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:Now 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 bridge 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:CCFAS 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?