If your interested in history then a useful resource is Papers past which is part of the National Libraries. They describe it as;
Papers Past contains more than two million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 77 publications from all regions of New Zealand.
Because all of the resources are fully searchable it makes extremely useful and is where I was able find this newspaper page. This week they added the editions of the NZ Herald from 1885 to 1924. While having a very quick look search through I came across what appears to have been a letter to the editor from 1924.
The Morningside Deviation that is referred to is what is now known as the City Rail Link. What I found interesting is that while some of the terminology and language used highlights that this is old, many of the arguments are the same we hear today. In particular the suggestions that we don’t need rail as buses can do the job and that we should instead focus on a harbour crossing.
Many of those that oppose the CRL like to use very similar arguments to what was presented here in 1924. It seems some things never change, we instead need to just get on with the task and finally get this project built.
Note: the first reference to the Morningside Deviation in the Herald appears to have been in 1918. That means that even if we get the CRL opened to the timetable that the council is hoping for (2021) it would have over 100 years since the project was first proposed.
The deal between the government and Sky City for a new convention centre has been announced this morning.
Details of the controversial SkyCity convention centre deal with the Government have been announced this morning – and the listed casino operator will pay $402m for the new centre.
The centre is expected to generate $90m of revenue each year. SkyCity will meet the full cost of the centre and be allowed to have 230 extra poker machines. Its exclusive license will be extended to 2048.
It will cost $315 million to build and fit-out, while the land will be worth $87m.
Construction on the centre is expected to begin in 2014 and open in 2017.
Now I’m not going to comment on the moral debate surrounding this agreement, that can be left to other sites. What I am more interested in is looking at are the potential benefits to some of the transport projects that we strongly believe in.
Sky City is surely one of the biggest beneficiaries of the CRL with its properties either right next to the proposed Aotea station which is expected to become the busiest station on the network. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they have already been considering ways to tap into it and funnel passengers from the station through to their premises. The proposed convention centre is less than 200m from the station meaning that will be very easy to access for locals visiting or working at the site.
However if we believe the claims of Steven Joyce (and I don’t tend to believe them) many of the visitors will come from overseas. Those visitors will need to get from the airport to the city. While a good deal are likely to do so via taxis, another project could change that.
Rail to the Airport
We keep getting told that even with massive investment in new roads, congestion is only going to get worse. Even today getting from the airport to the city can take more than an hour outside of the peak. The rail network can avoid that congestion and deliver reliable journey times. Connecting rail to the airport, combined with the CRL means that visitors could be whisked from the terminal straight to the heart of town in around 35 minutes. Further if they are staying in one of the Sky City hotels then it would be super easy for them to reach straight from the station.
Of course a rail connection to the airport isn’t just about people travelling but actually helps to connect the entire south west of the city.
Hobson and Nelson St
Hobson and Nelson Sts currently seem to just be giant traffic sewers whose sole purpose is to funnel as many vehicles as possible to/from the motorways. This has meant that the area has become a pretty horrid place for anyone not in a car. This blog has long called for this to be addressed with our preferred solution being to once again make these streets two way. We first raised the issue a few years ago and the idea quickly caught on, even making it into the councils City Centre Master Plan however it is something we haven’t heard about for a while. With the announcement of the convention centre perhaps it is time for this idea to float back to the surface.
Not only would it help in making these streets nicer places, I believe it could also assist in improving the flow of traffic as currently Hobson St especially gets clogged up in the afternoons as people end up blocking lanes as they try to get into the get into the lanes for the motorway they want to access.
In saying all of this, SkyCity don’t seem to care about any of this with the herald reporting.
The company said as well as the convention and exhibition space, there will be at least 780 carpark and a new linkway bridge over Hobson St.
This is on top of their almost 2000 carparks. Perhaps they are expecting all of these promised international visitors to drive their cars to New Zealand? Adding so many extra carparks certainly isn’t going to help in the councils aims to reduce the number of vehicles in the CBD or to improve the the quality of our streets for pedestrians. This is further reinforced by the building of an airbridge to keep people away from the area. That doesn’t bode well level of interaction we can expect the building to have with the street meaning we will potentially see more gaping holes dedicated to moving cars into underground parking buildings, like the current casino building does (above).
Campbell Live has been running a lot of stories on Auckland issues recently which has been nice to see and has obviously also provided us with a heap of material to talk about. Last night the entire episode was devoted to transport in Auckland. There were three parts to the show, the first was the kind of story done by news organisations from time to time where various staff members try to reach a specific location using various transport methods.The second section was the most interesting as involved Gerry Brownlee actually giving an interview on Auckland transport issues while the third section was about a lady who was having trouble topping up her daughters Snapper Hop (SNOP) card. I’m not going to look at the third section primarily because the SNOP card will hopefully be phased out soon although you can watch it here if you are interested. Here is the first two sections.
The First Section
If you haven’t watched the video, a bunch of staff were tasked with reaching their office in Eden Terrace by 9am using only public transport and it it seems the first mistake they made was by using the Maxx website to plan their journeys. To be fair there isn’t a lot of other options, yes there is Google and some apps but MAXX is what Auckland Transport provide. However the planner seems so woeful and doesn’t seem to ever have improved, AT really needs to put the thing out of its misery and replace it with something more modern. That said the results were not unexpected but also show how vital it is to communicate the benefits of the high frequency new bus network and that a lot of effort is made to make transfers easy. Further not all of the journeys were practical to take by PT, Lachlan Forsyth’s trip for example shows the benefits of commuting by bike and it would be better to encourage more people to do that where appropriate.
