Greater Auckland is an independent volunteer-run analysis and advocacy platform for improving the quality of our cities. Formerly transport blog, we provide evidence based debate on urban form, transport, housing, design, and public space. Our aim is to foster a greater Auckland for all.
Bike Auckland have a fantastically detailed post on the long history of this project, and describe what different between this new design and the previous Skypath proposal:
Initial images show a pathway along the city side of the bridge: it’s cantilevered off the piers, and roughly level with the roadway. According to the official media release, the path echoes the shape and design of the existing bridge, with a five metre wide travel width, and three wider and spacious terraced galleries about 100m long, stepped down from the walkway and cycleway, creating a natural seating area where people can gather or pause to take in the views.
Crucially, the announcement notes that because this pathway will be attached to the bridge piers rather than the clip-on, that means “no restrictions on the number of people who can access the path at one time, and it is designed to cater for future demands”. The Transport Agency’s General Manager System Design and Delivery, Brett Gliddon, says construction could begin as early as next year.
Here are the images NZTA has released:
It seems like the design changes make good sense. The pathway can be wider and with separation between walkers and cyclists, there won’t need to be restrictions on the number of people who can use it at any one time, and there are more ways people could exit the structure in an emergency. This will come at a higher cost, estimated at around $100 million, and I hope that new resource consents are not required, but in the long run I think it’s important that we build this properly.
So what next? NZTA’s media release notes that funding for the project is already included in the National Land Transport Programme, and also that construction could start by the end of next year. Bike Auckland’s post elaborates on this further.
So, what next? When can we ride?
You’ll have as many questions as we do, especially about timing and legalities. Like us, you’ll want to know specifics about the widths and materials, the shape of the viewing areas and whether they’re covered, and the details of the landings at each end, as well as questions around operating hours and all the many other issues that were canvassed along SkyPath’s road to the Environment Court and resource consent.
The onus is now on the Transport Agency to clarify these issues as it proceeds to detailed design.
In particular, we’ll want to know about whether the existing resource consent can be leveraged, with conditions varied as necessary, to ensure as swift a delivery as possible.
Because the last thing any of us wants is to turn the clock back a decade and start entirely from scratch. With everything we now know about climate, health, resilient networks – and with the growing bike boom – certain and swift completion of this missing link is the highest priority. The Agency is talking about construction beginning as early as next year, i.e. 2020. Let’s hold them to that!
NZTA haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory recently on pretty much anything, so we’ll be watching closely to make sure they get on with this.
So what about the previous Skypath proposal? Bike Auckland make the point that without Skypath’s tenacity there’s no chance we would have reached this point by now.
A decade of work isn’t something to let go of lightly; especially when you have fought the good fight against stony-faced officialdom that insisted it couldn’t be done. On the other hand, officialdom has now risen to the challenge with a design that’s fully fit for the future, and is eager to deliver.
There are clearly loose ends to be tied up on that score, and we warmly encourage the Agency and the SkyPath Trust to work together to reach a resolution of any outstanding issues.
Whatever happens next, the story of SkyPath will forever stand as an inspiring example of ingenuity, passionate dedication, and a sheer determination.
Today’s design ultimately rests on the inspirational leadership and visionary momentum generated by thousands of dedicated volunteer hours of energy, expertise, and public spirit thanks to the GetAcross Campaign and the SkyPath Trust. We also credit the unflagging support of the people of Auckland over the years, and this government’s commitment to delivering a harbour crossing as a proud legacy for our city.
Plus, good luck getting everyone not to call the eventual crossing “SkyPath”! The name is synonymous with Auckland’s aspirations to be able to walk and bike over the bridge, and it will live on as enduring testament to the courageous legacy of Bevan Woodward and his tireless warriors over the years, who knew it could be done. They were right.
Thankfully it seems like peace is being made between the Skypath Trust and NZTA, with Bevan Woodward noting that he had a constructive meeting with NZTA yesterday, and that this coming Sunday’s planned protest has been called off.
It is super exciting that NZTA have finally put petty battles behind them, are stepping up to the plate and delivering on a key addition to Auckland’s transport system. But my final word of thanks must be to all the hard working volunteers that just never gave up over the past decade. You know who you are and Auckland owes you a great debt of gratitude.
This article by Andrew Bell was first published on LinkedIn and is republished here with his permission.
Anaru Ropiha was a friend who taught me a little about courage. We formed a band at Waikato University in the 80’s with Chris Moses, Chris King, Moses Hiakita and Bruce Smith. Three Pakeha, three Maori, one in a wheelchair. Anaru was the singer and frontman – known as ‘Jimi’ because of his visual and vocal resemblance to Hendrix. He was a smiling sticky-sweet box of charisma – seductive, charming and true. He had all the mana & moves, knew how to wrap his arms around a crowd, holding them together in a heaving mess of joy as they sang along to the hits from Prince, The Doors, Springsteen, Bob Marley and Aotearoa. We would trace out a ragged musical arc of emotion behind him, trusting his instincts, rewarded with boozy cheers.
There was something heroic about how he could harness the Hamilton pub crowds, but he was humble about it, like it was some kind of accidental talent. He was training to be a teacher and was being groomed for a career in politics.
There was nothing heroic about how he died. Killed by a stranger in a Landrover while riding his 50cc scooter at night on Ruakura Road, with his lights and helmet on. The driver never came forward, Anaru was 21 years old. At his tangi in Tokoroa we sang though our grief, sitting beside him night and day as he lay dressed in his leathers holding a microphone in an open casket. His whanau was devastated, his iwi had lost a leader, and we never played as a band again.
