Over the last few years, Auckland Transport have increasingly become the go to political pinata by those looking to score some quick headlines – if you don’t like something about Auckland, blame AT. They’re accused of all sorts of things, from not listening to the public all the way to being ideological bullies waging a war on cars to force people out on to bikes and public transport.
Most of the complaints appear to be a fear of even the most modest change. So I thought I’d put together a list of just some of the things AT would be doing if they were seriously trying to change transport in Auckland and even remotely living up to the hype.
Parking is one of the biggest levers AT have to changing how people get around the city. It can also be one of the most contentious. Heidi wrote last week about the need for less parking.
So what would AT be doing about parking if they were really trying to effect change?
There is a huge amount of demand on our street space and the reality is not everything can fit within our road corridors. AT need to prioritise that space based on a clear hierarchy of uses. On our arterials, the safe and efficient movement of people, particularly those on buses and bikes, is far more important than the provision of on-street carparking, so an AT looking to really change Auckland would focus on this. This would require AT to become more bold with how they deal with parking, as at the moment they’ll publicly consult on the removal a single carpark, even when it’s to improve safety.
That was something @citiesforpeople Jan Gehl told me: when #Copenhagen turned the Strøget into a pedestrian street, it was done overnight—without consulting shopowners.
When people saw how great it was, there was no going back. Same thing happened w/ #Barcelona Superblocks… https://t.co/X2uCb9XbEi
— Taras Grescoe (@grescoe) September 7, 2019
Charging for Park & Ride
Park and Ride can be a hot topic and there are frequent calls for a lot more of it to be built. As we’ve talked about many times before, P&R is useful in some situations but can be very expensive to provide for not all that much extra public transport usage. If AT were serious about better managing P&R, one of the first things they’d be doing is looking to introduce charging for some or all of those P&R carparks. This would both help manage demand and maybe the funds raised could go to helping fund improved alternatives ways for people to reach those stations, such as better feeder buses or bike lanes etc.
AT’s own parking strategy says they will look to price P&R both when additional capacity is provided or “once demand consistently exceeds the 85 percent occupancy threshold capacity during the morning peak” and yet despite recently adding new and increasing existing park and rides, there is still no suggestion it will ever happen.
There’s not much to say here other than an AT looking to make a difference would be out and about cracking down on bad parking, cries of revenue gathering be damned. This would particularly be where safety issues are involved such as parking on footpaths.
The building of cycleways is one of the most frequently cited examples of ATs supposed hatred of cars. Yet for all the noise about them, the roll out of new cycleways has been painfully slow. Some of the key reasons for this have been due to the cost of building them increasing, as AT try to do everything they can not to impact cars, and hiding and delaying anytime anyone complains.
To put things in perspective, Auckland has over 7500km of roads of which almost 5,000km are urban roads – a number has been increasing by 50-100km per year as new suburbs spring up. By comparison there are only just over 300km of cycleways and most of those will consist of nothing more than a line of paint on the road or a shared path. What’s more, AT are targeting to build just 10km of new cycleways a year.
So what would AT be doing if they were really trying to effect change?
Rapid roll out
One of the first things AT would be doing would be to rapidly roll out bike lanes to all arterial roads in Auckland. This would be done by removing car parking and even car lanes if needed. An example of this happening is in Seville, which went from a network of next to nothing, to having over 180km of protected cycleways in just a few years, including rolling out over 80km in the first 18 months. Mode-share of bikes has increased from near zero to about 10%.
Streetfilms have made a great video explaining how it was done.
Getting a rough but extensive network in quickly is the key to this approach. Not everything will be perfect, but details can be improved over time. As we’ve started to see in Auckland, the critical thing is getting the network in place. Of course these days it won’t just be bikes that will be using them but all sorts of small electric movement devices too.
Other cities to try the rapid roll out approach have included Calgary and Edmonton – although not to the scale of Serville.
Along with more bike lanes, one thing that is really needed to improve integration with public transport is more bike parking. At most of our train and bus stations you’re lucky to get more than a few unprotected racks. The image below is of the Smales Farm busway station. It has more bike parking than most but as you can see, is completely exposed.
Along with bus/train stations and ferry terminals, much more on street bike parking is needed. An AT looking to make a change would be quickly rolling out bike parking in place of some existing car-parks in town centres all over Auckland.
AT have been successful at changing our bus networks in Auckland and are seeing good results from it but Auckland still lags far behind many our comparator cities. To get more people out of their cars and on to public transport here are a couple of things AT should be doing.
Bus Lanes now
One of the biggest things we can do to make buses better is to make them both more reliable and faster and the best way to achieve that is with more and better bus lanes. Like with cycle lanes above, this would come as a priority above parking and car lanes. As I’ve talked about a bit recently, AT currently have a project to do this on some of our busiest bus routes but I worry it’s currently on track to take many many years to implement. Like with the above, if AT were really living up to the hype they’d be getting out the cans of paint and implementing most of this almost overnight and coming back to fix some of the detail later.
This one is admittedly a bit out of ATs direct control as they require funding from both the Council and NZTA but an agency that was serious about getting more people on public transport would be much more actively looking at ways to help improve our fares.
Improving safety is now the top priority for AT and yet like with bus and bike lanes, safety improvements get dragged through arcane consultation processes. Even though we’re repeatedly told that these processes are about discussing the issues and not a referendum, AT inevitably seem to fall back to the numbers and how many people submitted for/against each outcome. They even look to be wavering on one of their key safety initiatives as they’re scared of the political response during an election.
Once again, an agency that was serious about safety would at least be rolling out temporary safety improvements immediately then coming back to deliver on more permanent solutions.
There’s a lot more that I could cover in here shows that if AT were seriously living up to the hype, they’d be doing a lot more. In light of what some other cities are doing they look positively timid and the impression I get on most issues is they’re so busy trying to find a compromise that they end up appeasing no one.