Thursday, December 3, 2009

Newmarket Train Station

It's coming along well. It's nearing completion. Checking it out today, there are dozens of empty shops waiting for tenants/owners. Given the recession, it's hardly a good time for property owners to be trying to get tenants or new owners in retail premises. Especially there where the number of passengers will remain small to trivial for a decade or three.

It would have been better to spend the money on trains rather than another monstrosity train station which is really only a place for people to get on the train and off it. The platform which was there was more than sufficient. It's not as though Newmarket is going to be Waterloo Station at 8.30am on a Monday.

It's just a glorified bus stop. A bus stop needs a place for the wheels to stop rotating, which is easy on train tracks. Apply brakes. Then a place for people to stand while the doors open, which is called a platform. It's also nice to have a roof or even an enclosed building to keep rain off while waiting for the train to arrive.

The thing they have built seems to be a bit of a wind tunnel. Hopefully they have thought through the prevailing westerlies which will drive rain and wind around the buildings into the tunnels as happens in lower Queen Street due to the big buildings there squashing the wind into the canyons between them.

The reasons people don't travel by train are; inconvenience, lack of reliability, slow travel, discomfort, cost, strikes. Train services in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Europe make NZ's trains look like ramshackle Zimbabwe services. The problem is the trains and tracks, not the stations which people get in and out of as fast as they can. Bigger bus stops don't improve bus services.

Hopefully, the train people have figured out that the should have Zenbu wifi available to provide low cost mobile cyberspace to people waiting for trains. The chance of that is near zero. They aren't noted for being innovative and thinking of customers.

Britomart is another folly. The trains should go in at street level, with traffic lights for the couple of roads which would be crossed, just like cars get traffic lights - with the trains automatically getting a green light as they arrive.

Passengers would then be treated to a pleasant street level experience instead of having to waste time going underground. A couple of train tracks into the same location, or preferably along Quay Street, would have cost almost nothing and been much more convenient. Get the trains in, and straight out again, just like a bus stop. Perhaps the trains could be redirected to Quay Street and Britomart converted to a mall, monastery, gaol or something.

At least they canned the ridiculous idea of putting buses underground too, spiraling down into the depths to collect passengers. They finally figured out that bus stops at street level are much more pleasant, cheaper, quicker. Bigger and better signs and maps would help in bus location and timings.

But it's better to spend money on Newmarket Station being grandiose than Hone Harawira and other bludgers going on taxpayer funded jaunts to Paris or Copenhagen's CO2 jamboree.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sam Giffney and Zenbu Directory, Search and Mapping

Here's an article by about Sam Giffney and his development of which is New Zealand's premier [and Cook Islands] free, on-line, GPS based, directory, search and mapping of places of interest.

It's a way to find things such as businesses, parks, hospitals, schools, public toilets, and anything else which you might see a sign outside when walking down a street.

It's a top iPhone app in New Zealand. It can be downloaded to iPhones so that even without an internet connection, people can check the Zenbu app to see where things are that they want to find. With the "find nearest" function, the places closest to any particular place or a Zenbu listing are easily located. is part of the creative commons realm.

Anyone can register and enter points of interest and edit other entries. Zenbu depends on people doing so because that's the way it's built - swarms of people adding and editing things of interest to them.

The database can be downloaded, with attribution, and used in anyone's websites such as has been done by the Mangere Bridge community. Simply enter "ASB" or "Naomi and Bill Kirk Park" or "cemetery" or "cafe" or "petrol" or "pizza" or "pharmacy" or "school" or whatever is of interest and locations, names, phone numbers and some information are shown on the map with links to the places if available.

Zenbu is also the name of Zenbu wifi wireless internet hotspots in Auckland and around New Zealand so they are easily confused. Zenbu directory, search, mapping and wifi work together in an integrated system.

If a wifi user is located at a Zenbu wireless internet hotspot, then the Zenbu system knows where they are even if they don't [tourists are easily lost] and can show them where they are on a map and the Zenbu points of interest closest to them.

Check out Google latitude too. You can get your location and that of your friends and contacts right there on your mobile device. Zenbu wifi hotspots have been uploaded to Skyhook to form part of the global location mesh to feed into Google Latitude.

Newmarket Viaduct Replacement

An excellent construction underway to replace the old viaduct which was structurally inadequate when it was built. See the details and pictures here: Newmarket Viaduct

The old viaduct had to be strengthened after construction with post-tensioning cables installed. During my civil engineering training at Auckland University in the early 1970s, our structures professor explained how it was found to be inadequate and was strengthened.

Being the main southern artery out of Auckland city, the structural risk is too great. It would be an economic disaster if a minor earthquake rendered it unusable.

Some people mistakenly think the replacement is purely a capacity increase project. While one more lane is being added, that's not going to be of much use to improving motorway capacity because going both north and south, there's no capacity issue on the viaduct. The bottlenecks are on either side because of joining traffic at Saint Marks Road and Gillies Avenue as well as bottlenecks entering Auckland city and over the harbour bridge at peak times.

The precast cantilevered construction is easy compared with the construction of the old viaduct which involved huge amounts of concrete poured in situ with scaffolding galore.

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