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AT Research shows more people cycling

For a number of years now Auckland Transport have been conducting annual research into the use of active modes to allow them to track behaviour changes over time. This is not just relying on the automated counters but a survey to gauge the general population. They’ve now released the 2016 results and there are a lot of positive results and in total covers 1,178 responses.

The headline figure is that 31% of people surveyed had cycled, up from 27%. The researchers say this represents an increase of 45,600 people.

2014-16 cycling behaviour

These numbers are also broken down into different groups which are explained below. As you can see there has been a shift up the groups.

  • Rejectors (unable or never cycle and wouldn’t consider)
  • Considerer (never cycle but would consider)
  • Occasional (less than monthly)
  • Medium (monthly to weekly)
  • Frequent (twice a week or more)

2014-16 behaviour framework

While many people cycle just for fitness and it is the main reason people currently ride, many also do it for other reasons such as going to shops or commuting. Positively these non-exercise/recreational trips have all increased showing that people are using bikes more and more for everyday activities.

2014-16 cycling trips

Compared to last year, this year’s survey also shows increases to perceptions of cycling infrastructure. This was rated on a scale of 0-10 with 6-10 being agree. As you can see there have been improvements in the metrics but views show a lot more improvements to infrastructure are needed – which is not a surprising result.

2015-16 cycling attitudes

The number of people walking to activities, especially to PT has also increased positively.

2014-16 walking trips

The report also looks at the opportunities for growing the use of active modes for trips. First up for work where cycling is thought to be the biggest opportunity.

2016 Opportunity 1 - work

They break down the cycling to work opportunity as below. I can’t understand why they don’t also count the ‘Don’t own, or have access to a bike’ in the opportunity’. Within the last year I’ve personally heard of a number of stories of people buying bikes to take advantage of some of our fantastic new infrastructure such as Lightpath. It also highlights to me why we need to be looking seriously at options like bikeshare schemes, particularly as our cycling network expands and improves.

2016 Opportunity 1 - work breakdown

Next up for shops. I can’t understand why they think the barriers to cycling to shops are very strong but not for walking. It makes me wonder if those doing the survey only think of the only option to riding as being on high speed road bikes.

2016 Opportunity 2 - Shops

The Appendix also contains this interesting slide about what those surveyed thought of different travel modes. I thought it particularly highlights how much PT needs to be improved as it was considered fast, convenient, enjoyable by the lowest percentage of people compared to the other modes.

2016 Mode Associations

Overall there are some positive results but also some odd assumptions that have been made.

Old versions of the surveys can be found here.

Here’s AT’s press release on it:

In the past year an extra 45,000 Aucklanders have taken to two wheels.

Auckland Transport’s annual Walking and Cycling Survey, published today reveals that 353,000 Aucklanders cycle, up from 308,000 a year ago.

AT’s Cycling and Walking manager Kathryn King says the positivity about cycling in Auckland is also reflected in Auckland Transport’s cycle counts.

“We are seeing continual growth in cycle trips across the region with the biggest increase in the city centre.

“It’s great to see an increase in the number of people cycling to places like schools, local shops, work and to public transport interchanges.

New, protected cycling infrastructure such as the pink Lightpath is making cyclists feel safer, leading to an overall positive perception of cycling in Auckland to rise from 22 percent to 39 percent.

Currently more than 34,000 people cycle to work but the study reveals that there are a further 144,000 who could cycle to work but are not.

Ms King says that one of the main ways to get people cycling is good quality, connected cycleways.

“As we work with the Government on the three year programme of cycleway improvements, we expect the number of cycle trips in Auckland to continue growing.”

“Building a network of connected cycleways to and around the city centre as well to key public transport interchanges, is a key component of our strategy to improve the transport network.

The survey also reveals the number of people walking has increased by more than 11,000.

There was a big jump in the number of people walking for non-recreational journeys, up 17 percent from 2015.

Auckland Transport is working with project partners Auckland Council and the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme on a $200m programme of cycle improvements from 2015 to 2018.

 

Zoning reform: Is the Unitary Plan any good? (2 of n)

This is the second post in an ongoing series on the politics and economic of zoning reform. The first part looked at the costs, benefits, and distributional impacts of reforming urban planning rules to enable more development. This part takes a more specific look at the most recent reform to Auckland’s planning system: the Unitary Plan.

Now that the hearings are over, the submitters have been heard, and the politicians have voted, it’s worth asking: What have we gotten from the Unitary Plan? Does it take us in a useful direction, and to what degree?

In order to give a coherent answer to this question, I’m going to have to simplify matters. The UP does a lot to regulate development and local environmental issues – addressing everything from air quality to zoning for factors. But it has the strongest effects are on the city’s housing market. The UP shapes how much housing can be built, where it can be built, and how easy it is to get permission to build it.

Consequently, I’m going to focus on the impact of the Unitary Plan on people’s ability to build more homes in the city. Zoning capacity isn’t the only thing that matters, but it’s important. Cities that have “downzoned” severely, like Los Angeles in the 1970s and 80s, typically experience rising housing prices, while cities that “upzone” significantly, like Tokyo in the 1990s, tend to have an easier time keeping prices under control.

