With Good Friday tomorrow, we thought we’d do the weekly roundup a day early this week. Here’s a basket of reading goodies for your long weekend.
Our header image this week, via the Auckland City Centre Residents Group, shows a social gathering in the Emily Place park (a legacy project of the original Innovating Streets programme, still going strong.)
The Week in Greater Auckland
It’s been a bus-y week (see what we did there?) with three posts by Matt about PT:
- On Monday, the question was what to do about the Northern Busway
- Tuesday looked at the next stage of the Eastern Busway
- and Wednesday covered the ongoing bus cancellation crisis
And let’s not forget our extraordinary April 1 scoop about the real plans for the tunnel across the isthmus.
The One-Car Life
Jack Tame has downsized his car situation and doesn’t regret it one bit. Do read the whole article – here’s a taster:
Three months ago, my girlfriend and I decided to become a one-car couple. Between us, living in two different houses, in different suburbs, with her son and various jobs to balance, we decided to see if we could get by with just the one vehicle.
The theory was pretty simple. Whenever I could, I would ride my bike. She would walk more and use public transport. Both of us would have to be a bit thoughtful about our requirements in advance. I thought of it as Corolla coordination, as we tried to plan out our weeks as best we could.
If it was raining, or we had stuff to carry, or we were running late for an important meeting, we wouldn’t guilt ourselves about spending money on Ubers. I figured whatever we spent on Ubers would be more than covered by our savings on a new car, insurance, and petrol.
Today is April 1st, three months into 2023. Three months since we made the switch. The thing that has surprised me most is how easy the whole thing has been.
Tories love low-traffic neighbourhoods too!
Far too often recently, discussion of transport policies devolve into political tribalism and attempts to whip up a culture war about any old change. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the 15-minute city concept have been particularly politicised, as covered in a recent episode of our favourite podcast.
So it’s refreshing to see this piece from The Spectator on recent changes to traffic circulation in Oxford, England, which makes the case for why conservatives should naturally support these ideas too:
… I think my fellow Tories are wrong to damn these proposals so vociferously. The ambition behind 15-minute cities is fundamentally conservative. For too long, we have unthinkingly defended the rights of the motorists and ignored their challenge to many of our basic beliefs. They are noisy, polluting, and destructive; they cause cities to be shaped around vehicles, not people. More traffic is associated with weaker communities, worse air quality, and unhappier lives.
Of course, we can challenge the details of future schemes. Many motorists will lose out, and we should always remain attentive to their concerns. But that should not stop us from seizing the initiative. We should aim to make cities as nice as possible to walk and cycle around. In Oxford, the pandemic-era pedestrianisation of Broad Street should be extended, and more street trees and green spaces introduced. We should ensure new construction reflects the city’s historic and beautiful character.
'LTNs rUiN BusINesSES!!!'
— Jon Burke (@jonburkeUK) March 31, 2023
A change of heart and a change of mind about bike lanes
It’s possible! Here’s a really compelling first-person piece from NYC by someone who went into a community meeting all fired up about opposing bike lanes, and then changed her mind as she listened to other people’s reasons for wanting them. Know anyone here who could learn from this experience?
After hearing such heartbreaking testimonies, I hit the brakes and made a complete 180-degree turn. I went from being dug in about not wanting to accommodate cyclists to realizing that I had no clue about the ramifications not having such infrastructure has on cyclists and the people who love them. In too many cases, the lack of safe space to bike has resulted in lost lives — brothers, wives, roommates, and friends killed because our streets are not conducive to imperative road sharing.
Telling people to ride their bike 1-3 streets over is never considered an inconvenience.
Asking people to park a block away from their destination is an unbelievable attack on innocent motorists
— Ollie Oliver (@Ollie_Cycles) April 2, 2023
Related: this recent discussion of How We Talk About Cycling, hosted at the Gribblehurst Hub and featuring two sitting councillors, Julie Fairey and John Watson, and AT’s head of cycling, Adrian Lord. One of the more revealing questions was about what, if anything, changed your mind about bikes and the infrastructure that supports more people to ride.
Speaking of which:
Two different views from Upper Queen Street this morning.
One shows the pinnacle of human transport engineering. The other features a motorway. pic.twitter.com/XwAFXE9ve2
— Critical_Mass (@CriticalMassAKL) April 4, 2023
Changes afoot and ahead at AT…
This week, Auckland Transport’s new CEO, Dean Kimpton, started in the role. But just before he took the reins, AT launched a full-on restructure in a bid to save money. The Easter timing seems awfully symbolic: will the organisation rise again, and deliver eternal life or even just a lower rate of DSI on the roads?
Auckland Transport is preparing to restructure and cut jobs by July as it faces slashed funding in the council’s next budget.
The more than 2000 staff at the council agency have been told the two-week consultation process will begin on April 18.
Outgoing interim chief executive Mark Lambert broke the news in a message on his last day in the role.
