Are CRL predictions undercooked

Following the CRL ground breaking event last week one quote from the press releases caught my eye – and it’s something I highlighted in my post on Friday.

“Auckland Transport is forecasting in the first year of operation an 88% increase in rail passengers travelling to the city centre and a 40% increase in rail patronage across the network in the morning peak.

I fully expect the CRL is going to see huge numbers of people start using the train to get to town but an 88% increase in a single year is pretty impressive. I was interested in just what the predictions were so asked AT for some details.

They said the modelling was based on the year 2026 which is actually 2-3 years after the expect the CRL to be open (2023-24). Without the CRL they estimated there would be 13,200 trips to the city centre by rail during the two hour AM peak. With the CRL the number of people arriving at the Britomart, Aotea, K Rd stations in the AM peak is expected to be 24,100. That’s an increase of 10,900 or 83%, so not quite the 88% in the quote but fairly close (perhaps someone read the details wrong)

In addition, they said across the entire network without the CRL in 2026 there will be 24,600 trips in the AM peak but with the CRL that number will rise to 34,500 with the CRL.

What surprised me the most about these results was the modelling for 2026 without the CRL of just 13,200 trips a decade from now. To put things in perspective, recently AT told me that Britomart currently sees 10,200 people arriving in the AM peak. We know how that’s changed over time thanks to the former Screenline Survey that the ARC used to conduct – it isn’t done any more but the HOP data is able to give the information needed.

No CRL Britomart prediction

As you can see things have really taken off in the last few years thanks in large part to electrification. If current trends continue – and with all of the changes coming I expect them to for a little while yet – we could see Britomart surpassing that 13,200 figure within just a few years. If that happens it would once again highlight once again how much our transport models continue to underestimate the use of rail Auckland and could also suggest that the predictions for the CRL are undercooked too. That in turn could suggest that the benefits of the CRL are potentially much higher too.

While on the topic of trips to the city in the AM peak. It’s also worth pointing out just how significant the current numbers are. As a quick comparison Nelson St is the busiest road for traffic entering the city centre as is fed by two motorways yet despite this only around 6,000 people pass along here in the morning peak.

Nelson St road space vs cycle space

Overall in the city centre AT have said that now more people are arriving via PT in the AM peak than by private vehicles. That’s definitely changed a lot over the last 15 years as vehicle numbers have remained fairly constant while the usage of PT has soared.

Thoughts on the CRL ground breaking event

So yesterday was the symbolic ground-breaking, or perhaps more accurately the ground-exploding for the City Rail Link. If you weren’t there and didn’t watch the live stream the video is below and the actual ceremony starts from about 48 minutes. I thought I would give some of my views of it.

Over the years now I’ve been to a number of ground-breaking ceremonies and this was by far the most interesting. Auckland Transport and the Council certainly put a bit of effort in here but I guess when you’re celebrating the start of largest single transport project that is kind of justified.

AT held the event right out in front of Britomart which was a good choice. While they had a marquee (and some tasty CRL cupcakes) for those who had been invited, it also allowed members of the public to join in too and there appeared to be quite a few people doing so. The people in shot below were outside of that invited area. For those outside of Auckland, as you can see the weather also turned it on which was a nice change after the last 3 weeks or so.

Some of the CRL cupcakes

CRL cupcakes

Right off the bat one aspect that was quite different and I thought a nice touch, was to have quite a strong focus on youth. This was optimised by having a 17-year-old from Waitakere College as the emcee for the event. She brought a lot of energy to her role which was refreshing to see.

John Key was the first speaker and I thought his comments were very good, in particular this part.

Second thing I think is that ultimately what we’re seeing in cities around the world that are doing well and progressing is that they’re places where people want to work, obviously, but they’re also places where people want to live and people want to be entertained. And what we’re seeing as Auckland grows up and indeed grows out, is a lot more apartments being built and I think over time you’re going to see more and more people live in the CBD, they’re not going to own cars, they’re going to get on the City Rail Link, they’re going to get on the train for transportation, they’ll get on the bus, and frankly they’ll probably take a taxi or Uber. And they’ll have their living, working and entertainment happen here in the CBD and that’s really what this is about, it’s an investment in the future, it’s an investment in Auckland, it will make a great difference in transforming the city, it’s a very futuristic project.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard Key speak positively about transport or urban issues and I guess some of that comes from his time spent overseas in the likes of New York so it’s all the more surprising that these attitudes haven’t flowed through to some of his ministers or transport priorities.

Key was followed by Simon Bridges who also talked very positively about the project and the impact it will have even referencing the council’s “World’s Most Liveable City” goal. Both Bridges and Key also paid respect to Len Brown for his ongoing advocacy for the project which has been instrumental in getting it to this point.

Next up it was Lester Levy who talked about what it takes to make a project like this happen including highlighting that they’ve got experts from around the world working on the CRL

Then it was time the speech that most were keen to see, Lens speech. As expected Len was ebullient and so he should be given the history of the project and the attitude of the government up until recently. Len covered off a lot of topics in his speech but one I thought was quite important was that today probably would never have been possible without the government having amalgamated the councils of Auckland in 2010. On a personal level it was nice that he acknowledged the role of transport advocates in helping to get to this stage. As John Key said, Len should rightly be proud at what he’s achieved with the CRL.

One interesting fact that came out in Len’s press release after was this showing just how much patronage to the city is expected to increase in just the first year.

“Auckland Transport is forecasting in the first year of operation an 88% increase in rail passengers travelling to the city centre and a 40% increase in rail patronage across the network in the morning peak.

Following the speeches there was a flash mob before the grand finale of Bridges, Brown and Key pushing an oversized detonator to set off some pyrotechnics and balloons to start the project – although as Bill Bennett pointed out, that detonator is reminiscent of something else.

Although as Luke discovered later, that sod has been unturned and filled back in again

Did AT go over the top with the dancing and pyrotechnics? It was certainly a unique ceremony for a unique project.

With the ceremony out of the way we can now look forward to the project really getting under way, despite the disruption that will bring.

Did you attend the ceremony or did you/have watched the live stream? What did you think of it?

CRL Groundbreaking Day

Today is a day that Auckland has been waiting for, for nearly 100 years and that even a few years ago seemed like a distant pipe dream, the City Rail Link officially gets under way. The CRL is easily the project/topic that this blog has talked about more than any other having been tagged in over 400 posts, you could almost call it our raison d’être. Whether it’s been about why the project is needed, it’s history, design and everything in between there can’t be too many angles we haven’t talked about at some point.

CRL Route

The current incarnation of the CRL has had a greater level of scrutiny than probably any transport project in New Zealand’s history. It’s be subject to numerous studies, reviews with the sole intention of tying finding a reason not to build the project and of course a fair amount of political bluster. It’s even had targets applied before it will be approved, something no other transport project has had.

On the political bluster, one of the most famous instances came from then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee who as you can see below said “I take big issue with the suggestion that the city rail link is useful or popular.” Of course that latter part of the project has even ranked highly with AA members with previous surveys by them showing nearly 80% supported it.

But that’s largely all behind us now. Today is a celebration that the project is actually happening.

The CRL will be nothing short of transformational for Auckland and in a way that the city has rarely seen. In this regard it will be up there with the likes of the Harbour Bridge in terms of impact and especially for the west which essentially gets shifted much closer to town. Like the Harbour Bridge it will not only generate significant transport benefits but will also drive a lot of land use change, especially in the west. This is shown in this image which was later copied by Auckland Transport. Also like the Harbour Bridge I suspect most people probably won’t realise just who big of a transformation the project will have till it’s actually complete and operating.

CRL Times Western Line

Not only will the CRL speed up existing trips through shorter distances and higher frequencies, the new stations at Aotea and K Rd will open up much more of the city centre to the rail network and that will also drive increased usage and help with the regeneration like Britomart has for that part of the city. For the stations, Aotea is also predicted to surpass Britomart and become the busiest station on the network

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

The platform of the new Aotea Station

With the Britomart cul-de-sac busted open, the CRL will allow for significant extra capacity to be provided added across the network and there will be enough space for more than 30,000 people hour able to be delivered. That’s equivalent to 12-15 motorway lanes. One of the reasons the CRL has passed the tests put before it is that there isn’t any other option that move close to that number of people in the space or without even more massive costs.

