It’s been a few months since the last AT board meeting but the next one is today – and there’s a lot on the agenda. So, here’s a look at some of the things that stand out

Closed Agenda

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.

Business Report

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.

Road Safety

Some quick numbers on road safety don’t suggest things are heading in the right direction.

Customer Satisfaction 

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.

Network Optimisation

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.

Transport Indicators

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.

It turns out this was correct and that a plan around this was developed in May. AT management are now seeking board signoff on this.

Since May 2023, management has developed a plan for influencing government decision-making on the five priorities. The key components of this plan are:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

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  1. Dynamic bus lane for Great Nth Rd Waterview I guess will result in narrower vehicle lanes. There is no offroad cycle path for much of this same section (approximately Kokopu lane to Blockhouse Bay Rd). Notably there has been a 3m allowance for extending the existing cycleway incorporated with the building of the apartments around Kokopu lane, although not built.
    This is a fairly popular route to cycle, and with the existing wide left lane, “relatively” safe for confident cyclists. I cycle it every day.
    If this bus lane proposal goes ahead, I’d like to see the cycle path extended, else, this route will become very unsafe, and there are no convenient alternatives.

    1. Perhaps 0.1m off each of the outside lanes. 16.4m kerb to kerb gives 3.7+3.0+3.0+3.0+3.7 lanes, widening the dynamic middle lane from flush median. Just don’t try to turn right across 3 lanes.

      1. If you’re turning right onto GNR, you’d then be turning across five lanes to get to the left of the fifth one, yeah? And with the middle one you’d have to pay good attention to which direction you should be expecting the buses to come to, since it swaps. No prizes for guessing which way the DSI stats would go. And of course, although there’s money to make these changes, there’d be no money to mitigate the safety problems created.

        The last few years there was an improvement, from some quarters anyway, about the meaning of “optimisation” – it was seen as optimising the desired outcomes, instead of squeezing more vehicle throughput out of the system.

        This dynamic lane bullshit has reversed that. Just another way of inducing more traffic.

  2. I wonder how much time is spent on road death stats at board level,it is a disturbing trend,and should be front and centre of all planning. We seem to hold directors(Mainzeal) accountable ,for monetary losses,then have a collective shoulder shrug,when lives are lost.

    1. There’s a lot more to safety stats than these top-level figures, such as the reductions where safety measures, including safe speeds, have been implemented. This will only highlight how much DSI has increased on roads that have not been improved, and how much difference safety investment can make. Sometimes, evidence needs to be used to predict DSI rates ahead of confirmed stats, so that investment decisions can be made looking ahead, not only backwards. This applies to safety measures not planned, as well as those planned, when government meddling in safety engineering is being hawked as ‘savings’ for the election.

  3. “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”

    By disbanding the relevant team, because this approach is now embedded across the organisation.

  4. Good to see bus priority implemented already, almost surprised by that.
    Yes Auckland needs more control / say in these “Mega Rapid Transit Network Projects”, love the name.

    1. Really, that name is not striking enough. Can I propose PTerandon?


  5. If Auckland Transport were to at least take Climate Change and Murders on the road seriously, they would be taking measures to reduce the major causes of both of these evils.

    The private automobile is the murder weapon, and until we start being honest about these things, instead of hiding behind acronyms, saying the Ram Raiders are the problem is ignorant of the fact that they only Joy Ride or Boy Race because they can. Cars SUVs and other tank-like vehicles are not safe for lesser sized modes of transport (such as jandals). As long as occupants can be cut off from the real world, antisocially, cars will continue to destroy society.

    Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground always talked about a WALK on the wild side. That is what real cities know, sitting in traffic is silly!

  6. Re: Manukau Rd bus priority. Northbound, the left lane at Greenwoods Corner should be converted to right turn bus only from the current left and right turn general traffic. I would like to see numbers but anecdotally, nobody ever turns left at this intersection onto Pah Rd. Good access from Mt Albert Road or thru some of the side streets if needed. Would be a small but easy and quick win for buses going through this intersection.

  7. The author does a good job of highlighting the key issues that will be discussed, such as the organisation design work, the Strategic Transport Network around Pukekohe, and the Regional Public Transport Plan. I am particularly interested in the customer satisfaction section, which highlights the need for AT to improve the value for money of its services.

  8. Extinction Rebellion presented ‘Why we MUST and CAN address the climate crisis’ with a banner ‘The Climate is in YOUT Hands’. Several people held up placards urging planning to get us out of our cars.
    Just keeping up the pressure for real action on the climate.

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