‘Thanks, but no I really don’t need a lift’

The Public Transport offer in Auckland has a long way to go, but on some routes, especially in the inner city, it can be not only the quicker but also more pleasant option than driving, particularly once the hassle and costs of parking are considered. We look forward to this advantage being spread out to more areas and for more people as the Electric Trains, the New Bus Network, Proper Buslanes, and Integrated Fares roll out over the next couple of years.

Yet there is still the issue of people’s mindset. I understand this well as it wasn’t until I returned from living in Europe that I just didn’t unthinkingly reach for my car keys to undertake even the shortest or most ill-suited of journeys in Auckland. But also over that time PT services have improved from almost completely useless to on many occasions pretty handy. The Rapid Transit system is at last reaching utility as can be clearly seen by consistent rise in uptake, but there are also bus services like the Inner Link that I now use regularly because, once armed with a HOP card, it is often the best option for many journeys. Frequent enough, and a great place to check my messages between commitments, or just stare out into the city sailing by, perhaps even thoughtfully. It can also be pretty social:

BUSES ETC_8274

Ride Social: On the Inner Link

My partner and I have recently had two instances that are deeply illustrative of how far many Aucklanders have to go with their car addiction. An addiction born of the environment; as for so long only one means of movement was well supported.

Both times we were happily bussing it, only to be dragged off into relatively unpleasant and time wasting car experiences by people determined to do us a favour and generously save us from perfectly efficient and enjoyable Transit trips.
The first, after a dinner out we were dragged, past our bus stop, into the limitless helllhole that is the SkyCity car dungeon, our hosts struggling to find their car on the bizarre sloping and labyrinthine parking floors, paying an absolute fortune to release it once found, seriously taking way longer and much less pleasantly than hanging on Albert St on a clear evening, even for the relatively roundabout 020. 
It was very kind of our friends but I really really would have rather had the bus trip home. The conversation, thereafter, became all about how vile SkyCity is as an experience and how expensive the parking was; which was an order of magnitude higher than our combined busfares.
The second, Maria was on Ponsonby Rd buying flowers en route to the hospital (Bhana Bros; what will we do without you?), only to bump into a mutual friend who insisted on driving her to Grafton. What ensued was a longwinded driving/parking hopeless nightmare. Compared to taking the Link, as she’d intended [directly point to point; unlike the drive], or riding, as I usually do to get to the hosp. and there’s been a lot of that over last few years, what a stupid way to cover that route! Yet this person wouldn’t have a bar of it, absolutely full of how she’d saved Maria from some kind of malady and done her a great favour…. But it actually made her late for her next appointment and robbed her of a contemplative moment on the bus.
Nick adds:

I had a similar experience not too long ago. Drinking near Britomart late at night, group decides to go to a bar in Ponsonby. They start the inevitable horse trading of who is driving what and where and whose car I have to go in the boot of.  I say bugger that and announce I’m catching a bus, the rest look at me like I’m insane. Basically begging me to cram into their car which is parked in some building like they are saving me from some huge hardship. Me and one other get the Link up no worries, and are well onto our second drink before the rest arrive complaining about nowhere to park etc. All absolutely flabbergasted we got there faster on a bus. One person didn’t believe us and said we must have run straight to a taxi. Anyway, who wants to be driving when bar-hopping?
I get this totally because if you don’t use PT at all you sort of don’t see it, except as that thing blocking your way when driving, also you don’t know how it works, where to catch a service or how long it might take, or what the hell a HOP card is. And it also means you pretty much always have your car with you piling up parking charges or nagging you about the wisdom of having that drink. I really do feel much freer in the city without my car, free to change plans, free to socialise. In the city the car is a burden.
And continued improvements to services are baked into the pie, especially now the the Transport Levy is in place. Although it is extension to the Rapid Transit Network that would be truly transformative. Here is the coming spread of the Frequent Network:
RPTP Current Network
RPTP Proposed 2018 Network
RPTP Proposed 2025 Network
Those that still only ever think of driving are clearly the majority in Auckland but there is a considerable upside to this observation because as the kinds of improvements that are available in only some places become more widespread it means that there are many more Aucklanders who will discover this advantage and add using these services to their options for movement. When and where it makes sense to.
The data supports the idea that this is already happening as the transit trips per capita figure keeps steadily advancing despite the rising poulation. It is now at 50.5 PT trips per capita from 44 in 2011, still very low compared to similar cities, and reason enough to expect ridership to keep climbing. As long as Auckland Transport keep improving services measurable.
But also thinks of new ways of getting HOP cards into more new hands. Events where PT journeys are part of the ticket price are currently the main way that AT are doing this. But with Fare Integration I think its time they started approaching major employers near good services to include HOP cards in renumeration packages. And for the government to revisit Fringe Benefit Tax rules for both PT and car parks.

