Auckland Star April 1973. Back in the Dark Ages it was considered appropriate to near kill the patient in order to help them. In the 1970s Central government transport planners nearly succeeded in killing the Auckland City Centre through the subtle act of flattening its densest and most proximate dormitory suburbs, then cutting it off any still standing from the city, and turning city streets into motorway off ramps. The charm and glory of these multi-year campaigns are still with us today on the beautiful avenues of Hobson and Nelson Sts, the terrible road pattern and wasted landuse of Union and Cook St, and the blighted devalued areas of K Rd and Newton. And of course the violated and severing gullies themselves. The scale of this ‘surgery’ can be seen in this spread.
The accompanying text is fairly flat and informational.
It seems the desire for a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate, like those postwar planners had in Europe, was so great that we made our own ‘bombsite’.
Happily now we live in more enlightened times and the next city surgery of scale will be much more sophisticated, the City Rail link which as an incision compared to this earlier work is laparoscopic; minimal invasive surgery. No need to maim the patient. Once done no one will even see it, except for that high value resource of people flooding on to city streets not in a car looking for a parking space. And will supply at least as much capacity as the three motorways that meet at this point do today*. So the CRL will double the accessibility to the nation’s most concentrated, biggest, and highest value employment centre, and fastest growing residential area, seamlessly. After the recovery from a few precise cuts, that is.
*Show your work, as Peter always says:
CRL 24 trains per hour each way 750 per train [not crush load; that’s 1000] ~ 36k [crush 48k]
M’ways 12 lanes @2160 [1800 vehicles @1.2 occupants] per lane hour ~ 26k
Of course the buses on the Bridge land some 9000 souls currently too.
We were rightly dismayed when the previous Transport Minister vetoed the desperately needed extension of the famously successful Northern Busway as part of the big spend up on SH1 on the North Shore. We suspect NZTA were too, as they know that the Busway the single most effective tool for reducing congestion and increasing access and human happiness for the travelling public on this route. And is a vital part of the booming Rapid Transit Network. Additionally this extension surely also helps streamline the general traffic lane design through the SH1/SH18 intersection and beyond. NZTA must be keen to not have to factor in growing numbers of merging buses from shoulder lanes etc.
So we are very pleased to find that the agency has found a way to return this logical part of the project to the programme and out of the shadow of ministerial whim [presumably the change of Minister helped?]:
Here is the full document.
Bus users report that their journeys between Constellation and Albany Stations can currently take up a disproportionately large amount of the total trip because of the absence of any Transit right of way; the buses of course are not only themselves delayed but are also delaying other road users here.
The extension will not be a minor structure but as it adjacent to commercial properties it is hard to see how the usual forces of compliant will be able get much traction against it, but it will still need public support at the consultation phase, so Busway users, let yourselves be heard.
We understand the current Busway is built to a standard to enable upgrading to rail systems, we would expect this standard to be continued on this extension, as this does look like the most logical way to next cross the Waitemata Harbour.
Finally, because this is a) spending on the Shore b) not ratepayers funds, and c) not spending on a train or a bike, even the venerable George Wood will be in favour of the proposed extension.
While Auckland remains waiting on the government to commit to its share of funding for the most transformative transport project since the Harbour Bridge – the City Rail Link – the NZTA have just announced that they’ve shortlisted three groups of companies to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway as Public Private Partnership.
In the past the NZTA have said the project could cost around $760 million however as PPPs are just glorified hire purchase arrangements it means that over the course of the loan it will cost us considerably more than that. As an example the Transmission Gully project in Wellington costs around $1 billion however after the interest accrued during construction is capitalised it pushes up the cost to about $1.3 billion. That cost is then paid off back to the private companies which the NZTA say will likely be $120-$130 million annually.
That cost might be justified if the current road was heavily used however it isn’t and even the NZTA’s own analysis during the consent hearings admitted it was only really busy a few times over summer. Neither is it the economic saviour of Northland like the government and some other politicians claim. For starters it finishes just north of Warkworth and from there north traffic is normally around 10,000 vehicles per day. Also if this new road was really going to make a difference in connecting Northland with the rest of the country then why hasn’t the existing toll road done that, or even the extension that got the motorway to Orewa/Silverdale in the early 1990’s.
