Well someone managed to leak a copy of the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) to the Herald as Brian Rudman has an article this morning covering what are likely to be many of the key outcomes from the study. First a brief recap about what the CCFAS is and why it came about. Last year the government had its agencies complete a dodgy review on the CRL business case as a way to try and knee cap the project although they let the council continue to at least protect the route. As part of their official response they suggested that the case for the CRL could be improved by:

  • Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur
  • Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives
  • Begin implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors to capitalise on the current upgrade and electrification.
  • Implement additional park and ride sites and bus feeder services to drive further increases in public transport demand

It is the second of those points that lead to the CCFAS and is a study that has involved not only Auckland Council and Auckland Transport but various government agencies as well. My understanding is that the final version of the report is going to be sent to the government within the next few weeks. We learnt just over a month ago that work on the CCFAS has involved quite a bit of modelling and even involved work to update the transport models to better deal with public transport. We also leant that the study had narrowed down the range of possible options to just three which were the same three in the initial business case of the CRL, a bus tunnel or surface busways.

So on to the report in the herald this morning. In a funny way it seems like the CRL is the best option for cars although that shouldn’t surprise, after all we only got the fabulous New Lynn station as a way of getting those pesky trains out of the way otherwise the poor car drivers would have suffered horrendous congestion. Brian writes:

Rush-hour traffic in central Auckland will slow to walking pace in 10 years if the central city rail tunnel isn’t built, a confidential report warns.

The draft report by transport engineers Sinclair Knight Merz puts further pressure on the Government to back the project.

By 2021, most bus networks near and in the city centre will be at capacity or overloaded in terms of what can be provided on existing roads, the report says.

Private motor vehicle speeds will have halved from 16km/h in the morning peak to 8km/h.

The rail network will have reached the maximum number of services possible.

And by 2041, the bus network will be “significantly over capacity” and the average morning peak car speed in the city centre will be 5km/h.

Car journey times to the city centre from the west and south will increase by 30 to 50 per cent, adding an extra 30 minutes each way from the South Auckland growth area.

Later in the article it also says:

The draft also warns that by as early as 2021 growing congestion would “limit Auckland’s potential growth” by increasing travel times for city centre workers and reducing efficiency for freight and commercial road users using the port, moving around the city centre, or passing through.

The growing congestion would also push employment out of the centre, reducing productivity and resulting in a less competitive economy.

By 2041, the report said, traffic jams would be keeping 15,200 employees and students out of the city centre and would reduce speeds for commuter, freight and commercial vehicles by 75 per cent.

Several city streets were carrying 80 to 100 buses an hour, resulting in “unstable flow and queuing”.

Ultimately, main bus routes could have be be two-laned in both directions.

The report concluded underground rail was the only option with any capacity after 2041.

That seems like a pretty apocalyptic view if we don’t build the CRL but what about the alternatives:

A bus tunnel was not practical because too much land would have to be taken for it, it would reach its limits between 2025 and 2030 and it would cost up to $2.34 billion.

It would have a return of 28c to 36c for every dollar spent on it.

A surface bus solution was cheaper at $1.13 billion with a 34c to 50c return but had similar short-comings to the bus tunnel solution.

The report’s 78c estimate of the rail tunnel’s return was lower than last year’s joint report by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport which predicted a return of $1.10 to $2.30 on every dollar invested.

Now from what I have heard, the economic analysis was only focused around being used to compare the options against each other and as such may not be a full economic analysis used to justify the project. Even so helps to highlight some of the things that are so inherently wrong with how we currently do the analysis. A project that is suggested to be the only thing that will keep traffic moving and growth happening still appears to get a poor result. My guess this is still due to PT projects not being treated equally in the economic analysis criteria with things like PT users time not being considered as important as that of a driver.

As Rudman also points out in his opinion piece on the report, it is time we just go on with it and built the thing.

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  1. The impression I get from that – considering it says the CRL BCR is 0.7 and taking that as a given – is that, “do nothing” included, there is no way out of the current situation with a positive BCR. That’s pretty screwed. Am I reading that right? Have we messed up our CBD that much? And if so, is the design of the current motorway network, ring-fencing the CBD on all sides, to blame for this?

    1. Correction: 0.78, not 0.7 BCR
      Clarification: are the severance and land-cost consequences (think Newton) of the current motorway network, ring-fencing the CBD on all sides, to blame for this?

