A Transportblog milestone

Transportblog has reached a milestone, this is our 5,000th post.

The blog was started in 2008 to discuss transport, its role in making Auckland what it is today and how Auckland could be made a better place in the future. Over time we’ve also expanded on that and now talk also about wider urban issues, housing being one of the most prominent. Transport and Housing/Land Use are different sides of the same coin after all.

Myself and my fellow bloggers are proud of what we’ve been able to achieve over the years, especially when we’re able to start important discussions and effect long term change.

I’m often asked just how we manage to keep things going as we do, after all as well as the blog we also have paying work we need to do too. The thing that fuels that torch, often keeping us up late at night writing posts, has been the support we’ve had from you our readers and of course seeing the progress Auckland is making as a city.

Last year we launched our own parent organisation – Greater Auckland – to give the blog a bit more structure behind the scenes and help with the advocacy we do.

Here are a few stats to go with the 5,000 post milestone.

The blog is obviously an online entity, but if you follow us on Twitter you may have seen us recently teasing a physical manifestation of some of our work.

The booklet is a small collection of some of our great posts over the years discussing the urban evolution underway in Auckland and how the city can change in the future. It was pulled together for us by Nick R with the design and layout by Laura Dueker of Dueker Design.

If you’d like a hard copy, we do have some available at cost ($10). Also if you haven’t already please sign up to Greater Auckland so we can keep the blog and the work we do going.

 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the blog whether it be by writing posts, commenting, or reading and sharing our content.

2016 – The Year Ahead

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016 – a year in which I think we will continue to see Auckland transform towards a better city. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the things I think will be big discussion points during year.

ATAP

The alignment project between the council and government is likely to be a massive story of the year as it will effectively set the transport agenda for at least a decade. There are a couple of milestones throughout the year where information will be released publicly on progress and the final outcome will be known around August – just in the lead up to the local body elections.

Local Body Elections

Discussion in the middle of the year is likely to be dominated by the local body elections taking place – voting closes 8 October. We already know that current Mayor Len Brown isn’t standing and so far the main candidates that are Mark Thomas, Phil Goff and Victoria Crone. Todd Niall from Radio NZ has recently conducted some good interviews with each of them. Along with the mayoral race it will also be interesting to see what happens at the councillor level as when it comes to council decisions the mayor is only one vote. Having a council that is actively supportive towards better urban policies will be crucial if Auckland is to continue to improve.

Public Transport

It’s going to be another busy year with public transport.

New Network – In October the new network in South Auckland will be implemented (barring any further delays) and along with the upgraded Otahuhu Train station and associated bus interchange. AT will confirm the new routes for the North Shore, Central Auckland and East Auckland and tendering on those plus West Auckland will likely start in 2016 – although not implemented till 2017 or later.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

Integrated Fares – In the middle of the year we should see integrated fares finally roll out making it much easier and for most cheaper to use PT in Auckland.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

Rail Service improvements – I expect we’ll see a number of rail service improvements throughout the year. This should finally mean 10 minute frequencies on the western line, something that was originally promised to occur in 2010 when double tracking was finished. In the south we should see off peak frequencies improve in line with the New Network.

Parnell Station – If all goes to plan we should also see the Parnell Station open later in the year.

Parnell pic June15

City Rail Link – It’s going to be a busy year for the CRL. Works on shifting services are already under way and during the year we’ll see the tunnel itself be started – likely around May. The rumour is that later this month the government will give their blessing for the project to start sooner than the 2020 date they originally indicated although I believe it’s likely they will only provide their share of the funding from 2020 onwards. The rumour ties in with what we’ve been hearing for months that an announcement was close and effectively down to finding the most politically convenient time to announce. I think they may tie in some other infrastructure announcements, acting on the calls by the RBNZ for the government to spend more on infrastructure in Auckland.

3D view of temporary Briotmart station CRL2

The temporary entrance to Britomart that will be built while the tunnels are dug.

AMETI Busway – AT should lodge consent to build the section of busway from Panmure to Pakuranga this year and we’ll undoubtedly hear more around the issue of Reeves Rd Flyover which AT seem to be back to saying is needed before the busway from Pakuranga on to Botany is built.

