2016 – A Year in Review Part 2 – Walking and Cycling

This is Part 2 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Walking and Cycling. You can see Part 1 on public transport here.

We finished 20156 with the fantastic Lightpath and Nelson St cycleway and 2016 kicked on from there with more good progress – including right at the end of the year AT announcing the completion of the Nelson St route, something I’ll cover in the new year. So, here’s my summary.

Quay St cycleway

We ended 2015 with consultation on the Quay St cycleway and by July this year it was officially opened by then Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Simon Bridges and former Mayor Len Brown.

A number of cycleways have automated counters, and AT have installed more to help measure the impacts of unprecedented investment currently going in but the Quay St cycleway is the first in Auckland to have a counter on it showing how many trips there have been. And the number of trips has been rising steadily. In October just under three months after opening the counter hit 50,000. Then just another two months later it reached the 100,000 milestone. With the warmer weather the daily numbers have been frequently above 1,000 and so it’s possible we’ll see it surpass 200,000 before the end of summer.

In further good news, AT announced that work starts in February to extend cycleway to just short of the intersection with The Strand and will be extended past that as part of the Eastern Path project.

Skypath

In the middle of 2015 we were ecstatic when Skypath was granted consent but we expected appeals from a very small but vocal group of people who opposed it, primarily on Northcote Point. And as expected, those appeals came. During 2016 two of the three groups opposing the project dropped their appeals. That left just one small group of local residents to take the fight to the environment court in November. But only a few days in the judge stopped the hearing and verbally said the consent would be issued, and without any of the crazy demands the opponents to the project were seeking.

In mid-December the formal ruling was released and was very critical of the appeal including comments like.

In the overall analysis, we felt unconvinced by many of the claims of the residents about the existing environment, which unfortunately we considered had been viewed somewhat through “rose tinted glasses”

With the consent out of the way, hopefully 2017 will see progress made towards finally building it.

In what will be linked to Skypath, the NZTA consulted on Seapath too. We haven’t heard the outcome of the consultation yet.

Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai

In December, the first stage of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (the path of land and sea), formerly known as the Eastern Path and the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path, was opened. Stage one is from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd. Bike Auckland has some good coverage of the event.

Stage 3, widening of the Orakei Basin boardwalk should be starting soon while Stage 2, from St Johns Rd to the Orakei Basin is expected to start during 2017

Waterview Shared Path

At the beginning of 2016 work started on the Waterview Shared Path from Alan Wood Reserve, over the rail line, through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves, Unitec and over to New North Rd at about Alford St via a 16m high, 90m long bridge across Oaklely Creek.

Franklin Rd

The upgrade of Franklin Rd has been the subject of numerous debates and design revisions, including at one point only catering for “confident cyclists”. But in the end AT were able to find a decent design for the project. This is part of a wider upgrade of Franklin Rd and includes improving utilities. Work on the road itself should start in 2017.

Consultations galore

A lot has been happening behind the scenes too with a huge number of consultations this year for projects that are expected to start construction over the next year or so as AT continue to ramp up to make the most of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund. I’m bound to have missed some but they’ve included:

There have been so many, I’m sure I’ve missed some, especially some of the smaller ones.

Usage

Of course, one of the points of investing in more cycling is to get more people using bikes and on that front we’re seeing some good results. For example, at Kingsland on the NW cycleway, usage is the highest it’s ever been and well ahead of what we’ve seen before thanks to the addition of cycleways like Lightpath and Nelson St.

Of course, there have been many other things that have happened over the year and too. Are there any key changes I’ve missed? You can also see Bike Auckland’s summary here.

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on roads

Submit on inner west cycle consultation

Auckland’s about to take a few significant new steps towards being a more cycle-friendly city. We’ve gotten the go-ahead for some major off-road cycleways, like Grafton Gully, Pinkpath, the Glen Innes to Tamaki cycleway, and (pending Environment Court appeals) Skypath. Investments to date are paying off nicely, with big jumps in cycle trips along the routes that have seen the biggest improvements in connectivity.

nw-cycleway-kingsland-800x469

But the next steps for the city’s nascent cycling network are, in many senses, more important. In order to get the best use out of existing cycle routes, we need to connect them to things. This means making cycle improvements on local and arterial streets to make them safer and more comfortable for people on bikes.

Auckland Transport is currently running two consultations on cycle facility improvements in the inner west. Our friends at Bike Auckland have the details.

The first consultation is on cycle improvements in Grey Lynn, Arch Hill, and Westmere. This includes the potential for separated cycle lanes on a significant chunk of Great North Road. This consultation has now been extended to 21 October, so you’ve got a week to put in your views.

