Bikeable Auckland

I’m on the Bike-Friendly Candidates page on the BikeableAuckland.nz site:

“I’ve been doored off by a courier and gone sprawling in traffic on Ponsonby Rd, gone tumbling head over heels over a drunk driver, and barely grabbed onto the roof rack to stay out from underneath a car that turned through me on K Rd. Oddly enough, now the thought of my son ever riding on Auckland roads gives me the absolute shivers, but with improved cycling infrastructure – namely more protected cycle lanes, plus the protection we’ll get once we hit a critical mass of riders and even antagonistic drivers have to start taking us seriously – my shivers will go away and my boy, in a few years when he learns to ride, will be allowed to do the apparently reckless things that we all took for granted when we were kids – like bike to the shops to get a bag of jet planes or into town to see a movie. Vote Avery, no more shivers.”

If you’re interested in a more bikeable city out the statements of all the listed candidate’s for your ward, in my experience just as cars are associated with bad cities, bicycle-friendliness is a sign of a good city, if you agree make sure you give your ticks to bike-friendly candidates.

Rent, Safety, Parking, & Cycling.

In the interests of transparency and candour I’m going to post a few of my replies to some of the more interesting queries I’ve had.

I was asked several questions by a journalist from the Herald, here are my responses.


High rent. For many students living in the Waitemata area is desirable due to the inner city suburbs proximity to Auckland’s universities, which also allows them to save money on transport by allowing them to walk into the city. However, rent in these suburbs is high and with student debt at an all time high how would help student afford to live in these suburbs?

A lot of non-renters are out of touch with how high weekly rents have gotten, what we used to pay for a whole house when I was a student in the 1990s now barely gets you a room. There are no quick fixes in housing, because it takes a lot of time to get new dwellings designed, consented, and built, so short of something drastic happening the rents aren’t going to drop any time soon.

The new unitary plan overlays mean a lot of Ponsonby and Grey Lynn will stay as they are for the foreseeable future but it does enable the construction of about 20,000 more apartments and a couple of thousand more townhouses in other parts of Waitemata. That should help take the pressure off, and as many of them will be smaller dwellings than the villas & bungalows they should cost a fair bit less to live in. They will be quite different from living in a villa, but they’ll be a lot warmer and more secure, and probably closer to uni & work, too.

It’s not a local board thing, but one thing that can be done more quickly is to introduce new rules that are a bit fairer to renters and provide more certainty in housing by having longer tenancy durations and require more justification and longer notice periods if a landlord decides to end a rental agreement. People who want to should be able to treat their rental as a home, not as temporary housing.

Safety. Although safety in Waitemata is good young people feel it could be improved with several minor theft and peeping tom incidences happening through out the year in suburbs such as Grey Lynn and Freemans Bay. How would you address this?

I feel a lot safer now than I did in the 1980s when we had a terrible burglary problem around Ponsonby, but if people feel unsafe the first thing we have to do is believe them. I think we can help by fostering a sense of a community, partly perhaps through formal Neighborhood Watch schemes. If people know that their neighbours care about them, and are keeping an eye out, I think they’ll feel safer.

We also need the police to take it seriously when we report peeping toms or burglaries, it feels like lately burglaries aren’t investigated at all and if we tolerate these kinds of crimes it emboldens criminals and things will get worse.

Residential parking. Many houses in the Grey Lynn area do not have residential parking on the street. This means people from outer suburbs park their cars on these streets throughout the week when commuting to work. This means people who actually live in these areas cannot park outside their own homes. How would you address this?

This problem is only going to get worse as the price of parking in town continues to skyrocket. But the solution isn’t cheaper parking in town, the solution is for people to stop driving to work. To make that realistic we need to provide high quality, quick, and convenient public transport.

I dislike resident parking permits because they just move the problem to the next street or the next suburb, but as the problem gets more acute they might be the only option – the scheme needs to be smarter and cheaper for residents than it currently is though.

Cycling. We have found an increasing number of young people cycle into work and university but many do not feel safe doing so and some have had collisions with cars on busy road such as Karangahape Road and Ponsonby Road. What would you do to improve safety for cyclists? 

I’ve been knocked off bikes on K Rd and Ponsonby Rd and even on a Ponsonby side street (by a drunk driver), so I’m very familiar with how much risk we’re forced to take on by riding bikes and it’s not right that taking a bicycle to the shops or to the movies can now feel like such a dangerous activity. It’s not dangerous because of the bikes, it’s dangerous because of the cars.

