There are many reasons to be concerned about the plan to add more road lanes across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour: from the extreme cost of building such big tunnels and interchanges [$5-$6 billion and four times as much as just building rail tunnels], to the undesirable flooding of city streets and North Shore local roads with even more cars, to the increase in air pollution and carbon emission this will create, the loss of valuable city land to expanded on and off ramps and parking structures, to the impact on the harbour of exhaust stacks and a supersized motorway on the Shore, to the pressure this will put on the rest of the motorway system particularly through the narrow throat of Spaghetti Junction. It is both the most expensive and least efficient way to add capacity across this route, and if resilience is the aim then the double-down on reliance the motorway system rather works against this. This one project will simply crowd out any other changes we could make of scale in Auckland or the country for years; yet it changes almost nothing; it simply enables more vehicles to travel across a short point in the middle of the city, yet this is by no means an obviously good thing: The list of unwanted outcomes from the current proposal is so extensive that the benefits had better be so extraordinary and so absolutely certain in order to balance them all.

But perhaps there is no greater reason to not do it than that it simply won’t improve things for drivers.

Really? How can this be? As well the obvious problem with this project that it will add super capacity for a short stretch of the motorway network and therefore just shifts any bottleneck to the next constriction, particularly the extremely difficult to expand CMJ or Spaghetti Junction, there’s also a bigger structural problem with building more roads to fight traffic congestion. It can’t work. We all have experienced being stuck in traffic on a motorway and sat there wishing if only the authorities had just built an extra lane all would be sweet, well it would, wouldn’t it? However the evidence from all round the world shows that while that may help for a little while it never lasts, especially in a thriving city and especially if these extension starve the alternatives of funding, condemning ever more people to vehicle trips on our roads. Soon we’re stuck again wishing for another few billions worth of extra lanes all over again.

I-10 Katy Freeway

Here’s how it works; each new lane or route simply incentivises new vehicle journeys that weren’t made before; a well known phenomenon called induced demand. Road building is also traffic building, the more we invest in roads the more traffic and driving we get, and not just on the new road; everywhere. Traffic congestion is, of course, simply too much traffic, too much driving. Take for example the I-10 in Houston, the Katy Freeway. In that famously auto-dependent city they freely spent Federal money and local taxes disproportionately on just one way to try to beat traffic congestion, the supply side: ever more tarmac [Houstonians can boast the greatest spend per capita on freeways in the US]. The I-10 which began at six to eight lanes has just had its latest ‘upgrade’ to no fewer than 26 lanes! That ought to be more than enough in a flat city with multiple routes and only half the population Los Angeles. So what happened? According to recent analysis it has made driving this route significantly worse.

Traveling out I-10 is now 33% worse – almost 18 more minutes of your time – than it was before we spent $2.8 billion to subsidize land speculation and encourage more driving.

But hang on, those trips must need to be made, right, or people wouldn’t make them. Well in the absence of direct pricing it is hard to know exactly how valuable these new trips are. So first they really ought to price routes like the I-10 properly to reduce unnecessary journeys clogging up the valuable ones, like the truckies and trades [it is partially tolled now]. But the real problem in cities like Houston is the absence of any useful alternatives to driving [an earlier extension of I-10 took out an existing rail line!]. Providing those alternatives is how congestion is best dealt with. Not completely solved of course, that can only happen by collapse of the city economy like in Detroit, and no-one wants that solution. But traffic congestion can be made both manageable and, for many, no longer an issue, by providing them with attractive alternative options. And in turn this frees up the roads sufficiently for those who have to or prefer to drive. Especially when this is done in conjunction with direct price signals- road pricing; tolls or network or cordon charges.

Houston may be forever too far gone down this hopeless road but that doesn’t mean we have to follow it. Here is a description of the same problem in Sydney, with the solution:

Most people will take whichever transport option is fastest. They don’t care about the mode. If public transport is quicker they’ll catch a train or a bus, freeing up road space. If driving is quicker, they’ll jump in their car, adding to road congestion. In this way, public transport speeds determine road speeds. The upshot is that increasing public transport speeds is one of the best options available to governments and communities wanting to reduce road traffic congestion.

This is called the Nash Equilibrium [I would rather say better than faster; there are a number of variables including speed that inform our choices];

This relationship is one of the key mechanisms that make city systems tick. It is basic microeconomics, people shifting between two different options until there is no advantage in shifting and equilibrium is found. We can see this relationship in data sets that make comparisons between international cities. Cities with faster public transport speeds generally have faster road speeds.

Which brings us to the Waitemata Harbour. It currently has 13 general traffic lanes across two bridges, one walking and cycling lane on the upper harbour bridge, and some ferry services generally not competing with these crossings. The Harbour Bridge carries increasing numbers of buses from the hugely successful Northern Busway, the very success of which exactly proves the theory of the equilibrium described by Dr Ziebots above. In the morning peak the buses carry around 40% of the people without even a single dedicated lane on the bridge itself. And it is all the people using the busway that allow the traffic lanes to move at all. In fact NZTA argue that one of the main reasons for building a new crossing is the numbers and the size of the buses now using the current one.

