Skypath to move a step closer this week

News has been fairly quiet on SkyPath for some time however that appears set to change with news that the resource consent for the project is due to be lodged tomorrow.

Auckland’s SkyPath is a step closer to construction but its chief planner admits the project is battling funding hurdles, complaints from residents and a lack of political support.

Resource consents for the shared walkway/cycleway attached to the side of the Harbour Bridge are due to be lodged next week, following more than 10 years of planning.

The SkyPath could open as early as 2016 but it would come at a cost, with entrance fees of at least $3.50 each way or $2 each way with a Hop card.

Project director Bevan Woodward said he was optimistic the latest designs would be approved but was realistic about the potential for difficulties and delays.

”With everything involved in this, it has taken longer than expected,” he said.

New Skypath Design

Resource consent represents a major advance for the project but one that will see serious opposition, particularly from a vocal minority that live in Northcote Point.

But not all have shared his optimism for the project, with several disgruntled residents arguing too many people would be parking near their homes and that users might display anti-social behaviour.

Woodward said he had looked to counter those fears by employing two security guards, and said consultations had worked with Northcote Point residents to find the best solution.

The Northcote Residents’ Association said it had major concerns about the SkyPath but was ”not in a position to make any public statement about the project”.

North Shore ward councillor George Wood has stated he was publicly opposed to the SkyPath, but fellow North Shore councillor Chris Darby said feedback he received from residents showed a ”phenomenal level of support”.

Darby said the SkyPath was 55 years overdue and would follow through on the original plan for the bridge, which, before its 1959 build, included designs for a rail line and a 2-metre walkway, similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

”I’m optimistic that this is a project whose time has come,” he said.

”I would suggest there’s a minority concern. But all the surveys I’ve seen for Auckland city-side residents and North Shore residents are in favour of it.”

Also now seemingly tied in with SkyPath is Auckland Transports proposal to improve cycling routes from Northcote all the way through to Smales Farm which has brought government minister Jonathan Coleman into the debate complaining about parking. Both Coleman and Wood have now setup a meeting for tonight on Northcote cycle improvements in a bid to fire up locals against the project. If you live in the area and support both SkyPath and the improved cycling infrastructure in the area I would urge you to go along and make your voice heard

Coleman-Wood Meeting notice

Coleman-Wood Meeting notice 2

The comment that there is no such thing as a residents parking zone is a bit comical and perhaps they should ask the residents just over the St Marys bay about that. Speaking of comical, George Wood has also created this video about both projects featuring highlights such as:

  • Suggesting a concrete is historic which can’t have its layout changed.
  • Suggesting a concrete road is an icon of Auckland
  • Saying parking is at a premium due to the historic nature of the area in which residents don’t have off street parking followed by a shots of houses, all of which have off street parking and in which there is still plenty of on street parking available.
  • On street parking being used to park a boat
  • The owner of the Northcote Tavern not supporting cycling improvements as he fears locals won’t be able to drive to have a drink – again notice plenty of on street parking not occupied.
  • A shot looking towards the bridge again with heaps of available on street parking.
  • George talking to a supposedly NIMBY cat
  • Scaremongering that the SkyPath will be too heavy for the bridge.

As far as I’m aware George is the only councillor who has opposedSkyPath to date which is odd considering how many of his constituents both at Northcote Point and in other areas of the North Shore would benefit from the project.

There have also been some new details starting to emerge with these two documents uploaded to Scribd. by George showing what appears to be some new images of the project.

 

While this one is the result of a research report into the potential patronage of SkyPath. From memory one of the reasons for this report was that some locals didn’t believe the previous ones completed were correct. The report says the outcome is very similar to the previous studies done which is basically that a lot of people will use SkyPath and that most would access the bridge by cycling to it, not driving like some residents like to suggest.

I’m looking forward to seeing more detail about the project when the resource consent is announced.

