The NZTA yesterday announced the what it would fund over the next three years as part of its National Land Transport Programme 2015-18 (NLTP). The NLTP combines funding from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) – which is essentially road/fuel taxes, council rates and from other government funding sources such as for the spend up on regional roads announced last year.
The headline figure is that over the next three years $13.9 billion will be spent on transport which is about 15% more than the 2012-15 NLTP and of which about $10.5 billion comes from the NLTF. Most of the rest comes from local councils through rates. Where the money comes from and where it is being spent is quite well shown in this graphic from the NZTA.
As you can see above the vast bulk of the funding is going on building new and maintaining existing roads. Of the $5.5 billion for road improvements the majority (almost $4.2 billion) is going towards State Highways. None of this is particularly surprising as it’s a continuation of the trend we’ve seen for a few years now and one that has been continued with the current Government Policy Statement (GPS) which the NLTP has to give effect to. The GPS doesn’t set specific funding levels but it does provide funding ranges for each category. Just how the actual investment in this programme compares with it’s GPS funding range for each category is shown below. You an quite see quite clearly that for State Highways the funding level is well above the midpoint set by the government – although interestingly local roads are at the bottom of their range (note: this is just for funding from the NLTF so doesn’t include rates).
One area that is at the top of its range is walking and cycling where the NZTA are putting in over $100 million which is on top of the $96 million from governments Urban Cycling Fund.
One aspect I was interested in was how the money is divided up across the regions. A lot was said about how Auckland is getting ~$4.2 billion in funding however when you look at on a per person basis (using Stats 2014 population estimates) it appears Auckland is spending about the National average while it’s the Waikato doing pretty well.
Just looking specifically at Auckland around $4.2 billion will be spent over three years. I find the press release and other information about this investment quite odd as it seems the NZTA are doing everything they can to avoid saying how much their spending on roads. They focus attention on the $1.175 billion going towards Public Transport (of which only about $176 million is for new PT Infrastructure and services), on the $960 million on road maintenance and the $91 million on cycling yet there is very little focus on the over $2.1 billion being spent on roads, $1.8b of which is state highways.
There are also a few other things I picked up on, including:
- The term Congestion Free is entering the NZTA’s lexicon
Mr Zöllner says Auckland’s future depends on a strategic joined up approach to both its motorway and local road network, along with critical public transport, walking and cycling networks, to ensure highly reliable, dedicated and congestion free travel.
- It is claimed that spending $960 million on maintenance will help ease congestion, I’m not quite sure how that will work.
- That the changes to the Northern Motorway will include the design and consenting for extending the busway to Albany which is good although no actual construction on it will happen within this time. They also say the motorway widening is only to address predictions of large travel demand in the future i.e. there is no proof it will actually happen and of course any predictions of large demand for PT seem to be ignored, especially by the government.
These projects aim to address predictions of large travel delays in peak times within the next decade, and provide alternative travel options.
- The NZTA are now talking about the package of works to widen the southern motorway between Manukau and Papakura as part of the route between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. As such seem to be lumping in the time savings from other projects such as the Waikato Expressway to claim the works will help save 30 minutes. This is odd seeing as one of the reasons they lost the Basin Reserve Flyover was that they lumped in time savings from other projects.
- It’s been cut from the online version but in the original emailed version of the press release they claim the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway will save up to 30 minutes, odd seeing as it only currently takes about 20 minutes now except for about four days a year in a single direction.
Road of National Significance, providing a safer, more reliable connection between Auckland and Northland by extending the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) to Warkworth. The project is estimated to cut 30 minutes from journey times in peak periods.
- This map shows where the NZTA is investing. It seems to me that the symbols are way off in some places and also minimise the impact of massive projects such as Waterview which only gets a single icon for all the North Western work that’s happening.
One of my big concerns about the PT funding in particular is that it simply won’t be enough investment to cope with the increase in demand. The NZTA say they think with this investment that over the next three years PT patronage will increase to 21%. Given we’ve had roughly a 10% increase in patronage over the last year alone and we still have the New Network, integrated fares and the completed roll out of the new electric trains that 21% figure seems a little undercooked.
Lastly I think the NZTA deserve credit for how they’ve made the NLTP data available. Through this table you can select any combination of activity classes and regions and get a list of every single project that will be funded from the NLTF and also download all of the data easily.
Yesterday the John Key and Simon Bridges announced the planned cycling investment throughout New Zealand for the next three years and pleasingly it represents a massive increase on anything we’ve seen before. There are two primary reasons for this increase in funding.
- One of the government’s election promises was to create a $100 million Urban Cycleway Fund (UCF) to be spent over four years. The first year of projects (well half year really) totalling just under $10 million was launched in January and this announcement constitutes the remainder of the funding.
- The NZTA are spending significantly more money from the National Land Transport Fund (which comes from fuel taxes, road user charges, licencing fees etc.). This funding is governed by the Government Policy Statement (GPS) which was confirmed at the end of last year and sets funding bands
In effect this is the first announcement of what’s inside the 2015-18 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) which is the three year programme of transport activities that will be funded throughout the country and ties in with regional land transport programmes – which AT consulted on at the beginning of the year. I understand the rest of the NLTP funding will be announced next week.
The funding announced today is broken up by city below
We knew the urban cycleways funding was coming – and the government deserves credit for seeing it fully implemented – however as mentioned above the NZTA are also spending a lot more money. To highlight just how much of an increase in spending this $107m from the NLTF is, in the 2012-15 NLTP there was $53 million allocated for walking and cycling. That’s less than half what this announcement contains and itself was a 27% increase above the 2009-12 GPS. So even without the urban cycleway funding the level of money available for cycling has increased dramatically. Add in that remaining $90 million from the UCF and it represents significant increases in spending from Central Government.
One interesting aspect I’ve also noticed is that the $107 million from the NLTF is actually higher than the upper limit of the funding band in the GPS – if only they would also do that to PT funding.
The money shown above is going towards 41 separate projects. Below are just the Auckland projects however you can see a table of all of them here. It’s worth noting that what’s shown only represents the projects where joint funding is taking place, a lot more cycle facilities will be delivered as part of other projects too. In addition the council have voted to significantly increase spending on cycling and that means it will be funding some projects on its own. It would be interesting to know just how much more network we could have had rolled out if were were able to at least get a 50% contribution from the NZTA for those other projects. The Auckland projects are split into four categories.
And here’s a map of the projects
We’ve talked about many of these projects before and it’s really great that we should be seeing all of this within just three years. One new part I also really like is the addition of two programmes to link up the surrounding areas of New Lynn and Glen Innes to their train stations as well as other local amenities. I think that will be really useful in getting more people cycling not just to those town centres but also to catch trains and buses.
An artist impression of a cycleway on Quay St that will be built within 3 years
Here’s Bridges and Key after making the announcement.
All up a great announcement and one that should see some major progress on improving cycling facilities in Auckland – and elsewhere around the country. After years and years of pushing for more funding it’s finally starting to arrive which is a testament to all the people who pushed so hard for a better future. Let’s just hope the various transport agencies have the capacity and capability to deliver all of these projects.
Next up – perhaps even today – we should hear if Skypath will be approved.
Below is AT’s proposed post CRL rail running pattern. Quite complicated, with some peak only services and an infrequent 3tph [trains per hour] Henderson-Grafton-Otahuhu crosstown service. One feature of this design is that the 6 tph Swanson-CRL-Onehunga service [core Western line service] has every second train stopping at Newmarket, so it becomes 3tph from there to Onehunga. This is because the branch line from Penrose to Onehunga isn’t able to take any higher frequency, but also because there probably won’t be the demand on this little line to balance that of the whole of the western line, unless it is to be extended. And at 12tph there is plenty of action south of Newmarket- a train every 5 minutes each way.
Another notable feature is just how important Otahuhu is becoming. It’ll have 18tph both directions at the peaks; a train every few minutes each way [correction: actually 21 tph in the peak direction]. A frequency only matched by the Centre-City underground CRL stations. So it will be a great place to connect; that frequency kills wait times and connection anxiety, but also it offers a one-seat ride to everywhere on the network bar the last three Western Line stations and, unlike Newmarket, there is space for an expanded track layout for all these train movements [plus dedicated freight lines]. Add the fact that as you read this, thanks to the Council’s Transport Levy, a bus interchange station is being built there too, it’s becoming a real busy hub.
