AMETI Busway gets design funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So as a summary the design covers

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

Phase 2 map

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

Lagoon Dr

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

Panmure Interchange opens

Auckland Transport officially opened the new Panmure transport interchange today. Here’s the press release:

Panmure’s new transport interchange will make life a lot easier for commuters with the walking time between buses and trains now taking less than a minute.

The new bus and train station has been opened today by Mayor Len Brown and Associate Transport Minister, Michael Woodhouse.

“This will be the gateway to Auckland’s newest high frequency busway and is a significant step towards better transport connections for Auckland’s eastern suburbs,” says Mr Brown.

“Our new fast, efficient electric trains start scheduled services within the next few months and I can’t wait to be on the first service to Panmure in August.

“And I know everybody in the east is waiting for the new busway with real anticipation. They’ve been waiting for better public transport links with the rest of Auckland for way too long.”

The $17.5 million interchange allows easy and direct transfers between rail and bus, benefiting those living and working in the area as well as those who travel through Panmure as part of their daily commute.

Associate Minister of Transport, Hon Michael Woodhouse says the opening of the new Panmure Station is an exciting milestone for the first phase of AMETI and builds on extensive Government and Auckland Council investment in the rail network.

“The Government is committed to ongoing improvements to Auckland’s transport network, and addressing issues in the AMETI area is a key focus.”

The interchange is part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and its completion marks the first stage of the Southeastern Busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany. The next stage will see the creation of the busway lanes along Lagoon Drive and Pakuranga Road to a new bus station at Pakuranga town centre.

The busway will offer passengers faster and more reliable travel times by freeing buses from traffic congestion. It will better connect people in the area to trains to the city and the south.

Auckland Transport’s Chief Executive Dr David Warburton says the new interchange will become an important transport hub for Auckland and is a significant step towards improving Auckland’s public transport system.

“This is a good example of the progress we’re making in terms of connectivity and faster travel times” says Dr Warburton. “The interchange layout is designed for easy transfers which is also enhanced by the new AT HOP card allowing people to travel seamlessly between public transport modes and operators.”

The NZ Transport Agency is investing $152m in the total AMETI investment to 2015 of $290m, and as a co-funder of the project it says the Panmure Transport Interchange is an example of its strategy to give people with more travel choices.

“A great facility like this is one part of a much bigger transport picture for Auckland,” says the Transport Agency’s Regional Manager for Planning and Investment, Peter Casey.  “Encouraging greater use of public transport – and other facilities for those who walk and cycle – provides more travel options and helps ease congestion on our busy motorways and roads so that journeys for people and freight become safer and more reliable.

Mr Casey says the Prime Minister last year identified AMETI as part of the Government’s programme of transport projects to be accelerated in Auckland.

“The Transport Agency invests hundreds of millions of transport dollars in Auckland and this new interchange and the AMETI project as a whole is a great example of where we team up to work co-operatively and successfully with Auckland Transport and Auckland Council to grow infrastructure that is a key to the city’s growth. “

Panmure is currently one of the busiest rail stations in the region with approximately 1700 passengers per day. It has grown rapidly since 2003 when it was used by less than 100 passengers per day.

Features include a new central pedestrian plaza linking both sides of the rail tracks, two lifts, escalators to both platforms and four sets of stairs at the main access points. Ticket machines have been installed on both platforms with a staffed ticket office on the ground floor.

AMETI is Auckland Transport’s largest construction project which on completion will see the delivery of the first major infrastructure in the area for a number of years. This major project will see an integrated approach to improving transport- with work on roads, public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.

The next stage of the project will unlock further benefits for transport in the area once the Panmure roundabout is removed and a busway from Panmure to Pakuranga town centre is built.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Council are major funders of AMETI.

I went along to see how the station was looking – and it was looking really good, far better than the earlier renders.

The main entrance to the station, the busway stations are just to the right of the image.

Panmure Station 1

The station building from down on the platforms.

Panmure Station 2

I like how wide the citybound platform is, clearly designed with the expectation that lots of people will be using it which is nice to see.

