CRL make this even better?

That quiet effect is making Queen Street much more pleasant to bike down, too whether you’re gliding down the carriageway or sharing the Waihorotiu bike lane fast walker lane shared path … thingamy. Well, we’re still not exactly sure what it is, but it’s opened a whole lot more space on Queen Street up for people.

We loved this thread from Twitter user Barb Sturmfels about getting back on a bike as an older rider. Barb makes a bunch of astute observations – Driver behaviour ranges from very considerate to deliberately threatening. Some road layouts are dangerous. – and – We need Auckland to be safe for everyday biking for everyone who wants to get about on a bike. We agree one hundred percent.

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Barb’s also a big fan of e-bikes, which means its time for our semi-regular plug for the ever-elusive e-bike subsidy. Now that would be transformational policy. This week, it’s Tommy da Silva, a Spinoff intern, arguing the case for discounted ebikes. As he points out, policies of this kind are appearing increasingly frequently overseas, and they’re not a new idea in Aotearoa either.

Even in the USA, the home of car dependency, more and more places are adopting e-bike rebates. 2022 saw five states introduce the discount, and more states, including California and Oregon, are starting them up.

It just seems like a total no-brainer, for so many reasons.

Last weekend, the Chillies were in town and this weekend Elton John’s singing us through the forecasted rain. But our jaws were on the floor when we saw this from Auckland Transport. Driving to the concert is recommended? Really? Is this the message we want to send? ‘So you’re going to the same place as tens of thousands of other people at the same time. Best you drive.’

Heck, even the Herald is dismayed. Imagine how many people would be e-biking to Elton if we had that subsidy in place!

Getting around the motu

It’s back to the future in Whanganui: Greater Auckland’s favourite homegrown musician is launching the town’s first frequent bus service in 30 years. Anthonie Tonnon already runs a heritage elevator; we didn’t think he could get any cooler, but now he’s bringing usable public transport back to small town Aotearoa.

Whanganui punches above its weight when it comes to urbanism these days. At a recent open streets event, the town was humming.

Live music, a street full of people, and sunshine in Whanganui. Image via Twitter.

Nelson is another city that’s taking transport transformation seriously. Salisbury Road is the first street off the block in a network of tactical changes being installed in the suburb of Richmond. The whole $2.4m Streets for People project aims to make walking and cycling safer in the area. We’re impressed by the excellent communications from Tasman District Council transportation manager Jamie McPherson:

“We expect to receive a range of feedback, which will be carefully considered in the current and future stages of the project.

“We will install this infrastructure permanently in the future once we’ve received feedback and tweaked the layout if necessary.”

McPherson said it was a step forward for making urban streets safer.

“It’s a bit like planting a tree – many of the benefits will be reaped in the future rather than immediately. The real prize we are working towards is a comprehensive, linked-up network of safe paths and cycleways.”

Simple, quick, and easy to adapt: a tactical approach to bike lanes on Salisbury Road. Image via Stuff.

Is there a more cold-hearted response to a request for a footpath than ‘nope, the road classification doesn’t require it’? That’s the answer a Rotorua disability advocate and wheelchair user got when he asked Rotorua District Council to look into safe walking and cycling connections to a new subdivision, where there’s a 500m gap to the next footpath.

Roger is an electric wheelchair user and is dependent on others to visit his family, as the footpath to their home in Redwood Park runs out hundreds of metres before the access point.

There are about 40 lots in the subdivision, many of which are still to be built. But Loveless said there were already families with children living there, including his grandchildren.

To get to the nuance: this situation is a tragic outcome of sprawl-based development. Plonk houses on greenfields half a kilometre from the rest of the city and face the challenge of joining them up in a way that doesn’t discriminate against all but those with a drivers licence.

Cars and all their harms

*Thanks to these guys for the title that keeps on giving.

We often find ourselves doing a tricky balancing act when it comes to conversations around electric vehicles. Yes, it’s much better that car trips happen on electricity (from renewable energy) than burning fossil fuels. Yes, we’re keen to see essential services like buses, emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles go electric. But focusing solely on ‘flipping the fleet’ via a 1:1 switch from ICE to EV just locks us into more car-dependency.

Despite its hyperbolic headline, this article on The Guardian about a potential lithium crunch as the world goes electric recognises that ‘new cars but make them EVs‘ isn’t the answer.

