Roundup is back! We skipped last week’s Friday post due to a shortage of person-power – did you notice? Lots going on out there…
Our header image this week shows a green street that just happens to be Queen St, by @chamfy from Twitter.
This week (and last) in Greater Auckland
Last Tuesday, Matt asked: Is Auckland Light Rail getting even further off track?
Then on Wednesday, Matt looked at how government is speeding away from the evidence on safety by hauling back on plans to reduce speeds on state highways.
Last Thursday’s post, also by Matt, addressed the rising cost of the CRL as a result of COVID.
This week on Monday Matt covered the “Mission Accomplished” news that Auckland’s motorway system is now complete.
Tuesday’s post by Matt offered a GA guide to submitting on Council’s proposed budget.
Wednesday’s post by Matt looked at solutions to the unforeseen and yet entirely predictable rainy-evening gridlock of the night before.
And on Thursday, a guest post by Tim Adriaansen explored the miraculous joys of e-bikes.
Have your say on the proposed Auckland Council Budget
Feedback closes 11pm on Tuesday 28 March, so if you haven’t already had your say, now’s the time, and here’s the link.
Currently, feedback is running heavily in favour of male, older, and Pākehā citizens – so do encourage all your friends, whanau, flatmates and the younger generation to add their voices.
Stuck for what to say? See the list of submission guides below. Many make a point also made by Bernard Hickey: that this is a manufactured crisis, the indiscriminate cuts will damage resilience – and other financial solutions are in our hands. Or as Verity Johnson put it, the Mayor “has played us for mugs”.
- Greater Auckland’s guide to transport-oriented feedback
- A Better Budget for Auckland submission guide: based on an alternative budget that finds an alternative to austerity. Their “what are you losing?” page lays out what’s at stake.
- Stop the Cuts has a submission guide for supporting arts, culture, and community development, and a list of what’s for the chop (more here)
- And Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick is fronting a Green Party-initiated submission guide in favour of climate action and social equity
- City Vision’s submission guide focuses on the idea of what we value.
- Looking to speak up for a more bikeable city? Check out Big Street Bikers’ submission guide, and the Te Whau Pathway guide, and Bike Auckland’s advice is to “oppose the proposed changes to the climate action targeted rate and show your support for more investment in walking, cycling, and public transport.”
Here’s a good backgrounder by Tommy daSilva at the Spinoff on the whole process.
And lastly, a top tip for giving feedback in a way that’s most easily summarised for the report that will guide councillors when they vote:
Keep it short and sweet, one point per sentence, e.g.:
- I support a higher than proposed general rates increase
- I support an overall rates increase higher than proposed
- I don’t support proposed reductions to natural environment or water quality targeted rates
— Rod Emmerson (@rodemmerson) March 18, 2023
The week in bike news
The cycling budget is the health budget
Budget cuts don’t just remove investment from the system, they slash the wider benefits that come from what you’re investing in. See this news from the UK:
The government’s decision this month to slash the budget for cycling and walking in England by more than 50% could cost more than £2bn in the long term through its impact on public health and the wider economy, a Labour analysis has estimated.
Labour used the Department for Transport’s (DfT) own analysis, which says that active travel investments have a “very high” expected benefit-to-cost ratio of £5.62 per £1 spent.
This is in part because of improvements to areas such as road safety and pollution if more people walk or cycle rather than drive, but also because of the significant health impact of people becoming more physically active. The DfT report notes that active travel is a particularly good way for people to embed activity into their everyday lives.
A Golden Age of cargo bikes
Maybe one day our government will wake up to the benefits?
It feels as if the industry and the government have simultaneously woken up to the enormous potential of cargo e-bikes to replace car trips and improve the environment, and honestly, it’s about time.
The planet-and-community-saving superpower of cargo e-bikes is widely known. They’ve been shown to decrease car dependency, save people money, reduce carbon emissions, and speed up delivery times for businesses. That probably explains why they’re so dang popular, selling at a more rapid clip than traditional bikes and even other electrified models.
Interestingly, the research suggests cargo bikes are ridden more than other bikes.
