Reeves Rd Flyover decision: The details

A few weeks ago Auckland Transport announced that the Reeves Rd Flyover was back on again. I happened to be looking through some info for the AT board meetings and found that they’ve published the paper that was used to make that decision. As you’d expect, it contains quite a bit of interesting information.

The report states that AT, the NZTA and the Council have been reviewing the project and its sequencing since late 2014 “in light of its strategic changes that now express the desire to prioritise rapid transit”. The also says the review “identified potential risks with the flyover in terms of providing value for money”.

The original plan for AMETI was that the Reeves Rd Flyover would be built first, followed by the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and then from Pakuranga to Botany. This would have meant we’d be waiting for many years for even the first section of the busway, and given Auckland’s history we’d be just as likely to have some political change cancelling the vital public transport component anyway.

So AT say they’ve been looking at ways to bring the busway forward, and came up with two other options. In both of them the Panmure to Pakuranga busway would be built first, as among other things, it’s the most advanced with a Notice of Requirement already lodged.

The two options differ as to whether the Reeves Rd Flyover or the Pakuranga to Botany busway section came second. This is shown below but under the assumption of no funding constraints.

AMETI sequencing options 2016-04

The two options even had different busway designs, which AT say was a result of needing a different layout if the flyover wasn’t built.

AMETI Busway at Pakuranga with Flyover

Below shows what they would do if the flyover wasn’t built:

AMETI Busway at Pakuranga without Flyover

As we now know, AT have gone with option 1, which staff say performs better overall based on a multi-criteria analysis that looked at:

  1. Economic Efficiency;
  2. Transport networks performance;
  3. Ability of option to enable ‘planned growth in accordance with the Auckland Plan and Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP);
  4. Ability of option to maximise opportunities or reduce risks;
  5. Construction impacts and disruption; and
  6. Rating against the Transport Agency’s Strategic Fit Assessment.

AT have then further refined the preferred strategy to even out construction impacts, and to reflect a more realistic cash flow.

AMETI preferred sequencing option

You’ll note that to meet the timeframes AT want, there is a shortfall of $172 million of funding. They also say the timeframe is influenced by the CRL:

The optimal time for completing the busway will be as soon as CRL enables additional train frequencies (i.e., capacity) through Panmure. This is programmed for 2023/24 financial year. However, the available funding envelope within the current Long Term Plan (LTP) is inadequate to complete the entire AMETI programme by 2025 ($172m shortfall). This will impact on our ability to complete the Busway by 2025.

 

One of the big factors in deciding the options was the impact each of them would have on travel times. AT’s preferred strategy is effectively the bright blue line, which for the future options is generally modelled to be the best performer.

AMETI Travel time modelling

But this chart raises a couple of big issues for me, and it’s not even directly related to the flyover. Why in all scenarios are the buses expected to take so damn long? Based on the figures earlier, we’ll be spending close to $500 million on building a busway from Panmure to Botany, which includes reducing side street intersections and wider stop spacing. Yet even in the best case scenario, it is still expected to take 26 minutes to get between those two locations, that’s also almost twice as long as driving. Further at a distance of around 7 km it also represents an average speed of just 16km/h. If this is the outcome, then AT need to do better.

Oddly the Howick to Panmure bus times are around 17 minutes, despite only getting normal bus lanes and the route being about 2km longer, making buses from Howick almost twice as fast.

The comments from AT about improving the performance of the network are also countered somewhat by the quote below, which will be based on the fact that building the flyover will still see the traffic reach the intersections just down the road a little faster. It also makes me question just how accurate those car travel times will be, even a decade from now that seems fanciful that traffic will be better.

Introducing the Flyover will however release a bottleneck in an already congested transport network and there is a risk that this may negatively impact on the overall network performance.

