It’s Friday and here’s our weekly roundup

National’s recycled policy

Who says the National Party doesn’t have a green side, they clearly like recycling if some of their first election policy announcements are anything to go by.

It started last Friday with them announcing they would spend $570 million on a 16km extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere. To be fair, This project isn’t the worst potential expressway idea out there. As of 2018 the road carries about 19,000 vehicles a day of which almost 11% are heavy vehicles and it would likely stack up better than some other expressway projects out there, such as Otaki to Levin.

I was also somewhat pleased to see a little bit of nuance shown on the suggestion of extending the expressway all the way to Tirau, which they did at the last election, and no mention of also extending it along SH29 to the Kaimai’s.

Asked about whether National would extend the expressway to Tirau, Muller said the Cambridge to Piarere stretch was the most important at the moment but they would look at “ongoing safety improvements” for that area.

The NZTA’s route options from 2017

Then this week he announced another project from the last election, spending $1.5 billion to extend the soon to be completed Christchurch Southern Motorway by 60km from Rolleston to Ashburton. Unlike the Cambridge to Piarere section though, it’s hard to see how this would come close to stacking up with the road carrying only 12-14,000 vehicles a day.

As I discussed here, one of the triggers for an expressway level intervention is if forecast average daily traffic volumes are predicted to exceed 25,000. At the current levels of growth that will be quite some time away for the Ashburton to Christchurch corridor.

Instead of a return of the RoNS, how about we upgrade the road with median barriers and a few extra passing lanes and then spend the rest of that money to kickstart a proper rapid transit network in Christchurch.

There’s a lot more announcements to come too.

Sydney and Melbourne Rail differences

This is n interesting post from across the ditch looking at why there are quite different outcomes in rail use between Sydney and Melbourne.

Why is rail patronage 50% higher in Sydney than Melbourne?

Western line timetable change

Today is the last day for four years you can catch a train to/from the Mt Eden Station as tomorrow it closes for City Rail Link works. If you’re a user of the Western Line it’s worth noting that from Monday the timetable is changing too. As you’d expect, this removes Mt Eden as a stop but it also makes so changes to travel times with two minutes being added to all journeys west of Newmarket. Importantly, if you’re boarding a train heading towards Britomart, that means it will now arrive at your station two minutes earlier.

While I’d like to think that this is purely related to the CRL construction, it does feel more like this is AT taking an opportunity to make changes in order to help some of their punctuality stats look better as the percentage of trains arriving at their destination within five minutes has been falling over the last year or so.

So I thought I’d put this graph together showing train travel times since Britomart opened. This is to ride the full length of the line to Britomart but a couple of other things to note.

  • You’ll notice a gap in the Southern and Eastern Lines. This is because I haven’t been able to find the timetables during this time.
  • For the Eastern Line prior to the opening of the Manukau station in 2012, I’ve taken the travel time to Puhinui and added 4 minutes – which is what the timetables allocate to get between those two stations.
  • At 56 minutes from Swanson to Britomart that means travel time is once again back to the longest it’s ever been.
  • You may recall from this recent post that if the trains were being operated to the level they are in other cities and what they’re meant to be capable of, the Western Line would be about 43 minutes, Southern about 40 minutes and Eastern about 31 minutes.

While on the topic of timetables, AT have surprisingly done no real promotion of it but there are a bunch of rail network closures coming up this month. This has been a fairly regular feature of late but most notably, tonight the Friday only services on the Western line, the ones after 9:42pm, will be replaced by buses. Even more significantly, all services on the Western Line next Friday will be replaced by buses, this includes the ones during the day. I think that outside Christmas/New Year, this is the first time we’ve seen weekday services impacted by a closure.

City Rail Link Stations Progress

The Western Line closures above are almost certainly related to the CRL works and this week they’ve published a series of videos of the Karangahape Rd and Mt Eden worksites.

Karangahape Rd – Pitt St

Karangahape Rd – Mercury Lane

Mt Eden – Main site

Mt Eden – Eastern end of site

Vancouver pushing up Mode Share targets

Vancouver has done well in pushing to get more people onto sustainable modes of transport and now they’re going a step further by bringing forward their 2040 targets to 2030.

Setting targets is important if you want to achieve goals and sadly is something the Council and Government agencies have actively avoided doing. For example during the last update of the Auckland Plan – the 30-year strategic vision for Auckland, the council deliberately removed any meaningful targets so they couldn’t be held to account for them. Likewise there are no real targets in the government’s draft Government Policy Statement.

Queen St changes

In my post yesterday about Queen St, I mentioned works were about to start and even before the post was published the first parts went in

However also yesterday the herald ran an op-ed from Heart of the City (HoTC) and later a story about it, complaining about the changes.

HoTC seem to have caught a bout of suburbanism and are thinking Queen St is mall that everyone drives to and expects a carpark out front. Instead they should be celebrating the city as something different from the malls and should be cheering on the changes that will make Queen St even more unique and wonderful in the city. HoTC, how about encouraging people to travel to town to check it out instead of opposing it which is only likely to put people off from visiting.

Grafton Gully Planning Blight

One of the challenges we face as we transition away from a car focused city is the planning blight caused by projects that will probably never happen. A classic example of this was highlighted yesterday when Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency announced they are going to demolish four buildings on Beach Rd.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is demolishing four buildings at a major transport intersection in central Auckland later this month to remove a public health and safety risk.

Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships, Steve Mutton, said the site was purchased in 2002 for a future transport project and the mainly two-storey buildings have been vacant since May 2018.

“The buildings are not suitable for either commercial or residential tenants because they are an earthquake risk and contain asbestos. Leaving them as they are would put people and neighbouring properties at risk in the event of an earthquake,” says Mr Mutton.

“We considered strengthening and improving one of the buildings for businesses and apartments, but this would require significant investment and is not a viable option.”

The buildings at 154-174 Beach Road are close to a major city intersection crossed by State Highway 16 which links the port to Auckland’s motorway network. The land was purchased for a project to improve transport access between the port and the motorways. That work is planned to start in 2028.

“The buildings would need to be demolished at some point but removing them now allows us to work with potential partners to find a temporary use for the land until it is needed for the project. Negotiations are under way to lease the cleared site for a short-to-medium term public transport facility.”

The area around the bottom of Grafton Gully/The Strand and also around Cook and Union Streets on the Western side of the city remain in limbo from legacy motorway projects such as the additional harbour crossing and plans to extend the SH16 motorway to the port. That’s why ideas such as the Grafton Gully boulevard are so good because they give a realistic and achievable improvement to transport while also unlocking the development potential that exists around corridors this.

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  1. Why does the Auckland trains need train managers / conductors?
    Overseas trains are faster without them conducting slow door closures.. Seems like a throwback.

    1. Auckland stations aren’t gate-access. So not only would losing a conductor open the door for free rides, but it would be more likely to attract anti-social behavior.

      1. The train managers don’t check tickets and are told to actively avoid doing anything about anti-social behavior. They can also only be in one 3-car set at a time so the other 3-car set in a train is empty of staff.
        The only thing the TMs do is check the doors are clear before they close, slowing down dwell times. If they’re going to be on the trains, it should be like other cities where they’re in the rear cab instead of holding one of the slow closing passenger doors open longer

      2. Melbourne and Perth’s stations aren’t gate access either and they don’t have train managers. It’s been eight years since train managers checked tickets in Auckland.

  2. Caption: Auckland Transport has listened to complaints about cycle paths being blocked by Street furniture. Our agile community focused approach allowed us to place this new speed sign in the perfect place, after only three rounds of consultation.

  3. “Before the end of this month, I will announce the biggest infrastructure package in this country’s history. It will include roads, rail, public transport, hospitals, schools and water”
    I imagine the announcement itself will include rail and public transport: “We will not be building any rail or public transport”

    1. Actually in the last 3 years since Bridges stopped being transport minister (he was actually fairly good in that role), have National mentioned a single PT project? Even if they wanted a PT project to win some “lefty” votes, would they even have someone with any knowledge at all to come up with one? National have gone so far “right” since Bill left, and now they are predictably paying the price.

      1. Bishop mentioned a NW busway on a Facebook Livestream one evening – so that’s not entirely out of the question. He’s not a fan of the Light Rail option though.

        1. Considering the vast majority of transport issues in NZ are in Auckland, is it sensible to have someone from Lower Hutt being transport minister? Should the agriculture minister be a city slicker from Devonport?

        2. In defence of Lower Hutt:
          It has Wellington’s busiest train service with ~5.5 M boardings a year;
          a busy bus system with approx. half the per capita usage of Wellington City;
          and a frequently congested SH2 between Ngauranga and Petone.
          It’s not rural or ex-urban.

      2. Agreed. My guess is that they will announce either:
        – A project that’s already inevitable like the next stages of the Eastern Busway or an extension of the Northern Busway or maybe just some electric buses.
        – A project that probably won’t happen but they’ll say ‘by 2030’ so everyone forgets about it before it doesn’t happen, like heavy rail to the airport*.

        (* this one has particular political appeal because if light rail ever gets progressed by Labour then everytime there’s some negative news about it National can push out a press release saying “should’ve built heavy rail to the airport instead like we promised” which journalists will uncritically parrot because they don’t know any better)

        1. That was literally the basis of Labour’s entire 2017 election manifesto, which they basically walked away from over the next three years. After using them as policy platforms to attack National for not doing enough for years, they got into power and promptly abandoned them – but Todd Muller’s stupid hat got more media scrutiny, while journalists raved about the ‘Town Hall reset’ and ‘Year of Delivery’. Don’t hear much about those these days.

        2. Indeed. And Clark gets forced to resign while Twyford carries on as if everything is fine in Transport.

          I’m hoping for a dramatic cabinet reshuffle after the election.

        3. “A project that’s already inevitable like the next stages of the Eastern Busway or an extension of the Northern Busway or maybe just some electric buses.”

          These projects have been well publicised and all of those projects are already underway.

  4. I was hoping that as a good infrasructure project work on the CRL could be speeded up. 2024 is a long way off.
    A project that hasn’t gone ahead is work on the tunnels under Albert Park. It seemed such a good idea with many benefits. I wonder what is the reason? They wouldn’t be high cost.

    1. It’s not designed for driving through so AT don’t consider it their business.

      Opening up the tunnels so some workers in all the appropriate PPE can walk through is probably not that challenging. However opening them up to a modern accessible standard with good lighting, ventilation and surfacing is probably a non-trivial amount of work.

      I think it’s a good project but there are other opportunities in the CBD where spending the millions of dollars involved would benefit even more pedestrians.

      1. Opening them up so anyone can walk through them would be reasonable effort since they backfilled them with unfired clay bricks that are now a large mass of clay.

        Not against the idea although maybe a few outdoor escalators each side of the hill would give speed benefits at lower cost?

  5. “Inspired by Vancouver Auckland Transport announces new mode share equality targets- zero cars, zero buses, zero cyclists and zero pedestrians.”

  6. I saw the HoTC op-ed. Charitably I guess they are voicing the concerns of their member but I found it particularly ironic that they gave a High St as an example of how consultation with the business community should work.

    Of course we all know that said consultation went on for years because AT allowed a couple of business owners to obfuscate and delay.

    High St is a great example, but not for the reason Viv Beck gave. It should serve as a lesson to retailers that if you insist on a car dominated ugly street environment punters will vote with their feet and move away to more pedestrian friendly precincts.

    Great Queen St is pushing ahead. Sad it’s in such a half-assed way

    1. And you don’t hear HoTC talking about what is happening along Quay St or is that on the edge of their territory after alo seeing this yesterday ;-

  7. AT planners insist on pedestrian lane slalom to ensuring SOV restrictions applied evenly.

    A spokesperson for AT today confirmed that signage and other street furniture would be placed randomly to level the playing field after A4E has restricted the ability of SOV to go wherever they wish inside the city motorway noose. “It is only fair that pedestrians are inconvenienced equally, now that we’ve allocated more space to them and reduced the ability for cars to go wherever the wish and park on footpaths at will. It’s not as if drivers transform into walkers once they reach their car-parking buildings.”

    1. Unlikely to sway any but those who already agree. Good opinion piece but hardly likely to win many over with comments like “Men have a tendency to design the tallest, fastest, most expensive and most phallic infrastructure”.

      Gratuitous gender politicking makes it way too easy for the broad argument of the piece to be dismissed by those that it presumably is trying to convince. Unless it really is just trying to preach to the already converted.

      1. For those who are already well informed about the CC2M mode debate, yes it won’t change any minds. But I’d guess that’s a small subset of the population.

        There’s a much larger group of the people out there to whom light rail and light metro sound like pretty much the same thing. Learning about the fundamental differences in what is being proposed could be useful to them.

        1. This article ignores the advantages of light metro and focuses exclusively on the cons using emotionally loaded language like “lonely platforms”.

        2. Its a shame about the headline – its a great article

          The majority of people will think the debate is about speed to the airport and won’t have a clue about LRT v Metro, or “slow trams” as the haters put it.

          I think it does a great job of spelling out why LRT was the better option, in lay-persons terms.

        3. It misses the more salient point that light rail to the airport is an expensive and unnecessary luxury. Other parts of Auckland have far bigger public transport problems and must surely be addressed first.

        4. Dave B: “Other parts of Auckland [than the airport] have far bigger public transport problems and must surely be addressed first.”

          Indeed so – how about Mangere and Dominion Rd?

