Another giant document that Matt L got in an OIA request to NZTA and passed onto me is all about what’s called the “North Harbour Strategic Study”. Basically it just seems like NZTA trying to find a way to justify spending a huge chunk of money on building more motorways, but before we get onto that let’s take a look more broadly. This is the general area the study looked at:

In essence, the focus is largely on the interchanges of State Highway 1 with SH18 (Upper Harbour Highway) and the Albany Expressway/Greville Road.

A big debate on this blog over time has been the issue of whether it is politicians or the “transport experts” who are largely to blame for the auto-dependent decisions that we have been making over time, and continue to make. I know quite a few engineers get rather grumpy when bloggers on this site (and I think I’m particularly guilty of this) blame them, rather than the politicians. What I want to highlight through this post – using this North Harbour Strategic Study as an example, is how engineers and planners ‘frame’ the argument and present to the politicians something that looks like a compelling case – even when in reality approving large-scale expenditure on a project like what’s proposed in the study would actually go against most of the high level objectives Auckland’s trying to achieve.

Anyway, back to the study itself. You can start to get a bit of an idea around how the study is going to be framed by looking at the way the problem definition is structured:

To summarise: from time to time the corridor gets congested and because congestion in an unspeakable evil it’s necessary to widen the motorway and add more capacity. You almost know how this is going to turn out already. Though to give at least some credit where it’s due, at least the full problem definition makes some reference to public transport and to the severance effect SH18 currently has:

Somewhat strange that delays for buses using the Northern Busway after the proper busway peters out at Constellation isn’t also identified as a significant part of the problem. Though reading on a bit further, improving public transport through the study area is highlighted as a key objective for the project:

Different options for “solving” these “problems” are then put into various packages, with each package containing a number of different infrastructure interventions and often building on previous packages.

I think there’s been a slight error in the formatting of the list above. The difference between package 4 and 4a comes down to whether or not the SH1/SH17 interchange is fully grade separated, with 4a including the grade separation. Somewhat incredibly, none of the packages include a full busway upgrade along State Highway 1 between Constellation and Albany – even though this would seem to be the absolutely most necessary and no brainer transport upgrade needed in this whole area.

The cost of each package is then included in the table below, in 2010 dollars and excluding GST:

Unsurprisingly, package 3 is the most expensive option – as it involves a whole heap of flyovers and grade separation. Of course it also generates the greatest amount of benefits, so comes out with a cost-benefit ratio of 2.0: just on the cusp between a “medium” and “low” according to NZTA’s assessment methodology.

Packages 3 and 4a, with the main difference between the two seeming to be access to Paul Matthews Drive, are concluded to be the two preferred options to take forward into the future.

Let’s take a look at Option 3 in a bit more detail – starting at the southern end:

The small text is a bit tricky to read but the it seems the basic approach is a full motorway-to-motorway interchange plus west-facing on and off-ramps from a realigned Paul Matthews Road. Paul Matthews Road then ducks under SH18 to connect with the existing Constellation Drive. Also of note is mention of extending the Northern Busway as just a possible future project.

Let’s shift northwards a bit:

It seems the basic approach here is just to whack a couple of additional giant flyovers above the existing interchange to remove any conflicting movements from traffic heading to or from the Albany Expresway.

Reading through all the details of large projects like this, and seeing cost-benefit ratios that seem relatively good – it’s easy to find yourself seduced into thinking that this is a worthwhile project. You can see how the actual decision-makers would be going “well it does seem to fix a congestion point, it does seem reasonably good value for money…” and so forth. But really when you take a step back and think about it:

  • It’s not far off half a billion dollars to build a tiny bit of additional motorway and a couple of fancy interchanges
  • All those flyovers and interchanges are probably going to be massively ugly and further create severance between different parts of the study area
  • The project can’t even bring itself to recommend improved bus shoulder lanes, let alone an extension to the Northern Busway that might actually reduce traffic pressure on State Highway 1
  • While there is quite a lot of discussion in the report about PT connections to the west via SH18, they are highlighted as really only being suitable “some point in the future”. So the same old “yeah we’ll do PT one day but let’s build all these roads first” ideology

I’m not quite sure where this study has ended up or whether this project is still a priority for NZTA. While I can see how annoying it must be to have just that last little bit of the Western Ring Route not quite at motorway standard (once the Waterview tunnel is built), that seems a fairly small problem to require a half billion dollar solution. Plus without a decent PT component, this would be another half billion dollars further entrenching Auckland’s car dependency.

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57 comments

  1. If we keep spending like this there is no chance that Auckland can become more liveable. THis 1/2 bil crowds out all other spending, is a vast overbuild and is clearly unnecessary and mono-modal.

    As Gordon Price said last night ‘Your budgets are your most sincere form of rhetoric’. In other words what we fund shows truly what we are building to achieve. But of course ‘liveability’ is not NZTA’s programme, nor in fact is it anyone in Wellington’s programme for Auckland, it’s only what the people of Auckland want…..

    FFS extend the busway, build some amenity for the active modes, try to stitch up the severance that this beast has already made here and see what the new bus system + integrated ticketing + extended busway does to the mild congestion here. First.

  2. If you look at the bottom picture it does say “Additional Traffic Lane and Bus shoulder”.
    However it would make sense to expand the bus way at the same time as this project.
    I do think some of the flyovers, especially at Greville Road wil be an eye sore, some very careful design and vegetation planting will need to happen to make it not feel like a motorway around the whole interchange. I would almost look at an underpass / cut and cover tunnel for the onramp.
    I am not as concerned about the ones at Upper Harbour Highwa, it is actually taking traffic away from the current road that will make it more friendly for peds and cyclists, allow safer and easier access from Constellation Drive to Caribbean Drive and Paul Matthews Road (if they bother to put down a footpath) as only local traffic will use it and they can hopefully drop the speed limit to 50. The current road is always busy and full of trucks; it can’t really get much more unappealing

  3. I notice the SH17 retains ramp metering lights. So they spend hundreds of millions to grade separate a flyover, then feed it straight into a set of lights to slow and restrict these going traffic.
    I guess they are none too confident in the ability of this flyover to remove congestion.

    1. Well the faster connections between motorways will do nothing to reduce congestion, in fact are likely to exacerbate it; 1. by inducing traffic, and 2. by speeding the rush to choke points at times of heavy use.

      I predict the same result at the other end of the WRR: the billions spent there will speed more traffic more quickly down SH16 to the great singularity that is the CMJ to make one massive snafu, instead of the much more distributed but often slowed at the peak situation we have now.

      Of course NZTA are in the congestion business, congestion is their excuse for spending all this money on their unlovely structures so this outcome will only find them lobbying for more billions to build out yet more mega structures…. in a big fat race with world oil supply.

      I guess I can appreciate their impatience because this is the last spurt of massive motorway building ever…. they’re like the British Raj, living it up in the last days of Empire, wistful, half-suspecting its all over but desperately cramming that thought back down into the darker recesses of their math filled minds, repressing it by dutifully ‘following orders’. The orders that they enthusiastically anticipate and actively lobby for, as this document shows.

  4. As a “North Shorian”, these “upgrades” are completely unnecessary, especially for the costs involved and the eye-sores it will create. Thank goodness this is just a study. Let’s hope it stays that.

  5. The numbers getting thrown around seem crazy when you think of the rail that could be built for those numbers but, for me, criminal when you think what the city could have if we allocated a fraction of this sum to cycling infrastructure over the next 10 years.

    $100m would pretty much allow the construction of a world class grade separated cycling network similar to what Portland has constructed. It could also be used to create cycle ways to feed into train stations and put in place decent cycle storage infrastructure. It would be every cycling lobbyist’s wet dream.

    To me, rail and cycling go together like curry and a pint. I am sure all of you who have seen how the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Germany do their public transport knows what I mean. When I see money like this wasted on roading projects that wont solve congestion in any sustainable way, it is just so frustrating.

    Is there no political vision in NZ of a better way? Well the Greens but of course they are “wackos”. And I believe that most AKLers do want to cycle, it is just that universally they consider it dangerous and with reason. If you ask most AKLers if they would use nice separated cycleways (maybe covered??) the majority reply that they would.

    1. Yep, goosoid. Ten years living abroad has ruined most of NZ for me!

      And the merits of the train/cycle synergy seems to evade the NZTA and most transport decision-makers. You have to ponder what a push for a symbiotic cycling/rail infrastructure could mean for the NZTA though. Remember that when people drive less, their funding declines. Were they ever to solve the transport problems their one-eyed happy motoring vision creates, they’d render themselves redundant.

  6. I used to live in this area between early 2005 and late 2007, so glad I left, especially if the above goes ahead.
    Seriously, they’re still trying to build a real-life version of Disneyland’s Autopia ride there?

    Here’s an alternative package:

    The focus is on freight movement and PT improvements. For the SH1-SH18 connection, this area’s roads are too messed up to build your way out of. To add capacity without creating a multi-level stacked nightmare of a motorway intersection, which would further sever areas west of SH1 and south+north of SH18, perhaps it’s time to say “enough”.

    Remember, the idea of the Western Ring Route was to bypass urban SH1, not feed it, so there shouldn’t be grade-separated links between SH18 and SH1 facing south. Let congestion serve as an incentive to seek alternative transport routes and modes. Instead, for PT and freight movements to/from NHIE, change one SH18 lane each way from Paul Matthews Drive to SH1 to a combined T2 or T3 and truck lane – say the right hand lane of each. Add a third, segreated lane westbound on SH18 for exclusive access to the SH1 northbound on-ramp.

    Build three two-way full busway flyovers to get the busway from Constellation Station over Constellation Drive, then to the west side of the motorway north of the settlement ponds, and then over the Greville interchange, then have the busway end at Corinthian Drive with buses using local roads between there and Albany Station. Build a new on-street station, “Albany South”, to serve the mall area somewhere in the vicinity of the District Court.

    For the cars, limit upgrades on SH1 to slip lanes between the Constellation and Greville ramps in both directions for local traffic to use, as well as perhaps a southbound slip lane for Constellation to Tristram, but no further.

    If I get time I might draw this up.

  7. As someone who takes the bus through Constellation station every day, I can see that there isn’t really much room between the southbound station platform and the southbound onramp to the motorway. If they decide to put a southbound flyover then there’ll be no room to place a northbound platform when we decide to extend the busway further north to Albany.

  8. As I read this I wanted to find an article where someone claimed that a highway would solve congestions and I found this article on the new I-95 that was just about to open in March 2011. The author was attempting to disprove the “induced traffic” theory:
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/more-highways-less-congestion_552548.html?page=3

    Right, I thought, I wonder who was right here? Did the highway solve congestion and disprove the theory. Well I then found this article from August 2012:
    http://blogs.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/08/19/serious-crashes-add-to-i-95-congestion/

    So, no. And of course more work is planned:
    http://www.virginiahotlanes.com/i95/project-info/

    What is that quote: “The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results” (unfortunately it apparently wasnt said by Einstein). Amen brother.

  9. The study doesn’t include the section of SH1 up to Oteha Valley Road. Given the amount of money they were/are looking at spending on the area it seems non-sensical.

    Westfield is about to start building its major extension to the Albany mall, Countdown is about to start building a new supermarket on the other side of the central Albany lake/pond. Plus there’s an awful lot more land that has been zoned for high-density development – and has been for the past couple of decades. Other sites will be developed in the near future.

    It’s clear from the planning consent for the Westfield extension that the ramps at Oteha and Greville are already under-capacity for the planned growth (despite NTZA/Transit knowing about the plans for Albany for the past two decades). It seems there is even a need for an additional offramp in between but there’s not enough sepration between them all.

    This all feeds back to managing the interchange of SH1 and SH18. The two sections can’t be considred in silos, they’re all so close.

  10. Ash – I agree and what I find so frustrating is the potential. One of the last places I went to in August 2011 before I came back to NZ was Copenhagen. I realise that is a million miles from where we are now on PT and cycling but in some ways the cities are very similar. Port towns with a small, well educated population, a maritime climate (though of course Auckland’s climate is far gentler than Copenhagen) and similar populations. Interesting too that according to Wikipedia, the metro density of Copenhagen is quite low (639/km2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen#Transport)

    I realise Copenhagen is a lot flatter and older but I dont think anyone is suggesting we will get to the approx. 35% cycling rates Copenhagen has now (though that would be nice) as getting to 10% would be a HUGE rise for Auckland.

    I think the interesting thing for me is that the percentage of people who drive in Copenhagen is still 20-30%. So even if Auckland went from its current 80% driving to 50% that would represent a massive gain and oput us among the best in the world. Road advocates seem to think that pro-PT people want 100% of people not driving. That is not realistic and I dont think is currently happening in any developed country (though 99% was a reality in pre-1989 Bucharest, for example).

    The chnage we are looking for in Auckland is incredibly modest.

  11. I’m genuinely surprised at the preponderance of negative comments above. $0.5b to tidy up these areas sounds like a bargain to me. As an engineer (but not traffic) it’s clear to me that the traffic engineers have taken a best practice approach to their analysis. Sure, there are always further options, but at some point there must be a cut-off. Oh, and to lump “engineers and planners” together is a serious insult to engineers! Engineers deal in science and maths whereas planners deal in ideology with some stats thrown in (yes, I know that’s overly simplistic, but it’s broadly true).

    Regarding induced traffic/increased congestion – I acknowledge that argument, but it contradicts recent posts suggesting that traffic volumes are decreasing, or at least increasing at a slower rate. So which is correct? Also, not all residents are cyclists (or even capable of it) or PT users, and I suspect that 99% of cyclists/PT users are drivers too. Slightly off-topic: does colour-blindness exist at a higher rate among cyclists than the general population? The reason I ask is the number of times as either a pedestrian or motorist I have nearly been run into by a cyclist proceeding againt a red light suggests that a study into this issue is urgently required.

    Goosoid commented above that the Greens might have a vision of a better solution but are considered “whackos”. Well, that (ie the better transport solution) may well be true, but when, for example, the party leader proposes quantitative easing on national television, this strongly reinforces the “whacko” perception. This comment is not intended as a blanket criticism, but simply to suggest that if the Greens wish to have influence in the transport sector then they must begin to address a range of issues logically and not merely ideologically. Maybe there is someone on this blog with some influence in this regard.

    1. “$0.5b to tidy up these areas sounds like a bargain to me.”

      It certainly is a bargain when talking about motorway works, because these days, our government’s projects seem to start at 1-2 billion a pop.

      However, for that money you could also build a whole busway, or complete the whole Regional Cycle Network in a few years, rather than a few decades. Either would benefit Auckland’s transport network in spades more than the few minutes this will cut off until induced demand swallows it up again.

      THAT would be a real bargain. THIS is just continuing the same policies Auckland has been following for the last 50 years.

      1. Fair enough, so why not do them all for $1.5b (only half the cost of a 3km CRL)? They’re not mutually exclusive are they?

        1. Because money doesn’t grow on trees, and whenever a local Council asks in Wellington for money for any PT projects or cycle projects, they are told that there’s no money!

          Sorry, but your response almost makes me think you are mocking everyone here. Have you not understood that government’s wishes for Auckland Transport are strongly different from those of the Council – and since Wellington controls 2/3rds of all transport spending in all of NZ (1/3rd via direct funding for NZTA, 1/3rd via co-funding of Council transport projects – which they also have to approve from Wellington, and thus cannot deviate from the MoT-set spendng agenda)?

          To say “why not do them all three”? Why indeed? Or even better – why not do the things we have been neglecting for the last 50 years, and do them FIRST, and then see what further roading improvement we may (not) need (anymore)?

          1. Sorry if you thought I was mocking – I wasn’t; I don’t do that kind of stuff, or the ad homs & godwins that pop up here occasionally. But it’s pretty clear to an impartial observer that there’s a strong bias here against roading, which is fine on a partisan blog but maybe a bit, well, biased. I nearly put a smiley after my CRL quip but remembered that Patrick doesn’t like them. Still, can’t please everyone, so here goes :).

            I acknowledge that I haven’t read the Unitary Plan proposals – are the busway and Regional Cycle Network you referenced included as well as other transport projects? Can Council choose to fully fund (say) the RCN if it’s deemed high priority locally? I realise that extensions to the busway must inevitably involve NZTA.

    2. Jonno1 – Sorry I got confused when you said “they must begin to address a range of issues logically and not merely ideologically”. Are we talking about the Greens, ACT or the National party? Seems to me that statement is true of all and perhaps more true of the neo-liberal policies of National/ACT.

      I support the Greens because of their transport policy. I know what their other policies are and I dont support a lot of them. I am a lawyer and worked in cross border M&A here and in Europe, so I know how the financial world works. On that score, there is no doubt the Greens could do with some more grunt.

      But do all Labour/National supporters agree 100% with all their party’s policies? Just because the Greens are wrong on their economic policy doesnt mean they are wrong on transport or many other policy matters. At least they are trying to come up with something different and that has pretty much been the job of the Greens in countries like Germany, to shake things up and act as a “gadfly” to the existing political parties. Personally, I wouldnt like to see the Greens as a majority party in NZ.

      One major problem that the Greens in Germany, and to a certain extent in NZ, face is that the mainstream partyies rubbish their policies for roughly ten years and then turns around and embraces them. I know this is a common complaint among Greens in Germany. I certainly hope quantative easing is NOT in that category.

      1. Thanks goosoid, I agree with you. I was referencing the Greens on that point but you’re quite right to remind me that all parties have their own particular brands of ideology, it’s just that the sheer stupidity of advocating QE takes the cake for this week at least. For the record, I don’t support any of the current political parties in toto although, like you, I can agree with certain specific policies from some of them.

    3. What a sad bit of special pleading from an engineer, for such a bunch ‘scientists’ you all do seem to be awfully touchy. Imagine being insulted with a comparison to planners?! Look, I appreciate that you do a bunch math to make sure those flyovers probably won’t fall down but that doesn’t make you infallible or even especially smart. The problem with this ‘study’ is not a lack of science around the structures but the lazy, and frankly make-work bunch of assumptions that are its foundations.

      If even the proven success of the nearby Busway doesn’t alert your ‘scientific’ colleagues to the possibility of a fresh solution here then I don’t know what could? It is clear that the engineers who worked on this are either dim, lazy, inobservant, or unimaginative. Or simply venal, in other words knowing that proposing the stupidest roadfest is most likely to get the funding they are happy to offer that and that alone.

      I am extremely keen to sing lovely words of praise to this august and powerful profession when their works deserve it.

      Throwing 1/2 a bil away so casually and so late in the a autopian programme is a tragedy. But, engineers are probably ‘just following orders’ right? Yet deserve our undying respect. Am getting bored with this whine from these well rewarded city wreckers and money wasters.

      And yes even with in a declining mode new investment can still generate an increase, especially as it crowds out all investment in other options. In fact the whole frantic over investment in this mode by this government can be read as a desperate attempt to hold back the tide of history and prolong auto dominance a little longer. Bah!

      And the CRL will only be 2 billion, give us 1 bil from the NLTF over five years; now there is a bargain because this project is transformative and future proofing. No more flyovers.

      1. (sigh) Should have used that smiley face after all (reference my 3.25). And BTW I’m not a structural engineer either, which is just as well as some bridges do or might fall down (why do you think the Newmarket Viaduct was replaced?).

          1. Oh and the same goes for the Aotea parking hole, oh I mean square, had to pay for that all over again too didn’t we? Because of the genius of all involved, including the planners who conceived of the daft thing. Although they at least have the excuse of being in the middle of the auto age when they pushed that through. At least then it really took imagination to see that that route leads to an underperforming place. Now it simply takes basic observation and a little undergraduate empiricism to see that there is no future in auto-dependency.

            But then, as they say, science evolves one death at a time.

          2. Sadly, you’re right with both examples Patrick, and the saddest recent example is the CTV building debacle. At least the other incidents cost money but not lives. Professional engineers are required to subcribe to a code of ethics, not least of which is that one must disclose one’s level of competence, and not exceed that. PI & PL insurance costs are a bit of an incentive too! Occasionally I’ve declined an assignment that I could have muddled through, but knew I was not fully competent in that specific area. Moral issues are another area that doctors in particular might face, for example in relation to abortion or euthanasia. Transport or intensification policies are hardly in the same category, but if a planner, engineer or any other employee feels strongly opposed to a particular policy direction imposed by his or her employer then that person should resign as a matter of principle. Not an easy decision to make if you have mouths to feed beyond your own.

          3. The other option, which surely would have been possible in this case, is to include much a wider variation of possible outcomes. How about at least exploring some of those ‘whacky’ Transit options, and run the numbers? Who knows what might be learnt? These can still of course be rejected by the boss or client.

            In my commercial work I see it as my responsibility to offer new ways of achieving my clients outcomes wherever possible. It is also a hell of a lot more stimulating to try to think things through from first principles. Otherwise it’s just punching the clock. And, yes, we all have families to feed.

            The same narrow set outcomes are usually offered by NZTA in any community consultation which clearly represents a narrow group-think within that organisation. For example people of Wellington have recently been offered a flyover or a flyover at the Basin reserve.

            This is frustrating because without ideas bubbling up from specialists we will have to wait for a very big change at the top and new ideas being imposed down from above, or equally likely, wait for external events to provide shocking reminders that things do not always stay the same. Innovation can be very powerful when led by experts. As well as enabling a smoother transition than the imposed model.

      2. Come on, Patrick, NOW you are really insulting us. Engineers aren’t scientists! We never claimed that – it’s a totally different world 😉

        Engineers, are problem-solvers using technology. Give us the right problems to solve, and we solve those too. And yeah, we love “think big” stuff, which can make us blind to the extraneous effects sometimes.

        But I think you are really being a bit over the top in the other direction in the rest of your rant. If the Ministry of Transport says: “Thou shalt build motorways”, do you think it’s really that productive for the engineer asked to design them to say “No, I will not – give the work to someone who disagrees less with your policies”. Either for him/herself OR for society?

        A more appropriate target would be engineering associations – I for example complained bitterly to IPENZ when they supported the ridiculous GPS change back in the first John Key government which started the big money shift back into state highways. That, indeed, was worth criticising (interestingly, the Auckland Transportation Group of IPENZ opposed the GPS changes – sure, I wrote the submission, but I got pretty much unanimous support from the rest of the committee).

        Also, unless you believe that a democratically elected government pursuing *stupid* policies is therefore a *criminal* entity, please don’t draw comparisons to “just following orders”. We’ll be at Godwin’s law in a few minutes otherwise. No need to get that frustrated with things.

        Criticise engineers all you want, but not for doing engineering, please. The CRL is engineering too, and so is building a cycleway, or a pedestrian plaza.

        1. And anyway, if I agreed with your stance, Patrick, I would basically have to commit Seppuku today, because since becoming an engineer, I designed many, many car parks in Auckland. Far more than I ever (for pay at least) designed cycleways. Well, I guess I could have told my boss to go stuff those projects… and, among other things, missed out on getting to see both sides of the coin.

          1. Disappointing, Nick.

            Maybe because one group was full of active murderers or people plotting murder, and the other is not?

          2. Actually the question of the Nuremberg defense never applied to those that committed or orchestrated murder, their guilt was never in question. The Nuremberg ruling was over those that committed no crime directly themselves, but through following orders or undertaking their regular duties contributed to the crime. It applied to the middle officers and administrators of the Nazi regime, not the commanders or those pulling the trigger. The ruling was that each person has the personal moral obligation to do what is right, and that simply ‘doing ones job’ is no excuse. 

            The planners and engineers of this world have no moral defense getting rich designing destructive infrastructure at great public expense, even if they are ‘only following orders’.

        2. And yeah, I too, do have a slight problem with spending $500 million on this project, in case that didn’t come across. But I will remain insisting that you are barking up the wrong tree by blaming engineers. The three people who led us to this are a former currency trader, a former radio network investor, and a former teacher. And the voters who elected/re-elected them, knowing quite well (and sadly, apparently being quite comfortable) with what transport policies were planned.

        3. My apologies jonno if that really was sarcastic, if so it was very easy to read straight. And Max if you look at what I was answering that is where the reference to ‘scientist’ comes from. Complete with inverted commas. And fair enough about Godwin, guilty as charged, but read the original post, the point of it is about engineers leading with the autodependent options. I mean would it have impossible to include a PT and active modes option in this ‘study’ or in fact several versions?

          By the way I do consider this government to be criminally negligent particularly with regard to its energy policy. And bless engineers and their clever math, which I actually do every time I fly into Wellington, or other risky activities…..

          1. “I mean would it have impossible to include a PT and active modes option in this ‘study’ or in fact several versions?”

            Certainly not impossible. Certainly desirable. Considered out of scope before the study even began? Quite possible. It comes back down to what Nick and you see to be so concerned about – at what point is doing what one is instructed a moral choice?

            “By the way I do consider this government to be criminally negligent particularly with regard to its energy policy.”

            I do not – I consider it a democratic right of any country’s citizens to drive their country as deeply into the shit as they want to. As long as the press is reasonably free, and the elections aren’t rigged, the buck stops with the voter.

          2. A very neat accommodation Max, one could almost call it ‘grade separate’, too cute for me. Surely an equally essential part of democracy is to call out wreckers, thieves, and liars when they get their hands on the levers of state even when lawfully elected?

          3. The whole point of this post is to highlight that all the politician sees in a project like this is what seems like a decent benefit-cost ratio and reduced congestion. You need to dig into the details to really highlight the daftness, but most of the time the details are not public.

        4. Heh, I hadn’t read Patrick’s 3.09 when I posted my 3.25 as I was responding to goosoid and hadn’t scrolled down, though it might appear that I had.

          Max, your “problem-solving” definition is better than mine of (applied) science and maths, although of course it also goes beyond technology to finance, economics, law, policy and indeed politics – engineers need a good general knowledge in all these areas. I did a BCom in accountancy a few years after my engineering degree so the finance department could no longer screw me. Now I advise my mentees to first determine the “best” engineering solution to a problem, without regard to cost or any other externalities, then test it against the constraints mentioned above. Often the best technical solution fails one or more of those tests leading to an optimised final solution, but if you try and do it the other way round (ie allow constraints to influence the best solution in advance) it all turns to custard. Maybe this is what Patrick was getting at, and maybe he’s right in this instance.

          Patrick, no problem, I quite enjoy your rhetoric, makes the blog more interesting. And I’ve looked at some of your work on the John Leech Gallery website – brilliant. I presume you provide some of the photography on this blog too.

          PN (below) – Friedman, Krugman, hmm, Chicago School maybe? And of course QE has a place in distressed economies like the US (just look at their bond rate) but not in a relatively strong economy like NZ’s. But this is a transport blog…

    4. Speaking with the economist’s hat on here for a second – rubbishing the Greens for their support of quantitative easing only proves that you don’t have much of a clue about economics. The fact of the matter is that loosening monetary policy to smooth the business cycle is bog-standard macroeconomics espoused by everyone from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman.

      More to the point, it’s routinely practiced by most overseas central banks, with a reasonable amount of success. For example, the US is growing and the eurozone is shrinking in part because Ben Bernanke has loosened monetary policy through QE, while the ECB has not.

      A higher inflation rate or a lower exchange rate might be undesirable for other reasons – the tradeoff for increasing our export competitiveness would be fewer overseas vacations and fancy cars – but it’s hardly an economic policy culled from the woolly fringes.

  12. The solution is simple. Send the NZTA engineers to Christchurch. A few years working in a city that has one-sixth of the SH capacity per capita of Auckland or Wellington (and half that of Nelson, Dunedin and Napier-Hastings) and in which flyovers are as rare as hens teeth, should cure them of the throw more money at it mentality. Since NZTA claim they can’t afford to help CCC rebuild after the most damaging natural disaster (per capita) ever experienced they shouldn’t be spending squillions on flyovers in places where there is no obvious congestion (I’ll believe it when I see it …on Streetview! 🙂

  13. “Reasonably free” meaning “no censorship” – I was trying to allude to the fact that our press is free in that sense, but not necessarily free enough of big money influence. Yet we have opportunities like this blog, and no one is trying to shut it down, so those tendencies are some counterweight to the fact that the press is free but not fully independent.

  14. Re Jonno’s earlier comment:

    “I acknowledge that I haven’t read the Unitary Plan proposals – are the busway and Regional Cycle Network you referenced included as well as other transport projects? Can Council choose to fully fund (say) the RCN if it’s deemed high priority locally? I realise that extensions to the busway must inevitably involve NZTA.”

    The Auckland Plan / Long Term plan (we don’t have a unitary plan yet) have to at some level, recognise that the Ministry of Transport isn’t going to fund certain things – for example because the GPS (government policy statement sets very tight restrictions on what money can be used for what) – and thus, whether such projects are included in the Long Term Plan or not is not by any means a reflection of what AUCKLAND’s politicians would really want. They bucked the trend on one major thing – the City Rail Link – by including it in the Long Term Plan despite it not being co-funded by government. The more other projects they would like (better than motorways) they add without government OK, the less likely anything gets funded.

    In fact, the more likely the government could even argue that Auckland Council is not doing it’s job, and take unilateral action against things (remember that these people sacked the whole regional government of Canterbury and replaced it with comissioners, because they disagreed with ECAN’s handling of water rights disputes!).

    Regarding the Regional Cycle Network – that is included in the Long Term Plan. With very little money each year, something like 0.5% or maybe a bit more each year of the transport budget. A courageous government would go in strong, and say “lets not finish it to medium quality in 20-30 years, let’s spend the equivalent of one major motorway project to do it all, in 5 years”. But that’s not what they want.

    1. Sorry, I seem to be doing half the comments on this post, but I realised that I hadn’t fully answered Jonno.

      Yes, Council can more or less decide to “go it themselves” on all but state highway projects if they are willing to increase their own share. So if they wanted to, they could build cycleways and busways 100% self-funded. But when state highways/motorways are 100% government funded, and local roads 50% funded, trying to fund other things all on your own is a bit of an unattractive proposition – most transport money in NZ comes from Wellington, that is a factor of our tax system. Council’s have much less “spare” cash when comparing transport rates take per person to transport tax take / person.

