Prepare To Stop!
Over on the excellent The Conversation website is a post by Melbourne researcher Leigh Glover entitled:
New freeways cure congestion: time to put that myth to bed.
In which he runs through the usual myths about road building and congestion in the Australian context, where of course everything is bigger, more expensive, and more dramatic.
Myth #1: New freeways reduce congestion
“Not only is this not true, but new freeways increase overall road use and contribute to worsening congestion. If you want to reduce road congestion — an understandably popular goal in our car-dependent capital cities — the only viable option is to reduce the demand for road space.
Not only does international research support this fact, local anecdotal experiences reflect it. We are living through an era of urban freeway building, yet congestion is worsening and travel times are lengthening.
Why does this happen? New roads don’t just divert existing traffic but also attract new users and keep on doing so until they reach capacity. In transport planning jargon, this is the effect of “induced traffic”. The more roads you build, the more traffic you have.
There are also associated effects that flow on from building freeways, such as land use decisions that then reinforce car use and car-dependency.”
This is the point that I like to sum up with this observation: What you feed; grows.
We have observed this with the resurgence of bus and train use after investment in Auckland this century, and of course we have seen it for the last 60 years with driving in Auckland. We have fed it and it has grown. And as Matt showed here, we also dismantled and downgraded transit networks at the same time which of course further reinforced this growth.
This problem is especially exacerbated if we now only invest in the one already dominant mode so that there is little effective choice. Congestion is bad in Auckland, despite the city’s small size internationally, because there is largely little option but to partake in it.
Still the mad logic of investing more in something we have too much of to try to solve the problem of this excess is not confined to this country. Both Sydney and Melbourne have huge urban motorway projects on the books that are likely to proceed simply because they will attract Federal money despite being highly questionable at best. This is the same situation that local bodies in NZ are in; enormous practical pressure to support national government agendas even when they are likely to work in direct opposition to agreed local aims because they come with their own funding. The additional Harbour Crossing and the amount of parking at the new Convention Centre are examples of this.
But also there is the uneven economic situation of these two types of projects.
Here is Alan Davies the Melburbanist discussing the recent crazy urban motorway decision in Victoria, where he includes this image of causality:
This pic shows one of the on-going prices of auto-dependancy that never gets included in any benefit cost analysis of urban motorway projects: so much precious building going to house those individual vehicles.
He then goes on to ask why do road projects of poor value get funded over long discussed rail ones, and it is this point that stands out for me:
The advantages of rail over roads are mostly in economic costs i.e. externalities. Many of these costs are diffuse and don’t affect the state budget directly, or if they do it’s often well into the future when “it’s somebody else’s problem”.
This I think is exactly true, the economic costs of road building are huge but external to the projects directly; they fall to property owners having to build so much parking, to people who die and are maimed in crashes, to the city in its loss of value through auto-domination of urban place, to the environment, to or balance of payments through oil dependancy, to individuals having to buy, run, and insure so many expensive vehicles. These are dispersed costs, and therefore easily ignored and glossed over.
And likewise the economic benefits of Transit infrastructure are huge but also easily downplayed and dismissed, as they to do not immediately arrive in an account like a lotto prize, but rather accrue over time in an equally dispersed way. And if the projects are never built then the whole idea of such value can be dismissed as unlikely or only ever happening in other countries where conditions are always different.
But also we have the peculiar situation of the national [and National] government choosing projects in Auckland knowing that these externalities fall largely locally. Both the costs of the mode they favour and the benefits of those that they don’t. We really need to become much more sophisticated in our economic evaluations, or resign ourselves to life in an underperforming and slowly choking city.
As I have mentioned before, Waterview is a roading project that I do support, unlike many of the dubious roading projects both nationally, and locally. Whether you like it or not, it is under construction and in time is likely to have a massive impact on the city and as discussed previously, in some ways it will probably even be useful for the CRL. At $1.4 billion the project is dubbed the most expensive roading project ever undertaken in New Zealand and the NZTA have released some images of progress so far on the project. While the majority of the project is actually underground where it won’t be seen, the sections above ground help to show just how massive the project is.
