Opinion: It’s time to Disband Auckland Transport

9th June 2024: This was originally posted before I got the chance to actually talk further in depth with some of their consultants face to face regarding my concerns in the months that followed and would be fair to say my view expressed in this post perhaps isn’t as strong. That said, there is still improvements that AT could be making and much faster than they have. Plan to update this post in due course.

Admittedly, I’m at my wits ends. Auckland Transport as an organization I feel have persistently failed to deliver for the people of Auckland and has shown little willingness to reform their ways. This organization I strongly feel no longer has the social license to operate. It’s time to disband the organization, integrate it’s functions back into the council and get leaders in who are willing to do their jobs and deliver for the public.

They’ve thrown excuse after lame excuse for their failures, taken a hands off approach and attempted to cast blame on other entities for delivery of frankly a crap end-product (service) to the public. I think it’s time the organization (that is, should this organization wish to have any hope of continuing to exist) took a long look at itself and actually own up + acknowledge the transport issues facing Aucklanders and take the lead to champion delivery of reliable, timely, efficient and cost effective transport networks rather than shrug their shoulders to say “not our problem / fault”.

Services are still being cancelled en masse. Yet they want us to change from our cars and seem to be very keen to roll out enforcement cameras to use against the public – the very people who pays their wages – in order to coax us to change. How on Earth (or Mars) is that modal shift going to happen when passengers turn up to their stop only to find repeatedly their train, ferry or bus service has been randomly cancelled with the list of these cancelled services running all the way to the moon and back?

I invite anyone who defends what Auckland Transport has achieved to actually convince me what we currently have is even usable, practical, dependable and caters to the day to day transportation needs of most Auckland commuters.

At this point, I will admit to harboring a lot of animosity (I loath to use the word “hate”) towards Auckland Transport, more specifically towards their ongoing performance (or lack of) to date. I’m still figuring out how to channel (Positively harness) this anger as an ordinary individual rate-paying Auckland resident. It may be that I have to seriously look at forming my own Lobby / Advocacy group to hold Auckland Transport to account for their actions?

I’m aware that Greater Auckland is perhaps the biggest existing advocacy group already in this space but will be the first to admit while I strongly agree with their vision to reduce dependency on cars, and opening up travel choice, I don’t necessarily agree with the way they appear to be approaching this (which seems to be more to retrofit — at great uncertain cost and great disruption to those neighbourhoods potentially for years — new infrastructure in those existing neighborhoods).

In my view, we are probably best to encourage the majority of new housing be 6-10 story apartment blocks right beside existing high capacity public transit corridors and with day to day amenities and services within walking distance — See my separate article where I detail my thoughts further. Auckland Council and Auckland Transport should be working in lock-step with respect to urban planning and transport planning – to be frank, I’m not convince they are. If they are, then why are we continuing to sprawl well away from major transport infrastructure (Rail lines, Bus ways, Motorways)? Look at the area east of the Tamaki River.

As a complete aside, I wouldn’t be surprised Auckland Transport have purposely modeled their Logo on a Tortoise (With the ‘A’ forming the shell and the ‘T’ forming the neck and head). May be the organization should just be called “Auckland Tortoise”?

It’s important to note this post is not aimed at the many hardworking grassroots frontline employees both within AT itself and those of their contractors (e.g Bus Drivers, Train Drivers, Train conductors, Ferry personnel, public counter staff, etc).

Opinion: It’s time to Disband Auckland Transport

Glen Eden Rosier Park at Morihana and Public transport access

Why on earth are Auckland Council deciding to permit intensification / terrace house developments with about a 2.2 km walk to the nearest train station (Glen Eden)? That is about 22 minutes at a brisk walking pace. Probably more like 27 minutes and then some leeway for train scheduling and you’re looking at about 30 minutes pragmatically prior to boarding a train.

All I know is that most of those households will likely have more than one vehicle and they are likely to be clogging up and parking up their additional cars at Rosier Road.

I have a hard time believing the council are thinking these things through.

As a side note, this is not a quib at the developers. Visited the development itself with the view of looking to purhase and to be honest, it feels to be a better built than other terrace house developements I’ve seen in the area. (Of course, this in observation only. Prospective purchasers should do their own due diligence obviously)

Glen Eden Rosier Park at Morihana and Public transport access

Auckland Rail Bus Replacements + Rail Shutdowns

Decided to have a look to see if I could take Public Transport to Papakura from Meadowbank and was instead met with this first world horror show. 1 Hour and 44 Minute Journey. Same Journey could be done in 30 minutes in a car. That’s not accounting for the fact that I ran the query shortly after 1:30 p.m. and the AT Journey planner was suggesting I will probably get there around 4:02 p.m. Almost 2 and a half hours later.

