September 16 AT Board Meeting

The monthly Auckland Transport Board meeting is on again next week so I’ve take a read through the main reports to pull out the bits that interest me.

Closed Session Agenda

Some of my thoughts about them in italics.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CRL – PTA & QS Contracts
  • Road Stopping
  • Execution of Deed of Lease of Land
  • Route Protection for Roading Projects
  • CPO – Surrender of LRT Easements – Britomart was designed so it could also have light rail but our existing network has been too successful so is not a possibilty now
  • Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG) Programme Business Case – Business cases are now needed to support all of the projects needed to support the sprawl enabled as part of the Unitary Plan
  • AT designations for the Unitary Plan

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – Rail Infrastructure
  • MRT/Light Rail Update – I see AT are already using the Mass Rapid Transit name from ATAP
  • Rail Development
  • Bus Services March Capacity – A hint about what this is later in the post.
  • ATAP Update

Business Report

Things that interest me in the order they appear in the report.

Albany Highway – This project is nearly complete and expected to be completed in October

Glen Innes/Tamaki Shared Path – Section 1 is due for completion at the end of October. Section 2 and 3 got resource consent and section 3 will start construction in October

Franklin Rd – Works are now starting on services, although there will be no works around Christmas when the annual lights are on. The actual road works start in March next year. They say the design of the catenary lighting system has been completed and materials ordered. The lights will have a clearance above the ground of 7-8m so shouldn’t have issues with overheight trucks. They also say the lighting system is estimated to cost $900,000. I wonder what an aspiring Councillor standing on a platform of capping rates might say about that.

Franklin Rd Impression

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – AT are hoping for mediation with the Cowie St Residents in early October and if that fails an environment court hearing before the end of the year.

Parnell Station – Kiwirail have building consent and works are due to start on the foundations so the old Newmarket railway station can be moved to the site. AT also say they’re working on the design of ticket gates but that they won’t be in place in time for opening due to long lead times for them. They’re also working on getting a footpath connection down through Carlaw Park finished in time for when the station opens in March 2017 (with limited service).

Parnell pic June15

Manukau Bus Station – AT will be issuing the construction contract early next month and say the station is due to be open in early 2018, this appears to have been delayed as previously they were saying late 2017. Oddly later in the same report it once again says late 2017.

Manukau Bus Station 1

Otahuhu Interchange – This is on track to open on 29 October, just before the new network goes live. Ticket gates will be installed in the second quarter 2017 “due to a delay in receipt of the gates from the supplier

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

Bus Lanes – AT are planning on building 19.1km of bus lanes this financial year but later on they say 26km is planned. This image is from August but it still accurate.

2016-08 - Bus lane Programme

AT Parking App – Earlier this year we saw a glimpse of a mobile app to pay for parking (from 3:05). It’s currently in a live trial till the end of the month and is expected to be launched later this year

AT Park is an account based parking payment system, which will go live later this year. Customers can pay for parking directly from their phone without using a parking meter, significantly improving customer convenience through mobile payment and parking location/availability maps. Other features of the new service are: start and stop a parking session with an interactive voice recording, start stop session with texting and also with the call centre. This innovation will enable customers to pay with ease and therefore increase compliance across the network

PT Services

Supergold Cards – AT are going to transition blue HOP card holders to gold HOP cards and a campaign for it is due in November

Ferries – AT currently has a tender out for the non-commercial ferry routes – like they’re doing with buses. I understand this will likely include some additional services on some routes too. Interestingly this will also include Stanley Bay services as Fullers has advised they’re not going to run it commercially anymore. This will leave only Devonport and Waiheke as commercial routes exempt from PTOM contracts.

March Madness – It appears AT might have finally got the message about March Madness.

Every March there is a spike in patronage which results in insufficient capacity on main corridors. In order to provide sufficient capacity and an enhanced customer experience for next March, new timetables and capacity increases have been developed for main corridors. The expectation is that no customer will have to wait for more than 10 minutes (depending on advertised frequency) to be able to board a bus. This will see an approx. +6.6% peak only bus capacity increase implemented progressively between November and February.

Double Decker NEX – The Northern Express goes from strength to strength and now Ritchies are boosting capacity again with the number of double decker buses used to operate the service going from 18 to 29 in October. That will leave just 2 standard buses at peak times and all off peak services will be run by double deckers. Extra trips are also being added in Jan & Feb ahead of March.

Speeding up trains – AT say a reduction in turn back times at Papakura from late October will free up one train set enabling them to boost another peak Southern Line service in the morning and afternoon. A good example of why they need to focus on speeding up our trains.

New Network – The new bus network in South Auckland is due to go live on 30 October while new buses for the new operators have been arriving. Ritchies/Murphys buses have been arriving from China while the Go Bus buses being built mostly here but also in Malaysia have been arriving.

Station Gates – In addition to completing designs for gating Henderson, Manurewa, Middlemore and Papatoetoe, AT say they’re also now planning and designing gates for Glen Innes, Papakura and Parnell.

Click and Collect – A 6-month trial got underway this week allowing for deliveries to made to one of four AT Metro locations and one park & ride (Orakei I believe). This is positive to see and I only wonder why they didn’t trial it years ago.

Forward Programme

An indication as to what’s coming up to the board and board committees in the next month so an indication of things to keep an eye out for.

  • Northern RTN Programme Business Case
  • Roads & Streets Framework
  • Clonbern Road Carpark Redevelopment proposal
  • Bus Patronage Analysis
  • Train Capacity
  • PTOM West Tenders – the preferred tenderers were announced last week.
  • Manukau Road T3 Operational Impacts
  • Future of HOP
  • Digital / Technology impact on transport

Anything you’ve seen in the reports that I’ve missed?

Should we spend more on infrastructure… or less?

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) report, which was released last week, identified the need to spend more money on transport infrastructure in Auckland. ATAP estimates that we need to spend $24 billion on new transport infrastructure over the next decade, around $4 billion of which would not be funded by current transport budgets.

