“The accident is not the major problem”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some misguided commentary on road safety that implied that “distracted walking” was a serious problem. It isn’t by any reasonable measure, but many of our other transport practices are unsafe.

On average, around 300 people die as a result of road crashes. Around 15 percent of the deaths are pedestrians and cyclists, who would have been perfectly fine if a motor vehicle hadn’t run into them. Another 1500 people suffer serious injuries in road crashes. And while road deaths are on a downward trend, the number of serious injuries has hardly changed over the last decade.

Some of these people chose to take on the risk of death or serious injury when they got behind the wheel. But others had the decision made for them – by someone else’s recklessness or by bad street design. So it’s worth asking: are there things that we could do to reduce these risks?

A few years back, Citylab published an excellent interview with Swedish traffic safety expert Matts-Åke Belin, who helped design Sweden’s “Vision Zero” approach to road safety:

Since approved by the Swedish parliament in October 1997, Vision Zero has permeated the nation’s approach to transportation, dictating that the government manage the nation’s streets and roads with the ultimate goal of preventing fatalities and serious injuries.

It’s a radical vision that has made Sweden an international leader in the area of road safety. When Vision Zero first launched, Sweden recorded seven traffic fatalities per 100,000 people; today, despite a significant increase in traffic volume, that number is fewer than three. To compare, the number of road fatalities in the United States is 11.6 per 100,000.

As of 2014, New Zealand had 6.5 road deaths per 100,000 people. So it’s roughly where Sweden was 20 years ago.

In the interview, Belin made one comment that particularly stuck with me:

In Vision Zero, the accident is not the major problem. The problem is that people get killed or seriously injured. And the reason that people get serious injuries is mainly because people have a certain threshold where we can tolerate external violence, kinetic energy. And we know quite well now how much violence we can tolerate.

One of the major things with Vision Zero now is to put that more explicitly on the table. It’s like if we’re talking about the environment, and you know you have a certain threshold when it comes to poison, or whatever. You can tolerate up to a certain level. So it’s not just to stop the traffic. You can actually allow traffic. But if you have places in your system where you have unprotected road users and protected road users, according to Vision Zero you can’t allow a higher speed than 30 kilometers per hour [18.6 mph].

Because if you have, as we did in Sweden before, 50 kph [31 mph] as the default speed in an urban area — if you get hit by a car at 50 the risk for a fatal accident is more than 80 percent. But it is less than 10 percent when you have 30 kilometers per hour.

Clearly we have seen it is not enough to, for example, change the speed limit. You maybe have to put in speed bumps. You have to think through all the conflict spots that you have in your traffic system. And do things about it.

Speed, in short, is a fundamental determinant of whether people die in crashes or walk away. We can’t eliminate accidents entirely, because humans aren’t perfect (and neither are machines), but we can reduce the consequences of making a mistake.

The role of speed was highlighted by the Cycling Safety Panel convened by the government in the wake of a 2013 coroner’s inquest into cycle fatalities. They published the following graph to illustrate: The risk of death or serious injury for pedestrians hit by cars is four times higher at 50km/hr than at 30km/hr:

Cycle Safety Panel speed and death chart

However, as Belin observes, speed isn’t just a function of posted sign limits – it’s also about the design of roads. Road geometry must encourage people to keep to safe speed limits.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that road design standards encourage speeding. That’s illustrated in this chart from a Ministry of Transport review of speeding-related crashes, which found that the average free-flow speed on urban roads was higher than the posted speed limit. 15% of cars travel more than 5km/hr over the speed limit.

MoT urban road speeds chart

In short, our default urban speed limits are too high for pedestrians and cyclists to be safe in the event that they’re hit by a car… and road designs encourage people to drive even faster.

This has a number of direct and indirect consequences. The direct consequence is that people die, needlessly. The indirect consequence is that many people choose not to walk or cycle at all – a rational response to a dangerous road environment. That in turn leads to health problems and premature deaths down the track as a result of physical inactivity.

So what could be done?

The good news is that safety is a major priority for the NZ Transport Agency. They recognise that speed is a big part of that, but I’m not aware of any concerted effort to reduce urban speed limits, or make it easier for local road controlling authorities to do so.

The bad news is that there isn’t a major public conversation about safe speeds. But it’s starting to come up on the political radar. For example, the Green Party made lowering speed limits near schools a key part of the “safe to school” policy they released in March:

Safety is the number one concern that stops parents from sending their child to school on foot or by bike.

When parents wave goodbye to their child in the morning they should know they’re going to be safe when riding their bike or walking with their friends to school. […]

We will:

  1. Reduce the speed limit outside urban schools to a much safer 30 km/h
  2. Reduce the speed limit outside rural schools to 80 km/h, with the option of a 30km/h limit during drop-off or pick-up times
  3. Allocate $50m a year for four years to build modern, convenient walking and cycling infrastructure around schools: separating kids and other users from road traffic, giving a safe choice for families
  4. Get half of kids walking or cycling to school by 2022: reducing congestion; improving health and learning; saving families time and money

The devil’s always in the details with proposals like this. For example, how far around schools would the 30km/hr zone apply? But if we were looking to trial lower speed limits in urban areas, it would be really sensible to start with the roads around schools. The benefits are likely to be higher, as kids are especially vulnerable when walking by the road.