The Second Section
This was of course the most interesting and the part where I at times felt like pulling my hair out. To cover this I’m just going to go through bullet point my thoughts.
- At least Brownlee admits that Auckland is growing and that the transport problems will only get worse. It also seems that he has now read the report, something he hadn’t done before ruling out some of the options in the funding proposals a few days ago..
- Brownlee repeats quite a few times that Auckland is getting $1billion in transport spending annually. The emphasis he places on it makes it sound like Auckland is gobbling up the spending but in reality, it is less than 1/3 of the total transport spend in the country. It would have been good for Campbell to ask him how much Auckland provided in fuel taxes annually.
- I actually agree with Brownlee when he questions whether the suite of projects in the Auckland Plan are the appropriate ones and if they are timed right. However I don’t think that we would agree on what projects should be dropped or having their timing changed.
- Brownlee is asked his thoughts on the CRL and he is either trying to be deliberately misleading or has been badly informed. He suggests the project is about a short little loop that goes around in circles. This is exactly the kind of reason why it is so important that Auckland Transport actually publicly state the routing pattern that trains will use so that people can see it is about opening up the entire rail network. To put it another way it will have the same impact on the rail network that the Central Motorway Junction does for the motorway network.
- Brownlee talks about how the cost of the project is $3 billion which of course is an inflated and then rounded up figure. He also repeats the lie that Steven Joyce loved to use, that the government is spending $1.6 billion on the rail network. The reality is $600m was approved and budget for from before this government came into office while half of the remaining amount is a loan that Auckland is having to pay back.
- I’m really glad that Campbell actually asked him where he would spend $3 billion differently, as I pointed out yesterday, it is really important that people who oppose what is being planned actually say what they would do differently (not that Brownlee did). It was almost comical that Brownlee then went on to list a whole suite of road projects the government has already built or is building.
- At first I thought it was really odd the way that Brownlee talked about AMETI and whether that would happen as it is well under way and he has even visited the construction site. Re-watching the video, it then becomes clear that he is talking about a reviving of the eastern motorway. Did Brownlee just let slip that the government is now considering building it? It would certainly fit in with some whispers I have heard.
- Brownlee’s comment that “Aucklanders like roads” really does take the cake. For 60 years this city only ever invested in roads at the expense of almost everything else, it isn’t surprising then that most people drive when that has been made the easiest thing to do. The recent and comparatively modest investment in realistic alternatives has had a big impact and stronger investment in them is likely to see big changes in behaviour. As Stu pointed out yesterday, on a per capita basis people are already driving less.
- Brownlee is correct that we do need to sort out our bus routes and information systems. The good news is that is under way with the new bus network and should be completed by 2016, well before the CRL is suggested to be opened.
- The comments from Simon Lambourne are very rational and in line with what I feel. The big question of course is how many would still chose to drive if some good quality alternatives were in place.
- Brownlee is also correct when he states that the documents released on Monday about funding transport are really just the start of the discussion. This was actually something mentioned quite a few times by the CBG themselves. They suggest that a decision doesn’t actually need to be made on how to fund transport till 2015.
- Once again Gerry sidesteps the question of what the government are actually going to do to improve transport issues in the city.
- After the video from Len Brown, Brownlee goes on to talk about tolling new roads. The reality is that there aren’t that many new roads proposed that could be tolled. We have the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway, Penlink, An additional Harbour Crossing and The East West Link. Effectively every other roading project is an upgrade of an existing road, adding a lane here or there and under the criteria, they couldn’t be tolled.
- Brownlee talks about how they have had to put up fuel excise taxes due to falling revenues and gives a couple of reasons but misses the biggest one that vehicle use is dropping, both in real and per capita terms.
All up most of the comments Gerry made were a bit frustrating but not all that surprising given his previous statements. The more I think about it though, the more it seems as though that he let slip that the government is looking at reviving the Eastern Motorway proposals.
What were your thoughts on the video. Did I miss anything?
Last week I wrote a post about how we need to stop underselling major PT projects like the CRL. I was – and still am – frustrated at the lack of useful information being put out by Auckland Transport that can be used to clearly show the benefits of them.
One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve.
To make matters worse, even those that support the project often don’t seem to grasp the transformational nature of the project and also undersell it. My post last week was aimed at statements from both the Greens and Labour in support of the CRL which has helped reignite the debate in the public. But without good information in the public domain, it is very easy for wrong or misleading information to spread, especially when it is pushed in the mainstream media. I’m guessing that the Greens Reconnect Auckland campaign is what has triggered off the latest bout of CRL related news stories.
On Friday Campbell Live ran a story about the CRL. I will start by saying it was actually a lot better than most that we get however there were still some glaring mistakes. I’m just going to list my comments about both the good and the bad parts. Click on the image to view the video.
- The old man at 1:40 makes some very good points worth remembering in this debate, that we need to be thinking about the future and the primary one being that Auckland is a growing city. Even using Statistics NZ most recent projections, under the medium growth scenario there will be roughly another 500,000 people living in the region by 2031 bringing the total up to roughly 2 million people. Those extra people are going to place a lot of pressure on our existing transport infrastructure.
- I really had to laugh at the young guy at 1:50 who says he never uses PT, partly because it costs money so he prefers to drive a car. I wonder how much he paid to park his car in the city, let along the costs of running it?
- At 3:00, why does Len continue to use the future inflation adjusted price instead of what it costs today? Also remember that the $2.86 billion figure includes a whole raft of other projects like duplicating the Onehunga Line, extra trains and grade separating some level crossings. It does seem that he is about to say something else that might have been cut though.
