Travel demand management techniques often focus on road tolls or parking charges. Using insurance to encourage better driving behaviour isn’t a common topic. It’s an interesting idea, although predicated on mandatory insurance, which New Zealand lacks.

SoLoMo Consulting

Once a new road opens, people switch back to cars and congestion increases back to a steady-state point of gridlock. For lasting effectiveness, policy needs to include congestion charges and better rail services.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: theconversation.com

It is very important that discussions like this are taking place. I don’t believe there are simple answers. We have a lot of very clever people in the industry and if the answers were simple, we would simply apply them.

An interesting thing to me is that we still point fingers at institutions and not at ourselves. If road tolls work for example, it is because they force commuters and other road users to change their behavior by making the journey more painful. At that point they will look for a less painful solution such as changing their travel times or routes. Wouldn’t it be great if business took advantage of new…

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Posted by: Gregory | June 11, 2015

Where exactly is my bus?

Greater Wellington rolled out RTI on the bus network back in 2011 and it’s been hobbling along for years. We still see lots of services showing scheduled times on displays and event tracking is horrible at best. There is still work being done, though. I recently took a look at Metlink’s Android widget and they’ve just released an iPhone app.

I’ve been holding a copy of the March 2015 quarterly report from Greater Wellington for a while and there is a bit of info in there on the RTI system as well.

GWTransport2015Q3_RTI1

When I spoke to GW officers about RTI issues last year, they indicated that a good portion of the tracking issues related to operator errors, as in drivers. They were hoping that training would solve most of those problems. Since then, I highlighted another issue that stemmed from buses being shuffled between routes which caused prediction errors. There’s bound to be more faults in the system. There always will be.

Open access to the RTI data is something that developers have been wanting for years. It can’t come soon enough, but the May due date indicated above has quietly slid on by. This teaser tweet from March is getting a little stale.

[tweet https://twitter.com/metlinkwgtn/status/581221848773369857]

With the release of the iPhone app, interest for the RTI API has popped up again and Metlink is claiming the end of June.

[tweet https://twitter.com/metlinkwgtn/status/608043000401416193]

If it’s any later than that, it won’t be ready for use for GovHack 2015.

[tweet https://twitter.com/MiramarMike/status/582989356069056512]

Given the effort that people want to put into improving the system, it would be a shame to not be ready for them. Even if it slides by this soft deadline, we’d rather have it eventually than never have it at all.

My interest in access to the RTI data is mostly for statistical information. How often are the buses early or late? How often are they even tracked? The quarterly report had a graph on this, but there’s no way to rearrange the data to find specific problems.

GWTransport2015Q3_RTI2

Fingers are crossed for the end-of-June due date. I hope that the internal resource at GW doesn’t get reallocated or something. Accurate information is nearly as important as reliable services.

Posted by: Gregory | June 3, 2015

Urban empathy

This is just a story. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence, but it can still illustrate a point. Spoiler: the point of this story is how people pay attention to the needs of others.

While out walking yesterday, with my son in the buggy, we encountered two bits of footpath disruptions. The first was some work involving a crane operation at Regional Wines and Spirits. As we approached, we were met by a guy in a high-viz vest. He was making sure that pedestrians could safely navigate the area and get to where they were going with minimal fuss.

Heading south on Adelaide Road, we found the second disruption. The dropped kerbs were being replaced at Douglas St and there was a pedestrian detour in place. Following the arrow around to the plywood ramp, I was met with a double-parked van blocking access and no driver in sight. Going around the back of the van was my only option, but it blocked sight lines to any traffic turning onto Douglas St. The boy and I were rather vulnerable as a result as we crossed over to the other temporary ramp. A couple metres onward, the footpath was again blocked and the only access through was a squeeze behind an NZ Post box mounted on the corner. Unfortunately the buggy didn’t quite fit in the space and it took quite a bit of bouncing around to get through the space. None of the workers batted an eye in our direction.

