Follow us on Twitter

Just another $500 million

The herald this week ran a large piece on the projects under construction as part of the Western Ring Route (WRR) including aerial photos of the progress. The projects covered were:

  • The Waterview Connection breaking it down by:
    • The Southern end
    • The Northern end
    • The Waterview interchange
  • The raising and widening of the Northwestern Motorway Causeway
  • The Te Atatu Interchange
  • The St Lukes Interchange
  • The Lincoln Rd Interchange

But the thing that got me about the article was this part

The 4.8km link between the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways will fill the last-but-one gap in the 48km Western Ring Route. It will bypass the city to the west and link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore.

All that will be left to complete, by about 2019, will be a $500 million-plus motorway-to-motorway interchange at the northern end of the route.

It’s made to sound like it’s some sort of minor completion task but in reality at $500 million it would be the second most expensive road project in Auckland after the Waterview tunnels. What’s more it’s all just to satisfy some transport planners desire to make a map look prettier.

SH18-SH1 map gap

The project is more than twice the cost of a similar junction at Manukau built just a few years ago. It’s even almost enough to get a fully offline busway all the way to Silverdale – not that it’s needed that far yet (but NEX services to Silverdale are). It will be eclipsed in price any time soon by $800 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (if it goes ahead). 

Further it’s also technically incorrect to say that’s the final project for the Western Ring Route as there is still an estimated $100 million upgrade of the Royal Rd interchange (and associated widening either side of it) that will be left to do. Also needing to be included are the costs of widening the Northern and Southern motorways either side of the western ring route which the NZTA say are needed to handle the traffic from the WRR.

All up over the span of the roughly 13 years that we will have actually been building it, the Western Ring Route will costing us almost $4 billion. That’s on top of other major motorway projects that have been/are going on like the Victoria Park Tunnel, Newmarket Viaduct replacement and the myriad of projects the government announced last year they would fast track. Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the various WRR Projects

WRR Costs

It’s the ability to really break some of these mega projects down into small chunks that I think has been instrumental in Auckland forging ahead with so many motorway projects ahead of other transport investments. Projects like the CRL have suffered because they require the entire thing to built before they become usable and the price tag then looks scary. However spreading out the cost of the CRL over the years it will take to build shows that annually it’s about the same as what we’ve been pouring into these motorway projects. (note: cost of CRL in today’s dollars is ~$1.8 billion other costs often quoted include extra trains for an inefficient operating pattern and future inflation).

All of this makes me wonder how different the public would have perceived these projects if upfront they had been told it would have cost almost $4 billion to build. Would public sentiment about what transport projects we should build be different if we could have had a more realistic discussion about how much things cost.

Mighty River Rail: A Fresh Future?

Looking at a number of separate but current issues got me thinking about the possibility of the return of passenger services on the existing rail lines through the Waikato. These include:

  • The potential appeal of well connected and well designed satellite towns.
  • The difficulty of retaining vitality and that appeal in many existing country towns.
  • New challenges and opportunities for a number of Waikato towns caused by the rerouting of SH1.
  • Population growth pressures on Hamilton and Auckland and the poor quality of recent ex-urban spread.
  • The existing rail lines and legacy stations in the Waikato.
  • The coming availability of Auckland’s current diesel passenger trains.

Starting with the last point I would like to stress that I am not proposing a Hamilton-Britomart intercity service. This idea has a great many practical problems in particular the crowded condition of both Britomart Station and the Auckland network, it is simply too hard to fit additional services through the Auckland network without more track and the CRL to free up station space at Britomart; so no time soon. But also the fact that the market for such a direct service is unproven and likely not large, especially as it would not be competitive with buses using the motorway for price or speed. The billions being spent in the Waikato countryside is speeding the road route there and even if the Auckland network can jam up at anytime for any number of reasons [I spent a loathsome hour getting from Otahuhu to the city on SH1 last week], it still will be hard for the existing rail route to be competitive. At least until such a time as it could run reliably and directly through the Auckland network at speed.

No I have another suggestion that is to embrace the available resource of the line by going instead for coverage and local connectivity. But it starts in Auckland still. The plan is for Auckland’s new electric trains only to reach as far south as Papakura so a few of the current diesel trains will remain as a shuttle service from that station south to Pukekohe. This system will be in place in late next year and Papakura station has been upgraded to facilitate its operation as a transfer point between the two rail systems.

