This is a guest post by Wellington architect Guy Marriage.
Wellington City Council has, at last, voted to go ahead with its first separated cycle-way and to adopt the Wellington Cycling Framework. The former is a section of cycle-way starting in Island Bay (a southern suburb next to Cook Strait, once a predominantly Italian fishing village). But just because it has been approved by Council, don’t expect it to go away as an issue. Down here, for inextricable reasons, it is dividing the local community like the Springbok Tour of 1981. Yes, it has become that venomous.
Bizarrely, or so it seems to outsiders, the people most against it are a small group of locals on “The Parade” whose properties it goes past. They will gain a cycle-way positioned close to the verge (or berm as Aucklanders call it), sheltered from the passing traffic by a row of parked cars. In doing so, about 30 of the about 300 carparks will be lost. You may think that seeing as this section of road has excellent off-street parking for nearly all residents, that this small loss of parking would be happily written off against the gain of a protected cycle-way. But you would be wrong.
Opponents (seriously) claim that the design of the cycle-path will cause deaths and destruction, particularly with the elderly and toddlers. Quite how the elderly have avoided their certain death all these years crossing over 2 lanes of infrequent car and bus traffic is uncertain, but opponents are certain that only death awaits the elderly as they cross the separated cycle-way. The logic escapes me, but evidently not local Councilors such as the Labour rep for the Southern ward, Clr Paul Eagle. He has teamed up quite firmly (but not in a Colin Craig manner) with Nicola Young, the local National-leaning Councilor, and future Mayoral contender. The current Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, strongly Green and avidly pro-cycling, has largely kept at arms length from the fracas so far, especially as she lives in Island Bay and it is seen by some as her having a pet project – although this is probably quite far removed from the truth.
The argument appears to be that by having the cycle-way separated behind a row of parked cars, risks speeding, unwary cyclists plowing recklessly and frequently into people opening passenger doors on the left hand side (a 600 wide zone is allowed for this door-opening to safely happen, but even that does not seem to have gratified the people of Island Bay). Opponents of the cycle-way argue that these doors will be flung open without checking by small children, and that the kiddies will be mown down, along with any errant grannies who dare to cross the road, the potential row of parked cars, and the “killer cycle-way”.
At present, there is a small but steady stream of cyclists from Island Bay, who either share the main part of the road with the cars and buses, or else they cycle along a parallel, less busy road a short distance away. The road is wide – exceptionally wide by Wellington suburban standards – and stats for crashes are low. One of the valid arguments against the cycle-way starting here is that it is the easiest part of the route from here to central Wellington, and that the WCC should perhaps have tried to solve the harder parts first. They do seem to miss the point that without a safe path, cycle numbers will not grow. They argue that no-one much cycles there at present, and so there is no need for a separated path. If you think Northcote Point home-owners are NIMBYs, you haven’t yet met the Island Bay Luddites. “Cycleway anti community” placards and “Safety 4 ALL road users” signs dot the wall of one of the local shops – but this logic escapes me. I honestly would have thought that little old ladies and children would have been much more at risk from cars and buses than by cyclists. Covered in the Dompost here.
Proponents of the cycle-way starting here argue the opposite points – that Wellington needs to lead the demonstration of quality cycle-ways with the highest quality possible at first, in order to continue the trend of separation when it comes to the following, harder parts of the cycle network. A basic masterplan of cycle routes has been published by the WCC, and this is just the first part of the first route. It is planned to become a centerpiece of how to do it well. It was consulted on, both online and also with flyers to all locals, and a show and tell meeting one weekend – all very easy to find out about and attend – but the locals who did not make themselves aware of the consultation are now taking the matter to the Ombudsman. Sadly, I kid you not. This story continues on.
There are over 1000 children in the Island Bay region, the third largest population of children in Wellington. The words of Enrique Penalosa – the former Mayor of Bogota and the President of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy – seem most appropriate here: “A bicycle way that is not safe for an eight year old is not a bicycle way.”
