Follow us on Twitter


2015 Station Boarding Results

Auckland Transport announced yesterday that annual rail patronage has now passed 14 million trips after reaching 13.9 million by the end of June. While it’s great to see the growth that’s occurring overall, it’s also interesting to know where it’s coming from – and by that I mean which stations are people coming from and going to. Recently Auckland Transport kindly provided me with the the station boarding stats for most recent financial year – 1 July 2014 through to 30 June 2015. This follows on from them providing the same data for the previous year meaning we can now start to compare the changes.

Before delving into the results it’s important to note that they don’t cover every single trip. Not included are trips from the likes of special events, missed tag on/offs and a small number of pass options e.g. the child monthly train pass which still uses a paper ticket. That means for the last year the data covers 12.4 million trips out of the 13.9 million in total that were taken (89%).

As expected Britomart dominates the results with trips to or from the station accounting for 60.2% of all rail trips. What’s more the percentage of trips to or from Britomart is increasing as it accounted for 57% of trips in 2013/14. By comparison the next busiest station is Newmarket with just 12.6% of trips. Note: as there are a large number of trips just between these two stations, the total trips involving both of them is 68.2%.

The map below shows comparatively how many boardings occurred at each station across the network. The orange is where the Southern and Eastern lines combine and the purple where the Southern and Onehunga lines combine.

Station Boardings 2015

Things get more interesting when you compare how stations have changed from one year to the next. As the 2013/14 data only covered 83% of trips I’ve adjusted it to make a more fare comparison. Some of the interesting things to note from it are:

  • Manukau has had massive growth of well over 120% more boardings compared to last year – this is likely due to the opening of the MIT building above the station and the increase in services thanks to the introduction of electric trains.
  • Panmure has also had a big year growing 71% over the last year and like Manukau it’s likely related to the station upgrade and better, more frequent services.
  • The average growth across the network was 22%, Other than the two above, the stations that grew faster than the average were (in descending order):
    • Newmarket
    • Britomart
    • Newmarket
    • Papatoetoe
    • Puhinui
    • Sylvia Park
    • Onehunga
    • Penrose
  • Conversely at some station boardings actually fell. These were:
    • Waitakere – which is now closed
    • Te Mahia
    • Fruitvale, and
    • Swanson
  • The Eastern line Stations of Glen Innes, Panmure and Sylvia Park are now all in top 10 stations
  • New Lynn has remained the third busiest station despite having much less frequency than all the other stations in the top 10, imagine how busy it would be with 10 minute frequencies like those Eastern Line stations.
  • It appears the idea of downhilling is still growing. This is where people from on the Western Line get off at Grafton and bus/walk/cycle from there to Uni or other places in the city then carry on down hill to Britomart to catch the train home.

The table below shows the boarding and alighting data for each station. You should be able to filter the columns to get different views of the data.

Like last year the data also breaks information down further allowing us to see just how many trips went from each station to each other station on the network. I’ll look more closely at that in a separate post and reader Aaron Schiff who made this fantastic visualisation of the data is already working on updating it with the latest results.

From what is above, what do you make of the results?

Lastly I hope that one day we can get the Northern Busway stations included in here as well.

Do we have enough trains – part 2

Late last week I asked the question of whether we have enough trains. The post has resulted in a lot of discussion however some of the answers I received from Auckland Transport left me asking more questions. In particular

CAF has committed to supplying 46 EMUs for weekday operations. That number is sufficient for 12 of the 34 train sets required to operate the timetable to be doubled as 6-car trains.

So I sought some clarification around why only supply of 46 EMUs. AT have now have now provided that clarification confirming that the 46 was just to implement the services we have now and an additional six sets will be available for service once the roll-out has been completed.

The 46 sets is what CAF has confirmed they can supply to daily service as at 20 July. This does not include two additional EMUs that are held on standby ready to inject into service operations to smooth service recovery following disruption. A further three EMUs are not available as they are waiting for replacement ETCS equipment which has long lead times. These are expected to be released for service over the next few weeks. Three EMUs are “maintenance spares” which allow CAF to take the trains out of service for lengthy periods for major maintenance.

Capacity will be increased from the three trains currently out of service plus the three to be delivered next week. Once the accelerated delivery schedule is complete and all 57 EMUs have been accepted into service, up to six existing 3-carriage trains could be increased to 6-carriage trains (based on the current timetable).

