At the talk I gave on public transport in Auckland on Tuesday night, I took a look back at Auckland’s transport history – in particular how in the mid 20th century we went from having some of the highest levels of PT use in the world to having some of the lowest. Perhaps most interestingly, this was not the result of any natural process, but rather occurred because of deliberate policy decisions.

Immediately after the Second World War, the Ministry of Works produced a reasonably balanced transport vision for Auckland – a mixture of new motorways around the edge of the city and railway lines to serve the centre. This is shown in the map below: red lines indicating motorways and green lines indicating proposed railway lines (including the Morningside Deviation, a precursor to the City Rail Link, and the Avondale-Southdown Line):

Reasonable chunks of the motorways section of this plan were built, though obviously not all of them. Interestingly the idea of a Harbour Bridge was not on the radar at the time, as it was thought (quite sensibly) that motorways should go around the city, not through it. None of the rail projects were ever built, and by the 1960s our transport plans had changed to being very much more “single minded” with their focus on building motorways:

 The most important step in this change was actually the transport plan that came before the De Leuw Cather report – the 1955 Master Transportation Plan for Auckland (which I must remember to get out of the library some time). An academic article by Paul Mees and Jago Dodson provides a good description of the effect of that transport plan:

You can see the patronage plummet in the graph below:

A really detailed “blow by blow” account of what led to the 1955 Master Transportation Plan, put together by Chris Harris, can be read here. What really stands out to me, reading through the details of what was happening at the time, and some of the details of the plan, was that the decision to shift Auckland’s transport focus was very much not done through strong public support of such a change (after all, Aucklanders were huge PT users at the time) but rather because a fairly small number of people thought this was the way of the future, that Auckland was too “low density” for public transport (once again based on dodgy calculations) and as part of the deal which led to the construction of the Harbour Bridge.

A critical part of the process is outlined below (from Chris Harris’s article):

The Master Transportation Plan was produced in 1955 and printed for large-scale public distribution in 1956. The plan recommended that a dramatic acceleration of motorway construction at the expense of rail. The Plan’s rationale was that low density of population, and the possibility of using the motorways for buses (ARPA, 1956, p. 26, pp. 42-3, p. 48), made rail both infeasible and unnecessary. However, motorway bus stations were uncosted and were never built, and Auckland City excluded inbound buses from its former tramway mall Queen Street until 1967, even though the last tram ran in 1956 (Bush, 1971, pp. 371-3).

The Master Transportation Plan tacitly replaced an earlier, multimodal Outline Development Plan for Auckland (AMPO, 1951) produced by the same technical committee only four years before, when it was still assumed that Auckland would develop along the same lines as Wellington. The 1951 Plan used a ‘density diagram’ approach (Mees and Dodson, 2002) to estimate Auckland’s built up area at 30,000 acres (120 square kilometres); the Master Transportation Plan divided Auckland’s population by the entire planning area of 113,000 acres (450 square kilometres) to arrive at a much lower density of population, which formed a significant rationale for the Master Transportation Plan’s argument that Auckland should follow American motorway practice (AMPO, 1951, pp. 20, 34; ARPA, 1956, pp. 18, 31, 77). This alteration has remained obscure, and the replacement tacit, because the Master Transportation Plan did not refer to the earlier plan in text or index. Nor did the Master Transportation Plan discuss the growth in patronage on Wellington’s railway system, from suburbs of similar density to Auckland’s.

What is really interesting looking back at Auckland’s transport history, and what these article reinforce,  is something I touched on in this earlier post – the huge difference between transport decisions that Aucklanders seem to want, compared to what we end up getting. This it touched on in the Mees & Dodson article: We see this issue again in the 1970s, when Dove-Myer Robinson proposed a rapid-rail scheme. Even though the system never happened, Robinson goes down as one of Auckland’s best known local politicians – he has a statue in Aotea Square. While some of the recognition is for getting raw sewerage out of the Waitemata Harbour, “Robby” is often best known for his fight to get Auckland a world-class rail system.

Overall, it’s hard to know whether to be depressed or enthused by Auckland’s transport history. On the plus side, it seems that there’s a good case for arguing that Aucklanders have generally always wanted a bigger focus on improving our public transport system – and it’s surely only a matter of time before politicians wake up to realise that (at central government level, I think they’re well and truly awake to it in local government). On the down-side, it is obvious that Auckland could have, and should have, ended up with a far more balanced transport system throughout the latter part of the 20th century – if it wasn’t for “technical” decisions made by a few people, based on information that was pretty dicey. It doesn’t say much for democracy in Auckland over the last 60 years.

Share this

47 comments

  1. Don’t they say “follow the money” if you want the truth? I am sure if someone dug around you would find s lot of National party aligned farmers turned property developers and land speculators have done extremely well thank you very much out of these motorway developments over the years. New Zealand, the least corrupt country in the world… Yeah right.