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

Light Rail – We will undoubtedly hear more about light rail this year and given the pace at which AT seem to be moving on it, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got a decision on it later in the year – probably after ATAP. One of the advantages the project has over many others is that it should need very little in the way of consenting as it mostly uses the existing road corridor.

Queen St LRT_800

Rail to the Airport – Rail to the airport will likely be a bit talking point over the next few months as the airport say they need a decision on what the connection will be so they can finalise their future plans. If you’ve been reading the Herald over the last few days, you will have seen discussion of light rail the airport – something we covered back in August. I’ll have more on this next week including some details not previously seen.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT routes

 

Walking and Cycling

The government’s $100 million Urban Cycleway Fund is a use it or lose it deal so if AT/NZTA want to spend all of it that has been allocated to Auckland they’ll really need to get those pedals turning and get stuff done. I suspect this will mean a focus on getting the consultations for projects out of the way early on so the rest of the year and next year can be focused on getting stuff built.

 

Auckland urbancycleways map 2015-18

Skypath – We’ll get the outcome of the environment court appeal to Skypath this year. I’d be very surprised to see them overturn the decision. Similarly, I suspect we’ll hear more from the NZTA about Seapath which is connection alongside the motorway from the bridge to Takapuna.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

Roads

Waterview/WRR – In March we’ll see the Te Atatu Interchange works completed. That will also include an extension of the NW Cycleway from Te Atatu to Henderson Creek to link in with the existing section there. I also think the NZTA and their contractors will try to get the Waterview tunnels open this year. Construction will start on the section between Lincoln Rd and Westgate.

Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) – I think we’ll hear a lot more about AWHC this year. The NZTA say they are working to protect the route – although from what we hear they only plan on building a road crossing. Late in the year AT said they had started a piece of work looking at the future of rapid transit on the North Shore which will tie in with the AWHC route protection. We believe that the focus of the entire project should shift and a PT only crossing be built first before re-assessing whether another road crossing is needed.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

East West Link – The NZTA and AT have already said they’ll be looking to applying for consent for the project this year.

East-West Preferred Option

Reeves Rd Flyover – As mentioned earlier I think we’ll hear more about the Reeves Rd flyover this year – something the local councillors and MPs have been lobbying furiously to be prioritised, including trying to have the road declared a state highway. One of the main issues with the project is that the flyover itself doesn’t achieve much and AT have said it would just stuff up Carbine Rd and Waipuna Rd intersections unless they were also grade separated at considerable cost

reeves-rd-flyover

Development

The building boom that we’ve been starting to see in Auckland will continue strongly in 2017. One of the hot spots for this will be Albert St where we could potentially see 5 separate towers being built, many of the current buildings being renovated and of course the CRL tunnels being built.

CRL Growth Corridor

Housing will remain a big discussion point as will the Unitary Plan which the independent panel will provide their recommendations on. Both of these topics will likely become key hot topics in the local body elections, spurred on by the herald who recently declared two storey town houses “high-rise”.

 

All up 2016 is going to be a busy year.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a new years resolution, why not make it one to help support us by joining Greater Auckland.

2015 – A Year in Review Part 4 – Everything else

This is the fourth in a series of posts reviewing the year that has been. Part one reviewed public transport, part two reviewed walking and cycling and part three reviewed roads. In this post I cover off some of the other things we’ve discussed this year.

ATAP

In August the Government and Auckland Council signed a terms of reference on what is called the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). As the name implies the goal is to finally get alignment on transport priorities between the two parties rather than the standoff we’ve had for the last five or so years. If all goes well it should give us a much more defined and agreed package of works for the coming decades to really help address the regions transport issues.

There will likely be information on it in the new year and the final recommendations are due back around August – which could prove interesting in the discussions leading up to the local body elections. We are involved as a stakeholder and we are pushing to ensure many of the issues we often discuss are addressed to help get the best possible outcome.