Tangihana is a moving grief process where friends & whanau put their arms around each other in aroha on a journey from loss, through remembrance, to goodbye and acceptance. There was little room for injustice. As we moved on with our lives his name would come up in conversation, we’d reminisce about a gig somewhere, then sit quietly with the reminder of his sudden death at the back of our minds. We grew to accept it. Part of life. Nothing we could do to prevent it.
Many years, bandmates, songs and gigs later I have discovered a little of the talent Anaru had for holding a crowd and taking them with you. Right words, right music, right room, but most of all trust and respect for people – as best you can. It’s taken me much longer to learn that Anaru’s road death was no accident. It was a trap knowingly set at night, predictable and preventable. As a Road System Designer I know the signs and if you wait long enough for a human mistake to happen, as they inevitably do, the trap will spring indiscriminately and unforgivingly, taking your best mate from you.
When it comes to road danger we have been socialised not to bother about trying to reach out and put our arms around the ones we love. Mothers struggle with the maternal anguish of not knowing if their sons and daughters will return home at night. They are told not to worry. Male Kiwi stoicism is a dangerous currency – threaded through our culture, songs and media it plays into the hands of cash-strapped roading authorities who are trained to wait until death traps go off before they can spend. It’s called economics. There is nothing ethical about it.
No road death or serious injury is acceptable. I know that 87% of our road network is operated and maintained at un-survivable speeds – 2 tonne vehicles hurtling towards each other at 100 kph with nothing but 3 inches of paint between them. Small human mistakes – fatigue, distraction, visibility etc – will have tragic consequences. We cannot create the perfect driver. We can create forgiving roads.
I also know that creating survivable speed limits of 80kph is the most effective and low-cost scalable solution that a Government can implement quickly to prevent death and serious injury on rural roads. Where we have put Survivable Speeds in place, we have seen healthy, sustainable and vibrant communities emerge. They do more than just leave us alive, they improve our lives
We have seen courageous compassion shown recently in Aotearoa by leaders, communities, and musicians. We know that we are good at putting our arms around each other to grieve in times of tragedy. Now it’s time as Road System Designers to put our arms around friends, whanau and communities to prevent tragedy, holding them safely while the daily song of travel takes place to get to work, children to school, do our domestic work, move goods, and provide services. We also need to give priority for the most vulnerable – the young, the old, people walking & cycling, and communities in low income areas that need safe travel choices.
This is a vision shared by many who care for our communities and requires Road System Designers to also show courage and shift from victims to heroes, to reform our transport system and radically improve our lives. Auckland Transport leadership have done this by allowing myself and my colleagues to apply the Vision Zero and Survivable Speed principles to our road network in Tamaki Makaurau.
We have been talking to communities about our Vision for Survivable Speeds. Some are sceptical due to long-held ‘blame the road user’ beliefs, travel delay myths and the perception that we are taking something away from them. As the discussion shifts to how Survivable Speeds will give them what all communities want – a safe place their families can grow up in, become independent and do business from – a strange tangihana takes place in the conversation, like a deadly secret has been uncovered, and they begin to grieve for why it has taken us so long to do this.
With the tangihana conversations underway, we are gathering community support as we go, and more importantly, we are acting on it, engineering Hope, one raised crossing at a time. It’s challenging, as is anything new, but the good news is that it’s working. We are saving lives and preventing serious injury. We’ve got this, and we need more Vision Heroes to join us.
Road System Designers of Aotearoa, we share the same power, can see the same opportunities, and know the solutions. Join us in speaking up and taking urgent action together on survivable speeds. Nga Iwi E.
This is a post by Heidi O’Callahan and Greater Auckland reader Paul Callister.
Would you take public transport to another city or small town? Can you imagine regional New Zealand having attractive alternatives to driving?
Greater Auckland’s main focus is on urban planning issues within our city. But Auckland is a node in the national transport networks. Auckland’s economy, transport, culture, and environmental footprint, are all intricately linked with those of the rest of the country.
New Zealand should develop and invest in a comprehensive national public transport network of rail, bus, ferry and van, linking with cycleways and walkways. It would use advanced information and communications technology to combine public and private transport providers. In this post, we discuss the environmental benefits.
reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adverse effects on the local environment and public health
The Zero Carbon Bill, released this month, could be in force later this year. The legislation will require 3-yearly emissions budgets. The initial budget – to be set by the end of 2021 – is the most important. Our children will have the brightest possible future if we adopt some urgency around making radical changes to our short-term emissions. The more quickly we can adapt our infrastructure for a low-carbon lifestyle, the quicker we can avoid paying tens of billions of dollars in carbon abatement costs. In turn, this saving allows further investment in sustainable planning.
In considering how an emissions budget may realistically be met, the Commission and the Minister must include consideration of the following… identification of key opportunities for emissions reductions and removals in New Zealand…
Let’s avoid stale mindsets limiting what’s “realistic”. We won’t reduce our emissions by following the same practices of recent years. We need to discuss a national public transport network, not in terms of what has been normal, but in terms of the key opportunity it offers.
The emissions calculator from Enviro-Mark Solutions below compares the different modes for an example trip; travel from Auckland to New Plymouth:
Travel by long distance coach (13 kg) contributes far less to climate change than taking the trip by either driving (76 kg) or flying (73 kg). An improved national public transport network could allow people to “modeshift” in two ways:
from flying to public transport, and
from driving to public transport.
