Olympic Lanes Have A Certain Ring To Them

July 23rd, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Despite being told to bloody well harden up and get a smile on their faces by their buffoonish Mayor, Boris Johnson, one cannot help but notice that the folk of old London town are not all overflowing with Olympic spirit. Rather than hanging out the bunting and welcoming the world with open arms, my fellow countrymen are getting in some last minute practise at the one event which we always lead the world: whinging.

And the source of their ire is this: the 2012 Olympics are turning out to be rather popular. Now you might think that given the build up has not run the smoothest course – British weather has been typically ‘seasonal’, G4S has made a monkey’s breakfast of security and the proletariat are winkling up the cobblestones over the surface to air missiles parked in their window boxes – the locals would be delighted that the sports fans of the world are rolling up in their droves, but no. It seems that having a few extra people knocking around is causing a bit of congestion and this simply will not do.

However it would be wrong to dismiss this as simple Pommie whining, xenophobia or small mindedness. The problem is rather more to do with the way the congestion is being caused – Olympic lanes.

Want priority transport? You should have tried harder at athletics class

Mindful of the potential for a public relations disaster that would be caused if every event was delayed by 30 minutes due to the near gridlock that passes for traffic flow inside the M25, the London Olympic team has decided to set aside 50km of roadway exclusively for the use of those associated with the games. So while a handful of athletes and officials will get a comparatively free ride, the millions who call London home will have to struggle by on buses, trains and 50 km less roadway. All of which causes a bit of offence to the British sense of fair play.

Still the world isn’t fair and the good people of London would do well to remember this, because if the powers that be have any sense the lanes will remain in place long after the games have been forgotten. Everyone talks about the importance of these large events leaving a legacy on their host cities and the presence of a restricted transit option could fund London’s coffers from here to eternity.

The human being is an incredibly resourceful creature and by the time the Olympics are over Londoners will have become more than accustomed to making their way around in spite of the new lanes. So why not simply keep them and charge a select band of very rich people a small fortune to have unfettered access to the capital?
Despite the woes of the banking sector, the City of London still has a pretty high density of incredibly wealthy individuals, many of which would pay handsomely for the promise of rapid, private, luxurious transport. Money which could be pumped back into flash buses, ferries and rolling stock to make life that little bit more pleasant for the rest of the worker ants.

And it’s a plan we could easily adopt here in Auckland by introducing a charging policy on the northern bus lane. It may not take much to convince city bigwigs that a lifestyle block just north of Albany is a sensible move if the infrastructure allowed them to bypass the herd on the way to the office every morning. The big smoke has some big plans when it comes to travel and if using our resources to eek a bit of cash from those that can most afford it will lessen the burden – even a little bit – for the average taxpayer, then it must be an option worth considering?

After all, while we may spend the next few weeks going for gold, with the prospect of a total bill approaching $70 billion, going for gold coin should also be a priority.

A Bridge Too Far (+video)

December 17th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Despite prodigious temptation to the contrary I have, so far, managed to avoid devoting an entire week’s article to the subject of the Victoria Park Tunnel. Yes, there may have the odd snipe about the intellectual capacity of the average Jafa motorist not being up to the distinctly un-taxing concept of subterranean motoring, but by and large I have left the subject well alone.

One driving factor behind this decision was the sheer volume of work devoted to the matter already. And there are only so many ways the motoring press can articulate their frustrations about the mush-brained, oxygen thieving, wastes of space who navigate a certain section of State Highway 1 without a degree of monotony setting in.

What NZTA says you'll see (NZTA graphic)

But even more importantly, the tunnel really isn’t the big news. Yes, it may be irksome now that every afternoon the main arterial road of the country is slowed to a crawl by people apparently on the lookout for Taniwha, but trust me this will be a drop in the ocean compared to the chaos that will be caused on 9th January.

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that this is the date on which the new dual flyover arrangement taking southbound traffic over Victoria Park opens; splitting traffic going to the CBD, State Highway 16 and continuing on State Highway 1.

The roadway planners must clearly have thought they were onto a good thing. Traffic heading onto the harbour bridge would have plenty of time to position itself correctly, thus ensuring three orderly flows of vehicles can dissolve one of the most problematic bottlenecks in Auckland.