Long Term Plan (LTP)

The council set its latest LTP this year which is the budget for the next decade – although the actual budget is set annually. The LTP is reviewed every three years and is one of the better opportunities to change the council’s priorities. Transport featured heavily in the discussion for this LTP with the council consulting on the whether the city should go for a transport plan that was barebones – which no one was happy with or a plan that had everything including the kitchen sink. They also consulted on how to pay for the plan that included everything asking about whether people would rather motorway tolling or increases in rates and fuel taxes. Both of those options required the government to come on board which they consistently made clear they weren’t going to do.

As part of the consultation the council asked where the focus on transport should be. After 27,000 submissions this how people responded showing strong support for better public transport and cycling.

2015 LTP Final Changes in transport Investment

Following on from the government’s refusal to look at funding options the council passed a three-year interim transport levy of $99 per household which was a bit of a game changer as more than half of the money it raises is directed to PT and Cycling projects as shown below.

interim-programme

National Land Transport Programme (NLTP)

Every three years the NZTA set the NLTP which sets out what will be funded over coming three years. It is created in conjunction with similar programmes in each region. The 2015-18 plan was released, a summary of which is shown in the graphic below.

NLTP 2015-18 revenue and investment flows

International Visitors

We had some great international experts visit Auckland during 2015 including:

  • Charles Montgomery – author of Happy City.
  • Mike Lydon – author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-term action for Long-term change
  • Jeff Tumlin – author of Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy, and Resilient Communities
  • Gabe Klien – former transportation commissioner in Washington DC and Chicago and now author of Start-Up City

They visited as part of the Auckland Conversations series and talks are now all available on youtube.

Development

It’s been a crazy year for development with projects going on all over the city and many new ones proposed. The skyline is dotted with cranes building stuff and it’s only going to get busier next year with some major projects such as the CRL, Precinct’s Commerical Bay and the convention centre. In the next few years there is over $2 billion of private funds being spent in the central city alone. Below is our RCG Development Tracker

Blog

We’ve had another fantastic year on the blog and it’s great to see many new people starting to read and join in the conversation. We launched Greater Auckland to help support the blog and while we have been a bit quite publicly on it we’ve had some success behind the scenes. Thank you to all who have helped support us.

As we love our stats on the blog here are a few about us for the year.

  • Including this one we’ve published 781 posts this year, this is actually down on the 908 we published last year. In total the blog is fast approaching 5,000 posts.
  • We’ve had just under 33,000 comments. The most commented on post this year was right at the start when AT announced they were considering light rail.

According to Google Analytics we’ve had

Lastly thanks to my fellow bloggers and those who have written guest posts for spending so much time providing content and keeping things going.

I hope you all have a great 2016.

User Guidelines, Logical Fallacies, and Ideas for Future Posts

transportblog aims to foster debate on urban issues facing Auckland, most notably – but not limited to – transport.

Of course the need for transport results from people’s desire to access the city around them. The need for transport is thus intertwined with, and often determined by, the underlying urban form. So while we focuse primarily on transport issues, we often comment on Auckland issues more generally. Sometimes we might even comment on random things that are happening in Auckland, simply because we think they’re interesting.

All of us bloggers are genuinely heartened and humbled by the level of interest shown in our posts. And rarely has this interest been more evident than of late, when a number of (largely unrelated) posts have garnered a large number of comments. Indeed, in the 10 odd years I’ve been following transportblog I can’t re-call the comments section ever being as active as it has been of late. This is generally a good thing.

Now comes the “but”: We’ve also recently received some complaints. Most notably from long-time readers who feel like the comments section is becoming a bit of a bear pit. The most common complaint is that some commenters are dominating the thread with rather controversial views. As a consequence, people feel like the comments section is becoming increasingly difficult and/or boring to read, and that the atmosphere may dissuade people from commenting. This is not what we want.

For this reason we’ve pulled together this post. It has two purposes in mind: 1) to remind people, especially some of our newer readers, of our user guidelines and 2) to highlight some common logical fallacies that have arisen in recent threads. Ultimately I hope this material contributes to a more civil and logical comment thread, which in turn keeps people coming back and solicits greater participation from an even wider audience.

