Level Crossing Removal Feasibility

A few times every year we’re unfortunately reminded of the lack of action there has been on removing rail level crossings across Auckland. Removing these crossings have numerous benefits such as increased safety, reduced delays for drivers and allowing for signalling improvements which will trains to run faster. Removing them from the western line in particular will become even more important after the completion of the City Rail Link when frequencies will be able to be further increased and trains could be running in each direction every few minutes. In that situation, crossings will probably be closed more than they’re open.

Across the electrified network there are currently 45 level crossings, 31 are road/pedestrian crossings while a further 14 a pedestrian only crossings. The majority of level crossings are on the Western line with the rest are primarily along the short Onehunga Line with another cluster around Takanini.

Yet despite the need to remove level crossings, the last ones to be removed were about seven years ago as part of the New Lynn trench construction, but there has been nothing since then. Looking to the future, Auckland Transport are hoping to remove the Sarawia St crossing and their latest board report suggests they’ve come to an agreement with those who appealed the consent so hopefully work will start on that soon. We also know that the Normanby Rd and Porters Ave crossings will be removed as part of the City Rail Link works with the latter replaced by only a pedestrian and cycling bridge. Other than those crossings, AT have previously told us some crossings will need to be dealt with as part of packages and the packages with the highest priority are: (not in any particular order)

  • Southern NIMT – Walters Road, Manuroa Road, Taka Street, Spartan Road
  • Western Line – Morningside Drive
  • Western Line – Woodward Road
  • Western Line – St Jude Street, Chalmers Street, St Georges Road
  • Western Line – Glenview Road
  • Western Line – Bruce McLaren

One of the challenges with the level crossings across Auckland is just how they might be done. Some crossings, such as St Jude St, appear to present significant technical challenges to grade separation.

Harriet has been doing a great job requesting up a storm of information recently and one of the items she received from AT was a feasibility study of grade separating the level crossings that involve roads. The report says of the 31 crossings, AT first identified the crossings that, from primarily a road operations perspective, it might be feasible to just close the crossing. They found ten could potentially be closed and a further five which could possibly be closed leaving 16 crossings to look at, although more work would likely be needed to confirm if crossings could be closed. The report doesn’t separate out what the feasible and possible closures are but includes crossings such as Fruitvale Rd, both Rossgrove Tce and Asquith Ave, and George St – which would likely be removed when the New North Rd interchange is torn down.

For the remaining 16 crossings, the study looked at three options for each one:

  1. Road bridge over rail on existing road alignment with the railway retained at its current level (Road Over)
  2. Rail trench under road with the road retained at its current level (Rail Under)
  3. Hybrid of 1 and 2 consisting of partial raising of road and lowering of rail to achieve required train clearance beneath road bridge

The study is only really a high level look at the options so doesn’t state which of the three options is preferred or even rule any options out, although based on the results, options at some locations would almost certainly be ruled out. The potential costs for each option a have been blacked out so we can’t see those. I’ve only looked at the Western and Southern Line crossings so if you want to see the ones on the Onehunga Line, or more detail about all of them, take a look at the report.

Morningside Dr – This is one of the most common level crossings that gets discussed as it’s also the one that probably appears the most frequently in the news. Option 2 of rail in a trench really seems like a no starter as they say it would require significant regrading of the rail line including having to lower Kingsland Station as well as the New North Rd bridge and the road underneath it.

Woodward Rd – Option 3 seems the most likely here as Option 1 would require raising the New North Rd intersection by 2m and Jersey Rd by 6.5m although they say it could be closed too. Option 2 here is also effectively ruled out here as it would be restricted by the Mt Albert station

St Jude St – St Jude St is one of the busiest crossings for road traffic in the country with almost 20,000 vehicles per day passing over it. On top of that, the crossing is effectively on the side of a steep hill. They say that for a road bridge to get back to ground level by Gt North Rd, it would need to have a gradient of a very steep 12.5%. It’s also worth noting that during double tracking the rail line (Project DART) was already lowered once, a missed opportunity to do things properly as part of that project?

St Georges Rd – As rail is already at the maximum gradient for freight an changes to the rail line would require option 2 or 3 for St Jude St.

Portage Rd – Any options for lowering the rail line have already been ruled out due to the close proximity of the New Lynn trench and Whau river crossing, both of which would otherwise have to be lowered. Again this appears to be something that could have, and should have been tied in with DART.

Glenview Rd – AT seem to be stuck with this crossing as no option is considered feasible. Option 1 would require raising the West Coast/Glenview Rd intersection by a whopping 8.5m, above the height of most of the buildings in Glen Eden. Meanwhile Option 2 would require regrading 1.2km of track and Option 3 would need 1km of track regraded. AT will have to look for other options here but once again, I can’t help but think this could have been done as part of DART when the whole line was being dug up.

Bruce McLaren Rd – The close proximity of the intersection to Railside Ave to the east of the crossing and access to industrial properties to the west makes Option 1 difficult while Options 2 or 3 would interfere with plans to add additional rail access to the stabling yard also next to the crossing.

Metcalfe Rd – Given all the other road connections to Metcalfe Rd on either side of the crossing, it makes Option 1 difficult while options 2 or 3 would require redevelopment of the Ranui station and have potential impacts on the ponds to the east.

