Back in May I wrote about how it appeared a road only harbour crossing might be on the cards following some NZTA documents I recieved as part of an offical information act request. That prompted our friends at Generation Zero to initiate a survey to see just how much support there was for various options. The results are now back in.

The survey was conducted by UMR Research and had a sample size of 500 with a margin of error of ±4.4%. The survey asked the following question.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is planning to build an additional Auckland harbour crossing in the next decade. They’re considering three options. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means “strongly oppose” and 10 means “strongly support” how strongly do you support each of these options?

  • A rail-only crossing, that would mean rail could go from Albany to the CBD, which costs approximately $3.5 billion
  • A road-only crossing which costs approximately $5 billion
  • A rail and road crossing, that would mean rail could go from Albany to the CBD, which costs approximately $7 billion

Of the three the road only option was deeply unpopular with just 22% of respondents saying they support or strongly support it compared with almost twice as many (41%) opposing the idea. By comparison the rail only option had 42% support compared with 29% opposition while the idea with the most support was combined option.

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Overview

I think it’s quite good that Gen Z included costs in the options as often these types of surveys don’t but the result is quite interesting in that the most expensive option was the most preferred. This suggests that Aucklanders want more of everything regardless of cost, and that lines up with what we’ve seen from other surveys and the likes of Mayor Len Brown often says he gets told to just get on with it. As we know, some of those views might change a little when it comes time to push the button on increasing rates or taxes to cover this extra infrastructure costs but regardless, it has interesting implications for future funding discussions.

The report also takes a look at the demographics of those who responded and they too have some interesting outcomes.

  • People under 45 were more likely to support a single mode crossing compared to those 45 and over while they were comparatively less supportive of the combined option. I wonder if this reflects them taking more account of the costs of these projects while those 45+ were more inclined just to get stuff done.
  • A rail only crossing had the lowest level of support from those in the South which seems to tie in with a the highest level of support for a road only crossing from that area. Perhaps this suggests that the people surveyed from the South were more likely to need to drive over the harbour and so favoured that. Conversely of the single mode options, those in central areas were more likely to support a rail only crossing which perhaps suggests a greater concern about the impacts of a road only connection.
  • The combined crossing option has the most support amongst those in the highest household income brackets and also those who own a home with a mortgage

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Rail

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Road

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Combined

Overall a useful survey and thanks to Generation Zero for organising it.

You might recall that the recent ATAP interim report poured a little bit of cold water on the AWHC, noting

Improving access to and from the North Shore

  • The bridge and its approaches are a pinch-point on the transport network, particularly during the evening peak in both directions.
  • An additional crossing significantly improves accessibility to/from the North Shore, but does not appear to substantially improve congestion results.
  • Projected growth in public transport demand appears likely to trigger the need for a new crossing within the next 30 years. There is potential for a shared road/PT crossing, but the costs and benefits of different options require further analysis.

High cost of potential solutions

  • Because any new crossing will be tunnelled, there is a significant opportunity cost arising from this investment. Fully understanding key drivers, alternatives, cost and benefits will be crucial before any investment decisions are made.
  • It makes sense to protect the route for a new harbour crossing in a way that integrates potential future roading and public transport requirements.

In light of this, if a survey were to be done again it would be interesting to see how people supported the various options if they knew the road options also result in a considerable congestion impact on and around the motorways in the future.

ATAP - Interim Report - AWHC

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  1. The result was commonsense. The unknown costs however aren’t just a tunnel but setting up a complete railway infrastructure north of the bridge, which incidentally I support. Quality road and rail infrastructure is needed. Its the ‘ one or the other’ mentality that causes problems.

  2. They really should quote an estimated BCR for these surveys. Otherwise meaningless. How can you expect people to know what $7billion actually means.

    1. Outside the readers of this blog, how many people who aren’t involved in the funding and building process actually understand what a BCR is and why they’re important.

      Should they, probably, if so how do you educate this and start a more sensible general discussion about funding and outcomes for a range of activities that effect the public realm?

      1. I think that is why polling the punters on what transport project they like is a flawed task.

        We should be asking (and I know this is done as well) what outcomes people want, what value they place on things like time saving, reliability, comfort etc, and then designing a transportation system based on that information.