1. User Guidelines

Our user guidelines can be paraphrased as follows (NB: Ones in bold are the guidelines which I consider to be particularly important given recent events):

  1. Commenters are guests and are asked to treat other members of the community with civility.
  2. Members are encouraged to use their real (full) names, especially for those wishing to comment frequently.
  3. Ad hominem attacks are frowned upon. If you disagree with someone, refute their statements rather than insulting them.
  4. General moaning about the Blog is extremely boring. If you there are things you like and/or don’t like about the Blog then put it in an email to us, rather than a comment. Or find another space more to your liking.
  5. Try to use clear and logical reasoning, e.g. Observation 1 + Observation 2 = Conclusion.
  6. Opinions, while welcome, are not facts. When citing facts, commenters should provide supporting references and links, especially when asked.
  7. Do not copy and paste complete copyrighted articles without permission from the copyright holder.  Acknowledge all sources.
  8. The editors decide what is acceptable. We reserve the right to delete comments and suspend accounts as we see fit. Grounds for suspension include (but are not limited to):
    1. Obsessive arguing in a thread or threads
    2. Repeated statements without supporting evidence
    3. Blatant promotion of products and/or services
    4. Use of multiple anonymous identities
    5. Sexist, racist or other offensive comments
  9. We are run by volunteers in our spare time, so we will make mistakes. If you disagree with something we have done, get in touch via email.
  10. Suggestions for improving the blog are welcome, as are guest posts. Please do this via email. Guest Posts cannot be anonymous and will be selected on a case by case basis.

I’ve bolded the first four rules because I think they deserve special mention.

Rule #1 simply implies that the blog is our “house”, and that we’d like it to be welcoming to any Aucklanders who want to participate. While we welcome differing views in comments, we ask that people are respectful of other commenters and our audience in general. Nasty comments about individuals or groups of people are strongly discouraged. After a hard day living the dream in Amsterdam it’s nice to simply come home, kick off your shoes, and relax with some smart people who are also passionate and positive about Auckland.

Like most of you.

That being said, we know that it can be tricky to discern between snark, sarcasm, and cruelty on the internet. As a result, we tend to interpret this guideline generously. If we pull you up on it, it’s generally because we’ve noticed a pattern of nastiness in your comments. Please take that as an opportunity to rethink how you want to come across. Don’t expect us to be consistent – it all depends on a whole range of subjective factors. C’est la vie!

Rule #2 is worth elaborating on a little, because many regular commenters do not use their real names and/or email addresses. Our motivation for adopting this guideline was simple: A growing body of research suggests anonymous comments have a negative impact on the health of online communities. More specifically, anonymity is associated with reduced quality, increased negativity, and possibly even reduced participation (perhaps because negativity scares away other commentators).

To quote from some recent research:

Through our qualitative analysis, we have many findings that support the claim that real identity comments are of higher quality. Through relevance analysis, we found that users who reveal more of their identity write comments that are more relevant to the focal news story (Table 1). Similarly, through analysis using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count tool, we see that more identity revealed yields less swearing, less anger, more affect words, more positive emotion words and less negative emotion words in comments (Table 4).

The results of this research are confirmed by our own (albeit anecdotal) experience. That is, over the last decade or so many of the most argumentative and/or offensive commenters have tended to not use real names or email addresses. Whether this is because anonymity brings out the worst in people, and/or the worst people seek anonymity, we simply don’t know. But the underlying conclusion is the same: When commenting on the blog, anonymity is a privilege rather than a right.

In light of this evidence you may wonder why we continue to allow anonymous comments?

The primary reason is because New Zealand is a small and insular place where people who work in transport and urban industries can’t always speak freely on certain issues. So we appreciate why certain people would want to comment using a pseudonym. However, pseudonyms should be used sparingly and sensitively; you should not be using a pseudonym if you intend to comment regularly. Front up and own your comments.

Next up we have rule #3, which simply amounts to “play the ball, not the person”. Easy to say, hard to do, and as a result we try to interpret this rule generously. What’s not OK is ad hominem attacks on people’s motivations and/or character. Just don’t do it. Disagree with them. Call their views stupid, if that’s how you feel. But don’t judge their motivations. Apart from being rude, it’s irrelevant and unable to be falsified. Hell, many people don’t even understand their own motivations, so it’s beyond me exactly how one determines someone else’s motivations when they are sitting somewhere else behind a computer screen.