Walters Rd – This appears to be one of the least difficult of all the crossings.

Taka St – Option 1 would likely require closing access to Takanini Rd. Option 2 would require Takanini Station to be rebuilt but given it’s never been upgraded, that’s probably not a bad thing. It would also require lowering the tracks at Manuroa Rd

Manuroa Rd – This is similar to Taka St

As mentioned earlier, other than a few crossings, most have no time frame for removal. ATAP identified level crossing removals as an important item and in their costs suggested spending $203m in the first decade and $385.3m in the second decade on addressing them. I’d certainly much rather we focused on these kinds of projects rather than mega projects like the East-West Link.

Waterview reckoning

On Friday afternoon, Newstalk ZB reported, and followed up by the Herald yesterday that the Waterview Tunnels will have lights to control traffic both accessing the tunnels and on the connection out of the tunnels onto SH16 eastbound.

Auckland’s new Waterview Tunnel will speed up travel times, but motorists will have to wait in queues at traffic lights to enter it.

The tunnel connecting the North Western and South Western motorways will open in April, creating the Western Ring Route around the city.

Ramp signals will operate on both of the ramps into the tunnel, and on the longer east-bound tramps out of the tunnel.

But motorists turning west out of the tunnel won’t have to wait at signal lights, so queues of traffic are unlikely to build up inside it.

Signals will also operate on the other side of the tunnel, like at the on-ramp at Maioro Street.

New Zealand Transport Agency Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon said the signals will be able to control traffic through the tunnel in both directions.

Delays caused by traffic signals will be offset by major improvements to travel times and traffic flows.

While this is the first time this has appeared in the media, it isn’t new entirely new as in September last year we revealed that the NZTA had underestimated traffic demand for the Waterview Connection and were undertaking a series measures to try and mitigate the traffic volumes they now expect will occur after opening. These mitigation works included ramp signals as well as emergency widening of some sections of motorway.

What’s interested me the most has been some of the comments from the NZTA in relation to all of this. First up:

Mr Gliddon said completing the connection will allow more cars to travel on motorways, and reduce the number of cars on local roads

If the intention is to reduce the number of cars on local roads then it’s important that the NZTA and Auckland Transport capitalise on that by refocusing them on supporting local movements. That means prioritising walking, cycling, public transport and local access instead of a focus on pumping as many cars along them as possible. Given Waterview has been under construction since 2011, there’s been plenty of time to prepare for this, so surely AT and the NZTA have plans to do this?

Unfortunately, it seems that other than bus lanes on Great North Rd, there are no other changes in this direction planned for local roads, and in fact some of their proposed emergency mitigation was in direct conflict with this, for example AT wanted to put bus lanes citybound on Blockhouse Bay Rd but the NZTA want it kept car focused as an “incident diversion route”.

Next we have:

“It is not a means of removing congestion altogether, especially in peak periods, which is no different to other major cities across the world.”

In many ways this is a very significant statement, like an addict admitting they have a problem, the NZTA have taken the first step by admitting that roads will still be congested, especially at peak times. This is of course a positive first step towards getting a more balanced transport system but it doesn’t do anything to make up for the fact that the NZTA let a golden opportunity to provide people with a genuine option to opt out of congestion, in the form of full busway along SH16. While they have built some bus lanes, they are inadequate, stopping at interchanges and already suffering from being clogged up with vehicles in places. Not building a full busway is a massive failure from all of our transport institutions, especially as ATAP recently recognised that the first parts of it will be needed within a decade, meaning the diggers will need to back in just a few years.

It’s also worth pointing out old project documents like this one that claims Waterview will “relieve congestion“. It also notes that it will reduce traffic on Maioro Rd by 20%, yet as part of the emergency mitigation one of the actions was to ask AT to make changes to increase “off ramp discharge capacity” – in other words to pump more traffic down there.

You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to realise that if SH16 is already clogged every morning towards the city that adding two lanes of traffic from tunnels isn’t going to work well.

These claims of relieving congestion come from a long line of similar type comments from the agency and politicians, including Steven Joyce and others claiming numerous times that Waterview was the “last link” in the Western Ring Route, only to announce the Northern Corridor project just a few years later.

Following on from the initial articles, including the herald’s somewhat alarmist title of “Warning: Waterview tunnel will open to gridlock“, the NZTA issued a press release about it yesterday. It’s quite unusual to get press releases on a Sunday which makes me think some senior managers and/or politicians were not happy. In it, they defended the project and called some of the reporting “misleading”.

Ramp signals at Waterview one way of optimising traffic flows across motorway network

The NZ Transport Agency says ramp signals are just one tool to optimise traffic flow and ensure the safe and smooth running of the entire Auckland motorway network.

Ramp signals similar to those already operating where State Highway 20 joins State Highway 1 will help to regulate traffic flow on both ramps leading in the Waterview Tunnel and the east-bound ramp out of the tunnel.

“Like all the other ramp signals on the motorway network, they will only operate when there’s a need to optimise traffic flow, that could in reality mean they are used very infrequently,” says Brett Gliddon the Transport Agency’s Auckland Highway Manager.

“We don’t expect this to lead to significant queues and headlines suggesting the ramp signals will create gridlock are misleading.”

I found it particularly odd that of all ramp lights around the motorway network they chose to highlight the SH20 to SH1 ramp signals. If you recall that too was promised to be a free flowing connection but the NZTA had to put signals on it after it caused massive congestion on SH1 when it opened.

A new $220 million Auckland link road designed to take the pressure off State Highway 1 is having the opposite effect, forcing transport bosses to install traffic lights to ease congestion.

Ramp signals will be erected to give traffic travelling south along SH1 a chance against motorists muscling their way on to the road from the Southwestern Motorway at Manukau.

The signals are expected to be running within three months, at a point that was originally intended to be a seamless connection.

A recent post implementation review found that some of this issue came from not properly assessing the impacts the project would have which is notable because the emergency mitigation being undertaken only came about due to a new traffic assessment as these issues or other works weren’t identified in the reports used to obtain consent.

Ultimately the issue isn’t about whether the project has ramp signals or not but how these mega road projects are sold and communicated to the public. If our institutions were more honest about the what the real impacts of these mega projects were, it would likely change how many of these projects are viewed.

Now NZTA, when are you getting started on that busway?

Warkworth to Wellsford boondoggle route announced

Since 2009 when the Roads of National Significance were first announced we’ve talked a lot about the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway the NZTA has now started building. We’ve long had issues with the project, mainly due to its high cost for comparatively little demand outside of a few holiday periods. But the project was only ever the stage one of a larger scheme to extend the new road further north to also bypass Wellsford.

Not long after originally announced, the section from Warkworth to Welllsford appeared to have been relegated into a vault somewhere at the NZTA. That’s in part because the last we had heard, it was that they were struggling to even find a route to use thanks to the tricky geology in the area. Here’s what they said in 2011 about it.

“Every time you put a spade in the ground up there you’ve got to put in retaining structures, or tunnels or something.

“The level of ground movement is more than we had anticipated, which makes huge problems and huge costs.”

In fact we thought it had been put so far to the back of the vault by the NZTA that it might not surface again, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Despite the challenging ground conditions, on Tuesday, the NZTA announced that they now have an indicative route for the project

The NZ Transport Agency says the proposed route for a new road between Warkworth and Wellsford announced today will make traveling between Northland and Auckland safer, faster and easier.

It has shared an Indicative Route for the Warkworth to Wellsford section of the Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance.

“Building an off-line motorway, completely separate from the existing State Highway 1 will improve safety, reduce congestion and support Northland’s economic growth,” says Ernst Zollner the Transport Agency’s Northland Director.

“Removing sharp bends, providing better passing opportunities and a dual carriageway to separate north and southbound traffic will improve safety and is predicted to reduce the fatal and serious injury crash rate by 80% through this area.”

Due to the natural environment through the Dome Valley, State Highway 1 is susceptible to flooding, slips and ongoing repairs. The location of the new motorway, to the west of the Dome Forest, will provide a reliable alternate route between Northland and Auckland.

The Indicative Route ties into the local road network helping to connect local communities.

It joins the Pūhoi to Warkworth section of motorway near Kaipara Flats Road. It will then travel on the western side of the Dome Valley until it reaches the Hoteo River where it will cross eastwards over the existing SH1 to an interchange proposed at Wayby Valley Road in Wellsford. Another motorway interchange is proposed near Mangawhai Road, with the motorway then meeting the existing State Highway 1 north of Vipond Road.

“Once the motorway is built travel will also be safer for local road users because 90% of regional traffic, especially heavy traffic, can avoid townships making their main streets safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.”

The Indicative Route will be shared with the public for their feedback which will help further refine the route. If the route is confirmed it will be taken forward for consenting and route protection by 2018.

While the NZTA don’t plan to officially release the route till this weekend when they hold the first of their public open days (see here for them), Local Matters which covers the North Auckland area has published this map showing the route which even suggests a potential tunnel along the route.

Like with the Puhoi to Warkworth section, our major problem with this project is the share cost of it compared to how much it will be used. The Puhoi to Warkworth section is around 18km and costing, though a PPP, about $710 million. Currently just over 21,000 vehicles travel the road south of Warkworth daily. It had a benefit cost ration of about 0.9 so in other words we get about 90c of benefits for every dollar we spend on it.

By comparison this new section is about 24km in length, though what sounds like even more challenging terrain with potentially a tunnel meaning the cost will almost certainly be much higher than the Warkworth leg. Earlier estimates put this section at about $1 billion but I suspect it could now easily top that. What’s more the current segment of road this is intended to replace carries only about half the traffic of SH1 at just over 10k vehicles per day.

Here’s a comparison of the vehicle volumes for the 20 years showing this section sees just over 10k vehicles per day with possibly slightly more. To put that in perspective, some of our urban roads in Auckland carry more traffic than each sections of roads

Here are a few other quick thoughts that have run though my head about this project.

It’s not about Northland – The government, and those who have pushed the project the hardest, love to claim that the point of the project is to improve the economy of Northland. Spending this money this project in Northland itself would provide better outcomes. As Peter suggested the other day.