So picture this; How about adding the heart of Mangere and the Airport to the list of direct Otahuhu rail connections?
Here’s how it could go, there are a couple of options at the northern end, but otherwise around 9km of track over flat terrain pretty direct to the Airport. And, importantly some very good points along the way to serve the local community and add catchment to the service. On the map above I am proposing new stations at:
Mangere Town Centre/Bader Drive
The first two are close together but serve communities separated by SH20, and both are on good perpendicular bus and bike routes to expand that catchment. Mongomerie is also at a junction for good bus connection and is in the middle of the growing employment area north of the Airport. So residential, employment, and the community, education, and retail of the Mangere Town Centre too. Importantly this would act as a way to reconnect the community flung apart by the motorway severance. More on local impacts below.
Otahuhu is 25 minutes from Britomart, a number that should come down when AT and their operator sort out their currently overlong dwell times, and would be around 10 or so minutes from the Airport Terminals. 35mins from the heart of the city? Even cabinet ministers from the provinces would see the point of that congestion free journey when [say] going to meet us at the Ministry of Transport or NZTA in the city. But also such a fast and direct service would make taking it by connection from the North Shore viable, improving options for what is currently an expensive and congestion prone journey by any mode.
And in terms of running pattern it’s already sorted: send all 6tph of the western line on to through the CRL, Otahuhu, Mangere and the Airport. An immediate 10min all day frequency, through the busy Ellerslie and Newmarket hubs, direct to Remuera and Parnell, all the city CRL stations and every point on the Western line. Easy transfer at Otahuhu for every other station and connection point on the network. Uber to any station on the network with your bags, and you’re on your way in comfort and at speed right to the Terminal, and out of the vagaries of Auckland traffic and cost and hassle of parking. Personally I would prefer that transfer to the one people make now in their thousands at Airport Park’n’Rides.
Or if it’s preferred the 3tph currently intended to stop at Newmarket plus the 3tph of the crosstown service on from Otahuhu to make up the frequency. That looks overly fiddly and illegible to me, but that’s not important for this argument; the point is that Otahuhu in fact looks like a better point to connect Mangere and the Airport to the rest of the city than Onehunga, for both speed of service, and onward connections. And the added bonus of improving network efficiency by simply extending existing services.
Of course the route is not free. the section between the SH20 interchange and Otahuhu station goes down a highway designation that NZTA still probably want and that the locals recently fought to keep as it is. Here:
It is possible that the local community, if treated fairly and with respect, may see the advantages for them in having to this line in their midst. It is substantially different from a highway in terms of width, noise, pollution and benefit. The current residents would need to be rehoused to their advantage and the line would have to come with high quality and numerous crossing points and increased community access to the new stations and other destinations. It could be a catalyst for a whole lot of improvements in the area. But I can’t speak for them.
Otherwise it just faces the same route issues that the one sourced from Onehunga has. The refusal by previous decision makers, especially Manukau City Council, but also NZTA, and ARTA, to future proof adequately in their plans here means more expensive elevated solutions will be required over SH20A. However we are assured that the current Kirkbride Rd works allow for that and that the Airport company is similarly preparing for such a line. Otherwise it doesn’t look to face any unusual engineering challenge. Only the standard political and financial ones.
Interestingly here is report by BECA for ARTA from 2008 that features this route, with exactly the same station placements [can’t be too illogical then]. That found that Route 2B, as they called it, scored well:
But the report is complicated by the inclusion of the Avondale-Westfield line. One I never seen the point of in passenger terms and can not picture an efficient rail running pattern for, and that is only there because of an ancient freight designation. Also I find it odd that the report doesn’t analyse routes it terms of how services would use them.
Avondale-Onehunga-Penrose, and further, looks like it could be a more useful Light Rail service, once AT have their ‘four finger’ routes all ending along this line. The rest of the report is very dated and I’m sure would use very different ridership projections now.
