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Poll shows people want more spent on PT

Stuff have released the results of a poll they’ve conducted asking about transport funding.

Auckland has sent a clear message to the Government over its transport priorities: Give us better public transport rather than better roads.

The latest Stuff.co.nz-Ipsos poll found that nationally people wanted a government focus on better public transport over roads by a margin of 30 per cent to 24 per cent.

Another 40 per cent wanted a focus on both.

In Auckland there was much stronger backing for public transport spending, which got the nod by a four to one margin over roads among those who had a preference.

Almost 43 per cent said the focus should be on both.

For Auckland in particular the results suggest a strong support for more being spent on PT with some quick calculations suggesting 46% of respondents wanted more PT spending, followed by 43% who wanted both with just 11% wanting more spent on roads alone. Understandably the support for PT isn’t quite as strong outside of Auckland but still saw a significant number of people supporting the call for more spending on PT. I’ve put together these graphs based on the results highlight the result

Stuff Poll - Govt Focus

Additionally when asked if the government was doing enough to address congestion once again Aucklanders voted differently to the rest of the country with the majority saying no – although to be fair I’m not sure if Aucklanders will ever think enough is being done.

There was a similar, but less pronounced, division between Auckland and the rest of the country when it came to traffic congestion.

Across the nation 57 per cent felt the Government was doing enough to ease traffic jams in their region.

Even in urban areas there was still a majority at 51 per cent backing the Government’s efforts with 42 per cent saying it was not doing enough.

But in Auckland a clear majority – 54 per cent – said the Government was falling short against 43 per cent who thought it was doing enough.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Brownlee has shrugged off the results suggesting that respondents are confused

But Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee called the result a “confused” message, saying Aucklanders did not use public transport to an extent that made it truly economic.

His response shows two things:

  • That he fails to grasp the difference between peoples aspirations and the reality they live in – we know that many people will only catch PT if it is rational for them to do. You could have a bus stop outside your front door but it isn’t likely to used if the buses that stop there take long convoluted and slow routes. My guess is most people probably want more investment in PT so that it becomes viable for them to use rather than the only realistic option being to drive.
  • That he is confused about the economic and financial viability of transport systems. Both roads and PT provide economic benefits to the country by allowing for the movement of people and goods. Neither roads nor PT are currently financially viable and both require subsidies. PT subsidies are well known and often pointed out by those opposing investing in it however roads also require subsidies. About $1 billion a year is invested in them by local councils – which comes primarily from property rates – and the government themselves are spending additional money from outside of the transport budget on many of their flagship roading projects like the recently announced Accelerated Regional Roads Package.

As the Stuff article says

The poll will be a blow to the Government’s transport policy which has emphasised road building, and in particular its flagship Roads of National Significance, and has rebuffed calls from Auckland Mayor Len Brown for an early start to the city rail link.

National also made its roading policy the centrepiece of Prime Minister John Key’s speech to National’s annual conference, with a promise to spend $212 million from the sale of state-owned assets to upgrade 14 roads across the country.

“Team Key has always been very focused on roads,” Key said at the time.

Gerry’s strange RoNS justification

On Friday transport minister Gerry Brownlee spoke to the Road Transport Forum (RTF) on the government’s key transport priorities. Over the years the RTF have been a generous donor (not just to National) and have certainly received a transport policy very much tailored to their needs. There was nothing new in the speech in terms of project announcements and I guess this was perhaps not the audience to talk about the cancelling the Northern Busway extension, for example.

However, there were a few paragraphs that pick up on traffic trends in recent years – with the Minister making some rather weird connections between these trends and the success of the RoNS programme:

Between 2005 and 2012 total road travel – in terms of kilometres travelled – was almost unchanged.

There are likely to have been a number of contributing factors, including the Global Financial Crisis, population changes, and technology changes affecting the way people meet and communicate.

Heavy vehicle traffic was affected more than light traffic, dropping by over 4 per cent in 2009 – clearly an impact of the GFC.

