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.

The indicative strategic network

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.

Whenuapai

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)

  1. They seem to have unrealistic promises about the quality of the public transport that will be offered
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Red Hills

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.

Kumeū-Huapai

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.

Riverhead

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

Strategic Connections

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.

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49 comments

  1. Extremely hard to take them seriously with any ‘proposed’ public transport route or services, when the outrage of them failing to deliver the North Western Busway or anything remotely like it, at the time of the SH16 corridor, or anytime since.

    This is shameful for the NZTA, especially as they subsequently have found billions for every possible highway expansion and duplication all over the country, and shows the hollowness of their claim to now be ‘multimodal’.

    Where will these frequent buses go at the need of these new roads? ie where is the NW busway, surely that comes first. Build the trunk route, to get through the congested highway, the idea of these possible might then have some credibility… do you need a model? Oh look over the Shore, NW gets nuthin’.

  2. I agree that the level of PT anticipated in the NW is way beyond that achieved in even many of the densest inner city suburbs, and should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

    However, if we are to achieve the kind of PT levels required to address the recently declared climate emergency, some truly radical measures will be required. I’m going to set aside my scepticism and look at this proposals through that lens and give these bus frequency proposals my strong support. If there are potentially 130,000 new dwellings (or 400,000 new residents) over the long term, then the couple of arterial roads proposed will very quickly become parking lots.

    The idea of rerouting the existing railway line and repurposing it for the rapid transit corridor is inspired and should definitely be part of the future planning. But given that Kiwirail seems to stand way outside collective coordinated transport planning processes I’m not holding my breath. Why oh why can’t the government REQUIRE Kiwirail to collaborate with NZTA, AT and AC in these processes from the very outset?

    1. Why do you assume KiwiRail wouldn’t be willing to partner in this concept? If NZTA is happy to fund a new bypass-line for freight, KiwiRail might be happy to jump on board.

    1. Well, Matt’s point is that NZTA is indeed co-funding PT services to a large FAR (Funding Assistance Ratio) share…. except when they regularly in practice are not, by rejecting funding applications / business cases predisposed on higher service provision.

  3. Surely with this amount of investment, the rail tunnel before Waitakere village could be upgraded to also allow the continuation of heavy rail through to Kumeu. Would mean reopening the Waitakere station and building a new one at Taupaki. The proposed rapid transit (hopefully light rail) in this plan could head north from Westgate then go through Whenuapai and Riverhead before linking in to the existing track at Kumeu, servicing the major future urban zones in the plan. Seems a missed opportunity to not deliver good PT connections to Whenuapai and Riverhead when doing this work.

  4. This sprawl is both unnecessary and regressive. We can intensify instead, and we must because we must leave the smallest footprint for the city that we can. So all this expense must be reallocated for the other work that’s needed. There’s certainly some repair and amenity required in the areas to serve the people living there without transport choice, but that work does not require this expensive programme of road widening and building.

    This is a useful consultation to peg where WK are at with Vision Zero. We were advised that Vision Zero countries come in two sorts – those that do it, and those that give it lip service, and this consultation demonstrates that WK have plonked us firmly in the second camp.

    To the road builders at WK:

    New Zealand has signed the Stockholm Declaration, which means you must: “mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe”. You have no such strong evidence. Your 50 and 60 km/hr speed limits will be found to be in breach of the declaration.

    Wherever you plan bus services – let alone frequent ones – that is well within the definition of having “vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner”.

    Basically, planning for sprawl adds distances, which means you want higher speeds, but they are not Vision Zero. Sprawl is incompatible with Vision Zero. Which we knew from the start.

    1. Heidi, the roads are just a response to the land that Auckland Council freed up. If someone didn’t re-zone land FUZ out there, we wouldn’t need to build infrastructure to serve it. So have a go at Auckland Council….they got their coloured pencils out before figuring out how they were going to pay for it. Also, based on recent experience, Council and their mates at AT have been dead against brownfields development because of ‘traffic effects’. For all their good words put forward in the Unitary Plan hearings, they’ve ended up doing the opposite and are actively encouraging sprawl.

      1. Yes, quite. I’m having a go at both AC and AT. And Council’s continued singling out of intensification because of unspecified “adverse effects” on the neighbouring areas is something I’ve been following up on recently. There’s so many layers of bullshit it makes me disgusted.

        Thing is, AT should have their heads around the far bigger ‘traffic effects’ of sprawl by now, and should be hammering AC with some actual transport expertise.

