You might be a bit surprised to learn that one of the major concerns holding us back from making substantial changes in the City Centre to reallocate street space to public transport, walking and cycling is because of the City Rail Link consent conditions. They require vehicle travel times to not increase by more than 10 minutes on a number of specified streets. That there isn’t even mention of the impact on other modes is pretty telling about what Auckland Transport and the council thought were the most important issues to worry about. This will be part of the reason why some bus stops have been shunted around the city centre during CRL works while car access is still catered for.

Note to Auckland Council: for future major City Centre works like Light Rail, can you please not sign off random targets that benefit cars over active modes and public transport! Please as its the opposite of what you as the Council say you want!

The other constraint is, of course, is funding.

Both these issues can easily be overcome if we are clever about it.

  1. With a lack of major funding, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council should focus much more on tactical urbanism and make quick, cheap changes that can be reversed or adapted if it doesn’t work out;
  2. When it comes to the CRL consent conditions, we are so far away from exceeding the limits that Auckland Transport really shouldn’t worry about them at all.

This is from the last AT board report, which tracks Auckland Transport’s performance on this KPI.

CRL Consent KPI

The colours are a little bit confusing but in short, the point where blue changes to yellow are the pre-CRL travel times while the far right darkest red indicates the ‘limit’ for travel time increases that remain within the consent conditions. This highlights two key findings:

  • Travel times, even with all these disruptive works have not increased by much more than a minute;
  • On many of the streets, travel times are better than ever.

Bizarrely, even though travel times are either better than ever or only marginally slower, Auckland Transport continue to create delays for the thousands and thousands of people walking around the city centre each day. A prime example is their 2016 decision to remove the double pedestrian phasing for major intersections with Queen Street.

So what does this all mean?

  1. If engineers say they can’t do either tactical urbanism or even permanent changes until CRL works is complete, that is wrong;
  2. That we have plenty of room within the current consent to start making city centre better for people right now.

It’s not just great for place-making either, interventions like reducing pedestrian intersection delay have a serious positive economic return. 

So what you waiting for AT, come on, be ambitious and help transform our city for the better.

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52 comments

  1. The next Auckland Council / Transport works, starting yesterday, should be blocking access to all private vehicles from the Quay Street, Hobson, Pitt, K, Symonds, Anzac loop. That will improve their travel time statistics just like that, if you can’t get into the city centre, you can’t get there slowly! And you can enjoy a pleasant walk without the fumes!!

  2. Just toll every car that enters or leaves the CBD cordon $5. $5 in, $5 out. If people don’t want to pay they can get a bus or go somewhere else entirely.

  3. Mathew and mfwic are pussies! I say we grab our pitchforks and our burning torches and run all these @#$% car owners out of town completely. And shut the motorways so they can’t come back!

    1. My motorist friends with one hand on the wheel and the other on a burning pitchfork have a different solution – remove all pedestrians and cyclists. All those unnecessary footpaths and cycle lanes can be converted into new car lanes. If you can’t drive then you will be punished by never being allowed to leave home; food supplied via online ordering. Suitable for modern teenagers and students – all learning online. Then re-utilise our sports fields as convenient large car parks.

      1. . . . And make it compulsory to drive an SUV. The bigger the better. Single-occupant Sherman tanks are the norm we should be striving for as a civilised society.

        Those pesky, space-saving, fuel-efficient smaller cars should be outlawed. They are almost as much of a nuisance as pedestrians and cyclists.

        And don’t get me started on the contempt which electric vehicles and e-bikes deserve. Seriously, they will shroud the planet in an suffocating cloak of Green.

        You mark my words!

    2. as an avid drivist myself, I sadly am forced to support this plan. So many of my fellow drivers are lawless, red light crossing, cell phone texters who threaten the lives of other citizens. They should not be allowed in the CBD.

