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Learning from San Francisco

I was looking at the herald this morning and I came across this piece titled Troubled bridge over San Fran waters by the Herald on Sunday sports editor who is currently in San Francisco covering the America’s Cup.

Take a look at the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Now imagine a part of it gone after an earthquake. Then think about US$6.4 billion and 24 years spent repairing it.

That’s what San Franciscans have endured since the 1989 earthquake when the Bay Bridge (actually two bridges) suffered the collapse of part of the eastern span connecting San Francisco to Oakland.

Now the news has come in that the re-built bridge will open on September 3, Labour Weekend in the US, after being closed for five days to prepare the new bridge for traffic. It’s not clear what sort of traffic chaos will apply during that period – the bridge routinely accommodates 280,000 vehicles a day.

Nor is it clear whether that will have any effect on America’s Cup fans trying to get to the action as the yachts duke it out on San Francisco Bay, near the bridge.

But what is clear is that bridge is finally opening, after 24 years of delays and budget blow-outs, with only a temporary fix. Three independent authorities have certified that the bridge will be safe with a temporary solution to the earthquake safety bolts which cracked as they were being tightened recently.

That was expected to delay the bridge opening even further – even stretching beyond State Senator Mark DeSaulnier’s complaint that the bridge was “10 years late and US$5billion over budget”.

But now permanent repairs – able to be done while the bridge is open and taking until December – will not delay the opening, though there will be more than one motorist wondering just how safe his morning drive to work really is.

This has relevance to Auckland for two reasons: When you drive on the Harbour Bridge, drive softly. No one needs 24 years and US$6.4 billion of frustration. At that rate, Auckland’s rates will be worth more than the houses.

Secondly, memo to Mayor Len Brown or whoever ends up organising a second crossing. Please give us, the ratepayers, an accurate idea of time and cost. Being 10 years late and 500 per cent over budget doesn’t bear thinking about…

Now I agree that single best reason for an additional harbour crossing – remember we already have a second one in the upper harbour – is to provide resilience in the situation where the bridge is damaged or being upgraded. The herald writer makes it appear that the bridge has been out of action for 24 years but that is simply untrue so let’s look at the story in a bit more detail.

The bridge was opened in 1936 and as mentioned is actually two separate bridges. The first from San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island where it tunnels through the hill before continuing across to Oakland. The bridge has two decks for vehicles, one in each direction and is 5 lanes wide – although when originally built the lower deck was for trucks and trains but the tracks were ripped out in the 1960′s. As mentioned in the Herald piece, it carries a lot of traffic and connects right into the heart of San Francisco so like our harbour bridge is a key piece of infrastructure. In the 1989 earthquake it was damaged with one section collapsing however importantly engineers had the bridge fixed working again within a month.

As mentioned the writer makes it sound like the eastern bridge has been under repair for 24 years but this isn’t the case. The bridge is being replaced by a new version that is being built alongside the existing bridge, much like we saw when the Newmarket viaduct was replaced. Sometimes that means the existing bridge needs to be closed to enable the various changes related to construction to happen. We would see the same thing happen if we built a new harbour crossing as we would still need to connect it into the existing system somehow.

But the interesting thing is how the city copes with such a key bridge being out of action for a long period of time. Sure vehicles can divert to one of the other bridges but that introduces a fairly length detour and one that is much longer than equivalent detour in Auckland via the upper harbour. In that situation I also imagine that the other routes become pretty busy so while it might get you to your destination, it might not be fast. So how did the San Fran area cope both immediately after the 1989 quake and during the shut downs for repair and replacement of the existing bridge. Well there was of one mode of transport that was completely unaffected and able to move huge amounts of people, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, otherwise known as BART.

The system was opened in 1972 and like the Bay bridge connects the suburbs on the eastern side of the bay with San Francisco itself. It does this in a pair of tunnels under the harbour and through the city and actually travels under the western span of the bay bridge. Since it opened it has been extended to the network it is today and which includes a connection into the San Francisco International Airport. Further expansion is already under way or being planned.