Here’s a run-down of the routes that they’re looking at:

grey-lynn-area-improvements-all-routes-map

Bike Auckland has a more in-depth run-down of the details that I’d recommend reading before submitting. Here’s their summary of the Great North Rd changes:

Route 4: Great North Road

This changes everything, as you can see from the project page and the detailed plans! As well as the installation of protected bike lanes, there’s a big bus-stop shuffle, improvements for pedestrians, and safer intersections.

Of particular interest to the bike community:

  • 1.5m-wide cycle lane, on-road for nearly the entire length of the route, on both sides of the road, inside the bus lane – separated from the bus lane by a 0.5m physical or painted buffer.

  • Due to lack of space on the road, a small section of raised off-road cycle path on the existing concrete berm (past the library) heading towards Grey Lynn shops, between Coleridge Street and Crummer Road.

  • Narrowing of the central median to 1.7-2.2m along the length of the route.

Bike Auckland member Max has  also written a more in-depth guide to the design issues, concluding with some key recommendations:

  1. Please ensure the cycle lane is physically separated – with a solid, durable divider!

  2. We like the bus stop cycle bypasses – please provide as many as you can, and as much space for them as possible.

  3. At intersections, please provide hook turns for safe right turns – we want this everyday movement to be stress-free.

Down the road slightly, there’s a lower-profile but nonetheless important consultation going on for the redesign of the Great North Rd / Bullock Track intersection. Bike Auckland has the details and the contact form for submissions. Submissions are open until 17 October – so get them done this weekend if you want to be heard:

…at some point – like when an intersection is officially listed as one of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections in New Zealand” and “Third worst in Auckland” – you have to hope that something will finally get done.

That’s the case for the intersection of Great North Road / Bullock Track, west of Grey Lynn, which has a very long rap sheet: over fifty known crashes (including one fatality) over the last 10 years, among them one of our own close associates, who had a potentially very bad (but ultimately “lucky”) crash with an inattentive driver last year.

[…] Now, at last, Auckland Transport is proposing to provide traffic signals at this intersection to increase safety for all road users, which will also help cyclists.

Public feedback is invited until 17 October 2016.

Bike Auckland reviews the details of the project, and offers a verdict:

What’s good about it…

  • The intersection is signalised, making it less likely for that Bullock Track driver focussed entirely on getting to the other side to suddenly shoot out and ram you as you pass through on your bike, as in the case of our friend who got hit here.
  • A new pedestrian crossing over Great North Road replaces an old pedestrian refuge that obliged you to dash over multiple lanes. Better crossing options are good for a multi-modal city.
  • A longer section of bus lane into town for those taking public transport (which also functions as a small improvement for very confident on-road riders).
  • New zebra crossings around the motorway interchange to make those drivers pay more attention to pedestrians.

And what’s not so good…

  • No cycle facilities. A brand new traffic signal, just a wee ride away from the growing western cycleway network that is coming for Surrey Crescent and GNR (east of Grey Lynn into town). But no facilities for those riders, no protected lanes. And no connections westward, either – even though AT was going to look into this section after the Pohutukawa 6 were saved, and the design of GNR through the St Lukes Interchange was ‘to be rethought’, including improvements for people on bikes.

  • Those shared paths don’t count. Sorry, but they’re really just signs on a wide footpath (which is crowded with pedestrians when events are on). And the paths don’t lead anywhere, because directly west and east of these sections, it isn’t even legal to ride on the footpath. Sure, some people currently do – for example to get to MOTAT, Western Springs Park, or the Stadium, and the Northwestern Cycleway (and there’s a fair amount of school-age bike traffic to be spotted on the footpath morning and afternoon, an expression of how unfriendly the road space is for anyone other than very confident cyclists). But the fact that some 150m of this informal ‘heavy traffic avoidance route’ will now be legal doesn’t really change much.

  • Riding in the new eastbound bus lane may be better than having to claim a general lane, or riding in a narrower painted cycle lane between two lines of cars. But you’ll still have traffic to the left of you (turning into Bullock Track) and to the right of you (heading eastward on GNR) and of course, buses fore and aft. Rider beware. Would it be a better idea to allow cyclists to continue straight from the left turn lane, instead of making them use the bus lane? (NB this would only work if the footpath wasn’t built out on the northeast corner, so that riders could merge more gradually back into the bus lane once past the Bullock Track).

  • Some aspects of the new signal worry us a bit. Will we have motorists doing (illegal) right turns here? For example, will everyone who currently turns right out of Tuarangi obediently take the back way up the hill instead, to join GNR at the town centre? Or will some continue to risk turning right here, as is their habit? And consider the right turn into Tuarangi – it will still be allowed, but there is no dedicated right turn lane. Will people driving towards town suddenly swerve into the bus lane (where on-road cyclists will be) instead of waiting behind right turners? To be fair, we are bringing up some likely quite rare possibilities here – whereas right now, every single driver coming out of Bullock Track at peak hour is a potential hazard. But at minimum, AT will have to closely check whether such risky behaviour will happen.

