Yesterday morning the Waterview tunnel finally opened, after months of delay. An NZTA tweet at 2:32AM (don’t they sleep?) showed a video of the first cars going through:

As the news spread around many Aucklanders set out to drive through this newest addition to our transport network:

Many many Aucklanders…

And some happy lettuces:

NZTA say we need to wait a few months to see how the traffic settles down, like six months. I almost wonder if they’re hoping that in six months everyone will have forgotten what traffic was like before the tunnels opened. It’s fascinating how much they have been dampening down expectations over the past few months.

This is a pretty momentous occasion in Auckland’s history because it means the motorway network is now basically finished (a small bit up near Constellation Drive notwithstanding). After decades of “we must finish the motorway network” rhetoric, that task is now complete.

Obviously in hindsight we probably would have done things differently, like building the Western Ring route before the inner motorway networks and spaghetti junction. After all motorways are much more effective at taking people around the dense core of urban areas rather than to them and through them. But hey, let’s celebrate that this task is now done and we can move on to giving Auckland it’s necessary complementary rapid transit network, a proper Congestion Free Network.

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  1. So I drove through it on Sunday and yes it was blocked up (a car had broken down in the left northbound lane) and it was ok after that. Mostly was just people with cameras out experiencing it.
    Drove through it again this morning just before 8am and it was almost completely empty (as in about the same as the 2nd video). I’m sure as people get used to it more will use it and it will of course induce some traffic however overall I was quite impressed (still want more funding for PT of course) it certainly saves a lot of time over driving through the local roads.

    1. Until it doesn’t, which will be within 5 years. And don’t forget their traffic modelling was wrong: they say the number of regional person-trips is the same with or without the project. So “it will of course induce some traffic” but the modelling doesn’t show that. You won’t be saving any time over driving through the local roads in 5 years’ time.

      1. I five years time those local roads would have been worse if the tunnel was not built so there is not really a comparison.

      2. It will still be a saving in that even with traffic it is a shorter distance so even at the same speed will be quicker. Also when the Southern gets blocked completely by an accident (which it seems to do on a monthly basis) then it will certainly make a huge difference for those trying to bypass Auckland. With or without it you are still going to have more traffic so at least it gives a more direct route for that traffic to go. Now of course the best way to kill traffic is to invest in PT so hopefully we can look forward to a lot more investment in this in future.

        Another thing I noticed having driven in Central/West areas of Auckland recently is how much better the traffic is there than what traffic on the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast is! Traffic actually moves on the Western (and flows for a lot of it). Compare that to the Shore where traffic is rammed all the way from Albany to the Harbour Bridge and vice versa in the evening. Then the HBC it is backed up to the BP station on the motorway in the evenings all the way through Silverdale and along Whangaparaoa Road until you get to close to the Plaza (pretty much where Penlink is due to come out).

          1. Huh? Removing people from roads necessarily creates less traffic. I don’t understand your reasoning.

          2. Good question, and it’s good if more people could understand this. In a highly congested network like ours, anyone leaving their car behind and switching to public transport is simply replaced by someone else deciding to use their car when they wouldn’t have. Read the paper Andrew cited. The comprehensive study showed what does influence vehicle kilometres travelled and what doesn’t, using US data over a 20 year period.

            Switching to PT is good – more people using it will attract more funding, and the provision of better PT will make a network that more people can use. The social benefits of providing a good PT network are large. But switching to PT does not decrease the vehicle kilometres travelled – for that, you have to actually reduce roading capacity.

  2. Here comes the car haters echo chamber….. The new road will provide more capacity which will be far more than any induced demand. Yes there will still be congestion but at least it will be more spread out and for reduced periods. Not to mention the reduction of vehicles and increased efficiency for other modes on the local road network. This is a great new section of motorway that will also provide some greatly needed resilience and redundancy. This will be even more effective once the new east/west link goes in and provided even easier connection to traffic from the southern a bit closer to the city.

    Next job is to get the SH18 to SH1 connection sorted.

    1. Every single motorway project has increased the traffic in Auckland. It has shaped decisions everyone has made about where to live and work. Together, they have created a car-dependent city where children can’t walk to school because the traffic makes the walk unsafe. It has created smog and water pollution.

      Cities which have resisted this motorway model have more compact, more walkable, more liveable cities. Cities that have embraced it wholeheartedly have more dispersed, more car-dependent, more polluting cities where people commute for long periods each day, to the detriment of their mental, social and physical health. It’s called obesogenic. Do you want to live in Atlanta?

      If the induced traffic is so small from each project, why doesn’t it get modelled? Why do they work out the person trips, based on some population and land use assumptions, and then say what the roading capacity needs to be able to fit those trips? It’s arse about face: they should work on the trips based on the increase in roading capacity. Why do they not follow the “Fundamental Law of Road Congestion” that shows that the region’s traffic increases proportionately to the highway expansion?