FrameWORK_Housing_ZoningCapacity

The great down-zoning of LA (Morrow, 2013)

In order to estimate the UP’s impact on Auckland’s capacity to build more homes, I’m going to draw upon “capacity for growth” modelling produced by Auckland Council and subsequently updated throughout the hearings process. As changes to the modelling methodology make a like-for-like comparison a bit difficult, I’m going to have to piece together the overall results.

The 2012 Capacity for Growth Study estimated the number of homes that could be built under the legacy zoning rules that were put in place prior to Auckland Council amalgamation. The modellers estimated a measure of “plan-enabled capacity” – i.e. the total quantity of housing that could be built within the city if everyone (re)developed their site to the maximum permitted under the zoning rules.

This is obviously an implausible scenario, as many people won’t choose to redevelop, at least for a while. So the results are best thought of as a theoretical upper bound rather than a realistic estimate of what would happen in practice. As we’ll see, this was addressed in subsequent modelling undertaken during the hearings.

With that caveat in mind, the modellers found that the legacy zoning rules allowed between 250,000 and 345,000 additional dwellings to be built in Auckland. The lower number reflects the maximum capacity for infill development, while the higher number reflects the maximum capacity for redeveloping residential sites.

The 2013 Capacity for Growth Study used the same methodology to assess the version of the UP that was notified by Auckland Council after consultation on the plan. This showed that the notified UP had only made incremental increases to infill and redevelopment capacity within the city.

The modellers found that the legacy zoning rules allowed between 258,000 and 417,000 additional dwellings to be built in Auckland. The lower number reflects infill capacity, while the higher figure reflects redevelopment capacity. However, it also noted future greenfield areas with capacity for around 90,000 additional dwellings.

Taking the greenfield areas into account, the notified UP would have delivered a 39-47% increase in capacity for housing, relative to the legacy zoning. That difference is shown in the following diagram. Essentially, the Unitary Plan as originally conceived would have been at most an incremental improvement.

CfGS legacy plans and notified UP chart

Things get a bit more complex when comparing between the notified UP and the final version of the UP that was recommended by the Independent Hearings Panel and approved (with minor tweaks) by Auckland Council. The modelling methodology changed in the course of the hearings, with the focus shifting from “plan-enabled” capacity to “commercially feasible” capacity. In effect, a new model was built to filter out sites that wouldn’t be profitable to develop.

The result was the final numbers presented in the Independent Hearings Panel’s report (and covered, somewhat hyperbolically, by the Spinoff) are lower – but considerably more realistic – than the figures reported in the Capacity for Growth Studies.

You can see that in the following chart. The commercially feasible capacity enabled by the notified UP is 213,000 additional dwellings – only 42% of the full plan-enabled capacity.

The key thing in this chart is the change between the notified UP and the final UP. Feasible capacity has increased from 213,000 to 422,000 dwellings, or a 98% increase. Most of the increase in capacity comes from within existing residential zones, thanks to rezoning and changes to zoning rules to allow people to build more dwellings on the same amount of land.

Recomended UP - Change in Feasible Capacity

So if we squint a bit, we can put these estimates together to get a rough picture of the overall outcome:

  • The notified UP increased plan-enabled capacity by 39-47% relative to the legacy plans
  • The final UP increased feasible capacity by 98% relative to the notified UP
  • This implies that the final UP has increased the zoning envelope by around 175-190%, relative to the legacy plans (i.e. 1.98*1.39 to 1.98*1.47).

Equivalently, if we assume that only around 42% of the plan-enabled capacity under the legacy zoning plans would be commercially feasible (a similar ratio to the notified UP), we can put together the following chart:

Feasible capacity legacy plans and Unitary Plan chart

Is this sufficient? Time will tell. Getting housing, transport, and place-making right for Auckland doesn’t end with a planning rulebook. But the final UP is undoubtedly a large step away from the broken status quo.

As this is a series on the economics and politics of zoning reform, I want to close with a few simple observations that arise from the quantitative analysis in this post.

  • The incremental changes observed between the legacy plans and the notified UP reflect the outcome of a political process. Council put out a draft plan for consultation, and then pulled back a lot of the changes in response to criticism.
  • The considerably larger changes between the notified UP and the final UP arose from a technical process – the independent hearings.
  • Although the IHP recommended, councillors decided. The final UP was voted up by many of the same councillors who had pulled back to a more conservative position three years before.

This in turn raises two questions that I will revisit in future posts in this series. First, why did the political process deliver a more conservative outcome than the technical process? And second, what changed between 2013 and 2016 to obtain a different outcome from the council votes on the plan?

What do you make of these figures?

A wheely suitcase in Europe #7: Gijon to Santiago de Compostela.

We left Gijon and drove our rental westward on the A8 highway. Our destination? Santiago de Compostela. Our route? Illustrated below (source).

Trip 7

Asturias is a beautiful part of Spain that mixes coastline and mountains to create a potent visual cocktail. Numerous impressive viaducts on the A8 highway provides splendid views on all sides, while a couple of tunnels smooth out the topographical ebb and flow. It really was a lovely driving experience. Partly because there was lots of road and not much traffic. Plus some fairly spectacular wind turbines (source).