  • Two of the three new zebra crossings around the interchange have no raised tables. How can people be sure that drivers off and onto a fast motorway will slow down and give way? Sadly, NZTA is very, very resistant to having raised tables on such lanes at their interchanges.

If you’re a regular (or aspiring) user of the cycle network in the inner west, I’d strongly encourage you to read up on the proposals and put in a submission!

Zoning reform: Who submitted on the plan? (3 of n)

This is the third installment in an ongoing series on the politics and economics of zoning reform. Last week’s post took a look at the outcomes from the Unitary Plan process, which included a mix of political decision-making and technical assessment. The data in this post raised a few interesting questions, including: Why did councillors take a relatively conservative approach to the notified Unitary Plan?

In his fantastic book Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation, which I reviewed at the start of the year, William Fischel argues that zoning decisions generally respond to demands from politically active “homevoters” who agitate to minimise risks to their own property values.

While this doesn’t necessarily hold true in all cases, it’s a useful heuristic for understanding councils’ decision-making. And it suggests that when seeking to explain zoning decisions we should begin by asking: Who submitted on the plan?

After notifying the Unitary Plan to the public in September 2013, Auckland Council received submissions from around 9,300 individuals or organisations, who made a total of 93,600 unique requests. The submissions are all available online if you want to read them in detail.

I didn’t want to bother reading them in detail, so I started with some simple statistical analysis. Approximately 5,900 submitters provided an address, which allowed Auckland Council to match them to one of the city’s 21 local boards. This allowed me to identify which areas of Auckland had more or less submissions. Here’s a map showing submissions per capita.

UP submissions per 1000 residents map

Interesting map. We can immediately see three things:

  • People in rural areas – especially Rodney – submitted on the plan at higher rates than people in urban areas.
  • Two urban local boards stand out as having high submissions per capita – Orakei and Devonport-Takapuna. They are both relatively well-off coastal areas.
  • Submission rates in the west and south were much, much lower – as shown in the yellow band through the city.

All in all, people who lived in Rodney or Orakei were over ten times as likely to put in a submission on the Unitary Plan than people who lived in Henderson-Massey or Mangere-Otahuhu.

This is an extraordinarily large amount of variation, and it’s not matched by other indices of civic participation. For instance, voter turnout wasn’t ten times as high in Orakei as it was in Henderson or Mangere. So what factors are driving the differences?

Ideally, we’d be able to take a look at the decisions made by individuals – for instance, by surveying people on their decisions about whether or not to submit. But that’s a bit over the top for a blog post, so I’m going to take a quick look at some demographic factors that might underpin different submissions rates at a local board level.

More specifically, I want to investigate three hypotheses that are (loosely) derived from Fishel’s “homevoter hypothesis”. They relate to the time and money that people have to get involved in the process, and people’s sense of “ownership” over their neighbourhood:

  • Hypothesis 1: Areas with higher median incomes are more likely to submit at higher rates
  • Hypothesis 2: Areas with a higher share of home-owning households are more likely to submit at higher rates
  • Hypothesis 3: Areas with a higher share of people over the age of 65 are more likely to submit at higher rates

All demographic variables were measured at the local board level using data from the 2013 Census. (NB: These weren’t the only factors I considered, but they seemed to be the most relevant ones.)

The following table summarises results from a simple OLS regression, which measures the correlations between multiple explanatory variables (the local board demographic variables) and a single outcome variable (Unitary Plan submissions per 1000 residents). The statisticians among our audience will find it pretty intuitive; for the rest, here is an explanation of the findings:

  • At a local board level, a higher median personal income was associated with a higher rate of submissions on the Unitary Plan. This correlation was highly statistically significant (1% level). On average, every $1000 increase in median personal income was associated with another 0.51 UP submissions per 1000 residents.
  • A higher share of residents aged 65 and over was associated with a higher submission rates. This correlation was also statistically significant (5% level). On average, every 1% increase in the share of seniors was associated with another 0.47 UP submissions per 1000 residents.
  • After controlling for incomes and age, there was no statistically significant relationship between the share of households in rental accommodation and submission rates.
  • These factors “explain” about 56% of the variations in submission rates between local boards. In other words, income and age are quite important to overall outcomes.
Outcome variable: UP submissions per 1000 residents
Explanatory variables Model coefficients
Median personal income ($000s) 0.507***
(0.113)
Percent 65 years and over (%) 46.973**
(20.086)
Percent renting (%) 7.693
(7.927)
Constant -19.147**
(7.363)
Model statistics
Observations 21
Adjusted R2 0.557
Residual Std. Error 2.455 (df = 17)
F Statistic 9.365*** (df = 3; 17)
Note: *p<0.1; **p<0.05; ***p<0.01

In short, areas with more wealthy people and more retired people tended to submit on the Unitary Plan at considerably higher rates. While there is an idiosyncratic story lurking behind every submission, demographic factors seem to have played a crucial role in shaping the submissions that Auckland Council received on the Unitary Plan.