What do you think we should do about urban speed limits?

Dynamic Road Lanes coming

It seems that Auckland Transport have found a use for the large medians they so often like to include in road projects, another lane. They announced on Friday that they would be trialling what they call a Dynamic Lane Control system on Whangaparaoa Road.

Dynamic Lane Control, uses the existing road more efficiently for moving people and goods. It is a travel solution which makes use of Traffic Control Devices and an adaptive LED light system instead of traditional painted on-road markings.

LED lights show road markings that can change configuration quickly and safely, creating an extra lane during peak hour traffic. Traffic control gantries will clearly display which lanes motorist are to use.

Around the world different kinds of Dynamic Lane Controls have been used to get traffic moving at peak times. In Auckland similar arrangements operate on the Panmure Bridge and Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Dynamic lanes are relatively quick to build and cost effective compared to road widening. They allow for the better use of existing road space, accommodate peak period movements and reduce the need to widen roads or build new roads.

AT has been investigating the concept of dynamic lanes on road corridors since 2014. Following a driver behaviour study conducted with the University of Waikato, AT is now aiming to do a full scale trial in the second half of this year.

Whangaparaoa Road, between Hibiscus Coast Highway and Red Beach Road has been selected for the trial, as the road has two lanes with a wide central flush median equivalent to a third lane. This stretch of road has pronounced tidal traffic movements during weekday peak periods. The installation of dynamic lane controls along Whangaparaoa Road would also require relatively low use of surrounding land, which will minimise disruption to residents.

Andrew Allen, Auckland Transport General Manager of Transport Services says “We are currently finalising our investigation and design of an appropriate system to be tested on Whangaparaoa Road. Rest assured that the safety and convenience of the local community will be a key priority for this trial and affected members of the community will be consulted with.”

The results of the trial will determine the suitability and best approach to potentially introducing the controls along Whangaparaoa Road as a permanent feature as well as its suitability in other parts of Auckland.

Some impressions of how it would work are below.

Dynamic Lanes Impression AM

Dynamic Lanes Impression PM

Dynamic Lanes Impression Offpeak

It’s not the first I’ve heard of the idea after AT conducted some online consultation on designs for this some months ago.

On the surface it seems like a good idea. It obviously saves AT from having to expensively widen roads which is good as they don’t have unlimited funds but I can also see a number of potential downsides too, especially if used in other locations like AT say they want to consider. So here are a few thoughts I’ve had about the idea.

  • This section of Whangaparaoa Rd is fairly unique in that it doesn’t have a lot of development either side of it and is unlikely to in the future unless there are significant zoning changes. The section in question is shown in red below

Dynamic Lane Trial location

  • If there are two lanes of busy traffic and no-where to wait safely, how will people get across the road – say to catch a bus. This could be a huge issue in other, more developed parts of Auckland. We’ve seen in the past the inclusion of medians as being justified on the bases that it also provides a refuge for pedestrians.
  • If the idea is used elsewhere, especially in places close to centres, this could also impact on bike lanes or bus lanes.
  • If AT are adding extra lanes through this method, perhaps they should be for the exclusive use of buses and high occupancy vehicles.
  • In this case specifically, what happens when traffic gets to Hibiscus Coast Highway? I assume that HCH is already pretty full in the mornings and opening up another traffic lane might address the Whangaparaoa Rd volumes at the expense of everyone else who uses Hibiscus Coast Highway.
  • AT have said in the past that widening this section of road is a key alternative to Penlink. Given how expensive Penlink is, delaying it would be a positive outcome.

 

Do you think this is an appropriate idea and where else do you think it could be trialled?

AT Parking Strategy video

Auckland Transport have put together a pretty good video to explain the parking strategy they adopted late last year.

Perhaps the most interesting outcome from the video is that AT are developing a parking app that will let people pay for an on street carpark. It appears that you simply tag on within the app when you arrive and tag off again when you get back to your car so no need to fiddle around with parking machines or paper tickets. I would hope that it somehow integrates with HOP balances as it would be incredibly stupid and annoying to have to have multiple accounts for different AT services.

Another Road Only Harbour Crossing on the Cards?

The absence of rail as well as walking and cycling options to the North Shore has been considered an oversight by many probably ever since the Harbour Bridge was first approved for construction over 60 years ago. While Skypath will finally rectify the walking and cycling situation, many have looked to the prospect of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) to rectify the rail one.

