Learning Your Stripes, 2013, Regan Gentry, Papatoetoe. Commissioned by Auckland Council
Every year Auckland Transport agree with the council a new Statement of Intent (SOI) with the council. It sets out their strategic approach, priorities and targets for the following three years. They are currently in the process of setting the SOI for the 2014-2017 period and there appear to be some quite concerning aspects in the documents - which are found in the various agenda items for the Council Controlled Organisations Governance and Monitoring Committee. My understanding of the process is that the Council send AT a letter of expectation outlining their key priorities, Auckland Transport are meant to incorporate that into a draft SOI which is then reviewed by council officers. The comments from them get responded to by AT and then goes to the council for a final decision.
Last year the biggest change to the SOI as the lowering of patronage targets, most notably for rail. It’s also something that backfired on them with the Ministry of Transport highlighting it their first review on the progress towards the CRL targets the government, suggesting it shows AT don’t believe rail can grow by the amount required.
So this year what do we see? The same thing is happening again with in some cases AT wanting to drop their targets for all PT modes. In the case of rail especially this is to almost absurd levels. For example in their current SOI their target is 11.4 million trips by the end of June 2014 (which they might meet if they keep growing they way they are) while by end of June 2015 they are expected to reach a total of just over 13 million. In their new draft SOI they want the rail target for 2014/15 lowered to just 12.1 million. The target seems way to low considering that:
Here’s a graph to show how the rail SOI target has changed over the last few versions of the SOI and how we’re actually performing.
My guess is that we could potentially blow past the 13 million trip target and this isn’t something that should be changed. For the other modes there are similar outcomes. The targets proposed in the 2014/15 year go
So only the target for ferries goes up which is interesting in itself as they are the mode currently going backwards. Overall this seems like a cop out and the councillors shouldn’t accept this (especially no on the rail figures).
The issue of dropping patronage targets is something noted by the council officers and by Councillor Chris Darby in a memo he sent to other councillors which is also online.
Darby’s letter also highlights that many of the “Key Focus areas for 2014/15 for Auckland Transport” from the council’s letter of expectation are not simply not reflected on in the SOI. These include
On the issue of cycling he notes that many of the timelines set for projects are quite at odds with the presentation AT gave the councils Infrastructure Committee just over a month ago on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. He highlights this in the following table
Lastly here’s the programme of works proposed in the SOI. Darby thinks that added to this should be planning and route protection for a North West busway along SH16, the Te Atatu bus interchange and the list of bus lanes that will be added. I agree with him.
A recently discussed on the blog, Auckland Council is making great strides in some of the more high profile City Centre Masterplan projects, with work recently starting on the O’Connell St and Upper Khartoum Place upgrades. However what I believe has been missing are much smaller scale interventions that can make things better for pedestrians. The Masterplan includes 9 outcomes, one of which is ‘A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.’ This comes with 7 targets:
In this post I will focus on Target 3, reducing pedestrian wait times. While there are countless small interventions that are required, one obvious one I’ve noticed recently is the number of traffic lights that are missing pedestrian lights on one leg of the intersection. Coming across these while walking can be extremely frustrating, and if you are really unlucky have to wait for 4 or even 5 pedestrian lights, rather than making 1 simple crossing. One of the worst examples is the intersection of Halsey and Gaunt Street, where there is no crossing on the western leg.
I recently timed how long it would take to cross what is only 30 metres direct. However one has to wait for 4 separate legs, not helped by the offset crossing on the eastern side where you cross Fanshawe Street. It took me over 4 minutes to cross here, which is just plain crazy. It is not like there are no potential pedestrians here, to the south east is Victoria Park and the Greenkeeper Cafe. Directly opposite is a major new office development under construction which will house the Fonterra headquarters in the first building, with more buildings planned. Clearly no one is going to bother heading to Victoria Park for their lunch break when 1/3 of the time is spent painfully crossing the road. Ideally people should be able to cross the road for their 10 minute morning coffee break if they want, not use it all up waiting!
However this example is far from unique, and I have mapped all the pedestrian crossings with missing legs below. Amazing there are 23 in the CBD alone! The three with green markers have had Barnes Dances added which has fixed the issue. So this could be a quick fix for some if the intersections with high pedestrian volumes. However Barnes Dances not desirable for all intersections, and they work best when they are double phased like on Queen St. So Auckland Transport really just need to bite the bullet and add pedestrian crossings to these missing legs. Of course these missing legs are even m0re prevalent outside the CBD, so these need to be worked on in other major pedestrian centers as well, could be a good job for local boards to get into as they have the ability to request Auckland Transport investigate matters like these.
If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport really want to get more people walking around our city and commuting to work, having walking stations set up around the city is not going to cut it. They need to get on with fixing these missing crossings, and make it easier for pedestrians to get around our city centre.
