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Costs and Benefits of the Governments Auckland Transport Package

A couple of months ago the government finally announced that they would support the City Rail Link, albeit with a later start date than the council are pushing for. A few days later they then went on to announce a massive road building binge including upgrades/additions to the areas around the interchange of SH1 and SH18, the Southern motorway south of Manukau and SH20A to the airport. Along with this they also agreed on major support for the AMETI project and the East West Link while pushing ahead with designation for an additional harbour crossing.

In each of the roading projects – perhaps with the exception of another harbour crossing – we feel that there are probably some key parts that are worthwhile while other bits that seem over the top. What we definitely don’t agree on is the suggestion that these projects will be moved ahead of the CRL which gives the package the definite feel of an asphaltaholic statement of “just one more road project then we can quit and build the PT”. Of course for these asphalt junkies there is always just one more road that needs to be built first.

Govt Transport Projects

One area where the government have been light on details is what the actual costs and benefits of each project are. Well looking through the parliaments questions for written answer section I found the questions from Julie Anne Genter asking about the costs and benefits of the various projects. The answers from Gerry Brownlee are help to shed a bit more light, and concern on the projects.

First the costs.

I have been advised that the most recent cost estimates for the named projects are as follows.

  • Auckland City Rail Link – $2.86 billion. This figure is the revised number Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are now using for the project, and includes the additional rolling stock and track upgrades on the wider rail network needed to implement the project.
  • Second Waitemata Harbour crossing – $4.7 billion for a tunnel crossing.
  • Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) – $1.5 billion.
  • East-West Link – indicative cost of $1 billion.
  • Completing a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive - $400 million for the current scope of works for the corridor which include:
    • Upgrading State Highway 18 (Upper Harbour Highway) to motorway standard
    • Motorway-to-motorway connections between State Highway 1 and State Highway 18 (both directions)
    • South-facing ramps between State Highway 1 and State Highway 17 (Albany Expressway/Greville Road)
  • Widening the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura – the estimated cost of widening State Highway 1 between Manukau and Papakura, including a new interchange at Takanini, is $250 million.
  • Upgrading State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard - $110 million for the current scope of works for the corridor which include:
    • Upgrading and widening of State Highway 20A
    • Grade separation of Kirkbride Road.

There are a couple of interesting points in here.

  • Auckland City Rail Link – It’s good to see them finally acknowledging that this isn’t just about a tunnel in the CBD but that the costs include a wider network upgrade
  • East-West Link – This is much more than what was budget for in the Auckland Plan and the Integrated Transport Programme which suggested $600m. Does this suggest the thinking is for a more expensive motorway type solution like has been pushed by groups like the NZCID?
  • Completing a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive - No mention of extending the busway through this section like we thought may have been included making this piece of work appear to just be a roadfest
  • Widening the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura – The ITP projected this as $500m so this is half the price, still expensive though and I imagine most of it is in the Takanini interchange.
  • Upgrading State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard – Again this is cheaper than in the ITP which suggests $235m. I can understand the desire to grade separate Kirkbride Rd but not sure what the point of widening the road is.

Another key point is we don’t know if there are any particular details about the costs, for example we know that the CRL has had its costs inflated to the predicted year of spend but we don’t know if that has happened with the other projects. We also don’t know if the other projects have been though much more detailed costing’s like the CRL has, we know they certainly haven’t had the same level of scrutiny.

Moving on to the benefits the point above becomes even more relevant as the benefits are all listed in Net Present Value terms and that will have happened after taking into account issues like the assessment period and discount rate. This means we can’t do a straight calculation to work out the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR). It’s worth noting that Julie Anne did ask for the BCR for the projects but was just referred to this table.

Auckland Transport Pakage Benefits

The thing that is really striking on here is the East-West link has been effectively been given a green light when its benefits have yet to be assessed. Even just last month Gerry Brownlee was suggesting a funding package for the project will being signed off soon. The whole thing has the stench of the RoNS approach all over it – agree to a project before actually working out if it is worthwhile.

Lastly regardless of what way you look at the numbers, the additional Waitemata harbour crossing project really does look like a dog. If it wasn’t being pushed by politicians (of almost all colours and ideology) then I suspect we wouldn’t even be hearing about it as the economic assessment would have buried it long ago.

31 comments to Costs and Benefits of the Governments Auckland Transport Package

  • Sacha

    So the cost of the extra north harbour crossing is 4700m, and the benefits are 568m. That must be some sort of record.

  • Are the values in the benefits column net of costs or gross benefits?

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    Until we reprioritise and restrategise with our existing network. This is all a joke. Being myself primarily a chartered roading engineer this has to stop. The time is now for subtraction and completing all modes which we could do on Dec 16..for peanuts and simulate a 2030 network with 30% bus fleet very achievable.. I’ve probably done enough posts about that.

  • That SH1-SH18 net-present value figure is surely nonsense, there is a functioning link there already, it’s not like Waterview which is at least joining two currently disconnected motorways, this is just expensively bringing a good road up to gold platted standard… What will 1/2 billion of flyovers do? 2/3 minutes of time saving during rush hour? Really worth that much? Fantasyland valuation of moving tin a little bit quicker. Still not as destructive as the terrible harbour crossing….

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    We all need to see beyond our bonnets. 50% can use other modes easy it doesn’t need to disadvantage anyone.

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    Try out a new multi-modal network and see!! Split out one lane for buses and trucks, complete the cycle network . Watch patronage grow and our economy plus less vehicle space on the road by massive amounts 5m of road space per person in most cases.

  • George D

    Ever more billions, without even so much as business cases.

    This Government likes to make the argument that it’s a credible manager of money. In this area at least, it certainly isn’t.

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    What is the BCR of a roadmarking and signals optimisation exercise complete trial network , B phase signals and one month running costs (free fare first month). 300 nominal buses simulating a 2030 network with priority, 700 on the new multi-transfer rapid network No congestion north and south with contingency measures in place .I bet this is way off the charts.

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    East-West Freight. If we change the mode focus and give the trucks priority and re-route cars away from this route why do we need to widen anything?

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    We need to re-strategise the network and think of network solutions not isolated project solutions. This is where the 2030 network surpasses anything out there right now apart from the multi-transfer idea on the collector feeds which is the different fix for the non-skeleton.

  • Waspman

    The Upper Harbour interchange is partially logical because it was a half arsed bit of engineering that is a major choke point on SH 1. However it is a shining example of how, when a motorway is built, its never really finished and what a bottomless money pit they are.

    But so much of this proposed road building is outright economically reckless. How can they justify this kind of spending both to build these roads and then forever more find the money to maintain them especially with all the cut backs in government spending? After all, the illusion this present government works under is the PM is a millionaire so therefore by default he knows what he is doing with the NZ economy. Honestly that’s the depth a lot of New Zealanders give the matter and how they base their votes. No cost benefit analysis who cares; not that I would believe any analysis anyway from this lot.

    Are donors been rewarded? It makes more sense than wholesale waste of tax payer money!

    And into the mix surely is some kind of hideous land devouring eastern highway!

    • obi

      “The Upper Harbour interchange is partially logical because it was a half arsed bit of engineering that is a major choke point on SH 1. However it is a shining example of how, when a motorway is built, its never really finished and what a bottomless money pit they are.”

      A road equivalent of the Britomart tunnel then? It’s pretty much NZ practice to build something cheap and dodgy, even though it’ll need major rework in the near future. We should do things properly, which is one of the reasons that the Puhoi to Wellsford expressway makes more sense than Operation Lifesaver.

      • Well this is really an argument about when things ought to be done, in what order. I’d love to see gold-platted infrastructure everywhere, but there is of course the small matter of paying for it. The RoNS is a policy of building highways a good 30 years early based on projected demand estimates that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Because the current regime ‘likes highways’. A bypass for Warkworth is not half-arsed it is right sized for the situation. The growth of Warkworth from <3000 souls now to >20k is not in any way certain and that is the kind of crazy that this report is founded on. It is not 1960, and Warkworth is not Pakuranga.

      • Sailor Boy

        Not to mention that a Warkworth bypass could easily be incorporated into a motorway in the future.

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    The fact is we let the car mode get away on us and now we can’t see past it (rely on it too much) and we are looking at isolated project solutions with different agendas each time. If we alter the entire network balance with symbols and the odd new line we can fix all of that. People can then have a choice, drive your car, take a bus , ride your bike, walk in some focus areas, and drive your truck sharing a fast tracked lane with buses and maybe a ferry trip in there too. All good stuff for signal tweaks, and 3 nights of roadmarking changes, a divvie up of the bus fleet with 30% express (2030 network) and the other 70% on the new multi-transfer all with some priority in the network. A new Auckland what is there to lose? this is such a sure thing if we make the first month free to try it out.

