Auckland Transport August Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meeting is today and below are the bits and pieces from the reports that caught my attention.

First up as usual there are a number of items in the closes session of the meeting that it would be very interesting to see the details about. These are

  • Ferry Services Contract
  • EMU Implementation
  • Tiverton/Wolverton
  • City Centre Access Options
  • Mill Road
  • Parking Services report
  • AT HOP Update
  • Rail Operations shortlisting

On to the Chief Executives report. These are generally just in the order they come up in the report.

AT are working with some of the teams from the HackAKL event and two of the top five teams will have a completed concept within three months.

Discussions have been held with the top 5 teams, 2 have progressed to a stage where the concept will be completed inside of 3 months, with the help of AT. The other 3 in the top 5 are still discussing within themselves how to progress. As well an additional application (hop Balance) from one of the other groups has been launched. We are still restricted in the data that we can make available, PT is working on this with the bus operators.

AT are creating a customer charter which includes specific measures that cover PT, roading, walking and cycling and they say they have been looking overseas to find out what the best practices are. They say the draft versions of the charters will go to a board committee in October. I think a customer charter with specific measures is a good thing and I would hope that there is some consultation from the public on final versions.

AT will be holding a consultation in late September on the rehabilitation of Franklin Rd and surrounding streets. They say Major focuses for the consultation include maintaining the heritage value of the
road (including the trees), parking, a lowered speed zone, walking and cycling. 

A detailed business case will finally be done for the East West Link. It’s something I would have thought should have happened long before it was moved near to the top of the priorities list.

AT say the Environment Court appeal against the Silverdale Park n Ride might delay construction till the next financial year (i.e. after July next year).

 

On the EMUs there were 22 in the country at the time of writing the report however some more arrived yesterday and provisional acceptance had been issued for 18 of them. After the August summer holidays production will be ramped up as the intention is that by the end of the year we will get four delivered a month instead of the current two per month. On the issues with the over cautious signalling system they say

The ETCS system has been modified by reducing the driver warning before curves and other infrastructure features and the resulting improvement in running times.

 

As part of the Otahuhu Bus Train Interchange AT are looking at connections to and from the station. The report notes that this will include additional bus priority and improved walking and cycling connections.

At Panmure the new road alongside the tracks is almost finished and due to open to use at the end of September. It’s been called Te Horeta Rd. The image below is from the board report showing the road and it’s looking very much like a mini motorway although I would be happy to be proven wrong once it’s finished.

AMETI - Te Horeta Rd from AT Board Report

HOP use keeps on growing which is a great sign. Overall 67% of trips were paid for with HOP which was up from 65% in June. By mode bus was up from 62% to 65% while rail was up from 75% to 76%. In some ways this is not surprising given the changes in fares that occurred and means the trend of increasing HOP card usage is likely to continue. They also say a strategic business case as well as revenue and patronage modelling for integrated fares is almost complete.

2014 - August - HOP Card graphs

Perhaps the biggest news from the report is about the next train timetable which is now targeted for November

Finalisation with KiwiRail and Transdev of the new timetable to support the increased frequency of Manukau services and the introduction of an EMU weekend timetable was progressed in July and early August. This provides 6 trains per hour from Manukau in the peak period and 3 trains per hour in the interpeak and off-peak, with weekends going to a 30 minute service plan. When the timetable commences, diesel shuttle services will run an hourly service between Pukekohe and Papakura on Saturdays and Sundays and connect with arriving/departing EMUs at Papakura. The target date for the timetable introduction is early November following progressive replacement within the existing timetable of diesel rolling stock with EMUs on the Manukau Line.

Some good news about the look of buses in the future with AT developing what sounds like a region wide design. This is long overdue although I’m sure some operators won’t be happy (I for one can’t wait to see the back of the horrid Birkenhead bus livery). They say the starting point for the new livery is based off the design used on the electric trains and the livery will be included in the future operator contracts which will be rolled out with the new network.

AT say they are also working on a wayfinding system which is something long overdue.

Labour announces transport policy

The Labour party released its transport policy yesterday and it’s one that has some really good aspects to it but that also leaves a lot of questions. Here are what they say are the key points.

Labour will:

  • Build a 21st century transport system that provides choice and is cost effective
  • Rebalance the transport budget away from the current government’s exclusive focus on motorway projects towards a more rational investment in the most efficient and sustainable combination of transport modes. For freight this means investing in roads, rail, our ports, and coastal shipping. In our cities it means a greater emphasis on public transport, and walking and cycling
  • Invest in the Congestion Free Network for Auckland
  • Reduce congestion in Auckland by building the City Rail Link immediately, funding it 50:50 with Auckland Council
  • Eliminate an unnecessary hassle by removing the annual registration charge for light trailers and caravans
  • Reduce congestion and make the roads safer by requiring trucks to not drive in the fast lane on three and four lane motorways
  • Reduce costs for motorhome and campervan owners by reversing changes made by the current government that have doubled their Road User Charges

The last three points were announced back in April and frankly they seem like tinkering around the edges to keep a few people happy. Today’s announcements were obviously more substantive.

