Len Brown has said that this year we’re going to be seeing the council start a conversation about how to raise money to cover the estimated $12-15 billion funding shortfall that has resulted from their wish list of projects that will still most transport metrics get worse. While I feel there is a strong desire amongst Aucklanders to see us getting on with improving transport I do think the council will be hard pressed to sell extra taxes for a programme of works that doesn’t really solve the problems that exist.
Over the last few days we’ve run a couple of guest posts on the revival and future of rapid transit in Los Angeles. You can read the two posts Part 1 here and Part 2 here. What I want to do with this post is look at what we can learn from LA.
I think the most amazing and most relevant thing about the LA experience is this part from Darren’s guest post
Los Angeles is by no means sitting on its laurels. At the height of the Global Financial Crisis in late 2008, 67% of Los Angeles County voters voted to tax themselves more by increasing the county sales tax by 0.5% for the next 40 years. 65% of this is dedicated to bus and rail capital projects and operations; 20% to roading and 15% to local projects (which can be public transport, roading, walking & cycling). This is allowing the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) to get a whole new raft of rail projects off the ground much earlier than would otherwise have been possible.
That in the middle of a recession people voted to increase tax is extraordinary, further I understand that more than 50% of all voters in every district within LA County area voted yes on it so it wasn’t just popular in the areas that stood the most to gain from investment (it actually needed 66.7% to pass so just squeaked over the line). In 2012 elections a further vote was held to extend the funding measure by an additional 30 years taking it out to 2069. That would have enabled additional lending against the future revenue and allowed even more projects to be fast tracked. That fell just short with 66.1% voting in favour, again with it needing to reach 66.7% to pass.
In both Measure R and Measure J it appears that one of the key elements in the debate was that authorities made clear just how the money being raised was going to be spent. This goes deeper the 65% PT, 20% roading and 15% local projects as mentioned in the post yesterday by going into specific projects that would be built with the extra funding. For example this is an interactive map of all of the projects that will be built with Measure R funding.
In Auckland it would be nice if the council could be more open about what is actually planned to be spent which is ~70% on roads. The reason that this is important is that so far when the debate about extra funding comes up it is almost always blamed on the big PT projects on the list like the City Rail Link and not the roading list almost three times larger.
Tied to this is another important aspect that the council/AT will need to get right and that is a map to communicate the vision. The one above is good from an individual project level but as I pointed out the other day it can be hard to see what the longer term plans are or how the individual rapid transit services would operate. For that a network map showing the overarching vision - like the one shown yesterday - is extremely useful as it allows for the existing network to still be seen.
For Auckland an official map like the CFN for the PT side of things would be incredibly useful in getting the general public to understand what’s planned.
The other big thing I think we could learn from LA is the relative importance they are placing on getting large parts of the network built. They have taken the Measure R funding and used it to come up with an initiative they call 30/10 which basically means taking 30 years of transit projects and building them over a 10 year period meaning the benefits of the projects can start to be seen faster. Again this is something similar to what we’ve done with the CFN – although not quite as quick as 10 years.
There’s probably quite a bit more we can learn from the experience LA has had but these were just a couple of the quick ones that I thought about.