Auckland Rail Closures 2023 – A Stark Wake up call to NZ regarding our infrastructure projects

Admittedly, initially had to actually check whether or not it was in fact April 1st. This afternoon, I learn that whole sections of Auckland’s Rail network is to be closed for lengthy periods during the coming 2023 year. Please read the details about these Line Closures here on AT’s Website.

Greater Auckland have already expressed their own dismay and concerns about this on their “GA” Twitter account.

I feel this ought to be a stark wake up call to New Zealand and the need to look into the way we do things in this country. Needed is an urgent nationwide inquiry into our infrastructure works and why everything gets done so glacially slow in this country and continues to get slower. Is it the project management process? Too many differing (unconnected) sub contractors making scheduling and coordination difficult? Overzealous Health and Safety? Too much needless bureaucracy? Lack of Will? Lack of incentive? Same questions go for our Roadworks as well which seem to take forever.

So just what were KiwiRail doing during all those Rail Closures and shut downs in the preceeding years? Did they only just discover the work needs to be done now? Were AT only informed of this now? It’s as if the rail line closures during the prior years (including during the weekends) weren’t already a sizeable inconvenience, It’s going to be just that more difficult promoting Auckland’s faith in the Public Transport network and enacting an effective modal shift away from dependence on the Private Motor car.

Would we be better off being served by Bus ways rather than any sort of Passenger rail if this sort of rather disruptive and lengthy ongoing maintenance is required of rail? What assurances are KiwiRail and Auckland Transport able to provide to the public that there won’t be yet another round of hugely inconvenient, costly and lengthy disruption to the rail network in the years to come after all this work is supposedly complete? How do other countries manage to do it? Or is Auckland simply too small to pragmatically run a reliable and dependable Passenger Train network due to the lack of redundancy in the system (afforded to bigger rail networks in larger municipalities)?

Rightly or wrongly, I am forming an impression that the people in charge of these organizations aren’t serious enough about doing their job properly nor delivering for the public and hold very little, if any, sense of duty/responsibility or accountability to New Zealand. I will admit this is just my opinion as a lay person / ignorant armchair critic who undoubtably won’t have the full picture, but something almost undeniably and certainly seems amiss and some hard questions need be asked of those in charge.

Auckland Rail Closures 2023 – A Stark Wake up call to NZ regarding our infrastructure projects

Letter to Auckland Transport: Improving public advisory and guidance around bus lanes

Letter I sent off to Auckland Transport early this morning (I suffer from sleep maintenance insomnia). While I reiterate I’ve yet to personally receive a fine, I feel a strong moral objection with how Auckland Transport are going about this and have strong concerns how an agency that is supposed to be acting in the interest of the public are rolling out enforcement cameras to use against the very people they are supposed to be serving.

Good Morning,

Sorry to have to raise this issue again. I am continuing to hear and read about people getting fined on the bus lane section of Khyber Pass (East bound) between Kingdon and Broadway.

Given the obvious and ongoing confusion this is causing, It’s now at the stage where I request Auckland Transport to please provide me with at least a high level plan or overview as to how they propose to mitigate the ongoing confusion for the motoring public (by Close of Business Friday 5:00 pm NZDT, 7th October 2022, please)

I remind Auckland Transport again that since they insist that it’s not about revenue, AT in my mind have a clear obligation to the Auckland public and Auckland Residents / Ratepayers to minimize confusion and address the issue of signage and guidance surrounding bus and transit lanes. I will also further remind AT they are there to serve the public, not wage an ideological war (through setting up an ever increasing array of automated enforcement cameras to use) against the very people who AT are supposed to be serving and those who ultimately pay AT’s wages.

Given the individual financial impact each infringement incurs, Auckland Transport I firmly feel could be doing a lot more, Including but by no means limited to setting up a comprehensive and up-to-date bus and transit lane map online as a public service and running ads on the back of say buses advising motorists to please check for the latest SVL arrangements prior to heading out. (There may be an opportunity to promote public transport use such as “Avoid the stress and confusion. Let AT take you there”)

Please refer to prior case numbers CAS-521169-X3C4G3 and CAS-545044-D9D8D1 for previous correspondence on this matter.

If I could please receive an initial acknowledgement of the receipt of this request by Close of Business Friday 5:00 pm 16th September 2022, this would be appreciated, along with the an overview of what Auckland Transport are planning to do to aid motorists in these situations (be it advertising, public advisory campaign, more comprehensive guidance videos, better signage, or otherwise) by Friday 5:00 pm NZDT, 7th October 2022, please.

If I do not hear from Auckland Transport by 7th October 2022 pertaining to the above I will be proceeding to take this matter further as a civic concern.

