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Aucklanders want the CRL

The City Rail Link is pretty popular among most of the people who read this site but it is also pretty popular amongst the general population too. Yet another survey has been completed showing that the project has strong support. The NZ Herald reports:

A majority of Aucklanders want the Government to make a significant contribution to the $2.86 billion city rail link, a poll has found.

The poll, by Horizon Research, also found that 30.4 per cent of Aucklanders support tolls to help pay for the rail link and 24.9 per cent support targeted rates for those who benefit most.

They are more lukewarm about a regional fuel tax, asset sales, higher rates and a higher departure tax as funding mechanisms.

This is the first poll on funding options for the rail link since Mayor Len Brown issued a discussion paper in February on new funding sources to stop dodging what he said were the tough decisions to get Auckland moving.

Mr Brown has encountered a brick wall of resistance from the Government for the 3.5km underground route from Britomart to join the western rail line at Mt Eden. The Government refuses to back the project beyond designating the route and successive Transport Ministers have said there would be no tolls or a regional petrol tax. Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee declined to comment on the poll.

Mr Brown has established a “consensus building group” costing $1.1 million under the guidance of environmentalist and political activist Guy Salmon to try to persuade the Government to support one or more funding options.

The poll, of 1099 Aucklanders, found that among those who supported the rail link, 64 per cent wanted it built as soon as possible, 22 per cent by 2020 and just 3 per cent did not think it needed to be completed by 2020.

64% support is pretty strong for a project that the government has been so hostile towards it and who even went to the effort of getting their own agencies to complete a dodgy review of the original business case. What’s more there was only 14% opposition to the project from those surveyed. Horizon Research who conducted the poll also say that the only part of the region that didn’t see more than 50% of respondants support the project was in Rodney however even then there were still more people who supported it than those who didn’t. Of those that supported the project , 64%want it built immediately while a further 22% want it by built by 2020 which is roughly the current timeline. This shows that it is not just people supporting the project at some point in the future but people actually recognising that the need for the project is fairly high.

The poll also highlights what is perhaps a marketing issue for Auckland Transport. Horizon say 6% of respondents indicated that if the City Rail Link had the effect of increasing train frequency to every 15 minutes in peak hours, they would switch to using rail to travel to work. We already have peak frequencies at 15 minutes on all of the major lines with Auckland transport planning to move towards having 10 minute all day frequencies once we have electric trains running. The CRL would allow for those peak frequencies to be increased even further and 5 minute peak frequencies should be achievable.

Of course Gerry Brownlee is not commenting but National will know full well from their own polling that the project is very popular. I also suspect that some of Gerry’s officials have probably been passing him notes under the table that the City Centre Future Access Study could very well come out showing a strong need for the project. My understanding is that the final version of that study will be sent to the minister in a couple of weeks and has a good chance of showing that the CRL is the best option. Combine a potentially strong need for the project with strong public support and continuing to say no to the CRL will increasingly look stupid.

There is lots more information from Horizon here.

59 comments to Aucklanders want the CRL

  • Well, that’s it isn’t it, look at it politically. This can either be one of the last nails in National’s coffin for next year, or it could solidify support for them for a further term. Doesn’t matter either way for me. I vote Green anyway.

  • Sounds like Aucklanders want the CRL but don’t want to pay for it directly.

    • We already pay into the land transport fund, so do you mean we don’t see why we should pay for it twice?

      • No matter how it is funded, there is an opportunity cost of the CRL. Sounds like most Aucklanders don’t want to bear that opportunity cost directly.

        • Or you could say we are happy to bear the cost of it in the way we bear the cost of motorways; without blame and punishment, not unreasonably.

        • If the opportunity cost is not building the Puhoi-Welsford motorway, or delaying a harbour motorway crossing by five years, then chalk me up as one Aucklander that would love to bear that opportunity cost directly.

          The fundamental fact is that Aucklanders already pay a hell of a lot for transport infrastructure development through various means (rates, fuel tax, income tax, GST etc), this is more about spending the same pot on better projects, not spending more.

          • All fair points. I suspect very few of the survey respondents were cognisant of such tradeoffs.

          • Oh I dunno, Aaron, I’m pretty sure everyone understands that we can’t build everything, so that by saying you think something should be built, and especially immediately, that inherently includes the idea that other things can’t be built. It is a question about priorities. in the same way it’s pretty likely that those that opposed it think other things should be built instead.

