Yesterday, we presented our Congestion Free network proposal to the council’s Transport Committee. Unfortunately it wasn’t filmed, but here is our presentation (3.5MB). Much of it readers will have seen before, so don’t be surprised if you have seen most of it already.

We started out by setting the scene: that despite the Auckland Plan – and therefore the Integrated Transport Programme (ITP) – proposing to spend $68 billion on transport over the next 30 years, things still get worse by almost every measure. This includes:

  • Congestion gets worse, both peak and interpeak;
  • CO2 emissions increase, when the Auckland Plan calls for them to decrease significantly;
  • Public transport mode share to the city centre hardly changes, and gets nowhere near the targets set;
  • Non-car mode share across the entire region gets nowhere near targets set;
  • Public transport is simply not a choice for many compared to driving.

We believe the key reason for this is that, despite the rhetoric, over 70% of funding is still being proposed to be spent on roads. This is shown in the two graphs below. The first looks at the total amount of capital expenditure proposed to be spent in the ITP, while the second is the percentages.

ITP CAPEX funding

ITP CAPEX funding percentage

We also believe that the plan doesn’t follow current transport trends. In particular we noted that:

  • Vehicle kilometres driven per capita are down;
  • Vehicle ownership per capita are down;
  • The number of driver licences issued are down;
  • That traffic volumes are down, especially on the Harbour Bridge. Note that the NZTA spoke after us about the projects they are working on, and commented that they believe the key determinant for an additional harbour crossing is truck volumes – despite also saying that the purpose of the Western Ring Route was to take pressure off those.

Yet at the same time, we are also seeing some big changes in public transport usage that have been brought about by:

  • The introduction of bus lanes on some streets as well as improved frequencies;
  • The opening of Britomart;
  • The construction of the Northern Busway.

On the last point, one interesting graph I found recently was a presentation with an updated version (4MB) showing mode share on the Harbour Bridge. This looked specifically at people going to the CBD rather than all bridge traffic but shows for the central city, now more than 50% of people are using buses.

Harbour Bridge volumes

In the same presentation, AT also said that 76% of the increase in PT use to the CBD has come from either the busway or the improved rail network. To us, this helps to show that if we provide a good quality service with decent frequency, and build infrastructure that provides a good right of way, people will use it.

CBD PT increase

We then covered the PT benchmarking study which Patrick discussed, along with an extract from the De Leuw Cather report he talked about yesterday. The benchmarking study was something that Mike Lee was particularly interested in.

Moving on, we briefly discussed the upcoming plans that will have a huge impact on our PT network over the next few years: in particular, electrification, the new bus network and integrated ticketing and fares.

After that, we got into the details about the Congestion Free Network itself. We started with why we designed it, and some of the ideas that drove the decisions we made. These included that the plan needed to be Possible, Affordable, Give Choice, Be Popular and be Better than what we currently have. You would have seen the maps before, but just as a reminder, here is the 2030 vision. We stepped the councillors through each of the projects in each time frame.

CFN 2030A

I got the feeling that one of the aspects of the plan that councillors (from across the spectrum) quite liked was that we had taken a fairly mode neutral approach to the proposal. We were quite upfront about how we felt some of the rail projects (Mt Roskill to Onehunga and Manukau to Airport) simply weren’t feasible during the time period we were suggesting, and as a result these were dropped to enable other projects to be built. We then showed an idea of how much coverage the CFN would provide. Currently, within 1km of potential stations on the CFN there is about 40% of the region’s population and 43% of the region’s jobs.

CFN Catchment

However the CFN routes do happen to touch or travel through all major employment nodes in the urban area. The numbers represent the size of those areas.

CFN Major Employment

Lastly, we went through how much the proposal would cost, and one of our key objectives which is to have Auckland Transport model the CFN when they come up with the next version of the ITP (which is due in 2015). In addition, we mentioned that Generation Zero would be quizzing mayoral and council candidates on transport in the upcoming elections.

We then moved on to getting questions and comments from the councillors. Positively, we had a lot of comments in support of the proposal. There were quite a wide variety of questions – some about specific aspects of the proposal, and some about other issues, like our opinions on whether we should keep our old diesel rolling stock after the EMUs arrive (the answer we gave was no: the current trains have been important in the development of rail in Auckland but they have also had their time). A few other notable, off-topic questions were Dick Quax asking about the layout of the Half Moon Bay wharf area, Penny Webster asking about ferries to Riverhead if mangroves are removed (if it happened it would be as part of the CFN) and George Wood asking about asset sales to pay for transport projects (there is enough money but we just need to allocate it better).

All up it seemed that the presentation was very well received, and we even managed to get a round of applause for it which is apparently quite unusual. The Committee passed a resolution to request that Auckland Transport look to model the CFN (or something similar) as part of their next ITP.

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  1. Well done guys, that sounds like a fantastic outcome. That resolution in itself is a major achievement and shows they take it seriously.

    Sounds like NZTA are still stuck in their 1960s time warp. I wonder if anyone there has ever read the De Leuw Cather report?

    Matt – when do you start your new job at AT as “CFN Implementation Manager”?

    1. Just registering my appreciation along with everyone else’s, great outcome from plenty of inspiration and hard work from the team.. Well done!

      NZTA = NZ Timewarp Association.

  2. Well done…
    Looks like your well on the way to convincing Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to put more of thier money into new PT infrastructure development and better PT networks.
    I think the next big task will be to convince them not to accept the ‘free’ State highway imporvements that are paid for by NZTA.

  3. You guys are just amazing.
    It humbles me that there are folks like you prepared to put so much into making our city a better place to live.

  4. Excellent stuff.
    It must be a great feeling for you guys to know that you are actaully making a difference to everyone who lives in Auckland, that is an amazing feat.

  5. Well done keep going.
    That chart Person Trips over the Harbour Bridge PT v’s Car is sufficiently persuasive to advance the case for continuous bus lane on the Bridge itself

    1. Yes, you’d think, but on the other hand it also shows just how much space private vehicles take up to move any volume of humans.

      On a related point: NZTA divide their vehicle counts into two groups; light and heavy vehicles. They have been saying that the bridge is carrying an increase in heavy vehicles in recent years. I thought about this and sent them a question asking what kind of vehicle a bus might be. Guess what? A bus is a heavy vehicle. Heavy is always taken to mean freight in their analysis, there is no separating out of passenger and freight vehicles in these counts as it is simply based on axel numbers. Yet it surely is critically important to know if the demand is for an RTN route or more space for trucks isn’t it?

      Especially as we are currently building a multi billion dollar diversion, especially for freight [we are told] for this very route….

  6. I love the concept and think this plan makes much more sense that any i have seen. The presentation on Campbell live was a excellent way to demonstrate it, and i was sold after seeing it.

    However, being a financial person i have not seen enough “on the numbers” to understand if it stacks up – For Example with Rail and Buses, there is the cost of purchasing (1/3 of the Cost) 2/3 is running and more importantly maintaining. It could be argued the cost of the service is offset by the revenue it creates but this is not often the case.

    As I said, i love the concept and i am sold on this being the best proposal i have seen….but to convince councils and goverment you are going to have to focus on the costs moving forward.

    Questions like AMETI being 2,600m in the Auckland Plan and 700m in your plan and CTL being $2,617 and $2,200…….do not stack up……i sure there are reasons but they are not clear.

    1. A quick one on the cost difference of the CRL, the $2,617m under AT is an inflation-adjusted figure to the commencement date. Starting it sooner means the inflation adjustment is lower. There’s also a big difference between the tunnelling cost in AT’s case vs the cost that’s been discussed subsequently, and that is also magnified by starting later.

    2. Mark – couple of quick points.

      Many of the services that would be operating on the proposed network will already be existing as part of the new bus network. We are just shifting them onto dedicated infrastructure which will make them faster and more efficient so there shouldn’t be too much change in operating costs vs what is already planned. I actually think that the current budget operating costs are excessive anyway. The alternative funding proposals were based of the ITP and said PT OPEX would cost $15.5b over the next 30 years. That’s an average of just over $500 million a year but we are currently spending about half that and costs are expected to drop as electric trains come on board and we move to the new bus contracting model (PTOM).

      The money for AMETI comes from the busway component which is listed separately in the ITP. Yes there are roading parts of the project however that is one of the reasons we haven’t specified exactly what roading costs should remain as the funding envelope still allows that to be built.

      For the CRL there are a couple of reasons for the lower costs. First the $2.6b cost is based on the price with all risks priced in. AT have been working through those risks which will reduce the cost (like the NZTA did with Waterview). We also know that since that cost was announced AT have reduced the property footprint needed further reducing costs by hundreds of millions and on top of that there was the recently announced deal between the council and Downtown shopping centre owners with the latter building the tunnel when they redevelop the site ahead of the CRL construction. AT will still need to pay for the cost of the tunnel and that specific piece of land but that will be much cheaper than the ~$80m they would have otherwise had to pay for the entire site. It’s worth noting that when Waterview was at a similar stage of design, it was costed at over $3b and is now under construction for $1.4b. Another thing towards the cost is that the original price included additional electric trains but that used a fairly inefficient running pattern. We believe that this has been improved reducing the number of additional trains that might be needed with further reduces CAPEX (and OPEX) costs.

      1. Thanks Matts……i knew there would be good reasons……

        I am sure there will be a team of consultants getting paid thousands or millions in fees (most of them abroad ) working in their little silos on individual projects that don’t understand the big picture and how it could all work together for the greater good.

        In short, i am not a easy person to convince but i am on board. It is a great plan and you guys should be commended for spending the time and more importantly the effort in coming up with such a compelling argument which links the city up.

        Good Work and I hope that they listen.

        1. Thanks Mark

          “I am sure there will be a team of consultants getting paid thousands or millions in fees (most of them abroad ) working in their little silos on individual projects that don’t understand the big picture and how it could all work together for the greater good.”
          It’s not just consultants but often AT staff too. One of the reasons we came up with this was to provide some clarity for people. Most of the projects aren’t new and are actually in current plans but one of the problems is that AT and the council are very project focused. They are looking at the impact of an individual project but not necessarily at the bigger picture of how everything works together. Imagine the difference in the public’s thinking if they were showed various options in a form like this, you can have
          – Option 1 (CFN on an accelerated time scale like above along with X roading projects)
          – Option 2 (CFN over a longer timeframe with XY roading projects)
          – Option 3 (XYZ roading projects but no/little PT projects).

          Obviously wouldn’t be as simple as that but the idea is to actual show people what the options are. I suspect that if AT/AC did that, it would have a dramatic impact on what people push for from our elected officials as people have been conditioned to think that something like the network above is not possible without insane amounts of money.

  7. Great work, guys! Thank you for advancing the conversation over the most effective transport mix. Building alternative (rapid) transit and allowing congestion to naturally limit demand would seem to be the most cost-effective option, although per-passenger subsidy needs to be factored in for the doubters (particularly Quax et al); thankfully, due to economies of scale, subsidy should reduce as more people ride the PT network which will be more modern, more electrified and more standardised.

  8. looking at the second illustration an obvious gap is between Mt Roskill and Onehunga to complete a west to airport opportunity

    it would be worth taking a look at the overall JTW O/Ds when the 2013 Census is available to see where there are large, car dominated movements that could be PT opportunities

  9. That is awesome! You should all be commended on trying to cut through the morass of local politics using rationalism and research rather than jingoism and ideology. I am a strong PT advocate and high user despite owning a gas-guzzling turbo Subaru as I can appreciate how improvements to PT improve the overall fabric of a city and communities. Hopefully more Aucklanders will come to realise that being a car lover and PT lover aren’t mutually exclusive!

  10. “The Committee passed a resolution to request that Auckland Transport look to model the CFN (or something similar) as part of their next ITP.”

    Does that count as accomplishing or exceeding the expected/hopeful outcome? If it means that AT will look seriously into this for 2015, then I’d say this is a job well done.

    Auckland badly needs thinking like this – not necessarily new, not necessarily ground-breaking, but essential and visionary nonetheless.

    1. That counts as the best possible outcome. There is no more that this Committee could do, and the more common response is ‘we thank you for input’ or similar version of polite ‘go away’.

      1. I’m very glad this got more then a fob-off response. Hopefully they will continue to take this seriously going forward.

      2. Bravo Matt and Patrick, Gen Zero and anyone else who was involved (I wasn’t; the work on the CFN was before my time). Fantastic work.

    2. To be fair, AT are already working on the next version of the ITP and are looking at all the components in depth.

  11. AHHH, sounds good and all. But what a shame that you guys as well as AT fail to see the blackspot that is Takanini and the proposed Glenora station. With this area under massive development Commercially, Residentially and having the new Library+ Bruce Pullman park within your 1km jurisdiction that is continues to be overlooked. What an absolute shame..

    1. Mark, just to reiterate what the Matts have suggested: capital investment in infrastructure can massively improve operating efficiency.

      Speed is a simple factor. Many of our bus routes currently run about 20km/h if they are lucky. The northern busway runs at about 40km/h, basically twice as fast.

      So what happens if we build infrastructure that doubles the speed? Well all of a sudden the same bus and driver can make two trips in the same time, for basically the same cost. That’s the same cost, by double the speed, double the frequency and double the capacity. And what happens if you double the speed and frequency of a route, well a lot more people find it fast and convenient so your number of passengers go up (often more than double) and you fill up all that extra capacity.

      At the end of the day you can often double or triple patronage/revenue for the same opex, or conversely halve your opex costs to move the same amount of people.

      I there is one thing that is inefficient to run, it’s a slow unreliable bus that nobody wants to use.

  12. But don’t buses, which are PT, need roads? Only $7B over an above the silly loop project? To build all that? Really?

    1. Yes, John, those roads already exist, now we need to actually make them worthwhile to catch a bus on. Also, when you say silly loop project is that the SH18 interchange?

  13. No it doesn’t. I take the train all the time. And I already can get to Mt Eden on the train. I just don’t think I need to do so underground as well.

    1. John: Do you really think that we should plan transport infrastructure based entirely on your personal experiences?

    2. Congratulations, we currently cover your journey, be can’t do it fast, frequently, or reliably, but you’ll get there. There are already roads going across the isthmus so obviously we should stop Waterview now.

  14. No what’s you think that, wtl. An underground train line to Mt Eden, to go with the current above ground service. What else is the CRL, but that? This is the brilliant idea you all think should be built ? Spend the same money building rail to the Shore, surely, is the better use of resources.

    1. If you really think the CRL is simply “an underground train line to Mt Eden”, then you obviously have not read the post supplied by Bryce P. Why don’t you go and read that and critique the project based on what the CRL really offers, rather than posting uninformed comments like these.

    2. John let me summarise things for you as quick as I can.
      – Travel demand to and from the city centre (and elsewhere) continues to grow
      – It is not practical to expand road capacity without causing massive disruption to the city as we have used up the available surface routes.
      – Current forecasts expect that the number of buses in the city centre will be more than the streets can handle within 10-15 years, even with improved bus infrastructure.
      – Britomart is like a cul de sac where every train that enters has to exit out the same way again. This limits how many trains can be run with the maximum being a train every 10 minutes on each of the three main lines and two trains an hour to Onehunga.
      – We are getting new electric trains which have more capacity but even those are expected to be at capacity in 10-15 years too.

      This means we have a couple of options. We let the centre of Auckland stall or we build the infrastructure to enable it to keep growing. There are some substantial economic benefits to the latter. Studies that included staff from both local and central government agencies have already looked at:
      – Surface busways
      – Bus tunnels under the city
      – Alternative ideas like trams, above ground rail routes etc.
      – The CRL

      The CRL has come out as the best option. One of the reasons for that is it opens up Britomart enabling through routing of services. It means a train can enter from the west at Mt Eden, travel down the CRL and exit after Britomart then head off out south or east. That frees up spaces on the tracks and allows the existing rail network to run at higher frequencies. That in turn means we don’t need to send as many buses from the west and south all the way into the city so the streets can be used to provide for more bus services from areas not on the rail network like the North Shore. Without freeing up the capacity constraint of Britomart we can’t expand the rail network to other places so no rail to the shore or airport until that happens. In effect the CRL is like the central motorway junction, it is the key piece that hooks up the various rail lines and allows the network to be used properly.

  15. Capacity could be increased by having trains out of Britomart every 10 mins instead of the current 15, plus adding an extra carriage or two to each train. But that’s altogether to cheap and sensible it seems.

    1. Britomart has two tracks in. Two trains every 10 minutes each way is less than what’s done at present. The present 20tph limit is a train every six minutes each way. Even if it was cut to four minutes between services, that’s a maximum of 30 trains per hour total, pushing safety to the absolute limit and probably actually not possible with present switching and signalling.

      Extra carriages? With what platform length? The electric trains will pretty much take the entire length of Britomart’s platforms, and present six-car sets are not too far off being of platform length. And it’s not just Britomart, either, there are all the other stations to consider.

      Seriously, go and read the page. Right now, you look and smell a whole hell of a lot like a troll.

      1. Even currently, there can be hold ups entering the Britomart “throat” e.g. your train will be held outside until another train exits first, or won’t depart until another train arrives. Or the Western/Southern line train arrive at the portal at the same time as the Eastern line train, and one of them gives way to the other.

        1. I have a great view of the joining of the WL/SL and the Strand yards from my office, and regularly see the trains stopping to allow others to clear the junction. It’s ridiculous.

    2. It is so tiresome to have to go over the same ground again and again, with people who seemingly fail to research this subject before blurting out misinformed opinions. John, there is already a plan to increase train frequency to 10 mins, however this is only a stop-gap measure and it represents the absolute max that Britomart in its present form can handle. Six cars is the maximum length that most of the platforms on Auckland’s rail network can handle, so “adding an extra carriage or two” is not “altogether too cheap and sensible”.

      All the forecasts are that travel demand in Auckland is set to rise inexorably, far beyond what can be accommodated by today’s infrastructure, far beyond what can be accommodated by funnelling more cars into the city, and far beyond what can be accommodated by “lots more buses” on already congested roads.

      John, do you not believe these forecasts? Do you really believe it is wise for Auckland to have no plan to address what is coming? The CRL is a means by which the Britomart bottleneck can be opened out to allow for much greater train frequency anywhere that trains go. It is not just a “silly loop to Mount Eden”, any more than the Newmarket Viaduct is just a “silly bridge to Newmarket”. Get real would you.

      But I strongly suspect you already know the arguments and your problem is simply that what is being proposed doesn’t fit with some personal agenda that you have. You would do many people a favour if you stopped trolling with your “silly loop” epithets.

    3. John, we are already just about at the maximum theoretical limit of trains that can operate in and out of Britomart. There are little tweaks that can be done, but at the end of the day one track in and one track out over a flat junction means the whole system maxes out at about twenty trains an hour in total. Currently we run eighteen.

      That’s the biggest benefit of the CRL. Instead one track in and one out, we get two in and two out. Furthermore they don’t need to go in, stop, then reverse out. Instead they can run through without reversing. All up that means about two and a half times more trains are possible that the maximum we can run today.

      Yes longer trains are a good idea, but that is already being done. You might not be aware but the new electric trains that are under construction now have extra long carriages and run in six carriage lengths. That will make the trains as long as all the stations can handle, just over 140m long.

      So yes there are cheap and easy ways to increase capacity, but those have already been done or are underway. About two years from now we’ll have a full fleet of new extra long trains running at maximum frequency, and that will be that. Without the CRL or something like it there is no way to meet demand. With the CRL we get enough capacity to grow about three times over from what we currently run. To put that in perspective the additional capacity from the CRL could accommodate more people per hour than the southern motorway carries at its widest point. This is a serious bargain, it’s the same capacity as building a pair of new six lane motorways from Swanson through town and down to Pukekohe. Only difference is we already have the rail lines, they are built and ready but because of the constraints at the core we can only use about a third of the potential at the moment.

      1. Thanks for your reasoned explanation Nick. Shame your buddies only use sarcasm instead of intelligent debate.

        1. I started nice and went downhill after you posted again, obviously without reading the info I linked to. No offence intended but it is getting old pointing to the information people ask for and then having it ignored.

        2. Bryce, Ben, Dave, and Matt; while your answers were factually correct, and I share your frustration with having to repeat old info, I have to agree with John here that the tone was a little harsh. Remember that while we do suffer some extremely tiresome and persistent bores here we are also getting a lot of new readers many of whom haven’t been following what are technical and complicated issues…. Nick and Matt L’s responses above are better….

          Love your enthusiasm but we should start by assuming that all questions are genuine until a poster shows otherwise. And they will.


        3. What about a FAQ-like post responding to these standard questions about the CRL? Sure, the information is covered elsewhere, but it might make things easier if there was a page with short rebuttals to common questions like “Couldn’t we increase capacity by increasing the number of carriages?”.- then the response to such a question would simply be “This has been covered before, it won’t work. Please see answer X on this page” without the need for any harsh answers.

        4. Patrick it was John’s “silly loop project” gibe that marked him out as probably more than just a plain, uninformed punter.

        5. Well we’ve got pretty much that above under the banner but i understand if people don’t find them…. perhaps we should consider a redesign with FAQs more prominent?

        6. It seems that the CRL posts under the banner are all reasonably long and in-depth. Of course these are informative, but in this day and age I suspect they suffer from the usually “tl,dr”.issue. A simple way to generate such a page might be to collect questions and answers from the comments sections and start adding them a single page for quick reference.

        7. To be fair, I did post a link directly to the CRL info on this site (and I was nice about it :-)). I promise to refrain from sarcastic comments as much as possible in the future. Sorry Patrick. xxx

        8. I just went back through the CRL stuff and it doesn’t hold a candle to the CFN work (which is not a bad thing in itself). A bit of a simplification would help quite a bit I expect.

        9. Haha, intelligent debate? Bit rich from the guy who clearly hadn’t read a single thing aout the CRL until today.

        10. When you got pointed to the resources to answer your questions and then came back with more uninformed comment you no longer came across as someone who was looking to be given information. We get so many trolls that it can be hard to tell the difference. If you’re genuinely interested and looking for answers, my apologies for the sarcasm.

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