East-West consenting to happen

Normally organisations don’t make announcements late on the last Friday afternoon before Christmas unless it’s about something they don’t  want much coverage of by the media. Last Friday the NZTA made an announcement that would fit in that category – they’re now going to try and obtain consent for the East-West Link. This is the $1 billion+ project that will create a new barrier between to the water right at a time when we’ve just spent nearly $30 million to fix the foreshore on the other side on Onehunga. It also comes right after Panuku Development Auckland announced that Onehunga would be one of their top priorities including the redevelopment of the Onehunga Wharf.

East-West Preferred Option

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport have taken another step towards construction of the East West Connections project, confirming that the preferred option will go ahead to the next stage.

The project, which is one of the top three transport priorities for Auckland, will now start gathering the necessary planning approvals and consents to protect the route between Onehunga and Mt Wellington.

This follows a wide range of feedback received in July on the preferred approach. The project will improve connections into and out of Onehunga-Penrose and also speed up bus travel times between Mangere, Otahuhu and Sylvia Park.

“A team of consultants has now been engaged to start the planning and consent phase of this key project,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Highway Manager Brett Gliddon.

“People will also have more opportunities to provide further input and feedback as the design is developed.”

The Transport Agency plans to apply to the Environmental Protection Authority for the Notice of Requirement to obtain the necessary land and approvals for the project later in 2016.

At the same time, the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are planning to start work in early 2016 on a package of early improvements. These are aimed at providing some early benefits to freight and public transport users on both the motorway and local road network.

Auckland Transport spokesperson Andrew Scoggins says this will include upgrades needed for the introduction of the new south Auckland public transport network. This incorporates an upgraded Mangere town centre bus station and new bus stops in Otahuhu town centre.

“Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency will also begin improving journeys for drivers moving around busy Onehunga local roads, starting with four laning a section of Neilson Street.”

The Southwestern Motorway will also be widened to four lanes in each direction between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street and bus shoulder lanes will be added all the way to Kirkbride Road towards the airport.

As Cam pointed out well in this post recently, Option F which is what most closely resembles the final option they’ve chosen appears to fail when an incremental benefit-cost ratio is calculated.

As I’ve said before, this project is like trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. Absolutely some parts of the existing road need to have some money spent on it but over a billion?

 

Costs, benefits, and East-West Connections

How transport projects are evaluated has always been of interest to me. I believe that although the standard cost benefit analysis approach that lies behind the NZTA economic evaluation manual has its flaws, the resulting BCR is still an important factor in determining whether a project, or a particular project option, should proceed. I don’t really buy the argument that a project with an unfavorable BCR should be trumped by “strategic” reasons to enable it to proceed. If the strategic reason is any good it will probably be reflected in the BCR, particularly if wider economic benefits (WEBs) are taken into account. I put the Puhoi to Warkworth business case in this category (BCR 0.92) , along with the eye-wateringly expensive Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing for cars and trucks (BCR 0.4).

Recently I took a look at a number of documents on the East-West Connections project – formerly called the East-West Link, released by the NZTA . At this stage they’ve completed an “Indicative Business Case” (IBC) – essentially, an initial investigation of the options for improving connectivity in the area. They’ve published the IBC alongside a number of technical appendices.

This is a welcome step as this is the first time that the wider public is getting a decent look at the project, including all of the options on the table. NZTA’s decision to release the full documentation, without redacting large sections of the analysis, is really good for transparency.

So let’s take a high-level look at some of the specific trade-offs between costs and benefits of the different options. To jump right to it, NZTA’s conclusion is that Option F should be progressed to a Detailed Business Case. Here’s a picture of Option F, which involves a new highway along the Onehunga foreshore:

East-West Option F

For context, Options C, D and E also involved building new roads (part of the way) along the foreshore, while Options A and B entailed upgrades to existing roads, including freight lanes. A summary assessment of this “short list” is available in Appendix O of the business case.

NZTA conducted a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of these six options. CBA for transport projects typically compares:

  • The financial costs to build and operate the project, and
  • The monetised economic benefits of the project, including user benefits such as travel time savings, vehicle operating cost savings, and reliability improvements and other benefits such as vehicle emissions reductions (or increases) and effects on economic productivity (“agglomeration”).

While CBA does have some weaknesses, largely due to shortcomings in the modelling tools available to us, it’s a conceptually robust way to assess project options. Especially in the case of road projects, NZTA’s approach should capture the majority of the economic benefits arising from projects, including productivity improvements for freight users.

This is the summary table:

East-West BCR table

You can see the net present value of the total benefits exceed the total costs for each option – i.e. the total benefit-cost ratio (BCR) for each option is above 1.

However, there are two problems.

The first is that the NZTA has made somewhat arbitrary assumptions about agglomeration benefits, which in theory reflect the productivity gains arising from improving connectivity between businesses. Rather than formally modelling it using the procedure specified in Appendix A10 of NZTA’s Economic Evaluation Manual, they’ve simply assumed that agglomeration impacts will add 25% on top of transport user benefits for each option.

As Stu previously highlighted in the case of the Mill Road highway, which included a similar “fudge factor” for agglomeration benefits, there is no real reason to do this (other than the rather circular argument that the same thing is being done for other projects).

In the case of East-West Connections, there is a stronger argument to be made for agglomeration benefits, as this project will serve a busy commercial/industrial area. However, it’s still necessary to do the analysis to establish their existence and magnitude! I (perhaps cynically) suspect that the 25% figure has simply been used to make the BCRs all appear higher than they otherwise would be. For public relations purposes it is preferable to have a higher BCR than a low one, even though the purpose of the exercise is an option evaluation rather than an assessment of the absolute economic worth of the project.

The second problem with this table is that it is not consistent with NZTA’s own requirements. Section 2.8 of the EEM sets out requirements for calculating and reporting BCRs. That section requires an incremental analysis of costs and benefits:

EEM incremental BCR guidance

In other words, if you are choosing between two options, one of which is considerably more expensive than the other, it’s not enough to say that the more costly option has a BCR above 1. It’s actually necessary to show that the added (incremental) benefits of the costly option exceed the added (incremental) costs.

This is an important step in cost-benefit analysis as it shows you whether spending that extra bit of money for a more expensive solution is justified. Failing to do an incremental CBA is basically an invitation for gold-plating and overspending – i.e. find a worthwhile project, and then jack up the costs as high as possible.

So let’s take a look at an incremental BCR analysis of the East-West options. For simplicity I’ve focused only on Options A, B, and F – the two cheapest options, and NZTA’s preferred option. (Options C, D, and E are fairly similar to F in terms of total costs and total benefits – including them wouldn’t get a different result.)

Here’s a picture of Option A, which is an upgrade of SH20 and the existing Nielson St route to SH1:

East-West Option A

And here’s Option B, which is pretty similar but also adds a south-facing ramp to SH1:

East-West Option B

I’ve ranked the options from least to most expensive:

  • Option A has total costs of $200 million and total benefits of $850 million. Consequently, it has an incremental BCR (relative to spending nothing) of 4.3. In other words, Option A seems like a good project.
  • Option B has total costs of $500m and total benefits of $1650m. This means that it has incremental costs of $300m (i.e. $500m-$200m) and incremental benefits of $800m (i.e. $1650m-$850m). Its incremental BCR, compared to Option A, is therefore 2.7. This suggests that it’s well worth spending the extra money for Option B.
  • Option F has total costs of $800m and total benefits of $1550m. Relative to Option B, its incremental costs are $300m and its incremental benefits are -$100m. Its incremental BCR is therefore -0.3.

In other words, if the NZTA were to follow their own economic evaluation manual it shows that Option F is not great value for money. It costs a lot more while actually delivering fewer economic benefits than Option B. Negative BCRs are generally not a positive sign that a project is a good idea.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t build Option F, or that we should build Option B. There may be some significant positive or negative effects that aren’t captured in this analysis and that may tip things in a different direction. For example, existing traffic modelling tools may not capture travel time reliability benefits very well. Similarly, we haven’t taken a look at environmental costs – on the one hand, Option F paves over the remainder of the Onehunga foreshore, which is negative; on the other, it potentially moves trucks away from the town centre and residential areas, which might be a good thing.

Admittedly I’m not a professional economist, but to me the incremental BCR analysis does highlight several questions that need to be answered:

  • Given the fact that Option F costs more than Option B while delivering fewer quantified economic benefits, is there evidence that other unquantified benefits, such as travel time reliability, are sufficiently large to justify the added costs?
  • Given that the project is primarily intended to improve convenience for freight users, has the government asked freight companies and shippers in the area if they would be willing to invest their own money to pay for Option F?
  • Given the results of the Basin Reserve Flyover hearings, in which a Board of Inquiry found that the incremental economic benefits of the Flyover weren’t sufficient to outweigh the added environmental/amenity costs, is there a risk that approval for Option F won’t be forthcoming?

And finally, given the results of an incremental BCR analysis, isn’t there a case to also progress Option B for a more detailed assessment in the next stage of the work, given that it maximises economic benefits at a lower cost?

