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The next GPS: out of touch with reality

I’m still to find a copy of it anywhere on the internet, but it seems that Radio NZ have seen the draft version of the 2012 Government Policy Statement for transport spending. Their description of it is unsurprising, but also depressing:

The Government intends to increase spending on new state highways but cut or effectively freeze funding in all but one other area of transport spending.

That’s according to the draft version of the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding 2012, in which the Transport Minister proposes higher limits for spending on new state highways – $1.3 billion by the 2014-15 financial year and $1.7 billion by 2021.

Funding would be cut in four areas, including road user safety, while funding for public transport infrastructure, road policing and local roads would be kept at current levels.

The draft document also tags four highways as possible future roads of national significance.

They are Hamilton to Tauranga, Cambridge to Taupo, further development of the Hawke’s Bay expressway and improvements north and south of Christchurch on State Highway 1.

It looks like all of our worst fears. Goodness knows how a motorway between Cambridge and Taupo (a road that carries around 50% fewer vehicles than the single lane Kopu Bridge) can be a more important project than most of Auckland’s big future rail projects. We might finally see a transport project with a cost-benefit ratio beginning with 0.0 (can they go negative?)

Labour transport spokesman Shane Jones says some good things in response to the draft GPS:

The Labour Party says the Government’s transport plans are a mess and it should go back to the drawing-board.

The party’s transport spokesperson, Shane Jones, says Transport Minister Steven Joyce should change his name to the tarmac king.

“Those particular roads will prove to be illusory,” Mr Jones says, “just as the Puhoi extension is illusory, and I doubt you’ll find that there’s enough to fund those pet projects that he and his National Party colleagues have in mind.”

Mr Jones says more money should be spent on public transport.

I’ve always thought transport seemed a more obvious area to critique government policy, because all these big roads of national significance just don’t seem to accord with the general stated desire to be careful with spending. Here’s the short interview with Shane Jones from this morning.

While all this isn’t a surprise, it does reflect a transport policy that seems out of touch with reality. Over the last three to four years there simply hasn’t been growth in state highway traffic use – while at the same time public transport patronage has increase massively. That’s most clearly illustrated in the graphs below, which look at how things have changed from 2007 to 2010:

The graph above looks at how things have progressively changed over the past three years on a month by month basis, looking at percentage change in PT patronage and state highway traffic compared to the same month the year before. The graph below compares the patronage and state highway traffic for each month in 2007 against each month in 2010. I’m still trying to work out the logic of increasingly focusing spending on state highways when their use is declining, while capping funding for public transport even though its use is skyrocketing. I must say I’m really struggling to find any logic.

41 comments to The next GPS: out of touch with reality

  • BD

    Like I said the Cambridge to Taupo project is an absolute no no, I really I hope this doesn’t get added to the RONS and there is a complete backlash in the cabinet in Wellington about it. The road carries the least amount of traffic on the State Highway 1 network so it would be pointless putting an expressway between there when it is far away from the pain population centres, and not to mention it carries less traffic than the Kopu Bridge single laned.

    The government keeps refusing to spend anymore money on public transport I love it when they use the Christchurch Earthquake as the excuse then they go and propose spending even more money, thats on top of the $11 billion that they already plan to spend on roads. THis is absolutely unacceptable and I do hope the opposition are seeing this.

    I hear people saying that NZ needs to catch up with Europe but what people have to bear in mind is that NZ has a far smaller population than Europe so its infastructure needs are not the same.

  • Cam

    Seriously I’ve said it before but this says Joyce is not just unbalanced in his thinking, he’s actually nuts. Bond villian crazy.

    • I’m coming round to this view too- he’s like Dr Strangelove, and just as prepared to kill people too….. And look out because Brash is no better…. ACT: the party of insane elderly rejects, or perhaps Aged + Creepy Tyrants

  • rtc

    It does give the opposition a lot of material to use against the government and I sure hope they make use of it, if they don’t then it suggests they’re also out of touch with the mood in Auckland. I really hope this becomes a major debating issue for the election. Sounds like a good topic for a cross party debate televised – has the CBT proposed any debates leading up to the election?