On faustbook: https://www.facebook.com/IslandBayCycleWay
Below is AT’s proposed post CRL rail running pattern. Quite complicated, with some peak only services and an infrequent 3tph [trains per hour] Henderson-Grafton-Otahuhu crosstown service. One feature of this design is that the 6 tph Swanson-CRL-Onehunga service [core Western line service] has every second train stopping at Newmarket, so it becomes 3tph from there to Onehunga. This is because the branch line from Penrose to Onehunga isn’t able to take any higher frequency, but also because there probably won’t be the demand on this little line to balance that of the whole of the western line, unless it is to be extended. And at 12tph there is plenty of action south of Newmarket- a train every 5 minutes each way.
Another notable feature is just how important Otahuhu is becoming. It’ll have 18tph both directions at the peaks; a train every few minutes each way [correction: actually 21 tph in the peak direction]. A frequency only matched by the Centre-City underground CRL stations. So it will be a great place to connect; that frequency kills wait times and connection anxiety, but also it offers a one-seat ride to everywhere on the network bar the last three Western Line stations and, unlike Newmarket, there is space for an expanded track layout for all these train movements [plus dedicated freight lines]. Add the fact that as you read this, thanks to the Council’s Transport Levy, a bus interchange station is being built there too, it’s becoming a real busy hub.
So picture this; How about adding the heart of Mangere and the Airport to the list of direct Otahuhu rail connections?
Here’s how it could go, there are a couple of options at the northern end, but otherwise around 9km of track over flat terrain pretty direct to the Airport. And, importantly some very good points along the way to serve the local community and add catchment to the service. On the map above I am proposing new stations at:
Mangere Town Centre/Bader Drive
The first two are close together but serve communities separated by SH20, and both are on good perpendicular bus and bike routes to expand that catchment. Mongomerie is also at a junction for good bus connection and is in the middle of the growing employment area north of the Airport. So residential, employment, and the community, education, and retail of the Mangere Town Centre too. Importantly this would act as a way to reconnect the community flung apart by the motorway severance. More on local impacts below.
Otahuhu is 25 minutes from Britomart, a number that should come down when AT and their operator sort out their currently overlong dwell times, and would be around 10 or so minutes from the Airport Terminals. 35mins from the heart of the city? Even cabinet ministers from the provinces would see the point of that congestion free journey when [say] going to meet us at the Ministry of Transport or NZTA in the city. But also such a fast and direct service would make taking it by connection from the North Shore viable, improving options for what is currently an expensive and congestion prone journey by any mode.
And in terms of running pattern it’s already sorted: send all 6tph of the western line on to through the CRL, Otahuhu, Mangere and the Airport. An immediate 10min all day frequency, through the busy Ellerslie and Newmarket hubs, direct to Remuera and Parnell, all the city CRL stations and every point on the Western line. Easy transfer at Otahuhu for every other station and connection point on the network. Uber to any station on the network with your bags, and you’re on your way in comfort and at speed right to the Terminal, and out of the vagaries of Auckland traffic and cost and hassle of parking. Personally I would prefer that transfer to the one people make now in their thousands at Airport Park’n’Rides.
Or if it’s preferred the 3tph currently intended to stop at Newmarket plus the 3tph of the crosstown service on from Otahuhu to make up the frequency. That looks overly fiddly and illegible to me, but that’s not important for this argument; the point is that Otahuhu in fact looks like a better point to connect Mangere and the Airport to the rest of the city than Onehunga, for both speed of service, and onward connections. And the added bonus of improving network efficiency by simply extending existing services.
Of course the route is not free. the section between the SH20 interchange and Otahuhu station goes down a highway designation that NZTA still probably want and that the locals recently fought to keep as it is. Here:
It is possible that the local community, if treated fairly and with respect, may see the advantages for them in having to this line in their midst. It is substantially different from a highway in terms of width, noise, pollution and benefit. The current residents would need to be rehoused to their advantage and the line would have to come with high quality and numerous crossing points and increased community access to the new stations and other destinations. It could be a catalyst for a whole lot of improvements in the area. But I can’t speak for them.
Otherwise it just faces the same route issues that the one sourced from Onehunga has. The refusal by previous decision makers, especially Manukau City Council, but also NZTA, and ARTA, to future proof adequately in their plans here means more expensive elevated solutions will be required over SH20A. However we are assured that the current Kirkbride Rd works allow for that and that the Airport company is similarly preparing for such a line. Otherwise it doesn’t look to face any unusual engineering challenge. Only the standard political and financial ones.