East-West and Gloucester Park Interchange

We’ve known for some time the East-West Link Connections is shaping up to be one of those projects that tries to crack a nut by using a sledgehammer. The thin lines that AT/NZTA draw on the maps make the project look small, but in reality, if built this project is going to be massive. It will involve significant reclamation of the northern side of the Mangere Inlet to build a four lane motorway limited access road – with the truck lobby wanting even fewer intersections than currently proposed. As part of the 1960s nostalgic thinking around this new road, it even appears from the maps that the new road will cut off access to the foreshore, just at a time when the Onehunga side of the inlet is about to have its foreshore restored. In addition to the new road along the foreshore the project also involves:

  • Adding new lanes on both sides of SH20 between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street.
  • A massive new motorway interchange at Neilson St to link people directly to the new road and to Onehunga as well as widening Onehunga Harbour Rd to four lanes.
  • Widening Neilson Street to four lanes and upgrading the Captain Springs Road/Neilson Street intersection – note: it seems the widening is only as far as Captain Springs Rd, not all the way to Church St.
  • The extension of the Waikaraka cycleway to Sylvia Park
  • Widening of Sylvia Park Road to four lanes and direct ramps to SH1 south of Mt Wellington
  • Adding new lanes on both sides of SH1 between the new ramps and Princes Street

Even at this early stage the NZTA suggest the entire project will cost $1 billion. If they carry on with the current thinking then my guess is that the cost will probably start pushing up closer to $1.5 billion.

East-West Preferred Option

AT/NZTA say they are going to be working closely with local community on some aspects of the project and one of those is the Neilson St interchange – or Gloucester Park Interchange as they now seem to be calling it.

I’ve been sent a presentation following a stakeholder workshop earlier this month looking at the options for this interchange. I don’t know which stakeholders are involved but one will almost certainly be The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES). They’re one of the key groups behind current foreshore restoration but they’re also the ones who came up with a horrific alternative plan to put an eight lane road along the foreshore and all the way to Highbrook. As I understand it, one line of their thinking is that if a massive new road is built then as mitigation they can replicate the current foreshore restoration on the inlet. While the eight lane motorway thankfully isn’t happening it seems AT/NZTA are considering some of their ideas for the interchange.

The following images show the potential options being considered for the interchange, in all you can see the route for the rail line to get to the airport.

Option A1 is a version of the TOES concept and amongst other things would require a new bridge across the harbour to go with the two motorway bridges, a rail bridge and a walking/cycling bridge. There’s also a tunnel to link people heading south on SH20 to the E-W Link. It’s actually slightly scaled back from the TOES original version which had the blue connection also as a new bridge.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option A1

Option B1 is the NZTA’s concept and is what is shown in the first image. They note it will have impacts on:

  • Coastal Edge
  • Hopua Tuff Ring
  • Sea Scout Hall
  • Local access
  • Property

As you can see from the image, it doesn’t add any additional road crossings of the harbour, and instead sends traffic to/from Onehunga or the motorway via a new bridge over the motorway.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option B1

 

The NZTA have also come up with two composite options which they’re calling Option C.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option C1

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option C2

I personally can’t see the options that require a new bridge across the inlet stacking up, which means the most likely options to be selected would be B1 or C2

As the new road is intended to be limited access – i.e. no driveways – these plans would make it impossible to access some of the neighbouring properties such as the wharf. There are three options for how to retain local road and therefore walking/cycling access.

Option A is a tunnel under the motorway and new Onehunga Harbour Rd

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option A

Option B is a bridge over the top of the road – this would likely link in with option A and both option Cs above.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option B

Option C is what they call an inner loop but which appears to be a tunnel using part of the old rail designation.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option C

They then combine each of the interchange options with each of the local road options, with each to go through an assessment to determine the best combination. The presentation also notes that following the workshop AT/NZTA agreed they would assess a few other aspects. It suggests not all are listed but includes:

  • Where local roads can go over, not under, the East West Connection arterial.
  • Possibilities for cut and cover of the East West Connection arterial opposite the Wharf area.
  • Alternatives for the suggested bridge, which crosses SH20 in the current options, to become a tunnel.

 

As you can see just from this small section alone, it is likely to be hugely expensive to build this road, which will probably do little for truck congestion because the road will be filled with single occupant cars. If the project was really about providing better access for trucks then they’d be getting on with fixing Neilson St and adding measures like truck lanes. That they’re not doing this only adds to my feeling that this is a make-work scheme for road planners/engineers, and a predetermined solution in search of a problem – much like another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. There’s probably also a case of those working on the project being beholden to the crazy demands of the stakeholders such as TOES and the trucking companies.

Continue reading East-West and Gloucester Park Interchange

Guest Post: The Mangere Inlet – a Photo Essay

This is a guest post from reader Jeff

What do you think of when you think of the Mangere inlet?