          • I reckon many people think of “the government” as a magical entity that can pay for things without having to give up anything else. I bet a lot of people would be in favour of all sorts of projects as long as “the government” pays for it. Hence the danger in using survey results like this to inform policy debates.

          • Methinks you insult the intelligence of your fellow citizens.

            Anyway why is it that this project attracts this sort of cynicism but not the 10+ billion duplicate highway programme?

          • I’m not being cynical about the CRL, I’m cynical about the value of such surveys to inform the debate. The tradeoffs are complex.

          • Not really, many people have lived overseas they have seen how those cities function better with less driving and more Transit. It isn’t that tricky; or is it just you and me who are smart enough to understand such things?

        • 56.2 per cent of respondents support significant government funding for the CRL.

        • Greg N

          “Hence the danger in using survey results like this to inform policy debates.”

          And just what sort of process would you have used to inform the policy debate then Aaron?
          Let the minister(s) decide by fiat and “gut feel” what the policy and required direction is?

          Hmm we have that now with Brownlee and Joyce before him and where has it got us? A bunch of RoNS with dubious at best BCRs and the country staring down into a 10-12 million financial money pit to build them and little else.

          I would have thought that for any democratic government (local and/or national – with both a upper and lower case n) a good place to start would to be ask the people who will most likely use the output of the policy (CRL) and also ask the people who will also be asked to wholly or partly fund that outcome as well for their views.

          In this case, this survey does that and the responses are echoing other surveys taken earlier over many years, all of which show the people of Auckland want it, are prepared to use it when its built, and are prepared to pay a reasonable amount (i.e, less than half the cost) to get it – but they don’t expect to have to pay for all or it since they already pay more than enough for everything else thank you,

          They also express a quite reasonable expectation that the Government top up the balance as they said they would do originally.

          Seems to me your train of thought is that you don’t like the result of the survey and so you suggest that therefore the poll is invalid or the conclusions wrong by putting words into everyones mouths as to what they thought they understood when they answered the survey?

          • Calm down guys. I reckon a thorough, independent cost-benefit analysis is the best way to analyse the CRL (or any other big project). Granted that approach is not perfect, but better than a survey in this case, IMHO. And definitely much better than a minister’s gut feel ;)

          • Well the latest in a long line of studies on the country’s most studied project is due out in a couple of weeks. I guess for those of us who see this project as profoundly more valuable than almost all the RoNS would just like to see a level playing field. A system where those projects were also subject to the same kind of scrutiny.

            And do find it interesting and instructive that the public seem to be intuitively ahead of the government on this one. In same way that they also understand quite clearly that rearranging the ownership of some power companies is no substitute for an actual economic policy, and nor the movement of wealth from everybody to a few of us that this involves is either just or useful.

            And I can’t join in with your implied conclusion that everyone except some undefined minority are too dim to have sensible views on these matters.

          • Totally agree with the need for a level playing field for project evaluation.

            Not too dim but just don’t have the time / interest / not fully informed to generate meaningful information by surveying.

          • Greg N

            “Not too dim but just don’t have the time / interest / not fully informed to generate meaningful information by surveying”

            You take a very dim view of your fellows my friend.

            Your comment is basically saying that the population are also too disinterested, too time poor and too uninformed to elect any government by the same yardsitck.
            Yet we do and did. Is this your belief because there is too much money at stake and we as poor individuals can’t grasp the numbers?
            We might think that about ACT party voters, but I think the population of Auckland deserves some credit for seeing through the politics and spin.

            I think Patrick hit it on the head earlier, despite all the Government tricks and badly designed studies comparing apples with bananas – the population can see with their eyes closed whats needed to make the PT system work like its supposed to – what they don’t understand is why the Government can’t seem to see this too.

            Nor can they understand why the Government wants to shove another set of roads up Aucklands arse in the guise of RoNS giving better transport outcomes
            – without any substantive evidence to back up why its got to be good for you as taxpayers to pay for this.

          • I think people optimise and spend their limited time on things that they value the most. It’s probably not optimal for everyone to be fully informed about every issue, hence the value of this type of survey is limited. The fact is that many people don’t even vote, let alone analyse the CRL carefully. I’m sure most people can grasp the numbers, but what are the numbers? Were the CRL costs and benefits explained to the survey respondents?

            PS I’m not a PT hater — I commute by bus every day and use the train often.

