Guest Post: Farewell Ganz-Mavags

This is a guest post from Wellington contributor Andy C who has previously written about the capital’s laneways and missing bus lanes

Friday 27 May sees the final scheduled running of Wellington’s Hungarian-built Ganz-Mavag trains. They entered service in 1982/83 but have been progressively replaced by the Matangi trains over the past few years.

According to the Greater Wellington Regional Council:

There will be a short ceremony and opportunity to see inside the driver’s cab before everyone boards the train which will be a scheduled passenger service. The train will leave Wellington at 2.17pm, arriving at Melling Station at 2.35pm. You can then catch the return service to Wellington at 2.39pm, arriving just before 3pm

Ganz Mavag Train

Ganz-Mavag in action – photo credit A Wickens

In the past couple of years the Ganz-Mavag have pretty much only been used for peak-hour services, but it’s still great to see Wellington move to having a single fleet of Matangi trains for the metropolitan network.

Matangi Train

New Matangi waiting for action

I understand that with 83 units in the fleet there will now be enough in place to add additional carriages to some peak-time services. Given reports in recent months, my guess is that these will be on the Kapiti line where people have been complaining about overcrowding all year. Having a single fleet will also make maintenance simpler and hopefully with all units only being a few years old (the first Matangi entered service in 2011) we should see fewer breakdowns.

The move to a single fleet is actually quite good timing for Transdev as they are taking over the running of the network from July 1 and are promising to improve service levels.

Opening up NLTF to all modes

The Green Party released a new freight policy yesterday. They’re looking at ways to invest to increase safety and reduce carbon emissions:

The Safer, Cleaner Freight policy sets a target for moving half of freight on rail and by sea within 10 years of the next election. It allows the transport budget to be used to fund rail projects, and commits to the electrification of rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

“National’s single-minded focus on a few expensive highways is downright irresponsible, and will ultimately force more and more trucks onto New Zealand roads,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“National spends five times more on a few low-value motorways than it does on the entire rail network. National’s pet projects will actually increase congestion and the number of trucks on New Zealand roads, meaning within a decade Kiwis will have to share the roads with an additional 1.7 million truck trips every year.

“New Zealanders are sick and tired of more and more trucks congesting their towns and cities and bearing down behind them on the road. Every year, an average of 55 people are killed in crashes involving trucks, and over 850 are seriously injured.

“Rail is our second corridor. A single train can remove 70 heavy trucks from the road. By investing in rail and shipping we will not only make roads safer, but the air cleaner, and create a safer climate for future generations.

“We will invest $860 million to electrify rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – New Zealand’s busiest freight corridors. This will help to move freight safely off the road, and create a zero emissions freight service in ‘the Golden Triangle’.

“Instead of demanding that rail return a profit, which has set rail up to fail, we’ll fund it from the transport budget in the same way roads are, providing the investment needed to move freight in the most effective and clean way.

“Moving freight by rail and ship is not only safer and cheaper, but better for the environment. Shifting half of New Zealand’s freight by rail and ship is the equivalent of replacing over 1.6 million petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles.

Possibly the most interesting part of this is the proposal to open up the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) to allow it to fund all modes. We’ve just seen an example of the problems with mono-modal transport funding, with NZTA charging on with planning a third road-only Waitemata harbour crossing rather than considering all the alternative ways to get people across the harbour.

Allowing rail infrastructure to be funded by directly out of the NLTF is an idea that we’ve long augured for. The NLTF is used to help fund public transport services and some infrastructure on the basis that those services help alleviate some pressure from roads and therefore drivers. Why should the same principle not apply to other areas of the transport space and while the Greens’ proposal focuses on freight, but surely it would also make sense for NZTA to adopt an all-modes approach for urban passenger transport as well.

Their proposal to electrify the “Golden Triangle” rail line sounds pretty expensive and there is no way Kiwirail in it’s current state could even consider it – although I suspect the economics of it would be challenging under any funding regime. However, this route is the busiest freight corridor in the country, so if there’s a case to do it anywhere then it’s here.

By way of illustration, the Ministry of Transport’s 2014 National Freight Demand Study found that the rail moved a total of 4.7 million tonnes of freight between the Auckland, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty regions in 2012 (see Table 4.4). That’s around 29% of the total inter-regional freight movements of 16.4 million tonnes (Table 4.7). The image shows rail freight movements by volume and comes of an interactive visualisation by Aaron Schiff who used the data from the National Freight Demand Study.

Rail Freight in NZ

In the short term, the best way to get the most out of the upper north island rail network might be to build more passing loops to increase rail freight capacity. For example, the rail line from Hamilton to Tauranga is largely single track with a few passing loops, which limits it to only four trains an hour (two each way). The last passing loops added just a few years ago as part of a $13 million package of works and doubled capacity on the line between Hamilton and Tauranga, compared to many transport investments that is very cost effective.

Inside Auckland, building a third main line for the Southern Line is pretty crucial as there are already conflicts between passenger and freight services that will get worse after CRL. We understand the cost of doing so is fairly cheap compared to most transport investments we hear about but the project has been languishing as Auckland Transport and Kiwirail can’t agree on who should fund it.

While these are fairly specific examples, on the whole it seems like would be easier to make beneficial (and relatively cheap) investments like these if rail could compete for funding out of the NLTF just like other transport projects.

CRL already impacting land use on city fringe

The City Rail Link will be one of the most transformational projects Auckland has ever seen. Perhaps nowhere else will see experience that transformation more than the inner west of the isthmus which effectively gets picked up and moved much closer to the city. As an example, a trip from Kingsland to the middle of town will reliably be less than 10 minutes at any time of the day.

So it’s no surprise then that even just the prospect of the CRL in the future is driving up demand for land in and around the rail network close to the city.

Commercial property on Auckland’s city fringe is already popular with mid-range investors but the planned City Rail Link (CRL) will really open up areas like Newmarket, Grafton, Mt Eden and Kingsland, predicts Nick Hargreaves, Managing Director of JLL.

Hargreaves says there are several forces at play that are making the city fringe suburbs so popular.

“The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan allows for mixed use zones around urban centres and along high frequency public transport routes – making it easier for a variety of commercial and residential developments in the city fringe.

“In this regard, Auckland Council’s investment in transport will pay dividends for city fringe property owners in future,” Hargreaves says.

“The major improvement to the urban area around Britomart Station, following its opening in 2003, shows how investment in transport can lead redevelopment nearby. It brought new life to what was previously an under-utilised part of the Auckland city centre and attracted large employers like EY and Westpac.

….

Hargreaves says it’s notable that city fringe properties have been keenly sought by commercial property investors with an eye to the future during the past year.

Much of the land near the rail line in the inner west near the rail line and New North Rd is low-rise light industrial and the notified version of the Unitary Plan earmarks that for mixed use which would allow for significant redevelopment of the area. Importantly this land use change isn’t even counted Auckland Transport’s business case which suggested the economic benefits of the CRL will be $2.96 – $3.2 billion (BCR of 1.6-1.7). They did however note that just the redevelopment potential within the CRL designation footprint to be worth an estimated $1.2-1.4 billion.

 

While on the topic of the CRL, if you’ve been near Britomart recently you would’ve seen that works are well under-way on getting ready for the demolition of the Downtown Shopping Centre and the construction of the CRL tunnels and Commercial Bay development. The various elements from Queen Elizabeth square and Lower Queen St have been progressively removed – the removal of the glass canopy along Queen St has opened up a much better view of the Britomart – and from Sunday the shopping centre will be closed so demolition can get started. The shopping centre website even has a countdown timer to it closing.

AT have also uploaded several new images of what things will look like once the project is completed.

Britomart showing a redeveloped lower Queen St outside Britomart

Britomart Station QE2 Square

On Friday, one of the fences surrounding the works site sprouted some large banners from AT showing some images of what things will look like after the CRL. One that intrigued me and sent me looking for new images on the AT website was this one showing a plan view of the image above (although it seems to be missing the Quay St cycleway).

Britomart Works Banner - QE2 square plan

 

This one shows what Pitt St will look like after the CRL is finished. It appears that Pitt St will be narrowed down to two lanes with those structures you can see likely to be ventilation for the station. The narrowing of the road by so much is potentially a concern as the New Network for Central Auckland retains the road as the route for many of the buses accessing the city from the west of the CBD. In other words, this could become quite a significant congestion point for these buses. I also still think it’s a huge same and hugely short-sighted that AT are no longer building the entrance at Beresford Square as part of the project.

K Rd Station - Pitt St small

As mentioned at the start, the Mt Eden station is going to see significant development around it, especially as much of the land right next to the station will be used in the project’s construction and able to be developed on after the tunnels are completed.

Mt Eden Station Outside

An idea of the scale of redevelopment possible in the is shown in this image below with the orange buildings the ones within the CRL designation footprint.

Mt Eden TOD

We’ll be seeing a lot of disruption over the next few years as the CRL is built but these are definitely exiting times for the city and even the Herald on Sunday got in behind it all with a fairly positive editorial.

 

Sir Dove-Myer Robinson on his Rapid Transit Scheme – Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of six posts, looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here, the second here and the third here.

This was published in the NZ Herald on 26 June 1975

Millions Vehicles Strong Argument for Rail

As far back as 1927, it was realised that making greater use of suburban railway service, with a short part of it underground, was essential if Auckland were to have a satisfactory public transport service.

In 1927 the British consultants Merz and McLennan, employed by the New Zealand Government, urged immediate planning of extended suburban railway services for Auckland.

Nothing further was done until 1949, when the Government asked another British firm, Sir William Halcrow and Partners, to report on the best way of overcoming the traffic congestion already becoming evident, and how to prevent its getting worse in future.

They recommended what is known as the Morningside tunnel railway deviation scheme.