  • Steve F (GEN X) Civil.

    Wednesday week (18 Sept) I would like to start focussing on the problem “Smashing Congestion” and then each week after that. The solution is right in front of us (in a lot of cases) and with some new ideas, a new ultimate network strategy think we can turn this around but it needs reasonable support and a mayoral mandate. The first week focus on the fare structure.(this is important if we want Public Transport 50% mode share or more) and it needs to be easy to top up, affordable and provide non-restrictive freedom through-out the network. Also fast boarding ie validation only or keep walking and sort your card out, don’t hold the network up because we all want speed for a viable choice to the car mode. I would like to brainstorm with the HOP team about what is possible between now and Dec 16 when we go live.

  • Malc

    So if the benefits from the harbour crossing are $568 million and the cost is $4.7 BILLION, does that make the BCR 0.12??? If so, that must be the biggest waste of money in NZ history.

    • No it doesn’t. The reason being that the benefits are in net present value terms but it is unlikely they construction costs are. The NPV costs on the crossing are likely to be less and therefore the BCR more. The figures seem to be based off the 2010 study which said the BCR was something like 0.3 which is still pretty horrific.

  • I find the most crazy aspect (albeit only by a small margin, because it is silly on so many levels) is that our balance of payments is precarious and this is largely due to our imports of fuel and vehicles, both of which will be exacerbated by all these extra roads.

  • Obi, you are half right. Given that the “Steven Joyce memorial holiday highway” is to revitalise the north we should push it through to Marsden Point. At the Brynderwyns we should take the tops off all the hills and use this fill to retain all the sea from the harbour bridge north. We would save a bucket load as there would no longer be a need for a second harbour crossing. All the retained land that is not required for roads (maybe as much as three hectares) can be the subject of intensive development (a huge two storey apartment) and be floated to an eager public. I am voting for a company name of “Mighty Silly Tower”.

  • dennis

    This is nothing to with the topic but I thought the forum may have some ideas. I live in an apartment in town, walk to work and use public transport to get around central Auckland. I have recently purchased a car so I can get to rowing and go mountain biking in the weekends etc.There is no where to park the car unless I get a residents parking permit. As I had lived there for 6 years.I thought this would not be a problem. Wrong a permit was refused. Any suggestions?
    It also occurred to me that lack of residents parking will be a major barrier to intensification.

    • Sailor Boy

      Rent a carpark fulltime from Wilson’s, Tournament or AC?

    • Ana H

      It is tricky. There is certainly a focus on having less parking for cars and getting rid of minimum parking requirements, however in terms of intensification, carparks are still required. In Ambrico Place, New Lynn, an intensified development went up about 13 years ago, located adjacent to the New Lynn Transit station. Each of these terraces have a garage and a single parking space in front of the garage, and a number of visitors carparks. However research on this development shows that one of the things that people didn’t like about the development was not enough room for car parking. If you want terraced housing and apartments to be market attractive, then you need to supply enough carparks. If you want people to shift to greater use public transport, building terraces or apartments next to transit nodes will not necessarily reduce the requirements for parking. Rather, if we want to reduce the number of cars per household, the Auckland Council should undertake a really sexy marketing campaign for public transport/cycling etc. This is an example of a great campaign they used in Malmo, Sweden to shift motorists to cycling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVwtTM4cRe8

    • Steve D

      I have no idea what the bizarre logic is behind CBD resident parking permits, but for the record they are a strange historical artefact for people in a specific few really old buildings (e.g. along Parliament Street).

      If you want somewhere to leave your car in the CBD, you’ll have to pony up – AT, Wilson and Tournament all have parking buildings around and each of them will do you permanent parking for around $120-$200/month depending on where in the city you are, or from about $220 and up if you want a specific, named, reserved space. There’s also smaller niche operators if you look around, too – some as obscure as the car detailing place on Fort Street which offers permanent parking on the side. There are also mechanics, storage units and the like with odd bits of space.

      Also, if your building has carparks, people are sometimes willing to sublet them, even if your particular apartment doesn’t have a space. Put an ad on the noticeboard.

    • Rent a park… people whose properties have off street do pay for it, it’s just that the cost is buried in their rent or mortgage….

  • dennis

    Thank you for the suggestions.

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