Photo of the Day: Urban Surgery 1970s Style.

Auckland Star April 1973. Back in the Dark Ages it was considered appropriate to near kill the patient in order to help them. In the 1970s Central government transport planners nearly succeeded in killing the Auckland City Centre through the subtle act of flattening its densest and most proximate dormitory suburbs, then cutting it off any still standing from the city, and turning city streets into motorway off ramps. The charm and glory of these multi-year campaigns are still with us today on the beautiful avenues of Hobson and Nelson Sts, the terrible road pattern and wasted landuse of Union and Cook St, and the blighted devalued areas of K Rd and Newton. And of course the violated and severing gullies themselves. The scale of this ‘surgery’ can be seen in this spread.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_01_800px

The accompanying text is fairly flat and informational.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_02_800px

It seems the desire for a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate, like those postwar planners had in Europe, was so great that we made our own ‘bombsite’.

Happily now we live in more enlightened times and the next city surgery of scale will be much more sophisticated, the City Rail link which as an incision compared to this earlier work is laparoscopic; minimal invasive surgery. No need to maim the patient. Once done no one will even see it, except for that high value resource of people flooding on to city streets not in a car looking for a parking space. And will supply at least as much capacity as the three motorways that meet at this point do today*.  So the CRL will double the accessibility to the nation’s most concentrated, biggest, and highest value employment centre, and fastest growing residential area, seamlessly. After the recovery from a few precise cuts, that is.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_03_800

*Show your work, as Peter always says:

CRL 24 trains per hour each way 750 per train [not crush load; that’s 1000] ~ 36k [crush 48k]

M’ways 12 lanes @2160 [1800 vehicles @1.2 occupants] per lane hour ~ 26k

Of course the buses on the Bridge land some 9000 souls currently too.

AT August Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the board papers to pick out the parts that were interesting to me.

The most interesting details appear to be in the closed session and that appears no different this month. Some of the topics are:

  • Newmarket Level Crossing Project – I assume this will be seeking approval to lodge the Notice of Requirement
  • LRT Alignment
  • Deep Dive – Bus
  • K’Road Value Engineering Outcomes – My guess is this is about the K Rd station for the CRL. AT’s project page now says they’re now only going to build one entrance initially and I’ve heard some rumours that it’s the Beresford Square entrance that will not be built. It seems to me this is incredibly short sighted and a classic case of ‘value engineering‘ engineering all of the value out of the project.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance

  • CRL Communication Strategies update – This is likely to be about communication to manage the disruption caused by the CRL construction.
  • Britomart Development update – presumably the bid by Cooper & Co to develop the site behind Britomart

On to the main business report.

  • Te Atatu Rd – Construction has now begun and will is due to be completed in February 2017
  • K Rd Cycleway – AT say ‘ concept design for stakeholder input is planned for the end of 2015.’ I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
  • Nelson St Cycleway – According to the report consultation is due to start any day now on phase 2 which for Pitt St and north of Victoria St. The main issues is whether it uses Nelson St or Hobson St to get to Fanshawe St and down to Quay St. I personally think they should do both options.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway Stage 2 – Construction is due to be completed by the end of this month with a public opening ceremony for 18 September.
  • Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – Construction is due to start in mid-September and due to be completed in June next year before the rollout of the new bus network in October.
  • Manukau Bus-Train Interchange – AT are increasing the capacity of the interchange from 16 to 25 bays although two will be for bus layover. They say the key reason for the change is that the various inter-city bus operators will move from the CBD operate from there. Presumably this means that inter-city bus users going to/from the CBD will have to transfer to a train at Manukau. Particularly at peak times this might actually end up a faster outcome.
  • Parnell Station – Works on the platform are due to be completed in October but there is no date yet for when it will come in to use. Also of note is the old Mainline steam sheds are currently being demolished as the site was recently sold to a retirement village company. There’s a bit of an irony in that we will end up with a retirement village on one side of the tracks and Student accommodation on the other.
  • AMETI (Reeves Rd Flyover) – AT say a joint review between them, the council and the NZTA of the timing of Flyover and the busway from Pakuranga to Botany has been  happening with final discussions around funding options due to happen in August/September. The recommendations from the review will go to the AT and NZTA boards in October and the Council Infrastructure committee in November. I wonder how much they’ve taken in to account the Basin Reserve Flyover decision, in particular as they’ve said the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t improve things unless they also replicate similar solutions at Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd.
  • Mill Rd – The hearings for the Notice of Requirement start at the end of the month. They say there were 286 submissions of which 216 were pro-forma ones in opposition.
  • WiFi on PT – AT will extend WiFi to all PT modes and vehicles – we saw WiFi as a requirement for new buses last week. AT are already trialling it on trains and it was available on the special service they put on for the EMU celebration just over a week ago. A trial will also begin on Gulf Harbour ferries and the Northern Express soon.
  • Active Modes Survey – AT say they’ve surveyed 1,600 Aucklander’s about walking and cycling along with their motivations and barriers for doing so. The high level results are completely unsurprising with concerns over safety from sharing lanes with cars continuing to be the largest barrier to more people cycling.
  • Rail Service Performance – there is a fairly lengthy comment about the performance of the rail system.

