It’s Friday and here are some of the things that caught our attention this week.

This Week in Greater Auckland

This week’s header image is by the City Centre Residents’ Group, via Twitter.

Pukekohe to stay closed longer

Kiwirail have announced that line from Papakura to Pukekohe will stay closed till early next year so they can complete the rail network rebuild works.

KiwiRail will be able to carry out the full upgrade and renewals work needed on the track between Papakura and Pukekohe while it is still closed for other improvement work.

This section of Auckland’s network has been closed since September 2022, for the $419 million project to extend the overhead electricity from Papakura to Pukekohe.

It was expected to open to commuter trains by the end of 2024 and will now remain closed for a short while longer, until after the annual Christmas network-wide closure, and reopen around mid-January 2025.

KiwiRail Chief Asset Development Officer David Gordon says this will deliver a good outcome for the public.

“The electrification work will be completed on time but we’re able to keep the line closed to commuter trains for a little longer so our major Rail Network Rebuild (RNR) can be carried out.

“I appreciate that people are looking forward to the trains starting but waiting a little longer will avoid major inconvenience later.”

It makes sense to do the works before the line reopens so that it doesn’t have to close again but it’s frustrating that they’re waiting till after the electrification work is completed to do it rather than having it done any time in the last 18 months while they were doing electrification work on other parts of the line. Furthermore, this work was promised when it was originally announced.

“This includes the significant work that needs to be carried out on the 19km section of line between Papakura and Pukekohe until 2025. This includes installing the electrification masts and wires, modernising the existing track infrastructure ready for CRL operations, redeveloping Pukekohe station and building new stations at Drury and Paerata.”

AT gets its first electric double decker bus

AT announced:

Mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown, joined AT’s Chief Executive Dean Kimpton and Kinetic’s Managing Director for New Zealand, Calum Haslop, for a test drive of the new bus in Māngere, at bus operator Kinetic’s south depot.

Auckland now has 138 zero-emission buses in the fleet, making it the largest number for a New Zealand city and in the top two for the whole of Australasia.

Edward Wright, AT’s Infrastructure and Fleet Specification Manager, says it’s exciting to witness the launch of the very first electric double decker.

“We are sure our customers will love the experience of travelling on the quieter and smoother bus too. It will primarily service Mt Eden Road, Great North Road and Dominion Road routes. This will be a great opportunity for Kinetic (the bus operator) to test how an electric double decker performs in Auckland conditions.”


An average double decker diesel bus in the fleet in Auckland consumes 29,485 litres of diesel in a year, which works out to 79,020 Kgs of CO2 emissions.

Wellington has had electric double deckers for a while now but I recall AT saying they were waiting till larger capacity models were available.

New Zealanders support walking and cycling

The latest annual research from Waka Kotahi reconfirms that New Zealanders who live in towns and cities continue to enjoy and support walking and cycling. A few highlights:

  • 68% of urban New Zealanders use active modes (walking, bicycle, e-bike or e-scooter) at least once a week.
  • 70% of Aucklanders support cycling in their communities; slightly higher than the national average and second only to Wellington.
  • 61% of urban New Zealanders support investment in cycling infrastructure, whether or not they ride a bike – and support has “significantly increased” in the last year in Auckland.
  • And 90% of urban New Zealanders support walking in their community – gotta wonder, though, what’s up with other 10%??
Nice to confirm that 69% of New Zealanders support cycling in their community. From the Waka Kotahi NZTA report, “Urban New Zealanders Attitudes and Perceptions of Cycling and Walking 2023” (published March 2024).
The majority of New Zealanders support investment in cycling infrastructure, whether or not they personally ride a bike. Waka Kotahi NZTA report, “Urban New Zealanders Attitudes and Perceptions of Cycling and Walking 2023” (published March 2024),

Cycle counters are rocketing up

Cycling in Christchurch blog reports that ridership in the Garden City is up dramatically:

As you can see, since the first cycle counters started recording in 2016-17, there has been more than a 30% increase in cycling overall across all the counters. This has been particularly evident along the Major Cycle Routes where the increase is more than 40%. And for the counter sites within or on the edge of the central city, the growth is over 50% – quite impressive jumps.

Auckland’s not looking too shabby either. Dr Tim Welch of the University of Auckland has a dashboard here with AT’s latest stats, up to February 2024 (which was up 20.5% on the previous February). We’re on track for March to be an absolute corker!

Graph via Twitter; you can see prettier and more detailed graphs at Dr Welch’s dashboard.