The Upper Harbour Bridge is about become significantly busier because of the multiple billions being spent on the Waterview connection between SH20 and SH16, the widening of SH16, and the bigger interchange between SH81 and SH1 on the Shore. These huge motorway expansions will generate more traffic of course, but also will provide an alternative to driving across the lower Harbour Bridge.

What is missing anywhere between the North Shore and the city is a Rapid Transit alternative to these road lanes. Like Sydney always has had.

Sydney Harbour am peak

It is its [Sydney Harbour Bridge] multi-modality that makes it truly impressive, some 73% of the people entering Sydney on the Bridge from the Shore at this time are doing so on just one of the train lines and one bus lane; a fraction of the width of the whole structure. So not only does it shame our Harbour bridge aesthetically it completely kills it for efficiency too.

Auckland’s bridge was always only ever designed for road traffic, and should be left that way, the clear way forward is to add the missing Rapid Transit route as the next major additional crossing [after adding the SkyPath to the existing bridge].

In 1992 it  [Sydney Harbour Bridge] was supplemented by a pair of two lane road tunnels that up the cross harbour tally for this mode to match the number coming over by train [bridge plus tunnels = 12 traffic lanes], but that wasn’t done until the population of the city had hit 3.7 million. The high capacity systems on the bridge saved the people of Sydney and Australia from spending huge sums on additional crossings and delayed the date they were deemed necessary by many decades. But anyway, because the additional crossing is just road lanes it only adds around 10% extra capacity to the bridge. To think that the government here and NZTA are seriously proposing to spend multiple billions in building a third Harbour Crossing in Auckland with the population only at 1.5m, but not only that but they are planning to build more capacity for the least efficient mode; more traffic lanes.

The good people at NZTA of course know this, but we just seem stuck in a bad habit of road building in a similar way as Houston is, because the money for motorway building comes from central government some people believe this makes it free, in a similar way that the highways in the US are largely funded by the Federal government, unlike public transport, which is more locally funded [Known as ‘path dependency’ and is well covered in the academic literature: Imran, Pearce 2014]. This means the pressure to evaluate the effectiveness of motorways over the alternatives is much weaker. Here is a slide from an NZTA presentation proudly proclaiming how much more traffic this massive project will generate:

AWHC - Induced Demand

Of course this growth can be met by a parallel Rapid Transit system instead. The success of the Busway here and the enormous uptake of the recently improved Rail Network show that Aucklanders are the same as city dwellers everywhere and will use good Transit systems when they get the chance. And two much smaller and therefore cheaper train tunnels have much greater capacity than the proposed six traffic tunnels. Twice as much in fact: the equivalent of twelve lanes and without adding a single car to city streets. Furthermore converting the Busway to a rail system, which is entirely possible, and depending on the system may even be quick and easy, means that buses can be completely removed from bridge freeing up more capacity there for general traffic; cars and trucks:

  • Removing buses from the existing bridge would free up some capacity. 200 buses per peak hour ~= 1,000 cars ~= 60% capacity of a traffic lane. So a dedicated PT crossing provides car users with an extra lane (once you account for reverse direction). Not huge, but not negligible either.
  • Mode shift: by providing a fast and more direct alternative route you will get mode shift, providing more space to the cars that remain. So you have more vehicle capacity and less demand = a real congestion benefit.

So compared to a new road tunnel where both crossings would need to be tolled, and simply generate more competing traffic for drivers through the whole city, the dedicated PT option would seem to be better even for motorists. The better, faster, and more attractive the Rapid Transit route the freer the driving route will remain; with more people choosing the car-free option: The higher the Transit utility; the higher the driving utility.

Of course while a rail crossing will be considerably cheaper to build than a road crossing it still needs a network either side of the harbour to make it useful. Are there good options for this? In fact there are a number of very good options, all with varying advantages and disadvantages that need serious investigation. And it is important to remember by the time this project is being built the public transit networks in Auckland will be considerably more mature. The City Rail Link will have transformed the newly electrified rail network to a central role in the city, it will quickly have doubled from 2015’s 15 million annual trips to 30 million and more. The New Bus Network will be functioning and with the new integrated zonal fare system meaning people will be used to transferring across routes and modes to speed through the city. The increase in bus numbers and population will make driving in the city less functional. There will certainly many tens of thousands more people in the city without their car, many with business or other reasons to travel across to the Shore.  And importantly there will almost certainly be a new Light Rail system running from the central isthmus down Queen St and terminating downtown.

The quickest and cheapest to build will probably be to take the city Light Rail system through Wynyard Quarter and across the harbour, as outlined by Matt here. The busway can be most easily converted for this technology, as it is already designed for it. Furthermore being the only rail system that can run on streets it can also most easily include branches to Takapuna and even Milford to the east, and from Onewa up to Glenfield. This also has the advantage of balancing the existing city-side routes, unlocking a downtown terminus, not unlike the CRL does for the rail network.

What a North Shore light metro network map might look like.
What a North Shore light metro network map might look like.

Higher capacity and with the great advantage of cheaper to run driverless systems are is Light Metro like the massively successful SkyTrain in Vancouver. As described for Auckland here. However like extending our current rail system to the harbour it would require a more expensive city-side tunnel to Aotea Station for connection to city network. We know work has been done to prepare Aotea station for this possibility. Matt has also explored other variations here.

Light Metro North & Northwest

Perhaps the best answer for both the near term and the long term is to build tunnels that can take our new Light Rail vehicles for the years ahead but are also capable of being converted to the higher capacity Light Metro when the demand builds so much to justify the further investment of the city tunnel between Wynyard and Aotea Station. Bearing in mind the LR vehicles AT are planning for are high capacity [450pax ] and they can run in the cross harbour tunnels and the busway at very high frequencies. And that Light Metro systems can use track geometries much closer to LR than can conventional rail systems.

So in summary, the bane of the motorist and the commercial driver, traffic congestion, is best dealt with on the demand-side as well as the supply-side. We have spent 60 years just supplying more tarmac, and now it is time to get on with addressing the demand side: Building quality alternatives and providing clear incentives to fine-tune peoples choices.

And, just like road building, investing in quality Rapid Transit will grow the demand for more of it. It will also shift land use, incentivising agglomeration economies and greater intensification around transport nodes, as well as individual habits to suit this option more. What we feed, with infrastructure investment, grows. And vitally, inducing this sort of movement instead of driving is entirely consistent with other the demands of this century; especially our country’s new commitments to reduce our carbon emissions, and the use of our own abundant and renewably generated energy.

This project is both so expensive and potentially so valuable or so damaging that it needs a fully informed public debate about the possibilities. Gone are the days that NZTA can just keep building what its used to without real analysis of all alternatives, or that a politically expedient option sails by without serious evaluation. Because it can be transformed into a truly great asset for the city and the nation on this important route from the eye-wateringly expensive and clearly dubious idea from last century that it is now.

What’s clearly missing from this picture, especially once Light Rail fills ‘The Void’, and some form of rail goes to the airport?:

CRL Outline-Train-Plan-31July2014
Body without a head: Official post CRL rail running pattern
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      1. Of course any business case will have all sorts of nonsense like ‘decongestion benefits’ and ’emissions benefits’: which are all entirely fictitious because of the induced driving. It will in fact generate congestion and additional emissions, but by pretending that that additional traffic would occur without this project the wizards will claim the reverse. All by the book of course.

  1. 1. We don’t need a new crossing. Shore people can stay over there cheers
    2. If we get a new crossing it should be bus and train only

  2. We already have a 2nd “Waitemata harbour crossing”: SH18/16. If people are going to insist on taking their cars to downtown Akl, they can go the long way. There needs to be an incentive for them to take public transport, or else the isthmus is going to become a big carpark.

    1. The incentive for public transport should be making public transport better to use, not making it intentionally hard for people to drive.

      1. We need both. There was little problem when Auckland seemed hell bent on making it as hard as possible to use PT or cycle.

        It’s not about making it “harder”, it is about not spending all the money on just moving cars. It is also about making people who choose to travel by car pay the true cost of that journey.

  3. I don’t understand why it is even being investigated. I drive from North Shore to South Auckland everyday in rush hour and the bridge is the only bit of road where I can drive at the speed limit. There are plenty of lanes already. Unless North Shoreans want another feeder motorway cutting through their suburbs (and for another $5bn) then the current bridge is fine.

    What is important from an Auckland Transport point of view is to get the rail network onto the north shore. Currently you have a very large body of voters many of whom think most of their rates get spent on “Len’s train set” but they don’t even get to see it on the shore. Have some decent public transport on the shore (away from the existing busway) is the best way to convince those voters that there are other ways than cars.

  4. With the extra and larger buses how are the clipons faring regarding cracking and maintenance? This could have a bearing on the need for another crossing.

      1. Rescinding their statements from a few years ago about limiting heavy trucks on the outer lanes? Do you have a source for the updated stance as i would be interested inr eading that.

        1. The evidence given by NZTA at the Skypath hearings last year is a good place to start. That statement and a whole bunch of other factual things were provided in depositions by NZTA’s experts to the commissioners.
          I know as I was there when they said it all. So they’re as close to the “Facts” as you’ll get officially.

        2. “The existing AHB “clip-on” lanes were strengthened by the NZTA in 2010. This work has considerably extended the life span of the clip-on lanes and consequently the NZTA expects the clip-on lanes to have an indefinite service life (e.g. the next 100 years) providing heavy freight movements are transferred to a new harbour crossing at a certain load trigger point.” –

          Heavy trucks can just be required to take the new SH20/SH16 route via Upper Harbour. There we go, just saved Auckland about $4b.

      2. I thought they were expected to be had it by 2040 roughly 80 years after they were installed and would need replacing then irrespective of heavy vehicle use.

      3. Where is your proof of this? My understanding is that the clip ons have a finite life and that they will not last much longer than when the AWHC is expected to be completed. The tunnels are about adding resilience and replacing a structure that is soon going to be capacity reduced. Imagine the blow to the NZ economy if the bridge lost 4 lanes to HGV’s.