        They’re both responsible. Look at how AT pushed for Matakana Link Rd to be brought forward for example. No similar push to bring forward safety and cycling projects.

      2. And yet, there seems to be the need to build $100,000 worth of roads per new home in greenfields.

        The status quo around me is that every townhouse development spills out new cars parked on the street, and it will make the queue on Onewa Road a few cars longer. It frequently goes past Highbury now even in weekends. So I can’t say it is working very well right now.

        Maybe there is also a need to spend $100,000 on transport per home in brownfields. Maybe on cycling or PT rather than driving. Then let’s see how those “traffic effects” turn out.

        1. The status quo around me is that every existing house spills out new cars parked on the street because people now need multiple cars each, and they’re all too big to fit in the garage.

          Bring on the development types that are the least car dependent.

        2. Oh yeah, brownfields development still needs investment but much less than greenfields. Considering how much better bang for buck you get, it baffles me why Council and AT make you jump through so many hoops to do it. The other funny thing about adverse ‘traffic effects’ is that you only realise/observe the adverse effect by being part of it…(its this bizarre arrogance that its fine for your driving to affect other people, but other peoples driving can’t affect you)

          This guy had the right idea…excuse the pun (written by K Wright)
          https://hearings.aupihp.govt.nz/download/files/LKIUNcyOuB47CKRUqm5FHqUwV9net3GYgI8kD9AaYQLK

        3. Oh no you don’t need a car to notice those. You may notice your bus will now get stuck in that queue. Or that queue will block you from turning right when cycling. Or you will notice that parked cars make cycling much more dangerous.

          If there is a queue it is actually much easier to figure out what’s going on because you can just ride past it.

          That ‘even less’ part makes this argument about traffic effects of brownfields even more hypocritical.

        4. Yep, parking on existing arterial roads is another bugbear of mine. Why AT have to consult with their ‘customers’ on this is beyond me. They should be able to remove parking on arterial roads to install bus lanes, cycle lanes etc at the stroke of a pen. Should be a 5 min job not a 6 month negotiation.

    2. I don’t think our system works like that. Just because a few people on the Government gravy train head off to a conference and join the statement that comes out of it doesn’t bind our Government to anything. The law would get pretty bogged down if that was how it worked. It shouldn’t be called International law as it is more of a guideline.

      1. Well, lawyers disagree with you, miffy. “International obligations can also be found to be mandatory considerations for decision-makers”

        In the Heathrow runway case from the UK the court found:

        “even though the Minister had no statutory obligation to consider the Paris Agreement in approving the third runway, “There can be some unincorporated international obligations that are so obviously material [to a decision] that they must be taken into account.” “

        1. Yes it all depends of the judicial lottery. If you get an activist judge they will just make it up as they go along. We used to have a particularly bad example of that. Robin Cooke or Lord Cooke would write extra unrelated bits in his decisions and then quote them in later decisions as if they were now law. Lucky for us we have a strong tradition on black letter judges in this country who focus on actual law and the sovereignty of the Parliament. As they should. BTW surely you don’t mean the 1972 Stockholm declaration do you?

    1. I’m curious to see what the data for 2020 will look like.

      On car use – I’ve seen reported that a person who owns an e-bike uses a car on average 20% less. I can’t recall a reference, sorry.

      My wife and I have ebikes- hers is regular, mine is cargo, and I do school- and kindy-runs etc. There is one trip a week when I need to use the car, otherwise it is mostly for travelling for holidays.

  5. Why is the rapid transit corridor noted as “potential” whereas the motorway has all the details.

    NZTA tarmac sniffers strike again?

      1. Unfortunately it would connect a place where you wouldn’t really want to walk, with another place where you wouldn’t really want to walk. I mean, have you been in Westgate? That seriously undermines the appeal of using that line.

        Unlike the NEX or the future western counterpart which has downtown Auckland on one end.

        1. The upper harbour line was planned to go to Henderson to constellation via Lincoln Rd, Westgate, Hobsonville, Greenhithe and Albany Industrial area. Plenty of opportunity to walk, or connect to walkable places. Eg Smales farm and takapuna are less than 15mins from Constellation.

        2. Speaking personally, it would be incredibly useful for getting from the west to places on the Shore without having to dawdle along Hobsonville Rd and through the back of Greenhithe

    1. They did the same thing in the northern corridor improvements planning too. Now the busway extention and upgrading is the flagship benifit.

  6. It’s interesting to note that the week that the NZ Govt announced a climate emergency and the plan to move to 100% renewable electricity that a division of Govt continue to promote fossil fuel based transport for individuals. Why is the railway ignored, noting that it runs through the middle of the area? Address Waitakere tunnel now, whilst KiwiRail are making it fit for high cube containers and invest in upgrading the railway out to Helensville to include electrification. This would make best use of our scarce resources (space, time and fuel).

    1. Isn’t that the point. The climate emergency was all about diverting attention. In an emergency you allocate all of your resources to address that issue until it is over. Clearly there is no climate emergency otherwise we wouldn’t be spending money trying to keep covid out, trying to reduce child poverty, trying to improve health outcomes, trying to provide jobs where they are needed. There is a climate issue, but no climate emergency. Just people playing silly buggers with the language to advance a cause they are more interested in. I am not a climate change denier, but I am an emergency denier.

  7. If they try to save a few bucks and don’t build it now, they will regret and end up spending more money building it in the future at inflated cost.

    Just bite the bullet and do it right, do it once.

    1. By right, you mean suitable for a climate emergency?

      Therefore, no sprawl, no roading capacity expansion, just pure street regeneration, road reallocation, and enabling of sustainable transport choices. Yup.

      1. “No sprawl” The houses are already there and being built. It sprawled to this point years ago. If you start now, you might be able to stop it infilling to Helensville.

    1. This is a double standard in your mind here. These plans are forcing people to live the way others / you want too. It’s the same amount of “forcing” (in reality there are plenty of other places to live if you want to be car dependent) either way. The difference is that the city already has heaps if car dependency and that is bad for everyone as I’m sure Heidi would tell you.

    2. I don’t want them to live one way or the other. That’s their choice. There are apartments available to buy but they’re not choosing them.
      And you can try and frame cars negatively with the term dependence but I see them as enabling people to live the way they choose. It’s not all about getting to work ya know.

      1. Well that’s just not accurate is it. ‘Their choice’ as a concept only works if you ignore the fact that for much of the isthmus the Unitary Plan is zoned for a ‘single house’ zone and the marginally more flexible ‘mixed housing suburban’ zone where you are forced to develop only one type of dwelling. It’s as far from the free market as you can get. The ‘choice’ here only exists because the only housing available for most people is the sprawl posited here…

      2. The options here are incredibly limited. You have big apartment buildings, sausage flat units, townhouses-with-body-corporate, and standalone houses. That’s it.

        Other popular options overseas, like terraced houses and low-rise apartments, hardly exist in Auckland.

        Also if people would not choose apartments, the ones we have would be sitting empty, or being sold at bottom bargain prices. They aren’t.

  8. What must be remembered is that Kumeu is the same distance from Auckland as Manukau City, but I see no mention in the replies here that anything south of Manukau City is urban sprawl. Living in the area I too received the latest proposals from AT in my letterbox, and noted that it all involved lots of long term planning and road building, but completely ignoring the black line with cross hatches going through the middle, which can be pressed into service tomorrow to help relieve congestion. Everything in the plan is aimed towards pouring more commuters onto an already chocka north-western motorway. Sure new bus lanes are planned, but like everything else in the construction industry, implementing them takes time. Maybe AT needs to knock on the doors of Warner Bros in Kumeu and ask them for suggestions. You should see the speed at which the sets for Lord of the Rings are going up.

    1. South of manakau is what I would call sprawl, hard to draw a line obviously, but the topic of this post is the northwest. manakau I think is somewhat offset by there being a lot of employment out south too. Not sure what is planned in this way in the northwest.

  9. Whatever happens the rapid transit corridors have to be reserved and planned for. Almost anything else can be recovered later if they do end up totally stuffing it up. But it’s very hard to build something when theres no space for it.

  10. These far flung growth areas are looking worse and worse as the details emerge. I’m glad to too see some light is being cast on them to expose the issues.

  11. l can see politics coming into play ,big time,imagine trying to limit “easy house building”,in this climate.Not the best answer,but if AC,AT,pushed back hard,and said it,s unaffordable for them,the Govt would step in,gotta get re elected in three years time ,to hell with the consequences.

  12. Unbelievable that sprawl is still the plan for AC/AT (and on prime agricultural/horticultural land too).

    It’s like the last 50 years never happened and our planners are being unfrozen from cryogenic chambers from the 1950s (if they’re going to do that, please unfreeze the great planners and urban designers we had from the 1930s like Cedric Firth and Ernst Plischke instead).

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