What is Auckland Transport spending our money on? Resolving our challenges or exacerbating them?

It’s nothing short of a transformation that we need, as the CEO has talked about for years, with people “at the heart” of the changes:

Auckland Transport have adopted Vision Zero, which:

places responsibility on the people who design and operate the transport system to provide a safe system.

And of course, the transformation involves reducing emissions. As I reported over a year ago, the CEO listed the gains made over the last ten years, and added:

In spite of all that, we’ve had an 11% increase in ghg emissions from the transport network in Auckland… Doing what we’ve always done ain’t going to touch the sides in terms of delivering…

It means we have to do something completely different…

But what has actually happened? Today, Simon Wilson has an excellent article, titled The right and wrong way to spend money on cycling:

In Auckland, planners and politicians have watched this great Covid-inspired transport reset overseas, thought about its importance to climate action, congestion and road safety, and said to themselves, yeah nah…

AT has just finished another part of the Tāmaki Drive cycleway and the Northwest Pathway, from Kingsland northwards, is also finally being made fit for purpose. This is much-needed work on the city’s two main cycling arterials.

But that should be the cherry on top. The bulk of the work should be to convert hundreds of kilometres of existing street lanes to make them safe for cycling. Cheaply, cheerfully and urgently, with a concrete barrier to stop cars drifting into the bike lane, and a lick of paint.

How about an emergency approach: get it all done next year.

So let’s discuss priorities. What is Auckland Transport spending its money on?

I’ve pulled a few projects from the Auckland Transport website. They’re at different stages of design, consultation and construction. But they paint a consistent package: this is our money being used, and it’s not being used for what Auckland Transport say they prioritise: people, safety, modeshift, sustainability.

Weymouth and Roscommon Rd. There’s plenty of space, here, for proper cycling infrastructure:

Botany Rd and Millhouse Drive. Why is this work happening without road reallocation to safe cycling being added? And there’s a missing pedestrian leg:

Similarly at the corner of Botany Rd and Cascades Rd, space could be reallocated if there was the will:

There’s plenty of work happening at Dairy Flat Highway but nothing that’s going to shift modes:

Matiatia Wharf should be a place people can cycle to, but it seems we can spend money without making it safe:

Map showing the trial layout at Matiatia.

Mt Wellington Highway. The work’s going in for a busway, yet there’s space for cycling, too, if we care about people’s lives:

And that project tells a bigger picture at the intersections, too, where AT likes to keep all the turning lanes for general traffic:

What happened to safe cycling as part of Medallion Link Drive? Brand new infrastructure, but only for the privileged modes:

There are plenty more I could add. Is this what the Board intends Auckland Transport to spend its money on? These projects aren’t delivering on the stated goals, yet when it comes to projects like at Ash St / Rata St and at Mt Albert Rd / Three Kings, all of a sudden there’s apparently insufficient money to do it properly, for all modes.

It seems Auckland Transport’s talk of safety, modeshift and sustainability is just something “nice to have” after the money is mainly spent on driving amenity.

Dear Children, you weren’t considered important in any of these decisions.

It’s no wonder that our vehicle travel keeps rising, our safety statistics don’t improve and our emissions remain a stubborn problem. There’s been no transformation in priorities. All I see is a Safety Team struggling to make headway against a system that is resisting change every step of the way.

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    1. Why even…

      Are you supposed to enjoy that space for a picnic or something?

      Also marked on the map are the spots where cyclists are supposed to appear and disappear into that hole in the ground.

      1. Lol it even looks like theres a footpath on the lefthand side going into the middle of the grass!
        surely im not the only one who feels weird about crossing through a roundabout like that?

        1. There are underpasses have a look on Google Maps there are school children using them I am sure they wouldn’t mind if a cyclist joined in.
          Looks a good design in my opinion. Better than trying to negotiate the roads. The more sneaky short cuts for pedestrians the better.

        2. There is a roundabout in a busy part of KL that actually has parking on the inside of it.

          I always thought if AT ever got to see that…..

        3. When you’re in there, it feels much safer than surface crossings.

          It would be awesome, if it actually connected both sides of all arms on the roundabout.

          6 out of 10 footpaths are connected, but only Palmers Road is hooked up on both sides.

          New tunnels between Roscommon/Weymouth and Mahia/Weymouth, plus upgrades of the existing ones for personal safety are essential given the planned and expected density that’s coming.

        4. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with grade separated infrastructure as long as the separation for walking and cycling is complete and meets standards. This is neither complete nor does it meet the standards. So, any funding spent here should be fixing that problem, not on widening the approaches for more car lanes. That is just blatant continuation of the BAU focus on easing traffic flow; the same transport planning approach that has created all our problems.

      2. This roundabout has underpasses which work really well in my experience. I’ve lived in a few towns in the UK which these sorts of thing feature heavily and they really do remove you as a pedestrian/cyclist from the general traffic. Works really well in my opinion.

        See here for some examples from Stevenage in Hertfordshire –

    2. It seems that some people should pay a visit to Clendon Park and see the roundabout, and how it functions, for themselves

      1. Quite. Whereas dysfunctional land use planning due to our car dependence is clear by simply looking at aerial photographs of the city.

        Relying on driving for too many of our trips requires the use of too much space, and pushes amenities apart. Long trip distances force people to have to drive.

        AT’s job is to nip this cycle in the bud and transform how our system works: putting roads on diets, shrinking intersections, making space for the neglected modes. Instead they’re wasting money on new road links, and on tinkering here and there for a bit more space for driving.

  1. Many times I have tried to improve the cycling experience in my local area with small changes that can make a big difference. Time and time again AT investigate and always say it will have or possibly have a negative impact on cars so no go. It is always no. They never pick up the idea and say how can we make this work. Since the cycling team was abandoned there is now not even a pretense of genuinely investigating ideas.

    1. They have to hide their one good journalist behind a paywall to keep people subscribing.

      Also you can bypass the paywall as the entire article text is buried in the HTML of the page.

  2. A worse one in my opinion is the Mt Albert Road / Three Kings project, not putting cycling infrastructure there is just ridiculous.

    1. I disagree, Medallion Drive is worse. AT are completely rebuilding the intersection there. They could literally build anything. There is plenty of room to do Dutch Signals, yet we are getting something that could have been designed in 1984 with some raised safety platforms tacked on.

      1. It’s all of them. Whether the money’s being wasted on new roads done poorly like Medallion Link Drive or on existing roads like Botany on which ANY work should be civilising it by shrinking… it means there’s less money for the Safety Programme, and projects like Mt Albert / Three Kings, or Ash St / Rata St then don’t have “sufficient funding”.

        Of course, if those Safety Programme designs were allowed to reallocate space properly, they could be done tactically and cheaply, with the permanent treatments awaiting the Renewals budget funding. That’s how it’s done in many countries.

        But in AT’s Investment and Planning echo chamber, I’ve been told, “Renewals are for Renewals, not for Cycling”. Because when you have a deficient system, don’t you just loooove keeping it like that?

      2. I can see your point, but I do suspect good cycling infrastructure on Mt Albert Road would get more use than on Medallion Drive (not that I know that area very well to be fair).
        AT say “better walking and cycling connections from the residential area to facilities including local schools, public transport and the retail precinct”, I am not convinced adding a roundabout has ever made walking or cycling better.

        1. Medallion drive would be great to connect to Albany station and / or the main spine cycleway being put up beside the busway.

        2. Jack that is a terrible waste of space. Surely lights are a better option in a city. I wouldn’t feel that safe on that with Auckland drivers either.

        3. If you look in that first video how many cyclists are going through this intersection, it would be a nightmare to accommodate that level of traffic in cars.

        4. Jimbo, traffic lights lots of space for cars queued up waiting, not just for another user crossing their path, but for an entire traffic light cycle or maybe two and for multiple lanes to try to make the movements efficient. And even with the enormous space taken up by our intersections, there are very few with safe cycle lanes.

          Have a perusal on Google Earth to see the land wasted on our system, which isn’t even multimodal, and then compare with safe systems.

        5. We almost have one down the road from us – a roundabout with zebra crossings on each exit. Not sure I would cycle around it at that speed and expect cars to stop for me, maybe 80% would.
          Either way they are going to be a lot bigger than a set of traffic lights. Surely it is possible to make traffic lights safe for cyclists, especially if they only need the same vehicle throughput as a single lane roundabout with pedestrian crossings on each leg. Just because we don’t get traffic lights right, that doesn’t mean we need to spend loads of cash and land on roundabouts.

        6. This is an Auckland example of a pretty safe bike intersection with lights.


          It can be done, in fact it’s probably going to be the most common type of safe intersection. But that K-road example isn’t exactly small either.
          Roundabouts will mostly be used in suburbia, like where car only ones are used now

        7. A lot of intersections come with a full set of 4 slip lanes, these are easily large enough to fit one of those roundabouts.