Service delivery (or reliability) is the proportion of trains not cancelled in full or part and arrive at their final destination. Punctuality is the proportion of trains that were not cancelled in full or part and that arrived at their final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time. Presented below are the services scheduled (blue bars), total services operated on-time (yellow line) and punctuality percentage (red line) trends.

There was a significant improvement in performance recorded during the month, partly reflecting the changes implemented from 20 July which saw the replacement of diesel trains with EMUs on all lines except on the non-electrified section between Papakura and Pukekohe. The operation of a single common fleet type removed many of the restrictions that previously existed that had complicated service recovery by allowing trains and crews to be swapped between lines thereby limiting the adverse impacts following service disruption.

For Jul-2015 service delivery (reliability) was 96.6% and punctuality was 83.7% compared to the 12 month average of 96.0% (94.9% last 6 months average and low of of 92.9% in April) and 83.1% (79.2% last 6 months average and low of 73.6% in June).

For the period 1-9 August, performance improved further with reliability at 98% and punctuality at 89% across 3,766 services.

A number of days in mid-August have seen performance at more than 99% service delivery and 90-95% punctuality.

While only a few weeks into the full EMU operations, service performance improvement is encouraging and supports the decision to introduce earlier the full EMU services. A joint team of AT, Transdev, KiwiRail and CAF are now focused on delivering the planned improvements

Rail Service Performance - July 15

  • Some other PT comments:
    • The first Howick & Eastern double decker arrives in the first week of September.
    • The first of the new bus shelters have started has been installed. It appears that the focus is on getting a number rolled out on the Hibiscus coast in preparation of the new network which rolls out in October
    • AT have asked Transdev and Kiwirail to review the timetables for the Pukekohe shuttle after complains the transfer time between services was too short.
    • On the roll-out of more bus priority they say that over the last month:
      • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – went live in July
      • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in September
      • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due for completion in August
      • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – consultation underway
      • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation completed
      • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction completed and live
      • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence September.

 

Updated RPTP consultation outcome

Back in May Auckland Transport launched a short consultation to update their Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) on four specific areas to reflect the work and thinking they’ve undertaken since the RPTP was released in 2013. The consultation was limited to four areas:

  • The proposed introduction of simplified zone fares
  • Proposals for a new light rail transit (LRT) network on some major arterial routes
  • Service and infrastructure changes arising from the Ferry Development Plan which was approved by the AT Board in December 2014
  • Revised service descriptions arising from community consultation on the new bus network

AT haven’t formally announced the outcomes of that consultation however a paper on them went to the confidential session of the AT board and that has quietly been released publicly. In total they say 1,251 submissions were received however over 1,000 of those were about SuperGold concessions. Below are the main issues and some of the key recommendations staff have made.

Simplified zone fares

AT say there were 107 submissions referring to the simplified zone fares and that people were mostly supportive of the proposal. There was some concern about specific aspects though such the exact boundaries and what happens for short trips that cross them. One example they give is Orakei where some people want it in the city zone. In addition people wanted a number of other areas considered including

  • integrating ferries into the zone system
  • the time available for transfers along with the number of transfers allowed.
  • improved education and work to get HOP n the hands of more people,
  • fare caps

In response AT have made minor changes to the document or are undertaking more research. They note that it is desirable to have ferries also integrated but that they are limited in their ability to do so due to the current exempt services that are enshrined in legislation. In the case of fare caps AT say they will look at them once the new zonal system has settled in.

Light Rail

RPTP potential LRT + RTN Map

There were 97 submissions about light rail and AT say the majority were positive however five key groups have said there isn’t enough information yet for AT to be including it now. Of these the big and most interesting one is the NZTA who I would have thought AT would have been talking to about it much more. Others with a similar view were AA, NZCID, Bus & Coach Association and the Mangere-Otahuhu local board.

One aspect I predicted would happen with Light Rail has come through with a number of submitters and local boards now also wanting Light Rail in their areas. This includes

  • replacement for the Inner Link bus route
  • connections to the North Shore
  • along the North-western Motorway
  • Panmure-Botany
  • Tamaki Drive
  • Pakuranga Highway to Howick

The main recommendation is to start releasing more intimation about the project.

Ferry development plan

AT say that overall the majority of people supported their ferry development plan although some people were also calling for new services. Other than a few wording changes, it doesn’t appear this will change much which seems reasonable.

New Network service descriptions

Most of the feedback related to the new network was actually about issues such as the SuperGold card concessions for which AT say they will improve the wording to make it clearer nothing is changing.