Modeshift from Flying
Emissions from NZ domestic aviation have been up and down since 1990; presumably the economy and more modern technology have played their part. Currently, the domestic aviation emissions (892.6 kt CO2e) make up 1.2% of NZ’s gross carbon emissions. Do our domestic flights contribute 1.2% towards everything we need and do and value? Or is this highly-polluting activity mainly benefitting a small group in society?
These emissions are increasing significantly at present – jumping 9.3% and 7.7% in the last two years (see inventories).
Some people see a solution in electrification of short-haul aviation, which would require substantial extra electricity generation capacity. Others are looking to biofuel technology, which has technical issues to resolve, or significant arable land requirements. But even if low-emissions aviation technology becomes viable, our existing fleet isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. According to Prof Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield University:
No other industry has spent so much money on improving its performance. But all the benefits that have been made are being offset by growth in air traffic.
Over the next 10 years, which is the critical timeframe for optimising future outcomes, the available mechanism for reducing emissions from aviation is simply to reduce our flying. As the calculator above shows, travel that can be shifted from flying to long distance bus will involve a drop in emissions in the order of 80%.
As with domestic aviation, electric vehicles and biofuels might offer relief in the long term, but emissions need to reduce now, not in 20 or so years when the fleet has changed substantially.
Currently, our big challenge is to tackle the steep upward trend in vehicle km travelled (MoT data):
The easiest place to make fast change is in cities, where urban planners have plenty of options for providing better mobility and access.
However, according to the NZTA’s current definition, rural roads account for 58% of our nation’s travel; urban roads 42%. The following chart uses this NZTA data, but note the caveat below. Also, the MoT and the NZTA use different estimation methods, which accounts for the different totals in the charts above and below.
This increase in vehicle kilometres travelled is from road building, and created a 6% increase in road transport carbon emissions in 2017, a worryingly higher rate of increase after the already-unacceptable rise of 2.5% the previous year.
In rural areas, the widened roads are like a sponge for more travel, but the newly generated traffic takes decades to reach equilibrium. The effect of roads built recently and under construction now will last long into the future.
Caveat: NZTA are improving the way they split vehicle km travelled into different road types at present, which is great. For now, it pays to note that NZTA have counted urban motorways as rural roads. A more accurate estimate might be arrived at by shifting that travel into the urban tally. The 2017/18 data (only, for now) is detailed enough to be able to do this, and the shift turns these figures around, to 42% rural, 58% urban. Rural travel is still significant.
If we concentrate on modeshift in the cities only, urban travel will need to reduce by 75% by 2030:
One outcome of such significant behaviour change would be that young people in the city wouldn’t bother learning to drive, and existing drivers might not retain sufficient skills to feel confident on rural roads. They will need public transport to other areas.
In any scenario that involves reducing our travel sufficiently nationwide (by 43% by 2030), a national public transport network will be required to maintain (or preferably improve) levels of access.
Other Environmental Benefits
If we can switch our travel from (many) private cars to (space efficient) buses, our road building and widening programmes can be slashed to just the work needed to improve safety.
The benefits for the local environment of not doing these huge projects would be huge.
Pūhoi to Warkworth Motorway Project - Comparison Video December 2018/July 2017 - YouTube
This road construction through the countryside is dividing and destroying ecosystems, ruining soil and waterways, and contributing to biodiversity loss. Having fewer vehicles on our roads benefits the environment, too. As the recent Environment Aotearoa report notes:
Vehicle emissions contribute to poor air quality. Abrasion of road surfaces, tyres, and brake pads release small particles, including heavy metals into the environment. Petroleum spills and leaks contaminate land, soil, and water.
The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide… The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.
Nelson and Canterbury have declared a climate emergency, and parliament might follow, which lends weight to marshalling resources to opportunities such as this. By rights, there should be an ecological emergency declared at the same time.
However, the benefits of investing in a national public transport network reach far further than what we’ve touched on here about the environment. Further posts will explore other aspects. We welcome discussion.
Some great news on Friday with Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff officially kicking off the upgrade to the Puhinui station. When completed it will become one of Auckland’s most important interchange stations, allowing for frequent, simple and reliable congestion free connections to the airport.
A new $60M rail and bus interchange will be built in south Auckland and will be opened in early 2021.
The Puhinui Station Interchange will connect rail and buses to Auckland Airport and Manukau.
The announcement has been made by Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff and Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford.
The Transport Agency is contributing co-investment funding for the project, with the remainder coming from Auckland Council and the Regional Fuel Tax (RFT).
Mr Goff says this project creates a new southern gateway to the city and the station will be a landmark building.
“This project allows for congestion-free travel to the airport and its employment precinct for people across Auckland. It will be welcomed by workers and visitors to the city.
“The impressive new station will mark out the south-western gateway to the city.
“It provides a modern, safe and weather protected environment to allow people easily and conveniently to transition between road and rail services.
We’d seen some earlier concepts for the station upgrade but the new renders for the station look absolutely fantastic.
Here is the upstairs concourse with the central escalators heading down to the train platforms.
Looking down from above
The long term plan is that a busway from the airport, eventually extending all the way to Botany, will cross the rail line here on a new bridge. That will hook directly into the upstairs concourse of this new station building. That would mean heading to the airport you could simply just hop off a train, travel up the escalators and get straight onto a bus for a fast trip to the airport. The press releases suggest it will take 10 minutes from Puhinui to the Airport to given a total travel time from Britomart to the airport of 46 minutes. That might not sound super fast but it will be much more reliable than traffic would be most times of the day. It is also worth remembering that the most frequent users of this new connection won’t be travellers between the airport and the city but airport workers, most of whom live in South Auckland and for who this will finally create a viable PT option for them to use.
