Last year Auckland Transport declared war on the Council over the Victoria Street Linear Park. Just days after being instructed by Council to allow for the future Victoria Street Linear Park, A major part of the City Centre Master Plan and the planned east-west cycling/walking link, AT proposed midtown bus routes that were heavily reliant on Victoria St, thereby preventing the Linear Park.
We later found out, through official information requests, that not only did AT’s preferred option prevent the Linear Park, but it was also more expensive and worse for bus users than the alternatives. In fact, their preferred option had a negative benefit-cost ratio, not just a return below 1, but one that was worse for bus users than doing nothing.
After a campaign by Greater Auckland, Generation Zero, and Bike Auckland, the Linear Park was saved and AT went back to the drawing board.
Later in the year AT released their new compromise option labelled the Crossover. While this led to a good outcome for the Linear Park, it created other issues – both down on Quay Street and by the University. Matt wrote his concerns about here and from which I have included an excerpt below.
At the heart of this concern is what Auckland Transport have labelled the ‘crossover’. On paper and at altitude, it appears to be a straightforward and elegant solution to many of the issues of city centre access. However, that falls apart somewhat when you look at the details and think about real world use cases. As a reminder, this is the crossover plan, not shown on here is the City Rail Link, light rail or other buses such as the City Link.
Buses from the east of the city centre (such as Gt South, Manukau, and Remuera roads) will turn down Grafton Rd and onto Wellesley St before terminating at the Southern end of Wynyard Quarter. AT are looking at a new bus interchange station in Grafton Gully to allow connections to Symonds St buses.
- Isthmus buses will travel down Symonds St and terminate at a new bus interchange on Quay St, as will buses from Tamaki Dr.
- Buses from the Northwest will use Albert St and terminate in Lower Albert St.
- North Shore buses will terminate at either Lower Albert St (NEX1 and Onewa Rd services) or in the new interchange at Grafton Gully.
After this, the discussion regarding the Midtown Bus Corridor went quiet until recently when AT was about to present their disastrous Regional Land Transport Plan. Thankfully, like their plans to destroy the Linear Park, the draft RLTP was sent back to the drawing board.
Before this happened though, it was possible to take a look at the budgeting for the Midtown Bus Corridor that Auckland Transport was proposing. The Draft RLTP included the following discussion and a couple of fairly chunky line items of required expenditure:
The City Rail Link and changes to the bus network will help improve access to the city centre and facilitate this ongoing modal shift. Major city centre bus upgrades over the next ten years include:
- Bus terminal facilities and associated infrastructure in Lower Albert Street, Quay Street, Wynyard Quarter and the Learning Quarter.
- A major upgrade of Wellesley Street (from Halsey Street to Symonds Street) to increase the flow of buses to/from the isthmus, north shore to mid-town, additional Link and crosstown services between suburbs in the east and west of the city centre.
In last year’s business case the Wellesley Street option with Grafton Gully terminal was $44.5 million while the Victoria Street option was $51.5 million. This aligns with the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, which used non-inflation-adjusted cost estimates of around $40 million broken down to $25 million for the Learning Quarter and $15 million for Wellesley Street itself.
The RLTF has two lines of $58.42 million totalling $116.84 million now for the same corridor upgrade and potentially higher as there are other residual City Centre bus priority budget lines.
This means the cost has potentially blown up by well over double for the Midtown Bus Corridor well beyond reasonable construction inflation or contingency. This means that either
- The original case was completely off the mark cost wise;
- The new preferred Crossover option is over double the cost of the Wellesley ramp option or the use of Wakefield St for outbound services.
If the latter, the reason for the blow out might have something to do with the large interchange they were bragging about last year in Grafton Gully.
As reported by Simon Wilson in the Spin Off.
Up at the universities, they’ll build a big new station just past the Symonds Street underpass. The University of Auckland will put a “gateway building” over it, much as Manukau Institute of Technology sits over the Manukau Railway Station.
If the latter AT will have to answer serious questions such as:
- Why to placate certain “Stakeholders” are we going to spend over double what was expected?
- How they expect the NZTA and Government to want to co-fund a project that is over double what it needs to be?
- Why should other projects be pushed back to fund this?
Of course, you may have noticed the grand irony of all this, that in the budget lines pictured above, the interchange sits right above the cut-off and right below is cycling.