Street Smart (Autumn 2021)

From the front...

Autumn 2021

Kia ora, 

Reduced international tourists and a milestone birthday seemed like an ideal time for our family of five to head off on an adventure to explore New Zealand over summer. 
We were away 65 nights in total and made our way to some spots well off the beaten track. The trip has left both me and my family with a much better understanding and appreciation for NZ’s geography, plants and animals. It has also made plain the reality of our privilege living away from the luxury of home comforts, and the reality of living out of a car and camping trailer. It was an extraordinary experience for us all, and I will write more about that as a separate blog series.

Traveling around our beautiful country also reignited my love of sharing geography and engineering with others. I truly believe NZ has a rich history of great infrastructure firsts that will help us better understand and address the infrastructure deficit we are currently experiencing.

It is a really positive sign that today’s economic activity has rebounded to pre Covid-19 levels. Due in part to that and Abley’s expanded range of services and packaged solutions, we are currently seeking a number of people to join our team to help deliver the growing demand from clients for our transportation solutions and location intelligence. It feels like NZ has more than weathered the storm, and that we are an AC75 flying and shifting to high mode – Wellington included, which is why we are setting up a new office there soon – watch this space!  

Enjoy this edition of StreetSmart, I’m particularly excited by the internal research and development that we undertake and continues to set us apart.  

Hope to catch up with you soon,

Steve Abley 
Chief Executive

Improving active transport infrastructure in Dunedin?

Stephen Carruthers and Jeanette Ward have been working with the Dunedin City Council’s Transport Group to develop a business case for eight cycle routes on Dunedin’s arterial roads.

The project adds 16km of cycle route, filling key gaps in the network. Although the primary focus was on developing a business case for new cycle facilities, this project presented an ideal opportunity to improve Dunedin’s transport infrastructure for all users.

Journeying together

A series of workshops were held to outline the project challenges and define the desired outcomes. The team then carried out analysis to shortlist the best ideas. Abley led the writing of the business case and the key design elements of the project.

The cycle route designs applied a range of treatments including cycle lanes, buffered cycle lanes, sharrow markings in shared traffic lanes and shared paths. Abley’s experience developing the national cycle network design guidance helped us identify the right solution for each location.

Pedestrian improvements were made along the routes with more road crossings in better locations, and raising crossings to slow vehicle speeds. Bus stops were relocated to better positions and other safety improvements and speed limit changes were integrated into the business case, including reduced speed limits around schools.

A strong case for investment

The multi-modal approach had the additional benefit of packing in more improvements for an affordable cost, making this business case a strong investment for the city.
The independent safety audit and business case peer review confirmed that the designs and business case were fit for purpose. The project has been included in the draft Otago Southland Regional Land Transport Plan 2021-2031 that is now out for consultation.

Jeanette Ward
Technical Director, Transportation Engineering

Steve Carruthers
Associate, Transportation Planner

Managing your data effectively

We’re excited to announce that Abley is now a Managed Service Provider for FME Cloud, a cost effective and more accessible version of FME Server.

With data playing an ever-increasing role in organisations today, being able to bring information streams together and draw useful insights is essential. While spreadsheets or databases may have been sufficient in the past, these forms of data storage quickly become cumbersome and difficult to use as businesses grow.

Forging a solution

FME, or ‘Feature Manipulation Engine’ is a sophisticated data integration platform that collates data and makes it functional and user friendly. To embed FME with client organisations, our Digital Engineering team set up a dedicated FME Server driven by powerful, automated workflows. However, a number of clients asked us whether there is a simpler, pared back and more affordable option.

FME Cloud

FME Cloud is a web-hosted version of FME Server. FME Cloud eliminates the need for hardware and server maintenance, minimises downtime and provides continual data backup. In addition, as a Managed Service Provider, Abley can provide clients with day-to-day management, disaster recovery, security, uptime management, version upgrades and serve as personal support specialists.

With FME Cloud we are able to offer an even broader suite of data services to our clients – and with better use of data comes better communication, customer service, decision-making and overall productivity.

To get started with FME Cloud (including a US$250 credit), contact Todd Davis, Hamish Kingsbury, or Gavin Jeter.

Gavin Jeter
Principal FME Specialist

Pedestrian planning and design webinars

Following on from two webinars delivered last year, Ann-Marie Head and Jeanette Ward presented a further five pedestrian planning and design webinars in February 2021. 

This webinar series was prompted by the release of a research report called ‘Updating Austroads Pedestrian Planning and Design Guidance in line with International Best Practice’. Webinars included topics such as road space allocation, mid-block crossings and intersection design for pedestrians, and pedestrian planning and design in activity centres and residential areas. 

Translating guidance into practice

The webinars were well attended by people across Australasia and beyond. Feedback was very positive. Attendees particularly appreciated the use of case studies to give context to the guidance provided in the report. Ann-Marie and Jeanette believe that real-world examples, accompanied by photographs, are essential to illustrating how good practice can be delivered (as well as sometimes showing what not to do). 

