Today is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and the one where they’ll make a decision on whether to accept the appalling budget staff have produced or send them back to the drawing board.

But the budget isn’t the only discussion at the meeting. As usual there is a closed session where all the interesting stuff is talked about and report from staff on many of the pieces of work underway within the organisation. This month there’s not a lot of items of direct interest in the closed session. It mainly consists of a number of budget related items and some specific property leases.

As for the business report, as usual I’ve gone though it and picked out some of the items I found interesting. They’re below based on the order they appeared in the document.

Notices of Requirement – In a section talking about notices of requirement there is mention of the East West Link and saying that the final appeal is due in early 2018. I guess the final decision came out too late to update the report but it’s surprising that there is no mention of the government and NZTA relooking at the options for this.

There is also a mention that the Airport will be lodging a notice of requirement for their second runway and that it is expected to be publicly notified in February.

Ferry Strategy – This was mentioned last month but there’s a little more detail this time. Particularly that it confirms that the “proposed Auckland Ferry Strategy 2017-47 will be included in the 2018 review“. That raises the questions such as, what was wrong the 2017 strategy to begin with and is this just a case of someone not liking the results of the 2017 version so wasting more time and money on trying to get a different outcome.

HOP Concessions – Loading a concession, such as tertiary or SuperGold, has been a real pain point and source of complaints in recent years. AT say they’re about ready to trial this with University of Auckland Students and it should reduce the process from 4 to 1.5 minutes. It also appears they’re working to enable loading of concessions through the mobile app as well as other improvements such as being able to automate concessions for 16-19 year old students.

CCTV – One of the interesting developments last year was AT rolling out automated cameras to help enforce the Fanshawe St bus lane. AT are now rolling this out on the Grafton Bridge too and let’s hope other bus lanes get similar treatment.

Newmarket Crossing – The new bridge to Cowie St, to allow the closure of the Sarawia St level crossing is now well underway, as you may have noticed if you catch the train through there. AT say that road traffic is expected to start using the bridge in May and all works are planned to be completed by the end of June.

Eastern Busway – Finally some positive news on this key project. A decision on the consent for the busway section between Panmure and Pakuranga is due mid-February. AT have also started the procurement process for the works. Design and consenting works have started on the rest of the busway from Pakuranga to Botany too, although this includes the Reeves Rd Flyover.

Network Optimisation – It feels like that whenever AT want to be seen to be doing something they talk about network optimisation. Here’s the latest incarnation of it.

Following recent focus on optimisation by the Mayor’s office, Ministry of Transport and The Transport Agency (NZTA), a joint AT/NZTA project was initiated to determine how Network Optimisation might be accelerated for Auckland. The project intends to focus on building on existing work and ramp up efforts on One Network and multimodal optimisation.

A Project Governance Group consisting of Senior Executives from AT, AC and NZTA has been set up and is in discovery phase. Its aim is also to identify and deliver one-network demonstrator projects, develop the co-delivery model and resource plan, finalise KPI’s and funding models.

City Centre Travel Times – ATs monitoring of travel times as part of the CRL works continues to show that closing a major arterial has a positive impact on traffic movement in the city. Only Customs and Quay streets are slightly slower and AT say that is due to giving pedestrians more time.

New Network – As I mentioned the other day, the Isthmus and North Shore networks make up about 60% of all bus and train ridership so getting those the new network rolled out in those areas is key. They’re both due this year with the dates now set as:

  • Isthmus – 08 July
  • North Shore – 30 September

Rail Timetable – There’s a substantial update on the train timetables and what’s planned. In this it notes the next changes are in July but in the section on the Newmarket Crossing it says August.

AT has made number of journey time improvements, including dwell times, since the EMUs were introduced in 2014 to free-up three three-car units; by introducing improvements made in October 2016 and again in March 2017.

AT negotiated a dwell time reduction in the Transdev contract extensions. These dwell time and associated journey time improvements are targeted for implementation progressively in July 2018, January 2019 and August 2019. This is targeted to free up at least one additional unit in the AM peak.

