Follow us on Twitter

Misinformation continues about the CRL

Last week I wrote a post about how we need to stop underselling major PT projects like the CRL. I was – and still am – frustrated at the lack of useful information being put out by Auckland Transport that can be used to clearly show the benefits of them.

One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve.

To make matters worse, even those that support the project often don’t seem to grasp the transformational nature of the project and also undersell it. My post last week was aimed at statements from both the Greens and Labour in support of the CRL which has helped reignite the debate in the public. But without good information in the public domain, it is very easy for wrong or misleading information to spread, especially when it is pushed in the mainstream media.  I’m guessing that the Greens Reconnect Auckland campaign is what has triggered off the latest bout of CRL related news stories.

On Friday Campbell Live ran a story about the CRL. I will start by saying it was actually a lot better than most that we get however there were still some glaring mistakes. I’m just going to list my comments about both the good and the bad parts. Click on the image to view the video.

Cambell Live 26 April 2013

  • The old man at 1:40 makes some very good points worth remembering in this debate, that we need to be thinking about the future and the primary one being that Auckland is a growing city. Even using Statistics NZ most recent projections, under the medium growth scenario there will be roughly another 500,000 people living in the region by 2031 bringing the total up to roughly 2 million people. Those extra people are going to place a lot of pressure on our existing transport infrastructure.
  • I really had to laugh at the young guy at 1:50 who says he never uses PT, partly because it costs money so he prefers to drive a car. I wonder how much he paid to park his car in the city, let along the costs of running it?
  • At 3:00, why does Len continue to use the future inflation adjusted price instead of what it costs today? Also remember that the $2.86 billion figure includes a whole raft of other projects like duplicating the Onehunga Line, extra trains and grade separating some level crossings. It does seem that he is about to say something else that might have been cut though.
  • At 3:15, the Puhoi to Wellsford road is currently budgeted at $1.7 billion but from memory that is in 2009 dollars. Comparing the 2009 cost of that road – for which the shorter and easier section alone is now costing $1 billion – with the 2021 cost of the CRL is hardly a fair comparison.
  • At 4:00, perhaps the most shocking error on the entire report. It is suggested that there are only 4 trains per hour on the network and that the CRL will increase that to 7. Where the hell does that information even come from. As pointed out in my post last week, the CRL enables us to run a train on each line every 5 minutes, that’s 12 per hour per direction and totals 48 trains per hour heading through the CRL, one in each direction every couple of minutes.
  • At 6:00, Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett talks about how he wants the Wellington to region to receive a share of funding equal to its population. What he is obviously not aware of is that historically Wellington on a per capita basis has had a much greater share than Auckland. Auckland has historically, and continues to receive less funding that it provides in taxes. He also raises the point that Wellington has been waiting decades for Transmission Gully. If he thinks projects should be funded based on how long they have been proposed then the CRL still wins as it was first mooted in the 1920s and was the reason the main train station was moved out of the CBD in the first place. Further if we were to base transport spending on the expected percentage of growth over the next 20 years, for Wellington to get Transmission Gully, Auckland would need to get around $18 billion to receive a similar level of investment.

Then there was yesterday’s opinion piece by Rodney Hide on the CRL. I’m not going to cover it again as I did that yesterday but am going to talk about some of the comments in response to it. Unfortunately reading comments on Herald opinion pieces is often a hair pulling exercise but can be useful to see what misinformation exists out in the general public. So here is a selection.

Waterfront (West Auckland)
08:59 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
It’s like the inner city rail link.
What a complete waste of money. How do people get to and leave mt Eden for this proposed train line. There is no parking planned at mt Eden so how do people get there from outer suburbs? Walk?
More buses before trains.

h m
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Trains going round and round the CBD doesn’t help me nor anyone I know get to work.
I was working in Albany and living in Henderson.
Or, try going from Henderson to Carbine Rd.
Or, Waiuku to Henderson – like my son.

edd
12:50 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Who benifits from inner city rail. Not the suburban rate payers; it’s the inner city rate payers that get all the goodies, that contribute most to all the grid lock. Why not wack up comercial rates on the CBD to fund the project. The nat’s have their corporate taxes so low right now that they can well afford it

Clearly these people have the impression that the project is just about building a line that goes around in circles around the CBD, not a link that will improve the entire existing rail network and allow for it to be expanded. AT really need to get a map out showing how the rail network will operate after the CRL including how the lines will through route allowing for a range of trips.

MikeyB (New Zealand)
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
And the rail lopp will only allow three more trains in per hour.
I wouldnt be surprised if those at AT were getting back handers from the involved construction companies

The first part of this comment obviously came straight from the Campbell Live piece and highlights how important it is that AT gets information out about how many trains we will actually have on the lines.

Silver Fox (East Tamaki)
09:07 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Very good points Rodney. The rail enthusiasts are dreamers, mostly without common sense. Let them pay the real cost of transporting them by rail. As for transporting goods by rail, another dream. Do they ever consider how the goods are to get to and from the rail head and the heaps of vehicles sitting there for hours on end to pick goods up, that is after the paperwork to actually find the goods. NZ rail eventually put articulated trucks on the road in the 50′s to speed up goods cartage.

Ahh, the old chestnut of making train users pay for the upgrades themselves. Why is it that people continue to think that roads magically cover all of their costs? The reality is they don’t and huge amounts of money spent on them every year comes from sources other than fuel taxes.

Colin126
12:37 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Rather than plowing even more money into public transport there should be money spent promoting the benefits of telecommuting. That is having more people working from home.

If more people did this then this would go along way toward reducing the need for people to travel into work at peak traffic times. Choosing instead to either travel to work only when they have meetings that cannot be conducted online or stay at home and conduct their work affairs from there.

If more and more business adopted telecommuting as an option I am sure that over time the pressure on our transport system would ease quite significantly.

Many businesses now allow staff to work from home yet it makes very little impact. One of the huge benefits to working in an office with other staff is the ability to bounce ideas around much quicker and easier than is possible if everyone is in remote locations. This can have huge benefits for businesses.

Therecanbeonlyone (Auckland Region)
12:38 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
(in response to the first comment talked about)

Kind of agree will you on this, trains in Auckland have a limited operational area. There are no train tracks over the shore, or out east. Buses are the only option for these areas. Maybe the money would be better spend on dedicated bus lanes (like over the shore) or dedicated bus roads (like Crafton bridge).

How I believe there is a place for trains in the public transport plan, where they are integrated with buses. Apart from the Papakura, Manuwera & Homai stations, I have not seen many other train stations that have a regular bus service near them. Perhaps the buses could transport commuters to the nearest train station and the trains could carry them from there

Yes trains have a limited area of coverage and that is being expanded on by the RPTP which was adopted by Auckland Transport. While AT has stated this as part of the RPTP, perhaps they need to mention this in any material relating to the CRL as well.

phil lindsay (Queensland)
12:41 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Developing effective rail in Auckland requires lane acquisition of land for tracks and parking. Auckland is not laid out for rail, more so because rail has not been developed over the years.

However extensive work has been done to develop its road net work. Therefore it is logical, and has been for decades, to develop of comprehensive bus network linking suburbs to each other and to the city.

This would require land for stations only. An intelligent city will work to its strengths, it does not mindlessly follow other cities. I have never understood why Auckland did away with its central station when it did, poor money into Britomart, and for decades has failed to develop the obvious.

If you build it they will come. If there is an effective bus service linking suburbs and the city it will be used, but it has to be put in place first.

This seems to ignore the issue that there is only so much space on the roads to handle buses, especially in the central city which is why the CCFAS found the CRL was the best long term option. It also ignores that the rail network had/has been sitting as a vastly underutilised resource. The CRL is about maximising that resource rather than having it sitting around just for a few freight trains.

And I will end on this one.

DBD (Dannemora)
02:56 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Will never bother with the trains and can’t be bothered with buses either.

My plan is to wait till a lot of other people do, they the roads I drive on should be less clogged which is better for those of us that need our cars to get around for convenience and comfort.

At the end of the day, a lot of people will still drive and that is completely fine as people shouldn’t be forced to use trains or buses. As this person notes, their drive will likely be made easier thanks to the investment.

What all of these comments really confirm to me is that Auckland Transport need to be working to get some good, clear information out about the project so that people can properly understand it.

70 comments to Misinformation continues about the CRL

  • S Ridley

    This type of “News” reporting makes me more despondent than mad as it is all about feeding one side of a debate rather than be open and honest. For my part I am trying to prompt my duly elected representatives to speak up but not getting very far at the moment. It is all starting to feel a bit like primary school again where the nerdy kid “me” is getting smashed by the popular kids.

  • Tasi

    I’m pretty sure the reporter at one point called the CRL the “loop”.

  • Dave Smith

    The newspaper comments are quite disturbing sometimes, Americans are given a hard time but we are right up there! Also seems strange that the first or second comments they post are normally the most liked….anyway. Would be great if a CRL facts presentation along the lines of this http://youtube.com/#/watch?v=mcTmFk2KfFs was made. To get a TV channel to play part of it, now that is another thing!

