Welcome to Friday, it’s been a crazy week of weather in Auckland and we’re certainly looking forward to what is meant to be a more settled weekend. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday, Matt asked if it is finally time to reform Kiwirail
- On Wednesday Matt looked at the impacts on public transport of the latest storm induced chaos
- Yesterday a guest post shone a light on intercity rail in the Upper North Island
A continued focus on Kiwirail
Kiwirail’s failures have continued to be in the news this week, including this good piece from Radio NZ’s The Detail looking at how things have gotten so bad.
“There are a lot of different players all getting into the same spaces and sometimes their aims and their lines of organisation and accountability don’t seem to match up and they’re on different pages,” says Hatton.
Added to the complex ownership and management structure are the ongoing maintenance and upgrade issues.
“The issues in Auckland are huge,” says Hatton, with passengers facing disruptions over the next few years while KiwiRail fixes stress on the lines, ahead of the opening of the City Rail Link.
She says the recent Wellington and Auckland problems reflect a much deeper systemic problem.
Brett tells The Detail what he thinks needs to happen to bring our train services up to scratch and how our railway needs the same treatment as roads.
“We shovel billions and billions of dollars every year into road construction and maintenance and we don’t ask the state highway network to be returning profits. We recognise that this is important for our transport. We need to do the same with rail.”
The other major disruption event recently was Auckland’s weather event on Tuesday. A few articles stand out.
Auckland Transport executive general manager safety Stacey van der Putten agreed it was not good enough that the public transport system ground to a halt just when everybody was trying to get home.
Van der Putten said Auckland Transport was continuing to work on its network’s resilience.
It was important to note that bus services were part of the general traffic, she said.
“So when there is a huge volume of traffic trying to get out of the city or to where they need to be – they are part of that so those delays are consistent in terms of for private motor vehicles as well as the normal bus services.”
This almost reads like she’s saying that if drivers have to suffer congestion, PT users have to too.
For example, KiwiRail was undertaking a substantial rebuild programme on the train network which would increase the ability of the network to accommodate weather events, she said.
“Also with our bus network in terms of reprioritising that road space so that buses have priority in and out of the city.”
When there are huge volumes of traffic, if buses do not have priority they become part of that general traffic which leads to further delays, she said.
In the short term Auckland Transport would be looking at what it could do when the next storm strikes in terms of ensuring buses are able to leave the city with bus lanes a priority, she said.
This is the first time I’ve heard the rail network rebuild described as being about the lines being able to deal with weather events. If true, that would be good –but then I’d have thought we’d have heard more about it by now if this was the case.
And AT have lots of ability to add bus lanes and extend bus lane hours. The issue is that proposals often get caught in awful internal processes where traffic engineers obsessed with vehicle flow get to dictate outcomes or at least hold up progress. And the proposals that do get through, then have to go through extensive public consultation processes.
AT management could change that if they wanted to.
The Spinoff also had a good piece, titled Five reasons why one deluge brought a whole city to a halt.
What’s less understood, according to [Andrew] McGill [ATs head of Integrated Network Planning], is the extent to which a lack of permanent bus lanes feeds into the speed of the network, particularly during atypical events. Because the storm occurred around lunchtime, many bus lanes which operate as clearways during rush hour had cars in them, whether parked or with drivers at the wheel. “The core thing that we can do is put in place more bus priority,” says McGill. “That’s the number one thing we can do so that the bus system is robust, works faster, works harder, and gets people going where they need to.”
If only there was an organisation who had the power to install bus lanes – maybe AT should have a word to them.
Micro-mobility for the win
Stuff covered the adventure of a pair of friends who used e-scooters to beat the congestion to get home.
Tupou told Stuff they were told to leave work at 12.30pm, and ordered an Uber to get home as the rain fell.
“We were still waiting by 1.30 because all the Ubers kept cancelling on us, then we were like, ‘OK, looks like we’re going to have to take the bus because trains were down,’” he said.
“The first bus that came through was packed, next one was too. That took about another hour as they were all crawling along.”
The duo decided eventually to ride escooters to “at least get out of the city” and then try to get a bus outside of the CBD,
“We ended up getting scooters from around Spark Arena to get to Ponsonby,” Tupou said.
The idea was to take a bus from there, but the plan was soon ditched.
“When we got there, we decided we were having too much fun, so we said, ‘Stuff it, let’s go all the way.’”
Joining Four Tunnels
A video from City Rail Link about the junction at Maungawhau
Designing Transit maps
A really cool video on designing a transit map, in this case focused on Oslo
What are we going to do with Highway Engineers?
A fascinating inwards look from a highway engineer in the UK.
In other words, highway engineers will need to emerge from their silo and approach future challenges in a much more holistic way.
However much we may wish for it to happen, the car will not go away. A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research has concluded that there will be 25% more cars on the roads by 2050 as the shift to electric vehicles causes a congestion crisis. Therefore, highway engineers will still need to design for car movement, but the emphasis will have to change from one that maximises traffic capacity to one that ‘tames’ the car.
Much more than that however, highway engineers will need to spread their wings and even more importantly they will have to raise their voices. We will have to challenge ourselves (and all other fellow professionals around us) to start thinking in new ways. We will simply need to show leadership and to make sure that we are at the forefront of asking the big questions and providing solutions to the big challenges that we (and the whole world) will be facing.
Tweets and threads of the week
This is something Auckland should aspire to.
— Lennart Nout (@lennartnout) May 9, 2023
Looking good, Christchurch!
Update: Looking good ✅
— adam lines (@adamlines_) May 10, 2023
It’s hard not to love grassed track light rail through cities.
New grassy trams are going up in Berlin! pic.twitter.com/uNrbodnbJx
— FuckCars (@FuckCarsReddit) May 8, 2023
The proponents of tunnelled light rail love to claim that the alternative is trams stuck in traffic – when that’s not what was ever proposed, and not what is best practice
The trams of Europe have really opened my eyes to how inefficient streetcars are in Toronto. European trams fly through city streets, often operating on restricted ROW and fully automated dual point switches, and TSP at intersections. They never wait for turning vehicles first. pic.twitter.com/TriSZhhqYj
— Justin 🚄🎵🔋🌈 (@not_taylorx) May 7, 2023
Toronto is getting on the housing bandwagon:
Be a street.
In a world full of stroads, be a street. pic.twitter.com/gtS8qeshgk
— Strong Towns (@StrongTowns) May 9, 2023
This definitely applies here
Mobility politics. pic.twitter.com/DDLheZrCGA
— Cycling Professor 🚲 (@fietsprofessor) May 10, 2023