Every year Auckland Transport agree with the council a new Statement of Intent (SOI) with the council. It sets out their strategic approach, priorities and targets for the following three years. They are currently in the process of setting the SOI for the 2014-2017 period and there appear to be some quite concerning aspects in the documents – which are found in the various agenda items for the Council Controlled Organisations Governance and Monitoring Committee. My understanding of the process is that the Council send AT a letter of expectation outlining their key priorities, Auckland Transport are meant to incorporate that into a draft SOI which is then reviewed by council officers. The comments from them get responded to by AT and then goes to the council for a final decision.

Last year the biggest change to the SOI as the lowering of patronage targets, most notably for rail. It’s also something that backfired on them with the Ministry of Transport highlighting it their first review on the progress towards the CRL targets the government, suggesting it shows AT don’t believe rail can grow by the amount required.

So this year what do we see? The same thing is happening again with in some cases AT wanting to drop their targets for all PT modes. In the case of rail especially this is to almost absurd levels. For example in their current SOI their target is 11.4 million trips by the end of June 2014 (which they might meet if they keep growing they way they are) while by end of June 2015 they are expected to reach a total of just over 13 million. In their new draft SOI they want the rail target for 2014/15 lowered to just 12.1 million. The target seems way to low considering that:

  • We’re already going to be at ~11.1 million (as we hit 11 million before the end of March)
  • There’s 15 months to go before the end of June 2015
  • In that time electric trains are expected to roll out to the Onehunga Line, Manukau and Southern Lines

Here’s a graph to show how the rail SOI target has changed over the last few versions of the SOI and how we’re actually performing.

Draft 2014 SOI Rail Target

My guess is that we could potentially blow past the 13 million trip target and this isn’t something that should be changed. For the other modes there are similar outcomes. The targets proposed in the 2014/15 year go

  • Total patronage – 78.16 million -> 74.24 million
  • Busway (NEX) – 2.59 million -> 2.51 million
  • Other Bus – 56.63 million -> 53.70 million
  • Ferry – 5.90 million -> 5.94 million

So only the target for ferries goes up which is interesting in itself as they are the mode currently going backwards. Overall this seems like a cop out and the councillors shouldn’t accept this (especially no on the rail figures).

The issue of dropping patronage targets is something noted by the council officers and by Councillor Chris Darby in a memo he sent to other councillors which is also online.

Darby’s letter also highlights that many of the “Key Focus areas for 2014/15 for Auckland Transport” from the council’s letter of expectation are not simply not reflected on in the SOI. These include

  • A strategic review of public transport fares
  • Increased priority for pedestrians and cyclists, and improvement of walking and cycling facilities that improve access to public transport.
  • Identification of and reporting on the delivery of any improvements to the quality of urban design outcomes.
  • Effective management of hygiene factors in the public realm such as cleaning, mowing, and tree clipping.
  • Identifying surplus non-strategic properties for disposal in conjunction with ACPL

On the issue of cycling he notes that many of the timelines set for projects are quite at odds with the presentation AT gave the councils Infrastructure Committee just over a month ago on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. He highlights this in the following table

Draft 2014 SOI cycling issues

Lastly here’s the programme of works proposed in the SOI. Darby thinks that added to this should be planning and route protection for a North West busway along SH16, the Te Atatu bus interchange and the list of bus lanes that will be added. I agree with him.

1. Planning and route protection
1.1 Complete the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan by June 2015
1.2 Undertake planning and route protection for major new transport initiatives, including:

  • City Rail Link.
  • South-Western Multimodal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART) network
  • Botany lo Manukau rapid transit network.
  • Mill Road corridor upgrade.
  • East-West Link (In conjunction with NZTA). including public consultation on the development and progression of a preferred option;
  • Penlink; and
  • Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

2. New transport infrastructure
2.1 AMETI:
Complete investigation and design of

  • Package 4 ( Panmure Roundabout. Lagoon Drive, Additional Panmure Bridge. Busway to Pakuranga, New Pakuranga Bus Station and car parking facilities, and Reeves Road Flyover) by 2017.

Complete construction of:

  • Package I Phase 1 (Panmure interchange) in 2014:
  • Package 2 (Sylvia Park bus lanes) by 2016:
  • AMETI Package 4 enabling works including local road changes and major utility diversions

Commence construction of Reeves Road flyover (to be completed by 2019)

2.2 Introduce new electric trains into service.

2.3 Local road improvements associated with State highway upgrades, including:

Complete construction at:

  • Tiverton Road to Wolverton Street upgrade by 2014 (Culvert upgrade by 2016); and
  • Te Atatu Road corridor improvements by 2017.

Complete design and acquisition for:

  • Lincoln Road corridor improvements by 2017.

