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.While 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:With 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.
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.
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)
One of the most positive transport stories in Auckland over the last number of years has been the changes that have occurred to the AMETI project. The project was originally conceived following the demise of the eastern motorway proposal. It was intended to instead make improvements to the local roading network and for some time remained extremely roads focused. In the last few years however it started to transform and the current project seems almost light years away from what it started out as. A key feature of this transformation is the development of a busway that is intended to eventually extend from Panmure Train Station, all the way to Botany. Here is what is proposed:
You can see more about the proposal here.
So it is extremely disappointing to see that due to funding constraints, it is the busway that looks first set for the chop:
The future of a new 7km busway in Auckland, hoped to relieve some of the country’s most congested roads, is in jeopardy due to significant funding constraints.
The announcement came yesterday morning as the Transport Committee of the Auckland Council discussed the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).
The South Eastern Busway, which was due to begin no earlier than 2015, was expected to carry 5.5 million passengers a year when completed and cost about $1.5 billion.
Auckland Transport Major Projects Manager Rick Walden told the committee the project was “at risk because of an inability to be able to commit funding to it”.
“Unfortunately we won’t be able to start work on it until we are able to commit to the construction of the project,” he said.
Walden said the second stage from Pakuranga to Botany was now unlikely to start for more than a decade.
I wonder if these funding pressures are due to recent changes to the to the NLTP in which funding for local roads and PT infrastructure is being cut to help finance a couple of motorways out in the countryside. It is probably also a victim of our flawed evaluation models which don’t count PT users as important as car drivers. As I mentioned, it is extremely disappointing to see this happen as we will probably see all of the roading parts of the project still occur. Even if the roads are also scaled back, they might be in a way that makes it much more difficult and expensive to build the busway in the future so I really hope we find a way to get this built right the first time as the eastern suburbs have probably the worst autodependence in all of Auckland due to a pretty much complete lack of quality alternative options.
The other day I took a trip out to Manukau to have a look at the station and made a stop at Ellerslie to see how things had progressed but I also made on other transport related stop (it was actually between the two mentioned). Auckland Transport held an open day in Pakuranga to update the community on what was happening with with AMETI. The key information was that AT have now confirmed where the South Eastern Urban Busway would go once it got to the Eastern side of the Tamaki River. They had confirmed in December that the busway would be build on the northern side of Lagoon Dr and that a new bridge would be built over the river exclusively for the busway as well as pedestrians and cycles.
The new Panmure bridge, complete with 80's style American buses
Once across the bridge AT have now confirmed that the busway will run along the Northern side of Pakuranga Rd until it gets to Ti Rakau Dr where it will then turn south. At the Pakuranga town centre and in the current carpark for the mall will be a major busway station. From there the busway will head down Ti Rakau Dr where it will run down the middle of the road. There will also be bus lanes that carry on along Pakuranga Rd up towards Highland Park.
Note: The Yellow dots are signalised intersections and the blue boxes are bus stops/stations
And some images of the busway and stops along Pakuranga Rd
And the central busway on Ti Rakau Dr
I do like the busway plans and they are a big improvement on what has been suggested in the past and I also overheard locals saying how much they liked it. There is downside to all of this though, the biggest and what I think will be most opposed part of the project is a plan to build a flyover down Reeves Rd. The intention is to divert all through traffic around the back of Pakuranga, over the flyover and directly on to Pakuranga Highway thereby avoiding the Ti Rakau Dr intersection and also avoiding the busway. The problem though is that flyovers tend to be extremely ugly things that dominate their location and cities around the world are removing them where ever possible. AT claim it will enhance the pedestrian realm but I can’t see it.
And here is an image of the flyover from one of the information boards they had.