I guess only time will tell if the extra six trains will be enough to cover the capacity constraints at the peak and shoulder peak periods.

Full EMU

My 6-car train was pretty full last night

Note: the comments of first post contained a lot of discussion around buying extra carriages or bringing back the old diesels. There is no need to rehash those arguments again.

Travel diary: New Urbanist town centres

The last few weeks I’ve been on holiday in California, visiting friends and family up and down the length of the state. As always, I’ve been surprised at how familiar – and how different – the state seems. In some ways, it’s ahead of New Zealand. In others, it’s behind. And in many more, it’s simply off on a quite different path of development.

One thing I noticed was the surprising ubiquity of New Urbanist town centre upgrades. Cities and towns up and down the state are upgrading sidewalks, adding sharrows (or even painted bike lanes), installing planter boxes and parklets, and doing up historic buildings in old downtown areas. This seems to be a bit of a new trend – or at any rate, I don’t remember it being so common when I was growing up in California.

So, for example, here’s downtown in Walnut Creek, a suburban city in the San Francisco Bay Area. It sits at the junction of two freeways, but there’s also a BART station, a rails-to-trails cycleway, and public parking buildings that allow less surface land to be devoted to parking. As a result, the core of the shopping centre is surprisingly walkable and leafy:

Walnut Creek town centre

However, Walnut Creek hasn’t always been developed this way – here, for example, is retail frontage a few blocks over. It’s the pretty classic Californian design of big parking lots out front and big boxes in the back (plus a few street trees). But the city seems to have undergone a transition away from building more uninviting carparks and towards walkable, efficient places.

Walnut Creek car-based retail

The same ideas are also being implemented in smaller places. Here, for example, is the historic town centre in Grass Valley, a town of around 13,000 people at the foothills of the Sierras. A decade or so ago, many of the shopfronts were empty, but now they’re full of various boutique-y shops catering to tourists. (Including a lot of wine tasting rooms – there are a number of wineries in the area.) They’ve installed complementary retro-kitsch like the clock on the left side of the picture:

Grass Valley town centre

We saw similar things in other small towns around the place. But the small towns generally also illustrated the limitations of New Urbanist town centre upgrades. Unlike Walnut Creek, which is larger (and more affluent), they didn’t usually succeed in drawing back in major retail chains and supermarkets, which continued heading for suburban shopping centres. Hence the tourist-oriented retail in Grass Valley.

Finally, New Urbanist design is hardly a panacea or a remedy for other ills. Take this development on the main highway in Torrance (in Los Angeles). It conforms to many New Urbanist strictures – traditionalist building design, ground floor retail facing the street, etc. But because it’s also included a great big parking garage with two gaping entrances (one of which is pictured), it hasn’t gotten rave reviews. Apparently the neighbours, some of whom live in condos or apartments themselves, have cited it as an example of why it’s necessary to “protect” the area from “overdevelopment”.

Torrence New Urbanism

As an aside, I quite like the way that LA strip retail is built. Major at-grade highways in the older areas of the city are densely packed with street-front retail. The building styles are eclectic and entertaining, and the businesses within are usually pretty varied as well.

Redondo Beach PCH retail

Twiddling thumbs on climate change

Under the National government, being the Climate Change Issues Minister must be the easiest job in the world. Sure, Tim Groser does also have the more demanding role of Trade, but if I had to guess the number of hours each week he spends thinking “what can I do to help New Zealand reduce its emissions?” I’d guess the answer is pretty close to zero. And I’d guess much the same for the Associate Minister, Simon Bridges (who is also the Minister of Transport).

This is frustrating, when there are many things that we should be doing to cut our emissions right now – especially in transport. It’s even more frustrating when many other countries are taking climate change seriously, and gearing up to make big pledges at a climate summit at the end of the year, and our own government is so firmly on the wrong side of that line.

Because this summit is coming up, there’s actually been a flurry of articles in the Herald and other media, whereas climate change has struggled to get the attention it deserves in the last few years, in NZ at least. This reflects that our government is heading into the summit with an extremely weak pledge, where we essentially aren’t planning to do anything at all to reduce emissions.

“The Government’s refusal to do much of anything to curb New Zealand’s emissions is as economically myopic as it is morally contemptible”.

