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2012: A year in review

Well as another year draws to a end it can be interesting to review what went on and to start with

Blog:

Well we started the year with the news that this sites founder was having to give up blogging due to the fact he got a job at the council. This prompted myself and my fellow bloggers to have to step up to help fill the void. Even shared between us, its amazing how much effort it takes at times to keep things going which highlights just how hard he worked to keep this going. The effort though seems to have been rewarded though with huge increases in the number of visitors and page views. I remember earlier this year I/we would get excited if we had over 3,000 page views a day yet now we regularly get over 5,000 and have recently started getting over 6,000. The graph below shows our monthly page views.

Nov 2012 Views

When it comes to transport, to me 2012 has been a year where not a lot new has happened but that has mainly be a continuation of the same projects that we have had going on for a few years now. We are effectively in a bit of a transition year waiting for a whole host of projects to be completed. Here is what went on with some of the big things:

Electrification:

Infrastructure

Wires are starting to become a familiar sight along increasingly large parts of the network and by the end of this years Christmas shutdown around 60% of the network is expected to have been completed. A few months ago the wires along the Onehunga branch line became the first section to be fully powered up. Here is where wires the were installed up to the 19th of December.

Out at Wiri a new state of the art depot is being built to maintain the trains and in recent months those out south will have seen the framework for it going up.

Electric Trains

Those wires are of course being installed for our new electric trains (EMUs). This year saw a lot more details come out about them and in the middle of the year we had a mock up arrive in the country that was used to help refine the design and give us a good idea of what we can expect these trains to really look like. Construction has now started in Spain and the first of the 57 new trains is expected to be in  the country at the end of August 2013.

Outside 1

Recently we have also heard that the case is quite strong to carry on electrification to Pukekohe.

City Rail Link:

Despite recent setbacks with the CCFAS, the CRL project has taken some major steps forward this year as Auckland Transport have confirmed the exact route the tunnel will take along with the footprint needed. They have contacted affected property owners to start the consent process and while this will continue over the next year or so, it is a good step forward. We here at the blog still think AT has a long way to go to improve their marketing of the project though as there seems to be a huge amount of misinformation out there amongst the general public.

Integrated Ticketing:

If there is one topic more than any other that driven a huge amount of views and comments on the blog this year it has been integrated ticketing. In fact 6 of the 10 most read posts this year have been about the topic. It seems to have been one of those projects that went rogue with constantly missed deadlines and broken promises. A lot of the discussion centred around the role Snapper have played in the whole fiasco and things came to a head in August when AT dumped them from the system and decided to take over the roll out of the system to buses. Snapper has responded by claiming they will take AT to court to recover their costs but as of yet we haven’t heard anything else. In October the first part of the system finally went live with the introduction of the AT HOP card on the rail network.

Redesigned bus network:

This is one of the few new things that have happened this year and something that has been needed for a long time. As part of their draft Regional Public Transport Plan, AT have completely redesigned the bus network to make it into a complete network rather than a bunch of spaghetti thrown onto a map. Assuming it passes through the consultation phase we will start seeing the system rolled out next year. The proposal is to have a large number of core routes that run at high frequencies all day and it should help to revolutionise PT in the city.

New FTN Network

Roads of National Significance:

This is one group of projects where we would like to see a lot less haste on but sadly the opposite has been happening. Over the course of they year it seems more and more has come out about just how bad many of these projects are including discovering that at least one part of the Wellington project, the Kapiti Expressway has a BCR of just 0.2. Other projects like Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Wellsford also continue to be pushed hard despite also performing poorly economically and in the case of the former, it has recently been announced it will be built as a PPP. This massive motorway building programme has also caused the budgets to blow out a bit which has resulted in the Government needing to put up fuel taxes.

AMETI:

AMETI was born out of the failed Eastern Highway proposal of John Banks as a way to fix some of the transport problems in the South East. Initially it started life as a very road centric idea but over time it seems to have morphed into being at least a little more PT balanced and will now include a busway from Pamure to Botany. It had seemed to be a bit of a vapourware type project for a while but this year things have finally started construction and one of the first things we will see as a result of it is the start of the busway and a brand new Panmure station.

