At the end of last month Auckland Transport launched two consultations aiming to improve road safety in two of Auckland’s most iconic seaside villages – Mission Bay and St Heliers. AT say that between 2013 and 2017:
- Mission Bay had 46 reported crashes resulting in 14 people injured
- St Heliers had 38 crashes with 8 people injured.
In both centres Auckland Transport plan to roll out a number of raised table pedestrian crossings and kerb build outs while Mission Bay will also see a redesigned intersection at Marau Cr and Selwyn Ave. Here are the high-level maps of what’s proposed.
Tamaki Dr has long been Auckland’s busiest route for bikes and in summer averages around 1,700 cyclists per day. The number of bikes have made the existing shared path setup completely inadequate. As such, one of the first things that struck me about the designs was that it didn’t seem to do anything to improve conditions for cyclists by separating them from pedestrians. In fact at the Marau Cres intersection, AT actually propose to make it worse by removing the existing painted eastbound bike lane. The proposed new intersection can be seen below
I won’t go to much into the detail but our friends of at Bike Auckland have put together a great post looking at the issues and solutions. Some of the issues include they didn’t even bother to read their own rules, let alone the Tamaki Dr Masterplan.
Meet the Locals
When the consultation first came out I immediately suspected we would end up with locals very vocally opposing any change and sure enough that came to pass at a meeting on Monday night.
A lot of attention following the meeting has focused on Auckland Transport not showing up.
In an email to the chairs of the St Heliers business and residents associations on Sunday, AT chief executive Shane Ellison said he was aware of comments about the crowd being “hostile”, saying he had “a duty of care to the wellbeing of AT’s employees”.
Ellison was also concerned about some of the behaviour AT experienced at a drop-in day at St Heliers Library
“In light of all these factors we don’t believe there is anything to gain in AT having its people attending the meeting,” the email from Ellison said.
AT should front wherever possible but I can certainly understand them not wanting to send staff into known hostile environments. I also wonder if health and safety legislation would play a part in this too as there’s not much point having people turn up just to be verbally abused. For example, the article notes.
One young man got up to speak in favour of the changes, saying he did not want to be living with the consequences of being hit by a car in future.
What wasn’t reported was the abuse the boy received afterwards
For some demographics within Auckland, abusing and shouting down anyone who doesn’t share your view is the preferred modus operandi. You may remember this is also the same community that a few years ago angrily heckled people who supported the Unitary Plan, both at the council and in many meetings before before that.
Spend the money elsewhere?
It’s known that it is usually much easier to get people opposing changes than it is supporting them but a community (and not just the vocal part) truly doesn’t want a change, it does raise the question of whether the money should be spent in areas that do want to see improvements. I suspect there are a number of local boards or areas that would fully support similar interventions.
Of course just shifting the money to supporting communities may have its own risk, especially in setting precedents in how much opposition is needed to stop something. Also, some projects may be local but also have significant benefits for the wider community. A good example of that is the Mt Eden Rd changes that were consulted on last year.
Are AT just a political whipping boy?
AT certainly don’t get everything right and deserve criticism when they get things wrong but increasingly it feels like they’re just becoming a convenient whipping boy for politicians, something only likely to increase in the lead up to elections later this year. I worry about impact that must have on the staff within the organisation, both in terms of moral and direction, especially when AT are doing what those same politicians have asked them to do. In this case we have Phil Goff at a council meeting yesterday.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff has torn a strip off Auckland Transport for not fronting up at a public meeting in St Heliers last night, telling them they are not a dictatorship, but accountable to people.
Goff said it was politicians’ job to front up to public meetings with hostile crowds, citing unpopular issues like a new water treatment plant at Oratia and a new town square for Takapuna he and councillors had fronted.
AT, who under legislation make decisions separate from the council, are not a “dictatorship”, said Goff.
“They are accountable to the people as we are. They need to show that they have listened to what the people are saying. If people are not agreeing with them either they haven’t got their message right or they are doing the wrong thing,” he said.
Goff said the feedback he receives is AT and some of the other council-controlled organisations are arrogant because they are not elected.
While I agree that AT need to be accountable, let’s not forget that the council, as outlined in the Mayor’s Letter of Expectation to AT, have asked for them to focus more on road safety.
Earlier in the letter it states “It will be necessary to consider options to reallocate street space to more efficient uses (e.g. bus or transit lanes, freight priority lanes, and removing some on-street parking).”
This isn’t the first time Phil Goff has not supported AT for doing something he asked them to do, for example, he only gave lukewarm support for ATs plans to change speed limits in the city centre.
The consultation for these two town centres close at the end of the month should you want to have a say.
Update, another one
@phil_goff has got this wrong that crowd was bordering on a mob they were not just vocal opponents. I arrived late & promptly left because I was genuinely scared, and I didn't express my support for the changes. I fear how I would of been received if I had https://t.co/3vIveWnH95
— Matt Prasad (@matty_prasad) April 16, 2019