The SH1/SH26 roundabout – what is going on?

In this recent post Matt asked why we were still building dangerous intersections. One part of his post caught my eye, specifically proposed changes to the intersection of SH1 and SH26 in the Waikato. The location of this intersection is shown below.

SH1 and SH26a

 

You can see that the intersection exists firmly within the Hamilton urban area. Moreover,  I understand the area to the east is planned for residential growth in the future. I.e. there will be more and more residential development to the east.

The reason this caught my eye is because the proposed changes, in my opinion, seem likely to result in a horrific clusterfuck of an intersection that will, at a minimum, destroy urban amenity and, potentially, result in pedestrian carnage. In my opinion, this roundabout design is completely inappropriate for an urban area. And unlike NZTA I don’t agree t hat potential delays to vehicles are sufficient reason to provide wholly unsatisfactory facilities for pedestrians. Facilities that are so lacking that they seem likely to increase the risk of injuries to pedestrians who need to cross at this intersection.

The proposed changes are illustrated below.

Hamilton SH1 -SH26 upgrade

 

Now I should mention that the NZTA press release for the changes mentions an additional pedestrian crossing is to be located on SH26 to the east, which I presume (although can’t be sure) is beyond the extent of works shown above. The press release also noted the presence of a pedestrian underpass on SH1 to the south, which is being retained in the new design.

What NZTA are proposing for the southern and eastern approaches to the roundabout is relatively poor practice and ill-suited to an urban area such as this.

But perhaps most importantly, the proposed pedestrian facilities don’t seem to address what happens on the western approach to the roundabout. As anyone can easily see from StreetView below, NZTA’s beautiful junkspace landscaping is *already* being severely trampled beneath the feet of hapless pedestrians as they scamper across the existing road. QED there’s an existing problem that needs to be resolved, not ignored as the proposed design has done.

Crossing

Anyway, I was sufficiently motivated by this proposal to start digging for more information.

The background study for these intersection changes was completed in 2008. Given that it’s now almost 8 years since the study was completed, I thought I’d go and look at traffic volumes since that time. In the figure below I’ve totalled the AADT on the two closest counts on SH1 and SH26 over time (NB: This will double-count many vehicles, which is why the total AADT shown here is significantly higher than the figure of 37,000 vehicles per day using the intersection that is quoted in the NZTA in their press release. Nonetheless it’s likely to be broadly indicative of general trends in AADT).

AADT

 

The volumes bobble around a bit, although current AADT is about 3% below the level achieved in 2008, i.e. the time that the report supporting the proposed changes was developed. Is it reasonable to assume that vehicle volumes will increase or decrease from here?

Well, there’s some growth out this way so it’s plausible to suggest there may be more demand. On the other hand, there’s one major question that I’m not confident is addressed by the studies associated with this upgrade: The Waikato Expressway, specifically the Hamilton section.

For those who aren’t familiar with this project, it’s part of the RoNS programme.

While I’m no fan of the RoNS programme per se, if these projects are to go ahead then I would at least expect NZTA to maximise their potential benefits, especially with regards to re-configuring parallel routes to support more livable urban places. In this context, the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway is  high-speed, high-capacity route that seems likely to shift vehicles away from the existing SH1 and away from this roundabout. Construction of the Hamilton section is expected to start in 2016 with a target opening date of 2019.

I note that the NZTA website states that the Hamilton section of the expressway will:

  • Connect the Ngaruawahia section of the Expressway, completed in late 2013, to the Cambridge section, due for completion in late 2016.
  • Reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on Hamilton’s local road network by significantly reducing through traffic.”

And yet NZTA’s proposed changes to the SH1 and SH26 intersection (which appear to have been formulated prior to the RoN being confirmed) are designed to increase capacity.