This scheme was adopted by the then Labour Government in 1950, and borings and other preliminary work were under way by August, 1954.

Then a question of railway or motorway priorities arose. Mr (later Sir) Stanley Gooseman, the then Minister of Works, publicly stated that Auckland must give priority for a time to planning and constructing a number of motorways to connect up, through the isthmus, the motorways that were being constructed and which were approaching the outer periphery of the metropolitan boundaries.

In 1954 the then Auckland Regional Planning Authority (not the ARA, which was not established until 1963) asked its technical advisory committee to report on the matter.

After 10 months of concentrated effort, a 26-man team of local body and Government department engineers, planners and other experts s produced, in 1955, the Master Transportation Plan for Metropolitan Auckland.

COMPREHENSIVE

The report recommended connecting motorways should have immediate priority over railway extensions because no provision had been made to join up the motorways already under construction.

The report also recommended that rail access from the city (Victoria St) to the present railway station be provided as soon as possible. It also said that planning for a more comprehensive suburban railway system should be resumed when the recommended motorways were under construction.

These recommendations were adopted by all the local bodies in Auckland and by the Government.

After haggling over the sharing of a small proportion of local body costs, because of the seriousness of the congestion in Auckland, the Rt Hon. Hugh Watt, chairman of the National Roads Board in 1960 offered special grants to the city, Mt Eden and Mt Albert to get the motorway project started.

It was expected to be completed by 1970, but as a result of shortage of National Roads Board finance, work slowed down and the whole plan is not now expected to be completed until the year 2010 — at least 40 years behind schedule.

In the meantime, by 1964, it had become obvious that, even when completed, the isthmus motorway and roading system would never be able to cope with the increasing number of motor vehicles expected in Auckland in the next few and later years.

The American consultants, De Leuw Cather and Co. (one of the most experienced in the world) were engaged by the newly formed Auckland Regional Authority in 1964 to advise on roading and transport requirements in the region.

In their 1965 Report on a Transport System for Auckland, after full examination of an all-bus system, and a combination of buses with railway arteries, the consultants recommended a bus/rail plan.

This plan, subject to satisfactory financial agreements and other details between the ARA and the Government was approved by all the local bodies in Auckland and the Government itself.

PROMISE

Before the last general election, the Labour Party promised, if it became the Government, it would provide the capital repayment of loans and interest on the capital for the railway part of the De Leuw Cather bus/rail rapid transit plan.

Since then. the Labour Government has several times unequivocably repeated this solemn election promise to the people of Auckland.

This is the situation today: In July, 1973. Mr Watt, then Minister of Works, explained the Government’s proposals to the members of the ARA. The authority, after long consideration, agreed to accept the Government’s offer and to join with it in a detailed examination of costs, revenues, number of passengers expected, and all other aspects of the plan.

The purpose was to prepare firm estimates of capital and operating costs, revenues and routes, as a basis of final negotiations with the ARA regarding responsibility for capital costs of the new buses, depreciation on the bus and railway parts of the plan, and operating losses (if any).

At the time of writing, these discussions between representatives of the Government and the ARA had been arranged for June 20, and by the time this article is published, both parties should be well on the toward final agreement in principle which would have to be finally ratified the Government and the ARA.

The above brief historical resume of the situation reveals important facts:

  • Because the city and eight boroughs are situated on an isthmus – almost an island – all traffic north, south, east or west of the isthmus must pass through the central part of it, thus throwing very heavy demands on it for extra and more expensive roading.
  • As far back as 1927, it was realised that the isthmus could not physically provide the motorways and roading that would be required for the volume of tratT1c expected by the end of the century, if all, or most of the it, used private cars. Much greater use of public passenger transport by buses served by suburban railways would be required.
  • In 1955 it was expected that an all-roading system would be sufficient to meet the needs of the million population expected in 1986. Yet within nine years, in 1964, it was realised:
    1. The million population mark would be reached earlier than 1986 about 1982.
    2. The number of motor vehicles in Auckland was increasing at about twice the expected rate, and
    3. Urgent action would have to be taken to avoid congestion on the inner area roads and possible traffic paralysis at peak morning and evening hours within the next few years.

Let us have a look at some of today’s facts really to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

In 1974, there were about 427,000 motor vehicles registered in Auckland; this was an increase of more than 27,000 over the previous year.

If this rate is continued there will be over 600,000 motor vehicles for a population of about one million in greater Auckland in 1981-82.

At that rate, by 1995, there will be over a million vehicles in the Auckland metropolitan area.

The sheer weight and volume of such a traffic load, using the motorways, roading and street system of the isthmus will greatly increase roading maintenance costs and cause hopeless congestion, pollution, accidents and delays throughout the metropolitan area.

CONGESTION

The Master Transportation Report already referred to predicted that the cost of congestion on the roads would be between $10 million and $20 million yearly between 1960 and 1970.