  • Joyce’s interview should be posted up on the Radio NZ website fairly soon. If someone could link to that when it goes up that’d be awesome.

  • Liam W

    Plenty of votes for the opposition in this GPS – I really hope Jones has done his homework on this and puts the spotlight on it because at the moment only Gareth Hughes asks hard questions and we need a higher profile person to be doing this. Joyce is playing with fire – he tried to look like the good guy the other day by holding the petrol tax rise, but if Jones manages to expose his extreme/illogical funding bias and sell the idea that his transport spending approach reeks of the 1950s rather than the present, this election could get interesting. They need to jump all over Bill English’s “age of austerity” comment, ask it’s credible to spend this amount on state highways in an “age of austerity” etc.

    A mate of mine at Waikato Uni has a political radio show and he interviewed Phil Goff a couple of weeks ago, I got him to ask about their Auckland PT policy since nobody’s heard a peep out of them on this issue – pleased to say he understood the need for the CBD Rail Tunnel and said Labour would support it (or something to that effect). If he ever manages to get Joyce on his show, I already have 30+ questions prepared for him…

  • Matthew

    Start emailing your MP’s now.

  • anonymouse

    Can you please stop calling this GPS?

    GPS is a longstanding acronym for Global Positioning System, and anyone with a bit of knowledge of transport would know better not to confuse these terms.

    It’s not easy to read and understand your blog as every time people know use/used GPSr’s, when see “GPS” they think Global Positioning System. Government Policy Statement is it. Not GPS.

  • AD

    Radio NZ interview with the Mr Joyce is here…

  • Cam

    Shane Jones needs to highlight that not only is this GPS uneconomic, it’s batshit crazy. I mean seriously a motorway between Taupo and Cambridge, and he’s not joking. Watch for the following projects to be added soon:

    1/ten lane suspension bridge across cook strait.
    2/six lane expressway between Putarau and Tokaroa
    3/Nine lane King Counrty expressway linking Te Kuiti and Otorohonga (unlocking the thus far untapped ecomonic potential of both towns)
    4/ Expansion of SH 85 in central Otago to 4 lanes in in each direction to be known as the Ranfurly/ Wedderburn expressway.

    • I like this game – how about?
      Masterton to Levin tunnel
      Mt Ruapehu – Mt Taranaki summit to summit bridge
      extending the Wellington Inner City Bypass to Cape Palliser, I mean why stop at Wellington Airport?
      And between New Plymouth and Napier a road as wide as it is long, thereby paving over over 75% of the North Island.

      They’ll all be National Party policy soon.

      Why is John Key letting Steven Joyce be as mad as a cut snake? Surely it’s the whole of cabinet that are bonkers.

  • tochigi

    Can we have an op-ed on this please (Herald on Sunday, DomPost, Herald)?

  • Cam

    @Matt now you’re getting it. Transport planning the Stephen Joyce way. Just think of somewhere where it would be really cool to have a massive road and then build it. BCR’s are for wimps! (unless of course you are assessing a PT project and then they are very important and need to be srcutinsed at length over a number of months).

    I wonder if the theme song from convoy is his ringtone?

  • Kevyn Miller

    The draft has been on the ministry of transports website for several hours:
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/keystrategiesandplans/gpsonlandtransportfunding/

    This is yet another example of the government manipulating the Canterbury earthquakes to sell cutbacks. The draft claims that NZTA will provide 76% of the $400m cost of re-instating CCC roads. The FAR formula for emergency works doesn’t work that way. The percentage assistance rate depends on the cumulative amount claimed throughout the year so unless CCC claims an entire years worth of repairs at the start of the year it will be in the same situation it was in after the Sept earthquake – 43% for work done in Sept, 46% for work done in Oct, nothing paid in Nov or Dec and no spreadsheets on the NZTA website since then. Even if CCC is able to lodge a whole-year claim for e/w at the start of each year to get the full 76% FAR it will lose a lot more normal funding than the draft suggests because only a portion of the roads need reinstating from earthquake damage which means that only a portion of the scheduled maintenance for the next 5 years will be cancelled simply because it is no longer needed, most will be cancelled because it is no longer affordable to ratepayers and thus NZTA saves the 42% contribution it would have made for the cancelled work. Potentially the earthquakes could cost NZTA nothing compared with what it was already committed to spend under the existing 10 year NLTP.

