Video of the day: Future of cities

Here’s an interesting short documentary on the future of cities – if you look closely, you can see a few shots of Auckland (and a few ideas on what we could do next):

 

Autonomous Cars and the City

I made a little Tweet Storm Saturday morning on an issue that’s been on my mind about driverless cars and the City:

Here’s the link to the very good video produced by the Ryerson City Building Institute in Ontario, Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1B9z8ituS8&feature=youtu.be

There are of course many other issues, not the least of which being this technology’s utility for Transit services. But interestingly as a result of my tweets I was sent this link from the US Highway Admin on the very subject of aviation standards versus road standards. Because, let’s face it, the standards are wildly different: 38,000 people were killed directly by auto-dependency last year in the US, that’s just in crashes, that doesn’t include those dying of respiratory diseases, or from the way driving makes people fat and sad, also leading to earlier death from the diseases of inactivity.

I have an additional thought too. At what point will the near perfect safety performance of driverless cars lead to human driving becoming illegal? I suspect this is an almost inevitable consequence of this technology. Likely to start in certain areas then be extended. Perhaps what Google et al are ultimately doing with Autonomous Vehicles will lead to a redefinition of the conceptual link between cars and freedom in American culture?

Submit on Transport Networks for Auckland’s Future Urban Areas

Today is the last day to submit on the consultation by Auckland Transport and the NZTA on what the call Transport for Future Urban Growth. Around two Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to Auckland’s fringes in the North, Northwest and South over the next 30 years as part of the council’s Future Urban Land Supply Strategy. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used as part of their planning and funding processes.

If you haven’t already I’d suggest putting a submission in. At a high level my views

  1. It’s good that the networks generally have strong PT components in the three main areas of North, Northwest and South. The place shaping role of rapid transit is critical in these areas and early investment must go on rapid transit. If we don’t we’ll be encouraging these areas to develop in ways that make it much harder to retrofit good quality PT later and this new growth will be very auto-centric as a result.
  2. The roading networks are over the top and unnecessarily excessive. Peripheral areas are never going to have perfect transport conditions but it seems like the networks are aiming for that.

One thing this process does is highlight just how expensive greenfield development can be. Suggestions are that just these high level projects could cost around $8 billion all up or about $70,000 per dwelling and that doesn’t take into account the cost of local roads or other infrastructure that is needed to support development.

 

Below is a copy of my earlier post on the consultation (although the videos are new)

The websites for each of the three main areas also gives a little bit of information as to how they’ve responded to the feedback received and for each of the key areas there is also a more detailed map which is on the AT website. In all of the maps below the mode/intervention uses the same colour scheme, Red = Rail, Green = Bus, Blue = Road, Gold = Safety improvements.

South

In the south it’s good to see AT specifically mention electrification to Pukekohe as that was something no mention was made of in the earlier consultation. It’s something we can only hope gets the go ahead soon as it seems fairly critical to some of the other parts of the plan for the South including a bunch of new stations and better services. On the roads the massive Mill Rd corridor is set to march on all the way to Pukekohe. The biggest omission from compared to the first consultation seems to be an east-west route from Pukekohe to SH1.

In this transport network, a key focus is increasing access to public transport, with more capacity and a well-connected rapid transit network at its heart. This would include electric trains to Pukekohe, express trains, new stations and rapid transit links, for example between the airport, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany and a high frequency bus route between Drury and Manukau.

The plan focuses on great access to jobs, town centres and recreation within south Auckland and links to the wider region.

Another key focus for the south would be an extension of the Mill Road corridor from Manukau to Papakura and Drury. This would help improve safety, provide improved access to new growth areas and provide an additional north-south route. Connected to the Mill Road corridor is a new route to Pukekohe to improve safety or reduce congestion on SH22. An interchange with SH1 will also be further investigated at Drury South.

We’ve also identified further work is needed on how better connections between Waikato and Auckland can be provided.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

The North looks like a much bigger roads fest compared to the with almost all of the proposed roads from the earlier consultation included in this consultation. For PT the busway will be the heart of the system in the area and s being both physically extended by going to Grand Dr but also and with more stations too.

At the heart of the network is the extension of the rapid transit network (RTN) by linking Albany to Dairy Flat, Silverdale, Wainui and Grand Drive.

Additional stations along the RTN would become hubs for extended public transport services into the growth areas and Orewa, providing fast and efficient access to employment, town centres and residential areas.

Dedicated walking and cycling networks linking to public transport hubs would provide a range of options to get to work or for leisure. New and upgraded arterial roads running both eastwest and north-south would improve connections and safety through the area as well.

Capacity would also be increased on State Highway 1 (SH1). An interchange incorporating both Dairy Flat and Penlink will be investigated to see if it would alleviate access from bottlenecks at Silverdale further north.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

Like the others it appears that almost all of projects from the earlier consultation have made it through to this round. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is AT say they’ll do some more to look at the costs and benefits of extending rail to Huapai – although the website also suggests it could be compared to electric rail.

A key focus of the draft network is on providing high capacity public transport networks to move people efficiently and reliably between the places they want to go. This includes a rapid transport network (RTN) adjacent to the SH16 and SH18 to and from Kumeu, Westgate through to the city and the North Shore. Park and ride facilities are also identified to provide access to these services.

Further investigations are proposed on the extension of electric trains to Huapai to assess benefits and costs. Initial work shows a RTN along SH16 will have faster journey times and serve a wider catchment.

Another key focus is improving the safety and capacity of SH16 north of Westgate and the major arterials that intersect it. To help address congestion as the area grows and keep the Kumeu and Huapai centres as safe, local community-focused environments, an alternative through-route to SH16 is proposed.

A direct motorway to motorway connection between SH16 and SH18, improvements to Brigham Creek Road, and upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway and arterial road networks in Whenuapai and Red Hills are also identified. The feasibility of a range of different types of interchanges at Northside Drive and Squadron Drive will also be investigated. Dedicated walking and cycling paths connecting to public transport and existing cycle routes also feature.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest

Consultation closes at 4pm today.

TFUG consultation results

You may recall recently the consultation that took place for the piece of work AT/NZTA call Transport for Urban Growth (TFUG). Essentially over 2 Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to the fringes of Auckland in the North, North-west and South over the coming ~30 years. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used for future planning and funding processes.

Today the Council’s Development Committee has an item on its agenda looking at the results from the initial consultations. Supposedly this has been fed into the next more detailed stage of consultation due to start tomorrow – but there are no details for that yet. Given how long it normally seems to take for AT to respond to consultation feedback, the whole process has a bit of a pre-determined feel to it.

There are over 160 pages in the consultation report so I’m only going to stick to the high level results. There is a very clear theme throughout the results of people really wanting much of the focus on public transport.

The South

In the South a lot of the focus included the level of use of the rail network and extending Mill Rd potentially all the way to Pukekohe as an alternative North/South road corridor.

TFUG Potential Projects South Auckland

From the 98 submissions there was a strong support for various improvements to PT in the area.

  • Improvements to public transport services in the area were considered highly desirable. In particular there was a call for improvements in rail services, including introduction of express services, extension of the rail network beyond Pukekohe, additional stations along the existing route (eg. at Paerata), further electrification of the network through to Pukekohe and beyond and more park and ride facilities. There was a clear preference to spend money and invest on public transport in the area and rail, rather than bus services, was seen as the key focus.
  • Support for improvements to public transport services came from both residents and businesses.
  • There was also support for improved road connections to reduce congestion on the Southern Motorway, such as by providing an alternative north-south route (eg. to the airport and the west via Weymouth and/or extension of the Mill Road corridor), or widening of the existing Southern Motorway. Reducing travel times was considered the highest priority and an alternative route was preferred as the best way to improve roads to achieve this. Others suggested that increasing rail freight services in the area would reduce the number of trucks needed to move freight by road and in the area, therefore helping to address congestion.
  • While most comments and most comments and feedback focussed on public transport and road networks, there was a small number of comments regarding improvements to walking and cycling facilities in the area, including pedestrian and cycle access and connections to railway stations.
  • Many participants were sceptical that only 20% of morning peak work trips would be further north than Manukau and the Airport trip data collected as part of the consultation suggested the Auckland CBD is a key destination for those living in the south.

One of the interesting features about the consultations was the use of a wallet that allowed people to divvy up $100 of spending across each of the proposed projects. Here are the results.

TFUG Feedback - Spend - South

The North (Silverdale,Wainui), Dairy Flat)

In the north the focus was also on North/South routes with a number suggested along with extending the busway to Silverdale and possibly beyond.

TFUG Potential Network - Dairy Flat-Millwater

Again public transport improvements received the most support from the 100 submissions received. A summary is below.

  • There was a call for improvements to public transport services the area, particularly to bus services. Many people living in the area would prefer to travel by bus and wanted to see bus that were efficient, affordable and well-connected. Specific improvements included more frequent and express services, separate busways and bus lanes, extension of the Northern Busway and local bus feeder services. Increasing at park and ride facilities was identified as a key issue There was a desire to see heavy or light rail in the area and increased ferry services.
  • There was a sense that many participants felt transport networks and infrastructure were behind housing growth and development the area, further contributing to existing traffic issues. Improvements to public transport were seen as key to alleviating some of the current congestion.
  • Recommendations for improvements to road networks focussed on improvements to routes (eg widening State Highway 1, additional on/off-ramps), as well as east-west routes such as Penlink. Safety was also highlighted as an issue on roads in the Dairy Flat area. Strong links to through roads and motorways was considered a key focus for business areas.
  • The Auckland CBD and Albany were key destinations tor people Wing in the Silverdale, Wainui and Dairy Flat areas.
  • There was notable support for improvements to walking and cycling facilities in the area, such as separate cycle lanes and widening of roads to make them safer for cyclists and footpaths in places where people are currently forced to walk along main highways

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - North

The North (Warkworth)

In Warkworth the focus of the consultation was almost exclusively on a range of roading projects.

TFUG Potential Network - Warkworth

Warkworth bucked the trend of the other consultations and was the only one where people wanted the biggest focus to be on road improvements. Given the town is much more disconnected from Auckland than say Pukekohe, this isn’t all that surprising. A summary of the findings from the 169 submissions received.