Importantly in the aftermath of the quake and during closures of the bay bridge people have flocked to use the network as a means of getting across the bay however perhaps even more importantly while some people would have gone back to driving, a lot of people kept using the system and patronage has continued to expand.

San Fran BART patronage

But perhaps the most important point and the one most relevant to Auckland in all of this is that San Francisco has an alternative. While the closures to the bay bridge have obviously been a pain for residents, there has at least been another option that has the capacity to handle a lot of extra people. Even if there was another road based crossing, if something went wrong it would immediately be clogged up with all of the diverted traffic. Buses would provide no respite as would be stuck along with the rest of the vehicles. If one of the key reasons to create another harbour crossing is to provide resilience to the network in case something goes wrong then the absolute best thing we could do is to build that crossing as a mode that is not affected by the traffic mayhem that would ensue from a problem with the bridge. It would also need to be one that has the capacity to suddenly handle a lot more people.

This is one of the reasons we propose building a rail only crossing as part of the Congestion Free Network. In the future if demand eventually exists we could then look at another road based crossing but for now the focus should be on completing the missing modes and providing some real alternatives.

52 comments to Learning from San Francisco

  • MillAhab

    Having just returned from Sydney where there was interesting discussion on options on how to replace the harbour bridge (steel only lasts for so long after all) I wonder when discussing an additional harbour crossing in Auckland replacing the Auckland harbour bridge is often not mentioned in this debate? Surely the logical thing to do would be what is proposed in the CFN and then sometime in the 2030′s the harbour bridge would be replaced (along the same route with the existing bridge being dismantled similar to the Newmarket viaduct) with a new bridge that has greater capacity than the current version? Negating the need for the ridiculous notion of needing 2 road bridges spanning the harbour? I’m not an engineer so perhaps I’m missing something?

  • Malcolm M

    Interesting that the toll is $6 during peak hour and $5 in off-peak. The Wikipedia article indicates that this time-of-day charging has reduced peak congestion. (The toll is only charged only one way). The toll appears to cover all construction, maintenance and rebuilding costs, and subsidizes public transport to reduce congestion. So there is no dependence on rates or taxes. Gerry probably doesn’t believe this could occur in the USA, nor that it could have any applicability to Auckland.

    The relatively high toll would take about $1500/year out of a car commuter’s post-tax earnings, whereas some tax deductions are available for public transport commuting. These factors would favour commuting on BART.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco%E2%80%93Oakland_Bay_Bridge

  • One thing we should learn from San Francisco is public debt control…. You want to talk about how broke California is??? And even with all that debt San Francisco still doesn’t have heavy rail into the centre of town.

    • ummm BART is heavy rail and goes through the centre of San Fran

      • I stand corrected, BART is heavy rail. My confusion is it looks like the London Underground with the electricity supply through a third track rather than overhead. Its still not a perfect system. Train frequency is only every 15 mins in peak and 20 mins other times. You get batter than that on the bus.

        • Uh, actually San Francisco does have Caltrain heavy commuter rail to the 4th Street terminal downtown, not to mention the BART heavy metro and the Muni light rail system that also runs in tunnels under the city.

          As for the BART, on some individual lines it is only 15 minutes, but you’ll notice that most stations are served by at least two lines for 7.5 minute or better frequencies. The main one that isn’t paired for it’s length (the yellow line, Bay Point to Airport) runs every five minutes.

        • DaveB

          The London Underground is also heavy rail, and in places shares tracks with overground rail. (let’s see if this comment ends up in the place where it belongs :-)

        • Sailor Boy

          You can get better than that on rail too, the fact it isn’t offered isn’t a reflection on rail.

    • Sailor Boy

      Why is the heavy rail relevant? What is the difference between heavy and metro rail except freight?

  • Stu Donovan

    I would like to put forward a contrary view. That is, rail systems are inherently less resilient to earthquakes when compared to car or bus based systems.

    We have two recent examples of this. The first in Christchurch, where the tram was nailed by the earthquake (and I believe it’s still not fixed), while last week in Wellington all the trains were cancelled. Buses in both cities kept on “trucking”, or at least recovered much more quickly than their rail services managed.

