Preparing an ITA Preparing an ITA

Guidance on how to prepare an ITA, including its purpose, scope, transport modelling and mitigation.

An ITA is a report, usually prepared by a transport planner, transport engineer or other suitably qualified professional, which assesses the transport effects of a development proposal. A ‘development proposal’ when referred to in these Guidelines means any form of RMA application. An ITA will usually be required by Auckland Council at the time of lodging a planning application made under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). However, ITAs also have a useful function in informing and guiding decisions made at the early stages of a development proposal.

When involved in a planning application, ITAs form part of a range of reports which are prepared as part of the application to provide factual information and professional opinions on the environmental effects and related merits of a development proposal. The ITA focuses on the transport related aspects of a proposal and will be considered by the decision maker, along with the other reports, in making a final decision about whether a development should or should not be approved.

ITAs consider the relationship between land use and transport and make recommendations to ensure better integration between the two. This can include recommendations to reduce or amend the proposed landuse, or conversely changes to the transport network to respond to the landuse proposal.

ITAs are more comprehensive than traditional Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA), which tended to consider only the traffic impacts of a proposal on the surrounding road network, with the underlying assumption that all people would be travelling to and from a site or area by private motor vehicle only. Such an assessment ignores other users of the transport system, namely pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Transport and planning policy in the Auckland region has moved towards a more holistic view of transport that considers access by a range of modes. The Auckland Plan puts strong emphasis on increasing the mode share of public transport and supporting walking and cycling initiatives4.

An ITA provides an assessment of the accessibility of a proposal by walking, cycling, public transport and private motor vehicles. It also assesses the potential effects a proposal could have on the transport network and any mitigation measures needed to ensure that any adverse effects of a proposal are avoided, remedied or mitigated. These guidelines place a particular emphasis on using the policy and strategy context in Auckland as a tool within the ITA process to encourage applicants and their practitioners to consider the full range of transport modes when planning their development proposal.

Consideration of the traffic impacts of a proposal is still an important part of an ITA assessment; however, the response to those effects is expected to be different. Rather than proposing the provision of more roading capacity as an automatic solution, an applicant and their advisors, through the preparation of an ITA would be expected to look first at measures to reduce travel demand, followed by measures to utilise existing transport networks more efficiently, encouragement of other modes, and finally adding more road capacity if no other alternatives exist. This approach is termed the “four stage intervention process” and is a key driver of the AT / NZTA Integrated Transport Programme 2012 to 2041 (ITP).

An ITA is also a useful tool for determining what measures are needed to support new development and the preparation of an implementation (and sequencing) plan in an ITA is therefore an important initial step in bridging the gap between regulatory and funding processes, which is a key aspect of integrating land use and transport.

It is recommended that any person considering a development proposal that is likely to result in high trip generation engage the services of a transport planner or other suitably qualified professional early in the process to assist in the preparation of their ITA. These people are the best qualified to assist in the development of an ITA, particularly in the critical step of scoping the ITA. Engaging such a person early will ensure a high quality document that will result in good decisions being made early on in the process, and that can be relied on by decision makers as part of later consenting processes. This in turn will smooth the planning process for the proposal.

The purpose of an ITA

Transport and accessibility are significant issues facing the Auckland region today. Many of the transport issues in Auckland are the direct result of incremental land use and transport decisions, often made in isolation from each other. These decisions have not always addressed all modes of transport, or adequately assessed the wider and long-term implications of transport and land use decisions. This has meant that the predominant choice of travel within the Auckland region has become by private motor vehicle, with associated issues of traffic congestion during peak times, air pollution, urban sprawl, poor pedestrian and cycling environments and ultimately a lack of transport choices for those living in Auckland.

The reliance on travel by private vehicle has significant impacts on the natural environment of Auckland beyond air pollution. Increases in traffic volumes also increase the heavy metal burden on our waterways and a sprawling urban form places pressure on, and in many cases degrades, existing bushland areas and other areas of ecological value. Transport assessments that promote or assume high car usage also place a large financial burden on ratepayers as the transport network, which must be renewed and maintained, extends further into rural areas.

Historically, transport assessments have focussed on the road network and the effects that are likely to occur from private vehicles accessing a development and have sought to increase capacity to accommodate this demand. Given that Auckland is now reaching the viable capacity of transport infrastructure in a number of areas during peak times, it is necessary to explore measures to reduce travel demand by private vehicle. The purpose of an ITA is to thoroughly explore the range of transport options available to a new development area and look to place greater emphasis on travel by walking, cycling and public transport wherever possible in line with regional guidance5.

