There were a couple of news items yesterday that kept popping up that I want to discuss

Four lanes to Whangarei

Last year during the election campaign, National’s transport policy could probably best be summed up by this:

Despite being empty promises, it’s a policy that’s proving to be like a forest fire that’s stubborn to put out, with hot spots unexpectedly flaring back up again from time to time. This is not helped by the media who seem to be on hand to uncritically fan the flames. The latest example of this was yesterday on the issue of National’s promise to extend a four-lane motorway/expressway all the way from Auckland to Whangarei.

On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, they ran a couple of pieces discussing the topic. First was various elected officials from Northland unhappy that they’re not getting a motorway. This was followed by an interview with Transport Minister Phil Twyford who eventually pointed out that an upgrade of that scale simply can’t be justified. A similar scene played out on Newshub last night.

Now there’s obviously an element of politics playing out with this. National want to see their policy implemented and local politicians want to see as much government money as possible spent in their local areas. Politics is what it is so there’s not much point in expecting anything different. Instead, it’s the way the media have been portraying the discussion that I want to cover.

The journalists involved in these pieces have uncritically accepted the narrative that this road, and others, were about to start construction and have just been stopped at the last minute. There was never any money committed to them and therefore, they’re not projects that can be cancelled.

More importantly, a common theme that was pushed, and has been on other projects too, is that motorway scale improvements are the safest roads around and therefore it’s hypocritical that the government aren’t building the Roads of National Party Significance. While the safety aspect is correct, it’s also the case that motorway scale projects are incredibly expensive so we can only afford to build a few of them and many other worthwhile improvements may be delayed as a result. For example, the NZTA have a page on their website dedicated to this project. That page even includes the business case and a summary of the recommended programme on it. What’s more, it was published in July last year, just before the election season really kicked off.

I get that business cases often aren’t the most interesting documents to read but they do contain a lot of important information. In this particular case, the NZTA had already ruled out the 4-lane option the entire distance as to do so would just be far too expensive and the project would return just 30-50c for every $1 spent. The NZTAs preferred option is a series of smaller improvements, some on the existing road and in some cases, new alignments.

If the journalists involved had of looked at this information, they could have asked those wanting the motorway option why the government should spend so much money for such a small return.

Police encouraging Dangerous Driving

Videos of dangerous driving spread fairly quickly and many major news organisations jumped on one example yesterday that I’m very familiar with. The problem is on Triangle Rd in the morning. Traffic approaching Lincoln Rd to get on the motorway backs up and people wanting to head in the other direction down Lincoln Rd or down Central Park Dr get caught in the congestion. Impatient drivers have taken to driving on the wrong side of the road, swerving to avoid oncoming traffic, to get to the empty lanes that will get them to their destination. I’ve personally seen this happening a number of times as when I commute to work by bike I ride in the opposite direction down here.

In the Herald version of the story, they mention police directing traffic. I don’t ride every day but I’ve seen them there multiple times blocking traffic so people can do this manoeuvre. In this (grainy) image, one in the distance is stopping oncoming traffic (and blocking the cycle lane too) while a second officer is holding up a sign. The problem with this is that the police aren’t there every day but having encouraged it a few times, people expect they can do it any day they like and so it’s becoming more common to see happening.

The cyclelane you can see on the left is also Aucklands oldest protected cycle lane, installed because cars would constantly queue in it

I did notice that it got a mention in the latest update to the local board, saying

Triangle Road Congestion Issues

11. Auckland Transport has investigated the congestion and delays experienced on Triangle Road in the vicinity of Waimumu Road to Lincoln Road.
12. Community concerns are acknowledged by Auckland Transport and Police. Police will continue to monitor the site to assist with traffic flow and ensuring vehicles adhere to road user rules.
13. In addition, Auckland Transport are currently investigating medium and long term solutions for this road, and anticipate that further information on options will be available within the next six months.

We’ve got a road safety crisis right now and encouraging safety this is not.

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  1. “12. Community concerns are acknowledged by Auckland Transport and Police. Police will continue to monitor the site to assist with traffic flow and ensuring vehicles adhere to road user rules.”

