The other week, I reposted Melissa Bruntlett’s great reflection about gender and urban activism, and asked: Can Transportblog facilitate a broader conversation about urban issues that allows more voices to be heard?
Judging by the diversity of views and perspectives that came out in the comments, Aucklanders from all different walks of life are clearly passionate about the future of their city. As many readers don’t look at the comments section, I thought it would be good to highlight a few of the many great responses we got.
Kurt T calls for a focus on active modes in south Auckland, where people could really benefit from the option to get around without a car:
I’m early 30s, male, brown and interested in transport issues. I am currently studying for a change of career into international business, but the amount of time I spend reading this blog and about transport and urban design issues in Auckland makes me wonder if I’m not missing a trick here and should get some sort of urban planning qualification under my belt.
A different perspective that I can bring to the table growing in Auckland is the need for active modes to be encouraged in poorer areas. It’s no secret that Maori and Polynesians face some pretty horrid health outcomes in NZ and I feel that auto-culture and city design focused on shifting metal boxes as quickly as possible to the detriment of active citizens (as was so tragically demonstrated last week) have played a role in the stats we see today and that better urban design that prioritises humans propelling themselves under their own steam could play a huge role in reversing some of these terrible trends. Priority funding for protected cycleways on all major arterials in South and West Auckland would be a start. There would also be significant cost savings as was demonstrated in one of the posts here not too long ago to Auckland’s poorest citizens forgoing their vehicles and hopping on a bike.
Another is changing the perception among poorer Aucklanders that cycling is a child’s past-time or for middle-class, white males in lycra into something that is far more functional, beneficial and generalised. But I fear that that won’t happen until the infrastructure is built first and people are confident.
Suzanne reports on the realities of transport for someone who’s got both kids and a job:
I read transport blog from time to time – I am definitely interested in improving transport across Auckland. I live in Central-East Auckland, with kids that I have to drop off in neighbouring suburbs each day, followed by a long 50-odd km commute South for work. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the other end of the day. I see horrendous traffic queues coming into the city from the South each day and am very grateful that I am heading away from that traffic. Co-workers from Pukekohe who have to go into town occasionally for work tell me that they need to leave home at 6am in order to have a reasonable commute.
But the thing that bothers me personally is that dropping off my kids each morning in two different places in rush hour can take me an hour before I even leave the city, even though in total I am travelling less than 10km in total for those drop offs. Part of the problem is that before school care and daycare don’t open until 7:30, so I have to travel in rush hour. And there is little alternative with my route but to take a car.
I should add that I am a public transport advocate, who used to use it before the demands of kids and my work. I am happy to develop these options, in order to get more cars off the road.
@ByTheMotorway makes some fascinating and well thought-out points about the value of street grids in providing safety and accessibility for all users:
I find that giving priority to street grids in cycling strategy, is of greater relevance to the non-white, non-cis-male, ability-variant, economically underprivileged, etc., sectors of the population.
* The Chinese grandparents who do cycle or would cycle short distances on Dominion Rd and its surrounds need neither a cycleway by any motorway, nor a “parallel route” elsewhere. The streetcar-suburb grid matters most — in catchments of front-door-to-front-door trips around local centres and bus stops, not necessarily up a single linear corridor.
* Likewise, the main radial route that matters to a schoolkid in South Auckland is the one that takes them from the front door of their home to the school gate, preferably via Aunty’s house, and not via SH1 or NAL. Except, we have to multiply this in every direction for a targeted proportion of the school population. Secondarily, we can repeat the process for extended family, babysitters, local shops, houses of worship, and PT nodes. Only a local street grid can encompass all of these assets to enable all of these trips and support such a community, space- and cost-efficiently.
* K’Rd is where it is and what it is for a reason. There are a number of streets that could have evolved to do what K’Rd does (Ponsonby, Symonds, Beach, Fort, maybe), but these would all share certain highly-connected network-geometric traits. One function of K’Rd is evident in its massive importance to Auckland’s queer peoples, starving artists and the like, who have historically been underprivileged, and often relied on the social support of this neighbourhood of scale. These same network-geometric qualities are why it is among Auckland’s busiest cycling, walking and PT-carrying streets already, and why it deserves better treatment. (Note: the same geometric rule applies to Queen St and finance, or Shortland St and law, but keep in mind the initial premise of servicing basic need vs discretion.)