This is a question that Councillor Chris Darby asked on Facebook last week:
The Downtown carpark has nearly 1,900 spaces, occupies a prime site pretty much on the waterfront and is a key location in terms of linking together the city with the viaduct and Wynyard Quarter areas, as well as to the growing Victoria Quarter. The site has a capital value of $65 million, of which around half is the value of the land it occupies:
The Victoria Street carpark is about half the size (just under 900 spaces) and once again is located in a pretty prime spot in the city centre – right next to Albert Park and with a bit of elevation overlooking the Queen Street valley. It’s worth $45 million, of which just over $20 million is the value of the land itself.
I wonder what sort of rate of return the Council is getting on these pretty expensive assets. Looking at the pricing structure of parking in these buildings it seems as though prices are about the same (for early bird) or cheaper (for casual parking) than they were a decade ago. The Draft Annual Plan suggests a fairly modest $2.7 million profit from the entirety of the Council’s off-street parking business – on revenue of $28.6 million. While some expenditure will be on free parking areas in smaller centres, it does appear as though the rate of return on the city centre parking buildings (let alone the Ronwood Ave white elephant) is fairly dismal.
Councillor Darby seems keen to have the conversation around whether off-street parking buildings should be something Council (through Auckland Transport) gets involved in. Considering that in the city centre, owning parking buildings and probably subsidising the cost of parking (through the very low rate of return) goes against all policies to boost public transport use and unclog the city centre of cars, it’s a damn good conversation to have. Another one is whether Council should sell the buildings in their current use or redevelop them into something else themselves (as suggested for the Downtown carpark in the City Centre Master Plan).
The long running battle to develop land at Orakei Point has finally come to an end with the plan change enabling the development finally operative. Bob Dey reports:
I’ve long thought that the site was ideal for development as it is fairly close to town with excellent amenities including of course an existing train station which will only become more and more useful and frequent with electrification and then the CRL. As part of the development, the railway lines and station will be capped. I’m sure Auckland Transport will work with the developers to make the station something special and unique. There is also to be space for a third track through the development.
In the report to the councils development committee it says.
Following on from the appeals and environment court action there have been some changes to the original decision by the council. They include:
The developers have already been selling apartments and terraced houses based on the environment court decision, here are some of their marketing images of what the developments will look like.
There’s been quite a bit of cycling news in the last few days (including during today) so this post is really a bit of a combination of a few of these.
The Role of Cycling in Auckland
You will recall on Tuesday my post on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. Yesterday the report was discussed by the Infrastructure Committee who also heard from Cycle Action Auckland and Generation Zero who also spoke on our behalf. My understanding is that most of the councillors on the committee were quite supportive and the herald published this part from Chris Darby
The initial recommendations were also strengthened and ended being
At the end of the day we it’s really up to the council to provide the funding needed for AT to implement more cycle facilities so this is a good outcome.
Hidden in today’s Finance and Performance Committee agenda was a discussion on providing additional $175,000 in funding to help complete investigations for Skypath.
I understand there was some fairly robust discussion and I’ve had it reported that George Wood was mischievously trying to mislead the committee. He seems to have a real problem with Skypath and perhaps he’s talking the same line the Northcote Residents Association use that cycling can only be provided over the harbour if an additional road crossing is built. The extra funding was approved 15-4 with George Wood, Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer and Sharon Stewart opposing it.
On the issue of the Northcote Residents Association, it appears they’re continuing to run misleading information themselves in their latest newsletter. There are a couple of major ones
The Draft Issues register – despite it appearing that the issues are all outstanding, I have heard that they have all been addressed as part of the process currently going on, many of which were done last year.
Questioning Patronage Numbers – this continues to be a line that the residents use despite the numbers having been produced and checked by independent consultants. I believe another round of work is going to be done do this again.
Parking – For some reason the residents seem to think that they own the public roads and have the sole right to them. This is simply not the case however I also understand that the one of the most likely options is a residents parking scheme similar to what exists in St Marys Bay and that would address the problems.
Additional Harbour Crossing – the residents like to claim that when an additional harbour crossing happens that it would free up a lane for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge. However if it ever happens an additional road based crossing could be decades away and even then the NZTA have said Skypath will still be needed and will become a walking connection with any extra lanes freed up being for cycling (like in Sydney)
Greens Policy announcement
I posted this morning about the greens walking and cycling to school policy. Julie Anne Genter questioned Gerry Brownlee on it today in parliament. To be honest I can’t see many kids cycling alongside a RoNS to get to school. I’m also unaware of any cycling facilities being provided in many of the RoNS projects and in the case of Waterview, most of the cycling provision is only being done because the Board of Inquiry forced the NZTA to do so. Also have to
AA on cycling
What a brilliant ad from the UK version of the AA. Also good to see the NZ AA supporting it too (although with a hi-vis mention)
Ultimately this paper seems aimed at starting the discussion with the council to increase the level of funding for cycling projects in the next iteration of the Long Term Plan that the council is starting to work on. Later this year we will see a new government policy statement for transport which will set the funding bands for transport from 2015 onwards. It’s noted that the council, Auckland Transport and NZTA are all trying to get the government/ministry to increase the cycling band.