But now we are seeing that vehicle kilometres travelled are beginning to increase again.

Heavy vehicle traffic on all roads increased 2.1 per cent in 2013, while light vehicle traffic grew 1.4 per cent.

NZ Transport Agency traffic counts for State highways shows a 4.1 per cent growth in heavy vehicle travel in the year to May 2014.

New Zealand’s vehicle fleet is also growing.

Average vehicle ownership growth has increased more than twice the speed of population growth, and recently released data shows new car purchases at their highest level since 1981.

These increases are not only because of population increases and the improving economy, but also because of the choices people make about their preferred modes of transport, and this is in the face of the biggest investment in public transport seen in decades.

So the case for investing in strategic State highways through the Roads of National Significance programme has been proved correct.

Gerry seems to be mixing up a few stats here as vehicle kilometres travelled is quite different from individual traffic counts and they aren’t always going to move in unison – but it’s the strange logic of the final paragraph that is difficult to understand. There are a few options below for what he could be trying to say:

  • The case for spending $11 billion on the RoNS is to make people drive more.
  • With per capita VKT declining a lot in recent years, it makes a lot of sense to spend $11b on a few motorways to try (unsuccessfully) and reverse this trend
  • Construction of the RoNS projects themselves generate heaps of truck trips to move earth around, which is the point of the projects and therefore they are a success

Just as a reminder here’s a comparison of per capita VKT and per capita public transport use in recent years:

What’s your interpretation of what Gerry means?

East West Link and Old Mangere Bridge Open Days

Another series of consultation events that will happen this week will be for the East West Link and the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge.

Communities will get the chance to have their say about two significant transport projects in their area – the East West Connections and the replacement of the of the old Mangere bridge.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport say there is an open invitation for people to attend three community days planned for later this month. Two of them – at the Onehunga night market (Thursday 24 July, 6pm-10pm) and at Sylvia Park shopping mall near the foodcourt (Sunday 27 July, 10am-1pm) – focus on the East West Connections project. The third – at Waterfront Road Reserve, Mangere Bridge (Saturday 26 July, 10am-4pm) – will focus on both the East West Connections and the next stage of replacing the old Mangere bridge.

The Transport Agency’s acting Highways Manager, Steve Mutton, says the community days deliver on earlier commitments from the Agency and Auckland Transport to work with local people.

“We want to build on the great feedback we’ve had from people to replace the bridge and carry that on into the East West Connections programme. This is the latest step for us to ensure that we fully understand what people are experiencing when travelling in Onehunga, Mt Wellington, Otahuhu, Penrose, Mangere and East Tamaki,” Mr Mutton says.

Community input will help the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport develop their East West Connections programme to improve commuter and freight links, public transport and walking and cycling options over the next 30 years.

“We have already identified freight issues that need immediate attention in Onehunga-Penrose – that’s a key priority given the area’s importance for jobs and the Auckland and New Zealand economies. We will be working with stakeholders and the community in coming months as investigations progress for those improvements.

“But we are not losing sight of the issues people are facing in the wider area. The vibrant communities in the area are likely to experience a growth in the number of people who chose to live and work in them. The predicted growth will put additional pressure on the existing transport network”

“We’ve already identified the need to improve reliability of public transport between Mangere and Sylvia Park – there will be other areas for improvement. We want the conversation with local people now so that as we progress with improvements in Onehunga-Penrose, we can also continue to work with communities to address their issues,” says Mr Mutton.

The community day at Mangere Bridge on 26 July will also be a chance for people to see the proposed design for the new bridge connecting Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.

“The earlier feedback from the community was a catalyst for the project and guided the bridge design,” Mr Mutton says. “We’ve worked hard to integrate the community’s requests, and we’re optimistic that they will be pleased with our design when they see it.”

Some features of the original bridge will be retained, with the new structure curving towards the motorway bridge. It will be high enough for small boats to pass underneath. A wider span also means that some form of opening for larger craft is not precluded in future. Two artists have been commissioned to incorporate the area’s history and values into the design through art.