I support several measures to improve this: Firstly, more protected cycle lanes to keep cars away from bikes. Improved intersection design, which will make things safer both for people on bikes and for people walking. And last but not least, by expanding the lower speed limits that are currently in place on Queen St and Ponsonby Rd throughout more of Waitematā.

I won’t have control over all of this as a Local Board member, but to me it seems important that we have voices at all levels of local and central government all advocating for better transport, improved housing, and a safer city.


 

I don’t exactly give tight sound bites, do I?

Wait a minute! Local Boards don’t do that!

I talk about a wide range of subjects and share a lot of different ideas about things that are important to me. Ideas that I believe are important to the future of our city. I’m well aware that I won’t have direct control over most of this as a Local Board member, but to me it seems important that we have voices at all levels of local and central government all thinking in the long term and advocating for options that will improve our city’s future. Options that will make our lives here in our city better.

It perhaps also gives you some idea of what the guiding thoughts that I have are so you can have some reasonable expectation of how I’ll vote, and what I’ll support, if you do choose me as one of your Local Board members.

Cycling in London

Check out this video, London have been investing in improved cycling infrastructure for several years and the numbers of people on bicycles shown here demonstrates that it’s working.

https://twitter.com/MattMoran33/status/775804241445355520

Glyphosate weedkiller

I was asked by Spray Free Streets for my position on glyphosate containing herbicides, I was aware of the controversy but it’s not something I have a strong policy on – as you know I’m most interested in transport and housing.

This is the response I sent them:


We need to take this potential hazard seriously. It’s frustrating that the NZ Environmental Protection Authority disagrees with the WHO on the hazards of glyphosate, and that the WHO seems to disagree with itself. Because right now there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty, and we all just want to know if it’s dangerous or not.

While investigations continue we need to be extremely judicious about our use of any potentially nasty herbicides, if we even continue to use them at all. The various alternative weed control methods that council already uses – like steam, hot water, mechanical weeding, and plant-derived chemical herbicides – simply aren’t always as effective as the nasty chemicals are, depending on the target species, but I don’t want council workers and contractors, our fellow Aucklanders, our pets, and most especially our children placed at any unnecessary risk just because it’s convenient.

If we can find a safe effective replacement we need to use it.


It’s a concern to me that there are such big questions around glyphosate because it’s very widely used, and as I said in my reply above it’s frustrating that there’s nothing remotely like consensus on this.

I think council’s approach is probably pretty reasonable right now, and they say that when they need to use these sprays in playgrounds (for example) they try to time that carefully to minimise any potential hazard, and they use the (frankly much less effective) alternatives wherever they can.

But it would be better to use herbicides that don’t have such serious safety questions swirling around them. I’m just not sure if such a thing is actually available for us to use.

We don’t use herbicides for fun, we use them because we have a job to do, and that job needs to be done effectively but we owe it to everyone to do that job as safely as we can.


» Read the Science Media Centre’s glyphosate weedkiller briefing document for more info, straight from the horse’s mouths.

Light rail, Auckland’s future

A quick note: My thinking on light rail is heavily informed by Auckland Transport‘s published investigations and reports, and also by following Transport Blog‘s many discussions of the subject over years. I’m also a believer in some of the promises of the Congestion Free Network, but their ideas lean more on buses and less on light rail than I’d prefer.

The image above is one of Auckland Transport’s proposed future transport network maps for 2045, the four spurs down through the central isthmus (to Owairaka, Mount Roskill, Three Kings, and Onehunga) and one line across the harbour to Akoranga are light rail lines.

Here’s the Congestion Free Network proposal for 2030:
Auckland Congestion Free Network Proposal

You can see they also plan for a new Light rail line, though this is on a different time scale from Auckland transports proposal above, so they only have a single light rail line, this one going from Queen St, down Dominion Rd through Balmoral and terminating at Mount Roskill, where it would join up with the Southern Line rail line.

These are both fine ideas, and very important long term plans, but my addition is that we also put in a tram line essentially replacing the current Inner Link route.

Link Bus Route Map

This would provide us with a light rail link fed from Britomart at the bottom of town, through Three Lamps, along Ponsonby Rd, and along K Rd, where we could allow transfers to the rail network via the new City Rail Link station, then continue past the hospital, through Newmarket, past the museum and down through Parnell back to Britomart. The only major stops it doesn’t go directly past Auckland University or AUT, so perhaps some slight deviation could be made.

