Last week Auckland Transport gave an update to the council’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee on city centre transport operations. You can watch the presentation here, along with questions from Councillors, it’s just under 30 minutes long.
There were a few things that stood out (including from the attached presentations).
Prior to COVID, the way people arrived in the city centre each morning had changed. Around 20 years ago, over 65% of people arrived in the city between 7am and 9am by car. My mid-2017, after years of improvements to public transport and active modes, the 12-month rolling average had dropped below 50% and by the time COVID struck it had dropped even further to below 47%. Note, none of these numbers include 35-40,000 people who already live in the city centre and therefore don’t need to travel to it.
That all changed again with COVID and as a result of lockdowns and changes to travel patterns, had risen to above 60% again by mid-2022 – with some individual months during lockdowns seeing over 80% by car.
Somewhat surprisingly given all of the public transport woes we’ve had over the last year or so, such as the rail network rebuild, as well as bus driver and ferry crew shortages resulting in thousands of daily cancellations, that pre-COVID mode-share is creeping back. March saw car mode-share dip below 50% again with the 12-month trend tracking back in that direction too.
While mode-share might be coming back, the total number of people entering the city each morning still has a long way to go. In March-2019, just over 82,000 arrived in the city while March this year was just over 54,000, about 65% of pre-COVID numbers which is largely due to the structural change to commuting with much more work from home and flexible hours. AT note that:
There are also fluctuations across the week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest days on the network, with circa 10% more journeys than Mondays and Fridays.
AT have also highlighted how mode-share changes by access road to the city.
A Change Go Slow
Despite the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) calling for significant change over the coming years, we’re not going to see a lot over the next three years. AT say they are focusing on three areas.
- Enhancing traffic circulation and prioritising local business access.
- Enabling better PT Access through a more efficient bus network.
- Maintaining loading and servicing for local businesses.
That they even say that suggests that AT still don’t really understand the need to get discretionary car trips out of the city.
The city centre has developed a ring route, allowing vehicles to traverse east-west across the city centre, while creating a low traffic, people focused Queen Street Valley. The east of the city has lower capacity, restricted by high density, challenging geography, and historic form, and therefore less capacity for through traffic.
This is what they say the circulation patter will be in early 2024 once Victoria St is reopened to traffic – Albert St will still be closed to through traffic at this time. There is a lot more that AT should be doing to get car trips out of Queen St and other roads like High St.
You may recall that one of the biggest additions to the CCMP when it was refreshed in 2020 was the inclusion of Access for Everyone. It aims to make the city centre more people friendly by changing how streets in the city work. It will it possible to still drive to the city but once fully implemented you won’t be able to drive through it. This then allows the reallocation of substantial streetspace away from cars and towards open space.
AT are dragging this idea through business case hell. After going through a Programme Business Case last year, it’s now going through an Indicative business case, due to not be completed till the middle of next year, and it will then likely need to go through at least another business case before any changes are actually made.
Parking / Loading and Servicing
AT signed off their updated parking strategy recently but it will be a while before we see any major changes to parking in the city. AT are now working on a Comprehensive Parking Management Plan (CPMP) for the city centre.
Drafting is underway for the 10-year CPMP outlining the parking and kerbside space provision and management for the city centre. This is expected to be completed in late 2024 and delivered in January 2025. The implementation of the strategy will be delivered over time. it aims to align parking and kerbside space management with strategies to deliver on objectives while responding to changing land uses and needs.
AT certainly love coming up with new or refreshing existing plans. If only they as good at delivery as they were with creating these documents. They do also say
AT is seeking to make quicker tactical interventions ahead of the larger strategic refresh, which may include:
- Identifying opportunities and creating/replacing loading zones across the city centre where possible.
- Creation of free, safe, and dry pick-up or drop-off zones in Civic Carpark, responding to feedback from arts venues and their patrons.
- Increasing enforcement through Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to deliver higher turnover and utility.
There’s clearly a push on for more loading and servicing from businesses. AT blame some of this on a reduction in available space as a result of construction as well as bus and bike infrastructure. It’s disappointing that are so quick to blame buses and bike and not all the space they’ve left for cars to park on the street, or that existing loading might work better if they actually enforced them.
They do include this interesting map of loading zones in the city with a 75m walking catchment overlaid
They also show this map of streets with limited off-street parking so are the areas more dependent on those loading zones.
With changes to traffic volumes and demands following COVID, now is the time that AT should be looking to ramp up changes to city centre streets, including through the use of tactical interventions. Instead, they seem to be set on delivering change as slow and as late as they possibly can.