Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board hold their first meeting of the year. Below are some of the things that stood out from the various papers.

Closed Agenda

These are the items that stand out from the closed agenda.

Standing Items

  • TERP Implementation – Next Steps and Climate change and TERP implementation
  • Special Event Management
  • Public Transport Recovery
  • Emergency Event Recovery

Items for Approval

  • AT Open Loop Recommendation – I assume this part of ATs plan to go ahead with plans to open up HOP to credit cards and phone based payment apps in advance of the national ticketing system.

Business Report

Here are the items in the open business report that caught my attention.

Weather Event update – As part of an update on the impact and response to some of the recent weather events, AT notes some of these impacts.

At the time of writing, the Auckland region has sustained widespread damage to our roading network, particularly in the north and west of the region. More than 120 roads have been fully closed over the last three weeks and 40 remain closed one week after Cyclone Gabrielle; most are where roads have fallen away in part or significant over-slips remain that will take time to repair. Focus has now switched to undertaking engineering investigations and design to reinstate as quickly as possible, with a particular focus and support to AEM on road impacts in the West of the region.

Across the network, our contractors have unfortunately had to tow more than 6,000 damaged or abandoned vehicles and removed four large barge loads (40-60 tonnes) of debri from the harbour.

That’s a lot of cars, one thing I have wondered, I’m sure there must be some families that have lost multiple vehicles. If AT had done a better job at delivering our PT and active mode networks, how many of those families might have chosen to not replace them all e.g. going from two cars down to one.

High-Risk Intersections Programme – The Triangle Rd and Makora Rd intersection is one I know well, having previously being part of my regular bike commute. I find it absurd that AT can still get away with upgrading intersections and missing off pedestrian legs, and especially where bike lanes already exists, not at least providing protection on the approach to the intersection.

Construction has been completed on the new signalised intersection at Triangle Road and Makora Road, Massey. The intersection is classed as high-risk as there have been eight reported injury crashes between 2016 and 2020. The improvement will provide a safe intersection for all road users and is expected to reduce Death and Serious Injury (DSI) crashes by 0.4 per year

Construction has started on the new signalised intersection at Neilson Street and Alfred Street, Onehunga and is planned to be completed by the end of March. The intersection is classed as high-risk as there have been 11 reported injury crashes between 2016 and 2020. The improvement will provide a safe intersection for all road users and is expected to reduce DSI crashes by 0.62 per year.

The upgraded Triangle-Makora Intersection

Supporting Growth – The supporting Growth alliance are developing and consenting new transport networks to support sprawl in the North, North West and South, as well as also being tasked with consenting the Airport to Botany busway. This update suggests there are a bunch of notifications and consultations coming up.

Notices of Requirement (NoRs) were lodged with Auckland Council in December for the North West Network. This is a significant milestone including 17 AT corridors in addition to Waka Kotahi’s projects. Auckland Council will publicly notify the applications for submission (to approximately 5000 people) on 23 February 2023. There is expected to be a high level of interest given the scale of the network.

NoRs were also lodged with Auckland Council for Airport to Botany in December, including both AT and Waka Kotahi projects. Auckland Council will publicly notify the applications for submissions (to approximately 5,000 people) on 12 March 2023.

Public engagement is planned for the Takanini Frequent Transit Network optioneering in March 2023, which includes urban corridors between Drury, Takanini and Manukau. Landowner engagement on the preferred options route refinement is planned for February and March for Warkworth, Pukekohe, Takanini Level Crossings and North

Mayoral Meddling – AT say:

In response to the Letter of Expectation from the Mayor, the Network Optimisation Programme will seek through the Statement of Intent to:

  • Bring forward the investigation of dynamic lanes.
  • Pilot dynamic timings (change the use of lanes depending on operational requirements and time of day).
  • Enhance Integrated Technology Solutions across the network.

Dynamic lanes, if used for speeding up public transport, and appropriate safety measures in place so that there is enhanced pedestrian access, could be a useful outcome. If instead it’s just about stuffing more cars down existing roads, that’s not going to help much.