AT are starting to put quite a bit of information up on their website which is great to see and they have now put up the information boards that they showed. They have also posted a couple of videos of how the busway would look. The first one is a bit lower quality but flies through the project while the second one shows how some of the stops would work in a bit more detail
Also pleasing is that the busway stops at the Panmure station appear to be right outside the station now rather than a few hundred metres down the road
Auckland’s second most important project officially kicked off today by Len Brown. AMETI which is a range of road and PT projects is to help improve transport in East Auckland which is probably the worst urban area in the whole region when it comes to transport options. It started life after the eastern highway idea was canned and was quite a big roads fest and while that is still quite, thankfully over time it has incorporated stronger PT improvements which will eventually include a busway between Panmure and Botany. The first stage is a $180m project and is focused around Panmure and here is some of the benefits that AT claim will be a result of the project:
AMETI Panmure transport benefits
- New AMETI road will cut ten minutes off the journey time between Glen Innes and Mt Wellington when open in 2014 (phase one)
- It will carry 20,000 vehicles per day, including 2,400 trucks as a result of the better connection for business and freight traffic
- The new road will reduce traffic on Mt Wellington Highway (40%), Ellerslie Panmure Highway (33%), Jellicoe Rd (40%) and Apirana Ave (20%). Much of this reduction will be freight traffic – heavy commercial vehicle flows on Jellicoe Rd are forecast to reduce from 3200 trucks per day to less than 400 and on Ellerslie-Panmure Highway past Panmure station from 3600 to less than 700.
- Reduced traffic through Panmure roundabout, providing benefits for Pakuranga, Howick and Botany drivers and allowing an upgrade to a signalised intersection in phase two
- 6km of new cycle lanes/paths and 5.5km of new or improved footpaths, 12 new signal controlled pedestrian crossings when both Panmure phases are complete
- Lagoon Drive busway to be used by 21,000 passengers per day, 5.5 Million per year (phase two)
- Improved Panmure rail station will attract 6,500 passengers per day, 1.7 million per year.
Here is a map of the current focus of the project:
And here’s Len officially kicking things off.
Len using a pretty new looking digger
On the PT improvements, one interest fact is that AT claim Busway is eventually expected to have 5.5 million passengers a year, compared to the current 2.2 million using the Northern Busway (although that doesn’t count other buses that use the busway like express buses). Like New Lynn I think that Panmure is one of the biggest opportunities we have for urban renewal based around an existing train station but only time will tell how well it goes.
The Panmure roundabout living on borrowed time
There seems to have been a lot of progress on the Panmure section of the AMETI project in recent times, and that progress has continued with today’s announcement of a preferred contractor to construct the first section of this project:
Auckland Transport has awarded a contract for one of Auckland’s biggest transport construction jobs, a $180 million project to start dealing with traffic congestion in the eastern suburbs.
Construction of phase one of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) Panmure project has been awarded to Fletcher Construction. Starting in January and continuing until 2014, it will be Auckland Transport’s largest construction project and include:
- A new bridge built on Ellerslie Panmure Highway for a future busway and the existing bridge replaced. The process for managing traffic while the bridges are built will follow the successful model followed at Newmarket Viaduct, with traffic moved to new bridges as they are built. The bridges will be higher and longer to allow for electrification, a new road and a possible future third rail line.
- A 1.5km new road linking Morrin Rd to Mt Wellington Highway and a 220m tunnel for the new road built next to the rail line at Panmure Station. This will be created by building a box with a new road on top for buses and taxis to stop at the station.
- A major upgrade of Panmure Station to create an interchange that allows easy transfers between trains and buses improvements for pedestrians and cyclists and space for future town centre development.
The 1.5km new road is necessary to reduce traffic flows through the Panmure roundabout and provide a better route for freight/business traffic. This will also provide benefits for the Panmure community. When complete in 2014 the new road will take some pressure off the roundabout to allow work on phase two of AMETI Panmure – construction of a new signalised intersection where the roundabout currently is and a urban busway to Pakuranga.
Work is already underway on replacing the Mountain Rd Bridge near Panmure Station and realigning part of the road. The old bridge over the rail line will be demolished on Boxing Day for construction to begin on the new bridge.
The map below shows the extents of the different stages of the Panmure part of AMETI:Over the next few months we’ll be seeing the consenting process for the AMETI Road (effectively a last chance for the public to change things), and then construction will kick into action on the main part of stage one in early 2012 (for the Panmure interchange) and then early 2013 (for the AMETI Road).
I’m certainly looking forward to seeing work on the Panmure public transport interchange advance – hopefully in a way that ensures the phase two busway actually happens.
On the weekend there was an open day about AMETI’s Panmure section, outlining to the community some of the most recent design tweaks and providing some confirmation about key elements of the proposal, such as the addition of a bus/cyclist bridge across the Tamaki River, adjacent to the current Panmure bridge. This is detailed further in Auckland Transport’s media release:
Auckland Transport is planning to build a new Panmure Bridge for a future busway and a shared cycle/pedestrian path.
The proposed new bridge would be built on the northern side of the current one, which would remain open to provide the same number of lanes for general traffic.
