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.
- 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;
- 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.
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?
- If engineers say they can’t do either tactical urbanism or even permanent changes until CRL works is complete, that is wrong;
- 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.