New Motorway Lane

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Appearing in the letters section today of the NZ Herald:

In opening a fourth motorway lane between Newmarket and Greenlane, the New Zealand Transport Agency claims benefits of over a million dollars week to the Auckland economy, brought about by peak hour journey time savings of up to five minutes.

It is difficult to understand how this claimed economic benefit is calculated. No commuter using this section of motorway at peak times is likely to arrive at work any earlier or leave work any later – workers travel on their own time, not their employers. For a while they may enjoy an extra five minutes in bed or an extra bowl of cornflakes, but this is unlikely to add up to a million a week for Auckland’s economy.

Courier and freight companies that utilise this section of road more frequently at peak times may enjoy some cost savings, but these would hardly add up to $1m a week either.

The NZTA’s reasoning appears seriously flawed, which is a concern given the billions currently being allocated by central Government to motorway projects, while petrol prices soar to record levels.

On the otherhand, if NZTA want to use this type of economic evaluation, then the CBD rail tunnel must be worth tens of millions a week, since a single railway line can carry 10x more than a single motorway lane in an hour at peak. The CBD rail tunnel will also save more than 5 minutes at peak for Western Line passengers, who can also be productive on their mobile phones at the same time, checking emails and texts.

Queues of Traffic on New Motorway – Try Honking

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Seeing the article in the Herald the other day on the queues of traffic that form when you try an merge five lanes into two, made me think of this video from the Onion:

Tired Of Traffic? A New DOT Report Urges Drivers: ‘Honk’

Freeways no magic time-saving bullet >>> Same for New Zealand?

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CBT’s Jon Reeves found this article in The Age yesterday, causing us to wonder when New Zealand will start listening to public tranport advice from overseas studies?  Somehow we seem to think we are different and that even if more roads don’t work for other countries, they will still work here.   The Age reports on the fact the Melbourne’s new freeways have produced no time savings, as surprise surprise, the roads fill up as soon as they are built:

BILLIONS of dollars spent building freeways across Melbourne since 1995 have failed to deliver the spectacular time savings promised to justify their construction, a study to be published today shows.

Transport analyst John Odgers, from RMIT’s school of management – in the first analysis of its kind for Melbourne – has reviewed the promises made by consulting groups whose work was used to successfully argue for several big freeways built in Melbourne since the 1990s.

I particularly like this bit:

The average speed Melburnians travel on freeways today is 78 km/h, the same as it was in 1995.

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Why building motorways sometimes makes no sense

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I’m reading an excellent book at the moment – Resilient Cities by Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley and Heather Boyer. I commented on this book a few posts ago, with particular reference to how pathetic our preparedness for peak oil is and how stupid Treasury’s oil price predictions are. I have just got up to reading the chapter which relates to transportation issues, and there are certainly some interesting points in it.

The basic premise is that for a city’s transportation system to be resilient – that is to be able to adapt to the changing world that we face over the next few decades – it simply can’t be as auto-dependent as many American cities, as well as Auckland, are at the moment. Whilst electric cars may come along and be the answer to our problems at some point in the future, to properly ensure that the effects of peak oil and climate change are not too horrific there is simply no alternative to making cities more public transport oriented.

One point that I found particularly interesting, before I get on to explaining the pointlessness of building more motorways, is the relationship between increased public transport use and decreased car use. Often it is simply thought of as a one-to-one relationship: that each increased ride for public transport is one fewer trip made in the car. However, it appears as though the relationship is actually stronger than that: that “there is an exponential relationship between increased transit use and declining car use.” This is further explained:

This helps explain why use of cars by inner-city residents in Melbourne is ten times lower than that of fringe residents, though transit use by inner-city residents is only three times greater. The reason is that when people commit to transit, they may sell a car and even more closer to the transit, eventually leading to lan use that is considerably less car dependent.

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