According to Meruva, bike makers are waking up to several salient points about cargo e-bikes; most notably, they’re ridden a lot more than other types of e-bikes. Used cargo bikes clock an average mileage of 766.5 miles, almost double that of commuter, sport, or, performance e-bikes, Meruva found.
A Cycling Action Plan for Aotearoa
Waka Kotahi quietly launched a Cycling Action Plan this week, describing it as:
…a pathway to significantly increase the safety and attractiveness of cycling and micromobility in towns and cities across Aotearoa New Zealand.
It outlines the strategic priorities for Waka Kotahi, and includes the detailed actions we will take, alongside our partners, to help achieve the substantial shifts required. While it is not a funding plan, it will help inform future transport prioritisation and investment decisions.
Note that this is an interim plan, designed to help councils develop their long-term plans and to guide changes at Waka Kotahi that will support towns and cities to deliver cycling infrastructure:
An expanded National Cycling Plan is also being developed, which is due for release by the end of 2023. This is an action within the government’s 2022 Emissions Reduction Plan.
This warms my heart, people feeling comfortable riding with their most precious cargo. Made possible by a few concrete protectors. pic.twitter.com/pwp6p4xtwm
— Kathryn King (@KingCyclesAkl) March 22, 2023
Public Transport bites
The government’s recent policy purge included dropping a focus on achieving mode shift outside of the big cities. This is disappointing, because while many of our smaller cities and towns may not individually make up a large share of the PT pie, by their forces combined they could make a sizeable impact. And their smaller size means it doesn’t take much to roll out some good, cost-effective networks.
A great piece covered this in The Spinoff earlier this week
In 2017 Queenstown began a new, regular timetable with buses seven days a week, at least every half hour from 6am to midnight. In its first year alone, passenger numbers grew 182%.
New public transport projects in even smaller towns have been a raging success, like Timaru’s MyWay on-demand bus service, now chalking up some 600 boardings a day. Taranaki’s rural Connector bus saw passengers triple between 2021 and 2022, and Otago’s Palmerston-Dunedin bus is, according to some, so popular it’s getting dangerous.
“For Auckland to double or triple patronage now they’ll need expensive long-term interventions like new infrastructure and bus priority. They should absolutely do that, but we’re missing the low-hanging fruit: There’s an Auckland-sized city of people living in urban areas like Dunedin, Napier, New Plymouth and Whanganui. If we can increase their public transport use as much as Queenstown did just by investing in improved routes and timetables, we can make a huge dent in emissions cheaply and quickly.”
The Bike + PT Combo
The Spinoff also ran another great piece about simple improvements Auckland could make to help people combine cycling with public transport:
One little discussed part of this conversation is how people get to the bus, ferry or train. In the Netherlands, a bastion of planet-friendly transport in the western world, half of all train passengers arrive by bike – equating to half a million people daily. Combining more than one form of transport is known as multi-modal transport. If more Aucklanders biked to PT it would help unlock the latent potential of sustainable transport in the city, being a relatively cheap and fast way to get to the PT stop and back home. Could the city of sails follow the Netherlands’ lead?
Currently the answer is no.
The Parking Space
Melbourne is looking to reform how it manages parking. This sounds somewhat similar to the changes Auckland Transport started makeing about a decade ago. (Of course, AT still needs to keep rolling out this approach to many other locations, and should at the very least keep parking charges in line with public transport fares.)
It also signals a move towards demand-based pricing for carparking as a measure to reduce the number of vehicles circulating congested streets looking for spaces.
City of Melbourne surveys show that for every 100 cars entering the city to park, 5 found on-street parking immediately and 95 circulated the city. Of these, 36 found an off-street car park, but the other 59 either took time to find an on-street space, parked illegally, or travelled further out.
The council’s plan reports that the cost of parking in the city, now a metropolis of 4.6 million people, is subsidised by up to 130%.
The plan also says that only 14 per cent of people shopping in the municipality drive and park a car on-street, while 60 per cent arrive by other modes of transport. There is a perception that retail is dependent on parking, but the evidence shows otherwise.
