Council Transport Survey Results

As part of the Long Term Plan the council received thousands of submissions however on the topic of transport, to ensure they also had a representative sample of the views of all Aucklanders – not just those interested enough to make a submission they conducted a phone survey. The survey canvassed the views of 5,022 people and was carried out by Colmar Brunton with the entire process was peer reviewed by the University of Auckland. Yesterday they released the results of that research. Overall they are interesting but I think they have some major flaws.

The survey had three main aims, to measure:

  1. Aucklanders’ support for increased investment in the Auckland Plan transport network (APTN)
  2. Which of the two proposed funding options Aucklanders prefer
  3. How perceptions differ by travel behaviour, local board, and key demographic groups

Overall results for the preferred transport plan and how to fund it are below.

Just over half of people preferred the Auckland Plan Transport Network which is about building everything regardless of whether it helps improve the transport situation or not. As you can also see support for that plan increases with income so those who earn the most want the most spent.

2015 LTP Colmar Brunton Preferred Transport Option

Now it’s not surprising that this is the result when the council only presented such binary options to people. Below is what the participants were asked.

“Auckland’s population growth means Auckland’s transport issues will get worse over time. There are two options to address this: a basic transport network and a more comprehensive transport network. I’ll explain each and then ask which one you support.

The basic transport network covers the completion of current projects, some priority new projects such as the City Rail Link, and also spending to maintain current roads and the current public transport network.

The more comprehensive transport network also includes the City Rail Link and everything else in the basic network, with many projects being completed earlier, plus a range of new projects. These include new roads, rail, ferries, busways, ‘park and rides’, and cycleways, as well as school and community travel plans and safety programmes.

Over the next 10 years, the comprehensive network will cost around $300 million more than the basic network each year. The additional funding needed each year would either come from a motorway user charge, or from higher fuel tax and annual rates increases.

So, in summary, the basic network will result in greater traffic congestion than the more comprehensive network, but will cost less. On the other hand, the more comprehensive network will result in less traffic congestion than the basic network, more public transport options, and greater economic benefits, but it will cost more.

Do you support the basic transport network or the more comprehensive transport network?”

While I don’t expect the council to consult on the likes of Generation Zero’s Essential Transport Budget, there’s no indication that effectively the council are only presenting the extreme ends of the spectrum. I think it’s inevitable that a more balanced middle ground will have to be found and as we learnt recently, it’s not just us that think that with both the AA and the NZCID also saying the same thing (although without specifying what exact projects they prefer).

When it comes to funding a similar percentage of respondents preferred the extra funding needed to come from motorway tolls and as you’d expect the more people used the motorway the less keen on this option they were.

2015 LTP Colmar Brunton Preferred Transport Funding

The issue I have with the funding option is that I suspect most people vote for it thinking that they’ll be able to minimise their costs either though shifting their travel time (a good thing) or more likely finding alternative routes which will inevitably mean clogging up local roads and hampering any effort to make them better for active modes, PT and local connections.

The report breaks each of these results down by a number of measures and while there are some differences in the numbers across the different measures the overall trend is similar to the results above.

The final decision on what transport plan will be chosen and how the council would prefer to fund it won’t be decided by councillors till next month. However if they do go for an option that requires more funding they will have to go to the government who have so far not been keen on the idea. Today Transport Minister Simon Bridges is reaffirming that scepticism. He too seems to share the belief that the plans presented aren’t effective enough – something he’s said to us too.

Mr Bridges said, the question of funding tools did not arise until there was an effective transport programme.

Perhaps it’s time the council presented a middle ground version that delivers the benefits in the area’s Aucklanders say they want focus on i.e. PT and Active modes.

Simon Bridges speaks to Infratil

Last week Infratil – the owner of NZ Bus among other things – held their annual investor day and one of the speakers was Simon Bridges whose ministerial portfolio’s of Transport, Energy and Resources as well as being the Associate Minister of Climate Change cover a lot of Infratil’s businesses.

The video of his talk is online and there are a number of quite interesting things he’s said in relation to transport which I’ll cover below.

Simon Bridges Infratil

In the first part of his talk he talks about what he sees as two key themes running through his portfolio’s, they are:

  • Climate change – for which his two portfolio’s account for about 50% of NZ’s emissions.
  • Disruptive Technology – where he cites changes such as electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles – which he says he wants companies to be testing them in NZ.

