The government’s rather odd dismissal of the findings of the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) leave them in a relatively strange position of effectively endorsing a ‘do nothing’ scenario. There are a lot of posts to be written on the CCFAS and its supporting documentation over the next days and weeks and I won’t try to get through everything in a single post, or even 2-3 of them. For this post I’m going to look at the impact of the different options, including what’s referred to as the ‘balanced reference case’ (the “don’t do CRL or any of its assessed alternatives) from the perspective of the impacts on car drivers.
As most readers will know, generally the bloggers on this site aren’t too concerned about congestion levels for car drivers heading into the city centre. If you’re going to do something as stupid as drive your car into the city centre during peak times, as far as I’m concerned you can suffer the consequences. However, congestion levels for private vehicles is something this government is supposedly very concerned about. Remember their recent comments on the Auckland Plan not sufficiently addressing traffic congestion beyond 2020?That’s a pretty concerning table if you’re worried about traffic congestion for private vehicle users. It’s interesting that the government has effectively written this outcome off as being OK. I suppose their legitimate response might be that CRL doesn’t really solve too much of this problem either – looking at the table below:However, what the focus on CBD speeds somewhat misses is that with CRL in place a far larger proportion of trips are able to avoid the horrors of what’s going on above ground, because they’re on the rail tunnel. In any case, the CCFAS was designed to simply compare the alternatives and on this measure the CRL clearly performs the best. By 2041 CRL’s superior performance to the other options becomes even clearer.
Some of the more interesting outcomes of the surface bus options include, unsurprisingly, significant negative impacts on general congestion levels. This is pretty clear in the section of the CCFAS which runs through the different economic evaluations of the options: Note the numbers that I have put a red box around all include negative signs in front of them. So if, for example, we were to do Surface Bus Option 1 that would generate additional congestion of $270 million over the evaluation period. Even the benefits for public transport users of this option aren’t large enough to outweigh the additional congestion and as a result the option actually has a negative BCR (not just below 1, but actually below 0). The additional congestion arising from all the bus options are a bit factor in them not performing as well as the CRL. And this is not surprising really. One of the CRL’s biggest benefits, from a private vehicle driver’s point of view, is that it gets some of those bloody buses off the road and means we don’t end up having to have a whole pile of streets closed off to general traffic.
The other interesting thing in the table above is seeing what an impact changing the discount rate and evaluation period has on the project’s BCR. This is a useful answer to the question of “how can the best solution to a problem that needs to be solved actually not be worth doing?” which is certainly somewhat perplexing when you put it like that. What is highlighted in using a lower discount rate and longer evaluation period is that CRL’s benefits increase significantly – because it is a long-lasting solution – whereas the other options don’t seem to get quite as much of a boost, because they’re only ever going to add value up to a certain point in time before you probably need CRL anyway.
Overall, the irony of course is that CRL is most definitely the “pick of the bunch” when it comes to private vehicles because it actually makes things better, not worse. While the government hasn’t come out and said “we prefer the surface bus option”, all the alternative options as well as the “do nothing” situation really do have terrible impacts on private vehicle congestion -something I thought the government was concerned about.
In my next post I’ll look at what happens to public transport if we don’t build CRL. Just think lots and lots and lots of buses.