Welcome to the last Friday in April… that month went fast, eh? Settle in for a read of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
Another short work week with Anzac Day in the mix creating another welcome long weekend, so just two posts:
- On Wednesday, Matt looked at the options for the Onehunga line
- Thursday’s post was a guest article by Darren Davis and Malcolm McCracken, on the (rolling) tragedy of passenger rail in the lower North Island
At the end of March, Waka Kotahi launched a consultation on a future harbour crossing with a variety of bridge and tunnel options presented, with some potentially costing an eye-watering $25 billion. We covered the options here.
It’d be great if we could pick and choose the best bits – for example, start with the PT and active mode bridge from Option 4 and leave a road crossing as a separate project at a different time.
The consultation closes on Monday 1st of May so get your thoughts in now!.
Can’t Get No PT Satisfaction
The Spinoff has looked at Auckland Transport’s internal customer satisfaction metrics for public transport – and found, unsurprisingly, that it’s at an all-time low.
The first full week of March saw users’ satisfaction with their most recent public transport journey fall to an all-time low for the second consecutive week, at just 34% of respondents. The same figure was recorded the following week.
As far as overall satisfaction with the public transport system is concerned, the first week of March saw a record low of just 22% of users. That fell a further three points in the second week, to 19%, meaning that less than one in five public transport users declared themselves satisfied with the system. Most of the comments that accompanied survey responses addressed the cancellation or delay of services.
This seems wildly at odds with the satisfaction numbers AT regularly reports to its Board and shares with Council, via its Monthly Indicators reports. What’s the story?
Behind a paywall, alas, but worth digging up a copy at your fave cafe for Simon Wilson’s article on flexible streets, like this option:
The Italian firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) has developed a “Dynamic Street” with a “modular and reconfigurable paving system” made of hexagonal blocks of wood. Each paver has a hole in the middle: a socket for plug-and-play elements like bollards, a basketball hoop, whatever you can imagine.
The pavers might form a road for cars during the morning commute, then be re-configured as a kids’ playground and end the night as a party zone. You could trial a cycleway at almost no cost. You could change the ratios of space given to cars, walking, cycling, playing and hanging out, every day or every few years, however you perceive the need changing over time.
Changing the configuration of the pavers can be done “within hours or even minutes”, without digging up the road and with a minimum of other disruption to street users.
You know what’s even better than dynamic streets? A dynamic mayor who knows the smartest way to make streets better overnight.
The Tide rises in Whanganui…
Most of the focus of public transport discussion in NZ is on our major cities. But there’s heaps of opportunity in many of our smaller cities, too. This is a great thread on success in Whanganui.
Great news for Te Ngaru The Tide – Whanganui's new frequent bus service. This March, Whanganui saw an 86% increase in urban public transport trips compared to last March 2022.
45.4% of that patronage has come from The Tide. https://t.co/933wMsEXla pic.twitter.com/205V1zAz5n
— Anthonie Tonnon (@anthonietonnon) April 25, 2023
Buses are climate action
A nice read from Scientific American on the major role better bus services (and electric buses) will play in reducing carbon, and improving quality of life. “I think the bus is often overlooked as a climate solution, because it is overlooked as a solution, period.”
Newsflash: E-Bikes are climate action, and also cool and fun
E-bikes are having a moment, reports Business Insider, covering the e-bike boom in the United States. As one happy customer puts it, “I’m trading an activity that I absolutely hate doing, which is getting stuck in traffic, with something that I actually like doing, which is getting some exercise and riding my bike.”
And in yet another e-bike review, a former doubter works his way through the stages of e-bike revelation from “meh” to “huh” to “well, duh!” Another day, another e-bike convert!
Cycling through Dunedin Rail Tunnels?
This would be great.
Two decommissioned railway tunnels could open up a cycle route from Dunedin all the way to Queenstown.
They are the 462m-long Chain Hills Tunnel, opened in 1875, and the 865m-long Caversham Tunnel, which was opened two years earlier by Premier Julius Vogel.
By the early 20th century, the single-track structures had become surplus to requirements due to demand for double tracks.
Gerard Hyland, the chairperson of the Dunedin Tunnels Trail Trust, is pushing for the tunnels to be reopened to create a 15km cycle and walking path between Dunedin and Mosgiel.
Of course there’s the irony that these tunnels were replaced with double-track tunnels… which subsequently had their second track removed in the early 1980s, and now apparently don’t have enough capacity during the dairy season.
Found some pics by Ken Devlin of what can only be described as vandalism. After Dunedin's suburban trains ended in 1982, the double line to Mosgiel was singled—an impediment to resuming service now. Here are steam cranes dismantling a bridge at Kensington.https://t.co/aEnGtGEWva pic.twitter.com/E7FLn8vJf3
— André Brett (@DrDreHistorian) November 10, 2020
Oslo as a cycling city
A great video on how Oslo is rapidly making the city better for bikes, with considerable success. Put away your arguments about how the weather means nobody will cycle. It’s the infrastructure.
A perfect description of Auckland Council’s approach to young people
A classic example of Hayden Donnell’s investigative journalism, which starts with a deep dive into a quirky topic – in this case, a mysterious high-pitched noise in the foyer of Auckland Council’s building – and emerges with a larger truth. From The Spinoff:
Both Sims and Caldwell feel assailing young people with a painful noise weapon jibes with existing council policy. “This is not an institution that highly values what young people think and feel,” Sims says.
