Follow us on Twitter

The Great Reset?

We have talked quite a bit recently about what is happening with traffic volumes, both here and overseas. If you haven’t seen those posts then a quick recap, all across the developed world we have seen stats showing that traffic and total distances travelled by people have not only stalled but fallen. Even more interesting is that they all started falling before the global financial crisis so appears to be something other than just the economy that is driving things. As a reminder, here are the average daily traffic volumes over the harbour bridge.

So I was looking through some other numbers yesterday and noticed a similar trend. In this case the numbers were the annual registration of new cars. These record the new registration of vehicles including those which are used imports. The numbers peaked in about 2005 and since have plummeted back to ~1995 levels. The total number of vehicles registered in NZ are still increasing but that increase appears to have slowed down quite a bit (the data available online only goes back to 2003 so I won’t bother graphing it).

So we are buying less new cars than used to, we are driving less than we used to yet we see other modes like public transport, walking and cycling increasing. Its time we started investing in what these emerging trends are telling us rather than trying to prop up the old model with increasingly expensive new roads.  We also keep seeing a similarly shaped graph show up when it comes to these figures so we need a name for this trend. Last night fellow blogger Kent suggested that  this looks exactly like the sort of shift described by Richard Florida in his book The Great Reset but what do you think?

The Great Reset

 

111 comments to The Great Reset?

  • Possible other factors:

    * Regulations ( for emissions, safety, etc ) increasing the price of Japanese imports so reduce the number
    * Quality of cars is increasing so people keep them longer ( vehicles with 200,000km on the clock are common )

    • On the second point, yes that is definitely happening and the NZTA stats show that the average age of vehicles increased by 2 years between 1999 and 2011 but the question is if it is due to increased quality or people not wanting to to keep investing in cars so much. Perhaps a bit of both.

      • Car age: money is tight. And this is a big problem for the new tech evangelists; there is no chance that NZ is going to replace its entire fleet with either EVs and/or driverless cars or even more efficient smaller cars any time soon…. this is the wealth trap that the new high oil prices and inflated dwelling costs cause.

        The top 10% will be able to upgrade to more efficient ICE vehicles, hybrids, and EVs and are, but the rest of us will do the math: higher gas bills over years versus 50-70K now for lower bills in the future. Can’t do it. Still driving a ten guzzler then.

    • Tom

      Both are weak arguments. The regulations might be tighter but the dollar is stronger and debt is cheaper than ever. Also, car quality has been improving over the last 40-50 years, there were no massive improvements in the mid-90s that doubled a car’s lifespan. The rate of improvement looks quite slow to me ATM.

      My favourite is the migration to big cities where PT is an option. You can get by (work, play, food, travel) without a car in Auckland and that’s a huge thing.

  • If people read nothing else this summer they should read this short and insightful book. It is still the best overview of what is happening globally put into an historical context. Florida has a very positive approach so it mightn’t sit well with anyone at the sharp end of change because of course all periods of great change, and that what he shows we are experiencing, involves a lot of endings often before the new things can start.

    Highly recommended.

  • Matt

    People holding off for electric cars? Holden released the Volt this week. It looks quite a great proposition but I haven’t seen the RRP. When I do and after being defibrillated I will probably hold off for the price to drop a bit.

    • Matt, the Volt has a list price of $85,000 !!!!!!!

      • So it’s drive oil free only for those than don’t really notice the gas prices anyway…. the rest of us are stuck in the energy price trap. Or on our bikes and Transit.

      • obi

        Fffffffff!!! My current vehicle cost me about $9k. I could buy a second hand Suzuki and a decent sized yacht for the price of a Volt. Has anyone purchased a Volt, anywhere? If so, what were they thinking?

        • MFD

          So… a comparison between a second-hand ICE car and a new battery/ICE car. Surely the better comparison is between the Volt and a new ICE car of similar size (?).

          • Steve D

            It’s a perfectly fair comparison. There really are a lot of cheap, used petrol cars out there already. If you want a battery car, it pretty much has to be new.

          • obi

            My last car died after 320k km worth of being bounced around Australian dirt roads. My current car had only 45k km on the clock when I bought it, and not much more than that a couple of years later. It’ll last forever. I think buying a new car is an insane choice.

            But, since you asked… I’m not a car person and can’t be sure I’ve picked an equivalent model, but a Toyota Corolla costs around $35k. That leaves you $50k to spend on petrol. That’s 23k litres of petrol, which I guess is enough for around 230k km. So the break even point is 230k km, assuming that: 1. Electricity is free. 2. You buy all the petrol up front. If you buy it gradually like a normal person would, then you’ll be earning interest on the money and might be able to afford another 100k km or more. 3. The Volt battery will last that long, which it won’t. 4. You hang on to the vehicle for 230k km. Most people probably don’t, I’m guessing.

            I wonder just who they expect to buy a Volt. Government departments wanting to make a vacuous statement about their green credentials is the only market that I can think of.

          • MFD

            New car an insane choice? I avoid the term insane, but it is a very poor economic choice. One has to rely on other mugs or people in Japan to be the first buyers. Why does anyone buy anything other than the most basic model to meet their needs? Car buying is seldom a solely rational economic purchase. Why should a Volt purchase be any different?

    • Matt

      What really sucks is I read that Richard Florida book not more than 3 months ago, and I can’t remember a damn thing about it.

  • Dan

    Remember that NZ did go into recession about a year before the rest of the world (gdp declined for 5 quarters starting Q1 of 2007). Hard to tell from your graph but that probably doesn’t explain the really big drop that appeared to happen during 2006.

