Kia ora! Based on the forecasts, Monsoon Season appears to be what we’ve been dealt this summer.

Header image: a painting of green-tracked light rail down Dominion Road, by Chris Dews.

The Week in Greater Auckland

On Tuesday, we shared a guest post with writing by both Ed Clayton and GA reader Anna, responding to the Anniversary Weekend flooding.

On Wednesday, Scott explained why intensification rather than sprawl is the best kind of development for a flood-prone future – and RNZ’s checkpoint promptly called him up and got him on their Wednesday evening show with Lisa Owen.

Yesterday, John Polkinghorne wrote an ode to his new (and very first) ebike, prompting a stream of affirming comments about the joys of ebike life.

Transport news around the motu

How about that bike bridge?? Results from consultation on a new Waitematā harbour crossing are out and there’s some excellent and telling numbers. 88% of people would like to use bus or train to get across the harbour, and 66% would like to walk or bike. That sounds like the potential for transformative mode shift (and a whole lot of cars off the road) to us. Tactical highlights on the infographic below courtesy of Bike Auckland.

Lance Wiggs makes a salient point about the findings.

Imagine you were a business, and 66% of your clients demanded something, but you refused to give it to them. The business would stumble, board and execs would be rolled and the shareholders would file lawsuits.

The AA has come out strongly in support of reducing speeds on roads and other infrastructural improvements to improve road safety. About a third of our roads could be a slower speed by 2030, and the AA is in favour of moving faster on speed reductions.

“We know that speed reductions can also in places make a significant safety improvement. We know that getting people into more modern vehicles and safer vehicles can have a big impact. We know that drink driving enforcement can have a big impact.”

And on that note, we’ve spotted a few of these safer speeds campaign posters around Tāmaki Makaurau, and we think it’s excellent, clear and positive messaging.

More great analysis from Marc Daalder at Newsroom suggests that the extension of the fuel tax cut will burn through the already slim wiggle room Aotearoa has in is 2022-2025 emissions budget. The gap between projected and budgeted emissions for the period is just 100,000 tons, and the extra driving induced by the tax cut will more than use that up.

Projections from transport officials when the cuts were first extended indicated they were expected to increase vehicle travel by 1 to 2 percent while in effect. That’s an extra 11,000 to 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a month, or 170,000 to 310,000 tonnes over the current lifetime of the policy, including the new extension.

Speaking of reducing emissions, someone needs to get Plunket a caseload of discount HOP cards!

Factoring in a future with floods

Auckland faces a long clean-up job after the floods a fortnight ago, and people are certainly still talking about the storm and its lingering effects. State Highway 25 in the Coromandel is a reminder that even relatively new roads are vulnerable, despite construction techniques improving – this one was only built in the 1960s.

Writing on the Spinoff, Tommy da Silva has linked the patterns of the Anniversary weekends flooding with historic waterways and water bodies of Tāmaki Makaurau, almost all of which have been hidden under urban development.

But Auckland’s record rainfall made the playing fields resemble a lake several feet deep, and that’s exactly what that corner of Pukekawa was historically – a lake. The lake formed in a volcanic crater (yes, Auckland’s Domain and museum are built on a volcanic field) and eventually became a swampy wetland.

In this thoughtful piece on Newsroom, Dr Mairi Day looks to British Columbia, Canada for lessons we could learn about planning for and coping with extreme weather events. In 2021, the westernmost state of Canada suffered from, first, an deadly summer heatwave and then an autumn of severe flooding and landslides (which were made more intense because of the effects of the heatwave.) In BC, they found that central authorities, media, and people in general were not prepared for the seriousness of the events.

As a follow-up to the heat wave, the British Columbia chief medical officer has called for special observation and assistance for vulnerable communities and vulnerable groups, and a better public messaging and alert system to help the public better understand the risks of extreme heat.

All the joys of getting around by rail

Happy train trip tales continue to pop up on Stuff’s pages. In this story, Alexia Santamaria writes about the restorative and therapeutic experience of taking the train from Wellington to Auckland with her teenage son.

We chatted, we sat in silence, we nodded off, then woke up again, we moved around from our seats to the dining cart (the savoury scones were so good we went back twice) and made regular visits to the open-air viewing carriage.

There was a feeling of having time and space and being far from all the household things that cause daily niggliness. There were hours to talk about things we don’t usually discuss, without a feeling of pressure – and there’s no doubt the soothing scenery helped dissolve any usual friction.

In this tweet there’s a glowing review of Te Huia, from an Australian transport YouTuber. We agree, Tauranga next please!

How fast is Sydney’s George St Tram? In this twitter thread a brave pedestrian attempts to race it down the newly built George St section.

