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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.

h

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?

h2

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.

h3

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.

Housing is popular

I’ve written several blog posts talking about challenges facing local democracy and consultation processes. This is an important issue. Harvard economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson make a convincing argument that inclusive political institutions, such as broad electoral franchises and transparent policy processes, are the essential element for countries’ long-term economic and social success. Governments that listen to their citizens are better at delivering higher levels of wellbeing. Governments that don’t are seldom awesome.

Consequently, it’s worth paying close attention to the details of democratic and consultative processes. When they are done well, they can provide valuable insight into people’s needs and preferences. But when done badly, they may instead provide avenues for narrow-minded minorities to hijack the policy process.

One challenge in developing a better understanding of people’s values is there is relatively little opinion polling on a lot of major policy issues. This can leave politicians to make policy in a bit of an information void, relying upon anecdotes and comments from people who choose to call or write them. This anecdata might be representative of the general public sentiment… but then again, it might not be.

With that in mind, it was interesting to see the results of two new polls released in the last week.

The first was commissioned by The Spinoff as part of its coverage of the Unitary Plan decision and Auckland’s local government elections. They asked a representative sample of Aucklanders how they felt about the Unitary Plan:

The Unitary Plan, which The Spinoff and others have been banging on about recently, was signed off by Auckland Council with a surprising lack of rowdy opposition last week. It turns out our newly reformed pro-density politicians were channelling the views of Aucklanders at large, with more than a stonking 85% of those who expressed a view broadly supporting the plan – albeit most with some reservations – in an SSI poll for the Spinoff, commissioned with Jennings Murphy.

Asked, “Do you broadly agree with Auckland’s Unitary Plan and its plan to allow for 422,000 new homes in the city over the next 25 years?”, 19.1% of respondents chose the option “yes, great idea” and 55.8% “yes, but have some reservations”. Just 12.4% answered “no” and 12.8% said “don’t know”.

spinoff unitary plan poll

This is a big result. It follows four years of public and sometimes acrimonious debate about the ultimate shape of the plan. What we seem to have got out the end is a planning rulebook that will make a useful contribution to allowing Auckland to build more homes to meet the current shortfall and future growth… and a fair degree of public consensus that doing so is a good thing.

The second poll, which Bernard Hickey reported on Interest.co.nz, asked New Zealanders whether they’d like to see house prices rise, flatten, or fall. The result was resoundingly in favour of lower house prices:

In news that counters assumptions about home owners opposing falling house prices, an opinion poll conducted by UMR has found 60% of Aucklanders and 55% of home owners would prefer that house prices either fell a bit or fell dramatically over the next year.

The poll of 1,000 New Zealanders over the age of 18 was taken from July 29 to August 17 through UMR’s online omnibus survey and found a total of 63% who would either prefer house prices to ‘fall but not too much’ (37%) or to fall dramatically (26%).

UMR, which conducts polls for the Labour Party, found 55% of home owners would prefer house prices to fall a bit (40%) or dramatically (15%).

The poll found 14% of respondents preferred house prices either kept rising rapidly (4%) or at a slower pace (14%), while 17% of Aucklanders wanted house prices to keep rising rapidly (4%) or at a slower pace (13%). A total of 15% of home owners wanted house prices to rise rapidly (2%) or at a slower pace (13%). There were 633 home owners and 331 Aucklanders in the poll of 1,000 respondents.

The poll also asked if there was a housing crisis at the moment and found that 81% of all respondents and 85% of Aucklanders thought there was a crisis, while 79% of home owners thought there was housing crisis. Fourteen per cent of those polled thought there was no crisis and 5% were unsure.

This is a fascinating result. There’s a high degree of consensus that high house prices are currently a major problem (“crisis!”) and broad, although not universal, agreement that they should be lower.

In July, former Reserve Bank chair Arthur Grimes caused a stir by suggesting that we should build a lot more homes in Auckland to cut prices by around 40%. (Remember: real house prices fell by around 40% in the 1970s, after rising rapidly due to a confluence of supply and demand factors. So Grimes is not arguing for something that has never happened before.)