  • Dan

    Also, as the upper harbour route had much effect on AHB traffic?

  • Matt

    That’s jaw-droppingly priced. All electrons shall be routed to my defibrillator until the price drops. Til then I nurse my old banger from WOF to WOF and ride my electric bicycle.

    • Adam W

      Not only is the Volt expensive at $85,000 but having driven on in the UK at the beginning of the year, the other big issue I have with it is around practically, it only has 4 seats. The battery goes right between the 2 rear seats – so with an extended family it is not really an option.
      Through I will say that concept of using a battery for most small trips and having an engine for long trips which seemed silly to me before driving it actaully seemed great when seeing it. The other main advantage of the Volt over the Nissian Leaf (which I think is a great car by the way and costs $65,000) is that it can be charged at any normal house plug – whereas the Leaf needs a special adaptor here in NZ.

      • I have long thought the battery/ICE combo is perhaps a decent medium term solution for cars in urban areas as we will still need some but instead of needing two per household, with improved PT we might be able to shift households back towards only needing one.

      • Ash

        4 seats could also be seen as GM/Holden doing their bit towards smaller family sizes! I like it ;)

      • MFD

        In my opinion the battery-ICE combination is flawed. One of the great aspects of a pure battery electric is the mechanical simplicity; no cooling system, no exhaust system, no transmission, no fuel tank, no oil/filter changes and less dead weight to lug around. Generally fewer things to wear. Having said that, it is disappointing that the NZ Leaf pricing is higher than just about everywhere else in the world. Unlike public transport, the Leaf would suit our family needs very well and as soon as there are used ones at around $40k I shall buy one. Longer term I can see improvements to battery chemistry that will improve the energy density; lithium-vanadium-phosphate is claimed to triple the energy density (and NZ is sitting on massive deposits of vanadium). A Leaf with a 450 km range should dispel “range anxiety”.

        • Adam W

          I agree the Leaf is a brillant car, as well as looking great both inside and out. The problem here in NZ is not just the price but the expensive adapator changing station that is required.
          You need to be able to drive somewhere and just plug in like you can in the UK to make it a viable choice for a car .

          Does any know why the Leaf needs this but the Volt does not???

          • The other great problem is battery reliability, at this stage that is highly uncertain.

            As I have observed repeatedly here; outside of a major breakthrough in the weight to energy storage ratio and the life length of batteries EVs will only really contribute meaningfully to the problem with very light devices. Half a tonne and below looks right, so scooters and bikes, but not cars really except where capital cost and replacement cost don’t matter. Rich people and possibly taxis?

          • MFD

            It should only be the 3 phase charge connection that costs significantly more. The Leaf has a greater battery capacity than the Volt but the base option for both is single phase. I registered interest in the Leaf some time back but Nissan NZ haven’t been in contact. They seem disinterested in promoting it. I guess time will see greater variety and competition.

          • Time will improve price and options but remember economic trends are trumped by the laws of thermodynamics. Nature doesn’t respond to price signals! Only human behaviour.

          • MFD

            Battery reliabilty and resale value are unknowns and will be for a while. Nissan offer (IIRC) a 100,000 km warranty on the Leaf battery so that goes some way to addressing the former. The latter is problematic. Historically depreciation on new cars is horrific. I can see a battery electric being somewhat more durable that the average car so depreciation may not be as much, alternatively the technology may improve rapidly rendering them obsolescent quickly.

          • MFD

            Thermodynamics? I think not. Fluid mechanics, physics and electro-chemistry.

          • Never heard of the Laws of Thermodynamics? Oh dear.

  • I wonder how much is attributable to technology. Online shopping, working from home etc.

    • obi

      My gut feeling is some, but not a lot. Online shopping, home working, and teleconferencing are growing and I think they will continue to grow, but I think they’re still a niche activity. If they are a factor, then this will eventually impact the growth of public transport. And possibly the need for CBD office space.

  • JohnP

    Hi all,
    Fuel prices were the major factor in the decline of vehicles registered, traffic etc since 2005. Petrol prices went from around $1.10 a litre in 2003 to $1.60 in 2006 (nominal prices), and have of course kept rising since then. Prices are likely to keep slowly increasing into the future – they certainly won’t be dropping much – and this will keep encouraging people to switch to public transport.

  • SteveC

    the other issue with batteries is the significant embedded energy cost and the reliance on scarce and sometimes toxic minerals such as nickel, lithium and cadmium, also as NZ’s “low hanging” hydro schemes have been built, we’re talking about relocating emissions, not reducing them

    a VW diesel is cleaner in life cycle costs than a Prius

    • MFD

      What is the embedded energy cost in a Leaf battery? What are the “toxic minerals” in a Leaf battery? How is the Prius relevant; it’s not an electric vehicle.

    • Steve you are wrong about relocating emission re generation. This is NZ remember renewables are around 80% of generation and growing (esp. wind and geo), you are lazily importing arguments from elsewhere. Electricity use is dropping to flatlining (don’t buy those shares!) and good chance we may even have Manapouri’s output to use too. Then there is the huge capacity for micro generation, esp. PV… So electricity generation is not really a problem nor an environmental negative. Capital cost and battery replacement still is though. And embodied energy is high in every new car.

      Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen so I wouldn’t be trying to make great claims for that technology.

      • SteveC

        Patrick, I agree that renewables are growing, but are they growing fast enough to meet the demand of a switch to electric vehicles? Consider the battles to get wind farms consented, they really bring out the nimbys.

        my comment about diesels was specifically related to life cycle costs, but their greenhouse emissions are lower than petrol

        MFD, the relevance of a Prius is that as a petrol/electirc hybrid, until recharging points are widely available, the utility of pure battery cars are limited

        PT, walk and cycle are really the best options

        • There are a whole heap of generating projects consented and ready to go in NZ, including a lot of wind farms, what is preventing them being built is not nimbys but the demand outlook which is shrinking. Oh and of course our silly attempt to make a market out of a strategic monopoly. What overpaid CEO of a possibly soon to be half pie privatised SOE would choose to add supply to this market? Too attached to their coming bonus’ I’m sure.

          We’re resetting remember, no more certain rise in demand…. Electron supply is not a problem, like I said. Also like I said I wouldn’t bet on those powercos to give you a certain return unless they are fire sale priced… Which I guess is not unlikely as all reason went from this scheme long ago.

    • Matt

      Relocating emissions out of urban environments would actually be a good thing. In urban environments diesel exhausts, petrol exhausts, 2 stroke exhausts, cigarette smoke and woodsmoke all should be minimised. And concentrated relocated emissions (ie at a powerstation) can be economically scrubbed, which they can’t be at thousands of point sources.

      Plus as other’s say NZ is 80% renewable and PVs on roofs will work in NZ better than they do in Germany where they have taken them up.

      • Bryce P

        I’m with you on this Matt. I cannot see why the govt has not taken a more proactive approach in promoting PV. After all, I can’t imagine that we get any less sun than Germany.

        • Because Germany is trying to solve a problem that does not exist in NZ,

          Germany has a target to raise renewable energy to 35% of total by 2020, whereas in NZ renewables are over 70%, and will rise further next year as a couple of large Geo plants come on stream, (and Huntly closes one unit in 2013 and another in 2014)

          Unit costs for power in Germany are ~40c NZD/unit compared to 25-30c here,

          Also the feed in tariffs are continuing to be cut by the government from 43 Euro cents in 09 to less that 20 cts now.

          • Matt

            The uptake of PV in South Australia has been so widespread that the state has gone from virtually nothing to 26% renewables (with some windfarms helping as well) but it’s getting fed into the grid during the daylight hours, i.e when demand is strongest, and the wholesale prices during the day, where the companies traditionally have made most of their revenue, have gone down). i.e. PV adoption by some has lowered the prices for everyone. PV could find a niche in NZ too, since its costs have dropped heaps.

          • Bryce P

            Or maybe because mass install of pv by the public may devalue their power companies? :-)

          • Matt, aren’t you are gilding the PV lily just bit in terms of SA,??

            The windfarms are 24% of your 26%,
            It is estimated that the total domestic PV installed is 267MW, or just over 5% of state wide nameplate capacity and that generation was around 2.4% or the State’s electricity..
            .
            http://www.aemo.com.au/en/Gas/Planning/South-Australian-Advisory-Functions/~/media/Files/Other/planning/2012_South_Australian_Electricity_Report.pdf.ashx

            You say PV has lowered prices, but there is a huge outcry over the cost of electricity now being the 3rd highest in the developed world
            http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/power-prices-to-be-highest-in-the-world/story-e6frea83-1226305741810

          • Matt

            Wow I didn’t know so much wind has been built back home. My friends and family were talking about having ridiculously small bills since they installed PV cells. $14 for a winter quarter in the Adelaide Hills. The price has gone up heaps since I paid my last bill about 4 years ago. It was around 16 c/kwh then. And now its 28c/kwh. As for PV being small, it is all when the price is the highest and demand strongest, during the day, and it probably means one less high demand power station. BUt yeah I haven’t checked all the figures, and yeah it is all bloody complicated. I think my friends were selling power to the grid at 44c kwh (because of some subsidies, which of course cost everyone else) and buying it at 28c/kwh. I also think the overnight tariffs are heaps less than 28c kw/hr, but I haven’t asked my mum to send me her power bill, because she’d probably think that strange.

            Having PV providing income, in conjunction with frugality would give me more control over my bill. Educating girlfriends about kwhs and turning the bloody lights out is just way too hard.

        • TheBigWheel

          Governments have far less control over a decentralised privately owned and operated population of PV cells (or other distributed generation, grid-connected or not) than they do over a large generator, whether it is an SoE or a (regulated) commercial business. So we can’t expect them to be overly supportive. As greenwelly says, Germany has a target (which is driven by energy security concerns, as well as CO2 reduction and exiting nuclear power).. NZ does too, but not to the same extent.

          Anyway this is all a very interesting but a bit off-topic.

          I’m dismayed to read the comments from Brewer and O’Connor in today’s East & Bays Courier.. http://eastandbayscourier.realviewdigital.com/#folio=2 they seem to have not noticed the “Great Reset” yet they are surely young enough to see the generational trends away from private cars (ICE or not) and towards PT..

          Honestly, “for every $ invested in the CRL we get 40 c back” …eh?! Where did that figure come from? has O’Connor been reading the RoNS BCRs by mistake? And how exactly can anyone living in Mission Bay make the claim “the average ratepayer like me”?!

      • MFD

        To a large extent we have benefited (or will benefit) from the subsidy programmes in Germany, Spain and Japan without spending anything. They have primed a manufacturing industry of a scale that have driven prices down to the point where the PV modules are essentially a commodity. By the container load they can be had for as little as USD 0.60 per watt. Ten years ago we thought we were doing well with a manufacturing cost of USD 2.50 per watt ex factory in the US. That company is no longer in business.