They also confirm they’re reviewing all projects that look to improve things for bikes or PT users.

A number of business cases and designs for project upgrades to road corridors are currently undergoing a review to confirm options and to ensure alignment with the mayoral letter of expectations, including consideration of all transport users, project prioritisation and engagement with Local Boards and communities. The reviews shall be undertaken in 2023 and include re engagement with the relevant Local Boards. The current projects under review include Great North Road, New North Road, Waitemata Safe Routes, Point Chevalier to Westmere and the central area cycling business.

Parking Promotions – This sounds good but how about AT do something similar for PT customers?

AT Park Promotions module now allows a business to promote itself using an AT Park feature. Shops, cafés, health services, and any other business can offer a parking discount to customers to attract or reward them by providing them with additional value. This module went live on 21 November 2022.

Embodied Greenhouse Gas Emissions Target

The board are being asked to adopt a target of reducing embodied greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2031 (from 2021/22 baseline). They note:

Embodied emissions include emissions from the materials and methods that AT uses to construct and maintain the transport network. While it excludes the emissions associated with the construction of third-party developments, it does include the maintenance of new roads for example, once vested to AT. Embodied emissions represent a significant proportion of emissions compared to AT operational emissions (about fifteen times greater), and these targets are of reputational importance and essential to our social license to operate. The embodied emissions target complements existing targets that address other sources of transport emissions AT operational and public transport operational emissions.


Reduced embodied emissions will require more than just the implementation of low carbon materials and technologies. A target of 50% would require a carbon cost management (CCM, similar to whole of life) approach to understand the relationship between carbon emissions and cost associated with infrastructure delivery. Building less and building “clever” through efficient design, reducing material quantities and minimising construction operations leads to less carbon and less cost. AT would require a shift to “building less” with increased efficiency. ATs contractors would implement many of the low carbon technologies on the network as they seek to reduce their own emissions, reducing the cost implications for AT. As the market and supply chain for low carbon materials evolves, low carbon solutions will become less expensive and contribute to achieving the proposed target.

As well as both council and government requirements to reduce emissions, they say this is partly about optics

The Science Based Target Initiative (SBTI) target of 46% reduction by 2031 is required to keep warming below 1.5ºC by 2100. This is the aspirational target required for AT to maintain its Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) membership. The SBTI target of 27% reduction by 2031 is required to keep warming below 2ºC by 2100. Adoption of this more achievable target would require AT to give up its CLC membership. The recommendation is to maintain membership of CLC and adopt the higher aspirational target of 46% (rounded to 50%).

But in classic AT style, they admit this is largely for show and there’s no implications if they don’t meet it.

Any embodied emissions reduction target adopted by AT will have the status of an AT policy position. Aside from that, based on legal advice provided previously for the operational emissions target, adopting the target does not have any particular legal implications; nor are there implications if the target is not met.

As for where AT’s embodied emissions are coming from, it’s mostly from maintenance and renewals. Unsurprisingly they also say they have identified “the use of concrete and steel and the energy use associated with transport of materials/construction works on site as the largest contributors to embodied emissions“,

Meanwhile the green line on this graph shows what they’ll need to achieve compared to the graph above.

One option that could help them reduce maintenance costs – from a separate paper on the Inner West project – plant more street trees

The proposed street trees have a positive impact on the ambience, temperature and air quality along the routes. Reducing surface temperature contributes to the longevity of the road pavement by reducing wear and tear in hot weather, while the planting and tree pits contribute to the sponge effect to help absorb and slow down surface water run-off.

One final piece of ‘good‘ news is AT are already quite a bit of the way there because …. they’re under delivering

AT currently under delivers the capital programme each year relative to the baseline identified in the RLTP (2021). This alone contributes in the order of a 20% embodied emissions reduction.

It is good that AT are looking to adopt this target, I just hope they take some real steps to implement it.

At the same time, the scale of emissions needs to be put in perspective, the total annual  embodied emissions are equivalent to about 70,000 petrol cars driven for one year. There are just over 1.06 million petrol cars on Auckland roads so AT could achieve the equivalent of a 100% reduction in embodied emissions if they could just get around 7% of people to shift to PT or active modes – something that should be more than possible if they just delivered them.