Those travel times are also bound to have an impact on the use of the busway, and the modelling below suggests that at peak around 5,000 trips will take place on it in 2046. Looking closely that it seems about 3,450 will be towards Panmure in the AM peak. That might not sound like a lot but it represents about a full double decker every 3-4 minutes. Like other transport models, this one is also probably under-predicting the usage, especially since the area is a bit of a PT desert.

AMETI patronage modelling

 

It also appears that AT and the NZTA are looking to join the South Eastern Arterial (SEART) to the East West Link. That would give a motorway or near-motorway road all the way from Pakuranga to Onehunga and the airport:

The road user benefits provided by the Flyover are not dependent on providing more capacity at the SH1/South Eastern Highway (SEART) on-ramp. However, to potentially release significant wider network benefits, AT- in collaboration with the Transport Agency, are currently looking at the possibility of better connecting Pakuranga, Onehunga and SH20 by linking SEART with the proposed East West Connection. The investigation of this work is still in early stages. Key findings will be presented to the Board in due course.

As a final comment, it is good that AT have agreed the section of busway to Pakuranga is still going ahead and before the flyover, but there are a lot of hurdles to pass yet.

Reeves Rd Flyover back on the books

Auckland Transport has had an on-again/off-again type relationship with the $170 million Reeves Rd flyover in Pakuranga. Yesterday they announced it was definitely back on again and sees them running back to the idea that before we can build any PT or cycling infrastructure, we must first build a massive road as compensation.

reeves-rd-flyover

Work will begin soon on the design and consenting for the Reeves Road flyover and Pakuranga to Botany busway in east Auckland.

The projects are part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), which is aimed at giving residents of the eastern suburbs better transport choices.

AMETI will deliver rapid, high frequency public transport between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany. Roading improvements at traffic bottlenecks in Panmure and Pakuranga allow the busway to operate reliably and help manage growing traffic volumes.

The start of design and consenting work follows a comprehensive review of the timing of future Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) projects by Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Council. It included more accurately modelling the traffic impacts and bus travel times on the main roads in the area.

The review concluded the best order for future AMETI projects to be built is:

  • Panmure to Pakuranga – busway, Panmure roundabout replacement, walking and cycling paths. AT recently lodged an application for consents for this stage, it is expected to be publicly notified by Auckland Council within the next few months.
  • Reeves Road flyover, Pakuranga town centre busway and bus station.
  • Pakuranga to Botany busway.

It also concluded that improvements may be needed on Pakuranga Road between Pakuranga and Highland Park to further improve bus journey times between Panmure and Howick.

Auckland Transport Group Manager Andrew Scoggins says this timing for construction will ensure journey times for both public transport and general traffic improve while the various stages are delivered.

“The Reeves Road flyover will not solve traffic congestion in the area. However it is highly effective at offering significant local congestion relief on the roads outside Pakuranga town centre. Shifting traffic off those roads allows the busway and cycle lanes to be built on them.

“Although the full busway could be opened first, the final evaluation of options showed it would create increased congestion for general traffic until the flyover is complete,” Mr Scoggins says.

The review also showed that the full busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany, as well as the Reeves Road flyover, needs to be open by 2025 to minimise future increases in congestion. Current long term plan funding from Auckland Council would only allow for this full network by 2029.

It’s good to see them saying the busway needs to be completed all the way to Botany, and completed sooner than the current funding allows. As it is, AT have taken way too long just to lodge the consents for the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga – for which they currently don’t expect to start construction till 2021 going through to 2025. If they’re going to get the section from Pakuranga to Botany built within that timeframe too, then they’ll have to get cracking on designing the busway. Also welcome is the recognition that Pakuranga Rd needs to have bus lanes at least to Highand Park. I wonder if that’s a piece of work that could help congestion in the shorter term.

The same can’t be said for the flyover. The project has had quite an odd history. Back in February last year Auckland Transport surprised everyone by announcing that the $170 million flyover had been deferred, with the money they saved being used to advance the busway faster. One of the reasons they gave for this was that they realised, for the flyover to make any real difference, it would also require the grade separation of the intersections of the South Eastern Arterial with Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd, effectively turning the route into a motorway. AT also cited the difficulties of consenting, which had only a few months prior seen the Basin Reserve flyover fail to get consent.