Rule #4 is something that I have increasingly little tolerance for. Don’t moan about the blog in the comment thread. We’re are not getting paid to write this rubbish – instead we’re simply volunteers who are interested in fostering a conversation about transport and urban issues. All care and no responsibility etc. And we think that it’s a bit rude to complain about what volunteers are doing for free in their limited spare time. Even if a topic doesn’t interest you it may still be interesting to other readers. Filling the comments section with complaints about the topic distracts from the conversation for those who are interested.

If you’re not interested in a particular topic, you don’t have to read posts about it. Definitely don’t moan about it. What you can do instead is read something else that does interest you. For example, you could wait for the next Transportblog post instead – we write two to three posts a day, usually on very different topics.

2. Logical Fallacies

The aforementioned user guidelines are necessary but not sufficient to ensure a quality comment thread. Another important ingredient is logic (and evidence of course). Now, logic is a tricky thing and many people, including myself, are pretty bloody illogical from time-to-time. That’s OK: in the words of Nietzsche, who was wonderfully logical and illogical, we’re “all too human”. What’s less OK is failing to acknowledge or learn from logical errors when they are pointed out.

So what exactly is a “logical fallacy”? Well, people who are a lot smarter than me have spent time thinking about logic, especially in the context of online debate. In doing so, they have identified some common fallacies which crop up rather frequently. Five of the most common fallacies, for example, are discussed in this video.

A more complete list and discussion of common logical fallacies is available here. Aside from the ones discussed in the video, I have noticed one logical fallacy cropping up relatively regularly in the Transportblog comment thread: The so-called “slippery slope” fallacy. This is an:

… argument that a position is not consistent or tenable because accepting the position means that the extreme of the position must also be accepted. But moderate positions do not necessarily lead down the slippery slope to the extreme.

For example, if someone argues Auckland Council should invest more in A and less in B, this is not equivalent to them arguing for zero investment in B. Instead the person is simply commenting on relative priorities, and in particular increasing the priority attached to A. If you are interested in knowing their views on how how much Council should invest in B, please consider asking them.

Be careful not to slip on the slippery slope fallacy; we’re all too human and it’s all too common. Indeed, as the video notes logical fallacies can sometimes arise simply because we don’t fully understand someone else’s view – this is not necessarily anyone’s fault, but simply something that should be clarified to ensure both parties are discussing the same issue.

3. Conclusion

So in between engaging in passionate debate, I’d like to request that all of us try to observe these user guidelines and avoid certain logical fallacies. If issues do arise which we think are detracting from the quality of the debate, then we will try and point them out. We will try and do so kindly, but expect you to respond respectfully.

And when you are commenting, please keep in the back of your mind that while we aspire to be rational, we all suffer from cognitive biases – even if only very basic biases which arise from differences in intelligence. Psychological research, for example, suggests that people of differing levels of intelligence are prone to different cognitive biases. Such biases are termed the “Dunning-Kruger” effect, which Wikipedia describes as follows (source):

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Dunning and Kruger attributed the bias to the metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests that conversely, highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them also are easy for others.[1] The bias was first experimentally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999. Dunning and Kruger have postulated that the effect is the result of internal illusion in the unskilled, and external misperception in the skilled: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”[1]

Basically, less-smart people tend to over-estimate their own intelligence, while more-smart people tend to over-estimate other people’s intelligence. This is not an excuse for either arrogance or ignorance, but it is a plea to not worry too much if someone doesn’t agree with you and/or you can’t get your point across. I think this video from Frozen sums it up nicely, i.e. “let it go”. I always find that eating another croissant helps in this respect.

To finish: If you’ve got this far then you’ve obviously got some spare time. So please use some of that time to make suggestions on possible ideas for future posts. What would you like us to post about in the coming months? Shout it out here and we’ll see what we can do. In between eating croissants of course.

IPENZ Transportation Careers Evening

This is from our friends at IPENZ

Are you passionate about cities? Interested in transport? Want to find out about potential pathways to the transport industry?

Then come along to the IPENZ Transportation Careers evening.

Transport Carrers talk 2015

Tuesday, September 22 at 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Lib109-B28, University of Auckland General Library (Alfred Street)

Come listen to speakers from a broad range of backgrounds talk about how they fell into a career in transport. Our speakers include:

  • John Mauro – Chief Sustainability Officer (Auckland Council)
  • Anja Vroegop – Walking and Cycling Coordinator (Auckland Transport)
  • Liz Halstead – Policy, Plans and Sustainability Manager (Auckland Transport)
  • Ian Munroe – Urban Planner & Designer
  • Jarrod Darlington – Associate Director (PwC)
  • Patrick Reynolds – Editor Transport Blog

There will also be an opportunity to informally talk to people from a range of transport companies over some light refreshments. Interested students from all disciplines and stages of study are welcome to attend.

Contact us via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/1480784968913723/
Auckland Uni Students can also register here

Join Greater Auckland

Greater Auckland Lainc

Greater Auckland Launch Party (photo by: Non-Motorist @bythemotorway)

Late June we launched GREATER AUCKLAND (GA) – a non-profit group that recognises Auckland’s untapped potential. We call for smarter thinking on the problems our city faces: investments in quality public and active transport, and more housing choice.

GA Logo

One area we think it should help is in providing more clarity to organisations we work with and advocate to. As an example, in the past some organisations have been unsure how to deal with us – is the blog media or advocacy? In many ways it’s really a bit of both – and that confusion can affect how they engage with us and us with them. We believe that providing more formality around what we do should help in furthering our aims. It should also assist in how we undertake activities such as raising funds.

Greater Auckland’s main objectives are:

  • To provide commentary and encourage intelligent debate about transport and urban issues, in Auckland and across New Zealand.
  • To advocate for transport modes and systems that provide choice and effectiveness, including, but not restricted to, public transport, cycling and walking.
  • To operate a blog on transport and urban matters.

While we have over 30,000 unique monthly visitors and over 5,000 daily page views, we would like to be able to say that we are supported by thousands of people from Auckland and beyond.

We’ve been a bit quiet since our launch dealing with a few things behind the scenes – such as a legal challenge but now we’re ready to get going again. Showing your support is as easy as signing up as a supporter on the Greater Auckland website – it doesn’t cost anything and you won’t be bombarded with emails.

If you would like to help us further then we’d also like you to become a paid up member. The money raised will go towards supporting the costs of running the blog, as well as other things we have planned such as giving the blog a makeover. We also plan to use the funds to help support the advocacy we do.

Membership is $50 per year although there is a lower price for students or unwaged members. In exchange for helping us you’ll also get the first chance to come to events we hold – such as meeting international experts who visit Auckland.

There is also a donation option if you would prefer a one-off payment option.

If you sign up as a paid member by the end of next week you’ll be in the draw to win one of two copies of Britomart: The Story, a beautiful hard-bound 228 page book with stunning photography from Britomart Group.

P1010965

Thank you for all the support you’ve given us in the past and I hope you can join us in helping make Auckland even greater.

Common Acronyms page

We use a lot of acronyms here at TransportBlog. We try to write them out in full the first time we use them in a post, but we won’t always remember – sorry in advance! With that in mind we’ve created a page (under the About heading) to list them so readers can reference them if they’re not sure what something means. Here’s an initial list some of the ones we see regularly, plus some quick definitions to help get you up to speed:

