Disruption in our transport corridors is a given. Annoying though it is, it’s also a gift, because it can be managed in a way that delivers climate action, and makes life easier and safer for the most vulnerable people on our road.
It’s all in the temporary traffic management (TTM). The cones, signs, and planning that keep people moving while working in the road.
Done thoughtfully, TTM can improve safety for active modes. After all, disruption in the corridor is a time when vehicles are slowed down, or their movements are restricted in some way. Under such conditions, all that’s required to improve safety for people on foot and bike is to make sure they have space, protection, priority – and that the changes are clear to understand. Such TTM can be an opportunity to experience our streets differently, and gives residents a chance to understand how small changes can instantly make our city nicer.
None of this, of course, matches our experience of TTM at the moment, which regularly strands people on foot and bike, puts them in direct danger, gives them the lowest priority, and delays their journeys. The upside is that this is a “low-hanging fruit” for better safety – and both Auckland Transport (AT) and Waka Kotahi are on record as being keen to pluck those easy rewards.
This is essential not only to bring safety to Auckland’s transport system, but also to support the mode-shift targets of the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP).
One of this week’s many examples
During the wee hours of Monday morning, contractors working at Te Atatu Interchange damaged the structure supporting the Te Atatu Rd underpass that is part of the Northwest cycleway.
Mistakes happen, and closing the underpass until they could make it safe was important.
But the other thing required was safe TTM, and this was missing.
There was no active management of traffic to ensure people using the path could continue on their journey safely, no wayfinding signage to show where to go – unless you count some handwritten notes in vivid pen on the back of some road signs.
Come the Monday rush hour, people coming from the south along Te Atatu Rd were treated with this beauty of a sign:
It was a long way to backtrack once you finally realised the underpass was closed.
Here’s the barrier faced by people coming from the east:
The detour, if you knew where to go, was 400m long. Anyone wondering where to go had no reason to trust they wouldn’t encounter further barriers and “Footpath Closed” signs. So it is no surprise that in the face of uncertainty, people found their own solutions:
Cyclist risking life and limb to try to get to work around this fucking bullshit. pic.twitter.com/Z5zHGjo3Yw
— Ben Gracewood (@aotearoa_ben) September 18, 2022
The problems were still rife in the afternoon, and would have been extremely difficult for anyone encountering it in the dark overnight.
— Ben Gracewood (@aotearoa_ben) September 19, 2022
The underpass was reopened on Tuesday. Megan Harvey’s twitter thread gives further context, and Ben Gracewood wrote about the whole experience in The Spinoff yesterday.
All of this makes my blood boil. These are our loved ones at risk; someone could easily have died in the conditions. And I have many more questions about the priorities shown in the response.
Tracking TTM in Auckland
Auckland Transport tracks TTM performance at road works sites, based on site inspections, in its quarterly Temporary Traffic Management Newsletter. In the last one, I noticed that the performance is failing to meet the KPI of 80% satisfactory:
So I looked back at earlier newsletters, and noticed TTM performance seems to be worse now than a few years ago:
On the other hand, the number of crashes at work sites seems to be lower. The latest chart shows a total of 47 crashes:
Whereas, the number for the earlier year (to mid 2019) was 66. Clearly, the number moves around a bit, because a year ago, it had even risen to 81:
I know the enforcement team has tried different approaches to encouraging better performance. What worked, and what else are they planning to try? Were the lower number of crashes due to more stop-work notices issued, so contractors cleaned up their act? Were the enforcement team able to shift their focus to safety in response to Vision Zero?
But why is the performance dropping? What exactly gets measured? Is the focus on safety, or traffic flow?
It’s important not to put too much emphasis on the “number of crashes” as a measure of safety. Avoiding serious crashes is the focus of Vision Zero, but is not a useful measure of performance, because for any individual contractor you’d hope it would be a very low number. More useful and meaningful would be surrogate safety measures, like counts of people with mobility aids or of independent children using the streets nearby. Measures such as these also help practitioners think about the effect of what they’re doing on local people.
Another thing I noticed in the newsletter is the “leaderboard” of performance. It looks like only three companies in the city have achieved the KPI target of 80%! Given the potential impact on people’s lives and safety, if traffic management companies are regularly failing their inspections, how are they still able to win contracts to work on our streets?
The contractor responsible for this week’s poor TTM at Te Atatu is Fulton Hogan, which only has a 71.9% performance. As one of the biggest contractors, their staff should be practised in safe TTM, and well-equipped with signage and guidelines.
Cause for concern is that Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi – as clients – are performing particularly poorly (57% and 57.1%). These are the road controlling authorities, who should understand how to meet their own requirements and be motivated to do so.
Have the safety-conscious people on the boards of AT and WK queried this poor workplace safety?
Suggestion 1: Stop serving Goddess Flow
At AT, TTM seems to be governed by the Network Operating Plan (NOP):
The Network Operating Plan needs to be updated in line with the TERP and Vision Zero, to prioritise safety over traffic flow. Currently it is overly focused on:
- Level of service and delays. The focus needs to shift, instead, to safety and mode-shift; this approach also improves the performance of all networks, by reducing – rather than inducing – traffic.
- Increasing capacity. Better outcomes will be achieved by aiming, overtly, to decrease vehicle movement capacity.
Projects could be completed much faster if AT and Waka Kotahi didn’t require the impact on vehicle traffic to be kept to a minimum. The benefits would be large:
- Quicker projects are cheaper. Even the temporary traffic management costs themselves can be considerably reduced with the use of more all-day detours. Having to stop work for the rush hour, or to keep vehicle traffic flowing at all times, complicates the TTM procedures, and prolongs the disruption. Cheaper transport projects means the funding goes further.
- Short, sharp disruption can also offer opportunities for demonstrating a different traffic circulation pattern, and its mode-shift potential, as I described in Getting Sign Off and The Power of Disruption.
- Similarly, the demonstration offers an opportunity for engagement, to encourage a more mature civic discussion about the benefits of change.
If we were to prioritise both safety and the pace of construction over traffic flow, this city’s built environment and transport system could be transformed rapidly.
Suggestion 2: More Resource and Urban focus
The TTM staff at AT are probably under-resourced. Also, the national guidance has been more suitable for the open road than for cities. Indeed, AT’s feedback to Waka Kotahi in May about the Draft New Zealand Guide to Temporary Traffic Management (NZGTTM) hinted at this tension. Although welcoming the review as necessary, it included the line:
AT does not believe the current proposed NZGTTM could be adopted for our road network.
TTM must be allowed to focus on mode-shift, and it needs to be resourced.
Suggestion 3: AT could empower the upstanding bystanders
People react to systematic risk to life in different ways. Ben Gracewood did his best to alert incoming bike traffic while calling on the authorities. Perhaps this person assumed the barrier was wrongly placed or made their own assessment of the safest way forward:
I recently asked Auckland Transport if a protocol could be developed for the public to be able to take action where TTM equipment has been placed dangerously. For example, where a sign obstructs the footpath or bike lane.
I suggested that currently, the only option the public have is to report the problem, knowing that enforcement action is slow. In a healthy society, people wouldn’t walk away from something that could injure people. I asked: wouldn’t it be better for the danger to be mitigated with temporary action? I used the following example:
The danger from having no “Works End Thank You” message to road users, for a brief period of time, is small. Whereas, the danger involved in keeping the sign in the bike lane – forcing kids out into traffic – is large. Without a protocol, people are likely to move dangerously placed signs anyway, which may introduce different dangers. So partnering with the public, and being clear about how to report, remove and place a dangerous sign responsibly, etc, would be a nimble, progressive and community-trust-building response.
I hope AT’s reply will cover situations like this week’s incident.
Suggestion 4: The AT Board need to connect the dots.
This is about Vision Zero, and the “layer of clay” at AT and Waka Kotahi. The executive at AT have had 4.5 years since the safety review to get their heads around Vision Zero and translate it throughout all of the organisation’s operations, programmes and contracts.
This is also about the TERP. Currently, TTM practices are an immense barrier to mode-shift. Safety needs to be reliable before people will rely on bikes to get around or allow their children to travel independently. It is one of many operational areas which can influence mode-shift and safety.
So what are the AT Board doing? Do they realise that AT can be taking many immediate actions to implement the TERP? Well before the flagged “rethink” of the Regional Land Transport Plan, AT should simply start doing what it does more safely. And the Board needs to acknowledge the organisational conservatism, and create a pathway of communication so knowledgeable staff can bypass the layer of clay and keep the CEO and Board informed – without fear for their jobs.
None of these changes require business cases. They are simply the ethical safety changes that adopting Vision Zero should have already delivered.
I think we all know the AT board will do precisely SFA all about this. There will be a concerned line in a report (maybe) and then the effects of Covid will be blamed.
I would love to see AT doing some monitoring on effects on traffic when streets are closed for Watercare or other works. Here in Roskill we had a suburban street closed for about 6 months that is choked with traffic at school pickup and drop off. While closed that traffic seemed to vanish! AT should be seeing these moments as opportunities.
Chris Darby has been on the board of AT, collecting the $60,000 salary for it and doing SFA since Goff put him on it. Hope he’s not back in doing SFA for another term.
Thank you for the opportunity, again, to set this myth straight.
The positions held by Darby and Cashmore on the AT Board are “CCO liaison councillors” – without voting rights – and neither of them appear to get any more money for having the role, as you can see here: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/about-auckland-council/how-auckland-council-works/elected-members-remuneration-declarations-interest/Pages/elected-members-remuneration.aspx
These amounts aren’t cumulative, each councillor will get the value based on their highest position. So Cashmore’s is determined by his role as deputy mayor. Darby’s is determined by his role as Committee chair or CCO liaison councillor (they are the same). If being a CCO liaison councillor had been their only role above councillor, they would’ve been paid $17,000 more for the privilege, but this is not the case for either of the two currently in the role.
Not only are they non-voting, AT’s Board meeting dates are set to clash with the Council meeting dates; this has been true of every AT Board meeting in the last year.
It’s important to hold people to account. But the problems at AT cannot be blamed on two non-voting CCO liaison councillors who are being blocked from even managing to attend meetings.
So those who advised Goff to remove Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee from the board of AT really stuffed it up big time then! They had voting rights, could represent the ratepayers and had a direct say on issues for the people of Auckland. A big thanks (not) to those who lobbied Goff to dump our representation from the board.
Yes and no. There are good reasons for not having councillors on the AT Board. https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/10/26/no-councillors-on-at-board-perhaps-not-a-bad-thing/
As a temporary measure to kickstart the TERP and bring the focus onto safety and modeshift, however, it may be a useful stepping stone. But only if the councillors chosen have a real passion and knowledge base for decarbonising transport.
The real problem with the AT Board is a national problem of poor governance, with outdated risk management and an appointments process that excludes the people with the skills needed to actually govern something as complex as transport, especially during times of substantial change.
For roading projects that cause significant disruption to bus services, the bus operators are just expected to suck it up,and put up with the disruption,and put on extra vehicles to keep services on track. Clearly in the current environment, extra buses are out of the question.
Smarter move ,when bus arterials are affected,is to make affected lanes,bus and active mode only,this sends a powerful message to all commmuters. Yes, this causes significant disruption,but increases the road workers safety,and challenges the commuting public,to think about their transport choice.
Yes. This is a subject for a post in itself. Any project that might disrupt the bus services is an opportunity for a rethink of how to manage the traffic. Again, by restricting the general traffic, the bus services could have an improved run, and it is a chance to demonstrate the benefits of changing the system to give a different level of priority.
At the heart of all this is the problem of how much space cars take up; this problem is omnipresent in Auckland. Rather than allowing construction disruption to further impact every other mode, spacial inefficiency and spatial inequity needs to be acknowledged as the cause of the problem, and disruption needs to be managed in a way that sets the balance right.
Attention to mode-shift is required to achieve mode neutrality of access.
The standard of TTM in NZ is low and dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists and micro-mobility users.
Road cones save no ones life if something goes wrong unless the road traffic is actually operationally slowed to 30 kmh.
If 30kmh cant be achieved then better practice is the use of jersey barriers. These can be water filled.
In NZ recently I’ve seen a footpath around a bend completely blocked with no safe pedestrian alternative. A sign back at the upstream signals could have directed pedestrians to cross the road there. The bus stop had also been moved and the temporary bus stop sign was not visible to the buses & the temporary bus bay was too short.
Also I’ve never seen thermoplastic rumble strips used in NZ perpendicular to traffic flow approaching a TTM site in higher speed environments to help get the traffic to slow
down and get the driver to take the TMM context seriously.
Agreed. Fortunately Mike Lee fits the bill on decarbonising transport with his push for twin tracking the Western line, rail electrification and light rail on the agree AT plan of the 3 main route of Dom Road, Mt Eden Rd and Manukau Rd. Sadly, once some people lobbied to have councillors removed from the AT Board light rail has gone completely pear shaped, and looks like won’t actually go ahead. Chris Darby hasn’t actually got any new electric rail or light rail over the line, so hasn’t made a difference at all.
If your going on about Mike Lee then you might want to read this.
Not to sure I agree on anything but his vision of rail around Auckland certainly coincides with mine.
Everything not anything
He seem very heavy rail focused. I mean I even have Jon Reeves say he thought light rail on Dominion Rd might be a good.
Also doesn’t say much about the Mangere link other than the fact cost increased. No reasons behind it. Same with the CRL.
No proposed solutions or anything. Just vague blaming of neoliberalism.
Mike Lee offers passionate support for heavy rail. Passion is useful, but there have been times when this hasn’t been exactly cool-headed or logical. At the same time, he is very destructive when it comes to safety and bike infrastructure.
Therefore, no, he doesn’t fit the bill on decarbonising transport, which requires all levers are pulled and needs to ramp up its focus on safety and cycling.
Vote Climate https://www.voteclimate.org.nz/candidates have given him ticks for public transport, but the cross for walking and cycling is important.
He appears he hasn’t even filled out Generation Zero’s survey. https://localelections.nz/ They rate him a C overall, based presumably on what’s publicly available.
I wouldn’t say voteclimate is an accurate tool at all. Considering, looking into Mike Lee’s background – how many regional parks did he bring to Aucklanders? How many new walking tracks did he bring to Aucklanders? A lot more than, say, Pippa Coom or Julie Fairey when I think about it. In fact, I don’t think Coom or Fairey have opened one single regional park, but overseen destruction of local parks. So no, that Vote Climate – when looking at all the candidates is promotes just seem politically aligned to two left political parties.
Tony, regional parks are great but could you please provide the evidence that an adequate climate response can be achieved without focusing on walking and cycling? The work done by multiple parties – including government and council – shows that transport is central to reducing emissions and modeshift is key. It’s why we have a TERP, and it’s why walking and cycling are critical.
A green infrastructure climate response is best supported through:
– intensification and walking and cycling improvements to enable living without cars; this prevents sprawl and the destruction of the countryside, and
– planting street trees and installing raingardens as part of street improvements.
Vote Climate have done their homework. Their questions are non partisan and are an accessible summary of the science, which is that transport is the biggest climate issue for Auckland.
Julie Fairey’s work on the world class project of daylighting and rehabilitating the Te Auauanga Stream, with walking and cycling tracks, means you’ve just maligned her quite unfairly.
I’ve tried to respond with facts, but if you want to discuss politics, please go elsewhere. This is a blog about urban issues; discussion about politicians is kept to a minimum and must be fair. Your comments have been neither correct nor fair.
I think Mike Lee’s days of progressive politics are over. What he did decades ago is no longer a good indicator of what he will do if elected. HIs opposition to urban intensification, for instance, is out of keeping with the needs of Auckland.
What kind of summary is this?: “Chris Darby hasn’t actually got any new electric rail or light rail over the line, so hasn’t made a difference at all.”
The comment about rail is nonsense, given central government’s involvement.
The TERP is a significant piece of work, and could be considered one of Darby’s achievements, alongside Hills. Darby is chair of the Planning Committee which directed Council to prepare it, while Hills is chair of the ECCC Committee which approved it.
Tony, I’m not sure why you (I guess your with the CBT?) think that option was the “agreed AT plan”. It was just one of a dozen or so options that were looked at.
The agreed AT plan was the one they published and put to consultation in the regional public transport plan. The plan with two lines, dominion road and airport, and the northwestern line.
It will be an interesting test to see if they put some steel in the underpass around the damage to support the weight and reopen it this week or if they close it and dither for months.
It’s already opened (yesterday), which I think came as a surprise to a lot of users.
It’s propped up by wood actually! I don’t think they were too concerned about the structural integrity, rather falling loose concrete.
There is good work being done on Puhinui Road renewing footpaths and adding raised tables on side streets. Sometimes I have being left wondering where I am meant to be walking but it seems to be improving as the project goes along. Station road Papatoetoe is getting a number of multi unit housing blocks. Up to 16 units on what was formerly 2 large houses and sections. There is a lot of heavy traffic associated with this complicated by an endless stream of dump trucks carting fill and top soil and old and new ballast here there and every where for the third main project. There has being no incidents that I am aware of but its pretty intense. I wonder if at the end of the work they will add concrete bollards to separate the cycleway from traffic. But certainly it could not be done now. It was good to come home on the Puhinui express rail replacement bus on Sunday. Britomart Newmarket then Puhinui via the motorway. The bus travelled down the Southern then over the flyover at Manukau city along state highway 20 then down Puhinui road bus lanes. A number of passengers boarded the Airport bus at Puhinui Station. Others boarded the bus to Manukau I had a slightly longer walk home.
We need enforcement of 30km/hr areas! In Aussie they have speed cameras 24/7 and drivers will get caught
As a cyclist, I take the lane if it is a 30km/hr area. But the vehicles behind get so annoyed and aggravated! And it is dangerous.
I have a GPS speedo telling me that I am traveling at the correct speed. (I admit quite often it is 28km/hr – sorry)
Same in The Domain. Where I am doing 30km/hr I take the lane, again vehicles behind get so angry.
Yes we’ve just had 30km/h signs put up in my residential street but so far they are just ignored!
The point about correcting issues or calling in immediate help is a good one.
If a tree falls across a rural road and you have your Stihl in the load bed, nobody takes issue with you clearing it.
If I walk or ride somewhere to clear a path with hand tools, I get some funny looks.
At least as a cyclist I’m not short of hi-viz.
Please read that extract from the NOP carefully. 1) It doesn’t say performance over-rules safety. Safety is a given requirement for a Level of Service. 2) It doesn’t say vehicle traffic flow is more important than walking or cycling. In fact, it requires consideration of the Level of Service for *all* modes.
WK have been spending time on producing the draft NZGTTM (doesn’t that just trip off/over the tongue?) and have produced something that doesn’t get to grips with urban TTM, leaving AT and other RCAs to do that work over again. If TTM planning actually followed the NOP, it would start with identifying the impacts on all modes (hint: start with walking and cycling!) then check that the TTM details don’t conflict with the LoS for those modes.
A protocol for dealing with TTM faults and emergencies is a key part of TTM. A roll of adhesive white film plus a thick waterproof marker pen easy an easy accessory for contractors. An emergency contact phone number displayed on site is not difficult either.
Agree on the NZGTTM, and I think AT have much more understanding about the urban context than WK do.
On the NOP, I wasn’t extrapolating from the notes in that image, which was just there to show the link between NOP and TTM, but from some specific sections. I’ll see if I can find time soon to paste what I mean.
First, this part of the NOP effectively results in traffic flow being more important than walking and cycling:
“Network Optimisation is the programme of work seeking to make best use of the existing network. Network Optimisation is based on the following three principles:
NETWORK MANAGEMENT: managing and operating the network in alignment with strategic intent and the NOP.
CAPACITY CREATION: increasing people movement capacity (not necessarily vehicle movement capacity).
BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE: increasing people movement efficiencies and user experience using the existing road space. ”
It sounds fine, right? But in fact the capacity principle leads to funding being wasted on intersection and corridor “improvements” that increase capacity. This is stripping funding from the transport transformation projects (specifically road reallocation) that is needed. The principle needs to be replaced with an overt statement about *reducing vehicle capacity*, as that is one of the critical steps to reducing vehicle travel, which needs to be halved by 50% by 2030.
This is important, because cyclelanes could be being provided in every AT project on an arterial or connector through road reallocation, cheaply. Capacity is a problem due to the space inefficiency of cars, full stop. All the other modes are much more space efficient, so you don’t have to have the “increasing people capacity” thing in there at all. It simply muddies the situation, leading to TE’s finding excuses to increase road capacity.