While $4 billion is a sizeable gap, it’s smaller than previously assumed, due in part to ATAP’s recommendation to defer costly projects like the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing. But meeting it will mean raising fuel taxes, fares, rates, general taxes, or implementing congestion pricing to manage demands until funding is available.

ATAP’s obviously identified a need to spend more money on transport infrastructure in the Auckland context. But is spending more money on infrastructure in general a good idea? In other words, should any additional spending in Auckland be balanced by proportionately higher spending everywhere else in the country?

Two prominent American economists, Larry Summers and Ed Glaeser, recently took contrasting views on this question. Summers is most well-known as a policy advisor to Democratic administrations and (in recent years) an advocate of fiscal policy as a cure for long post-GFC recession. Glaeser, on the other hand, is best known for his work on urban economics, including his great book Triumph of the City.

Summers lays out the case for spending more (in the Financial Times). His key argument is that low interest rates signal an underemployed economy where the “opportunity cost” of paying people to build more stuff is relatively low, and that infrastructure spending is a good way to do this as it can enhance a country’s long-run productive potential:

There is a consensus that the US should substantially raise its level of infrastructure investment. Economists and politicians of all persuasions recognise that this can create quality jobs and provide economic stimulus without posing the risks of easy-money policies in the short run. They also see that such investment can expand the economy’s capacity in the medium term and mitigate the huge maintenance burden we would otherwise pass on to the next generation.

The case for infrastructure investment has been strong for a long time, but it gets stronger with each passing year, as government borrowing costs decline and ongoing neglect raises the return on incremental spending increases. As it becomes clearer that growth will not return to pre-financial-crisis levels on its own, the urgency of policy action rises. Just as the infrastructure failure at Chernobyl was a sign of malaise in the Soviet Union’s last years, profound questions about America’s future are raised by collapsing bridges, children losing IQ points because of lead in water and an air traffic control system that does not use GPS technology.

In particular, Summers argues that priority should be placed on funding deferred maintenance, which is a major problem in the US:

What is the highest priority? The fastest, highest and safest returns are likely to be found where maintenance has been deferred. Maintenance outlays do not require extensive planning or regulatory approvals, so they can take place quickly. And they tend naturally to take place in areas where infrastructure is most heavily used.

Glaeser sets out a considerably more skeptical perspective in the City Journal. Contra Summers, he argues that infrastructure spending isn’t a particularly efficient way of getting unemployed people back to work, and that the political incentives facing decision-makers tend to mean that additional funding is misspent in declining areas like Detroit or on projects that don’t do much good:

While infrastructure investment is often needed when cities or regions are already expanding, too often it goes to declining areas that don’t require it and winds up having little long-term economic benefit. As for fighting recessions, which require rapid response, it’s dauntingly hard in today’s regulatory environment to get infrastructure projects under way quickly and wisely. Centralized federal tax funding of these projects makes inefficiencies and waste even likelier, as Washington, driven by political calculations, gives the green light to bridges to nowhere, ill-considered high-speed rail projects, and other boondoggles. America needs an infrastructure renaissance, but we won’t get it by the federal government simply writing big checks. A far better model would be for infrastructure to be managed by independent but focused local public and private entities and funded primarily by user fees, not federal tax dollars.

Glaeser takes more specific aim at the notion that infrastructure investment inevitably generates broader economic returns:

Infrastructure spending is a form of investment: just as building a new factory can boost productivity, laying down a new highway or opening a new airport runway can, at least in principle, generate future economic returns. But the relevant question is: How do those future returns compare with the costs? Just because infrastructure is a form of capital doesn’t mean that spending a lot on it is always smart. When a firm estimates the rate of return for a new factory, it can calculate the expected net profits and compare those with the expense. The analog for, say, new or improved roads is to estimate the benefits to users from reduced travel times, add the likely modest spillover benefits to nonusers, and then subtract the spending needed to construct and maintain the infrastructure. The results can differ significantly across projects. A well-known 1988 Congressional Budget Office survey found that spending to maintain current highways in good shape produces returns of 30 percent to 40 percent—but that new highway construction in rural areas showed a much lower return. A clever study that used firm inventories estimated that the rate of return to new highways was sizable during the 1970s but sank below 5 percent during the 1980s and 1990s.

[…]

The existence of plausible transportation alternatives and the law of diminishing returns have also tended to reduce the benefits of infrastructure investment over the past two centuries. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1821 brought enormous value because the inland transportation options at the time were dismal. In the early nineteenth century, it cost as much to ship goods 30 miles over land as to send them across the entire Atlantic Ocean. Yet the very existence of canals, as much of a breakthrough as they represented, reduced the benefits of the later rail system, as Nobel economist Robert Fogel has shown. The returns for new transportation infrastructure in places with terrible roads, such as much of Africa and India, will be much higher than in the United States, which already enjoys an impressive, if under-maintained, array of mobility options.

While Summers and Glaeser take different views on the value of spending more money on infrastructure, there are some important points of agreement, such as:

  • Prioritising maintenance spending to replace or upgrade run-down infrastructure
  • Better cost benefit analysis to ensure that money is being spent in more beneficial ways
  • Where appropriate, funding new infrastructure more from user charges and fees, rather than general taxes.

Lastly, it’s worth asking whether these issues look different in New Zealand than in the United States. I don’t have a complete answer to this, but in previous posts I have looked at the issue of infrastructure spending from a variety of perspectives. For instance, I’ve asked:

On balance, I’d say that those posts present a moderately skeptical view of the case for significantly ramping up transport investment – ie more in line with Glaeser’s view than Summers’. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t spend a bit more, but any additional spending should be backed by robust analysis.

What do you think about infrastructure spending? More or less?

ATAP: The right answers to the wrong questions

So the long-awaited final report of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) was released yesterday. This is the third “deliverable” from the project, building on the “Foundation Report” in February and the “Interim Report” in June. The Final Report isn’t dramatically different from what was reported in June, although there’s a lot more detail – particularly around the timing of major projects. I’ll get onto that soon. First if you want to watch the announcement from Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Mayor Len Brown you can do so below thanks to Auckland Transport filming it.

