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.
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.
— Justin Hu (@justin_hu_) July 8, 2020
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.
“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.” #NationalsPlan
— NZ National Party (@NZNationalParty) July 9, 2020
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.
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.
Sustainable transport progress here in #Vancouver. Excited to share that we have yearly averaged a percent increase in our mode share for the last six years. We are now at 54% of daily trips on foot, bike or by transit. pic.twitter.com/Lm9xUwuAga
— Dale Bracewell (@Dale_Bracewell) July 8, 2020
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
Concrete kerbs have replaced the plastic sticks. Wow. Queen Street. pic.twitter.com/V9fGGsAAnm
— Kent Lundberg (@kentslundberg) July 8, 2020
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.