          For example you can fit a circle with a 45m diameter inside the intersection on the end of Highbury Bypass. Whether we want one would be another question. It is a quite busy intersection, and for a 2-lane roundabout I guess it is too small.

          Are they feasible at all on intersections used by a lot of buses?

  3. We need rolling die-ins of cyclists, pedestrians, school kids, mothers with prams, disabled, elderly. This is getting beyond a joke.

  4. We’re an ungrateful lot, all around the roundabout, l see highlighted new raised crossings,new widened shared path,etc,how much more do us peasants need.
    An added bonus is the tramping clubs have a new attraction,close to home ,a circumnavigation of said roundabout, should fill the morning in ,if you could get to the middle,a” nice ” lunch spot, and a reverse tramp in the afternoon .

    1. Very good. For anyone confused, I’ll point out that they’re widening two of the approaches from one lane to two lanes. This is the incremental widening that induces traffic. That extra traffic adds danger, congestion, hassle, noise and emissions everywhere.

      It’s also money that could be used to improve cycling and for more raised pedestrian crossings at any one of many thousands of deficient spots around the city.

  5. Heidi I get that AT hasn’t really tried but I am having difficulty in understanding what you require. Perhaps you could pick one of the projects you are not happy with and show us how it should be done.

    1. Rightio, Royce. I’ll do some more posts some time for you. Meanwhile, imagine the same space, reused for people’s needs. People outside cars; and they’re all safe. Even if they’re slow walkers. Even if they’re fidgety kids. Even if they’re on a bike.

      Or have another read of https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/11/01/liveable-arterials/

      What we need, and what our money should be paying for, in every project, is safe cycling, walking, scootering, skateboarding – including to the bus stop. Everywhere.

      1. Thanks Heidi even if you could highlight a project where they have done it right. Surely there must be somewhere they have done it right.

  6. Auckland Transport can’t even get the free safety improvements right, let alone spending money.

    About four years ago, I, among others, spent a bunch of time advocating to Auckland Transport about the traffic light cycles at the corner of Nelson Street, Union Street, and the motorway off-ramp. The lights were phased in a way that incentivised motorists to accelerate from Union/Pitt Street direction to right turn into Nelson Street. When they ran the red light at 50+km/h, they were accelerating right into the pedestrian crossing phase.

    After a bunch of time, someone at AT worked out that they could change the light cycle so that the pedestrians could go before the right turning traffic, and that solved the problem. It was a basically free engineering change that dramatically improved the intersection.

    I went out to walk the kids to school yesterday morning, and discovered that the light cycle had been changed back to the old, dangerous cycle. Sure enough, drivers were accelerating when the right-turn arrow went orange, and driving through the pedestrian phase at speed.

    So now I guess I’m back to advocating for a reversal back to the safer phasing. Again.

    1. I live nearby and walk through that intersection usually daily, often more than once. Are you sure you aren’t confusing you’re rights and your lefts? Cause the pedestrian phase for crossing Nelson St conflicts with traffic turning LEFT from Union St into Nelson St and it is this traffic that is a problem.

      1. Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Last week you were correct, and the traffic turning LEFT from Union Street into Nelson conflicted with pedestrians. This week, the phasing is changed, and traffic turning RIGHT from Union Street into Nelson conflicts with pedestrians, but at much higher speed.

        1. Except, weirdly, it was back to the old phasing on the school walk this afternoon. I stopped this morning and watched it go through the new phasing a couple of cycles, and even timed one.

          And then collecting my kids this afternoon, it was back to the old phasing. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I’ll check in the morning. Can AT have implemented variable phasing according to time of day?

  7. AT announced around 10min ago that their CEO, Shane Ellison, has just resigned. Hopefully they can recruit someone who can overhaul the organisation for the 21st century and the challenges Auckland faces.

    1. I don’t blame him. Goff signed him up to a 50% reduction in emissions but then called him arrogant to build cycle lanes without consulting every time. Talk about being thrown under a (probably delayed) bus.

      1. KiwiRail deputy chief executive Todd Moyle has been appointed as acting chief executive while the board will immediately begin a search for a permanent replacement.

  8. If you listen to a good architect talk,you will here them articulate about designing something that is functional but timeless,I.e 20 /50 years later still fit for purpose. Roading engineers always seem to want to solve the current issue,without any regard for the future. Trouble is by the time ,said project is built,current issue is not solved,so they want to double down on first fix.
    A bit like building houses in greenfield locations,seems logical,but isn’t.
    It shouldn’t the general publics role,to shape the future of our cities,we have very good academic institutions ,to shape the minds of our future engineers,surely they must see the futility of current methods. Maybe politics over rides all,and we get ,what gets them through the next electorate cycle,”You’re not building a road,you are ensuring,l have a job for the next three years”.

    1. I don’t believe it’s about engineers or their education. Who decides the funding? Politicians, lawyers, and accountants with MBAs. I think your last sentence is unfortunately accurate.

  9. I’ve been doing on a bit of a dive lately about bus priority in particular.
    There are so many routes that are extremely heavily used by buses and a handful of car movements an hour are prioritised over the reliability of the entire bus network. Sometimes (based on my observations), the accommodations for drivers aren’t even used properly.

    Eg: park road headed towards the hospital https://goo.gl/maps/nwZJhWmrjAM93rWU6
    that left lane, evaporates from being a bus lane, to a straight and left car movement, only for the intersection, before becoming this https://goo.gl/maps/h7LPp69A63EyNe1L9 which is one giant unpainted lane, and cars immediately have to merge again. With the bus lane beginning again miles back up the road.
    Same here where left turning cars block the bus lane for multiple phases when traffic is backed up. Because the bus lane begins back off the intersection these people aren’t even in the wrong. It’s absurd.

    Same here https://goo.gl/maps/SGSngRgDrkPF9zxA9. Get rid of the straight combined with left AT. Almost noone uses it. The space would be far better used on the far side of the intersection to have a corner tree. Or shit, just a bit more waiting space at a dense urban intersection.

    My point is, so much of this effort and space is going towards driving, actually isn’t even very useful driving infrastructure.

    1. I don’t want to baselessly tear apart these intersections, or those that designed them, especially because I’m not yet “learned” enough in the subject. But I absolutely fail to see the utility of some of these very common design features. Based on me standing there observing them or using them (as a driver and bus user), they are used poorly, cause massive degradation of the bus network, use up excess space.

      I don’t see how even the most 1970’s road designer would see these as a success.
      If anyone knows, please enlighten me. Or point me to where I can get such information.

      1. Also where buses turn right into Park Road from Khyber Pass, they need to get from the bus lane on the left to the right turn lane on the right. This can often take a couple of cycles and they also block cars while doing it. Why not give them a special short phase where they can turn right from the left lane? (or maybe this has been done now, I haven’t been there for a while).

        1. Yep, the bus phases could be very productive. Could create a way better intersection than whats there now. The only downside would an extremely minor reduction in real car throughput. And probably a much larger decrease on paper in their crap tier simulation tools.

          It has not be done Jimbo, they even recently resurfaced park road, including some services work, but didn’t put an ounce of effort into a bit of a redesign that would have significantly improved their bus services there.

      2. It would be good if AT employed someone sensible just to walk around intersections and take a look for 20 mins. I think doing traffic counts with the engineers sitting in their office doesn’t tell the whole story.

        1. Site visits are good. But critical is designing for the modeshare you want, rather than the modeshare you have or that the model predicts.

          AT management is reluctant to reallocate road space because they employ methods that are ultimately quite flawed, and which tell them so many cars need to be accommodated… when in fact reallocating the space and redesigning the system means the car modeshare drops.

          It’s happened time and again overseas, but AT management think “Auckland is Different”.

    2. “My point is, so much of this effort and space is going towards driving, actually isn’t even very useful driving infrastructure.”
      Absolutely right Jack. And this is still happening or about to happen. Esmonde Road is a classic example . Traffic on this road is clogged only because it has to stop at light controlled access to the motorway. So ATs/Waka Kotahi’s solution? Downgrade the current busway to a T2 and clog that with cars. If the current CEO presides over a regime that thinks this is the best outcome when emissions reduction is paramount, then it is best he goes.

      1. are they turning that entire busway lane into a T2 lane from esmonde to the bridge?

        If they are, they had better get ready for some serious anger from bus patrons. NX1 NX2 etc, all slowed down for some T2 vehicles.

  10. Hey Heidi. Worth noting that the Coatesville-Riverhead-Drury Flat roundabout was implemented with some half decent separation. Not perfect but also quite good considering there is no connecting infrastructure which is usually the excuse AT pull for not doing anything

    1. Oh, that’s interesting. Thanks. Those plans are what AT’s page link to… and they don’t even show pedestrian crossings at the roundabout. Do you have links to another set of drawings, by chance?

        1. Thanks, Omega! Do you know if that happens often? That the final drawings on AT’s website have been superseded?

          So there was some space carved out for cycling, which is a big step up, but only works if you’re wanting to do some of the directions of travel. And the two lane approaches ruin it, preventing the possibility of safe crossings. And the narrow lanes are inadequate.

          AT’s recent TDM doesn’t meet international guidelines. Let’s hope the TERP process will allow all of this to get overhauled reasonably quickly.

        2. Thanks Max. Yes, I agree. The will is the biggest issue. The TDM’s starting point unfortunately means “compromises” lead to really bad outcomes. The TDM doesn’t even meet the World Resource Institute’s recent tactical Covid guidance.

          For example, the TDM’s minimum cycle lane widths are specifically advised against, described as “deceptive widths”. So when you get AT wanting to compromise on that width, we’re talking crazy levels of deficiency. If the TDM followed best practice, it would at least create some examples where people can see best practice, which helps with public expectations being high.

        3. I think the critical thing that AT isn’t getting is that road reallocation can be generous – for excellent cycling outcomes – and good value for money. Whereas being miserly with space in order to preserve traffic lanes achieves poor cycling outcomes and is really expensive.

          If they could understand what 7% or 10% vkt reduction per year looks like in terms of making their planning easier, these decisions would be made well.

  11. Rather a mixed bag of examples. Waka Kotahi hold very tight purse strings – always do minimum, never fix something that ‘belongs’ to a different budget.
    Weymouth roundabout: it exists; it’s very busy and having a congestion problem fixed with minor tweaks to lanes on the roundabout – and it gets bike paths improved at the same time.
    Medallion/ Oteha Valley: two decades of haggling with developer gets a poor roundabout replaced with worse signals instead of a better roundabout, but at least the crossings are included. And you can cycle – on the path.
    Never expect any good on Mt Wellington Highway – just stay away!
    All the small changes need to point in the right direction. Not true in all cases yet.

    1. So point me to some evidence please, Inside Looking Out, that it is Waka Kotahi who are saying that the “local road” improvements budget can’t fund the full spectrum of things required in a “local road”. The “local road” budget does not mean “driving” and “expansion for driving” and “improving traffic flow”.

      Indeed, to achieve the GPS, the “local road” budget needs to fund “reducing driving” and “reducing road space given to driving”, as well as all the things that need to be accommodated in a “local road”: safety, cycling and walking improvements, pedestrian crossings, bus improvements.

      Separate budgets for these non-driving things was required to make sure they happen at all in a regressive sector, but not to remove the general requirements as laid out in the GPS which can only be achieved if all budgets head in that direction. As I understand it, AT is supposed to present projects for approval and it is they who are choosing to limit what they think WK will approve.

      Either way, allowing any local project to be BAU is regressive, and whether it’s AT or WK limiting the scope in this way, it is a belligerent refusal to implement the GPS, which calls for “the rapid transition to a low carbon transport system,” “developing a transport system in which no one is killed or seriously injured,” “providing people with better transport options,” “improving freight connections” – all of which require reducing vehicle travel.

      1. And that’s a genuine question. I’m looking to find the real barriers and break through them. So if you can mention particular projects that were refused for funding, or particular guidance that I can ask for, it would be much appreciated.

  12. “Auckland Transport has adopted Vision Zero”

    Given the examples above clearly AT is acting in contradiction to its own policy. The infrastructure it is building will still be there in 2050 – it should be fully vision zero compliant.

    NZTA is also involved through funding these projects.

    We need a complete paradigm shift.

    NZ needs a new nationwide transport infrastructure standard that aligns with vision zero and zero carbon. All new infrastructure would have to meet the standard as would retrofits.

    Design exceptions would have to be explicitly signed off with the implementing authority legally liable should the design exception lead to deaths or serious injury.

  13. “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

    – James W. Frick

  14. Thanks Heidi,
    Is this the time for our Mayor to stand up and hold their CCO accountable.
    It seems to me we are getting not just terrible value for money – but we’re being killed in the process.
    Maybe the 4th estate can step up and shine some light on decision making that leads to these predictable poor outcomes. Please – and no paywalls.
    Groundswell folks are right – enough is enough. – except that’s a meaningless sentence. Auckland Council – do your job.
    Heidi – I believe Shane Ellison stood aside to allow you to take control. Sooner would be better.

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