Transport

Finally a minister who gets that driverless cars and not trains is our future

Simon Bridges appears to get it.

That our future lies in enabling technologies not restrictive technologies.

Trains are constrained by tracks and are not at all versatile, whereas driverless vehicles are enabling in many, many ways.

The prospect of cars travelling New Zealand highways with no one behind the wheel is moving closer says new Transport Minister Simon Bridges. Officials are reviewing legislation allowing for the testing of umanned autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Mr Bridges has pledged to work with environmental interests while also pursuing the Government’s road building programme.

Mr Bridges said he was committed to “a balanced approach” and ongoing investment roads were important even from a green perspective, “over time as we move to electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles”.

Mr Bridges said the Government was not doing a great deal to accommodate autonomous vehicle technology, “but I don’t think there’s any doubt that if you look at what’s going on internationally, maybe not in the next couple of years, but over time we will see driverless vehicles and that will have implications, like for example less congestion because vehicles can travel closer together”.

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A reader contribution on the transport debate

green_light_for_auckland_rail_link_1655296516

A reader emails:

Hello Cam

After reading your blog for several months now, I have seen it steadily transforming into a voice of alternative opinion in many ways, and celebrate that.

I had been working for some time on this piece about Auckland transport, when I read your article yesterday, which sang my song.

Just wondered whether this may have any appeal for your site.

Best regards and keep up the good work


Part 1

Observations:

As a recent returnee to Auckland after over 40 years working and establishing businesses in regional New Zealand, I have recently paid considerably more attention to local body plans and actions in this region.

Joining the local area ratepayers committee on arrival, I soon hear, and discover first hand that generalised wastage/inefficiency seemed to characterise virtually all dealings of the new super city. Examples: 1. a near 200 page document of detailed technical drawings and specifications to place some traffic quietening speed bumps on a street in our area, 2. Two Council staff visit in a Council car, for a half day, to consult re spending well less than $1000 on plants in the area. When it is suggested that the most in-need areas require some soil first, we are told that this is beyond their brief and would require a completely separate department to be involved.

Accordingly, I began to pay closer attention to Len Brown’s call for underground rail for the city, which seems to be preparing to strip all available capital and then some from the City’s coffers for the foreseeable future – and beyond – at the behest of one man with a dream.

The idea of a trainset for Auckland gained great credibility under Mayor Robbie in the late 60’s, and had it been implemented then, it would probably remain a good idea today. Most people in Auckland ‘know’ this so there remains a soft spot in Auckland for the notion of ‘rapid rail’ and relatively little opposition to Len Brown’s plan.

But is it a still good idea if we start now?

There are many new ways and new technologies in the wings, some of which I have observed first hand on our travels, which may soon render an underground trainset for Auckland, a costly white elephant.

Additionally, in a volcanic city and a ‘shaky’ nation, underground makes less sense. Imagine the chaos if a Christchurch-type earthquake broke the underground rail links, after all other public transport had been seriously weakened by rail’s availability.

With these concerns in mind, I decided to look more closely at overseas systems on our recent 4 month trip to the Middle East, UK, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, France, Monaco and Italy and the following observations also factor in some of the previous experiences I have had of undergrounds and public transport in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Australia and so on.

On this trip, I visited many cities of not too dissimilar size, one way or another, to Auckland i.e in area or in population. There are few that have both the area and the population of Auckland. In each city, I paid particular attention to their public transport options and in particular their trainsets. These included Abu Dhabi, Dubai, London, Istanbul, Madrid, Porto, Valencia, Granada, Barcelona, Nice, Monaco and Milan as well as many other less well known cities.

What I observed made me wonder whether this whole underground rail for Auckland proposal has been properly thought through.

Underground rail worked well, it seemed, in the sorts of high rise, high density cities that have relatively small footprints for their populations, like Madrid. Accordingly Granada, for example, is in the throes of beginning one, and I can see the point there. It is a compact city with many tourists.

Trainsets also seemed to work well in more widespread cities covering land areas like Auckland’s, even with intervening waterways, so long as they had one of the following conditions:

  1. High population (eg Istanbul, Sydney) or
  2. A long ribbon of development, as in a strip style city running along a shoreline (eg Dubai or Perth).

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Why self-driving cars and not rail is the solution

The Atlantic has been investigating California’s highly expensive and likely to be a white elephant project, the High Speed Rail solution.

As part of their investigation they have looked at the promise of self-driving cars…which in a direct comparison shows precisely why train-spotting projects like Len Brown’s rail loop and California’s HSP solution are nothing but boondoggles costing rate and taxpayers billions.

First, self-driving cars. I turn the floor over to a reader in California whose identity and background I know. He works in the advanced-research parts of the info-tech industry and did his bachelor’s and doctoral training at Caltech and MIT. He says:

Your series on High Speed Rail is under-emphasizing an important aspect of the big picture.

Should we invest in infrastructure? Absolutely!  But the right kind of infrastructure.