For most of us, it’s probably the journey across the Manukau Harbour Bridge to the Airport, and those little darting concrete catwalks linking suburbs we only know by name.

AT and the NZTA revealed plans to build a nearly motorway grade link between the bridge, and the Southern motorway, right along the Manukau Inlet foreshore.

East-West Preferred Option

This is our last chance to see this piece of waterfront land properly activated. What if we could rehabilitate it? What if it could host apartments, sail-boats, restaurants and a promenade? With the old Mangere bridge soon to be removed, there’s room to do something truly special with this area.

“Oh better freight movement!” We reassure ourselves. After all, trucks are the lifeblood of the economy, they keep telling us the economy will grind to a halt without them.

Yes, trucks do link nearly everything, does that warrant such a huge investment of public money to make private KPI’s more efficient, in what is, admittedly, an industrial area that arguably won’t be industrial in only a generation’s time?

But what about Church Street? doesn’t that connect the North Western motorway with the Southern motorway, and eastern suburbs?

What is unworkable about NZTA’s proposed option B?

EW Option - Option B

Currently Church Street functions, albeit poorly, it’s cluttered, congested, and very, very stop starty. A bit of a nightmare Monday to Friday for anyone trying to deliver a consignment, B2B.

With Intersection improvements to Nelson and Church Streets including, removal of on-street parking and traffic Light sequencing, we can mitigate this need without the destruction of a previously destroyed coastline .

Foreshore Before and after

If you’ve been to Brisbane, you’ll no doubt have marvelled at their motorway, slinking around the river to inject people & cars into their CBD. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see prime,  beautiful, expensive river-front land, crushed and bound by nice, white motorway onramps. Imagine what you could do with those riverbanks… An absolute waste of prime waterfront property.

4 - Brisbane

Let’s take a trip, from end to end of this proposed new link. Will we lose anything?

Starting in Onehunga Bay, we have the Aotea Sea Scouts Hall, New Zealand’s oldest yacht club building. Famously nearly relocated during the Manukau harbour Crossing Duplication

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 5

Looking out onto the new foreshore reclamations funded by NZTA as reparations for foreshore destructions five decades earlier. (Note the Sewerage Surge outfall bottom right)

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 6

Heading under the bridges. Complete with a 1970’s style skypath. Imagine if this was planted with huge flax bushes, and the bridge properly lit up at night!

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 7

Lots of unactivated land under here. Reminds me heavily of Silo Park just a few years ago.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 8

And onto the Path

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 9

Under this route runs a huge gas line. The Auckland Council GIS viewer doesn’t show gas lines but if memory serves this gasline powers the soon to be dismantled Southdown Powerplant. There’s a steam output line off that which heads back up a portion of the path providing steam to neighbours.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 10

Now up to Waikaraka Park, war memorial cemetery. A very peaceful spot.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 11

Looking back on Waikaraka Park

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 12

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 13

There’s a Heliport down here!

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 14

Recreational cyclists were abound, I counted just over 50. Including four families, and zero MAMILs. Despite what ones passing impressions may be of this area, it is heavily activated, and quietly beautiful.

Passing through I saw a few happy seals in amongst the mangroves, but with only my wide angle lens on, sorry no usable shots

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 15

I love this scene. A peoples space conjoined with heavy industrial, what would surprise you is just how amazingly peaceful it is, industry everywhere, and nothing but the gentle lapping of waves and birds to be heard

 

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 16

We’re now behind the Port of Tauranga Inland Port

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 17

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 18

Wow, this area had clearly had some special attention some time ago. Gently planted, with man made rock walls and Macrocapra fences run for perhaps a hundred metres.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 19

Westfield junction. Port of Tauranga Inland port behind me. Note the passenger EMU crossing in the background

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 20

Heading towards the Soon to be retired Southdown Powerstation

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 21

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 22

Stage one? Imagine if the whole harbour was linked? Imagine being able to cycle from Mangere Bridge, to Otahuhu, train station, or Otahuhu behind Favona Rd back to Mangere Bridge or
Onehunga? This is one of Auckland’s last hidden Urban oasis.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 23

The point of this photo essay was to give people a little look into a place they might never think about. Would a pseudo motorway on reclaimed land beside it be of any use, when church street simply needs minor intersection, and on street parking removal? What about AT’s Option B? I simply can’t fathom reclaiming more of the already destroyed Mangere inlet to build a road that is only supporting an industrial hub that won’t be there in a generation. Simply put, Penrose-Onehunga, will be gentrified within Gen X’s lifetime.