So the first idea is simply to extend the coming southern shuttle between Pukekohe and Papakura south to connect with the towns of the northern Waikato already on the line. Even just extending those services south to Tuakau, the next town on the route to Hamilton, and then to the growing town of Pokeno would cost very little and offer an opportunity to test the idea. But I’m sure the people of Ngauawahia and Te Kauwhata would be pretty keen on the service too going on information from previous intercity proposals, and if a service goes that far it would be crazy not to continue into Hamilton. It would then have anchors* at both ends and not just be an appendage of Auckland’s system. On one hand then it would just be extending the Pukekohe catchment and on the other offering those country towns the chance to redevelop the areas around their stations as well as an additional way to travel within the wider region. Politically and financially it would require the Waikato Regional Council to work with AT and agree on the details. Let’s assume that’s not impossible.

As the line to Pukekohe is likely to be electrified and intermediate stations added this service could then terminate there instead of Papakura and become a much more intra-Waikato one, still linking into the big and frequent Auckland network at that network’s southernmost point for further connectivity. So the possibility arises to take the service south to all the points on the line to Hamilton and even beyond, so say:

  • Pukekohe
  • Tuakau [apparently has .5mil budget set aside for a station]
  • Pokeno
  • Te Kauwhata
  • Huntly
  • Ngaruawahia
  • Te Rapa [new station at The Base mall]
  • Frankton [Existing Station]
  • Hamilton City [The surprisingly already extant underground central city station]
  • Claudelands [new station Hamilton East]

No new track. Simply station and safety upgrades or reinstatements of legacy stations and two new at grade stations in Hamilton.

Ngruawahia Stion

By not trying to race between the two big city centres the added stops become an advantage rather than a disadvantage. It would be as much about travel between any points on the line as end to end and be a tool for regional placemaking. And of course there then is the option to include Te Awamutu to the south, and Morrinsville and Cambridge to the east for more of a pan-Waikato network.

The Waikato District Council could slowly build up a programme using the onetime opportunity of Auckland’s Diesel units in much the same way that Auckland did with Perth’s, assuming it works sufficiently. It’s a low risk chance to grow something new in the Waikato in part taking advantage of Auckland’s proximity by plugging into that bigger network but really focussing on its own region. Particularly to do something for the towns along the route.

Below is a strangely nostalgic map from NZTA designed to promote their massive programme of highway building through the Waikato countryside all this decade; trying to make costly heavy engineering seem all cosy and approachable like something in a kid’s book [particularly 1960s- just like the whole RoNS idea].

Curves.ai

Other than the attempt at cute and the apparent use of the current SH1 entirely by cyclists in the future [!], the key thing this map tells us is that pretty much all the towns on the current route are about to become bypassed. So in as much as they rely on passing traffic for business and vitality that game is up, or soon will be. But also of course in as much as their centres are severed and made unliveable by the heavy traffic speeding through them there is an opportunity too for these places. The scale of the works is more apparent in this version:

Waikato Expressway

Waikato Expressway

A reinvention for the likes of Huntly and Ngaruawhaia is going to be required, but this work usually never happens when NZTA leaves town, although surely there is an opportunity and a need to reorient these places from being focussed around the traffic that used to race through them. It will be up to the local communities and the District Council to unlock the possibilities made available by SH1 going. The chance to restitch their mainstreets back together, calm the remaining traffic; in short make place; to build a new identity and economy in these communities. Could the return of a rail service linking these places, anchored by the two big metropolises, have a role in this? The currently unused stations could certainly be a focus for redevelopment, cafes, information centres, markets etc. A focus for the rediscovery of place and character.

The rail line is less direct than the new road precisely because it connects all these old towns like pearls on a string; so I suggest don’t fight that essential characteristic of the route, use it for local interconnection and not as an attempt to imitate the highway which will soon completely bypass these towns as it expressly designed to avoid them to better serve interregional movement.

