The Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how the NZTA had shortlisted three groups of companies to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.

Confirmed route

One of our biggest complaints about the project is that despite repeated attempts over many years – including Official Information Act requests and via the CBT in the board of inquiry process – we’d never seen the business case for the project. Well the afternoon of that post the agency finally published it (4.6 MB) – although a heavily redacted version of it. As you can see by the revision history below this document has been around for a long time and has been frequently updated. The total document is over 160 pages in length.

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - Revisions

At a high level the business case confirms that the primary driver for this project is the simple fact that the government designated it a Road of National Significance (RoNS). The distinct impression I’m left with is that it’s a project about a decade too early and as such one that has massive consequences for a lot of other more beneficial projects. This is also backed up by the timeline of events showing that prior to being named a RoNS there was very little work – only a high level strategic study – that had been done on the project. One comment I think is particularly pertinent is below. Compare and contrast that statement with how the government have

The RoNS projects represent a ‘lead infrastructure’ approach. This means the Government is investing in infrastructure now to encourage future economic growth rather than wait until the strain on the network becomes a handbrake on progress.

Compare and contrast that statement with how the government have treated the City Rail Link for which they are requiring the rail network to be bursting at the seams before they’ll even consider funding.

From there it almost seems like the authors are trying to find reasons to justify the project – something that becomes clear when looking at the economic analysis. One of the big reasons for needing the motorway is the fact that in the Auckland Plan the council identified a lot of potential for greenfield growth. What’s not mentioned is one of the reasons the council put growth in Warkworth was because the NZTA/Government said they were going to build the motorway. A classic example of the motorway industrial complex at work

 

Another key reason is the often cited need to improve the Northland economy – even though the road stops well short of Northland. The improvement in the economy is supposedly about the fact that a motorway would allow a lot more freight to move in and out of the region. Yet the business case seems to give conflicting information about just how much more freight will be moved. In the executive summary it says:

 

Freight volumes between the regions are forecast to increase by 70% by 2042 – referencing the Ministry of Transport’s 2014 National Freight Demand Study which I talked about here.

Yet in the body of the report it says

Freight volumes are forecast to double by 2031, with the vast majority of this increase being carried by road vehicles – referencing the 2008 version of the National Freight Demand Study

The problem with both of these figures is from what I can see the 2014 freight study doesn’t support either of these claims. The tables below show the 2012 volumes vs what is forecast for 2042. Also of note is that of volumes leaving Northland, 7% go by rail and 60% by coastal shipping. Excluding the freight that stays within Northland, I’ve calculated the change in volumes at just 43% out to 2042, well short of the claims in the business case. There are also high and low forecasts with the increase range being from 38% to 48%.

2014 Freight study Regional Freight Movements - 2012

2014 Freight study Regional Freight Movements Forecast - 2042

As for why some of the potential increase in freight couldn’t go on rail, the main reason they give is that the rail network doesn’t have much available capacity. It seems to be the NZ way that a road with ‘capacity constraints’ get huge sums of money thrown at it while a parallel rail route with capacity constraints is left to rot and threatened with closure. The NZTA justify this position by effectively saying that even if the rail route was upgraded that it is unlikely to have much impact on road demand.

It seems the most valid of the justifications is that the road has a poor safety record and it suggests the road is the 16th worst in NZ. My issue with this is that by waiting for a full motorway solution to be built we will continue to have crashes in the future. Had the NZTA not been under a political directive that the road must be a motorway then it’s possible safety improvements like we’ve suggested in the past could have already happened by now.

 

One of the most interesting sections is how they say the preferred route performs against the project objectives. This is on page 43 (actually page 51) of the report. Some of the impacts are

  • Compared to not building it, traffic volumes increase from 25,000 to 29,000 vehicles per day in 2026 and from 30,000 to 42,000 vehicles per day in 2051.
  • Even in 2051 the road will achieve Level of Service A meaning the road will basically feel pretty empty almost all of the time.
  • They claim it will produce $9.1 million in crash reduction benefits in its opening year. Unfortunately no mention is made of what happens to the existing road which will still have all its existing safety issues.
  • In 2026 travel time will improve by 17 minutes in the PM peak. This is shown below and amazingly they say that with the new motorway it will take just 10 minutes to get from Grand Drive in Orewa to north of Warkworth. That’s a distance of about 24km so suggests vehicles travelling on average in excess of 140km/h.

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - Travel Time Savings

Also in the wider section they’ve included the following table on the risks to the project from a 2010 study. They noted that it’s highly likely that the project’s costs would outweigh its benefits and that traffic volumes would be lower than needed to justify a motorway.

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - 2010 Project Risks

 

So what about the economic assessment, they were right that the costs would outweigh the benefits. Assessed over a 40 year period and a 6% discount rate it achieves a BCR of just 0.92 or just scraping over 1 if wider economic benefits were included. Hardly a massive economic saviour. Unfortunately almost all details about the assessment have been blacked out.

