As I briefly noted in my previous post, I helped make a presentation on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport at today’s meeting of the Auckland Council Transport Committee. The presentation can be read in its entirety here, and a powerpoint presentation of what I showed the Transport Committee (which is a summary) can be read here. Here’s the executive summary of the report:

The Campaign for Better Transport considers that Auckland’s transport plans and strategies have a missing element: something to link together the high-level strategic documents and the day-to-day list of projects to be investigated, consented and built. This five year transport plan seeks to fill that gap, providing a projects-based analysis of what transport improvements should be undertaken between now and 2016.

The plan seeks to be realistic in terms of funding constraints, and ‘gives effect to’ the Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS).

Major roading projects that are underway, or soon to begin, will largely be completed during this period. This includes projects such as the Victoria Park Tunnel, the Newmarket Viaduct replacement and completing the Western Ring Route. Subsequent to these projects, the plan considers Auckland’s motorway network to be complete. Further roading upgrades are likely to focus on improving arterial routes: particularly for freight and public transport, as outlined in the RLTS.

The RLTS lists a number of major rail projects to be undertaken within the next 30 years. This plan considers that the first of these projects, the CBD rail tunnel, must begin construction by 2016: in accordance with the RLTS’s desire for the project to be completed by 2021, or earlier if the project is to be completed within the timeframe sought by the mayor. For other major rail projects, the focus for the next five years should be on securing designations, undertaking full investigations and preparing business cases for each project.

The plan considers that, in terms of implementation, much of the focus within the next five years should be directed at improving the bus network. Approximately 80% of public transport trips in Auckland are by the bus, while bus improvements can often be made at a fraction of the price of other projects. The plan outlines that the Quality Transit Network (QTN) should be completed by 2016, and the bus network generally improved and simplified to make catching the bus more convenient, faster and easier to understand. Implementing integrated ticketing with free transfers is an essential element of this process.

The plan also focuses on improvements to walking and cycling, in particular completion of significant parts of the regional cycle network by 2016. Pedestrian improvements to the CBD are proposed, as is greater integration between land-use and transport planning: which is likely to be a challenge in the new council structure.

A number of “quick wins” are suggested and the plan also looks at what the Transport Committee’s contribution to the Auckland spatial plan might be.

Overall, the plan provides a sound, but at the same time visionary, approach to improving Auckland’s transport system between now and 2016. It maps out what is likely to be necessary in order to start implementing the RLTS. The plan represents a fundamental shift away from focusing on road-building to a more balance transport policy between road-building and public transport improvements. This follows through on the same fundamental shift being detailed in the RLTS.

The plan is summarised in the powerpoint slide below:

While a lot of focus is (rightly) on the big rail projects, I have long thought that it’s important we don’t forget about ‘quick win’ projects. In particular, a lot of effort needs to go into improving Auckland’s bus system. If we hope to achieve 100 million public transport trips by 2016, then even with big rail improvements around 80 million of those trips will need to be on the bus – up from around 47 million at the moment.

Of course, funding is always the biggest question when it comes to any transport plan. Nothing ever happens if there’s no money available to make it happen. The general approach taken by this plan is that we roughly spend enough on transport, we just need to be smarter about what we’re spending that money on. This is outlined in the slide below: Unless rail capital projects have access to funding by NZTA, I think that it’s very unlikely we’re going to see important advances on the big rail projects. So one thing that I implored – through this plan – the Transport Committee to really focus on is finding a solution to this illogical situation. From the feedback received earlier today when I presented the plan, I am hopeful that the rail funding issue will be explored further and given a high priority for resolution.

Turning to the details of the plan, these are best found on pages 7 to 12 of the main report, but to summarise the plan goes through road, public transport and walking/cycling/liveability improvements and identifies which projects should fall into each of the following three categories:

  1. Projects that will either be completed or will be under construction by 2016.
  2. Projects that should be fully designated and ‘ready to go’ by 2016
  3. Projects that should be investigated throughout the 2011-2016 time period.

With the completion of the Waterview Connection project in around 2015/2016, Auckland’s motorway network will essentially be complete – so the plan sees few additional “new roads” projects extending beyond this period. As per the recommendations of the Regional Land Transport Strategy, the focus is likely to be on prioritising freight traffic for the economic benefits that will bring, and prioritising public transport so that we can use our existing roads more efficiently.