Now yes we do of course already have a bus running this route, but these roads will become ever more congested over coming decades and trams/light rail have higher throughput than buses, they’re simply more efficient, so I feel like this would be a really fantastic journey that would be taken by thousands every day, what do you think?

 

 


A few more notes: There is a large and important distinction to be made between trams and light rail, trams are at street level and share space with other road users, light rail can look quite similar but has its own space – either a  dedicated right of way, or preferably physical/grade separation from other traffic.

This means light rail can move much faster than surrounding traffic and isn’t bound by congestion in other transport modes. Separate light rail has three times the maximum capacity of a dedicated Busway, at 18,000 passengers per hour – which is to say that you’d have to put in three northern express busways to match the throughput of a light rail pair, even though light rail could be installed in the same space taken up by the busway.

It’s really efficient. This means you can get more people where they want to go, on time, and in comfort. And by design it can be very safe for other road users (naturally great care needs to be taken in how you design any intersections where other traffic crosses over the lines).

If you’ve only ridden the Wynyard Quarter or Motat trams then please know light rail is nothing like those. They’re historical artifacts and would be a cramped, pokey, and slow way to get around. I can’t even fit my knees in the seats and I’m only 6 foot tall. No one advocating for light rail is advocating for that kind of tram to be used for anything other than a curiosity for tourists.

I’ve used modern light rail in Japan, Belgium, and Australia. It is fantastic, it’s very fast and very comfortable. In some respects it isn’t all that different from from taking a modern train, except that it costs a lot less to install the infrastructure.

Trams, Auckland’s past

There are no two ways about it, Auckland was a public transport city.

People have always driven of course, but the way many people got around was on the electrified tram network that our forebears built and enjoyed from 1884 (beginning with horse drawn trams, and with electric trams introduced in 1902) right up until 1956.

Now you have to be pretty old to really remember the tram network, and I’m about 20 or 30 years too young to have seen it in operation, though I do remember some bits of line were still visible when I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s.

But many of us know that there used to be a lot of trams around, perhaps without being able to fully visiualise just how many, then a year or so ago designer Cornelius Blank decided to make a modern metro-style transit map of the network. I think it really drives things home using a design language that many of us find easier to relate to than the more old-fashioned network maps that were previously available.

It breaks my heart to look at that network and imagine how different Auckland would be today.

The lines were everywhere. You could take a tram to Parnell, or Meadowbank, or Ponsonby, or even much further afield to Avondale, Mt Albert, or Onehunga, and there are stories that the trams were so popular and convenient that you’d often be able to see the next tram coming when you were getting on the one already at your stop.

But then in the 1940s and 1950s in a move of vandalism on an epic scale the lines were all closed, then the rails were gradually ripped up or paved over.

Now, to be totally clear about this some of the tram lines were economic failures – there weren’t enough people for them to operate. The Devonport line in particular lived and died over just a couple of years – but it was a horse drawn line in 1880s Devonport, 70 years before the harbour bridge opened up the shore. But other lines, popular, successful lines, were also shuttered and destroyed, with the now nameless bureaucrats claiming that we’d have a more modern transport network if we adopted diesel buses rather than continuing with the clean electric trams.

We now know with the certainty of hindsight what I’m sure many knew back then: this was a preposterous notion and a failure on an historic level.

But it’s a failure that we can start to correct if we wish it. It will take time, but we can do it.

I wish it.

 

Metro-style Auckland Historical Tram network map created by Cornelius Blank, used with permission.

Details, details.

Today this website has been wiped clean and replaced with a version of my official candidate position statement, but over the next few weeks I want to talk with you about:

  • Transport
  • Housing
  • Children
  • The Homeless
  • Public art
  • The port
  • Cycling
  • And many other subjects.

I’m running for a place on the Waitematā local board and not everything I’m going to talk about is within the purview of local boards, but so what? We’re talking about running a city, it’s a long game by definition.

If you really want to you can find all the silly old blogs and recipes and stories and jokes at http://the-monkey.net 

Discourse Votes 2014

There was another general election, so as night follows day there was another Discourse election night results show. We have to make it, because it’s the best.

This is only approximately true:

This is completely true:

And this is a total lie: