Street Smart (Winter 2019)

From the front...

Winter 2019

Earlier this month, we enjoyed celebrating the opening of our new, larger office in Shortland Street, Auckland with our team and local clients. This was another exciting milestone in the growth of our business, we feel very fortunate to have met and worked with so many great people along the way.

Here are some quick stats on our journey so far:

  • 62 – the number of team members we currently have, across two offices
  • 400 – the number of traffic related resource consents we have worked on in Auckland alone.
  • – the percentage of our people now undertaking work in Australia.
  • – the number of key partners we have including Esri, Safe Software, ACENZ and Engineering NZ.
  • – the number of agile sprints we undertake daily.
  • 3 – the number of team members who have either completed, or are currently completing a PhD.
  • 2,000,000 – the number of calculations we undertake to determine sight visibility using LiDAR for a 1km length of State Highway.
  • – the number of graduates we have employed, who later went on their OE and then came back to Abley.

It is the final number above that gives me particular pride. We’ve never been shy about employing graduates and although we’re saddened to lose them when they head off to explore the world, we are humbled when they return to NZ and choose to work with us again because we know this international experience really adds value to our team, and also to the work we do for our clients.

Enjoy this edition of Street Smart, I hope to catch up soon.

Steve Abley 
Chief Executive

Abley auckland staff

New office for growing Abley Auckland team

Since opening our doors at Fort St, Auckland in 2014 with two staff members, our team have met lots of great people, worked on a variety of interesting projects and experienced strong growth, resulting in the need to find a larger office space.

On 20th May 2019, our Auckland team moved to Level 1, 70 Shortland Street in the Shortland Chambers Building. We now have a talented team of 15 transportation and spatial professionals working in our Auckland office, alongside our team of 47 in Christchurch.

Our Auckland team are a diverse bunch of Kiwis originating from England, Iran, Fiji, Korea, Albania, and India, spanning from graduates through to highly experienced professionals. We enjoy having a good balance of gender and ages in both of our Abley offices, meaning there’s never a shortage of interesting banter around the coffee machine!

The new office was designed for, and by our people to create a space that suits our culture and needs. With almost all staff members either taking public transport or cycling to work, it was important to include a dedicated changing area and personal storage units within the office. In order to safely house our bikes, we acquired a bike parking area in our building, which gets used on a daily basis.

Our new space truly reflects the passion of who we are and what we do. We are loving our new light-filled office which looks out into the heart of Auckland CBD with views of the Sky Tower. We welcome you to come and visit us soon!

Thinking smarter to let your data work harder

Data. Businesses are increasingly data driven; whether that is in generating, analysing, consuming or selling it. However, as the amount of data we collect and consume has increased, so have the difficulties associated with using it effectively and efficiently. 

Traditionally a business may have used a spreadsheet or database to store important business information, which is suitable at first but becomes increasingly insufficient as the business grows. Developing processes to migrate or integrate these aging systems with new technologies can greatly increase the accessibility and versatility of data.

As specialists in both transport and geospatial analytics, the team at Abley has significant experience in the management of data, including processing and automation using the power of Safe Software’s FME data integration platform. Our team of FME Certified Professionals work hard to make sure our clients understand their complex data, to allow better informed business decisions and to add value to our client’s organisations.

Across the 68 Road Controlling Authorities (RCA’s) that set and manage speed limits for our roads, each Authority may currently take a different method to managing this data, whether that’s Excel, a text file or database. An example of this work is the development of the National Speed Limit Register, which our team are working on with the NZ Transport Agency. Once completed, this Register will provide accessible, up-to-date speed limit data to all RCA’s, key organisations and the public.

Abley can also assist in developing robust processes to on-board staff, manage plant and assets, visualise and disseminate data, and audit and manage business systems. Another example in this area was for the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) Alliance. NCTIR was established to rebuild the transport infrastructure in the Kaikoura region, following the 2016 earthquake which caused billions of dollars of damage along the Kaikoura coast. With over 2,000 staff working on the project, there was a lot of pressure to induct and on-board people from numerous organisations in the NCTIR Alliance reliably and efficiently, with a scalable system. Utilising technologies such as FME (Desktop and Server) the team was able to provide solutions to complex analysis problems, work flow automations, data structuring and migration. 

It is important to understand the complexities and subtleties of datasets in order to combine them successfully. Abley has developed an automation process that enables us to extract information, translate it to a common format and then submit it to a new system. This saves significant time and cost, while still achieving high levels of accuracy. 

If your organisation is keen to extract greater value from your data, integrate systems or streamline complex processes, touch base with our Digital Engineering team to find out how we can help. 

Hamish Kingsbury
Senior Spatial Data Specialist

Streamlining safety investment on our roads

The New Zealand Government has elevated Road Safety improvements to the forefront of their strategic priorities for the land transport system – but how do we get faster delivery of road safety projects?

Over the past ten years, 3,300 people were killed on our roads. While most people agree this is unacceptable and that we need to act urgently, gaining funding approval for safety projects is a major impediment to taking action.

Business Cases are an important step in ensuring that a proposed project provides value for money and achieves the Government’s objectives for land transport. While Business Cases are a useful and necessary tool for funding assessments, too often projects which involve proven road safety infrastructure treatments are held up by the Business Case process, despite the benefits and value for money already well established through research and analysis.

Earlier this year, the NZ Transport Agency released the first version of the Standard Safety Intervention Toolkit. The Toolkit uses research and analysis completed by Abley, to give guidance on the usage and benefits of a range of proven safety interventions such as median barriers and raised pedestrian crossing platforms. Where a proposed safety treatment meets the eligibility and cost criteria contained within the Toolkit, an accelerated funding approval pathway can be used in place of a traditional Business Case.

The Toolkit is already being used by the NZ Transport Agency to streamline safety investment, but other Road Controlling Authorities are being encouraged to use this process as well. The Toolkit promises to be a game changer for turning the Government’s aims for safety improvements into tangible results more quickly than in the past.

How 3D visualisation brings designs to life

Traditionally most of our work has involved the design and development of streetscape improvements from a two-dimensional perspective. While these provide a good ‘birds-eye view’ of the overall design, they are difficult to visualise and don’t communicate all of the design elements.  

Communicating design ideas with an accurate sense of scale and proportion while showing how the design looks in ‘real life’ is much easier to achieve using 3D visualisation techniques. Our team has been developing options that enable 2D plans to be shown in 3D format and demonstrating how they fit into the wider environment. The benefits of this are significant in that they provide greater depth and context.

For an example, it is increasingly common for gateway roundabouts on our roads to have plantings or sculptural installations incorporated into their design. Yet it is also essential that the safety and functioning of the roundabout isn’t compromised, and that sight lines are not obstructed. Rendering the design in 3D enables viewers to see how plantings or sculptures may affect visibility for drivers approaching and moving through the roundabout.

While the above example has been simplified, the ability to demonstrate and communicate the merits or disadvantages of a proposed design are now clearer. It is possible to replicate entire streets, blocks, campuses or towns to illustrate how different changes may look, feel or operate, with a level of accuracy and precision that previously would have required significant time and investment.

Our team are busy working with a variety of clients to visualise streetscapes, pedestrian and bus facilities, whole town centres and transportation planning projects. We are excited about the value that visualisation can bring to the design and communication in the work that we do for our clients. If you would like to explore this further for your project, please contact Matthew Noon.

Image above left: a traditional 2D ‘Birds-eye’ view. Right: a spatially accurate and scaled ‘Driver’s view’.

Matthew Noon
Associate Transportation Planner

Welcome to our new team members

Abley’s talented team continues to grow with five recent appointments who bring a range of new skills, diversity and experience.

Jeremy Clark is a Senior Spatial Adviser and has hit the ground running since joining our Auckland team in May. He has worked in the spatial industry for around 10 years, most recently in Singapore, and has lots of great technical experience to share with our team and clients.

Jamie Sherriff joins our Web and Software Development team as a Spatial Developer. Jamie has worked as a developer and test automation engineer for the past three years, while also completing his BSc in Geography and Computer Science.

Harsh Jamba, Digital Engineering Technician, will be assisting our team with CAD work, traffic surveys and supporting the Spatial and Technology team. Harsh has completed a Diploma in Civil Engineering and has worked for 18 months as a Waste Water Engineer. Outside of work, Harsh organises Bollywood parties – we look forward to experiencing one of these soon!

Our Shared Services team welcomes two new team members. Joel Pickworth joins our team in Christchurch as the new IT Service Administrator. Originally from Dunedin, Joel spent the past few years working in Brisbane at the Department of Health and has recently returned to New Zealand with his young family. He hopes to continue brewing craft beer in his spare time. Tessa Adolph is our Administrator and is a recent graduate from the University of Canterbury. Tessa is a keen hockey player and enjoys catching up with family and friends for coffee.

Image above from left to right: Joel Pickworth, Tessa Adolph, Jamie Sherriff, Harsh Jamba

Staff profile: Dena Emanuel

Dena joined our Software Development team as Abley’s first UX/UI & Web Designer in September 2018, with the responsibility to ensure our clients receive the best end user experience from the products we build for them.

Dena has thirteen years’ design and software industry experience and is skilled in user experience, user interface design, digital and print design, CSS and HTML. Dena previously worked in a similar role in the eCommerce industry for eight years. Having a background in web development, design and team leadership allows Dena to communicate easily between developers, project managers and end-users.

Dena’s role sees her improving the user experience of projects, creating the user interface for software, providing design guidance, coding and creating wireframes. Dena sees web design and development as a natural extension of her graphic design experience and she particularly enjoys taking a piece of software to the next level.

Recently, Dena worked with the NZ Transport Agency on the National Speed Limit Register project which involves providing Road Controlling Authorities with speed limit data in an intuitive, user-friendly format. Dena is highly creative in her personal pursuits, including making and selling children’s clothing online. While Dena keeps busy at home with her two young boys, dogs, cats, frogs, vegetable garden, she also loves hanging out in the front row at rock concerts!

Abley field trip to new secondary school

Recently some members of our transportation team visited a high school that we provided advice for during the site selection, Notice of Requirement and rebuild processes. Abley has been involved in a number of school rebuild/design projects so this type of field trip allowed a review of how things are working on the ground, now the project is complete and up and running.

School transport peaks are highly concentrated, but to see how intense it was for around 10 minutes, with relative calm returning in about 15 minutes, was a good learning experience for the team. Often the community worry about the traffic congestion and incidents resulting from a school being in their local area. The reality is that it’s a short-lived activity occuring at the beginning and end of each school day during the school term and can be managed with good design and protocols in place.

Another issue raised by the community regarding high schools are the senior students who drive to school and park nearby, often on residential streets. But again, these students are only parking during the six-hour window of school time, freeing up those spaces for residents returning home from work later in the day.

Other key points our team observed were:

  • not all bus drivers manoeuvre around the entry and exit points of the drop off/pick up areas in the same way (one managed to ride the kerb, the others were fine!).

  • students need lots of space while waiting for buses as they cluster in social groups while waiting.

  • drivers on the road frontage appeared happy to wait for students to cross the road under a courtesy arrangement (the high number of students crossing at the refuges meant drivers essentially were outnumbered!).

  • students walking and cycling seemed to mix well on the shared paths.

All in all, it was a worthwhile outing for the team, and we look forward to reviewing the outcomes of our work again soon!

Jeanette Ward
Technical Director, Transportation Engineering

Women in Urbanism Pink Ribbon Breakfast

It was a pleasure to host the ladies from Women in Urbanism Aotearoa Ōtautahi for a Pink Ribbon Breakfast in our Christchurch office recently.

Our team enjoyed reconnecting with other women who are passionate about creating a great urban environment, and to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Thank you to Dale Harris and Clare Piper for sharing their interesting presentation from the ITSNZ Conference on “Equality in Cities: How can technology deliver better outcomes for safety, sustainability and efficiency, in an equitable way?”. Claire and Dale are both passionate about evidence-based decision making that supports quality outcomes for communities, so it was a thought-provoking view on the inclusivity of data and technology in transport, focusing on gender.

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.