Patronage:

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year has been the continually stubborn patronage figures, especially on the rail network. All year results have been disappointing and it seems that AT has been pulled out every excuse in the book to try and explain it and they now say they are now investigating a series of measures to improve things and we should learn more about them in the Feb board meeting.

Auckland Rail Patronage to Nov 2012

Auckland Plan:

The last thing but certainly not the least is this year saw the council adopt the Auckland Plan which is the high level 30 year plan is intended to guide the city. This is generally a pretty great document and will really help to make the city more liveable.

Lastly, here are the 10 most viewed posts that were written in 2012

  1. Fried Snapper
  2. Auckland Density Illustrated I: The Inner City
  3. Does Auckland Transport now have a Logo?
  4. Would You Like Some Integrated Fares To Go With That New Bus Network
  5. Topping up your AT HOP card online
  6. In come the Lawyers
  7. Why I love the Netherlands
  8. EMU Update – with new pictures
  9. And the transport prizes go to … Queensland Rail and Symonds Street
  10. The Snapper/HOP debacle finally resolved?

Have I missed anything major?

CCFAS and the Additional Harbour Crossing

Along with making a fairly compelling case for the City Rail Link project, the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) also provides some interesting information on my least favourite transport project: the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC). For some unknown reason the AWHC made it into the “balanced reference case” (otherwise known as the “no CRL option”) for 2041, which means that its impact on the transport network made it into the modelling analysis. This provides us with some interesting information.

Firstly, a reminder of what the AWHC project proposes: which is effectively a new tunnel from the Esmonde Road interchange to the city with that new tunnel becoming SH1 and carrying the through traffic. This enables the existing harbour bridge to be dedicated to CBD-bound traffic or traffic using the Ponsonby (Curran & Shelly Beach Road) ramps. This is illustrated in the diagram below:My ultimate criticism of the project (besides it being unnecessary and hugely expensive) is that the only thing it really does is provide more capacity for cars driving to the CBD, when in fact all the plans and strategies for the CBD’s future are dependent upon reducing its car focus and making it a more people-focused place.

Looking at the 2021 modelling results (before AWHC) we can see that quite a bit of the motorway network is near capacity during the peak (orange) but relatively little is beyond capacity. This probably shows the impact of the Waterview Connection project easing some pressure on SH1. Take particular notice of the Harbour Bridge, which is shown in orange in both directions, showing that it’s between 80% and 100% of capacity during the peak – so fairly effectively utilised:2021-trafficNow let’s zip forwards to 2041 with the AWHC in place. You can see that the new crossing basically performs the same in 2041 as the existing harbour bridge does in 2021 – which effectively is to say that for through traffic there’s pretty much no benefit whatsoever from building AWHC. What does clearly change though is the level of utilisation of the existing harbour bri2041-trafficdge for inbound traffic, which is significantly decongested – making it easier for people to drive from the North Shore into the city. How much easier? Well there’s another chart illustrating that it’ll quite a bit faster:car-travel-comparisonCCFAS talks about this outcome as being very good, and an illustration of why the CRL is needed to ‘complement’ the AWHC project, but to be honest the diagram above is a disaster in terms of the kind of city centre we want. At the moment there is a very strong public transport mode share from the North Shore to the city centre at peak times (my estimates are probably around 60-70% of those trips are by PT), because the busway and the ferry system give public transport a comparative advantage over driving that’s relatively unusual throughout Auckland. The AWHC would destroy that advantage, make driving more attractive and as a result likely flood the city with cars while undermining our investment in the Northern Busway (and certainly killing any prospect for future North Shore rail).

So I ask again, why spend $5 billion to flood the city centre with cars?