The rules. Fast steady walk. Obey traffic lights. Tram must stay on the tracks.

Spoiler alert: the tram wins. Turns out that giving transit priority makes it fast and efficient! But you know who the real winners are? The people of Sydney, who get to enjoy this beautiful urban vista:

George Street, with a following tram – not the original in the race – gaining swiftly. Image via Twitter.

Painter Chris Dews’ Instagram page featured a gloriously verdant green-tracked Dominion Road light rail this week, the lush counterpart to George Street’s urban paving.

Image courtesy of Chris Dews.

Progress for cycling in the USA

Bike lane by bike lane, ebike subsidy by lending library – progress on cycling is being made in even the world’s most car dominated country.

Tigard, a smallish city in the state of Oregon, has received state funding to establish an ebike lending library that will help encourage residents switch trips from cars to bikes. Ebike lending libraries are a growing trend in the USA, particularly in places too small to establish a bike-share system.

“Locating e-bikes directly in neighborhoods introduces residents to this emerging technology and provides them with free trips for short-term use, eliminating the need for some automobile trips,” the city says. Its part of Tigard’s effort to increase transit and active transportation trips to 20% over the next 12 years. They intend to analyze the results of this pilot with an eye toward launching a larger, citywide system in the future.

This twitter thread explores NYC from a cyclist’s point of view, and finds plenty to be happy about. We have to admit we were surprised by the map further down the thread comparing bike lane coverage in NYC to London, where they appear to be much sparser.

Just as it is in London, delivery by ecargo bike is a booming industry in New York. Ecargo bikes are so obviously a long-needed solution to the problem of delivery vans clogging up dense urban areas.

But repowering bikes and finding somewhere to rest during the day has been a challenge for delivery workers, who are often out on their bikes for long shifts. Thanks to concerted campaigning by an organised collective of delivery workers, NYC is about to open its first ecargo bike pitstop. A USD$1million grant has been put up to convert vacant newstands around the city to hubs for delivery workers.

The first hub will repurpose a large newsstand in front of City Hall and start taking shape within the next couple of months, said Hildalyn Colón Hernández, Deliveristas Unidos’s policy director. While the precise details of the hubs are still being ironed out, the City Hall–adjacent one will be designed to provide shelter for workers to get out of the rain and snow and recharge their bikes and phones.

New York’s car-free streets take out the number one spot in this list of the USA’s best new cycle lanes of 2022. The list includes everything from pop-up infrastructure to major streetscape retrofits, and we’d be happy to bike on all of them.

The Capital Crescent Surface Trail in Bethesda, Maryland, which will contribute to a wider surface light rail network.

Accelerating the green transition

There’s lots to explore in the emissions reduction plan platform ‘ClimateOS’. The site began as a Swedish startup when one developer wanted to see Sweden’s whole emissions reduction plan in one place. You can explore Sweden’s interface, Panorama, to get a sense of what the platform can do. Now, the system is being used by cities all over Europe to communicate and track their plans for lowering emissions across a range of sectors.

“Cities get the big, integrated picture,” said Shalit. “They can connect emissions, climate actions and now also economics, at a system-wide level. They see what activities drive emissions, and what the effects of reducing them will be. It allows them to simulate, and understand, the ‘what if’ scenarios.”

The original edition of ClimateOS, Panorama, is still being used in Sweden to capture their emissions reduction planning. Image via Panorama.

Writing in the New Yorker, environmental campaigner Bill McKibben highlights the blunt tone UN Secretary General Antonia Guterres took in his ‘annual report on priorities’ last week. Guterres’ does not mince words:

I have a special message for fossil-fuel producers and their enablers scrambling to expand production and raking in monster profits: If you cannot set a credible course for net-zero, with 2025 and 2030 targets covering all your operations, you should not be in business.

Your core product is our core problem.

We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence.

In the remainder of the piece, McKibben points out that a number of well-known figures are speaking more forcefully about climate change than ever before, and that their clarity is essential and important.

Utopias small and large

These mid 20th Century sketches of future Washington DC metro stations present an enticing vision of transit-oriented utopia.

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And sometimes real-life magical places can be found in the smallest of urban gaps.

Take care and kia pai tōu kotou wikini. See you next week.

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  1. Love that Dominion Road painting, especially the Escher-esque 300C on the roadway next to the rails.

    What a shame we didn’t get more creative attempts to use the space as part of the Light Rail renders. There wasn’t really much of an attempt to show the place-changing potential of it, possibly to placate the ‘where will the cars go’ loons, until well in the piece and the Mangere renders popped up. But by that point they were wedded to the idea of metro tunnels with light rail constraints and spending billions more than we needed to.