This raises several questions:

First, how much stock should policymakers place on submissions as opposed to inputs gathered from other sources, like demographically-representative surveys? In asking this question I am not dismissing submissions entirely – the people who submit are also more likely to have relevant knowledge about the issue at hand. But is it plausible to think that people in wealthier and older areas are ten times more knowledgeable than people in poorer and younger areas?

Second, how should planning processes account for the preferences and needs of people who are invisible in the consultation process? If you care about the substance of democracy as well as the form, as I do, this is an important question. There are in fact many things that can be done to divine people’s underlying preferences for various things in cities. Perhaps we should invest more in this sort of research.

Third, to what extent did submissions on the Unitary Plan affect the process at different stages? For instance, were the areas that Auckland Council chose to “downzone” between the draft and notified versions of the Unitary Plan concentrated in local boards with higher submission rates? And what about the outcomes from the final Unitary Plan recommended by the hearings panel? These are obviously hard questions to answer in full without an extremely in-depth analysis of the 93,600 unique requests that people made. But there may be some simple insights we can get from a higher-level analysis; stay tuned…

What do you make of the data on Unitary Plan submission rates?

Inner East cycle consultation

Auckland Transport recently consulted on cycle networks for the inner western suburbs of the isthmus. Now they’re doing the same thing but for the inner eastern suburbs.

Parnell newmarket cycle drawing

Aucklanders have an opportunity to shape the cycle network in the inner-east suburbs. Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking public feedback from today.

The public are being asked where they would like cycle routes in Meadowbank, Orakei, Remuera, Newmarket, Grafton and Parnell. They’re also being asked to identify specific locations that could be improved for cyclists, like busy intersections.

This is similar to a recent public engagement AT completed in the inner-west suburbs, which had a huge response. Auckland Transport’s cycling and walking manager, Kathryn King says there were almost 900 submissions and thousands of individual comments. “These will be fed into future cycling and walking projects in that area, this is AT’s new approach to developing the cycling network.”

She says once the network is confirmed the next step is to seek further community feedback as Auckland Transport develops designs for individual routes.

“Improving cycling connections to the city centre where thousands of people travel for work or study, is a key focus. We know that improving connections from these inner-east suburbs is how we get the biggest increase in cycling numbers for the money invested.”

 

Unlike the inner west where they marked out a proposed network, this time AT are starting from a completely blank map.

Parnell newmarket cycle network map

This consultation doesn’t mean that a complete cycle network in the area is about to be built tomorrow or even next year but AT say the aim is to complete most of it within the next ten years.

 

The consultation is open to 20 June.

Residents Associations and the Communities they serve

The herald today has pulled the veil back on some of the key opponents battling Skypath in the Environment court and how they’re not at all representative of the views of the communities they claim to serve.

But three associations were not cheering – two based in the northern landing at Northcote Point and a third at the southern landing at Herne Bay – and appealed against the consent in the Environment Court.

With two groups from one neighbourhood opposing the project, as an outsider you would be forgiven for believing the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) and the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society represented the views of a community with genuine concerns about the project.

However, of the 382 submissions from Northcote, 29.8 per cent were opposed.

From what I’ve seen over the years, resident associations tend to be best understood the hobby horses for one or two individuals to pretend they have legitimacy to force their views on the wider community. They’re usually run as the personal fiefdoms with those in charge and are often very protective of who can join so they can retain control of the narrative. Take the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) as an example. The association say they cover the following area which is home to about 10,000 people.

Northcote Residents Association Ma

And their rules state that anyone from within that area can join

4.1 The number of members of the Association is unlimited and any person who is a resident or ratepayer of Northcote is eligible for membership and shall be admitted as a full member on

(i) payment of the subscription specified by the Executive;
(ii) completion of a membership 2 form; and
(iii) agreeing to abide by the Rules of the Association;
(iv) approval of the Executive in accordance with Rule 4.3 below.

But rule 4.3 is the kicker

4.3 A majority of two thirds or more of the members of the Executive, by resolution, may determine that any person’s application for membership be declined. The Executive shall not be obliged to provide any reasons for its decision.

So effectively the executive can kick out anyone who doesn’t agree with them, or in the case most rational people, they’ll leave once they realise they aren’t being represented and those in charge are using the association to further their own personal aims, not those of the wider community. And that’s exactly what has happened.

 

NRA chairman Kevin Clarke said there were no longer any members in the association who supported the SkyPath because they had all left.

