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Labour focuses on minor transport issues

Labour released a small part of their transport policy yesterday and frankly it’s absolute rubbish with it seemingly designed just to target a handful of complainers. You can get a good feel for what they’re aiming at when the policy is called Easier Driving and with the slogan accompanying the policies is

Labour will make it easier to get a family holiday on the roada

The three things this release says they will do are:

The issue

Trailers and caravans
Currently, owners of light trailers and caravans must pay an annual licensing fee (usually referred to as ‘registration’) of $28, plus a $7 administration fee.

It is a tax that generates a huge amount of hassle for the 600,000 light trailer and caravan owners in New Zealand while bringing in little revenue for the government. With 20% of the cost to owners going on administration, it is also highly inefficient. No policy justification exists for charging a registration fee for light trailers and caravans; it’s just a money grab.

Heavy trucks have a speed limit of 90km/h. If they drive in the fast lane on multi-lane roads, they either slow down light vehicle traffic or, frequently, exceed their speed limit. This is both inconvenient for other road users and dangerous.

Motorhomes and campervans
The current government unfairly increased Road User Charges for owners of motorhomes and campervans when it changed from assessing RUC based on actual gross weight to using maximum allowable weight, instead.

Many campervans and motorhomes are built on heavy chassis or converted from buses but never carry anywhere near their maximum allowable weight. This means they have far less impact on the roads than a fully-laden commercial truck with the same maximum allowable weight. Charging them the same RUC as a much heavier vehicle goes against the principles of the RUC Act. This change has seen RUC costs unfairly double for some motorhome and campervan owners.

The detail

Labour is committed to getting rid of unnecessary costs and rules that put a burden on Kiwis. As an example of this approach, we have identified several current rules and requirements that make using the roads a hassle. Changing them will lower costs and make life easier for Kiwis, and give a boost to domestic tourism.

Labour will remove the annual licencing fee for light trailers and caravans. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $17 million a year (less than 1% of the NTLF, which can be met by reprioritisation), but save owners of trailers and caravans $21 million a year, as well as countless hours and hassle.

In other jurisdictions including the UK, South Australia, Victoria and many US states, heavy trucks are required to not use the fast lane on multi-lane roads. Labour will adopt this rule for three and four lane highways. Heavy trucks can still travel at their 90km/h speed limit in the other lanes, but it keeps the fast lane clear for faster light vehicle traffic.

Labour will create a special RUC class for motorhomes and campervans that reflects their actual impact on the roads, as suggested by the AA. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $2-5 million a year (to be funded out of reprioritisation within the NLTF).

That there are so many other transport issues that will need to be addressed and they decide to waste time on this stuff doesn’t bode well for their overall transport policy. The trailer and caravan changes seem like tinkering around the edges and if Labour were serious they would get cracking on changing the entire licencing system.

As for the trucks on motorways, as far as I’m aware there is technically no such thing as a fast lane so it will be a bit hard for them to stay out of it. Even if this was implemented as it sounds it doesn’t mean there is that many places it would actually have any affect. The only three lane state highways are in Auckland and Wellington and on those most trucks do tend to stay to the left. I can’t remember the last time I saw a truck creating a hold up in free flow motorway traffic. Certainly they can be an issue outside of Auckland but then this policy wouldn’t be relevant anyway due to the lace of qualifying roads (and that doesn’t mean we need to go and build more).  This map shows the extent of motorways in Auckland that have over three lanes. Obviously there are some big upgrades going on that will increase this in coming years.

black = 3 lanes, red = four lanes and green = 5 lanes

Motorways with more than 3 lanes

Getting on with the CRL

There seems to have been a bit of a “passive aggressive ding dong” going on between Mayor Len Brown and Prime Minister John Key over the City Rail Link in recent months. Back in February, Mayor Brown proposed to “kick start” the CRL by building the first section under the downtown shopping mall and some way up Albert Street. Then shortly after the Elliott Street tower was announced, bringing further pressure on starting the project sooner rather than later.

Yet so far it seems the government hasn’t taken the bait, although critically in the PM’s official response to an earlier start he noted the following:

Your letter also outlined some projects, many being undertaken by the private sector that could be affected by the City Rail Link and raised the question of whether an opportunity existed to reduce disruption to the CBD and some of these projects.

I indicated in the meeting with you that I would be getting some advice on the issues you raise. I am in the process of receiving advice including on the possible impact on some of the projects you cite.

That seems like a fairly deliberate effort on behalf of the PM to leave the door slightly ajar for a change of heart. So let’s look at the major issue, which is the relationship between the timing of any redevelopment of the current Downtown Shopping Mall and the CRL project. Originally Auckland Transport was to buy this site, because construction of the CRL requires the demolition of the entire shopping mall as it passes through the area as a “cut and cover” tunnel. However, a deal was done between Auckland Transport and the site owners – Precinct Properties – so that the site wouldn’t need to be acquired, there’d just be some good co-ordination so that the tunnels could be built and Precinct’s redevelopment could occur.

The map below shows how the CRL tunnels pass directly underneath Precinct’s site, with the area shaded red indicating where a consented high-rise tower is proposed:

downtown-mall-siteIt doesn’t take a genius to work out that the tunnels need to be built before any development can take place. It seems simply impossible to build the tunnels without completely destroying everything on the site above – which means that essentially any redevelopment is delayed until the tunnels are completed. Let’s just say if I were Precinct Properties I’d be pretty pissed off with the government’s attitude at the moment.

So what’s a way to work around this issue? As proposed by the Mayor in February, it seemed like the Council’s plan was to fully fund the initial section of the project (potentially including going under Customs Street perhaps?) at a cost of around $250 million. Given the Council plans to spend close to $200m on CRL in the 2014/15 year it appear like such an outlay is fairly affordable. The government doesn’t want to spend money on CRL until 2020, but it’s not like they’re being asked to in this plan so I struggle to see the problem.

Perhaps the Mayor is concerned that government’s rough promise of a “50/50 split” in the cost of the project only applies to any money spent after 2020 – as that’s when they think the project is required. The risk of building the first section without government support seems to be a worry that they don’t front up with their $125 million come 2020, which is an understandable concern. But surely a bit of clever negotiation could resolve this and both parties can come away happy – Len Brown because he’s finally put a spade in the ground and started his flagship project, and the government because they don’t hold up a major redevelopment, don’t have to spend any money yet and bask in a bit of election year good press over not standing in the way of a very popular project.

Everyone wins. Let’s just get on with it.

ACT Party spokespeople tragically born missing sense of irony

There are many great contradictions in politics, and there’s never enough time to explain them all. Certainly one of the greatest contradictions, though, has to be what some people associated with the ACT party have to say about intensification. The supposed ‘free market party’ seems quite scared of landowners’ rights to develop their land in the way they see fit – something you’d think would be more likely from the Conservative party.

Quoting a recent speech by David Seymour, the new ACT candidate for Epsom:

The people of Epsom do not want more traffic jams and a city closing in on them under Len Brown’s intensification plan.The funny thing about Epsom is that it was built well before modern urban planning.  Nobody planned the organic mix of streets between Mt Eden and Dominion roads.  The character villas were not part of a grand plan.  Ditto the crescents backing onto Cornwall Park, the historic Parnell Village, or roads that wind over the slopes of Remuera.

Len Brown and the central planners can’t stand the thought of a spontaneous urban form.  They must make their mark with apartment towers all over the electorate.

If irony were made of strawberries, we’d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now (thanks, South Park). One of the major barriers to intensification is the zoning restrictions in inner-city suburbs, and yet David is appealing to his audience’s fear of an “organic mix” or “spontaneous urban form” arising in Epsom. Perish the thought.

Dick Quax, former ACT parliamentarian turned councillor, is also a chap who spends quite a bit of time raising concerns about intensification.

Don Brash, former ACT Party leader, has also gotten a lot of mileage arguing that we should remove urban limits, and conspicuously ignoring the restrictions which exist inside those limits. When pushed, he points out that he doesn’t have a problem with intensification… but that’s certainly not the message he’s chosen to focus on publicly.

As some of the other bloggers have pointed out before, the usual left-wing/ right-wing divisions that occur at central government level seem to break down, or behave in unexpected ways, when you get to the local government level. And I’d call this is one of the unexpected ways.

People at the supposed ‘right wing’ end of the spectrum often go on about the need to remove planning restrictions at the city’s edge, and how that will help housing affordability. They sing a different tune when confronted about restrictions inside the city boundaries. This ranges from the kind of rhetoric used by David Seymour above, to the more nuanced views held by Don Brash (but which he certainly isn’t at pains to publicise).

And yet, when urban economist Edward Glaeser was asked which the bigger problem for Auckland housing affordability was – urban limits or zoning restrictions in existing areas – he pointed the finger at zoning restrictions. Hmmm.

On the other hand, Penny Webster, another Auckland Councillor and former MP for ACT, has tended to vote with Len Brown on most issues, so it’s dangerous to generalise between different people. The general impression that we get from people most closely (and most currently) associated with the ACT party itself, though, is that intensification is a bogeyman to be feared, and – from David Seymour above – that it occurs because of council planning, not in spite of it. I leave it to you to consider whether, if we removed all planning restrictions  in both the inner suburbs and at the city fringes, Epsom and Remuera would stay the same with no intensification occurring.

Winston Peters show’s he doesn’t get HOP

Winston Peters shows that he clearly doesn’t understand HOP - although I guess that shouldn’t be surprising

New Zealand First is urging SuperGold Cardholders who travel for free on Auckland public transport not to waste their money buying a prepaid card.

New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters says seniors are being pressured to spend $15 on an Auckland Transport prepaid HOP card and advises those who have done so to demand their money back.

“SuperGold Cardholders should demand their money back if they paid $5 for the card and the minimum $10 prepaid credit because the HOP card is simply an attack on the elderly.

“Auckland Transport’s HOP-card campaign has already signed up 11,129 SuperGold Cardholders.

“That means Auckland Transport has fleeced more than $166,000 from seniors who gain no advantage from buying the tag-on, tag-off card,” says Mr Peters, who introduced the SuperGold Card in 2007. “It is a grand confidence trick.”

“All they need for travel on the bus or for a train or ferry ticket is their SuperGold Card. They can travel free in Auckland from 9am on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays.

“A SuperGold Cardholder told us she would never use the $10 she was forced to load on the card and quite rightly asked, what is Auckland Transport doing with all the money,” says Mr Peters.

There are in fact many good reasons for SuperGold cardholders to get a HOP card.

  • While most card holders will likely be travelling off peak, many still travel at peak and a HOP card allows them to pay for their fare (and get the HOP discounts).
  • Perhaps more importantly is a SuperGold concession can be loaded onto a HOP card that means it automatically gives free travel after 9am.

If you wish to travel using an AT HOP card, you can have a SuperGold Concession loaded onto your card. This will save you having to get a free SuperGold ticket before you travel on trains and ferries. You may only hold one AT HOP card with a SuperGold profile on it. Travel commencing after 9am weekdays and all day on weekends and on public holidays will still be free and you will be able to tag on and tag off with your AT HOP card.

Travel commencing before 9am will be charged at adult fares to your HOP Money balance on your AT HOP card with at least 10% discount off single trip paper tickets (excludes NiteRider and Airbus Express bus services).

  • Using a HOP card to tag on/off at a train station is also easier than having to go to a ticket machine – something some older citizens seem to struggle with.
  • On buses the HOP card speeds up boarding making for quicker trips, not just for those with SuperGold cards but for everyone else and as we’ve discussed before that can have potentially big benefits for operational costs.

The reason I highlight this, is not so much for this specific example but that I wonder if this type of lack of understanding is perhaps a symptom of just how poor our PT has been for such a long time. Many people simply don’t understand why developments like HOP are so vitally needed. It’s also something that we need to be especially mindful of with an election coming up. In this specific case Peters would be better advocating for a HOP card that looks like a SuperGold card so that those eligible only need a single card in their wallet.

Auckland Transport’s draft Statement of Intent for 2014-17

Every year Auckland Transport agree with the council a new Statement of Intent (SOI) with the council. It sets out their strategic approach, priorities and targets for the following three years. They are currently in the process of setting the SOI for the 2014-2017 period and there appear to be some quite concerning aspects in the documents - which are found in the various agenda items for the Council Controlled Organisations Governance and Monitoring Committee. My understanding of the process is that the Council send AT a letter of expectation outlining their key priorities, Auckland Transport are meant to incorporate that into a draft SOI which is then reviewed by council officers. The comments from them get responded to by AT and then goes to the council for a final decision.

Last year the biggest change to the SOI as the lowering of patronage targets, most notably for rail. It’s also something that backfired on them with the Ministry of Transport highlighting it their first review on the progress towards the CRL targets the government, suggesting it shows AT don’t believe rail can grow by the amount required.

So this year what do we see? The same thing is happening again with in some cases AT wanting to drop their targets for all PT modes. In the case of rail especially this is to almost absurd levels. For example in their current SOI their target is 11.4 million trips by the end of June 2014 (which they might meet if they keep growing they way they are) while by end of June 2015 they are expected to reach a total of just over 13 million. In their new draft SOI they want the rail target for 2014/15 lowered to just 12.1 million. The target seems way to low considering that:

  • We’re already going to be at ~11.1 million (as we hit 11 million before the end of March)
  • There’s 15 months to go before the end of June 2015
  • In that time electric trains are expected to roll out to the Onehunga Line, Manukau and Southern Lines

Here’s a graph to show how the rail SOI target has changed over the last few versions of the SOI and how we’re actually performing.

Draft 2014 SOI Rail Target

My guess is that we could potentially blow past the 13 million trip target and this isn’t something that should be changed. For the other modes there are similar outcomes. The targets proposed in the 2014/15 year go

  • Total patronage – 78.16 million -> 74.24 million
  • Busway (NEX) – 2.59 million -> 2.51 million
  • Other Bus – 56.63 million -> 53.70 million
  • Ferry – 5.90 million -> 5.94 million

So only the target for ferries goes up which is interesting in itself as they are the mode currently going backwards. Overall this seems like a cop out and the councillors shouldn’t accept this (especially no on the rail figures).

The issue of dropping patronage targets is something noted by the council officers and by Councillor Chris Darby in a memo he sent to other councillors which is also online.

Darby’s letter also highlights that many of the “Key Focus areas for 2014/15 for Auckland Transport” from the council’s letter of expectation are not simply not reflected on in the SOI. These include

  • A strategic review of public transport fares
  • Increased priority for pedestrians and cyclists, and improvement of walking and cycling facilities that improve access to public transport.
  • Identification of and reporting on the delivery of any improvements to the quality of urban design outcomes.
  • Effective management of hygiene factors in the public realm such as cleaning, mowing, and tree clipping.
  • Identifying surplus non-strategic properties for disposal in conjunction with ACPL

On the issue of cycling he notes that many of the timelines set for projects are quite at odds with the presentation AT gave the councils Infrastructure Committee just over a month ago on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. He highlights this in the following table

Draft 2014 SOI cycling issues

Lastly here’s the programme of works proposed in the SOI. Darby thinks that added to this should be planning and route protection for a North West busway along SH16, the Te Atatu bus interchange and the list of bus lanes that will be added. I agree with him.

