We’re concerned to see a suggestions in the media that three long-planned and much-consulted corridor improvement projects could be iced for no apparent reason other than that they also improve conditions for cycling.
To our eyes, this feels shortsighted and arbitrary. Will Auckland Transport stick to its programme, or will they flop at the slightest hint, claiming budget reasons?
No doubt there are savings that can be made across AT’s programmes – and we’ve written before about how more sustainable streets are on the whole lighter on the public purse – but ditching delayed capex work that’s been government co-funded since 2015 feels like a premature leap.
With that in mind, this is a cross post from our friends at Bike Auckland about these projects.
Bike Auckland has joined a broad range of community groups calling on Auckland Transport (AT) to continue as planned with the three Inner West street improvement projects that provide vital local connections and a range of benefits to all Aucklanders.
Keen to add your voice in support?
These long-awaited projects – imminently due to begin construction – are potentially under threat. Waitematā and Gulf Councillor Mike Lee has called on Auckland Transport to “put a hold” on the projects, in the wake of Mayor Wayne Brown’s indication of a new approach for Auckland Transport.
Publicly consulted on multiple times since 2016 – see the timeline of progress and delay and public support here – these routes form a suite of exemplary projects that take a ‘dig once’ approach to deliver safe and healthy streets that work for everyone.
The work – which covers 7km and connects the wider west to the central city, multiple town centres, schools, and regional attractions – will help make our region more resilient, and reduce transport emissions by giving Aucklanders of all ages the access they need to a full range of travel choices.
The projects are shovel-ready and good to go: included in the 2021-2031 Regional Land Transport Plan, funded with 51% support from central government, and designed in consultation with the community.
These are future-proofed multi-modal corridor projects, with features including safer crossings, more efficient intersections, bus improvements and new shelters, road resealing and a full rebuild for Meola Road, extensive upgrades including undergrounding of power lines and repairs to water infrastructure, new loading zones and timed parking, and hundreds of new trees and fresh greenery along the route.
Keen to add your voice in support of these projects? Details at the end of this post!
The safety benefits for everyone are incontestable
Bike Auckland’s vision of safe cycling for all ages is aligned with all of Auckland Council’s plans and policies, because there is simply no disputing the evidence: a city with safe bike infrastructure is safer for everyone who uses the transport system.
Around 4,000 school children travel on these routes every day, and these projects will vastly reduce their risk of death and serious injury. In the ongoing road safety crisis that Auckland is facing – and which AT has committed to addressing – it is unthinkable that AT would even consider walking away from safety projects that are funded, designed and ready to go.
Community support for these projects is consistent and strong
Since 2016, these projects have been refined in response to multiple rounds of public consultation, and AT’s feedback reports show strong support at every step. Elected officials and AT would do well to reflect on this. In particular, we note:
Great North Road Improvements
This multi-modal corridor project prioritises bus improvements and loading zones, while adding separated cycleways, trees, and safe crossings. The largest group who responded to the 2021 consultation were “people who drive” – and the most popular design elements were the continuous protected cycleways, safer crossings, and bus lane improvements.
Grey Lynn and Westmere Improvements
In the 2018 consultation, two-thirds of submissions supported the project. In early 2022 AT went back to the community in anticipation of construction within the year. The feedback report notes that the dominant response to an open-ended question was variations on ‘please get on with it’.
Point Chevalier to Westmere Improvements
Public feedback in 2017 was 2:1 in favour of this project, and a 2019 consultation on an enhanced design drew 690 submissions, with strongest support for cycling safety (10:1), safer pedestrian crossings (5:1) and bus improvements. This reflects AT’s successful use of the Community Liaison Group (CLG) process through 2018. The CLG was convened to draw input from a broad cross-section of the community and ensure local knowledge was incorporated in the design.
Healthy, climate-friendly streets have the support of the quiet majority
The consistent majority support for each of these projects matches the formal research that consistently shows two in three Aucklanders support cycling in their community, and the clear public mandates for action on road safety and climate in Auckland.
This broad public sentiment stands in stark contrast to a small, disruptive and out-of-step campaign that has harassed AT staff and contractors while seeking to halt road safety works, and has targeted these projects as a whole. This anti-social behaviour is of concern to us all.
AT’s patient and productive ongoing engagement with stakeholders along the routes has resulted in responsive design improvements that address local needs. Well-communicated but rapid delivery is known to be the best tonic for addressing any lingering fringe opposition, as getting the work done is the best way to swiftly demonstrate the benefits to the public.
The wider benefits will accrue to all of us
While originally funded as improvements to cycling, these are full streetscape projects that deliver a range of fundamental improvements, including a more resilient Meola Road (rebuilt from the foundations), and upgrades to lighting and underground services, new trees, planting and rain gardens.
The safer streets, placemaking, more efficient intersections, superior bus amenities, and improvements for deliveries will benefit the entire Auckland community, whether they are local residents, workers, customers or visitors to destinations and regional attractions along these routes.
By giving the growing population of the inner west the option to walk or bike for short local trips, the projects free up room for those who need to drive or catch the bus. And by linking into the wider cycle network, these routes will expand access by bike into the central city and out across the city.
These projects illustrate AT’s delivery issues – and opportunities to improve
Getting projects like these under way is vital in order for Auckland Transport to become more efficient in delivering its work, and to rapidly develop the capability it will need for designing and building climate-responsive streetscapes and cycling infrastructure in the years ahead.
The work is long overdue – these projects date back to Auckland City Council’s 2007 cycling network plan! A decade and a half on, they are ready go, with greatly improved designs that embrace and respond to community needs and the way Aucklanders move – and want to move.
If anything, the projects should be accelerated to give Aucklanders the safety, liveability and relief from congestion we consistently call for, and a chance to see and experience streets that offer real transport choice.
These projects deliver on the strategic direction, and deliver value for money
Funding for these projects was first secured in 2015 through the National Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme, and the work was originally to have been delivered by 2018. In the years since, successive Government Policy Statements on transport, and the Emissions Reduction Plan have strengthened government’s commitment to investing in a low-carbon transport system.
We understand that over $37m of central government funding has already been approved for these projects, most of which is yet to be claimed.
It’s worth noting that these projects have attracted considerable co-investment due to their direct benefits for cycling – and this active modes investment is being leveraged to deliver multiple benefits for all road users. This is unparalleled value for money for all Aucklanders – but only if the projects proceed.
Bike Auckland agrees that transport infrastructure must be cost-effective wherever possible. In this case, that includes not wasting the work that’s been done to date: years of designs and redesigns and consultations and community engagement, representing a considerable investment of thousands of hours from Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, and Local Boards.
Add to that a similar volume of volunteer work invested by citizens over the years, including:
- time and feedback freely given in good faith by the many community members and organisations who’ve participated in liaison groups and consultations over the years.
- expert design reviews and advice unstintingly provided by Bike Auckland’s professional safety and cycling experts and traffic engineers. This expertise, as always, is voluntarily donated to Auckland Transport and to Auckland as a whole.
- the ongoing work of our Bike Burbs groups, leading community-building events, connecting people to bikes, and communicating the local benefits of the projects.
Auckland Transport has the support it needs to proceed with confidence
Bike Auckland has strongly encouraged Auckland Transport to continue with this work as planned. No objections have been raised that can justify stalling projects that deliver such wide benefits for local residents and businesses and the region as a whole.
(See also: an open letter from Women in Urbanism Aotearoa to Mayor Wayne Brown and Auckland Transport in support of these projects.)