  • AMETI – Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative. A large transport project that was born out of the failed Eastern Motorway project that has thankfully become more and more public transport oriented over time.
  • AT – Auckland Transport. Run by the council, and “responsible for all of the region’s transport services (excluding state highways), from roads and footpaths, to cycling, parking and public transport”. Not affiliated with us.
  • AWHC – Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing. Another crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. Current proposals suggest another road crossing which has a very poor business case
  • BRT – Bus Rapid Transit. What the Northern Busway is.
  • CCO – Council Controlled Organisation. These include Auckland Transport, Ports of Auckland, Waterfront Auckland,Auckland Council Property Ltd and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development.
  • CRL – City Rail Link. The missing link in Auckland’s train network.
  • DMUDiesel Multiple Unit. A self-contained diesel passenger train, was previously used in Auckland but no longer in service (except Pukekohe)
  • FTN – Frequent Transit Network. Regular public transport services, running at least every 10-15 minutes all day.
  • ECTS – European Train Control System. Part of the signalling system that controls Auckland’s trains.
  • EMU – Electric Multiple Unit. An electric train, as used in Wellington and (now) Auckland
  • GPS – Government Policy Statement. A high level document that specifies the governments transport priorities and sets a rough guide for how much money can be spent on each key activity
  • LRT – Light Rail Transit. Often considered modern trams but LRT also generally features a lot of segregated running i.e. via its own lanes
  • MOT – Ministry of Transport. The government department which provides policy advice on transport.
  • NEX – Northern Express. The service that runs only on the Northern Busway
  • NLTF – National Land Transport Fund. Money comes into this from petrol excise tax, road user charges and other sources. It then goes to pay for state highways, a pittance on public and active transport, and to help councils fund local projects.
  • NLTP – National Land Transport Plan. – A three year plan outlining just what projects projects will receive funding across the country
  • NZTA – NZ Transport Agency. The government agency responsible for state highways, the National Land Transport Fund and a number of other transport functions.
  • PAUP – Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The proposed new planning rulebook for Auckland. It is currently going through a formal hearing process.
  • PT – Public transport. Bus, train, ferry.
  • PTOM – Public transport operating model. This will be a new way of awarding contracts for bus routes, and we’ll be shifting to it over the next few years.
  • RLTP – Regional Land Transport Plan. A three year plan outlining just what projects projects will receive funding across the region
  • RoNS Roads of National Significance. The government’s centrepiece transport policy – a series of large motorway projects, many of which have very poor business cases.
  • RPTP – Regional Public Transport Plan. This is a document created by Auckland Transport, outlining the public transport services they want to provide over the next ten years, and how they plan to deliver it.
  • RTN – Rapid Transit Network. Regular public transport services, running on their own right of way so they are not affected by road congestion. Auckland’s RTN includes the trains and (to some extent) the Northern Busway.
  • SA Set – Carriage trains that were pushed/pulled around the Auckland network by freight locomotives – no longer in service (except Pukekohe)
  • SHA – Special Housing Area.  An area the council and government have agreed to fast track housing consents in a bid to build houses faster
  • SMART – South Western Multimodal Airport Rapid Transit Project. Otherwise known as Rail to the Airport
  • WRR – Western Ring Route. – The name for the series of motorway projects creating a motorway from Manukau to Constellation via Waterview

There’s bound to be lots we’ve missed so please let us know and we can update the page.

Help us to create a Greater Auckland

Transportblog started seven years ago and we are immensely proud of what it has become. Equally, we are extremely excited about the way the Auckland is starting to develop.  The city is already blessed with natural assets many cities can only dream of, but has for too long been let down by its built environment. In recent years that’s been starting to change – Auckland has been starting to realise that it’s actually a city and one that has huge potential. Of course, changing a city doesn’t happen overnight, and while we’re currently largely heading in the right direction the future of the city is far from certain.

In our view, the blog has been successful in helping to shape the conversation about how Auckland and other cities develop. Ideas like the Congestion Free Network have helped capture people’s imagination and show a different (and feasible) future for the city. We’re able to be successful thanks to all of you who read, comment and share our work. It has also allowed us to continue to grow and now get over 30,000 unique visitors having 90,000 sessions and viewing over 160,000 pages each month. As Metro Magazine says in its current edition, that “isn’t bad for policy wonkerism”.

For some time now we’ve recognised a need to provide some more structure to how we run the blog if we are to play our part in advocating for a greater Auckland. As such yesterday we formally launched GREATER AUCKLAND (GA) – a non-profit group that recognises Auckland’s untapped potential. We call for smarter thinking on the problems our city faces: investments in quality public and active transport, and more housing choice. Greater Auckland will own the TransportBlog domain and intellectual property, although individual posts remain the property of their authors.

GA Logo

TransportBlog will still exist and will still continue to operate as it always has, and we will continue to be the foremost advocates for improving public transport in Auckland (and elsewhere). We will also continue to advocate for better active transport, housing and other urban solutions.

