The council are currently consulting on a refresh to the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP). One of the key goals of the CCMP is to make the city centre more people friendly and that means needing to dedicate more space for pedestrians, bikes, scooters and public transport and less for cars. Perhaps one of the flaws of the CCMP is it tiptoes around that last point without actually saying it. We think that reducing the number of cars in the city should be a much more explicit goal as that would help when thinking about the impact of various projects, including big ones like a potential additional harbour crossing so officials can’t use the ambiguity to push ahead with potential versions which would increase car volumes in the city.
With all of this in mind, I thought I’d have a look at how traffic volumes to and from the city have changed over time. In particular, I’m going to look at what’s happening with the motorways as there’s much better data available for them than there are for local roads.
First up, let’s look at what’s happening overall. As you can see below, number of vehicles using the on and off ramps in the city fringe dropped significantly after 2006 when the final central motorway junction works were completed that allowed for motorway to motorway connections between State Highway 16 and the North Shore and meaning vehicles no longer needed to use the city as an interchange. Perhaps also partially related to Auckland’s public transport renaissance, the volumes then stayed flat up until the last few years.
So let’s look at those in more detail.
There are a few things that really stand out here.
- Fanshawe St: There has been a significant decline in the number of vehicles using the ramps at Fanshawe St. This is likely the result of the opening of the direct link to Grafton Gully at the end of 2006 and the opening and subsequent growth of the Northern Busway in 2008. With so much change, perhaps it’s time consider re-prioritising some space.
- SH16 ramps: The drop in traffic following the opening of the motorway links was significant with volumes almost halving on the likes of Cook St and Nelson St (from SH16). But those SH16 ramps are what now appear to be driving the recent increase in usage with Nelson/Hobson St the most significant. There’s only one thing I can think of that has changed within that time frame that would have caused traffic volumes to jump so much so quickly – Waterview.
- Southern Motorway: It’s a bit hard to see but most ramps to/from the Southern Motorway are either relatively flat or are declining.
Due to the number of ramps in and around the city, those charts above are quite busy, so I’ve tried to simplify them in this next chart. Here, I’ve looked at the number of vehicles approaching the city centre from the North, West and South. In each case it starts with the volumes at the last on-ramp before reaching to the city, this means from Onewa Rd, Western Springs and Gillies Ave. I’ve then shown at a high level where these vehicles are going and how that has changed.
Again this highlights that traffic to the city and city fringe from SH1 in both directions has declined but numbers are up significantly from the west – only a small number of which can be accounted for by an increase in heavy vehicles to the port. There has also be increased volumes of North/South through traffic and also from the North to the west – which will also be related to Waterview.
This is notable as I’ve re-looked at the traffic assessment used to justify Waterview and there doesn’t appear to be a single mention of it having an impact on the city centre. I also wonder how much the volumes on the Northwestern are being impacted by the lack of a dedicated rapid transit route. Had that have been built at the same time as Waterview and related works it may have helped to moderate the increases.
So it appears Waterview has significantly increased the number of vehicles in the city centre, undoing years of work that had seen volumes reduce. It reminds me of this cartoon
I’ve also put these maps together to highlight the current state of the information above with the width representing the number of vehicles travelling.
It’s interesting to think that the City Rail Link will eventually have the capacity to move more people in two hours than any of these motorways do in day (The Southern Motorway between Gillies Ave and Khyber Pass is the busiest section with just under 100k vehicles per day towards the city.
While traffic numbers across the entire day are up a bit, data from AT over the last few years is showing a fairly steady decline in the number of vehicles entering the city at peak times.
What do you make of the numbers? Do you think we should have an explicit target for reducing vehicles in the city centre and if yes, what should that target be?