  2. Looking at our history it is pretty depressing with so many ‘ if only’s’ but I think there is hope for the future even though we do have quite a large obstacle in the form of the current government. The public seems much more aware of the issues than ever before and I think the government knows this but is hoping to ride it out.

  3. One of the biggest reasons Auckland public transport was neglected was governance.

    The creation of the ARA and its statutory monopoly on most bus routes in Auckland meant its primary interest was on its own buses. Remember it couldn’t take over the services run by Howick, Birkenhead, NZR etc, and had no influence at all over NZR (nor the ferries). It was atomised and frankly the ARA was decidedly uninterested in buses too. Other Auckland local authorities were even less interested. Take the ARA’s policy in the early 1980s of exact fare only – a massive turn off to passengers.

    NZR as a government department had little time for Auckland commuter rail, because it was unprofitable, unlike freight, and so was operated by hand-me-down long distance rolling stock (and in fact always was from the 1930s onwards, this wasn’t a new trend). The commuter services survived largely for national political reasons. Indeed Rob Muldoon nearly saved it, because he almost bought new rolling stock along with the Wellington Ganz Mavag stock. The new stock would have been push-pull operated by diesel locomotives and only for Auckland-Papakura services, but it didn’t happen because NZR was unenthused, as was the ARA (it feared competition with its own buses)! Wellington got the stock because Wellington MPs insisted, and because Wellington trains were clearly critical to the functioning of the city.

    The other dramatic change in Auckland is that employment patterns changed dramatically in part due to three things:
    – Mass migration, particularly from the Pacific Islands, but also rural and provincial NZ, to feed industries largely based in South Auckland in the 60s. Most of those commutes did not involve public transport and certainly had nothing to do with the CBD.
    – The Harbour Bridge basically meant enormous development on the North Shore, much of which included employment based there, but also car based commuting to the CBD and beyond. Buses couldn’t easily compete for much of that.
    – The development of Henderson, Pakuranga, the airport and other regional centres for business and employment, largely because the CBD was too costly for many office based businesses, and the cost of commuting too high in terms of time or expense. In short, Auckland decentralised.

    Certainly the progressive construction of the motorway network (which after the early 1970s was rather glacial) helped this, as did the mismanagement of Auckland’s public transport by ARA and NZR (the private bus companies to their credit did better because until the 1980s they were not subsidised). The whole thing changed when Labour restructured governance and funding of transport in the late 80s, much to the disgust of the ARA at the time.

  4. Liberty you miss many key points here. Firstly, in most other cities around the world PT continued to be provided by fully publicly owned entities yet patronage did not plummet as much as in Auckland. Also, employment decentralised largely as a result of the transport decisions made, not in advance of them.

    The ARA definitely made things worse in the 1970s by creating the stupidly complex bus network that we are still trying to fix up, but that was well after the horse had bolted in the 50s and 60s.

    1. Actually you miss the key point here.

      In the cities that matter, the ones with similar employment/land use patterns (New World cities) there has been a massive decline, it is still obvious almost universally throughout the US (New York being the only glaring exception). In the US the decline predated NZ because car ownership took off in the 1930s, which with massive state spending on highways gutted the competitiveness of the privately run streetcar and rail services in most cities.

      You claim employment decentralised largely as a result of the transport decisions made. In this you give far too much credit to transport costs as a reason to locate businesses, when land costs are more important. CBDs are not suitable for businesses where you need a lot of employees on moderate to low incomes, or lots of space to hold stock, or handle goods. The jobs in South Auckland would never have existed in the CBD. Lower rents play an enormous role, and in the Old World cities with plenty of public transport the same thing has happened. London is pitted with lots of employment locations that are not the City, West End and Canary Wharf, but clusters of businesses dotted around hubs like Croydon, Heathrow, Enfield, Watford, Kingston, Brent and Wandsworth. Paris has the same. Indeed so does Sydney.

      The difference between Auckland and the other cities with publicly owned entities is that most of the latter integrated them some time ago. Auckland had the ARA “in charge” but largely only interested in its own buses, little interest in the private sector and with no influence over NZR until after Corporatisation and the creation of the Urban Transport Council meant that the ARA had to pay part of the cost of subsidising NZRRS and commuter rail. That was 30 years of fractional governance, by a mix of local and central government entities largely focused on other things.

      1. Of course some economic decentralisation would have happened. That even occurred in New York. It’s interesting to note that even in very “bedroom suburb” boroughs of New York, like Queens – a greater number of residents work locally than in Manhattan.

        My point is that our decentralisation would not have been anywhere near as extreme, if we had gone down a different transport path – more like that of what was proposed in the 1946 plan.

  5. I can understand such car centric transport solutions in countries that produces cars, like USA, Italy or Japan, but I think it was not very far sighted here, where all the cars had to be imported. Not very nationalistic either, for a National government.
    Any pressure from foreign car makers?
    Just asking

  6. How depressing. History is nothing but a constant litany of short-sightedness of those who make the decisions and those who advise them.

