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).

The Numbers

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.

Traffic Circulation

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.

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  1. I look forward to at least three more surveys about whether we should trial a car-free Queen Street, as beach-head for another round of surveys about how effective the surveys were, and some community engagement on the feedback process around the surveys around the trials for removing cars from Queen Street.

    1. And then, once it’s gone through all that, with overwhelming public support established, AT will pause it for a rethink, on the basis of verbal instructions from one or two councillors. The AT Board will perform as HR department as usual, protecting AT’s decision, despite obvious departure from democratic process, and will throw the decision back to the TIC Committee. After criticism of doing so, the Chair will justify this loss of democracy with a spiel about listening to the LoE which, when compared with the LoE itself, will turn out to be 100% pure bollocks.

  2. Downtown Auckland is very attractive to people who attend events. More NZ people go to arts events than sporting events.
    In the city there are the ASB Waterfront theatre, Civic, Aotea, Spark Arena, Art Gallery, University theatre, Auckland town Hall. Eden park and Mt Smart are easy access by bus or train.
    Now the St James and Mercury theaters are being restored.
    Cities are judged on their support for culture and I attend a couple each week.

    1. Good for you. I don’t think I’ve been to the CBD or downtown area for about three years. Based on my previous visits (I used to live and work in the CBD), spending leisure time downtown is not an attractive proposition.

  3. Still too many cars using Queen Street now that most of it has a single lane in each direction – the link bus can take an age getting up from Britomart, sometimes stationary for minutes at a time. AT need to do more to promote alternative routes or limit inner city car use.

    1. Yes it’s completely absurd that you’d move to one lane each way and still allow cars. And the whole Fanshawe into customs, etc is insane that it doesn’t have a continuous 24.7 bus way with priority

      All over the city buses are constantly held up by taxis, couriers and just random vehicles deciding to park wherever. CCTV should be set up on all main corridors ASAP and start fining people serious money $500 +

      1. The fines were set by parliament many years ago and cannot be changed without central government agreement/action.

        1. Pushing the problem back to central govt talks to the lack of imagination in local government. Get creative and invent a bylaw that sidesteps the parking law but effectively pings people for that and apply it rigorously. It will flush out central govt as they will either need to make the new bylaw illegal (and then AT just invent another) or they will do what they should be doing and updating parking fines.
          Everyone here is using everyone else as an excuse for inaction. Meanwhile the planet burns. Brings to mind Nero & his fiddle.

      2. There is a desperate need for CCTv enforcement, or even the use of the cars that they use to enforce the resident parking areas. Driving these around the central city in the evenings would negate their refusal to enforce due to safety concerns.

    1. That’s the Wellesley Street Bus Improvements.

      “Consultations carried out as part of the CCMP and the project’s Indicative Business Case, supported this central area of Wellesley Street becoming a bus-only section and we are currently investigating how we can prioritise buses here while limiting other vehicle movements to local access and essential vehicles only.”

      So, bus-sort-of-only.

  4. Construction on the CRL started in 2016 and is only expected to be complete by November 2025 (commissioning will likely take another year).
    Having Albert St closed for this length of time is just ridiculous.
    It disrupts bus routes and traffic patterns, and prevents any large improvements to the likes of Queen St. Pressure needs applying to reduce the size of construction areas, and get the road open and back to “normal”.

    1. The National government stalled the CRL project for years however the Albert Street closure had to happen in 2016 to work in with the Commercial Bay development. If the original timetable had been adhered to it would be finished by now.

    2. What can one legally do to an illegally parked vehicle? Ideas I’ve had involve lifting wipers, blocking driver door with cone or rubbish bin..
      It feels like a free for all around lately, today I made a report on several cars parked under Victoria/Union St at lunch, case marked as “area clear” mid-afternoon, and of course one vehicle was still there after work..

      1. Could you ask to present to the AT Board about it? It’s out of control. They need to hear from residents.

  5. Their map of “limited off street parking” is, however, completely farcical. With the almost non-existent enforcement of the shared spaces (such as Fort Street/Lane, O’Connell Street, Galway street etc), these are always full of parked cars. Evenings and weekends it’s quite usual to see the shared spaces in the city lined end to end with parked cars.

