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Stuart’s 100 #18 A Great South Rd?

18: A Great South Road?

Day_18_A_Great_Great_South_Road

What if Great South Road truly was great?

The creation of Great South Road was one of the great formational moves in the early expansion of Auckland. Starting in 1861, some 12,000 soldiers built the highway over 2 years to provide a direct route south out of Auckland to the Waikato hinterland during the New Zealand Wars. It quickly became the primary commercial and community link between areas to the south of the isthmus, providing opportunity for the garrison communities like Otahuhu that had sprung up along its route to become important centres in their own right.

That role has long been surpassed by the Southern Motorway, but the legacy of Great South Road remains. It is a highly important route connecting communities and large employment areas in the south. As a route however, the legibility of where it goes and what it connects to is perhaps not very widely known or understood for Aucklanders who live and work further afield, who will be much more familiar with the motorway.

Much of Great South Road already is great. Places like Otahuhu are vibrant and diverse with a bright future. Otahuhu has significant development potential underpinned by a fantastic legacy of a historic fine grain pattern of streets and subdivision on flat land. It can readily adapt to support further growth that will benefit both the town centre and forthcoming rail-bus interchange.

By contrast, other sections of the route aren’t so great, still feeling like the road is still the main highway out of town.

Wouldn’t it be great if Great South Road – in stark contrast to the southern motorway – could become a celebrated route through the south that relates to the urban fabric and communities of Auckland? A strengthening of the corridor and centres through greater mixed use development,  improvements for walking and cycling and a legible and frequent bus route with rail connections at Manurewa, Manukau, Otahuhu, Penrose, Ellerslie, Greenlane and Remuera starts to add up to what sounds like a great urban corridor for this part of Auckland.

Great South Road, and other similar urban corridors, should have stronger alignment of land use and transport planning in the future to work steadily towards becoming positive forces in the city that can help shape and guide how Auckland grows and develops into the future.

 

To drive or not to drive, that is the question: generation Y research

This is a guest post from Dr Debbie Hopkins, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Otago – she’s currently doing some research for the NZTA on non-drivers. Read on to find out more and see if you might be keen to help out with the research by being interviewed.

Every day we make decisions about how we travel. These decisions include whether to go somewhere, where to go and how to get there. While we have some control over how we travel, there are a whole range of things that we might not have much control over that influence our travel decisions, such as where we live, access to public transport, and family commitments.

And these influences have changed over time.

For the past 100 years or so, the car has been the main way that people travel. Nowadays, our towns are designed to help people drive cars – large shopping centres with parking, direct routes for main roads – but sometimes this means that people without cars are left out. It can also mean that our urban areas might not be nice, safe places for people to walk or cycle. This has meant that for many people, car travel is preferred, so driver licensing, car ownership and distance travelled have all been increasing.

But it seems that things might be changing. In the past decade, there has been increasing evidence that generation Y – people born between 1980 and 2000 – are travelling in different ways and not wanting to travel by car as much as earlier generations. Industrialised countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Japan and Australia have all reported declining licensing amongst the 18-35 age group. Young people are also less likely to own a car and if they do own a car, they are travelling less.

We can make assumptions to explain why young people are travelling differently, but this isn’t very helpful… it is important to actually know for sure what is making this change happen. This could help policymakers and planners to design transport systems which better suit the needs of young people.

The Energy Cultures research project (www.energyculture.org) is conducting research to find out more. Dr Debbie Hopkins is looking for non-drivers from Auckland, who are willing to be interviewed about their travel behaviours. This would include people who might have a licence but don’t need/ want to drive, or people without a licence at all.

Participants need to be:

  • Aged 18-35 years old
  • New Zealand resident
  • Living in Auckland
  • Grown up in Auckland (especially ages 14-18)
  • Non-drivers (either with a licence but not driving, or without a licence)

Participants will be put into a draw to win one NZ$100 supermarket voucher.

If you, or someone you know, fit the criteria please contact: Debbie.hopkins@otago.ac.nz

Flyer

Is Petrol cheap?

I don’t tend to look at the motoring section of the Herald much however every now and then something stands out - often for its comedy value - and that was the case yesterday in an article titled Motoring Mythbusting. The article covers off a number of areas but two in particular deserve some attention. The first one talks about the cost of petrol.

It’s easy to see why petrol is a grudge purchase for so many people: you keep pouring the stuff into the tank and then it just disappears as you drive around. With the cost of filling a 50-litre tank currently at about $108, it’s a big drain on your wallet.