        5. Mike M, both of those places are better served by public transport than most of the city.

          I think that the Sydney vs Melbourne article is instructive here. Basically, the two cities have similar infrastructure but Sydney has far better patronage due to consistent frequencies of 15 minutes or below. That is how to reduce vehicle usage – 15-minute or better frequency for everyone in Auckland. Nothing else will reduce our widespread auto-dependency.

        6. David – Sydney has plenty of bus routes that don’t run every 15 mins. What that article shows if anything is the importance building up around the core rapid transit routes.

          The article definitely doesn’t suggest throwing large subsidies at low patronage bus routes to ensure every corner of the city has 15 minute coverage.

        7. 15 minute frequency or better is a key consideration, though. What we must stop throwing money at is sprawl, which affects providing 15 minute frequencies with three simultaneous blows:

          It creates yet more suburbs that are difficult to serve with frequent services.

          It eschews the opportunity to convert some existing lower density suburbs into higher density suburbs so they can support more frequent services.

          It puts more traffic through existing suburbs, reducing the walking safety and increasing bus delay, reducing the attractiveness of the bus, thus ridership, and making it harder to support frequent services.

          Given the billions being thrown at sprawl, and the terrible climate, safety, and network access outcomes that causes, ‘throwing money at 15 minute frequencies’ would be far preferable.

        8. I agree restricting sprawl is key.

          However. I don’t agree with David’s premise that 15 min frequency across the city is a better use of funds than building key rapid transit corridors. Without these corridors it will be very hard to effectively service increased density in the inner parts of the city.

        9. Yes, we definitely need those key transit corridors.

          And 15 minute frequencies. 🙂 There’s so much regressive transport spending I would cut to achieve it.

      2. My god that is so sexist. Would they be OK with an article making broad ridiculous generalisations about women or are they just hypocrites? Utter trash.


    This obscure program to improve the building code, particularly by adding criteria for energy efficiency, seems to have attracted zero media attention so far (a week after the press release). But it could mean big changes for the way we build houses in NZ and that’s good news. It’ll be years until we start to see the results though.

  9. “Negotiations are under way to lease the cleared site for a short-to-medium term public transport facility.”

    Presumably this is code for “Wilson Parking”?

      1. The site would be alright as a long distance bus station. Easy access to the motorways not too far from town on the link bus route also less than five minute walk to the Strand Railway station in case the Hamilton train ever makes it that far. Maybe Intercity could offer a hotel shuttle option on its website so passengers can be picked up or dropped off before or after their journey. There could be a list of eligible hotels back packers or maybe there could be a map designating service areas.

  10. Why is it that the videos that the CRL post on their FB page and youtube are so outdated ? , as when I was there yesterday the Piling rig was almost to where the City life church was .;-

    And for those of you that complain about the dwell times at Grafton it was almost 40sec instead of he usual 1min

    1. The CRL posts are all pretty average. A lot of photos without any description about what is going on or why. Half of the Beresford Sq site drone video was showing the view down the valley to the Harbour Bridge etc. In the UK they have produced at least three multi-part TV programs about Crosslink. What do we get from the largest single PT infrastructure project the country has done… meaningless photos on a vaguely setup website!

      1. DonM ; And to get any photo sense from them you have to check their FB and Instagram pages and there are photos that haven’t even made it to their major web site/blog so who are the clowns that run these different sites and don’t they talk to each other ? . So why why can’t they post faster it’s not like they have to take the film to the Chemist to get it developed ? .
        As you can see I am very interested in what is happening there as at the turn of the century I worked on the last major tunnelling job under Auckland and now I’am of the age it’s will a bit hard on the body , but I would love to be doing it as tunnelling gets in the blood .

  11. Heart of the City are a bunch of muppets. A car free city centre is what will set CBD apart from Albany, Manukau, Westgates and Sylvia Park apart.

    This kind of provincial thinking is what will keep AKL held back… $2 weekend Parking as well…Really needs to go.

    1. I think the provincial folk would be rather amused and also think you were a complete Jaffa with this comment, given Queen St currently looks like they have let the kids loose with bollards. I think we could safely say that no provincial town looks as third world as Queen St looks right now.

    2. Actually I don’t think a car-free centre will make much difference at all in terms of competing with those centers. The CBD’s best points of difference are it’s civic institutions, ’boutique’ retail, waterfront, and population mass. Those are what it needs to build on.
      Note – I think the car needs taming in the CBD, it’s just I don’t think it will have big economic dividends.

  12. I think it’s worth mentioning that an updated port study landed this week. They found that the economics favor leaving the existing port in operation where it is, and that it’s capacity won’t run out for thirty years. So there is no particular need to rush to work out if we want to relocate the whole thing and if so where to put it.

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