Today the Auckland Transport board meet again and here are the highlights from their board reports. You can also watch the open session of the meeting live between 9am to 9:55am if you want via this Microsoft Teams link.
Below are the items from the closed agenda that caught my attention the most.
Items for Approval
- Integrated Wynyard Quarter Bus Development – AT are currently consulting on their City Centre Bus Plan (consultation is open till 24-Oct) and it suggests building a bunch of off-street bus facilities, potentially integrated with above-station developments. The proposal includes one at Wynyard so I wonder if this is part of that, even though consultation hasn’t closed yet. You can see our post on it here.
- Bus Fleet Term & Decarbonisation Variation – AT have talked about bringing forward the phase out of diesel buses to 2030 (previously 2040). It is likely a way they’ll do that is by changing the requirements in their tender processes and it is likely this is the formalisation of that.
- Northern Corridor Improvements – Cost Adjustment – The key part of the Northern Corridor project that AT have control over is the new Rosedale Station and I’m guessing the cost has increased on this. The busway extension is due to be completed next year but indications are that the station itself won’t be completed until 2024.
- Eastern Busway Stage 1 – Project Close-out – The first stage of the busway is getting close to completion so presumably this is getting ready for that.
- Property Rationalisations – Eastern Busway – The Eastern Busway required buying up a lot of property even though not all of it was needed for the busway itself. I assume this is rationalising the left-over pieces in advance of selling them for development.
- Auckland Regional Transport Strategic Case for Future – I’m not sure what this is but it is likely related to their Future Connect process.
Items for Noting
- 2021 Elected Members Headline Measures Survey
There’s not a whole lot in the business report this month as quite a bit of the report is focused on projects being delayed due to the previous Alert Level 4 and also the wider work AT have been doing to respond to that, such as traffic management to support vaccination and testing centres.
Safe Speeds – Hobson, Nelson, and Fanshawe Streets
Speed limits on the majority of City Centre roads were reduced to 30km/h or less in June 2020. A 30km/h speed limit was selected as evidence suggests this is a survivable speed for people hit by vehicles.
Speed data suggests that on some city centre roads the new speed limits are not being adhered to on these corridors. Higher speeds on these roads, combined with the high presence of people outside of vehicles, increases the risk of deaths and serious injuries (DSI), and on that basis. AT plans to introduce engineering measures to improve safety.
Almost two years ago when AT made the decision to lower speeds in the city centre but have these three streets with a separate limit, the board were told it would cost AT about $5-10 million more (a 30-60% increase in implementation costs) as they would need “enhanced engineered safety features” to ensure the new speed limits were achieved. AT didn’t deliver that so it’s completely unsurprising that people haven’t slowed down. The board should be questioning why this was never done. Did someone just decide to see if they could save some money and ‘see what happens’?
Licences for existing micro-mobility operators have been extended
New rideshare or rental micro-mobility licenses (scooters and e-bikes) have been issued to operators under the Trading and Events in Public Places Bylaw 2015, following a collaborative review undertaken with AT and Auckland Council. Licenses have been extended for all existing operators for a 12-month period to September 2022, retaining previous allocations. AT will continue to work with Auckland Council around compliance with the relevant bylaw and codes of practice.
ATs Greenhouse Gas Emissions
AT say their greenhouse gas emissions for the last financial year from their corporate, operational and public transport activities have been estimated and independently verified at 117,110 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). That’s 14% lower than the year before and 15% lower than their initial 2017/18 baseline number. It seems a decent amount of this was due to public transport as a result of fewer trains due to Kiwirail’s trackwork and COVID with buses being more efficient due to carrying fewer passengers.
AT Local is coming back
Earlier this year AT finally put an end to AT Local, otherwise known as subsidised taxis, in Devonport, replaced by enhanced feeder buses to the ferries. Combined with that journey now integrated into the ferry fare, it has seen better usage on the services.
However, they said at the time they might trial it elsewhere and it seems the current COVID outbreak delayed that as the board paper highlights that changes were made to the journey planner and AT Mobile app in preparation for it to launch in Papakura and Takanini. That trial will also coincide with the removal of some existing local bus services.
Innovating Streets: emerging lessons learnt and next steps
The most interesting, and frustrating, item in the open session this month is a paper on what AT say they’ve learnt from the Innovating Streets process – if you want to watch live this is meant to be at about 9:30.
Concerningly, the impression I get from the paper is that their key takeaway is they simply can’t cope with change/something different, that these projects are too fast so need to be slowed down and have the life sucked out of them like every other project out there.
They seem to suggest there were too many adhoc and individual projects, many of which weren’t under their control. In response they want to develop “a comprehensive programme to submit to the funder” which sounds suspiciously like putting projects through a slow business case process.
Then there’s this:
Awareness of the learnings from Innovating Streets will enable the board to support the Streets for People Programme Control Group (PCG) in any conversations with funders or politicians to ensure future tactical urbanism programmes are set up for success. In particular the learning around needing to objectively select a comprehensive programme that aligns with Auckland‘s strategic priorities, which enables programme level communications about the objectives and purpose of the programme
Firstly the PCG sounds like another way to slow things down and squash innovation. As for the rest, why is aligning with strategic priorities and programme level communications not a requirement of every part of ATs work? In fact one of the key things we’re really lacking in the transport conversation right now is a broader piece about needing to change how we travel in order to address issues like climate change, congestion and safety. Programmes like Innovating Streets but also others like Light Rail, connected communities, cycleways and even smaller things like changing parking are suffering because people are hearing, perhaps for the first time, that they might need to change how they do things.
Another thing AT note is about resource and delivery.
The scale of the programme that was approved was larger, more complex and required significantly more resource than anticipated. This has resulted in staff welfare concerns, compromises on activities and longer response times to issues.
I’m aware that AT were offered help multiple times to help address some of their resourcing and process issues but they rejected it every time so it seems odd they’re now complaining they found it hard.
The welfare issues are certainly a concern though and I think related mostly to the often hostile groups opposed to change because of the lack of high-level comms. They also refused to enforce or make changes to some projects, like Project Wave, in order to try and appease the opponents but resulted in putting that risk onto the public as they dodged cars driving in the bike lane etc.
Finally a couple of other things that stand out in the paper.
There is a lot of corporate buzzword bingo going on, like these lines
- “The emerging learnings are informing the structure and conditions required to set up for success in tactical urbanism programmes going forward“
- from the quote above “learning around needing to objectively select a comprehensive programme that aligns with Auckland‘s strategic priorities“.
- “The assessment criteria and planning for programme establishment take on board emerging learnings“
In the risks they’ve identified for future programmes is this:
Political/Reputational: this programme has the potential to become highly political, potentially skewing the climate benefits achieved and/or impacting AT’s reputation.
There are varied views within the community of the appropriate mitigation of transport impacts on climate and how this is weighed against other motivators, impacting AT‘s reputation.
I’d have thought it was the politicians who should be judging the level of political risk they’re willing to take. It shouldn’t be up to AT to decide programmes based on what they think that will be. It’s also the first time they seem to have expressed concern about their reputation. I wonder if their reputational risk assessment includes the impact to their reputation for not delivering change?
I certainly hope I’m wrong in my interpretation of some of this and that AT aren’t just trying to put these projects through their BAU grinder.