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AA’s ATAP Funding Survey

The AA have released the results of a survey of their members about how to pay Auckland’s future transport needs, and we agree with their position.

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) looked at Auckland’s future transport needs and found that for the first decade alone, around $23.7 billion is needed but that based on current trends and assumptions, only $19.8 billion would be spent. That’s a shortfall of about $400 million per year. Even more would need to be spent in each of the following two decades the project assessed.

In the long term, road pricing will likely be a useful tool to both manage demand and to raise revenue to help pay for transport but it is expected that could take a decade or more to develop. As such we’ll need to do something in the interim. The ATAP report suggests that additional funding could be provided either by increasing the amount available from current sources, such as the government investing more, or from new funding tools. The report also has this recommendation on funding.

We recommend the Government and Auckland Council work together to consider options and agree on an approach to address the funding gap by mid-2017, to inform statutory funding documents.

But in all the discussions about funding, there’s been a small bit of fine print that is often missed, it has been assumed the current Interim Transport Levy would stop like intended in mid-2018.

That brings us back to the AA and their survey which has looked at their members thoughts on the outcome of ATAP and on funding options. They sent the survey to 20,000 Auckland members and had 1091 responses, the demographic breakdown of which is below. As you can see responses mainly came from older members but this may reflect the AA’s membership being older. Also, it doesn’t appear that the age breakdowns add up to 100%.

aa-atap-funding-survey-demographics

When asked how they feel about Auckland’s current transport system in its ability to meet Auckland’s needs, 61% said it was terrible (20%) or poor (41%). Just 7% said it was good or fantastic. That result isn’t all too surprising though as most people tend to think things could always be better.

They then asked for respondents thoughts based on this map. What’s notable about it is that it only shows the first decade projects, which is fair enough as the full map is quite confusing but also because many of the big road projects in ATAP are front loaded into the first decade while many of the key PT projects are in the second and third decade. See if you can spot the error with the map.

aa-atap-funding-survey-project-map-2

Asked for their thoughts on this plan and 37% said it looked good or fantastic while 42% said it looked ok. That’s a lot better but not great and it would be interesting to see how people would react and what they would want prioritised if they saw proposed strategic PT network.

The survey then asked about how to close the funding gap with the following options

  1. Delay or cancel some of the projects
  2. ‘Find’ the money by reprioritising expenditure
  3. Raise more money from Aucklanders/all New Zealanders

A slight majority (53%) thought Option 1 should be, or would be open to it being part of the overall solution.

Those two measures soared to 69% when asked about option 2. The AA say they asked respondents what portion of funding should Auckland get from the Government with the median response being 40%. This was also after explaining the size of Auckland’s population, GDP, vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) and the expected size of the coming population growth

aa-atap-funding-survey-funding-options

The third option of just raising more money was also positively supported with 58% saying yes or maybe to it. But the AA drilled deeper on this question, asking for options on another three options:

  1. Auckland property rates increase (if you rent, assume an equivalent increase in your rent)
  2. a regional fuel tax
  3. a motorway user toll

For option 1, 69% said they were opposed and of those that were prepared to pay more via rates, the median amount they’d be willing to contribute was $100.

Option 2 was better supported with 51% saying yes or maybe to the idea of a fuel tax with just 5c per litre being the amount respondents were prepared to look at paying.

The trend continued with Option 3 and 61% said yes or maybe to the idea of motorway tolling. This is interesting as ATAP talks about road pricing across the entire road network, not just a motorway toll. Even so, AA say the median amount people were prepared was $2 per trip. That motorway tolling came out on top suggests attitudes towards the idea are rapidly changing over this issue rapidly, all the more reason to get on with it.

Next the AA asked for thoughts on the Council’s Interim Transport Levy which was brought in as a way to bolster transport funding. As mentioned, the levy was only ever meant to be a temporary 3-year fund but as I suggested the other day, it seems a bit silly to replace it given we still need to find an extra $400 million a year and the levy would help in making a nice dent in that figure. It seems the survey members mostly agree and 67% said they’d be comfortable without grudgingly accept keeping it.

Lastly, they asked about selling assets and as you can see below, this was much more of a mixed bag.

aa-atap-funding-survey-assett-sales

All up some fairly interesting and useful results, particularly as it feels like the support for road pricing has been increasing over the last few years.

The AA, like us feel that the interim transport levy should be retained. It’s in place now and has a comparatively high level of support compared to some of the other options.

Mr Irvine says the beauty of continuing the transport levy is that, without changing anything, we would generate about $175 million of investment each year.

“That’s a big chunk of Auckland’s share of the funding gap, and we want Council to have a good look at what other options exist to make up the rest.”

What do you think of the AA’s survey and the results from it?

31 comments to AA’s ATAP Funding Survey

  • TimR

    I think that age graph is the most interesting piece. AA better have a good business plan for attracting younger members, otherwise they’re dead in the water pretty soon.

    • Brian

      Excellent point. Wonder if those demographics reflect the the membership as a whole or just the respondents to this survey.

      • Nick R

        Presumably thats why they didn’t ask about third decade projects: less than half of their members will be around to see them!

      • mfwic

        I think car reliability is putting the AA out of business. There is a change point in their age graph at 45 years. Maybe those over 45 grew up with British cars so we expect breakdowns. Those under 45 grew up with Japanese cars so they have an expectation of reliability.

        • Warren S

          Agree with this thought. And even their mapping service has long since ceased to be an attraction. One can buy superb Kiwi maps in many stationers.
          If you have a newer car it is under warranty though the supplier may contract AA in the event of a breakdown.

          I suspect AA are more interested in selling insurance or travel these days and endlessly seem to promote price off petrol company deals in an effort to maintain membership.

          Disclosure – I, long ago gave up my membership as I could see no benefit in retaining it.

        • Agree, and would add two things specifically – keyless entry and headlight warning beepers. It’s now way harder to lock your keys in the car or leave the headlights on flattening the battery than it used to be and I suspect these made up a large proportion of callouts.

        • James B

          Also a lot of insurance companies offer roadside rescue now.

    • Peter Nunns

      I inherited a car from my grandmother this year and had to insure it. One of the things that dissuaded me from joining the AA for insurance was their history of roads-first lobbying. Owning a car has been really convenient for weekend trips and early-morning flights but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to drive it everywhere, every day.

      There’s some encouraging signs that AA’s adopting a less monomodal position, which is great to see and (if it continues) may get me to reconsider my position.

    • The Real Matthew

      The survey was a self-reporting survey.

      This is always going to skew the response to higher age groups.

    • The Real Matthew

      Due to it’s self-reporting nature and subsequent lack of demographic spread the results of this survey are next to useless.

      The results will be about as accurate as the worthless survey’s on stuff.co.nz.

    • Ricardo

      The question was about the results of the survey. The AA surveyed 20 thousand members and received 1000 results. Not enough to draw any conclusions from really. It’d be the same as saying a dozen or so contributors to this blog represent all people with opinions on transport.

  • TimR

    Add to that the shift in attitudes evident in a survey focussed on _drivers_ alone. Can’t help wondering if they will attract as many members once cars drive themselves. They have a lot of change to plan for as an organisation.

  • Brian

    Keeping the levy, or turning it into a “transport rate” rather than a regressive flat fee, is definitely a no brainer interim solution.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    I do think a key priority should be extending the transport levy for another three years (i.e. until 2021). Anyone know how much money per year the levy makes at present? Also for the Wiri to Westfield third main line project I think all bridges e.t.c. should be widened enough for a fourth track, as we might eventually need a fourth track there

  • Sort of.

    As previously commented on, the transport levy introduced did not increase the total expenditure available for AT. Instead the amount of increased revenue raised was removed from the AT budget to general Council coffers.

    IE. no overall net gain for transport.

    • Sailor Boy

      “Our partnerships continue to grow in
      strength and this coming year will see an
      unprecedented level of integrated funding for
      transport, with an additional $523m primarily
      from an Interim Transport Levy through to
      2018,”

      AT, in their own report, which you cited, disagree with you.

  • Mike Maguire

    Maybe to attract a different market the AA could offer a break-down service for cyclists? Not really the Automobile Association at that point though.

  • HSB1 Alumnus

    It is always better to tax more than sell off assets. Students of English (and possibly other) history will have read many tales of indebted lords slicing off a chunk here, a chunk there, until by 1900 all they were left with was the manor house but no lands to raise the money with which to maintain it.

    • Stefan

      They would have had to do that because of the high tax. You can’t just assume that everyone can pay unlimited amounts of money. People in Auckland are already struggling. Goff has clearly shown he has no interest at all in reducing expenditure. Just wants to raise more revenue 🙁

  • Bevan

    Can you clarify if the approximately $400million per year shortfall is the Council’s share or is that the total bill that will be split ~50:50 with Government?

    Makes total sense to just keep the transport levy and just remove the “interim” part from the wording. If it raises about $175 million of investment each year and that’s the Council’s half, then job done. Essentially all Aucklanders want a better transport system and having a targeted rate is hard to argue against.

  • Stephen Davis

    > Delay or cancel some of the projects

    It’d be really interesting to survey *which* projects people think should be delayed or cancelled, in favour of which others.

  • Matthew W

    Its seems like the whole survey missed a major trick by not considering road pricing as included in ATAP.

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