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:
- If Cyclone Gabrielle has you thinking about climate change, you’re not alone, writes Kirsty Johnson at Stuff.
- What will Gabrielle mean for political conversations in the months and years to come? The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire takes a look.
- We are entering a period of consequences, writes Marc Daalder at Newsroom.
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?
- And watch out for trees in weeks ahead: how to tell if a big tree is going to fall.
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.
Great North Rd, Waterview has been down to 1 lane citybound since Jan floods
Congestion is dire for km's upstream@AklTransport we need an emergency bus lane. It wouldnt reduce car flow,as 2lanes merge to 1, but would offer choice to travel quick & incentive to take less space pic.twitter.com/xOjNfceS6q
— Sam Hood (@Samhood8) February 14, 2023
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.
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.
Traffic on our roads has increased. We’ve responded by building more roads. It’s encouraged more journeys by car and made traffic worse. But we can do things differently in Wales.
— Welsh Government Transport (@WGTransport) February 10, 2023
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
While varying in quality, the sheer amount of laneways built post-quakes (orange) is pretty amazing.
As the light industry south of St Asaph begins to transform into a mixed-use neighbourhood, we really should be breaking these blocks up next! pic.twitter.com/WArTZDCKK4
— adam lines (@adamlines_) February 12, 2023
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.
By way of light relief, is it time to update the way we talk about things?
ok, I'm doing one of these now pic.twitter.com/PFR9H7aS4L
— Pàra (@cogtwitoergosum) February 12, 2023
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.