A new research paper has helped shed some light on why we continually seem to see substandard and delayed street outcomes from Auckland Transport that completely ignore Auckland’s agreed political and policy goals. It reveals a complex and dysfunctional decision making process that might be representative more generally of the institutional inertia that exists at AT.

It is particularly relevant to our current road safety crisis and read in tandem with the Howard Safety report, reveals how much institutional change is required to make our city streets safer. The paper is foremost about change and how difficult it is for planning and design professionals to deviate from the status quo.

The paper is titled Unlocking Transport Innovation: A Sociotechnical Perspective of the Logics of Transport Planning Decision-Making within the Trial of a New Type of Pedestrian Crossing by Simon Opit & Karen Witten. It follows an innocuous request to trial a new type of pedestrian crossing on Massey Rd as part of the Te Ara Mura Future Streets project, a neighbourhood-wide research project on the impact of improving conditions for walking and cycling across the Mangere Town Centre area. In the end, the proposed crossing was not approved and the approval delays threatened to jeopardise the research component of the Future Streets project.

The paper does not look into the merits of the pedestrian crossing proposal but instead focuses on the approval process and attempts understand why there is a disconnect between the established political and policy direction and what we see in the ground (or what we don’t see):

In Auckland, the regional Road Controlling Authority (RCA), ‘Auckland Transport’ (AT), dedicates a chapter in its ‘code of practice’ to outlining its commitment to enabling innovative solutions where appropriate. Yet, as political demands for a modal shift towards active and public transport have gradually intensified, the organisation has sometimes struggled to shift from ‘business-as-usual’ practices that prioritise goals associated with the private motor vehicle, such as road network capacity and flow efficiency (particularly, alleviating peak hour congestion problems).

The paper follows the decision making process through several committees and processes. We learn about the Traffic Control Devices Steering Group, an NZTA decision making group that includes people from NZTA, MoT, road controling authorities (like AT), the Automobile Association, roading contractors, and the traffic sign and road marking industry. We hear about Auckland Transport’s Transport Controls Committee (TCC) and their resolution process. There is also a cameo appearance from the Intelligent Transport System “ITS” department that looks after any traffic controls that deal with technology.

One of the problems with so many people involved in the decision making is that the process is bogged down by what the authors call “Collective agreement and shared ownership”:

The logic of shared ownership through collaboration offers the potential to transmit the rationale for new design solutions and build support for innovation. However, reaching shared ownership of a solution can also act to solidify the obduracy of the status quo. Ownership of a particular solution creates a form of institutional inertia or obduracy that can be difficult to overcome. Furthermore, the necessity of sign-offs can enable particular individuals or departments to wield a disproportionate level of influence over the approval process in order to gain leverage for revisions. Such influences are likely to tend towards a reassertion of existing solutions to transport problems.

The authors also note the the risk averse nature of traffic engineering professionals. Risk aversion here is focused with public safety (as it should be) but it also includes institutional, reputational and legal risk.

…there is a feeling of inherent risk when considering the adoption of new practices or designs within a transport proposal. Irrespective of whether they agree with the proposed ideas, adopting non-standard solutions is likely to be avoided by individuals in order to prevent isolating themselves from standard institutional structures and practices, and potentially exposing themselves to individual-level legal and reputational risks.

And there’s a preoccupation with consistency.

Consistency is a key concern within the decision-making process for both the NZTA and AT. The objective of consistency is often referenced in terms of how road users interpret the devices, signage and layout of the road environment. However, consistency has further purposes that are valued throughout the transport planning assemblage. Structural or bureaucratic consistency is also valued as it relates to improving the calculability and, hence, predictability of transport planning decisions.

Consistency is also presented as a key concern for road users across the region a but also across the country, as if road users regularly jump from a cycleway in Dunedin to Palmerston North. Consistency does not end there. We hear about our membership in Austroads with its notorious car first guidelines that also limit design innovation.

Beyond national consistency, there is also an impetus for standardisation with Australia. Opportunities for ‘harmonisation’ are primarily facilitated through the NZTA’s membership of Austroads, as the NZTA Traffic Devices Manager explained:

“… we try and ensure that we are continually striving for international consistency, particularly harmonisation with Australia. We are a member of Austroads and we commit to harmonisation across Australasia. So again, I am not looking for devices that move us away from consistency with Australia.”