Why Now? – It’s been almost nine years since the Government launched the RoNS and I can’t help but wonder if the NZTAs latest push on this project is related to the election later this year. The government will of course be keen to reclaim the Northland seat off Winston Peters.

Where’s the business case – surely self explanatory

Operation Lifesaver – Based on other projects and even if the NZTA push on at this time, it’s likely to be a decade or more before complete. This once again raises the issue of Operation Livesaver, the purpose of which is to implement a range of safety and other enhancements to the existing route which could be done now. Given it would also be much cheaper it could see improvements extended further closer to Whangarei.

Any bets on the cost of this and the BCR?

Bring on the pedestrian crossing

Takapuna Beach is one of Auckland’s many fantastic assets yet the beach has long be separated from the town centre by The Strand, effectively a back street with only a purpose to provide access to parking. Yet the people on foot using the main access from the town centre, down from Hustmere Green, have long been cut off from the beach by the below signs.

This situation was made even more absurd after the addition of the new playground last year, seen in the background of the image above drawing in even more families and children to the area. We and many others have for years requested that these signs be removed and proper crossings be put in.

Finally, Auckland Transport have agreed to do something about it, for this crossing at least.

 

Parents’ safety concerns have been answered as Auckland’s hugely popular Takapuna Beach Playground is set to get a zebra crossing.

…..

Since opening in August, there had been numerous comments from the public to the North Shore Times calling for a designated crossing across The Strand.

But it was Auckland councillor for the North Shore Chris Darby who made an official request to Auckland Transport (AT) to investigate the playground’s safety and its case for a zebra crossing.

“During a visit to the beach last October, it was apparent that the throng of families accessing the playground was creating a serious pedestrian safety issue on The Strand,” Darby said.

“There’s a certain irony in this outcome as, for some years, there have been efforts to create a safer crossing of The Stand from Hurstmere Green to the beach but pedestrian counts did not substantiate it.

“Who would have thought a playground would create so much buzz? A cafe owner told told me there was an uplift in business with families discovering Takapuna for the first time.”

Auckland Transport will be installing the zebra crossing within the 2017/2018 financial year. This means it could be up to 18 months before the crossing is installed.

But AT media relations manager Mark Hannan said it is considering installing temporary warning signs, which can be “done quickly and relatively cheaply”.

Hannan said costing for the overall project had not been done yet, but The Strand met all of the criteria necessary for a street to qualify for a zebra crossing.

“Several factors are considered prior to putting in a pedestrian crossing, such as the pedestrian demand, traffic volumes, crash history, and proximity to driveways and side streets,” Hannan said.

“Our traffic and pedestrian counts indicate this site meets the criteria for a pedestrian crossing.”

Why it will take so long to put some white paint down on the road?

Unfortunately that isn’t the only sign telling pedestrians to give way in Auckland, it isn’t even the only one in Takapuna. Councillor Darby’s comments also highlight another, frequent issue, how we prioritise movement. In NZ the default in all situations is to do as much as possible not to inconvenience drivers in the slightest. Despite what numerous strategic documents say, maintaining the flow of traffic is normally treated as more important than the safety of people on foot, even when those on foot outnumber those in cars. Pedestrian crossings will only be provided if enough people are prepared to cross a road regardless. The problem with that it can often be the same as trying to determine the need for a bridge by counting the number of people swimming across the harbour.

 

We need to change our streets and our attitudes to users to fit more in line with the pyramid above and how different would we feel about crossings if they were designed the other way around?

AMETI finally moving forward

One of the items I had on my list to write about this year was to ask what was happening with the AMETI busway. That’s because since at least as far back as September 2015, the notice of requirement for the Panmure to Pakuranga section has been listed in AT’s board reports as being due to be lodged within the next three months. In April last year they even put out a press release saying they’d lodged the notification but nothing was heard since. Well now they’ve finally said the project is open for public submissions.

The Panmure to Pakuranga section, otherwise known as AMETI Section 2A, includes a number of big changes, such as:

  • The notorious Panmure roundabout will be replaced by a signalised intersection
  • About 2.4km of urban busway from Panmure to Pakuranga – an urban busway means there’ll still be some at grade intersections, as opposed to the Northern Busway which is grade separated, although some current intersections with Pakuranga Rd will be closed.
  • The route will have a mix of shared paths or and dedicated bike facilities
  • The busway and walking/cycling paths will be accommodated on a new, dedicated bridge crossing the Tamaki River
  • Changes to how side roads in Pakuranga interact with Pakuranga Rd, this includes linking some cul-de-sac’s together so only one intersection is needed.

The intersection that will replace the Panmure roundabout

The busway can’t come soon enough. East Auckland is easily the poorest served part of the urban area when it comes to public transport and as such it’s no coincidence that PT usage is low leading to a high reliance on driving and of course, congestion. The low use of PT is easily seen in this map of census data based on journey to work data showing East Auckland being equivalent in usage to rural areas. The busway will help extend decent quality PT further into the east, especially when combined with a quick, easy and free transfer at Panmure to the rail network.

Here are a couple more images suggesting what the project will look like.

Stage 2A is shown in the map below in yellow and is the first stage in what will eventually be a 7km busway that extends all the way to Botany. AT have also said they plan to put bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd towards Highland Park and that too and combined, will make PT much more useful and reliable in the east.

In their press release, AT do say they’ve made some changes to the design based on earlier feedback and that the changes include:

  • Changes to the design of the Panmure intersection.
  • Adding in a U-turn facility on Queens Road in Panmure.
  • Moving the proposed new Panmure Bridge 5m north to future proof the upgrade of the existing road bridge.
  • Widening Williams Avenue in Pakuranga to allow parking on both sides and two lanes of traffic.
  • Improvements to property access along the route.

Along with the public submissions opening for this stage of the project, AT have also released a new video of the project.

In both the video and the press release there are a couple of things that caught my attention, the biggest of which was the positive language used. For example from the video:

  • “Imagine getting into Auckland City from Pakuranga in less than 30 minutes”
  • “A new congestion free urban busway will provide a fast, reliable travel alternative”
  • “When the busway is finished, you can travel stress free between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany”

While the press release said

Auckland Transport AMETI Eastern Busway Project Director Duncan Humphrey says the project will deliver the initial stage of New Zealand’s first urban busway, allowing bus travel on congestion-free lanes between Panmure and Pakuranga.

“AMETI is aimed at improving transport choices and better connecting residents of east Auckland to the rest of the city.”

“The Panmure to Pakuranga section of AMETI will allow buses to travel on congestion-free lanes. It’ll mean quicker, more frequent and reliable buses on lanes separate to general traffic, making public transport more attractive and improving the quality of service. It will also see major improvements for both cyclists and pedestrians giving them safer, more direct connections.

It’s fantastic to see AT using the term “Congestion Free”. When we created the Congestion Free Network back in 2013, one of the key aims was to get AT to improve how it discussed and presented rapid transit. We encouraged them to embrace the network and terminology and it appears they’ve done just that.

The video also highlights a couple of other things too, that the existing Panmure Bridge will be replaced in about 20 years with a fourth general traffic lane added – which seems odd given the changes above will leave Lagoon Dr with only a single lane each way for general traffic. It also shows that AT are still pushing on with the Reeves Rd flyover, at a time when many cities are, or are planning to tear down similar structures.

As part of the notification, AT are holding some open days for the project. The details are

Date

Time

Venue

14 February 2017 6.30am – 9.30am Panmure Station, mezzanine level
16 February 2017 4pm – 9pm Pakuranga Plaza (outside Farmers)
18 February 2017 6pm – 10pm Pakuranga night markets, Westfield (under The Warehouse)

Overall, it’s good to finally see some progress on this project which has been on the books now for over decade. AMETI was born out of the failed pushed for an eastern motorway by the likes of John Banks. It started as a scaled down version of that motorway plan but positively, over time it has morphed into a more balanced transport project although it still retains some of its heritage in the likes of the proposed Reeves Rd Flyover. The biggest concern however is the timing, even this section of busway (if the consent is approved), is not expected to start construction till about 2021.

Anzac St in need of some attention

Takapuna is already one of Auckland’s most strategically important locations and that is only set to continue if the various plans, such as The Auckland Plan, The Takapuna Centre Plan and the Unitary Plan are ever realised. This is also why the centre is one of the key focus’ of Panuku Development Auckland. The various plans for Takapuna understandably focus on the core of the centre itself, and some of this includes the potential development of council own sites like the Anzac St carpark and the old Gasometer site.

As many of you may know from past posts, I spend my weekdays working in Takapuna, I see daily the huge potential the place has but I also think there’s a corner of Takapuna that seems to have been forgotten and left out of the discussion. This corner is Anzac St from Fred Thomas Dr to Auburn St.

Currently, from what I can tell, there is nothing in the council’s Long Term Plan that would see Anzac St upgraded, in other words changes could be more than a decade away

In this post I wanted to look at some of the reasons I think Auckland Transport need to consider making some changes to the street

The Unitary Plan

The Unitary plan allows for a lot of development in the Anzac St corridor southwest of the Takapuna metro centre. It almost exclusively zoned for Terraced Housing and Apartment Buildings (THAB – orange).

What’s more the corridor is ripe for development with a lot of older single storey dwellings and importantly, THAB development is already well underway. The houses that were renovated in the first series of The Block have already been moved off the site (or are about to be) and piling is already underway for. For example this image put together by reader Jochem shows some currently proposed and underway.

It wouldn’t surprise me that if over the next decade, we saw at least half a dozen more proposals developed and built. All up this could see thousands more people living in this corridor in a fairly short space of time and so Anzac St could see a lot more people walking, cycling and even catching the bus. If nothing else, we owe it to the thousands of potential new residents with a street environment that is no so hostile to them.

New bus network

Takapuna is already served by a large number of buses and that won’t change with the New Network, under which most reach Takapuna using Anzac St. From what I can tell – and we’ll have to wait till the tender process is complete to see the exact numbers – we have Takapuna served by 7 routes – although one route passes Anzac St twice so effectively 8 routes. This document also tells us just how frequent the routes are. The routes and their all day/peak frequency are listed below:

  • N6 – 15 minutes all day, 15 minutes at peak (frequent route)
  • N25 – 30 minutes all day, 15 minutes at peak (doubled route)
  • N30 – 30 minutes all day, 15 minutes at peak
  • N32 – 60 minutes all day, 60 minutes at peak
  • N41 – 30 minutes all day, 30 minutes at peak
  • N42 – 30minutes all day, 10 minutes at peak
  • N46 – 30 minutes all day, 30 minutes at peak

Based on this, in each direction there are about 17 buses an hour using Anzac St all day and 27 buses an hour at peak times. I’m not sure what the rules are now but an AT document from about 2011 looking at how to determine if a route should have a bus/transit lane suggests that over 15 buses an hour should at least be considered for one.

