Street Smart (Summer 2020)


From the front...

Summer 2020

Kia ora, 

What a year it has been…

Here in New Zealand, it was our first pandemic in living memory, we had the first person sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, the largest ever quarterly decline in GDP and the highest yearly net migration gain ever; and that was just the highlights! Add in a delayed election and a change of US President – tired anyone?

One of these issues would be significant in their own right but combined they are massive challenges that have highlighted underlying issues, such as housing affordability. Fortunately, as a nation it appears our health crisis first, economic crisis second strategy has been the right approach. The economic crisis for example appears to be less of a crisis and enabled more of a reset. It has enabled us as a nation to reconsider what outcomes we want to derive from international tourism, how we wish to prioritise and fund national infrastructure and (I hope) how we wish to fund local communities in the longer term.  

The events of 2020 have helped us to focus on what’s important right now and going forward. With the importance of being agile at the forefront, we rolled out our flexible working policy (Flexabley) this year, and have been focusing on environmental sustainability and quality standards. 

Like everyone, we have been navigating the economic changes that have faced us as a nation. Our presence in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Nelson and Christchurch enables breadth and resilience. But there is an obvious gap – and that is Wellington. We are keen for a presence in Wellington, so if you think you might be the right person for our team, I would love to hear from you – just send me a note for a confidential chat.

We are always striving to do better and as always, I’m open to feedback. Personally I’m looking forward to 2021 – continuing our evolution with a great bunch of clients, collaborators, partners, industry and of course our wider team. It really is a privilege to lead such a talented group of professionals, who are so passionate about what they do and make our workplace a great place to be!  

On a more personal note I want to wish you and your families a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou!

Take care, Steve

Steve Abley 
Chief Executive

here visualisation

What can HERE do for you?

Abley has partnered with HERE Technologies to bring this incredibly powerful mapping and data gathering tool to the New Zealand market.

HERE Technologies has a distinguished history in automotive mapping dating back to 1985. Fast forward 35 years and HERE represents a new type of location platform that combines authoritative data with a powerful software development kit (SDK) to solve many of the world’s transport and logistics problems.

Abley recently became HERE Technology partners, which means we’re now able to bring these mapping solutions to the New Zealand market. We’re thrilled about the opportunities that HERE mapping products present.

Here are just a few of its amazing capabilities.

As one might expect, HERE has an extensive road centreline covering all of New Zealand and much of the globe. This is kept fresh by HERE’s own fleet of vehicles which regularly survey the network to provide quarterly updates. The centreline is just the start – curvature, elevation and road roughness data are also collected. Road furniture such as signs, signals and safety cameras are also recorded and associated with the network.  

HERE vehicles which drive the network also capture terrestrial Lidar data which provides amazing insight into the road environment. Want to know how wide a carriageway is? Skip the site visit, HERE can answer that for you.

Beyond data capture, HERE also provides a mapping SDK to support application builds.

As you can see, the HERE Technology platform incredibly powerful and extensive. We are thrilled to bring it to the New Zealand market through our HERE Technology partnership.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

Efficient use of 3D technologies for visualisation

Painting that 1000-word picture – faster and better!

What happens next after your concept has been workshopped, the design work completed and the technical deliverables ready? Having the ability to showcase this work to the client and pull everything together at the tail end of the project quickly can be a challenge.
WSP engaged Abley to support their Arthurs Point Crossing business case work for Queenstown-Lakes District Council (QLDC) which included a preliminary design for a new two lane bridge for Arthurs Point Crossing, adjoining road alignments and an active mode route across the Kimiākau Shotover River close to the historic Edith Cavell Bridge site.
Abley’s Digital Engineering team of visualisation artists collaborated closely with WSP to compose a shared vision of the proposal. Using recent advancements in 3D rendering technologies and rapid visualisation workflows, the team assembled a consultation-ready video, incorporating multiple changes and additions to the final design within a short space of time. The ability to dynamically update video sequences as the final finishing touches were added, allowed WSP and Abley to test various scenarios, maximising the remaining time and budget.
Delivered as a high definition video hosted by QLDC, the Edith Cavell Bridge proposal was shared with both the client team and the wider public through the community engagement period. 

Evaluating the evaluations

Abley recently helped Victorian Department of Transport’s (DoT) Safer Roads team assess their appraisal and evaluation methodologies, in a series of well-attended masterclass webinars.

The Safer Roads team at the Victoria Department of Transportation (DoT) are committed to improving their safety appraisal processes and post-construction program evaluations. Rigorous evaluations ensure that intervention benefits are accurately captured for the appraisal of future safety projects.

In July 2020, the DoT Safer Roads team hosted three masterclass webinars to discuss their appraisal and evaluation processes. Over 200 staff attended. Abley presented in one of the masterclasses, and working with Professor Bhagwant Persaud from Canada, assisted in a second one.

A major concern identified in the masterclasses was the overestimation of safety benefits. Road safety treatments are often applied in locations with a large number of crashes. However, research shows that crash rates normally reduce at such sites even when there is no treatment. This is a statistical phenomenon called ‘regression to the mean’. When treating these sites, it’s important to distinguish whether crash reduction occurred due to regression to the mean or the applied safety treatment.

