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Is the baseline transport programme actually OK?

In the Mayor’s proposal for council’s 10 year budget, there is discussion around how two transport programmes will be consulted on early next year once a draft budget has been fully formulated:

  1. A programme which is based on the funding envelope possible with a 2.5-3.5% rates increase. This is referred to as the ‘baseline proposal’ in the document
  2. A larger programme that relies on additional funding, either from higher rates increases or from alternative funding options (like a network charge or congestion charge)

The paper highlights that what falls within the baseline proposal will be the subject of ongoing discussion between the Council and Auckland Transport, based around a system of ranking projects. However, a number of key projects that can be funded within this programme are listed:

  • City Rail Link
  • North Western Growth Area Projects (presumably this means new roads in Westgate and Hobsonville)
  • Warkworth SH1 intersection improvements (an odd one to include as I thought this was an NZTA project)
  • East West Connections (the new name for the East West Link)
  • Lincoln, Te Atatu and Dominion Road upgrades

Later in the document, when each of the transformational shifts in the Auckland Plan are discussed, there’s some further information on key projects which are included in both scenarios:

Whichever transport programme we eventually include in this LTP, there is no doubt that it will reflect the ongoing shift to public transport that this council has been committed to since its inception, with $700 million spent on public transport in the four years of Auckland Council.

The City Rail Link is fundamental in both scenarios. The baseline programme in addition, incorporates significant investment in bus lanes and bus infrastructure to support the new public transport network. Projects such as AMETI include walking and cycling provision. The city centre transport budgets include funding for Wellesley Street bus infrastructure and the Wynyard bus interchange.

One thing that’s really important to note here is that the CRL is no longer dependent upon finding alternative funding sources. It’s in both scenarios, which makes complete sense as the project is listed in the Auckland Plan as the number one priority. Even if the alternative funding options go nowhere, CRL is still budgeted to happen (when it happens is mainly down to central government).

Projects essential to the success of the new bus network’s rollout are also included in both programmes – a big programe of bus lanes, the Wellesley Street bus infrastructure, Wynyard bus interchange, the Dominion Road project and AMETI are all mentioned above, while Te Atatu bus interchange is listed (along with some rail grade separations) as a project that’s come out of some work on spatial prioritisation.

So a lot of the really good stuff we need council to focus on building – both to kick start implementation of the Congestion Free Network (i.e. CRL and the AMETI busway) and to ensure the new bus network is implemented successfully – appear possible in the baseline programme.

If we turn to what’s highlighted as being excluded from the baseline programme – but could be funded if extra money was available from network charges or some other funding source – there’s a rather strange mix of projects listed:

  • A majority of local and arterial roading projects across the region
  • Almost all of the park and ride projects currently programmed
  • The North-Western busway
  • Strategic projects such as Penlink and rail electrification to Pukekohe

Looking back in the project list from the Integrated Transport Programme, most of the arterial roading projects seemed like a huge waste of money, so I doubt we’d miss them. We had things like:

  • Mill Road – $239 million
  • Albany Highway upgrade – $665 million (likely a typo)
  • Lake Road Upgrade – $120 million
  • Great South Road (Otahuhu-Manukau) – $820 million (another possible typo

There was also another $2.5 billion budgeted for “other arterial road upgrades” over 30 years, excluding anything in the new greenfield areas as they were a further budget line item. So while we may miss having some of the arterial roading programme cut back, it seems like there was an enormous amount of waste in it. In terms of Penlink, well I think that was covered off last week in quite a bit of detail – in short, it won’t be missed too much.

In terms of park and rides, we’ve highlighted on many occasions in the past that these are not a panacea for improving public transport and in many cases may be both poor value for money and could undermine other goals such as cost-effective feeder buses or development opportunities around train stations. A small park and ride development programme is probably appropriate, focusing on stations that serve areas where feeder buses just aren’t viable (i.e. rural areas). Beyond that, however it’s hard to see a major programme being fundamentally essential.

That leaves the Northwest Busway and Pukekohe electrification. While these are both critical projects – particularly if Auckland is going to sprawl to the northwest and south over the next 10 years – it’s debatable whether they are projects that should be mainly funded by the Council. It is central government which owns both the rail network that would be electrified between Papakura and Pukekohe as well as State Highway 16, which the Northwest Busway would be built alongside. Sure there may be some costs to the Council in relation to stations, new trains and bus interchanges, but I would have thought the bulk of both projects should be paid by government.

In summary, it seems like it may well be possible for the council to proceed with a pretty good transport programme in the near future without relying on additional funding sources – including making significant effort towards implementing the Congestion Free Network. This is essentially what we’ve been saying since the CFN came out over a year ago, so it’s nice to finally see. Of course the devil will be in the detail of what projects are and are not in this “baseline programme”, but at the very least it’s great to see CRL’s in – and therefore no longer requires alternative funding options to be approved before it can proceed.

20 comments to Is the baseline transport programme actually OK?

  • Fred

    So can Bernard Orsman now shut up about the council not having a plan for how it’ll fund its share of CRL.

  • JimboJones

    Roskill Spur?

  • Stevenz

    My pet peeve is Lake Road. The wholesale destruction of the quality of Takapuna, Bayswater and Devonport will be the least of it. Unless they build a lot more housing and a huge ferry park and ride, there isn’t any need for additional capacity. Yeah, Lake Road is congested. Is that necessarily a problem? Is it a $120 million problem? I think not. One thing it would do is encourage more development towards Devonport and that’s not good planning on a peninsula with only one way in and one way out. (Or will the second harbour crossing land on Victoria Road? I can see the geometry working, perhaps a tunnel through Mt Victoria, unless you want a business district and high quality neighbourhoods.) Four-laning Lake Road is just a knee-jerk reaction to complaints about congestion. It makes no sense on any other level. And would it really relieve congestion or just induce more driving? Has AT modeled that? I look to the mayor to exercise his authority and pull the plug on this one.

    • I live on the Devonport Peninsula and agree whole heartedly. The only good reason I can see to widen Lake Road is to put in a bus lane. Maybe this could be a tidal bus lane that changes direction part way through the day.

      “a huge ferry park and ride” – well the Bayswater ferry already has a massive parking area that has never been full in the two years I have been using it. The Devonport ferry also is hugely over provided with parking considering the average distance passengers would travel to it. I doubt anyone travels more than 3kms to a ferry.

      The Devonport redevelopment is getting rid of a lot of parking and increasing bus integration and cycle parking so I hope that will lead to less wasteful use of the lovely waterfront area – i.e. not for storing metal boxes 8 hours a day.

      • nick1234

        I also live in Devonport and never understand the fuss about Lake Road. Even at peak times it rarely takes me more than 10-15 minutes to get between Devonport and Esmonde Road in either direction. Esmonde Road itself can be horrible, but that’s a different story. Four-laning would be a terrible thing to do.

      • Stevenz

        Except, if you don’t get to the Devonport car park by 7 you’re out of luck. Fortunately, I always lived within easy walking distance of either Devonport or Bayswater ferry, by design. That ability is big factor in the desirability of those neighbourhoods. Smart planners know that it is better to leave some places alone.

        • Well exactly. As I said, how many people are travelling more than 3kms to the ferry? I doubt almost anyone.

          I don’t see why there should be parking there at all and certainly not on the waterfront. Maybe turn the (enormous and seldom full) New World supermarket car park into paid commuter ferry parking. So free for up to an hour for shoppers.

        • nick1234

          Stevenz, I drive to the Devonport ferry most days. Up to about 7:45 or 8 I can park within 5 minutes walk of the ferry, after that it’ll be 10 minutes away. So no problem at all. True, the actual obvious ferry carpark in front of the wharf is full by 7 or so, but there’s plenty of other parking.

          But Lake Road isn’t a problem so widening it wouldn’t make any difference anyway!

    • What about if they four laned Lake Rd but it went: protected two way cycle lane, bus lane, car lane, car lane, bus lane.
      That would solve a lot of congestion problems. It probably wouldn’t even require widening along most of its length.

      • That would be a fantastic solution but I don’t see where the width could be taken from.

      • Stevenz

        I think a reversible lane should be looked at. But while they’re looking they should estimate the expected time saving of any improvement. Not exactly analagous, but when $780 million for the northern motorway saves people, what, 3 minutes? (or is that Penlink), you don’t have much of a problem!

    • John Polkinghorne

      There’s so little intensification allowed in Devonport that it would be crazy to four-lane the road.

      • David B.

        And more lanes on Lake Road wouldn’t address the underlying causes of the congestion – that is the lack of compelling public transport options from Devonport and Bayswater, and the on-ramp along Esmonde Road that does not have a southbound lane to go onto on the Northern Motorway. causing the current logjams on Esmonde Road and back to Lake Road.

        Both of these could be addressed – but for $120m I’d sooner see a tram line or bus lanes or both along Lake Road, rather than try to attract more traffic around the corner to Esmonde Road.

        JP – in my view there’s plenty of previous intensification and the transport in and out of the area needs catching up with where the population is now rather than where future growth will take it.

        • The peak problem tough is not really on Lake Road – it is at Esmonde Road and the Takapuna end of Lake Road which are already 4 lanes.

          I often cycle from the ferry to the Belmont shops in the evening after 6pm. There is very little traffic either way on Lake Road. Maybe the main issue is in the morning peak – I never cycle on Lake Road during the morning peak so I can’t comment. Perhaps even just a bus lane going North may offer another alternative to the morning peak congestion?

          I just think $120m is a huge sum of money to throw at what doesn’t seem to be a problem that cripples the road for long periods. Unless the fact that cars are not able to travel at maximum speed at all times is a problem I guess (as it seems to be in Auckland).

  • Patrick R

    Are Otahuhu and Manukau City interchanges already budgeted for, or included?

    Basically so long as works that support the New Network roll out and the CRL is funded the transformation of Auckland can continue. And then it’s a question of government seeing sense about what our biggest city needs.

  • Bryan

    On the subject of park-n-rides, NZTA last week announced plans for Swanson, along with a streamlined funding process :-
    “Station upgrade benefits from streamlined funding development” http://www.nzta.govt.nz/about/media/releases/3587/news.html

    *quote*
    The upgrade is the first project to be approved under the new process. The proposed improvements at Swanson include:
    – construction of a Park and Ride with an additional 136 car parks and a covered walkway to the station. This is expected to cost $2.5million and be completed in March 2015.
    – a station upgrade which will include improved lighting, signage, CCTV, additional platform shelters, walkway canopies to the footbridge and stairs, and new platform surfacing and marking. Design is expected to be completed at the end of 2014.
    *unquote*

    I hope the “covered walkway” will be connected to the “walkway canopies to the footbridge and stairs” and to the platform shelters (additional and existing). :-)

  • David B.

    One thing I don’t like is the hike from 2.5% annual increases to 3.5% annual increases. This is a much faster rate of increase than most people’s household incomes, and I would argue that keeping rates affordable is an important objective that has been missed in this Mayor’s proposal. Ideally the Council should work with zero to one percent increases, which is in line with how salaries seem to be going.

    What’s also not clear is what difference moving from 2.5% to 3.5% annual increases makes in terms of new transport initiatives. If all we’re getting is the likes of Mill Road, Lake Road, Gt South Road, Roskill spur etc then I’d rather not increase the size of the annual increases in rates.

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