Archive | Transport

Billions astray, but political thinking on Auckland transport infrastructure is positive

The numbers don’t add up, but at least Auckland Council & the Government are trying to make progress on bridging the shortfall of several billion dollars in infrastructure funding to meet projections of higher population growth.

From 2 statements issued on Friday by Auckland mayor Phil Goff and Transport Minister Simon Bridges, you have these 2 sets of figures:

Mr Goff: “Council & Government have identified the need to lift transport spending from $24 billion to nearly $27 billion and bring forward a range of major projects to address growing transport congestion.”

Mr Bridges: “ATAP (the Auckland transport alignment project) agencies were asked to provide an update of how much additional funding may be required in the first decade to meet the challenges of growth. The update identifies an additional $1.9 billion of transport investment will be needed over the 10-year period.

“This is $1.1 billion less than the amount previously identified by Auckland Council. The total funding required for the decade is estimated to be $25.9 billion, of which $20 billion has already been committed to by central government ($13 billion) & Auckland Council ($7 billion).

“That leaves about $5.9 billion to be sourced from the Government, council & the private sector over the next 10-year period.”

Simon Bridges.

Mr Bridges said the ATAP update report “identifies faster growth is now expected to occur in North & South Auckland, requiring some transport investment to be brought forward to support the housing development in these areas. We will also need to bring forward transport investment to accommodate additional public transport demand.”

He said key initiatives from the first-decade package that would be brought forward into the next 3 years with this extra funding included:

  • Advancing development of the “next generation” of state highway projects, including the State Highway16- State Highway 18 interchange, Southern Motorway widening between Papakura & Drury, improved eastern airport access (State Highway 20B) and the North-western Busway
  • Accelerating Auckland Transport’s programme, targeting high priority & well developed investments including the Mill Rd, Ameti (Aukland-Manukau eastern transport initiative) Eastern Busway & associated Reeves Rd flyover, the earlier purchase of new electric trains, along with earlier completion of key city centre bus lanes & interchanges
  • Completing approximately $250 million of rail network infrastructure upgrades to cater for ongoing rapid growth in rail use and increasing freight volumes, including an additional track from Westfield to Wiri and a variety of key network resilience and performance upgrades.

“Current & committed investments include $3.4 billion for the City Rail Link, $1.85 billion for the East-West Link, and up to $1 billion in upgrades to the Northern & Southern motorway corridors.

“This is a very useful update of the agreed ATAP programme. I look forward to continuing to work with the mayor of Auckland on addressing the remaining funding required for the first decade.”

One major factor in the review is that Auckland’s population is projected to rise by 100,000 more over the next decade than the ATAP projections were based on last year.

Phil Goff.

Mr Goff said: “I particularly welcome the commitment of $1.2 billion in the first decade to mass transit on the isthmus, which I believe will be light rail.

“Busways in West & East Auckland and on the Northern Motorway will relieve traffic congestion by providing effective public transport alternatives.

“Penlink is also being considered as a tolled PPP (public-private partnership) road and new arterial routes are funded to service greenfields development.

“The increased budget & projects now go to the council & Government, and are expected to be formally agreed. Bridging the funding gap of $5.9 billion is now being negotiated between council & government.

“I welcome the Minister’s statement that Government has enough headroom in its budget to make a larger contribution to funding Auckland’s transport infrastructure.

“The hundreds of extra cars being added to Auckland’s roads each week, paying more petrol taxes & road user charges, will help fund the new projects.

“Auckland has to meet its fair share of the cost and we are considering the best options for how we do that.

“Road pricing, such as congestion charging, tolls or a fuel tax, in my view better reflect costs falling where there are benefits to the users of transport infrastructure than general rates. We are also exploring other options including targeted rates & value uplift.”

ATAP update, 11 August 2017: Auckland transport alignment project – update to reflect faster growth August 2017.pdf (pdf 804.72 KB)

Earlier stories:
16 September 2016: Brown leaves mayoralty with 2 huge transport wins
22 August 2016: Commission sees government change as essential for urban planning
22 June 2016: Government & council start lining up on tolls but transport report still has big failings
11 May 2016: Infrastructure council seeks rethink to improve transport & intensification
23 February 2016: Transport alignment starts off-track

Attribution: Mayoral & ministerial release.