You ever see those color-coded maps of how much downtown land is devoted to car storage? @Parking_Reform has put them all in one place, and ranked 50+ U.S. cities by their parking land use https://t.co/crGNnvRnRz pic.twitter.com/jpmX6JKrdi
— Henry Grabar (@henrygrabar) March 23, 2023
The continued costs of car-choked cities
Everyone wants less traffic. For good reasons.
We recently heard about how air pollution is killing us early, with data indicating just two pollutants are associated with 3,317 premature deaths and 13,155 hospitalisations every year in Aotearoa.
Now similar research has emerged from New South Wales – though surprisingly, with much lower results, and much of the blame put on non transport sources.
Air pollution in New South Wales is estimated to cause 603 premature deaths and increase health costs by $4.8bn each year, according to a long-term government study.
The largest source of air pollution was found to be wood heaters, which are used in about 10% of homes across the region. The study found they were likely to contribute to 269 premature deaths annually. Users of wood heaters were estimated to have lost 3,279 years of life between them– an average of about 12 years a person.
Other major causes of air pollution affecting health were industrial sites including mines (133 deaths and $1bn in health costs), cars and trucks (110 deaths and $832m) and coal power stations (46 deaths and $346m).
“These astronomical health costs really put radical policy solutions on the table,” he said.
“For example, the cost of reducing all public transport fares to $1 is estimated at $750m. That’s less than the annual health cost caused by petrol and diesel vehicles of $900m.”
Meanwhile, Tuesday evening’s congestion reminds us that too much traffic costs hours of our lives on a daily basis. Even the AA wants to hurry up and reduce the amount of driving we do:
The AA agreed there needed to be a reduction in driving but it had a problem with the government’s plan to achieve this.
“We’d like to see less planning and more time figuring out how we can really turn the dial on emissions,” Glynn said.
Congestion is no laughing matter, and yet, the contagious giggles in this clip speak volumes. We really are stuck in a stupid situation. Can we logic our way out of it?
As suggested in a reply to the tweet, the transport agencies could start by prominently displaying the bike travel time on signs. After all, they’ve long been in the business of making business cases governed by “travel time savings”. Surely they’re not actively trying to hide their active modes network from their customers?
The week in floods, fires, and other impacts of global warming
This week, the IPCC released their synthesis report of the recent work on climate change. Stuff’s local climate team has some great summaries of what the report means with some really good data viz of the key points.
In a nutshell, as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says:
“Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast. Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”
Radio NZ’s coverage included Professor Bronwyn Hayward of the University of Canterbury, who helped work on the report:
Cities were key, as the site of about 70 percent of global emissions.
“What we do in our local cities and our local communities really makes a difference to cut emissions. That’s a more manageable thing for people to cope with.”
Climate resilient development was easier in cities, such as increasing green spaces and public transport, and thinking about social support for housing and income replacement after disasters.
See also this related piece by Prof Hayward, which notes: “Decisions made at the level of local councils are going to be significant globally in terms of bringing national and global emissions down and protecting people.”
That’s especially important when the people we need to protect the most are barely old enough to vote, and many aren’t even born yet, as this powerful IPCC graphic shows:
Meanwhile, this week an Auckland Council committee voted 6:4 to (temporarily?) define climate action as “discretionary”:
We do live in hellishly interesting times. Is there room for optimism? This piece from a year or so ago notes, if you’re looking for hope, you’ll find it via action – being a good ancestor starts with being a good neighbour, and talking to people about what’s happening:
Climate action isn’t a giant boulder sitting at the bottom of a steep hill with just a few hands on it. It’s already at the top of the hill, it’s already got millions of hands on it, and it’s already slowly rolling in the right direction. It just needs to go faster.
That’s our roundup for the week. Let us know what else has been on your radar. And have a great weekend enjoying the last of the long summer evenings.
PS We can have nice things. The Auckland Arts Festival wraps up this weekend with SPARK, a free event (register online for tickets) at the Domain, featuring… biodegradable fireworks? Sounds neat!