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.

Closed Agenda

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

Business Report

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

AT say:

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.

Project WAVE in action on Customs St West.

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.

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  1. Please can you do a post AT’s proposed speed limit reductions that they are consulting on NOW?

    This is a MASSIVE opportunity to get 100s of urban streets, especially near schools, changed to 30 km/h. As ever, feedback from consultation will make a difference.

    There are already plenty of voices on the map saying things like “I think 50 km/h in my street is fine”. Often in streets where it is absolutely not appropriate.

    Here’s the proposed list:

    And here’s the consultation map:

    Feedback due by 14 November:

    Please everyone have your say!

      1. Nice thank you. I think creating substantial 30 k zones around schools and neighbourhoods is transformational, because it has to potential to normalise cycling for local trips. This one change could well be more significant for mode shift than the high profile projects that get all the headlines.

  2. Gosh its not very consistent. e.g. All of waterview beyond GNR 30km/hr, and the streets around Avondale College. However the culdesacs off GNR between these areas are left at 50. This makes no sense to me.
    Why aren’t all residential culdesacs 30km/h?
    Otherwise there is likely to be confusion.

    1. What’s new?
      The first round had the speed limits dropped in Freemans Bay, except in front of the three schools and one playcentre there.

  3. Concerns around reputational risk is standard practice to avoid doing something different, or introducing uncertainty.

    Management types get very angsty at the possibility of reputational harm/risk, as it is often somehow tied to their bonuses and/or continued tenure.

    The author at AT would appear to be either seeking a promotion/substantial pay rise, or is nearing contract renewal.

  4. “why is aligning with strategic priorities and programme level communications not a requirement of every part of ATs work?”

    If the Board would like to be effective, they should be asking AT this question, armed with examples of projects that do not align with strategic priorities.

    Example projects are easy to find, but that they are still underway in 2021 suggests that maybe the Board haven’t appreciated how “normal-seeming” BAU projects don’t align. I suspect to understand this, the Board will need to get to the bottom of the tradeoff myth.

    Safety, effectiveness, efficiency and climate action do not require tradeoffs – they can all be achieved with the same comprehensive approach. If AT are telling you otherwise – and we know they are – then it is your responsibility to reach out and upskill.

  5. “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”
    The issue here isn’t that the projects were not aligned to Auckland’s strategic priorities, the issue is that AT (and to be fair Council and politicians) do not tell the public what those strategic priorities are and what they mean in practice because they’re scared the public will not like what they hear. The strategic priorities are mode change, less vkt, reducing car dominance in town centres, increasing costs for people who drive, making it less convenient to drive, increasing attractiveness of cycling, prioritising walking over traffic flow, reducing traffic flow to increase safety, taking away parking on arterials to provide for other modes, taking out road space to plant more trees, not building roads out in the wop wops, cutting down on maintenance on roads that only service a few properties out in the wop wops … AT and AC are not upfront and honest about these things, so when a project does one of these things the public go wtf is going on here?!

  6. LTN,s (Innovating streets), have met with resistance where ever they have been proposed any where in the world, Auckland,NZ is no different. Public feedback will always be opposed, (turkey voting for Xmas), people cannot comprehend ,how restricting ,redirecting motorized vehicle movements can be a benefit.
    Trialing hasn’t worked,cue forklift,so public engagement has to be the next step.AT are currently incapable of this at present,so probably best left out of it.

    The local boards are the group that should be selling the concept,but clearly they need higher level support, where they have succeeded overseas,is where there has been a commitment from all elected officials,government directive,mayoral support,etc.
    Not like here,where,board members were thrown under the bus,at first sign of resistance. Until a high profile official nails his colours to the mast on issues like LTN,s,cycle lanes,bus lanes,car parking removal,nothing will change

    1. How this is communicated to the public is the big one. Spoke to someone recently who wanted their town centre ‘beautified, cafes, artwork, safety etc’ but also wanted the carparking kept as is and also didnt want anything to slow down their drive through when heading to other places. I think this is the basic conundrum people want their place to be a quaint village/vibrant town but want to speedily drive to other spots as well.

  7. “The emerging learnings are informing the structure and conditions required to set up for success in tactical urbanism programmes going forward“
    “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“

    We pay people good money to write this crap?
    It is not Communication, it is just a word salad of hifaluting, but shallow corporate bs.
    Yet another area that needs purging from AT if they are to become effective.

  8. I really hope that rationalising the land around the eastern busway means assembeling it into large packages and preparing concept drawings for feasible mid-rise developments before selling. That land is a huge opportunity to build a lot of homes near transit.

    1. Isn’t that exactly what went wrong in Christchurch? Land in the city centre was consolidated, then nothing happened and the entire rebuild materialised as far out suburbs instead.

      1. It’s not what happened in Christchurch.

        The consolidated sites in Christchurch are 10,000s of square metres. I’m talking about consolidating sections that were 600m2 into packages of 2-3,000m2 to enable apartment buildings.

        The main reason things took so long in Christchurch is that developers were hesitant to build with half demolished ruins next door. The last demolition only finished within the last month!

  9. “The emerging learnings are informing the structure and conditions required to set up for success in tactical urbanism programmes going forward“

    Translation- we screwed it up but we are cunning and will try another method to get the same result next time.

    1. “The emerging learnings are informing the structure and conditions required to set up for success in tactical urbanism programmes going forward“
      Or is the correct interpretation: Up until now we had NFI; but we are starting to learn things that will allow us to set up for success, but no promises that we are actually going to do anything, ever.

  10. The bus plan says
    “Customs Street is proposed to prioritise buses over cars. Dedicated, end-to-end bus priority lanes are proposed, with large and efficient, safe and comfortable bus stops. More than twice as many people would be able to travel on Customs Street when buses are prioritised, meaning more than 12,000 people per hour could travel through the corridor, in each direction.”

    12,000 per hour is a reasonable figure for a busway!! You are not going to get 12,000 people per hour through 12 intersections including crossing the buses from West Auckland on Lower Albert Street and possibly a light rail line crossing your path at Queen Street as well. The Buses from Tamaki drive will have to turn right across Customs street to get To Wyndard Quarter. This will cause a bus jam as it gets busier.

  11. I think author is surrounded by like-minded people and has a fallacy to think that bureaucrats are the only people opposing his ideas. But basically these changes often make ordinary (and numerous) people angry, that’s why reputation is important. Otherwise this could happen that any desired changes will be impossible. Many CBD dwellers tend to think that bike lanes, planers and new speed limits are not for good and just made to torture them, for example some Viaduct residents I know were really frustrated when the cycleways and planters emerged.

    AT, however, could have done a better job on promoting and advertising the change to change population attitude.

    1. Many CBD dwellers tend to think that bike lanes, planers and new speed limits are not for good and just made to torture them

      Really? All my friends that live there don’t own a car, but do bike. They seem to appreciate bike lanes, less suburbanites’ cars, less danger from said cars. And any green is always good.

      AT, however, could have done a better job on promoting and advertising the change to change population attitude.
      I agree, this is almost the partly the role that greater auckland has fallen into. But doesn’t have the same projection power or information availability as AT unfortunately. Would be much better if AT were better at it themselves.

      1. That’s exactly what I say. The best places to find some of those with different opinion are underground carparks of CBD.

  12. Pretty sure the only engineering measure that will reduce Hobson St traffic to 30kph is an engineer standing in every lane waving a tape measure around.

    1. speed camera with demerit points.
      Use the collected revenue for free bus fares (for disqualified drivers)

        1. In the UK the driver gets a letter asking them to identify the driver, if they dont they get taken to court and get 6 points (12 gets you a ban)

        2. And every bus lane in Central London has a camera! Even getting half your vehicle in a lane is a very expensive exercise and you learn very quickly to stay out of them.

  13. Cycling danger to be fixed in Blockhouse Bay. As an Auckland cyclist the following sentence is difficult to write. AT and its contractors deserve a small bouquet. They are part way through installing a signalled pedestrian crossing on the arterial Donovan Street. They didn’t want “two lanes entering the crossing on each side” so are removing a short strip of bus lane (sadly). But to “keep vehicles out of the ex-bus lane”, the designer put in concrete island right across the ex-lane. With a side road on their left and 50kph plus traffic on their right side, less confident cyclists going west, would ride straight into the island. Cycle safety is in the AT reports but is it read? After many frustrating phone calls and emails, AT and the contractors agreed to meet this morning and have recognised the danger posed by the island. It’s going to be removed and replaced with painted lines. A positive step, albeit a small one.

      1. I don’t have the plans as AT and the contractors wouldn’t share them. I do have photos and videos of the site though. Can they be uploaded to this website?

  14. 10 million to introduce engineering measures to improve safety? Why not spend a few thousand on some white boxes with cameras in them that actually make money? As if Auckland can afford to spend 10 million on every street in the city.

  15. The question needs to be asked, why is there so little buy in for 30km speed especially on there likes of Beaumont, Symonds and Victoria Streets? Not to mention the 40 k zones like Fanshawe and Nelson St’s . And I include buses here at well and some cyclists. All are wide very main roads. Since these low speeds went in and largely ignored the death injury status hasn’t featured as a number at all. I know the official rationale is safety and the unofficial rationale is anti car but whatever it was supposed achieve was hollow anyway.

    If the answer to non compliance is hefty punishment and I note the usual chorus of setting the police on to everyone or fining galore, then the wrong question is being asked.

    Perhaps these speed limits were over the top and unnecessary in the first place.

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