Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rethink the Link - Does Auckland really need to pour money into a hole in the ground?

Anchoring the CBD, or Sinking it?
A cornerstone of the Draft Auckland Plan is implementing an underground inner city rail link.  At an estimated $2.3bn this is the single most expensive new commitment in the plan, and accounts for around 15% of capital spending identified. This seems a big price to pay to transform what is already a perfectly functional CBD with adequate and improving public transport (PT) arrangements. And unless it makes a substantial difference, it could become a major fiscal anchor on Auckland’s development.  This posting considers the prospects.
Why?
So why do we need the inner city rail link?  The plan says:
·     It will contribute to “a transformational shift towards greater use of public transport”, reducing congestion “that has become increasingly intolerable” (p27)
·    It will improve the timeliness of public transport for inner city workers and by improving access to the CBD “catalyse related urban and business development and growth” (p35).  Oddly enough, the Plan also states that “existing rail and motorway connections to the city centre make it highly accessible and an efficient location for business” (p127).
·     It will support an additional 55,000 to 70,000 jobs projected for the CBD.  In a hint of circularity, 5,000 of these are attributed to the rail link itself (p165).
The Background Document, Towards Preferred Urban Form, says:
·    The link will raise service levels across the network, cut travel time on the western line by 10 minutes or more, and create a higher “accessibility profile” for CBD fringe areas (p25).
The Business Case
I looked at the business case supporting the rail link, but struggled with it.  For a start, while it claims to consider alternatives, it departs from convention by looking only at different transport responses to fixed assumptions about land use.  Normally, transport evaluation for urban development starts with land use options, and considers their differing transport needs to decide which combination is favoured economically.  It also considers differing land uses so it can highlight the social and environmental tradeoffs being made. It might then vary the best options further to take into account fiscal risk.  
Rather than go into the detail of the business case here I concentrate on whether building the City Rail Link the best way to reduce congestion.
Commuting - the Data
To get some idea of this I looked at the distribution of commuting trips across Auckland.  I first divided the city into five sectors:
    The North, locations north of the Waitemata Harbour and dependent mainly on the Harbour Bridge for access to the CBD and points south, including the rest of the Auckland Isthmus;
    The West, former Waitakere City, mainly dependent on the Western Motorway for access to the CBD and points south;
    The CBD, as defined by the plan to cover areas within the motorway ring (Auckland Central East and West and Harbourside), but extended for this exercise to include fringe areas likely to be impacted by the rail link (Freemans Bay, Newton, Grafton East and West);
    The balance of the Auckland Isthmus, through to Panmure in the southeast; and
    The South, the former Manukau, Papakura and Franklin council areas, and Waikato Region
An origin-destination matrix of work trip was sourced from Statistics New Zealand for the 2006 Census at Area Unit level.  Motorised trips were divided between those using private vehicles (company or individual owned) and those involving bus or rail [1] and allocated among the five sectors.  Pedestrian and bicycle trips were set aside as they are mainly local.
(The source data rounds small numbers for confidentiality reasons. This means flows between areas with few trips are slightly exaggerated or under-counted, although this should not affect this general analysis.  [2])
Getting to the nub – getting past the CBD
Let’s compare trip numbers to the CBD with those bypassing it:
    14% of trips originating in the North are destined for the CBD.  But 19% go past to points south. (62% remain within the north);
    15% of trips originating in the West end up in the CBD, but 37% end up elsewhere on the Isthmus or further south (not all of these need go near the CBD, though).  Only 38% of trips originating in the West terminate in the West - a low level of employment self-sufficiency.
    Only 32% of trips originating in the CBD terminate there; 53% go elsewhere on the Isthmus or and further south;
    64% of trips originating in the South end up in the South, just 7% are destined for the CBD, 26% for other parts of the Isthmus, and 3% for the North or West.
 Origins (Place of Residence) and Destinations (Workplace)
Auckland Journey to Work, 2006
Source: Census of Population 2006, Statistics new Zealand

