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Government Transport Hypocrisy

The announcement of funding for a whole pile of new motorway projects in last week’s budget has once again highlighted the hypocrisy the government shows over the funding of transport projects.

First up here are the key parts to the government’s press release last week.

The projects will address congestion in our largest city, capitalise on the benefits of major roading projects already under way, such as the Western Ring Route, and improve access to Auckland International Airport.

“No Government has invested so heavily in transport infrastructure across all transport modes,” Mr Brownlee says.

“But with freight demand forecast to grow by around 50 per cent across the country in the next 30 years, and by almost 80 per cent in Auckland, and with a growing population, we’ve decided to bring a number of important projects forward.”

and

 “Some of these projects were up to a decade from starting, but we’ve decided they simply must begin sooner to give Auckland the best opportunity of moving people and goods around the region,” Mr Brownlee says.

The $375 million will be transferred to NZTA as an interest-free loan, to be repaid to the Crown by funding currently allocated to these projects in the National Land Transport Fund up to 2026/27.

So the government are saying the projects were on the plans but weren’t expected to be built for a long time. The government believes the predictions that traffic will always grow including the suggestion that freight demand will increase by a massive 80% and so has made a decision to bring forward spending on these projects. Effectively they’re using the traditional predict and provide method that has been a staple of road building for decades.

The problem is we know the predict and provide model hasn’t been working that well lately as in many places traffic volumes are still below their pre GFC levels. In terms of freight, the recent Freight Demand Study showed that while the amount of stuff moved had increased since 06/07, the tonne-kms (the amount of time on the roads) had actually dropped.

Contrast that stance with the one they have taken with the City Rail Link. They announced their support for the CRL at the same time as they announced the motorway projects however pushed the start date back from when it was planned. In doing so they questioned the predictions used in the assessment of the CRL – despite their own officials being involved. They then imposed a couple of arbitrary targets that need to be met before they’ll even consider funding it - and I’ve heard that even those are a smokescreen. At the time John Key said

“We will consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.

“I realise 2020 is not what the Council leadership is wanting, but while we may differ on timeframes, there is clear recognition by the Government that the project will be needed to address access to the Auckland CBD and improve the efficiency of rail,” says Mr Key.

The targets are:

  • an increase in Auckland CBD employment of 25 percent over current levels, which is half of the increase to 2021 predicted in the 2012 City Centre Future Access Study
  • rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips a year well before 2020

Note: I actually think the patronage target will be achieved but not the employment one as developers simply won’t be able to build enough office space in that time-frame (hence why that target was imposed).

One of the problems though is that while we won’t have exhausted the post electrification capacity by 2020, it’s likely we won’t be far off it and so delaying the start till then will likely mean years of at/over capacity services.

So we have two completely different sets of criteria being applied depending on the mode. For roads, despite there having been low/no growth in some cases for over a decade we get told we need to build new projects to ensure that future growth can be accommodated. For rail it’s the opposite and we have to wait till after the growth has happened (and therefore the network is at capacity) before we can even consider new projects. To me either the CRL targets need to be dropped and the government accept the predictions or they impose equivalent targets for the motorway projects.

In addition the press release from Gerry Brownlee talks about the motorway projects capitalising on what has been billions the government (including the previous one) has poured into the motorway system over the last decade. Yet there’s seemingly no desire to capitalise on the investment in the rail network that has been happening. This is important as the combined cost of the various motorway projects is almost equal to what the government’s share of the CRL costs would be.

To make matters for the CRL even worse, last night on Sky New John Key said the CRL was in competition with another harbour crossing to be the next major project in Auckland. This is a new development as even in previous government statements any additional harbour crossing has always been considered to occur well after the CRL. Traffic volumes across the bridge have been flat for almost a decade (peaked in 2006) while rail patronage has soared (with the exception of a bump in large part caused by the RWC and the HOP implementation).

Rail vs Harbour Bridge

All up there seems to be a growing hypocrisy from the government towards transport in Auckland. Will the opposition parties actually to anything to highlight this (or win and change it). What about the mayor and council or will they continue to gleefully turn up to motorway project sod turning events with a smile and speeches praising the government?

100 comments to Government Transport Hypocrisy

  • simon

    Politicians come and go and the sooner Key and Brownlee are gone the better

  • Jon Reeves

    National will be out of Govt this year. Then we can put an immediate stop to this 1960′s motorway madness.

    The smarter opposition parties will announce their transport policies closer to the election to give less time for the Nats to cherry pick their ideas.

    • I’d be delighted for the Nats to adopt better policy where ever it comes from… I don’t care who does the best thing for our city and country, so along as they do, but currently these guys are driving as fast as possible in the wrong direction…..

  • ‘Gerry Brownlee talks about the motorway projects capitalising on what has been billions the government (including the previous one) has poured into the motorway system over the last decade’

    The returns on more billions into our only already mature, widespread, and functional system will be negligible if not negative. The returns on improving the incomplete and straining PT networks are much greater and much more certain. And, furthermore, are the best way to keep the dominant mature system efficient. This is a vast and illogical waste of money. And a disaster for the whole city.
    Don’t even start me on resilience:

    So not only ‘good money after bad’ but also ‘all eggs in one basket’.

    And the total reverse of ‘fiscal responsibility’ and partnership with local government.

    • Glen

      Patrick, your points are all valid and clear as day to anyone not in the Joyce/Brownlee camp. Unfortunately J/B are not listening, and far too many people out there don’t care enough about transport to make it sway their votes in September. How to get more people listening?

      BTW not wishing to get you started on resilience ;) but this makes the plan to turn SH20A into a full motorway (apart from being a colossal waste of $150m to remove a couple of sets of traffic lights) even sillier

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11257465

      Predictably, the Herald has not opened this story up for comments. There has been a lot of support for airport rail on other Herald articles during their taxi fare campaign… some people can see through the Herald and J/B line, how to reach more?

  • Christopher T

    Since when has this government been constrained by facts when it comes to transport projects? From the very go, Joyce and Brownlee have justified their ersatz grands projets with falsehoods, red herrings, nonsense statistics and all the other rhetorical devices know to spin and haven’t been called to account once, other than in this allegedly ‘left wing transport blog’. Hypocrisy is a mild description of this serial deceit and cupidity is its explanation.