I am confident about the utility and therefore the appeal of such a fast and direct line for Airport customers and employees, especially with such good onward connections and a turn up and go frequency. So long as the Sydney pitfall of putting a punitive fare on the Airport Station is not applied. Add the local residential, employment, and student catchments and bus connections, and this looks like a strong option without either the slow winding route from Onehunga, or the cost of crossing the Mangere inlet.
There is still the problem of the conditions that the Airport company are demanding; in particular a more expensive undergound route to future proof for a second runway to the north and to keep it out of the way of their new terminal plans. However AIAL also predict huge rises in passenger and associated business volumes at and around the Airport which means that they are going to find other more valuable uses for land than just car parking. And, despite the heroic showering of money on State Highways if this growth is still to only be served by single occupant vehicles and buses stuck with them then these roads and the local ones in the area are not going to work. A really effective Rapid Transit route and service is only going to be needed here with increasing urgency, and nothing will give the capacity and time competitiveness like hooking into the existing rail network that is already much of the way there.
Yes the capital investment will not be minor, but the outcome is both a permanent and extremely valuable for both the city’s efficiency and resilience. It will also add efficiency to the operations of the rail network, increasing utility and cost effectiveness by working those existing assets harder. The always senseless claim that ‘Aucklanders won’t use rail’ or other forms of public transport, has been proven wrong beyond any doubt since recent improvements and booming ridership numbers. It really is time for certain groups to drop their blinkered knee-jerk rejection of this mode, as it is based on historic conditions and experiences that no longer apply in the new Auckland, and as it really is the best tool for this important job.
Like the Rail Network the Airport appears to be on a trajectory for 20mil passenger movements a year by 2020: It is long overdue that we get these two critical systems linked together for their- and the city and nation’s- mutual benefit.
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.
Auckland Transport and the NZTA have just announced a new round of consultation for the East-West Link that ends up being pretty much identical to what was suggested by the business community in their four pages of paid advertorial last week.
They undertook consultation of a number of options back in October and the consultation report released today is beyond a joke. There are no figures to show what the feedback was and only makes comments such as “Some people told us …” or “Some people considered …”. There is no information about how many the “Some people” is or what the demographics of submitters are.
The biggest part of the news is that the preferred option for The East-West route is a four lane “limited access” state highway all along the northern foreshore of the Mangere Inlet. They stress it will not be a motorway but it sounds like it won’t be far off one. In addition to this any parts of Neilson St not already four laned will be widened and additional lanes will be added to SH20 between Neilson St and Queenstown Rd as well as SH1 as far south as Princess St.
Despite all this they also claim it will improve things for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users and to top it off say that the new road along the foreshore “will achieve positive environmental outcomes” for the Mangere Inlet. This seems like an awful lot of PT, cycle and green washing.
On the issue of cycling, the map below suggests the existing cycle facility along the foreshore will be cut off from the water by the road which doesn’t seem a good outcome at all. It also appears that it will cut off any option to extend rail to the airport.
In addition to the new road a number of changes are proposed on along the frequent bus route that will run between Sylvia Park and Mangere. A mix of separated and on street cycle lanes plus shared paths in some places is meant to improve cycling while for buses some sporadic transit lanes will be included however crucially it appears they will also be able to be used by trucks. It will be hardly fun waiting for a bus there and having a large truck rush past close to the kerb.
AT/NZTA are also going to be holding some open days on the project starting this weekend
- Saturday 20 June from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall.
- Thursday 25 June from 6 – 10pm. – Where: Onehunga Night Markets, Dress-Smart, 151 Arthur Street.
- Saturday 27 June from 9am – 2pm. – Where: Māngere Town Centre, 93 Bader Drive (outside the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board Office).
- Saturday 4 July from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall. .
At this stage there’s no indication of just how much this project will cost and I’ve asked AT for more details on that.
As I asked the other day, how much are the truckies prepared to pay for this new motorway?
Edit: AT have confirmed the new road will cost more than $1 billion while the bus and cycle improvements in the second image will cost $35 million
Here are a few more charts from the report into public transport and Generation Y I posted about the other day.
I was surprised to see that in general the numbers of young people getting drivers licences by age group isn’t really changing all that much – with the exception of older people as more people age with licences, and the youngest age bracket due to changes in when you can get a licence.
One of the most interesting is how the distance we travel in vehicles changes with age. You can clearly see those under 35 are travelling less than the same age bracket did in past which helps to highlight the behavioural shift that’s occurring. The same is also being seen for those over 70 which is perhaps partly an impact of initiatives like the Super Gold Card.
I was surprised by just how much the amount of time we spend walking decreases as we get older.
The percentage of cyclists by age group is quite interesting with the results showing a lull in mid to late 20’s before increasing again with a second peak in the 40’s. Particularly noticeable is the strong increase in all of the older age groups over the last few measures.
Lastly young people clearly use PT much more than older age groups. As the report indicates, if we can improve PT so that it becomes more useful then a lot more of the 15-19 year olds will continue using it as they age and that will lead to large increases in PT use.
When planning for the future we tend to do so by looking at past trends and extrapolating that forward. The somewhat scary thought is that it tends to mean there is an assumption that you will behave exactly the same way your parents did. Yet when I think of my generation (Generation Y – 1979-1999) the political, social, technological and economic conditions are considerably different to those my parents experienced.
For some time now New Zealand and many other western countries have experienced a significant change in transport. For around 50 years the amount of driving we do as a society increased fairly constantly. However that all changed in the mid 2000’s when vehicle volumes suddenly plateaued or even fell. Internationally a lot of work has already pointed to younger generations behaving differently – moving back to more urban areas resulting in driving less while using PT and active modes more.
We’ve now started to see local institutions examine this trend. At the end of last year the Ministry of Transport released a study looking at future transport demand and found that since the mid 2000’s our transport models have been woefully wrong and that out of four possible future scenarios, only one would see vehicle kilometres increase. Now the NZTA has joined in with a research report looking at how Generation Y travels and what the future holds. The study was undertaken by OPUS Research.
Almost all age groups are spending less time travelling but it is most prominent for Generation Y
The report highlights that those in Generation Y tend to use PT more than those in older generations and are expected to continue doing so in the future highlighting that his isn’t just some blip or life stage but that there are generational changes occurring. In other words we are behaving quite differently to our parents, just like they behaved differently to their parents. However the report also finds there is not just a lot of latent demand for PT from Generation Y but from older generations too. This shows that PT investment means it is starting to be seen as a more viable option by all age groups and that more investment could tap into this demand.
The chart below sets out just how much change is possible and in some cases use of PT could more than double over the next 5 years.
Those surveyed also expressed a desire travel more by bike or by walking in the coming years which should tie in well with the planned investments the council and NZTA are making.
The report also looked at what improvements respondents thought would make the biggest change to their travel behaviour. Of those who said their behaviour would change the top reasons were fairly similar between Generation Y and older age groups. The top 10 priorities for the two groups are shown in the table below and as I would expect the key measures are frequency, coverage, reliability/speed and the fare/ticketing system. The bottom five results are also interesting, for example Generation Y rank WiFi on services highly but not WiFi at stations or stops, presumably that’s because they’re not expecting to be at stops for a long period of time.
I guess for Auckland at least, the good thing is that these are the areas that Auckland Transport are currently focused on with the roll out of the new network and supporting bus lanes plus integrated fares.
The report also breaks this down by different region presenting interesting comparisons, for example in Wellington Integrated Ticketing is in the top two for the two groups while in Auckland it is 7th or 8th which will reflect the fact that Auckland already has integrated ticketing rolled out.
The report makes a number of recommendation. Some of these are:
- To focus on the top priorities mentioned above – although it notes they should be weighed up under a cost-benefit analysis.
- Smarter ticketing options which reward regular users and create the feeling of receiving a ‘win’. Examples listed include free bonus trips for frequent users, promotions to encourage recreational or social trips or free PT for students.
- Better real-time systems and WiFi
- Strategies to target people changing though life stages such as:
- Targeting people who move to new locations – this is something I believe AT are already doing however it could go further by starting to highlight areas with good PT and active options.
- Family passes to encourage use of PT for those with young families.
Overall it’s a fascinating study with a heap of useful information. It highlights well that if we can get some of the much needed improvements to PT and active modes that a lot more people will choose to use them in the future and combined with the large Gen Y cohort moving through society it means there is a lot of growth for PT yet to come.