The full suite of seven webinars can be used as a valuable training resource for your teams. They are now available for viewing:
•    Pedestrian Planning Concepts
•    Measuring Pedestrians – Survey and Audit Methods
•    Road Space Allocation for Pedestrians
•    Midblock Crossings for Pedestrians
•    Pedestrian Planning and Design at Intersections
•    Pedestrian Planning and Design for Activity Centres
•    Pedestrian Planning and Design for Residential

If you need to develop training webinars or courses, Abley can help. We have experience in bringing complex information to life in clear and compelling ways, and delivering it in a format your team can easily access.

Jeanette Ward
Technical Director, Transportation Engineering

Ann-Marie Head
Associate Director, Transportation Engineering

Meet the team: Courtney Groundwater

Courtney has been involved in a wide range of projects since she first started at Abley 11 years ago.

Highlights include studying a Masters of Transport Planning and Engineering at the University of Leeds (UK), and time working in Colombia and the UK where she led a study for the UK National Infrastructure Commission. 

“I’m really driven by the purpose of what I do in my work and what it achieves for the wider community. I’m a strong believer in providing transport choice, ensuring streets are effective in delivering both place and movement functions, and finding pragmatic ways to achieve desired outcomes.”

Courtney is Abley’s People and Places team leader and is currently seconded as the Programme Manager for Auckland’s Innovating Streets Programme. Innovating Streets is a national pilot programme led and majority funded by Waka Kotahi. It enables a new approach to designing and delivering for our transport network, aimed at making it faster and easier to transition our streets to safer and more liveable spaces. Auckland’s Innovating Streets programme consists of projects led by five agencies: Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, Panuku, Kāinga Ora and Tāmaki Regeneration. Courtney is excited to be Team Leader and Programme Manager for the Auckland programme, in part because it aligns with her own career goals.

“It’s great seeing what can be achieved when we push ourselves to do things differently. There have been some great wins across the projects, including resolving some previous ‘design stalemates’ by being able to test and monitor design departures.

What's new in research and development?

With new technologies and processes being developed every day, keeping our team and clients up-to-date with the latest developments and undertaking R&D is essential. 

Machine Learning

If you follow our blogs, you will have seen a recent series on machine learning. In simple terms, machine learning is about training computers to perform advanced analyses based on past experiences. 

We have been looking at how computer vision could be used to detect traffic signs across the road network. Road signs are essential for wayfinding and keeping us safe on the road. With over 90,000 kilometres of roads in New Zealand, managing the location, quality and maintenance of signs is no simple task. 

With the support of Callaghan Innovation, we spent the last six months assessing how video footage of roads can be used to locate signs automatically. Factors at play include the type, resolution and location of the camera, GPS accuracy, types of signs and different light conditions. This work has produced some interesting findings and greatly expanded our understanding of machine learning.

An example of this analysis can be seen below. How well can a computer detect a road? 

Other recent examples of Abley R&D include:

Continuous forward visibility – Using high quality terrestrial LiDAR to automatically assess the forward visibility from any part of the road network, including the effects of vegetation growth. This can be helpful in a range of applications, such as identifying where it is safe or unsafe to overtake vehicles.

Roadside pole hazards – Developing a strategic process to better understand the risk of roadside poles, so that road controlling authorities and utility companies can make better decisions about where they are located – helping reduce deaths and serious injuries and associated costs.

Curiosity is our forté. We enjoy using our passion and innovation to inspire positive change, and look forward to bringing you further updates in this space.

Matthew Noon
Associate Director, Transportation Planning

Welcome to our new team members

We’re excited that our team continues to expand and evolve. Please join us in welcoming our three new transportation graduates:

Jae Morse joined our Christchurch team as a Graduate Transportation Engineer in Strategy and Planning. Jae helps businesses and local government find solutions for the road network in New Zealand and has worked on various sites as a site engineer. Jae loves anything sport related – when he’s not playing sport, he’s likely to be watching it or doing a sports quiz. He is a big fan of NFL, water polo, basketball, cricket, and skiing. 

Liam Bramley is a recent graduate of the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He just started with Abley as Graduate Transportation Engineer in our Land Development team. Liam is passionate about sustainability, transportation and problem solving, and is keen to leave a positive impact for future generations.

Also based in our Auckland office, Jack Chipperfield is a Graduate Transportation Engineer with experience in road safety, MSQA, and transportation design. As a member of our Safety Delivery team, Jack applies his skills and experience to a variety of projects to help progress New Zealand on the Road to Zero. Outside of work Jack is a football fan, an avid tramper, and an aspiring rock climber.

Abley team photo Dec 2019

Join our team

We are always on the hunt for talented professionals to join our award-winning team.

If you have transportation, spatial or software development skills and experience, and you are looking for an exciting new opportunity, we would love to hear from you! 

View our careers page for more info.