- At 3:15, the Puhoi to Wellsford road is currently budgeted at $1.7 billion but from memory that is in 2009 dollars. Comparing the 2009 cost of that road – for which the shorter and easier section alone is now costing $1 billion – with the 2021 cost of the CRL is hardly a fair comparison.
- At 4:00, perhaps the most shocking error on the entire report. It is suggested that there are only 4 trains per hour on the network and that the CRL will increase that to 7. Where the hell does that information even come from. As pointed out in my post last week, the CRL enables us to run a train on each line every 5 minutes, that’s 12 per hour per direction and totals 48 trains per hour heading through the CRL, one in each direction every couple of minutes.
- At 6:00, Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett talks about how he wants the Wellington to region to receive a share of funding equal to its population. What he is obviously not aware of is that historically Wellington on a per capita basis has had a much greater share than Auckland. Auckland has historically, and continues to receive less funding that it provides in taxes. He also raises the point that Wellington has been waiting decades for Transmission Gully. If he thinks projects should be funded based on how long they have been proposed then the CRL still wins as it was first mooted in the 1920s and was the reason the main train station was moved out of the CBD in the first place. Further if we were to base transport spending on the expected percentage of growth over the next 20 years, for Wellington to get Transmission Gully, Auckland would need to get around $18 billion to receive a similar level of investment.
Then there was yesterday’s opinion piece by Rodney Hide on the CRL. I’m not going to cover it again as I did that yesterday but am going to talk about some of the comments in response to it. Unfortunately reading comments on Herald opinion pieces is often a hair pulling exercise but can be useful to see what misinformation exists out in the general public. So here is a selection.
Waterfront (West Auckland)
08:59 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
It’s like the inner city rail link.
What a complete waste of money. How do people get to and leave mt Eden for this proposed train line. There is no parking planned at mt Eden so how do people get there from outer suburbs? Walk?
More buses before trains.
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Trains going round and round the CBD doesn’t help me nor anyone I know get to work.
I was working in Albany and living in Henderson.
Or, try going from Henderson to Carbine Rd.
Or, Waiuku to Henderson – like my son.
12:50 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Who benifits from inner city rail. Not the suburban rate payers; it’s the inner city rate payers that get all the goodies, that contribute most to all the grid lock. Why not wack up comercial rates on the CBD to fund the project. The nat’s have their corporate taxes so low right now that they can well afford it
Clearly these people have the impression that the project is just about building a line that goes around in circles around the CBD, not a link that will improve the entire existing rail network and allow for it to be expanded. AT really need to get a map out showing how the rail network will operate after the CRL including how the lines will through route allowing for a range of trips.
MikeyB (New Zealand)
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
And the rail lopp will only allow three more trains in per hour.
I wouldnt be surprised if those at AT were getting back handers from the involved construction companies
The first part of this comment obviously came straight from the Campbell Live piece and highlights how important it is that AT gets information out about how many trains we will actually have on the lines.
Silver Fox (East Tamaki)
09:07 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Very good points Rodney. The rail enthusiasts are dreamers, mostly without common sense. Let them pay the real cost of transporting them by rail. As for transporting goods by rail, another dream. Do they ever consider how the goods are to get to and from the rail head and the heaps of vehicles sitting there for hours on end to pick goods up, that is after the paperwork to actually find the goods. NZ rail eventually put articulated trucks on the road in the 50′s to speed up goods cartage.
Ahh, the old chestnut of making train users pay for the upgrades themselves. Why is it that people continue to think that roads magically cover all of their costs? The reality is they don’t and huge amounts of money spent on them every year comes from sources other than fuel taxes.
12:37 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Rather than plowing even more money into public transport there should be money spent promoting the benefits of telecommuting. That is having more people working from home.
If more people did this then this would go along way toward reducing the need for people to travel into work at peak traffic times. Choosing instead to either travel to work only when they have meetings that cannot be conducted online or stay at home and conduct their work affairs from there.
If more and more business adopted telecommuting as an option I am sure that over time the pressure on our transport system would ease quite significantly.
Many businesses now allow staff to work from home yet it makes very little impact. One of the huge benefits to working in an office with other staff is the ability to bounce ideas around much quicker and easier than is possible if everyone is in remote locations. This can have huge benefits for businesses.
Therecanbeonlyone (Auckland Region)
12:38 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
(in response to the first comment talked about)
Kind of agree will you on this, trains in Auckland have a limited operational area. There are no train tracks over the shore, or out east. Buses are the only option for these areas. Maybe the money would be better spend on dedicated bus lanes (like over the shore) or dedicated bus roads (like Crafton bridge).
How I believe there is a place for trains in the public transport plan, where they are integrated with buses. Apart from the Papakura, Manuwera & Homai stations, I have not seen many other train stations that have a regular bus service near them. Perhaps the buses could transport commuters to the nearest train station and the trains could carry them from there
Yes trains have a limited area of coverage and that is being expanded on by the RPTP which was adopted by Auckland Transport. While AT has stated this as part of the RPTP, perhaps they need to mention this in any material relating to the CRL as well.
phil lindsay (Queensland)
12:41 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Developing effective rail in Auckland requires lane acquisition of land for tracks and parking. Auckland is not laid out for rail, more so because rail has not been developed over the years.
However extensive work has been done to develop its road net work. Therefore it is logical, and has been for decades, to develop of comprehensive bus network linking suburbs to each other and to the city.