Thank you.

Letter to Auckland Transport: Improving public advisory and guidance around bus lanes

Roast this post: High rise apartments in greenfield sites near train stations

I will declare that I’m only a mere (curious) member of joe public, with little in the way of any Urban planning experience, however, with so much controversy over bus lane enforcement, Retro-fitting light rail, and removal of on-street parking in Auckland. An idea that came to my mind is…

Would it or would it not be an easier idea to build high rise apartments at the likes of the empty / unbuilt greenfield sites of Albany and Drury where frequent and high capacity separated public transport links already exist (provided the ground at such sites are actually able to take high rise apartments)

Some of benefits (should this be able to be pulled off) I potentially see as a layman include…

  • Facilities such as shopping, medical, recreational, etc being within walking distance, allowing households to conduct most of the day to day household necessities within the local vicinity reducing the reliance on cars and allow households to reduce the number of cars they subsequently need to maintain.
  • If you need to go elsewhere in Auckland, you have a ready to go Train station or Bus-way station nearby where fast and frequent services exist.
  • As a starting point to ultimately curbing our current rate of sprawl across productive food producing farmland.

It’s just I see so much opposition to the current aims of Auckland Transport and Greater Auckland (Advocacy organization) and their plans extolled frankly on paper just seems so disruptive and unsettling to people’s existing living arrangements and livelihoods. To boot, the risks of retrofitting new initiatives to existing established neighbourhoods such as light rail just seem fraught with huge cost over-runs as we’ve seen with the Auckland City Rail Link (or Loop) depending on what they call it these days.

I’ve sent the Greater Auckland blog people the above idea via their contact form with them hopefully coming back to me for my own edification as a member of the public with their feedback along with their rebuttals of why they feel the general idea is not better than their current aspirations. Currently awaiting their response.

With this idea penned, I totally understand there will undoubtably be cons to my idea above and I invite people who may be more versed in urban planning than I, to actually come and “roast this post” as it were and present some arguments against the idea (road blocks and problems) which I’ve undoubtably missed.

Roast this post: High rise apartments in greenfield sites near train stations

Greater Auckland blog (Formerly “transport blog”)

This is purely a personal opinion as a layman and ordinary rate paying member of the public

I will be direct, the General Feeling I get from reading the Greater Auckland (“GA”) blog is while I understand they want to do “good”, I’m not certain they are managing to quite “read the room” and question whether they are connecting with or otherwise effectively communicating their vision to the General Auckland public

I did know the main editor of Greater Auckland blog, Matt Lowrie personally, but only for a brief moment during the ‘The Campaign for Better Transport’ days. Great guy, but admittedly, may not agree with a lot of his and his cohorts’ more recent view points surrounding urban design and transport matters outside of our common desire to see improved access to alternative travel choices.

There are two distinct issues personally which have probably contributed towards my sentiment…

  • I do recall feelings of being left out when they began focussing almost entirely on Trains and the City Rail Link at the expense / neglect towards tackling the lower hanging fruit aspects of improving access to both public and alternative transport options for major employment areas that were and remain to this day, very car dependent, like East Tamaki Industrial and Highbrook (I remember they were at least on the initial onset, attacking the AMETI project saying it was very car and roads focussed).
  • That I feel great moral anger at some of their readers/supporters Militant support of Auckland Transport’s overbearing video enforcement of frankly poorly indicated bus lanes

While I understand they appear to acting with good intent, I question whether they are going about things the right way and appear to be pushing more ideological aspects (what “They” themselves want to see) rather than the practical aspects (that would bring the most utility to the general public)

Greater Auckland blog (Formerly “transport blog”)

Bus Lane Locations in Auckland (Link to map)

Was contemplating compiling a map myself of Auckland’s Bus Lane network, but it looks like Auckland Transport themselves have already created a Bus Lane and Special Vehicle lane map, albeit, one that is a bit out of date. (Will press Auckland Transport to update it,  particularly Queen Street and Mount Willington Highway).

Click here or the image below to access AT’s Bus lane / SVL Map

Given the phelora of Bus Lanes and Special Vehicle Lanes popping up in Auckland recently catching many otherwise law abiding people unaware, I feel it has come to the point where motorists in all practical intents and purposes now have to consult this prior to heading out in order to avoid running foul of the rules and ending up with a $150 NZD fine.

