One of the fundamental reasons why we think Auckland needs to transform its transport system by focusing on the modes that have missed out so much attention over the last 60 years (public transport, walking and cycling) is because our current car dependency is incredibly expensive. Not only is it a burden on ratepayers and taxpayers in the future – with our crazy $68 billion roading bonanza – but also a transport system where seemingly every household needs to own, maintain and operate two or more cars is actually incredibly expensive for them. And therefore, for the whole country in aggregate.
Statistics New Zealand’s recent release of the 2013 Household Economic Survey contains a lot of information about what people spend their money on each week. At a broad level, transport seems to have had the greatest increase in per household expenditure from 2010 to 2013:
Digging into the details a bit more and taking the data back to 2007 reveals some interested trends. The biggest increases are in the Private transport and supplies sector of which petrol makes up about 60%. Passenger transport is the only category to consistently increase however that also includes air travel which makes up more than half of the figure so it isn’t all public transport.
An average of ~$160 per household per week on transport related activities seems like a lot. As a proportion of household income, transport rose from 12.9% to 14.2% between 2010 and 2013:
Typically cities that are more car dependent have higher transport costs per household – meaning that providing better transport options so households don’t need to own that second car or don’t need to drive so far each week (therefore saving on petrol) can have a huge impact on their household budgets and financial wellbeing.
Unfortunately, none of these effects really seem to be captured by our current cost-benefit analysis process – perhaps because it fundamentally assumes that people are ‘willing’ to pay for these costs because they are the private cost of transport. That kind of misses the point though – which overall is that Auckland’s car dependency means households need to more money on transport than they might otherwise want to. In aggregate this really hurts Auckland’s social and economic wellbeing because it means we can’t afford to spend as much on housing, food and many other more fun areas of expenditure than simply getting around.
This is a guest post from NCD
Some months ago we looked at the cost of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) in New Zealand.
What if I was to suggest that there is a single change that could be made to Auckland’s transport system that is cheap to implement and that will have dramatic effects of road safety, quality of place and promotion of active modes of transport? Cue incredulity.
First, let’s set the scene. If safety is one of the criteria by which the effectiveness of road engineering is measured, then it would have to be the single biggest failure of a professional discipline in human history. This is after 100 years of effort to improve the situation. How much longer do they need?
When the Airline or Rail transport industries run conferences on “Safety lessons we can learn from road engineering” I hear they aren’t well attended. Ah, that feels better.
And all the while the solution was staring them in the face: Reduce Auckland speed limits to 30 km/hr.
If you turn down the stereo you’ll be able to hear the AA’s howls of protest from your place.
Kent did a post “Slow Down” which made some of the points below. But that was like, you know, way back in 2012, and not much has happened in Auckland since then, so here we go again. That post has a graph showing that the risk to cyclists of a fatal accident reduces dramatically as speed reduces.
Here’s a similar one from SFstreetsblog (a prettiﬁed version of http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/HS809012.html )
Occasional contributor Glen K will dispute the ﬁgures, but even the most conservative ﬁgures I’ve seen show you’re four times more likely to die at 50km/hr compared to 30km/hr.
A few months ago Bryce P. did a post on the Cycle Action Auckland site that linked to a study in the British Medical Journal, and it’s that study that I’d like consider in a bit more detail. It shows a 42% injury reduction in areas of London where speeds were dropped to 20 miles/hour. It’s hard to convey how signiﬁcant this is. If this was the 1990s we’d have a GIF with stars exploding, a scrolling ticker, and that number jumping out of the page to meet you. In the world of public health interventions a 5% reduction in morbidity or mortality has researchers high-ﬁving each other (OK, academics don’t high-ﬁve, but you get the idea).
From the report: “Casualties as a whole were reduced by 41.9% (95% conﬁdence interval 36.0% to 47.8%), with slightly larger point estimates for the reductions in all casualties in children aged 0-15 and in the numbers killed or seriously injured. The numbers of killed or seriously injured children were reduced by half (50.2%, 37.2% to 63.2%). The point estimate of the reduction in number of people killed was slightly smaller at 35.1%, −1.9% to 72.0%).”
The study is robust (see the conﬁdence intervals above. The sample size was almost a million accidents!), and checked for things like migration to neighbouring roads. Here’s a map showing how much of London is covered:
The authors of the study in a subsequent interview have estimated the 30km/hr zones are saving 200 lives a year in London, and this would increase to 700 if the zones were implemented city-wide. The onus is on those who want to leave them at 50km/hr to demonstrate that the productivity gains justify the 72% increase in injury and 100% increase in child serious injury and death that the higher limits cause (because that’s what proponents the status quo are arguing).
Why is this strategy so successful? Because at its heart it takes the HPtFTU seriously. The what? The human propensity to fuck things up. (Complaints about the language to Francis Spuford.
The airline industry has also been taking the HPtFTU seriously for quite some time now, with spectacular results. That’s why planes have co-pilots, why airline mechanics account for the tools they might have left lying inside the engine, and why airlines run a “no fault” reporting system.
Here’s a chart from the NZTA’s 2011 accident report. It’s titled “Factors contributing to crashes” It could have been titled “The HPTfTU while driving”
The problem though is that “Too fast for the conditions” in 29% of crashes might lead one to think there’s 71% of accidents where speed wasn’t a factor. Actually, there’s 100% of accidents where speed was a factor. (I don’t believe any stationary cars are represented in the stats). You could argue that “too fast for the conditions” should be at 100% – if not too fast for the condition of the road, then too fast for the condition of the driver’s mind!
And this is why taking the HPtFTU seriously and reducing speed limits is so effective- it affects every type of crash. Texting, changing the radio channel, thinking about something else, pretending not to look at the hottie in the car next to you, assuming there won’t be anyone coming, sun in your eyes, headache, recent argument, arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, unbalanced. We aren’t about to stop being human, and we need speed limits that reﬂect that.
All this saving lives is sure to have some side effects. Yessir. Our city becomes a much nicer place to be. Auckland goes up a few notches on the awesomeness scale. Other modes of getting around become more attractive, safer, with all the health beneﬁts that Mr Money Moustache has so eloquently described. There’s real potential for a virtuous cycle of improving conditions causing more people to change modes, which further improves conditions which causes….
So what’s stopping us just doing it? There are three main objections to lowering urban speed limits: “we’re different”, productivity losses and the difficulty of enforcing limits.
The “we’re different” argument could also be called the “we need to study that” argument. This is a typical official response from NZTA/MOT/AT. The coroner just released a report on cycle accidents in NZ. Sample size: 13. Glen K. very kindly pointed out that 13 isn’t a very big number, and he has data on 84 fatalities. Good point. And that’s why the London study mentioned above is so important. A million accidents gives real statistical grunt. Londoners are human too, they live in streets, drive similar cars. What isn’t needed is another study. What’s needed is leadership. Action.
On to productivity losses. We’re in a city where the CCFAS is projecting average speeds of 11km/hr in a few years, so that pretty much closes the case for the city centre. Second, I’m not suggesting we change motorway speeds. Allowing 100km/hr on motorways would reduce the productivity losses for most longer trips around the city, especially once the WRR is completed. So balding, grumpy traffic engineer, I offer you an olive branch: you’ve done a great job of making motorways safe. Thank you. (But no, the answer to every traffic safety problem is not “make the road into a motorway”)
As for suburban travel, arguing for productivity losses being the reason not to change implies 50km/hr is some sort of sweet spot where we’ve got the balance between safety and productivity right. Not so, says 100 years of stats. With a 30km/hr limit you could expect a 5km suburban trip to take about 10% longer suggests some research. That’s a difference measured in seconds, not minutes.
Arterial roads are a bit trickier- you’ve got the trade-of between them being routes that are useful for active modes, and the fact that they move a lot of cars. Places like Dominion Road. Here’s a proposal: reduce speeds on arterials to 30km/hr until separated infrastructure is built for vulnerable road users. Let’s see how fast AT can build bike lanes then!
The argument around difficulty in enforcing limits seems to be enshrined in NZTA’s big fat book of road engineering wisdom- you can’t reduce a speed limit much below the speed the traffic is observed to travel at. Enshrined defeatism. I don’t believe this approach is taken with open road limits, and it shouldn’t be a factor in urban speed limits either. The whole self-explaining streets idea is great, but realistically, they aren’t going to be everywhere in Auckland any time soon.
Why don’t we try lower speed limits and see how it goes? I suspect it is not a problem that liberal speed camera deployment wouldn’t ﬁx, and wide scale changes would create a mini ﬁrestorm of indignation, so AT gets a free publicity campaign.
And what’s the worst case scenario? We have to add the traffic calming in later. That’s not the end of the world.
In London the zones have mostly been done with traffic calming while Portsmouth in the UK and Graz in Austria have changed most of their streets to 30km/hr without traffic calming, and Cambridge (UK) is currently proposing to change all but arterials with a budget of only £500,000.
And the secret formula for change? Stroppy women plus visionary leadership. I’m conﬁdent that NZ has the former, if not the latter.
One of the key factors that is identiﬁed in bringing a change in the Netherlands from a car oriented society to a more balanced one was that women (in the 1970′s) got angry enough about road fatalities that they got stroppy and organised. Brett Toderian made the same point about Vancouver not allowing motorways in the city centre: it was protesting women that were a signiﬁcant factor. We need some Kiwi women to continue the tradition. An aside to AT: how’s your board and executive management gender balance?
Lastly, a personal plea to Lester Levy. You’ve had a large and signiﬁcant role in leading Auckland’s health institutions- thank you! This is really a public health issue that spans health, transport, community and environment. There is no other measure that can be implemented with such huge gains for so little cost. You and your board have an opportunity to show real leadership. Ask AT’s management to report at your next meeting with either a plan to implement widespread 30km/hr zones or a convincing argument why the status quo of a steady stream of death and injury is the best they can do. Failure to do anything on your watch is making a decision that in effect says “I’m going to sacriﬁce some Auckland lives for an unproven efficiency gain.”
Len Brown has announced that the city will be looking at using Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to help fund building some of Auckland’s infrastructure. Here’s the press release.
Public-private partnerships an option for Auckland
Auckland needs to take a good hard look at public-private partnership models for funding infrastructure says Mayor Len Brown, to relieve the financial burden on ratepayers and taxpayers.
Len Brown today released a position paper on PPPs that may be suitable for civic projects in Auckland.
“As the country’s largest and fastest growing city, we have the need for both major investment in infrastructure and finding new, innovative and fiscally responsible ways for this to be delivered,” says Len Brown.
“Every dollar we invest in capital projects – and there will be many billions – needs to make economic sense and be backed by a robust business case. But the traditional procurement and delivery models cannot deliver the infrastructure Auckland needs, which is why I am not inclined to rule out any options that will help us.”
The Mayor says one of the benefits of the Auckland amalgamation was creating the scale to make PPPs at a civic level possible for the first time, and with the Government pursuing greater private sector involvement in infrastructure and services, the public also have a better understanding of PPPs, and why they are distinct from privatisation.
“We have a large and growing body of international experience to draw from – many successful, some not so successful. While PPPs seek to take advantage of private sector expertise and efficiency, a key difference – and a lesson learned early on in the UK’s experience – is that in most successful PPP models, ownership is retained by the public sector, while the risk falls to the private sector.
“That is important for a city like Auckland, where we are seeking to deliver on social as well as economic aspirations through our infrastructure investments.”
Len Brown says with his position paper he aims to kick-start a process of looking at options that might work for Auckland, that would clearly define PPP models and what they can – and can’t – deliver.
“I wanted a realistic, warts-and-all assessment of PPP models. I wanted to know exactly what value PPPs can deliver – both so that we don’t miss opportunities, but also so we don’t trip up.
“PPPs will seldom if ever deliver lower capital costs. We can borrow money at least as cheaply as the private sector. For a PPP to make sense, the prerequisite equation is the value that it delivers – whether it be through applied expertise, commercial synergy, improved service delivery or risk allocation – is greater than any additional cost of finance.
“If Auckland is to be ambitious and prudent, we need to be smart too. While our balance sheet is strong, it cannot sustain the pressure of the magnitude of investment Auckland needs. And the same is true of the Government.”
The position paper includes international examples of where PPPs have or haven’t worked and why. It also lists dozens of projects in Auckland as large as the City Rail Link and as small as the upgrading Auckland’s parking meters that might benefit from PPPs.
Len Brown will now ask council staff to use the framework presented in his position paper to create a work programme through which the council and wider community can have a good hard look at all the options and apply the ones that will deliver real benefits for Aucklanders.