    Yes buses are still affected by congestion in the wake of natural disasters, but at least they can still operate, albeit inefficiently.

    • Bryce P

      If the tram was a priority in Christchurch it would have been fixed a long time ago. Ideology covers that. If there was a major disaster in Auckland, yes rail would be affected more so than road transport however, the actual need for a period of time to transport quite the same number of people to their usual destinations would also be reduced in which case, we still have plenty of buses to carry the load until rail is restored. More importantly, if we can build a great cycle network, we could get a huge uptake in cargo bike availability and, even if the actual cycle infrastructure was damaged, they could be used on roads as happened in NY after Hurricane Sandy. Until we have the network, the idea of cargo bikes won’t catch on.

      • LOL…. you do realise that the obesity epidemic is also associated with the laziness epidemic :(

        A great cycle network….really…who is going to use that except for the hardcore mamils? People don’t want to arrive in the office covered in sweat and they don’t want to ride home in the rain.

        Cargo bikes… are you trying to turn the clock back to pre internal combustion?

        • Arry

          I’m guessing you haven’t been to any major European cities lately. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are chock full of cyclists (and yes, even cargo bikes… no sh*t). Paris, Berlin, Bordeaux, Barcelona and even London, to name a few have great number of cyclists as commuters. London does not even have a great cycle network (in a European standard).

          Boris Johnson (a Tory) is currently proposing for a great cycle network in London. One of the proposals is to remove a lane (shock, horror!) from the already busy Victoria Embankment for new dedicated cycle lanes. It’s such a shame lots of Kiwis are really blinkered when it comes to cycling.

          I could already hear: “but Auckland is hilly, weather is crap, etc. etc.” I currently live in Brighton, and it’s hilly here. But people still cycle. And the weather here is not exactly much better than back home.

        • One third of my office in central Auckland rides to work, none of them wear lycra or arrive covered in sweat. Riding is like walking, you only sweat if you do it fast.

        • Sailor Boy

          At the company I work at 2/3, well 2 out of 3 of js cycle to work. To be fair we o wear lycra, but only because we prefer speed to comfort.

        • OrangeKiwi

          Now don’t confuse the utilitarian cyclist with the so-called Lycra brigade. And as for the (temporary) pre-combustion era solutions: it’s obviously just about finding a way around a crippled infrastructure. A high-tech solution isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to get things done, an urban legend about pens vs. pencils comes to mind…

        • Bryce P

          Hardcore mamils? Hardly represented at the Te Atatu lights on the cycleway every morning. More people in comfortable clothes, with backpacks or saddlebags. But then, in London, you wouldn’t see what’s happening on the NW cycleway anyway.

    • Sailor Boy

      But 2 road crossings are just 2 links in one system. A road, and rail crossing are 2 links in 2 seperate systems.

    • tuktuk

      Yes it was confronting seeing Wellington’s commuter rail network instantly cease operations while the bus network was able to continue to function, and I understand that also included the trolley bus network. This perhaps should give pause for thought when planning passenger transport networks in NZ.

      Christchurch’s tram is probably an unfair example as its fate is tied up with the fate of that city’s CBD. Little point in operating trams while the streets are dug up and buildings demolished. But yes – point taken that a tram network would be completely incapable of evacuating a city centre in any moderate to decent sized earthquake.

      I am however going to put forward a contrary view to the contrary view however in observing the railway network in the greater Canterbury region…… out in the countryside around Christchurch the freight railways were quickly straightened back up to full operational capability (within 24 hours from the two big quakes from memory).

      A number of those state highways I suspect even now are pot-holed and patched awaiting the day when they are re-built and re-sealed. So to conclude – perhaps roads are quicker to resume “close-to-normal” service after an earthquake event (important to passengers), but railways are quicker and easier to restore to a smooth, fully fixed state (important for freight). It would have been of comfort to rail freight customers and the Canterbury region as a whole to know that their goods could quickly and smoothly resume their journeys.The rail network was also available to supply much needed goods into the Canterbury region in large volumes at short notice.