Good news from around the motu

In Whanganui, a Streets for People project is transforming Guyton St into a more people-friendly space. So far:

Artist’s impression of new parklets for Guyton St (Whanganui District Council)

In a heroic move, Otago Regional Council has decided to continue funding free fares for children aged 5-12 after the government withdraws support. ORC Chair Gretchen Robertson says:

“Otago has seen a 68% increase in bus patronage since 2021/22, with a 113% increase in Queenstown and 60% in Dunedin. This shows that there is a real demand for our public transport service, and we wanted to continue this momentum by making it as accessible and affordable as possible for some of our youngest bus passengers.”

And, from a few weeks back but still worth noting: the Far North District Council voted to proceed with safer speeds around the region. (Unfortunately the government had already cancelled planned a ready-to-go project designed to improve safety for 2000 children at Kerikeri schools).

Far North deputy mayor Kelly Stratford said FNDC’s decision to proceed [with speed management] was about the locally-based council making the decision, rather than the government deciding what happened.

The council had this power under the Local Government Act. “We set the speed plans, not the minister,” Stratford said.

On transport, safety, and value for money

Convenience never trumps the lives of children, writes Dr TIm Welch at Newsroom:

Evidence tells us that higher speeds lead to more crashes and more severe injuries – all of which come at a high cost. Though we shouldn’t have to put a price tag on a child’s life, road deaths and injuries already have a social cost of $9.7 billion every year since 2021.

Full-time speed limits and raised crossings near schools aren’t just smart investments in keeping kids safe; they’re critical steps towards preventing tragedies and easing the massive economic toll unsafe roads take on all New Zealanders.

What David Seymour’s e-bike crash should mean for Simeon Brown’s transport plans, by Simon Wilson in the NZ Herald:

What’s the Government really trying to do with transport in Auckland?

The GPS defines its strategic goal as “economic growth and productivity”, but if it was serious about this, it would be good news for cyclists. The benefit-cost ratios (BCRs) for cycleways in Auckland, according to AT figures, range from 1.9 to 4.6. If it’s well over 1, it’s good.

And this letter to the editor by Pippa Coom:

Text of letter to the editor, which reads: Back the experts In my experience of 12 years on Auckland Council, nearly every crossing installed was as a result of a request from the local community, often parents who wanted their children to be able to walk or cycle safely to school. The evidence shows raised crossings save lives and reduce serious injuries, at minimal inconvenience to drivers. They also make our neighbourhoods more liveable and accessible to more people. Auckland Transport has a statutory duty to make our roads safe for everyone.Rather than respond to bullying and baseless reckons, the CEO and AT board should follow the evidence and their own safety guidelines. What is the mayor actually advocating for (NZ Herald, March 19)? Signalised crossings at 10 times the cost (or more)? Paint, which is insufficient in our driving network? Or for just more death and serious injury? He should be backing his experts to deliver more of what works more efficiently, not undermining them. Pippa Coom, Grey Lynn.

Transport for All, Transport for Life: pushing back on the GPS

Transport for All is a coalition of transport and climate organisations, formed in response to the government’s draft policy for transport – which as we’ve reported deprioritises climate action and slashes funding for PT, walking, cycling, and evidence-based safety approaches.

Transport for All has put together a handy submission guide for a better GPS.

Public feedback closes at noon on Easter Tuesday, 2 April.

A related rally was held on the steps of Parliament this week, at the end of the 2WalkAndCycle conference, under the banner Transport for Life.

A diverse range of people gathered in front of Parliament to call for an overhaul of the Government Policy Statement, under the banner of Transport for Life
Transport for Life rally at Parliament, Tuesday 19 March 2024 (Image: Patrick Rooney)

This isn’t fine…

For the record, this week the UN declared a “red alert” on climate, and the oceans continue to heat up at an alarming rate, as reported by the Washington Post:

…the unprecedented streak of ocean heat is entering a second year. Scientists say it could represent a major change to Earth systems that cannot be reversed on any human time scale.

Good reads

In the UK, a report into Low Traffic Neighbourhoods was so positive that the government tried to bury it, reports Peter Walker in the Guardian:

In each of the [LTN] schemes, the percentage of people backing the LTNs was between 19 points and 31 points higher than the percentage opposed. In a sign that the controversy about the schemes might be largely generated by politicians and the media, 58% of people did not even know they lived in an LTN.

