A positive way forward for the Waitemata Safe Routes projects

This is quite a long read but it responds to a lot of issues currently under review concerning two cycling projects in the Waitematā Local Board area that form part of a package of projects known as Waitemata Safe Routes.  I will keep this post updated as the projects progress.

Since my update below – tabled as part of my monthly Chair’s report – the local board has met with Greg Edmonds, Chief Infrastructure Officer at Auckland Transport, members of his project team, Kathryn King the head of Walking & Cycling and communications and engagement advisers.

At the meeting on 13 December discussed what is currently on hold pending safety and design reviews  and what work is continuing to make the routes safe.  This information has been advised to residents along the routes, the Occupy Garnet Road protest group and is now on the AT website.    We also discussed safety improvements that AT would look to get in place ahead of the school term starting next year such as the crossing points on Surrey Crescent.  As advised by AT there will be further consultation on aspects of the design (including a re-design of the West Lynn shops that will go through a community reference group first).  The exact consultation process is to be discussed further with the board.

Greg outlined a proposed AT process going forward for all cycling projects. The board supported a new process framework being put in place. The AT Executive team will want to know that there is agreement from key stakeholders including the Local Board and the Auckland Design Office overseen by a Project Control Group. If there isn’t agreement the PCG will escalate the project to Greg Edmonds.

At the meeting we didn’t discuss with AT other specific projects but Greg has since confirmed that there are no plans to put a stop or halt to any other cycleway projects and that these are progressing within previously advised timeframes subject to all stakeholders being across these projects (part of this involves AT reviewing feedback the board has previously given to AT)

The following update was attached to my Chair’s monthly report tabled at the Waitemata Local Board business meeting on 12 December 2017.  (anything in [         ] has been added online since I gave the update at the board meeting)

Waitemata Safe Routes project update:  The “fiasco” of West Lynn

The attached updates (letters to residents that are now on the AT website)  have been sent to Grey Lynn residents by Auckland Transport outlining what work is being completed and what work that has been halted pending a review of two Waitemata Safe Route projects.

The Waitematā Local Board has met with Auckland Transport [the project team] and is actively working on the solutions and an agreed process for further consultation of any proposals that come out of the review.

At the same time I’ve been reflecting on what led to what Simon Wilson from the Spinoff called a “fiasco” and what should have been done differently.    This is both personal and political. I live, hang out and shop in Grey Lynn.  West Lynn is “my” village.  I want the best for the whole of Waitematā, so our different communities feel proud of changes that make it safer and more pleasant to get around.  I also appreciate the importance of bringing people along with the process and listening to a range of views.  As I’ve heard the former Mayor of Copenhagen say “A good city means dialogue and controversy – getting people engaged in their environment and its transformations can only be a good sign of things to come”.

There are two routes currently the subject of intense debate.  Although there are common issues, the projects are distinct, with different issues and responses.  Both routes were consulted on at the same time as part of a package of four routes known as the Waitemata Safe Routes including Great North Road and the Grey Lynn Greenway (now delivered but not without its own controversary on the Grosvenor Street section)

The timing of the consultation on the four routes coinciding with the Local Government election in September 2016 was incredibly ill advised . It was against the wishes of the local board, Councillor Lee and Local board services staff.   Simon Wilson calls it “preposterous” that we didn’t campaign to make it an election issue.  But that’s the whole point – transport consultations shouldn’t become election issues because of the timing of the consultation. We want to hear the feedback from the public first, understand the issues and possible solutions and then provide local board input. This is what is happening right now with the Grey Lynn & Arch Hill Residential Parking Zone consultation.

