Well someone managed to leak a copy of the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) to the Herald as Brian Rudman has an article this morning covering what are likely to be many of the key outcomes from the study. First a brief recap about what the CCFAS is and why it came about. Last year the government had its agencies complete a dodgy review on the CRL business case as a way to try and knee cap the project although they let the council continue to at least protect the route. As part of their official response they suggested that the case for the CRL could be improved by:
- Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur
- Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives
- Begin implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors to capitalise on the current upgrade and electrification.
- Implement additional park and ride sites and bus feeder services to drive further increases in public transport demand
It is the second of those points that lead to the CCFAS and is a study that has involved not only Auckland Council and Auckland Transport but various government agencies as well. My understanding is that the final version of the report is going to be sent to the government within the next few weeks. We learnt just over a month ago that work on the CCFAS has involved quite a bit of modelling and even involved work to update the transport models to better deal with public transport. We also leant that the study had narrowed down the range of possible options to just three which were the same three in the initial business case of the CRL, a bus tunnel or surface busways.
So on to the report in the herald this morning. In a funny way it seems like the CRL is the best option for cars although that shouldn’t surprise, after all we only got the fabulous New Lynn station as a way of getting those pesky trains out of the way otherwise the poor car drivers would have suffered horrendous congestion. Brian writes:
Rush-hour traffic in central Auckland will slow to walking pace in 10 years if the central city rail tunnel isn’t built, a confidential report warns.
The draft report by transport engineers Sinclair Knight Merz puts further pressure on the Government to back the project.
By 2021, most bus networks near and in the city centre will be at capacity or overloaded in terms of what can be provided on existing roads, the report says.
Private motor vehicle speeds will have halved from 16km/h in the morning peak to 8km/h.
The rail network will have reached the maximum number of services possible.
And by 2041, the bus network will be “significantly over capacity” and the average morning peak car speed in the city centre will be 5km/h.
Car journey times to the city centre from the west and south will increase by 30 to 50 per cent, adding an extra 30 minutes each way from the South Auckland growth area.
Later in the article it also says:
The draft also warns that by as early as 2021 growing congestion would “limit Auckland’s potential growth” by increasing travel times for city centre workers and reducing efficiency for freight and commercial road users using the port, moving around the city centre, or passing through.
The growing congestion would also push employment out of the centre, reducing productivity and resulting in a less competitive economy.
By 2041, the report said, traffic jams would be keeping 15,200 employees and students out of the city centre and would reduce speeds for commuter, freight and commercial vehicles by 75 per cent.
Several city streets were carrying 80 to 100 buses an hour, resulting in “unstable flow and queuing”.
Ultimately, main bus routes could have be be two-laned in both directions.
The report concluded underground rail was the only option with any capacity after 2041.
That seems like a pretty apocalyptic view if we don’t build the CRL but what about the alternatives:
A bus tunnel was not practical because too much land would have to be taken for it, it would reach its limits between 2025 and 2030 and it would cost up to $2.34 billion.
It would have a return of 28c to 36c for every dollar spent on it.
A surface bus solution was cheaper at $1.13 billion with a 34c to 50c return but had similar short-comings to the bus tunnel solution.
The report’s 78c estimate of the rail tunnel’s return was lower than last year’s joint report by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport which predicted a return of $1.10 to $2.30 on every dollar invested.
Now from what I have heard, the economic analysis was only focused around being used to compare the options against each other and as such may not be a full economic analysis used to justify the project. Even so helps to highlight some of the things that are so inherently wrong with how we currently do the analysis. A project that is suggested to be the only thing that will keep traffic moving and growth happening still appears to get a poor result. My guess this is still due to PT projects not being treated equally in the economic analysis criteria with things like PT users time not being considered as important as that of a driver.
As Rudman also points out in his opinion piece on the report, it is time we just go on with it and built the thing.