1. Planning and route protection
1.1 Complete the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan by June 2015
1.2 Undertake planning and route protection for major new transport initiatives, including:

  • City Rail Link.
  • South-Western Multimodal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART) network
  • Botany lo Manukau rapid transit network.
  • Mill Road corridor upgrade.
  • East-West Link (In conjunction with NZTA). including public consultation on the development and progression of a preferred option;
  • Penlink; and
  • Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

2. New transport infrastructure
2.1 AMETI:
Complete investigation and design of

  • Package 4 ( Panmure Roundabout. Lagoon Drive, Additional Panmure Bridge. Busway to Pakuranga, New Pakuranga Bus Station and car parking facilities, and Reeves Road Flyover) by 2017.

Complete construction of:

  • Package I Phase 1 (Panmure interchange) in 2014:
  • Package 2 (Sylvia Park bus lanes) by 2016:
  • AMETI Package 4 enabling works including local road changes and major utility diversions

Commence construction of Reeves Road flyover (to be completed by 2019)

2.2 Introduce new electric trains into service.

2.3 Local road improvements associated with State highway upgrades, including:

Complete construction at:

  • Tiverton Road to Wolverton Street upgrade by 2014 (Culvert upgrade by 2016); and
  • Te Atatu Road corridor improvements by 2017.

Complete design and acquisition for:

  • Lincoln Road corridor improvements by 2017.

2.4 Major local road improvements (over $5m). Including:
Complete construction of:

  • Dominion Road corridor upgrade Including dedicated bus lanes, 12 kin of parallel cycle routes, and 3 village centre upgrades by 2017:
  • Albany Highway North upgrade by 2017;
  • Murphy’s Road bridge improvement by 2016;
  • Brigham Creek corridor upgrade by 2017; and
  • North Western transformation protect (NORSGA) for the Northside Drive East, Westgate Bus Interchange, and Hobsonville Point Park and Ride by 2017.

Complete land acquisition for:

  • North Western transformation project (NORSGA) for Hobsonville Road by 2017.

2.5 Public transport Infrastructure, Including:

Complete construction of the following projects by 2016

  • Otahuhu bus/rail interchange;
  • Manukau bus interchange;
  • Parnell Station:
  • Pukekohe Station. and
  • Silverdale park and ride facilities stage 2.

Complete land acquisition and, subject to that acquisition, complete construction of:

  • Fanshawe / Albert / Wellesley streets bus Infrastructure improvements by 2017,

2.6 Complete construction of road safety Improvements at high-risk areas on the road network, including:

  • Great South Road / Bell Avenue Intersection ($09m) by 2014:
  • Piha Road by 2017 ($0.8m):
  • Ngapipi Road / Tamaki Drive Intersection by 2017; and
  • Whitford Road I Sandstone Road ($0.9m) by 2014.

2.7 Complete the construction to upgrade ferry terminals at:

  • Downtown by 2017;
  • Devonport by 2017; and
  • Half Moon Bay by 2016.

2.8 Extend the regional cycleway network. including:

Complete construction of:

  • Beach Road cycleway by 2017:
  • Dominion Road parallel cycle routes by 2015:
  • Northcote, Waitemata, Mangere. Mt Roskill, and Point England sate cycleway routes by 2017;
  • Upper Harbour Drive cycleway by 2016; and
  • Waterview cycleway connection (in conjunction with NZTA) by 2017.

Complete scheme assessment and preliminary design of:

  • Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive cycleway by 2017.

20 by 2020

With the news that Auckland Rail ridership hit 11 million for the year to March 2014 it is time for some quick back of the envelope math:

Readers will recall that when PM Key announced support for the City Rail Link in June last year it was coloured by a disagreement with the Council over the timing of the need for the project. The Council wants it to be operational by 2020 and the government doesn’t think construction should start until that date. However he said that if ridership was heading to 20mil in 2020 that [along with Centre City employment growth] would support the case for the Council’s view on timing.  Matt considered both these metrics at the time here.

So where are we at now? Ridership at the end of June 2013 was almost exactly 10mil: Less than a year later and it is now 11 mil. 3 months to go and already 10% growth. To reach 20mil by 2020 a rate of 10.4% is sufficient.

So what do you say Mr Key? How about we wait till June just to be sure then you can send a note to Treasury to ringfence the funding over the construction period?

Good to have that sorted then…

OK, I can hear the cynics out there saying that you can’t just extrapolate ridership growth from one year out indefinitely and that is indeed true, almost as absurd as assuming traffic growth will leap upwards from a flat line; well almost. So we must ask are there good reasons to believe that ridership growth will continue at this rate? Well no, but there are three good reasons to be confident that it will in fact accelerate from this year even more strongly;

1. The vastly more attractive, higher capacity, and able to be more frequently run New Trains

2. The new integrated ticketing and fares system

3. The New Bus Network that is focussed on coordinating with the Rail Network to help speed and improve many journeys, from new transfer stations like the recently completed Panmure, New Lynn, and coming Mangere and Otahuhu.