“Thank God for that. They provided nothing. They did nothing. They were there to destroy and they damn near achieved it. They didn’t do anything positive. They didn’t do anything constructive.

“They didn’t do anything useful and they didn’t do anything to engage their mind in any of the problems that were blatantly presented by SkyPath’s hopelessly ill-resolved proposal.”

A quick search shows almost all of the ten executive members live on Northcote Point itself, living south of Stafford Rd/Rodney Rd.

The herald article highlights two former executive members who tried to have the NRA find out the actual views of the community but were shut down. This is something I first heard about at the time the Skypath submissions were under way. I also understand the executive had taken an official position of not supporting or opposing the project but then at the very last minute a core group submitted one anyway.

It’s also worth highlighting another issue raised

Mr Barfoot said having multiple societies set up made “it seem like there’s a grassroots movement against the SkyPath which is simply not the case”.

He’s referring to the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society which was set up in December 2014 during the submission period for Skypath. Many of the founding members are also on the NRA executive.

Of course these Northcote groups aren’t unique and there are plenty of others in various areas that will be similar. And there’s nothing wrong with associations supporting or opposing any project or plan. The issue comes when they claim to represent a community who most within that community probably don’t even know they even exist. Particularly on big discussions and especially RMA processes, perhaps these associations should be required to show the demographics of their members, the demographics of who within the community they’ve consulted and as a comparison to the demographics of the community they claim to represent.

To be fair, addressing the consultation problem is something we’ve talked about before and it extends much further than just residents associations. It applies equally to council’s and the government.

The consultation problem: Who submits on the plan? [Repost]

In light of the recent debate over whether the Unitary Plan hearings process is sufficiently democratic, this is an appropriate time to revisit a post I wrote last year on the demographics of consultation feedback. Essentially, local governments don’t hear from all their citizens equally – submissions are weighted towards older, whiter, and probably wealthier people. This is a critical issue for local democracy. As the Productivity Commission wrote last year:

Some existing residents – especially homeowners – benefit from restrictions on the supply of new housing, as these help keep up house values. The Commission has identified a “democratic deficit”, where homeowners have a disproportionate influence in local council processes, including elections and consultation. This creates a “wedge” between local and national interests.

On with the post.

Auckland Council is currently [in March 2015] consulting with residents on its 2015-2025 Long Term Plan (LTP). This is an important document, as it sets out the Council’s budget over the next ten years. This is a period in which Auckland has to make some tough choices, including whether it should raise more money to pay for an expanded transport plan. (The City Rail Link, a key project for the city, is expected to start regardless, but it’s going to be harder to pay for other public transport infrastructure without additional money.)

If you haven’t yet submitted, I’d encourage you to do so via the Council’s online submission form. Or, if you want a more straightforward way to submit Generation Zero has released their submission guide following up their alternative LTP. You can read their plan at fixourcity.co.nz. [Note: submissions closed a year ago; don’t bother!]

The other week, Matt put up a post summarising the data on who had submitted on the LTP as of 19 February. (More data was published on 1 March.) He highlighted a few interesting aspects of the feedback, including what submitters were highlighting as priorities for spending. There is a big desire for more spending on public transport and cycling, which is great to see.

The most striking data was on the demographics of the submitters. Simply put: Council isn’t getting feedback from a representative set of Aucklanders. Some groups are systematically underrepresented, while others are massively overrepresented.

To illustrate this point, I compared the demographics of LTP submitters with Auckland’s actual demographics from the 2013 Census. Here’s the summary table:

LTP submitter demographics vs Auckland demographics

As you can see, there are some groups that show up in large numbers to have their say:

  • Men – 49% of Auckland’s population, but 62% of LTP submitters to date
  • NZ Europeans – overrepresented in LTP submissions by 50%
  • People aged 55 or older – overrepresented by 80% or more in LTP submissions

Other groups are underrepresented by comparable margins:

  • Maori, Pasifika and Asian people – underrepresented by 62%, 81%, and 73%, respectively
  • People aged under 25 – underrepresented by 70% or more.

In other words, Auckland is a young, multicultural city where young people and non-European people don’t have much of a say in Council feedback.

Here’s another view of the data on the age of submitters versus the age of Aucklanders as a whole. The age profile of LTP submitters is almost the inverse of the age profile for the whole population!

LTP submitters and Auckland age structure chart

This poses some serious challenges for Auckland Council (and other local governments, probably). Councils rely heavily upon submission and consultation processes to help inform their decisions about what to build and how to write urban planning rules. It’s not the sole input to decisions – which sometimes causes some people to kvetch that Auckland Council’s not listening to them – but it is an important one.

If the demographics of submitters are biased, we can’t necessarily rely upon consultation feedback as a guide to what the public wants. If half of Auckland is under the age of 35, and almost half are Maori, Pasifika and Asian, while most submitters are middle aged to retired and disproportionately white, should we trust the data? And what could we do instead to gather more representative data?