For the actual topic of the new network service descriptions it was raised that there is no set span of times services will run from/to. In response AT say they will add a policy looking at the issue of span of services and in the next version of the RPTP look at developing that in more detail. The policy the hearings panel recommended be included now is below.

New Network Service Span

Chamberlain Golf course plans

News emerged during the week about the future of Chamberlain Park Golf Course – the council owned golf course just 4km from the city centre. The local board want to open it up to more uses than just golf to improve facilities for locals.

Chamberlain Park Golf Course

Albert-Eden Local Board has decided to develop a plan which could reduce the size of the golf course at Chamberlain Park in order to create sports fields, restore a stream and put in public walkways.

Tonight board chairman Peter Haynes denied its chosen basis for developing a masterplan was a “carve up” of the 32ha council-owned public golf course.

“You could say, local board future-proofs open space and recreational opportunities in the local area,” said Mr Haynes.

“What we also did tonight was to approve the starting of a process to work on the western part of the park – naturalising the stream, putting in walkways and cycleways, barbecue areas and playgrounds for the local people.

“As well creating a wonderful park, it’s possible that a superior nine hole course, with a driving range and learn-to- play facilities will be better for the future of golf.”

However, Chamberlain Park Golf Club committee member Richard Quince said the park was a regional asset not a local asset.

“It is one of only two public courses serving Aucklanders and as such attracts more than 50,000 rounds of golf a year – making it one of the busiest courses in the country.”

Mr Quince said a nine-hole course would not attract the same patronage as an 18-hole course.

To me 50,000 rounds might be a lot for a golf course but represents incredibly low use of such a massive publicly owned resource in this location. It represents a massive public subsidy to a small minority who play golf. As such looking at how the council can get better use out of it seems like exactly the right thing to be doing – regardless of what a few golfers think.

The local board say the background to all of this is

  • At its July 2014 meeting, the Albert-Eden Local Board approved the development of an initial concept plan for Chamberlain Park. This was in response to a range of issues, including:
    • low utilisation rates of, and increasing operational costs for, the Chamberlain Park Golf Course
    • low open space provision in the Albert-Eden Local Board area and limited opportunities to acquire new open space
    • growing pressure on sports field capacity across the local board and surrounding catchment areas, with current deficit of sports fields for training purposes.
  • These issues, alongside projected population growth, provided the case for change. Accordingly, the local board briefed staff to consider redevelopment options for Chamberlain Park.

After some initial feedback from the community about what what they wanted – which they say included a high level of support for a change four master plan scenario’s were developed which were then consulted on. All had in common a few elements

  • restoration of Meola Creek/Waititiko
  • a pedestrian and cycle path through the eastern edge of the site, providing access from the North Western Cycleway and St. Lukes Road
  • development of a Chinese garden/cultural centre.

The four scenario’s were

  • Scenario One provides primarily for golf, with a reconfigured 18-hole golf course
  • Scenario Two provides for a smaller redesigned 18-hole golf course, a driving range and a practice area
  • Scenario Three includes a smaller redesigned 18-hole golf course and an area which provides for three multi use sports fields and car parking
  • Scenario Four includes a nine-hole golf course, driving range and/or practice area. The area on the eastern end of the park provides for two multi use sports fields, an aquatic centre and car parking.

The highest number voted for option 4 – although clearly not a majority.

Chamberlain Park Golf Course consultation feedback

In addition the local board say

The proposed driving range would provide revenue to offset the operational costs of the golf course. The course layout of nine holes over 23.4 hectares, with a total par of 35, and a moderate to high level of difficulty, should appeal to the existing user base. The increased golf service offering is expected to attract new golfers to Chamberlain Park Golf Course leading to a marked increase in utilisation.

I know personally I would be fare more likely to visit to use the driving range than play a round of golf, in fact combined with access via the cycleway it could be a great combination for many – cruise along the cycleway on your bike and hit a few balls.

A draft of the proposed masterplan is included in low resolution in the local board agenda for the meeting from page 39. Because of that low resolution it’s hard tell what’s in the text however you can get an idea for the proposed layout’s of the scenario’s listed above. Below is scenario 4

Chamberlain Park Golf Course Scenario 4

Local councillor Christine Fletcher isn’t too happy with the local board though saying they’ve jumped “jumped the gun” on work the council is doing including looking at all 14 golf courses the council own. I hope that review also includes looking at options not just for public space and sports fields but also potential development options. For example the Takapuna Golf Course is just across the motorway from the Smales Farm busway station, perhaps some part of that could be used for housing or other activities.

Takapuna Golf Course

The future cost of Auckland’s sprawl

Auckland needs to be able to accommodate up to 1 million more people over the next 30 years, that’s a lot of growth and means the city needs around 400,000 more dwellings. The Auckland Plan set the high level strategy of having up to 70% of that growth occur within the existing urban area while up to 40% would be outside that. The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) identified large swathes of land outside the existing urban boundaries for future urban land – some of which is already being developed as Special Housing Areas.