Interestingly here is report by BECA for ARTA from 2008 that features this route, with exactly the same station placements [can’t be too illogical then]. That found that Route 2B, as they called it, scored well:
But the report is complicated by the inclusion of the Avondale-Westfield line. One I never seen the point of in passenger terms and can not picture an efficient rail running pattern for, and that is only there because of an ancient freight designation. Also I find it odd that the report doesn’t analyse routes it terms of how services would use them.
Avondale-Onehunga-Penrose, and further, looks like it could be a more useful Light Rail service, once AT have their ‘four finger’ routes all ending along this line. The rest of the report is very dated and I’m sure would use very different ridership projections now.
I am confident about the utility and therefore the appeal of such a fast and direct line for Airport customers and employees, especially with such good onward connections and a turn up and go frequency. So long as the Sydney pitfall of putting a punitive fare on the Airport Station is not applied. Add the local residential, employment, and student catchments and bus connections, and this looks like a strong option without either the slow winding route from Onehunga, or the cost of crossing the Mangere inlet.
There is still the problem of the conditions that the Airport company are demanding; in particular a more expensive undergound route to future proof for a second runway to the north and to keep it out of the way of their new terminal plans. However AIAL also predict huge rises in passenger and associated business volumes at and around the Airport which means that they are going to find other more valuable uses for land than just car parking. And, despite the heroic showering of money on State Highways if this growth is still to only be served by single occupant vehicles and buses stuck with them then these roads and the local ones in the area are not going to work. A really effective Rapid Transit route and service is only going to be needed here with increasing urgency, and nothing will give the capacity and time competitiveness like hooking into the existing rail network that is already much of the way there.
Yes the capital investment will not be minor, but the outcome is both a permanent and extremely valuable for both the city’s efficiency and resilience. It will also add efficiency to the operations of the rail network, increasing utility and cost effectiveness by working those existing assets harder. The always senseless claim that ‘Aucklanders won’t use rail’ or other forms of public transport, has been proven wrong beyond any doubt since recent improvements and booming ridership numbers. It really is time for certain groups to drop their blinkered knee-jerk rejection of this mode, as it is based on historic conditions and experiences that no longer apply in the new Auckland, and as it really is the best tool for this important job.
Like the Rail Network the Airport appears to be on a trajectory for 20mil passenger movements a year by 2020: It is long overdue that we get these two critical systems linked together for their- and the city and nation’s- mutual benefit.
The High Court has agreed with incorporated society Urban Auckland that the Council and the Port company were in error when they decided they don’t need to consult Aucklanders to expand further into the harbour, here for the full judgement:
It is important that the Council accepts this decision and furthermore firmly *encourages* ACIL and the Port company to do so too. The Council alone spent $500,000 directly on this case to defend their earlier poor decision. Clearly this is just a part of their spending on our behalf following the rogue path of our wholly owned Ports of Auckland Ltd. Somehow the Council legal team got captured by the Port’s view of the world and their role in it. I accept the Council has a responsibility to back their officers’ earlier position but enough is enough.
And enough is more that enough with the Port Company. It really is time to part with the governance direction of the current board. They seem to have had two big ideas; first to fight their employees, second to trick and fight their owner. In both cases the courts taken a dim view of their approach. Also in each case I have no issue with the general aim but it is the path chosen to pursue these goals that is clearly crooked and unwise. I support the port seeking to improve their opoerational productivity, and I support the port seeking to right-size its physical footprint. But in each case this board and management have chosen the most confrontational and devious means to try to achieve these goals. And have been found to be sneaky and duplicitous by the courts; in ways that we would abhor in a privately owned company, let alone one representing the people of Auckland. In his written judgement Justice Venning is clear in pointing out that the Ports’ strategy is not clever on any level, especially on one of fiscal prudence:
 To the extent that there will be further delay and cost to POAL it has to a degree brought that on itself in the way that it urged the Council to proceed on the non-notified basis in the knowledge of the reaction that was likely to engender. In doing so it took a commercial risk in proceeding in that way.
It shouldn’t come to this. Citizens should not have to take legal action against people handsomely paid to serve them. It takes a hell of an effort and is a vast distraction, and costs everyone a fortune. Board Chair Hawkins has said he would rather resign than not build these extensions. Well the High court has stopped the extensions…..?
There is a lesson here too for other organisations that may lose sight of the fact that they only exist as servants of the people, and not just as facilitators for particular special interest groups. For example NZTA’s habit of deciding what it wants to do in our name without any real consultation, except with those business interests it is close to, should take heed from this decision. The process around what is now called the East West Connections and the Kirkbride Rd intersection give much room for disquiet. But these are nothing compared to what is likely to erupt as the Agency proceeds with one plan for a new Waitemata harbour crossing without any kind of serious process to discover the people of Auckland’s view on all the options. Especially without a real search for innovative solution including options without adding any additional traffic lanes. For despite all the rhetoric around the urgency to ‘solve’ congestion this agency is still rushing to spend billions on traffic inducing mega-projects; the greatest generators of traffic growth and therefore congestion.
So many of the worst features of Auckland’s current infrastructure are the result of public officials or central government deciding what is best for the city without allowing sufficient wider input into these decisions. This port extension issue should be a warning that the people of Auckland will no longer put up with being left out of these decisions.
Links, especially for donations towards our legal case:
Yesterday the Auckland Business Forum sponsored four pages of op-eds in the business section of the Herald about the need to improve transport for businesses. Unfortunately it ended up being a bit of a case of who left the gates to Jurassic Park open and let the Roadasaurs out.
Perhaps the most hilarious of the pieces comes from the head of the National Road Carriers – a trucking lobby group – who effectively suggests that a Mad Max style apocalypse is imminent unless we take quick action to speed up the movement of trucks.
When trucks gridlock, Auckland stops. Virtually everything manufactured, imported, bought or consumed in Auckland is at some point transported by truck.
If truck movement stopped in Auckland, within the first 24 hours service stations would begin to run out of petrol, supermarkets and restaurants would have no fresh food, building sites and assembly companies using just-in-time suppliers would experience materials and parts shortages, and mail and other package deliveries would cease.
After a couple of days, food shortages would develop, motor vehicle fuel availability would dwindle, exports and imports of goods by sea and air would cease, as would operations of many wholesale and retail businesses. Thousands of Aucklanders would soon be out of work.
This demonstrates the critical importance of freight and goods delivery within Auckland’s transport system — when trucks can’t move, Auckland stops.
Freight is the backbone of the Auckland economy. It figures that if we are serious about improving our economy, we must get serious about tackling Auckland’s worsening traffic congestion and improving our productivity and efficiency.
As Auckland’s population grows, it is critical that we stop congestion spreading through the whole of the working day as it is starting to do in some areas of the city.
His other article suggests some of the ways trucks can be avoided where he suggests that trucks should be able to use the busway and bus lanes.
His big priority is the east-west link which he wants the government to take over and build as a RoNS – because you know it’s not like the NZTA is sitting around doing nothing. He suggests that a route along the waterfront on the Northern edge of the Mangere Inlet is good because it will “avoid community severance” and encourage the repair of the “environmentally damaged reclaimed land”. I know some Onehunga Foreshore groups support this option because they think they will get a new foreshore – like what is being done now next to the motorway – on the northern side of the inlet. Of course not that anyone will be able to easily access it due to the severance the motorway they want causes.
Seeing as this route is claimed to be so vitally important for truckies, I wonder how much they’re prepared to pay to use it – or are they expecting this to be a massive subsidy from the public towards their operations.
Also pushing to keep the trucks moving is a representative of the construction firms. In this case he’s primarily talking about trucks involved in construction. A case of the trucks must get through to be able to build more roads that will also end up congested. It’s a bit like groundhog day. He also calls for trucks to be able to use busways. He is of course correct when he says:
At the heart of an Auckland-Wellington strategy must be an accelerated effort to improve the city’s public transport system. Getting single-occupancy commuter vehicles off Auckland roads during the day would free up the capacity for contractors, transport operators and other essential trades.
However a few paragraphs later he then undoes that by stating that PT should only be funded if it doesn’t get in the way of building new stuff.
Meanwhile, increased public transport funding is only viable if it does not impact on the activities of the people who build the city.