Overall, ATAP appears to have landed at a pretty sensible overall strategy for Auckland’s transport system over the next 30 years and see’s the government agree to something fairly close to the council’s Auckland Plan. For example, the report highlights:

  • We can’t build out of way of congestion
  • A major expansion of the “strategic public transport network” is required
  • Auckland’s motorway network is basically now finished (and also that scope for further widening seems quite limited)
  • The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing really isn’t needed for a long time
  • We need to move to a comprehensive, better pricing system – which ATAP calls “smarter transport pricing”. It suggests it could take a decade to work though the details before it became a reality.

Here’s the strategic approach in a nutshell, it seems very similar to what we’ve seen in existing Auckland plans:

atap-strategic-approach

Of particular interest is, of course, the timing of projects – especially what’s “brought forward” into being a first decade priority. The first decade is the key as it’s difficult to project what will happen much more than that – something the report acknowledges. The major projects are summarised in the table and map below:

project-timingatap-major-transport-projects-by-decade-map

There are a few interesting things in here:

  • Northwestern Busway – a project we’ve long been calling for and should have been included as part of the current SH16 works – has been brought forward into the first decade. Remember this was a third decade project in the Auckland Plan.
  • With the exception of some improvements to the existing rail network, there seems to have been an allergic reaction to the term rail for any new lines. Instead the report uses the phrase Mass Transit instead.
  • There seems to have been a compromise on isthmus light-rail, with it now being a second decade priority. On the positive side, this project wasn’t officially in any of the plans before ATAP.
  • The Early Rail Development Plan priorities include Pukekohe electrification and a third-main between Westfield and Wiri. I wonder if this means government is agreeing to fully fund these?
  • A “mass transit” upgrade of the Northern Busway is now officially in the plans as a longer-term priority. Presumably this means to some sort of rail in the future.
  • The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project is not seen as required before the third decade (around 2040). Given that NZTA had previously been talking about it needing to be in place by 2030, this is quite a major shift.

The major projects shown above are only those on the ‘strategic networks’ and there are a lot of smaller projects that sit below that. The strategic networks have also been shown in a schematic form too.

The road version shows that while map above looks busy, there’s not a heap of new major roads on the horizon. The black arterial roads should also be AT’s basis for a bus lane network map.

atap-future-strategic-road-network

By comparison the strategic PT network shows that a lot of development is needed – and the government has agreed with this, also does it look familiar?

atap-future-strategic-pt-network

 

I’m sure we’ll have plenty more posts to come on the details of ATAP as we sift through them over the coming days. But what’s perhaps most interesting is how ATAP has landed at a reasonably good overall approach, even though it seems to have come at the issue from a pretty “old school” predict and provide approach. Firstly, the project objectives are very focused around congestion – even though we know that higher or lower levels of congestion are a pretty poor indicator of whether a city is succeeding or failing. Secondly, the analysis (which is described in much more detail in the “Supporting Information” report) is very demand-led, predict and provide. It is the result of a massive reliance on transport modelling that we know has traditionally not done well, especially in the face of transformative change that projects like Britomart, rail electrification and the Northern Busway.

We would have preferred to see a strategic, top-down, outcomes focused approach that focused on the jobs we might want different parts of the transport system to do. I guess the challenge with this approach is that it would have required all of those involved to actually agree to a vision for the city.

Despite this, ATAP has still landed in broadly the right place – which in a way makes it even stronger. Even if your focus is very old-school, predict and provide etc. the evidence shows that the best solution for Auckland is a major expansion of the public transport network and a shift to managing demand. Of course ATAP isn’t perfect:

  • There are a lot of major roading projects in there which seem unnecessary if you were to bring in smarter pricing, something the report even acknowledges in this section about the potential impact of autonomous vehicles

This could present opportunities to defer or avoid future investment in additional road capacity

  • Some of what’s said about arterial roads is quite worrying as there’s a really strong push for those to have more of a movement focus when many of these are also places where we want a lot of development to occur – a balance between place and movement is required
  • I think some major public transport projects will probably need to be brought forward – if for nothing else, to respond to massive demand

One thing you may have noticed is missing from the report is active modes. This is in part because our transport models are hopeless on active modes and because “the views of central and local government are already well aligned on the priorities and likely level of future funding”. Hopefully that means more initiatives like the Urban Cycleway Fund are expected.

Overall it’s a pretty big step in the right direction, especially in terms of having something the government has signed up to. At the briefing yesterday the representatives from the business and infrastructure lobbies were fairly dismayed at the outcome of the report, perhaps a sign it’s on the right track. They want to more built sooner but have also separately said they don’t want to pay more rates to enable that.

The next challenge is of course how we fund it. ATAP estimates that over the next decade we’ll need to spend $24 billion but based on current budget trends, that will leave a $4 billion funding gap (mostly in the later part of the decade). With leading mayoral candidates promising to cap rate increases, it will make for an interesting few years while this issue is addressed.

ATAP

Full post is to come tomorrow morning – just a few links and key diagrams for now.

The Final Report – Recommended Strategic Approach

Supporting Information

Questions and Answers

The “indicative package”:

project-map

City Rail Link and ATAP imminent

This week is shaping up to be an important one for the future of transport in Auckland with updates expected on both the government’s funding of the City Rail Link and the final Auckland Transport Alignment Project report due to be publicly released. Both issues are understood to have been discussed in the government’s Cabinet meeting yesterday. Tomorrow the council will hold a special meeting of the governing body behind closed doors to get updates on the decisions made so a public response can be made when the information is released, expected to be Thursday.

This meeting has been called to consider progress with central government on the City Rail Link and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

The above reports were not available at the time of going to print as the content is contingent on cabinet consideration that has yet to take place. The reason for urgency is to enable the council to respond quickly following that cabinet consideration.

While we wait for the Thursday, here are a few questions and thoughts I’ve had and will be keeping an eye on when the announcement happens.

City Rail Link

  • Will the government fund 50% of the project?
  • As we know the council are already funding ~$250 million for the early works on the project which will see cut and cover tunnels dug from Britomart to south of Wyndham St. This was needed in part so developments like Commercial Bay on the old Downtown mall site could proceed. Will any government funding commitment cover the entire project including a share of the early works or will it only apply to the rest of the project?
  • If a formal funding announcement isn’t made, does that leave it up to the next council to agree on the outcome. Does that create a risk that if enough incoming Councillors are hostile to the project we could see delays?
  • Will any funding be announced for other improvements to the rail network to enable the CRL to operate better, for example for more trains, more cross-overs, signalling enhancements, the much needed third main or a number of other potential upgrades.

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Auckland Transport Alignment Project

The Foundation and Interim reports have given us a good idea of the kinds of things ATAP is looking at so I’m not expecting anything too radical to appear but you never fully know.

  • Focus on the first decade – ATAP breaks future projects down by the approximate decade they will be needed. Given how rapidly things can change, the modelling gets more inaccurate the longer in the future something is so any project more than a decade out might as well be ignored. An exercise like ATAP is probably needed ever 5-10 years to ensure we’re on the right track and those projects can be reviewed and re-prioritised then.
  • Road Pricing – Prior to ATAP, discussions around road pricing have existed solely as a way to try and raise additional revenue. Yet it can also be used to encourage people not to drive at certain times which can in turn have a big impact on congestion. The results in the interim report were very positive and as a result we saw the first signs the government were softening on the issue – Newshub reports this softening has continued. I don’t expect we will see specific details about any road pricing scheme but an indication of when one may be needed is likely. I also expect this will be the area most focused on by the media.
  • Future Technology – whether it be the likes of Uber or autonomous vehicles, almost daily there is talk of role technology could have in changing transport in the future. ATAP has been looking at the potential impacts and the Interim Report noted there are potentially quite positive impacts, but the big uncertainty will be how much and when those impacts might be seen. I don’t expect this report to answer that question and again why this exercise is probably needed on a set basis.
  • Government Funding the plan – Funding the CRL is one thing but with both the council and government finally expected to be on the same page around Auckland’s transport priorities, attention is going to have to turn to how we fund it. ATAP should give a better indication of both the quantum and timing of the funding needed. I hope we’ll see an initial response from the government at the same time as the report is released.
  • Mayoral candidate response – The Mayoral hopefuls are out promising projects to voters. How will Vic Crone respond if ATAP says an additional harbour crossing isn’t anywhere near a priority or what about Phil Goff if light rail is in the same boat? Whoever is elected mayor is likely going to need to come up with additional funding to help pay for the projects needed. How will this sit with candidates promising to cap or cut rates?

What are the things you’ll be looking for with both the CRL and ATAP are made public?

2016 Mayoral Hopeful Transport Policies

We’re now less than one month away from having a new mayor and later this week voting papers go out. Our friends at Generation Zero have once again been creating score cards for the mayoral and council candidates and they’ll be released later this week but in the meantime, I’ve taken a quick look through the transport policies of the main contenders and picked out what I think are the key points.

Phil Goff

Goff’s policy definitely reads better than he’s presented it (from what I’ve seen so far). He makes many points not dissimilar to what we would say, such as “Given the population growth, trying to build our way out of congestion with roads alone will not work.”

His policy seems to show good nuance about transport issues and plans, or at least he’s had good advice on them. The plans contained are nothing revolutionary, if anything they largely mirror what is in current plans from Auckland Transport. Some key examples include:

  • Battery powered trains to Pukekohe
  • Improving Park & Ride but he specifies on outer parts of the network
  • Extending the Northern Busway
  • Building a North-western Busway on SH16
  • Building AMETI to Pakuranga as soon as possible and extending that to ultimately East Tamaki and Manukau.

The biggest part of his policy though is Light Rail – initially mirroring AT’s plan of Wynyard and down Dominion Rd – and he wants to see a business case completed so that the project can be added to the 2018 Long Term Plan. He talks of future projects potentially including converting the AMETI busway, to the North Shore and the Airport.

Outside of the big PT stuff he also mentions a few other areas:

  • Walking and cycling which includes encouraging the government to extend the Urban Cycleway Fund, talks about making it easier for kids to ride to school and says he wants a bike share scheme piloted through the private sector.
  • For ferries he is calling for them to be integrated, by this I assume he means the routes of Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke are contracted and controlled by AT rather than being commercial routes (the other routes are already contracted).
  • He also talks about wanting more electric vehicles and car sharing.

The last and a big plank of Goff’s transport policy surrounds the need to find alternative sources of funding to pay for more transport projects, much like Len Brown has. He wants the government issue infrastructure bonds which would be paid back first by a regional fuel tax introduced quickly and later replaced by GPS based road pricing.

Goff’s transport policy is essentially to continue in the general direction the city is already heading – which is to say generally on the right track.

Victoria Crone

Crone says we need to get more people using public transport and she names a few PT projects she thinks are needed, such as the North-western Busway, AMETI and electrification to Pukekohe but also says the biggest issue is that people can’t get to PT because there are not enough Park & Rides. As we know, increasing Park & Ride isn’t going to have any so appreciable effect on patronage but if she can get private companies to pay for it like she claims, that would help offset some of the issue of them. I do agree with the need to improve feeder services though and a lot of improvement will come via the New Bus Network.

A lot of her policy centers around what she calls Smart Transport. This includes:

  • real time tweaking of traffic lights
  • more variable lane arterials – like AT is trialling on Whangaparaoa Rd.
  • more sensors to track travel patterns

One of the more concerning comments relating to sensors is below and suggests bus and cycle lanes could be under threat if she was elected.

We will use this information to assess the efficacy of bus and cycle lanes throughout Auckland, ensuring we are not turning our roads into unproductive assets.

As well as the three big PT projects mentioned earlier, Crone also wants to focus on four expensive and low value roading projects

  • Penlink
  • Lake Rd
  • Mill Rd
  • Another Harbour Crossing (note to Crone, it’ll be the third crossing, not the second). For the AWHC she’s also pledged to try and convince the government to bring it forward by promising an initial contribution of $150 million, small change on a $5 billion+ project. She has also now said she wants to include some form of rapid transit connection as part of the project and would contribute an additional $600 million for that.

