A few weeks ago Auckland Transport announced that the Reeves Rd Flyover was back on again. I happened to be looking through some info for the AT board meetings and found that they’ve published the paper that was used to make that decision. As you’d expect, it contains quite a bit of interesting information.
The report states that AT, the NZTA and the Council have been reviewing the project and its sequencing since late 2014 “in light of its strategic changes that now express the desire to prioritise rapid transit”. The also says the review “identified potential risks with the flyover in terms of providing value for money”.
The original plan for AMETI was that the Reeves Rd Flyover would be built first, followed by the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and then from Pakuranga to Botany. This would have meant we’d be waiting for many years for even the first section of the busway, and given Auckland’s history we’d be just as likely to have some political change cancelling the vital public transport component anyway.
So AT say they’ve been looking at ways to bring the busway forward, and came up with two other options. In both of them the Panmure to Pakuranga busway would be built first, as among other things, it’s the most advanced with a Notice of Requirement already lodged.
The two options differ as to whether the Reeves Rd Flyover or the Pakuranga to Botany busway section came second. This is shown below but under the assumption of no funding constraints.
The two options even had different busway designs, which AT say was a result of needing a different layout if the flyover wasn’t built.
Below shows what they would do if the flyover wasn’t built:
As we now know, AT have gone with option 1, which staff say performs better overall based on a multi-criteria analysis that looked at:
- Economic Efficiency;
- Transport networks performance;
- Ability of option to enable ‘planned growth in accordance with the Auckland Plan and Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP);
- Ability of option to maximise opportunities or reduce risks;
- Construction impacts and disruption; and
- Rating against the Transport Agency’s Strategic Fit Assessment.
AT have then further refined the preferred strategy to even out construction impacts, and to reflect a more realistic cash flow.
You’ll note that to meet the timeframes AT want, there is a shortfall of $172 million of funding. They also say the timeframe is influenced by the CRL:
The optimal time for completing the busway will be as soon as CRL enables additional train frequencies (i.e., capacity) through Panmure. This is programmed for 2023/24 financial year. However, the available funding envelope within the current Long Term Plan (LTP) is inadequate to complete the entire AMETI programme by 2025 ($172m shortfall). This will impact on our ability to complete the Busway by 2025.
One of the big factors in deciding the options was the impact each of them would have on travel times. AT’s preferred strategy is effectively the bright blue line, which for the future options is generally modelled to be the best performer.
But this chart raises a couple of big issues for me, and it’s not even directly related to the flyover. Why in all scenarios are the buses expected to take so damn long? Based on the figures earlier, we’ll be spending close to $500 million on building a busway from Panmure to Botany, which includes reducing side street intersections and wider stop spacing. Yet even in the best case scenario, it is still expected to take 26 minutes to get between those two locations, that’s also almost twice as long as driving. Further at a distance of around 7 km it also represents an average speed of just 16km/h. If this is the outcome, then AT need to do better.
Oddly the Howick to Panmure bus times are around 17 minutes, despite only getting normal bus lanes and the route being about 2km longer, making buses from Howick almost twice as fast.
The comments from AT about improving the performance of the network are also countered somewhat by the quote below, which will be based on the fact that building the flyover will still see the traffic reach the intersections just down the road a little faster. It also makes me question just how accurate those car travel times will be, even a decade from now that seems fanciful that traffic will be better.
Introducing the Flyover will however release a bottleneck in an already congested transport network and there is a risk that this may negatively impact on the overall network performance.
Those travel times are also bound to have an impact on the use of the busway, and the modelling below suggests that at peak around 5,000 trips will take place on it in 2046. Looking closely that it seems about 3,450 will be towards Panmure in the AM peak. That might not sound like a lot but it represents about a full double decker every 3-4 minutes. Like other transport models, this one is also probably under-predicting the usage, especially since the area is a bit of a PT desert.
It also appears that AT and the NZTA are looking to join the South Eastern Arterial (SEART) to the East West Link. That would give a motorway or near-motorway road all the way from Pakuranga to Onehunga and the airport:
The road user benefits provided by the Flyover are not dependent on providing more capacity at the SH1/South Eastern Highway (SEART) on-ramp. However, to potentially release significant wider network benefits, AT- in collaboration with the Transport Agency, are currently looking at the possibility of better connecting Pakuranga, Onehunga and SH20 by linking SEART with the proposed East West Connection. The investigation of this work is still in early stages. Key findings will be presented to the Board in due course.
As a final comment, it is good that AT have agreed the section of busway to Pakuranga is still going ahead and before the flyover, but there are a lot of hurdles to pass yet.