Paris cycling numbers have doubled in one year thanks to investment, and it’s not stopping, writes Momentum magazine:

“In mobility, more than anything, the central issue is supply rather than demand,” says [David Belliard, the deputy mayor who oversees mobility and public space], who has ensured that the municipality has “massively amplified the supply in infrastructure” since his re-election in 2020, by building protected bike lanes and installing bike parking.

This ode to city-building, by Joel MacManus in The Spinoff:

That chaotic day on Petone beach was the start of an ambitious project, a rag-tag group of people trying to do something that had never before been done on New Zealand shores: build a city. New Zealand was the last significant landmass ever populated by humans. It had never played host to a city. The largest human settlement before then was probably the pā on Maungakiekie in Tāmaki Makaurau, which housed about 5,000 people in the 17th century.

Most of the British settlers had never lived in a city either. The majority were picked because they had experience as rural labourers and knew how to work the land. Creating a city from scratch was a huge task, and none of them really knew what they were doing.

Weekend watches and good listens

Please enjoy this great video about clever wee design details hidden in trains. (Does Auckland have any?)

And if you’re after a longer watch, you might enjoy this meet-up of Philosophy Tube and Not Just Bikes, on why can’t we build better cities.

Eloise Gibson of RNZ looks at a project to track air quality and greenhouse gas emissions at the school gate.  There’s also a written version of the story – the kids are all right!

GNS social scientist Celia Wells and her colleagues put a shoebox-sized CO2 monitor outside Meadowbank School, as part of a wider project tracking Auckland’s carbon dioxide emissions.

They left the sensor there for four weeks – two weeks of term time and two weeks of school holidays.

They saw a very clear spike in emissions around the morning drop-off, which disappeared during the holidays.

Wells said when they showed the pupils the readings, their reaction blew them away. “Straight away they got it, they said: ‘This is us, this is our behaviour.'”

Students started a project where they surveyed parents about the barriers to having their kids walk or ride to school, then designed a week-long campaign of rewards and group activities.

And Ross Inglis of This Climate Business talks to Connor Read of WorkRide, the commuter discount scheme that could save up to 63 percent off the cost of your new e-bike.

Enjoy your weekend – just two more weeks of daylight saving to go!

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  1. I do not know what to say about the delay to reopening the Pukekohe to Papakura Rail Line and like Matt, I find it frustrating that KiwiRail wait until the electrification is done to do track renewals. I thought that with the crossovers put in between Pukekohe and Papakura and the bi directional signalling, that the track renewals could be undertaken before or alongside the electrification works?

    1. My commiserations I do hope they are going to try and pre warm some of those early morning 394 buses this winter. It was not good getting out of a warm car at the park and ride then onto a freezing bus at 6.00 am. It took till at least Dury for them to warm up even a little bit.

    2. Also replying to Matt
      “It makes sense to do the works before the line reopens so that it doesn’t have to close again but it’s frustrating that they’re waiting till after the electrification work is completed to do it rather than having it done any time in the last 18 months while they were doing electrification work on other parts of the line. Furthermore, this work was promised when it was originally announced.”

      Whereas those of us actually doing the work know that where possible we have overlapped works, thats why the delay is so minimal.

      Sometimes just trying to do two things at once in the same place (while keeping freight trains running every 20 min) is just not possible.

        1. I’m saying we did electrification and some RNR while trains were running. But couldn’t finish RNR 100%

          I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

  2. Great to see the large capacity double decker EV arrive, and with air con on both levels. What we have here in Wellington are single rather than dual real axle models, gen 1 with no air con and gen 2 top deck only. I think this means that all types of PT bus can now be electric.

    1. Makes me wonder how high the axle load is. There are certainly many places where I cycle on bus routes that have severely deformed pavement, to the point of them being quite dangerous.

      1. NZTA have some useful figures on approximate weights of bus configurations (each each combination of axles, decks and fuel source)

        They estimate 24,480 – 27,000 Kg for the gross weight of a dual rear axle battery electric double decker about 2,500Kg more than a diesel equivalent

    2. With these new EV buses three of the worst parts of catching a bus have gone – the noise, the smell, and the engine heat. Now if they could only fix the absolute worst bit – the speed! Technology is doing its bit, but the easiest bit relies on AT so I don’t hold much hope…

      1. In fact these new buses are so good I feel they could deliver something almost as good as LR on Dominion Road for < $100 million in less than 1 year. Most of what is needed is already there: run electric buses via Ian McKinnan Drive (may need to move the cycleway to bring back 4 lanes) and Queen Street (closed to general traffic) with 24×7 bus lanes and less bus stops. I don't think buses will ruin Queen Street if they are electric (consent that no diesel allowed on this route).
        If turning and waiting in the city is a problem, continue them on to Albany and fix two routes at once.

