Auckland’s city centre is currently seeing unprecedented levels of construction and that also means unprecedented levels of disruption and orange cones. When the current building boom eventually ends, the city will be a fundamentally different place from what it was even just a few years ago.
Despite the constant fears of carmageddon from so much disruption, from the media, public and even many of those working within the transport industry, one of the things we’ve already experienced from the likes of the City Rail Link works is that the carmageddon never comes. As Patrick highlighted back in January, Albert St is currently carrying just 10% of the volumes it used to and yet Auckland Transport’s monitoring of travel times even shows that most key routes through the city are actually faster than they were before the CRL works began.
As well as tracking travel times, Auckland Transport also track the number of people entering the city for a number of years and we’ve posted the details before. One of the most notable changes we’ve seen is that over the last few years was in 2017 when on an annual basis the number of people accessing the city centre by car in the AM peak fell below 50% for the first time. It ultimately fell to around 48.4% and stayed at that level for all of 2018.
The most recent major change to city street capacity for cars occurred over Christmas/New Year when Auckland Transport kicked off their downtown works programme. This will result in significant new public space being provided along the waterfront and has seen much of Quay St narrowed to one lane per direction – and it will stay that way. I’ve been keen to see what impact the Quay St changes have had on those mode share numbers, while being cognizant that it takes some time for people to adjust to the disruption.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the Herald ran a story on the impacts on travel times of the Quay St changes. It included this quote from Barney Irvine from the AA which seems to dismiss the idea of dissolving traffic.
“There seems to be a view in some quarters that, when you choke off access, vehicle trips just ‘dissolve’ as people find new ways to get around, like public transport or walking and cycling,” Irvine said.
“The reality is, piles of people who drive do so because they have no choice – they need their vehicles for work.
So, earlier this week I asked AT for the latest data. Not only did they provide the data but celebrated it as well.
A record number of Aucklanders are leaving their cars at home in favour of public transport to get into the city centre each morning.
Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Metro Services, Stacey Van Der Putten says 48 per cent of people used buses, trains and ferries to get into the city between 7am and 9am in March. “This is a new high, up two per cent on February and a six per cent increase on January.”
Last month, 767 fewer vehicles drove into the city in the morning, despite 4,000 more people making the trip.
“It’s great that Aucklanders are getting the message that there are options other than driving. In fact total public transport patronage for March was just over ten million trips, another record.”
What’s not mentioned in this part is that the percentage of people using active modes has also increased and combined meant the number of people driving to the city was the lowest it’s been with just 43% of those arriving in the morning doing so by car.
If we simplify this to access by car and other modes and look at it as a 12-month rolling total we get the graph below.
There will of course always be monthly variation but perhaps what’s even more telling, and directly goes to the question of dissolving traffic, is shown in the graph below. It shows the the total number of people, as opposed to the percentage, accessing the city centre in car on a 12-month rolling basis. As you can see, in just over 3 years the average number of people entering the city centre by car has dropped by over 5,000, going from 42k to 37k – more than a 12% decrease. So not only is the share dropping but the quantum too.
Interestingly, Heart of the City spending data shows that over the same timeframe, the amount of money people are spending at city centre retailers has increased by about 8.5%.
Of course city centre access isn’t the only thing the AA have been complaining about recently and earlier this week it was bus lanes that were in their sights.
Auckland Transport’s CCTV cameras are doling out 220 infringements a day to motorists caught driving in bus lanes.
Hi-tech 24-hour cameras, covering 40km of Auckland CBD bus lanes, issued 80,574 infringements to drivers from March 1, 2018 to the end of February 2019.
The cameras racked up $11.3 million in fines over the 12-month period, a staggering $4m jump from 2017 when AT issued $7,318,200 in fines for bus lane infringements.
Automobile Association spokesman Barney Irvine said 220 infringements a day seemed high, underlining concerns about whether the rules were clear enough for motorists.
Irvine said the 50m distance was too short.
“We all know how difficult it is to judge distances by sight alone. No doubt there are specific sections of bus lane where a lot of people are getting pinged for entering the bus lane too early to make a left turn.
“In these situations, rather than leaving it all to drivers’ judgment, we would like AT to look at using special lane markings to show people where they can enter the lane.”
It’s worth noting that later in the article the AA also say they’re not opposed to bus lanes or them being enforced – agreeing both are needed. But the reality is no matter how much signage or road markings AT put out, a lot of people will ignore them. AT are damned if they enforce bus lanes and they’re damned if they don’t.
The response also follows the same formula as the AA use to attack speed cameras, that it’s not drivers at fault for speeding but the policy/NZTA not putting up signs telling people there is a speed camera.
AA general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon said better signage was needed to highlight the fact there was a fixed camera at Kauri on State Highway, just north of Whangarei, as was the normal practise overseas.
“I don’t support a camera issuing such a gross number of tickets. More work needs to be done on to explain the correct speed for the high-risk area. Also if there are signs about cameras it removes the ability for people to call it revenue gathering.”
The article includes this photo of the camera in question which handily includes the signage warning drivers of the speed limit.
I wonder how many of these drivers got their licence or had driver training through the AA?