For those that want to watch the video the actual discussion on transport starts at 8:45 however I’ve transcribed the relevant parts below.

In a sense it’s a period of continuity, the goals of this government in transport have been the same throughout our time in office. There’ve been productivity and growth and supporting that through our transport network. There’ve been safety and there’ve been getting greater value for money from the NZTA – primarily I should say from the NZTA.

I wouldn’t be doing my job as transport minister if I wasn’t in a sense adding my values and overlay on to that so I’ve got four or five personal priorities that I want to drive quite hard. One of them is results. I want to make sure I’m getting results primarily from the New Zealand Transport Agency and that they’re delivering the things we’ve said we would like the Roads of National Significance, like the urban cycleways, like an accelerated roading package in Auckland and a regional package throughout the regions. Significant money involved in that and I expect them to deliver those projects on time on budget or if they can much better than that so that will be a real first tier priority.

There’ll be a slight change of emphasis relevant to New Zealand Bus. In a sense if you think about what we’ve done, we’re caricatured as the roading guys and girls because the roads of national significance have been such a strong branding exercise. Actually there’s a lot more to it, we’ve spent 2 billion dollars on metropolitan rail in Auckland and Wellington, about $1.7 billion in Auckland and about half a billion in Wellington. And I want to work harder as a matter of emphasis on us emphasising what we are doing on public transport and other modes whether it’s cycling whether it’s metropolitan rail or the like because we’re spending significant sums. Those that follow these things will have seen the government policy statement which informs where the money goes. I’ve upped the money in some of these areas and we will be doing more in that regard.

The suggestion that the RoNS are just a successful branding exercise is something Simon mentioned to us when we met him recently however it’s clearly much more than that. As we’ve talked about and shown many times before the RoNS have been prioritised above and sucked funding out of other projects, many of which performed better economically. It’s also been a strong branding exercise by the government to suggest they’ve spent $1.7 billion on rail in Auckland when much of it money spent or committed by the previous government or a loan that Auckland has to pay back.

Auckland will be a real priority, effectively I want to make sure we’re getting the best value for money and the right projects out of Auckland for the money we spend. That is probably going to involve Central Government having more formal engagement with than we have in the past with Auckland City the Council, with Auckland Transport, a more hands on role because as I say we want to see an effective value for money long term plan for that city because it’s so crucial to New Zealand’s Growth.

I’ve mentioned technology and my itchy – in a sense faith in it. I want to really see us using technology in transport. I’ve mentioned EV’s, autonomous vehicles and so on but there’s many examples where we get efficiencies, more productivity and enhance New Zealanders lifestyles in that.

The comments about Auckland are particularly interesting. There has been increased talk recently about the government and the council agreeing on a transport accord. While an agreement does sound good in theory it all comes down to just what’s inside the agreement and there’s always a risk the either party will force a number of unpalatable projects on the region for political reasons. More useful would be if it focused on how to get better and more coordinated planning, funding and prioritisation of projects. One possible way would be having AT also be responsible for state highways and the local rail network.

And some questions and answers of the Minister

Question (16:15): As you know in the last few years private motoring has got cheaper thanks to the cheaper price of petrol but catching the bus has got more expensive because the regional councils are pumping dough into the trains as you mentioned. Is that something that you’re worried about?

Simon Bridges: In relation to rail vs buses – I mean that’s a bit blunt but if we sort of put it like that – yeah I do, I don’t want to say worry about that, but I do think we have to tread somewhat wearily and make sure we’re in a sense platform neutral across these things. There is a lot more life in buses and I’m not kind of just saying that because I’m here in a room full of investors where you’re a company with buses I genuinely think that.

So you and I have talked for example, privately but I’m happy to open about this idea of light rail/trams in Auckland. It seems to me that’s a strange idea when you take into account that, look in London buses are the hottest things there. They have more passengers going by bus than they do by the underground and that’s because it’s seen as a premium offering. It’s got the wireless, it’s a better offering and so I think as we see more double decker buses there’s a lot more life in busing in New Zealand. It has a very strong capacity to bring the public transport and congestion benefits that yep you can also get for rail but I think often times you get from rail at a higher price.

I would agree that there is a large role in the future for buses in NZ and that still the majority of PT trips will occur on them however it’s also important to remember they are part of an overall network. When the changes that Auckland Transport are making are finally rolled out we will do away with modes that compete with each other and instead they will complement and enhance each other. It’s also a reality that on some parts of the network the capacity that buses provide simply isn’t enough and in those places rail is likely to be the best option – just like in London and any major city.

Question (18:50): Two questions related to transport, do you see a role for the private sector in some of those projects because at the moment they seem to be a central and local government initiative but we’ve seen the role PPPs can play in accelerating infrastructure. The other question around light rail for example, is it in some New Zealand projects more of an affordability issue or a timing issue.

Simon Bridges: So on your first one without going over the top on it. I think what we can say is a couple of generalisations that one, let’s just talk about Auckland for a second. It’s so fundamentally important because it’s going to see 60% of New Zealand’s population growth for the next 20 years, three quarters of a million population growth over the next 30 years so that’s Waikato/Bay of Plenty put together, that’s all of Canterbury put together, maybe a bit more so it’s important right.

What we can also say about big cities is that I think I’m very safe ground to say as they get big their transportation problems do become more complex and the projects they require become bigger and more complex alright. So even if you take my, what I’ve just said about light rail vs buses. Yep we are going to do the City Rail Link, to answer your question directly, yep there may be a place for light rail there might not be but over time we’ll work that out but there will be bigger and more complex projects is what I’m saying to you.

Where they meet the sort of tests we have I think there’s a good chance they will they’ll be by PPPs. We will need large corporate and international expertise on these things. So my hunch, more than a hunch, my view is that we will see more PPPs in New Zealand over time. We’ll pick up pace on that and that’s in the large roading projects but also in those significant public transport ones. I mean we already know we’ve got City Rail Link coming, no decisions been made on that but that foreseeably will be a PPP. We’ve got the Waitemata Harbour Crossing coming sometime in the mid to late 2020s. That will be the biggest infrastructure project New Zealand’s ever seen, it’s a $5-$7 billion project that chances are will be a PPP. Puhoi to Wellsford etcetera so already there you’ve got potentially three, four, five PPPs.

Of course based on what AT have been saying we could probably add Light Rail to that potential PPP list. I also think that depending on how they’re structured the public transport PPPs have the potential to be some of the more attractive ones as they could allow the private sector to also really integrate and leverage land use around stations. While that’s also possible if the council funds it directly.

Overall some interesting comments by Bridges and they are certainly more open towards Auckland that we heard from his predecessor. We await with interest to really see what stamp he will put on the portfolio.

Northland, Politics, Transport, and Pork

On March 28 the (normally safe) National-held electorate of Northland heads for a bye-election. The outcome of the bye-election will be fascinating for several reasons.

The first reason is that it’s politically important. If Winston Peters wins then it will be more difficult for National to pass controversial legislation, because they will need the votes of not just one but two support parties.

Legislation like the Sky City casino-for-convention-centre deal and RMA reforms suddenly become pawns in a three-way game of arbitrage between parties with somewhat different support bases and philosophies. Amusingly, National could end up leading a government not too dissimilar to what they warned the opposition would have been like, had the latter prevailed at the last election.

david_cunliffe_is_in_labour_s_ad_while_national_go_53f39d7296

The second reason the bye-election is so interesting is that transport has, somewhat unexpectedly, become a major campaign issue.

Early in the campaign, the Minister of Transport (Simon Bridges) suddenly found $69 million in previously stretched transport budgets for two-laning a number of bridges in Northland. This funding announcement was apparently made without any information or advice being sought, or received, from transport officials. This is an announcement that Winston himself would be proud of, indeed he’s pulled similar stunts in the past.

The reality for National, however, is that few people seem to have been impressed by the transport funding announcement. Instead, it has received considerable attention for delving so blatantly into pork-barrel politics.

Northland-morepork

Questions have also been raised about the effectiveness of the spend. For many of the locals interviewed by Campbell Live, two-waying bridges seem to be far from the top of the priorities list.

National have also apparently linked funding for the Puhoi-Wellsford highway to the outcome of the bye-election. Amazing how an apparently essential piece of transport infrastructure can so suddenly becomes not so important when there is a bye-election.

I’ve personally found it interesting watching National’s transport pork-barrel approach in Northland, especially in light of recent political happenings in Australia, where I am currently based.

In Victoria, Dennis Nathpine’s Liberal Government tied their political fortunes to the eye-wateringly expensive $18 billion “East-West Link”. It was a bad pick, with polls showing the East-West link had levels of support that were half of comparable metro rail projects. Napthine was subsequently kicked out of office.

Article Lead - wide6165269910pke2image.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.10pfiz.png1412250883220.jpg-620x349

Meanwhile, in Queensland, Campbell-Newman built a reputation for delivering large, expensive, and largely unnecessary motorway tunnels. His Government’s promises of more roading pork were spectacularly dismissed after only one term in office after a 12% swing back to Labour.

And at the Federal level Tony Abbott’s unwillingness to fund passenger transport improvements in Australia’s rapidly growing cities is receiving growing criticism. This is in stark contrast to the former (and possible future) Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who supports passenger transport.

As an economist, I think there’s a key message for National in all of these events. It’s not just that roading pork hasn’t been sufficient to save political bacon, but also that there is often a large gap between stated and revealed preferences.

Why is this important? Well, I suspect what all of these conservative parties have done, including National, is held focus groups where they’ve asked people whether they support more investment in roads. In response, many of these people have said “yes”. Something like these guys.

 

itchyscratchypoochie_03

 

The problem with stated preference surveys is the trade-offs are usually not made explicit. More specifically, when you invest more in roads, you often find that you don’t get much bang for your buck.

So while people say they want more investment in roads, after a couple of years of fluffing about with largely ineffective road investments, they suddenly realise that they’re not actually much better off. Political strategies based on stated preferences may therefore work in the short run, but they are likely to run out of gas in the long run.

The lesson for National in all this, I think, is that they increasingly run the risk that people will catch onto the fact that their transport pork is failing to return much value. Every new road that opens which fails to meet forecasts, every new business case that is shown to be baloney, eventually creates the case for your opponents to shred your credibility. It won’t happen overnight, but it probably will happen.

This is especially true when you’re foolish enough to do what National have done, i.e. hang your dirty transport laundry out to dry in the blazing heat of a Northland bye-election.

This seems to be a timely and early lesson for Simon Bridges: Emulating the pork-barrel approach employed by Joyce and Brownlee will not necessarily bring you enduring political success. Just ask Nathpine, Campbell-Newman, and Abbott if you want to see the proof in that political pudding.

Additional Harbour Crossing back on agenda

The government has announced it is restarting the process to protect the route for an a third harbour crossing that raises a huge number of questions.

New Waitemata Harbour crossing future proofed

Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, has taken steps to future-proof the route for an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing in view of the rapid growth Auckland is set to undergo in the next 20 years.

“I have asked the NZ Transport Agency to recommence work on what will be a critical transport link for Auckland and the upper North Island.

“The preferred route for the additional crossing is a tunnel east of the Auckland Harbour Bridge between the Esmonde Road interchange on the North Shore, and Victoria Park Tunnel and Central Motorway Junction in central Auckland.

“Advisors are preparing for the designation process and are putting together a business case focusing on the timing of construction and potential funding options,” Mr Bridges says.

In 2013 the Government announced its support for a tunnel in preference to a bridge.

“With increasing demands on Auckland’s transport network, the Government will continue to work closely with its local government partners to provide a resilient network and wider transport choices,” Mr Bridges says.

The NZ Transport Agency says an additional crossing is likely to cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, and is likely to be needed between 2025 and 2030. A construction start date will depend on a number of factors, including the rate of freight and traffic growth.

Mr Bridges says that the additional Waitemata Harbour crossing will work in conjunction with the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The business case will look at a range of public transport options, including heavy rail. The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will be working together on this part of the project, including any necessary route protection for public transport.

“The Government knows that investment in all modes of transport will ease congestion and bring lasting benefits for Auckland and for New Zealand as a whole,” Mr Bridges says.

The NZTA last studied an additional crossing five years ago and the reports from that study are available here. The questions I have are in no particular order.

With construction depending on factors such as traffic growth, will the new business case take into account the actual traffic volumes from the last 8+ years. After almost 50 years on constant increases, traffic volumes fell after 2006 and have been so stubbornly flat that they are still less than they were in 2003. Not only did the previous business case – produced in 2010 – predict growth that hasn’t materialised but they also used a model to predict the volume for the starting year of their prediction (2008) which was well above the observed actual volumes.

AHB Volumes

Related, what will be the employment and traffic volume targets the project must achieve. After all if the City Rail Link is going to have bogus targets foist upon it then why shouldn’t the single most expensive project we’ve ever considered.

With the project costing between $4 and $6 billion how will we pay for it. To put things in perspective we currently spend about $3.4 billion on transport per year for the entire nation and that includes costs for state highways, NZTA contributions towards local roads, road policing, and of course NZTA contributions towards public transport. Within that budget we spend $1 to $1.4 billion on state highway improvements. In short an AWHC would suck up massive amounts of cash and that would impact on a huge numbers of projects from all around the country. Even if built as a PPP the ongoing payments would likely cripple our transport budgets for decades. As an example Transmission Gully which is costing around $850 million will have repayments once it opens of about $125 million a year. AWHC would be significantly more than that.

Will the business case achieve a Benefit Cost Ratio of greater than the 0.3 it did last time (Answer: presumably it will because of the changes since then to the NZTA’s Economic Evaluation Model allowing for a longer assessment period and reduced discount rate – still won’t be above 1 though)

AWHC 2010 BCR

It’s all very well talking about a horrifically expensive tunnel under the harbour but what constantly seems to be ignored is what happens on either end of the tunnel. Studies prior to the 2010 one have talked about how any new crossing would also require major expansions to the Northern Motorway to cope with the increased capacity thrown at. How much is it going to cost to duplicate SH1 to Albany and beyond? If not then we just get this situation.

WestConnex

What impact will the $4 billion we’ve been spending to create the Western Ring Route have on traffic and travel behaviour. At the very least we should probably be waiting till after that work is completed and traffic volumes have settled down before we do any analysis of traffic demand over the harbour.

WRR project location

Regardless of how much it costs or what the benefits are one fact that can’t be ignored is that this project will have major impacts on the environment it passes through. It effectively creates a new motorway out in Shoal Bay with all the red hatched parts in the images below being reclamation and the blue parts being viaducts. I wonder what the likes of the Herald’s John Roughan will say about – note:  I still don’t think he’s admitted he was wrong about the Northern Busway.

AWHC north of Onewa AWHC Sulhur Beach

Further if some of the residents of Northcote got so upset about the idea of Skypath, I wonder what they’ll think of having a mini spaghetti junction on their doorstep. Even more so when they realise that the two square boxes on the image above where the new lanes change from tan to purple colour (to the right of the 1 symbol) are 35m high (~10 storey) ventilation stacks for the exhaust fumes inside the tunnel. There is also one on the city side next to the current Air NZ building (below).

AWHC Westhaven

One mini positive is that the government are at least saying the business case will consider a rail crossing however in my mind the NZTA also need to assess options that involve building a PT only crossing first. A dedicated PT crossing along with Skypath are the real missing modes across the harbour. This is especially important given the huge growth we’re seeing in bus passengers from the shore and in the morning we’re seeing up to 30-40% of people crossing on a bus – up from 18% in 2001. This growth in PT is likely to continue for some time yet, especially once the new network eventually makes PT much more useful to a wider variety of people. One risk is I suspect there are quite a few people behind the scenes that will think an acceptable solution to PT across the harbour is just to leave it on the existing bridge.

Car and Bus trips across AHB

The 2010 and 2011 car results seem like they could be incorrect but I can’t confirm it

 

Overall route protection itself isn’t a bad thing but any suggestion that this is project is needed any time soon is fanciful thinking. There are far greater priorities in Auckland such as the CRL and significant upgrades to PT in many other areas. The government should be focusing on getting those projects consented and underway first.

Last day for the LTP

Today is the last day to submit on the Council’s Long Term Plan and Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Plan and if you haven’t already, you need to get your submission in before 4pm.

