The Failure of Australasian Conservative Governments on Transport

20 09 2013

Excuse me this post. I am an Australian living in New Zealand (yes the opposite of the normal story. I’m part of the backwash.) But it’s worth keeping an eye on what is happening west of the Tasman as what is happening in New Zealand is happening in Australia too.

In what sounds awfully familiar, in most places in Australia public transport ridership is up, especially urban rail, as so too is urban cycling rates. Young people aren’t flocking to get their car licenses straight away and motoring passenger kilometres are down. Smart mayors in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are building cycle lanes and trying to build more, and the normal suspects; the automobile associations, the mainstream media (and radio shock-morons), and certain politicians are giving them a hard time about it. Sydney and Melbourne are soon to or already have hit peak rail capacity, but instead of adding rail capacity there are plans to spend more on motorways.

The full horror of what a Tony Abbott Prime Ministership means to Australia is finally dawning on them. Within the first two weeks he’s purged a few heads of government departments, made himself the Minister for Women to get back at all the feminists who called him a misogynist, abolished the Department of Climate Change, told the Clean Energy Fund to close down (where he is working his way down the wishlist of his puppetmasters at the IPA), withdrawn federal funding of the Tonsley line duplication in Adelaide, announced the support of the East-West Link freeway in Melbourne (and not the Melbourne Metro project), and announced WestConnex is going ahead in Sydney.  (A very good article on the Conversation is here : Abbott’s transport priorities drive Australia into the past )

Westconnex is to be 33km of freeway widening on the M4 and M5 corridors, and linking them together with road tunnels. Costing more than $10 billion dollars, it will allow many more cars in peak times to hit the CBD, as if Sydney didn’t have enough of them already. The whole project seems to be a sop to the private tollway operators and to the construction industry. It will lock future generations into being motorists instead of having public transport options.

And of course there are better ideas for Sydney.

Sydney Light Rail Orbital with Feeder Routes

Sydney Light Rail Orbital with Feeder Routes

These are interesting videos about WestConnex from a man named Gavin Gatenby from EcoTransit Sydney:

What is the wisdom of building more and more road infrastructure at enormous cost just to handle peak commuting times, especially in a time of falling demand (except for induced demand caused by the new roads themselves)?  Petrol prices are high and going up faster than inflation in the medium and long term. Wages are static, if not falling so less people are going to be able to afford to drive anyway. Where do all the extra cars going into the CBD actually go? How is locking in car dependency in anyway sustainable?

It seems in Sydney the real answers to congestion can be found by listening to active and public transport advocates and not those pushing PPP construction projects, skewing the only policy response to be building motorways. If Sydney has traffic problems caused by congestion on its motorways then hey, yeah, building more is the right answer.

keepdiggingSimilarly in the Wellington region the spending on the National Government’s Roads of National Significance project is going to be spending billions of dollars on road projects and is going to have all the same problems which is going to lock us into further auto-dependency, congestion and pollution. The net result of building all the Wellington Airport to Levin projects in the RoNS is going to be a massively congested and polluted core of Wellington all at a bargain cost of a couple of billions of dollars.


There are other answers. GenZero’s Fast Forward Wellington is a good starting point, as so too is the Greens Transport page.

Do we really need a 6 lane Cobham Drive? (Even with the Mt Vic tunnel duplication 6 lanes seems excessive)
Or Transmission Gully or the Kapiti Expressway? (Why not build a Pukerua Bay bypass, up the frequency on the rail line to 15 minutes or better, extend the train service to Otaki (and eventually Levin), build Raumati and Otaihanga stations and build a local road over the Waikanae river?).
Or the Peka-Peka to Otaki motorway? (why not just build an Otaki bypass?)
Or the Basin Flyover?

It seems that National in New Zealand (and the Liberal and National parties in Australia) are willing to spend billions of dollars locking us into one solution, which is not necessarily a solution that works, for a problem (congestion on the motorways in say 2030) that may not necessarily exist whilst ignoring practical and affordable improvements in active and public transport?  Why in Australasia are the conservatives just so bad at transport policy? Is it purely ideological? Do they equate public transport with bus driver and train driver unions? Do they think that riding in a train carriage and not a ministerial car is some evil form of socialism? Do they think riding a bike to work is some eco-terrorist hippy plot? Is it all about enriching their mates in the roads construction industries? Do they not care about air pollution? Why are they happy to piss billions away in building roads without doing proper economic and environmental studies, but fight tooth and nail for different rules to apply to PT projects? Why do they ignore benefit cost ratios for roads (which for some of the RoNS are even below 1.0), but insist on high BCRs for rail? Why do they ignore the high BCRs for projects like bikes on buses? Why do they act like clueless, middle-aged men who haven’t ridden bicycles or buses for 30 years?

It is time there was a moratorium on the RoNS and for an independent assessment on the cost and usefulness of each part of it. The next government in New Zealand in 2014 (and boy oh boy do I hope for a change of government) should scrap the RoNS as they stand, and only build the parts of the projects that stand up to scrutiny. The next government should also have a balanced transport policy, which should fund footpaths, and bike lanes, buses and light and heavy rail as appropriate, building only the minimum of roads that are actually needed, which in reality are very, very few. New Zealand has a chance of correcting it’s errant path in 2014. Scarily for Australians it has to wait until 2016. I hope that their new Prime Minister doesn’t do too much long term damage to its cities.

Whatever the answer to our future woes, voting for a conservative is always the wrong answer.