  • MFD

    Quite conversant with them, thanks. Explain, if you would, please, how the laws of thermodynamics are more relevant to the price of electric vehicles than those pertaining to electro-chemistry, fluid mechanics and physics? Perhaps you could calculate the Carnot efficiency of the electric motor?

    • Steve D

      There aren’t important thermodynamic limits to battery capacity, but there’s no reason to think batteries are going to get radically better now after more than a century of very gradual improvements. Meanwhile, overhead lines for trains and buses offer much higher efficiency and work just fine today, without adding as much extra weight to vehicles or needing a whole lot of toxic chemicals.

      • Yes agree. But that is a Thermodynamic argument. Tethered vehicle does not need to move the mass of its energy source; ie the battery. So weight to power ratio greatly improved. And range of course.

        • Steve D

          If I’m being specific about the branch of physics, I’d call that mechanics rather than thermodynamics. But who cares – it’s just arguing about names, which is best left to undergraduate philosophy students.

        • MFD

          The primary advantages of electric vehicles vs ICE vehicles derives from the fact that they do NOT depend on a thermodynamic process, the efficiency of which is limited by the temperature extremes over which they operate. It’s easy to dismiss differences between mechanics and thermodynamics as semantics if you are not versed in them. I agree that an electric vehicle that derives power externally has huge advantages but for many it is just not an option; the comparison that will be made is ICE car or electric car.

          • Steve D


            for many it is just not an option; the comparison that will be made is ICE car or electric car

            Which is why the Campaign for Better Transport and the Auckland Transport Blog exist – to agitate to get people access to their city without needing to own, maintain and propel a self-contained tonne and a half of metal per person.

          • MFD

            If every PT option discussed in this blog were implemented there would still be many for whom PT is not an option. They do, however, live in Auckland (as defined by Auckland Council) and do want better transport. Some of these people are very productive (according to the criteria adopted by the CRL business case) and hence will be able to afford electric vehicles.

          • Steve D

            I’m sure some people will buy all sorts of things, expensive electric cars included. If it’s what you want, I’m sure you’ll be happy with that second-hand Nissan Leaf. I’m also sure there will still be plenty of people who choose cars over PT, as you say, because they live in remote areas, want to chauffer children to engagements spread over a large area, engage in a business that requires carrying a lot of stuff, or just because they’re car enthusiasts. Aeroplanes didn’t kill off passenger ships, email didn’t kill off letters, and movies didn’t kill off the theatre.

            That doesn’t mean that electric cars are going to reverse the overall Great Reset trends of less driving and more walking, cycling, public transport and staying at home. Whether or not oil prices or electricity prices go up, car driving is not going to get cheaper relative to public transport. Plus, there’s a snowball effect. People’s changing preferences will gradually flow through to government policy – you’ll need to start paying to park and drive that Nissan Leaf. As the number of car users drops, road space will get re-allocated in favour of PT, walking and cycling; speed limits and auto-privilege will reduce; and parking spaces will start to disappear as they stop paying their way. It’s not just that PT will get better – things will get less and less convenient in a car, as well.

          • MFD

            You didn’t read what I wrote: PT is NOT an option, quite literally. There is none and there won’t be for decades if at all. It seems that you assume that proponents of electric cars are anti PT. That would be a false assumption but it seems that binary thinking is very much in vogue in this blog.

          • Steve D

            You may have missed the part where I said “there will still be plenty of people who choose cars over PT”, which is a fairly easy choice if there is no PT available to you. But there’s a large number of people, probably a majority of Aucklanders, who currently do not have that choice but could. That trend we’re seeing and which I hope continues means that people are less likely to drive, not that every person stops entirely, Mr. Binary Thinking.

  • Subset/ superset. Fluid mech. etc also conform to Laws of T.

  • On the subject of must reads here’s a fresh, sharp, and short unpacking of the left/right urban/suburban divide from the clearly brilliant Jarrett Walker:
    http://www.humantransit.org/2012/11/quick-election-notes.html

  • Comment Box

    From memory the GFC started to kick in during 2007, looking at that graph 2007 is also when the traffic volumes dived.
    Something else we saw however was in 2008 the iphone came to NZ, this means that your average 20-30 year old has some $2k less a year than they did before which along with the general increased in cost of living these days has brought about a change to peoples travel patterns.

  • Comment Box

    What I should add in here is that it was around 2007 when the likes of the Northern busway kicked in along with a whole selection of other bus measures on the Northshore that continued to be rolled out to this day.
    It would be good to compare the increase in bus travel on the Northshore with the decline in harbour crossings.

  • C Box, welcome aboard. You only need search this very site as we have most such issues covered:
    http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/10/23/is-nzta-cooking-the-books-on-a-5-billion-project/

    • Comment Box

      Looking at the harbour bridge it has been helped a great deal by the improved public transport provision, and potentially it could get to a point where they could justify converting a peak time lane for buses only or even extending the busway over the bridge.

      Looking further outside of the city near the SH1 SH22 junction however I see that traffic volumes have not reduced to the same extent and are generally still sitting around the 2006 peak values. Of interest though is that the heavy vehicle percentage has gone up from just over 8% to near 12%.

      • Still at 2006 levels! So six years of no growth. Well considering NZTA plan for constant growth in their economic justifications for multi billion dollar spending on State Highways that flatlining is a shock for their systems.