If you’ve been reading the blog recently then hopefully the need to submit has been made clear. The council is trying to force a very binary decision with the two options being

  • The budget plan that scales back spending in a way that seems deliberately designed to force support for the more expensive option. It’s a stance that’s managed to annoy all the transport advocacy groups regardless of what modes and priorities they support.
  • The Auckland Plan Transport Network that includes almost every project every thought of and many of which either aren’t likely to be needed or at least not to the scale envisioned. This plan also brings with it additional funding requirements either through tolls or

In effect it’s a clayton’s choice with the city being asked to either condemn itself to poor transport outcomes regardless, either through not enough investment or too much in the wrong types of projects. The kind of binary decision the council is pushing has been exemplified by the absurd stunt that has been set up outside the Downtown Mall.

LTP Transport Arches

I believe the numbers combined are up over 50,000 now

 

I think it’s absurd because it’s effectively been boiled down to a mind-numbingly stupid level. There is very little information given about the financial implications of each option so faced with a basic or advanced choice most will obviously choose the advanced one. Of course that’s if they even bother thinking about which portal they walk through and most people I’ve seen walk through it were just carrying on in a straight line from where they came from, oblivious to the options. It gets even stupider when the council say that it has no weighting on the LTP in which case one has to ask why they even bothered. Note: There are some more comments from me on this in an NBR article last week (paywalled)

Thankfully our good friends at Generation Zero have come up with a Goldilocks option that focuses the projects needed to fix our city. You can read more about it at http://www.fixourcity.co.nz/ or read the posts they’ve written here or here.

Gen Z Goldilocks

If you haven’t submitted yet, here are a few extra reasons why you should.

Based on the numbers the council have released so far there are a lot of demographic groups who are under represented. This was shown by Peter in this great post.

LTP submitter demographics vs Auckland demographics

While initial figures showed strong support for more public transport, walking and cycling investment a lot of the submissions are likely to come in during the last few days including those from organisations. Some examples of some of the feedback we’re seeing from these groups and from politicians who are scaremongering is below.

Cameron Brewer is flat out making stuff up to suggest that we and others are pushing for motorway tolls to pay for PT projects.

“As it stands, it seems the Green Party, Generation Zero, students, the cycle lobby, and public transport bloggers have all got their submissions in pushing for road tolls to fund their own Auckland Plan pet projects at the expense of everyday Auckland drivers.”

The Road Transport Forum (the Truck lobby) who seem to support building everything but only if it’s paid for by selling assets. In other words they want lots more roads but don’t want to have to pay for them.

Interestingly both the AA and the NZCID are also saying that we need a third option. They don’t quite say what that they think that option should be but that neither of the options presented is good enough. Below is a press release from them both this morning.

The Automobile Association (AA) and the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID) believe that neither of the Auckland Council’s Long-Term Plan budget options is up to scratch, and are calling on central government and Auckland Council to develop an alternative strategy that delivers better outcomes for Auckland.

“Neither the cheaper option nor the more expensive option is going to address Auckland’s traffic problems in the long term, or deliver on the public’s expectations, ” said NZCID Chief Executive Stephen Selwood. “So our message for officials is: It’s time for Plan C.”

AA infrastructure spokesman Barney Irvine said the congestion gains of the more expensive option (the Auckland Plan Network) were underwhelming, despite Aucklanders paying an extra $300 million per year through rates, fuel taxes or a motorway charge.

“Congestion is expected to get worse over the next 20 years, regardless of which option we go for,” he said. “After that, it might ease under the Auckland Plan Network, but only by a little. When you think that most households would be paying $350 extra a year – with regular motorway users paying up to $1500 more a year – you have to question whether it’s worth it.”

Mr Selwood said that the starting point for a new approach needs to be a transport accord between local and central government.

“At the moment, the Government is rightly concerned about the outcomes that result from the proposed transport investment and land use plan,” said Mr Selwood. “You can’t make long-term decisions about the Auckland transport network when the results are so poor and Council and Government are so far apart.”

Pleasingly, said Mr Selwood, Mayor Len Brown has clearly stated his desire to reach an accord with central government and transport Minister Simon Bridges has also signalled Government’s willingness to engage.

As part of an accord, Mr Selwood said that central government and Auckland Council need to agree on an improved transport investment strategy, and ensure that urban intensification and transport investment are better integrated. If they decide to look more seriously at a motorway network charge, he said, they need to make sure it’s also considered from a demand management perspective – not just as a way to raise revenue – and that the combination of intensification, transport investment and demand management improves accessibility and provides meaningful travel-time savings for users.

