As year draws to a close it’s time for a quick wrap up the most important things that happened and WOW, what a year it’s been.
Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog and supported us in making Auckland greater.
You can’t talk about 2020 and not talk about COVID and the impact it’s had.
Public transport use has taken a massive hit in cities all over the world and Auckland is no different. By the end of November, our 12-month rolling total had fallen to just under 63 million trips, down from 103 million prior to COVID. Yet while usage has dropped, during the lockdowns there were times where PT struggled due to social distancing rules limiting the capacity available.
Walking and cycling
One of the starkest impacts of the lockdowns was seeing many of our streets empty of cars and so many more people out walking or cycling – and in some suburbs there were bikes everywhere,
After a bit of pressure, Auckland Transport finally stepped up and delivered some temporary cycleways on a number of roads around Auckland. Something we’ve seen happen in cities all over the world. We also saw positive changes such as turning off the pedestrian beg buttons at traffic lights.
Disappointingly, with the exception of Queen St all of these were removed as soon as restrictions were eased.
Rail Meltdown and Harbour Bridge damage
COVID isn’t the only thing that caused an issue this year. The two main issues have been
- The rail network meltdown – which has trains slowed to 40km/h and many services cancelled as the lines weren’t being maintained like they should have been.
- The Harbour Bridge damage – A key strut on the bridge was damaged after a truck was knocked over by a gust of wind.
Carrying on from the PT use shown above, this version breaks usage down by year based the mode. You can see that all modes recovered at about the rate following the first Lockdown 1 ferries saw a substantial boost in usage following the harbour bridge being damaged while the rail network has been performing below where it should.
I’m certainly looking forward to the slowdown being over.
NZ Upgrade Programme
Right at the start of the year and before the COVID craziness kicked off, the government announced their NZ Upgrade Programme which included $6.8 billion worth of transport projects. While it does include some good projects, such as the Northern Pathway, the third main and electrification to Pukekohe, it also included a huge amount of spending on new roads (around 77%), Labour’s Roads of National Significance if you will, this includes:
- Whangarei to Port Marsden – $692 million
- Penlink – $411 million
- Mill Rd – $1,354 million
- SH1 Papakura to Drury South widening – $423 million
- Tauranga Northern Link – $478 million
- Te Puna to Ōmokora – $455 million
- Melling Interchange $258 million
- Ōtaki to north of Levin – $817 million
- Other projects in Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago – $366 million
Some of these projects, such as the third main and electrification to Pukekohe are now getting underway and many of the other projects are being progressed.
City Rail Link
It’s been another big year for progress on the CRL. Conveniently they’ve put together their own year in review.
The one thing I think they missed in that montage was the reinstatement of Albert St following the completion of the cut and cover tunnels built as part of phase one of the project.
Auckland currently has four major rapid transit projects under construction, the CRL and three busways, all of which also made progress this year. They are:
- The Eastern Busway
- Airport to Manukau including the impressive new Puhinui station
- The Northern Busway Extension – an idea on the progress that has been made can be seen from about 1 minute in below
The first two are due for completion next year with the Northern Busway extension due in 2022.
In addition to these projects, as part of the COVID response the government have allocated $100 million towards making improvements to buses on the Northwest in advance of more permanent Rapid Transit infrastructure. AT consulted on this in October.
We’ve been somewhat disillusioned with the Light Rail process over the last few years after it was derailed by the NZ Superfund and their Canadian partners looking to push an expensive metro solution that would also effectively see us paying high interest rates to cover the costs. The government had pitted the Superfund up against Waka Kotahi to see who would be responsible for delivering it.
The government are now working on what they call a ‘public sector delivery model’.
Supercharging Urban Development
The government had received a lot of negative commentary for not delivering as many houses as they promised. But when it comes to housing, one area they’ve done something very positive in has been delivering their National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS). Some of the main things the NPS does is to ban councils from imposing parking minimums and mandate major urban areas such as Auckland upzone their plans to allow at least six-storey buildings close to rapid transit stops and within the edge of city centre and metropolitan centre areas.
There have been a number of plans finalised or consulted on this year. Here are some of the most important.
Auckland Climate Plan
During the year the Council adopted Auckland’s Climate Plan (ACP) which as the name suggests is about how we reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Importantly it sets some ambitious targets to achieve, here are the ones for transport
|Vehicle Kilometres travelled by private vehicles reduced by 12% as a result of avoided motorised vehicle travel, through actions such as remote working and reduced trip lengths|
|Public transport mode share to increase from 7.8% to 24.5%||Public transport mode share to increase from 7.8% to 35%|
|Cycling modes share to increase from 0.9% to 7%||Cycling modes share to increase from 0.9% to 9%|
|Walking mode share to increase from 4.1% to 6%||Walking mode share to increase from 4.1% to 6%|
|100% of Auckland’s bus fleet to be zero emission|
|40% of passenger and light commercial vehicles to be electric or zero emission||80% of passenger and light commercial vehicles to be electric or zero emission|
|18% increase in fuel efficiency of the light vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)||25% increase in fuel efficiency of the light vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)|
|8% of road freight to shift to rail||20% of road freight to shift to rail|
|40% of road freight to be electric or zero emission||80% of road freight to be electric or zero emission|
|15% increase in fuel efficiency of the freight vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)||25% increase in fuel efficiency of the freight vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)|
City Centre Masterplan
The refreshed City Centre Masterplan was also adopted this year and includes a few big changes, including:
- Access for Everyone – which aims to make the city centre more people friendly by changing how streets in the city work
- The Grafton Gully Boulevard – that would see Stanley St and The Strand changed from a pseudo motorway into a tree lined boulevard that supports significant development.
The change also came with a new website and graphics highlighting the changes planned.
Government Policy Statement (GPS) 2021-24
The GPS sets out the government’s transport policies and lasts three years including the budget ranges for each mode and was refreshed for 2021. At a high-level it has much in common with the 2018-21 GPS.
Being more innovative in how we design and improve our existing streets is becoming more appreciated and this year Waka Kotahi NZTA have started leading in that space with their Innovating Streets programme. Auckland has a number of projects getting some funding to trial changes.
This year has saw the first of the speed limit changes rolled out across Auckland, with them mainly in rural areas or the city centre.
Nationally we are on track for a reduction in the number of road deaths for the year with us sitting at 310 deaths on our roads this year compared to 344 by this time last year. Auckland has seen 32 road deaths compared to 39 at this time last year. Notably though, we’ve seen over double the number of pedestrians killed in Auckland this year so far with 10 being killed vs 4 last year.
The elections were an important part of the second half of the year and ended up seeing Labour win comfortably. Labour didn’t really have a transport policy other than just pointing to the things they were already doing.
Following the election a cabinet reshuffle saw us get a new Transport Minister, Michael Wood. He’s certainly got a big task ahead of him to deliver on projects like light rail however he did take some time to write a guest post for us.
There’s so much more we could include here.
This will be our last post for the year so once again thanks for reading and supporting us. Have a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.