After an hour or so of highway driving, we exited the highway at Ribadeo. This seaside little town sits on the border between the regions of Asturias, from hither we came, and Galicia, to thither we head. Ribadeo is definitely worth a stop; the town itself is cute and it sits in among some of the beaches in Spain. Perhaps the most famous is le Catadrales (source).

There are two important things to know with le Catadrales. The first is that its popularity means that you have to book; the second is that it can only be accessed at low tide. So we instead opted for Playa de os Castros (source).

This lovely little sliver of the Galician coast almost had it all: Jagged cliffs encapsulated the crescent shaped bay. Fine white sand and smooth rocks greet your feet. Take to the waves for a swim in the beautiful clear water, or sit back and relax in any number of calm rock pools. On the day we were there the temperature nudged 30 degrees and clear blue skies, so the refreshing currents of the Atlantic provided welcome respite.

Beyond Ribadeo, the A8 turns inland and heads south towards Santiago de Compostela, which is the capital of the Spanish region of Galicia. This is the most remote, less-visited, and (in my experience) most unique regions of Spain. The city purports to be the final resting place of Saint James, and by extension it marks the end point of “St James way” (Camino de Santiago). This is one of the more famous pilgrim routes (source).

If you’re not the sort of person who is motivated to walk thousands of kilometres in the name of God, then don’t write Santiago de Compostela off too quickly. The city has a lovely feel. This is partly due to its pleasant architecture, which is a UNESCO world heritage site for fairly obvious reasons …  (source).

The first thing I noticed, is that while Santiago de Compostela is a major tourist destination, the people we encountered were not your “typical” flashy Euro tourist. Instead, they were more the type of people who enjoy ascetic pleasures, such as walking thousands of miles. And then having done so, sitting around and enjoying a good yarn over a hearty (but not too expensive) meal. My kind of people.

The second thing I noticed about Santiago de Compostela was the large number of young people. SdC is home to a major university, which was founded in 1495 and now has 30,000 students (source). During my travels, I’ve come to realise that universities, and the young people they attract, contribute quite a lot to a city’s atmosphere. And it’s not because I like young people. It’s more because the types of activities they pursue tend to have positive spillovers for me. Specifically, students tend to like eating and drinking, but don’t like spending too much money. This means that cities and towns that are home to major universities also tend to support good, affordable food.

Of course, university towns also tend to have a lot of “creative energy”. On our last night in Santiago de Compostela, for example, we stumbled across an all-girl band of 5 who were belting out glorious original rock songs in front of an aged religious building in the middle of a lightning storm, which lit up the sky behind them. There was a very decent crowd for a Thursday night all having a whale of a time.

The other reason we stayed in Santiago de Compostela is simply its proximity to the rest of Galicia. And our second to last day, we picked up a rental car (40 Euro for one day; delightful little Volvo V40) and drove 268 kms for approximately 5 hours. In which time we took in the following towns and sights.

Day trip

One of our destinations stood out. Let me introduce you to Castro de Barona. This is a little headland juts out in the Atlantic that just happens to be the site of well-preserved Celtic ruins dating to 100 BC. Now, as some you may know I love history. Indeed, before turning my hand to engineering and eventually economics, I studied history.

Of all the historical monuments and sites I have visited in my life, the ruins at Castro de Barona rank at the very top in terms of enjoyment. Few places give you such a palpable sense of history, especially from the perspective of every day people who are trying to build a better life for themselves. Let me try and paint you a picture, first visually … (source and source).

As we wandered through the ruins, sunlight streamed through the clouds, illuminating the ocean around us, beneath which verdant forests of sea weed waved green fingers. Waves crashed, gulls flew, and flowers bloomed. Being there, in this environment, it was not at all hard to imagine why, thousands of years ago, those people chose this location to build a town. All in all, Castro de Barona was perhaps the highlight of our trip so far. It is a truly magical place.

On our final night, we enjoyed a meal at one of Santiago de Compostela’s many restaurants, namely Cafe de Altamira. Let me mention two things about this restaurant. The first is that it showed up as “vegetarian” on Trip Advisor. Imagine our surprise when none (I mean zero) of the entrees or meals listed in the menu were vegetarian. Apparently, in Spain, “vegetarian” means “contains products derived from vegetables”. Being omnivorous, we were not bothered.

So I opted for the (locally sourced) octopus. Which brings to the second notable thing about this restaurant; The god dam octopus. This was possibly the most delicious meal I have ever tasted: Fresh lightly grilled octopus muddled together with potatoes, creamy paprika sauce, and fresh parsley. Simple, succulent, and oh so tasty. Expensive, as far as this part of Spain goes, but worth every over-valued Euro cent as far as I am concerned.

Conclusion? We spent three fabulous days in and around Santiago de Compostela, and did not even come close to running out of things to do and/or places to visit.

Recommendation? Travel to Galicia, stay in Santiago de Compostela, swim at the beach, visit Celtic ruins, and eat octopus.

Further research? Lisbon. Until next post, bon voyage.

 

Airport RTN: a quick first step

AT have now put the SMART study documents on their site, here. There’s a lot to review there and this post is not a look at the whole report and its conclusions, but rather is a response to the problem of the length of time this project is likely to take whatever mode is selected.