    • Well after listening to SJ lie like a flatfish on the radio, then to turn to the GPS doc…… want to be depressed read that insane RoN mad spend up and tricky fiddle of the numbers. He knows he vulnerable on safety so he’s calling a chunk of the new road spend ‘safety’ this is simply a name change nothing real. And of course it is hugely biased towards the State Highways. So PR only… of nothing about fuel security or PT much, except getting more value for money, ie not spending more.. This from the IMF:

      The IMF advises, in very diplomatic language and on a macro-economic and structural level:

      “Fundamentally, there are two broad areas for action. First, given the potential for unexpected increases in the scarcity of oil and other resources, policymakers should review whether current policy frameworks facilitate adjustment to unexpected changes in oil scarcity. Second, consideration should be given to policies aimed at lowering the risk of oil scarcity, including through the development of sustainable alternative sources of energy.” (p 110)

      And this from the commentary on crudepeak: http://www.crudeoilpeak.com/?p=3054

      ‘Any project which increases oil demand like toll-ways, new airports, new car dependent sub divisions and shopping centres will NOT be increasing this elasticity and thus contribute to a lower GDP than would otherwise be the case. These projects should be immediately abandoned.’

  • Draco T Bastard

    I must say I’m really struggling to find any logic.

    The logic is really easy – it’s what National have been paid to deliver.

  • Joyce’s actions make perfect sense if you think of him as doing all he can to feed taxpayer cash to Infratil and Fulton Hogan while providing roading welfare to the trucking companies who have always supported the National Party. The idea here is to get the taxpayer to fund their infrastructure for them as much as possible. Yesterday we saw the truckers asking for toll highways to keep the rest of us off their roads. I suspect if we just told them to build those roads themselves…..they would quickly work out it’s cheaper to put down two steel rails on a gravel bed than km after km of two-way tarmac. But we’re all paying for it…so they don’t care. “More, please”, they say, as Joyce doles out our cash.

  • @Matt: As long as National rule in the polls, they think they have a free pass to do whatever comes into their heads.

  • Kevyn Miller

    Steve, Roads aren’t funded by taxpayers, they are funded by road users. It benefits all road users to have cars and trucks sharing the same roads because of the incredibly high fixed costs, or that would be the case if politicians over the last 20 years had used the MoT’s cost allocation model to ensure that all categories of road users were charged the correct prices in accordance with their share of costs/benefits.

    If we told them to build there own road network they wouldn’t work out that it is cheaper to build a railroad instead of a tarsealed road – because it isn’t – they would work out that it is cheaper to buy ships and jetties.

  • George.com

    Folks, don’t just get cyncial or angry, get organised. There is a real opportunity here to build voter backlash in Auckland and put real electoral pressure on the government. Aim either to replace the government (with one that is PT realistic) or change the existing Governments policy. If not, you’ll have another 3 years of Stephen Joyce and RONS plus Don Brash selling off Kiwirail.

    Here are a couple of starters for 10.

    Hold a public meeting.

    Leaflet outside Britomart station or your local train station. Once per month for the next 6 months, print 1000 (or 2000, or 5,000) simple flyers with a simple message. For example:

    “Under the John Key Government, a six lane expressway between Putaruru and Tokoroa but no Auckland rail tunnel”

    “There is little the Government can do about high petrol prices” (John Key, New Zealand Herald 19 April 2011). But what is his government doing to provide more public transport options? An Auckland rail tunnel? Not at the moment.

    “Under a John Key Government, $1.7 billion dollars for a Holiday Highway to Wellsford, but no Auckland Rail Tunnel”

    “Under the John Key Government, a six lane expressway between Putaruru and Tokoroa, but no more buses for Auckland”

    Be very certain about your words. This is about changing the government position. Mention the government specifically. Mention John Key. He is the face of this government and needs to feel political pressure to change his position. It doesn’t matter to compare liek spending for like spending (Tokoroa-Putaruru double laning vs Auckland Rail Tunnel. These are ciphers for the governments over all position.

    Need further incentive, listen to Clive Mathew Wilson on radio NZ this avo (about 14.20 minutes through the clip) http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/aft/2011/04/28/the_panel_with_joe_bennet_and_raybon_khan_part_2

    Folks, don’t just get cyncial or angry, get organised.

    Rob

    • obi

      “There is a real opportunity here to build voter backlash in Auckland and put real electoral pressure on the government”

      Politicians are generally pretty good at working out what is electorally popular. They’ve all figured out that roads are generally popular. Most people own cars. Many people enjoy driving them. I suspect that most people who tell pollsters they support public transport improvements actually do so because they think it will make their own drive to work less congested.

      That’s why National support roads. That’s why Labour spent most of their nine years building roads, including motorways in Auckland. That’s why Len Brown hasn’t said anything against roads and was quite happy to attend the opening of motorways. That’s why Celia Wade-Brown just signed up for a package that included inner city roads even though she is a Green.

      A rail-centric model of public transport assumes an increase in density of housing around railway stations and a limit to sprawl. But most NZers aspire to live in a large house by a beach. That’s why politicians who support rail avoid mentioning the lifestyle changes that are required to have a rail-centric city. Len Brown could campaign on a platform of building new rail lines that other people would pay for. If he’d campaigned on a platform of Auckland paying for rail projects and that many or most people would eventually be living in high density housing clustered around railway stations then he would have lost by a large margin.

      So you’re going to have an uphill battle in front of you. For any of the large parties to support your agenda you have to first change voter attitudes so that they abandon the NZ lifestyle that most are used to.

      • Patrick R

        Obi I’m a litle surprised that with the amount of time you’ve been part of this site’s community that you haven’t got to grips with Paul Mees’ analysis as expressed in Transport for Suburbia. Have a look at copy if you can or scan the posts on this site that explain it. Quickly put; there is no need to change the shape of a city such as Auckland dramatically in order to have an efficient and effective PT system, but we do need to build a widespread network of integrated and cross subsidized services; the Network Effect.

        Anyway it is clear that the people are not quite as set in their ways as you suggest, not just in AK, but WGTN, and the Tron too, as the last local body elections showed. Of course you’re half right and we’re all pretty much drivers too and capable of holding two opposing views at once, however, the rising costs of driving are very real and increasing numbers do really want a good modern alternative.

        It’s going to be interesting as I do think this an area that this gov. may find itself surprised, esp. In AK come the election.

      • Stu Donovan

        @ obi – the main issue with your argument is that you assume that the NZ population is homogenous – that we all aspire to the same things, namely car-dependent developments located close to the beach. The reality is that New Zealand society is made up of a number of very different groups, which in turn have very different preferences.

        Given the patronage growth Auckland has experienced over the last 10 years, I would suggest that the number of people who prefer public transport lifestyles is much higher than you make out. My ideal lifestyle, for example, is to live in an apartment in the city during the week where I can walk, cycle, and use PT for my day-to-day needs, while using a car to get to the beach on the weekend.

        I love driving – but only for recreational purposes. And I suspect that there are many other people like me, which as an aside is supported by the rapid growth in car-share companies (www.cityhop.co.nz). All in all it is fairly clear that voter attitudes are not homogenous, that many people are different the picture you paint, and that people are increasingly favourably disposed towards PT.

        For this reason I think a well-targeted campaign designed to change the government’s perspective (as suggested by George) may actually work. It’s worth a try at least.

        • Kevyn Miller

          Stu, According to the United Nations your ideal lifestyle is most young New Zealander’s greatest fear.
          http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4934946/Young-Kiwis-fear-apartment-living
          I suspect the survey must have been of high school or uni students who have not had the opportunity to experience appartment living in Bondi, NY, SF or Copenhagen, etc. I did recently read a Ministry of Works housing preference study from the 1970s in which multi-story apartments were listed as the least preferred option for all respondents except those who had lived overseas or had actually lived in high-rise apartments at some time.