Fortunately, Auckland Council does seem to be using a few alternative approaches to getting feedback on the LTP. This includes an independent phone survey of 4,200 Aucklanders selected to be demographically representative. Depending upon how they ask the questions, this may be a more valuable source of insight into actual Aucklanders’ preferences than the standard consultation forms.

The Council is also running a series of meetings, recognising that some people prefer to talk about the issues rather than fill in an online form. In a comment on Matt’s post, Ben Ross reported back on the discussion at an LTP meeting in the Otara-Papatoetoe local board:

the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Have Your Say Sessions in which the Pacific (and Maori) people were VERY vocal in making their thoughts known.

I was the sole white person there at the Otara-Papatoetoe LB session last night (didnt bother me one bit) and their views were consistent:
Low UAGC
Better east west transport links especially from Otara to Wiri and the Airport
Upgrade of Otara Town Centre
And socio-economics was a big concern as well

It is definitely good that Auckland Council’s using a few different mechanisms to get feedback on the LTP – provided that it’s all weighted up and reported together. But even if it puts the effort into getting a meaningfully representative set of views on the LTP, it probably isn’t doing the same thing in the multifarious consultations it does on smaller issues.

I don’t have a good solution to this – although I have a few ideas. What are your thoughts?

Central & East New Network consultation closes tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day to submit feedback to Auckland Transport on the new bus network for central and east Auckland. You can see some of my thoughts in this post from when the consultation was launched. The maps for each are shown below (click to enlarge)

Central Proposed New Bus Network

East Auckland Proposed New Bus Network

One reason it’s important to submit if you have a view is that there are bound to be many submissions like the one below. This comes from the Grafton Residents Association and was provided by reader Logan.

Grafton Residents on NN

Arguing that bus volumes should be removed because there are too many cars is one of the most arse about face arguments I’ve ever heard. But just how many bus movements are there going to be along Park Rd.

You can see from the map below (and even easier using this map), using Park Rd there are a couple of frequent routes – the inner Link, Remuera Rd and Gt South Rd/East Auckland. There are also some less frequent routes such as the NEX3 and buses from around Manukau Rd – although they can be frequent in the peak.

NN Park Rd

Handily AT provide an idea of the frequencies each route will have. From that we can work out that there are around 41 buses an hour in peak directions at peak times using Park Rd – roughly a bus every 1½ minutes. But how does that compare to what’s there now. Well the current map is such a jumbled mess it’s difficult to work out just which routes use the bridge. Of the routes I could make out I wasn’t able to find timetables for each of them but based on what I did find it would appear the number of buses currently using Park Rd would be at least the same as what’s proposed if not more. In other words, it appears even without cutting routes like the residents association want there will be fewer buses on Park Rd.

Lastly our friends at Generation Zero are pushing for better night buses. They’ve created a little quick submission form on the issue if you don’t want to include it in your own submission.

Better-night-buses2

So if you use buses in the central or eastern parts of Auckland and want to make a submission make sure you do so.

Central and East New Network Consultation

Today Auckland Transport their biggest consultation yet for the new bus network covering both Central and East Auckland. Being the largest consultation it will also run the longest with submissions open till 10 December. The previous consultations have been for South Auckland, West Auckland, Hibiscus Coast – which rolls out in a few weeks, Pukekohe/Waiuku and most recently the North Shore. Like with the rest of the New Network the focus goes is on getting more out of our existing bus resource by creating a simpler, connected network that has greater frequency.

Central Auckland

Central Auckland already has some of the best bus services in the region thanks to much of the area originally being designed around trams. The New Network turns up the dial on buses in the central area really showing what a frequent connected network looks like. To put things in comparison, the confirmed or consulted on networks for the North, South, East and West have two or four frequent routes (running at least every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm, 7 days a week) whereas the central area has 15 including a few frequent crosstown routes. This is shown below.

Central Proposed New Bus Network

I’m not an expert on the bus routes in Central Auckland but a few things that are immediately noticeable:

  • There are a number of frequent crosstown routes. This will make it much easier to get locations on the other side of the city without having to go through the CBD.
  • The Outer Link – now the Crosstown 4 – has been cut open runs between the Mt Albert and Onehunga via the city.
  • I know Patrick will be happy his 020 route no longer takes odd detours around Freemans Bay so will be much more direct.
  • The 32 route appears to be an extension to one in the Southern Network and so would go from Mangere to Glen Innes via Otahuhu, Sylvia Park and Panmure.
  • Like the other new network maps, this one is considerably more legible, the current map is shown below.

Central Existing Bus Network

One big issue is how the new network will move around the central city. Over the coming years the whole area is going to be in a state of flux thanks to the construction of the City Rail Link however AT have included this map in the consultation.