All of the proposals in the report are capital intensive, without any currently identified funding source, and the timing of the RT route looks likely to be complicated by the Airport’s development plans, particularly those for the second runway, so there is a good case for looking at interim improvements for Airport/RTN interconnection while these bigger decisions are being resolved. I am focussing on the airport because of its fast growth is clearly a major generator of increased traffic congestion for the whole Mangere area.

First some background from the report. Just setting aside travellers for a moment, what about the workforce at and around the Airport, what are their current patterns?:

AIRPORT Commuter movements

So we can see in the above data from the 2013 census that the key connection for workers is east to Manukau area, followed by that to the centre. Furthermore that employee movement is still quite peaky, despite the airport itself obviously being a 24 hour operation:

Airport worker arrivals

 

So what opportunities are there for a quick and relatively low cost connection between the Airport and the current RTN, particularly with the above information in mind, that could be built while the full Mangere/Airport RT route is being developed, whatever the mode? RTN 2016 AirportThe first and obvious point is that there is already, right now, great service on the spine of the Southern Line relatively close to the Airport, particularly to the City Centre, but also south and across to Manukau City. Where the red and blue lines overlap there are services every five minutes at peak. So there seems to be a clear opportunity to improve connection east from the Airport for its own catchment while that also will connect, via the rail system, the City Centre and anyone who can access a train station.

Currently the connection between rail system and the Airport is very poor, as anyone -like me- who has used it will tell you.

New Network South

The 380 via Papatoetoe station is not a viable option because of three problems [the longer and slower route to Onehunga is even worse, as well leading to an equally low frequency train]:

  • Low frequency: 1/2 hourly service
  • Slow route; the 380 has no priority on its route so therefore is subject to both delay and unreliability caused by other traffic [I have been on this bus stuck in traffic for tens of minutes]
  • The Station/Bus physical connection at Papatoetoe does little to encourage the transfer.

So why not investigate a dedicated shuttle between the even closer Puhinui Station and the Airport on a minimum 10 minute frequency with dedicated lanes on Puhinui Rd and improved passenger interchange at the station, complete with lifts for people with luggage, and all weather cover? Puhinui is currently timetabled at 33-35 minutes from Britomart [this should improve with current work] with a train leaving every 5 mins at the peaks, exactly when traffic congestion is at is most disruptive. With bus lanes on Puhinui Rd the journey to the terminals would be a reliable 10 mins. Including an average wait time of 5 mins that’s a perfectly satisfactory 50 minute journey from Britomart to the Airport. Because this journey time is reliable and not subject to congestion and avoids the time and cost of parking at the Airport it should be competitive enough for a good proportion of travellers and workers. As shown below, there is space to build an interchange and turning space to the west [Airport] side of the station, this would need to be of interchange standard.

PUHINUI

The Puhinui Rd/20B road and bridge are due to be upgraded or duplicated soon in the on-going work to increase general traffic access to the Airport [what you feed grows] surely it would be wise to actually include dedicated transit lanes on a bridge in Auckland for once? This is a future RTN route, the route is flat and unconstrained by buildings; these are good practical and cost arguments for bringing this section forward. Shoulder lanes, or better, a dedicated busway and bridge, LRT ready, would be real ‘future-proofing’ [a phrase it is hard not to be cynical about in Auckland as it generally means doing less than nothing in practice].

With this service then it would be viable and essential to brand both the shuttle bus service at the terminals and the Southern and Eastern line services, both of which, with no changes to how they currently run, then become true Airport services.

Of course the transfer is less ideal than a system that takes you on one seat right into the Terminal either as a flyer or an employee there, however we know many travellers currently transfer from their cars to various bus shuttles in order to get cheaper parking, and surely many workers would be happy to not to have to battle increasing congestion with a reliable and cost effective alternative. In other words by optimising the bus connection we will further unlock the value of investments recently made in the rail system. It probably makes sense on those grounds alone.AIRPORT -Puninui

This should not be seen as instead of a north/south pan Mangere RTN, but it would surely make a good start, especially as this is the route for the future Botany-Manukau City-Airport RTN. So it would be even better if it continued to the new interchange at Manukau City, and then on to Botany and AMETI. And ensuring all hard infrastructure is built to be efficiently upgradeable to Light Rail in the longer term. Improving eastern connectivity is completely compatible with the northern Mangere routes discussed in the study, and indeed the current Airbus service, so arguably is an even more urgent direction to improve. There is no duplication in sorting this connection out first.

Botany Line

Incidentally this map clearly shows the other areas lacking RTN coverage: the Northwest and Upper Harbour, and the Isthmus and Mangere….

Which is exactly what AT have on their future RTN maps, but far too far into the future in my view. This is still based on last century’s thinking where every road is widened first, leading to the inevitable dysfunction and only then do we try to relieve this adding quality RT alternatives.

To summarise: we already have a high quality Rapid Transit service almost all the way to the airport, it seems to me that the addition of a high quality connection between these points would be a very useful first move in improving connectivity in this important area, especially if taken at least to Manukau City too, and as soon as possible.

HOP in detail

As mentioned this morning, at Auckland Transport’s board meeting today there is an interesting paper giving an overview of the HOP system, which AT say is the third largest financial transaction system in the country. Here are some of the figures from the paper.

