Today the AT board meet again and once again I’ve taken a look at what’s on the agenda to find the most interesting items.

Closed Agenda

Interestingly when I first looked at the agendas this paper was there but at the time of writing this post it had been removed. The original link still works though and there are two notable items on the agenda.

Downtown Car Park Redevelopment – Strategic Transport Outcomes

AT are seeking approval for this and presumably is them finalising what they want out of this redevelopment and of particular interest will be their requirements around bus facilities.

Confidential Chief Executive recommendation on organisational design work

At the last meeting this work was still ongoing but the suggestions are this large restructure is now ready to start. This is likely to make some significant changes to the management structure of AT and as I said last month, a key test of this restructure will be if some of the well-known blockers to progress in the organisation are finally moved on.

While we wait to hear what impacts this restructure will have, news has emerged about the first major change with an email going out to staff yesterday that Mark Lambert has resigned. He is currently the General Manager Integrated Networks which is the part of the organisation who deliver AT’s capital projects, and up until recently also included the delivery of public transport. Including in his previous roles both at AT and it’s predecessor ARTA, he has been one of the key shapers of our PT network for nearly 20 years. There have been some very impressive improvements over that timeframe but also missed opportunities. He was also the interim chief executive for nine months after Shane Ellison left last year.

Open Report

This report has been noticeably scaled back from what it had become in previous years, which is probably not a bad thing as there was a lot of superfluous information in there. AT say:

we have revised the format of the open business report and the attached SOI Dashboard to refocus on key SOI deliverables, milestones, significant operational issues impacting those deliverables and strategic challenges and opportunities. This new report recognises the shifts we are making to refocus our organisation and how our decisions impact those who use and experience our network.

I am however disappointed they cut out the detailed transport indicators report and specifically some the more granular PT reporting that isn’t available elsewhere.

The things of note from this new format report are:

  1. I’m very interested to see what is included in each of those scenarios though I’m particularly sceptical about any scenario that requires a significant infrastructure build.

Vehicle Kilometres Travelled Reduction Programme – this has developed three future scenarios each aimed at achieving the government’s VKT reduction target for Auckland of -29% by 2035. The scenarios are broadly, 1) go fast and hard with more incentives, 2) moderate speed with a mix of carrots and sticks, 3) invest in large scale change (major infrastructure) to be delivered at 2035. The scenarios and their assessment are informed by parallel work on Voice of the Customer research on Aucklanders’ attitudes to climate change, transport and the links between these, leading to actions.

Next steps:

  • Assessing the interventions in each one to identify a preferred scenario on which to base the proposed programme, the preferred scenario will be determined and
  • Costing (including carbon costing) will be completed, and reporting will begin ahead of presentation to the Board in November for endorsement.

Corridor improvement and urban cycleway projects, progress on a number of previously paused and reviewed includes the start of the Great North Road enabling works construction later this month, and the construction contract award for the Point Chevalier to Westmere corridor improvements.

  1. So more delays for Westgate

Northwest Bus Improvements project. The SH16 peak bus shoulder lanes, bus facilities at SH16 intersection with Lincoln and Te Atatu Roads, Westgate temporary bus facilities and new bus service network mobilisation is progressing for a 12 November 2023 launch.

The design for Westgate Station is likely to be delayed to May 2024 to future proof for the future Rapid Transit Network mode and route being investigated by Waka Kotahi.

Next step:

  • Additional funding has been sought from Construction Infrastructure Partners for Westgate Station design and construction and the Brigham Creek Park and Ride design and property acquisition, due to cost overrun on the initial project works.
  1. So, AT are finding a way to do it anyway? If so, that’s promising.

Road Safety Engineering Programme – To mitigate the impact of the reduction in investment for the Road Safety programme, a holistic programme has been developed with projects reprioritised to ensure clear visibility of outcome and output targets.

Next step:

  • Co-designing the next National Land Transport Plan (NLTP) period with feedback from local boards and Waka Kotahi to align with Road to Zero and maximise funding support.

National Ticketing Branding

On the agenda but there’s no paper online for it is an item titled Customer-centred branding approach to Auckland’s National Ticketing Solution. The indications are that as part of the move to a new national ticketing system that AT might be required to drop the HOP branding and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not happy about that.