For Auckland they say Labour will:

  • Build the City Rail Link immediately, funding it 50:50 with Auckland Council. We won’t wait until 2020 and hold back Auckland’s growth and prosperity for another five years.
  • Negotiate with Auckland Council a 30 year transport plan for Auckland, including funding, with our starting point being the Congestion Free Network. As well as the City Rail Link, this includes giving priority status to rapid transit busways in the North West and South East, electrification of the rail to Pukekohe, rail to the airport, and ensuring the next harbour crossing includes rail to the North Shore.
  • Integrate transport infrastructure with residential and urban development

For me it’s fantastic to see that Labour are backing the Congestion Free Network. We put a lot of time and effort into creating it and so it’s great that we now have two parties that have adopted it as part of their official strategy. Of course we’d love it if National also adopted the CFN but we’re I’m not holding my breath on that one.

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

What’s not clear as part of this policy is just how much Labour would contribute towards the CFN. The Greens have said they would fund everything bar the CRL at 50% with the council needing to pick up the tab for the rest (CRL is at 60%). Labour on the other hand has said they would fund the CRL at 50% but not how much they would provide for the other projects that make up the CFN. As I mentioned with the Greens policy, why pick such an arbitrary amount of funding as 50%. The rapid transit investments are really more akin to state highways which enjoy 100% funding from the government and so I think there’s at least an argument to be had over what’s the right level of funding.

I also like that they have singled out the need to integrate transport infrastructure to with land use planning, something the government doesn’t seem to worry about when making their decisions.

The CFN isn’t the only plan adopted by Labour with them also agreeing to Operation Lifesaver as part of their official policy. It’s included of the State Highways section under which they say they’ll review all of the other RoNS projects too.

Labour will

  • Prioritise highway investments that stack up economically and environmentally.
  • Review RoNS projects that are under construction, and look to modify negative impacts. Where construction is not underway, we will consider affordable, safe and environmentally friendly alternatives.
  • Require heavy trucks to not use the fast lane in multi-lane roads.

However it’s here where I have the first major concerns. They single out each of the remaining RoNS and what they would to do and that includes leaving some of the worst performing ones on the books, projects like Transmission gully which I can only assume is for political reasons.

When it comes to walking and cycling they say they will improve it by significantly increasing the budget. They don’t specify just how much they would spend other than to say that it’s higher than the $100 million National have proposed. They also say they’ll say they’ll require all future roading projects make provisions for a cycling.

Scattered throughout the policy document are a number of other interesting and potentially important changes. These include:

  • Giving local communities more of a say on how the money is spent in their areas.
  • Re-opening the Napier to Gisborne rail line.
  • Looking into building a rail line to Marsden Point to allow imports/exports to use rail to get their goods to the wharf.

Overall the policies seems fairly solid however in my opinion there are some significant issues to be addressed. The biggest of these is that there are elements of Labour having just added to what’s already happening in a bid to keep everyone happy rather than making some tough calls and cutting the projects that have poor business cases. The outcome of this likely to be an over-commitment of our transport funds unless or they will need to scale back what they promise. That is made harder to see as the costings for what is proposed is completely missing from the policy document.

One last point, to both the Greens and Labour. One of the key drivers behind the CFN was to create a vision that people could quickly and easily understand and that’s why we went with the network map. It’s a core part of the CFN message so how about putting the map/s on your websites or in your policy documents themselves. Also I would expect a lot of people don’t know what the CFN actually is, how about a link to www.congestionfree.co.nz

More highways failing to meet projections

An article on Philly.com highlights a number of new or expanded highway projects in the US are vastly failing to meet traffic projections:

Before beginning a $2.5 billion project to widen the New Jersey Turnpike, turnpike officials said the construction was necessary to reduce existing congestion and to cope with future traffic.

“Turnpike traffic is on the rise,” the state Turnpike Authority said in its justification for the project. “By 2032 northbound traffic volume is expected to increase by nearly 68 percent [above 2005 levels]; southbound traffic is forecasted to increase by 92 percent.”

Now, one-third of the way through that 27-year forecast, turnpike traffic is actually about 10 percent lower than it was in 2005.

And this particular project is hardly a one-off:

Similar traffic declines have occurred around the region, challenging long-established assumptions about the need for bigger highways and bridges.

“If these trends continue, it would definitely change the way we need to plan for our transportation future,” said Chris Puchalsky, associate director of systems planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. “But I think the jury is still out on that . . . we need two or three more years of data.”

In 2007, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission assumed that traffic would grow 3 percent to 5 percent every year to help pay for debt as it took on a new obligation to contribute up to $900 million a year to fix other roads around the state.

Instead, traffic has been essentially flat.

And when the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission decided in 2003 to replace the 50-year-old, four-lane Scudder Falls Bridge on I-95 with a $328 million, nine-lane, 180-foot-wide toll bridge, it assumed that traffic would increase 35 percent by 2030.

In fact, bridge traffic has declined slightly and is now below the levels of 2002.

The implications of getting previous projections wrong are significant if funding was expected from toll revenue – which is what has sent a number of PPP transport projects bankrupt. For publicly funded projects though, the failure to meet expected usage hasn’t been so obvious. However, the implications for future transport planning are significant – as we’ve highlighted so many times before. Back to the article:

Highway planners misjudged the future because the Great Recession reduced both commercial and passenger travel, and because of an unexpected drop in driving by young adults.

Now, planners and policymakers must decide whether the last decade was an aberration or the beginning of a new normal.

The decisions are taking on new urgency, as Congress struggles to come up with a new transportation-funding plan by the end of September, when the current one expires. The federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road projects around the country, is nearly broke.

“The last decade was a really tough decade for forecasting,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Traditional expectations of economic growth – which typically fuel traffic growth – were undone by the recession of 2001, the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and anemic job growth for the entire decade, Hughes said.

