Recent Comments

Follow us on Twitter

The irony of government’s dismissal of CRL

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?traffic-speeds-cbdThat’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:traffic-speeds-optionsHowever, 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: options-evaluationNote 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.

72 comments to The irony of government’s dismissal of CRL

  • Sting

    I think we need to be careful about how this argument is constructed, otherwise we risk being called inconsistent.
    Several recent posts talk about the fact that car usage (VKT) is actually declining, and that “forecasts” are misplaced because they assume car traffic will continue to grow. So are these vehicle speeds in to the CBD based on the assumption of continued vehicle growth? Because if they are, they surely have to be questioned just as much as we question the supposed need for new roads based on assumped vehicle growth.
    (ps I am supporter of CRL, but just want to ensure there is a very sound rationale)

    • Mr Anderson

      Fair point. Though in that scenario public transport use would be much higher than forecast and the project would be even more necessary. I think what Peter’s post highlights is that if you come from the government’s perspective of thinking that traffic will keep growing then the project is essential for the people (cars really) that they really care about.

      • Greg N

        Don’t disagree except Brownlee is saying that he doesn’t believe that enough consideration has been taken for future “travel demand management” techniques (and he’s not specified exactly what those are except tio intimate it would include “new technology” things such as Teleworking) and that improvements in the Western Ring route will remove tons of traffic off the CMJ.

        So Brownlee says that the CBD will in his personal traffic projections “experience declining VKT”.
        [And it is his his own assessment as NZTA and the other officials all agree with the CCFAS findings, so we have a minister at odds with his Ministry.]

        On that point about there being a declining in the future – no one disagrees
        - its only what the cause is and what the effect of that cause will be and how to mitigate any downside (if indeed there are going to be any if you listen to Brownleee he doesn’t see any) that is in disagreement here.

        Basically, the Government wants to have their cake and eat it too.
        They say that the Puford RONS is needed as Northland going to experience massive traffic growth.
        And in the same breath say that that traffic around the CBD will decline somehow through some magic process not yet occurring or understood.

        Maybe its because the Government thinks all these new-fangled early rising teleworkers (working for CBD based companies) are living somewhere north of Wellsford but are coming to Auckland on the PuFord RONs to go shopping at lunch time and then going home again before the evening rush hour to explain why the CRL is not going to help with congestion?

      • And this is the very heart of the problem: driving cannot expand in the city much, if at all [despite the numbers in the report- these seem theoretical at best, or at least what those 'speeds' indicate is that there is just nowhere, physically, for many more cars]. So even spending multiple billions on more lanes into the city can’t work [Harbour? where else?]. Without any alternative the city just cant function- and the CRL is clearly the only viable alternative.

        And anyway, at 2 billion, and AK is only asking for half from government, the CRL is really cheap… no motorway and parking programme could come close. It’s a snip!!!

        And it is also so much better as an outcome for the city, and even has way lower operating costs than cars and driving, although of course those costs are distributed so just never counted in analyses.

  • axio

    I’m left wondering if this is more about the approach to Auckland’s future – the distribution of commerce vs the centralization. After all if the CBD is left paralyzed then other commercial centres will need to develop. This I massively disagree with because agglormeration produces specialization which results in much more valuable jobs and industries, as well as allowing a more economic use of transportation spending.

    Interesting the different media outlets response – couldn’t find a bar of it on tvnz or stuff front pages; it is there on nzherald, and made the Radio NZ news.

    • Yes it is about Auckland’s, and therefore NZ’s future. But without a viable centre it doesn’t mean that high value growth will just automatically happen in the suburbs. It is more likely that it just won’t happen at all. Instead we’ll get low quality spread. Evidence form the development of successful cities everywhere shows that the highly productive growth happens in the very heart of the city, and only there.

      The quality of Auckland’s growth is entirely dependent on the conditions. A clogged inaccessible centre surrounded by dispersing motorways will lead to flabby unproductive low intensity inefficient growth. Like an inactive and overweight teenager…..

  • Enough with the fat jokes.

  • Warren S

    Prime News at 5-30pm had a good report with (interestingly) no counterbalancing Government statement but couldn’t find any other TV reportage

  • Of course the elephant in the room is peak oil. If (and when) this occurs car use will plummet and a transport system that relies on electricity will be worth its weight in gold. If for no other reason than to make part of Auckland’s transport system future proof the CRL needs to go ahead. Hopefully at some stage before it is too late Central Government will learn to look into the future.

  • John Smith

    If you use an absurdly low discount rate and an absurdly short evaluation period, of course you will end up with nothing but ‘predict and provide’ incremental change.

  • Duncan

    Yep, we are lucky enough as it is our dollar is as high as it is (although bad for exporters) as if it wasn’t we’d be looking at petrol prices of what $2.50 L or above? Peak oil was ‘supposedly’ 2008 and we are already on the decline which means ever increasing oil prices, which building RoNS may well end up as ghost highways are car use is already declining….
    Doing nothing, or trying to fix existing motorways around the city isn’t going to help CBD traffic, it’d just make it easier to get stuck in traffic in the CBD.

  • Duncan

    Am glad to see the comments in favour at this point are 76 for. 15 Against.
    Loads of the against projects are vowing for the second crossing instead, which would create even more congestion, instead of relieving it…
    What is Nikki Kayes stance on the issue?