  • Adam W

    It is typical of this Government in that it thinks it knows better than everyone else, just like in Canterbury where they disbanded the democratically elected board who were trying to balance farming water demands with sustainable water use for everyone. This government ignores facts and runs rough shod over everything that disagrees with its ideological view – evidence is irrelevant and motorways rule.

    • Yes I have just been to Christchurch and saw first hand how the Brownlee Spatial Design/Transport Options world is turning out. It’s an extraordinary experiment: a little city with the traffic of a place ten times its size because of enforced dispersal [no agglomeration] and the Single Occupant Vehicle as the only fully supported transport system. Summed up by the image below [note neglected and dismembered rail resource]. Cars everywhere but never any decent numbers of people. Seems to be ideal social order for this government: extraordinarily wasteful, inefficient, spectacularly ugly, and in the end not really a city at all; just the never ending outskirts of one. Never waste a good crisis eh, Gerry? Though why anyone would want this is hard to fathom…? Are the poor people of Christchurch so beaten up now they can’t see they are being forced into an extreme and unpleasant future….?

      • NCD

        Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” highlights the way a crisis (real or manufactured) has been used to push through all sorts changes that would never have stood up to less-hurried scrutiny. I hadn’t thought of the Christchurch rebuild in that light- until just now.

      • Have a read of stuff.co.nz comments on articles related to the CBD build etc. A lot of people seem to think that the idea of rebuilding the CBD is a waste of to (separate from problems with the execution). According to them everybody shops in suburban malls and works in offices scattered across the city.

        My feeling is that this is effectively saying that people want Christchurch to compete against Rotorua, Tauranga and Hamilton instead of Auckland and Wellington. Except that Christchurch is colder and has various other quake-related problems which means it’ll probably lose.

        • Well the quakes accelerated that weak-core syndrome that existed there prior, and the rebuild has doubled down on that further by insisting on a virtual blank slate, ie demolishing buildings that should be restored often at less cost than replacement, like the Majestic Theatre. Quite apart from the issue of the built environment as vital identity and memory holder and so on, it just makes the possibility of any re-build gaining momentum is gravely threatened.

          Currently I hold little hope for a city centre of any scale and power, and therefore I see the new Christchurch as an experiment in urban form; a test case for the suburbanists who imagine that this kind of extremely flat typology as some kind of ideal. I can say based on two days there last week even I was shocked by the traffic outcomes of this programme. It is one constant traffic jam/carpark; honestly it feels like everyone there has six cars and is somehow driving them all at once.

          It isn’t polycentric- it’s anti-centric, or Centre Absent. Yes like a colder, less fertile, and flater Tauranga, or Hamilton with a pissier river and no centre. I hope I’m wrong.

          • ? Christchurch is larger than Wellington, and has a very large manufacturing base, wealthy rural hinterland, and is a major transport hub with large sums of insurance money flooding in. Not sure why comparison to third tier urban centres is meaningful. Rebuild of urban core is still in very early stages and while I agree huge mistakes currently being made, worth remembering that the Christchurch earthquakes happened about the same time that the Auckland Council was created, i.e not very long ago in historical terms. If you’d wandered around Coventry in ’48 I suspect it would have looked pretty dire as well.

            I mean, “I was there for two days and now I’m going to make braod and poorly supported assertions” is exactly the kind of lazy analysis that you should be better than.

          • Well I’ve there fairly regularly both before and after the quakes which means I’m aware of the changes. The comparisons are about urban form not scale. Christchurch is big [for NZ] and dispersed. It’s still dispersed.

          • tuktuk

            Some Christchurch business owners are very concerned about the future shape and form of their city but are at the moment lone voices in the wilderness as so many people there are still just dealing with the here and the now. I know as I had the opportunity to spend some time in Christchurch talking to businesses a few weeks ago.

            In Christchurch’s case I don’t think there is a hidden agenda, the outcomes are too hap-hazard to show much evidence of a vision. The decision-making does appear to reflect a suspicion that somehow the “vision thing” itself is a dangerous waste of money, and a little too close to socialism!

            And so, what was a culturally significant New Zealand city is being patched and engineered into a sprawling “efficient(?)” mega-provincial service centre, Hamilton South. It may have been trending in that direction before the earthquakes but there can be no doubt that the quakes and the decisions made since have dramatically accelerated that trend. History will judge whether designing a city without a functional CBD is wise, and it will also determine whether such a city can ever have a soul or a character.

          • “that weak-core syndrome that existed there prior” – I grew up in Chch and I have lived there for about 26 of my 39 years. I am always surprised when people say this about Chch.

            Yes, it has a lot of malls. But I dont find that Chch people went to malls (I am talking pre-earthquake) than in Auckland – I mean look at Sylvia Park. In fact, when I first lived in Auckland one of the things that I didnt like was how weak the CBD was for socialising compared with Chch. In Auckland everyone went to Ponsonby or Mt Eden. In Chch we always went to the centre for socialising.

            Before the earthquakes, High Street was really starting to buzz, there was talk of making it a pedestrian zone. There was Poplar Mews and SOL and let’s never forget the awesome atmosphere of the Dux de Lux (RIP) and the Arts Centre. There were some great cafes and the Art Gallery was a nice modern building.

            I am not denying its shortcomings as a city, but things were starting to get better pre-earthquake. The centre was growing and, especially for young people, was the place to be. For me, that will make an unsuccessful revival of the CBD a terrible tragedy. But I believe once the cycling gets going, the centre will be revived.

            The suburbanites wont participate in that and will stay at the malls, but then, they were never interested in the CBD anyway.

          • Ben I didn’t say Auckland is any kind of intensivist’s paradise! You are so right, Auckland suffered terribly from dismemberment by motorway and flight from the centre from 1950s, but since the late 90s the trend has been strongly back to traditional city shape. And interestingly we know that vapidity and low PT use have been strongly correlated in Auckland’s case. 1994 was the year of the lowest AKL PT use and also the period that showed weak centre city property values.

