Epic fail : the rise and fall of Auckland’s best value park’n’ride

Epic fail : the rise and fall of Auckland’s best value park’n’ride


This is an update on the saddest public transport and biking story in town. I was tempted to call it ‘The life and death of Auckland’s only real park-and-ride for bikes’ with credit to my spiritual mentor, Jane Jacobs, but decided that was a bit dramatic.

I live in Devonport where we have a wonderful regular ferry service to downtown. it goes hand in hand with fit-for-purpose parking that has grown in the past decade to 94 bike parking spots.

Did I say 94 bike parks! Yes, sirree!

Devonport bike parking: 94 cars (in red) vs 94 bikes (in blue). Image: Chris Werry, Bike Devonport.

This is the very best park’n’ride investment in the whole of Auckland. Until recently, most of the parking was also undercover, well lit at night, handy to the ferry berth and with CCTV security. Just what the doctor would order for ideal bike parking.

Like Bike Auckland, Auckland Transport and even Auckland Council know in theory that bikes are important for extending the reach and flexibility of public transport networks. We also know that park-and-rides for cars can be expensive to achieve ($25,000 per car park for land value at one historic estimate – someone will be able to update this with the cost per carpark at a new building like the one at Half Moon Bay).

Compared with this, bike racks are a low cost-high return investment.

Bike Auckland and AT’s cycling team use maps like this one below (from AT) to demonstrate how important bikes, bike routes and bike parking are to effective public transport in Auckland.

But the uphill struggle Bike Auckland has been having for the past 10 months to get AT to help us reinstate 36 of the 94 bike parking spaces at Devonport Ferry Terminal shows how disconnected Auckland’s so called ‘family of organisations’ are.

Read on, dear readers, to learn how sad the situation is and how it developed.

December 2016

AT shocks Bike Auckland and Bike Devonport with the news that the bike parks on the northern side of the terminal building (the ones ringed with the smaller blue circle in the first image) will be removed as part of stage 2 of the terminal building revamp for cafes and retail spaces.

Cool, that’s core business for AT. Right?

We ask to meet the AT and contracting staff on site urgently to explain why the bike parks are a vital element of the ferry terminal operation. We point out how valuable the bike parking is, and demonstrate that if it has to be relocated, the new location must be equally good in terms of being handy to the ferry berth.

We spell out what this means: the bike parking needs to be sheltered from winds bearing sea spray which rusts bikes. They need to have good lighting to deter theft and allow bikes to be locked and unlocked at night. They should be protected from rain so people locking/unlocking  bikes aren’t soaked by sudden heavy showers. And they must have good passive supervision and CCTV for general safety and to deter bike theft.

AT and the contraction staff assure us they understand these operational priorities.

January – early June 2017

Bike Auckland works with a changing parade of AT staff who’ve been tasked with providing replacement bike parking of similar quality. ‘Like for like’ – a fair deal – OK?

It’s a  p a i n f u l l y d r a w n – o u t process.  At times we wonder if the AT staff working with us have left AT permanently, and the new staffers are yet to raise their heads.

Mid-June 2017

At last, AT shares a plan with Bike Auckland showing the removed spaces (the blue circled ones on the top image) being transferred to the southern undercover bike parking area (the larger blue oval with the tail. )

AT’s plan of expanded bike parking, June 2017

By this stage we’re becoming so worried that the promised relocated spaces won’t eventuate that we’re prepared to overlook the reality that the expanded bike parking area has poor public observance /passive security. The trade-off means the ugly citywide spectre of bike theft raises its head even more than usual.

We diligently consult the biking community, and report to AT that we agree to the plan.

August 2017

We are told at this late stage that AT controls only the Devonport Ferry Wharf, i.e. the terminal building and the actual ferry berth.

The bike parking to the south is on Victoria Wharf, which is controlled by Auckland Council (Parks department) for recreation purposes. This makes sense to us, and we even assume that AT and Auckland Council Parks respect and collaborate in their operations. Silly us!

AT reports that a site meeting has been held with Auckland Council Parks planners to discuss the plans to extend the Victoria Wharf parking. The planners refuse to approve the plan because the bikes and their ‘sail’ cover would impinge on views and access along the wharf.

By this stage we’ve spent 8 months ringing and speaking to AT staff, and have had 20 emails replying to our queries. We’d prefer to get on with the multitude of other pressing priorities, but we’re desperate to see action.

As well as being a local and the chair of Bike Auckland, I’m a planner, with proven skills in mediation and negotiation. I wonder why AT held this site meeting without inviting me to attend? Do they not understand that Bike Auckland is the key cycling stakeholder for AT and Auckland Council, and that we have a close working relationship with executive staff in the Parks department?

Next, we’re emailed a rough plan of interim bike parking arrangements for the relocated bike racks. It fails to meet the basic operational requirements we had been talking about with AT since December. We’re told a better plan and arrangement is being worked on by the project architects and that this will be shared with us.

September 2017

AT staff have burrowed back into their office and are not keen to respond  to my occasional email asking for an update on the permanent relocated bike racks. We enlist help from Devonport resident, Councillor Chris Darby, who has a role in overseeing the Ferry Wharf revamp and whom we know is a strong and loyal supporter of cycling. We discover some of the bike racks have been relocated onto the Victoria Wharf bike parking area.

The relocated racks have virtually no passive observance by people walking to the ferry berth. They do have stunning views (which we all know bikes need…), but they’re vulnerable to soaking by wind-blown spray in northerly winds (just what we specifically said we didn’t want when we were consulted in December 2016, nearly a year prior).

The spaces are tucked away from the other bike parks, and have no weather cover or CCTV security. We’re not surprised to see the bike racks are not being used, given these problems.

Meanwhile, construction continues to dribble on upgrading the terminal. Contractors’ vehicles park on the wharf, blocking access and views of the bike parking. The ‘sail’ that has provided much valued weather protection for the bike parking has been collapsed, presumably to allow large construction material to be moved into the terminal construction site.

October 2017

In the latest thoughtful move, building contractors’ gear is now parked in some of the new expanded bike parks. (Anyone for a row to town?)

Questions for AT and Auckland Council

While this farce has been occurring, AT has published a number of media releases about the citywide need to improve park-and-ride facilities.

I ask why the organisation is so blinkered to the chaos that has made such a mess of the best park-and-ride facilities AT has anywhere in the city?

Who is accountable for this slow crawl towards such a poor outcome for people on bikes?

I understand that different members of the so-called ‘Council family’ control different parts of the Devonport Ferry and Victoria Wharves. To add to the mix, each organisation has property and facility departments which seem to operate in isolation.

I don’t understand why the relationship between these disparate parts of Council – seven years after the formation of the Supercity and its CCOs – is so dysfunctional that they can’t communicate to achieve high-priority shared citywide goals.

Who can help a key transport stakeholder for both AT and Auckland Council when the staff put their heads into the sand (or water, in the case of wharves) to pretend Bike Auckland isn’t working day and night alongside them or that we will go away if we’re ignored?

Chris Darby is working with me, but has been equally frustrated by the lack of action and integrity from the AT/ Council staff. We’re not giving up until we have achieved ‘like for like’ bike parking to replace that removed by Council contractors.

In case the staff need reminding what they have destroyed, here’s what we had in the halcyon days before the contractors arrived.

Devonport Wharf bike parking near the ferry berth (June 2017), before it was dismantled and removed in September. The ‘sail’ cover is not visible in the photo, but was a cost-effective means of sheltering bikes and people during locking and unlocking. Good lighting, passive surveillance, and CCTV provided security.


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