Every now and then something so ridiculous comes along it’s hard to ignore. That came over the weekend courtesy of the ACT party’s candidate for the Northcote by-election, Stephen Berry. It start initially as a comment about what he’d rather see for transport in Auckland

After being pressed on it, he later posted this map to highlight his plans and saying more details would be released during the campaign.

I gotta say, it’s one thing to have a transport plan stuck in the past, it’s another thing entirely to admit your plan still hasn’t evolved since the 1970’s. Perhaps they’re trying to solve the housing and transport crises by paving so much of the city that not many people could, or would want to live here.

So, how much would this mega motorway spree cost. Let’s do a couple of quick back of the envelope calculations.

  • East-West Link – This one is the easiest of the lot as we know from the work over recent years that it was going to cost around $1.8 billion, maybe more, and that wasn’t even to a motorway standard. You may also recall that even construction Industry lobby group Infrastructure NZ ended up opposing it, saying it was more expensive per kilometre than motorway project in Russia so riddled with corruption it was claimed it would have been to pave in Cavier
  • Eastern Motorway and Harbour Crossing – Infrastructure NZ have pushed in vein to get the Eastern Motorway idea back on the agenda by combining it with another Harbour crossing. To avoid the local opposition in the eastern suburbs, the plan tunnels all the way from Glen Innes to the North Shore. Back in 2016 during the original ATAP process, the project team took that idea on board and decided to investigate it. It was found it would cost around $11 billion and had a Benefit Cost Ratio of 0.2-0.4.
  • Dominion Rd Motorway – In a separate tweet he confirmed that this route would be a tunnel under Dominion Rd. It’s approximately 6km from the Central Motorway Junction to Dominion Rd. that’s just over twice as long as the Waterview tunnels. Waterview cost about $1.4 billion so $3 billion seems appropriate here.
  • Pt Chevalier to Puhoi motorway – This thing really is huge at around 42km and include about a 3km bridge or tunnel across the harbour. It would then face some tricky terrain getting through the western North Shore. But then much of it travels over open countryside. As such, let’s assume it costs about the same as the Eastern Motorway idea.
  • Panmure to Manukau via Botany – This would add about another 13km to the route and easily end up a billion or more.
  • Wiri to Pukekohe – The bottom of the map isn’t shown but it’s heading directly towards SH22 and the intersection with Glenbrook Rd, presumably carrying on to Pukekohe. From Wiri it’s about 16km to SH22 and another eight to Pukekohe. Let’s say about $1.5 billion

All up that’s around $29 billion and makes the Roads of National Significance look like amateur hour. According to Stephen road pricing would magically cover the construction costs. Perhaps he could suggest testing this with a toll gantry at the bottom of Onewa Rd?

Finally, I’m a little surprised there’s not more links. Where’s the Avondale to Henderson motorway once proposed, what about a motorway to Kumeu, or perhaps even a bridge to Waiheke Island – although perhaps I shouldn’t give them ideas.

I guess what this ultimately shows is how far we’ve come. At one point in Auckland’s history, this plan was real and could have happened. But Auckland has changed and the rate of that change is accelerating. That’s something to be truly excited about.

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  1. >>According to Stephen road pricing would magically cover the construction costs.

    It obviously hasn’t occurred to him that road pricing is capable of solving congestion *without* $29b of new motorways.

    1. “According to Stephen road pricing would magically cover the construction costs.”

      Actually in my twitter convo with him, he claimed that road pricing would magically cover the construction costs as well as replace all existing petrol tax and road user charges!

      1. You’d have to levy tolls on the order of $2 billion a year to cover the construction costs. Aucklanders drive around 15 billion kilometres a year, so he’s proposing an average toll of 13 cent per kilometre.

        Petrol taxes currently average out at around 6 cents per kilometres, so if you wanted to replace that *and* cover the cost of the roadbuilding spree you’d have to triple taxes on road users in Auckland. That doesn’t quite sound like ACT. Perhaps they’ve had a change of heart?

        But wait, it gets better!

        At present, average vehicle operating costs, including tax, are around 31 cents per kilometre. So Berry’s proposing to whack up the average cost of driving by over 40%. The increase in the peak would probably be higher, and inter-peak charges would be lower. So let’s just say for the sake of argument that ACT’s policy would double the financial cost of driving at peak times.

        Demand for driving is generally held to be ‘inelastic’ with respect to financial costs. But even if we assume a very low elasticity – say, -0.1 – it would still imply that the toll would reduce peak traffic by around 10%. Eyeballing one of Matt’s charts, a 10% reduction in traffic is approximately the difference between northbound traffic volumes on the Harbour Bridge at 5pm (congested) and 7pm (not really congested).

        So as a first order estimate, ACT’s $2 billion toll proposal would eliminate peak-period congestion in Auckland, even before building any new roads.

        1. My question is whether you could actually even levy enough against drivers to pay for all this, or whether the price would dissuade enough people from driving that you don’t get the revenue you need, and only have to up the charge and keep spiraling towards default and civic bankruptcy.

          1. My suspicion is that imposing tolls equivalent to 2% of Auckland’s GDP would be a bad move, economically. The optimal level for road pricing is likely to be considerably lower.

            But yeah, if ACT wants to argue for crippling tax levels, I say they should fill their boots.

        1. LOS 7 along Meola Rd in the morning and Pt Chev Rd in the evening. Record traffic volumes. Thanks, WC. But what had AT replied when I asked what had been designed for the suburbs near the WC, given the induced traffic increases they could be expected to see?

          They “would be taking 50,000 cars off the road.” Well, that didn’t happen, did it? So more traffic, less safety, at huge cost.

          44% increase in pedestrian DSI in 8 years doesn’t come from nowhere – it comes from all this road building.

  2. Hopeless. There’s a g;aring hole, a missing link right through his electorate. How are you supposed to get from the end of the Devonport spur to the motorway flying in over Meola Reef to Kauri Point. The obvious solution is to upgrade the Mokoia/Onewa corridor to motorway standard.

  3. You’ll have to add a cheeky 20 billion to ensure it is routed through as many nature reserves as possible.

  4. My goodness… This is the party that claims to be fiscally responsible. Howe can anyone propose such a model and be taken serious.

  5. Interesting that the ACT candidate for Northcote does not appear to realise that the line he drew on the map was from Birkenhead to Pt Chev, not Northcote to Pt Chev as he described it.

    1. The line seems to fall between Chatswood and Beach Haven. That bit doesn’t really fall into a suburb because it’s where the Navy’s Armament Depot is located.

  6. Instead of a bridge to Waiheke Island they could repurpose the CRL TBM and bore a single rail tunnel across to the Island, as we now have enough traffic here and the roads are not up to Auckland atandard .

    1. Waiheke has what? 10 thousand people? Welcome to the transport equivalent of a single street in the City Centre. No tunnels for you, sorry – not even rail tunnels. Come back when you got a couple hundred thousand people living on the island 😉

      1. Try Xmas when we have 45,000 plus that come over to fill up their “Holiday castles” plus the thousands of day trippers that also come over every day

        1. That 45,000 number is false. There’s no way to transport that many people to Waiheke. Even if every ferry was chokka it would’nt get anywhere close.

          1. You have the largest car ferry which can hold 50 cars and 500 passengers , and Fullers ferries that sail every half hour and they can carry up to 500 people and pets and some of the sailings during the day they will have 2 boats on each trip to just clear the backlog . And I have been o the local bus when the ferries have said over the RT there are up wards of 1100 people on the boats
            And if you saw the news items over the couple of years they showed queues going out on to Quay street
            And the normal population of the Island is around 8000 people

    2. Or, we could cancel the Gold Card freebie on the Waiheke Ferry, and with the $1m a year that saves, pay for Friday night nibbles at each of the construction companies that would have to be involved in Berry’s plan.

  7. Stephen Berry did also say on Twitter that some of the funding would come from raising the Super age to 67. I guess with all those motorways we will need to work longer so that there are enough construction workers.

  8. There is already a bridge and a ferry almost directly to Northcote. And I understood that Northcote residents weren’t too keen on the skypath for a while. Why would they want to make it easier for us dirty south-of-the-bridgers to invade their pristine territory?

  9. I have a better idea that’ll solve both the land availability crisis and the difficulty of providing a transport network across a narrow isthmus: Reclaim* the entirety of both the Waitemata and Manukau harbours. Build all the motorways and carparks the city could ever need and fund all this by selling the rest of the land for housing. Problem solved!

    [ * Up to only 1m above sea level cause there are no foreseeable environmental changes that could make this a problem]

    1. Ports of Auckland are almost getting there – another 20 years of expansion and they hit Devonport. Problem solved…

  10. Madness indeed. $29 billion to fix a traffic problem on Onewa Road? It would be cheaper to buy every house in Devonport and turn it into a park.