Brian Fallow, economics editor for the New Zealand Herald, 2013

Brian Fallow is a man whose pieces tend to be thoughtful and measured in tone, hardly someone who is prone to exaggeration. His recent column on the topic reads:

The legacy of woeful climate policy by the present Government and Labour before it – woeful from the standpoint of actually reducing emissions – is that emissions are running more than 20 per cent above 1990 levels. They shouldn’t be, but they are.

The ETS was enacted in the last few weeks of Labour’s ninth year in power and was promptly emasculated by National. As it stands, it exempts the great majority of New Zealand emissions altogether and has in recent years imposed on the rest a carbon price measured in tens of cents rather than tens of dollars.

Fallow continues, but, essentially National are opting for a “kick the can down the road” policy, without giving NZ businesses and individuals any incentive to actually decrease their emissions. Predictably, some recent modelling work suggests that emissions will actually increase under this scenario. The government will then need to buy credits from overseas countries that are actually doing something, so that we can meet our international obligations.

National’s stance on this has been criticised by a number of scientists and organisations, as in the article above:

Professor James Renwick of Victoria University of Wellington, an actual climate scientist, says the target is as weak as previous ones and does not come close to what is required, if New Zealand is serious about keeping warming to less than 2C, as the Government has said we are.

“The science says, compared to 1990 we need about a 40 per cent reduction by 2030, 90 per cent by 2050, and 100 per cent by 2060 – and then negative emissions (removal of CO2 from the atmosphere) for the rest of the century.”

New Zealand, he notes, is one of the highest emitters in the world on a per-capita basis.

Fallow also wrote another article three days later, which continues on this theme. My emphasis in bold:

The greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for the 2020s the Government intends to pledge has been rated inadequate by Climate Action Tracker, and as falling short of a fair share of the international effort required.

If most other countries were to follow New Zealand’s approach, global warming would exceed 3 or 4°C, a world that would see oceans acidifying, coral reefs dissolving, sea levels rising rapidly, and more than 40 per cent species extinction.

“While most other governments intend cutting emissions, New Zealand appears to be increasing emissions, and hiding this through creative accounting. It may not have to take any action at all to meet either its 2020 or 2030 targets,” Hare said.

There are no policies in place to address the fastest-growing sources of emissions in New Zealand from transport and industrial sources. For the energy system, whilst it is predominantly hydro and renewables, there is potential for further increasing renewable energy, and improving efficiency on the user end.”

It also points out, as domestic critics of the target have and as Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has conceded, that it does not put New Zealand on a direct, straight line path to its longer-term goal of a 50 per cent reduction by 2050, unlike other major economies such as the European Union or the United States.

“New Zealand’s climate policy is projected to head in the opposite direction from the world’s biggest emitters such as China, the United States and the European Union.

It has taken little or no action on climate change since 2008 – except for watering down its ETS – and we can find no evidence of any policies that would change this,” said Professor Kornelis Blok of Ecofys.

As per one of our posts from 2013, New Zealand’s emissions come largely from agriculture – which is a tricky problem to solve – and energy, including transport. Since it’s going to be hard and expensive to cut our agricultural emissions, we’re going to have to put a lot of focus on transport emissions, and reduce them significantly.

John P Emissions

How do we cut our transport emissions? Electric vehicles will help. Indeed, in the decades to come, they could actually make a huge difference, given NZ’s mainly renewable electricity supply. But that’s a long way off. In the meantime, we need to stop building huge new highways and motorways, and start investing in public and active transport instead. These things are not about NZ being a leader in reducing emissions, or even a “fast follower”. We’re slipping further and further behind on that front. It’s simply about taking cost-effective, sensible and actions which will prove themselves much more sensible in the long run.

The government has recently started to boost cycling funding, which is good – and it may well be more effective than public transport spending for our small to medium cities. But for our larger cities, we need both public and active transport. For Auckland especially, we should be investing in public transport infrastructure – the big ticket stuff like the City Rail Link, the quick fixes like bus lanes, and the intermediate things like busways. The council understands this, to a reasonable extent. But the government has stayed right out of it, overriding the priorities set by the council or Auckland Transport and instead pouring billions of dollars into motorways instead. That has to change.