Around 21,000 trips a day from the West and the North of the region went to the CBD in 2006.  But 38,000 had to get past it (although some from the west would have gone near it at all). 
Significantly fewer north- or west-bound trips indicate more limited employment opportunities in those areas.  But there were still 15,000 from south of the CBD to the north or west.
So, 54,000 trips went past the CBD, nearly as many as destined for it (58,000). And 127,000 went to other parts of the Isthmus.  While the CBD is the largest single destination (around 14% of the city’s total jobs using our definition) the real congestion issue is how to cater for – or reduce -- cross-city commuting, and especially north-south trips that must use the motorway system to drive round it.
Is pouring money into a CBD-rail link really the answer?
Will the proposed city rail link meet the Plan's expectations?  No.  Not just because it does not address cross-city congestion.  But also because in 2006 30% of trips from elsewhere on the Isthmus into the CBD already used PT. In some nearby Isthmus areas the figure was much higher e.g., 50% for Mt Eden North, 40% Newmarket, 42% Sandringham, 41% Newmarket, and 40% Surrey Crescent. And a substantial 26% of commuters from the North and 27% from the South to the CBD also used PT in 2006.  (These figures do not include ferries, which accounted for 7% of PT boardings in the year ending October 2011 – all to the CBD).
And this penetration will have grown with expanding PT patronage.  Look at the past few years: 
Source: October 2011 Statistics Report, Auckland Transport, p.4

We can take heart from this, and the prospect of more of the same, especially as the cost of motoring seems set to increase, and as existing transport services are upgraded and fine tuned.
Contrast this, though, with the fact that only 4% of trips passing the CBD  in 2006 used PT, and 7% of trips destined for locations on the Isthmus other than the CBD.  And rail, even with its planned city link, is not going to make much difference to these figures. 
It must be asked: how we can justify over $2bn in capital spending to raise rail’s share of CBD-focused travel in which PT already plays a large part?  Because we face the prospect of diminishing returns by way the high cost of each additional unit of demand that might be satisfied by spending up large on the rail link, especially because this does not really address where the problem really lies: with cross regional travel. 
There may be more cost effective and enduring measures we can take.
Reducing Congestion:  (1) the Role of Bus Services
Buses account for the bulk of the growth in public transport patronage to date, and will continue to do so whether or not a city rail link is built.
Bus services offer relatively low marginal costs for expansion, route and service flexibility, capacity for continuous improvement to rolling stock, and a better ability to cope with disruption than rail.  They offer wider network capacity and greater passenger convenience and responsiveness.  They are less prone to system-wide disruption.
Given a long-standing legacy of rail transport to a few suburbs it may make sense to incorporate what we already have into a multi-modal system, but putting a lot more money on the line to “benefit” from sunk costs in a system that is inferior to the alternative is not good economics.
Reducing Congestion: (2) Rebalancing Land Use
There has been much analysis, reporting, deliberating, and dithering for over decade about how much and where more employment land might go to allow investment outside the CBD and the Isthmus, to bring down the high costs of industrial land, and to facilitate business investment close to the labour force.  Action is long overdue. 
The Draft Plan falls into much the same trap as the Regional Growth Strategy did 12 years ago, doing little to reassure us that increasing the region’s employment capacity has the priority it needs.  There is passing comment about where it might happen in the Discussion Document People and Economy (p83) ,generalised commitments to development in the northwestern and southern priority areas in the Spatial Plan itself,  and continuing reference to 20 years notional industrial land supply (which we haven't had for some time now) and increasing employment densities to accommodate growth  (Draft Economic Development Strategy, p42).  But there is no discussion of how current imbalances might be acted on or how the relationship between where people might live and work will be addressed other than by building more road and rail capacity.
In any case, the 55,000-70,000 additional jobs proposed for the CBD and a commitment to triple the CBD population which appear to be the land use assumptions underlying the Business Case for the rail link will generate far more demand for travel than can ever be met by PT.  The National Transport Survey, for example, demonstrates that journeys to work accounts for well under 30% of national travel demand (at least on a time basis).
The balance includes travel for personal business, recreation and socialising, shopping, and travel in the course of work favours, all generating dispersed trips at less predictable times than commuting.  These are trips that inevitably lean on private rather than public transport.  No amount of money poured into a rail tunnel will prevent the planned level of intensification from creating a real CBD congestion problem. 
Reducing Congestion: (3) Fine Tuning the Road Network
Already initiatives are being taken that will do a lot to reduce current congestion, though.  One is the completion of the western motorway, connecting west and south Auckland directly.  And the new Victoria Park tunnel recognises that the problem is one of getting past the CBD rather than getting into it.  A further harbour crossing could eventually build much-needed redundancy into the network, reducing the disruptive potential of occasional traffic incidents (although we might question the wisdom of integrating it into the same feeder and distributor roads as the existing Harbour Bridge).
There are other initiatives that might be taken.  The motorway system itself could be reviewed to see just how far it might serve better the arterial needs of Auckland through such measures as relocating on and off ramps to cater for local and intra-city movement.
Reducing Congestion: (4) Road Pricing
The idea of tolling roads to pay for the rail link has been floated.  This acknowledges the uneconomic nature of the latter.  But the benefits to motorists of the rail link by way of lower congestion on roads are likely to be far less than implied by such a tax, if they exist at all. The suggestion does raises important constitutional issues, though, over who can levy a tax in new Zealand, and why.
If the intention is to better reflect the costs of private motoring – in other words charging users – the solution is likely to revolve more sensitive pricing of access to and use of roads than this thinking suggests.  For example, in the foreseeable future vehicle positioning and on-line user charging technologies will enable motorists to pay directly for the costs that they impose on the network.  Adopting this approach to countering congestion, rationalising the use of transport resources, and encouraging sensible land use makes more sense than taxing motorists to fund the capital for expanding the rail system. 
We also know from experience with petrol prices how responsive motorists can be to real increases in the cost of motoring.  And that as the population ages, there is a tendency to rationalise and reduce vehicle use.  Let’s work towards changes around these tendencies rather than impose an expensive and potentially unnecessary element of infrastructure on the city.
Plan for Improvement
By committing to continuous improvement in a bus-based system, completing and refining the road network, and fostering a land use pattern that better matches where people might live and work we can reduce congestion and lower the environmental costs of transport in the short to medium term.. And this will leave us well placed to take advantage of improving technology in vehicle transport (bus and car) and user charging in the medium to long term.
A high cost rail system will reduce this flexibility, and instead lock us into a set of costs and structures that will be more of burden to the city, its residents and businesses, than a benefit.  Continuing to push it at all costs could well be the game breaker for Auckland's Draft Plan.