Prime Minister John Key’s response was a bit skeptical… but possibly not very much in touch with the public perception:

“I think it is crazy. Go and ask the average Aucklander who has got a mortgage with a bank if they want to see 40 per cent of their equity disappear.”

Now, it’s one thing to want house prices to be lower in the abstract, and another thing for the value of your own home to fall. So if prices actually started dropping, people might not be so enthused about the outcomes. (Especially if the flow-on effects on consumer confidence and construction activity led to a recession.) But I think we can conclude that:

  • New Zealanders are worried about high housing costs, and their ill effects on young people and low-income households
  • Policies that enable more housing to get built are popular
  • People don’t think current high prices are a good thing and would like to see them change.

This is a good thing: there is public support for solving New Zealand’s housing affordability problems. In a democratic political system, this should translate into policies that better reflect our values. Reasons for optimism…

Increasing cycling and walking in New Zealand cities

This is a post from Caroline Shaw and Marie Russell who are researchers at the University of Otago Wellington

Having high levels of walking and cycling for transport in our urban centres is a crucial component of having a sustainable, people-oriented, 21st century transport system. The benefits of active transport (walking and cycling in the context of this blog) are well-known.

Active transport is good for health, the environment and the economy (1-3). While we know that New Zealand cities need to do better in promoting cycling and walking, we don’t have any comprehensive way of evaluating cities, of assessing how well they are doing in comparison to each other and over time.

In this study, which is a baseline assessment, we have compared the six largest cities in New Zealand (Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) for some of the key inputs to cycling and walking (levels of funding, policies and programmes, amount and type of cycling and walking infrastructure, and people working on these areas) and the outputs (who cycles and walks, how safe it is and how healthy the populations of each city are).

Some of the findings are from this report are:

  • Walking is the most common form of active transport; however the proportion of trips taken using this mode ranges from 12 to 27% of journeys, depending on the city.
  • Cities in New Zealand with higher levels of active transport (cycling and walking combined) tend to have populations with higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of physical activity-related health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
  • In all cities studied, people who live in more deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to walk to work compared to people who live in less deprived neighbourhoods. However, for cycling to work, the association with deprivation varied by city.
  • Cities in New Zealand with more rain, colder temperatures and higher wind speeds tended to have higher levels of walking and cycling.
  • The number of city council staff working on cycling or walking issues ranges from 1.5 FTE/100 000 people (Christchurch) to 3.7FTE/100 000 people (Dunedin).
  • Given the opportunity (i.e. no congestion) in all cities, except Wellington, half of people will drive above 50km/hr in an urban 50km/hr zone.
  • Christchurch reports the highest levels of cycling infrastructure, with 231km of on-street cycle ways, however Tauranga and Hamilton also report 100km of on-street cycle lanes each. Physically separated cycle lanes remain rare in all cities, with Christchurch reporting the most at 5km (the survey was conducted in 2015, so this will have increased subsequently in some cities).
Photo credit: Jenny Ombler

Photo credit: Jenny Ombler

To obtain the information for the report we surveyed councils, collected information from council websites, and analysed information from the New Zealand Health Survey, the Household Travel Survey, the Census, and the Crash Analysis System. Our study was based, with their permission, on a successful series of reports undertaken in the USA by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. One of our aims was to find out how readily we could gather and analyse information on cycling, walking and health in the cities. It took much more work than we expected: customised data extraction was required to ensure standardised geographic boundaries. Data supplied by the city councils were sometimes unclear or incomplete. But this pilot study found that benchmarking is feasible, and laid the groundwork, with recommendations, for future benchmarking studies.

While this study had a number of interesting findings, one of the main benefits will be to repeat it regularly and show any changes that are happening over time, who is doing well (or not so well) at increasing walking and cycling in their city and what they are doing to achieve this.

We know, intuitively, from visiting or seeing cities where there are higher levels of cycling and walking, as well as from academic research, that what happens at a local level (as well as national) is important for cycling and walking levels (4-6). This report is the first attempt to try and systematically document the important components in determining cycling and walking levels in the largest New Zealand cities. We hope it will be useful for advocates, policy makers, researchers and planners as they embark on the necessary project of transforming our cities.

