Essential Transport Budget – the first 3 years

Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero Auckland

On Tuesday Generation Zero launched our Essential Budget, as an alternative to the Basic and Auckland Plans currently being consulted on as part of the Long Term Plan. We showed that Auckland could build the most transformation projects from the Auckland Plan for only $80 million per year, rather than the $300 million extra cost of the Auckland Plan.

The blog about the budget launch showed how we had broken spending down into broad categories. However the work we did behind this was at a detailed project level, using the full 10 year project list from the Regional Land Transport Plan.

Today I will outline the public transport and cycling projects to be built over the first 3 years of the plan, as this is where the most certainty around project costs and timeframes is. Note that almost all roading spend proposed under the Basic Transport Network will still proceed, as this is focussed around renewals, committed projects and safety works.

Under the Basic Transport Plan only the City Rail Link enabling works, and several already committed public transport projects will go ahead in the first 3 years. The only cycling investment to proceed at all will be the Waterview cycleway connection, which was required by Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection.

Project Name Essential 15/16 Essential 16/17 Essential 17/18 Essential Y1-3
City Rail Link 145.4 176.8 77.9 400.1
EMU Procurement 26.8 1 0 27.8
Hobsonville Point Park and ride 0 3.2 0.5 3.7
Swanson Station Upgrade 0.7 0 0 0.7
Waterview Cycleway connection 3.6 3.7 6.7 14

The Essential Transport Network includes a large number of additional projects that would otherwise need the full $300 million per annum of alternative funding to proceed in the next 3 years.F3

The largest single item is the Walking and Cycling Budget which gets over $30 million a year, up from just over $10 million in the current financial year. There is no further detail about what exact projects would proceed, however I would assume that the City Centre cycleways along Karangahape Road, Victoria Street, Quay Street, Nelson Street, Beaumont Street and Ian McKinnon Drive, as well as local connections to Skypath would be major beneficiaries. This would also enable Auckland Transport to take advantage of the government urban cycleways fund, so the money could be further topped up by the government. There is also a small amount of money for pram crossing upgrades, which should go someway towards fixing Auckland’s poor walkability, especially for the mobility impaired.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Walking and Cycling Projects       96.7
Walking and Cycling 30.8 31.6 32.5 94.9
Tactile paving / pram crossing upgrades 0.6 0.6 0.6 1.8

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However overall Auckland’s bus network is the big winner. We get $9 million per year to deliver bus lanes, which should deliver significant progress across the city. In November Auckland Transport announced they would roll out 40km of bus lanes over the next 3 years, however the cost of this was only $15 million, so $28 million should get us nearly another 40km. Double Decker mitigation works get $18 million over 3 years, which should help increase capacity on some of our busiest bus corridors. Auckland Transport’s New Network will be able to proceed on time with new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau being built over the next year, as well as a number of smaller projects that will help people transfer between buses across the city. The long delayed Park and Ride at Silverdale can also be expanded. Normally we are not big fans of Park and Ride, however they are useful serving more dispersed areas like the Hibiscus Coast.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Bus Projects       127.1
Bus Priority Improvements & Transit Lanes 9.1 9.3 9.6 28
Double decker network mitigation works 8.3 6 4.2 18.5
Otahuhu Bus Interchange 13.8 3.8 0 17.6
Manukau Interchange (was Manukau City Rail Link) 13.2 4.2 0 17.4
Bus Stop Improvements Programme 4.4 4.3 2.3 11
Wynyard Bus interchange 0 5.3 5.4 10.7
Minor PT capex allowance for bus stops, minor improvements at stations, wharves, provision of PT information etc 2.1 2.1 2.2 6.4
Park n Ride Silverdale-Stg 2 5.9 0 0 5.9
Mt Albert Road bus connection improvements 3.1 0 0 3.1
Real Time Passenger Information System enhancements 1.1 0 1.6 2.7
Avondale Interchange 0 2.1 0 2.1
Mount Albert Interchange 0 1.1 0 1.1
Point Chevalier Shops (bus-bus connection) 0 1.1 0 1.1
Newmarket Terminus 0 1.1 0 1.1
Homai Station Interchange 0 0 0.4 0.4