        The approach of asking their opinion on what is a technical “intervention” to achieve an improvement or outcome is like asking people if they would like a large diameter conveyance tunnel or a small diameter tunnel plus detention reservoirs to deal with combined sewer overflows from Auckland’s inner west. Or whether they think Auckland Council should upgrade its core IT systems. Meaningless.

        1. I think it is very meaningful to ask people if they want more motorway to drive on or if they want the option of taking a train.

          1. Kind of.

            Private road transport has certain restrictions/ costs etc. You have to be able to drive, you have to be sober, you to have access to a car and have somewhere to store it at either end of your trip.

            So I think it is meaningful to ask: “Do you want transport options that dont require you to drive and park?” And it is meaningful to ask “Where do you want to be able to get to and from and when and how often?” and “How much you would value such services”, or “What would you be wiling to pay for such a service?”. But: “Do you want a train line that will cross the harbour?” I dont see that as being very helpful.

            Additionally “More motorway to drive on?”. Thats not really meaningful. Noone wants more motorway per se, lanes on a road are not like flavours of icecream. Asking them how much they value faster trip times etc using their own vehicle is meaningful though.

          2. That was my point, a second motorway crossing isn’t very meaningful because it is just more motorway to drive on, while the rail crossing is meaningful because it presents a new option with new characteristics.

            I think most people are smart enough to reflect on outcomes they might get. If you ask people what outcomes they want you’ll get a big arbitrary list of things that can’t be achieved together.

          3. Good point, people should be a able to take whatever mode they like, be it flying fox or bat poll.

        2. Yes but useful information can still be picked up from the results, which can only be positive.

          In this case, the survey provides confirmation that North Shore residents are no different to residents elsewhere, and want better public transport options. This is new and useful information for the agencies we charge with planning our transport infrastructure.

          It is pertinent to reflect that at this time, hard as it may be to believe, neither AT nor NZTA have any new public transport infrastructure planned for the North Shore for an entire decade. This failure may be in part due to the misconception that Shore residents for some reason just really love driving in traffic. So well done Gen Z for making the effort to gather some real data!

          1. Are you telling me that they input different “willingness to take public transport” coefficients into their models for North Shore residents? That would be rather weird. Yes you are right they have been lacklustre on the shore (same as most places actually – just look at the low priority of PT for almost everywhere that has bus based PT). I note they are extending the busway though which I assumed was happening within a decade.

          2. Yes despite the North Shore paying pretty much the highest rates per capita they have a much lower amount of PT and as mentioned not much planned either!

        3. How about: Do you prefer one road bridge – or – one light rail network to shore + dominion road + airport.

  3. Roading costs should also include the additional lanes the would need to be added to the motorways north and south, in order to utilise the extra cross harbour lanes.
    With the airport decision, I assume any north shore rail must now only be LRT. This may allow for smaller diameter cheaper tunnels

  4. The issue now is really the order that this work might occur.

    Adding the rail crossing next, with its ability to deliver huge quantities of people through the pinch points to the high demand centres without adding any congestion forming new traffic, would delay the pressure for the more expensive new road crossing for many many years. Enabling the massive cost of doing both crossings to be spread over a much longer period.

    Anyway, the road crossing doesn’t work. And it seems, is unwanted.

    1. You are absolutely on point. The rail link should be built first and then only if it is needed then a second road crossing.

      A second crossing will be even more unpopular when Shore residents (amongst others) realise that the second crossing will greatly increase congestion in the suburbs. And that is obvious because NZTA’s own figures assume that the crossing will induce substantially more traffic. The bizarre thing is that NZTA has no idea what outcome will occur (as per OIA request) as they simply have not done the forecasts.

      In all respects a second road crossing will produce negative quality of life results for all inner shore suburbs.

      1. Well if they continue to do what they currently do and throttle down the flows coming into the bridge they will never need more capacity. Of course this means you have simply forced various trips never to occur be they productive or not.

  5. Interesting how low support for road only is on the North Shore. George Wood is hardly “speaking for the people” with his support for that nonsensical project.

    1. It is interesting. I suspect george thinks he represents the popular view because he operates in a particular bubble, or vacuum, within which his view is widely shared. And its probably shared with more people who vote in local govt elections.

      Honestly: people like george wood, dick quax and cameron brewer are so out of touch with what auckland is and will be. Its funny, being a white male centrist voter who places a strong emphasis on fiscal responsibility. You would think od be their target audience, but these guys have absolutely no appeal. None. Zilch

      I suspect they only get elected because so few people vote, unfortunately. And that democratic deficit will really hold auckland back in long run.

  6. Instead of mentioning the cost of the project it would have been more pertinent for the survey to have mentioned a toll of $4 for every vehicle. Maybe a willingness to pay survey could be good, but this is what NZTA should be doing if they are sincere about public consultation.

    1. So in order for rational decisions to be made here it would help enormously if the official agencies weren’t prone to path dependency and group think [‘this is what we do…’]

      HNO, the Highway building tail that wags the NZTA dog needs to be stared down and reformed.

      Politicians can be relied upon to pursue the outdated and ruinous ideas, especially big infrastructure ones, so this is when we need the official experts to stand up and fight for logic, reason, and evidence.

  7. Its going to be a LightRail to the shore. If AT cant support HeavyRail to Airport, I dont see them supporting HeavyRail to the shore.
    I would still prefer HeavyRail for both Airport and Shore, would be great to travel from Albany all the way to Airport or Manukau without having to get off, walk, wait, and transfer to another mode.

      1. LightRail Airport-Albany more likely. Its got to be dedicated all the way tho or traffic will hinder it.
        Albany-Manukau direct is unlikely with LightRail due to the presence of HeavyRail. It would have to be a long detour non-transfer Albany-Airport-Puhinui-Manukau

    1. That’s quite a tall order, Albany to Airport or Manukau direct. Most airport lines require a transfer. And as long as transfers are done well, they are painless and not a drama at all. Vancouver has it sorted with the airport skytrain. I’ve had to make transfers on that before and it’s very easy. Like wise joining up from the skytrain to the buses or ferries.

  8. Having just returned from Amsterdam and Lisbon, two cities with harbour crossings, I join those with European experience that cannot understand why it is so difficult to find a simple solution here. We don’t even need another crossing. Simply double the frequency of the Devenport ferry and build rail from there. No expensive tunnels or bridges required, although perhaps a pedestrian tunnel from Britomart to the Ferry Building would be beneficial, particularly in the cooler months. Then we could all pretend to be fancy Europeans (although buffalo mozzarella is still a way away I suspect). To live is to dream…

    1. Genuine buffalo mozarella is available at the Clevedon Farmers’ market every Sunday…and while you are there please buy our fine spray-free satsumas and clementines picked fresh from our (despised by some) lifestyle block!

      1. Thank you for the information. I hope my hop card can get me out there one day to savour some of your fine fare!

          1. Well I guess we can dismiss availability of buffalo mozarella as the bellweather of euro chicness. I propose substituting the availability of bocarones as the prime metric…or maybe Yorkshire puddings (which one of my Spanish colleagues used to rave about).

      1. I was thinking over, perhaps a tram to Takapuna or something, the earth may not be deep enough around Devenport. No need to build a new path in that case, just stick in the middle of the road. Devenport residents may not be in favour of invasion of their haven, but trams are very cool and all the serious cities around the world are full of them!

  9. Is it correct to say the Road Only option will only cost $5 billion. Would $20 billion be a more accurate figure when you factor in all the widening that would need to be done across the network both North and South?

    1. agreed, i think it’s stupid to look at the cost of the tunnel in isolation. When NZTA looked at a rail alternative, the included a whole new rail network, new trains and a tunnel from newmarket to albany. Yet when they looked at a road crossing, somehow the cost of doubling the motorway capacity from papakura to albany was mysteriously left out.

  10. This survey shows that there is at least 2 thirds support for some kind of road crossing – whether combined with rail or not. While a Rail + Road crossing would be better than a road only one I think it would still be a huge mistake. The massive cost would completely suck up funding for other projects for years to come and there would be massive disbenefits from flooding the CBD with cars. Combining a bad project with a good one doesn’t make the bad part any better.

