It’s Friday and we’ve got a long weekend ahead of us. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday Matt reviewed National’s new housing policy.
- On Tuesday Matt looked at some of the highlights from Auckland Transport’s latest board meeting.
- On Wednesday Matt looked at the plans for removing level crossings on the Southern Line.
- Yesterday we ran a post from Malcom McCracken on why we need the MDRS
Another week, more train meltdowns
On Wednesday Kiwirail had to evacuate their train control centre due to the toxic smoke from a massive fire at a scrap metal yard yesterday. As a result all trains were ground to a halt until a backup in Wellington could be activated.
While it might not have been the fault of the rail network this time, ultimately it’s just another in what is now a long line of major disruptions to commuters on the rail network.
Then on Thursday a broken down freight train caused delays for Southern and Eastern line users.
It feels like we should have a counter, “It’s been X days since the last rail network meltdown”. I feel like if we did it would struggle to get into double digits at the moment.
Connected Communities Prediction
In the post on Tuesday we covered how Auckland Transport have cancelled their Connected Communities programme. Digging through the records we found this prediction by Matt of what would happen from 2019 and it seems very close to what actually happened.
I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong but at this stage I worry the programme it will be roughly similar to the following process.
- AT will spend 18 months working on multiple business cases, probably one for each corridor.
- They will come up with some semi-decent plans and put them out for consultation.
- As the plans will involve changing or removing carparking, a small number of retailers will complain, but be amplified by the media. The likes of the AA will get involved too, concern trolling the project by claiming they support better PT but not if it impacts on drivers.
- AT will then spend the next 6-8 months analysing the feedback from the consultation, ultimately watering it down and removing the most valuable changes.
- They will then take 2-3 years to finalise designs before looking to start construction, by which time many people will have forgotten about it and start complaining again.
- So maybe, if we’re lucky, we might see some mild improvements in about five years.
AT please prove me wrong.
The impact of the Clean Car Discount
Stuff have looked at the impact of the clean car discount.
The most noticeable impact is a spike in registrations of very-high-emitting cars just before the fees took force in April last year. In a typical month, car dealers would sell just over 10,000 of these vehicles. That shot up to more than 29,000 in March before crashing to under 2000 in April.
Since then, an average of 5200 gas guzzlers arrived each month, according to the Waka Kotahi data. On the back of that, drivers have bought roughly 48,000 fewer gas guzzlers than normal since 2021.
Used car importers in particular have shied away from very-high-emitting vehicles.
EV sales have trended upwards since the discounts were first introduced. Wait times of up to nine months suggest they’re more popular than import numbers indicate. In March, they had their best-ever month, with more than 3100 arriving onshore.
Sales of low-emitting cars are on the rise as well, with non-plug-in hybrids proving particularly popular.
Once again the death of the city was grossly exaggerated
COVID saw many people predicting the death of the city centre as more people work from home and it’s certainly not the first time it’s death has been predicted either. But the city centre is once again showing it’s resilience.
Rents for premium office space in Auckland’s CBD have hit a record high as the “flight to quality” drives the market, a commercial real estate firm says.
High demand for well-located quality office space, particularly around the waterfront, had pushed vacancies down and rents up, JLL’s latest Vertical Vacancy Review showed.
Prime vacancies within Auckland central had decreased to 8.1%, from 9.7%, in the CBD and 3.1%, from 4.1%, in Wynyard Quarter, since the second half of last year.
That represented an uptake of an additional 11,665m² of premium or A-grade space, and over half of the 45 currently tenantable office towers in the CBD and Wynyard Quarter were now fully occupied.
“And initiatives such as the pedestrianisation of Queen Street have created a more human-centric environment in the city centre that supports retail and hospitality investment.”
Yep that must be the problem
Tauranga could do with many thing but this isn’t one of them
Councillor Don Thwaites told Heather du Plessis Allan the congestion is caused by the building of 800 metres of cycle track near Tauranga City.
He said that the problem was a lack of roads, as there’s only one crossing each for the Te Puna Stream and Wairoa River.
Cities are for people
We agree with the head of the FIA – the International Automobile Association.
Few people could claim to know more about cars than Jean Todt, the former rally car driver who went on to become the president of Formula 1’s governing body FIA and general manager of Ferrari.
But now, in his role as the United Nations’ special envoy for road safety, he says it’s time for their reign over our cities to end.
