Kia ora, Was this a ‘normal’ week? Cautiously optimistic that the weekend will be uneventful too.

The week in Greater Auckland

On Monday, Matt wondered why the public transport projects we build here seems so much more expensive than similar projects in other countries.

Tuesday’s post rallied around the inner west safety and cycling projects, which have been paused yet again because of a small and vocal minority opposition.

Yesterday, Matt wrote about AT’s progress on and recent updates to the Regional Public Transport Plan.

Transport news around the motu

We always love a new CRL drone shot. Here’s this week’s, showing progress on Maungawhau Station.

Auckland City Centre Resident’s group has called for council to charge the true cost of parking. Stuff reports on the group’s request to the Expenditure Control and Procurement committee to charge $500 a year for the right to park on city centre streets.

The City Centre Residents Group which represents downtown dwellers, said with 1.7 million registered vehicles, the climate-focussed levy could raise $850 million.

…[CCRG’s president] told the committee it was contradictory to spend a lot of money building roads, only to then restrict the useable space by allow vehicles to park along the kerbs.

Te Matatini, the world’s biggest and highly competitive Kapa Haka festival, is on *as we speak!* and AT is celebrating with limited edition hop cards, kaihaka figures at pedestrian crossing signals, and art on its buses. Ticket holders get free public transport to Eden Park, where the festival is on until late this Rāhoroi (Saturday). Kimihia tō tīkiti anei/buy your tickets here!

One of AT’s wrapped Te Matatini buses. Image via AT Facebook page.

Staying on the theme of cool buses, how awesome does Whanganui’s The Tide look? We shared the news about Whanganui’s new frequent bus route a few weeks ago, and The Tide, which runs every 20 minutes throuh downtown, has hit the road.

It’s a good month for sustainable, progressive transport in Te Tai Hauāuru. New Plymouth has just been awarded $16m from Waka Kotahi’s Transport Choices programme, which it will use to build safer walking and cycling connections around schools. A further $8m will go to nearby Stratford, making a total of $24m available for safer streets in the Taranaki region. We can’t wait to see what they deliver!

New Plymouth already has a popular coastal walkway – the perfect infrastructure to hinge a wider safe walking and cycling network off. Image source: New Plymouth district council.

How do people get around after a disaster destroys critical roading infrastructure? This is one of a few stories we’ve heard of bikes coming to the rescue in flood-hit Hawkes Bay.

Places for people, all over the world

This week’s installment of ideas-we-love is taking us to three continents. Simon Wilson wrote about the quirky and lovely Brazilian city of Curitiba in his Herald column last weekend. What makes Curitiba so special? Investment in greenery, an efficient and well-used bus rapid transit system, and visionary planning that focused on density and quality.

Like Auckland, Curitiba has tripled in size since 1970. But where the growth here has been a mix of massive sprawl and poorly regulated infill housing, with an absurd failure to manage transport needs, Curitiba chose a different path.

They planted millions of trees and built 16 public parks and 14 forests inside the urban city limits. The Iguacu River, which runs through the middle, has retained its meandering course, with parkland all along its banks. In heavy rains, the parks form a floodplain, keeping the water away from buildings and overfull drains.

A typical Curitiba bus stop. Image source: Inhabitat.

Moving north, we like the sound of New York City’s new ‘public realm czar’. The job description of the new position involves making it easier to get stuff done in public space and streets in the city.

Given the tangle of bureaucracy that’s involved in making changes to public space — improvements to the sidewalk, for example, might be under the Department of Sanitation, the Parks Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, or the MTA — it’s remarkable that New York hasn’t yet had a person or department responsible for coordinating this work (aside from the mayor, of course). “New Yorkers need to know there is one person at City Hall whose number one goal is to improve their quality of life by creating incredible, new public spaces and ensuring the ones we have are clean, equitable, and safe,” Adams said in a statement.