[1]       Travel by ferry comprises only a very small share of the total and is not identified in the statistics
[2]     Comparing the sum of trips across cells compared with the overall figures provided by Statistics New Zealand suggests that this leads to between a deviation of 5% undercounting (for car based trips) and 7% undercounting (for public transport-based trips).  This is acceptable for the level of generalisation dealt with here.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

"....55,000-70,000 additional jobs proposed for the CBD...."

Not to mention the additional "housing" (apartments etc) that Len Brown and Co wish for.

The whole problem with this sort of "planning", is that when the shift of urban gravity is towards the fringes, the price of land tends to be getting diluted in a downwards direction. but try and reverse that, and what happens? It doesn't matter whether the demand is "natural" or coerced, there will be a far stronger effect on price increases (capital gains for central property owners) than there ever will be in terms of increases in numbers of people.

Either Len Brown and Co are economically illiterate (likely) or they are in bed with the property owners who stand to gain from this.

patrick Troy wrote the following in his 1996 book, "The Perils of Urban Consolidation", which book SHOULD have been the last word in this debate:

"....At its heart the effect of the policy of consolidation is to defend and further entrench central city interests. It fails to recognise the multi-centred functioning of the existing cities. The policy relies on the alleged benefits of a highly centralised fixed rail public transport system without acknowledging to whom the benefits accrue at whose cost......"

- Phil

Tony Randle said...

I also agree with the points you raised and that the CBD Rail Link is probably not going to make much difference and is not likely to be a good use of $2 Billion.

I would also draw your attention to my own analysis of the CBD Rail Link Business Case. This shows that, based on the their own costing figures, if Auckland needs rapid transit through the CBD, a bus tunnel and Bus Rapid Transit would actually cost less and deliver better performance than the propsoed rail tunnel.

Patrick R said...

This is a very poor analysis based on a common but very basic misunderstanding of networks. The entire argument rests on the assumption that the sole purpose and benefit of the CRL is to the CBD. Whereas in fact its primary function is to unlock the value in the whole rail RTN by liberating it from its current single focus on Britomart. Britomart operates as a terminus, like an inter-city station, the CRL will turn it into a Metro style station, an intra-city station. Into 'a' destination not the destination. The CRL will make using rail, by then fast, frequent, and clean electric rail, the quickest way to travel from say, Henderson to Glen Innes, or New Lynn to Manukau. The CRL is about the entire network and about unlocking the capacity in this ROW that has for so long been underutilised.

Of course trips to and from the CBD will still be the backbone of the network as they provide the volumes of riders that enable a frequency of service that makes the network increasingly attractive, but the key to a real network is that it doesn't proscribe particular journeys but rather offers sufficient coverage to suit many users. The current rail network doesn't, and nor is it yet well integrated with the bus network. Changing these two things will transform Auckland by complimenting the already mature private vehicle infrastructure, and in fact enable it to function much better.

So in fact the CRL will perform the very task that the post above starts by assuming it won't.

Patrick R said...

The post above also rest on another common but weak assumption. A simple, but unexamined, opposition between buses and rail is declared, suggesting that by really not spending anything much at all Auckland can be just as connected by adding a couple more buses to our existing road network. Strangely this argument is commonly heard from drivers, or those who think that the auto-dependency of AK is just fine except when they are stuck in congestion. I have never understood why drivers don't want to personally thank every train user in Auckland, and pray for improvement of the network so more reluctant drivers are off the road and out of their way. If the AA for example really cared for the quality of the driving experience in AK they would be cheering for the CRL and every other upgrade. Even NZTA prices the saving TO MOTORISTS of every individual peak rail passenger in AK at $17.42. Yet the idea of more buses, or wobbly nanas, or undergrads in clapped out and breaking down wreaks on the roads will be good for them is hard to accept.

To provide the capacity that the CRL can with any sort road travel, including buses, will completely freeze Auckland's streets. So perhaps the writer is thinking of building a whole lot of new grade separate busways then, like the Northern Busway? These could provide capacity and speed approaching that of the CRL, but at no lower Capex, considerably higher Opex, and where, exactly would you build these things, and then where do you plan to park the buses?
The city itself is already oversaturated with buses, degrading the quality of street life and, ultimately its economic viability.

But then it looks like this kind of over simplistic opposition to the CRL is really based on a devaluing of the whole idea of the city as an urban place at all, a privileging of the suburbs as the ideal. Well be careful, if you want a city with no heart, only the extremities, it won’t be a viable one. You don’t have to like the city centre [So hard to park! Malls are so comfortingly familiar] but the success of the autodependent fringes requires a successful centre And in fact it is vital for the whole nation because, as Havard economist Ed Glaseser observed: ‘There is a near-perfect correlation between urbanisation and prosperity among nations.’

And the CRL is the perfect way to both liberate the heart of AK from traffic saturation [including buses] and to efficiently unlock a region wide network already largely there to compliment the road [and fossil fuel] one we already have. We can’t afford not to build it.

Phil McDermott said...

Thanks, Patrick for your response. You have made a number of presumptions about my knowledge of networks and how they operate which I guess call for a response.
Despite your reference to how dense networks facilitate cross-regional travel the proposed investment in rail will not create one by any stretch of the imagination, even if it is an improvement on what we have now. This is a simple matter of geography.
The for the CRL rests on pumping up demand through creating TODs on a new inner rail loop (K Road, Newton, Aotea) and at short haul localities (New Lynn, Panmure), and on substantial growth in CBD employment and housing. If these things don’t happen at the scale assumed in the “Business Case” then the case for the CRL falls over. The high risk this investment represents needs a much stronger justification than offered so far.
Why do you consider the suburbs "privileged" when you acknowledge the interdependence of the different parts of the city. Without prosperous suburbs we will not have a prosperous CBD. Hence my concern for how suburbs might best be served. Ideally, the council would move to quickly release additional employment land close to where people live. This would do a lot to cut down cross-regional travel.
The success of rail depends on preserving and promoting an outmoded and increasingly costly land use pattern. It also depends on extensive park and ride facilities – so we will be parking more cars in and around the stations – something that creates its own problems, especially around TODs. And we will need buses serving stations to achieve the sort of integration needed to push up rail demand (this assumes no consumer resistance).
Investment in buses as demand dictates makes economic sense given the network is in place. The trade off between capital costs and operating costs is an inter-generational issue. It enables offloading some risk to the private sector. It leaves us well placed to respond changes in circumstance – supply innovation and changing demand.
Sure, we can introduce bus lanes, or simply bus priority systems on the network. We can (and do already) penetrate the residential market utilising the radial network on the Isthmus. We can use the arterial network (mainly motorways) beyond the Isthmus. Bus feeder stations can operate between suburban centres at a scale that limits local disruption and accesses far more households and serves more destinations than rail system.
But this is not a bus versus rail issue. It’s about understanding region-wide demand for public transport. It means thinking constructively and openly about how transport demand and technology might evolve and about alternative land uses, alternative economic outcomes, and changing behaviour. It means devising public transport that enables us to respond to need without creating a fiscal millstone. And it’s also about the responsibilities of democratic governance and decision making: public transport should address the diverse needs of the transport disadvantaged and not just the army of white collar workers who dwell mainly on the Isthmus or the lower North Shore.