Mr Selwood said that many other stakeholder groups – from the public transport lobby to the freight lobby – are saying similar things.

Meanwhile, the AA has carried out its largest survey yet of its Auckland membership – an online survey of 6000 Auckland Members, backed up by an in-depth survey of a 100-strong AA Auckland panel – to better understand how people feel about the Council’s budget options.

Mr Irvine said the survey results showed that Auckland AA Members preferred the Auckland Plan Network to the cheaper option (the Basic Network) – 46% support versus 30% support – but not to the point where a meaningful consensus could develop behind it.

“There’s a big difference between support for the Plan and willingness to pay for it,” he said. “A lot of our Auckland Members would be happy to pay a little for improved congestion outcomes, but less than 20% would be prepared to pay what’s required for the Auckland Plan Network.”

Mr Irvine stressed that it wasn’t just cost standing in the way.

“Many of our Members look at this plan and don’t see a great deal in it for them,” he said. “There’s also a perception that Council needs to get its own house in order – in terms of financial management and accountability – before asking Aucklanders to open their wallets.”

Both Mr Irvine and Mr Selwood cautioned officials against pushing ahead with the current plan, when it does not have strong support, as it could hold back progress on the transport programme long term.

It’s not mentioned in the press release but one aspect that’s really interesting is that the AA’s own polling says their members want more choice in how they get around.

If you haven’t done so then make sure you give your feedback and lets make the ETB, Option C.

Submit for an Essential Budget

Last week Generation Zero launched our Essential Budget, an alternative to the Basic and Auckland Plans that Auckland Council are currently consulting on as part of the Long Term Plan process. The Essential Budget prioritises spending on tripling the cycling budget, and important public transport projects such as bus lanes and new bus and rail interchanges. This means the funding gap is down to only $80 million per year, rather than the $300 million seen in the Auckland Plan. It is also a sensible alternative, and accepts the Basic Plan spending on maintenance, safety and committed road upgrades. For more detail see earlier posts about the false choices offered between the Basic and Auckland Plans, and details of the Essential Budget here.

On Monday we launched our quick submission form, that allows people to easily submit directly to Auckland Council in favour of our plan (or the other options), add your own reasons, and mention which projects are important to you.

Our form is available below, or at www.fixourcity.co.nz/submit. Please submit by Monday 4pm, as this is the biggest chance we have in the next 3 years to re-orientate the transport budget to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.


Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero

On The Waterfront

Crab-Golden-Claws-Karaboudjan-docks

I’ve always loved a working port, growing up on Tintin, where intrigue and big issues always led our hero to docks, and [sadly] being old enough to just remember Auckland’s finger wharves busy with cranes and the last of the goods trains still running on Quay St, I’m a sucker for the romance and tough rough-neck image of it all. Which of course has always been grounded in the realities of the physical movement of goods, and at ports these realities seem more laid bare than most anywhere else; an example of the laws of physics meeting human desire = economics.

So what’s going on down on the wharves? For quite a long time it’s felt very unsatisfactory. The Council, who in our stead owns 100% of the port company, is of course also the regulatory authority over its operations as it is over all businesses and residents in the Auckland Region. Unfortunately this combination doesn’t seem to be working at all well.

It seems clear that the current management of the port company has little interest in any responsibilities beyond direct port operations despite that these being very real; they seem to treat the city’s desire meaningful cohabition with the working port as something to be gamed. This narrow idea of social and environmental responsibility is unlike many privately owned companies, let alone publicly owned ones. But there also appears to have been an almost total abrogation of governance by the Council over port decisions.  Sometimes it seems more like the port company is playing both the people and Council and other times it looks more like collusion between parts of the Council ad the company. I, like almost everyone else in the city has no idea what is really going on. This is my biggest complaint here, there is little daylight or transparency about what is going on down on the waterfront, and a huge amount of spin coming from PoAL.

The latest is the sneaky slip of a resource consent through the Council on December 23rd for two extensions to Bledisloe Wharf without any public discussion initiated by either party. It is clear that the port intends these extensions as a prelude to filing in the resultant space between the piers at a later date, but even without this it’s worth seeing what they are doing to our harbour. Specifically I am interested in the outcome for Queens Wharf. The space that we [Council and government] bought for $40million from ourselves [Port Company] in 2009 specifically as a public space, the ‘people’s wharf’. Here’s how Waterfront Auckland describe it, in the first words on their dedicated Queens Wharf page:

Queens Wharf lies at the foot of the Auckland CBD and offers a unique vantage point overlooking the sparkling Waitemata Harbour… Queens Wharf has been transformed from a private working wharf to a public waterfront space for all to enjoy.