Street upgrades in Nairobi have made more space for people by removing parking and protecting existing trees. What we love about this example is how  staggeringly simple it is. Add a row of sturdy bollards, and suddenly the footpath’s twice as wide.

What makes a place great for people? A slow and steady, human-friendly pace:

Get a kid’s eye view of the city with the Global Designing Cities Reverse Periscope Companion guide! This looks like an awesome tool. The guide gives you instructions for building a periscope that will give you the perspective of a 1m tall child, and then a range of exercises you can do in streets to see what that child’s experience would be like.

Designers in Peru get a kid’s eye view of the city. Image: the Reverse Periscope Companion Guide

Moving on from cars (and all their harms)

We’re firm believers that the period in our history in cars have dominated mobility will ultimately be a bit of a blip. After all, it’s only in the last few generations that cars have become so ubiquitous, and as younger generations become increasingly urbanised – and increasingly climate aware – they are chosing to opt-out. An excellent deep-dive on The Economist examines emerging trends and finds that young people’s reluctance to get behind the wheel could indicate a cultural sea-change.

The proportion of people with licences has fallen for every age group under 40, and on the latest data, is still falling. And even those who do have them are driving less. Between 1990 and 2017 the distance driven by teenage drivers in America declined by 35%, and those aged 20-34 by 18%. It is entirely older drivers who account for still increasing traffic, as baby-boomers who grew up with cars do not give them up in retirement.

The War on Cars is a podcast that’s been in the thick of that sea-change for years, and this article talks to the three hosts about how they got started, what their aims with the podcast are, what’s changed since they began.

As the name suggests, its war is on cars, not drivers. “Part of what we’re doing,” says Gordon, “is we’re saying that the entire system of driving sucks, and it sucks most for the people who are dependent on it.”

Good to see the issue of sat-navs and rat-running being addressed in Europe. How can we get regulation around this for google maps too?

Road safety is improving in Poland, with a couple of policies we’d love to see action on here. Stronger consequences  for dangerous driving – yes please! Pedestrian priority on all side streets – double yes please! (It is bizarre that we don’t have that last one, when most other places do.)

Smart approaches to getting public transport on the ground

You can barely hear enthusiastic host Julian O’Shea over the background rumble of happy crowds in this video. In the clip, O’Shea explains why and how one of Sydney’s biggest streets has literally disappeared ‘off the map’ while only getting busier – because it no longer welcomes any cars.

New research out of Australia incorporates a wide range of social factors to demonstrate the advantage of low-cost public transit projects, like adding a new bus route or upping the frequency through low-income neighbourhoods. It’s not the big, expensive mega-construction projects that have the biggest impact: the concept of ‘social transit’ is about getting transport to people who really need it, and all the opportunities they gain.

But governments are failing to fully calculate the flow-on financial benefits of smaller public transport projects in poorer urban fringe suburbs, such as lower crime, increased employment, better health outcomes and improved social inclusion.

France has been introducing light rail to city streets across the country at a steady clip since the 1980s. The consistent and straightforward approach to rolling out sensible and uncomplicated networks has transformed many French cities – and produced 100s of kms of light rail track.

Speaking of smart and efficient project choices, this article on Curbed has something to say about the value of keeping stations small and uncomplicated.

Longer journeys (or, yes everyone still loves trains)

We loved the Shanthi Mathias’ beautiful essay about growing up in India travelling across the continent on its famous intercity trains. She ends with a call to action to reinstate intercity train travel in Aotearoa.

But distances travelled by train are real. On the station signs, the sharp angles of North India’s Devanagri script are joined by the swishy strokes of the Bangla alphabet, or elaborate curves of Tamil. As you travel south, samosas and guavas sold by the snack-walas on the train become vada and coffee. I knew I was properly in south India when I woke up to people selling strings of jasmine to hang in my hair.