Add to that the unprecedented behavior of young adults, driven by technology, lifestyle choices, and economic prospects.

“The millennials are really changing the world dramatically,” Hughes said. “We have a younger generation that is driving less and doesn’t want to live in Valley Forge. They want to live in Center City Philadelphia.”

“We had a 50-year period of unrestricted suburbanization, and now there’s a dramatic shift.”

Cars and driving are less important to young adults, who find that trains and buses allow them to work and socialize on mobile electronic devices, he said.

That may mean fewer cars on future roads.

“Nobody was really anticipating this,” Hughes said. “The models have to be recalibrated.”

Some projections have already been lowered.

NZTA have already noted in changes to their economic evaluation manual that traffic growth can no longer just be assumed – and any assumptions need to be proved. It’s a shame though that complex traffic models still seem to defy reality and project traffic growth.

It makes me think about all of our recent state highway improvements, think Newmarket Viaduct replacement, Victoria Park Tunnel, Greenhithe Deviation, Hobsonville Deviation, Mt Roskill extension, Manukau Harbour Crossing Project, SH20-SH1 Manukau Connection, CMJ Improvements and Orewa-Puhoi extension. All have seen increases in traffic volumes in recent years as people shift their travel behaviour however I wonder how they are currently tracking compared to the traffic projections for 2014 when they were proposed and funded. That would be interesting information to get from NZTA.

Is Penlink worth it?

As the Council puts together its 10 year budget over the coming months there will be some really big questions that need to be addressed in the area of transport. When to start City Rail Link? How fast to build AMETI? How much to spend on cycling? Which “legacy” arterial roading projects to delay or cancel? Over the past couple of days Luke has outlined how challenging this task will be if the Council wants a lower level of rates increase than had previously been anticipated.

Our long-running criticism of the current transport plans is that they haven’t made any tough calls – the push for improving public transport is simply on top of all the grandiose roading projects earlier “legacy” Councils had come up with over the years. In an ideal world where money wasn’t an issue, then maybe this would be an OK approach – but that’s simply not the reality and the time is coming in the near future when Council and Auckland Transport will need to face up to this issue and properly confront it.

One project that came up a lot in yesterday’s discussion and certainly deserves significant scrutiny through the upcoming budgeting process is Penlink. The map below shows the proposed route of this connection – which was pushed hard by the previous Rodney District Council:

The Auckland Transport website describes the project’s benefits as being:

  • 7km of new road, including a new bridge across Weiti River
  • Four lane toll road (two in each direction)
  • Provisions for pedestrians and cyclists
  • 100km/hr speed limit
  • Five minute saving for commuters using old route
  • 12-18 minutes savings for commuters using toll road
  • 5.8km shorter route

Essentially it’s a short-cut between the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the rest of Auckland – with the main benefits being faster trips for those who use the new road as well as less congestion through Silverdale for those who continue to use the existing road. I’ve highlighted my concerns with the project in the past – particularly because the Whangaparaoa Peninsula that it largely benefits is not expected to grow much in the future – so the transport system may not get much worse than it is now, especially if a number of other smaller-scale improvements proceed.

While there are clearly benefits from Penlink, especially for freeing up the Silverdale area and hopefully down-scaling the horrible semi-motorway that cuts right through the heart of Silverdale. Penlink is potentially a hugely expensive project – the ITP has its cost at just over $200 million but for a 7km four lane motorway with a long bridge that seems extremely conservative. As a comparison recently completed new motorway projects have cost between $25m and $50m per kilometre not including any bridges, meaning the actual cost of Penlink could be as high as $350 million or more. Because of this, we need to look at it very strategically from a regional perspective and ask it a few key questions:

  • Is the project in an area that’s a regional priority for major growth?
  • Is the project of critical significance in enabling a shift to better public transport?
  • Will the project benefit a significant proportion of Aucklanders?
  • Does the project clearly provide value for money and are there no cheaper alternatives?

In terms of the first question, the answer is a bit mixed. There’s not much growth on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula enabled in the Unitary Plan, but there is quite a lot of growth happening at Millwater and Silverdale at the moment. Part of the Millwater area was denoted a Special Housing Area, but is still only zoned Single Housing so will only allow pretty low density development. None of the “strategic” SHAs are located anywhere near Silverdale and certainly when compared to growth pressures in the South and the Northwest, Penlink doesn’t seem to be as critical for enabling growth as other key projects (like the Northwest Busway or Pukekohe electrification). Reinforcing this position is the ability to undertake a variety of alternative projects to “unlock” Silverdale.

On the second question, while it’s likely some buses will use Penlink, the major focus for the public transport service in this part of Auckland is feeding into Silverdale and eventually connecting to an extended Northern Busway right up the motorway to where the current Silverdale park and ride is located. Penlink is unlikely to significantly undermine public transport providing some buses use it, but generally is fairly unrelated to Auckland’s key effort of making a step change to public transport quality and use.

On the third question, obviously not every project can and should benefit all parts of the region, but for a major project that requires a very high level of investment it does seem that Penlink is particularly limited in the area it directly benefits – being mainly the eastern half of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula which all up is about 24,000 people which is less than 0.2% of the regional population

Penlink Population Location

There are indirect benefits for other areas – like Silverdale, assuming a significant proportion of traffic is willing to pay a toll and divert away – but we’re still talking a pretty small part of the region well away from where the vast majority of Aucklanders live and work.

