One of the few pieces of good transport news to emerge in recent weeks has been Auckland City Council’s plans to embark on a “Shared Space Concept”. The plans basically entail a number of quiet inner-city streets being redesigned to create a balance between pedestrians and cars, where the distinction between what is road-space and what is footpath-space is removed. Pedestrians are then given the legal right of way, and you end up with a very attractive and pedestrian friendly part of the city.
Here’s an example of how Exhibition Road in London (the road next to the Natural History Museum) is being redesigned as a “shared space”:
And another example, showing before and after pictures of New Road, Brighton:
Oddly enough, I first heard about this from an NBR article, which provides some useful information:
In a $60 million scheme to be rolled out during 2009-2014 with funding from rates and development contributions as part of the Ten Year Plan, Auckland’s side streets will be transformed to resemble European lanes, eliminating signs, road markings, crossing signals and traffic lights.The streets will be paved flat without kerbs to encourage intuitive driving and pedestrian freedom.Inner city streets linking main roads where many businesses are located will be given a facelift under the scheme, including the entire Fort Street area (lower Shortland St, Jean Batten Place, Fort St, Commerce St, Gore St), Elliot St, Darby St, O’Connell St, and Lorne Street.
I’ve known about shared spaces for a while now, having first come across them in a job that I was involved in at the end of 2007. I originally knew of the idea as Woonerf, the Dutch term for looking at roads from an almost counter-intuitive perspective that it actually could be safer to mix vehicles and cars more – not less – to make drivers and pedestrians more aware of each other and force them to interact with each other. I wrote a post about “Livable Streets” in January this year, and how frustrating it was that Auckland hadn’t really gone done that path as much as many other cities.
In fact, I provided the following suggestion:
In any case, leaving aside Queen Street and the other main streets of Auckland’s CBD for now, there are actually a huge number of small, narrow little streets that would be perfect for becoming more liveable, shared spaces. At a glance Elliott, High, Lorne, O’Connell, Wyndham, Durham, Federal, Fort, Shortland and many other streets could easily be classified as “shared spaces”. These streets could then have a particularly low (20 kph perhaps) speed limit imposed upon them, progressively have their kerbing removed and be paved rather than asphalted to make it totally obvious to drivers that they are clearly within a pedestrian zone now. Considering that council plans to revamp a decent number of inner-city streets over the next decade or so (assuming that the current council doesn’t can the lot, as it seems to want to), taking those upgrades one step further to actually create high-quality liveable streets where clearly the car is no longer king, would surely help lift Auckland beyond the kind of ‘overgrown town’ feeling one gets of it at the moment.
Perhaps they were listening to me, or perhaps it was just a coincidence? What is now proposed does seem eerily similar to my suggestion though. So I unreservedly apologise for finishing off that post by saying: “But I fear the short-sightedness and narrow-mindedness of council is difficult to over-estimate these days and I can’t really expect anything half-decent from them. A pity.”
Maybe some day Auckland City Council will start listening to my calls for Queen Street bus lanes.
I certainly had an interesting evening last night, at the Backbenches Mt Albert by-election special in Kingsland. I hadn’t gone along to anything like this before, but it was pretty obvious even when I first arrived (quite a few hours early, somewhat by mistake as it was easier to find where it was than I had expected) that it would be interesting, and quite crowded. It was like someone had dumped together all the political media and bloggers from around the country into one place together.
After disappearing off to Handmade Burgers for a very nice dinner we came back and met up with a few friends. Rather strangely, I managed to end up live-blogging for The Standard on the whole event, which was an interesting and fun experience – although it was quite difficult to actually hear much of what was being said.
The show was pretty rowdy and the crowd really got into it, which certainly made for a fun evening.
There’s an interesting article in today’s Herald about the progress of sorting out the mess Steven Joyce left Auckland’s public transport in when he cancelled the Regional Fuel Tax a couple of months back. There’s some good news, some frustrating news and some potentially good news.
On the positive side, “Money has been assured for new Auckland railway stations.” These include Newmarket, New Lynn, Manukau, Onehunga, Grafton and Avondale – some of which are already under construction (thereby making the need to sort out funding for their completion rather urgent.) The money looks like it will come from a variety of places, including higher ARC rates, an increased subsidy from NZTA and – here’s the killer – cutting back on the costs of Auckland’s integrated ticketing project.