Norway, meanwhile, which is a very similar size, spread, and population to Aotearoa (albeit with trickier terrain and much more hostile winters), is about to launch this slick looking sleeper train.\

And in case you missed it, this was the week of #railforceone making its way through Ukraine.

Ukrainian Railways apparently have several of these ‘hotel/conference’ train cars, shown here taking President Biden to Kyiv.

Friday sign-offs

Highlights from a big couple of years in the life of Dom Whiting, AKA Drum n Bass on a bike. Who knew a cycling DJ would bring so much joy?

The one in which Bugs Bunny’s house is threatened by freeway construction. An evergreen fight.

Hei te rāhina. See you on Monday and have a lovely weekend!

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  1. This almost slipped under the radar: despite everyone’s predictions, Auckland Light Rail has actually started work, in the sense of taking core samples in Sandringham:

    Also worth noting that the project’s official website has been updated (in looks, anyway, and there’s a dead link or two), including news of a new appointment to the board from a Property Development background:

    All this is very confusing. All the smart political writers were saying the project was goneburgers. The Nats will certainly cancel it when they win the election. So I wonder what Michael Wood is playing at pretending it’s still a going concern.

    1. The Herald reports the same story, and also gives the treasury budget estimate of between $7.3 billion and $29.2 billion. In light of the way the CRL cost rose, and the still unreleased update post covid, I think a lot of people are looking at the $29.2B figure and thinking this needs reworking. It could still turn into surface LRT on Dom Rd. Drilling some holes to do some geotech investigations isn’t really starting construction.

      1. I generally consider Thomas Coughlan to be a fool, and this article is pretty much him making things up and then arguing against them himself, but still it’s worth reading if you can get behind the Herald paywall:

        Something that I do think he gets right is this: “One of the criticisms of the project is that the Government has attached too many ancillary schemes to it, turning an already significant transport project into a housing and urban renewal scheme. Paradoxically, this acts as something of a protection of the scheme. Axing it could cause other dominoes to tumble.”

        Look at that in combination with their latest appointment to the board, an “Urban regeneration professional”:

        The “property development” part of the project – the intensification on Kainga Ora land around Sandringham/Wesley which requires the route to make a “dog leg” – is something that we on this blog have been very down on, but it might be the linchpin holding the whole project together. This is why, sadly, I think surface on Dom Road will never happen, precisely because it doesn’t have that property development focus – we’re getting the tunnel to Sandringham or nothing (because you can’t run Sandringham Road surface rail because of services)

      2. Here’s another thing which is weighing on my mind. Many commenters here, and Twitter urbanists, are baffled and contemptuous as to how Labour are pushing on with this option when people like us are rejecting it. How could they possibly think they can get it across the line without the “PT advocate” community behind them? Is the answer that Labour/Wood are actually trying to appeal to a *different* stakeholder base – one which has more socio-economic weight than we do?

        Think about this in the context of the property development people who are being named to the board, and the work that the ALR people have been doing to build support in Māngere. I’ve worried that GA’s analysis is politically naive, in that – for example – it dismisses the planned surface route along Bader Drive without dealing with the fact that it’s legitimately popular in the local community.

        Perhaps I’m just naive in that – when people are doing something which I consider to be wrong from my point of view – I don’t immediately leap to “they’re stupid”, “they’ve been duped” or “it’s a conspiracy to make us look like they want to do it when really they don’t”. I wonder: do they know something I don’t, or are working on a logic which is not the same as mine?

        1. As a semi regular on 31 and 38 which run along Bader drive past the new reasonably intense infill housing I would have to say passenger numbers are steady but not spectacular. Will passenger numbers soar with light rail. Many passengers will need to tranfer just to get to Onehunga unless we have both light rail and local buses making the trip across the harbour. There are presently three buses 36 38 and 209 each on its own route through Mangere to Onehunga each typically with 3 or 4 passengers. One area that flooded in Mangere was only a couple of hundred metres from Bader Drive this will need to be fixed no matter what happens.