  7. @Gian, you raise a really interesting point and a first class historical mystery. I’m working on this on a paper for the British journal MOBILITIES and my forthcoming book STOLEN CITY. In brief, the North Island was settled by rail. a 1957 map of railway lines and towns in the North Island shows virtually every town on a railway line, like beads on a necklace, with big empty patches in between.

    When National developed the State Highway system in the 1950s, the SH’s perforce followed the course of the railways. Currently the SH system carries half of all road traffic, as the Government Policy Statement points out, even though it’s a tiny fraction of the total road network. In effect, we’ve got a set of State Highways that behave like railways, and this is nowhere more obvious than in regard to their convergence on the Auckland CBD.

    Now, one of the peculiarities of the New Zealand system is that since the 1950s, the railways have been run by a separate administrative and funding “silo” from the State Highways, and increasingly located outside the core land transport planning system as well. Thus, the New Zealand Transport Agency doesn’t run rail in spite of its name, and neither did Transit New Zealand.

    This dates back to the late 1920s. In 1927 a Main Roads Fund was set up, financed by road taxes. In 1929 a Transport Department was set up which was separate from the Railways Department and which soon became its rival, since by default the Transport Department was focused on Roads. Labour abolished the Main Roads Fund in the 1940s but didn’t abolish the Transport Deparment nor amalgamate rail with it.

    By the 1950s the Transport Department was arguing ‘that the Railways Department be relieved of responsibility for running non-paying passenger trains, and that any necessary services be provided by private enterprise road services’ (in Leitch & Stott NEW ZEALAND RAILWAYS: THE FIRST 125 YEARS, Heinemann 1988, p. 109). The National Party government which took power in 1949 was sympathetic to this ‘user pays’ discourse and set up a National Roads Board and road-tax funded National Roads Fund within the Transport Department, which basically allowed the Transport Department to build a huge system of State Highways next to the railway lines.

    Thus, in short, the State Highway system is a textbook example of a self-funding bureaucratic empire which survives to the extent that it can marginalise railways running in the same corridors as its big roads. It survived the Rogernomic cull of other mighty government agencies such as the Ministry of Works and Development, by virtue of the fact that the application of road taxes to roads looks like “user pays,” a line that the Transport Department was already running to politicians who would listen in the early 1950s.

    This is not to say that we don’t need roads and highways, nor is it to rule out other political factors—obviously the love affair between a “user pays” transport bureaucracy and the actual political right goes both ways, nor the trucking lobby, etc—-but what it does point to is a drastic need for reform of a “highway complex” made up of bureaucrats, politicians and lobbyists that is just completely out of control, in much the same fashion as such better known complexes as financial lobby in London and New York, or the American military-industrial complex, which has quite often managed to successfully represent another war as the solution to every diplomatic problem facing the USA.

    In no other country is the “highway complex” as powerful as in New Zealand and it shows. Thus the Ministry of Economic Development is more or less forced to deny the existence of peak oil, at least under the present government, as Denis Tegg has pointed out: http://oilshockhorrorprobe.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-zealand-governments-response-to.html.

    Ironically, as Admin has pointed out, the present GPS has gone so far that even local road lobbyists think it’s unbalanced. Another irony is that at least part of this arises because the North Island was, indeed, settled by rail and because New Zealand’s topography is so long and linear, favouring rail–so the relevance of rail and related modes (e.g. light rail and trams, as well as all PT in general) has to be continually, officially denied to make it look like SH’s can do the job of rail better.

    Lastly, it’s important to note than 5 out of 7 RONS are on the Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga axis. And yet, this axis is so linear that it is tailor made for rail, as Figure 10 in Chapter 9 of “Auckland Unleashed” makes clear (see here http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/PlansPoliciesPublications/theaucklandplan/Pages/theaucklandplan.aspx ).

    Go figure.

    1. “because New Zealand’s topography is so long and linear, favouring rail–so the relevance of rail and related modes (e.g. light rail and trams, as well as all PT in general) has to be continually, officially denied to make it look like SH’s can do the job of rail better”

      This is conspiratorial nonsense. Rail was never favoured in New Zealand once sealed highways and road transport became cost effective because the volumes, distances and loading gauges mitigated against it. Rail was propped up for decades because of the 30, 40 mile and 150 km limits banning road freight from competing with rail for most goods (this got whittled down as more and more goods were obviously badly suited for rail trips, starting with furniture and livestock). Most freight trips in New Zealand are relatively short and the double handling costs of going by road to a railhead that handles low volumes, a rail trip and then offloading onto road made it increasingly uncompetitive. It was exacerbated by the Railways Department being run as a classic government department, uncommercial, unresponsive statutory monopoly, heavily unionised with workplace practices that totally undermined it over many decades. Pilfering, rolling stock lying in yards and sidings for days and weeks on end providing “free” storage and a governance split based on engineering functions rather than users, meant NZR was a basket case.

      There have been two high level objective looks at rail in the last 30 years. In 1983 Booz Allen Hamilton prepared a report for the NZR Corporation that laid it out plain and simple as to the dramatic amount of change needed and that rail needed to focus on what it was good at. Less well known, the last government commissioned LEK Consulting to compare then TranzRail’s network and volumes to overseas railways and how much likelihood there was that it could be viable – the results were fairly bleak, but not terminal.

      The freight patterns in New Zealand are mostly NOT linear. Exports are portbound, imports get distributed mostly from Auckland, so rail carries some containerised traffic from Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for distribution, but that’s it. The volumes of linear traffic beyond that are far too low for rail to recover its long run cost of capital as a duplicate infrastructure to the state highways (almost all of which parallel as property accessways).

      By the way, NZR made profits right up until 1972, generated by freight and the rail ferries, but still needed capital injections for major projects during those years. It had a separate funding stream because it was a government department with a Minister, and it advised government directly on railways. It only really changed in 1982 when the NZR Corporation was formed, and Vote Transport was used to make “Social Services payments” to keep services and lines going that NZRC said were unprofitable.

    2. Chris – the structure of road users paying for the costs they impose on the road system, which was enshrined by the old National Roads Board, has a tremendous amount going for it. If money went into the State Highways network, and the local roads network for that matter, it is because the people who used the system were paying for it as well.

      The real problem is market failure: the market for rail freight in New Zealand is not strong enough to support the railway network at its current extent. The market for road services is strong enough, hence the road network we have.

      Also to note – a lot of the New Zealand freight task is carried by coastal shipping, about 20 percent of it if measured in ton-miles. Calls to promote coastal shipping should be watched carefully by the railway industry … because there is only one place the extra seaborne freight can come from …

  8. PS, contrary to what most people think, the Ministry of Works and Development always supported pedestrianisation, from its foundation as the Ministry of Works in 1943 to its abolition in 1988. The MOW / MWD therefore acted as a restraining influence on the roadbuilders, both on a bureacratic level and also because it actually built both state housing areas and pedestrian oriented shopping centres next to railway/bus interchanges, such as Porirua and Naenae. Any shopping centre with “Court” in its name, such as Hillary Court in Naenae or Cobham Court in Porirua http://wotzon.com/profilepage.php?comp_id=1002576 is likely to be a creation of MWD pedestrian planners, since “Court” was the terminology for pedestrian plazas in those days. Private shopping centre developers lacked the planning power to coordinate their proposals with rail/bus interchange and simply built big carparks. In 1988 the Rogernomes abolished the MWD — at which point the last effective check on the roadbuilders ‘from within’ vanished — and in 1994 the last great MWD suburban scheme, in Albany, was privatised, see my article ‘Ticky tacky death of a dream’ in the June 2011 METRO. It’s at this point, and in regard to certain related matters, that we start to ask whether a developer lobby did, in fact, play a part in this whole complex of automotive privatisation, the private car, the private house, the private shopping centre etc, all with as little actual public planning as possible, apart from minimum car parking requirements of course: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/tag/parking/.

  9. That De Leuw Cather map: just wow!
    Dominion Road Motorway: wow! (Bus lanes are for sissies) South Eastern Motorway: wow! (and I thought John Banks was a visionary) Pakuranga Motorway: wow! Pakuranga-Wiri Motorway: wow! Second Harbour crossing right through Kuri Point Centennial Park: wow! (eat that, greenies!) Henderson Motorway: wow! (shore up that Westie petrol vote with the only unlimited speed motorway in NZ).

    That map is as exciting to Steven Joyce as any porn video is for Shane Jones.

  10. @Chris
    Thanks for that explanation, even if I have to admit I didn’t get everything as I don’t know much of past New Zealand politics (Rogernomics?). I’ve been here only for 2 years also to escape from the current Italian political nonsense.
    But I still wonder how no politician acted against the billions of $ wasted in importing cars? While letting private debt grow? Killing internal manufacturing? It would have been possible for Kiwis to build their own trains, no?
    At least when something in Italy is wrong we’ve got the Pope and the mafia to blame…

    1. @Gian. Yes, how did we do it without such help? (I presume you might include Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini in that lineup). Rogernomics = neoliberalism, after 1980 Finance Minister Roger Douglas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Douglas . New Zealand did indeed not only build and design its own trains, including railcars that could do 70 mph (120 km/h) in the 1930s, much faster than any road vehicle of the time http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Gov13_12Rail-t1-body-d8.html . It’s important to note that this was on a narrow mountain railway gauge, 1067mm, a significant engineering challenge. A large proportion of skilled tradespeople were trained in state railway workshops. The problem was, indeed, perhaps, that the system was state-owned and thus restricted the growth of commerce.

    2. Where do you start on this one? Maybe a quick introduction to the 1984 NZ economy…

      Pre-1984 NZ had what was often described as a “Polish Shipyard” economy. The government and PM Robert Muldoon ran a nationalist protectionist economy. Many commercial businesses were monopolies organised as government departments. We ran telecoms out of the Post Office, had a department responsible for coal mining, a railways department, a government construction department, and a department that generated electricity. All staffed by public servants.

      The coal department had never made a profit. We actually subsidised coal mining.

      The railways department was awful. They had a reputation for losing goods and for theft. They were so expensive that the government had to legislate to prevent competition. It was therefore illegal to NOT use the railways for any freight that had to travel 150miles or more. It was common for NZ businesses to export goods from Auckland to Sydney, then to re-import them from Sydney to Wellington because that was cheaper than sending them from Auckland to Wellington via rail.

      People needed to apply to the Reserve Bank in order to purchase foreign exchange to import personal goods.

      Foreign manufacturers used to assemble goods like TVs overseas, check they worked, disassemble them, and then send them to NZ so a NZ factory could re-assemble them and sell them for a lot more than the international price. This was the local version of an electronics industry, protected by government regulation and protectionism.

      There was always a waiting list for the Post Office to install telephones. It could take a year if you were unlucky. I knew a couple of linesmen. They were all on the take… a few cases of beer and they’d come around and install a phone for you on demand. They were also flogging equipment they’d misappropriated from work.

      The 1984 Labour Government changed all this. David Lange, Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, and Phil Goff (amongst others) all helped liberalise the economy. Departments were turned in to state owned enterprises and operated on a commercial basis. Many of them were later sold.

      The coal department laid off about 90% of their staff after corporatisation. They actually mined more coal and made a profit for the first time. Telecom managed to install phones quickly, and delivered the sorts of services that other countries had enjoyed for years. Electronic goods were cheaper, better, and you got a choice. You could import motor vehicles without needing permission to import, permission to spend foreign currency, and you got a choice of quality foreign brands for a reasonable price.

      Railways laid off most their staff and closed most of their workshops. Competition improved the service but it wasn’t a success in the long run. Rail freight isn’t viable or sustainable in NZ. The first bailout was back in the 1800s and it has needed regular bailouts ever since. The only reasonable commercial model is to operate services while you run them down, spending as little as possible on maintenance. Then closing them and flogging the huge value of real estate tied up in rail. The problem is that some people don’t like seeing former government monopolies fail, and will subsidise them regardless.

      I was a teenager in 1984. It was exciting campaigning against Muldoon and socialism and for a reforming Labour government. NZ was transformed and ended up a much more interesting, vibrant, and multi-ethnic country to live in. If it was up to me, I’d award Lange and Douglas awards as the top NZers of the 20th century.

      Sorry about the long comment.

      1. @ Obi – I personally agree with some of this, see my comment below about pre-Rogernomics, or possibly pre-Muldoon, regulation of the market for new cars in the days of “overseas funds” i.e. the parallel hard currency economy mostly accessed by farmers, who earned some of their income in foreign currency.

        On the other hand, despite the innumerable restrictions under which the economy laboured (imaginatively circumvented by some), NZ in those days had a standard of living close to the top of the OECD, a much more equal society than today (like Sweden) and zero unemployment.

        Ironically, this was in part because the “financial repression” of those days also squelched property speculation and foreign indebtedness. One very major failure of the post-1984 deregulation, on which everyone now seems to agree, is that housing speculation fuelled by overseas borrowings has been allowed to eat up the potential gains from a more flexible economy, see here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/property/news/article.cfm?c_id=8&objectid=10437960 .

        Having said that I would not want us to get off topic, it’s just to round out the historical picture.

        1. Wasn’t my time, and my country back then, so I couldn’t talk about how bad the services, or how socially equal people were then.

          But I get the distinct feeling that if NZ was too far towards the “protectionist and redistributive” side then, we are way too far towards the “free market solves all” model now. Every time I read how NZ is rated at Nr 1 in business freedom, I retch (and without even having to scroll down the page to read about how we are losing more and more people to brain drain!).

      2. One of the enduring legacies of the Muldoon Government was a series of white elephant projects that were supposedly going to save the economy and promote growth. You’d hope lessons had been learnt…

  11. @uroskin – If we had built all that (not that we haven’t built MOST of it already 🙁 – plus some things that aren’t even on this map, such as the Waitakere-North Shore SH18 behemoth opening in a few weeks), then Steven Joyce and his fellows would now STILL be crowing for “completing” the motorway network. Because it is obvious that the Henderson Motorway can’t just END. It will be crucial to extend it through to Massey/Westgate!

    They would also be discussing whether or not the Orakei-Balmoral-St Lukes expressway should be widened to eight lanes (in a tunnel, maybe, for the freaks who can’t understand that a road is good for a city!)