Video: Cities in the Balance

Thanks to @ByTheMotorway for highlighting this video from the 1995 that was produced by the Federal Highway Administration in the US. They describe it as

Cities in the Balance: Creating the Transit- Friendly Environment
Contrasting modern suburban development with older, urban neighborhoods, this video depicts the relationship between transit and land use, and illustrates land use mitigations to make transit an attractive alternative to the automobile. Neo-traditional planning, transit- oriented design, and modest retrofits of existing suburbs are shown. The main thesis of the video is that our dependence on the automobile is the direct result of how we build our cities.

Watching this it is really frustrating to see just how even almost 20 years ago it was clear that the urban patterns of the previous 40 years were not ideal yet still today we keep building the same stuff.

Better PT needed for Boxing Day

Intricately tied in with the tradition of Christmas we also have the Boxing day sales. Its one of the few days a year where the vast carparks of shopping malls completely overflow due to the demand for shopping that cars often floods out onto the streets. People can spend just as much time getting to the mall and finding a car park as they can shopping itself. And we often get reports about it in media, like this from the NZ Herald:

Traffic was one of the biggest headaches – cars were nose-to-tail for more than 500m from Westfield’s St Lukes mall in Auckland, while the motorway was backed up a similar distance at the Sylvia Park exit.

When the Herald visited St Lukes, it took more than half an hour to get a park, and only after a man led the way to his soon-to-be-empty space.

Some shoppers reported circling the carpark for up to an hour before finding an empty spot.

I don’t know about you but sitting in heavy traffic for 500m and then circling and looking for a car park for 30 minutes to an hour is not my idea of fun, it’s also hardly the ‘freedom’ cars are promised to give us. Perhaps in future, this day more than any other is something that Auckland Transport should consider targeting to try and get people using public transport to do their shopping. This should especially be the case once we get our new PT network implemented with a lot more high frequency services giving much better coverage across the region.

Some people like to argue that shopping isn’t easy without a car but personally I think that is largely nonsense. Most shopping at malls consists items small enough to fit into bags and is perfectly easy to carry on a bus or train, my Christmas shopping for example fit into just a handful of bags and was easy enough to carry with me on a train.

So come on AT, how about a bit of a campaign next year about using PT to do boxing day shopping as in many cases it would sure beat the alternative of sitting in your car circling for a park for 30 minutes.

Hopes for 2013

Next year will have a lot of really important milestones for Auckland’s public transport system. Let’s take a look at the biggies:

  • The first electric trains are scheduled to arrive in the second half of 2013, although they’re not likely to be put into revenue service until early 2014.
  • Integrated ticketing will finally be implemented across all buses, trains and ferries in the first half of 2013.
  • The notice of requirement to secure route protection for the City Rail Link project should progress significantly throughout 2013, which will mean the project advances further than it has before in its many iterations over the past 90 years.
  • We should start to see the first steps of implementing the exciting new bus network across Auckland.

My main hopes are that all of these momentous events are able to take place in a timely and successful manner. The history of integrated ticketing means that this is the one I’m most sceptical of seeing further delays over (has the Hop Card equipment even been ordered yet for the buses I wonder?) so I think we’ll need to keep an eye on that. Most things seem on track with construction of the EMUs, the CRL is likely to go through the standard consenting process which – unlike many projects where this is a scary hurdle – actually almost seems like it can be an opportunity to highlight and reinforce the benefits of the project. There will necessarily be a lot of information about things like station design that will need to be released as part of the consenting process so it’ll be interesting to comment on things like the location of station entrances and the like.

As well as these big headline projects, I also hope that Auckland Transport can do a better job at some of the small things – like actually getting in place a bus lane or two, sorting out the Outer Link bus, ensuring that the Fanshawe Street bus lane is reopened by early February, not putting up public transport fares for a while yet and having better real-time information available.

The other really interesting thing to come out in 2013 will be the Council’s Draft Unitary Plan. As the document with the statutory powers to regulate pretty much every bit of land-use development, the Unitary Plan will be critical in deciding whether the vision of the Auckland Plan can be achieved or not. Things like what the Plan’s approach to parking minimums will be and the extent to which clever intensification is enabled and encouraged will be something to keep a really close eye on – and I’m hoping the Council has the guts to be bold in changing the planning rulebook where it’s painfully obvious the old approaches simply don’t work.