Given the Southern and Eastern lines in the future will each be running a minimum of every 10 minutes all day, it means that each way there will be trains between here and the city at least every 5 minutes and even more frequently at peak times after the CRL opens. This will ultimately provide a faster and more frequent connection than even a rail spur, like some have suggested. This is because besides being more difficult and expensive than most assume, services on a spur couldn’t run as frequently unless we also reduced services to Manukau and/or Papakura/Pukekohe. Yet current indications are that we will need all of the additional capacity the CRL and other rail network upgrades will enable just to serve the expected growth on the existing network, especially south of Papakura with all of the new housing that is planned. The new interchange will also make it simple for people travelling on the future Hamilton services to reach the airport.
Construction on the new interchange is due to start in October and be completed within 18 months, before the APEC meeting in November of 2021. AT had been hoping to have the station completed before the America’s Cup at the beginning of 2021. However the station is one of the projects that AT had accused the NZTA of holding up. With the APEC timeframe being mentioned, that delay seems to have been borne out. One positive is that the NZTA are picking up the bulk of the costs, contributing 75% of the budget.
Along with the new station building, the NZTA are currently in the process of procuring an upgrade to SH20B to provide a reliable connection from the station to the airport. A Registration of Interest is currently underway and it notes the following works are included:
The works include the construction of priority lanes on both sides, a shared user path along the whole length (approximately 3.3km), a pedestrian steel bridge, the upgrade and widening of two intersections to signalised intersections, approximately 100,000 cubic metres earthworks, extensive service relocations and protections and have an overall construction cost estimate of $58.59m
I understand there are issues which currently prevent the bridge across to the airport from being duplicated or widened so these works are likely to stop at there but combined with the upgrades the airport are doing within the airport precinct, should provide enough reliability.
It’s good that the AT and the NZTA are getting on with this project however I do think they need to put some effort in to dispelling some of the myths about airport access that exist out there.
With these projects, that makes four major Rapid Transit projects currently under construction in Auckland, the others being the City Rail Link, Eastern Busway and the Northern Busway extension.
Every weekend we dig into the archives. This post was first published in May 2011.
It’s certainly a busy time at the moment for big long term planning documents in Auckland. As well as the much talked about “Auckland Spatial Plan”, Auckland Council has now released a discussion document on a “City Centre Master Plan.”
I have talked a bit about the Master Plan in the past – when it was in its earlier stages of formulation. But it’s probably worth discussing a bit more, and encouraging people to submit on the Master Plan, now that we have a full discussion document completed. Furthermore, the vast number of comments on a few posts I’ve written recent about pedestrians, shared spaces and the city centre would indicate to me that there’s a lot of public interest in making our city centre work better.
Auckland Council has some great sounding big picture objectives for the city centre – to be the real heart and soul of Auckland:
As well as all the normal things that everyone tends to agree on (like better heritage protection, taking advantage of the harbour location, improving friendliness for business and so forth) it seems to me that the fundamental change proposed by the Master Plan is that the city centre is for people.
This focus on improving the walkability of the city centre, making it a nicer place to be in as a pedestrian, rather than simply a place to pass through, it utterly critical in my opinion. As I noted a few days back, historically we have treated pedestrians like rubbish: designing intersections in ways that are likely to kill them, banning them from easily walking between the city and the Domain and so forth. It would seem as though the Council has finally got the message that if we want the city centre to be an attractive place for people to work, live and visit – then it needs to be nice to walk around:
One thing the Master Plan discussion document appears to acknowledge (although it could highlight it more clearly in my opinion) is that improving the pedestrian friendliness of the city centre will come at the cost of general vehicle capacity. To ensure the city centre has its accessibility and connectivity with the rest of Auckland maintained, let alone enhanced, it will be critical for these improvements to be matched by improving public transport. Obviously getting the CBD Rail Tunnel built is the utterly critical factor in enabling all this change to happen. Exciting to see both the idea of pedestrianising Queen Street and two-waying Nelson and Hobson Streets being proposed!
While the Master Plan discussion document is full of fantastic ideas, I think perhaps where it could be improved is taking a closer look at a large number of little things that could be done to help achieve its goals. Things like auditing all intersections to find out ways of improving life for pedestrians, or looking at temporary street closures over lunch periods or at weekends, or ways in which we can improve bus priority in the city centre to encourage people to catch public transport rather than driving.
I suppose that I worry if we have too many big and expensive ideas nothing will actually happen for a very long time. If we want to make Auckland’s city centre a much nicer place then we need to look at what can be achieved quickly, and at relatively low cost. Is it possible to redo Hobson and Nelson Streets without having to change around the kerb lines? If so, how much money does that save? Is it possible/desirable to pedestrianise Queen Street but not repave it for now?
I certainly know there’s always a warranted desire to do jobs “properly”, but quite frankly unless we’re all willing to pay a lot higher rates we need to look at some low-hanging fruit so that we might actually achieve something within the next few years. After all, one could argue that re-phasing the traffic lights along Queen Street did more to improve its pedestrian friendliness than the $40 million or so spent on repaving the street.
Phil Twyford said our Government is tackling the long-term issues and this 20 year plan is a step change for transport in Wellington.
“We’ll reduce congestion by integrating modern rapid transit, walking and cycling upgrades, and better public transport with the city’s motorways and roads.
“Better public transport infrastructure and more services will encourage people out of their cars – freeing up the roads for those that have to drive.
“By unlocking the Basin Reserve and making streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, we’ll have a more liveable city that’s safer to get around.
“LGWM will help boost growth and encourage more housing, especially along the rapid transit corridor.
“The capital’s waterfront CBD is a national treasure. It is a job rich high-productivity economic powerhouse for the region. LGWM will unleash its potential and make it a magnet for investment after years of underinvestment.
“We can’t do everything at once and my expectation is that congestion-busting projects like rapid transit will be prioritised over motorway projects.
“We know that only by taking a joined-up regional approach will we unlock Wellington’s potential. That’s why we have allowed an estimated $4 billion for other regional transport projects.
“The next step is for the Wellington City Council and regional councils to endorse and commit to funding their share of the $6.4 billion plan. The total cost of the LGWM indicative package is split 60:40 between central government and local government to reflect the wider local benefits of the package,” Phil Twyford said.
This work has been underway for a number of years now, basically ever since the horrible Basin Reserve flyover had its consent declined in 2014 (and again in 2015). Back in late 2017 a draft programme was developed and it was pretty unimpressive, focusing enormously on building a whole pile of motorways before improving public transport. It seems like the updated version is better, although there are some inconsistencies between the Recommended Programme and the Government’s announcement. Overall it seems like the Recommended Programme was unaffordable and therefore needed both a bit of trimming as well as being delivered over a longer time period.
Anyway, let’s start by looking at the strategic approach the LGWM project took, which actually looks pretty good with a very strong focus on findings ways to move more people in fewer vehicles:
This approach translates into five key moves. The first four seem to make good sense, although the state highway improvements seems to continue with the problematic previous approach of suggesting a pile of motorways are needed before we can build public transport. More on that soon.
The recommended programme then runs through how it might be implemented over time, what different areas might look like once the programme has been completed, and what some of its impacts might be. For example there’s a good slide showing some of the ways the programme will reduce car dependency over time:
What’s perhaps less clear is how the Let’s Get Welly Moving recommended programme compares with what was announced yesterday. The various numbers seem quite different:
The Ministry of Transport’s website suggests the indicative package (which may or may not be the same as the recommended programme) costs around $3.7 billion.
There are similar inconsistencies between what’s in an out of the different packages and programmes. The Government’s announcements make no reference to projects like duplication of the Terrace Tunnel or widening the motorway to the north of Wellington, so theoretically they should be cheaper rather than more costly than the LGWM programme. Some of the figures appear to make some allowances for other projects in Wellington outside the LGWM project area, and it’s unclear which figures relate to government spend versus total investment needed.
There’s also very little information about how the 20 year programme might be sequenced over time, with just one slide of a very lean “Way Forward” document giving some indication about what early priorities might be:
If the Terrace Tunnel really has been dropped, then probably the main questionable project left is duplicating the Mt Victoria Tunnel and widening Ruahine Street, which is costed at around $700 million. As the sequencing of the programme is developed further it would be good to see the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication pushed towards the back end of the 20 years and only done if really necessary once rapid transit is in place.
So overall, yesterday’s announcements suggest that Let’s Get Welly Moving has definitely improved from earlier proposals. However there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions around how the programme will be sequenced, how it will be funded and ultimately when some of its key components will be delivered.
Cycling in Auckland has definitely improved over the last five years, especially where we’ve started to build quality and safe infrastructure – although the roll-out of that appears to have stalled of late. But we’re coming off a low base and have a long way to go and so it was a surprise yesterday to see Auckland ranked as the 7th best city for cycling.
The 2019 Bicycle Cities Index has put Auckland seventh, but people who ride bikes in the city say it still has a long way to go.
Auckland cycling advocates said they were not expecting the result.
The 2019 Bicycle Cities Index was released this morning by Berlin insurance company, Coya.
The report ranks 90 cities on a range of cycling factors including weather, infrastructure, investment, usage, crime and safety.
Utrecht in the Netherlands took out first place with the highest bicycle usage rate overall, at over 50 percent.
Sitting in seventh place is Auckland – beating Melbourne, Berlin and Tokyo.
Here’s RNZ’s Checkpoint piece on it
Auckland ranked 7th best city in world to cycle - YouTube
It would be fantastic for Auckland to be the seventh best in the world but unfortunately when you look at the data it appears they one of the common issues with comparing data from around the world – every place reports data differently. As such, there’s a clear mistake in the rankings for Auckland at least. Below is just the top 10 but the result for all 90 cities are available. The index has a description of what each of those symbols stands for
The issue seems to stem from Auckland getting an unusually high result for bike modeshare, listed as 31%. Auckland also stands out in many of the other metrics for being well below those other top cities. If I had to guess, they’ve probably used a figure from Auckland Transport that looks at how many people cycle at some point rather than what the actual modeshare is – which usually comes in at just over 1%.
My guess is that in reality, we’d more likely be about 70th. Wellington is also on the list and comes in at 57th.
On a 12-month rolling basis, cycling has increased by 8.6%
The Northwest Cycleway continues to be one of the stars which will certainly have been helped by one of the few new cycleways to open in recent times (Ian McKinnon Dr). As we’ve highlighted before, Nelson St numbers are very high in part as both it and Quay St have been tweaked to also count scooters.
Despite the wrong ranking, perhaps AT could put it to good use to help set some goals and remove the molasses various cycling projects are currently stuck in.
Lime, Wave and newcomer Flamingo are the three e-scooter operators that will participate in the phase two e-scooter trial in Auckland.
Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT) have completed an application process for the second trial and selected the successful operators from a total of five applicants. The trial runs until 31 October 2019.
Auckland Council Licensing and Regulatory Compliance General Manager Craig Hobbs is leading the trial programme and says he is impressed with the way the programme has progressed since e-scooters were first suggested for Auckland’s streets.