But think of the wonderful things that mobility and the private motor vehicle bring us: that sense of control, the freedom to be in different places as we choose. Failing that, remember that New Zealand still has the fifth-lowest fuel tax in the Western world. Petrol is actually cheaper than a 750ml bottle of Pump water from the supermarket ($3.99 per litre as this is written), despite having more complicated packaging and distribution demands.

Something else to consider for new-car buyers. If you have a humble Toyota Corolla GX, it will cost you $5600 per year to fill it up every week. Given that 55 per cent depreciation over three years is a realistic figure for a new car, it’s costing you $5800 just to have the thing in your driveway (that’s before you even consider finance or insurance). So petrol is not necessarily even the most expensive part of running a car.

Almost not quite sure where to begin so this is basically just a dump of my various thoughts about the comments above.

Paying over $100 to fill a tank on a regular basis might not be a big burden for the author but for many households it is a significant cost and it’s a cost that’s been rising with the price now sitting firmly over $2 per litre. The impact of the rises in fuel price are being reflected the spending from peoples wallets. The Electronic Card Transaction data from Stats NZ shows that over the last 11 years the percentage we’ve spent on fuel compared to other retail activities has gone from 10.5% to 16.5%.

Card Spending on Fuel - Aug 14

For families on low incomes the percentage of their income spent on private vehicles is likely to be even higher which leaves them with less money to spend on other things, like food. But more often than not it’s not just about filling one car but multiple ones. In the 2013 census 257,856 households in Auckland out of the 469,500 (55%) had two or more vehicles. In many cases families simply have no choice but to have multiple vehicles due to the dispersed nature of jobs in Auckland and lack of viable alternative options, all of which means higher household fuel costs.

Access to Vehicles

The author then claims that petrol for a car isn’t really that much when you compare it to depreciation, insurance, licencing and other transport costs. Of course he compares the depreciation on a brand new car while many people buy cheaper second hand cars for which the amount of depreciation is less however it is an important point that the cost of fuel is just one part of the overall picture in owning a car. He’s also right that mobility and the ability to get to many places is a really important thing. I would suggest though that it isn’t just a car that can improve mobility and open up the places you can travel. A well designed PT network with frequent services and integrated fares can do that too. Combined with riding a bike or walking such a network can provide mobility options in the city and where PT priority exists can also do so free of congestion.

newnetwork

What’s more travelling on such a network can be comparatively quite cheap. For example a monthly pass covering the entire urban area is $190 a month or a maximum of $2300 per year. That’s less than half the cost of petrol mentioned in the article and combined with the abundant access the new network will provide will become ever more compelling for people. To me the huge benefit of the PT investment that’s happening or that we’re pushing for is not that it will force everyone out of cars but that it allows some people to reduce their level of car use. Perhaps a two car family will be able to go to a single car, or a three car family down to two cars.

The myth in the article that caught my attention was the last one.

SPEED KILLS

The late LJK Setright was arguably the most erudite motoring journalist of his time. Not to mention often quite mischievous.

According to the great man in one of his 1990s columns: “Speed does not kill. Speed saves time, which is life.”

I wonder how long it will be before the government start using this line?

Yet as Peter pointed out the other day, many people don’t value speed and choose to pay for travel with time, does this mean they value their life less or just differently to a motoring journalist.

Photo of the day: Mitre 10′s bike parking

The other weekend I went to the Mitre 10 Mega in Wairau Road to pick up some building supplies. To my surprise, they’ve put in a bike rack near the store entrance. I’m not sure how much use it’s going to get given the aggressive traffic environment on Wairau Road – but someone’s obviously given it a go!

Perhaps Mitre 10 should consider following the lead of IKEA’s Danish stores and renting out cargo bikes to let their cycling customers move bigger loads.

20140823_111939

Urban Farm Vehicles

Wow who knew there were so many farms in Remuera or have some locals just started taking the term Remuera Tractor a bit too literally.

Motorists are evading hundreds of dollars in vehicle licensing fees by incorrectly registering their cars as farm vehicles.

It follows the revelation earlier this week that hundreds of drivers were falsely registering their cars as ambulances to save more than $200 in fees.

Other categories, including farm vehicles, also pay reduced fees, which one testing station owner says is being exploited by some drivers of Remuera tractors.

Farm vehicles fall under the Class B category, which are exempt from paying ACC levies, fuel excise and excise duty.