It’ll be an interesting year, that’s for sure.

Who will run against Len Brown?

Matt is putting together a fairly comprehensive post which reviews the big transport stories of 2012, so I won’t go there for now. Instead I’m looking forward to what might be the big issues of 2013 and obviously a really big event will be the next Auckland Council elections, which take place in October/November next year. The Council elections are really the next big hurdle for the City Rail Link project to get past, as if there’s a change in central government in 2014 (something that looks increasingly likely) the current difficulties from Wellington should disappear in terms of the project happening. It would be a horrible irony if a change in Mayor and Council meant that Auckland “no longer wanted” the project.

There are two key aspects of next year’s Council election: who wins the mayoralty and what changes to the composition of the Council as a whole there are. I’ll get back to the mayoralty in a minute, but the composition of the Council is perhaps even more important as at the end of the day it’s a Council vote on Long Term Plans and Annual Plans which will decide whether sufficient money is set aside for the CRL and other key transport projects. At the moment it seems the Council is split into roughly three camps: those firmly “centre left”, those firmly “centre right” and those who seem to end up following whatever the Mayor’s lead on issues turns out to be. Len Brown has been fairly clever to get people like Penny Webster into “his camp”, which means that most critical votes on whether the mayor’s proposals are supported or not seem to pass.

In terms of support for key projects like the CRL, I think there would need to be a pretty massive change in the Council’s make up for those opposing the project to outnumber those in support. Key councillors like Christine Fletcher and Penny Webster have repeated that they support CRL on many occasions, while those who oppose the project like Dick Quax and George Wood are a very small minority. It’s hard to know what will happen in terms of which Councillors are most likely to be reelected, but I feel there will be interesting battles in the Albany Ward (current councillors Michael Goudie & Wayne Walker), in the North Shore Ward (current councillors Ann Hartley and George Wood) and in the Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward (current councillors Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher). Even if there is change in those key wards (note the key importance of the North Shore?), I sense that support for the CRL is probably safe within the council as a whole.

The question of whether Len Brown will be reelected or not is an interesting one, particularly because at the moment we have no idea who will run against him. It is surprising that Cameron Brewer, Christine Fletcher or George Wood haven’t stuck their hands up yet, which suggests that internally each of them may perhaps be struggling for the necessary level of support to go for the job. Perhaps someone (celebrity non-politicians?) might be lured into challenging Len Brown but once again you would have thought that they’d at least be making noises about the idea already.

Getting reelected as Mayor will be a tough job, even though I think Len Brown is a great mayor for Auckland due to his relentless optimism and the vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city that he has promoted. Under Auckland’s local government system the rates increases (even though they’re much less than the old councils planned) seem to be perceived as being owned by the mayor rather than the Council as a whole. And bringing together all the rates systems has inevitably created a number of losers, who unsurprisingly have been very vocal.

So a few questions to finish:

  • Who do you think will run against Len Brown and why?
  • Do you think Len Brown will be reelected as Mayor?
  • What changes to the Council seem likely?
  • What are the implications of all this in terms of future support for projects like the City Rail Link?

I suppose on that last note, the strong support for CRL coming from the Auckland business establishment in recent releases by Michael Barnett and Kim Campbell suggest that it may be difficult for a mayoral candidate to oppose CRL.

Don’t Travel North Tomorrow

This is probably going to end up being a fairly annual post but if you need to head north tomorrow, don’t be surprised if a few thousand of your fellow citizens think of doing the same and jam up the roads. Every single holiday season we seem to get exactly the same outcome. Its one of the few days a year that we actually could use the Puhoi to Wellsford road but its realistically its hardly worth spending $1.7 billion on. But as usual I expect we will stories in the Herald and probably other media outlets talking about some massive traffic jam and on queue there will be a discussion with a couple of drivers who lament that the road isn’t already under construction. We will also hear tales of how there were huge queues at the toll machines with people struggling to use them and then complaining again that they are paying to sit in the previously mentioned traffic jam.

