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Overkill

We know that Auckland’s transport plans are completely unaffordable, a more interesting question is “why?” Much of the answer to that questions comes from what I refer to as “overkill”. Essentially, a solution that’s vastly oversized compared to the problem it’s trying to solve. There are a large number of examples of “overkill” when it comes to transport projects currently being planned:

  • The East West Link is perhaps the most obvious example, where somehow a bit of congestion around a couple of intersections at each end of Neilson Street somehow led to NZTA and AT proposing a gigantic and enormously destructive motorway through one of the most densely populated and deprived parts of Auckland. Yeah there are certainly some transport problems in the area but the jump to a huge motorway solution is a classic example of overkill.
  • The proposed motorway to motorway connection between SH1 and SH18 at Constellation Drive. The problem here appears to be a pinch point northbound on SH1 between SH18 and Greville Road and constraints around the interchanges themselves. Yet again the solution is to jump to a gigantic motorway-to-motorway mini-spaghetti junction that likely to cost upwards of half a billion dollars. What about just adding another lane northbound, extending the Northern Busway to Albany and then seeing whether anything else is actually necessary?
  • Puhoi-Wellsford is another classic example of overkill. Yes there are congestion problems around Warkworth, yes there are major safety issues in the Dome Valley and at specific points south of Warkworth, but it’s quite a jump to suggest the only solution to those problems is a massive new motorway that’ll cost close to $2 billion. Operation Lifesaver highlights how most of the benefits from the motorway can be achieved at a fraction of the cost by truly focusing on the problem at hand.
  • The recently proposed Lincoln Road widening project once again responds to legitimate problems like a lack of priority for buses, localised congestion and safety issues. Yet the respond is again overblown – massively wide intersections, slip lanes everywhere, extra lanes all over the place etc. The outcome is not just an overly expensive project, but a corridor that gets wider and wider – further degrading the urban form around it.
  • Penlink is a massive project to satisfy locals when the real problem is further north at Silverdale and can be solved with other smaller alternatives.

It seems like good transport planning should flush out what projects are overkill and what projects aren’t. An interesting comparison against the above projects is the process that the City Rail Link has gone through over the past few years – especially in the form of the City Centre Future Access Study, which looked in detail at a range of “smaller options” for resolving issues with access to the city centre – outlining which of these would be necessary anyway, which could occur prior to CRL being built but also the point at which the ‘small scale’ interventions need to become so significant you might as well do the job properly – in this case by building CRL.

Throughout the ITP there are a vast number of projects which are obviously “overkill”. Examples include $665m on Albany Highway (surely a typo?), around $800m on a section of Great South Road, a $150m motorway bypass of Kumeu, the $240m Mill Road corridor project and many others. Strip back these overkill projects so they really focus on the problems they’re designed to resolve and we’ve probably gone a long way towards solving our future funding shortfalls.

ITP Major Projects

26 comments to Overkill

  • George

    This is what happens when you have no democratic or financial accountability.

    If you’re in a private business and you spend far more than can be justified, eventually the costs become apparent and the business or a section of the business suffers and people lose their jobs (or the whole thing collapses, in severe scenarios).

    If you have to account for what you’re spending in a public organisation, each large project must be justified as serving the public interest, and not being substantially more than is what is required.

    It appears that NZTA and Auckland Transport (the Council Out-of-control Organisation) simply have blank cheques and are able to spend as and how they like. Their only masters are themselves.

  • Sailor Boy

    The eastern airport link can go on that list too.

  • Nuts I clicked out – here I go again :|

    Matt can you please use yellow highlight for the third decade please. The current highlight does my eyes and head in especially when comparing against the first decade projects

    Some observations:

    1) The Southern Motorway upgrade from Manukau to Papakura which includes the Takanini Interchange has been sped up to effectively immediately on the back of the PM’s announcement in June. I would say that 2015 is when the first sod is turned for that project and in all honesty it can not come fast enough down here. Okay sure I live down here and might have a perceived interest but that piece of highway does not only carry cars (and yes I do drive along that section of motorway frequently) but also the inter city freight traffic. So the upgrade would be good on both safety grounds (the Takanini Interchange…) and efficiency of moving the freight through the corridor

    2) With the Southern Motorway now up for upgrading this decade the Mill Road upgrade can be effectively dropped. This is owing to the fact the motorway upgrade (along with more P/T improvements) should stop the rat running through Mill Road which is caused at the moment by the bottleneck at Manukau, Manurewa and Takanini

    3) Penlink I agree can be “scaled back”