    I’d have loved to see the same vision applied for the North West branch, but they didn’t really do much work on that at all.

    1. That is the drug dealers car. When light rail went in the shops went out of business and pulled down their roller doors as illustrated. People had no reason to go there anymore so the light rail also closed down and the tram was abandoned at the Balmoral stop. First nature reclaimed the tracks, then the the road gutters, the shop fronts, and eventually the footpaths too when even the dealers went bust. The good folks of Auckland were heard to lament “If only Chris Hipkins had dumped light rail when he dumped the RNZ merger and Three Waters”.

      1. Can’t you filter your jokes a bit? Why would that happen in Auckland when all around the world the opposite is happening? Is this not change-averse exceptionalism of the first degree?

        The city is becoming a crumbling, deteriorating mess as a result of car dependent planning, and light rail is one strand of the solutions to fix this problem.

        Why do you serve future generations poorly by fear-mongering and spreading misinformation? What did our kids ever do to you?

        1. But Heidi it’s all there in the picture, I am only interpreting the art. At least it doesn’t look like a fascist utopia like those Washington renders where the people are dwarfed by the architecture to make them look ‘unworthy’. It looks like an extreme right wing Starship Troopers style society.

        2. The image is right on point. Miffy, try a spoonful of manuka honey in the morning coffee.
          This is pretty much what was coming through for the commercial villages on Dominion Road, with traffic halting at the rail stops where the rails would push out past island platforms. Dominion Road would be come much more for access rather than through traffic. Unfortunately, resistance to taller buildings in walk-up distance stifles the potential for that option to really buzz (and not with illicit substances).
          So Do-mimimum Road languishes again….

      2. miffy the reason nature took over the tracks is because Auckland Council refued to mow them like have done with the Berms .

  2. Auckland council effectively waved through their submission on the new RMA, which included complaining about the changes to try and eliminate viewshaft protections and reduce the sway of amenity values in our planning system.

  3. They say,in politics,”never ask a question, you don’t already know the answer to”, except when it comes to the Harbour Bridge. Repeated surveys consistently produce the same results,yet nothing changes. The mayor “promised ” to give the people what they want,maybe believing that the’ loud minority’ know best. Recent events should give cause to take an holistic view of the city,siloed thinking/planning,is holding Auckland back.

    1. Harbour bridge pedestrian/cycleway .
      I wonder if they new about the poor piling when they did the engineering alterations for the increased vehicle mass.
      At tht time there was to be limits on where those vehicles with the maximum mass could be driven, It now appears that if you have paid the appropriate RUC you an drive them anywhere. But i digress.
      If the bridge Piling is unable to take the addition of the under hung load from the proposed cycleway then surely they should be looking at underpinning those deficient piles and then we could go ahead with the pedestrian/cycleway and hopefully connect the NS to the city for pedestrians and cyclists. In the meantime would it be possible to have a ferry bridge from say Chelsea to the ferry terminal.

      1. “If the bridge Piling is unable to take the addition of the under hung load from the proposed cycleway”

        You are still letting yourself be distracted by straw men. The walk and cycleway can be provided and the bridge’s lifespan *increased* – because bikes and cars weigh a lot less – by removing a lane to provide it.

        This would also align with all the stuff about, you know, climate change and vehicle kilometer reduction targets. Give 12.5% of a massive bridge to two modes which currently have 0.

        Instead, we get an endless parade of excuses as to why it can’t be done, and consultations trying to imply we should build a second crossing first at some enormous $ number, delaying improvements for another decade or two.

        It’s an absolute failure of the engineering professions and of political leadership both.

        1. Removing a lane won’t happen anytime soon no matter how logical it is because it will affect the vast majority who drive (and vote). By advocating for that people are delaying an actual solution.

        2. …”because it will affect the vast majority who drive”

          The amount of people who regularly drive over the bridge is a minority of people who vote in Auckland.

          I think you mean it will affect “the loudest” who vote.

        3. “because it will affect the vast majority who drive (and vote). ”

          Which is why actual LEADERS would just do it early in the election cycle, promise (honestly) that if it turns to custard they will undo it, and then sit back while the howls die down, the sky doesn’t fall, and most everyone else celebrates it.

          Of course that would assume our leaders have a) courage and b) weren’t secretly actually quite in favour of keeping cars first, forever.

        4. If increasing transport options to the North is actually more of a priority than other parts of the region, dedicated bus lanes would move more people than cycling or walking across the bridge, given the mode catchment sizes.