  1. Macmillan A, Connor J, Witten K, Kearns R, Rees D, Woodward A. The societal costs and benefits of commuter bicycling: simulating the effects of specific policies using system dynamics modeling. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122(4): 335-44.
  2. Woodcock J, Edwards P, Tonne C, et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land transport. Lancet 2009; 374(9705): 1930-43.
  3. New Zealand Transport Agency. Benefits of investing in cycling in New Zealand communities. Wellington: New Zealand Transport Agency, 2016.
  4. Keall M, Chapman R, Howden-Chapman P, Witten K, Abrahamse W, Woodward A. Increasing active travel: results of a quasi-experimental study of an intervention to encourage walking and cycling. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015; 69(12): 1184-90.
  5. Goodman A, Panter J, Sharp SJ, Ogilvie D. Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: a longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study. Soc Sci Med 2013; 97: 228-37.
  6. Goodman A, Sahlqvist S, Ogilvie D. New walking and cycling routes and increased physical activity: one- and 2-year findings from the UK iConnect study. Am J Public Health 2014; 104.

Editor note: I suspect this report will ultimately be quite useful in helping to show the impact of the government’s urban cycleway programme.

An improved design for the Tamaki/Ngapipi mess

My post yesterday about the hot mess that is the proposed Tamaki-Ngapipi intersection resulted in a lot of discussion, especially around the design and the role consultants play. Reader George who is also an engineer decided he could come up with a better design and posted it on twitter last night. He says that the design fits well within the proposed reclamation.

To me this is a vastly superior solution and one that caters for for all users. Compared to the official version:

  • People in vehicles appear to be no less inconvenienced, there are still exactly the same number of lanes.
  • For those on bikes, whether squeezed into lycra or just out for a cruise with the kids, it appears to be considerably safer and offers more options, such as only having one crossing to contend with to turn right onto Ngapipi
  • For those on foot also benefit, especially on the northern side where the cycleway is more defined and so less sharing is needed.

Perhaps the only thing that is needed is to ensure the cycleway on the northern side is wide enough for bi-directional movement for those who do use the current (sub-standard) shared path.

Tamaki-Ngapipi Concept - George

As a reminder, here is what AT propose

Tamaki-Ngapipi Intersection Consent Plan

I guess the focus of the resource consent AT are currently pursuing is the reclamation and as such I hope the actual design of the intersection can improve within that new wider footprint. Regardless it would be good to have a high quality design right from the get go.

So what do you say AT, how about going back to the drawing board and pursuing an idea like this as the base option.

July-2016 Patronage

We’ve been getting used to seeing some fairly strong patronage results over recent years, especially on the trains which have been seeing 20% year on year growth for a couple of years now – in large part thanks to electrification. But in July, at first glance the numbers appear to have hit a snag, with much lower growth on trains and negative results on buses.

Thankfully there is a valid reason for the results: the calendar. In fact, the calendar has played a significant role in July as there were two fewer weekdays compared to July last year and weekdays are where the PT system does its heavy lifting. Adjusting for that, we continue to see good growth on trains and ferries while buses scrape into the positive – more on that shortly.

2016-07 - Total Patronage

As we’ve come to expect, the Rapid Transit Network remains the star of the show with some significant growth, especially on the Northern Busway and the Western Line, both of which manged over 21% growth and that’s before adjusting for the fewer weekdays. The western line in particular was expected to do well given it the vast improvement in the number of services near the end of May. Overall trains fell only about 60k short of passing the next milestone of 17 million, something I’d be almost certain has happened in August already. Ferries also continue to tick along nicely and are likely to tip above 6 million trips before the end of 2016.

The big concern remains the buses other than those on the Northern Busway. Take the busway results out and even normalising for the fewer weekdays won’t help. AT say in their business report that there was also good growth on the Onewa Rd and Mt Eden Rd corridors – which is unsurprising as we continue to see almost daily reports of full buses leaving people behind, even in the middle of the day or late in the evening. But this suggests the results from other bus routes are even more dismal. AT say that the biggest issue is in South Auckland which will be the first area to get the new bus network rolled out and is due at the end of October.