The deferring of the project led to politicians at both the national and local level, many of whom are not known for their support of PT projects, kicking off a frenzy of lobbying for the flyover to be built and built sooner. This included lobbying the government and NZTA to declare the road a State Highway, so it could get 100% NZTA funding.

Then a few months later in April, AT announced they’d made a mistake and that the board had never agreed to deferring the project and that deferring it was only one of a number of options. That meant the flyover was back on the table. This was definitely an odd turn of affairs. I will say that I later saw the board minutes from when the project was discussed, and that it’s correct that the board never approved deferring it but agreed to look into the options further.

That the project is now back on the agenda, and seemingly bring fast tracked, can most likely be put down as a win for political interference.

Reeves Rd Flyover

In an age where smart cities are rushing to tear down flyovers and replace them with better spaces for people, it’s absurd that we’re still trying to build one. At the very least they should be building the busway and seeing what actual impact it has before committing to this project.

East West Link back to a motorway?

Unsurprisingly the government’s budget a few weeks ago didn’t offer up much for transport however in the council finance committee meeting earlier that day one part caught my attention.

Despite consultation back in October we still haven’t heard anything from Auckland Transport or the NZTA on the outcome of the East West Link. We also know there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the Reeves Rd Flyover. Back in February AT said they were deferring the project seeing as it would just shift traffic one set of lights down the road and instead using the $170m saved to bring forward spending on the AMETI busway plus bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd. In the months that followed politicians such as Dick Quax became quite upset with this and then in April AT issued another statement saying that the board never agreed to the deferral but that it was just one of the options staff were considering. Note: AT subsequently sent me resolution that was agreed in the closed board session where this was discussed and indeed they only noted the potential change, not agreed to it.

Fast forward to now and Dick Quax is still going on about the flyover. The video below shows AT CEO David Warburton discussing the project with Dick Quax. It starts from about 5:40 in.

Warburton quite matter of factly tells Quax that the flyover won’t solve the problem on its own and that Waipuna and Carbine Rd would also need to be dealt with in order to have any impact – and even then I suspect it would probably just shift traffic to the motorway on-ramp and Gt South Rd intersection. That beeping sound you might be hearing about now is the bill being rung up at the council till.

That is unless the second part of Warburton’s comment is to be believed. He says AT are working with the NZTA to look at an overarching project that links in the East-West link that would see a road from SH20 all the way through to Pakuranga. The map below is just a wild guess but perhaps they’re thinking of something like it. It certainly contains some of the options that they’ve already shown.

East-West + Reeves Rd

Adding to all this is that I’ve heard a few times that East Auckland politicians as well as business groups have been lobbying the government quite hard to make the East West Link a State Highway managed by the NZTA. They know the NZTA has more money to spend than AT does and the government haven’t been afraid to throw more money state highway projects either. Getting the Reeves Rd Flyover and a few other intersections tacked on to the list doesn’t seem like it would be that much more of a stretch.

Of course even if these groups pushing the project are successful that doesn’t make it a good project. Trying to find ways to circumvent the council/AT will most likely mean that money that could have gone to higher value projects elsewhere in the city/country will be pushed back while a likely much lower value project goes ahead. Given Warburton said AT and the NZTA have already held a number of workshops perhaps AT should tell the public what they’re doing on the project as we still haven’t officially heard anything from the options consultation in October last year.

 

Reeves Rd back down?