“This time last year, we had barely heard of e-scooter ride-share schemes, let alone anticipated having fleets of e-scooters on our streets and footpaths.
“Since mid-October 2018, we have learned a huge amount about how these businesses work, public uptake and perception of e-scooters and how our own licensing framework supports micro-mobility ride-share initiatives like this.
“That work continues in this second phase trial where we will see how three operators share the market over six months,” says Mr Hobbs.
It’s good to see a new trial and also a new operator, which they say will roll out on the week beginning 9-June. As part of the new trial, there are also some changes coming with the most notable for users being slow-speed zones (Wave has been doing this for a while)
Operators offer limited speed zones
The new code of practice encourages operators to introduce slow-speed zones via geofencing. This automatically reduces the scooters’ speed in nominated areas, improving the safety of users and pedestrians.
Mr Ellison says the council and AT cannot impose speed limits through this licence process so operator-initiated geofencing is important for public safety.
“We were heartened to see that each operator proposed geo-fencing in their applications.
“Slow-speed zones in high use areas makes it safer for e-scooter users and pedestrians to share footpaths and for riders to use road and cycle ways.
“Lowered speeds are also a reminder to scooter users that they are in an area where they must take extra care, always on the lookout for others,” he says.
The council has taken on board feedback from disability groups, including the vision impaired, when recommending slow-speed zones – for example, the precinct around the Blind Foundation in Parnell.
The following areas will be geo-fenced. Riders will notice scooters slow to 15 kmph when entering or starting their journey in a slow-speed zone.
Jervois Road (College Hill to Curran Street)
CBD including Queen Street and waterfront area
Auckland City Hospital precinct
Parnell (including the Blind Foundation precinct)
There’s something not right in our transport system when we’re able to set and enforce speed limits on small devices like scooters based on them passing a virtual boundary and yet there is barely any enforcement on the multi-ton vehicles that actually killing and seriously injuring people every day. Not to mention that even the slightest hint at changing existing speed limits for them or adding safety features like speed tables, invokes heated opposition.
I also think these slower speed zones could end up having unintended consequences. In particular, I think it means scooter riders are much more likely to be on footpaths dodging pedestrians than on the road or in cycle lanes because they will be much slower cars and even bikes in many cases. I wonder if this will encourage more people to buy their own e-scooters?
As part of this new trial we should also start to see e-scooters further out from the central city too with a new tier to focus on the outer suburbs (map below) and Lime and Flamingo able to put up to 375 e-scooters in it. My guess is these will be focused around major PT stations.
The numbers of scooters allowed in each zone above are:
As part of the new trial, the council will be collecting larger licence fees. The amounts each company pay are based on how many scooters will be in each Tier. In total over six months they expect to collect almost $47k which they say goes back into the licensing and compliance monitoring programme.
Over the past 15-20 years Auckland has seen a pretty amazing transport revolution. We no longer have one of the worst public transport systems in the world and we have some of the most exciting and aggressive transport plans – in terms of where investment will go – in the world over the next decade.
The idea that Auckland needs public transport, walking and cycling to shoulder a much larger part of the transport task is near universally accepted now. This is a far cry from where things were even a decade ago, when much of the debate was instead around whether public transport could ever work in a city like Auckland.
It’s often difficult to get a real picture of what ‘the public’ thinks about transport issues, given that usually it’s only the most passionate who turn up to public meetings, but a few large pieces of public consultation undertaken by Auckland Council last year can give us some clues. Consultation on the Auckland Plan got nearly 16,000 responses – with most responses saying that the Plan got it about right in pushing for more people to use public transport, walking and cycling – or saying that the Plan didn’t go far enough (the consultation report noted that most of the respondents saying “partial” expressed a desire for a more significant shift).
Most recently, a survey asked Aucklanders what they want more of in their community, with better public transport, safer streets, and better walking and cycling facilities coming out first, second and third:
Politicians have generally caught on, with every Auckland Council mayoral election to date having a strong transport flavour to it, and the stronger supporter of public transport, walking and cycling of the two main competitors remains undefeated after three elections. Furthermore, after Jacinda Ardern became leader of the Labour Party in 2017, the very first policy announcement was for a new light-rail system in Auckland.
I’m sure there are still battles to come regarding the proportion of total transport investment that should go into public transport, walking and cycling compared to roads (it’s important to remember that walking and cycling makes up barely 2% of transport budgets at both a regional and national level) – but I don’t think it will ever be politically viable again for someone to run on an anti-public transport platform in Auckland and win. After all, only three councillors (Greg Sayers, Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee) voted against providing City Rail Link with an additional $500 million of funding (kind of odd that two of those councillors have played such a big role in getting Auckland’s rail system to where it is today and yet voted against CRL funding). So I think the “Auckland needs to continue to invest heavily in public transport, walking and cycling” argument has largely now been won.
The battle now is a different one, but in many respects an equally important one. The big political battle for transport over the next decade in Auckland will be about how we change our streets.
Auckland’s streets need to change. They’re horrifically unsafe, they waste enormous amounts of space on incredibly inefficient uses, they destroy – rather than support – the quality of our neighbourhoods, they actively discourage people from using them in anything other than a car, and they don’t even do a particularly good job at keeping traffic moving.