“Preserving the status quo might seem like the politically easier option, but it’s not the fastest way to get people out of cars or the fairest way to decarbonize,” said Thea Riofrancos, associate professor of political science at Providence College and lead author of the report.

“We can either electrify the status quo to reach zero emissions, or the energy transition can be used as an opportunity to rethink our cities and the transportation sector so that it’s more environmentally and socially just, both in the US and globally.”

Solving the lithium supply issue is summed up pretty succinctly in this graph, from the article:

If the USA wants to achieve anything other than the worst case scenario in that graph they’re going to have to embrace a vastly different scale of vehicle.

Last year it was the Tyre Extinguishers, and this year we’ve got subvertisers targeting car ads. Activism targeting the private car is on the rise. The Subvertisers are replacing hundreds of real car advertisements across cities in Europe with artworks parodying the manufacturers, pointing out their greenwashing and hypocrisy.

A parody ad in Paris targeting BMW. Image via Brandalism.

Deep dives and good news

Transport nerdism of the good kind is a growing movement, all over the world. This in-depth exploration of the global online community of transport and urbanism activists was a heartening reminder that we’re part of something that’s a whole lot bigger. With cameos from Sarah Goodyear of The War on Cars, Vignesh Swaminathan, aka Mr. Barricade, and a co-founder of the NUMTOTS Facebook group, a lively collection of online urbanist allies are revealed.

Goodyear says the rise of social media over the past 15 years has made it notably easier, and more fun, to talk about traffic safety in bite-size portions of content, like memes, TikToks, and YouTube videos. At the same time, it’s given skeptics of car-centric culture tools to connect with like-minded people who might otherwise feel like they’re alone in a massive, losing fight.

“Once the car blindness has been lifted for you, you can’t unsee cars as all the things they are: big, noisy, dangerous, fossil fuel-emitting, expensive, and cumbersome,” says Goodyear.

Urban design memes are the best memes, prove us wrong. Image via this blog

Looking for more good news stories? 184 things that got better around the world in 2022 are captured here. We also like Future Crunch, which delivers a weekly dose of good news in newsletter form.

The rise and rise of solar panels features multiple times in that list of good things, and pops up again in this story about renewables taking over the grid in South Australia.

In November last year, South Australia did even better. Its synchronous link to Victoria was cut for more than a week after severe storms brought down one of the main transmission towers, removing its ability to export excess large amounts of wind and solar, or even import when needed.

The latest Quarterly Energy Dynamics report from AEMO reveals that South Australia, even in its “islanded” state, [its share of renewables] peaked at an “extraordinary” high level of 91.5 per cent. (It should be noted that the lower capacity Murray Link was still operating, but does not provide a “synchronous” connection).

Of that 91.5 percent peak, more than half of it was coming from rooftop solar photovoltaic panels.

We’re always going to be cheerful about a good train story. A high speed rail connection between Paris and Berlin is in the works, as Europe tries to meet increasing demand for train travel from climate-conscious travelers.

Environmentally-conscious travelers are increasingly hungry for rail options to avoid flying gas-guzzling planes, with connections such as Paris-Barcelona showing strong demand.


Whoops. It’s a NUMTOT post come to life: developer’s website links to parody video about its Parerakau Island development by mistake.

This bus driver really loves his job.

And, finally, not much more to say except: stay weird, Avondale!

Ka kite! Have a great weekend (weather or not).

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    1. I know, right! The B1M is just about the only YouTube channel I watch these days. Fantastic content with great subjects and well-edited videos. A little embarrassing how bad the pronunciation was on most of the place names, but he is forgiven: I tend to mangle many British place names in return.

      But it is a little inaccurate for them to state the NZ is getting its first underground railway – we’ve been tunnelling underground all over NZ for years, including some monster long tunnels – far longer than the Brits have done. Of course, that’s because we have mountains that we have to get around or under, while they just have glacier-gnawed stumpy hills, but still: I wouldn’t call the CRL an underground / metro line. That, of course, is still to come, down Dominion Road…

      Kaimai tunnel 8.88km
      Rimutaka tunnel 8.8km
      Otira tunnel 8.5km
      Tawa tunnel 4.3km etc

      Severn tunnel 7km
      Heathrow Express 6.8km
      Derbyshire Totley tunnel 5.7km

      1. AT has a billboard on the wall of their showroom on Symonds street saying it’s Auckland’s 1st underground Railway , which is also incorrect as 20yrs earlier the 1st was opened but to only a select few i.e. the Maintenance staff of Vector . And this runs from Penrose to Hobson St witth a Branch to Newmarket .

