This is the last in a series of six posts, looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here and fifth here.
This was published in the NZ Herald on 28 June 1975
Decision on Harbour Crossing Urgent
A matter of considerable importance, which has been referred to only briefly in earlier articles is the urgency of a decision whether Auckland to have another harbour bridge or a harbour tunnel.
Within a few years of the bus/rail scheme in 1981-82, present estimates show that the present bridge will reach maximum carrying capacity.
The Auckland City Council and other responsible bodies have expressed determined opposition to another bridge, and it is certain there is little likelihood of approval of another one. The decision on this matter cannot be long delayed if additional trans-harbour facilities are to be available in 1981 or thereabouts.
The construction of the under-city loop of the bus/rail plan will provide a ready and simple solution to the problem by making provision for a tunnel to connect to the loop.
Traffic congestion in Auckland has been getting worse since it was first noticeable in 1927.
As the population and number of vehicles in the urban urea grew, the congestion showed up more prominently in the central area of the city, and in the eight boroughs on the isthmus, because all traffic into, out of, and through Auckland has to pass through the limited isthmus corridors.
Because of the great number of motor vehicles that will need to use the isthmus roads in the near future, there will just be no more room on the isthmus to meet the needs. Hence the need for improved public transport services to reduce the volume of private transport to manageable proportions.
In the light of present technological knowledge there are only two practical alternatives — an all-bus system, using roads crowded with other traffic which slows down the speed of, and badly affects the services that buses can offer; or a main artery railway system, serving a reorganised bus service.
Both trains and buses would initially serve each other at 10 stations between the city and Papakura. The railway has its own right of way, and is not subject to delays at intersections or delays caused by other traffic.
The average speed attained by the rail service will be two to four times that of buses. Capital costs of both systems would be about equal, but the running costs of the railway system will
be considerably lower than buses.
It is very difficult to estimate the capital required to provide an all-bus scheme sufficient for Auckland’s needs up to the end of the century, because the rejection of an all-bus plan as impracticable, has not warranted the close examination required to produce such estimates.
Some calculations, however, are available that allow for a reasonable comparison. Assuming a modern electric suburban railway system is not available to carry large volume of passengers, it will be necessary for the National Roads Board, the ARA and the territorial local bodies in Auckland to spend in the next 25 years over $500 million on additional roads and in upgrading the existing roads to carry the expected enormous volume of traffic.
Beside the cost of roading, there would be additional costs for extra buses, car parking building and other services costing at least $100 million, making a total Of over $600 million to be provided for an all roading based bus transport system up to the year 2000.
Against these estimates are the carefully calculated costs of the first stage of the railway from Papakura to the city and then underground to Newmarket, plus the Eastern connection to Westfield via Tamaki, Glen Innes and Mt. Wellington.
The total cost of these, including additional buses, railway rolling stock, signals, other essentials and contingencies is $170 million. This $170 million compares favourably with the calculated cost of roads, bridges and other facilities which would have to be built by 1981 if the bus/rail scheme is not going to be implemented.
The difference of $60 million capital cost is the difference between having or not having the nucleus of a satisfactory modern transport system in Auckland. To make an accurate comparison with the all-bus system described above, it is necessary to estimate also the cost of the ultimate extension of the railway to Henderson and Glen Eden about $20 million, and the under harbour tunnel to the North Shore approximately $50 million.
The total of the completed railway system therefore ultimately becomes $240 million. Although all costs are based on 1974 figures, because the projections are so many years ahead, an additional sum of $60 million should be allowed to cover additional contingencies.
This would produce a grand total of capital costs, for the completed bus/ rail network, of $300 million.
The comparison of capital costs therefore, is $600 million for an all-bus/ roading system, against the capital costs of the full bus/ rail scheme of $300 million. It is easy to see which is the cheaper scheme, in terms of ultimate capital costs, for the finally completed schemes.
Estimates of annual running costs of stage 1 and eastern loop of the railway part of the scheme have been carefully calculated at $15.1 million in 1981.
As it is not intended to proceed with the extensions to the Shore and western suburbs until results of the first stages been analysed, no estimates of running costs of these two extensions have been made.
$6.4 MILLION LOSS
Until final agreement has been reached with the government on sharing of costs, no accurate estimate of the cost to ratepayers of running the
system can be made. At the best, the cost could be only $3 million, at the worst, it could be $6.4 million in 1981 the area included in the ART scheme.
These estimates must be compared the budgeted Joss on the ARA buses for this year, of $6.4 million for the whole of the ARA bus services.
