2016 – A Year in Review Part 4 – Everything else

This is Part 4 and the final part of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at everything else. You can also see:

Unitary Plan

The completion of the Unitary Plan has been one of the biggest and most important discussions Auckland has had for the last few years. The plan sets the rules by which Auckland can develop and previous planning rules were far too restrictive, especially in relation to allowing for urban development. Since it was first discussed in 2012, council in responding to groups like Auckland 2040 had wound back many aspects of the plan. It was better than what we have but not as good as it should have been.

At the beginning of the year the plan took a blow as Councillors buckled to a small group of vocal residents who had been whipped into a frenzy by incorrect information from the likes of the Herald and voted to withdraw it’s evidence on residential zoning under the false pretense of preserving a process. That crazy act meant the council wasn’t able to be a part of the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) when discussing this massive and important topic. But the act ultimately proved fruitless as the IHP were the ones controlling the process

In July, the IHP released their recommendations which significantly increased what they called Feasible Enabled Capacity.

In August the council accepted almost all of the recommendations from the IHP. Interestingly the opposition groups seemed to just melt away and not much was heard of them during this time. This was a huge achievement and something that looked unlikely even six months earlier.

The process isn’t fully over yet though, there are still some appeals to be worked through and one of those from the Character Coalition caused a major snag. It was so broad in scope the council couldn’t make the plan operative. The appeal was later reworded to focus on character housing not all residential zoning.

TFUG

A important discussion this year was a project called Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG). This was Auckland Transport and the NZTA looking at what big pieces of infrastructure were needed to support all the greenfield growth areas identified in the Unitary Plan. This is mostly a lot of big arterials and expanded state highways but there is some PT in the mix too. All up it is likely to cost at least $10 billion for the infrastructure planned, about $200,000 per new dwelling it enables. The final plan was released just before Christmas and I’ll cover that in the new year.

ATAP

I’ve already covered ATAP a bit in previous posts but in this one I wanted to point out a couple of important parts. One is that the project identified full road pricing, not just tolling a few roads, would likely be needed in coming years to help manage demand. This is important as up to that point the government had been very opposed to the mere suggestion of this. They still aren’t fully supporting it and there is a lot of work that needs to happen before we’ll see anything like road pricing introduced but if feels like the idea is now firmly in the discussion and likely to be a key discussion in coming years.

The second is that ATAP came up with some indicative timings for when projects might happen, this is shown below

ATAP Indicative Interventions

New Council

In October we had local body elections and Len Brown wasn’t standing again meaning we would definitely be getting a new mayor. Phil Goff, who officially announced he was running in late 2015m, had been the front runner for a long time and in the end won by a considerable margin.

In November he released his first rates proposal, something that will be a key discussion in the first half of next year. While capping rates increases at 2.5%, he also sought to look at other ways of funding Auckland’s growth such as introducing visitor levy, a targeted rate on areas to be developed to help pay for the new infrastructure those areas and raising the topic of regional fuel taxes.

Goff campaigned on making the Council Controlled Organisations more accountable and just a few weeks ago we saw the draft letters of expectation to the CCOs. We covered the letter to AT which was fantastic, effectively calling out AT on issues like ignoring the councils City Centre Master Plan with their stupid plans for key streets after the CRL is completed. It also asked AT to focus on some other key areas too, such as “aggressively pursuing strong growth in public transport use and active modes” and improving speeds on the rail network from shorter dwell times. It will be interesting to see how AT respond.

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. Here are couple of stats for you.

Thank you to all who have read the blog and helped support us.

We do have one post left to go for the year, tomorrow I’ll take look at what we might see in 2017

Why we blog

As delegates were leaving the American Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”. Franklin replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

He meant that, while the delegates had recommended a set of principles for government, it was up to average citizens to make them work in practice. That meant – and still means – having citizens who are informed and active in public debates over what and how we should proceed as a society, rather than citizens who will passively accept being ruled.