Chris seconds Kurt’s points about transport priorities in south Auckland, and adds his voice as a car-using supporter of better public transport and walking and cycling:
There are some exciting PT projects such as the Manukau and Otahuhu interchanges and electrification to Pukekohe which will make a huge difference once they are completed. Such a shame that there is no funding for them yet. What is lacking though in the south, in order to decrease the car dependence, is a focus on creating multimodal streets with cycle networks and bus lanes where suitable. Instead people are expected to park and ride.
I live in rural Karaka and although I rely on my car, I see much greater merit in govt and council investment in sustainable transport, so well done to the efforts of the transportblog team in advocating for this.
Angela talks about how having children has changed the way she uses and perceives urban transport systems – safety for children walking or cycling by roads is a huge concern:
I’m a women in my 30’s (just) with two young kids. I read your blog daily and find it very interesting. I moved back to NZ in 2008 from HK so used public transport for everything. I was frustrated with the PT here and wanted to understand why it was so poor – this blog has given me some real insights. I’ve seen great improvement since I’ve come back. I do not have the depth of knowledge to write any posts and that is probably why most of the post are written by people in the industry who tend to be male and have more time. A couple of points I’d like to make from family perspective is I didn’t realise how much we were dictated to by cars until I had kids. Then you realise how often you have to stay watch out for the road, cars constantly when you’re out and about. As an adult you’ve learned these things and take it for granted. Shared spaces are great but it is confusing for kids as it seems like a pedestrian area so harder to realise it is a type of road and they need to watch for cars. Also my kids are not school age yet but when they are it will be easier for me to use public transport as they are not reliant on me to get to school. So things like improving walking and road crossings would make a huge difference.
Lastly, an anonymous (female) reader wrote in to discuss the challenges of publicly expressing one’s views while working in government:
The reason I’ve taken it to email rather than in the comments section is that as a public sector employee I am bound by a code of conduct that makes me very wary about commenting in a public forum about matters relevant to my employer that isn’t official policy. As an individual I am very passionate and hold some strong views that are not always in alignment with my employer, but feel I can only express them verbally in the company of friends. So I am a silent voice on the blog, I read it and discuss it with friends, but don’t feel it is appropriate for me to comment. This could be impacting on why some voices are not heard on the blog. Particularly when women are more likely to be employed in the public sector, and often take a more cautious approach interpreting codes of conduct.
Thanks to everyone who responded – please continue the conversation!
After her visit to New Zealand at the end of last year, Modacity’s Melissa Bruntlett posted a thoughtful reflection on gender and urban activism:
Here’s a pretty common scenario – we are invited to an urbanist meet up or a group ride and I look around to find I’m one of just a handful of women in a sea of men. Each time I think to myself, where are all the ladies? I can’t be the only one who has an interest and passion for urban design and mobility, can I? And of course I’m not. If Facebook and Twitter have proved anything, there are tons of us sharing stories and opinions on social media, supporting each other from all over the globe. So then why do so few come out to events and activities that directly link to their passions?
It’s a dilemma I’ve been pondering since we were visited New Zealand last autumn. While travelling throughout the country, we had the opportunity to meet some pretty spectacular women, all passionate about multi-mobility, be it improved cycling, walking or public transit infrastructure. From the Frocks on Bikes, a national female-oriented advocacy group focused on promoting normalized cycling with a “show not tell” approach, to politicians like Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington, and Julie Anne Genter, a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives with the role of transport spokeswoman for the Green Party. Both are working to move their cities and country away from car-dominated transportation. They were all inspiring women to meet, and I returned home emboldened by this passionate group of women and how they are impacting change in New Zealand.
Melissa’s observations definitely ring true for me. Although most of the people working in the transport profession are men, many of our most effective advocates for transport choice and quality urban environments are women. Melissa mentioned Julie Anne Genter and Celia Wade-Brown, but there are many others who could be on the list: Penny Hulse, Barb Cuthbert, Pippa Coom, Christine Fletcher (who, remember, pushed Britomart through), and so on and so forth.