And the position paper is here.
Now I obviously haven’t had time to go through the entire position paper however here are just some initial thoughts on it and the press release.
1. Work out what we actually need
Yes if Auckland is to grow as expected then it will obviously need to invest in more infrastructure and I don’t think anyone doubts that. This isn’t just from a transport point of view but also covers other infrastructure like water and community facilities. However on the issue of transport I think that before we start rushing ahead and working out how to pay for the massive wish list the council is proposing we first need to actually work out what projects re needed.
The list of projects and in the Auckland Plan and their priorities were largely decided at the political level and the modelling in the ITP showed that despite spending $68 billion that measures like congestion would still get worse. So let’s start by actually working out what projects and priorities will deliver the best outcomes for the city. I’m almost certain that if we did that, there would be some substantial changes to what is current planned and of course this is one of the key ideas behind the Congestion Free Network.
2. Different types of PPP
While we work out what is needed in 1. we can of course have a discussion about funding options and I guess that is where this release from Len Brown comes in. The press release does at least acknowledge a couple of key points in that building with PPPs will almost always be more expensive and risky. The question really becomes if the private operator is able to deliver other benefits that would not normally be available to the council/government.
Further not all PPPs are the same and there are different types and it’s important to marry the right type to the right project. The main types of PPP are shown in the chart below.
I have had a number of people from within different parts of the industry tell me that when it comes to just building infrastructure, that pretty much all of the benefits associated with a PPP from private sector innovation can be obtained through an alliance that sees risks shared. That type of model is already used in New Zealand on a number of projects including the likes of Waterview. An example of the type of innovation often talked about is that with more traditional contracts the client (e.g. council) may award a contract to a company that offers the cheapest price. As the project goes one and cost pressures come in they may substitute some materials for cheaper ones but that have higher maintenance costs. By comparison the alliance model apparently allows the builder and client to work though the longer term implications as issues invariably come up.
In short it’s incredibly important that if we go for a PPP that we get the right model for the right project (or part of the project).There may be opportunities for PPPs in some specific parts of projects but if it is just to build infrastructure then our existing contracting methods can likely do that much better.
As an example with the City Rail Link you might find that the council/government pay for the tunnel portion and the basic station box but do a PPP for actual station construction and operations. That might allow for the private partner to buy surrounding properties and integrate that with the station itself to maximise its use through the likes of providing retail and office space, similar to what is done in places like Hong Kong. If that were an option and the council structures the deal right it could significantly reduce the long term costs of building that part of the CRL.
Of course the council or government could do that itself however over the last few decades we have them shift away from these kinds of activities.
3. Demand Risk
Of course when it comes to transport the biggest issue of all is that of demand risk. In Australia the high profile failure of numerous toll roads due to woefully wrong projections on traffic volumes – especially when a toll is involved – has burnt the PPP sector strongly and now it seems they aren’t prepared to take on the demand risk. As such they have ingeniously worked out that they can push that risk back to the public sector which is why we are now seeing projects like Transmission Gully about to be built using an availability contract. That effectively means the private company builds it and the client (NZTA in this case) pays a fee to use it providing it is up to a certain standard. This kind of project is almost certainly a waste of time and money as it presents virtually no risk to the private sector yet is being paid for by more expensive private sector debt. The table below shows where the risk would site under a PPP with the council
It’s also worth considering what the shifting of the demand risk says about various projects. It basically confirms that we are in a period of change and we can no longer just assume traffic growth will always happen. If the private sector isn’t prepared to take on the risk on motorway projects themselves then perhaps it’s a good indication the government shouldn’t be either.
4. Deal Structure
When a PPP deal is put together the banks financing it will go through each aspect and work out how much risk it creates. Just like insurance the more risky you are to the company, the higher they charge you just in-case something goes wrong.
That means if we put out to tender vague documentation, we could end up paying a lot more over a 30+ year period compared to if we had just used more traditional methods. Any variations to the contract along the way can also lead to much higher costs. It also needs to be noted that the private sector can be incredibly tricky and will do anything to find loop holes to get out of deals. The paper notes the case of the Araat Prison in Australia where there were two building companies who set up a joint venture to build the project. However as the project hit difficulty the joint venture split up leaving little opportunity to tie any recourse back to the two parent companies.
Lastly it will be really important for the council to consider the reputational risks and its citizens expectations. For example if we were to build the CRL as a PPP and that involved the operation of the trains too then if something were to go wrong the trains would likely stop running. That could have serious impacts for the economy until the issue is resolved.
I think that in conclusion there might be some specific cases where a PPP might actually work for some projects but we are going to have to be extremely careful about how we do them. I have to imagine the NZCID has been pushing extremely hard for this announcement behind the scenes. Their members list contains most, if not all of the organisations involved in PPP industry in NZ. There is probably a lot more to talk about but I’ll end it with this.
At the end of the day PPPs are just another form of debt which is a way of spreading the costs out over a long period of time. It means those that get benefit in the future also contribute towards the cost. The millennials (1980-2000) like myself are the generation that will still primarily be paying for this infrastructure in 30 years-time. So perhaps we should also be considering a focus on the projects that enable the kind of city this group wants to be living in, not the infrastructure that reinforces the ideals of their parents.
On my recent trip to the cities of northern Spain it was hard not to notice how thoughtfully every corridor was designed for all users as outline in this previous post. Of course this is completely unremarkable to the locals, it’s just obvious to them that:
1. The public realm must be built to accommodate all users, and
2. That safety for all is the first priority.
Well here’s another example from what I consider to be one of the most civilised urban places on earth, this is the Eskalduna Zubia, a bridge [Zubia] charged with the quotidian business of carrying a whole lot of traffic over the River Nervión that divides the city, shot on that same autumnal afternoon:
Nothing much to see here; just like a typical four lane arterial in NZ, even a bit of a flush median, that use of roadspace that clearly obsesses Auckland Transport with its universal value. It’s not till you see what’s concealed by the dramatic steel structure on the right of frame that my interest in this Zubia starts to make sense:
Securely separated from the traffic on the same bridge and even protected from the weather! No need to build a barrier between the cyclists and the pedestrians as there is so much width that contact is always easily avoided. The cantilevered roof makes for a completely structureless open side directing the walkers’ attention upstream away from the traffic [for those not staring at their phones]. As everywhere in Bilbao, cycling is not considered a dangerous activity so no one is forced to wear extreme safety equipment as if they are steeplejacks.
Here is an equivalent four lane bridge in inner Auckland, like the Eskalduna Zubia it is between two busy pedestrian and cycling generators; in this case the inner city Universities and the Domain/Parnell/hospital:
I’ve had to use Google maps for the image because it is illegal as well as impossible for anyone not in a moving motorised vehicle to go here. And from above:
There is nothing in this picture except total misery. It’s even laughably hopeless for the only mode its built for. Every time I have driven through here I marvel at its counterintuitive over-complication and the near uselessness it offers for all vehicle movements except the most simple motorway exiting. And of course it is pretty much murderous for anyone on foot or cycling; this glorious intervention in the name of movement efficiency turned a sylvan inner city glade into, at best, an insurmountable barrier and total aesthetic horror. People stay away even from the parts they are ‘allowed’ to be on. Like the once leafy and lovely Grafton Road. The slip lanes at every turn of every intersection make negotiating what footpaths there are there deadly and extremely frustrating to use.
Grafton Rd from Symonds St
I have discussed the waste and hopelessness that is the road engineering in Grafton Gully with many of those involved in its creation and they all cheerfully explain how dysfunctional the process was with Transit and Auckland City Council squabbling over who should pay for any amenity beyond these basic and clumsy roads and neither giving in. Transit arguing it is only responsible for the cheapest way to move traffic and all else is someone else’s problem, and ACC arguing that as it is Transit’s works that are causing the problem they should include the fixes in the cost. I guess we can see who won that argument. NZTA [who inherited this mess but are of the institution that made it] are still happily wasting all this inner city real estate: It is neither being efficiently exploited nor have they returned it to the haven of solitude and clear air it once was for all Aucklanders. And of course it remains part of the fearsome rampart that is the ring of motorway Severance that hacks inner Auckland to shreds.
Here is the one piece of walking and cycling amenity on this whole section of upper Wellesley St:
Yup that’s right, it’s a sign telling you that you can’t walk to that big park right in front of you without going, counterintuitively again, in some completely other direction for some considerably much longer time. I have had to help explain this to baffled european tourists staring at their smart phones showing a nice big park and the Museum right there…. ha, welcome to clean, green, oh wait…..
Grafton Gully and Symonds St Tunnel Plan 1950s
This is how it was sold to us by the first iteration of place-wreckers-by-motorway, it reads:
The Grafton Gully and nearby areas will be the focal point of of a network which will be among the most important in the Auckland Master Transport Plan. The original Grafton Bridge was merely built to span a bush clad gully. Among other things there will be a twin tunnel, nine chains long, with the rest “cut and cover” passes.
Well wouldn’t that have been good? Tunnelling instead of severing. It is a tragedy that not even short sections of these routes aren’t underground. It is time not only for NZTA to complete the range of movement modes across this route but also to make good on the promise to bury their horror as much as is possible so Auckland can get at least a small amount of functionality of this place back.
Let’s see what they do in Bilbao? Do they have motorways there?
Sure they do, and guess what?, a great deal of them are underground, especially under green space, in order to maintain surface continuity and and reduce severance.
The age of severing urban motorways and incomplete streets is well and truly over. Aucklanders have recently managed to stop one appalling new motorway, The Eastern Highway, and got the next one put substantially underground, Waterview. It is vital that we demand that the mistakes of the past are learned from as well as looking at other places that seem to have been able to do things well first time. But also insist that the broken pieces are fixed before our institutions engage in even more destruction.
There is little point in moving tin a little quicker through our city if we substantially harm that place and the quality of life for its inhabitants in the process, and at such high cost.
A case of almost comical timing prompted me to write this post. It started off by me reading this article in the Papakura Courier about residents of a retirement village in Takanini who want to be able to cross the road to the shops on the other side. There is a signalised crossing nearby but it adds roughly an extra 100m which some of the residents struggle with and those that do brave it have found drivers often ignore the signals. The retirement village has even resorted to using a shuttle bus to get residents across the road when they would otherwise have been prepared for a few hundred metre walk. The bit that really caught my attention though was this answer from Auckland Transport about it.
Everyone has different ideas about what could change, including a longer-timed pedestrian crossing, an island in the middle of Great South Rd, moving the crossing further south and even upgrading the Walters Rd roundabout to traffic lights.
Auckland Transport’s Randhir Karma says a complaint was also received from village residents earlier this year.
But engineers found a crossing further south won’t work because it would obstruct Southgate’s driveways and general traffic flow.
But residents are right to worry about drivers getting confused between the two sets of lights by McDonald’s, he says.
“What we could do is look at orientation of the traffic lights on the poles. [We] could potentially look at how [we] might direct the traffic lights so they’re not confusing to the approaching vehicles.”
Auckland Transport has to find a “fine balance” between traffic and pedestrians, he says.
I’ve bolded the worst bit. When it comes to transport in Auckland the one thing that is sacred above all else is traffic flow – parking comes in a close second. There is this mentality that we must not do anything to slow traffic down and all other users of the road can go to the far queue. But the comment about Southgate’s driveways is also interesting. There are two separate parts (not sure if they are both called Southgate or not) with the north-western part having two entrances – including one massive opening with three lanes and even slip lanes while the south-eastern part has four entrances to spew cars out of in all directions. These are highlighted below but the question I have is why the developers were allowed – or forced – to provide so many. Surely they could be consolidated down with the more concentrated vehicle entrance being controlled by lights along with pedestrian crossings.
I also think this part from the end of the article is almost hilarious
The organisation is “grappling with congestion across the region” but has few funds to fix it, with the cheapest solution being to get cars off the road by promoting cycling and public transport, he says.
So if the best solution is to focus on PT and cycling then why is the organisation doing the opposite? What’s more the suggestion is coming from the manager of road corridor operations. Must be some serious blockages further up preventing the organisation from focusing on other modes.
But what made the timing comical is quite literally within minutes of me finishing reading the article (and tweeting about it) this press release arrived in my inbox from Auckland Transport.
Big savings from improvements to Auckland’s roads
Work to make some of Auckland’s main urban roads more efficient has seen savings of around $18 million in two years.
Auckland Transport’s four year Route Optimisation Programme has, so far, meant improvements to 40 per cent of Auckland’s urban arterial routes or 134 kilometres of roads.