One area I do agree with him on is in his other piece where he suggests there might be some advantages to merging the local aspects of the NZTA and Auckland Transport. I’d go further and suggest the rail network should also be included. A single agency managing the entire transport network could be useful if it also coincided with more autonomy in how the money is spent rather than the rigid Government Policy Status. That could mean motorway, PT and local road and even rail freight projects could be treated equally but there is little chance the government would allow this.
Stephen Selwood from the NZCID has also written a few pieces. In one notes that the current plans for an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing add no new connectivity and that it wastes the transport budget. His solution to this is to make the tunnel longer and instead connect up to the eastern side of the CBD. However not content with that he also wants to revive the Eastern Motorway and suggests it be built as a tunnel so it “protects the views and amenity of the eastern suburbs”. It would then presumably link up with a larger AMETI project.
If the AWHC is estimated at $5 billion then how much is an approximately 14km tunnel from Glen Innes to the North Shore going to be?
Lastly both Selwood and Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett separately talk about and support the governments push for a transport accord. While I don’t necessarily disagree it seems that are taking the stance that Auckland’s current plans are fundamentally wrong. In my view we’ve seen a huge improvement in the work AT has done in it’s planning for the future and it’s starting to show that the plans of the past aren’t necessarily right or worth pursuing. This has been shown in examples like how they’re thinking of deferring the Reeves Rd flyover which would have just shifted congestion one intersection down the road and to invest the money in bringing forward PT improvements. Another is them looking at light rail as way of addressing looming bus congestion.
Of course there’s also the irony that the business groups are supporting the government in creating another year of delay and debate while also calling for urgent action to speed things up. Perhaps it’s time to stop having a bet each way and pick a position. To me it also shows why it’s so vital that we don’t just leave the conversation about Auckland’s future to these influential and well connected groups.
We have been sent more LRT details from AT. Light Rail is undergoing investigation at this point, but slowly more of their thinking is emerging:
Clearly access to Wynyard is the most difficult part of this route. Queen St is so LRT ready and at last a use for that hitherto hopeless little bypass: Ian Mackinnion Drive. The intersection of New North and Dom Rd will need sorting for this too- Is there nothing that LRT doesn’t fix!
They are planning for big machines, 450 pax is at the top end of LRVs around the world.
At 66m, these are either the biggest ever made, or I guess more likely 2 x 33m units. 33m is a standard dimension, and enables flexibility of vehicle size.
The contested road space of Dominion Rd. Light Rail will create the economic conditions for up-zonning the buildings here; apartments and offices above retail along the strip. But the city will have to make sure that the planning regulations support this. Otherwise it will be difficult to justify the investment. Something for those in the area who reflexively oppose any increase in height limits, reduction of mandated parking, or increases in density and site coverage rules to ponder. If they prefer to keep the current restrictions they need to be aware they are also choosing to reject this upgrade. More buses will be as good as it gets, and AT’s investment will have to go elsewhere. I’m not referring to the the large swathes of houses back from the arterials, no need to change these; it’s the properties along the main routes themselves that need to intensify; anyway these are the places that add the new amenity for those in the houses. And not just shops and cafes, also offices with services and employment for locals, and apartments for a variety of dwelling size and price. Real mixed-use like the world that grew up all along they original tram system city wide, before zoning laws enforced separation of all these aspects of life.
It’s been a busy month for development: Auckland Council announced they’d be selling off some of their surplus land, and so did the government (which Matt wrote about here).
This makes good headlines for the council and government, making it look like they’re taking steps to tackle the supposed housing crisis. However, I’m not sure how much of the land is actually “new” to the scene – e.g. the council’s announcement includes the land being developed for the Flat Bush town centre, which has been a work in progress for many years, the government’s announcement includes Hobsonville and the McLennan subdivision in Papakura, and so on. Anyway, I’ll look at this more in the next few weeks, and see what needs to go into the RCG Development Tracker as a result.
Developments around New Zealand
Speaking of the Tracker, I haven’t written much about what’s happening in Wellington yet. Using the fantastical power of computers, let’s whisk you away to the nation’s capital, where you can see a number of projects in the city centre or nearby.
Te Aro continues to transition to a more residential environment, and accommodation and mixed use projects are reshaping Wellington’s waterfront areas. A lot of the projects on this map are now coming to an end, and it’s not immediately clear what will replace them. Based on a recent visit, there certainly aren’t as many cranes visible in Wellington as there are in Auckland or Christchurch.
As for Auckland, there are a number of new things in the Tracker this month (including 1 Mills Lane, which could be the tallest office building in the city, as well as Mitre 10’s new head office building, the Oasis and SOMA apartments and more).
I was also down in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago, and it’s due an update as well – but that will have to wait until next month. In the meantime, you might enjoy looking at CERA’s Progress Map or the Avenues Four page.
Auckland Building Consents
Turning to building consents in Auckland, April was a massive month for apartments: 438 units were granted consent, with 392 of those in the Waitemata and Gulf Ward. This probably reflects two or three major projects getting the go ahead from Council (I’m guessing it might have been Park Residences and 88 Broadway, as the numbers more or less match up and both are now underway).
The graph below shows moving annual totals for these and other higher-density consents:
In fact, when you stack these lines on top of each other and add in the consents for standalone houses, you can see that most of the growth in consents over the last two years or so has come from higher-density dwellings:
There’s a tendency in some circles to suggest that Auckland’s housing issues stem from a lack of land on the fringes. However, higher-density dwellings are going to play an important role in Auckland’s growth, and in housing the extra people who want to live here. Let’s hope they’re getting the attention they deserve from the council and government.
These images were developed by merging together various historic black and white photographs (all from the “Sir George Grey Special Collection” – Auckland Library) with contemporary colour photographs taken at the same location.
The black and white photographs were taken between the years 1900 to 1940, and cover a number of areas of the city and the outlying suburbs. The colour photographs were all taken in early 2015.
The intention of these images is to use photography to help show how much has changed – or not changed – over almost one hundred years by focusing on locations that are familiar to Aucklanders.
It is interesting to think that the people, horses and trams seen in these images passed by around a century ago where we walk and drive today.
View looking south from Mt Eden. This image demonstrates the degree of landuse and landscape change that has occurred within this area over the last 100 years. The cones of Three Kings are intact. Mt Eden Road is on the right hand side, and the corner of Stokes Rd and Eglinton Ave is centre foreground. Black and white photograph (May 1913) from “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries 1-W1396″.
I guess this is just one of those ones we should have on high rotate. The advice from the North American consultants in 1965 for Auckland at the height of the sprawl era was this: ‘a co-ordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘ to go along with the gradual construction of motorways. How prescient this looks as the following 50 years have shown how inefficient and expensive a monomodal autodependent transport plan is for cities.
And now as we finally inch towards the partial delivery of just such a system it is plainly obvious how rational it is; ongoing 20% growth on the Rapid Transit Network settles the long running claims that it would never work in Auckland.
It is extraordinary that the government claims Auckland Transport and Auckland Council don’t have a good plan. It’s only the same plan that we’ve always had, but have never been allowed to implement. First because the various councils ‘couldn’t agree’ but now because there is insufficient ‘alignment’ with the government’s plan, which is undisclosed in any holistic form, but clearly is just more motorways everywhere. The Auckland plan, is evidenced, popular, already working, but starved of cash.
‘To 1986 and beyond…‘
And here, on a projected future motorway map you can see the core rail part of the ‘coordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘:
*Thanks to the excellent Auckland Library archive.
The Government has set up a “Rules Reduction Taskforce” to look at options for revamping housing and property rules. They’re currently asking for online submissions to help inform their work. Submissions close on Monday 1 June, which is next week, so if you want to have a say, head to their website and put in a submission.
It’s a simple process that should only take 5-10 minutes. Here’s some motivational music:
Perhaps “Rules Optimisation Taskforce” would have been a better name. It seems to me like we have too many rules in some areas, and too few in others. Well-considered reductions in rules can be a very good thing – look at the positive effect removing minimum parking requirements has had on development in Auckland’s city centre – but eliminating regulations based solely on ideology can be costly and dangerous – consider the leaky building crisis!]
Over recent days and weeks the suggestion of an agreement between the Council and the Government – a Transport Accord similar to the Housing Accord agreed to in 2013 – have grown stronger and stronger. It’s easy to see why an accord would be desired from both parties. The council want a secure source funding from the government to help address the city’s growth. Similarly the government seem keen to have more definition around the cost implications but also there seems to be some political motivations at play. I think they want to be seen to be doing something and I suspect they may also want to get an accord signed before the main local body elections heat up as it’s likely transport will be a major talking point.