Of course even once constructed there is on issue about the project that is likely to be debated for some time to come and that’s the fee to access the path. The Auckland Harbour Bridge will probably be the only place in the world where cyclists pay to cross while cars can do so for free. Sadly even with a change of government that position might not change.

Eventually, he was hoping that once the SkyPath was up-and-running, a future transport minister might decide to allocate $33m to buy out the project, removing the need for tolls.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that remained a hypothetical question that the minister couldn’t answer, while Labour’s transport spokesman Phil Twyford said ”it seems like the organisers have put together a PPP that could work and I don’t see any need to interfere with that”.

Dealing with whether we should be paying a fee to cross the bridge is something for a future discussion though and not something I’d want holding up the construction of one of Auckland’s most important projects.

Environmental effects of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing

The additional Waitemata Harbour crossing is a crazy project for a variety of reasons. The blog has noted before that the project is both completely unaffordable and totally unnecessary because of the lack of the actual benefits when you look at the detail. One thing that hasn’t been noted before however is the huge environmental impacts this project will have the coastline, both and the northern and southern end.

In 2010 an extensive study was carried out, which outlined the major options, looking at both bridge and tunnel options. This was the study that finally put an end to the even more ridiculous bridge idea. Usefully the study for the first time provided some detailed plans of what each option would look like on the ground. The issues is not so much the tunnel itself, but the complex arrangements required to allow for traffic merging between the different routes at the north end south ends. To recap the existing bridge will be used only for city bound traffic, and the new tunnel will be directed straight to the congestion at spaghetti junction.

AWHC north of Onewa

 

The plan above shows the motorway between Akoranga Drive (left), and Onewa Road (just out of picture to the right). The northernmost line is the railway line, however would be sure to take up much less space just built as a rail corridor, and would have a much higher capacity. The red hatched area is all of the land that would be reclaimed, while green is new viaducts or bridges. This would result in the corridor taking up twice as much space as it does now. As for what this would mean, this is the current view in the area. The large area of coastline to the right would be reclaimed.

P1050458

Looking north from public footbridge accessible from east end of Exmouth Road.

This next plan shows the area in the vicinity of the Onewa Road interchange, as well as the tunnel portals of both rail (left) and road (right). Again a huge amount of reclamation occurs.

AWHC Sulhur Beach

However what is hidden beneath the plans is the total destruction of Sulphur Beach and the marina located there.

P1050446

Looking towards the city from public path alongside motorway. Accessible from Sulphur Beach and Tennyson St beside police station.

Currently this beautiful area is not well known. However in a few years this will very likely change. With Skypath to go ahead within the next few years, this will be the route of Seapath, which would give a great easy link through to Takapuna. Once that happens people will appreciate this area much more, and won’t like to see it disappear under 6 lanes of motorway.

This area will also become a large construction yard, potentially for about 5 years. This will have major effects on areas of Northcote Point, with a large number of houses looking straight into the area. Their seaviews may well be replaced with views of more motorway lanes and flyovers. People on the Bayswater side of the harbour would also have their views affected negatively.

P1050431

View from Beach Road on Northcote Point towards area of sea to be reclaimed

On the south side of the harbour things aren’t much better. Around Westhaven marina there is yet more reclamation. The yet to open Westhaven Promenade will have to be completely rebuilt, with part of the marina needing to be reclaimed as even more width is required to account for the sweeping motorway curves. The extra width required is highlighted by the need to extend the Jacobs Ladder footbridge by about 50% so people can still cross the motorway corridor. A number of marine related businesses along Westhaven Drive will also disappear, as the road needs to be pushed north to give the corridor the space it requires.

