With March Madness now in full swing, discussion of congestion is trending like the latest viral video. Hot on the heels from the Herald’s multi-modal race, yesterday the Automobile Association released a report on congestion in the city.

Aucklanders are spending close to 80 hours stuck in motorway traffic congestion each year, time that the AA describes as a “noose” around motorists’ necks.

The Automobile Association is calling for a raft of initiatives to tackle the problem, including encouraging parents to send kids to school on foot or by bike to put a brake on the number of cars.

An AA Congestion Report released today picks apart the time Aucklanders spend moving at a glacial pace along the city’s busiest routes.

It comes on the first official day of “March Madness”, which is set to bring even more misery to the city’s beleaguered commuters.

Latest figures show about 40,000 more cars jammed Auckland’s roads in 2017 compared to the previous year.

Each motorist wasted an average 78.6 hours sitting in traffic, just on our motorways.

This equated to close to two full weeks of work for many Aucklanders – though most motorists would not be receiving pay cheques for the wasted hours behind the wheel.

Between the hours of 7am and 9am drivers were travelling at an average speed of 43km/h on Auckland motorways last year. This slowed even more on our arterial roads – where drivers were crawling at just 34km/h on average.

Sitting in traffic can be absolutely maddening but in my experience it’s not the total time that drives the frustration but the unreliability of travel times and the lack of control you have over the situation. The time aspect is highlighted by the fact that if you break down the 80 hours quoted, it doesn’t add up to all that much. For example, once you subtract weekends, public holidays and leave, most commuters will travel to work for about 230 days a year. Dividing the 78.6 hours by 230 days gives us about 20.5 minutes of delay a day, so just over 10 minutes in each direction. What is really frustrating is when you have a 30 minute commute one day then for no apparent reason your commute the next day is 1.5 hours. As we saw with the commuter race, the bus, train and car all took about the same length of time but my guess is the three reporters arrived with vastly different stress levels.

The report notes that Waterview made a noticeable difference, for a few months, but that congestion is now back to normal.

After the multibillion-dollar road opened in July last year, commuters in the notoriously gridlocked city saw up to 11 minutes shaved off their rush-hour trips.

….

But those gains are already being eroded away, with around 43,000 more people moving to Auckland and 40,000 more cars on the roads in the past 12 months. The average Aucklander now drives just over 9000km a year, up 189km.

“It’s going to get worse, no question about it,” said Mr Irvine.

In March 2016, the average speed on Auckland’s arterial roads was 37km/h. A year later it was 32km/h. In the second half of 2017 speeds began to surpass those of 2016, as the Waterview Tunnel eased stress on the network.

But by November 2017, speeds were back down to 2016 levels.

It was obvious that this would happen because it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. What is perhaps surprising is that the congestion relief benefits didn’t even last six months. Nevertheless, the AA have said we need more big roading projects like Waterview, as well as rail and other transport projects. As we know from ATAP, even the former National government agreed that there simply wasn’t the space for many new big roads and only limited options for widening the ones we already have. I think that what Waterview does highlight is that we simply can’t build new road projects to bust congestion. What it did do is link up a new route through the city and improve the overall capacity. But, if all we’re really doing is adding capacity, then there are far more efficient ways of doing that.

Finally we come to some of the AA’s other suggestions

The AA report includes a handful of smaller-scale initiatives, which the team wants to see Government and Auckland Council adopt to address the scale of the problem.

These included installing a smart traffic light system, setting firm congestion targets, delivering more park and ride bays and trialling different forms of congestion charges.

Irvine also suggested schools could play their part in making walking and cycling to school safer.

Removing barriers that prevent parents sending their kids to school on foot or by bike could help reduce car numbers on our roads.

Auckland Primary Principals’ Association president Kevin Bush said he would support any type of scheme or project implemented by central Government to make this happen.

He saw the impact congestion had on both parents and students and noted school buses were increasingly late in delivering students to school, because of traffic.

….

Ironically, Bush said the traffic creating the issue made it too dangerous for many younger students to walk or ride to school unattended.

That last line reminded me a lot of this great cartoon

Some of the other ideas, like smarter traffic lights, are one of those perennial suggestions but that are unlikely to make a huge amount of difference, if any. That’s because prioritising or syncing one journey will throw other journeys out of sync. Even if it does make a difference, it’s also not something is going to be sustainable long term. That’s because Auckland is growing strongly and is expected to continue to do so.

If congestion is only going to get worse then it becomes even more imperative that we build a city that gives people the ability to opt out of congestion. That means creating viable alternatives that are faster and more convenient to use than driving. This alternative comes in the form of a network of safe, connected cycleways and a high quality rapid transit network, like our Congestion Free Network, backed up by a strong and efficient frequent bus network. That way, the roads may still be congested but many more people are still able to travel without suffering from it.

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118 comments

  1. It will be interesting to see if young Mr Bridges, for so long in the shadow of Mr Joyce when it comes to the provision of new roads, manages to have a different mind-set. He was getting quite frustrated last year with Julie-Anne Genter, whom he called “New Zealand’s foremost traffic engineer” (not altogether without sarcasm and irony), but while the old dog Joyce was too stuck in his ways to do anything other than roar “Moar Roads” at every opportunity, there are vague signs that the young puppy may yet learn that the answer is not always roads. Hopefully he is not so firmly in the pocket of Ken Shirley and the truckers lobby.

    1. Traditionally National governments bed in the changes that Labour have made during their previous term, they are not known for making radical changes themselves.

      I think there is a decent chance that if Labour is in for six to nine years funding PT and governments building houses will have become the norm.

      1. Except that the former National Government did make radical changes in the form of the Roads of National Significance (Roads of National’s Extravagance). I don’t believe there would have been such a push for Moar Roads had the Clark-Cullen government.remained in office.

        But Moar Roads is about the only thing National initiated. Everything else they did was either cut, cut, cut. or else begrudging inheritance of things started by Labour.

  2. As an aside, the AA holds no positions – it just represents its members’ views (based on surveys). It also lobbies government on members’ behalf and is included in a lot of engagements it probably shouldn’t be (like setting speed limits)

    if you are a member, be sure to fill out any surveys you get 😉

    1. The AA represents motorists that choose to be members, so that they propose more big roading projects is not a surprise. They of course will not recognise the blatantly obvious fact that private motor vehicles have no place in the modern city. Fortunately there is other representation for the anti-car bloc.

    2. Apart from the breakdown service for older vehicles, I can’t see any valid reason to belong to the AA in this day and age.
      They have morphed into a way out of date sort of organisation which has been slowly losing meaningful purpose since the 1950’s. Not worth listening to if you are interested living in the sort of city with any sort of charm and livability.

      1. Multiple insurance companies offer breakdown assistance service as part of their car insurance. There’s no reason to be with AA just for that.

      2. AA seemed to have morohed into a travel organisation. Latest mag I read was promoting cycling, train ride to Wellington and such. It is diversifying.

      3. I agree. Most motoring organisations started as break down services. Modern cars are very reliable, making that unnecessary, so the auto associations are becoming insurance companies. I do not think they represent their member’s views, and I doubt many members care.

    3. I am a member and have previously filled out surveys – I wouldn’t say they use the most neutral tone in questions. they can quite often be worded to ensure answers lean in a particular direction.

  3. Congestion charging is a “smaller scale initiative” – really? A small trial maybe but an actual congestion charging system may be the biggest initiative wrt congestion in the history of the city.

  4. But just the other day Matt you were arguing we should give up on ‘predict and provide’ and move to ‘decide and provide’. If we do then you really have no reason at all to think the people who ‘decide’ will choose your opinions over other lobby groups like the AA.
    Maybe having some analysis and forecasting can help cut through the advocacy that groups like the AA and Greater Auckland put out there. Maybe analysis and forecasting is worthwhile after all.

    1. But perhaps it can take another form. Let’s look at which cities have managed to increase cycling and walking mode share, analyse what they did, and try it. Let’s look at which cities have managed to evaporate traffic through road reductions, analyse what they did, and try it. Let’s look at which cities have managed to reduce their traffic volumes, and increase their public transport amenity while growing in population by 23%, analyse what they did, and try it.

      1. But surely just choosing one or two modes and only assessing them is exactly how we ended up with the unbalanced system we have. Pruning away a faulty assessment system and dumping it rather than figuring out what went wrong and correcting it leaves the transport policy field to political tribalism. This group has power so no parking or roads, that group gets power and it is only parking and roads. Yet a great way to improve the whole system would be to relocate the huge parking stock in the CBD to PT nodes. The single biggest problem with trains is they don’t stop where most people live. Telling people they should cycle in the rain to a train station isn’t going to get people out of their car.
        The issue isn’t that models don’t work. The issue is that the cheap arse models built in NZ that use existing traffic counts as an input rather than a check output don’t work. Mode Choice models based on out of date surveys don’t work.
        If we through the baby out with the bathwater we eventually get roads of national importance.

        1. “Yet a great way to improve the whole system would be to relocate the huge parking stock in the CBD to PT nodes. The single biggest problem with trains is they don’t stop where most people live. Telling people they should cycle in the rain to a train station isn’t going to get people out of their car.”

          I sort of agree with you on the removing parking stock from the CBD, and perhaps allocating some of that at PT nodes.

          The telling people to cycle bit – that’s not really what any of it is about. We’ve got the car option sorted in this city. There are roads literally everywhere. You cannot build a house without vehicle access. That part is sorted. So let’s provide the options that people can actually make a sound decision regarding some alternatives – ie; safer areas to cycle. So that someone that does live 1-2km away from a train stop doesn’t feel like they ‘have’ to drive because it’s unsafe to cycle, sure there will always be the people that choose to drive, regardless of how convenient or safe a cycling option is, but then I don’t think we should cater to the crys and moans of car congestion.

        2. Decision-makers can indeed be guided without traffic modelling numbers. This is where our engineering education and culture should – and isn’t – doing particularly well. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and good engineering analysis can take a variety of ways.

          So far, traffic modelling has resulted in road expansion to the point of almost ruining this city. While it is trite to say that we could hardly do worse without it, there’s some truth to that.

          1/ We need to remove the dinosaurs. Tinkering with better models isn’t going to work while the very engineers who have stuck their heels in to stay on the gravy train are still around. Don’t forget that these engineers have not only come up with the data, they have stood by their work at BOI hearings and argued against moves to improve mitigation for the effects of their badly modelled roads. Social responsibiltiy has taken a back seat to ensuring the projects have the lowest possible cost. So we’ve not only had to suffer the induced traffic, we’ve also had – for example – no buslanes where they are required, and 16 or so lanes of traffic to cross as a pedestrian rather than a bridge.

          2/ We can, and need, to collect data for what actually happens to traffic and modal choice when really progressive ideas are trialled on the ground. But to do so we need to trial those progressive ideas.

          I’d imagine that there’s a law of diminishing returns here. Alternative analysis can suggest good progressive projects. Assuming the data collection supports the implementation of more similar projects, this can continue until the data isn’t so black and white and the projects aren’t so obvious. At that point, a new and brighter modelling system could be developed, with plenty of data to get it going.

        3. People always bring out the old “cycle in the rain” line like it is some ultimate checkmate against the feasibility of cycling.

          I live in Fukuoka, Japan, Auckland’s older and more sophisticated sister city, which happens to also have a higher annual rainfall than Auckland and a much higher cycling mode share.

          Rain is very easily ameliorated by the use of a plastic poncho, available for a few hundred yen at any convenience store. These also fold up to a very small size. Problem solved. Maybe not the last word in style, but it sure beats sitting in rainy day traffic.

          1. +1, Auckland gets showers too. Rarely a whole morning or evening of rain. Dodge the shower, use a mudguard, wear a jacket. You’ll turn up dry.

          2. I dont need special equipment to drive in my car. I don’t want to have to carry extra crap when I am cycling to work and I don’t want to get wet. I use an e-bike so I don’t break a sweat, so I don’t carry extra clothes and shower at work. Getting wet, carrying extra crap and having a shower at work negates any benefit to me of having a hassle free cycle to work. So I just don’t cycle when it looks like it may rain. So it is a very valid argument because a certain group of people simply won’t cycle in the rain.

          3. Yeah, we should be providing all weather options for PT. Agree. Some people are enthusiastic about riding in the rain, most aren’t.

            Equally true is that our schools, workplaces and community places need to be set up to allow storage of rain equipment. Libraries might have an umbrella stand, cinemas probably don’t. What about wet boots and coats? Let alone covered bike stands…

            The new modern learning environment classrooms at Warkworth School didn’t initially even have pegs for bags, and I believe they still don’t have anywhere to store a coat or wet shoes. Gone are the days of corridors with storage for things like that. Those classrooms are also unbearably hot this summer, apparently, with no breeze through… simple passive cooling concepts were ignored. Meanwhile other schools are following suit The concept of designing for the environment we have seems to be slipping away…

          4. Quite right about rain and cycling. The two places cited as mecca for cyclists – Denmark and Holland – both get lots of rain off the north sea. It doesn’t stop them cycling in large numbers. The mai; thing is to enable people to cycle safely. Then they do it.

        4. “Yet a great way to improve the whole system would be to relocate the huge parking stock in the CBD to PT nodes.”
          And who exactly is going to do this? Currently AT currently has plans to build two parking buildings in Takapuna. They are yet to establish demand for these – but who cares -even though their policies require them to.
          AT will not provide any leadership in significantly addressing congestion and carbon emissions. We will need to hope that central government can take the lead.

          1. If congestion charging is politically too hard can we get a tax on city parking? Most Australian capital cities charge parking operators an annual fee to provide cbd public parking, in view of the cost they cause in congestion and need for roadworks. So why not tax them? It is a highly profitable industry, often foreign owned (Wilsons) and the money could be used to pay for PT. Sydney charges $2000 per space per year. If Auckland did that it would generate $100 million per annum to pay for cycle ways and PT. The tax might also encourage land owners to turn valuable city land over to other uses, like housing.

          2. As part of a whole raft of initiatives, this would be really good. It also would be politically difficult. Almost any progressive change will require a big education campaign too.

          3. I do not think a tax on cbd parking need be politically difficult. The car park owners now make large profits. They will charge whatever price the market (commuters) will bear, whether they are taxed or not. Worst case they pass the tax on to motorists, who use cbd parking less, encouraging more PT use. Good. If a government cant stand up to a few vested interests, foreign owned at that, we will never grt good policy.

          4. taka-ite,
            You are absolutely right.

            Where congestion tolls don’t exist parking pricing is the only other viable (& reasonable) mechanism to manage congestion.

            The NZ Government should take the lead and indicate through the GPS (transport) that local governments should consider levying CBD commuter parking spaces (public and private) to assist managing commuter travel demand by car.

    2. Predict and provide as a sufficient methodology is a fraud. It has always been decide, the decision was m’ways only, the predict process has been used to justify the pre-made decisions, to pretend they not choices but ‘scientific’ and ‘logical’ and necessary… This is done by reducing what is counted in the predict phase.

      And of course predict and provide is self-fulfilling. Supply leads demand, not the other way round. We can all only use what’s there. Only build for vehicle traffic and you’ll pretty much only get vehicle traffic…

      The weirdest thing about it for the professionals that want to believe in it is how dumb and passive it renders them and their advice; it reduces them and their profession to simply repeating whatever the traffic model says. No thinking, no creativity, no ingenuity (ironically, root of the word engineer)…

      1. The Japanese showed conclusively that transport supply doesn’t create demand. Says law doesn’t work for infrastructure. They built an extensive system of expensive motorways and bridges to connect islands that people didn’t use much. Instead of lifting their economy as hoped it had the opposite effect. People spent less knowing they would eventually have to pay for the governments wastefulness.
        In NZ modellers use outputs as inputs then claim a high level of model accuracy using R-squared or other measures. The reality is they are comparing a statistic with itself. It should have a high correlation. That doesn’t mean you give up and resort to ideology. I can promise you you will absolutely hate that at least half the time.

        1. I think the point is there is no getting around value judgements when it comes to transport investment and desicion making. The fraud of predict and provide that Patrick points out of that there is a veneer of objectivity placed on the value judgements that have been made for the last 50 years. There will always be objective analysis required to inform desicion makers but it should never be used to pretend those desicion makers are not making value judgements.

          Yes there are different sets of values out there so once we start making these choices explicit there is a risk desicion makers will adopt a set of values that “we” dont like. But thats actually the status quo anyway (see above) so little downside risk for those of us on the GA side of the ledger. And we think we have the better set of principles* that actually align with what our society wants in a broader sense so we have a good chance of carrying the day.

          *That being sustainability, safety, equity, access, vibrancy etc.

        2. Having lived in Japan for several years I can say you neglected to mention a couple of salient points regarding the highways in Japan. One is the tolls are very high and two, they have good alternative options in most parts of the country. The overall point of inducement still stands.

          1. The tolls are high to make the system more user pays. Instead of heavily subsidising roads by general taxation as we do in NZ.

        3. I do not see Japan as a counter example, if you are referring to the many dubious rural projects where there was no congestion in the first place. With no change in driving conditions (still uncongested) there is no change in demand. The claim of transport planners (and economists) is that when you have congested conditions (eg Auckland) building infrastructure supply does increase demand. This has been proven in lots of places, and Duranton and Turner’s paper was pretty definitive. So yes, predict and provide is stupid.
          http://www.nber.org/papers/w15376

      2. And as you know Patrick the flow Report regarding Gasometer parking told AT that predict and provide was wrong. That advice simply got lost. AT also managed to “loose” all the other advice of the flow Report. In a word, disgraceful!

      3. The issue is not predict and provide. The issue is that we pay for congestion through longer travel times rather than making a cash payment (congestion tolling) and managing congestion levels.

        Private vehicle travel is almost a free good. This is coupled with the fact “To Work” trips are compulsory as are “To Education” trips.

        We treat the cost of owning a car as a sunk cost and recognize only the fuel cost, parking cost and perhaps some maintenance cost when we make a trip. But also by treating vehicle ownership costs as sunk we want to make as much use of the car as possible.

        Given this the “price” at which demand and supply intersect is vey low and thus demand will always outstrip supply. You only have to go to a large store that is having a huge discounting sale to see the huge lines of people that will be waiting.

        The other issue is that there can never enough budget to build all the transport facilities to relive the congestion even if you wanted to. Abu Dhabi gets close to this (similar population to Auckland & far greater roading infrastructure https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/trafficindex/city/abu-dhabi), but still the Emirate has recently passed congestion tolling legislation.

        Until Auckland puts in place congestion tolls (its not a technical issue, just a political / public acceptance issue) Auckland would be best off implementing a comprehensive commuter parking levy strategy in the meantime.

        The AA talks about a small scale congestion charging scheme. What would be better is to start with at least 1 full congestion cordon and have a negligible charge for a start & then slowly increment the toll until it gets to the level needed to manage the congestion levels & then manage it with 6 monthly reviews like Singapore. (There is no guarantee what is modelled will be what is needed in reality)

  5. Matt you say commuters can opt out of road congestion, but what about trucks and trade vehicles? This is why in Nelson we are advocating for clearway lanes available only for buses and trade vehicles at peak times.
    And of course the congestion charges would actually be one of the few things that might reduce the number of car commuters and although by Stockholms experience it only has to be quite small (1-2 euros), this could be could be waived for trade vehicles

    1. No need to waive it for trade vehicles, they will be a big beneficiary of the devongested roads. Any type of exemption reduces the effectiveness of the system and creates loopholes.

      1. +1, trade vehicle exemptions are a waste of time. Trade vehicles already get $5 of labour saving benefit from the decongestion.

        1. Exempt for multiple use. Say a maximum of 2 charges per day so a bus that runs in and out of the CBD only pays twice not a dozen times. That may or may not be a dumb suggestion but a really flexible congestion charge would let us suck it and see.

          1. I just don’t think it would work, Bob, Too many households with multiple cars, including one trade vehicle. Guess which one they’ll choose when they want to go to the congestion pricing area? And there must surely be a fuzzy line between trade vehicles and others?

    2. Peter the vast majority (77%) of the congesting vehicles on AKLs roads are light passenger, mostly single occupant. Incentivising even just 10% of these to users to switch to alternatives (by providing good ones, and other inducements) and higher value freight, delivery, and service vehicles will be less delayed.

      Certainly freight lanes, after transit lanes, are part of achieving this. But the key remains completing those missing networks of Rapid and Active Transport so incentivising measures such as pricing can be used and those hit with the stick have a carrot to go to.

      1. Great point Patrick. This is not about eliminating all SOVs or evena majority. Even in Stockholm lots of people still drove. In order to get relatively free flowing traffic, you only need to eliminate the marginal 10-15% of traffic. Juts look at the roads when school is out.

  6. It’s really great that the AA are acknowledging the temporary nature of travel time savings from big roading projects. It would be really nice if they also acknowledged:

    1/ That travel times are rising faster than any population increase. They are rising because of the induced traffic from the big roading projects and from any increase in road capacity, such as intersection widening and changes to traffic light phasing to enable traffic flow (eg at the expense of pedestrian amenity.)

    2/ The travel times on the major routes are measured, but they are not the full story. What also happens with the induced traffic, is that there is more traffic on all the smaller local roads. All these induced trips (and yes, they are from individuals, on average, driving further and more often) put extra traffic everywhere. To consider only the travel times between A and B is to ignore the extra traffic that pedestrians, cyclists, children, elderly, everyone have to cope with, everywhere.

    1. Greetings with the focus on congestion at the moment we have to treat it like any other human problems. Mostly caused by behavioural aspects of our nature.
      The very first journey in life is home from the maternity hospital mostly by car and the last journey is in a hearse to the cemetery or other place. For some, every other journey in between is by single occupant car or if luck shared with another.
      Aucklanders are lazy, entitled and decadent they want to go from there front door to work place with little or no effort and especially no rain drops or lack of air-conditioning. Media tells us its in cool to travel on the bus most advertising is tuned to sell cars spend money and bee one of the cool set.
      There is NO Solution to congestion its a brain teaser people have choice to either do what they always do with the same result (sit in no moving traffic) or change the activity to get a different result be it better or worse.
      What would you do if you couldn’t drive? A-hah take the train or bus. How many parents educate there children to take public transport or to correctly safely ride a bicycle I did mine what about you?
      My answer is to et the road grind to a halt till there is a realisation to change the behaviour. On TV yesterday a young woman admitted she had not taken public transport in 15 years since she left the UK. Also a person was filmed driving a single occupant car in the transit T2 lane so no respect for rules so my comment about being entitled and above authority.
      Sorry for the rant but I get sick of the powers that be treating the symptoms of Congestion and not the cause. Enjoy your life it will soon pass.

      1. I find your assessment to be quite accurate, however I am one of those relentlessly positive types so prefer to believe that JAFAs are not an entirely lost cause. And I will be sure to be teaching my son all about PT and bikes in spite of his mother, who is less militant than I when it comes to carmageddon. A learned uncle who lives far away once explained to me that immigrants are a big part of the problem, simply because they can actually afford to own a vehicle here, versus where they came from and probably could not (not the millionaire immigration category obviously), and of course logically believe they are entitled to a car as the non immigrant population all have one / two / three carbon emitters. Unfortunately just allowing the less thinking to continue there selfish ways also slows down my bus, which is just plain rude!

        1. Not only do they get to afford a vehicle hear but this is especially prevalent when it comes to dropping kids off to school (which takes 10-15mins in the car vs a 5 minute walk) in their giant SUV (BMW X5, Range Rover, Mercedes etc) none of which have ever seen a blade of grass let alone gone off-road.

          1. But will it still be valid? 🙂 As one commenter noted last month, his supergold status expires in September 2019, which makes me wonder how AT reads the tea leaves…

          2. Do my kids get a free casket trip eventually, including the bearers, because they were born at home?

    2. “That travel times are rising faster than any population increase” – do you have any proof of this? I’m surprised travel times haven’t increased a lot more considering the recent population increase.

      1. I was just looking at the figures given in the article: speeds reducing from 37 km/hr to 32 km/hr after 12 months, would mean an increase in travel time of 15.6%. Whereas annual population growth is 1.2%. (http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/auckland-population/) Many other factors involved, I’m sure.

        The sharp rise in travel time and travel volume is to be expected – there is data for many roads showing a sharp increase initially that then gently flattens off but is still increasing after 20 years.

        1. I guess the relationship is not going to be linear – A 1% increase in trips could well lead to a 15% reduction in speed once the network is saturated. But I’m just thinking of my own commute which hasn’t really changed that much in the last 10 years despite huge population growth. Maybe I’m just lucky. What has definitely changed is that rush hour is now more like rush 4 hours.

          1. Yes very non-linear. The ‘school holiday effect’ has been estimated as being due to a mere 3 to 5% reduction in peak traffic.

        2. It will be interesting to see if a post completion audit is done on Waterview by NZTA. I’d like to see the traffic growth assumptions vs reality.

  7. “The report notes that Waterview made a noticeable difference, for a few months, but that congestion is now back to normal.”

    So it’s a road of national impotence.

  8. Great topic.

    Who can be surprised that the byproduct and most overt symptom of free for all low grade, rapid population growth is gridlock. Who? Not the departing Bill English or many of his mates who should also be headed for the exit. Cheers morons!

    Sure it gave us growth, cynical electable growth for the economically bereft, like sugar gives a quick energy boost but long term, not so good.

    It is now one hell of an expensive mess to clean up and there is no cheap way out of it.

    What can be done?

    Schools are a basket case. Child killer Jules Mikus changed the way kids went to school for ever in NZ and few parents want to risk leaving their kids to the roads on their own. Perhaps a better system of school buses?

    Traffic lights. There is a genuine argument for better control and synchronising because in Auckland we just don’t do that shit at all.

    But the uncomfortable truth is the time has come for massive spending on alternatives to cars. Match every motorway with a commuter rail system, criss crossing the city. Take control of the ferries, rather than leaving it to Fullers, so coastal Auckland can be connected. And get underway with rapid priority suburban PT such as the much talked of but yet to be seen light rail.

    Doing nothing is not an alternative, nor is fiddling while Rome burns adding an extra service or extra axle to the current bus fleet!

    Really good article by Brian Fallow today in the Herald, on housing shortages and the cause. It has the same underlying causes as our current traffic fiasco, not to mention our harbours that are now sewers!
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12003774

    1. I don’t get the traffic lights thing. Having spent time in Europe where they don’t seem to have sensors and some times you can wait for ages on a red while there are no cars coming, I think our system works pretty well. At most traffic lights there always seems to be cars moving so good throughput. Maybe we could do better synchrising long roads like greenlane, but I would give our traffic light system a 9/10 compared to other countries.

      1. Having used western state roads in the US the light phasing is regular, relatively even and most importantly work to keep ALL modes moving with pedestrians having right of way over turning traffic on every phase but none of the barns dance idiocy like here that holds every other mode up!

        Auckland has a pre-occupation with short phasing for some lanes, two to three cars per cycle, a green with the next intersection going yellow simultaneously and in the early hours lights going red as you approach whist going green on empty lanes that cross the intersection.

        Manila has large timers in the light stands telling you how long till the next green or red. Simple and efficient.

        Our traffic lights follow little logic or pattern. Either that or they are crap quality. And the way AT function (or dysfunctions) means no one but no one bothers to monitor anything to see if it works, Onewa Road’s T3 lane is living proof of that!

        I give our inconsistent traffic lights 3 out of 10.

        1. I like the “barns dance idiocy” as you put it. It empowers the pedestrian, rather than the car-driver. And makes the city more pleasant to use.

          1. It disempowers the public transport user too! Been in a bus in the CBD lately?

            Trouble is make one mode above all others and nothing really works.

          2. Barnes-Dance phasing is a breath of fresh air for pedestrians in this city where there’s not much security, and there doesn’t seem to be much consistency in phasing, probably because of the lack of a grid pattern. Personally, I like it.

            However, if the two-phase system could be used in Auckland, despite our lack of a street grid pattern, would it help in establishing the new law that turning drivers give way to pedestrians at every intersection, even where there are no traffic lights? There will have to be a huge mindset shift for that necessary law to be brought in. I’m open to the idea that a two-phase system might support that mindset change.

          3. Heidi, I agree with giving way to pedestrians on a turn, it negates the need for crossing phases.

            My point is keeping all of Auckland moving is a priority, not one mode entirely over another. Barns dance crossings just shuts roads down, unnecessarily.

            As a pedestrian I love the freedom of going where I want when I want, within reason, including crossing without constraint. Hence a light tellng me when to cross or not is no big deal.

          4. Although in Henderson the barn dance means pedestrians wait and wait and wait and then get to cross altogether. In my experience much longer than when it was 2 legs.

        2. Are we seriously holding up anything in the United States as something to eliminate auto dependency? It is the birthplace of auto dependency and if anything is getting worse.

  9. This ties in rather well with pressure to reclaim Queens Wharf from car imports. All those used-up cars from Japan with dodgy airbags – where do we think they’ll go?

        1. Oh I’m mistaken, I thought you had a point other than ports ocassionally unload things that arrive off boats.

    1. Agree, Peter, the number of cars entering Auckland is of concern, and so is the increase in the amount of driving per capita.

      1. All hail our new saviour then, the brown marmorated stink bug. It’s credited with keeping 12,000 second-hand cars off our shores, due to infesting the cars. According to the second-hand cars people, this is a bad thing, and we should let these “badly needed” cars in. To my mind, keeping more cars out is a good thing, and keeping stink bugs out that destroy our fruit exports, is a very important thing.

        1. Yes, but of course they’re also crying “Jobs”. Are the jobs involved in selling second hand cars more important than the horticultural jobs threatened, I wonder. Looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.

          1. A new job for the Navy…………..to sink every car carrier approaching our shores??!!!
            Would provide the benefit of a real live target practice…………..
            And if the navy won’t do it, we should give the Air Force a go …………??!!!
            Only for two years…………………

          2. You know, and the people who buy the cars actually get to work because they don’t have hours to spend each day on PT?

      2. Heidi. Driving per capita in AKL is up 2017 over 2016, but that’s only because 2016 is the lowest year all century and 2017 the second lowest (tied with 2015). The current figure, around 8000 km is still below the 2001 year and every other between. The peak years are 2006, 2008, and 2012 at around 8500 km. It’s really been quite steady.

        There are more people, there is more driving, but not more driving each.

        The trend over the last year however is heading up, but then after 9 years of RoNS building it would be extraordinary if this wasn’t the case. As we know induced demand typically runs at a 1:1 rate to lanes supplied. It seems to be constrained in AKL compared to BoP, Canterbury, and Waikato, presumably by congestion. Happily PT and Active infra has also improved over this period, to offer alternatives, as these are strongly up over population increase, though not enough of course….

        1. Patrick, I know I read some figures recently (I thought after a link from GA) but have read too many reports recently to remember where. 🙂 Obviously (after your comment) they were either just 2016-2017 or maybe NZ not Auckland. I thought they were in the introductory blurb of a recent document from AT or NZTA… can you point me in the right direction? Ta…

          1. Thanks Mike, what I was vaguely recalling was actually the 2017 Congestion Question Report (CQR): “Aucklanders now drive an average of 1.6 billion kilometres a year further than they did in 2013 and own more cars on a per capita basis than ever before. Over 700 additional cars are being registered in Auckland every week.”

            Using the 2013 census figures, MoT’s 2013 vkt figures for Auckland, and the CQR’s figures for change in both since then, I get 2013 vkt of 9014 km per capita and 2017 vkt of 9057 km per capita. So although Patrick’s figures probably use a different area for the population, these figures are consistent with what he says, only a small change. (Thanks, Patrick.)

            What I believe happened after Waterview opened is that as expected, the sudden increase in roading capacity decreased congestion, increased speeds, which in turn induced traffic, increased vkt and lowered speeds again.

            What’s worrying of course, is that the vkt per capita isn’t dropping – to get our energy consumption, pollution and carbon emissions down we need to reduce the total vkt and the vkt per capita. A relatively stable vkt per capita is not a healthy sign.

          2. Numbers of cars really isn’t the thing however, cars are mostly parked. On average 96% of the time (soooo inefficient), so the number of cars in AKL could say half, but if the remaining ones were driven more then congestion would be worse. So the percapita data is always interesting. And the point of investment in alternatives is to lower that figure further. And this is the problem with the previous govs road building as it is likely to delay the decline.

            But then the efficiency issue bites more. We have so many cars, way too many, like our housing system, our transport system is as about as wasteful as possible…. burn wealth along with the biosphere…

  10. Where is Vance?

    You know that semi regular posting dude who claimed loud and long that the traffic congestion reductions after Waterview opened was “the new normal” and that we wouldn’t go back to the old levels of congestion anytime soon?

    Well Vance, hows that Waterview congestion busting plan working out for ya these days?
    Feels a bit like Waterview never opened right?

    And thats, what? Just on 6 months on before most of the touted “forever” congestion benefits disappeared?

    No country in the world can afford to be opening a new Waterview scale roading project every 6 months to “keep the roads ahead of the traffic”. Yet thats what we’d need to be doing to make imporovements like Waterview last.

    Maybe the population growth, which is now on the “high side” of the “high side” projections, is causing some of the increased congestion.

    But the simple fact is that we can’t all drive everywhere in a car all at the same time as we think we used to be able to do.

    1. Vance is a National Party astroturfer. He makes himself scarce when there’s anti-roads news, and will just pop back in posting his pro-roads stuff when he thinks people have forgotten.

  11. Did anyone watch that piece on Seven Sharp last night about people cheating the T3 lane along Onewa Road? The behaviour of drivers there is quite disgraceful and I hope they get fined every time.
    But it did make me think that it is probably time to make it a bus-only lane, rather than T3. Much easier to police then and might encourage more people into PT.

    1. +1, I’m pretty sure that AT’s own modelling showed that making it a proper bus lane would increase productivity.

        1. AT doesn’t use models for this stuff, they use their Code of Practice (AT COP), which states pretty clearly when you need a bus lane , a T2, or a T3 lane and how you turn a T3 into a T2 lane or into a proper bus lane. You don’t need a “model” to know this stuff, just some simple traffic measuring devices, and a pocket calculator will tell you the truth.

          By any stroke of that code, Onewa road has been years overdue for a dedicated Bus Lane in both AM and PM peaks. Just seems that a few on the local board are, like those folks on the Orakei Local Board, opposed to any bus only Bus Lanes due to the angst it causes their “well heeled” constituents who love to drive and feel they should be privileged over everyone else who is on the “loser cruisers.”

          If anything is what it actually shows ATs utter contempt for their own rules.
          Be they data feed into our got from the models or otherwise.

          Its basically a “do as I say”, not what the evidence shows…
          If they actually believed the hard evidence, their modelling would have been binned years ago.

          AT do the dirty on bus lanes easily, by watering down the input assumptions, so that they assume the “average” number of people per bus is lower than it actually is, so instead of a 40 or so people per bus, they assume a bus is only half full so 20 or 25. So the calculations always are biased from the get go against a Bus Lane ‘cos the rules make it clear – a bus can’t move enough people per hour to get over the “bus lane only” threshold if they’re only half full. A half full bus? On Onewa road, in the AM peak?
          Yeah. Right.

          Had the same hoo ha with Remuera Road, the AT COP calculations showed it wasn’t over the 50% threshold for a bus only lane, why is that? Well the buses are assumed to be at best only moving 25 people per bus.
          Everytime I used a bus along that road it was absolutely chocka well before it hit Remuera town centre. At which point, half got off the bus and as many got on it.

          But, you know, what would I know, its not like the evidence was actually relevant here.

          1. Eugh, how is anyone allowed to get away with that? I’d be sacked if I used a massive assumption like that when HOP data is so readily available.

          2. I expect that if they used HOP data they only counted Adult HOP paying fares. As a lot of school children (or university students) used the buses. And there is a lot of cash fares too.

            If you made that glaring error then you’d only see buses as half full.

            But no one in AT is really going to bethat stupid surely? Right?

            Actually I think when I saw the methodology, it was done using human counters at the side of the road estimating the numbers on the bus as they drove past in the bus lanes at 50+ kph. As they counted buses and their fullness.

            How accurate do you think you’d be at estimating fullness of a bus in that situation?
            Pretty lousy I’d expect.

          3. For goodness sake. We have a smart card system why aren’t we using it for data gathering!

          4. AT don’t apply ATCOP to their own projects. They use it as a stick to beat developers with. For their own projects every expense is spared. I recently had them demanding a developer rebuild a driveway that they themselves had just built. It seems it was of a high enough standard to mitigate the effects of their project but wholly sub-standard to be used for fewer vehicles proposed in the owner’s application. They told me that was their opinion and if we didn’t we wouldn’t get the consent. I told the developer who said ‘F**k them’ I will appeal. We relayed that back to AT and suddenly the driveway was fine.

        2. Could anyone possibly believe that this modeling that has constantly told us to build more roads – even though it is quite obvious to anyone that has two brain cells to rub together that it can’t possibly work – is the best approach?

        1. And if it was enforced North Sore Times & the dickhead at the Herald that was responsible for the all the Unitary Plan drama headlines would be on their loudhailers screaming it’s a cash grab.

          1. Onewa Road best sums up the headless chicken organisation that is AT.

            Into their 8th year of supposedly monitoring the T3 lane after taking over from NSCC and there has been an inconsistent approach to monitoring it altogether. When they finally did it regularly , they use one camera. Once you are past that, the T3 lane is yours to do as you please, for free.

            If someone in AT had the responsibility to ensure it was monitored properly, like under the old council and if they gave a shit they would do something about it. But AT don’t care, no one is responsible and hence it kind of works but not really.

            You can have all the priority lanes you want but if AT are responsible for them, we may as well give up!

          2. Easy fix for that,
            Simply make sure that a chunk of the fines revenues is directed back into AT’s slush fund coffers, to be used for pet projects that the AT team want to spend it on. To you know, make life better for car drivers elsewhere.

            Suddenly you’d fine 5 cameras set up along that road to thoroughly milk the SOV drivers clogging up those lanes.

            Once a few drivers get hit with 5 fines on the same day they’ll learn to not drive there.

          3. Greg N. I thought they got a cut but really does it matter? The likes of Lester Levy and others in AT get paid big money. What the F do they do???

            Where are they for the very basics of business like simple objectives that must be met?

  12. Great to see the mainstream media shouting so loudly about how ineffective the waterview connection is now, considering less than 12 months has passed since it’s opening

  13. It’s curious that the AA shows “morning peak” as a five-day working stat.

    Auckland now has peaks most Saturdays as major events. None of them are adequately catered for.
    And yet a majority of them are caused by ATEED purposely attracting global events here, and supporting local ones to grow.

    Any Friday there is a major event at Eden Park, I strongly advise that you do not use the train. It is a jammed waste of time.

    Today, Saturday, we had Auckland City Limits, Round the Bays, and the Lantern Festival. Those are all tens of thousands of people needing to get to and from their events.

    None accounted for in “AM Peak” stats, but are a core driver of how the City now operates.

    And yet this weekend, on Tamaki Drive for Round the Bays people waited for hours to get a bus. And they did not operate until 1pm. Bus after bus sailed by too full, when tens of thousands were exhausted and dehydrated from the 8.4km run.
    Also this weekend, the Chinese Lantern Festival will be serviced mostly by the private car because no extra trains are on. Because of a strike.
    Also this weekend, PT to western Springs is frustratingly weak.

    One arm of the Council – AT – not preparing for the impact of another arm of Council – ATEED.

    Notably also for Round the Bays, neither Auckland Transport nor NZTA nor Auckland Council itself ran teams – on the largest single transport event Auckland puts on.

    Stats are wrong, and organization is wrong.

  14. Matt’s analysis identifies the delay as just over 10 min per journey. When I walk to work this is the average delay I have due to badly designed traffic signals.

    We need more focus on reducing pedestrian delays.

    1. +1 And beware statements about “optimising the network” through traffic light phasing… they’ aren’t talking about the pedestrian network, in general.

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