This would require land for stations only. An intelligent city will work to its strengths, it does not mindlessly follow other cities. I have never understood why Auckland did away with its central station when it did, poor money into Britomart, and for decades has failed to develop the obvious.
If you build it they will come. If there is an effective bus service linking suburbs and the city it will be used, but it has to be put in place first.
This seems to ignore the issue that there is only so much space on the roads to handle buses, especially in the central city which is why the CCFAS found the CRL was the best long term option. It also ignores that the rail network had/has been sitting as a vastly underutilised resource. The CRL is about maximising that resource rather than having it sitting around just for a few freight trains.
And I will end on this one.
02:56 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Will never bother with the trains and can’t be bothered with buses either.
My plan is to wait till a lot of other people do, they the roads I drive on should be less clogged which is better for those of us that need our cars to get around for convenience and comfort.
At the end of the day, a lot of people will still drive and that is completely fine as people shouldn’t be forced to use trains or buses. As this person notes, their drive will likely be made easier thanks to the investment.
What all of these comments really confirm to me is that Auckland Transport need to be working to get some good, clear information out about the project so that people can properly understand it.
What is it about right wing politicians in this country and a seemingly irrational fear of trains? Rodney Hide has written his weekly column on the City Rail Link and the two most recent reports, the 2010 business case and the 2012 City Centre Future Access Study.
It’s not obvious to me that a heavy train having to stop and start and be confined to tracks is the best way to ferry people around Auckland. Buses along roads strike me intuitively as a cheaper and more flexible form of public transport.
Many more people live closer to a bus stop than a train station. That’s because buses go along roads that people live on. Buses can also pass one another. Trains can’t do that.
Because of the flexibility and convenience, more people travel into the city centre by bus than train. That will stay true even if Auckland spends billions on trains at the expense of better roads and better bus services.
Nonetheless, Auckland Transport has produced the Auckland CBD Rail Link Business Case (2010) and the City Centre Future Access Study (2012), both saying rail is more cost-effective.
So it seems Rodney admits he has a mode bias simply because he doesn’t understand how trains work, hell you could almost take from his argument that he thinks we are the first city in the world to think about moving people by rail. He then goes on to talk about trying to get more information on the two reports.
My research led me to Wellingtonian Tony Randle, who spent months trying to get the analysis underpinning the 2010 Rail Business Case, succeeding only after a complaint to the Ombudsman.
Once Tony got hold of the analysis he found:
1. Basic spreadsheet errors. The spreadsheet fails to calculate the running costs of the second purchase of 26 trains. That ignores $689 million on the train option.
2. Incorrect exclusion of costs from the rail option. The study excludes the necessary funding to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre. Building this access is a necessary part of the rail option.
3. Addition of a second bus tunnel without explanation, adding hundreds of millions to the bus option.
4. Unreasonable assumptions, including a prediction that under the rail option, present bus capacity into the city centre will carry another 20,000 passengers a day without any new bus lanes or busways.
The errors and poor assumptions total $1.5 billion. The bias is systematic; each and every mistake favours rail over buses. Correcting for the errors reverses the study’s conclusions and shows the CBD bus tunnel more cost-effective than the City Rail Link.
As soon as Tony Randle’s name popped up I knew that a derailment was imminent. We have looked at Tony’s report in the past and it is full of misinformation and his personal opinion on issues. For example why is extending the Northern Busway required for the CRL? it was required for the bus tunnel option because of the number of buses that would have been fed through the bus tunnel and over the shore. With the CRL, we only need to feed buses to the shore that actually need to go there. There are similar issues with the additional of the second bus tunnel. Tony seems to think we can get away with only one lane each way, however it simply wouldn’t have been enough for the number of buses that would have needed to be fed through the tunnel. It also creates the same issue that Rodney raised at the start as no buses would have been able to pass each other. It’s also worth pointing out that Tony is, or at least has at some point been a member of the Bus and Coach Association, the organisation that among other things lists this as one of their objectives “Promote the use of road passenger transport as a valuable resource.”
In saying this, there were definitely a number of errors in the original business case which is what lead to the CCFAS and that is what Rodney looked at next.
Last December, Auckland Transport released a second report. City Centre Future Access Study also concludes that the city rail link beats the two bus options considered, but now for different reasons to the first report. And, once again, Auckland Transport published the study without the underpinning analysis.
I followed Randle’s lead and requested the spreadsheets and the relevant model output reports. Auckland Transport has refused to supply them to me.
Its latest is a lawyer’s letter explaining that Auckland Transport will provide what I want but only if I pay them $3850.
Oh, and they won’t send me the spreadsheets.
What Rodney either fails to realise, or at least fails to explain is that it wasn’t just Auckland Transport who worked on the CCFAS but also the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury. Further all agreed that the CRL was the best option as surface bus improvements alone were not viable over the long term due to the sheer number of buses that would be needed which also had the effect of making things really bad for cars. A bus tunnel, like Tony prefers was found to have cost more and move less people than the other options. As many of you will know, some route already seem to have decent amounts of bus congestion even when bus lanes are in place.
What’s more we have since learnt that there are significant problems with the modelling that even the MoT admit, are likely to overestimate car trips and underestimate the number of trips via PT. I do agree that where possible AT should be releasing the information behind the numbers however we also need to be aware that most of the figures coming out of the modelling are likely to need a lot of explanation as otherwise they could be very open to interpretation.