AWHC Westhaven

The Landscape and Visual report prepared for NZTA summarises the issues that will arise:

The landscape of Shoal Bay and the northern sector will be significantly affected by the scale and magnitude of roading and reclamation. Effects are: changes to landforms and natural features including increased separation of the bay from; loss of beaches, reefs, and open spaces; impacts on cliffs (including diminution of scale and loss of vegetation); loss of natural vegetation and potential change due to weed infestation; diminished/decreased experience and appreciation of natural landscape for travellers. In addition structures such as flyovers, bridges, tunnel portals, buildings and vent stacks are all expected to have adverse effects on existing landscape character and alter the balance between the natural and manmade landscape. The cultural and heritage of the existing landscape will also be affected by changes in the southern sector, particularly in and around Victoria Park. Such changes will include loss of buildings and trees but could also include positive effects due to the removal of the existing flyover.

Unfortunately it makes no attempts to actually visualize what the effects would be, including the vent stack, which would be a very dominant feature. Note 35 metres is about 10 stories high!

” Vent building estimated to be 70m long by 30m wide by 20m high and stacks 35m high”

The stack was rather contentious during the Waterview proposal due to the fumes of a high volume of traffic all begin released in a concentrated area. They will be located at the tunnel portals. One will be in the vicinity of Sulphur Beach, near where the second photo above was taken from the walkway.

Vent Building north

The southern vent stack will be between Beaumont St and Westhave Drive, where the Crombie and Lockwood building is (opposite Air New Zealand).

Vent Building

While an additional rail crossing will require some small reclamation, it will be a large magnitude less than what is required for the road crossings. This is because 2 tracks take the same space as 2 motorway lanes, and there will be no need for complex ramps and mixing of lanes, and of course there will be no need for huge vent stacks.

Hopefully this post will highlight a number of the major effects this project will have on the environment and landscape. Surely this will make some North Shore, St Mary’s Bay and inner city residents think twice about the need for this project, considering the effect on their backyard and harbour. This should also awaken reporters, including one John Roughan who was horrified at the sight of a comparatively tiny reclamation for the busway in 2007.

June 2014 Patronage

The patronage results for June are out and like recent months the results are particularly good for the rail network. The June stats are also significant as they represent the end of financial year results for Auckland transport. The 12 month figure is the highest it has been since 1959 – although of course the city had a lot less people back then.

 Auckland public transport patronage totalled 72,396,155 passengers for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +0.9% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +5.6% on the 12 months to Jun-2013.

June monthly patronage was 6,107,965, an increase of 623,266 boardings or +11.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +6.8% accounting for additional special event patronage and one more business day and one less weekend day in Jun-2014 compared to Jun-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +5.6%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,435,085 passengers for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +1.7% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +13.9% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Patronage for Jun-2014 was 1,039,830, an increase of 194,491 boardings or +23.0% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +9.4%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,426,745 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +6.5% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jun-2014 was 210,069, an increase of 23,201 boardings or +12.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +9.1%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +6.5%.

Other bus services carried 53,424,378 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +0.8% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +4.2% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jun-2014 was 4,525,656, an increase of 420,821 boardings or +10.3% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +7.6%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +4.2%.

Ferry services carried 5,109,947 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, a decrease of -0.3% on the 12 months to May-2014 and an increase +3.1% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jun-2014 was 332,410, a decrease of -15,247 boardings or -4.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ -7.3%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +3.1%.

AKL Patronage - All - Jun 14

AKL Patronage - Table - Jun 14

So rail patronage for June is up 23% on the same month a year ago while the 12 month rolling figure is up 14%, both are massive numbers. If we were able to keep up that rate of growth it would see us hitting the 20 million rail patronage target set by the government for the City Rail Link by the end of 2018. With the upcoming improvements from rolling out the electric trains to the majority of the network, the new bus network, integrated fares and other enhancements I think this rate of growth (or more) is eminently possible.

One of the important results is also to see the impact on patronage to Onehunga which has been the first to get electric trains – despite the recent hiccup. Patronage to Onehunga is up a staggering 37%. It seems the public are already responding the the improved quality of services and it’s something I’ve seen first hand with Onehunga Line trains often full in the mornings despite having significantly more capacity than the trains  they replaced.

You may also remember the patronage targets for the next few years were recently reduced after AT said the already reduced targets were basically impossible. Here’s how the rail patronage result looks compared to the target.