The technology and accompanying infrastructure creating the greatest impact today and over the past 30 years has been not just big scale physical stuff, but the brains coordinating and controlling physical stuff—specifically, computing and communication.    Read more »

Photo Of The Day

The Tragic 1895 Train Wreck at the Paris, France, Montparnasse Station: train wreck.

The Tragic 1895 Train Wreck at the Paris, France, Montparnasse Station: train wreck.

Train Wreck

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A whole club sandwich of wrongness, made up of many delectable layers of stupid

Len Brown is pushing through a ratepayer subsidised cycleway across the harbour bridge. There is no way his proposal will ever pay for itself and he is pandering to about 5 cyclists on the North Shore.

But whatever happens there don’t let him see this proposal from London, for a cycleway on the Thames.

The odds were tough, but we did it: London has just come up with what must be the silliest cycling infrastructure idea in the world. Put together by a motley group called the River Cycleway Consortium, London is fielding a new proposal for a new central cycle path that will stretch eight miles and cost £600 million ($965 million) to construct. Quite a lot for a pair of bike lanes, isn’t it? Ah, but these are not ordinary paths. These babies would float. On the River Thames.

The answer to London’s cycling problems, the consortium argues, is a bobbing pontoon strung along the Southern side of London’s river. This aquatic cycleway would stretch from Battersea, just west of Central London, to the newish business district to its east at Canary Wharf, protected by what appear to be waist-high walls. Given the construction cost of over $65,000 per yard of path, using the cycleway wouldn’t be free. Cyclists would need to pay a £1.50 ($2.40) toll before entering.

And then perhaps the best sledge of all time:

The proposal isn’t just wrong. It’s a whole club sandwich of wrongness, made up of many delectable layers of stupid.

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Small cars are gay

Everyone know I drive a utes, a proper man sized vehicle that can load up burly blokes, their guns and dogs and travel in comfort.

Green taliban types will tell you that I am wasting the earths resources in owning and driving such a vehicle.

Turns out their preferences, gay little cars are actually the least fuel efficient.

Drivers looking for savings at the petrol pump could be making a mistake if they swap their estate or 4×4 for a smaller car, according to research which suggests that fuel economy estimates are biased against larger vehicles.

Motorists are usually advised that smaller cars can travel more miles per gallon (mpg) than those with larger engines, making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly to run.   Read more »

Cracker of a policy

This policy should be implemented immediately into New Zealand.

Christof Spieler moved to downtown Houston about nine years ago and began a reverse commute to a suburban office park. He took the No. 9 Gulfton Metro bus because he liked to get things done during the ride and hated sitting in traffic, but the service left much to be desired. The bus didn’t run very often (every 20 minutes or more, even at rush-hour); transfers were hard to coordinate; and the pedestrian infrastructure near the stops was terrifying (to reach the office, he braved five lanes of car traffic without a signal or a crosswalk).

“It really gave me a good feel of what the system’s like,” he says.

Fast-forward to today and Spieler now sits on Metro’s board of directors. An engineer at Morris who also lectures at Rice, Spielerplayed an instrumental role in developing Metro’s Reimagining plan—a dazzling redesign of the entire bus system that stresses all-day frequency and smart connections. But he couldn’t have done it without his experience on Metro as a guide, which makes him Exhibit A for why the people planning America’s transit systems, from board members to senior management to project designers, should be riders themselves.

“There are way too many people working on transit who don’t actually ride transit,” he says. “If you’re going to be making decisions about transit, you really need to know what it’s actually like. Not what it’s like in theory, but what it’s actually like. ”   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

The Ford Motor plant at Highland Park, the factory that built the American Dream. People dubbed the factory "The Crystal Palace" because of its vast amount of glass and bright interiors. The factory's enormous size made people think that Ford had gone mad.

The Ford Motor plant at Highland Park, the factory that built the American Dream. People dubbed the factory “The Crystal Palace” because of its vast amount of glass and bright interiors. The factory’s enormous size made people think that Ford had gone mad.

The Most Expensive Photo Ever

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Photo Of The Day

William Harley and Arthur Davidson with their motorcycles in 1914

William Harley and Arthur Davidson with their motorcycles in 1914

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company Founded: 1901

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Photo Of The Day

Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi An aerial view shows the Costa Concordia as it lies on its side next to Giglio Island taken from an Italian navy helicopter in this August 26, 2013 file photo. The wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner is set to be refloated within 10 days, to be towed away from the Italian island where it ran aground and capsized two and a half years ago, the group organising the removal said on July 3, 2014.

Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
An aerial view shows the Costa Concordia as it lies on its side next to Giglio Island taken from an Italian navy helicopter in this August 26, 2013 file photo. The wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner is set to be refloated within 10 days, to be towed away from the Italian island where it ran aground and capsized two and a half years ago, the group organising the removal said on July 3, 2014.

Capt Francesco Schettino Teaches Panic Management Course at Rome University

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