    • Stu, Chch does also have a “proper” rail system for running freight and that was probably only out of action as long as the buses were. Lately in Chch, the bigger natural hazard has been a few decent snowfalls; that has knocked the buses out due to the slippery conditions, but I have pondered whether a light/heavy rail system would have continued operating…

  • KLK

    Amazing how spending/debt is only an issue when PT projects are mentioned. Plan a road with a BCR <1? No problem….as long as that road isn't for bus priority of course.

  • KLK, debt is always an issue but especially for projects that are not required for many years to come and will just mirror a service we already have (North Shore bus corridor).
    The Government are doing the smart thing. They are building the road tunnel under the harbour while at the same time digging a rail tunnel for a future time when that may be needed.
    Do you think Auckland/NZ can afford to start digging tunnels all over the city? I already pay $500 a month rates, sorry but as far as Im concerned I don’t want to treble that just so you can pretend you are in London or San Francisco and ride a tube.
    As I have said before, spend the money on roads and buses. Tax cars and trucks to use the motorway system and use that money to provide free PT to those wishing to use it. Would be a lot cheaper and elastic solution to the one you people are always crying for.

    • The government isn’t building the road tunnel, they might want to build it but the don’t have the budget for it yet by any means. Nothing has progressed beyond planning.

      As for taxing cars and trucks to pay for a motorway tunnel, well this is recent experience with that from across the ditch:

      2006: Sydney Cross City Tunnel in recievership with $1.1b debt http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2006/s1818806.htm

      2008: Melbourne Eastlink far below predicted traffic and revenue, commuters flock to trains instead http://www.theage.com.au/business/drivers-desert-eastlink-as-rail-network-overflows-20080807-3rsn.html

      2010: Sydney Lane Cove Tunnel in receivership with $1.1b debt http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2010/s2798318.htm

      2011: Brisbane North South Motorway Tunnel in receivership with $1.3b debt http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-25/clem7-operator-placed-in-receivership/1958924.

      2013: Brisbane Airport Motorway Link in receivership with $3b debt: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/unrealistic-traffic-predictions-fuelled-the-collapse-of-brisconnections/story-fn7j19iv-1226583074293

      See a pattern here? PPPs on massively expensive and not particularly useful motorway project that go belly up. At least the Australian states left it to investment banks to lose billions, but I doubt they’ll be able to tax their cars and trucks to pay them off, let alone fund free PT. Not sure if it’s cheap though, or elastic.

      • SF Lauren

        You do know Nick that all PPP projects are built with debt, so even a successful one would show up as in debt just like when you buy a house you put yourself in debt.

        In any event if anyone could be bothered they could just as easy make a list of tolled roads that were highly successful from both here and Australia.

        Take the Auckland harbour bridge as an example.

        • Successful PPPs don’t go into receivership.The debt above refers to extraordinary debt beyond what they had planned for in their business model.

          It’s like spending a million dollars on a rental property, finding out the rent you get is actually a fraction of what you’d hoped, and foreclosing on the mortgage a year or two later with an extra $150,000 of debt racked up. That’s not a bad analogy actually, because the issue in both cases is the extreme cost of the projects. You could basically never charge enough rent on a million dollar house to cover costs, and you can’t charge enough tolls on a seven billion dollar motorway tunnel (e.g. Brisbane) to cover costs either.

          There is a common theme to these failures. They had all borrowed stacks of money to build a road based on spurious demand modelling. In each case the numbers basically said “heaps of people will drive on it and the traffic will go up”. Right now Brisconnections is attempting to sue AECOM for being so wrong on the traffic forecasts, I’m not sure if they have much of a leg to stand on though.

          There has not been a successful toll road in Australia since 2000. City Link in Melbourne was the last one that didn’t go belly up, the five major toll motorway schemes since then have all failed spectacularly. I wonder if they have learn’t their lesson yet? It does seem like the latest round of white elephants have the PPP discussion noticably absent, seems like Aussie is going back to wasting public funds only.