      1. The so-called BCR quoted is actually just finally a narrow comparing of each options apples with the other options apples – finally some reasonable comparison.
        But without the PT WEBs no doubt being included.
        So, after all that Gerrymandering (and Gerry Brownlee-mandering) we finally get the fact that the CRL is actually the best bang for buck deal available to relieve the growth issues in the Auckland Region (not just the CBD).

        Andrew- you raise a good point about the current motorway network severance being the root cause of all this being necessary, as if you had a normal CBD, you could have traffic flowing,in and around from all sides, not just the few bridges across the motorway moat as you have now. And if they had cut and covered the Motorways around the CBD this wouldn’t be needed now.

        But even so, you’d still need to improve PT as the current methods just don’t cut the mustard anymore..

        So, now we now the facts that the CRL is the best option, lets stop the buggering around NZTA, Ministers Brownlee, English, Joyce & co and lets get on with the CRL forthwith,
        And with you lot also collectively delivering on your promise to fund the CRL when the case stacked up..

  2. It’d be interesting to know if the 0.78 BCR is purely transport or includes non-transport costs / benefits (e.g the enabling aspect of the project for the betwork and WEB’s) along with what happens when you vary the discount rate and time period.

    As Andrew said if 0.78 is the best option, what have we done to our CBD

  3. It was not just Brian’s article; but there the full front page article is about this report as well, which means even those in Wellington can’t miss it, one hopes.

  4. For those who don’t get the paper herald, this was the front page news today. Although this article is attributed to Brian Rudman this wasn’t his usual column piece although confusingly he also had one today on the same topic which can be found here.

  5. A weird logical fallacy somewhere:

    1) Do nothing is not an option because the results of doing nothing are clearly horrific.

    2) CRL is definitely the best option to solve the horrific problem.

    3) CRL doesn’t stack up.

    1. The logical fallacy is the assumption that the growth rate projections for Auckland are deterministic and inevitable. A sizeable proportion of potential migrants and inhabitants won’t put up with conditions approaching horrific and will go elsewhere.. The CRL enables Statistics NZ’s projections, particularly with respect to the CBD, to be realised.

    1. Yes – it will be interesting to see what the government’s policy toward the future economic health and well being of Auckland’s CBD is going to be after the release of this study. I hope all press the government hard for some answers on how they see the Auckland CBD in 20 years? Do they believe in Auckland’s CBD and do they think it has a role to play in our economy?

      1. Its disappointing that while disagreeing with the council over the future of the city, they fail to provide any alternative view. Perhaps because if they did show what the outcomes of their views are they know they wouldn’t stand a chance.

        1. National does not have any coherent response to urban needs, or energy and environmental issues that coalesce around transport other than to back various vested interests. The RoNS are a terrible dressing up of a massive subsidy to the road freight sector that is economically useless, fiscally reckless, and environmentally disastrous. They have no grasp on what cities are, are for, or even particularly that we have one. One that is potentially an much more useful contributor to national wellbeing and success if supported in its changing needs.

          Their constant oppositional attitude to the people of Ak and Chch and their elected bodies is both destructive and small minded.

  6. Interesting angle on the viability of having an Auckland CBD full-stop. If the best that can be achieved is just 0.78, then should the government investment money go towards building motorways, low density residential, big box retail and office parks around a greater Christchurch? Or, making use of the Waikato Expressway to do the same sort of thing north of Te Rapa? I don’t think a straw-man argument, as these costings may become a reason to simply shrug shoulders, and say that Auckland CBD is not economically viable, therefore “we” shouldn’t invest in it.

    1. Yes I expect this nonsense argument; the idea that big box retail somehow contributes the same economic value as a city centre is childishly poor yet strangely persistent in the sprawl/road lobby.
      Everything we know about the value of cities contradicts this; economic performance, agglomeration effects, environmental efficiencies etc all improve towards the centre. See my earlier post on Ed Glaeser’s work, or Stu’s post from this morning. Cities require city-ness to function at their best.

    2. I think it more likely reflects just how bad our economic analysis tools are. Remember that the value of time of PT users is considered and about half that of drivers.

      1. And such a narrow form of analysis rarely asks any question with a sense of the bigger picture: What exactly do we want our city to be like, and how best do we get there?

  7. I smell a “fix”. I think that the bylining of the report to Brian Rudman is a way of making it look ridiculous (since “everyone knows” that Brian’s a terrible old Labour Party type) and giving the Govt a way to ignore it. If it had been bylined Delearney or Orsman they’d have taken notice. NZ Herald sabotaging its own message for the sake of its mates in Govt.