    This is before 3,000 extra houses go in at the Red Hills development over the next six years (already approved) and before any concrete timeline for SH16 Light Rail. This is why people won’t get on board with intensification.

    1. Intensification would REDUCE such issues. What you are talking about is the opposite of intensification – sprawl at the edges which is even more car-dependent.

      1. I don’t think Westgate can be considered the ‘edge’ of Auckland anymore. They’re not new suburbs, the Council and Govt had had decades to put in adaquete transport. Funnily enough, areas with shit services tend to become car-dependent.

        1. What’s happening to the Westgate shopping centre? I’m just wondering how much of the locals’ view on it being converted to highrise residential is conjecture, how much is news I must have missed.

        2. Yip. The original Westgate dates back to the 90’s. There has been 20 years to sort out transit on that corridor and as of today, nada. Freakin awful planning by councils and government.

    2. “this is why people won’t get on board with intensification”, because you talk for all people don’t you? I’m sure ‘people’ wouldn’t have voted for Goff or a coalition govt if they hated sprawl so much… You should’ve written: ‘this is why sprawl is crap, not efficient and hours spent going mad inside a wheeled metal box’

      1. Surprise, Fred H has a bee in his bonnet. Can you point to where I said “I speak for all people?”. You then go on to tell me what I SHOULD say? You try and reconcile those, I’m going to just sit here and be embarrassed for you.

  2. I also hear comments that the bridge should be widened to solve the problem, but then you would also need to widen the rest of Triangle Rd. The buses also get tangled up in this mess. Another reason why we need the express bus way and maybe like the harbour bridge this would re leave pressure on Triangle Rd.

    1. Isn’t the cheapest fix a wire median barrier? The fact that people have to queue is not really a problem, that is just the reality of driving at rush hour.

      1. It is a reality of living in a suburb with no rapid transit options and more houses being added year-on-year than parts of Auckland with rapid transit options.

        1. It’s not good enough that there are so many suburbs in Auckland without rapid transit options, and worse, this isn’t being addressed with any urgency whatsoever. The development without transit scenario seen here is playing out all over the city while politicians (from both sides) look away and promote their pet projects.

        2. Labour are proposing urgently building rapid transit to the southeast, southwest, and northwest, all areas without rapid transit. Are they “look[ing] away and promot[ing] their pet projects”?

        3. The Coalition Government is trying to develop rapid transit options to areas like the Northwest but they’re starting from scratch. Auckland’s development pattern over the last sixty years is sprawl and roads/motorways with, until recently, zero consideration given to rapid transit.

        4. It’s still project-based, not outcomes-based. The kind of outcome I want to see might look something like “80% of all households will have access within 500m of frequent public transport by 2024, increasing to 90% by 2030”, that kind of thing. We seem to want to keep intensifying housing without also intensifying public transport.

        5. The problem is those houses are going in now in West Auckland; the rapid transit is coming ‘within ten years’.

        6. I still say we need a massive temporary housing solution so we can focus on getting the transport and intensification right. All this sprawl housing going in exacerbates the problem. Tiny houses on every AT carpark, on 10% of every park, blocking every rat run, reducing every too-wide road. If you take away sprawl as an option, NIMBYs might then prefer allowing good intensification than having tiny houses everywhere.


      2. Only if there is enough room in the shoulder to get a second vehicle past. Otherwise one breakdown and the queue is there for hours while the blockage is cleared.

    1. Yes. It’s incredible. I wonder if the AA or Bike Auckland can take legal action against the Police. I mention the AA because they say on their website that they are passionate about safe roads.

    2. It’s dangerous as hell without the police directing traffic, but it’s not actually illegal if the left lane of traffic is fully stopped. (Or even if it’s moving, if the police are directing you to).

      1. The police know that by directing traffic to do this when they are present they will encourage drivers to do it when they [the police] are not. If they try to say anything else they are obfuscating. This is unacceptable use of Police direction to prioritise traffic flow over safety.

        1. The part where the Police direct you to do it. You have to comply with their directions when you are driving.

    3. Yes instead they should be sitting there pulling over people that break the law. And I’m not talking about a ticket, I’m talking court appearance for dangerous driving resulting in loss of license.