        2. They don’t know anything you don’t. I gain a strange amusement watching people do the wrong thing really well. Even doing the right thing, but making total a dog’s dinner of it, would be better. The real question is will this current project end when this government are thrown out or will it end sooner? That really depends on how stubborn the current ministers are. They say history rhymes. This is a bit like the late 80s version of light rail that was going to share the NIMT, Western line and Eastern line with freight trains. Eventually the stupidity of that scheme meant it slowly fizzled out. But that process was aided by the Perth DMUs making it redundant.

      3. And with both the CRL and Watercare’s Central Interceptor due for completion in 2024/5 there is now a crew that know how to Bore/dig the Tunnels and if the ALR doesn’t start when these finish we as a country will loose their expertise that they have learn’t from the overseas contractors . And that should help keep the cost of labour down as they won’t have to train a new crew .

        1. Duker – With the Central Interceptor the Spoil is being brought out by Rail to the main portal , and the same also happened on the Vector Tunnel when that was being constructed by both TBM and Roadheader machine and there they had 3 portals .
          The digging of the 2 station boxes at K’rd that was dug by a roaheader machine and all spoil was brought up inside the building on the easern end of Mercury lane .

        2. Duker – I worked on the Vector tunnel and started there just after a Worker died when he was killed by a electric Locomotive fell on top of Him when both fell into the hole where the spoil was dumped at Hobson St , before it was lifted to the top of the 20metre shaft . And the depth of the other 2 shafts at Penrose and Newmarket were 60metres deep so conveyors were impractical especially from where the Tbm stopped opposite St Peters under the Motorway as that section to Hobson St had so many twist and turns it would not have worked and that section was built insitue . the Lendth of that tunnel was around 9km long similar to what the watercare tunnel is .

          And also you need 3 crews as the Tbm will not stop working for a day off .

  2. In lighter news: THE BALLAD OF RAILROAD MAN

    “His eyes, they say, were made of coal
    And his feet were railroad spikes
    His trains had 7 stars on Yelp
    And a billion Facebook likes!”

    CW: very strong language

  3. Pedestrian priority at intersections and driveways. What a revolutionary concept!

    I recall my first time in Europe, crossing a side street in Berlin. A turning car just… stopped. In their lane. Waiting for us to cross. My poor kiwi brain didn’t know what to do!

    Since being back in NZ I tend to confidently walk out with a “first in first served” attitude. It’s pretty awkward crossing with friends, seeing a turning vehicle coming, and the others do the kiwi “half-step-freeze” in the middle of the intersection or driveway (a very vulnerable position!) and I just keep walking and say “we’re here first, keep walking you noobs”.

    Regarding the bikes in natural disasters; when the quakes struck Wellington some years ago, causing the trains to stop and everyone to evacuate the city centre at once, the only people who got home in a reasonable time were the cyclists. I recall biking past absolute gridlock as far as the eye could see. Some people ended up walking to the Hutt along the highway.

    1. That always astonishes me. People can wait for 5 minutes for traffic to clear to turn right but will happily run over every pedestrian that dares to cross a side road. On the other hand, pedestrians are really surprised and hurry across the road making gestures to excuse them if I give them the right of way when I’m driving.

    2. Yes and yes.

      A system resilient to shocks is one in which the walking and cycling networks are safe, dense and comprehensive for everyday use. When a shock occurs, the density of paths means alternative routes are more likely to already exist. If repairs are required, they can restore the network quickly, as walking and cycling paths are smaller, less resource intensive, and cheaper to repair. Funds can therefore be put to many small repair projects at once.

      cf roads for motor vehicles, which are expensive to repair, sucking emergency funding dry and requiring a prioritisation exercise.

    1. What is the purpose of any advertising? presumably to encourage people to use the bus for the festival and hopefully get others out of cars. Might be worth the $5k

      1. Most advertising is to sell a product or service…This festival has free PT.
        Most of those products and services are more than a one off and the wrapping can be in place for months if not years, this one will ve what? A week?
        And you wonder why the public has zero confidence in AT.