    1. I haven’t checked but Dearnley may be on leave. I have also emailed Rudman who said he only got a short period of time to look at the report in a hard copy form. I doubt it is that much of a fix seeing as the government agencies have been involved in it.

  8. I must say that whoever leaked this information is an idiot – or actually is someone who wants to damage the project.

    When you have a government very skeptical about contributing to Auckland’s most important transport project ever and you’ve spent a year and a half rebuilding trust with said government to ensure that there’s general agreement on the figure I think the last thing you want to do is then go and release information before said government has had the chance to properly digest it.

    1. I think the leak has worked very well. All the coverage has been very positive, even the EMA guy saying it has to happen. Much more coverage from this leak, than any other announcement.

  9. Given all the options have a BCR less than 1, it seems obvious to me that the best way forward is to use existing capacity more efficiently via road pricing as well as market pricing for rail fares. I hope this was considered in the report.

    1. I think all the BCRs are lower than one because of the high discount rate used. As noted previously if we used the same discount rate and assessment period as the UK the CRL’s BCR would be around 5.0.

      I struggle to see how it’s logical to say the CRL will cease to provide any transport benefit worth measuring post 2050.

      1. the BCR’s are poor for CBDRL as they are using the standard NZTA motorway comparison BCR. Designed to compare motorway projects, so rubbish at capturing benefits from PT projects, as the gridlock alternative clearly shows!

        1. Fair enough on the BCR point, we will have to wait to see the details. Having now read Rudmans article there is no mention of road pricing at all. Talking about things being “at capacity” whilst they are unpriced is meaningless IMO.

          1. I would hope in an options study that basic economics is not off the table, no matter what the current government says.

          2. The capacity issue is different from any pricing issue. This is an important point. What the capacity studies say is that, if the CBD is to grow – and there’s plenty of room for the CBD to get bigger and contain more employment, e.g. Wynyard Quarter and so on – there needs to be a way to get new employees into the CBD.

            There isn’t really any room for them on existing roads, and buses won’t be able to do the job alone either. Only the CRL can get enough people in and out to allow for the central city to grow.

            So without the CRL, the central city is essentially hamstrung. The growth opportunities – and there are plenty – can’t be taken up.

            Pricing is a different issue. You can introduce a price for roads in and out of the CBD. This will mean some people stop using the roads, and congestion will be reduced. So that’s fine for the roads. But then you’ve got to think of all the people who are no longer on the roads. How do they get to the CBD? Either they don’t (which is a problem if they really need to get there, e.g. for work) or they switch to public transport. But that’s no use if there’s no capacity on the public transport, which is what the studies say is the case.

  10. Is there some truth in that congestion is caused by traffic lights and roundabouts at off ramps!.. Why can a few cars at 7.30am pass across fanshaw st and hold up the entire motorway stream. Why isn’t there from 5 to 6pm a traffic warden at each major roundabout off ramp halting the one or two cars that are headed to the gas station. It’s unbelievable how 1 or 2 cars can stop thousands upon thousands of vehicles.. Every major intersection at peak times should have lights green for minimum 15mins. If your turning and cutting off the entire flow of the motorway you should have to wait I’m sorry. If they could just hire 100 wardens and place them at key points at peak times, whose job is to cut all traffic going against the flow it would give more power to the flow which means less congestion..
    So Lights green for a minimum 15mins and apply it to 5 intersections deep as you exit. For those few cars affected sorry you’ll need to find another route.

    1. That’s a ridiculous suggestion. 15 minutes would result in massive jams elsewhere in the system, especially where a primary feeder further back up the road needs one of those turns to which you are so adamantly opposed. Plus, why on earth should people wanting to get on the motorway get priority over people who may be nearly home?
      The better solution is for the fine for blocking an intersection during the morning and evening peak times to be increased to several hundred dollars from the present $150, and the Police to have regular blitzes on random major intersections. That’d sort the problem out right quick.

      1. Only as you exit the motorway I.e. fanshaw in the morning and Albany in the evening.. And yes traffic coming off the motorway into a primary feeder has priority during certain hours. 30min windows etc.

        1. Still ridiculous. It promotes the notion that non-motorway roads have no place other than to support the flow of traffic to and from motorways. That’s just about the worst extension of “private cars uber alles” I’ve yet seen, and this blog highlights such concepts pretty frequently.
          As NCD says, what about the poor pedestrians who might want to pass through the area? Or cyclists? Or, as I said, locals who just want to get home? Nope, screw them all, the motorway must not be impeded!

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