ITAs are useful in their own right as information sources to be used at the earliest stages of planning for a new development proposal. They can ensure that fundamental decisions are made having given due consideration to the principles of transport and land use integration, and proper thought to alternative modes; thereby improve decision making and design processes.

The main objective of an ITA is to ensure that the transportation effects of a new development proposal are well considered, that there is an emphasis on efficiency, safety and accessibility to and from the development by all transport modes where practical; and that the adverse transport effects of the development have been effectively avoided, remedied or mitigated. The preparation of an ITA seeks to ensure that appropriate
thought is given to the zoning or land use proposed so that integrated transport and landuse outcomes occur.

A proposal that is achieving this integration will ensure consistency with the “four Rs”, being the right type of activity, in the right place, at the right intensity, and occurring at the right time.

Some examples of integrated transport and land use include:

  • Industry and freight-based activities should be located near or adjacent to existing or proposed motorway or arterial road networks identified for this purpose6 or accessible to rail corridors. This will ensure opportunities exist to move goods and freight by either rail or road, will minimise the impact on the amenity of surrounding land uses such as residential neighbourhoods, and will ensure that goods can be transported in an efficient and direct way.
  • Activities that attract large numbers of people, such as schools, retail activities and offices, should be located in areas that are close to and accessible by a range of high frequency bus and/or rail services (the planned “Rapid and Frequent Network”). This will ensure that travel via public transport is a viable alternative to private vehicles during commuter peak times and off-peak times where appropriate (eg. visitors to retail activities and students of educational facilities).
  • Structure Plans should consider how multimodal trips can be undertaken and should position landuses to encourage greater trips by walking, cycling and public transport. For example, facilities such as schools, local centres and parks should be located centrally to encourage a large walking and cycling catchment and should provide proper facilities to allow safe and pleasant travel to and from these destinations by active modes.
  • Developments in greenfield areas should provide a range and intensity of development that can be supported by the existing or planned transport infrastructure in the area. Density should be focussed around existing or planned public transport routes or nodes rather than being dispersed across large areas.

Another key purpose of ITAs is to enable the collection of appropriate information to ensure co-ordination between regulatory decisions made under the RMA which determine where land use is permitted to go, and funding decisions that are made under the LGA and LTMA.

ITAs that are consistent with these guidelines will identify matters such as infrastructure upgrades to the transport network that may be required to support the proposed land use, and the timing of these within an implementation and sequencing plan. Another key outcome could be the identification of the need for new or more frequent bus services and the proposed way in which these services are to be funded to encourage greater mode share by public transport.

Scoping an ITA

Scoping the ITA is one of the most important steps in the process of preparing an ITA. Early discussion with the Council and appropriate transport agencies will ensure that agreement can be reached on the level of assessment that will be required, implementation issues that may arise from the development and whether there are any fundamental differences of opinion.

The Council is a key party to consult during the scoping process. Auckland Council is the unitary authority in the Auckland Region and has a number of objectives, particularly regarding land use policies, that will need to be considered in preparing an ITA.

It is the responsibility of applicants proposing the development and their advisors, whether on a localised site or over a whole new urban area, to lead the development of an ITA in support of their proposal. Similarly, where the Council itself is promoting a new plan change it is expected that such a process would be informed by an ITA.

Where the ITA triggers identified in the Unitary Plan are met, AT is a key party that should be consulted early in the process. AT is the body with statutory obligations to manage and control Auckland’s transport network, including the pedestrian and cycle network, public transport services and the local roading network.

Most urban developments within Auckland will have an impact on the local cycle and roading network or place demands on the public transport network. Ongoing liaison throughout the iterative process of preparing an ITA is recommended to allow AT to assess the proposal and to provide feedback on whether the infrastructure proposed is planned, or where new infrastructure is needed, that provision of such infrastructure is supported. Similarly, if new or improved bus services are needed or proposed, it is imperative that such discussions occur with AT as early as possible.

Other key transport agencies that need to be consulted are the NZTA and KiwiRail. The NZTA has a wide remit which includes contributing to an effective, efficient and safe land transport system in the public interest, managing the State highway system, including planning, funding and maintenance, and managing funding of the land transport system including administration of land transport revenue. KiwiRail is the Auckland rail network access provider and owns and maintains the Auckland rail network (rail tracks, overhead power supply systems and signalling)7.

Given the number of agencies involved, ideally one transport agency would take the lead in responding to a development proposal to ensure that a combined and consistent response is provided. AT is currently working through this process with the NZTA and KiwiRail and further information will be provided on our website in due course. In the interim, applicants should continue to contact each transport agency based on the nature of effects predicted from the development.