          • Luke C

            @Aaron I totally depends on what purpose the survey is used for. This blog has shown the benefits of the CBDRL from many different angles. One of the criticisms, and also thoughts from those that support it, is that most Aucklanders do not support it. However this survey shows they clearly do, and in a big enough margin to be sure most biases are removed, even if methods aren’t brilliant.
            Agree surveys should be only determinator of which projects should be built, but it is useful to know in general what public think. Also good to note that the RONS (that most transport dollars are heading for) were determined by National party pollsters picking election messages that would appeal, and make it look like they were doing something.

  • My pick is that the Nats will find a way, with an election looming, to be able to say they ‘support’ it, there will be fish-hooks for Auckland though.

    They are nothing if not feverish pollers, and are having a good learning about going against the public’s wishes with asset sales. Unless of course they calculate that the provincial view plus car only Aucklanders are still enough to carry them. Interesting.

    It still goes against their crazy second half last century world view and intense relationship with road lobby.

  • jonno1

    Does anyone know what the survey questions were? I know Horizon has received a bit of stick over political polls in the recent past. It’s just that 64% seems awfully high when only 10%* of the population will ever use the CRL, even fewer on a regular basis, whereas 100%** of the tax/ratepaying population will pay for it one way or another. Or do the respondents expect it to be paid for by OPM? The same argument, of course, applies to other projects such as the RoNs.

    *I made this number up – feel free to correct it!
    **I didn’t make this one up.

    • More details at the link provided: https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/267/64-of-auckla

      Perhaps jonno1, the good people of Auckland can actually think and act in a way that isn’t totally and myopically self interested. Maybe those people think they might use it if it were built, maybe they know someone else who would, maybe they just realise it would be a good thing for the city as a whole whether they use the train system or not.

      Like ask Aucklanders if they support a convention centre or a new cruise ship terminal and most will say yes, even if it was part funded out of the public purse. But how many Aucklanders go to conventions or take cruises here, maybe 1%? You don’t have to use something personally to see it is a good idea that benefits the city and the economy.

      • jonno1

        Thanks for the link Nick. Unfortunately it doesn’t disclose the survey questions (or not that I could find). I am interested in how the questions were framed, as that inevitably affects the result. And I think you’ve introduced a separate issue – there are lots of taxpayer-funded activities I’m happy to fund but don’t wish ever to participate in, such as courts and prisons, or will seldom participate in but accept as part of my citizenship responsibilities, such as the Christchurch rebuild. But these are quite different from optional spends, whether these be convention centres, roads or rail links.

    • Ash

      Isn’t if fairly evident, though, that if more people use the trains post-electrification and particularly post-CRL that there will be less congestion throughout the greater part of Auckland’s roading network?

  • Maybe Aucklanders now realise the CRL will make their motorways go faster. Works for everyone right?

  • Glenn C

    Call me cynical, but I suspect that the central govt funding will become available JUST BEFORE the next election..

    • Yup. It’s what parties do before they go out of power. Swallow the bitter pill, leave the next gang to wear the hangover. I’ll drink to that if it gets us the CRL.

      • bbc

        Well the CRL is both Green and Labour policy so neither of them see it as a ‘bitter pill’

        • Glenn C

          Maybe if the Nats put some mega-ugly fishhooks in the plan? Some flawed funding plan, or a half-assed design, or some other way to do it but stuff it up from the outset…

          • Steve D

            If they decide to fund it just before the election, it’ll be because it’s popular – trying to sabotage it would miss the point completely. If it is going to happen, they want it to be a success and take credit.

          • bbc

            Thankfully National are not involved in the design at all so I don’t quite see how or why they’d do this.

          • More likely tie it to an unpopular asset sale, say [how many times have they already promised that shirking resource?]. Or perhaps propose a version of the EMU funding which, remember folks is a loan to us with added interest, although being serviced b50/50 by ratepayers and NZTA….. I dunno, but it will involve some punishment or high and underlined cost…['well if they really want it....']

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes I agree. English will find a $2 billion stash under Brownlee’s bed and the CRL will romp home regardless of what happens in the election.

      Is that being cynical or optimistic? :)

  • Josh

    If I live on the north shore and drive into the city for work each day how does the rail loop help my daily travel?.. I’m just trying to see how motorway traffic will be less if I still have to drive to the CRL.

    • Stu Donovan

      Less chance of queues from the CMJ blocking back to stuff up traffic on the Shore. Plus less cars on the streets within the city centre – so easier to park etc.