“It’s fascinating because I still love cars,” Todt said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. “But we need to accept there is an evolution in transportation, an evolution in the use of cars, and an evolution in what is allowed when you are a car driver. If you like speed, you go on a circuit, you don’t go on the roads.”
And some advice on how to get change done. AT could learn a thing or two.
As for dealing with the backlash that follows any move motorists think might inconvenience them, Todt says governments and councils should do their best to explain why changes are necessary and then get on and impose them. He reflects on his controversial 2018 decision, when in charge of Formula 1 racing, to make the “halo” driver protection bar mandatory on cars.
“Everybody was against it. People who are telling me, ‘You are destroying Formula 1,’” Todt says. “Today, a driver will not drive a car without a halo because it has saved lives. If it must be done – even if it is unpopular – you must do it.”
Stuff asks, how we could accommodate twice as many Aucklanders.
In 50 years, there could be 3.3 million Aucklanders in the City of Sails – but, given more floods are also predicted – where will we put them all?
Planners say building up, instead of out, is the key to making room for everyone.
In their latest population projections, Auckland Council and Stats NZ researchers predict that by 2073, there could be 3,384,500 people in Tāmaki Makaurau – that’s the highest estimate.
Dr Tim Welch, senior lecturer in architecture and planning, said he believes it’s possible to reach 3.3m people by 2073.
Welch, who teaches at the University of Auckland, said there is enough space in Auckland to accommodate twice its current population, but not without major changes to our car culture.
Globally, Aotearoa has among the highest car ownership rates – we’re seventh in the world, with 884 cars for every 1000 people.
We have more cars per capita than the US, which has 60 times our population and boasts 831 cars per 1000 people, and more than Canada too (731 cars for every 1000 people).
“Everyone owning a car and driving it every day is not going to be possible,” Welch said.
Instead, Auckland will need stronger public transport systems, and for the existing inner city road network to be better shared.
He said priority bus lanes, bike lanes and overground trams or light rail have proven effective overseas, and would work here too,
Tweets and threads of the week
We’ve long suggested that AT should be more open and upfront about the issues with public transport right now and what they’re doing to fix them so it’s good to see it finally starting to happen with this message a few days ago.
We spoke to our Metro Optimisation Manager Richard Harrison about the ongoing bus driver shortage this morning. Hear what he had to say. We're expecting to be back on board by the end of September! 🤩🚌 pic.twitter.com/AhFHBLcNLS
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) May 30, 2023
We should absolutely look to convert as many cars as we can to electric but electric cars are much heavier is certainly something we need to keep an eye on, especially in how it relates to safety.
When will NZ get it’s first?
Today saw the launch of Ireland's first cycle-friendly roundabout at the Church Fields Link Road in Dublin 15. This innovative design delivers improved safety for cyclists using the road network.
Fingal County Council also held the official opening of the Church Fields Link Road… pic.twitter.com/DtuwJzx9K7
— Fingal County Council (@Fingalcoco) May 29, 2023
What a transformation
This street in Milan used to be an urban open air car storage.
— Demetrio Scopelliti (@demescope) May 27, 2023
And how about this demonstration
We’ve covered this before but hadn’t seen an image of the full tower. It’s good that they manged to use what was left of the old gasometer site after AT gobbled much of it up for a carpark that will never make back it’s construction costs (about $60,000 per carpark).
Render (pretty low quality sadly) from the Rangitoto Observer of the 39 storey build-to-rent tower planned for Takapuna. Looks very Australian (a good thing IMO) https://t.co/2Dtrv0XcOT pic.twitter.com/6lD7BFAHFC
— Scott Nickerson (@totaraforest) May 29, 2023
We agree, lots to do
Riding the bus might not be as sexy as catching a ferry or a train, but it would be more pleasant to ride a bus in its own lane to avoid traffic congestion and get to destination/s quicker.
— Darren Young (@darrensyoung) May 30, 2023
Our CRL stations will be neat but these are another level
Underground train stations have some of the most surprising and beautiful architecture in the world. Here's a few of the best:
1. Alisher Navoiy Station, Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1977) pic.twitter.com/9riJgP8Stj
— The Cultural Tutor (@culturaltutor) May 27, 2023
Auckland in the news for positive things
"If there was any ever doubt that building more homes makes them cheaper, Auckland’s experience should dispel it."
— Matt Cowgill (@MattCowgill) May 30, 2023
It’s pretty good
Show me a better subway entrance, I’ll wait. pic.twitter.com/zw5lrAxKz3
— Aaron Greiner (@aaronbgreiner) May 28, 2023
Have a great weekend.