Unfortunately we’ve not been allowed to see the business case for the project as in the past when asked the NZTA they’re keeping if secret until after they’ve awarded the tender.
Here’s the press release:
The NZ Transport Agency has today taken another step towards building the new Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway by announcing the consortia shortlisted to progress to the next stage of the project.
Transport Agency Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield says the building of the motorway is a significant step towards improving the safety, reliability and resilience of State Highway 1 between Northland and the upper North Island freight triangle of Auckland, Waikato and Tauranga.
In September 2014, a Board of Inquiry confirmed approval of the Transport Agency’s application for designation and resource consents for the project. This was followed, in May 2015, by the Cabinet approving an application by the Transport Agency to procure the motorway through a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
The Cabinet approval came after the Transport Agency determined, following an extensive business case analysis, that the project met the Treasury’s criteria to be procured as a PPP.
The consortia shortlisted to receive a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the financing, design, construction, management and maintenance of the Pūhoi to Warkworth project under a PPP are:
- Northlink – made up of Cintra Developments Australia Pty Ltd, InfraRed Infrastructure III General Partner Ltd, John Laing Investments Ltd, Ferrovial Agroman Ltd, Fulton Hogan Ltd.
- Northern Express Group – Made up of Accident Compensation Corporation, HRL Morrison & Co Public Infrastructure Partners, Acciona Concesiones S.L., Fletcher Building Ltd, Macquarie Group Holdings New Zealand Ltd, Acciona Infrastructure Australia Pty Ltd, The Fletcher Construction Company Ltd, Higgins Contractors Ltd.
- Pacific Connect – made up of Pacific Partnerships Pty Ltd, VINCI Concessions S.A.S., ACS Infrastructure Australia Pty Ltd, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments (No.4) Ltd, Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd, HEB Construction Ltd.
Mr Dangerfield says the announcement of the shortlisted consortia comes after a rigorous evaluation and selection process.
“We are very fortunate to have such high-quality companies and organisations showing an interest in the Pūhoi to Warkworth project. All of these companies and organisations have sound experience in delivering large infrastructure projects.
“I’m confident that any of these consortia can deliver a high-quality motorway which will provide greater resilience, improved road safety and journey time reliability, and a better connection for freight, tourism and motorists.”
Mr Dangerfield says the RFP will be issued to the shortlisted consortia later this month and the Transport Agency expects to announce a Preferred Bidder by mid-2016.
Subject to successful contract negotiations with the Preferred Bidder, the PPP contract for the project is expected to be awarded in October 2016.
He says the Pūhoi to Warkworth project seeks to procure a PPP contract that would deliver a value-for-money motorway which will assist economic growth in Northland.
“A PPP contract will likely see the PPP consortium manage and maintain the motorway for the 25 years that will follow the anticipated six-year period to build it.”
“PPPs are a particularly suitable procurement method for delivering great results for large-scale and complex infrastructure.
“Using a PPP for key infrastructure projects will open the door for private sector innovations that are not always achievable under traditional public sector procurement methods.
“PPPs allow specific outcomes to be established and measured – and for risks to be identified and transferred to the private sector.
“An outcomes-based PPP for the Pūhoi to Warkworth project will also allow great flexibility within the designation to achieve optimised innovative outcomes.”
Mr Dangerfield says that under a PPP, full ownership of the motorway will always remain with the public sector.
“The nature of the contract to be used will provide a strong incentive for the successful PPP consortium to deliver the best possible results for road users.”
Tentatively, construction of the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway, under a PPP arrangement, could possibly start in late 2016 with the road completed and open by 2022.
Mr Dangerfield says no decision has been made on tolling for the Pūhoi to Warkworth route but should the motorway be tolled, the Transport Agency would retain responsibility for tolling.
“The public would be fully consulted on any tolling proposal which must also obtain Ministerial approval,” he said.
He says the Transport Agency will continue to consider PPPs for other large-scale and complex infrastructure projects which could potentially benefit from the innovation and value-for-money that can be achieved through a PPP approach.
The first state highway in New Zealand to be delivered through a PPP is the Transmission Gully (MacKays to Linden) project in Wellington.
In July 2014, the Transport Agency signed a PPP contract with the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP). Work on Transmission Gully began in September last year, and the motorway will be open for traffic by 2020.
Prompted by the news that the NZTA is tendering work for route protection of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC), I initiated an OIA request to the NZTA which has now been responded to.
I requested, on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport:
1. A statement defining the land transport problem or issue that the proposed AWHC solution is attempting to address.
2. The studies and comparative assessments of alternative solutions that the NZTA has conducted, including, but not restricted to, an electrified rail only crossing of the Waitemata Harbour between the Auckland isthmus and the North Shore.
The NZTA responded with the following PDF documents:
- Attachment A: Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Preliminary Business Case, January 2011. The business case includes a statement outlining the problem which the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project is attempting to address (refer to ‘Description of Service Need’ on page 9)
- Attachment B: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study Phase 1: summary report option short listing, November 2007
- Attachment C: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study 2008: Study Summary Report, April 2008
Question 1: What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?
The Description of Service Need is this:
What stands out here is the statement that the “AHB currently provides the only direct, cross-harbour vehicle link between the CBD and the North Shore.” Resiliency seems to be a major driver behind a solution which supports six lanes of general traffic in a tunnel, with the possibility of rail at some indeterminate point in the future. What is odd is that there is no mention in any of the supplied documents of the Western Ring Route, a $2bn project adding resiliency and reducing demand on the existing Harbour Bridge which, in the NZTA’s own words, will “create a seamless motorway between Manukau and Albany”. This is due for completion in phases in the next few years.
There are also the usual predictions of increasing traffic volumes, which threaten to “adversely impact on the length and reliability of travel times”. Quite why it is vital to minimise the travel times of single occupant cars isn’t explained. Regardless, the Business Case uses traffic volumes in 2008 as the basis of forecasting, before the Northern Busway had a chance to make much of an impact.
However, as Matt pointed out in this post, traffic volumes across the bridge have stubbornly stayed at 2008 levels, at least up until 2014.
And that pretty much sums up the statement of need. As far as analysis of the need for mass rapid transit goes, there’s this analysis of the Busway:
Forecast demand for the Busway indicates that the morning peak hour flows into the CBD could increase to 250 buses per hour in 2041, representing a 138% increase over the 2009 volumes. This figure is the recommended target capacity for the Busway system, representing 12,000 passenger movements per hour6. However, achieving the target capacity is currently hindered by capacity constraints close to the CBD where the provision of dedicated bus facilities is more expensive and bus volumes are at their highest. One of the advantages of a new crossing would be the ability to have dedicated bus lanes across the AHB which would maintain a high level of trip reliability for passenger transport users.
On rail, the Business Case assumes a rail link between Gaunt Street Station in the Wynyard Quarter (underground) and Akoranga Station (at grade). The basis for modelling the tunnel is this diagram:
Construction cost alone of the combined tunnel is $4.6bn in 2010 dollars, with a total nominal cost over a 30 year period calculated as $12bn for the tunnel, including all capital expenditure and operating costs, with a risk factor as well:
The Business Case document comes up with a BCR of 0.4 for the combined tunnel option, including wider economic benefits and not including tolling. Not so much a Business Case for the proposed AWHC then, but more a massive red flag suggesting that not building the proposed tunnel is actually more economically beneficial for Auckland. Even more worryingly, even though there is an assumption that the motorway will be widened to four lanes between Esmonde and Northcote road, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation of how the capacity of the Central Motorway Junction will be increased to cope with the additional three lanes of traffic each way that a new tunnel crossing will provide for.
Incidentally, transport modelling and the Cost Benefit Analysis excluded rail (p.25)
A parallel work stream to this study — The Network Plan — undertook an assessment of the longterm capacity of the existing Busway and concluded that a rail crossing was not required within the timeframes considered for the CBA. As such, the transport modelling excluded the modelling of rail, and the CBA includes costs for the roading component of the crossings only (i.e. the cost for the rail tunnel is excluded).
There is an interesting discussion on tolling (up to $8 each way modelled), but perhaps that is best left for another post.
Question 2: What alternatives have been evaluated?
The Business Case takes it as a given that capacity for additional vehicles is required. This stems from the earlier options papers, which do indeed include an examination of a rail only crossing, which is the second question of the OIA request. Attachment C covers three short-listed options, with variations for each:
The study concludes (p.43) that a combined road / rail tunnel option is best – Option 2C.
So although a rail tunnel was the best passenger transport option, the study recommends a combined road / rail tunnel. The option evaluation process appears not to have used a CBA / Economic Evaluation Manual approach, and it is difficult to tell exactly why option 2C is favoured over a rail only crossing. There is no comparison of BCRs between the rail only and combined tunnel options. Presumably there is a strong weighting for resilience, but again discussion about the Western Ring Route is non-existent. However, the study also carries this warning on p.45:
Limited spare capacity on the strategic and regional arterial networks on both sides of the Harbour, together with the need to move towards a more sustainable transport system, mean it will be neither practical nor desirable to provide sufficient cross harbour road capacity to match demand. Any additional connectivity should therefore be provided to the best practicable standard, that is, in balance with the remainder of the Auckland road network, and in a cost effective manner.
And cost should probably be one of the most important factors. Page 36 has a table of costs for the different options.
A rail only tunnel was costed at about a quarter of the cost of a road / rail tunnel.
In summary, I don’t really think NZTA’s solution is going to work. By design, it will increase the number of single occupant cars in the CBD and surrounding motorway networks and, according to their own analysis, make the economy of Auckland worse than if the project doesn’t proceed. (And that isn’t even considering the impact of tolls on the economy.)
I don’t accept claims that the tunnel will be “future proofed” for rail either. You only need to look at the history of future-proofing in Auckland (think Te Iririrangi Drive or the Manukau Harbour Crossing) to know that most likely it will never happen.
The taxation and expenditure of over $4bn dollars could make a real difference to Auckland if it was spent on the right things. I think Aucklanders should get a say on this. Allowing the AWHC route protection to proceed in its current form, at a cost of tens of millions, is the thin edge of the wedge. If planning starts for a tunnel for single occupant cars, then that is what we’ll end up with.
This isn’t urgent. We’ve got time to get it right.
We are all having quite a bit of trouble taking all the transport institutions seriously over RTN designations and intentions. The failure for any action to have been taken over a route through Mangere and the Airport over the last decade, and the constant reductions of any available space for a rail ROW there, or at least one not prohibitively expensive, make all the assurances we hear increasingly hard to believe.
Now we are expected to have no concerns at all about a process which shows every sign of just being another massive state highway with a little pretend drawing of a train in the sump of a massive road tunnel.
Tommy Parker confirmed today that buses on the bridge are to be the RTN solution, ie what there is now.
Our view is that this puts the cart before the horse. NZTA should not be starting with a solution without any clear description of the problem. We do not see why it needs a designation over a stretch of water to analyse what may be missing across here. Although it is not the designation that is the problem, but the lack of a needs focused, creative, and open minded analysis that troubles us.
As to us it is clear that what is missing from the existing bridges is a real RTN route [assuming SkyPath happens]. Therefore we expect to see real exploration of what delivering rail only tunnels [or bridge] would do to shape demand here. A rail system would certainly be higher capacity than road tunnels, and, well planned, would also likely be much cheaper and stageable. Adjacent rail systems do add resilience as the TransBay Tunnels did in Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco. And not do have all of the disbenefits of the massive increase in vehicle numbers throughout the whole city [congestion!] that more traffic lanes will.
We know than any additional road capacity here would be a total disaster for the city, which we are currently de-carring, and the CMJ which is already full, and the North Shore local roads. We also know, and NZTA almost brags about this [see below], the main outcome would be a traffic inducement on a massive scale:
This is ‘decide and provide’ in a bad way, a huge programme of traffic creation; $6 Billion to get people out of buses and into the driver’s seat. What ever we build across this route will be used; what an amazing opportunity to choose to shape both demand and the city in a wholly positive way.
However the fact that NZTA is not currently allowed to spend on rail capex, and anyway really is mainly a State Highway provider and then is not calling for any outside expertise to explore rail systems is also not encouraging:
It is our view that both a driverless Light Metro system, or a continuation of AT’s proposed Light Rail network across the Harbour, to Takapuna and up the Busway, need to be properly explored as the next possible crossing over the harbour. As they are likely to achieve all of the aims NZTA and AT are charged with delivering for the city much more completely and at a lower cost than any additional traffic lanes and without any of the disbenefits.
– the economic benefits of true spatially efficient urban transport system linking the Shore to city and the isthmus RTN
– make a massive transformational shift to public transport
– real carbon and other pollution reductions of scale from a 100% electric system
– huge place benefits, including a real reduction in city car and bus numbers
– no additional massive costs on approach roads
– resilience of additional systems as well as route
We would like to meet with NZTA at the highest level to discuss this further.
We are extremely concerned that institutional momentum is building for a very very poor outcome for the city and country and are determined to improve this process.
We look forward to your reply,
Last week the latest iteration of the National Land Transport Programme was announced. This is largely a business as usual plan, dominated by the big spend on a few massive state highways projects. However there are a few things to be celebrated, especially for cycling, and even more in the language and thinking in the supporting documents. This was repeated at the launch too, especially in the words of NZTA CEO and AT Board representative Geoff Dangerfield, and NZTA Auckland/Northland Regional Director Ernst Zöllner.
The high level aims are all strong and commendable. The focus on ‘economic growth and productivity, safety, and value for money’ are incontestably valuable. If they were to add ‘resilience, energy security, and environmental performance’ it would probably be a perfect list. But of course this is really set by the Government Policy Statement.
Dangerfield was his usual clear and persuasive self, setting a high level context and skilfully bating away questions. Zöllner was particularly articulate about both the dynamic nature of the situation in Auckland and the unformed quality of Auckland’s PT networks; especially the incomplete nature of the core Rapid Transit Network. Both noted the strong growth of PT ridership numbers, which will see a rise in the PT opex spend.
Here’s what the agency says about the Transit and Active modes, in the Providing Transport Choices document:
All incontestable good sense, and exactly the sort of points regular readers here would recognise, especially the emphasis on the value of the high quality own-right-of-way Congestion Free networks of rail and dedicated busways.
People using public transport on high-quality public transport services with a dedicated right of way, like the Auckland Northern Busway or metropolitan rail networks, can now enjoy fast, efficient journeys on comfortable modern buses and electric trains, while freeing up road space for other people and freight.
There remains, however, some considerable daylight between this analysis and the actual projects being funded. This is especially the case with the comparatively tiny sum of $176m for Public Transport Capital Works in Auckland out of a total $4.2 billion spend over the three year period in the region [~4%] and $13.9 billion nationally. This sum [half of which is from the Council’s Transport Levy] will bring much vital kit, like the Otahuhu, Manukau City, and Te Atatu bus interchanges. But is a long way from fixing those big gaps in the RTN network. In response to my questions on this they quite reasonably countered that some funding for bus capex is in other budgets, notably under the AMETI programme, as part of the North Western massive highway works, and the Northern Busway extensions.
However the two Busway sums do not result in the construction of even one metre of additional RTN. For the Northern Busway the previous minister deleted construction of the proposed extension from the accelerated motorway package [a loan to be met from future NLTF], so all we are left with is ‘future proofing’ and no one can ride on a busway that has only been future proofed for. On the Northwestern we do get the improvement of bus shoulder lanes and a station at Te Atatu; but no RTN. AMETI is the best of the bunch, but that’s only if the proposed BRT does happen instead of the place-ruining flyover that appeals more to some entitled voices there.
Then we come to the great problem that the National Land Transport Fund is barred from investing in rail infrastructure yet Auckland is now showing the huge value of using this separate network for moving increasing numbers of people completely outside of traffic congestion. And some RTN routes are clearly best served by rail. Just as well the Council has the courage to just get on with the CRL first stage by itself so at least this vital gap at the heart of the RTN is getting a start.
The case for near term investment in PT and especially for completing the RTN can be summarised thus:
- current demand growth of 20+% on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network,
- the RTN is showing improved operating cost effectiveness as it grows,
- the strongly voiced value the agency sees in quality PT networks especially their positive effects on traffic congestion and economic growth,
- the well known relationship between what is invested in and what then grows in use plus the positive externalities of increased PT use,
- and the observed sub-optimal nature of the city’s current PT networks in both quality and extent, ie the clear opportunities for improvement.
So despite the good work being undertaken by many in all our transport agencies: NZTA, AT, and MoT, there seem to be structural problems that are leading to important opportunities
being missed in our only city of scale
. It is this context that I wrote to NZTA Auckland and Northland Director Ernst Zöllner with concerns about two specific projects that embody these issues. As this post is already quite long I will run the letter tomorrow morning in a follow-up post…
I was recently sent a briefing from late May that the NZTA gave to the transport industry on the three large projects in Auckland that will be procuring work for. In all cases the work relates to designation and planning work and the projects are the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC), the Northern Corridor works and the East-West link. The most interesting of them and the one I’ll cover here is the AWHC.
The NZTA intend on restarting the process to get protect the route that they put on hold in 2009. This was actually announced back in in 2013 the government launched their programme of ‘accelerating’ a number of motorway projects. Interestingly they say here it will cost around $4 billion. This is just another in the long list of wild estimates for this project and of course won’t include any works necessary to widen the Northern Motorway to be able to handle the extra traffic or increase the capacity of the CMJ – which I’m told is all built out.
That cost also won’t include any costs to connect the rail tunnels at each end shown in the image (closer look below) meaning that it’s likely any idea of rail to the shore will be dependent on a separate project and one that will likely fail any business case for some time thanks to the presence of the recently built motorway.
Perhaps the most interesting part is this slide showing that building the tunnels induces a lot more demand. It would be interesting to know if they are talking about all trips or just vehicle trips. If the latter the increase is probably because it would undermine the busway therefore seeing people moving back to driving.
It’s also still not clear that vehicle demand is going to increase by that level. For a start no one knows just what impact the completion of the Waterview and the Western Ring Route will have and even without that traffic volumes haven’t been increasing like they were predicted to. I most recently looked at volumes here.
This slide shows the next steps in the process
And here’s the scope of the current works planned
Interestingly this just went public yesterday
The NZ Transport Agency invites Registrations of Interest (ROI) from suitably experienced consultants and advisors who have the right people with the necessary vision, experience, capacity, understanding and commitment to deliver outstanding outcomes for the Additional Waitematā Harbour Crossing (AWHC).
The professional services for route protection will be procured using the staged delivery model. The contract will be finalised through a negotiation phase, which will develop an agreed methodology, effort, target fee and pain/gain approach.
The high level objective of the project is to complete the route protection and secure designations for the AWHC; by updating and confirming the existing Notices of Requirement (NoRs), and serving new NoR(s), as required to designate the land at either end of the additional crossing. This project is to be publicly notified and a public hearing is likely to occur.
The team will generally provide the following expertise, but not be limited to:
- Statutory planning and resource management
- Engineering, including tunnelling, highway, rail, civil engineering and geology/geotechnical
- Traffic modelling and transport planning
- Environmental and social management, technical expertise and assessment
- Provision of evidence at hearings and expert witness
Request for Proposals Overview
The Request for Proposal (RFP) will use the quality based supplier selection method. The contract scope will be reasonably broad and focused on key outcomes with the approach and related scope to be further defined by respondents.
A RFP interactive presentation, for all respondents, is proposed to be held after the RFP closes, and will be assessed as part of the evaluation.
RFP documents will only be issued to those applicants who have submitted an ROI.
Prospective respondents to this ROI are invited to attend an Industry Briefing on Thursday 2 July 2015. Respondents wishing to attend this briefing are requested to confirm their interest in attending before 4:00pm on Tuesday 30 June 2015. Attendees will be limited to two per company.
The ROI will be open for three weeks and will close at 4:00pm on Thursday 9 July 2015.
In my view, before we build any more road crossings our transport agencies should be prioritising their focus on getting the missing modes across the harbour. That means Skypath needs to be built as soon as possible (we should hear the results of the resource consent within 2 weeks) and then the focus needs to be on a dedicated PT route. That would provide much greater additional capacity and resilience for less cost than a the huge road tunnels planned and could happen sooner. In face it could even possible link in with the light rail plans for the isthmus – more on that in another post. Route protection wouldn’t stop that outcome but our agencies need to have a serious rethink of the project in its current form.
I guess this is just one of those ones we should have on high rotate. The advice from the North American consultants in 1965 for Auckland at the height of the sprawl era was this: ‘a co-ordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘ to go along with the gradual construction of motorways. How prescient this looks as the following 50 years have shown how inefficient and expensive a monomodal autodependent transport plan is for cities.
And now as we finally inch towards the partial delivery of just such a system it is plainly obvious how rational it is; ongoing 20% growth on the Rapid Transit Network settles the long running claims that it would never work in Auckland.
