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RLTS Released Tomorrow

Tomorrow the 2010-2040 Regional Land Transport Strategy will be released for consultation. This is a key strategy that will guide Auckland’s transport development over the next thirty years, so I am very glad to see that it is a well balanced document, providing around $21.5 billion for public transport improvements and operating costs over the next thirty years, compared to $24 billion for road improvements and maintenance. While I am clearly a public transport advocate, I do recognise that investment in roading is also very important (after all, buses run along roads too!) Therefore, it is good to see a transport strategy that is, at last, well balanced in terms of its funding priorities.

Christine Rose, the chairperson of the hardworking Regional Transport Committee – who have spent much of the last year working on this strategy – has written the strategy’s forward, which is worthy of inclusion here:

The opening of Britomart in 2003 marked a turning point in the revival of public transport in Auckland. It set a new standard in quality public transport infrastructure which was followed by the opening of the North Shore Busway in 2008 and rail station refurbishment across the network.

The 2005 Regional Land Transport Strategy supported this vision of a modernized public transport system, led by investment in trains, buses and ferries. Significant progress has been made in the past five years to deliver an integrated, safe, affordable, responsive and sustainable land transport system that supports Auckland’s role in the national economy and aspiring to international best practice.

This 2010 strategy sets the direction for the region’s transport system for the next 30 years. It builds on the momentum already generated and continues to support renewed investment in public transport. Massive patronage growth vindicates the region’s investment in public transport, and leads to economic development, increased productivity, jobs created and urban form improvements. Constructing an underground rail link through the CBD will mean more than 200,000 people living and working within 30 minutes travel of the CBD. It will transform Britomart from a terminal into a through station, with benefits for the whole region, enabling a higher frequency of trains, faster journeys from the west, and a rail link to the airport.

There will inevitably be scepticism over perceptions that this is a ‘green’ transport strategy because it places increasing importance on developing public transport and anticipating and responding to sustainability challenges such as ‘peak oil’ and climate change, despite the Government’s priority of developing national roads. Roads have their place in any transport system as do trains, ferries and buses particularly in urban areas. A balanced investment is needed to ensure Auckland and Aucklanders are able to achieve their full economic and social potential with minimised environmental costs.

A balanced investment includes effective integration of transport, with the development of a more compact and high quality urban form, supporting people to move away from dependence on cars and reducing the impact the transport network has on the environment. Transport produces 18 per cent of national carbon dioxide emissions, of which Auckland contributes 85 per cent.

By 2051, around 2.3 million people will be living in the region, almost double the present population. Given that transport issues already impact on the movement and health of Auckland’s 1.3 million people it is imperative that this strategy not only identify what is needed to enable our land transport system to cope with this growth but also to endure, and support the changing economic environment for the greater good.

Road and public transport users benefit from bus, rail, ferry and walking and cycling improvements. The region’s roads become less congested, particularly important for moving freight. With the urban motorway system almost complete we can now focus on improving the operation of arterial roads, literally the arteries of local and international trade.

I thank all those involved in creating this strategy. Dedication, vision and the willingness to respond to what Auckland needs are defining qualities. The Regional Transport Committee continues to welcome comments and feedback from the public and stakeholders on the direction and priorities contained in this strategy, before it is formally published in April 2010.

In terms of the funding split, there’s an interesting graph on page 49 of the document that shows how the RLTS anticipates the region’s transport money will be divided over the next thirty years. It is comforting to see that, unlike most other transport documents, in the later years we are seeing a tailing off of spending on new motorways and a focus on building and operating an effective public transport network:funding-splits In terms of public transport infrastructure investment – which my eyes always seem to focus on – the big spend items during the first 10 years (2010-2020) include completing electrification and building the CBD Rail Tunnel. I am exceptionally happy that someone has finally put a timeframe on the construction of the CBD Rail Tunnel – although of course it will need central government support before it can get the necessary funding. During the 2020-2030 period there’s not so much spending on public transport infrastructure – perhaps the proposed busways take precedent during that time – while in the last period we see the construction of the airport rail line, the Avondale-Southdown line and anything else that hasn’t already been done.

While nothing particularly new is proposed here, for the first time there is a real commitment to actually completing many of the projects that have been floating around for decades. By 2040 all the red dashed lines should actually be completed:2040networkIt is of great credit to this strategy that there are only two real issues I have with it. The first is that I am still of the opinion that the Manukau-Botany-Panmure RTN line should be built as rail, rather than as a busway. This is because there are not existing bus links between Panmure and the CBD, whereas there is an existing railway line. For this RTN to work as a busway we would either need to build a busway between Panmure and the CBD – which would be enormously expensive and difficult – or force everyone to transfer onto a train at Panmure station. The second thing that I think should be changed is designating a future RTN line along the Northwest motorway, which would form a future Northwest Busway. As I have detailed previously, it would be pretty easy to construct a busway along SH16 – and I think it would be pretty successful too (as it serves a different part of west Auckland than the train line).

Perhaps the big issue that remains is how this will all be funded. The total cost over 30 years to implement this strategy is estimated to be around $40-45 billion. This sounds like an awfully large amount, but works out as “only” around $1.5 billion a year – fairly similar to what is spent on transport per year at the moment. So the total funding level may be relatively manageable, which leaves the main issue being how the available funding is divided. The current system of funding state highways 100% from petrol taxes, local roads 50% and rail from other sources altogether is unlikely to be suitable to implement this strategy – which brings us back to the necessity for one pool of transport funds with all projects having equal access to it.

All in all, it’s definitely a good strategy. I just want it to actually happen – and to ensure it does we will need to change the way the system works.

13 comments to RLTS Released Tomorrow

  • Jeremy Harris

    There is a mistake on that map… They have the NW motorway as a QTN…

  • I think that’s deliberate – as it will run quite a lot of bus routes along it. I think it should be an RTN. I think the location of Papatoetoe is off though.

  • Jeremy Harris

    I was under the impression all SHs were QTNs…

    Overall excellent, a few issues I’ll be pointing out in my submission but minor things really…

  • “The total cost over 30 years to implement this strategy is estimated to be around $40-45 billion. This sounds like an awfully large amount, but works out as “only” around $1.5 billion a year”

    No it doesn’t. You exclude the cost of capital, which is invisible, so interest needs to be applied to this, and of course this is in today’s dollars. So the figures would have to increase according to real price inflation for what you are buying over that time.

    We need to move from PAYGO which means capital is paid for by current road users, to spread the cost of capital over the depreciated life of projects. It would smooth out bubbles of big projects, but also mean that future users pay the full capital cost for what they use, not just the maintenance of it.

    This isn’t libertarian, it’s actually how virtually every other sector of the economy works.

    Sadly this RLTS is a wishlist swansong from an organisation facing abolition, which is not what RLTSs were meant to be. The last government tried to move RLTS’s from being wishlists (like they always were) to prioritisation within the declared budgets of NZTA and local authorities in the 10 year financial forecast of NZTA and council LTCCPs. While you might like the content of it, this does not deliver within the funding envelope. This is because it attempts to do a 30 year strategy, when it should be 10 years.

    There is nothing stopping ARC from having its own 30 year strategy, outside the RLTS framework. They should have been separate, but because this is a wishlist from an outgoing organisation it will have precious little influence on anything. Unlike RLTSs for other regions, I wouldn’t waste my time submitting on it – it will be history in a year’s time.

    RLTSs were a joke until comparatively recently, public libraries are littered with these political wishlists dreamt up by those who never faced confronting voters with tax increases to pay for them, this one harks back to that era.

    It would make far more sense to focus on the ARC LTCCP update, since that is about the things ARC can control. Not as sexy as an RLTS, but far far more influential and binding.

  • Liberty, I think this is the ARC saying that the government’s roads fetishism does not work for Auckland, and that instead we need a balanced transportation policy. This strategy has roughly a 50/50 split between funding for public transport and funding for roading. If that’s not balanced I don’t know what is.

    If the RLTS simply has to follow what the Minister of Transport wished for, my word there might as well be no point having local government.

  • Jeremy Harris

    Let me help you Josh, translate “wishlist” for “Scott doesn’t like it”…

  • Now if it had things like spending $2 billion on a crazy Puhoi-Wellsford motorway that only carries 15,000 people a day…. then I’d call it a wishlist.

    Fortunately, the RLTS barely mentions that road of National stupidity at all.

  • Admin: I don’t have a problem with the ARC saying what is wishes, but the RLTS is a statutory document and exists for a purpose. That purpose is to express regional priorities within the likely funding framework from both central and local government. Naturally it can be different, and I was not expressing a view on the content, but the scale of the content and the timeframe within which it is expressed. If ARC has a 10 year RLTS that is all about public transport, reflecting the funding forecasts from the LTCCP and NLTP financial forecasts, then fine, but that isn’t what it is.

    It’s been used as a political document rather than a planning document, which devalues it, and means it can be easily dismissed.

    Jeremy: You’re not helpful. Josh has honest intent, you’re just out of your depth and afraid to admit it. I understand the statutes involved, since I was involved in drafting them. I haven’t commented on the content itself, or perhaps you haven’t noticed that in your effort to belittle my point.

  • Jeremy Harris

    Out of my depth… Good one… Or could it be were all just completely sick of you pushing your same boring agenda over and over again and choose not to engage..?

    Grow a sense of humour Scott…

    But okay then… The job of the RLTS should be to deliver a plan for implementing a system that delivers what the region will require by a certain date, if there is a funding shortfall then that should be indentified during the period of implementation and the least beneficial projects eliminated to come under the funding cap… If that is not how the statutes current read then you didn’t do a very good job… Time frame should be up to the council, they are the elected officials, I do not see any point in completing a plan that will deliver less than what is needed, it creates pressure for needed funding and a clear idea of the overall final goal if projects need to be eliminated…

    The council have my full support by doing this, instead of rigidly sticking to a statute a libertarian is claiming to have written…

    You’ve termed it “a political document” and a “wishlist” and I put it to those reading that this due to it’s content… Anyone who has read more than one of your posts could ascertain that…

  • The 30 year timeframe was determined by last year’s amendments to the LTMA, and ensure that it is distinguished from the Auckland Transport Plan, which does have a 10 year timeframe. Are you sure you are not mixing the two up Liberty? The RLTS should be a visionary wishlist, the ATP should be what you describe. Two different plans/strategies for two different jobs.

  • Joshua

    Jeremy, Although I might not fully agree with everything Liberityscott is saying, he does provide good points in alot of his posts, and they more than oftern make logical sense. In fact I believe he is one of the biggests assets of this blog as he allows accurate factual disscussion comming from another point of view.

    This document clearly shows a suitable weighting between road spending and public transport spending, the equal spending in infrastructure is as unbais as could have been, and given Roading has had a massive head start in the form of funding, it will be interesting to see how successful the change of trend would turn out to be. The only problem is getting this to actualy happen.

  • Jeremy Harris

    Ha Ha, yes Joshua, I went a bit overboard there… Lack of sleep methinks…

    My apologies to Scott…

  • Went to the launch of the RLTS at Britomart this afternoon, which was good. Chatted with quite a few people of note.

    It will be interesting to see the response to this document.

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