This is a good thing. As Melissa observes, men and women can have quite different perspectives on what needs to happen to improve transport options:
Maybe it’s because I know that the only way to ensure that, regardless of gender, everyone’s needs are being met is to collaborate. Women offer unique and different ways of looking at problems facing urban designers, because we think about them differently. Even between Chris and I, two people that have been together for nearly two decades and discussing all sorts of issues and challenges, it is very common that I offer a new way of looking at things because of my experiences as a woman and a mother. What works for him, a thirty-something male, doesn’t always work for me, a thirty-something female who travels by foot and bike with our two children more regularly.
Transportblog also grapples with this issue. All of our regular authors are (to be blunt) white, educated professional males, mostly in the late 20s to mid 30s. We care about issues that affect Aucklanders of all shapes, sizes, and origins, but we certainly aren’t demographically representative. (Or geographically representative – we’ve got authors in the inner suburbs and the west but not in south, east, or north Auckland.)
My concern – shared by other authors – is that there are important issues that we don’t write about of because we seldom experience them. For example, I think that we don’t write enough about transport issues facing south Auckland, even though it’s a big area of the city, with relatively low incomes, whose inhabitants could really benefit from better walking, cycling, and public transport choices. There are a lot of tricky issues that deserve close attention in the south – but I don’t spend enough time there to know what they are.
Fortunately, the available data suggests that Transportblog’s readership is a bit more diverse than our authors (or the people who post comments). Here’s a chart that Matt from Google Analytics, which shows the gender balance of readers. It really bears out Melissa’s point that women (Green) are interested and engaged in urban issues:
Google Analytics breakdown of transportblog readership
So, my question is: Can Transportblog facilitate a broader conversation about urban issues that allows more voices to be heard? I think – and hope – that the answer is yes. I’d like to propose a couple of things that we could do:
- First, we should encourage people to submit guest posts, especially if they offer a different view on transport or urban issues than we normally offer. In particular, we’d welcome posts from people who see a different side of the city than we do or who use it in different ways.
- Second, we should recognise that writing in public can be a bit nerve-wracking. We’re all used to it by now, but the public-facing aspect of blogging can pose a barrier for entry. We should try to lower this barrier for submitters – for example, by allowing the first guest post to go out under a pseudonym or by moderating comments on guest posts. (Not that our commenters aren’t generally constructive, but the conversations can be fairly intense.)
- Third, when writing about an area of the city that we don’t know well, we should solicit comments from readers. A quick email from one of you could give us valuable context – or a good quote – for a future post. For example, I think we should ask for reader feedback when discussing New Network consultations or proposals to build bus/train interchanges. Local perspectives can be valuable, and if people email them to us, we should use them in posts.
Now, I’m not an editor at Transportblog, so these are just suggestions rather than new editorial policies. We’d welcome your views – by comment, social media, or email – about them.
Happy New Year and welcome to 2015, the year we get hoverboards.
October 21, 2015
In this post I’m going to look at what we can expect from 2015, some of these have been highlighted in the recent days.
I expect it’s going to be another big year for PT in Auckland as the current growth that we’ve been seeing carries on.
Again I think the rail network is going to lead the way with massive growth as people respond to the improved quality the new electric trains offer and the better, more frequent timetables that should accompany them. By the end of the year we could be looking at patronage of about 14 – 14.5 million trips. That will put us well on the way towards the governments CRL target of 20 million trips before 2020. One thing we will definitely need to keep an eye on is the impact on patronage from Pukekohe from the implementation of a Papaukra to Pukekohe shuttle once the Southern line goes electric.
The City Rail Link will continue to be a talking point, especially as we draw closer to the start of construction of the enabling works. I hope that in 2015, Auckland Transport finally start to tell the story of the CRL properly – something they are now saying they will do.
We should also hear about the plans for the old rolling stock – which I’m picking will be sold off to somwhere in Southern Africa – and hear more about the tender to operate the trains from mid-2016 onwards. Wellington is currently going through the same process which is something I’ll post about soon.
Like the rail network the Northern Express has been growing strongly and again I think this will continue, especially once services are extended to Silverdale which will hopefully happen this year. I also think we’ll start to hear more about how the busway itself performs as a large number of trips on it aren’t on the NEX but on services such as the 881 that use the busway for part of their journey. Hopefully we might finally see some more Double Deckers too.
The rest of the bus network should continue to see growth too and we’re likely to have a few more big New Network consultations in 2015, in saying that we aren’t likely to have much in the way of implementation as even the South Auckland network has been pushed back to 2016 which in part is about waiting for Integrated Fares. One thing that will help the bus network is the roll out of more bus lanes which AT have promised to do.
