We’ve written before about the construction disruption coming to central Auckland next year. In particular there are two big half billion dollar full block rebuilds in the Convention Centre and the Downtown development and associated tower, plus the City Rail Link early works, then there are numerous other office and residential towers due to start. Only projects very close to the CRL route are shown below, there’s a lot more to the west both at Wynyard and around Sale St and elsewhere:

CRL Growth Corridor

AT have some details on their CRL page about the details of their work, including a video of the Albert St process, no doubt they will communicate more closer to the time. Work on the pipe-jacking access shafts start early next month on Albert St. But as there is so much other construction starting next year I wonder if AT wouldn’t be wiser to really take an bold line on this as it all winds up? For the people who are used to driving through the city it’s more than likely these habits will be impacted. I feel the best way for AT to manage this frustration is to front-foot it, to ‘own’ this disruption, explain that people should not expect to get by without making changes. Say this is going to be big and difficult, but worth it in the long run. Just hoping to minimise disruption and try not to draw attention to it and that it’s all going to be ok seems to me to invite more of a backlash. In particular to invite accusations of carelessness and incompetence.

I think AT should consider a little Catastrophising; should call down a full ‘CARMAGEDDON’ for the central city next year. This has four potential benefits:

1. They can’t then be accused of downplaying or not taking the disruption to peoples’ commutes and daily business seriously.

2. It is likely to get a number of people to change their plans especially it may get more people to trying other methods for getting into the city, thereby actually helping to reduce the impacts of all this construction activity.

3. For these and other reasons it is likely that it won’t actually be as bad as they paint it, so people will feel more relief than anger.

4. It is a good way to get communication into the media, and with it the opportunity to discuss the value of the projects too.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The I-405 in LA:


A section of I-405 was closed over the weekend of Friday, July 15, 2011 as part of the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.[10] Before the closing, local radio DJs and television newscasts referred to it as “Carmageddon” and “Carpocalypse”, parodying the notion of Armageddon and the Apocalypse, since it was anticipated that the closure would severely impact traffic.[11][12]

In reality, traffic was lighter than normal across a wide area. California Department of Transportation reported that fewer vehicles used the roads than usual, and those who did travel by road arrived more quickly than on a normal weekend.[13] The Metrolink commuter train system recorded its highest-ever weekend ridership since it began operating in 1991. Ridership was 50% higher than the same weekend in 2010, and 10% higher than the previous weekend ridership record, which occurred during the U2 360° Tour in June 2011.[14] In response to jetBlue Airlines‘ offer of special flights between Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and Long Beach Airport, a distance of only 29 mi (47 km), for $4,[15][16] a group of cyclists did the same journey in one and a half hours, compared to two and a half hours by plane (including a drive to the airport from West Hollywood 90 minutes in advance of the flight and travel time to the end destination).[17] There was also some debate about whether the Los Angeles area could benefit from car-free weekends on a regular basis.[13]

Granted this was only for one weekend, but still the principle is the same; own the cause of the likely negativity boldly.

What do you think is the best way for Auckland deal with these growing pains?

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  1. Bold prioritisation of PT and active modes would help, unlike the NW motorway debacle. If the Transport Agency had the wit to dedicate a lane in each direction to buses all the way from (say) Te Atatu to the city they would reduce the traffic by 80%, if the mode share along Fanshawe St in the morning peak is any guide.

    Instead we have people like my colleagues taking longer to get to work by bus than it would take to walk.

    But of course to do that might show that actually the gigantic widening might not have been necessary.

    Let’s hope AT have the balls to aggressively push through proper bus priority now, before the disruption starts.

    For a start, where the hell are the bus lanes in Queen Street?

    What’s with the timidity, AT?

  2. The disruption is going to be far wider than just driving times. Bus travel will also inevitably be disrupted with longer commute times. So why no suggestion that AT front foot a campaign on that aspect of the disruption? Why no suggestion that AT reviews bus timetables? If we stick with the current timetable I’m willing to bet that we are going to see late services which will give rise to passenger frustration.

    Where does the writer think the tyred pedestrians are going to go? We constantly see the transportblog twitter account showing overcrowded busses and trains at peak times. Yet the writer seems to be suggesting that tyred pedestrians can magically leave their vehicles at home and catch public transport which in many cases is already crowded.

    The writer also seems to forget that not everyone in Auckland is a rich white person like him. The compact city model has forced house prices up through the roof which has seen middle/low income families forced to move further away from the CBD, sometimes into areas where there is little transport infrastructure. Public Transport is not a viable option for many Aucklanders and nothing is going to change between now and the commencement of these works.

    1. Could you please explain what a tyred pedestrian is.

      Are you referring to pedestrians who are tired or is it those that drive and walk some of the last piece of their journey?

      1. Matthew, I take it you don’t ever catch a bus then? AT has been running a campaign for the last two months around the changes to routes and timetables to manage the disruption, doing exactly what you are asking for.

        The writer isn’t asking for it because it has already happened!

    2. “The disruption is going to be far wider than just driving times. Bus travel will also inevitably be disrupted with longer commute times.”

      Great to see your concern about bus journey times. That’s why it’s really important to prioritise buses over other vehicles during this period (and hopefully beyond), e.g. by creating additional bus lanes or other priority measures to avoid delays.

    3. Matthew, can you elaborate on your comment: “The compact city model has forced house prices up through the roof which has seen middle/low income families forced to move further away from the CBD, sometimes into areas where there is little transport infrastructure”?.

      I would have thought a sprawling model would also force lower to middle incomes to live further away as the wealthier people would be able to afford the limited number of properties closer to the CBD – maybe I missed something?

      I do agree regarding the capacity though. AT will need to be prepared to boost capacity significantly if they were to promote a carmageddon like campaign, wouldn’t be a bad thing though.

      1. Matthew assumes Auckland has a compact city model, however we don’t given that you can’t build compact housing anywhere but the city centre and a handful of other spots.

        It’s the suburbanist anti-density model that makes it illegal to build affordable housing near where people work, it’s that model that gives the Hobson’s choice between expensive housing in convenient locations and still-expensive housing in inconvenient locations.

        If we had a compact city model we wouldn’t have this problem.

        1. Yes, always amusing how people will say in one breath PT in Auckland can’t work because it is too spread out and then blame property prices on a compact city model.

          Sorry, it has to be one or the other.

        2. Matthew is a troll seeking solely to disrupt conversation here. You can tell by his use of the words “rich white”, trying to appropriate what he thinks is left-wing discourse to put up an anti-PT and therefore a right-wing argument. I think they actually plan this out in WhaleOil or GamerGate or Carrick Graham’s back room or wherever he comes from.

          Once again, I have to protest about TransportBlog letting these trolls disrupt our conversation, in the name of some kind of ‘free speech absolutism’.

          1. Daphne we are confident that our readers can make up their own minds about comments like those by the angry accountant above. People who regularly add nonsense to the comment stream here make little real impact, we feel it’s better to let them betray their poor thinking and ideological hang ups by leaving their contributions stand. We trust the clearer thinking and better evidenced views have more cut-through over time.

            We like argument, we like disagreement, we like new information, we like new or original views; and we admire the quality of our readership (largely!). Only sometimes, and reluctantly, do we remove troublesome comments, being silly, or grumpy, or illogical, or even trying to subvert are usually not enough to warrant removal.

  3. They should use this opportunity to permanently close some of the roads – get people used to it being closed off ‘temporarily’, and then follow up by making it a permanent closure

  4. The obvious parallel would be to take a leaf out of what has been happening in Christchurch. We’ve had FOUR YEARS of traffic disruptions post-quakes right across the city, with probably another year or two or major works to go. So the likes of SCIRT and Transport for Chch have been fairly upfront about the likely delays no matter which way you turn, e.g. http://www.tfc.govt.nz/about-us/roadworks/.