It is one of the AMETI transport projects, which are aimed at dealing with congestion problems in the eastern suburbs to unlock the economic potential of the area. A strong focus is on giving people more transport choices by improving public transport, cycling and walking facilities.
Plans for the proposed new bridge, which are subject to consents and funding approvals, were shown at an AMETI information day in Panmure on Saturday which was attended by 200 to 250 people.
The new Panmure Bridge would have two busway lanes for the planned busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany. It would also have a 4.3m wide shared cycle and pedestrian path, which would be separated by barriers from the busway.
All other vehicles would continue to use the current bridge.
There are also some pictures:It is great to see that the high-quality bus infrastructure will run across this new bridge, a step forward from the Northern Busway situation where bus priority simply disappears along some of the most critical parts of the supposed RTN route (like the Harbour Bridge and the Fanshawe Street onramp).
The bridge will form a critical part of what looks like a pretty continuous busway from Panmure all the way to Botany:
Auckland Transport Major Projects Manager Rick Walden says a new Panmure Bridge is being proposed because the existing bridge has no room for the future busway.
“The planned urban busway would run between Panmure Station, Pakuranga and Botany. To provide frequent services there needs to be dedicated lanes so buses aren’t caught in other traffic.
“Panmure Bridge is also the only place for people in the area to walk or cycle across the Tamaki River. At the moment it is unpleasant to walk and there no dedicated cycle facilities.
“A new cycle and pedestrian path would improve safety, as well as encourage more people to walk or cycle between Panmure and Pakuranga.”
Some good thought has gone into the sections of the busway between Panmure town centre and the bridge too, so that we have a nice continuous busway rather than something which stops and starts all the time (as happens with traditional bus lanes):
As I noted in my previous post, the place where I think a bit more design tweaking is necessary is around the Panmure interchange – which still struggles to easily provide for people transferring between bus and train, particularly from/to RTN buses that will come along the busway from the southeast. If the stops are located closer towards “J” than “H” in the final scheme then things should be pretty good. While this may seem like a small detail, if we are going to encourage more people to accept transferring between services (as we must) then we need to make that transfer as simple and painless as possible.
Another concern I have is the move to split the pedestrian crossing of Ellerslie-Panmure highway into two sections. As a pedestrian there’s nothing more annoying than only being able to get across half the road in one phase of lights – then having to wait seemingly forever in the middle to complete what should have only taken a few seconds. You just need to see all the people who sprint dangerously across St Lukes Road between the mall and the shops down Wagener Place to realise that double-legged pedestrian crossings are an incredibly stupid idea.That said, clearly things will be far far better for pedestrians than they are now. It’s just a shame to get 95% of the way there and then stuff it up.
A lot of comments in my previous post focused on the provision of a third track through Panmure station. Auckland Transport have provided some clarification on this matter:
The AMETI plans definitely do include provision for a future third rail line. Although putting this in will be a decision for Kiwirail, the new bridges that will be built at Mountain Rd and Ellerslie Panmure Highway are designed to allow for that as well as electrification. The station plans being developed also allow for it.
And as background for you, Auckland Transport is aiming for a major upgrade of Panmure Station since it will be one of the key transport interchanges in Auckland with the busway coming into the station. It is likely to be of a similar standard to New Lynn, but we can’t finalise any plans until working through funding discussions with NZTA.
This is good news on both counts I think.
At last Wednesday’s meeting of Auckland Council transport committee there was an update about progress that Auckland Transport is making on the Panmure busway section of the AMETI project. Back in April this year I looked at this project in quite a bit of detail, noting that things have come a long way in the right direction from the days where we were expecting no more than basic bus lanes out of the $1.3 billion being spent on AMETI.
The busway section of the Panmure part of AMETI will be in phase two – shown in green below:The details on the busway doesn’t seem to have change too much from where things were in April, which is probably a good thing as it means the route is now pretty set and decided upon:Where a lot of work seems to have been focused on is the Panmure station interchange, and we see some pretty detailed designs for the station/bus interchange now. This is a very good thing as hopefully it means the thinking is shifting towards running many more buses as feeder services to Panmure – where people can change onto the train to complete their journey. The designs look pretty good too:Let’s hope the bus stops for the RTN services (which will come from Flat Bush, Botany and Pakuranga) are put as close to the train station as possible. It also looks like there’s some real integration with land-use around the interchange – although I am not entirely sure of the likelihood of much of this development happening anytime soon, as Sylvia Park continues to destroy the viability of Panmure’s town centre.