Engagement with the relevant transport agencies will identify any major opportunities or issues with a proposal and will therefore avoid unnecessary costs and delays associated with having to address these concerns, including through redesign of a proposal, at a later date.

The iterative stages should be worked through with the relevant transport agencies and Council with the ITA reporting on the final proposal that has been agreed through this process. Applications (and associated ITAs) that are lodged with Council without discussion with the relevant transport agencies will not be meeting best practice and are likely to encounter significant issues during their processing.

Trip generation

These guidelines recommend that an ITA should consider the person trips generated by the proposed development and not just those trips made by private vehicles. The share of these trips anticipated to be made by each transport mode (“mode share”) should then be assessed in the context of the specific land use and transport environment the development is located in, including any future planned or applicant-proposed infrastructure and public transport service improvements. The intention is to ensure that the resulting vehicle trip generation used for further detailed traffic analysis is context-specific and that it is considered as a subset of the overall demand for travel and not in isolation. As such, potential improvements to all modes of transport should be considered within the ITA, including those that would be expected to lower the mode share of private vehicle and resulting traffic generation.

Transport professionals will be expected to use Auckland Regional Transport (ART3) model predictions as a starting point for the person trip generation assessment. Where an existing ART3 run is available including the relevant type and scale of land uses, this information can be extracted easily. However, it may be necessary to request an ART3 run be undertaken by the model owner incorporating the proposed land use where this has not previously been anticipated. ART3 will provide information on predicted private vehicle and public transport trips during the peak, and where these trips originate from or are destined to (trip distribution).

Transport professionals are encouraged to make adjustments to this information, in consultation with the relevant transport agencies, based on localised knowledge, detailed land use characteristics, survey information or any other relevant factors not considered to be well represented within the ART3 model. Further guidance on what adjustments may be appropriate are outlined in the ITA template (see Standard template for ITAs).

It is considered that greater use of the ART3 model will ensure trip generation is associated to the particular transport and landuse environment of a development site. This is particularly important given the public transport improvements planned by AT, which are reflected in the ART3 model. This is in contrast to the more traditional approach of deriving traffic generation using standard industry data sources that do not have such context.

Where a landuse is proposed that is likely to have a high proportion of freight/service trips, in addition to the above methodology, it would be expected that freight/service vehicle trips are estimated separately using standard industry trip rates, and reported in the ITA. Auckland Transport and NZTA should be consulted on the trip rates that are proposed to be used as part of the scoping exercise.

Traffic and transport modelling

The above section referred to the recommended use of the ART3 model, to establish, at a broad level, the likely trip generation and trip distribution for all transport modes. Undertaking more detailed modelling of vehicle traffic movements is likely to be a key component of an ITA, where there are concerns about the potential traffic effects of a proposal. This is particularly the case given the scale of development anticipated by the new ITA triggers in the Unitary Plan.

More detailed modelling could include wider traffic network modelling, micro-simulation modelling of a road corridor or localised area of the road network or isolated intersection modelling, in software packages such as SATURN, PARAMICS, SIDRA, or other similarly accepted tools. The detailed modelling requirements for a development proposal will vary greatly depending on the particular circumstances involved. As discussed in Scoping an ITA, it is recommended that any such traffic modelling is discussed with the relevant transport agencies, including the purpose of the modelling and the geographic extent of the model, such that the appropriate modelling tool(s) are used to undertake the assessment of transport / traffic effects.

If this is agreed at the outset, it can save the applicant time and money.

Implementing mitigation

The RMA sets out a hierarchy that directs development to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects. ITAs should therefore look to avoid or remedy transport effects wherever possible, with mitigation seen as a final measure. Where mitigation is identified it is important that certainty is achieved around the delivery of that transport infrastructure.

Given that both the Council and AT work in a financially constrained environment, ITAs which rely on particular mitigation should provide information on whether such projects form part of existing planned expenditure in the RLTP/LTP or whether such projects are completely new.

Current practice over the last 5-6 years in which the 2007 ARTA guidelines have been in use has resulted in mitigation measures often being identified in ITAs, but with little details on when such mitigation is required to be implemented and by whom. The danger of this approach is that mitigation relied upon in approving a proposal may not be implemented. This may result in unanticipated adverse (and cumulative effects) on the transport system and undermines the integrity of planning decisions made under the RMA.

Applicants should refer to the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) to determine the transport works planned by AT and the NZTA in any given period. This document is prepared and reviewed every 3 years. Projects listed in the RLTP may be funded by Council or NZTA or a mix of funding from both sources.