The last of Crones ideas on her website is to get AT to think about the future of transport including looking at autonomous vehicles, on demand PT services etc. This is odd giving the Ministry of Transport are already doing exactly this and this is already being considered as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. In fact, many of the things she talks about are things already happening or are being assessed by ATAP.

Just yesterday she released this post suggesting she wants the price of parking in the city reduced until such time as PT is good enough – no definition of what that is.

Mark Thomas

Thomas’ biggest idea is to push transport decisions for ‘sub-regional and local transport’ projects to a more local level by splitting up the decision making at Auckland Transport into six regional transport boards. The boards would cover the north, west, central, east, south and rural/islands areas. I can’t see how this would be either effective or save money like he claims.

On PT he says he wants a ‘New Hybrid Mass Transport Plan’ but it is not clear how this is actually any different from what AT have been proposing. He does talk about the need to extend the Northern Busway, North-western Busway and extending rail to the South – by which I assume he means electrification.

Thomas says his focus is on getting more money out of the council from re-prioritising first but also doesn’t rule out congestion charging in the future.

He says is top 10 regional projects to focus on are below. Some are okay but others are odd, for example since when is a train station at Selwyn a regional priority.

  1. The Penlink investigation ($200m – PPP candidate)
  2. Supporting extension of the Northern bus way (NZTA principal funder)
  3. A specific option to improve Lake Road (cost not yet clear but Indicative Business Case underway)
  4. A North-western bus way to Westgate (NZTA principal funding)
  5. A new Selwyn rail station (likely cost $25m)
  6. Dominion Road upgrade ($45m)
  7. Stage 2 of AMETI (the Pakuranga to Panmure bus way – $550 in current LTP from 2021)
  8. Rapid transit to the airport (cost not clear, although light rail/heaving rails options currently $2billion – potential PPP candidate)
  9. The Mill Road extension ($400m – potential PPP candidate)
  10. Future rail planning to the south (cost not yet clear)

Chlöe Swarbrick

In my view Chloe has one of the better transport policies and talks about how giving people a choice in how they get around by focusing investment in PT and active modes will also help those who are driving to also get around.

For PT she specifically mentions our Congestion Free Network as something that inspired her thinking and notes it is essentially what is on AT’s plans but she wants to bring the timing of projects forward so we aren’t still waiting for 30 years for it to be completed.

She says on PT she will prioritise:

  • Increasing frequency and continuity of public transport on our current networks
  • Rail to Auckland Airport (light or heavy)
  • Growth of feeder services
  • Rail on Auckland’s second harbour crossing
  • Trialling routes destined for rail with uncongested busways
  • Working with central government to ensure public transport infrastructure is given proper priority – over and above new roads

It’s good to see someone suggesting trialling routes with buses first before jumping to rail, much as Patrick suggested last week.

Chloe says walking and cycling needs to be taken seriously and she “will work to see that all new (inevitable) roading developments are accompanied by safe cycling areas, demarcated from the road, alongside”. Given her comments, while I’m sure it’s implied, I thought she might have also mentioned making existing roads safe too.

John Palino

Palino’s transport policy is contained within his 97 page book on his plans for Auckland. Unfortunately, I think his views are a rambling pile of rubbish and are based on fundamental errors, misunderstandings and a general case of avoiding reality. Ever since I first saw it I’ve had to resist an almost line by line take-down of it. It is clear he is opposed to the very idea of the city and his key policy is to create a new ‘Satellite City’ somewhere between Drury and Pukekohe where all future growth can happen because we shouldn’t change any existing suburbs. It’s not clear how this new city is any different to the previous attempts at the same thing (e.g. Albany, Botany, Manukau, Westgate/Massey North).

Along with hating the CBD, he also hates projects associated with it such as the City Rail Link which is clear he would cancel if at all possible. His transport pledges are:

  1. Free Auckland of a CBD focus and stop attempting to only move people to and from the CBD.
  2. No congestion charges on existing roads.
  3. Toll Roads to be built where there is a sound business case for building them.
  4. Review expenditure on cycleways.
  5. Review parking at Park & Ride stations within the first three months of being elected, and provide a plan for increasing parking within twelve months.
  6. Move forward on roading projects with good cost benefit ratios and need to begin, such as the East West link and the second harbour crossing.
  7. Integrate Transport in a growth plan that eliminates future congestion by allowing the development of new intensive suburbs along the transport spine, providing Aucklanders the opportunity to live close to where they work, or have affordable housing close to existing transport infrastructure.

 

Are there any key parts to their policies I missed or any other candidates with notable policy?

Also note, the Campaign for Better Transport are holding a mayoral candidate transport debate on tomorrow night.

Five Years

Exactly five years ago last month, August 30th 2011, my first ever blog post ran on Transportblog. While I am astonished it’s already been five years, what’s really astonishing is what we, my colleagues here, you the readers, and the growing force of friends and allies elsewhere [shoutout to Generation Zero and Bike Auckland especially], and of course the many good people official roles, have helped achieve in Auckland in this time. We have certainly raised the discourse on urban issues and influenced some real outcomes, for the better. Exactly what we set out to do, and what we continue to strive for.

But there is one thing that has still remains unfixed and that is the subject of my first post, which is reproduced in full below.

Why Are There Cars on Queen St?

This is a Guest Post by regular commenter Patrick Reynolds and was originally published in Metro magazine

Queen St, from the water to Mayoral Drive, has an unusual and unexpected feature for a city street in Auckland. It’s easy to miss but it’s true: There is not one vehicle entrance to a building from Queen St. Not one car parking building, not one loading bay, not one ramp to an executive garage under a tower block. The only way to enter a building from Queen St is on foot. There are a few very short term road side parks among the bus stops and loading bays, but really every car in Queen St is on its way to and from somewhere else. And so slowly.