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - Economic Assessment

There’s no mention of what impact tolling would have on the BCR however they do say this.

An initial toll revenue forecasting exercise has been carried out based on the forecast traffic volumes and light and heavy vehicle mix, and using the conservative price assumption that the same pricing is applied from NGTR. [Blacked out section]. The conservative price assumption was used to produce a lower-end forecast.

This analysis suggested a conservative tolling revenue forecast in the first year of operations (2022), net of collection costs and diversion (but excluding the costs of the tolling gantry equipment), of around $10M, growing to $17M in 2030 and $28M in the last year of the P-Wk PPP concession. The total nominal tolling revenue over the PPP period was forecast at $440m. The potential tolling revenue profile based on this analysis is presented in the figure below:

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - Toll Revenue

They suggest this may just cover the operation and maintenance costs of the road.

Lastly the project is going to be built as a PPP. There’s quite a bit of information as to why they think it should be a PPP which you can read though if you’re interested. What caught my eye was Appendix G which covers off where risk sits between the NZTA and the contractor. Below is just the first part of the table.

Puhoi to Warkworth Business Case - PPP Risk allocation

 

Barrier to a view

The Canada St bridge which will soon start to be lifted into place is going to be a fantastic addition to Auckland, opening up the old Nelson St motorway off-ramp to use by people walking and cycling to the western side of the city centre. Not only does it provide a useful function but it looks good too. The off-ramp might not have been a high priority route if it hadn’t been for the fact that the infrastructure was sitting there unused for around a decade. As such it represents part of the change Auckland is starting to experience, making better use of what’s available to get more out of our transport system.  What happens when those walkers and cyclists get to the off-ramp is going to a different story though.

The old off-ramp should mark a fantastic arrival to the city centre as people glide above the motorway below while able to admire the fantastic views out to the Harbour Bridge and the North Shore. It appears now though that this experience will be severely constrained thanks to massive 3m high barriers that will turn the off ramp into more of a trench. The barriers have only just started going up but thanks to the temporary construction walls it’s not hard to imagine what things will be like when finished.

The thick black poles are the part of the permanent barrier structure and will eventually hold glass panels. As you can see from the images below, due to their size,  on some angles they combine to create a solid wall, obscuring any view. They will also likely make the off-ramp feel narrower than it actually is.

Off Ramp Barrier 5

And on the southern of K Rd

Off Ramp Barrier 6

And this is where the cycleway joins the Pitt St/Nelson St intersection

Off Ramp Barrier 7

We first heard rumours about this a few months ago and tried to get the NZTA to change their mind but were told it was too late and that the barrier had already been ordered from Germany.

Just why we’ve ended up with such a disappointing outcome appears to be the result of some overzealous process following/box ticking with those working on the project scared about people throwing objects off or worse jumping off the bridge. I think there might be merit in that argument if it wasn’t for the presence of so many other bridges around from which the same thing could happen – many of which are higher above the motorway than the old off-ramp. So I took a little trip to highlight them.

The closest example and the one with the lowest barrier crosses right above the off-ramp and is where first photo above were taken from – Hopetoun St.

Hopetoun St barrier

Next up Wellington St is a bit higher and more bulky but doesn’t feel onerous or like it impedes.

Wellington St Barrier

And Upper Queen St which is a similar height and with a similar but slightly different design. Of note the bridge was recently upgraded when the cycleway was added so if there was some technical requirement to have higher barriers then surely they should have changed then.

Upper Queen St Barrier

Using the same design as Upper Queen St is Symonds St which is even higher above the motorway.

Symonds St Barrier

Probably the highest barrier (other than K Rd) was on one part of the Newton Rd Bridge. The first section below is the part that crosses over Ian McKinnon Dr and has an addition to the base barrier while the second image is over the motorway itself and doesn’t have the extra addition.

Newton Rd Barrier 1

Newton Rd Barrier 2

Lastly here’s Bond St and again what appears to be a pretty standard height barrier.

Bond St Barrier 1

All of the examples above are clearly been in place for some time. They seem to strike good balance between safety and not being too obstructive. Sure it’s entirely possible that something or someone could go over the barrier yet if I can only think of one example recently where there’s been an incident from any of these bridges. It’s a shame the NZTA has taken such an overcautious approach to the off-ramp, in the process removing some of the elements that would have made the route so special.

Here’s a couple of my favourite comments from twitter when I highlighted  this issue yesterday.

and

 

Basin Bridge Bowled again

Fantastic news out of Wellington yesterday with the High Court rejecting completely the NZTA’s appeal of the decision by the Board of Inquiry to decline consent for the Basin Reserve Flyover

Basin Bridge Image 2

The High Court today dismissed the NZ Transport Agency’s attempt to overturn the rejection of its controversial plan to build a 300-metre concrete flyover alongside the Basin Reserve.

In a decision released this afternoon, the Court stated:

The Transport Agency has not established that in its decision the Board of Inquiry made any error of law … Consequently the Agency’s appeal is dismissed.

And earlier:

The Board’s decision does not contain any of the errors of law alleged.

The Transport Agency had appealed against the Board of Inquiry’s decision to decline consent for the $90m flyover alongside the Basin Reserve.

The Government set up the Board of Inquiry process as a way of fast tracking consents for large projects to stop them being held up in years and years of appeals. The only appeals were allowed on points of law.

Some of the key reasons consent was declined in the first place was

  • That while the project would improve the cities transport system that it would do so at the expense of heritage, landscape, visual amenity, open space and overall amenity.
  • They are uncertain how the plan would have actually accommodated for Bus Rapid Transit as proposed in the Spine Study.
  • That the quantum of transport benefits were substantially less than what the NZTA originally said in lodging the NoR as they included transport benefits from other projects.
  • That while North/South buses would be sped up, that the modelling doesn’t show any impact effect of this on modal change.
  • That while there are some improvements for cyclists it’s mostly in the form of shared paths which will introduce potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
  • That the dominance of the bridge would cause severe adverse affects on the local area and the mitigation measures proposed would do little to reduce that. They also found the new building proposed for the Basin Reserve would exacerbate this.

Some of these are likely to have massive implications for other projects such as the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing and the Reeves Rd Flyover. For example it likely means that the NZTA are going to have include not just the tunnel and direct connections in their consent for AWHC but also all the associated road widening of the Northern Motorway and Central Motorway Junction – which we understand is substantial. It could also stop the idea of building a combined road and rail tunnel across the harbour as the NZTA would have to consent the connections on either side. This will likely be why they’ve told us that they will not be including rail in current consent process.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

 

Coming back to Wellington it will be interesting to see how the NZTA respond. It’s time they gave up idea and started thinking about other solutions.

Northern Busway Extension is back

We were rightly dismayed when the previous Transport Minister vetoed the desperately needed extension of the famously successful Northern Busway as part of the big spend up on SH1 on the North Shore. We suspect NZTA were too, as they know that the Busway the single most effective tool for reducing congestion and increasing access and human happiness for the travelling public on this route. And is a vital part of the booming Rapid Transit Network. Additionally this extension surely also helps streamline the general traffic lane design through the SH1/SH18 intersection and beyond. NZTA must be keen to not have to factor in growing numbers of merging buses from shoulder lanes etc.

So we are very pleased to find that the agency has found a way to return this logical part of the project to the programme and out of the shadow of ministerial whim [presumably the change of Minister helped?]:

Northern Corridor

Here is the full document.

Bus users report that their journeys between Constellation and Albany Stations can currently take up a disproportionately large amount of the total trip because of the absence of any Transit right of way; the buses of course are not only themselves delayed but are also delaying other road users here.

The extension will not be a minor structure but as it adjacent to commercial properties it is hard to see how the usual forces of compliant will be able get much traction against it, but it will still need public support at the consultation phase, so Busway users, let yourselves be heard.

We understand the current Busway is built to a standard to enable upgrading to rail systems, we would expect this standard to be continued on this extension, as this does look like the most logical way to next cross the Waitemata Harbour.

Finally, because this is a) spending on the Shore b) not ratepayers funds, and c) not spending on a train or a bike, even the venerable George Wood will be in favour of the proposed extension.

Timeframe for Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Announced

The NZTA have recently published information on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing on their website, including all of their technical reports, which are mostly from around 2010. These reports have been available elsewhere, however most people wouldn’t know they existed so it is good that NZTA have pulled them all together on the main NZTA site.

New to me are the timeframes for the project, which the NZTA have indicated are:

YearActivity
2015The Transport Minister asked the Transport Agency to take immediate steps to further develop the project. The Transport Agency will engage professional advisers to help prepare to help future proof the route.
Mid 2016NZ Transport Agency to serve Notices of Requirement for land required.
2017 to 2018Detailed business case investigations including funding options and design. Application and hearings for resource consents.
2019 to 2022Procurement stage including contract award, detailed design, land acquisition and preparation for works.
2022Estimated start of construction.
2027 to 2030Additional Waitematā Harbour Crossing opens.

This is a much more aggressive timeline than the NZTA indicated at their recent briefing on the National Land Transport Programme, where it was suggested that the tunnel was unlikely to progress beyond the designation point for at least a decade.

The project website claims that the Auckland Plan identifies the AWHC will be required between 2025 and 2030 however, as we covered in this post, there isn’t any rational justification for this based on the Preliminary Business Case, which calculated a BCR of just 0.4.

NZTA route map

The project website mentions the “bigger picture”, emphasising that more than “55% of NZ’s freight travels through the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions”. As Matt covered in this post though, there really is only a tiny proportion of freight originating from Northland that is destined for points south, and vice-versa. It is quite misleading to include Northland in this statistic and it is certainly no justification for the AWHC . In any case, the website doesn’t mention the Western Ring Route, which is a continuous motorway linking Manukau and Albany and is due to be completed in phases in the next few years.