    2. I don’t understand. Do you have a problem with AT advertising? Do you have a problem with AT advertising an event? Do you have a problem with the image? Or do you perhaps have a problem with what you called ‘that event’? Feel free to explain your views.

  4. Meanwhile Lambert/Brown/Lee have frozen work on Pitt St and surrounds redesign that was meant to be ready for the CRL
    We stand to miss out fully capitalising on CRL if the streetscapes are still relatively hostile, think what they’ve already put in place around Boston Rd / Nugent St, and what they might leave as is north of Karanga-a-Hape on Pitt St and west of Te Waihorotiu in the Hobson/Nelson St areas

    1. Just noticed this comment. WTF going on here? This is such a waste of opportunity and very annoying sounding if misses funding and have to dig twice (or never done for that matter….).

  5. Seeing Drum & Bass on a bike given a shout out here is my favourite crossover in history.

    Dom Whiting has done so much for bikes!

  6. Meanwhile former Auckland University Professor Dick Bellamy has an article in Saturday’s Herald (paywalled, but free on press reader) arguing ‘Housing intensification plan for Auckland should be dumped due to flood risks’. He states:
    “While there is a need to develop more affordable housing and provide more social housing, there is no immediate reason for the council to push stubbornly ahead with PC78. Indeed, recent demographic data indicates that Auckland’s current population growth is actually declining. The Unitary Plan of 2016 already provides the opportunity for 900,000 new homes to be built over the next 30 years. Indeed, there is no shortage of available dwelling sites in Auckland.

  7. One News has Luxon as saying “We have to end the practice of some councils of running down their water assets to build art galleries or cycleways, as important as they are, but as a result neglecting their core responsibility for vital services.” They were citing a speech Luxon made to the Blue Greens. In a press release Luxon refers to Councils spending money on “other things”, which presumably his supporters recognise as cycleways. I think “art galleries” may be a reference to something else also.

  8. And now KR have more work on their plate after Cyclone Hale rampage which has closed the NAL from Swanson to Whangarei . And with most of the links to Whangarei sea may be an alternative like it was before the deregulation of rail ad trucking industry ;-

  9. Some news that seemed to be missed as a separate post or in the weekly roundups and even anyone’s comments is some bus time table changes.

    Services changing from Sunday 19 February
    Central Auckland:
    22A, 22N, 22R, 24B, 24R, 24W, 25B, 252, 25L, 253, 27T, 30, 68, 101, 106, 309, 309X
    North Shore and Hibiscus Coast:
    82, 878, 926, 933, 966, 981, 982
    South Auckland:
    309, 309X, 325
    West Auckland:
    22A, 22N, 22R, 68, 162
    Services changing from Sunday 19 March
    Central Auckland:
    743, 747, 762, 783
    East Auckland:
    734, 735

    Mostly seems to be removing some extra “very peak” services from a number of routes & minor timetable changes. There seems to be a shift from peak to all day frequencies reflecting that PT is getting used for everyday activities more in Auckland.

    But there is also:
    Some improved frequencies on the 926, 933 & 966.
    Improvements to bus connections with Half Moon Bay ferries

    On the real positive is two routes becoming frequent ones.
    These are the 743 becoming 74 and the 762 to become the frequent 76.
    The 743 had more recently been improved from a connector to every 20 mins and is a local for me. It runs through a number of train stations/hubs (Onehunga, Sylvia Park, Panmure, Glen Innes).
    The 762 runs from Glen Innes to Britomart.
    I wonder if both of these services have partly been altered in anticipation of the train line going down in a few months for rebuild work.
    The ghost 747 bus sadly had been reduced some 20mins frequencies to 30mins sadly.
    Interestingly the 325 bus is now every 20mins weekdays rather than 15/30 peak/interpeak.

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