Allowing for the same rate of increase of motor vehicles and congestion up to 1981 (the year the bus/ rail plan should come into the cost Of operation), congestion to private motorists, ARA transport division, and commercial operations in the urban area will be between $90 million and $180 million yearly.

This is a cost to the community which directly increases the cost of living to everyone in the region.

Probably the greatest obstacle to be overcome now is the opposition of some people who possibly have never seen or ridden in a modern electric railway coach.

What they do not know is that over 80 cities in other parts of the world with populations from as low as 100,000 up to 13 million are building new, or extending existing, suburban railway services. Also that in the United States, the Federal Government has almost brought to a halt grants for motorway construction, while make large grants to public authorities of billions of dollars yearly for modern rapid transit facilities.

It is useless thinking of the “good old days” when motorised traffic had almost free use of uncongested, little-used roads. Everyone concerned must think about the congestion in the years from 1980 onward — at least to 1995.

Motorways and roading alone trying to cater for an all-roading transport system will be hopelessly inadequate to serve satisfactorily the one and a quarter million people, and up to one million motor vehicles, present indications show may be in Auckland by that time.

Only a modern bus network served by the immense carrying capacity of suburban high speed railways in the main corridors. north, south, east and west of the urban area, will satisfy the transport needs of the near and further distant future.

It’s both interesting and sad that so many of the issues raised 40 years ago are the same ones we’re still taking about today. How different would Auckland be today if a full rapid transit network like this had been built?

Auckland Rapid Rail Plan 1972

The next is titled Rapid-Rail Helps City Development

Animals on PT

An article from Wellington yesterday that caught my attention.

A Wellington vet is suggesting the city council allow dogs on the city’s public transport network, to help make dogs more sociable, and people more comfortable around them.

Allan Probert told councillors on Monday, as he made an oral submission on the council’s Dog Policy review, that he would like to see the law around dogs liberalised, and dogs allowed on public transport as they are in Europe.

“It would help the awareness and the familiarity with dogs, as part of general everyday life.”

Probert agreed on Tuesday people who are afraid of dogs might not like coming across them on a busy bus or train, but said much of that fear relates to people not being familiar with dogs.

There could be a requirement to have dogs on a leash, but said muzzling all dogs in public was going over the top.

This raises the interesting question about whether dogs should be allowed on PT. As I see it there are both good and bad arguments for allowing animals on PT services.

Oddly enough the passengers on my bus yesterday afternoon included this guy who was in training.

Dogs on Buses

On the positive side it could help by remove one small barrier to urban living. As the city continues to develop more and more people will be living in denser urban dwellings while improving transport options will make it more viable for people to live without a car should they wish. But many people also consider pets an important part of their lives and currently cars can be the only option for important trips – such as to the vet. Allowing animals on PT services might just remove that barrier.

As mentioned in the article referenced, many cities do allow animals on PT services. One such city is London which has the following conditions of carriage.

16.1 You can bring an assistance dog with you without charge. You can also bring with you without charge any other dog or inoffensive animal, unless there is a good reason for us to refuse it (such as if the animal seems dangerous). You must keep it under control on a lead or in a suitable container, and must not allow it on a seat. Staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal.

16.2 If you bring an animal with you, for safety reasons you must carry it through automatic ticket gates. If you have an assistance dog, at stations where there is no wide automatic gate, you must ask a member of staff to open the manual gate to allow you to enter or leave a station.

16.3 If you bring an animal with you, you must use a staircase or lift where provided. If there is no staircase or lift and you need to use a moving escalator, you must carry your animal unless you have an assistance dog that has been trained to walk on moving escalators. If your animal is too large to carry, a member of staff will stop the escalator to allow it to travel on it when it is safe to do so (generally outside the rush hours and when the station is not busy).

 

Essentially animals are allowed but staff are allowed to refuse them if they want (except assistance dogs). That seems like a fairly reasonably stance and as the vet in the article points out, is one taken by many other cities in Europe. In some cases specific breeds are banned while others also require dogs to have a muzzle.

If we were ever to seriously consider such an idea I could also understand if there were rules around certain times they might be allowed i.e. not during the peaks – or in the case of trains, only to be allowed in the middle trailer carriage of a 3-car set.

Of course the downside to the idea is that there are a lot of people out there with either phobias or even allergies to certain animals. As such and depending on the severity, allowing animals on to PT services might result in those people being put off using PT. Although given that guide dogs are already allowed it’s not like you can guarantee your bus or train would never have an animal on board.

So what do you think, allow animals on PT or not and would allowing them change your view on using PT? Personally even if it were allowed I can’t see myself taking my dogs on the train or a bus.

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.

Sir Dove-Myer Robinson on his Rapid Transit Scheme – Part 3

This is the third in a series of six posts looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here and the second here

This was published in the NZ Herald on 25 June 1975

Question of Who Pays the Operating Costs

In his letter to the Auckland Regional Authority in July, 1973, the Rt. Hon. Hugh Watt, then Minister of Works and Development, set out details of the Government’s terms for financing the bus/rail plan.