  4. This does need to be taken seriously. CRL monitoring has shown how “capacity reduction” has increased PT and walking accessibility.
    Low cost and reversible interventions can allow transformative changes to be tried and – if proven – locked in.
    Temporary traffic management for construction can be used in this way, with the possibility of keeping restrictions in place as part of planned network change.
    When temporarily restricted space is returned to public access, its use should be reconsidered, and returned to the right users – not always general traffic lanes.
    One of the remarkable features of CRL enabling works was the ease of crossing Victoria and Wellesley Streets mid-block, especalthough there are cases where a whole route or street may need treatment at once to be effective (bike facilities especially), many incremental spot interventions can be done with little pain.

    1. “One of the remarkable features of CRL enabling works was the ease of crossing Victoria and Wellesley Streets mid-block”
      Are you referring to the light controlled pedestrian crossings? These had nothing to do with CRL enabling works, surely. What am I missing?

    2. Yes, Streetguy. The CRL is an opportunity to showcase innovative tactical urbanism. Hopefully Shane Ellison has enough exposure to these ideas to understand that enabling the progressive elements in AT to experiment is as important as any other cultural change he could try to bring about.

  5. Hear, hear, Harriet! “City Rail Link consent conditions… require vehicle travel times to not increase by more than 10 minutes on a number of specified streets… there isn’t even mention of the impact on other modes…”

    Funny how some written words lead to action by AT, while others just evaporate into the fug, determined, it seems, by the level of car-bias in those words…

  6. 15 years ago about 5:30am waiting for the NZ immigration office to open a fellow ex-Londoner in the queue made me promise to never complain about traffic congestion. Last week and again this morning rather than enjoying a quiet breakfast like most pensioners I took family members to get their cars repaired and discovered the majority of Auckland sit alone in cars just waiting for their queue to change from stationery to dawdling. My daughter drives maybe 5km from the eastern edge of our suburb across Northcote to Takapuna for her sons school and her work whereas my wife travels about 20km due north to her work in Albany. In both cases their journey is now badly interrupted by traffic on its way south aiming to join the SH1 madness. The congestion was an eye-opener to me.

    Despite fairly extensive expenditure on widening arterial and collector roads over the last 15 years things are far worse than they were only 3 years ago. If the requirement for ‘vehicle travel times to not increase by more than 10 minutes on a number of specified streets’ had been applied to most North Shore roads well they would have failed badly. Note this increase on traffic has little to do with intensification of our housing; this has barely started in the area of roughly 10km north of the bridge (excluding retirement villages who surely are not adding to the morning traffic at 7am). So it is caused by more people living in the same houses, more cars per house, more reasons to cross the bridge but probably mainly by the increased housing in and north of Albany. The inhabitants of one suburb suffer because of the existence of a new suburb.

    Is the best short term solution to adapt what a Labour politician is reported as saying: reduce PT fares?

    1. +1 Bob – certainly it seems like the easiest first step. Enforcing bus lanes and raising car park prices should be immediate too.

          1. At the Gt Nth Rd / St Lukes Rd intersection a convention has built up to entirely ignore the bus lane and as far as I know there has been no move from AT to enforce it.

      1. Dear Bob,

        You can’t reduce PT fares. That would amount to a subsidy to the least-deserving members of society. The fact is that 94% of people drive, so 94% of transport funding should go towards making sure that 94% of people continue to drive.

        Yours, roughly paraphrased,
        S Joyce, G Brownlee, and S Bridges

      2. Enforcing traffic rules would help too. I’d like to see an dedicated Police presence to enforce red light running, speeding, queuing across intersections. Drivers are getting away with poor behaviour – let’s change that, which returns power back to pedestrians etc

        1. Yes, and I don’t understand why the police are in charge of general driver behaviour, but AT are in charge of enforcing specific things like keeping bike and bus lanes clear and stopping people from parking on berms and footpaths.

          All these infringements result in a reduction of safety, and can lead to accidents. Anyone understand the different responsibilities?

