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Proof NZTA hates public transport?

I went for a walk around the northern portal of the Victoria Park Tunnel today (in between rain showers) to take a closer look at something which has caught my attention the last couple of times I’ve driven through the area – the incredibly poor provision for buses heading northbound from the city towards the Harbour Bridge. Back in December I highlighted that the Northern Busway is actually just a “41% busway”, with one of the more glaring gaps (red indicates no bus priority whatsoever) being for northbound buses through St Mary’s Bay:
Aside from a few buses which join the motorway from Curran Street, all buses which head over the Harbour Bridge use the Fanshawe Street onramp. For a while the buses get a good lane which enables them to bypass the ramp signals (are those signals ever used?) as you can see in the photo below:2013-01-17 17.07.52 However pretty soon after that the bus priority ends and buses are forced to merge with the traffic using the onramp:2013-01-17 17.09.44During the PM peak there are five northbound lanes for general traffic the whole way from the Fanshawe Street onramp through to the Harbour Bridge – yet even though buses carry over a third of passengers crossing the bridge at peak times NZTA can’t bring themselves to dedicating a lane for bus users so we’re able to bypass the congested cars? As I said, it’s not like there’s a shortage of motorway width or lanes in this location:2013-01-17 17.11.08 Twelve lanes of the traffic and it’s only that 12th lane, an inbound bus shoulder lane, that is dedicated to public transport.

Every time I hear NZTA go on about trumpeting how something they’re doing will improve public transport I find myself thinking of St Mary’s Bay and how, even when they were spending $400 million on the Victoria Park Tunnel and even though they widened the motorway here to twelve lanes they couldn’t bring themselves to putting in even a measly little bus shoulder lane for northbound traffic through to the Curran Street onramp to bypass the congestion through St Mary’s Bay. Even though this is meant to be part of the Northern Busway. Even though over a third of people coming over the Harbour Bridge at peak times at on the bus.

Sadly, the fact that NZTA could build a project in just the last few years that shows this much disdain for public transport is, to me, proof that they really do hate public transport.

A perfect example of why we need alternatives

The truck crash outside the Victoria Park Tunnel today highlights the problem of relying solely on one mode for transport for the city as well as how important it is to be able to have reliable trip times.

Police said the truck and trailer crashed into the back of a stationary vehicle before rolling just before 1pm. The drivers were taken to hospital with moderate injuries, police said.

Michael Mason, a passing motorist, said all four lanes of traffic were backed up about a kilometre.

“The truck has flipped on its side and it’s taking out the whole motorway.”

Now events like this, despite there being two within a week, are random and when they do occur can cause absolute chaos. Unlike peak hour it is very hard to work around them which means often you can have no choice but to get caught up in them so for those poor souls stuck in their cars, there is very little they could do. But it isn’t just a truck crashing, how many appointments were missed, or deliveries delayed as a result of this incident. How much would those caught up in the chaos given to have had an option that would have allowed them to avoid the risk of such an incident happening?

To me it shows why we need to continue to invest in public transport, especially the kind that has its own right of way that private vehicles can’t access and so is able to avoid congestion. Whether that be a fully dedicated busway across the harbour, including its approaches or a rail line under the harbour the important thing is we have alternatives in place. An independent and modern network would have high reliability and would give some certainty to travel times. I might not do much for those already stuck in the traffic but in the future how many would continue to choose to drive, especially for things like important appointments if there was a risk that the actions of someone else could delay you in such a way?

Wellington St onramp just about ready

NZTA’s press release yesterday notes that the reopening of the Wellington Street onramp is just about ready to go:

Final work is underway to have the Wellington Street on-ramp in central Auckland ready to re-open for traffic joining the northbound lanes of State Highway 1 motorway next Monday morning (8 October).

The on-ramp has been closed since May 2010 and rebuilt by the NZ Transport Agency as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project

The final programme of work includes lane marking to help on-ramp and motorway traffic merge safely just before the entrance to the Victoria Park Tunnel. Ramp signals – to help regulate the flow of traffic joining the motorway – are already in place, and a new pedestrian crossing has been installed at the entrance to the on-ramp.

The NZTA’s acting State highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, says drivers will need to be alert and patient as on-ramp traffic joins the motorway.

“We expect that there will be delays and queuing, especially at peak times, as people adjust to the new driving conditions. With Wellington Street so close to the tunnel entrance, people using the motorway and the on-ramp will need to drive with care and patience to help ensure they merge safely,” Mr Mutton says.