    1. Even if buses do pose a problem for the clip-ons; the proposed road tunnel won’t do anything to resolve it.
      There will be no access to the city from the tunnel and vice-versa. So the vast majority of buses will still be using the bridge as they do now. The problems with induced demand could mean that the bridge is no less congested after the tunnels open.

    2. With another road crossing buses will still be on the bridge, so it is clear that NZTA’s concern about the impact of buses on the bridge is in fact support for the next crossing being a Rapid Transit one, as all regular bus services can then be removed. This also frees up capacity for general traffic on the bridge as I show in the post above.

      Additionally doesn’t this growth in Transit uptake over this route support provision of a fast and direct option, that will further reduce driving demand; a real boon for remaining drivers, especially the important truckies and tradies?

      Furthermore if the bridge is stressed by buses then that will count out the even heavier Light Rail vehicles ever using it. So will the North Shore have to wait for yet another crossing before it gets a high capacity rail Rapid Transit system? Also condemning the city to ever more buses, which is already problematic.

      Surely the rational solution is to provide this missing mode next, cheaper, less invasive, transformational, congestion reducing…? I can only conclude that NZTA have not followed this solution because it’s not what they usually do, considered outside of their remit.

      Which would be madness.

      1. So basically NZTA’s rational is: We have always built roads, we like building roads so we will continue to build roads regardless of whether or not they are needed, how much they cost and how many problems they may cause.

        Auckland has a housing shortage
        NZTA: lets knock down houses and build a road.

        Aucklanders are demanding more public transport
        NZTA: lets use public money to build bigger and more expensive roads

        Auckland roads are congested from induced demand from building too many roads.
        NZTA: lets build more roads

        While my post is obviously satirical, I can’t help wonder if it isn’t too far from the truth

        1. There are some in the agency who see the project as a chance to pad out their CVs so are busy trying to find any rationale possible to justify a road tunnel

        2. You realise that is a fictional TV programme?

          In real life, the engineer would be pushing for one of the highly successful toll roads that have been built in Australia.

          Can you name a PT project in the last 10 years that hasn’t exceeded projections?

  5. Why not build a simple light rail bridge between Silo park and the North shore busway so that isthmus light rail just carries on to the shore. That would have to be the cheapest option, right?
    While you’re there add walking and cycling to this bridge instead of skypath, it would be much more direct and useful.

    1. Agree. An attractive bridge with a cycling link to Bayswater somehow. Would probably be a big a tourist attraction as the Devonport ferry is. Must be less expensive as well as being more pleasant to travel on than a tunnel.

        1. Also the ships going to the Chelsea sugar refinery, I think the Harbour Bridge is 53m high in the middle from memory, and it’s asymmetrical, which creates quite a gradient on one side.

        2. It was built that high so ships could get to a new port at Pollen Island. Since that will never be built they could easily build a lower bridge and serve Chelsea with trucks or lighters. You dont spend that sort of money on a bridge for one industrial user.

        3. Have a drawbridge section for the odd boat that needs it. If it’s only pedestrians, bikes and light rail and it only opens say once an hour, not much of a problem is it?
          Why not make it open once an hour, on the hour, excluding rush hours, for 5 minutes. Fix the light rail timetable around this.

        4. That makes more sense, and you’re right there’s no chance of a port being built on a marine reserve!

  6. What concerns me greatly is the opportunity cost of spending so much money on a road crossing. It is not just 5-6 billion for the crossing but billions more will have to be spent on motorway upgrades and connections etc. to try and make it work. There are so many things that the money could better be spent on: combatting poverty, health, education, housing, transport networks that will actually work.

    In fact the proposal seems so ludicrous It would be pretty difficult to come up with a transport proposal that will cost more money and be less effective

    1. Challenge Accepted Harriet Muldoon on the case

      1. Cook Straight Tunnel
      2. Stuart Island Expressway
      3. NZF Nelson to Blenheim Rail plan

      1. Nelson-Blenheim rail was once seriously considered to help open up the Nelson Region. Today, if the political climate more favourable to a strategic national rail network and less-obsessed with duplicating roads, then it could again make sense. More sense perhaps than that mega money-waster, “Transmission Gully”.

  7. I think we have to look at Sydney right now they are about to build a light metro new crossing extending the Northwest Metro whose tunnelling is nearly completed. The second stage will mean a rapid transit option from Rouse Hill in the Northwest to Bankstown in the inner west through the CBD in a new harbour crossing with a capacity of 30 TPH (Driverless Moving Block Signaling). It’s like Crossrail it’s that much of a game changer.

    Meanwhile Paramatta (Imagine Manukau built up) is going to get an LRT network using land value capture techniques which will turn the land around Olympic park (Old Industrial) into smart transit orientated devopment.

  8. Not sure what the current plans are but when the harbour tunnel was first seriously mooted a few years ago the plan was to remove the clip-ons permanently. If this is still the case there won’t be an issue with significantly increased traffic on the motorway network as there will only be a net gain of one lane each way. If this is the case then spending $5b on gaining one lane each way appears to be completely absurd.

  9. The recommended option “Waitemata Harbour Crossing Map – Recommended Option 2c” shows the Harbour Bridge being dedicated to traffic in/out of Ponsonby and the CBD. The new Tunnel crossing will be dedicated to the Southern and Western Motorways and Rail. The bottlenecks will remain at Onewa, Esmond, Northcote, Tristram interchanges, with the new motorways merging/diverging in between Esmond and Northcote.

    Interestingly “The study identifies passenger transport as having the most potential for increasing capacity. By 2041, passenger transport would cater for about 30 per cent of trips, up from the present 15 per cent.” A very expensive and agonisingly slow way to add Rail to the Northshore.

    1. An additional traffic route across the Harbour will crowd out any chance of rail to the Shore for at least a generation. The cost of the road crossing is so high that after that there will be virtually no more spending in Auckland of scale on transport infrastructure and certainly none on or to the North Shore for a very long time.

      But this is a huge problem, bus numbers on the bridge and in the city will become problematic way before the Busway is full [which NZTA think is 2040-ish, but then our institutions have a poor record in predicting Transit demand in Auckland and always underestimate it].

      This project is sometimes mischievously sold as offering both road and rail to the Shore. This is untrue. There will be no budget for a rail system left given the cost of the road crossing, even over the bridge, were that possible.

      Additionally whichever mode is built next delays the need or justification for the other one indefinitely. This is good; building the rail crossing saves us from having any need to add the expensive road crossing for decades. But there would still be two fully optimised road bridges plus a pair of high capacity Rapid Transit Tunnels, plus ferries. The North Shore will be the best accessed, highest optioned part of the city. Spoiled; in fact!

      1. I thought the plan is to include rail as part of the additional harbour crossing, which is the one and only reason to support it (building all those bad roads might be the poison pill to swallow to get rail to North Shore). The main problems is the Akoranga station is awkwardly placed, and the route fromthe Gaunt Street Station to the existing network is yet to be decided (infact they have said almost nothing about this aspect)

        1. Read carefully, NZTA talk about ‘future proofing’ for rail, sometimes suggesting trains ‘could’ be in the sump of the road tunnels [ignoring the gradient issues with this], but they have not been planning to build one millimetre of rail line either side of the crossing. Rail on this route is all about a sales pitch, not actually delivering anything. Even if they did plan to it would be the first thing to go at the value engineering stage. And they have very poor in this; The ‘future proofing’ for rail to the Airport turned to be much closer to ‘make prohibitively expensive’ or ‘actively restrict’ more than anything else.

          Only one mode will be built next, that is the clear economic reality, and what we are asking is that all modes be equally developed and analysed with the same seriousness and professionalism.

          Especially because the more we look at it, it is more and more compelling that that next crossing should be rail Rapid Transit. For cost and effectiveness. It also looks like the process is being unwisely rushed.

  10. According to George Wood the AWHC will “fix” local road congestion in Devonport / Takapuna.

    I attended a recent mayoral forum in Devonport where it seemed the only point of discussion was how to fix Lake Rd. All the local angries in attendance wanted the road widened and the cycle lanes removed and couldn’t understand why AT don’t just do it.

    A beleaguered AT engineer tried to explain that he couldn’t get the $50m funding required if the outcome was just moving the Lake Rd traffic more quickly to the Esmonde Rd jam which isn’t going way any time soon because NZTA control the ramp signals at Esmonde and prioritise through traffic.

    At the end of the meeting George Wood piped up saying “The good news is the AWHC will solve all these problems because it’s going to have 2 dedicated on ramps from Esmonde. And it’s coming sooner than you think”.

    That’s why a road only AWHC will go ahead – it’s popular with National voters. They’re older, car centric suburbanites whose lives are miserable because they’re spending 2 hours a day in their car. It doesn’t matter that the “solution” won’t solve their problem – their vote is all that matters.

    1. Wont it only ‘solve’ the problem for people travelling to points south of the CBD? If you’re going into the city you wont be able to use the new tunnels.

      1. And further to that, wont this mean that people living in Birkenhead/Northcote will no longer be able to access the CMJ from Onewa Rd? So any journeys to places south/west/east will take longer as you have to head north to Northcote Rd first in order to get into the tunnels?

        1. No it looks like there will be connections to and from St Mary’s to the SH1 tunnels, so Birkenhead/Onewa traffic south will go over the bridge then attempt to join the three lanes under Vic Park. So 5 or 6 go into three underground? I can see that working well. Anyway $4-6 billion and no extra capacity on SH1 and more unwanted traffic in the city; spectacular.

          Otherwise the plan is essentially to make the Bridge into a massive city facing offramp. So who gets to fund its maintenance? Will it no longer be a State Highway and become an Auckland ratepayers problem? After all NZTA will have the new tunnels to maintain.

        2. Well, that’s a relief(?)

          Although there’s currently 4 lanes over Vic Park, so is this actually reducing capacity? At least, I assume this will mean the removal of the Vic Park flyover

        3. “No it looks like there will be connections to and from St Mary’s to the SH1 tunnels, so Birkenhead/Onewa traffic south will go over the bridge then attempt to join the three lanes under Vic Park. So 5 or 6 go into three underground? I can see that working well.”

          From memory, those two tunnels from the bridge (one of which is the current Vic Park Tunnel) will not join the SH1 tunnels, but will instead become the new Cook Street ramps.

        4. Well if that’s the case then this whole scheme is even stranger. And of even less value. It won’t increase capacity through the city at all, right? In fact it reduces southbound to SH1 lanes from 4 to 3. All it is is a huge firehouse of vehicles of traffic directed at the City Centre, which in every other way is being de-cared. This then is to spend $4 to $6 billion to work against efforts to make Auckland into a world class competitive international city!

          The Cook St off ramp then is directed precisely at the enormous Sky City government mandated carpark. Is this yet another subsidy for that business? Drive directly to Sky City’s bars and restaurants [Shore special!]. Pay a toll and huge parking cost…

    2. A rail line to Takapuna would do much more to ‘fix’ congestion there than a traffic inducing behemoth across the harbour. The problem of too much traffic is helped by offering alternatives to always driving not inducing more, FFS!

      One thing he is right about is the unseemly haste, it is crazy that they are designing this before the last huge road building programme designed to ‘fix’ congestion here is not even open. Do they now believe it will not work?

      From NZTA:

      ‘The Western Ring Route comprises the SH20, 16 and 18 motorway corridors. When complete it will consist of 48km of high quality motorway linking Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore Cities. It will provide a high quality alternative route to SH1 and the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and take unnecessary traffic away from Auckland’s CBD.’

    1. Yes MoT’s future predictions hit smack up against NZTA’s path dependency. I would expect Treasury’s infrastructure unit to view these plans very darkly.

      Personally I think a great deal of the recent step up in pace to be about the realisation that the longer sensible minds look at this the less chance there is of it happening: There’s a great deal going on out of sight at the moment. Including much lobbying by North Shore MPs, all of whom buy the widespread balderdash that every new road is always good, and the bigger the road the better it must be. Absolute nonsense.

  11. The first thing that springs to my mind:

    During the afternoon peak hour, there is already congestion on the motorway north of Takapuna. So if we have those 3 additional lanes across the harbour, where would any extra northbound traffic go?

    Or are Onewa Road and Esmonde road supposed to handle an additional 6000 cars per hour then?

  12. Excellent work again Patrick.
    Mark me down as another Shore resident who is violently opposed to another car crossing of the harbour. As someone has said it will only decrease the quality of life in the suburbs as the roads become more clogged simply because they will. The maths is simple -you deliver more cars in the same period of time and it’s inescapable that there will be more cars.
    But light metro? Absolute genius. It will put Shore residents, businesses and amenities within easy reach of downtown dwellers providing a huge boost for the area.

    1. I am fairly confident that we could build cost-effective tunnels for Light Rail to start with that could be repurposed for Light Metro in the future as need for capacity grows. The ability to stage the capital cost would be extremely good, it is, after all, how the motorways have been built. So in a later decade build the tunnel from Wynyard to Aotea for Light Metro when the numbers of LR vehicles needed would start to get too hard for street running. And then later still CRL-2, the east-west, version of CRL-1, linking the Shore through South or Airport.

  13. Let’s think about what that extra 35% traffic actually means. At the moment average of 168k vehicles a day cross the bridge – about 61 million a year. An extra 35% is equivalent to about 21 million trips. Our rail network will carry that before the CRL is finished and easily double that once CRL is up and running for a few years i.e. CRL is likely to be more effective for half the price.

    1. It makes more sense in daily figures. 35% is an additional 58,800 vpd. But most of those travel each way so it is only an additional 29,400 vehicles. Mostly they are the same people every day so you could pay each of those people $50k to stay home and save more than 2/3 of the capital cost.

  14. Can we maybe break the project up into two stages. Stage 1 will build the rail tunnel and do all the land reclamation needed, and stage 2 the road tunnels if/when they are needed?

    1. Yes, the question is what is best NEXT crossing, not some kind of final decision for all time. Bearing in mind that get it right, and the next, next crossing won’t be needed for a very long time. And, of course, the longer the better, these are big sums of money that can be very usefully spent elsewhere.

      1. Totally agree. Doing the land reclamation for the road crossing and having the road crossing factored into plans for the rail crossing means that should one day we genuinely need a new road crossing we can build it too. Also any takers for changes to the unitary plan to allow much more intensification on North Shore in return for the road crossing? I’ve also looked at google earth, and thought that since the land immediately east of the busway is currently undeveloped (with the exception of a small bit between Puriri Street and the busway) the railway link can be extended at surface level to Smales Farm at relatively low cost, and have a hige bus/train transfer station at Smales Farm to be known as “North Shore Station”

  15. And don’t forget introducing congestion charging on the existing bridge prior to any additional vehicle bridge/crossing.

    Good to see a station at Onewa.
    Perhaps rail only needs to be built to there as a first stage, with passengers transferring from bus? Could get away with a single tunnel and train for 10 minute frequency over the distance.
    Then extend to Takapuna, with passengers transferring from bus at Takapuna / Akoranga / Onewa?

    CRL TBMs will be tunnelling below the water table and through the same waitemata sandstone as cross harbour, so will be of a suitable design if heavy rail were to be used.
    However smaller diameter cheaper tunnels could be built if overhead pantograph wasn’t used.

  16. As you pointed out, money for road building is more readily available through the National Land Transport Fund. Most of the money in the fund comes from road users. It is politically very difficult to use the fund for anything apart from road building and maintenance. Currently, sufficient money flows into the fund to not only do basic maintenance, but also to further develop the road network. And if more cars are on the road, more money will come into the fund.

    Some of the money is of course spent on public transport, but even that is sometimes politically contested. Considering your analysis of an Alternative Waitemata Harbour Crossing, it might be a great test case to show that spending money on more roads does not even serve motorists well, let alone the residents, city or country. It might advance discussion about the proper use of the NLTF. To what extent should it be used to provide transport solutions, or is it really only a motorist’s fund?

    1. Tim I think I make a good case that the driver is better served by building the alternative Rapid Transit system. Driving everywhere in the city will be less congested with thousands of other people not in their cars and not in your way.

    2. Yes Tim, it is a motorists fund. It’s paid into by motorists, that’s it’s intended function. Building and maintenance of roads.
      If people want to extend it to cyclelanes and trains and stuff then perhaps the need to extend its funding sources.

      Whether this crossing is a good use of it or not I wouldn’t know….

      1. Yes the funding of transport comes from 3 sources, the National Land Transport Fund [fuel tax, road user charges, and registration], Local Body Rates and PT fares, and general taxation.

        The NLTF is used to fund State Highways, around 50% of local roads, a round 50% of public transport operating costs, and a small amount of cycling and walking. Rates fund around 50% of non-State Highway roads. Recently a whole lot of extra motorway funding is from the general fund, so the accelerated Auckland motorway package, ie the current expansions of SH1 on the North Shore and south are funded from general taxation.

        The urban cycleways fund is 1/3 general taxes, 1/3 NLTF, and 1/3 local body.
        PT open is part funded from the NLTF because of the decongestion benefits to drivers of others using PT; essentially without trains, buses, and ferries, no car would move on any road in Auckland.
        The AKL transport levy is a ratepayer fund for capital upgrades across all modes.

        Road users do benefit from investments in alternatives, and now as the AKL ran m’way system reaches maturity [post Waterview] that is where the investment will benefit them most. That’s how cities and their spatial geometry works.

        1. My understanding is that the bulk of the cost of AWHC would have to come from the government topping up the fund from borrowing/taxation etc. So effectively all of NZ will be footing the bill. Seeing as it isn’t (solely) being funded by motorists but taxpayers in general then there should be a general country-wide public discussion as to the best use of the money. I don’t think too many people outside Auckland are going to be too impressed with spending 5-6b dollars of taxpayer money for a project that isn’t even going to benefit Auckland let alone the rest of the country.

        2. I imagine the Government would look at funding it through a PPP. Given Transmission Gully is costings us $125m a year for an $850m project this would put the annual cost of the AWHC at around $735m at least, probably more as it would cost more to operate a tunnel. Given the annual expenditure of NZTA on road building and maintenance is around $3.4b this represents an enormous slice of the budget, and commits us to this for 25 years at least.

          All the more reason to properly examine the project.

  17. The vast majority of North Shore residents and Aucklanders as a whole are in favour of the AWHC. I agree that it should include rail with the idea to have a rail service from Britomart to Takapuna. However, the road tunnels are the priority as they provide a service for all New Zealanders wishing to cross the harbour. As for costs, nothing stops the tunnels AND the bridge being State Highways so they can continue to be NZTA funded.
    There is a lot of stuff and nonsense in this post and readers comments.
    There are times you must remind yourselves that you are in the small minority of Aucklanders that are ‘largely’ anti car and that you live in a democratic society swimming against the tide.

    1. You are probably right that the majority of North Shore residents and Aucklanders as a whole are in favour of the AWHC. However the average Auklander probably doesn’t have a clue as to what the project would truly involve and how poor the potential outcomes are from another road crossing. Aucklanders only think they want it. This is why there should be a public discussion over what is actually being proposed and the what the alternatives are. For example how many Aucklanders do you think know that they are proposing to toll the bridge as well as the tunnel? How many do think will be in favour of that? Or that you won’t be able to use the tunnel to access the city?, You will still have to use the bridge. Or that the tunnel will intensify the existing bottlenecks from all the extra induced demand so that any time saved by a slightly quicker journey over the harbour will be lost in the queue to get to the bridge/tunnel.
      I used to think that a road was needed until I saw what was being proposed would not even come close to offering the benefits I thought a road would offer. And this was also before I saw how effective the busway was at providing an alternative to driving.

    2. “The vast majority of North Shore residents and Aucklanders as a whole are in favour of the AWHC”.

      . .Just as the vast majority of toddlers left to themselves would be in favour of more lollies. They need people with more foresight and wisdom to point out what a bad idea that would be in practice.

        1. The real problem is that we are not being offered a range of options or visions by our agencies and political leaders, nor are we being asked to give opinions beyond supporting a pre-selected massive project with the full weight of the state and the industry and multiple billions of our dollars behind it. Oh and some very very interested vested interests. The idea that there are other options can only be found on a volunteer run blog. NZTA are already spending hundreds of millions on a predetermined design that will shape the city for generations to come, yet there’s no debate at all; compare this with the CRL, at half the cost. It takes a lot of work to question it, yet something on this scale should not proceed without real information and debate.

          So the argument that ‘the people want it’ is a poor one the people have not been offered any options and certainly no other options as developed with the full support of the agencies and the political machine. We have George Wood running round the Shore say that it will ‘solve’ congestion everywhere including Lake Rd, this is clearly errant nonsense, and when pushed he says he’s for it because it’s not ratepayers’ money [no cost to him electorally] and that its going to happen. This is circular.

          The options are not between this very poor beast and nothing at all, but between it and something much better. But the public never get offered those other options. So the public’s view is severely limited, sadly. This is a problem that we are trying to address in our small way.

    3. How do you know? Have you conducted a comprehensive survey and adjusted for sample size? Or is this just based on conversations with people you know?

      I live on the Shore and know many (mostly under 40s) who are totally against it and want more PT and cycling. You have as little info on what people on the North Shore want as I do.

      And how is this “anti-car”? Wanting the best bang for buck on transport projects that actually improve the city is not “anti-car”; it is fiscally responsible which is what this government is meant to be about.

      Are you by calling for more infrastructure for motor vehicles being “anti-public transport”. I assume so.

  18. apart from the cost, the externalities and everything else, this tunnel would be a nightmare to drive through:
    1 toll to pay
    2 enclosed space
    3 exhaust fumes
    4 no overtaking
    5 accidents

    just generally unpleasant I don’t understand how someone would prefer that to a train journey with a coffee and newspaper

    1. Yes, this is just auto-dependency, it is hard for many, especially on the Shore, to imagine the alternative is possible, but then it is not really being offered to them. We are simply asking that it is properly studied and offered.

      1. Well that’s really the key point, isn’t it? Nothing else is on offer from the Council and AT, so Shore residents are having auto-dependency forced upon them.

        I get so frustrated seeing AT produce rapid transit network plans that completely forget the North Shore (literally off the map), and my fear is that AT’s negligence and party allegiances are driving us toward a hugely expensive mistake with the AWHC.

        1. You lay the blame for lack of North Shore rapid transit and say it is AT’s fault, but ignore that the seeds of the situation were laid by the North Shore City Council many moons ago with their utter belief that the right to drive everywhere should be enshrined in the design of their city. Like the Manukau City council before it, the cost of retrofitting a rapid transit network into that is very expensive.

          Yes NSCC [and its ratepayers] gruddingly supported the Northern Busway, but only after a lot of arguments back and forth by the councillors and it was no slam dunk or dead cert.

          And if the folks at Northcote hadn’t opposed so vehemently the proposed NEX station at Onewa then it would be relatively easy to convert the NEX spine to LRT, making the rail only tunnel option from Onewa to a no brainer step. Instead its no relegated to a longer (and more expensive) tunnel emerging near Esmonde Road.

          And right now the only way you’ll currently get rapid transit on the shore linked to the rest of Auckland is if the road tunnels are built, and NZTA is kind enough to allow for rail tunnels to be included.
          Because thats how NZTA see it – roads first.

        2. A reply to David and his frustrations.

          Perhaps what we need is a breakdown of spending by area. Then we might not be so suspicious. All of us.

          Now there’s an idea…

    2. furthermore by having a train connection:

      6 no speed limits to worry about
      7 no alcohol breath limits
      8 no carpark worries
      9 no road rage
      10 no asian drivers
      11 no indian taxi drivers

  19. So by using the same disingenuous logic that some used to refer to the CRL as “the rail loop”, surely the same logic can be applied to this AWHC and we can start referring to it as “the road loop”?

    1. Yes.

      Likewise, we’re spending *how many* billion just so a few Northcote types can drive to the Westhaven yacht club bars? Same logic as “the CRL is only for people in Mt Eden”.

  20. The road Additional Harbour Crossing is simply totally incompatible with this:

    The traffic increase it causes makes building this proposed duplication completely impossible. Or all policy of carbon reduction or even stabilisation must be abandoned instead, the city then failing to comply with the government’s international agreements.

    Which should it be? It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of much better alternative ways of increasing access, resilience, and choice across this route without inducing more traffic.

  21. Hello! We are Anes and Emily and we are Year 13 students from Rangitoto College! For our NCEA level 3 Geography internal assessment, we are researching the proposed Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing.

    Your blog entries have been a huge help to our report and we would like to thank you for having such a great analysis about this proposed plan.
    One thing we really need to request everyone (for our internal) is that we are currently trying to collect at least 75 surveys of people’s viewpoints about this plan.

    I am really sorry if this comment disturbs anyone (i will delete it straight away if it does) but if you would be so kind, we would be super delightful for you to fill out our survey! they are all multi-choice questions and it will take less than a minute to finish 🙂

    you just have to go straight to this link,

    Thank you so much! 😀 and have a nice day!

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