      That said, Council did agree on a few million extra funding for the Regional Cycle Network, and we shouldn’t be ungrateful for that. It’s just that these millions are mere peanuts to these hundreds of millions.

      1. Thanks for that Max, I really should have done more homework myself, including using the correct (current) terminology.

        Still, I guess it’s appropriate for the government of the day of whatever hue, representing the taxpayer, to have the final say in what it chooses to fund. Presumably projects unfunded from taxation, such as the CRL, will fall back on the ratepayers, so we will pay anyway! As for the RCN, I would be happy to see that fast-tracked even though I’m not a cyclist (I can’t be due to physical constraints, although I would love to, hence the Segway as a fallback). Of course I might also have a subconscious desire to get them off “my” road! Just kidding, I have no problem with cyclists other than the colour-blind ones.

        As for ECan, well, that’s another issue. My personal view is that such specialist bodies should be by appointment rather than election – DHBs use a mixed model which works up to a point.

  15. Max – “democratic right of any country’s citizens to drive their country as deeply into the shit”

    I hope this ends up as a reply to Max’s comment.

    I agree Max, 100%. If we say that building lots of roads is “wrong” and it still happens then we have to accept that the people of NZ do not want decent PT/cycling/walking options. They actually do prefer to just drive everywhere and put up with the horrible cities that leads to.

    If that is the case it is democracy at work and the people will get what they deserve.

    However, another right we have in a democracy is to leave the country and not come back. If the CRL is not approved within 5 years, I will leave Auckland to a smaller city or emigrate to Australia or back to Europe. People might say I am running away from the problems, but if a majority of people in Auckland/NZ has really made a choice for that kind of society then I am justified in saying that it is no longer my society or my way of life.

    As a born and bred NZer, it would really sadden me to see NZ go down that route through (I believe) ignorance about the alternatives. I still think the pro-PT message is not the right one as most people dont understand the vision “we” (assuming most people reading this are pro-non-auto dependent transport) are pushing for. The opposite message is very easy, the status quo.

    I have hope because I actually think most people in Auckland do genuinely want better options. But exactly what are we selling them as an alternative? In my experience the average person has no idea – “Oh, you want us all driving horse and carts” would be a typical level of knowledge. The “19th century technology”, “choo choo train” comments are pretty typical as well.

    1. If we say that building lots of roads is “wrong” and it still happens then we have to accept that the people of NZ do not want decent PT/cycling/walking options.

      I don’t think it is as simple as that. We are in the mess we are now not because of what the public wanted (which has pretty much always been improved PT/cycling/walking), but because the engineering, planning and economic models have been skewed into only telling half the story which has undermined or even ignored PT options e.g. the value of a PT users time is still considered only half as valuable as that of a drivers and that is just one of many similar issues. The public only get told that the PT options are affordable or uneconomic and so the debate has been lopsided and is now engrained into our culture.

      1. And in the only recent election which could be considered to be a vote on opposing transport policies was the last Mayoral one inAuckland. And we all know what the people voted for. I look forward with interest to see how the local Nats (C&R) campaign this time round….. .

  16. Matt L – Yes you are right. Every time the public has been asked what they want (including back 1955 when all the tram lines were removed) the public has said overwhleming that they want better PT/cycling etc. I think that is getting stronger now people going oversease so much in the last 20-30 years and seeing what the alternatives are. Of course, almost every study commissioned by the govt has said the same thing, again ever since 1955.

    But I dont see a united outcry and it certainly wouldnt be an issue that would galvanise the country and lead to a change of govt. I guess it is more apathy than anything. Again, who is spelling out the real vision here? I know Len Brown tries with videos and publications but they dont seem to get a wide viewing. Instead, the RoNS are sold as the saviours from our transport woes.

    On this issue did anyone else see this article on Suff today?:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/7801677/Is-riding-the-Loser-Cruiser-worth-it

    Typical crap journalism with no real discussion of the issue but for me reading the comments is the really important part. It seems to me that overwhelmingly the attitude is that everyone is just poised waiting for the infrastructure and services to make it worthwhile to switch to PT/cycling, few commentators agreeing with the “loser cruiser” label or condemning PT/cycling altogether. Really vindicates the “build it and they will come” philosophy.

  17. Just thought I might add here that I turned down the project manager role on a $115 million AUD job here in Western Australia because I didn’t agree with the policy/agenda being pushed by the proponent (mothballing freight railway lines and expanding roads to ‘compensate’). It may make it harder to get on with some people I used to work with, but it sure helps me sleep a bit better at night.

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