He said in part.
“… the Government would make available the capital and meet capital service charges on any rail transit scheme that might ultimately be agreed between the Government and the ARA.

“… operating expenses and maintenance costs would be met by the local authorities through the ARA.

“… any expenditure by the Government on a rail system would not be undertaken at the expense of a curtailment of the motorway plan.”

There we have it: The Government has already agreed to provide the capital and be responsible for capital repayments and interest of the railway part of the plan. This leaves open only the question of who pays the Operating Costs, or, if any, the losses.

The government has said operating expenses should be met by the local authorities through the ARA, but agreement on this question was one of several points left over for further discussion when an accurate estimate of capital and operating costs had been made. These estimates were available to the ARA on May 15 which is why it was only possible to resume discussions on operating costs last Friday

However, the government policy statement was made in 1973. In the meantime, the plight of public transport throughout the country has deteriorated disastrously.

Now in 1974-75, every public transport bus operator in the country is showing greater and greater deficits every year. Our own ARA bus division expects a loss for 1975-76 of $6.4 million, even after raising fares by an average of 25 per cent.

If the fare increase had not been imposed, the expected burden on ratepayers for losses on the bus service for 1975-76 would have been $8.2 million.

IN 1981

Allowing only a low 8 per cent compounded rate of inflation to 1981, this means that without Government financial help, ratepayers in the Auckland urban area will have to pay at least $10 million to 1981 to meet the costs of running an all-bus system, with the same unsatisfactory service passengers have to put up with at present, and without the benefits to be expected from an improved combined bus and rail system.

Although the proposed bus/rail scheme will be, basically, a reorganised bus service, it will depend for its effectiveness on the backbone of feeder services of electrified railways, converting the system into a balanced, co-ordinated, bus/rail service.

The ARA is already providing and running bus services. For reasons beyond its control, ARA bus services cannot be made fully satisfactory until the electrified connecting railway lines and coaches are available.

In fact, since 1965, the regional plan has always been based on the assumption that the electrified railway would be available about 1980. This is the reason why, in this series of explanatory articles, the main emphasis is laid on the costs and benefits of the railway part of the plan.

POINTS TO NOTE

Before analysing the official estimates of operating costs and the benefits to be expected, there are several points to be noted:

All estimates used, unless otherwise mentioned, are 1974 base line costs.
Estimated deficits of bus/ rail operation in 1981 must be compared with the actual deficit – $6.4 million – budgeted for in 1975/76.

Included in the estimated cost of operation of stage one and the eastern loop of the bus/rail system is the arguable sum of $3.9 million for depreciation the railway and bus services in the plan, which has been included in operating costs.

The decision of who pays this debatable $3.9 million depreciation will greatly affect the annual balance sheet figures of profits and losses.

There is an increasing nationwide demand for subsidies for public transport whose operating costs cannot be met anywhere in New Zealand

The Government must agree to accept responsibility for the $3.9 million depreciation, or make an annual grant to the ARA as part of a Government subsidy to public passenger transport operators throughout the country.

Whichever method the Government agrees to, the result will be the same – a reduction of $3.9 million in estimated deficits of running costs.

Here are the official estimates of costs, passengers and revenue in 1981 (at 1974 prices):

  • Yearly operating costs of stage one, plus the eastern loop in 1981 (including rail and bus depreciation $3.9 million) $15.1 million.
  • Estimated number of passenger trips in 1981 — 27.1 million
  • Revenue in 1981 — 27 million trips … $8.7 million
  • Operating deficit (including debatable $3.9 million depreciation) $6.4 million.

On the face of it, it looks as though there could be a deficit of $6.4 million in 1981, the first year of operation. There are, however, several actual and potential financial and social credits that must be offset against the hypothetical figure of $6.4 million deficit on the bus-rail system in 1981 (compared with $6.4 million losses expected on the buses alone in 1975-76).

DEPRECIATION

First, there is the $3.9 million depreciation it is assumed the ARA will get the Government to accept as its responsibility, or persuade the Government to pay to the ARA as an annual transport subsidy, as part of a national transport subsidy.

Second, the economic value of saving the accidents and deaths in the area referred to conservatively estimated by the Government economist, Dr Vautier, at (actual estimate over $7 million) $1 million yearly.

Third, there is the saving of the use of private cars in the corridor, estimated by Dr Vautier on a conservative basis at $9 million yearly.

Fourth, a conservative percentage of the savings, by commercial vehicles only, through being able to travel at an average speed of 15 miles an hour instead of the present average of 10 miles an hour — $3.1 million yearly.

The total of these potential and actual estimated savings is $17 million yearly, less the estimated gross deficit of $6.4 million yearly, leaving a net assessable financial surplus (or savings) of $10.6 million yearly.

The above are only some of the savings that can be evaluated in dollars and cents.

