Every weekend we dig into the archives. This post by Patrick was originally published in July 2013.

In this recent post we highlighted how, despite $60 billion or more of transport spending over the next 30 years, congestion is due to get significantly worse. This is a pretty disappointing result – occurring both in the scenarios when all the projects are funded and also in the scenario when we spend less money and build fewer projects.There’s about $10-15 billion of spending difference between the two scenarios – to achieve what really seems to be a pretty minimal difference in outcomes. As noted in recent posts, most of that spending is in the form of road projects – many of which make little sense.

The real problem for Auckland, compared to so many cities around the world is not the severity of our congestion but the fact that we generally have no alternative. Most public transport trips are on buses which mix with general traffic – meaning they get stuck in the same congestion as everyone else. For most trips, public transport is a poor alternative to driving. Too slow (because it’s stuck in the same traffic jams), too expensive, too unreliable. While perhaps overblown a bit, transport modelling highlights how pathetically slow public transport currently is for many trips across Auckland:

Improving the quality of the alternatives to driving does help free up the roads by attracting number of people away from driving but really this isn’t the main role of Transit networks. All big cities have congestion – and Auckland will be no exception to this rule. But they also all provide alternatives. The streets of Manhattan are congested but most people avoid it by catching the subway. Nobody drives from Parramatta to downtown Sydney at peak times, they catch the train because it’s so much faster. London would collapse without its Underground. These cities all experience congestion, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as in Auckland because an alternative, a network free of congestion, exists.

Decades of research show that you can’t build your way out of congestion. Widen a motorway and it fills up again. Build a new motorway and it fills up. Even the widest motorways in the world still get jammed up at peak times:highway401-jammedWhat Auckland so desperately needs is an alternative to its congested transport network. A way to ‘opt out’ of congested travel. True travel choice that’s faster, more reliable and reduces the burden of getting around our city.

So we, in collaboration with Generation Zero, have developed an alternative plan for Auckland called the Congestion Free Network. 

We have a limited congestion free network today: the existing railway lines, parts of the Northern Busway (Constellation to Akoranga) and some stretches of bus lane. In these locations no matter how congested up the roads get, there’s always a congestion free alternative available. But they’re relatively few and far between.

Over the next 20 years Auckland can, for the same price or less as what’s currently proposed in the ITP, construct a congestion free network which covers almost every corner of the urban area. Electrified rail to Pukekohe, busways to Silverdale, Kumeu, Botany to Panmure, Manukau to Botany, rail to the Airport, light-rail along Dominion Road, an extensive ferry network and even rail to the North Shore.

We think that this is a much better approach than what’s in the Integrated Transport Programme. We think that this approach takes the best parts of last week’s transport announcements by Central Government, the best bits of what’s in the Auckland Plan and creates a modern, world-class transport system that Auckland can be proud of. We think that a proper congestion free network will actually be so attractive for Aucklanders that it can be more successful in freeing up the roads than heading down a path towards our own 18 lane motorways.

A plan for a congestion free network must also be realistic. While in many respects we have a lot of money to play with, given the eye-watering sums proposed for spending on transport in Auckland over the next 30 years, we think that there’s probably no need to spend as much money. So we’re going to let you know exactly what transport projects we don’t think Auckland needs and how we can redirect that money towards the projects Auckland actually does need. And have no fear, of course Auckland’s going to have more roads in 2030 than it does today. As we’ve discussed previously a number of roading projects do make some sense – although perhaps not in their currently planned gold-plated form.

We have an idea about what should be in a 2020, 2025 and 2030 congestion free network. We think the projects that make up these networks are affordable, realistic and can deliver a transformational shift in the quality of Auckland’s transport system. But before we get onto what we think, we’re keen to know what you think.

  • How would you phase in a congestion free network over the next 17 years?
  • What do you think are the most important projects to have done by 2020?
  • What do you think should be cut or wound back to free up funding for the congestion free network?
  • What parts of the congestion free network should be provided by buses and what parts by trains?
  • What do you think is the role of light-rail in a congestion free network? Or ferries?

Ultimately, the congestion free network is about giving people real and genuine choice. The choice to opt out of being stuck in traffic:NZH0552245483

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10 comments

  1. “Ultimately the CFN is about giving people choice.” The emissions reductions that we will have to achieve mean that we have moved on from here – we will now have to use cars less. This should mean that all future road spending is examined in the light of whether it is needed.

    1. The emissions reductions will be met through scientific initiatives and targeted taxes. There will be no drop in driving because of any climate change policies.
      Carbon capture and recycling is the future. That together with Renewable and green hydrogen fuels will mean you and I will be able to enjoy the freedom and convenience of private vehicles for years to come 🙂

      1. Damn if you’d dropped something in there about autonomous vehicles, we could have had a ‘played out reasons why we don’t have to do anything cliche bingo’ by comment two.

        I’ll say this though. Hydrogen, at a stretch, only makes sense if you’re going over and above to ignore the merits of battery electric vehicles or desperate to cling onto hydrogen R&D subsidies (looking at you, Toyota).

        1. The problem with BEV is the Cobalt. It comes from places like the DRC – not a place NZ should do business with – and is far from carbon neutral in the mining process.
          Also – Cobalt will run out at about 25% penetration of the OECD vehicle fleet. Before then it will become Super expensive.
          Over the years, Lithium batteries have tried to reduce the Cobalt content with, nickel and vanadium, but you can’t eradicate the need for Cobalt. Using Aluminium was also thought to be a cheap solution, but that went up in smoke – literally.
          Hydrogen is a much better Long term solution as while there are problems, they are solvable. It also has 4 x the energy density of BEV.

          1. You say we shouldn’t do business with DRC? How about China? They do some pretty terrible things too, but they buy all our stuff that makes NZ a rich country, so I guess it’s ok then?

            You ignore that there are plenty of alternate batteries being developed that don’t use cobalt. If history is any good predictor, people will come up with alternatives long before we run out of cobalt.

            Hydrogen is a novelty at this point in time. Sure, energy density is great, but you can’t compress it without lots of energy. You need huge containers for it. The cost of energy to create it, compress it, transport it, store it then convert it back. it all adds up.

            Most of the production processes either use fossil fuels or electricity in large quantities. Then once it is in the car you turn it BACK into electricity to power the electric motor. Why not just use the electricity directly and skip the hydrogen part?

            All that aside, we have zero infra to manufacture and distribute a fuel that leaks out of every container. You want to spend billions on that infra? We already have all the infra for distributing electricity. We have some of the best locations for 100% renewable electricity.

            Hydrogen makes sense in niche applications or at a fixed location where it is a byproduct of other processes. Makes no sense as a form of energy storage for moving cars, at this stage.

            Maybe long term, maybe not. But I wouldn’t want to use any of my own money to make that gamble.

          2. Yea so zero cobalt batteries are well on the way. NMC 811 will do away with most of the cobalt in batteries. The following generation will be pretty much cobalt free.

            Hydrogen is a joke. You need to refit every vehicle to have a pressure tank, you need to fit out every filling station and then after incurring all those costs in 2025ish dollars, you’re then somehow going to supply it to a country at an affordable rate and have it bound to the same oil and gas companies we have now?

            This is a fool’s fantasy. You’ve pointed out literally one, easily solvable problem with EVs and yet you overlook the huge glaring issues with hydrogen adoption. You wouldn’t happen to work for Toyota would you? EVs have shown us that we don’t need to be beholden to fuel companies anymore; we need to embrace that future for our own economic development’s sake.

  2. You guys should read the stuff you post. You say BEV issues will be solved through technology that hasn’t been invented yet, but you assume Hydrogen issues can’t be sorted through science and engineering solutions…. pfft!
    You then say Hydrogen is a conversation of liquid energy to electricity, but promote batteries. To spin a wheel on a Tesla, most likely coal or oil was burnt to make the electricity. You are talking stuff and none sense. You should actually talk to someone that knows the facts and stop reading Elon Musks Facebook page

    1. Dave, you are entitled to your opinion. We are talking about technology that already exists, but is still being commercialised. You are the one talking about stuff that doesn’t exist yet.

      Can you please provide me with proof that you have money invested in the companies pushing this technology? Because if not, then you clearly have no confidence in what you say.

      I was doing my investment research back in 2000, long before Elon came along. I don’t care about the US and I don’t care about Elon. They were trying to sell hydrogen back in 1999. They had the same problems then that they do right now. That was 20 years ago! EV’s are now far ahead of where they were back then. I put my money into EV tech.

      The underlying fundamentals of hydrogen doesn’t make any sense, unless it is a fixed location (like a factory) for immediate use as a byproduct of other processes. It is a high risk investment that is yet to prove itself on a large scale. Electric vehicles have already proven themselves for years now.

      Hydrogen is electricity, converted to hydrogen, converted back into electricity. It’s even worse than your Tesla example. Dunno what country you live in, but in NZ our Teslas are mostly powered by Hydro.

      We are talking about NZ with lots of renewable electricity. We are talking about a huge uptake of electric bikes and e-scooters all over the world. Open your eyes mate. We aren’t going to be having hydrogen bikes and scooters any time soon. If ever. If you actually do the calculations, an e-scooter is 20x more efficient than a Tesla. So even though hydrogen has better energy density, e-scooters and even e-bikes are far better still.

  3. So in the few years that we have to dramatically reduce emissions we are going to rely on the development of technology that you cannot agree on; that we may or not have the resources to sustain; or that we cannot afford. Reducing car mode share seems the more likely outcome to me given that this is what much of the rest of the world is doing.

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