Street Smart (Autumn 2022)

From the front...

Autumn 2022 

Kia ora, 

Staying ahead, means staying at the front. 

But when you’re drowning in information, how is it possible to filter information into knowledge?  Answer: speak to your professionals.  And that doesn’t matter if it’s us for technology and engineering practice or your accountant or your lawyer.  Your trusted advisors reduce risk, introduce innovation, and widen your breadth of vision.  We help keep our clients at the front.

In this newsletter, we’ve focused on some of the unique work we’re doing keeping our client’s knowledge razor sharp, so they can add their wisdom and together we can create real value for today’s challenges. 

That includes using aerial drones for traffic surveys, but not everywhere, we know the environments where they are best used.  And UX for almost anything, because regardless if it’s a software or an engagement plan, a great user experience is required for every project’s success. That reach for knowledge means we’re also extending our reach to better support our lower North Island clients.  

This week, we opened the doors of our new Wellington office at Level 1, 119-123 Featherston Street, on the corner of Waring Taylor Street.  Having a home means we’re not only cementing our presence but also extending our support – we welcome you to pop in if you’re in the area!

Steve Abley 
Chief Executive

Lowering the road toll with better speed management

New Zealand has a plan to get to zero road deaths by 2050. 

Abley is helping Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) achieve this with effective speed management advice and programmes. We are also helping other countries achieve their Vision Zero targets.

Mornington Peninsula (Victoria, Australia)

Abley is providing road safety expertise to the Victoria State Government Department of Transport (DoT) as they work to improve road safety in Victoria, Australia. In 2019 the Mornington Peninsula Shire experienced the most road deaths of any municipality in Victoria. This level of trauma inspired the Council to accelerate adopting the safe system approach to managing road safety.  Part of this new approach included a trial reducing speed limits from 100km/h or 90km/h to 80km/h on 33 corridors. The trial began early 2020 and ran for two years. During the trial, Abley were engaged to undertake a before-and-after evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the speed limit reduction.

Why evaluate?

Before-and-after evaluations provide valuable feedback to stakeholders on how effective road safety projects and programmes are in reducing speed and the severity of crashes.  With the goal of Vision Zero, it is more important than ever to understand which safety programmes and interventions are the most effective.

How did we do it?

Working with the DoT, Abley developed an evaluation framework outlining the objectives, methodology and key performance indicators to achieve safer speeds on high speed Local Government Authority roads. Consistent with the new framework, our work focused on assessing changes in mean speed and compliance with the new speed limit after the lower speed limits were introduced.  ‘Before’ spot speed data was collected in late 2019 using tube counts on 33 treated corridors and 18 control corridors. ‘After’ data collections were then undertaken at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after the speed limits were changed. A robust statistical analysis report concludes the evaluation findings.

What’s next?

The evaluation showed a significant reduction in operating speeds following the speed limit reductions. We are currently analysing the third ‘after’ speed dataset which will complete the travel speed evaluation.

Once five years have passed, a further before-and-after evaluation will show whether the trial is successful in reducing deaths and serious injuries. Five years of ‘after’ crash data is preferred to accurately assess whether crashes are reduced.

Jay Baththana
Principal Transportation Engineer

Helping the US Federal Highways Administration reduce road deaths with speed management

The number of deaths from road crashes in the US increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The number of people killed increased seven percent between 2019 and 2020, increasing from 36,096 to 38,680 deaths per year. The upward trend continued through 2021 with the number of people killed up 12 percent in the first nine months of the year.  It is expected that the final death toll will exceed 40,000 in 2021– the first time it has been at this level since 2007.

In response to the increasing road trauma, the US federal government made road safety a priority area in their November 2021 Infrastructure Bill, which included an investment of $US11 billion in transportation safety programs.   Most importantly, the US adopted the safe system approach and the vision zero target “Zero is our Goal”.

Abley is currently working with the US Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) to provide advice to the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) on how to develop speed management plans using the safe system approach at a state and city/county level. This involved identifying best practice speed management practices and case studies across the US and internationally, including in New Zealand and Australia.

Of particular interest to the ITE and FHWA were the speed management programmes underway at a national level in New Zealand and within Auckland City.  Abley were able to incorporate various elements of the New Zealand speed management approach within our reporting back to ITE.  The New Zealand approach to speed management is truly world-class as it takes a systemic (or network-wide) approach to safe speeds, based on understanding the underlying crash risk on public roads, and how area-wide speed management with infrastructure improvements address this risk.  The ability to estimate the reduction in deaths and serious injuries (DSI) from speed management is important. This is particularly so when communicating the expected outcome of each speed management programme to elected officials and stakeholders. 