It is extraordinary that the government claims Auckland Transport and Auckland Council don’t have a good plan. It’s only the same plan that we’ve always had, but have never been allowed to implement. First because the various councils ‘couldn’t agree’ but now because there is insufficient ‘alignment’ with the government’s plan, which is undisclosed in any holistic form, but clearly is just more motorways everywhere. The Auckland plan, is evidenced, popular, already working, but starved of cash.
‘To 1986 and beyond…‘
And here, on a projected future motorway map you can see the core rail part of the ‘coordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘:
*Thanks to the excellent Auckland Library archive.
As Peter found when covering the Ministry of Transport’s review of capital spending on roads (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) our multibillion dollar national transport budget is being spent in some bizarre ways. Money’s being allocated to major roading projects that don’t offer many economic benefits in return.
While the high-level picture is clear, it’s not always obvious what’s going on in project selection. Why does the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) choose one project over another? What are their processes for assessing “strategic fit” and other considerations?
Some smart people have been taking a critical look at a major Wellington road project that’s been flying under the radar: the Petone-to-Grenada motorway. Like the Transmission Gully motorway, it’s being touted less for its benefit-cost ratio than for its impacts on the “resilience” of the Wellington region.
Tamara Duran, who writes on the Takapu Valley website, provides a useful summary of the project… and the issues with the project. In addition to her extensive analysis of the the impacts of the project on resilience (parts 1, 2, and 3), she’s put together a primer on the project, complete with maps for the out-of-towners:
Since the Christchurch and Tōhoku earthquakes, “resilience” has been the mantra of… pretty much anyone building anything, be it a building, a corporate structure, or a communications network. We all want to be resilient, to survive whatever has just happened and get back up and about our normal business as quickly as possible.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has picked up on how keen everyone is on resilience, and so is now including it in all of their sales material. Perhaps unsurprisingly, NZTA has defined “resilience” from a transport perspective as “more roads”. Not “more transport options”, and not even really “better roads”, just more. Got congestion problems? Build another road to get around it. Got a road falling apart? Build another road to take traffic off it.
Case in point: The Petone to Grenada link road, in Wellington. This road has been in the investigation and planning stages for a good 20 years now, the reason being Wellington’s notoriously challenging geography. To get from the CBD to the rest of the Region (and ultimately the rest of the North Island), there are essentially two routes out – SH1 up Ngauranga Gorge, and SH2 along the harbour. Both of those are through narrow corridors with few or no alternatives.
Source: Google Maps
The logical thing to do, then, as proposed in various studies since about 1991, is something like this:
Source: Google Maps
Traffic wanting to get between the SH1 corridor in the west and the SH2 corridor in the east can “cut the corner” of Ngauranga, taking pressure off those two chokepoints.
If there’s a truck flipped in Ngauranga Gorge, traffic can go up SH2 and across P2G. Likewise if there’s a crash along SH2 traffic can go up SH1 and across P2G back to Petone. All good, and everyone’s back about their business with minimal fuss.
But 7km of road is Not Enough Road. More Road = More Resilient, remember. So what NZTA is proposing is this:
Source: NZTA Presentation to Chief Executives Group, November 2014, released under OIA
We’ll turn the whole thing north-south (because clearly a north-south road is how you solve an east-west problem); then we have room to double the length. Here are some other “resilient” features:
- Motorway to motorway interchanges through chains of roundabouts!
- Motorway to motorway interchanges via two-lane local streets! (and roundabouts!)
Source: NZTA Petone to Grenada Project website
- “Bypasses” with one-way ramps that force you 12km out of your way!
Source: Petone to Grenada Scoping Report, February 2014
- Motorways next to other motorways! (More Roads = More Resilient!)
Source: NZTA Petone to Grenada Project website
- Roads on unstudied active fault lines!
Source: GNS Active Faults database
- 80 meter deep canyons through the Wellington Fault Scarp!
Source: HC8/9, Grenada-Petone Link and SH58 Upgrade Economics, Sinclair Knight Merz, April 2010, released under OIA
Source: Petone to Grenada Link Road Preliminary Geotechnical Appraisal, September 2013, released under OIA
NZTA has taken a reasonable solution to Wellington network resilience woes and “made it better”, in the process negating the very function the road was originally supposed to serve. In the meantime, genuine improvements to the earthquake and natural hazard resilience of the roading network are left to languish.
