Tomorrow, Thursday 25 August, the Auckland Transport Board meets again. Here are the highlights from their board reports. You can watch the open session of the meeting live between 9am and 10am via this Microsoft Teams link.
Despite the last board meeting being two months ago, there aren’t a lot of items that stand out in the closed session this meeting. Most items looking to be things such as contracts and staff delegation.
Probably the most interesting items are deputations to the board by two Councillors:
- Wayne Walker on the Upper Harbour Drive protected cycleway
- Josephine Bartley on the changes to Onehunga Line Services
As items of public interest, brought to the board by publicly elected councillors, surely both of these should be in public rather than behind closed doors?
As for items for approval, these are the only two of any real interest:
- 2022/2023 Capital Delivery and Over-Programming Scenario – It would be useful to understand in more detail what AT is planning to deliver next year. The over-programming scenario is where they plan on paper to deliver more projects than they know they is practically possible, on the basis that between now and the end of the financial year some projects will face delays enough to push them to next year or beyond.
- Media strategy – Ideally, this means AT will actively start engaging with media and the public to highlight why change is happening and why it’s necessary – rather than their current approach of “we can’t do this because Mike Hosking might not like it”.
There are also two items for noting that caught my attention:
- Three-Year Rail Network Access Agreement – What I’m interested in here is what this item means for: AT’s ability to run more trains, the quality of the network Kiwirail say they’ll deliver, and what impact it has on the cost to run services.
- Wayfinding Strategy and Opportunities ahead – Wayfinding is a hugely important part of the urban environment; it’s fundamental in fact. AT has done some good work in places, but so much more is needed.
Here are the items in the open business report that caught my attention. Firstly, there is still no new permanent Chief Executive for Auckland Transport. Secondly, there are a handful of interesting items related to potential street changes
Reshaping Streets Regulatory Changes – The government announced this consultation a few weeks ago. Many of the changes will make things easier for Auckland Transport, when it comes to delivering what’s needed.
However, from the phrasing in the report, it seems AT is worried about the potential changes making it easier for people to use streets for not just driving and traffic flow.
Waka Kotahi is currently consulting on a series of proposals to make it easier for road controlling authorities to make changes to streets. Most of the changes, including to consultation processes, should make it easier for AT to make minor changes in support of intensification, placemaking and other activities. One of the proposals could potentially increase the number of events communities hold in streets, with impacts for the network. Staff are currently developing input which will be provided to council staff who will lead a group submission.
People Powered Streets Programme (including Streets for People and Ngā Tiriti Ngangahau)
This covers tactical (or ‘adaptive’) projects that deliver events and/or change streets in an agile way, in consultation with communities. The big question with this – and it’s been an issue with previous rounds of this work – is just how ambitious and innovative will Auckland Transport be.
In previous rounds, AT hasn’t been very ambitious or innovative at all, compared to what we’ve seen from other towns and cities around the country.
The Streets for People Programme is a $30 million fund available over the National Land Transport Plan 2021-2024. The programme looks to reshape streets to expand low-carbon transport choices while aligning with the Road to Zero strategy and the proposed Emissions Reduction Plan.
Five concept project areas (Māngere, New Lynn/Avondale, Manukau, Northcote and Panmure) have been identified and presented to Waka Kotahi to be taken into the Readiness Programme phase of Streets for People. All these programme areas focus on community programmes to grow active modes, in particular cycling, connecting to cycle infrastructure, trialling innovation and supporting behaviour change through training. It is anticipated that not all areas will be successful in attracting support from the programme and we will be working with Waka Kotahi to finalise the successful programme areas for development. Waka Kotahi has highlighted that the official programme launch will be held in September 2022 when the successful projects will be announced.
Supporting delivery of active modes improvements through renewals
This is something we and others have said is needed for many many years now. I can also recall a meeting with advocates, probably in about 2018, where then CEO Shane Ellison promised would happen when contracts were renewed – but there had been no sign of it before now. I wonder which two corridors are being looked at first?
We are enhancing active modes outcomes delivered through the renewals programme. Three key areas are being explored of programme alignment, minor improvements for active modes and safety, and potential for cycleway delivery through renewals.
The renewals programme already includes a range of minor and effectively cost-neutral activities to improve outcomes for active modes and safety, including widening footpaths, realignment of pram crossings, installing missing pram crossings, intersection radius tightening, and installation of tactile indicators. We are working to ensure these activities are consistently applied across all maintenance contract areas and exploring the potential to include other elements, such as implementation of skid resistance on service lids and cycle friendly stormwater grates.
The potential for cycleway delivery through the renewals programme is also being tested on two pilot corridors. We are currently in the initial stage of the pilot with internal teams preparing concept designs. If the concept designs show potential for delivery through the renewals programme we will proceed to the next stage. This pilot approach enables us to work through the detail of how cycleways could be delivered through renewals and identify costs and resources that fall outside the renewals programme (e.g., design, consultation, and separator installation). A successful pilot may support accelerated implementation of our strategic cycling and Micromobility network.
Ongoing Cycling Programme ‘Opportunities Allocation’
Presumably this means some funding to deliver cycling infrastructure in places where AT might be doing other work.
To support faster and more flexible delivery of cycling infrastructure within a ‘dig once’ approach, $12 million of the Ongoing Cycling Programme has been set aside as an ‘opportunities allocation’. This allocation will be available to smaller scale non-cycling projects (value under $10 million) to enable delivery of cycling elements that would otherwise be unaffordable. This allocation will improve our ability to deliver for cycling and Micromobility where it is a high priority.
There are a few other stories too:
AT Local – On-demand performance update
After AT stopped the subsidised taxi trial in Devonport, they shifted the focus of the programme to South Auckland around Takanini and Papakura.
AT Local is AT’s on-demand rideshare service. The service is being trialled in Conifer Grove, Takanini and Papakura for 12 months from 31 October 2021. Customers use the AT Local app or phone 0800 2 LOCAL to book their ride. They are then picked up by a professional driver in an AT Local-branded electric vehicle. There are almost 400 drop-off and pick-up points in the Service Area, so customers only have a short walk (approximately 120 metres) at the start and end of their trip.
Over 2,000 customers have signed up to use AT Local in Conifer Grove, Takanini and Papakura. There were over 15,000 AT Local trips in the first 9 months of the trial. June and July were the busiest months on the service to date, with over 3,000 trips in each month.
AT Local replaced the 371 bus service that ran between Papakura Station, Cosgrave Road, Porchester Road and Takanini Station. The 371 ran Monday to Friday only, with a 30-minute frequency during the peak, and a 60-minute frequency at other times.
AT Local has outperformed the pre-pandemic patronage of the 371 since April 2022. For example, in July 2022, there were 90% more AT Local boardings than for the 371 in July 2019.
AT Local has generated patronage growth at a time when other bus services in the Papakura area (but outside the AT Local Service Zone) have been experiencing patronage decline.
An online customer survey took place in July 2022. 86% of respondents rated their overall satisfaction with AT Local as at least 8 out of 10. They cited convenience, punctuality, and friendly drivers as highlights.
The majority of survey respondents use AT Local to travel to work. They also use the service to go shopping and to get to amenities, schools and appointments, and to visit friends and whanau. AT Local is used frequently (64% of respondents used it at least once a week) and attracts some occasional or rare users of public transportation. AT Local has gone beyond a bus replacement as majority of respondents did not previously use the 371.
The graph below is a little small and hard to read but it shows AT Local (blue) now surpassing the pre-Covid usage on the former 371 bus route (orange). That growth is good to see, especially given the restrictions we’ve had during that period.
Just for reference, this is from an old bus route map showing the 371, which ran almost entirely on the eastern side of the railway. For comparison, the area covered by AT Local includes the likes of Conifer Grove, Longford Park and Waiata Shores on the western side of the motorway.
From what I can tell, the AT Local services are costing about $2.7 million – but I’m not sure what period that covers, how it compares to the cost of running the bus or what other service improvements could have been delivered at the same time.
Let’s plan better stations – The Auckland Rapid Transit Network Study
Perhaps the most interesting thing, to me, in the Business Report. AT is looking at how to make it easier to access train/bus stations and ferry terminals:
A study has been undertaken on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network (RTN) stations. The purpose of this study is to help improve access to RTN stations (current and future) across the region.
The Auckland RTN study will recommend both transport and land use interventions to strengthen access to RTNs and enable greater patronage growth, mode shift and offer better travel choices.
The study was completed in July 2022 and the final report made available. A GIS viewer will function as a single source of truth for RTN stations and will go in hand with the final report. It will provide information on facilities, amenities, and gaps that exist at and around our RTNs, and enable us to better plan improvements. The usefulness of this viewer is beyond solely AT and will be helpful to other organisations such as Eke Panuku, Kāinga Ora, Waka Kotahi, and Auckland Council.
I’m quite keen to look at the GIS viewer for this, so if anyone has a link, let us know.
If you’ve looked through the reports Is there anything else that stood out?