The proposed train timetable, for introduction in July 2018, has been submitted to KiwiRail for modelling and further analysis. The submission includes:

  • Improved journey times across the Southern, Eastern & Western Lines, including further reduced dwell times.
  • An increase to three trains per hour, from 0700-1900, across the Southern, Eastern & Western Lines at Weekends, and Public Holidays, up from two trains per hour.
  • Pukekohe Shuttle services would continue to operate three trains per hour during the Morning and Afternoon peaks, with an increase to two trains per hour during inter-peak periods and at weekends, up from one train per hour.
  • Later night services on Friday evening’s.

KiwiRail had expressed concern around the revised timings of services in the key Wiri to Westfield corridor, however this has since been addressed.

AT is proposing to introduce a further January 2019 timetable, which is currently under discussion with Transdev and KiwiRail, that would build on the journey time and dwell time improvements from the July 2018 timetable. Other options being considered with this, include:

  • Introducing further ‘Limited Stop’ services across the Network.
  • A further increase to weekend services across the electric network, to four trains per hour.

Improvements are welcome but it sounds like it will be another year before we get to having ‘frequent’ services on the rail network outside of peaks. It would also be better if we could get some later services on all nights, not just on Fridays. However, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of introducing more ‘limited stop’ services across the network. While it saves a little bit of time, usually only a minute or two, it does so at the expense of frequency and convenience. The only stations I can think could be skipped without dropping frequencies too low would be Middlemore and Papatoetoe – Puhinui is needed for connections to Manukau and Otahuhu for bus network connections.

Bus Priority – The report mentions a paper called the Strategic Bus Priority Plan which was approved by the board in October and that they are starting a project to implement it. There is no mention of what’s in the plan but given the name, we can expect it means more bus lanes which would be welcome news. It is also noted that AT signed off on resolutions to extend the hours of operation for 40 special vehicle lanes (bus lanes or transit lanes) covering almost 60km. However, two of those, Onewa Rd and Lake Rd, have already been put on hold due to a couple of vexatious local board members.

That’s all for this month.

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  1. The CCTV image of “wrong way car” in Whangaparoa is misleading at best. I’m assuming the car is turning so driving on the flush median is permitted.

  2. I really abhor people using the word strategy and then talk about a bunch of stuff completely unrelated to strategy at all and just produce a long to do list and through in the word strategic to sound cool.

    Misuse and misunderstanding of the word strategy in business is probably one of the biggest causes of corporate failure ever.

    AT has never really had a strategy. It just has a random list of projects that it plods along doing or talking about doing. This is one reason why AT is like a crazy person, randomly doing different things with no real focus except maintaining the status quo.

    Sorry, rant over. The AT board should have sorted this out years ago.

    1. SB, at least having a strategy would be a good start. A good strategy is a small set of coherent actions that focus effort/resources to achieve a specific outcome. All we get is a million plans and projects with a very vague outcome.

      If you go to the AT website, and under strategy, they have several different plans, none of which are really strategies.

      The AT vision is “Transport choices for a growing, vibrant Auckland.”

      This is as vague as it gets. You can’t create an effective strategy around that vision. It’s basically: “Moving stuff in Auckland” Yay, vision achieved, mission accomplished, lets rest on our laurels.

      The AT mission is: “Working together to deliver safe, innovative and sustainable transport for a great city.”

      And yet, every thing they do seems to contradict this when they continue to focus most their resource into dangerous, mundane roads for cars. The complete opposite of their mission.

      Creating a great strategy takes compromise.

      1. I guess, I’m asking how you expand that mission into a strategy. You say that the strategy isn’t a strategy or doesn’t exist (which is fair), but never seem to give an example of good strategies from other organisations, or an example of what you would like to see.

        Would you (as an example) say:
        1: Develop a regionwide network of Rapid Transit, supported by Frequent Routes, which is increasingly free from congestion.
        2: Develop a regionwide network of safe, attractive cycleways focused on enabling cycling for transport.
        3: Reduce deaths and serious injuries on the transport network.

      2. SB Not my job to come up with the strategy :D. It is incredibly complex to form one, even if the strategy itself is simple and I don’t have the information the board has to make any suggestions, although you have some good ones. Good strategy should look obvious and simple in retrospect.