      1. “Every single motorway project has increased the traffic in Auckland”

        Just like every cycleway project has increased cycling. Every improvement to the rail network has increased rail trips. Every improvement to the bus network has increased bus trips. You need the restart your statement to “Every transport project has increased transport patronage in Auckland”.

        Just because cities have a flash looking transport system does not mean a short commute. 40 minutes to an hour is not unusual in most cities and is comparable to Auckland commuting times. The only exception is for the privileged who can afford centralised house prices. The claimed benefit to mental health is a fallacy. Living in a chicken coup whilst being packed like a sardine on a public transport system will do plenty detrimental to your mental health.

        “Together, they have created a car-dependent city where children can’t walk to school because the traffic makes the walk unsafe”

        This is a laughable claim. Our city has footpaths everywhere and traffic lights or pedestrian crossings at every place anyone might think about crossing a road. Parents put their kids in cotton wool due to perceived crime and cultural norms, not because of the number of cars utilising a grade separated method of transport.

        We recently had AT murder a road in my local area for the benefit of Oratia Primary School. The authorities created a shared bike/footpath of massive width. Problem is it’s up a hill of substantial gradient. I went for a drive by last week at school closing time. Didn’t see one kid on a bike and there were stuff all walking. Goes to prove the fallacy of following ideology in every situation.

        1. So you’re quite happy to just ignore the research by psychologists? “The claimed benefit to mental health is a fallacy. Living in a chicken coup whilst being packed like a sardine on a public transport system will do plenty detrimental to your mental health.” Road based planning policies create dispersal. I’ve read your comments criticising “anti-sprawlers”. Yet sprawl creates the long commutes. A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a forty-five minute commute were forty per cent more likely to divorce.

          You’re also quite happy to just ignore the research of people studying what increases and decreases walking? What’s laughable is this: “Our city has footpaths everywhere and traffic lights or pedestrian crossings at every place anyone might think about crossing a road.” No, we most certainly don’t, and those things are not the only elements of a walkable neighbourhood. I photographed no less than 4 cars parked on footpaths on a short walk to the shops on Friday. And there are far worse suburbs than this one. In some places the footpath is so narrow you have to walk onto the road to avoid wheelie bins. How would you trust your 7-year-old to walk to school when f**kwits are driving up onto the pavement, the footpaths force people onto the road, and the pedestrian crossings don’t exist or are replaced with “courtesy crossings” that introduce ambiguity and danger.

    2. “The new road will provide more capacity which will be far more than any induced demand.”

      Do you have a citation for this?

  3. Celebrate success where it’s due. The tunnel is a welcome piece of infrastructure and I’m glad that the traffic this morning was flowing much better than when I took that video yesterday afternoon. As long as the transport authorities remember that roading goes hand in hand with other modes and act _now_ – rather than waiting till we’re at break point again – I’m cautiously optimistic.
    We’ve got CRL underway, but we need to be investing now in projects that will help us in 20 years’ time. The govt sees that as the EW Link but my vote is for the NW busway, airport rail, and rail to the shore.

    1. You have a point. The East -West Alliance thinks there will be 50,000 cars taken off the local roads each day. This is quite erroneous – if you say the person trips will remain the same, and increase the motorway capacity, of course the local trips will go down in your modelling. However, since they think there will be 50,000 fewer cars each day, they need to reallocate road space to public and active modes NOW before the induced traffic kicks in.

      Good place to start would be Tiverton and Wolverton Rds where the kids are banned from cycling to school because of the traffic volumes. The traffic modelling shows there’ll be a 13% drop in traffic there. Hopefully a reduction in traffic will last for a little while. So they need to reduce car lanes and install bus and cycle lanes now.

  4. Perhaps we could create an “Induced traffic Hall of Fame” and nominate Waterview?

    Was it named after the real estate aspirations of the builders?

    And of course, since this “completes” the motorway network around Auckland, I expect the RONS program will be wound up now? πŸ™‚

  5. I didn’t go through the tunnel yesterday but I had to laugh at the huge queue of cars at the St Lukes off-ramp doubling around to get back on the other side of the motorway to go back through the tunnel the other way! Surely people have better things to do with their lives?

    Judging by the response on Facebook today the tunnel is already providing massive benefits. People are reporting 10-20 minute savings on their journeys and greater ease of getting to/from the airport. It’s sad to see some of our media denigrating the project (Newshub) by running stories that read like a jealous blog contributor with an anti-car bias.

    The Auckland motorway system is far from complete. The Southern Motorway alignment is a long overdue project to remove the induced congestion brought about by the almost constant changing of the number of lanes. The lack of a motorway to the Eastern part of Auckland is inhibitive to efficient transportation to that area but I don’t think there is much appetite for the time being. Go forward however I wouldn’t totally write off the possibility of this project being resurrected in some form.

    1. Other than in the current Southern Corridor Project, where does reducing the number of lanes increase overall congestion where we could add more lanes and relieve that congestion?

    2. I don’t think anyone is really disputing that there is a time-saving element using the new tunnel versus the old routes. The bigger issue is how this new connection will affect the already busy North Western motorway which (despite the upgrade) doesn’t have any rapid transit options so will inevitably see an increase of car-traffic.

    3. What do you expect from the mainstream media. They quoted a photographer who contributes to this blog as a Traffic Expert on the news this morning. All for different vehicle modes but the lobbyists need to remember that not everyone is in a position to use alternative modes and prefer to drive a car. Forcing them to do it by stripping out the value and efficiency of the existing roading network, prime example being bus lanes with no buses in them, just makes the roading network much worse. To rub salt in the wounds it is then used as an example by the lobbysits as to why there is too much congestion and there needs to be more bus lanes. self perpetuating falsehood.

      1. “not everyone is in a position to use alternative modes” Of course not. The road construction lobby has made sure of that.

          1. Which part of ‘The road construction lobby has made sure that many people cannot choose transport modes other than the car’ is hard to understand?

  6. According to Google Maps yesterday evening, or usual trip to the airport from the North Shore would have taken 1 minute longer via the Waterview Connection instead versus the old route through Newmarket and Reumera getting back onto SH20 at Queenstown Road. I was surprised but so much for progress.

    1. the new connection is full of sight seerers at the minute who don’t know what lane to be in. Wait until things calm down and the novelty wears off and things will improve

    2. Just had a look now and it is showing a saving of 3 minutes. Thing is a lot of people are using the tunnel just for the sake of it (trying it out), once they’ve all done that then they won’t go out of their way to do that so it should improve those times by another minute or so. Also the previous routes have probably improved by a couple of minutes due to less vehicles using them and using the tunnels instead.

  7. How is the lane changing going? Are there signs up to say – “No, don’t change lanes!” ? or are people just doing high speed lane changes anyway?

    1. The no lane change rule is the big fly in the ointment, which for practical reasons will probably get ignored.

      I went through it and the car in front got slower and slower until we were in the high 50’s. No reason, probably on his/her phone. But when that happens this expressway becomes a slow lane.

      And the Maioro St off ramp light phasing is short so the queue backs up to the expressway lanes below. Teething issues I guess but this thing is not the panacea.

      Still I think the spin is it will improve off peak traffic, why that is so important I don’t know. $1.4 billion to do that is hard to justify unless you are a civil works shareholder.

  8. The malls must’ve been a bit quieter yesterday with all the fat sheep trundling back and forth through the tunnel. Sheesh, it’s just a road. Nothing to see here.

  9. Who says the motorway network is finished? They haven’t started the Eastern Motorway or the Central Motorway yet.

  10. Taxi to the airport this morning was about 5 minutes quicker, not having to dawdle along Carrington Rd/Mt Albert Rd.

  11. Actually the entire Waterview area (surface and motorway) was empty as today, Monday, as I passed by on PT at my usual pre-peak times. Much lower volumes than normal and no queues anywhere. Just as Sunday 3pm was no test, so today was no test.

  12. The risk is some twit will think that Manukau Rd and Dominion Rd don’t need to be arterial roads anymore and bugger them up. If that happens we will have spent over a billion just for some improved amenity.

    1. Bugger them up is presumably code for “reduce vehicle capacity in favour of buses, bikes and walkers”. If so: Bugger away!

      1. The only benefit I can see from building urban motorways is the ability to repurpose street space for non car based use.

  13. Purely anecdotal evidence but I have to say that this morning (being the one day I drive to town in the morning) that the traffic on Sandringham road was AMAZING.

    Its gone back to the pre Hillsborough extension days in terms of traffic volumes.

    Of course only time will tell but I’ve NEVER seen Sandringham Rd like this in the morning for years. Normally its backed up all the way from Eden Park to the Balmoral intersection and this morning I could juuuuuuuust make out the end of the tail down by Eden Park.

    Its going to be very interesting to see how it affects Sandringham Rd going the over way at night and in the avo because for years now its been a total shitfight thanks to the dual ped crossings that really clog it up and the sheer amount of traffic I’m guessing leaving town and nearby areas and heading for the back motorway.

    1. Looks like it is taking some local traffic off the road which is the intention, of course we have tertiary students are pretty much on holiday now, so will be interesting in a few weeks time to see how it’s going.

    2. In saying that, seems to be that roads leading to Onehunga north west onramp seem heavier in the day so far looking at Google maps, which makes sense.

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