Richmond Road including the West Lynn shops  (Route 2)

My involvement in this project goes back to a meeting hosted by Grey Lynn 2030 in 2009 with David Engwicht, known as the inventor of the walking school bus.  (the outcome of that meeting detailed here ) 

A traffic calming group was established to push for the adoption of his “Mental speed bumps” theories of reclaiming the street to slow down vehicles.  In 2010 the group presented to the Western Bays Community Board a survey of local traffic concerns including speed and pedestrian safety detailed here

By the time I was elected in October 2010 and working on the transport portfolio (a position I still hold) it became clear there was range of issues along the entire length of Richmond Road.  For example, the Peel Street and Warnock Street intersections were the subject of regular complaints.  Richmond Road school was battling for a signalized pedestrian crossing.  The intersection of Surrey Crescent and Richmond was “upgraded” by AT in early 2011 but fell short of the board’s request for a design that provided a safe crossing for kids walking to school.

We brought together all the issues in a Richmond Road Safety Action Plan in 2012  (consulted on as part of our Local Board Agreement in 2012 and 2013). The plan requested AT to target the shopping areas and school zones concentrating on pedestrian and cycle safety and traffic calming together with good urban design to provide enhanced overall attractiveness and amenity. (I wrote about this project in an update in Ponsonby News about Richmond Road)

Designs for a cycleway on Richmond Road were first drawn up in 2012/2013 but went on hold until funding became available through the government’s Urban Cycleways Investment Fund.

Issues raised through the basic consultation process (now under review) undertaken by AT last year were relatively minor. The main concern that I took up was the location of the bus stop outside Nature Bay which didn’t seem to be logical.

From the Board’s perspective there was a lot to support about the design –  it could be done with minimal parking loss and included a range of safety improvements with extras like more planting and street furniture.  If anything, the design was criticized for not going far enough to slow the traffic and make cycling safe along the entire length.   Bike Auckland’s feedback asked AT to set up a community reference group to go through the details of the design but this was ignored by AT.

With the benefit of hindsight it perhaps seems obvious that the project should have been approached as a design-led street upgrade (as is happening for the K’rd streetscape upgrade) but there are a range of factors as to why this didn’t happen:

  • The improvements came about as a result of cycle project with additional budget for safety and bus stop changes. If the local board had pushed for a town centre upgrade 2 -3 years ago when the plans were first discussed the whole project would have come to a standstill as there were no funds.
  • The opportunity for the local board to discuss adding to the budget to improve the materiality (such as concrete paths rather than what turned out to be ugly asphalt) was missed because AT didn’t bring the final plans back to the board
  • The feedback we heard didn’t raise issues with the design overall – most agreed it was an improvement. A community reference group or more thorough engagement process would have drilled down on the design far more effectively
  • The silo approach at AT blocks teams working holistically and bringing in an urban designer (this has only happened on projects under immense pressure – for West Lynn there was nothing that signaled a different approach was required)

However the original uproar in West Lynn (from the businesses in particular) was not so much about the design but arose originally from a number of other issues:

  • An engagement process that didn’t bring the design back to the community to explain how the feedback had been taken into account and what was going to go ahead (frustratingly AT only seems to do this where there is strong opposition at the consultation phase)
  • Failure to respond to genuine issues (like the bus stop location)
  • Poor, and at times inconsistent, communication about what was happening and when
  • Approach to the construction and impact of the construction – the contractor advising businesses that the works were possible during the quiet time in January but then AT issued notices to start the work the next day
  • The work was carried as fast as possible, which aimed to minimize the impact, but led to bad quality finishing
  • Mistakes made with the plans and construction (the sloping foot path outside Dear Reader is clearly a big mistake)

A wider review of the whole Richmond Road route is now underway but for West Lynn shops many of the issues (first identified on a site visit I did with AT three weeks ago  [17 November]) are already in the process of being resolved.  The parking has changed but once marked out there is likely to be just as much parking serving the shops as prior to the construction (it has been incorrectly reported that all the parking has been removed outside Harvest).

The business association has been incredibly pro-active working with Auckland Transport and bringing all the businesses together to a launch a “West Lynn Shops” campaign- “Good bye roadworks.  Hello pathways, cycleways and parking!”

Surrey Crescent to Garnet Road (Route 1)

Like Richmond Road this route has been on the Auckland Cycle network for almost two decades. It also received funding from the Urban Cycleways Fund.

