Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Short of a population contraction. Auckland transport crisis I feel is NOT going to be measurably alleviated in the next two decades for the average resident.

Auckland as a city is already on the back foot due to decades of laissez faire planning and the damage has unfortunately been done decades ago… it’s going to be difficult to reverse the effects of this through conventional means.

We have key zones scattered all over the place with reckless abandon, with absolutely no forethought for the longer term. We are continuing to build swathes of urban sprawl without any adequate transport infrastructure to go with it, continuing to repeat the same mistakes in the short term with long term consequences.

Bring up a map of Auckland and compare it with say Perth, Melbourne or Adelaide  and in contrast to the semi grid type layout of the aforementioned, Auckland’s roading layout frankly more closely resembles a city in a developing nation (Bali, Indonesia; Port Vila, Vanuatu). Roads placed seemingly at random with no planning what so ever.  Any buses that we introduce are made to zig zag all over the place in a vain attempt to capture the key zones. No regard for putting in proper rail corridors to new greenfield development sites.

This 28 Billion that the Labour government is planning to pour in, should they suggest conventional public transport measures again, I fear will tragically could end up being a gratuitous waste.  I strongly feel Auckland requires a more tailored approach in order to have any hope of mitigating the transportation frustrations facing residents in this city.

Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Victoria – A Fine State

If you are planning to drive in the state of Victoria, during your trip to Australia, please note…

Self Drive Tourism Warning

While I never received a fine during my Road trip in Victoria, Australia, many other foreigners including tourists and those newly emigrated to Australia haven’t been so lucky (much to their horror at how comparatively strict and expensive the penalties were). If you’re used to driving at the speed limit, there is less wiggle room for even a momentary lapse in concentration should you be in the vicinity of an enforcement camera.

In Australia, the ethos of the “Speed limit not being a target, but the absolute maximum speed you are allowed to drive at” is perhaps instilled a bit more vigorously than say in New Zealand or North America for that matter.

  • The State of Victoria for example may set higher speed limits, but enforce them a lot more strictly (with a 3 km/h effective tolerance, by way of deducting 3km/h of the detected speed to form the alleged speed, along with heavy fines for even low level speeding).
  • In New Zealand, the speed limits may be set lower for the equivalent roading environment, but enforced more loosely (Higher general speed tolerance enforcement of 5km/h during holiday periods along with much lighter fines for low level speeding)

Victoria, Australia has some of the heaviest monetary penalties for speeding with fines that I’ve heard of, starting from 200 AUD for even just a few km/h over the speed limit along with 400 AUD fines for running red lights.

  • There are concealed (Not easy to spot) traffic enforcement cameras all over the state of Victoria. Melbourne in particular is swarming with Fixed Traffic Enforcement Cameras dotted all over the place, particularly on their Highways / Freeways, particularly under the over bridges cross over the motorways.
  • In Australia (and New Zealand), You can not make a free left (kerb side) turn on a red traffic signal as you can in many places in North America.
  • Road works zones are ENFORCED at the temporary speed limit, The State of Victoria’s fixed cameras can be adjusted to accommodate on the fly. There have been countless reports of even locals losing their licenses while traveling on the Freeways at 100km/h having missed the temporary 50km/h speed limit in place.
  • If you are driving a rental car at the time of the infringement, your Rental Car provider will most likely also slap an additional Administration Fee on top of any fines of around 66 AUD (if it’s a mailed speed camera fine). Unfortunately, it appears many Car rental companies do not make the hirer aware of how comparatively heavily and strictly enforced speeding is in the State of Victoria upon the hirer picking up the car from Melbourne Tullamarine international Airport.
  • The parking signs to those unfamiliar can be extremely confusing. Again heavy fines from around 80 AUD upwards applies for parking infringements.

While as a foreigner you may be able to get away with not paying any infringements, issues may arise at the border should you wish to enter Australia again.

The reason I’ve heard for such seemingly heavy enforcement for low level speeding is that it’s “aimed at bringing about cultural change in the driving public”. Another words, an attempt at “Nipping it in the bud”. That said, Victoria still has their fair share of speeders (The occasional hooner that is clearly 30 km/h above the speed limit) and the usual tailgaters following other vehicles closely as anywhere else in the world.

Continue reading “Victoria – A Fine State”

Victoria – A Fine State

Car Rental Relocations

Occasionally I will take advantage of Rental Relocation deals to usually to do a road trip after a key event concludes (be it, after a hike or after a work trip) to explore an area that is new to me.

