In October 2018, we first learnt that Auckland Transport were planning to upgrade a range of corridors across the region to improve bus priority, safety as well s walking and cycling. Initially called Integrated Corridors Programme but later renamed Connected Communities, we saw more detail about the plans a month later when AT refreshed it’s Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP).

The RPTP says of the programme:

As part of this RPTP, AT is also looking to apply some of the advantages of the RTN to the Frequent Transport Network through the Integrated Corridor Programme. This Programme will seek to extend bus-priority for the full length of key FTN routes, improving average speed and reliability and reducing operating costs.

Auckland has constrained arterial corridors and there will be trade-offs to be made around competing uses including general traffic lanes, cycle lanes, parking and median strips. AT will design and deliver whole-of-route bus priority on the FTN where:

  • current and planned services experience inconsistent travel times due to congestion
  • where travel-time savings and patronage levels justify the cost of delivery
  • where capacity exists, or new services are planned that can leverage priority infrastructure to deliver patronage growth
  • if reallocation of road space is required, where expected patronage gains are sufficient to ensure that bus priority implementation will increase overall people throughput along the corridor.

The integrated corridor programme will be critical to deliver the next wave of patronage growth for Auckland’s bus network and instrumental in providing the next major improvement in customer experience. It will also be a major mechanism by which placemaking initiatives can be instituted – leveraging the changed environment generated by the corridor programme into urban design elements that will reflect local identity and character.

Map 2 and Map 3 indicate the location of the Integrated Corridor Programme on the isthmus and in south Auckland. The programme includes bus priority, safety and cycling upgrades as part of the overall programme

I’ve written about it a few times over the last few years, such as here and again here.

This is a critical project for AT to deliver and we know there has been some work going on about it as they’ve awarded about $15 million in contracts so far to various companies for investigations and business cases. Yet despite this, for the public there’s been radio silence about what’s happening, there’s not even a project page explaining the information above.

That silence is until now.

Yesterday a new consultation appeared on AT’s website for the New North Rd and Symonds Street Upgrade.

They say

Project Overview

The route from Anzac Avenue in the city, along Symonds Street and New North Road to Avondale connects West Auckland to the City Centre, through many of our central and western suburbs.

We have identified some key issues on this route that we want to work with you to fix. These issues include safety, poor bus reliability, lack of separated cycle lanes and quiet town centres. Over the coming years we’re likely to see significant population growth along this route and demand for safe and efficient transport will increase.

The changes we make will fit in with other projects such as City Rail Link (CRL), Urban Cycleway Programme and our 10-Year Programme. While these upgrades are planned for future years, we want to work with our local communities now to find solutions.

We want to make sure the upgrades are completed to fit in with future developments such as City Rail Link and events such as the Women’s Football World Cup in 2023.

Connecting our communities

This project has been set up to future connect Auckland’s transport network in a more safe, sustainable, and efficient way. This transformation will help us offer Aucklanders more travel options.

As Auckland’s population increases and more people join the road network, we must find ways to make it safer and easier for people to move around the region.

We need to get the most out of our transport network and believe our communities have important knowledge that we can use to help improve our regions transport.

Benefits

  • Improved safety by reducing deaths and serious injuries.
  • Better cycling facilities so it’s safer and easier for people on bikes.
  • Improved bus reliability and public transport connections.
  • Supporting thriving town centres.

Timeline

  • 2 February 2021 – Feedback opens.
  • 3 March 2021 – Feedback closes.
  • Mid 2021 – Begin co-design improvements with key stakeholders and the community.
  • Late 2021 – Develop solutions based on initial feedback from people and investigation by AT staff.
  • 2022 – Preferred option(s) identified, and consents obtained.
  • 2023 – Construction completed in sections.

Project area

We are looking to improve safety, public transport, walking, cycling and other active modes on New North Road, Symonds Street, including Anzac Avenue, Morningside Drive, St Lukes Road (from Morningside Drive to New North Road) and Rosebank Road (from Blockhouse Bay Road to Avondale Road).

New North Road provides connections to key locations, such as the universities, Eden Park and the business and retail focused area of Kingsland, Morningside, St Lukes, Mt Albert and Avondale.

I’m glad we’re finally getting some progress on Connected Communities but I have to say I’m a bit disappointed that after more than two years and huge amounts of money, we’re still only at the “give us some ideas of what we should do” stage.

This also got me thinking, in no particular order:

  • Why haven’t AT provided any information about the bigger picture behind why this is needed. There is nothing to explain why it’s important we improve safety, bus reliability, add bike lanes etc. This doesn’t have to be a hugely difficult exercise, they just need to talk about the council’s, the government’s and their own existing goals and plans, such as those to encourage mode-shift, combat climate change.
  • I’m assuming there is already quite a bit of work that’s gone on before this point, why not highlight some of it, explain in a bit more detail what the issues they’ve identified are. For example, explain how those identified intersections are considered high-risk, show some analysis highlighting the current state of bus reliability and how much faster/better they could be if we improved them.
  • This style of consultation, where agencies just give the public a blank slate to suggest changes, is becoming more common. In a way this is not surprising given their history of getting frightened by “the public” for consulting on specific designs – though often “the public” can be defined as one or two noisy voices. This just feels like they’re getting the public to do their work for them so they can claim public buy-in. At the very least, why don’t they explain the challenges and the kinds of trade-offs that may need to be made to achieve the objectives, for example how there’s simply not the space to fit in everything that everyone will want.
  • I think a big part of AT’s challenge that they’ve never realised, is they need to not just deliver transport outcomes but to inspire people to support better outcomes and a better city – there will always some opposed. So, why not at least present some high-level concepts for what could be done. Show a few potential cross sections and some examples from other cities with similar streets and/or challengers to highlight what’s possible so they don’t just get requests for more parking.

As for what to do on the corridor, as I’ve mentioned before, one idea I’m quite fond of for some of these corridors is the Indianapolis approach of a central bi-directional bus lane with the direction depending on the time of day, to free up some space on the corridor for the needed bike lanes. Bus stops could be handled by higher quality stations

So this but with protected bike lanes instead of parked cars.

https://twitter.com/GoIndyGo/status/1168238485645529090?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1168238485645529090%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.greaterauckland.org.nz%2F2019%2F09%2F06%2Fa-lesson-from-indianapolis%2F

There are many other things that need improving in the corridor too, such as making it easier just to cross the road.

The consultation for this is open until 3 March however note in the timeline above construction on any changes won’t be for another few years (at least).

Finally, I said this back in August 2019 about the Connected Communities programme. At this point it doesn’t seem all that far off the mark.

Another concern is how this is going to be delivered as ATs doesn’t have the best history in this space. I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong but at this stage I worry the programme it will be roughly similar to the following process.

  1. AT will spend 18 months working on multiple business cases, probably one for each corridor.
  2. They will come up with some semi-decent plans and put them out for consultation.
  3. As the plans will involve changing or removing carparking, a small number of retailers will complain, but be amplified by the media. The likes of the AA will get involved too, concern trolling the project by claiming they support better PT but not if it impacts on drivers.
  4. AT will then spend the next 6-8 months analysing the feedback from the consultation, ultimately watering it down and removing the most valuable changes.
  5. They will then take 2-3 years to finalise designs before looking to start construction, by which time many people will have forgotten about it and start complaining again.
  6. So maybe, if we’re lucky, we might see some mild improvements in about five years.

AT please prove me wrong.

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56 comments

  1. Two years and $15m of consultant money to come up with a blank piece of paper for public engagement.

    Geez, no wonder everyone hates AT.

    1. Perhaps I’m overly-optimistic but I would hope that this might just be their new approach to consultations.
      – Have plan/concepts behind the scenes
      – Consult public with blue-sky thinking
      – Adjust plans if required, where any great issues are raised
      – Present plans to public, highlighting where and how it aligns with themes from the initial consultation

      Instead of the old style of:
      – present plans as fait accompli, with a public consultation as a final step
      – public outcry about loss of parking
      – throw the plans away, project goes into too-hard pile, and do nothing

      1. It may seem like an improvement but even if the public who submit suggest some good ideas for change, it is unlikely a sufficient number will suggest consistent or compatible ideas that properly address climate change.

        Engagement should start with a statement of the problem and a summary of the already established parameters.

        Consultation that pretends to use a blank canvas is dishonest.

      2. I don’t think they should do completely blue-sky thinking consultations like this. They should at least explain the issues, challenges and constraints and possibilities properly.
        One option I’d love to see is them come up with a local version of https://streetmix.net/ that the public can then play with.
        In saying that, coming up with solutions is what these consultancies are being paid millions to do. Most of the public outcry comes from a handful of moaners and AT need to get better at ignoring them rather than treating them as the only people in the room.

    2. They can afford to waste 15 millions doing trivial things, yet disband the ADO which delivers game changing improvements.

      If council runs out of money again, they will raise rates, or threaten to cancel most projects.

      Same issues happens to watercare, the building consents, the list goes on.

      The CCO idealogy has proved to be a total failure. It is a systematic issue with of accountability and underperforming.

      A structural reform is required.

  2. If local and central government had any capacity for joined up thinking then this project would:
    – Have already completed construction at least as far out as Kingsland prior to Mt Eden station closing in 2020 for CRL Contract 3 works, allowing Western Line users to easily transfer to buses at Kingsland for their trip into the city.
    – Have removed the New North Rd / Dominion Rd interchange to enable future LRT down Dominion Rd and high quality transfers between New North Rd buses and the LRT.

  3. The AT page reads like a school effort to maximise word count, while not actually getting to the point of saying what the project will physically do.
    Assuming they’re not talking about closing the route to cars, we have to guess they’re talking about bus and bike lanes, or is it light rail?
    To meet all the objectives, these would need to run the full length.
    So what ideas have they got for fitting them through the choke points: Kingsland shops, Mt Albert shops, BB Rd intersection, Avondale shops?
    Its not just car parking, the seperated turning lanes at interstions will need to go too. This is still a problem at Mt Albert.
    Centre tidal bus lane is an efficient use of space for the outer portion where travel is tidal, but it needs extra road width for the stops, which wouldn’t fit near major intersections to maximise catchment. The best thing about a centre bus lane is being clear of traffic emerging from side roads and driveways, especially durinng congested periods.

  4. ..and why first focus on a route that currently has the best Rapid Transit (Western line) and best cycle way (North Western) in Auckland first? Not saying it doesn’t need it but surely there are other areas more pressing?

    1. I am a bit torn by this – on one hand delivering an upgrade to New Nth Rd around same time as CRL could set up the western line corridor to be very attractive for increased densification and vibrancy. Feeding/weaving more reliable bus network into the heavy rail line.
      On other hand you are so right that there are many parts of the city with such little public transport amenity and no ‘place’ value – such as Massy Rd in Mangere.

    2. I was getting ready to disagree with this but given how closely that actually tracks to the Western line, I’m inclined to agree. The real issues out West are where the Western Line diverges from SH16; i.e. much further out.

      On the other hand, it’s hard to know exactly what is proposed here because nothing is actually proposed. The NPS for increased density would already be triggered by the Western Line itself – so past that, what are we trying to achieve and how many people will it serve?

    3. I think there are two valid strategies to this.
      One is what you’ve described, to spread the love around the region. That’s good but can mean overall mediocre improvement.
      The other is that you focus resources on getting a few areas right so you can use them as an example/template to make it easier to roll out similar improvements to other places. In the case of New North it would mean making PT more viable for those with origins/destinations not directly at a train station. Also, Symonds improvements would benefit many isthmus buses.

      1. To do that, you’d need the data as to who in those suburbs aren’t using PT or active and how many more you can reach both actually getting them onto other modes and the capacity of those modes.

        The other problem gold plating is you run out of money and get the Franklin Road effect. Best street in Auckland Central for active modes that dumps you out onto one of the worst streets in Auckland for active modes (and PT) in Ponsonby Road.

        1. Franklin Road cycle facilities wasn’t gold plating….

          Franklin road was a major electricity, stormwater and wastewater upgrade with a street upgrade to the minimum acceptable level of cycling infrastructure tacked on. There is a narrative being pushed by the anti cycling brigade that this was a $20m cycleway, when only about 10% of the cost was actually related to the cycleway.

        2. “To do that, you’d need the data as to who in those suburbs aren’t using PT or active and how many more you can reach both actually getting them onto other modes and the capacity of those modes.’

          What makes you think that the transport planners don’t already have this information?

    4. I was about to say the same thing, smacks of gold plating for the privileged electric bike brigade who live in the old tram suburbs.

      Why STILL no cross isthmus cycle infrastructure along Greenlane?

      1. This stuff only counts as gold-plating by Auckland standards. Most other places in the world it would be remedial action from “pitiful” to “passable”.

        You can’t lay it at the doors of people in the inner suburbs that Council and AT are sufficiently afraid of their opinions to offer them more than one cycling project a decade, as opposed to ignoring local demand or “containing” it with non-provision which appears to be the model for most of the rest of Auckland.

        I do think however that advocates on electric bikes (hi!) should remember that they’ve essentially bought their way past some of the practical downsides of cycling, which still exist as major barriers for people who can only afford a standard used pushbike – and who, in a decently run city, shouldn’t need much more than that anyway.

  5. Speaking of Symonds St – as the main destination on this stretch of asphalt would surely be Auckland University – I’m sort of amazed that it stops before, and after, but not actually at the Uni. That leaves a long trail of uni students to have to cross roads to get to the Uni. Surely a better result would be to have a stop in the centre? – or a mid-bridge bus stop such as that on Karangahape Road, where students can offload and get to classes more safely? ie design the stop around the needs of the majority of users, not for the purposes of traffic flow?

    1. Imagine if they shut the section between Wellesley and Grafton Road to cars and made it a transit mall and put a nice bus stop there under the trees, right in the centre… that would be glorious.

      The main issue I have with the current stop (before Wellesley) is that it is completely uncovered so terrible when raining…

      1. I hate to be the devils advocate, but what would the alternative route from say K-road to anzac ave in a tradie van with Symonds and Queen closed? The motorway box in many other cities has decent interconnection. I’m all for cars doing detours to get to other parts of a CBD, but even delft in the Netherlands has options for going to one section of the CBD to the other that dont involve multiple kms drive out of the city to a motorway interchange (gillies ave in this case) to U turn back in.

        Symonds street would be massively improved being a transit mall however. And for want of a train station, UOA deserves a decent bus stop. Maybe AUSA and the uni could help push improvements.

        1. @mum-of-two
          I dont really understand what your point is.
          Kids have had it bad all this time so why shouldn’t car drivers suffer? This argument doesn’t really hold up.

          My point above is really, it’d be a much easier political sell (and honestly would make sense) for the motorway box to also serve city to city traffic. You would be a able to point to that route and more easily pedestrianise and transitise the CBD that way. It would have the added benefit of making motorway traffic worse too around the CMJ further discouraging cars. For the cost of 2 or 3 on ramps / exchanges. The city is throttled by a motorway box at the moment and it has all of the downsides and none of the upsides.

        2. “what would the alternative route from say K-road to anzac ave in a tradie van with Symonds and Queen closed?”

          Nelson, Mayoral, Grafton Gully. Exactly as proposed in Access for everyone. This is the city centre. The very small number of internal trips that need to e in a motor vehicle should be our last focus, instead of the current arrangement where their infra ruins the whole area.

        3. Some CBD tradies need to consider Cargo Bikes.
          IMHO there could be gains to be had here.
          (I have seen one in Massey on Don Buck Road.)

    2. Not everybody is getting off the bus at Auckland Uni or AUT. Many travel on the CBD. They could cut down the massive congestion on Symonds St by having some buses travel via Ian McKinnon Drive and Queen St. Particularly in the main commuter times, this would be quicker and avoid the Symonds St crush.

  6. Bus lane and protected bike lane on both sides of the corridor otherwise this entire consultation is a farce. God knows what we will end up with

      1. Is this corridor mostly that wide? From Customs Street to Kingsland is all wider than that, a lot of that section is over 30m wide. St Lukes Road is also wider than that, and Mt Albert Town Centre.

  7. Just noticed on that Indianapolis picture, rapid transit counts as 10-12 minute frequencies and we think we have it bad haha

  8. Matt you talk about citizens engaging, when actually public transport is a Fast Moving Consumer Good.
    Years into the future is just too far away to be bothered with.

    Right now any kind of functioning public transport would be great.

    It will now take them years to entice back the passengers they have lost over the last year and over this massive block of line.

    1. AT know the solutions they need to deliver, and they could deliver improvements quickly if they really wanted to, but they don’t.
      There are too many layers of clay in the org stopping progress in the hopes of appeasing the one or two moaners who will never be happy.

    2. The complete closure of the Western line for around five weeks is an utter disgrace. Rail passengers are constantly being treated as second class rubes who get what they are given and if they don’t like then tough.

      And before I get the whole whiney “but daddy it was mean man at kiwirail who did it” customers don’t care whose fault it is. They just know that three weeks after everyone went back to work the line is still closed.

      The fact that such a closure – when millions has been spent on trains and infrastructure – has come to pass and no one – NO ONE – has been seriously criticised let alone held accountable by being fired shows how cosy, dysfunctional and unaccountable transport agencies are in Auckland.

  9. Last year AT resurfaced the top section of New Nth Rd. I lived nearby at the time so took a keen interest. Unfortunately they only did the carriageway and ignored the broken paths, missing kerb crossings and munted trees. The footpath there does not meet even the most basic of accessibility requirements.
    I felt compelled to inquire – a couple of months and a LGOIMA later I got the absurdly hypercritical response that it would be foolish to upgrade the footpath with the connected communities project in the pipe line (no comment on why then the road got its refresh).
    AT then later in the year put out consultation for the intersection of New Nth Rd/Ngahura St (for CRL). I submitted my points about the footpath, trees, wheelchair accessibility etc. but was told they were ‘out of scope’.

    I really hope that this connected communities delivers.

  10. If they consult we will end up with “discuss around the barbecue” level solutions which means on street parking and shared paths and painted on cycle lanes. Buses or people on foot will have little priority and people will keep wanting to drive.

  11. Surely use this as an excuse to implement the City Centre Masterplan for Symonds Street – remove through traffic, creating a transit street with protected cycle lanes all the way along?

    1. It looks too me like AT are creating a Queen St type situation here. The CCMP should be guiding the work in Symonds St (along with the climate imperative) so that should have shaped the proposal pit to the public.

  12. With the lack of funding available I’m not sure what (if anything) will be constructed in the next 2 years along this chosen route.
    Hopefully everyone comments with ‘please provide for cycling here’ ‘make the bus more reliable here’ and ‘make crossing the road safer here’.

    Surely making these routes more people productive, rather than car productive has to be a priority.

  13. I would have thought this is probably the least important of the corridors to sort out at this stage – it is already largely served by the Western Line and Northwestern Cycleway so not exactly lacking segregated alternatives…

  14. I was getting ready to disagree with this but given how closely that actually tracks to the Western line, I’m inclined to agree. The real issues out West are where the Western Line diverges from SH16; i.e. much further out.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to know exactly what is proposed here because nothing is actually proposed. The NPS for increased density would already be triggered by the Western Line itself – so past that, what are we trying to achieve and how many people will it serve?

  15. You don’t have to be a communist to appreciate the force of Marx’s observation: “The worker does not make use of the working conditions. The working conditions make use of the worker; and it takes machinery to give this reversal a technically concrete form.”
    We have all been captured as workers in the “design to fail” mechanic of the AT consultation process. The poor Transport Planner who has to run it. The submitters who know they have to submit but will mostly be redacted for being out of scope. The NIMBYs who have to respond to the click-bait when driven on by the media. The poor rate payer who has to fund the circus. The only winners are AT salary staff and consultants and the contractor who probably doesn’t really care what they build provided it’s profitable and keeps the salary coming.
    The objective of this ‘machinery’ is to keep those three classes in employ. The AT Strategists or whomever are responsible for this perpetual motion machine are doing us all a dis-service.

  16. That Indianapolis BRT is very odd indeed. Why go to the effort of building a single lane centre running bus lane when there is plenty of room for standard bus lanes if they get rid of the parked cars? Probably only one side of the street would be enough.
    What is the advantage of centre running?

    1. The advantages of centre running are that the kerbside can still be used for car parking or access to driveways without blocking the bus lane and that a single platform can be constructed, which takes less space. Two lane operation is possible in that cross section, but if you don’t need to run buses more frequently than every 10 minutes, then why not use the kerbside space for car parking (or cycle lanes, or wider footpaths, or parklets, or bicycle parking, or street vendors)

      1. Indianapolis is very auto-dependant so isn’t exactly a great PT mecca, annual PT use prior to covid was less than 10m trips. So parking will have an even greater influence than it does here. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an idea with merit for some of our constrained isthmus corridors where there otherwise just isn’t the space to accommodate everything.

      2. Centre running much like the trams of old, which worked very well. The island bus stops could be placed at intersections, so the pedestrian access to them is protected by the “Cross Now” phase of the lights

  17. Why on earth is Maioro St/Wolverton Road which a major arterial connecting New Lynn to New Windsor, Sandringham and Owairaka, as well as serving nearby Blockhouse Bay, zoned along its route as Mixed Housing Urban not included in this plan? Same with Blockhouse Bay Road. I don’t understand this especially given they have highlighted plans for Gt North and Gt South Roads which also have motorways alongside them and have motorway onramps nearby, which is the same for Maioro/Wolverton Road. Why the massive void in the South-west isthmus?

  18. Auckland Transport are incapable of doing anything logical, or even managing a project to conclusion. Look at the mess in the central city which is well overdue, Quay Street was only supposed to take a year, I think we are now into the 3rd. Tamaki Drive is a disaster waiting to happen.

  19. The lack of pr nouse by the AT is quite surprising considering one of its members claims to be a former radio journalist.

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