The council is now consulting on a Draft Future Urban Land Supply Strategy which will show how that release of land will actually occur over a 30 year period including specifying where and when bulk infrastructure will be built. They say specifically it will

  • help to inform Auckland Council infrastructure asset planning and management and its infrastructure funding priorities and sequencing. It will feed directly into the Council’s future Long-term Plans and the Annual Plans
  • help to inform central government, such as the Ministry of Education, with medium to long-terms projections, location and investment decisions
  • help to inform private sector infrastructure providers with forward planning and investment decisions

Overall this seems like a good idea, concentrating development in areas where it is able to be accommodated rather than developing land completely ad-hoc which could create funding issues for the council and other infrastructure providers. As the document points out, a consequences of ad-hoc development could be that it sucks up enough resources that it affects the ability to improve the rest of the region. What is most interesting about the strategy is this comment:

The analysis done for this Strategy is of sufficient scale and specificity to broadly determine bulk infrastructure requirements.

In other words this is more than just drawing some lines on a map and pulling out the colouring in pencils. The council have actually put work into determining just what bulk infrastructure will be needed to enable the predicted future growth and the result is actually quite scary and raises the question of just how affordable any new dwellings will be – more on this soon. It’s also important to remember that the bulk infrastructure talked about is really just the core of the networks provided by the council and other agencies. In addition to it developers would need to add all of the local infrastructure such as the local street and water networks.

The PAUP identified six large general areas and a few small standalone areas where future urban growth would occur. This covers about 11,000 hectares which they say could accommodate around 110,000 dwellings. The six main areas are:

  • Warkworth
  • Silverdale, Wainui East, Dairy Flat
  • Kumeu, Huapai, Riverhead
  • Whenuapai, Redhills
  • Takanini, Opaheke, Drury, Karaka
  • Pukekohe, Pareta,

The strategy splits up the areas into five year intervals based on a suite of principles. The map below shows these areas along with the key bulk infrastructure they need.

Future Urban Land Stategy - July 2015

 

As mentioned above, the part of the strategy that is most interesting is the high level costs to provide the bulk infrastructure which is done to a decade level. The table below shows this along with how many dwellings each time interval delivers. In total the council have estimated that around $13.7 billion of bulk infrastructure is needed over the 30 year period, this is made up of

  • Transport – $6,700 million
  • Water -$2,250 million
  • Wastewater – $2,200 million
  • Other – $2,500 million

These cost are further broken down by decade along with the number dwellings expected in the table below.

Future Urban Land Stategy - Costs - July 2015

Breaking that down we have

  • 1st Decade – $111k to $140k per dwelling
  • 2nd Decade – $179k to $234k per dwelling
  • 3rd decade – $93k to $120k per dwelling

Those seem like some crazy high costs, especially if you consider them on a per house basis. Next imagine what the land prices for these new sections would have to be to cover the costs if the council were able to pass the full costs. Combine that with the costs to the developer of providing the local infrastructure and these areas are not going to be cheap, losing one of the supposed advantages of greenfield developments.  The reality is only some of these costs are likely to be passed on meaning that existing ratepayers will effectively be subsidising this greenfield growth.

This outcome actually that much of a surprise, research as part of the Auckland Plan looked at potential growth scenarios and found sprawly land use patterns were the most expensive outcomes for the council due to the need to provide so much new infrastructure.

Of course none of this to say that intensification isn’t without its costs however many often those costs are ones which would still be needed for the sprawl development too.

Consultation on the draft strategy closes on 17 August.

Auckland a City of Opportunity?

A new report comparing Auckland with 30 other international cities by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) paints a grim picture in many of the categories we talk about. Titled “A City of Opportunity”, the report released last year compared 30 cities from around the world. Following the 2012 version of the report a separate study was done to see how Auckland compared and the same thing has happened again with the 2014 version. This gives Auckland a useful tool for comparison. The results were given at an Auckland Conversations event last week and you can watch the presentation here while the presentation itself is here.

 

 

While many of the other reports that rank cities do so as a metric for assessing what to pay staff posted overseas, the PWC report appears more focused on the economic opportunity from cities working together. However like other reports, it is based on how a city scores across a number of criteria. In this case there are 59 variables spread across 10 categories which themselves combined into three high level groups with the report taking both a quantitative and qualitative look at city life. One of the things they mention is that while not all variables are under a cities direct control e.g. education, that it doesn’t mean a local council should just ignore the impact they have and should be active in trying to get the government to continue to improve the system. The groups, categories and variables are

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Ranking Critera

 

The 30 comparator cities are shown below and were picked so there was a mix of cities from all regions of the world and with different attributes. The map below shows the cities along with their overall ranking (the higher the number the better).