    4. I agree, it seems ridiculous that Police are literally encouraging drivers to break Road User Rule section 2.9(2), which is subject to a $1000 penalty:

      “The driver must not pass or attempt to pass a motor vehicle or an animal-drawn vehicle moving in the same direction within the length of roadway on which the no-passing line is marked”

      Maybe they could turn up one day to encourage the passing, and the next day to actually police it. That would be *real* revenue gathering.

      1. As with all Road Rules, there are exemptions/exceptions; in this case the fact that the drivers are being directed by a Police officer (Rule 1.8). Doesn’t make it any smarter, mind you…

  3. Apart from the wider issue of over-reliance on our cars due to insufficient alternatives is part of this issue that there are no on-ramps to the North Western at Royal Road?

  4. Do the reduction in DSI calculation for the Business Case include an offset for the increase in DSI further north as you pump more traffic past Whangarei?

  5. I am surprised no one noticed Mr. Boswell is back ast it again with this story –

    And Dan Bidois, the National candidate and most likely future MP of Northcote, was quoted in the Herald as saying:

    “…The hard-working people of Northcote are not a piggy bank for Phil Goff, Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters to raid to pay for pet projects on the other side of the Bridge that won’t benefit us here…”

    The political right, having prevaricated and dragged it’s feet on every transport project since forever, looks like it has learned nothing and has decided to try and turn light rail into yet another culture war battlefront.

    1. We noticed that LRT price. We’ve written an op-ed for the Herald about why it’s needed and apparently it is currently “in the queue” for publishing. When that gets published is unknown though as the queue is controlled by a Mr John Roughan.

    2. Well luckily for the people living over there, they got the Northern Busway, and it has a station right on their doorstep at the bottom of Onewa Road.

      … or not, something seems to have gone wrong, and the lack of this station is now seriously crippling public transport between the Shore and the rest of the city.

    1. Vance, unlike cars, bikes take up very little space and hence don’t cause big queues.

      You should try riding one day, even though you end up tired, you end up in a good mood…

        1. I like rail too. The difference is that we can build the Puhinui spur to the airport, or over 300km of on road or off road cycle lanes.

        2. I’ll settle for a bus lane from Puhinui Station to the airport for starters.

          I travel Puhinui Road regularly and seldom see cyclists using the cycle lane.

        3. I completely agree that, on that corridor, a bus lane for an airport connection would be far better than a cycle lane.

        4. So Vance how long does it take you to travel along Puhinui rd and what time of the day? lets say it takes 20 minutes. So all you can state is that in those 20 minutes you saw some cyclists. You have no idea how many per day use this cycle lane.

    2. Rest easy Vance. I ride this cycle lane every morning at 6:30am and can assure you it is well used. In the short time I am on this section I encounter many other cyclists. There are no automatic cycle counters on this road so I can’t give you exact figures.

  6. Bizarre from the police that they would direct traffic to break the law unless there was no alternative route (due to crash or road works). I have a similar queue in the morning – maybe I need to get the police to allow me to drive on the wrong side of the road to beat the queue too!
    I suspect a lot of those that go in the right hand lane then cut back in to the left closer to the motorway or do a u turn after Lincoln. This of course would happen a lot if there was 2 lanes (like GNR at Western Springs).

  7. The Newshub stories lately of transport & housing related things seem to show a lot of drama & the other side to the story and then finish with a small sound bite from Julie Anne Genter or Phil Twyford.

      1. I finally found the courage to click on it. igggh. Collins attitude to oil and gas exploration reminds me of Chouinard’s definition of evil in “Patagonia vs Trump”…

  8. At least one of Auckland’s latest developments, at Swanson, is centred around the town’s railway station. However, wait till you see what is happening Kaukapapa – not another Pokeno – yet – but I have a feeling that development will spread towards Millwater through Wainui and Waitoki, rather than towards Helensville.

    1. And given that people from Helensville drive to the Albany station to take the NEX rather than to Swanson to take the train, development in the whole area is completely unsupported by PT provision.

  9. It’s a hassle getting to Swanson from anywhere north to take the train – all the more reason for extended the train service to Kumeu/Huapai, and judging by the way that area is expanding it wouldn’t surprise me to see development stretching back along the line towards Taupaki and Waitakere.

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