I believe in representative democracy. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s better than the alternatives. This model of government is most compatible with long-run social and economic prosperity, and with an expansion of human freedom and capabilities.

But hard work is needed to maintain and improve it. It’s not enough to just have the option to vote every three years. During and between elections, it’s vital to carry on an informed public conversation on policy issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s happening on the radio and in the newspaper, in church halls and cafes and public meetings, or in blogs written by unpaid volunteers. But it needs to happen.

I stress the words “informed” and “public”. It is important for the debate to be informed by facts and evidence, because they are essential for grounding conversations between different points of view. People with different values and principles can have an intelligent conversation if they are able to build on a common set of facts. For instance, when people who care mainly about predictable driving times talk to people who care mainly about safe cycling facilities, it would be useful to know what the research says about the impact of cycle lanes on driving speeds.

It is equally important for the discussion to be happening in public, where citizens in general can engage with it and respond to it. Discussions between politicians and lobbyists in smoky back rooms do not usually lead to awesome outcomes. This doesn’t mean that every conversation has to be publicly disclosed, but it does mean that part of the conversation has to be open to the public.

Having an informed public conversation about policy means that:

  • Citizens get a better understanding of policy issues and trade-offs, and vote in a more informed way
  • Politicians and policymakers face public checks and balances – if they come up with silly ideas, others will be there to point out their silliness
  • New ideas can enter the public debate from a more diverse range of sources, meaning that policymakers don’t accidentally exclude a good idea.

A key part of an informed public conversation is having people who are passionate and knowledgeable about an issue who will discuss that issue in public, rather than behind closed doors. Sometimes these people are outsiders to the field who have gotten interested in it and educated themselves. For instance, Transportblog editors Matt and Patrick have never worked in transport or urban planning. Matt works for a financial services company, while Patrick runs his own photography business.

But often, the people who help foster the public conversation work in the field, in business, academia, or (more rarely) government. Jarrett Walker of HumanTransit fame is an excellent example of a professional who contributes to the public conversation about his profession. While working as a public transport planning consultant, he also writes a regular blog about the principles of network design. (Disclosure: I also work in the same field, and Jarrett partners with the company I work for for projects in Australia and New Zealand.)

It isn’t necessarily easy to speak or write publicly about the field you work in. While there are social benefits to fostering a more informed public conversation, there are personal and professional risks. This is especially true in New Zealand, due to the small size of the place. It’s definitely possible to do yourself out of a job by taking the ‘wrong’ position on a controversial issue – in most fields, there just aren’t that many people hiring.

That’s a risk that can be managed, if not fully mitigated. This doesn’t mean taking a ‘party line’ and publicly advocating for the positions of employers or clients. In a democratic society, everybody is entitled to hold and express personal views. But it does mean strictly maintaining client confidentiality, and, from time to time, staying silent on an issue that you’ve worked closely on, or discussing it in a general sense rather than delving into the details of a specific proposal.

But in spite of the risks, I’ve been enthusiastic about writing for Transportblog (unpaid!) because I see it as a useful contribution to a more informed public debate about major issues like transport policy, housing policy, and the overall shape of our built environment – which is to say, the shape of our society. It’s my small contribution to making representative democracy work better.

Transportblog undoubtedly has an editorial voice that is shaped in different ways by all of the regular authors, who volunteer their own time to run the blog, as well as by interactions with commenters. Like all humans, we have our own values and viewpoints, and we express them in what we write. But my hope is that we manage to ground ourselves in the evidence, and to build our posts around facts rather than unsubstantiated reckons.

Other people with different values or viewpoints may look at the same evidence and come to a different conclusion about what should be done. Hopefully the work done by Transportblog will make people more aware of the common evidence base underpinning the debate, and help identify some of the big issues facing Auckland and other cities in New Zealand.

Is this where the conversation ends? No – certainly not! With luck, it’s just the beginning. I’d like to see a broader and more diverse conversation about public policy in New Zealand – not just in transport and urban policy, but across the board. I’d like to see more people grappling with important issues in public, rather than just talking about the weather.

