On Tuesday the Greens announced a policy to give tertiary students free off peak public transport. While the policy wasn’t terrible I didn’t think it was great either however the same can’t be said for the rest of their transport policy which was announced today.
There are 5 key areas the Greens are focusing on
- A $10.4 billion investment in new public transport projects and rail over 10 years delivering buses and trains every few minutes at peak hour, decongesting our cities’ roads, and reversing the neglect of our rail network
- A $2.2 billion dollar government investment in seven key public transport projects in Auckland, including $1.3 billion in funding for the Auckland City Rail Link to start immediately.
- A 300% increase in walking and cycling infrastructure including separated walking and cycling infrastructure in New Zealand’s small towns and big cities.
- A $423 million increase in funding to regions to contest for projects that will best serve their transport needs.
- A Student Green Card to provide free off-peak travel to all tertiary students and apprentices. We will investigate options to lower fares for everyone, and implement smart, integrated options for monthly and annual passes.
The student fares was announced on Tuesday and the walking and cycling policy was announced back in March so there’s little point in going over them again other than to say I improving both walking and cycling as well as PT can often go hand in hand i.e. making it easier to get to buses, trains and ferries by walking and cycling will also help increase use of PT.
That leaves the PT and regional parts of the policy to think about.
I basically read point one as being about creating proper integrated networks in our major cities. While it isn’t specified I would expect it would involve a combination of improved network planning like what’s happening in Auckland with the New Network, integrated ticketing/fares and higher levels of service provision. The latter in particular is something likely to require additional funding, an issue which I’ll come to shortly.
On the Auckland specific parts of the policy it’s fantastic to see them supporting the Congestion Free Network
There are a couple of key points about their support for the CFN though that it’s worth mentioning and that’s related to funding as shown in the table below.
With the exception of the CRL at 60% the rest of the projects are funded to the tune of 50%. In some cases that’s better than what we have now where some of the projects might not get much government funding at all but I do wonder if strategic Rapid Transit Networks should get more funding. This is because RTN networks are the PT equivalent of a motorway and under the current system motorways get funded 100% from the government through the NZTA.
Putting that aside, the CFN combined with the Greens planned spend of $34 million a year on walking and cycling – around three times the current budget – would really see transport in Auckland transformed in a positive way which has the benefit of providing people with much greater choice in how they get around.
The other key part to their policy is around increasing funding for regional transport projects. I’m not sure if this funding is based on the governments recently announced regional roading package (some of which aren’t bad) or off some other figure but it’s clearly about tapping into the complaints from regions about funding being sucked away for the RoNS projects. I do like that as part of this they will move rail and port projects under the same funding criteria so that hopefully the best transport solution for a given problem obtained regardless of what mode it is. Personally I would go further and shift the network planning and management parts of Kiwirail in with the NZTA to hopefully further enhance chances of getting the best outcome and to gain the benefits of planning and project management experience that the NZTA seem to have.
The biggest thing with this policy is how to fund it. To address this the Greens have actually come up with their own version of a Government Policy statement which is really great to see and shows they’re actually thinking though some of these issues. The graph below is a summary of the spending but the policy contains a yearly break down for each activity class too which is shows how much thought has been put in to this.
While I think that it’s pretty good my biggest concern is just how much they could implement as the government seems to be going hell-for-leather trying to get RoNS projects underway and once that happens it will likely be hideously expensive to cancel projects but also if they’re not cancelled they’ll be hugely costly with the construction trying up transport funding for years.
Overall at first glance the policy is fairly good and to me at least is a big improvement on what’s currently happening or is planned to happen.
Note: I’m not sure when the Governemnt or the Labour plan to formally release their transport policies – although for a large part we can expect the Governments policy to match the formal Government Policy statement