I think it’s fair to say that at the very least, Anzac St (and Taharoto Rd) needs to have bus or transit lanes installed.

Walking and Cycling

Like many arterials in Auckland, Anzac St isn’t the most pleasant street to walk down. It has in places some relatively narrow footpaths that are set right next to the traffic lanes and they often contain obstacles such as power poles or stormwater catchpits that further narrow down the space available for people on foot.

Things are even worse for those on bike. Many of the roads that approach Takapuna, like Taharoto and Lake Roads. Those two roads already have at least painted cycle lanes but in both cases the lanes stop short of the actual town centre. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how silly it is to have bike lanes short of destinations. In the case of the western side, that was extended slightly last year to be just after the start of Anzac St.

I already see a number of bikes in and around Takapuna and I suspect the centre has the potential to be one of the most popular destinations by bike if we were to build the supporting infrastructure it needs.

 

How could it be upgraded

The Anzac St corridor is advantaged over many other arterials in Auckland by not having to also cater for on street parking. By my estimations, the street is 24m wide giving plenty of space to play with. Below is one option for how I think the road could be upgraded while all fitting in that 24m width.

As this could take some time, AT should look at what options they could implement to get a solution like this sooner. Perhaps that means some improved footpaths

Are you familiar with Anzac St, what do you think should happen to it? Like me do you think it needs some attention?

Smaller Consultations – January

Recently I noticed that AT often do smaller online consultations all the time, as far as I know these are not shared widely. As a result I have decided to do a post every now and again on all the small consultations that are happening giving people the opportunity to share their thoughts with AT from Crossings to Bus Lanes to Parking, these are the recent ones

Central

Wynyard Quarter and Viaduct Harbour, Central Auckland – Speed Limit Change – (Closes 9.02.2017)

  • Change the speed limit from 50 km/hr to 30 km/hr on the area known as the Wynyard Quarter and Viaduct Harbour, specifically on the roads shown on the attached drawing.

  • Install a flush median on Hamer Street and parking improvements on Brigham Street to make the roads more appropriate for a 30 km/hr speed environment.

 

Upper Queen St and Canada St – pedestrian and cycling improvements – (Closes 8.02.2017)

  • Install a new signalised pedestrian any cyclist crossing across Upper Queen Street.
  • Install new pram crossings (with directional pavers).
  • Treat the surface of the footpath for safer walking and cycling.
  • Relocate the existing ‘Shared Path’ signage.
  • Change the road markings to reflect the improved layout.

Owens Road, Epsom – Clearway – (Closes 1.02.2017) Proposing to install a Clearway to help reduce congestion on Owens Road. The clearway will operate on weekdays from 7am to 9 am and from 4pm to 6pm.

Goodall St, Hillsborough – No stopping at all times restriction – (Closes 1.02.2017) Proposing to extend the No stopping at all times restrictions on Goodall Street, Hillsborough. The proposal is to extend the existing restriction by 27 metres.

Lintaine Pl, Glen Innes – No stopping at all times restriction – (Closes 6.02.2017) Proposal to add No stopping at all times restrictions (broken yellow lines) on the western side of Lintaine Place in Glen Innes. The change is required to address the accessibility issue caused by the narrow road width. When cars are parked on both sides of the street, emergency vehicles and other large vehicles are unable to access the end of the street.

West

Great North Rd, Edmonton Rd, Edsel St Intersection, Henderson – Intersection Improvements – (Closes 1.02.2017)

  • Remove the slip lane from Edmonton Rd turning left on to Great North Rd.
  • Upgrade all stop boxes.
  • Green cycle boxes.
  • Relocate broken yellow lines (BYLs) due to the loss of the slip road.
  • Install road signs on Great North Rd.
  • Relocate street lighting at pedestrian crossing.
  • Install belisha beacons at pedestrian crossing.

Great North Rd, Alderman Dr, Henderson Valley Rd Intersection, Henderson – Intersection Improvements – (Closes 1.02.2017)

  • Remove left hand slip lane from Great North road on to Alderman Drive.
  • Reconstruct footpath in place of slip lane.
  • Relocate broken yellow lines (BYLs) from old slip lane.
  • Green current cycle boxes.
  • Remove pram crossing and replace with footpath.
  • Add pedestrian crossing and belisha beacons over the left hand slip lane of Great North Road heading North.
  • Install new pram crossing across Alderman Drive.

Maioro St, New Windsor – No stopping at all times – (Closes 6.02.2017)

Proposing new ‘No Stopping At All Times’ restrictions to extend on both sides of Maioro Street between New Windsor Road and Cordelia Place. The removal of the existing clearway signs on both sides of the road on Maioro Street.