Coming back home. This is a disused front gate to a home on the Royal Oak hill. This would have once opened onto a foreshore, before the Onehunga Motorway came though in the 60’s

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 24

 

East-West Link and North Shore New Network consultation updates

Yesterday both Auckland Transport and the NZTA made announcements on some recent consultations. They were discussing just some high level results rather than any detailed analysis – which will now begin.

East West Link

AT and the NZTA received quite a bit of feedback about the project with around 1,700 responses. Their summary of some of  the key points shows that they’ve noted some of the concerns we and others have raised – such as the land-locking of the cycleway and access for rail to the airport from Onehunga to remain feasible – they’ve also had pressure on the other side from the trucking lobby who want even fewer intersections which would make it even more motorway like.

East-West Preferred Option

Fabulous feedback for one of Auckland’s priority projects

A wide range of feedback has been received on the preferred approach for the East West Connections transport project, from suggestions about providing cycling on the seaward side of the new foreshore road to design ideas to improve transport performance.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport would like to thank everyone who gave feedback on the preferred approach to improve transport connections into and out of Onehunga-Penrose and the reliability of bus services between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park.

About 1,700 feedback responses were received and approximately 250 people came to the open days. All the information is still being analysed. A summary of feedback, and how it has been used, will be released later in the year. In the interim, these are some of the key themes that have been noted:

  • Suggestions regarding the design of the route with the aim of improving transport performance. Key points include the desire to reduce the number of traffic lights and intersections (particularly to assist with heavy vehicles movements), changes to the design of the Neilson Street Interchange and also the interchange at SH1
  • The East West Connections project continues to maintain opportunities for achieving future rail connections in the area, including rail to the airport.
  • That the project should improve access to the harbour and Onehunga Wharf
  • Walking and cycling facilities should be provided along the seaward side of the new foreshore road (with connections back into Onehunga). Opportunities for improved walking and cycling connections should also continue to be explored. For example connections to Māngere Bridge, Onehunga Mall, Mutukaroa-Hamlins Hill and Orpheus Drive.
  • Natural features such as Anns Creek and the Hopua Tuff ring should be protected and that potential impacts from the project on water quality, air quality, and noise need to be carefully considered and managed.
  • Support for proposed bus and cycle lanes between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park, but some concerns that the bus lanes would be shared with freight vehicles.

The NZ Transport Agency’s State Highways Manager, Brett Gliddon says the responses will help refine the agencies understanding of what needs to be considered as the project progresses.

“We are still in the early stages with the concept design for the preferred approach. The feedback will be used to help us make decisions as we move from concept through to detailed design. For example identifying where cycle lanes should be located, things we need to consider when designing intersections and how we can improve access to the harbour.”

Auckland Transport Key Strategic Initiatives Project Director Theunis Van Schalkwyk says the feedback is part of an on-going conversation with the community the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will continue as designs are further developed.

“We’re very pleased with the level of support we’ve received around the proposed improvements to speed up bus journeys between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park. The feedback will be used to help develop the designs for the bus priority lanes and cycle improvements.”

The Transport Agency’s Brett Gliddon says the next steps for the project will be to undertake further investigations on the preferred approach and confirm the land needed to protect the route. If people have feedback, thoughts or ideas at any time we would encourage them to contact the project team on eastwest@nzta.govt.nz”.

 

North Shore New Network Consultation

AT received massive feedback for the new network on the North Shore with over 3,150 responses or comments. To put that in perspective both the South Auckland and West Auckland consultations had just over 1,000 responses each. Give the level of feedback I suspect that means it’s likely to take much longer to get any results and final decisions about the network.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network

Local feedback will make a better bus network for the North Shore, AT says

Auckland Transport has begun analysing more than 3150 submissions received from the North Shore New Network consultation.

  • Over 2,400 formal submissions (including 26 in Chinese).
  • More than 750 comments on the online discussion forum, which will also be counted as feedback and analysed.
  • 5 petitions were received.
  • More than 32 events were held over the six week consultation period, where more than 3,400 people were engaged with.

“There was a high level of public participation on the North Shore, almost double than previous New Network consultations, and we want to thank everyone for their feedback,” says Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager.

“The more local knowledge and opinion we get, the more informed our decisions will be, and the better the final Network we can deliver.”

The next stage is analysis, which entails evaluating feedback and investigating issues raised.

“When a concern is raised by the community, we look into it in detail,” says Anthony. “This can include exploring different options and the operational and financial implications, such as where bus stops would be or where a bus could turn around.”

“Ultimately we aim to make the best decision for the largest number of people, within the constraints we are given.”

Early results show a range of support and opposition. One resident supported the “better connections to alleviate the demand for parking at the park and rides,” and another commented that “more frequent weekend trips will make public transport a more viable option when travelling with family.”