Ponsonby Rd Public Realm

Ponsonby Rd has pretty serious pretensions to being Auckland’s premier shopping and cafe strip, and it sure does attract very high volumes of people. However the amenity for these people is very poor. Both in terms of its form but also in terms of its upkeep. Overall I think its fair to say that like many places in Auckland pedestrians are clearly low on the radar for those who have been charged with forming and maintaining this street. Certainly compared to the constant and loving attention AT gives the roadway the footpaths are in a shocking state [see below]. At many times of any day there are as many or more people on the footpaths than in vehicles, yet both the quantity and quality of the public realm that is afforded to people not in cars is more than suboptimal.


Yet there’s lots that’s great here and with just a few well executed tweaks and it could be really fantastic. The street is among the best forms of public realm there is; and it is clear the goods and services on offer here and the opportunity for a good old fashioned paseo or passeggiata along this natural sunny ridge attracts all sorts, young and old, and at all times of the day and night. Ponsonby Rd has such great natural attributes and a near constant activation; the dull moments like the bank and fire station or parking lots aren’t too bad or too long. And anyway are likely to be improved. The length of it is worth walking; from K and Gt North all the way to Jervois and College Hill.

But despite these attractors the pedestrian realm is fractured and perilous. Any attempt to use the footpath, and let’s not forget that is the only way to access the shops and cafes, involves a constant yielding to fellow citizens in vehicles. And not just at the crossings of the narrow side streets but also on the many moments where the footpath itself is also a vehicle crossings. Frankly it is outrageous that the previous Council ever allowed a fast food business to run a drive-in facility that crosses the pavement twice across such a busy pedestrian place. And don’t start me on the terrible informal extra road they’ve allowed opposite the top of Franklin.

Ponsonby Rd- lot 3

The Richmond/Picton intersection; we believe all modes would benefit from this returning to a Barnes Dance pattern. Certainly it would be safer and better for pedestrians.

Above: The Richmond/Picton intersection; we believe all modes would benefit from this returning to a Barnes Dance pattern. Certainly it would be safer and better for pedestrians.

And a great city walk is a powerful thing, commercially, socially: as an attractor for local business, it is the ‘public playroom’ for residents and visitors alike. I’m not advocating for more land here, just for the quality of what’s already available to be better connected, defined, and available for people doing that most valuable thing: walking.

The prime opportunity is for this public realm to be stitched together across the various interuptions. Firstly for each of the minor cross streets to have their priority reversed and become extensions of the Ponsonby Rd footpath by raising the surface up to footpath level in a continuous line. This would clearly communicate to drivers the need to proceed with great care when turning, and to yield, as some already do, to the more vulnerable pedestrian. Some of the wider cross streets like Vermont are already narrowed and planted with good trees, but continuous blacktop invites fast and careless driving by some impatient or inobservant drivers. This can be fixed, as can the crossings at the major intersections.

So a group of us have got together to outline a number of improvements we would like AT and AC properly investigate along this well trod path.

1. Raised pedestrian tables on the minor side streets inline with the footpath.

2. Reinstating the Barnes Dance at the Richmond/Picton intersection with Ponsonby Rd

3. Ped crossings at the existing refuges at the mid blocks.

4. Enforce the existing 40kph speed limit.

5. Ban U turns.

6. Implement the Ponsonby Rd plan

There’s a petition here:

And I would like to add; complete the return of the London Plane trees along the length of the street so we will get fully a joined up architecture of these great street trees along the route.

Add your thoughts on these or other possible improvements and feel free to nominate other streets that you think would benefit from this sort of upgrade. And note this post is deliberately focussed on the pedestrian realm as the cycling, traffic lane, and PT issues are covered in the masterplan, but also so the pedestrian realm can be discussed in its own right.

CRL targets August 2015 – six-monthly review

Every six months the Ministry of Transport produce a monitoring report on how Auckland is performing against the targets the government set for work to start prior to 2020 on the City Rail Link. As a reminder

On 28 June 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s commitment to a joint business case with Auckland Council for the City Rail Link in 2017 and to providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.

The Prime Minister also stated that the Government would consider an earlier business case and construction start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest. The two thresholds are:

  • an increase in Auckland CBD employment of 25 percent over the February 2012 estimate (the baseline), which is half of the increase to 2021 predicted in the 2012 City Centre Future Access Study ; and
  • rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips a year well before 2020.

The reports are in August and February each year based on patronage to the end of June and December. So far the reports have been extremely underwhelming, especially in relation to patronage. The first one in December 2013 essentially predicted that Auckland would never make the CRL target. The second one in August 2014 and the third one in February this year predicted that patronage would grow till about 2017 then taper off.