Panmure Station 3

Inside the station the wood panelling you can see on the outside is carried through. I quite liked the artwork on the ceiling. The area inside was also quite spacious.

Panmure Station 4

Soon buses will start using this dedicated piece of busway and these stops. The shelters weren’t quite finished but I’m sure they will be soon.

Panmure Station 5

Lastly there were a couple of empty sites alongside the station like this one that were previously being used for construction yards. They would made great sites for some apartment buildings with ground floor retail (Unitary Plan allows for up to 6 storeys subject to view shafts of the mountain).

Panmure Station 6

All up the station is an excellent addition to the network and the number of people passing through it should really take off once integrated fares and the new bus network is in place.

Panmure Interchange Progress

Note from Matt L: Please welcome Luke to the TransportBlog team. He has been a long time reader and commentator of the blog. He is half way through a Masters of Urban Planning Degree at Auckland University, and is also the Auckland Policy Director for Generation Zero.

 

As we have previously highlighted work is ongoing around Panmure as part of the first major stage of the AMETI project.

Panmure is an important node on the future frequent network as it links buses from Eastern Suburbs such as Pakuranga and beyond into the rail network.

The Howick and Eastern buses are timetabled at about 40 minutes from Panmure, while the trains take 20 minutes. This new interchange will allow very easy interchange between rail and bus, and this may mean that passengers bound for Britomart from the East will find it best to transfer to train if they are headed for the Britomart part of town. This will give further capacity to the buses down the line for passengers from Ellerslie – Panmure Highway and Great South Road.

Panmure map RPTP

This interchange also includes the first part of the Eastern Busway, which is planned to extend to Pakuranga by 2020, and Botany by 2030. Of course as part of the Congestion Free Network we would really like to see this fast-tracked, and generally complete by 2020.

 Substantial progress has now been made on the new Panmure Station and Bus Interchange. I must say it looks very impressive and will allow the easiest rail-bus interchanges in Auckland, with the bus interchange being right on top of the station.

P1050308

Panmure Station and Interchange from the slopes of Maungarei/Mount Wellington. This shows the relation to the Panmure town centre, the roundabout (soon to be removed), and the new roading connections around the station.

P1050317

Interchange building from opposite side of Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. Note the white bus shelters to the right of the photo.

P1050341

Close up of interchange building from the future busway. The lifts inside are already in use as disabled access. Managed a quick look inside and must say looks very impressive.

P1050305

The project website does not give an update as to when this interchange will open, however I suspect it be in January, soon after the summer shut down. Should see a big boost to Panmure station patronage as a result, as well as helping renewal of this part of town.

Costs and Benefits of the Governments Auckland Transport Package

A couple of months ago the government finally announced that they would support the City Rail Link, albeit with a later start date than the council are pushing for. A few days later they then went on to announce a massive road building binge including upgrades/additions to the areas around the interchange of SH1 and SH18, the Southern motorway south of Manukau and SH20A to the airport. Along with this they also agreed on major support for the AMETI project and the East West Link while pushing ahead with designation for an additional harbour crossing.

In each of the roading projects – perhaps with the exception of another harbour crossing – we feel that there are probably some key parts that are worthwhile while other bits that seem over the top. What we definitely don’t agree on is the suggestion that these projects will be moved ahead of the CRL which gives the package the definite feel of an asphaltaholic statement of “just one more road project then we can quit and build the PT”. Of course for these asphalt junkies there is always just one more road that needs to be built first.

Govt Transport Projects

One area where the government have been light on details is what the actual costs and benefits of each project are. Well looking through the parliaments questions for written answer section I found the questions from Julie Anne Genter asking about the costs and benefits of the various projects. The answers from Gerry Brownlee are help to shed a bit more light, and concern on the projects.

First the costs.

I have been advised that the most recent cost estimates for the named projects are as follows.