Here is one of the reports from last year which unfortunately involved a pedestrian being hit although my guess is that wasn’t the only reason for the delays.

Meanwhile, a fatal accident at Wellsford about 9.30am triggered long waits on the Northern Gateway toll road which persisted until late afternoon. Even leaving Auckland proved tiresome as traffic crawled both ways from mid-morning.

The trip from Auckland to Wellsford, about 77km, usually takes about an hour. But traffic was yesterday backed up from the top of the Northern Motorway and stopped completely in places.

Cars were crawling 500m every 10 minutes at some stages.

And from 2010

Bumper-to-bumper traffic stretched almost the length of the 7.5km toll road between Orewa and Puhoi for three hours from late yesterday morning.

Some hot and frustrated drivers and passengers got out of their cars to stretch their legs and cool off.

Angry motorists vented their frustration on Twitter.

Doug Hanna wrote that he had visitors from Auckland staying with him at Oakura, north of Whangarei: “Took 5 hours 40 to get here today. Took us 3.10 yesterday.”

Hamish Rouse was travelling in the opposite direction: “NZ Traffic anywhere out of Auckland is insane. Just came down from up North. Poor northbound travellers.”

The giant traffic jam was caused by two lanes of motorway traffic having to merge into one lane before the Johnstone’s Hill tunnel, and then merge again with vehicles from the coastal road on the one northbound lane beyond the toll road.

Although the Government has designated a $1.65 billion four-lane highway from Puhoi to Wellsford as one of seven “roads of national significance”, the first stage to Warkworth will not be completed until 2019 and the final stage not until 2022.

And from 2009

Thousands of motorists spent hours stewing in traffic jams between Auckland’s Northern Gateway toll road and Warkworth yesterday.

Traffic started banking up north of Puhoi at about 10.30am, and three hours later was jammed for about 25km from Warkworth back to the Hillcrest Rd bridge over the southern end of the toll road at Orewa.

The worst problems were where lanes merged, whether at the end of passing lanes or at the northbound entry to the Johnstones Hill tunnel at the Puhoi end of the toll road.

It was not until 4pm that the Transport Agency reported a relatively free flow had been restored to the tunnel, which is confined to one northbound lane for safety reasons at the other end, where traffic from the alternative free coastal route through Orewa merges with State Highway 1.

Transport Agency northern highways manager Tommy Parker said State Highway 16 through Helensville remained free-flowing throughout yesterday as an alternative route to Wellsford, and drivers should always consider that option if travelling further north over the holiday period.

The agency regards December 27 as traditionally its second busiest day for traffic over the Christmas-New Year break after January 2 for the main road north from Auckland, with about 50 per cent more vehicles than the daily average, but Mr Parker said yesterday was even worse than usual.

“It was particularly bad this year – we have seen some quite large delays made worse by a lot of vehicles towing boats and caravans,” he said.

“We had expected the traffic would spread across a number of days, but people decided to travel on the same day.”

Mr Parker said traffic was unexpectedly light on Boxing Day, and he was at a loss to know why.

“Presumably people were all at the races or the sales.”

But after yesterday’s chaos, he was confident the traffic would also be “significantly lighter” today.

Despite extra difficulties observed by Herald staff where traffic ground to a standstill in attempted mergers at the end of passing lanes, Mr Parker said the agency was not considering temporarily closing the lanes to simplify flows.

He said that had not been done for years.

The agency had discontinued the practice because it believed some drivers became confused and erratic when confronted by cones blocking the lanes.

As well, the agency had no evidence that blocking the lanes improved flow.

Neither did he believe motorists had been short-changed by paying $2 to use the toll road, only to be forced to a slow grind little more than 2km along it, during the worst of yesterday’s congestion.

He said electronic signs south of the road warned drivers of queues ahead, giving them options of going to SH16 from the Silverdale interchange or using the Hibiscus Coast highway, which was also relatively free-flowing until it merged with SH1 near Puhoi.