There are a number of plausible reasons why the two work sites differ – different contractors, maybe requirements of the crane lift, or maybe the first worker was just a nice guy – but there was clearly a different level of service for pedestrians in the area.

Before we reached the next intersection, we saw a girl walking along with a white cane. I felt that she deserved to be warned of the trouble she’d find when she got to Douglas St and she seemed quite appreciative. For a cost of a few seconds of my time, I could save someone from a potentially miserable experience because this is a city and we all live here together.

Posted by: Gregory | June 2, 2015

Cyclists daren’t tread

Several weeks ago, I submitted an OIA request to NZTA via fyi.org.nz regarding cyclist access to tunnels in Wellington. On Friday, I received a personal reply to the public request. While they resend the letter to the right place, I’ll just get on with posting the results.

OIA Arras 1

The three tunnels are all part of SH1. As the road controlling authority, NZTA can specify which types of transport are welcome. Here’s the link to the bylaw update, to save you typing it out.

OIA Arras 2

The implication is that mixing cars and bikes is dangerous when anyone needs to change lanes, even though this happens on a daily basis around the rest of the city, mostly at speeds above 30km/h. The reference to 30km/h is at a change point in the relationship between speed and injury severity and is actually a good reason to drop the urban limits for most of the city (PDF Reference).

TasmanRubgyPathWhile the cyclist bypass exists, forcing cyclists onto the footpath is a substandard solution. It might have been better to coerce cyclists onto Tasman Street via Rugby St. While the potential for injury to cyclists and pedestrians is much lower when there are no cars involved, there are still risks that are best avoided.

OIA Arras 3

Here’s the real issue that we’re dealing with. It’s not about cyclists, it’s the fact that drivers are less capable in tunnels than on roads. This might be worth looking into further, but I’ll take the statement on faith for now. Drivers aren’t on their game in tunnels.

OIA Arras 4

This annoys me quite a bit. Mt Victoria Tunnel is a narrow road, set to 50km/h. This is like most of our residential roads, except – as above – more disorienting. Maybe if the motorists were less fixated on beeping their horns in the tunnel, they could pay attention to the task at hand.

There’s a side issue implied around travel times through the tunnel. At 623m long, the difference between 50km/h and 30km/h travel speeds is about 30 seconds, which is catastrophic from the point of view of a motorist or a road manager, but less than the time that I’ll probably have to wait to safely cross the road at any number of arterial roads on a daily basis. Time is relative.

OIA Arras 5

It’s good to know that no cyclists were harmed during the decision-making process, but I would like to see more evidence being presented to justify setting the road conditions. If tunnels are so disorienting, maybe the evidend would show that they’d perform better on safety metrics if the speed limits were lowered to, say, 30km/h.

Posted by: Gregory | June 2, 2015

Logging parking complaints

Many of my posts start off with a real story, which I try to turn into a lesson or something that can be improved on. This one starts just over a week ago with my son in the buggy, heading down Hall Street.

[tweet https://twitter.com/sustwelltrans/status/602231757040037888]

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I’m noticing a lot more vehicles parking on footpaths than before. It could be confirmation bias or it could be the WCC parking policy getting announced all over the media.

As the twitter conversation went on, we looked at how people can complain about people parking on the footpaths. Currently, a phone call is the only way to report a specific instance of a parking complaint.

[tweet https://twitter.com/WgtnCC/status/602390816015851520]

I was offered to switch from twitter to email, which allowed for a more continuous, complete answer. Many thanks to Emma for doing so.

Currently, the reason we ask to be phoned for parking complaints is to ensure the illegal parking is occurring at the time. We have a maximum of 24 hours to respond to emails and we can’t guarantee an immediate response via Twitter, and our policy is that we won’t deploy officers to site unless we are certain the vehicle is currently illegally parked. This is why we encourage people to ring the 24 hour number for all urgent and time sensitive issues.