      2. I’d rank the PM2.5 & PM10 particulates from the exhaust and NOx, as the worst things about diesel vehicles.

  3. The most notable difference between the Auckland and Wellington double deckers was how much roomier the stairwell was in the latter – much easier to use. Hoping this follows suit.

    1. Selwyn District Council has also forged ahead. The original plan is largely different than what was consulted on (and what would have been implemented on 24 January if Simeon Brown did not interfere), but heavily centered around school zones and residential streets. This is in response to heavy pressure from schools, particularly in Rolleston, where their boards have been pushing for these to be implemented asap. There is also long term planning for variable restrictions around some of the most dangerous intersections in the district, similar to the one at exists on SH 1 at Burnham.

  4. Happy public transporting Friday! No doubt Auckland will be congested as usual; try not to laugh out loud at the prisoners inside their mobile windowed lonely units.

    I will be relying on a few buses, a ferry and a couple of trains to pick up my kids today; so personally I hope no one attempts to run us over in between safe travel options.

    Bah humbug

  5. So many good things happening in places like Paris. Retuning to a cycling city. Also big on cargo bikes. Watched a video on it this week.

  6. The 69% of NZers who support cycling and 61% who support investment in cycle infrastructure matches AT/AC results from the deliberative forum they held recently (but seem to be not releasing. I have to work from what’s available in a Council meeting agenda.)

    This forum found that, before they are given information or a chance to deliberate, 65% of Aucklanders support investment in cycling infrastructure that involves removing carparking.

    But what is interesting – and this will apply across the country – is this: After learning from experts and deliberating in small groups, Aucklanders’ support for investment in cycling infrastructure that involves removing carparking rose to 85%. Opposition dropped from 17% to 3%.

  7. Another video to watch. Janette Sadik-Khan in conversation with Helen Clark at the Auckland Converations / Urban Room event at the Aotea Centre yesterday evening. Uplifting and energising. Well worth a look.

    1. SOURCE:
      “Back in March 2021, AT announced the start of a two-year trial of a $1.175 million hydrogen-powered bus. The idea was to compare the hydrogen bus to similar electric busses to find out which is better.

      Sadly, if AT had simply asked a random group of college science students to do a Google search, they would have discovered that hydrogen buses are, at best, half as efficient as electric buses and, at worst, one third as efficient.

      As far as I can tell, the only person to ever actually see the hydrogen bus is my friend Roger Hill, the famous boat designer. No other human being has seen, let alone actually ridden on the hydrogen bus.

      AT refuses to discuss the subject and one can understand why. It turns out that a hydrogen bus actually runs on electricity just like an electric bus. The electricity is first turned into hydrogen by electrolysis then the hydrogen is turned back into electricity by a hydrogen fuel cell.

      Unfortunately, the round-trip efficiency of the hydrogen process is half that of the electric bus. An electric bus only costs $750,000”.

      1. Efficiency isn’t an issue if the hydrogen is produced from electricity that otherwise would be wasted, e.g. at night in winter. In fact it could make hydrogen environmentally better compared to charging an electric bus during the day.
        I’m guessing the big difference is the time an electric bus has to stay idle while charging. But I doubt we need AT spending money on experiments, just look at results from other cities or countries.

        1. The reason for the trials of the alternate fuels, is to prevent lobby groups to ask , ” has AT done any trials on this technology?” and to validate the claims made by the bus manufactures.

        2. There are other uses for electricity at night more efficient than making hydrogen. The inefficiency of making hydrogen is significant and should not be underestimated.

  8. Has anyone being for a ride or seen the hydrogen powered bus or has it died or being sent back from where it came from. It seemed to go alright the couple of rides I had on route 70 if I remember rightly.
    Anyway good to see the first double decker I am always pleased when an electric bus pulls up to pick me up. So much nicer no vibration the odd clunk especially on some or maybe its only one of the Airport link bus.

  9. The governments idoitic GPS transport policy is beyond belief. It is the worst transport I have ever seen and is virtually evidence free; it needs to be opposed by every transport professional in all ways possible. Simeon Brown’s policieis are a disgrace and he should resign immediately; Wayne Brown appears not to know his nether regions from his elbow wrt transport even though he is an engineer. He also needs to go and let some people with capability take over.