Nice frequent transport map of Wellington

19 09 2013

I came across this handsome map by Brett Palmer entitled Wellington City Frequent Transport.

WellyFrequentBusComparing it to the proposed bus network coming soon it looks that the only change needed on this map is a new line to Brooklyn and Kingston.

International Take a Sickie and Ride Your Bike Day

7 09 2013

Historically many cities have Ride a Bike to Work Days. Wellington has had them before (and is having another one in February I think). Washington DC too. They are generally good fun, and you might get a good breakfast, meetup with a few thousand other cyclists and still get to work on time. For the go-getters who can organise getting out of bed in time and making sure their bicycle is roadworthy for the occasion they are brilliant. But what about for us slackers? I have taken up the challenge for us all. Here is a new event, completely disorganised, without any set plans. The date is even flexible, but on October 25th this year, which in Taiwan is a public holiday, so on November 1st for them, or any other day that you don’t feel like going to work, celebrate:


Simply wake up on the morning of Friday October 25th, call in sick to work, and then have a bit of a sleep in, before getting up late, and going for a ride on your bike.

Sick days are sometimes called mental health days, and what is better for your mental health than riding your bike and getting that wind in your hair feeling?

Feel free to share to all your slacker friends.

What Riddiford Street could look like

7 09 2013

This is definitely worth drawing attention to.

As I said on my post about the Island Bay cycle routes I am of the opinion that there should be separated cycleways up Adelaide Road and up Riddiford Street (amongst many others). At the Sexify Blog they’re much of the same opinion, at least about Riddiford Street. Here’s their photoshop of what Riddiford Street could look like past the hospital:

Very cool methinks.

A special mention for photoshopping on cycle paths skills goes to Mr A. Smith’s effort on the Great Harbour Way at Ngauranga that shows either a giant child or a small woman.


I hope this helps Alastair:

The Capital choking on traffic congestion due to the RoNSzi scheme

2 09 2013

Today there was a bit of a hoo haa in the local press about the Arup and Opus report that the Greater Wellington Council commissioned on the effects of the RoNS on the Wellington region, but then embarrassingly the GWRC has been trying to ignore ever since.

It seems that the Airport to Levin corridor part of the Roads of National Significance is going to have quite an effect. Because of Transmission Gully and the Sandhills Motorway projects the congestion in Kapiti and Porirua (ie Mana and Pukerua Bay) is going to fall and with the Petone to Grenada project Hutt Road congestion is also going to fall a bit, but with induced demand and extra trips the now efficient roads are going to funnel many, many more cars onto Wellington and Wellington just isn’t going to cope.

Because reducing congestion is one of the reasons that the RoNS are getting foisted onto the public it is a bit embarrassing for the government and for the pro-roads part of the GWRC, since the RoNS are going to fail to solve the problem they are designed to solve, namely congestion. Because that’s generally a stuff up and because of their staggering expense, the government should really go back to first principles and start again on its transport policies.

There seems to be some confusion whether the report has been made public yet (although it’s been funded by GWRC rateapayers so they bloody well deserve to be able to see it) and there are accusations of leaks and although it isn’t too hard to find on the interwebs I still feel a little reluctant to post the whole thing, so I’ll just post some highlights. I really hope that it is officially released through appropriate channels very soon now.

Firstly the report assumes the RoNS projects and the Petone-Grenada link get built. It doesn’t entertain other options. It also assumes that there are no public or active transport improvements and it is just business as usual on those fronts with no great modal shift to bikes or trains and trams, and it assumes that parking capacity in the CBD will grow to meet demand (like where?). It also doesn’t assume any oil shocks or similar. It does however assume continued growth of car trips, ignoring any evidence of peak-car (just like the business case for the RoNS does).

You can see that graphically. I think some of its assumptions are wrong. I think the green and red will both grow especially if we build separated cycleways and we build light rail to Newtown and Kilbirnie.

TripsByMode-AM peakThen here is a graph of vehicle to capacity ratios at key bottlenecks in the AM peak with those assumptions. The higher the V/C the worse the congestion. There are some improvements by 2031 in some places and some things are getting worse. State Highway 2 seems to fare the worst.

VCatBottlenecksThis is the most interesting graph in the report.  Below LOS D means below a level of service where the volume to capacity is greater than 0.80, i.e. congested. And it can be seen that in Wellington many more vehicle kilometres are going to be spent waiting in traffic.  In fact it means that congestion in Wellington is going to be up 80% with greatly increased fuel imports to match.

CongestionGraphically that means that instead of these current conditions of 2011:2011LOSPlotThat it is going to look like this by 2041. (There is a lot more orange and red)

2041LOSPlotTo put it mildly, that’s a bit of a debacle that we are going to pay billions of dollars to do to ourselves. In fact so much traffic would completely destroy the city. There has to be a better way than overbuilding motorway capacity that induces demand that then dumps thousands of extra cars onto a small city whose built form is dictated by the steep topography and the collection of tram based suburbs that it largely still is.

The RoNSzi scheme is unsustainable financially or environmentally. In a time when cities need to be talking about sustainability and alternative transport here we have a 1950s solution that is no solution at all.

Cycling in Tunnels safely

1 09 2013

What do the Kelburn, Northland and Seatoun tunnels have in common?

Seatoun Tunnel

Seatoun Tunnel

Northland Tunnel

Northland Tunnel

Kelburn Tunnel

Kelburn Tunnel

They were all featured in a post I did 4 years ago, called Cycling in Wellington’s Tunnels,

They were all built originally for trams,

And they’d all benefit from two signs at each of their entrances.