Welcome to Friday. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday, Matt looked at Christchurch’s proposal for light rail
- On Tuesday, Matt covered AT’s Hobson St consultation
- Yesterday, Matt highlighted how we’re taking resilience more seriously but we need to do the same with emissions reductions
The government delivered their latest budget yesterday. We’ll look to cover it in more detail next week but one thing that was a great addition is that as well as covering existing policies, such as PT being free for those under 13, then half price till 25 and better wages for bus drivers, the government is putting money in to help reinstate services that were cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
“We’re also putting money on the table for councils to restore public transport services to pre-pandemic levels. Public transport patronage has been increasing steadily since the pandemic but hasn’t reached the same levels yet. This funding will allow councils to consider reinstating cancelled services and minimise further service cuts to ensure Kiwis can access affordable, frequent, and reliable transport.
Yet another rail fault
In what is a far too regular occurrence, Auckland’s network suffered another serious failure yesterday.
Trains on a section of Auckland’s Southern and Eastern Lines are waiting for the all clear and power has been restored, after mass cancellations on Thursday evening due to a power outage on the lines.
Trains were not running between Penrose and Papakura rail stations during the evening rush hour. They had been replaced by buses, Auckland Transport said.
This is now far beyond a joke for rail users and how much more do we need to suffer before the government does something. At this point they’re more Kiwifail than Kiwirail.
Kiwirail’s Rail Control
While we’re on the topic of Kiwirail, they opened their new train control centre in Upper Hutt yesterday
KiwiRail has opened its new railway traffic control centre, allowing it to monitor nearly all of New Zealand’s track and train issues in real time.
The new control centre in Upper Hutt watches over every railway track from Invercargill to Whangārei, bar the Auckland commuter network which has its own separate centre.
“We know the Wellington Railway Station has a relatively low earthquake rating and if it shuts down, it would stop most train movements around the country.
“Having a brand new centre that is safe from tsunamis, slips, and liquefaction just makes sense.”
The 2800m2 facility will be staffed by more than 100 people and is located at the Blue Mountains Campus in Wallaceville – a site KiwiRail signed a 25-year lease for in 2021.
The facility tracks and monitors each line around the country in real time, giving the operational team the ability to direct traffic or negotiate track obstructions as quickly as possible.
This is all thanks to a state-of-the-art rail traffic control computer system, which replaces one that was 25 years old. The system is designed to allow growth in the network both in terms of new infrastructure and more frequent services.
A new train control centre for Auckland is currently being built in Penrose.
New AT Directors
Auckland Council has appointed two new directors for Auckland Transport. They and the other directors as well as the new CEO are going to have a lot of work to do to get AT back on track.
Auckland Council has appointed Raveen Jaduram and Henare Clarke to the board of Auckland Transport.
When looking for directors, the council sought candidates that would assist the board with experience from within the transport sector, experience in organisation transformation and culture change, strong commercial acumen and experience in implementing innovative technologies for the transport sector.
The council would also like to thank AT board directors Abbie Reynolds and Darren Linton for their service and commitment during their terms, as they step back from the AT board from 1 June 2023.
“We are grateful for the direction, advice and support Abbie and Darren have provided the board, the organisation, and the wider Auckland Council whānau, and wish them the very best for the future,” says Cr Christine Fletcher.
Welcome to the two new AT Board members. Sorry to see Abbie Reynolds leaving who has been an exceptional Board member for the voice of climate action & woman.The Board will now have only one woman AT Director working alongside 6 male counterparts.https://t.co/6h4eGXb9Sm
— Councillor Angela Dalton (@angeladalton64) May 17, 2023
Keeping the housing build going
There have been a huge number of building consents issued in Auckland and across the country in recent years. Not all of those will be built but the government have put money in to help some developments built that would otherwise have stalled. This is a good move to help keep building rates up.
The Government has put more money down to stop housing developments from failing.
They’ve made $159 million available to get affordable housing projects which would otherwise stall, off the ground.
NZ Herald Wellington business editor Jenee Tibshraeny explains that the Government will either buy “build-ready” land or pre-purchase or underwrite homes.
