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Just another $500 million

The herald this week ran a large piece on the projects under construction as part of the Western Ring Route (WRR) including aerial photos of the progress. The projects covered were:

  • The Waterview Connection breaking it down by:
    • The Southern end
    • The Northern end
    • The Waterview interchange
  • The raising and widening of the Northwestern Motorway Causeway
  • The Te Atatu Interchange
  • The St Lukes Interchange
  • The Lincoln Rd Interchange

But the thing that got me about the article was this part

The 4.8km link between the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways will fill the last-but-one gap in the 48km Western Ring Route. It will bypass the city to the west and link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore.

All that will be left to complete, by about 2019, will be a $500 million-plus motorway-to-motorway interchange at the northern end of the route.

It’s made to sound like it’s some sort of minor completion task but in reality at $500 million it would be the second most expensive road project in Auckland after the Waterview tunnels. What’s more it’s all just to satisfy some transport planners desire to make a map look prettier.

SH18-SH1 map gap

The project is more than twice the cost of a similar junction at Manukau built just a few years ago. It’s even almost enough to get a fully offline busway all the way to Silverdale – not that it’s needed that far yet (but NEX services to Silverdale are). It will be eclipsed in price any time soon by $800 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (if it goes ahead). 

Further it’s also technically incorrect to say that’s the final project for the Western Ring Route as there is still an estimated $100 million upgrade of the Royal Rd interchange (and associated widening either side of it) that will be left to do. Also needing to be included are the costs of widening the Northern and Southern motorways either side of the western ring route which the NZTA say are needed to handle the traffic from the WRR.

All up over the span of the roughly 13 years that we will have actually been building it, the Western Ring Route will costing us almost $4 billion. That’s on top of other major motorway projects that have been/are going on like the Victoria Park Tunnel, Newmarket Viaduct replacement and the myriad of projects the government announced last year they would fast track. Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the various WRR Projects

WRR Costs

It’s the ability to really break some of these mega projects down into small chunks that I think has been instrumental in Auckland forging ahead with so many motorway projects ahead of other transport investments. Projects like the CRL have suffered because they require the entire thing to built before they become usable and the price tag then looks scary. However spreading out the cost of the CRL over the years it will take to build shows that annually it’s about the same as what we’ve been pouring into these motorway projects. (note: cost of CRL in today’s dollars is ~$1.8 billion other costs often quoted include extra trains for an inefficient operating pattern and future inflation).

All of this makes me wonder how different the public would have perceived these projects if upfront they had been told it would have cost almost $4 billion to build. Would public sentiment about what transport projects we should build be different if we could have had a more realistic discussion about how much things cost.

Mighty River Rail: A Fresh Future?

Looking at a number of separate but current issues got me thinking about the possibility of the return of passenger services on the existing rail lines through the Waikato. These include:

  • The potential appeal of well connected and well designed satellite towns.
  • The difficulty of retaining vitality and that appeal in many existing country towns.
  • New challenges and opportunities for a number of Waikato towns caused by the rerouting of SH1.
  • Population growth pressures on Hamilton and Auckland and the poor quality of recent ex-urban spread.
  • The existing rail lines and legacy stations in the Waikato.
  • The coming availability of Auckland’s current diesel passenger trains.

Starting with the last point I would like to stress that I am not proposing a Hamilton-Britomart intercity service. This idea has a great many practical problems in particular the crowded condition of both Britomart Station and the Auckland network, it is simply too hard to fit additional services through the Auckland network without more track and the CRL to free up station space at Britomart; so no time soon. But also the fact that the market for such a direct service is unproven and likely not large, especially as it would not be competitive with buses using the motorway for price or speed. The billions being spent in the Waikato countryside is speeding the road route there and even if the Auckland network can jam up at anytime for any number of reasons [I spent a loathsome hour getting from Otahuhu to the city on SH1 last week], it still will be hard for the existing rail route to be competitive. At least until such a time as it could run reliably and directly through the Auckland network at speed.

No I have another suggestion that is to embrace the available resource of the line by going instead for coverage and local connectivity. But it starts in Auckland still. The plan is for Auckland’s new electric trains only to reach as far south as Papakura so a few of the current diesel trains will remain as a shuttle service from that station south to Pukekohe. This system will be in place in late next year and Papakura station has been upgraded to facilitate its operation as a transfer point between the two rail systems.