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Two ferry projects are able to proceed. The major one is the “Downtown Ferry Basin Development”. Not much about this has been made public yet, however the RLTP does say this “improvements to provide additional berthage, improved safety and customer experience improvements”. Peak congestion at the Downtown Ferry terminal is well known by ferry users, so this should help resolve these issues. The next stage of the Devonport Ferry terminal upgrade can also proceed.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Ferry Projects 18.2
Devonport Ferry Terminal 0 5.4 0 5.4
Downtown Ferry Basin Development 2.1 5.3 5.4 12.8

While the focus of the rail network is on the City Rail Link, upgrades of lower quality stations at Westfield, Takanini, Puhinui and Pukekohe are able to proceed, the Parnell station will be constructed, we will see more gating of stations and route protection for the very important Airport Rail project can proceed. Rail crossing separation will also be able to proceed. The $5.9 million should cover the replacement of the Sarawia St crossing (outside Newmarket) with a bridge over Cowie St, outside Newmarket station, which is becoming very congested with long waits for cars, and delays for trains waiting at Newmarket station.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Rail projects 49.4
AIFS – installation of gates at stations 0 1.6 0 1.6
Te Mahia Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Takanini Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Westfield Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Station Amenity Improvements 0.7 2 2.1 4.8
SMART (Airport Rail – Planning and Route Protection) 2.6 0.5 5.5 8.6
Pukekohe Station Upgrade 9.9 0 0 9.9
Parnell Station 0 0 12.3 12.3
Rail Crossing Separation (including Newmarket Crossing) 3.8 2.1 0 5.9

Overall these projects combine to deliver significant improvements of public transport, walking and cycling over the next 3 years. Best of all this can be done less than 30% of the cost of the total Auckland Plan.

Please visit www.fixourcity.co.nz for more information, and read our full report here. An quick-submit form will be available on Monday so you can easily submit feedback to the Long Term Plan in favour of the Essential Budget.

MoT’s review of capital spending on roads, part 4

This is the fourth post in a series on the Ministry of Transport’s working paper on New Zealand’s capital spending on roads, which was prepared as an input to the 2015/16 Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport Funding. It was released to Matt under the Official Information Act just before Christmas. Previous posts:

In the last two posts, I took a look at MoT’s analysis of benefit-cost ratios (BCRs) for new state highway and local road projects. They’ve found that BCRs for state highway projects have fallen significantly since 2008, meaning that we’re spending more money for road with fewer benefits. Consequently, if the Government were focused on getting the highest benefits out of its transport budget, it would have to de-fund most large state highway projects that are currently underway.

This week, I want to take a look at a slightly different issue: Which regions are doing well (or badly) out of road spending? The MoT report includes some in-depth analysis of “regional equity” in NZTA’s expenditures on road maintenance, construction, and public transport over the period from 2002/03 to 2011/12.

Here’s the key chart. It compares the total revenue that NZTA has raised from each region against the amount of money that NZTA has spent in those regions.

A few things jump out from the chart. The first is that NZTA’s spent slightly more than it raised from fuel taxes, road user charges, and other sources. The second is that there are some big disparities between revenue and expenditure in some regions. In particular: Auckland and Wellington are getting about 20-25% more in NZTA expenditure than they pay in revenue, while Canterbury is getting only slightly more than half as much expenditure as it pays in revenue.

MoT regional revenue vs expenditure chart

Here’s a summary table of which regions are doing well and badly out of NZTA’s funding criteria:

MoT regional revenue vs expenditure table

This can’t be explained by a few major projects or funding calls in one or two years. MoT’s analysis of spending over time shows that “where regions either received significantly more in expenditure or significantly less in expenditure, that accumulation was fairly constant over time. Differences are not due to changes in single years.” In other words, the regions that got less spending in 2002 were also likely to get less expenditure in 2012.

The MoT report goes on to take a look at some potential explanations for disparity in spending, such as differences in population, GDP, vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT), etc. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to draw robust conclusions from their analysis as there is likely to be endogeneity, or simultaneous causation, between these variables. (Perhaps MoT should consider using an instrumental variable approach to control for this?)

Here’s one view of the issue, which compares NZTA expenditure with regional population. It tells a similar story – Auckland, the Waikato, and Northland attract more funding than their share of the population would imply, while Canterbury gets less.

MoT regional expenditure vs population chart

One thing that MoT didn’t cover, unfortunately, is the relationship between projected future population growth and spending. It’s reasonable to spend more to enable future growth rather than pouring money into declining regions. This could help to explain the high level of spending in Auckland and the Waikato, which are picked to grow faster than NZ as a whole. However, it doesn’t explain the low level of spending in Canterbury, which is expected to be the second-fastest growing region in the country over the next three decades, or the high level of spending in Wellington, which is not expected to grow rapidly.