But while I think the “we need to spend money on more than just roads” battle is largely won in Auckland, I’m not sure we are yet close to winning the battle over convincing Aucklanders that their streets need to change – or at least not when it comes to the details of it all. Consultation on the regional fuel tax last year highlighted that – at least conceptually – Aucklanders strongly support measures that improve road safety and give buses more priority. They came out as the first and third most supported initiatives – based on nearly 15,000 responses:
Improving safety, providing buses with priority, making our streets nicer places to be in, and making walking, cycling and e-scootering safer and better for everyone, requires fundamental changes to our streets. There’s simply no room in most places to widen streets further to fit these extra uses in, meaning that tough trade-offs are needed. Improving safety means slower speed limits, bus lanes will typically need to come at the cost of general traffic or on-street parking, the same with cycle lanes. Even amenity improvements will often mean lengthy disruption as pavements are ripped up and replaced.
It is these changes to our streets that often create the biggest public and political backlash – even often coming from the same people who say that it’s so important to improve safety or make public transport better. A recent example of this is what’s happened in St Heliers, where a fairly innocuous set of changes to make the area safer have got the locals up in arms:
The Auckland seaside village of St Heliers is up in arms over safety improvements it fears will hit business hard.
“It will kill the village,” says Sue Clark, who runs a property management and rental company in St Heliers, the last village along the city’s famous Tamaki Drive.
She is referring to a plan by Auckland Transport for 13 raised zebra crossings, a new traffic island, widening part of Tamaki Drive and removing 40 car parks – all aimed to improve safety for people walking, riding bikes and driving.
The proposals sit alongside a separate proposal by AT for a 30km/h speed limit on Tamaki Drive outside St Heliers village.
“I have been here since 2000 and I have never seen any danger around here with pedestrian crossings. It’s a village. People look after each other,” Clark said.
Her colleague Annette Woodyear-Smith said AT’s plans were ludicrous, totally unnecessary and being railroaded through.
Ayush Madeshia, who runs a small fruit and vegetable shop, said it is already hard enough finding a car park in St Heliers.
The loss of 40 car parks, he said, will mean fewer people shopping in the village and could lead to his business closing.
Two elderly shoppers who wanted to go by their first names were aghast at the proposed changes and the effect on businesses.
“Many people are elderly and need a park outside a shop,” said Liz.
If lower speed limits in a village centre and a few raised pedestrian crossings will supposedly be the end of the world, then it feels like a long, hard road towards making the large-scale changes to Auckland’s streets that will be necessary to achieve the very improvements that Aucklanders have repeatedly said they support – safer and nicer streets, and better public transport, walking and cycling.
Mayoral candidate John Tamihere seems to have jumped on this bandwagon, slamming Auckland Transport for the tentative steps they’ve been taking towards improving the safety of our streets and making them more than just for moving cars:
Under Mayor Phil Goff’s “weak leadership”, Tamihere said, AT had been able to implement strategies designed to “harass people out of their cars”.
“Under Goff’s mayoralty, ideologues within the council have deliberately set out to narrow roads, reduce speed limits, take away parking spaces, take away free left hand turns, change traffic light patterns to favour ‘people not the car’, and destroy communities like St Heliers.”
Tamihere pledged to put a stop to what he described as AT’s “anti-car strategy”.
So while I think there will still be some debate over the balance of transport funding across different modes, I see that over the next decade the main battleground for the transport debate in Auckland will be over changing our streets. For Auckland to continue its progress towards being a much more liveable city where you don’t need to drive everywhere, where you have genuine travel choices and where you can move about the city in safe and healthy ways, this is a battle we must fight and a battle we must win.
With the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study (UNISCS) starting to show results, I thought it would be a good time to examine some of the possible implications; constraints and opportunities, for the Auckland rail network, of an increased freight task to and from Northland.
This is not a post discussing the merits of any such move but rather a look at a possible resultant scenario for the city’s rail network. I am writing this in advance of the completion of the Study’s work so it’s pretty broad brush.
Any move of port operations at scale to NorthPort will require a substantial upgrade to rail infrastructure there and in Auckland. Only rail can serve a port at such distance efficiently to its main markets.
The general plan is to complete the rail line to port connection: The Marsden Link. And the North Auckland Line (NAL) itself needs a major upgrade as it’s in a very poor state, with many undersized tunnels, rickety bridges, and sections of wobbly track. Then an inland port somewhere on the outskirts of North Western Auckland is planned, where freight to and from the port can be marshalled, some distributed directly from there by road to West Auckland and North Shore destinations. The remaining freight is then to be trained through the Auckland network at night, when Metro services are not using it, to distribution centres in South Auckland and the rest of the North Island. The addition of a rail fed inland port in the North West enables logistics companies to serve their West and North Shore markets without having to drive through the congested isthmus. A critical pinch point for all transport services.
The key here will be to time the transfer of port tasks north with not only the necessary port infrastructure but also the required rail network improvements:
There is both the ability to stage these investments, as well as some quite serious limits to that. Certainly building the Marsden Link would have the immediate effect of enabling Northland bulk goods like logs and milk powder to be trained northwards to NorthPort instead of south through Auckland to the port there or Tauranga for export, as they do currently. So it is likely that this connection alone may enable more efficient and more frequent ship visits to NorthPort, but without improvements to NAL even this may be of only marginal value. And there are no doubt effective ways to stage the NAL upgrade overtime, but, any move of major tasks currently undertaken at Ports of Auckland, especially the container trade, would require all three investments along with considerable investment at NorthPort itself.
There may be opportunities to shift individual sectors north, say like the car trade, but any whole sector will require the depot and fairly serious work on the NAL. Presumably we will see more detailed discussion of this when the indicative business case drops soon.