Andrew Atkin said...

Just some thoughts:

I think some of the appeal that people have for rail systems going into the CBD is that you (supposedly) get lots of people in the CBD but not their traffic. I can understand the appeal of this, but of course you can get the same effect from buses, and obviously to a far greater degree due to their hugely greater demand-catchment potential compared to rail.

But you hate those diesel engines screaming away at every stop? Ask for series-electric hybrid buses and make the rule that they must operate in electric-only operation mode within the CBD. It also makes tunneling for bus ways (if you must) cheaper because electric operation only allows you to reduce tunnel ventilation requirements.

But you want the buses to be carbon neutral? Well rather than building an electric rail line why not employ induction power for buses (and other)? And why not just make it a congestion charged road -rather than a bus way as such- so its surplus capacity doesn't have to go to waste?

http://www.haloipt.com/#n_home-intro

dan carter said...

How much is it going to cost for the batteries store enough power to get the busses into and back out of the city?

Most hybrid systems just recover braking energy to assist the petrol engine and thus reduce fuel consumption a few percent. They can only run on pure electric for a few minutes. The batteries to support pure electric drive for an extended period will put the cost through the roof, as well as the weight giving worse fuel consumption/emmissions when running on diesel.

You're better off putting in overhead wires and running trolley busses like they do in Wellington. But then you may as well put rails underneath the overhead wires and get the lower running costs of rail.

Phil McDermott said...

Back to the future, Dan? Light rail (trams) functioned particularly well on Auckland's radial road system through to the 1950s, delivering commuters to the residential interstices (we called them suburbs back then, not sprawl). But as settlement intensified around the the Great South Road and began to extend north after the Harbour Bridge was built, it became more efficient to use motorways and private vehicles and buses for medium-haul transit and the economics of tram (and train) travel declined.
But relativities change, and it may become more efficient to reinstitute light rail some time in the future.
Who knows? I don't, but I am pretty confident that sinking money we don't have to lock us into a heavy rail, line haul system of limited flexibility, limited reach, and finite capacity will constrain future options.

dan carter said...

Tram travel didn't decline because the economics deteriorated as the city grew. Tram travel declined because the tracks got ripped up to make way for more cars.

The leaders of the day made a visionary gamble on the private motorcar, and it worked for a while.

Unfortunately they didn't foresee the incredible grow of car ownership and numbers of single occupancy vehicles causing peak hour gridlock that can only be alleviated by never ending motorway construction destroying the integrity of many neighborhoods.

I am pretty confident sinking 10s of billions of money we don't have on never ending motorway construction, locking us into the automobile as the only travel option, at a time of ever more expensive petrol and flat traffic volumes, is not wise spending.

For sure the car will exist as the primary transport for a long long time, but in our major cities we need to invest wisely for the future, in ways that give us the most bang for the buck, not invest in past trends.

Andrew Atkin said...

Dan: A hybrid bus can be tailored as you want it. You can have a quiet, small diesel generator running near constantly with the batteries providing peak-power needs for acceleration, greatly reducing noise (I think buses like this already exist?). You wont need too much battery capacity for an installation like this.