Kapiti Island from State Highway 1

After attending the Outdoor Training NZ AGM in Wellington in the weekend just past, A JUCY Condo Camper van was lined up in order to go back to Auckland, where we took turns driving it back to Auckland. It was perhaps my first time experiencing driving a Van and a Camper.

About the “JUCY” Campervan itself. Main points…

  • A pleasant and friendly lady at the Wellington JUCY branch showed us around the vehicle, how to operate the various functions and provided instructions for return.
  • The JUCY “Condo” camper we got was in a good state of repair, very clean and tidy
  • A Freshly cleaned set of Blankets and duvet supplied as well as towels for 4 occupants.
  • All Cutterly, Bowls, Plates and Cups have been supplied
  • The Vehicle included two LPG hobs including Pots, Pans and a kettle.
  • A Chemical toilet was included.
  • I did find the Vehicle to be quite thirsty, drinking about 12-13 litres of petrol every 100km at Highway speeds.
  • The Vehicle only had a 2.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol motor and given the size envelope and weight of the vehicle, it naturally struggled with hills, while noticeably labouring at 100km/h on the flat. Be prepared to pull over frequently to allow other traffic to pass on hilly sections.
  • Noticed the Camper was perhaps a little more tiring to drive than a regular rental car. (e.g. in comparison with a Toyota Corolla Hatch)

General observations about renting a car (not necessarily confined to Relocation deals)…

It is in my feeling that you really need at least 48 hours to make the Car rental relocation journey a worthwhile undertaking, otherwise it could all just driving point to point with little time to actually stop off on the way to look at things.

Many Excess reduction insurance options offered by many rental car companies excludes the likes…

  • Under Body and Overhead damage.
  • Hail damage
  • Tires / Punctures.
  • Windscreens
  • You may still be levied with a claim fee of about $75 even if you took up the $0 excess option.

Most standard Holidays parks charge per person in terms of Camping, not per site, bear that in mind when looking around for places to stay. Cabins and motel units at the same Holiday parks are usually advertised at the Twin rate.

If you have a self contained Camper van, it may be prudent financially to take advantage of that and Freedom Camp where ever possible and as long as it is legal to do so.

Car Rental Relocations

Caltex pricing between their fuel grades

For about a year, noticed that the pricing many Caltex service stations set between their 91 octane and 95 octane products has somehow diverged percentage wise from about 5% to about 15%. I did inquire with Caltex New Zealand as to the reason why the gap has widened to the extent that is has, though it appears they’ve palmed off the responsibility to individual service stations, while the said stations have pushed it back on to Head Office.

Caltex Manuwera (Near Takanini Motorway interchange)

Anyway, in the interim, I shall exercise my responsibility as a consumer (as I did to Two Degrees Mobile) and go to their sister brand, Z Energy or to Mobil where both brands often have their 95 RON petrol priced about 15-21c cheaper than Caltex.

It also does bring in to question how often Caltex turns over their 95 product as well as I have noticed my engine recently appears to behave rather differently between different tank fulls of the same Caltex product. For example, one tank full of Caltex 95 RON gasoline may feel quite perky, while with another tank full from the next Caltex station, my engine may instead feel surprisingly sluggish with me needing to noticeably mash the accelerator a bit harder to get up hills.

So far with Z Energy, all my tank fulls have felt a bit more consistent and dare I say it, smoother running with a small increase in fuel economy (according to my written logs) overall. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’s because Z Energy turn their 95 RON fuel over more frequently.

 

Caltex pricing between their fuel grades

Waterview Tunnel Pre-opening Visit

After landing back in Auckland, Embarked on the Waterview, Tunnel Walk, kindly hosted by the NZTA. Could walk about 900m in via the Northnound tunnel then crossing over to the southbound tunnel to walk back. (Though have to admit, was thinking we could walk straight through to the other end)

Waterview Tunnel Southern entrance

Beware, Fixed Speed cameras at each end and variable speed limit up to a Maximum of 80km/h.

Waterview Tunnel Pre-opening Visit

98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor

From the “Individual experience not matching conventional wisdom” files…

The NZ AA representatives routinely bags any “D4” (including the 1AZ-FSE) or GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) motors on their publications due to issues of Potential carbon build up on the intake valves, potentially restricting the airflow to the engine as a result of the petrol being injected directly into the combustion chamber as opposed to washing over the intake valves as per normal port injected engines.  They also recommend running Toyota D4 motors  on the “Highest Octane possible”. Continue reading “98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor”

98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor