2016 – A Year in Review Part 3 – Roads

This is Part 3 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Roads. You can also see:

Here’s my summary

ATAP

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has been a huge feature of the year and while not strictly road related, I’ll include it in this summary. Importantly, despite I think asking many of the wrong questions and focusing too much on the modelling, it largely came out with the right answers. For example, it highlights

  • We can’t build out of way of congestion
  • A major expansion of the “strategic public transport network” is required
  • Auckland’s motorway network is basically now finished (and also that scope for further widening seems quite limited)
  • The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing really isn’t needed for a long time
  • We need to move to a comprehensive, better pricing system – which ATAP calls “smarter transport pricing”. It suggests it could take a decade to work though the details before it became a reality.

Below is the proposed strategic road network for the next 30 years. As you can see most of this is already in place now.

Waterview/Western Ring Route

Near the end of 2015 the tunnelling was completed at Waterview over the course of 2016 the work has focused on fitting those tunnels out and completing all of the other aspects of the project, including the ventilation buildings and mitigation projects.

In September we revealed the NZTA had some new traffic modelling predicting the opening of the new connection to create havoc and that they were planning to emergency widen a number of surrounding motorways and local roads in a desperate bid to stop the shiny new centrepiece of their system from getting congested.

The tunnels are due to open in April, which is later than I thought it would be but I also wonder if that’s related to getting the emergency widening completed first.

In May the NZTA officially opened rebuilt Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu Rd interchanges as part of the wider Western Ring Route (WRR) project. Both were over budget and Lincoln Rd was three years later than originally stated (and that was even after moving one leg of the interchange to another project). In October the NZTA also celebrated the completion of the St Lukes interchange, with the Pohutukawa still intact.

In July work started on the next stage of the WRR, to widen the motorway between Lincoln Rd and Westgate. A section of motorway that might need to be rebuilt again in just a few years to add a north-western busway – something the government agreed (through ATAP) that was needed within a decade. We have heard rumours though that the NZTA engineers are changing their designs for the Royal Rd and Huhuhuru Rd bridges to accommodate a busway after they were told they might be responsible for delivering it.

Northern Corridor

Related to the WRR, just a few weeks ago the NZTA applied for consent for the Northern Corridor which will turn the section of SH18 east of Albany Hwy into a full motorway and provide a direct connection to SH1 (northbound). Importantly it also includes the extension of the Northern Busway. That process will be concluded in 2017 and previous indications from the NZTA suggested construction would start in 2018.

East-West Link

The East-West Link loomed larger in 2016 as the project marched on, culminating in the NZTA applying for consent a few weeks ago, at the same time as the Northern Corridor. The NZTA is almost certainly going to face a much bigger fight to get this project over the line though as it also faces significant community opposition, especially to plans to effectively cut off the port area with a motorway and swallow large packets of land for various roads

In June we revealed documents from the NZTA showing the cost had ballooned from $600 million to potentially over $1.8 billion, more expensive than the Waterview Tunnels ($1.4b). Yet from what we can tell the economic assessment is still based on earlier cost estimates. The documents also revealed some of main risks identified for the consenting of the project, with designs at the time putting the roads completely on newly reclaimed land.

Some of those risks have been mitigated a bit over the year as the latest plans place the road mostly back on current land with most of the reclamation planned to be for more extensive mitigation.

Puhoi to Warkworth

While on the topic of big State Highway Projects, the NZTA announced in November they had awarded the contract for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Presumably construction will start in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2022.

Auckland Transport consents for Mega Projects

Auckland Transport got consent for two of it’s mega road projects, both expected to cost north of $300 million.

Mill Rd

Penlink

They’ve also applied for consent for the Lincoln Rd upgrade which could cost more than $100 million.

Surprisingly little has been heard about AMETI this year. AT were meant to be applying for consent for the Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga but nothing has been made public yet.

 

Speed limits

In November the government announced a new speed limit guide which when in place would allow for some specific roads to have a 110km/h speed limit but also make it easier for local authorities to have lower speed limits in urban areas which would be welcome.

Road Toll

And despite the talk of safety, the road toll continues to defy the trends of the last few decades, increasing again over the last few years, as the graph below shows (to the end of October)

Are there any key changes I’ve missed?

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus mainly on non transport stuff.

December AT Board update

Next week Auckland Transport hold their final board meeting for the year. Coming hot on the heels of the November one there’s not a lot of new information available in the currently available reports but there are a few important items.

Closed Session

Here are the items on the closed session. Most seem fairly straight forward and probably a bit boring but there are a few that stand out, particularly talk about train capacity and allowing electric vehicles in bus lanes – the only electric vehicles that should be in bus lanes are electric buses. I also wonder why these items are even in the closed session, AT list the reason as “To protect commercial interests” but just what commercial interests are there in talking about the capacity of trains or electric vehicles using bus lanes.

  • 2017/18 Internal Budget Strategy
  • Road Stoppings and Real Estate Inventory Optimisation
  • Train Capacity
  • Rail Operator
  • Agreement relating to Huapai Triangle Special Housing Area – Deed of Novation
  • Electric Vehicles in Special Vehicle Lanes
  • Quarterly AMETI Update
  • Housing Infrastructure Fund
  • CRL Update
  • 2016/17 Budget Realignment

Business Report

Coming hot on the heels of the November one there’s not a lot of new information available in the currently available reports but there are a few important items.

Lincoln Rd – AT didn’t say publicly that submissions were open for their supersizing of Lincoln Rd but they were and have now closed. But not yet having consent hasn’t stopped AT and the report says they spent $3.3 million in November buying up some of the land needed for the widening and that in total for the year, they’ve spent a staggering $28.42 million. The project is going to end up with the cost of a small motorway, which is perhaps appropriate given the road will look a bit like one once finished.

Integrated Fares for Ferries

AT say they’re working on integrated fares for ferries.

Ferry Integrated fares approach and options are under development. Use cases are being documented for Thales review. Ferry ticketing infrastructure is being programmed to ensure cash tickets/alternative payment means are brought within the ferry integrated fares project to ensure a lasting solution

As I understand it, it doesn’t mean fares will the same price as an equivalent bus fare but that journeys will be integrated together. For example, if you were trying to get from Bayswater to Newmarket you could get off the ferry downtown and then jump on a bus or train to Newmarket without paying an additional fare, but the ferry fare itself will likely still cost more than doing the same journey by land.

Parnell Station

As we’ve known for a little while, there’s a new timetable coming in March which is intended to speed up services, which also frees some extra trains up allowing them to be used boost capacity with more 6-car trains. It appears this timetable will start on 12 March.

We now also know that the timetable will see the start of services to Parnell, but there is a catch. At least initially only Southern Line services will stop at Parnell during the day although AT say Western Line trains will do so too in evenings and weekends. That is bound to cause confusion for customers wanting to go to or from Parnell. The old Newmarket station building will be moved to the site and refurbished between Christmas and June 2017.

You may have noticed no mention of Onehugna trains, that’s because there are some big changes coming with them too. As part of the new timetable Onehunga Line trains will run express from Ellerslie to Newmarket and then Britomart. Like Parnell, the Greenlane and Remuera stations will still be served by southern line trains every 10 minutes but any passengers waiting will get to watch an Onehunga line train blast past without stopping. This appears to be being done to free up an extra train so a service on one of the main lines can be expanded to 6-cars. While we definitively want AT to speed up trains, it seems doing it this way is a cop out to fixing actual issues such as the stupidly long dwell times we have or the horrifically long driver end change at Newmarket.

There is no mention on if the new timetable includes improved off peak frequencies which are needed to comply with the new network and AT’s Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP).

Station Gating

We’ve heard before that AT were planning to install ticket gates at more stations but there was no timeframe for this other than Otahuhu in April-June. They now say gates at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Henderson and Parnell stations will be installed in Quarter three of 2017 and that they’re also planning for gates at Glen Innes and Papakura but there is no timeframe for that.

New Network

AT include a few brief numbers on the new network.

Train boardings at Otahuhu and Manukau have increased, with Otahuhu doubling over the first three weeks of operation; transfers across South Auckland up by 147%, bus/bus transfer up by 94% and bus/train transfers up by 207%

This seems good but knowing if it was actually resulting in more people using PT would be more useful.

Click & Collect expansion – a few months ago, AT launched a trial of being able to pick up shopping from countdown at some stations and other locations. They say that in February that will expand to include New World and Farro. It’s not in the board report but AT have also been installing vending machines at some stations. Here is some info from a local board report

As part of ongoing efforts to further improve customer amenity and convenience at public transport facilities, Auckland Transport will be conducting a vending machine trial in partnership with Coca-Cola (Branded as Pump) and Sanitarium. The trial will begin on 9th November 2016 and run over a period of six months.

As a part of this trial, AT will seek to provide customers with a broad range of breakfast, snack and cold drink products to choose from, while promoting healthier choices. This will be achieved by ensuring that healthy options benefit from high visibility and dominate the range of products on offer.

Nine rail stations across the network will be involved in this trial; Grafton, Manukau, Manurewa, Mt Albert, New Lynn, Newmarket, Otahuhu, Panmure and Puhinui. Following the successful outcome of this trial, an open Request for Proposal process will be held to identify network wide partners to provide a longer term offering

This is the final board meeting for the year with the next one not till near the end of February. There is also currently not patronage information but we should have it next week.

July AT Board Meeting

Auckland Transport’s latest board meeting is board meeting is on as this post is published and here are the things I found interesting.

Closed Session

The closed session normally contains what appears to be the most interesting items at the meeting. My comments about the items in italics

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CPO/Britomart Group Agreement – I wonder if that relates to the suggestion to eventually build a permanent building behind the CPO.Cooper & Co Britomart Western Site visual 1
  • CRL Procurement update
  • Park and Ride – I’m not sure what this entails, new Park and Rides, changing how they’re managed?
  • Rail Procurement – I assume this relates to the procurement of services, if you recall they stopped the tender process last year.
  • AT Technology Strategy
  • Road Stoppings & Real Estate Inventory Optimisation
  • Newmarket Level Crossing – Confirmation of NoR
  • AMETI – Stage 2A Acquisition of land

Items for Noting

  • EMU Project update
  • Parking Future Platform update – I’m guessing this relates to the parking app we saw in the parking strategy video a few months back.
  • Insurance update
  • Unitary Plan verbal update – I’m not sure if any of the AT staff have been involved in the closed group reviewing the UP recommendations and if they were if they would be talking about this or just the UP process in general. 

 

Business Report

Moving on to the main Business Report and as usual I’ll just work through the report in the order highlighting the bits I find interesting.

RLTP Variation – AT have made a variation to the three-year Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) to include the Matakana Link Rd which suggests they’re planning on it being worked on within the next few years.

Strategic Initiatives

  • Work on the indicative business case for the NW Busway is expected to start in August.
  • AT say they’re working with the NZTA on integrating rapid transit options for the North Shore with the Additional Waitemata Harbour crossing route protection.
  • A preferred network for the greenfield growth areas has been decided and will now be presented to the council. I assume they’ll be fairly similar to the draft networks that were proposed. They’ll now have Indicative business cases created.

Lincoln Rd – AT have lodged a resource consent application for the large widening of Lincoln Rd. They expect it to be open for submissions in August.

Lincoln Rd Feb Design - Universal

Parnell Station – Kiwirail plan to move the old Newmarket station to the site in November and it will then undergo an external refurbishment till April 2017. AT will also be doing work at the station including adding footpath connections and ticket gates. It hadn’t been clear before that they would be gating the station but it makes sense that they should be doing. They haven’t said yet when services will start stopping there

Parnell pic June15

Otahuhu Bus/Train Interchange – AT say passengers will start using the new concourse from early October but the station will offically open on 29 October. They will also now be building a third platform, which is required for the CRL so means it can be done preventing disruption again in a few a year’s time.

New Network – AT are currently evaluating tenders for the West Auckland routes and will soon be launching tenders for Central, East and North Auckland which once awarded should allow the majority of the city’s new bus network to be implemented by the end of next year.

Bus performance and capacity – AT’s figures show bus reliability and punctuality are down on the same time last year and that a “A consolidated 12-month plan has been developed to address this and to manage capacity increases.” It’s interesting to see that Skybus which is a commercial service and outside of AT’s control performs considerably poorer than the other bus services. Conversely the Northern Express which has been gross contracted is the best performer, although the much better infrastructure helps here too (note: other services are generally net cost contracts until PTOM comes in)

2016-06 - Bus Performance

Fare evasion and Security – AT say “Strategy discussions are progressing with Police around an enhanced joint approach to Metro security and fare enforcement.

Other

A few other things that I noticed that caught my attention.

Parking – the monthly indicators show parking occupancy in the city centre remains high both on and off street. On street parking prices in the city will be going up soon.

2016-06 - Parking Occupancy

Forward Programme – This gives an indication as to what is being discussed in future board committee meetings and at the next meeting. One interesting item to the next Customer Focus Committee is that AT are looking to change the T&Cs of AT HOP top-ups.

 

Is there anything else you’ve seen in the reports you’ve found interesting?

Motorways interchanges completed late and over budget

On Friday Transport Minister Simon Bridges officially opened the Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd sections of the Western Ring Route.

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

The NZ Transport Agency says the official opening today of two upgrades to Auckland’s Northwestern Motorway kicks off a significant year in the city’s transport history.

The Lincoln Interchange and Te Atatu Interchange projects were officially opened by Transport Minister Simon Bridges at a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning.

They are the first of several improvement projects to be opened this year as part of the Government’s $2.4b Western Ring Route – designed to keep Auckland moving.

Both of these projects are crucial building blocks in the Western Ring Route, providing an additional route to State Highway 1 and the Harbour Bridge and changing the way people move around Auckland.

NZ Transport Agency Highways Manager Brett Gliddon says the improvements at Lincoln and Te Atatu are part of a series of projects being completed during the next year to ensure the Northwestern motorway is able to handle the growing demands from everyone who uses it – drivers, people using public transport and those who walk and cycle.

“Increasing the motorway from two to three lanes in each direction on this stretch of the motorway will help traffic to flow better leading to greater travel time reliability, and an efficient alternative route to use instead of State Highway 1,” says Mr Gliddon.

I was apparently invited to the opening but the NZTA sent the email to the wrong address – not that I would’ve been able to attend due to work commitments.

Regardless of what mode you use, for many out west the completion would be a welcome change as works and the disruption that came with it have been an ongoing challenge. But I wonder just how successful the project has been, especially the Lincoln Rd section. Here’s are some of the quick facts from the NZTA’s press release.

The $145million upgrade of the Lincoln Interchange has widened and realigned the onramps and motorway exits to improve safety and traffic flow. There are new dedicated, purpose built bus lanes providing a greater level of service than before. The Northwestern Cycleway has also been extended and improved.

The $65million Te Atatu Interchange project has added an extra lane in each direction between Te Atatu and Lincoln Roads, new motorway on and off-ramps as well as raising and widening the Te Atatu overbridge.

….

Work will begin later this year on the Lincoln to Westgate project to tie into this just completed work at the Lincoln Road Interchange. It will include widening the Northwestern motorway to three lanes, improved on and off ramps, creating bus lanes and extending the Northwestern Cycleway.

So let’s take a quick look back to when these two projects each began.

Lincoln Rd Interchange

The project started all the way back at the end of October 2010 and has seen the interchange vastly supersized, for example the bridge over the motorway was widened from two lanes to seven. At the start of the project the NZTA laid out these basic facts. The important ones for this post being that it would cost $100 million, be completed in 2013, include all four ramps and extend the cycleway as far as Huruhuru Road.

Lincoln Rd Key Features

Immediately you can see a few glaring issues, these being that the project is $45 million over budget and three years late. To be fair, I understand the timeframe was deliberately delayed so that funding could be diverted to help deal with the immediate aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, three years late? I can also accept the idea that they slowed construction so it could better be tied into the progress of the rest of the Western Ring Route. Not much point adding lanes and capacity only for it to hid the queue not far down the road. As infomercials love to say “but wait, there’s more”.

As I mentioned the works were to include all four ramps and extending the cycleway to Huruhuru Rd – via a torturous four leg crossing of Lincoln Rd, no underpass here. Here’s a map of the interchange design. I’ve rotated it to better compare with the following image.

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

Here’s what it looks like as of the beginning of April.

Lincoln Rd Interchange - April 2016 2

You can see very clearly that the westbound onramp and the extension of the cycleway past Lincoln Rd are completely missing. That’s because they’ve been moved in with the project widening the section of motorway from here to Westgate – another ~$100 million project.

So all up it appears we’ve got a project that is $45 million over budget, three years late and they still haven’t even completed some of the work they said they would do.

Te Atatu Interchange

Thankfully the Te Atatu interchange doesn’t appear to have the delays that the Lincoln interchange suffered, but it does appear to have had its own cost blowout. This is from the press release when the project got under way.

Key features of the $50m project include widening the Northwestern motorway between the Te Atatu Road and Patiki Road interchanges, widening all five ramps on the interchange, enhancing existing facilities for walkers and cyclists and widening and raising the Te Atatu Road overbridge.

….

Work will start on the improvements at Te Atatu in the new year and is set to be completed in 2016.

Here’s the Te Atatu interchange from April

Te Atatu Interchange - April 2016 2

So the project was completed in 2016 like they said it would be but was $15 million over budget.

Te Atatu Rd Underpass

The Te Atatu project includes the fantastic cycleway underpass

So all up we’ve got projects over budget, late and missing components. Perhaps not quite the NZTAs finest hour. Imagine what kind of amazing local cycling network that extra $60 million could have delivered if spent within the area.

It’s quite likely that within the next decade we’ll be seeing the heavy machinery out in these sections once again, this time adding the piece of the puzzle that was absurdly left out of this project, the Northwest Busway.

Supersizing Lincoln Rd

Way back at the end of 2013 Auckland Transport started a consultation on supersizing Lincoln Rd in Henderson – a road that in my view as a regular user is one of the most soul destroying in all of Auckland. It’s a road that’s almost completely automobile focused in its design and land-use yet seems to perform poorly for cars too, a textbook Stroad.

AT’s basic plan back then for Lincoln Rd was to once again widen it – this time to three lanes each way with the additional lanes being T3. Each direction would be separated by a solid raised median. At the big intersections that six-lane road would blow out to 9-10 lanes wide to cater for various turning movements while pedestrians and cyclists were to only have shared paths which from memory didn’t even meet AT’s low standards of the time. Here’s a video of what was proposed.

When they released the outcome of the consultation almost a year later one of the strongest pieces of feedback was around the cycle infrastructure and wanting separated cycleways, after-all if AT were going to the cost and bother of buying land they should at least cater for all modes properly. Their response to that was “A separated facility for cyclists will be investigated as part of the detailed design

But following that I had heard almost nothing about the project till this week when on the closed session agenda at the Auckland Transport board meeting this item was listed – “Lodgement of Lincoln Rd NoR” [notice of requirement]. This surprised me given that AT normally at least show their designs and often have a second (or even third) round of consultation before embarking on lodging a notice of requirement. Recent examples include Mill Rd, the Newmarket Crossing and seemingly most cycling projects.

A quick look at AT’s page for the project found they had uploaded some new details about the project in February but that they only alerted a narrow range of people. I would certainly count us and our friends at Bike Auckland in that last category.

February/ March 2016

Property owners individually notified of whether AT intends to purchase some or all of their property.

The latest version of the Lincoln Road upgrade incorporating feedback from previous consultation rounds will be shared with:

  • Affected property owners.
  • Tenants.
  • The wider catchment around Lincoln Road deemed to be indirectly affected by or interested in the proposals.

AT will also seek feedback from these stakeholders.

As for what’s now proposed, most of the project seems pretty much identical to what was proposed back in 2013 with the main change being that they have added separated bike lanes in.

The proposed upgrade of Lincoln Road seeks to:

  • Widen the road to provide an additional bus/T3 transit lane on each side.
  • Install an on-road kerbside cycleway segregated from the transit lane on both sides of the road.
  • Upgrade existing intersections.
  • Build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median.
  • Upgrade traffic signals and implement stormwater treatments.
  • Relocate and upgrade existing utility services.
  • Integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s motorway interchange upgrade at Lincoln Road.

And the preliminary design (4.2MB) indicates what the road will look like. Below I’ll step through it with my observations, click the images to enlarge. In all cases North is to the left of the image.

The Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr intersection

As you can see the Lincoln Rd splays out over 10 lanes wide here if you count the space for the cycle lanes and central raised median. You can also see the cycle lanes that have been added which will be segregated – although this plan doesn’t say how yet.

One big new addition here is what appears to be a new road which presumably AT want to build to allow for driveways to be taken out. This may be for traffic reasons or that widening the road will make driveways physically impossible. There also seems to be a small island of houses being left that with this new road will effectively be surrounded by roads. I wonder if this is a case where AT and Panuku Development Auckland need to work together to come up with a better outcome. One potential positive though is that road also seems to open up the local park which is currently only accessed by a few walkways.

A few other things you can notice are a new possible shared path on the North-western side of the intersection which will presumably lead to an extension of the NW cycleway as part of the Royal Rd motorway widening. There also appear to be raised tables on each of the slip lanes which is at least positive and it adds the missing pedestrian crossing on the northern side of the intersection

Lincoln Rd Feb Design - Triangle-Central Park

Universal Dr intersectoin

Continuing on from the image above you can see a mid-block pedestrian crossing being proposed. One good thing is it appears that side streets such as Paramount Dr and Datyona Rd will get raised tables at their intersections with Lincoln Rd.

At Universal Dr the road once again splays out to a wide beast with 9 traffic lanes on either side. Most of the changes here are not too dissimilar to those at the Triangle/Central Park intersection. The left turn for cars to head north on Lincoln Rd has also been narrowed to a single lane which might upset some drivers. I’d also like to see a cycle lane on the western side of Universal Dr right up to the intersection as especially with that left turn being narrowed as there’s not much space there.

Lincoln Rd Feb Design - Universal

Pomaria Rd intersection

Pomaria Rd represents the end of this project and the image shows one of the aspects that concern me the most with the current incarnation of it. As you can see just after the intersection for coming out of the Pak n Save and Mitre 10 carpark (on left of image), the cycle lanes on either side just stop dead and there’s no indication of how bikes will be accommodated after that. In my view, AT need to find a way to extend those cycle lanes right to the Pomaria Rd intersection where it can at least there join with the existing cycle infrastructure.

Lincoln Rd Feb Design - Pomaria

Overall the design has improved but regardless it still represents a massive supersizing of the road and one that won’t come cheap. There is no indication of any changes south of Pomaria where ideally at least protected cycle lanes would be extended in the future.

While AT are about to go through the NoR for the project it seems it could be quite some time before anything is actually built. based on this timeline.

  • February 2016 to May 2016 – Project update with affected property owners and affected/interested parties.
  • May 2016 to June 2017 – Notice of Requirement (NoR) processes.
  • July 2017 to June 2020 – Hold up period (due to lack of funds).
  • July 2020 to December 2022 – Detailed design and land-take.
  • July 2020 to June 2022 – Consenting processes.
  • April 2023 to April 2025 – Construction.

All future dates are projections. Final timelines are to be confirmed and are subject to availability of funds.

Lincoln Rd consultation feedback

Between last November and February this year Auckland Transport ran consultation for a plan to further widen Lincoln Rd. It’s a road I’m particularly familiar with seeing as I use it regularly.

The upgrade seeks to

  • widen Lincoln Road to provide an additional bus and high occupancy vehicle (transit) lane on each side of the road to increase capacity and improve passenger travel times.
  • upgrade existing intersections to reduce congestion and improve safety
  • build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety
  • install shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the road
  • implement stormwater treatments to minimise surface flooding
  • relocate and upgrade existing utility services
  • integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s current motorway interchange upgrade.

The plan raised a number of concerns for me, in particular that despite all the widening buses still wouldn’t have a dedicated lane. That despite having to buy up land for the widened road AT were still only proposing shared paths for walking and cycling – which happens to go against the region wide standards they were separately consulting on. Lastly that the intersections where horrifically massive blowing out to 9 lanes in places in a bid to try and cater for every single direction of movement in a dedicated lane or two. Here’s a cross section

Lincoln Road cross section of proposed development

And a video of the proposal

Auckland Transport have finally provided the feedback from the consultation and all up they received 162 responses and here are the results of some of the key themes.

Of the 162 people who made submissions, only 12 did not support any aspect of the proposals. Of the 162, 79 made a postal submission and none opposed the project overall.

The major issues identified by submitters, were:

  • AT’s proposal is to widen Lincoln Road to create include a bus/T3 lane in both directions. This would convert to a bus-only lane when demand is great enough

23 submissions supported having bus lanes
25 submissions suggested that if Lincoln Road is to be widened a bus lane should be installed immediately and not also be a T3.

Decision:
It may not be possible to make bus-only lanes immediately. This is being explored.

17 submissions supported T3 lanes.
27 submissions supported T2 instead of T3 lanes
19 submissions suggested converting an existing road lane to T3

Decision:
Many more vehicles would use the transit lane if it is a T2 and this would interfere with the efficiency of the bus service.
Converting an existing lane to T3 was explored and will cause greater congestion and delays because it will restrict the majority of vehicles to one lane

  • AT’s proposal is to have off-road shared paths on either side of Lincoln Road, for pedestrians and cyclists.

16 submissions appreciated improved cycling provisions and a further four supported improved pedestrian provisions.
60 submissions favoured separated cycle-ways.

Decision:
A separated facility for cyclists will be investigated as part of the detailed design

  • AT’s proposal is to have a raised solid median which would enable centreline planting and restrict right turn opportunities, including right turns to and from driveways.

29 submissions supported a solid median and only six submissions opposed a solid median.

Decision:
With clear support for the solid median, AT will include this in the final design

  • AT’s proposal included connecting Preston Avenue to Lincoln Road.

31 submissions opposed this aspect of the proposal.

Decision:
Because of the clear majority opposed, AT will not make a vehicle connection between Preston Avenue to Lincoln Road.

  • AT proposals covered a variety of other measures, such as pedestrian crossings, slip lanes, right turns, signals, etc.

39 submissions were received in total in relation to these issues, but no more than five submissions on any one individually

This feedback raises some questions. Why do they say AT may not be able to make the new lanes bus only, after all they do control the road and the widening project. In addition why do they only say separated cycling facilities will only be investigated as part of the detailed design. That seems very non-committal and hints that they may turn around later and say “we investigated separated facilities but decided against doing them”.

Lincoln Rd Interchange 2 years late

Pretty much anyone who has driven along State Highway 16 in recent times would have noticed the massive amount of construction going on with almost half of the entire motorway affected by works. Once the St Lukes interchange upgrade gets under way soon then I believe every single trip along the motorway will be affected by works in some way.

WRR under construction

The works are made up of a number of separate individual projects that all form part of the Western Ring Route. They include the St Lukes Interchange, the Waterview Connection, the causeway upgrade, the Te Atatu Interchange upgrade and the Lincoln Rd interchange. Most of these have only really visibly got under way over the last year or so however the last of those, the $100 million Lincoln Rd Interchange is has been going on for some time, starting in late 2010. That’s about 3½ years ago.

There has definitely been progress and we now have a massively oversized interchange that has been completed (I don’t have any photos sorry but you should really see the westbound off-ramp which is up to four lanes wide). As a side note, I understand one of the reasons the interchange is so big is that the former Waitakere City Council weren’t clear on their land use planning for Lincoln Rd (which is a disaster) so the interchange was basically designed to be as big as possible to cater for potentially massive growth. While most of the interchange itself has been completed, the work seems to be primarily focused on widening the motorway either side of it including the Henderson Creek and Huruhuru Creek bridges. Once those have been completed the motorway on either side will be three lanes each way plus there will be bus shoulder lanes.

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

Overall the NZTA say the project isn’t due to be completed until 2015 but here’s the thing, that’s quite different to what was said when they started the project. Back in 2010 they said in a FAQ with the press release.

Q: How long will it take?

A: Construction will begin imminently and will be completed by 2013.

So that suggests the project is running two years late. For what was meant to be approximately a three year project that’s quite a long time. That would also make the interchange project an almost 5 year ordeal and one of our longest motorway construction projects in history. So here is some information on just how long other massive projects have taken in recent times.

Project Started Completed Length Cost
Central Motorway Junction upgrade Oct-02 Dec-06 4 years 2 months $209 million
SH20 Mt Roskill Exenstion Aug-05 May-09 3 years 9 months $186 million
SH20 Manukau Harbour Bridge duplication Apr-08 Aug-10 2 years 4 months $230 million
SH20-1 extension to Manukau Jun-06 Jan-11 4 years 7 months $220 million
Greenhithe Deviation Sep-03 Dec-07 4 years 3 months $110 million
Upper Harbour Bridge Duplication Feb-03 Dec-06 3 years 10 months $35 million
Hobsonville Deviation Oct-08 Aug-11 2 years 10 months $220 million
Victoria Park Tunnel Nov-09 Mar-12 2 years 4 months $340 million
Newmarket Viaduct Jun-09 Mar-13 3 years 9 months $244 million

There are some very challenging projects on this list.

Now there could be some legitimate reason why it’s taking longer. Perhaps the NZTA deliberately decided to slow down the project so that it wasn’t completed so far in advance of projects like the Te Atatu interchange that it caused its own problems i.e. widening the motorway to three lanes could have been done but until the Te Atatu interchange is completed those three lanes would have just had to merge down to two anyway. Still there are some potentially good reasons for them to have finished earlier, in this case the extra lanes created could have been used as bus lanes in the interim helping to make up for delays caused by the closure of bus lanes elsewhere on the route.

Last chance for a say on Lincoln Rd

Back in November it was announced that Auckland Transport wanted to ‘upgrade’ Lincoln Rd. A road I travel on regularly and one that I consider the most soul destroying in all of Auckland. AT have had their proposal open to consultation and public feedback however that is closing today so if you want to have a say about it you need to get on with a submission quickly. Back in November I wrote:

It’s a road that doesn’t seem to do anything well. It’s a road that is quite wide with a minimum of five lanes (two each way and a full painted median), the major intersections are massive blowing the road out even wider to cater for turning in all directions including slip lanes yet can also get horribly congested, particularly for people heading towards the motorway – which the NZTA are currently upgrading into an absolute monstrosity. On top of that it has poor pedestrian amenity, no cycling amenity and the only bit of bus amenity being a small section northbound at the intersection with Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr to give buses a slight head start.

AT say the road carries about 42,000 vehicles per day and a poor safety record with 446 crashes reported between 2008 and 2012, over a third of which were from drivers exiting driveways or side roads failing to give way. The road has also been listed in various documents over the years as needing to be an RTN in the future as part of the primary route connecting the North Shore to West Auckland. The area surrounding the road is also home to around 8,500 residents, 9,000 jobs, a primary school and the Waitakere Hospital.

While I agree that the road seriously needs something done to it and definitely needs improved bus and cycling facilities, what is proposed feels like a massive amount of overkill while also not going far enough.

The upgrade seeks to

  • widen Lincoln Road to provide an additional bus and high occupancy vehicle (transit) lane on each side of the road to increase capacity and improve pasenger travel times.
  • upgrade existing intersections to reduce congestion and improve safety
  • build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety
  • install shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the road
  • implement stormwater treatments to minimise surface flooding
  • relocate and upgrade existing utility services
  • integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s current motorway interchange upgrade.

Here’s what the mid-block is meant to look like.

Lincoln Road cross section of proposed development

The biggest problems I have is that despite all of the widening that is proposed, buses still won’t even get their own dedicated lane despite the road being designated for a long time as an RTN route. On the sides of the road the shared path is a poor compromise to having proper walking and cycling facilities. If AT are going to the extent of widening the road then they should be doing it properly. Further according to CAA, the width of the proposed paths don’t even meet AT’s own proposed guidelines. Lastly the changes stop at Pomaria Rd meaning that south of there buses will be forced to squeeze back in with other traffic and cyclists are forced back on to the road with tens of thousands of vehicles. Lastly the intersections are a horrendous mess blowing out to over 9 lanes wide once again in a bid to try and cater for every traffic movement with its own lane.

Here’s a video fly-though

Also see Cycle Action Auckland’s post on the matter here.

So if you want to have your thoughts on the project heard make sure you go and make a submission.

Overkill

We know that Auckland’s transport plans are completely unaffordable, a more interesting question is “why?” Much of the answer to that questions comes from what I refer to as “overkill”. Essentially, a solution that’s vastly oversized compared to the problem it’s trying to solve. There are a large number of examples of “overkill” when it comes to transport projects currently being planned:

  • The East West Link is perhaps the most obvious example, where somehow a bit of congestion around a couple of intersections at each end of Neilson Street somehow led to NZTA and AT proposing a gigantic and enormously destructive motorway through one of the most densely populated and deprived parts of Auckland. Yeah there are certainly some transport problems in the area but the jump to a huge motorway solution is a classic example of overkill.
  • The proposed motorway to motorway connection between SH1 and SH18 at Constellation Drive. The problem here appears to be a pinch point northbound on SH1 between SH18 and Greville Road and constraints around the interchanges themselves. Yet again the solution is to jump to a gigantic motorway-to-motorway mini-spaghetti junction that likely to cost upwards of half a billion dollars. What about just adding another lane northbound, extending the Northern Busway to Albany and then seeing whether anything else is actually necessary?
  • Puhoi-Wellsford is another classic example of overkill. Yes there are congestion problems around Warkworth, yes there are major safety issues in the Dome Valley and at specific points south of Warkworth, but it’s quite a jump to suggest the only solution to those problems is a massive new motorway that’ll cost close to $2 billion. Operation Lifesaver highlights how most of the benefits from the motorway can be achieved at a fraction of the cost by truly focusing on the problem at hand.
  • The recently proposed Lincoln Road widening project once again responds to legitimate problems like a lack of priority for buses, localised congestion and safety issues. Yet the respond is again overblown – massively wide intersections, slip lanes everywhere, extra lanes all over the place etc. The outcome is not just an overly expensive project, but a corridor that gets wider and wider – further degrading the urban form around it.
  • Penlink is a massive project to satisfy locals when the real problem is further north at Silverdale and can be solved with other smaller alternatives.

It seems like good transport planning should flush out what projects are overkill and what projects aren’t. An interesting comparison against the above projects is the process that the City Rail Link has gone through over the past few years – especially in the form of the City Centre Future Access Study, which looked in detail at a range of “smaller options” for resolving issues with access to the city centre – outlining which of these would be necessary anyway, which could occur prior to CRL being built but also the point at which the ‘small scale’ interventions need to become so significant you might as well do the job properly – in this case by building CRL.

Throughout the ITP there are a vast number of projects which are obviously “overkill”. Examples include $665m on Albany Highway (surely a typo?), around $800m on a section of Great South Road, a $150m motorway bypass of Kumeu, the $240m Mill Road corridor project and many others. Strip back these overkill projects so they really focus on the problems they’re designed to resolve and we’ve probably gone a long way towards solving our future funding shortfalls.

ITP Major Projects

Lincoln Rd to be “upgraded”

Auckland Transport is proposing to widen Lincoln Rd – something that in my opinion is probably already Auckland’s most soul destroying street, particularly from a land use perspective. Every time I travel down there (which is frequently as I live not far from it) it always reminds me of the worst aspects of auto-dependency. Even the recently built ASB regional centre promotes auto-dependency by not only having a drive through ATM but also drive through banking.

It’s a road that doesn’t seem to do anything well. It’s a road that is quite wide with a minimum of five lanes (two each way and a full painted median), the major intersections are massive blowing the road out even wider to cater for turning in all directions including slip lanes yet can also get horribly congested, particularly for people heading towards the motorway – which the NZTA are currently upgrading into an absolute monstrosity. On top of that it has poor pedestrian amenity, no cycling amenity and the only bit of bus amenity being a small section northbound at the intersection with Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr to give buses a slight head start.

AT say the road carries about 42,000 vehicles per day and a poor safety record with 446 crashes reported between 2008 and 2012, over a third of which were from drivers exiting driveways or side roads failing to give way. The road has also been listed in various documents over the years as needing to be an RTN in the future as part of the primary route connecting the North Shore to West Auckland. The area surrounding the road is also home to around 8,500 residents, 9,000 jobs, a primary school and the Waitakere Hospital.

It’s the northern section which is the worst and that is the part AT are proposing to upgrade with the plans being to

The upgrade seeks to

  • widen Lincoln Road to provide an additional bus and high occupancy vehicle (transit) lane on each side of the road to increase capacity and improve pasenger travel times.
  • upgrade existing intersections to reduce congestion and improve safety
  • build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety
  • install shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the road
  • implement stormwater treatments to minimise surface flooding
  • relocate and upgrade existing utility services
  • integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s current motorway interchange upgrade.

There are some seriously big cop-outs there, a transit lane (because there aren’t already enough lanes for private vehicles to use) and shared paths that will pit pedestrians against cyclists (although the road is so horrible that very few people walk anyway). Here is what the typical mid-block cross section is meant to look like.

Lincoln Road cross section of proposed development

However while the mid-block may be 7 lanes wide (including median) the major intersections of Universal Dr and Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr blow out to over 9 lanes in width in a bid to cater for every kind of vehicle movement its own lane

Lincoln Rd - Triangle-Central Park intersection

And here is a video (from which the image above has been taken) showing the works planned

There is some more detail about some of the features on the AT website and they say the that construction isn’t planned to start until 2018. Here is the timeline.

Lincoln Rd Time Line

There will also be two open days about the project next week

Thursday 5 December
3.30pm – 7.30pm
Netball Waitakere Centre
31-35 Te Pai Place

Saturday 7 December,
10am – 2pm
Lincoln Green Conference Centre
159 Lincoln Road (use Te Pai Place entrance)