Sadly, the roadway planners were wrong. Anyone travelling south from the North Shore will be all too aware that before their first early morning latté it is a minor miracle if the average Auckland motorist is aware enough to get changed out of their pyjamas before leaving the house, never mind make a conscious decision about which is the correct lane to be in. Even now, when the option is much more limited, there is a constant concertina of braking cars as someone remembers at entirely the wrong moment that their journey plans for the day involve Hamilton and not Queen Street.

What Jafas see

With this choice soon to be multiplied, it wouldn’t surprise me if some become so confused – this is happening on what will be the first hazy day back after Christmas for many – that they simply abandon their cars and start walking. And from what we have learnt from the tunnel, even those who manage to get their heads around the concept of following road signs are likely to slow down to the speed of a tree sloth in particularly uncomfortable shoes in order to really appreciate the new set up. For bloody weeks on end.

Given the contempt Aucklanders are treated with by much of the nation it pains me to admit it but, when it comes to motoring at least, we’re simply too stupid to cope with this level of change.

Although on the upside, it should stop everyone moaning about the tunnel for a while. That is until they open the third lane anyway.

Vote Out The Legacy Of Rubbernecking

November 12th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

If you happen to be the owner of a Subaru Legacy, registration starting in EUW, then I have both good and bad news for you this week.

Firstly the bad; you – or at least the person you are allowing to drive your car around this week – are a dropkick. I’m sure you’re actually a very nice person, kind to your mother, never forget birthdays, don’t kick puppies etc. etc. but your frankly dull assumption that, with a reasonably clear State Highway 1 ahead of you, it is perfectly OK to slow down to 30kph just so you can gawk out of the side window at a roadside scene consisting of nothing more than a broken down Audi TT and the friendly police officer who had stopped to lend a hand, singles you out as the kind of mush-brained berk who shouldn’t have a driving licence.

But the good news is this; you are far from alone.

Whilst on a personal level my ire is directed squarely at the driver of the aforementioned Scooby, rubbernecking is a plague of almost biblical proportions and something that we would do well to stamp out. Because if you believe the mantra of people who wear suits and live in the upper echelons of business, it’s killing the entire country’s productivity.

Time, they tell us, is money, and from some very basic speed and distance man-math calculations, the idiot in the Legacy added around 7 seconds to my journey. And given the concertina effect that happens in traffic, it is pretty safe to assume that his actions had at least as much impact on all the cars in the queue behind me, which – if the traffic report on The Rock is to be believed – stretched a full 4km back from the point where I was. Assuming there is a vehicle every 15metres and each contains the Auckland average of 1.2 people per car, that one selfish act cost the centre lane of State Highway 1 a combined total of around 37 minutes. Continue reading “Vote Out The Legacy Of Rubbernecking” »

Beat Surrender

July 2nd, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Since I last put fingers to keyboard, the Grimley motoring menagerie has been culled to a single vehicle. In anticipation of the – admittedly unlikely – moment where a car comes up for sale that a) meets the current Mrs Grimley’s standards and b) is owned by a benevolent and eccentric millionaire who doesn’t object to letting it go at a fraction of its genuine value, the Primera has been sent to a new home.

This means that every occasion necessitating the involvement of a motor vehicle now has to be catered for by my budget BMW 316 coupe and this is presenting a few issues. Firstly is the fact that it is a $2000 car of European origins and occasionally takes it upon itself to behave like one. There are certain types of weather it really doesn’t like and there is absolutely no guarantee bits of interior trim will finish any given journey in the same part of the car they started in. Then there is the matter of size – I am usually a staunch supporter of the view that it really doesn’t matter, but there are certain circumstances where a bit of extra girth can come in useful. Like when you are purchasing a new shower cubicle for example.

Come on people - rock my world

But worst of all is the stereo, which has no CD player, works on an ad hoc basis and is so averse to physical contact that any adjustment necessitates hauling it from the dash mid-journey to beat it back into life. And this means that once a radio station is selected it is left on constantly for fear of having to conduct the minor electrical surgery necessary to coax entertainment back out again.
So now I’m stuck with The Rock.

I must hasten to add that there isn’t anything wrong with the Rock as such – I’m rather a fan of the Morning Rumble team – but the music they play doesn’t really suit my journey. Having Bruce Springsteen belting out ‘Born to Run’ at the top of his lungs on a glorious sunny day with a perfectly clear South Island mountain pass ahead would be almost as good as being stranded on a desert island with Stana Katic and a lifetime supply of baby oil. Almost. However when you’re stuck on a State Highway 1 slip road in the pissing rain, moving at precisely 0 kph it’s less fun than spending a week in a barrel of scorpions being screamed at by Hone Harawira’s mother. Continue reading “Beat Surrender” »

UK motorists allowed to drive on the motorway hard shoulder

October 16th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Motorists will benefit from faster journeys when hard shoulder running is in operation on the M42 near Birmingham with the speed limit being raised to 60mph (96.5kph) following a successful test.