Northern portal works
Northern Portal Works
Looking North with Maioro St in the foreground
A closer look at Maioro St (front) and Richardson Rd (rear)
The TBM starts here – The trench at the southern end
Somehow over the last 60 years it became an orthodoxy that the only way to deal with the problem of too many cars on our roads is to spend ever greater sums of money on more roads for more cars [and more parking, more fuel use, more accidents, more obesity, more pollution]. I have always found this to be a curious idea; there’s too much of something so let’s make more of it possible. Ah but of course, I’m just looking at it all wrong, congestion isn’t ever about there being too many vehicles, no, it’s only ever about there being insufficient road space for whatever number of vehicles can be imagined. Really, is there never a point that we might say; the problem here is that we are trying to squeeze too many vehicles into this place for it to function well, we need to supply this place with alternatives to driving as well?
This odd orthodoxy is behind the latest muddled-headed transport plan for Auckland, quoted here in the Herald by Brian Rudman:
“Even with the fully funded programme,” admit the authors, “road congestion levels will deteriorate with volume/capacity ratios exceeding 100 per cent on most of our arterial road network by 2041 and emission levels exceeding current levels”.
Clearly business as usual; building more roads everywhere, isn’t going to work even on the terms of those who promote these plans, so it was very interesting to see a new study out of LA on the impact of Transit systems on road congestion. Researchers there were able to use the 2003 shut down of the Transit system by a strike for 35 days to compare the impacts on the city both with a functioning Transit system and without one. From the National Bureau of Economic Research here [USD$5].
Also there’s a summary here on Atlantic Cities which I’ll quote as there’s no paywall:
The intuition is straightforward: Transit is most attractive to commuters who face the worst congestion, so a disproportionate number of transit riders are commuters who would otherwise have to drive on the most congested roads at the most congested times. Since drivers on heavily congested roads have a much higher marginal impact on congestion than drivers on the average road, transit has a large impact on reducing traffic congestion.
Contrary to the conclusions in the existing transportation and urban economics literature, the congestion relief benefits alone may justify transit infrastructure investments.
Of course LA is a big car town, it has massive driving infrastructure, the Transit Systems there are improving, and have improved a great deal since 2003, but there is no way that you could claim that it is like London or Paris and completely dependant on well developed Transit systems built over a century or more. So the figures did vary. For arterials and Interstates that were close to shut down Transit routes the numbers were huge; the morning delay on the 101 was up 123 percent during the strike [90% average for the day], and 56% on freeways that didn’t parallel closed Transit routes.
Proof that even in this most auto-dependant city of the value of investing in quality Transit systems: yes a fully supported Transit network, especially one with its own right of way is the car users’ best friend. Investment in better Transit is almost certainly the best way a city can improve the quality and utility of the driving experience. Can somebody tell the AA?
Remember, when driving and experiencing congestion, you’re not stuck in a traffic jam; you are the traffic jam. Despite all the help those Transit users are trying to give you.
I 405 California
Somewhat hidden as an addendum to the Unitary Plan is information about where and how Auckland will sprawl over the next 30 years to accommodate the 160,000 dwellings (larger than Wellington or Christchurch) planned for outside the current urban limits. There are three main greenfield areas where the bulk of this growth will be located – the south, the northwest and the north.
In the south, there are a number of different options being looked at for where growth could occur – an expansion of options presented late last year. Here’s the most recent range of options being looked at: Perhaps the most interesting addition to this map from its previous version is what I’ve highlighted in red – a connection between Karaka and Weymouth. This is the first time we’ve seen this connection in any of the Council’s plans – it doesn’t come up in the transport network map in the Auckland Plan or the Integrated Transport Programme.
The main reason for the inclusion of the possible future project in the maps seems to be a few paragraphs in the engagement report about the earlier options, which highlight feedback from Auckland Transport and NZTA:
Preliminary feedback from Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) highlights some key concerns about the impact of growth on the function of the transport network (particularly State Highway 1) in the southern area. AT and NZTA recognise the need for significant areas of greenfield development and recognise that a significant amount of transport investment will be required to support this growth. Locating and sequencing growth in a way that promotes employment self‐sufficiency, makes best use of existing infrastructure where spare capacity exists, encourages the use public transport, discourages long distance car journeys and avoids attracting local trips onto strategic transport routes (i.e. SH1) is encouraged by AT and NZTA. AT and NZTA are particularly interested in mechanisms to control the release of land for development so that it can be linked with the provision of transport infrastructure.
Preliminary transport modelling by AT and NZTA of the residential and employment growth proposed shows substantial congestion on SH1, SH22, Hingaia Road and at Drury, even with Mill Road and rail network upgrades and greater public transport trip share and local employment rates. This would cause significant trip suppression from congestion and impact on the inter‐regional connection and freight corridor functions. In order to retain the functionality of State Highway 1, a major new north-south corridor (most likely a Karaka to Weymouth bridge connection) will be needed to accommodate the levels of growth proposed for the south. While areas east of SH1, close to Pukekohe and close to existing infrastructure of the rail network are preferred to more distant areas, it is likely that the need for additional transport connections will remain the same no matter where the RUB is located.
In a way this result is unsurprising. Planning for so much growth to the south of Drury, when the natural landform of the harbour inlets creates a number of bottlenecks is always going to result in huge pressure on the existing routes across those bottlenecks and increase demand for additional links. As the feedback summary above notes, the main issue seems to be having most growth to the west of State Highway 1 whereas the additional planned Mill Road corridor is to the east of the motorway. And while it is advantageous and utterly essential to have the railway running right through the middle of the growth area, the sheer scale of growth seems like it overwhelms the transport network – creating pressure for this new connection.
Of course, such a link would hardly be cheap. Let’s take a look at just the bridge crossing itself – which seems most likely to follow roughly the alignment shown below:That is one pretty long bridge we’re talking about here – even if a small amount of the southern end could be constructed as a causeway. If you push the bridge to the next landing point to the southeast (to keep a straighter road) then it’s about 1.2 km in length – longer than the Auckland Harbour Bridge!
In addition to this, the road would need to be linked back to the existing road network at both ends in a sensible way. The earlier map suggested on the southern side this would be around the corner of SH22 and Glenbrook Road – resulting in over 9 km of new road/expressway/motorway needing to be built through to the southern abutment:
At the northern end it seems likely the existing roads would need to be widened – both Weymouth Road and Roscommon Road. For Weymouth Road in particular, which is currently a pretty quiet road serving a pretty quiet local community, the impact of the widening and the vast increase in traffic flows would be huge. Looking at the aerials it seems like widening would be required in the area shown below at the very least:
Fortunately along the western side of Weymouth Road there seems quite a large setback, so the widening would be possible without having to acquire a huge number of properties (looks like this connection has been planned for a very long time!) Even so you’re probably looking at a lot of cost and certainly a lot of impact on the local community as it seems likely this would be a very busy road. An earlier study, with lower growth projections, showed that the bridge would be used by a very large number of vehicles per day.
The issue of this bridge highlights the conundrums which occur when you plan for so much growth through urban sprawl. Don’t build this bridge and State Highway 1 is likely to become increasingly clogged up, unable to perform its important inter-regional connection role. Roads like State Highway 22 – which really needs to change its function to more of an urban arterial over time – would be so incredibly busy the road engineers will end up wanting it to be six or eight lanes wide. The transport network as a whole would also not be very resilient – extremely vulnerable at pinch points around Drury and Takanini.