  • For this part of north, improvements to roads in the area was the highest priority, In particular. participants wanted to see improvements to the Hill Street and reduced congestion generally, particularly in Warkworth itself and on Matakana Road. Addressing particularly around the Hill Street intersection. was considered a matter of urgency and one of the main ways to make the area a great place to live. This was considered a priority by both residents and businesses. East-west were considered a lower priority.
  • Recommendations to address in the area Western Collector bypass, the Matakana Link to access to Elizabeth Street, changes to traffic light phasing and/or the intersection a roundabout instead. A Matakana Link Road extension in particular had a hotel level of support from locals in this part of the north.
  • Public transport improvements were considered a priority, but secondary to improvements to road networks. Primarily, residents called tor improvements to bus services (such as regular bus services, new bus stations and bus service connections to the Northern Busway) and adequate park and facilities.
  • Good walking and connections were also desired by participants. This included provision of footpaths in areas not currently served by them, wider and better quality footpaths and cycle paths.
  • The Auckland CBD is a key destination for those living in the Warkworth area, followed by local trips within Warkworth and Abany. There was a preference for making journeys by car or bus.

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - Warkworth

The North-West

The Northwest was different to the others in that it presented quite a few potential PT options and of course some road upgrades too to SH16 beyond Westgate.

TFUG Potential Network - Northwest

Like in the South and around Silverdale, the biggest response from the 254 submitters was for better PT as the highest priority. That trains to Huapai came out as the top request doesn’t surprise me as it’s something that sounds good as a soundbite.

  • Public transport improvements are considered the key priority in the north west. In particular, participants called for re-introduction of a commuter train service from Kumeu/Huapai (and potentially as far as Waimauku and Helensville) to the CBD. Participants wanted to see a train service that was frequent, reliable and fast, with a timetable that met resident needs (eg. at convenient times tor commuters to the CBD). There was also considerable support for improved bus services, including express bus services and shorter journey times, separate busways and bus lanes, extension of the Northwestern busway to Kumeu/Huapai and bus services to locations such as Riverhead. Re-introduction of rail and improvements to public transport generally received support from both residents and businesses.
  • Alongside public transport improvements, participants wanted to see accompanying park and ride facilities with sufficient capacity.
  • Secondary to public transport improvements, improvements to road networks in the area was considered a priority to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.
    Recommendations included extending the North Western Motorway, widening the motorway and/or State Highway 16, bypassing Kumeu/Huapai, a direct connection between State Highway 16 and State 18 and improvements to intersections (eg. at the Coatseville-Riverhead Highway) to reduce congestion and improve safety.
  • Many participants mentioned that improvements to in the area needed to happen urgently, given that infrastructure is already to cope and the population the area is to grow
  • Improvements to walking and cycling facilities, particularly in the Whenuapai area.
  • The Auckland CBD was the key in the area, followed by Albany and Westgate/North West Mall. There was a preference for wanting to make journeys by train or bus

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - North-west

It’ll be interesting to see what the next stage of consultation includes.

TFUG: North-west

The third and final consultation on Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG) has kicked off today and this time it’s the turn of the North-west. The intention of this work is to start working out what major transport infrastructure is going to be needed to support around 110,000 houses on undeveloped land in three main areas on the edge of Auckland. The first consultation was in the South and last week they kicked off the consultation for the North.

In the Northwest they expect that over the next 30 years there’ll be around 30,000 new homes housing 75,000 people. There’ll also be around 13,000 new jobs which suggests the area will continue to have very high commuter flows.

The development is expected to mainly be in two clusters, one around Westgate/Whenuapai/Hobsonville and a second around Huapai/Kumeu. This is shown below along with some of the transport projects already being planned

TFUG Committed projects - Northwest Auckland

 

One question I continue to have is why AT are thinking of widening Hobsonville Rd when we’ve just built a parallel motorway. As someone who travels the road regularly (when riding home like I’ll be doing this afternoon) the road is has fairly light traffic volumes and is certainly not a priority to widen.

The main transport issues are listed as:

  • Safety of State Highway 16
  • Communities along State Highway 16, such as Kumeu and Huapai, have only single road access in and out, limiting travel options
  • Severance caused by State Highway 16 and the rail corridor
  • No rapid public transport connections between the north west and large employment areas.

When it comes to the list of potential options for the North-west there are quite a few.

TFUG Potential Network - Northwest

  1. Alternative corridor parallel to SH16.
  2. Extend commuter rail services to Huapai.
  3. Improved east-west connections to Redhills.
  4. Extend the northwestern busway to Kumeu/Huapai (and future proof for light rail).
  5. Direct north west to North Shore connection between SH16 and SH18.
  6. Improved connections to Coatesville, Riverhead and North Shore.
  7. Westgate to Albany busway.
  8. Increased frequencies on Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry services.
  9. Improve safety and/or capacity on SH16.
  10. New north-south connection.
  11. Whenuapai new connections.

There are immediately a few quite interesting aspects but I’ll cover them further below as they are looked at in more detail in options for the individual areas.

In the Red Hills/Westgate/Whenuapai area a lot of growth is already under way. They say the housing is sequenced to happen around Whenuapai from 2017-2021 while the housing around the area around Red Hills will be between 2022-2026.

AT/NZTA say planning is already underway for the NW busway as far as Westgate but they also want to know whether it should be carried on to Kumeu (yes) or done via just bus lanes. They also want to know if a busway or bus priority should go over SH18 to Constellation.

NZTA also obviously want to give better north/east motorway connections which weren’t built as part of the motorway works finished about 5 years ago.  It would be interesting to see just how much those connections will cost.

TFUG Potential Network - Northwest - Whenuapai

Looking further northwest at Huapai/Kumeu there are a few additional options. Along with the busway/bus priority there’s also the possibility of upgrading the existing rail line from Swanson. I think the busway/light rail wins hands down as the rail line is simply too indirect and not many travel from the area to stations along the western line – a trend that isn’t likely to change. Even without a full busway, improving services is something AT could be putting in place fairly quickly if they wanted. I also suspect that getting SH16 out of the Huapai/Kumeu town centre is almost certainly going to be needed as the area develops.

There is also a question as to whether SH16 should be improved through the town centre or if the town centre should be bypassed by a new road. If the goal is to make the area more like a town centre – like I think we should be aiming for – then a bypass is going to be a better option.

TFUG Potential Network - Northwest - Huapai-Kumeu

This consultation is open for two weeks while the consultation for the North finishes next week. Following this consultation, the team/s working on it will come up with a suggested package of projects for further consultation in April.

 

Transport technologies – Part 3: Telling a different story

Introduction

In two previous posts (here and here) I have discussed some factors that seem likely to impact on the development of transport technologies. To sum up, these posts discussed:

  • External factors that impact the development of new technologies, including land use patterns, public policy settings, and demographics; and
  • Economic factors that impact the uptake of different transport technologies, including economies of density, fixed/variable costs, and complements versus substitutes.

This post will now consider some emerging transport technologies in more detail. These technologies seem likely to make us much better off in the next couple of years, and are worth getting cautiously excited about.

1. Information technologies – The brain in the palm of your hand

Hypothesis #1: Improvements in IT technology will make it easier for people to access the information they need to make good choices. When presented with this information, people will travel by the best transport mode for that particular journey, rather than the one that is easiest. This will reduce the dominant role played by private vehicles in our current transport system, especially in denser cities where a variety of transport options are available. By reducing the complexity and cost of getting around, these IT technologies will also increase the attractiveness of dense cities as places to live.

Some of you may be reading this post on your phone. On the same phone you may also have access to apps such as Google Maps, Uber, AirBnB, and Tinder. With these apps you can check bus/train timetables, book a (cheap) taxi, find a cool place to stay, and arrange a hot date. They help you access the goods and services you want in an efficient manner.

The long-run impact of these kinds of technologies cannot be overstated. In barely 20 years, for example, online dating has completely transformed how we meet the people we love, as illustrated in the figure below (source). Of course, more traditional forms of romantic encounters remain important, but they are *less* important than they were previously. In this way IT has expanded our options and enabled us to do something we were already doing, just more effectively. They function at their best in areas of high density.

_88183678_hetero_couples_624

NB: 1) This data only goes up to 2009, i.e. it excludes the more recent advent of Tinder and 2) the % of same-sex couples who meet via online dating is higher still.

Google Maps, Tinder, and Uber are old (albeit good) news. What’s the next big transport IT to emerge?

I think it has to be ride-sharing. Uber themselves are operating a shared version of their service in some cities. And they’re not the only ones: The graph below, for example, shows the growth of “Bla bla car” in Europe from 2009 to 2014. Year-on-year growth of 100-200% has enabled Bla bla car to raise hundreds of millions in venture capital to fund their ongoing expansion.

blablacar-s-user-growth-in-europe-million_chartbuilder

Bla Bla car works as follows: 1) Go to a website; 2) Enter where you are travelling to/from, and 3) you get a list of people who are driving that journey, their time of departure, and the cost. It costs about 5 Euro to get from my house in Amsterdam to Rotterdam, which is a 75km journey at 6 Euro *cents* per km, i.e. cheap as chips. Many drivers are happy to carry pets, and some are commuting regularly, so you can negotiate arrangements for a more regular journey.

Now there’s been lots of (failed) attempts at building ride-share platforms in the past, so why am I so confident that something like Uber’s shared service or Bla bla car will take off soon? Two main factors make me think things are different now. The first is psychological: In the last decade or so, a proliferation in online platforms, such as TradeMe/EBay, Uber, Tinder, and AirBnb, has helped people become accustomed to procuring goods and services in this way. The second is market size: Most people in countries like NZ now have smart phones, providing economies of density in supply/demand (as discussed in last week’s post).

It is not just ride-share: All manner of transport services stand to benefit from turbo-charged IT.

For example, some may think that using different apps for different transport modes is confusing/complicated, and you’d be right. That’s why some clever folks at a Melbourne-based start-up have created Rome2Rio, which is a (gorgeous) ***multi-modal*** transport planner. Rome2Rio searches (mono-modal) transport engines to find the best options for getting you from A to B, whether it be short and long distance by car, plane, boat, or train. For example, below is a possible itinerary to get from my street in Amsterdam to Crete, including details on connections, prices, and schedules.