Applicants should not assume that development contributions collected will be used to directly fund mitigation of their particular proposal. Development contributions are collected by the Council and are based on the Council’s (including AT) total spending proposals over the next 10 year period8 as set out in the LTP. In reality, development contributions only fund a certain portion of the Council’s costs over that period. The remainder of the money has to be sourced from rates, loans and other funding mechanisms. Accordingly, there is a limit to the extent of new development can be accommodated under current revenue sources.

If the mitigation measures identified by an ITA are not a listed project in the LTP, then no development contributions will have been collected for the project, nor will any other funding mechanisms (such as rates) have been considered, and AT is unlikely to have any funding which can be applied to the project.

In situations where a project does fall outside the RTLP/LTP, there will generally be three options available where the project is directly required to mitigate the effects of development:

  • Payment of a financial contribution by the applicant if provided for by the relevant District or Unitary Plan provisions,
  • A direct payment by the applicant to the relevant Transport Agency amounting to the value of the proposed works (i.e. total project cost including investigation, design, property acquisition and construction costs),
  • Construction of the physical works by the applicant, subject to all works being to the satisfaction of the relevant transport agency (AT/NZTA/KiwiRail).

AT’s expectation is that ITAs will clearly outline:

  • What mitigation is proposed,
  • An estimated cost of such mitigation,
  • When such mitigation is needed.

This will allow the ITA and planning application to focus on the appropriate triggers, rules, conditions and assessment criteria that should be included in any decision, but it will also provide information that will allow AT to program future works into its budget.

Discussions as to who will be responsible for building and funding infrastructure should be advanced separately with Auckland Transport/Auckland Council, although early engagement on these issues is strongly encouraged given the lead in times necessary to change funding priorities and to design and construct transport projects. AT is developing a policy that will enable applicants to work collaboratively with us and other agencies to determine the funding process for implementing new transport infrastructure that is identified in ITAs in support of private development proposals.

The policy will be available once finalised9.

Using the standard template

An applicant should prepare an ITA as early as possible in any development proposal process. An ITA will guide decision-making and ensure that fundamental decisions about land use and transport integration are made at all stages of the proposal.

However, ultimately most ITAs will be used to support a planning application under the RMA and the structure and content of an ITA should be consistent with, and always bear in mind, that planning framework. This will ensure that time and effort is best used to address relevant matters, and avoid duplication.

The standard template should be used in preparing an ITA to ensure it is streamlined and focuses on the key matters relevant to Auckland Council and AT. It will also ensure that the relevant information is provided to key transport agencies, particularly around the type and costs of infrastructure that will be likely to support a development. It is acknowledged that every development is different and as such transport professionals should add or delete headings as appropriate to suit the development being assessed.

A key point to remember is that an ITA will always form part of a range of documents submitted in support of a planning application. It is not necessary to have the strategic assessment of a proposal, such as whether it is consistent with a range of policy documents like the RPS, the Auckland Plan and National Policy Statement in both the Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) and the ITA. However, in relation to specific transport policy and strategy matters, it is considered that the author of the ITA should assess these matters and provide a summary of the key points from this assessment in the ITA report to inform the relevant section of the AEE.

A key criticism of ITAs in the past is that the policy/statutory assessment have resulted in long winded documents that do not focus on the key issues at hand. Accordingly, this policy assessment should be made an appendix of the ITA so that the document is focussed on the proposal, the key outcomes that have been arrived at through the scoping exercise, and key mitigation and implementation matters.

It is important to consider the context of the proposal and this will inform the scoping process for the ITA, as discussed in section 3.3. If the proposal is a plan change to intensify a town centre as identified in the Auckland Plan, then public transport, walking and cycling are likely to be key transport aspects to be assessed in preference to travel by private vehicle. Conversely, if the proposal is a residential subdivision in an outlying rural village, it will be appropriate to acknowledge that travel by private vehicle will be the predominant mode, with consideration of public transport, walking and cycling tailored to what can be reasonably achieved in those circumstances.

Further guidance on preparing an ITA can be found by referring to the NZTA Research Report 422, which provides detailed technical guidance.

4 Paragraph 737 & 742, Auckland Plan.
5 For example, the Unitary Plan objectives and policies.
6 Refer to the Regional Freight Network.
7 Auckland Transport owns and maintains stations and procures passenger rail services.
8 The LTP also includes Auckland Transport’s proposed expenditure.
9 Currently titled “Transport Funding Agreements Policy”.