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Cities

 

One of the interesting outcomes that was noted was when the result of the rankings was compared with GDP data.  As you can see there is a correlation between cities that score well and those that perform better economically. It was also mentioned that in some cases – such as a study of 15 Swedish cities using the same methodology – this relationship is even stronger.

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Economic Impact

Moving on to Auckland, the results below show how the city compared against the 30 other cities in 2012. As you can see we were doing ok in some areas but others we really lagged behind. It is noted that our main weaknesses are:

  • Transport and Infrastructure
  • Economic Clout
  • City Gateway

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - 2012 results

Some metrics aren’t expected to have changed much so not all measures have (yet?) been reviewed in 2015 but the results of four were given.

  • Technology Readiness
  • Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Economic clout
  • Demographics and livability

Here are some the comparisons for these areas. It’s important to remember that the rankings below are how Auckland compares to the other cites, not the scores that it achieved for each segment. PWC say Auckland has been improving but the issue is that in some cases other cities are improving at a faster rate meaning we’re falling down the rankings.

In technology and readiness the governments fibre roll-out initiative is paying off and Auckland is improving and so to is it’s ranking in Software development and multi-media design however other metrics are falling. In the case of Internet access in schools PWC said it wasn’t just about having access to the Internet but also how schools are adapting to it and making the most use of technology.

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Technology Readiness 2

 

For Demographics & livability Auckland continues to do well for quality of living but slips down the rankings on the other metrics. Of interest, we’re still ranked fairly well for traffic congestion as while many locals think things are bad, congestion is considered nowhere near as bad as many other cities. One aspect in the discussion on traffic congestion that I found interesting was that the example of prioritising walking and cycling in Amsterdam was highlighted. It was said how contrary to what many people and car drivers assumed, walkers and cyclists spent more in city shops than those who drove did and on that basis it was better for the economy to remove the cars.

The very low score for demographics relates to the large ageing population we have which presents both an opportunity (if people work longer) as well as a challenge for the future once they start leaving the workforce.

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Demographics & livability

The transport and infrastructure results are particularly interesting and concerning. As you can see Auckland ranks very poorly for its public transport system, especially the coverage and cost of it. This is something that electrification, the new bus network and integrated fares help improve but even with those it’s likely we’ll still be very far down the list. The housing result will probably raise a few eyebrows however it was described as being not just a cost to buy measure but also how easy/hard it is to get into a house (regardless of whether you’re buying it).

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Transport and Infrastructure

And lastly economic clout where we’re doing well in some areas but very poorly in others. This is in part because other cities have been much more affected by the economic conditions in recent years than Auckland/NZ has. The question is if Auckland can sustain the rate of growth it’s been achieving in the last few years because if it can’t, it would likely fall down the rankings.

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Economic Clout

These are summed up to the following strengths and weaknesses.

PWC - Cities of Opportunity - Strengths and Weaknesses

All up Auckland remains a city with a huge amount of potential, especially thanks to the natural environment we have and it’s clear we’ve been doing some things right. It’s also said that some of the plans we have are good too but one major issue is making sure we get the execution right.

NZTA OIA Response on Additional Harbour Crossing

Prompted by the news that the NZTA is tendering work for route protection of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC), I initiated an OIA request to the NZTA which has now been responded to.

I requested, on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport:

1. A statement defining the land transport problem or issue that the proposed AWHC solution is attempting to address.
2. The studies and comparative assessments of alternative solutions that the NZTA has conducted, including, but not restricted to, an electrified rail only crossing of the Waitemata Harbour between the Auckland isthmus and the North Shore.

The NZTA responded with the following PDF documents:

  • Attachment A: Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Preliminary Business Case, January 2011. The business case includes a statement outlining the problem which the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project is attempting to address (refer to ‘Description of Service Need’ on page 9)
  • Attachment B: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study Phase 1: summary report option short listing, November 2007
  • Attachment C: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study 2008: Study Summary Report, April 2008

Question 1: What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?

The Description of Service Need is this:

statementofserviceneed

What stands out here is the statement that the “AHB currently provides the only direct, cross-harbour vehicle link between the CBD and the North Shore.”  Resiliency seems to be a major driver behind a solution which supports six lanes of general traffic in a tunnel, with the possibility of rail at some indeterminate point in the future. What is odd is that there is no mention in any of the supplied documents of the Western Ring Route, a $2bn project adding resiliency and reducing demand on the existing Harbour Bridge which, in the NZTA’s own words, will “create a seamless motorway between Manukau and Albany”.  This is due for completion in phases in the next few years.

There are also the usual predictions of increasing traffic volumes, which threaten to “adversely impact on the length and reliability of travel times”. Quite why it is vital to minimise the travel times of single occupant cars isn’t explained.  Regardless, the Business Case uses traffic volumes in 2008 as the basis of forecasting, before the Northern Busway had a chance to make much of an impact.

traffic volumes

However, as Matt pointed out in this post, traffic volumes across the bridge have stubbornly stayed at 2008 levels, at least up until 2014.

AHB Annual Volumes to 2014

And that pretty much sums up the statement of need. As far as analysis of the need for mass rapid transit goes, there’s this analysis of the Busway:

Forecast demand for the Busway indicates that the morning peak hour flows into the CBD could increase to 250 buses per hour in 2041, representing a 138% increase over the 2009 volumes. This figure is the recommended target capacity for the Busway system, representing 12,000 passenger movements per hour6. However, achieving the target capacity is currently hindered by capacity constraints close to the CBD where the provision of dedicated bus facilities is more expensive and bus volumes are at their highest. One of the advantages of a new crossing would be the ability to have dedicated bus lanes across the AHB which would maintain a high level of trip reliability for passenger transport users.

On rail, the Business Case assumes a rail link between Gaunt Street Station in the Wynyard Quarter (underground) and Akoranga Station (at grade). The basis for modelling the tunnel is this diagram:

tunnel map

Construction cost alone of the combined tunnel is $4.6bn in 2010 dollars, with a total nominal cost over a 30 year period calculated as $12bn for the tunnel, including all capital expenditure and operating costs, with a risk factor as well:

nominal costs

The Business Case document comes up with a BCR of 0.4 for the combined tunnel option, including wider economic benefits and not including tolling.  Not so much a Business Case for the proposed AWHC then, but more a massive red flag suggesting  that not building the proposed tunnel is actually more economically beneficial for Auckland.  Even more worryingly, even though there is an assumption that the motorway will be widened to four lanes between Esmonde and Northcote road, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation of how the capacity of the Central Motorway Junction will be increased to cope with the additional three lanes of traffic each way that a new tunnel crossing will provide for.

Incidentally, transport modelling and the Cost Benefit Analysis excluded rail (p.25)

A parallel work stream to this study — The Network Plan — undertook an assessment of the longterm capacity of the existing Busway and concluded that a rail crossing was not required within the timeframes considered for the CBA. As such, the transport modelling excluded the modelling of rail, and the CBA includes costs for the roading component of the crossings only (i.e. the cost for the rail tunnel is excluded).

There is an interesting discussion on tolling (up to $8 each way modelled), but perhaps that is best left for another post.

Question 2: What alternatives have been evaluated?

The Business Case takes it as a given that capacity for additional vehicles is required.  This stems from the earlier options papers, which do indeed include an examination of a rail only crossing, which is the second question of the OIA request. Attachment C covers three short-listed options, with variations for each:

options

The study concludes (p.43) that a combined road / rail tunnel option is best – Option 2C.

summary

So although a rail tunnel was the best passenger transport option, the study recommends a combined road / rail tunnel. The option evaluation process appears not to have used a CBA / Economic Evaluation Manual approach, and it is difficult to tell exactly why option 2C is favoured over a rail only crossing. There is no comparison of BCRs between the rail only and combined tunnel options.  Presumably there is a strong weighting for resilience, but again discussion about the Western Ring Route is non-existent. However, the study also carries this warning on p.45:

Limited spare capacity on the strategic and regional arterial networks on both sides of the Harbour, together with the need to move towards a more sustainable transport system, mean it will be neither practical nor desirable to provide sufficient cross harbour road capacity to match demand. Any additional connectivity should therefore be provided to the best practicable standard, that is, in balance with the remainder of the Auckland road network, and in a cost effective manner.

And cost should probably be one of the most important factors. Page 36 has a table of costs for the different options.

optioncosts

A rail only tunnel was costed at about a quarter of the cost of a road / rail tunnel.

In summary, I don’t really think NZTA’s solution is going to work.  By design, it will increase the number of single occupant cars in the CBD and surrounding motorway networks and, according to their own analysis, make the economy of Auckland worse than if the project doesn’t proceed.  (And that isn’t even considering the impact of tolls on the economy.)

I don’t accept claims that the tunnel will be “future proofed” for rail either.  You only need to look at the history of future-proofing in Auckland (think Te Iririrangi Drive or the Manukau Harbour Crossing) to know that most likely it will never happen.

The taxation and expenditure of over $4bn dollars could make a real difference to Auckland if it was spent on the right things.  I think Aucklanders should get a say on this. Allowing the AWHC route protection to proceed in its current form, at a cost of tens of millions, is the thin edge of the wedge. If planning starts for a tunnel for single occupant cars, then that is what we’ll end up with.

This isn’t urgent. We’ve got time to get it right.

How might the RMA amendments and the Auckland Plan impact on the Unitary Plan?

The advertisement below is from the last local government elections. Here Councillor Denise Krum rallies against the draft Unitary Plan, especially the degree to which it enables “intensification”. Denise’s advertisement claims the draft Unitary Plan is “too intense” and will “change our streets forever”. Instead, Denise advocates for greater restrictions on the degree to which property owners can develop their property in the urban area, and more expansion of the city. Denise was subsequently elected.