The classification relates to vehicles which are designed for agricultural operations and have restricted use on public roads. Alan Parker, who owns a vehicle testing station in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, said he often sees cars with central Auckland addresses come into the testing station for a Warrant of Fitness that are registered as farm vehicles.

“When we go to enter them into the system we get red flags come up about these vehicles,” he said.

“A farm vehicle sometimes doesn’t need a warrant, so we override it and we tell the system we’re inspecting them as private vehicles.”

Such customers were typically from wealthy suburbs, he said.

“There’s so many up in Remuera that are registered as farm vehicles, Toyota [Land Cruiser] Prados and that,” he said. “And maybe these people do legitimately own farms, but they’re not legitimately using that vehicle for farm use. It gives the name the Remuera tractor a new slant.”

Other customers were struggling beneficiaries, he said.

“Sometimes I can’t blame them for doing it because they’ve got nothing, and at least they’re not picking up a $250 fine for no rego.”

Typically the licensing fee for a petrol-powered Exempt Class B vehicle is $50.22, the NZ Transport Agency said, compared with $280.55 for a petrol-driven passenger car.

At over $200 for a petrol vehicle it doesn’t take too long to rack up over $100,000 in licencing fees that should go to the government while for a diesel vehicle this could be even more as a Class B exemption also means the owner doesn’t need to pay Road User Charges.

As the article mentions it isn’t only farm vehicles that people claim their vehicle as with a lot also claiming their vehicles as ambulances.

Hundreds of motorists are falsely registering their cars as ambulances, avoiding more than $200 in fees.

The NZ Transport Agency said last month’s figures showed 2681 vehicles were registered as ambulances.

But St John and the Wellington Free Ambulance services have only 705 registered ambulances between them – meaning up to 1976 private vehicles could be falsely registered.

An ACC levy exemption for ambulances means it costs only $52.11 a year to register a non-commercial ambulance, compared with $280.55 for a petrol-driven passenger car – a difference of $228.44.

The difference is even greater for commercial vehicles, which cost up to $590.78 to register.

The total loss in levies to ACC is at least $392,500 a year.

A couple of hundred thousand or perhaps even as much as a million per year might seem small compared to the billions collected annually from the NZTA’s funding sources however it still represents a large sum of money. It also seems like this would be something fairly easy to resolve as after all the NZTA should have the address for the owner of each vehicle so surely they shouldn’t be too difficult to track down.

What is the CFN? Transport Debate Summary

1.AUCKLAND THE CFN

At the 2014 Election Transport Debate organised by the Campaign for Better Transport I was charged with summarising our Congestion Free Network as an introduction to the candidate’s speeches. Here is that short speech:

What is the CFN?

The CFN is a deeply considered answer to the question of how Auckland, our only city of scale, can best compete at all levels this century.

It is a world class Rapid Transit Network to go with our world class Highway Network.

1. It is designed for maximum economic efficiency; evaluating capital costs, operating costs, and long term value. It is a fully integrated top tier network; using busways where they are best option and extending the existing rail network where that adds more value, and ferries where they offer their particular advantage.

2. It builds on what we already have; it extends and complements our existing systems. It is the key to getting the highest value from earlier investments, especially our widespread road and highway networks. And it unlocks hidden capacity in the existing legacy rail network, and enhances its operational efficiency. It is about working our physical infrastructure harder and smarter as the city grows.

3. It facilitates better quality of urban form and supports higher quality of life and therefore the international competitiveness of the city, the nation’s gateway. It also complements the growth in Active travel; cycling and walking.

4. It greatly strengthens the city’s resilience through diversifying movement options in ways that are consistent with changes in technology and social trends and helps protect the city’s functionality against shocks in price or supply of imported fuels.

5. It greatly enhances freedom and choice for businesses, residents, and visitors alike. It supports the entire city, not just inner areas, including future growth areas on the urban fringe. It will make the choice to not partake in congestion in Auckland a truly viable one for more people, at more times, and for more trips.

It essentially is the answer to the question of what is needed next?

And it is not just a ‘nice to have’ but rather a carefully costed and highest value complement to the last sixty years of investment in motorways. It will unlock the motorway system for higher value users, in particular freeing it up for its vital role in the freight supply chain. In short to gain the next level of value from the urban state highways we need to invest away from them to keep them flowing efficiently. It also is what is needed to gain the agglomeration economies that flow from city shaped development.

And wonderfully It does not require anything other than a reprioritising of projects already identified for Auckland, and is achievable well within existing budgets. It takes no money away from other parts of the country’s transport share nor is it dependent on novel sources of revenue. It does however require an understanding that Auckland is at a new stage of development. One that requires more than just the single mode of movement and therefore while maintaining the existing road systems, investment in new infrastructure must be strongly directed to completing and optimising the missing modes. And this programme shows just how within reach this is.