Route optimisation provides efficiency through improvements like better coordination of traffic signals, assessing the operation of the route and minor changes to traffic lanes, parking and pedestrian crossings.
The savings, so far, include one million litres of fuel, just over a million hours of travel time and 2,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Other benefits include reductions in the length of queues and congestion levels.
For pedestrians and cyclists there is less waiting time at some intersections controlled by traffic lights.
Auckland Transport’s Manager Road Corridor Operations, Randhir Karma, says some of the improvements have been relatively easy to make.
“There have been simple changes to help speed up flows like improving traffic signal timings, changing the way lanes are configured and how they merge. To make public transport more efficient, we have improved access to some bus stopping bays. These quick wins, in particular the signal improvements at intersections, have also provided benefits for cyclists and buses.
“The cost of the programme, so far, is $3.7 million which includes a number of minor capital projects to increase efficiency along routes and at intersections. That’s great value seeing we have made savings of $18 million for ratepayers and taxpayers.”
The most impressive result for the 2012-2013 programme has been along Great North Road where better coordination of traffic signals and minor improvements mean, on average, two and a half minutes is shaved off each trip in the peak periods for the 25,000 vehicles using the road each day.
The next stage of route optimisation will mostly be focussed on roads in the inner city.
Once again the all-important flow is the focus and AT have been busy making sure it’s improved. The results appear positive but are they great for all users? Yes the press release states that buses and cyclists have benefited and even that pedestrians will also have had improvements but the key is that these improvements are only at some intersections. What about at the rest, have there been any crossings where it is now harder for pedestrians? My guess is yes, especially on intersections where people are trying to cross the main flow.
Putting the specifics aside of exactly who benefited aside, my immediate next question was, what would the results look like if we spent the same amount of money ($3.7m) on improving access to public transport stations? Basically focusing on making it easier to walk or cycle to catch a train, bus or ferry. As luck would have it, just before this came out I had been looking at the issue of access and had put together the map below which shows the walking catchment of the Fruitvale Rd train station which has a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Each different coloured segment is 150m long and the darker the line, the further away it is. The lines go out to 900m from the station.
Now the part that is the most noticeable is the redder sections just to the east of the station. Some of the houses in there are nearly 900m away from the station despite being much closer in a straight line. Sure 900m is easily walkable for most, when you look closer you can see that we could fairly cheaply and easily dramatically improve access. A 170m path alongside the tracks (fenced off of course) is all it would take to cut 500-600m off the distance to station. What’s more as you can see in the map below the development was designed with that thinking in mind as there was a space left between the houses which currently has a concreted footpath running into a fence.
And you can see the impact that short path would have below with around 100 dwellings shifted considerably closer to the station.
So come on AT, where’s the PT access optimisation? it is almost certainly going to be needed to help make the new bus network work well too. Improving station access for pedestrians and cyclists is also going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than trying to provide a heap more car parking.
Usually when you get yourself into a hole the best thing to do is to stop digging, and that is how I often feel I think about the rollout of AT HOP which among plenty of other things has been plagued by poor communication. The latest comes in an interview with the Greg Edmonds who is the Chief Operating Officer of AT and was part of a Radio NZ piece that I also talked on.
Or listen here.
First up I do agree that from a technical level the rollout so far to Metrolink has probably been smooth in that the machines have worked. It’s the customer side of things that has been left wanting due to poor information including not even giving an indication as to while routes are most likely to be using which card. But it was the next part that caught my attention (and others). Here is the transcript about that part of the interview.
I think in anything with this level of complexity there will be some people that read the information thoroughly, there are others that glance over it and sometimes when they glance over it they may miss things and so the ambassadors are there reinforce and I think overall yep there’s been some genuine concerns about the information but overall we’ve done a pretty good job of it.
So the confusion is caused by people glancing over the information. Well it’s no surprise when it looks like this.
How many people are really going to read all of this?
At least it isn’t as bad as this comment from AT last week
Asked how long the freebies would continue, she said: “I can’t say, but it is very brief – that’s about to disappear, so get with the programme.”
Yesterday we also had this piece from the Herald on Sunday
Commuters who have less than $10 left on their cards will be unable to transfer the money to the new Auckland Transport Hop cards without jumping through complicated hoops – meaning Snapper will be able to quietly pocket their money.
The minimum transfer on to an AT Hop card is $10. So if the Snapper card balance is below $10, users must either top up the purple card to more than $10 and transfer that to the AT Hop card, spend the balance at one of the 150 Snapper-affiliated businesses in Auckland – or let Snapper keep their money.
Snapper chief executive Miki Szikszai blamed the problem on Auckland Transport. “The $10 limit is AT policy, not Snapper.”
There was no time limit on when the Snapper Hop cardholders could use any leftover balance, Szikszai said. They would not be giving cardholders their money back.
When pressed on why not, he said: “We’re actually not able to, due to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.” He would not elaborate.
Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said the $10 policy was created by the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority, which was in charge of transport in Auckland before the Super City amalgamation.
“It was in the original terms and conditions of the purple Hop card.” She said it was easy to transfer the money.
Now I am aware that there were some bad decisions made about the HOP system from ARTA days that are still causing AT headaches today but to suggest that they can’t change the $10 minimum top-up policy seems absurd, especially considering that ARTA haven’t existed for three years.
In the end I think the real problem with all of the HOP change over comes down to a few key messages that often contradict each other. They are:
- Run down your balance because there are no refunds (page 2 of the brochure)
- But hold on to your card and keep it topped up as some buses will still use it – and we won’t tell you exactly which ones.
- It’s easy to transfer the money off the card – but we won’t make it easy by telling you the best way to do that
If it is easy to transfer balances like AT claim then it would have been so much easier for everyone if AT had just said “We know it’s a challenging time so keep your old card topped up and once the changeover is complete you can easily transfer your balance by doing …..”
At the end of the day I think the Herald on Sunday editorial sums up the real loser in all of this which is the perception of public transport when they ask:
Who would dare hop on an Auckland bus?
My biggest fear is that this has the potential to set back the use of PT in a big way and if that happens, it will take a while for people to have confidence in the system once again. It’s time for AT to stop digging and start building that trust.