2.4 Major local road improvements (over $5m). Including:
Complete construction of:

  • Dominion Road corridor upgrade Including dedicated bus lanes, 12 kin of parallel cycle routes, and 3 village centre upgrades by 2017:
  • Albany Highway North upgrade by 2017;
  • Murphy’s Road bridge improvement by 2016;
  • Brigham Creek corridor upgrade by 2017; and
  • North Western transformation protect (NORSGA) for the Northside Drive East, Westgate Bus Interchange, and Hobsonville Point Park and Ride by 2017.

Complete land acquisition for:

  • North Western transformation project (NORSGA) for Hobsonville Road by 2017.

2.5 Public transport Infrastructure, Including:

Complete construction of the following projects by 2016

  • Otahuhu bus/rail interchange;
  • Manukau bus interchange;
  • Parnell Station:
  • Pukekohe Station. and
  • Silverdale park and ride facilities stage 2.

Complete land acquisition and, subject to that acquisition, complete construction of:

  • Fanshawe / Albert / Wellesley streets bus Infrastructure improvements by 2017,

2.6 Complete construction of road safety Improvements at high-risk areas on the road network, including:

  • Great South Road / Bell Avenue Intersection ($09m) by 2014:
  • Piha Road by 2017 ($0.8m):
  • Ngapipi Road / Tamaki Drive Intersection by 2017; and
  • Whitford Road I Sandstone Road ($0.9m) by 2014.

2.7 Complete the construction to upgrade ferry terminals at:

  • Downtown by 2017;
  • Devonport by 2017; and
  • Half Moon Bay by 2016.

2.8 Extend the regional cycleway network. including:

Complete construction of:

  • Beach Road cycleway by 2017:
  • Dominion Road parallel cycle routes by 2015:
  • Northcote, Waitemata, Mangere. Mt Roskill, and Point England sate cycleway routes by 2017;
  • Upper Harbour Drive cycleway by 2016; and
  • Waterview cycleway connection (in conjunction with NZTA) by 2017.

Complete scheme assessment and preliminary design of:

  • Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive cycleway by 2017.
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    1. Certainly looks overly risk-averse approach to PT and cycling.

      Anyone know if roading initiatives are similarly pushed back? If so does that suggest that despite the fine words, what’s actually happening is an ever sharper prioritisation on roads? Remember, last year, AT delivered only about 2/3 of its miserly cycling budget.

      1. Arse-covering. It would be easier to have more respect for the senior management at AT if they put as much work into actually meeting these targets as they do in getting them reduced. Very disappointing.

        1. typical of all Council Controlled Organisation. Their only aim is to respect the SOI, keep the politicians happy, the boards happy, their pays intact and screw everything else. Even if it means cheating on actual targets.

          1. What is incredibly distressing about this is that it shows a complete lack of interest or faith in the big transformational shifts that AT are charged with delivering to the PT sector in this period by those at the top.

            So what happens when the New Network delivers thousands more travellers to the new trains facilitated by newly integrated fares? Do they congratulate themselves that they’ve meet their entirely timid targets and stop innovating because of capacity pressures that they’ve not planned for because they can’t imagine them?

  1. The whole process seems convoluted and back to front. Why doesn’t the council set the targets and AT forget a about this SOI silliness?

        1. I am not a lawyer. I understand these SOIs and all are covered in the acts that govern Local Gov and CCOs, but that’s the limit of my knowledge.

        2. Parliament approved this. Other courts don’t get to over-ride them in our system.

          Changing the government may fix this particular instance but probably not the overall structure. It relies too much on decency and intelligence in our leaders. We get what we allow.

    1. This is disgusting. Just 2 months ago, Auckland Transport got all hissy-fit when Cycle Action Auckland dared to tell them that cycle projects all town were constantly being delayed. Among other things they stated that there had been no delays in the past and projects were on track, and how come CAA would dare say such things.

      AND they noted that Beach Road would be complete by end of 2014.

      I am fast losing my remaining patience.

        1. Not my style, but I am getting rather frustrated at what my style should be! I know certain sections of the cycling world would love us to be less cooperative with AT.

          Anyway CAA is currently chasing this issue up – thankfully, we had one of our AT-CAA meetings coming up right today, so thanks for Transport Blog for highlighting this issue so it can be faced immediately and squarely.

        2. Update on this as of Friday afternoon is that the SOI dates bandied about for the cycleways were wrong, and the dates given in the Infrastructure Committee report were right. As noted to CAA by AT today after being asked about this. So we can cautiously assume this is a matter of miscommunication within AT rather than than a set of new delays.

  2. Also, this suspiciously seems like the removal of Panmure roundabout in the next years is missing from the SOI? So we built a big new car road but won’t get the benefit for urban design, buses and walk/cycle we were promised via the roundabout removal? If I read that SOI right?

  3. Good on Darby.

    Council need to use their powers to heel these unaccountable scoundrels who are railroading us towards an Auckland that Council do not want, and which takes us further away from being the liveable city we need. If nothing is forthcoming then more severe action may need to be taken.