But build the bridge and for a start you have the simply massive cost (my rough guess is that the whole thing including southern and northern approaches would probably be close to a billion dollars, as in 2006 it was costed at $650 million. You then have the potential environmental impact on what seems to be a fairly sensitive environment – from reading through other specialist input on the growth options in the area – which may curtail attempts to put any of the bridge onto a causeway to save costs. Then you have the community impact on Weymouth as their quiet little peninsula will end up having a hugely widened and massively busy expressway right through the middle of it. And then there’s the question of where all this traffic actually goes. Straight onto State Highway 20 to clog that motorway up? Back across to State Highway 1 to clog it up again? Inevitably with road building it seems like we find ourselves “shifting the problem” rather than solving it.
I struggle to see the benefits of the Karaka-Weymouth connection outweighing its costs – the financial, environmental and social costs. But if the level of growth in the south is dependent upon having this connection built does that mean the growth numbers need to be revisited if the ‘powers to be’ decide they really don’t want to see this project happen? That seems like the big elephant in the room question that needs to be answered.
The NZ Herald reports:
In a surprise announcement, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday asked the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to commence investigations into a motorway between Panmure and Downtown: along a very similar route to the alignment of the Eastern Highway that cost John Banks the Auckland City mayoralty back in 2004.
Mr Brownlee confirmed that the need to investigate this project further was the most significant outcome of a four-month review of the ‘City Centre Future Access Study’ by Ministry of Transport officials.
“In December last year the Auckland Council released the City Centre Future Access Study. At the time I highlighted some concerns that this study had not reviewed a wide enough series of options to deal with future access problems to downtown Auckland and I also highlighted some doubts over the extremely optimistic assumptions made by that study. Today’s announcement vindicates my concerns,” said Mr Brownlee at a media conference at Orakei point, where the six lane motorway is planned to pass through.
“The Future Access Study’s findings showed that while the CBD Rail Loop performed the best of the options considered, by 2021 and especially by 2041, congestion for private vehicles travelling into downtown Auckland at peak times would be significantly worse than it is today – even with the rail loop built. This is an unacceptable outcome, which is why I requested by officials to look into other options.”
In plans released today by the Ministry, a series of roading improvements are scheduled for construction over the next six years across Auckland – with the main goal being to alleviate congestion. These plans include construction of a six lane motorway from Parnell Rise at the bottom of Grafton Gully through to Panmure where the road will connect to the AMETI project, already under construction by Auckland Transport. To save on costs, the motorway will be built at grade rather than in a tunnel, an option previously considered when the Eastern Highway was being promoted by Auckland City Council last decade.
Other projects proposed for construction include a second level on State Highway 1 between the central motorway junction and Mt Wellington, as well as the Northwest motorway between Waterview and the city.
The Ministry’s report offers only a preliminary analysis of the costs of these projects, noting a likely ‘turn out’ cost of between nine and thirteen billion dollars. “We believe this is a small price to pay to rid Auckland of the daily scourge of congestion” stated Mr Brownlee.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown did not attend the media conference, but later released a statement saying that he was “outraged” the government seemed to be “taking over” the planning of transport in Auckland. However, Mr Brown also noted that he strongly supported all the findings in the report.
“Auckland’s population is due to grow by a million people in the next five years, so we need to invest in Auckland’s future. Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for the City Rail Link project.”
Government sources confirmed that today’s announcements are seen as an alternative to the rail loop project, not in addition to it. When this was put to the mayor, he was heard muttering “incompetent fools” before shrugging his shoulders, sighing loudly and stating that he would “continue to work constructively with the government on transport issues in Auckland”.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Michael Barnett stated that he “strongly supported” today’s announcement. “Congestion costs Auckland businesses $5 billion a year and finally there is an agreed plan to tackle this problem. Our only criticism is that the current plan is to have the Eastern Motorway completed by 2017 and a second level on the southern and northwest motorways by 2019. We think that both projects simply must be completed by 2015 at the absolute latest!”