Of course, they should do both.

Inner West projects

Following on from a similar request to the Waitemata Local Board, the AT board are being asked to approve going ahead with two of the inner-west projects while pausing the section in the middle that helps link them together.

I won’t relitigate all of that but a few interesting comments in the paper stood out to me.

  • Works are happening on Meola Rd regardless of if the AT board give approval or not, and we know from previous information that this is far more expensive than the works to deliver a cycleway.

AT is due to undertake reconstruction and renewal of the Meola Road pavement in 2023. This work will happen regardless of the cycleway work.

  • AT looked at, and rejected, options to reduce the costs of these projects but it would have required potentially the:

removal of more car parking spaces, omission of the bus lanes and associated journey time savings, fewer pedestrian facilities, fewer street trees and reduction of sightlines at side road entrances to the absolute minimum

  • Speaking of removing carparking, this is one of the concerns some businesses have about the Gt North Rd project. Yet as AT discovered, it has nothing to do with customers and all to do with the staff themselves:

Much of the concern is around employee parking, which is already an issue as spaces along the corridor are mostly time limited, meaning that some employees move cars around every 2 hours to circumvent the long-stay parking restrictions

  • The embodied emissions of these projects could probably be covered just by the mode-shift they enable.

The embedded carbon for Point Chevalier to Westmere project was assessed as around 4,500 tCO2-e, which is equivalent to emissions released by 2,044 light passenger petrol cars driven for one year in New Zealand. For Great North Road the equivalent figures are 1,727 tCO2-e or 780 light passenger vehicles.

Is there anything else that stood out from the board papers I’ve missed?

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  1. “Plant more street trees” is an easy thing to say, but much harder to do – it’s worth further in depth discussion. For a start, where? Traditionally, trees would be planted right near the gutter line, but the gutter area is full of infrastructure including storm-water drainage. If the tree is planted on the pavement side of the gutter, then it uses up precious walking space on the footpath, and if it is planted into the street area, then it will conflict with cycle paths and / or car parking. Either way, a thorough underground survey needs to be made to see where / if there is room between underground services, especially as tree roots can cause havoc with pipes and wires and junctions in the subsoil.

    Then there is the choice of tree – with deciduous being the tree of choice for summer shading, but suffering from extensive leaf fall and ensuing cleaning /disposal costs in autumn. London Plane trees down Symonds Street are a prime example. Also, NZ native trees are almost uniformly evergreen, not deciduous, and for PC reasons, any street tree planted is likely to have to be a native. Fair enough – I love NZ natives too, but totara and kauri are really slow growing and size wise are going to cause havoc one day, many years hence. What about pohutukawa? Everybody loves them! Except for the guys who have to deal with their roots infiltrating subsoil pipes and lifting foundations. What about palms? Nikau? Not really going to provide much shade, and falling palm fronds can be dangerous.

    It’s all so much more complicated than it may seem at first.

        1. Even other cities in NZ, like Whanganui, have decent street trees. This is an AT aversion to anything that has the potential to create complications to their work rather than an evidence-based practice.

      1. Northern hemisphere cities will routinely plant deciduous trees, which are often native to their own countries. Or perhaps they are not so ideologically driven in tree species. Berlin famously has Linden trees (aka Lime or Basswood tree) and London has Plane trees that seem to behave themselves better than ours do. North American cities will often have Maple or Dogwood trees. I’m not sure – what does Paris have?

    1. Yeah there is many things to consider. If you plant female trees you may have to deal with whatever fruits it produces. If you plant male trees it may make hay fever a lot worse for many people. Dropped leaves from deciduous trees interfere badly with railways.

      But it is something for arborists to figure out.