In short it’s genius.

But because of how we control our transport spending it does need government to be willing to partner the city in investing differently than we have been. Nothing short of the success of our biggest city and the level of its contribution to the whole nation is at stake.

5.CFN v ITP cost

Starting with where Auckland’s nascent Rapid Transit network will be once the current upgrade of the legacy rail network is complete, the following maps show, in broad terms, how we can efficiently leverage off this resource to build a world quality and right sized extremely efficient Rapid Transit Network for Auckland over 15 years. Please note this only shows the top tier, separate right of way and high frequency Rapid Network. It is supported by and integrated with the New Bus Network, and other services. And of course it is designed to complement and operate separately from our widespread driving systems. Freeing them up for more efficient use.

CFN 2015

CFN 2020

CFN 2025

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

For more detail on each route see under Our Proposals above.

Airplane fares reveal the value of time… and the importance of choice

High airplane fares are in the media this week, as Air New Zealand is about to pay a special dividend after a 45% increase in profits. Some people have suggested that the airline should cut fares on regional routes instead. But how high are the fares, really?

The NZ Herald investigates the question of high fares in an article on airplane fares. As it turns out, their analysis is a quite good illustration of a central issue in transport evaluation – the value that people place on their travel time.

The Herald has compared the cost of Air New Zealand, Naked Bus and private car prices between North Island regional centres and Auckland or Wellington after Air NZ faced criticism this week for the price of its regional airfares. It found travellers could be paying more than 10 times more for the convenience of flying.

You’ll have to go read the article to see their summary table, but it looks as though airplane fares are generally competitive with the cost of driving – a bit higher on some routes, a bit lower on others. Intercity buses, on the other hand, can be up to ten times cheaper, but often take half a day to get to the destination.

The Herald finds that some people are willing to trade off time for money, but to my mind their examples don’t exactly prove that airfares are excessively high:

Massey University student Lauren Cornish is one of many who opt to drive because of what they see as unaffordable airfares.

The veterinary science student has been studying in Palmerston North city for six years but returns home to Auckland regularly.

In that time she has taken no more than five flights – instead opting for a seven-hour drive home more than 20 times.

“It is never economically viable to fly, ever,” she said. “If I get Grabaseat deals, they can be okay, but they are obviously very inflexible and it is still around $120.” Instead she pays $90 in petrol to drive one way.

Now, to me, spending $30 to save five hours in a car sounds like a fantastic deal! If I’m travelling on business, my time’s worth much more than that, so it’s highly economically viable to spend a bit more money on a plane ticket. However, there have been times when I’ve placed a lower value on my time – for example, when I was a student, I would go to great lengths to avoid spending my limited money. (Except on beer, for some reason.)

In short, comparing airfares to bus fares and the cost of driving doesn’t tell us much about whether Air New Zealand’s fares are too high, but it does nicely illustrate the way that different people may value travel time savings. For some people, it will make sense to spend more on airfares to save time; for other people with tighter budgets, cheap bus tickets are the way to go.

The important thing is that there are choices in the transport market. For intercity travel, different options are available to people who have different needs. But, oddly, we don’t offer a very good travel choices within our cities. In Auckland, it is easy to travel by car, which works well for people who prefer relatively fast, point-to-point travel and who can afford the up-front costs of owning a car. But much of Auckland is missing public transport, which is better for people who don’t want to (or can’t) pay the up-front costs of car ownership and don’t mind waiting for the bus. Similarly, we’ve made walking and cycling really hard, although walking is just about the only free travel option we’ve got.

In economese, the intercity travel market caters for heterogeneous preferences, but urban transport seems to have been planned on the assumption that we’ve all got the same preferences. So: what’s your value of time?

Queens Wharf Traffic Changes

In accessing Queens wharf on foot most people flow straight from the intersection of Queen St and Quay St as it is the most direct route. The only problem is that it’s also the entrance and exit on to the wharf for vehicles which often dominate the area. This is something I’ve written about before.

Queens Wharf Car Access 2

Thankfully Auckland Transport are finally going to do something about making the area safer for pedestrians by shifting the vehicle access to the east.