        The way I have always understood it is that the vision defines what outcome you want to achieve, but the AT one is too vague to build a good strategy on. The mission is HOW you achieve your vision and AT doesn’t seem to be doing that at all.

        A good strategy is a few actions that concentrate resources to overcome a specific problem. And then actually sticking to it.

        AT spreads its resources everywhere to do numerous different projects/actions to solve many different problems which are competing/conflicting. Building more roads for cars, but also trying to improve PT at the same time work against each other.

        The actions you take should reinforce each other.

        Good strategy requires choosing what NOT to do, as much as it is choosing what to do. A great start would be to stop spending any money on catering to cars. Sure, maintain the existing roads, but no more widening for cars or new roads. And your three suggestions are all great actions. It’s not complicated, just really difficult to make those choices.

        It comes down to the AT Board making a decision on who they serve. Do they serve people, or do they serve cars. If they serve people, then people will use any mode, if it is well served.

        If AT were truly serious about safety, they would immediately move to lower speed limits every where in the city and put in place the infra to enforce it. But AT isn’t serious about safety. They are obsessed with efficiency of moving cars.

        If AT were truly serious about transport choices like cycling, they wouldn’t rely on central government for funding to build cycle ways. No one would accept a bunch of unconnected roads throughout the city.

        If AT were serious about PT they would invest into better PT services instead of cutting costs.


        If I were to define a strategy for AT it would be something along the lines of the very actions you mention.

        Define the challenge: Freeing Aucklanders to live & play without needing to own a car. (easy to measure via car ownership rates)

        Guiding principle: Everything we do should improve the attractiveness of using PT or active modes over that of private vehicles.

        Coherent actions:
        1. Human-centric speed limits and enforcement to reduce road deaths because people’s lives come first. (easy to measure via road toll)
        2. A fully connected and segregated walking/cycling network that connects people to people via PT hubs or town centres. (may be tricky to measure)
        3. Increasing the number of PT users at all times of the day through better service using a congestion free PT network. (easy to measure via HOP data)


        It is a simple strategy, but it requires choosing to ignore the wants of people who currently use cars to get everywhere and AT refusing to budge. This is were many strategies fall down and end up just becoming long to do lists. It will also take guts to stick to it for several years or more that is required.

        Using the guiding principle you could remove any project that promotes the use of cars and then allocate that funding to other projects.

        Is this the right strategy? I don’t know, but I think it is a very clear strategy that can be easily measured. If you can easily measure the outcomes, then you can tell if your strategy is working or not.

        The thing is, it is such a big shift from what AT is geared up for (delivering roads for the status quo) that as an organisation, I don’t think it would be possible. To big a leap.

        1. Thanks for the thorough response, good to know that I was in the ballpark wrt strategy. Also agree with everything that you have said there about AT.

    2. AT does have a strategy. Their board has a strategy of remaining in their unelected positions as long as possible while charging as much in fees as they can until such time as they can each make the jump to other better paying boards.

  3. “The project intends to focus on building on existing work and ramp up efforts on One Network and multimodal optimisation.

    A Project Governance Group consisting of Senior Executives from AT, AC and NZTA has been set up and is in discovery phase. Its aim is also to identify and deliver one-network demonstrator projects, develop the co-delivery model and resource plan, finalise KPI’s and funding models.”

    How to fill two paragraphs without saying anything.

    1. They’re expanding the EMU depot for the additional trains they’re buying. That involves adding more fill to the old quarry site to bring level up etc. I saw a tender doc looking for someone to do retaining walls and drainage for it.

        1. Thanks Matt L.

          I thought that there was to be a new depot at Drury which would make these works superfluous.

  4. ” Pakuranga and Dominion Road Bus Lane Works ”

    Another nugget from the minutes, looks like AT lodged for consent for bus lanes on Pakuranga Road.