            But Christchurch was becoming increasingly donut-shaped even before the earthquakes, the CBD was struggling, crappy one-way system and the usual minimum parking regs and other dispersive rules not helping. The quakes have led to a terrible acceleration of this, as has the rebuild policy, which is, as I say above, at least an experiment in urban form. Many seem to think this is a great idea and the road to happiness and wealth….

          • “But Christchurch was becoming increasingly donut-shaped even before the earthquakes” – I know you are not defending Auckland, but I just dont agree with that statement. I didnt see that when I lived there from 2003-2007 (when I came back from overseas). It just seems to be one of those things people keep repeating until it becomes accepted wisdom. There is no doubt a danger of that post-earthquake and I really hope it doesnt happen.

            It seemed to me that the Chch CBD was just starting to hit its straps before the earthquakes. Bus use was growing and stuff was opening. There was a lot happening and young people in particular were excited about it. They may have been a minority but a significant one.

            As I say, asking the suburbanites (the ones who think Rolleston/Rangiora/Amberley is a great place to live) is meaningless. They never went to the CBD for an urban experience and wont in the future.

            However, that is no different from Auckland. I am amazed how many suburban Aucklanders tell me how dangerous the CBD is or that after 6pm there is no street life. The fact is those suburbanites never come to the CBD and so base their opinions on NZ Herald articles – not the most balanced or accurate source.

          • Yes these same forces are observable in all our cities as they are across the OECD; a return to the centre this century, but they are all specific to local conditions, Auckland has its throttling ring of motorways that has severed the old centre from its natural community and fractured inner city and inner suburb land value and Christchurch has the lack of geographical constraint allowing easy spread across the plain. I agree that up until the quakes CHCH was on a similar path to Auckland in re-intensifying, but it doesn’t mean that that donut form wasn’t still a problem and one that has more than not been addressed by rebuild policy. In the same way that AKL’s issues from last century’s decisions are still very much with us, and in fact being extended by the current government’s refusal to partner the Local council’s direction. Same as in CHCH.

          • Brendon Harre

            Goosoid and Patrick a few words from Amberley (which I like to think of as the gateway to the Waipara wine valley not a satellite of Christchurch). Cantabrians are in shock, they are under stress and dealing with their basic needs first. For most that is housing. I know a huge number of people who pre earthquakes had stable housing and now three almost four years later, they are struggling with EQC, insurance, the building industry, councils, floods and rent rises. They don’t have the energy to fight for the ‘bigger picture’ and there is no obvious target anyway.

            You think it is bad in Auckland to have Brownlee as your Transport minister because he is pulling strings from a distance to undermine what the public want without openly admitting that is what he is doing. Well Canterbury have him for an Earthquake Minister too. He has tied up Christchurch in a confusion of strings. But he always seems to avoid taking responsibility. I am hoping the election is our chance to hold him to account.

            The biggest mistake post earthquakes was ‘red-zoning’ without ‘land swapping’. Red-zoners should have been offered residential land in some new safe area of the city with well thought out transport links -PT and road. This would have prevented the escalation in property prices and congestion that resulted from the I don’t need to do anything ‘let the market’ do it solution. I think the National government deliberately did the rebuild on the cheap, avoiding solutions like the above that would have added cost to government but saved money in the long run for Cantabrians and the tax payer who will ultimately have to fix the traffic nightmare. National did this because they believe the ‘getting back into surplus’ political story is better than the ‘rebuilding Christchurch’ story.

            Labour/Greens could still do some of this. I think an affordable satellite town(s) with a inner dense core could be built as part of the 10,000 KiwiBuild houses a year. There is several options, you could have its main PT link being an express bus way like the following. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/how-can-we-get-more-kiwis-into-homes/9256824/Housing-crisis-We-need-new-towns If you go to the link you can find how this can be done affordably.

            Or the PT could use the existing rail routes with a new commuter train service. The Town could be located between Christchurch and Rolleston or between Christchurch and Rangiora.

            Either way the township should be model around Houten and Utrecht as discussed with Goosoid previously.

            A further idea for Christchurch is to create a new type of residential zoning called cycle centric zoning. These being areas where blocks of a minimum of 40 households share one car-park. There is no attached garages (but there is bike sheds). Single lanes to each house but rules forbidding unattended parking so as to keep access free for emergency vehicles and to promote bike use. Set in a park like setting with bike lanes connecting to a wider network.

            I think a big cycle centric zone between Lincoln University and the city would assist in providing affordable housing and would be a massive boost to getting cycling back into Christchurch.

            The logic behind these ideas is that a more permissive ‘right to build’ does lead to cheaper housing as Hugh Pavletich’s Demographia mainly US cities surveys show. But in the US the transport framework was provided by the Federal governments 1956 Highways Act. The US has six times the amount of motorways compared to NZ. This gave US cities a free transport ‘frame’ to expand into. NZ lacks that frame. But the good thing is we are not limited now to the one transport option. Christchurch for example could have affordable housing based cycle lanes, trains, buses and cars if we spent some money getting the infrastructure right.

            I think if Christchurch sorts out affordable housing and transport options. Business and inner city development would naturally follow. Despite the tragedy of the earthquakes and the loss of the CBD it is still possible for Christchurch to be rebuilt into a great place to be.

          • Kevyn

            The biggest tragedy is that the City Council had adopted a central city revitalisation plan in 2009 which was all about using laneways as a focal point for repurposing the rundown older buildings into apartments or entertainment venues (the entire detailed plan is still available on the CCC website if you search for it). It was unlikely to have worked because of the unrealistic costs of converting older buildings when seismic and fire upgrade costs are factored in. That changed radically when the earthquakes demolished so many of these often very well insured buildings so the plan was fine-tuned by the share-an-idea process into the plan the government rejected. The plan the Government has delivered is straight out of the Detroit Planning Commission Handbook.