I haven’t reviewed all of the technical documents, but there are a couple of things about the transport modelling report that stand out. The emphasis in the snippet below is contained in the report – it isn’t mine:

Traffic Model Report 8.4

The transport model also has this table of car parking costs as an input assumption for the BCR, on p.42 of the report:

AWHC Carparking Cost Assumptions

I asked the NZTA what the highlighted text meant, and if the parking costs were daily or hourly rates, and they had this to say:

  • The Transport and Traffic Model Report (2010) analysis used costs that are 50th percentile costs which was appropriate for that stage of the investigation.
  • This report was one of the outputs of the Preliminary Business Case which was developed to assess the bridge and tunnel options. The focus was a fair “like for like comparison” between these two options, and as such the BCRs were tailored to the level of assessment appropriate to the decisions that were required to be made at that stage.
  • Currently, no further benefit cost analysis has been completed since 2010. Several years have passed since the benefit cost analysis was completed and we anticipate the BCR will be higher now.
  • Should a designation be secured for the Additional Waitematā Harbour Crossing, the Transport Agency will move forward with a Detailed Business Case in approximately 2017-2018. This will include further investigation to evaluate the preferred option and a detailed analysis of current costs and benefits.
  • The parking costs referred to in the report reflect average daily costs and were accurate at the time the modelling was undertaken.

So it looks like the mysterious Appendix M doesn’t actually exist, and any further analysis of costs and benefits won’t take place until the six lane tunnel for general traffic has been designated. The BCR of a rail only crossing to the North Shore, which will be billions of dollars cheaper than a road crossing primarily for single occupant cars, has not been calculated. The modelled costs of parking for the CBD seem woefully underestimated, compared to current earlybird rates of $24 a day.

This is completely the wrong way to go about a project which the Minister of Transport estimates will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion. Public consultation has been pretty much non-existent. I doubt many North Shore residents realise that if the new crossing is tolled, it is likely to be a toll on both the existing bridge and the new crossing.

There has been a complete lack of analysis of the impact of the fire-hose of single occupant cars which will flood the CBD as a result of the project, and neither has the full cost of increasing the capacity of the CMJ and approaches been considered. The NZTA already have in the scope of the designation work widening the motorway from Esmonde to Northcote, but it is likely that the motorway will have to be widened further north as well. The space required for this motorway widening work will undoubtedly take precedence over any future design for mass rapid transit.

Luke did a post last year on the environmental impacts of the toll road tunnel, including ventilation stacks for exhaust fumes that will be up to 35m (10 storeys) high on both sides of the crossing and the massive amounts of reclamation required. I’m not sure why the residents of Northcote Point haven’t formed an action group yet over the impending loss of Sulphur Beach and the marina. They seem oblivious to their neighbourhood becoming a construction site for at least five years too.

And of course the fact that the tunnels might be “future-proofed” for rail means nothing in practice. The designation process should not be going ahead without a clear understanding of what the mass transit network will look like on the North Shore.

There is no urgency for the crossing either – actual traffic volumes are well below the trend envisaged in the 2010 reports:

AHB Annual Volumes to 2014 - 2

I wrote to Auckland City Councillors and asked them to stand up for what Aucklanders actually want, rather than simply acquiesce to this ill thought-out plan. The only response I got was from Cllr George Wood, who said that “I must say that Simon Bridges is committed to the AWHC” and “people north of the Waitemata want the additional crossing. We certainly don’t want wish it to be stalled.”

Does George speak for everyone on the North Shore? Does Simon Bridges? What do you think?

East-West Link and North Shore New Network consultation updates

Yesterday both Auckland Transport and the NZTA made announcements on some recent consultations. They were discussing just some high level results rather than any detailed analysis – which will now begin.

East West Link

AT and the NZTA received quite a bit of feedback about the project with around 1,700 responses. Their summary of some of  the key points shows that they’ve noted some of the concerns we and others have raised – such as the land-locking of the cycleway and access for rail to the airport from Onehunga to remain feasible – they’ve also had pressure on the other side from the trucking lobby who want even fewer intersections which would make it even more motorway like.

East-West Preferred Option

Fabulous feedback for one of Auckland’s priority projects

A wide range of feedback has been received on the preferred approach for the East West Connections transport project, from suggestions about providing cycling on the seaward side of the new foreshore road to design ideas to improve transport performance.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport would like to thank everyone who gave feedback on the preferred approach to improve transport connections into and out of Onehunga-Penrose and the reliability of bus services between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park.

About 1,700 feedback responses were received and approximately 250 people came to the open days. All the information is still being analysed. A summary of feedback, and how it has been used, will be released later in the year. In the interim, these are some of the key themes that have been noted:

  • Suggestions regarding the design of the route with the aim of improving transport performance. Key points include the desire to reduce the number of traffic lights and intersections (particularly to assist with heavy vehicles movements), changes to the design of the Neilson Street Interchange and also the interchange at SH1
  • The East West Connections project continues to maintain opportunities for achieving future rail connections in the area, including rail to the airport.
  • That the project should improve access to the harbour and Onehunga Wharf
  • Walking and cycling facilities should be provided along the seaward side of the new foreshore road (with connections back into Onehunga). Opportunities for improved walking and cycling connections should also continue to be explored. For example connections to Māngere Bridge, Onehunga Mall, Mutukaroa-Hamlins Hill and Orpheus Drive.
  • Natural features such as Anns Creek and the Hopua Tuff ring should be protected and that potential impacts from the project on water quality, air quality, and noise need to be carefully considered and managed.
  • Support for proposed bus and cycle lanes between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park, but some concerns that the bus lanes would be shared with freight vehicles.

The NZ Transport Agency’s State Highways Manager, Brett Gliddon says the responses will help refine the agencies understanding of what needs to be considered as the project progresses.

“We are still in the early stages with the concept design for the preferred approach. The feedback will be used to help us make decisions as we move from concept through to detailed design. For example identifying where cycle lanes should be located, things we need to consider when designing intersections and how we can improve access to the harbour.”

Auckland Transport Key Strategic Initiatives Project Director Theunis Van Schalkwyk says the feedback is part of an on-going conversation with the community the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will continue as designs are further developed.

“We’re very pleased with the level of support we’ve received around the proposed improvements to speed up bus journeys between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park. The feedback will be used to help develop the designs for the bus priority lanes and cycle improvements.”

The Transport Agency’s Brett Gliddon says the next steps for the project will be to undertake further investigations on the preferred approach and confirm the land needed to protect the route. If people have feedback, thoughts or ideas at any time we would encourage them to contact the project team on eastwest@nzta.govt.nz”.

 

North Shore New Network Consultation

AT received massive feedback for the new network on the North Shore with over 3,150 responses or comments. To put that in perspective both the South Auckland and West Auckland consultations had just over 1,000 responses each. Give the level of feedback I suspect that means it’s likely to take much longer to get any results and final decisions about the network.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network

Local feedback will make a better bus network for the North Shore, AT says

Auckland Transport has begun analysing more than 3150 submissions received from the North Shore New Network consultation.

  • Over 2,400 formal submissions (including 26 in Chinese).
  • More than 750 comments on the online discussion forum, which will also be counted as feedback and analysed.
  • 5 petitions were received.
  • More than 32 events were held over the six week consultation period, where more than 3,400 people were engaged with.

“There was a high level of public participation on the North Shore, almost double than previous New Network consultations, and we want to thank everyone for their feedback,” says Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager.

“The more local knowledge and opinion we get, the more informed our decisions will be, and the better the final Network we can deliver.”

The next stage is analysis, which entails evaluating feedback and investigating issues raised.

“When a concern is raised by the community, we look into it in detail,” says Anthony. “This can include exploring different options and the operational and financial implications, such as where bus stops would be or where a bus could turn around.”

“Ultimately we aim to make the best decision for the largest number of people, within the constraints we are given.”

Early results show a range of support and opposition. One resident supported the “better connections to alleviate the demand for parking at the park and rides,” and another commented that “more frequent weekend trips will make public transport a more viable option when travelling with family.”

Once confirmed, the final decisions and service design will be available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork or people can sign up to an email newsletter to be kept up to date.

Implementation is planned for 2017, a timeframe which is required so that any infrastructure changes can be made, and a competitive tender process can be carried out to decide which bus company will operate each route, on certain parts of the network.

Tenders will be released following service design completion in the first half of 2016. A comprehensive information campaign will be held prior to implementation to make people aware of the changes.

“Many people we spoke to during consultation were eager to see the new bus network happen earlier than 2017, but there’s a lot involved in making changes of this scale, so we’re doing it in phases by area.

“Over the next two years we will have delivered a New Network for the whole of Auckland, starting with the Hibiscus Coast this October.”

Consultation on the new bus network for the North Shore ran from 2 June to 13 July 2015. The changes proposed would provide a number of benefits, including new frequent bus services on key routes across the North Shore running every 15 minutes, 7am – 7pm, 7 days a week, and a more connected, and easier to understand bus network overall.

Past consultations for the New Network have included: Hibiscus Coast, West Auckland, South Auckland and Pukekohe and Waiuku.

More information is available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork.

 

Trouble with a Union St Carpark

It appears that Auckland Transport may have sold a key piece of land needed to implement part of the council’s City Centre Master Plan.

Yesterday it was announced by the NZTA that they are building a Central Incident Response Centre on the site of a former AT carpark on Union St.

NZ Transport Agency committed to keeping Auckland moving with new Central Incident Response Centre

The NZ Transport Agency is establishing Auckland’s first permanent Central Incident Response Centre located on Union Street in the central city.

The team who’ll be based at the centre will focus on the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ) part of the network, attending to motorway accidents and breakdowns, assisting in the clean-up of spills, removing debris, and managing technical issues like monitoring faults and completing minor repairs.

