Newstalk ZB is reporting that the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) will be released today by Len Brown. This is the study that Brian Rudman got his hands on a couple of weeks back, which highlighted something akin to ‘impending doom’ for Auckland’s city centre due to growing public transport and private vehicle trips to the city centre over the next 10 years and beyond.
My understanding is that the intention of the CCFAS is to resolve the differences in opinion – at least at a technical level – between Central Government and Auckland Transport/Auckland Council over the merits of the City Rail Link project. Going by what Rudman stated in his articles a couple of weeks back that has involved the following:
- Outlining clearly that ‘do nothing’ is not a credible option. Most bus routes to the city centre will be overloaded by 2021 and traffic speeds are modelled to halve from 16 kph to 8 kph. The growth in private vehicle traffic is a somewhat interesting finding, given that private vehicle numbers entering the CBD in the AM peak have fallen by 6,000 in the past decade, but I imagine if that trend continues then the need for CRL will only become more pressing as the PT networks are even more overwhelmed than is predicted.
- Alternatives to the CRL that were looked at in detail, including a surface bus option and a bus tunnel option, perform significantly worse than the CRL. This is particularly the case in terms of impact of private vehicles as all the bus options clog up the streets with hundreds upon hundreds of buses, whereas CRL actually shifts those people off the road network and onto the rail network – which has the spare capacity to handle them. This means less need for street after street to become bus only.
Newstalk ZB also suggest that there may be criticism of how things like benefit cost ratio is worked out. It is after all odd that the reported best option listed to avoid traffic chaos and move people to/from the central city may only have a BCR of 0.78. As we saw last week, increasing the amount of people who can access a city centre has huge economic impacts that end up vastly outstripping the transport benefits with nothing delivering as many people as a rail line. Being underground the line would also be key in helping with the councils plans to make the city centre more pedestrian friendly and therefore more successful.
What will be most interesting though is Central Government’s response to all of this. To cut what has been a very long story short, it seems like Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have bent over backwards to do everything asked of them in response to the outcomes of last year’s business case review. If government officials have been involved in the study every step of the way then the results should come as no surprise and the argument over whether CRL is the best option should be done and dusted.
Of course there are still legitimate debates to be had around how to pay for CRL and also finalising when it is necessary. But I think the government’s response will tell us quite clearly whether or not their opposition to the project is based on the facts or purely on ideology. Hell it wouldn’t surprise me if they dreamt up a whole pile new hurdles for the council/AT jump over. To be honest, I really don’t know which way it’ll go.
This post may well be updated throughout the day as information comes to hand.
- The documents have been released and can be viewed here.
- The government’s response is here, and clearly highlights that they have no intention of ever supporting the project – which is incredibly disappointing as government officials have been involved throughout this process. Clearly the government has no faith at all in their officials.