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.
— Victoria Tupou (@VictoriaTupou) February 9, 2023
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!
So turns out Plunket doesn’t do home visits in the ‘CBD’ due to traffic and parking…. Which must make it hard for city centre whānau that don’t have cars @WomenInUrbanism
— Liz Allen (@lizallen___) February 6, 2023
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.
The recent #NZ floods have focused the mind on the (lack of) resilience of our land transport system, exacerbated by lack of mode choice. Worth remembering that even more recent roading isn't exempt. SH25A, now indefinitely closed, was only completed in 1967. pic.twitter.com/E3TX8TfXTF
— Darren Davis (@DarrenDavis10) February 6, 2023
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!
Review of Te Huia by an Aussie transport fan. Love how mod it is inside. to Same as the standard of the trains I took took from London to Bath & Edinburgh last year. And cheaper. More please. Tauranga next! https://t.co/Z5DHqwy0ab via @YouTube
— Nicola Welten Art Obsessive (@NicolaWelten) February 5, 2023
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.
And sometimes real-life magical places can be found in the smallest of urban gaps.
This lovely little sliver of a garden is squeezed into the gap between two apartment blocks on Upper Queen St pic.twitter.com/GUv1TJnJnD
— JeremyReesnz (@JeremyReesnz) February 2, 2023
Take care and kia pai tōu kotou wikini. See you next week.