            The situation in Christchurch today is similar to Detroit City immediately after WWII. At the start of the Great Depression half of the older Downtown office buildings had been demolished and replaced with temporary parking lots that were to be replaced with mega skyscrapers as Detroit had had the 4th fastest growth in demand for office space in the 1920s. The loss of Detroit’s monopoly on mass production factory design expertise during WWII meant that the post-war industrial boom did not result in the expected demand for new office space in Downtown Detroit. Subsequent attempts to reinvigorate Downtown Detroit were led by the now infamous Detroit Planning Commission. The commissions plans for revitalising Detroit were to use Federal funds available for freeways and new suburban housing to make it easy for the middle classes to move away from the inner city while still being able to commute to the remaining Downtown offices. One of the first steps in this process was to acquire all the land on three sides of Downtown and demolish even more old buildings in the hope that this would drive up land values. All it really achieved was to drive down property tax revenues for the City Council. The disruption to traditional foot traffic flows caused by the parking lots, and the replacement of streetcars with buses led to retailers relocating to new suburban malls. Compounding this, the decision to create new Downtown jobs by building a riverside convention centre and a justice/regional government precinct along with the introduction of television led to Downtown becoming a place for visiting rather living in, which increased the sense of abandonment and not surprisingly violent crime after dark soared. After the race riots the remaining small business owners had their land compulsorily acquired in order to consolidate the small lots into big ones to attract large developers. All these initiatives failed so the last action of the Commission was to build a covered football stadium, diagonally across the CBD from the convention centre. After the Planning Commission was abolished the city.adopted a new strategy of encouraging developers to convert the remaining fringe CBD buildings into apartments and this was starting to have positive results before the GFC intervened. CERA/ECan are following exactly this same process as though they are using the Detroit Planning Commission’s rule book. The CBD anchor projects are even located in the same areas of the CBD, including the Metro Sports Centre which is located across the railway track from the CBD, just like in Detroit.

            Adding to the planning woes is the Government contracting out of its statutory financial obligations under section 89 (5)(d) of the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan Order 2005 and imposing LAPP’s $750m reinsurance shortfall on council ratepayers. The council CEO who negotiated with the Crown happened to be the Chairman of the Board of LAPP’s primary reinsurer. So you get a city that is not going to get its infrastructure back to its pre-earthquake standards for many decades, is going to be charging exhorbitant rates to cover its debts, will have sold most of its income generating assets, and which will have a largely abandoned centre. Or the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party could end at the next election and the original city centre revitalisation plan could be allowed to happen, with the sort of resurgence of inner city living that has happened in Auckland saving the Christchurch from becoming the next Detroit City and instead giving us the the next Malmo or Portland.

            To add to Patrick’s comment about the weak core syndrome, my analysis is that this began in Christchurch in the late 1950s with the removal of the tram system and the concentrating of government employees into highrise buildings close to the square which triggered the drift of businesses away from the south of the CBD. The Bus Xchange, CPIT focus on IT rather than trades, and projects such as Poplars Lane had been reversing that trend in the decade before the earthquakes. The underground bus exchange and health precinct between there and the hospital would have, over time, attracted the sort of apartment dwellers with high enough disposable incomes to justify the high costs of converting old warehouses into apartments. All is not lost, it is just going to have to wait until the current approach has obviously failed then the more sensible and attractive pre-earthquake plans can be resurrected and implemented with the benefit of a largely blank canvas.

          • The other tragedy Christchurch suffered was the removal of the University to the ‘burbs in the 60s. This was a disaster that Auckland only just avoided in the same period. If it had gone to Tamaki that almost certainly would have been the end for the city centre and the beginning of all sorts of madness for the whole of the eastern suburbs. Big universities offer a city a centre of more or less continuous vitality and economic activity that is not prone to the ups and downs of other industries. Interestingly the University of Michigan moved from Detroit way earlier- mid 19thC, moving to the small town of Ann Arbor [Dunedin sized and similarly dominated by its Uni]. Ann Arbor is leafy and prosperous while Detroit suffered from both the success and the decline of overexposure to just one industry and then almost ever mistake possible as you describe Kevyn.

            Really important that a high quality transit route links the Uni to and through the CBD; and not just to that bus exchange. At least in the protection of a high standard ROW, but preferably a high frequency bus route straight away. Agree with your last point too. Arguably the best thing happening is the Council’s cycle lane plan Although the gov’s plan to bankrupt the city into privatisation may prevent this happening as it should]. The insane dispersal and driving plan will frustrate people out of their cars and Christchurch was and will be again a great cycling city. So much road space after all.

          • The Metro Sports Facility is not located across a railway track from the CBD. It’s not even that close.

  • Ari

    Thanks for ruining my week. I don’t want to read any more about Nationals’ massive subsidies to the freighting industry, courtesy of the tax payers. ACT should be ripping them a new one, but I doubt the so called party of the Free Market is going to say anything.

    • Phil Donovan

      As a member of Act, I will try Ari. That’s a promise. Of course it would make my job easier if we could get more members who actually cared about transport to join :-)

      But we are trying to restore Act to some “form” of principles.

  • Anon

    It’s always funny that people think that this government would look at the evidence when the last 6 years have shown us that evidence doesn’t matter to them. All they care about is ideology.

  • mfwic

    In other news “Only one person commuted by unicycle in 2003 but that has now risen 9 people in 2014″ Auckland Transport Blog analysts have noted that this 900% increase in unicyclists is a clear indication that Government spending priorities are completely wrong. “New unicycle lanes should be built between the existing bus lanes and cycle lanes to cater for this rapid growth” a source said.

    • Nick R

      If you want to be like that then fine, chide the growth on rail as insignificant. But can you do the same for the total lack of any growth* on the harbour bridge in the last eleven years?
      Say what you like about rail, but there is clearly no increase in demand for driving across the harbour. So why dump five billion dollars into the waitemata?

      *No growth in traffic that is, growth on the bus has been explosive with the busway, which might explain why people are chosing to drive over the bridge less (per capita that is).

    • Yes quite right, and it’s a tragedy that the gazillion vehicles using the Harbour Bridge aren’t growing to two gazillion; quick we must double capacity and hopefully that will get people driving at an ever increasing rate as is only right and true- and nip that scary unicycle boom in the bud….[next they'll be wanting an extra wheel!]