The discussion report provides a lot more information. A couple of things that stand out for me from it.
The paper also provides some statistics that could be improved through getting more people cycling. This includes:
Those are some pretty decent numbers.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this report to the council is that we get probably the clearest map yet of the total cycling network planned under the Metro, Connector and Feeder categories (there have been versions in plans like the ITP but they haven’t been easy to read). Remember the hierarchy is that the red lines are going to be the best and highest quality parts of the network,
A couple of things stand out here. First in the CBD it appears we’ll get a ring of separated cycleways around the CBD – including on Neslon St and the old Nelson St offramp – however we won’t get one through it. I would have thought that the Victoria St Linear Park would have had a separated cycleway along it. Also not sure why AT wouldn’t push for there to eventually be a full separated cycleway down Queen St now appears well over provisioned in road space for cars.
Moving out of the CBD some areas seem to be quite light on particularity feeder routes. This is a worry as many of the areas missing these feeder routes are also around current or future train or busway stations. One example is my local area (below) where no cycle routes are to be found connecting the station and local primary schools (green plus a heap of secondary schools just north of this image too). There are roughly 14,000 residents in this area along with some wide roads that would be easy to put cycle lanes on if on-street parking was removed (on-street parking only really seems to get used around the school start/end times anyway). Also note the Metro route in red isn’t practical for those mainly to the west of Sturges Rd.
Overall the long term cycle network is a damn sight better than what we have now but what we really need is for the council (and government) to support the construction of it. Something that will need to be pushed for in the long term plan discussions.
As I’m sure you will all know by now, Skypath was discussed today at the councils Governing Body meeting. In the public part of the meeting there were talks from the:
As expected the first group spoke in opposition while the rest spoke in support. There was also a presentation of the report talked about in the earlier post by council officers. There wasn’t really much discussion at all by the councillors of any of the presentations as most of that would have happened in the closed session where financial details were also being discussed.
The great news is I’ve just heard that in the closed session the council voted to move the project to the next phase meaning the council officers can work towards a formal agreement with the Skypath trust and their backers.
During the open session the Skypath Trust also showed this presentation which includes some new images of what the landings at each end are expected to look like.
As you can see below the Skypath will double back on itself and then head under the bridge exiting on to Curran St. Presumably this negates the issues with Westhaven Marina as walkers or cyclists would be using Curran St just like people do today. They also said they are working with artists and designers to come up with an interesting gateway for access to the path. In the bottom left image you can see a large pole sticking up, that will be carved by local artists.
At Northcote the path does something similar, doubling back on itself which I assume keeps it within the motorway designation
The presentation has a lot more images of what the Skypath might eventually look like including some lighting options.
Tomorrow is already going to be a fairly big day at council. Councillors will debate the much needed Skypath, the error ridden Annual Plan and of course plenty of discussion about Len Brown. However there is yet another topic on the agenda that I think needs some attention. It relates to Mission Bay footpaths and in a “planets must be oddly aligned” type of situation, it even sees me agreeing with the Orakei Local Board.
At the heart of the matter is the streetscape. The local business association have realised that the footpaths outside of the business areas are not ideal, both in width and finish and want them upgraded. Apparently they first asked for this back in 2007. In terms of width, part of the problem comes from the businesses that use the footpaths for outdoor dining. That helps activate the street and make it more interesting but narrows space for pedestrians to get past. As more and more people visit Mission bay this issue is likely to get worse. As you can see from these images courtesy of oh.yes.melbourne there is only really enough width for about three people between the kerb and tables.
The business association want to fix this so the proposal is to:
Yes you read that correctly, a local business association and the local board are supporting that carparks be removed outside of their shops so that there is more space can be created pedestrians. Considering how hard some of the other business groups fight to retain parking this is a very positive step. As mentioned there are three different options for section D that have been suggested which range from shifting the existing kerb out and changing adjusting the cross fall of the footpath through to a parklet type solution.
It all sounds pretty good to me but I hear you asking how much will it cost? Well the cost over 10 years including capital costs, interest costs and operating costs (above a normal footpath) for the most expensive option (Option 1) is just over $1 million. Based on other comments it seems Option 1 is the preferred one.