Shane Turner
Technical Director Road Safety

CarbonWise emissions tool

Our team are really proud to have designed and developed New Zealand’s first digital tool to help organisations measure carbon emissions generated by commuting employees.

Ideal for large organisations with teams in multiple locations, CarbonWise includes commuter surveys and allows your organisation to analyse results with a user-friendly dashboard.

Find out more and book a demo with Benjamin Walch here.

Play Video about CarbonWise video

Is aerial drone footage the future of traffic surveys?

Abley recently used drones to capture traffic conditions for several school-related projects around Auckland.

Our client was considering expanding the school roll at an existing school in east Auckland to cater for the growing population in the area. We needed to understand the existing traffic and parking conditions in and around the school to determine what was required to support the growing school roll and inevitable rise in vehicle trips. This meant capturing data on parking supply and demand, congestion at nearby intersections, pedestrian desire lines and the occurrence of unsafe driving behaviours.

We engaged a land surveying company to fly a drone, also known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), over the school during pick up and drop off times. We requested permission from the school to fly overhead and sought assurance that the footage would not pick up faces or car registration plates. We also had to wait for a predictable weather forecast.  Height restrictions in this location meant we couldn’t capture the entire study area in one frame so we panned around, repeatedly collecting footage of the roads we needed. The footage was briefly interrupted by a battery change and the Eagle police helicopter hovering in the skyline. Luckily both interruptions were short-lived, although the latter was an unexpected interruption that is hard to plan for.

In addition to being more cost effective than having surveyors manually monitoring traffic on every corner, the raw video footage was invaluable as it could be referenced when the Council and other interested parties requested further information on the transport environment.

Other potential uses of drone technology are still being explored, but we are finding that in the right conditions, drone surveys can provide more information and are more cost effective than traditional manual surveying methods. For larger jobs, we also have the ability to use a computer vision-based solution which uses machine learning to categorise modes or users automatically. As we move towards a digital future, we are on the look out for projects where we can use this exciting new technology.

Kermath, UAV pilot from Cuetone Media

Kate Brill
Associate Transportation Planner

UX design discussion

Do I need UX for my project?

We all know of websites that frustrate us – is it your online banking site, or are you struggling to pay your utility bill, book a hotel or having trouble purchasing goods online? Have you ever thought about why? User Experience (UX) design is the process of designing a product, system, or service from the user’s perspective.

UX involves a process of discovery through design thinking which is essentially a method of problem solving that involves deeply understanding the problem the product is trying to solve, to drive the best solution. This approach is research-based, user centric and iterative. Ideas are tested rapidly and adapted before the design phase, so by the time development starts there is confidence that the solution is highly effective. This saves time, ensures the development phase is accurately scoped and streamlined, project teams align, and the end product is targeted towards customers.

During this phase research activities like workshops and user interviews build rapport and help the customer feel valued and listened to. UX deliverables like user personas and journey maps help us discover who our users are by introducing a touch of psychology to the process. For instance, we can find out whether customers need to use your application on a mobile device or a laptop or whether an autofill will make life easy for them. Is the application too long and onerous so it drives customers away? Do we need to design our product for a non-technical customer base?

So do I need UX for my project?

The return on investment from UX won’t disappoint. Since introducing UX our websites and apps are more user friendly. If you are interested, a simple meeting may be all that is required, or we can scale up to an intensive discovery phase. Contact Abley’s specialist UX designer Emma Harris for more information.

Emma Harris
Senior UI/UX Designer

Meet the team: Steve Ford

Steve joined the Abley team as a summer intern at the end of 2016 and has since progressed from intermediate and senior spatial adviser roles to Business Delivery Manager for the Safe System team.

Fresh from completing post graduate studies in Computer Science and GIS, Steve joined Abley as a student intern. He worked on a project funded by Callaghan Innovation, aimed at improving the accuracy of lightning strike forecasting in areas with critical utilities infrastructure. This interesting project marked the beginning of his fast-tracked career at Abley.

As a Graduate Spatial Analyst, he contributed to a broad range of geospatial analysis projects in road safety. This included crash and infrastructure risk analysis, high risk curve identification and speed management mapping for clients in Aotearoa and Australia.