With a new report due soon, I thought it would be worthwhile do give my take on the report if I was writing it for the minister.

CBD Employment

We remain unconvinced that CBD employment is a particularly useful measure of the need for the City Rail Link. Even if just as a measure of demand for travel to the CBD, there are many other factors – such as parking costs and availability, public transport offerings – which can and are changing travel demand.

Data on CBD employment is produced annually and isn’t due from Stats NZ until later this year. At this stage we’re not expecting any significant change in employment numbers as research from Colliers International shows that the Auckland city centre continues to experience historically low vacancy rates. They say prime office space has a vacancy rate of just 1.4% compared to a 20 year average of 8.2%.

We do note that a number of new builds are due to be completed in the next year or two and since the last update, a number of very large projects have been announced or made significant progress towards starting construction over the next few years. In addition many of these projects are along the City Rail Link route.

CRL Growth Corridor

Rail Patronage

Auckland Transport’s rail patronage data for the year to June 2014 shows patronage of 13,916,822 trips, an increase of 2,481,737 or an increase of 21.7%. This is ahead level needed to reach the target by 2020.

2015-06 - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target

Over the course of the Ministry’s monitoring reports the rate of patronage increases has actually accelerated. We expect that high patronage growth will continue for a number of years yet as the full impacts of rolling out the electric train fleet, the new bus network and integrated fares are rolled out. Extrapolating the trends witnessed in recent years shows – as Auckland Transport have in the chart below – that patronage could hit the 20 million target as early as mid-2017. The chart plots the extrapolations out to 2020 however we expect capacity constraints to prevent patronage rising too much above 20 million trips.

Extraploated Patronage Growth Trends

While we expect patronage to reach the 20 million target in advance of 2020, we do see some potential risks to that – although it is worth pointing out none of these risks relate to demand for rail trips. The two biggest risks are:

  • Capacity of the rail system – Despite the extra capacity provided by the new electric fleet, there are already reports of capacity constraints emerging. These will be exacerbated by future growth including the changes resulting from the implementation of the new bus network. We recommend that the government urgently enter into discussions with Auckland Council/Transport about the potential of buying additional trains.
  • The City Rail Link enabling works – The enabling works will see the main entrance to Britomart closed as part of the works to start building the CRL. It is unknown if this will have any impact on patronage from people looking to avoid the disruption. Conversely it is possible the enabling works may have a positive impact on patronage as a number of other city centre roads will be adjusted to also handle AT moving buses off Albert St during the construction period.


Rail Patronage growth has been strong and remains on track to reach the target needed for an earlier start to the CRL.

Employment has been stymied by a lack of available office space however that looks set to change over the medium term as a number of large developments in the city centre become available.

We believe the government should urgently re-consider it’s timeframes for the project with a look to getting it under-way as soon as possible. The longer it is left the greater the number of people and businesses will be negatively affected by crowded trains and construction disruption.


Sunday reading 3 August 2015

Scott Lazenby, “Why We Should Pay for the Highway Miles We Use“, Governing. We expect to pay for services like phones and electricity and water that are reliable. Shouldn’t we treat roads the same way?

When you live or travel in a third-world country, you can’t take basic infrastructure for granted. Water might come out of a faucet when you turn it on, or it might not. Electric lights might work, or they might not. Something might happen when you flush a toilet, but you probably don’t want to know where the sewage goes.

Here in the U.S., we don’t accept these kinds of conditions. We have little tolerance for outages of services like cable TV and cellphones, water, electricity, natural gas, garbage collection and Internet access. We insist on, and pay for, reliable provision of all the basic services. Except one: roads and highways.

David Z. Morris, “Oregon just debuted this radical alternative to the gasoline tax“, Fortune. Some quibbles with the pricing structure proposed here, but the real story is the maturing technology (Azuga) that enables pricing distance, time-of-day, and other factors.

The program, called OreGo, is currently voluntary, with space for an initial 5,000 participants. Drivers in the program will install a small dongle into their on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, standard on all cars after 1996. The device will track miles driven, and report that information via 3G to Azuga, the private company handling the technology.

Darren Davis, “For whom the road tolls?“, Architect this City. Davis (@DarrenDavis10) follows up his black-box busting piece on traffic modelling with this on road tolling.