    People have expected to be delayed or detoured, and indeed can even find out themselves online where it’s all happening, to plan ahead – http://www.tfc.govt.nz/current-conditions/roadworks/ (I see that AT already has a similar map – https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/road-works-disruptions/road-works-map/).

    And as time has progressed they have also given us regular indications of how far along we are in the programme (e.g. apparently we’re 82% through the SCIRT rebuild works – http://strongerchristchurch.govt.nz/more-progress). There was even a cool little “thank you” video from SCIRT’s teams when they reached the halfway point – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrg8SnvSn0M

    1. Glen I think that’s useful but quite different in many ways; firstly outside of some bus changes the PT alternatives will still be working as before through this period in Auckland, whereas they got disrupted in Christchurch along with everything else. Additionally the disruption in CHCH was of course because of a disaster, was all across the city, and was much much worse than this will be.

      The biggest problem I think for AT is that because AKL’s ongoing Transit boom, there is not great excess capacity across services, especially at the peaks…. Increasing bus services is probably needed on key routes anyway, but here is a opportunity to up the communication around these issues holistically.

      1. Actually the bus route changes are a damn pain in the neck. Huge extra travel time added to those bussing from the west to downtown or from downtown to Takapuna.

  5. Did you know there are over 1,000 homeless in Auckland ?
    Many with kids (and they are lucky if they are living in a car).

    The delay or rather the -no extra help for homeless people in Auckland is of more concern that stupid cars and stupid roads fro the debt slaves that NZTA seems to have the taxpayers check book to re road everything$$$ No money for what really matters.

    1. Money can’t and won’t solve the homelessness problem. There is an existing social welfare network that for whatever reason people aren’t utilising.

      Moronic argument too, to argue that one problem shouldn’t be solved simply because another (minor) problem exists.

      The social problems caused by Auckland grinding to a halt due to insufficient infrastructure, would dwarf the existing homelessness problem by many orders of magnitude.

      1. Nah, the homeless don’t need money, why would those without a home need money, its surely the last thing they need! I assume the rationale to that statement is card board boxes doubling as homes are cheap as!

      2. “Money can’t and won’t solve the homelessness problem. There is an existing social welfare network that for whatever reason people aren’t utilising.

        Moronic argument too, to argue that one problem shouldn’t be solved simply because another (minor) problem exists.

        The social problems caused by Auckland grinding to a halt due to insufficient infrastructure, would dwarf the existing homelessness problem by many orders of magnitude. ”

        The existing social network is broken, why do you think we have so many homeless, winz has been guttered and striped to it’s purpose is no longer to function as an umbrella but now as a evangelical minster who will
        preach compassion and support but cut you off if you don’t perform inline with their beliefs or morals.

  6. If the first phase of this process – moving the North Shore buses from Albert to Wellesley St – is anything to go by I wouldn’t expect AT to manage the disruption in a way that will encourage people into PT.

    First of all the communication of the changes was terrible – with very cryptic notices about bus stop changes but nothing said at all about how the routes will change. Even now there is confusion about the correct routes – in fact some of the bus drivers are still confused as to where they should go.

    The changes haven’t been thought through very well as well. The new bus stops on Wellesley St are chaotic at peak times because they are simply too small for the number of buses that need to stop there. The stops on Albert St could take 5-6 buses or more while the Wellesley St ones fit 3 at best. Predictably this results in buses stacking two deep and passengers having to walk between stopped buses to reach others that are stopped in the traffic lane.

    Then there is the ridiculous situation where buses coming into the city aren’t “allowed” to stop at the stop on Queen St after they turn right from Wellesley St. Instead passengers are supposed to wait another 3-5 mins while the bus goes round the block through two sets of lights to the last stop on Mayoral Drive. Given that the previous stop is way up Wellesley St before the Albert St intersection, this is a long distance and time to “trap” passengers on the bus.

    AT was very quick to declare that all the changes had run smoothly (perhaps based on the lack of riots?) but they didn’t ask any affected passengers whether they agreed.

