Posted on: March 19, 2020 at 9:01 AM    

This year's Engineering New Zealand Transportation Group Conference was held in Christchurch from 11-13 March. Two hundred delegates from both the private and public sectors descended on the newly restored Town Hall. Massive thanks to the conference committee, Harding Consultants, and all the sponsors and speakers who organised this excellent conference.

Ben Picture9

This conference covers all things transportation: ranging from how to better plan for pedestrians to how to accommodate the relocation of Ports of Auckland. I was delighted to see this year’s theme, Equity in Transportation, discussed in such a wide range of transport issues. I really appreciated how almost every presentation embraced transport equity – I sensed that our industry is indeed committed to understanding and tackling the important issue of transport equity.  

For me, a few speakers stood out and helped me broaden my understanding of transport equity, including:

  • Dr. Rhys Jones, a public health physician from the University of Auckland. He introduced three key concepts required to achieve transport justice:
    • Distributive – or, investment must be spread in a fair way. Ensure that all communities receive equal benefit. To me, this is the spatial component of transport equity.
    • Recognition – or, acknowledge different needs from different people. Respect everyone.
    • Procedural – or, consult, and consult early. A common theme I understood from the conference was that communities often do not have much of a say early on in the transport planning process.
  • David Sim from Gehl in Copenhagen illustrated that improved transport equity can also be achieved by providing more space for pedestrians and cyclists. He shared Denmark’s common and ideal urban cross section that simply separates pedestrians, cyclists, and cars all by stepped kerbs.  
  • Danial Jahanshahi spoke about inequal usage of bikes, including bike share. He raised an important point: we need to think carefully about our measures of success. We need to encourage councils and bike share providers to measure not only how many people cycle, but who is cycling.

Overall, the conference had an incredible diversity of speakers. We heard the perspectives from Dementia Canterbury, Volvo, and an inclusive tourism company, Makingtrax.

While I do believe this conference pushed a few boundaries, I think we still have a little room for improvement. I heard a lot of great ideas around the idea of reallocation of road space for pedestrians and bikes. However, I didn’t hear a lot about how to implement or push for those ideas to happen. While the industry itself seems to be in agreement, we will still see push back outside the conference from those who prefer the car. I think our conference could benefit from encouraging people to share ideas and results from implementation and how to promote and create change.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to present a poster I created on 'Cycling Deserts', which are areas with less access to cycling infrastructure. It was a real pleasure to share and discuss this research with everyone, and it was rewarding to see some of the equity statistics being used the next day by another presenter! I was thrilled to receive the Best Poster award.

 Ben Picture8

The most impressive moment from the conference for me though was the number of delegates who dressed up in the 'Roaring 20's' theme and hit the dance floor at the conference dinner. I’d have to put it at ≥65%. A fun night was had by all who attended!

Abley Team 6 cropped

And finally, well done to Abley's other award winners at the conference:

Matt Allan - 3M Young Professional of the Year (presentation on Cycleway tactiles, what is best practice?)

Safer Journeys Risk Assessment Tool (Mega Maps) - 'Finalist' 3M Safety Award

Jeanette Ward - Best Paper (Raised intersections)

Shane Turner - Highly Recommended Paper (Managing the downstream effects of the Christchurch Northern Corridor)


Matt Allan (right) receiving his Young Professional award.


Haris Zia & Paul Durdin (right) receiving the Finalist 3M Safety Award for Mega Maps

Blog written by Ben Jassin, Senior Transportation Engineer 


2020 Transportation Group Conference image v2