    Going for a walk anyway in the central city these days involves navigating cars parked on footpaths around literally every corner.

    1. And true of so many places throughout the wider city too. AT’s continued excuses on this are baseless; a good example of what AC calls “entrenched ways of working”… but what is astounding is that this wasn’t an inherited way of approaching enforcement. AC did enforce. AT created the problem by seeking out excuses not to enforce.

  6. Halve the size of the planning division and double the size of the engineering division to “get more done”

    Planners seem to be able to create a job for life, even if nothing gets done. whereas succesful project engineers need to continually move on to their next project.
    And the politicians are mortally afraid of offending anybody, so collude with the planners.
    Lots of money gets circulated but construction is limited.

    1. It is eye opening to me that a plan around parking is “expected to be completed in late 2024 and delivered in January 2025”

      It is July 2023, so the plan is an 18 month project, without any change or implementation

      As every large scale IT project has found over the years, when you finally deliver the plan in 2025, it is already out of date with changes to technology, leadership, political governance, requirements and other inputs.

      So they find in 2025 that the plan is not accepted and need to do more rounds of review and feedback from all stakeholders until the plan is quietly shelved and new name is selected for another long term plan.

      Agile is not the answer for all project planning woes, but maybe accept we don’t need a 10 year plan for parking and iterate more quickly with say 3 month planning cycle and 9 months delivery (or more likely running planning and implementation in parallel).

      Repeat yearly and learn from issues and changes.

      Yes, with restricted 3 month planning you will make mistakes but you learn from those, iterate and get better then I would argue you still end up with better change than burning 18 months on planning

      1. I think you only have to look at AT’s own strategic planning framework to understand why nothing gets done.
        Even if you ever manage to exit this circular maze (I think the bottom is the exit) you do not even end up with a project to deliver, you have only just got to the business case stage!!!
        And we all know the first step in the business case stage is to go back and determine what the overall strategic case is.
        It is a Framework designed and operated by clowns.

  7. I have just submitted to my local board Waitematā “have your say.”

    Due to climate change realities, the central city needs to begin to remove car parks. They are everywhere, and Auckland Transport could lead the way in car park conversion.

    A side benefit being our lungs, as drivers of private fossil fuel machines will find it less and less convenient to drive into the city centre, and will start learning that parking at Ellerslie or other train stations actually is a rather pleasant way to access the city, with family in tow, and easily evacuated with any shopping achieved in the downtown area.

    Three priorities (if our measures are health, safety and climate action):

    1) Pedestrians
    2) Bike and Scooter
    3) Public transport

    And Auckland Transport must advocate to Waka Kotahi to Liberate The Lane so that the bipedal and wheeled creatures among us can experience a steel maunga!

    1. There is good evidence that on-street parking causes fatalities and serious injuries to cyclists (& in some cases pedestrians)
      It is not consistent with Vision Zero and could justifiably be removed on that basis where speed limits > 30kmh.
      In one of the overseas cities where I lived main roads had no car parking allowed.

    2. Yes the only way we are gong to get meaningful mode shift is to provide more of the modes you want. Shuffling deck stairs on the Titanic ain’t gonna cut it.

      They can start by removing the downtown carpark and maybe half of the Victoria st one.

      1. From an emissions reduction/congestion reduction/mode shift policy point of view Councils should not be providing long term off-street parking that supports commuters.

        If they do provide it, it should be priced at the short term price & the price doubled after 2 hours, same as the short term on-street parking.

        That just leaves Councils to find a way to rate privately owned public parking, such that the targeted rate moves the parking price to match Council facilities.

  8. A4E just can’t be led by AT, they just don’t have the conceptual ability to grasp the value and need to reduce general traffic in order to transform place. They are a continuity agency not a change one. The survivors of various restructures who remain there lack the confidence and capabilities to act decisively and creatively in ways that reverse decades of traffic priority. A4E is place centric, AT have yet to show they grasp this.

    They fought against the Vic St linear park, tried to keep bus circulation on Te Komitanga(!), succeeded in keeping the Albert St rebuild four lanes. Watered down the K Rd works from transformational to incremental, and so it goes on.

    It would be great to find they’ve changed to get with the strategy but there’s no evidence of that in this presentation.