“This $159 million it’s putting on the table- it might not actually cost $159 million and it might just backstop some of these developers that are running into trouble at the moment.”
A good video on modern trams that are mixed with general traffic – not what was proposed for a surface route in Auckland where light rail would be separated from traffic.
Speeds Limits to save lives
A good piece on Stuff this week about why lowering speed limits is the the quickest way to save lives on our roads.
This week is Road Safety Week, and a timely reminder of our deadly road safety problem.
Over the past five years, an average of seven people were killed on New Zealand roads every week, and another 46 were seriously injured.
Since the beginning of this year alone, more than 120 people have lost their lives in crashes on our roads.
Our road safety performance is abysmal in an international context.
On a per capita basis, three times more people die in road crashes in New Zealand than the best performing European countries, such as Norway and Sweden.
The death rate is 50% higher than countries we should be comparable to, like our trans-Tasman cousins and Canada. We do perform better than the United States, but that’s a very low bar and not something we should consider a success.
Existing roads are also being retrofitted with median barriers to make them safer, such as State Highway 2 Waipawa to Waipukurau, and SH58 over Haywards Hill. Whilst it would be amazing for our entire state highway network to be median-divided, the simple reality is we could not afford it. The cost would be astronomical.
That’s why the setting of safe speed limits is also needed. Again, the evidence is clear that lower speeds save lives.
In late 2020, lower speed limits were introduced on 120km of SH6 between Blenheim and Nelson. The 100kmh speed limits were replaced with a combination of 80 and 90kmh limits, as well as a 60kmh speed limit in the tortuous sections.
In the five-year period prior to the change in speed limits, 52 people were killed or seriously injured on that stretch of state highway – more than 10 people per year.
In the last two years (2021 and 2022), that number has decreased to five. Injury crash numbers had reduced too – down 35%.
Tweets and threads of the week
Related to the issue of safety
Being a cyclist or pedestrian in Auckland is not easy (or safe). pic.twitter.com/vTvKIzFQMz
— Tim Welch (@email@example.com) (@TimFWelch) May 17, 2023
Why can’t Auckland Transport do this with the city centre. It’s absurd we still have large trucks using the city as a shortcut to get to/from the port just because they can.
Hamilton’s new truck route plan will no longer allow large transport trucks to drive through the downtown, or through other parts of the lower city. New signage is going up around the city this spring. More details at https://t.co/Er38cUey2U pic.twitter.com/PmYPuc1lKb
— Jason Thorne (@JasonThorne_RPP) May 18, 2023
Speaking of a cities being for people
Used to all be cars. pic.twitter.com/qZEkjyw9Jh
— Hayden Clarkin (@the_transit_guy) May 13, 2023
Even in auto-obsessed Germany, there is a tacit understanding the heart of the city is no place for private automobiles.
The majority of streets and squares in the center of Leipzig are totally car-free, making it a large living room accessible to all of its 600,000 inhabitants. pic.twitter.com/TnP4ClXxHT
— Melissa & Chris Bruntlett (@modacitylife) May 13, 2023
— Qagggy! (@Qagggy) May 13, 2023
Something perhaps quite relevant given recent events in Auckland
The economic impacts of the council’s over zealous protection of “character” homes.
this new urban economics (working) paper provides insight into an important issue: "The Welfare Effects of Character Protections on Neighbourhoods."
Main findings? In Auckland, the welfare effects of character protections (CP) are large and negative.https://t.co/6wDJ4nniJO
— Stu Donovan (@StuartBDonovan) May 17, 2023
And the impact of congestion pricing
London’s congestion pricing program increased bus usage by 40% and reduced bus congestion by 50%.
And research shows express bus riders would save *hours* each week.https://t.co/lATwZ4d4pI
— Transportation Alternatives (@TransAlt) May 8, 2023
In New Zealand we have zero
In 2020, Paris launched “school streets” outside 211 schools, closing streets to traffic during pick-up & drop-off.
At least 22 have since become permanent pedestrian streets, creating dynamic new community spaces 7 days a week.
— Jonathan Berk (@berkie1) May 14, 2023
Have a good weekend