Some papers I received from the NZTA at the end of last week as part of an official information act request suggest that those hoping for rail to be part of AWHC are likely to be out of luck again. They confirm the NZTA only plan to designate a road based crossing. This is in sharp contrast to how the NZTA have presented the project to the public to date which includes saying that the tunnels include provision for Rapid Transit and have pictures showing tunnels with both cars and trains in them – such as the one below and this one which is described as their current concept. Their plan is to have the tunnels become SH1 with the existing bridge acting as a sort of giant off ramp to the CBD.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

In addition to the likely absence of rail from the project, the documents also suggest that:

  • the NZTA could look to cut the connection to Onewa Rd
  • they are waiting till after the route is protected before doing a detailed business case
  • along with some other public information suggest that the NZTA deliberately ignoring any additional works needed on either side of the harbour

There are five documents in total and are dated between November 2014 and May 2015. They were the result of asking for ‘All advice to senior management, the board or the Minister on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing’

In November 2014 a paper to the NZTAs Senior Leadership Team makes this comment

The additional crossing has been identified as providing for both road and rail. Whilst the road network is mature in this area, there is currently no rail network on the North Shore. As a result Auckland Transport’s support for protecting the route for rail now is unclear. A high level discussion with AT is required to understand their aspirations.

On 10 February 2015 there is a short briefing to the Minister about the route protection process.

On 20 February 2015 there is a much more extensive briefing to the Minister after the minister obviously asked for more info. As part of a series of questions and answers the NZTA say:

The business case, which will be completed in 2017, will consider rapid transit options. Work on rapid transit options will be led by Auckland Transport. The preferred option will be secured through the route protection process.

It’s also from this brief that a small point about Shoal Bay is raised and that there are options to mitigate it.

Impacts on Shoal Bay: The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing would generate significant impacts on Shoal Bay on the North Shore including those resulting from land reclamation. There are opportunities to mitigate these effects.

Just under a month later the Minister announced the NZTA would be moving ahead with the designation process and a few days later this memo was produced discussing the next steps. This is what they say about rail.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Rail

They say a key decision is to ‘Agree with Auckland Transport the extent of rail involvement in the designation process.’

It is also from this document where they raise some of the other issues I mentioned including:

That they are considering holding off on the business case. Along with the rail comment above, deciding this is the other key decision that the memo says needs to be made.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Route Protection and Business Case timing

That they are considering dropping the connection at Onewa.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Esmonde Connection

Recently I’ve been hearing that extending the tunnel all the way to Esmonde to avoid reclamation in Shoal Bay is being progressed and that means anyone who accesses the motorway from Onewa Rd and wanting to go somewhere other than the CBD would have to drive north to Esmonde first then turn around and head down the tunnels. Alternatively they would have to go into the city and travel through city streets before re-joining the motorway.

The final document is a paper to the NZTA board in May 2015 discussing the route protection and other issues. In it they effectively confirm that the NZTA will not be including rail designations as part of its work and that instead it is up to Auckland Transport. They also note that the ‘lack of clarity’ around rail is the main risk to the route protection process.

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail 3

Now obviously this doesn’t mean that rail isn’t going to happen as Auckland Transport could also look to protect a rail route at the same time but it seems fairly clear that the NZTA are fully prepared to designate for a road only crossing if AT don’t get on with a rapid transit option. That seems like a recipe for something going wrong due to miscommunication. We know AT have recently been conducting a study on the future of Rapid Transit to the North Shore but we haven’t even heard the outcome of that yet, let alone have the work needed for a notice of requirement completed to coincide with NZTA’s previously stated desire to start the NOR in the middle of this year.

All of the information also suggests that the NZTA intend on building road tunnels regardless with rail either at best happening concurrently or more likely never. There doesn’t appear to be any consideration a different staging of the project which could see a cheaper rail option built first and a road crossing considered if still needed in the future.

 

In addition this board paper notes the decision had been made to only do route protection at this time and leave the business case to later.

Next steps are tightly focused on route protection. The wider business case will be progressed as a subsequent piece of work, and subject to a separate funding application.

What is also worth noting from these documents is that appears the NZTA are treating business cases as only being used to inform when a project should start construction and what funding source it would have rather than whether it’s worth doing at all. That means the AWHC with a benefit cost ratio of 0.3 can (from an earlier study) is progressed because it passed the “do we like it” test.

There is also an interesting comment in the board minutes as a result of this paper. Included in the minutes it says ‘Board members discussed how to ensure the NoR process is contained tightly to matters relating to route protection only for the future crossing’. I’ve long understood that for the AWHC to function it will also need some significant widening of the motorway north of Esmonde Rd. It seems the NZTA want to keep discussion away from that.

One additional piece of information that was quite interesting from the 20-Feb paper was a little note on why the NZTA have picked the western alignment rather than going to the East of the city like the NZCID have suggested.

The eastern alignment was not progressed as it would have cost significantly more, including a $1 billion upgrade to Grafton Gully to accommodate additional traffic and improve connections into the central motorway junction. The eastern alignment would also have resulted in congestion on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and underuse of the new crossing.

AWHC - east or west alignment

An extra $1 billion just for Grafton Gully alone which presumably doesn’t include the extra cost of an even longer tunnel.