As mentioned the other day, we will certainly hear more about integrated fares this year although they are unlikely to be implemented before the end of the year. From what I hear, a lot of work had been going on to get the structure right with AT working towards an additional aim of having as few people as possible disadvantaged by any changes. The flip side to that is that most people should get some benefit out of the change which should only help to make PT more attractive to use.
Walking and Cycling
Like PT, 2015 has the potential to be a great year for walking and cycling. In January the fantastic looking Westhaven Promenade should finally open vastly improving pedestrian and cycle access around Westhaven. We should see the start of a cycleway on Nelson St and making use of the old motorway off ramp and construction should also the start of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path. One thing that isn’t clear is if we’ll start to see some JSK style quick and cheap implementations or if AT will have the courage to start removing parking and/or narrow oversized central road medians to enable cycle infrastructure to be put in.
Of course we will be paying close attention to see what happens with Skypath. I suspect it will get approval but also that some of the local residents will challenge that approval in the environment court.
2015 will continue to be a year of massive construction on our road network, especially around SH16. Works will also start on the grade separation of Kirkbride Rd. I suspect later in the year we’ll hear more about plans to widen SH1 south of Manukau and hear more about the NZTA’s plans for the SH1/SH18 interchange. On top of this we’re bound to find out more about Puhoi to Warkworth. In Wellington we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the NZTAs appeal to the Basin Reserve flyover decision. We will also find out more about AT’s plans for AMETI and the East-West Link, Lincoln Rd, Mill Rd and maybe even Penlink.
One aspect that will be fascinating to see is if the current drop in fuel prices is sustained and what, if any impact it has on travel trends.
Overall across all areas it’s going to be a big year and I think it’ll be a good one. I’m already aware of a few positive surprises that are in store for but that I can’t comment on yet.
In this fourth post reviewing the 2014 I’ll look at the topics not already covered.
Central Government Election
2014 was dominated – either directly or indirectly by the central government elections which is not surprising considering how much impact the government has on transport and urban policy. In the end National had a fairly comfortable win which means not much change from a political point of view although as mentioned in Tuesdays post, they have now committed more money to cycling which is helpful.
New Transport Minister
Related to the election, Prime Minister John Key reshuffled his cabinet around and we now have a new Minister of Transport in Simon Bridges. We are hoping to be able to meet Simon and will keep trying in 2015. So far there seems little sign of a change in position between him and his predecessor Gerry Brownlee, although he has taken a notable liking to the idea of self-driving cars.
Government Policy Statement
The Government Policy Statement – which dominates transport planning and spending in the country – was released and showed little change on its predecessors. It will still see the majority of money for transport spend on new and improved state highways of which most of that is earmarked for the hand-picked RoNS projects.
Council Long Term Plan
Next year the council must sign off a new 10 year budget – the Long Term Plan – and the mayor’s proposal emerged this year. It’s had a few minor changes by the council but effectively sees rates increases capped at 3.5%. One of the hardest hit areas from this has been transport which has had funding slashed. This has left us in a sticky mess where the funding available enables means many key projects – such as interchanges that are fundamental to enable key changes such as the new bus network are unfunded.
Tied in with this has been a separate stream of work looking at alternative funding methods to plug a funding gap previously identified and looking closely at options of tolling motorways or additional rates. The utterly terrible situation with the basic transport package very much seems like a way to force Aucklander’s to agree to additional funding rather than addressing the elephant in the room of the insane state highway spending by the government. The LTP goes out to consultation in a few weeks and it will likely dominate a lot of discussion in the first half of this year.
Great International Visitors
- This year we’ve had some great visitors as part of the council’s Auckland Conversations talks. This includes
- Janette Sadik Kahn
- The Brunrlett’s
- Brent Toderian (again)
- Professor Peter Newman
- Gordon Price (again)
- and many others.
Special Housing Areas
During 2014 two new tranches of Special Housing Areas were announced considerably increasing the number across Auckland. These are the areas where the Unitary Plan rules come into effect immediately and the council uses a fast tracked consenting process. Despite them all there has been little progress on actually building houses in most of them and it seems a lot of developers who pushed to receive SHA status did so just for some capital gains.