This is a big investment in an important idea: allowing people to bust through the red fence enabling the north south axis of Queen St to continue out into our wonderful harbour forming an intersection with this eastern city edge, and penetrating into the harbour to reconnect this harbourside city with its deep water. Expressly in fact to cement Queens Wharf as a ceremonial space of symbolic arrival and departure. After all, we or our ancestors have all come to this city from over the sea. Here’s how WA put it:

The wharf has social significance for its central role on the Auckland waterfront; for its function as a major place of arrival to, and departure from New Zealand; and as a place of formal welcome and farewell.

Here then is an introduction to PoAL’s plans [and style; a very don’t worry nothing to see here kind of document]:

PoAL expansion Plans

This shows a plan to extend Bledisloe Wharf [on the left],

So what does it matter what happens east of Queens Wharf in the operational zone of the port? We want to have a successful port don’t we, and that’s going to take space, right? Agreed. Which is why we have invested in Fergusson Wharf, the big and modern container wharf at the eastern edge of the ports operations area. But since the decline of New Zealand’s vehicle assembly industry and the rise of car imports PoAL have used the old finger wharves for temporary car storage. A very Auckland and very space hungry activity. But would we allow Wilsons, say, to use this land for car parking? We need to have an honest and open discussion about the trade-offs involved in this use, as there are other options like [but not limited to]:

  • not importing so many vehicles through Auckland [some through Tauranga- an actual national ports strategy]
  • incentivising shippers to space out deliveries so the peak arrivals are smoothed
  • storing them more space-efficiently on the existing land [a parking building rather than reclaimation]

A key thing that is very easy to miss in the image above is the two light grey fingers either side of the dark grey pointed out ‘Proposed reclamation’ that we don’t ‘need to decide on right now’. This is what that December consent about is and is to begin construction next month. What do these two extension mean for Queens Wharf? Here’s a schematic of the sightline from the end of Queens Wharf:

Bledisloe Wharf extensions_6

The new wharves will clearly cut Queens Wharf off from any view of the Harbour entrance, that point of ‘arrival to and departure from’. Queens Wharf will no longer be out in the harbour but just in a contained little ferry basin. Just a big concrete deck leading nowhere. Below is its current state. As I took this picture a car carrier was docked at the existing Bledisloe wharf disgorging its contents:

QUEENS WHARF_9717

Working from the visual above, and doing a bit of very quick photoshop here’s what I reckon, roughly, will happen to the experience on the end of the People’s Wharf’ when a ship is docked at the new western pier extension on Bledisloe. Forgive my crude Photoshopery, it’s intended to be approximate rather than perfect, I did adjust the ship extension for perspective, making the stern smaller and have invented a new shipping line with an appropriate name…

QUEENS WHARF_9717_FUKO_blog

Is this really the outcome we want in order to accommodate the peak flow of car imports through one port? Currently 90% of the entire county’s car imports arrive through Auckland. If this is the cost of that continuing, is it one are prepared to pay?

A further example of the lack of any coordination between the ambitions for our city and the plans of the frankly visionless port company or it’s governors is shown by the contradictions between the plans for a major artwork based on the idea of arrival and departure at the end of Queens Wharf as described here in the Herald by Brian Rudman:

In the furore over Port of Auckland’s plans to extend Bledisloe Wharf nearly 100m out into the harbour, one of Mayor Len Brown’s pet projects was overlooked.In more ways than one. The controversial Barfoot & Thompson state house lighthouse at the end of Queens Wharf will be blinkered.

In persuading councillors of the need to commandeer the tip of Queens Wharf for the lighthouse, the mayor and council arts panel argued the site was “a key portal into New Zealand for international visitors arriving via vessel” and was “visible from multiple vantage points”.

Mr Parekowhai explained that his work would be “a lighthouse that signals safe harbour and welcome”.

It seems to me that a very Auckland kind of tragedy is unfolding down

ON THE WATERFRONT_1

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