Auckland Transport consulted on two options. One option of a cycleway on the road requiring the removal of 40% of the parking and another option using the berm for the cycleway.    Feedback was very mixed.   The local board opposed both options and asked Auckland Transport to re-consult on a new design using the carriageway.   This was rejected on the basis of cost.

I give some credit to the protest group [Occupy Garnet Road] for stopping the construction of this cycleway and forcing Auckland Transport to review the design of the entire route  [the group were first informed on 23 November that they had achieved their original objective of halting the Surrey Cres/Garnet Road and Richmond Rd projects pending a review but as of 16 December continue their “occupation” with a range of demands including a halt to all Auckland cycleway projects]

The Board passed the following resolution at our November Board meeting [on 21 November] and the next day I joined a meeting with Auckland Transport and the group made up of local residents, Urban Tree Alliance representatives and protestors at the Old Mill Road/Motions Road intersection[Occupy Garnet Road Group].

Resolution

That the Board b) confirms its feedback in November 2016 to Auckland Transport on Route 1: Surrey Crescent to Garnet Road cycleway opposing both options consulted on by Auckland Transport and the board’s request to Auckland Transport to consider a new option using the road space with opportunities for new landscaping and sufficient parking and confirms its request to Auckland Transport to re-consult with the community on a new option

  1. c) Notes Auckland Transport has advised that of the 164 trees along Route 1 18 trees are being removed of which 15 are exotics and 3 native – 3 of the exotics are dead. 6 of the native trees are being transplanted and 36 trees are to be planted with a net gain of 18 trees
  2. d) Requests Auckland Transport halt the removal of trees, transplanting of trees or planting of new trees along Route 1 until the public is informed of the arborist report and provided information about how Auckland Transport is ensuring a best practice approach to tree planting and maintenance
  3. d) Requests Auckland Transport organise a public meeting to provide a project update and an opportunity to address all community concerns with the design of Route 1

 Next steps

As confirmed above Auckland Transport has advised residents as to what work will be completed to be made safe and what is on hold pending a wider review.   Community Reference Groups will be set up for West Lynn and the wider Safer Routes project.  In collaboration with the West Lynn group (led by the GLBA co-chair) work is already underway to address immediate issues in West Lynn.  Boffa Miskell have been appointed to lead the review of the design of the village area. A silver lining from the “fiasco” is that it has brought the community together and will result in far more investment in West Lynn than was originally planned.   AT has offered a procedure for making a loss of business claim for the businesses impacted by the construction.

It is positive that Auckland Transport has committed to a new transparent, cooperative approach involving the local board that we expect to extend to all our projects.  In the longer term we are seeing the start of a shake up at Auckland Transport that has already been signaled with the arrival of a new CEO.    Since the beginning of the super city AT has far too often ignored local board priorities (the legislation requires AT to take account of local board plans – but this often doesn’t happen) and “wins” have required unnecessarily hard-fought battles by the local board and community.

The Board has been incredibly effective at achieving better outcomes than what was originally on offer (such as the Ponsonby Pedestrian Improvements Project, Franklin Road upgrade and the Teed St upgrade) but too often this has been despite AT.   I’m looking forward to a new dynamic and AT acceptance that local boards are responsible for place making. In the meantime, the Waitemata Safe Routes projects shows the board (and me in particular as transport lead) needs to be constantly vigilant and challenge AT processes and projects at every step of the way.

I am also hopeful that following AT’s review of the current Grey Lynn projects we can look forward to greatly improved urban design, the function of placemaking firmly in the control local boards and the continued delivery of good quality, cycleways and safer streets that benefit the whole community.

Related reading

Taking Cycle Design seriously, Greater Auckland

The fiasco in West Lynn: how did Auckland Transport get a shopping village makeover so wrong,  Simon Wilson in The Spinoff

After the West Lynn debacle: a better way to plan Auckland’s suburbs, Simon Wilson in the Spinoff

The extraordinary incompetence of AT, Simon Wilson in the Spinoff

The hard road to a cycle-friendly city, Russell Brown, Public Address

Waitemata Safe Routes projects , AT website

Chair’s monthly report October 2017

Report covering the period 11 September until 9 October 2017.