$1 million is not exactly break the bank type spending considering how much we can put into other transport projects but that doesn’t mean money grows on trees and is just lying around waiting to be spent. Also I’m sure there are a heap of other local centres that would love that kind of money to be spent on them and so working out priorities is probably quite difficult. However the business association have a way around that too and are proposing that businesses in the area be charged a targeted rate to pay for the upgrade. This seems like one of those win, win, win type deals with the potential benefits being listed as:
It all sounds good but there’s a problem. Council Officers don’t like the idea because it seems they don’t want to go through the process of doing formal consultation and setting up a targeted rate. They say that targeted rates are usually charged to businesses improvement districts (BID) but due to much of the land in Mission Bay being owned by the same company, the business association doesn’t qualify as a (BID). They also say that Retail Holdings Ltd – the main land owner in Mission bay and the primary beneficiary of the upgrade – can easily afford the upgrade on their own right and so should just talk to Auckland Transport directly. The council officers say that the businesses are just trying to use the council as a new source of capital. That might very well be true but at the end of the day this is about upgrading a publicly owned footpath and business association should really be treated in the same way as they would should each building be owned separately. A targeted rate in this instance seems fairly appropriate.
The Orakei local board have ignored the recommendation not to support the targeted rate and so are now asking the governing body to add the rate to the 2014/15 annual plan. They have even noted that Retail Holdings Ltd have agreed not to pass on the targeted rate to their tenants.
As mentioned, to me the project looks like a win, win win type deal. The footpath would be upgraded and widened by removing car parks while the businesses are putting their hands up to pay for it as they obviously see the value of the idea. The council should approve the targeted rate and get the upgrade done now, before the businesses change their mind.
As well as discussing SkyPath (and the Mayor’s recent dramas), tomorrow’s meeting of the Council’s Governing Body is also set to work through the 2014/15 Draft Annual Plan and adopt the Draft for consultation. There are a few unresolved matters in the Annual Plan discussions – particularly reference to an $18 million operational funding shortfall for Auckland Transport that is described below:
This is a pretty massive request for additional funding – one which was previously rebuffed by the Mayor when he originally proposed the budget a few weeks back. Given that Auckland Transport slashed the price of its off-street parking rates in the city centre in recent times, it’s no wonder that has been identified as an area that could raise additional revenue. This should have an additional benefits too, for example there are times when I have needed to drive to town for a meeting (shock horror) only to find the car parking buildings full which indicates that the pricing is probably set too low. The buildings being full are also something you can’t tell before you enter as the parking info system seems about as reliable as the bus real time system.
It would also be nice to start to see some of the efficiencies from rail electrification and integrated ticketing (you know, how we don’t need 4 staff on every train to clip tickets any more) actually filtering through as well. Both should also help to increase patronage and therefore revenue too, especially once people start to see and experience the new trains. Patrick and I were lucky enough to get a trip on one of them last night and the quietness and quality of them is going to blow people away. Let’s just hope the last thing cut in any budget shortfall is public transport services.
Returning to the parking issue, if we look a bit closer at the number in the Annual Plan, it does seem like an extraordinary amount of operational expenditure is going into off-street parking in the 2014/15 Annual Plan:
What the table above shows is that on-street parking and enforcement is a pretty profitable activity: $62.4 million of income and only just over $10 million of expenditure. Yet off-street parking seems to be an absolutely enormous drain on resources with a crazy $133 million of operating expenditure and only $28.6 million of income. Something tells me this has to be either an error or some strange accounting trick that has led to such a giant number – one that’s way higher than in the 2013/14 Annual Plan.
Regardless of what’s led to a requirement of $105 million net subsidy of off-street parking being required, it appears that this is having a huge impact on Auckland Transport’s budgets. Off-street parking should be a profitable activity for Auckland Transport – particularly as many of the central city buildings use up some pretty prime real estate that could otherwise be put to a much better purpose. Removing the $105 million net subsidy to off-street parking would not only eliminate the budget shortfall, it would free up a huge amount of additional operational funding that could go to more worthy areas like improving public transport services, footpath quality and so on.
The other numbers in the Draft Annual Plan that caught my attention related to the level of public transport service expenditure by mode:
Presumably, the expenditure on buses and ferries have just been mixed up – it’s hard to imagine how you could have $160 million of operating cost for the ferry network and have buses being so incredibly profitable. It is a bit worrying though to see official documents like the Draft Annual Plan making pretty basic errors when it relates to levels of expenditure up to $100 million.
Finally, pages 188-197 of the Draft Annual Plan report outlines the capital expenditure programme for the 2014/15 year. Below is a list of some of the more interesting projects proposed for capital expenditure in that year:
There are still a few key gaps where projects will be required to deliver the new public transport network (Te Atatu interchange, Wellesley Street bus improvements are two that come to mind) which aren’t funded to any great degree in the 2014/15 Annual Plan. Whether this puts the new network’s delivery at risk perhaps depends on the timing of when different parts of the network are rolled out. Generally the capital programme for 2014/15 looks pretty good though – particularly exciting to see the next generation of city centre projects finally coming through.
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