Rome2Rio

 

It is making it easy to travel anywhere, anytime, by any transport mode. On the demand side, by simplifying things people will be able to choose the journey that is best for them, e.g. train from A to B and ride-share from B to C, rather than simply doing what’s easiest, e.g. driving from A to C. On the supply-side, such things are likely to result in increased competition and ultimately see more mileage coming from fewer cars, trains, buses and airplanes.

Of course if/when driverless cars become available then they will seamlessly plug into these kinds of IT platforms.

However, as was discussed in a previous post, if driverless cars are going to be a cost-effective way for everyday people to travel, rather than just a cheaper form of taxi services used for occasional trips, then they will need to carry multiple passengers, just like a bus does currently. And to carry multiple passengers efficiently, then driverless vehicles are subject to the same laws of geometry as public transport: They will tend to travel most frequently along the busiest corridors of demand. Of course they could divert to serve just you, but that’s going to cost you a lot more.

Which brings me nicely onto the next topic …

2. The driverless revolution – How it will turbo-charge PT

Hypothesis #2: The revolution in driverless technology will be applied first and foremost to PT. Cost-efficiencies associated with driverless technology will slash OPEX costs and increase PT’s relative cost-effectiveness compared to all other modes of transport, with the exception of taxis. The latter, however, will tend to complement use of PT in denser areas.

First some background: Drivers are expensive. They account for approximately half the cost of operating a taxi and about 30-40% of the cost of operating PT. So if you remove the need for a driver, then the costs of delivering taxi and mass transit services reduce significantly. In contrast, when you’re talking about private cars the impact of driverless technology on costs is smaller, because the passenger (who was the driver) still has to travel regardless, i.e. the driver’s time is (usually) not “saved”.

Driverless technology may reduce the costs of providing PT services to the point they no longer need OPEX subsidies.

Compared to private vehicles, implementing driverless techology in mass transit systems is relatively easy. PT operates along fixed routes and to fixed schedules. Driverless technology is particularly easy to implement in separated rail systems, which is why so many new metro rail systems are now using it. But it’s not just rail that will benefit from driverless technology, Perth, for example, is currently trialing driverless buses, such as that illustrated below (source).

 

concept_image_driverless_1bbigtd-1bbigte

Meanwhile, slightly further a field one are the runaway success stories of driverless metro systems, which have been constructed in places such as Copenhagen and Vancouver. The success of these systems, which achieve farebox recovery rates around 150%, has encouraged many other cities to follow suit. Milan, for example, has recently opened a driverless metro as illustrated below (source).

Milan-metro-Line-51

Driverless PT, when combined with other initiatives such as congestion charging and accurate parking pricing, raises the prospect that PT services could operate profitably and thereby generate funds to reinvest in more services or infrastructure.

Could driverless PT technologies be deployed in the Auckland context in the near future?

I think the answer is yes. Aside from the rail network perhaps the first candidate for the deployment of driverless technology is the Northern Busway. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Northern Busway – it’s a great service and it was cost-effective to build and operate. The Northern Busway is a key part of Auckland’s successful PT story. And it has scope to grow, with things like double-deckers and more efficient ticketing systems. However, if AC and AT are to achieve their transport objectives, i.e. patronage keeps growing for several decades, then at some point a higher capacity PT technology may be needed.

Driverless rail is one possible solution.

Driverless PT will also put an end to strikes and frequency/span issues that have periodically plagued PT network for decades. I suspect driverless technology may be the circuit-breaker than enables high-quality PT  to operate profitably all-day, every-day. No more Sunday service levels, no more leaving the party early to run for the last bus or train.

At this point some may protest that PT still suffers from the “last leg” problem. Thankfully, this is another area where technology looks set to make out lives better …

3. Sweet mobility – The electric explosion

Hypothesis #3: Rapid developments in electric technologies will not only transform the transport technologies we already have, such as cars, buses, and trains, but it will see the emergence of a range of smaller devices tailored to different needs and peoples. These devices will gradually solve the “last leg” problem and complement high-quality PT services.

Unbeknownst to many, the world is undergoing an explosion in electric transport technologies. This explosion is not, however, confined to cars, even though Tesla garners a lot of publicity.

Ineed, the primary impacts of the electric explosion is on devices that are much smaller in size. For example, here’s the “Folkvänlig”, which for those of you who don’t speak Swedish means “People friendly”. This is an electric bicycle developed and sold by IKEA, which can achieve a top speed of around 30-40km/hr and has a range of 50-100km.

Some of you may be thinking that e-bikes are a niche technology. If so, then you’d be incorrect.

In 2014 global e-bike sales totaled 32 million (source). By way of comparison, in the same year global cars sales were 85 million (source). That’s right: sales of e-bikes alone represented more than one-third of *total* cars sales. Another statistic that worth considering: Global electric car registrations hit only 320,000 in 2015 (source). So on a global basis, annual e-bike sales exceed electric car sales by a factor of approximately 100 to 1. Think of that the next time you see a glib news story about Tesla (NB: I love the concept of electric cars, I just feel that they’re significantly less important than e-bikes).