Highlights

Opening of Ellen Melville Centre and Freyberg Place

The biggest project that the Board has delivered was opened on 15 September.  In my speech I looked back on the journey to create an inner city community hub and acknowledged the many people involved with the restoration of Ellen Melville Centre (the Board’s project) and the upgrade of Freyberg Place (funded from the City Centre targeted rate). It was a very proud day for the Board.  Since the opening I have enjoyed a number of events at the centre.

Project updates:

Teed Street upgrade

As part of the Board Member Local Board Area Orientation Tour 2017 on 28 September we visited Teed Street to see how the work is coming along to widen footpaths and add new tree pits.

 The work is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Photo right: Mark Knoff- Thomas, GM Newmarket Business Association

Ponsonby Road pedestrian improvements project

Summary of the latest update from Auckland Transport on Ponsonby works:

Brown Street (photo right) and Angelsea Street are expected to be completed the week of 9 October. The contractor has been:

  • removing the existing kerbs/asphalt in Brown St,
  • concrete work for kerbs, ramps and channels
  • installing the paver blocks in Anglesea Street.

Pollen Street begins 9 October. Remediation work on MacKelvie Street starts on 24 October weather permitting and will take a total of seven nights.

Eastern Viaduct Carpark

 Following advocacy from the Local Board, Panuku has agreed to work towards closing the Eastern Viaduct car park to make it public space and to improve waterfront connectively.

In moving towards the closure in March 2018, Panuku is seeking ideas on how the space can be used. Media Release Attachment B.

West Lynn improvements

I have been following up on a number of issues associated with the project to improve pedestrian safety and install cycle lanes on Richmond Road (Route 2 of the Waitemata Safer routes scheme). Works are progressing fast but there are concerns about the location of the bus stops and the disruption to the shopping area during the construction.   I’ve also asked Auckland Transport to improve the parking signage and “businesses open” messaging (now in place – photo right).

As at 9 October AT has confirmed:

  • Signage larger A0 signage went up over the weekend.
  • The messaging on the electronic boards have been changes at AT’s request.
  • We have had approval to establish temporary parking on the Eastern side come through. We’re currently working through the final details and have signage in development. The parking will be one-way only and directed by additional monitoring staff to minimise collision risk when exiting.

Grafton Residential Parking Zone consultation

Waitematā Local Board’s feedback on the proposed Grafton parking changes is attached to the Auckland Transport monthly report on the agenda.

Hobson Bay Walkway

The Board has been looking to complete the Hobson Bay walkway for some time to take the route up to Pt Resolution. It is a project in the Pt Resolution Taurarua Development Plan however it is looking like it will be expensive and challenging to construct a suitable staircase at Pt Resolution.

In the meantime, the mudcrete walkway at the base of the cliffs has been poorly maintained and has suffered storm damage.

At our September meeting we considered a report from officers advising that the no exit section north of Awatea Road poses a health and safety risk due to slips.  We passed the following resolution.

Closure of the Hobson Bay walkway between Awatea Road and St Stephens Avenue
Resolution number WTM/2017/182

MOVED by Deputy Chairperson S Chambers, seconded by Member R Thomas:  

That the Waitematā Local Board:

a)       note the officer recommendation that the no exit section of the Hobson Bay walkway between the Awatea Road access point and the headland below St Stephens Avenue should be closed due to ongoing embankment slips resulting in a health and safety risk to the public

b)       approve the closure of the Hobson Bay existing mudcrete walkway between the Awatea Road access point and the headland below St Stephens Avenue due to the health and safety risk.

c)      notes the closure will be by way of advisory signage.

d)      request officers update signage along the entire route as soon as possible including at the Elam Road access point and the section of the Hobson Bay walkway from Awatea Road to Parnell Baths/Pt Resolution in accordance the Pt Resolution Taurarua Development Plan

e)      request officers to investigate the feasibility of other options for maintenance, renewal and completion of the entire Hobson’s Bay walkway from Thomas Bloodworth Park to St Stephen’s Avenue.

f)        delegate to the portfolio leads Member Shale Chambers and Member Adriana         Avendano Christie for approval of the permanent walkway signage wording

 CARRIED

We anticipate a temporary closure while options for completing the walkway are investigated. Any proposal will go out for public consultation.