    2. The NZ evergreen natives are best suited for our conditions. Also we might get some Tuis, Kereru or Fantails in CBD for people to enjoy.
      All evergreen Titoki, Fuschia, Kowhai, Rewarewa, Karaka, Puriri, tānekaha, Kahikatea and white maire – some more than six metres tall.
      Imagine those rain gardens planted with some of our loveliest smaller native trees? Manuka for example with its pink and white flowers, or lacy Hoheria? Or the lovely North Island Hebe and Olearia. Gardens with real variety and texture and some shade (which will soon be a vital component of our overheating cities). Titoki is a popular urban Native that has attractive glossy green leaves and a spreading canopy.  

      1. If you want Tui or Kereru you might be better off planting things they like to eat like Taiwanese cherry trees or Guava trees. Expecting native birds to only feed from native trees is like expecting British people to live without curry.

      2. This is pretty much the right answer (exotic trolls apart), as there are plenty of native trees that can work well in the street environment. Those with less aggressive roots require less protection of underground infrastructure. Auckland winters aren’t so gloomy that bare branches are essential.
        More to the point, planting new trees needs to be matched with protecting as many existing big trees as possible and protecting and planting bush areas with a complete ecosystem, soil to sky, alongside or away from road corridors to complete the picture. One tree on its own isn’t a forest, but street trees can link habitats together.

        1. +1

          I notice in the monitoring report for the Auckland Plan 2050 that there’s been good progress on the biodiversity work. I also noticed that only 1/10 of the native plants being planted each year would need to be street trees to fill our streets will sufficient trees by 2030. That seems achievable.

      3. The issue with a lot of native trees is that they have a spreading habit and typically do not have one single leader. They will require a lot of pruning and help in order for them to grow that way.
        That is also typically the reason we plant exotics. Not to mention the fact that deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter, allowing sunlight to penetrate. Having evergreen endemics would make for a dark winter indeed.

    3. New planting and smaller trees are also at risk from drivers, either accidentally or due to an outsized sense of entitlement to berm or median space.

      Hoisting in mature trees is expensive, but the alternative is hardscaping tank traps to deter the Raptors and Amaroks.

      1. I would love someone from a Landscaping background to do a guest post solely on urban trees. JHamilton’s reply to my original query is great – thank you – we have titoki planted all over our place, but for me, it is not really suitable as an urban tree – it sprouts everywhere. Doesn’t really hold its shape like a more “traditional” tree shape. Similarly kowhai and kahikatea – I honestly don’t feel they are right in urban situations. Kahikatea can grow to 200 feet tall – 66m – way too tall, and both kowhai and NZ tree fuschia look lovely for about 3 weeks of the year, but are really fragile and easily breakable – urban trees need to be rugged to withstand stupidity from urban youths swinging from tree branches / puking into their roots.

        But something like the Golden Elm can be a wonderful tree to have in town. Fantastic in summer – and very skeletal in winter. More suggestions?

        1. “urban trees need to be rugged to withstand stupidity from urban youths swinging from tree branches / puking into their roots.”

          The widest-spread cause of damage is from adults driving vehicles over the roots. It’s unfair to point the finger at youth when it’s adults who are ruining the planet in multiple ways.

  2. Councillor Lee has said on radio that as far as he’s aware the only reason that they are pausing the Waitemata Safer Routes project in West Lynn and Westmere is that they don’t have Waka Kotahi funding for it. But here’s the rub:

    **AT made a deliberate choice not to apply for the NLTP funding that – because the project is in the RLTP and ATAP – would normally be forthcoming.**

    Failing to apply for funding was a highly unusual decision, and it is the entire reason Council is in the situation it is in. The Board directors need to drill down and dismiss the pathetic excuse AT have given, that they thought “we could meet the budget from local share” – when it is clear that this was never a reasonable assumption and they should never have omitted to apply for NLTP funding as a normal step in the whole process.

  3. Whenever l enter a GPS route into Google maps or Navman,it always takes me down Alfred Street to a right turn onto Nielsen Street, very high risk in my book. This is a failing of allowing an illogical computer system to dictate your thinking. I have no doubt,this has elevated the Alfred/Nielsen intersection to “high risk”,necessitating expenditure to improve safety. Technology is great, but has no rational processes,there is probably, bucket loads of evidence, that it exacerbates “rat running” . The Mayor highlighted Technology to improve traffic flow,dynamic lanes,traffic light prioritization, maybe expand his horizons more,could cut some spending from the budget.

    1. Apparently Europe is currently trying to force Google & Co (legally if need be) to change their mapping algorithms to avoid local street rat-runs. Will be an interesting matter to watch. How to define a street that should not be used? And when can it be used after all (say, can Google point you down a sleepy quiet street it normally would not send you down IF there is a major crash or even a closure on the main street?).

    2. Given the funding from the Mayor, it is possible to map route and intersection information on GIS, to supply to Google and others so that their algorithms can produce the right navigation advice. For example, mapping turns that can’t be made by long vehicles at a particular intersection as well as traffic calming information. There is a ‘freedom’ issue in using open public algorithms to limit choice (traffic calming by Google) versus informed choice (safety issues flagged). But that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with by putting the relevant attributes on data items on GIS. Time and money to get full enough information mapped to be useful is the question.

    3. Its also very needed as a safe crossing for pedestrians / cyclists. Alfred street is the only connection to the Waikaraka cycle way since the Miami Parade path was bulldozed.
      The only other safe crossings are at Captain springs or Onehunga Mall. There was a pedestrian killed along there a couple of years ago.
      I work on Neilson street and it is a hell hole for pedestrians or cyclists, especially around the Metroport entrance.

    1. Elsewhere they’re reducing footpaths to 1.5m too. Basically this is AT’s programme. Project after project allowing trucks and cars to make faster turns or to provide a bit more capacity to speed them up over a local distance. That the overall effect is slower traffic because no one is safe to walk or cycle is something they don’t seem to realise.

      And then they pause good projects on the basis of no evidence at all, just because one elected member asked them to.

      It’s a broken organisation.

  4. “As for where AT’s embodied emissions are coming from, it’s mostly from maintenance and renewals.”

    Fascinating. Remember when we were told new maintenance and renewals contracts would reflect AT’s climate and safety priorities. How’s progress?

    Any recent examples out there of “build back better” instead of ye olde “like-for-like” that just digs us deeper into climate and safety holes?

    Leveraging the massive budget is one of the best ways for AT to get bang for buck, plus wisest use of frontline people power in these stretched times, and now a way to meet climate targets too… a rare triple win!

  5. A dynamic lane for buses on Kepa Road would be good to consider (plus removing parking). Currently the buses struggle to run to time as stuck in traffic.

  6. Where are all these dynamic lanes going? Almost all the arterial roads in our area (central isthmus) already have 4 lanes with 2 of them being dynamic (bus lanes at peak or otherwise parking). I assume they are talking about the use case of 3 lanes with one changing direction dynamically. How many arterial roads in Auckland are only wide enough for 3 lanes? The Mayor thinks it is a lot more than I do.

  7. It’s easy to design intersections with missing pedestrian legs. Just prove that there is no demand for pedestrian’s to cross there.
    Very awesome circular loop of discussion that often happens. (sarc).

  8. A Herald (paywalled) article today mentions the new office block being built in the CBD where the Herald building was and it is just a few doors down from the new midtown CRL station in Albert St. It boasts 206 car parks in three basement levels. FFS. How did this get approved? Why should driving into the heart of the CBD be so encouraged?

    1. Yes the Auckland CBD where 45% come by car and 10% by train. Perhaps they could have left it vacant for 30 years like 106-108 Albert St or the Auckland Star site.

    2. The paywalled article notes the building on the Herald’s old site will have 206 carparks and work spaces for about 3,000 people. The comments mostly say Auckland needs more roads and carparking, how the cycle lanes are empty except for motorists who understandably think they are in the correct lane, and how AT’s management should be sacked.

  9. One thing in the board reports that is interesting:
    AT Mobile App user sessions decreased by 6% in December 2022 compared with November 2022 and was 85% higher than December 2021.
    So generally getting used more by the looks.

  10. For the Triangle Rd and Makora Rd intersection if they had added a left turn slip lane (with speed table) from the SW in the photo then a ped crossing could have added to the NW leg with no additional traffic delays.

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