There’s any number of other wonderful electric mobility devices that are already on the market. Some are even small enough to be picked up and carried with you, thereby complementing the use of PT. We have electric scooters …

And the solo wheel … (“reinventing the wheel”).

Electric technologies also have implications for PT. Buses could soon be electric, while batteries may enable electric rail that is powered by overhead wires to operate “off-grid” for some distances. Such technologies could be applicable in Auckland, for example by enabling us to extend the reach of the EMUs to places like Pukekohe without incurring the costs of electrification.

Conclusion: Reinventing the wheel?

Just to sum up:

  • Hypothesis #1: IT technology will make it easier to use the best transport mode, rather than the one that is easiest.
  • Hypothesis #2: Driverless technology will drive down operating costs to the point where PT is profitable in many cases
  • Hypothesis #3: Electric technologies will improve the transport modes we already have, and see new ones becoming available

In short, emerging transport technologies may mean the future is characterised by far fewer cars and greater uptake of non-car transport modes. I’m not saying this is a given, but it does seem possible – and even likely.

I want to finish by considering a recent report by NZIER. This report evaluated changes in car technology and concluded they were awesome and going to destroy PT, i.e. a different conclusion from what I have reached here. While I disagreed with the authors of the NZIER report on almost every point, I found myself agreeing with some of their recommendations.

That is, given the uncertainty inherent to discussions of future transport technologies perhaps the best thing we can do is ensure that our current policy settings are 1) non-distortionary and 2) durable. Such policy settings are often referred to as “no regrets” policies. So when the NZIER report calls for shifting to a road-user based system, especially one that allowed for time-of-use road pricing, I agree. This would encourage more efficient transport and land use choices today, while also preparing ourselves for the uptake of electric cars in the future, if that comes to pass.

I think this is all kind of cool. There’s lot of exciting transport technologies on the horizon, and regardless of what we do they will result in a more efficient and effective transport system. And even if people disagree on how technologies will impact our future, we can still agree on some changes we should make.

What would you do if you were NZ’s grand transport pumbah? Let’s hear it.

TFUG: North

Last week Auckland Transport and the NZTA kicked off consultation they call Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG). This is looking at what high level strategic transport networks may be needed over the next 30 years to support over two Hamilton’s worth of population outside the existing urban area – concentrated in three areas, North (including Warkworth), Northwest and South. All up they think these transport networks could cost in excess of $10 billion. There’s more on the process in the original post linked above.

The consultation is lasting over four weeks with each of the three areas getting two weeks – that means you only have one week left to submit on the proposals for the South. Today starts the consultation for the North. The Dairy Flat-Millwater area is expected to get 30,000 new dwellings and 13,000 new jobs.

The future urban strategy basically sees a whole lot of development to the west of the motorway as shown below in the light yellow (residential) and light blue (commercial)

Transport issues in the Dairy Flat-Millwater area are listed as:

  • Maintaining State Highway efficiency for inter-regional travel
  • Significant transport infrastructure will need to be planned, designated and built to support these new communities, which could take up to 20 years to be in place
  • Ensuring the transport sector works closely with other utilities designating and building at the same time
  • Developing a significant public transport network to service commuters and local employment opportunities.

The potential network for the Dairy Flat-Millwater area is shown below and as you can see it’s potentially quite busy.

They ask if there should be a new north-south route and/or if there should be improvements to Dairy Flat Rd and East Coast Rd. At the very least upgrading East Coast Rd seems a bit odd when all of the development is to the west of the motorway.

They also want to know about extending the busway (and future proofed for light rail). They ask two questions, should it be extended to Orewa (yes) and should it run along SH1 like the rest of the Northern Busway or should it divert into the development area to the west of the motorway. The latter might provide greater walking and cycling coverage but would also slow down bus trips, a good old fashion trade-off between speed and coverage.

Linking the north-south routes they want to know where east-west routes should be included too. Some potential ones include

  • Wainui Road connection
  • Millwater South connection
  • Pine Valley Road connection
  • Spur Road connection
  • Wilks Road/Kahikatea Flat Rd Flat Road connection
  • Penlink western connection
  • Bawden Road connection

Lastly they want to know about SH1 and whether there should be a focus on adding capacity or on providing better access to or from it.

TFUG Potential Network - Dairy Flat-Millwater

Along with the Dairy Flat-Millwater area the North consultation also includes Warkworth where about 7,900 new dwellings and 4,000 new jobs are expected.

The government are obviously committed to building Puhoi to Warkworth and the issues are around what impacts that has on transport within Warkworth. Along with that is ensuring SH1 works well and that there are alternative local roads

Potential options include

  • The Matakana Link Rd which is intended to run from the end of the motorway and avoid traffic heading to holiday spots from having to go through Warkworth. I understand the NZTA want this completed at the same time as the motorway.
  • The Western Corridor which was meant to be a bypass of Warkworth till the government plucked the motorway out of thin air as a priority.
  • New east-west routes
  • Potential Park & Ride and bus services to further turn Warkworth into a satellite commuter town.

TFUG Potential Network - Warkworth

What do you think should be the priorities for transport in these new greenfield areas in the North?