  1. “when he asked … …Council to look into safe walking and cycling connections to a new subdivision, where there’s a 500m gap to the next footpath”

    Absolutely absurd – just imagine if 500m gaps were left in traffic lanes.

    Its countrywide problem – there are massive gaps in footpath & cycle networks everywhere.

    NZ needs travel design standards which require a network approach and requires these gaps are plugged.

    1. Imagine if gaps were left between water pipes, wastewater pipes, electricity, Fibre, etc etc. Footpaths are the only horizontal infrastructure where this happens

      1. Wait till you hear about cycle lanes….

        [Actually with cycle lanes, the arguments used are even more insiduous – “There’s no cycle lanes anywhere near, so it would be problematic to add them here.”]

    2. Absolute banger of a weekly update, GA. Content you cover is fascinating, cheering, depressing, funny, inspiring and infuriating. Great work!

  2. “Once the car blindness has been lifted for you, you can’t unsee cars as all the things they are: big, noisy, dangerous, fossil fuel-emitting, expensive, and cumbersome,” says Goodyear.”

    Good grief. They also enable career choices, personal mobility, access to goods and services and not all are big, dangerous, cumbersome or emit anything at all.

    I’m not sure which is less helpful; blind adherents to the ‘road king Ute overlord’ approach to motoring or the ‘nothing good has ever come from a car, ever, not even one thing for a second’ zealots. Letting either side dominate the discussion results in systems or outcomes that work for them and them alone, and won’t change anyone’s mind at all.

    1. I’m not sure either, it’s possible that the rise of the anti-car movement is shifting the dial a little. No one really knows how social change happens. What other strategies are there that are not being tried?

      The post linked to the Guardian article about lithium for EVs. That story originally said that 300 million tonnes of lithium would be needed, later corrected to 300 thousand tonnes ( Did anyone register the difference? Compare that to the 20 billion tonnes of fossil fuels that are mined every year which directly threaten civilisation and life on earth.

      Perhaps people are so desperate for a solution that when one tiny part of the problem is solved (EVs), they think “Phew! We’re saved!” It seems to be possible to believe that and to continue driving diesel SUVs, flying everywhere, and voting against climate action. Funny old world.

    2. I think it’s more that so many people around the world (especially in car-dominant countries like NZ or the USA) don’t even think about all of the negative aspects of car ownership and driving because it’s all they know about transport. They just think ‘I need to go somewhere, I’ll get in my car’ with little or no thought to any alternative. As soon as I was old enough to drive and had access to a car it was my default thinking too.

      Nowadays, we have an EV in the household as you do too which mitigates some of the negative externalities of driving, but I find the less I drive (and the more I walk/cycle etc) I look for the opportunities to *not* take the car.

      I agree that it’s going to be hard to change minds when it’s a battle of extremes, however, I would like to think that many progressive individuals on what would be described as the ‘anti-car’ side are at least aware of the benefits or utility of cars while not wanting to encourage their use, compared to the ‘pro-car’ side who in many cases forget that there are even options beyond just getting in your car for everything.

    3. If you are the dominant group, any minor shifting of the dial seems to be perceived as a fundamental undermining of what made life worth living.

      I see this in the US where some Christians and Whites freak out about how they are being “persecuted” and “replaced”. And I see it in my industry, where I have literally seen well-known transport engineers present at major transport conferences arguing that spending on public transport and walking and cycling is destroying Western Civilisation. Thankfully the scoffing in the audience was very audible.

      I agree that cars have benefits. Heck, I use one several times a week, and it provides me with great benefits.

      But we aren’t going to change an entrenched Status Quo by being all softly, softly and making a lot of hay about the benefits of cars. The downsides need to be hammered home to change things. We can celebrate and stop that when a) cars are emissions-free and b) everyone has reasonable alternatives to a car, like the Dutch (one of the world’s highest car ownership rates, while also having one of the world’s lowest VKT per person in the developed world).

      1. The protests against the Utes tax – even though the money was just being shifted to make other, more sustainable cars less expensive – was another good example of how some people hyperboled that kind of hesitant change into much more than it was.