Some of the worst comments relate to the TCC, which has not only all of the issues above but also seems to be held captive to a range of internal and interpersonal politics. The paper notes that it can take just one member of the TCC to strongly object to a proposal to hold the whole thing up.

In situations where amendments are suggested by an official, the delays are usually expected to be only minor while revisions are made. In this situation, it is suggested that the process should take around two weeks. However, there can be times when a particular official or department strongly disagrees with a proposal. On these occasions, there can be an ‘impasse’ where a particular proposal is accepted by almost all departments, but is nevertheless held back by disagreement from an implacable non-consenting party.

In the case of Future Streets, there also appears to have been a hostility towards it because it wasn’t an AT led project, with behaviour such staff as not attending workshops on it then opposing what was proposed without understanding it. It appears the key area opposing the proposal was the ITS team and mainly because they wanted their own solutions used

Project Manager: Well it was going to get rejected within AT, never mind NZTA, so we had a problem there – and I thought this was a little bit naughty – but basically they said we have some proposals and if you let us implement those, we would be happy to do that as part of the crossing.

Interviewer: Sorry, just see if I have understood this. So ITS looked at what you were suggesting and said we have some other alternative that we would like to trial. If you trial this one, we will support your proposal?

Project Manager: Yes … and they could object to it along the route and so the whole idea behind the traffic resolution is meant to be a legal exercise, creates a legal bylaw. But what actually happens or can happen … is that it turns into another detailed design review and you are going over it again … So, if somebody in road safety is not happy with something, they will go “I am not happy with that and you need to do this otherwise I am not going to sign it” … So this process is a little bit flawed.

These are only a sample of the some of the findings. Overall, the paper paints a depressing picture of institutional processes that are hard wired for the status quo. We’ve heard some of these stories before from snippets of correspondence between AT and the public on matters like implementing pedestrian crossings that sometimes do not have enough pedestrians, while at other times have too many pedestrians to warrant a pedestrian crossings. People have come to understand the inevitable response to be, “the computer says no” and well intentioned staff and consultants just give up trying to do anything different.

As Auckland sets out to address its road safety crisis and build streets that support multi-modal transport, this paper reveals how challenging the task ahead is. The built-in resistance to change is so entrenched that we will need bold leadership to enact a system-wide reboot and restructure if we are to see any progress over the next several years.

Share this

78 comments

  1. Oh, good on them! Great to see someone has bothered to record, research and write up what is happening in projects all over the city. Thanks Matt – important post.

    1. Looks like a system that works to me Heidi. A daft idea had lots of hurdles placed in front of it. That is why bureaucracies exist.

    2. Yes great post Matt. As you know I am questioning a particularly poor decision by AT and this gives me inspiration to dig for as long as it takes to find how they arrived at where they did..

  2. Wow this is terribly depressing. We finally have political alignment on transport and now progress is being stymied by old school engineers with delicate egos. Time to start firing the lot of them.

    1. Not necessarily stymied by engineers, other parties to the cluster****: Automobile Association, roading contractors, and the traffic sign and road marking industry.

      FWIW, engineers are people too. Good engineers are pragmatists. Bad engineers are like many in mid to upper management, egotists.

      Also don’t forget the motivating power of reputational risk in a very small field. Heck, even in NZ ICT with our (probably) tens of thousands of employees, reputational risk is a major concern that results in a lot of dead weight mid to upper level managers – Imagine how bad it would be with a workforce only a fraction of the size.

      1. Delicate ego, Jon? Funny how it didn’t in any way bother me. Maybe that’s because I see it’s at the “Engineering Approval” stage that ‘nice things’ get rejected.

        1. I can’t recall what your field of engineering is, sorry but my comment still stands 🙂
          I’ll come to the rejection @ engineering approval aspect shortly.

          This blog has a history of treating engineers as folks only concerned with making the world a worse place. Traffic engineers are treated like car crazy maniacs who despise pedestrians and cyclists. In the autonomous vehicle article, engineers were also portrayed by some commentators as being car mad.

          Engineers are united by the desire to know how things work, to engineer better solutions and to drive their decisions through analysis of data (evidence based decisions).

          With regard to ego, some engineers who are mid-level managers or higher will feel at risk of reputational harm, should they back a lemon. They’ve got to worry about politics and a small industry (in the case of IT and I assume traffic engineering). That the process stopped at an engineering approval stage *in this instance* doesn’t mean that a certain profession is to blame.

          What is to blame is the culture where people have to worry about politics and reputations. This is the real point of the paper – Too many people who are slaves to politics or reputation, including those who perhaps shouldn’t even necessarily be there (AA, road marking).

          I’ve long advocated for fairer and more understanding treatment of engineers on this blog, so no… Not an ego issue (this time) 🙂

          1. That’s a far kinder reply than I deserved – I had meant to be light-hearted, but it didn’t read like that. Civil is my field if not always my behaviour. 🙂 I don’t know if you notice enough when this blog reports positively on the research of traffic engineers, safety engineers, infrastructure engineers. And engineers get praise in the comments section, too, particularly safety engineers and engineers designing for vulnerable road users.

            My bugbear (well, you know, one of them) is why AT doesn’t make better use of their engineering staff, who could be helping AT achieve all sorts of measurable targets through establishing strategy-change mechanisms with feedback loops.

          2. This seems much more like a governance and leadership problem (albeit many of those in leadership positions are likely to be traffic engineers). There seems to be no clear decision making process or lines of accountability/ reporting. To many middle men/ women trying to take a cut and justify their position. In light of the political direction of local and central government I cant see how anything but a wholesale restructuring of AT could address this.

  3. “Why we can’t have nice things”????

    Seriously, Greater Auckland has been granted every wish it has pulled for years out of its sparkle-pony ass, and this is its headline?

    Give me a break.

    And calling for yet more comprehensive restructures inside AT simply sets momentum back years.

    And so a researcher projects systemic AT-wide decisionmaking failure from a minor streetscapes work. It a bit of a reach.

    The only lesson from Mangere streetscapes is avoid collecting lots of small pools of money from agencies that aren’t transport agencies. The rest of them just add noise.

    GA: don’t go down the tinfoil hat road.

    1. Trolling or serious?

      I think that the systemic problems have been evident for some time, given the poor outcomes AT have been achieving across a range of criteria, and given the experiences people have reported when dealing with them. I have read about countless examples detailed through Greater Auckland, from professional colleagues, and my own limited experiences have been the same. This paper is simply a microcosm of the larger issues and I think it’s an excellent piece of work.

    2. For heaven’s sake, Ad. AT don’t follow their Parking Strategy. They don’t follow their Sustainability Framework. They don’t follow their Asset Management Plan. They don’t follow their Roads and Streets Framework. They dono’t fulfill their requirements under Council’s Recreation Strategy. They’re about to announce a speed reduction programme that in no way meets their commitment to Vision Zero. And that’s just for starters.

      The dinosaurs must be outed. They’re wasting our rates. They’re stopping our city from being transformed. And they’ve got a big part to play in our high DSI.

      1. Heidi, you are too kind on AT. Yes they don’t follow many of their processes (and maybe it’s partly because of this) but it is their results that are so appalling. It’s the really big picture stuff where this is so. Congestion costing the city over 1 billion dollars every year is a disgrace; emissions that are almost up 25% over the last few years is a huge failure; the bad safety record as you say; and spending blowing out on roading to name a few things.

        All of this should be able to be fixed with strong leadership from the top. The ceo is new so hard to point the finger too much at him, but certainly the Board needs to be refreshed.

    3. So you don’t see all of those committees and processes as roadblocks? Or at the very least, costly (both in terms of the cost of staff and the cost of stalling investments).
      I find it utterly ridiculous. Surely it should be as simple as having a senior team in AT that make decisions. Why should the NZTA, MOT, AA, etc, have any say in a local project?
      I think people that have been in the public sector too long have no idea how the real world works. As an engineer in the private sector I know most companies are trying to get rid of these layers upon layers of (mis-)mangement.
      Maybe AT needs to be privatised?

      1. Actually having re-read this I now see it isn’t just a new crossing, it is a new type of crossing. In this case the bureaucracy is probably justified.

      2. Privatising AT would lead to more conservatism, not less, when looking at innovative solutions. Private organizations are far more risk averse than government.

    4. “Seriously, Greater Auckland has been granted every wish it has pulled for years out of its sparkle-pony ass, and this is its headline?”

      Sounds like the a dinosaur is feeling threatened….

    1. He’s working to slowly ease some people out, and make some others change their mind to the new tune. Culture change is a multi-year process, I know he has said to some people asking for it, and he’s right – as long as he doesn’t flag halfway. The question is whether the resistance will be strong enough to simply outlast him. Some of these people have been in the industry for decades, and see this just as another fad, gone with the next election or two. So they play lip service and continue as before.

      I the end, it WILL come down as to whether the CEO is willing to swing an axe or two, and whether the government and public pressure continues.

  4. The paper says, “…we are open to innovation and ideas but we are not looking for solutions that aren’t fixing a problem.”

    In other words, in some cases, do nothing about dangerous situations until fatalities occur. I’ve pointed out before that some pedestrian crossings are dangerous because the buzzer sounds for a different part of the crossing where another ped has pressed the button, but the red man “Don’t Cross” light isn’t presented to you unless you’ve pressed your crossing’s button.

    This red man situation is inconsistently applied to intersections, but the paper goes on to say, “One of the main things about what makes a good traffic control device is that it’s applied consistently so that people become familiar with it and…respond to it instinctively.”

    I responded instinctively when the buzzer sounded at the top of Bentley Ave in Glenfield because there was no red man to indicate that I must not cross. I stepped out and was almost struck by a car which had right of way through my part of the crossing. I’m a frequent crosser at the very busy Wairau Road-Tristram Ave intersection, and the red man is shown there at all times whenever it’s not permissible to cross. Now tell me about inconsistency, AT.

    I would like to know how many Auckland pedestrian deaths happened at non-showing red man crossings and were written off as “pedestrian stepped onto crossing without warning” or “pedestrian stepped onto crossing while distracted”.

    1. Safety engineers have long criticised the approach of only looking at where DSI is occurring, and have many tools to use to locate the dangerous places. Some of the staff of AT have done great work on this. Again, it’s the dinosaurs that are stopping it from being implemented.

      1. And the funding dinosaurs – When your safety budget is so oversubscribed you can’t even fix the potential / suspected issues, why bother – you have ten intersections you know perfectly well are deadly and in need of money 🙁

        For what it is worth, one leading AT safety engineer has told me that the climate (and by extension, funding) for safety work is better at the moment than ever in their 15+ year career at AT and Auckland Council.

        But that’s not culture change. Culture change would be safety in all decisions and rebuilds, not just a bit more money for the dedicated safety works team.

    2. The real neil, I had meant to ask the last time we discussed this issue on one of the other posts but forgot.. if you were going to cross, why wasn’t the red man showing for you? Had you not pressed the button yet?

      1. What if he had been visually impaired? My understanding of old was that buzzers were only used in Barnes Dance situations, but that seems to have changed. The intersection of Princes Street, Waterloo Quadrant et al has the same situation, audible buzzers that can cause you to step out instinctively only to find that it’s not for your crossing. I think they need to do away with them actually.

      2. For crying out loud, no I had not pressed my button yet. The problem is that some intersections show a continuous red man all the time that you’re not permitted to cross at that angle, while others only show the red man if the button for that angle of the crossing has been pressed. Because of this inconsistency, it’s all too easy to step out when the buzzer sounds IF THERE IS NO RED MAN SHOWING!

        Don’t blame the ped! Children cannot comprehend this danger.

        1. Neil is utterly correct here. The other similar situations are the buzzer sounds for one direction and not the other mean people (and often children) set off in the wrong direction. Then there are the slip lanes and the pseudo-crossings, and the insufficient pedestrian refuges… our DSI will come down markedly if AT takes all of this seriously.

          1. Replying to Heidi – “the buzzer sounds for one direction and not the other mean people (and often children) set off in the wrong direction”. I see this every single day outside the ACG building on Mayoral Drive/Queen St. I can guarantee you will only have to wait 5 minutes and you will too. Terrifying.

          2. In response to Linz – are people still stepping out when there are red men showing? My point is that the buzzer is clearly a conditioned trigger for lots of people which means people will likely step out irrespective of the lights if they hear it. (Obviously we are all aware that one of the main reasons we have the buzzer is for visually-impaired persons… didn’t we use to have an alternative way of telling people to go from the beg button box?)

        2. Sounds like it would be safer to take away the buzzer sounds to stop triggering people. Would mean people would wait to see the green man before proceeding.

          1. But for the signt-impaired, this is no solution. The reality is probably that in providing the buzzers for sight-impaired people, a new safety issue has surfaced, and a new solution must be found. I think it is that Barnes Dance crossings should be standard. I imagine the buzzer sound problem has also arisen in places that don’t have Barnes Dance crossings, so it would be interesting to see their solutions, but I would be careful applying them to our non grid-system street layout.

          2. In the US they have different sounds for the two crossings on the one corner. N/S crossings have one sound, E/W crossings have another. Or something to that effect. I’m not sure if it makes any difference.

            Scramble crossings just mean pedestrians wait longer to cross. Only makes sense near a primary school or in busy CBD locations. I think Auckland is a bit of an anomaly given how many of them we have around.

          3. “Scramble crossings just mean pedestrians wait longer to cross.”

            Only if you keep prioritising CARS. It’s easy enough to design a Barnes Dance that improves crossings even for “straight-through” pedestrians. Reduce overall cycle times or double-phase it (two Barnes dances per cycle).

            That costs mucho capacity? Well, duh – that’s what a safety focus means. Safety over these other factors. Safety first.

        3. Push button to cross. Green man means go, anything else means don’t go. Its the same all across NZ. How hard is that to understand? Buzzers are for blind people. Everyone else should be looking for a green man.

          1. Oh right, so seeing kids head off and nearly get flattened doesn’t happen because Ari says so.

          2. Classic arrogant, engineering-focused non-response: ‘People should be smarter.’

            Well, they’re not. So as a safety planner, what are you going to do about it?

            Responsible safety systems planning is about responding to human nature as it is, not as you’d like it to be. Hence modern approaches to crew resource management, fail-safe design etc.

          3. You can’t get more simple than “Green means go”. If you can’t understand that, you shouldn’t be walking unaccompanied.

          4. OK, Ari, so on your reasoning, there should be no red lights for vehicle traffic. Heck, we might as well do away with the orange lights too, but it’s ok right, because only those with a green light can go. Are you an AT or NZTA shill?

          5. Yes, you can easily get more simple.

            Current system that the real neil described has three states: green=safe; red=unsafe; unlit=????

            I put ‘????’ because it’s a natural interpretation that three possible states means three different situations or three different intended messages. To emphasise, this is about absolutely fundamental, universal human cognitive processes, so please, please, stop just saying ‘people should be smarter’.

            The obvious way to make the situation clearer, simpler and safer is to have only two states: green=safe; red=unsafe. The system defaults to red as long as it’s not safe to be green.

            Thought experiment: as an energy conservation measure, let’s redesign all traffic lights so that the default state is unlit. When a vehicle passes a sensor on the road suitably positioned a braking distance short of the intersection, the system springs to life and starts showing a red or green light depending on the state of the cycle. Do you think that would be safe?

            By the way, pedestrian indicators that default to unlit until someone presses the beg button are unknown in Australia. I find it quite bizarre that anyone could think they’re a safe system.

          6. John, I understand it was done in the 80’s when pedestrian safety wasn’t a high priority. I’m told Auckland City Council tried to bring it back, but the public didn’t like it.

          7. “Thought experiment: as an energy conservation measure, let’s redesign all traffic lights so that the default state is unlit.”

            Better thought experiment: Redesign all lights to be red for cars and green for peds until a car approaches, then after a while switch to green.

            Oh, no, wait, no thought experiment – that’s what London is proposing as part of Vision Zero.

          8. Even better. Make cars stop and drivers have to push a beg-button to get a green light.

          9. Damian, if you read the full report, they say they are only doing that at 10 high-pedestrians locations on bus only streets or where there is almost no detriment to traffic. A good idea, but hardly radical.

          10. Ari, not quite sure which part of John’s comment you were talking about as changing in the 80’s and what the public didn’t want (sorry – it’s just there was the unlit traffic light bit and the unlit pedestrian signal bit, so I’m not sure).

            We have traffic signals now that are red until a car comes, do we not? (We certainly did in the 80’s when I was out there monitoring them; I haven’t actually noticed recently, possibly because I don’t know how often I’ve been at an intersection where there’s been no car around.) So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to have the same system for pedestrian signals. Red all around, until someone comes.

            Additionally, if the lights are on green for a traffic phase, and a pedestrian pushes the beg button, the traffic lights should immediately change to orange in preparation for the pedestrian, unless the pedestrian phase had been recently used, in which case the pedestrian phase should come in within 30 seconds (as is considered best practice for urban areas by NZTA.)

          11. In Australia the red man is always on even if the button isn’t pressed. Half the time you never know if it has been pressed or not.

            In the 80s in NZ to save power and to give feedback to pedestrians, they switched off the red man. Push button, red man comes up to show the button has been pushed. Saved plenty of power back then. Not so much with LEDs now.

            A few years ago the old city council brought back the “red man always up” at a few sites and they got constant complaints about the lights being broken because the crossing never ran. It was a case of people thinking the button had been pressed already. Council gave up and went back to the previous system.

            I could be wrong, but the only places where the red man is always up are in places like the CBD where they have set up the crossing to always run, ie the button has been “pressed” automatically by the system.This makes sense where you are pretty much guaranteed to always have a pedestrian. All other places in Auckland, the crossing is not called automatically.

            As for red in all directions until a car arrives. I don’t think we have anything like that in Auckland, though I suppose it is entirely possible. Someone should ask AT.

            Yes, pedestrian crossings should start much sooner, especially if it hasnt run in a while and we want more people to walk.

          12. I wonder if they need a different beg button unit that indicates that the button has been pressed, with a little LED light on it, or a button that stays in a pressed-in position until the pedestrian phase comes. Then the red man just means don’t walk, but doesn’t also have to be an indicator of whether the button has been pressed.

          13. Ari: ‘A few years ago the old city council brought back the “red man always up” at a few sites and they got constant complaints about the lights being broken because the crossing never ran. It was a case of people thinking the button had been pressed already. Council gave up and went back to the previous system.’

            This scenario has never been a problem in Australia, presumably because people are used to ‘red man always up’.

            So there was an issue of public education about the change. Did council think of, for example, attaching a suitable instruction to each beg button, before it just gave up?

            Of course, making a change like that at only a few sites is bound to cause confusion by having two systems running at once.

  5. The list regarding change management on p65-66 in this paper is useful context:

    http://www.masseyuniversity.org.nz/massey/fms/Colleges/College%20of%20Business/CERGOSH/Docs/Chap%203%20HFE%20for%20Bus%20Sust%20BrownLegg2012PUBLISHED.pdf

    And I’ve always liked Fig 3.1 (p64) as a way to conceptualise sociotechnical systems.

    AT are far from unique in having the issues identified. What is needed to change and improve, in my opinion, is senior people who adopt a change management approach, in full cognisance of the perspectives offered by sociotechnical systems theory. This is a different skill to running a successful organisation, or to managing engineering projects.

  6. Ok let me see if I understand the circular logic going on here::

    1. We can’t have nice/right things because they’ll look different
    2. We can’t have different things because they’ll look inconsistent
    3. We can’t have inconsistent things because they don’t look right.

    Now, imagine point arrows back to point 1 and what you have is a glorious self-perpetuating situation.

    Of course as soon as the issue of traffic flow is raised, ATs own rule book is chucked out the window.
    As became clear with the post on RASF from yesterday.

    Considering AT spends well over half of the annual rate take in Auckland, you have to wonder who, of the council and AT is the horse and who is the cart. We know what way around it is supposed to be.

    But clearly, the whether AT is the cart or the horse, it is full totally full of horseshit.

  7. Is there a report about the proposed trial available? I don’t mean the critique of the process but a report about the site and what they were proposing. You have to be a bit of a hard arse to carry out trials, either that or a fool. Either way you have to disengage your caring self. You need a site that has a measured problem. When red light cameras were first trialled by the old Auckland City Council they put some at sites that had no crashes! That meant there was no possibility of proving a crash reduction only a possibility of showing an increase. The original idea of controlling trials was to address the ethics of putting in something that might actually increase crashes, injuries and maybe even deaths. It is disappointing if it has become a matter of egos, but there was never an intention that people would ever be free to trial anything they wanted. Remember how that worked out at National Women’s Hospital.
    When I started out there were plenty of examples of non-standard crossings around the country where a local engineer had just done their own thing. Most were replaced as part of crash reduction studies and the monitoring at the time showed that to be successful in general. That doesn’t mean things are perfect but it does mean you need to think about any trial in the same manner as you would for a medical trial.

    1. Success of trials can be measured by things other than crashes, miffy. Like change in number of people choosing to cross there. Proportion of people crossing who use a mobility device. There’s plenty of work about how non-motorised user audits can be used for situations like this.

      1. Yes but a fundamental change to a safety device means you have to have a means to measure safety. Otherwise you run the risk of doing harm and not even knowing you have.

        1. That’s what I’m talking about, a means to measure safety. Observing where people with disabilities choose to cross, for example. If the new device changes their patterns, that’s an important measure, as they are discerning road users.

  8. I reckon it is time to do to AT what was done on Light Rail – take everything away from them except public transport operations. Auckland Council should be in charge of all streetscape works, approvals and budgets. AT have shown they are incapable of working efficiently so it is time for them to be cut back to purely operations. There are far too many cooks spoiling the broth over there – from first hand experience.

    1. Trouble is, NZTA has its issues, too. They refuse to design for induced traffic, for starters. And then it has people like the NZTA Traffic Devices Manager, who, according to this Opit and WItten paper, said,

      “Pedestrian crossings are dangerous things – dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.”

      Ideally, both AT and NZTA would be data-driven organisations, and in the shift away from our historic bias for the driving mode, each organisation would keep the other honest, and on track. I think we have a long way to go.

        1. That whole ‘the pedestrian crossing is dangerous’ mindset will hopefully be shifted with the government’s new Vision Zero approach. I look forward to seeing this implemented as soon as possible, including with retraining opportunities for this Traffic Control Devices Manager.

          Motor vehicles pose the danger. Allowing them to dominate our environment has created a population with low activity levels that costs us so much in public and social health. Looking forward to lower speeds on 90% or more of our roads. 🙂

  9. Tell you what, people, if you email Phil Twyford about this he will listen – he has little patience for AT and would be keen to see more changes made.

  10. Wow! AT/NZTA are risk averse bureaucracies. How did we not know this before????

    What a waste of time report. They spent 48 pages of the most obscure words to say what could be said in a single sentence.

    Seriously, I have an ok vocabulary, but ‘obduracy’?!?! Who the heck uses that language? It’s like the authors are from some alien planet and never speak to real people.

    I am interested to know a bit more about that trial crossing though. From what I can tell it is a zebra with a button that lights up a yellow sign. I can somewhat understand what NZTA means about it being pretty similar to the existing stuff like the automated flashing LEDs in the road. You would be hard pressed to prove much difference in safety outcomes between the two.

    People shouldn’t complain about Teslas killing people if you also want to complain about risk-averse bureaucracies who fail to innovate.

    1. Yes. Someone had a brain fart and thought it would be great to take the required fluorescent disk off a crossing and replace it with a permanent warning sign that lights up. Their thinking seems to be ‘Let’s be really innovative and put up signs that mean one thing and use them to mean something completely different – that will improve safety for sure!’ ‘Lets use warning signs as if they are regulatory, no one will know the difference’. ‘Let’s put a warning sign on a hazard instead of in advance of a hazard, because we can’. Then they got the run around because their idea was dumb. Then some others came along and wrote a jargon filled report about the process of how the system treats a dumb idea.

      1. Having now read the whole report instead of just the summary, I’m surprised you’ve come to this conclusion, miffy.

        We have thousands of unresolved, outstanding safety situations in Auckland, where either AT or the community have requested solutions. They are not being completed because of a lack of funds. OK, so we should strip funds from some of the many other counter-productive yet funded projects, but there’s also room for finding cheaper solutions in order to spread the limited funds further.

        This ‘brain fart’ is a solution used successfully overseas, and its cost was estimated at $30,000 instead of $200,000 for the AT solution. In addition, its maintenance costs are way lower. And, it is less likely to have issues with not working when required and working when not required. To my way of thinking, this is exactly the sort of innovation that should be being trialled.

    2. “Obduracy” – four syllable words make my head hurt!
      Of course learning new words embiggens a man and obdurate is a perfectly cromulent word.

    3. Ari, you need to do more crossword puzzles. Then you’ll get to experience words like ‘obduracy’.
      There’s a whole world of expressive words out there, just waiting to be used.

      1. Perhaps you missed my point that no one in the real world uses the word. The fact that you only find it in crosswords and academic texts only proves my point. I like to learn new words even if I never use them except in a trivia quiz, but that report is a total failure of communication.

        Nothing wrong with using the word in the right context, but not in a report you are trying to communicate a serious problem. Busy people who live in the real world, who make the decisions, will not make it past the first page. They just don’t have the time or energy to bother. The executive summary is several pages for goodness sake.

    4. Blog refers to and interprets an academc report. Blog reader follows link and finds that content and language aren’t suitable for blog audience. Hard to see who else could be to blame for this situation other than the reader…

      1. +1 If a sociology blog took the comments section from GA on a post about trains, and published it, I wonder what their readers would think about the nomenclature? (Four syllable word, that.)

  11. The big picture is simple. Increasing road fatalities, (and their attendant injuries, pain, and misery ) is plainly showing that what we are doing now is simply not working. We need to do things radically differentially. Big changes are needed right now. The pressure falls on us all to spell this out to our leaders and demand more from them. Greater Auckland and Vision Zero are great examples of one effective means of doing this. Thank for your work and to those who contribute, it is making a difference.
    Ministers, Mayors, and CEO’s you are failures, unless in your tenure, you can turn this around. You do have sufficient powers. Use them wisely. Everybody working in the industry, it is a primary professional obligation of yours to make our road space safer and better able to meet increasingly diverse functions. Currently you are collectivelly failling as evidenced by the increasing fatalities, as just one measure.

    1. Well said Don. For decades, our leaders have hidden behind the public’s resigned acceptance of road-unsafety, rather than seriously try to lead us out of it. Shame on every ineffectual one of them.

  12. As they’re all so risk adverse and hard wired for the status quo, how did we end up with no provision for wheelie bins though the Mt Albert shops resulting in the cycle path being completely blocked with bins, and the vehicle lanes been narrowed such that it is unsafe to ride on the road?

  13. That whole process reads like classic sponsor-failure, in that there was no senior sponsor in AT, or perhaps the NZTA, to give the idea the weight it needed to go through without being vulnerable to hijacking.

    That’s not to say that strong sponsor should be able to just shove anything through the pipe – although no doubt that happens – but a project should be rejected on its lack of merit, not because someone else wants it to do a completely different job instead.

  14. A fundamental problem with most bureaucratic organization is management gets punish when somethings goes wrong regardless how good the intention is.

    So in public organizations, risk are not tolerated, regardless how good the reward is.

    In contrast to private organizations, if the reward is greater than risk, they will accept the risk.

      1. On one hand, they have been told to take risk, on the other hand, the system still punished them for taking risk.

  15. Traffic Signals in suburban & greater Auckland are a disgrace, The Inner City seems to work with SCAT’S the rest of it, is as all regular roads users know, is an abject shambles, has been for years and there is no real sign of anyone applying what comes even close to International Best Practice.

    Report faults its at l;east 10 days to have AT reply, and sometimes months before something like faulty detector loops re- cut and installed – farcical and inept given the money that is tipped into AT by road users and ratepayers (often the same people) it would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious and crippling the city as a result of this nonsense and apparent incompetence.

Leave a Reply