    • Corn

      It’s a good start but the animatic at 1:09 is not helping to dispell the notion that it just goes round in a circle. (I know it’s old but this was actually shown again in one of the Cambell Live reports the other day.). And Len drift between calling it a Link and loop between sentences.. not a major in my mind but some consistency please.
      I think the use of those case studies is really something that needs to be pushed more. They are great and really gives people an idea of how transformative the CRL could be.

  • Send the Herald your reckons…

  • snow flake

    Regarding the old chestnut, why do you continue to think that rates shouldn’t be used to pay for local roads? Can you think of a single rate paying section of land that doesn’t get benefits out of the road network. I doubt there would be a single section.

    • SailorBoy

      Has anyone said that?
      I get the impression that people here would just prefer that neew infrastructure be primarily PT, may as well maintain what we have roads wise though.

      • snow flake

        They sure have, just refer to Matt’s link to his older post.

        Apparently rate payers aren’t road users.

        • Stu Donovan

          Matt’s primary point, I thought, was that rates are a subsidy for road users because the revenue collected is not directly related to the use of roads.

          If you start arguing for subsidies because you think public roads provide indirect benefits to private landowners (rather than just road users) then welcome aboard – you’re now in the same boat as those of us who are arguing for investment in public transport.

          And that’s before we even get into the argument about why PT is funded from a targeted rate, whereas roads is funded from a general rate, when arguably the cost of roads are even more spatially concentrated on the urban periphery.

          • snow flake

            It’s not a subsidy however, it’s a direct charge to people who get a direct benefit.

            I only drive 2 or 3 days in the week and I’m more than happy to pay for my local road that I use everyday for uses other than driving.

          • Oh Stu, sadly the twain shall never meet. One *invests* in road building and maintenance, one *subsidises* public transport. Different words, different boats.

    • As Stu points out, the point is not that I don’t think that rates shouldn’t be used to pay for local roads or that people don’t receive benefit from doing so. Its that lets not kid ourselves into thinking that the road taxes pay for all roads.

      • snow flake

        Thats very different from what you said in your linked post. It seems in those that you class rates being used to pay for roads as a subsidy when in reality it’s a direct tax.

        It’s like saying public hospitals are subsidized when it’s just a simple matter of tax.

        • Sailor Boy

          Public hospitals are subsidised exactly as roads are and exactly as PT is. You put money into a pool, the same amount no matter how much you use the service.

          • snow flake

            So pretty much everything that comes through rates or taxes is subsidized.

            Not a very useful way of talking about things however.

          • Sailor Boy

            Yes it is, all govt/council services are funded in prety much the same way, so they should all be examined in the same way, instead of mindlesly investing in motorways and criticising every PT project to death.

        • Its not a direct tax as the transport part isn’t itemised on the rates bill, it largely comes from the uniform annual general charge or the general rates proportions, if the council wanted to it could be spent on other things but they would then miss out on funding that they receive from the government and no spending would occur on local roads at all. And yes public hospitals are subsidised, without which they couldn’t operate.

          • snow flake

            Ok, so basically if the council allocated a portion of the rates they plan to collect to roads, like they do now, you would have a direct charge to road users and not a subsidy.

            Basically you are mixing up non essential services the council pays for with essential services. Although both technically subsidies they are both very different in nature.

          • Sailor Boy

            No, that wouldn’t be a direct charge to road users.

            If you charged 10c per vehicle, walking or cycling kilometre then that would be a direct charge. Allocating a portion of rates is a subsidy and is exactly hoe hospitals and schools are funded in the govt budget.

          • Snow Flake

            But its not a subsidy, its something every section of land needs, it gets provided and you get charged for it. Simple as that.

            When you stay at a hotel you dont think of yourself as subsidising it do you?

          • Sailor Boy

            No Snow Flake.

            Every house in Auckland (on the water main grid) needs water. We all pay an access charge and a usage rate. Water is directly funded by your water bill.
            (Also note that not every house needs road access and there are several in Auckland that don’t have any).
            Every house in Auckland pays rates, a certain percentage of rates from each house is then given to AT as part of their roading budget to subsidise roads (these roads would not exist without the council subsidy as there would be no other means to pay for them so it is a subsidy). Roads in Auckland are funded indirectly aka they are invested in/ receive a subsidy.
            If I go to a hotel then I have full use of a room and all of its trappings for however many nights I pay for. I dirctly fund my own accomodation.