Transport for future urban growth

While debate rages on about allowing more housing within the existing urban area, the other side of the development coin is also being progressed with the council planning for over two Hamilton’s to added to our urban fringes in the North, Northwest and South. This is shown in the video below with both already approved special housing areas and the other future urban areas highlighted. All up AT say 110,000 dwellings and 50,000 jobs will be accommodated for in these new greenfield areas which is about one quarter of the growth expected in the region.

The growth is based on the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy which was adopted last year.

Future Urban Land Stategy

Providing all of the infrastructure needed to support these developments isn’t something that can be done quickly or cheaply. One of the key pieces of infrastructure to get right early will be transport so we’re not adding to the areas that we have to go back and retrofit at even greater expense decades later.

As such the Council, Auckland Transport and the NZTA want to start planning for what transport these future urban areas will need and over the next month the Council, Auckland Transport and the NZTA will be conducting consultation about it. They say they want a range of views and not just those who live in these areas now – after all with over 100,000 dwellings most people living in them will be moving into the area. Each of the three main areas will have two weeks of consultation during that time, the dates for each of them are below.

  • Southern Auckland consultation – 18 February to 3 March
  • Warkworth and Silverdale/Dairy Flat consultation – 25 February to 10 March
  • Northwest Auckland consultation – 3 to 17 March.

The consultation is at a high level looking at just the big pieces of transport infrastructure that might be needed to enable these developments to proceed. The consultation starts today and will be followed by a more detailed consultation on costs, routes and options in April. This work will also be feed in to the Auckland Transport Alignment Process currently under way between Auckland and the government. Until the exact options are sorted out we won’t know how much it will cost however it was suggested that just the major projects needed could reach $10 billion and that doesn’t include all of the smaller local and arterial roads that would be needed. If that figure turns out to be correct it would equate to around $91k per dwelling and that’s before all of the other road costs and the costs of other infrastructure (e.g. water, schools etc.).

The information below is just for the South Auckland consultation. The details for the other two will be released when those consultations start.

The map below is a bit more detailed version of the greenfield growth that is planned for South Auckland along with some of the key projects already underway. These new areas are predicted to have about 50,000 new dwellings, 120,000 people and 13,000 new jobs.

TFUG Committed projects South Auckland

They say the key transport issues are:

  • It is predicted that 80% of morning work trip destinations will be no further north than Manukau and the Airport
  • The scale of growth will mean there is a need for stronger north-south connections
  • Lack of east-west connections in the Takanini and Drury areas.

I personally think the suggestion that 80% will travel no further north than Manukau for work very wishful thinking.

Next is a list of potential projects over the whole area. The rail line is obviously already in place which is good but does need electrifying. For major roads, if you combine some of the suggestions there would be an extension of Mill Rd through to Drury and then potentially via a new State Highway all the way to Pukekohe, that’s essentially a parallel motorway or near motorway all the way to Manukau.

TFUG Potential Projects South Auckland

Looking a little closer at a few main areas.

Takanini

They list the key issues as

  • Safety of rail crossings
  • Connectivity to rail and State Highway 1
  • Providing north-south and east-west connections
  • Issues with ground stability a challenge to providing integrated transport and storm water solutions.

Some of the key options suggested are

  • Extend Mill Rd south to Drury
  • Upgrade the three routes to provide east-west connections along with grade separating them with the rail network. One of these, Rangi Rd, they suggest tying in with Mahia Rd on to the West of the motorway.
  • A new rail station at Tironui – There had been suggestions in the past of a new station at Walters Rd next to a commercial development – potentially as a replacement for Takanini but AT decided back in 2014 that the preferred option was one at Tironui

TFUG Transport Ideas Takanini

Drury & Opaheke

Moving south to Drury and Opaheke the issues listed are all about providing alternative routes and not stuffing up traffic travelling to/from the Waikato.

The key options suggested are:

  • Should there be one or more new North-South corridors.
  • Which of the two locations shown on the map would be best for a new train station serving these areas
  • Should the focus be on upgrading SH22 or a new state highway linked in with Mill Rd and SH22 becoming effectively a local road.
  • Should the widening of SH1 be carried on past Papakura to Drury. They ask “What is most important for these improvements? Focus on travel times, reliability, safety, access or other?”

TFUG Transport Ideas Drury-Opaheke

Pukekohe and Paerata

Lastly Pukekohe and Paerata where they say the key issues are:

  • Providing strong connections to Waikato
  • Managing increasing pressure on State Highway 22
  • Increasing capacity and efficiency of the passenger rail network
  • Improving access to this area without making long distance travel between Auckland and Waikato worse.

The key options suggested are:

  • How important is a station at Paerata
  • Does Pukekohe need an east-west bypass and an upgrade to the connection to SH1
  • Where should east-west grade separated crossings of the rail line at Paerata be.
  • As with above should the focus be on SH22 or a new SH corridor
  • Should rail or bus services be extended further past Pukekohe

TFUG Transport Ideas Pukekohe-Paerata

The growth areas of the South have a big advantage over those in the North and North west in that while it needs upgrading, the rail line already exists. With the amount of development planned and the number of services that would be needed I’m guessing it will be likely that we’ll need at least a third main though the area if not more and we’ll definitely need those done north of Papakura. That would allow more capacity for freight and at times faster services to Britomart (once the CRL frees up space on the network).

