East St cycleway. “AT can move fast when other priorities are involved” – Councillors
Councillor Coom’s Report to the Waitematā Local Board, July 2021 included an appendix titled,
Correspondence with Auckland Transport regarding the delivery of “Healthy Streets” and the cycling programme
The first piece of correspondence is from the Mayor to the Chair of the Board of Auckland Transport.
The second, from Councillors Bartley, Coom, Darby and Hills, describes:
the excuses [they] have heard from Auckland Transport, and [their] belief that these excuses are not relevant or have been overplayed… issues with non-delivery relate more to issues of internal culture & siloed thinking
The Councillors called for:
a fundamental reset of cycling policy and delivery within Auckland Transport.
and are firm on this key point:
AT has the mandate and CCO structure to enable it to deliver “healthy streets” without further political direction
Auckland Transport took a full three months to respond and directly rejected many of the Councillors’ concerns.
A major shakeup is overdue.
Below are the three pieces of correspondence in full.
Letter from Phil Goff, Mayor of Auckland, to Adrienne Young-Cooper, Chair of the Board of Auckland Transport, 16 March 2021
16 March 2021
Tēnā koe Adrienne
Thank you for the work your team has done on the ATAP package and for working closely with Auckland Council to ensure this was passed unanimously.
However, following discussions on ATAP as well as the RLTP, councillors raised a number of concerns regarding the performance of Auckland Transport in particular areas.
The overarching concern was around the modelled increase in emissions over the next decade, though concerns were also expressed around Auckland Transport’s delivery in a range of areas that could support emissions reduction. A key concern is the slow pace of delivering cycling infrastructure in Auckland.
At the Thursday 11 March Extraordinary Planning Committee, a motion was passed which included a request that Auckland Transport “ensures more rapid, and flexible delivery of cycle infrastructure”. The Minister of Transport also indicated in a recent letter to me that he too has concerns regarding the delivery of safe cycling infrastructure.
Following February’s Planning Committee workshop on ATAP, the Chair & Deputy Chair of both the Planning Committee and the Environment & Climate Change Committee approached me with their concerns, which will be forwarded to you.
Auckland Transport’s explanations on this matter to date have not been fully satisfactory. It appears that cycling projects suffer unnecessary complications in delivery, have become more expensive than necessary and even once delivered, regularly suffered from a range of design shortcomings. There also needs to be a focus on joined up cycleways capable of maximizing the use of cycles for transport purposes to have the greatest impact on minimizing carbon emissions.
I am not convinced cycling has sufficient support with the Auckland Transport structure, which appears to be required to ensure projects can move through the design, consultation & delivery processes at the appropriate pace, while noting the need to respond to particular community concerns.
I propose that I meet with yourself and your CEO Shane Ellison to discuss these matters with Councillors Darby, Hills, Bartley and Cooms who raised these issues. My office will be in touch to arrange an appropriate time.
MAYOR OF AUCKLAND
Copy to: Shane Ellison, CEO, Auckland Transport
17.3.21 – Outline of concerns regarding the delivery of “Healthy Streets” and the cycling programme
We are concerned at the slow and often ineffectual or non-delivery by Auckland Transport of the cycleway programme and a range of “healthy streets” projects. These projects have the potential to address many key challenges Auckland faces, including but not limited to:
- encourage active transport and health benefits this brings
- reduce car dependency,
- tackle transport inequality,
- respond to a post-Covid recovery to meet the increased demand to get around locally by bike, micro mobility or on foot
- the rapid uptake of e-mobility, including e-bikes and e-scooters
- reduce deaths and serious injuries of vulnerable road users, and
- put us on a pathway to meet our agreed emissions targets.
This paper outlines what we consider to be the range of barriers that need to be broken down and our response to a number of non-delivery excuses we have heard from Auckland Transport in recent memo’s and workshops. It is also shaped by stories we have been told from local board members, cycling advocates, members of the community and our discussions with people in the industry.
Given the range of concerns we believe there needs to be a fundamental reset of cycling policy and delivery within Auckland Transport. We would like to meet the AT CEO and Board Chair with the Mayor to discuss and to agree on the next steps to put AT on track with clear political direction and support.
The Urban Cycleways Programme was launched by the National Government in 2014 and became a $333 million fund. In Auckland 15 projects were funded, and projects were expected to be completed by 2018.
Out of the 15 Auckland projects announced in 2015, public information suggests that 5 have been fully completed, a further 4 are expected to be completed this year, 2 have been partially completed, and 4 are on hold. The latest information supplied to us suggest that the remaining projects will only be complete by 2023, 9 years after the initial announcement and 5 years late.
The Cycling Programme Business Case was signed off by the Auckland Transport Board in August 2017. This recommended a $635 million investment in cycling over the next decade, which would deliver on the Auckland Plan target to deliver 70% of the Auckland Cycle Network by 2030.
There has been no clear progress in the Walking and Cycling Programme since 2018, with the exception of some local business case work in several priority areas which we have very limited visibility of. Part of the budget appears to have be subsumed into the broader Connected Communities programme, again of which we have not seen clear progress in the last three years.
In terms of budget, figures supplied by Auckland Transport suggest that AT fell well behind delivery in 2018/19, underspending by $34 million, and since then have fallen a further $15 million behind planned spend, despite the reported cost increases.
2. Excuses for non-delivery
We have raised the issue of non-delivery of cycling projects with Auckland Transport for some time at several meetings, workshops as well as email correspondence with senior staff. The answers we have received have been unsatisfactory and have not matched the experience we have had talking with communities, as well as our previous experience as local board members championing local projects. This section lays out the excuses we have heard from Auckland Transport, and our belief that these excuses are not relevant or have been overplayed.
Community “opposition” and there is “no demand”
There have been a few high-profile projects that have put AT in the firing line for community opposition. However, AT has often over played this as an issue and used it as an excuse for non-delivery. We’re confident we’ve reached a tipping point of consensus that we need to act for the well-being of our communities, emissions reductions and health outcomes.
Since 2011 there has consistently been public support for investing in cycling, people friendly streets and safety around schools.
The Great North Road improvements project, just one example of the many issues with AT’s approach, is on to the third round of consultation since 2016. This project was strongly supported in the first round but got caught up in the issues with the Surrey Cres/Garnet Rd cycleway in 2017, even though Great North Road was a completely separate project. The project has since become part of the large Connected Communities programme, which has had little visible progress despite being a flagship programme.
We recognise the tension between AT delivering “healthy streets” at pace and public consultation requirements. However, we believe that AT is over complicating processes where there is no requirement to re-consult on agreed political outcomes, plans and strategies. We want to see AT take advantage of the CCO governance structure to deliver healthy streets and not to hide behind “consultation” as an excuse not to make hard decisions. It is politicians who get voted out if we get it wrong not AT management!
Roads are too “narrow”
Many of Auckland’s main roads were built around tram routes. The problem isn’t that these routes (and the majority of roads on the Auckland cycle network) are too narrow but that AT is unwilling to reprioritise road space. One of the reasons why we have a transport CCO is so the organisation can make tough calls without political interference if it is in the best interests of all road users and to deliver agreed objectives.
At the moment AT wants it both ways leading to poor decision making. For example $9m has been invested in the “temporary” Victoria Street cycleway that delivers a substandard level of service. There are a number of high-risk conflict areas between PT users, pedestrians, riders and drivers along the route.
AT has conceded “they wouldn’t design it like this now” but compromised the project because management would not sign off on necessary changes to the road corridor. Following a site visit (photo above), the board chair made it clear to staff that road space might have to be re-allocated and that these big calls should be brought to the AT Board rather than left with management to decide in favour of the status quo, which is the type of direction we would like to see.
Rather than the excuses we identified above we believe issues with non-delivery relate more to issues of internal culture & siloed thinking that predominates. Cycling also lacks the internal profile needed across Auckland Transport, given cycling projects often challenge status quo thinking and require compromises to be made.
Lack of internal champions
Auckland Transport’s walking and cycling team was disbanded in 2018, and since that time there has been no single manager responsible for leading AT’s cycling programme. At the time the CEO said “that active transport had become a priority for the whole organisation and a steering group, led by a member of the executive, would help ensure it stayed that way”. However, we have seen examples time and time again that demonstrate this is not true or not working. It is not clear to us if this steering group exists, and which member of the ELT is championing cycling in the organisation.
Just some recent examples of this apparent failing includes new projects reinforcing the status quo even when on the agreed cycle network, renewals failing to make improvements for walking and cycling (despite budget available from local boards) and the lack of leadership around responding quickly to lockdown, opportunities for innovating streets funding as well as identified quick wins.
We recognise that the CEO and AT Board Chair have a big task turning around an organisation that was originally focussed on optimising vehicle efficiency at the expense of all other modes, however all the signs are that there hasn’t been the internal cultural and organisational change that was signalled in 2018.
There appears to be a layer of management who are able to block progressive changes and carry on “business as usual”. Just some examples include:
- cycling projects not progressing (actively blocked) if to do so would impact AT’s revenue stream from on street parking.
- Response to innovating streets projects such as resisting efforts to remove car parks.
We know that AT can move fast when other priorities are involved. For example, this cycleway connection on East St (connecting Lightpath to Karangahape Road) appeared in less than a week in response to safety around the CRL project development. This project required the removal of one lane of traffic and parking.
It is promising to see the commitment to walking and cycling funding in the ATAP and RLTP. We are concerned, however, that AT has not drawn down on all funding currently available from Waka Kotahi and is going to lose the remaining UCP funds for the outstanding elements of that programme. AT is also having to play catch up for years of under-delivery even when funding was available. For example, of the total 2018/18 budget over $52m actual spend was just under $18m.
As AT has highlighted the costs of delivery have increased especially as “cycling” projects are expected to deliver a range of streetscape upgrades. It appears AT have accepted that cycling projects now cost $8 million per kilometre, and this is being quoted repeatedly in different contexts as reasons (another excuse) for slow progress with the available budget. While some projects such as the Karangahape Road upgrade (and others in town centres) are going to be expensive, this approach is not required on arterial roads or quiet streets. AT must work harder to deliver cycling projects at a more reasonable per kilometre cost.
These cost challenges make it even more important for AT to leverage local board budgets, innovating streets funding and other budgets such as renewals to deliver “pop up” infrastructure cheaply and quickly and fix gaps in the network.
As mentioned, we don’t believe the organisation has the internal structure or willingness to do this currently.
Auckland doesn’t have agreed mode shift targets that AT is working towards. There are different targets in the Auckland Plan, recommended by the Climate Change Commission and in AT’s SOI.
The measure of “kilometres of new cycleway added to the regional cycleway network” in the SOI, has resulted in AT is reporting every new metre of “cycling” infrastructure being delivered in Auckland regardless of funding source and location. The figures supplied for cycleways delivered in 2019/20 includes paths through parks funded 100% by Auckland Council & Local Boards, as well as cycleways delivered as part of other roading projects which generally do not aid delivery of a connected network. Only one of the 9 cycleways delivered in 2019/20 was part of the Urban Cycleway Programme, and this was just 200m in length.
In the latest Quarterly Report AT states the Herne Bay “cycleway” will contribute 3.8km towards the 7km of cycleways AT plan to deliver this year despite the fact this project doesn’t deliver any separated infrastructure, but is purely a traffic calming project! This does not match our understanding that this target was intended to measure progress on the Urban Cycleways and Walking & Cycling Programme.
Even with this approach AT has failed to deliver the (very modest) cycleway target every year other than 15/16. To deliver their cycling programme agreed by the AT Board in 2018 15km a year needs to be delivered and we’re not even seeing 10km.
AT has lost sight of the importance of delivering a connected, safe network at speed and with urgency (to achieve the “network effect” – as presented to the AT Board in 2017). There is no one in the organisation with this vision and mandate to deliver.
We would like to see meaningful mode shift targets and updated measures in the SOI focused on “healthy streets” outcomes.
Arguably AT has the mandate and CCO structure to enable it to deliver “healthy streets” without further political direction. For example, clear outcomes are included in the Auckland Plan; the Parking Strategy supports prioritising key routes; and emission reduction targets and climate actions have been agreed.
However, given the range of barriers and issues that have resulted in slow and inadequate delivery to meet agreed outcomes we believe there needs to be a fundamental reset of cycling policy and delivery within Auckland Transport, which we would like to discuss further how this can be progressed.
Prepared by Councillors Bartley, Coom, Darby and Hills
Date: 17 March 2021
17 June 2021
Mayor of Auckland
Private Bag 92300
Tēnā koe Mayor Goff
Your recent feedback to Auckland Transport (AT) on our performance in the delivery of cycling infrastructure in Tamaki Makaurau is important to us. We understand your concerns, and your need for more rapid and flexible delivery of cycle infrastructure.
The effective delivery of cycle infrastructure is critical in addressing the actual and perception of safety for people cycling, supporting Auckland’s emission reduction targets, reducing congestion through mode shift, and improving health and transport equity for all Aucklanders. We understand this and are committed to it.
It is a significant task. Redesigning transport corridors to include safe cycling infrastructure often necessitates reallocating space in the transport corridor to reduce vehicle traffic lanes and road side parking. This can result in heated and difficult conversations as part of our community consultation. We are challenging the way Aucklanders think about and use our transport corridors and have a large inflight programme to prioritise the allocation of road space for high efficiency vehicles (buses and high occupancy vehicles), cycle infrastructure and walking and environmental services. We very rarely widen the transport corridor or have a sufficiently wide existing corridor to easily install cycle infrastructure and maintain parking and vehicle lanes for private low occupancy vehicles.
AT’s role as planner and integrator of all these programmes is important to ensure the needs of our customers are integrated into this activity, and to maintain a strategic view of the cycling infrastructure network. Auckland Council’s role in providing the political direction is critical, as is its presence and leadership in our conversations with our communities, and its acknowledgement and support for the trade-offs that are required to achieve its goals.
Progress is being made to build a network of safe cycling facilities. AT has achieved its 2020/21 Statement of Intent (SOI) target of adding five kilometres of new cycleway (5.25km of new cycleways delivered as of April 2021). Tranche 1 of the Urban Cycling Programme (UCP) will be completed by the end of 2021, including the upcoming completion of Tamaki Drive Cycleway (estimated September 2021) and New Lynn to Avondale Cycleway (estimated November 2021). Tranche 2 of the UCP is planned to be completed by the end of the upcoming RLTP period (2021-24).
In addition to the delivery of cycling facilities, AT is improving safety outcomes and accelerating the uptake of cycling through delivery of behaviour change initiatives and engagement programmes with schools, businesses and communities. Initiatives include a wide range of events, cycle network activations, cycle skills training and marketing campaigns.
Our draft Regional Land Transport Programme for 2021-31 provides for the delivery of a further 199 kilometres of safe cycling facilities by Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi across the region. When combined with the investment from other agencies, the next decade will see a significant shift. In addition, the approved Auckland Housing Brownfields Programme Business Case includes further safe cycling facilities, which are planned to be delivered with partners (Kāinga Ora) in the next decade from the $401m allocation in the 2021-31 RLTP for projects supporting the Auckland Housing Programme.
More agencies have a role to play going forward in the delivery of cycling infrastructure for Tamaki Makaurau. AT’s delivery programme sits alongside traditional cycling infrastructure delivery agencies such as Waka Kotahi, Kainga Ora (e.g. Auckland Housing Programme) and Eke Panuku, as well as private developers and Auckland Council’s Parks and Recreation Team.
Moving forward Auckland needs to get the benefits of the investment and programmes being delivered by all these agencies in a much more integrated and prioritised manner. Separate projects and funding buckets do produce disjointed outcomes.
There are several changes we can make to the way we work to respond to your concerns.
Having a clear strategic direction and mandate from Auckland Council is critical. The Independent Review of Auckland Council’s Council Controlled Organisations highlighted that improved outcomes could be achieved be ensuring that CCOs have clear strategic direction. There are opportunities for Council to strengthen this direction for cycling, and to acknowledge and provide support for the trade-offs that are needed. Like AT, the Council needs to “own” and influence the entire delivery programme for cycle infrastructure, especially the huge contribution from Waka Kotahi as both funding and delivery agency.
AT is undertaking a full review of the Auckland strategic cycling network. We expect this review to re-test the strategic network strategy assumptions (such as the types of trips that contribute to mode shift) and objectives; to review our standards and their application, to review evidence of providing small amount of high quality infrastructure against the provision of a more extensive network of lower (but safe) quality infrastructure; and to re-test the contribution that cycling makes to first and last mile journeys from transport hubs. The continued support of Council in this review on our Political Reference Group is important, and its final outputs would benefit from formal consideration by Auckland Council’s Planning Committee in addition to the AT Board.
Visible leadership is important. We propose to establish a new single point of leadership within AT, to oversee cycling outcomes, including those set out in the Statement of Intent. The Cycling Outcomes Lead, a new tier three (senior manager) position, would be the advocate for cycling outcomes across planning and prioritisation, would oversight design and delivery by all agencies, oversight AT’s behaviour change programmes, lead engagement with stakeholders on the cycling programme, take responsibility for overseeing the communication of a joined-up cycling story independent of which agency delivers or maintains cycling infrastructure, and ensure cycling facilities are considered and positioned within our wider transport system challenges.
Telling the Auckland cycling story (regardless of who delivers the infrastructure) to a wide range of stakeholders with multiple perspectives both in outcome and in geography needs to be done effectively. To support the Cycling Outcomes Lead we will nominate a dedicated resource in our Strategic Communications team for developing and maintaining this story for multiple audiences, and optimising opportunities to celebrate our achievements together.
Noting the amount of cycling facilities that other agencies will deliver, and AT’s role as planner and integrator, it’s important that we are able to take an integrated network view of progress and operational issues which need to be solved. In that context we propose to extend our Cycling Infrastructure Steering Group membership to incorporate officers from Waka Kotahi, Kāinga Ora, Eke Panuku and Auckland Council’s Parks and Recreation department in recognition of the contribution those organisations make to cycling outcomes in Auckland. We will test their plans and priorities to ensure we minimise perverse outcomes of for example major new cycle routes funded and delivered by Waka Kotahi with no local connections funded.
Finally, we propose to examine how we can improve the alignment and coordination of physical works in the road corridor across all our programmes of work to achieve, where possible a dig once approach, to enable better efficiencies and to articulate a clear story about why we can, or in some cases cannot incorporate cycling improvements into maintenance and renewal works. Where this requires re-consideration of existing funding allocations then we will raise this matter with Auckland Council if this is required.
AT is committed to the delivery of cycle outcomes for Auckland. The significant changes outlined above, together with Auckland Council’s support, will go some way to improving our performance and better enable us to meet Auckland Council’s expectations more effectively.
Chair, Auckland Transport
cc. Shane Ellison, Chief Executive, Auckland Transport