Screen grab from my Android Tablet showing the AT Journey planner suggesting I will likely arrive 2 and half hours after running the query for getting from Meadowbank to Papakura

Admittedly, while I am only but a single ordinary ratepayer, I’m tired of hearing the constant excuses for poor results and the Auckland Rail shutdowns seem to be the latest in a line of them. They can always state such and such is required because of this, because of that, but frankly for a first world country in terms of the end result and delivery of, to have our train system out for so long is frankly ridiculous (not to mention embarrassing). Our trains are a critical part of a functioning Public Transport system and this situation I feel is nothing short of untenable for a city such as Auckland. I’m surprised the likes of Public Transport User’s Association (PTUA) and Greater Auckland aren’t more vocal and angry than they are about the current round of Auckland Rail Shutdowns. If I were either of those organization, I’d be on the war path and constantly at both AT and Kiwi Rail urging them to please go back to the drawing board.

Auckland Rail Bus Replacements + Rail Shutdowns

Auckland Speed Limit Reductions – All stick but no carrot

TL;DR: Speeds limits are being reduced across the board. Driving is increasingly stressful as others will object to you following the speed limit. There are implications if you do receive an infringement. Driving is technically a privillege but alternative transport options for getting around Auckland remain disappointingly poor and impractical for many situations.

Noticed that Speed limits on some streets around the CBD have been further reduced. Now Wellington Street in Freemans Bay is down to a mere 30 km/h.

Entrance to Wellington St, Freemans Bay, Auckland (CBD City side)

I can say that no cars whatsoever were doing 30 or even 40 km/h. In fact I had to pull over to allow a car to pass because they were right on my bumper while doing an already rule breaking 40km/h down Wellington Street. Walking back up Wellington street, I had observed basically every car were clearly ignoring the 30 km/h speed limit.

I’ve come to terms it’s only a matter of time that I’m going to end up with my first ever traffic infringement at this rate (basically not a matter of if, but when). Why? Because the agencies (including NZTA and Auckland Transport) by way of their “Vision zero” programme are dropping speed limits across the board and not just around the CBD. They’re also pledging to deploy more enforcement cameras everywhere and dropping enforcement tolerances and it only takes a momentarily lapse in judgement (e.g accelerating a touch too much in order to move safely into traffic or change lanes while looking over my shoulder to check a blind spot) right at an inopportune time and I will be done for.

The issue as well with infringements is that even if it’s only $30 low level speeding fine without demerits from a speed camera, apparently this still goes on your record somewhere for 5 years and apparently in many cases, you are supposed to declare this to insurance and needs to be declared in other areas as well (applying for a fire arms license, etc) so pays to avoid getting them where practical.

While I’ve continue for decades to express a strong desire to see alternative, more environmentally friendly and safer travel options opened up particularly in car dependent areas such as East Tamaki Industrial, the anti-car and climate activists have been exerting an increasing influence on Government policy and various government to make driving purposely more difficult and attempting to strong arm the motoring public out of their cars before we even have available working and viable alternative transport options that are able to realisitically cater to people’s day to day and household transportation needs in this city.

With the likes of Auckland Transport playing hard ball over Bus lane infringements and being inflexible even to those who have an otherwise squeaky clean driving record, the state will lose the goodwill of the public. Day to day life is already stressful for families as it is and the state to start ramping up the enforcement, widening the net, and pinging people over an increasing array of infractions while being out to disrupt people’s livelihoods is only going to accelerate the erosion of public goodwill and respect particularly if we continue to find excuses not to run the trains.

While I see we are building seperated cycle ways slowly (which admittedly, I’m generally infavour of should they go where people need to go and can be implemented in a cost effective fashion), however until we begin to see viable transport options able to meet Aucklanders’ day to day transportation needs emerge, I will as an individual ratepayer be vigorously and assertively pushing back at attempts by the more ardent climate activists who unrealistically demand we stop driving our cars immediately.

Auckland Speed Limit Reductions – All stick but no carrot

Roast this post: High rise apartments in greenfield sites near train stations

Update: 25-05-2023 – I never got a response from Greater Auckland regarding this.

I will declare that I’m only a mere (curious) member of joe public, with little in the way of any Urban planning experience, however, with so much controversy over bus lane enforcement, Retro-fitting light rail, and removal of on-street parking in Auckland. An idea that came to my mind is…

Would it or would it not be an easier idea to build high rise apartments at the likes of the empty / unbuilt greenfield sites of Albany and Drury where frequent and high capacity separated public transport links already exist (provided the ground at such sites are actually able to take high rise apartments)

Some of benefits (should this be able to be pulled off) I potentially see as a layman include…

  • Facilities such as shopping, medical, recreational, etc being within walking distance, allowing households to conduct most of the day to day household necessities within the local vicinity reducing the reliance on cars and allow households to reduce the number of cars they subsequently need to maintain.
  • If you need to go elsewhere in Auckland, you have a ready to go Train station or Bus-way station nearby where fast and frequent services exist.
  • As a starting point to ultimately curbing our current rate of sprawl across productive food producing farmland.