2016-07 - Patronage Table

Another area I’ve been following closely in recent months has been farebox recovery. With the rapid passenger growth we’ve seen, the level of subsidy required has reduced. One aspect of this report that is different compared to previous months is that in the past farebox figures have been two months behind, but this July paper has the results up to the end of July. A few things caught my eye:

  • Train farebox stayed about the same as the previous few months which is good given the Western Line service increase at the end of May.
  • There has been a significant change in the ferry numbers

While not mentioned, I suspect the August results will be challenged due to the launch of simplified fares which were expected to reduce revenue.

2016-07 - Farebox

Other measurements like HOP are also working well but I’ll cover that off in a separate post.

 

Note: While July suffered from the fewer weekdays, it is August that will benefit from them with there being two more weekdays compared to August last year.

A wheely suitcase in Europe #5: Zaragoza to San Sebastian (plus some musings on high speed rail and one-way streets)

On leg five of our journey we meandered from Zaragoza to San Sebastian (Donostia in the local lingo, which I respect even if I revert to San Sebastian for the remainder of this post). For this particular leg we took the bus (ww.alsa.es), mainly because it was about the same travel-time as the train (3.5 hours) and cost only half the price. Plus the bus left at a more convenient time for us than the train. The route we took is illustrated below.

Trip 5

The bus left at 8.30 and dropped us in San Sebastian 3.5 hours later, pretty much right on-time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was free wifi on the bus, which appears to be a standard feature on Elsa long-distance bus services in Spain. Worth remembering, because free wifi is honestly a god-send for travelers who may not have a local mobile data connection. And it’s definitely an advantage over BlaBlaCar ride-share, which we used for our last leg (you can read about here).

The first half of the journey traversed relatively flat dry (albeit fertile) land in the Ebro river valley. In terms of history, I understand the Pamplona marks the northern-most point in the Moors occupation of Spain, which began with an invasion from North Africa circa 700AD. In the following map, you can see just how much of modern Spain was initially occupied, and also how long it took for Christian forces to re-conquer the territory (source). Even 600 years later, there was still a sizable area of Moor occupied territory.

From Pamplona to San Sebastian, the road took us into greener and more mountainous terrain. Indeed, it was these mountains that protected northern Spain from the invasion. They create a natural barrier and are partly the reason why the rail network in this part of Spain is relatively indirect / convoluted.

All this, however, is set to change over the coming years; the Basque region is in the process of developing their own high speed rail network linking Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and San Sebastian, as illustrated below.

More details on the project, including origins and financing, are available here. There’s a couple of interesting aspects of this high-speed rail network that are worth dwelling on. The first is that it connects to a wider high-speed rail network in two places: Madrid to the south and Bordeaux to the north.

These two connections change the optimal route for trains travelling between France and destinations in Spain to the south. As you can see in the image below, the optimal route between Paris and Madrid is currently via Zaragoza to the east, whereas the new HSR network may make it more efficient to connect via Vitoria-Gaistez to the east. Incidentally, travelling by train from Paris to Madrid takes 12 hours in total, of which the section from Paris to Bordeaux only takes 3 hours while the section from Bordeaux to Madrid currently takes 9 hours. The ability for the Basque HSR network to reduce these travel-times is the main reason why it has attracted EU funding.

Paris to madrid

The second interesting thing about the Basque HSR network is that it looks like there’s a  couple of branches to San Sebastian and Irun. Now, as Jarrett Walker has written about here, branches dissipate frequency and complicate network design. My hunch is that these cities do not receive direct HSR service, but must instead use local services on their respective branches to connect to a HSR station somewhere further down the line, perhaps Vitoria-Gaistez.

Nonetheless, the development of this network is rather exciting, and it’d be interesting to see how it turns out, and the impact it has on regional connectivity, which incidentally is rather poor at the present time.

In terms of San Sebastian itself, well it’s simply stunning and perhaps the most beautiful city I’ve ever experienced. The reason I say this is because it is beautiful in both a natural and a built sense; the harbour, hills, beaches, and buildings all combine to create an extremely aesthetic experience. The image below gives you a sense for the wider area (source).