Merry Christmas

From all the bloggers here, we hope you have a great Christmas and if you are driving around at all over the holiday period, please drive safe.

Pressure Increases on Government Transport Policies

In an opinion piece in this morning’s Herald Michael Barnett of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce expresses his most unequivocal support for the City Rail Link [CRL] yet. It seems that the Centre City Future Access Study [CCFAS] has given Barnett and the Chamber’s members the final nudge needed to not only see the need for this project but also confidently call for it against the government’s expressed position:

“I represent a group of business leaders who strongly support the principle of the city rail link and accelerating other long-agreed key transport projects. If it is going to require new faces at the table with central Government to explain their urgency to helping drive Auckland’s economic growth agenda, then we would welcome a meeting with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to find a solution.”

And

“…the view within business is that it needs to happen sooner rather than later. It therefore doesn’t help that a central government agency becomes a roadblock to its progress.”

It really shows that it is only this government that sees improving Transit in Auckland through a party political lens. Perhaps such strong support for the CRL from a group that can generally be expected to agree with National Party policy and that they express their frustration with what they see as its political ‘blockage’ should lead to a rethink in Wellington.

“By putting political parameters around our decision-making, all we end up achieving is to deny ourselves the chance of making progress to confirm a solution and accelerate action.”

“The recent transport report showing Auckland faces a looming congestion crisis in the city centre if we don’t invest in improving rail and bus systems once again reinforced what has been abundantly clear for a number of years. We need more people out of cars and into public transport. In order to do that, we need a good and efficient network.”

It is great to see such an influential group calling for the CRL expressly in order to support the economic performance of the city because this government’s policy has always seemed one that at very best shows little understanding of the economics of cities. Largely conceiving them as nothing other than obstacles to the movement of bulky goods from the countryside rather than as centres of economic value and wealth creation in themselves.

“Removing roadblocks to allow for decisive action on Auckland’s critically important economic growth agenda is emerging as the top issue facing the city in early 2013.”

The rest of the article shows an interesting softening in attitude to the Green Party too by this business group so perhaps in their frustration they are casting around for other parties they feel they may be able to work with…?

Preceding Barnett’s column was a media release by another business group the Employers and Manufacturers Association: Auckland’s Central Rail Loop Must be Fast Tracked. Again the support for the project is because of its economic impact.

“Without far more investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure there’s no way we can lift exports from 30 to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025.

“Auckland’s GDP is growing at 2.4 per cent a year currently, but long before 2025 the people we need to house and transport to and from work for our export campaign will be stuck in the traffic far from where their jobs are.

“But more than this, the CRL is itself an engine of growth for the coherent development of the city.

Again emphasising a very large gulf between what business people in Auckland believe is needed to support a successful economy and our government’s view.

From another perspective yesterday’s Herald on Sunday ran this piece from opinion writer Kerre Woodham: Nats Run out of Petrol. While she falls short of connecting the dots between the aggressive pace and high cost of the RoNS programme and the recently announced petrol tax increases she does point to an increasing level of frustration among ordinary New Zealanders with the policies of the Key Government, suggesting that this tax rise might just be a bit of a last straw for a number of people.

I thought John Key said that by cutting income tax rates we would be able to stimulate the economy. Guess that didn’t work. I thought Key said that he would be able to stem the flow of New Zealanders to Australia by building a competitive economy and offering after-tax earnings on a par with those across the ditch. Well, that hasn’t worked, either.

I guess the problem is that having so politicised transport investment it may be all but impossible for Brownlee and Joyce to change their position on the CRL now. Especially after Brownlee’s petulant reaction to the CCFAS as surely this was the best opportunity to shift position with grace; the report was made in response to their request and involved central government agencies and ministries. They could have, with some justification, claimed ownership of this process that led to such a clear outline of the need for the CRL if they had only responded with objectivity and openmindedness.