Finally, in terms of whether Penlink is value for money this obviously connects to the earlier three questions (in terms of defining ‘value’) and what the project actually ends up costing. As noted above, we’re a bit sceptical whether such a long four lane semi-motorway with a huge bridge can be built for $200m – a much higher total would certainly raise additional questions about its value for money. Also as mentioned earlier, a key point in value for money is making sure a cheaper alternative couldn’t adequately do the job, and there remain a number of very real questions about whether that’s true for Penlink.

Perhaps a bit of a wildcard for Penlink is its potential to be tolled and therefore “pay for itself” to a reasonable extent. Some careful analysis of projected use and different levels of tolling could mean tolls contributing to a fairly large part of construction cost – perhaps one of the reasons why the project has been considered as a PPP possibility. Of course tolling doesn’t come without its own challenges and the we’ve seen many toll roads overseas as well as Route K in Tauranga continually fail to perform to the levels originally expected.

Overall, I remain unconvinced that Penlink is a major regional priority to fund in the immediate future – it just doesn’t contribute strongly enough to the main objectives for Auckland at the moment. I’m also very unconvinced of the need for the project to be four lanes – I thought it was just a two-lane road due to the toll suppressing demand to some extent. The potential for the road to be tolled and pay its way is a relevant consideration though, therefore as a two lane road perhaps this is something worth starting on towards the end of the next budgeting period.

AMETI Busway gets design funding

Auckland Transport announced yesterday that $21 million had been approved, $11 million of which from the NZTA, to design the first stage in the AMETI busway which will run between Panmure and Pakuranga. A later stage will run from Pakuranga to Botany.

Funding has been approved to further develop plans for the South Eastern Busway from Panmure Station to Pakuranga.

The NZ Transport Agency has approved design funding of $20.9m, with it subsidising $11m, for the Panmure to Pakuranga section of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

It will be the next stage after the current work in Panmure, which comprised the new Panmure Station and a new link road between Mt Wellington Highway and Morrin Rd.

Proposed Panmure to Pakuranga projects also include the Reeves Rd flyover in Pakuranga, replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights, a second Panmure Bridge for the busway and a shared cycle/foot path.

Auckland Transport aims to begin construction in 2017, subject to approval of construction funding and consents.

Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy says the popular Panmure Station and a new road, due to open soon, are just the start of major transport improvements for the area. “With the first stage in Panmure almost complete and delivering benefits already, we’re looking forward to the next stage. This funding will allow us to further develop the design of the busway and other major transport projects.

“Public transport is currently a poor option because buses get caught in the same congestion as cars, resulting in long travel times. Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable buses on lanes separate to traffic.

“Buses will run every 5-10 minutes most of the day and travel times will be reliable. It will take about 27 minutes to get between Pakuranga and Britomart by bus and train, about 8 minutes quicker than currently. There will be bigger time savings when the busway is extended to Botany in the future. Together, the AMETI projects are aimed at improving people’s transport choices and better connecting the south eastern suburbs to each other and the rest of Auckland.”

The Transport Agency’s Regional Manager of Planning and Investment, Peter Casey, says support for Auckland projects like AMETI are a high priority for the Transport Agency. “AMETI ticks a lot of boxes for us in a very busy area of Auckland where there’s strong economic and population growth. Supporting Auckland Transport’s upgrades of a whole range of transport choices will improve safety, and make the time it takes to travel between destinations a lot more reliable for people.”

Mr Casey says the Transport Agency will contribute just over a 50% share of the total cost of AMETI – funding that comes from revenue gathered by the agency from the excise duty on fuel, road user charges and vehicle registration fees and is then reinvested in transport projects.

Auckland Transport will continue to consult with residents, businesses and the community in the project area before applying for a land designation in the second quarter of 2015. This would be followed by a publicly notified hearing.

So as a summary the design covers

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion
  • Panmure to Pakuranga shared cycle/foot path separate to traffic
  • Direct connection from Pakuranga Rd to Pakuranga Highway via Reeves Rd
  • Pakuranga bus station
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared path

Phase 2 map

Here’s an earlier image of how Lagoon Dr will look once completed.

Lagoon Dr

It will be fantastic once  this has been completed as the South East is so woefully under served by public transport and is the most car dependant area in all of Auckland as a result. The other thing is even with the services that exist we’re already hearing stories of huge numbers of people transferring of buses and on to trains. This trend will continue to grow with the new network and once the busway is built will be happening in huge numbers.

Making the CFN a reality

We were quite excited last week to see the Congestion Free Network essentially adopted by the Green Party as part of their Auckland transport policy for the upcoming election. The CFN was created with the express purpose of outlining a vision for Auckland’s transport future that was truly transformational, yet also more affordable than the oversize and ineffective Integrated Transport Programme prepared by Auckland Transport. We don’t think the CFN is aligned with any particular political ideology – after all we still include billions of roading improvements. Add to that one of the prime reasons for creating the CFN was because we thought the ITP was fiscally irresponsible by proposing to spend a huge amount of money and still let things get worse. Therefore we hope that, over time, it will be adopted and further developed by more and more political parties.

CFN 2030A

The non-ideological nature of the CFN was picked up by commentator Bob Dey on Monday, where he talked at length about the Green Party’s transport announcement and responses to it:

The alliance of alternative thinkers which has begun to lead debate on how people travel – the Congestion Free Network, a collaboration between the TransportBlog, Generation Zero and the Campaign for Better Transport – hasn’t just made an ideological proposal. They’ve said the country should apply the best means to the task, and that adding superhighways to fix congestion isn’t it.

They’ve said improving many other road connections would help, but the primary gains would come from increasing the off-road network. That includes providing off-road corridors for buses, and expanding the rail network in Auckland.

The minister’s response was that 97% of all passenger travel in the country is by road – and therefore road is best, not that that proportion might be better reduced.

Mr Brownlee said major roadworks around Auckland had reduced congestion, and completion of the western ring route would reduce it even more. Recent works, such as taking traffic off the Victoria Park viaduct by building the northbound tunnel, have given temporary respite, but congestion quickly resumed growing.

The Auckland peak traffic periods are longer than they’ve ever been because workers know they can’t make the job without leaving home in the dark, and the return is just as slow because all along the way there are exit bottlenecks.

What the transport network needs is considered – and transparent – evaluation, not ideological slagging.

As for ideology, you would have to wonder why travel needs to be ideologically based at all, but it is. Using the private car to drive to work equates to personal freedom. Providing mass transport that is comfortable & provides amenity (such as WiFi) could be even more personally uplifting, especially if it gets you to your destination more quickly & less harassed.

As we have said on numerous previous occasions, it is frustrating how politicised the transport debate can be at times and how good ideas can often be dismissed for spurious ideological reasons. This is one reason why we have gone out of our way to ensure the CFN focuses on delivering the right solutions in a value for money way. That is why so much of the plan is actually busway improvements and extensions, that’s why we’ve retained significant funding for roading projects we think are actually necessary, and that’s why we’ve highlighted the key role of the CFN in taking people out of congestion so they’re able to experience fast and reliable travel times.

Another key element of making CFN happen relates to its financials and how they show what appears at first glance to be a pretty unaffordable and expensive programme is actually much less expensive than our current transport plan. For those who want to scrutinise the financial details of the CFN, we welcome the analysis and today we make available the excel worksheets used to calculate the cost of the CFN and the remaining other major projects we think are worth funding between now and 2030. This information goes right down to our best guess about how much might need to be spent on each project in each particular year:

CFN-annual-costs

The overall level of investment in major transport projects over each of the next 16 years is also an important consideration here, especially in relation to making sure the CFN is affordable. We’ve worked hard in the timing and sequencing of different projects to keep the annual total expenditure to not much more than one billion in any particular year:

CFN-total-annual-costOf course we still need to fund smaller things like walking and cycling projects as well as operating costs and renewals, but given there’s around $3.5 billion a year available from the National Land Transport Fund, plus significant extra funding from Auckland Council to complete this network, we don’t think a total annual cost for new transport infrastructure of around this level is unrealistic. Furthermore, it’s significantly less than the Integrated Transport Programme would require.

Our spreadsheets also make a detailed comparison between the CFN and the ITP. Firstly, we cut around $12 billion away from unnecessary road spending proposed in the ITP over the next 16 years:

CFN spending differences vs ITP - roads

 

What’s interesting in the above are the roading projects that you’re still getting. The Western Ring Route is still completed, Mill Road is still built (though to a lower standard than the proposed semi-motorway), you still even get Penlink, although not until the mid 2020s and only as a two lane road. Most of the reductions come from fixing cost errors, removing a stupidly high proposed level of spend in greenfield areas, getting rid of the idiotic Additional Harbour Crossing Project and down-scaling a number of projects to a more reasonable level of cost.

When it comes to public transport, perhaps the surprising thing is that we’re only proposing to spend around $2.9 billion more on public transport over the next 16 years than what’s in the ITP – and all of that extra (plus a bit) relates to providing rail to the North Shore, something which could probably be delayed until after 2030 if there was a squeeze on funding:

CFN spending differences vs ITP - PT

 

Overall, the contrast between the cost of the CFN and the ITP are pretty significant – as is the difference in the balance of funding between the two:

CFN spending differences vs ITP - summary

 

So not only is the CFN a more balanced programme than the ITP, it’s actually around $10 billion cheaper and sequenced in such a way as to ensure it’s affordable in the long run over the next 16 years.

We hope to see the CFN become a key topic of conversation in this year’s election because transport is such a big issue for Auckland and because we are confident that the CFN represents an affordable, realistic vision for Auckland’s transport future.

The Wellesley St Busway

One of the most exciting projects in the City East West Transport Study (CEWT) is the addition of a busway through the central section of Wellesley St – which is defined as between Kitchener St and Albert St.

The central section of Wellesley Street near the Queen Street core contains a number of key cultural facilities including the Civic and St James Theatres, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Central City Library and also intersects with the Elliot Street shared space and connections through to Aotea Square. The importance of providing a quality environment for pedestrians and place making within the area cannot be overstated.

While the study has confirmed that the linear park project is best located on Victoria Street and there is a need for a bus corridor along Wellesley Street, there remain considerable opportunities to also obtain the desired improvements to pedestrian and amenity provisions within Wellesley Street central.

In particular, there may be an opportunity to close the central section of Wellesley Street (between Kitchener and Albert Streets) to general traffic, which would be rerouted for example around Mayoral Drive. This would enable the carriageway width to be reduced and reallocated to the pedestrian realm and also reduce the feeling of vehicle dominance within this area. This traffic closure would have additional benefits in allowing greater signal optimisation for buses and pedestrians at the Wellesley Street / Queen Street intersection, and may also unlock opportunities for improvements on adjacent blocks of Queen Street through reduced traffic and the reduction of bus stops.