Statistics NZ's 2013-2043 population growth projections

Statistics NZ’s 2013-2043 population growth projections

Lastly, it’s also instructive to look at the relationship between NZTA’s regional expenditure and the share of national VKT travelled in those regions. This is a useful measure because VKT per capita varies considerably between regions. According to MoT’s data, people drive less in Auckland (10% less than the national average) and Wellington (almost 25% less than the national average). While major urban areas require fewer roads per capita, they may need more spending on public transport infrastructure and services. Canterbury, by contrast, is pretty close to the national average in terms of VKT per capita.

As you can see, this comparison continues to show that Auckland and Wellington are over-funded relative to their driving behaviour, while Canterbury is under-funded.

MoT regional expenditure vs VKT chart

Because so much of NZTA’s expenditure consists of road spending, this suggests that recent Governments may have misunderstood the needs of New Zealand’s major urban areas. In effect, they have spent a lot of money on roads in cities where public transport, walking and cycling are growing rapidly. Motorway extensions at the edge of town – e.g. Puhoi to Warkworth and Transmission Gully – are not especially useful for meeting transport needs in urban areas. They may be useful in regions like the Waikato where people and freight travel longer distances, but cities are different.

The data also suggests that Christchurch is getting under-funded. As the data series stops in 2012, it’s difficult to tell whether this trend has reversed since the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake, which damaged a fair chunk of the city’s infrastructure. The earthquakes also created space for residents and the city council to push for innovative ideas like a frequent bus network and a network of major cycleways. It would be great to see the region pushing on ahead with these ideas, but past under-funding makes me wonder whether there are institutional barriers to funding projects in Christchurch.

What do you make of MoT’s data on regional transport spending?

John Oliver on US infrastructure

A great piece from John Oliver on infrastructure in the US where politicians have repeatedly failed to address funding issues. Here in NZ politicians haven’t had an issue with raising fuel taxes but the problem is the money raised has all gone towards building the Roads of National Significance which is squeezing out funding for maintenance as well as more valuable state highway and local road projects.

An Essential Transport Budget for Auckland

Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero

As we outlined yesterday Auckland Council’s transport budget options in the Long Term Plan offered a false choice. Build everything in the Auckland Plan Network at the cost of finding an extra $300 million a year in alternative funding, or delay important public transport improvements and the city cycling network in the Basic Network Plan. The obvious middle ground would be to prioritise the projects that deliver public transport and cycling improvements, and delay non-essential projects to save money.

That’s the reason why we have come up with an alternative budget. Our Essential Transport Budget (ETB) proposes Auckland Council prioritise the essential public transport, walking and cycling projects in the Auckland Plan Network in the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan. By prioritising only the essential transport projects from the Auckland Plan budget, the Essential Transport Budget saves ratepayers $220 million a year over the next 10 years.

The Essential Transport Budget proposes spending $7.7 billion over next 10 years, $2.5 billion less than Auckland Council’s Auckland Plan Network ($10.3 billion). This reduces the $300 million a year Auckland Council is attempting to raise through alternative funding to only $80 million a year. At the core of the ETB is a commitment to prioritise public transport and cycling projects, and delay non-essential roading projects such as Lincoln Road and Mill Road. This will ensure we start building the building blocks of a turn up and go congestion free public transport network. Over the first 3 years of the ETB walking and cycling would receive $114 million and public transport improvements would receive $621.1 million.

Vertical-Diagram-for-Website-update-2

 

The Essential Transport Budget would allow Auckland to pursue a number of transformational projects over the next 3 years that would be delayed by 5 years and overall funding reduced if we went with the Basic Transport Network:

Buses: The ETB includes funds all of the infrastructure necessary to roll out Auckland’s totally redesigned bus network over the next 3 years which significantly increases the number of frequent services across the city. A number of interchanges are required such as at Otahuhu and Manukau to facilitate bus-rail and bus-bus transfers before Auckland Transport can roll out the southern New Network. The ETB also includes funding for Auckland Transport’s plan to roll out at least 40km of new bus lanes over the next 3 years, which should reduce journey times and improve reliability on on our busiest bus corridors. Busways are also included in the ETB, with work funded to start on the city centre busways, AMETI busways to Pakuranga and Botany, and Te Atatu station which will be the first major part of the North-Western busway.