    • lukei1

      And it opens the possibility that a rail line can be built to the North Shore meaning you could have a 20 minute commute on the train rather than boiling with rage on the congested motorway

    • Luke C

      In general is about a better quality of the CBD. If no CBDRL over time buses will seriously congest CBD. This also effects you if you wish to bus into city from North Shore as less buses from elsewhere will make it easier for NEX.

    • There was a post about that once: http://transportblog.co.nz/2011/06/06/city-rail-link-questions-answers/

      But I live on the North Shore and we don’t even have trains, why should I care about the project?

      The central city clearly has no ability to keep handling more and more traffic, and many past attempts to increase its traffic capacity have had pretty bad effects on the quality of the downtown (Mayoral Drive, Hobson Street, Nelson Street etc.) As the city centre grows over time, without the tunnel the streets will become more and more clogged with buses and cars – including for people travelling to and from the North Shore.

      The tunnel enables most buses from the west and south to be turned into feeder services to the train network, freeing up space for cars and buses from areas without rail: like the North Shore. Faster and more convenient rail travel for those in the west, eastern isthmus and south should also take many thousands of cars off the road at peak time, significantly reducing congestion throughout the region. Over time, as the Northern Busway (which carries around 40% of people heading to work down SH1 each morning) requires upgrading to rail, the City Rail Link will be one option for how that line links into the rest of the rail system.

  • Torbayite

    May be a number of North Shore people who will bus from North Shore to Britomart , then CRL to Aotea Square or K Rd. Currently the trip From Victoria park to Aotea centre can take as long as Constellation drive to Victoria park. Others may ferry from North Shore to Ferry buliding – then train to Aotea centre.

  • exaucklanderinsydney

    I’m convinced that only a change in goverment will bring about the CRL. Untill then, all the forums, commissions and reports will fall on deaf or unwilling ears.

  • Josh

    I can defiantly see advantages of CRL but more so for those in the city as all of you have stated motorway congestion is still dependent on the bus network. I guess from a future proof Auckland view this loop could feed into other “to be built” loops such as north shore but I’m skeptical of the cost. You say 3 billion for CRL and that’s only 3.5k, imagine multiple loops spanning 30k.. Our country will go broke, ultimately if this type of infrastructure doesn’t add up in productivity and job creation really the benefits only lie with commuters who use the loop not the country as a whole. The money is better spent on tools that will benefit all and Once NZ is rich enough I.e has a spare 100 billion in the bank then that’s when you go for it.. Not with rising unemployment and a mayor who wants to add over 5billion in debt to rate payers books.

    • Josh. The CRL is wouldn’t be more valuable if it was longer, in fact because its great value is that it completes a disconnection in an already widespread network its short length is a key to its importance. That’s why it is called a ‘Link’ it joins the existing and very long arms of the network. It opens up the whole however many kilometres of the entire AK rail system to more efficient and much higher use. The other key to it value is where it is: One, it is all underground so it will add enormous capacity to the entire AK region without further taxing the road network; it will enable the rail network to relieve the road network everywhere. Two, it is under the most intensely used, valuable, and congested part of our city, so again it will provide the highest value for its relatively short length.

      In exactly the same as we are currently spending 4billion on linking SH20 to SH16, that is an eyewatering sum of money but how ever much value there is in building this it is in joining together disconnected parts of the network. You’d never build this because Waterview needs better connection, it’s all about the network.

      By the way when we cost a motorway we never price the cars that use it, or fuel they use, or the costs of parking them. Or of course add work elsewhere on the road system to make using a car better. We do when costs the CRL, those figures include future trains that we’ll need someday, other work on the rest of the network [such as double tracking to Onehunga]. There is no risk assessment about our further vulnerability to imported oil of unknown cost etc…..

      Elsewhere on this site you’ll find costings for rail to the Shore, and you’ll find it is more like the cost of the CRL again. These are the two biggest parts of the future network, the airport line costs about the same as one big motorway interchange. And after Waterview the motorway system is done. It is time to properly build the complimentary off road electric network over the next 20-30 years now that Ak is a proper city and we’ve built the roads.

      Not to mention an urgent need to move this sector away from oil and to our own renewable electricity as efficiently as possible. And getting more value out of the existing rail network is among the best ways to achieve this; first by linking up whats there, and then by extending it to high patronage areas, especially the North Shore.

