With 2022 drawing to a close, expect us to take it easy over the next couple of weeks. We will also look back at 2022 as a whole and forward to what 2023 may have to offer. For today we have dug into the archives and found a post that was originally published in July 2013.

In this recent post we highlighted how, despite $60 billion or more of transport spending over the next 30 years, congestion is due to get significantly worse. This is a pretty disappointing result – occurring both in the scenarios when all the projects are funded and also in the scenario when we spend less money and build fewer projects.There’s about $10-15 billion of spending difference between the two scenarios – to achieve what really seems to be a pretty minimal difference in outcomes. As noted in recent posts, most of that spending is in the form of road projects – many of which make little sense.

The real problem for Auckland, compared to so many cities around the world is not the severity of our congestion but the fact that we generally have no alternative. Most public transport trips are on buses which mix with general traffic – meaning they get stuck in the same congestion as everyone else. For most trips, public transport is a poor alternative to driving. Too slow (because it’s stuck in the same traffic jams), too expensive, too unreliable. While perhaps overblown a bit, transport modelling highlights how pathetically slow public transport currently is for many trips across Auckland:

Improving the quality of the alternatives to driving does help free up the roads by attracting number of people away from driving but really this isn’t the main role of Transit networks. All big cities have congestion – and Auckland will be no exception to this rule. But they also all provide alternatives. The streets of Manhattan are congested but most people avoid it by catching the subway. Nobody drives from Parramatta to downtown Sydney at peak times, they catch the train because it’s so much faster. London would collapse without its Underground. These cities all experience congestion, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as in Auckland because an alternative, a network free of congestion, exists.

Decades of research show that you can’t build your way out of congestion. Widen a motorway and it fills up again. Build a new motorway and it fills up. Even the widest motorways in the world still get jammed up at peak times:highway401-jammedWhat Auckland so desperately needs is an alternative to its congested transport network. A way to ‘opt out’ of congested travel. True travel choice that’s faster, more reliable and reduces the burden of getting around our city.

So we, in collaboration with Generation Zero, have developed an alternative plan for Auckland called the Congestion Free Network. 

We have a limited congestion free network today: the existing railway lines, parts of the Northern Busway (Constellation to Akoranga) and some stretches of bus lane. In these locations no matter how congested up the roads get, there’s always a congestion free alternative available. But they’re relatively few and far between.

Over the next 20 years Auckland can, for the same price or less as what’s currently proposed in the ITP, construct a congestion free network which covers almost every corner of the urban area. Electrified rail to Pukekohe, busways to Silverdale, Kumeu, Botany to Panmure, Manukau to Botany, rail to the Airport, light-rail along Dominion Road, an extensive ferry network and even rail to the North Shore.

We think that this is a much better approach than what’s in the Integrated Transport Programme. We think that this approach takes the best parts of last week’s transport announcements by Central Government, the best bits of what’s in the Auckland Plan and creates a modern, world-class transport system that Auckland can be proud of. We think that a proper congestion free network will actually be so attractive for Aucklanders that it can be more successful in freeing up the roads than heading down a path towards our own 18 lane motorways.

A plan for a congestion free network must also be realistic. While in many respects we have a lot of money to play with, given the eye-watering sums proposed for spending on transport in Auckland over the next 30 years, we think that there’s probably no need to spend as much money. So we’re going to let you know exactly what transport projects we don’t think Auckland needs and how we can redirect that money towards the projects Auckland actually does need. And have no fear, of course Auckland’s going to have more roads in 2030 than it does today. As we’ve discussed previously a number of roading projects do make some sense – although perhaps not in their currently planned gold-plated form.

We have an idea about what should be in a 2020, 2025 and 2030 congestion free network. We think the projects that make up these networks are affordable, realistic and can deliver a transformational shift in the quality of Auckland’s transport system. But before we get onto what we think, we’re keen to know what you think.

  • How would you phase in a congestion free network over the next 17 years?
  • What do you think are the most important projects to have done by 2020?
  • What do you think should be cut or wound back to free up funding for the congestion free network?
  • What parts of the congestion free network should be provided by buses and what parts by trains?
  • What do you think is the role of light-rail in a congestion free network? Or ferries?

Ultimately, the congestion free network is about giving people real and genuine choice. The choice to opt out of being stuck in traffic:NZH0552245483

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  1. ‘We have a limited congestion free network today: the existing railway lines, parts of the Northern Busway (Constellation to Akoranga) and some stretches of bus lane.’

    10 years later and all we’ve added is some Eastern Busway, a bit more Northern and a few part time buslanes.

    1. > We have a limited congestion free network today: the existing railway lines

      Well, you can strike this one from your list for the next couple of years…

  2. Well explained article on public transport able to move freely.
    That widened motorways, clog quickly. True.
    London, apparently, upped taxes, so private cars were too expensive to use within centre city.
    I visited London, used public transport, was aghast at lack of space to move buses but they did. Roads near centre city, were clear of private cars. Yes, a country with about 50 million more folk to move than NZ..
    Yes, aim for reduced private vehicles in Auckland city. In my youth,” fifties” we used both bus and train regularly. Inexpensive, quick, convenient. Due to Auckland geographic layout, rail is limited.
    ?? When one views a freight train passing, one counts equivalent of up to 100 large trucks.
    Surely, with updated containers, fast mechanical transfer devices. Rail still has value for bulk goods!
    Much has been discussed, surely, basic details and functions could operate 100 % better.

      1. Roads for moving people and freight.
        Provide you own parking off street!
        if you don’t provide off street parking then you rely on foot traffic or other means to do business.

  3. “The real problem for Auckland….” is the lack of congestion tolls and all the other direct subsidies and cross-subsidies vehicle drivers receive.

    Its no wonder: our cities sprawl, “free” roads fill with congestion, and PT is limited as it can’t compete with heavily subsidised vehicle use.

  4. Wayne Browns letter of intent, or direction to the ports of Auckland to have 100% of containers on the railway (instead of trucks in the CBD) seems visionary, and years ahead of the usual incrementalism.
    talk is cheap but.

  5. Some clown climbed one if the overhead traction poles just north of Papatoetoe Station before lunchtime all trains were stopped the lunchtime freight heading down to Palmerston only went through at about 4.0 pm. There were about 50 passengers and the train conductor walking up Portage Road after they evacuated them from the train looking for taxis to take them to Otahuhu. So much for a congestion free netswork. The trespasser must have walked past the teams constructing the third main. An ambulance two fire trucks three police cars and one paddy wagon attended the scene. God help us it really is the silly season.

  6. I believe tax initiatives should be given to people who live close to work or working from home.
    Greece decided to ban cars in Athens with a certain registration on certain days.
    A website could be set up for job swop, people with certain skills swapping jobs to be closer to home.
    Obviously fish hooks to be ironed out but out the box thinking needs to be improved as part of the management of it.

  7. Let’s be honest, NZ is too scared to do anything really revolutionary like congestion parking, ULEZ, no in road parking etc

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