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Transport and the Auckland Spatial Plan

As I noted last week in my blog post on the London Spatial Plan (known as the “London Plan”) a lot of emphasis is being put on the Auckland Spatial Plan (known, surprisingly enough, as the “Auckland Plan”). This was further reinforced by Auckland Transport CEO David Warburton, who in response to a question I asked about “how are we going to integrated land-use and transport when our planning and transport staff are in two separate agencies?” had this to say:

The Auckland Council is responsible for delivering a spatial plan (essentially a regional land use plan and at times referred to as the Auckland Plan), for the region. Auckland Transport has the subject matter knowledge and expertise to input into and advise on that plan. Auckland Council staff have agreed that the development of the plan is a partnership with Auckland Transport (and others) and we are actively involved in its development. It is a collaborative and inclusive process, as it should be and once this is agreed the problems you refer to will be minimised.

So it definitely seems as though the “Auckland Plan” will be critical in ensuring we have good alignment and integration between land-use planning and transport planning. We only need to look at the public transport wasteland that is southeast Auckland, east of the Tamaki River, to learn what disasters eventuate from not integrating land-use and transport planning.

Clearly then, a big focus of the Auckland Plan will be on ensuring there’s alignment between transport (particularly public transport, given Auckland Council’s stated priorities) investment and where the council prefers to see urban growth happening in the future. If the council chooses to continue the growth concept developed under the 1999 Auckland Regional Growth Strategy, then the spatial plan will hopefully identify and prioritise transport projects to support that – which I would assume means the CBD Rail Tunnel, rail to the airport, big improvements to the bus system and so forth. Pretty much what’s already the focus – at least for the Council (getting NZTA to abide by the council’s transport priorities might be a whole different story).

So at a broad level, the Auckland Plan could simply be a combination of two maps. The first being the “2050 Growth Concept” map which formed the key part of the 1999 Regional Growth Strategy. This is shown below: The second map is ARTA’s (and now presumably Auckland Transport’s) long term RTN/QTN map – showing the corridors it wants to develop as rapid transit and quality transit networks:

Theoretically, unless you wanted to reinvent the wheel in terms of answering the question of “how should Auckland grow” you could throw these two maps together, put some dates and prices on the projects needed to complete the transport network shown above and call it a Spatial Plan (at least in terms of how it deals with transport matters).

That’s what I somewhat expected the London Plan to look like when it came to addressing transport matters. But actually I was somewhat surprised to see how few maps and diagrams there are in the London Plan and how many instructions, objectives, policies, requirements and – generally – words there are in that plan.

Whilst I’m the first person to moan about the overly wordy nature of most planning documents, as I noted about the London Plan, it is the words used within that plan that really make it a very useful document. It truly delves into the important day-to-day decisions which decide whether land-use and transport planning are integrated or not. For example, it specifically notes that high trip generating developments should only be supported if they’re located in areas with high public transport accessibility. Policy 6.3 of the London Plan is perhaps most clear in how transport and land-use planning need to be integrated at all levels:

Policy 6.3 | Assessing transport capacity

Planning decisions

A) Development proposals should ensure that impacts on transport capacity and the transport network, at both a corridor and local level, are fully assessed.

B) Where existing transport capacity is insufficient to allow for the travel generated by proposed developments, and no firm plans exist for an increase in capacity to cater for this, boroughs should ensure that development proposals are phased until it is known these requirements can be met, otherwise they may be refused. The cumulative impacts of development on transport requirements must be taken into account.

C) Transport assessments will be required in accordance with TfL’s Transport Assessment Best Practice Guidance for major planning applications. Workplace and/or Residential Travel Plans should be provided for planning applications exceeding the thresholds in, and produced in accordance with, the relevant TfL guidance. Construction Logistics Plans and Delivery & Servicing Plans should be secured in line with the London Freight Plan and should be coordinated with Travel Plans.

LDF preparation

D) Boroughs should take the lead in exploiting opportunities for development in areas where appropriate transport accessibility and capacity exist or is being introduced. Boroughs should facilitate opportunities to integrate major transport proposals with development in a way that supports London Plan priorities.

E) LDFs should include policy requiring transport assessments, travel plans, construction logistics and delivery/servicing plans as set out in C above.

6.14 Allowing development, either individually or cumulatively, that would place an unacceptable burden on either the public transport network and/or the road network would be contrary to the objective of sustainable development. Phasing development (where this is appropriate), the use of travel plans and addressing freight issues may all help reduce the impact of development on the transport network and reduce emissions of gases that contribute to climate change.

6.15 In practical terms, this means ensuring that new developments that will give rise to significant numbers of new trips should be located either where there is already good public transport accessibility with capacity adequate to support the additional demand or where there is a realistic prospect of additional accessibility, or capacity being provided in time to meet the new demand. This principle should be reflected in the documentation submitted by applicants and in decisions on planning applications, with appropriate use made of planning conditions, planning obligations and, in due course, the Community Infrastructure Levy to ensure a joined-up approach to transport demand and availability of capacity.

Something like this in the Auckland Plan would ensure that, in both the policy (District Plan preparation – LDFs are the London equivalent of our District Plans) and consenting branches of planning, the impact of proposals on the capacity of the transport network would be well known, and mechanisms would be in place to ensure proper alignment between public transport and developments.