One has to wonder why the NZ Transport Agency is spending $2 million to create a situation that is more dangerous for pedestrians than the present one, while at the same time spending the best part of half a billion dollars building a high-speed bypass around the same intersection.

Call me a simpleton if you will but I would have thought the more logical sequence of actions would be:

  1. Complete the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway in the next 3 years as planned; and
  2. Monitor changes to vehicle volumes in response to growth (which apparently is quite low at the moment) and expressway; and
  3. Develop options for the intersection which respond to these changes, but which are also appropriate for an urban area.

In terms of #3, this really brings us full circle. I cannot understand why NZTA would think the proposed design is appropriate for an urban area. I can tell you that in my opinion it’s most certainly not. While I’ll reserve my full and final judgment until I have more detailed information to consider, the proposed intersection seems to compromise pedestrian safety to a level bordering on negligence.

I know that’s a big call so let me present some reasons why:

  1. The design does not seem to meet the present need for a pedestrian crossing on the westbound SH1 approach, e.g. to access the adjacent school. There is already demand for this pedestrian movement, as we can see from StreetView. This demand will only increase as the area develops in the future.
  2. The approaches are wider than the current facility. The western approach on SH1 , for example, is three lanes wide. This will increase the distance pedestrians will have to cross before they reach the landscaped sliver of land in the middle of the road.
  3. The design incorporates features that seem likely to increase vehicle speeds. The western approach on SH1, for example, now includes what is effectively a “slip lane” for vehicles travelling through. This features will enable/encourage vehicles to maintain their speed on their approach to (and exit from) the intersection. This will increase risks to pedestrians who (legitimately) need to cross the western approach, and the severity of accidents.

I draw two *preliminary* conclusions from all this. First, the proposed changes to the intersection is unacceptably dangerous for pedestrians and should not proceed as designed. Second, the proposed intersection has been designed without consideration of the Waikato Expressway and thus are likely to represent poor value for money and low strategic fit.

I’d really like to know what others think: Am I mis-reading the situation here? Or is it as bad as it looks? An outdated and seemingly dangerous design being imposed on what is very much an urban area, just prior to a major expressway bypass opens? What is going on?

Helping Our Heritage Come Alive – Mt Eden Rd

This is an image from Mark Bishop. Here are the previous posts: Queen and Wellesley, Newton Rd, Kingsland

These images were developed by merging together various historic black and white photographs (all from the “Sir George Grey Special Collection” – Auckland Library) with contemporary colour photographs taken at the same location.

The black and white photographs were taken between the years 1900 to 1940, and cover a number of areas of the city and the outlying suburbs. The colour photographs were all taken in early 2015.

The intention of these images is to use photography to help show how much has changed – or not changed – over almost one hundred years by focusing on locations that are familiar to Aucklanders.

It is interesting to think that the people, horses and trams seen in these images passed by around a century ago where we walk and drive today.

Mount Eden Village.  View looking north up Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden Village.  Black and white photograph (1910-23) from “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries 35-R243.”

Eden Village BW merge 1910-23 35-R243

In some ways this is also a glimpse into the future with Auckland Transport looking at installing Light Rail down Mt Eden Rd and other Isthmus streets.

Helping Our Heritage Come Alive – Kingsland

This is an image from Mark Bishop. Here are the previous posts: Queen and Wellesley, Newton Rd

These images were developed by merging together various historic black and white photographs (all from the “Sir George Grey Special Collection” – Auckland Library) with contemporary colour photographs taken at the same location.

The black and white photographs were taken between the years 1900 to 1940, and cover a number of areas of the city and the outlying suburbs. The colour photographs were all taken in early 2015.

The intention of these images is to use photography to help show how much has changed – or not changed – over almost one hundred years by focusing on locations that are familiar to Aucklanders.

It is interesting to think that the people, horses and trams seen in these images passed by around a century ago where we walk and drive today.

New North Road – Kingsland.  Looking east along New North Road, Kingsland.  Black and white photograph (1926) from “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries 1-W624”.

New Nth Rd BW merge 1926 1-W624

Helping Our Heritage Come Alive – Newton Rd

This is an image from Mark Bishop. You can see the first of his works here.

These images were developed by merging together various historic black and white photographs (all from the “Sir George Grey Special Collection” – Auckland Library) with contemporary colour photographs taken at the same location.

The black and white photographs were taken between the years 1900 to 1940, and cover a number of areas of the city and the outlying suburbs. The colour photographs were all taken in early 2015.