For that central section the busway would be a full four lanes wide, two lanes for movement and two lanes for buses stopping. When you include the bus stops, parking and loading zones the carriageway is actually about six lanes wide so this proposal actually represents it being narrowed down.  That in turn allows for the footpaths to be extended which is something likely to be needed considering the number of people that will be moving through the area thanks to the people fountains the buses will be.

CEWT Wellesley St Busway

The image below highlights the benefits to pedestrians showing that they go from having 30% of the space in the corridor now to 48% with a bus only road in place.

CEWT Wellesley St Central

And here’s the proposed layout vs what we have now. While the diagrams are just listed as indicative, I suspect that in reality the vehicle lanes would be closer to the northern side which would allow much more space on the south which gets more sun and out the front of the Civic Theatre.

Wellesley St Layout

In addition to the extra space on Wellesley St, the changes to the bus routes and the inability of cars to turn off Queen St would mean the carriageway on that wide section of Queen St could also be narrowed. In effect it could leave us with quite a large footpath build out of the Civic corner.

But why is a busway even needed?

Currently around 24,000 people enter the CBD by bus during the morning peak however by 2041 it’s expected that number could be up to 45,000 people while vehicle volumes are at best flat. Like we’ve seen over the last decade, all the transport growth that will occur in the CBD will happen through public transport or active modes. Even with higher capacity buses it still means we’ll need a lot more of them on the roads delivering people to and through the city centre. It’s this reason that the City Centre Future Access Study determined that a mix of both the City Rail Link and improvements to surface buses would be the best solution.

Currently buses to the CBD use a wide variety of routes with the main corridors being Fanshawe St, Albert St and Symonds St. There are a number of buses that also terminate or travel through the Civic area.

CBD Bus Routes Current

 

The New Bus Network is seeing routes overhauled and while we won’t see the official plans for the City Centre till the central are consultation (which is expected next year), one of the features of the network is that routes will be concentrated on to a few key routes. The current proposal below sees two North-South routes (Albert St and Symonds St) and two East-West routes (Fanshawe/Customs and Wellesley St. The Wellesley St corridor is home to a number of all-day frequent routes including but not limited to buses from:

  • Dominion Rd
  • Sandringham Rd
  • New North Rd
  • Remuera Rd
  • Manukau Rd
  • Pt Chev via Westmere and Herne Bay
  • Grey Lynn and Ponsonby

A quick calculation suggests that could represent over 100 buses an hour before taking into account the non frequent routes and the peak only routes that would also pass through the corridor. That would likely to be too much for single bus lanes to handle without getting horribly clogged up with a wall of buses.

CBD Bus Routes Future

So why not use either Victoria St or Mayoral Dr for the buses

As many people will know and as the first map shows, buses currently use both Wellesley and Victoria St for East-West movements and some may ask why we shouldn’t just keep doing that. There are a number of reasons but a couple of key ones are that it enables customers to transfer much easier between services but it also enable other city centre improvements to happen. In particular the plan is to have a linear park on Victoria St connecting Albert Park with Victoria Park.

Victoria St Linear Park

As the report notes a number of people have questioned whether the Linear park should be on Wellesley instead (with presumably buses on Victoria St). The report (page 234) highlights the results of some of the significant analysis that is said to have gone in to confirming that Victoria St is the best location. The other east-west street in the middle of the CBD is Mayoral Dr. Again it would require bus routes to be longer and therefore higher operational costs but it would also move the buses (which will be moving many more people to the city than cars will) further away from the centre of town where the majority of people will be living or working. The table below shows the expected CBD population and employment densities in 2041 showing the concentration north of Wellesley St.

2041 Forecast CBD population and employment density

In my view the Wellesley St busway would be a welcome addition to the city centre and along with the other improvements to the area represent a huge step forward for the CBD.

The City East West Transport Study

Anyone keeping track will know there’s a heap of projects planned to happen in the CBD in the coming years, projects like the CRL, the Victoria St Linear Park on Victoria St and City Centre Bus improvements to support the new bus network to name a few. As Cameron Brewer would say - where are the vehicles on Quay St going to go?

It’s a valid question and while some might say “who cares”, it is an issue we have to deal with. Wisely Auckland Transport realised the importance of dealing with the east-west streets in the CBD as whole and that’s where the City East West Transport Study (CEWT) comes in. As the name suggests the study looks at the key east-west roads in the CBD. I first heard about the study some time ago and now have the study thanks to a LGOIMA request. The full report is here (44MB)

The overarching purpose of the CEWT Study is to develop a strategy for the effective management and direction of the city centre’s key east-west corridors over the short to long term horizons, in a manner that supports the City Centre Masterplan and other key strategic initiatives.

The way I see it is that while the City Centre Master Plan and other strategies lay out the the vision for the future, the CEWT study looks at how everything in would work in reality. It’s a non-statutory supporting document that sits beneath the Auckland Plan and Integrated Transport Programme and feeds though to the Regional Land Transport Programme and associated investigation, design and implementation work streams. It is also influenced by other strategic plans, such as the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.

The core focus of the study was the following east-west corridors:

CEWT Roads

Most importantly the study has looked at how the corridors are used and that currently they are each required to support all modes of transport. One of the key outcomes is that in the future each route will have a different focus. In effect this means the east-west streets in the CBD will be specialised around different modes.

The preferred direction will see a different emphasis placed on each of the east-west corridors in terms of their key functions and mode requirements. This strategy of having variation in mode emphasis across the corridors is a marked departure from the existing situation, where each of the corridors is providing a generally consistent function and form.