        • SF Lauren

          You will note Nick that most of those failed PPP projects were nice to have roads rather than game changes and that they were so expensive they needed to charge people huge tolls in the order of $15 a trip.

          They are not a failure of the PPP process but more a failure of retail 101 were people don’t tend to like to spend large amounts of money they perceive to gain little benefit.

          You will also find in a number of cases they had huge budget blowouts such as the airport link which was meant to cost about $2.4 billion but ended up costing closer to $5 billion.

          In terms of no successful toll roads since 2000, that is a very short time frame in the infrastructure world. That’s like saying no successful shoe sales today in a shoe shop.

          • I actually agree with all your points there, issues in Australia were:

            1) Motorways that were not fulfilling any real gap or need in the road network, hence the real traffic volumes not living up to way was predicted.
            2) Projects that were just too grand and expensive to begin with, where if you try and set the tolls high enough to cover costs you drive away users.
            3) Big budget blow outs, due to the large size and risk of the point above. (A $100m project costing twice as much is an annoyance, a $2.5b project costing twice as much is a huge impact on the economy).

            My question is, would a harbour motorway tunnel in Auckland be any different? What exactly is the gap or need for it that people will flock to drive on the tolled route? Is there a real lack of traffic capacity from the North Shore to the central area that people are lining up to pay a toll for?

            Is a five billion dollar tunnel, or even a three or four billion dollar one, possible to pay off with tolls? My back of the envelope estimate was that it would need a toll of over ten bucks each way and have no one turned away by the price to break even.

            So the people on the North Shore who can already drive down the motorway into town and on to the other motorways, if we spend several billion dollars and charge large tolls so that they can do the same in a tunnel instead of a bridge, would they fall under the idea that “people don’t tend to like to spend large amounts of money they perceive to gain little benefit”. Any time I’ve said to North Shore people that a harbour crossing means a toll of at least six or seven bucks on both the new tunnel and the old bridge, the immeidate response is usually “f*ck that!”.

            Can we not expect a budget blow out too? If Brisbane’s cross river tunnel under their CBD with links either side to existing motorways was such a blowout, why would our similar project not carry such a risk?

            Yes 13 years is a pretty short time in infrastructure, but it’s still pretty salient that all five of the last five major toll motorway schemes in Australia have fallen far far below the business cases that justified them on paper.

          • SF Lauren

            I’d say tolling a new harbour crossing would be a very bad idea.

            The whole point of the thing is to separate the through strategic traffic so that it doesn’t get effected by CBD traffic and to reduce the reliance on the one existing crossing.

            If you tolled the new crossing you would be required to make the old crossing no worse than existing so you would need to spend a few hundred million making some giant interchange in Victoria Park.

            As to who’s idea it is to toll the route I don’t know and I doubt the powers at be think it’s an option.

            I’d say the would just look at the usual suspects such as petrol buyers.

    • KLK

      “As I have said before, spend the money on roads and buses”

      OK. So you mean busways dedicated only to buses. Agreed. But then, that’s what the CFN (and AT) proposes, in addition to the CRL committed to by the govt.

      If you are proposing roads for cars AND buses – i.e. the same old solution which has delivered us the congestion we are trying to fix – meh. That doesn’t solve anything and is the real waste of money.

    • Sailor Boy

      KLK, debt is always an issue but especially for projects that are not required for many years to come and will just mirror a service we already have.
      Take it you are referring to the 2 motorways that we alreadyhave over the harbour, as opposed to the cycle, walkin and PT facilities that we don’t.

    • Bryce P

      You pay such high rates and still want the govt to commit to building a (duplicate) vehicle crossing at $4B – $5B? About $2B (at least) more than a high quality rail line to Albany would cost.

      • SF Lauren

        I’m impressed how you guts just thumb suck some number for rail and take it as gospel even though it’s obviously significantly undercooked and then you take some very conservative costs for roads that have proven themselves to be about twice as much than reality yet take them as gospel as well.

