Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board meet again and here are the highlights from their board reports.
The agenda for this closed session contains a lot of rail related items.
Items for Approval
- Rail Franchise – Procurement update – Our trains are currently run by Transdev and the company, or various iterations of it (Connex and Veolia) have been running them since around 2004. AT have tried to re-tender them at least once before back in 2015 and talked about it since then too but each time have ended up just extending the existing contract. With the City Rail Link on the way presumably they’re looking at trying to tender services out again. I wonder if they’ll go through with it this time.
- Batch Three (B3) Rolling Stock Procurement – I highlighted this in our last board meeting post and will be for the 23 additional electric trains we need for when the CRL opens. I wonder if they’re just going for another tranche of the trains we have or a new design – given the time frame till the CRL opens it suggests the former.
- Eastern Busway Alliance, Approval to Commence Consultation – This suggests we should soon start to hear more about ATs plans to extend the Eastern Busway from Pakuranga to Botany
- Rail Network Growth Impact Management – KiwiRail Funding Agreement – One of the challenges with rail of late has been the need to fix the network from decades of under-investment in the tracks but to also upgrade it to cope with what’s needed from it once the CRL opens. There is also the need to keep the network up to date so we don’t have issues again. This appears to be an agreement for ATs share of that.
- Southern Rail Network Detailed Business Case – This is for the three new stations being built between Papakura and Pukekohe and are part of the governments NZ Upgrade Programme. All up these are now costing $344 million of which at least $76 million is for local road connections to the stations. I still fail to understand how these stations are costing so much when Puhinui, which will almost certainly be a much grander station, cost around $70 million.
- Transport Emissions Reduction Pathways Methodology – It seems odd that this is confidential given presumably this is the same thing that was presented to the Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee earlier this month.
The business report gives updates on some of the things going on within AT. Here are a few things that stood out to me, generally in the order they appear in the report.
Botany Road and Millhouse Drive Intersection Upgrade
AT note how the project started construction of this project in June and say “The intersection upgrade is expected to significantly improve traffic efficiency along this strategic corridor in east Auckland, by the addition of another approach lane on Millhouse Drive“.
Once they finish this one they’ll move on to the Botany and Cascades intersection up the road with a similar car-first plan.
That AT are still adding traffic lanes in a blind focus on traffic efficiency, while the road still lacks safe pedestrian crossings – such as to access bus stops, has no safe cycle facilities and no bus priority is a terrible indictment of the organisation.
St. Patrick Square Pedestrian Mall
Speaking of terrible indictments of AT, here’s another one. St Patrick’s Square in the city was an urban oasis following its upgrade in 2009. But lately the place has been overrun by people parking on it and even damaging it.
In other news. Come and get your free car parking in our pedestrian spaces pic.twitter.com/msjfXPg5VE
— AK CC ResidentsGroup (@CityAklccrg) May 21, 2021
Auckland Transport have deliberately tied themselves in knots over enforcing it which has contributed to the current state. The good news is that a short-term solution using some of the concrete blocks removed from Queen St is going in next month – though given how little respect these drivers have and what we saw on Queen St, it’s a good bet it will be but a temporary reprieve. The report also gives us ATs longer term plans.
St. Patrick Square is designated as a pedestrian mall, which makes it legally different to enforcing parking infringements on a road. The square is experiencing poor compliance around parking controls. The Parking Design team is proposing a long-term structural change to reclassify St. Patrick Square as a shared space. This will allow parking issues to be enforced through standard mechanisms. In the short-term, some tactical solutions are being proposed, such as using planter boxes to prevent vehicles from parking in the square. These short-term solutions will recycle some of the kit removed from Queen Street a month ago. This tactical solution is scheduled for implementation mid-September 2021.
That AT say they can’t enforce parking on a pedestrian mall is absurd to start with but turning it into a shared space is rubbing salt in the wound. This legal interpretation would also suggest they can’t enforce other pedestrian malls like Vulcan Lane. Does that mean they’ll have to turn that into a shared space too and we’ll have to look out for errant vehicles using it? It also doesn’t help that, as we’ve seen elsewhere, their “standard mechanisms” of enforcement has been to let vehicles park anywhere with impunity.
If they think the rules mean they can’t enforce pedestrians malls then they should change their bylaw, not make them roads.
Forecasting Parking Demand
Keeping with the parking theme, AT included this at the end of the report in a section titled Opportunity and prosperity.
The parking services and data science teams are working in collaboration to seek a strategic approach to optimise the current use of parking areas.
On-street and off-street parking are designed to accommodate the demand of parking over different time periods. When planning to meet customers’ needs, forecasting is one of the most important techniques to know what to expect in the future. Parking patterns are influenced by various factors which need to be considered holistically, and machine learning models are the best method for the forecasting job, ultimately this will mean providing better options based on modelling to customers.
Thus, the data science team has collected and quantified various influential factors, selected the most suitable machine learning models, and worked out the best combination of these factors by the model.
As the Central Business District (CBD) is the busiest area, 10 on-street parking areas with the most parking bays have been selected at the start of this innovative work. Their time series patterns has been well identified and interesting facts have been revealed and acknowledged by the business. By combining time series patterns, public holidays, school holidays and lockdown levels, a forecast model has been developed and it has achieved more than 70% accuracy. To further improve the model, events, traffic disruption and weather data will be later integrated, and better accuracy is expected.
While this may be an interesting exercise for the data science team, this highlights once again that AT don’t understand their role and have teams working in silos who don’t understand the wider strategic objectives of their organisation the council. Their job shouldn’t be to try and accommodate parking demand but to shape it and encourage mode shift away from driving.
Notably from the Grey’s Ave example above, parking demand appears to be the highest overnight which just so happens to be when parking on that street is free.
Innovating Streets- Slow School Speeds
In another update to the innovating streets programme, there continues to be works done around a number of schools and this time is highlighted about Summerland Primary, which happens to be just around the corner from me and I walk past it most days.
Summerland Primary infrastructure was implemented by the beginning of Term 3. The infrastructure was co-designed with the school and members of the community, with the aim of reducing speed to enable safe and active travel to and from school. The school is on an arterial route, and residents reported concerns of speed after a child was hit crossing the road after school.
The design includes gateway treatments of speed cushions, red road marking, curb build outs using flexiposts and pavement art to highlight the presence of a school. Traffic now approaches the school at a safer speed, providing safer crossing for the students of the school, kindergarten and child care centre. Co-Principal of the School, Barb Dysart already reports, “The improvements on the road are making a difference to the flow of traffic. It is actually quite nice doing road patrol, as it makes it so much easier to get the signs out as the speed of the traffic has slowed.”
The speed of vehicles has definitely slowed which has been a positive.
Though I still find it stupid that they didn’t add a formal pedestrian crossing to use. Also adding a speed bump next carparking means some drivers are starting to just drive around it.
There are a few interesting comments about active mode projects
First, they say at the end of July they received resource consent for the Northwestern Path upgrade through Kingsland and that construction will start in August or September. Just yesterday they published this video giving a somewhat artistic impression of it. This upgrade is very much needed but my concern is it will look too much like a footpath and like we see on Beach Rd, it will result in lots of people walking on the cycleway part. Meanwhile that in some places ‘fast’ cyclists may jump on to the footpath in a bid to race ahead.
Another interesting comment is this:
Detailed designs are due to commence shortly for 16 sites across the region offering “pop-up protection” to enhance existing painted cycleways on the network to form separated cycle facilities, as part of the Minor Cycling and Micromobility Programme.
I understand this has been in the works for a while and would be a great improvement to currently unsafe painted cycle lanes.
Was there anything else that stood out that I missed?