It’s Friday again and here’s a roundup of some of the articles that caught our attention this week.
This Week in Greater Auckland
- On Tuesday we highlighted why AT should aim high on raised crossings
- Yesterday, Matt asked what should be next for public transport in Auckland.
Pre-Cast Raised Crossings
Given the focus on raised crossings, a few days ago, Fulton Hogan published this to their LinkedIn profile. This is exactly the kind of story that AT should be telling.
Pre-casting is changing the game in speed table construction. This pre-cast speed table, installed for Auckland Transport in Kumeu by Fulton Hogan’s pre-cast team, Stevenson Concrete, Fulton Hogan’s Minor Construction and Coastline Markers, took a single overnight shift to install.
This compares with the two weeks typically required for traditional in situ construction, thereby minimising traffic management costs and disruption for local businesses.
In addition to speed, Fulton Hogan’s National Innovation Lead, Beaudene Pumipi, says pre-casting has health and safety benefits in construction, lower carbon emissions and largely negates the vagaries of the weather, being manufactured in a controlled environment.
“There’s growing interest in how New Zealand can produce speed tables and other concrete road structures more efficiently and effectively, and our pre-cast team, proactively engaging with the wider supply chain, have the answer.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of precast and Fulton Hogan’s precast products, drop us a line https://lnkd.in/gikXz6kG
Road Deaths soaring
While I don’t know the cause of them all, the need for improved road safety has been once again horribly highlighted last month. This January was tied with 2018 as having the highest number of deaths on our roads since 2010, with 36, and given this is a provisional number, it may even go up still. This follows on from December being the worst-equal since 2008.
Under-reporting driver distraction
While we’re on the safety theme, the New York Times wrote about how distracted driving is still not properly recorded, and while it is looking at US crashes, there’s a good chance it also applies here too.
Cellphones can track what we say and write, where we go, what we buy and what we search on the internet. But they still aren’t being used to track one of the biggest public health threats: crashes caused by drivers distracted by the phones.
More than a decade after federal and state governments seized on the dangers that cellphone use while driving posed and began enacting laws to stop it, there remains no definitive database of the number of crashes or fatalities caused by cellphone distraction. Safety experts say that current estimates most likely understate a worsening problem.
The absence of clear data comes as collisions are rising. Car crashes recorded by the police rose 16 percent from 2020 to 2021, to 16,700 a day from 14,400 a day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2021, nearly 43,000 Americans died in crashes, a 16-year high.
In 2021, only 377 fatal wrecks — just under 1 percent — were reported as having involved a cellphone-distracted driver, according to the traffic agency. About 8 percent of the 2.5 million nonfatal crashes that year involved a cellphone, according to the highway agency’s data.
But those figures do not capture all cellphone distraction; they include only crashes in which a police report specifically mentions such distraction. Often, safety experts said, cellphone use goes unmentioned in such reports because it typically relies on a driver to admit distraction, a witness to identify it or, in still rarer cases, the use of cellphone records or other phone forensics that definitively show distraction.
Just pay the fines
Nelson man Norman Flounders, 79, has vowed to continue a four-year-long court scrap over a fine he got from Auckland Transport for driving in a bus lane.
The dispute has been through a hearing before two Justices of the Peace, the District Court and the High Court, and now looks set to go higher, with Flounders vowing never to pay the $300 fine and appeal to the Appeal Court.
The dispute arose from two instances, on July 16 and July 20 in 2020, when Flounders knowingly drove through a bus lane on Khyber Pass Rd in Newmarket.
He entered the bus lane at the start of the bus lane and turned left into an alleyway just after the end of the bus lane, parked his car and went to a coffee shop.
Temporary Britomart Station building to go
The building used as a temporary entrance to the Britomart Station while the City Rail Link was built underneath the Chief Post Office is to be demolished.
Rail commuters returning to work from their well-earned summer break will notice a significant change around Waitematā (Britomart) Station this month: the start of work to remove the temporary building at the rear of the station on Commerce Street.
The building was erected in 2017, originally as the main station entrance while City Rail Link project works restored the station inside the venerable Chief Post Office building and constructed the twin tunnels in its basement.
With the completion of these works in 2021, the building was used as a base for CRL’s main Link Alliance contractor, enabling it to deliver a range of works that included construction of the “back of house” facilities, the installation of smoke protection systems, and raising the station concourse.
Last month, Link Alliance vacated the temporary building to allow Auckland Transport to prepare the site for CRL sub-contractors, Martinus, to start deconstruction from 22 January.
Removal will take approximately two months and is not expected to cause any significant disruption to commuters.
City Rail Link Ltd’s Chief Executive, Dr Sean Sweeney, says the temporary building’s removal marks another significant step forward for a project already transforming Auckland.
“The land where the building stood will be turned into a vibrant people-friendly open space for all Aucklanders to enjoy – a plaza behind Waitematā Station between Tyler and Galway Streets,” Dr Sweeney says.
In it’s place will be a new plaza – the design of which was revealed late last year.
And speaking of CRL, here’s the latest drone footage from around the Maungawhau site. You can clearly see they’re starting to backfill the site. Hopefully soon we will start to get some plans/designs for what will be built on top of the site.