Unsurprisingly the government’s budget a few weeks ago didn’t offer up much for transport however in the council finance committee meeting earlier that day one part caught my attention.
Despite consultation back in October we still haven’t heard anything from Auckland Transport or the NZTA on the outcome of the East West Link. We also know there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the Reeves Rd Flyover. Back in February AT said they were deferring the project seeing as it would just shift traffic one set of lights down the road and instead using the $170m saved to bring forward spending on the AMETI busway plus bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd. In the months that followed politicians such as Dick Quax became quite upset with this and then in April AT issued another statement saying that the board never agreed to the deferral but that it was just one of the options staff were considering. Note: AT subsequently sent me resolution that was agreed in the closed board session where this was discussed and indeed they only noted the potential change, not agreed to it.
Fast forward to now and Dick Quax is still going on about the flyover. The video below shows AT CEO David Warburton discussing the project with Dick Quax. It starts from about 5:40 in.
Warburton quite matter of factly tells Quax that the flyover won’t solve the problem on its own and that Waipuna and Carbine Rd would also need to be dealt with in order to have any impact – and even then I suspect it would probably just shift traffic to the motorway on-ramp and Gt South Rd intersection. That beeping sound you might be hearing about now is the bill being rung up at the council till.
That is unless the second part of Warburton’s comment is to be believed. He says AT are working with the NZTA to look at an overarching project that links in the East-West link that would see a road from SH20 all the way through to Pakuranga. The map below is just a wild guess but perhaps they’re thinking of something like it. It certainly contains some of the options that they’ve already shown.
Adding to all this is that I’ve heard a few times that East Auckland politicians as well as business groups have been lobbying the government quite hard to make the East West Link a State Highway managed by the NZTA. They know the NZTA has more money to spend than AT does and the government haven’t been afraid to throw more money state highway projects either. Getting the Reeves Rd Flyover and a few other intersections tacked on to the list doesn’t seem like it would be that much more of a stretch.
Of course even if these groups pushing the project are successful that doesn’t make it a good project. Trying to find ways to circumvent the council/AT will most likely mean that money that could have gone to higher value projects elsewhere in the city/country will be pushed back while a likely much lower value project goes ahead. Given Warburton said AT and the NZTA have already held a number of workshops perhaps AT should tell the public what they’re doing on the project as we still haven’t officially heard anything from the options consultation in October last year.
In this recent post Matt asked why we were still building dangerous intersections. One part of his post caught my eye, specifically proposed changes to the intersection of SH1 and SH26 in the Waikato. The location of this intersection is shown below.
You can see that the intersection exists firmly within the Hamilton urban area. Moreover, I understand the area to the east is planned for residential growth in the future. I.e. there will be more and more residential development to the east.
The reason this caught my eye is because the proposed changes, in my opinion, seem likely to result in a horrific clusterfuck of an intersection that will, at a minimum, destroy urban amenity and, potentially, result in pedestrian carnage. In my opinion, this roundabout design is completely inappropriate for an urban area. And unlike NZTA I don’t agree t hat potential delays to vehicles are sufficient reason to provide wholly unsatisfactory facilities for pedestrians. Facilities that are so lacking that they seem likely to increase the risk of injuries to pedestrians who need to cross at this intersection.
The proposed changes are illustrated below.
Now I should mention that the NZTA press release for the changes mentions an additional pedestrian crossing is to be located on SH26 to the east, which I presume (although can’t be sure) is beyond the extent of works shown above. The press release also noted the presence of a pedestrian underpass on SH1 to the south, which is being retained in the new design.
What NZTA are proposing for the southern and eastern approaches to the roundabout is relatively poor practice and ill-suited to an urban area such as this.
But perhaps most importantly, the proposed pedestrian facilities don’t seem to address what happens on the western approach to the roundabout. As anyone can easily see from StreetView below, NZTA’s beautiful junkspace landscaping is *already* being severely trampled beneath the feet of hapless pedestrians as they scamper across the existing road. QED there’s an existing problem that needs to be resolved, not ignored as the proposed design has done.
Anyway, I was sufficiently motivated by this proposal to start digging for more information.