Once again we now have the various agencies involved agreeing that that the CRL is the best long term option, where they disagree now is on the timing. Auckland Transport are now working on a new business case that will hopefully address the issues raised in the two earlier reports. This also shouldn’t be a mode discussion. There isn’t one silver bullet that will solve Auckland’s Transport issues, we need a combination of improved road, bus and rail to really make this city work and arguing of the merits of one specific project for one mode has the potential to keep us locked into the same cycle that has gotten us into the mess we are in.
One of the most frustrating things about the process the CRL has gone through is not that the government is forcing it to go though extremely rigid analysis, but that it doesn’t require other projects to do the same. Bill English was questioned on this today by Julie Anne Genter but never seemed to be able to directly answer the question. I will say one thing though, he at least wasn’t dismissive of the project.
Also in the news about politics and the RoNS. National’s Northland MP, Mike Sabin has come out yesterday extolling the virtues of Puhoi to Wellsford. Yet at the same time he has confirmed some of the voodoo economics that seems to surround this, and many of the RoNS projects. He claims:
“The Greens would scrap this project in favour of Auckland’s rail loop, because they see it has better cost benefits than the Puhoi to Wellsford project, yet NZTA estimates this RoNS will benefit Northland’s economy in order of $35-$45 million a year, giving a cost benefit ratio of 2 to 1.”
Well let’s just look at that a bit closer. $35-$45 million a year seems fairly significant but in the context of this road is nothing. Being generous let’s say that the benefits start coming in as soon as the project starts and we use the normal 30 year assessment period, ‘et’s also ignore any of the benefits being discounted. That would give us benefits in the range of $1.05 billion to $1.35 billion over a 30 year period. Yet the road is expected to cost around $1.6 billion and that was before the recent announcement that the shorter and easier Puhoi to Warkworth section will cost around $1 billion. I don’t know how on earth you can get a BCR of 2 to 1 when the benefits achieved are less than the construction costs but that is why they are called voodoo economics.
The group pushing for an overhead version of the CRL have cropped up again. Yesterday they published a letter and presentation that they have sent to both Len Brown and Gerry Brownlee and a few others with their alternative. They are now calling their proposal eLtrack.
eLtrack – an elevated alternative for the CRL Tunnel.
We are a group of Auckland-based infrastructure consultants. Over the last year we have prepared a contemporary and affordable alternative for the proposed CRL Tunnel.
Our proposal, which we’ve called eLtrack, is a mostly elevated train route above existing transport routes. It provides a range of benefits for the city when compared to the tunnel proposal, not least of which is a significantly lower cost.
The eLtrack route is double-tracked and meets the specifications for the new EMUs. We have completed an assessment for the route and taken account of relevant transport, engineering, urban design, and planning matters. An ‘order of magnitude’ cost estimate is also available.
The project is explained in the attached brochure. The Light Rail Transit component along Queen Street and Karangahape Road is essential to the idea, and is included in the estimated cost.
eLtrack was presented to the Office of the Mayor, NZTA senior staff and senior personnel of the CRL team early last year, and was mentioned in the City Centre Future Access Study (November 2012). We are disappointed that it was not seriously considered in that report, and we believe its casual dismissal as a viable option was a mistake.
The advantages of eLtrack over the tunnel, additional to its savings of around $750M, are outlined in the brochure.
We have met with the MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye who suggested we write to you with copies to key decision makers. We consider eLtrack needs a serious evaluation as an alternative to the tunnel. We recognise the extent of work that has already been done on the latter, and that an evaluation may still favour that option.
The group fully supports the concept of a City Rail Link, and does not seek to slow progress toward that end. However, given the scale of the project and the Government’s reluctance to contribute to its cost, we consider it prudent to have a viable and lower cost alternative for all parties to consider and compare.
We are prepared to meet with an evaluation team and table the information we have prepared. This includes track alignment diagrams, sketch cross-sections and the cost estimate.
We would appreciate the opportunity to present eLtrack to you personally, and to arrange a meeting with your evaluation team.
We have looked at this before here and here but it is probably worth addressing it once again as there is quite a bit wrong with this proposal. Here is what they are suggesting.
I don’t think that the image quite shows just how much impact they are proposing. The very reason the NZTA ended up building the Victoria Park Tunnel was because the local residents strongly fought to prevent another viaduct being built. Perhaps by proposing an even higher viaduct they think they the residents will be so shocked it would give them all coronary and therefore they won’t fight the proposal. In reality the visual impact is likely to be immense. From what I can tell, it appears the track would be approximately 10-15m above Fanshawe St, 10m above the Wellington St bridge and 10-15m above the Newton Rd bridge. As a comparison the Newmarket viaduct is up around 20m high.
But the visual impact isn’t the only issue with this proposal. By far the biggest issue is simply the catchment. The CRL travels right through the heart of the densest area of employment in the entire country. There are something like 80,000 jobs and 60,000 students within range of the CRL stations yet the focus of this proposal seems to be on getting a station at Wynyard, an area that is predicted to have somewhere in the range of 10,000-20,000 jobs. Why you would try and avoid the area that would provide the most benefit is a mystery. Here is a map showing a 400m walking catchment of the CRL stations (red) verses this proposal (blue).
Wynyard will also eventually be connected with a rail station when a line to the North Shore is built further diminishing this proposal compared to what is being planned.
Other issues include that the route is roughly 700m (20%) longer than that taken by the CRL, reducing the amount of benefit we would receive from faster journeys. They suggest that at $2.14 billion their proposal is $700m cheaper than the CRL however that seems to be comparing their propsal to the inflation adjusted price for the CRL. The actual price for the CRL is now down around $1.8b and could drop further as the project progresses. In a bid to save even more money they suggest building the eLtrack as only a single line initially. For some reason the proponents also seem to want to prevent any buses from actually getting into the CBD and have indicated that all bus routes will terminate at the outskirts of the CBD and transfer to either the rail network or an at grade, tram line that runs from K Rd to Britomart.
