Street Smart (Autumn 2020)

From the front...

Autumn 2020

Many of you will know I like sailing and a good adage is that until the ship’s going down, it’s easy to underestimate the value of a lifejacket.
In our business I can proudly say our life jacket is our culture. I’ve been amazed at how our people have banded together in this unique situation. We have a strong team culture that means we’re far more likely to keep each other buoyant as we set course in this new environment.

For our nation, our life jacket is our low national debt. I’m highly encouraged that net government debt is only about 19% of our GDP which is miniscule compared to other countries—in the USA it’s a full 80%. You might be interested to know that in the 1930’s in NZ it was about 250% so we have a lot of headroom to borrow as a nation, but only where borrowing reflects good investment. Clearly, national and community infrastructure that helps us and future generations move towards greater prosperity achieves that outcome.

So rather than speculating on different COVID-19 scenarios, I’m focusing my mind on the government’s stated response being 1) cushion the blow, 2) position for recovery, and 3) reset, rebuild and return. Each of these stages requires thought and action and our organisation is ready, willing and able to do all.

On a lighter note, I’m encouraging everyone to have what I’m calling a ‘hallway moment’. That is, those moments where you bump into people by chance and start a conversation about what can be nothing at all. Even as we find ourselves roaming our own home offices, why not reach out to a colleague, just to say hi. I for one am happy to chat. 

Keep well and stay strong, we’re in this together. 

Steve Abley 
Chief Executive

Location mapping for banded birds

Our digital engineering team helped the Department of Conservation pinpoint the location of banded bird sightings, with precision and speed. 

Birds are a critical part of the world’s ecosystems. They directly impact human health, our economy and food production. We need them to eat insects, pollinate plants, spread seeds and transfer nutrients from land to sea and back again. In order to ensure the survival of our species and the world’s ecosystems, it is essential that birds are protected and continue their valuable services. 

In the field of conservation, the more we know, the better we can help. To support bird conservation efforts, the Department of Conservation (DoC) operates a nationwide bird banding program to help researchers identify individual birds and study their behaviour, breeding activities, life cycle and movements.

DoC uses crowdsourced reports from the public to collect sightings of banded birds – a method that is both fruitful and challenging. While crowdsourcing data is an efficient way to monitor large geographic areas at minimal cost, it can be difficult to control the quality of the data received. Publicly sourced data can often fall victim to poor reliability, irregular formatting and varied response structure.

This was the exact problem DoC encountered. Some user reports of the sighting location would come through with clearly structured addresses, but others would come through with poorly defined locations such as “by the school gate”. To further complicate matters, some entries would only specify coordinates, often in varying formats. To make matters worse, these answers were all stored in the same data field, making it frustratingly difficult and time consuming to manually decipher each location and then design a process to map them.

Thankfully, our Digital Engineering team was able to step in and solve the problem. Using a combination of in-house expertise and technology coupled with available external resources such as the geocoding framework provided through Open Street Map, we were able to design and build a process that can dynamically identify the location format and subsequently locate and map the sightings.

By creating a banded bird location mapping system that is both automated and accurate, despite the often idiosyncratic public data it relies on, we have been able to help researchers at DoC work more effectively, allowing them to focus on and improve outcomes for the birds we all love and need.

Hamish Kingsbury
Senior Spatial Data Specialist

Papanui PAK'nSAVE gets the green light

A comprehensive transport analysis by our team helped to achieve a successful outcome for Foodstuffs’ publicly notified consent application.   

Foodstuffs South Island Limited sought the expertise of Abley to prepare an Integrated Transport Assessment (ITA) to accompany the resource consent application to establish a new PAK’nSAVE supermarket, emergency coordination facility and self-service fuel station at 171 Main North Road, Papanui, Christchurch. The emergency coordination facility has a resilience and emergency response function, providing for three days of self-sufficiency for emergency response, including sewer and stormwater containment, new wastewater and freshwater tanks, and permanent on-site diesel generators.

A key feature of the proposal is a new signalised intersection on Main North Road providing safer and more efficient access for vehicles to and from the entire site and improved pedestrian access across Main North Road. Signal optimisation is also proposed at the Main North Road / Northcote Road / QEII Drive signals to improve both the safety and efficiency performance of the intersection.

As part of the ITA, Abley built a microsimulation (s-Paramics) transport model to assess the impact of the proposal on the wider road network. The outcome of the modelling indicated that while the supermarket has a large traffic generating footprint, the majority of trips are already on the network as they pass by the site, or are trips diverted from elsewhere on the local network. Extensive mitigation offered as part of the application led to several positive safety and efficiency effects in the supermarket vicinity. 

The application was publicly notified and referred to a hearing where Abley provided expert transport evidence. The resource consent was recently approved by an independent commissioner, giving PAK’nSAVE the green light to proceed.

Dave Smith
Technical Director, Transportation Planning

Global interest in sharing knowledge on the Safe System approach

Abley’s Dr Shane Turner shares local knowledge with the world and brings new ideas and information home too.

In January 2020, Dr Shane Turner attended the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting in Washington DC. The TRB meeting is the premier transportation conference in the United States, with more than 5,000 presentations in nearly 800 sessions and workshops, covering all transport modes.

Over the years, Shane has observed a significant increase in interest to adopt Vision Zero and the Safe System approach in the United States. This interest was evident in the number of people that attended a podium session Shane chaired about the adoption of the Safe System approach and Safe System tools for New Zealand and Australia.

While Vision Zero principles were initially developed in Sweden, their application in Australia and New Zealand are arguably more applicable to the United States due to the similar design of our cities, and our reliance on private motor vehicles. Australia and New Zealand have made steady progress toward Vision Zero and this is of interest internationally.

