Yesterday I highlighted the crazy road obsessed plans of the infrastructure lobby that were hinted at in a report they were about to release. That report has now come out and so I thought I would look at it in a bit more detail. While there is much to be concerned about, there are some things we agree with too. First a few general comments
The press release talks about the report as being a way to provide independent input into the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). This is quite funny as the majority of the graphs, and figures they quote come are cut and pasted from the Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, NZ Transport Agency or the Ministry of Transport, the four agencies at the centre of ATAP. Some of the information even comes directly from the ATAP foundation report.
There also seem to be a lot of contradictions within the report, they’ll make a fairly accurate statement (often similar to what we may say) about a project or piece of analysis but they’ll then hand wave that away and ignore it when coming up with their conclusions. I’ll cover some of these within the post.
On Public Transport
Throughout the report there is a lot of discussion on the role of public transport and the NZCID make a number of astute observations about PT and how it is assessed. Examples include how odd it is that for processes like ATAP that PT is treated differently to cars in the modelling, as if PT users time don’t consider their time as important.
Also significant is the fact that public transport accessibility is modelled on a 45 minute door-to-door commute. Cars, on the other hand, are modelled on a 30 minute door-to-door commute. The need to assume an additional 15 minute or 50 per cent travel time for public transport is understandable in light of the need for users to get to and from services, but there is no evidence that it meets user expectations. It is not clear that the majority of transport users consider an additional 15 minute or 50 per cent travel time to be a truly viable alternative.
A common refrain from many is that building more carparks at train/busway stations is needed to significantly boost patronage and it’s also something mentioned in their press release. However this is actually a bit at odds with their report itself which while enthusiastic on PT, notes that it isn’t cheap to more capacity, that people should be charged to use carparking spaces through their HOP card and also doesn’t add all that much to PT usage.
Doubling park-and-ride capacity region-wide will only yield an additional 2,200 spaces, likely adding no more than 4,400 trips per day, or around 2 per cent to existing patronage
Given the conclusions they’ve come to over P&R it’s amazing that they then say it should be vastly increased.
Equally odd is that they seem to come to the overall conclusion of “it’s crap so we might as well invest in roads instead”. If the investment in PT is as poor as they suggest then why has almost no effort has been made to look and see if there are any better was to invest that other than through more roads.
The levels of service required to lift public transport patronage by attracting users away from private vehicles are unaffordable and will deliver less value for money than extensions of the road network.
On Land Use
The report’s discussion of Land Use is perhaps one area where I’m in quite a bit of agreement. They quite rightly note that through the Unitary Plan, not enough growth has been enabled in areas with the best planned public transport such as along some of the train lines and the busway.
Figure 36 shows Unitary Plan growth provisions on the Auckland isthmus and rail stations. Circle sizes indicate an approximate 10 minute walk to rail services. Development should, if Auckland’s very significant sunk investment in rail is to be maximised, be permitted inside these circles as a means to improving the convenience and attractiveness of public transport.
In reality, significant land use change around the majority of stations on the isthmus – the area where demand for land is highest and where most growth under a compact model should in theory be accommodated – is not permitted under the Unitary Plan. The type of development activities which would benefit from access to rail, such as residential apartments and town houses, are only substantively permitted around 11 of the 24 stations on the isthmus (indicated in green). Development change is generally prohibited around 6 of the stations (indicated in red) and a further 7 permit some degree of change (indicated by orange circles).
They also highlight the relative lack of development allowed around the proposed light rail routes
The lack of high quality PT up the Pakuranga Rd corridor
The lack of development allowed around the Northern Busway stations with more development allowed along the Onewa and Glenfield Rd corridors.
In the south they suggest Greenfield industrial land could allow for current industrial land around stations to be redeveloped, one example sited is around Te Mahia where they say the “low value industrial land around the station” could have been rezoned to tie in with improvements to the station and the golf course development which they criticise as not being dense enough.
They say (like we have before), that only the West has significant levels of growth permitted around stations and elsewhere like on the Te Atatu Peninsula. But they also say that the growth there is poorly aligned with the priority of transport projects (i.e. Northwest Busway) and the business cases for the investment in the PT needed will be undermined by the lack of development allowed closer to the city.
Ultimately they say that if we want more people to use PT we either need to go down one of the following land use/transport options
- Growth distributions remain the same, infrastructure and services change
- Growth distributions change, most infrastructure across city remains the same, new infrastructure concentrated in dense new public transport-oriented centres
On that second point they suggest building a new dense city for 100,000 people and 30,000 jobs on greenfield land somewhere in South Auckland
Build more roads
Ultimately much of the NZCID’s suggestions come down to the mantra of build more roads, even going so far as to suggest that we’re too auto-dependent so should just keep building more roads anyway while also claiming that will stop congestion getting worse.
Aligning land use provisions with current and future transport investment will go some way to alleviating pressure on Auckland’s congested road network. Integrated policy cannot, however, undo 70 years of investment and development, nor can it completely remove the need for road travel. Capacity in the road network is the only means to stop congestion expanding further into the interpeak, impeding commercial movement, and emerging through weekends and the off-peak, undermining liveability, social opportunity and the attractiveness of Auckland as a destination for labour and investment.
And that motorways are magic economic machines.
Motorway capacity is essential because motorways generate economic activity.
That then leads to a number of projects they think need to be built, most of which are associated with the Eastern Ring Route we highlighted yesterday. These projects include
- Making the Mill Rd project bigger and grade separating it so essentially a motorway.
- The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing to longer connecting to the east of the city
- The Eastern motorway which they say would need to be underground (to avoid angering the locals)
- Linking in the Eastern Motorway with Te Irirangi Dr and turning that into a motorway using money destined for the AMETI busway.
Here’s what they say about the AWHC and Eastern motorway. They are quite correct that the AWHC as it stands is a poor outcome but doubling down and making it bigger it is definitely not the answer. Also providing new links between Northland and the Waikato is exactly the purpose of the Western Ring Route that isn’t even finished yet.
The proposed Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing is throttled at both its northern and southern termination points, constraining its potential. It cannot connect new businesses and communities and it cannot lift the opportunities for the region, as its predecessor, the Auckland Harbour Bridge has done. Consequently, it cannot deliver economic and social benefits consistent with its high cost and these limitations are highlighted by conventional cost benefit analysis which shows a return of 40 cents for every dollar invested.
An Additional Waitemata Harbour Tunnel landing to the east of the CBD may be able to do better. Connecting with State Highway 16 south of the Port of Auckland and continuing underground to protect environmentally sensitive estuary habitats around the Orakei Basin, an Additional Waitemata Harbour Tunnel can become the new lynchpin for an entire network linking Northland and Waikato, Albany and Penrose, Glen Innes and the CBD.
Lastly they blame some of Auckland’s issues on the fact we never fully completed the 1960’s motorways plan from consultants De Leuw Cather which included projects such as the Dominion Rd motorway and a New Lynn to Henderson motorway
Of course they forget to mention the corresponding PT network that De Leuw Cather said should be completed first
They extend that and superimpose motorway networks from other cities to say that Auckland’s motorways aren’t extensive enough. Of course in most of those cities the motorways are rural roads and not driven through the heart of the city
Overall there are a few things in the report we agree with but it’s mostly just about trying to justify a heap of roads. If PT isn’t good enough then they should be proposing to dramatically fix that rather than just accepting it and saying build roads instead.