Karangahape Station Entrance Mercury Lane 2

The Mercury Lane Entrance to Karangahape Rd Station

To get to this stage has been a massive effort by a lot of people over many years. Len Brown has obviously been front and centre in championing the project and I think Auckland has a lot to thank him for as a result. I suspect history will be kind to Len and we will look back on this time and be grateful for what he has managed to achieve. There have also been a huge number of people at the Council, Auckland Transport and elsewhere who have put a lot of time and effort into investigating and supporting the project. I hope they’re proud to finally see construction getting under way. Of course we also wouldn’t be in this position to celebrate had it not been for the efforts of the likes of Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee who were respectively the keys to getting Britomart and electrification signed off and built. Those efforts have driven patronage to ever increasing highs.

Amazingly despite construction just about to start some of the councillors who have consistently opposed the project are still calling for it to be stopped. Last night on NewsHub – which put together an good piece on the project – Councillor Cameron Brewer was calling for a halt to the project until the government are on board while elsewhere Councillor George Wood also wanted the project put on hold and attention focused elsewhere. Thankfully for the city, these two councillors and others like them who have always voted against the project have not managed to slow it down.

It’s all pretty exciting and AT are saying the ground-breaking will be both significant and spectacular. As such they’ll be live streaming it and the details for that will be on their website. The ceremony starts at 10:30.

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.

 

Thoughts on CBD Bus Changes

Last week Auckland Transport made the latest round of changes to streets in advance of the construction works for the City Rail Link. As mentioned in my post the other day, these changes impact me quite a bit as my commute normally involves transferring between buses and trains at Britomart. Below are just a few personal observations I’ve made over the last few days and I’m keen to hear your experiences of the changes.

Train to Bus

For my trip to work I catch a train to Britomart and then transfer to the Northern Express. In the mornings, the NEX runs every 7-8 minutes and so every second bus is effectively on the same timetable pattern as the western line. Due to the timetabling of services, previously I usually arrived in town just a few minutes before the next NEX departure so a quick dash from the train platform to the bus and I was on my way again with minimal delay.

CRL Bus changes map departure

Now, instead of walking across the road outside of Britomart I now have to walk to Albert St and the timing difference means I just bus I would have previously caught is just pulling away from the stop. That’s a little frustrating but given the frequency it’s not a massive deal. This should also all change when the Western line gets a frequency bump in about two weeks so I suspect could see pretty much back to as they were – with a slightly minor and not terrible walk.

Given lower Albert St is where many buses will leave from post CRL, I don’t think the short walk is terrible – or at least it won’t be once the permanent lane through the Commercial Bay development is completed. It’s certainly not the disaster some like George Wood would have us believe

Downtown Lane

Bus to Train

My trip back to the city is generally a little varied. I’ll either catch a bus direct from Takapuna and then transfer to either a City Link or a NEX on Fanshawe St or I’ll go to Akoranga and catch a NEX from there. For the purposes of this I’m only referring to these services from about the Nelson St intersection towards Britomart.

CRL Bus changes map arrival

City Link – Previously this used to travel down lower Hobson St then along Quay St before heading up Queen St. This part of the trip used to infuriate me as lower Hobson St and Quay St were often jammed up and it could sometimes take over 10 minutes to travel about 500m and the reason I’d transfer to a NEX if possible. The change to using Customs St West with a right turn into Queen St has been a fantastic change and it feels like it’s significantly sped up the service. The stop is just up from the Customs St intersection and even with a short walk from there to Britomart instead of being right outside, it is a much more pleasant journey.

Of course on Queen St also now has bus lanes and it was good to see AT out monitoring them the other day. Given how AT have acted in the past, I suspect they will start with an educational approach first.

Queen St Bus Lane enforcement

NEX – I’ve had mixed results with the NEX so far. In the afternoon peak the downtown carpark can disgorge a lot of cars onto Customs St West who then want to loop around the block to get to Hobson St – presumably that’s faster/easier than using the dedicated ramp to Fanshawe St. In one experience the bus was held up from being able to turn left at Albert St for a set of lights or two as a line of cars in front of my full bus took their turn to do so. That plus the short walk to Britomart was just enough to see a western line train departing as I walked in the building. However in another experience there were only a few buses and we weren’t held up so I suspect it could be a bit of a hit and miss situation.