Each year, the International Energy Agency puts out a lengthy report called the World Energy Outlook. New Zealand is a member of the IEA, and we pay membership fees to them in exchange for policy advice and so on (although we don’t seem to listen to it). The 2013 World Energy Outlook came out this week, and doesn’t seem to have gotten a whiff of coverage in the Herald, so I guess it’s up to me.
Incidentally, when the 2012 edition came out, the soundbite that made headlines around the world was that the US was going to “become the world’s largest oil producer by around 2020, temporarily overtaking Saudi Arabia, as new exploration technologies help find more resources” – see this Herald article for example. The media tended to gloss over the most important message of the report, which is that greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, and we actually need to reduce them to have a reasonable chance of avoiding major global warming – but current trends are not taking us in the right direction. Thanks to Dr Sea Rotmann for making this point. As for the suggestion that the US will dramatically increase its oil production, I’ve heard murmurings that the US government was leaning on the IEA quite heavily to make this prediction, and reality may fall short somewhat. We’ll have to wait and see.
I do have to give “mad propz” to Brian Fallow at the Herald for writing some great analysis on the 2012 report earlier this year. He notes:
We already have… more [fossil fuels] than we can possibly ever burn if we are to have a fighting chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. And that is the goal the world’s Governments, including ours, signed up to in Cancun in 2010.
[The] 2012 World Energy Outlook, released six months ago, says: “No more than a third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2°C goal, unless carbon capture and storage technology is widely deployed.”
…Carbon capture and storage being a method of “storing” emissions from coal plants, which has not yet been shown to be commercially viable, and may not ever be.
Anyway, on to 2013. Maybe the IEA are setting themselves up for the kind of media coverage they got last year; their press release this week only devotes one paragraph to climate change, stating that “Energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions are projected to rise by 20% to 2035, leaving the world on track for a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6 °C, far above the internationally-agreed 2 °C climate target.”
The report itself, though, makes the point much more strongly:
- Under the IEA’s “New Policies Scenario” – which is a bit more optimistic than ‘business as usual’, and assumes that governments do initiate carbon taxes, trading schemes etc where they have said they will do so – the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will keep rising, “from 444 parts per million (ppm) in 2010 to over 700 ppm by 2100″.
- Global agreements call for the long term concentration to stabilise at 450 ppm. Note, though, that the current 444 ppm is a bit overstated, and comes down to 403 ppm when cooling aerosols are excluded (IEA, p79). Clearly, the path we’re on does not achieve the goal signed up to by the world’s governments.
- “This would correspond to an increase in the long-term global average temperature of 3.6°C, compared with pre-industrial levels (an increase of 2.8°C from today, adding to the 0.8°C that has already occurred)”.
- “As the source of two-thirds of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy sector will be pivotal in determining whether or not climate change goals are achieved”. And that’s the kicker. Note that the energy sector includes oil, gas, coal, and other energy sources – so transport emissions are included here.
Here’s what happens to (energy) greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years, based on the “New Policies Scenario”:
The world can still meet its targets, with greenhouse gas concentrations stabilising at 450 parts per million in the future, but each year of delay makes that goal harder to reach, and more expensive. This is something the IEA says every year, and maybe it’s the “stuck record” factor that means these reports don’t get the coverage they should. But just because we’re haven’t been thinking about it as much since the GFC, doesn’t mean that the processes driving climate change have gone away.
I’ll just make one more point and leave the rest for another day (it’s an 800 page report, and a bit too much info for just one blog post). A lot of the changes that need to be made can be made for no economic cost; they pay for themselves. The IEA has listed four of the big changes, which “if implemented promptly, cut 80% of the
excess emissions in 2020 relative to the 2°C target”, and make it much easier to achieve the overall target. The four policies are:
1. Adopting specific energy efficiency measures (49% of the emissions savings).
2. Limitng the constructon and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants (21%).
3. Minimising methane (CH4) emissions from upstream oil and gas production (18%).
4. Accelerating the (partial) phase-out of subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption (12%).
Some of these aren’t that relevant to New Zealand – but number 1 certainly is. The IEA notes that the efficiency measures they advocate include “new or higher energy performance standards in many fields: in buildings, for lighting, new appliances and new heating and cooling equipment; in industry, for motor systems; and, in transport, for road vehicles”. In light of these recommendations, the shift towards greener building in New Zealand is a positive trend. We don’t have any regulations on road vehicles in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but maybe it’s time we did. I’ll look at this more in the future.
Any of our readers who are students may like to go and have a look at the report for themselves – it’s not too hard to read, and there’s an executive summary so you don’t have to read the whole thing! If you’re at the University of Auckland, you can access it through the OECD iLibrary here.
Wow there’s so many bits of news I want to comment on today and I don’t have time for them all so as it kind of relates to my post this morning I’ll go with this one. In parliament today Green MP Julie Anne Genter asked Gerry Brownlee about his stance on emissions and transport. It was following this news story from TV3 where he said”
I think climate change is something that has happened always, so to simply come up and say it’s man-made is an interesting prospect
So here is the debate today
The transcript is here.
This was what I thought was the best bit.
Julie Anne Genter: Can he name one place in the world where carbon emissions have reduced or where peak congestion has reduced as a result of new motorway construction?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As far as I know, I would be correct in saying—because there are no motorways there—the Antarctic.
Brilliant question and one that left Gerry stumped because the reality is there isn’t anywhere that has built its way out of traffic congestion or emissions. Although perhaps Brownlee suggested it because in his mind hell would have to freeze over before he would accept that urban motorways don’t solve emission and congestion issues.
Here are some shots I took while walking along one side of the River Nervión in Bilbao, Spain, on an autumnal Monday afternoon last month. The banks of the Nervión are Bilbao’s waterfront, but until recently this river had the unenviable reputation of being the most polluted in Europe. This was because until its stunning place-centred reinvention Bilbao was an extremely grim centre of little beside post-industrial decline and environmental damage. Unlovely and unvisited, although with great bones Bilbao, used to be known to the local Basques as ‘El Botxo’: The Hole.
Bilbao city has a population of around 370,000 but serves a wider area of about 1 million people. The latter metric is more comparable to the full Auckland Council region.
Yes, there in the background is the thing you all know about Bilbao: Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. The success of the Guggenheim in putting Bilbao on the world map is undeniable but it isn’t what makes this city, and the other Basque metropolitan areas, simply the most civilised urban places I have ever visited.
