An article in the Herald on the weekend had MP Nikki Kaye complaining about the amount of works in the city centre.
National’s Nikki Kaye yesterday instigated a crisis briefing with Auckland Transport to explain the planning logic behind the “perfect storm” of road work reducing the city centre to a standstill.
The Auckland Central MP is calling for a review of the consent planning for government and private developments as 63 Auckland CBD streets will be disrupted by public projects alone in 2020.
The traffic cone minefield is founded on the two major projects of the City Rail Link along the length of Albert St – lasting until 2024 – and the plethora of downtown street and marina upgrades rushed through for the 2021 America’s Cup.
However, more than 50 other roadwork and public space projects have been scheduled by AT across city streets in 2020.
This is not to mention the private developments which make up 30 to 70 per cent of CBD construction projects approved for resource consent by Auckland Council.
Kaye was compelled to arrange a briefing with a group of AT senior staff on Friday morning, after numerous complaints from constituents on the scale of works in central Auckland.
“Better co-ordination and sequencing of AT, City Rail Link Limited (CRLL) and private development works is needed to deliver a more efficient way of dealing with congestion and impacts of roadworks,” Kaye said
“I realise some would say the perfect storm has emerged with the CRLL progressing, works for the America’s Cup, cycleways and buildings being progressed.
“All are worthwhile initiatives but there comes a point when people are stuck in traffic or feel shut out of the city, Aucklanders and businesses suffer.
I appreciate it might not be what she intended but this comes across to me a bit as complaining that there’s too much going on when at the same time we have her colleagues saying the opposite is happening and we need to do more to help the construction industry.
This thought also side-tracked me into thinking about how we often have politicians from across the political spectrum and at all levels, as well as a number of lobby groups, who like to talk about New Zealand, and specifically Auckland, having an infrastructure deficit, or promoting how they’re the ones helping us “catch up on decades of under spending” etc. I doubt there’s a city in the world that thinks their infrastructure is perfect and don’t want more of it. So just what is the level of infrastructure we should have for a city our size (population and spatially) to know how far behind we are? Is there ever a point where we can say we’ve caught up to where we should be? I doubt it’s something we’ll ever have an agreed answer on.
Back to the topic at hand though, I do feel that there’s an element of opportunistic and unfair bashing of Auckland Council and Transport, something that’s sadly not uncommon these days. That’s not to say they’re completely without blame here. Here are a couple of things they should have done better.
- Communicating to the public has been lacking. In particular, most of the messaging implies that all this work is a temporary thing, that it’s a bit of pain now for improvement. Almost by omission they suggest things will go back to how they were prior to the works which in most cases is not what’s happening, for example, Quay St is never going back to four lanes. Both AC and AT should be using this opportunity to be much bolder and to highlight how much the city is transforming for the better, so people should be getting out of their cars now instead of the only very subtle suggestions to consider other modes. Furthermore, the Access for Everyone proposal will mean that even more so the city will focus on being a destination and not something just to drive through. Councillor Chris Darby has done this to a degree but the message needs amplification and repeating.
- It’s all very well telling people to change modes but with so much going on, buses are being diverted in a number of areas but they haven’t got the priority to support them. As such, the congestion that Nikki is complaining about is also holding up thousands of people on buses. For example the NX1 buses have been moved from Lower Albert St to Customs St while Lower Albert is being upgraded. I happen to think the temporary bus stops are a better location except for the fact buses are getting caught in congestion more so are either late to arrive in city or late to depart. It is now not uncommon for buses to take 10-15 minutes to crawl the 500m from when the reach Sturdee St till the bus stop on Customs St – although most of the delay would have still affected them if they were using Lower Albert St.
On top of all of this there also needs to be a greater recognition that the city is a large and fast-growing neighbourhood. It means suggestions such as more night works may need to take account of all the people living nearby. Those residents along with tens of thousands of people arriving by public transport will need to walk the streets at some point and at least anecdotally it has been feeling like they’ve been tweaking traffic light phases to squeeze a few more cars through.
It will be interesting to see how AT respond to Kaye’s meeting, if they do at all.