Other observations

A few other related observations.

  • Crossing lower Queen St outside Britomart was quite easy, sometimes a bus or two to dodge but fine so long as you were paying attention. Crossing lower Albert St is not the same as for one general traffic is allowed on it which they weren’t on Queen St. And because it’s open to cars and quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.
  • Of course crossing at the lights is always an option too and given the numbers of people who will now be getting off NEX services and probably heading southeast of the bus stop I wonder if AT should consider converting the Albert/Customs St intersection into a Barnes Dance like the intersections to the east of Albert St.
  • By contrast to Albert St, the new/currently temporary space outside of Britomart has been a welcome improvement. Walking to/from the station and having more space without having to dodge buses is fantastic. I also like that AT are thinking about temporary activation of the area – such as this which was being painted the other day.

Temporary Activation outside Britomart

Overall the changes seem to have gone fairly smoothly and I haven’t seen any real issues with the changes either personally or on social media (not saying there haven’t been). I’ve also noticed that AT have had a lot of ambassadors around directing people who might need it to the new bus stops which is useful. So all up sounds like AT have been fairly successful here. Were you affected by the changes and if so what are your thoughts on them?

A Summary of AT’s Internal CRL Business Case

The City Rail Link is probably the most intensely scrutinised transport project New Zealand has ever seen thanks to the government’s earlier outright opposition to it. Over the last six years we’ve seen a number of studies, reports and business cases examining the project and often one sided and deeply flawed reviews of all of these. In 2013 when the government finally came to the party and agreed with the project although they wanted to delay it till 2020. In January they agreed the project could start earlier (although their funding may still only start in 2020) which would allow Auckland Transport to get on with the project including negotiating contracts.

AT already had approval and was/is well underway with the first stage of the CRL up to Wyndham St. Late last year they started the process of sounding out the market on the rest of the project. As part of that they’ve produced an internal business case looking at the project taking into account the all of the changes to the project and improvements in their understanding of it.

AT have now released a glossy summary of this business case – one issue with the document is that many of the graphics are of quite low quality and in some cases impossible to read. They are quick to point out right on the front cover:

This document is AT’s internal business case to facilitate the Gateway Review process prior to letting contracts for enabling works construction.

It is not a joint business case with government.

As I understand it, the Gateway Review process is related to the market sounding and working out the best way of sequencing and contracting out the project. As AT Chairman Lester Levy says at the end of his opening message.

The business case summarised here will continue to evolve. This version is suitable for the AT Board’s decision on letting Enabling Works contracts. As the project is further developed the costs (and benefits) will be refined and the business case advanced.

On to the interesting stuff.

AT say their detailed economic assessment shows the project will return benefits of $2.96 – $3.2 billion in Net Present Value using the NZTA standard 40-year assessment with a 6% discount ratio. When assessed against the costs including operational ones (also in NPV terms) it has a BCR of 1.6-1.7. That’s much better than the 0.4 in the hatchet job that was the Ministry’s initial review or the 0.9 in the City Centre Future Access Study which wasn’t a full detailed assessment. It’s also better that most of the government’s big RoNS projects

A breakdown of the benefits is shown in the graphic below.

CRL Benefits graphic

Travel time savings are obviously the biggest single benefit and the document gives some information on the project’s impact on transport use. The results were modelled by the joint modelling group that is made up of the council, AT and the NZTA. They say that in 2046 during the two-hour morning peak there will be 50,000 people using rail if the CRL is built compared with 32,000 using rail if the CRL wasn’t built and 12,000 in the AM peak in 2014. Aotea Station will surpass Britomart and see 13,000 people pass through in the morning while Britomart will still be busier than it is today and have 12,000 during that time.

The modelling also looks at difference in mode share for the city centre across the entire day between 2010 and 2041. As you can see private vehicle usage remains unchanged at 34,000 – about the same as it also was 2001. Bus use and ferry use both increases slightly but the big changes come from rail, light rail and active modes which grow significantly. Based on those figures, by 2041 only 26% of people will enter the city centre in a car. It also must be remembered that so far we’ve had a history of underestimating public transport usage.