  • Auckland City Rail Link – $2.86 billion. This figure is the revised number Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are now using for the project, and includes the additional rolling stock and track upgrades on the wider rail network needed to implement the project.
  • Second Waitemata Harbour crossing – $4.7 billion for a tunnel crossing.
  • Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) – $1.5 billion.
  • East-West Link – indicative cost of $1 billion.
  • Completing a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive - $400 million for the current scope of works for the corridor which include:
    • Upgrading State Highway 18 (Upper Harbour Highway) to motorway standard
    • Motorway-to-motorway connections between State Highway 1 and State Highway 18 (both directions)
    • South-facing ramps between State Highway 1 and State Highway 17 (Albany Expressway/Greville Road)
  • Widening the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura – the estimated cost of widening State Highway 1 between Manukau and Papakura, including a new interchange at Takanini, is $250 million.
  • Upgrading State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard - $110 million for the current scope of works for the corridor which include:
    • Upgrading and widening of State Highway 20A
    • Grade separation of Kirkbride Road.

There are a couple of interesting points in here.

  • Auckland City Rail Link – It’s good to see them finally acknowledging that this isn’t just about a tunnel in the CBD but that the costs include a wider network upgrade
  • East-West Link – This is much more than what was budget for in the Auckland Plan and the Integrated Transport Programme which suggested $600m. Does this suggest the thinking is for a more expensive motorway type solution like has been pushed by groups like the NZCID?
  • Completing a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive - No mention of extending the busway through this section like we thought may have been included making this piece of work appear to just be a roadfest
  • Widening the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura – The ITP projected this as $500m so this is half the price, still expensive though and I imagine most of it is in the Takanini interchange.
  • Upgrading State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard – Again this is cheaper than in the ITP which suggests $235m. I can understand the desire to grade separate Kirkbride Rd but not sure what the point of widening the road is.

Another key point is we don’t know if there are any particular details about the costs, for example we know that the CRL has had its costs inflated to the predicted year of spend but we don’t know if that has happened with the other projects. We also don’t know if the other projects have been though much more detailed costing’s like the CRL has, we know they certainly haven’t had the same level of scrutiny.

Moving on to the benefits the point above becomes even more relevant as the benefits are all listed in Net Present Value terms and that will have happened after taking into account issues like the assessment period and discount rate. This means we can’t do a straight calculation to work out the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR). It’s worth noting that Julie Anne did ask for the BCR for the projects but was just referred to this table.

Auckland Transport Pakage Benefits

The thing that is really striking on here is the East-West link has been effectively been given a green light when its benefits have yet to be assessed. Even just last month Gerry Brownlee was suggesting a funding package for the project will being signed off soon. The whole thing has the stench of the RoNS approach all over it – agree to a project before actually working out if it is worthwhile.

Lastly regardless of what way you look at the numbers, the additional Waitemata harbour crossing project really does look like a dog. If it wasn’t being pushed by politicians (of almost all colours and ideology) then I suspect we wouldn’t even be hearing about it as the economic assessment would have buried it long ago.

AMETI Panmure to Pakuranga details

While all of the physical works for AMETI are happening in Panmure at the moment, it’s the future stages that will be the most interesting as that is when a new busway is built that will connect the Panmure Train Station to the Eastern Suburbs. Auckland Transport are still working though many of the finer details however the overall idea seems to be fairly similar to what we have seen before. With that in mind I thought I would have a look at some of the new details that have come out which are primarily the result of an open day held two weeks ago. This primarily relates to what is known as Phase 2 which is the section from Panmure to Pakuranga and is shown below.

Phase 2 map

AT expect that by the end of the year they will have their preferred scheme sorted out allowing them to start the process of lodging the notice of requirement with construction likely to begin in 2015. For this post I will move south from Panmure to Pakuranga.

As you may have seen, the plan is for a busway to start at the Panmure station and head south on the Northern side of the road through a signalised intersection which would replace the Panmure Roundabout. It will then head down Lagoon Dr, still on the Northern side but one thing I wasn’t aware of is that while Lagoon Dr will be widened to accommodate the busway and a shared path, the plan is to narrow the general traffic lanes down to one each way.