    1. I fear that’s probably NZTA’s cunning strategy.

      “The roads lobby demands we build a hugely expensive road bridge that nobody wants”
      “That’s crazy. We need rail”
      “OK. We’ll slap some rail on it”
      “Awesome, I’m all for it. As long as I get what I want I don’t care about spending billions on other useless crap”

  11. No surprise that the most expensive option was the most favoured.

    When doing research like this the researcher needs to quantify the financial impact for the surveyee. i.e. This option at a 15% rates rise and estimated additional 5% rise in rents etc.

    Pointing out the costs is not enough as everyone assumes it will come out of existing budgets.

  12. Great questionnaire. I do question the costs. The $5bn for a road only crossing seems realistic, but you need to add in the cost of extra widening north of Esmonde Road to deal with the induced congestion to make it work (maybe an extra $1bn). $3.5bn might get a bare bones rail only crossing from Akoranga to Gaunt Street with a depot in Barrys Point Reserve, but get you nowhere near Albany. The $7bn figure will cover a road and rail tunnel, and widening of the mortway north of Esmonde road. But it might not cover linking the rail into the existing network (preferably via a tunnel crossing the CBD from Gaunt St to Newmarket via Aotea, the University and hopsital, which will cost $1.5bn) or extending the rail that much past the Takapuna area. One study (admittedly with flaws) puts the cost of a full CBD to Albany rail link at $11b (see here for costs and details)

    Of course we can always save around $1.4bn by building a bridge instead of a tunnel

    1. Really? To me it seems if anything high. I think you could do Orewa to town via bus way, Albany to town via Glenfield, and taka to town, all for 6b with lrt.

    2. That must be for heavy rail. Why would they even consider heavy rail when light rail can use the existing busway and would be a lot cheaper. What’s the downside to light rail if dedicated corridor?

      1. Yes the figures are for heavy rail. Light rail has alot less capacity than heavy rail (although more than the busway). Also light rail can’t work with the rest of the network, so no Akoranga to Manukau trains. And no freight can use light rail. Also the main cost involved is the tunnel under the harbour, which won’t change much regarding if its light rail or heavy rail

        1. Light rail could have as much or more capacity than our heavy rail. The idea that it must be “a lot less capacity” is a fiction.

          Tangier is installing 90m long double-LRVs that will hold over 600 people each. They’ll be able to run those every two minutes. If you do that math on that’s 18,000 people an hour each way, that’s the same as all the lines in the CRL together, at absolute max capacity.

          1. That sounds like ‘high-end’ light rail that is much more akin to heavy rail in most respects. The distinction becomes nebulous when it comes to “90m long double-LRVs that will hold over 600 people each, running every 2 minutes”. These are simply trains jam-packed full of people. Little different to what can be found on heavy rail all over the world?

            Just don’t claim this is the same type of “light rail” that could be running down Dominion Road.

          2. Yes exactly, high end light rail like they are proposing for Dominion Rd and the Airport!

            Why not that Dominion Rd Dave? You saying you can’t run a PT vehicle every two minutes on Dominion Rd? We do that already. Ok sure they are talking about 66m and I said 90m as an example, but 66m is plenty long with plenty of capacity.

            Why is it when AT talk clearly about high end light rail you immediately ignore that and assume they’re putting in trungling streetcars?

          3. Yes, you are right. It would be physically possible to run this level of service down Dominion Road but this would transform it into a de-facto rail corridor. At what point do we decide that the ambience and safety of a street becomes unacceptably compromised by the intensity of rail-traffic? Indeed, there is no physical reason why we should not allow heavy rail to run down our streets – and in some parts of the world this happens!

            But in recent years we have gone to great lengths to do the opposite. To fence, isolate and legislate our existing rail corridors from public access – even where train speeds are no greater than those proposed for Dom Road. Why is that? What is the big deal about mixing pedestrians and heavy, fast-moving vehicles?
            And why is there such a huge difference between what we will accept and tolerate from what runs on rubber and what runs on steel? I suggest that what we tolerate on roads stems from legacy-attitudes that are gradually being forced to change, so things like mixing vehicles and people will become less and less acceptable as time goes on. Rapid-transit increasingly will need its own protected corridor!

            A rough survey of street-running light-rail systems around the world leads me to the (personal) conclusion that 5,000 pphpd is about the max that can be channelled through a street if it is to retain any sort of pedestrian ambience. This corresponds to a largish tram-unit running every 5 minutes each way (or smaller ones more often). Above this level of passenger-throughput, the purpose of the street becomes much-more defined as a transport-corridor rather than a residential or commercial street. This is not to say it can’t be done (and yes – we currently endure it with road-traffic!), but our local street becomes a tram-canyon.

            If we are not fully prepared for the implications of this, we will tie ourselves into a system with a fairly low ceiling of speed and carrying capacity. Is this really the direction Auckland should be taking?

          4. pedestrian ambience?

            Being from wellington i presume you have never walked on dominion rd? A centre running tram evey couple of mins is the last thing id be worried about if i was concerned about ambience. The constant queue of cars sometimes both directions is a rather more overwhelming.

          5. Do we need that level of capacity or frequency though? A 400 capacity LRT every 5 minutes is a shedload of capacity for Dominion Road.

          6. “A 400 capacity LRT every 5 minutes is a shedload of capacity for Dominion Road.”

            Yes, but it may not be adequate capacity for the main PT artery serving the airport as well as Mangere and possibly Onehunga, if that’s what it ends up being.

          7. No reason that it has to be the only one. We can just add Manukau Road when capacity becomes a problem and then have double the capacity to both locations you talk about as well as serving other destinations, and eventually add Airport to Botany via Puhinui and Manukau and Airport to Ormiston via Papatoetoe as needed.

  13. Is it true that NZTA are in fact considering these 3 options? If so, are they considering bridge options for PT and light rail/ bus options at that?

    1. I can tell you definitively as of 10 March NZTA had not costed light metro from Aotea to Akoranga.station. The correspondence that I received seemed to indicate that public transport is a very small part of this equation.

      1. Yes we know this, they have said it’s AT’s look out. Washing their hands of the whole thing. Not a ‘Transport Agency’ in action, but a State Highway provider. As I say elsewhere HNO is the tail that wags the Agency dog. I hope this is changing, but perhaps it reflects the absurd RoNS programme with its pre-baked mode selection?

    1. Matthew methinks you are the one with the mode obsession. They are right to jump straight to rail across the harbour. The usual cost advantage isn’t there with the crossing, and part of the aim is to reduce the vehicle pressure on city streets not exacerbate it.

      1. Cost advantage might not be there with crossing but is with approaches (particularly from the north!!)

        If rail is the right RTN option, then an options assessment will show that. Why get so worried about people using the term RTN? Seems a bit tinfoil hattish if not mode fetishist

        1. I’m not worried; but it seems to me that you are the one obsessing about a phrase and being prickly for process; where it is in fact a choice between the useless road crossing or a rail alternative.

          1. It is Leroy from Gen Zero obsessing about a phrase. Anyway they are right to draw attention to the process. Personally I would be beating the negative net benefit drum regarding the road crossing, that’s NZTAs own work.

        2. ‘Seems a bit tinfoil hattish if not mode fetishist’
          My answer to that is look at the decision making process led by senior NZTA/MOT managers (and their allies within AIA), who knew exactly what they were doing which saw any chance of a rail connection from Onehunga screwed. There can be no trust in the current NZTA/MOT senior management team. This is based on their failure to consider anything other than a roads only focus supporting exurban sprawl. The term “future eaters” is most apt.

  14. An interesting factor that may be worked out with the next round of studies is the true cost of the road only option. If you use the real world example of waterview right here in Auckland $2billion would do it for you rather than $5billion which may bring about a different result, Particularly if the respondent’s were informed about the various ways the new cross harbour capacity could be used.

  15. The way I see it to future proof we would need more than two crossings of any nature over and under the harbour plus the upgrades on any transport corridors on either side.
    Paying for it $8 billion is 140000 home units on my $50000 Development fee per home unit added on to the loan taken out for the purchase of the home.

    1. So, the development contributions from every single house built in the next decade to service a single transport project?

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