Kia ora, everyone: it’s been a tough week for the whole country, with the massive devastation and loss of lives, livelihoods, and neighbourhoods caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. Our hearts go out to everyone affected.

The Week in Greater Auckland

On Monday Matt wrote about how we need Auckland Transport and Kiwirail to do a better job in managing the reliability of our public transport network.

On Wednesday Matt covered looked at the agenda of the Auckland Council’s Transport committee, especially the update by Auckland Transport on the PT network and the Integrated Transport Plan, essentially ATAP by a different name.

On Thursday Matt wrote about the discussion of resilience that’s bound to occur in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, and how the inevitable calls from some communities for more expressways aren’t a realistic solution.

The week in flooding

Coverage is still emerging of the awful unfolding situation on the east coast, and the major news organisations have rolling updates. Respect to the reporters on the ground, putting people in touch with each other and with the information they urgently need.

If you are safe reading this, and moved (and able) to donate in support, at the national level NZ Red Cross is taking donations, news organisation Stuff is running a nationwide fundraiser, and the people of Tairāwhiti are calling for help to become self-sufficient in the face of repeated disaster. Feel free to share others in the comments, including Auckland-specific opportunities to help.

For now, the priority is rescue and recovery – there will be plenty of discussion in the weeks and months ahead of what comes next. Here are a few early pieces that caught our eye:

Karl Marx wrote, paraphrasing Hegel, that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. But what about the third time? The fourth or fifth? Where on the spectrum from tragedy to farce are we when we see the same images of upturned cars floating in floodwaters, of desperate people awaiting rescue on rooftops, in so many cities all around the world?

Feel free to share others in the comments.

There’s no good segue from disaster on this scale, to our usual weekly round-up of stories from home and abroad that caught our eye. Our header image this week shows the sunset after the storm passed through Auckland, leaving so much damage in its wake but on its way to wreak more havoc. These are very discontinuous times.

But there’s no better time to keep thinking about resilience in our everyday lives –  alternative ways to get around, wise infrastructure investment that better serves us (and the planet, and future generations), and how to be agile and creative when it comes to building cities, places, and connected communities where everyone can access what we need.

Moving house by bike

How do you move house using only bikes? The Spinoff has the answer, in a great read from Bike Auckland’s Chief Biking Officer – who did it, with a little help from some friends:

With the possible exception of their queen-sized bed, D’Leafy was confident their entire household could be moved by bike. They were willing to borrow a car if necessary, but their friends assured them they could “make it happen”. On moving day, Michael Lawton turned up on a trailer-equipped, home-made tall bike – two bikes vertically welded onto each other. Lawton’s bold claim that they could transport the queen bed mattress on their bike trailer was easily proven correct, with a desk strapped on top to boot. Teva Chonon, Bike Auckland’s community activation manager, secured the queen bed base upright on its side on his bike trailer.

How much faster could our buses be?

Particularly relevant given our post on Monday: imagine how popular buses would be if they had proper priority and weren’t frequently getting held up by cars. It’s a virtuous circle: making buses more reliable and popular justifies making services more frequent, making public transport ever more useful and attractive.

Also relevant: the flooding two weeks ago resulted in damage to Great North Rd through Waterview, and it has been reduced to a single citybound lane ever since. Auckland Transport should put in a temporary bus lane through here to at least allow buses to jump ahead of the queues. Perhaps they could even then put on a campaign to encourage people to use the bus to avoid congestion.

Why restoring long-distance passenger rail makes sense in New Zealand

Stuff published a great piece from Robert McLachlan and Paul Callister on why it makes sense for us to restore long-distance passenger rail:

The government has committed the country to decarbonisation targets that require significant cuts to transport-related emissions. But decarbonising long-distance travel is not part of the plan – the national rail operator KiwiRail remains focused on freight.

We argue the revival of long-distance passenger rail needs to be part Aotearoa’s strategy to bring emissions down.

The arguments for intercity passenger rail centre on connecting communities, equity in transport options, reduced emissions and lower energy use.

There’s probably also a lot we could learn from Ukraine. How they’ve managed to keep their rail network working, including how fast they get it repaired following attacks or when they’ve liberated more land has been something of an inspiration.

Safer Speeds

We often hold Auckland Transport to account when we feel they’re not living up to their potential. Readers may feel that’s been happening a lot lately. But despite the frustrations with things like delayed work on a proper bike network, it’s good to see AT still moving forward with their safer speeds programme, including this sponsored article about it.

Memo to all drivers vaguely – or even markedly – irritated by the raft of reduced speed limits being introduced around Auckland: you are playing a significant role in lowering road deaths, serious injuries and making roads safer.

This is underlined by evaluation research on the two year results of the first phase of safe speed limits – aimed at showing the difference in deaths and serious injuries after safer speed limits have been applied, many around schools, rural and urban roads.

The statistics show that road deaths have fallen by 30 per cent in the areas covered by Phase 1. In comparison, road deaths in Auckland areas with unchanged speed limits have gone up by nine per cent. “That is a difference of 39 per cent,” says Auckland Transport’s Safety Technical Lead Ping Sim, “a hard, fast fact which cannot be ignored.”