        Oh and another thing. A bus is a heavy vehicle in their math. Technically accurate, but it would be useful to have a metric where a rise in Transit vehicles were not being co-opted to argue for more need for general traffic lanes.

        • Comment Box

          Well take into account that we have had a GFC, house prices are through the roof, cost of living has gone up and pay rates for everyone under executive level have been reasonably flat one can only expect that long distance travel has declined. It would be rather pessimistic to assume that is the way we will live the rest of our lives however. What I pointed out that was the heavy vehicle traffic seems to have continued to rise which does actually give merit so some of their plans.

          • Not at all. The vast proportion of road users are not heavy vehicles, so that change is not that significant.

            But also you seem to be arguing that any moment now the conditions of pre 2005 will return to road use. Got any evidence for that or is it just faith? You are certain that oil will become cheap again? That the generation that is showing every sign of not much liking driving will ditch their smart phones and become petrol heads like its 1969 all over again? That the big driving generation, the baby boomers, are going to start getting younger again and go back to driving like they did before retirement?

            There is more evidence that this is, indeed, a reset; a change in the normal rather than a pause.
            Very unwise to blow money on overbuilding for driving when all the growth is in the Transit sector, don’t you think?

          • Comment Box

            Woo take it easy, all I was saying is that I don’t think the trend of the past few years for the harbour bridge is going to happen to all roads on an eternal basis, if that were the case come 2020 we would only be expecting about 3 cars a day to drive over the bridge each day.

            As for the heavy vehicle growth, going from 8% to 12% over 4 years is a massive change. If we continue to see that around the country routes like the Holiday Highway would actually start to make sense and would be more suitably named the heavy vehicle highway.

            I can’t say I am overly familiar with any projects related to overbuilding for driving so I can’t really comment on that.

          • The Bridge is a particular case indeed because there are few other places that have a nearly, ie not over the bridge itself, RTN on the same route nor such a lack of alternatives [ferries excepted]. Yet the data for all State Highways are flat to falling too. So it isn’t isolated to that section of State Highway One but rather is a nationwide trend. And of course an international trend, in the developed world at least. Here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/10/23/our-driving-trends-arent-unique/
            And http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/10/02/the-economist-on-peak-car/

            We have been focussing on the Harbour Bridge for two reasons. One to counter the promotion by the NZTA and others of the idea of an urgent ‘need’ for an additional road crossing but also because of the example it offers of the economic advantages of investing in Transit infrastructure over constantly trying to deal with congestion by building more roads. The significantly lower investment in the Northern Busway has at the very least delayed the case for the much much greater cost of an additional Harbour Crossing.

            Over building? Providing a wasteful quantity of road space and a lack of any real alternatives. What we do here, a direct result of our mono-modal imbalanced transport practices. Multilane highways often only used to anything like capacity twice a day.

          • Comment Box

            Of course a heavy rail line is only used near capacity twice a day as well, and in some cases never near capacity. But that’s besides the point, it certainly does seem to be the case that the number of people choosing to commute by car is on the decline which is rather good for two reasons. First we have people commuting by PT, foot, bike or similar which is far more sustainable, but we also get the benefit that the reductions in congestion we have got from various projects on our motorways gets to last longer.

            Referring to those driving trends and extrapolated data, it just makes no sense that anything other would happen then that it would just keep going on. The only logical reason why it would reduce to any great degree would be if there was some war or virus that wiped out a large portion of the worlds population. If it were to remain flat whilst our population continued to increase it would imply that we are in some real financial trouble.

            I’d predict that come 2020 we will be back on an upwards march but that the graph will show just what an impact the GFC had and how it stalled the world for nearly a decade.

          • Comment Box – I agree with your approach and I think it is a fatal flaw in the arguments for PT in Auckland.

            Too often it is presented as a binary choice. Of course it isnt. Even in the most extreme cycling/PT developed world city of Copenhagen, around 30% of commuters still drive to work. As you say, there will always be people who want/need to drive their car.

            What we need to do is even up the playing field. I am sure you will agree that the last 60 years have seen NZ/Auckland invest in just one mode to the detriment of our cities.

            If we can get cycling/PT in Auckland to 20% in the next 20 years, that will represent a massive achievement. I really think we need to get that message out there and allay the paranoid fears of Aucklanders that they will somehow be ripped out of there cars and forced onto the poor PT infrastructure most Aucklanders grew up with.

            This is particularly important to nurse the massively auto-dependent Baby Boomers oput of their cars. I dont really think we need to convince the majority of people under 40 that there needs to be more PT/cycling infrastructure. Most of that generation are either born overseas or have lived overseas and know how much better a shared mode city can be.

            Cars will be with us for a long time and that is fine with me. We just need to minimise their destructive impact on the city.

          • Comment Box

            I agree with you their goosoid, we have seen some fantastic work done for PT here in Auckland over the past decade and I hope to see it continuing for quite a few more decades. The motorway network as it is I think is very good and once this western ring route is done they should be able to hold off doing anything else for another 10 years if not longer. I suspect quite a lot of my future work will be working on PT packages around the city rather than motorways.

          • I don’t think anyone disagrees with that goosoid. It isn’t about forcing people out of their cars but improving the attractiveness of PT and other alternatives that is key. The only concern I have is we seem to have put these things at the bottom of the list for a long time i.e. we’ll do that when we finish the roads, but there is always another project that comes up and is seen as more important but of course the roads are never finished. In the mean time every extra roading project makes it that much harder to get the PT projects done as it keeps reinforcing the car as the only option culture that we have created.