Gridlock: Use congestion-charging for demand control and get some pricing rationality into transport. Then buses, car-pooling, telecommuting, shuttle-buses etc can naturally pick up the difference.

Patrick R said...

Andrew you make the classic mistake of focusing on the technology instead of the Right Of Way. What makes for effective PT at the city wide level is the degree of grade separation of the vehicle not whether it has rubber tyres or steel tyres. This is why the Northern Busway is counted as part of the RTN network along with rail [still regrettable that the busway losses its ROW on the bridge, but this can be fixed].

And in order for PT to work in Auckland what is need is effective extension of the RTN network, that is real grade separate ROW for transit. In some parts this will be best achieved with busways eg AMETI, the Northwestern motorway, and in other areas completing the impressively growing rail network is best, The CRL, the Airport line, and even the SE and the Shore [regardless of Phil's assumptions]. Fact: Real ROW is no cheaper to build for buses than trains but much more expensive to run.

Yes electric drive is vital too, but will not improve anything if that bus is just as stuck in traffic with every other vehicle.

Andrew Atkin said...

Patrick: I'm a huge advocate for congestion charging for demand management, to clean up road-based transport. I predicted Auckland council won't be though because they want roads sick to help "justify" rail (they've basically got train-sets tattooed across their chests, so they can't and won't see reason now).

Rail is not more efficient than buses. And buses can operate in express mode, without too much stop-and-go, and on roads protected from severe congestion (if we wish). For rail to have significant catchment it must allow for park-and-ride and be supported by buses. The truth is rail, on the whole, is grossly unworkable compared to buses in a polycentric city like Auckland.

Please don't underestimate technology. Soon enough we will have platooning cars and buses - it's simple stuff, and it's being developed now. There's your capacity issue gone.

Patrick R said...

Ah Andrew, like the post above so many assumption, 1. Rail does not need park and ride to expand its catchment; it needs integrated ticketing [to remove the transfer penalty] and coordination with feeder buses. Both coming. And happy news; this means the number half empty fume belching buses trundling inefficiently and slowly all the way to the city can be greatly reduced, and out of the way of other road users. 2. Rail does have a lower Opex than a bus fleet, especially electric rail, [also coming] the two big operating costs are humans and diesel. One driver; 360 passengers, electricity way cheaper than diesel. Not to mention all the externalities; noise, fumes, carbon taxes, future oil shocks.... I do not underestimate technology, and I know a good one when I see one. And if you're interested in powering transport electrically it is very inefficient to be dragging heavy batteries around compared to using an external supply.

You think Auckland is uniquely polycentric? Really?, no, it's just that the rail network needs joining up and liberating from its termination at Britomart.

Andrew Atkin said...

Patrick: Integrated ticketing will help with transfer inconvenience - but just a little. I've already essentially responded to your points in the last post, so I will just recommend you check out Google's progress with its driverless cars. This is where technology is going - and very quickly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp9KBrH8H04

Imagine an automated bus reduced to a few shuttle-bus instead (no driver so that's fine), operating as a series-type hybrid on congestion-charged roads. And possibly using direct electrification via induction on the main roads. This will be vastly more efficient than rail or buses today, and with hugely greater demand catchment.

We have better options.

Patrick R said...

All good, but your bias is showing again. The technologies you mention will be no cheaper, in fact certainly more expensive, than the proven and already extensively in place, dazzling technology of electric rail. If we had no rail corridor, and in fact no preexisting city, and were starting from scratch, and if these things were ready to buy off the shelf, they may well be a good choice. Meanwhile down on planet earth... Now the Chinese are neither technophobes, nor fools, nor much bothered by nostalgia yet they are choosing again and again to build electric rail in their cities large and small, many cities of around 1 million people. Have a read below. Oh, and Paris is now full of driverless trains, so you could still get your new tech fix.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/weekly/2011-12/30/content_14354880.htm

Andrew Atkin said...