        Certainly if you going to compare the best of one mode with the worst of the other mode your comparison is a complete waste of time and to be honest a deliberate missrepresentation.

        • He’s just reporting NZTAs published figures. Have you done more advanced costings that NZTA that you’d like to share?

        • SF Lauren

          Yes I know he is using the very conservative NZTA costings that were done back when they thought a 2 lane waterview tunnel was going to cost $2.1 billion. If people were not being deliberately deceptive they would use what the actual cost was found to be as in $1.4 billion for a 3 lane tunnel.

          If people want to insist on using the conservative figures they should treat both modes the same and so rail to Albany should be over $5 billion rather than $2-3 billion at most.

          The full cost of getting the CRL up and running to its advertised performance can’t even be done for $3 billion. A lower level of performance yes.

          • The latest NZTA figure I’ve seen for North Shore rail was an estimate of $2 to $2.5 billion.

          • SF Lauren

            Is that the figure they did back when the CRL was $1.2 billion? Or the one when the tunnel only went over the harbour and to the start of the busway?

          • SF Lauren

            Hmm, just had a look at the estimates and there seem to be quite a few issues there. There are a number of items such as earthworks, reclamation and traffic management that shouldn’t be all that different however the rail option has them 1/10 to 1/25 of the cost.

            No wonder it’s quoted as being so cheap.

  • KLK

    “debt is always an issue but especially for projects that are not required for many years to come and will just mirror a service we already have”

    Puhoi to Wellsford?

    If you are promoting enhancement of the existing service (busway)to meet demand rather than a new facility (rail) on the north shore, surely the same applies to Puford through enhancement (Operation Lifesaver changes) instead of replication (Holiday Highway)?

  • DaveB

    In each of the recent Wellington earthquakes, no significant damage occurred to the metro rail network. The shutdown was for a thorough checking, but in theory the trains could have carried on running. Unfortunately this shutdown occurred at the very moment when the trains were most needed and begs the question, Is there a better way of handling such emergency situations?

    CBD workers were basically told to evacuate themselves with no trains running. Many simply walked home, but the gridlock which ensued was a stark reminder of how inefficient it is to rely on cars for such a task. Had the earthquake been more serious with real casualties, emergency services would have been effectively paralysed.

    The rail system remained out of action until next morning. Why did it take so long to perform the required checks? Could they have been performed more quickly had rail management been tasked with the imperative of keeping the service running? Could at least some trains continue running at caution (i.e. low speed, being prepared to stop short of any visible obstruction), while the checks were being carried out, or even as part of the checking process? At what point in a disaster situation, does the risk of NOT running the trains outweigh the risk of running them (assuming that the system is not physically disabled)? Is there a tendency for “risk-aversion” to override the public service obligation with rail?.

    One only has to consider the amazing feats of emergency response which occurred on the railways of Europe during wartime, when rail was the principal mode of transport. Shutting down for a leisurely night’s checking was simply not an option, and if a major structure such as a bridge was wiped out by an ememy attack, temporary reinstatement was often achieved in incredibly short time.

    Rail’s role in assisting with emergency-situations needs reassessing in the light of Wellington’s recent “test” earthquakes. In fact, rail’s role in society at large could do with a long hard look, in particular to reassess whether the “strict business model” is really the best way to be going about things.

    • Yes very good points and ones I have wondered about myself. Surely if the modes were treated the same every single structure on the roading network would need to be checked first. That means checking every bridge, tunnel, culvert, overhead sign or other structure that exists on the network before any cars are allowed on it.

    • SF Lauren

      What they could look at in Wellington is contra-flow on the motorways.

      If they left the outbound direction for general traffic and then turn the inbound side into a bi-directional road for emergency vehicles and buses.

      This is similar to what they do in the states for hurricanes and such things.

      • DaveB

        Yes, that might help. However the immediate problems were on the non-motorway city-arterials. I think it would have helped to encourage a gradual, “no-need-to-rush” evacuation, rather than the “everyone go home now!” message, which is what came across. However in a more severe earthquake with significant trauma this may not be appropriate either.