At 50km/hr, she says, a person walking or biking has an 80 per cent chance of death if struck by a car. At 40km/hr, that risk drops to 30 per cent and, at the mandated 30km/hr level, the risk of dying drops to 10 per cent.

AT began Phase 3 of the speed limit reduction programme on December 1 – and will see a grand total of 3143 roads with safer speeds across all three phases. Phase 3 involves 1636 roads, about half the total, including 980 roads within school zones where the speed limit is being reduced from 50km/hr to 30km/hr.

Wales shows how it’s done

The Welsh government are showing how it’s done.

The Welsh Government has today scrapped all major road schemes, placing the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of decision making on future infrastructure spending. The decision was unveiled on February 14 by the deputy minister for economy and transport, Lee Waters.

Last year Waters said he would “free up road space” to make public transit “more attractive.” Doing this, he added, would create a “system that doesn’t just cater for those with cars.”

Speaking to the Welsh parliament today Waters said:

“Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak—but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems. We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.

Where could we do this here?

The Mayor of Emeryville, California, takes a ride around a block that’s being made permeable for walking and cycling – by opening up a pathway through what was the ground floor of a former industrial building. Amsterdam, industrial version!

Related, and from closer to home in Christchurch

A handbrake turn/ political pivot?

Speaking of cities with functional and fully integrated networks for cycling (the importance of which the CEO of Waka Kotahi eloquently explained to Auckland Council yesterday)…

Councillor Mike Lee – who also sits on the AT Board – appears to have reversed his position on at least one of the Inner West streetscape upgrades, according to a Facebook post this week.

The post now appears to have been removed. But it signals a welcome shift from his October “taihoa” which called for a moratorium on projects (Point Chevalier to Westmere, the two remaining Waitemata Safe Routes, and Great North Road) that were on the verge of delivery.

Together, the Inner West projects will expand the bike network by 7km, with safety and efficiency improvements for public transport, driving, walking, and cycling. This includes rebuilding Meola Road and fixing infrastructure – stormwater upgrades, undergrounding overhead lines, new planting and street trees – as well as timed parking around businesses, and loading zones to address the extremely dangerous car-truck delivery practices on Great North Road.

Lee will be pleased to learn that there is substantial public support for all of the projects. AT’s notes to the Waitemata Local Board say: “Over fifty letters of support were received from within the community and wider stakeholders, and five letters of opposition asking for schemes to be paused.” 

Oddly, AT’s briefing recommends proceeding with Great North Road, but pausing the Waitemata Safe Routes in the middle as the work isn’t currently co-funded by Waka Kotahi – even though they were in the original Urban Cycleways Programme, and are in the RLTP and ATAP.

What gives? Was the funding not applied for, or not granted? In any case, surely a proposal to build two ends of a network should come with an urgent timeline for completing the middle.

Language, please

By way of light relief, is it time to update the way we talk about things?

The benefits of 15-minute neighbourhoods

This Twitter thread tells a great story about the kind of local connection and amenity we used to enjoy, which is looking all the more valuable in the current climate. It takes a village, after all.

That’s all for this week, everyone. Stay safe out there and see you next week.

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    You can’t make this stuff up,”let’s run public transport down to its nadir,but then charge people less to use it”,paying any money for something that does not work,is not what any one should logically do.
    Wondering, if AT are going for the cheap throwaway version of PT,that pervades much of our retail spending.
    Hint AT,even if it was free,we are still paying too much.How about producing a quality product,that people are happy to spend money on,other commodity /service providers seem able to do this, why can’t you.

    1. The problem we have is that vehicle drivers are very heavily subsidised.

      Making PT free cant compete with the current massive vehicle driver subsidies and adds to the transport subsidies. We will get some mode shift but not enough.

      I have no problem with income related welfare transfers to help with transport costs for the poorer in society.

      We must start down the path of charging vehicle drivers their full costs even if its only a 2 or 3% change per year towards that target.

      If we try & change the costs all at once:
      i) inflation would skyrocket
      ii) gdp would fall
      iii) land use wouldn’t have time to change
      iv) the poorer in society would be adversely affected.
      v) we would have crush loaded PT systems (that hadn’t yet been upgraded to cope)

  2. I look forward to finding out whether the problem with the Waitemata Safe Routes project is that AT omitted to apply for its inclusion in the NLTP programme. That would go against all their statements about how the RLTP and NLTP process works.

    AT argued in court that there was no available funding for ‘further road reallocation” – an absolutely nuts statement. The funding that can be made available from converting supersized road widening projects into road reallocation projects is immense.

    So if it turns out that they didn’t even secure WK funding just because they omitted to apply for it, I will expect Council to take firm action.

  3. Credit to AT on pushing quickly through with this, I’m loving being able to cruise through the neighbourhood, idling with my foot off the gas.

    I’ll be interested to see what they have in mind to bring the new 30kph residential roads themselves into line.

    It’s hard to blame people for speeding when the road screams 80kph through its gritted flush medians.

    1. Most of the new development residential roads have been engineered to 30 k design speeds, so are not top priority for speed limit changes, but they will come through in their turn. WK only have a small budget for signs to support the Safer Speeds changes, so retrofit calming is limited at present. Compliance, and achieving safety benefits, may depend on enforcement (very limited opportunity for that) and social change. Hold up your right foot to vote for lower speeds on your road.

      1. There is no call for “voting” for lower speeds. A safe and healthy environment is a human right, and we have a Vision Zero policy, at both national and local level. We therefore can expect Vision Zero speeds.

        Everyone in the sector needs to stress that this can be achieved through competent leadership on default speed limit changes.

        Default speed limit changes do not require a large budget for signs… as there are few places where the speed limit changes. This establishes the expectation, makes enforcement easier, and frees up the money for the built environment changes required.

  4. Re the speed of buses, I’m constantly blindsided by buses arriving (and departing) from intermediate points well ahead of schedule. I do wonder whether the timetables have been seriously padded in many cases, and lead to significant inefficiencies with both vehicles and drivers – at a time when driver numbers are about 20% short of full complement.

    A case in point is Route 66, running from Sylvia Park to Coyle Park, Pt Chevalier. Almost every week I visit Coyle Park, and note that there are almost always three buses waiting at the terminus, and on a handful of occasions, I’ve seen four. Presumably, this means that the buses are as a matter of course arriving at Coyle Park significantly early. Given the frequency is every 15 minutes, it suggests that at least one or two buses could be removed from the route and still maintain the same schedule.

    Of course it may not be the same at other times of the day (I’m usually there around the middle of the day), but surely, surely, some efficiencies could be made here – to the benefit of ratepayers who are funding these vehicles, and with no downside for anyone else. Excluding, perhaps, the drivers, who are clearly getting a far longer break than their rosters would otherwise give them.

    1. Reducing car traffic definitely speeds the buses up. This leads, as you point out, to being able to provide more bus services per bus and driver.

      This is a key element in how to fix Auckland’s transport system.

      All projects need to be aiming to reduce car traffic significantly, as the knock on effects span every aspect of the transport system. There are many, many levers we can use to achieve this.

      This is at least as important as providing bus lanes – which have some limits to their applicability, due to space constraints.

    2. Services that suffer from variable delays, leading to ‘padded’ schedules, can only be improved by bus priority to achieve 24/7 consistent journey times, or by switching to headway management on higher frequency not 3 buses together every half hour). 66 needs some significant multi-mode improvements.

      1. Not true. Bus priority is useful, but it is not true to say that the services can “only be improved by bus priority”.

        AT has endorsed reducing vkt by 50% by 2030. Achieving this will speed the buses up.

        Unfortunately, alongside their endorsement, AT push for projects that do not decrease vkt. Indeed, they put on pause those that are multimodal and let the road widening ones sail on through.

        Over and over and over again.

    3. Roger,l have no doubt that ,left alone, bus companies could come up with a better strategy for scheduling busses on their routes,but will be constrained by having to adhere to AT’s schedule,which takes no account for external forces. They ,the bus operators have to play AT’s game,to ensure they get paid,all the while knowing,there is a better way to do it,very frustrating.

  5. We had a second tranche of big trees cut down 2 years ago. If you have any it really is time to admit the climate has changed and you shouldn’t take the risk of living under large tress or having any that could fall on others. Out of 14 large trees we kept one pohutukawa, a gleditsia and a liquid amber that had been stunted by growing under other large trees. Those three are now on borrowed time.

    1. Or: landscape to protect their roots, plant undergrowth and plant the suitable native replacements, slow growing so they don’t become a giant problem.
      We have lost too many big trees through climate events to lose more to opportunist, knee-jerk ‘clearance for house building’.
      Miffy, you know your own trees, but don’t advocate for everyone to deforest our city. It is more urgent to protect what we have (with due regard to problems with Norfolk pines and gum trees) when we are losing so many of our big shelter trees.
      Get together with Local Boards and volunteer organisations to join in bush restoration and planting to counter the development and climate losses.

      1. I disagree. We shouldn’t allow others to grow trees that can fall on people and kill them. We should be changing the Unitary Plan to make shrubs a permitted activity, small trees a restricted discretionary and tall trees a non-complying activity. You are not allowed to build a 10m structure in the corner of most sections so why should you be allowed to plant a tree that will grow to 10m?

        1. Maybe we could slip one by the Ponsonby NIMBYs by planting a heap of trees and putting treehouses in them.

        2. Let’s start by banning fossil fuels, deforestation and other global warming drivers – people shouldn’t be allowed to do things that make the sky fall on us all. Maybe you don’t understand trees.

        3. miffy – Have you never been to a Garden centre that have labels that say it grows to height of Xmetres and then a few years later unless you prune it , it grows out of control and is 2x plus the height the Garden Centres label stated . Then when you don’t like the height you remove and throw it in the Dump and create more global warming .

        4. Yes David so if a tree became non-complying at say 4m the land owner would have to either apply for a consent or cut the thing down. If nobody was living/playing/walking/working under the tree they would probably get a consent. Otherwise it is time to turn it into mulch. You are not allowed to build an unsupported earth bank in the corner of your property so why should anyone be allowed to plant a tree there?

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