This is a guest post from Dave Tilton of Parallaxx
There will be people that read this that scratch their head daily when looking at Temporary Traffic Management (TTM). They will see the signs and cones, and Traffic Controllers and challenge why things are done a certain way. Why the A-B journey isn’t simpler. I might not answer that in the course of this post, but I will seek to explain the challenge that TTM faces, particularly in Auckland’s CBD. I will also seek to generate thought, that just maybe – the effort that goes into those cones and signs is a bit deeper than what some might think.
Auckland’s CBD is awash with cones.
With the commencement of the Downtown Infrastructure Development Programme (DIDP) in late December – the picturesque waterfront corridor of Quay St is now also enveloped.
Looking ahead to the construction of the CRL C3 contract later this year, some form of Traffic Management will exist on every major arterial road in Auckland Central bar one.
As of March 15 2019, there were 38 active property development projects under construction in the CBD (up from 26 in July 2018). Alongside this, there are 8 major infrastructure projects. The pace of construction is frenetic.
Utility upgrade work is also under way, to support this growth. Vector, Chorus, waste water, storm water and bulk water upgrades are all concurrent.
A recent example of these works being the combined service trench work on Quay St undertaken over the Christmas holiday period. This saw a one-way road closure to facilitate the installation of new services supporting the upcoming seawall upgrade.
This now interconnected web of Traffic Management has challenged organisations, systems and methodologies in a ‘never-before-seen’ way in Auckland.
The Auckland CBD as a worksite.
Post-earthquake the people of Christchurch were burdened with a challenge of resource and methodology. How could they effectively turn the city into a continuous worksite, whilst still maintaining function?
The establishment of SCIRT helped.
The thrusting of the Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC) into the pivotal role for approval, coordination, and compliance of worksites also helped:
- giving birth to a new Traffic Management Approval system (called TMP for Chch),
- integration of Christchurch City Council and the NZTA networks management into one approval system,
- developing technology for determining worksite clashes; and
- API-based real-time network information for any who wanted it.
In short – the ability for Christchurch to adapt its approach when faced with a ‘city of cones’ resulted in innovation, and a management system now that demonstrates efficiency and harmony in comparison to other urban centres.
Now it’s our turn Auckland.
In 2017, Auckland Transport (AT) adopted the same Traffic Management coordination system as the Auckland Motorway Alliance (AMA). The system, MyWorksites, is based on the TMP for Chch system and allows full visibility of all Traffic Management Plans (TMPs) across Auckland (State Highway and Local Road).
This assists all contractors to:
- de-conflict upcoming work,
- notify the Road Controlling Authorities (RCAs) of approved works occurring; and
- notify who the onsite supervisors are, each day.
Increased Number of Worksites
The number of submitted ‘Worksites’ in March 2019 across AT’s network was 2209.
In March 2018 that number was 1603.
A 37% increase in worksites – all serviced by an unchanged compliment of AT staff. 12 ‘coordinators’ oversee these applications and 6 ‘advisors’ work on-road to oversee compliance.
A result of MyWorksites adoption is visibility of adjacent work. Previously – it was primarily the AT coordinators that managed conflicting activity on their network, ensuring no two contractors operated in the same space. This has now been passed to contractors to self-manage – requiring any applicant to ensure no clashes exist before approval can be given.
The CBD presents a unique challenge with this method, as worksite overlap is universal. Enter Auckland’s Transport Operations Centre (ATOC) and their Central office on Queens Wharf.
The Central City Network Operations (CCNO) group seeks to manage this conflict at a higher level – providing oversight of the construction activity (amongst other things) across the CBD. AT Metro, Auckland Council, Special Events, Traffic Operations and the CBD’s sole Corridor Access Request (CAR) Manager are represented. The goal is to retain some semblance of function in the CBD with such an immense amount of construction. Kudos to AT then? For seeing the problem and enacting a solution to keep things moving right? Well – sort of.
One of the main necessities of this system is communication. The CCNO needs visibility of upcoming works and the intended methodology. What is presented from the project owner (AT, City Rail Link Limited, Precinct Properties for example) may not be how the contractor chooses to undertake the work.
It’s only when a Traffic Management Plan is submitted that the CCNO have their first true chance to evaluate its impact on a road. 15 days out (AT’s promised TMP review window) is a short period for review and request for change if the contractor methodology is different from what the Principal hypothesised.
Therefore, early contractor involvement is key (both by AT themselves, developers and other Principals) to ensure accurate projection of potential work. Right now – the ‘wait and see what the contractor is going to do’ approach isn’t working. That sole AT CAR Manager (for the CBD area) is burdened with reactive network management.
But what about the implementation of TTM?
Being involved in many of the current CBD projects I’m abreast of many of the complaints and concerns of local stakeholders. Many are valid. The plethora of construction in Central Auckland means inevitable constraints – mainly with space. Balancing private vehicles, public transport, pedestrian access, cyclist access, parking, commercial activity, and construction is at present like dividing a cupcake amongst a rugby team – everyone is going to feel unfulfilled.
New Zealand’s Traffic Management standards are governed by the Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management (CoPTTM). The NZTA maintains the CoPTTM and via a CoPTTM Governance Group, review elements of the Code and ensure its appropriateness and currency.
The origin of the CoPTTM traces back to the late 1980s. In its current form, its backbone is based on the country’s rural state highway network – hardly similar to dense urban Auckland. Apart from a ‘technical note’ issued in 2017, the 567-page CoPTTM deals very little with dense urban environments and even less with long-term worksites. There is very little guidance on interaction with Traffic Signals (1/2 page), and only a small section specifically for cyclists (1 page). Enter Auckland’s CBD and the guidance within the CoPTTM is challenged by, a never-before-seen conglomerate of construction and a local authority straining to retain network function.
Traffic Management is based on risk assessment of the task being introduced into the road environment being affected. The principles are based on proven engineering – from the spacing of signs to visibility and installation standards for equipment such as cones and barrier systems. Implementation (both in design and on-road delivery) applies that engineering science – the principles are employed in a multitude of ways to achieve a “safe system” outcome. There is no single right answer. Ultimately Traffic Management is about safety – achieving safety of road workers and road users (in all forms).
To do this – TMP Designers (referred to in the CoPTTM as “Installation Designers”) prepare TMPs that are in accordance with the CoPTTM. These proposed TMPs are regularly in direct conflict with optimal road network function. From narrowing of footpaths to reducing lane availability to redirecting cycle lanes, there is an inevitable impact on normal operating conditions. As work duration, worksite size, and existing road user volumes increase – disruption increases exponentially.
The challenge is, reducing disruption often violates safe working principles. This cannot be an accepted compromise to safety. A delay to journey times must never be used as an argument against the health and safety of anyone.
Night works are favourable from road user volumes perspective, but not for noise and vibration. Holiday period works are viable but are a significant strain on resources.
There’s no quick fix to achieve harmonious construction activity and normal road network function. Since 2016 Auckland’s CBD has had at least two major Traffic Management operations undertaken over the Easter and Christmas holiday periods each year. The 2017/2018 Christmas holiday period saw two adjacent major road closures on Nelson St, one for upgrading the Vector 22kV network and one for major utility upgrades associated with the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC). The combined cost of both Traffic Management operations reached almost $0.2mil NZD.
NZTA historical data produced in 2013 showed an approximate 5-10% (for ) contract value spent on Traffic Management. A recent cycleway upgrade project in the CBD produced a Traffic Management spend of 46% of total contract value. Remembering, any contractor ‘changing the normal operating conditions of the road reserve’ must manage and mitigate any hazards they introduce. The more impact, the more management required. Dense urban environments will have a disproportionate level of Traffic Management to the work being done.
So what’s the risk?
The current risk I observe is two-fold.
Firstly – in the unrelenting pursuit of better corridor and network function the desire is to constrain working room, reduce safety measures and reduce working times. This results in longer projects and increased contractor risk and adapted work methodologies that ask for unacceptable safety compromises. A great example is Water Filled Barrier Systems like this one. Their purpose is to ‘redirect errant vehicles’ – by doing so they deflect (absorb that impact and shift laterally). The space required for the system with the least deflection on the market currently is 2.1 metres. That’s the space required to be clear behind the barrier system for it to perform safely. Space constraint of working area results in this being compromised regularly. Upgrades of barrier systems (to steel and concrete options) are becoming more common to restore more safety margin. This costs more.
The second danger comes from this increased cost. The conflict between disruption and safety results in methodology adjustments for construction that significantly increase the spend required. Often Traffic Management costs exceed budgeted amounts. Of Auckland’s current 4 State Highway projects – three have exceeded their total project Traffic Management allowances (the one that hasn’t only started in 2018).
But what about quality? The end user (be it driver, public transport user, cyclist, pedestrian) sees two main things – disruption and clutter. Their measure of quality is how little they see it and how little it impacts them. Contrastingly – the better the Traffic Management the more ‘positive’ it is – meaning the more effective it is in adjusting behaviour. Unseen Traffic Management is generally ineffective.
One simple example is that of Temporary Speed Limits (TSLs). The implementation of which is risk assessed. The CoPTTM provides guidance on this through a matrix aiming to achieve consistency across New Zealand. In 2014, penalties for contractors leaving inappropriate speed limits in place were increased – resulting in an instantaneous non-conformance notice for responsible parties. For temporary speed limits to be effective, they must be justified, noticed, appropriate, and adhered to. Unfortunately, some continued contractor laziness, coupled with poor planning, installation and overuse – results in an overall lack of road user compliance. The outcome is unseen, ineffective, Traffic Management.
My daily mission is to increase people’s awareness of Traffic Management and its purpose. To educate principals, contractors, consultants, stakeholders and the general public around why Traffic Management is important and the role it plays. Part of that is too often being a referee between AT and contractors to balance needs and navigate the maze between network disruption and construction productivity, cost and above all safety.
To truly achieve harmony, we all need to do better. Better at educating society around Traffic Management – a simple inclusion in New Zealand’s Road Code would be a start. We all need to do better at keeping our people safe while working on the road. And, we all need to adopt a more pragmatic approach to dense urban Traffic Management and work closely with the people that must deliver it.
When it comes to Traffic Management – the more understanding the better. For those who see it and critique it, I ask one simple thing – “seek first to understand, then be being understood” – Stephen Covey.
Dave Tilton is a Traffic Management Consultant across many of Auckland CBD’s major projects and an NZTA Trainer/Assessor of Temporary Traffic Management.