It also looks like some serious thinking has gone into the design of Panmure station, bringing it up to a standard akin to New Lynn station – befitting its role as a key transfer point:There is significant funding set aside for AMETI in Auckland Council’s draft Long Term Plan, although many of the most expensive parts of the project are (thankfully as they mostly consist of huge road widenings) not scheduled for construction until after 2020. However, I think that the rate AMETI’s construction proceeds is likely to be very dependent on the funding NZTA has available to assist the council, through its subsidising role. As we all know, NZTA’s funding for local road projects is very much squeezed in the latest Government Policy Statement, while lower than expected fuel fax revenue is likely to place their ability to contribute to the project in even greater question.
There’s something of an ongoing debate in public transport circles over whether improvements should be ‘service led’ or ‘infrastructure led’. What I mean by that is whether we focus on improving service levels to a level where infrastructure investment becomes justified, or whether we look at infrastructure investment as happening first, with service levels being adapted to fit in with that infrastructure.
A good example of the debate is looking at the proposed Pakuranga to Botany busway. It’s clear, as I have explained many times before, that southeast Auckland needs some significant PT investment because it’s the most car dependent part of the city – leading to massive congestion problems and incredibly slow bus journeys. It’s crazy that someone making a trip from Howick to the CBD takes longer than from Pukekohe.
Yet if you look at service levels, nothing would really tell you that this part of the city has a need for priority bus lanes, let alone a busway. Taking a point along Ti Rakau Drive quite near Edgewater Drive, we see the following current service levels:
- 680 – 20 min peak, 30 min off-peak, hourly after 8pm
- 681 – 20 min peak (offset by 10 min with 680), nothing else. Only northbound in AM peak, southbound in PM peak
- 561 – four peak services each way only (though southbound in AM peak, northbound in PM peak)
Compared to the huge number of services along a route like Dominion Road, a service-led approach to infrastructure investment would be unlikely to mean that we’d invest in an RTN quality busway along Ti Rakau Drive.You could say that in order to justify a busway along Ti Rakau Drive we need to first significantly boost bus frequency to grow patronage, but on the other hand perhaps the real problem here is that people are being put off catching the bus because it gets stuck in traffic and therefore ends up being so slow and unattractive to everyone who owns a car. So we end up in a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation, if we focus too much on service-led improvements in my opinion.
That said, I think the proposed AMETI busway potentially falls into the trap of focusing a bit too much on infrastructure led improvement, and (as yet) too little on the service side of the debate. Existing bus services in relation to the proposed busway (in its full proposed extent, from Panmure to Botany) are shown in the map below:From Panmure, the buses then take around 35-40 minutes to get into town (according to the timetable, this seems optimistic?)
With the busway in place, I think you’d want to significantly change the way buses operate in this part of Auckland, focusing much more on having routes feed into Botany from the south, southeast and northeast, before continuing along the busway to Panmure. I’d then probably turn those buses around and send them back the way they came – getting people to transfer onto the train or onto a b.line service to town along Ellerslie-Panmure highway and Great South Road. (Alternatively you could continue the southeast services to Ellerslie and have people transfer onto either southern line trains or Great South Road buses). The shorter trips would allow us to run much higher frequencies than we have now, really starting to take advantage of our significant investment in the AMETI busway.
Ultimately, I don’t necessarily think that either a sole focus on ‘service led improvement’ or ‘infrastructure led improvement’ is going to serve us ideally. We need to integrate the two of them. In the case of the AMETI busway proposal, I think the greater than normal focus on infrastructure improvement is probably justified – simply because the current situation is so bad for people in southeast Auckland, that you really do need a ‘game-changer’ to make their trips significantly faster. Nevertheless, if the busway is built without a comprehensive overhaul of how routes in that area are structured, then it’s likely to be an incredibly expensive failure. Particularly if we continue to run our buses from the southeast all the way into Britomart and back: forcing low frequencies and very slow trips.
Of course, another matter that will need a lot of thought when it comes to the AMETI busway is how our land-use plans integrate with it. At the moment I don’t see its path as being particularly PT friendly (it travels through low-density residential and horrifically road-centric commercial development). With some clever thinking, it could become a pretty useful high-density corridor of development, but without that land-use integration once again the busway appears likely to under-deliver.