So the first idea is simply to extend the coming southern shuttle between Pukekohe and Papakura south to connect with the towns of the northern Waikato already on the line. Even just extending those services south to Tuakau, the next town on the route to Hamilton, and then to the growing town of Pokeno would cost very little and offer an opportunity to test the idea. But I’m sure the people of Ngauawahia and Te Kauwhata would be pretty keen on the service too going on information from previous intercity proposals, and if a service goes that far it would be crazy not to continue into Hamilton. It would then have anchors* at both ends and not just be an appendage of Auckland’s system. On one hand then it would just be extending the Pukekohe catchment and on the other offering those country towns the chance to redevelop the areas around their stations as well as an additional way to travel within the wider region. Politically and financially it would require the Waikato Regional Council to work with AT and agree on the details. Let’s assume that’s not impossible.

As the line to Pukekohe is likely to be electrified and intermediate stations added this service could then terminate there instead of Papakura and become a much more intra-Waikato one, still linking into the big and frequent Auckland network at that network’s southernmost point for further connectivity. So the possibility arises to take the service south to all the points on the line to Hamilton and even beyond, so say:

  • Pukekohe
  • Tuakau [apparently has .5mil budget set aside for a station]
  • Pokeno
  • Te Kauwhata
  • Huntly
  • Ngaruawahia
  • Te Rapa [new station at The Base mall]
  • Frankton [Existing Station]
  • Hamilton City [The surprisingly already extant underground central city station]
  • Claudelands [new station Hamilton East]

No new track. Simply station and safety upgrades or reinstatements of legacy stations and two new at grade stations in Hamilton.

Ngruawahia Stion

By not trying to race between the two big city centres the added stops become an advantage rather than a disadvantage. It would be as much about travel between any points on the line as end to end and be a tool for regional placemaking. And of course there then is the option to include Te Awamutu to the south, and Morrinsville and Cambridge to the east for more of a pan-Waikato network.

The Waikato District Council could slowly build up a programme using the onetime opportunity of Auckland’s Diesel units in much the same way that Auckland did with Perth’s, assuming it works sufficiently. It’s a low risk chance to grow something new in the Waikato in part taking advantage of Auckland’s proximity by plugging into that bigger network but really focussing on its own region. Particularly to do something for the towns along the route.

Below is a strangely nostalgic map from NZTA designed to promote their massive programme of highway building through the Waikato countryside all this decade; trying to make costly heavy engineering seem all cosy and approachable like something in a kid’s book [particularly 1960s- just like the whole RoNS idea].

Other than the attempt at cute and the apparent use of the current SH1 entirely by cyclists in the future [!], the key thing this map tells us is that pretty much all the towns on the current route are about to become bypassed. So in as much as they rely on passing traffic for business and vitality that game is up, or soon will be. But also of course in as much as their centres are severed and made unliveable by the heavy traffic speeding through them there is an opportunity too for these places. The scale of the works is more apparent in this version:

Waikato Expressway

Waikato Expressway

A reinvention for the likes of Huntly and Ngaruawhaia is going to be required, but this work usually never happens when NZTA leaves town, although surely there is an opportunity and a need to reorient these places from being focussed around the traffic that used to race through them. It will be up to the local communities and the District Council to unlock the possibilities made available by SH1 going. The chance to restitch their mainstreets back together, calm the remaining traffic; in short make place; to build a new identity and economy in these communities. Could the return of a rail service linking these places, anchored by the two big metropolises, have a role in this? The currently unused stations could certainly be a focus for redevelopment, cafes, information centres, markets etc. A focus for the rediscovery of place and character.

The rail line is less direct than the new road precisely because it connects all these old towns like pearls on a string; so I suggest don’t fight that essential characteristic of the route, use it for local interconnection and not as an attempt to imitate the highway which will soon completely bypass these towns as it expressly designed to avoid them to better serve interregional movement.

North Waikato Line

Above is a rough outline from Papakura south. It is clear that Tuakau and Pokeno could easily be served as Pukekohe extensions, then there is a bigger jump to the old towns south of Pokeno to Hamilton which would make it much more than an extension of the Pukekohe service. And finally a possible third stage east and south of Hamilton out to Morrinsville, Cambridge, and TeAwamutu. So three stages:

Waikato Line

The first stage should gain support from those advocating country living. We are often told that Satellite Towns are a great way to get the best of all worlds; right in the country, but with the social hub of a village centre, and connection to the employment, education, and action of the big city. But to get this the detail matters enormously. Quality of place takes work; those three boxes all need to be properly ticked. Here, I suggest, is a mechanism to help achieve this work.

For example look how they are marketing the spreading little north Waikato town of Pokeno:


Note the mention of rail right in the same sentence as the state highways as a selling point for Pokeno, yet there is no rail service, and no plan for one either. I agree it would be great if there was. Not least because it would give the town an opportunity to develop as a real Satellite Town, not just a piece of displaced sprawl as it seems to be becoming now. The station and surrounding amenity could become a village centre of the kind at the heart of the successful country Satellite Towns around overseas cities.