The thing is: It won’t happen by itself. Participating in a public conversation takes time and effort. You have to inform yourself of the issues, and learn to debate others in a respectful fashion. If you’re talking about an issue that you work on, it can leave you feeling exposed to professional risks.

So if we want a good, well-informed public conversation about policy, we need to make it easier, not harder, to speak in public. I’d encourage everyone to think carefully about how to foster the debate:

  • Employers should ask whether their media policies (both social and conventional) enable employees to make public contributions. It’s certainly vital to maintain client confidentiality and avoid prejudicing your work. However, I would argue that many employers are too conservative and hence unintentionally stifle the debate.
  • Universities and schools should encourage their staff to engage more with public policy issues. These organisations are (in principle at least) more removed from commercial and political imperatives. There are some great examples of publicly-engaged academics and teachers in NZ – Thomas Lumley (StatsChat), Michelle Dickinson (NanoGirl), and secondary school teacher and occasional NZ Herald columnist Peter Lyons come to mind – but they’re in the minority.
  • Everyday New Zealanders should think about speaking up on issues you care about – and, equally importantly, informing yourself about those issues. But if you disagree with someone else’s view, don’t take that as a license to smear them or tear them down personally. Ad hominem attacks destroy quality conversations. Instead, try to understand how their values may differ from yours, and, if you think they’re simply wrong on the facts, engage with the evidence and debate the issue honestly.

And finally, Transportblog is always open to considering guest posts, so contact us if you’ve got ideas you’d like to share.

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.

Website Update

We’re looking at the performance issues that have been affecting the website lately.

We are trying a few different things like adjusting the way caching (WP Super Cache) is done, and we have removed the sidebar from posts once you click on them from the main page. This is designed to reduce the amount of caching that is happening on the server.

Hopefully you’ll notice transportblog become more responsive as a result. Let us know in the comments if you come across anything that isn’t quite right.

A resolution to make this city better

Regardless of what you may think of the Catholic Church or religion in general, most people can probably agree that Pope Francis’ down to earth manner combined with his simple and common sense messages prompting people to think about how they treat others has been extremely positive. A single sentence from his end of year service the other night was something I thought was particularly relevant to this blog.

He also encouraged people to reflect on whether they used 2013 to improve the place where they live. “This year did we contribute, in our own small ways, to make it more livable, orderly, welcoming?”

Perhaps the key reason I put the time and effort in to continually write this blog (often to frustration of my wonderful wife) is that at the end of the day I want to make Auckland (and New Zealand) a better place. I want it to be better for everyone and the main issues that we talk about of transport and urban form are ones that affect all of us whether we want them to or not.

In terms of Auckland it’s clear to most of us that we have made a lot of mistakes in the past and in both of these areas. In my opinion we can only fix them through intelligently working through the issues rather than applying some form of ideological solution – although some solutions probably require a bit of a leap of faith. I hope that we (as a blog) can help to facilitate intelligent discussion to help make this a reality – even if it seems we are often talking about what we consider silly ideas, it’s probably a bit of a case of it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Coming back to Pope Francis’ comment, I would like to think I can say that I have contributed to making this place more liveable and welcoming (not sure how we do orderly 😉 ). Further without people reading and supporting us we wouldn’t be able to get traction on many of the things we do, like we have with the Congestion Free Network as an example. So in a way you could say that by reading this blog you too are helping make this city more liveable.

But I guess I would also like each of you to think about what else you can do to make this a better place. Perhaps it’s engaging with others in your own communities to push for improvements, perhaps it’s taking some time out to do something like write a formal submission in support of ideas that make this place better and in opposition to ideas that don’t or perhaps in your professional life that you ensure that what you are doing will actually make a positive difference to everyone. I’m sure many of you are doing these things already.

This is also something quite similar to what Brent Toderian – who visited Auckland a few months ago – wrote a year ago on Planetizen and in my opinion is still just as relevant today.

