Friday, 24 October 2014

Picture speak a thousand words #1

This is Sunnynook Bus Station located on the North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand. It is part of the Northern Busway along the Northern Motorway which is designed to allow a free flow of buses. It does come in handy during morning and afternoon peak hours as traffic is devastatingly brutal during those times. You could sit in a bus and watch as the bus zooms past all the cars stuck in traffic. There are five stations in total = Albany, Constellation, Sunnynook, Smales Farm and Akoranga. Heading southbound after Akoranga, the bus merges with the motorway traffic heading to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. If the motorway had extreme traffic, the bus would be stranded until it got to the Northern Busway. Heading northbound, the busway ends at Constellation and buses merge with local traffic heading to Albany.  Many bus services benefited from the Northern Busway like the Northern Express and the North Star service to Hibiscus Coast. In the past, the Northern Express traveled directly from city straight to Albany and so did North Star buses which traveled directly to Hibiscus Coast. In the past, these buses were stuck in traffic during the nightmare peak hours.  

Sunnynook, located next to Forrest Hill and Totara Vale is a bustling community with Countdown Supermarket, Primary School, bakery and food stores linking up with Link Drive that has many stores including Hoyts cinema. With many places to eat, the community has everything at it's doorstep. The main road is Sunnynook Road. The long road links up Target Road and East Coast Bays Road. It is a very busy road especially during peak hours when traffic is intensely heavy. In the New Zealand Parliament, Sunnynook is part of the Seat of North Shore which is a safe National Party seat. The weather in Auckland has always been a mood swinging with four seasons happening in a day or even unexpected weather changes happening. Although it does not snow, there had been rare occasions of hail. In this photo, the weather is sunny with a clear blue sky during the Spring October. 

At Sunnynook Bus Station, Platform 2 heads southbound to Auckland City while Platform 1 heads northbound to Albany, Torbay, etc. Many bus services operate at the station while the most dominant service is the Northern Express which runs from Albany to Britomart and vice versa. During peak hour, it runs every five minutes while non peak times, it runs every ten minutes. The 881 service also runs every ten minutes from Torbay to Newmarket during peak hour. It is mostly used by students going to Auckland University/AUT. The 881 service had a bad history which prompt students to complain online about it's delays and incompetence. It does not have staff services but it does have speaker system that tells when the next bus is coming if you push a service button. It also has emergency boxes which you can press and speak during emergency. The emergency boxes are located on both platforms and the paths leading to the platforms. It has CCTV cameras, shelters and adequate lighting to keep the commuters safe. Although quiet during the day and night, it is crowded during peak hours as commuters rush to get on over crowded buses during the freezing cold mornings. Platform 2 has access from Sunnynook Road, Kapiti Place and a walkpath under the bridge leading to the other side of Sunnynook Road. The platform also has public toilets. Platform 1 has only access to Sunnynook Road bridge with stairway and a long path for disabled commuters. Both sides have timetables and a live timetable screen feed providing service updates. Airport shuttles, contractors and emergency services use the busway. In 2012, major road works occurred with the installation of power lines underground to strengthen the electricity for the far north of New Zealand. When opened in 2006/2007, then Prime Minister Helen Clark opened the busway and the general public had the opportunity to walk the road. Signs were placed saying the prohibition of alcohol, busking, loose animals, smoking and riding bicycles. Like other bus stations, there are parking spaces which allow commuters to park their cars for 260 minutes and are monitored by City Council's parking inspectors. Telecom/Spark had offered free wifi for commuters to use while waiting for the bus. Along Platform 1 and the bridge, there are signposts showing advertisements from Auckland Transport. In the photo, the advertisements were taken down as the colour have faded and are yet to be replaced. The station's design was very advance featuring a side lane for buses to stop while a second lane is used for buses to drive right past without any delay. Going from one platform to another requires having to go on Sunnynook Road Bridge but during quiet times, few commuters cross directly on the busway. Doing this would require a big walk due to the fence in the middle and this is not recommended during busy peak hours. 

From a long distance, you can see Auckland City's skyline. The Auckland Skytower can be seen along with the Vero Building, ANZ Centre and Metropolis. The Skytower at 328 metres can be seen from a long distance and is the tallest man made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The ANZ Centre at 143 metres was the tallest building during the 1990s before the Auckland Skytower was constructed in 1997. The Metropolis at 155 metres was built in 1999 and was the tallest residential building in Auckland. The Vero Building was built in 2000 and it is the tallest building in New Zealand standing at 175 metres. Auckland may have taller buildings with the NDG centre being proposed next to the Skytower standing at 209 metres. Previously, a 232 metre tower was proposed on the same site but was cancelled due to the Global Financial Crisis. The proposal of the skyscraper at the site of NDG centre saw concerns about the building being so tall, it would block the Skytower's view. It is possible to see Sunnynook from the Skytower but all you could see is a giant land mass of North Shore. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

View from the Auckland Sky Tower

Built in 1997, it is the tallest man made structure in the Southern Hemisphere standing at 328 metres. It has observation levels, restaurants and is also used as a communications such as broadcasting and radio. It has 150 metres of concrete shaft with reinforced foundations. Levels 44 to 46 contains refuge that can fit up to over 800 people in an event of a fire/emergency.