As I’ve said before, lets get the missing modes completed first before seeing if we need another road crossing. It might just be that a cheaper rail crossing has sufficient impact to delay a more expensive road crossing.

Reeves Rd Flyover back on the books

Auckland Transport has had an on-again/off-again type relationship with the $170 million Reeves Rd flyover in Pakuranga. Yesterday they announced it was definitely back on again and sees them running back to the idea that before we can build any PT or cycling infrastructure, we must first build a massive road as compensation.

reeves-rd-flyover

Work will begin soon on the design and consenting for the Reeves Road flyover and Pakuranga to Botany busway in east Auckland.

The projects are part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), which is aimed at giving residents of the eastern suburbs better transport choices.

AMETI will deliver rapid, high frequency public transport between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany. Roading improvements at traffic bottlenecks in Panmure and Pakuranga allow the busway to operate reliably and help manage growing traffic volumes.

The start of design and consenting work follows a comprehensive review of the timing of future Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) projects by Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Council. It included more accurately modelling the traffic impacts and bus travel times on the main roads in the area.

The review concluded the best order for future AMETI projects to be built is:

  • Panmure to Pakuranga – busway, Panmure roundabout replacement, walking and cycling paths. AT recently lodged an application for consents for this stage, it is expected to be publicly notified by Auckland Council within the next few months.
  • Reeves Road flyover, Pakuranga town centre busway and bus station.
  • Pakuranga to Botany busway.

It also concluded that improvements may be needed on Pakuranga Road between Pakuranga and Highland Park to further improve bus journey times between Panmure and Howick.

Auckland Transport Group Manager Andrew Scoggins says this timing for construction will ensure journey times for both public transport and general traffic improve while the various stages are delivered.

“The Reeves Road flyover will not solve traffic congestion in the area. However it is highly effective at offering significant local congestion relief on the roads outside Pakuranga town centre. Shifting traffic off those roads allows the busway and cycle lanes to be built on them.

“Although the full busway could be opened first, the final evaluation of options showed it would create increased congestion for general traffic until the flyover is complete,” Mr Scoggins says.

The review also showed that the full busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany, as well as the Reeves Road flyover, needs to be open by 2025 to minimise future increases in congestion. Current long term plan funding from Auckland Council would only allow for this full network by 2029.

It’s good to see them saying the busway needs to be completed all the way to Botany, and completed sooner than the current funding allows. As it is, AT have taken way too long just to lodge the consents for the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga – for which they currently don’t expect to start construction till 2021 going through to 2025. If they’re going to get the section from Pakuranga to Botany built within that timeframe too, then they’ll have to get cracking on designing the busway. Also welcome is the recognition that Pakuranga Rd needs to have bus lanes at least to Highand Park. I wonder if that’s a piece of work that could help congestion in the shorter term.

The same can’t be said for the flyover. The project has had quite an odd history. Back in February last year Auckland Transport surprised everyone by announcing that the $170 million flyover had been deferred, with the money they saved being used to advance the busway faster. One of the reasons they gave for this was that they realised, for the flyover to make any real difference, it would also require the grade separation of the intersections of the South Eastern Arterial with Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd, effectively turning the route into a motorway. AT also cited the difficulties of consenting, which had only a few months prior seen the Basin Reserve flyover fail to get consent.

The deferring of the project led to politicians at both the national and local level, many of whom are not known for their support of PT projects, kicking off a frenzy of lobbying for the flyover to be built and built sooner. This included lobbying the government and NZTA to declare the road a State Highway, so it could get 100% NZTA funding.

Then a few months later in April, AT announced they’d made a mistake and that the board had never agreed to deferring the project and that deferring it was only one of a number of options. That meant the flyover was back on the table. This was definitely an odd turn of affairs. I will say that I later saw the board minutes from when the project was discussed, and that it’s correct that the board never approved deferring it but agreed to look into the options further.

That the project is now back on the agenda, and seemingly bring fast tracked, can most likely be put down as a win for political interference.

Reeves Rd Flyover

In an age where smart cities are rushing to tear down flyovers and replace them with better spaces for people, it’s absurd that we’re still trying to build one. At the very least they should be building the busway and seeing what actual impact it has before committing to this project.

Autonomous Cars and the City

I made a little Tweet Storm Saturday morning on an issue that’s been on my mind about driverless cars and the City:

Here’s the link to the very good video produced by the Ryerson City Building Institute in Ontario, Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1B9z8ituS8&feature=youtu.be

There are of course many other issues, not the least of which being this technology’s utility for Transit services. But interestingly as a result of my tweets I was sent this link from the US Highway Admin on the very subject of aviation standards versus road standards. Because, let’s face it, the standards are wildly different: 38,000 people were killed directly by auto-dependency last year in the US, that’s just in crashes, that doesn’t include those dying of respiratory diseases, or from the way driving makes people fat and sad, also leading to earlier death from the diseases of inactivity.

