It’s Friday again so here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday Heidi returned with a guest post about the Auckland Transport Board dropping the ball on TERP.
- On Wednesday we ran a post from Darren Davis looking at a history of Perth’s rail network.
- On Thursday, Matt asked if it was time we updated parking enforcement fines.
Parking Strategy goes live
Yesterday Auckland Transport officially launched their parking strategy.
Auckland Transport has released Room to Move – the latest version of Auckland’s Parking Strategy, which has been approved by the Auckland Transport Board.
AT Chief Executive Dean Kimpton says Room to Move transforms how the limited space on Auckland’s roads is managed and prioritises making it easier to travel across our city.
“Room to Move will enable AT to make quicker, cheaper, less disruptive changes on our major roads to address congestion as we move about our city, make bus services quicker and more reliable, and reduce Auckland’s transport emissions,” Mr Kimpton says.
“One of the biggest changes Aucklanders will see from Room to Move is more bus and transit lanes along our most important roads.
“We’ve all seen this year just how important it is for Auckland to have a resilient transport network where our more than 14,000 bus trips a day can run as reliably as possible and don’t get deadlocked in traffic even in moderate rain.”
We’ve covered the contents and discussion around this a few times, most recently in a post about AT’s May Board meeting. By and large we believe the strategy is okay, but it is a bit of a downgrade from the 2015 parking strategy it replaces. The real issue is that just as with the previous strategy, there’s no guarantee AT will actually adhere to it – as the same people who deliberately ignored the last one will likely do the same with this one.
Also AT, why don’t you put your press releases on your own website anymore?
AT can do the right thing
The Spinoff has highlighted that AT can do the right thing sometimes even when a few people oppose a change.
Auckland Transport loves a consultation. And based on form, it’s easy to believe that these public consultations largely end up delaying, watering down, or outright cancelling proposals that cause any inconvenience to car drivers.
So when I received the email titled “Te Atatū Peninsula Bus Priority/T2 Lanes feedback report”, I warmed up my eye-rolling muscles, preparing to vent about the cancellation of necessary improvements to the single road in and out of our MDRS-crammed peninsular suburb.
Sure enough, around 65% of 331 responses (the suburb had a population of 13,000 at the last census, probably more like 15,000 now) to the official feedback process said they either “oppose” or “strongly oppose” the proposed transit lanes on Te Atatū Road:
Imagine my incredible surprise then to read the email that accompanied the feedback report. Firstly, Auckland Transport points out that the majority of opposition came from people who never ride the bus:
“While there was opposition to bus priority/T2 lanes on Te Atatū Road, the feedback showed that 59% of people who strongly opposed the proposal never use public transport and 17% used it monthly or less.”
It then notes that mode-shift is the most logical way to ease the congestion respondents are complaining about:
“The bus priority/T2 lanes, along with the additional bus priority lanes along SH16, will improve bus journey times making public transport a more attractive option than driving. As bus patronage increases, as we expect it will, fewer cars on the road will make it easier for people who need to drive around the peninsula.”
And completing the slam dunk, a final paragraph that I can only translate as “A majority of people who bothered to submit were strongly opposed to the T2 lane but looking at the actual evidence and forecasts, we’re going to do it anyway.”
If only AT listened to the evidence more regularly.
A good explainer from Strong Towns on the battle against traffic.
Related, an article about Carmaggedon versus traffic evaporation in the wake of the collapse of a chunk of I-95 on the East Coast of the United States. This line leaps out:
The traffic we observe at any point in time is not a fixed and inexorable amount that must be “served,” but is simply the behavioral response of humans to the set of transportation choices available to them.
Debunking Bike Lane Myths
A good piece from Toronto debunking three big myths about bike lanes and noting:
- Bike lanes do not increase congestion
- Bike lanes are good for business
- Bike lanes improve safety and reduce collisions
This line also leapt out: “An anti-bike-lane mayoral candidate [or, say, transportation executive] is as useful to the city of Toronto [or, say, Auckland] as a flat-Earther would be at NASA.”
Driverless cars aren’t ready yet
A few years ago, the prospect of driverless cars was constantly being pushed as the future and often used as arguments for not investing in things like public transport. The noise has died down but the technology is still around. The Spinoff has a first hand experience of a driverless car ride in San Francisco and it is terrifying.