He later began working on custom geospatial web solutions. He used the Esri suite of spatial products to bring new life to geospatial web solutions, drawing on his computer science background to extend the platform to best achieve solutions to real world road safety problems. The combination of geospatial data and web applications enabled clients to increase the reach of their work programmes.

A significant highlight for Steve has been leading the technical development of the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency MegaMaps web tool (the Safer Journeys Risk Assessment Tool). This interactive tool provides Road Controlling Authorities with a geospatial representation of the Speed Management Guide, including a nationwide dataset of calculated Safe and Appropriate Speeds. The project team received national and international recognition for this work.

Steve recently took up the position of Business Delivery Manager for our Safe System team, leading a talented group of transport engineers and spatial advisers who are on a collective mission to make our roads safer for everyone.

Outside of work, Steve enjoys spending time with friends and family and getting into the great outdoors.

Steve Ford
Senior Spatial Adviser

wellington office

We have a new Wellington office!

Level 1, 119 – 123 Featherston Street is our new address in Wellington. Our office is right in the heart of the city, in a location that is easy walking distance to transport hubs and many of our clients.

Jo Draper has recently relocated from Auckland back to Wellington. Jo leads Abley’s Land Development team, and brings a wealth of transportation planning knowledge to the team. She is supported by Jae Morse who has moved up to Wellington from the Christchurch office. Jae is a Transportation Engineer with a broad range of experience. Jacob Pescini is our expert in geospatial data and Anthea Mulholland is the lead of the Wellington region and also manages consultation and engagement.

We look forward to connecting with our Wellington clients and welcoming you into our new office. Watch this space for a Wellington event soon!

New starters add valuable skills and experience to our growing team

Marco Poetsch (Senior Spatial Adviser) joins our Location Solutions team. He has 10 years’ experience working in local government in GIS. Outside of work, Marco likes hiking, photography, backcountry skiing, travelling and kayaking.

Daisy-Bea Scrase (Graduate Transportation Planner) joins our People, Place, Planet team and is incredibly passionate about transport planning. Daisy has recently completed a BSc in Environmental Science and Geography.  Outside of work, Daisy has been heavily involved with the Student Volunteer Army, and Secretary and Women’s Captain for the Canterbury Rowing Club.

Rebecca Teal-Ireland (Principal Transportation Data Analyst) joins the Safe Systems team from WSP where she has been a Data Analyst and Team Leader – Operation Asset Management for 11 years. Rebecca’s experience and skills include GIS, project management, asset management, RAMM and team leadership.  Rebecca has great knowledge in the transportation space in Northland.  Outside of work Rebecca enjoys tramping, has three children, a boat masters ticket and has completed 4WD training.

Ria Chapman (Innovation Project Coordinator) joins us from the University of Canterbury where she has been Acting Institute Manager for the Biomolecular Interaction Centre. Ria’s experience and skills include innovation, project management, commercialisation, team leadership, as well as being a life sciences specialist. Ria has worked in government and universities and led and promoted many innovation programmes. Outside of work Ria enjoys the outdoors and exploring New Zealand. She loves swimming, biking and rogaining.

Dan Manton (Business Delivery Manager) joins our Software Development team.  Dan’s career started with a Bachelor of Engineering – Electrical and Electronic, he then moved to software engineering and is now a leader and manager in software and product management.  Outside of work Dan enjoys cricket, soccer, rugby, fishing, music and spending time with his family and dogs.

Nagesh Podduturi (Test Engineer) joins our Software Development team having worked as a QA Analyst for nine years. Nagesh’s experience includes testing mobile applications, desktop applications and web-based applications, as well as quality assurance. Outside of work Nagesh enjoys cricket, technology and hanging out with his family. 

Ebrahim Sangsefidi  (Senior Transportation Design Engineer) joined  the Safety Delivery team and is based in Auckland. Ebrahim has a strong background in detailed design – pavement, traffic and geometric design. Ebrahim has a PhD in Transportation Engineering – his research was on how the weathering environments can affect road aggregate material.  Outside of work Ebrahim enjoys swimming, volleyball, cycling and baking.

Read our latest blogs + news

abley on bikes

Join our team

We are always on the hunt for talented professionals to join our award-winning team. We have lots of exciting opportunities  advertised on our website over the next few weeks.

If you are seeking a technical leadership role in transportation or have transportation or planning experience, or are interested in a transport, spatial or software role in Wellington, we would love to hear from you! 

View our careers page for our current vacancies.