Walters Rd Level Crossing

In May the AT board were asked to approve recommended options for addressing the level crossings around Takanini so that notices of requirement (NoR) could be sought for them. At that meeting, some locals pushed for a review of the recommendation for a $123 million bridge at Walters Rd (plus $49 million for property acquisition), instead preferring an underpass. The AT board approved the other four bridge crossings that were proposed but asked for an independent review of Walters Rd.

That has now been undertaken and the Supporting Growth Alliance who are delivering the NoRs are seeking approval for Walters Rd too.

The independent peer reviews concluded there was no material reason to change the proposed bridge option and that while both options are technically feasible, the underpass option presented greater risks which would be more expensive to mitigate than the bridge option.

Though concerning a review of the costs has seen it increase even further. I still don’t get how a fairly simple bridge is going to cost over $200 million.

The review estimated that the total P95 estimates inclusive of property, fees, traffic management, etc for the bridge at $203 million compared to the underpass option at $261 million

There are some new images of the crossing too.

At first that looks much less disruptive than the original image that was released, however it is showing the bridge from a different angle and the wrap-around roads are still there too.

There’s also this version looking at it from the neighbouring carpark.

There is also a separate presentation on the wider level crossing removal but I’ll cover that separately.

Was there anything else in the reports you noticed that stood out?

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  1. Its very hard to see, but at least it seems that the Walters Road Bridge designers have included protected bike lanes on the new structure (notice the two different shades of grey on each berm on the approach road and parts of the bridge). Considering it is a part of the statutory future bike network it is good that this isn’t dumped as a “luxury” item anymore (which then blocks active mode improvements for the next 50+ years), but I’ll hold my breath until it is built accordingly.

    On a semi-related note, it probably would be more cost effective overall to just acquire all those properties outright and redevelop them in a form that doesn’t require that massive wrap-around ground level road. But that would be even more scope creep and initial investment and liaison with developers for the acquired sites needed even if overall it might well end up a financial boon, so can kinda understand the challenges of getting something like that over the line

    1. [Also being Auckland, someone would probably just turn those “temporarily” empty lots into a free Park & Ride for the next 20 years, lol.

  2. HOP may not be under threat as you suggest. At the presentation to the Transport and Infrastructure Committee last week it was pointed out that while HOP card users would need a replacement card it would still have the HOP brand and payment using HOP would continue to allow for users who did not have or want a smart phone. The new system once rolled out will allow passengers to use whichever system they preferred rather than forcing everybody to use the new system using phones. The new nation-wide system will be launched in Christchurch, apparently because Ecan has the oldest system and there is some urgency for an upgrade. This will benefit other regions as any wrinkles in the new system will be ironed out down south before it is launched here.

    1. The new national payment/ticketing system will have both branded card and mobile device capability.

      The branded card option is for concession fares like SuperGold, Community Service Card holders, Disability, etc and for those who are happy to use a card as oppose to a mobile device.

  3. The sort of money for one car enabling bridge would pay for rather a few kilometres of light rail. I heard Nicola Willis claim that anti-car measures are rampant in our transport network; but I am yet to see any evidence beyond the more than a decade overdue pedestrianisation of Queen Street, a part of the City side waterfront and a nice new space in Takapuna.

    Everywhere else is basically hold your breath, look, listen and hope you don’t get bowled by a wheeled object larger than you.

    De-wheel is my perhaps radical interpretation of de-growth; but slowing down our excessively and obsessively busy lives would undoubtedly help our health and our environment.

  4. “Corridor improvement and urban cycleway projects: progress on a number of previously paused and reviewed includes the start of the Great North Road enabling works construction later this month, and the construction contract award for the Point Chevalier to Westmere corridor improvements.”

    Wow, as if by magic?! No mention of the hours donated by civilians, alongside the efforts of AT staff, to get these projects rolling again?

    Of course this is great news. But it would be really useful for the Board to have an accounting of the costs of the delay, in terms of time, budget, funding, goodwill and opportunities, so they can steer clear of any reckless attempts to derail progress in future.

  5. And on RNZ today this item on Cost Cutting ;-

    “Auckland Transport spends $6 million on staff redundancies as part of cost-cutting drive”

    How can that be Cost Cutting by giving large handouts to staff that were being paid large Salaries at the best of times ? .

    “Figures provided to RNZ under the Official Information Act show the top 10 payouts total just under $1.2m – the highest being $196,188.”

  6. Nevertheless, I’d prefer to see some greenery, small parks, and walks instead of the road being capped off. For a while now, I’ve believed that road construction signs needed to be significantly revised.

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