Hello Planetizen readers – on this New Year’s Eve, I find myself “thinking with my thumbs” on my Blackberry as my wife and I explore Seattle before tonight’s festivities – thinking beyond the resolutions and goals for myself, my family, and my company. I’m thinking about us – a community of urbanists, who have been working for much of our careers to make our cities, towns and communities better.

Sometimes we’ve worked with success, often with frustration and fatigue, but always with a passion that keeps driving us forward.

We’ve known for decades the better ways to do things, for greater urban health, sustainability, resiliency, vibrancy and economic success. Ways to address critical challenges as diverse as affordability, our carbon and ecological footprint, public health crises, demographic shifts, on and on – many or most with the same “convenient solution”… better, smarter city-making.

The challenge isn’t one of not knowing. It continues to be a challenge of doing. Of having the will and skill to get past the short-term politics, the rhetoric, the market momentum, and the financial self-interest that has kept our better solutions from being realized. This is what we all need to be better at, in 2013 and beyond.

And he’s come up with some resolutions we should think about.

Here are a handful of resolutions, quickly written with my thumbs, for our community of international city-builders to hopefully embrace. They aren’t unique – we all know what they are, and any of us could write them – but like resolving to lose weight each year, it’s the doing that counts, not the uniqueness of the resolution.

If we can make these real in 2013, we would truly make our cities better.

– We resolve to come together as professionals and disciplines, and finally break the silos that keep us from achieving holistic, complete city-building. We will agree across professions to common definitions of success.

– We resolve to set better goals, and better measure the RIGHT successes, rather than optimizing the wrong things. Smart growth, not sprawl (and before someone says we need to define these better, or replace them with “fresher, cooler terms” – we’ve defined and debated such terms incessantly for decades, with not enough attention to achieving them). Shorter, smarter trips, with everything we need closer. More parks and public places that more people visit, and stay in longer. The key is to be clear, and to honestly measure success over time. In many cases, we’ve been busy measuring the wrong things.

– We resolve to not just increase density, but to do density better! With beautiful (but not necessarily more expensive) design, walkability, mix and completeness, amenities, and housing and population diversity.

– We resolve to stop feeding, or accepting, the unhealthy and distracting “war on the car” rhetoric, and inspire our cities with what true multi-modal cities can achieve. All ways of getting around work better, including cars, if we emphasize walking, biking and transit!

– We resolve to house the homeless, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it actually saves us money. We can’t afford to NOT house the homeless!

– We resolve to take back our own language from those who’ve made it code or ideological – words like livability, and quality of life. These are not left or right wing – they’re just smart, and critically important to successful communities.

– We resolve to stop accepting “false choices” that are dumbing-down our conversation about how to building cities. Heritage preservation OR smart growth. Good planning OR job creation. Beautiful design OR affordable design. Good city-making doesn’t play these false choice games.

– We resolve to stop using the eight most frustrating words in the english language – “we could never do that in our city!”

– Lastly, we as urbanists resolve to be not just involved in, but absolutely integral in, the broad conversation about the success of our cities and nations. We will be more clear, more persuasive, more “human” in our speech and writing. We will be a powerful voice as urbanists. And at the same time, we’ll listen and learn a lot better.

This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive – it’s the best my thumbs could think of today. But I was inspired to share them with you because I’m inspired by the year we could have together, our community of urbanists. Feel free to add more, to contribute and debate, but most importantly, to passionately participate this year.

I think that 2014 has the potential to be a great year for Auckland and I’m certainly going to resolve to keep doing what I can to make this city better . Will you? (it’s certainly a more achievable resolution than losing weight or reducing alcohol consumption)

2013: A year in review – Part 4

In the final part of my year in review – and which counts as the last post of the year I’m going to look back on the blog.