CRL City Centre Mode Share

Interestingly in the section that briefly talks about capital and operating costs it says AT may not need new trains initially.

As the CRL allows a major productivity benefit from shortening the route from the west to Britomart, additional EMUs may not be required for the immediate post-CRL opening services. The shorter route means that the overall operating cost for the rail services will reduce.

This seems hard to believe given how fast patronage is growing. Yes the CRL will speed services up and combined with improvements that need to be made before then, it will help get more out of the fleet we have but in my view, the CRL will be so popular that not having additional services sounds like a recipe for very busy trains.

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Aotea Station will be the busiest in the city

One of the big things our economic assessments aren’t able to grasp – especially with projects like the CRL – is just how transformational they can be, especially when it comes to land use. For the West in particular it will be like the whole area has been lifted and moved 10 minutes+ closer to the city. Even within the project area it opens up some significant development potential.

They say that just the CRL footprint includes 4.9ha of developable land with a potential floor space of 210,000m² to 250,000m². That could be enough space for thousands of jobs and thousands of new resident. The estimated value of this potential new development is $1.2-$1.4 billion and of course that won’t have been included in the business case. Some of the options for redevelopment are shown below.

CRL TOD options

The project, while disruptive to build, will be fantastic for Auckland and it’s good that over the last few years AT have been able to get on with it despite the initial government opposition. We’ve already seen the disruption start with bus and traffic changes and as underground services get shifted. Within weeks diggers will be on the ground to actually start working on the tunnels themselves.

City Bus changes for tomorrow

The City Rail Link gets a step closer tomorrow as the next round of changes for the city centre kick in as work ramps up to the start of construction.

The biggest changes will see all of the bus stops around Britomart move.

Changes are coming to bus services in downtown Auckland from this Sunday 17 April.

Construction work is about to start on the City Rail Link (CRL) and this affects bus services on Albert St and lower Queen St in particular.

AT Metro Bus Services Manager, Brendon Main says Auckland Transport is moving bus stops now to minimise disruption to passengers.

“Some parts of the downtown area are being closed off so we are have to move some buses. On our website we have set-up an interactive map which will help people find if their service is affected and where it departs from.”

Auckland Transport also has signs at bus stops in the area and will have ambassadors at stops to help customers.

Mr Main says Auckland Transport wants to make it as easy as possible for passengers but this is a big change and will need some patience.

“The CRL is the biggest construction programme ever in the central city so there will be some disruption during the construction phase. At the same time there is a lot of building work going on in Albert St so the buses will have to work around this.

“All we can ask is that people follow the signage and talk to ambassadors so that we can make this as easy as possible for our customers.”

The changes to routes and stops are shown below

Arriving

CRL Bus changes map arrival

Departing

CRL Bus changes map departure

There are a few other changes to such as to the 020/005 and 991x/992x routes. There is also an interactive map showing where stops are moving from/to.

I’m sure there is bound to be some confusion and teething issues while these changes bed in so I won’t be surprised to hear about issues come Monday morning but hopefully the issues will be minor.

Perhaps somewhat ironically (or depending on your view perhaps appropriately), as one of the biggest supporters of the CRL I’m also one of the most impacted by these changes. I work in Takapuna and pass through the city to get there. The first round of changes back in October last year removed direct buses to Takapuna from near Britomart resulting in me requiring an additional transfer to get to/from work and now buses from Britomart will be a little further away. But as frustrating as it can be at times, I’m also acutely aware of just how important and transformation the CRL will be.

In addition to bus stop changes, also going live tomorrow are (finally) bus lanes on Queen St which turned green 1-2 days ago.

Other recent changes include the closure of the underpass at Britomart which needs to be removed so the CRL tunnels can be built. It’s not being reinstated as after the CRL is finished the space outside the station will be a public plaza so there will be no buses to dodge.

Britomart Underpass Closed

I’m looking forward to the actual construction work starting. I’m not sure just yet of the exact date but I believe it is likely to be within the next month or so. I believe the demolition of the Downtown Shopping mall starts early June.

Combined with all of the other work going on in the city it’s certainly a busy time.