In a world where time is money, we are constantly berated about the economic costs of congestion. In 2011, the Toronto Board of Trade estimated that congestion in the Toronto region alone cost the regional economy $6 billion a year, rising to an estimated $15 billion in 2031 should no action be taken. More recent research by the CD Howe Institute pegs this figure at up to $11 billion.

Given these sorts of eye-watering figures, one might be tempted to think that car drivers, and in particular the goods industry, would be flinging their wallets open at the chance to buy their way out of congestion…

This brings up a fundamental paradox: Congestion costs the economy a fortune and congestion is a top-of-mind frustration, yet people seem reluctant to pay even comparatively small amounts to bypass congestion.

Adele Peters, “Downtown Dublin Is Getting Rid Of Cars“, FastCo. Dublin joins the growing list of European cities limited car access in its city core.

In the proposed plan, the city wants to route cars around the city center, and turn major streets into car-free plazas and passages for buses, bikes, pedestrians, and a new tram line. Along the banks of the River Liffey, polluted roads will become promenades. On Grafton Street, a former car lane will turn into a tree-shaded terrace with cafe tables, while the other lane has tram tracks. New bike lanes and wider sidewalks will be added as well.

(via @cowanrob)

(via @cowanrob)

Bob Dey, “Another contortion on development capacity“, commenting on a recent report which looks at how much housing development is likely to be economically feasible under the Proposed Unitary Plan:

[The report] raises the same questions as were raised in initial modelling 2 years ago, again without answering the primary question. That primary question, which is political, is: Should you allow the Auckland urban footprint to expand without constraint, or should you contain it?

…although I’d hope that question has been answered, it’s certainly been given enough attention over the years…

That’s before considering the second question, in the form of ‘how long is a piece of string?’: Which population projection for the next 30 years is the real one?

Will Penrose remain the heartland of Auckland industry? Will the poorly used Eden Park remain a stadium? Will South Auckland grow new types of business for a more educated population? Will Aucklanders occupy a whole range of different housing types as they move into quite different futures?

And the question that’s always waiting for planners who think in terms of finite frames: If we get the million extra people projected (on the high side of the scale) in 30 years, what happens in 30 years + 1 day?

Matthew Iglesias, “At last, a convincing theory about why the tech boom’s days are numbered“, Vox.

To keep growing, the technology sector needs to keep adding skilled workers and office space, and both San Francisco and Silicon Valley are running out of both. That means that even companies with perfectly plausible business ideas are going to find costs rising faster than revenue, and the sector is going to need to stall out until some companies fail and free up more resources for the others.

….So why not locate in Detroit, Cleveland, or Christchurch?

The problem is that almost any move you could make to mitigate your real estate problems is going to exacerbate your skilled labor problem.

The reason is that startups are, inherently, risky places to work. But if you have the kind of skills to get a good job at a startup, you can greatly mitigate that risk by living in a city that’s full of similar startups that need people with similar skills. You mitigate that risk, in other words, by living in Silicon Valley or San Francisco.

David Henbrow, “How problems which could be seen 40 years ago have not been solved and how an obvious solution was overlooked“, A View from the Cycle Path. Using Wellington as an exmaple Henbrow illustrates how  transport decisions made 40 years ago influence urban mobility.

Here’s my hypothesis about why it is that cycling is still so unpopular in and around Wellington: The city and the surrounding area are treating cycling no more seriously now than they were in 1971.

The post is based on this fascinating video discussing the increasing traffic congestion and social isolation coming with Wellington’s suburban growth.

Adrienne Lafrance, “When You Give a Tree an Email Address“, CityLab. The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

Officials assigned the trees ID numbers and email addresses in 2013 as part of a program designed to make it easier for citizens to report problems like dangerous branches. The “unintended but positive consequence,” as the chair of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio, Councillor Arron Wood, put it to me in an email, was that people did more than just report issues. They also wrote directly to the trees, which have received thousands of messages—everything from banal greetings and questions about current events to love letters and existential dilemmas.

Kevin Montgomery, “This Is What Happened When Bicyclists Obeyed Traffic Laws Along The Wiggle Yesterday“, SF Weekly.

Hundreds of cyclists rode through The Wiggle yesterday evening in protest of a San Francisco police captain’s calls for a crackdown on bikers coasting through stop signs. But instead of breaking the law, protesters wanted to show the city just how bad traffic would be if every bicycle approached intersections just as a car does.