Rail Patronage vs SOI target 2013-14

In the end the result was only a few thousand short of the target. With only an extra 700,000 trips a year now needed to reach the newly lowered target for 2014/15 I expect it will be surpassed early. Someone should also tell Manurewa Local Board Chairperson Angela Dalton that patronage is rising as she is busy trying to say the opposite.

People will continue to abandon the trains in favour of cars until such time as there is attention focussed on security issues at suburban train stations instead of committing rate payers money into the City Rail Link,” Angela Dalton said.

Along with rail it’s also pleasing to see that bus patronage continues to grow too. This is quite important as it shows that all PT use is rising and that the increases in rail patronage aren’t simply a result of people shifting from bus to train.

All up a good result for PT and in other good news Cycling continues to grow strongly at the sites monitored by ATs automatic cycle counters. For June the result was up 11.4% while the 12 month rolling figure was up 10%

AKL Cycling- Jun 14

Considering the heightened discussion surrounding the traffic on the Harbour Bridge it’s also worth highlighting what’s happening with traffic on the bridge. As you can see vehicle volumes continue to struggle to get above 160,000 trips, something that was a regular occurrence  before 2007

AHB - All -2013-14

 

Photo of the day – Changing Conditions

The NZTA posted this series of images from one of their webcams on twitter yesterday showing how quickly the driving conditions can change.

NZTA Akld & Nthlnd Harbour Bridge Webcam

 

How the AWHC is a waste of $5.3 billion

Update 24/7/14 – Given the rumours flying around today about Government announcing the possible acceleration of this project, we have made this earlier post “sticky” while we write up a new post on the issue for tomorrow.

This is the first of a couple of posts looking more closely at the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project and how we could do it differently.

Last week there was some renewed debate over the merits of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) project, due to former Local Government Minister Michael Bassett suggesting it should start nearly immediately and made a lot more sense than the City Rail Link. I outlined why that particular argument is complete rubbish previously, but I think it’s worth delving back into exactly why AWHC is an unnecessary, wasteful, counter-productive and completely stupid project. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about the AWHC project’s roading components as proposed in quite a lot of detail here by NZTA.

Continue reading How the AWHC is a waste of $5.3 billion

Happy Birthday Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Harbour Bridge is arguably Auckland’s most visible and well known piece of transport infrastructure and it’s 55 years old today.

Harbour Bridge

The bridge was famously built as a scaled back version of what was originally intended and for exceeding traffic projections. Instead of a 5-6 lane bridge with footpaths the government of the day scaled it back to just 4 lanes and no footpaths – something still missing to this day (although Skypath will sort that out). The decision to cut back the bridge to four lanes has often been pointed at as a massive planning failure however the addition of the clip-ons has probably resulted in the bridge having more vehicle capacity than it would have had otherwise.

Since it’s opening until the mid-2000’s traffic growth on the bridge was fairly consistent every single year but since that time vehicle volumes have dropped and then effectively flat-lined.

AHB 1960-2013

By my calculation based on the figures above the bridge has probably carried just shy of 2 billion vehicles over its lifetime and should carry it’s 2 billionth within the next 12 months.

And just in case you think they are going up again, the monthly data from the NZTA shows volumes are on the way back down again.

AHB Apr - 14

Yet while vehicle volumes have dropped in recent years the number of people crossing the bridge have continued to increase thanks to greater use of buses.  During the peak trips across the bridge have increased massively from 18% in 2004 to 41% in 2012. This is in large part due to the development of the Northern Busway.

All those vehicles (and people) being moved have made the bridge probably the most transformative single project in Auckland’s history. It converted the North Shore from a series of largely sleepy seaside villages to a part of the region with over 200,000 people (although some residents seem to still think it’s a sleepy seaside village judging by their reaction to the Unitary Plan). The image below shows what the North Shore looked like from the air in 1959 when the bridge opened compared to now.