NZ Council for Infrastructure Development Chief Executive Stephen Selwood also noted his strong support for the transport package announced today. “We’ve been working closely with the Ministry of Transport over the past four months to come up with a solution to Auckland’s traffic problems that can be implemented in a way that most benefits our members, I mean most benefits the Auckland public,” said Mr Selwood, from his desk at the Ministry of Transport’s offices in Auckland.
The announcement was not met with total support however, local resident Anthony Pearce said that he had thought the Eastern Highway was “dead and buried” after it cost Mr Banks the 2004 Auckland mayoralty. “Little did I know that much of the designation was never removed!” wailed Mr Pearce. “At least they’ll never be able to get consent for a six lane motorway through the Purewa Valley and across Hobson Bay!”
Environment Minister Amy Adam confirmed that, with the current changes proposed to the Resource Management Act, consenting for the project would be “not a problem”.
Construction of the motorway causeway is set to begin in June.
The AA is calling for some of the newly built motorways to get a speed limit increase to 110kph. Stuff reports:
Speed limits should be bumped up to 110kmh on the newest and safest roads, the Automobile Association says – and the Government is not ruling out the idea.
The suggestion comes as the Government announces it will review speed limits up and down the country over the next three years as part of its Safer Journeys action plan.
Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse would not rule out increasing the 100kmh maximum speed limit as part of the review, but he felt such a move was unlikely to happen soon. Police say they are open to discussion.
AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said nudging up the speed limit by 10kmh on some roads could reduce congestion and improve productivity by ensuring the quicker movement of freight.
The type of road best suited to a 110kmh limit would be divided, four-lane motorways that have been built to KiwiRap four-star status, such as the northern gateway toll road north of Auckland.
It’s an interesting question,. Certainly driving on many of the newer sections of motorway, like the section along Hobsonville, you have to be very mindful that the speedo doesn’t creep up but I’m not sure that instantly equates to us needing a higher speed limit. The comments from the AA also raise another interesting aspect to this discussion and that is an economic one. As pointed out in this post a few weeks ago, we currently value congestion based on comparing the speed you can travel in free flow conditions vs congested conditions. However new research suggests that a better way of judging it is based on the maximum capacity of the road. Using the existing methods would likely see some of the RoNS perform better in economic tests, when using the capacity measurement would see the opposite.
The freight argument is also a bit silly, as we know most freight is moved by trucks, which are governed by a 90kph speed limit (how many stick to that?). Increasing the speed limit for cars to 110kph is unlikely to see freight benefiting much.
But even if the government did agree to this request, it seems that it would only effect a very small number of roads:
The KiwiRap road assessment programme hands out star ratings to state highways, with five stars being top quality and one star being extremely risky. At present, there are no highways at either extreme.
Four-star highways are generally wide, flat and have a median barrier. Only 5 per cent of all roads fall into this category.
Of those, 64 per cent are in the Auckland region and 36 per cent in the Wellington region.
Most of SH1 from Wellington to Porirua, and SH2 from Wellington to Upper Hutt have a four-star rating.
About 28 per cent of all vehicle kilometres travelled each year is on four-star roads.
Mr Noon said increasing the maximum speed limit would be suitable for only a small amount of roads.
“The reality is that, if a vehicle is going faster and if it is involved in a crash, then physics says the outcome will be more severe.”
I know that there will be a lot of views on this either way but if it did end up going ahead, perhaps as a trade off, the opportunity should be taken to lower the speed limit of local roads at the same time.
Transport infrastructure generally helps to connect our communities with the rest of the city, making life easier. However in some cases, like with motorways and surface rail lines, it can also sever that connection by making it extremely difficult to get around without a car. Thankfully last week, for one community in the North West, that severance was reduced due to the opening of the Westgate pedestrian and cycle bridge which has taken roughly a year to build. Locals were clearly not keen on the previous option of a detour up to Hobsonville Rd, and many would simply run across the motorway. Sadly, in 2004 a schoolboy was struck and killed by a vehicle attempting this treacherous crossing.
The location of the new bridge is shown below:
I went to check it out yesterday – here’s what the finished product looks like from the Western (Westgate) side:
On the bridge itself (and it’s wider than it appears in this photo):
Due to the the height of the eastern side and the need for accessibility to people with bikes or wheel chairs, the bridge needed to be curved to decrease the gradient. In case anyone is worried, I didn’t find it much of a detour at all and in fact can see local kids (including the adult versions) finding it quite fun to race down on their bikes:
Looking at the bridge from the Eastern side:
All up it is a very nice bridge so congratulations to the NZTA and everyone else involved for making this happen.
Submissions to the Board of Inquiry hearing of the Kapiti Expressway project have highlighted what seems to be a pretty critical hole in the cost-benefit analysis process: that the impact on land values of transport projects is simply ignored when it comes to assessing whether they stack up or not – that is whether they lead to an economic gain or not. This is pointed out by a Wellington Scoop article which quotes an opponent to the project Dr Christopher Dearden.
Dr Dearden says the following:
“Our objective has been to stop the implementation of a hugely wrong solution to a relatively minor traffic problem for which there has already been an agreed, locally supported and considerably cheaper answer – the Western Link Road. A road which would have added to the country’s assets rather than depleting them…
“We have been caught in a situation which is not of our making. It’s a situation where argument is difficult because the proposed expressway has no economic rationale, no practicality in traffic numbers or need, is not geographically or sustainably justified, and flouts all cultural sensibility. It relies on pure political whim and it’s difficult to mount rational arguments against that.
“We ask you to reject this application, return the Western Link Road to us, and recommend enhancement of the existing State Highway 1. If you do allow this white elephant expressway to go ahead, then … the rest of our lives will be a time of suffering noise, light and pollution damage as well as vibration. So will all the 1400 households which live within 200 metres of the expressway, and there will be enhanced pain from all those factors relentlessly during the next five years while this monster is built. As many have pointed out, all our properties will lose their value and be unsaleable. Ironically, we will make the biggest contribution to the cost of this road that destroys our lives.”
I have put the really interesting bit in bold – the likely impact of the project on the value of nearby properties. The great irony of motorway projects is that if it runs through your house then you’re the lucky one as you’ll be bought out – the really bad situation to end up in is if the project runs just over your fence. That way you get no compensation but the value of your property property is likely to decline.
Of course all transport projects have positive and negative impacts, with the positive and negative effects felt by different people in different locations. However I think it’s really problematic that the cost-benefit process ignores a potentially significant impact of transport investment, the impact on land values both in a positive and negative sense, because these impacts may end up being potentially some of the most significant effects of the transport investment. A good cost-benefit analysis should attempt to quantify all likely impacts of an intervention so it just seems weird (or mightily convenient for the motorway builders?) to ignore effects on land values.
Last week there was a fairly detailed article in the NZ Herald discussing progress on construction of the Waterview Connection project. Some key things pointed out in the article relate to the fairly substantial progress made on the project in the last few months:
Diggers, drilling rigs and dump trucks from a Fletcher Construction-led alliance of Transport Agency contractors have transformed much of Alan Wood Reserve in Owairaka since January last year into a pitted brown moonscape, alleviated for now only by newly-planted native shrubs on the banks of a realigned section of Oakley Creek, and the first of two football pitches to be re-located behind security fences off Valonia St.
The site will host an extension of the Southwestern Motorway for more than 2km above ground from a new bridge already built at Maioro St in New Windsor and under another quickly taking shape on Richardson Rd, before disappearing into a pair of tunnels which will run 2.4km to Waterview from what will be left of the reserve.