    • mfwic

      Perhaps traffic hasn’t grown on the Harbour Bridge because it is at capacity during the peak periods or in other words growth is impossible. But even so 1 and a half lanes of the bridge carries more people than six railway tracks into and out of Auckland each day. But of course numbers are not important to the story, lets cover it up with percentages. PJ ORourke wrote about a river cruise he went on through the Soviet Union with a group of American socialists. At each desperate looking city they got to someone would ask “What is the cost of housing as a proportion of workers wages?” Pardon my skepticism of percentages.

      • Kent Lundberg

        Here is another data set note, not percentages.

        • mfwic

          Yes an interesting part of the story. People in private vehicles to the CBD are down from 11,000 in 2001 to 7678 in 2012 (2 hour figures). Yet the morning peak hour traffic flow has remained constant with 8026 per hour in 2001 to 8122 in 2012 because the bridge is full. If there is a decline in people to the CBD there is a corrsponding increase in people crossing the bridge going to some place other than the CBD. That indicates two things. 1/ Public transport to the CBD is an attractive option. 2/ Public transport to other places is not an attractive option.

          • Full? According to NZTA there were ten thousand fewer vehicles a day using it last year that eight years previous. How can that be full?

          • But what decline in PEOPLE to and in the CBD? There’s only a decline in people using cars to get there; the CBD is booming, and now more than 50% of those people get there in the AM peak without using a car, up from 20% in the 90s. So PT and the economic force that is the nation’s densest employment centre are deeply interrelated.

            No more cars from any direction can enter the CBD, we do not wish to have to accommodate them, it isn’t a clever or productive use of valuable land or scarce money. The CBD is growing both in employment and habitation and it is doing so on the back of a PT boom which we are foolishly underinvesting in because our masters are spending on things of much less immediate value, like motorway assets that may be good to have post 2030.

          • mfwic

            The discussion in the last few comments has been peak hour and peak period data. It is at capacity in the peak and has been for years. The interpeak and off peak periods are a differenet matter.

          • mfwic

            Post 2030 Patrick? Is that the lastest date the oil will run out? When I was a kid it was going to be around 1994.

          • Well we’ve already had peak conventional oil [2005], how long we’ll be find the bitumen and Natural Gas Liquids they are stuffing into the mix now affordable who knows, but that’s just one risk that isn’t calculated in the models. I’m not saying I think I know what’s going to happen but I do know we have a city with one well developed transport network currently totally dependant on imported liquid fuels and the start of one that runs on our own generated electrons. And it is one [chart above] that people are showing they will use as it offers a better service. Prudence alone suggests it is time to build up this nations resilience. Especially as it also means we get all those great place quality and agglomeration benefits too.

          • You can check out the bitumen price index here Patrick: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/procurement-manual/docs/latest-cost-index-values-for-bitumen.xls. Scary how much it fluctuates and the general upward trend. Note contracts with AT or NZTA are set at a fixed price then the index is applied to reimburse the contractor for the increased costs.It is already has a large impact on the level of work organisations can do annually. Info on all the indexes here http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/procurement-manual/docs/cost-indices-for-infrastructure-15feb10.pdf

          • By Bitumen in the above comment I was referring to Tar Sands. But thanks.

        • What about people in cars to non-CBD?

          • mfwic

            I did a submission on the District Plan parking rules back in 2000 which showed the biggest motorway growth (in numbers not %) at the time was people by-passing the CBD. The trend is still there with NZTA site 1/429 on the motorway south between Northwestern and Symonds St showing strong growth. Annecdotally a number of my neighbours used to work in the CBD now none do. They have offices in south Auckland, North Shore or Mt Wellington/Penrose instead. Cheaper rents and parking are the cause.

          • NCD

            mfwic, Isn’t your statement that a lot of your neighbours have moved out of the CBD for work the kind of large movement in a small sample you were mocking further up the thread?

      • Harbour bridge traffic is below what it was in 2003, so it is clearly not at capacity and there is quite obviously some room for growth still. So why isn’t it growing? Why hasn’t it done so for over a decade?

        FYI we don’t have six tracks into and out of Auckland, we have two. That’s the point of the CRL, relieve the core constraint and allow the six tracks on the suburban lines to be used more fully.

        • mfwic

          Nick the bridge carried 8026 vehicles per hour in the morning peak southbound in 2001 and 8122 vehicles per hour in 2012. It is capacity restrained (by its approaches). As for the tracks, the same argument applies to the harbour bridge. Not all traffic goes to the CBD. Not everyone on the rail system gores to the CBD. But if we are comparing numbers of two quite disparate things then 1 1/2 lanes of bridge carries more people than the current 6 tracks do.

          • There are literally acres more tarmac on the AHB’s approaches now than there were in 2001. A full 11 lanes on the southern side, which by my recollection is three lanes more than there were 13 years ago. And there are nine (10?) lanes on the northern side.

            How can you possibly argue the AHB is “approach constrained” when it’s got more lanes on both sides than it did in 2001 when traffic volumes were 98.8% of what they were in 2012? Even if we make some truly heroic assumptions about growth since 2012 (which is not supported by evidence, I should add), the volume in 2001 with far fewer kilometres of approach lane will still be at least 95% of current.

          • So you are focussing on the one of two hours each weekday, 40 weeks a year when the bridge hits peak traffic. Ok thats fine, but that is also the case for every other road in Auckland, and has been the case for decades. That’s why they call it the peak. However there is a hell of a lot of traffic capacity left on the bridge.

            You’re mixing your comparisons there however. If you want to talk about peak times then 1 1/2 lanes of bridge traffic carries about 1,800 people at peak hour, while the one rail track into Britomart carries 10,000.

            Indeed, if you’re chasing extra capacity for peak time commuters then of course we need a duplicate motorway. Just like we need a second southern motorway, and a second Northwestern Motorway, and a second southwestern motorway because they are all at capacity at peak times. And I suppose we need the eastern motorway, and let’s build the old Henderson motorway plan while we are at it, etc ad nauseum.