  • AT have sold just over 965k HOP cards while they had only anticipated selling 338k over the same period – a case of AT underestimating demand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that with a public transport initiative. They say they typically sell about 23.5k per month but that has increased to 26k per month due to the SuperGold card conversion that took place recently. I also wonder how many are due to people who have bought more than one due to cards being blacklisted.

HOP cards sold

  • AT say that as of July, 86% of trips are made using HOP and that compares favourably with systems overseas which have taken much longer to get a similar level of use. Trains still have the highest level of HOP use with 87% of trips being on HOP compared to 85% on bus (note: the graph below is to June, HOP usage has increased since then primarily due to the SuperGold card conversion.

HOP cards usage

  • AT now have 74 ticket machines at train and busway stations plus one in the Manukau Mall. There are also 73 retailers and 10 customer service centres.
  • All up the project has cost just under $100 million. That’s certainly a lot of money (and  time) but nowhere near what the two biggest cities across the ditch have paid.

HOP system costs

  • In the 2015-16 financial year (to end of June), the HOP system processed over $193 million in revenue. That was up 10% on the previous financial year and up 26% on two years prior. The charts below show where that revenue comes from (AT just stop with using pie charts will you).

HOP cards Revenue breakdown

  • There is currently $11.8 million in the HOP account, 85% of which is from stored value on cards and the remaining representing monthly passes. There is also a noticeable trend in January with the values dropping, presumably as people used up their remaining balance before going on leave over summer.

HOP account balance

  • HOP costs $16.6 million to run every year which is well above the expected $9 million from the business case. The additional costs get a 57% subsidy from the NZTA. AT give the following list of reasons for why opex is higher than expected.
  • Additional bus services which increased the cost of system support
  • Increased AT HOP Operating Staff from the original budget of nine FTEs to 37, in order to support retailers, operators, and customers
  • BT test support to provide system testing of BAU changes and system enhancements (average of 40 route changes are made each month).
  • Additional finance support – providing reconciliations, settlement support and process development (recognition that the AT HOP System is a significant financial system).
  • Increased banking fees, secure cash collection and retail commission due to the high uptake of the AT HOP Card
  • Removal of the 25 cent transaction fee for Top-up transactions

Also included in the paper is one of the worst business diagrams you’ll see, I’m still not sure what ticking and clocks have to do with it. But still a lot better than this.

HOP horrible diagram

Now that integrated fares have finally been rolled out (and done so successfully), many will be interested to know what’s next for HOP. After all payment systems are undergoing rapid change right now. Here’s what AT say about it.

The development opportunity to improve customer service offerings is being actively pursued by the AT Metro, HOP and BT teams. This may include the ability to use credit cards or phone applications for payment and the potential to extend HOP to other services such as parking. Other options include online bus updates for balances, mobile top ups, use of the ATM network and account based systems. Whilst many of these are feasible to a degree, e.g. bus updates for balances is probably only available at 10-15 minute intervals, much of this technology is new, not only to Thales but other card systems as well. Generally, development is very slow and expensive which has limited the ability for AT to progress at pace these types of initiatives. Currently AT is investigating a solution to enable the HOP card to use Near Field Communications on a smart phone and the business is working with Thales on proposals for a real time top up ability via smart phone to the physical cards.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait years for some of these features which should almost be a minimum standard these days.

August 16 AT Board Meeting

Today the Auckland Transport Board have their latest meeting and I’ve taken a look through the reports to pull out the interesting bits.

Firstly and surprisingly the agenda for the closed session is surprisingly bare. The only non-regular item is Tamaki Regeneration Project – funding and governance agreement.

The main business report seems to have a bit in it to cover. As always, this is based on the order they appear in the report.

Supergold – at the time of writing the report, AT say they had almost 105k cards loaded with SuperGold concessions (both the blue and gold ones), up from 45k in May. A recent press release also stated that now 97% of SuperGold trips were taking using HOP cards. The map below shows where paper tickets were still being issued

2016-08 - SuperGold Heatmap

Urban Redevelopment – AT say give a brief overview of some of the work they’re doing to work with Panuku Development Auckland.

Key priorities at this stage include:

  • Takapuna – Ongoing input into options for development of AT parking sites, and identification of short and long term public transport infrastructure requirements.
  • Manukau – Ongoing input into the Manukau Framework Plan currently under development. This document will identify potential streetscape upgrades, and potential sites for redevelopment including parking sites.
  • Onehunga – Analysis being undertaken on the potential impact of East-West Connections and Airport-Mangere rail on future development proposals.
  • Henderson – Early stages of high level visioning. The AT focus is on providing for train station expansion requirements associated with CRL operations, and on any implications of street network proposals including on level crossings.

Northwest Busway – They have selected Aurecon to develop the Indicative Business Case for the NW Busway between the City Centre and Westgate and is due to be completed by April 2017.

Harbour Crossing (AWHC) – Their work on the future RTN options as part of AWHC now includes prototype designs for several RTN modes

Tertiary Student Travel Survey – AT conducted their biennial survey and covered 2,108 interviews at campus’ across Auckland.

