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
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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

Who’s having the conversation about cities?

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:

Gender Balance

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.

2015 – The Year Ahead

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015, the year we get hoverboards.

Back to the Future hoverboard

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.

2014 – A Year in Review Part 4 – Everything else

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.

GPS 2015-2025 Funding Graph

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.

Special Housing Areas 1 2 3 4

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

NDG Centre 1

Stuart’s 100

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