“The team is currently based at temporary facilities at the northern end of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The new location means they will have close access to the Victoria Park Tunnel and direct access to the State Highways to help ensure that our motorways are kept safe for drivers and that traffic keeps moving,” says Auckland and Northland State Highways Manager Brett Gliddon.

Since the incident response team was formed 3 years ago, it has been called out to attend more than 2,300 incidents in the CMJ area.

The teams are typically made up of 4 crew and 3 vehicles. They will continue to work around the clock on a 12-hour shift roster every day of the year from the new Union Street facility.

The new centre is due to be opened in October. It will be situated on the site of what was the Union Street public carpark, which has now been closed. The building will be constructed off-site and put in place overnight. All other preparation work on-site will be completed during the day.

Here’s the site.

Union St Carpark

That’s all well and good except for the fact the council has identified that same site as a location to realign the Cook St off-ramp – reducing traffic on Cook St and enabling it to eventually become much less of a traffic sewer. The vision for the area is shown in Move 2 of the CCMP. Here’s what they say about it.

The Victoria Quarter has considerable latent development potential. The development industry has recognised this opportunity. However, the full potential of the area will only be
realised when Nelson and Hobson Streets become inviting public spaces for pedestrians, and other strategic development opportunities, such as in the Wynyard Quarter and growth
around the City Rail Link stations, are further advanced. Significant investment in amenity of the area and its streets and spaces will be important, as will greater connections across the motorways to Freemans Bay and Freemans Bay School, which is set to double in size.

In time the area will emerge as a vibrant, residential-led, mixed-use urban neighbourhood, referencing its industrial heritage and with a strong leaning towards compact family
housing. The built form is anticipated to be reasonably fine grained medium-rise development that responds to the needs of families, i.e. unit titles, with reasonable indoor/outdoor spaces and opportunities for safe play.

Auckland Council owns significant areas of land in the quarter. This is mainly road reserve, but it also includes a 5853m² parcel of land at 106 Cook Street on the corner of Union Street. A dramatic change is proposed for this area with a draft masterplan in place that will centre residential apartments and office space on a new public park.

Redevelopment plans, along with longer term New Zealand Transport Agency plans to upgrade the Cook Street interchange as part of the additional harbour crossing, will require a new road layout appropriate for a new pedestrian focused area.

Here’s what they envision it could look like and it looks like it has the potential to be a fantastic area of the city without the motorway firing traffic on to Cook St. In addition the straightened off-ramp looks like it would probably be safer too.

CCMP Move 2 - Victoria Quarter

On the plus side of things at least this was sold to the NZTA and not a private developer which means there’s a chance the NZTA could move the new Central Incident Response Centre and still realign the off ramp. In response to a question about it the NZTA have said the building could be relocated of needed.

The new structure is permanent, however for future proofing purposes it can be moved to another site in the future if that becomes preferable.

Of course the purchase is also a bit of land banking by the NZTA in case an additional harbour road crossing goes ahead. In fact I was told by Auckland Council Properties Ltd (soon to become part of Development Auckland) that development of the 106 Cook St site is on hold as they believe up to one third of it might be needed by the NZTA for the AWHC. This highlights that far from just a tunnel, it has serious impacts for large parts of the city both in how much land it takes up where it connects but also affecting the development potential of the city.

Tauranga Eastern Link complete

Yesterday the Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges officially opened just the second Roads of National Significance to be completed – the $455 million Tauranga Eastern Link. All up the project is 21km long from Te Maunga in Tauranga through to Paengaroa, bypassing Te Puke along the way although it doesn’t actually open to the public until Monday. The NZTA say it was one of the most technically challenging projects as due to the very soft soil conditions however it has been finished up to five months ahead of schedule

Interestingly I was down just past Paengaroa last weekend visiting some family and so it would have actually been useful had it been open then as the new road is around 3km shorter and obviously straighter and faster than the current road. You can see a comparison of the two in the image (along with some of the engineering features the NZTA have pointed out.

Tauranga Eastern Link Map

The project has been justified based on a couple of key aspects and along with travel times savings, one of the key ones being that it allows for more greenfield growth on the edge of Tauranga.

“The Tauranga Eastern Link (TEL) has been designed to support the growth of the Bay of Plenty, reduce travel times and improve safety,” he says.

“It will be a strong anchor to support managed land use in a planned and sensible progression in this region.”

The TEL brings the East Cape and the central North Island closer to the Port of Tauranga.

“The road shaves off around 12 minutes when compared to the old route, which means some freight operators will be able to complete an extra trip each day.

“The new road will also significantly improve safety, reducing the amount of death and serious injury crashes in the region.”

Whether deliberate or not it kind of feels like one of the aims is to help further undermine the rail network by making it a lot easier for trucks to compete.