Although work was slower to start at the Waterview end of the project, that has recently been levelled with the demolition or removal of about 90 mainly state houses to make way for traffic to resurface before rising on curving ramps to a multi-layered interchange with the Northwestern Motorway.
The demolitions and re-housing of residents have allowed Waterview Reserve to be moved west to make way for a slew of cranes. They are this month starting to construct a giant motorway trench by ramming concrete slurry into the ground to form the walls before earth is scooped out between them, behind 3.5m noise barriers on the project’s border along Great North Rd with Waterview Primary School.
It seems like the sheer scale of the works, although well understood by the local community through the consenting process, has still come as something of a shock in reality. The scale seems to have surprised Russell Brown from Public Address (a fellow Pt Chev resident) as well:
Through all the furore about how and where the western ring route would be completed and what would run under and over the ground, hardly anyone really understood how bloody big this thing is going to be. It’s now becoming apparent.
I’ve gained some sort of insight in recent weeks by cycling around the north and south ends of of the planned 2.8km tunnel. Even the preparatory works are vast. And the feature pic on this Waterview Connection fan page (shouldn’t it have an anthropomorphised personal Twitter account too?) made me do a double-take.
A couple of Russell’s photo’s really highlights the change in local landscape that has already resulted from the construction activity. First the southern end around Maioro Street (click for larger):
And the northern end near the existing Waterview interchange alongside Great North Road:
Following construction of the project is going to be an interesting process as while there will be a lot of visible change at each end initially (as shown in the photos above) and change continuing at the northern end while all the ramps for the Waterview interchange are constructed, most of the activity will be occurring underground so I’m guessing that for a lot of the time it’ll probably seem like hardly anything is actually taking place.
Final completion is not expected until 2017 and once this project is built it will be very interesting to see what impacts it has on traffic volumes around Auckland – with State Highway 1 finally having a proper bypass and presumably a lot of traffic no longer needing to use current arterial road routes to make the connections that the Waterview tunnel will provide. Construction of the final piece in Auckland’s motorway system jigsaw puzzle is now most definitely underway.
I went for a walk around the northern portal of the Victoria Park Tunnel today (in between rain showers) to take a closer look at something which has caught my attention the last couple of times I’ve driven through the area – the incredibly poor provision for buses heading northbound from the city towards the Harbour Bridge. Back in December I highlighted that the Northern Busway is actually just a “41% busway”, with one of the more glaring gaps (red indicates no bus priority whatsoever) being for northbound buses through St Mary’s Bay:
Aside from a few buses which join the motorway from Curran Street, all buses which head over the Harbour Bridge use the Fanshawe Street onramp. For a while the buses get a good lane which enables them to bypass the ramp signals (are those signals ever used?) as you can see in the photo below: However pretty soon after that the bus priority ends and buses are forced to merge with the traffic using the onramp:During the PM peak there are five northbound lanes for general traffic the whole way from the Fanshawe Street onramp through to the Harbour Bridge – yet even though buses carry over a third of passengers crossing the bridge at peak times NZTA can’t bring themselves to dedicating a lane for bus users so we’re able to bypass the congested cars? As I said, it’s not like there’s a shortage of motorway width or lanes in this location: Twelve lanes of the traffic and it’s only that 12th lane, an inbound bus shoulder lane, that is dedicated to public transport.
Every time I hear NZTA go on about trumpeting how something they’re doing will improve public transport I find myself thinking of St Mary’s Bay and how, even when they were spending $400 million on the Victoria Park Tunnel and even though they widened the motorway here to twelve lanes they couldn’t bring themselves to putting in even a measly little bus shoulder lane for northbound traffic through to the Curran Street onramp to bypass the congestion through St Mary’s Bay. Even though this is meant to be part of the Northern Busway. Even though over a third of people coming over the Harbour Bridge at peak times at on the bus.
Sadly, the fact that NZTA could build a project in just the last few years that shows this much disdain for public transport is, to me, proof that they really do hate public transport.