    • Bryce P

      Well, after having recently used the current harbour bridge a few times, at peak, my observation is that the bridge copes fine. The approaches are another story. Also, it is my observation that most traffic is heading south in the AM and North through spaghetti junction in the PM. My conclusion is that the completion of the WRR will remove a lot of this through traffic as planned. The number of cars that I observe heading from the motorway to Fanshaw St is well in the minority.

      • Greg N

        Soo,
        A prudent (or at least consistent) Government would set traffic growth targets on the Bridge and approach roads and agree to these acting as the trigger for the Second Harbour crossing.
        Just like we have for the CRL right?
        And until then we’d then be in a holding pattern waiting for the WRR to open and see how well that works?

        Sounds sensible to me.

        • Yes. Let’s agree to a second vehicular harbour crossing if current traffic volumes double, and the number of jobs in the CBD grows by some arbitrary number.

          On second thought, let’s not. Let’s rely on an evidence based analysis.

          Even the Employers and Manufacturer’s Association think a second vehicular crossing for Auckland Harbour is a dumb idea that only creates bottlenecks elsewhere:

          http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2560244/more-announcements-due-on-auckland-transport-projects

          • mfwic

            Radical thought there Cameron. Perhaps we could even assess benefits and costs and build transport projects when the expected benefits exceed the expected costs regardless of mode.

          • tuktuk

            Yes, forward thinking business groups in Auckland support CRL. The big step made by Len Brown, a number of the AT and AC management team members and PT advocates including this site, is actually engaging with Auckland business. The business case has been worked through, developed and enhanced and the overall vision for Auckland’s economic future arrived at. Auckland is all on the same page and in agreement.

            The problem is the cliche of petrol-heads who run the country. They will not consider rational economic analysis preferring instead to believe in their own prejudices, and in transport matters, those of US based, hard right neo-con think-tanks.

      • mfwic

        The problem with the WRR is that the road is at capacity at the Upper Harbour interchange. When WRR opens all it will do is shift a queue from one road to another.

        • Bryce P

          It’s not at capacity. Yes, it’s slow at times but part of that is being resolved with an extended 3rd lane along Upper Harbour Drive to the NB on-ramp. The issue is that pretty much all traffic from the Albany business area must come to the Northern motorway at Constellation Drive. Also, there is no point in driving to the city via the NW at this time as the road works have added extra delays.

          • mfwic

            Guess it depends how you define capacity. Before the road works started there could be a 20-30 minute queue from Upper Harbour Drive back to Albany Highway in the morning. It got worse after the Hobsonville section opened and it will get worse again after Waterview. I avoid the area in the peak. NZTA were aware of the issue at the time of the designation. NSCC told them and were ignored. I told them and was ignored and an engineer who went on the be Regional manager of Transit NZ told them and he was ignored. They new better!

          • Bryce P

            There will always be a slow spot. Fix that piece and it moves to the next piece and so on. Really, I think the Upper Harbour Mwy needed to go diagonally across to Oteha Valley Road but the time for that has well passed.

          • Bob Scott

            I heard on the radio this morning that there was a jam on the “Upper Harbour Motorway” between Albany Highway and SH1. How long has this been a motorway? I thought that the work was due to start “soon” as a result of the governments newly announced funding in the budget?

          • mfwic

            That is the problem. It is not a motorway between Albany Highway and SH1. it is a road built by North Shore City Council that Transit NZ nicked in about 1993 and they dump all the SH18 traffic from where it is a motorway west of Albany Highway onto it. Instead of building a new road or building they just used what was already there. Expect the traffic jam to be a daily issue after Waterview opens.

        • Luke C

          You’ve finally got it! How about extending the busway to Albany and then Silverdale to get people out of there cars instead. To make this work for non CBD trips need much better buses serving local trips to the North Harbour business park and similar. How about trying this focus for 10 years instead of adding a $200 million interchange.

        • Sailor Boy

          Upper Harbour Drive left onto the Northern isn’t at capacity, it is at capacity Southbound.

    • mfwic

      Patrick if you want to avoid the actual numbers then couldn’t you at least index to 1959 as your base year?

      • mfwic

        Sorry Patrick I should have addressed that comment to Matt

      • Perfectly good way to show the trend, and the trend is the point here; we can only invest for the future.

        You seem to believe that current volumes are ideal and should be reinforced by massive and borrowed spending. But when was ideal? Fifteen years ago when very few used the buses over the bridge? When the trains weren’t really operating at all. Is that good and natural; ideal? At what point do you look at a motorway and think, yup, that’s doing a job, and if we spend huge sums to expand one part of it we’ll have to keep doing that not only all the way through the network but on all local roads, build more parking, find ever more forex for yet more cars and ever more expensive and polluting fuel. Or we can compliment it with alternatives that use less space, are more efficient and enable completely different more desirable and urban spatial outcomes.

        Are we not adults that can look at our city and see that shaping it one way or another leads to different outcomes and some are better than others?

        The point of showing Rail growth, or Busway growth, is that people like you always seem to claim that no one really wants to use anything other than a car at all times. Now that clearly is untrue. And our claim that if we provide good alternate systems they will be used is clearly the correct one. And that these trends can continue with a balanced investment programme.

        And of course then we can have a better, more efficient, more productive, more resilient and less car-impacted city than otherwise.

        And save the 5b on an unnecessary and place ruining absurdly expensive road tunnel across the harbour. You always seem upset at the thought of public spending, why not with these fast tracked projects with borrowed money. And at no interest; isn’t that distortive?

        • mfwic

          Ok. I am not upset at public spending, I support it when it can be shown to be a good use of money. I agree with public ownership of things that are intended to provide a community service like public transport. I support CRL and I am against the Warkworth Ron nonsense. But I call bullshit when I see a graph of percentage changes being used to cover up the actual data- the numbers. First because it says nothing about relative importance of a route or mode, second because in this case the rail and harbour bridge serve different geographic areas and third for the valid reason that an index is sensitive to the start point you choose. In effect you can show anything you choose to. It is therefore just spin or propaganda in my view. Finally the 11 million that use rail is the total boardings at every station, the harbour bridge is one link on one route. Call a bike rack a corral if you must, that is just amusing, but can’t we use actual people numbers when we discuss where public money is best spent?