Auckland has tried to head down this pathway – through what’s known as “Plan Change 6 to the Auckland Regional Policy Statement“. Areas with growth capacity were identified (generally around town centres) and the level of additional dwellings they were meant to eventually contain was identified. But the ARC always had to battle the other councils to give effect to its policies every step of the way, not to mention the fight put up by developers of one kind or another.  Plan change 6 hasn’t even settled its appeals yet: over six years after it was mandated by the 2004 Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Act. So in some respects this pathway to integrating land use and transport hasn’t seemed to me to be particularly successful. As part of the lengthy appeals process the true intent of the plan change has been compromised to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether it now does more harm than good. For example – St Lukes ended up being designated a “town centre” even though it has utterly terrible public transport accessibility.

To cut a long story short, I think the Spatial Plan provides an opportunity to finally achieve the integration between land-use and transport planning that we’ve tried – and generally failed – to find over the past ten years or so of planning. Importantly, the Spatial Plan can’t be appealed to any court: it’s just something that the Auckland Council comes up with. This means that the general principles of the plan can’t end up being endlessly compromised through the court process until it becomes meaningless like what has happened to ARPS Plan Change 6. Once the spatial plan gets “given effect to” by the details of Auckland’s future District Plan then of course there will be court processes: and that’s fine when it comes to the nitty gritty details – but I think it is preferable for the overarching strategy to be ‘pure’ in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible through lengthy court processes with the likes of Westfield and various other property development companies.

In the end, when it comes to transport matters, the spatial plan clearly needs to include maps that show what projects will need building, when they’ll be needed by, how much they’ll cost and potentially how they might be paid for. It will also have maps shows how this connects with where – and how – the city is going to grow over the 20-30 year timeframe the plan applies. But, critically, it can’t simply stop there. The spatial plan also needs to provide instructions on how – on a day-to-day basis – each little planning decision has the integration of transport and landuse at the forefront of its thinking.

12 comments to Transport and the Auckland Spatial Plan

  • Scott M

    I haven’t read the RPS but I know the ARGS. I always thought it was weird that the latter strategy wanted to encourage residential intensification along the frequent bus corridors.

    Wouldn’t it be better to encourage largely business, education or other “destination” type uses along these corridors, than dormant residential activity that is empty for most of the day…

    • Matt L

      You probably need to have a mixture of both along the high frequency corridors otherwise how would everyone get to work? Also most businesses don’t need to be mobile during the day so only having high frequency services available for business areas might not be that successful.

  • Matt L

    One think I have always found odd is that Mt Albert Rd is seen as a QTN but St Lukes Rd/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West isn’t. Because of how wide it is, it would probably be quite easy to implement bus lanes and I don’t think it would impact traffic that much as with the exception of between Manukau Rd and Gt South Rd, traffic generally flows pretty freely.

    • I’ve generally found the St Lukes/Balmoral/Greenlane arterial route to be very busy at most times of the day. I think Mt Albert was chosen as the QTN because putting bus lanes along it was seen as more viable than along St Lukes/Balmoral/Greenlane.

      Personally, I think both should be crosstown QTNs.

      • Matt L

        I used to drive that route every day during peak times and it was never super bad. The traffic flowed pretty well along most of the route except for the part I mentioned and all that might be needed to help things is some bus priority at the lights on the major intersections, most of which are pretty big anyway so it would be easy to retain 2 lanes of general traffic. I do agree that both should really be QTN’s to really help the network effect.

        • A agree there, I used to drive along Balmoral-Green Lane during the peak every day and it wasn’t particularly terrible.

          It is an ideal spot for a crosstown QTN, not only would such a route link two (or perhaps even three) rail lines and a half dozen other QTN routes, it would provide St Lukes Mall with a superior direct bus service that could also double as a shuttle from the railway station.

          • James B

            Are you suggesting running the QTN along Morningside Drive? I would have thought running it from Great North Road to Remuera Road would be the best option. Then you can include the Zoo, Motat and Western Springs on the QTN.

          • I am suggesting that the QTN needs to service St Lukes Mall, connect to the Western Line and connect to the bus corridor on Great North Rd.
            Quickly looking at a map it seems that running up Morningside Drive to Morningside station, along Western Springs Rd and over the Motorway to Great North Rd (and the Zoo, Western Springs and Motat) would achieve that pretty efficiently.

            In the longer term I am fond of the suggestion that Morningside station and Baldwin station be closed, and replaced with one station at St Lukes Rd. This would place the station in the ideal location for a QTN to rail interchange (at the St Lukes Rd overbridge). It would also have two other nice benefits, firstly speeding up the western line by providing a wider station spacing and removing one stop (currently it is 1030m spacing, dropping one station would make it 1550m), secondly it would make grade separating Morningside Drive and Rossgrove Tce-Asquith Ave possible.

  • Luke

    the spatial plan really needs to be mentioned in the RMA if it is to have any real effect.
    Once the spatial plan is done, then the District Plan should be rewritten, with each town centre getting a local area plan.
    Unfortunately the govts RMA review is progressing at the same time as the spatial plan is being written.
    Therefore must be hard writing a document when it is not clear what it will do.
    Also the spatial plan should be statutorily linked to the Regional Land Transport Strategy as well.

    • Scott M

      One thing I do agree with National on is “THERE ARE TOO MANY PLANS”. And talk about duplication!

      I reckon the Spatial Plan should deal with the landuse and transport goals for the region. Why do we even need a separate land transport strategy? The funding aspects for both landuse and transport could be part of the Annual Plan process.

      Just seems like needless waffle.

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