The proposed network strategy will in some instances require changes to the form of these  corridors. In terms of kerb-to-kerb width, the greatest changes will be on Quay Street and Victoria Street which will be reformed to facilitate important place-based transformation shifts as previously envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan.

To deliver the preferred overall strategy, a vision and direction have been developed for each of the east-west corridors.

The overall preferred strategy is below (click to enlarge).

CEWT Preferred Option

There is a constant focus on pedestrians across all streets but other than that each one is different. Quay St has a public space focus, Customs/Fanshawe a movement focus with buses and cars, Victoria a people focus, Wellesley a Bus focus and Mayoral/Cook retaining a car focus.

A key consideration in coming up with the solutions is the need to create a resilient transport network. The authors note that even if streets were wider that it wouldn’t help move more traffic as the constraints are generally at the intersections. Further they say that when something happens that e.g. an accident, that currently all vehicle based transport networks are affected. By providing dedicated bus and cycle lanes it means that the non-car transport networks can continue to function which is important as they are likely to be responsible for moving up to 70% of the mode share.

The reallocation of road space is bound to be a hot button issue for some however the authors have also looked at how each corridor is being used. The graph below looks at a few of the roads and shows how much space within the carriageway (so not including the footpaths) is currently dedicated to general traffic or buses vs how many people are expected to be using each mode. As you can see on all but Fanshawe St 100% of the road space is dedicated to general traffic meaning buses get caught in congestion. Yet by 2021 it’s expected that on Wellesley St 89% of people will be on a bus. As such the plan is to drastically increase the allocation of road space on Wellesley St to buses.

CEWT Road space allocation

This is great to see and moves towards that great quote from Enrique Peñalosa that “a bus with 80 passengers has 80 times more right to roads space than a car with one

However while the overall direction has largely been decided the study notes there are still some fairly specific and meaty issues that need to be addressed. These are:

CEWT Areas of Clarification

For each corridor the study lays out the strategic direction, corridor space allocation, how it performs against the overarching goals and future work required to achieve the preferred direction. Here’s each of the streets.

Quay St

The strategic direction for Quay Street is to become a multi-modal harbour edge boulevard with a predominant emphasis on public space and pedestrian movement within the city centre core in the west and balancing pedestrian and cycle provision with a continued emphasis on freight movement for the Ports of Auckland in the east.

Quay Street Central will be transformed as a landmark harbour edge street between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place that unites the CBD Engine Room with the waterfront, as envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.

Quay Street East will also enhance pedestrian and cycle connections but will see an increased multi-modal emphasis, with maintaining appropriate freight access to the Ports of Auckland a key consideration.

Central

CEWT Quay St Central 1

East

CEWT Quay St East 1

Fanshawe St

The strategic direction for Fanshawe Street is to strengthen its public transport functions by becoming an urban busway corridor, providing for frequent, fast and efficient bus connections between the North Shore Busway and the City Centre, including Wynyard Quarter.

The urban busway will need to be designed appropriately to reflect its city centre context and to provide much improved north-south pedestrian connections across the street, facilitating its role as part of the Harbour Edge Stitch Transformational Move envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.

In addition to these key public transport and pedestrian functions, it is intended that sufficient general traffic capacity be retained, reflective of its position as a key gateway into the city centre from the Northern Motorway

CEWT Fanshawe St

Customs St

The strategic direction for Customs Street is to maintain a multi-modal corridor that provides access, both for buses and general traffic, into and across the downtown core of the CBD Engine Room, while also maximising pedestrian capacity and quality.

Improving provision for the north-south pedestrian desire lines across the street is seen as particularly important, to support adjacent land uses and strengthen walking connections between the city centre engine room and the harbour edge.

CEWT Customs St

Beach Rd

The strategic direction for Beach Road is to strengthen its role as a multi-modal corridor providing access for buses, general traffic and pedestrians between the city centre and the eastern fringe.

It will also provide a high quality dedicated cycling connection between the Grafton Gully Cycleway and Quay Street Harbour Edge Boulevard, as a key link in the proposed Auckland-wide cycle highway network.

CEWT Beach Rd

Victoria St

The strategic direction for Victoria Street is to become a broad tree-lined linear park between Albert and Victoria Parks, as envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan.

The linear park will be the city centre’s urban green link and principal east-west walking route across the midtown area. The linear park will provide a significant place-making function, with a series of green
public spaces for rest, play and social activity for residents, workers and visitors to the City Centre. It will be integrated with and enhance the main entrance to the future Aotea Station planned for Victoria
Street, delivering a landmark public space outside what is planned to be Auckland’s busiest rail station.

As a slow street Victoria Street has the potential to support an east-west cycling function as part of a midtown cycle route linking to regional cycle routes (such as the Grafton Gully Cycleway) to the east and west of the city centre core.

The Victoria Street linear park will become a key asset and attractor for people working, living and visiting the dense midtown core of the city centre, and strengthen the identity and legibility of the city centre
as a whole.

CEWT Victoria St

Wellesley St

The strategic direction for Wellesley Street is to become the primary east-west public transport spine across the midtown area of the city centre, providing a high capacity and quality bus route while enhancing the capacity and quality of footpaths for pedestrians and to support adjacent land uses, especially in the core to either side of Queen Street.

It is expected that dedicated bus lanes will be provided along the full length of Wellesley Street, which will enable separate allocations for bus movement and stopping.

Within the central core full implementation of this vision will require the removal of general traffic between Albert and Kitchener Streets / Mayoral Drive and a reduction in carriageway width to facilitate increased provisions for pedestrians and place making.