I have an additional thought too. At what point will the near perfect safety performance of driverless cars lead to human driving becoming illegal? I suspect this is an almost inevitable consequence of this technology. Likely to start in certain areas then be extended. Perhaps what Google et al are ultimately doing with Autonomous Vehicles will lead to a redefinition of the conceptual link between cars and freedom in American culture?

Motorways interchanges completed late and over budget

On Friday Transport Minister Simon Bridges officially opened the Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd sections of the Western Ring Route.

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

The NZ Transport Agency says the official opening today of two upgrades to Auckland’s Northwestern Motorway kicks off a significant year in the city’s transport history.

The Lincoln Interchange and Te Atatu Interchange projects were officially opened by Transport Minister Simon Bridges at a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning.

They are the first of several improvement projects to be opened this year as part of the Government’s $2.4b Western Ring Route – designed to keep Auckland moving.

Both of these projects are crucial building blocks in the Western Ring Route, providing an additional route to State Highway 1 and the Harbour Bridge and changing the way people move around Auckland.

NZ Transport Agency Highways Manager Brett Gliddon says the improvements at Lincoln and Te Atatu are part of a series of projects being completed during the next year to ensure the Northwestern motorway is able to handle the growing demands from everyone who uses it – drivers, people using public transport and those who walk and cycle.

“Increasing the motorway from two to three lanes in each direction on this stretch of the motorway will help traffic to flow better leading to greater travel time reliability, and an efficient alternative route to use instead of State Highway 1,” says Mr Gliddon.

I was apparently invited to the opening but the NZTA sent the email to the wrong address – not that I would’ve been able to attend due to work commitments.

Regardless of what mode you use, for many out west the completion would be a welcome change as works and the disruption that came with it have been an ongoing challenge. But I wonder just how successful the project has been, especially the Lincoln Rd section. Here’s are some of the quick facts from the NZTA’s press release.

The $145million upgrade of the Lincoln Interchange has widened and realigned the onramps and motorway exits to improve safety and traffic flow. There are new dedicated, purpose built bus lanes providing a greater level of service than before. The Northwestern Cycleway has also been extended and improved.

The $65million Te Atatu Interchange project has added an extra lane in each direction between Te Atatu and Lincoln Roads, new motorway on and off-ramps as well as raising and widening the Te Atatu overbridge.

….

Work will begin later this year on the Lincoln to Westgate project to tie into this just completed work at the Lincoln Road Interchange. It will include widening the Northwestern motorway to three lanes, improved on and off ramps, creating bus lanes and extending the Northwestern Cycleway.

So let’s take a quick look back to when these two projects each began.

Lincoln Rd Interchange

The project started all the way back at the end of October 2010 and has seen the interchange vastly supersized, for example the bridge over the motorway was widened from two lanes to seven. At the start of the project the NZTA laid out these basic facts. The important ones for this post being that it would cost $100 million, be completed in 2013, include all four ramps and extend the cycleway as far as Huruhuru Road.

Lincoln Rd Key Features

Immediately you can see a few glaring issues, these being that the project is $45 million over budget and three years late. To be fair, I understand the timeframe was deliberately delayed so that funding could be diverted to help deal with the immediate aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, three years late? I can also accept the idea that they slowed construction so it could better be tied into the progress of the rest of the Western Ring Route. Not much point adding lanes and capacity only for it to hid the queue not far down the road. As infomercials love to say “but wait, there’s more”.

As I mentioned the works were to include all four ramps and extending the cycleway to Huruhuru Rd – via a torturous four leg crossing of Lincoln Rd, no underpass here. Here’s a map of the interchange design. I’ve rotated it to better compare with the following image.

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

Here’s what it looks like as of the beginning of April.

Lincoln Rd Interchange - April 2016 2

You can see very clearly that the westbound onramp and the extension of the cycleway past Lincoln Rd are completely missing. That’s because they’ve been moved in with the project widening the section of motorway from here to Westgate – another ~$100 million project.

So all up it appears we’ve got a project that is $45 million over budget, three years late and they still haven’t even completed some of the work they said they would do.

Te Atatu Interchange

Thankfully the Te Atatu interchange doesn’t appear to have the delays that the Lincoln interchange suffered, but it does appear to have had its own cost blowout. This is from the press release when the project got under way.

Key features of the $50m project include widening the Northwestern motorway between the Te Atatu Road and Patiki Road interchanges, widening all five ramps on the interchange, enhancing existing facilities for walkers and cyclists and widening and raising the Te Atatu Road overbridge.

….

Work will start on the improvements at Te Atatu in the new year and is set to be completed in 2016.

Here’s the Te Atatu interchange from April

Te Atatu Interchange - April 2016 2

So the project was completed in 2016 like they said it would be but was $15 million over budget.

Te Atatu Rd Underpass

The Te Atatu project includes the fantastic cycleway underpass

So all up we’ve got projects over budget, late and missing components. Perhaps not quite the NZTAs finest hour. Imagine what kind of amazing local cycling network that extra $60 million could have delivered if spent within the area.

It’s quite likely that within the next decade we’ll be seeing the heavy machinery out in these sections once again, this time adding the piece of the puzzle that was absurdly left out of this project, the Northwest Busway.

AT and Police Red Light blitz, on the North Shore

Auckland Transport and the Police are running a 2 week campaign against red light running, but only at four intersections.

Red light running is the focus of a major 2 week long road safety operation, launching in Auckland’s Waitemata District on Monday 16 May, coinciding with the start of Road Safety Week.

The operation is a joint initiative between Police, Auckland Transport and NZ Transport Agency.

Police will target those motorists who take risks at 4 key high-risk intersections in the District, during peak morning traffic.

Police and AT staff will work together to monitor and identify offending in real time, while Police and AT education and enforcement teams will stop those identified at the roadside.

Waitemata Road Policing Manager Inspector Trevor Beggs says the education and enforcement operation aims to reduce crashes at intersections and subsequent traffic congestion.

“In Auckland between 2010-2014, 55 people died and 737 people were seriously injured in intersection crashes. That is far too many families changed forever by the loss of a loved one, and literally hundreds of Kiwis who live with a disability for the rest of their lives,” says Mr Beggs.

“We need to educate motorists around intersection safety. If they’re patient and obey traffic signals we can prevent these totally avoidable deaths and serious injuries.”

Auckland Transport’s Community Transport Manager Claire Dixon says the intersections were selected because of their location, crash risk, traffic flow and ability to monitor by AT through its CCTV network.

Police and AT staff will respond appropriately to motorists caught running red or amber lights. Police staff will apply discretion when dealing with individual motorists, which may result in education or enforcement action.

Ms Dixon says crashes are just part of the problem. “We have to work on the attitude of drivers towards red light signals. Drivers need to get the message that by running red lights they are putting themselves, their passengers and others in danger.”

The 4 intersections involved are:

  • Onewa Rd/Highbury Bypass/Birkenhead Ave.
  • Albany Expressway/Dairy Flat Highway/Oteha Valley Rd/Albany Highway.
  • Glenfield Rd/Bentley Ave.
  • Taharoto Rd/Northcote Rd.

Red Light Enforcement - road safety week 2016

This raises a few questions for me:

  1. With only four intersections being targeted and all four on the North Shore just how effective will this campaign be?
  2. Are they effectively saying that drivers on the North Shore run red lights more than in other parts of the city? I know that when I ride to work I certainly see it happening a lot on the North Shore.
  3. Last year seven red light cameras were installed at various places around the city, most were in East Auckland. Why not expand that network and monitor these intersections all of the time?

 

Submit on Transport Networks for Auckland’s Future Urban Areas

Today is the last day to submit on the consultation by Auckland Transport and the NZTA on what the call Transport for Future Urban Growth. Around two Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to Auckland’s fringes in the North, Northwest and South over the next 30 years as part of the council’s Future Urban Land Supply Strategy. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used as part of their planning and funding processes.

If you haven’t already I’d suggest putting a submission in. At a high level my views

  1. It’s good that the networks generally have strong PT components in the three main areas of North, Northwest and South. The place shaping role of rapid transit is critical in these areas and early investment must go on rapid transit. If we don’t we’ll be encouraging these areas to develop in ways that make it much harder to retrofit good quality PT later and this new growth will be very auto-centric as a result.
  2. The roading networks are over the top and unnecessarily excessive. Peripheral areas are never going to have perfect transport conditions but it seems like the networks are aiming for that.

One thing this process does is highlight just how expensive greenfield development can be. Suggestions are that just these high level projects could cost around $8 billion all up or about $70,000 per dwelling and that doesn’t take into account the cost of local roads or other infrastructure that is needed to support development.

 

Below is a copy of my earlier post on the consultation (although the videos are new)

The websites for each of the three main areas also gives a little bit of information as to how they’ve responded to the feedback received and for each of the key areas there is also a more detailed map which is on the AT website. In all of the maps below the mode/intervention uses the same colour scheme, Red = Rail, Green = Bus, Blue = Road, Gold = Safety improvements.

South

In the south it’s good to see AT specifically mention electrification to Pukekohe as that was something no mention was made of in the earlier consultation. It’s something we can only hope gets the go ahead soon as it seems fairly critical to some of the other parts of the plan for the South including a bunch of new stations and better services. On the roads the massive Mill Rd corridor is set to march on all the way to Pukekohe. The biggest omission from compared to the first consultation seems to be an east-west route from Pukekohe to SH1.

In this transport network, a key focus is increasing access to public transport, with more capacity and a well-connected rapid transit network at its heart. This would include electric trains to Pukekohe, express trains, new stations and rapid transit links, for example between the airport, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany and a high frequency bus route between Drury and Manukau.

The plan focuses on great access to jobs, town centres and recreation within south Auckland and links to the wider region.

Another key focus for the south would be an extension of the Mill Road corridor from Manukau to Papakura and Drury. This would help improve safety, provide improved access to new growth areas and provide an additional north-south route. Connected to the Mill Road corridor is a new route to Pukekohe to improve safety or reduce congestion on SH22. An interchange with SH1 will also be further investigated at Drury South.

We’ve also identified further work is needed on how better connections between Waikato and Auckland can be provided.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

The North looks like a much bigger roads fest compared to the with almost all of the proposed roads from the earlier consultation included in this consultation. For PT the busway will be the heart of the system in the area and s being both physically extended by going to Grand Dr but also and with more stations too.

At the heart of the network is the extension of the rapid transit network (RTN) by linking Albany to Dairy Flat, Silverdale, Wainui and Grand Drive.

Additional stations along the RTN would become hubs for extended public transport services into the growth areas and Orewa, providing fast and efficient access to employment, town centres and residential areas.

Dedicated walking and cycling networks linking to public transport hubs would provide a range of options to get to work or for leisure. New and upgraded arterial roads running both eastwest and north-south would improve connections and safety through the area as well.

Capacity would also be increased on State Highway 1 (SH1). An interchange incorporating both Dairy Flat and Penlink will be investigated to see if it would alleviate access from bottlenecks at Silverdale further north.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

Like the others it appears that almost all of projects from the earlier consultation have made it through to this round. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is AT say they’ll do some more to look at the costs and benefits of extending rail to Huapai – although the website also suggests it could be compared to electric rail.

A key focus of the draft network is on providing high capacity public transport networks to move people efficiently and reliably between the places they want to go. This includes a rapid transport network (RTN) adjacent to the SH16 and SH18 to and from Kumeu, Westgate through to the city and the North Shore. Park and ride facilities are also identified to provide access to these services.

Further investigations are proposed on the extension of electric trains to Huapai to assess benefits and costs. Initial work shows a RTN along SH16 will have faster journey times and serve a wider catchment.

Another key focus is improving the safety and capacity of SH16 north of Westgate and the major arterials that intersect it. To help address congestion as the area grows and keep the Kumeu and Huapai centres as safe, local community-focused environments, an alternative through-route to SH16 is proposed.

A direct motorway to motorway connection between SH16 and SH18, improvements to Brigham Creek Road, and upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway and arterial road networks in Whenuapai and Red Hills are also identified. The feasibility of a range of different types of interchanges at Northside Drive and Squadron Drive will also be investigated. Dedicated walking and cycling paths connecting to public transport and existing cycle routes also feature.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest

Consultation closes at 4pm today.

NZCIDs Transport Report

Yesterday I highlighted the crazy road obsessed plans of the infrastructure lobby that were hinted at in a report they were about to release. That report has now come out and so I thought I would look at it in a bit more detail. While there is much to be concerned about, there are some things we agree with too. First a few general comments

The press release talks about the report as being a way to provide independent input into the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). This is quite funny as the majority of the graphs, and figures they quote come are cut and pasted from the Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, NZ Transport Agency or the Ministry of Transport, the four agencies at the centre of ATAP. Some of the information even comes directly from the ATAP foundation report.

There also seem to be a lot of contradictions within the report, they’ll make a fairly accurate statement (often similar to what we may say) about a project or piece of analysis but they’ll then hand wave that away and ignore it when coming up with their conclusions. I’ll cover some of these within the post.

On Public Transport

Throughout the report there is a lot of discussion on the role of public transport and the NZCID make a number of astute observations about PT and how it is assessed. Examples include how odd it is that for processes like ATAP that PT is treated differently to cars in the modelling, as if PT users time don’t consider their time as important.

Also significant is the fact that public transport accessibility is modelled on a 45 minute door-to-door commute. Cars, on the other hand, are modelled on a 30 minute door-to-door commute. The need to assume an additional 15 minute or 50 per cent travel time for public transport is understandable in light of the need for users to get to and from services, but there is no evidence that it meets user expectations. It is not clear that the majority of transport users consider an additional 15 minute or 50 per cent travel time to be a truly viable alternative.

A common refrain from many is that building more carparks at train/busway stations is needed to significantly boost patronage and it’s also something mentioned in their press release. However this is actually a bit at odds with their report itself which while enthusiastic on PT, notes that it isn’t cheap to more capacity, that people should be charged to use carparking spaces through their HOP card and also doesn’t add all that much to PT usage.

Doubling park-and-ride capacity region-wide will only yield an additional 2,200 spaces, likely adding no more than 4,400 trips per day, or around 2 per cent to existing patronage

Given the conclusions they’ve come to over P&R it’s amazing that they then say it should be vastly increased.

Equally odd is that they seem to come to the overall conclusion of “it’s crap so we might as well invest in roads instead”. If the investment in PT is as poor as they suggest then why has almost no effort has been made to look and see if there are any better was to invest that other than through more roads.

The levels of service required to lift public transport patronage by attracting users away from private vehicles are unaffordable and will deliver less value for money than extensions of the road network.

On Land Use

The report’s discussion of Land Use is perhaps one area where I’m in quite a bit of agreement. They quite rightly note that through the Unitary Plan, not enough growth has been enabled in areas with the best planned public transport such as along some of the train lines and the busway.

Figure 36 shows Unitary Plan growth provisions on the Auckland isthmus and rail stations. Circle sizes indicate an approximate 10 minute walk to rail services. Development should, if Auckland’s very significant sunk investment in rail is to be maximised, be permitted inside these circles as a means to improving the convenience and attractiveness of public transport.

In reality, significant land use change around the majority of stations on the isthmus – the area where demand for land is highest and where most growth under a compact model should in theory be accommodated – is not permitted under the Unitary Plan. The type of development activities which would benefit from access to rail, such as residential apartments and town houses, are only substantively permitted around 11 of the 24 stations on the isthmus (indicated in green). Development change is generally prohibited around 6 of the stations (indicated in red) and a further 7 permit some degree of change (indicated by orange circles).

NZCID - ATAP response - Land Use Train

They also highlight the relative lack of development allowed around the proposed light rail routes

NZCID - ATAP response - Land Use LRT

 

The lack of high quality PT up the Pakuranga Rd corridor

NZCID - ATAP response - Land Use AMETI

The lack of development allowed around the Northern Busway stations with more development allowed along the Onewa and Glenfield Rd corridors.

NZCID - ATAP response - Land Use Northern Busway

In the south they suggest Greenfield industrial land could allow for current industrial land around stations to be redeveloped, one example sited is around Te Mahia where they say the “low value industrial land around the station” could have been rezoned to tie in with improvements to the station and the golf course development which they criticise as not being dense enough.

They say (like we have before), that only the West has significant levels of growth permitted around stations and elsewhere like on the Te Atatu Peninsula. But they also say that the growth there is poorly aligned with the priority of transport projects (i.e. Northwest Busway) and the business cases for the investment in the PT needed will be undermined by the lack of development allowed closer to the city.

 

Ultimately they say that if we want more people to use PT we either need to go down one of the following land use/transport options

  1. Growth distributions remain the same, infrastructure and services change
  2. Growth distributions change, most infrastructure across city remains the same, new infrastructure concentrated in dense new public transport-oriented centres

On that second point they suggest building a new dense city for 100,000 people and 30,000 jobs on greenfield land somewhere in South Auckland

Build more roads

Ultimately much of the NZCID’s suggestions come down to the mantra of build more roads, even going so far as to suggest that we’re too auto-dependent so should just keep building more roads anyway while also claiming that will stop congestion getting worse.

Aligning land use provisions with current and future transport investment will go some way to alleviating pressure on Auckland’s congested road network. Integrated policy cannot, however, undo 70 years of investment and development, nor can it completely remove the need for road travel. Capacity in the road network is the only means to stop congestion expanding further into the interpeak, impeding commercial movement, and emerging through weekends and the off-peak, undermining liveability, social opportunity and the attractiveness of Auckland as a destination for labour and investment.

And that motorways are magic economic machines.

Motorway capacity is essential because motorways generate economic activity.

That then leads to a number of projects they think need to be built, most of which are associated with the Eastern Ring Route we highlighted yesterday. These projects include

  • Making the Mill Rd project bigger and grade separating it so essentially a motorway.
  • The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing to longer connecting to the east of the city
  • The Eastern motorway which they say would need to be underground (to avoid angering the locals)
  • Linking in the Eastern Motorway with Te Irirangi Dr and turning that into a motorway using money destined for the AMETI busway.

Here’s what they say about the AWHC and Eastern motorway. They are quite correct that the AWHC as it stands is a poor outcome but doubling down and making it bigger it is definitely not the answer. Also providing new links between Northland and the Waikato is exactly the purpose of the Western Ring Route that isn’t even finished yet.

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.

An Additional Waitemata Harbour Tunnel landing to the east of the CBD may be able to do better. Connecting with State Highway 16 south of the Port of Auckland and continuing underground to protect environmentally sensitive estuary habitats around the Orakei Basin, an Additional Waitemata Harbour Tunnel can become the new lynchpin for an entire network linking Northland and Waikato, Albany and Penrose, Glen Innes and the CBD.

Lastly they blame some of Auckland’s issues on the fact we never fully completed the 1960’s motorways plan from consultants De Leuw Cather which included projects such as the Dominion Rd motorway and a New Lynn to Henderson motorway

NZCID - ATAP response - De Leuw Cather

Of course they forget to mention the corresponding PT network that De Leuw Cather said should be completed first

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland

They extend that and superimpose motorway networks from other cities to say that Auckland’s motorways aren’t extensive enough. Of course in most of those cities the motorways are rural roads and not driven through the heart of the city

NZCID - ATAP response - cities motorways

Overall there are a few things in the report we agree with but it’s mostly just about trying to justify a heap of roads. If PT isn’t good enough then they should be proposing to dramatically fix that rather than just accepting it and saying build roads instead.