Posted by: Gregory | March 26, 2015

Bike bits

A few cycle issues crossed my radar over the course of the day, so I’ll bundle them up into a quick post.

There’s lots of time for feedback on the Wellington City Council LTP (as well as others), and the cycling network is currently the most talked about idea on the LTP dashboard. It’s great to see so many comments coming through and we hope that it translates into results.

There were three ciclovia events in February and March around the Miramar Peninsula, up from a single outing in 2014. The long-term goal is to close the road to cars between Shelly Bay and Scorching Bay every Sunday and leave it free for people on foot, skates, scooters, bikes, etc.

Councillor Young has been tweeting a bunch about a lack of cycle parking areas around the central city, which is definitely true. Personally, I’d rather see work on protected cycle lanes and continue with improvisational parking, but we’ll certainly need both eventually.

As for the prototype in the tweet, I’m unconvinced. Trying to put a second bike on the opposite side would leave it hanging out into the road. In the Bond St example, it’s not a problem, but could cause trouble as a general solution. If we’re looking at single parks, it works well enough, but we should be looking at a range of parking densities. We should be able to fit around 10 bikes in the space of a single car park, so why not trade a few of our car parks for a few multi-bike parks?

Bicycle "Corral", Yarraville, Victoria

I could easily see a bike park like this as part of a protected cycleway network.

Posted by: Gregory | March 25, 2015

Long Term Plan consultations

According to the Local Government Act 2002, every local authority is required to have a long term plan in place, covering a minimum of 10 years. The LTP is refreshed every three years, providing a cycle of planning and feedback that allows the authority to schedule and fund any work needing doing in the current year’s annual plan. There is currently a flurry of LTP consultations going on around the region, many of which have transport-related issues contained within.

Some of the councils have yet to start their consultation phase, but keep your eyes open.

Public transport planning falls under the jurisdiction of Greater Wellington Regional Council, but without enabling work by the other local authorities, not much can happen. It’s worth paying attention to the submissions to the GWRC Long Term Plan by the city councils to see where agreement, support and conflict may lie. Within the next decade, we should be seeing a roll-out of a new mass transit model in Wellington, a new model for ticketing, a revamped operating model for the rail network and new contract requirements for the operators over the whole network. It’s going to be a big decade.

Central government has started to seriously invest in urban cycling and the local authorities have to be in the right place to receive that funding. Wellington has started to form a master plan, but a few of us down here are worried that political games are going to screw it up for everyone. At least the Tawa pathway was done before egos got in the way.

At a glance, there’s a lot going on over this planning period. Even if you agree completely with the draft plan completely, it’s a good idea to make a submission in support. The consultation process is not just for people looking to complain about an issue. Several proposals have been massively revamped after considering the consultation results. Use your voice.

It’s also worth noting what happens with submissions. Officers collect the responses, from which they generate summaries and statistics. While councillors can read your entire submission, the bulk of the content gets reduced to the summary unless councillors have a good reason to read your full submission. Often, the best way to get direct attention to an issue is to attend in-person and speak directly to councillors. If you look at the paperwork that councillors are given, it’s easy to see how individual written submissions can be overlooked.

Over the coming weeks, many of our affiliated groups will draft submissions to the above consultations. As they arrive, I’ll try to either post or link to them here.

Posted by: Gregory | March 20, 2015

Know Your Network: Snapper

I recently had a couple of interesting questions pop up that deserved answers regarding how Snapper processes problems. We haven’t talked much about Snapper directly, but it’s the largest volume of fare payments in the Wellington Region and it’s set roots deep enough that at least one councillor is playing political cards around the future.

Snapper has been around since 2006 and handling fares in Wellington since 2008, according to the website. They’re not the only smartcard in the network, but the number of routes covered by Snapper easily dwarfs the card system used by the Mana/Newlands buses. Add to that taxi fares, ferry fares and the ability to buy train tickets or pay for parking. Snapper covers a significant proportion of the transport payments around here. So what happens if something goes wrong?

I was speaking to a lady who catches the same bus as I do. It’s a pretty social bus route and we’ve gotten to know each other over years. She’d asked if I’d heard that bus pass prices had gone up, which sent me checking Metlink for information on that. As it turned out, prices hadn’t increased – she’d been sold the wrong bus pass and told that the price must have gone up. It’s easy to see how these sorts of accidents happen. There are two passes that cover buses through the Hutt Valley: GetAbout and Hutt Commuter. The question that I took to Snapper was whether retail agents are able to process the refund. I’d expect that any retailer selling a product to a customer must be able to offer a refund. According to Snapper, retailers aren’t able to remove the bus pass that was incorrectly loaded. Customers would have to find the time to contact a Snapper office to get the problem sorted out.

Within the same week, we had another situation pop up. Our bus driver was subjected to a spot inspection and wasn’t carrying his license. Passengers were told that the service was cancelled and to catch the next bus. That seems easy and straightforward, unless you’ve tagged onto the bus. There’s a quirk of Snapper’s system that doesn’t allow a passenger to tag on and tag off again if the bus hasn’t moved. As each person tagged off, as instructed, they heard a message about fare already being paid. Then boarding the next bus, each person was charged a penalty fare for not tagging off the previous journey and then charged the first fare for the next journey. In the case of an Eastbourne-bound bus, that’s a significant amount of money. The same problem can easily occur if a passenger tags on and realises that they’ve boarded the wrong bus before it departs. When asked, Snapper told me that the driver should collect the ID numbers on the Snapper cards, so that the refund can be applied quickly and automatically. I have never heard of a driver doing this and I really doubt that drivers would go out of their way to take details at the expense of keeping to their schedule, assuming the service hasn’t actually been cancelled. There’s definitely some work to be done here to be more customer-focused.

There are a few issues with Snapper that come up from time to time. I’m aware of a couple other issues that I’ll try to write up when I have more complete information. If you’ve run into anything really curious, especially if you’ve noticed an interesting pattern, leave a comment below. Snapper isn’t a perfect system, but it’s gotten better over the years and I’m pretty convinced that they’re interested in solving problems as they’re found. That’s been my experience.

Posted by: Gregory | March 19, 2015

Negligence and Recklessness


Untitled by Nicolas Alejandro (CC BY 2.0)

Two incidents this morning are behind this short post. Both were near misses, so probably won’t show up in any sort of statistics nor be acted upon further. Both could have ended in pedestrian injury at the hand of a motorist.

The first incident was borne out of negligence. It was early morning, well before sunrise, and I was walking my dog. We had walked down Arthur St and waited at Taranaki Street for the pedestrian signal to cross. While we were crossing, the car that came out of the tunnel and took the left turn didn’t see us. He claimed, during the words that ensued, that he had the light. While the light in front of him was green, the pedestrian signal was still flashing red – I had every right to expect a safe crossing. He eventually apologised and went on his way, but not before I’d directed a torrent of anger at him. In retrospect, I was likely a bit harsh, but I’m a firm believer in pedestrian rights and safety. He’d violated my rights and could have easily caused harm.

Update 23/03/2015: I had another walk through this crossing and there is a red arrow for turning traffic that is on during the pedestrian phase of the signals. It goes off when the pedestrian goes from green to flashing red.

The second incident deserves all the vitriol that could be summoned. I watched this unfold from the seat of my bus, heading north on Willis Street to turn onto Lambton Quay, approaching 8am. The lights had already turned red and the pedestrian signal to cross Willis had come on, with people crossing from both sides. The little red car had no intention of slowing, much less stopping, for the red light. At least one man had to jump back to not get hit by the car. When our bus was moving again at the next green light, the little red car was still waiting at the next intersection. All that risk for absolutely no benefit.

There’s not really an easy solution to these sorts of problems. We’re starting to roll out red-light cameras, but in very limited numbers, so it won’t solve the general problem. Better road policing in the CBD would help, but what we really need is a shift in mentality and for people to be responsible for their actions. We all have places to go and we should be able to do it safely.

Posted by: Gregory | March 9, 2015

Walk2Work 2015

Walk2Work Poster

This Wednesday, March 11, brings us the 2015 incarnation of Walk2Work, brought to you by Living Streets Aotearoa and all sorts of local government bodies. Official events can be found around the region, but all you really need is a decent pair of shoes to play along.

Keep an eye out for the running of Park(ing) Day by the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Normally in September, this year the event is being held as part of Wellington Parks Week.

There are plenty of reasons to get out and enjoy the streets at a human pace, from connecting with your community to health and well-being.

Posted by: Gregory | December 4, 2014

Gateway to Seaview

My trips to and from work each day take me passed the Hutt Park roundabout. It’s reasonably big, but very easy to overlook. But when you pay attention, you’ll find that there appears to be a footpath around it, not that there’s any reasonable way to get over to the island. It’s landscaped, but only barely.

Once you’re up there, it feels much smaller than it is. There are also a few little details, like the number of service accesses dotted around.

Alphabet portals

We have a number of spaces like this that need to exist, but really can’t be much more than they are. Could you imagine trying to put a pedestrian crossing of any sort across this layout?Hutt Park Roundabout Map There’s only a section a few meters long that is single lane, which is hard enough to get across with the amount of heavy traffic heading around to Port Road.

So we’re left with little dead spaces, albeit with a bit of landscaping to keep it from looking overly bleak. It will remain a little annoying urge to claim the space for public use, but without realistic opportunity. It’s anti-public space.

With that in mind, turn your mind to the dead space between Kent and Cambridge Terraces. There’s something that could be fixed with some pedestrian-friendly changes and a well-placed kiosk or two. It just needs to be considered a bit of a blank slate.

Southern part of Kent and Cambridge Terraces, Wellington, [ca 1931]

One of my personal projects in dealing with Metlink and Greater Wellington Regional Council is the Real-Time Information system. Over the years, I’ve come to the opinion that the system is either poorly specified or poorly implemented, but it’s hard to imagine that a replacement could happen before 2020, or even a fix before 2017. The system doesn’t fit passenger’s needs. I’m pleased to see Ian and Hack Miramar pushing for position information to be released for free. It’s shameful that NZ Bus would want to hold the position data as a source of revenue instead of letting it be used to promote better service and increased patronage.

Posted by: Gregory | November 18, 2014

2WalkAndCycle presentations


For those of us who didn’t attend the 2WalkAndCycle conference at the end of October, PDF copies of the presentations are available. There’s a wealth of information in there from a wide range of sources and I’ve only started skimming the surface. I’ll hopefully be able to track down some of the more interesting slides that were tweeted under the #2walkandcycle hastag.

Posted by: Gregory | November 10, 2014

Post-mortem: Skyshow bus services

Did anyone else have problems catching a bus into Wellington for the fireworks on Saturday night?

Metlink had been announcing the service notice for several days before the event, warning of road closures and promising increased capacity. Right up until the day of the event, Metlink was pushing out their message. Interestingly, the relevant information within the tweet is no longer addressable:

Luckily, Google has a cached copy.

Additional Bus Services

Mana Services
Normal timetabled services will run as scheduled. Larger buses will be put on routes with expected increased demand pre and post event. Extra buses will be on standby should demand increase significantly.

Go Wellington and Valley Flyer Services
Normal timetabled services will operate with additional buses available to be added to support existing routes and scheduled services on demand pre and post event.

NO additional services are being scheduled over and above the existing timetabled services; limited additional capacity on bus services will be available on demand to support scheduled services and managed by NZ Bus pre and post event.

So what happened when we got to the bus stop?

A route 1 bus was due about 5 minutes after we arrived. A few people had been waiting before we arrived and a couple more came along after us. The bus came and went without stopping because it was obviously full. A few of the people waiting joined the flow of pedestrians walking down Adelaide Road.

The next bus was a route 3, due about 10 minutes later, and was also full. By this point, nearly a dozen people had given up on the bus and walked into town.

The next bus was due in another 6 minutes. There was no way to know whether any bus coming along might have room. We ended up walking back to the house and driving to our destination on the far side of town.

On our way back to get the car, we noticed a route 1 bus marked for Courtenay Place, which must have been NZ Bus responding to demand. Fitting for this story, there was no indication of this additional on RTI, so not only was the bus not going where we needed it to go, we also didn’t know about it at a time which could have let us make a decision about catching it.

At the very top of Metlink’s service announcement for the skyshow:

Please consider using public transport to travel to and from the city centre as parking will be limited and there are road closures in place.

Posted by: Gregory | May 29, 2014

Easy Bits: Adelaide Road Bus Stop

One of the reasons behind the Easy Bits series is that small tasks are often more easily handled than large tasks. The end result should be a series of resolved problems. In this case, WCC has already logged the issue and I may see results soon.

The back-story is that with Metlink having updated the timetables for the Island Bay services, the stop nearest my house gets more frequent buses during peak hours. It’s not my favourite bus stop – there’s neither shelter for waiting passengers nor space for the bus to pull in – but it’s nearby. When I got there, I was prompted to send this tweet:

and within minutes, someone at council was on it:

To be fair, there’s a bit of cost associated with this change. There would be 1 or 2 car parks removed to make space for the bounding box for the bus stop. However, I’m tempted to think that the lack of bounding box was an oversight, so the change will be more along the lines of righting a historical wrong.

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