    They have wasted, and are still wasting, the opportunity afforded by both CRL construction disruption and the pandemic pattern shifts to make street changes permanent in line with A4E but no, just endless plans about plans, while actually embedding the status quo in again and again.

  9. Once Albert St can be reopened to traffic, the shift from Queen St can be strengthened.
    One problem with the circulation pattern is that Fanshawe St and Custom St are expected to cope with heavy bus movements plus through traffic. Future works include Downtown Car Park redevelopment and the removal of the Lower Albert St viaduct, all going on while trying to increase the bus traffic volumes until CRL can take more of the share and ALR… (oh, whatever).
    Removal of significant through bus movements from Quay St leaves Custom St with a huge problem, even if through bus services can reduce the bus layover and dead-running share. Off-centre bus layover is going to be expensive, but necessary, and is part of the timescale problem.
    A4E would be easy if there were a real inner ring road – especially if the motorway had multi-direction interchanges, not just one-way facing ramps (Tamaki Drive to Wynyard Quarter via via Grafton Gully, Onewa Road and Fanshawe Street….).
    Also A4E, parking and servicing in the city centre depend on agreement of business association, all business owners, property owners, residents for the transformation of a very complicated assortment of streets, lanes, car parks and properties with or without on-site loading zones. This is not all in AT’s hands to manage. Logistics companies are co-operating on how servicing of the city centre can be made to work, but the transition takes time and capital investment in all types and sizes of delivery vehicles.
    Keep the pressure on, but share it among those who need to make changes – public opinion and politics are in this, too.

    1. A4E type transformations are never easy. They always take vision and courage, no city has the perfect set up with empty streets somewhere to divert to, even if that was desirable. They always involve evaporating, or disappearing traffic. A constantly observable phenomenon when roads and streets are calmed or repurposed, but one often disbelieved by traffic engineers and others, so much so that often their models don’t even allow it. Which means they waste years and millions trying to accommodate all traffic elsewhere.

      This is exactly what AT have spent all their efforts on so far, I remember them presenting to the previous council on this, claiming A4E couldn’t be done until some vast and elaborate alterations to the motorway network was done first. Just highlighting how conceptually out of date they are, and intellectually ill-equipped they are to led this work.

      1. Yes, this is correct. AT’s models currently present problems from road closures that simply don’t exist. Until AT demonstrate that they are no longer using the same models, and are instead acknowledging the full extent to which traffic evaporation occurs, the reasons they give against implementing A4E cannot be taken seriously.

  10. The Victoria St Carpark is at odds with A4E. The green link along Victoria St would have to allow too many cars back and forth along it, plus the surrounding roads. Better to just have a minor amount to service other general buildings in the area. Wellesley will be the bus corridor too.

    1. Easy fix, just have High Street left turn only at the exit, no driving to or from the west. Victoria St can be the carpark for the east side of town.

      1. Looking at that circulation map it doesn’t include going from the Wellesley St Off ramp west ( is that how you read the arrows?), so you could easily enter the city by car and park at the Vic car park from Kitchener St.

  11. Can somebody write a post on Westgate v Auckland Council case? I just accidentally found that it has already been judged on 12 June 2023. To my humble understanding the Westgate accusing Auckland transport caused Westgate town centre being dysfunctional because Waitakere City have promised to build roads, cycleways, bridges, pedestrian crosses and stuff, but Auckland council did not. The judgment seems to be that nobody may expect Auckland Transport to do anything at all.

    1. Andrew, I think that’s right. I certainly don’t expect AT to do much at all, at least with respect to active modes and public transport.

  12. “Creation of free, safe, and dry pick-up or drop-off zones in Civic Carpark, responding to feedback from arts venues and their patrons.”

    Do I have this right? AT want to encourage people to drive to a venue to drop someone off, then the driver drives elsewhere, only to return for a pick-up. The nett effect seems to be to double the number of trips, and someone (surely there can’t be more than one?), somewhere in AT thinks this is a good idea.

    Surely if you were doing a consultation with a climate emissions focus you would react by saying to these entitled responders, suck it up and find another way?

  13. I’m from Australia and I travel to Auckland all the time and I can assure you that the only thing I don’t miss in Auckland is the traffic. Greaterauckland members can play Uno card game on the train.

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