Central

CEWT Wellesley St Central

East

CEWT Wellesley St East-West

Mayoral Dr/Cook St

The strategic direction for Mayoral Drive and Cook Street is to become the principal east-west route for general traffic across the midtown area of the city centre, complementing the public transport role of Wellesley Street and walking, cycling and place-making emphasis along the linear park on Victoria Street.

CEWT Mayoral Dr -Cook St

Overall the City East West Study is fantastic and shows progress is starting to be made on how we structure our and think about streets in our main urban area. It recognises that in the city centre pedestrians are the priority followed by cyclists and buses. There is obviously a long way to go before we see all of this realised but it is a good start and AT should be commended for this. There’s a lot more in the study to go through yet so there will be more posts on this in the future.

Not all regional road projects bad

We recently highlighted a blog post by Rob Salmond looking at the government’s regional roads package. Rob based his post on the results of an OIA request to the minister for briefing papers he had received on the projects and noted:

Five of the roading projects receive the worst kind of assessment from the officials at NZTA, an estimated benefit cost ratio of “0 to 2.” (see page 32) This means the officials cannot discount the possibility of these roads having no benefits at all, despite costing the taxpayer millions. More on this later. All the projects have a benefit cost ratio quoted as a range, partly to fudge against the public knowing the exact numbers.

Why would they want to do that? More on that later, too.

Officials estimate that up to $130 million of the highways money mooted in these projects and investigations would be wasted on roads with likely no net benefit. If some of those roads are not ultimately funded, that will represent less money wasted on roads, but more money wasted on unnecessary investigations to tell us what we already know – these projects are dogs.

NZTA considers a benefit cost ratio of 1 as an absolute minimum, as anything below that involves the country actually losing money by doing the project. Usually, of course, benefit cost ratios have to be much higher than that to attract funding, because there are so many possible good things a government can do with its limited money.

As I mentioned in my post, I had also sent of an OIA request when the package was announced however instead I had gone to the NZTA asking for the reports which contained the economic evaluation. I limited my request to reports from the last 5 years – as any evaluation done prior to that should really be discounted considering the amount of change our transport sector has seen in over that period – and as such I didn’t get back results for all projects. The projects that the NZTA said they had no reports for were:

  • Normanby Overbridge Realignment, in Taranaki
  • Motu Bridge replacement, in Gisborne
  • Taramakau Road/Rail Bridge, on the West Coast

However for the other projects the results were surprising and in some case significantly higher than range in the briefing papers given to the Minister which is below (click to enlarge)

Rob Salmond Regional Road OIA BCRs

Below are the BCRs in the reports I received (which are all available here).

Kawarau Falls Bridge, in Otago

The briefing paper was the same one that Rob received which showed the BCR at 1.1

Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment, in Canterbury

A BCR 1.4 is obviously within the 0-2 range in the document above

Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek BCR

Akerama Curves Realignment and Passing Lane, in Northland

The BCR from in 2012 suggests it is over 4 which is greater than what’s in the ministerial briefing paper.

Akerama Curves BCR

State Highway 35 Slow Vehicle Bays, in Gisborne

The BCR from 2009 suggests a BCR of over 4 – although the costs now seem to be quite a bit higher.

SH35 Passing Lane

Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement, in Manawatu/Wanganui

I was referred to this page on the NZTA website and the publications page contains this document showing the BCR at well less than 1.

Whirokino Trestle BCR

Opawa and Wairau Bridge replacements, in Marlborough

Opawa Bridge is at 1.4

Opawa Bridge BCR

 

Wairau Bridge is at 2.02

Wairau Bridge BCR

Loop road north to Smeatons Hill safety improvements, in Northland

For the short term options the BCR is quite good at 3.6 however the medium term options are poor. I’m not sure what the focus is with the governments package.

Loop Rd BCR

Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge Corridor, in Taranaki

There are no reports on this but a link was provided to this document suggesting a BCR of 0.2-3.8

All up a real mixed bag showing some projects do seem to be decent value – and probably better than most of the RoNS – while others are quite bad, especially the Whirokino Trestle Bridge.

On a related note, in a separate OIA I received back yesterday I had asked for the business case for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway project (along with a whole lot of other things). The business case was presented to the NZTA board in July 2013 however the NZTA have decided to withhold the business case

to protect information that would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of the NZ Transport Agency.

I’m guessing that means

  • the result probably isn’t good
  • they want to hide any discussion about tolls
  • they don’t want details released about the PPP they plan to use to fund it

I may follow up with the ombudsman about this yet

Waterview Connection video and images

The latest video from the team digging the tunnels at Waterview, this time with the main focus on the spoil from the tunnel which is sent to help fill up the old Wiri quarry.

I guess there’s probably not a great deal of point in showing a time-lapse from inside the tunnel anymore seeing as they’ve already done that a few times and it would all look the same now. As a reminder this is what the inside of the tunnel looks like and the men walking though it help to give a sense of the size of it.

Waterview inside tunnel

As of three weeks ago here is how far the TBM had progressed and it is expected to reach Waterview in September.

Progress Bar - July 14

And here are some photos from June which helps to highlight the immense size of the project.

At the Northern End

The ramps and pillars look small from here but from ground level are massive

With the exception of the cycleway this whole area is really a massive pedestrian dead zone

At the Southern End

The space for a Mt Roskill Spur has clearly been left under the Maioro St Interchange but hasn’t been built under Richardson Rd (but space has been left for it)

More here.