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Bike share study next stage in transport change

Auckland Transport & the NZ Transport Agency have begun a feasibility study into how a city centre cycle share scheme could operate. This includes looking at how it could be funded and what sort of bikes would be used as well as the range of new technologies available.

Auckland Transport expects the initial findings of the feasibility study will be available around the end of September. Walking, cycling & road safety manager, Kathryn King said: “If there is a strong case for a cycle share scheme for Auckland, the next step would be for Auckland Transport to talk to potential providers with a view to delivering the scheme in the summer of 2019-20. Budget is set aside for this project, but no cost is yet set as Auckland Transport expects to run a competitive process to appoint a company to undertake the study.

“By the end of next year we will have completed a number of vital links for people travelling into & around the city centre by bike. This, combined with international evidence that cycle share schemes work when they are done right, means that now is the perfect time to begin these investigations.”

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said last week: “Cycle share schemes are an important part of the transport system in more than 700 cities internationally, and they hold real promise here. The Government’s urban cycleways programme is delivering a $333 million programme of cycling infrastructure & initiatives across New Zealand, and cycling is becoming an everyday part of more & more people’s lives.”

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said: “Cycling is on the rise in Auckland. Bikes now make up 9.4% of inbound morning peak traffic on Upper Queen St, which shows just how significant this mode of transport is becoming for Auckland.”

Cycle share feasibility study
Cycle share factsheet (PDF 179KB)

Attribution: Auckland Transport & ministerial releases.

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West Auckland’s new bus network arrives in June

West Auckland gets its turn at a new bus network, starting on Sunday 11 June.

Auckland Transport said today everything about the network would change, including new bus routes, new route numbers & new timetables.

After consultation at the end of 2014, Auckland Transport tendered for new bus contracts, and new services were introduced for South Auckland, Pukekohe & Waiuku last October.

Auckland Transport said benefits of the new network for the west included:

  • a single, all-day, high-frequency route (to be operated with double-deckers from August) along Great North Rd between New Lynn & the city centre, replacing multiple current routes and improving access to Auckland Zoo & Motat for residents & visitors
  • an all-day service for the first time on the North-western Motorway from Westgate to the city centre
  • frequent all-day service between Westgate, Lincoln Rd, Henderson & New Lynn via Great North Rd
  • more direct & more frequent all-day service between Henderson, Westgate, Hobsonville & Constellation on the North Shore
  • easy-to-understand, more regular local services feeding the rest of the network at New Lynn, Henderson & Westgate.

Link: New network for West Auckland

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Bike network addition at New Lynn planned

Auckland Transport is seeking feedback on plans to extend cycleways in New Lynn. An open day will be held on Thursday 11 May from 3-6pm at the New Lynn Memorial Library and consultation will close on Sunday 21 May.

An off-road cycleway is proposed along Seabrook Avenue from the Willerton Avenue intersection, joining up with the existing shared paths on Margan & Rankin Avenues.

The proposal would entail changes at 3 intersections along the cycleway and also to the intersection of Clark St, Rankin & Totara Avenues to improve access & safety for pedestrians & cyclists.

Auckland Transport’s walking, cycling & road safety manager, Kathryn King, said today this route was identified as the first cycleway priority for New Lynn because of the links to New Lynn Train Station, which is the third busiest station in Auckland.

“We have a lot more in store for the area, both in our current programme of work which runs until 2018 and then as part of our planning for 2018-21.”

NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director Ernst Zollner said these additions under the urban cycleways programme would make it easier to access the station and also ultimately link into the Te Whau pathway, the New Lynn-Avondale & Waterview shared paths and the North-western cycleway, which he said was one of the most popular in Auckland.

Whau Local Board chair Tracy Mulholland said: “New Lynn has been undergoing a major revitalisation transforming it into a sustainable urban centre, with high density housing close to the town centre. The completion of New Lynn’s world-class transport interchange in September 2010 was the first step in the area’s regeneration project. This work to begin developing the walking & cycling facilities takes us another step forward as an area.”

The links to New Lynn project has $2 million of funding from the Government, NZ Transport Agency (also Government) & Auckland Transport through the urban cycleways programme.

Link: Cycle network feedback

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Silverdale bus station completion a year away

Earthworks are underway for the redesigned Silverdale bus station on Hibiscus Coast Highway, just along from the Northern Motorway ramps, but the station building will only be erected next year and an extra 127 parking spaces still have to be consented.

The existing bus station lost temporary parking recently because it was on a neighbouring development site, and work started on the development. However, the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board has made temporary parking available at the site of the former Nippon Judo Club, on Hibiscus Coast Highway, just past the Silverdale War Memorial Park.

Auckland Transport said it would maintain 200 spaces in the existing commuter parking area – but ban parking on verges to facilitate construction work – until the main new parking lot is complete, scheduled for February 2018. 484 new parking spaces have been consented so far.

The new parking will be on a levelled site, and the bus station will be built next to the Hibiscus Coast Highway. It will have ticket & top-up machines, toilets, secure cycle parking and waiting areas that will be well lit & protected from the elements.

The whole project is scheduled for completion in May 2018.

Auckland Transport has asked commuters to use connecting bus services in the meantime.

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Upper North Island councils’ “alliance” reaffirmed

While Auckland Council wonders about where it should have a port – or whether it should have one at all – it & 6 other councils in the upper North Island quietly committed last Friday to a strategic alliance for another 2 years.

UNISA (the Upper North Island strategic alliance) was formed in 2011 by the territorial authorities from Whangarei District, Hamilton City & Tauranga City; the Waikato, Bay of Plenty & Northland Regional Councils; and Auckland Council.

The idea was to get collaboration between the councils on boosting economic growth, in place of the antagonistic rivalry between the ports of Auckland & Tauranga in particular.

PricewaterhouseCoopers produced a report for them at the end of 2012. Since then, the rivalry has remained firmly in place, there’s been little evidence of progress toward harmonised freight infrastructure; and the public disclosures of UNISA’s existence certainly don’t emanate from Auckland Council.

The Hamilton City Council & Waikato Regional Council both said last Friday they’d affirmed their commitment to the alliance for the next 2 years – after a meeting in Auckland.

The 7 councils also released an infographic, The Upper North Island Story, a report showing how life could change for the more than 2.5 million New Zealanders living in their regions. The Waikato Regional Council, at least, owned up to knowing about this document. Auckland Council kept its hands clean – a search of its website discloses nothing on UNISA or the strategic alliance.

The Upper North Island story infographic
UNISA agreement

Earlier stories:
22 August 2016: Auckland port responds to Tauranga’s helping hand
19 August 2016: Port of Tauranga pays back shareholders after expansion – and offers Auckland hand to overcome constraint
1 April 2015: Council to bring forward port precinct study
7 December 2012: Super-city reduces magnanimous ports study to parish pump
30 November 2012: Ports study appears to miss fundamental point: cannibalism
20 June 2012: PWC gets ports study job
27 April 2012: Council alliance seeks technical study on freight & port needs

Attribution: Hamilton City Council release, documents.

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PSA survey highlights social harm of high housing costs & congestion

57% of Auckland respondents to a Public Service Association survey have said they’d considered moving out of the city because of housing costs and 39% over commuting.

The association – New Zealand’s largest with 62,000 members, 18,000 of them in Auckland – sought members’ view in response to Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s taskforce on housing supply: “In the space of 2 hours we received close to 1500 responses and by the time the survey closed this number had grown to 2512.”

The association said of the response: “The speed of our members’ response and the heart-breaking stories they shared with us was powerful evidence that our members are deeply affected by the housing crisis. Our members also provided many suggestions for how things could be improved, ways to increase housing supply, bring down the cost of housing and improve the quality of housing.”

  • 58% of respondents in single-income households with dependents pay at least half their income in housing costs, 22% pay two-thirds or more
  • 51% of double-income households with dependents spend more than half their pay on housing costs, 24% spend two-thirds or more

Both home-owners & renters told of the budgetary stresses arising from high housing costs. In addition, renters told of the high levels of fear & anxiety associated with renting.

Many respondents reported living in housing that’s too expensive and often very poor quality: “They report having very limited choices about the housing they can afford to live in and the quality & location of the housing. Many would like to leave Auckland but can’t get jobs out of the city. Others want to be able to stay close to their children’s school or to family members, which often meant having to pay very high rent, often for sub-standard housing.

“Some older respondents reported they would like to downsize and move to other parts of Auckland but that they can’t find affordable housing to shift into, or this would lead to change in the quality of their lives.”

Some of the many points made:

  • No laws support a long-term renting culture
  • Auckland would benefit from having a mix of homeowners, long-term & short-term renters, equally respected socially and by the law
  • The council needs to take an integrated approach to planning and ensure that affordable & quality housing is available across the city, so people can afford to live near their work, schools & their communities
  • If more new housing was smaller and in a good location (with reasonable amenity and near good transport links), much of the buyer market would gravitate there instead of expensive 5-bedroom standalone houses on the peri-urban fringes
  • Members expressed frustration about the complexities & difficulties in getting permission to build a small/tiny house, or live in housing structured in ways other than traditional subdivisions – such as communal/eco housing.

Mr Goff launched his taskforce on 20 February. It comprises council & central government officials and representatives of the private sector, and its objectives are to identify barriers & constraints to building more homes in Auckland at a pace & scale which meets the demand created by population growth, and identify options and make recommendations to overcome those barriers & constraints.

Mr Goff said Auckland was growing by about 900 people/week and needed 13,000 extra houses/year, but was building only about half that number.

The taskforce will make its recommendations public in May.

21 March 2017, PSA submission to mayoral taskforce on housing supply

Attribution: PSA survey.

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Goff raises funding question as airport mass transit corridor agreed

Auckland Council & the Government have agreed to start route protection for a mass transit corridor between Auckland Airport & the city centre. The route will be along Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport worked together to develop a joint solution that will progress from bus services to a light rail transit solution.

The study found an advanced bus option could provide a credible solution over the next 30 years that could progress from the current bus-based system to a long-term solution.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said on Friday: “By drawing on international expertise, they have identified a range of opportunities for bus travel through a separated corridor, using innovative technology & customer-focused solutions.

“In the medium to long term, this will make it possible for a staged, integrated transition to light rail along the preferred ‘airport-city’ route based on future demand & capacity.

“This work follows the Auckland transport alignment project that identified the future pressure on mass transit corridors and the need for route protection to ensure future economic growth & productivity.”

Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the agreement: “With nearly 18 million passenger arrivals/year at Auckland Airport, a mass transit alternative to growing gridlock is critical. And the growth in employment in the airport precinct, adding further pressure on the roads, also makes a public transport option important.

Goff: many issues to resolve

“This report recognises the problem of ever-increasing congestion on the route between the airport & the city, the 2 fastest-growing employment areas in Auckland. We need immediately to protect routes for the bus rapid transit/light rail option, including from the airport to Manukau & Botany. Future-proofing our city is vital.”

But Mr Goff said many issues still had to be resolved: “Work should begin on identifying triggers for making the transition. Bus lanes are consistent with later conversion to a light rail service. However, if light rail is needed within just a few years, there is a question as to why we shouldn’t just move immediately to that solution. Secondly, bringing forward a mass transit route to the airport adds urgency to the need to find new revenue streams to fund it.”

NZTA director outlines workstreams

Transport Agency Auckland regional director Ernst Zöllner said: “Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow-on effects, transition impacts & network resilience issues.

“The agency & Auckland Transport will work together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from the current bus services & bus lanes to improved bus services in the short-term. This will potentially be followed by higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, before a transition to light rail transit could occur.

“The timing for this transition will be based on demand, capacity & funding.

“The most recent advanced bus solution study commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency is a useful input into existing data and builds on previous studies such as the central access plan, the south-western multi-modal airport rapid transit study and the Auckland transport alignment project with Auckland Council.”

Mr Zöllner said the transport agency had also taken immediate measures in the 2015-18 national land transport programme to deliver improved public transport solutions around the greater airport area, which supported a package of short-term improvements being developed to address urgent access issues.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said: “The agencies have agreed and confirmed through various studies that Dominion Rd is the preferred route, and we all acknowledge not only the importance of the airport precinct & the city centre, but the public transport access & connectivity that is needed along the route.

“Any transition plan needs to consider the lead time required for transition steps such as construction timeframes, and the continued operation of the network in delivering the best value-for-money option.

In parallel, work will be undertaken to progress route protection of the south-eastern connection from the airport to Manukau City Centre and east to Botany to ensure good connections to the airport & its surrounding employment zones.

“The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport will also continue to work with Auckland Council & Auckland International Airport Ltd to jointly develop & implement a package of short-term access improvements to the airport.”

Attribution: NZTA, mayoral, Auckland Transport releases.

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More transport services found for March Madness

Auckland Transport said yesterday it would put on more bus, rail & ferry services to meet passenger demand during March.

AT metro operations group manager Brendon Main said be 56 more citybound bus trips would be provided in the morning peak than last March: “That’s 5% more capacity overall for bus services and an increase of up to 34% on some corridors.

“We know the number of public transport passengers peaks in March as students head back to their studies, schools are in term and lower numbers of people are on leave. It’s known as ‘March Madness’, and since March last year we’ve worked hard to get more services on some of our busiest routes.”

Double-decker buses will start on the Birkenhead route next Monday to help meet demand.

The rail timetable change due on 12 March will add 1194 spaces inbound during the morning peak – 796 spaces on the eastern line and 398 on the southern line.

Mr Main said most ferry routes had sufficient capacity to cope with anticipated patronage demand, even given the significant growth experienced over the last year.

A new timetable started for Gulf Harbour in October, which added about 150 inbound spaces in the morning. More backup vessels for the West Harbour services will potentially add over 40 seats in the morning. Reallocating vessels on the Hobsonville run will add 52 seats inbound and vessel reallocation options for the Half Moon Bay service are also available to increase capacity.

Auckland Transport, public transport services

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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US urban specialist warns against big road spend – and against transit in wrong places

Aaron Renn.

US urbanism specialist Aaron Renn warned in a Manhattan Institute report out a fortnight ago against big highway spending – a likely target for increased public spending under the Trump administration.

He also warned against funding transit in the wrong places.

Mr Renn wrote: “Improving the country’s infrastructure will likely be high on the agenda of the incoming administration & Congress. To accomplish this goal, federal spending should strongly favour repairing & maintaining existing roads, highways & bridges, not building new ones. That’s because as much as 20% of the nation’s major roads are in poor condition, and tens of thousands of the country’s bridges are structurally deficient. Fixing them will yield the best return for the taxpayer dollar.”

He said spending on new or expanded highways was already showing lower economic returns than maintenance: “In the past, traffic engineers could use projections of population & job growth to extrapolate the need for new or expanded highways. But 2 developments may render such projections increasingly unreliable.”

The first development is self-driving cars and the second is the possibility the US might reach what some analysts refer to as “peak car.”  Mr Renn said the timing & spread of self-drive car technology was uncertain, but many researchers expected an impact on congestion.

The long-term US trend in traffic growth – both total & per capita – reversed in 2007 and declined for 6 years.

“Vehicle miles travelled, total & per capita, has begun to grow again, but some researchers believe the US may be at or near the end of the era of per capita traffic growth.”

The consequent uncertainty extended to the kind of roads the country might need.

As for rail, he said the prospects weren’t always good there either. 20% of federal surface transport spending went to expanding transit, some to buses “but a significant amount has been badly misdirected to build new rail projects in cities with limited histories of rail transit, and infrastructure designed overwhelmingly around the automobile. These projects, like Dallas’s light rail system, are even more speculative than highways.”

Meanwhile, he said, the existing rail systems in Washington, Boston & the New York subway were poorly maintained.

Mr Renn, proud of his small-town upbringing in Indiana, had a 15-year career in management & technology consulting but has been blogging for 25 years. He’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine.

Aaron Renn of Urbanophile LLC, Manhattan Institute report, 31 January 2017: Driverless cars and the future of American infrastructure
Advisor Perspectives

Attribution: Aaron Renn, Manhattan Institute, Advisor Perspectives (graph).

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