The TVOne report linked to on the website above is worth a look. It is a good showcase of the often confused thinking, particularly by those that consider themselves experts, on the issues of urban form and the role of transport infrastructure in shaping those forms.

Here’s a quick look at the easily available Hamilton City Stations. Hamilton being the other anchor* of this line.

Hamilton City Stations

The triangle is the existing Hamilton Station at Frankton, the rectangle is Hamilton’s big secret, the country’s first underground urban station, never used. And the line a rough position for an East Hamilton station, around Claudelands, with good residential walkup and next to the Claudelands Convention Centre. These are about a kilometre apart. There is a good opportunity to add a station at the back of The Base at Te Rapa, and a more difficult option for one between that and these three city stops perhaps at Forest Lake Rd. Although the surrendering of rail land for a duplicate highway through there has squeezed the corridor and added to the severance both of which would make this more difficult and expensive. So it goes. However this little urban network alone could be quite useful; Claudelands to The Base certainly looks handy, nicely balancing Ngaruawahia to the city say.

While it is the case that the forces associated with the massive road build currently taking place in the Waikato have been strongly opposed to any rail revival in the region I think for them to continue that now this would be to misunderstand the potential and the purpose of this project. As conceived here it is complimentary to the huge highway system. It is to serve those communities left behind by the Expressway; to help them develop into stronger entities in their own right. To help mitigate the shock of the departure of the highway and to take advantage of the new possibilities that must be found for these places. This project is no threat to the vast sums being spent on highways.

This is a very different argument than that for improvement and extension of the Auckland network for which there certainly is growing demand of significant scale, but I can imagine local people getting behind such a proposal. So a good first step would to hear their views here and if supported then to work towards getting some real analysis done. After all this is not a detailed proposal more a bit of free thinking. After the low hanging fruit [and admittedly Auckland centred] first stage I concede it gets trickier:

  • What sort of frequency would be required for a meaningful service?
  • Could such a frequency be justified by the ridership?
  • How to set the ticket price to stimulate uptake but also help fund operations?
  • How do you balance economic value of place and social quality against financial costs?
  • Is this the best stopping pattern?
  • Are the trains available? Suitable? Affordable?
  • Will KiwiRail be cooperative?

And finally is this the kind of thing that the people of the Waikato want?

Thanks to Jon Reeves and CBT for additional information

* Anchoring. Here is Jarrett Walker:

“So transit planners are always looking to anchor their lines.  Anchoring means designing a line so that it ends at a major destination, so that there will be lots of people on the vehicle all the way to the end of the line.  A line with strong anchors at each end will have more uniform high ridership over the whole length of the line, and a much more efficient use of capacity overall.”

Wanted: An All Mode Transport Agency

This morning NZTA reported some run-of-the-mill snarfus on their big Auckland motorway system via Twitter, below

NZTA Tweet 1

Matt took the opportunity to suggest they improve their communications to include more forms of transport available in Auckland, in particular the Rail network that they do help fund to operate [but weirdly are barred from funding new capital works on the rail network- even ones that would lower the net operating cost]. And this was their reply. Very good to see and certainly look forward to it becoming a reality:

NZTA Tweet 2

Here’s the full conversation:

TB-NZTA tweets

I also took the opportunity to help improve one of NZTA’s earlier tweets:

PR-NZTA tweets

It would be better if my addition was able to more of a suggestion than quite so blunt and clipped but I ran out characters. Perhaps in order to be more concise on social media NZTA should  just use a nice colloquialism like this tweeter last week:

Sacha tweet

Munted: that is both a concise and precise description of traffic in Auckland often, especially when it rains, or on a Monday, or a Friday or…. well anytime and for many reasons. Despite, or rather because of, the billions that continues to be spent on the motorway system. Time for the clever people at our ‘Transport Agency’ to be unleashed fully onto all modes and systems, not just State Highways, and not just in their communications.


Lincoln Rd Interchange 2 years late

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

WRR under construction

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

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

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

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

Q: How long will it take?

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

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

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

There are some very challenging projects on this list.

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

New Waikato and Bay of Plenty motorways confirmed

The NZ Herald reports:

This afternoon Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is expected to announce funding for two transformational roading projects. A $4 billion four lane motorway between Cambridge and Taupo, extending the Waikato Expressway a further 100 kilometres to the south and an $8 billion 50km motorway from Cambridge to Tauranga which includes a 14km road tunnel. Both projects were hinted at in the 2012 Government Policy Statement for Land Transport Funding. He will announce the projects at a ceremony to celebrate the extension of rail electrification into Britomart station. 