Once confirmed, the final decisions and service design will be available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork or people can sign up to an email newsletter to be kept up to date.

Implementation is planned for 2017, a timeframe which is required so that any infrastructure changes can be made, and a competitive tender process can be carried out to decide which bus company will operate each route, on certain parts of the network.

Tenders will be released following service design completion in the first half of 2016. A comprehensive information campaign will be held prior to implementation to make people aware of the changes.

“Many people we spoke to during consultation were eager to see the new bus network happen earlier than 2017, but there’s a lot involved in making changes of this scale, so we’re doing it in phases by area.

“Over the next two years we will have delivered a New Network for the whole of Auckland, starting with the Hibiscus Coast this October.”

Consultation on the new bus network for the North Shore ran from 2 June to 13 July 2015. The changes proposed would provide a number of benefits, including new frequent bus services on key routes across the North Shore running every 15 minutes, 7am – 7pm, 7 days a week, and a more connected, and easier to understand bus network overall.

Past consultations for the New Network have included: Hibiscus Coast, West Auckland, South Auckland and Pukekohe and Waiuku.

More information is available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork.

 

Submit on the East West Connections

Post from Ryan Mearns of Generation Zero

In June NZTA and Auckland Transport finally came out with a new proposed route for the East-West Connections, which is a new road route long pushed by business groups that would link SH1 and SH20 either north or south of the Manukau Harbour. An earlier proposed route that cut through the heart of Mangere was dropped in January 2014 after a huge public outcry, and an excellent local campaign. This new route effectively involved joining SH1 at Syliva Park with SH20 at Onehunga, with a direct connection that looks a lot like a motorway.

East-West Preferred Option

This area does suffer from traffic congestion, and does have a large amount of truck traffic, much of it leading to the major Kiwirail terminal and inland port along Neilson Street. So this is one area where we would support some investment to reduce congestion hotspots. However NZTA admitted that it would cost over $1 billion dollars. This is a huge amount of money, and for example is roughly equivalent to the government contribution of the CRL. There is already severe strain on the transport budget from the government spend-up on RONS and the Auckland accelerated motorway projects, so this is bad news for those of us that want the government to progress projects such as the Northern Busway extensions and North-Western busway.

 

The primary concerns we have for the project are that;

  1. The design of the proposed new motorway makes it even more difficult to build rail to the airport. To ensure either light or heavy rail can one day go to the airport, any designs for the motorway should preserve the rail corridor.
  2. The only public transport upgrades proposed are discontinuous shared bus and truck lanes which are poor quality and potentially unsafe. The project should focus on improving public transport in the area to reduce congestion with a network of high frequency bus services with continuous bus lanes.
  3. Current bike infrastructure in the area is disconnected and of low quality. The solution is to provide high quality bike connections linking Onehunga, Penrose, Mangere, Mangere Bridge and Otahuhu.
  4. The new motorway proposes to block off the limited public access there is to the Manukau east of Onehunga, with the cycleway on the land side of the motorway. The project should not have to reclaim the Manukau Harbour and should ensure any works near the harbour improve public access, rather than separate the community from the harbour.
  5. Congestion is an issue in the area, but a billion dollar motorway is not the way to go. The Government should focus any road spending on cheap upgrades to fix localised congestion spots.

NZTA are taking feedback on the East West Connections until the end of Friday. They do have an online form, however it bizarrely focusses on the bus-truck lanes, which are effectively an entirely different project. To help people get the key points across Generation Zero have created a quick submit form, which will send your feedback straight to NZTA.

Click here to go to the form to submit your feedback to NZTA.

More information on the project is available on the NZTA and Auckland Transport websites.

How the Mangere Inlet used to look

Yesterday Auckland Transport and the NZTA released their preferred route for the East-West link semi motorway. It consists primarily of a new road along the northern shore of the Mangere Inlet, something that has already been subject to a lot of change over the years.

Here’s what exists today (well a few years ago). You can see a little bit of variation but the past engineers have largely straightened out the foreshore.

Onehunga Foreshore now

And here’s what it looked like in 1940, before significant reclamation took place. You can also see the level of impact the mangroves are starting to have and they were bairly noticable.

Onehunga Foreshore 1940

 

 

East-West preferred Option and more Consultation

Auckland Transport and the NZTA have just announced a new round of consultation for the East-West Link that ends up being pretty much identical to what was suggested by the business community in their four pages of paid advertorial last week.

They undertook consultation of a number of options back in October and the consultation report released today is beyond a joke. There are no figures to show what the feedback was and only makes comments such as “Some people told us …” or “Some people considered …”. There is no information about how many the “Some people” is or what the demographics of submitters are.