North Waikato Line

Above is a rough outline from Papakura south. It is clear that Tuakau and Pokeno could easily be served as Pukekohe extensions, then there is a bigger jump to the old towns south of Pokeno to Hamilton which would make it much more than an extension of the Pukekohe service. And finally a possible third stage east and south of Hamilton out to Morrinsville, Cambridge, and TeAwamutu. So three stages:

Waikato Line

The first stage should gain support from those advocating country living. We are often told that Satellite Towns are a great way to get the best of all worlds; right in the country, but with the social hub of a village centre, and connection to the employment, education, and action of the big city. But to get this the detail matters enormously. Quality of place takes work; those three boxes all need to be properly ticked. Here, I suggest, is a mechanism to help achieve this work.

For example look how they are marketing the spreading little north Waikato town of Pokeno:

Pokeno

Note the mention of rail right in the same sentence as the state highways as a selling point for Pokeno, yet there is no rail service, and no plan for one either. I agree it would be great if there was. Not least because it would give the town an opportunity to develop as a real Satellite Town, not just a piece of displaced sprawl as it seems to be becoming now. The station and surrounding amenity could become a village centre of the kind at the heart of the successful country Satellite Towns around overseas cities.

The TVOne report linked to on the website above is worth a look. It is a good showcase of the often confused thinking, particularly by those that consider themselves experts, on the issues of urban form and the role of transport infrastructure in shaping those forms.

Here’s a quick look at the easily available Hamilton City Stations. Hamilton being the other anchor* of this line.

Hamilton City Stations

The triangle is the existing Hamilton Station at Frankton, the rectangle is Hamilton’s big secret, the country’s first underground urban station, never used. And the line a rough position for an East Hamilton station, around Claudelands, with good residential walkup and next to the Claudelands Convention Centre. These are about a kilometre apart. There is a good opportunity to add a station at the back of The Base at Te Rapa, and a more difficult option for one between that and these three city stops perhaps at Forest Lake Rd. Although the surrendering of rail land for a duplicate highway through there has squeezed the corridor and added to the severance both of which would make this more difficult and expensive. So it goes. However this little urban network alone could be quite useful; Claudelands to The Base certainly looks handy, nicely balancing Ngaruawahia to the city say.

While it is the case that the forces associated with the massive road build currently taking place in the Waikato have been strongly opposed to any rail revival in the region I think for them to continue that now this would be to misunderstand the potential and the purpose of this project. As conceived here it is complimentary to the huge highway system. It is to serve those communities left behind by the Expressway; to help them develop into stronger entities in their own right. To help mitigate the shock of the departure of the highway and to take advantage of the new possibilities that must be found for these places. This project is no threat to the vast sums being spent on highways.

This is a very different argument than that for improvement and extension of the Auckland network for which there certainly is growing demand of significant scale, but I can imagine local people getting behind such a proposal. So a good first step would to hear their views here and if supported then to work towards getting some real analysis done. After all this is not a detailed proposal more a bit of free thinking. After the low hanging fruit [and admittedly Auckland centred] first stage I concede it gets trickier:

  • What sort of frequency would be required for a meaningful service?
  • Could such a frequency be justified by the ridership?
  • How to set the ticket price to stimulate uptake but also help fund operations?
  • How do you balance economic value of place and social quality against financial costs?
  • Is this the best stopping pattern?
  • Are the trains available? Suitable? Affordable?
  • Will KiwiRail be cooperative?

And finally is this the kind of thing that the people of the Waikato want?

Thanks to Jon Reeves and CBT for additional information

* Anchoring. Here is Jarrett Walker:

“So transit planners are always looking to anchor their lines.  Anchoring means designing a line so that it ends at a major destination, so that there will be lots of people on the vehicle all the way to the end of the line.  A line with strong anchors at each end will have more uniform high ridership over the whole length of the line, and a much more efficient use of capacity overall.”

The Road Marking Dance

A neat video showing two clearly experienced guys painting doing road marking.

Note to AT, see how easy it is to mark a street, perhaps you could get some people doing the same thing but instead of saying BUS STOP they could also paint the words BUS LANE.

Low Traffic Forecast For Costly Warkworth Toll Road

This is the fourth in a series of posts based on the Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the Puhoi to Warkworth Board of Inquiry. The full presentation is over at bettertransport.org.nz

Previously I pointed out that the NZTA produced Traffic Assessment Report for the Puhoi to North Warkworth Toll Road (PNWTR) is not realistic in a number of areas:

It is very hard to appreciate the significant combined effect of these erroneous assumptions, so I’ve modelled the outcome in this table:

Projected Puhoi To North Warkworth Toll Road Traffic Volumes for 2026

Projected Puhoi To North Warkworth Toll Road Traffic Volumes for 2026

The more realistic input assumptions mean the result is 56% less traffic on the toll road, and 50% more on the existing SH1 than NZTA’s forecast.

This is significant, not just because 6,031 really is a pitiful amount of traffic for a $760m toll road, but because one of the objectives of the toll road is to reduce congestion at Warkworth.  Current AADT volumes are about 17,400 veh/day, so traffic volumes of 21,788 represent an increase in traffic volumes of 25% by 2026 on the existing SH1.  Without improvements to Hill St, delays will get far worse after the project is completed. It also means the claimed safety benefits are doubtful. There aren’t any safety improvements proposed for the existing SH1, so the number of accidents will be higher than NZTA’s report also. I’ll be talking more about this in a subsequent post.

The assumptions that I have used are laid out here:

assumptions

Stepping through each assumption:

  • Project scenario straight line growth.  Although the NZTA’s own Economic Evaluation Manual stipulates a zero default growth rate should be used, I have based growth on the historic trend of 2.1%. Incidentally if you use a higher growth rate than this, more traffic results on SH1.
  • Toll route % traffic: This is the split of traffic assumed without a toll. I’ve simply used the same split identified in the original report.
  • Warkworth Plan Increase in SH1: The 2,800 increase in traffic on SH1 comes from Test B of the original report.  I’m assuming this because most new growth is currently planned to be in the west and south of Warkworth. Obviously if there is an increase in traffic on SH1, there must also be a reduction in traffic from the toll road.
  • Matakana straight line growth: The original report assumed virtually nil growth, but here I’ve assumed the same growth for Matakana Road as for Sandspit Rd.  I’ve assumed 50% of the additional Matakana traffic will take the toll road. The 50/50 split is roughly the split the original report claimed. Although NZTA have since retracted this split, I’ll run with this for now.
  • Toll diversion: The effect of any toll is to divert traffic on to the free alternative. I haven’t modelled a toll tariff amount, I’ve simply assumed that the NZTA will set a toll that will divert about 15% of the “further north” traffic and 80% of traffic to Warkworth and the eastern beaches.  There is a greater diversion of traffic for these destinations as the existing SH1 is already forecast to be quicker.  I’m just assuming 20% of these trips will be on the toll road because of the increased safety and comfort of the toll road, even though the trip will take longer. (Off memory, about 25% of trips on the Northern Gateway corridor takes the free the Hibiscus Coast route.)

So there you have it. You can test your own assumptions by downloading the spreadsheet.

Labour focuses on minor transport issues

Labour released a small part of their transport policy yesterday and frankly it’s absolute rubbish with it seemingly designed just to target a handful of complainers. You can get a good feel for what they’re aiming at when the policy is called Easier Driving and with the slogan accompanying the policies is

Labour will make it easier to get a family holiday on the roada

The three things this release says they will do are:

The issue

Trailers and caravans
Currently, owners of light trailers and caravans must pay an annual licensing fee (usually referred to as ‘registration’) of $28, plus a $7 administration fee.

It is a tax that generates a huge amount of hassle for the 600,000 light trailer and caravan owners in New Zealand while bringing in little revenue for the government. With 20% of the cost to owners going on administration, it is also highly inefficient. No policy justification exists for charging a registration fee for light trailers and caravans; it’s just a money grab.

Trucks
Heavy trucks have a speed limit of 90km/h. If they drive in the fast lane on multi-lane roads, they either slow down light vehicle traffic or, frequently, exceed their speed limit. This is both inconvenient for other road users and dangerous.

Motorhomes and campervans
The current government unfairly increased Road User Charges for owners of motorhomes and campervans when it changed from assessing RUC based on actual gross weight to using maximum allowable weight, instead.

