New Mayor Phil Goff is looking to stamp his authority over the Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) in new Letters of Expectation (LOE) to be agreed by the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee on Tuesday. The item to the committee saying that with council now into its third term there is “a need to re-set some of the expectations on the CCOs about their participation and commitment to a whole-of-group approach“. The LOEs are a first step in defining how the CCOs work, they set the high level goals that should ultimately flow though to those organisations Statement of Intent (SOI) and then though to other organisational documents.
The general expectations for all the CCOs are below:
- CCOs need to take active steps to reinforce accountability to council. This will require strong leadership from Boards and chief executives, to build cultures and behaviours which recognise their organisations’ responsibilities to residents and ratepayers. Greater transparency in financial reporting is an important element of this. Additionally, CCOs need to work with council to develop new performance metrics which genuinely measure our success in achieving outcomes.
- CCOs need to align their operations with council strategies. A key plank of this is participation in development of the refreshed Auckland Plan.
- A stronger sense of collaboration in the council group is needed. This means collaborating across the other CCOs, and with council itself, to achieve group outcomes, and to maximise investment opportunities. As part of this, the shared services model and participation in group-wide policies remains important.
- CCOs should develop a stronger focus on customer service. One aspect of this is engaging more actively with Local Boards.
But I want to focus primarily on the specific expectations for Auckland Transport. Through the letter the council deliver some good strong messages for AT about key areas AT should be focusing on but all done so though a velvet glove using terms such as “we invite you to” and “we welcome a discussion“. Some of the areas the council want AT to focus on conflict with how AT have been operating.
The letter outlines that AT should not just be focused on transport but also their role in placemaking, urban regeneration and improving environmental sustainability. They go on to say:
We invite you to broaden your perspective beyond transport models and engage with Council, its plans, and the other CCOs. This will require a courageous balancing of movement and place, and bold commitment to reallocating road space towards public transport and active modes
This is a substantial message and one, if enacted upon, that has the potential to dramatically change how AT works. As we’ve talked about in many posts, AT often tend to rely too heavily on modelling as a justification for why improvements can’t be made to streets, leaving them hostile for buses, bikes, and pedestrians all in the name of traffic flow. This is reinforced in the next paragraph.
Auckland’s growth means the efficiency of our existing transport network needs to be constantly improved. The bus network is the backbone of public transport, and this needs to be recognised in your priority setting. We invite you to consider expanding bus lane networks, extending bus lane operating hours and removing or modifying on-street parking. We recognise that while it is important that Auckland Transport makes evidence based decisions, these can be challenging as conflicts arise between perceived local needs and network priority. A stronger focus on effective communication, consultation, and problem solving is needed. We would welcome a discussion on how we could support you in this.
The next section gives AT a serve over their silo mentality including mentioning a piece of work not previously mentioned publicly but that we’ve been hearing noises about.
Council would like to see the draft SOI highlight Auckland Transport’s commitment to working with the council on strategic issues and giving effect to existing strategies. Council would also like a commitment from Auckland Transport to operating in a ‘no surprise’ manner through indicating to council as early as possible Auckland Transport operational decisions that are likely to have significant strategic implications. Some specific examples in the near term are:
- the recent work undertaken by Auckland Transport in relation to the city centre’s transport network has strategic implications for the City Centre Master Plan, and should be resolved through a refresh of that Plan rather than through decisions made just by Auckland Transport
We’ve talked before about AT trying to scale back pedestrian amenity on Victoria St, outside of what will become the busiest train station in the country, all to squeeze more lanes of traffic in. As I understand it, that is just one example that AT were pursuing from a wider piece of work that directly ignored and contravene the councils publicly consulted strategic plans.
Some of the other key areas mentioned include these good points:
- Work with Council to implement and embed the strategic approach and recommendations of ATAP, including addressing the funding gap.
- aggressively pursuing strong growth in public transport use and active modes with refreshed targets, particularly through ensuring the new public transport network is successfully implemented with a strong customer focus.
- ensuring full value is obtained from council’s very large investment in rail electrification by reducing journey times, particularly through shorter dwell times at stations and more efficient rail operations
- ensuring good progress is maintained on delivering early works for the City Rail Link and preparation for the project’s main works
- maintaining momentum on delivering the cycling programme, incorporating priority for cycling and walking into projects, and building the case for a continuation of central government’s Urban Cycleways Fund beyond 2018.
I like that the council are being quite specific in some of these, such as that rail journey times should be improved by fixing the station dwell times and that AT need to build the case for the Urban Cycleway Fund to continue beyond 2018.
Perhaps if there was one thing I would add it is that it doesn’t mention anything about implementing the Rapid Transit Network as it is only partially covered by the ATAP strategic approach point. The council should ask AT to look for innovative ways to deliver some earlier outcomes. Examples could include getting a busway to the airport from Puhinui, some prototype NW busway services in place and sorting out Dominion Rd buses prior to light rail.
We know that some sections of the community get upset and some quite vocal about the installation of bus and bike lanes and we know this flows through to AT. Far too often with transport projects (and not just in NZ), politicians are the proverbial road block to getting good transport outcomes. But in this instance the politicians are telling AT they want to be bold so perhaps what’s particularly good about this letter is it helps gives AT the political cover they need to make significant changes to our streets in favour of people.
The biggest question is, will AT listen?