Lagoon Dr

Moving south there will be a new bridge built over the Tamaki River to carry the busway as well as a much improved walking and cycling path. It will remain on the northern side of the road all the way until Ti Rakau Dr and a number of the intersections from local streets will be closed. All up it should hopefully mean that buses will be able to get from Panmure to Ti Rakau Dr fairly quickly with little disruption. Further my understanding is that the council are already looking at what can be done with the left over land parcels after Auckland Transport have finished their work and that it is likely there will actually end up with more dwellings along the route than there are currently.

Panmure Bridge and Pakuranga Rd

But it is at Pakuranga where things get interesting. Buses will have to cross Pakuranga Rd to access a new major bus station being planned for the town centre. On Campbell Live the other night we saw a design for the bus station that hadn’t been seen before. Since then Auckland Transport have uploaded the video which is below.

The station seems a fairly bit step up from what was previously suggested and one of the reasons for that is it is intended to that all buses in the area would use it whereas previously buses heading to Howick would still use stops on Pakuranga Rd forcing people transferring to cross the road. Based on the current road layout a single bus station would introduce a detour for buses heading up Pakuranga Rd towards Howick so to address that, a new bus-only link road is planned through what is currently the Pakuranga Mall carpark. In addition to the bus-only link road, a public plaza is also proposed and to compensate the owners for the lost surface parking, AT are planning on building a multi storey parking building. I’m guessing that is primarily aimed at stopping the mall owners from fighting the changes otherwise the arguments would likely drag on for years. In addition to all of this, Pakuranga Rd will be narrowed down to four lanes where it passes the town centre. Here are some maps and artists impressions of what is planned.

Pakuranga Current Layout

 

Pakuranga Proposed Layout

Pakuranga artist Bus Station

Pakuranga artist Bus link

Of course no discussion of Pakuranga can be complete without the major piece of roading being planned in the form of the Reeves Rd Flyover. The intention is to get through traffic from the North East off Pakuranga Rd and whisked straight onto the Pakuranga Highway also avoiding the Pakruanga Highway/Reeves Rd/Ti Rakau intersection. I have also heard AT say that the grade separation is needed to get enough cars off the previously mentioned intersection to enable the busway not be substantially held up on its way south towards Botany. While the intent is understandable this flyover is going to have a massive impact the areas of the town centre surrounding it. Auckland Transport say the design could:

  • potentially be a visual landmark and gateway to Pakuranga
  • be an expression of art or architecture that reflects the area

However as we have seen in Wellington with the Basin Reserve Flyover, that is pretty much impossible to do (also the Basin Reserve Flyover is only two lanes whereas the Reeves Rd Flyover would be four)

Reeves Rd Flyover

Reeves Rd Flyover - Pakuranga Rd end

All up this section is quite a mixed bag. There are some really really good aspects like the busway, much improved walking and cycling connections as well as even some reductions in the number of road lanes in places but then much of it is being used to justify the need of the flyover.

Ellerslie-Panmure Bridge opened

Yesterday I headed out to Panmure for the opening of the new Ellerslie-Panmure bridge as well as to see what progress had been made on the upgraded station. What was interesting is that Transport minister Gerry Brownlee attended to officially open the bridge which was odd as he hasn’t been present at any other recent events like the opening of the Wiri depot. AT Chairman Lester Levy, Len Brown and Gerry Brownlee all spoke at the opening with enough smoke blown in Gerry’s direction by Len those present were lucky not to choke to death. On Sunday cars and trucks will be able to start using the new bridge with the bridge they are currently using eventually becoming part of the new AMETI busway. Here is the press release from Auckland Transport today.

A major milestone in the first phase of the $1.5 billion Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) has opened three months ahead of schedule.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, Mayor Len Brown and Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy have cut the ribbon on the traffic bridge, a key part of the first phase of AMETI.

Since the old Ellerslie-Panmure Highway bridge was demolished during the Christmas period, traffic has been temporarily using a new bridge built for a future busway. From Sunday 4 August, traffic will be redirected onto the new bridge which runs from Panmure Roundabout to Forge Way.

The current AMETI construction also includes a new Panmure Station building and upgrade, a 1.5km north-south road, a 220m tunnel next to the station for the new road, improvements to Van Damm’s Lagoon reserve, cycle lanes and footpath improvements.

Mayor Len Brown says AMETI will unclog Auckland’s east by providing better transport choices and will create jobs by unlocking the area’s economic potential.

“Phase one will have benefits for both the Panmure community and people travelling to, from and through that part of Auckland,” says Mr Brown.

“Phase two of the project will unlock further benefits for transport in the area once the Panmure roundabout is removed and a busway from Panmure to Pakuranga town centre is built.”

Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy says AMETI is Auckland Transport’s largest construction project which on completion will see the delivery of the first major infrastructure in the area for a number of years.

“It’s fantastic to see this project taking shape and my congratulations go out to the AMETI team who have worked hard to get the bridge completed ahead of schedule. This major project will see an integrated approach to improving transport – with work on roads, public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. When the new Panmure Station building is completed, commuters and residents will benefit from a much easier transfer between buses and trains.”

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says, “I’d like to offer my congratulations to Auckland Transport and Fletcher Construction for delivering this milestone for the first phase of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative. Improving the transport links in this economically important part of Auckland is the government’s next major focus for Auckland’s transport network.”

All three of the bridges scheduled as part of Phase One of AMETI are now complete and the roof is currently being built for the tunnel. The bridges have been built higher and longer to allow for rail electrification.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Council are major funders of AMETI.

And here are some images of the event.

EP Bridge Ribbon Cutting

Cutting a ribbon, is there anything a politician likes more?

The only time the bridge will be used for something other than vehicles? New Panmure station to the left

After the event I also took a look around to see how some of the other aspects of the project are going. Here is the new local road that is being built on top of the tunnel with the station building in the background.

Local Rd above Tunnel

Here you can see the station itself. The new shelters going in show that the platforms will be wider than they are now.

Panmure Station Aug 2013

There is apparently space for a third track down the side here.

Panmure Station Aug 2013 2

A bit of a plaza area at the Mountain Rd Bridge, as cars seem to be able to move through here alright, the orange barriers suggest that perhaps engineers could have pushed out the pedestrian area a little bit more.

Mountain Rd Plaza

Here is the new AMETI road under construction. It is still quite a way off yet.

AMETI Road under construction

And the tunnel which is underneath the local road shown earlier.

AMETI Road Tunnel under construction

Lastly, here is an image from Auckland Transport showing what the area should look like if you have a helicopter once everything is finished. You can quite clearly see the busway to the north of the road along with the intersection which will replace the current roundabount. I don’t know about you but all of the empty land (as a result of the current works), the car yards and the old factories and around the area look ripe for intensification. I hope the station was designed to be capped and built over

panmure-complete-artists-impression 1

Further thoughts on the “transport package”

Unsurprisingly last week’s transport announcements were a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to transport spending in Auckland. Overall I guess the good news is that central government finally supports the City Rail Link – making opponents of the project look pretty isolated. Judging from Dick Quax’s tweet the opposition is already fading away:

Critically, the announcements also highlight that the government has backed the previously most controversial part of the Auckland Plan – it’s transport chapter. Finally, after two and a half years of arguing, it seems that central government and Auckland have a similar vision for the city’s future. The Herald is right in noting that this is undoubtedly a massive victory for Len Brown – the result that he’s been pushing for basically ever since he was elected mayor.

Looking in a bit more detail, we start to see that in every section of the major announcements there’s generally a bit of good news but also some pretty dumb aspects of many of the projects that presumably will get weeded out as time goes on. Let’s work north to south – starting with the link up of State Highway 18 and State Highway 1:

sh18-sh1-linkMention of improvements to the Northern Busway is a big positive here – hopefully that means extending the busway right through to Albany, a project that seems like it’s utterly essential in the near term but for some reason has dropped off the radar in the past few years. Probably because it stupidly gets lumped together with further extensions to Silverdale or Orewa which will only make sense in the much longer term.

Furthermore, there’s a pretty good case to do something around here to improve the way SH18 links with SH1 as the current Upper Harbour Highway is a bit of a mess, plus the section of motorway between SH18 and Greville Road seems to suffer from a lot of merging issues. I just struggle to see whether that something has to mean a $500 million or more giant motorway interchange as per the current plans:package3-sh18Presumably some further options analysis will occur here as NZTA figures out how to make its budgets work with all these new projects being lumped in – and perhaps we might end up with something a little more sensible and less expensive.