            It would be wonderful if we could have some kind of simulation to see how the city would have turned out if we had more balanced transport spending.

          • What evidence is there for your prediction on 2020 traffic volumes rising like they did last century Mr Box? Can’t see any. Those rises look tied to a set of circumstances that are fading fast. Lets deal with the facts in front of us as well of thinking about how we can actively shape a more properous and enjoyable city to live, work, and play in. I know the prospect of things being different can scare people but really the only constant in life is change, so we ought to man-up and expect it.

            Anyway no policy should be based on unsupported hunches.

          • Comment Box

            The evidence I have Mr Reynolds is the very graph that was posted and stimulated this debate. If we look at the historic trend we see that traffic volumes have gone up as population has gone up. If we then lay across that graph any significant events that have shaped the world and transport in Auckland you will see we have quite a few of them featuring at exactly the same time as we have seen the traffic volumes drop.

            As we all should know, the impact of the GFC is far from over and people don’t have large sums of cash to be spending on holidays to the beach, at the same time however we have seen air travel becoming cheaper meaning that people can fly to Wellington for cheaper than they can drive to Hamilton. Add to that we have seen massive improvements to Auckland’s public transport network along with T2 and T3 lanes being rolled out leading to a large reduction in single occupant commuters. We also have the likes of the internet which has resulted in a reduced need to leave home.

            All these things have brought about a change in peoples lifestyles but it would be just wrong to assume we are all going to continue to have small amounts of money to spend, stay at home for ever increasing amounts of time and not venture outside of the city limits.

          • But if traffic doesn’t start increasing again until 2020, then why build for that growth now, instead why not build for what has been growing?

            Also on a per capita basis, traffic has been falling for 14 years as shown by our resident economist Stu http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/04/02/14-year-old-newsflash-kiwi-economy-waves-good-bye-to-state-highways/

          • Matthew

            To selectively quote you Mr C. Box – “The evidence I have …” ” it would be just wrong to assume we are all going to continue to have small amounts of money to spend, stay at home for ever increasing amounts of time and not venture outside of the city limits.”.

            Actually we, and I suspect you, have very little evidence that the trend of the last 5 years is going to suddenly reverse. Yes we are worse off than 4 years ago (something to do with those blue billboards which have failed us completely). We have less disposable income, petrol costs more, wages haven’t grown, unemployment is up. The GST was raised, which was the nail in the coffin for domestic driving holidays. Kids are driving less, and delaying when they get their licenses. Yes some people are working from home. A night at the cinema, and a visit to a bookshop are more and more things of the past.

            So yes things are probably going to get better after the next election (based on my guess that the next government isn’t going to be as crap as this government), but we’ll still be poorer than we were in 2007 and will be for a number of years to come, petrol cost isn’t going down in any big way. I can’t see them dropping the GST. And I can’t see kids buying their first cars at 16 or 17 again any time soon.

            So on what basis do you make such confident predictions that the current trends are going to reverse?

          • Comment Box

            But they are building for what has been growing, they are rolling out the fibreoptics for faster internet, building bigger movie theaters, producing more smart phones, rolling out 3G and 4G services, expanding airports, building more trendy bars, building more high quality roads for improved freight movement, expanding airports, and yes expanding the PT network. What they haven’t been doing however is building more houses.

            Also your 14 year graph was for km vs GDP, not km per capita. Given our trucks have been getting bigger and bigger over the years it’s logical that they need to drive less distance to move the same amount of freight which would play a large part in the results of that graph.

          • Comment Box

            I don’t think there ever was a time when most kids got their first car at the age of 16 or 17, I grew up in one of the most car crazy parts of the country and even then most people I know including myself didn’t get our own first car until we had finished uni and were at work.

            My basis and confidence behind my predictions though are simply based on the graph we have of the past 40 years, if you have a long historic trend and then the trend changes for an obvious reason temporary reason it makes no sense to assume that the temporary reason will remain and indeed get stronger for the rest of time.

            For instance if you were checking the temperature of a national park and then a volcano went off, you wouldn’t assume that from that point on temperature is going to increase by 1000′C each day for the rest of time.

            In regards to fuel price, If you had a modern car today you could drive just as far on $20 of gas as you could have in a modern car 20 years ago. Although the price of fuel is double what is was back in 2000, cars can drive about 50% further and you likely get paid twice as much.

          • Matthew

            Those behind the “Great Reset” would say it’s not temporary. I guess we will see if the fundamentals have really changed with real data in the upcoming years, but I don’t think you’ve made a case, and I certainly wouldn’t spend $12Billion on duplicating roads just because someone had a bit of a hunch or a bit of an inkling.The future should be properly modelled before committing huge amounts of public funds.

            First car at 16, 1989. Worked after school in a supermarket to pay for it. For me it was to take me places I could go tramping.

          • Comment Box

            It appears to be more than an inkling or a bit of a hunch, you have 40 years of data which suggest solid growth which has then had a massive drop at the same time as the GFC, the few years after that are too unstable to generate a meaningful trend.

            These days I don’t think anyone working at a supermarket at the age of 16 could afford a car on their own without working insane hours, not with the other significant expenses in their life such as their iPhone and its data plan.

            I can’t really comment too much on the $12 Billion as it involves a number of projects I know next to nothing about, it certainly isn’t all related to spending on roads in the Auckland for commuters.,

        • Bryce P

          Interesting fact there Patrick about bus volumes not being split out in their stats. It must be possible though using AT data and NZTA volumes?