  7. Speaking of carmageddon. are the motorways in the last few weeks particularly hideous at the moment, that is even worse than ever. Mass queues on on-ramps and off ramps, crawling pace for kilometres anywhere either side of Mt Wellington, the south eastern awful, the same south of Manukau, the North Western dire at almost anytime not to mention the Northern. Is there anyone out there in governmentland who does not think the cure to this is sit on your hands and every now and then add a lane somewhere???

    1. Yes I think so; I don’t drive a lot but recently it has seemed like the roads are more consistently jammed. Of course we know that congestion is a non-linear phenomenon, in other words a system can take extra loading in its stride and then suddenly infarct. We may be at that point at a lot many places now. We know there’s been an up-kick in driving with the rise in population and decline in gas prices recently after a long flat phase.

      The city needs more capacity and performance out of its PT networks to help ameliorate this, urgently.

      1. I wonder how much effect house prices and rising rents are pushing people ever further out of Auckland but that they are driving in and out to their same places of work. May explain some of the volume.

        1. Well the more people living further out = much much more driving. Adding people at the fringes is to increase traffic congestion everywhere disproportionately. So hard to offer these people PT, there’s a lack of anything local, they travel the furthest for everything especially work, and are most likely to drive, as that’s the only complete option out there. If we wanted more congestion there’s no better way to get it.

  8. SO what is the answer?
    Would it be possible to find a better arrangement for the Buses from the north to be closer to the exchange point for other routes.

  9. Great post Patrick, it’s an excellent time to be reclaiming some more of our city streets and a perfect opportunity for trialling some quick and easy to implement measures, particularly for active transport. I read this post from Mikael Colville-Andersen a while back and thought we really could use the upcoming disruption to encourage some long term travel habits away from car dependency.

    1. That’s an interesting link Mat, thank you. It’s surprising how quickly the change occurred and also the difference between the car use int Education+Work and the Work travel pic’s/graph

  10. Auckland’s experience has been that dire predictions of traffic chaos due to a known future event have not proven true, think America’s Cup parade, CHOGM etc.

    true, these were short lived events but I think they illustrate that Auckland’s residents are smarter than many people think, for the America’s Cup parade there was significant queuing at the Devonport ferry and a colleague was able to drive from Takapuna and easily find a park in the city

    people adjust, people adapt, but AT needs to keep a weather eye on PT patronage and rapidly put resource, i.e. more buses or an extra carriage, even quickly implemented bus priority (including signal adjustments) where the demand becomes evident to ensure that newly won passengers aren’t also newly disillusioned

    1. That’s exactly the desired outcome: AT being criticised for overstating the problem because ‘it’s not so bad’ is exactly the target I’d be aiming for if I were at AT. How to get there? own it.

      And let’s face it, it’s going to be the new normal for the rest of this decade. I think AT need to be more confident about the future Auckland they are charged with delivering, growing pains are unavoidable; face them square on.

  11. Seems like an opportunity to put in more “temporary” bus lanes … then leave them there after Joe Public realise that they actually work.

    Mt Eden Rd to start with. Earlier this week an inconsiderate renovator blocked off one lane in Mt Eden village with orange cones – caused a traffic jam back to Three Kings (4km). Because the bus lanes only cover 2/3 of Mt Eden Rd, many buses got stuck in the car traffic. On my scoot I passed around 15 buses moving at walking pace, all in places where the road is wide enough to have bus lanes.

    Better bus lanes + “CARMAGEDDON” hype = more people getting in and out of the CBD more efficiently.

    1. Yes fully agree, more bus lanes are required and are on their way. After a slow start AT have picked up the pace on this, and while each individual route is helping, what will really make the difference is the network effect of continuous overlapping services with this priority.

      What I find really interesting is that bus lanes are now uncontroversial. When they were rarer any additional millimetre was met with howls of outrage, cheerled by the media; a veritable ‘war on cars’ etc. Yet drivers seem to have quite quickly adjusted to the new environment because it is more widespread, I suspect. I look forward to the same thing eventually happening with bike lanes.

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