  12. Here’s a heretical thought. When you look at the De Leuw Cather (DLC) plan, that probably is about how many motorways you would actually need to have an uncongested Auckland, given our water barriers and topography which funnels traffic through the middle. For instance just about everyone who lives out west thinks a crossing over the Whau through Glendene where the Henderson Motorway was projected to go in 1965 would be a hell of a good idea (maybe not so much the motorway itself).
    Yet at the same time it needs to be emphasised that DLC also said that we should build Robbie’s Rapid Rail FIRST—and then see if the motorways were actually needed in reality.
    What I’m really getting at here is that Auckland can’t (feasibly) build its way out of congestion with motorways alone and that is what DLC really meant as well by proposing their almost insane plan for full motorisation, which might be needed, but only if Robbie’s Rapid Rail turned out to be a total flop (of course, it wouldn’t have been).
    In the mid-1960s DLC had two offices, one in San Francisco and the other one in Toronto, two cities that famously bucked the North American freeway trend by beefing up rail and postponing grandiose motorway systems into the never never, which is where they were probably going to end up anyway, albeit amid worse congestion.
    So DLC were in a way the Parsons Brickerhoff or Arup of their day, i.e. a reasonably funky outfit from the smart bits of North America, and that’s no doubt why Robbie chose them. They still exist as Delcan http://delcan.com/ though I don’t know whether this huge multinational still has the same spirit.
    Ever since 1965 the whole DLC plan has been misunderstood, basically because the part of the report that dealt with Robbie’s Rapid Rail has been overlooked while everyone has said we need to complete the scheme set out above, the real status of which is that it is a kind of worst case scenario. Those of us who study history know this kind of slow twisting of meaning happens all the time.

    1. I mean Parsons Brinckerhoff with an n, sorry, sp. http://www.pbworld.com/. Arup is http://www.arup.com/. Something that is very important to note is that NO international consultants have ever recommended that Auckland prioritise motorways over rail, DLC included. I stand to be corrected but I’ve certainly never found any evidence of it. The view of overseas experts always seems to have been, ‘oh well with that many transport bottlenecks through Auckland, you need to fix up rail first’. The poor bastards who actually have to live in Auckland have generally taken the same view, backing Robbie and other pro-rail mayors. It’s the Wellington-based bureaucracy and political class that have resisted such advice, presumably on the grounds that they know better than either the top international consultants or the Auckland democratic public.

      1. Chris, do some research at libraries. You’ll find the ARA’s 1980s plan for a guided busway network built on the rail corridors, following the O-Bahn example of Adelaide, I think it came out in 1988.

        Auckland’s enthusiasm for rail is not reflected in the repeated discussions between central government and local government in the late 1970s and 1980s when government proposed at least two rail based options for Auckland. The first being rolling stock tacked onto the Ganz Mavag order for Wellington, the second being an at surface “Britomart” using the end of the then rail yard to revitalise demand. The ARA interest was lukewarm, because it was keen on busways in the 1980s.

        Note the ARA scrapped trolley buses in 1982 a year after ordering a brand new network to run in the CBD with lines to Herne Bay, Parnell and Newmarket. It sold the entire kit off at a bargain basement price to Wellington City Council, which reused the wires and electrics to revitalise the Wellington CBD overhead network, and the 20 Ansaldo buses (which have since been sold off and converted to diesel because changes to the route structure did away with the need for so many trolley buses).

        1. Yes well all this flip flopping and search for alternatives to ruled-out rapid rail didn’t help, it’s actually covered here: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2011/06/04/hindsight-aucklands-growing-pains/.

          So after the cancellation of Robbie’s Rapid Rail, O-Bahn became the panacaea, then light rail…. Meanwhile poor sods queued at the bus stop, for Diesel dungers once they got rid of the trolleys, allegedly to save some quite small margin in costs. Wellington thought otherwise.

          Muldoon’s government, which had cancelled Robbie’s Rapid Rail in 1976, then became more pro-rail because of the oil crises and as part of its Think Big scheme, which really only took shape after the 1978 election and the 1978/79 Iranian oil crisis.

          This included lengthening Wellington’s system by 10 km in 1983 and commissioning the 411 km North Island Main Trunk electrification. Maybe the Ganz Mavag deal was part of Think Big, I will have to check that the next time I am in the library (I do go there from time to time).

          As for State Highways vs Rail it’s not “conspiratorial nonsense,” just straight out institutional analysis of the kind of economic and departmental rivalry that breaks out when you have two tigers on one mountain, as they say in China.

          It would be nonsense if I was to deny that rail faced problems due to NZ’s small population relative to the scale of the infrastructure, a fact of life which really lies at the root of practically all our economic problems and also explains why the New Zealand economy was often heavily regulated in the past.

          For instance this was why governments restricted road haulage for a long time, partly to prop up a rail system that they were determined to keep going for strategic reasons, and partly I also suspect to keep SH maintenance costs down given that trucks do most of the damage.

          The Gov’t couldn’t afford to spend a fortune on both systems with only 2 or 3 million people in NZ at the time, and the trucking restrictions emerged as the next best option, which is the usual story in politics and in the economics of the real world.

    1. Come on Chris, people love our motorway strangled cities like LibertyScott, I wonder why he now lives in one where 96% of the morning commute is on PT?…. surely he wasn’t one of those Wellington apparatchiks that knew better than us, and still thinks he does?