 

The video below gives a flythough of the project from November last year. As you can see there are lots of long straight sections – something that will almost certainly see people driving faster than the limit on. Speeding is already an issue on the 6km section that’s already been opened

What will be one of the most interesting factors to watch in the coming months and years is just how many people use it. The road will be tolled at $2 per trips for light vehicles and $5 for heavy vehicles and based on the Northern Gateway toll road up to Puhoi – around 25% are using the old road despite the new one being considerably faster. In the area there hasn’t been much of traffic growth recently as the chart below shows, the four locations are showing in the following image.

Road volumes around TEL

tel-aerial-markers

We’ll obviously keep an eye on what happens with traffic volumes on the road.

The designers have managed to come up with some of the most space hungry designs I’ve seen for the Paengaroa end. The roundabout joins the existing SH2 (top left, bottom right) with the TEL (top right) and SH33 (bottom left)

Tauranga Eastern Link - Paengaroa Roundabout

Lastly the NZTA already appear to have next phase of roading in Tauranga planned which will see the roundabout at the western end and the one just up the road at Bayfair replaced with flyovers. The NZTA estimate a start date for this of next year. Is it just me or does Tauranga seem to be trying desperately to be mini Auckland when it comes to land use and transport

Tauranga Eastern Link - Bayfair

 

NZTA OIA Response on Additional Harbour Crossing

Prompted by the news that the NZTA is tendering work for route protection of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC), I initiated an OIA request to the NZTA which has now been responded to.

I requested, on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport:

1. A statement defining the land transport problem or issue that the proposed AWHC solution is attempting to address.
2. The studies and comparative assessments of alternative solutions that the NZTA has conducted, including, but not restricted to, an electrified rail only crossing of the Waitemata Harbour between the Auckland isthmus and the North Shore.

The NZTA responded with the following PDF documents:

  • Attachment A: Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Preliminary Business Case, January 2011. The business case includes a statement outlining the problem which the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project is attempting to address (refer to ‘Description of Service Need’ on page 9)
  • Attachment B: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study Phase 1: summary report option short listing, November 2007
  • Attachment C: Waitemata Harbour Crossing Study 2008: Study Summary Report, April 2008

Question 1: What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?

The Description of Service Need is this:

statementofserviceneed

What stands out here is the statement that the “AHB currently provides the only direct, cross-harbour vehicle link between the CBD and the North Shore.”  Resiliency seems to be a major driver behind a solution which supports six lanes of general traffic in a tunnel, with the possibility of rail at some indeterminate point in the future. What is odd is that there is no mention in any of the supplied documents of the Western Ring Route, a $2bn project adding resiliency and reducing demand on the existing Harbour Bridge which, in the NZTA’s own words, will “create a seamless motorway between Manukau and Albany”.  This is due for completion in phases in the next few years.

There are also the usual predictions of increasing traffic volumes, which threaten to “adversely impact on the length and reliability of travel times”. Quite why it is vital to minimise the travel times of single occupant cars isn’t explained.  Regardless, the Business Case uses traffic volumes in 2008 as the basis of forecasting, before the Northern Busway had a chance to make much of an impact.

traffic volumes

However, as Matt pointed out in this post, traffic volumes across the bridge have stubbornly stayed at 2008 levels, at least up until 2014.

AHB Annual Volumes to 2014

And that pretty much sums up the statement of need. As far as analysis of the need for mass rapid transit goes, there’s this analysis of the Busway:

Forecast demand for the Busway indicates that the morning peak hour flows into the CBD could increase to 250 buses per hour in 2041, representing a 138% increase over the 2009 volumes. This figure is the recommended target capacity for the Busway system, representing 12,000 passenger movements per hour6. However, achieving the target capacity is currently hindered by capacity constraints close to the CBD where the provision of dedicated bus facilities is more expensive and bus volumes are at their highest. One of the advantages of a new crossing would be the ability to have dedicated bus lanes across the AHB which would maintain a high level of trip reliability for passenger transport users.

On rail, the Business Case assumes a rail link between Gaunt Street Station in the Wynyard Quarter (underground) and Akoranga Station (at grade). The basis for modelling the tunnel is this diagram:

tunnel map

Construction cost alone of the combined tunnel is $4.6bn in 2010 dollars, with a total nominal cost over a 30 year period calculated as $12bn for the tunnel, including all capital expenditure and operating costs, with a risk factor as well:

nominal costs

The Business Case document comes up with a BCR of 0.4 for the combined tunnel option, including wider economic benefits and not including tolling.  Not so much a Business Case for the proposed AWHC then, but more a massive red flag suggesting  that not building the proposed tunnel is actually more economically beneficial for Auckland.  Even more worryingly, even though there is an assumption that the motorway will be widened to four lanes between Esmonde and Northcote road, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation of how the capacity of the Central Motorway Junction will be increased to cope with the additional three lanes of traffic each way that a new tunnel crossing will provide for.

Incidentally, transport modelling and the Cost Benefit Analysis excluded rail (p.25)

A parallel work stream to this study — The Network Plan — undertook an assessment of the longterm capacity of the existing Busway and concluded that a rail crossing was not required within the timeframes considered for the CBA. As such, the transport modelling excluded the modelling of rail, and the CBA includes costs for the roading component of the crossings only (i.e. the cost for the rail tunnel is excluded).