(photo via: @sfkale)

(photo via: @sfkale)

Time for a car free Domain?

If New York can make most of Central Park car free, then why can’t we do the same with the Domain. That was my thought when watching this video from Streetfilms.

Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot more elbow room.

Officials and advocates celebrated the permanent expansion of the park’s car-free zone under sunny skies this morning. While traffic is still allowed in the heavily-used southern section of Central Park, today’s ceremony marks a big step on the path to completely car-free parks.

Effective today, the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street is permanently car-free, except for emergency and service vehicles [PDF]. In Prospect Park, the West Drive will go car-free next Monday, July 6 [PDF]. Traffic will continue to be allowed at various hours on the Central Park loop south of 72nd Street, and during morning rush hour on the East Drive in Prospect Park.

Car Free Central Park

The Domain might not quite be Central Park but it’s the closest thing we’ve got and in my view we need to be better use out of it by making it more inviting and people friendly.

Auckland Domain

Of course before we can make it more people friendly we need to improve how people can access it. Currently it’s very hard to do that if you’re coming from the city as it can be very unpleasant to do so if you’re not in a car. The most logical route for people coming from the city is along Wellesley St but absurdly that has no pedestrian access. That should hopefully improve soon with one of the projects funded out of the government’s Urban Cycleway Fund being a connection from Victoria Park to Grafton Rd.Auckland urbancycleways map 2015-18

That will some aspects of one of the core features of the City Centre Master Plan come to life, Move 6 – The Green Link – which is shown

CCMP - Linear Parks

I suspect that not all aspects of the green link will yet be built as some parts – like around Albert St – are reliant on the completion of the CRL

Victoria St Linear Park

With improved connections from the city centre it would be possible to jump on a bike in the centre of town and for a relatively easy 5-10 minute ride be in the heart of the Domain for lunch.

What do you think, should the Domain be car free?

Do we have enough trains?

The new electric trains have by in large been a fantastic addition to Auckland. This is not to say that there haven’t been implementation issues however they are things that I expect Auckland Transport, Transdev, CAF and Kiwirail will iron out over time – though perhaps not as fast as we’d all hope for. One issue that is already emerging and that will be much harder to fix is the issue of whether we have enough capacity or more specifically did AT buy enough trains?

Auckland is getting 57 new three-car electric trains or 171 carriages. That is up from what was around 148 carriages with the old diesel fleet however as each carriage is also longer it equates to an overall capacity increase of something like 40% (sorry can’t remember the exact number).


A single three-car EMU is meant to have a total capacity on part with one of the four-car trains they’ve replaced. In addition there should be enough trains that a number run as six-car trains with a capacity that eclipses anything we had before.

Train Capacity 2

However despite this increase in capacity it seems we’re still having a lot of issues with trains that are over full. This tends to be on the fringes of the peak. It’s something that’s come up on social media a few times such as yesterday where trains on both the Southern Line and Western Line were affected by trains so full, they left hundreds waiting for a following service.


There have been many more experiences like these in the last few weeks.

What’s more with the growth in patronage that’s been occurring and with what’s projected – from the fact they are better trains, that within a few years there will be the new bus network that will see a lot more people transferring to trains to complete journeys and with integrated fares – this will only become more and more common. Trains too full will put people off using them and that will affect the entire PT network.

I’m also aware that there are still a few more trains yet to enter the country, I imagine they could help a small amount – although AT are also meant to be increasing frequencies on the Western line to match those on the other main lines, six per hour.

With this in mind I put some questions to AT about capacity. Here’s the response I got

CAF has committed to supplying 46 EMUs for weekday operations. That number is sufficient for 12 of the 34 train sets required to operate the timetable to be doubled as 6-car trains. In determining where the 6-carriage trains would be best utilised, AT reviewed passenger demand profiles which show that in the morning passenger boardings and alightings peak 07:45am to 08:30am. Given this, and demand profiles observed from other sources the allocation to services of these 6-carriage trains was prioritised to those service scheduled to arrive at Britomart within this time band.