          We’re really in a catch 22 situation – we need to bring back all our student loan dodgers but they wont come back because we can’t offer them the transit oriented lifestyles they have become used to.

          • Stu Donovan

            @ Kevyn – First things first: that study had a sample size of 132, which leaves a margin of error of approximately +- 5,000%. And as you suggest we don’t know much about the sample – it may not have included permanent residents and/or international students, which make up a large proportion of our inner-city audience.

            But more importantly, I’m not saying the majority of people prefer to live in apartments, but I am saying that it is increasingly popular amongst certain demographics. Just look at the recent rapid growth in apartments in Auckland. Most of those buildings were not there 20 years ago. It may not suit everyone but apartment living does seem to suit more and more people – ie. it is growing “at the margin”.

            The final thing to note (which you probably already know) is that higher density development does not just mean big apartment buildings. London’s terraced houses are one typology, Stockholm’s low level perimeter block development (with private internal green space) is another. I expect our awareness of these options, and their benefits, will grow as our apartment market matures.

            Anyway, this particular student loan “dodger” will be back in NZ in September, ready to help build a brave new city. Much like Amsterdam, where I have been living for the last year or so.

      • ElGus

        There will always be an argument about what “NZders want”. I want certain things but my neighbour might not … that’s a diverse nation for you.
        The point of politicians picking “popular” projects is a little bit delusional because what’s popular is what you’re told is popular. Given a good advertising campaign almost anything can be hugely popular.

        My take on the GPS is that National wants to benefit its circle of friends. Take the Taupo-Cambridge case. We don’t see the benefit of it but I’m sure there are, for the people building the road and for the future urban developments that that link would enable. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I personally believe that we can have more benefits by investing somewhere else but don’t say that there is no logic. Only when one understands the reasons behind an action one can argue about it and hopefully change minds. I’d point out to the “developers’ community” that there are benefits to be made for them by intensification and by NOT wasting money on ever-sprawling cities.

  • george.com

    “For any of the large parties to support your agenda you have to first change voter attitudes”

    1. Attitudes don’t quickly change by accident. We could wait a long time for peoples attitudes to change. There is less than 7 months before the election. Unless something is right under peoples noses, I am sceptical that they will suddenly develop a counsciousness of something enough to make a real difference. It takes more than just waiting on people to come around to your way of thinking to get change. By that time it can often be to late anyhow, the opportunity has gone and you are left with the decisions other people have made.

    2. And here was I actually thinking that Auckland was developing a PT mentality. Must’ve been wrong. All the figures of increased patronage of rail and bus, incorrect. The stories I have started seeing about people angry that full buses go past their stop in the mornings, the demand for more buses, incorrect.

    3. We can wait and hope, and hope and wait for peoples attitudes until Kingdom come. We’ll all wait and hope that people will see the value in Transition towns and all flock to the idea. We’ll wait and hope that the masses will realise the danger of climate change and demand serious action from our politicians. Anyone see the populace in the streets demanding action on that?

    4. Has anyone noticed that today a geriatric ex reserve bank governor bought himself a political party. Wonder who put up the money to purchase the leadership? Jokers who use PT, or jokers who live in Switzerland (sorry Jon) and have names like wealthy pakeha etc and fly private planes and drive expensive cars. Anyone notice how the geriatric purchaser of political parties only a few years back was mates with the curent Prime Minister. What priorities will that geriatric party purchaser (and his backers) have in Parliament come November? Public Transport? Using government funding to build rail tunnels or add new bus capacity? Putting more money into Kiwirail?

    5. Are people quite happy with high petrol prices? Will they be impressed when told they’ll get a double laned highway between Putaruru & Tokoroa, but no rail tunnel? They’ll get a double laned highway between Putaruru & Tokoroa, but no extra buses for Auckland commuters.

