AT have been moving a lot of items into the open session of their meeting which is great but there are still a few things in the closed session.
The most interesting of these is an item for noting which is a confidential update from the CEO on “Organisation Design work“. The restructure that occurred a few months ago was simply about reducing headcount due to the council’s budget cuts but this one is likely to have more structural implications. A key test of this restructure will be if some of the well-known blockers to progress in the organisation are finally moved on.
The other items of note both involve work done by the Supporting Growth Alliance, the planning process that is designing the transport networks to support sprawl in the South, Northwest and North – they’re also the ones tasked with designing the Airport to Botany busway. At this meeting they’re asking the board to approve the Strategic Transport Network around Pukekohe and the Frequent Transit Network they’ve developed.
Here are a few things that caught my attention.
Regional Public Transport Plan
Consultation for the RPTP closed on 17 August and AT say they’ve had a great response.
As of 7 August, we have received 1,621 submissions. This is four times higher than for the last RPTP. In social media, we have reached over 800,000 people, delivered 2.8M impressions and 2,825 clicks. Our digital display ads have delivered 1.1M impressions and 775 clicks.
Some quick numbers on road safety don’t suggest things are heading in the right direction.
At the Council’s most recent Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting AT highlighted how they measure customer satisfaction two different ways. Using the more realistic sounding one, AT say the results were “stable” for the month of June but satisfaction with the overall PT system is still extremely low, with just over a quarter of respondents giving it an 8-10 out of 10.
They do note that one factor that has impacted this most recent result was a big drop in ‘value fore money’ which coincides with the removal of half-priced fares, and
- With network disruptions still relatively high at 40%, customers do not believe that the cost of fares reflects the level of service offered.
- The cost of fares also becomes a major pain point when customers take into consideration their length of journey, with some saying that the cost of short journeys is just not worth it.
- Some customers are considering other options (e.g., private vehicle, e-bikes/scooters) due to the cost.
Project Updates – Project K
Earlier this year AT consulted on some great plans to upgrade the streets around the new Karanga-a-Hape Station that will open in a few years as part of the City Rail Link. This work includes pedestrianising parts of Mercury Lane along with a number of other active mode and streetscape improvements. Concerningly, it seems the planned Pitt St Cycleway may be dropped due to funding constraints. AT definitely seem to have very slippery hands when it comes to cycleway proposals, constantly dropping them.
High likelihood of losing Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) funding. Project K will not be able to deliver the CERF-related components (i.e., Pitt Street Cycleway) by June 2024 as timelines cannot be aligned with CRL delivery dates. Delivery options were presented to the local board in July 2023. Most board members supported. Phased option being presented to the board.
AT have a few interesting things to say on the issue of bus priority and the mayor’s push for dynamic lanes.
The bus priority at intersections has been implemented at 24 intersections across 3 key Frequent Transit Network corridors (Manukau Road, Dominion Road and EB). The next 25 signal-controlled sites will focus on supporting the North-Western bus network. Six corridors (Hobson Street, Newton Road, Te Atatu South, Te Atatu Peninsula, Lincoln Road and Westgate/Fred Taylor Drive) are currently being evaluated.
The Dynamic Streets workstream is underway, with a first tranche of four sites being progressed into scheme design. This includes:
- Installing a dynamic bus lane on Great North Road northbound from Blockhouse Bay Road to Oakley Avenue. There is significant northbound congestion in the AM peak and we propose to utilise the wide flush median to create another lane for buses during this congested period to tie into an existing Bus Lane that exists closer to the SH16 interchange.
- Creating an adaptive system on Dynamic Road Space on Manukau Station Road bus lane. The pilot will allow the existing peak hour eastbound bus lane from the Manukau Bus Station to be adapted beyond the existing fixed times (7-10am and 4-7pm). Making bus lanes adaptive will aid event traffic, increase network resilience and manage road space based on demand.
Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) Reduction Plan
This is a plan we’ll very much be looking forward to reading, and even more so seeing how it gets embedded in the organisation.
A VKT Reduction Plan is in development, funded by the CERF and due for completion by December 2023. The plan will set out a programme to achieve a 29% reduction in VKT by 2035 and will include activities that will contribute to the achievement of Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP) outcomes. The VKT Reduction Plan will be a first stage of a TERP-Implementation Plan.
It’s worth noting that the 29% reduction in VKT by 2035 is better than the government’s target of 20% by 2035, but it is expected that Auckland will need to pick up a large part of that as it will be easier to support and encourage mode-shift. However, it falls short of the Councils TERP target of a 50% reduction by 2030.
From what has been on the agenda in the past, to something that’s missing. A detailed statistics report of some form has been a staple of AT’s board meetings since its inception, and it included data on a wide range of measures but hasn’t been included this time. I hope that AT bring it back in the future, or better, make all of the data publicly available and downloadable.
Funding Improvement Advocacy Plan
I noted recently that it appeared AT appear to have a concerted push on about getting not just more funding but also more certainty around transport funding from central and local government.
Since May 2023, management has developed a plan for influencing government decision-making on the five priorities. The key components of this plan are:
- Time of use pricing – we will work to ensure the legislation which prevents charging on existing roads us updated to enable time of use pricing which meets the needs of Auckland. Following the Transport and Infrastructure Committee workshop in August 2023, we will engage the Ministry of Transport with AC and supporting organisations and feed into any subsequent legislative process.
- Reducing complexity and enhancing AT funding in a multiple source funding system – we will work to simplify transport funding processes, reducing the number of “pots” that must be managed and consolidating the National Land Transport Fund. The Chief Executive has taken a number of opportunities to advocate publicly for more certainty of funding long-term. While the government and AC have provided short-term top-ups for public transport services for 2023/24, there is a risk that services will need to be stopped if we are not successful in getting longer-term certainty of funding beyond June 2024. We are supporting officials in Treasury and the Ministry of Transport to develop options and will engage the new government on the costs and impacts of the current approach.
- Parking infringements and charges – we will work to accelerate the long-awaited review of parking infringements and penalties to ensure these support good transport outcomes. We will work with government to de-risk public engagement on higher charges and contribute to public consultation processes.
- Funding the costs of growth – we will work with AC officials to reform legislation which governs the way AC is funded to support and enable urban growth. We will support government investigation of funding and financing alternatives and facilitate AC engagement at all levels of government.
- Review of the transport funding system – we will work to accelerate public discussion and debate on transport funding tools and options. We will support Ministry of Transport and Waka Kotahi analysis of alternatives and seek to de-risk public engagement for the new government.
Mega Rapid Transit Network Projects
AT (and the wider transport sector) love their acronyms and AT have just introduced a new one, MRTNP – Mega Rapid Transit Network Projects.
This comes from a paper highlighting that there are strategic risks to AT as four of these projects (CRL, Light Rail, Harbour Crossing and NW rapid transit) are currently underway and externally led, yet AT have no sponsorship role and inconsistent input into them. This is despite AT being likely to be the future owner and/or operator of them and having “a statutory responsibility for the co-ordination, integration, and management of Auckland’s transport system“. They also note there is “no cross MRTNP governance body“.
There are a number of other valid issues AT raise about these projects in the paper but it was that we now have a name and acronym for these projects that caught my attention.
Finally, speaking of rapid transit, AT are presenting their Rapid Transit Plan to the board but that’s something that deserves its own post.
If you’ve looked at the agenda and items, was there anything else that caught your attention?