San Sebastian occupies an extremely strategic location right on the Spanish / French border. It was also a decent harbour and relatively defensible. Hence it was one of the first locations occupied by Napoleon’s armies, and it was subsequently razed to the ground while being “liberated” by the British and Spanish forces. So circa 1815 the entire town effectively needed to be re-built. The “old town” was rebuilt more or less on the old street grid, with a few changes here and there (slightly wider pedestrian streets etc).

 

Then, in 1863, the town won the right to demolish its fortifications and expand. Wiki puts it thusly:

In 1863, the defensive walls of the town were demolished (their remains are visible in the underground car-park at the Boulevard) and an expansion of the town began in an attempt to escape the military function it had held before.[14] Works were appointed to Jose Goicoa and Ramon Cortazar, who modeled the new city according to an orthogonal shape much in an neoclassical Parisian style, and the former designed elegant buildings, like the Miramar Palace, or the Concha Promenade.[11]:145–146 The city was chosen by the Spanish monarchy to spend the summer following the French example of the nearBiarritz. Subsequently the Spanish nobility and the diplomatic corps opened residences in the summer capital. As the “wave baths” at La Concha conflicted with shipbuilding activity, shipyards relocated to Pasaia, a near bay formerly part of San Sebastián.

Basically, the expansion of San Sebastian catalysed a re-focusing of the town onto recreational activities, with industrial activities relocated to surrounding environs and/or even, in the case of port operations, nearby towns. Moreover, the resulting street network and architectural style really is rather lovely. The connected nature of San Sebastian’s street network is evident in the following image, which is taken from Google Maps.

San Sebastian

One of the interesting things about San Sebastian is its wide deployment of one-way streets. Now I know many urban designers gag at the thought of one-way streets, and partly for good reason: In the Auckland context, Nelson and Hobson Streets are horrendous place-destroying one-way monsters. In San Sebastian, however, the outcome is usually (not always) rather different. More specifically, in San Sebastian the negative impacts of one-way streets is mitigated to a large degree by urban design treatments. This includes wide footpaths, many pedestrian only streets, and long / frequent pedestrian phases at signalised intersections.

This reminded me of a post I wrote a while back about how it may be possible to “upgrade” Nelson and Hobson Street while retaining the one-way function. In this post I describe how an urban boulevard design treatment on Nelson and Hobson could seek to split the through and local traffic functions, thereby creating low speed access lanes adjacent to buildings on either side of the street. The speed of vehicles travelling adjacent to the footpath would be considerably reduced. You might even implement two speed limits: 30km/hr on the access lanes and 50km/hr on the through lanes.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, such a configuration would free up space for wider footpaths and all manner of other amenities.

I don’t know what the status of the planned two-waying of Nelson and Hobson Streets, but it may be worth considering an option that retains the one-way function of Nelson and Hobson, while transforming them nonetheless into much nicer places to be. If anyone out there is interested in seeing how one-way streets might work in a sensitive urban environment, then I’d recommend visiting San Sebastia.

At the present time I’m actually sitting further east in Gijon, Asturias, i.e. I’m one step behind in documenting our travels. So it’s probably an appropriate time to for me to finish this post, have a glass of rioja, and start thinking about the next post. Adios.

 

 

 

A Hot Mess on Tamaki

Auckland Transport have announced they’re installing some interim safety measures at one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire country, the notorious Tamaki Dr/Ngapipi Dr intersection. The changes are hoped to improve things until they can do a proper upgrade on it. The road also happens to be the busiest road in Auckland at least for cycling.

Cycle Sensors and Warnings

Road surface lights with sensors are just some of the traffic calming measures that have been installed at the corner of Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Dr to improve safety for all road users.

The lights, one of the first times they’ve been used in Auckland, will illuminate to warn drivers that a cyclist is approaching.

In addition, the left turn from Ngapipi Dr into Tamaki Drive now has new road markings and a new recommended speed of 25km/h.

The traffic calming measures are an interim solution ahead of the overall intersection safety upgrade providing traffic signals at the intersection.

This project is expected to start towards the end of this year.

The interim solution will make it safer to cycle on Auckland’s busiest cycle route says Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking manager Kathryn King.