I think it’s fair to say that this has been a massive year for the blog from pretty much any measure you look at (and plenty of things that can’t be measured). We’ve seen the number of people reading and interacting with the blog increase throughout the year. Here are some stats for the year:

  • We’ve published 794 posts (including this one) an average of just over 2 per day. That’s almost exactly 100 posts more than we published in 2012 (695)
  • We’ve had ~36,000 comments, about 14,000 more than 2012
  • We’ve had about 1.9 million page views, up from about 1.2 million in 2012. That’s an average of over 5,100 per day. The graph below shows the number of page views we’ve had each month

Blog 2013 page views

The thing that I personally have been most proud of this year has to have been the Congestion Free Network. We came up with the idea as we didn’t like the direction the official plans were heading and we wanted to show that it is possible to have a high quality and extensive core PT network made up of rail lines and bus ways. We carefully costed it out using information gathered from official reports or similar projects that have been built in the city so that we could comfortably say that wouldn’t cost the earth to build compared with what is currently planned. We also engaged with our friends at Generation Zero who helped to design the maps and other graphics for the CFN, they have also helped to push the idea far and wide. However I think the thing that has resonated most with people is not so much the details but that it actually creates a vision for Auckland that they can understand, relate to and get behind.

Since we launched it, Patrick or I have given numerous presentations about the CFN to a wide variety of audiences from government ministers down to industry conferences to local community groups. The one thing that has perhaps surprised me the most about it all has been the positive comments and support that we’ve had from most people about the idea, particularly those in the industry which has included numerous people in the even the construction and freight industries (including the agreement we need to cut back on road building). It was also heartening to see earlier in the month three separate councillors mention the CFN completely unprompted when the debate about the East-West link came to the councils Infrastructure Committee.

Over 2014 you can definitely expect to hear more about the CFN as we’ve been asked to present on it to the Auckland Transport Board in February as they get ready to go through the process of a new Integrated Transport Plan.

CFN 2030A

To everyone, thanks so much for reading (and interacting) with the blog. I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year and I look forward to 2014.

Note: tomorrow I’ll give a rundown of some of the big things we can expect from 2014.

I’d just like to add a big thanks and round of applause for Matt who has been shouldering the the bulk of the post writing and moderating work here. He has also proved himself to be a very insightful analyst and chartologist of urban and transport trends in this most interesting of times. I’m sure the rest of the team share this sentiment, well done Matt, you’re helping make Auckland a better place- cheers Patrick.

Give A Little

Regular readers will have noticed that we have setup a GiveALittle donation widget on the left sidebar.

No one at TransportBlog (or the Campaign for Better Transport) gets paid for any work we do, and we rely entirely on donations for operational costs.

Thanks to our successful film night last year, we still have about five months worth of hosting costs covered. However, as TransportBlog becomes more popular and readership increases, so too do the hosting costs and a server upgrade is likely to be needed in the near future.

Help us get there by giving a little (or a lot!) to the cause.  The target is $1,800 which will provide at least six months worth of dedicated hosting. All donations go to a ring-fenced fund with the Campaign for Better Transport, a registered incorporated society.

You can donate here for the TransportBlog cause.

If you are interested in joining the Campaign for Better Transport, you can join here. Our AGM is next Wednesday 17th July, 7:00pm at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, Richmond Road, and all members are welcome.

 

 

And the winners are …..

Thank you to everyone that entered our competition to win a HOP card with $50 on it. There were some great entries but in this case there can only be two winners. They are :

Therese T

I wrote a poem/verse to explain why the Britomart Station is my favourite station :

Britomart Station
Is definitely the best in the nation
From when the first train arrived on 23 June 2003 at 5.40am on Platform number five
It has literally changed lives!
Can’t believe nearly ten years have past
Since such a station came at last!
She’s got a lot of history and a little bit of mystery

Located right in Auckland’s hub
A nice place for a weekend stroll with the bub
or for single ones to mingle in the clubs :)
Or stop and have a drink at Racket bar, 1885 Britomart or the Brewery Britomart pub

Added to that, the Britomart station is surrounded near umpteen stores
Ranging from Westfield Mall, Ted Baker, Nike or Kiwi labels Zambesi, Kate Sylvester, now off you go!
Browse or shop till you literally drop!