The changes will involve:

  • Removal of the Quay Street right hand turn onto Queens Wharf
  • Removal of the traffic lights from the current vehicle entrance onto Queens Wharf which will only be available for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Relocation of the vehicle entrance to Queens Wharf eastwards which will not be signalised
  • Vehicles exiting Queens Wharf can only turn left onto Quay Street
  • Vehicles entering Queens Wharf must be traveling from the west, and must turn left off Quay Street onto the wharf

This is a good outcome and it’s good to see Auckland Transport finally doing this. It should help towards making Queens Wharf a nicer place for people to be. The changes are also shown below.

Quay St entrance to Queens Wharf

Weather permitting work starts on making this change tomorrow night.

Photo of the day: Urban Charity

Yesterday was Daffodil Day and in two different locations people put a lot of effort into creating neat displays that enhanced the urban environment and made people stop and look.

The first one I saw was on Durham Lane where Daffodils had been tied to a netting which was hung like a canopy above the lane.

Durham Lane Daffidol Canopy

The second was at Takutai Square at Britomart. Here hundreds of Daffodils had been planted into the grass (this was done a few years ago with poppies for ANZAC day).

Takutai Daffidols 1

What a fantastic way to raise awareness for a charity while also making the city more interesting at the same time.

Wynyard Cycling Complaints

The new Waterfront Promenade linking the Harbour Bridge to Wynyard Quarter will be fantastic when finished later this year however its completion will leave a gap in the network through Wynyard Quarter itself. Auckland Transport and Waterfront Auckland are going to be fixing that gap through the addition of some separated cycleways and shared paths through the area.

Increasingly, more people are choosing to cycle to work or for fun. The creation of cycle paths through Wynyard Quarter supports this and makes it easier to get around.

The vision is to provide a world-class facility connecting the North Shore (via SkyPath), Herne Bay, and Ponsonby, with the CBD and Tamaki Drive.

Separated cycle paths will go along Beaumont Street and Madden Street.

A shared pedestrian and cycle path will go along Westhaven Drive and the western end of Gaunt Street to Daldy Street, where it will connect with the Daldy Street Linear Park.

Wynyard Quarter Cycling Routes

More separated cycleways as well as filling in holes in the network are obviously a good thing but as you can expect not everyone is happy about it.

The prospect of a cycleway in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter has fired up members of the marine industry.

The plan would mean reducing the number of parking spaces in the area and that’s got some business people worrying about their futures.

Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield supports the idea of a cycleway linking up the waterfront but not if it keeps customers away.

If customers can’t park nearby they won’t come and businesses will close, he said.

“When someone comes to get a propeller repaired they need to put it in their car and drive to the shop. You can’t put it on a bus or take it on a bicycle.”

[...]

Stephen Harris is the owner of Auckland Engineering Supplies and said the proposal to replace parking spaces on the west side of Beaumont St with a dedicated cycleway would “absolutely kill the business”.

It’s not surprising to see a business complaining about the loss of parking as it seems to happen everywhere cycling infrastructure is proposed however if a simple cycle lane is going to kill his business then I’d suggest the business isn’t that going that well in the first place. The talk of lost carparks is even odder for two reasons. First of all the building in the photo with the article its own customer parking on the roof.

Wynyard Quarter Marine Industry Cycling complaint

And secondly there is still proposed to be parking on the eastern side of the street according to this map from Auckland Transport.

Wynyard Quarter Parking

Perhaps the one thing that could be questioned is whether the western side of Beaumount is the right place for a separated cycleway.

Harkin New Zealand managing director Gary Lock said there are several other routes where a cycleway could go. It’s unsafe to mix heavy vehicles and cyclists, he said.

“It’s an industrial marine zone. You’ve got to protect the cyclists, especially if you’ve got kids and parents cycling.

“Most of the people who turn into the driveways are trade-related or driving heavy vehicles and they will have to turn across the cycleway.”

Ovlov Marine co-owner Lachlan Trembath agrees safety and customer access should come first.

I can only assume the western side was chosen to allow for access from Silo Park to the promenade without having to cross roads.

Like many other businesses in New Zealand when it comes to cycling, I suspect that the marine industry can’t see past the status quo.

Cycling and public transport are good activities but you’ve got to have time, he said. No-one’s going to cycle to Beaumont St to pick up a pail of oil or an outboard, he said.

Large heavy and bulky items might not be ideal to transport on a bike but I would bet there are a huge number of other products sold by the businesses along Beaumont St that would be easily transportable by bike back to the marina once the promenade if complete.

I’m going to predict that at worst these cycleways aren’t going to do anything to harm the local businesses and if anything might even gain them some new customers from people riding past.