To help people adjust to the new conditions, the NZTA will operate Wellington Street’s ramp signals from 8am to 8pm. Ramp signals normally operate automatically only when needed – if there is an incident on the motorway network, or motorway traffic is heavy.

“This is a safety measure we will use to help people. When drivers are used to the new layout, the ramp signals will only operate when needed as they do elsewhere on our network,” Mr Mutton says.

Mr Mutton reminds drivers of the pedestrian crossing located at the entrance to the on-ramp.

“The on-ramp will be busy and the crossing is there to provide safe access for the local community – those people who live there and children from the nearby Freemans Bay School.”

The NZTA and Auckland Transport agreed earlier this year to re-open motorway access at Welling ton street after a detailed investigation into the on-ramp’s future use, which involved community feedback and detailed analysis of traffic using the motorway and local roads.

Mr Mutton says re-opening Wellington Street means that drivers have the choice of using four central city on-ramps to join the motorway to access the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and the North Shore and beyond. The others are SH16 through Grafton Gully, Fanshawe Street and Curran Street.

Mr Mutton says the NZTA is advising them to select the on-ramp closest to them to help ensure that traffic joins the motorway as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

The re-opening of the Wellington Street on-ramp will coincide with another change for traffic joining the motorway from Fanshawe Street. From Monday, drivers using Beaumont Street in Wynyard Quarter will be allowed to turn right in to Fanshawe Street and access the motorway north through St Marys Bay. Access to Fanshawe Street from Halsey Street is not affected and remains the best access from the Wynyard Quarter.

I sense that the ramp was reopened with something of a grudging reluctance. The great irony of this whole saga is that if NZTA had gone through the proper process of being upfront around wanting to close the ramp as part of the Vic Park Tunnel project I think they might have had a much greater chance of winning the argument. Traffic management measures could have been put in place in other areas to help handle the diverted traffic, while the messaging around particularly encouraging people to use the Grafton Gully to Northern Motorway connection may have reduced traffic flows through the city. There would have been an interesting debate around the proposal’s merit.

Unfortunately, because NZTA sprung the decision to not reopen the ramp on everyone at the last moment, this debate wasn’t really possible. Everyone felt misled, particularly as NZTA never actually explained in sufficient detail why they had changed their mind around reopening the ramp. Given the poor process, it was inevitable that there would be a lot of angst from the community and this would lead to ongoing pressure for the ramp to be reopened.

The worry is that NZTA have now burned their bridges (so to speak) with the community and will struggle to close the Symonds Street onramp – a far more unnecessary ramp due to the close proximity of alternatives (Grafton Gully, Khyber Pass and Hobson Street) and where the benefits of closure (linking the proposed cycleway with Symonds Street, reducing traffic on Karangahape Road) are much greater. Let’s just hope they’ve learned to treat the public properly when making decisions like this and be up front about what they really want to do and why.

Shifting the problem, not solving it

It’s generally accepted that the Victoria Park Tunnel represents probably the most cost-effective project out of the entire Roads of National Significance package. This was confirmed by the SAHA report, which puts the VPT miles ahead of any other project in terms of its cost-benefit ratio: 
For southbound traffic, the project has worked wonders – at least making it easier for traffic to access State Highway 16 westbound (which will be important post Waterview Connection as the primary route from the North Shore to the Airport), the Port and the Cook Street offramp. Interestingly though, there has been relatively little increase in daily traffic over the Harbour Bridge, with NZTA’s latest monthly traffic update showing just a 1% increase in Harbour Bridge traffic in July 2012 compared to July 2011.

For northbound traffic, the story is a bit different I think. While traffic patterns won’t really settle down until after the Wellington Street onramp is reopened, already there has been quite a few noticeable changes to traffic patterns in the past few months – especially in the evening peak. To analyse this further, let’s step back a while to before the VPT opened. At this time the big bottleneck was where the SH16-SH1 ramp and the Wellington Street onramp (when it was open) joined in with northbound SH1 traffic into just two lanes over the Victoria Park Viaduct. The two northbound lanes couldn’t cope with the volumes, which tailed back through spaghetti junction often back to Gillies Ave.