But then there’s the real problem: The RoNS, and in particular the pace of the programme, as it is sucking every penny out of a declining fund. The Road User Forum’s quiescence over the rise in RUC and FEDs shows how completely on board this assertive lobby group are with the government’s policy of total investment in State Highways. I doubt there is any room for the government to waiver in their promises to big trucking by moving even 10% of the funding to the CRL and away from the trucking subsidy. And that’s all we are talking about too, around 10% of the recently announced RoNS programme.

Lastly we come to Brian Rudman’s somewhat grumpy little complaint about terminology also in today’s Herald. The L in CRL does stand for Link and not Loop but Rudman, perhaps in a fit of silly season column filling, goes to some length to explain his insistence on inaccuracy . Even going as far as appealing to the ‘L’ system in Chicago as precedence. Sorry to be a pedant Brian, but it isn’t know as The Loop, that is the name of the central city area contained within the loop of the tracks; the system itself is called the ‘L’ [for Elevated]. But I think we can all agree with Rudman when he says this:

If I thought changing the name would persuade the naysayers to change their minds, I’d happily abandon the offending word. But it wouldn’t, and anyway, gaining popular support is not the issue. A poll last month says 64 per cent of Aucklanders support the loop/link. It’s the Prime Minister and his Transport Minister who need convincing, and somehow I don’t think it’s the name that’s holding them back.

So in summary; 2013 looks like a very interesting year, the logic behind the CRL is just going to keep building yet the government seems to be painting itself into more and more of a corner on transport policy. Are they capable of a u-turn?, have they left themselves enough space to do so even if they see the need? Or will this and their determination to cling to other increasingly unpopular policies just lead to a fractious and even more polarised year?

Lastly I’m a little appalled at putting up a post with no pictures so here’s a little festive number; some drinking but no driving was involved in its creation-promise….

BRITOMART CHRISTMAS

BRITOMART CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas from the ATB editorial team, thank you for all your comments and contributions in 2012 [which has been a huge year for readership] and remember to avoid driving north on SH1 on the 27 December or you will be both in for a hot and dull time in your car and be adding to the Herald’s annual front page Holiday Highway pump piece. And we look forward to *seeing* you all again next year. Onward.

Sydney’s extended light-rail network

I guess this is what happens when you have a centre-right government that isn’t completely insane in its ideological dislike of public transport:

Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian today announced light rail would be built through the Sydney CBD to Randwick and Kingsford to reduce congestion and revitalise the city.

The estimated $1.6 billion 12 kilometre light rail project will link Circular Quay and Central via George Street, the Moore Park sporting and entertainment precinct including the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium, Randwick Racecourse, the University of NSW and Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick.

Light rail will be built in parallel with the implementation of a redesigned bus network to significantly reduce the number of buses clogging the CBD during the peak.

Around 40 per cent of George Street will be pedestrianised, between Bathurst Street and Hunter Street, for light rail – meaning 60 per cent of George Street will still be accessible to private vehicles.

“This is a once-in-a-generation project to revitalise the centre of Sydney by reducing congestion and offering a fast, attractive public transport option to key locations,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The NSW Government is getting on with the job of building for the future.”

There’s already another well advanced plan for extending the existing inner-west light-rail line significantly, as shown below:

TPD_LightRail_InnerWestLightRai-Extension_map_Feb_2012_0And here’s the CBD and southeast scheme:recommend-route-DecLooking at the light-rail plans in a bit more detail, there are some remarkable similarities between what Sydney is trying to achieve through a number of public transport initiatives and what Auckland’s trying to achieve through the City Rail Link. Things like:

  • Reducing the number of buses travelling along busy inner city streets
  • Providing better reliability and service quality for public transport
  • Improving the pedestrian experience of the inner city
  • Boosting employment and economic growth

For example, Sydney really struggles with the huge number of buses entering its CBD during the peak period – which this light-rail project as well as a reorganisation of the bus network will help resolve.sydney-bus-numbersI do wonder why centre-right politicians in Australia don’t seem to have the same ideological dislike of public transport as seems to be the case in New Zealand.