I really don’t know why the government is so against integrated ticketing for Auckland’s public transport. Maybe they realise that simplifying the ticketing in Auckland, and creating something as up-to-date as the smart-card systems we see in London (Oyster Card) and Hong Kong (Octopus Card) will lead to a surge in patronage on Auckland’s public transport system, thereby undermining their view of public transport as something only for the poor and carless. Or maybe they’re being pressurised by Infratil (the owners of most of Auckland’s bus service providers) into delaying a project that Infratil doesn’t like. Either way, it’s pretty depressing to hear that funding has been cut to Auckland’s public transport to the extent that the ARC has had: “to try to scale back the integrated ticketing project, which previously carried a capital cost of about $80 million, including a 60 per cent Government subsidy. Mr Lee said the council would try to find ways of halving that cost.”
These most recent developments mean that the best Auckland can really hope for is to get our version of Wellington’s Snapper Card. Now this is a great outcome for Infratil – as they own Snapper Card – but is no guarantee that this smart-card system will be equally available for all public transport operators in the Auckland Region. Therefore, there seems to be no guarantee that the ticketing system will, in fact, be integrated. When this lack of money for integrated ticketing is coupled with the Ministry of Transport’s decision to review the Public Transport Management Act (the very piece of legislation that gives ARTA the power to impose integrated ticketing), it’s hard not to be suspicious that this critical step in the future of Auckland’s public transport is going to be delayed at best, or possibly even cancelled.
There is a light on the horizon about Auckland’s electric trains though – with Steven Joyce saying “he would report to the cabinet next month on options for buying an electric fleet and that, despite Mr Lee’s nervousness, “we remain committed to electrification”. I can understand Mike Lee (head of the ARC) being nervous though, and I’ll believe that we’re getting electric trains when I see the contract signed.
Submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill are open until the 26th of June. This is the bill that will establish the structure of Auckland’s future Super-City. It decides whether or not there should be Maori seats, whether or not there should be ‘at-large’ councillors, what the powers of the local boards should be and how they should be structured. In short, it is an extremely important piece of legislation that will guide the future of local government in Auckland.
I am putting together a fairly lengthy submission on this, and I thought it would be useful for me to share what I’ve done so far. Most of what is below links back to previous thoughts that I’ve had on this Bill, but some things are new ideas. Hopefully this will both gives people ideas about what they might want to include in their own submissions, but also some feedback would be great so that I can make adjustments to what I’ve included. There will be a second part to this post once I complete my submission.
So here goes with Part One:
My submission supports, in principle, the idea of a single council for the Auckland area. As the Royal Commission’s report on Auckland’s governance reported, the current local government situation in Auckland has many flaws which hold back Auckland’s development and the delivery of key community services. Better regional integration of governance, combined with better local democracy and engagement should be the aim of any reworking of local government structure within the Auckland region.
The fundamental concept proposed by the government in the Auckland Council Bill does have the potential to create a better future for Auckland. However, there are many critical flaws in the Bill that need to be fixed in order for the Bill to achieve it purpose.
My submission will work through the Bill clause by clause, stating where I support aspects of the Bill and why; and also stating where I do not support aspects of the Bill, and why. Where I do not support aspects of the Bill I will attempt to provide an alternative that is better, and to justify why my suggested alternative will provide a better outcome than what has been proposed by the government.
To start with, I will make some comments on the overall structure of what is proposed in the Bill, and also the process of the local government restructuring in Auckland that is taking place.
2. Overall Structure & Process
My submission to the Royal Commission sought the creation of two District Councils for Auckland – one for areas inside the metropolitan urban limits and one for areas outside the MUL – and the retention of the Regional Council. Whilst I accept that it is now too late for such a system to be created, there are some useful aspects of my proposal that should be kept in mind when analysing the current Bill.
Firstly, the issues facing rural parts of the Auckland region are very different to those facing the metropolitan area. The response of Rodney District and Franklin District to the proposition of them being incorporated into a single Council has been less than enthusiastic as they do see themselves as quite separate. In my opinion it would not necessarily be advantageous to split off the urban part of Rodney District from the Auckland Council – as Orewa, Silverdale and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula are very much a part of Auckland. However, there may be some merit in the rural parts of Franklin District and Rodney District merging into adjacent District Councils and Regional Councils if that is what the people of those areas wish for.