On the road side of things upgrades to SH22 and Pukekohe East Rd seem like they would be the most appropriate rather than building what would probably end being a new motorway from Drury to Pukekohe.

Submissions on these future transport options should now be open.

To me one of the things this process is highlighting is that for once we might get a true grasp on the cost of greenfield development. Given how expensive it is appearing to be I suspect that it could have long term planning implications for Auckland and other cities. I think it also raises a lot of equity and timing issues. The same level of investment needed to support these new greenfield areas would also likely go a very long way to addressing transport issues within the existing urban area. That would not only benefit new dwellings enabled by those improvements (if they’re allowed) but would also benefit existing residents who would have better/more options.

What do you think should be the priorities for transport in these new greenfield areas South Auckland.

MoTs Future Vision for Transport

Meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife.

That’s the what immediately popped into my head after seeing the future vision for transport released by the Ministry of Transport yesterday. The visions look about 30 years into the future and the reason for doing the work is explained as:

The Ministry of Transport is taking a whole of system, long-term view of the future of transport to help in our role as the Government’s adviser on transport. We want to stimulate wider debate and generate ideas on the possible future of New Zealand’s transport system by sharing our visions of how we think the transport system could look in the future.

The visions we are sharing are not predictions about what will happen, just what could happen.

A lot of the premise for this work seems to be the idea that we’re about to see fundamental change in transport as a result of technology. There are repeated analogies made to the level of change experienced in the early and mid-20th century with them noting how the first cars came to NZ in 1898, that by the 1930’s they were becoming more common while around 30 years later we had wide-bodied passenger jets and had landed a man on the moon.

The technological change expected over the coming three decades is primarily about making our transport system more intelligent. For example the likes of autonomous vehicles and using data to better organise trips.

The ministry have been looking at what the future holds for a while, starting last year with their work on future travel demand. From it they found that in most possible scenarios the level of personal travel – i.e. how far we collectively travel – would decline.

ResizedImage700325-FutureDemand-Diagram2

That work also produced this chart which is one of my favourites and shows that their previous predictions of vehicle kilometres travelled have continued to be over optimistic.

ResizedImage600304-FutureDemand-Diagram1

The visions released so far are not all of them but do cover off a lot of transport sphere. They note that at least one more they are working on is looking at the future of public transport and I’m taking a trip to Wellington shortly to discuss this with them.

To me the visions as shown in the slides below are a mixed bag. Some seem fairly likely such as the suggestion that we will buy mobility as a service – which is starting to happen right now as a result of companies like Uber – and  that high-density urban villages will allow for more trips to be made by walking and cycling which will improve health. However other ideas seem much more fanciful such as the people will be able to commute by plane from a regional centre to a job in Auckland in the same length of time as those who live in Auckland or that we’ll have airships carting freight around.

Some ideas aren’t in the slides but in supporting documents (like this one). One that we’ve seen raised before has been that we turn our rail network – outside of Auckland and Wellington – into guided truckways occupied by trucks platooning together.

The challenge with these road trains is they will probably require dedicated freight lanes. We think New Zealand has unique opportunities in this space.  The rail network, outside of Auckland and Wellington, already provides a separated corridor that could be transformed into a high-speed freight network. The space already allocated means we can potentially be an early mover when
the right technology comes along. Imagine platooned trucks, not guided by a physical set of rails, but by a system that allows them to operate safety on narrow concrete pads on dedicated freight corridors. Imagine the productivity gains for our supply chains, and the avoided costs, by not having to extend the road network to accommodate these systems.

We are not advocating we close rail transport in New Zealand, but there may be whole new ways we could utilise existing rail networks and corridors.

Or you know we could just make trains more efficient and not have to pave all the tracks in concrete.

Here’s a couple more videos about the work, one from the MoT CEO and one from the Deputy CEO.

Have you looked through it and what are your visions for the future and do they align with the Ministry’s? Now, where are those moon colonies and how do I get to them.

How travel trends are changing by age over time

Here are a few more charts from the report into public transport and Generation Y I posted about the other day.

I was surprised to see that in general the numbers of young people getting drivers licences by age group isn’t really changing all that much – with the exception of older people as more people age with licences, and the youngest age bracket due to changes in when you can get a licence.

Percentage of driver licences by age

One of the most interesting is how the distance we travel in vehicles changes with age. You can clearly see those under 35 are travelling less than the same age bracket did in past which helps to highlight the behavioural shift that’s occurring. The same is also being seen for those over 70 which is perhaps partly an impact of initiatives like the Super Gold Card.

VKT by age

I was surprised by just how much the amount of time we spend walking decreases as we get older.

Time Walking by age

 

The percentage of cyclists by age group is quite interesting with the results showing a lull in mid to late 20’s before increasing again with a second peak in the 40’s. Particularly noticeable is the strong increase in all of the older age groups over the last few measures.

Percentage of cyclists by age

Lastly young people clearly use PT much more than older age groups. As the report indicates, if we can improve PT so that it becomes more useful then a lot more of the 15-19 year olds will continue using it as they age and that will lead to large increases in PT use.

Time on PT by age