The intention of these images is to use photography to help show how much has changed – or not changed – over almost one hundred years by focusing on locations that are familiar to Aucklanders.

It is interesting to think that the people, horses and trams seen in these images passed by around a century ago where we walk and drive today.

Looking south down Newton Road from corner with Karangahape Road.  Black and white photograph (1904) from “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries 1-W1126”.

Newton Rd BW merge 1904 1-W1126

Helping Our Heritage Come Alive – Queen Street and Wellesley

This is an image from Mark Bishop. We’ll be running a number of these over the coming weeks.

These images were developed by merging together various historic black and white photographs (all from the “Sir George Grey Special Collection” – Auckland Library) with contemporary colour photographs taken at the same location.

The black and white photographs were taken between the years 1900 to 1940, and cover a number of areas of the city and the outlying suburbs. The colour photographs were all taken in early 2015.

The intention of these images is to use photography to help show how much has changed – or not changed – over almost one hundred years by focusing on locations that are familiar to Aucklanders.

It is interesting to think that the people, horses and trams seen in these images passed by around a century ago where we walk and drive today.

Corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street looking east.  Black and white photograph (Feb 1903) from “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1051”

Q and W St BW merge, Feb 1903 1-W1051

Volunteers wanted: Auckland public life survey

Takutai Square, Britomart, Winter solstice 2014.

Takutai Square, Britomart, Winter solstice 2014.

Five years ago Gehl Architects enlisted a team of volunteers to document public life across the city centre. The work culminated in a summary report (1, 2) and a great Auckland Conversation event.

Since that time there have been remarkable changes across the city. Here are a few things that stand out:

  • Shared spaces across the city
  • A resurgence of retail and hospitality offerings
  • Introduction of global flagships stores on Queen Street
  • Two urban supermarkets (how did we survive without these?)
  • Britomart Quarter (see photo above)
  • Wynyard Quarter
  • HOP ticketing
  • Massive non-car travel increases into the city
  • EMU’s and rail electrification

In addition to all these changes it seems like the city has finally achieved a critical mass of scale and concentration making it actually feel like a proper city. The streets are packed every day of the week and on weekends, events are happening all the time, and people seem to be genuinely proud of the place. This trend is unstoppable.

Importantly, while the global winds are pushing in this direction, this is not something that “just happened” (Asheville Just ‘Happened’ to Develop a Nice Downtown—or Did It?) . There has been a concerted effort, investment and leadership push that has delivered most of what we now take for granted.

This is how James Fallows describes the disconnect between what people see on the ground and how it got that way (Nice Downtowns: How Did They Get That Way):

It’s tempting, if you haven’t seen the varied stages of this process, to imagine that some cities just “naturally” have attractive and successful downtowns, and others just don’t happen to. It’s like happening to be located on a river, or not.

But in every city we’ve visited with a good downtown, we’ve heard accounts of the long, deliberate process that led to today’s result.

Auckland Council’s Auckland Design Office is working with Gehl Architects to update its research survey later this week and is looking for volunteers.

A follow up survey has been set for May 12th – 18th, 2015. To successfully deliver the survey volunteers are invited to participate in observational analysis across the city centre; counting, mapping, tracking and recording the behaviour, movement and activities of people in public spaces…

 

If you are interested in the urbanism, survey methods, and meeting interesting people, this is a great opportunity.

 

More information can be found here (pdf), or by emailing dennis.aitken@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.

Safer residential streets

A few weeks back Peter had an interesting post about retrofitting Albany. In his post he suggested that we know that certain neighbourhood street networks lead to better urban outcomes. They are more walkable and easier to serve by public transport, etc. – yet, we continue to churn out dysfunctional neighbourhoods.

Zooming in a bit lower from the neighbourhood structure, I thought it would be useful to consider what we know about residential streets. Here is a list of features of residential streets that are often considered desirable features:

  • Narrow widths,
  • Short blocks,
  • Continuous street trees (between the footpath and kerb),
  • On street parking that is often occupied,
  • Lots of intersections, preferably X-type.

Lets take a closer look at narrow streets. While outdated road manuals tend to require wider lane dimensions, more sweeping curves, and clear sightlines, we know that that these designs increase vehicle speeds, increase stopping distances, and lead to more crashes as well as more severe crashes.

Narrow streets, in particular ones with parked cars and continuous street trees, slow vehicles. This is something that can be observed by using the street and experiencing how the geometry and complexities require much more attention which in turn slows drivers.

We know that narrow and slower streets lead to safer streets. A study surveying 6000 streets in Longmont, Colorado, (Residential Street Typology and Injury Accident Frequency) found:

“As street widths widen, accidents per mile per year increases exponentially, and the safest residential street width are the narrowest (curb face).”

Specifically they found that a typical 36-foot (11m) wide residential street has a 487 percent increase in accident rates compared to 24-foot (7.3) street.

studyresults

Regression analysis showing the number of crashes by street width.

Here is an 11 metre wide street in Favona (Mckinstry Ave). It is representative of a 1970s-era neighbourhood street in Auckland. This street type is common across Auckland and New Zealand.

favona.

The most dangerous street type – 11m

And below is a 7.3m wide street in Balmoral/Mt Eden.

gribblehurst

The safest street – 7.3m

The following is a quick look at the accident data of those particular streets over the last 15 years from the NZTA CAS database. This is a screenshot of crash data in the Mt Eden neighbourhood north of Balmoral Road.

mteden4k

CAS crash data (NZTA) Red= fatal, Yellow= Severe, Blue = minor injury

Looking at the residential streets (not Dominion or Sandringham Roads) there are very few (11) crashes and all are classed minor injury.

Here is the same scale screenshot of the Favona neighbourhood.

CAS crash data (NZTA) Red= fatal, Yellow= Severe, Blue = non-injury

CAS crash data (NZTA) Red= fatal, Yellow= Severe, Blue = minor injury

What stands out immediately is the sparse and branching street network. The difficulty in providing public transport and the requirement for car ownership and associated carparking space represents an unfunded liability both for the residents of this area and the rest of the city.

Another liability is the safety issue associated with these types of streets.

Not counting Buckland Road (it’s an arterial), the equivalent study area has about 12 minor injury crashes, but significantly one fatal crash on Mckinstry Ave.

This unscientific snapshot seems to be consistent with the Longmont research. At some point I’ll run a GIS analysis of the crash data to test international research.

Besides confirming what we know, it would be good to start developing solutions to make these wide and curvey streets safer, and of course to stop building them like this in the first place.

“Why economists tend to be in bad odour …” – Cycleways in Christchurch

In an 1879 essay, Francis Walker tried to explain “why economists tend to be in bad odour amongst real people.” Walker, who went on to become the first president of the American Economic Association, argued that it was partly because economists disregard “…the customs and beliefs that tie individuals to their occupations and locations and lead them to act in ways contrary to the predictions of economic theory.”  Frank et al  1999

As some of you may be aware, Christchurch City Council has applied for NZTA funding to develop the network of major cycleways illustrated below.

majcycroutes-may14

This economic appraisal of this investment is discussed in detail in this blog post. The benefit-cost ratio for the $160 million investment was estimated using NZTA’s Economic Evaluation Manual to be 7:1, with the benefits of the project breaking down as follows.

chchcyclemodelbenefits

All well and good.

Until about a week ago when two economists from the University of Canterbury, namely Glenn Boyle and James Hill, released their review of the business case for the major cycleways network. Based on their review, Boyle and Hill conclude the actual BCR is more likely to range from 0.7 – 1.6. They reached this conclusion for the following reasons:

  1. Fuel prices – Rather than the 40% increase in real fuel prices assumed in the business case, Boyle and Hill suggest a more reasonable assumption is constant fuel prices. This reduces the BCR to 6.0.
  2. Time savings – Boyle and Hill calculate the average time saving per vehicle trip and conclude that because it less than 6 seconds, that these benefits should be discounted. This reduces the BCR to 4.6.
  3. Safety benefits – Boyle and Hill argue that the procedure used to calculate safety benefits is designed only for small projects costing less than $5 million. Removing these benefits reduces the BCR to 3.8
  4. Health and environmental benefits – Boyle and Hill argue that the procedure used to calculate health and environmental benefits is designed only for small projects costing less than $5 million. Re-calculating these benefits reduces the BCR to 0.98 – 2.3
  5. Discount rate – the business cases uses a 6% discount rate; Boyle and Hill argue “market realities suggest this is probably too low”. Using a discount rate of 8% reduces the benefits to 0.7-1.6.

Oh dear.

I’ve subsequently reviewed Boyle and Hill’s review. My general conclusion is that while they make some valid points, they miss the mark in the places that matter. This in turn means that their conclusions are at best unsubstantiated and at worst simply wrong.

The key issues I find with their analysis are summarised below.

The first issue relates to their grounds for dismissing time savings. First, Boyle and Hill the divide total (estimated) time savings by the total (forecast) number of vehicle trips in Christchurch so as to calculate the average time saving per vehicle trip. They then reason that because the average time saving per trip is ~6 seconds, then the time saving benefits are too trivial to be included in the business case.

This analysis smacks of the sort of erroneous logical reasoning that one would critique in a first year statistics course.

Consider the statistical distribution of time savings that might result from cycle investment. It’s reasonable to suggest these savings will not be distributed evenly.

More specifically, the time savings will accrue primarily to vehicle trips that occur within specific corridors and at specific times. That’s certainly what the modelling of cycle flows seems to indicate, as shown below. From this map one might expect very small time savings for vehicle trips in areas such as the airport, Brighton, and Banks Peninsula, with larger time savings for vehicle trips travelling in the peak direction on key radial corridors.

Christchurch cycle network demand map

The need to consider the distribution of time saving can be illustrated with a stylised example. Imagine a city where there are 1,000 vehicle trips, and where a proposed cycle investment will save 2 minutes for 50 vehicle trips, while the remaining 950 vehicles trips are unaffected. The average time saving in this city is only 6 seconds per vehicle trip, even if every vehicle trip affected by the investment actually saves 2 minutes.

The takeaway message is that the localised time savings in a large transport network cannot be accurately represented by the average time saving per vehicle trip. The latter metric may indeed obscure what are tangible savings for a small number of vehicle trips.

Or, to put it another way, if Boyle and Hill wanted an even more sensational figure, then they could have averaged time savings over all vehicle trips in New Zealand rather than just Christchurch, and concluded that the project would save less than half a second per trip. But that would be even more ridiculous.

Reductio ad absurdum; QED Boyle and Hill’s dismissal of time savings is unsubstantiated (NB: One could of course analyse the distribution of time savings and consider only those savings that were above a certain minimum threshold, but Boyle and Hill have not done this).

The second issue relates to their choice of an alternative discount rate. The major cycleways project is a transport investment which is seeking funding from NZTA’s land transport programme.

Let’s make this very clear: NZTA specify that a discount rate of 6% is to be used when undertaking economic appraisals of transport investments. It is therefore entirely appropriate for the business case to use a 6% discount rate. If Boyle and Hill have an issue with the discount rate that has been chosen by the NZTA, then they should raise those arguments in an appropriate forum – not pretend it’s an issue associated with the major cycleways project.

At this point it’s worth pausing for a moment and simply noting that if we add back in even 50% of the travel-time savings and use the 6% discount rate stipulated by NZTA, then the BCR for the cycleways project is likely to return to respectability – even if we accept all of their other points. And I don’t …

The third issue relates to their discussion of travel behaviour change. Boyle and Hill question the magnitude of travel behaviour change, but ignore that the business case takes a conservative view of behaviour change when compared with the results of stated preference surveys.

Stated preference surveys in Christchurch suggest that up to 30% of people would be willing to switch to cycling if sufficient safe infrastructure was provided. At present, the Census suggests that around 7% of people in Christchurch cycle to work, while the Household Travel Survey suggests that around 3% of total trips in the Canterbury region are made by bike.

The modelling did not conclude that cycle mode share would increase to 30%. It took a much more conservative view, which is that the cycleways would boost the number of cycling trips by 15-35%, which would imply an increase in mode share of 1-3% to between 5-10%.

A bit of international context would help here. Other cities that have invested in transformative changes to cycling infrastructure have experienced much larger increases in cycling mode share. For example, the Dutch only started investing in safe, quality cycling infrastructure in the 1970s. Today, many Dutch (and Danish and Swedish) cities have cycle mode shares in the range of 20% to 40%. Moreover, more modern cities like Portland have achieved cycling mode shares approaching 10%. QED the travel behaviour change assumptions in the modelling are within the range of what we observe elsewhere.

The fourth issue is that Boyle and Hill have misread the EEM guidance on analysing cycling benefits. They claim that cycling benefits have been estimated using an inappropriate (“simplified”) procedure. However, that’s simply not true. The values used to calculate per-km benefits for cycling are part of the core EEM (Appendix A20, if anyone’s interested). QED it was appropriate for the original business case to include these benefits.

The fifth issue is that Boyle and Hill make non-standard assumptions about fuel prices. They criticise the modelling for assuming that real fuel prices will increase. However, the assumptions in the business case are based on modelling published by MBIE – who are hardly a bunch of peak-oil alarmists. Boyle and Hill’s critique basically boils down to “oil prices are around their historical norm”, therefore we should not assume any future increase in price.

As economists, they should know that past performance may not be a good guide to the future.

Boyle and Hill argue that crude oil futures quotes are expecting current prices will persist, although I understand these contracts 1) typically extend out only for the next decade or so, and 2) the liquidity is fairly low in more distant future years. In contrast, NZTA stipulates a 30 year evaluation period for similar transport projects. Moreover, unless Boyle and Hill have an alternative (forward-looking) model of fuel prices, as well as evidence that their model is more accurate than MBIE’s, then their objection to the fuel price assumptions used in the business case is somewhat vacuous.

If, as it seems, Boyle and Hill’s real target is NZTA’s evaluation methods, then their critique of the cycleways is at the very least misplaced. Christchurch is proposing to invest a decent amount in cycleways, but that expenditure is dwarfed by state highway spending. If, for example, Boyle and Hill applied the same attention to the $11 billion RoNS’ programme, then they’d find some projects which start out with BCRs less than 1.0, even with more uncertain agglomeration / wider economic impact benefits included from the outset.

MoT state highway BCRs 2005-2012

 

A serious investigation would have at least considered this wider transport investment context, before honing in on the cycleways project as perhaps a case study. And even then it’s a relatively non-representative (and unimportant) choice of case study.

So where does this leave us?

Well, if the aim of Boyle and Hill was to create clickbait for anti-cycling neanderthals, then they can rest happy in the knowledge that they have done their job exceptionally well.

However, if they wanted to foster more informed public debate on the merits of the major cycleways project, or the business cases for transport investment in general, then they have clearly and demonstrably failed. It’s especially unfortunate their review comes across as a deliberately sensationalist hatchet job with largely unsubstantiated and/or incorrect conclusions. By extension, their review does not – as they claim – call into doubt the key finding of the original business case, i.e. the investment in major cycleways represents a relatively effective transport investment. For these reason I wouldn’t expect their review to hold much sway with Christchurch City Council and/or the NZTA.

Postscript: While Boyle and Hill’s review is, in my opinion, “in bad odour”, it is encouraging that the business cases for transport investment are receiving more attention from the wider economics profession in New Zealand. I’d certainly encourage Boyle and Hill to pursue this new found interest further, and would welcome them scrutinising the business cases for RoNS projects, many of which cost in the billions of dollars and start with BCRs less than 2.0. That’s really where the real money is being spent, and it’s where the economic evidence is the weakest.

AT April Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meeting is next week and as usual I’ve scoured the main report looking for the interesting bits of information. I also normally highlight the topics being discussed at the closed session of the board meeting however at the time of writing this the agenda is not available as doesn’t appear to have been uploaded correctly.

Project updates

Te Atatu Rd Rd – They now has all the consents needed to start construction and AT are targeting work to start in July. Also about Te Atatu, AT say that within the next three months they will lodge notices of requirement for the Te Atatu Bus Interchange.

AMETI – The Notices of Requirement are being prepared for the Panmure to Pakuranga busway and are expected to be lodged within the next three months.

Great North Road/Surrey Crescent – AT are looking to upgrade the intersection which will also require moving bus stops. It’s not in the report but I understand local retailers are very opposed to the bus stop even existing and want more car parking instead. I’ve even heard that local councillor and AT board member Mike Lee supported this view at a public meeting

Franklin Road – AT are still working through the Franklin Rd project however are finding resistance from residents who don’t want cycle lanes on the road and are using AT’s silly and outdate road classifications against them AT say that following an internal safety audit they are now having an independent safety audit commissioned to consider one of the four options before proceeding further.

  1. On-road cycle lanes on both sides
  2. On-road cycle lane on the downhill side and ‘shared path’ on the footpath (uphill side)
  3. No on-road cycle lanes on both sides and normal footpath
  4. No on-road cycle lanes on both sides but ‘shared path’ on the footpath (both sides)

That the last to in particular are even being considered is frankly insane.

Ōtāhuhu Bus-Train Interchange – AT are working towards the main construction works to happen in July. In preparation for that over Queens Birthday weekend the old signal box will be lifted off the platform and relocated and foundations for additional canopies will be installed.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level crossing) – The Notice of Requirement will now be lodged in May as final changes are made to the design. Separately AT say they are targeting this to be completed in 2017 but that relies on the process going smoothly and it’s almost certain some of the local residents on Cowie St will complain to the environment court.

Parnell Station – As many train users may have noticed, works have started to build the station with platform edging appearing. The works to enable the platforms to be built are planned to be completed by August and Kiwirail are expected to complete the refurbishment of the heritage Newmarket station by the end of the year. However the opening of the station is two years away as AT want to tie that in with the closing of Sarawia St which is likely due to the increased complexity in signalling it would cause. They say if that can be resolved then the station could open from early to mid-2016.

Westgate Transport Interchange – AT are still trying to work out how they are going to operate buses in the new Westgate town centre which wasn’t designed well with public transport in mind. The initial plan was to have bus interchange spread around the town centre which wouldn’t have been very good from an operational or customer focused perspective. This difficultly that AT seem to have having with getting this changed highlights how important it is that we design our PT networks and infrastructure into new greenfield development properly right from the start.

Half Moon Bay – Funding has been approved for improvements to the ferry terminal. It is hoped the project will be completed by September 2016

Proposed Northcote Cycleway – AT say the final design for the cycleway was presented to the Kaipatiki local board yesterday and will be made public in early May. The main issues they have been dealing with is the complaints about losing publicly provided space to store their personal possessions.

City Rail Link – Of the six appeals against the notice of requirement AT say they have resolved two of them and they’re making significant progress on another three following mediation over the last few months. Only one is outstanding and a hearing on it is due in late June.

PT

AT HOP – AT say that HOP car usage increased to its highest ever level in March with 74% of all trips being made using it. In addition with patronage also increasing, fare revenue has also been increasing which is good.

A separate paper – I assume to the closed session – will cover off AT’s roadmap for integrated fares including boundaries and indicative pricing

PTOM – AT are still waiting on the NZTA to finalise its review of the PTOM contracts so they can start tendering services for the new network

EMUs – There are now 50 out of 57 electric trains in Auckland, 42 have achieved provisional acceptance and 33 have achieved acceptance for normal service.

Mid May is the next significant step for the electric trains which is when they will be rolled out to all weekend services – except Pukekohe to Papakura (no mention of when Waitakere will close). They say additional services on the Southern Line are targeted for June

Bus Lane Rollout – At has an update on some of the bus lanes they’re rolling out and some of the time savings are impressive – such as two minutes faster for every bus that using the Symonds St improvements.

Onewa Road T3 Lane (city bound) – under construction.

  • Symonds Street Bus Lane improvements – construction completed; initial analysis shows 2 minute time savings for a number of peak services – schedule adherence has increased to 93%.
  • Fanshawe Street Bus Lane (inbound) improvements – construction completed.
  • Victoria street Bus Lane Extension – construction has commenced in March.
  • Wellesley Street Bus Pocket – construction to commence midApril.
  • Khyber Pass Road Bus Lane Extension – construction completed.
  • Dominion Road Bus Lane (Richardson Road to Denbigh Ave) – 21 March construction completed – initial analysis shows that a number of peak services are saving 4 minutes on travel times compared to the previous year.
  • Park Road Bus Lane – hospital to Carlton Gore Road – consultation completed and ready for Traffic Control Committee approval.
  • Parnell Road Bus Lane – St Stephens to Sarawia Street (outbound) – consultation completed and ready for Traffic Control Committee approval.
  • Manukau Road/Pah Road Transit Lanes – designs near completion; Local Board workshops to be progressed in April.
  • Great North Road Bus Lanes – New Lynn to Ash Street – final concept plans completed – due for consultation 20th April.
  • Totara Avenue Signal Removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange –– construction complete targeted for 20th April

Customer Experience – AT say that this is improving which I find interesting considering the number of issues we heard about in March

2015-04 - Customer Satisfaction