All up the scheme seems to fail on almost every single level, it doesn’t save any money, it doesn’t save any time, it doesn’t go where most people want to go forcing a lot more transfers and it would have significant visual impacts to a large area of central Auckland. I can’t think of one redeeming aspect about it. As mentioned in the letter, it was even included as an option in the CCFAS but was dismissed for many of these reasons. I will leave the last word to this mention of it from the report.
The elevated rail was assessed to have some benefit with regards to City Centre access and is much cheaper than a light rail network. However, it is the worst performing option overall with significant implementation, environmental and amenity dis-benefits.
One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve. The City Rail Link is perhaps the prime example of this. Below is a list of the benefits from that AT provided at their CRL open days that were held recently to support the consenting process:
The City Rail Link (CRL) will improve the entire Auckland rail network – allowing more trains, more often, more direct and more reliably to more places.
- The CRL will allow more frequent services on key routes with double the number of trains able to run on the network
- Britomart will become a through station and not the end of the line, unblocking the network and eliminating the need to travel via Newmarket
- More direct travel to the city and improved access to the city centre and major employment areas with three new stations near Aotea Square, Karangahape Road and Newton
- The number of people within 30 minutes train travel of a city station will double
- More people on trains will reduce the pressure on roads to keep traffic moving
- Bus and train services will be better integrated
It is really the first two of the bullet points that I really have a problem with. Let’s have a look at them more closely.
The CRL will allow more frequent services on key routes with double the number of trains able to run on the network
Doubling the number of trains on the network is a good thing but most people wouldn’t have a clue just how many trains are on the network now. Even less would know how many trains are expected to be on the network following the completion of electrification. I would suspect that most people, the ones that don’t currently use trains but who we may want to in the future, probably think that trains only come once every half hour or worse. For them doubling a “crappy” service doesn’t mean it will suddenly become useful. My thinking on this was largely confirmed by the release of a Horizon Research poll released late last year that said 6% of respondents indicated that if the City Rail Link had the effect of increasing train frequency to every 15 minutes in peak hours, they would switch to using rail to travel to work.
The reality of it is that our main lines already have at least 15 minute, or better, services during the peak hours. With electrification and the new PT network, this is expected to increase to a train on the main lines every 10 minutes, not just at peak but all day. The CRL doubles that again meaning we could have a service on every line every 5 minutes combining to a train in each direction through the CRL every 2½ minutes. To me saying either of those two figures is far more powerful than just doubling the number of trains on the network. I think part of the reason why there has been a reluctance to give any specific details regarding frequencies is partly related to the second point.
Britomart will become a through station and not the end of the line, unblocking the network and eliminating the need to travel via Newmarket
Along with the reluctance to talk about frequencies, there has also been reluctance to talking about just how trains will be routed around the network. Currently everything travels from Britomart to the west or south and back again. Any journey from one part of the network to another requires a transfer. The CRL gives the opportunity to change that by through routing services meaning services that come from the west could potentially head south or east after passing through the central city. It is just where they will head that seems to be the problem. Decisions on routing seem to be way down the priority list so not a lot of detailed thought seems to have gone into it. In a double whammy, without knowing the routing proposed it is then hard to say just how many trains will run on the network which causes the issues found in the first point.
But it is these two points that would do far more to sell the project to the general public than pretty much anything else. How different would that Horizon Research poll have been if they had of quizzed people about 5 minute frequencies instead of 15 minute ones? So if Auckland transport won’t promote the project in a way that will get through to the general public, it becomes even more vital that advocates, like this blog, get the message out and that brings me to what caused me to write this post in the first place.
Yesterday the Green party launched their Reconnect Auckland campaign under which the building of the CRL is seen as a critical project. The launch brought with it media attention, the perfect time to really sell just how transformational the project will be. Unfortunately in my opinion they really wasted the opportunity by underselling it. Co-Leader Russell Norman appeared on TV twice about the issue and both times said it would only allow for trains every 10 minutes at peak, half of what will be possible. The first time was on TVNZs Q and A programme (click to go through to the video)
And let’s not even go into failing to dismiss the notion that trains will be going around the city in a loop. The panel also discussed it briefly (need to skip past the GCSB stuff). The second time was later in the day in an interview for the 6pm news.
Of course the greens aren’t alone in this underselling. Labour are just as bad with the press release put out by Phil Tywford and Iain Lees Galloway also claiming it would only allow for 10 minute frequencies.
Mr Twyford said the City Rail Link would double the number of trains on the network, unlocking much needed capacity and opening up the potential for trains every ten minutes on the western and southern lines at peak times.
Of course compare that with the way that roads are promoted, all sorts of benefits get mentioned even if they are not true. A great example of this is Puhoi to Wellsford where even in parliamentary questions, spurious claims have been made. For example last year Gerry Brownlee claimed time savings that in reality would require vehicles travelling up to 250kph. Of course I’m not suggesting that PT advocates should put out false information but at least stop underselling these projects.
These days, no transport project gets built or policy signed off without first being run through a model. I’m not talking about a scale model but a mathematical computer model that is designed to estimate just how people might use a project or how much a project and/or policy will affect the transport system. To do this, these models take historical data like traffic volumes and land use and mix them with assumptions about the future to get a result. Things these days have gotten to the point where people won’t make any decisions without running it though a model, after all if the computer gives the answer, it must be right. Right?