Porters Ave and the CRL

While looking at Auckland Transport’s website recently I came across a now closed consultation relating to the Porters Ave level crossing and how it is affected by the CRL. Some of the information included in the consultation is quite technical and may be of interest to readers.

As originally planned the CRL was to have had a station underneath the southern end of Symonds St before travelling through a flat junction to the connections towards Grafton and Kingsland. Due to the grades involved the tracks from the CRL would have been in a cutting about 4m below the current track level at Porters Ave so it wouldn’t have taken much to bridge over the tracks to provide a grade separated crossing. This is shown below.

RevA

AT say this design is no longer possible due to the changes made dropping the Newton Station and creating a grade separated junction in its place. As a result, the tracks will be a lot closer to the surface and as such would need a higher bridge. The problem is the proximity of the crossing to New North Rd and as such the ramps needed to reach the bridge would result in a 2-3m difference in height at the intersection. As such AT needs a different solution.

A traffic assessment found the crossing was used by just over 2,800 vehicles a day with hourly peak volumes as shown below. It also found that the impact of closing the crossing would send traffic to Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd which would result in some all increases on nearby roads but that overall travel times won’t be all that different.

Porters Ave Traffic volumes

For the consultation AT provided three alternatives. Each were assessed a range of criteria which can be summarised into four groups

  • Strategic
  • Traffic
  • Environmental and social
  • Economic

1. Close the crossing built build a pedestrian/cycle bridge

Given the title, it should be fairly self-explanatory and AT say that this is their preferred option having come out with the best results from the assessment criteria with a total of 12.07.

RevA

2. Close the crossing built build a pedestrian/cycle bridge and a road from Fenton St to Akiraho St

This is an extension of the option 1 above and adds a new road connection between Fenton St to Akiraho St. AT say the main issue with it is that it would require new land to be purchased to build the connection and would increase vehicle numbers. From the analysis it wasn’t too far behind assessment of option 1, scoring 11.41

Porters Ave crossing Option 2

3. Build a new road connection from Ngahura St.

The third option is a departure from the two above and AT also consider it the least favourable option. It would involve building a 120m long bridge from Ngahura St. This option would not only be expensive but also require the removal of the apartment building next to the tracks. In other words, this wouldn’t be cheap (or easy). It had an assessment score of 9.84.

RevA

Option 1 does seem like the best of them but it will be interesting to see what feedback AT get. Will they cave and pursue a bridge option like they did just down the road in Newmarket with the Sarawia crossing?

I also wonder when or when we’ll hear about any other level crossing removals. It feels like something not even really on ATs agenda.

Lastly I thought this image (click here for larger version) showing the layout of the area was quite interesting. In the top right you can see a cross section of the rail corridor at a few locations. Also showing is the junction that will be underground and the extension of Ruru St over the new station platform and around alongside the tracks to Mt Eden Rd.

Mt Eden indicative layout

 

City Centre Bus Stop Changes 2.0

Auckland’s city centre is already starting to see the impacts of the early works for the City Rail Link but in coming months that will step up a gear. In preparation AT have already advertising about the next phase of works and the changes that will occur. They say the advertising is designed to:

  • Raise awareness of traffic delays in the central city that are likely to happen once the build begins
  • To get motorists to reconsider their transport options into the city, to consider; public transport, walking, cycling, carpooling or other options
  • To inform bus users of changes to bus stops in the central city that are moving as a result of CRL early construction.

Of the next round of changes, one of the first to be seen will be the closure of the underpass from Britomart to QE2 Square at the end of this month. The tunnel is being fully removed as part of the CRL works which will see the area outside of Britomart is being turned into a public space.

The biggest change will prior to works will be the change in bus stops for many services – this follows a raft of changes late last year prior to the enabling works starting. The routes/bus stops will change on April 17 and AT have done a better job this time in communicating these changes. For all routes affected there is a brief description of the changes for each of the routes impacted but more importantly they’ve created some maps to show this more clearly.

The first map shows how inbound buses will travel l to their destinations in the city while the second map shows the routes of they will take to get out of the city. As you can see, all services that currently use lower Queen St (outside Britomart) will be shifted.