There are a whole lot of factors that contribute to the success of these urban places such as the natural environment, the architecture, the density of the habitation, the focus on quality public space, the efficient transit systems, and of course, the food, and I will cover these in other posts. But here I just want to look at the treatment of one city route.
All through northern Spain I was struck by the routine and seemingly effortless way that the public realm is built for all users. There are plenty of shared spaces in these cities too but this an important connecting road that demands throughput as well as place quality; it needs to support reasonable speed for all vehicles; trucks, cars, buses, and bikes while it is also a lovely riverside place to linger. These contradictory needs are met well through separation.
This route displays the classic deliniation of modes as defined by speed and mass into three zones each of increasing vulnerability and decreasing speed: Vehicles>Bikes>Pedestrians. I love the way that the bike lane has no elaborate and expensive barrier between it and the traffic lanes. There’s no need, and such a structure would only hem in both areas as well as block pedestrians from crossing randomly where and when possible.
Everyone catered for, the cycle lane is high enough quality [not intermittent] for the sporty as well as the slow riders, but also accommodates roller-bladers and joggers. Which means these faster moving humans are not bothering the slower walkers, families, or slumberers on the footpath, and nor are they holding up the traffic nor risking life and limb by having to mix it with those more lethal machines. Space is made for trees and benches, signage is unobtrusive:
Here is a perfect example of safety clearly being the first priority of the local authority and it being delivered efficiently through environmental design. This is a Complete Street. Looks easy doesn’t it?
Walking along here I found myself thinking about our streets and specifically our waterfront, Tamaki Drive in Auckland, and the enormous difficulty there seems to be to get that flagship place into a safe and efficient shape for everyone. Tamaki Drive has had recent improvements since a number of high profile tragedies there but these are fitful and have been very hard won. I think it is worth trying to unpack why civilising our streets in general is so difficult.
I have followed the advocacy of the Local Board for Tamaki Drive [see their plans on the AT website here and here] and the tireless work of our sister group Cycle Action Auckland here. Great work, but is there any sense we will ever see these changes along the whole route? Here is a visual from the Local Board doc:
This looks simple enough to achieve.
Except there is an expensive problem concealed in this graphic. As shown here this is no cheap and easy lick of paint but an expensive extension of the seawall on the right of the picture would be required to supply enough width for the missing Active spaces as well as the current vehicle ones. Major cost and an unwanted change to a functioning and complete sea wall.
But looking closer at the shots above and it is clear that pretty much the only difference between the Bilbao treatment and Tamaki Drive is that in Bilbao they have clearly used what would automatically be an on-street parking lane in Auckland for other modes. We are constantly told that there is very little budget for cycling. But really this is a road corridor safety issue not just a cycling one. To create competent Complete Streets we need to grow out of this narrow mode specific focus. Below, only the lower outcome can be quick and affordable:
On so many Auckland streets already existing space that could cheaply become bike and/or bus lanes or better pedestrian space are currently reserved for either on-street parking or painted medians. Yet there seems to be a default idea that the addition of the missing amenity can only ever occur without any reduction in these uses. This explains why when we do add the missing lanes they stop and start so much and why it seems to take for ever and costs so much to get any change. Yet pace of change and low cost are vital; as shown in this great explanation of this process from NYC.
The lesson from these other cities is that it is the priority given to the additional parking and turning space for vehicles that makes the completion of our streets so difficult and expensive. It is this culture that is the blockage in the way of completing our streets. And that this extra vehicle amenity should properly be considered secondary to competent safe road design for all users.
Of course I understand the desire for parking, especially free or rather publicly funded parking and of course it should be provided where possible but I think it is important to be clear what the costs of prioritising it over basic road safety design are. Both in terms of death and injury, and in infrastructure dollars and pace of improvement. The clear way forward for this and other Auckland roads is to fix the safety issue first, from road corridor budgets and existing space, and then address the community’s desire and willingness to pay for additional amenity like free waterfront parking as the extra ‘nice to have’ that it is. Here again is a visual from the local board document showing how quickly these streets can be fixed:
It seems to me that a very simple change in thinking needs to occur here. But we need clear leadership from senior people within AT and AC, from the Mayor, and especially from the AT board and chief executive, about what constitutes the priorities for competent street design, and the cost of any additional amenity, say like parking, be clearly expressed and not done on the cheap by failing to provide the basic safe and Complete Streets for all users.
A congested road with no transit priority or cycle lanes is a sign of technical incompetence and political failure.
And of course it’s not just waterside routes that need thinking about safety and parking supply to be more sophisticated than is currently the case; here is a look at Ponsonby Rd.
The Herald today has a large amount of op-eds on what is being called Project Auckland which is looking at how Auckland is going to develop and as you would expect, housing and transport features very heavily. Op-eds include
Now I’m not going to comment on every single article but rather some of the general themes within them, although I will pick out a few individual comments that have annoyed me (as I seem to be in a grumpy mood today which is quite unusual).
The really positive thing about all of the pieces is that in general people think the city is heading in the right direction and considering how much has had to be done by the council over the last few years to merge all of the various council plans and policies together. Things could have easily gone quite wrong and so the council staff (from all organisations) and the politicians need to be congratulated for that.
Of course not everything has been plain sailing and there have been (and still are) a number of issues that haven’t been handled ideally. The Unitary Plan is one of those where the lack of clear enough information about what was proposed led to the development of groups like Auckland 2040 that used misinformation and scare tactics to oppose the plan. In the article about the Unitary Plan I wanted to highlight some of the positive comments in relation to it. First from Penny Hulse
“It’s not about cramming in another one million people but having timely infrastructure, so people moving here are not shocked by bad planning. If people don’t arrive as we thought, then the houses won’t get built as fast. That’s life.
“But we can’t let Auckland languish with a housing crisis, and we can’t let shoddy design continue and building take place in the wrong places,” she says. “I’m comfortable where we have got to in the Unitary Plan process, and we can keep building trust about the whole concept of intensification.
“There are huge benefits about being able to walk to the shops and work, and live in a vibrant community. Some people see intensification as frightening but if it’s done well then it can be transformative.”
And from Chief Planning Officer, Roger Blakely
So the traffic problem is resolved within 30 years?
“Yes,” says Blakeley.
“We will have high quality, high frequency rail and bus services. We will have lots of dedicated cycling and walkways. They are more cost- effective than building more roads, and cars are an inefficient way of moving people around the city.