New Zealand and Australia also face similar challenges to the United States in making our cities more walking and cycling-friendly. We can learn from what each country, state and city is doing to rebalance the transport network to make them safer for people who walk, cycle and use micro-mobility, especially those who are less mobile or have disabilities. New Zealand has alot in common with the United States and Australia in moving towards a Safe System, and there is great value to be had in attending international conferences to share our challenges and knowledge.

One area of the Safe System that jurisdictions in the United States are currently grappling with, is gaining support for and adopting safer speeds. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. It is crucial to effectively engage with local communities and provide clear information around the Safe System approach and evidence around the crash risks. An effective engagement approach enables road authorities to understand and design safer roads by implementing infrastructure improvements, including placemaking and lower speed limits.

Many people are hoping automation of vehicles will lower the road toll, but this alone won’t achieve Vision Zero. There will still be people interacting with motor vehicles, and when this occurs at speed the results are traumatic. A balanced approach of infrastructure improvement, speed management and technology are the best way forward.

Congratulations to Shane Turner (Abley), Eddie Cook (KiwiRail) & Shaun Bosher (Stantec) on the great honour of being presented with a “Best Paper Award” at the TRB Meeting. The paper on “Level Crossing Safety Impact Assessments (LCSIA) for Vehicle and Pedestrian Crossings” was highly rated by the reviewers of the AHB60-Highway/Rail Grade Crossing Committee.

Dr Shane Turner
Technical Director, Road Safety

Kate Brill profile picture

Meet the team: Kate Brill

For the past 18 years Kate has been a transportation planner across both private and public sectors in New Zealand and Australia.

Before joining Abley, Kate worked in development planning at Auckland Transport, with a focus on the review and critique of transport outcomes of new developments and subdivisions. Kate gained extensive experience in the planning and design of walking and cycling facilities, public transport facilities, and roading and access design, where she provided planning and engineering advice throughout the consenting and engineering approval process.

Kate also has experience in travel demand management, where she previously managed the development, delivery and monitoring of safe and sustainable transport plans and initiatives. This included project management for effective delivery of projects, business case development and the design and implementation of marketing and awareness campaigns. 

Kate’s experience in network planning for the school bus network across Auckland and planning and promotion of sustainable transport options for school travel in Waitakere are a valuable addition to our Land Development team. Since joining Abley late last year, Kate has hit the ground running working on a range of projects involving transport assessments, resource consents and traffic engineering advice for local government and private clients.

In her spare time, Kate enjoys a range of active pursuits including biking, walking and swimming. She’s also an avid sports fan—especially when it comes to cheering on her young son from the sidelines during his many football, rugby and cricket games.

Kate Brill
Principal Transportation Planner

The power of new data

By harnessing the power of the most up-to-date census data available, we’re helping clients build more accurate models and empower better decisions.

Did you know that the 2018 Census data is now available from Statistics NZ? High-level datasets are publicly available and much more data can be unlocked through customised data requests. This includes datasets at the most fine-grained geographic level, Statistical Area 1 (SA1). Containing populations of typically 100-200 people, SA1 replaces the old standard of meshblock units and is the new standard for the building blocks of demographic data in New Zealand.

With the release of the 2018 Census dataset our team can more accurately represent where people live and work, and how they travel. This new data will provide invaluable insights for many facets of planning and decision making, including the development of transportation models, facility selection, transport strategy and scheme appraisal. Using the newly released 2018 data can remove the uncertainty that decision makers face when working with forecasts based on 2013 census data, which will now be seven years old.

Census datasets can readily be combined with other publicly held, or privately sourced, data repositories such as aerial photography from LINZ, RAMM data or bespoke traffic and parking survey data. The team at Abley can bring you the essential combination of transport planning knowledge and data analytics expertise to help you unlock the power of these large national datasets.

If you’d like to know more about harnessing the power of census data to help with your transport planning or related project, please contact Chris. 

Chris Blackmore
Senior Transportation Planner

New team members add valuable skills and diverse range of experience

Please join us in welcoming our 6 new team members.

Mark Thompson temp picture

Mark Thompson has 20+ years’ experience in the geospatial industry across a diverse range of industries. Mark enjoys working with people to help create a better business, whether that’s improving processes, providing strategic direction or implementing advanced technical solutions. Mark has joined our team as an Associate Spatial Advisor and is based in Tauranga.

Kate Brill is based in our Auckland office as a Principal Transportation Planner. Kate has 18 years’ experience in the private and public sectors in both New Zealand and Australia, working in development planning, walking and cycling planning and design, transport assessments, resource consents and travel demand management.

Evan Stranks profile picture

Evan Stranks recently arrived in New Zealand from the UK, and is originally from Canada. Evan is a Senior Transportation Engineer in our Safe Systems team, and is based in Christchurch. Evan is experienced in all stages of transportation projects, but is particularly interested in research, analysis and feasibility.

Edwin van Ras profile image

Edwin Van Ras immigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands earlier this year, and has joined us in Christchurch as the Business Delivery Manager for our Software Development team. Edwin has previously worked for some of the finest hi-tech innovation and automation companies in a variety of roles, including test automation specialist, senior software architect, agile product owner and HR lead and Innovation lead.

Subodh Dangwal is a Senior Spatial Advisor in our Software Development team, based in our Auckland office. Subodh is a full stack web developer and GIS specialist, with previous experience working in both the public and private sectors.

Luke Sussex was previously a summer intern with Abley. Luke joined our Auckland team in February as a Graduate Spatial Adviser, after completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Geospatial Science from AUT. His final year projects included using GIS analysis and Python programming to report on global air quality, investigating bus accessibility in Auckland and determining global fire risk using Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis.