Auckland will face some new transport challenges during Alert Levels 2 and 3. The space required for physical distancing when walking and cycling will conflict with higher traffic volumes when more people start driving. Cities overseas have shown how to respond to these sorts of conditions, including Bogota way back in mid March.

To respond quickly to the emergency, Auckland Transport needs staff with skills in tactical urbanism and a good understanding of walking, cycling and safety principles. Unfortunately, the team specialising in these skills – the Walking and Cycling Team – was disbanded by Auckland Transport about a year and a half ago. The team has gradually departed leaving just a few noble souls. Yet having these skills is critical for the organisation.

Was the loss of this skillset flagged by Human Resources and put on the organisation’s risk register? What mitigation or back-up plans were made, especially to ensure the public would be kept safe during emergencies? Did Human Resources put in special support to help retain the remaining team members?

The Board knew about the disbanding. What risk oversight did they provide?

So far, in Level 4, we’ve seen traffic volumes reduce significantly. Many people have reimagined their streets.

Our air is sweet to breathe. The city is quiet. Walking feels good. Cycling is a burst of freedom. Older people are reminded of times past. For children, this new feeling that the road is theirs is a delightful liberation.

But while the risk has dropped, it hasn’t dropped commensurately with the traffic volumes. High vehicle speeds, and insufficient space for people, have been the biggest problems. These increased risks could have been reduced had AT taken action.

Image credit: Bike Auckland

A nimble authority would have announced:

We acknowledge how difficult this situation is. Everyone needs more space to exercise than the city’s footpaths provide, and we expect that people will be using local roadways for this.

Today, we are beginning work to free up space for you:

  • We are coning off road space to provide cycleways and wider footpaths, including entire lanes on the arterials.
  • We are closing roads to through-traffic where possible.
  • We are stepping up parking enforcement to ensure no cars are parked in the pedestrian realm, such as berms, vehicle crossings, plazas and pavements.
  • We will work with Council to open up parks and golf courses for exercising without the danger of vehicles.

And we are making the system safer and more friendly for exercising:

  • Speed limits have been changed by default to 30km/h on all local urban roads.
  • Please drive only if you are unable to walk or cycle for the essential travel you need to do.
  • If you must drive, please do so slowly and cautiously, as there will be many people walking and cycling on streets.
  • We will seek a technical solution to the problem that people on bikes face of there being fewer vehicles around to trigger the traffic lights. We will also seek an emergency implementation of the Idaho Stop rule to enable people on bikes to treat stop signs and red lights as give ways.

Texas, Arizona has managed pop-up cycleways for Covid.

Even specific calls for action, such as on Tamaki Drive and the Domain, fell on deaf ears.

The transport sector’s low level of preparedness for the challenges of Covid has contrasted with our epidemiologists, who were studying the experiences overseas very keenly. One of my biggest bugbears with traffic engineers has been that they don’t seem to be aware of their professional requirement to keep abreast of developments in the field. This is a case in point.

Auckland Transport ignored the ‘whole system’ focus of Vision Zero, and put the responsibility onto the people at risk:

Make sure you wear helmets and always check for vehicles. If you’re heading out for a walk, remember to look out for people on bikes and try to stick to the footpath where you can while maintaining distancing.

Redrawing the cyclelanes in Berlin.

We’ve appeared on a world map of emergency measures:

This was for setting some traffic signals to automatic, removing the need to press the button. What was actually required was reducing pedestrian wait times, to improve pedestrian safety.

Brussels has reduced waiting times for pedestrians by 20 seconds to 40 seconds at more than 100 traffic lights.

Low traffic volumes have been our saving grace in Level 4. But Level 3 could be very different. Overseas countries operating in a similar fashion to our Level 3 indicate we have good reason to be concerned. Without improved emergency transport planning, it looks like we will wave goodbye to calm streets. Level 3 might be a juxtaposition of two realities:

Some people could return to their usual occupation and habits, except perhaps driving more often because they avoid public transport. Those stuck at home (including most children and elderly people), will still be popping out for local walks and cycle rides, needing space for good physical distancing. What will disappear for them is the low traffic volume, which provided the safety to step out onto the road, and to cycle on arterials or with little kids.

20 km/hr emergency speed limits in Vienna.

NZTA recognises the risk, and has made money available for quick, cheap improvements through its Innovating Streets fund. Auckland Transport’s initial responses show that the amount of money was too small to tempt them, with their intention being to try to secure some of the funding for simply continuing with their current programmes. And the public were seen as a hindrance.

Which is ironic, because tactical urbanism was developed by citizens frustrated with the deficient environments that authorities like AT were providing.

The government stepped up, being very clear, in an internationally-lauded move: We’ll increase the funding for you to implement tactical urbanism. As Simon Wilson noted:

This is a fundamental challenge to transport authorities, happening right now.

Now that the funding is more than $7 million, it appears Auckland Transport will get involved. Their message has become more progressive:

Additional funding would enable us to quickly widen more footpaths in busy areas and deliver more separated cycleways so people can enjoy their streets and keep a physical distance at the same time.

But there’s still a risk they will try to use most of that funding in existing projects (that they’ve been slowing down for years):

The funding could speed up the delivery of major projects like Access for Everyone in the city centre and the Safe and Healthy Streets programme in south Auckland…

Here’s hoping the “several” projects they apply for span the city and lead immediately into more and larger projects that mean everyone is protected:

AT will be applying for funding for several projects that we can get underway shortly after the lockdown ends.

Image credit: Bike Auckland

I might have kept quiet, but the CEO also said:

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have successfully trialled tactical urbanism treatments like planter boxes and paint, in the city centre to create new cycleways and wider footpaths.

You see, I’ve heard a story about planter boxes. In fact, I’ve heard stories about all sorts of tactical urbanism elements and concepts. Here’s a list of some that Auckland Transport have refused to implement, but which will be required for these Innovating Streets projects. May the upskilling – and cultural transformation – commence!

Planter Boxes

Auckland Transport wrote in mid-2018:

The use of planter boxes … cannot be supported due to the following factors:

  • There would be reduced night-time visibility of such devices compared to standard devices which are more conspicuous and thus easier to highlight (e.g. with the use of houndstooth markings on speed humps). This would become a significant safety issue.
  • Based on experience in other parts of the city, these are easily damaged especially in areas where there is a presence of [Heavy Commercial Vehicles]. These would become an on-going maintenance hazard for Auckland Transport. 
  • Maintenance of plantings is generally undertaken by Auckland Council. To maintain the aesthetic value of these, agreement with Auckland Council would be required.

Filters that allow people through, but stop vehicles

Recently an AT design team took to management the suggestion of adding one single modal filter to a streetscape design. It was needed where a bidirectional cycleway crossed a side street; a risky situation in a risky spot near a primary school. The safety benefits of closing vehicle access to this entrance of the sidestreet were clear.

It was the legal team who said no, yet the solution was clearly legal. Auckland Transport list these techniques they can use but then the legal team stops their designers from using them:

  • Converting an intersection into a cul-de-sac or dead end. 
  • Boom barriers – restricts through traffic to authorised vehicles only. 
  • Closing of streets to create pedestrian zones.

In response to Covid, Oakland has opened up 74 miles of city streets to people walking and cycling by closing them to through-traffic.

Removing car parking

Parking induces traffic. Reducing parking supply is a key parking mechanism to achieving the Council’s goal of encouraging modeshift away from driving.

Yet the removal of a single carpark requires sign-off at the top levels of Auckland Transport. Last year I questioned why a minor safety project on Central Park Drive, requiring 9m of parking restriction, required consultation, which delayed it by several months:


I asked them to explain the consultation requirements so I could understand why the far more disruptive Redoubt Road Dynamic Lane project didn’t require consultation. Auckland Transport quoted legislative requirements that essentially said it was their choice to do so. Summary here.

Road reallocation for Covid in Berlin, Germany. According to Mikael Colville-Andersen they’re “going ballistic doing it”. Image credit: @PBroytman.

Reducing traffic

Reducing traffic volumes is a key concept for tactical urbanism and network planning alike. On one major project, I wrote to the design team:

We’re in the process of trying to design a good cycleway. But good cycleway design always involves ensuring the traffic volumes are sufficiently low first. Otherwise, unintended consequences can include rat-running, and increasing danger wherever cycles and cars cross…

I believe the multi-criteria analysis should not proceed unless it includes at least 2 different options that involve traffic reduction measures. This doesn’t commit anyone to any path. But it does give AT and the CLG options to discuss that will probably be superior to any options that do not involve traffic reduction measures.

I never received a reply.

Hackney is the first UK council to announce Covid emergency plans to filter neighbourhood streets.

Opening Streets to People by Closing them to General Traffic

AT have resisted implementing the Council’s 2012 City Centre Master Plan, which really should have been finished by now. Queen St has still not been opened to safe walking and cycling. Excuses I’ve heard are that access must be maintained to private lots and that they can’t ban certain users from roads and not others.

These arguments are fallacious. Road controlling authorities ban certain users from roads all the time. And access is impossible to maintain if it doesn’t currently exist – which is the case for safe all-ages cycling access on Queen St. AT should be prioritising this neglected mode. There are no driveways in the areas where vehicle access restrictions are proposed. And the plan still accommodates access for deliveries by vehicle during some periods of the day. So the plan doesn’t seriously impact any existing vehicle access to private lots, but it certainly improves cycling access. Which is a mode the Council wishes to prioritise.

AT has had about 7 years more than it needed to sort out any legal barriers – imaginary or otherwise – to restricting general traffic.

Denver has opened streets to walking and cycling, as have many US cities.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Auckland Transport would not consider using a low traffic neighbourhood for a streetscape project, when suggested. The plan would have served local residents, the network and even AT’s reputation, by mitigating one negative effect of the project: extra rat-running.

Crossings

Auckland Transport is more open to installing new pedestrian crossings than it was, although it probably won’t like reducing their cost with innovative designs.

They continue, however, to design intersections with missing pedestrian legs, because the organisation is still prioritising traffic flow over safety (despite their claims otherwise). Missing pedestrian legs contribute to deaths and serious injuries, and have no place in a safe transport network. Contributing to the situation is a serious flaw in the modelling which directs the engineers to leave crossings out of intersection designs.

Tactical Urbanism outside the centres

In refusing to implement tactical urbanism in a project, Auckland Transport claimed it is suitable for centres only:

In general, trials are more effective in achieving their objectives (i.e. raising awareness and/or changing behaviour) in more densely populated areas such as the City Centre or other centres, where exposure can be maximised.

Events

Auckland Transport have destructively stopped events for spurious reasons.

The Great Upskilling

Whereas the councils in some smaller towns and cities of New Zealand have retained skills to do things cheaply, quickly and well, Auckland has to relearn them. With climate change on its way, our road controlling authority needs to understand the importance of tactical urbanism. It will keep our costs down and allow us to more nimbly test new ideas as we move into a more difficult future.

I hope plenty of Auckland Transport staff will have the opportunity to work with NZTA on this Innovating Streets for People programme.

But some of the senior staff at AT clearly have some misconceptions to overturn for the programme to be successful. Some of these senior staff are also presiding over backwards-looking projects that are making our system worse, and at great cost.

At this stage, I believe the Council and the AT Board may need to actively take control to cut through the problems. The CEO has had over two years to move people around into better positions for their skills and levels of understanding. The progressive, competent staff in Auckland Transport hidden by the oppressive culture need to be promoted so they can shine.

After decades of community disempowerment, it’s taken a pandemic to reignite hope that we can create healthy streets. If Auckland Transport’s internal barricades to progress can be removed through a great upskilling in response to the emergency, Auckland’s future will look far rosier.

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75 comments

  1. Auckland Transport have somehow put themselves in the worst of all situations where they get slammed by the conservative NIMBY brigade because they sometimes talk a reasonable talk about reallocating streetspace to PT and active modes, but the actual progress they are making is glacial, if anything.

    It takes a special level of dysfunction to get backlash when you’re not even doing anything.

  2. The Waitematā Local Board voted on 18 Feb for AT to explore emergency bike lanes (unfortunately no action yet).
    We would love more tactical urbanism to be rolled out immediately:
    – Narrowing intersections and reducing corner radii to slow traffic and make crossing safer
    – Gateway treatments for lower speed zones
    – Reducing & removing through traffic from non-arterials
    – Bike lanes on all key arterials
    We also submitted CCO feedback that AT should be incorporated into AC so there is a single integrated delivery body for the road corridor and streetscape.

    1. Hi again, Graeme. There’s a conversation below that you might be interested in. Logan O has said: “Under the Auckland Council Traffic Bylaw 2015, the power to make the necessary resolution to designate a cycle lane or shared path under s8, is delegated to AT. So what exactly is tying AT’s hands?”

      Is it possible for the WLB to ask AT to lay out the reasons for the delay, which has put people at risk?

  3. AT could start by blocking access through the Domain. Allow cars into the Domain but don’t allow any through traffic. There are already bollards etc. in place to allow for this so it would be simple.
    I would like to see all through traffic in the Domain stopped permanently. It’s a park!

    1. This it the Council blocking here, not AT.

      Domain is under the control of the eastern suburbs who like being able to drive their cars into the city centre. The domain is kept open so that they can drive through it.

      1. Yeah but to most of us, we don’t give a f**k about whether it’s AT or Council. They’re supposed to work together.

        Have AT argued on our behalf with Council to close the roads? Given they’re not closing roads anywhere else, I seriously doubt it.

        1. The point is that Domain Drive is not owned by AT, it is not their road so they won’t be saying anything about it- positive, negative or neutral. I am no fan of AT at all, but this isn’t their road so they are not responsible.

        2. Of course, all our roads are owned by AC anyway. AT is just managing them.

          And AT is responsible for a safe transport network. They are the transport people. So these divisions of responsibility are side-stepping the issue.

          As mum-of-two says, these organisations should be working together.

        3. Heidi I don’t think they are actually roads. The Unitary Plan maps don’t show them so they are not public roads they are more like driveways owned by whoever owns the Domain. They are park. That probably means they could be closed to traffic without having to go through the road stopping procedures needed for public roads. Not a lawyer bla bla etc.

    2. Cornwall Park has been closed to traffic since lock down, assume this is because it is managed by the Cornwall Park Trust and Tupuna Maunga and isn’t so explicitly a thoroughfare. And what a revelation – lots of people out walking and kids on bikes and scooters free to roam.

  4. My understanding of level 3 is we can do things if they are safe where for level 4 they had to be essential. In the absence of a tracking or surveillance ap I can’t understand how anyone could think public transport is safe. It is a closed box where a bunch of strangers all stand close together breathing the same air and touching the same surfaces. You already know my view, I would close it until we are back to level 2 at least. I sincerely hope more people walk, drive, cycle or get a lift. Those are safe modes.

    1. Level 3 opens up takeaways, forestry, construction and manufacturing. I’m not sure these industries are going to drive anywhere near the demand for PT that will see people standing close together. My guess is instead of one passenger per bus there will be three.

      Agree though about the surfaces.

    2. Not on our local one here currently running hourly (Sunday timetable from memory). They are often empty, or 1 to 2 people at a time. Don’t think you can deny an essential worker their only viable form of transport. Before anyone suggests a taxi of any type, it’s worse with the space between the driver & passenger being too close even if they sit diagonally.

      1. The advantage of taxis is you can track contacts. This thing is as much about stopping the following infections. The most dangerous part is having random people in close contact when they can’t latter identify each other.

        1. They can track you with the HOP card which you are mean to tag on and off with still. See my comments at the bottom of this post.

        2. I can see that would work but maybe it would be more suited to level one or two. Although if a kid is squeezed onto a school bus with 60 others they would have to treat all 60 and their families as close contacts.

  5. PT needs to be kept free until 1 month after level 1 to get people back using it otherwise it’s going to take a huge permanent hit.
    With little to no traffic on the roads people are finding driving more attractive. People need to get used to using PT again so incentivising them to use it is a must.

    1. PT is well and truly sidelined for the foreseeable future. It is the absolute illogical choice during a pandemic or what I am guessing will be a manageable disease phase at best later on.

      And some people simply cannot use bikes or walk to get to where near to go once the risk levels drop.

      So cars, which will the cheapest go to – to get the economy going again will make a comeback, bigger than before and AT and the roading network will have to be ready for it.

      1. If everyone who currently uses PT drives instead, then it doesn’t really matter what AT does, the road network won’t handle it.

  6. Seems to me that the only way to implement tactical urbanism is a mass cull of the senior management currently blocking it. Don’t replace these overpaid underachievers; just give the job titles to competent underlings, at their current salaries, and leave them to get on with the job. The money saved by not paying the bloated salaries of current senior management can then be usefully spent implementing the required changes.

  7. The lockdown started with us imagining all sorts of things would happen for us. We were making jokes about how there wouldn’t be enough orange cones after all.

    But then nothing happened and nothing happened and nothing happened.

  8. Fundamentally it’s what Jarrett Walker says:-

    Values vs expertise:-

    What is the purpose? What values we want to deliver? How we continue to develop sustainable and resilient transport?

    AT need to do more to show they value the transition to sustainable transport via mode shift. They need to rebuild their expertise so they can help deliver what the community wants. What makes the community safer.

    1. “They need to rebuild their expertise so they can help deliver what the community wants”

      The community wants free buses and trains, that run every 5 minutes, 24/7, from just outside their neighbours house, that go to every conceivable destination throughout Auckland, without the need to transfer.

      This is simply not possible.

      1. I’d prefer a fixed cost weekly and monthly pass. Free PT is not really possible at the moment. I think the ticket system in Budapest is something Auckland should copy.

  9. It’s a nice thought.
    But to be honest; Once the pandemic crisis is over I’m expecting there to be a push to return things to how they were beforehand. And most likely from the people who were making the money beforehand.

    1. Social distancing and working from home will be the new norm for at least 2 years.

      Even at alert 2+ it’s not status quo.

  10. Why must it be cars for everything? We are in the transport and general urban mess that we are now in because, for several decades now, we have given the private automobile absolute priority over all else. That must stop. Instead of giving cars everything they want, then anything (if anything!) left to everything else; we must give first give priority to everything else, then whatever is left can go to cars. If nothing is left for cars, then cars miss out. End of.

  11. As part of the discussion you talk of reducing the supply of car parking as this encourages (induces) reliance on private motor vehicles for transport. But much of the car parking supply is on private land – and if the public supply of car parking is reduced this would perversely incentivise an increase in private parking spaces. For some years I have suggested that land used for car parking should attract a special rate to encourage more appropriate use of the land (e.g. housing), and also to generate a new source of funding for public transport, walking and cycling facilities. Affected land owners could respond by increasing charges to users (many large car parks are totally free at present) or by selling off some or all of their car park(s) which would then become available for residential or other more productive purposes. So far I have never had a response to this proposal.

  12. Awesome summary of the challenges and opportunities that we face, not just with COVID19 but Climate Change. Disbanding the walking and cycling team is symptomatic of an organisation that just doesn’t see it as a priority. Agree it needs stronger leadership at AT and Council to change attitudes and direction. But will we get it…?

  13. When a company/organisation is continually haemorrhaging talent, is myopic in its design and implementation of product/service user experience, doesn’t understand/cannot communicate the value and effectiveness of the products and services they have invested in, cuts back funding for core product and service development after ROI targets have been exceeded and diverts that funding instead into solutions not designed to bring benefit to large numbers of users in a variety of situations, it calls into question the ability of that company/organisation to provide meaningful, useful products and services to the market.

    Company/organisation leadership is about vision, clarity of purpose, real empathy for user needs, constantly listening to what is happening at the frontline, being responsive to sudden, unforeseen change and eliminating status-quo thinking by surrounding yourself with clever, capable people who will never ever manage you up.

    The Covid World we now live in, is the time for companies and organisations to move away from their past culture and modus operandi to meet the needs of the new environment. Those that do so quickly and genuinely, will thrive.

  14. Lamest excuse for inaction ever. “Maintenance of plantings is generally undertaken by Auckland Council. To maintain the aesthetic value of these, agreement with Auckland Council would be required.” Seriously? This is presented as a reason not to do something? The fact that you would have to do something. The other two items in this list require some research to mitigate them. But even they are not game changers. The last one surely is simply an item on the to do list when implementing planters. “Create agreement with Auckland council on maintenance of planters”. Don’t tell me. They would have to contract out the process of reaching an agreement and then bring in an external legal team to finalise said agreement. A budget would then have to be agreed, which overran by 300%. The entire project would then be axed in a cost saving measure.

  15. “Maintenance of plantings is generally undertaken by Auckland Council. To maintain the aesthetic value of these, agreement with Auckland Council would be required.”

    We don’t actually need planting to go in the planters! Just get the damned boxes in place first to create the space, the planting of them can happen once some people have their heads around why they are there! Hell, I’d be happy with orange cones with flowers in the tops for now.

  16. Great post. Yes the excuses for not doing this more either in emergency mode or not are all just pretty lame.

    Both Auckland Council & AT should all have their newly remote ways & Zoom meetings all pretty sorted by now so can get on and do this before we loose lives with increased traffic & (probably more) distracted minds of the drivers. The other result instead is people will cut back on their anti-cabin fever exercise times which won’t be good either.

    Walking cycling around here in Mt Wellington we have noticed a lot more cycling and walking etc going on with people spilling out onto the road when avoiding each other (particularly when a car is parked on the road or on berms and paths). Drivers have been generally more careful it seems but the odd one using the empty roads as a race track. I can imagine in some other denser suburbs it would be a lot trickier to maneuver around each other. We need to get things going again for sure, but I for one am going to miss the fresher air, quieter roads & motorway we are now experiencing.

    1. “Both Auckland Council & AT should all have their newly remote ways & Zoom meetings all pretty sorted by now”

      AT has been using SKYPE for remote meetings for five years

  17. No all of us can drive or walk to where we need to go, so rely on public transport, especially buses. They are a vital public service for many.
    Those who moan about the cost: does it really cost AT that much more to run them for free now than it did when they were ‘full’ or fare payers? I believe AT’s target for farebox recovery is 53%, but in practice it’s more like 45%. Given that there is no longer the cost of collecting and handling fares, the extra cost of totally free-to-user public transport may not be all that great.
    Not having to wait for passengers paying or tagging on and off will speed-up buses, making for a better service.

  18. Requiring all bus passengers to tag on and off with (free?) AT Hop cards will solve the contacts tracking problem.

    1. You are meant to tag on and off currently (at the rear only away from driver & the driver is “fenced off” from the passengers) even though it’s free precisely for this and bus loading/management reasons. Also their updated app shows roughly how many people are calculated to be on them so you can decide to not board if it looks too full. No cash is currently being accepted. I think you can still get a free HOP card if you need it from customer service centers, not sure if this is still happening?
      https://at.govt.nz/about-us/news-events/public-transport-information/

  19. Was the loss of this skillset flagged by Human Resources and put on the organisation’s risk register?

    ANSWER: No

    What mitigation or back-up plans were made, especially to ensure the public would be kept safe during emergencies?

    ANSWER: None

    Did Human Resources put in special support to help retain the remaining team members?

    ANSWER: No. The HR Dept at AT takes about 5 months to respond to anything. According to AT staffers, they don’t even advise job applicants that their applications have been unsuccessful.

    The Board knew about the disbanding. What risk oversight did they provide?

    ANSWER: None

    The very capable manager of the once AT Cycling team, is now at NZTA leading the Innovating Streets project throughout New Zealand

  20. Heidi you are a little unfair with your dismissive approach to the law. AT is a publically funded organisation that is obliged to obey the law and to put in place legally compliant solutions.

    So lets acknowledge that they cannot legally just block off a street that currently allows vehicles – the High Courts have found this to be the Tort of Public Nuisance when one of the Hutt councils tried to do it in the 1970s because there is no legal power to just decide to do it. The law only allows for this by way of formal road stopping or a pedestrian mall. Both of which have extensive statutory consultation processes and appeal rights to the Environment Court. Should AT waste a bunch of public money trying to do this without obeying the law just to have it overturned in the court?

    Widening cycle lanes requires a resolution under the Traffic Bylaw or it isn’t legal. If AT went out and just repainted a whole lot of cycle lanes or tactical ubanists created their own ones with flower pots or something then people on bikes (including the vulnerable ones who are out now more than usual might think they have different legal rights than they actually do. Which gives them no greater protection in a crash and probably makes it heaps harder to prosecute the driver because the traffic controls weren’t legally enforceable.

    Most of these laws AT has very little control over but we should expect them to obey them and foucs on changing the laws that would let AT do more than it currently can. Blocking off and filtering roads being the obvious one for attention here. It has needed fixing since that Hutt case in the 70s.

    Remember that the laws protect what we are interested in too. If AT were to try to build a new arterial road without complying with the RMA we would be all over them like a rash. So why do we want them to ignore other laws just becasue doing so would suit our world view.

    1. Clearly we should start with a restructuring of the AT legal department. Make them reapply for their jobs with the simple question: ‘please give an example of when you most recently solved a problem for teams trying to change our streets, enabling that change, or advocating and championing a bylaw change if that was, in your view, required (no weaponising the status quo with legalise will not get you the position)’…

      The law can be an arse, can be out of date, but is always a live and changing thing, requires creative and active engagement, and you know what, the Council makes, or breaks. a bunch of it.

    2. “the High Courts have found this to be the Tort of Public Nuisance when one of the Hutt councils tried to do it in the 1970s”

      Got a reference? I can’t find it.

      1. If the case is Lower Hutt City Council v Bank, then I’m not sure it has much value, unless AT is considering selling or leasing the roads, before consulting on closing them. The case is about bias, not public nuisance.

        However, no-one is proposing “stopping of roads” – because then they cease to be a road at all.

        A modal filter might be temporary “closing of roads” to some types of traffic (LGA s342(1)(b)- which doesn’t require consultation at all – LGA Schedule 10, clause 11(d), except with NZTA and the Police).

        The main thing required is to get on with it.

        It’s also possible that permanent modal filters that don’t limit access to adjacent properties (short section of pedestrian and cycle only, no exit, no entry) may not require any of these to implement.

        For creation of “pedestrian malls” (LGA s336, the consultation is not onerous and should not impose tremendous delays – ATs standard consultation far exceeds the necessary standard for every project anyway.
        At worst, someone aggrieved can appeal to the environment court – which might delay things a bit.
        But this is the same risk (environment court or judicial review) that applies to nearly every decision the council makes. And only makes it more important not to delay at the start.
        And all of that can be avoided if it is giving effect to a provision in the district plan.

    3. I haven’t been dismissive of following the law. I’m dismissive of AT not taking its responsibilities seriously and demanding any necessary changes to the law to make it fit for purpose.

      The Waitemata LB asked for pop up cyclelanes over two months ago. You mention wider cycle lanes require a bylaw. Even if that’s true, if our bylaws can’t be written quickly in response to an emergency then the system isn’t resilient. Look overseas. So many examples of pop up cyclelanes. If this is illegal in NZ, the law needs to change. And AT is the organisation that should have been demanding that law change.

      Had they retained and listened to the Walking and Cycling team, which was focused on trying to make our network work for our population, they would probably have known this.

      AT have had 8 years to follow Council’s directive on implementing the CCMP. AT should have smoothed the way for the roll out of the plan by ensuring all the legalities were in place. If AT really thought implementing any elements of CCMP was illegal, they should have said this to Council in, say, 2012? Or even 2014? So the organisations could jointly approach and advocate to the government for a law change.

      Where’s the jumping up and down to get things to happen? We’ve seen it at the Council meetings, year after year. AT promises to do stuff, then goes away and does nothing.

      AT’s first and foremost job is to provide a safe transport network. Auckland Transport acknowledged they were failing on this, commissioned and received a report into why and then, quite astonishingly, have used legal, reputational, political, consultation and other status-quo-supporting excuses to stop attending to the problems. Those commitments “in full and without question” to the recommendations didn’t happen, did they?

    4. I’ve said it before – GA needs to be lobbying parliament for a change to the law with regard to closing roads to general vehicle traffic, whether for a length or at a point, by a Resolution, like almost any other country.

      1. It’s quite possible that AT can, by designating a short length of the road as being for pedestrians and cycling only. This is not stopping a road or closing a road. I can’t find any statute, regulation or rule that would prohibit it.
        Even the consultation for pedestrian malls is no more than AT does on any project.

    5. Lol. ‘world view’ Right down in the muck there with ‘nanny state’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘PC’.

      Almost as if the ‘world view’ of believing people have a right to safe streets is equal with the ‘world view’ that they don’t.

    6. “Should AT waste a bunch of public money trying to do this without obeying the law just to have it overturned in the court?”

      Public organisations should never do anything that upsets people who can afford lawyers.

  21. Heidi, this is excellent.

    Here is some of the funny if it wasn’t so frustrating list that I have. There are many many more.

    Can we open (small x) many meters of road for people and businesses for the sandringham village festival, for a couple of hours, to keep them safe from vehicle traffic?
    No.
    Why?
    There is a Metallica Concert on in another suburb, at a different time of day.

    Can we remove this bollard from the entry to a well used bike path, as it already has a barrier in place?
    Yes.
    Can we remove this bollard from the entry to a well used bike path, as it already has a barrier in place?
    Yes.
    Can we remove this bollard from the entry to a well used bike path, as it already has a barrier in place?
    Yes.
    Can we remove this bollard from the entry to a well used bike path, as it already has a barrier in place?
    Yes.
    That’s 4 years ago, bollard is still there.

    Can we put in a sign that points to where the path is, and/or where it goes to?
    Incoherent Screeching.

    How about a pop up protected path that joins a major bike network to a school entry? A school that already has a massive uptake in students using active travel.
    It’s not in scope.
    How about if we pay for it?
    How much do you have?
    2Mil.
    Laughs. No.

    Can we make this underpass more inviting or user friendly with the addition of different lighting, mural painting, trimming of overgrown nature?
    Definitely not. Graffiti guard grim, and cold white florescent light is the only safe method for ensuring that no one uses the under pass, that might otherwise be a great link in a network.

    How about one map, for the whole city that links the bike paths, ferries, and trains, to view our connected micromobility network across Tamaki Makarau?
    No. Only project specific maps that make it hard to see the whole.

    (disclaimer – to an orgnisation that has some wonderful humans working in it, this is not a reflection of the wonderful mahi that you do).

    1. After countless submissions asking AT to make a couple of bends on my road (which is on a popular walkway and cycle route) safer for walkers and cyclists, by having somewhere for them to go, other than headlong down the steep bank, when the cars and trucks whizz round the corner, I was able to get some response only by going through my Local Board. The person from AT who called me had misunderstood which part of the road I was submitting on (despite me describing the bit of road in detail, including property numbers at either end and including an annotated drawing, they had somehow lumped in with all the people wanting a footpath near the primary school, which they really don’t want to do either). Anyway, their response to my request once that was cleared up was that they couldn’t make any improvements because they wouldn’t be able to meet footpath standards and apparently they can’t make small improvements, they can only do nothing or meet gold standards. Probably something else their legal team has told them…(possibly just after they asked their legal team to tell them it?) Anyway, I suggested that they could maybe just call it a run-off zone for cars and it needn’t be fancy, just a metre’s width of gravel. They brightened up at that thought…but another year has passed and nothing’s happened.

      I had just as much trouble trying to get them to cut down a few bushes so that kids walking to another primary school didn’t have to walk out across the road, but they found excuses not to do that too, including playing the old game of pass the responsibility. Was it AT, or was it council’s parks and maintenance team, or…
      …turns out nobody wanted the job, so the kids are still walking out into the road. Or not walking because it’s too dangerous.

      1. Hell. Gee, do the AT staff sleep at night when they’re making kids walk out into the road? All this makes me angry as f—

  22. “Widening cycle lanes requires a resolution under the Traffic Bylaw or it isn’t legal.”

    So AT could be picking out a whole lot they want to mark out, and submitting a resolution? And this is a barrier? Or an excuse?

    In fact the “law” doesn’t require a bylaw at all for the creation and enforcement of with-flow cycle lanes. All that is required is the correct markings. This is inherently acknowledged by this excerpt from NZTA:

    “Cycle lanes are classified as special vehicle lanes (Land Transport Rule Traffic Control Devices 2004 definition). Therefore they should be established by local bylaw; this is particularly important for con’tra-flow cycle lanes that oppose the normally permitted direction of traffic.”

    1. To make matters even clearer:
      Under the Auckland Council Traffic Bylaw 2015, the power to make the necessary resolution to designate a cycle lane or shared path under s8, is delegated to AT.

      So what exactly is tying AT’s hands?

      1. Council fires urban designers for competence while these obstructive lawyers sit pretty at AT preventing change…fuksake

  23. So does everybody understand now why I have been advocating abolishing AT and bringing it’s functions back under AC control?

    1. I was thinking about this yesterday. What is the current govts view on CCOs, who is appointed to them (unelected) and in particular, the role of AT in Auckland. Is Goff pushing for a change?

  24. Well done Heidi. Your criticism of AT, in my view, is completely objective. Alongside what you have talked of I am constantly amazed at their complete lack of progress in reducing transport carbon emissions (I believe I wrote a post on GA two years ago where I analysed their figures. It appears AT’s only response has been to stop publishing the figures.) I am amazed about their complete inaction to remove car parks to reduce vehicle traffic – hell, they are still building them.
    I am amazed that while they timidly hide behind the law regarding what they can’t do about parking on berms they view policies that the public has consulted on as just guidelines.
    For me AT appears completely dysfunctional. When you read the annual reports and the comments of Lester Levy regarding mode shift he appeared to be talking about another organisation. There is nothing to persuade me that the management team is any better.
    In Takapuna there is currently consultation to replace a bus lane with a T2 lane. If a T2 lane is so helpful on the southern side of the road (and it isn’t because the only impediment to the traffic flow on Esmonde Road is motorway traffic signals) then why wouldn’t a T2 lane be just as useful on the other side of the road? Devonport is of course blessed with a money soak hole known as AT Local. Despite its obvious failure it will be repeated.
    What can be done to turn this sad mess around?

  25. It will be interesting to see how many office jobs end up moving to homed-based jobs on a permanent basis, now that business managers have got the hang of having their staff do this, and finding it actually works. Next will come the temptation to reduce business costs by having xx% of staff work from home, enabling a reduction in office space and therefore downsizing and reducing office rent and other costs.

    Such decentralisation of jobs would have flow-on effects such as less demand for transport, and make housing locations in relationship to employment less relevant.

    Could be a very different future, if technology is embraced the right way.

    1. But I think the majority of PT users are not working commuters? People need to get around on PT for a whole host of reasons.

      As for decentralisation of jobs and working from home, its only going to apply to a relatively small percentage of jobs and for the higher value-add of those, they probably value agglommeration and want to be in the CBD. Think lawyers and accountancy firms. And in any case, people change jobs to different locations and to ones with different working practices.

      Personally, I see the 4 day week (or one day working from home) being more popular.

      Regardless, we should be embracing technology that reduces our dependency on the private car and will include electric rail and buses. It might not be as sexy as the thought of teleporting, but it works on a whole number of fronts.

    2. Yes. Could shift the focus of trips to more local destinations rather than big cross-town peak commutes. Hmm, what sort of infrastructure and services would support that?

    3. Not just working from home. Why spend $1000 to send someone to another city for a couple days if it can all be done online. Conferences? etc, etc, etc.

      1. I doubt working from home more than 2 days a week will be a thing for even those that could actually manage it.

        NZ apparently has a productivity issue. I doubt sending people home to work 5 days a week will fix that. Commuting hours aside, neither my team nor I can point to any sustained productivity gains the longer this goes on. It starts to decline actually.

        I would focus on 4 days a week on full pay for 5 days work. That would drive better productivity (non labour intensive work) and people can use the extra day to spend money and keep the economy bubbling along.

  26. You can’t have automatic ped crossing demand AND lower wait times within our existing intersections. They are directly opposed to each other. Commentators are always going on about getting rid of push buttons and having automatic demand. Now they have it, they complain about long delays which are a direct result of running crossings when no one is using them. Make up your darn minds.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      1. Because pedestrians aren’t the only people using the road? A barnes dance only works well when you have a high diagonal demand. Otherwise, you end up with higher delays overall. I think pedestrians should get priority in many locations but do we just screw all the people on bikes and people on the bus who are also using the road?

        You can achieve less delay for pedestrians with standard crossings, the problem is that we still give too much priority to general vehicles.

        All I’m saying is that blanket approaches like this are silly and make things worse for everyone but some commentators think they can just wave a magic wand and solve the problem.

        1. “Higher delays overall”

          People on bikes should be able to use the Barnes Dance, as they do in The Netherlands. A double Barnes Dance per cycle would be better for them. Given the emergency, this could be brought in now under emergency provisions, and then consulted on for general use later. By then the public will have experience of it so consultation will be relevant instead of supporting the status quo.

          Buses should have bus lanes. They should also be less held up by congestion through travel demand management focused on reducing traffic. Pricing would be a start. A double Barnes Dance per cycle in the name of safety for pedestrians is worth it for bus users, given all those passengers walk to the bus stops too.

          Once you see that bikes and buses can be accommodated with Barnes Dances, the argument that pedestrians aren’t the only people using the road and that a Barnes dance ends up with higher delays overall is equivalent to saying that traffic flow is more important than pedestrian safety.

          So it’s not that safety advocates can’t make up their darn minds.

          It’s that the traffic engineers aren’t following the instructions to use Vision Zero.

          It IS possible to have automatic phases without push buttons AND to have short wait times for pedestrians. It just takes traffic engineers following the instructions, which are to prioritise safety over traffic flow.

          Shane Ellison has told them:
          “We want a transport system that prioritises safety, not a system that puts other measures ahead of human life. We will get you there safely, as efficiently as we can. This is a paradigm shift from thinking we will get you there quickly, as safely as we can.”

          But the engineers think they know better.

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