          • I doubt it is significant anywhere other than the Harbour Bridge though as of course motorways are largely useless for buses as that’s where the people ain’t. The Bridge is unique, I think, in that respect. Can you think of anywhere else?

          • Comment Box

            In the coming years you should start to see SH16 from Waterview onwards getting larger bus volumes running along it as well as SH18. Both of those routes are meant to have long distance express services going on them.

            however SH16 faces one large issue in that the buses have to get back onto the local road network about 5km out from the city. And from what I understand AT does not have any plans to improve that local road link for buses above exiting to any great extent in the near future.

          • Great North rd is a fine bus route, better priority would be good, but that’s true of the pretty much all the city. Cars on the motorway, buses in the community; that’s right. But NW of PT Chev they need a true ROW, like on the Shore. Sorted.

          • Comment Box

            Why, if all the western buses can happily make their way down Great North Road with its various at grade intersections and part time bus lanes, would they suddenly need their own right of way on the motorway which is grade separated, operates at 100km/h and provides buses with their own lane?

            That makes no sense at all. if anything the closer they get to the city they more ROW their route needs to be.

          • No problem if they did have their own lane on the NW but they don’t; have you looked, what happens at the intersections? They have dimwit traffic engineers’ idea of a transit lane.

            In this case the GNR is the least congested part of the route and there are destinations to visit and passengers to pick up. All Transit design involves a balance between speed [ROW, direct route, no stopping] and service [coverage, more stopping]. For the NW route the best balance, certainly to begin with, is a busway with stations a la the Northern Busway from Pt C west and dedicated buslanes on the GNR. The real problem is in the city itself… we are just getting to too many buses for that to be ideal. But clever management of that will help until we can get rational policy from gov about what a real city needs.

            Will help a great deal when some of the dinosaurs with their heads still in the 20 century at the MoT, NZTA, and AT retire….

          • Riggles/Comment Box (yes I know it is you) – I see buses being retained along Gt North Rd as part of an interim step. First get the busway to Gt North Rd. Then when more funding is available it might be able to be extended alongside the motorway to the St Lukes Interchange (if there is any room left). If we need to then extend it further then we can but we are probably talking a long way in the future but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to keep improving the priority further out. Also worth pointing out that the northern busway has its worst bus priority at the city end.

          • Comment Box

            Well certainly I would not expect the existing situation to be all that great as the two main ramps at Te Atatu and Lincoln Road are rather over capacity so its rather hard for a bus to get through. As part of the upgrade these ramps should be improved and if done right will have the bus lanes extended right up to the intersection and then onto the local road bus lanes. It was a shame that nobody really drove for getting any good quality bus facilities at the interchange over the past 5 years but at least they are looking into it now.

          • Comment Box

            haha yes it is I, the Riggler. With any luck I wont get banned and have my IP blocked here because I like to own a car and look at the complete picture.

          • haha indeed; ‘the complete picture’ from behind the wheel.

          • Comment Box

            Whats with the personal attacks, I don’t even drive the bus I take to work each day.

          • Riggles, you keep getting banned for trolling and antisocial behaviour, not for owning a car. Don’t troll and keep it friendly then!

          • Comment Box

            I haven’t trolled of been abusive for some 2 or 3 years now, it’s just that I get attacked for not following the “Party Line” as John-ston quite rightly puts it. Any this is not the place to discuss that, we are talking transport here.

  • Luke C

    I’ll agree with Comment Box would be silly to make buses crawl down Great North Road after zooming along a busway. Busway should extend to Newton Road, and exit Motorway there. Will speed things up for a majority of users, and if NW busway is successful the buses will start to crowd GN Road somewhat. GN Road is a main redevelopment corridor for medium density housing, so needs bus capacity kept for local traffic for this to work, and streetscape does not want to be filled with buses every minute.

    • Bryce P

      Unless of course your destination is on that route. Unitec as a prime example. If you were to extend the busway right into town then there will need to be a couple of additional interchanges built that I can see. In the meantime, I think GNR is a reasonable alternative.

      • Luke C

        I think in that case a small minority of the passengers would have destinations along Great North Road short of Newton. Anyway a bus interchange would be built at Pt Chev so people could transfer to local buses, or walk to Unitec. But then agree with other points about staging, can leave this bit until later.

        • At peak time I would agree, but a busway really needs to stack up on an all-day bi direction pattern to be worthwhile. Otherwise you might as well just run express buses on shoulder lanes that don’t stop until their within spitting distance of Queen St.

          There are some potentially large all-day demand generators there, Unitec is the big one, tertiary campuses are like gold for regular patronage. You also have the zoo, Western Springs park and Motat in close sucession, especially important for weekend travel. Then the section of GNR from Grey Lynn to K Rd is almost entirely commercial and retail, so it’s bound to create more trips that your average suburban arterial.

    • Why would that be silly? It’s exactly the scenario we have on the Northern Busway. Dedicated busway from Constellation to Akoranga, then the buses join general traffic on the motorway, then follow surface streets into town.

      I could see something very similar on the Northwestern, busway from say Westgate to Te Atatu, motorway shoulder Te Atatu to Waterview, then bus lanes into the city. So yeah it would be about three times as much street running as the Northern, but so what?Bus traffic isn’t exactly crawling along GNR, they have bus lanes and move pretty quickly.

      Bryce makes a good point about stops at the likes of Pt Chev, Unitec, Grey Lynn. An express busway would skip all that, although a full one with stations at the the right place wouldn’t.