        The basic problem is that the city cannot cope with a large influx or efflux of traffic occurring in a short space of time, and it has no effective answer for the many 1000′s who come in by train and then find they have no transport home. “Hitch a ride” (in the gridlocked traffic!) was the best advice officialdom seemed to be able to come up with!

        • SF Lauren

          It shouldn’t really be all that hard of a task given people are only going one way the arterial roads should be half empty.

          A simple route would be to turn southbound SH1 onto Aotea Quay through to Jervois Quay as a route for emergency vehicles and buses. That would provide catchment for the entire CBD and provide a congestion free route.

          A few simple upgrades of intersections to stop private vehicles getting onto the southbound section should be super easy and somewhat cheap.

          The last thing we want is to just keep the trains running only to have one derail or drive straight into a landslide.

    • Wellington Commuter

      During the most recent quake, the Wellington rail service was totally cancelled without bus replacement (I feel for those trying to get to the Wairarapa or even Palmerston North). The Wellington bus services continued (including the trolleys as power stayed on) but the service stalled because the buses became stuck in car traffic (this probably also stopped provision of any additional bus capacity). Even so, many eventually did make it home on overloaded buses including some rail passengers. If the same sort event happened in Auckland, I would predict the only PT service that would continue with any reliability would be the North Shore busway (assuming the bridge was not compromised) as this gets the buses around stalled car traffic … especially intersections.

      More importantly, hundreds (if not thousands) of people, including myself, got home by hitching a car ride. The spare carrying capacity of cars is probably greater than all other modes combined and THIS is probably the key to emergency evacuation of the CBD given the lack of buses. Again many will get home by car.

      The Wellington the rail service has either completely or at least partially failed multiple times in recent months due to a range of causes from earthquakes, storms and signalling (actually it has always failed every so often). Unfortunately the greater vulnerability of PT modes on fixed networks (rail and trolley buses) against the greater flexibility of road based modes is rarely even included in the evaluation of major PT projects. For example, the CRL CCFAS Report Multi-Criteria Analysis has only one measurement that even partially looked at PT option resilience … “Regional Movement Criteria #5 – The extent to which the option improves the resilience of the transport network (e.g. to natural disasters, changing trends, adjusting to significant change)”. The CCFAS technical report rated all options “0” (except Surface BRT WITH approaches where most options were rated “1″). The Wellington Regional Passenger Rail business Case didn’t even consider resilience before investing the then $2B in new trains/track/stations.

      So we are choosing PT solutions without considering their resilience or support for emergencies . . . and then wonder why they don’t work :(

      • Bryce P

        Have we started ripping up roads? We cannot build a city JUST to cope with a natural disaster. Who is to say that an earthquake (or other natural disaster) won’t happen in the middle of the night? Would this affect commuters? Of course not. The timing of the Wellington quake was bad, from a commuter point of view, but really, what was so bad? A lot of people got home late. Wouldn’t it have been better to stay put and allow emergency services to move around?

        What’s really important here? Getting home in time for Shorty St?

  • Helen

    On the Wellington quake, in many cases the inbound routes were as gridlocked as outbound, because people came in from the suburbs to pick up loved ones who were standard. In fact heading towards the Eastern suburbs traffic heading into town was worse. So contraflow wouldn’t have helped. What worked really well was cycles, I just breezed past all the cars and buses that were sitting in traffic going nowhere.

    On another note, I know this is the Auckland Transport Blog, but there are a number of readers in other parts of the country and some interesting challenges in Wellington and Christchurch that I’d be interested in seeing posts on, like rail resilience to quakes in Wellington…

    • Steve D

      Bicycles aren’t much help when you came in on the train or bus, though. Unless you buy a bike and keep it at work full-time just in case.

  • Something else we can learn from San Francisco:
    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2013/08/19/posted-on-masonic-hilarious-send-up-of-cars-first-vitriol/

    Those posters should be adapted and posted all over Auckland. Queen Street, Lake Road, High Street and Ponsonby Road would be good first targets.

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