      1. Actually Patrick, the most significant mode for commuting in London OTHER than to Zone 1, is the car. Around a third of commuting overall is by car, bike or foot, but once you leave Zone 1, the car dominates any single public transport mode (buses are second).

        I’ve never said motorway building would fix Auckland’s congestion. It needs a combination of expenditure on local road bottlenecks, improved public transport and road pricing. Those who are deluded in thinking a railway will fix congestion in Auckland are as ignorant as those who think building motorways will do it – both obsessed with construction, less interested in management.

        As for people who think they know better than others, you can’t beat planners who want to control land use, who want to regulate for higher density housing and want to price and regulate transport modes they don’t want people to use, and subsidise and prefer ones they want people to use. I simply want people to make their own decisions and face the same cost recovery in urban transport as people face with most intercity transport, and indeed with most utilities.

        1. Why do assume congestion is the only issue? ‘Fixing’ congestion is a chimera, whatever you build will be used. Fixing Auckland is what interests me, it is suboptimal by any measure and much for the blame for its shoddy urban form, poor accessibility, and uneconomic connectivity can be laid at the feet of those who committed the city to the miserable autodependency over the last 60 years. We will have to try an fix this now, and much more expensively than if we had ‘planned’ intelligently in the past.

          You have a strange view of planning as it seems to depend on who is doing it, if it is NZTA or MoT ‘planning’ to shove more motorways through WGTN, you’re gagging for it, but anyone suggesting it is stupid to endlessly and expensively cover the countryside with low value house subsidised by the rate payer you call it some sort restriction of rights. OK, planning too ‘smart-arse’ for you? That explains why so much of our city is just plain dumb-arse. Anyhow, I agree, more efficient to fully cost those sprawl subdivisions as a way of preventing them, give developers the freedom to lose their shirts.

          You are funny about London too, just answer this, could it function at all well without rail? No, I suppose you oppose Crossrail as more restriction of rights? 20 new Westways would make London a better place, wouldn’t they?

          1. Yes this an enduring fantasy in the minds of the car/sprawl mad. They tilt at imaginary windmills. The reverse is the case, minimum parking, site coverage rules etc

            Further to comments above, frankly congestion will be ‘fixed’ by the ever increasing cost of driving- we are entering an age of increasing space on our lavish highways as fewer and fewer are able to afford to clog it up. The point is that now, urgently, is the time to be investing in a complimentary infrastructure powered by our own electricity to allow Ak to thrive in the new world we are entering.

            Outside of the cities. I agree with Ross and Chris that we cannot afford to invest in everything at once. First we built rail, then, for the last 60 years, we have allowed that investment to languish as we built the road network. Now it is time to realign our priorities once more. But it is important that we don’t make the same mistake with the road resource that we did with rail and fail to maintain what we have in order to feverishly build new ones.

            So Joyce’s priorities are really all wrong. The over weight trucks are a dangerous and road ruining mistake. Pouring far too much money into new, and duplicate State Highways on routes that are not under stress. Further neglecting the existing rail asset, and underfunding maintenance of the existing road network. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. His programme will come unstuck on the realities of this decade, but we are wasting time and money. Just plain dumb.

  13. There are other factors which are worth mentioning – Auckland’s problems are longer in the making than the 1950s.

    * While Auckland developed as a city via its trams system, by the 1920s there was a viable competing technology in the motor bus, and the bus was a lot cheaper to provide. It was arguably at that point that the extent of tram systems reached its peak. Part of why many tram systems were later abandoned in the 1950s is that they were life-expired, and at that time their renewal would have cost a lot more, in a period of post-war economic restraint, than using buses.

    * By the 1930s New Zealand was one of the most motorised countries in the world – the Depression and World War II really only delayed the inevitable.

    * In 1930 Auckland’s main railway station was shifted to Beach Rd, in order to make room for the Post Office. It would have been a lot easier, and cheaper, to expand rail in the post-war period if this had not been done. We still live with the dogleg around the old building.

    * In the 1950s the Government’s logic, when looking at a rail system for Auckland versus building motorways and the Harbour bridge, would have been: we can afford one but not both. Needless to say this was not admitted to. The rapid growth in car ownership in this period would have happened anyway, and would have corroded public transport use as well – it just wouldn’t have happened as quickly. When the Harbour Bridge was first planned it was with six lanes – the government of the time built it with only four.

    * The effect of Byzantine local politics is also worth mentioning: it further meant that ‘the centre couldn’t hold’ as the region’s separate local governments encouraged jobs to move out of the central city (in 1945 about 40 percent of the region’s jobs were in downtown Auckland). The rationalisation in 1989 had first been proposed in 1969.