    1. Not digging up Dominion road I hope, sounds like a waste of money with LRT coming. Although I guess with AT’s current priority for light rail maybe they should…

        1. So why has it taken so long to do this then? Weren’t Auckland City Council going to improve bus lanes along Dominion Road before AT took over?
          I assumed they were delaying doing anything due to the prospect of light rail, I guess it was actually just more incompetency.

        2. They have used that excuse for years. I think they’ve finally realized that they have to run the buses and they can save money by allowing them to move faster.

      1. Yes there several years before LRT is operational where buses are still going to be needed, especially during construction. And for the most part you’d need to do all these works for LRT regardless. If general traffic has to run in the kerbside lane that lane needs clearances for vehicles up to the 4.25m legal max. I.e. if a double decker can use that lane it means a freight truck or fire engine can too.

  5. AT are a bunch of useless pr*cks. Tamaki Drive closed this morning and no advisory on any public news networks of the disruption to cars and buses*. The only mention i found after the fact was deeply buried through about 5 pages on their website. I only knew in advance because my wife got into the the thick of it and rang me, so i was able to walk down to Orakei train station (thank God for multi mode resilience). Plenty of frustrated commuters today.

    *Note, an electronic billboard halfway down Kepa Road doesn’t count.

    1. They put out some warnings yesterday, it was on Twitter this morning and honestly if you live in Orakei you know that when storm + tide Tamaki drive is going to be closed. Thanks Zeus there’s a train station close by

    2. Maybe i missed something but biking down Orakei Rd and turning left onto Ngapipi I didn’t see any road closure signs until I got to Tamaki Drive. Strangely, I did see a detour sign (from some other road works maybe?) pointing to Tamaki drive.

      Saw all the coverage of the closure online once I got to work, but you would think that the most logical first step would be to put signs out.

      Not to worry though as the cycle lane wasn’t closed!

  6. “AT has made number of journey time improvements, including dwell times, since the EMUs were introduced in 2014…” BS

    1. The dwell times are actually extended by AT requiring drivers to open all doors at all stations, even when there is no one using the T-car doors

      1. What a load of bollocks. The T-car doors take maybe 3 seconds longer than the other doors to open. The other doors that passengers are using are open for maybe 15-20 seconds an unused T-car door would have no impact at all on dwell times.

  7. Disappointing that there are no improvements to frequencies after 7pm. Having 30 min between trains at that time of night is frustrating if you are out with a group for dinner, having to leave when the timetable suits rather than when everyone else is ready.

    1. Yeah and if you having a bit of a drink or socialize on a Sun-Thu night you have to ditch everyone at 10PM if you get the train. Meanwhile most core bus routes run until around midnight… So why the double standard?

    2. The off peak frequency kick in too early. People with flexible working hours such as late start and late finish would find this inconvenient.

      Cutting service after 9:45am and 6:45pm is just too early.

      Also there is no mention of improvement to off peak frequency during working days. We are still stuck with 20min interpeak frequency.

  8. So what are typical train dwell times now? Any train-spotters with stop watches out there who can fill us in? Especially for average off-peak minor station dwells.

    1. Just the nerd you are looking for! I haven’t timed any for a few months but they have typically been around 50 seconds during peak hour at Greenlane, Remuera, Meadowbank and Orakei. I did time last year that was 40 seconds but that was an exception. I usually time it on six car trains so there are a decent number of doors in use.

      1. In a competently managed urban rail service an off peak minor station dwell should be no more than 20-25 seconds, as is found in all Australian cities and, I’m sure, hundreds of other cities around the world.

        1. Agree, I’ve timed them in Melbourne at 20 seconds. Auckland would likely be slightly slower as we only have two doors per carriage (although that is a bigger issue at peak time) and we have ramps, however 50 seconds during peak at relatively low volume stations is pathetic.

          Wellington has no trouble maintaining 30 second dwell times during peak even with the two stage door process as they also have TMs.

        2. Yet again the awful dwell times feature.

          For starters it hasn’t really reduced at all and AT cannot bullshit this one away.

          Secondly there is nothing Transdev can do when the very trains AT optioned have a bizarre setting whereby about 15 seconds lost during door opening and closing times whilst the trains software abandons ship, gets out the abacus and works out if it safe to open the doors and it is safe for it to move off once they are closed.