          • snow flake

            It’s just a different mechanism to directly pay for things. When you go to the hotel your aren’t subsiding the bed department, your just paying for all the features regardless of how much you use each one.

            Also, in some cities like Hamilton water is paid for in the same way as roads, i.e.TThrough your rates.

  • snow flake

    On another note. Wouldn’t it be rather risky running trains at 2min intervals through the tunnel.

    Although technically rather possible I questiont the practicalities. Back last year when I was living in Melbourne it was quite common for a train to sit at the station for 2mins when it was busy and so if we tried running out trains at 2mins all you need is one little delay and the entire network would shut down. Add to that our signal system that falls over about once a month and we will be in real trouble.

    Also those grade separations you talk about as being optional, that would only be the case if closing the roads was optional which in moat cases it isn’t.

    • Stephen H

      London Underground runs an entire network of trains at 2 minute frequencies, and about half of the network is in tunnels. Similar frequencies run on the Paris and Tokyo metro systems. None of these networks are regarded as unsafe, and no, the entire network needs to be shut down when delays occur. I understand we would need to upgrade our signalling system to cope with 2 minute frequencies – the currently installed one is designed for 10 minute gaps.

      • snow flake

        Stephen, note that I already said it was technicaly possible and never said it was unsafe. Also note that neither in London, Paris or Tokyo do the run every train on their network through one double track tunnel, but rather a whole heap of completely separate tunnels.

        Given the brand new signal system that has been installed in Auckland tends to crash about once a month I see running the CRL so close to theoretical capacity as being quite a risk in terms of reliable operation.

        • SailorBoy

          They run single lines in double track tunnels.

          I agree that 2 minutes is beyond out current system and is probably infeasible. Thankfully it won’t be necessary for a long time.

        • Steve D

          Each of those lines on the Underground has a train each way every 2-3 minutes, though, almost entirely on double-track lines. Plenty of the lines share tracks with each other as well, or have branches. The Victoria Line is the most frequent, and it run a train every 1 minute and 49 seconds in the peak.

          http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/metros/london-underground-steps-up-victoria-line-frequency.html

          • snow flake

            Aren’t those lines almost fully automated as well?

          • The signalling system we have is capable of supporting that too with some small changes. Automated trains would only really require a plug in module to be installed on the trains (this has come directly from staff working on the project).

            Its worth noting that the signalling system we have, while not yet allowing for those super high frequencies, is actually more advanced than what exists in probably most of London.

          • snow flake

            The main concern I have is the reliability, if a train comes every 5 or 10 mins I couldn’t really care. But if it claimed to come every 4mins or something yet regularly suffered 2 hours delays I would really struggle to be a faithful passenger.

          • Sure, if there are regular delays then that is a real problem and would definitely impact on patronage but that is true of everything. One of the things with the new trains is that in each three car train, two are powered so if one goes down, the train can continue on and the requirements are that there is no more than a 10% performance impact. Being able to keep moving, even if something goes wrong is going to really help reliability on the network.

          • David O

            I take it that the fact that journeys on the motorway system that ought to take just 10 minutes can sometimes take 60 if there’s an accident doesn’t deter you from using your car? This sort of ‘fragility’ (if we can call it that) is equally a feature of the motorway network. And truth is that many other rail systems successfully run 2 minute frequency services without issues. In any case, I believe that the proposed frequency on any one line in the Auckland system would be closer to 5 minutes anyway.

          • Snow Flake

            Actually david I wouldn’t really care, in my entire life I have probably only ever one journey on the motorway take 30mins longer than I planned. Pretty much it always runs around the speed I expect it to depending on the time of day.

            For my bus ride however, although it should only take 10mins about once a week it takes over 30mins due to the bus not turning up. Back when I used to take the train it would be about 3 times a year that I would have to wait an extra 30-60mins.

    • Nick R

      Melbourne are actually planning to upgrade their city loop signalling to run two mInute headways.

      Not sure if we would see quite two minute headways in the CRL, the junctions would start to jam up before the stations did. Two and a half minute headways is probably realistic though.

      Snowflake if you want a good precedent check out the Paris RER. They feed whole regional commuter networks down to a pair of two track city tunnels. Those run jumbo Sydney style double deck interurbans at two minute headways, although they do have the benefit of bifurcated platforms at the busiest interchange stations. London Crossrail will be the same, various lower frequency suburban lines collecting into twin track tunnels with very high combined frequencies.

