It’s been two months, but today the Auckland Transport board meet again. There’s a lot on the agenda so I can’t cover it all in this post but here are some of the highlights from their regular board papers. The open session starts at 11am and can be watched on this Teams link.
Typically the closed agenda is where the most interesting items are but there’s not a huge amount this time. Here’s what stood out.
- Conversation re Road Pricing with Tauranga City Commissioners
Items for Approval
- Wiri EMU Depot Extension Stabling Yard II
- Climate Change and Sustainability – Future Governance Approach
Items for Noting
- Auckland Light Rail Update
- Tamaki Makaurau Joint Transport Plan – Progress and Key Risks
Below are some of the items that stood out from the regular business report.
Vulnerable Road Users Programme
AT say there are 63 projects on the programme for delivery this financial year, with 37 completed and 14 under construction. They say the remaining 12 are due to start before the end of June.
Bus Lane Enforcement
AT are continuing to roll out CCTV based bus lane enforcement on more streets. If only they could be this effective with other enforcement programmes.
- Two inbound and two outbound bus lane zones on Dominion Road have been converted from manual to Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) enforcement. Warnings have been issued since1 May 2023, and live enforcement is planned to commence on 22 May. The operational time is 7-10am and 4-7pm.
- Three inbound bus lane zones on Mt Wellington Highway have been converted from manual to CCTV enforcement. Warnings have been issued since 24 April and live enforcement is planned to commence on 8 May. This is a 24-hour bus lane.
- Three inbound and one outbound bus lane zones on Pah Road have been converted from manual to CCTV enforcement. Warnings have been issued since 24 April and live enforcement is planned to commence on 8 May. This is a 24-hour bus lane.
There has long been an odd bubble of about 10 free on-street parking on Alex Evans St. It’s odd because all of on-street parking on all of the nearby streets is managed by paid parking. AT have now changed this.
To improve parking turnover and address commuter type use of parking at City Centre fringe, AT introduced paid parking restrictions on currently unrestricted on-street parking spaces on Alex Evans Street. It will be operational from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday after the existing clearway restriction (7am-9am) finishes. The tariff is set at $1 per hour for the first two hours and $2 per hour thereafter.
While the change is minor, it is a good example of how AT often focus on maintaining the status quo. The site is the primary route for connecting between Mt Eden Rd/Symonds St and cycleways like Grafton Gully and Lightpath. Simply removing the spaces and turning them into a cycleway should have been an easy and sensible change to make. The route is even on ATs long term plans for having a cycleway added.
Employer Subsidised HOP travel
I’ve long suggested that AT should offer an easy way for employers to be able to offer subsidised PT options and the removal of Fringe Benefit Tax from PT and active modes earlier this year makes it even more needed. The good news is AT are now working on it.
The cross functional squad made some good progress in April, culminating in panel approval to move forward on the development of a software solution which will enable the product to be offered at scale. Through our Travelwise programme we continue to hear from employers who are keen to offer their staff a PT subsidy, particularly since the fringe benefit tax rules were changed in April. The team will be gearing up to sign up new businesses later in the year once the software solution is ready.
No PT Satisfaction
Completely unsurprisingly given the issues PT users have had to endure, satisfaction with the network reached record low levels in March and was not much better in April.
After reaching an all-time low last month, overall satisfaction saw improvements this month (41%, +5). We have arrested the decline in system satisfaction with a 1-point improvement to 23%. Reported disruptions reached its highest point last month. This month, we see a 6-point decrease (48%).
Despite improvements overall, reliability issues continue to erode customer trust and confidence in PT.
A one month reprieve from record lows is hardly a time for patting themselves on the back and claiming they’ve “arrested the decline”. It could well just be a small plateau before the next plunge. This also suggests than around half of all PT trips have faced disruption.
Auckland Transport have quietly abandoned one of their flagship projects, one which was meant to deliver walking, cycling and PT improvements along a number of corridors in the region. Connected Communities (originally known as Integrated Corridors) is a prime example of a rotten process that a broken organization defaults to. It was often referred to by advocates (and some AT staff) as ConJob because it’s being running for nearly 5 years, paid out tens of millions to consultants but hasn’t delivered a single street improvement – it’s even stopped other projects from making improvements if they’re even remotely close one of these corridors. I still recall a stakeholder meeting in early 2020 where a representative for people with disabilities noted that he was blind but even he could see their approach was not going to work.
New North Rd was the only one of these corridors that they reached the consultation stage on and in some of the scenarios even suggested removing existing bike lanes.
We’ll likely have more to say about this programme and it’s failure in future posts.
Our Connected Communities programme was established with the intention of optimising key transport corridors across the region with a focus on getting the most out of the existing infrastructure and developing solutions with local boards and the community. The programme was designed to develop solutions that addressed the needs of all modes while taking a dig once approach to minimise overall cost and disruption.
With changes to our funding context, these types of comprehensive solutions are no longer affordable in the short to medium term given other competing priorities. Accordingly, the Connected Communities programme, in its current form, has been stopped.
The project workstreams that make up the programme have been progressed to suitable hold points to allow for projects or elements of projects to be progressed in future work packages.
A communication plan is being developed to communicate the decision and impacts to local boards, communities and other stakeholders.
The Connected Communities programme also established a number of new approaches which will be applied to the development of future solutions for the transport system.
There remains however, a need to develop viable solutions that optimise our corridors, ensure they most effectively meet the needs of our current and future customers across all modes and that align with the Letter of Expectations for the next three years. We are working to determine the best way forward that will enable us to deliver solutions quickly within our funding parameters.
The Mayor has been really keen on the idea of dynamic lanes, especially to improve bus priority. AT say:
The project team have investigated 180 locations across the Auckland region to understand their suitability for a dynamic lane solution. The locations were evaluated using the following criteria: available road width, downstream capacity, difficulty/risk/cost of implementation and existing road corridor could be utilised without widening or significant civil works. Out of 24 potential sites identified, seven sites have the best combination of travel time benefits, ease of constructability and delivery. AT will evaluate which sites are suitable to be progressed to detail design and implementation, following consultation later in the year.
Last year AT were looking at using a dynamic lane as a way to provide bus priority on Maioro Rd at peak times. It seems that due to opposition by local residents to the removal of the painted median to enable it, AT are backing down and are now looking at just T2 lanes are unlikely to deliver a lot of bus speed/reliability improvements.
AT’s 2015 parking strategy was good, with one major issue, AT did nothing to implement it. Last year, instead of trying to implement it, AT’s strategy team decided they needed to rewrite it and from scratch and go through a full consultation process – giving anti-change types another chance to oppose it, and oppose it they did.
AT have made some changes to the strategy and are now looking for the board to approve it.
There are a couple of key changes to what was originally proposed:
Changes have been made to address concerns, including: the proposed removal of the planned charge on all park and ride users; cutting back the areas where proactive parking management is planned; greater consideration of impacts on local business (and their mitigation); and a stronger role for local boards in the development of parking management plans.
It appears we now have a weaker parking strategy than we did in 2015.
For park and ride, they’ve come up a complicated approach
Park and ride management is one of the key contentious points in the Strategy. Policy direction for over a decade has been to price park and ride to manage demand, though it has almost never been implemented. During consultation, the proposal to implement this policy was met with significant opposition. Submitters also voiced concern that park and ride doesn’t work for them because it fills up early. Between customer, expert and political views on how best to manage park and ride; we do not have unanimous agreement. Therefore, our proposal is to develop a mechanism to charge users who park and don’t ride, and a system to allocate some spaces at each site for paid, pre-booked use, so that people who want to travel later than 7:30am can use park and ride. We believe pursuing this approach will address key customer pain in this area and will test technology and openness to pay. We can then review and consider any future policy changes following a period of operation. This approach was broadly agreed on by Councillors at the Transport and Infrastructure Committee (TIC) workshop in April 2023.
The council’s Transport Strategy Team even suggested a much cleaner solution.
The Transport Strategy Team believes there is sufficient rationale to retain a policy that introduces charges for Park and Ride (PnR) sites where there is excess demand and parking often becomes unavailable from early in the morning. Those who use the public transport should receive a discount or rebate on their HOP card when they tag on, to reinforce that the price is intended to eliminate inappropriate use of PnR sites as well as demand management. We believe this is more efficient, equitable and simple to administer than any designated premium area for pre-booked parking.
In that document they also call out AT for few other things too, such as poor communication of why and how trade-offs around parking are needed.
There are a number of other interesting papers that I will look to cover in additional posts.