          Jesus wept, surely even with 20th century computers they can work out in a nano second the train is stopped, the brakes are on, the motors are disconnected and the bloody doors can open within a second of that, and similarly close and leave.

        3. In Sydney the buffer/dead time between when the train has stopped and the door starts to open, and between when the door is completely closed and the train starts, is usually around 1 second and 3-4 seconds respectively. This is with large plug doors (1.8m wide) and two-person operation.

  9. ‘Strategy’ lives somwehere between ‘mission’ and ‘shopping list’. The boundaries between them are admittedly a bit fuzzy. All the words are just labels – the words by themselves don’t show the essence of things.

    Mission: to give the family a healthy diet. Strategy: to eat from the relevant food groups in the recommended proportions, minimising fat, salt and sugar while still providing enough variety and interest to keep the family happy. Shopping list: natural muesli, salt free bread, natural yoghurt, sweet bisuits only for special occasions …

    For an urban transport authority, some possible strategy level goals could include: to reduce the overall economic cost of transport, per person-kilometre. Ditto, per person trip (this brings in issues to do with urban planning to reduce the need for longer trips).

    Over time, to encourage an increased share of travel to be by public transport and active modes, and a reduced share of travel to be by car, for environmental, urban amenity and public health reasons. Note the word ‘share’ here – it’s essential to have goals that relate to trends and shares, not just random numbers which might become irrelevant becauase of other economic or demographic changes.

    To provide adequate acccess to the city’s goodies to people without cars, for equity reasons. To reduce the road toll.

    Note that ‘to reduce road congestion’ is *not*, by itself, a good goal. There is an economically optimal level of road congestion which is not zero. A possible goal might be ‘To reduce road congestion towards, but not beyond the economically optimal level in a cost-effective way’. ‘Cost-effective’ means that you have to consider congestion charging. That goal would then be de-prioritised to reflect the negative side-effects of increasing road supply (induced demand etc).

    Strategy level goals need to be accompanied by targets framed so that performance can be measured over time to find out whether you’re succeeding. For ‘increased share’ a target might be ‘such and such increases by X per cent by year Y.’

    At present we seem to have an organisastion with the mission ‘to give the family a healthy diet’ and a shopping list that’s still full of chips and soft drink. Which suggests that the official mission is just window dressing, and the real control is still with people who write the shopping list and have a very strange understanding of what ‘healthy’ means.

    1. My understanding is that the shopping list was based purely on cost benefit analysis. You could argue that the costs of the unhealthy diet are not being adequately represented. Regardless it seems that the official mission actually is not allowed to be an input to the shopping list (I’m told this is mandated by NZTA / council?)

    2. Nice analogy. I think I will steal that if you don’t mind. Though there would be some disagreement on what constitutes a healthy diet. I hear that ketogenic diet is all the craze these days.

  10. No where do I see mentioned is Tamaki Drive, closed yet again due to flooding.

    Fair to say the fact that is has sunk along with the now long ago rotted out wave screen further out and climate change means this will continue to happen frequently. And flooding will quickly undermine the road bed anyway and it is a matter of time before their hand is forced to do something.

    But how is it that such a major arterial is now repeatedly closed is not a major, actually make that any concern, to AT?

    What are they doing about it?

  11. So the Cowie St bridge is actually being built. The AT website indicates a cost of about $8 million.

    I wonder how much targeted rates the council is going to collect in return for that investment.

    1. Here’s an easy fix – get rid of concessions altogether. The government don’t give cheap food, power, etc to children, uni students or elderly – why transport?

        1. Free GPs and prescriptions for under-13’s, Heavily subsidised education for children and students too, superannuation for the oldies, but it’s oh so wrong; we’re all equal and we should all be paying the same. /sarc

  12. “”vexatious local board members””. Vexatious means “tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry”.

    While I believe AT’s proposed extension of the hours are actually rational for Onewa Rd they made little attempt to persuade the public who actually use that frustrating road daily. Our local board members simply responded to their electorate and have only obtained a deferment.