Auckland Construction Boom
In 2014 it seems like the Auckland construction scene burst back to life after a few quiet years with a huge number of projects announced. These were primarily residential projects such as apartments. The biggest of the lot is likely to be the NDG Auckland Centre for which a 209m high tower is proposed on the empty site bordering Albert St/Victoria St/Elliot St. The tower and retail podium will link directly into the Aotea station on the CRL
Earlier this year our friend and urban designer Stuart Houghton set himself a personal project of coming up with 100 ideas for improving Auckland at the rate of one a day. We have been running these throughout the second half of the year – with some still to go. There have been some fantastic ideas and conversations that have resulted from this work. Thanks Stuart for your contributions to making Auckland better.
Lastly it’s been another fantastic year for the blog with more and more people reading it, something we really appreciate. I’d also like to thanks my fellow bloggers and everyone else who has helped contribute this year. All up including this post there we’ve published 908 posts, had over 33,100 comments. According to Google Analytics we’ve had over 900,000 visitors and have serve up over 1.7 million page views which is up about 20% on 2013. In total 65% of our readers are from Auckland and 82% are from NZ.
I hope you all have a great 2015.
Tomorrow I’ll look at what we can expect for 2015 plus a few predictions
Merry Christmas everyone. From everyone hear at TransportBlog I hope you have a great day with friends and family.
Photo by Jonty Victor
I’d also like to say thanks to all the men and women who help to keep our PT system working, especially those bus drivers working today.
There are a number of events coming up that readers may be interested in.
Tomorrow – IPENZ Talk by Steven Burgess on Designing for safety how safe road design doesn’t make safe streets
Next Week – Brent Toderian is back in Auckland and giving another Auckland Conversations talk, this time on Vibrant Waterfronts
4th November – Vancouver Cycle Chic are here to talk about emerging bike culture
Film distributors Madman Entertainment have kindly sent us four DVDs of the BBC documentary on the London Underground: The Underground:
Narrated by Julian Barrett of Mighty Boosh fame, each of the six episodes is an incredibly in-depth and unblinking look at what it takes to keep Four Million people moving under the streets of London everyday. Full of characters and extraordinary information from this unseen world.
Produced for the BBC, THE UNDERGROUND goes behind the scenes of the world’s oldest, biggest and busiest underground train network, during the biggest overhaul in its 150 year history.
The series follows key members of the Tube’s 19,000 staff – from the chief operating officer down to the litter pickers who walk miles of track every night collecting rubbish. Drivers, station staff and emergency response workers all reveal their unique perspective on the passengers. From tourists to suburban commuters to drunks getting the last train home, we capture the life of the Tube in all its guises.
To win a copy just add a comment to this post with the sentence or soundbite that you think should be used to promote Auckland’s own [but of course much smaller] version of underground; the CRL. We will choose the four best ones and send them each a copy. As well as seriously suggest to Auckland Transport that they use one of them!
Thanks to Madman Entertainment.
We’re looking at the performance issues that have been affecting the website lately.
We are trying a few different things like adjusting the way caching (WP Super Cache) is done, and we have removed the sidebar from posts once you click on them from the main page. This is designed to reduce the amount of caching that is happening on the server.
Hopefully you’ll notice transportblog become more responsive as a result. Let us know in the comments if you come across anything that isn’t quite right.
If you’re interested in transport and are looking for something to do tomorrow night then perhaps the annual IPENZ transport debate is just what you’re looking for.
I understand that Patrick is also the MC for this and I’m sure he will have lots to say about this this topic along with those debating.
If you’ve come here as a result of the Herald article then welcome. You can find the original article about how rail was saved here (has some different images to what the Herald added)
We specialise in discussions about transport and other urban issues so if you’ve ever wondered about something related to either of these then there’s a good chance we’ve covered it at some point. Ask about it in the comments and we or our regular readers can try to answer it for you and/or provide a link to posts we’ve written on the topic.
While you’re here why don’t you check out the Congestion Free Network we’ve developed. It’s a plan to deliver a network of high quality rail lines and busways across Auckland decades faster than currently planned and does so while saving around $9 billion. It’s an idea we’ve managed to get support for from a wide range of people and the council have asked Auckland Transport to investigate it further (which we understand is currently happening).
For existing readers something I’ve wanted to do for a while is to put together a resource that people stumbling across the site can read that covers off the key things we talk about/advocate. As such please suggest some of your favourite posts on the various topics we cover.