The biggest part of the news is that the preferred option for The East-West route is a four lane “limited access” state highway all along the northern foreshore of the Mangere Inlet. They stress it will not be a motorway but it sounds like it won’t be far off one. In addition to this any parts of Neilson St not already four laned will be widened and additional lanes will be added to SH20 between Neilson St and Queenstown Rd as well as SH1 as far south as Princess St.

Despite all this they also claim it will improve things for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users and to top it off say that the new road along the foreshore “will achieve positive environmental outcomes” for the Mangere Inlet. This seems like an awful lot of PT, cycle and green washing.

On the issue of cycling, the map below suggests the existing cycle facility along the foreshore will be cut off from the water by the road which doesn’t seem a good outcome at all. It also appears that it will cut off any option to extend rail to the airport.

East-West Preferred Option

In addition to the new road a number of changes are proposed on along the frequent bus route that will run between Sylvia Park and Mangere. A mix of separated and on street cycle lanes plus shared paths in some places is meant to improve cycling while for buses some sporadic transit lanes will be included however crucially it appears they will also be able to be used by trucks. It will be hardly fun waiting for a bus there and having a large truck rush past close to the kerb.

East-West Preferred Bus Option

AT/NZTA are also going to be holding some open days on the project starting this weekend

  • Saturday 20 June from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall.
  • Thursday 25 June from 6 – 10pm. – Where: Onehunga Night Markets, Dress-Smart, 151 Arthur Street.
  • Saturday 27 June from 9am – 2pm. – Where: Māngere Town Centre, 93 Bader Drive (outside the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board Office).
  • Saturday 4 July from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall. .

At this stage there’s no indication of just how much this project will cost and I’ve asked AT for more details on that.

As I asked the other day, how much are the truckies prepared to pay for this new motorway?

Edit: AT have confirmed the new road will cost more than $1 billion while the bus and cycle improvements in the second image will cost $35 million

How business groups view transport

Yesterday the Auckland Business Forum sponsored four pages of op-eds in the business section of the Herald about the need to improve transport for businesses. Unfortunately it ended up being a bit of a case of who left the gates to Jurassic Park open and let the Roadasaurs out.

Business Forum Jun 15

You can see all four pages below.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Perhaps the most hilarious of the pieces comes from the head of the National Road Carriers – a trucking lobby group – who effectively suggests that a Mad Max style apocalypse is imminent unless we take quick action to speed up the movement of trucks.

When trucks gridlock, Auckland stops. Virtually everything manufactured, imported, bought or consumed in Auckland is at some point transported by truck.

If truck movement stopped in Auckland, within the first 24 hours service stations would begin to run out of petrol, supermarkets and restaurants would have no fresh food, building sites and assembly companies using just-in-time suppliers would experience materials and parts shortages, and mail and other package deliveries would cease.

After a couple of days, food shortages would develop, motor vehicle fuel availability would dwindle, exports and imports of goods by sea and air would cease, as would operations of many wholesale and retail businesses. Thousands of Aucklanders would soon be out of work.

This demonstrates the critical importance of freight and goods delivery within Auckland’s transport system — when trucks can’t move, Auckland stops.

Freight is the backbone of the Auckland economy. It figures that if we are serious about improving our economy, we must get serious about tackling Auckland’s worsening traffic congestion and improving our productivity and efficiency.

As Auckland’s population grows, it is critical that we stop congestion spreading through the whole of the working day as it is starting to do in some areas of the city.

His other article suggests some of the ways trucks can be avoided where he suggests that trucks should be able to use the busway and bus lanes.

His big priority is the east-west link which he wants the government to take over and build as a RoNS – because you know it’s not like the NZTA is sitting around doing nothing. He suggests that a route along the waterfront on the Northern edge of the Mangere Inlet is good because it will “avoid community severance” and encourage the repair of the “environmentally damaged reclaimed land”. I know some Onehunga Foreshore groups support this option because they think they will get a new foreshore – like what is being done now next to the motorway – on the northern side of the inlet. Of course not that anyone will be able to easily access it due to the severance the motorway they want causes.

Seeing as this route is claimed to be so vitally important for truckies, I wonder how much they’re prepared to pay to use it – or are they expecting this to be a massive subsidy from the public towards their operations.

Herald East-West link graphic

Also pushing to keep the trucks moving is a representative of the construction firms. In this case he’s primarily talking about trucks involved in construction. A case of the trucks must get through to be able to build more roads that will also end up congested. It’s a bit like groundhog day. He also calls for trucks to be able to use busways. He is of course correct when he says:

At the heart of an Auckland-Wellington strategy must be an accelerated effort to improve the city’s public transport system. Getting single-occupancy commuter vehicles off Auckland roads during the day would free up the capacity for contractors, transport operators and other essential trades.