    • Luke C

      Melbournes CBD rail system is dreadful. The trains do run round in silly loops for no reason at all.
      Why would a train here stop for 2 minutes. Maybe that is possible at a platform with many tracks, but not in the CRL. So then clearly it won’t happen here!

      • snow flake

        The station I timed trains stopping for 2mins at in Melbourne was Richmond as they would get large numbers of people transferring. This would be an issue for Auckland more in the future I suspect.

        Regarding the Sydney trains, I timed those waiting for 3 mins and it was often not enough time meaning the train drove off with people still wanting to get on. I saw this at north Sydney.

      • Richard D

        Luke C
        I doubt very much the trains go round the loop “for no reason at all”.
        Just looking at Google, I can see that there is a 10 track railway at Richmond, that has become a six track railway by the time it is running parallel to Flinders Street. The loop presumably allows services to reach the city that would otherwise have had to terminate at Richmond (or not run at all). At the same time the loop allows the opportunity for direct services to multiple locations across the CDB – much as the CRL would do for Auckland.

        Why would a train stop for two minutes? I can easily imagine a crush-loaded train coming back from a rugby match needing to empty, and then having to wait for the door cycle time before it sets off gain taking two minutes, especially if a good proportion of the passengers are not used to using trains, or unfamiliar with Auckland. But in the peak with experienced commuters, two minutes is probably a maximum including a performance buffer,

        • Richard, the loop occupies four of those six tracks on the Flinders St viaduct (the other two are used as a freight bypass) and four tracks back through the tunnel section… or vice versa, for some reason they insist on changing the direction services loop between morning and afternoon, and different again at night and on the weekends.There are four single loop tracks for four groups of services. It’s actually arranged as four separate single track balloon loops, about half of each on the viaduct and half in tunnel.

          In reality the use of the loop massively slashes capacity. Of those ten tracks you see through Richmond Station, they all feed down into just two tracks of the loop circuit (The Caulfield and Burnley groups, the other two are for the Clifton Hill and Northern groups from the other side of the city). Overall Melbourne has eighteen tracks leading to the core of it’s network, but tries to cram that all down to just four tracks through the loop.

          So in a way they do actually run trains round the loop for ‘no reason at all’, or at least they run almost every single train in their network through the loop even though the demands to access those stations might not demand it. A lot of the time you are forced to go from Flinders St station to Richmond station via the full loop circuit, taking in a 6.3km detour around the CBD via four extra stations just to go 2.1km down the line. Thats the critical geometric failing of loops, nobody actually want to travel in circles. Make your route into a circle and plenty of people end up doing unecessary time consuming detours. Funny thing is the arrangment is designed to avoid the need to transfer, by making every train pass through every station in the central area. However in doing so it makes the trip the ‘wrong way’ around the loop so time consuming that people transfer anyway. Hence Snowflake’s observation at Richmond station. All but one of the nine lines going through Richmond runs right round the loop and stops at every city station so no one should have to transfer, but they do anyway because it can save up to twenty minutes at peak times.

          With the CRL, the Auckland network will have half the capacity of the Melbourne City Loop system today. However we will use it to operate four lines, while Melbourne runs sixteen separate lines and branches. Luckily we’ve moved beyond the loop concept which would have made the Auckland system very slow for a lot of trips and have much lower capacity than otherwise possible.

      • One of the bitter ironies with Melbournes trains is that they can have very delayed dwell times at busy stations, largely because they can’t run the sort of frequency they need. Effectively it’s due to the design of the trains (very much suburban stock, all seating and little standing room) combined with overcrowding, resulting in huge masses of people blocking the doors and circulation spaces. I commuted from Richmond station daily for two years, the usual process is that a pile of standees has to actually deboard, then get back on again so there is enough space for those actually getting off at that station to move through the carriage and on to the platform. That take heaps of time.

        If they had two minute headways they would have 50% more capacity, much reduced overcrowding and therefore reduce the circumstances that lead to unacceptably long dwell times. They could also get serious about the layout of their trains. Luckilly our EMUs have a hybrid metro-commuter layout which should be more efficient than Melbourne, and they also have the ability to be converted to full longitudinal metro-style seating in the future if necessary. Just a shame we only have two doors per carriage, the third would make things so much easier.

        Luke C, I agree the Melbourne loop is dreadful. The have so many tracks, so many trains and run so much service, but the network just ends up feeling slow and circuitous with untold delays. I was studying transit planning there and a rail enthusiast, and the loop thing still caught me out regularly. I’m not sure how the general public are supposed to make sense of it!