      2. Being wilfully blind to what they provide to people in communities with less access to transport and what they’d be losing if we take that away is an unacceptable outcome when it comes to planning for alternatives.

        That’s why acknowledging the fact people drive for good reasons and that there are benefits to individual motor vehicle ownership is important. Just changing the rules as if everyone has access to the same levels of services that well-off inner-city residents can is going to create more hardship and less buy-in.

        Just pretending there aren’t any and making blanket statements about cars like the above aren’t helpful and are also wildly incorrect. They add little to a debate when the focus should be on “why are we so bad at building the alternatives to driving and connecting communities who have to rely on cars?” e.g. addressing transport poverty.

      3. Thanks, Max. “I have literally seen well-known transport engineers present at major transport conferences arguing that spending on public transport and walking and cycling is destroying Western Civilisation. Thankfully the scoffing in the audience was very audible.”

        Scoffing in the audience is not sufficient, however. There are professional, ethical standards to uphold. Given the damage these dinosaurs are doing, those in the audience need to directly approach them and demand a public retraction. If that is not forthcoming, they need to approach their professional body to demand disciplinary measures be taken. And if that fails too, they need to go hard with their criticism, publicly.

        That’s what the IPCC’s direction to change every system at every level means.

    4. These arguments can both be true at the same time. It is incredibly wasteful to use a heavy machine like a car to get a few kilos of groceries home. And doing so is quite dangerous to people around you. At the same time we are in a city where, as soon as you exit your house while not in a car, you are like a fish outside the water, so you don’t have much choice beyond using your car anyway.

  3. >Imagine how many people would be e-biking to Elton if we had that subsidy in place!

    Ummm exactly zero, since there would still be nowhere to park them securely.

    1. If we had E bike Subsidies – and safe routes to these events then secure parking would be provided as they already are done for cars.

    2. Bike Auckland does a valet service at many events which is great, and concert security would be capable of doing the same.

      AT adding some pop up bike lanes to Mt Smart would be nice, riding around there isn’t safe.

        1. Oh for sure, this is not the weather to be at a concert outdoors anyway!

          I saw Foo Fighters in the pouring rain there and still enjoyed it. It’s either that or sunburn at this time of year.

    1. That’s ok, they all seem to have experience it not delivering anything which is all that seems to be required for a project announced nearly 6 years ago.

  4. The Elton John concerts sum up Auckland infrastructure perfectly,a grungy venue and pathetic transport options. Civic leaders should be embarrassed.

    1. You need the green lenses on as you trudge down the Yellow Brick Road in your poncho if you want to see the best of the Emerald City as you walk and splash and walk and splash and….

    2. Mt Smart sucks so bad it’s decrepit in the middle of a nowhere industrial zone. Totally agree how embarrassing a venue

      1. The only time it was any good was when they held the last Com Games there .

        And where it is sited I don’t think they have the nieghbours complaining over the noise , like what happen/has happened at Western Springs over the years .

      2. I will point out that there is a benefit to a stadium being in an industrial zone. There are very few complaints from residents such as those around Eden Park.

    1. The exact same design is getting rolled out around Cavendish Drive, Lambie Drive and Ronwood Avenue, once again with the hit sticks & reflectors late to the game.

      At best, this asserts the right of riders to be in the hostile traffic sewer, but it isn’t continuous enough to be age 8 to 80 provision.

      Either canny South Aucklanders have managed not to wreck their cars on the new timtams, or nobody cared enough to report on it…

  5. I was in Queen Street a few months ago and was wondering why it seemed more peaceful than I remembered. After a while I realised the electric buses are way, way quieter than the older diesel powered buses.

  6. In adverse events like this,the deluge,”we”,the people should expect our civic leader(s) to lead and offer guidance and moral support, all l have heard from his worship,is a bit of arse covering.
    Luckily,the big politicians quickly recognized this lack of leadership, and filled the void ,left by this lack of leadership, rendering his worship impotent in “his” own city.
    It is actually worse than this,though,the contempt towards his worship by both the countries and cities politicians is palpable.
    Leadership?, his worship is about as much use as a sponge,right now.

  7. After passing through Mt Eden last week there was this consist park up leading into the track leading into the new tunnels it was full of Rails and when I came back 4hrs later this was all that was left ;-

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