Talking transport in Te Upoko o te Ika: Monday 13th August

Collected insights and reflections about recent transport-related news  – your regular food for thought.

We love Lucy:  The need for healthy streets

Healthy Streets champion Lucy Saunders caused a special kind of congestion at the City Gallery last week when she completely packed out the Gallery’s Adam Auditorium for a seminar organised by the NZ Centre of Sustainable Cities on why we need healthy streets.

Saunders, who helped shape Transport for London’s Healthy Streets for London last year, framed the challenge that cities face in terms of transport as the challenge of how we manage motorised road transport – and its compatability with people.

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Before speaking to the 10 indicators she has developed for enhancing wellbeing and public health on city streets, Saunders put forward five impacts that road transport can have on our lives and communities: severance, noise, air quality, injuries and physical activity.

When she asked her Wellington audience for a show of hands on which impact concerned them most, the number one concern was the impact that our roads have on physical activity such as walking and cycling.

Saunders’ presentation took in practical examples of mitigating negative impacts from around the world – including images of parklets and super-sized pedestrian crossings, low speed limit zones and the use of bollards to ‘sub-divide’ neighbourhood thoroughfares with the priority moving from cars to people on foot and on bikes and children.

Her 10 indicators have been used as a tool for gathering localised feedback before and after street improvements are made, with clear signs that even minor improvements create positive change. As a public health specialist, Saunders said that it was possible to demonstrate the savings that healthier streets make, adding “it is just as important to communicate those benefits”.

“My own approach is to avoid being piecemeal or shifting problems from one place to another. The thing about talking about healthy streets is that it’s a great leveller – we’re all human,” said Saunders.

From her observations of Wellington she gave the city a top notch rating for the amount of street shade and street shelter in the CBD. Do you agree?

Back on the buses

“Students …  have spoken out about dangerous overcrowding on buses (described) as like a scene from a Japanese train station”.

Nope, not Wellington this time. This was the opening to a story in the NZ Herald during the last week about some of the bus-related issues that Auckland has also been in the thick of recently.

It’s a good reminder that we’re not alone when it comes to the trials, troubles and tribulations of arriving at bus services that work for everyone.

Wellington headlines have continued unabated in conveying what Jamie Adams of the Cook Strait News recently termed “the fallout over Metlink’s much-maligned bus network”.  Headlines like:

  • Snapper short-changes students, Salient #16
  • Bus chaos strikes hard in northern suburbs – Independent Herald, 8 August
  • Capital bus network rethink – DominionPost, 7 August
  • Mea culpa over bus botch-up – Dominion Post, 9 August

Some informal vox pop views gathered by the Talk Wellington crew has turned up one possible bright spot being that city workers from the South (Island Bay) are mostly getting to work on time.

One punter was positively effusive: “The new buses are great – I don’t even check a timetable. I can run to the bus stop after walking kids to school and there’s a bus right there. Just as many people, maybe more but I get a seat – and bonus, I get to feel like a kid when I sit up the top!”

The large meeting hosted by action group ReVolt in Newtown yesterday (Sunday) will hopefully be well reported on, and the group have also lodged a petition on the NZ Parliament website to fix the network.

Local MPs have been wading in, with National list MP Nicola Willis the latest to organise a public meeting – this one to be held in the Karori Community Centre on Thursday 30 August.

As reported by the Independent Herald before organising the meeting Willis first ran an online survey that drew more than 650 responses: 84% expressing dissatisfaction and 73% giving an indication they would be less likely to use a bus than they were before. (See also Uber drivers cash in)

Observing the global life of transport planners

The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s ‘mea culpa‘ was accompanied by the interesting news that it would be reinstating the off-peak Miramar-Karori service, which connects Massey and Victoria universities as well as Wellington Regional Hospital. A timeframe for other potential changes and review of timetables and capacity on core routes is being given urgent attention.

For a very good write-up of how this revision has been triggered see The Wellington App’s Bringing back the number 18

For another member of the Talk Wellington crew this brought back memories of some of the warning bells sounded in an original Karori-focused submission they made back in March 2012, at the time of early and apparently influential modeling done by international transportation consultancy MRCagney along with Jarrett Walker + Associates.

One of the assurances proffered back then by Jarrett Walker in response to concerns, was this: “The plan includes a contingency designed to handle overcrowding that may arise as a result of the new plan, but we are confident that this will be a small amount. The kind of modelling we can do with existing data will not capture every nuance of everyone’s experience. But our modeling will overestimate crowding as often as we underestimate crowding, and we have a contingency even if we don’t. The resources are right to address all crowding problems that may arise. Fears of peak overcrowding are not a valid basis for criticizing the plan, because the plan does not claim to be final in that regard”.

Fast forward to 2018 and the latest cities that Jarrett Walker + Associates have been working in are Canberra and Dublin – see busconnects.ie  (Whether you’re a transport geek or not, looking these up is bound to elicit some useful comparisons with the experience of Let’s Get Wellington Moving so far).

Coincidentially and by happenchance it was interesting to get some insights into the life of global transport planners by reading a thread on Twitter over the weekend by Jarrett Walker/ @humantransit in response to some public ire arising from changes being mooted for Dublin’s bus network.

The thread states Jarrett Walker’s point of view “that no matter how much consultation we do, we’re told we didn’t do enough… at some point. you have to say you’ve done what you can”. Here’s an excerpt worth pondering:

JarrettWalker

A shout out to Sydney and Fix NSW Transport

NSWTransport

Across the ditch in Sydney – where the Sydney City Council is at odds with the New South Wales (NSW) State Government over big decisions on the future of NSW Transport – there was a Lantern Walk held in the CBD in protest at the direction of those decisions on Saturday night.

This is a battleground with salient lessons on community engagement across a range of issues, as outlined at fixnswtransport.com