It’s just I see so much opposition to the current aims of Auckland Transport and Greater Auckland (Advocacy organization) and their plans extolled frankly on paper just seems so disruptive and unsettling to people’s existing living arrangements and livelihoods. To boot, the risks of retrofitting new initiatives to existing established neighbourhoods such as light rail just seem fraught with huge cost over-runs as we’ve seen with the Auckland City Rail Link (or Loop) depending on what they call it these days.

I’ve sent the Greater Auckland blog people the above idea via their contact form with them hopefully coming back to me for my own edification as a member of the public with their feedback along with their rebuttals of why they feel the general idea is not better than their current aspirations. Currently awaiting their response.

With this idea penned, I totally understand there will undoubtably be cons to my idea above and I invite people who may be more versed in urban planning than I, to actually come and “roast this post” as it were and present some arguments against the idea (road blocks and problems) which I’ve undoubtably missed.

Roast this post: High rise apartments in greenfield sites near train stations

Do Auckland’s trains ever run in the weekends?

The answer is most probably a “yes”, but every time I hatch the idea of taking the train in the last 3 years during a Saturday or Sunday, it has been my luck that without fail I find that Rail Bus Replacements are running instead for the route I’m planning to take.

I recalled a few times now I’ve taken a connecting bus from Auckland Airport to Papatoetoe station only to find the trains are not running and have been repeatedly frustrated at waiting at the designated make shift Rail Bus Stop for a Rail Bus replacement bus to never arrive (over half an hour in fact). Ended up calling an Uber (or Ola as is may be) out of frustration on all such occasions.

And still on the topic of Auckland’s transport system, I now learn that multiple scheduled buses across Auckland have been cancelled due to COVID which is ultimately going to present further challenges in encouraging a modal shift of getting Aucklanders out of their cars.

Wondering if Auckland will ever achieve this modal shift? I reckon it will take at least a few generations to transition to become a city where Fast, Frequent and Well patronised Public Transport services become a reality. Auckland Transport trying to enforce a modal change, particularly in established neighbourhoods is frankly trying to push the proverbial up the hill. Better to work with Auckland Council and other government departments to build high density neighbourhoods in greenfield sites with well connected passenger and personal (scooters, bikes) transport networks before forcing their ideology down the throats of residents in existing neighbourhoods.

Do Auckland’s trains ever run in the weekends?

Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.

In light of Auckland Transport’s announcement regarding removing of kerbside parking, it’s probably worth highlighting Auckland Transport’s (AT’s) current ethos has effectively been to discourage car use in favour of alternative transport modes in order to achieve their various visions and goals, including…

  • To make better use of existing road space in favour of higher occupancy vehicles, which at least on the surface sound like a laudable goal. However question the current ambition to retrofit these changes at high cost and high disruption to existing neighbourhoods as opposed to working with Auckland Council to implement and promote high density development along with high capacity transit corridors to new greenfield sites such as Mill Road, Flat Bush, Papakura, Karaka, Ramarama.
  • ‘Vision Zero’ – being that… “no deaths are acceptable”, “People make mistakes (behind the wheel)”, “Public Transport is the safest option”. We’re now seeing this in the form of enforcement and the forceful dropping of speed limits to what many may feel are ridiculously low speed limits. Auckland Transport’s ‘‘marketing’ material can be found here however question whether any possible outcome would ever be as rosy as they paint it.
  • Climate change – With their parent organisation, Auckland Council, having followed other government departments to declare a “climate emergency” – encouraging a gradual move to carbon-free transport modes by way of promoting Public Transport, Cycling and Walking.

While I am certainly and staunchly in favour of developing and rolling out accessible alternative transport options in Auckland, particularly in areas currently beset with high levels of car dependency, it appears from all intents and purposes in order to achieve the aims as listed in the bullet points above, Auckland Transport have declared all out war against the private motor car and the motoring public. While I can see where AT are trying to head, they’re choosing to run roughshod over people’s current living arrangement and applying the ‘stick’ in the hope of encouraging modal shift by way of making private motor vehicle use such a hassle so much so that Auckland commuters will hopefully shift to other modes such as walking, cycling and public transport. Continue reading “Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.”

Commentary: Auckland Transport’s war against the private motor car and the motoring public.