    6. Go out and ask a few punters at Britomart what they’d rather have.

    7. If you think that there are better options, put a bit of effort into getting organised. Build some anger, build some political backlash. Email, write to, visit your local opposition MPs. Shane Jones wants to win the Tamaki-Makarau seat from Pita Sharples. Tell him to be all over this story in the 6 months ahead. Go and tell Pita Sharples the same. Tell Jacinda Ardern to hammer Nikki Kay on this. Tell Gareth Hughes to front foot it at every occasion. Go and tell the Winston Peters party and the Peter Dunne party that this is a vote winner. Also, leaflet your bus station and train station. 500 sheets of A4 paper, cut in half, equals 1000 cheap fliers. About $25 dollars.

    8. 2014 may be too late. Lloyds Bank & the US Military predict a large oil price spike (more than this one?) by as early as 2013. 2014 we’ll have some nice roads but sorry, no money for new buses or a rail tunnel. Can blame Stephen Joyce maybe but you can’t do anything about miss spent funds then.

    Rob

    • Yes, it may all turn on whether the next big oil price spike happens very soon, ie before the election, or just soon, ie while Joyce is signing contracts to pave every bit of the provinces….. sigh.

    • Stu Donovan

      @ george – could not agree with you more. As much as people complain about public transport in Auckland, it is improving and it is increasingly popular. And state highway traffic volumes are declining. Those facts are incontrovertible are easily communicated to the wider public. John Key is guilty by association with Steven Joyce.

      • george.com

        Stu. Key is the leader of the Govt. There is no guilt by association, it is Keys Government and Joyce is his Minister. I am not wanting this to sound like a beat up on Key, it is about a policy direction rather than having a go at the person. However, if Key comes under political pressure, policies change. It is the John Key government making these decisions, not Stephen Joyce. Don’t seperate out ‘that nice man John Key’ from the decisions his Government is making.

        • Kevyn Miller

          Guys, This government, and the one before it, are experts at obfuscation and diversionary tactics.

          Need to protect building owners from huge costs – hold your post-earthquake enquiry into why some multi-story buildings collapsed when the answer can be easily found by searching ScienceDirect for “Mexico City Earthquake” instead of asking why were so few lives taken by collapsing unreinforced masonry buildings. The answer to that question, which is probably as simple as the Sept 4 quake did a good job of identifying all the city’s quake-prone buildings and ensuring their dropzones were fenced off, would have expensive repercussions for owners of older buildings in all cities and towns.

          Need to cut off mayor Banks at the pass – appoint your party president to the board of Transfund and have Transfund prepare a report that Transfunds BCR formulas favour rural and road safety projects ahead of congestion relief. Suddenly there’s unlimited money for urban motorways, but only the ones preferred by Cabinet.

          The same thing will happen here. These projects are suddenly going to become fuel saving initiatives ergo the higher fuel prices go the higher their BCRs go.

          Your best counter argument might be to remind the news media of when most highway bridges were built (1920s-1940s) and when most highway and local road pavements were constructed (1950s-1970s) and with life expectancies of 80 years and 50 years respectively we have a renewals tidal wave that isn’t being planned for. Once you’ve killed the desire for these mega projects in rural areas then the CBD loop can be thrown in to killl support for the roNs in the cities.

  • Feijoa

    It’s hard to imagine a more short-sighted investment policy, and shows National’s lack of vision on transport. Decreasing public transport infrastructure investment to half what it currently is is outrageous, even for Mr Joyce.

    The Ministry of Transport has had to call the spin doctors in to airbrush the RONS programme for this public document. The intro to the discussion document reads:
    “Although value-for-money is stressed in GPS 2009 its focus is on the initial selection of projects and activities. GPS 2012 will make it clear that getting more out of what is spent is an expectation.”

    While in private, this is what they say: “In 2009/10, 66 percent of the investment in new and improved State highways went into projects with low benefit-cost ratios. This largely reflects the addition of the RoNS programme.”

    One positive thing is that they are accepting feedback and publicising this weak policy as no more than a draft. I’ll definitely be emailing GPS@transport.govt.nz to let them know what I think!

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