Along with making a fairly compelling case for the City Rail Link project, the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS) also provides some interesting information on my least favourite transport project: the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC). For some unknown reason the AWHC made it into the “balanced reference case” (otherwise known as the “no CRL option”) for 2041, which means that its impact on the transport network made it into the modelling analysis. This provides us with some interesting information.

Firstly, a reminder of what the AWHC project proposes: which is effectively a new tunnel from the Esmonde Road interchange to the city with that new tunnel becoming SH1 and carrying the through traffic. This enables the existing harbour bridge to be dedicated to CBD-bound traffic or traffic using the Ponsonby (Curran & Shelly Beach Road) ramps. This is illustrated in the diagram below:My ultimate criticism of the project (besides it being unnecessary and hugely expensive) is that the only thing it really does is provide more capacity for cars driving to the CBD, when in fact all the plans and strategies for the CBD’s future are dependent upon reducing its car focus and making it a more people-focused place.

Looking at the 2021 modelling results (before AWHC) we can see that quite a bit of the motorway network is near capacity during the peak (orange) but relatively little is beyond capacity. This probably shows the impact of the Waterview Connection project easing some pressure on SH1. Take particular notice of the Harbour Bridge, which is shown in orange in both directions, showing that it’s between 80% and 100% of capacity during the peak – so fairly effectively utilised:2021-trafficNow let’s zip forwards to 2041 with the AWHC in place. You can see that the new crossing basically performs the same in 2041 as the existing harbour bridge does in 2021 – which effectively is to say that for through traffic there’s pretty much no benefit whatsoever from building AWHC. What does clearly change though is the level of utilisation of the existing harbour bri2041-trafficdge for inbound traffic, which is significantly decongested – making it easier for people to drive from the North Shore into the city. How much easier? Well there’s another chart illustrating that it’ll quite a bit faster:car-travel-comparisonCCFAS talks about this outcome as being very good, and an illustration of why the CRL is needed to ‘complement’ the AWHC project, but to be honest the diagram above is a disaster in terms of the kind of city centre we want. At the moment there is a very strong public transport mode share from the North Shore to the city centre at peak times (my estimates are probably around 60-70% of those trips are by PT), because the busway and the ferry system give public transport a comparative advantage over driving that’s relatively unusual throughout Auckland. The AWHC would destroy that advantage, make driving more attractive and as a result likely flood the city with cars while undermining our investment in the Northern Busway (and certainly killing any prospect for future North Shore rail).

So I ask again, why spend $5 billion to flood the city centre with cars?

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  1. Imagine what $5 billion could do if spent on PT alone through out Auckland – if we simply stuck it all in an interest bearing account at 5% pa we’d basically have enough interest to make PT free in Auckland…..or imagine the infrastructure that could be built to really make the planned bus network amazing. That sort of money could make PT in Auckland once again be something people would enjoy to use rather than it always being considered second place to the car.

    If we really want to spend that sort of dough on private transport however, I’d happily support the lot being spent on building amazing cycling infrastructure throughout the city.

    Nah but those ideas are all stupid, let’s just build another motorway to duplicate an existing one, anyone who thinks you could spend money to generate an outcome that everyone in Auckland increasingly wants is simply crazy.

  2. I can only think of two reasons why this Additional Harbour (Road) Crossing is still in the plan. Either i) as a sop to roading fanatics who are presumed to constitute some sort of a majority (all the while knowing the plan to be an undesirable crock), or else ii) because those proposing it are stuck in the same ignorant time-warp as Joyce and Brownlie, in which the foundation of our land-transport strategy is not impartial analysis but the naive maxim that, “Kiwis love their cars so of course we need more roads. End of story.”! Can anyone think of any other explanation for officially wanting to persist with this counter-productive scheme?

  3. I’m just waiting to hear that we need an extra bridge because the current one is an “earthquake risk” – much like the argument for replacing the Newmarket Viaduct…The other scary motorway proposed that we tend to forget is the Onehunga to Penrose connection, supposidly for freight, but which again will run adjacent to a rail corridor.

  4. Ok let me get this straight, it’s effectively a four or five billion dollar project that has no change to state highway capacity and serves only to shift CBD commuters off the busway and back to private cars?

    I have to ask where do they plan I doing widenings of city streets to handle the traffic? Where are the new parking towers to go? Does anyone actually want more traffic in the city, we’re we trying to get less? What does Heart of the City and the EMA have to say about this scheme to flood downtown with more single occupant commuters?

    Sheesh, imagine what we could do for CBD commuters with a budget of five billion. We could have a metro network covering the whole of the north shore and the upper harbour, probably the Northwestern corridor too. Might even cover off some light rail on the isthmus.

    The interest on a loan that size (or in other words the opportunity cost) comes to a sphincter tightening quarter billion dollars a year! Imagine the bus and ferry service we could fund with an extra five million a week!

  5. Some additional analyses should be requested:
    1. What is the decline in land values on roads leading into the CBD, particularly along Cook St that is expected to accept about another 2000 vehicles per hour from the North Shore ?
    2. What are the increased PT subsidies required over a 30 year period by making car travel from the North Shore more attractive ?
    3. Can the government’s cost recovery target for PT be met for North Shore bus and ferry services if the new crossing is built ?
    4. What increase in tolls from the existing bridge will be required to finance the new crossing ?
    5. What are the increased congestion costs faced by the rest of Auckland with the new crossing ? (Note that the area on the map that will have an increased travel time is greater than that with a decreased travel time.)

    Questions 2-3 depend on the magnitude of tolls imposed on the existing bridge and the new tunnel, but a series of scenarios could be prepared from full cost recovery for the $5b through tolls (which would have the highest PT useage) to a scenario where all Aucklanders pay for it through rates and vehicle taxes.

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