I am also concerned that the removal of the Auckland Regional Council will result in long-term adverse effects for Auckland. The ARC has played a critical role in guiding Auckland towards a more sustainable development path over the last 20 years – through the Regional Growth Strategy, the imposition of the urban limits and by funding public transport. The ARC also plays an important “environmental advocacy” role when making submissions on District Plans, District Plan Changes and resource consents throughout the region. It is a great worry as to who will pick up this work once the ARC no longer exists, as there will be no overarching regional body to provide checks or balances on the planning undertaken by the Auckland Council.
The way in which the reorganisation of Auckland’s local government has been rushed through since the release of the Royal Commission’s report is of great concern to me. There have been significant changes to what was proposed by the Royal Commission, in particular the level of power and size proposed to be given to the second-tier of local government. A lot of time and effort went into the Royal Commission’s recommendations and they should not be left aside so quickly.
3. Part 1 – Preliminary Provisions
I generally do not have any concerns with Part 1 of the Bill, as it is largely about technical details.
4. Section 8 – Governing body of Auckland Council
I consider that this section of the Bill is critically flawed. Having eight members of the Auckland Council elected at large is not a politically fair move, as it will favour candidates who have a lot of financial backing (the often stated example of it costing $250,000 to merely pay for postage sending a letter to all the households in the Auckland Region). I believe that this will lead to a political bias among the eight at large councillors and will not fairly represent the viewpoints of Aucklanders.
Furthermore, I also believe that having eight at-large councillors to elect will be very confusing for voters – as it is likely there will be a great long list of candidates. Choosing eight people from a list of potentially 40 to 50 is not a very rigorous way of ensuring that people actually make an informed choice. I know that in existing local government elections one can be overwhelmed by the choices available and eventually get tired of reading through all the information – and just start ticking boxes randomly. Minimising the number of decisions that voters have to make is surely the most rigorous system – with national elections only requiring two ticks.
I also consider that 20 councillors is not a sufficient number to represent the whole of Auckland. Auckland has more than 20 members of parliament, so having one’s electorate MP representing fewer people than one’s local councillor seems truly bizarre.
It also seems bizarre to have ward boundaries that do not match with the boundaries of the local boards. Having different boundaries for wards, local boards and electorates would completely undermine any sense of creating an obvious local community and also cause great confusion amongst residents. Ward boundaries should match local board boundaries, and these should also match up with electorate boundaries, as close as is possible given that some electorates would extend into adjacent regions.
Maori seats should also be provided, to ensure that the Auckland Council is in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The number of councillors representing Maori should be in accordance with the number of people registered on the Maori electoral role.
1) All councillors should be elected from wards
2) Ward boundaries, and the number of wards, should match with the boundaries of local boards and the number of local boards.
3) The boundaries for wards and local boards should match, as near as practicable, the boundaries of electorates.
4) Maori seats on the council should be provided for in accordance with the number of registered voters on the Maori electoral role.
5. Section 10 – Local Boards
This section outlines the purpose and role of the local boards, but appears to define them as being little more than elected lobby groups.
Enabling democratic decision making by, and on behalf of, communities within the local board area – as outlined in Section 10(1)(a) is a worthy purpose, however there is nothing in either this Section of the bill or in other sections that appears to actually make it possible for the local boards to fulfil this purpose. Sections 10(1)(b) and 10(1)(c) detail how the local boards should act as lobby groups to the main Auckland Council, which in my opinion is inadequate for keeping the ‘local’ in local government.
In terms of the role of the local boards, Sections 10(2)(a) and 10(2)(b) are clearly no more than saying that local boards should be lobby groups. Regarding Section 10(2)(c), I will address Section 13 of the Bill separately.
In my opinion local boards should play a significant role in local government. While there are advantages in having regional consistency for some things – like planning and transport – for many other local government activities there are large advantages in the provision of services at the most local level possible. Local boards should be far more than just lobby groups who are only allowed to do what the central Auckland Council allows them to do, they should have real power to provide services such as rubbish collection, footpath upgrades, parks maintenance and so forth.
While it would not necessarily be advantageous for the local boards to be standalone councils themselves, in my opinion a council service should be provided by the local board unless there is a good reason for it to be provided by the centralised Auckland Council. This is the opposite to the proposed assumption where a service is to be provided by the Auckland Council unless there is a good reason for that council to delegate it to the local board.
Planning, at least in terms of having a single District Plan, should be centralised in the Auckland Council – although in terms of policy development it would be advantageous for the Auckland Council to be guided by the local boards when making decisions on plan changes and the development of the single District Plan. Similarly for transport, the decision-making should be consistent and integrated across the region, but decisions for local roads and local improvements to public transport should reflect the priorities of the local boards. This ‘reflecting of priorities’ needs to go beyond simply ‘lobbying’ the Auckland Council.
1) There should be an assumption that a council service be provided by the local board unless there is good reason for it to be provided by the Auckland Council, rather than the reverse assumption in the current legislation.
2) The services to be provided by the local boards should be enshrined in this legislation, and not simply what the Auckland Council delegates to the local boards.
3) The plans and policies of the Auckland Council should be required to give effect to the priorities of the local boards for their areas.
4) Local boards should have dedicated staff and facilities to ensure they are able to carry out their functions.
More to come in the next day or so!
It’s always interesting to rummage through the agenda of Auckland City Council’s Transport Committee meetings, as they often throw up some quite interesting information. There are probably a few blog post’s worth of information in this month’s agenda, but for now I’ll focus on what it says about the Waterview Connection.
For a start, it’s highly disappointing to see that Auckland City has backed down from its previous position of staunchly supporting a full tunnel option for the Waterview Connection. Whilst I personally am a fan of not building the damn thing at all (and spending the $1.4 billion on the CBD rail loop) the full tunnel option was chosen after a long process of consultation between NZTA, the local community and – importantly – the Auckand City Council. Of course, we all know what’s happened in the last few months as NZTA has backed away from the previous option and now proposed a semi-tunnel option. If the community was hoping for a bit of help from council in their battle for either the full tunnel option or nothing at all, it seems like they’re going to have to fight for it.
Here’s what the council agenda item (which hasn’t yet been signed off by the transport committee, but it’s hardly likely they’ll kick up much of a fuss) recommends:
There may be a bit of hope here though, as Auckland City Council will be drafting up a fuller response to the new NZTA option:
It would certainly be interesting if their new resolution came out strongly against the new option. How does Auckland City Council feel about the open space zoned parts of Alan Wood Reserve being split in half by a giant 6 lane motorway? What about the effects of this motorway on nearby residents? What does council think of NZTAs plans to submit the Notice of Requirement documents straight to a board of inquiry, thereby removing any chance of the council actually having input into the consenting of the proposal?
Another interesting piece of information included in that agenda item is the release of the other two options NZTA looked at that were within the $1.4 billion funding cap that Steven Joyce gave them. The three options are shown in the map below, with the “chosen option” being in blue:
Clearly it was a no-brainer for NZTA to choose this option, as the other two would have been completely horrific. But what’s a bit scary here is that these other options are the “fall backs” if (for some reason) the chosen Option 3 becomes too expensive. What if an oil price spike next year leads to plummeting petrol sales in New Zealand and therefore greatly reduced income for the National Land Transport Fund that will be paying for the Waterview Connection? Would we just abandon the project altogether, or would we need to start looking at cheaper options like the two shown above?
Here’s NZTA’s analysis of the three options:
Pretty scary to think that we may have ended up with either Option 1 or Option 2.
I like coming up with fantasy rail networks for Auckland, as is pretty obvious from posts in the past. At the moment it seems like wishful thinking, but someone out there has to be aspirational for the future of Auckland’s railway network and why shouldn’t that be me?
One missing chunk from the previous fantasy rail diagram for Auckland that I drew up was the Avondale-Southdown railway link. I left this off largely because it’s a “suburb to suburb” line and those generally haven’t been particularly successful internationally. Generally a line needs to – at some point – go into the CBD for it to be successful. This is because the CBD is generally the only part of the city where bountiful free parking is not available so therefore there is a much greater incentive for people to use public transport rather than drive. Furthermore, squeezing a lot of people into one common destination is far more easily possible through public transport rather than private transport.