    * Finally, it is also worth mentioning that until the 1980s New Zealand governments did an awful lot to restrict car use by making cars very expensive – both through taxes and the extra costs imposed by having a local vehicle assembly industry. That led to a situation whereby we had very high rates of motorcycle ownership – with its attendant road safety issues – and also a very old vehicle fleet. The change in the rules after 1985 led to a significant decrease in the real cost of motoring – the term ‘Jap import’ entered the language at this stage – and an improvement in the road safety environment as people stopped using motorcycles.

    1. @ Ross – All true, including the curious irony of the fact that the Govt after 1950 invested heavily in roads while restricting car ownership, presumably so that they would not have had to spend even more. I’m just old enough to remember the days when you had to have “overseas funds” for anything other than the mostly pretty gutless approved models, a bit like living in Cuba or East Germany (I think the Govt was into keeping down the country’s fuel bill as well, ironically). We definitely lived within our means in those days. The only thing I’d add is that I’m pretty sure the Beach Rd facility was supposed to be followed up by a Queen St tunnel, as the station was very obviously in the wrong place for commuters, but then the Great Depression and WWII intervened.

  14. “The only thing I’d add is that I’m pretty sure the Beach Rd facility was supposed to be followed up by a Queen St tunnel”

    You are talking of the “Morningside deviation” as it was then called, a northeast-southwest diagonal (contrary to the current north-south proposal) tunnel route from near Beach Road to Morningside. Quite a bit longer than what is currently planned.

    Not sure whether the Morningside deviation included provision for underground stations, though the concept was obviously not a new one (undergound stations, I mean).

  15. “By the 1930s New Zealand was one of the most motorised countries in the world – the Depression and World War II really only delayed the inevitable.”

    Well, car ownership levels and car USE levels need not AUTOMATICALLY be directly linked. NZ was a very, very rich country in terms of the first half of the 20th century, so a big middle class could afford cars. That doesn’t mean we were somehow different from other countries in that sense.

    I’d strongly disagree that it was “inevitable” – that is the whole point of this post. And through the 1930 and up to the 1950s, we still had huge PT usage levels.

  16. ” While Auckland developed as a city via its trams system, by the 1920s there was a viable competing technology in the motor bus, and the bus was a lot cheaper to provide. It was arguably at that point that the extent of tram systems reached its peak. Part of why many tram systems were later abandoned in the 1950s is that they were life-expired, and at that time their renewal would have cost a lot more, in a period of post-war economic restraint, than using buses.”

    Much research has shown that most american systems were pulled out because the car industry bought them up and shut them down. That’s not inevitablity that’s called shutting down your competitor.

    1. Have a look at Paul Mees’ Transport for Suburbia for a corrective on that conspiracy theory… and an description of the one that did happen in Ak…. ‘it’s a technical matter’….

      1. The best account of the ‘conspiracy’ that I’ve seen is a chapter called ‘Derailing the Trolleys’ in Stephen B. Goddard’s GETTING THERE: THE EPIC STRUGGLE BETWEEN ROAD AND RAIL IN THE AMERICAN CENTURY (University of Chicago Press, 1994). Goddard describes how the electric tramways were owned and cross subsidised by electric power utilities in the 1930s, until a 1935 competition-law decision required the utilities to disinvest in the tramways on the grounds that this system was a cartel. The tramways were then on the market looking for a buyer, and GM stepped in, realising that it could use the tramways’ routes to run buses and thus boost the sales of its own bus division. Standard Oil and Firestone got in on the deal for the same reason. As the tramways were losing money already, GM’s bus conversion offer was one they couldn’t refuse. So it’s not quite a conspiracy in the more florid sense of the word, but even so, America ended up replacing one cartel with another, and GM did get prosecuted and fined a curiously small sum ($5,000) for that fact. There is some evidence that GM realised that buses were just a stepping stone to full automobile dependence and that taking over the bus lines would yield both short- and long-term benefits for its business, as well as those of Firestone and Standard Oil. Goddard’s book isn’t one that takes sides but rather a more neutral scholarly study, the point of which is that transport is a natural monopoly in which competition is always something of an illusion. In transport our choice is ‘plan or be planned for’, which ‘Derailing the trolleys’ demonstrates with breathtaking elegance. This is Mees’s point as well.

        1. Interesting then that state intervention, pace Libertarians, failed to correct a monopoly but moved it sideways. Left to the law of the jungle might we be still seeing more American street-car cities?

          From a historical perspective it seems clear to me that we are another hinge point in this story- the world is turning again and away from Oil, Rubber, and ICE driven vehicles [Standard, Firestone, + GM] and back to electricity. And especially here in NZ with our rich resource of Hydro and building Geo. and Windpower.

          The ‘Business As Usual’ crowd, currently and aggressively in office are the Luddites now.

          1. I wonder what are the chances of AC approaching the power companies here for a commercial relationship around funding expansion of the network….. bigger network, more electricity needed….???

            Perhaps a freshly privatised one, ha!

  17. To clarify my previous post – DECLINE in PT levels was inevitable because of some of the reasons Ross Clark mentions. However, our policy and funding decisions ensured that rather than lowering, it dropped like a stone.

Leave a Reply