While there’s a lot of talk that an accord there’s not a lot of detail about just what it may entail. That’s because what work that has already happened is firmly behind closed doors and will likely stay that way for some time. The media so far have largely being playing the idea that an accord is primarily about agreeing on a set of projects and this has focused a lot around Simon Bridges interview on The Nation just over a week ago when he said he dismissed rail to the airport. I increasingly think that his comments reflect more of an ideological hiccup than any serious discussion that’s been had. By that I mean that when pushed to name projects that shouldn’t be on the list he retreated to the only one possible. For ideological reasons it had to be a rail project as criticising road or bus projects would have just made the rest of his comments seem absurd and it couldn’t be the CRL as the government have already committed to that – albeit not in the time-frame it is needed.
Thinking through what’s actually been said about the accord so far it seems that perhaps it’s not so much about specific projects but instead something more fundamental. Below are a few excerpts from recent articles. First from the interview on The Nation
What would a transport accord do exactly?
First and foremost, alignment. It would mean that— I think the questions you’re asking me would be answered. We’d have a sense of agreement on the problem, on the congestion numbers. We’d have a sense of the priorities and what we’re trying to achieve. Is it that fewer big projects, more projects around the city, or what is it? And then it’s that mix of projects that at the moment we don’t know.
“It’s really about seeing if we can get better alignment between Government and council on transport priorities,” Mr Bridges said. “We’re conscious that we don’t want to make this too pointy-headed but it will be a quite complex, involved process, taking at least a year. We want to test each others’ assumptions and see if we can get alignment on the numbers.”
What we appear to be seeing is a continuation of the same kind of response from the government that was seen in the wake of the City Centre Future Access Study. Basically the government and it’s ministry’s don’t even agree with Auckland Council/Transport on key inputs into the decision making. That includes assumptions like how fast the city will grow (i.e. population or land use etc.), how costs and preferences will change and likely many other areas. They also don’t agree on the outcomes we should be focusing on i.e. should we be discussing congestion or access and how should the outcomes be measured.
The reason those aspects are so important is that sometimes even small changes in the assumptions you use or the outcomes that you need to achieve can significantly change the types of projects that will be needed. What’s more the less agreement there is between these fundamental issues the more changes there is for politicians to swing priorities without basis. An example is like the ruler in this video below. The ruler represents transport policy with the tip being specific transport projects while the finger represents the impact that politicians have. Currently we’re like the fourth example and swinging around like mad from even a little political pressure. Where a transport accord should hopefully be useful is to move us more towards the first example where there political pressure doesn’t exert that much change in policy
Essentially the process sounds like it’s doing a back to basics approach first and justifying each and every step and this time ensuring that all groups agree on the details. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing it does kind of seem like redoing much of the planning work that AT have already been doing over a number of years. Given the amount of work AT have already done I’d then expect the results to come out similar to what they have already shown in planning documents like the RLTP. I covered whether Auckland has an effective transport plan just over a week ago. Here’s one of the outcomes showing a substantial lift in public patronage over the 30 year window from the more expensive plan.
Just how the transport accord will end is unknown however I would hope that at least at a technical level there would be some fairly close alignment in most of the inputs and outcomes needed.
In saying all of this I think that in any criteria there also needs to be recognition from the government as to just what Aucklanders say they want for their city. This is especially important if the people making these decisions are sitting in a desk in Wellington. We have a good idea of what residents want from the LTP consultation as shown below and it is backed up by other surveys that have been conducted over the years. Just measuring outcomes based on impacts of a few measures such as congestion or required vehicle flows could lead to distorted and negative outcomes such as removing pedestrian, cycle or PT infrastructure in a bid to find more space for cars, the very things Aucklanders say they want more of.
Lastly I also hope that a Transport Accord could lead to innovation in how we plan for transport in Auckland. I think it’s absurd that given the interrelated nature of the regions transport systems that we have different organisations planning local roads/PT, state highways and rail projects. While I know the various organisations do work together there still seems like there’s a disconnect that leads each organisation of focus on their specific areas rather than seek the best overall solution to Aucklands issues. Perhaps it’s time for at least the planning and financing functions to be joined into one team – even if physical implementation is left with the various organisations.