The background study for these intersection changes was completed in 2008. Given that it’s now almost 8 years since the study was completed, I thought I’d go and look at traffic volumes since that time. In the figure below I’ve totalled the AADT on the two closest counts on SH1 and SH26 over time (NB: This will double-count many vehicles, which is why the total AADT shown here is significantly higher than the figure of 37,000 vehicles per day using the intersection that is quoted in the NZTA in their press release. Nonetheless it’s likely to be broadly indicative of general trends in AADT).
The volumes bobble around a bit, although current AADT is about 3% below the level achieved in 2008, i.e. the time that the report supporting the proposed changes was developed. Is it reasonable to assume that vehicle volumes will increase or decrease from here?
Well, there’s some growth out this way so it’s plausible to suggest there may be more demand. On the other hand, there’s one major question that I’m not confident is addressed by the studies associated with this upgrade: The Waikato Expressway, specifically the Hamilton section.
For those who aren’t familiar with this project, it’s part of the RoNS programme.
While I’m no fan of the RoNS programme per se, if these projects are to go ahead then I would at least expect NZTA to maximise their potential benefits, especially with regards to re-configuring parallel routes to support more livable urban places. In this context, the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway is high-speed, high-capacity route that seems likely to shift vehicles away from the existing SH1 and away from this roundabout. Construction of the Hamilton section is expected to start in 2016 with a target opening date of 2019.
I note that the NZTA website states that the Hamilton section of the expressway will:
- Connect the Ngaruawahia section of the Expressway, completed in late 2013, to the Cambridge section, due for completion in late 2016.
- Reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on Hamilton’s local road network by significantly reducing through traffic.”
And yet NZTA’s proposed changes to the SH1 and SH26 intersection (which appear to have been formulated prior to the RoN being confirmed) are designed to increase capacity.
One has to wonder why the NZ Transport Agency is spending $2 million to create a situation that is more dangerous for pedestrians than the present one, while at the same time spending the best part of half a billion dollars building a high-speed bypass around the same intersection.
Call me a simpleton if you will but I would have thought the more logical sequence of actions would be:
- Complete the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway in the next 3 years as planned; and
- Monitor changes to vehicle volumes in response to growth (which apparently is quite low at the moment) and expressway; and
- Develop options for the intersection which respond to these changes, but which are also appropriate for an urban area.
In terms of #3, this really brings us full circle. I cannot understand why NZTA would think the proposed design is appropriate for an urban area. I can tell you that in my opinion it’s most certainly not. While I’ll reserve my full and final judgment until I have more detailed information to consider, the proposed intersection seems to compromise pedestrian safety to a level bordering on negligence.
I know that’s a big call so let me present some reasons why:
- The design does not seem to meet the present need for a pedestrian crossing on the westbound SH1 approach, e.g. to access the adjacent school. There is already demand for this pedestrian movement, as we can see from StreetView. This demand will only increase as the area develops in the future.
- The approaches are wider than the current facility. The western approach on SH1 , for example, is three lanes wide. This will increase the distance pedestrians will have to cross before they reach the landscaped sliver of land in the middle of the road.
- The design incorporates features that seem likely to increase vehicle speeds. The western approach on SH1, for example, now includes what is effectively a “slip lane” for vehicles travelling through. This features will enable/encourage vehicles to maintain their speed on their approach to (and exit from) the intersection. This will increase risks to pedestrians who (legitimately) need to cross the western approach, and the severity of accidents.
I draw two *preliminary* conclusions from all this. First, the proposed changes to the intersection is unacceptably dangerous for pedestrians and should not proceed as designed. Second, the proposed intersection has been designed without consideration of the Waikato Expressway and thus are likely to represent poor value for money and low strategic fit.
I’d really like to know what others think: Am I mis-reading the situation here? Or is it as bad as it looks? An outdated and seemingly dangerous design being imposed on what is very much an urban area, just prior to a major expressway bypass opens? What is going on?
Yesterday the Architectural Centre in Wellington have launched a fund raising campaign to fight NZTA’s continued waste of our money on expensive lawyers for their hopelessly unimaginative and retrogressively conceived Basin flyover project. Here’s the Give-A-Little site with a recap of the situation.