“These are critical projects for improving freight efficiency in the North Island,” says Mr Brownlee in a leaked copy of his speech. “While we realise a near $12 billion investment in two roads that each carries fewer vehicles than the Kopu Bridge did when it was still one lane may appear to some as slight overkill, we think that those opposing the project just oppose progress and want us to return to dirt tracks and horse carts.”

NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Harry Wilson said his office was in celebration mode over the Minister’s announcements. “Once the Waikato Expressway project is finished in a few years’ time, we really didn’t know what we’d do with ourselves as we’ve lived and breathed that project for the past decade or more. We’re so pleased to see the government commit to the future of the Southern Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions – even though combined they’re not really growing – which will keep us in work for many years to come!”

Mr Wilson also noted that his organisation had been instrumental in pushing for the inclusion of the two projects in the 2012 Government Policy Statement and were “enthused” the project had been given funding approval. “We’ve learned a lot from our Wellington office in the past few years about the tactics of getting unnecessary projects in parts of New Zealand that aren’t growing over the line. We’re just so proud to have come up with the two biggest and most expensive projects ever imagined in New Zealand and now have funding approval for it!” Mr Wilson added.

Minister Brownlee noted in his speech that “Much like other Roads of National Significance, the Cambridge to Taupo and Tauranga motorways will duplicate an existing route where upgrades to that road could achieve most of the benefits for a fraction of the cost, but frankly upgrading what we’ve got is just boring – I want more motorways!”

Traffic counts between Tokoroa and Taupo on State Highway 1 show a slight increase in daily vehicle volumes from 6500 in 2009 to 6700 in 2013. Mr Wilson noted that “our traffic modelling suggests traffic volumes will increase to 60,000 cars a day in the next 5 years – almost all of which will be trucks!”

On State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Ranges traffic had also slightly increased, growing from 9200 vehicles per day in 2009 to 9300 in 2013. In the next five years this route is expected to increase to over 80,000 vehicles per day. The high number of trucks is said to be a key part of the decision to construct a tunnel under the Kaimai Ranges which was first investigated by the NZTA in 2010.

Local politicians unanimously supported the project when spoken to.

South Waikato District’s mayor Neil Sinclair said the projects would boost the economic productivity of his region significantly and wasn’t worried about the impact of the new motorway bypassing Tokoroa. “Look at Pokeno, it recovered a mere 15 years after being bypassed by the Waikato Expressway,” stated Mr Sinclair.

Taupo District Council’s mayor David Trewavas also stated his strong support for the project. “We’re about an hour and a half south of the thriving metropolis of Hamilton. This motorway will cut that time by at least a minute or two, which will be transformational to our economy. A local resident walking past added that they “didn’t care what was built, as long as it meant the money couldn’t be spent in Auckland.”

New Zealand Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said the two roads were great news and would allow trucks to even compete better with Kiwirail, especially on the Tauranga to Auckland route. “Everyone knows that the wider population and other road users subsidising trucking is a great investment and these two projects will be great for that” he said.

Details of the project’s exact route, the timing of construction and how it will be funded have yet to be determined but when questioned, Mr Brownlee said he was optimistic the money could be found for such important additions to state highway infrastructure in the Upper North Island. “Hey we could always push that silly rail loop under Auckland’s city centre back a few more years,” Mr Brownlee shouted at reporters while leaving the airport for Britomart station in a Crown limousine.

A business case for the motorway projects is expected to be presented to Cabinet for funding approval next Monday.

Cambridge to Taupo and Tauranga motorways

Guest Post: Petone to Grenada Link Road with 11th hour surprises

This is a guest post from Michael Dickens

The concept of Wellington’s Transmission Gully Road and a Petone to Grenada Link Road has been around for decades.

Suddenly though we’re blindsided by major new motorway options ‘tacked on’ with haste to the proposed Petone to Grenada Link Road (P2G) in February this year.

These new options (one includes the destruction of a whole rural valley – option D) have appeared with no public planning, and were a surprise to the Wellington City Council which questions why they’re needed?!

Option D will be an unnecessary 4 lane motorway through the beautiful rural Takapu valley (option D), a unique gem within Wellington City District, as a preferred option over widening 3km of existing SH1 (option C) between Grenada North and the start of Transmission Gully. ‘It is easier than having to consider traffic management’ NZTA tell us.

Takapu Valley Options

Incredible in this day and age is the concept that weighs equally the short term gain for traffic management against the loss of a rural asset, productive farmland, environment, and a community forever. These were called ‘esoteric costs’ by NZTA engineers at the public open day, and don’t count they say.

What’s more we were only given a few weeks to gather information from a standing start to formulate objections for something that would change and ruin livelihoods and landscapes forever. A process you wouldn’t expect in an OECD democratic country. It’s the further relentless imposition of the roading network.

NZTA’s justification is extra capacity is needed – which isn’t right. They say that when Transmission Gully Road is connected at Kenepuru/Linden and Petone to Grenada (P2G) is connected to Grenada – the mere 3km section between these two points on SH1 can’t cope with the extra traffic so option C or D are suddenly needed.

But traffic will drop! The traffic on SH1 Linden is the same traffic, going to the same places – whether or not it’s coming from SH1 or Transmission Gully. In fact it’ll be less after Transmission Gully Road is connected – here’s why.

Transmission Gully Road intersects SH58 at Judgeford, making it only 7km from SH2 and Upper and Lower Hutts. This is significant because moving the main Northern Wellington motorway corridor east, now means the dynamics have changed. Petone is now 19km from Judgeford whether you go via Haywards or via the new link – but there are big differences…

However the fact that SH58 has an easier climb, 5.8% and 122m from SH2 versus 9% and 290m on Petone to Grenada, (SH2 is flat) means SH58 will be the road of choice for traffic coming or going north from the Hutt, including Petone & Seaview .

The extra traffic siphoned off onto SH58, means the loss of Petone bound traffic on the Linden section of SH1. This will also have the added benefit of easing the morning queues for traffic turning left at the bottom of the Gorge.

Traffic volumes have plateaued for the last 10 years in the Wellington Region, and between 2006 and 2013 censuses the volume of those commuting by car into Wellington has dropped by 3.5% (75% more by bike).

The NZTA are using a flawed model that has traffic volumes going up with population and GDP growth – whereas it has actually plateaued, and has petrol prices remaining static for the next 30 years – something we all know is nonsense.

Further, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) stopped the original Transmission Gully Road going through Takapu Valley because the impacts were too high. It could be said that NZTA are back trying to build it now by stealth and haste.

NZTA should go back to the drawing board and build option B that was planned for decades – simply connecting P2G to SH1 south of Tawa. It would save between $50-150million and wouldn’t devastate communities and the environment. Options C and D are nothing more than a last minute land grab tacked onto P2G by NZTA prior to the election, with no justification.

We would urge the NZTA to think again and:

  • Connect Transmission Gully to Kenepuru/Linden as originally planned
  • If Petone to Grenada goes ahead – connect it by option ‘A’ or ‘B’ at Grenada as always planned.
  • Scrap the unjustified scheme options ‘C’ and ‘D’ and with the money saved:
  • Do the upgrade on SH58, Judgeford to Haywards with a split level intersection onto SH2. Both to take the extra traffic and improve its safety. It was given consents for this purpose 10 years ago
  • Remove traffic lights on SH2 with proper interchanges
  • Stop working in silos and start looking holistically at Transmission Gully, SH58, Petone to Grenada and their synergies.

Submissions close on the 17th. April on the Petone to Grenada Road, and it’s tacked on options

Takapu Valley

Controlling Traffic

Like with public transport patronage, I keep a close eye on what are happening with traffic volumes on the motorways thanks to the monthly data released by the NZTA. The data doesn’t cover the entire motorway network but it does cover a number of key locations on it that can help to give an indication of what’s happening. I think the picture painted by these figures is extremely interesting. The sites we get monthly data for are:

  • Wellsford
  • ALPURT (the Orewa to Puhoi toll road)
  • Harbour Bridge
  • Upper Harbour Bridge
  • SH16 between Royal Rd and Hobsonville Rd
  • SH1 at Panama Rd
  • SH20 between Puhinui Rd and Massey Rd
  • SH1 at Drury
  • SH1 at Bombay

Excluding Wellsford, here are the six sites that we have the most data for

14 Feb - Motorways

There are a couple of things interesting going on here. At most sites the traffic volumes continue to remain fairly flat and in the case of the Harbour Bridge the annual figure remains lower than it was over a decade ago. Another interesting trend with the Harbour Bridge is that the annual figure is now bouncing up and down between 150k – 160k per day (it peaked in 2006 at 169k). However you see a clear change in the SH20 site. This isn’t surprising as in recent years there have been significant extensions and changes to that motorway including the opening of the Mt Roskill extension in May 2009 followed by the Manukau extension to SH1 and Manukau Harbour Crossing duplication in August 2010.