We’ll come back to how we could do an alternative Harbour Crossing better in a future post, and obviously most of our focus in the past few days has been on the City Rail Link, so let’s shift our focus to the southeast and the AMETI/East-West Link project. AMETI is a series of projects between Panmure and Botany – most crucially including a full busway from Botany to Pakuranga and onto Panmure. While there are some pretty dumb bits of AMETI, like the ugly Reeves Road flyover, generally the approach of the project has morphed over time and a strong component now is to provide the additional capacity for public transport (in the form of the busway) rather than road widening, with the project’s spending on roads generally being on new connections that enable the bypassing of busy town centres. It’s just a shame how horrifically ugly that flyover’s going to be:

reeves-rd-flyoverShifting on to the East-West Link project, it was only fairly recently that we began to learn the details about this project and the different options being looked at. All the different options look overblown and really destructive in terms of their environmental and community impacts – particularly the options which it seems the government wants to see, full motorway links between SH20 and SH1:

So another Tamaki River crossing, massive demolition of housing along Panama Road, a big motorway junction through the volcanic crater and Onehunga in option 3. Option 4 is perhaps even worse:

The same issue at Onehunga. Perhaps close to the same issue around Panama Road plus untold demolition of houses through Mangere East as the previously protected motorway corridor through here was sold off decades ago and put into housing.

The big issue I have with the East West Link is that we don’t actually even know whether this level of destruction, and the costs associated with it, are actually necessary or not. Of course there are lots of stories about trucks getting stuck in congestion along Neilson Street and clearly freight volumes are high through this part of Auckland – but what about some smaller scale interventions?

  • Truck lanes on Neilson Street?
  • A signalised intersection providing access into Metroport from Neilson Street?
  • Widening the Neilson Street bridge over the railway line?
  • Smaller scale interchange improvements at Onehunga?
  • South-facing motorway ramps that link into the Southeast Arterial?

For this reason the East West Link actually reminds me quite a lot of the Puhoi to Wellsford project. In both cases there’s a definite problem that needs to be solved but in both cases smaller scale improvements that may deliver really significant benefits are being completely ignored in favour of massively expensive and destructive motorway options – seemingly for political reasons only.

Shifting further south again, a fairly major widening of the Southern Motorway from Manukau through to Papakura was included in the announcements:

southern-motorway-wideningOnce again there’s quite a good argument that something needs to be done on this part of the motorway. Where SH20 and SH1 come together in the southbound direction you go from five lanes (three on SH1 plus two on SH20) down to two lanes in a pretty short space of time. This creates massive problems in the evening peak period. Furthermore, the Takanini interchange has some pretty substandard and unsafe parts to it – particularly the northbound onramp which has a very short merge. We’ll probably wait and see the details on this one but I suspect once again the approach is probably overblown: heaps of new lanes everywhere just to shift the queue slightly north or south depending on the peak direction. Adding lanes northbound in particular seems pretty stupid as it’ll just get cars to the Mt Wellington bottleneck faster. Of note the ITP lists the project as costing over $500 million

Finally, we come to SH20A improvements – the road to the Airport.sh20a-upgrade

I guess it’s because politicians spend such a lot of their time travelling to and from airports that these routes tend to get a rather stupid amount of attention. Just a few years back the Mangere Bridge was duplicated, which added an absolutely crazy amount of additional capacity and freed up SH20 during peak periods (at least for a few years). While it’s a bit strange the Kirkbride Road intersection isn’t grade separated, I tend to think that the real transport bottleneck actually occurs at the Airport because all the roads effectively feed into a single roundabout and then one signalised intersection. Once again, making it quicker to get to the bottleneck seems like a waste of money to me. It’s also frustrating that there’s not even any mention (even in a route designation way) of Airport Rail. What on earth has happened to that project – I might need to LGOIMA Auckland Transport over it to see what they’ve been doing for the past two and a half years.