Harbour Bridge Impact

Last year my Grandmother passed away and she was the kind of person who kept almost everything. While cleaning out her house we happened to stumble across some old newspapers and that included the special editions of both the NZ Herald and the Auckland Star. It would have been great to be able to scan these for everyone to see but it would have been difficult due to the large size of them (if someone wants to do this let me know). Both papers contain a heap of articles about the history of the project and how the bridge was built, far too many to cover off in a single post however. They also each contain a huge amount of advertising as it seems everyone business wanted to be associated with it which I guess is fairly unsurprising.

Harbour Bridge papers

Seemingly ever since the bridge was first built people have been talking about the need for an additional crossing. Amazingly despite serious discussion about another crossing popping up every few years there has yet to be a firm need for it and thankfully it seems to be one of those projects that are always needed in an ever shifting few decades. Buses have helped more and more people across the harbour while the suggestion of the bridge or its clip-ons falling into the harbour has been repeatedly dismissed by the NZTA. That is a good thing as a new crossing is expected to be hugely expensive at about $5 billion which is over twice the cost of the CRL.

By the bridges 60th birthday we will be able to finally celebrate being able to walk and cycle across the harbour thanks to Skypath.

Happy Birthday Auckland Harbour Bridge

Bike the bridge this Sunday

I remember this from the past but didn’t realise it was on again so if you want to ride over the harbour bridge then here’s your chance. Of course at some point in the future Skypath will allow people to cross the harbour by bike every day of the year. In addition to cycling over the bridge you also get to cycle up the northern busway.

 

The 2013 edition of MS Bike The Bridge promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor. But entry is strictly limited. We have a maximum number of participants allowed to cycle over the Harbour Bridge. Once that number is reached the event is closed. The Auckland Marathon (that enjoys more than twice our limit) sold out within 3 weeks – so you must get in early to avoid disappointment! Enter Now and secure your place.

There is no excuse not to get into it! This year MS Bike The Bridge offers the following event options. These events all include the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge and Northern Busway.

– 115km
– 50km
– Harcourts Cooper & Co. 20km

Each of these distance options above include a division for Secondary School pupils. See our Event Information for more Details.

In keeping with the community ethos of MS Bike the Bridge our new finish line at North Harbour Stadium enables us to keep your whole family engaged and entertained with specific event options for Primary School kids, pre-schoolers and those who like to do their cycling a little on the edge!

More bore for your buck!

This post was largely written by good friend of the blog Warren S however I have added some parts too.

Seeing the picture recently of the 14.5 diameter tunnel boring machine to be used in the construction of the Waterview motorway connection started me thinking about the cost of infrastructure and the difference regarding tunnelling for road and tunnelling for rail. Actual costs are hard to come by but certain aspects are evident.

The cost of the Waterview TBM is given as $54 million. I suppose this cost is not great in the overall scheme of things, because the overall cost of this project is roughly $1.4 billion according to the NZTA. The original cost of $54 million will have a residual trade-in value of around $10 million when its Waterview work is done. That is a write-off of some $ 44 million.

Oct 2013 Open Day Alice 3

I then thought I would compare this TBM with the ones they are using in London for Crossrail. They are all made by Herrenknecht though the U.K. ones come from Germany while our one was manufactured in China to the German design.

Right now Crossrail are using eight TBM’s all simultaneously boring away somewhere under London. These machines are less than half the size of what is being used at Waterview at 7.1m in diameter. Being smaller they also come in considerably cheaper at about $20 million compared to the $54 million for our monster. And interestingly with Crossrail 85% of excavated material is being moved by rail or barge – not by road – so eliminates messy roads during construction. Combine this with the fact that there is also less spoil to remove and less concrete needed to make up the tunnel lining and the costs for tunnelling are likely to be significantly cheaper.