Ok what else? Are there any precedents elsewhere for this confidence? Well, again no, because to our knowledge no other city has improved so much at once, but there is the example of Perth, where they did both electrify and extend the existing rail network in the 1990s then add an underground inner city link and a new line in the 2000s, both investments rewarded with the big jumps in ridership visible in the chart below. And interestingly they started with both a similar population to Auckland [a bit higher, but more dispersed] and a similar rail ridership at the start [10mil]:



So because of these already underway changes we consider it highly likely that ridership will hit 20 million well before 2020, although that will be inhibited by the constriction caused by the deadend at Britomart, which will continue to restrict AT from responding to higher demand with the really high frequencies, the very problem which of course the CRL will address, elegantly and efficiently, as well as improving reach and speed. It is clear that the Council’s plan to stage the construction in order to spread the works disruption and their understanding of its near term need is compelling and necessary.

We should also remember that rail ridership has grown by some 400% since the opening of Britomart [annualised: 18% pa, so this has been a consistent grower since even simple improvements were added to what was a completely under invested in system. Build it and they will indeed come.

It is also worth noting that no motorway network shows or is required to show anything like a 10% demand growth in order to get even 50% funding from government. In fact the government had to invent an abstract and novel category of road -The Road of National Significance- in order to get around the low traffic demands all over the nation and overcome their often appallingly low business cases. For example traffic demand in and around Wellington is going backwards, actually falling, but NZTA can’t stop drawing lines down every fault-line for new motorways there. How about 10% demand growth hurdles for investment all transport systems?

Anyone looking for a sure-bet infrastructure project certain to return a transformational shift then here it is: the CRL.

Here’s a chart for the more visual among you, spot the outlier? Off the chart at +384%:



Brownlee admits they ignore economic analysis when it suits them

Following on from the Greens walking and cycling to school policy last week, Julie Anne Genter was again asking about it in Parliament yesterday and the answers from Gerry Brownlee were quite insightful to the governments thinking while some were also quite comical.

You can read the transcript here.

To me there were three interesting parts in the exchange. Firstly the primary question which is based off this written question.

JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Can he confirm that by the end of this fiscal year the Government will have spent $1.5 billion on work classified as having a “low” benefit to cost ratio under its Roads of National Significance programme?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) :The analysis the questioner relies on is provided by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The Government makes its own decisions, though, about value-for-money expenditure. It is not a slave to bureaucratic formula and therefore considers other matters in making its decisions. The Government considers the roads of national significance to be excellent expenditure.

Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a question on notice and it was a yes or no question, and I did not hear a yes or a no in the Minister’s answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, the Standing Orders are quite clear that no member can demand a yes or no answer. Again, I can understand why the member does not feel that it was adequately addressed, and I accept that. On this occasion, the question, in my opinion, has been addressed, but I will allow the member an additional supplementary question to try to tease it out to the member’s satisfaction.

Julie Anne Genter: For clarity, has he spent $1.5 billion on low-value work under the roads of national significance programme, as stated in his answer to written question No. 813, and is he now trying to justify that waste by calling it strategic?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question the member asked me to respond to indicates the benefit-cost ratio on both the 6 percent and 8 percent discount rate for a number of roads. The roads that she is most likely to be focusing on are the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link road, and the Wellington Northern Corridor. The Government considers those to be very important. They are strategic, and we most certainly do not agree with the Green Party that it is inappropriate or low-value expenditure

Basically Gerry just confirms what we’ve been saying for a long time, that the government is building what are in some cases very stupid roads because they want to. Now while I don’t agree with that being how we should build motorways, in itself it isn’t necessarily wrong. However it is quite different to how the government have portrayed their road building programme, which is that the RoNS are good for the economy.

Following that was this exchange related to freight movements.

Julie Anne Genter: Given that none of the spending on the roads of national significance has been high value and that nearly half the spending on walking and cycling in the last year was high value, would it not be a better use of taxpayer money to prioritise high-value walking and cycling projects?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: One of the problems the member would leave unanswered is what you would do with the volumes of freight that have to get moved around New Zealand if you required them to be moved by bicycle or pushcart.

Julie Anne Genter: In light of the National Freight Demands Study released last week, which shows that road freight has fallen since 2006 and that the expected rate of growth is less than was forecast when his Government began this roads of national significance programme, is now not an appropriate time to reconsider whether spending billions of dollars on projects that his own Government considers low value is the best use of taxpayer money?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first point is that I dispute the analysis that the freight volumes have fallen. What I would say is that vehicle kilometres travelled have fallen, and that is largely due to a more efficient roading network, which has an excellent outcome for greenhouse gas emissions.

This relates to the freight study released last week, the outcome of which said that while the amount of freight being moved by all modes had increase, the tonne-kms (distance) had been dropped. There are a number of factors at play causing this however one of them is not due to the roading network being more efficient which implies road building to reduce distances (i.e. removing curves) like Brownlee suggests. Note: This is different from using the existing roads more efficiently through changes like allowing heavier trucks which is something that need motorways to happen.

And lastly

Julie Anne Genter: Does the Minister understand that duplicating motorways to the Kāpiti coast or Wellsford does nothing to alleviate serious congestion in our city centres—in fact, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency, they make congestion worse—whereas investing in smart projects like walking and cycling to school take cars off the road, eases congestion, and improves public health?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It also very seriously inconveniences the people who pay for those roads, and their commitment to these projects will be seen at the ballot box.

So we can’t have more walking and cycling infrastructure as it might slow down car drivers by a few seconds, even if that infrastructure takes people off the road and helps to free it from congestion. Also as mentioned this morning, people simply don’t vote on transport at a National level when there are so many other important issues being discussed. If people did vote based on transport policy then I suspect we would be getting very different outcomes.

Looking back at Transport Policy from the 2011 election

I initially started writing this post with the intention of posting it last week however it was put on hold as a result of the Green Party policy targeting kids walking and cycling to school.

In just over 6 months is next general election. At a national level transport is an oddity in that it’s not normally a big talking point – with the possible exception of those who read this blog – instead the focus is usually on the big three of the Economy, Education and Health. It’s an oddity as transport policy can have massive impacts on those three issues along with many others. This is because transport isn’t a direct objective but is an enabler for other outcomes, and that is why it is also so important to get right. While I expect some minor changes in some areas, overall I suspect we aren’t going to see any major changes in transport policy from the main parties. Many people probably have a good idea of each party stands for but with this post I thought I would highlight what the transport policy of the parties that achieved over 5% in the 2011 election.


National’s transport policy at the last election was really just a continuation of what they had been doing for the three years prior to that. There were a number of issues that they highlight as wanting to do however the one given the most attention was clearly Keep building better roads. That part of the policy said they would:

  • Invest $12 Billion over 10 years in State Highway construction.
  • Complete construction on:
    • Christchurch’s Southern Motorway Stage 1.
    • The Ngaruawahia and Te Rapa sections of the Waikato Expressway.
    • The Tauranga Eastern link.
  • Construct New Zealand’s largest-ever roading project, the Waterview Connection on Auckland’s Western Ring Route, including two three-laned tunnels bored under Avondale.
  • Start construction on:
    • The Christchurch Western Bypass and the Southern Motorway Stage 2.
    • The Basin Reserve Flyover and the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway on the Wellington Northern Corridor.
    • The Cambridge and Rangiriri sections of the Waikato Expressway.
  • Design and consent the Transmission Gully section of Wellington’s Northern Corridor (construction due to start in 2015/16).
  • Finalise the design and consenting of the Puhoi to Warkworth section of the Puhoi to Wellsford RONS, and prepare for a construction start in 2014/15.
  • Construct replacement Waitaki River bridges on State Highway 82 at Kurow.
  • Evaluate four new RONS projects for development following final completion of the first three RONS projects (Victoria Park, Waterview, and Tauranga Eastern Link):
    • State Highway 29 between Hamilton and Tauranga.
    • State Highway 1 between Cambridge and Tirau.
    • Further development of the Hawke’s Bay Expressway.
    • State Highway 1 North and South of the current Christchurch motorway projects.
  • Continue to develop key regional roading projects that will enhance productivity and economic growth, including the Rotorua Eastern Arterial and the Waiwakaiho Bridge in New Plymouth.
  • Improve the resilience of key inter-regional freight routes like Mt Messenger on State Highway 3, and the Manawatu Gorge.

The most interesting (and concerning) of these points was the additional four RoNS projects. I don’t know if the NZTA has done any work on them internally but I’m certainly not aware of any public discussion of them. Part of the reason these may not have happened is that the government are having enough problems funding the current RoNS work and so anything extra is being left for the time being. This coming election I suspect we will see the policy largely unchanged however there will definitely be an increased focus on the fast tracked Auckland projects they announced in June last year. They will undoubtedly claim a lot of credit for electrification and other PT improvements (expect to see a lot of shots of politicians wanting to associate themselves with the new trains). Of course discussion of the CRL will feature somewhat however I suspect that before the election we might see the government agree to Len Brown’s $250m kick start suggestion.


As you would expect Labours’ policy (6.2MB file) was more friendly to public transport including supporting paying for half of the CRL which would have been done by opting for an Operation Lifesaver approach to the Puhoi to Wellsford road although other than that there were no specifics given as to what would be done. There seemed to be quite a bit of talk around reducing emissions and working to shift more freight to rail. One difference to National was in sea freight where they promised to develop a national port strategy.

In addition to Puhoi to Wellsford which was mentioned earlier, when it came to roads Labour opposed the four new RoNS projects that National talked about but more specifically mentioned a few other projects including that:

  • Labour will investigate and prioritise improvements to the “East-West Corridor” proposal in Auckland between East Tamaki at State Highway I and Onehunga at State Highway 20.
  • Labour prefers the original Western Link Road plan, not the four-lane Kapiti Expressway as has now been approved and will fund it 100%
  • Labour will also continue to support the Transmission Gully project but only so long as it meets reasonable cost-benefit criteria.
  • Labour will ensure the funding for local roads is not further undermined by the excessive focus on Roads of National Significance.
  • Labour will promote the introduction of a nationwide infrastructure to recharge electric vehicles.
  • Labour will investigate the appropriate use of mechanisms including tolling, PPPs and road pricing, ie. congestion charging.

So a bit of a mixed bag there. Perhaps the overall thinking is summed up well by this statement which sits under the PT section

Labour will examine ways to maintain and increase the overall transport spend beyond the National Land Transport Fund to develop our public transport systems so that they are a credible and attractive transport option.