However a few paragraphs later he then undoes that by stating that PT should only be funded if it doesn’t get in the way of building new stuff.

Meanwhile, increased public transport funding is only viable if it does not impact on the activities of the people who build the city.

One area I do agree with him on is in his other piece where he suggests there might be some advantages to merging the local aspects of the NZTA and Auckland Transport. I’d go further and suggest the rail network should also be included. A single agency managing the entire transport network could be useful if it also coincided with more autonomy in how the money is spent rather than the rigid Government Policy Status. That could mean motorway, PT and local road and even rail freight projects could be treated equally but there is little chance the government would allow this.

Stephen Selwood from the NZCID has also written a few pieces. In one notes that the current plans for an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing add no new connectivity and that it wastes the transport budget. His solution to this is to make the tunnel longer and instead connect up to the eastern side of the CBD. However not content with that he also wants to revive the Eastern Motorway and suggests it be built as a tunnel so it “protects the views and amenity of the eastern suburbs”. It would then presumably link up with a larger AMETI project.

If the AWHC is estimated at $5 billion then how much is an approximately 14km tunnel from Glen Innes to the North Shore going to be?

Lastly both Selwood and Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett separately talk about and support the governments push for a transport accord. While I don’t necessarily disagree it seems that are taking the stance that Auckland’s current plans are fundamentally wrong. In my view we’ve seen a huge improvement in the work AT has done in it’s planning for the future and it’s starting to show that the plans of the past aren’t necessarily right or worth pursuing. This has been shown in examples like how they’re thinking of deferring the Reeves Rd flyover which would have just shifted congestion one intersection down the road and to invest the money in bringing forward PT improvements. Another is them looking at light rail as way of addressing looming bus congestion.

Of course there’s also the irony that the business groups are supporting the government in creating another year of delay and debate while also calling for urgent action to speed things up. Perhaps it’s time to stop having a bet each way and pick a position. To me it also shows why it’s so vital that we don’t just leave the conversation about Auckland’s future to these influential and well connected groups.

East West Link back to a motorway?

Unsurprisingly the government’s budget a few weeks ago didn’t offer up much for transport however in the council finance committee meeting earlier that day one part caught my attention.

Despite consultation back in October we still haven’t heard anything from Auckland Transport or the NZTA on the outcome of the East West Link. We also know there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the Reeves Rd Flyover. Back in February AT said they were deferring the project seeing as it would just shift traffic one set of lights down the road and instead using the $170m saved to bring forward spending on the AMETI busway plus bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd. In the months that followed politicians such as Dick Quax became quite upset with this and then in April AT issued another statement saying that the board never agreed to the deferral but that it was just one of the options staff were considering. Note: AT subsequently sent me resolution that was agreed in the closed board session where this was discussed and indeed they only noted the potential change, not agreed to it.

Fast forward to now and Dick Quax is still going on about the flyover. The video below shows AT CEO David Warburton discussing the project with Dick Quax. It starts from about 5:40 in.

Warburton quite matter of factly tells Quax that the flyover won’t solve the problem on its own and that Waipuna and Carbine Rd would also need to be dealt with in order to have any impact – and even then I suspect it would probably just shift traffic to the motorway on-ramp and Gt South Rd intersection. That beeping sound you might be hearing about now is the bill being rung up at the council till.

That is unless the second part of Warburton’s comment is to be believed. He says AT are working with the NZTA to look at an overarching project that links in the East-West link that would see a road from SH20 all the way through to Pakuranga. The map below is just a wild guess but perhaps they’re thinking of something like it. It certainly contains some of the options that they’ve already shown.

East-West + Reeves Rd

Adding to all this is that I’ve heard a few times that East Auckland politicians as well as business groups have been lobbying the government quite hard to make the East West Link a State Highway managed by the NZTA. They know the NZTA has more money to spend than AT does and the government haven’t been afraid to throw more money state highway projects either. Getting the Reeves Rd Flyover and a few other intersections tacked on to the list doesn’t seem like it would be that much more of a stretch.

Of course even if these groups pushing the project are successful that doesn’t make it a good project. Trying to find ways to circumvent the council/AT will most likely mean that money that could have gone to higher value projects elsewhere in the city/country will be pushed back while a likely much lower value project goes ahead. Given Warburton said AT and the NZTA have already held a number of workshops perhaps AT should tell the public what they’re doing on the project as we still haven’t officially heard anything from the options consultation in October last year.