Bike Theft but Police no help
Our friend Patrick Reynolds had his bike stolen recently and despite even having a GPS location, police wouldn’t get involved. From 1 News.
Thousands of bikes are stolen every year and a large number of them are never recovered.
Patrick Reynolds’ $8000 e-bike is among those. Three weeks ago, his ride was stolen from Britomart in Auckland.
CCTV footage has captured the thief using an angle grinder to break it free. Reynolds, who is a transport advocate, sought help from police but despite supplying clear photographs, and a live GPS location of the stolen bike, police said they didn’t have enough “evidential sufficiency” to progress the investigation.
“This does seem to be emblematic, I get the sense that police don’t take bike theft seriously. I do have a car but I prefer to use the bike as it’s quicker.”
Reynolds said after getting no response to his online submission about the theft, he followed up in person at a police station. Two days later he got an email saying the information he had provided was “too historic”.
“They are probably right, but the thing is it’s so old because they didn’t act in the first place.”
Rail Network more fragile than ever?
Despite the rail network being shut for almost 4 weeks for works, it seems the network is more fragile than ever, such as regular faults at Newmarket causing many issues.
Another day, another meltdown in the Auckland rail network. “KiwiRail track infrastructure issue at Newmarket” seems to be a frequent flyer on the bingo card of train meltdown excuses. pic.twitter.com/9bEUjZzOC4
— Darren Davis (@DarrenDavis10) January 29, 2024
It’s also notable that Auckland Transport/One Rail are specifically calling out Kiwirail as the cause of faults more now
Evening 2 and headed toward train, got yelled at to go to another one at a platform not on the board, but then that one took off, so back to the one I was originally heading for, got on, waited, then all of us booted off the back train and told to get to the front train.
— Kim Baker Wilson (@kimbakerwilson) January 31, 2024
This is fun, it should be done more often
Bay of Plenty locals were surprised when a roundabout in front of one of the region’s most popular landmarks, was covered with a bright yellow smiley face and tongue – but not as shocked as council, which had asked for it to be plain white.
The roundabout had been on the road right in front of Mauao in Mt Maunganui for more than 10 years. It was slightly raised, but some tourists and visitors found it hard to recognise that it was a roundabout, and drove straight through it.
As a solution, in November, council booked a contractor, asking for it to be painted white in line with road standards.
The painter, Julian Sim, said he’d always wanted to do a smiley face on it and decided to do it as a fun thing.
“Everyone needs to smile a bit more.”
He put the eyes and the nose on first, and then added the tongue recently, which is when Tauranga City Council contacted his boss.
“They weren’t too happy about it, but no one had complained about it. So they just said don’t do it again sort of thing,” Sim told Stuff.
Open Streets Sell
Speaking of fun streets, they can also be good for house sales too.
When the pandemic began in 2020, Rhoda Dunn, a Compass broker, was one of the many volunteers schlepping barricades into the middle of 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights to limit cars from entering the road. It was part of the city’s then-burgeoning Open Streets program, which designated certain roadways as car-free spaces for play and exercise. 34th Avenue, which is mostly home to residential buildings and a handful of schools, quickly became the city’s longest Open Street, which Dunn herself often runs and cycles on.
In 2022, when the city advanced a “Paseo Park” makeover that cemented the corridor as a permanent pedestrian-only boulevard, Dunn considered it a “big plus” for her work. Her listings, like one for an airy co-op on 80th Street, started to sound like this: “You’re just inches from the 26-block-long 34th Avenue Open Street, including a permanent pedestrian plaza and wide bike lanes.”
“There’s no better selling day for me than Sunday,” Dunn told me. That’s the day when the weekend farmers’ market at Travers Park overlaps with the Open Street, with kid-friendly events and activities like dance classes and races taking place out in the wide lane. For young families, who make up the bulk of Dunn’s clients, it looks pretty appealing. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is a lively, fabulous neighborhood,’” she said.
It’s a departure from the hostility directed at the program since its early days. Opponents like the Jackson Heights Coops Alliance and some members of local community boards said the program would depress property values, snarl traffic, and block emergency vehicles. Critics sent letters and emails to elected officials, saying that it discriminated against New Yorkers with disabilities and predicting that it would draw illegal street vendors and more homeless people to these areas. One neighbor even said the granite sitting blocks which line 34th Avenue resembled a “fortress-style Berlin Wall.” Across the city, lawsuits and occasional interference from deep inside City Hall have challenged the program’s implementation.
But now Open Streets have entered their real-estate amenity era, where they are placed on par with parks and subway stops. And Dunn isn’t the only one who’s noticed. Other listings mention the “gold standard of Open Streets” — which 34th Avenue is often called— early on in their copy. It’s also a neighborhood highlight for StreetEasy. In its list of “NYC Neighborhoods to Watch in 2024,” the site ranked Jackson Heights No. 4, just below Soho’s Hudson Square, and included the Open Street as one of the area’s best features: “In the heart of the neighborhood, residents can enjoy the 34th Avenue Open Street, a 1.3-mile stretch of car-free space (the longest in the city!) with community events all year round.”
Have a good weekend.