While I’ve never received an infringement from AT for anything I’ve done and while I do support the idea of special vehicle priority lanes where implemented appropriately to aid High Occupancy Vehicles to move more freely, I am steadfast in my view Auckland Transport could be doing considerably more than they have to aid the public to comply. These include…

  • Running advisory campaigns to advise the motoring public to please check for the latest information regarding bus lanes on the map (linked to at the top of this post)
  • Ensure that as a public service any and all Bus Lanes, Transit Lanes and Special Vehicle lanes are swiftly updated and marked on the map as soon as they are laid down.
  • Modify placement of bus lanes to aid people to easily merge into the general traffic lane. Right now, the way many bus lanes are drawn are pretty abrupt allowing drivers little chance to recognise and get out of the way of a bus lane.
  • While AT already have videos online on how to use or drive on bus lanes, there is very little practical information for drivers to navigate around bus lanes. e.g what happens if you find yourself approaching a lane that you don’t know how to safely get out of?

As a personal opinion, while the “Green team” (being environmental advocates) seem to be the one’s advocating heavy handed (Orweillien-like Camera) enforcement in the name of a climate emergency, they run the real of risk of becoming tyrants themselves. As an aside, It’s almost like they are demanding that people immediately put both their livelihoods and current living arrangements on hold and comply with their demands on issues such as climate change and the environment (as in, stop driving our Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles right away).

The issue I have with the current level of bus lane camera enforcement is that it pits Auckland Transport (as a CCO) against the very public they are supposed to be serving fostering a rather divisive and counter productive “Us” vs “Them” sentiment along with contributing to the general public’s erosion of respect towards Authority.

I also fear that this may be a slippery slope and unless strongly challenged, will encourge other government departments to copy Auckland Transport and start rolling out a regular fines regime to use against the public they are supposed to be serving.

Furthermore, it raises an issue with so many otherwise Law abiding people getting pinged over an ever increasing array of ‘Strict Liability’ offences now suggests people who otherwise have the best intentions are now no longer able to go about their lives without worrying about the the state coming down on them for an innocent mistake.

I will admit, I feel very strongly about how Auckland Transport are currently handling this and feel their current stance is highly corrosive to their own public image and is actually causing the general public to turn against Auckland Transport and their initiatives. I am currently locked in ongoing discussions with Auckland Transport about their conduct, as a civic concern, urging them to reconisder their approach and offering suggestions as to what they could do instead to improve public guidance, and education in order to aid compliance around bus lanes.

Auckland Transport and the “Green team” (including the likes of the ‘Greater Auckland / Transport Blog‘ people) need to be “reading the room”, they need to realize they need the support and understanding of the public in order to progress with their vision of achieving a transportation modal shift in Auckland.

While I can totally understand sitting on a bus that has been impeded by cars is a frustrating and irritating experience, comments online that I’ve seen from advocates directed against general motoring members of the public that happen to unintentionally drive into a bus lane I feel is completely unhelpful, divisive and unproductive. Statements such as “Selfish Idiot” and “It’s SOOOOO simple, just stay out of the bus lane” reeks of a total lack of both consideration for others and understanding of the situation. Work with the public, not against the public.

 

Bus Lane Locations in Auckland (Link to map)

Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.

In light of Auckland Transport’s announcement regarding removing of kerbside parking, it’s probably worth highlighting Auckland Transport’s (AT’s) current ethos has effectively been to discourage car use in favour of alternative transport modes in order to achieve their various visions and goals, including…

  • To make better use of existing road space in favour of higher occupancy vehicles, which at least on the surface sound like a laudable goal. However question the current ambition to retrofit these changes at high cost and high disruption to existing neighbourhoods as opposed to working with Auckland Council to implement and promote high density development along with high capacity transit corridors to new greenfield sites such as Mill Road, Flat Bush, Papakura, Karaka, Ramarama.
  • ‘Vision Zero’ – being that… “no deaths are acceptable”, “People make mistakes (behind the wheel)”, “Public Transport is the safest option”. We’re now seeing this in the form of enforcement and the forceful dropping of speed limits to what many may feel are ridiculously low speed limits. Auckland Transport’s ‘‘marketing’ material can be found here however question whether any possible outcome would ever be as rosy as they paint it.
  • Climate change – With their parent organisation, Auckland Council, having followed other government departments to declare a “climate emergency” – encouraging a gradual move to carbon-free transport modes by way of promoting Public Transport, Cycling and Walking.

While I am certainly and staunchly in favour of developing and rolling out accessible alternative transport options in Auckland, particularly in areas currently beset with high levels of car dependency, it appears from all intents and purposes in order to achieve the aims as listed in the bullet points above, Auckland Transport have declared all out war against the private motor car and the motoring public. While I can see where AT are trying to head, they’re choosing to run roughshod over people’s current living arrangement and applying the ‘stick’ in the hope of encouraging modal shift by way of making private motor vehicle use such a hassle so much so that Auckland commuters will hopefully shift to other modes such as walking, cycling and public transport. Continue reading “Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.”

Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.