Overall, as I said at the start of the post there are useful bits of the announcements (CRL aside which is obviously a massive positive) in that we might see a Northern busway extension and an AMETI busway happen faster now. But there’s also a whole heaps of “over the top” projects which are pretty unlikely to achieve lasting benefits or could be replaced by far far cheaper projects which would deliver most of the benefits at a fraction of the price. It will certainly be fascinating watching the details of all this unfold over the next few months in particular.

Does the East-West link make any sense?

There was a fairly lengthy opinion piece in yesterday’s Herald, authored by Michael Barnett from the Chamber of Commerce and Kim Campbell from the Employer’s and Manufacturer’s Association, discussing transport matters in Auckland. A lot of the start of the article makes reasonably good sense, pointing out how much Auckland is going to grow in the next 30 years and highlighting the need to focus transport investment in Auckland. Then the article goes on to discuss AMETI and the East-West link project:

In this article we discuss the importance of the Ameti/East-West link.

Developing the Ameti/East-West Link has been on Auckland’s transport plans from the 1950s, with land reserved for a portion of the route since 1965 and a connection on paper to the Western Ring Route (SH20) at Onehunga and the Southern Motorway.

At present, local roads in the vicinity carry more heavy freight vehicles than most of New Zealand’s state highways. They represent the start and end point for many upper North Island freight services, both road and rail. The link is required to improve access to the rail freight hub at Metroport, New Zealand’s third largest container port, and the many major employment and distribution businesses nearby.

Freight traffic in the locality is about to double. With many local roads already congested for much of the working day, an efficient integrated Ameti and East-West Link is urgent.

It is true that freight volumes through this part of Auckland are pretty high – I remember seeing a graphic once showing that the Pakuranga Bridge over the Tamaki River carries a similar number of trucks each day as the Harbour Bridge. And a much much higher number than most of the government’s Roads of National Significance. AMETI is fairly well advanced, splitting out through traffic, local traffic and public transport from each other to a much greater extent so they’re each able to operate much more effectively.ameti-transport-strategyWhile the cost of AMETI is pretty eye-watering, it at least includes some pretty major public transport improvements in the form of a busway from Botany to Panmure and a large upgrade to the Panmure Station. Hopefully it should also take quite a lot of through traffic out of Pakuranga town centre, enabling its revitalisation and hopefully a bit of traffic calming along sections of Pakuranga Road.

Panning westwards a bit, we hit the area where the East-West Link project is located:eastwestlink-aerialWith State Highway 1 visible in the top right corner and SH20 visible in the bottom left corner, you can see the temptation of a project to join the two motorways up. Furthermore, with so much freight travelling through the area or originating from the area there does seem to be a logic in focusing on transport improvements in this corner of Auckland – especially if improving freight traffic is a priority.

In some ways this project could be seen as the westerns portion of AMETI, especially as the two projects so clearly link with each other and improving freight movements is seen as a goal of both projects (although it seems to be an even higher priority for the East-West link project). Essentially this is the argument that Barnett and Campbell make:

Some limited work is under way, but we have major concerns at the lack of progress to plan, design and build an integrated corridor as the Auckland Plan directs.

Our immediate concerns are:

Ameti (Stage 1) and planning for the East-West Link are being run as separate projects. Instead, the legacy Ameti sections are being developed primarily as a corridor for bus transport while the East-West section is being investigated with freight in mind.

The East-West section investigation presumes government funding will apply, which we strongly endorse, while the unfunded Ameti sections are not.

The disjointed approach is unacceptable. This route development will generate high productivity benefits by easing heavy traffic congestion, including to the MetroPort rail freight terminal, and it’s obvious that a reconfigured and integrated design of the whole link project is vital.

The project has also been consulted to death. Now a comprehensive integrated design package is called for, with a supporting overall business case, and a clear timeline to complete it by 2021.

The integrated Ameti/East-West Link is expected to cost $2.5 billion but generate the level of productivity benefits that easily justify it. Among them is a faster return on the multibillion dollars we have already spent on the new Manukau Harbour Bridge, Spaghetti Junction, the Newmarket Viaduct and Victoria Park Tunnel.