Once you “hop off” the amazing train, there’s also tons of good wining & fine “district ” dining
Metro favourites Ebisu, Cafe Hanoi or go try Northern Steamship, Agents and Merchants, and much much more!
For when you get off at Britomart station, there are opportunities galore!
Indeed a perfect place to take your date
Don’t worry about parking, just “hop on” the train and come have coffee with a mate

And just a few minutes wander from the station, you can enjoy the farmers markets or cool art at Britomart Project Space
Or bring a book to read at the station and get away from the rat race

Alternatively, you can just people watch at Britomart Station while waiting for your train
Here you will not spend your time in vain!
Chomp on some sushi, a sub at the subway, buy mum some flowers or have a cuppa
There is plenty to do before the train takes you home – definitely an upper!

What immense style, what stunning architecture, what a great heritage
Ain’t the station growing more beautiful and statuesque with age
It’s no wonder that every weekday 25,000* rail passengers go through Britomart Station
For me she’s definitely number one in the nation!

And

Sam F

Morningside. As much because it’s my local as anything else, but being my local means I’m more familiar with its little quirks…

The evidence of past uses, as many stations reveal – sidings that vanish into the carpark of a gym that used to be a warehouse, and other lines that get redder and deeper beneath the ballast as you go out to the edges, only frequented by the occasional broken-down ADL (yup, we hate them now, but for all their faults they’ll be missed by more than a few railwatchers when they finally retire, mark my words…). There’s the blank stub of the old station building, with the old ticket office amputated… I remember kicking casually through the rubble when they finally tore down the boarded up doors and took hammers to the brick, and digging out a handful of yellowed NZR luggage tags from God knows when.

So there’s old stuff that casually tickles your imagination about the past, and also other things that fire your imagination about the future… proper modern shelters, no more burnt out rubbish bins and partly scorched, frequently peed on wooden benches ridged in slapdash coats of paint. Signs of rejuvenation where you mightn’t expect: what was once a spectacular set of leaky apartments faces the station; after being covered in tarpaulins and scaffolding for most of the last decade, which bottomed out at $40,000 freehold fire sale prices, they’re now refurbished and up in more reasonable six-figure territory. I used to look down at the rail beds and see dates from the 1950s and 1960s stamped onto the steel; now you look up and see overhead catenaries – they’re a bit odd in their galvanised newness right now, but they’ll become part of the atmosphere over time.

Then there’s the main attraction for me at Morningside, the riot of graffiti art on the fences facing the lines and on the huge white wall behind the Morningside dairies – not just slapped up bombs but giant multicoloured murals from what are now known artists. Official neglect let graffiti flourish on the rail corridors, and like scrub giving way to a forest canopy, over time it’s grown into something quite spectacular in a few places, and nowhere on the Western Line is it quite as dramatic as at Morningside – at least not anymore, as the best of what was at Mount Eden and Kingsland is long gone now. Probably it’s all coloured for me by nostalgia, looking back to when I caught trains as a kid in the mid 90s, and didn’t know it was supposed to be better than clapped out silver railcars clanking along fifty year old rails stopping at beat-down steel shelters that got set on fire, repainted, set on fire again and so on… really the best of it was the entertaining graffiti, and at Morningside it’s still as spectacular as it used to be, but now adorning a station that’s reaping the benefits of the last decade’s rail renewal.

So here’s to Morningside, but equally to all the other stations, big and small, that have seen so much change. If you’ve got time and a curious mind there’s probably nice little slices of social history embedded even at the quietest little suburban stop – and it’s really now that we’re seeing such a revolution in rail that it’s all coming into relief. At least for a guy who finds anything interesting if he’s had the chance to look at it out the window long enough…

I have sent you both emails and congratulations. Remember HOP cards can be used from Saturday to travel on the trains.

Win a HOP card loaded with $50

In recognition of HOP rolling out to the rail network on the 28th of October and the ferries a month later we thought it might be fun to celebrate this long awaited event. We approached Auckland Transport who agreed and so we have managed to get our hands on TWO AT HOP cards to give away, each loaded with $50 worth of travel on them.

Your not having my pilot HOP card

Now we could just give them away randomly but where’s the fun in that so we have devised a little competition and to win one of these amazing HOP cards you are going to have to be creative. We want you to tell us what is your favourite station or ferry wharf and why. Of course we do have a few rules:

  • It can be any station/wharf but it has to be in the Auckland region
  • You have to post your answer in the comments and you can only enter once
  • You can use any medium you like i.e. you could write a story/comment, post a picture or video. You can use HTML tags for the image to show in the picture in the comment, just type <img src=”your link”>. For Youtube videos just paste the youtube link straight into the comment.
  • We reserve the right to use any answers you provide in future posts and AT are also able to use any material if they wish
  • We will leave the competition open for a week and will announce the winner on Tuesday 23rd October.
  • We will decide the winner based on whatever criteria we like and our decisions are final.

So perhaps you like a certain station because its your local, perhaps you like its architecture or how it integrates with its local environment and other transport modes, perhaps you like it for the impact it had on PT. It doesn’t really matter which station/wharf you choose just tell us why.

I’m back, did I miss much?

After a month away travelling around and experiencing some of the sights and sounds if Europe I’m back in the country. There was so much that I saw and experienced that it can’t fit it in one post so I will try to present some of it in the coming weeks. During the course of my trip I think I used pretty much every type of modern transport. I rode on buses and bikes, caught planes and trains, hopped on trams and in cars, sailed on boats and above them (parasailing :-)) and of course walked and walked and walked and walked.

For a brief description of my trip, we started with a days stop over in Singapore before heading on to Paris. The metro system there might not be the cleanest but boy is it everywhere as there aren’t many places in the city that aren’t more than a few hundred metres from a station. This made it just so easy to get around almost anywhere pretty quickly. From Paris it was a trip up to one of Stu’s favourite places, Amsterdam where I experienced some of the things Stu wrote about in this post. Interestingly I had just finished visiting the city a few days before Stu posted it and had in my head ideas some similar ideas to write about.

Some long distance trains were better than others (this was one of the better ones).

It was then down to Koblenz on the Rhine Gorge to look at some of the old castles that line the river. Our trip then took us to Munich and Vienna, both cities which I think we could learn a lot from. They are also both cities that compete strongly in the the various surveys that rank the worlds most liveable cities and it was easy to see why. It is also important as being at the top something that Len Brown wants Auckland to achieve. We then headed further south to Venice for a bit of watery action before a mid holiday holiday in a little town called Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como. After that it was off to Nice in the South of France along with Monoco (which is just up the road/track) where we had a very Auckland type of rail experience with trains cancelled and frequently running late etc.

Lots of transport modes in this picture, I was surprised by just how many trains used both these lines and the two on the other side of the river.

The next two legs of our trip were the only ones where we didn’t get between cities using trains which meant short hop on a plane over to Barcelona. It actually ended up being our favourite city on the trip as there was quite an interesting blend of old and new buildings, especially along the waterfront. In may ways it reminded me a bit of home and why it is so important that we develop this great asset of ours correctly. We then flew back to Italy for a trip down to Siena, a small town in Tuscany where we stayed at the top of a 13th century castle outside of town which was pretty neat.

The last place we visited in Europe was Rome, luckily the worst of the heat wave they were having had passed so temperatures were only in the low to mid 30°s instead of being up over 40° like it had been a few days before we got there.  We then flew back to Singapore for another night before heading back to Auckland.

I would also like to say thanks and congratulations to all of the other bloggers who helped out while I was gone. I know just how hard it can be hard to put lots of posts together on such a regular basis. Their efforts paid off and in August we set all kinds of new page view records including our highest ever day, week and month (with a little bit more yet to go tonight). Of course also thanks to all of our readers for coming and reading the site along with contributing through comments and guest posts. There are of course some topics that get much more attention than others *cough* integrated ticketing *cough* and August certainly had its fair share of them.