The surveys show that there has been a significant growth of students using public transport since 2014. Total public transport main mode travel to campus has increased from 41% to 48% and non-car travel has increased from 60% to 63%. Student attitudes towards public transport are strongly positive and nearly all students have an AT HOP card. Price and overcrowding are now seen as the biggest barriers for increasing use. Use of AT sources of information (e.g. journey planner) have significantly fallen since 2014 as the use of google maps for transport information has grown. Attitudes and use of public transport are similar across all CBD/City Fringe campuses and suburban campuses. MIT Manukau students are highly represented in train statistics.

Lincoln Rd – AT lodged a Notice of Requirement to widen Lincoln Rd. Notification is expected in September.

Albany Highway – The upgrade of Albany Highway north of the motorway has been going on for some time but AT now expect it to be completed in October, well ahead of what was in the contract.

Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Shared Path – Section 1 from Merton Road to St Johns Road is expected to be completed by the end of September, Section 2 to Meadowbank Station and Section 3 to Orakei are expected to have resource consent completed soon with Section 3 due to start construction in October.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – As expected the Cowie St Residents Association have appealed the consent to the Environment Court. AT now expect a likely decision on this in March/April 2017 although based on other projects like Skypath, that seems optimistic. In the past, AT have said that the opening of the Parnell Station is dependent on the Sarawia St crossing being removed.

Bike thefts – AT say they’re working with the police and our friends at Bike Auckland to address bike theft which has been increasing as cycling becomes more popular. This will include extra CCTV cameras and an education campaign.

Manukau Rd Transit Lane – The new transit lane is saving buses and T3 cars 4-5 minutes during the morning peak and has increased the people movement efficiency of the corridor by 10% – and based on anecdotal reports, that’s still with a lot of single occupant vehicles being driven in the lane.

New Bus Lanes – AT claim they are planning to deliver 19.1km of bus lanes this financial year and the first of the physical works were due to start by the end of August – but I’m not sure where. One of the lanes being added will be Gt North Rd at Waterview which is being done in conjunction with the Waterview project and expected to start construction in September and be finished by March 2017. An indication of some of what is being worked on is below.

2016-08 - Bus lane Programme

New Bus Network – Things are on track to go live with the South Auckland network on 30 October. Tenders for West Auckland are being assessed still while the tender for the Central and East networks have gone out.

Station Gates – Designs are complete for electronic gates to be installed at Henderson, Manurewa and Papatoetoe. They don’t say when they might be installed though.

Train performance – More work to speed up trains is being planned and includes line speed, interlocking and signalling works. The report says this is for a new recast timetable in March/April 2017. Previously they’d suggested a new timetable was due in February so it appears this has slipped.

There is a separate paper about HOP which deserves its own post and will be going up at midday.

 

Is there anything else you’ve seen in the reports you’ve found interesting?

Sunday reading 28 August 2016

'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19410723-34-27'

‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19410723-34-27’

Hi y’all and welcome to Sunday Reading. Here’s a collection of stuff I found interesting over the week. Please add your links in the comments below.

Whoops, we forgot to build housing. During all the backslapping about the urban renaissance it has become clear that not providing/allowing for housing has crippled the opportunity engine of city living. Marl Gimein, “Why the high cost of big-city living is bad for everyone“, The New Yorker.

With all the advantages of hindsight, it’s hard to believe that anybody didn’t see the skyrocketing cost of housing coming in New York and San Francisco (and other cities around the globe like London, Singapore, and Washington, D.C.). But, in fact, for many years the conventional thinking pointed in the opposite direction. Urban planners such as Oppermann saw growing cities as an overcrowded traffic puzzle. Later, it was said that the deterioration of old urban cores would push everyone who could afford it out to “edge cities.” Most recently, we were promised that information tech and the virtual office would make cities largely unnecessary.

The price of the creation of these imperial cities is that they actually provide decreasing opportunities for many of those who already live in them, or for those who move to them and are not already armed with resources, status, and education. Everyone living in New York or San Francisco understands the general contours of this. Artists get pushed out of the center, the middle class gets pushed into the suburbs, and bus riders are asked to make way (literally) for tech workers.

Toby Manhire,  “One in three Aucklanders has recently considered quitting Auckland because of house prices – poll”, The Spinoff.

One in three of those surveyed – or 32.2% if you insist on being absolutely precise – answered yes to the question, “Have you in the last two years considered moving away from Auckland because of house prices?” A further 36.3% selected the option, “No, but it’s a good idea”, and the remaining 31.5% said it’s not something they’d considered.

Like parking management reform, there is an urgent need to reform antiquate zoning laws. This story introduces the excellent term “opportunity hoarding”- Richard V. Reeves, “How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families“, Brookings.

NIMBYism is motivated by a rational desire to accumulate financial capital by enhancing home values. But for parents, it is also about helping their children accumulate human capital by controlling access to local schools. According to Jonathan Rothwell, there is a strong link between zoning and educational disparities. Homes near good elementary schools are more expensive: about two and half times as much as those near the poorer-performing schools. But in metropolitan areas with more restrictive zoning, this gap is even wider. Loosening zoning regulations would reduce the housing cost gap and therefore narrow the school test-score gap by 4 to 7 percentiles, Rothwell finds.