New FTN Network

Cycling: The ETB includes a tripling of the cycling budget to over $30 million per year. This should finally allow Auckland to make significant progress on build a safe, separated regional cycling network. This $30 million will be further increased when paired with the government’s urban cycling investment panel. Key beneficiaries of this are likely to be the city centre cycleways such as Karangahape Road, which should be able to be fast-tracked with this extra money.

City Centre Priority routes

Rail and Ferry: The ETB includes funding for upgrades of the remaining substandard railway stations such as Takanini and Pukekohe, and upgrades to suburban terminals at Devonport, Half-Moon Bay, Bayswater and Northcote. It also allows for funding of major works at the Downtown Ferry terminal to reduce congestion at peak times, and allow for improvements in ferry frequency.

The Essential Transport Budget accepts the Basic Transport Network as a base budget to work from, and adds the most essential projects from the Auckland Plan. The Basic plan has already been significantly prioritized by Auckland Transport, so there is little further waste we can identify. Importantly the Basic Transport Network includes funding for the City Rail Link, including enabling works starting later this year. Significant portions of the spending on the Basic Network are made up of ‘Renewals’ funding, which is required simply to maintain Auckland’s 7900km local road network in an acceptable condition. This accounts for nearly $2.5 billion over 10 years in both the Basic and Essential budgets, and accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total spending even in the ETB. There are also a number of already committed projects such as the Albany Highway upgrade, roading associated with the North-Western transformation, as well as general operational spend in areas like IT that our Essential Transport Budget has included.

Auckland’s transport budget needs a significant change in direction to both deliver a city that is well prepared for both the opportunities and challenges of the future. Both of the options presented by the Auckland Council as part of the Long Term Plan consultation fail to meet this standard. The Basic Plan under invests in key infrastructure needed to transform our city, such as rebuilding our bus services; upgrading rail, bus and ferry interchanges and building a safe, separated cycling network. The Auckland Plan builds the infrastructure required, however it also builds a large amount of extra roading projects that have no strategic purpose, apart from desperately trying to ‘solve’ congestion. Therefore it comes at a very high cost, at an extra $300 million a year more than the funding available.

The Essential Transport Network we have presented focusses on building just the important infrastructure we need to fix our cities problems, which saves us $220 million per year compared the Auckland Plan. This also significantly reduces the burden of alternative funding, and opens up more possibilities for innovative funding to fill our budget gap in the shorter term while agreement is gained from the government.

Please visit www.fixourcity.co.nz for more information, including detailed project lists. A detailed report of our proposal is available here. Further blogs will be coming in the next few days, including more detail around projects included and excluded, and detail around funding options. We will also be launching a quick submission form in the next few days so people can easily submit in favour of our plan to the the Long Term Plan feedback. 

 

Why we need an Essential Budget

Guest Post from Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero Auckland

For nearly 50 years from the early 1950’s Auckland invested solely in roads, and especially motorways, with all other transport modes being totally ignored. This one sided level of investment was not seen in Australian cities, who invested in mass transit alongside new motorways. From the early 2000’s we finally started to invest in public transport with the opening of Britomart, the Northern Busway and rail electrification. This has shown huge dividends with this high quality rapid public transport largely being responsible for the big patronage gains we have seen.

2015-01 - Total Patronage

However the core bus network is inefficient, confusing and unnecessarily duplicates the rail network. Buses also often lack dedicated lanes so are stuck in the same congestion as single occupant vehicles, which means their is little incentive to catch a bus, buses are unreliable and operations are inefficient as lots of buses as needed to run the slow services.

The 50 years of sole investment in roads has also left our streets designed purely for the movement of cars, ignoring the needs of people who want to walk, ride a bicycle or use mobility aids for local trips. This has resulted in cycling only having a 1% mode share for all trips, and 49% of children being driven to school.

We are now aware of variety of significant trends that affect transport in particular. Public transport patronage has continued to grow quickly, while it has become clear that the level of driving is unlikely to return to the highs of the mid 2000’s. Changing trends are also especially notable for younger people, with teenagers delaying getting their drivers licences, and more people choosing to live without a car, especially in inner suburbs. As this generation grow up, we must ensure we build a city that matches their transport preferences, not transport preferences of previous generations.

However the Long Term Plan has presented us with a false choice between two budgets, the Basic Network and the Auckland Plan Network. Both of these have significant issues.

Basic Network

The Basic Plan Network includes only projects which can be funded from existing sources such as rates, other council income and subsidies from government. This represents a 25% reduction in funding compared to what was planned in the previous Long Term Plan.

The Basic Plan includes some projects that are important for the transformation of our city, including enabling works for the City Rail Link starting in late 2015, and the main works starting between 2017 and 2020, dependent on funding negotiations with central government.

It also includes a number of committed projects which are already under construction, or required as part of previously agreed funding commitments.

However there is a major funding squeeze placed on important transport projects, and this is especially stark in the first 3 years of the Basic Plan.

Cycling: There is almost no money included for new cycling projects for the first 3 years of the plan, with the only exception being the Waterview cycleway which was required as mitigation for the Waterview Connection project.

Buses: The Basic Transport Plan would result in the full roll-out of the new bus network being delayed a further 5 years, until 2021, as new interchanges at locations such as Otahuhu are required to allow connections between buses and trains. Similarly Auckland Transport’s plans to roll out 40 kilometres of new bus lanes over the next 3 years will be postponed. Both these bus improvements will means commuters will be stuck with inefficient and frustratingly slow bus services for several mores years. This will be significant drag on public transport patronage, as well as costing Auckland Transport money from higher operating costs and low fare revenue.

Rail: The Basic Transport plan delays upgrades of the remaining poor quality railway stations, which means commuters will be stuck with substandard facilities for years to come, again stalling patronage growth. Grade separation is also excluded from the Basic Plan, so this will lead to more dangerous incidents at our level crossings as rail frequencies increase of the next several years. This also has the potential to restrict peak frequency on the Western Line.

Ferry: The Basic Plan delays upgrades to Ferry terminals, including the congested Downtown ferry terminal. This will means commuters are stuck with substandard facilities, and increases to peak services will be restricted, again affecting patronage.

 

Auckland Plan

The Auckland Plan was confirmed in 2012 as the spatial plan for the new Auckland Council. While it set out a 30 year vision for Auckland, it also failed to make hard decisions around prioritisation of transport projects, and called for a very high level of continued transport investment across all modes. In the short term it also carried on with a significant number of legacy projects that local councils had been investigating, even if these were unaffordable.

The Auckland Plan budget continues the issues seen in the 2012 Auckland Plan, and once again Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have failed to set a strategic direction for the future of Auckland.

The Auckland Plan includes significant investment in public transport such as City Rail Link enabling works and interchanges to allow reorganisation of the bus network. It also invests in the tripling of the cycling budget. However at the same time there is still a large number of business as usual roading projects, designed in a vain effort of ‘solve’ traffic congestion. However Auckland has been pursuing these projects for 50 years, and they have not solved congestion, and they often make congestion across the city worse, not better.

This attempt of the Auckland Plan to fund all possible transport solutions means it comes at a very high cost, around $300 million a year more that funding available from existing income such as rates and NZTA subsidies. This has led to the Auckland Plan requiring significant alternative funding from extensive motorway tolling, or further rates rises and fuel taxes. These alternative funding plans as currently proposed will heap high costs onto vulnerable families due to the current poor state of alternative transport modes across wide areas of Auckland. This is especially true of road tolling where in some areas such as along the North-Western Motorway and the Manukau Harbour Crossing there are no local road alternatives.

The Essential Budget

These significant failings have led Generation Zero and other advocacy groups to come up with an alternative we have titled the ‘Essential Budget’. This will be previewed at tonights Auckland Conversations event, and the full details will be launched tomorrow.

Auckland Conversations – Fixing Auckland’s Transport

On Monday the city will be hosting the next Auckland Conversations and this one will has the title of Fixing Auckland’s Transport. The discussion will be about the Long Term Plan

Auckland is the country’s fastest-growing region with transport considered the single biggest issue. Major investment will be needed in the next decade to avoid worsening congestion and the impact this will have on our economy, environment and way of life.

We have a choice to make. Do we accept a basic transport network which costs less, or do we invest more to get the advanced transport programme set out in the 30-year vision for our region, known as the Auckland Plan.

If we choose to fix Auckland’s transport issues and get our city moving, we need to consider how we should pay for it. This could be through increased fuel taxes and higher rates, or through the introduction of a new motorway charge.