Auckland Transport appears to be backing down on one of their best and boldest decisions – to defer the Reeves Rd flyover and use the money to bring forward the construction of the AMETI busway. This is after what I’m aware has been intense lobbying directly to the government and minister from politicians like Dick Quax and the local MPs. I understand they’ve even been pushing to try and have it declared a State Highway so the NZTA can pay for it.

reeves-rd-flyover

Here’s AT’s press release:

Chairman, Dr Lester Levy, wishes to clarify the Auckland Transport Board’s position on the Reeves Road flyover, part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

An AT media release dated 12 February 2015 implied that a Board decision had been made to accept a new delivery strategy, which included deferring the flyover and opening the full South Eastern Busway (to Botany) earlier. Dr Levy says the board of Auckland Transport has not made any decision to accept the proposed new delivery strategy including the deferral of the flyover. Rather the board simply noted a report presented to its December meeting which suggested a delay in the timing of the flyover, subject to further technical and funding feasibility work.

“That work to assess the feasibility of busway route options through Pakuranga town centre and how funding can be secured for Reeves Road flyover to be delivered earlier continues,” he says.

“The Board has not agreed to the proposed new delivery strategy at this point in time, as it still awaits the technical and funding feasibility. When that work has been completed the Board will be able to give this matter further consideration.

“It is regrettable that this AT media release resulted in stakeholders and the community receiving a mixed message, but I want to be very clear that no firm decisions have been made at this time” Dr Levy says.

As a comparison here is the press release they now say was wrong which clearly talks about using the money to bring forward the busway, the challenges of consenting the project and the extra cost to fix more bottlenecks created by the flyover. I’ve added some emphasis of these points but perhaps I too have read it wrong. What do you think?

Major new public transport improvements will arrive earlier for people in Auckland’s south east.

Auckland Transport is aiming to open the full Southeastern Busway to Botany sooner than the 2028 completion date earlier proposed, and AT is investigating extending bus lanes to Highland Park.

Recent work on the Auckland Manukau Transport Initiative (AMETI) has identified that the busway can operate through Pakuranga town centre without the need to build Reeves Road flyover first.

This allows funding to be used to deliver more public transport improvements sooner by deferring the $170 million flyover until next decade. Targeted traffic improvements will also be made to relieve congestion at the intersections of Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Road and Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Highway.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says the change means better transport choices for people in the area sooner and supports the roll out of the new public transport network in 2016.

“The recent decision on the Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington shows the challenges of consenting a flyover that has impacts on an urban area and the potential for long delays. This decision allows us to extend the AMETI transport improvements made in Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany as soon as possible while continuing to build the case for the flyover.

“Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable bus journeys on lanes separate to traffic. About 7.4 million trips a year are expected on the busway.

“There are time savings from opening the busway between Panmure and Pakuranga, however they are much greater when the full busway to Botany is open. For example catching the bus and train between Botany and Britomart will take 38 minutes, 17 minutes quicker.

“The change to timing reflects Auckland Transport’s prioritisation of rapid, high frequency public transport and will not require extra funding.”

Work to develop the flyover showed its congestion benefits would be limited until further significant investment along the South Eastern Highway. It also indicated a likely increase in costs with the need to create a quality urban environment beneath it.

Auckland Transport will update the community in early March on the new delivery plan for AMETI and a potential change to the busway route through Pakuranga town centre. Following further feasibility work there will be consultation on any change to the busway route.

Consultation will be carried out on the latest design for the next construction stage between Panmure and Pakuranga, before a Notice of Requirement is lodged in April.

The Panmure to Pakuranga projects include:

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings.
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion.
  • Panmure to Pakuranga shared cycle/foot path separate to traffic.
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared path.

Reeves Rd Flyover dies

For the second time in less than a month Auckland Transport have been able to surprise and delight us with fantastic news. The first was the announcement they are seriously looking at light rail for the isthmus and now the wonderful news that they’ve killed the Reeves Rd Flyover. Not only that, they are putting the $170 million they save by not building the flyover into getting the AMETI busway built sooner plus are looking at putting bus lanes up Pakuranga as far as Highland Park.

reeves-rd-flyover

Major new public transport improvements will arrive earlier for people in Auckland’s south east.

Auckland Transport is aiming to open the full Southeastern Busway to Botany sooner than the 2028 completion date proposed earlier AT is also investigating extending bus lanes to Highland Park.