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6347

One area we think it should help is in providing more clarity to organisations we work with and advocate to. As an example, in the past some organisations have been unsure how to deal with us – is the blog media or advocacy? In many ways it’s really a bit of both – and that confusion can affect how they engage with us and us with them. We believe that providing more formality around what we do should help in furthering our aims. It should also assist in how we undertake activities such as raising funds.

Greater Auckland’s main objects are:

  • To provide commentary and encourage intelligent debate about transport and urban issues, in Auckland and across New Zealand.
  • To advocate for transport modes and systems that provide choice and effectiveness, including, but not restricted to, public transport, cycling and walking.
  • To operate a blog on transport and urban matters.

We’d like to be able to say that we are supported by thousands of people from Auckland and beyond. Showing your support is as easy as signing up as a supporter on the Greater Auckland website – it doesn’t cost anything and you won’t be bombarded with emails.

If you would like to help us further then we’d also like you to become a paid up member. The money raised will go towards supporting the costs of running the blog, as well as other things we have planned such as giving the blog a makeover. We also plan to use the funds to help support the advocacy we do. One example might be if we needed to hire experts to argue for us in a resource consent hearing. Membership is $50 per year although there is a lower price for students or unwaged members. In exchange for helping us you’ll also get the first chance to come to events we hold – such as meeting international experts who visit Auckland.

If you sign up as a paid member by the end of July, you’ll also go in the draw to win one of two copies of Britomart: The Story, a beautiful hard-bound 228 page book with stunning photography from Britomart Group.

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If you think that our aims are worth working for, and you enjoy the work that we do on TransportBlog, please join us as a supporter or a paid member of the society. The more people that support us, the stronger our voice will be. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Join us as a supporter or member
  • Like or follow us on Facebook or Twitter at both @TransportBlog and @GreaterAuckland
  • Give feedback in the comments below – what would you want this organisation to represent? What should our priorities be?

So thank you for all the support you’ve given us in the past and I hope you can join us in helping make Auckland even greater. Below are some images from our launch.

Lastly, I want to say a huge thanks to Emma, Niko, Kent, Luke and Ryan for all their work behind the scenes in organising this. Also a massive thanks to Ben from Inhouse Consult for his help with legal work to set everything up and Laura from Laura Dueker Graphic Design who created the logo.

Accelerated Project Costs

The government aren’t the only one discussing budgets today as the Auckland Council are holding a session of their budget committee. It will see the council discuss the recently approved Accelerated Transport Programme which has been brought about by the introduction of a $99 levy per residential property to pay for transport. I’m not sure if the councillors who have since written to Len Brown asking to discuss the levy again will be able to do so or not. As we know the Transport Levy allows for around $170 million a year worth of extra investment in Auckland for three years. We already have a rough idea of where the money will be spent, this is shown below.

interim-programme

We also had a decent idea of what projects will be funded and it looks pretty good – although for most of it we didn’t know just how much money had been assigned to individual projects. One part of the agenda for today’s meeting finally gives us that detail. The most interesting parts are in Attachment A & B.

The first attachment lists each project in the council’s overall Auckland Plan Transport Network (APTN). Three separate columns list how much the was budgeted for the project over the next ten years based on the APTN, the do not much Basic Transport Network (BTN) and a third column what will the outcome is under the levy funded Accelerated Budget.

The tables show there has been quite a bit of change among some projects, presumably reflecting additional thinking that has gone one since the LTP analysis was done. As an example some projects have been re-scoped which has resulted in increases or decreases in costs or changes in timing has brought funding forward that was previously outside the 10 year horizon of the LTP. An example of some of the changes are below.

LTP Accelerated Plan project changes example

However changes over the 10 year plan are in some ways a bit meaningless as there will be another LTP in three years that will likely rehash the priorities and also have to deal with changes in funding that will likely result from the proposed Transport Accord. As such it’s only really worth focusing on the next three years and the tables below show just how much funding is proposed for each project over that time. Unfortunately it’s not the highest quality but if needed click through to the PDF linked earlier to get a slightly better version.

LTP Accelerated Plan Budget

LTP Accelerated Plan Budget 2

By the time you read this the council will likely have already discussed this item so feel free to add to the comments if any changes happen.

Reader views: Who’s talking about cities?

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!