        2. With regard to policing of the roads – There are certain places where speeding is the norm, where red light running is the norm.

          Why don’t police put more enforcement in those areas, via unmarked cars?

          Example of speeding being normalised – Heading north over the Newmarket viaduct. Most people travel at close to 100 until nearing the Symonds St offramp (those in the left hand lane still more likely to be doing 100). The only time that I’m not being passed is when you see a sea of brake lights, indicating a police car. Every single time this occurs, it’s a marked car.

          More unmarked enforcement, more motorcycle officers.

    2. Bob, if your daughter has to drive 5km across town to get your grandson to school, buy the little bugger a bicycle and tell him to hop on it. 5km is easy as pie on a bike. I cycled 5km each way each day to school for a decade or more, and would never have been seen dead in my mothers car. And yes, your wife should probably take the bus, on the busway. Maybe with a fold-up bicycle for the final leg.

      1. I don’t think cycling is a viable alternatively at the moment. It is significantly more dangerous than driving: from the data from MOT [1] I would estimate you’re 5 to 10 times more likely to get into a serious accident compared to driving. Specifically over there, Birkenhead Avenue and Glenfield Road are a barrier for cyclists, especially for kids.

        And neither is bussing, there are no viable connections between the entire Kaipātiki area and the NEX.

        [1] http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/crashfacts/cyclistcrashfacts/

        1. 100% agree with this. The two roads you mention should really be upgraded to light rail asap, going all the way down to Onewa Station. It’s terrible how dangerous cycling is in this city, and a big contributor is Auckland Council and AT prioritising private vehicles as the preferred mode of transport in areas such as Kaipātiki.

          1. If all the children who wanted to cycle were out cycling there’d be some natural traffic calming happening. But getting to that point would take the ACC stats through a terrible projectile that most parents aren’t prepared to let their children be part of.

          2. I think as a general rule our safety tolerances are a bit lower for recreational activities than day-to-day activities.

            For example I’m an alpine climber and I accept there will always be an element of risk in that. However, I’m much less tolerant of risk when I travel to work or visit family.

          3. “Still safer than skiing…” → doesn’t matter, those are not alternative ways of getting to school.

            The difference in statistics seems pretty real to me. And I would expect that difference to be a lot worse for children.

  7. Well put Harriet. The consent terms were probably corrupted by the discredited norm of counting cars instead of people. And let’s face it, there is an unspoken inference that someone in a car is more important than someone walking or cycling, that their journey is more worthy and needs protecting from disruption. Well that’s changing fast and people from all walks of life are realizing that active and public transport particularly around the CBD makes sense and is the way of the future. We should be proud, it’s a com8ng of age for Auckland.

  8. Those consent terms have a lot of room for movement in them, they allow for at least a doubling and in some instances more than a tripling of the travel times.

    You could probably have carmageddon in the CBD and still stay within those conditions.

  9. AT KPI is currently measured by single occupicant cars travel speed. That goal seriously needs to be changed.

    Instead AT should measure how people travel around including active mode and public transport.

    If slowing or removing one single occuplicant car can speed up a bus, make people walk and cycle faster, in AT mind that should be treated as a success not a failure.

    1. To me, the selection of the KPI smells of one of two things (hey, perhaps both):
      1) Political interference.
      2) Setting of KPIs by parties whom lack the real-world business experience to understand what they’re doing.

      For a starter, I believe that one of the biggest common failings in defining KPIs is ignoring the human element. We naturally assume data speaks for itself, but it’s merely the messenger.

      What’s more, KPIs should be derived by reverse engineering the required objective. What are you trying to measure? Is it even the right thing to measure, or a red herring?

      AT has the wrong KPIs in place, due to incorrect focusing on what drives business in the CBD. It’s not about the cars, it’s about the people (as you say).

      1. Mind you, Jon, that incorrect focus is not limited to the cbd, and the result of it all is, well, that the city remains car-dependent.