Denise Krum

Denise is particularly critical of 3 storey height limits, and goes to the trouble of hoisting herself up (some might say by her own petard) in a scissor-lift so as to highlight differences in building heights.

From this advertisement it seems clear Denise does not support the draft Unitary Plan and instead considers restrictions on intensification as being necessary to preserve community well-being. It is notable the advertisement does not contain any references to any research or surveys which support the positions Denise adopts on these issues. Is it too much for me to expect political advertising to include references to evidence supporting the positions being advanced? Perhaps.

When it comes to planning, however, evidence matters. Recent 2013 amendments to the RMA increased the burden of proof with regards to S32 reports, especially in terms of the economic analysis that should be undertaken to support proposed policy provisions. For those who are not familiar with planning jargon, a “S32 report” attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed policies in comparison to potential alternatives. The 2013 RMA amendments requires S32 analysis to identify, and where practicable quantify, the economic benefits and costs of proposed policies. Some smarty-pants lawyers had this to say about the RMA amendments at last year’s NZPI conference (source):

“Arguably the most significant and material change is an expansion and detailed elucidation of the reference to “benefits and costs”, in the context of assessing efficiency and effectiveness … Post 2013s 32(2) requires, in much more detail, the following:

An assessment under subsection (1)(b)(ii) must—

(a) identify and assess the benefits and costs of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects that are anticipated from the implementation of the provisions, including the opportunities for—

(i) economic growth that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(ii) employment that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(b) if practicable, quantity the benefits and costs referred to in paragraph (a).

The task of complying with these requirements is not insignificant. A systematic approach will need to be taken in preparing s32 reports to ensure that they are compliant and address environmental, economic, social and cultural effects, including opportunities for economic growth and employment.”

Ever since the RMA amendments came into force I have pondered how they might impact on the proposed Unitary Plan, especially with regards to density controls? I have also been wondering how the strategic direction established in the Auckland Plan, which I think was developed under the auspices of the LGAAA, would be relevant to the Unitary Plan?

My interest was further piqued when councillors, such as Denise, dramatically reduced the level of intensification that could occur in metropolitan Auckland, since which time house prices have soared. The differences between the draft and the proposed Unitary Plans is highlighted in the map below. Areas of red show areas where down-zoning occurred, which includes most of the isthmus. These are the areas where property prices are high (and increasing), i.e. where market-driven intensification seems most likely to occur.

Down zoning

From this it seems fair to say that proposed Unitary Plan imposes tighter density controls. The question is whether these controls are supported by economic evidence that meets the requirements of the (amended) RMA? And, moreover, how apparent tensions between the strategic direction of the Auckland Plan and the approach adopted in the proposed Unitary Plan would play out in a hearing context?

The economic costs of density controls are relatively intuitive: They forgo and/or displace land use development. This means we get less of it, especially in higher In terms of the economic benefits of density controls, those who are opposing intensification, such as Denise, will need to present evidence to show that levels of density which are common-place elsewhere, e.g. cities in Australia and Europe, will cause significant harm to communities should they be replicated in Auckland.

I’m skeptical as to whether this evidence exists. Most of the research I’ve read, such as this review by UNSW for Queensland Health, finds no conclusive evidence that higher density development has negative impacts on well-being. In fact, there’s evidence it’s beneficial to many outcomes, such as childrens levels of physical activity and obesity rates. So much for the meme that children need a big backyard to stay fit and healthy!

In my experience living in Auckland and overseas, buildings of approximately 6 storeys seem to have relatively negligible negative impacts on well-being and/or amenity. The photos below illustrate two buildings from Amsterdam and Auckland, but I could have easily added many more photos of multi-storey buildings from Brisbane, Sydney, and Stockholm. While there are large differences in style, I find both buildings quite attractive (the first photo is used under license from myself; the second photo belongs to Ockham).

Amsterdam nightmare

_CM15340 crop-600-600-450-450-crop

For these reasons, I have been somewhat heartened to read the interim guidance on view shafts that was issued by the Commissioners who are overseeing the Unitary Plan hearings process. In this guidance the Commissioners note “the objectives, policies and rules in relation to viewshafts do not meet the s32 requirements of the Act” for several reasons, most notably “amendments were made to s32 in 2013 to require employment and economic growth opportunities (including lost opportunities) to be taken into account and these post-date many if not all of the legacy plans.” The Commissioners go on to note the “PAUP is the first substantive planning process to propose increased levels of intensification to achieve a quality compact city so it is appropriate that the viewshafts are now re-evaluated within that strategic context” and more importantly “… if it is possible to quantify those costs of the viewshaft provisions, then that would assist in decision …