  • The incompetence of AT at promoting the CRL is bordering on conspiratorial: deliberate under-selling in order to sabotage any chance of success by destroying public support. I doubt that’s actually the case, but the ineptitude of highly-paid marketing departments at getting the messages out in words the laity can understand is beyond ridiculous.

    • Sailor Boy

      I actually know a woman who works for the marketing firm that handle a lot of council matter, and trust me, it is not them who are incompetent, it is the council.

  • Glen

    It’s head-in-hands material all around.
    When even AT can’t get their messaging right (or at the very least get cut-through, which is what they’re paid to do) then we can’t expect the media to be on the mark. Len should also expunge the word loop from his brain, if he says it even once among 100 references to ‘link’ it’ll get used to reinforce the circular train lie. He needs to understand that the editing is everything.
    Oh and FWIW among many other mistakes Campbell Live also got wrong that it’ll be the most expensive transport project in NZ ever. As you guys pointed out, that is the Western Ring Route motorway. I called them on it on their Facebook page but of course won’t get a reply…

    • I think they could do well to re-price the project without the extra EMU’s and the Onehunga double tracking or at least do a PR exercise and show the basic split, cost wise, to the general public. Splitting projects up works for NZTA so why not AT? After all, while the additional rolling stock and the double tracking will increase capacity, they are not actually required to build the CRL.

  • Replying to snow flake (as comment nesting is exhausted), from April 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm:

    “It’s not a subsidy however, it’s a direct charge to people who get a direct benefit. I only drive 2 or 3 days in the week and I’m more than happy to pay for my local road that I use everyday for uses other than driving.”

    I don’t pay rates directly (as I’m renting) but at minimum I do understand rates are payable for a whole bunch of things the Council does, not just roads but parks, rubbish collection, and so on. The money goes into one central pool and is divvied out as needed. If Auckland Transport had a hub meter on your car (or bicycle) and billed you for road use a la Watercare, that would be a direct payment for direct benefit, but rates as they stand are not.

    Whether you drive twice weekly, four times daily, or not at all, the Council makes an allocation from rates to provide a road of (hopefully) motor vehicle standard that is available when you need to use it. Footpaths and (in rare cases) cycleways are provided along the same lines.

    So the allocation from rates is a collective subsidy for the provision of roads to the whole population of Auckland – just the same as subsidies that are made to help provide Aucklanders with a public transport system when they need it. The only difference is that some people hold their nose when “subsidies” come up because the word has come to mean “irresponsible socialist handouts”, rather than “investments” for things like roads and motorways which are good sensible common-good arrangements that lift all boats, etc.

    • snow flake

      I would class a subsidy from a council perspective as paying for the ongoing operation of something that would not be economically viable without it. Building new infrastructure such as new roads, libraries or busways I would class as an investment.

      Your talk about rates is little different tothe NLTF as the money collected there is put into a pool and then packaged out.

      • Sailor Boy

        You are now talking about financial viability, not economic SnowFlake.
        Neither roads nor PT (except some very busy bus routes like the NEX) are financially viable. They are however economically viable as the increase in Auckland’s GDP is worth each landowner paying a certain amount.

        • snow flake

          Well yes roads aren’t built with the intention of making big profits but they are setup to cover their own costs without subsidies, in fact they bring in so much money they are able to spend billions on making new ones.

          PT however seldom brings in enough money to cover the operating costs and hence need a subsidy. And given they need a subsidy just to operate the can’t really make any investments without further subsidies.

        • snow flake

          And again I’m happy to pay for such subsidies.

          • Sailor Boy

            Roads are set up in the idea that more people will pay money to use them (NZTA), or that they have an economic benefit (local roads) that outweighs their costs. Some NZTA roads do not pay themselves (Transmission Gully won’t), some pay themselves back in fuel tax (WRR probably will).

            I am happy to pay for such subsidies of certain roads (not Transmission Gully but others).
            However local roads DO NOT pay for themselves and are subsidised. They are subsidised by the council and sometimes the govt.
            I am happy to subsidise them, but I want to know that the option I am subsidising is the most cost efficient (CRL over more motorways).
            We then come into an issue though when NZTA receives a huge benefit in decongestion of the motorways when a non state highway project (like the CRL) is constructed. Would it be fair for NZTA to subsidise (invest in) the construction of the CRL for the benefit that they gain. (NZTA is taken to represent all users of state highway roads)

          • snow flake

            Again, the goal of the road network is not to provide large profits but to provide a functional transport network. And given we get charged so much to drive on roads they get more than enough money to pay for things like TG or the WRR.