        If you instead assume that the required objective is continuation of a roads-heavy budget, and the building of more roads each year to ensure a constant maintenance programme for decades to come, and then reverse engineer it… what would the KPI’s end up as?

        Call me a cynic, but our pickle of a transport situation has to be due to more than just inertia.

        1. I agree. I think that the cause of the issue is political gain prioritised over a pragmatic solution.

          By political gain, I’m not suggesting a left/right/whatever ideological divide but even more basic. People trying to better their earning potential, just like any other career. Take IT, CIOs often come in, change things and then bug out before trouble hits. Same goes for many CEOs – They feel that they’ve got to make their mark, or else they’ll be seen as followers instead of leaders in a world where leaders are valued and followers are dead weight.

          Ironic really that at the lower echelons those that stick their heads up are the ones who have to go.

          1. Yes… and then we have the whole sorry history of the likes of Brierley … how destruction like what they did could ever have been considered normal or legitimate I have no idea. (Btw I agreed with your first comment – only sloppy writing made it come out otherwise, sorry.)

  10. The Wellesley st and victoria st coordior needs better synced traffic lights.

    The traffic lights along the road should all go green at the same time, and go red at the same time.

    The worse case is a traffic light goes green but none of the vehicles can move because the traffic light ahead is red.

    What worse is cars joining from side street takes up all available space for the light cycle.

    That makes the main traffic using the coordior very slow.

    For example, victoria street queen st to albert st section, bus is heavy congested. It can takes 10 minutes for the bus move pass.

    The reason is poorly synced intersection between queen st and albert st.

    When albert st is green, queen st is red. That allows cars exit from elliot st to fill up victoria st.

    Then albert st traffic light turns red, and queen st turns green.

    By the time queen st turns green. Victoria st has no space to even allow one bus to move in. No cars is moving as they are blocked by the traffic light ahead.

    The traffic light cycle repeats so cars from elliot st can push in, and none of the vehicles from queen st can enter victoria st.

    To solve it, traffic lights along coordior needs to be synced to all go green together.

    Cars joining in from side streets should have a low priority traffic light. During peak time they may need to wait a long time for their phase.

    Main traffic going straight should have high priority light that is long enough to allow traffic to flow smoothly.

    Bus lane should have its dedicated traffic light that turns green a few seconds earlier to overtake all cars.

    If there are bus approaching, the traffic light should have sensor to make the light turn green.

  11. Without reverting to full Ron Paul levels of anti-car froth, now is the hour to remove cars from travelling up and down Queen Street. Cone off one lane from Fort St so it rejoins Shortland St, but all other non-bus vehicle access should be across Queen St, not up/down it.

    1. I wouldn’t say no to electronic bollards being installed at either end of Queen St, so they can be raised during peak hours and lowered off-peak.

  12. Is it worth starting a petition asking for AT to close Queen Street? I think it would get significant support among both central city workers and businesses.

  13. So what is your beef Harriet? Is it that AT are expected to mitigate their effects? Some people made a submission and asked for monitoring and the independent panel agreed? Or is it that they don’t do these dumb little diagrams for walk trips?
    The effects on pedestrians isn’t anything to do with car traffic, they got rid of the double ped phase so AT could run buses at high noise levels up and down what should be the best retail area in NZ.

    1. Isn’t this her point?: “This will be part of the reason why some bus stops have been shunted around the city centre during CRL works while car access is still catered for.”

      “The effects on pedestrians isn’t anything to do with car traffic” If the bus stops have been placed so poorly in order to maintain car access or car flow, then yes, the effects on PT pedestrians will have everything to do with car traffic (and AT’s car bias.)

  14. That NPV is flawed. AT removed the double ped phase, but halved the total time so there was no change in ped delay. It implies that people 100% utilise every second they gain back which is nonsense. Most people waiting at the lights are on their phones, making use of their time. Same reason why car travel savings of a few seconds are totally bogus.

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