    4) East-West: Option 4 can disappear but Option 8 still has me keeping an eye on it. No I do not mean the 8 lane super highway – but a scaled back option (I say this one is likely to go ahead and if so we better prepare for mitigation now). What I am more interested in and Councillor Bill Cashmore brought it up in the Infrastructure Committee during the East-West Link debate is the changing land use patterns in Onehunga and Penrose. Councillor Cashmore is right in the fact changing land use over time in that area could be more favourable to light industry and mixed use forcing the heavy industry to Wiri, East Tamaki and Drury South (which seems logical for firms who send a lot of their freight south as they can miss the congestion around the Mt Wellington area). It might be an idea to take a good hard look at land use patterns and seeing a possibility that could happen – thus be prepared for

    5) Rail grade separations – please hurry up

    6) I thought KR has stalled all work on the third main at the moment…. Need to go check that out

    6) The airport rail lines both northern and eastern end; need to check when Council plan to go ahead on the Onehunga-Airport heavy line extension. But also I thought we were dropping the Airport-Wiri heavy rail line option and going for the CFN bus-way option WITH consideration for a Sky Train in the third-decade (demand being a factor whether it goes ahead or not)

    7) Good to see Pukekohe Electrification for a first decade project, if we tack on the Manukau South Link to boot I’m going to be happy (as would be South Auckland gauging reactions constantly)

    8) What are they planning for the Great South Road? Seems to be on the wrong section as the Takanini section would be more warranted than around the Manukau and Otahuhu ends

    9) Manukau-Botany Rapid Transit at $22million. I doubt that would be a Sky Train ;-) so some bus lanes, priorities at signalled intersections and maybe some large bus stops at Botany?

    10) Manukau Interchange, okay that is a sore topic right now after the first concepts AT presented in May which got universally panned then, again last month and most likely early next year when the Council site visit to Manukau backed up by some workshops (see Resolutions from November Auckland Development Committee). So you might want to try again AT :P

    So yep Matt I think Overkill represents the situation there…

    • PeterH

      Hello Ben Ross at 2:01pm
      I do like the idea of upgrading “1) Takanini Interchange” But I am not sure “also the inter city freight traffic”
      NZTA traffic counter Site 461 just north on Bombay peaked in 2007, If there is increasing traffic at this Interchange it is not coming from south of the Bombay.

  • Frank E

    What about PT projects or are they all absolutely perfect?

    Some projects on that list that I think could be pared back are the Northern busway extension to Albany which costs a surprisingly high amount ($250mil). There’s already a bus shoulder lane southbound and it doesn’t look like its too difficult to build one northbound.

    Looking down that list the Southeastern busway is horribly expensive ($650mil) though its probably too late to stop that. Avondale to Southdown due to its cost should probably go as well. The Mt Roskill link also is an expensive solution to relatively minor problems which could with a few bus lane improvements on Sandringham & Dominion Rd.

    Glad I got that off my chest :)

    • Starnius

      What about the Auckland Cycle Network. When does that get a seat at the big money table? Or even at any table? It should be rolled into Major Projects, because really, having a dedicated full-bore project team and an effective champion is the only way I can see that ever leaving the “nobody cares about this and neither do we” attitude most of AT has to cycling.

    • Bear in mind many of the costs on this list are likely to be wrong from what I understand. This is what was put in the ITP though.

      The northern busway extension to Albany is one of the better performing projects so don’t know why you would want to cut that out. With bus shoulders, buses have to constantly merge to get around interchanges and doesn’t allow for another station along the route like is being planned.

      Southeastern busway is included in the wider AMETI costs and not sure if the figure is correct. However I will point out that the current plan involves taking quite a bit of land for widening which will be included in the cost however after the busway has been finished I believe the plan is to repackage the leftover land and develop it. It will actually end up with more dwellings in the area than there were before and the money from selling those properties won’t be be project costs.

      Avondale to Southdown is something not needed soon however the Mt Roskill part would be fairly cheap and useful much earlier. It’s not just about Sandringham and Dominion Rd but about helping to reduce bus numbers in the CBD and balance the rail network out. The rest of the route can wait.

    • Sailor Boy

      Yeah. No gonna have to stop you right there. Albany is havong maaaive growth and particularly in the morning that section of the busway is the constraint. Also going through rosedale and seeing the development there I really think a station is needed.

  • BD

    All the Blue and Orange planned Public transport projects should be brought forward to green

  • Waspman

    I hate to say it but the CRL, as semi useful as it may be is a massive overkill and hugely expensive solution to fix a capacity problem. And they way things are with the current government its chances are slim anyway and yes I know John Key made a very conditional commitment of sorts.