Events

 Festival Italiano goes Zero Waste

Festival Italiano organizer Alessandra  Zecchini has again done a tremendous job delivering a successful event in Newmarket (despite the challenge of spring weather).

I was delighted to speak at the opening on behalf of the Board (Attachment C) and to acknowledge the implementation of Zero Waste for the first time. I received a lot of positive feedback about this initiative.

Photo right:  Board member Adriana Christie with Zero Waste Alliance community volunteers

I also spoke at the opening of Art Week (Attachment D)

Meetings and workshops: 11 September until 9 October

  • Weekly Chair’s meeting every Monday morning
  • Chair’s forum on 11 September
  • Waitematā Local Board workshops on 12, 26 September (half day), and 2 October
  • Planning Committee
  • Ports Community Reference Group on 13 September
  • Tour of Ellen Melville Centre on 14 September for Local Board services team and board members (photo right with Project Manager Lisa Spasic)
  • Judges Panel decision making meeting for the Good Citizens Awards 2017
  • Local Boards sub-regional workshop on 18 September
  • Waitematā Local Board business meeting on 19 September
  • Newmarket Business Association AGM on 20 September
  • Meeting with GM Ponsonby Business Association on 21 September
  • Meeting to discuss Achievement Report photos on 26 September
  • Wynyard Quarter Transport Management Association montly board meeting on 27 September (I am now a non-voting member of the Association)
  • Sat in on the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board meeting on 27 September
  • Annual General Meeting of SASOC on 28 September
  • Board Member Local Board Area Orientation Tour 2017 on 28 September (photo right at Basque Park)
  • LGNZ Governance and Strategy Advisory Group meeting in Wellington on 29 September
  • Local board long-term plan briefing on infrastructure funding and investment on 2 October
  • Meeting to finalise Local Board Plan
  • Meeting with Shaughan Woodcock, Pride Parade producer
  • Meeting with Taha Macpherson & Nirupa George from the Mayor’s office to discuss issues going into 10 year budget
  • Catch up with Phil Wilson, Governance Director
  • Catch up with Councillor Lee on 4 October
  • Chair’s Forum on 9 October

Events and functions:  11 September until 8 October

  • Farewell Function – Karen Lyons, GM Local Board Services on 11 September
  • Low Carbon Network – Meet The Candidates event at Freemans Bay Community Centre on 12 September (Photo right making a few introductory remarks)
  • Launch of City Hop electric car charging station in the Downtown car park on 15 September
  • Opening of Ellen Melville Centre and Freyberg Place on 15 September (Opening speech on behalf of the Board)
  • Ponsonby Market Day on 16 September (Attachment E)
  • He Ra Maumahara – Project launch of Te Toka O Apihai by Ports of Auckland and Ngati Whatua Orakei on 18 September
  • Suffrage Day celebrations at Te Hā o Hine Place on 19 September (photo right with the Mayor and Councillors)
  • Attended Tashlikh (Jewish atonement ceremony) at the end of Queens Wharf on 21 September
  • Auckland Conversation In partnership with #Liveable RMLA Conference on 22 September: Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat outlined the ways in which her city has been addressing the shared challenges of rapid population growth, urban redevelopment and renewal, transport choice, housing affordability and community change.
  • Opening of Festival Italiano at Non Solo Pizza on 27 September
  • Knot Touch exhibition opening celebration at the Maritime Museum on 28 September
  • Festival Italiano and festival lunch at the invite of Dante Alighieri on 1 October
  • Civic Trust Heritage Festival debate on 3 October
  • Tyler Golly presentation: Can you build a bike network overnight? at a Bike Auckland and Auckland Council event on 3 October
  • Opening of the new DOC/i-site on Princes Wharf on 4 October (photo right: Lou Sampson, DG of DOC)
  • Māpura Studios debate at Studio One on 4 October including Richard Northey as a panel member
  • Bike Breakfast on 5 October
  • Opening of the Generator at GRID AKL by the Mayor on 5 October
  • Waterview cycleway opening on 6 October
  • Presentation by Greg Vann at MR Cagney on 6 October
  • Spoke at the opening of Art Week at the Ellen Melville Centre on 6 October (Attachment D)
  • Pedal Power in Aotea Square for Biketober
  • Pollinator Park first birthday celebrations on 7 October
  • Auckland Heritage Festival walk of the Waitemata Local Board’s Foreshore Heritage walk on 8 October (photo right of the happy walkers)