            Now if you can name a single motorway project funded through rates which could have paid for the CRL then I think you have a very valid case. However as we have seen rates have trouble getting enough money together to build a $400 million transport project let alone a $3 billion one.

          • Sailor Boy

            Ok, but lets say that you could spend 2.4 billion (2013$) on the CRL or on more motorways in Auckland in an attempt to improve the function of the highways and make Auckland’s motorways a functioning transport system again. Lets say that you do an analysis, and find that the CRL does it better. Would you then be justified in spending NZTA money on the CRL?

          • Snow Flake

            Well no not really, all of the money NZTA gets comes from road users and so making improvements for anything else makes little sense unless it has other obligations or gets some sort of indirect benefit.

            One thing I do find interesting is, if PT is meant to be so efficient and cost effective why does it have so much trouble paying for any projects just through rates and its own operation.?

            My thoughts would be that people find it much less noticable paying $5k a year to drive yet think spending $1k on the bus a year as being highly expensive.

          • Sailor Boy

            @Snow Flake, that is the whole point though. Road users will get an indirect benefit.

            Also, rail investment is not comparable to local road investment, it is comparable to motorway investment, and if you look closely then you will see that all Motorways in NZ are owned and built by NZTA not councils.

            Agree with you thoughts on affordability perception. People seem to think that petrol isn’t a cost because it is ‘something you just buy’. And parking is the same ‘where else will I put my car’. I guarantee there is not a single road in Auckland upon which it is cheaper to drive to the CBD than to cath PT.

          • snow flake

            The complex part there however would be demonstrating what the benefit to road users is.

            The main difference I would see is that the CRL would reduce the number of buses in the CBD and reduce congestion slightly. Is that $3 billion of benefits however, I think not.

            Again it comes back to my old issue in that the funding stream is sort of stuffed up in that road users get charged and so they get the benefits. Find a more suitable way to charge transport funding and a lot of these issues may go away.

          • Steve D

            Also, huge parts of the cost of driving are hidden inside other costs, so you can’t avoid paying them by not driving. Parking is the big one, since people have to pay to build off-street parking at their houses and destinations, whether they use it or not. There’s also the effect of regulations, regardless of where the money comes from. The right of way rules are so big we don’t even see them much of the time, but they favour cars over pedestrians and public transport. We also choose to use most of the space we have available in our streets for cars and parking, so it’s not surprising that’s what they’re mostly used for. If we gave up one lane on every multi-lane arterial to buses, we’d get a lot more bus use, and if we narrowed them down and made big wide cycleways we’d get more cycling. It’s not just about money.

            I don’t agree with the logic that NZTA must spend its money on roads, just because the RUCs and petrol taxes came from road users. For maintenance maybe, but not for new projects. In any case building PT infrastructure also benefits road users by giving them the option to stop being road users.

            I think the next step forward for transport funding is for KiwiRail infrastructure to be combined with NZTA, and track access fees included in the NLTF. Then it can decide how to allocate funds based on what will be most effective in the future, rather than proportional to the current usage.

          • snow flake

            Having NZTA paying for non-road projects would be liking paying subs to a tennis club who then goes off and makes a cricket pitch whilst leaving the tennis courts crowded.

            Sure a few people may leave the tennis club and start playing cricket for free but that doesn’t really help the people paying the money.

          • Steve D

            People tend to be more attached to their choice of hitting-balls-with-bats sport than transport mode. As we’ve seen with Britomart and the Northern Busway if you provide a decent PT service people will switch to it from driving. People aren’t somehow allocated as “motorists” or “public transport users” from birth, they choose the mode that works best for them right now. Most people drive, because we’ve spent two thirds of a century spending all our money on making driving as easy as possible, while neglecting other methods of transport.

            Having the NZTA insist on spending only on roads, because that’s where all the income currently comes from, would be like Chorus spending all its money on copper phone lines, and not building fibre because very few people are using it! Successful enterprises often use revenue from an old product to develop a new one.

          • snow flake

            If all NZTA did was build little 2 lane local roads then your analogy would be correct. However that is clearly not the case as the spend the money on making better way for people to do what they want to do.

            Also we haven’t spent 2/3rds of a century on one mode. We spent over 100 years building rail before we really started looking at cars, and when we did start looking at cars we didn’t just close the raillines leaving thousands of people having to walk to work but rather people started to drive because the city was spaced out and driving was the better option.

            nv tontonight we are going to see another challenge between driving and PT. Now what are the chances they will choose to do this test during the hour when cars perform worst? Pretty much guaranteed I’d say otherwise a car would just slam PT.