Another concern was the use of incorrect ‘crash reduction factors’ – the expected reduction in crashes for different safety treatments. Some of the factors being used were sourced from poor quality research studies which didn’t consider the effect of multiple treatments applied at the same time. As a result, these crash reduction factors over-estimated the safety benefits.

Following these masterclasses DoT have commissioned Abley, in combination with our network of international experts, to provide advice on how their appraisal and evaluation methods could be improved going forward.

Dr Shane Turner
Technical Director, Road Safety

Abley Event Mapper web application GUI

Helping fans get closer to the action

This year Abley created a new application called Event Mapper. This breakthrough tool provides helpful spatial information to spectators attending large, spread out events.

Geographically dispersed events like running, cycling, multisport or motorsport present a unique challenge for spectators. Getting close to the action requires travelling to a variety of remote locations within specific timeframes. However, information for spectators about where to safely go, when to get there and what facilities are available can often be hard to find. When it is available, it’s either not presented spatially or fails to integrate with smart phone technology.

After attending a few 2019 motorsport rally events, Abley’s Dr. Stacy Rendall realised that we, as experts in data intelligence, transforming and presenting information through high value workflows, should be able to do something about this!

Guided by colleague and experienced rally co-driver Glenn Goldring and working collaboratively with New Zealand Rally Championship representatives, Abley intern Lois Li (from Signal ICT Grad School) built the core of the Event Mapper application. This prototype was designed for the 2020 Rally of New Zealand, which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19.

Following that, we ran a beta test of the Event Mapper website for Autosport Club’s October Canterbury Rally. You can take a look at how it came to life here.

Not only does Event Mapper make it easier for spectators to find information, it can also promote safer spectating and increase customer engagement with event sponsors.

Looking forward, we plan to develop an offline-capable version which will be able to work at locations lacking cell reception (another frequent challenge of geographically dispersed events) and provide routing while accounting for event-based road closures.

At Abley, we continuously innovate and deliver state-of-the-art location tech solutions. We’re excited about working with other event organisers to help them enhance their spectator experience, so fans can get closer to the action, safely.

To find out how Event Mapper could support your next event, please contact Glenn Goldring.

Glenn Goldring
Principal Software Solutions Architect

Taking the guesswork out of trip generation

Abley recently completed an internal report for Austroads around trip generation, to identify where difficulties occur and how the process could be improved.  

Part of a transportation forecasting process, trip generation predicts the number of trips originating in or destined for a particular traffic analysis zone. Transportation planners and engineers use trip generation rates to predict the traffic impacts of proposed developments and to inform plan changes and resource consents.

Currently in Australia and New Zealand, there is no clear and consistent procedure for how trip generation rates are calculated and applied across different locations and activities. We were commissioned by Austroads to investigate the challenges in estimating trip generation and identify opportunities for improvement. The project was highly consultative. It included an industry-wide online survey, one-on-one surveys with practitioners and a workshop.

Through this process we identified the need for a step-by-step approach so that practitioners have clear direction and can address site-specific contexts. Given that half of industry respondents considered current guidance to be inadequate at least 50% of the time, provision of clearer processes will result in improved outcomes for practitioners and road controlling authorities.

Working with industry experts, we developed a series of short and long term recommendations which include undertaking further research and providing resources and support for industry practitioners.

While we love to assign numerical outcomes to our work, the benefits associated with implementing our recommendations are difficult to quantify. In general, benefits will become clear through improved access to data, fewer disputes over trip rates and the ability to achieve better resource management outcomes.

If you’re curious about trip generation rates or would like to learn more about this research, please contact Jo Draper or Dave Smith.

Dave Smith
Technical Director, Transportation Planning

Jo Draper
Associate Transportation Planner

New walking research published

Abley’s research into ‘levels of service for walking’ was published in a Waka Kotahi report, titled “Developing methodologies for improving customer levels of service for walking”.

The research identified the environmental factors that most significantly affect people’s choices about whether to walk, and what makes for a positive walking experience. This led to development of a Pedestrian Level of Service Framework for New Zealand and an accompanying online assessment tool.

These outcomes are considered a starting point for consistent measurement and evaluation of pedestrian level of service in urban areas of New Zealand. The framework and assessment tool should help to prioritise investment in projects aimed at encouraging more walking, which in turn contributes to a range of positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.

Abley’s Ann-Marie Head presented a summary of the research in a Pedestrian Planning and Design Update webinar held recently. You can watch the webinar here.

To view the research report, click here.

Ann-Marie Head
Associate Director, Transportation Engineering

New starters for our road safety team

Our road safety team is growing – welcome to our new team members:

Vish Krishnaswamy is an Associate Director in our Safety Delivery team. Vish was the Project Team Leader for the Auckland Motorway Alliance where he led designers, construction project managers and draughtsmen to achieve the best outcome for clients and the public alike. His background in road safety coupled with excellent project delivery and interpersonal skills provide depth and leadership to the team.

Lewis Martin is a Senior Transportation Engineer within our Safe System team. Lewis is focused on finding innovative new methods to deliver data led solutions to road safety applications. Lewis’ previous experience in local government has given him insight to the unique challenges facing Road Controlling Authorities today. 

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.