Patrick:

Perspective. Even if it cost $50,000 of 'techno' for each automated shuttle-bus (and this was just an example), it would pay for itself in maybe less than 6 months. A shuttle bus can achieve much greater productivity per-seat than a train because it's quick (or can be if we employ proper demand management on roads), and you don't send the entire fleet out to the end of the trip like you have to with all the train cars - only 1 or 2 shuttles go to the trip end, the rest can stay nearer the center more closely matching real demand. So you get faster average turn-around per seat, and therefore more productivity and efficiency. As catchment is much greater you can achieve higher patronage per shuttle-bus, so it's a lot more efficient on that level too.

They're not available yet (though the components can be bought off the shelf today), but if you're thinking in decades long time-lines for investment, then you have to think realistically in terms of where technology is moving and what it mean. And that goes for the Chinese too.

It's not about tech fix, it's about saving money and improving service. Automation can and will radically modify the optimum form for public transport in that it can dissolve into a structure of many small vehicles, rather than a few big ones. And this provides for a vastly better service match for a city like Auckland in particular. Auckland transport demand is overwhelmingly not line-haul, it's everywhere to everywhere.

Patrick R said...

It is your opinion that integrated ticketing will help 'just a little'. Let's look at Perth then, from the late 1980s they electrified and extended the rail network, built a connecting underground link in the higher density inner city, created a zone system with integrated ticketing and built suburban and ex-urban stations as integrated bus transfers. Result? patronage up from the 10 million rides p/a [where AK is now at] to over 120 million. Allowing a great walkable city centre, fast and frequent connections between other centres, and great suburban and semi-rural but viable lifestyles for those that prefer them. If we are to follow this same route [and we are starting to and trying to] and do it well, there is every reason to expect that Auckland can have these improvements too. And it is all founded on transferring, something actively discouraged by both the fare system and the physical and routing systems currently in Auckland.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-19/overcrowded-trains-in-perth/3578556

Of course this still requires buses, and even shuttles, and they could be hybrid, or fuel cell, or whatever, but these are only part of the answer as is the rail backbone. Again it is the ROW and the completeness of the network that matters.

Patrick R said...

While i wait for summer to arrive it might also be good to ask how your congestion charging might work in AK? I'm all for it- in theory. In practice the two poster children for it worldwide are London and Singapore. Both cities with two vital things that Auckland lacks; efficient, mature, fast and reliable transit networks; and strong primary centres. Until we actually have a functioning alternative to driving I can't see road pricing working in Auckland. Perhaps by strongly link the income from the former to construction of the latter you might get buy-in, but also strong opposition from the road lobby....?

So how would it work? By say pricing motorway use all you will achieve is flooding the local road network with avoiders, which incidentally will further clog up your bus/shuttle based transit system as well as make for an underused resource in NZTA's hands and over stressed local roads belonging to ratepayers. Or do you imagine some GPS time based system to price time periods to achieve load spreading, is that it?.... every car to be hooked up to a satellite. I don't know enough about the costs here but I am wary of road pricing methods including tolling as they always seem to absorb almost all their revenue in the mechanisms of capture and admin, and are therefore hard to argue for against the efficiencies of petrol tax. And it would be great to have the revenue to invest in a transit system but it's all a bit chicken and egg.... we do need that transit alternative first before we price people off the only viable, if expensive, system currently functioning...

And remember all forms of road pricing are regressive, ie they hit the poorer disproportionately, the very people already suffering from unaffordable transport costs especially by being forced out to underconnected distant suburbs. Transport poverty cannot be separated from housing unaffordability.

Patrick R said...

Oooops, apologies, number above for Perth is 'only' 60 million and from the 1990s, it was Vancouver that went from 10 million in the late 80s to 120 million in 2010

Andrew Atkin said...

Patrick: Congestion charging:

I would say the best system (and there are different ways of doing this) would be to RF chip all cars, give everyone an account, and put an RF reader for where ever you want an electronic gate. Send the information on usage across the wireless internet (not expensive - it's just texts). The system can 'gate' any on-off point for peanuts. And yes time codes should be employed so people can see real costs at any given time from the internet. Administration can be almost totally automated.
You can also use the same system for parking charging.

There is no fundamental reason why road pricing needs to be expensive.

Note: I personally prefer only tolling enough to control demand, to ensure the roads are not under-utilized in the off-peaks. Poor people should love it because it means faster and cheaper buses, and cheaper shopping from reduced freight costs. And also a stronger economy which supports better wages.