“We want to give you as much notice as possible about the consultation period, given the Easter break and the school holidays coming up, so you can be prepared to receive important updates from your leaders, and to give feedback,” Lambert told staff.
Auckland Transport would not put a figure on how sizeable the job cuts might be when asked by Stuff.
…and some Ferry troubling news, heading into the weekend
Why is Fullers allowed to prioritise running their commercial “for profit” services ,while failing to operate the ones they’ve contractually agreed to provide?
Some Auckland ferry services will be replaced by Ubers and buses over Easter Weekend, as there’s not enough skilled maritime crew to staff all vessels.
Auckland Transport (AT) and Fullers360 on Wednesday advised customers there will be “alternative” transport options for customers, due to shortage of maritime crew.
Some Half Moon Bay and inner harbour loop services (Birkenhead, Bayswater and Te Onewa Northcote Point) have been cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, “to maintain the Waiheke Island timetable”.
There may be “further delays” to Waiheke Island, Hobsonville Point and Devonport services, the agencies said in a statement.
… and a concerning approach to cycleway design
Letter where Mr Mayor brags about riding on the footpath and calls a project that includes bus lanes and pedestrian crossings a cycleway project pic.twitter.com/XAfWD8yPbe
— Jon Turner (@JonTurnerNZ) April 4, 2023
Brussels makes a Good Move to speed up public transport
We’ve talked a lot about the need to speed up public transport to ensure reliable journeys. Brussels has done just that.
The plan reduced car traffic through the city centre by redirecting and making more one-way streets
Last week, Brussels’ public transport company, the STIB, published a report on the city’s Good Move plan. The report states that trams and buses have been able to shave off from one to five minutes from their travel times thanks to the improved traffic plan. According to the city, a five-minute travel time reduction increased speed for passengers by around 25%.
The plan was originally introduced in August of 2022 and aimed to reorganize traffic going through the Belgian capital’s so-called ‘Pentagon’. The Pentagon is an area in the centre of the city and is a tourist and traffic crossroads.
However, Brussels Alderman for Mobility, Bart Dhondt, introduced the plan to direct traffic away from the city centre, increasing the area’s appeal for pedestrians and cyclists at the cost of personal transportation.
Cities just keep making space for people, and people keep loving it
Paris is the original 15-minute city, and the city of light continues to change and grow, as this great long read by Henry Grabar illuminates.
It was a wet winter day, and the street was playing its most basic role as a way to get from A to B. But Parisians were walking three abreast, wheeling strollers, bicycles, shopping carts, and suitcases, a rare thing in a city where many sidewalks are just a few feet wide. For residents with disabilities, he noted, it’s a clear improvement on the status quo. It seems to be a law of the car-free city that people, once given the opportunity, will immediately walk right down the middle of the street.
“Children today, we tell them either to be at school, or at home, or at the park, and they’ve disappeared from the street,” lamented [Christophe Najdovski, the city’s stern, self-assured deputy mayor in charge of green space]. “We want to bring kids back to the street.” As if on cue, a girl rolled around the corner on a bike with training wheels while her father looked on. “I promise I didn’t pay them,” the deputy mayor said, smiling.
Mind you, Paris has also decided to ban rental e-scooters, based on a non-binding referendum which had fairly low public turnout (103,000, roughly 7.5% of eligible voters) but voted overwhelming against them (around 90%).
Officials said they were surprised by the disparity in the vote, which was consistent across all arrondissements.
“There’s been a lot of concern and tension over scooters, but I didn’t expect these results,” [Paris Mayor Anne] Hidalgo said at a press conference late on Sunday.
Meanwhile in New York, here’s a nice look at a creative non-profit finding new ways to make pop-up spaces in public places.with rolling libraries, temporary playgrounds, and more:
“We’re part of an ecosystem,” Ms. Davol said. “We work with hundreds of groups. They all have this beautiful vision of community in their neighborhoods and we want to support it and be part of it.”
Tweets of the week
While Twitter still lives and breathes, it offers a remarkably real-time view of how Aucklanders experience our city, for better and for worse. Here’s a few that caught our attention this week. If you like the first clip, the full reel is here, along with more vintage coverage of Auckland’s traffic woes (and failed solutions).
Auckland 1960 pic.twitter.com/IQzZAmc21j
— Chamfy (@chamfy) April 4, 2023
— AK CC ResidentsGroup (@CityAklccrg) April 3, 2023
— Bryce Pearce (@BrycePearce) April 3, 2023
Fog descends pic.twitter.com/QmAaBj4YGF
— scoot! (@ScootFoundation) April 1, 2023
While you’re out and about, or pottering in the garden, here are a couple of good listens:
- Auckland’s very own Ben van Bruggen and The Urban Room features on The Monocle podcast.
- And the excellent 99% Invisible covers the Dutch transformation, which wasn’t inevitable.