A 3-carriage EMU has slightly fewer seats than a 4-carriage SA train (234 seats on an EMU versus 250 seats on a 4-carriage SA), however an EMU is better equipped to cope with standees as passengers can move through the train rather than being “compartmentalised” in a single carriage. On the Western Line the planned capacity supplied during the peak hour under diesel operations (the four trains arriving at Britomart between 07:44am and 08:30am) was a 5-carriage SA train (312 seats) followed by three 6-carriage trains (384 seats each). These four services have been replaced by 6-carriage EMUs with seating capacity of 468 per train. The net result is that on the Western Line during the peak hour (four service arrivals at Britomart 07:44am to 08:30am) the EMU capacity has increased by 408 seats, or 28%, when compared to the planned capacity under diesel operations.

The two services either side of the peak hour were previously programmed with 4-carriage SA trains, which is more of less the equivalent to a single 3-carriage EMU. In periods of service disruption which results in delays or cancellations it is possible that the trains will not be operating in sequence as planned and a single EMU may turn up at about the time that a double EMU would normally operate. That will result in crowded conditions and may mean that some passengers may not be able to board. Over the next few weeks AT will be monitoring demand to determine the services that should be prioritised for 6-carriage trains once all 57 EMUs have been fully commissioned.

Unfortunately they didn’t answer about whether the final three sets due to arrive soon will be on top of the 46 mentioned above. There’s also no answer on where trains to increase frequency on the western line to six per hour – like promised would happen in 2010 – will come from. On that, I expect the answer is they won’t come from anywhere. Instead that AT will keep the western line frequency at the level it is now till after the CRL is built as it’s likely the works around Mt Eden will limit capacity during construction.

Could it be that the biggest risk to meeting the CRL targets is AT not buying enough trains to handle the demand and the disruption the CRL construction itself will cause. What is clear is we’ll need the CRL asap if we don’t want the rail network to cease up in the next few years.

Tauranga Eastern Link complete

Yesterday the Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges officially opened just the second Roads of National Significance to be completed – the $455 million Tauranga Eastern Link. All up the project is 21km long from Te Maunga in Tauranga through to Paengaroa, bypassing Te Puke along the way although it doesn’t actually open to the public until Monday. The NZTA say it was one of the most technically challenging projects as due to the very soft soil conditions however it has been finished up to five months ahead of schedule

Interestingly I was down just past Paengaroa last weekend visiting some family and so it would have actually been useful had it been open then as the new road is around 3km shorter and obviously straighter and faster than the current road. You can see a comparison of the two in the image (along with some of the engineering features the NZTA have pointed out.

Tauranga Eastern Link Map

The project has been justified based on a couple of key aspects and along with travel times savings, one of the key ones being that it allows for more greenfield growth on the edge of Tauranga.

“The Tauranga Eastern Link (TEL) has been designed to support the growth of the Bay of Plenty, reduce travel times and improve safety,” he says.

“It will be a strong anchor to support managed land use in a planned and sensible progression in this region.”

The TEL brings the East Cape and the central North Island closer to the Port of Tauranga.

“The road shaves off around 12 minutes when compared to the old route, which means some freight operators will be able to complete an extra trip each day.

“The new road will also significantly improve safety, reducing the amount of death and serious injury crashes in the region.”

Whether deliberate or not it kind of feels like one of the aims is to help further undermine the rail network by making it a lot easier for trucks to compete.


The video below gives a flythough of the project from November last year. As you can see there are lots of long straight sections – something that will almost certainly see people driving faster than the limit on. Speeding is already an issue on the 6km section that’s already been opened

What will be one of the most interesting factors to watch in the coming months and years is just how many people use it. The road will be tolled at $2 per trips for light vehicles and $5 for heavy vehicles and based on the Northern Gateway toll road up to Puhoi – around 25% are using the old road despite the new one being considerably faster. In the area there hasn’t been much of traffic growth recently as the chart below shows, the four locations are showing in the following image.

Road volumes around TEL


We’ll obviously keep an eye on what happens with traffic volumes on the road.

The designers have managed to come up with some of the most space hungry designs I’ve seen for the Paengaroa end. The roundabout joins the existing SH2 (top left, bottom right) with the TEL (top right) and SH33 (bottom left)

Tauranga Eastern Link - Paengaroa Roundabout

Lastly the NZTA already appear to have next phase of roading in Tauranga planned which will see the roundabout at the western end and the one just up the road at Bayfair replaced with flyovers. The NZTA estimate a start date for this of next year. Is it just me or does Tauranga seem to be trying desperately to be mini Auckland when it comes to land use and transport

Tauranga Eastern Link - Bayfair