The robot experience at the top of my list for my recent visit was to be driven around a busy city in a driverless car. Lucky for me, Kelly had been made it to the top of the waiting list to use the Cruise driverless taxi service but hadn’t tried it yet – she just needed an enthusiastic visitor to get her excited enough to download the app and make a plan to use it.
Our ride started off well. After pressing the “Start Ride” button on the app, the steering wheel turned to pull out and we were off. A female voice gave us some instructions over the speaker system: keep our seatbelts on, press the “Stop Ride” button on the roof of the car to end our ride early, enjoy our ride. At first it was very weird to see the steering wheel move unassisted, as the car pulled up to four-way stops, paused, and continued when no hazard was sensed. We went up and down hills, gave a wide berth to a pedestrian who was standing on the road, and turned left at a traffic light without too much fuss. I mean, there was fuss, but it was from Kelly and me laughing as hard as we have in ages at an experience that was really unlike anything we’d had before. Every time we spotted a hazard, we asked ourselves if the car would also “see” it and react in time. And it did! It was fine. The feeling I can most equate it to was a rollercoaster, where it’s scary and fun but you know you’re most likely going to be safe.
That feeling changed when, about two-thirds of the way through our ride, we entered a busier part of town close to the central business district. For no reason we could ascertain the car suddenly did a fast swerve towards parked cars before correcting itself. Our mood turned from giddy excitement to a feeling of “oh shit, what did we get ourselves into?”.
As we were closer to downtown there were more cars and people around, meaning more cars and people to act in myriad unpredictable ways. Our car sped up at weird times and did another handful of swerves towards the parked cards on the side of the road. It was legitimately freaky, and I started getting on edge and panicking a bit, telling the car to slow down at least twice and getting stressed at other cars not indicating when turning corners. At one stage Kelly exclaimed “I feel like we’re being held hostage!”. We considered pushing the stop ride button, but stopping on a busy street felt like it might be an even worse idea than continuing.
Meanwhile, driving autopilot is both deadlier and more stressful than simply driving yourself (which is also pretty deadly and stressful).
— David Dayen (@ddayen) June 14, 2023
More evidence the city centre is back in business
The Auckland CBD is coming back to life after years of pandemic slow down and disruption caused by construction works.
The work from home trend hit the CBD hard, and that was on top of the City Rail Link, and lower Queen Street improvements.
But Heart of the City – the city centre business association – said foot traffic had bounced back strongly and downtown had enjoyed the return of cruise ships.
With a cruise ship parked in the Waitematā Harbour on a sunny Auckland day, the city was humming.
Tourists stepped off to see the sights of Auckland.
However, this rings very true.
Sightseers from Europe told RNZ they were not so keen on what they had found in the city.
“I’m not a huge fan of the city but there are some nice spots where you can hang out or just have a drink,” one said.
“It has it’s nice spots but compared to Europe there are a lot of cars so it’s very busy and not very cozy,” said another.
Many tactical urbanists make light work
A great reminder of the benefits of quick, adaptive projects that shift our streets towards the kind of outcomes we know are better for all of us.
Tweets and threads of the week
We should use bollards more to transform parts of the city centre into people havens for much of the day.
Is Brussels the capital of retractable bollards?! They are everywhere in the city centre. They lower automatically at certain times of the day and raise up again as per a schedule. Some exceptions are permitted such as for loading and servicing. pic.twitter.com/uHR4AlD6Z7
— Richard Hart (@NzRoo) June 14, 2023
Seoul’s version of the High Line?
This highway 🛣 transformed into a pedestrian-only 🚶♂️🚶♀️urban garden in Seoul👇👇
— Daniel Moser – firstname.lastname@example.org (@_dmoser) June 14, 2023
A very useful public service sticker from the capital’s advocacy group Cycle Wellington.
Look for the stickers. Avoid locking here. pic.twitter.com/hVgIh3JtrB
— Patrick Morgan (@patrickmorgan) June 14, 2023
Going by the evidence, it’s time for concrete separators for all cycleways, including the off-road ones.
Also via Twitter: an accurate cartoon for those keeping track of alarming graphs of the various climate indicators. We are here:
PS Hoping for a change of scene? Auckland Council’s looking for a new Chief Sustainability Officer (closing 2 July), applications just closed for Auckland Transport’s Head of Sustainability and Climate Change role, and AT is seeking a new Chair (closing 25 June), to guide the organisation in delivering “reduced travel time on all modes of transport, convenience, safety, accessibility, choice, response to climate change and environmental outcomes.”