          • I have seen reference on this blog previously to capacity of the AHB being around 166k vpd. It’s nowhere near that level. Another road crossing, be it bridge or tunnel, will simply be a multi-billion-dollar extension of the flawed policy of adding more and more lanes of tarmac for peak capacity that is, for most of the time, unused. Most of Auckland’s motorway network would cope just fine with only two lanes in each direction for the 80-odd-percent of the week that is not the six hours of peak traffic each day.
            You want numbers, those are the numbers. AHB is not anywhere near its daily peak capacity and, based on traffic growth projections from back in the early noughties, will never hit its daily peak capacity.

          • Percentages describe trends very well, or do you just not like these trends and would prefer to see other ones?

      • Greg N

        If you want a case back to 1959, then graph the traffic since 1959 on the bridge, with projected growth targets.

        Then overlay that with the Rail patronage since Britomart opened, with projected growth targets.

        Now you and I and everyone here knows that the bridge traffic exceeded year 18 (1977) projections within 5 years, necessitating the clipons being brought forward.

        So, since I’m sure the graph of Rail usage in Auckland will match the Bridge traffic growth figures for the first 10 or so years, shouldn’t we then use the traffic growth on the bridge to plan for the rail growth?

        • George D

          What does 1959 have to do with anything? When you’re illustrating a trend (no growth over a considerable time period),

          The 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are all well into the past, and have little relevance to the circumstances of today. The 2000s? More so.

      • You can’t index to a zero year mfwic.

        • mfwic

          Bridge opened in May 1959 so it wasn’t zero then. As for relevance that is my point exactly. If you index then you are assuming something about that year was more relevant than any other year. You can get any answer you want just by changing your base year. In my view that is not analysis it is spin. I am not arguing for a new bridge or tunnel just that comparing traffic to rail based on a 2003 growth index has nothing to do with anything.

          • But the outcome won’t change regardless of when you start. You can take the last ten years, or twenty, or thirty, or forty… it will show the same thing. Traffic on the bridge stopped growing a decade ago and is below it’s historic peak. Percent growth is perfectly relevant when you are asking the question on whether to invest in more capacity. If it’s not grown in a decade then you have to ask why you’d need more. If you want to take the rail figure back another decade then it gets even better.

            Tell you what, pick any year after 59 and we’ll redo the graph, provided the data is available. Not sure what adding extra data about the trend several decades previously achieves, but if it makes you happy…

    • Dave B (Wellington)

      We live in a democracy. We have a chance to exercise our democratic privilege in a few weeks. Depending on the outcome of this, large roading spend-ups may soon become the “minority view”.

  • northshoreguynz

    One of the many great things about this blog is its political neutrality. It would be a shame to see a thread degenerate into an anti National Party slag off. What would be better would be to see other party’s transport policies in some detail.

    • Jammer

      +1, its been looking like its been heading down that track for a while now, but need to get it back on track or risk losing some credibility….

      • Bryce P

        I guess when you have parties like Labour and Greens pushing for the CRL, less road spending, increasing cycling budgets etc, you’re going to get a less politically balanced conversation. Especially in the context of the blog. If this were a motorway blog, the thought of spending a single dollar on rail would be cries of derision against Labour (like when they bought back the rail network).

        • Bryce P

          If you think back to the days of the previous Labour gov’t, Cullen took a pasting for holding out on the electrification decision for so long. If this blog had been running then, I am sure Labour would have got a similar kind of work over on it’s transport policies. As it stands, Labour have changed a lot of their transport goals.

          • Glen

            And as Labour can change its transport goals and policies, so can National. The current car-mad National inner circle will not be around forever, their successors may change their ideas. Witness the pro-PT conservative governments in the UK and Victoria as examples. To that end, continuing to discuss the merits of the policies concerned rather than attacking particular parties may be more beneficial.

            The problem of course is the damage the current National administration overtly plans to do in however long they remain in power…

          • Bryce P

            The post only deals in current time – ie the existing government, and they are not looking like changing their tune any time soon.

    • TheBigWheel

      Well when a party (any party) claims to be one thing (in National’s case, pro market) but does exactly the reverse (“SOViet” style central planning you might call it) it’s hard to be charitable. Especially when the decisions involve tens of billions of investment that locks NZ into an undesirable dehumanising present and unsustainable future.

      Hypocrisy is *always* a valid target, whoever is spouting it, and in whichever shape or form it comes.

    • Jacques

      Political neutrality doesn’t mean you can’t blame people for making mistakes. It so happens that the National govt has been and still is wasting our money on ill-devised roading projects, that’s not an ideological stance but a conclusion you arrive at if you look at the hard facts and the way people do transport elsewhere in the world. They’re wrong and it needs to be explained somewhere.

      • northshoreguynz

        Not disagreeing with any of the above. Just think that if it gets too partisan this blog will degenerate into a transport version of The Standard/Kiwiblog.

  • Ari

    What policies? All the parties are useless when in comes to transport. They are all the same. That’s why we are in the mess we are today. I’m not blaming National for continuing road building that we have been doing for 60 years. I’m blaming National for being fiscally irresponsible which is something we should be expecting from Labour/and the Hippy-Communist-Greens.

  • Jon Reeves

    The Soviet style Nats actually probably realise their transport spend all wrong but are either clueless as to what to do, or too bloody minded to accept that rail and public transport is what the NZ cities are all crying out for.

    “Do as l say, not what you need” National 2014.

  • Greg N

    Well you know all those 40,000 plus extra migrants a year who’ll be arriving back from Australia (or more to point, not moving to Australia when they get here and find the PT and housing options crap) for the next few years due to the Australian economy tanking?

    Those 40K folks will need motorways to be able to travel to and from all those sprawly SHAs our west, north and south that the Government are hell bent on having.

    Of course, those SHAs haven’t actually built 1 (affordable) house yet, but thats neither here nor there is it – its the thought that counts for this Government.

    And we’d better all have those motorways all ready for the hordes if and when they turn up, to buy those yet-to-be-built SHA houses out in the whops, with no PT options – so they’ll have no choice but to drive.