    As is well known the problem is myopic planning for growth translating into not enough platforms and only 2 tracks to access it or leave it or one each way, in fact the two tracks is the big issue and the access from east and Newmarket to Britomart. The budget for this could spent fixing this through more engineering of platforms and access either below ground or above ground to say Queens Wharf for some trains and then use the rest of the budget to add to the rest of the network..

    My fear is this will eat all the rail budget improvement for a generation at least.

    • Steve D

      There IS no rail improvement budget. Each individual project has to get approved from general funds. So the CRL isn’t eating anything – and anyway, if the CRL doesn’t happen, nothing will.

    • that would be true if the problem were just one of capacity, but the problem is capacity, accessibility, speed, frequency, legibility, path routing and efficiency of operations/operating expenditure. Or to sum up, the problem is we have a rudimentary suburban rail system. The CRL doesn’t just give us a more capacious rudimentary suburban rail system, it effectively gives us a metro network that can form the backbone of the whole public transport system.

    • “As is well known the problem is myopic planning for growth translating into not enough platforms and only 2 tracks to access it or leave it or one each way, in fact the two tracks is the big issue and the access from east and Newmarket to Britomart.” – No the problem is it is one way.

      It is the rail equivalent of the CMJ and the Waterview connection rolled into one.

    • Sailor Boy

      Except that your ‘solution’ still won’t add any capacity

  • The Albany Highway upgrade is an odd one – $665m??? Why complete the motorways through there, only to then throw all that money at upgrading the old pre-motorway route?

    Ben, yes the third main project has stalled. KR doesn’t have the money for it as a freight only project, and AT don’t want it at the present time (which is foolish, because the tracks between Otahuhu and Wiri will be congested from 2015 onward).

  • Dave B

    Overkill is a political disease, start and finish. Transport planners can spend years developing and refining the optimum solution, only to have some politician come along and override all their good advice, in order to impose his own “pet” solution.

    A classic example of this is the Kapiti “Western Link Road”. This was a locally developed initiative to alleviate congestion on SH1 through Waikanae and Paraparaumu with a 2-lane, local by-pass. The council had spent years developing and consulting on this project and it was ready to build.
    But up pops Steven Joyce with his personal dream of an uninterrupted 4-lane motorway all the way from Wellington Airport to Levin. Kapiti’s optimised and entirely fit-for-purpose Western Link Road failed to fit with Joyce’s dream, so he overrode it. His successor, Gerry Brownlee, is now in the process of imposing the hugely uneconomic “Kapiti Expressway” motorway solution.

    Welcome to transport non-planning in New Zealand. Hands up all who thought that Muldoon was the arch-interventionist!. He had nothing on these guys.

  • BD

    Overall these projects are concerning and show auto dependency continuing in the near future. We should have the public transport infrastructure as the top priority but it seems that the public transport infrastructure won’t be built until later on which in my opinion is very worrying.

  • Bob

    Pretty sad for NZ that politicians never have to face any informed scrutiny for some of the PPP funding arrangements that are going to impoverish future taxpayers. Parliament has no upper house to review this stuff and based upon its performance reviewing the Kaipara District Council’s you would not hold out much hope that the Auditor General will come to the party. These projects are the modern day equivalent of teh Easter Island Statues.

  • Brian

    Let’s face it though, NZ had a chance in 2011 to vote out the Key government, but instead voted for the motorways by re-electing National. Therefore, it must be assumed the general NZ public is in favor of the RoNS schemes and road building as their preferred “solution” to transport and land development, and Kiwi lifestyle. Whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad, democracy wins at the end of the day. I feel NZers are pretty well travelled and know what the great cities oversees are doing to resolve transport and urban issues, but are voting for the US 1950s solution here…sad stuff.

    • Not many people would vote purely based on transport. In fact almost regardless of what is being proposed transport will have little impact on voting behaviour so not really correct to say that people voted for motorways.

      • Dave B

        The last election showed us that voter-response was significantly influenced by important factors such as:-

        1. John Key’s “killer” smile and maybe the colour of his eyes
        2. Poll results predicting that National would win regardless
        3. Propaganda guaranteeing “A brighter future” under National
        4. Scaremongering about a tree-hugging nanny-state, should National lose.

        So with important issues such as these at stake, it is not surprising that confused voters who for instance didn’t want asset-sales, nevertheless returned a government committed to pursuing them. And those with doubts about National’s transport policy were comforted by soothing assurances that new motorways would lead to to much-needed economic growth.

        And so it went . . .

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