However, what the Victoria Park Viaduct bottleneck actually did was limit the number of northbound vehicles that could hit the Harbour Bridge at any one time to the capacity of the two lanes on the viaduct plus Fanshawe Street plus Curran Street. With a bit of ramp signalling at Curran this seemed to work quite well and even at the peak of the afternoon peak, northbound traffic flowed fairly smoothly over the bridge at least as far as the Esmonde Road interchange. In other words, the bottleneck at Victoria Park didn’t allow too many cars over the bridge during any particular hour – which meant that the motorway north of the Harbour Bridge (at least as far as Esmonde Road, I rarely travelled further north than that so can’t comment too much) didn’t get too jammed up.

Once the third northbound lane of the Vic Park Tunnel was opened earlier this year, everything changed. Many more cars were able to get through each hour, which meant that the Harbour Bridge now had to cope with three lanes of traffic through the tunnel plus Fanshawe plus Curran. Wellington Street’s closure probably didn’t impact on this much as most of its traffic probably diverted to Fanshawe and Curran – meaning it was joining the motorway anyway before the traffic hit the bridge.

My observation is that the Harbour Bridge has coped with this increase reasonably well. I remember reading through the documentation that accompanied the Victoria Park Tunnel proposal and a lot was said about the project resulting in the capacity of the bridge being fully unlocked and utilised. The bridge is slow, but it moves – and that’s pretty good for a piece of infrastructure that really should be squeezed as hard as it can be – given the eye-watering costs of another crossing. The issue is mainly with further north, as on most days it seems there are now stopped cars tailing back a lot further – not just north of Esmonde Road now, but in fact frequently right back to the old toll plaza near the Stafford Road offramp.

My point here is not necessarily to suggest that the Victoria Park Tunnel was a waste of time, but rather to highlight that by removing a bottleneck in the motorway system it has allowed many more vehicles through that pinch-point than before, and as a result it has put a lot of pressure on another part of the network. This means that all users of the motorway have not necessarily benefited from the Vic Park Tunnel project:

  • Those travelling from the city centre to parts of the North Shore beyond Onewa Road in the evening peak may well have seen their trip times lengthen due to greater congestion on the northbound side of the Northern Motorway
  • Same for those travelling from Curran Street, who have also seen the ramp signal “wound back” to let through fewer vehicles to stop the harbour bridge from getting jammed up
  • Those travelling from Onewa/Esmonde to parts of the North Shore further to the north in the PM peak may well have also seen their trip times lengthen

I do wonder whether, in the cost-benefit analysis of projects like the Victoria Park Tunnel, all these negative travel time impacts are taken into consideration as well as the positives. I do think that on balance the project has probably made a positive difference, but remember it did cost around $400 million and is , according to SAHA, 2-10 times better value for money any of the other RoNS. If some of the VPT’s benefits are a bit dodgy, I hate to think how easily the other projects could fall over (for example Waterview Connection feeding a heap more traffic onto the already congested SH16).

On the bright side, more congestion on State Highway 1 northbound in the PM may well just encourage more people onto the busway. Now if only NZTA had bothered to build a bus lane through St Mary’s Bay to carry the 35% of people at peak times passing through the area on a bus, instead of five general lanes of traffic and absolutely no bus priority at all (even though this is meant to be part of the Northern Busway).

Wellington Street onramp to reopen

NZTA have released their decision to reopen the Wellington Street onramp:

The NZTA is planning to re-open the on-ramp to all traffic in about six weeks after the completion of necessary work – including the installation of ramp signals and final pavement works – to ensure it is safe to use.

The recommendation to re-open was made after a detailed investigation by the NZTA, Auckland Transport, Opus Consultants and Beca Engineering of the potential effects on Auckland’s transport network from re-opening the on-ramp or keeping it closed.

The NZTA’s acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, said the agency and Auckland Transport would be discussing the re-opening plans with local residents and other interested parties over the next few weeks.

Mr Mutton said the NZTA and AT received 710 submissions about the on-ramp: 72% of those submissions wanted it re-opened, 18% preferred it to stay closed to general traffic and 10% wanted a partial re-opening.

“This is a strong response reflecting a high level of community interest in the future of the Wellington Street on-ramp,” says Mr Mutton.

The recommendation to re-open the ramp is based on a transport assessment which indicates there is current capacity for vehicles to use Wellington Street without affecting the performance of the motorway in central Auckland, except for a period in the afternoon peak.

“These findings, together with the feedback we have received from the community, have lead us to support the recommendation from our working group for an opening at this time.” Mr Mutton says.

Mr Mutton adds, however, that the findings also warn Auckland’s growth and development will have an impact on the performance of the city’s network in the future.

“While there is room now on the motorway network to re-open Wellington Street, capacity is expected to reduce over time as the network has to accommodate more and more vehicles. The NZTA and Auckland Transport will be working together to monitor and manage the performance of the motorways and local roads, including the Wellington Street on-ramp,”

Mr Mutton said ramp signals will be used again at Wellington Street to control access to the motorway.

“Previously between seven and eight thousand vehicles used the on-ramp every day. The critical time is the weekday afternoon peak. The Vic Park tunnel improvements mean traffic is moving more quickly and ramp signalling will help ensure the motorway operates efficiently and safely for all drivers”.

The on-ramp has not been opened to general traffic since May 2011 when it was re-built as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project. It provides additional access from central Auckland to the northbound lanes of the tunnel and the Auckland Harbour Bridge on State Highway 1.

The working group’s review was conducted over three months from May.

Feedback on the most positive effects of the on-ramp’s closure included less congestion and delays on the motorway, improved traffic flows on local roads near Wellington Street, and improved safety around local schools as well as for merging traffic on the motorway.

Negative effects identified by those who made submissions included delays to travel times; driver and resident frustration, “rat-running” through local streets, more heavy vehicles using local roads and an increased risk to safety locally due to drivers running red lights, making u-turns and driving too fast.

Mr Mutton thanked local communities for their patience during the on-ramp’s closure.

“We appreciate that the closure has had an impact on a large number of Aucklanders and we want to thank them for bearing with us during the tunnel construction period and for contributing to the review.

There’s quite a lot of further information available around the background to the decision here, including traffic assessments and a summary of the community consultation. I doubt the collation of all this information has come cheap.

Inevitable questions will be asked around why the ramp wasn’t just reopened as originally planned. It seems as though NZTA panicked when there were big traffic jams after the tunnel first opened with only two lanes, or thought that they could take advantage of general annoyance at the huge traffic jams when the tunnel first opened to close a ramp that they had long wished to close. Either way I think they’ve come out of this looking a bit silly.

The Wellington Street fiasco continues

The Herald reported this morning that there was discussion about the Wellington Street onramp at yesterday’s meeting of the Council’s Transport Committee. Discussion at that meeting revealed strong public support for reopening the ramp:

Support for reinstating a key Auckland motorway connection is shown in about 70 per cent of more than 700 public submissions, the Transport Agency acknowledged yesterday.

The Government organisation told Auckland Council’s transport committee that it had almost completed an analysis of the submissions and expected to start a new “community engagement” process next week.

It has infuriated communities from Karangahape Rd to Herne Bay by re-thinking a commitment to reopen the Wellington St motorway bridge after completing the $391 million Victoria Park tunnel project in February.

That is despite spending an undisclosed amount, believed to be several million dollars, on upgrading the ramp just south of the 450m tunnel.

I think it’s fairly inevitable that the ramp will be reopened. Despite numerous opportunities, NZTA has never detailed the argument for keeping it closed. In fact, they’ve never actually properly explained why it wasn’t reopened in the first place when the project was completed. The ongoing delays have just turned the whole process into a fiasco.

There may be an argument for not opening it in the evening peak, or for restricting the number of vehicles getting on the ramp during that time – as outlined by Ben Paul here. However the fact that NZTA has never come out an officially provided an argument for keeping the ramp closed (or the reason for not reopening it, which are presumably the same) makes me think they don’t have a particularly robust case.

In which case, just get on with reopening it. Enough bureaucratic messing around.

Get your Feedback in on the Future of the Wellington St on-ramp

The NZTA has currently been doing some consultation on whether the Wellington St on-ramp should re-open and the chance for feedback closes on Friday so if you have a view make sure you get your thoughts in. The whole thing has been a bit of a saga so it would be good to get a final decision, whatever the outcome.

The NZ Transport Agency is reminding Aucklanders they still have an opportunity to make their views known on whether the Wellington Street on-ramp, one of the city’s entries to the busy Central Motorway Junction, should re-open to general traffic.

Feedback closes next Friday, 13 July. Information on how people can contribute to the debate is available on the NZTA website at www.nzta.govt.nz/consultation/wellington-street-on-ramp.

‘We’re really pleased with the impressive response we have had so far, but we will certainly welcome more,” says the NZTA’s acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton. “The greater the number of people who have their say, the better placed we are to make a well informed decision about the on-ramp’s future use.”