However, over the past few weeks, discussion on the Campaign for Better Transport forum has uncovered a way that the Avondale-Southdown railway line could actually form a very important part of Auckland’s future railway network. Saljen, a very wise contributor to the forum, has suggested that it be part of a “Circle Line” going around the Auckland isthmus. This is, in some ways, quite similar to the Green Party’s “Auckland Transport Plan“, which is shown here.
Forming three main loops makes a lot of sense in some regards – as it allows people to have good access to areas right across the city, and not just in the CBD. If someone works in Penrose bus lives in Kingsland they don’t really have much of a public transport option at the moment, except for catching two different trains that don’t match up in their timing at all usually. Under this plan they could catch a train heading either eastbound or westbound and still end up in Penrose. The success of the Link Bus in Auckland has shown how people are very keen on the idea of loop routes.
I have a couple of critiques of the Greens’ plan though. The main one is with regards to the south-eastern busway loop. This busway would feed a lot of people into the Panmure train station and they would all need to jump on potentially already crowded trains to make their way into the city. I think that it would be better for this route to be built as a railway line, and to also take a slightly different path as my plan will show.
My other critique is – for now – the link between Albany and Henderson. While it would be nice to run a busway along this corridor I just don’t know whether there would be the demand any time soon to justify it. Some buses do currently run between West Auckland and the North Shore – via the Upper Harbour corridor, but they’re generally pretty poorly patronised. Perhaps that’s because they’re so slow (and a busway would improve that), but I do perhaps think that route should be saved for perhaps a railway line in the more distant future when there has been more significant population growth in that part of Auckland.
So as for my most recent dream diagram for Auckland’s rail system, here we go:
So we have four lines:
1) A clear North-South Line (the red line)
2) A fairly clear East-West Line (the green line)
3) The Circle Line (the orange line)
4) An Airport Line (the blue line).
All together they form a pretty comprehensive rail network for Auckland. In areas where the Green Line and the Orange Line (and also the Red Line and Blue Line) double up you could run the Red and Green trains as “express” services, only stopping at major stations and therefore providing faster journey times. This would require some quadruplication of the tracks though to ensure there weren’t conflicts with all stopping services, and would therefore be expensive.
The other issue relates to losing linkages between the current Western Line and Newmarket & Boston Road/Grafton Station. However, Auckland will have some diesel trains for a quite a few decades yet that won’t be able to run through the CBD rail tunnel. These trains could run along the current Western Line route from destinations further out than the Swanson limit of electrification (probably from Huapai), and therefore provide that missing link. At other times passengers could simply transfer at Mt Eden station onto the blue line.
By all accounts Auckland’s Northern Busway has been a huge success since it opened in February last year. The graph below shows quite clearly how its patronage has continued to rise in recent months: with March 2009 being up significantly on March 2008 (even though the full busway was open by March 2008).
Keep in mind that these patronage figures are only for the Northern Express route, and that a lot of other routes also use the busway. In fact, I have heard that during the morning peak hour 88 buses heading into the city use the busway – or roughly one every 40 seconds. This still leaves quite a lot of room for growth on the busway though, as up to 240 buses per hour can use the busway quite comfortably, and after that point more can probably be added if some work is done to expand the bus stations themselves.
What is interesting though is actually how poorly located a lot of the bus stations are, or more to the point how the land around many of the stations is so poorly utilised. There are five stations on the busway: Akoranga, Smales Farm, Sunnynook, Constellation Drive and Albany. Albany and Constellation Drive have park n ride carparks, and Albany in particular is located in an area that will grow quite significantly over the next few years. The Constellation station is probably one of the better located, within pretty close walking distance of a large number of commercial premises. Sunnynook is not really that well integrated with the local community, but that community is a fairly well established suburban area so it probably won’t be easy to change that significantly and provide for intensification around the bus station.
This leaves Smales Farm and Akoranga stations, which I think are – at the moment – fairly lost opportunities in terms of the land use patterns that surround them. In the case of Smales Farm half of its “walking catchment” is a high school and not much can be done about that, but the other half is largely a giant under-used carpark. In the picture below I show how that could potentially be transformed into a pretty high density mixed-use centre, bringing a lot of people and businesses within easy walking distance of the busway station.