Arriving

CRL Bus changes map arrival

Departing

CRL Bus changes map departure

The 020 and 005

CRL Bus changes map 020

991 & 992

CRL Bus changes map 991-992

They’ve even created an interactive map which allows you to select a stop and a service using that stop, the map will then highlight where the bus stop has moved to by way of a green pin.

CRL Bus changes interactive map

With all of the changes happening both in the city and coming up on the New Network it seems like a useful tool for AT to have.

As mentioned we’ve already started to see the impact from the works that are happening. In the latest AT board report they note that they’ve set up a Tactical Response Team come up with an operations plan to deliver interventions to improve how the network is managed.

City Centre Tactical Operations Plan

With the level of new development and new transport projects occurring in the City Centre a co-ordinated approach to the management of the roading network is required. Development of a Tactical Operations Plan is underway, which will provide a framework for the operation of the network including construction planning, incident management, traffic management and customer communications. Over the last month two teams have become operational – the tactical response team and the working group. The working group is a proactive planning team from across AT and the NZ Transport Agency looking at upcoming projects, developments and events on the network to plan interventions in advance and manage travel demand in the city centre.

The tactical response team manage daily operations in the city centre, responding to traffic delays and issues and has additional support from two SCATS (Sydney Co-ordinated Adaptive Traffic System) intersection control operators providing 7am-7pm coverage. Travel times and traffic delays are monitored in the city centre on six key routes: Quay Street, Customs Street, Victoria Street, Wellesley Street, Queen Street and Hobson/Nelson Street. During February traffic entering the city increased from the January holiday period. Delays have been experienced particularly at Quay Street (3 minutes in the evening peak and 1-2 minutes across the whole day) and Customs Street (increase of 1-2 minutes across the day). With the works at Victoria Street delays have increased with average speed being as low as 12.5 km/h however, interventions by the Tactical Response Team have increased these speeds by up to 25 percent.

I hope they’re also ensuring that to achieve improvements in the road network, that they aren’t doing so by compromising pedestrians through things like longer waits for pedestrian phases.

Rodney Hide’s bizarre rail rant

Rail has been on a roll recently, electrification has vastly improved the quality of our trains, patronage has been soaring – sustaining over 20% per year on year growth and as of January was at 15.5 million trips. Added to that the first stage of the City Rail Link is now under way and of course most recently the government got on board with starting the main works in 2018. With so much positive news it can be easy to forget that there are still some fighting very hard (thankfully unsuccessfully) against these changes.

This was highlighted well by former ACT leader Rodney Hide the other day who pulled out some of the most clichéd, bizarre and contradictory arguments for reasons why we shouldn’t be building rail. If you didn’t know he seriously believed what he was saying you’d swear it was comedy. Listen to it yourself below but some of the comments include:

  • Trains are a 19th century technology that are “hopeless at moving people around in cities” and “not suitable, not designed for shifting people” – I look forward to Rodney’s campaign to re-educate so many cities all across the world. Even in the context of Auckland it is clearly not true given the rapid growth as soon as a half decent service was provided.
  • That “since the 70’s “they stopped work on completing the motorway network, so it’s never been completed and the idea there was to congest the roads so that people would be forced on to trains” – perhaps he would like to explain what the $4 billion that’s has been/is being spent the Western Ring Route is all about then.
  • That it’s all an evil scheme by planners to try and control people’s lives rather than letting people choose how they live and travel – because people can obviously choose to live next to train stations and catch trains that don’t exist.
  • He used to catch a train because it was a convenient way to get from Newmarket to the city yet he doesn’t think it makes sense to make it convenient for a greater number of people.
  • Why invest in PT anyway when driverless cars will save us all. Will also be great because will be “privately owned and privately run” – Of course that’s exactly what happened with PT in the early 90’s something we’re only just recovering from now.

Perhaps someone needs to show Rodney what’s been happening with rail patronage which will be close to 16 million a year by now.

2016-01 - Rail Patronage

Interestingly he didn’t make any of these criticisms just a month an a half ago when praising Len Brown and to a lesser extent John Key, for getting the project over the line. One of ironies of course is that without the amalgamation of the councils, for which he was responsible, it’s likely the CRL would never have been signed off.