Rangiwai Road, Titirangi – no stopping at all times restriction – (Closes 9.02.2017)

In 2016 AT sought feedback on a proposal to extend the current No stopping at all times restriction (broken yellow lines) on Rangiwai Road in Titirangi. Following the feedback period AT reviewed the proposal and have changed the original design. We are now seeking feedback on the revised proposal. The original proposal sought to extend broken yellow lines to the driveway outside 20 Rangawai Road, AT now seek to extend the broken yellow lines all the way to the existing broken yellow lines

South

Narek Pl, Manukau – No stopping at all times restriction – (Closes 6.02.2017)

AT propose to add broken yellow lines around the intersection of Narek Place and Plunket Avenue, as well as add broken yellow lines at the end of Narek Place.

So if you see something that interests you, I encourage you to submit.

Tamaki Dr hot mess approved

As well as being one of the most iconic locations in Auckland, Tamaki Drive is home to a number of honours. It remains the busiest place in Auckland for bikes, averaging over 1,000 a day all year and some days in summer months often seeing 1,500 to 2,000 on some days. It is also home to the Tamaki Dr/Ngapipi Dr intersection which happens to be one of the most dangerous in the entire country. Yesterday, Auckland Transport announced they have now have approval for their hot mess of a solution.

An independent hearings panel has given the go-ahead for safety improvements at one of Auckland’s most dangerous intersections.

21 crashes have been recorded at the intersection of Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Road in the past five years, with 13 resulting in injury. Tamaki-Ngapipi is ranked number 10 on the national top 100 list of crash risk intersections..

Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Major Capital, Andrew Scoggins says AT has successfully applied for a resource consent for the work.

“We plan to re-configure the traffic lanes make it safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. We will put in traffic signals and on-road cycle lanes on Tamaki Drive, these works are essential to make this intersection safer.”

Mr Scoggins says there will also be improvements to lighting, signage, the pedestrian crossings and an upgrade to the stormwater.

“The intersection is very busy with 30,000 vehicles using it every day and the upgrade will make it much safer.”

Work on the $7 million upgrade is scheduled to start in April.

Part of Auckland Transport’s solution is extend the seawall out to create more space. Here are some before and after illustrations showing what they expect it to look like once completed.

Looking East

Looking West

And here’s the concept design AT have on their website.

As we’ve said before, what’s proposed is a hot mess and frankly embarrassing. It’s designed to try and cater for two completely different types of cyclist, the casual person on a bike out for cruise and the high speed road warrior but does neither well, for example:

  • On the northern side we’ve got the existing cycleway continuing to mix with pedestrians – just with a bit more space.
  • We’ve got on-road cycleways for “confident” cyclists but on the Northern Side there are also ramps so those confident cyclists can bypass the lights and race through the pedestrian area if needed.
  • That on street cycleway then runs straight into a bus stop rather than using the extra space they’re adding to go behind it.
  • On the southern side we’ve got bike lanes that can only be reached after crossing two lanes of traffic.
  • There are bike advance boxes galore but also bike crossings.

With the extra space gained by moving the seawall it is possible they could deliver a better design but given construction starts in April it doesn’t seem likely. After a previous post on the terrible design, reader George, an engineer, came up with his own design which is similar to best practice from overseas.

I know some people have previously suggested we just add a big roundabout, this post highlights why that is a bad idea – basically due to the uneven traffic flows, it would cause all sorts of congestion issues for traffic on Ngapipi.

 

RIP Eastern Motorway

In ATAP (the Auckland Transport Alignment Project) one of the ideas that was investigated was the reincarnation of the Eastern Motorway, this time called the Eastern Strategic Corridor. It came about as a result of a push by the NZCID (now just called Infrastructure New Zealand) in their report titled “Transport Solutions for a Growing City“. We covered it back in May last year and it had some useful things about the need for better public transport, smarter road pricing, and alignment of transport & land use etc.

Most interestingly the NZCID commented on the AWHC in its report, remarking that as it stands provides low value for money, and that it needs an Eastern Alignment connecting to an Eastern Corridor to fully leverage the advantage it could provide.

“The proposed Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing performs the worst economically, delivering a BCR of 0.4.” – Page 31

“A unique advantage of the Eastern Corridor transport solution is the ability to leverage the potential of the largest ever infrastructure project in New Zealand: a $5 billion Waitemata Harbour tunnel. The proposed Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing is throttled at both its northern and southern termination points, constraining its potential. It cannot connect new businesses and communities and it cannot lift the opportunities for the region, as its predecessor, the Auckland Harbour Bridge has done. Consequently, it cannot deliver economic and social benefits consistent with its high cost and these limitations are highlighted by conventional cost benefit analysis which shows a return of 40 cents for every dollar invested.” – Page 63

In response the ATAP team commissioned a report by AECOM called the Eastern Strategic Corridor Assessment and the report says some very interesting things. They looked at two different options – also shown on the map below:

  1. a motorway option connecting to an Eastern Alignment AWHC that ends at the intersection of Mill/Murphys Roads, and
  2. an expressway option connecting an Eastern Alignment AWHC that ends at Allen’s Road.

ATAP Eastern Highway Corridor Proposals

Whilst the motorway options performed better than the expressway option due to reaching further south adding to the catchment, the report found that the corridor did very little to reduce congestion across the network.