  • Chris O

    The blog has usually been in favour of the transport policies supported by the best evidence. I don’t think the blog has any political bent beyond the fact that many of the projects they feel are most important to Auckland’s transport system have been prioritized by the “left of centre” political parties and de-prioritized by the National party. But if you think the left-wing parties get a free ride, just check the reaction to Labour’s transport “policy” a few weeks ago. Len Brown gets praised for his support for the CRL and criticized for his support for the AWHC (and seemingly every other big ticket road project on the wish-list). I think the bloggers are even open to opposing points of view – as long as you’re prepared to invest the time in collecting the evidence for your position.

  • Ari

    I agree with Bryce that the bridge itself is not the bottleneck, it is the sections of the motorway leading to the bridge that cause the blockages. I head north on the motorway every morning and see free flow on the bridge heading south, but blocked back for miles from before Onewa. So techncially the bridge has more capacity, but the rest of the network doesnt. So you don’t need a second bridge. You just need to demolish half the north shore and put in a second 8 lane motorway….

  • To be fair, isn’t the second Waitemata crossing because the AHB is a cheaply built rust bucket that’s only a few years away from falling into the harbour? And it’s going to include PT tunnels so that’s good.

    • Nothing wrong with the current bridge [well it is ugly] NZTA agree that with maintenance its life is effectively endless. If road tunnels are built there will never be anything other than ‘future-proofing’ for North Shore rail; a future that never arrives. And not just because we’ll be broke, but because we’ll have to then double stack the CMJ and double every local road on the Shore to handle increased traffic. This really is the stupidest idea around.

      • Ben Kurcher

        This is just not true Patrick. The box girders (clip-ons) are estimated to last up to 30 years. It is ‘hoped’ that the box girders will be able to sustain heavy freight traffic for the entire 30 years but this is by no means guaranteed.
        Building the second Waitemata crossing will take 15-20 years so it is important that this is part of the plan for Auckland as we certainly do not want any gap years where we do not have full capacity on the northshore-cbd link.
        Both the CRL and second Waitemata crossing are important for Auckland but the harbour tunnel is a much more critical project and deserves priority. Not only because it is what Aucklanders want first but also because while we can make do without the Auckland Underground we would be properly stuffed without a road link to the Shore.

    • No and no.

      The Auckland Harbour Bridge will last indefinitely with routine maintenance, according to NZTAs website at least.

      The proposals don’t include PT tunnels, they ‘future proof’ for PT tunnels which is another way of saying a PT tunnel could be built sometime later. There are some options that provide bus lanes on the harbour bridge however, which is a marginal improvement over the status quo.

      • Greg N

        Yeah the Second crossing is currently future proofed for rail in the same way that Britomart is future proofed for light rail – “its there, but not gonna happen in all likelihood.”

        • Steve D

          “Future proofed” = “this time, and only this time, for once, we’re not going to actively sabotage a potential future PT project by deliberately building something that conflicts with the right of way”.

          Pretty low bar, and one we often fail to meet, e.g. Panmure.

  • ejtma

    All this debate about Central Government and funding. There is the small issue of how Len is going to fund his half share. Until he does that I suggest the CRL (which I support and agree is needed) won’t happen. I suspect Central Government know that and know they don’t need to do anything now. It also wouldn’t surprise me if something comes up in the Election Campaign and funding gets announced.

    Ironically the trump card is held by Precinct Properties, who will drive the agenda, with the redevelopment of the Downtown Area. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out they are already meeting with Council and Government to thrash out a deal.

    As for a change in Government I am not convinced it will be the best chance of it all happening, as they will be so hamstrung that decision making will be hard, and will probably fall apart before the first sods are turned.

    The best chance of this all happening is the property revaluations which will deliver the Council and whomever is the Mayor a substantial uplift in revenue which could fund the debt the council need to raise to pay their share. I think the other targets are a distraction as the patronage trends will show what is needed by later this year, based on my experiences of getting the train in recent weeks, with most trains I have been on being standing room only both in peak and outside peak.

    • John Polkinghorne

      Property revaluations don’t work that way – places which have increased more in value will play proportionately higher rates, but the overall total doesn’t change.

  • ejtma

    All this debate about Central Government and funding. There is the small issue of how Len is going to fund his half share. Until he does that I suggest the CRL (which I support and agree is needed) won’t happen. I suspect Central Government know that and know they don’t need to do anything now. It also wouldn’t surprise me if something comes up in the Election Campaign and funding gets announced.

    Ironically the trump card is held by Precinct Properties, who will drive the agenda, with the redevelopment of the Downtown Area. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out they are already meeting with Council and Government to thrash out a deal.

    As for a change in Government I am not convinced it will be the best chance of it all happening, as they will be so hamstrung that decision making will be hard, and will probably fall apart before the first sods are turned which will then put the whole thing back on the agenda again.

    The best chance of this all happening is the property revaluations which will deliver the Council and whomever is the Mayor a substantial uplift in revenue which could fund the debt the council need to raise to pay their share. I think the other targets are a distraction as the patronage trends will show what is needed by later this year, based on my experiences of getting the train in recent weeks, with most trains I have been on being standing room only both in peak and outside peak.

  • Chris Randal

    I don’t believe it is hypocrisy, I believe it is more political ideology.

  • Brendon Harre

    Agreed moving the university was a disaster. I have tried to find out who and why this decision was made. It is not recorded.

    I believe strings were pulled from Ministerial level so that Christchurch moved away from a successful cycling and public transport based system to transfer transport costs from the public to the private purse. Moving the university was one such string.

    I think the ultimate protection from such string pulling is decentralisation.

    On a practical note a rail based satelite town combined with a new train station in Riccarton would link nicely with a CBD to university bus route. While an express busway satelite town behind the airport with a new Waimakariri bridge could be the other end of the CBD to university bus route.

    • I have heard that fear of rise worldwide of student protests was a big factor, have no source though. Safely move this potential source of disruption away….

      Of course the city at that time was considered the route of all deviance; drug taking, free-thinking, racial mixing etc, not the right place for impressionable young Cantabrians. This idea was everywhere.

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