Central Proposed New Bus Network - CBD

The biggest alarm bell to me the retention of buses eastbound on Victoria St. That’s because previous studies all pointed to Wellesley St being a dedicated bus corridor with Victoria St largely turned into a Linear Park. My understanding of the reason for the change is that it’s a compromise after the University strongly objected to having buses use the ramp between Wellesley St and Symonds St thereby going past their new building. I get the impression they care more about being able to show off pretty pictures to compete against other universities overseas rather than how their students actually get to their campus.

I guess one thing is that if AT build light rail it would address a lot of the problem as would get many buses off that Wellesley St route.

Victoria St Linear Park

The maps below show just how much the networks will change. For Central Auckland it is Sundays that will get a massive boost.

Central Bus Network - change

East Auckland

In East Auckland the changes are a little less dramatic and the focus of the frequent services is on trips between Panmure and Botany or Howick. What is also harder to see is that some of the routes south of Botany aren’t shown much as they were consulted on as part of the Southern Network. There are a few things that spring to mind when looking at this map.

  • There is no frequent service between Botany and Manukau.
  • I wonder if the person/people who decided on where to locate Flat Bush ever thought about how buses would run (I doubt it)

East Auckland Proposed New Bus Network

Here’s the existing map.

East Auckland Existing Bus Network

Here’s the map of the changes which also happens to show parts of the network from other areas e.g. South Auckland.

East Auckland New Bus Network changes

There are quite a few open days that will happen in both Central and East Auckland so if you’re interested make sure you check them out.

Lastly related to the new network, recently I got to have a quick look at the first double decker bus that Howick & Eastern have purchased to run one some of these routes – NZ Bus are buying some for a few of their routes too. It was pure coincidence as I noticed it parked up on my way home. These new ones are quite nice both inside and out and it will be good to see them out on the network.

H&E Double Decker

Double Deckers soon to be running in East Auckland

North Shore New Network Consultation

The next round of consultation for the New Network starts today and this time it’s the turn of the North Shore. This follows the consultations for South Auckland, West Auckland, Hibiscus Coast and Pukekohe/Waiuku.

Like pretty much every other area of Auckland, the existing bus network on the North Shore is a confusing mess – akin to spaghetti that’s been thrown at a map. There are a huge number of services that often do only minor variations. There are also a lot of situations where services overlap to provide frequency to some areas but at the expense of legibility for customers. An example of this is Takapuna where there is a frequent all day service already but it is made up by a plethora of different routes, many of which also serve other parts of the North Shore. If you’re standing on Albert St wanting to get there you catch the bus destined for Takapuna then catch one of the buses to the East Coast Bays, Forrest Hill or to Waiwera but whatever you do don’t get on the bus marked Takapuna (922) which reaches its destination only after an arduous detour through Northcote and Hillcrest.

North Shore Existing Bus Network

The map for the proposed new network is below which is proposed to be rolled out in 2017.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network

As with all of the proposed new networks, the first thing you notice is that the map is considerably cleaner and easier to read and that in itself is an improvement however there are a couple of improvements I think could make things even better – some easier than others.

Transfers vs direct services – We’ve talked a lot before about how the focus on being able to transfer easily to expand the usefulness of the network is the right approach however I wonder if there aren’t still too many long routes that go all the way to town, especially at the peak. Those resources could perhaps instead go to providing more localised services that visit busway stations or hook into the very frequent Onewa Rd services.

Onewa Busway Station – The network really highlights how useful the originally proposed busway station at Onewa Rd would be. With this network someone from say Northcote to get to Constellation or Albany is quite difficult and the fastest option would probably be to go to Fanshawe St then transfer on to a Northern Express service. With a busway station just south of Onewa Rd it would allow people to transfer easily between very frequent services and open up those two parts of the network much better. Note: this busway station was opposed by many of same people that have opposed Skypath out of fear their streets will be full of parked cars.

There is more to the new network though. You may have noticed from the image above that there are three different Northern Express services planned. This is because AT say they are also changing where buses go on the south side of the harbour. All North Shore buses will eventually take one the three routes are shown below:

North Shore New Network Shore to City Schematic

They say there will be three different routes which they say:

The benefit of operating buses on these 3 separate paths is that we can better match the number of buses with the number of passengers. In this way, services will be less likely to be overcrowded for people travelling to end destinations such as Newmarket.

However I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. Why not just use those extra services to make things less crowded for everyone while at the same time extending either of the other two services to Newmarket. Those wanting to go to Ponsonby would transfer like they’ll be required too on weekends not to mention those other routes generally have better bus priority. Due to the City Rail Link works that start early next year, AT will be changing existing routes in the city to one of the three above by the end of this year.