People often talk about traffic with words like ‘flow’ as if it is best understood as a liquid, when really what it is actually like is a gas. Traffic expands like a gas to fill any space available to it [which is why it is futile to try to road build your out of congestion]. There are cars in Queen St simply because we let them be there, like an old habit we’ve never really thought about. l think it’s time we did.

No traffic moves well on Queen St, certainly not the buses, it is usually quicker to walk from the Ferry Building to the Town Hall than to catch any Queen St bus. Emergency vehicles get stuck, deliveries battle their way through. It is clear why there is traffic on the four east-west cross streets of Customs, Victoria, Wellesley, and Mayoral. These are essential through routes to and from motorways and parking buildings. But they too get held up by all the turning in and out of the intersections with Queen St. Because as it is now the lights have long and complicated phases to handle every possible car movement and the growing volume of pedestrians.

It seems likely that simply by removing the private car from the three blocks from Mayoral Drive down to Customs St the city will function so much better. The intersections of Customs, Victoria and Wellesley, will be able to have much better phasing for both pedestrians and the cross town traffic, as well speeding the buses as they would effectively be on bus lanes all the way up Queen St. Air quality in the Queen St gully would improve immensely. The bottom of Shortland and the newly refurbished Fort streets will become the sunny plazas they should be. Inner city retailers should see the benefits of the Queen St becoming a more appealing place to be in and the cross town traffic flowing better will make car use more viable.

And there will the space to convert the smoky diesel bus routes into modern electric trams to really make the most of this improvement and speed even more shoppers and workers to and from the rest of the city.

If we’re brave enough to take this all the way up to Mayoral Drive we get the real chance to link the new Art Gallery, the Library, and St James area across the Queen St divide to Aotea Square, the Town Hall and the new Q Theatre. A chance to really build a cultural heart at this end of town.

Furthermore it could all be done with a few cones, signs, traffic light changes and a media campaign. At least to start.

END

And I still believe that AT/AC are not addressing this issue as well as they should. Waiting for Light Rail to improve our city’s main street lacks leadership and strategic focus, and may well even turn out to be risky to the approval that project. It will, I believe, help the argument for Light Rail here to show that Queen St isn’t a necessary or desirable place for general traffic, and that its continuing reduction is far from negative for commercial performance in the City Centre, by actively encouraging its departure. We know that the last restrictions had way better results than anticipated, halving the amount of vehicle traffic and boosting the much more valuable pedestrian numbers and economic activity, see here.

Queen St volumes - Total

Since my post above AT have recently added partial bus lanes to the two lower blocks, which is good, but not much in five years. I would like to see these lanes continue through to Mayoral Drive. I really think this valley needs to be addressed strategically, and not just reactively, which after all has been well studied by AT, e.g. The City East West Study, CEWT.

Adding north/south of Queen St to this mix we get a hierarchy like this:

  1. Pedestrians in all directions
  2. Transit north/south on Queen and east/west on Wellesley and Customs
  3. Deliveries
  4. General traffic east/west on Mayoral, Victoria, and Customs

And above all of this is the plan to remove all general traffic from Wakefield St north to be worked towards; to continue the current trend.

So improving the Queen St intersections by removing right hand turn options matches this hierarchy perfectly, in particular at Victoria St. This is now a more difficult idea since the Link bus turns from Queen here, but the turn could be made bus only. Victoria St is currently narrowed by CRL works, and will be permanently reduced in width by the Aotea CRL station entrance which will be in what is current road space. So getting drivers used to both the narrowed Victoria St and out of the habit of turning here is surely a strong plan.

Now of course AT are getting pressure from angry motorists over the CRL works, and seem to have responded to this by dropping the double pedestrian cycle from the big Barnes Dances on Queen. This is clearly counter productive to the strategic aims. Instead if they removed right hand turning at Victoria this would improve the adjacent Victoria St intersections for all users and enable either concurrent crossing on Queen or allow the double Barnes Dance phases to be restored. Then there is the festering sore that is lower Shortland St, which clearly has just been shoved into the too hard basket.

Oh and now I discover I have written about this in 2013 too: Clusterbus, Busageddon, Busapocalypse…

In short there are ways that AC/AT could be advancing their strategic aims in the centre city before Light Rail is begun, but they don’t seem to be doing this. I think they should.

Will I be banging on about still in another five years, or can the city grow up already?

‘…Five Years, what a surprise’

Auckland’s urban growth: a historical perspective

The other week, BNZ economist Tony Alexander made an interesting point about Auckland’s current urban growth (via Interest.co.nz):

The plan set out in Auckland’s proposed Unitary Plan to build 422,000 houses will require a rate of building over 25 years that it previously took 161 years to achieve in the City of Sails, BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander says.

In his Weekly Overview report Alexander notes the Unitary Plan’s aim for 422,000 extra houses to be built over the next 25 years requires an annual construction rate 2.5 times higher than the average achieved over the past 25 years. Canterbury achieved 1.5 times post-earthquake.

“Look at this another way. As at the 2013 census there were 509,000 dwellings in Auckland. In 2001 there were about 420,000. The plan is another 422,000 in the next 25 years, in other words doing in 25 years what it took 161 years to do following the designation of Auckland as the country’s capital by the first Governor William Hobson in 1840,” Alexander says.

Now, it’s worth putting some caveats on this. The Unitary Plan allows around 422,000 new ‘commercially feasible’ homes to be built in Auckland – but it doesn’t guarantee that they will be built. Other factors, such as the availability of construction labour or funding for infrastructure, could still pose road-blocks. On the other hand, Auckland’s population might not grow fast enough to need another 422,000 homes, eg if the New Zealand economy declines for a prolonged period.

But Alexander’s comments nonetheless put matters in perspective. Auckland is currently experiencing historic levels of population growth. The city has never been faced with the task of accommodating as many people, in as short a time-frame, as it must at the moment.

[As an aside, I’ve covered the reasons why this is happening in a previous post.To summarise:

  • The majority of recent and future population growth – about 60-65% – is from natural increase, i.e. people being born in Auckland
  • Net migration, principally from overseas, accounts for the rest. Net migration is very volatile – high inflows in one year can be balanced out by outflows in the next.