As you can see, there is huge under-utilisation of the area surrounding the bus station, with only a couple of large buildings being present. In the green “town centre” area I would propose some fairly high rise office buildings, retail and perhaps a park. In the red areas a mixture of office and apartment buildings would be suitable. Potentially a few thousand people could live within an easy 5 minute walk of this station, and a number of jobs could also be located within this area.
If we turn to Akoranga station, the situation is very similar. It’s quite a pity that Akoranga Station is so separated from Takapuna town centre as that would really be a perfect area to centre a busway (of future train) station on. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of potential for further development here. Having a golf driving range as the most significant land-use right next to a busway station seems like a total waste.
As with Smales Farm station, in the immediate vicinity of the station I would have a retail town centre, potentially with some high-rise office buildings. Then outside that in the red areas I would propose lower-rise mixed-use development with offices and apartments. Barrys Point Road is currently a total mess, with a mixture of wholesale and retail outlets. Over time it could definitely redevelop into a fairly high-density development node, with retail on the ground level and either offices or apartments above it. Once again, there is potential for potentially thousands of people to live in very close proximity to this bus station.
I certainly do hope that, over time, these land-use changes are made and a lot more people are brought within easy walking distance of the busway stations. If the Northern Busway is to ever be upgraded into a railway line (which would be ideal) then more people will need to be within walking distance of the railway stations to make it worthwhile. The above pictures show how that could be done.
Over the past few months I don’t think Steven Joyce could have destroyed public transport much more if he had tried (I guess he really is trying). Shifting hundreds of millions of dollars away from public transport and into state highway funding, cancelling Auckland’s regional petrol tax, delaying the ordering of electric trains, not making any commitments to funding integrated ticketing and so forth.
So I guess it’s no particular surprise to find out that he’s lining up one of the big achievements for public transport over the past few years, the Public Transport Management Act. Here’s the news, from Radio New Zealand:
Council control over public transport to be revisited
Updated at 7:43pm on 4 June 2009The Government has signalled a return to allowing a more free-market approach to public transport, especially in Auckland.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce has told a conference in Auckland he wants to move quickly to revisit legislation passed by the previous Government.
The Public Transport Management Act gave regional councils greater control over public transport services, even those run by commercial operators without subsidies.
The Act had been bitterly opposed by the country’s biggest operator, NZ Bus, which argued it removed the ability to get a good return on major investment and smart practices.
The legislation had been particularly welcomed by Auckland’s Regional Transport Authority which said it needed greater powers in order to better control a regionwide network.
Mr Joyce says private operators need to have the confidence to continue to invest in public transport and he plans to move quickly over the next months to change the legislation.
This is really depressing news. The Public Transport Management Act (PTMA) is an essential piece in the puzzle of improving public transport services throughout the country, but most particularly in Auckland. Effectively, it gives ARTA some control over services that they do not directly contract (ie. subsidise). At the moment public transport services are a mixture of commercial and subsidised services – and ARTA has little or no control over the timing, ticketing, standard or anything of the commercial services. However, the PTMA will change this – over time as existing contracts expire – and therefore be able to ensure public transport services are created in a logical manner that serves the best interests of the general public and not just the profit of the transport companies.
History is extremely clear that splitting off commercial services from subsidised services has not worked for Auckland. In the early 1990s the privatisation fetishists almost completely ruined Auckland’s public transport system through selling off the buses and setting up this dual system. Unsurprisingly, public transport usage crashed during this time.
One of the most critical aspects of the PTMA is that it enables regional councils (and ARTA) to require public transport operators to accept an integrated ticketing system. Without the PTMA there was no previous way for the operators to be made to accept an integrated ticket on their commercial services. If that act is repealed, then I’m very sceptical we’ll ever end up with integrated ticketing for Auckland. There will simply be no way to legally ensure that transport operators accept the integrated ticket on their commercial services.
I am really starting to dislike our Transport Minister.
I had another fun time yesterday doing an interview about Auckland’s transport situation on bFM. In particular, on rail electrification, PPPs, the regional fuel tax (RIP) and the Waterview Connection.
You can listen to the interview here: http://www.95bfm.com/default,191492.sm