Many campervans and motorhomes are built on heavy chassis or converted from buses but never carry anywhere near their maximum allowable weight. This means they have far less impact on the roads than a fully-laden commercial truck with the same maximum allowable weight. Charging them the same RUC as a much heavier vehicle goes against the principles of the RUC Act. This change has seen RUC costs unfairly double for some motorhome and campervan owners.

The detail

Labour is committed to getting rid of unnecessary costs and rules that put a burden on Kiwis. As an example of this approach, we have identified several current rules and requirements that make using the roads a hassle. Changing them will lower costs and make life easier for Kiwis, and give a boost to domestic tourism.

Labour will remove the annual licencing fee for light trailers and caravans. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $17 million a year (less than 1% of the NTLF, which can be met by reprioritisation), but save owners of trailers and caravans $21 million a year, as well as countless hours and hassle.

In other jurisdictions including the UK, South Australia, Victoria and many US states, heavy trucks are required to not use the fast lane on multi-lane roads. Labour will adopt this rule for three and four lane highways. Heavy trucks can still travel at their 90km/h speed limit in the other lanes, but it keeps the fast lane clear for faster light vehicle traffic.

Labour will create a special RUC class for motorhomes and campervans that reflects their actual impact on the roads, as suggested by the AA. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $2-5 million a year (to be funded out of reprioritisation within the NLTF).

That there are so many other transport issues that will need to be addressed and they decide to waste time on this stuff doesn’t bode well for their overall transport policy. The trailer and caravan changes seem like tinkering around the edges and if Labour were serious they would get cracking on changing the entire licencing system.

As for the trucks on motorways, as far as I’m aware there is technically no such thing as a fast lane so it will be a bit hard for them to stay out of it. Even if this was implemented as it sounds it doesn’t mean there is that many places it would actually have any affect. The only three lane state highways are in Auckland and Wellington and on those most trucks do tend to stay to the left. I can’t remember the last time I saw a truck creating a hold up in free flow motorway traffic. Certainly they can be an issue outside of Auckland but then this policy wouldn’t be relevant anyway due to the lace of qualifying roads (and that doesn’t mean we need to go and build more).  This map shows the extent of motorways in Auckland that have over three lanes. Obviously there are some big upgrades going on that will increase this in coming years.

black = 3 lanes, red = four lanes and green = 5 lanes

Motorways with more than 3 lanes

NZTA Predict No Growth For Matakana

This is the third in a series of posts based on the Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the Puhoi to Warkworth Board of Inquiry. The full presentation is over at bettertransport.org.nz

Previously I pointed out that the NZTA produced Traffic Assessment Report hasn’t factored in a toll for the Puhoi to North Warkworth Toll Road (PNWTR), thus overstating expected volumes on the proposed route. Before that I made the case that traffic growth assumptions for the corridor aren’t based on current trends, and that the forecast number of trips “further north” was overstated in the report to the Board of Inquiry.

In this post I examine NZTA’s forecast growth in traffic for the Matakana region and Warkworth.  Matakana Road is the route to the Omaha, Leigh, Goat Island and numerous other coastal destinations. These destinations are very popular during weekends and holiday periods.

Here’s the 2009 Base Case traffic counts taken from figure 11 of the report:

Base Case 2009 AADT volumes

Base Case 2009 AADT volumes

And here are the 2026 traffic volumes predicted by NZTA’s model:

2026 AADT Volumes

2026 AADT Volumes

As you can see, the model predicts Matakana traffic volumes to increase by only 500 for the Base Case in 2026, and by 700 for the Project Case.

In my view this is highly unlikely.  The model even predicts south bound traffic volumes to decrease by 20 trips a day for the “Holiday End” periods for the Base Case, and remain the same for the Project Case.  In my experience, the ends of long weekends and holidays are the busiest times on Matakana Road.  The implied growth of 0.3% per annum in AADT traffic volumes does not make sense, especially when you consider the number of new dwellings that will probably be built in the Matakana region in the next 17 years by 2026.   If this is the same assumption used to model the Hill Street intersection, then delays are likely going to be far greater in reality than forecast.

It is even more odd when you compare the Matakana Road growth assumption with that used for Sandspit Road, which connects to Snell’s beach and the Mahurangi peninsula.  Those figures work out to be a linear growth of 2.9% for the Base Case and 3.0% for the Project Case, which is more in line with what one would expect.

