Lester Levy has asked me to publish this note from him in full.

Hello Matt

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Transport Blog, Generation Zero and Cycle Action Auckland for taking up my invitation to present the Congestion Free Network concept to our recent Auckland Transport Board meeting. The Congestion Free Network is a thoughtful and constructive concept and I thought it important that the Auckland Transport Board and Senior Executives had the opportunity to engage with your group directly, on this concept. The presentation was very clear and perfectly articulated by Patrick Reynolds.

It will be interesting for Auckland Transport to now examine the Congestion Free Network in more detail with you, but without a doubt this is a concept that helps create an environment of both more contestable ideas and generative thinking.

I believe that Auckland Transport needs to be more open to examining ideas from outside the organisation, a good example is the suggestion from Luke Christensen regarding bus lanes on Fanshawe Street, westbound from Albert Street to Nelson Street and on to Halsey Street. As many of your readers may know, there is currently a more comprehensive piece of work being undertaken to develop a potential busway from Beaumont Street, along Fanshawe Street to the downtown area, with a bus station on Fanshawe Street – but this solution is certainly some time away from delivery, so any interim and pragmatic relief is very sensible.

I asked Auckland Transport management to examine Luke’s suggestion (which was supported by the advocacy of Cameron Pitches from The Campaign for Better Transport) and management have concluded that it is possible to provide bus lanes over this section suggested, and that these could remain in place until an ultimate solution is provided. The City Centre Integration Group will coordinate this work with Auckland Transport and look to put it in place as soon as practicable. As always, there is a process around designating bus lanes, but I understand this can happen reasonably quickly.

Auckland Transport management had themselves been progressing a number of opportunities in respect of pragmatic interim solutions, but Luke’s suggestion was not on that early programme. I am very pleased with management’s response in that they quickly reviewed their programme and concluded that there would be value in doing the Fanshawe Street westbound bus lane improvements as soon as practicable. Once the planning regulatory processes have been resolved it is possible that we could have a solution in place within three months.

I have also noted that there is a subsequent transport blog item proposing more bus lanes on the Symonds Street corridor. Interestingly our team have been considering this already and there are some fairly significant infrastructure issues to overcome before we implement the solution there, but we are programming work to achieve this.

Increasingly we need to have pragmatic, interim solutions in place whilst we work towards the more time consuming, ideal and more complete solutions – this response is an exemplar of this type of approach. Thanks to Luke and Cameron and Auckland Transport’s management – an excellent virtual team.

You may recall that late last year I invited Jarett Walker (“Human Transit – How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich our Communities And our Lives”) to make a presentation to the Auckland Transport Board. Like the proponents of the Congestion Free Network, Jarett is a clear thinker and an articulate advocate for public transport. I was pleased with his positive view of what we are doing, in particular with the roll-out of the new, high frequency bus network (starting in South Auckland).

One of the most salient messages that I took from Jarrett’s work is that bold initiatives, require courage and commitment (and perseverance) to ensure the benefits are in fact delivered. I was very interested in Jarrett’s point of view that what is in the greater public interest is not going to be in everyones interest. I happen to agree with Jarett and it is very important for Auckland Transport now and into the future not to jump and react to every issue raised, but rather to clearly define its direction and priorities, hold true to them and then focus on excellent and rapid implementation.

Finally, I take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the Transport Blog and all its contributors for adding – mostly constructively – to the vitality of discussion around how we are taking transport in Auckland forward.

Kind regards


Dr Lester Levy
Auckland Transport

Our presentation is here.

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  1. Well, publishing this in full lends itself to being used to ask questions later if AT doesn’t deliver, or delivers too slowly!

  2. Just 3 months ago Auckland Transport was planning to spend one billion dollars demolishing my community with a new motorway. I know this, my community knows this, TransportBlog knows this, Auckland Council knows this, and the Labour and Green parties know this.

    I appreciate Lester Levy’s comments, and know that I and others will be watching to see if they have meaning.