But perversely, those settings may be why the council doesn’t feel the need to broadcast high-pitched shrieking in its entranceways. When it comes to repulsing teens, an ultrasonic noise weapon has nothing on a speech from Wayne Walker. Most young people would rather insert a Mosquito device directly into their right eardrum than fill out a 14-page consultation document on a minor roundabout upgrade in Blockhouse Bay. Auckland’s mayor is 76. He’s younger than most of the people who turn up to town hall meetings. Why would the council bother installing a noise weapon? It’s doing a great job of repelling young people without one.
Another must-read is Hayden’s interview with AT’s new CEO Dean Kimpton. Related, “Hallucinating Cycleways” is the name of our next drum’n’bass album.
Rehabilitating AT’s reputation is a formidable task, mainly because everyone’s angry at the agency for radically different reasons. Kimpton’s first job is to appease the people who appointed him: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown, who repeatedly called for AT’s entire board to resign during his campaign, along with the city’s conservative-leaning councillors and their bitumen-loving constituents who spent the last term hallucinating cycleways across the city.
How three-year-olds see cities
VR95 is new virtual reality experience that transports users to a world many rarely see or consider. It’s not some fantasy land or extraordinary metaverse. Instead, VR95 (as the name suggests) shrinks users to see a typical city scene from 95 centimeters, or three feet and one inch. This is the height of an average 3-year-old child. The world, as seen through their eyes, is less than ideal.
“Basically you see cars and traffic, noise and pollution everywhere as a child from that perspective,” says Dr. Sara Candiracci of the global design, engineering and planning firm Arup. She’s the Europe lead for Arup’s Social Value and Inclusive Cities efforts, and was part of the development of the VR95 tool.
Of course, a more affordable and accessible option is to ask a child to guide you along their route to school, as in this excellent local video from Places for Good. And yet somehow our decision-makers still haven’t found a way to fix this one route.
Trams in France
Enjoy a tour of France’s light rail renaissance, featuring lots of before and after images…
And in the same theme.
With Auckland’s ongoing struggles to establish a vision for light rail, it’s astonishing that examples like these aren’t being put in front of communities for serious consideration.
Especially when communities are quick to articulate the advantages – for example, as Onehunga grapples with the latest concepts for how light rail and heavy rail might track through their area, the deputy chair of the Local Board says “she would potentially support light rail taking a route on surface streets instead.
Famous Last Words
In Tauranga, a huge flyover as part of the $262 million Baypark to Bayfair project opened this week. When finished, the project will effectively extend the Tauranga Eastern Link 1.7km closer to Tauranga. But these seem like famous last words – how long till traffic is just as bad as was?
Asked what impact the flyover would have on the wider city network, Tauranga City Council acting director of transport Anna Somerville said it would “improve freight and commuter journey times during the morning and evening peak”.
One for train lovers, kids, and kids at heart
An extremely heartwarming story from the New York Times, about an Autism Awareness Month campaign that put kids at the microphone to create their own versions of the train announcements that many love. What’s up, chicken wing? How about it, Auckland Transport?
Children with autism also latch onto phrases they hear in spaces where they are intensely focused and use them as some of their first means of communication, said Jonathan Trichter [an educator and the driving force behind the public service announcements].
“As a result, it is not unusual for a child in New York City who is on the spectrum to have, as his or her first full sentence, something like ‘Stand clear of the closing doors, please,’” Mr. Trichter said, reciting the familiar warning that plays throughout the city’s subway system.
Transit officials said they were glad to support the project. “We know that children on the spectrum are some of our biggest fans,” said James Allison, a spokesman for Bay Area Rapid Transit, which has played the children’s announcements at all 50 stations this month. “It seemed like a natural thing, and what a great way to give them a thrill.”
Tweets and threads of the week
The impact of reducing traffic on the quality of the air, Paris edition:
We've all seen the stories about how Paris is quickly getting rid of cars.
The impact on local air pollution is simply massive.
Originally shared by u/AccidentalParisian on reddit. pic.twitter.com/6RMSJYLkrD
— Duncan Gibb (@duncanmgibb) April 23, 2023
The urban delivery champion:
The SUV loophole:
Here's a nice, compact explanation of the "SUV loophole" that triggered the multi-decade trend toward gigantism in the US auto market. We did this to ourselves and we need to undo it. https://t.co/RcK0rs8K18
— David Roberts (@drvolts) April 21, 2023
Despite bipartisan support for road pricing during select committee, the government seems to have run scared, despite the benefits it could provide:
Congestion charges reduce urban car levels by anywhere from 12% to 33% https://t.co/9yc0XeetST
— Chris Slane Cartoons (@Slanecartoons) April 21, 2023
The umpteenth example of how car-free spaces bring cities to life:
Hoi An, Vietnam has pedestrianized its entire city centre.
As expected, it's deserted.
With no way to get there, not a senior or child in sight.
Unable to receive deliveries, shops and restaurants have nothing to sell.
Very unsafe, especially at night. pic.twitter.com/0bynJ2Kcx6
— Mihai Cirstea (@Mihai_Cirstea_) April 23, 2023
Related: a nice video about Real Groovy’s new location on Victoria Street, with the owner saying how much they’re looking forward to the Linear Park, which will make it “much more of a place for people to congregate and socialise.”
“We’re really looking forward to the opportunity to have live music outside in that area… which obviously contributes to making the city a more interesting place, and a place where people are going to want to hang out.
And of course when the CRL is completed, we’re going to be 50 metres from probably the busiest entrance of the busiest station in the country.”
And lastly, a cool image from City Rail Link from inside the tunnel portal at Maungawhau
Have a great weekend everyone – and as always, feel free to add your stories of the week in the comments below.