While I am certainly a big public transport supporter, it is not just for this reason why I think it will no longer be possible to build more roads to cater for Auckland’s future population growth. Rather, as Auckland is largely ‘built-out’ and any roading projects for construction are becoming extremely expensive ($2 billion Waterview Connection + SH16 Widening, $400 million Victoria Park Tunnel etc.) it’s simply unlikely to be economically feasible to build many more roads in Auckland in the future.

Turning to public transport, the plan has a clear distinction between bus and rail: with much of the ‘implementation’ focus being on improving the bus network while we ensure all the background work is done to ensure that the big rail projects are ‘ready to go’ when either the funding is available or when the project is necessary and economically viable. Here’s the slide about improving the bus system: The beauty about many of these improvements is that they’re very cheap to implement and can create significant benefits. Simplifying the bus system might actually save money; realigning routes to become feeder services to the rail network will certainly save money as route duplication is eliminated. Solving bus congestion in the CBD might also save money, especially if it involves providing additional bus priority measures to help get buses into and out of the CBD faster. The problem with improving the bus network is not money, it’s about willingness to take a few risks and make a few changes, and perhaps most especially it’s about having the courage to take on the bus operators: who certainly seem to be far more of the problem than they are the solution.

A significant part of the plan is also a renewed focus on making better transport decisions to enhance the liveability of Auckland. These are outlined in the slide below: Interestingly, the proposal to turn Hobson and Nelson streets into two way boulevards: rather than the massive one-way motorways they are at the moment, got a lot of support from councillors on the Transport Committee. Further information on how that might be done can be read here and here. There was also some support for the idea of lowering speed limits on non-arterial local streets.

The plan proposes some “quick wins” – ideas for improvements to be made that are unlikely to cost too much or take too long to achieve: All up, I thought the presentation went fairly well and that the Transport Committee received it quite well too. The whole plan is to be forwarded to Auckland Transport for their information and comment, while on the NZTA/rail funding issue, the council is to prepare a bit more background information and I think it’s fairly likely the issue will be raised with NZTA and the Minister of Transport.

The next step is probably to revise, fine-tune and update the plan a bit, and then present it to the board of Auckland Transport in the New Year. So suggestions are certainly welcome in terms of ideas about how this plan could be further improved.

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  1. Thanks Josh for your tireless efforts on behalf of the CBT. Awesome effort.

    On the pedestrianisation topic, I think it is long overdue that a section of Queen St is blocked off in the summer months (or even for a weekend) so that we can demonstrate how streets can attract people, not just cars. The ideal location for the next “Mayor in the Chair” perhaps.

    1. Agreed. If its as successful as we think it will be, then its only going to take one weekend to show the retailers they don’t have to provide drive-up facilities to potential customers. Quite the opposite.

      One successful weekend will stretch to one month, maybe two, maybe more…..with the ultimate goal of it being PT (bus) only north-south, between Quay St and Town hall.

  2. What about pedestrianising High Street as well or if the closing Queen Street down freaks the council out too much as an alternative?

  3. Great work guys, fantastic. Even if Queen wasn’t fully ped., if we just got ride of the private cars it wouldn’t be the useless alley it is for both the buses and pedestrians. Although the summer and weekend pedestrianisation idea is great.

    And on weekend frequencies, the current ones certainly prevent me from planning rail travel outside of week days.

  4. Were there any pics or diagrams in the presentation, they always make it easier for the audience to understand what you are referring to. Some good ones for this would have been the New York style pedestrian improvements, a nice boulevard example for Hobson & Nelson St, a map of the spaghetti bus maps we current suffer from and an example of what it could be with the network effect.

  5. Excellent work on the presentation.

    I am particularly glad to see the point raised about the NZTA/GPS funding issue. I see this as the single highest priority issue, as it is forcing our taxes into endless road construction instead of the alternatives we want.

    Also great to see promotion of the Nelson/Hoboson Street ideas. The only value I can see to the current setup is if a very large alien space craft needed a place to crash land, I’d hope it would be down that strip taking out the road and any recent buildings… It is one of the gateways to our CBD though, and Auckland should aim slightly higher than that.

    Thank you for your effort, Josh, Cameron and anyone else involved.

  6. Good to see you are still promoting Warkworth by-pass and safety improvements on SH1 particularly in the Dome valley. Unfortunately another fatality there yesterday. Got to get that safety work underway now.

