With so much focus on the Auckland spatial plan at the moment, words of “step change”, “transformational” and “public transport led approach” being bandied around, discussion about new ways to fund this “step change” and “transformation”, and the excitement of a single Council looking at transport issues in a long-term way, it’s easy to forget that it was not even two years ago that we put together Auckland’s previous 30 year transport strategy. The 2010 Regional Land Transport Strategy was actually tasked with the very job of taking a long-term vision of Auckland’s transport future. It was, in fact, the first RLTS to look at transport with a 30 year horizon in mind – the same horizon (with a couple of years difference) as the Auckland Plan is focusing on.
Previous posts, and an excellent column from Brian Rudman, have highlighted the credibility gap between the pretty words of the Auckland Plan, when it comes to transport matters, and the reality of where the money is proposed to be headed. But how does this plan compare to the 2010 RLTS? Did the RLTS have a big funding gap too? Is the Auckland Plan really a step change towards a public transport focused transport strategy, when compared to the RLTS?
There are quite a few graphs in the RLTS that provide us with a useful insight into where it saw the money going. This one is a good start, which compares the expenditure envisaged by the strategy over the next 30 years with the funding available: While there’s certainly a misalignment between the expenditure envisaged by the strategy and the funding available, overall there’s actually not a gap between the amounts. In other words, there’s enough money to deliver the RLTS, we just need to shift around what that money is spent on.
Another graph breaks down where the RLTS proposed to spend the $46 billion (presumably updated slightly due to inflation to become the $50b baseline used in the funding gap discussion) over the next 30 years: It’s fairly close to a 50/50 split between new roads and roads maintenance/renewals on one side and public transport infrastructure, PT services and travel demand management, walking and cycling on the other side. In short, the definition of a balanced transport strategy. We even see the funding split broken down by each of the decades covered in the strategy: Oh if only there was anything close to this level of detail available in the transport section of the Auckland Plan. Strangely the Auckland Plan seems completely devoid of such detail, perhaps because it would highlight something that goes against what all the pretty words of the plan are saying?
Thankfully, Rudman’s column provides some of the numbers to help fill in the gaps. With a couple of assumptions and a bit of maths we can start to make comparisons (not on a decade by decade basis sadly, but overall) between the RLTS and the Auckland Plan on that key matter – where is the money going? This comparison highlights quite a few surprises. Instead of the step-change towards public transport spending we see both PT infrastructure and PT services spending remain relatively unchanged from the RLTS – the small increases probably reflecting little more than inflation. There’s no distinction made in Rudman’s column between spending on Local Roads and State Highways, so we have to lump the two together, but that shows where the real “step-change” in the Auckland Plan is, and also highlights where the funding gap has originated.
Using this comparison, we can make a few helpful conclusions:
- The additional roads proposed in the Auckland Plan, compared to the RLTS, are the source of almost the whole funding gap.
- All the public transport projects proposed in the Auckland Plan and the RLTS are affordable under current funding arrangements, we just need to change around the allocation of funds.
- The Auckland Plan is not a step-change towards a public transport led transport strategy at all, it’s a step change towards spending billions and billions on new roads.
In fact, it seems like the 2010 RLTS was the real step-change document. The Auckland Plan just proposes to spend hugely more on motorways, a continuation of the transport policy which has failed Auckland for decades.
What changed? Where did all these roading projects come from? Given that it is clear we cannot build every thing everyone wants even if every proposed scheme is a good idea [and these road projects are of debatable value at best], don’t we have to be clear about priorites and direction? After 60 years of building and re-building the grand motorway plan for Auckland it will be functionally complete with the big Waterview connection and the total rebuild of the North Western. Isn’t it clear that we must focus our resources on maintaining this road asset and provide for growth and resilience by building the missing complementary [and booming] public transport systems?
Is it because vested interests are fighting against the very idea of change in collusion with our state institutions, as described in a recent comment by Mike:
NZTA holds the power everywhere. All the regions can do is recommend projects in their Regional Land Transport Programmes, ranked so that Strategic Fit (what the government wants) outranks the other two criteria of Effectiveness and Efficiency (=BCR), which are used to “inform” NZTA’s National Land Transport Programme. Ultimately it’s NZTA’s decisions based on MoT’s criteria based on the Government Policy Statement. Any local/regional input is a charade.
Is it a top down thing from Government, because they and their close friends just like motorways?