    And have you checked out Stephen Berry’s twitter feed? It seems every Labor policy is a Marxist plot. But hate-speech is fine. Meanwhile he calls his political views “very liberal” yet seems to believe the market will solve everything. I do not think he knows the difference between Liberal and Libertarian.

    1. The motorway network as shown would fix more than Onewa Rd, wouldn’t it? In fact it would go a long way to fix congestion all over Auckland which is conservatively costing $2B annually.

      1. Conservatively costing 2 billion. That figure is a load of made up bollocks; completely meaningless drivel.

      2. Well let’s say his network did cost 29 billion and it saved 2 billion annually, that’s a pretty poor ROI. Of course that’s assuming these is no congestion after building those motorways – highly unlikely. LA has built a lot of motorways and they have congestion

    2. I don’t think he should be proposing solutions, he should be proposing selling the transport network to the open market and letting the market decide how people want to travel. Given the road network is probably worth 100s of billions and that private owners would want a good return on that investment, public transport will seem cheap in comparison.

  11. The national politicians are increasing out of touch with the reality and try to mindlessly oppose anything. If this continues, national party support would decline.

  12. Not sure there was ever really a point to ACT, but it’s pretty evident that they have largely given up being taken seriously now. More air time from leotards than libertarians. David Seymour is the last of his breed – Bridges has refused to commit to go down the “ACT/cup of tea/we’ll stand aside at Epsom” route for 2020, and so Seymour won’t get re-elected, and certainly Berry never will.
    But, like Rodney Hide before him, Seymour has got a great career dancing lined up, to further his life beyond politics, and after all, no one ever says “Whatever happened to Rodney Hide?” now do they?

    Hmmmm.

    Actually…. Whatever happened to Rodney Hide?

    1. Interesting how so many of ACT’s critics have nothing to add except sarcasm and argumentum ad absurdum. Serious question guys. If these motorways were built, do you think they wouldn’t be used?

      1. Yes, these motorways would be used if they were built, but this doesn’t make them the best solution for addressing the problems of too much traffic and over-dependence on cars.

        The North Shore Busway has demonstrated how a good public transport service can perform the task of moving large numbers of people far more efficiently than single-occupant cars can. Same with the rail system, as we will see demonstrated forcefully once the CRL opens.

        This is where transport funding should be going.

        All that providing more road capacity will do is further-entrench the car-dependency-problem that Auckland is now desperately trying to get out of. It may speed traffic in the areas where the capacity-increases occur, but it will add to the overall burden of traffic across the region. And it will gobble up funding that would be better spent on more busways and railways.

      2. ACT = Nat sock puppet used to game MMP in the hope of gaining another seat

        Answer to your question: yes, but induced traffic isn’t necessarily a good thing. And then there’s the cost …

        1. If these motorways were built, I would assume there’d be no or little money left to provide an efficient public transport system. People would then have no real choice, *but* to use the motorways. This is known as induced demand. The eventual result is badly congested roads – what we have now.

          The simple fact is a good public transport network is a much more efficient mover of people while also freeing up the roads for people who need to use them.

          I’m not saying no more roading projects, but out of the ones listed here you’ll struggle to find one that beats the public transport projects currently lined up on cost benefit.

          E.g. light rail via Mt Roskill to the Airport is 1.11-1.72 vs the Eastern Motorway 0.2-0.4

          The money would be better spent getting our public transport system up to speed.

        2. Can you guys not see how ridiculous this “induced demand” argument is? It is basically a admission that what you are opposing is needed, wanted and would be used. Yes, there is a place for public transport but for getting people, their kids, groceries, etc from point A to B when they want it you cannot beat the private car. And buses can also use the new roads.

          1. More roads isn’t what’s needed. Less congestion is needed and the solution isn’t paving the city in motorways.

            Efficient and cost effective transport alternatives for moving from Point A to Point B is the solution. Sure, if you personally don’t want to use the bus, train or whatever then that’s your choice. The rest of us will use them and free up space on the roads for you.

          2. If these motorways were built no one would be able to afford to drive with all of the additional fuel taxes or road user charges they would be paying. I thought ACT was about fiscal responsibility?

          3. Steve – there is a difference between “can be built” and “should be built”. Yes, they can be built, at great cost, and yes, if they did get built lots of people would drive on them.

            But is there a better way to spend that money, and also get a better, longer lasting result that works better for the whole community? Well, yes, and it’s not more motorways.

          4. Bollocks, Steve. I get my shopping and kids from A to B without a car all the time, because going by car is an inferior solution. Why would I use energy, create carbon emissions, contribute to other people’s congestion unhappiness, and lose the opportunity of exercising and connecting to my community as I go? Horrible thought – glad I gave up the car a decade ago! Wouldn’t ever go back to that trap.

            I’m looking forward to more and more people in Auckland getting options like I have as we move away from a car dependent city. Danish teenagers are the happiest in the world, and that’s because of the freedom to interact in and access their cities by bike.

            And that’s the problem with Berry’s stupid idea. It will prevent more and more people having options to live in a socially healthy way.

            Serious question: If the motorway down Pt Chev Rd was built, what do you think quality of life would be like here? We are swapping from one side to the other all the time, visiting people, doing errands, even collecting resources for the community gardens and orchards. Just how would we do that? Similarly on every bit of new motorway on that plan. On what basis should we give up this access?

          5. I’m proposing a government funded free ice cream subsidy. People say it will only induce demand as everyone clamours for more and more free ice cream.

            Can you guys not see how ridiculous this “induced demand” argument is? It is basically a admission that what you are opposing is needed, wanted and would be used.

            The people need, want and would use free ice cream subsidised by the taxpayer. Clearly this must happen immeidately.

          6. Also, when lanes are removed from a road, traffic evaporation occurs. Using Steve’s argument, the people didn’t want to take those trips anyway. So ACT should be proposing road reductions.

      3. Great logic there Steve. If ACT provided everyone with free taxis that would be used as well. It still wouldn’t make sense.
        Although it might be cheaper than his loony ideas.

          1. This argument can’t be reduced to absurdity, its already there. 29b on motorways knowing how badly our policy of motorway building had failed is absurd.

  13. The candidate presented his proposal. Ok. He just forgot to address the issue of where all of these cars will park with the current increasing population. I imagine he is not thinking about that.

    1. The cars won’t need a parking place. They’ll all be autonomous and will just keep driving round and around the city streets…

      1. Of course. Nothing better than an impenetrable barrier of cars bifurcating the road.

        I know that you’re being sarcastic, but you did touch on two common failings:
        1) Failing to consider how many cars are required to reduce queuing delay to an acceptable limit.
        2) Failing to consider how/when/where these vehicles are going to charge/fuel.

        That’s before you even consider servicing visitors to our city (park outside of Akl, take the AV in), or those who have the gall to have private vehicles. 🙂

  14. How about something rational.. Congestion tolls are just a start:

    1) Let’s start with congestion tolls. This will manage Auckalnd & Wellington peak congestion and the need for future roading upgrades will be delayed/deferred/deleted.

    2) Keep the fuel excise tax. Its easy to collect and easy to apply carbon pricing to. Provides a natural short term incentive to move to electric vehicles (no excise tax) until we all have to pay electronic RUCs.

    3) Then free up the land use system so that its elastic and driven by effects rather than urban planners zoning rules to with they have to bear no cost. I.e. allow density as long as the effects are mitigated – eg have to amalgamate a number of titles to get the height & avoid blocking out the sunlight from adjoining properties. We become car captive as the % of trips increases beyond walk & cycle distances – we get fat too.

    4) Lets provide a “true public transport system” – 24/7 a maximum 30 minute headways with pulsed transfer timings where possible. Have central government fund this as the minimum social transport network

    5) Let local government then fund more of the PT improvements over and above that, i.e. lower FAR, that serves mainly commuter demands.

    6) Have an air pollution excise tax on fuel proportionate to the health costs

    7) Have a crash cost excise tax on fuel proportionate to the transport crash costs (this is probably roughly covered by the GST on fuel at the moment) – this can be hypothecated back to safety works

    8) Have the speeding fines going back into transport safety works – the preserve effects of more speeding = more funding can be managed

    9) How about we require physically separating all on-road cycle lanes with narrow medians so cyclists actually have a chance. (parking should be the last thing added to roading)

    10) Have a single infrastructure roading standard for all NZ that provides sufficient space for all modes & fits with the one network classification system. All new roads are built to it & all retrofits have to achieve it otherwise get signed off exemptions.

    11) Give local government the tools to properly manage commuter parking demands by levying all types of long stay parking in CBDs as a demand management tool where congestion tolls don’t exist

    12) Review all the transport costs in NZ – ratepayers probably pay too much and trucks too little if previous research is still relevant.

  15. Remember in 1972 tax rates were much higher. Also government infrastructure development was vertically integrated. The bulk of that would have been Ministry of Works, Public works on that scale are a pipe dream today.

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