  3. This is great. Well done Luke for coming up with such a compelling argument that Auckland Transport couldn’t ignore it.

    Well done others for following up on this.

    Well done AT for finally realising the need for better bus lanes.

    There will be a lot of people checking progress on this.

  4. So bus lanes along Fanshawe street as soon as possible pending more work on a busway. Let’s hold him to account on this statement.

    1. The cynic in me says they’re only considering this interim solution because they’ve just delayed at bus lanes by another 3 years, meaning nothing will be happening there for at least another 6 years.

      But it beggars belief that a work group tasked with looking at ‘pragmatic’ solutions hadn’t even look at Fanshawe Street bus lanes, I don’t spend much time in that area on the bus but even I am fully aware of the chaos there for the bus and that that extends well back down Customs Street and up onto Anzac Ave. Ultimately, they appear to be proposing ‘pragmatic’ read cheap solutions for PT, yet gold-plated multi-million dollar upgrades for roads simply to accommodate more SOVs. And don’t get me started on the number of ‘pragmatic’ solutions all over Auckland there are for cycling that are ignored. At the end of the day, what matters is what AT actually does, and when they refuse to paint pedestrian crossings on slip-lanes, refuse to install anything more than pedestrian refuges on innercity streets, it’s clear that as an organisation their focus remains purely on maximising car through put over everything else.

      As an innercity resident it feels to me that on foot I am an unwanted item in Auckland, in a car I’m lavished with 5 star treatment.

      1. Lester Levy writes a good letter and I’m sure he’s in a difficult position balancing the needs and wants of a city’s residents against the prescriptive demands of traffic engineers and those responsible for developing the GPS on transport. But I’m with bbd on this. Actions to improve bus lanes are entirely laudable but, from a wider perspective, they’re tiny gestures. It will need a change of government, a more accountable model of governance for AT and a sea change in AT’s institutional thinking before we start seeing the sort of city infrastructure we want, one not so entirely beholden to SOVs and inappropriate freight movements.

        Has there been any suggestion that CFN might be presented to AT management and senior traffic engineers?

        1. Lester’s role is to not the day to day running but the governance of the organisation. To me. that he engages with us, was responsible for us being able to present the CFN to the board (and senior management) shows that he is making changes to the organisation but we have to be realistic and realise that these things don’t happen overnight but what is key is that progress is being made.

          As for the CFN, I expect we will hear a lot more about it or something similar from AT in a few months time.

  5. Thank-you, Dr Levy. We look forward to seeing the results!

    The planets seem to be really aligning today. The Herald this morning is suddenly full of reasoned articles about housing and transport, the like of which it couldn’t seem to find during the Unitary Plan debate:

    “Ponsonby and Grey Lynn are beyond the reach of many first home buyers but there are plenty of affordable suburbs further afield. What’s made these outer suburbs – previously dismissed as either too far from the central city or too suburban to consider – more attractive propositions are improved bus, rail and motorway links.”


    “Higher density living is provided for in the Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, which provides for zones where terraced housing and apartments can be built. Controversial though these planning changes have been, it is difficult to escape the need for Auckland to start moving skywards instead of continuing to sprawl. Some of this future development has already taken place around railway and bus transport hubs. Once the apartments sprout up, along with them come retail and food outlets and amenities, creating new communities.”


    The head of hometopia.co.nz, Stephen Hart, said people will still want to live close to town and consider apartment living but satellite suburbs were also being considered.

    “The transport systems are likely to improve to these outlying suburbs and they can get a house and section we only dreamed about – we can’t even do that in Mt Wellington or Panmure now.”

    He still thought places like Papakura and Whangaparaoa were too far for most city workers to consider. “Some people are doing it but it’s not a trend, in my opinion.”


  6. I congratulate every one involved in the CFN and the blog for this response.

    However, I wonder – given the comments above about how Lukes obvious suggestions about fixing Fanshawe street for buses hadn’t even been considered (yet) by those paid to do so.
    And the wonder I have is that are perhaps the AT planners are like those at the NZTA – simply too focused on moving cars and not on moving people.