At 182 metres, is Sky Lounge Cafe and Bar on Level 50. A place to have coffee, cocktails and cafe food while enjoying the view.

Main Observation Level is at Level 51 at 186 metres. It is a public viewing deck which includes glass floors.

At Level 52, there is Orbit Revolving Restaurant at 190 metres. It is New Zealand's only revolving restaurant that provides great view while having a la carte lunch/dinner.

Level 53 was the outdoor viewing deck when the Sky Tower first opened. It was later changed to Observatory Seafood Buffet Restaurant which went on until 2013. It was renovated and changed to The Sugar Club led by Kiwi celebrity chef Peter Gordon. Unlike Orbit, The Sugar Club is a fine dining restaurant offering degustation dishes. At the height of 192 metres, it is also the floor used for SkyJump and SkyWalk. SkyJump is a controlled fall from 192 metres to the ground at rapid speed. Skywalk is a walk around the outer rim of the tower wearing a harness.

At 220 metres is the Skydeck located on Level 60. It gives a great 360 view of Auckland with frameless windows.

The Sky Tower also includes a 108 metre antenna which is used for broadcasting and communications. It is only the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere because of the long antenna as Sydney Tower's observation deck is at 250 to 270 metres. The highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere is the Eureka Skydeck at 285 metres. As the Sky Tower's observation decks are low, it stands no chance is Australian cities (except Adelaide and Darwin) as they all have skyscrapers as tall as 250 to 300 metres.

Able to withstand intense earthquakes and high winds, it also has coloured lights to showcase celebration at night. During Lantern Festivals and New Years, thousands gather for the tower to unleash fireworks.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ending dictators mean a happy future?

When ruthless dictators rule with oppression and bloodshed, many would think that getting rid of them would make the nation a better place. Is it really?

Libya was once ruled by Muammar Gaddafi, a ruthless oppressive dictator. He had plenty of blood on his hands and was responsible for the Lockerbie Bombing that killed 270 people. During his rule, he survived the sanctions by selling and exporting oil. Cities like Tripoli and Benghazi were thriving cities. When Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, the country was in a messy civil war with rival factions battling the weak central government. The fighting left Libya in ruins with thousands flocking to the Libya-Tunisia border with the fear that the conflict will spill over onto Tunisia.

Iraq was once ruled by Saddam Hussein, another ruthless oppressive dictator. He had conflicts with Iran, Kuwait and the Kurdish people. He was responsible for using chemical weapons that killed over 5000 people. Before the Gulf War, Iraq was a thriving nation and was renowned for it's culture, literature, music and history. After Hussein was overthrown and captured, the nation was left with a weak central government that suffered humiliating defeats from ISIS rebels, ISIS was a terrorist organisation that came out from the middle of nowhere and gained so much ground almost reaching Baghdad. The nation is still in ruins with vicious fighting still ongoing.

One thing that the Communist Chinese Government can learn is that if the single party government collapsed, there would be a power vacuum with the country divided and factions emerging. Having territorial disputes with Japan, Philippines and Vietnam, the Chinese Government is playing it very carefully because if they suffer defeat, the people will turn against them and it will take almost two centuries for Chinese Civilization to ever recover from such downfall.

If democratic nations like Japan or Philippines suffer defeats in war, there would not be such big problems as the Government will be replaced by the Opposition Party.

This is not to say democracy is bad and dictatorship is good. Democracy is great as it gives the people a voice in deciding their next leader. When the United States is trying to forcibly promote democracy to countries ruled by dictators, are these nations ready to have a democracy? Do they have a foundation set up and is there a long term stable plan for the future?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Beauty of alcohol

From Sunday to Thursday, Auckland city is peaceful and civilized. On Friday and Saturday nights, the city opened it's nightclubs and the streets are filled with drunken people. Over drinking and vomiting are seen on the city streets especially when people bring their own alcoholic drinks. Dropped and smash bottles unleash the unholy smell of alcohol.

The alcohol problem doesn't end there. The problem also landed on public transport. The Northern Express (NEX) is a bus service from Albany to Britomart running a frequent service. It has been a Friday/Saturday night trend where people drink on the bus while heading to the city. Treating it as a predrink before hitting the clubs, it is clear that people get intoxicated before the bus arrives at Britomart. When the bus arrives at Britomart, the bus is filled with smashed and dropped alcoholic bottles/cans rolling around the bus. They are mainly RTD (Ready to drink). The bus sometimes is also filled with vomit from an intoxicated person. People taking the NEX back to North Shore end up waiting for the bus driver to quickly clean up the mess. They also walk into a disaster zone which required specialist clean up due to spilled alcohol and vomit.