The land use assumptions are on pages 8,  13 and 14 of the report. For the Base Case and Project Case, this includes land-use changes (growth) in Warkworth.  For the Project Case, the following adjustment was made:

landuse

So even though it isn’t in the Warkworth Structure Plan (or the Unitary Plan?), the growth has been modelled to take place near the northern junction of the PNWTR. To the author’s credit there was a sensitivity test done on this assumption:

test b

So 20% more traffic on the existing SH1 for the more likely growth scenario, than shown in the main body of the report!  So instead of 14,500 veh/day, traffic volumes on the existing SH1 are more likely 17,300. And presumably 2,800 veh/day less on the toll road.   No wonder it is buried at the end of the report.

My next post will cover one final traffic modelling issue, before moving on to the topics of economics, safety and consideration of alternative routes.

The cost of small transport projects

Every year the 21 local boards each get a share of $10 million to spend on transport projects in their area. The money is split up based on the population (except for Waiheke and Gt Barrier). The amount that each local board has to spend from when the funding started in 2012 through to the 2016 is shown in the table below along with how much they have currently planned to spend and what’s left. 

Local Boards Funding

But just how much can the local boards get for their money. Information Auckland Transport is providing to local boards shows just how expensive the types of projects local boards could use the money can be.

Transport Costs 1

Transport Costs 2

Transport Costs 3

Transport Costs 4With these kinds of costs it’s easy to see how $10 million doesn’t buy you that much.

 

Modelling the Toll for Puhoi to Warkworth

This is the second in a series of posts based on the Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the Puhoi to Warkworth Board of Inquiry. The full presentation is over at bettertransport.org.nz

Yesterday I talked about the growth assumptions that lie behind NZTA’s traffic forecast for the Puhoi to North Warkworth Toll Road. (Because I think this a more accurate name for the project, I’m going to refer to it as the PNWTR).

In this post we are going to examine how NZTA have modelled the effect of the toll on projected traffic. The following chart is taken from the NZTA Traffic Assessment Report and shows predicted Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) volumes in both directions.

2026 volumes

The two columns on the left indicate the expected change in traffic between 2009 and 2026 if the Base Case (“do nothing”) option is chosen. These are the same figures as the chart that appeared on yesterday’s post.

The three columns on the right are the predicted 2026 traffic volumes should the PNWTR proceed.

The 2026 PNWTR Corridor Total figure is higher than the 2026 Base Case figure because the authors of the report “assumed that the operation of the Project will increase growth rates in the study area [and therefore] we assumed that an extra 1% of traffic growth in the Project scenario is a reasonable approximation of the induced traffic effects of the Project” (p.13). In other words the 2026 PNWTR model has an underlying growth rate of 5.4%.

You can see from the chart that NZTA expect 13,700 veh/day on the PNWTR route, and volumes on the existing SH1 to be roughly the same as what they are today should the project proceed. ( As noted yesterday, I have yet to reconcile how the figure of 13,700 veh/day on the PNWTR with the 5,930 veh/day for trips “further north”.)

Obviously though the split of traffic will be dependent on the toll. The report doesn’t explicitly say what the assumption is on the toll tariff, but buried on p.59 is this:

tollsnippet

Translated, (and later explicity clarified with NZTA) this means that travel on the PNWTR extension of the existing toll road is assumed to be free.

In reality, however, NZTA acknowledge that:

  •  The PNWTR road will be classified as a toll road
  •  No decision on the quantum of the toll has been made
  •  If a toll was applied to the Project, depending on the level of that toll there would likely be a reduction in traffic on the new project route and a corresponding increase in traffic on the existing state highway

It would be extraordinary to classify the road as a toll road and then not charge a toll for its use. It would seem prudent to do some scenario analysis to find out what the impacts on traffic volumes would be. The risk is that the PNWTR ends up being like one of Portugal’s Ghost Roads, while traffic volumes on the existing SH1 will be far greater than the NZTA modelling suggests.

As I said to the BOI:

The importance of a realistic forecast cannot be overstated. The proposed toll road will most likely be with us for hundreds of years, along with the significant environmental impacts that come with its construction and operation. A realistic forecast that has considered all relevant scenarios is vital, and it is worth spending some time and effort making sure we get it right.