“Congestion across the network exhibits only minor changes as illustrated by Figure 16 and Figure 17 below. Apart from the Motorway option in the AM peak, which shows a decrease of 1.3%; there is less than a one percent decrease in hours spent in severe congestion which is defined as LOS E or worse for all other scenarios.” – Page 11

The real kicker though, comes when they estimated the cost for each option and the AWHC. The expressway option came in at a whopping $10.89b with the Motorway option higher again at $11.26b. The (BCR) Benefit Cost Ratio for the expressway option was just 0.2, and the motorway not much better at 0.4. I am not a fan of making conclusions solely on the BCR due to limitations in the way we model it, however the seriously low BCR is concerning.

What’s worse is that elements in the BCR such as travel time savings are likely overstated

“As can be seen from table 6 above, preliminary BCR’s both options as modeled present poor value for money coming in well below 1.0, meaning that the NPV benefits do not outweigh the investment costs. The Motorway option has substantially higher benefits than the expressway, particularly as would be expected in travel time savings. However it must be noted that the tunnel components for the Motorway option has been modeled as a 100kph posted speed limit. To date, road tunnels in New Zealand have only been posted at 80kph generally as a compromise between safety requirements and cost. As such a modeled posted speed limit of 100kph may not be achievable in practice and the travel time savings, and attraction of the route may be overstated in this test.” – Page 16

They also suggest that further investigation is likely to reduce the BCR on balance rather than increase it

“The motorway would require the acquisition of land to construct 15.5 km of road and 8 intersections/interchanges. Given the above it is unlikely that further more detailed development of the eastern corridor and refinement of costings would improve the BCR. On balance if seems more likely that if would result in a lower value.” – Page 18

Whilst they found the route provided resilience for the transport network, it does very little to address congestion and the high capital costs outweighs any benefit. Still, they advised keeping the existing eastern corridor designation until Smarter Pricing and the western alignment for AWHC is agreed.

“However we also recommend that corridor protection for the eastern alignment should be maintained until such time as the ATAP Government agencies commit to both the additional western alignment of AWHC and the use of the smarter road charging approach being developed within ATAP.” – Page 18

So, the NZCID is saying the western alignment of AWHC provides very low value for money and the AECOM report shows that leveraging any advantage of a new eastern corridor also results in low value for money, as the BCR is 0.2-0.4. The eastern corridor didn’t make it through in to ATAP but some serious questions need be raised regarding the viability of AWHC given even the infrastructure lobby don’t think it’s a good idea.

The Eastern Motorway: killed socially/politically in 2004 and academically in 2016.

Traffic Preserves

Just before Christmas, Auckland Transport released this cute video about the causes of congestion and how to help avoid it,

The press release focused on the holiday period but I can also see them using this campaign later in the year, especially in February and March as the roads get busier.

Congestion on our motorways is frustrating at any time of year, but during the busy holiday season it can be worse than ever.

Auckland Transport’s ‘Spread the jam’ video has been produced to simply explain how traffic congestion can start.

AT’s chief transport operations officer, Andrew Allen, says there are generally four causes of congestion. “Usually it’s drivers cutting-in, following too close to the vehicle in front, rubber-necking or being distracted like using their cell phone. A heavy dab on the brakes can cause a ripple effect right down the motorway turning free flowing traffic into a sticky jam!

“All drivers have to do is always maintain their following distance and give plenty of warning before changing lanes, so use your indicators.”

He says if people are more aware of the causes of traffic congestion and modify their own behaviour our motorways will run more smoothly.

Barney Irvine from the Automobile Association says the answer lies with motorists. “Driver behaviour makes a bad congestion situation even worse – AA members recognise it, and they want to see more done to raise awareness. ‘Spread the jam’ is definitely a step in the right direction, and we’re right behind it.”

A study in 2014 found that the annual cost of congestion in Auckland was $1.25 billion when compared with free-flow traffic conditions.

Remember, spread the jam:

  • Keep your following distance.
  • Don’t cut in.
  • Don’t rubberneck.
  • Avoid distractions like cell phones.

As cute as the video is, and it’s a decent start, there’s a couple things I wanted to point out.

  1. The primary cause of congestion is of course, too many vehicles on the road at the same time. Although getting people to drive better is certainly a good thing, especially on urban streets where more vulnerable road users (pedestrians and bikes) are around.
  2. Another way to spread the jam is to simply not participate in it. This can mean travelling at different times or by other modes, particularly those that aren’t affected by congestion such as the Northern Busway, rail network or bus routes with good levels of bus priority. This is obviously a bit harder on holiday trips like the press release was focused on but for regular commutes it may be a viable option.
  3. It is interesting that AT specifically mention the cost of congestion being $1.25 billion compared to free flow. The emphasis is important as the study (for the NZTA) that came up with that figure (actually from 2013) suggested that based on optimising the network capacity, the cost was only $250 million, considerably less. That’s because it absurd to build any transport network to be completely uncongested at all times of the day – in the absence of pricing. Particularly with roads, the financial cost of doing so would be astronomical, not to mention just how much land would be needed.

 

Overall a useful message but to me it’s just one part of the congestion equation.