The problem though is that while they are all good in theory, these models are designed by humans. Yes they may be very smart humans but that doesn’t mean that they or their models don’t have flaws. Thanks to the OIA request I received back from the Ministry of Transport, as well as information in the recent Auckland Transport board meeting, we perhaps have more info than ever before on how our modelling works and some of the issues with it.
Auckland uses two general types of modelling, these are described below:
Travel demand models cover the region and are concerned with broad travel patterns and flows. These are usually calibrated on observed data (base year) and are then used to forecast responses to land use and transport changes or interventions.
Operational models usually cover a smaller area, are more detailed, and are used to assess detailed traffic operations on a section, approach, lane or turning movement level. AT operates two general types of operational models, one being flow based (traffic as a “stream”) and the other being micro-simulation (each vehicle or unit is simulated travelling through a network).
Demand models are typically used for long range forecasting whereas operational models range from “now” options to medium range forecasts.
As mentioned in the description about the travel demand models, they are calibrated against a base year. That means the data is put into them and they are tweaked so that they deliver the same results as what actually occurred in that base year. Data from subsequent years would then be added to that. At the highest level we have the Auckland Regional Transport Model (ART 3). This looks at travel demand across the entire Auckland region however this is where the first major problem lies. It was last calibrated against 2006 data which means it is almost 7 years out of date. That might not seem like much but the last 7 years have probably seen more changes in transport behaviour than any time during the prior five decades. Note: The ART3 model is actually controlled by the council, not AT. AT do however control a Passenger Transport model (APT) which looks at the impact on PT however this is even worse with AT saying that it was last calibrated against 2001 data.
As part of the work before AT start on a new CRL business case, they have said that both models are going to be updated to a 2013 base year. Although considering that the modelling was also being used to inform the massive roadfest that is the Integrated Transport Programme, you would have thought it would have been a good idea to update it earlier. A few million spent updating it would likely have had massive implications on the outcome of both the CCFAS and the ITP.
Sow how did modelling work for the CCFAS? Well AT used both travel demand models and more detailed operational models. A diagram of how they interacted is below.
The ART3 model was used to produce initial results based on the employment, population and land use assumptions used in the project (remember these were agreed to by representatives of all organisations). That then kicks out data on vehicle and PT demand which is then fed through the APT model. One of the developments that came about from the CCFAS was a new function to address crowding on PT as after all, if people can’t get on a bus, they aren’t going to be able to use it are they? But here is where there start to be some major flaws in my opinion.
The people who were ‘crowded off’ the PT system were then added back into to the ART model as not being able to use PT. But they get added to the number of trips taken by car and the model then recalculates vehicle travel times with this extra traffic included. As the MoT said in its response to the report, there are no feedback loops to take into account the impact of the changed conditions. In reality people crowded off PT (and we know from the CCFAS this was affecting the bus network) would look for another mode of travel, change their travel time or perhaps not travel at all. While undoubtedly some will drive, the impact of them doing so might force someone else to change their mode, perhaps catching a non-crowded rail service instead.
The traffic results from this recalculated ART model are then fed into a Saturn model, which is a more detailed operational model, to get more detailed outcomes on the impact of the various options. Once again there were also no feedback loops from this stage either meaning that once again, the impacts of the congestion caused by the options were not fed back through the system.
So in summary we have a regional transport model that was last calibrated against 2006, feeding into a PT model last calibrated in 2001 that just assumes that anyone who can’t catch a bus because it is full will instead turn to driving on already congested roads. It is these issues that I think led the MoT to conclude that the modelling was likely overestimating the demand for private vehicle trips while underestimating demand for PT trips. This is likely the reason why the model suggested that during the morning peak period, we would have almost 50% more people entering the CBD via private vehicle in 2041 compared to now while over the same period removing space for cars. For reference the annual screenline survey recorded less than 34,000 people entering the CBD by private vehicle in 2012 while the reference case for the CCFAS suggests over 49,000 will do so.
It seems that until AT start really addressing some of these glaring issues, modelling the true impact of the CRL will remain elusive.
In December the council released the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS). The study came about after the government rejected the original business case for the City Rail Link and Steven Joyce asked for among other things, more information on the alternative options. Crucially the work on CCFAS also included representativeness from the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Treasury. The intention was to finally gain a consensus about the best transport solutions for the city centre.
Unsurprisingly to us, the CRL came out as the best solution but reaction from the government was swift in dismissing the study. The most frustrating part of the governments comments were from Gerry Brownlee questioning the assumptions and investigations undertaken as part of the study seeing as staff in his own ministry were deeply involved. It seems fairly reasonable to wonder, if they had concerns then why didn’t they raise them during the study?
So that night (13 Dec), I flicked of an Official Information Act request to the MoT to find out just what they knew. The request took a very long time and I only got it back a few weeks ago. It definitely wasn’t a small amount of info as there were over 250 pages worth (they wouldn’t provide me soft copies). I have however now read through it all as well as scan all of the pages and here is perhaps the most interesting bits. Note: due to the number of documents I have split it up into sections, in total they come in at just over 100MB so probably best not to try and read them from a mobile device.
10/10/2011 – (Part 2, page 9) The draft terms of reference for the study were sent to Steven Joyce for his comments along with the points raised by the MoT. Unfortunately the ministers comments have been excluded from the request.
04/11/2011 – (Part 2, page 20) Comments in a report to the minister that both the MoT and NZTA are attending fortnightly meetings project meetings which shows that they were very deeply involved right from the start.