The increased speed limit, which will take full effect from tomorrow (16 October), will apply to the whole Active Traffic Management stretch between junctions 3A and 7 of the M42 to the south east of Birmingham, with electronic overhead signs clearly displaying the speed limit. Drivers may see sign changes as the new limits are introduced today.

The Highways Agency undertook a test earlier in the year which found that increasing the speed from 50mph to 60mph improved journey times by up to 8% with no discernible impact on safety.

Roads Minister Andrew Adonis said:

“Hard shoulder running has proven to be a great success in cutting congestion and we have already announced our plans to look at similar schemes on other motorways across England.

“We don’t want to slow drivers down unnecessarily so, after closely monitoring the test to make sure safety was not compromised, we are from tomorrow increasing the speed limit while the hard shoulder is in use to 60mph. This will maximise the benefits of this innovative scheme and further improve journey times for motorists.”

Highways Agency Director of Traffic Operations, Derek Turner said:

The Active Traffic Management scheme, which allows road users to drive on the hard shoulder during busy periods, has shown significant benefits for motorists, the environment and the economy. Use of the hard shoulder in peak periods saw average journeys fall by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway and drivers’ ability to predict their weekday journey times improved by 27%.

Alongside these results, fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%. Importantly, road safety was not compromised, with the personal injury accident rate falling from an average 5.1 per month to 1.8 per month on this section of the M42.

Work has recently started to extend Active Traffic Management on to other motorways around Birmingham. Two new stretches of hard shoulder running will be added on the M6, with variable speed limits to be used on parts of the M42 and M40.

Sounds like common sense to us, but do you think it will come to New Zealand in the near future? No, we don’t either.

Audi Travolution project gets your car talking to traffic lights

September 23rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi Travolution traffic management

Frustrating, fuel-sapping stops at red traffic lights could soon be the exception rather than the rule thanks to a new initiative being championed by Audi aimed at streamlining urban traffic flow and reducing CO2 emissions.

The experimental ‘Travolution’ system, developed with Audi support by traffic management experts in the brand’s German home town of Ingolstadt, will not only improve synchronisation and phasing of traffic light networks to reduce stopping times, but could also dramatically reduce the number of actual stops needed by creating a communications link between cars and the traffic light network.

Communications modules built into each traffic light are able to send messages to cars in the vicinity, alerting them to the time remaining until their next green phase. The car’s onboard system is then able to calculate the speed which the driver must maintain in order to pass through the light during this green phase, and displays this via the Multi Media Interface display.

A network of 46 of the ‘intelligent’ traffic lights has been installed in the centre of Ingolstadt, the software to which they are all linked optimising their phasing to bring stopping times down to a minimum, reducing fuel consumption and pollution in the process.

Of the 46 light gantries, three have been upgraded to enable communication with the specially modified A5 and A6 Avant models provided by Audi as part of the 1.2-million Euro pilot project. A further 20 cars and 50 light installations are to be incorporated as the project evolves.

Beating the traffic: How’s The Traffic – traffic website

September 2nd, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

For those of you who can vary your start time by either working from home, or working later/earlier can take advantage of How’s The Traffic

It covers to Greville Rd on the Northern Motorway, Lincoln Rd on the North-Western Motorway, and Alfriston Rd on the Southern Motorway. You can view a map that shows areas of congestion in colour, but the best feature are the traffic cameras. I live in Takapuna, and Esmonde Rd is diabolical, so I open a window that shows me the Esmonde Rd onramp looking towards the Harbour Bridge:

This tells me that, indeed, traffic is, what we in the industry would call, ‘cack’. So, I mess around at home…I mean work. The window refreshes every minute, so I get up-to-date pics of the saps in the rush hour crawl that have to do it every day.

Eventually you can see it clears, and now it’s time to leave, because by the time I get to the on ramp, there’ll be a negligible queue of a few cars.

Not only does this save me up to half an hour a day sitting in traffic, it also reduces the amount of pollution I cause, and eases congestion on the roads through spreading the traffic out. If more people could do the same, it might make the whole traffic network more bearable.

Words Darren Cottingham