A people friendly premier park for Auckland

Draft plan display at the Auckland Lantern Festival
Draft plan display at the Auckland Lantern Festival

The grand Auckland War Memorial Museum sits in the city’s premier park, the Auckland Domain. You would expect the Domain and Museum to be easily accessible, a pleasure to visit on foot or bike with strong transport connections for tourists and locals. I therefore find it almost shocking the extent to which vehicles are prioritised to the detriment of everything else. Footpaths are missing on all the main roads, there is no legible walking access to the entrance of the museum and the Domain is severed from the city centre by a hostile motorway. Tourists are left bewildered and lost when they try to walk from the city centre to the Museum.

I’ve heard the Domain described as Auckland’s second biggest car park. This might make it a great place to drive to and through but also works to diminish the experience for everyone who just wants to visit. It also encourages a huge amount of non-Domain visitor parking (up to 75% of parking is taken up by commuters )

Grandstand Road (currently closed to traffic and parking)
Grandstand Road (currently closed to traffic and parking)

Many of the issues are highlighted in this Transport Blog post –Why can’t you walk to the Domain (illuminated further in all the comments)

I think part of the reason why the Domain is so lacking in safe walking and cycling connections is due to the fact Auckland City was historically governed by people who predominantly lived in the Eastern suburbs and enjoyed the Domain as a thoroughfare by car to the city centre or a place to drive to for sporting activities.  They would not have seen any political mileage in championing a more people- friendly Domain.

Things started to improve after the formation of the Super City in 2010. With the support of the Waitematā Local Board, Auckland Transport installed speed tables, a down hill cycle lane and improved crossing points on Domain Drive as part of package of safety initiatives. The Board adopted the following advocacy position in 2012:

Auckland Transport to improve walking and cycling access to and around the Domain, while discouraging commuter parking use of the Domain through:
i) Implementation of a parking scheme for the Domain that works to discourage commuter parking (e.g. through pricing)
ii) Improving walking and cycling options
iii) Contribute to the development of a Masterplan for the Domain (to be led by Auckland Council).

The idea for a Domain masterplan progressed slowly due to the unique governance arrangements for the park that splits the decision making between the Governing body and Waitematā Local Board. Once a joint Auckland Domain committee was established in February 2015  (Chair, Shale Chambers, members Vernon Tava and Rob Thomas represent the Board on the Committee) a draft plan was able to be finalised for public feedback.

The draft masterplan released in early February 2016,  is a twenty-year aspiration for how the park can develop and consolidate its position as Auckland’s premier park. It responds to issues and pressure points as well as coordinating projects and work streams impacting the Auckland Domain.

I haven’t been directly involved with the development of the draft but I’m pleased to see a variety of proposals that will greatly improve the connections for all visitors to the Domain.  The proposals will also improve access to those needing to drive and open up more parking for Domain users.  Headlines on the draft have focused on the walking and cycling proposals but there are also a range of other initiatives in the draft that will contribute to making the Domain worthy of its premier park status.

A series of Council videos about the Domain are worth a watch.

Consulation is open until 24 March 2016. Feedback form online

Related reading

Parks are for people – a fresh masterplan for the Domain, Bike Auckland post

Draft Domain Masterplan – Transport blog post

Auckland Domain to be more pedestrian friendly, Stuff

Auckland Domain development – roads to be closed, NZ Herald