      At the end of the day it’s a case of providing priority where it has effect and can be done affordably. Would a full busway to the City Centre be ideal, yes, and we might get there eventually after significant investment. But would a partial busway utilising bus lanes on the inner section provide a far superior trip to the status quo, well yes to that too.

      They can build the outer part first, then if bus traffic and slow trip times are a big issue it could be subsequently extended further in.

      • Comment Box

        The difference for the northern busway is that it heads down the busway free and easy, then it gets onto a section of motorway that flows free and easy, and then travels about 100m on the local road network until it gets to the area were large numbers of people will want to start getting off the bus.

        In the north western example you have 5km of local roads until the large number of people want to get off the bus.

        What would be ideal would be if from Te Atatu to the city the buses could drive in the middle two lanes of the motorway and then have their own ramps to get off at key points to get to places like Grey Lynn, Kingsland and Eden Terrace. Sadly the motorway designation between Great North Road and Bond Street is pretty much exhausted and so there is little option to have an off-line busway along that route anymore.

        • Yes, like I said the street-running section on buslanes would be around three times as long and yes it wouldn’t have the same demands as Fanshawe St, but that isn’t the end of the world. Such a busway would work just fine without an extension right to town, although it sure would be even better with it.

          Another thing to consider is that the catchment of a NW busway won’t be nearly as large as the northern one, even once the proposed unitary plan greenfields expansions take place. We’re looking at perhaps a third the potential passengers, so arguably we could only justify a third of the capital expenditure. I doubt we’d see quite a Northern Busway standard facility along SH16, but I’m not sure if we quite need that level either (especially at the stations, the Northern once are pretty Rolls Royce, on the Northwestern they might all look like Sunnynook rather than Akoranga).

        • Comment Box

          Ah, 100m x 3 does not equate to 5km. People coming in from the west have a massive section of on-street travel to do. If you came from the north shore you could happily get off on Fanshawe St and walk the rest of the way in 30mins, if you did that from Great North road you would be looking at a 2 hour walk.

          But yes if we do look at the catchment then a busway at the western extent seems even more nonsensical, if it has a much smaller catchment and has a free running motorway to run along why would it need its own ROW, the time saving may very well only be in the range of 30s and could very well take longer due to the driving around at the new off-line stations. The best thing to do for now would be to ensure the buses can get on and off the motorway shoulders without getting disrupted by general traffic, the cost of which would be hardly anything.

          • Actually the catchment is going to probably end up bigger than the north shore is now, the north west is expected to incease by about 80,000 dwellings over the next 30 years bringing the total to around 120k dwellings. By comparison the entire north shore only had 72k at the last census.

            This graph comes from the council

          • The street running section along Fanshawe, Sturdee and Customs St is 1.6km, not 100m.

            There are two main reason to create a NW busway, the first is to allow for simple and quick connections between the core route and the feeder route (i.e. to build stations), then second is to avoid sending a large volume of buses through the motorway interchanges. In the latter case, without an offline busway you either need buses to exit at each ramp, traverse the surface level of the interchange then join again on the opposing ramp, or you need buses to merge from the shoulder into the general lane across the exit ramp then do the reverse on the other side. That slows down buses and it slows down everyone else too. At a certain level it’s best just to take the buses out of the equation.

          • Comment Box

            That certainly is an issue when you are making bus stations at interchanges, you can easily provide a good quality level of service for one travel in one direction however it starts to get more problematic provided for the other direction if it’s traveling on the other side of the motorway.

            I suspect that given west Auckland has a railway that even if it has a greater population the busway would not nearly get the same level of patronage, this would not only be due to the railway but also that the motorway is to the north and out of the way of the desire line of travel for most of the population. If it were not for the fact it was not so much faster than the local roads a lot of cars users would probably not use it either.

          • Luke C

            thats why I worry if the North Western busway is at least not future proofed in the mammoth interchange that will be built at Waterview/Great North Road then a NW busway is a no-go. It doesnt need to be a full offline busway like the Northern, a mix of shoulder running, and dedicated lanes around interchanges would do fine (like at Onewa Road/Northern interchange). However those lanes will be very expensive to add in a decade once upgrades have been done.
            Might end up stuck with having shoulder lanes, and lights to get off the ramp for general traffic that turn red when bus is approaching. Not an ideal situtation at all, but may have to work with what we’ve got.
            Not sure of the point of having a proper busway north of Lincoln Road, no off/on ramps so shoulder running would be fine. In a related note is a big park and ride planned at Westgate. Otherwise would be better for services to leave motorway at Lincoln and go to Westgate via triangle road to actually give them a bit of catchment while Westgate is undeveloped.

      • Luke C

        I was more thinking a long term vision, so yeh fine with the idea of building the North-Western busway in bits, and overall agree with what you say.
        Just like for the Northern busway the current configuration works, however over the next decade would like to see it expanded north to Albany and south over Harbour Bridge as volumes grow.
        As for Pt CHev, Unitec, Grey Lynn etc is possible to build stations, but detouring buses to serve these places runs against the network idea of making a small number of people transfer to give a higher standard of service to the majority of potential users.

      • Comment Box

        From what I have heard they do have plans for a western busway, just more in a 30 year time from rather than right now.

        • I would say a lot sooner than 30 years now. From what I understand the Auckland plan and the RPTP have changed things a bit, the focus on a connective network built around core FTN bus routes requires superior interchange provision in a way that the old concepts of express buses on the motorway can’t do terribly well.

Leave a Reply