That sounds quite a bit like what we’re seeing in Auckland with Len (which I guess is unsurprising) where with the exception of a few of the RoNS projects, the focus is on working out how to raise more money to pay for everything rather than cut low performing projects.

This election I suspect we will see some more of the same. We know Labour have already said they are backing the CRL and would pay for half of it including Len’s proposed early start. I also suspect they will end up copping the Greens walking and cycling to school policy.


Of course we already know one of the Greens policies with the announcement last week although there is obviously more to come. As many would expect, the policy focused around reducing investment in roads and investing more in alternatives like PT, Walking and Cycling and shifting freight to rail and shipping. In Auckland they said they would:

  • invest 60% ($1.44 billion) to fast track the CRL
  • spend $500 million to build north-west and south-east busways
  • provide $30 million per year to fund walking and cycling in the region including across the harbour bridge.

The greens actually seem to keep their transport policy up to date (or have done so recently) meaning we don’t really have to speculate much. Here is the vision they are aiming for.


New Zealand has a sustainable transport system that supports liveable, people-friendly towns and cities, and enables the movement of people and goods locally, regionally and nationally at least social, environmental and financial cost.

  • People of all ages and abilities have access to safe, reliable and convenient transport.
  • Traffic on roads and roading is reduced as other modes of transport are preferred. Road traffic is predominantly low or zero-emission vehicles.
  • Public transport in urban and rural areas is widely available and extensively used.
  • Walking and cycling are a popular transport choice, facilitated by a nationwide web of safe and attractive cycle and walkways.
  • Transport infrastructure provides access to provincial areas and supports regional development.

The link above also contains a number of very specific policy points should you be interested.

New Zealand First

The NZ First transport policy relates almost exclusively to the movement of freight whether it be by road, rail or sea. In fact there isn’t even a single mention of public transport or commuters in the policy and there’s only one mention of building a cycle network which comes with the caveat of “where appropriate”.

With his history, I’m not even going to bother trying to predict what kind of policy Winston Peters might come up with this time.

So there’s my brief look at the transport policies of the main parties at the last election. Overall this year I don’t expect we will see too much different in the various positions compared to the last election with perhaps the biggest difference being National and whether or not they support an early start to the CRL. I’m guessing that will largely depending on what the polling is looking like

Lots of cycling news

There’s been quite a bit of cycling news in the last few days (including during today) so this post is really a bit of a combination of a few of these.

The Role of Cycling in Auckland

You will recall on Tuesday my post on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. Yesterday the report was discussed by the Infrastructure Committee who also heard from Cycle Action Auckland and Generation Zero who also spoke on our behalf. My understanding is that most of the councillors on the committee were quite supportive and the herald published this part from Chris Darby

Committee deputy chairman Chris Darby, a cyclist, said other comparative cities around the world but particularly on the Pacific Rim were well ahead of Auckland in developing bikeways which raised public transport patronage by widening the catchment of buses, trains and ferries.

“We have been failing Auckland miserably – cycling is a badge of a smart city and we really need to have that badge on our lapel.”

The initial recommendations were also strengthened and ended being

That the Infrastructure Committee:
a) acknowledge the importance of cycling in contributing to the vision of creating the world’s most liveable city particularly through enabling Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #3, “Move to outstanding public transport within one network” and Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #4, “Radically improve the quality of urban living”
b) working with the Auckland Development Committee, support greater financial commitment within the Long-term Plan for cycleways, including the preparation of an integrated regional implementation strategy.
c) encourage Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to explore innovative trial projects in the near-term that increase safety and attract a wider range of people to cycling
d) request staff to review baseline data monitoring and its adequacy in understanding cycling and walking contribution to transport, and further to provide recommendations on key performance indicators (kpi’s) that may then be incorporated into the Auckland Transport Statement of Intent (SOI)
e) endorse that the committee Chair writes to the Chairman of Auckland Transport forwarding the report ‘Role of Cycling in Auckland’ and communicates the Infrastructure Committee decisions on the need for a significantly enhanced effort to improved cycling infrastructure in Auckland.

At the end of the day we it’s really up to the council to provide the funding needed for AT to implement more cycle facilities so this is a good outcome.


Hidden in today’s Finance and Performance Committee agenda was a discussion on providing additional $175,000 in funding to help complete investigations for Skypath.

  • In December 2013, the council approved a way forward for the investigation of the SkyPath project, a walking and cycle pathway to be attached to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. ATEED’s Chief Executive is sponsoring the project for the council group. ATEED is seeking additional operating budget of $175,000 in the 2013/14 financial year for investigation work that cannot be undertaken with internal resources. Some of the costs to date have been covered by ATEED’s working capital, with an understanding that the entire cost would be funded by the council.
  • In regard to the additional funding sought, approximately $50,000 is allowed for specialist legal input in addition to the in-house legal services, which is required due to the somewhat unconventional nature of the SkyPath proposal.
  • The project team also intends to provide a grant of $85,000 the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust, which is a contribution to the preparation cost associated with the reports and assessments that the trust will submit in its resource consent application to the council. These materials (e.g. traffic effect report and images) will be of interest and use to the public and the Auckland Council group in future investigation and consultation.
  • Last but not least, approximately $40,000 in consultancy charge is allowed for as ATEED’s share of the total cost of the patronage projection review. The project team engaged Angus & Associates Limited to undertake surveys and develop a model to assess the likely patronage profile for SkyPath over a 20-year period. This essential work has and will continue to help understand the revenue projections to manage the council’s risks in relation to the potential underwrite. The majority of this work was undertaken in the second half of 2013. However, further targeted work is necessary in the next few months to investigate the likely peak or daily usage to assist the council in understanding these effects on the surrounding network and areas.