To make the comparison equal, this year’s bus losses must be escalated to 1981, which brings the estimated loss up to $10.1 million for the whole regional bus service. The area covered by the bus/rail proposal is 40 per cent of the whole region, so it is reasonable to compare 40 per cent of the estimated regional bus deficit – $10.1 million in 1981] against the estimated deficit [$300,000 to $6.4 million] on the bus/rail system.
The estimated deficit of $10 million for the whole region is for an all bus service as now run by the ARA. To this must be added the losses which will result from the inevitable taking over by the ARA of the remaining privately owned bus services in the proposed bus/ rail area.
No allowance has been made herein for fare increases in the next six years. Based on investigations over a long period, in the light of present evidence, there is likely to be little deficit — if any — on the bus/rail system.
A trifling adjustment of fares would close any gap between operating costs and revenue and ensure that ratepayers would not be faced with heavy operating charges when the service is inaugurated.
Dependence on a Wholly bus transport system is likely to increase levies on ratepayers to more than $10 million by 1981, with no improvement in bus services or relief from traffic congestion.
On the other hand, the cost to Auckland ratepayers of the modernised bus/rail operation could produce actual financial surpluses or, at the very least, substantially lower annual ARA levies for losses on its bus system.
In a previous article, a quotation from a famous American research institute should that the benefits of a rapid transit system which could not be expressed in dollars and cents, were of greater to the community than the financial benefits so expressed.
Even those who agree that social benefits are more important than financial considerations, will be interested in some of the undoubted economies expected from the scheme.
First is the estimated saving of the cost of the use of private cars by those using the bus/rail system – $9 million yearly. Next is the socially shared saving through reduction of accidents and deaths in the are – $1 million yearly [although using the Official Year Book as a basis of estimating, this saving could be as high as $7.8 million yearly].
Third is the potential saving of time, petrol and other transport losses through the reduction of waste caused by congestion. This has been estimated at between $90 and $180 million yearly for private and commercial users in the whole region in the year 1981. Forty per cent of this occurs in the area benefiting from the scheme. This would be of the order of $40-80 million yearly.
However, the estimated savings quoted earlier took into account only the saving for commercial transport vehicles travelling at 15 mph instead of the present average of 10 mph.
But even this grossly underestimated saving is $13.1 million yearly. The total of only these three savings to users of the facility, and the community generally. is $13.1 million yearly.
Ranking high under the above heading is reductions in pollution, noise and congestion. Other real, but intangible benefits are, lower costs, greater speed, more convenience and greater safety of public transport, compared with private transport.
By allowing better land-use planning, based on fixed main line rail arteries, urban sprawl can be better prevented, and the community’s control and direction of development will be enhanced.
Finally, that great section of the community [over 50 per cent of who are forgotten by the opponents of the scheme] who do not have the use of private transport, and who must depend on public transport will, at last, have a means of transport in many ways comparable with, but in other ways superior to, the private car.
The inauguration of the first stages of the bus and rail transit system in 1981 will benefit everyone in the region, no matter how near or far they may be from the main rail artery; because of the greatly improved bus services possible.
Whether as a motorist relieved of the cost and responsibility of driving a car on overcrowded roads; or as a passenger compelled to depend on public transport; or as a ratepayer gratefully relieved of some of his rating burden for the cost of public transport; everyone will benefit. No one will lose through the early introduction of a railway served reorganised bus system in Greater Auckland.
With the exception of the first part about a harbour crossing most of the rest relates to what he had discussed in the earlier articles. Still there were some interesting parts, in particular, where he says that that the harbour bridge will be at maximum capacity in the early 80’s and so a tunnel will be needed. The benefit of hindsight allows us to see that far from being at maximum capacity, the harbour bridge now carries more than twice as many vehicles each day as it did 1983. The levels would increase further if we looked at the people carrying capacity of the bridge it would be even higher thanks to the hugely successful busway.
The busway raises another area where I think the analysis falls flat and again which seems obvious with hindsight relates to bus lanes – or the lack of them. I don’t know if other cities were using them at that time and we just ignored them or if there was a genuine lack of thought about giving buses priority to allow them to perform better. We certainly know they have been instrumental in helping make buses more attractive and viable for passengers on many routes.
I’ve certainly found it interesting looking back at these old articles and it would be interesting to know what the reaction to them by the public was. Of course they all ended up being for nothing after the Muldoon government cancelled the plans in 1976. Auckland would’ve been very different had Robbies scheme gone ahead 40 years ago.