Auckland is currently in the midst of a building boom and most of that is development Council has termed “within the existing urban area”. 80% of all new consents are within the 2010 Metropolitan Urban Limit, which still includes a lot of sprawl in areas like Westgate and Albany. The council have also, through their various plans, enabled a huge amount of sprawl outside the MUL, in the North, Northwest and South, which they want to account for up to 40% of all growth in the region. These areas are expected to see up to 130,000 new homes and 76,000 new jobs.
As well as allowing that growth, a huge amount of resource is being dedicated by the council/Auckland Transport and the government to supporting/encourage that growth through the Supporting Growth programme as well as projects like many of the projects in the NZ Upgrade Programme. For example the NZUP includes $1.4 billion for Mill Rd, $423m to widen SH1 south of Papakura and $247 for new train stations between Papakura and Pukekohe. On top of that council need to find around $600 million just for the local roads to support some of the initial developments around Drury. All up, across all three growth areas, the transport investment needed is “in excess of $10 billion” and more likely at over $100,000 per home and that’s before all of the costs of local roads off these arterials and the other infrastructure that will be needed.
In the Northwest an indicative strategic network was released last year following consultation.
Now they say they’re developing a Detailed Business Case for the area and are consulting on the routes once again.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are seeking community feedback on a range of proposals for public transport, new and improved roads, and new cycling and walking networks. This network will ensure the northwest has the transport infrastructure it needs in the future by investigating and protecting the land for these projects now.
Waka Kotahi Director Regional Relationships, Steve Mutton says the proposals are critical to a fast-growing area and the well-being of people.
“Over the next 30 years, an extra 100,000 people are expected to live in the area, along with 40,000 new houses and 20,000 new jobs. A well-connected transport system is needed to support this future growth.”
“We recognise that the way people move around the northwest and across our city needs to change. Extending public transport networks and offering travel choices is at the heart of these proposals, which will relieve congestion and help us take action on climate change.”
Steve Mutton says they are developing a Detailed Business Case which includes making decisions on these new and upgraded routes. Feedback from landowners in the area and the community will help with this decision making.
Shane Ellison, Auckland Transport Chief Executive says it’s pleasing to see these proposals progressing ahead of substantial development.
“This takes us a step closer to providing safe, accessible and sustainable travel choices for developing areas. Our communities of the future need strategic public transport, and a strong walking and cycling network.”
Community feedback is open from 30 November 2020 to 15 January 2021 for these projects:
- A cycling and walking corridor connecting Whenuapai and the northern part of Redhills to Kumeū-Huapai
- A potential route for a future rapid transit corridor between Brigham Creek Road and Kumeū-Huapai to provide efficient public transport
- A new route between Brigham Creek and State Highway 16 to the west of Huapai, which will move the state highway out of Kumeū-Huapai
- Upgrades to Hobsonville Road, Brigham Creek Road and Trig Road in Whenuapai
- Upgrades to Royal Road, Fred Taylor Drive and Don Buck Road and extending Northside Drive in Redhills
- Upgrades to Riverhead Road and Coatesville-Riverhead Highway in Riverhead
- Upgrades to Access Road, Tawa Road, Station Road and SH16 Main Road in Kumeū-Huapai
It’s hard to see how what they’re consulting on this time is all that different from the previous consultations. They’ve broken it down to a couple of areas so I’ll use those too.
Alternative State Highway
It’s notable for all the talk of PT, walking and cycling that they start with this project. The documents provide a little more information on their thinking as to how the route was chosen, though most of it is highlighted in this map.
And here is a potential cross section
One thing that stands out to me is the future rapid transit corridor will be on the north side here but we also know it will be on the east (or south) side south of Brigham Creek so it will be interesting to see how they plan to get it across.
We’ve written before that we think part of this project should include diverting the existing heavy rail line along this corridor to get freight from Northland out of the town centre, which would also free up that corridor for rapid transit.
This section includes five new or upgraded arterial roads. A few things particularly stands out with these roads (as well as in some of the other sections below)
- They seem to have unrealistic promises about the quality of the public transport that will be offered
- Despite talking about safety, they are still focusing on a 50km/h speed limit which conflicts with what they’re doing in other parts of Auckland with speed limit changes.
- All have walking and cycling provided on each side of the road
That third point is notable given AT keep giving consent to projects and missing opportunities to get parts of the network in now.
As for the PT, they note:
- Brigham Creek Rd – four lanes – A bus every 7 minutes to and from the Whenuapai town centre in peak times
- Mamari Rd – four lanes – A bus every 3–4 minutes in peak times. Would have dedicated bus lanes.
- Trig Rd – two lanes – A bus every 15 minutes in peak times
- Hobsonville Rd – two-four lanes – A bus every 3 – 6 minutes in peak times
- Spedding Rd East and West – two lanes – Spedding Road East will have buses every 5 minutes in peak times; Spedding Road West will have buses every 12 minutes in peak times
I’m interesting in the service pattern they’re proposing to run these services with as based on what they’ve shown it feels likely they’re just chucking words on a page to make it look like they’re doing something. Notably, some of these frequencies are better than we see on some of our denser and higher use arterials so it seems unrealistic that this will make it through the business case/funding processes. This is especially so because it is already incredibly difficult to get funding for more PT services. For example, as I understand it, Waka Kotahi refuse to provide the funding needed for bus services to use the new Rosedale Busway Station.
Redhills has some of the same issues as Whenuapai when it comes to PT with them suggesting Don Buck and Fred Taylor Dr will have a bus every 3-5 minutes – they say the road will be four lanes with bus lanes in some sections.
What’s also notable here is they appear to have de-scoped a few projects such as upgrading Nixon and Taupaki Rd as well as a section of Don Buck Rd. That section of Don Buck Rd is the one part that buses often get held up in.
There are only really two roads here as Access and Tawa Rds are effectively considered the same, leaving them and Station Rd in the consultation. Access and Tawa are proposed to be upgraded to four lanes but with a 60km/h speed limit. This road is focused on racing trucks from the industrial area to the new motorway extension and that appears to conflict with the suggestion there will be a bus here every 10 minutes at peak which will require needing to provide safe access to get to/from any stops.
Meanwhile Station Rd is just two lanes but there is no mention of having any public transport on it.
They don’t suggest changing SH16 through the town centre until the new motorway is built.
Again just two routes for this section. Coatesville Riverhead Highway is claimed to get a bus every 15 minutes at peak and will have a 50km/h speed limit in the urban area and 60k/h in the rural area. The same speed limits would apply on Riverhead Rd but there is no mention of whether buses would be on it. Both are also expected to have the same cross section with differences depending on urban and rural settings.
And a map of the routes
This section includes mostly stuff covered in other parts of the consultation with a few comments about rapid transit but only really notes that it is a long term project that could be delivered different ways depending on the mode.
Feedback on these plans is open till 15 January 2021 so there’s a bit of time to respond yet.