The NOP should be changed so that every corner of AT must accept this, or we’re going to continue to get bullshit outcomes like at the corner of Balmoral Rd and Dominion Rd, or Cascades Rd and Botany Rd, or… the list basically includes most AT projects.
Secondly, look at the “aspirational user experience or LOS” chart on page 11, and then check to see what those LOS mean for walking and cycling.
Imagine putting as ‘aspirational’ the following LOS for walking anywhere in a city, (let alone “At all other locations” beyond the high pedestrian demand areas)!:
– Crossing opportunity is within 400m*
– Narrow sealed footpath
– Restricted movement for most pedestrians
Imagine putting as ‘aspirational’ the following LOS for cyclists, *on the strategic cycle network*!:
– Protected cycle path OR separated shared path OR shared path OR shared spaces with low volume & low speed AND
– Cyclist operating speeds are somewhat impeded AND
– Some conflict with other modes at intersections
Which means the majority of the street network gets lumped with diabolical LOS for cycling.
The NOP isn’t a VZ document. This isn’t safe.
The NOP isn’t a TERP-aligned document. It doesn’t promote modeshift at anything like the rate that has been in the Auckland Plan for years, let alone what has been laid out in the TERP.
Thank you so much for this considerably more level-headed and constructive overview I was so impotent with rage on Monday morning at the idea that motorised traffic was entirely unhindered while our primary cycle highway was blocked.
It’s good to see a way to make some lemonade from this. Even if it’s only the fact that we now have shiny new bike detour signs in Te Atatu, that’s better than what we had before.
You did an amazing job on Monday, Ben. Thanks for your hard work! I must say it was all very distracting as it unfolded and I was fuming too.
What’s hard is finding the right way to support the staff in various organisations who are doing good work, while also trying to get the people at the top to acknowledge and address the systemic problems.
“Suggestion 1: Stop serving Goddess Flow”
This looks like a typo, but I suppose it’s possible that these companies are being manipulated by a trickster-goddess.
There are so few opportunities for TCD jokes – but this is one:
I was walking along the road and came up to a footpath closed sign
it made me cross.
Ha ha! I almost died!!!
An excellent dialogue – Infrastructure is key and yet infrastructure projects can hurt and even destroy communities during the project phase. I do know that from my experience CCO’s do not enjoy talking with community groups. They often will point individual’s to ‘Have your say’ websites and it feels that they wish to atomise the groups and prevent community groups from talking with each other and will attempt to create caricatures out of bold personalities. A vibrant city with good flow and zero carbon emissions does require a multi modal strategy – This incorporates walking, cycling, mass transit in the forms of bus, light and heavy rail. Each mode is optimum in certain situations and certain zones will have multiple modes. Atomised groups have become factionalised and encamped eg – bikers and walkers versus railers – as individuals are labeled. Perhaps someone like Mike Lee has become an unfair target in such discussions – My understanding is that Mike is 100% behind a vibrant zero carbon city using multi modal forms of transport – pragmatic use of funds and projects raised and implemented in conjunction with diverse groups.
Thanks Puneet! Those are interesting observations. My experience is that sometimes AT staff seem to think that “workshops” will resolve things. So they bring into one room people who are resisting change, and people who are trying to achieve a safer, healthier, more equitable transport system. It’s a way of trying to harness the energy of the advocates to try to persuade the vocal resistance to change. The people that psychologists call “the unpersuadables”. They then end up saying “the conversations are difficult” and “the public don’t want change” when it proves too hard. This is counterproductive and a long way from best practice. And it wears advocates out, who have already been fighting, in their spare time, against entrenched well-funded interests in the road lobby.
If AT were to take their responsibilities seriously, they would see what needs to be changed to deliver safety and health, and in implementing those changes, they’d find ways to communicate why it is happening, to different groups. But they wouldn’t compromise on the delivery of safety for children, and they wouldn’t burn out the people who’ve had to fight for their rights to safety and a better environment. They would start with deliberative democracy. You might be interested in this post: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/10/06/using-deliberative-democracy-to-explore-the-future-of-aucklands-water-supply/
As for Mike Lee, there’s plenty more like this available: https://www.mikelee.co.nz/2018/01/the-cycleway-debate-next-up-k-road/
He thinks a vitriolic anti-cycling email is “so compelling” he has to share it on his blog. Apparently his letterbox drop is very negative.