“We have a lot of people now choosing to cycle into the city for work and study. On this intersection, people cycling into the city end up in between two general traffic lanes and have to merge with traffic turning left into Tamaki Drive from Ngapipi Road, and these measures will make it safer,” she says.

Bike Auckland chair Barbara Cuthbert says it’s great to see this interim work for this important intersection.

“As well as slowing traffic, we hope the lights and new signage will remind drivers to look out for people on bikes and to merge with care,” she says.

While it is good to see AT putting in some interim improvements, they are really ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff. To see how bad the situation can be, this video from our friends at Bike Auckland is useful, their post on the interim changes is also good.

The last time we heard anything about a long term solution was late last year when AT confirmed the decision to put a signalised intersection in. The local board had been pushing for a roundabout (which would have been terrible for cyclists) but AT said their modelling showed it would have resulted in long queues as with a constant stream of traffic coming along Tamaki Dr in the mornings, users of Ngapipi would never have been able to get out. Both options would result in AT extending the seawall further out into the harbour.

So it’s a good time to ask what’s happening with the long term fix?

As it happens AT currently have a consent lodged with the council and open to submission to extend that seawall so they can upgrade the intersection. The issue though is that what’s proposed can best be described as a hot mess.

Essentially it looks like someone has designed it is trying to cater for two completely different types of cyclist, the casual person on a bike out for cruise and the high speed road warrior but to me what’s proposed does neither well, for example:

  • On the northern side we’ve got the existing cycleway continuing to mix with pedestrians – just with a bit more space.
  • We’ve got on-road cycleways for “confident” cyclists but on the Northern Side there are also ramps so those confident cyclists can bypass the lights and race through the pedestrian area if needed.
  • On the southern side we’ve got bike lanes that can only be reached after crossing two lanes of traffic.
  • There are bike advance boxes galore but also bike crossings.

Tamaki-Ngapipi Intersection Consent Plan

Instead it seems to me that they should just design one good and high quality facility that caters to all users, after all if they’re widening the seawall to the extent shown there is a heap of space available. Do it right and if Jacobs can’t do the job (which based on this they clearly can’t), then perhaps it’s time to get in some friendly Dutch or Danish designers/engineers who can*.

While also briefly digging through the consent documents I also came across this version of the design. It seems to suggest that one of the reasons for so much width is so that AT has future space should the wish to widen the road.

Tamaki-Ngapipi Intersection Consent Plan 2

* I’m sure there are many others who could also design this better.

Get in quick to open up our government and government data!

This is a guest post from reader Isabella

Have you ever wanted a government organisation to be less opaque?
Or thought “if only we could get the data on that…”?
Or admired some gorgeous datavis and wanted more?

Now’s your chance! Get your ideas in BY WEDNESDAY 24TH to shape New Zealand’s Open Government Action Plan.

This dull-sounding document is important: it’s the plan for the work in local and central government to open up publicly funded data for reuse, and to open up government processes for better accountability, transparency and creativity. There’s more every year, and it’s getting better and faster. Help steer it!

Transportblog readers, bloggers, commenters and all – this is you.

We need people like you to be able to see into government’s decision-making processes and subject them to the praise, censure and improvement they deserve.

We need people like you to be able to get data on things that matter and turn them into insightful information and juicy, juicy knowledge.  So…

  • If you’ve ever had an idea for how the government – local and central – should be more open, go here and tell ’em.
  • If you’ve ever had an idea for a neat open data project, go here and write it down.
  • If you’ve ever known anyone else who’d have these ideas, send them here and tell them to write.

And do it soon! the engagement is only live til end of Wednesday 24th. (though you can be involved longer term – see here)

Want some background?

They say:

“The Open Government Partnership (OGP) recognises that government can be more effective when citizens are aware and involved in building an open society.  The focus of the partnership is on developing a two-year National Action Plan between citizens and government, and the government is currently running a process to develop New Zealand’s second plan.  One of the guiding principles for the plan is the innovative use of technology to be more transparent

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international programme where the governments of 70 countries have committed to becoming more open, accountable and responsive to citizens.

New Zealand joined the OGP in 2014 and is now developing its second National Action Plan (NAP) to identify the best approaches to open up government and data, over the next two years.”