23/01/2012 – (Part 2, page 37) Brownlee is now the minister and has been asked to sign a letter to Len Brown around the amended terms of reference (the final version he signed off on is here). Brownlee has refused to sign it as he wants a more detailed briefing on the project first. What is most interesting though is point 20 on the background information (page 40) where the MoT raise the suggestion that there needs to be a more “realistic target date” for the CRL. This is important as one of the key responses to the study from the MoT and government has been to talk of the project being more viable a decade later. Does this suggest they went into the study with that outcome already planned?
24/01/2012 – (Part 2, page 47) This is the additional briefing that was given to Brownlee and there were a couple of notable points. It mentions that the CRL would allow 5 minute frequencies across the network, something that AT won’t even promote for some reason. There is a section on the history of the project but seems to have some mistakes in it e.g. says the idea was first around in the 1970′s when in fact it has existed since at least the 1920′s.
19/04/2012 – (Part 3, page 4) The next few pages talk about kicking off the CCFAS project and includes the project and governance structures, this shows that MoT, NZTA and Treasury staff were very clearly involved in the project including at the highest levels. Also included is the proposed methodology that would be used for the project which includes discussion assumptions and how important it is that they are agreed upon. This is important as one of the key issues the MoT later objected to were the assumptions used.
20/08/2012 – (Part 4) One of the big changes to the study was a request by the MoT to do a detailed deficiency analysis on the transport system. This document is a presentation showing the outcome of this work. You can see from the email that it seemed to really help the MoT understand just how much of a problem the number of buses in the city centre would become.
07/09/2012 – (Part 5, page 1) A report to the minister advising of progress, of note is that the MoT say that the working group have agreed on the short-listed options for further study which were the CRL, surface bus improvements or a bus tunnel. They also note that they are providing comments on the draft versions of the report.
12/09/2012 – (Part 5, page 2) A small briefing given to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ahead of a meeting between John Key and Len Brown which again states what the short listed options were. It also points out that the CRL was likely to be the best option.
06/11/2012 – (Part 5, page 28) A letter from David Warburton to the head of the MoT thanking him for the way the staff from both organisations worked together. This is important in light of the upcoming comments.
09/11/2012 – (Part 5, page 30) Perhaps the first sign that there was trouble brewing. In a report the the minister, MoT officials complain that they haven’t been adequately consulted on some elements. This is despite them having been involved in various stages of the process right from the very start.
03/12/2012 – (Part 6, page 12) A briefing to Brownlee on the CRL. Unfortunately most of it is blacked out so we can’t see what was actually said. Some of the comments suggest that the MoT weren’t happy with the modelling and forecasts yet also confirms that MoT staff were closely involved.
04/12/2012 – For some reason I didn’t scan these page but it is repeated in the next part anyway.
06/12/2012 – (Part 7, page 3) This is the feedback that the MoT provided to AT. With some of the points you really have to wonder why they weren’t raised earlier. One particularly interesting point I noted, is below. It is perhaps the first time we have had a government official acknowledge that our modelling is likely to overestimate vehicle trips and under estimate PT trips.
This comes about because there are missing feedback loops between the congestion in the city and change in travel. It is an incredibly important revelation as resolving this issue is likely to vastly benefit the CRL. We will look at the modelling issues in more detail in another post. However despite that, the MoT then go on in the very next point to suggest in the surface bus option that the modelled congestion on Vincent and Albert St could be improved by scaling back the bus lanes. I also have to question this comment in particular.
My understanding of latent demand is, demand which exists but that cannot be fulfilled because a product or service doesn’t exist to enable it. Under that definition there is latent demand for the rail network, it just needs the CRL for the latent demand to be realised.
07/12/2012 – (Part 8, page 2) Following the earlier mentioned briefing to Brownlee, he obviously came back with some questions which perhaps show where his thinking is, asking about the east west link and and ferries. The most interesting part though is the letter from AT to the MoT regarding their feedback. It is quite clear from the letter that AT were not happy perhaps feeling a bit ambushed by the fact the MoT came back with so many issues so late in the process.
As you can see, there is a heap of information about the project as well as some insight into the MoTs thinking. I made the comment a few months ago that I suspected the government and the MoT went into the study thinking that they could prove that AT were wrong and that buses would be the best option. However that backfired and it seems interesting that officials only really started getting upset about the study and the assumptions made in it after it emerged that the CRL was the best option. These documents confirm that government officials were deeply involved in the study all the way through and for them not to have raised the major concerns they had until the last minute makes me highly suspicious. Adding to that they seem to have gone into the process with a predetermined outcome if the CRL was chosen, in the form of questioning the timing of it, something that ended up forming one of their key complaints.
Another interesting point is that some of the concerns mentioned by Brownlee in his initial response to the report (below), weren’t even raised by his MoT officials to AT which makes you wonder where they even came from.
“Yet the report underplays State Highways entering the Auckland CBD from the south, both SH1 and SH16, and how improvements to these might impact central city traffic.
“Completion of the Western Ring Route in 2017 will also draw many thousands of traffic movements away from the CBD, yet none of these major transport corridors is explored in detail.
“Also overlooked is that evolving workplace practices and emerging technology will most likely have a considerable impact on peak hour travel over the next 30 years.
“These may offer considerable gains for a fraction of the cost of the CRL.
If there is one positive to come out of this, as I mentioned the other day, it is that at least we now have MoT officials agreeing that there is some need for the project, what is in dispute is the timing.