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ht @busdriverlife

Here’s one of the many recent breaking stories on driverless  vehicles. This sleek box has a top speed of 10kph. Even something like this would need to be located on a direct, fixed route to make any sense. It does have the capability to wander around to pick people up if you’re into a hellish airport shuttle experience. Alison DeNisco, “Driverless bus hits the streets in Finland, could revolutionize public transportation“, Tech Republic.

Residents of Helsinki, Finland will soon be used to the sight of buses with no drivers roaming the city streets. One of the world’s first autonomous bus pilot programs has begun in the Hernesaari district, and will run through mid-September.

The robotic buses could be used in addition to existing public transportation options in the future, Santamala said. “Their purpose is to supplement but not to replace it,” he added. “For example, the goal could be to use them as a feeder service for high-volume bus or metro traffic… In other words, the mini-bus would know when the connecting service is coming and it would get you there on time.”

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In compiling this list of links, I set out NOT to include anything on parking. Auckland may be peerless with its rapid adoption of progressive parking reforms. While not perfect, and definitely far from over, the major battles have been won.  At the final hour, I came across this article and couldn’t resist the urge for this “next level” parking content.

Stephen Joseph, “Why other cities should copy Nottingham’s revolutionary parking levy“, CityMetric.

Nottingham City Transport..has implemented a levy on workplace parking spaces, the money from which goes towards transport projects in the city.

The results are becoming clear to see. Public transport use, already high, has now nudged above 40 per cent of journeys in the city, a very high percentage for the UK.

The wider economic impacts are perhaps more interesting: all the predictions of loss of jobs and businesses have proved unfounded. (In fact, the genesis of this piece was a comment on these pages that Nottingham had grown when many similar cities had shrunk.) Recent statistics show jobs growth in Nottingham has been faster than other cities, while traffic congestion has fallen. The levy, with the other measures, has also helped Nottingham reach its carbon reduction target a few years early.

Although every city is different, there might be some wider lessons here. One, for the transport economist geeks, might be to stop obsessing with congestion charging. Efficient in economic theory though this might be, Nottingham looked at it and decided that it would be very costly – all those cameras and enforcement – and would not target peak hour traffic jams and single-occupancy car commuting as effectively as the levy would.

Have a great Sunday.

Guest Post: Rail Safety Week – A HSEQ Perspective

This is a guest post from Harriet. 

train

Recently we have had Rail Safety Week, the aim was to increase awareness of level crossings and their danger. Unfortunately we have had many deaths and injuries, with countless more near misses over the last few years. When an incident happens on a level crossing so many lives change- from the person hit, to the person driving, as well as both’s families. The slogan was “Expect Trains” as “Trains can appear any train from either direction” this has been an important message especially due to the increase of trains on the western line from 8 trains per hour  to 12 trains per hour, and the many level crossings going .

As an Avondale station user I have seen a few near misses under the following scenario. When the Westbound train is stoppedpeople cross assuming the level crossing is safe to cross, as they are watching the train, forgetting that within minutes, often 1-2, that the Citybound train is approaching the station at speed. All it will take is for the Citybound train to be a little early, or the Westbound to be late for that assumption to become an incident, which will highly likely result in the death of that person and traumatisation of the driver.

The Rail Safety campaign for me is interesting as I work in an industry which deals a lot with contractors. We are very conscious regarding HSEQ, so as someone who has a basic understanding in the area find the Government’s view interesting.

The new Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 has lead to a massive shift in our HSE law coming about due to the disaster at Pike River where 29 workers didn’t come home. In HSEQ the main issue is the controlling of hazards. There is a hierarchy of the effectiveness of these controls, these can be summed up as either Eliminating the Hazard or Minimisation of the Hazard however in more detail they are the below.

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The campaign to educate people regarding level crossings as you can see is low on the hierarchy of controls, being an ‘Administrative Control’. In the workplace, this would be comparable to having a control for forklift hazards as telling employees to just “Expect Forklifts”.  In the case of an incident, this level of control wold most likely not meet the duty set out in Section 36 of the act as not doing everything as is reasonably practicable.

Worksafe would probably ask: Why wasn’t there a radio control of persons informing forklift drivers of a person exiting/entering an area; walkway line marking creating safe zones for persons walking through? or why wasn’t technology used such as proximity beacon card which would inform a forklift driver if they were coming to close to someone walking through?

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In the case of level crossings (if of course transport was ever held to the same standards :/) there are far superior controls that can be implemented.  Engineering controls such as gates, safer rubber crossings which are harder than the wood to get stuck as the lady at Morningside was, as well as better lights and sounds to alert users could be used. Far more importantly, especially in urban areas with high levels of train movements, level crossings can be grade separated which eliminates the hazard completely.

Surely if the government was serious about the safety of people, it would seek to eliminate the hazards, or at the very least minimise them rather than just relying on administrative controls.

Across in the ditch in Melbourne this is exact thinking, in 2015 the Level Crossing Removal Authority was formed to remove 50 level crossings in 8 years with at least 20 by 2018.