In saying that, if the parking complaint is not regarding a particular vehicle and is more a request for regular enforcement in general, this can be logged via social media channels.

I can understand the problem of deploying parking services without confirmation that the infringing vehicle is there. The problem seems to be the resources being put into collecting the information and translating it to an action. Phone calls occur in real time while messages are delayed by some amount of time, even if that amount is small. It would be possible to monitor email and social media to keep delays down, but currently they aren’t.

We are committed to being as accessible as possible. Our current systems are being updated and we hope to be able to provide a user friendly digital service very soon.

user friendly digital service could mean many different things. Whether that be monitoring of messages or maintaining an app or mapping service, we’ll only know after something happens. Wellington City Council already maintains the FixIt app. It would be great to merge that with something like TowIt. (Android links. Apologies to iPhone types.)

You can be sure that if app-based parking complaints to WCC were possible, I’d be a serial complainer. There’s no shortage of parking violations around the city. We could even turn it into a game. I’m sure I could find a few other urban-minded folk to play along with me.

Posted by: Gregory | May 28, 2015

Great New Video From The Architectural Centre

The David vs Goliath analogy is quite apt. The ability for public commentary on big projects is near zero, which is not the balance that we need for positive outcomes. NZTA has the right to appeal the decision, but residents should continue to be heard.

Save The Basin Reserve

Save the Basin and the Mt Victoria Residents Association have been hard at work raising funds to oppose NZTA’s attempt to get the High Court to overturn the Basin Board of Inquiry decision. The Architectural Centre will also be represented at the High Court, and as part of their fundraising efforts, they have produced the great video above. Please check it out and share it!

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Posted by: Gregory | May 28, 2015

Usefulness of a park

It’ll take some time to know how well Pukeahu fits within the fabric of Wellington. Now that ANZAC day is well behind us, the rush and excitement has subsided and we’re slowly getting to know the space as an urban park.

So far, it seems a bit empty except for the skateboarders. Following up from the article in the Wellingtonian, a letter was published the next week wondering how useful the space is.

wpid-img_20150527_2124582.jpg.jpg

We’ve had these sorts of discussions before. Should we make our parks big, open, green spaces or should we have our parks broken up into smaller areas that provide a range of functions? It’s becoming clear that Pukeahu is more the first kind than the second, but not really useful as a big space either.

Having stopped off with my toddler last week, he was happy to run around, but that largely meant that I was chasing him before he ran onto one of the many roadways that envelop the memorial. It’s not really a family-friendly space unless your family is happy sitting still.

It gets worse, too. It seems as if there was a failure of anticipation during the procurement phase. The toilet blocks don’t provide baby-changing facilities.

[tweet https://twitter.com/wellingtonista/status/600455464581668864]
Posted by: Gregory | May 25, 2015

New look for bus shelters

Over at Auckland Transport Blog, there’s a post about deciding on a new bus shelter for the AT network. There was a practical evaluation of three designs that’s now been settled. The winner caught my attention because it has more than passing resemblance to a design I read about in the most recent GWRC quarterly report. (The report isn’t online at the moment, or I just haven’t found it. It was distributed separately, but a part of this meeting. I had been emailed a copy.)

The design AT has chosen comes in three flavours:

Bus-Shelter-Design-A-Range

The intermediate shelter is very similar to this image from the quarterly report:

Porirua Bus Shelter

It’s possible that the similarities are coincidental, but I can’t imagine that there’s a large pool of relevant designers in New Zealand. Since GWRC is looking at bringing more of the shelters around the region under single control, we may see these popping up all over. From the quarterly report:

Discussions continued with WCC regarding the transfer to GWRC of the maintenance and repairs of
bus shelters in Wellington City.

I have no idea what this means for Adshel, who operate many of shelters in Wellington. The took a bit of a hit during a rush of vandalism, but I’ve not seen anything since.

Posted by: Gregory | May 22, 2015

Should cyclists be forced onto cycle lanes?

The question arises from a comment received on a cycling framework post.

For the purpose of safety and to clarify on NZTA’s advertising concept ‘See the person, Share the Road’ an e-petition channelling the overseas experience was made live today. http://wellington.govt.nz/have-your-say/epetitions/petitions/current/2015-05-a-bylaw-to-enforce-cyclists-use-cycle-lanes-where-provided-at-all-times

The petition proposes a bylaw change to restrict cyclists to cycle lanes when they are available.

The overseas experience shows cyclist are required to use cycle lanes where provided and is embedded in their Road Code.

In discussions with interest groups regarding separated cycle lanes in Island Bay it was suggested the commuter cyclist would not use them based on a theory the speed of cyclists on the purpose built lanes would slow them down.

As much as I like having rules and enforcement, my preference is to use design to encourage behaviour instead of legislation, but I think there’s a reasonable discussion that could happen. Reading through comments on various social media, the issue of cycleways not being used by all cyclists comes up regularly.

How would a bylaw like this fare in terms of consistency?

  • Buses are not required to use bus lanes. Drivers of Route 32 often stay out of the bus lane along Kent Terrace because the cost of merging at the Basin Reserve is higher than the benefit of bypassing traffic in the other lanes.
  • Cars are not required to stay on arterial routes and avoid local roads.
  • Pedestrians are meant to stay on footpaths when available, but legality of crossing is only specified within 20m of a signal or pedestrian crossing.

If the bylaw were in place, how likely would it be adhered to and how likely would it be enforced? There’s no point in creating an ineffective law. We already struggle with all sorts of traffic problems, such as parking on footpaths or running red lights, where personal convenience is driving the bad behaviour and enforcement is either difficult or institutionally ignored.

The bylaw would have to presume that a given cycleway is fit for purpose. A cyclists shouldn’t be forced into an unsafe path. Would the bylaw then be limited to separated cycleways or would green-stripes through the door zone be included? Given the level of vulnerability to injury, cyclists are often having to choose between paths, balancing risks. For the bylaw to be effective, all cycleways would need to be designed to accommodate the needs of all cyclists. Which brings me back to my statement of preference above: if we can design a cycleway to be universally attractive, it would be more effective that a bylaw.

My opinion is certainly not the only one out there. Use the comment section below and let me know what you think about this. Would there be benefits of a bylaw beyond those of building good cycleways?

Posted by: Gregory | May 19, 2015

Patronage on privatised bus routes

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of fluctuations in patronage on my bus route. School holidays are very apparent, but there are longer term cycles that I see but don’t understand. The problem I have is that I can’t look at the patronage data. The routes out to Eastbourne have been registered as fully commercial, so that information is commercially sensitive.

wpid-img_20150518_080345.jpgWithin around a week, we’ve had three trips for my particular route with people standing while we were on the motorway. It’s the final running of the northbound 84 during the morning peak. After this bus, there is a mix of 83s (via Queensgate) and 81s (direct to Eastbourne) that do something similar to the 84, unless you actually need to get to Gracefield, which will require a bit of a walk.

A good portion of the passengers get off on Jackson Street, presumably for Weltec, but there’s around half a bus of people continuing around to the east. This suggests that there may be sufficient demand to run another 84 after 8am, although I couldn’t give you more evidence than sparse observations and anecdotal conversations.

Under the new Public Transport Operating Model, all the Wellington bus routes except the Airport Flyer should be run as part of the contracted units, which means that there should be more data flowing back to Greater Wellington and be visible to the public after the new bus contracts are expected to roll out in 2016/17. It’s unknown whether GWRC has any interest in tweaking the Eastbourne services before contracting the unit. Somehow, these buses weren’t considered within scope of the recent Hutt Valley Public Transport Review (PDF). Since the incumbent operator of commercial services get a like-for-like contract with a 12-year duration, it would seem sensible to do the analysis before issuing the contract.

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