          • Steve D

            If all NZTA did was build little 2 lane local roads then your analogy would be correct. However that is clearly not the case as the spend the money on making better way for people to do what they want to do.

            Of course, they’re pretty smart people. They don’t feel bound to spend the money on the roads the petrol tax came from. So why is it OK for NZTA to take money raised by taxing people who drive on local roads, and spend it on motorways, busways, public transport operating subsidies, footpaths, cycleways, traffic policing and snappy promotional videos – but not on railways?

            Also we haven’t spent 2/3rds of a century on one mode. We spent over 100 years building rail before we really started looking at cars, and when we did start looking at cars we didn’t just close the raillines leaving thousands of people having to walk to work but rather people started to drive because the city was spaced out and driving was the better option.

            We built pretty much all the rail in this country from about 1870 to 1940, well less than 100 years, and after the war the government closed vast amounts of railways (I think many of those were probably pretty sound decisions). Every city ripped out the tram networks.

            The city was spaced out because the government and councils planned it that way. They chose to design a city with disconnected streets, detached houses on huge sections, and all the jobs and retail in malls and business parks with no public transport, and no real opportunity to walk, but acres of free carparking. For a long time it was illegal to build apartments or any other housing in the central city.

            But even aside from that, even though you can’t walk far, you can serve a spaced out city with public transport and cycling. But the governments chose the car as king.

            They didn’t build urban rail. They ran a convoluted bus service in mixed traffic that didn’t really serve much of anything. They designed the streets to favour cars over pedestrians and bicyclists. And they spent a fortune building motorways and widening roads.

            Even if you think that those were the right decisions at the time, it doesn’t mean they still are. Cities are changing. People increasingly want to walk and use public transport instead of driving. Auckland in the future is going to be denser, as well, and the only practical transport option for most people in a dense city is public transport. No matter how much you love motorways and carparks, there just won’t be the room.

            tonight we are going to see another challenge between driving and PT. Now what are the chances they will choose to do this test during the hour when cars perform worst? Pretty much guaranteed I’d say otherwise a car would just slam PT.

            Yes, that challenge was in peak time. Funnily enough, that’s when the most people want to travel, and that’s when all the congestion is. What a bizarre coincidence!

          • snow flake

            Actually only about 20% of dsidaily trips are made during peak hours. The other 80% occur during the other 22 hours of the day. So actually it was a very bias test yet PT came second even though it appeared to run perfectly and not lacking from investment. Rather all the walking and transfers required.

            Even better was that for this test the CRL would have made little difference.

          • Steve D

            It’s a muck-raking TV current affairs show, not science. That said, I think they were right – most people’s commutes in Auckland take longer by PT than driving. So what? Some people value saving money, not having to drive, getting some exercise along the way, having the chance to work, read or play with their phones, or even being able to drink before going home. The service doesn’t need to be just as fast as driving to be useful, or get a lot of riders. But it does need to be at least comparable.

            In the future, keeping that time advantage for cars means adding more and more capacity to the roads and carparks, which we don’t have the space or money to do, and it would make the city rather unpleasant to be in if we could. Public transport really comes into its own in a dense city when it has a dedicated right-of-way, and can simply avoid the car congestion completely. In Auckland that means building the CRL and buying more trains to provide capacity on the rail lines, and a network of busways and bus lanes for other routes.

            By the way, building the CRL would make a huge difference to this particular test, since building the CRL will involve demolishing TV3′s offices!

      • Roads presumably aren’t economically viable in the long term without maintenance – some road use is priced back to users via RUCs (for truckies and, less fairly, people with diesel cars), but the rest isn’t, so the roading network requires subsidisation from rates for its ongoing operation.

        If you drive on these roads all the time, and I don’t, I am subsidising your use via the rates I pay through rent – and I don’t object to that at all, as that is how society works, but it’s not a fundamentally different arrangement to ratepayer support for operating libraries or public parks.

      • Thanks Sailor Boy for correcting me on economic vs fiscal viability. I probably should have stuck with fiscal in my comment above.

  • Zachary W

    I emailed Campbell Live about the figure of 4tph to 7tph and where it came from and they replied promptly advising the figure actually came from the mayor. I think that if we continue to do this, we are simply selling the CRL short.

    • Greg N

      Perhaps we should ask Campbell live for the full (unedited) Mayor interview to confirm that and other details of the piece.
      I think a lot of selective footage was used in the piece by Campbell Live.

Leave a Reply