What the Government and the ARA are trying to do is to give Auckland an efficient and fully satisfying passenger transport service at the lowest possible cost. If at the same time it can show an actual financial saving as well as great social benefits, so much the better.

In addition to the $10.6 million yearly savings mentioned above, there must be added the real, but financially incalculable benefits to users and non-users throughout the metropolitan area.

Some of these benefits are:

  • Reduction of traffic congestion on roads
  • Reduction of noise and poisonous atmospheric pollution, through reduction of use of private cars on roads.
  • Reduction of annual costs of road maintenance.
  • Reduction in use of high-priced petrol by private cars.
  • Reduction in amount of overseas funds required to pay for imported fuel
  • Reduction in transport costs and parking fees, to private car owners through use of public transport.
  • Greater convenience of transport for the old, the sick, the young, the disabled, the underprivileged and those who cannot afford, or do not wish to own a car (over 50 per cent of the population).
  • Prevention of overcrowding of main traffic arteries on the isthmus and saving of economic losses.

ANOMALY

Now, here is the anomaly the opponents of this plan have not realised: no mater how skilfully the ARA transport division reorganises the bus system, congestion on the roads from other traffic will prevent any real improvement in the bus service, until the railway service is available to knit the whole thing together.

No rail connection would mean not only perpetuation of present unsatisfactory bus services but also rapidly escalating losses on bus services which could easily reach $10 million or more by 1981.

On the other hand, by joining with the Government in making the bold decision to start work on the rapid transit scheme as soon as possible, by 1981 or thereabouts, Auckland will have the nucleus of a modern, comfortable, high-speed, silent, pollution-free and reliable railway service which will serve the modern buses the ARA will then have available.

All this will be accomplished, not at an annual cost of millions of dollars to the ratepayers. but with financial benefits to the community that can be assessed at at least $10 million yearly,
as well as real additional social benefits which cannot be assessed in dollars and cents, but which every year will be worth many times the monetary savings.

This is truly an example of how we can have our cake and eat it, if we have the courage, wisdom and foresight to grasp the opportunity before us.

It’s hard to tell just how accurate those figures would have been given the high levels of inflation in the late 70’s. From what I have found, in 1974 the operating subsidy needed for buses was around $1.3 million ($14.5 million today) and that by 1979 that had climbed to $7.9 million ($43.4 million today)

Robbie's Rail

Some of the styling envisaged for the system

The next is titled Million Vehicles are Strong Argument for Rail

Transport system more like Vancouver, Vienna or Zurich, Yes Please

One of the aspects I thought odd about the NZCID report released the other day was the revival of the 1965 De Leuw Cather motorway network plan and a comparison of Auckland’s motorway network to the motorway networks of “other liveable cities”. Here’s what they say:

The comparative decline of Auckland’s once ambitious motorway system, which for half a century has enabled the city to function in spite of deferred investment and poor public transport, can be seen in comparison to other liveable cities. Figure 31 superimposes to scale the motorway networks of various comparable metropolitan areas with populations between Auckland’s existing 1.5 million and its 2045 future of up to 2.5 million (Brisbane, Portland, Vienna and Vancouver each have urban populations of around 2.3 million, Zurich around 1.8 million). In all cases, the motorway networks today are more comprehensive than Auckland’s is projected to be in 2045

The limited reach of Auckland’s strategic road network in comparison to the city’s international competitors is not the only problem. Disproportionate dependency upon several key parts of the network where capacity is constrained has ripple effects across the entire transport system. Pinch points around the CBD, Mt Wellington and Greville Rd compress traffic, stymieing movement many kilometres away throughout busier periods. Although Greville Rd is now being addressed, there are no plans in the next thirty years to address capacity issues at either Mt Wellington or around the CBD.

Similar efficiency improvements to capacity-constrained parts of the strategic network appear less problematic in most liveable cities. While Vancouver has enforced a moratorium on motorway improvements near its congested urban core (but has expanded the network elsewhere), other cities address bottlenecks. Vienna’s Prater Interchange, for example, is currently undergoing a major renewal and capacity improvement to meet demand.

NZCID - ATAP response - cities motorways

Superimposing other cities motorway networks over Auckland in is just plain silly, for a few reasons.

  1. it ignores the unique geographical conditions of each city which severely affect how their transport system has developed.
  2. it ignores the urban of these cities. Some such as Vancouver, Vienna and Zurich have quite dense cores and no motorways running through them
  3. it ignores the other transport networks that help to complement the motorway networks

So let’s have a look at some of the factors for these other cities (maps not to scale)

Vancouver

Vancouver was one of the few Anglophone new world cities to not build motorways in its city centre – which came about as locals rejected the plans to do so. To mimic Vancouver for motorways we’d be pulling out the central motorway junction and motorways would just be in outer suburbs.

Vancouver Map with motorways

In the 1980’s Vancouver decided to start building their fantastic Skytrain system. Now over 30 years later and with a number of additions and extensions the network has over 117 million boardings as of 2013. That’s out of a total of over 350 million boardings for the entire PT system. The city has also been improving its cycling facilities and seeing good growth. As of 2015 for trips to work it is estimated that 10% of people cycle, 24% walk, 24% catch PT and only 41% drive. Below is Vancouver’s rapid transit network and that is also supported by a large number frequent bus routes – much like Auckland Transport are starting to introduce later this year.

Vancouver Rapid Transit Network

To be more like Vancouver is we’d need to invest in our PT and active networks and not new motorways to and through the city.

Vienna

Vienna is a great city with a lot of history and no motorways through the middle of it. Like Vancouver the motorways stop short of the city centre with one passing to the side of it.

Vienna Map with motorways

Of course within Vienna there is also a fantastic PT network consisting of extensive U-Bahn, S-Bahntram and bus networks. The U-Bahn was opened in the mid 70’s and that alone carries over 1.3 million trips a day. The map below shows just the U and S Bahn

Vienna U + S Bahn map

Zurich

With Zurich, again there are no motorways blasted through town with them stopping short or going around the city and most of them through the countryside rather than through an urban area like the NZCID propose.

Zurich Map with motorways

Despite the motorways, it is estimated that about half of all trips within Zurich take place on their extensive train, tram and bus networks. The map below is just a small sample of their tram network

Zurich tram-map

 

Of course as I mentioned yesterday, at the time of the De Leuw Cather road network that the NZCID lament was never fully implemented, they also produced a rapid transit plan even saying it was needed first to avoid many of the issues we’re now facing.

 

If the NZCID want us to have transport more like some of the cities they mention then we’ll fully support that, but that would mean focusing on getting PT and active modes sorted first so their Eastern Ring Route would have to stay on ice for a while.

NZCID’s scary views on transport in Auckland

I don’t think New Zealand’s infrastructure lobby has met a project it didn’t think should be bigger or more expensive and later today they’re holding an event to release a report on Auckland’s transport system that they’ve titled: Transport Solutions for a Growing City. At the event they’ll also have talks from the Employers and Manufacturers Association and the AA. Here’s the banner for it

NZCID transport report

They describe the situation as this.

Auckland’s transport system is under pressure.

Peak traffic congestion is rapidly extending into commercial and recreational periods, undermining competitiveness and liveability. Public transport is increasing, but not fast enough to reduce pressures on the road network. Auckland and Central Government are reviewing transport plans through the Auckland Transport Alignment Project to identify how better outcomes can be delivered. But the transport programme is only one part of the equation.

Learn how the city can turn around Auckland’s transport outlook by expanding the capacity of the network and improving the alignment of demand, growth and investment.

While we’ll have to wait for their report to be released, they’ve already published this video which gives a hint at the direction their report will be taking.

A few take outs include

  • They want huge investment in building carparking buildings at busway stations. This would cost at least $30,000 per extra carpark (excluding land costs), and even now the busway carparks account for less than 50% of the trips from those busway stations. If you built 1,000 carparks for $30 million, the interest costs would be $6 million a year, but it would only add around 500,000 extra PT  trips. $12 per trip is an expensive way to grow patronage, and we hope Auckland Transport has better ways to spend its money than that.
  • They say the busway is empty and want trucks, vans and high occupancy vehicles to have access to the busway – either for free or a charge. This was presumably also before the government’s announcement of allowing electric vehicles on the busway too. It’s worth noting this from the NZTA’s post implementation review of the busway in 2012 – and the busways got busier since then..

It appears doubtful that following the success (and increased frequencies) of the bus operation any significant amount of HOV use of the existing busway could be achieved without negative impacts on bus operations (5).

And from our friend Cornelius

IMG_20160510_091129

  • There are lots of sweeping shots of the motorways with cars. They seem to pay a lot of attention to a few spots, particularly the North Shore on-ramps and around Mt Wellington. This is no surprise as the NZCID have been huge supporters of the East-West link and an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing. Yet related to AWHC they do note “While the bridge flows relatively well”
  • There are a number of sniping comments at cycleways such as Lightpath where they say it “carries few patrons”. This is despite the fact you can see at least 5 people on it, the same number as using the using the motorway off-ramp. Later they also make similar snarky comments about the NW cycleway over the SH16 causeway.
  • In talking about rail they make a basic error, saying that the Auckland Plan envisages rail patronage doubling from 70 million trips a year to 140 million. This is actually total patronage including buses too. They then go on to say that PT isn’t enough so a “significant increase in road capacity will be needed”. There is no talk of delivering a true regional rapid transit network.

And again from Cornelius

IMG_20160510_091715

  • They say that the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) must deliver solutions to congestion which to them includes road pricing – something they’ve led the charge on – PT, walking and cycling but also “desperately needed road capacity”. From this and previous comments it’s clear their main focus is MOAR ROADZ

They then list of the solutions they think are needed. Some of these aren’t too bad and we would agree with but others are crazy

  1. Improving frequency and convenience of public transport services to major centres of employment, education and entertainment
  2. Vastly increasing park and ride facilities and providing express bus services across the public transport network
  3. Developing mixed use “live, walk and work” communities
  4. Targeting high amenity intensification around rail and busway stations
  5. Enabling satellite city development at scale beside the main rail corridors
  6. Promoting teleworking and work from home initiatives utilising digital connectivity
  7. Investing in leading edge intelligent traffic management systems
  8. Enabling early adoption of new vehicle technologies
  9. Building a new Eastern Ring Route from Esmond Rd [sic] to Papakura, and East West from Onehunga to Mount Wellington
  10. Introducing variable motorway network tolls to both manage traffic demand and fund much needed additional transport investment

Of those #9 sounds remarkably similar to our April Fools day post which we even called the “Eastern Ring Route”.

This is the route we think they’re proposing, only differing from ourjokee in that it doesn’t go under Lake Rd

IMG_20160510_114556

Could our April Fools joke become a reality?

In some ways that’s not a surprise as that April 1 post was based on what we’d been hearing for some time. They’ve said before that they want AWHC to connect to the east of the city to join up with Grafton Gully. We’d also heard for some time that they’ve wanted the Eastern motorway back on the agenda and that to get around the issues of the residents in the east who scuttled the last attempt over a decade ago, that they’ve proposed it be tunnelled all of the way to Glen Innes. Combining these two projects together would result in a tunnel of around 14km in length and that also doesn’t include how it gets from Glen Innes to Papakura. The cost of that corridor alone would probably build and entire regional rapid transit system and still have change to spare.

We’ll have to wait for the report to hopefully be made public to see just how bad it is but based on what we can tell so far, it doesn’t look like it will be good. Given they’re also a stakeholder on ATAP I assume they’re probably pushing these ideas there too.

Congested Christchurch

Fresh from saying that there is no solution for congestion, the NZTA are now saying that people from the north of Christchurch should start carpooling to make things better.

Christchurch =- Morning congestion on Christchurch Northern-Motorway

Carpooling is the best option to help alleviate morning commuter congestion on Christchurch’s Northern Motorway according to the results of a new commuter survey.

Eighty percent of those surveyed indicated they would be open to the idea of carpooling or already carpool.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Southern Regional Director Jim Harland, who is leading the team working on short-term solutions to ease congestion, says there will always be peak-hour congestion on the Northern Motorway, even when the new Western Corridor and Northern Arterial are built, because of the continual growth in traffic volumes from the north.

“What everyone needs to do is start thinking about how they travel and consider using alternative transport options to their private car, such as carpooling, which provides more capacity on the network and more predictable journey times.

“Carpooling and public transport are all parts of the transport network and greater use of these will help reduce congestion.”

Those surveyed said they wanted incentives, such as carpooling lanes, to make carpooling easier.

My first thoughts when reading this were, why would anyone bother using PT with the transport situation in Christchurch as it stands currently. That’s because on the whole, people will make a rational choice based on what the options are. Unless you can’t drive or you’re prepared to sacrifice your commute so others can drive there is probably almost no reason to catch a bus. That’s because the buses are going to be caught in exactly the same congestion as everyone else and be slower once stops are taken into account, something those involved in the survey suspected.

Respondents’ perceived public transport as slower than driving and also inconvenient. Only 3% were regular bus users, compared with 90% who drove.

Mr Harland says motorists will continue to experience delays and frustrations if they do not change their travel behaviour, looking at alternative options and travelling at alternative times. 

Environment Canterbury public transport manager David Stenhouse said the northern motorway research provided an interesting insight into commuter behaviour.  “It’s great to get people thinking about how they travel and how their choices affect congestion.

“We’re improving the public transport services in the Waimakariri area to encourage more people to catch a bus to help ease congestion on the Northern Motorway. By catching the bus you can do your bit to reduce congestion.”

Waimakariri District Mayor David Ayers encourages North Canterbury road users to consider the options available for travelling into the city during peak hours.

“We still have very high numbers of vehicles, around 85%, with only one person in them travelling into Christchurch in the morning peak hour.

“If more people share their ride or catch a bus, even if it’s only one or two days a week, this will make a difference.”

It seems to me Christchurch really needs to be having a discussion about a future rapid transit network. It seems to be a glaring gap in discussion for the city and the experience from Auckland shows that if we want the people from in and around Christchurch to use PT to avoid congestion then it’s vital they have some high quality services that are realistic options. That means dedicated PT infrastructure so the PT doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

If only there was a transport corridor to the north that could be used to provide an alternative.

Christchurch Northern Rail

You may recall that the regional council along with the NZTA decided to look at a rail option a few years back but they ruled it out because it would cost $10 million, a tiny amount compared to what’s being spent on motorways. There was also a risk that a short term service might prove too popular and people would demand it stay and be improved. Of course if rail continues not to go ahead, as the image at the top of the page shows, there appears to be a huge median in some places along the motorway that could be better utilised.