    I much prefer local politicians who listen to locals to undemocratic, high-handed AT officials. I am willing to live with the temporary inconveniences caused by this delay simply because it is local democracy in action. There are too many experts who think they know best who are too arrogant to bother explaining themselves. AT should have persuaded our local board before their announcement and they should have proposed it for a trial period only. I’m pretty confident the data for improved travel by all commuters would then have won the argument.

    1. That would be a fair comment if this delay had the support of the majority of the local board. However, it appears to particularly loud members have gone directly to AT, with some of the local board not even being aware this was happening. That is not democracy.

    2. Take it from me: there are some local board members who are truly vexatious and who care little about anything other than raising their profile. Come to think of it, there is also a former cabinet minister representing an area not too far from Onewa Road who was vehemently opposed to the Onewa Road T3. I later spoke with him and suggested that he might not have been too pleased that AT proceeded despite his strong opposition, and he looked at me strangely and said “Did I oppose it? Oh, I’m over that now”. Having long experience of both politicians and AT staff I’m not sure which group I’d have more confidence in, to be honest.

      1. I will vote accordingly. AT should inform local board for both their proposals and their deferments of proposals.
        Democracy doesn’t always give you what you want but it is better than alternatives.

        1. “AT should inform local board for both their proposals and their deferments of proposals.”

          They did. The board supported it. Two members went to AT behind the back of the rest of the board.

  13. Is it possible for the public to provide input into the revised timetables?

    My gripe is that the Western Line trains depart Britomart within seconds of the Eastern Line train arriving, making it impossible to quickly transfer between the two lines. My guess is that more people would transfer between those two lines than between the Eastern and Southern.

    1. Have the same problem as you. When contacting AT their reply was:
      “Connections are often prioritised based on patronage, i.e. the number of customers making the connection.This often means the connection between South and West is prioritised at Newmarket as more customers make this connection, which can often have a negative impact on the West/East connection at Britomart in one direction.”
      This wouldn’t be a problem if trains didn’t take 5+ minutes to move from the start of the tunnel to the platform at Britomart.

  14. Resource Consents: Avondale to New Lynn shared path.
    This has been talked about for ages, and consulted on a couple of years ago. Why does it take so long to build a glorified footpath?

    1. AT don’t own the land and the owner of it has been very difficult to deal with and only allowing an expensive and short term lease. That owner is Kiwirail

  15. All this hype about the alleged “appalling budget” is long on rhetoric and scaremongering and short on factuality.
    Firstly, Labour has said that its change of priorities for transport will be delivered by amending the ATAP. As it turns out, only two or three months after the election, this process has not actually been completed, so there should be no surprise whatsoever that light rail is not being prioritised as the government has proposed.
    Secondly the 2015 RLTP always forecast a decrease in walking and cycling projects and this probably has a great deal to do with the cycle of NZTA funding for such projects.
    Thirdly, quite a number of roading projects were deferred for three years in 2015 and expected to be carried out in 2018, this was forecast in the RLTP.
    Fourthly, the amount of rail operations funding has likely already been contractually approved with Transdev in their tenders and simply is written in according to the schedule/rate of payments over the life of the contract.

    1. Firstly, the RLTP plans for the next ten years, not the last ten years.

      Secondly the RLTP gets to set the cycling budget, not just report what is set elsewhere.

      Thirdly, the RLTP could continue to defer those roads.

      Fourthly, rail operations could be expanded by allowing it more budget.

      The things that you have stated are factually accurate, but the values that you have applied facts to aren’t agreed on by other posters.

  16. I would say limited stop service would work during peak hours.

    It would work similar to express bus. There would be a few additional express service during peak time. This express train interleave with along normal train service.

    Internationally there are different schemes:

    1. Interleaved express – one train thats stop all stations and the next train stops only at major interchange stations.

    2. Satellites city express – a train stopping at distant stations, and then skip all stations between until it reach inner city. Example of it would be train stopping between pukekohe and manuwera, and then go directly to newmarket and britomart.
    That works because during peak hour the train would be full by the time it reach manuwera. There is no more space for people to board the train after that.

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