There is an interesting discussion on tolling (up to $8 each way modelled), but perhaps that is best left for another post.

Question 2: What alternatives have been evaluated?

The Business Case takes it as a given that capacity for additional vehicles is required.  This stems from the earlier options papers, which do indeed include an examination of a rail only crossing, which is the second question of the OIA request. Attachment C covers three short-listed options, with variations for each:

options

The study concludes (p.43) that a combined road / rail tunnel option is best – Option 2C.

summary

So although a rail tunnel was the best passenger transport option, the study recommends a combined road / rail tunnel. The option evaluation process appears not to have used a CBA / Economic Evaluation Manual approach, and it is difficult to tell exactly why option 2C is favoured over a rail only crossing. There is no comparison of BCRs between the rail only and combined tunnel options.  Presumably there is a strong weighting for resilience, but again discussion about the Western Ring Route is non-existent. However, the study also carries this warning on p.45:

Limited spare capacity on the strategic and regional arterial networks on both sides of the Harbour, together with the need to move towards a more sustainable transport system, mean it will be neither practical nor desirable to provide sufficient cross harbour road capacity to match demand. Any additional connectivity should therefore be provided to the best practicable standard, that is, in balance with the remainder of the Auckland road network, and in a cost effective manner.

And cost should probably be one of the most important factors. Page 36 has a table of costs for the different options.

optioncosts

A rail only tunnel was costed at about a quarter of the cost of a road / rail tunnel.

In summary, I don’t really think NZTA’s solution is going to work.  By design, it will increase the number of single occupant cars in the CBD and surrounding motorway networks and, according to their own analysis, make the economy of Auckland worse than if the project doesn’t proceed.  (And that isn’t even considering the impact of tolls on the economy.)

I don’t accept claims that the tunnel will be “future proofed” for rail either.  You only need to look at the history of future-proofing in Auckland (think Te Iririrangi Drive or the Manukau Harbour Crossing) to know that most likely it will never happen.

The taxation and expenditure of over $4bn dollars could make a real difference to Auckland if it was spent on the right things.  I think Aucklanders should get a say on this. Allowing the AWHC route protection to proceed in its current form, at a cost of tens of millions, is the thin edge of the wedge. If planning starts for a tunnel for single occupant cars, then that is what we’ll end up with.

This isn’t urgent. We’ve got time to get it right.

Submit on the East West Connections

Post from Ryan Mearns of Generation Zero

In June NZTA and Auckland Transport finally came out with a new proposed route for the East-West Connections, which is a new road route long pushed by business groups that would link SH1 and SH20 either north or south of the Manukau Harbour. An earlier proposed route that cut through the heart of Mangere was dropped in January 2014 after a huge public outcry, and an excellent local campaign. This new route effectively involved joining SH1 at Syliva Park with SH20 at Onehunga, with a direct connection that looks a lot like a motorway.

East-West Preferred Option

This area does suffer from traffic congestion, and does have a large amount of truck traffic, much of it leading to the major Kiwirail terminal and inland port along Neilson Street. So this is one area where we would support some investment to reduce congestion hotspots. However NZTA admitted that it would cost over $1 billion dollars. This is a huge amount of money, and for example is roughly equivalent to the government contribution of the CRL. There is already severe strain on the transport budget from the government spend-up on RONS and the Auckland accelerated motorway projects, so this is bad news for those of us that want the government to progress projects such as the Northern Busway extensions and North-Western busway.

 

The primary concerns we have for the project are that;

  1. The design of the proposed new motorway makes it even more difficult to build rail to the airport. To ensure either light or heavy rail can one day go to the airport, any designs for the motorway should preserve the rail corridor.
  2. The only public transport upgrades proposed are discontinuous shared bus and truck lanes which are poor quality and potentially unsafe. The project should focus on improving public transport in the area to reduce congestion with a network of high frequency bus services with continuous bus lanes.
  3. Current bike infrastructure in the area is disconnected and of low quality. The solution is to provide high quality bike connections linking Onehunga, Penrose, Mangere, Mangere Bridge and Otahuhu.
  4. The new motorway proposes to block off the limited public access there is to the Manukau east of Onehunga, with the cycleway on the land side of the motorway. The project should not have to reclaim the Manukau Harbour and should ensure any works near the harbour improve public access, rather than separate the community from the harbour.
  5. Congestion is an issue in the area, but a billion dollar motorway is not the way to go. The Government should focus any road spending on cheap upgrades to fix localised congestion spots.

NZTA are taking feedback on the East West Connections until the end of Friday. They do have an online form, however it bizarrely focusses on the bus-truck lanes, which are effectively an entirely different project. To help people get the key points across Generation Zero have created a quick submit form, which will send your feedback straight to NZTA.

Click here to go to the form to submit your feedback to NZTA.

More information on the project is available on the NZTA and Auckland Transport websites.