Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board meet again and here are the highlights from their board reports.

Closed Agenda

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.

Business Report

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“.

This is an old version what they’re building, the newer one isn’t all that different

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.

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.

Active Modes

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?

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  1. The pop up network sounds great but I’m a bit worried it will replace building any “new” paths and not increase the network.
    The list of sites was an agenda attachment when the planning committee adopted the RLTP.

    Not sure what the reluctance is to use a different colored aggregate on cycle lanes but it is certainly off.

  2. Do AT talk with govt / NZTA? A simple email to the transport minister with a picture of people parking in pedestrian mall and the subject of “we can’t stop them, please change the law” should be enough shouldn’t it?
    And even if they know they can’t legally ticket, why not do so regardless. Most would rather pay than challenge in court.

    1. Why isn’t it just fully bollarded off, so that no one can get a car in there? It would seem to be a simple problem to solve. If the vicar needs to get a car in there, make one bollard a lockable/unlockable one. Just stop cars from gaining access, full stop.

      1. Provides access to several carparks for surrounding buildings, wedding and funeral vehicles, site access for an apartment construction site.

    2. A $40 fine (administered intermittently) is a very reasonable price to pay for parking somewhere as conveniently central as this.

      A $400 fine (administered rigorously) would be rather more effective.

      Towing would be the most effective answer of all.

    3. I’m really struggling with the imagined problem here. St Patrick’s Square is still legally a “road”, even with its Akld Council designations of a “Public Open Space 1” (which has no mention of parking at all) and pedestrian mall (Special Order passed by Akld City in Jan 1974 for God’s sake, prohibiting parking with certain exceptions); it also has some fairly obvious “Authorised vehicles only at all times” parking signs. So what exactly is holding up the ability to issue tickets?

      1. AT are clearly trying to bring a problem to a head; allowing it to become so bad that someone else steps in to resolve it. Most Aucklanders are simply convinced further that they are an ineptocracy. Although I’m kind of in awe of them. It’s like marvelling at a street magician pulling an unhappy and disease ridden rabbit from a hat. Whatever crazy, unexpected abuse of the public will they try next?

  3. 70% accuracy for a machine learning model is pretty poor, you shouldn’t be looking at publishing results until you’re 90% accurate, otherwise you’re expecting mediocrity.

    As I was typing this I remembered it was AT we’re talking about.

  4. “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.”

    hahahaha – AT Parking describing themselves as a business. They are delusional. With the rates of return that they achieve on assets and the way they operate they are better described as a charity.

  5. Re Vulcan lane – this is what they are not saying from June 2019:
    “In attempting to verify the Legal Status of Vulcan Rd, we have discovered that it was never stopped nor turned into a Ped Mall, it is still designated a Road”

    aargh the ‘pedestrian malls’. Vulcan lane got its own act to turn it into a ped mall

    and AT is saying it never happened in some some small part of their regulatory process? And they’ve done nothing.

    And then AT also tells us “It is zoned a Pedestrian Mall which causes an issue for parking violations to be issued legally.” WTF is up with them. Seriously they’ve had years to change the necessary bylaws and have not had the slightest willingness to do that. They’ve had two+ years to sort out Vulcan Lane and done nothing.
    There’s an institutional blockage (and that’s being polite about some biases there in this regard) and it needs to go find a park somewhere else.
    Don’t expect anything but endless prevarication and inaction, or the lowest form of action from AT regarding St Patricks Square.

    1. On parking alone, AT needs to be disbanded and defunded.

      If the Board won’t delve into these blockages despite the clear danger and damage AT’s approach to parking management is directly causing, then they too need to be disbanded.

      1. Heidi
        Disbanding the parking function may be a good approach. It seems that the low prices that AT charge at their parking buildings, and that there are consistently spaces available suggest that there is surplus parking in the city. The move to sell the Downtown park is a great start to reduce the imbalance. But this should only be the start. A declining number of assets should enable the parking function to be rolled into somewhere else. My pick would be finance for obvious reasons.

        How is Paris possibly managing with half as many cars parks?

    2. Auckland City (Vulcan Lane Mall) Empowering Act 1967 was repealed by Local Government Act 2002. Assume Auckland City Council failed to stop or designate Vulcan Lane as pedestrian mall at that point …

      1. So 19 years of not acting. Which – if it was just a problem in this one location – wouldn’t be so bad. But there are so many similar examples.

    3. St Patrick’s Square is designated as a cycle route, yet is frequently unusable because it is blocked by parked cars. This may reflect the extent to which cycling is taken seriously as a mode of transport within AT.

      It cannot be that difficult to change a bylaw to enable enforcement of pedestrian spaces, surely?

  6. Ah,the forklift strikes back
    “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.”
    Car parking is essentially a political decision ,always has been,always will be. Collecting data to back up a decision is pretty pointless,wonder how much time and money has been spent on this.
    Put your big boy pants on AT, and lead for a change.

  7. Even taking the road cost out, how the how are those new train stations costing that much? Seriously who’s mate with AT clipping the ticket? There is something seriously amiss with ATs procurements and projects.
    As nice as it is to see a good looking train station, the reality is that they need to be fit for purpose at a reasonable cost… not a piece of architectural artwork! Especially when we have other stations that don’t even have proper shelter.

      1. One small area on St Patrick’s Square outside the back of 41 Albert (Prince Albert Apartments) is private land used as car parking; you can see the difference in surface treatments in the corner of the photo. In my 10 years living on the Square, the Council used to often ticket and tow vehicles parked in other areas of the square (but never on Sunday when it was packed with cars oddly). What’s changed?

    1. I disagree. Stations need to be both well designed and built for the very long term. Nickel and diming them is an expensive disaster waiting to happen. Puhinui is very good to use and will last, but its still regrettable that the third platform wasn’t delivered straight away as would be perfect for making Te Huia more viable now (with a turn back and upgraded to the already existing 3rd track there).

      1. Depends where they are. This money should be being spent on quality stations and grade separation within our existing RTN network. Not on sprawl stations. A simple station for the current population is all that’s required in Drury.

        I think we’ll find a lot of this cost is going on car infrastructure.

      2. There’s a big difference between good quality (fit for purpose) and building a piece of artwork. In fact the artwork designs for various things in the past have ended up costing even more as they have had to be reclad etc, or not as functional. Look at the bus stops that were almost useless – or in the case of HBC station very expensive for what is in effect a relatively small structure.
        Using lots and lots of glass in stations is not only expensive but not very environmentally friendly (extra heating/cooling costs plus the actual glass itself).
        I can guarantee that if you got a group together without vested interests they could design a practical new train station for a fraction of the cost (and which would be longer lasting). I’m not advocating penny pinching, but instead disagreeing with gold plating artwork.

  8. I have been reading the Greater Auckland daily and it seemed lot of issue was around cars being parked in the wrong place or in a place where it should not be. It seemed to me that AT is missing the most common solution.

    Where are the bollards??????

  9. St Patrick Square sucks now. Used to be nice, now full of cars and invariably glue sniffers causing problems. How hard is it to either block off the entrance or just have someone roaming around to check? Or put a camera up
    Vulcan lane has actually had people driving on the top end recently, nearly hit pedestrians as people have moved the blocks by the crossing to drive down.
    are these things actually difficult to do?
    You could have someone who walks up and down between O’Connell, High st, Fort St, Vulcan lane and St Patricks to enforce parking, they are only a few hundred metres apart.

  10. So, AT Board, would you please use the Botany Road and Millhouse Drive Intersection Upgrade project to reflect on some of the atrocious statements from AT that you have allowed to be passed without correction? This project must clearly demonstrate to you that:

    AT are refusing to implement cycling infrastructure. Botany Rd is on the strategic cycling network – First Decade. If they don’t put the cycle lanes in now, just when are they proposing to do so?

    AT are not putting Vision Zero into their day-to-day operations. Have a look at this area. Have a look at where the bus stops are, and what pedestrian amenity is required for them. This project is not Vision Zero, and no matter how much safetywash AT use, it will never be.

    AT are spending budget on projects such as this one, which “is expected to significantly improve traffic efficiency” = “is expected to increase traffic volumes and thus increase emissions and degrade safety for people walking and cycling, and slow the buses down” – are you going to let that happen when you didn’t even pull them up on their bullshit about infrastructure not impacting emissions? And their bullshit that AT can’t do anything; they need to go crying to Government for help?

    Meanwhile, AT are claiming there’s no budget for putting cycling into all projects. Yet the budget just needs reallocation from projects like this cars first one.

    AT is in freefall. I agree with the Waitemata Local Board: I have NO CONFIDENCE.

    The Board can act to change this. Will you? Or will you fail to harness yet another piece of obvious evidence (this Botany Rd project), even though it’s right in front of your eyes, and allow these belligerent dinosaurs to continue?

    1. “And their bullshit that AT can’t do anything; they need to go crying to Government for help?”

      Heidi, well said. AT is an organisation totally bereft of ideas on how to adapt to a climate challenged environment.

      The sad thing is, these ideas don’t need to be new. Evidence abounds of many similarly sized cities who have changed and made a difference.

      How to fix it? I am not sure whether it is a governance or management issue. I think at least a set of climate based KPI’s is necessary for all management (I was about to type leaders) and if they fail, performance manage them out.

  11. I suppose the only way forward is to put pressure on the centre-Left parties to change the legislation re: Auckland local government, because that (if I understand rightly) is the only way to disband AT.

    But I have to stress and re-emphasise – 15 years ago we were all angry about how the various Auckland cities and districts and the ARC had politicised transport decisions and were all at loggerheads, so the progressive way forward was to create a non-political single Auckland transport authority!!!

    1. Changing the LGA is not the only option; that’s a fashionable opinion that stems – like everything else – from leaders’ unwillingness to use the tools they have available. Council and the AT Board have governance options available that they aren’t using because their legal teams are stuck in regressive mindset, just protecting the status quo.

      We should just have the people who are the leaders demanding better outcomes, and forcing the legal teams to take a broader approach to risk management.

      I think having a separate organisation might be important for the reasons you’ve outlined. But it’s clear that AT has too much clay for it to be the one. A new organisation, built from the ground up, is needed.

      1. Uhhh yeah, things not being run the way people want a valid complaint. Actually it’s pretty much every complaint / disgruntlement ever.

  12. “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.”

    Puhinui was inside the corridor and required little, if any, work outside the station confines.

    The new stations are effectively outside the corridor so the work will be more complex and may require land acquisition

    1. I thought that was funny.

      He’s complaining that watercare don’t have a climate plan
      Councils and AT’s plans directly contradict.
      Their plans are just that, plans, and are ignored almost totally.
      Don’t really address what is required.

      For Goff the goal is to get re-elected. From that people thinking he’s doing something about climate, is the exact same as actually doing something about climate. So hence all he has to do is come up with plans, look like is making others come up with plans, get in the media looking angry etc. But simultaneously not actually implement any of that stuff. I dont fully blame him, its a by-product of democracy and is how the system is set up. But still.

      1. “For Goff the goal is to get re-elected.”

        Not necessarily. He is going to announce in February whether he will stand again

        1. Fair point, we shall see. Sometimes the politicians leaving make the best long term decisions which might be good.

  13. Why the f**** are we spending $$$$ on expensive fly through visualisations on a f***ing shared path project that is not in any way controversial and can be easily explained in words and a couple of cross sections. This money and effort could have been used on actually building cycling infrastructure or visualizing something that is difficult to visualize. The cycling budget must be awash with cash … oh no that’s right, there is no money … but hey, let’s burn through whatever budget is available on businesses cases and comms exercises so we don’t actually have to build anything. FFS.

    1. Meh, people complain about there not being enough comms for most things, or that the comms are bad (I dont disagree, I think things could be sold better). Now clearly you’re disgruntled that they put out something decent for this project.

      They’re never going to please everyone I guess. (But you aren’t really going to get taken seriously being so angry)

      1. Take your point about being angry, it just really winds me up. I don’t want more comms, I want good comms.
        I see the hoops cycling stuff has to go through and they can bash out a plan on a major intersection upgrade, not explain how much pedestrian delay there will be or how narrow the footpaths will be, what speeds will be, how it complies with vision zero but then expend a whole bunch of energy on creating a flyby visualisation that can be explained in a simple sentence “we will be building another Xm wide path for people to walk on next to the existing path”.

    2. There’s actually been more in the cycling budget than Auckland Transport is willing to spend – their unwillingness to actually build anything that might reduce parking or take away a lane has resulted in an underspend for several years now.

  14. Outsource parking enforcement? Pretty sure a private company would find a way to issue tickets. It would also help reduce the AT headcount so they could employ people who can plan, design and build the network rather than paying x3 on consultants to do it for them. Parking enforcement officers could just be transitioned to the private company.

    1. Wellington outsources parking enforcement. They’re really unpopular which means they’re probably doing a really good job.

      1. +1

        No-one likes getting a parking ticket, or towed, but parking enforcement is a necessary tool for a well-functioning city. Traffic is a gas – it expands, spreads and diffuses into all available space unless constrained. Enforcement is vital…and this needs appropriate supporting legislation, such as the ability to remove cars quickly and effectively from what is meant to be a pedestrian-centred space.

      2. I always wonder makes a parking warden employed by the city less efficient than a parking warden employed by a private company contracted by the city?

  15. I’m pleased the NW cyclepath upgrade is gonna finally happen.

    What sort of quality is the surface going to be, though? Better contracts?

    1. It’s going to be made of all the paper that AT generates with all it’s reports and reports on reports

  16. Something no one seems to be engaging with are the implications of this lock down on local government finances and what that means for infrastructure projects.
    Councils are at of near their debt ceiling and their finances are getting whacked again. Something will have to give, unless central government comes to the party with assistance.

    1. It’s even more tricky than that, Zen Man.

      You’re right, and the government’s solution last time was astounding: road building, ffs. Hogging the construction capacity the country has to use on emissions-inducing bad infrastructure. That money and resource was needed to assist local government to continue to fund what they need to do.

      There is so much international information about how to have a jobs-rich, green recovery. Government might do better this time. Here’s hoping.

      But the point is that we are a C40 city. As such, we have committed to taking climate action – despite the multiple blows that we will face as civilisation is uprooted (and either regenerates or fails). The C40 network is set up to help cities to lead the world in emissions reductions and climate action DESPITE the inertia of central governments.

      We can make better decisions about what to do with what money we do have. It’s just that neither economic recovery nor climate action are “additive”. They involve trimming or hacking off the projects and programmes that no longer serve us, in order to preserve resources for what we need.

      AT and Council should refuse to do the big NZUP roading projects, for example, on the basis that they hog construction capacity and create emissions which AT and Council projects will then have to reduce.

  17. “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.”

    Car parks. I’ll bet money there will be huge park and rides at at least 2 of them. Wasting all of our money just to appease the drive everywhere mob.

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