The budget for this project is large, however when you look at it in detail it includes track upgrades, massive station upgrades as well as a 3 section totalling 8.2km elevated line. The argument for removing level crossings is safety, as well as travel time benefits to road, active mode users as well as rail users.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYT5F-gcr40

Back in Auckland we have 45 level crossings, with only one crossing scheduled to be removed before 2018 (Sarawia), and two more as part of or coinciding the CRL works (Porters Avenue and Normanby Road). Only 26 million is budgeted for level crossing removal between 2018-2025. The Onehunga level crossings were planned to be removed during the SMART project, however with the route now either being LRT or BRT no public plans that I know of exist for these crossings. One of the Glen Innes entrances could be removed tomorrow as a grade separated access exists for the northern end of the station.

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Unfortunately these level crossings will more likely be removed after the CRL due to delays to traffic as a result of the increased CRL frequency, rather than for people’s safety, but I am very happy to be proven wrong.

I understand there is only so much Tracksafe can do as better solutions require Local and Central Government, the work is appreciated and the message still important.

A wheely suitcase in Europe #6: San Sebastian to Gijon

After four nights in San Sebastian, Basque we journeyed further west to Gijon, Asturias. Again we decided to use BlaBlaCar, mainly because the alternative rail and bus journeys were slower and more expensive respectively. The route we took is illustrated below, which as you can see we primarily hugged the coastline.

Trip 6

In contrast, travelling by train between San Sebastian and Gijon would have taken us on the route shown below. This would have taken longer, cost more, and dragged us inland away from the coast. Thumbs down to using the train in this part of Spain.

SS to gij by train

Our BlaBlaCar journey was again seamless and pleasant. We booked two seats in the back seat of a Saab 9-3, which provided a lovely ride. The drive itself was spectacular; imagine soaring verdant hills and mountains on one side, and beautiful rugged coastline on the other. Similar to that shown below (source).

Look familiar? Personally, I felt like the landscape in Cantabria and especially Asturias was extraordinarily similar to a combination of New Zealand’s West Coast and the Coromandel.

The region of Asturias is actually home to beaches of all shapes, sizes, and persuasions. Here’s a recent post on coastal Asturias written by someone (Liz) who previously lived in Spain, but who now lives in New Zealand. I think Liz provides a wonderful synopsis of the region’s coastal towns and beaches. One of the most interesting beaches Liz talks about (but we didn’t visit) is Playa de Gulpiyuri, which is a flooded sinkhole located 100m back from the coastline. Quite amazing.

That’s not all, however, because apart from beaches, Asturias also has mountains.

Not just green mountains either: Proper snowy mountains (source).

We stayed for two nights in Gijon, which I must say was a little underwhelming. In our wanderings we found little in the way of public art or civic investment. Perhaps more sadly the food was not great in comparison to other places we had eaten. On the first night we had the misfortune of stumbling into a funny yet terrible restaurant (here’s the TripAdvisor reviews if you’re interested). On the second night the food was better, but still not great.

Ultimately Gijon gave me the feeling of being struggle town; a place whose primary purpose (at least historically) had been to meet the needs of industry. That’s not to say Gijon doesn’t have potential; indeed the natural setting is beautiful, as illustrated below. There’s a little bit of Barcelona about the place, except without the young people to keep it vibrant.

And it’s real saving grace is that it’s located in one of the most beautiful regions I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. In general, I can highly recommend visiting Asturias, even if I’m lukewarm on Gijon itself. I’ve heard that Oviedo, which is a city just 30 minutes away, might be a better place to park yourself to explore the region, whether it be beaches or mountains that take your fancy.

I hope you enjoy; tune in soon for the Gijon to Santiago de Compostela leg.

One less objection to Skypath

Some great news yesterday that the main objector to Skypath, the Northcote Residents Association (NRA), has withdrawn their appeal against the project. That leaves just the Northcote Point Historic Preservation Society (NPHPS) – made up of many of the same people as the NRA – opposing the project and it appears that their appeal is just on operational matters, not opposing the project itself.

Skypath Consent - Observation Deck

The second-to-last residents group holding up construction of the $33.5 million SkyPath bridge has withdrawn its appeal in the Environment Court.

The planned SkyPath would be a tube-like structure suspended beneath Auckland Harbour Bridge for use by for pedestrians and cyclists, with an entrance and exit point at Northcote Point.

On Wednesday, August 24, the Northcote Residents’ Association withdrew its appeal against Auckland Council’s resource consent for the SkyPath.

……

One other residents’ group is still appealing the SkyPath resource consent: the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society (NPHPS).

However, the NPHPS do not object to the SkyPath project outright but rather have requirements for its operation including: limitations on user numbers, a suitable parking scheme and their own recommended operating hours.

I don’t know the reasons the NRA withdrew their appeal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the cost of funding lawyers and experts to speak for them simply became too much, especially when compared against the chance of winning. We do know the NRA were actively trying to crowdsource funding with this givealittle page.

Of course saying that NPHPS are only seeking operational changes likely doesn’t reflect the true story as they could be seeking operational restrictions so tough as to try and make Skypath pointless.

Regardless of the reason, this is great news and hopefully means that consenting issues can soon been put behind us and focus can shift to construction.

There is no indication yet when funding could start but I’m hopeful we could see people crossing the harbour under their own steam, on foot or bike, by next summer.