I’ve run out of time, so I’ll cover off the forecast traffic volumes for Matakana in a future post, along with other shortcomings with NZTA’s forecasting, before moving on to the issues of economics, saftey and consideration of alternatives.

Dominion Rd upgrade open days

Auckland Transport are holding a couple of open days on their plans for Dominion Rd (first one this evening)

Feedback sought on detailed designs for Dominion Road Upgrade

Auckland Transport (AT) is planning a major upgrade of Dominion Road, for which detailed designs are being shared with the public at two open days this week.

The open days are being held tomorrow Thursday 10 April, 3.30pm to 7pm, at the Auckland Deaf Society clubrooms at 164 Balmoral Road in Mt Eden; and on Saturday 12 April, 10am to 1pm, at the Dominion Road Primary School hall on Quest Terrace in Mt Roskill.

Public feedback will be used to fine-tune the design before construction starts in spring this year. The feedback period closes on 30 April 2014.

The Dominion Road Upgrade is designed to bring many improvements – particularly in regards to pedestrian and cycle safety and public transport reliability – to those living, working and travelling along or near this key arterial route.

Dominion Road is vital to Auckland’s public transport network and carries about 1.8 million bus passengers a year. It is one of the few transport corridors in the city where there are more bus passengers than drivers in peak hours.

The upgrade will increase the route’s capacity to deal with an expected 67 per cent growth in bus travellers by 2021. Continuous peak hour bus lanes (northbound 7am to 9am and southbound 4pm to 6pm) will be introduced on Dominion Road from State Highway 20 in the south to View Road in the north. Parking will be available on these bus lanes outside of peak hours. The upgrade will also see bus stops located at 400m intervals, which means pedestrians are always within a four minutes walk of a bus stop once on Dominion Road.

The three village centres of Eden Valley, Balmoral and Mt Roskill will be upgraded with new trees, lighting, artwork, seating and pedestrian improvements. The design has some elements consistent across the three centres but also emphasises the distinctive character of each village through the use of individual colours, patterns and plant species.

Village upgrades will include new footpaths, attractive landscaping, new seating and bike stands, improved lighting, planted rain gardens to reduce surface flooding and remove pollutants, additional stormwater bores to reduce run-off, and pedestrian-priority crossing and raised median to improve road safety. There are some proposed changes to the current on-street parking and loading areas along Dominion Road and some of the adjacent side streets to enable the upgrade to occur, and AT welcomes feedback on these plans also.

Implementation of the specially-marked cycle routes, to be created through quieter streets to the east and west of Dominion Road, is expected to start in May, prior to the main upgrade, and take about six months to complete.

The cycle routes will traverse about 12km long and are designed to make cycling an attractive, easier and safer option for the local community, in particular the area’s 12,000 school pupils, and will provide good connections to the area’s parks and 16 local schools.

Albert-Eden Local Board Chair, Peter Haynes says “We aim to upgrade the road without detracting from the colour and character that have made this one of Auckland’s best-loved streets,”

“It’s a special road, celebrated in song and remembered with fondness by many Aucklanders.  I can’t wait to see the major improvements to pedestrian safety, to the new cycleways that offer safer alternative routes, and greater public transport on the road.  We’ll be listening hard to what locals and local businesses have to say,” says Dr Haynes.

Julie Fairey, Chair of the Puketapapa Local Board says “The board is looking forward to collaborating with Auckland Transport and the local community to identify the elements of the much-needed upgrade at the Roskill Village shops.  We’ll be working alongside the improvements made through the Dominion Road Project to make some specific investments to revitalise the business area, which has much to commend it but is often overlooked because it has become run-down.”

More information on the Dominion Road Upgrade can be found online at www.at.govt.nz/dominion

I can’t make the open days but I am looking forward to seeing the designs. My biggest concern at this stage is that there is no proposed change to the times the bus lanes operate. The morning is probably fine but I frequently hear about buses in the evenings leaving town packed with people and getting stuck in traffic due to parked cars.

Speaking of parking, in light of the other demands on Dominion Rd, it seems odd that AT are also consulting on extending the amount of time people are allowed to park on the road in village centres.

Auckland Transport (AT) has been working with the Albert-Eden and Puketapapa local boards and the Eden-Valley Business Association on ways to improve parking throughout Dominion Road and the village centres of Eden Valley, Balmoral and Mt Roskill.

The existing short-stay parking restrictions of 30 minutes or less do not provide a sufficient amount of time to support the main retail and commercial activities. In addition, the current range of parking restrictions can be confusing and results in an excessive number of parking signs in a relatively small area.

In order to address this issue, AT is proposing to install a 60-minute parking zone (P60) throughout the main village centres. This proposal involves changing the existing on-street parking restrictions, which will reduce the number of signs and different restrictions. The type of signage used to describe those restrictions will change also.

The village centres are important and AT should probably change how they manage parking on side streets however they need to be removing parking from Dominion Rd.

NZTA’s Traffic Assessment for Puhoi to Warkworth

This is the first in a series of posts based on the Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the Puhoi to Warkworth Board of Inquiry. The full presentation can be found over at bettertransport.org.nz

In this post we take a closer look at the Transportation and Traffic Assessment Report which the NZTA have supplied in support of their application for a $760m toll road from Puhoi to north Warkworth. In particular, we will examine the forecast traffic growth and volumes “further north”.

NZTA have modelled traffic growth at a rate of 4.4% per annum (straight line) until 2026. This is the forecast growth without the toll road, explained on p.27:

base-volumes

 

As you can see, NZTA claim that the 4.4% growth figure is “consistent with the growth rate observed over the last five years which has averaged 4.1%.”

Footnote 21 says the 4.1% figure is based on NZTA’s TMS count site south of McKinney Road, which is just south of central Warkworth. Looking at the data from the NZTA State Highway Traffic Volumes, a growth rate of 4% does indeed appear to be not a bad fit.  The figures quoted are two way traffic counts.

mckinney2

However, the report does not explain why this particular count site has been chosen. Traffic counts at McKinney Road will reflect the growth of trips in and around Warkworth itself – trips that aren’t necessarily travelling long distances at all.

It would therefore make more sense to consider the number of vehicles that currently travel the whole distance from Puhoi to Wellsford and beyond every day, and vice versa – what I will refer to as “further north” trips. We can get an idea of the trend in this traffic by looking at Kaipara Flats road, which is just north of the northern junction of the project.

kaiparaflats

As you can see, this chart tells a very different story – no long term growth whatsoever for the period 2008 to 2012.  Other traffic counters like the one at Waipu show a similar “flatline” trend.  

But at this point we still don’t know what proportion of these trips are “further north”. I asked NZTA if they had modelled “further north” trips and it turns out they had, but hadn’t included it in the report.

The 2009 Base Case model comes out at just 4,460 trips a day. The 2026 Project model, 5 years after the project is complete, has 5,930 trips travelling to or from “further north”.

This seems like an astonishingly small number of trips for which to build a four lane toll road. NZTA claim that a number of toll road users will have origins or destinations in Warkworth and Matakana, despite the fact that it will be quicker to use the existing SH1.

NZTA originally provided a projected split of toll road traffic at the northern junction as 10,500 travelling to/from the north and 12,100 travelling to/from Warkworth, as shown in the following diagram:

Northern-Intersection-Original-cropped

However, along with supplying the “further north” figures, they have also supplied a new diagram for the toll road split, which looks like this:

Northern Intersection Revised Cropped

Go figure. Apparently NZTA are no longer sure what the split in traffic will be.  Without this, trying to get a handle on expected traffic flows becomes hard.  If we know only 5,930 trips are travelling to / from “further north”, then this represents only 31% of the traffic north of Kaipara Flats (19,200).  Where are all the other vehicles coming from, and what impact will the proposed toll road have on their travel times? I’m hoping NZTA will be providing the revised split of traffic or, ideally, the whole report will be subject to an independent review.

In the next post I will discuss NZTA’s forecast traffic volumes for Matakana, and why the forecast of 14,000 vehicles a day for the new toll road may be way overstated. (Hint: it is to do with the toll.)

Update:

Thanks to mfwic in the comments below, we have an extended series of data for McKinney Rd.  With a base line of 2003, linear growth of just 2.1% is observed. Which makes NZTA’s modelling look even more overstated.

extendedMcKinney