  10. Don’t think for one moment it’s just NZs government raging against LTNs:

    Of interest is that the Beeb filmed a LTN protest where residents were saying they had not been informed, not one protester was under 50.

    I’m no fan of agism but active modes and LTNs seem to be very much an age war in many places.

    Older Brits are as glued to thier cars as kiwis, this has the knock on effect of town centres dying here as they don’t want to walk, use PT or pay for parking, as I discovered last week visiting one shop who had a petition to stop the council putting in parking meters.

    1. Yep, we have older people with outdated views making our infrastructure decisions that younger generations will then have to rip out. The transport minister may look like he’s 12 but he overcompensates by acting like he’s 60.

    1. Yes, we talk about Avondale-Southdown as a formality, but I have read in a few other forums that the community and their environmental lawyers are already to go. They do not want this going through, at least at surface level.

    2. The route has been designated for rail since 1955. Most people have bought their houses with the knowledge of its existance and reflected property value. I certainly discovered it when doing due diligence on my house purchase decades ago. With the inevitable increase of freight on the NAL, it is going to get built sooner rather than later. If local residents want a tunnel to boost their property values, then they can pay for it, and it’s operating cost.

    3. You can barely get kiwirail to let a removable cycleway be built on disused land, that they have no prospect of using in their corridor. Highly doubt they’ll remove a whole designation, let alone at the behest of the local board, the lowest political level there exists.

  11. On q and a Simeon brown just claimed that the east west link has a bcr of 1.9… I have never heard any figure near that. is he talking nonsense or am I missing something?

    1. That may be based on the ridiculous cost estimates that National used pre-election. They more than halved the road costs and doubled the LR costs!

      1. I am interested to see how Simeon’s user pays for new RONS plays out. The maths suggest that the new policy will be, “the user pays a very small amount for RoNS.”

        Let’s look at the distance between the two cities. Google says a distance of 159km. So that’s 159km to be four laned, apart from the section up to and beyond Albany that is already done, and the existing Northern toll road.

        Let’s say there is 127.5km remaining to be four laned.

        Say that this can be built as cheaply as the Northern toll road, built umpteen years ago and that currently costs $2.70 for 7.5km.

        So a toll on the new road will cost 127.5km/7.5km X $2.70 = $45.90.

        Good luck convincing Peters and Jones that this is a great deal.

        Am I missing something or is this the degree of economic wizardly that National are bringing to the table?

        Having said this, I agree, let’s have these roads fully user pays so that the scheme doesn’t impoverish us all.

        1. I suspect if you made the users pay the full amount they would prefer to keep the existing road.

        2. Make it full user pays, the scheme will disappear overnight and that money can be better used for infrastructure the greater Auckland region actually needs.

  12. Right on the nail Jimbo. The transport lobby agitates for all these new roads confident that someone else will pay for it. And argues that someone else should pay for it because it’s good for the country.
    I struggle to see that this huge expenditure at miniscule BCRs benefits any one apart from the road construction sector. Maybe that’s what it is? A pipeline of infrastructure that is important, just because it is.

  13. “Auckland’s under-fire transport network is due to receive a touch of much-needed military precision this weekend as “The Colonel” takes over a key route – and offers free food along the way.

    KFC is teaming up with Auckland Transport this Friday for what the fast-food giant has dubbed the “The KFC Gravy Train”, offering fried chicken to rugby fans travelling to the Blues game at Eden Park”

    What a dumb idea. For years AT has publicized “no eating or drinking” inside trains. Now we will have an entire EMU that stinks of KFC, not to mention the mess that will be left behind on the seats and floors.

    Instead handing the free junk food out, why not hand out vouchers, that can be redeemed in a store?

    1. That is moronic from all involved. Really need to move away from fatty KFC sponsoring these types of sporting events/teams

    1. Nice, any idea that the cost of this tunnel was? In particular compared to the monstrosities planned for the southern line level crossing removals

  14. On Aucklands double decker diesel bus fleet. Why did they not go hybrid?

    Busses are braking and accellerating constantly, so a hybrid should work really well, and busses drive allot, so the extra capex should be easily offset by lower fuel costs.

    London has had hybrid busses since 2005.

    Anyone know why we went with diesel for the Auckland double deckers?

  15. electric is great and all, but we could have had 7 years of lower emissions and lower running costs already. Commuters breathing in less diesel fumes from the busses.

    And we’d shortly have a fleet of electric + efficient hybrid diesel, instead of electric + old sk00l diesel

    Is there something special about NZ that means hybrid busses didn’t work?

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