I understand there was some fairly robust discussion and I’ve had it reported that George Wood was mischievously trying to mislead the committee. He seems to have a real problem with Skypath and perhaps he’s talking the same line the Northcote Residents Association use that cycling can only be provided over the harbour if an additional road crossing is built. The extra funding was approved 15-4 with George Wood, Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer and Sharon Stewart opposing it.

On the issue of the Northcote Residents Association, it appears they’re continuing to run misleading information themselves in their latest newsletter. There are a couple of major ones

The Draft Issues register – despite it appearing that the issues are all outstanding, I have heard that they have all been addressed as part of the process currently going on, many of which were done last year.

Questioning Patronage Numbers – this continues to be a line that the residents use despite the numbers having been produced and checked by independent consultants. I believe another round of work is going to be done do this again.

Parking – For some reason the residents seem to think that they own the public roads and have the sole right to them. This is simply not the case however I also understand that the one of the most likely options is a residents parking scheme similar to what exists in St Marys Bay and that would address the problems.

Additional Harbour Crossing – the residents like to claim that when an additional harbour crossing happens that it would free up a lane for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge. However if it ever happens an additional road based crossing could be decades away and even then the NZTA have said Skypath will still be needed and will become a walking connection with any extra lanes freed up being for cycling (like in Sydney)

Greens Policy announcement

I posted this morning about the greens walking and cycling to school policy. Julie Anne Genter questioned Gerry Brownlee on it today in parliament. To be honest I can’t see many kids cycling alongside a RoNS to get to school. I’m also unaware of any cycling facilities being provided in many of the RoNS projects and in the case of Waterview, most of the cycling provision is only being done because the Board of Inquiry forced the NZTA to do so. Also have to love cry at the last answer.

AA on cycling

What a brilliant ad from the UK version of the AA. Also good to see the NZ AA supporting it too (although with a hi-vis mention)

Greens want kids walking and cycling to school

I happened to be part way through writing a post about transport policy for the upcoming elections when the first policy announcement of this cycle appeared in my inbox. I aim to cover election policy from all major parties over the course of the year.

It’s not their full policy but the Greens say they will put invest $200 million to make it easier for kids to be able to walk and cycle to school.

The Green Party has announced $200 million of new investment in infrastructure so kids can cycle and walk to school safely and to ease congestion on New Zealand’s roads.

Launching the policy at Auckland’s Belmont Intermediate School this morning, Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said the Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan would make our roads safer for everyone – cyclists, walkers and drivers – and improve the health and wellbeing of our kids.

“We will invest $50 million a year over four years to ensure kids can walk and cycle to school safe from traffic. This is a policy that’s good for our kids, good for motorists and good for the environment,” Mrs Turei said.

In 1989 half of New Zealand’s kids cycled or walked to school and only a third came by car. Today, these numbers have reversed. Each morning, Kiwis make a quarter of a million car trips just dropping kids at school.

“In a survey of parents that we conducted, 93% of parents who drive their kids to school said they would prefer for them to walk or cycle, but only if they knew it was safe. Our plan will help make walking and cycling to school safe by protecting kids from traffic,” Mrs Turei said.

“We need to turn around the decline in cycling and walking numbers. When kids walk, bike or ride their scooters to school, it’s good for their health and learning, it eases congestion, and it benefits the environment. We just need to make it safe.”

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, safety is the main reason people have stopped walking and cycling to school.

Local authorities, in conjunction with schools, will be able to draw upon the $50 million a year ring-fenced fund for walking and cycling infrastructure to protect kids from traffic so they can travel safely to school.

This funding will be drawn from a total of $100 million a year in the National Land Transport Fund that the Green Party will ring-fence for walking and cycling.

Funding for walking and cycling is currently only about $15 million a year.

“The latest research shows that we can get up to $20 of gains for every dollar spent on walking and cycling. That’s a billion dollars of gains for each year’s $50 million investment,” Mrs Turei said.

“Our Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan is a smart way to get kids to school safely, and is a smarter spend than wasting money on low benefit projects.”

The full policy paper is here.

I think that regardless of political allegiance, getting more kids walking and cycling to school is a good thing. Currently information from the Ministry of Transports Household Travel Survey shows that for kids 5-12 only 2% ride a bike to school while that goes to only 4% for those 13-17. By contrast in the 5-12 category 58% are driven to school while in the 13-17 category around 41% arrive by car (some drive by then).

There would of course be quite a few challenges with a policy like this, just because the money is available it doesn’t mean that council (or AT in Auckland’s case) may actually use the money as far to often we hear stories of improvements to make it safer for kids around schools being declined due to it having the potential to disrupt the flow of traffic.

As mentioned at the start, we’ll be covering transport policy announcements of all parties.

Edit: I just noticed on twitter this from George Wood, this is a seriously concerning attitude