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

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.”

Storm Coverage

The other major disruption event recently was Auckland’s weather event on Tuesday. A few articles stand out.

Radio NZ had this piece on Wednesday.

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.

Looking good, Christchurch!

It’s hard not to love grassed track light rail through cities.

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

Toronto is getting on the housing bandwagon:


Be a street.

This definitely applies here

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    1. The path pretty much can’t be done w/o the motorway (at least not the way the path has been design / consented). It sits on structures and ground substantially reshaped or affected by the motorway works. You could redesign it but then it would, in turn, block any future motorway works and would have to be uplifted and rebuilt in turn.

      A great example why depending on motorways to create our cycle network was never more than a band-aid while politicians dither about building cycleways on our streets.

      1. I was trying to find more without the design myself and I basically couldn’t… where’d you find design materials?

  1. Great post today, thanks – and I especially like the CRL video on the 4 tunnels, featuring the workers who are making it happen. Nice orange HiVis and good explanations – I never realised that the eastern lines were coming out underneath the western lines until now. Now I understand! They mentioned that in the end, it will all be covered up – does anyone now what will go on top? Buildings? Park? Cars and roads? The return of long-lost worker housing?

    1. Yes it’s good they have a proper reference to each tunnel so as to not get confused when working on them. Can’t wait to ride these CRL tunnels when they open.

  2. The weird part isn’t that everyone tried to go home after a Civil defense alert was issued and the transport system failed. The weird part is people knew there was a weather watch and then a weather warning but they went to the central area anyway. If you want get to home in an emergency then best to not start from there.

    1. It was a bit unexpected to me, a rain warning is serious, but it is not exactly like one of our volcanoes is going to erupt and we have to get out ASAP. In retrospect it seems many would have been better off staying at work for a while longer instead of sitting in the queue in a parking building for a few hours.

      1. Not everyone has the priveldge of being able to work from home, at minimum you expect your public transport system to work during a downpour…we don’t even get minimum in Auckland.

        1. Many people who can work productively from home are being compelled to do office hours. Why?

          Disclaimer: I have to work on site for specialized equipment.

  3. With this comment on the KR section ;-

    “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.”

    I came across this you tube video from RM Transit basically says the same –

    1. Ive never understood that obsession of returning profit from everything in NZ. You don’t make profit from hospitals or firefighters. Why from public transport. I really don’t get it

      1. Don’t think (m) any have tried with firefighters yet, but certainly there’s lots of countries where hospitals have to turn a profit. Them’s often the countries like the US where healthcare is unaffordable for the poor, and a major incident or disease can be bankrupting even for a middle class person.

        In short: Capitalism. The problem is unrestrained capitalism.

  4. Going , Going , Gone , My last part showing the Pukekohe Station Building which early this week ;-

  5. In this essay, you make a few points that are worth considering. If I hadn’t stumbled across this, I never would have taken the time to review any of this.

  6. It’s not that everyone sought to leave after a civil defense alarm was issued and the transportation system broke down; that’s not even the strange part. The strange thing is that even though there was a weather watch and subsequently a weather warning, people still chose to travel to the core region regardless. https://penaltykickonline.com

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