    • Deep down, the question isn’t if we want the CRL or not but if we can afford not to have it. As the city continues to grow, so does the CBD and while its share of employment might only be ~12%, that is considerably higher than anywhere else in the region. Growth in the city centre is expected to continue well into the future and it is the only place some businesses will even consider locating yet access to the city centre can already be difficult. The real question is if we want the city to be able to grow then we need to improve access to it. Electrification and the proposed new bus network are effectively picking the last of the low hanging fruit. Effectively without the CRL growth in the city centre will start to stagnate and that will hurt our future economy. The CRL in itself doesn’t provide many jobs in itself but it is a project that will facilitate and enable growth to happen in both the city centre and in other places around the region.

  • As jonno pointed out – without the questions the survey is meaningless. Horizon had Colin Craig winning Rodney by a higher proportion of the support shown here – so there’s a good chance it’s actually got less than 50% support. Also looking at the support of funding options there is only one with higher than 50% support – the let someone else pay option, which is to say its kind of cool but not worth what it costs.

    And the government never stated they’d pay for half – that’s what Len said to try and deflect from the fact that he lied to everyone about the feasibility and funding of the CRL. It was going to be PPP or infrastructure bonds remember? So he has never had a mandate from the majority of Aucklanders under a proposition which says this is the cost is it actually worth it?

    • We will have a government pay for half or more Karl, to say you are working towards something that hasn’t happened yet does not make you a liar. He would only be lying if he claimed that they have agreed to help fund it. You’re getting a little over excited again. The Council have a business case which shows it is certainly of more value than every RoNS that are now proposed- you don’t like it? Well that’s your view. Joyce got the MoT to write a new one as he disliked the answer the first one gave so much. It’s politics, and there’s a little way for this to run yet.

      • Karl

        No what makes him a liar is during the campaign this was a high profile issue on which Len was asked direct questions on how the CRL would be funded as there were a number of opponents who didn’t believe the benefits (different argument).
        The answer was that it would be funded via PPP and infrastructure bonds; and therefore that the ratepayers and taxpayers wouldn’t be footing the bill. That is the mandate that he was elected on despite many pointing out he was full of S***.

        Fast forward and it has been proven he was either lying or totally incompetent in that he is not able to do what he promised he would do.

        • No Karl you are wilfully conflating a list of possibilities with firm commitments. It’s politics. Pretty sure Len doesn’t want a PPP, I certainly don’t, for this project or any other transport infrastructure build. But he has to stare down the forces that say ‘you can’t build it cos we won’t let you’ by at least suggesting there are other options. it’s politics.

          Furthermore there is no incompetence, you are mistaking patience with failure; the project is in fact proceeding at pace. The relatively inexpensive design and legal work is all underway and funded by AC/AT while the situation with the current government is altering or the date of their departure approaches…. either way it is happening. Time is on Len and it’s side. This is a big project and given that the institutional cards are stacked against a Mayor being able to achieve this kind of thing it is all going pretty well indeed.

    • Karl – Horizon quoted Colin Craig’s own polling (not conducted by Horizon) as 47.2%, whereas Horizon predicted (correctly) that Craig would lose.
      http://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/163/election-cliff-hanger-new-conservatives-could-play-vital-role

  • DaveRodney

    Would have been interesting if any analysis was done in terms of synergies between the Waterview connection and the CRL, in terms of the EPBM etc.

    • Not with the machines; those road tunnels are insanely big. That’s one of the great advantages of rail corridors over road ones underground or otherwise… They take up much less space and are way cheaper to insert.

      But some good tunnelling IP is no doubt being learned on this job.

    • As Patrick says, they won’t use these machines as they are simply too big. The machine being used on Waterview is something like 14m in diameter which is massive and while you could easily fit two tracks inside it, you end up excavating a lot more rock than you need to. By comparison the CRL tunnels will be dug with a 7m TBM and even though there are two tunnels needed (one for each track) you are still looking at half the volume of rock to be moved.

      The big benefit of Waterview is it will likely provide more local tunnel experience which should help with costs and construction. Further the tunnelling aspects could fit in together quite well. Waterview tunnelling starts in 2013/14 and goes till about 2016. If the CRL sticks to its current timeline then we are going to probably be starting to tunnel around the 2016 mark so it is possible that there might be advantages from things like not having to get a new set of experts to move over here for the project etc.

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