Hear from a range of experts who will outline the key transport issues facing Aucklanders in the 10-year budget. Speakers to be announced.

There are quite a few speakers who will take part including Patrick

MC Fran O’Sullivan – NZ Herald

Mayor Len Brown

David Warburton – CEO, Auckland Transport

Sudhvir Singh – Generation Zero

Peter Winder – Transport Funding – Independent Advisory Board

Patrick Reynolds – Transport Blog

Pippa Coom – Waitemata Local Board

Details are

Monday 2 March, doors open 5pm for a 5.30pm start
Lower NZI Conference Room, Aotea Centre, central Auckland

Aucklands population to continue to grow strongly

Late last week Statistics NZ released their latest regional population projections from 2013 through to 2043. It once again highlights just how much growth is expected to occur in Auckland with them projecting roughly an extra 500,000 to 900,000 people in the region within 30 years – that’s a 36-63% increase on what we have today.

All 16 regional council areas are projected to increase in population between now and 2028, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“The short-term trend partly reflects the current high level of arrivals into New Zealand, and the current low level of departures,” population statistics manager Vina Cullum said.

“However, population growth will slow in the longer term as our population continues to age. This will see the number of deaths increase relative to births. Also, net migration (arrivals minus departures) exceeded 50,000 in 2014 and is unlikely to remain at that level.”

Auckland will continue to be New Zealand’s fastest growing region, and account for three-fifths of the country’s population growth between 2013 and 2043. From an estimated population of 1.5 million in 2014, Auckland is projected to reach 2 million in the early 2030s. That means out of every 100 people in New Zealand, 34 currently live in Auckland, but this will increase to 37 in 2028 and 40 in 2043.

Natural increase (births minus deaths) is projected to account for three-fifths of Auckland’s growth, and net migration the remaining two-fifths.

Of New Zealand’s 67 territorial authority areas, 51 are projected to have more people in 2028 than in 2013. However, only 30 are projected to have more people in 2043 than in 2028.

The fastest population growth between 2013 and 2043 is expected in Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes districts, up an average of 2.2 and 1.8 percent a year, respectively.

The projections are not predictions, but an indication of the size and composition of the future population. Statistics NZ produces low, medium, and high growth projections for every local area every 2–3 years to assist planning by communities, local councils, and government.

You can see the annual projected growth for each region below. As you can see the growth Auckland is leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere else and the only region to even come close is Canterbury and only if it sees the high projection outcome.

Annual Population Change 2

Of course when you look at the change on an actual number basis Auckland’s expected growth is even more extreme. This is based off the medium projection. Due to most regions being a fairly similar size it can be hard to tell them apart. In Canterbury, the vast majority of projected growth will happen in the Christchurch City Council area or in the two surrounding districts – Selwyn and Waimakariri. I think that is going to make it increasingly important for the region to start looking at some rapid transit options – unless it wants to follow Auckland’s mistakes.

NZ Regional Population Projections 2013-2043

Another way to show the level of growth in Auckland in particular is below. This is the projected cumulative growth from 2013 to 2043 for Auckland and the rest of the country. Auckland grows by over 730,000 people while the rest of the country by only around 460,000 – of which about 80% is in Christchurch, Wellington, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland vs Rest of NZ growth - 2013-2043

Every time the issue of Auckland’s strong growth comes up many people highlight the challenges it adds, in particular the cost of new infrastructure and housing however I feel it’s also worth remembering that it presents a lot of opportunities too. Instead of trying to cap the city’s growth like some have suggested in the past we should embrace it as that will not only make the city stronger but also help make the country as a whole stronger.

One question people often have is how realistic these projections are and how past projections turned out. As it happens Auckland tends to track slightly ahead head of the medium projection. Here’s what was predicted to occur from 2001 – 2026 – the blue area represents the range of low, medium and high growth projections.

 

Auckland Population Project - 2001 - 2

Stats NZ have also made predictions within Auckland down the local board level and in many ways this provides a more interesting and useful look at how the city is changing. Like we see nationally, there are expected to be some areas that grow much stronger than others and one of those is the Waitemata Local Board area which covers the city centre and inner suburbs. Population in the area is expected to almost double from 2013 around 81,000 to 152,500 which if it occurs would make the Waitemata Local board area have the third largest of any board in Auckland.

In addition to the City Centre the local boards that are likely to see a lot of greenfield development are also high on the list.

