A progressive transport agenda

Labour transport panel with Patrick ReynoldsOn 23 May I took part in a panel discussion with Patrick Reynolds (Transport Blog contributor) and Phil Twyford MP (Labour’s Transport spokesperson) on the future of transport in Auckland.

The event was organised by the Auckland Isthmus Labour Hub and MC’ed by Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.

We were asked to start the discussion by each presenting our thoughts on what a progressive agenda for Auckland’s Transport should look like, and what we need to get there.  

Thank you to Auckland Isthmus Labour Hub for organising this evenings event and for the invitation to take part on the panel.

I’d like to bring a local board member perspective to the discussion.

Firstly a confession – I don’t ride a bike because I am an evangelical greenie on 2 wheels I actually ride a bike because I am just a lazy transport user. I get door to door parking, and hardly ever have to walk!

When I started out as transport advocate about 7 years ago one of the first politicians I met said to me that no one will ever cycle in Auckland because it is too hilly and it rains too much.

That same politician is now “leader of the opposition” on the Waitemata Local Board.  And he is now very much in the minority as what I would call a “mono-modal-list”. Of 7 members on the Board  5 are truly multi-modal – users of PT and active transport.

This is by way of introduction to bring me to a few comments I would like to make about what I think is a progressive transport agenda, how that is starting to be embraced in Auckland but what is needed to actually get there. I think a positive transformation has been happening not just with the make up of elected reps (on Waiheke I hear board members are 100% e-bike users!) but in Auckland’s transport usage & attitudes.

Where Aucklanders have been provided choice they are showing they are not DNA programmed to just drive cars (as we’ve been led to believe) and they are also saying they want options. For example:

  • At the last census 51% of Waitemata residents didn’t drive to work in a private motor vehicle
  • There are more people arriving into the city centre in the morning peak by PT than car
  • Over 50% of households in the city centre don’t even have access to a car
  • 60% of Aucklanders  say they would cycle if it felt safe to do so

So when I think of a  progressive transport agenda it is definitely about PT and active transport and the Government getting seriously on board with funding (key elements that Patrick and Phil highlighted in their opening remarks).

But I think a progressive agenda goes much further so that kids can actually retake the streets. Walkable communities, slower speeds, the re-prioritisation of road space, accessible mobility, changes to the give way rules to favour pedestrians,  NYC- style “vision zero” where we don’t accept any fatalities as “normal” and a “complete” street design approach every time so streets are usable by all ages and abilities regardless of the mode of transport.  

I am backing this kind of progressive transport agenda because of the environmental, social, economic and health benefits it will unleash (and the promise of a happy city as we’ve heard about at the recent Auckland Conversations! )

Of course I’m presuming everyone here knows the theory and have heard the successes from places like NYC, Portland, London, Copenhagen, Melbourne that have adopted truly “progressive” agendas . [But then I could be wrong you could be all  thinking progressive means self driving transport pods and monorails! ].

I think we’ve started to make some significant steps in Auckland towards a progressive transport agenda – and not just in the city centre. 

A big factor has been the super city structure and the separation of politicians from every day transport decisions  [confession number 2 I am a big fan of the super city ] We forget how dire it was when Auckland city council’s transport decisions used to be made by politicians from Remuera.  

We definitely still have a long way to go.  It has been over 4 years of frustratingly hard work getting Auckland Transport’s agenda to align with local priorities and for AT to  stop building business as usual crap.    I think the ship is turning but delivery and leadership is still a big issue. And it doesn’t help that central government is clearly calling the shots in the background.

But no amount of government funding or alignment is going to help us achieve a progressive agenda if we haven’t brought the community along with us.  And I think this is one aspect of what we need to get there.

I think Aucklanders over all want the big picture of a world class PT  [ that Patrick/Phil describes] but just not the progressive package if it means the removal of parking on their street, speed bumps, speed cameras on their route to work  or an apartment block next door.  To give one example. Auckland Transport is trying to implement a complete street design for Franklin Road – everything can be catered for including parking but the residents don’t want it because of concerns about the dangers of leaf fall and the safety of  cyclelanes.

We have some ways to go before we are YIMBIES for a progressive transport agenda in our neighbourhood.  But I do take comfort from what Janette Sadik-Khan (former Commissioner of Transport for NYC) said on her visit here that people are actually ahead of the politicians and press. She said what worked in NYC was lots of public consultation and lots of data.

To conclude: we need to know what a progressive agenda looks like (One indicator I have given for being able to recognise what this is is when we see kids playing in the streets); the community has to buy it;   Central government has to come to the party with funding and alignment; but we have to ensure a strong progressive Council – Mayor, Councillors and Local Board members – is elected next year to continue the work that has been started over the last 5 years and is committed to delivering on the ground.

After the panelists spoke a lively discussed followed with questions from the floor.

[Note: City vision is a coalition of Labour, Green and community independents. I do not belong to a political party. The views expressed are my own and not City Vision policy]

Auckland Conversations: Fixing Auckland’s Transport

Auckland Conversations is an exciting series featuring leaders and experts in design, planning, heritage, environment and socio-economics discussing the issues facing Auckland’s development.  Tonight Auckland Conversations tackles the topic of Transport and I am really delighted to be one of the panelists.

Fixing Auckland’s Transport – The 10-Year Budget 2015-2025

Monday 2 March, doors open 5pm for a 5.30pm start
Lower NZI Conference Room, Aotea Centre, central Auckland

Auckland is the country’s fastest-growing region with transport considered the single biggest issue. Major investment will be needed in the next decade to avoid worsening congestion and the impact this will have on our economy, environment and way of life.

We have a choice to make. Do we accept a basic transport network which costs less, or do we invest more to get the advanced transport programme set out in the 30-year vision for our region, known as the Auckland Plan.

If we choose to fix Auckland’s transport issues and get our city moving, we need to consider how we should pay for it. This could be through increased fuel taxes and higher rates, or through the introduction of a new motorway charge.

Hear from a range of experts who will outline the key transport issues facing Aucklanders in the 10-year budget.

MC Fran O’Sullivan – NZ Herald

Presentation: Mayor Len Brown: The 10 Year Budget and outline of Transport Options


David Warburton – CEO, Auckland Transport

Sudhvir Singh – Generation Zero

Peter Winder – Transport Funding – Independent Advisory Board

Patrick Reynolds – Transport Blog

Pippa Coom – Waitematā Local Board

More information on Shape.co.nz Fixing Auckland’s Transport

Grafton Gully Cycleway opening

Auckland’s biggest ever cycle infrastructure project was opened yesterday (Saturday 6 September 2014) by Barb Cuthbert, Chair of Cycle Action Auckland, the PM and the Mayor Len Brown.  The Grafton Gully cycleway links the NW cycleway via Upper Queen Street Bridge to Quay Street via new separated cycle lanes on Beach Road.  Transport blog recorded the opening speeches. There were many people to thank and acknowledge for the successful completion of the project after many years work (much of it behind the scenes to keep the project alive)

I’ve never been so excited about a cycleway opening before. Grafton Gully sets a new standard for design, safety and connectivity. It is beautiful to ride and gives a glimpse of what should be possible across Auckland to make cycling pleasant and easy. I especially love how the route has opened up all the  long forgotten bush in the gully and provides a stunning view down to the Harbour (the Waitematā Local Board has plans for walking connections into Symonds St Cemetery which will open up even more of the native bush).

What was a bit lost in the applause for NZTA’s work on Grafton Gully was that Upper Queen Street Bridge (the removal of general traffic lanes and slip lanes to provide a new shared path)  and Auckland Transport’s Beach Road cycleway was also opened at the same time. The project teams have worked extraordinarily hard to coordinate the opening of all three sections and deserved far greater acknowledgement.

In March I reported that Auckland Transport was 6 months behind NZTA and that Upper Queen Street Bridge was not even at the design stage.  The Waitematā Local Board’s advocacy was instrumental in both projects being brought forward. We also funded the installation of a drinking station on the corner of Upper Queen Street and Ian McKinnon Drive ( a location suggested by Cycle Action Auckland).

I think we can now look forward to a fabulous summer of cycling in Auckland especially once Waterfront Auckland’s Westhaven Promenade opens later in the year.


Transport Blog – the completed Grafton Gully Cycleway (lots of photos and videos)

Cycle Action Auckland  – Go have ride – Grafton Gully and Beach Rd open

NZTA media release – Big boost for Auckland cyclists with opening of central city link

Vernon Tava – opening of the Grafton Gully cycleway

Future of Transport in Auckland

Along with thousands of Aucklanders last weekend I celebrated a new era of transport for the city with the launch of the electric trains at Britomart.

The EMU launch on Transport Blog and a really interesting history of how the trains were saved in Auckland here