The NZTA and Auckland Transport are currently evaluating more than 500 responses already received from people close to Wellington Street, and from drivers on both sides of the harbour.  Mr Mutton says the submissions include arguments both in favour of re-opening the on-ramp and keeping it closed.

“The NZTA does not have a view either way.  That is why it is important people speak up during this first stage of a very important transport debate that has wide-ranging and long-term impacts for both the communities living near Wellington Street, and motorway drivers in general,” he says.

The feedback will be assessed as part of a review being undertaken by the NZTA and Auckland Transport. Traffic data is being collected from local roads and the motorway to be used as part of that review. Mr Mutton says that there will be another opportunity for the community to respond when the review findings are published in August.

The Wellington Street on-ramp has not been open to general traffic since May 2011 when it was re-built as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project.  It was the NZTA’s intention to reopen the on-ramp. However, early indications are that Auckland’s roading network may be operating better with it closed.

“The NZTA and Auckland Transport want to understand this better,” Mr Mutton says.  “There’s no preferred view at this stage on how the on-ramp should operate. This is the chance to understand how we could make the network run better and we have an obligation to explore that fully. It is really important to us in developing our view that we understand the community’s views too.”

One thing that has been interesting is that previously, the agency wouldn’t really give an answer as to why it should have been rebuilt or how much it cost.  Yet in their FAQs on the project, they say that it had always been needed for emergency access and that the southern approach to the tunnel cost a total of $13.7m. Why could they not have made these two things clearer earlier?

A map of the study area the NZTA/AT are looking at

The Wellington St onramp saga

There have been a couple of articles in the NZ Herald this week relating to the ongoing saga around whether the Wellington Street onramp will be reopened. First yesterday:

Pressure is building on the Transport Agency to honour a commitment to reopen an Auckland motorway ramp which it closed during its $406 million Victoria Park tunnel project.

Western bays residents battling against having roads clogged by refugees from the continued closure of the Wellington St ramp won support yesterday from the Auckland Council’s transport committee.

The Automobile Association is also demanding the ramp be reopened, saying it understood the closure was to be only temporary, and the lack of motorway access from Wellington St was causing unacceptable congestion to local roads.

Although the Transport Agency spent an undisclosed sum upgrading the ramp, its future became uncertain when it opened two of the tunnel’s three lanes late last year, and was initially overwhelmed by long queues of traffic trying to get through it.

The article goes on to quote NZTA saying that they have an open mind around whether the ramp will be reopened or not, which does beg the question about why they haven’t reopened it yet to see what happens. Or the really interesting question about why their original plans to reopen the ramp have changed so much. Surely they should be analysing this kind of thing when designing a project?

This “the ramps were part of the deal” issue was then highlighted in another article in today’s NZ Herald, which points out the interesting question of whether the resource consent for the project relied upon the ramp being reopened:

Residents campaigning to reopen the Wellington St motorway ramp from central Auckland have been told its retention was a condition of approval for the new Victoria Park tunnel.

Former Auckland City Council member Graeme Easte has told them he believes the Transport Agency will need to obtain a change to the motorway’s land designation if it wants to keep the ramp closed to general traffic.

Mr Easte, one of a seven-member hearings panel which, in 2006, approved a designation application by the former Transit NZ, said: “We were told that the Wellington St on-ramp would be retained in modified form.

“As local councillor, I was well aware of resident concerns about existing traffic loads on Curran St and would not have approved closure of the Wellington St on-ramp if it had been proposed.”

One would think that if keeping the Wellington street onramp was a condition of the Victoria Park Tunnel project proceeding, then the ramp will need to be reopened.

My feeling is that this is just another example of how selfish and narrow-minded NZTA have become over the past few years in trying to improve traffic flows on the motorway any way they can – including by pushing congestion off the motorway and onto local roads. The ramp signals are often a classic example of this mentality: yeah sure they speed up traffic a little bit on the motorway, but they do that simply by shifting the congestion onto the onramps and onto the streets feeding into the motorway. There’s no net gain, just endless frustration of sitting there going nowhere for ages.

I’m enjoying seeing NZTA getting egg smeared all over their face on this issue. They deserve it.