    1. It’s playing dirty, but every new fatality needs to be presented to Joyce as “Another death attributable to your determination to build a monument rather than fixing this road.” Sadly, those are likely to be the only tactics that gain any traction whatsoever, particularly if questions in the House can be phrased as “How many more people will have to die before the Minister agrees that fixing SH1 is a near-term priority?”

  7. Well done on your presentation Joshua & CBT – so much good stuff in your plan that needs to be followed up on. I think it was far more than just “quite well received”. Cr Lee said he thought it was excellent!

  8. Great effort to both you and Cameron at CBT – good and well reasoned input for Transport people to consider – well done. l like all of the suggestions and the sooner some of this can be implemented the better. One key issue for me would be taking the heritage tram proposal at tank farm into a modern tram offering ASAP. I appreciate this would require bringing forward Te Whero bridge (long term version) sooner than 2016 (when I think it is currently scheduled for ) and getting trams to run as a real public transport option from at least Jellicoe street along wf past Britomart to probably around Vector Arena as a first stage. Jan Gehl’s (Danish Urban designer) latest report (Public life Survey – July 2010) for Auckland also suggests this key initiative of boulevarding Quay street. It will be interesting to see how traffic behaviour adjusts over the next few months with major road works along Quay Street once again. Perhaps an opportunity to NOT allow the same intensity of traffic back once works are complete as a first step – perhaps as a lead up to RWC – of creating more pedestrian friendly evironments as you have talked about in your presentation.

    1. Planning for that would’ve had to start months ago.

      With that work, I’m really hoping that there’s going to be a heap of pre-emptive ducting laid for future fibre optic runs. There won’t be, of course, but I can dream.
      Auckland needs to adopt the Bostonian system of making it so horrendously expensive to get permits for anything other than emergency repairs that utility companies band together to carry out trenching work cooperatively. Means that roads only get dug up about every four years, and that there’s a big incentive for utilities to plan ahead and laid infrastructure pre-emptively and with future expansion in mind. Rather than the hodge-podge nonsense we get in Auckland every year (if we’re lucky) where every company does its own work to its own schedule.

      1. The downside is that the the roads are full of potholes and the roading infrastructure is of a generally poorly maintained state – I don’t think Boston is necessarily a role model in this regard.

        1. That’s not the fault of the system regulating how utilities companies get to dig up the roads, though, and given the shoddy repair jobs I’ve seen done by utilities contractors I think anything that cuts down their incentive to go digging up roads is a good thing.

    2. Have you seen the plan for extending the tram all the Way to Motat? I viewed it on AKT and it looks a great idea – its amazing how many places of interest it would go past, and it would look great rolling down Ponsonby Rd.

  9. Good plan, it takes into account the reality of progressing projects forward and actualy treats ratepayer and taxpayer money with respect…

  10. 1. Pedestrianise High Street, and on special occasions Lorne Street through to Aotea Square as well. Imo pedestrianising Queen Street would be asking a bit much.

    2. Tramway extension to Britomart and thereafter to St Heliers and eliminate at least 50% roadside carparks on Tamaki Drive, retain carparks as in Mission Bay.

    3. More extensive network of connected independent cycle lanes – refer health dangers of diesel toxicity with sharing in bus/traffic lanes.

    4. Plan to run light rail/tramway the full length of Dominion Rd, starting from Anzac Ave.

  11. Really nice presentation there Josh – I admire your dedication – it’s a great read IMO and they’d be stupid not to take on board a lot of what you proposed.

  12. This is great work Jsoh. Was interested to see you made little mention of ferries. Why is that? Do you think there is little gain to be made at low cost for this mode?

  13. Great. And hear-hear for more New York style improvements — get more for less, with less planning agony. Kick start the shift to walkability faster. People will start to use it, mindsets will adjust, and demand will follow. Then make improvements (beautify) down track with the lessons learned about what works where and who is using what how, etc.

    1. Why does this “Property Council” hold the “power” over Queen St?

      Oh, and good coverage by the Herald. Maybe a pro-PT article next that the Herald will jump on????

  14. Hi Josh. This is a fantastic piece of work. Perhaps you could add some current PT use stats and send a copy to each MP in Auckland (particularly the new North Shore MP) with an offer of a consult if they wish to discuss any of the points.

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