Auckland is growing rapidly and that’s placing huge pressure on our transport networks. It’s also now widely agreed that there simply isn’t the space to cheaply or easily widen roads. That means that if we want to move more people around this city, we need to make more efficient use of those transport networks, especially our roads. This has been increasingly recognised across all strategic documents. Let’s start with what the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) says:
Clear direction about the need to make tough calls to get more out of the transport network, including things like removing on-street parking and extending bus lane operating hours.
A very similar message comes through in the draft Auckland Plan:
Last year in the Council’s letter of expectation to Auckland Transport council asked for this
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.
This has been strengthened in the most recent Letter of Expectation for Auckland Transport:
With this strong strategic guidance behind them, Auckland Transport have been planning to roll out new bus/transit lanes and extend the operating hours of many existing ones. One of those they planned to extend operating hours on is the Onewa Rd T3 lane. This makes a lot of sense as it carries one of Auckland’s busiest, and fastest growing bus routes.
The T3 lane has always had its opponents, with numerous attempts over the years to downgrade it to a T2 lane. This is despite detailed analysis showing the T3 lane carries around 70% of peak time passengers travelling along this corridor. This from 2010:
Since 2011 public transport use has increased enormously and I recall one of ATs reports some months ago talking about this route as having an annual growth rate of over 20%, similar in size to the Busway and the rail network. This means the analysis above would tilt even more towards the need for improving bus priority. And this has been the plan with signs, and electronic message boards informing locals the hours would be extended from next Monday.
Despite all of this strong, at the merest sign of push-back Auckland Transport have been completely spineless and buckled. As I understand it, the North Shore Councillors and some of the Local Board members were not asked or told about this proposal or change and had assumed it was going ahead next week until this sudden announcement.
Just a couple of local board members celebrating @AklTransport caving on improving public transport on one of Auckland's busiest corridors in favour of single occupant cars. I understand other local board members didn't even know they had gone to AT pic.twitter.com/pZ5Dah7Am3
— Greater Auckland (@GreaterAKL) December 12, 2017
This smacks of predatory delay by people within AT. They surely know that ideas like dynamic lanes won’t actually achieve anything given there’s still only one lane onto the motorway. Even if they did decide to make changes in the future, that doesn’t mean that things can’t go and be changed again when required.
This case highlights another major issue with our overall governance. AT was set up the way they are to be about getting the best, informed and consistent outcome for transport in Auckland. There has been a lot of talk about devolving more powers and decision making to local boards. If that were to happen I expect we’d see more of this kind of behaviour as well as compromising the safety of cyclists/pedestrians in favour of parking and car movement. I wonder how this affects their bus priority roll out, which is already behind from previous years
Auckland Transport need to stop being so spineless in their bid to be liked by local boards. They’ve previously asked Councillors to be bold and support them in re-allocating road space but won’t do that themselves. They need to follow their strategic guidance and do their job by making the tough, but correct, decisions. If they actually did this properly I imagine Onewa Road would pretty quickly become a full bus lane.
Note: If you’re a bus user on Onewa Rd, you may wish to email the local board, especially the chair and deputy chair, before their meeting this afternoon.