Recent work on the Auckland Manukau Transport Initiative (AMETI) has identified that the busway can operate through Pakuranga town centre without the need to build Reeves Road flyover first.

This allows funding to be used to deliver more public transport improvements sooner by deferring the $170 million flyover until next decade. Targeted traffic improvements will also be made to relieve congestion at the intersections of Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Road and Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Highway.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says the change means better transport choices for people in the area sooner and supports the roll out of the new public transport network in 2016.

They say the project is deferred but I understand it’s effectively over and that is pretty much confirmed by the comments in the rest of the press release – which I’ll cover shortly. This is a great outcome and we’ve suggested it a number of times, especially when talking about the how we can cut unnecessary costs from the transport budget. A few of the reasons why it’s good include:

  • It means there’s no longer going to be a hulking flyover cutting a swathe through the town centre, an area ripe for intensification – including some decent zoning provided for in the Unitary Plan.
  • Saving $170 million is a huge boost when the cities budgets are already tight.
  • Getting the busway sooner means the benefits from it start to flow sooner and these are likely to be huge. This is especially important in East Auckland which has the worst PT in Auckland and consequently the lowest PT use.
  • AT are now looking at including bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park providing even more benefits to PT in the area.
  • Along with the busway, AT’s plans also include high quality cycle lanes which will also be completed sooner.

Reeves Rd Flyover

I been told in the past the key driver was for the flyover was so that buses didn’t get held up at the large intersection of Te Rakau Dr/Pakuranga Highway/Reeves Rd. This location was also where they planned to move the busway from the side of the road to the centre of it. To address the intersection this AT say they are looking at a potential change or route through the Pakuranga Town Centre which would allow buses to bypass that intersection entirely. With buses no longer affected by the intersection the need for the flyover disappeared. I wonder if it means it will also help save some of the homes on and around William Roberts Rd. I think a potentially slightly longer journey for buses through or around the back of the Pakuranga Town Centre is probably a reasonable compromise if it means we don’t have to build the flyover.

Reeves Rd Flyover - Pakuranga Rd end

Some of the other justifications for the change in approach are also particularly telling:

“The recent decision on the Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington shows the challenges of consenting a flyover that has impacts on an urban area and the potential for long delays. This decision allows us to extend the AMETI transport improvements made in Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany as soon as possible while continuing to build the case for the flyover.

“Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable bus journeys on lanes separate to traffic. About 7.4 million trips a year are expected on the busway.

“There are time savings from opening the busway between Panmure and Pakuranga, however they are much greater when the full busway to Botany is open. For example catching the bus and train between Botany and Britomart will take 38 minutes, 17 minutes quicker.

“The change to timing reflects Auckland Transport’s prioritisation of rapid, high frequency public transport and will not require extra funding.”
Work to develop the flyover showed its congestion benefits would be limited until further significant investment along the South Eastern Highway. It also indicated a likely increase in costs with the need to create a quality urban environment beneath it.

So AT have learnt from the outcome of the Basin Reserve Flyover which is great to see and it’s this reason why I suspect the project has actually been killed rather than just deferred. I think it’s also telling that they note the flyover would have just shifted the congestion further along South Eastern Highway, a point that many projects seem to forget.

Ti Rakau Dr central busway

 

A few other thoughts have struck me about this decision

  • For years AT’s engineers have been saying that the flyover is the only solution but now they’ve found another way. Will the same thing happen with the St Lukes Pohutukawa?
  • AMETI started out life as a road fest designed to try and replicate as much of the Eastern Motorway proposal as possible. Over the years it’s slowly morphed into almost exclusively a PT project which is what was needed. I think AT deserves a lot of credit for this as it was only really once they came into existence that things really started changing. I suspect that 38 minutes from Botany to Britomart will be quite compelling, especially in the peak and that time could get faster still with the CRL which would see trains running at higher frequencies which means reduced transfer times.