For the record, commenters complaining about population growth or the origin of migrants without engaging with these facts or providing references for their own views will be deleted.]

Migration Herald

How unprecedented is Auckland’s current and projected population growth, anyway?

Historical data on urban populations provides a window into this question. Here’s one of the key graphs from a 2013 paper by Arthur Grimes and Nicholas Tarrant, showing the growth of New Zealand’s largest five cities in 1926.

Grimes and Tarrant urban population growth

At the start of the 20th century, Auckland wasn’t that dissimilar to Christchurch, Wellington, and Dunedin – a bit bigger, but not by much. But over the course of the century, it diverged, and, what’s more, the rate of divergence seems to have increased. In 1926, Auckland was only 60% larger than Wellington, the second-largest urban area. In 2006, it was 235% larger:

Auckland to Wellington population 1026-2006

It’s common to measure urban population growth in percentage terms. That’s not a bad measure, in a lot of ways, as it captures the degree to which cities of different sizes are experiencing relative changes. Adding 500 people to a town of 10,000 may feel as transformative as adding 50,000 to a city of one million.

But when you’ve actually got to build stuff to meet demand – homes, roads, pipes, busways, etc – the raw numbers matter a lot. When Auckland grows by 1%, it has a much greater impact on the national construction task than 1% growth in Timaru.

So with that in mind, here’s a graph showing the last 115 years of urban population growth in Auckland, plus the projections for the next 30 years or so. I’ve pieced it together from a couple of sources – Grimes and Tarrant’s numbers, including their unreported population figures for 1901, Stats NZ’s population estimates for 2006-2015, and Stats NZ’s population projections for 2013-2043. (These figures don’t line up perfectly, but they’re still broadly comparable.)

Here’s what we’re looking at. Between 1996 and 2015, Auckland added over 20,000 new residents a year – the fastest-ever increase. The only period that comes close is the late 1960s/early 1970s, and that turned around pretty quickly.

The range on future population projections is wide. At the low end, Auckland would “only” add around half a million people over the next three decades. At the high end, it would add another million people. However, the mid-point of the range, which is reasonably reliable over multi-decade periods, would see the growth trends of the last 20 years continue.

Auckland historical and projected population growth

Now, this could potentially be a very good thing. The last 20 years of urban development has been, on the whole, positive for the city. It’s injected new life back into the city centre, created demand for a wider range of housing and transport choices, and given Auckland – for possibly the first time ever – great dining options. None of that would have been possible in the absence of population growth.

But growth also creates challenges. The city’s post-war growth model – low-density zoning and car-centric development on the fringe – no longer works. While there are still greenfield sites that can be subdivided, they’re located in less desirable places – Dairy Flat and Drury aren’t comparable to Browns Bay or St Heliers. And fringe locations built around the car are becoming increasingly expensive to connect in to the rest of the city, due to the need to expand road capacity across pinch-points. All the cheap motorways have already been built:

Cost per added lane-km chart

In other words, the city will have to change to accommodate growth. That means changing the way we regulate and build the housing market – the Unitary Plan has made a useful contribution. It also means rethinking the way that we invest in and manage our transport system. If the cost to develop transport corridors is going up, then we need to make sure that we get the best use out of them.

This means looking more closely at how congestion pricing can balance demands between time periods. It means choosing to dedicate more corridor space to high-capacity modes like rapid transit, and, in reasonably dense areas, cycling.

Packed Train

In addition to better enabling Auckland’s future urban development, there are a range of other benefits to this approach. People who have better options to get out of the car tend to be more physically active and healthy. Town centres where more people walk, ride, or bus up are often more vibrant and economically successful than those where people must navigate a maze of carparks. And, in generally, more connected places with better street life tend to be more enjoyable for everyone.

Here’s hoping the next phase of Auckland’s growth takes us in that direction.

Park and Ride not really a no-brainer

Building more Park & Ride is often cited as a “no-brainer” way to get more people using public transport – especially by politicians. This election we’ve got a number of political hopefuls promising to build a lot more of them as a way to get many more people using PT, a stance also echoed by the likes of the AA. In a way it’s positive as it at least shows they recognise that PT, and particularly busway, train and ferry services are useful, popular and there is a demand for them. But is it really a no-brainer or are those promoting the idea perhaps guilty of not engaging their own brain first before making these promises.

According to Auckland Transport’s Parking Strategy, there are currently around 5,500 park & ride spaces across the region with the biggest single facility being Albany with 1,100 spaces – those people parked at the northern end are walking over 300m to get to the platforms.

Albany Park and Ride 2

The Albany Park and Ride’s 1,100 fill up early most work days

AT have also said they want to see another 10,000 P&R spaces across the region by 2046, as shown in the map below.

AT PnR strategy map

Before jumping in and building a lot of carparks we first need to question whether they will be effective. The issues generally fall into two categories, patronage and the cost. So let’s look at those two aspects.

Patronage

Despite the presence of huge carparks, the number of PT trips generated by P&R is surprisingly small. For the most part these carparks will only ever be filled once day on the approximately 250 working days each year. I would assume there is a higher number of single occupant vehicles than normal but let’s use a fairly standard 1.2 people per vehicle. That means each carpark likely generates about 600 PT trips per year (250 days x 1.2 people per car x 2 PT trips per day).

So a large P&R like the one Albany might account for about 660k trips per year. It might sound like a lot but remember we recently saw the latest station boarding stats and it showed over 1.8 million trips began or ended at Albany. In other words, the P&R accounted for only about 36% of all trips to or from the station. Furthermore, Albany is one of the highest percentages of P&R use, for the busway and train stations for which the number of P&R spaces are available, the average number of trips generated is just 19%. Expanding the calculations, the current 5,500 carparks contribute just 3.3 million trips per year while patronage across the entire PT network was 83 million trips. An extra 10,000 would add only 6 million trips, only an extra 7%

Of course all of this assumes that all users of new park and ride facilities are new users. The provision of more carparking is also likely to have the side effect of encouraging some of those who access stations by other means to change their behaviour so the actual gains in patronage are likely to be much less.