  • RHarris

    The country and National are indoctrinated to believe more roads equals growth. Our largest bank ANZ even reports in their monthly truckometer that more traffic equals more economic growth. http://www.anz.co.nz/commercial-institutional/economic-markets-research/truckometer/

    Why spend money on a big project like this when it could be directed to roads. Break that indoctrination and you might get somewhere.

    • Yes and this just goes to show that they no idea how cities work. Or how intellectual value is added, they can only conceive of heavy lifting as growth. They are so simplistic and ill informed. And of course this attitude fits neatly with their total identification with the road lobby.

      • RHarris

        The thing that baffles me is that businesses strongly support it but they still bury their heads in the sand. The general public then ignore their inaction. National have had a terrible year but they still seem to coast along fine. Just find it incredible.

  • Angry Bob

    What the hell kind of idiot measure is speed in the CBD at 5kph anyways?
    I am either at a set of lights stopped or I am driving.

    Must be some idiot model.
    Is this the Nuremberg defense?
    “the model made me do it!”

    And this is a justification for a 2 billion dollar project?
    Grrrr, I am angry

    • Ah, but in a few years, how many phases are you going to be stopped at those lights for? After the first couple you’ll be angry alright.

    • I think it is simply a way of say there will be gridlock. Like the 250+ buses an hour on Symonds St; I can’t see how that can happen, it seems to be transportation planners’ way of saying that this too is impossible.

      Basically more cars won’t fit, more buses won’t fit, so what can we do? Oh look, if we join up this existing but disconnected and terminating rail network we can add huge capacity underground that won’t ever suffer from congestion while also freeing up the streets above…

      I’m angry too: We now seem to have the thickest and most deceitful Transport Minister in our our sad history.

      • It can happen just fine if you ban private vehicles from Symonds St and use all four lanes for buses.

        That’s the irony of the situation, at the end of the day the CRL saves the city arterials for mixed traffic and keeps the cars moving. If we want to move bulk people by bus and have no regard for other street functions then that is perfectly possible.

    • Liz

      What’s wrong with using an average speed? That’s how most people understand speed in day-to-day activities – the time it takes to travel a certain distance.

  • Angry Bob

    But the matrix of the argument is a joke.
    5kph!

    Grrr, I am angry

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accuracy_and_precision

  • Steve

    Entirely predictable response from the government and it would not surprise me if part of it is in the hope that being very clear that it is an ‘over our deadbodies’ proposition is designed with the local body elections next year in mind. If Len Brown is re-elected and the opposition are in strong support of the CRL it might be that National come on board, but if being obstructive can help unseat a mayor that they don’t like, expect the status quo to continue.

    • The only problem is that their lap dog hasn’t officially put up his hand yet. It was quite telling that Cameron Brewer managed to get a press release out within minutes of the announcement complaining that Len Brown was even considering the CRL

      • RHarris

        What I find interesting about the whole thing is how Christine Fletcher is going to position her run for mayor. She has remained timid on this so not sure how she will angle this and be associated with her 3 C&R dimwits.

  • Mr Plod

    From my perspective Brownlee’s response demonstrates that he is still in Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s first stage of grieving. He is still in denial that it’s all over for his RONs program. He hasn’t yet moved onto anger. Bargaining, depression, and acceptance are still a long way off. The quality of the report shows that many within his own department have even moved beyond acceptance into helpfulness give their contributions to the report. So I suggest the best way we can help poor Gerry through this is to ignore his denial and see if we can’t really wind him up somehow so he moves to the anger stage – it wouldn’t be pretty but it would be progress.

  • Matt Lee

    How about Len tells central government to “go to hell”, and “we”/Auckland Transport proceed on the CRL minus Gerry’s blessing. It is not as if the full two billion dollars is needed up front.

    Odds are Labour will form the next government. Or if not, the following one (in 2017?).

    A Labour-led government could reasonably be relied upon to make a contribution at some point in the future, right??

    • Mr Plod

      Good call. A bit Balkan brinkmanship would be good. I’m up for it!

    • RHarris

      Still can’t see a labour/ green coalition getting in. They ran on the CRL this time around and made no difference. They still don’t seem to have learnt to connect to NZer’s economically. Think Auckland need to go it alone to get the CRL moving forward.

      • Stu Donovan

        Completely disagree. All major political polls now show Labour+Greens >= National.

        As for previously “running on the CRL” I think it’s worth remembering that 1) Transport’s not the only thing that people vote on and 2) in the previous election we had less information demonstrating the CRL was the preferred option.

        Anyway, the suggestion is that when we eventually get a centre-left government the CRL will be funded. Given that it won’t be finished until 2021 at the earliest I’d suggest there’s almost a 100% chance we have a centre-left government in the interim.

  • Simon C

    And also over and above the fact that most people didn’t know crap about the CRL, at the last election National claimed in its advertising it had spent 1.6billion on rail in Auckland which of course most busy people probably just took as gospel and so thought National was doing its bit for better rail PT in Auckland.

  • Simon C

    Progress on winning the hearts and minds must be happening in Auckland. The majority of the YES comments (294) to the NOs (111) is one the Nats would be jealous of! I doubt even a year ago it would’ve been anything like that majority, Infact it probably would’ve been the other way around!

Leave a Reply