Crossrail is scheduled for completion in 2018 with a capacity of 24 trains per hour or roughly one every two to three minutes, that’s similar to what we can expect from the City Rail Link. While we could probably debate all day the merits of what train technologies to use, using our new EMUs an example each train could easily accommodate 750 passengers. At 24 trains per hour that is a capacity of 18,000 people per hour per direction through a rail tunnel. By comparison if we’re lucky the Waterview tunnels – at three lanes wide – will be able to carry about 6,000 vehicles per hour per direction or about 8,000 people if vehicles were carrying a high occupancy rate.

So some of the benefits compared to a motorway sized tunnel are:

  1. Smaller and cheaper TBM to do the job
  2. Less excavation required for rail.
  3. Rail will be more efficient – one line equivalent to two and a half motorway lanes or better.
  4. We are not left with a sole reliance on a motorway system can lead to stagnant chaos and long delays when there is an accident as happens frequently. An efficient metro at least gives us a viable alternative.

Being cheaper and having more capacity definitely raises some questions about how we deal with a future Waitemata Harbour crossing. We have seen traffic volumes on the bridge decline over recent years while at the same time more people than ever catch a bus across the harbour. Further once Waterview has been completed it is likely to take even more pressure off the bridge. At the moment the plans are to build a combined road and rail tunnel which might be similar to below however it is expected to cost roughly $5 billion.

With traffic falling – and potentially continuing to do so – it has removed the congestion/traffic growth argument from the debate and the NZTA have now shifted the discussion with them now saying that a new crossing is needed so the clip-ons can eventually be replaced. The problem is they are being hammered at constantly by heavy trucks (although replacement isn’t needed for some time yet). If the main issue is the clip-ons then we need to be asking if the problem is really worth us spending $5 billion just to avoid having to close two lanes while they are replaced. So what’s the alternative?

A rail tunnel under the harbour.

The idea is fairly simple, we build a much cheaper rail tunnel under the harbour to at least Takapuna, if not further up the busway and linking into the Aotea station on the city side. That provides a massive increase in capacity across the harbour and we use that extra capacity along with other tools like road pricing and demand management to encourage as many people as possible to use the rail services. We then close the clip-on lanes (one side at a time) and replace them.  That could leave us with replaced clip-ons and with rail across to the shore without the astronomical price tag currently associated with the harbour crossing project.

Conclusion.

The Waterview motorway connection would appear to be a high cost ‘gold-plated’ project but it is the last link in that chain. After that I believe we have a strong chance of achieving long term value for Auckland with the CRL and ultimately a rail tunnel link to the North Shore.

Learning from San Francisco

I was looking at the herald this morning and I came across this piece titled Troubled bridge over San Fran waters by the Herald on Sunday sports editor who is currently in San Francisco covering the America’s Cup.

Take a look at the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Now imagine a part of it gone after an earthquake. Then think about US$6.4 billion and 24 years spent repairing it.

That’s what San Franciscans have endured since the 1989 earthquake when the Bay Bridge (actually two bridges) suffered the collapse of part of the eastern span connecting San Francisco to Oakland.

Now the news has come in that the re-built bridge will open on September 3, Labour Weekend in the US, after being closed for five days to prepare the new bridge for traffic. It’s not clear what sort of traffic chaos will apply during that period – the bridge routinely accommodates 280,000 vehicles a day.

Nor is it clear whether that will have any effect on America’s Cup fans trying to get to the action as the yachts duke it out on San Francisco Bay, near the bridge.

But what is clear is that bridge is finally opening, after 24 years of delays and budget blow-outs, with only a temporary fix. Three independent authorities have certified that the bridge will be safe with a temporary solution to the earthquake safety bolts which cracked as they were being tightened recently.

That was expected to delay the bridge opening even further – even stretching beyond State Senator Mark DeSaulnier’s complaint that the bridge was “10 years late and US$5billion over budget”.

But now permanent repairs – able to be done while the bridge is open and taking until December – will not delay the opening, though there will be more than one motorist wondering just how safe his morning drive to work really is.

This has relevance to Auckland for two reasons: When you drive on the Harbour Bridge, drive softly. No one needs 24 years and US$6.4 billion of frustration. At that rate, Auckland’s rates will be worth more than the houses.