In every New Network consultation that’s taken place so far there’ve been a few changes in the way it’s handled and in this one there are a few new aspects that AT have added that I quite like. One is this before and after map highlighting just how much the service is improving. Red is Frequent routes with a minimum of 15 minutes during the day, Blue is Connector routes which have a minimum of 30 minutes during the day and most are much higher in the peak while Green are other services.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network before and after

There’s also this table which highlights what kind of frequencies and span of service can be expected from each route.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network Times

Lastly here are some figures on how the changes to the network will impact people. Within 500m of a frequent route:

  • the number of people living will improve from 6.2% to 32.3%
  • the number of jobs will improve from 18.5% to 50.3%

There are more stats here.

It will be interesting to see how the consultation goes. Go to AT’s site for more information including public events and to give feedback.

The consultation problem: Who submits on the plan?

Auckland Council is currently consulting with residents on its 2015-2025 Long Term Plan (LTP). This is an important document, as it sets out the Council’s budget over the next ten years. This is a period in which Auckland has to make some tough choices, including whether it should raise more money to pay for an expanded transport plan. (The City Rail Link, a key project for the city, is expected to start regardless, but it’s going to be harder to pay for other public transport infrastructure without additional money.)

If you haven’t yet submitted, I’d encourage you to do so via the Council’s online submission form. Or, if you want a more straightforward way to submit Generation Zero has released their submission guide following up their alternative LTP. You can read their plan at fixourcity.co.nz.

The other week, Matt put up a post summarising the data on who had submitted on the LTP as of 19 February. (More data was published on 1 March.) He highlighted a few interesting aspects of the feedback, including what submitters were highlighting as priorities for spending. There is a big desire for more spending on public transport and cycling, which is great to see.

The most striking data was on the demographics of the submitters. Simply put: Council isn’t getting feedback from a representative set of Aucklanders. Some groups are systematically underrepresented, while others are massively overrepresented.

To illustrate this point, I compared the demographics of LTP submitters with Auckland’s actual demographics from the 2013 Census. Here’s the summary table:

LTP submitter demographics vs Auckland demographics

As you can see, there are some groups that show up in large numbers to have their say:

  • Men – 49% of Auckland’s population, but 62% of LTP submitters to date
  • NZ Europeans – overrepresented in LTP submissions by 50%
  • People aged 55 or older – overrepresented by 80% or more in LTP submissions

Other groups are underrepresented by comparable margins:

  • Maori, Pasifika and Asian people – underrepresented by 62%, 81%, and 73%, respectively
  • People aged under 25 – underrepresented by 70% or more.

In other words, Auckland is a young, multicultural city where young people and non-European people don’t have much of a say in Council feedback.

Here’s another view of the data on the age of submitters versus the age of Aucklanders as a whole. The age profile of LTP submitters is almost the inverse of the age profile for the whole population!

LTP submitters and Auckland age structure chart

This poses some serious challenges for Auckland Council (and other local governments, probably). Councils rely heavily upon submission and consultation processes to help inform their decisions about what to build and how to write urban planning rules. It’s not the sole input to decisions – which sometimes causes some people to kvetch that Auckland Council’s not listening to them – but it is an important one.

If the demographics of submitters are biased, we can’t necessarily rely upon consultation feedback as a guide to what the public wants. If half of Auckland is under the age of 35, and almost half are Maori, Pasifika and Asian, while most submitters are middle aged to retired and disproportionately white, should we trust the data? And what could we do instead to gather more representative data?

Fortunately, Auckland Council does seem to be using a few alternative approaches to getting feedback on the LTP. This includes an independent phone survey of 4,200 Aucklanders selected to be demographically representative. Depending upon how they ask the questions, this may be a more valuable source of insight into actual Aucklanders’ preferences than the standard consultation forms.

The Council is also running a series of meetings, recognising that some people prefer to talk about the issues rather than fill in an online form. In a comment on Matt’s post, Ben Ross reported back on the discussion at an LTP meeting in the Otara-Papatoetoe local board:

the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Have Your Say Sessions in which the Pacific (and Maori) people were VERY vocal in making their thoughts known.

I was the sole white person there at the Otara-Papatoetoe LB session last night (didnt bother me one bit) and their views were consistent:
Low UAGC
Better east west transport links especially from Otara to Wiri and the Airport
Upgrade of Otara Town Centre
And socio-economics was a big concern as well

It is definitely good that Auckland Council’s using a few different mechanisms to get feedback on the LTP – provided that it’s all weighted up and reported together. But even if it puts the effort into getting a meaningfully representative set of views on the LTP, it probably isn’t doing the same thing in the multifarious consultations it does on smaller issues.

I don’t have a good solution to this – although I have a few ideas. What are your thoughts?

And, once again: if you haven’t yet submitted on the LTP, please consider doing so through the Council’s online form or Generation Zero’s online submission guide.