I want to emphasise from the outset that I don’t have a strong view on the relative merits of view shafts. This post is less concerned with the nitty-gritty of viewshafts than it is with understanding how the 2013 RMA amendments and the Auckland Plan may impact on the Unitary Plan, most notably:

  • First, the presence of planning provisions in legacy plans is not strong evidence (in of itself) that those provisions should be retained in the Unitary Plan, mainly because the legacy plans pre-date both the 2013 amendments and the Auckland Plan. Hence, they have not been tested under the current legislative and strategic context.
  • Second, the Commissioners appear to consider that the strategic context provided by the (non-statutory) Auckland Plan, in addition to the Regional Policy Statement, is relevant to the provisions of the Unitary Plan, especially with regards to the development of a quality compact urban form.
  • Third, in light of the 2013 RMA amendments the Commissioners appear to place a higher expectation on economic analysis, especially where proposed provisions do not appear to align with the aforementioned strategic direction of the Auckland Plan.

The Commissioners thus seem to be attempting to strike a balance between strategic outcomes and economic analysis, and do not seem to be placing too much weight on legacy plans. This is heartening because, frankly, the legacy district plans contained many provisions that are of dubious value. Moreover, where provisions proposed in the Unitary Plan run contrary to the Council’s stated strategic direction, then there seems to be an expectation from the Commissioners that this misalignment is supported by robust economic analysis.

Of course, whether this preliminary guidance on view shafts is indicative of the Commissioners’ ultimate position and/or whether it apples to other topics, e.g. minimum parking requirements, is something that will only become clear in the fullness of time. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Professional and personal disclaimer: The views expressed in this post represent the theoretical and philosophical musings of a not quite defunct economist. This economist is not a planner nor is he a lawyer (so don’t expect to be able to sue me for much money). The views expressed herein should not be construed to represent the views of my colleagues, clients, friends, or pets. They do represent the views of my Mum, whom I love very much. Nor do they necessarily represent my own views in the future – at which point my views may have changed in response to further evidence and information. 

Blanket Heritage Check to be Removed?

Some fairly important news about the Unitary Plan has emerged in relation to the Pre-1944 demolition control the council wanted to implement. The control prevented all houses built before 1944 – that weren’t already covered under normal heritage provisions – from being demolished without any assessment of whether it needs heritage protection. Land owners would still be able to get consent however it is argued that by making it harder will prevent people from even trying. The control seemed to come about following regular complaints from heritage groups about anything old being demolished.

In interim guidance from the hearing panel released Wednesday it was announced that they are not convinced by the arguments put forward by council and some submitters on the need for the control. They say there is a lack of robust section 32 (s32) analysis and evidence and that the provision has not been assessed in the wider context of the strategy for a more compact and higher density city. They go further to say that it places unnecessary constraints and burdens on land owners who may want to develop their property.

They say they think that if the council want to change the way they protect a number of residential areas that they should go through a plan change to do so which would also require them to produce a robust section 32 analysis of the relative benefits and costs of the change. That would also enable more public participation on the issue. As an example they were concerned that large numbers of people who owned/lived in properties affected by the control didn’t submit on the Unitary Plan who were likely happy with the existing provisions.

The map below shows the scale of the control and as you can see it primarily affects the isthmus and east coast of the North Shore. It’s also worth noting that many properties in some of the gaps have more formal heritage protection.

Pre-1944 Building Control

Understandably heritage groups are upset saying the decision is a ‘mistake’ and a ‘bombshell’ however I’ve long thought the same way about proposing the control in the first place. The council have said in the past that they choose 1944 as the cut-off point as that’s a date they have good records from of what housing stock existed. To me the whole thing is just to arbitrary and clunky in its current form and even though the control wasn’t blanket protection its effect would have been to prevent most small scale development as land owners would be too put off by the requirements.

In addition to this while the heritage protection groups fight to keep anything and everything old, at the end of the day it’s generally not them who pay the price for the impact blanket rules like this have. If it prevents sensible development in the right locations it can affect the entire city and in particular young people who want a place to live that isn’t out on the suburban limits

When it comes to heritage I quite like this from reader Stephen Davis. If we really want to protect heritage should we require those in heritage areas to also ride around in a horse and cart.

Lastly I think it also opens up the opportunity for the council to have a wider discussion with the community about development and change. As we know Auckland Transport are considering installing Light Rail on the Isthmus right through some of the heaviest areas affected by the pre-1944 controls. One of the issues we’ve mentioned in the past is that while the light rail corridors are busy, we really need to leverage off such a project and enable more development to help make it successful. Perhaps this news is opportune time for the council to start having that discussion

LRT routes

Given this interim guidance it will be interesting to see just the panel say about other rules which can severely restrict development potential such as minimum parking requirements, minimum yard sizes, building setbacks, maximum site coverage and density controls.

Auckland’s Historical Settlement Pattern since 1840

From the Auckland Plan, how Auckland has developed since 1840.

Urban Settlement Patterns post-1840