Auckland Annual Population Change 2

I won’t publish a graph of the actual projection numbers as it’s simply too messy to read easily. Some of the

Houston’s parking policy madness

In urban policy circles, Houston, Texas is best known for its laissez-faire approach to planning regulations. Some people go as far as saying that it has no planning rules at all, and attribute the city’s low housing costs to this fact.

This certainly has a grain of truth to it. As I wrote after visiting my brother in Houston last year:

It’s easy to see the results of Houston’s lack of zoning laws while driving around the city – or walking, in the unlikely event that you can find a footpath. There is a remarkable, eclectic mix of housing types – old shotgun shacks on grassy lots sit next to aluminium-sided townhouses and apartment blocks.

There are advantages to this policy. Because local governments in Houston allow people to build almost anything on their land, redevelopment and intensification can happen quite flexibly. (Unless it’s constrained by covenants established by developers or residents’ associations.) Here, for example, is a neighbourhood near Houston’s Medical Center (from Google Maps). There are a number of detached houses in the area – predominantly in the lower left hand corner. However, there are also many midrise apartments, flats, and attached houses to be seen near the top and right edges of the picture:

Houston housing near medical center

But, as with any good myth, there is also an element of fantasy to Houston’s laissez-faire reputation. You see, the city of Houston is actually extraordinarily prescriptive about the amount of parking that developers, businesses, and households must provide. A recent post from Hamilton Urban Blog pointed me back towards Houston’s parking code.

It’s a wonderfully absurd document. By my count, Houston has developed minimum parking rules for at least 75 separate activities. It sets separate minimum parking rules for activities as diverse as:

  • miniature golf: 1 parking space per hole
  • elementary schools: 1 parking space per 12 students – I’m not sure if Houston’s got ludicrously low class sizes or if it expects some primary schoolers to drive themselves?
  • apartments: 1.666 parking spaces per two-bedroom apartment – are demonic forces at work?

This raises a number of questions. First, why are those freedom-loving Texans willing to tolerate this level of regulatory overreach? Surely they don’t think that planning bureaucrats could accurately predict the needs of their businesses and families?

Second, are Houston’s parking rules leading to perverse outcomes? For example, could a regulated oversupply of parking have contributed to the city’s demand for more roads, which has helped put the state road fund in deficit to a tune of up to $5 billion per annum and forced it to stop repaving some roads?

Forget about the cost of roads, though: could Houston’s parking rules be pushing people directly towards dangerous activities like drinking and driving? Here’s the section of the zoning code that covers restaurants and bars. As you can see, Houston’s code requires bars to provide more parking than similarly-sized restaurants.

Houston parking ordinances restaurants and bars

Abundant, low-priced parking tends to encourage people to drive more, rather than taking public transport, walking, or catching a cab. Are Houston’s parking rules encouraging people to drink and drive? Has the city government actually studied the effects of this policy? And, if not, why on earth would you assume it would be a good idea to require bars to have loads of parking?

Lastly, while it’s easy to mock Houston’s absurdities from a distance, can we be sure that we’re not doing similarly absurd things? Planning regulations, like any regulations, can lead to perverse consequences. It’s important to keep an eye on them – and be willing to get rid of them if they aren’t working out.

Do you think we’re experiencing any perverse consequences from our planning regulations?

Long Term Plan Feedback So Far

The Council is currently consulting on the Long Term Plan (LTP) which is the city’s 10 year budget. A key discussion of this LTP is whether we should implement motorway tolling or increase Rates/Fuel taxes to pay all of the transport projects on the council’s plans – unless we want a scaled back and ineffectual transport system. There are three weeks left to submit on the plan and in the coming week or so we will be covering this topic a lot more. In the meantime the council say they have now had over 5,000 submissions with some interesting results.

In addition they’ve provided some generalised feedback on what the submissions (as of 19 Feb) have said and there are some fascinating results. First up some demographic info and it appears submitters are far more likely to be older European males.

2015 LTP Early Demographics

Further a break down by the local board areas shows the boards with the most submissions being Hibiscus and Bays, Albert-Eden, Howick and Howick while many of the South Auckland boards have the lowest submission levels. This combined with the demographic info suggest that perhaps the council need to be putting more effort into getting feedback from a wider cross section of our city – this is similar to the issues Peter recently expressed when he asked Who’s having the conversation about cities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly just over half of those who answered (52%) disagreed with the proposed level of rates rises of 3.5% and of those who answered what they’d change most (79%) said they’d like to see rates decreased. Council have also broken the results down by areas that people said they’d like to see changes in with only Transport only one of a few areas where more people said spend more than spend less.