The changes can be shown even clearer by indexing them to Feb 2010 which is the earliest the SH20 data is available from.

14 Feb - Motorways indexed

You will also notice that ALPURT has shown growth. Unfortunately what isn’t clear is if this is a result of total traffic volumes along the route growing or people becoming more comfortable with paying for the toll road and so a higher percentage of people choosing it over the free route. The NZTA previously to recorded vehicle volumes at Hatfields Beach would have allowed that comparison but stopped doing that at the start of last year when they handed the road over to Auckland Transport.

As mentioned, the graphs above don’t include all of the collection sites reported on, the ones missing being on SH1 North of Wellsford, on the Upper Harbour Bridge and on SH16 between Royal Rd and Hobsonville. I haven’t graphed them due to how low the traffic volumes are in the case of Wellsford and how little data there is for the other two (only two years worth). In saying that the data that is available is quite interesting in its own right.

SH1 North of Wellsford – Traffic volumes are very seasonal peaking over summer but overall they have been in decline since monthly figures began in September 07. This is quite important as we often get told that the reason behind the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway is to unlock Northlands economy. Both the SH20 and Upper Harbour Bridge sites are interesting as the annual figures show traffic volumes on those sections had been flat since 2003. The volumes over the Upper Harbour Bridge only started increasing again in 2008 after the Upper Harbour section of SH18 was completed while the SH20 site only started increasing in 2011 after the Westgate to Hobsonville section of SH18 was completed.

To me these figures show a couple of key trends. The motorways not widened or extended have shown little to no growth and in some cases volumes remain below what they were in the mid 2000′s. In the places where we have built motorways, vehicle numbers have been increasing. To me what this effectively points out is that changes traffic volumes are really just a reflection of what we’ve invested in, or in other words a case of build it and they will come. That might sound logical (and it is) but it also highlights the opportunity we have to determine just how much traffic is on our roads in the future. Build more roads like the current plans suggest and we’ll get more traffic.

Of course the opposite is true too, remove roads and traffic disappears with it. This has been shown quite well in Seoul, Korea where since 2002, 15 expressways have been demolished and more are planned. The most famous of which was in Cheonggyecheon where they removed an elevated expressway and ground level roads carrying over 150,000 vehicles per day and restored the original stream making a wonderful urban park in the process.

It went from this:


To this


And the outcome was even more impressive:

  • Traffic volumes dropped while bus and subway usage rose
  • There were increases in fish, birds and insects in the area.
  • Temperatures decreased and are on average 3.6% lower than other parts of Seoul.
  • It became a centre for cultural and economic activity.
  • And perhaps most interesting to the NZTA/AT, traffic speeds on other roads increased which is an example of Braess’s paradox

Now I’m not suggesting that we tear any existing roads down but more just highlighting that we have the ability to shape the city how we want it. If we don’t want traffic volumes to increase in the future that we should start by not building a heap more roads.

NZTA to help fund PT interchanges

Some more good news that the NZTA has agreed to help fund both the Manukau and Otahuhu interchanges.

Two keys projects linked to the upgrade of bus and rail services in Auckland south have received $1.6m in funding from the NZ Transport Agency

The Transport Agency will fund $780,000 for the design of a bus station at the Manukau transport interchange, and $831,000 for the design of the bus/rail interchange at Otahuhu.

The funding represents a 50% share of the design costs for both projects, which are being led by Auckland Transport as part of its comprehensive programme to improve public transport services across the city.

The Regional Manager for the Transport Agency’s Planning and Investment Group, Peter Casey,  says providing people with more frequent public transport services was a key factor behind the funding decision.

“The development of Auckland Transport’s new interchanges at Manukau and Otahuhu will promote greater use of buses and trains,” Mr Casey says.

Auckland Transport’s Chief Development Officer, Claire Stewart, welcomes the funding.

“These two interchanges are an integral part of Auckland Transport’s on-going upgrade of transport infrastructure in the south.  We want to provide facilities which will improve the experience for our customers,” she says.

Mr Casey says the Transport Agency provides funds for several of Auckland’s big public transport projects including the electrification of the rail network, the roll-out of the one ticket electronic HOP card, and the development of AMETI (Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative) to improve travel for both drivers and people who use buses and trains.

It would be good to see what the final designs are that have been approved.

Otahuhu interchange proposal

Otahuhu interchange proposal

Manukau interchange plan

Manukau interchange plan

It’s also interesting that the NZTA are the ones making these announcements. The cynic in me wonders if three are softening us up for a big roads announcement.

Cycle Safety Panel announced

In November last year after a coronial review of 13 cycling deaths Coroner Gordon Matenga said

“The best recommendation I can make to improve cycling safety in this country and to prevent further cycling deaths, is to recommend that an expert panel, drawn from stakeholders with a unique interest and expertise in cycling and road safety, be established to consider the available evidence and together, recommend the way forward for safer cycling in New Zealand,”

He also said it is something that should be done by the NZTA to ensure that central government agencies were involved.

Today the NZTA have announced the panel

The NZ Transport Agency has selected a group of ten New Zealand-based experts to develop recommendations for making the country’s roads safer for cycling.
The Transport Agency was asked to convene the panel in response to the findings of a coronial review of cycling safety in New Zealand, released in November last year by Coroner Gordon Matenga.

NZ Transport Agency Director of Road Safety Ernst Zollner said the agency had canvassed the views of a wide range of stakeholders with expertise in cycling and road safety as part of the process of establishing the panel.

“There is a huge amount of passion and a great depth of knowledge on cycling and cycle safety in New Zealand. We’re looking to harness that passion and knowledge to encourage cycling as a transport choice by making it safer. This panel is tasked with developing a comprehensive and practical set of recommendations for central and local government to achieve that.”

The panel is expected to meet for the first time next month and will aim to deliver its recommendations by the end of September.

Mr Zollner said the Transport Agency and other members of the National Road Safety Management Group would also continue existing work to improve the safety of cyclists in New Zealand by investing in separated cycle paths, improving the safety of roads and roadsides, making intersections safer, reducing vehicle speeds in urban areas to reduce the risks that motor vehicles can pose to pedestrians and cyclists and promoting safe cycling through a range of education programmes.

The Transport Agency recently launched a Share the Road education and advertising campaign designed to personalise and humanise people cycling so that motorists see beyond the bike. More information is available via

New Zealand Cycle Safety Panel – Profiles

Richard Leggat (Chair)

Richard is the Chair of Bike NZ and the New Zealand Cycle Trail and is a board member of Education NZ, SnowSports NZ, NZ Post and Tourism NZ. Richard is an enthusiastic recreational cyclist and is actively involved in his children’s sport. Following an economics degree Richard worked for apparel manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin before switching into the finance sector and working as a share broker initially in Christchurch, followed by four years in London and then Auckland.

Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is the first New Zealander to win an Olympic cycling gold medal, which she won in the individual pursuit at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, setting a world record. When she left Athens at the end of the Games, Ulmer held the Olympic title, the Olympic and world records, the Commonwealth Games title and the Commonwealth Games record for the 3000m individual pursuit. In mid-2011, it was announced that she would be the official ‘ambassador’ for the New Zealand Cycle Trail. In the 2005 New Year Honours, Ulmer was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to cycling.

Marilyn Northcotte

Marilyn has more than twenty years of involvement in cycle skills training, originally in Canada (CAN‐Bike I and II, Cycling Freedom) and has also trained in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Marilyn has developed and delivered cycle skills and road safety programmes for adults and children in a variety of settings and regularly undertakes work for councils, cycle advocacy groups, schools, holiday programmes, Police and community groups, as well as offering one‐to‐one training. Marilyn heads up the regional cycle skills training programme Pedal Ready.

Mike Noon

Mike joined the Automobile Association in September 2005 as General Manager Motoring Affairs. Mike started his career with Mobil Oil NZ where he held the position of Marketing and Communications Manager. Immediately prior to joining the AA, Mike worked as a consultant specialising in tourism, issue management and communications. Before that Mike worked with the Office of Tourism and Sport, and as its Director saw through the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism. Road safety is a particularly important issue for the AA, and it has lobbied strongly on issues like young driver training, cell phones, alcohol and drugs and road engineering.

Dr Hamish Mackie

Hamish is a human factors specialist with seventeen years of research and consultancy experience in a range of areas where the interaction between people, their surrounding environments and the things they use are important. Over the past eight years Hamish has focused on self-explaining roads, high risk intersections, school transport and other areas where a ‘human-centred’ perspective is essential.

Simon Kennett

Originally a power systems engineering officer, Simon helped to found ‘Kennett Brothers Ltd’ in 1993, a business devoted to cycling books, event management, trail design and construction, and strategy development. In 2004 he co-wrote and published ‘RIDE’ – a history of cycling in New Zealand. In 2007/08 he coordinated the Cycling Advocates’ Network networking project under contract to NZTA. Since 2009 Simon has been the Active Transport and Road Safety Coordinator at Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Dr Alexandra Macmillan

Alex is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health at the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine. She also holds an honorary senior research position at the Bartlett – University College London’s global faculty of the built environment. She trained in Medicine and is a Public Health Physician. Alex’s teaching and research focuses on the links between urban environments, sustainability and health. Her PhD included futures modelling of specific policies to successfully increase commuter cycling in Auckland. In London, she extended this work to understand the factors influencing trends in cycling in London and Dutch cities.

Professor Alistair Woodward

Alistair is Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His first degree was in medicine and he undertook his postgraduate training in public health in the UK. He has a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Adelaide, and 30 years’ experience in road safety and injury research. He has studied the epidemiology of head injury, the effectiveness of helmets for cyclists, the relation between vehicle speed and injury severity, the effects on health and the environment of increasing walking and cycling, and the health impacts of transport policy. He initiated the Taupo bicycle study, which has followed 2,600 cyclists for eight years to learn about factors that promote and inhibit everyday cycling, including injury.

Axel Wilke

Axel holds an ME (Civil) from Canterbury University and has been active as a traffic engineer and transport planner in New Zealand since 1998. He specialises in urban traffic engineering, traffic signals, road safety, intersection design & modelling and industry training. He is a director of ViaStrada Limited, a traffic and transportation consultancy specialising in sustainable transport based in Christchurch. Clients of ViaStrada are mostly road controlling authorities in New Zealand, but some work (mostly research) is undertaken for Australian clients, for example Austroads. Axel instigated professional industry training, and the Fundamentals of Planning and Design for Cycling workshop has been taught since 2003, which is part of the curriculum at Canterbury University. Advanced courses were added later, and he has taught nearly 1,000 attendees in total.

Dr Glen Koorey

Glen is a Senior Lecturer in Transportation Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He has a particular interest in the areas of road safety and sustainable transport, including speed management and planning & design for cycling. Glen is a Member of the Bicycle Transportation Research Committee of the US Transportation Research Board and over the past 15 years has investigated many aspects of cycling safety in New Zealand. His wide-ranging research and consulting experience also includes sustainable transportation policies, planning & design for walking, crash data analysis, and the design and operation of rural highways.

There are some really good people on this list which is great to see. It gives me hope that we might get some really positive outcomes from this process.

Dominion Rd parallel cycle routes get NZTA Funding

Some good news today that the NZTA have agreed to pay for just over half of the project to create cycle routes parallel to Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency has approved $3.2m in funding to extend Auckland’s cycling network.

The money will be used to construct cycle routes on less busy suburban streets that run parallel and adjacent to Dominion Road, one of Auckland’s busiest arterial links between the CBD and suburbs on the western side of the city and Auckland International Airport.

The Transport Agency’s funding is a 53 percent share of a $6.1m project led by Auckland Transport to provide 5-and-a-half-kilometres of cycleway on the parallel routes either side of Dominion Road.

The Regional Manager for the Transport Agency’s Planning and Investment Group, Peter Casey, says key considerations behind the Agency’s decision to provide funding include the benefits the project will deliver in terms of safety and travel choices for people.

“The Transport Agency is committed to reducing traffic congestion by providing options so that people don’t have to rely on using cars,” Mr Casey says. “The new routes will encourage more people to cycle. They will be available for less confident cyclists as an alternative to the more challenging Dominion Road, and by the large number of children living in the area.”

Auckland Transport says the funding decision is an important step for the project.

“It’s great that we can get worked started on this project,” says Auckland Transport’s Manager Community Transport, Matthew Rednall. “These are important links for growing cycling for Auckland, and for providing cycling facilities between schools and local communities.”

Construction is due to start later this year. The project includes safety upgrades at intersections, improved lighting and signage, and construction of speed humps and “islands” to slow motorised traffic.

The cycle routes are part of a much wider AT project to upgrade Dominion Road itself, which is also supported by the Transport Agency to help improve Auckland’s public transport system. 

I know this has been a fairly controversial project amongst many in the cycling community who want to see dedicated cycle infrastructure on Dominion Rd. AT say it was dropped as an option as much of Dominion Rd would have needed to be widened to accommodate it at a cost of up to $50 million. The parallel routes involve a mix of

  • New traffic lights at major intersections.
  • Destination signage.
  • Raised tables and other measures to slow vehicle traffic.
  • New sections of shared paths or widening paths.
  • New links between streets for cyclists and pedestrians.

You can see the proposed designs on this page.

Dom Rd Cycling Network

To me the biggest area that really needs to be addressed is on the eastern route at King Edward St/Burnley Tce where riders are forced to either Sandringham Rd or Dominion Rd due to there being no through route but that is something that is unlikely to be cheap either. One other small benefit of this approach is at least this part of the project appears to be starting as soon rather than having to wait for the rest of the upgrade works to happen.