  4. Public transport will grow if services are of a high quality and prices are steady. Public transport will decrease if services are of a poor-moderate quality and prices are increased. The latter has occurred, and thus it is utterly unsurprising that we are short of targets. Electric trains should, in theory, increase the quality of train service through better passenger experience, less overcrowding, and increased reliability.

    1. Public transit will grow if it is reliable.

      We do not seem to have mitigated the impacts of significant network redevelopment particularly well. It doesn’t take many experiences of being unpredictably late to a commitment to put people off. Looking forward to better things when the catch-up construction settles down.

    1. Look, drawing diagonal lines pointing steeply up is a difficult skill – only the MoT’s state highway forcasting unit has it.

    2. Maybe its to increase their chance of being right ie “we were just below our early June forecast” or “we were just above our late June forecast” or even better “we were in between”

  5. I can see why they want to make they targets achievable. The associated revenue forecast would need to relate to the target. In 2013 they would have stuffed themselves up if they had based their revenue forecast on the SOI.

  6. Last year I presented to AT’s board on their draft SOI and tried to convince them to include SkyPath. It was the only time I have ever concluded a presentation on SkyPath and had no questions, just a cold stony silence.

  7. Patrick, I completely agree with you that AT seems to lack the vision to make the huge transformational shift that is needed for public transport.
    My recollection from his performance at ADHB is that Lester Levy is better than the current performance reflects, but to be fair he hasn’t had the role for long.
    Perhaps AT needs someone of the calibre of Rob Fyfe who radically turned the image and performance of Air NZ when it was struggling out of the GFC. (Contrast this with the almost terminally ill Qantas).

  8. I think its important to not overstate this. I wouldn’t say completely failing. AT are doing a hell of a lot to transform PT in Auckland at the moment, all of which is long overdue and now finally they have clear a directive from the Council, their nominal bosses, to do these things. They are funded to do them and, at the top, paid very well to manage this process too.

    What is troubling is the apparent lack of conviction in this journey for both PT and cycling and Place Quality by some in very important positions at AT. Especially as it is clear that everything they do finally achieve in these areas is being rewarded with uptake by the public; whether it’s Shared Streets, new stations, bus and bike priority. Why aren’t they being more enthusiastic; creative even?

    Instead there seems to be a culture of trying to shake off Council oversight and directives and largely focus on their other ‘parent’; NZTA. I guess it’s not hard to see why as NZTA have a much simpler and more purely road focused mandate (largely) and are dominated by engineers as is AT, perhaps it’s as simple as just identifying with another appointed not elected group of professionals who generally have more straight forward and quantifiable parameters. And, generally, are not requiring that easy-say-but-tricky-to-do thing: The transformative.

    Perhaps this is just the inertia of a fairly conservative profession in changing times. Regardless, they do work in the public sector for all of us, and it is our role to keep asking these and other, perhaps awkward, questions.

    1. I think it is perfectly fair to describe current actions as a complete failure. They have a pretty clear voice from council to sort pt and cycling out. Constant delays are a complete failure for any professional.

      1. And so what do you propose be done then?

        Sack the AT board? only the Gov’t (or their commissioners) can do that, and they wouldn’t do that as they see AT serving the present Ctentral Governments policies well.

        Can’t fire the staff or managers either. Maybe they could make everyone reapply for their jobs and put the roads only people out to pasture.
        But i’m sure employment law experts will have a field day on that too.

          1. In your dreams SB, the Supercity legislation means that will never happen while this Government is on watch and as for AC bringing AT in house – also legislation prevents that.

          2. And Sailor there is a considerable difference between governance (what the Board are responsible for) and the execution of plans (what the executive do). The Board have been very open to the views raised here and elsewhere, but getting that to translate into changes in culture and performance by the whole of AT and their partners is clearly not that straightforward.

            Vision is one thing; action another. And there are always obstacles and resistances to change.

          3. Then the board needs to sack some people in the executive,honestly AT have been absolutely hopeless at implementation.

        1. The Government choose the first AT board but AC have full say now. It’s AC who choose Lester Levy and Mark Gilbert when he started in November (he seems good too). For all the other directors, their first terms have ended and the council have extended them all. No government conspiracy here.

  9. So, in effect, you’re saying that AT’s executive is going a bit rogue by not executing either the will of the board in the first instance or the strategic directions of AC in the second instance? Surely then, it’s up to the board to ensure that the executives it appoints carry out its instructions rather than operating unilaterally and in accordance with another (NZTA?) agenda? Isn’t it time for accountability to play a role in AT’s governance?

  10. Sigh, I’ve heard so much about the delays here that I’m really becoming so jaded with the whole situation. Better to just shelve all the feelings into storage and wait for an actual announcement for completion before I start getting my hopes up again that PT will be a reality here. We could really use a proper benchmark to mark their “progress” at the very least. Phases or something instead of tryign to get everything done at one time and in the end nothing at all…

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