Thinking about the future, improving walking, cycling and bus connections (Simplified Fares and New Network) are likely to have a much greater impact. Further for those that believe autonomous vehicles are just around the corner, one of the biggest areas they’re could have a quick impact is in solving the first/last mile problem, shuttling people to and from stations. Of all ways of accessing PT stations, driving and parking is probably the one with the poorest future.

 

Cost

Even basic P&R’s can be incredibly expensive. the most recent one completed was at Swanson where 136 carparks were added for a cost of $2.5 million. That works out as a cost of $18k per space and that’s just for a seeming simple surface level carpark.

Swanson Park n Ride 1

The extension of the Albany carpark a few years ago cost $5.5 million for 550 carparks, or $10k per space – although that may have excluded the cost of the land. More intensive parking facilities such as multi-storey carparks can cost $25,000 per space or more. Then there are the opex costs for lights, security, cleaning etc. Even at $10k per space we’re looking at a minimum of $100 million to add the 10k carparks AT plan, given the more recent figures $200 million+ seems more appropriate and that’s if we can find the physical space for them.

But it’s not just the physical construction and opex costs that need to be considered but also the land use ones too. As the Albany carpark shows, it a lot of space to hold that many cars and the Albany site is about 37,000m². Last time I looked there simply isn’t masses of vacant land just waiting for a carpark to be built next to stations so adding them will require removing existing buildings. Removing houses (in a housing crisis) to provide carparking for a PT station would look as stupid as sounds. Furthermore, more intensive land use next to the station could encourage just as many PT trips, possibly more plus could have other benefits too, such as housing people.

Another issue and also a potential cost is that large carparks can create localised congestion issues which may require expensive road upgrades to address.

Candidates promising prudent financial management and also massive P&R expansions are contradicting themselves. Yes, we absolutely need to improve access to PT stations but the cost of building a carpark should be weighed up against the cost of improving access by other methods. For example, how many new trips could be achieved by focusing that $200m on great walking and cycling facilities to stations (AT are looking at improving access to two stations as part of the Urban Cycleway Fund programme).

High Density Bike Rack - Akoranga 2

At the Akoranga Busway station it can sometimes be hard to find a park

All of this isn’t to say that P&R isn’t useful in some situations. These can include:

  • On the outsides of the main urban area where land is cheaper, PT feeder services poorer and where it is also serving nearby rural populations.
  • Where the parking can be priced appropriately. This can offset some/all of the subsidy to providing parking, encourage use of more efficient modes for accessing stations and also address those local congestion issues. I’ve written before about how Calgary implemented charging.
  • Particularly where the station is provided ahead of surrounding land use – such as at Albany – it can act as form of a landbanking until a high enough land use intensity becomes viable.

 

Guess you could sum it all up as park & ride is not quite the ‘no-brainer’ some claim.

 

While on the topic of P&R, A few weeks ago Auckland Transport put out a press release stating they were looking to expand the Papakura Park & Ride and in the process highlighting they’re bloody expensive.

Auckland Transport (AT) is looking at ways to extend one of its busiest park and rides at Papakura Railway Station. AT is set to issue a tender which could see a significant increase to the 327 parking spaces currently at Papakura.

The extension is to cope with the large jump in numbers of people using the Southern rail line; passenger growth has been 19 percent in the past 6 months.

Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Strategic Development, Chris Morgan, says traditional park and rides are expensive because they rely on buying land. “With Auckland’s high land values, a parking bay can cost $25,000 or more, so we are looking at a number of options including the possibility of using pre-fabricated steel decking.”

He says Auckland Transport is in the early stages of investigating a trial for Papakura, but there are still a number of issues to be worked through like design and traffic assessments for the site.

“We want to look at trialling innovative ways to provide more parking at key locations.”

Barney Irvine from the Automobile Association (AA) says the AA supports moves to expand park and ride facilities. “There’s clear demand from our members for more park and ride, and we see it as an excellent way to increase the appeal of public transport.”

In Auckland, there are currently 5,500 park and rides bays. Chris Morgan says there needs to be almost double that number by 2040 and there are plans to put in 800 more bays within 2 years including 400 at Westgate and new spaces at Silverdale, Pukekohe and Hobsonville.

Get in quick to open up our government and government data!

This is a guest post from reader Isabella

Have you ever wanted a government organisation to be less opaque?
Or thought “if only we could get the data on that…”?
Or admired some gorgeous datavis and wanted more?

Now’s your chance! Get your ideas in BY WEDNESDAY 24TH to shape New Zealand’s Open Government Action Plan.

This dull-sounding document is important: it’s the plan for the work in local and central government to open up publicly funded data for reuse, and to open up government processes for better accountability, transparency and creativity. There’s more every year, and it’s getting better and faster. Help steer it!

Transportblog readers, bloggers, commenters and all – this is you.

We need people like you to be able to see into government’s decision-making processes and subject them to the praise, censure and improvement they deserve.

We need people like you to be able to get data on things that matter and turn them into insightful information and juicy, juicy knowledge.  So…

  • If you’ve ever had an idea for how the government – local and central – should be more open, go here and tell ’em.
  • If you’ve ever had an idea for a neat open data project, go here and write it down.
  • If you’ve ever known anyone else who’d have these ideas, send them here and tell them to write.

And do it soon! the engagement is only live til end of Wednesday 24th. (though you can be involved longer term – see here)

Want some background?

They say:

“The Open Government Partnership (OGP) recognises that government can be more effective when citizens are aware and involved in building an open society.  The focus of the partnership is on developing a two-year National Action Plan between citizens and government, and the government is currently running a process to develop New Zealand’s second plan.  One of the guiding principles for the plan is the innovative use of technology to be more transparent

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international programme where the governments of 70 countries have committed to becoming more open, accountable and responsive to citizens.

New Zealand joined the OGP in 2014 and is now developing its second National Action Plan (NAP) to identify the best approaches to open up government and data, over the next two years.”