        5. And if improving bus journeys to / from the north, then there’s an extensive list of stuff before dedicated bridge lanes. The bridge is almost always pretty fast.

          reallocate a lane on the northbound bridge approach, fully fund the rosedale station and open it sooner, full wellesley – halsey street bus lanes, more (and better) bike parking at busway stations, fare gates and all door boarding at the busiest busway stations, more motorcycle / moped parking, charge market clearing rates for car park-n-ride, more frequent feeder services…. This is outside the fact that CRL and other CBD improvements will improve north shore journeys as well making more destinations an easy transfer away.

        6. I think I read here years ago that the busway only had full bus priority for 4)% of its journey. It’s probably up since then, but still not “full”, the city-side being the main culprit.

      2. When the next harbour crossing (bridge) goes in, the old one can carry the lycra clad masses.

        The old one is built into the Waitematas. Can’t be underpinned.

        In the meantime – electric ferries aren’t far away.

        Agree re RUC BTW.

        1. lycra as a pejorative?!
          Its an active transport lane, think kids walking with parents. Even people on bikes, in normal clothes ! The lycra clad ones should be mixing it with the car traffic on their high speed eBikes.

  4. Could it be possible for the Panorama analysis to be applied in a similar graphic form for NZ?
    It would be very helpful for discussing the future policies of the contenders at the next round of elections. It would also be helpful to illustrate the progress made in the past.

    could we look at the

  5. The question that the government needs to ask themselves is whether they can serve the public and achieve their goals better if they didn’t keep reacting to the vocal media view.

    I’m glad that the survey about a harbour crossing has been done. But advocates suggested the government use deliberative democracy to establish what it is the population actually thinks **before** they launch ideas, yet were ignored. This would empower the government, agencies and advocates to respond to the negative media and change-resistant entitled types who think their bubble represents the population.

    It’s time to step up to better decision-making that respects the public sentiment and the media outrage are poles apart.

    1. That goes both ways, Heidi. There’s a dangerous and recent trend to decide that a swathe of negative feedback simply means that the government isn’t communicating about how great their policy idea actually is, and it’s actually your fault for not understanding…. something.

      It’s never “Maybe our proposal actually just sucks”, it’s just “we’re not telling those idiots about it in a way they understand!” Setting up a feedback process and automatically undermining the legitimacy of the feedback when you don’t like it isn’t genuinely seeking feedback, it’s box-ticking and outcome-shopping.

      1. Oh, I agree. But either situation is avoided via proper sortition-based consultation and deliberation on what are goals are and what the solutions could be to achieve them – in advance of deciding on the solutions.

        1. The main issue I had with the Harbour crossing one was that the distinction of cost and delivery timeframes (both material concerns) for different modes seemed to be basically non-existent, when in reality they are the most pressing drivers of the whole prospect.

          But if you simply exclude them from consultation then people can’t object on those grounds.

    2. I am not sure I understand you Heidi. It is the media’s job to tell people what the Government is proposing, what the potential disadvantages of that might be and to tell us if the Government is ignoring what people are telling them. The Government was hell bent on merging our public service radio with a publicly owned commercial TV company, yet the Government never bothered making a good case for it or explaining what if any advantages it might have brought. Without the media we would have TVNZ remaking RNZ in their own ridiculous image.

      1. Sometimes I even see good journalists do reasonable analysis of what people believe and are able, therefore, to at least guess if the Government is ignoring what people are trying to tell them. Pretty rare, though. Usually the media focus on headlines and angles that lead to the most division and outrage, in order to boost the number of clicks. Hence, the articles full of drunk uncle at the bbq reckons rather than demonstrations of the support and enthusiasm for measures that will lead to a more caring, just and equitable society.

  6. A big shout-out to AA for patiently explaining support for the Speed Management Programme in response to Luxon’s dog-whistle nonsense.

  7. The status quo is what our current businesses know about and operate in. Whilst changing the status quo would undoubtedly create a whole lot of new business opportunities, it is profoundly threatening to those current business operators.
    In our cities especially operators in property, and motor vehicle provisioning.
    Hence their well funded political opposition to changes to planning rules, transport modes and tax methodologies, regardless of national and local benifit.
    My business is doomed without the immediate street frontage parking, is highly motivational, but completely overlooks the benifits to the surrounding communities of reallocating those parking spaces for the much greater community good of better public transport provision and better provision for micro mobility and walking.

  8. Those mid-century Washington Metro imaginings provoke such sadness when compared to the current reality. The beautiful, futuristic, and successful (in ridership) Metro is now a run-down operational disaster. Not quite sure how that happened but it’s at least a cautionary tale about ensuring the future of the future can be funded.

  9. “Imagine you were a business, and 66% of your clients demanded something, but you refused to give it to them. The business would stumble, board and execs would be rolled and the shareholders would file lawsuits.”

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