Vic Park Tunnel on Campbell Live

Campbell Live this evening did a piece on the Victoria Park Tunnel – picking up on many of the points made in this post earlier in the week. Click the image below to watch the video: It’s a pity that Tommy Parker from NZTA never had to answer the question of how much rebuilding the Wellington Street onramp actually cost but he certainly seemed nervous about the whole issue. On the bright side, it’s nice to see bloggers from here getting on TV and doing such a great job (plus he probably looks better on TV than I do) .

The curious case of the Victoria Park Tunnel

The Victoria Park Tunnel (VPT) project makes a lot of sense in theory. It does address a tight point in Auckland’s motorway network – significantly boosting capacity for southbound traffic heading towards Auckland’s city centre and connections with SH16 heading west and heading towards the port. It also (from later this month) adds another northbound lane, which should reduce (but probably not eliminate) capacity constraints for traffic heading from SH16 (both the port and from the west) that’s heading north over the Harbour Bridge. Although by adding another lane heading to the bridge without resolving merge issues at Curran St and introducing a merge on the Fanshawe Street onramp, it can be argued that all it really does is move the bottleneck half a kilometre on.

Comparing the VPT with other Roads of National Significance highlights the obvious fact that, out of all the projects, this one makes much more sense than any of the others:Also because NZTA agreed to put the new lanes under the park instead of add another viaduct as they first proposed the negative outcomes on the city are at least not as bad as they might have been.

Despite the fact that the project makes logical sense, especially southbound, and that it stacks up extremely well when compared to other proposed motorway projects, it seems as though pretty much everything about it in recent times has been an unmitigated disaster. Let’s start with the traffic problems that occurred when the tunnel first opened:

Nightly traffic jams on Auckland’s Southern Motorway are still being blamed on drivers’ unfamiliarity with the new Victoria Park tunnel, four days after two of its three lanes were opened.

Traffic was by about 4.30pm today backed up to Otahuhu, at least 13 kilometres south of the 450-metre one-way northbound tunnel. By 6pm the queue had shrunk slightly, with the tail at Mt Wellington.

Queuing to reach the tunnel has frustrated commuters every evening since two of the tunnel’s three lanes were opened for the first time, replacing the northbound carriageway of the Victoria Park motorway viaduct.

Yet it really is hard to see why this is the case, as even before the opening of the third lane there has been no reduction in lane capacity through here, and in fact because of the continued closure of the Wellington St on-ramp there really should be a decrease not only vehicle volumes but also in merging complication at this point in the system. Are Auckland drivers really so unable to adapt to a new road layout? Or is it really that the continued attempt to funnel so much traffic through the CMJ is just a lost cause?

And then there is the curious issue of the Wellington St on-ramp. If it is isn’t to open why was it rebuilt at all, and at what expense? Is NZTA’s traffic modeling so poor that they were surprised by the outcome here? Frankly I think it is no bad thing for Freemans Bay that it isn’t now open as motorway bound traffic no longer clogs up this neighbourhood’s streets – although it seems much has just shifting to clogging up streets in Herne Bay and St Mary’s Bay as people access the Curran St onramp. But it’s not like that is why they’ve closed it; very hard to get NZTA to consider that sort of outcome of their works, no. Their concern is only with the flow of traffic on their asset, that’s why it remains closed.

It seems that this outcome from a project that rates so highly in NZTA’s own predictions highlights the diminishing returns we are getting from the endless and expensive rebuilds of our urban motorways. Forcing the main road connection through the heart of the city was always a controversial idea, and in fact not what was even advised when Auckland’s motorway system was first designed [SH1 was to be routed on the western ring route]. And to have pursued it so doggedly so that it is still the only interconnected transport system for both the city and the regions is bound to create problems. We are forever offered another motorway widening project to ‘fix’ congestion, yet no city has ever road built its way out of congestion.

Clearly our investment would achieve a far higher return by complimenting this mature network with some alternatives instead of trying to add small increases in capacity at great cost. Capacity that is almost immediately absorbed by the existing traffic volume. And perhaps the best arguments for this are near this project but remain overlooked. No fewer than 78% of the people that travel on Fanshawe St in the peak are doing so on buses. Yet despite the total rebuild of the St Marys Bay motorway the Fanshawe St buslane ends where this new work begins (as shown in the diagram below – from here). And this route is a designated RTN, and with the bridge carries a disproportionate and increasing number of people by bus but without the priority that clearly the RTN designation requires. 

Could it be that NZTA or their masters have lost sight of their real purpose and are not focusing on moving people and goods as efficiently as possible, but rather just on expanding the general road network whether this works well or not?