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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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]:
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:
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:
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Monday 2 March, doors open 5pm for a 5.30pm start
Lower NZI Conference Room, Aotea Centre, central Auckland
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
It will be interesting to see if these kinds of results carry on through for the rest of the consultation.
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.
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:
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: