My Auckland Commute to Work

Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.

Britomart Station“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”

I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”

“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”

“Travel time in 30 minutes?”

“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”

“Yes, please.”

“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”

As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”

“Yes, confirmed.”

“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”

“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”

“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”

“Yes, audio off.”

I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.

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I Found the Real Auckland Transport Plan

Everyone thought the new Auckland transport plan was going to be about a second harbour crossing, a tunnel, more busways an extra lanes. The new Labour Government together with Auckland Transport came up with a much cheaper plan and it only took a year to complete!


Yep, it was pretty obvious given input from rich list Kiwi, Allan Gibbs of Aquada fame. he started with cars, then trucks and then he said to the Government (I didn’t get where I am today by building tunnels) why not give me a small fraction of the money you were going to spend digging holes under the harbour and we’ll drive on water?

So now he is building Gibbs Amphibious Buses for Auckland Transport (yes I know Aqua Ducks have been around for years but not for commuters) and we now have a regular stream of amphibious cars going from Gulf Harbour all the way through to the city, the inner harbour, and even a special commuter lane to Onetangi on Waiheke Island. It was pretty obvious really wasn’t it? I just don’t know why they didn’t think of it back in 2013?

The toll booths on the boat ramps can be a bit annoying on sunny days, but I guess that’s the price you pay. The bonus is you can try to catch your dinner on the way home from the office.

Facebook Goggle Phone Is Better Than I Thought

Facebook has joined the fray with not just AR Goggles, but the Goggles are the phone and its quite cool.

When Vodafone  gave me the glasses to review, my first reaction was, to be honest, pretty much, whatever. It reminded me of way back, maybe 2010 when I was presenting at a conference at Auckland University and Telecom announced the Bebo phone. I don’t know how many they actually sold, but I doubt there were more than a hundred. Bebo Phone

Then in Barcelona 2014 Facebook launched a mobile of their own. It wasn’t spectacular and I thought they would give up at that point, realizing that whilst most people used Facebook, that didn’t mean that it was the number one communication tool in their lives or that they wanted FB getting too much private information about them, not that they hadn’t already been doing that with Google for most of their lives.

Through Facebook Goggles

Through Facebook Goggles

Anyway, I took them to a SMCAKL event to try them out. Social Media Club Auckland now provides a live list of who is attending via their Facebook page.

Using the Goggles plugin I identified the people I want to meet up with from the list. I was also able to send them a notification that I was going to be there and was keen to have a chat.

Sure enough, just like the AR in Daniel Suarez‘s prophetic books  Daemon and Freedom, I was able to see the names of the people I wanted to see, above them in the crowd, which was very cool. I was also able to see the names and profiles of virtually every person in the room.

Everyone wanted to try them on and it was a couple of hours after the event closed that Vodafone pushed me and a last few Facebook Goggle fans out of the door.

As to the smartphone functionality, it is pretty well featured. I am now one of those people who are constantly looking up into the corners of my eyes as though I have a nervous twitch and am waving  my hands in the air like a New York Italian singing the praises of the veal at my favorite deli. Of course it won’t be long before you are doing that too.

Long Bay Finally Gets Ferry Wharf Approval

Transport Auckland finally bowed to pressure and has approved a Ferry Terminal installation to cope with the gridlock after heated protests from residents of the new Long Bay development. 

Long Bay DevelopmentLong Bay was highlighted by former Prime Minister John Key as a sign of growth and opportunities for the construction industry back in 2013. It started with 2,500 houses housing an average of 3 people. Then they opened up 3 more subdivisions and another 23,000 people moved into the area.

With 30,000 more people trying to make the trip to school and work, combined with people from all over Auckland heading to and from one of the most popular beaches in Auckland, the roads have been gridlocked. Minor widening of the local roads hasn’t appeared to make any difference.

Jaap Botha one of the early buyers said “This was our dream purchase. A beautiful new home with views of Auckland Harbour. The problem with it is that I hardly get to enjoy it. In order to get to work in the city I now have to leave home at 6 AM to get to the office by 8 and more than half of that time is spent getting from home onto the motorway on-ramp  The total distance is only 21 km!

“By the time I get home its nearly dark. Four hours of commuting at an average speed of just over 10 km per hour is enough to raise the stress levels far higher than the benefit of living in a nice area like this. Property values are going down because buyers don’t want to spend 4 hours in their cars every day either.”

Auckland Transport advised that ferries should be operational from the new Long Bay ferry terminal within 18 months. Locals say this is something they will look forward to, but many will have left the area by then.

Asteroid Risk in USA Explodes Real Estate Prices in New Zealand

Real Estate prices in parts of New Zealand are reaching atmospheric highs after authorities announced that the risk of Asteroid 1997 XF11 hitting Earth close to New York State on 28 October 2028 has been raised to 1100:1. Earlier indications were that this asteroid estimated to be between 1.3 and 2.8 km in diameter would pass at about 2.4 times the distance of the moon. Calculations have now established that it will pass between the moon’s orbit and could possibly impact. 

Whilst 1100:1 are still pretty good odds, the damage would be catastrophic and not limited to lives lost as the impact could be the equivalent of a million megatons of TNT. This could easily impact on climate change and consequently crops and many other aspects of climate change. Whilst the President has urged people to not panic and carry on as normal, the test project ‘Don Quixote‘ between the European Space Agency and NASA failed in spectacular fashion, leaving many people racing to new lives in New Zealand and Australia, ‘just in case’.

In Auckland, developers have been building a new city called New Hope, on the West Coast between Hamilton and Auckland and properties are selling at lightning pace. Existing properties all over New Zealand and areas in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia have increased by 800% since the announcement and are showing no signs of touching down. There has also been significant construction movement around the new US military base north of Darwin Australia which now houses over 15,000 US Marines. No public announcements have been made around this expansion or the reasons behind it.

Many Kiwis have sold their properties taking advantage of the increase in property values, but others are saying they can’t even afford to rent in their own country and this is stirring up heated sentiments. The Prime Minister has pointed out the new job opportunities and that there is plenty of undeveloped land in New Zealand. She pointed out that the important issues are not around land prices but in beefing up agriculture and utility resources to allow New Zealand to be to some degree self-sufficient should petrol and other imported resources become scarce should the strike actually occur.

Health Problems Caused by Augmented Reality Glasses Over Usage

ARGOS (Augmented Reality Glasses Overuse Syndrome) has recently been identified by the Mental health Research Centre  in the USA. People are being bombarded with constant data being displayed on their glasses and the subsequent dopamine overload is having serious consequences on the health of many users of this technology.

Dr Louis Hatmaker, a social scientist with the New Zealand founded Imersia AR, a sister company to the well known Imersia Tourism Limited said from their Auckland AR Lab that this was not unexpected given the huge volume of big data available and was in fact one of the reasons that Imersia developed its Calm Tech, to ensure that people’s eyes and brains were not bombarded with information overload.

Hatmaker said “What we didn’t anticipate in the early 2010’s was the Dopamine factor. Effectively people found the use of AR glasses extremely enjoyable.  The ability to control the glasses just by looking at them and getting a wealth of information, everything from facial recognition and identifying information about every building, business you could see was overwhelming. In a similar way to playing computer games (which of course hundreds of thousands of people now do using AR glasses sic) every time a result was presented on the lens, the user got a squirt of dopamine from their brains as a reward. Dopamine is like a natural opiate and makes you feel good. The user feels excited and becomes addicted to the use of the glasses. When they are not wearing them, they become bored and listless, affecting their relationships with other people and their ability to concentrate. We are particularly concerned with children and teenagers whose brains are still developing.”

Imersia has developed technologies to reduce the amount of information delivered through AR Glasses by making information contextually relevant and personalised. Effectively you get the information you want, when you want it, but you don’t get all the spurious information that has no relevance to you, even if it might be interesting.

Who will the future leaders be? perhaps Sight?

Vodafone Phases Out Telephone Numbers

Vodafone has announced that phone numbers will no longer be necessary for mobile subscribers in New Zealand. New and existing subscribers who do not run POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) landlines will from next week have the option of not having a phone number, they will be able to use their own name or a pseudonym username.

7aselectorA spokesperson for Vodafone explained in a brief media Telephony 101 presentation that the concept of phone numbers has evolved from the early days when telephone exchange operators used to manually connect phones. Exchanges automated this process with rotary exchanges with technology such as in this image which is the technology that many New Zealand exchanges such as Wellesley Street in Auckland, where a relay tripped to select each number, then routed the call through to exchanges where typically the first two numbers represented the exchange area. For example Ponsonby numbers all started with 76 and Howick numbers with 83. Over the years this technology became computerised and with number portability the number no longer had to relate to a specific location in the country.

Over the last few years the majority of people communicate with VoIP and numbers have largely become irrelevant. Emergency numbers will remain indefinitely for a number of reasons, but with most people having Unified Communications across their various mobile devices and appliances there just is no reason to maintain an antiquated system. People may continue to use a number if they wish, according to a spokesperson from TUANZ, in support of the baby boomers who are still a large number of people who may no longer have copper wires fed into telephone exchanges, but are more comfortable with the analogue concept of a number.

Loving the Auckland Ferry Commute

I once said that I would never commute across the bridge any more for any job. Spending an hour each way from home to work just didn’t make sense, what a total waste of time. Well almost, because I used to listen to podcasts on the way that I might not have made time for otherwise, but I have to say I hated it.

Then with the increase in population and the lack of initiative and imagination from Council, NZTA and Government in creating a decent mass transit system it become an hour and a half each way at peak times and still an hour each way in off peak. When Imersia was a relatively small company, it wasn’t such a problem because I could start work from home and head in the office once the traffic died down, but these days it doesn’t really die down at all.

The book Urban Legend that came out back in ’12 said it all. What would Auckland have been like if they had listened to Robbie? We could have been a phenomenally successful city. But we didn’t and now we have a nice ring system that travels at 10km an hour at peak and the Northern Motorway slows to 8km per hour. I used to feel like hopping out of my car on the motorway, leaving it there and running home.

Heading to Long Bay on the Ferry After Work

Then they managed to give the PC brigade the slip and followed the example of Sydney and put ferry wharf’s into Long Bay, Browns Bay and Takapuna and it was problem solved. Our offices are in the Viaduct and commuting is now a pleasure. I walk down to Long Bay, unless its raining, then I park my car in the ‘Park and Cruise’ just up from the beach. I have a flat white on the ferry and clear my inbox using their WiFi, whilst enjoying our awesome coastline on the way into town.

On the way home, especially in winter, I get to enjoy the beautiful city lights, instead of inhaling diesel fumes on the clogged motorway. I just have to wonder why they didn’t do this years ago. More people get to enjoy our North Shore beaches, the wharf’s are great for fishing and strolling along and there are less cars on the motorways. It cost a hell of a lot less to build too.