    After all they are called “Auckland Transport” not “Auckland Car Transporters”

    I’d also add a rider to Dr Levy’s comment:

    “One of the most salient messages that I took from Jarrett’s work is … that what is in the greater public interest is not going to be in everyones interest.”

    True, true, but that also means, that when you are making a (Public) Transport omelette, you are going to have to break some eggs to do so.
    This means that sometimes those who squeal the most about changes – have to be deliberately ignored.

    I wish Dr Levy well, but clearly many who work in AT need to take a step back and ask themselves who it is that they really are supposed to be working for – the “greater good” of all Aucklanders, or just the mobility of Auckland car drivers.

  7. Good job Luke, I hope AT will at least shout you a beer for working for free while their employees keep planning and meeting and planning and meeting and planning and never delivering

    1. > I hope AT will at least shout you a beer for working for free

      Democracy means that running the government is everyone’s job, whether you get paid or not.

      Great work Luke. Now we can see whether Levy can deliver on his promise – 3 months is pretty quick for government work. It’s not clear if he means 10 June 2014, or three months from some undefined future date “[o]nce the planning regulatory processes have been resolved”.

  8. That is an excellent case of public transport campaigners winning again. Unfortunately, it’s not often enough in Auckland or New Zealand.

    Keep the ideas rolling!

  9. Great news. Well done transportblog, CBT, CAA, Gen Zero..

    I believe (hope) the key point Lester is making is “what is in the greater public interest is not going to be in everyone’s interest” because if I understand this correctly, this reflects Lester’s stated aim to make AT customer centric. Especially in the light of the recent census data that showed nearly 60% of the growth in journeys-to-work since 2006 is by PT and active modes.

    Those 60% are AT’s customers, but they are being badly under-served with a very disproportionate small fraction of Auckland’s actual and proposed transport investment.

    In the context of making AT more customer centric, it’s also great to read that our collective advocacy “helps create an environment of both more contestable ideas and generative thinking”. Sometimes I expect it seems incredibly hard work.. and of course it’s all offered entirely free of charge.

    There’s a fundamental challenge here in terms of the way AT is set up, being only indirectly accountable to the “wider public”. The same can be said of NZTA.

    Incidentally, there’s a very timely example of CAA’s tireless work here.. http://caa.org.nz/government/auckland-council/motorways-across-the-west-what-legacy/

  10. Gutsy move by LL putting his reputation on the line
    The clock is now ticking on delivering cost effective and timely improvements

  11. Congratulations Transport Blog team for the push towards a CFN.
    Maybe in Lester we finally have someone able to set strategy & direction who recognises that ‘best’ is often the greatest enemy of ‘better’. Right now we just want better.

  12. My congratulations to all who have advocated for bus lanes on Fanshawe St.

    I also don’t think we should underestimate North Shore-ites who are the users of Fanshawe St on the NEX. They are known for being notorious complainers and there are some well connected people who travel this route every day. Dissatisfaction with the return journey to the Shore is widespread.

    Lets hope this is the first in a more sensible approach to bus lanes.

    1. Unfortunately bus users often a quiet bunch, unless is comes to car parking of course. Need lots more people challenging the status quo of road space allocation.

  13. And talking about the NEX. How about charging for parking at park-n-rides already? There’s never any car parks, and the parks were obviously designed with this in mind. Use the revenue from this for adding more suburban runs, especially in the evenings.

    I know people who would use the bus from their door and transfer to NEX, but because the evening suburban bus finishes at 7:22pm they have to drive to the park-n-ride instead.

    I really worry about the new PTOM change will delay any bus improvements for the Shore for another 3 years. 🙁

    1. Yeh I agree. Perverse to charge people extra to bus to the NEX, while spending fortune on expensive Park and Rides on prime land.
      However do need to wait until there are more frequent connecting buses, including higher frequencies to Silverdale.

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