Every year Auckland Transport release a Statement of Intent (SOI), which is a document essentially saying what the organisation will be doing over the next three years and how that aligns with council priorities. This is one of the key tools the council has to control AT. The process in the past has generally been for AT to create a draft SOI, the council to provide feedback and then AT to consider/incorporate that. This time things were a little different though. Back in December last year shortly after being elected, Mayor Phil Goff looked to stamp his authority over Auckland Transport by setting new expectations for the agency. Those expectations included comments such as:
- requiring “a courageous balancing of movement and place, and bold commitment to reallocating road space towards public transport and active modes”
- “expanding bus lane networks, extending bus lane operating hours and removing or modifying on-street parking”
- telling them to work more closely with the council, particularly calling out how AT have been ignoring the Council’s publicly consulted strategy for the City Centre.
- Calling for action in some specific areas:
- refreshed targets to aggressively pursue strong growth in public transport
- calling for our electric trains to be faster, especially through shorter dwell times
- maintaining momentum on delivering the cycling programme
After AT came up with their draft SOI for the year, the council provided their feedback at the end of April. And it’s fair to say they weren’t impressed with ATs efforts. It appears that they just bunged the councils expectations in with some comments to each of the points rather than integrating the expectations into the document. A couple of example pieces of feedback are below but there are many more like them.
- The Statement of Intent should be more forward looking and more comprehensively respond to the challenges set out in the Letter of Expectation. For example, instead of noting the improvements that have already been made to the bus lane network, we expect to see what improvements will be made in the years ahead.
- A clear sense for the public of where money is planned to be spent is required. This was a key aspect of the Letter of Expectation
At the last AT board meeting the final SOI for this year went for approval and it certainly seems an improvement on what was presented as a draft and for previous years. It also seems like AT at least took on some of the feedback the council provided them.
One of the most noticeable areas for this is in the Work Plan, the part which lists the key initiatives they plan to work on and deliver during the year. Below is just the section looking improving public transport and gives a lot more detail that was available in draft version and previous years. However, it doesn’t include all PT projects and there are more, such as the CRL and the Manukau Bus Interchange, listed in the Building Infrastructure section. One of the more interesting comments below is the bus lanes with 15km expected this year and just which roads are being looked at.
The area that concerns me the most happens to be the same issue we’ve had in previous years, the targets. Below are the PT ridership targets for the coming years. While they’re meant to match the council’s long term plan, they don’t feel overly ambitious in the latter years, especially after the council told them in the letter of expectation to “aggressively pursuing strong growth in public transport use and active modes with refreshed targets“.
The cycle targets also show the dramatic impact that is expected once the government’s Urban Cycleway Fund (UCF) and the Council’s Transport Levy run out. The SOI does note that from 2019 onwards they’re indicative figures saying, “There is likely to be further investment made in line with national and Auckland priorities“. I’m hoping we’ll hear soon the government (and opposition) promise to extend the UCF
Overall it seems their new SOI is, if nothing else, the easiest to read and understand yet. So, for the most part it seems that they have incorporated the council’s feedback which is pleasing.