Source: (ex. labels) Wellington Region Road Network Earthquake Resilience Study, Opus, August 2012
I’d really recommend reading her entire series on the motorway. It seems like NZTA is pursuing a more expensive option that delivers much worse outcomes. In particular, Tamara argues that better results could be achieved through upgrades to a few problematic bits of the existing State Highway 58.
Meanwhile, University of Auckland statistician Thomas Lumley (who writes the excellent StatsChat blog) has been digging into NZTA’s options assessments on the project. He’s found that the agency has made some basic statistical errors in its weighting of evaluation criteria. The effect seems to have been that NZTA’s chosen the wrong project, for the wrong reasons:
If you have to make a decision with several options, each with different types of positive and negative effects, it’s going to be hard. Techniques for breaking down complex decisions into sets of simpler questions are very valuable, but it’s important that the way you break down the problem and recombine the answers fits with how you answer the simpler questions.
I’ve been pointed to what looks like an unfortunate example from the NZTA, in assessing options for the Petone–Grenada link road to be constructed near Wellington. The road comes in two sections: from Petone to the eastern section of Lincolnshire Farm, and from there to Grenada. According to the scoping report (PDF), these can be decided independently of each other, so there’s an ideal opportunity to simplify the decision making. NZTA describes four options P1 to P4 for the first section, and four options A to D for the second section.
I would have expected them to just make independent recommendations for the two sections, but what they actually did was more complicated. First, they looked at the P options and decided based on four criteria that P4 was best. They then looked at A+P4, B+P4, C+P4, and D+P4 for the same four criteria, and said in a footnote (p172) “Upon combining one of Option P1, P2, P3 or P4 with one Option A, B, C or D the effect more towards the negative takes precedence.”
This can only make sense if the harms or benefits weren’t independent. Sometimes that’s possible. In particular, one of the criteria was “resilience”, and you might argue that it doesn’t matter how robust the second part of the road is when the first part is under several meters of rock and mud, or filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic jams. It could make sense to take the worst value of the two sections when assessing resilience: but people who know more about Wellington-area transport than I do still seem dubious.
The same argument certainly doesn’t apply for the other criteria: archaeological, ecological, landscape/visual impact, and transport benefit/cost. If one section of the road is an environmental nightmare, that doesn’t make the environmental impact of the other section unimportant. If one section of the road is unavoidably ugly, that doesn’t excuse making the other section ugly. If one section destroys an important heritage site, it doesn’t mean the other section doesn’t have to care about preservation of the past. If one section is ridiculously expensive it doesn’t mean the costs are unimportant for the other section.
The impact of decomposing and recombining the evaluation as they did, is that any criterion where P4 was bad becomes much less important in choosing among options A to D. P4 was very bad on the landscape/visual criterion, and moderately bad on ecology.
By now you should be expecting the punch line: evaluated independently, options A and B look good because they score well on ecology and landscape/visual criteria. Evaluated in combination with P4, they look terrible, because the ecology and landscape benefits are masked by the “more negative” combining rule. That’s a problem with the combining rule, not with the road. Here’s a colour-coded version of the information in Table 23-19, p182 (from T. Duran)
Not only is the combining rule obviously missing some information, it’s not even internally consistent. If the evaluation had been done in the opposite order they might well have chosen A first, and then looked at A+P1 to A+P4. Even D was what they’d chosen first, P3+D would then look slightly better than P4+D.
It’s very tempting to look for ways of combining preferences that don’t rely on numbers, just on orderings, but in most cases they aren’t available, and attempts to do it leave you worse off than before.
This evaluation wasn’t set up to focus only on resilience — even assuming that the resilience assessment is valid, which I hear is also being questioned — it was set up to value the four criteria equally. It really looks as though a minor detail of the approach to simplifying the evaluation has had a large, accidental effect on the result.
Thomas’s words are gentle but suggest serious methodological errors in NZTA’s project selection. Taken together with Tamara’s critique of the agency’s evaluation of the resilience impacts of the Petone-to-Grenada road, it really makes you wonder what’s wrong with NZTA’s decision-making.
These are just a few images I found recently of what the Southern Motorway used to look like. They were taken in February 1963 They were taken from the Princes Rd bridge in Otahuhu.
Road traffic, new Southern Motorway, Penrose, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-59290-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23080156