“The city rail link will be finished, and there will be rail to the airport and North Shore (via the second harbour crossing). Bus services will feed into the rail, and the Skypath on the existing harbour bridge will link up the cycling and walking network.
“The 1960s saw cars take over cities around the world with large freeways and parking lots. But the cities lost their human scale,” says Blakeley.
The residential plans are designed to bring a new face to Auckland. “We have to have a flexibility of choice in housing that meets different needs and different budgets. This need is with us now,” Blakeley says.
“Soon there will be more one or two person households than three persons plus – our present housing stock is not geared to meet that need. We need a mix of terraced and town houses, apartments and single houses on a section.”
Hear hear but how we get our transport agencies and the government to understand this is a different story. And this:
“What we noticed in the debate was the generational gap,” Blakeley says. “The older people who went to the meetings organised by Auckland 2040 objected loudly to the intensification.
“But the younger people who were active on social media wanted to live in a more intensified city – they wanted to experience the extra vibrancy that comes with that, including cultural, retail and recreational activity.
“We are talking about international best practice, here,” he says. “Vancouver has done it, and Copenhagen and Vienna are also following the quality, compact city strategy. As the Danish architect Jan Gehl (he’s an adviser to Auckland) said in his book Cities for People, ‘you can’t keep sprawling outwards’.”
Blakeley says “we saw a lot of Nimby (Not In My Backyard) during the Unitary Plan debate. I’m convinced that when more and more people see examples of housing development that embodies flexibility of choice, quality and affordability, they will become comfortable with the idea of intensification.”
He names developments by Hobsonville Land Company at Hobsonville Point and Ockham Investments at Kingsland, Ellerslie and Grey Lynn as examples of future living in Auckland. He says they have a range of sizes and types of housing, ensuring it’s quality at a price people can afford.
“We didn’t get all the intensification we hoped for in the proposed Unitary Plan this time, but it will be reviewed perhaps every five to 10 years, and there will be the opportunity to change the zoning of some areas.”
The generational issue is a serious one. Most of the older people who are objecting to the plan aren’t the ones who will be around in 30 years-time having to live with the outcomes of scaling back the Unitary Plan. We’ve also talked before about how the plan will need to be revisited in the future due to the downscaling that occurred. Once again Auckland 2040 has been allowed to spout a pile of rubbish in the article.
During the Unitary Plan debate, Takapuna neighbours Guy Haddleton and planner Richard Burton formed Auckland 2040 which finished up in an alliance with more than 70 residents’ associations and other groups, including Character Coalition.
Auckland 2040 was opposed to intensification in the suburbs.
Burton says Auckland 2040 “got 70 per cent of what we were after. The rest is detail in the Mixed Housing Suburban zone – that is still very intensive.
“Originally, the draft plan allowed unrestricted apartment building of three or four storeys over 56 per cent of the residential land in Auckland. That has come down to 15 per cent, and from that point of view there’s a degree of rational thinking in the council.
“Their desire is to focus higher intensity development around the town centres and along arterial routes, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Burton is concerned that rules for height to boundary, coverage and yards have been relaxed too much, particularly when they are applied to existing built-in neighbourhoods.
“They will have quite a significant impact – for instance, adjoining rear yards will be one metre each rather than 6 metres and there will be no room for plantings.
A couple of glaring errors in here, first 56% of the residential land in Auckland wasn’t allowed three or four storey apartment buildings, that figure was the amount of land covered by the centres, terraced house and apartment (THAB) zone and the Mixed Housing Zone (MHZ). The MHZ made up the vast majority of that and had a height limit of 8m which is roughly two storeys. Developers would only have been able to go above that with resource consent and even then only to 10m. As a result of the feedback the MHZ was split into two zones Urban (MHU) and Suburban (MHS).
The second major issue is the comment that backyards will be one metre from each other. While the rules for each of the Mixed Housing Zones have a 1m minimum setback on the sides and rear of a house, they also have a requirement for an outdoor living space off the main living area with set conditions i.e. if the living area is on the ground floor there has to be an area with a minimum of 20m² and no dimension less than 4m in length. So while there is technically a minimum of 1m other requirements also need to be taken into account to understand the full picture of what is proposed.
As mentioned the other major theme is transport and as we have come to expect from transport discussion in the city, most of the talk is about how we need to rapidly invest in infrastructure to “catch up”. However as Lester Levy notes, AT also need to improve the way it deals with it’s customer – us the general public.
The other half of the “walnut” essential to making Auckland’s transport system world-class is what I describe as the “software”. This is the mindset and culture within which Auckland Transport needs to deliver a customer-sensitive transport service, which means providing services that are characterised by precision (reliability and punctuality) and responsive service – we and our partners (the providers of our bus, ferry and train services) have much work to do in this area and I have made it my highest priority to finally get this fixed.
The HOP rollout has been dealt with shows we still have a long long way to go on this.
On the infrastructure side though there is a very clear push through quite a number of the pieces about the East-West Link. The project is one that came from obscurity to be ranked one of the most important in the region in The Auckland Plan a few years ago and there has been a strong indication that the council’s support of it was the price to pay for the business community supporting the CRL. It is now being moved well ahead of the CRL in the overall timeline and the government is expected to agree to a funding package for it next year despite there not having even been a business case completed for it yet, let alone a confirmed route – although I’m also hearing that option 4, the route that is the most destructive, most expensive and that has the least benefit for freight is the one that is now the front runner. It makes me wonder if all these mentions of it is part of a concerted effort to soften up the public on the need for it.
I also want to once again highlight one of my biggest bugbears of Auckland Transport underselling the benefits of the CRL.
CRL will mean Britomart becomes a through station, opening the way for 10-minute train services in peak times to Panmure, which in turn will be able to connect with more frequent feeder bus services to suburbs further to the east such as Pakuranga, Howick, Ti Rakau and Botany.
How many times to we have to remind AT that the frequency being talked about in the article is possible in the next year or two and that the CRL allows for double that i.e. 5 minute train services at peak times. It might not sound like that big of a deal but the way people perceive the difference between even 5 and 10 minute services can be quite substantial. The reason AT keep underselling it is they are afraid to promise anything in case they aren’t able to deliver it but they fail to realise that if they keep underselling the project then it risks losing public support.
As I said at the start, the good thing is that we are generally heading in the right direction but we do need some tweaks to get the best outcome.