Secondly, memo to Mayor Len Brown or whoever ends up organising a second crossing. Please give us, the ratepayers, an accurate idea of time and cost. Being 10 years late and 500 per cent over budget doesn’t bear thinking about…

Now I agree that single best reason for an additional harbour crossing – remember we already have a second one in the upper harbour – is to provide resilience in the situation where the bridge is damaged or being upgraded. The herald writer makes it appear that the bridge has been out of action for 24 years but that is simply untrue so let’s look at the story in a bit more detail.

The bridge was opened in 1936 and as mentioned is actually two separate bridges. The first from San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island where it tunnels through the hill before continuing across to Oakland. The bridge has two decks for vehicles, one in each direction and is 5 lanes wide – although when originally built the lower deck was for trucks and trains but the tracks were ripped out in the 1960’s. As mentioned in the Herald piece, it carries a lot of traffic and connects right into the heart of San Francisco so like our harbour bridge is a key piece of infrastructure. In the 1989 earthquake it was damaged with one section collapsing however importantly engineers had the bridge fixed working again within a month.

As mentioned the writer makes it sound like the eastern bridge has been under repair for 24 years but this isn’t the case. The bridge is being replaced by a new version that is being built alongside the existing bridge, much like we saw when the Newmarket viaduct was replaced. Sometimes that means the existing bridge needs to be closed to enable the various changes related to construction to happen. We would see the same thing happen if we built a new harbour crossing as we would still need to connect it into the existing system somehow.

But the interesting thing is how the city copes with such a key bridge being out of action for a long period of time. Sure vehicles can divert to one of the other bridges but that introduces a fairly length detour and one that is much longer than equivalent detour in Auckland via the upper harbour. In that situation I also imagine that the other routes become pretty busy so while it might get you to your destination, it might not be fast. So how did the San Fran area cope both immediately after the 1989 quake and during the shut downs for repair and replacement of the existing bridge. Well there was of one mode of transport that was completely unaffected and able to move huge amounts of people, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, otherwise known as BART.

The system was opened in 1972 and like the Bay bridge connects the suburbs on the eastern side of the bay with San Francisco itself. It does this in a pair of tunnels under the harbour and through the city and actually travels under the western span of the bay bridge. Since it opened it has been extended to the network it is today and which includes a connection into the San Francisco International Airport. Further expansion is already under way or being planned.

Importantly in the aftermath of the quake and during closures of the bay bridge people have flocked to use the network as a means of getting across the bay however perhaps even more importantly while some people would have gone back to driving, a lot of people kept using the system and patronage has continued to expand.

San Fran BART patronage

But perhaps the most important point and the one most relevant to Auckland in all of this is that San Francisco has an alternative. While the closures to the bay bridge have obviously been a pain for residents, there has at least been another option that has the capacity to handle a lot of extra people. Even if there was another road based crossing, if something went wrong it would immediately be clogged up with all of the diverted traffic. Buses would provide no respite as would be stuck along with the rest of the vehicles. If one of the key reasons to create another harbour crossing is to provide resilience to the network in case something goes wrong then the absolute best thing we could do is to build that crossing as a mode that is not affected by the traffic mayhem that would ensue from a problem with the bridge. It would also need to be one that has the capacity to suddenly handle a lot more people.

This is one of the reasons we propose building a rail only crossing as part of the Congestion Free Network. In the future if demand eventually exists we could then look at another road based crossing but for now the focus should be on completing the missing modes and providing some real alternatives.

Campbell Live on the Skypath

Campbell Live did an excellent piece last night about the Skypath. If you haven’t seen it yet it is well worth a watch.

Campbell Live - Skypath

We have done a number of posts about the project in recent months, you can see them here.

Note to our commenter who is a part time resident of Northcote: Yes we know you don’t like the project and if you want to comment on this post then please remain respectful that other people are allowed to have different opinions (well that goes for everyone).