2015 LTP Early Changes in Investment

Next the area most relevant to what we’re following and the issue of transport and how we pay for it. The council say that 55% of people support the full kitchen sink approach that is the Auckland Plan. When it comes to how we should fund that just over 50% support, partially support motorway tolls. This is perhaps a little surprising and I wonder how many of the people choosing that option do so because they think they can avoid it through using local roads, travelling at different times or using other modes.

2015 LTP Early network and funding preferences

The council have also put this video together about it

When asked what areas of transport the focus should be the result is overwhelmingly in favour of public transport and cycling investment – note: the herald ran a version of this graph the other day but got the labels around the wrong way. To me this result isn’t surprising and it is similar to many of the survey’s we’ve seen in the past. Frankly it’s insane that we still have some local politicians who are actively opposing these kinds of investments. It would be fascinating to see what kind of transport system we would have if funding priorities were based on results.

2015 LTP Early Changes in transport Investment

The next two question looks at whether the council should take on a more active role in development by merging Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Limited – something I think would be good providing the DNA from Waterfront Auckland was at the core of the new organisation rather than ACPL who have appeared silent over the last 4-5 years. It seems most people agree that it is a good idea but it’s not quite a majority.

2015 LTP Early Development Auckland

The Uniform Annual General Charge UAGC is a fixed charge that every household pays regardless of property value. The lower the UAGC the more impact property prices have on rates and the higher the UAGC the less that property prices affect rates. Councillors on the right of the political spectrum have long argued for the UAGC to be higher so as to lessen the rates burden on their areas (which are often wealthier). From memory they were very happy to finally get the question about what the rate should be on the feedback form however they may not be so happy with the result showing almost 50% want it left as it is and many want it lower

2015 LTP Early UAGC

The last graph is based on whether the council should gradually reduce business property rates from 32.8% of all rates to 25.6% of all rates. The change seems widely unsupported at this stage.

2015 LTP Early Business Rates

It will be interesting to see if these kinds of results carry on through for the rest of the consultation.

Our Port and the Harbour

8-10am tomorrow morning there is a meeting organised by groups concerned about the lack of governance and oversight by Council over the Port Company. Whether you can make it tomorrow or not, if you agree that the Port Company needs more oversight and governance from the Council, visit this page and them them know.

STOP STEALING OUR HARBOUR

Letter to the Council:

Dear Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse,

I am writing on behalf of Urban Auckland, the NZ Institute of Architects Auckland Branch, the Urban Design Forum and the Auckland Architects Association. We represent the professionals working in the built environment of our city. We are joined by local community groups and Westhaven Marina Users.

We are deeply concerned at Ports announcement last Thursday that they are extending Bledisloe Wharf in April by 93 and 98 metres thus eliminating the crucial view down the harbour from Queens Wharf – the proposed gateway to our City. We feel let down by Council process and have no trust in Ports of Auckland.

 We are not against Ports of Auckland operating in the city. We are for establishing a way forward where we can all be good neighbours. PoA’s actions in the last few months show they have no intent at all in being that.

We feel our voice has not been heard. We have not been consulted over the City Centre Integration Plan. No study of the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental impact has been done as you promised in 2013.

Tomorrow morning Wednesday 25th February at 9am we are launching a petition ‘Save our Harbour” on the end ofQueens Wharf and would appreciate it if you could attend to listen and talk to the people. In the past we have been heartened by your leadership on this issue.

The Petition states:

We ask the Mayor and Councillors to

  • Stop the proposed extension of Bledisloe Wharf
  • Keep ‘reclamation’ of the Waitemata Harbour as a ‘non-complying’ activity
  • Start a wide-reaching study of environmental, social and economic factors affecting the site and operations of theAuckland port. The Mayor promised Aucklanders this in 2013.
  • Make Ports of Auckland work with the people of Auckland – not against them.

We acknowledge this is short notice but timing of events has been out of our control. We wanted to make sure our voices were heard before Thursday’s Development Committee meeting.

A view from architect David Mitchell in the paper paper:

PORT LETTER

It is hard to believe that the best thing to do with the Waitemata harbour is to tip dirt into it in order to store more cars on the resultant tarmac:

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