In order for a substantial increase in night trains through the existing Auckland Network to be socially acceptable, and to further increase environmental benefits, it seems likely that electrification will need to be extended north to the depot (though this is probably dependent on further electrification projects, especially closing the gap between Auckland and Hamilton). Happily this also means that extension of Metro services to Waitakere, Kumeu/Huapai, even Waimauku, depending on development, would be able to follow this work too. Perhaps this would require double tracking as well? So possibly we can add:
Double tracking and electrifying from Swanson to Kumeu and/or new depot, plus resultant station works.
Under this scenario, a fair bit of work will also be required on the rest of the Auckland Network to accommodate these growing freight volumes from Northland and Bay of Plenty/Waikato. Particularly in the context of the coming boom in Auckland Metro services; ridership is expected to double fairly quickly on the back of major investments in the network, particularly the CRL (and bus network improvements; as these systems are integrated). Train paths will also need to be found for reviving Intercity services. Already there is a growing need for additional track especially on the main trunk between Wiri and Westfield, as this is also the busiest Metro path and the necessary Intercity one; separating freight and Metro paths is an ideal way to increase network capacity and reliability for both. At least four tracks will be needed here, with six at important stations like Ōtāhuhu and Puhinui. Largely there is space for this along the NIMT spine. Some of these are in planning now, including electrification to at least Pukekohe.
At some point (and depending on how big NorthPort gets) the volume of freight traffic north will outgrow overnighting through Auckland. Then there is the much more difficult problem of expanding the line through west Auckland. There has long been a designation between the Westfield Junction and the Western Line (NAL) next to the Mt Albert Pak n Save, called the Avondale-Southdown Line (ASL), which was designed to create a bypass around the Newmarket junction for west-south trains. However any detailed look at this ancient relic shows that it is all but unworkable as a surface line, would be very expensive, and critically, doesn’t solve the problem.
A key difficulty with this route is that wiggly central section that winds through dense suburbia crossing many streets (18 by my count on this section alone) and houses, before joining a much more straightforward section alongside SH20. But worse than that is the fact that it rejoins the existing line still east of both the troublesome level-crossing plagued Avondale incline, and worse still, the two track only New Lynn trench. So while it does bypass Newmarket and the very inner section of the Western Line, it doesn’t bypass enough.
ASL designation snaking through Onehunga
Never fear. There is a much more elegant solution that avoids all these issues and probably costs no more that this suboptimal historic work-round: A dedicated freight tunnel direct from the Onehunga marshalling yards to some point west of the New Lynn trench (I favour a point west of the West Coast Rd overbridge). It avoids the steep grades, built up suburbia, and the worst of the western line; so ditch the poor ASL and go for the Mega Freight Tunnel:
NAL Freight Tunnel
12km of curiously flat, hill and human avoiding, rail tunnel. Yes at ~12km it would be 50% as long again as our longest current tunnel, Kaimai, interestingly the very thing that makes Ports of Tauranga competitive in the Auckland market. If electric and freight only it can be bored and run relatively cost effectively. Tunnelling, while never cheap, is not the most expensive part of underground rail networks; stations and passenger systems are much more complex than actual tunnel boring. So by dedicating this to freight only it can be a considerably more straightforward build. And as the western line right of way is much less constricted west of New Lynn (or more accurately west of Fruitvale Station) even a single track tunnel combined with a new third west from its portal to Henderson or Swanson would provide an entirely grade separate dedicated freight railway through West Auckland, connecting directly to the Onehunga yards, and so on south. Completing a 24 hour available dedicated and direct freight railway linking the North Island Main Trunk and the North Auckland Line free from competition with Auckland Metro services. If all major freight is moved from the current downtown port, leaving cruise ships and local vessels only, then Kiwi Rail’s freight business would have little need to use the current central city sections of the rail network (though that would still be available when necessary). This would enable current lines to be used entirely by Metro and other passenger services, like Kiwi Rail’s returning Intercity programme:
Passenger lines in blue, with extended western line services in light blue. Dedicated freight lines in black and grey.
Such an outcome would enable all sorts of improvements; especially the space to meet the rapid Metro service growth post CRL, increased ‘Metroisation’ of urban rail services; higher frequency, longer span, and even automation. It would also free up train slots for increasing Intercity services, and of course enable a more efficient and higher capacity freight route (currently KR run 22 trains day through the single track Kaimai tunnel).
All of this would be very expensive, but then so are the alternatives. At some point separating urban passenger and freight services will be needed in Auckland if both are to continue to grow. And whether that is done by duplicating existing paths or building whole new routes is going to need to be evaluated and considered. Already we are doing both; adding additional track to existing paths, and whole new task specific routes (eg CRL). Dedicated freight lines are nothing new either.
Below is a description of the Landside Freight Task for Ports of Auckland from the Port Future Study:
If major port operations stay at downtown Auckland then the Eastern Line will need at least tripling, which while relatively straightforward between Ōtāhuhu and Glen Innes would be punishing from there down to the port, if possible at all across Hobson Bay (consenting risk).
Having our biggest and fastest growing city astride the narrowest pinch point in the nation’s physical geography is going to increasingly require innovative transport solutions. Shifting the port from downtown Auckland will free up current city transport systems- road and rail- for other tasks, whereas leaving it there will require very expensive and disruptive expansions of motorways and railways through the dense centre of our biggest city, in order to accommodate increased freight arriving downtown.
If some considerable part of Auckland’s port operations is to head north via the rail network, the necessary rail infrastructure investments look like an opportunity to sort out some of the historical complications in the interlined Auckland rail network; to devolve parts of it into a super efficient two track Metro, and others into a dedicated freight railway. To the advantage of both systems.