Investment in it is long overdue, if on the basis of nothing else than its large potential to make money and grow the economy.

While AMETI certainly seems like it’s been “studied to death”, I’m not sure the same argument can be applied to the East-West Link – which seemed to appear pretty much out of nowhere into the final version of the Auckland Plan. Furthermore, while it’s clearly true there are a lot of trucks that travel through this part of Auckland, it’s not entirely clear whether this creates a significant “problem” which needs “solving”, or what that “solution” actually should be.

It has always seemed to me as though the transport system in this area has sections which operate reasonably well and other parts which don’t seem to work that well. Neilson Street itself, the main existing link between the two motorway corridors, seems to work reasonably well except for a few intersections at Great South Road and at Onehunga Mall. One wonders how much of the delays in this area could be solved through a couple of well focused intersection upgrades. Secondly, Neilson Street is a pretty extraordinarily wide road – as shown in the picture below – so perhaps some of that existing road space could be dedicated to truck-only lanes to ensure freight traffic is able to keep moving no matter what the traffic conditions are for general traffic.

What I’m saying, in summary I suppose, is that there are good reasons to take a bit of time to analyse a situation before rushing off into building a very expensive piece of infrastructure, which a full motorway link between SH1 and SH20 would most certainly be. We might well find that a few relatively minor tweaks can fix the problem – at least for quite some time – alleviating the need to spend large sums of money.

The New Panmure Station

Along with the AMETI works, the Panmure station is also getting a substantial upgrade worth $17.5 million so that it interacts better with the future South Eastern busway and also provides much better amenity to users. In many ways it is very similar to what exists at New Lynn as the platforms will be in a trench with the station building above it . I really like how these key stations have started to be developed across the region and in many ways it is needed, if for nothing else to show that we are taking PT seriously now.

Here are the latest images that AT have released showing how the station and its surrounds will eventually look. You will notice that there are at least three different entrances to each station which will really help with moving large crowds of people. Another thing you might notice is the continuation of a trend we see at New Lynn with the bus platforms numbered in line with the rail ones (1 & 2 are on the rail ones with 3, 4, 5 & 6 the bus ones), this just helps to make things easier for customers.

I can’t wait to see this station finished and with the South Eastern busway this place will really be busy. Slightly separately, another thing mentioned is that AT are working with the council and other CCOs about the land take for the busway. They are having to buy a lot of properties for the busway and are looking at what to do with the land they don’t need after they are finished. It is likely to involve redeveloping it with more intensive housing which will also help to provide more users for the busway and this station.

A visit to Panmure

Took a trip out to Panmure today to get an update as to what is happening with AMETI and to watch the mayor ceremonially pour some concrete. We were mainly looking at the bit in what will be a covered trench and will eventually form part of a new road that bypasses the Panmure town centre which is shown in blue in the image below (the tunnel part will be between Ellerslie Panmure Highway and Mountain Rd which is the part next to the train station).

 

The trench itself has pretty much been fully dug out now and the walls around it are largely installed. Part of what will eventually form the new busway bridge has also been installed already so it appears good progress is being made.

Once the project is completed the platform shown will be widened out to the wall you can see going in down the middle of the photo. It doesn’t show it that well but that will make the platform really really wide (by Auckland standards) so there will be plenty of space for people to wait. And here is what things look like from within the trench, looking north.

And some images of Len pouring the concrete along with the end result.

AT say that once this link road is finished it will free up the North/South traffic from the Panmure roundabout which will enable it to be turned into a signalised intersection and that piece of work will be started in Phase 2. That will provide vastly improved connections for walking/cycling to occur, especially for those who live to the south of the town centre (Ireland Rd/Lagoon Dr) and also includes the busway from Panmure to Pakuragna. AT also released images of what the upgraded Panmure train station and bus interchange will look like and as soon as they flick me the soft copies I will put together a separate post for them but it is fair to say they are a vast improvement on what exists today.

(edit: The station pics were in an email that they had already sent me but that I hadn’t looked at properly)