“Replacing the old bridge and the East West Connections are two very different projects with one similar outcome – helping the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport get the best solutions to improve the area’s transport network. We want to hear the views of people to help achieve that,” Mr Mutton says.

On the East West Link it will be interesting to see if they actually show what they plan to do for the project or if they will just talk about the need for it. This is especially the case as I know they showed business and road lobby groups exactly what they plan to build about 7 months ago.

We can get a bit of a background as to what they will show from some of the information on the AT website including this image which highlights all the issues they’ve identified in the area.

East-West Issues

For a big click the photo or for the original it’s from here (5MB).

This image (on the NZTA website) shows all of the projects going on in the area.

East West Other Projects Large

As for the Old Mangere Bridge Replacement this newsletter shows a couple of impressions of what it may look like.

Mangere Bridge Replacement Total

 

Waterview Shared Path

Auckland Transport is holding an open day to discuss their plans for a shared path between Waterview and Mt Albert which was required as part of the Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection project.

Auckland Transport is about to unveil plans for a new walking and cycling link between Waterview and Mt Albert.

Delivered as part of the Waterview Connection project, the shared path will add to Auckland’s growing cycling and walking network, connecting with the north-western (SH16) cycle route and existing shared paths to Onehunga and New Lynn.

Auckland Transport has investigated a range of options, talked with property owners and developed a concept design for the path. We’re now ready to show our designs to the public, so come along and give us your thoughts.

The Waterview shared path will be around 2.4km long and around 3.5 metres wide, running from Alan Wood Reserve off New North Road, following the route of Oakley Creek and connecting with Great North Road (map attached).

Two new bridges will be built along the route – one across Oakley Creek and the other over the western rail line – to connect communities to the path. There will also be easy access to the path at various points along the route, such as Phyllis Reserve and the Unitec campus.

Details on the Waterview shared path will be revealed at two public open days – the first on Wednesday 23 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Metro Football Club, in Phyllis Reserve, Mt Albert; and the second on Thursday 24 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Avondale Baptist Church, 1288 New North Road, Avondale. The project team will be on hand to answer questions.

AT’s Community Transport manager Matthew Rednall says the shared path will be great for the local community.

“Not only will it mean safe traffic-free links and improved access to local schools, colleges and other community facilities, it’ll be a great place to get some exercise,” he says.

“The path will be well lit and have a low gradient to make it safe and easy to use.”

Construction is expected to begin in late 2016 and take around 12 months to complete.

This is the route the path will take

Waterview Cycleway Route

I’m please to see this being progressed however there are already a number of questions in my head about this project.

  • Why is it only starting construction in late 2016. This seems especially odd considering how fast the NZTA seems to be moving on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway which has construction starting in a few months.
  • The route seems more about recreation than transport with the indirect route it takes and sharp slow speed turns – AT have said that this is to provide links to the community, not build through the sports grounds and that closer to the creek isn’t suitable for building.
  • Will AT be installing lights on the intersection of Soljak Pl/New North Rd/Bollard Ave? New North Rd is a high volume four lane arterial road that without any kind of crossing is going to be difficult to cross.
  • We’ve started seeing a lot of design being incorporated in pedestrian/cycle bridges in recent years, the concept for the bridge across the Oakley Creek that AT have on their website seems to shun that completely.

Waterview Cycleway - Alford Bridge artist concept

PARKING: Searching for the Good Life in the City

A good little video from Streetfilms and the non profit Institute for Transportation Development Policy on the issues of parking, particularly parking minimums.

Streetfilms is proud to partner with ITDP to bring you this fun animation that’s sort of a cross between those catchy Schoolhouse Rock shorts and a 1960s-style, Saul Bass film credits sequence.

For too long cities sought to make parking a core feature of the urban fabric, only to discover that yielding to parking demand caused that fabric to tear apart. Parking requirements for new buildings have quietly been changing the landscape of how people live. Chipping away at walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods has been a slow process that finally turned cities across the U.S. into parking craters and a few in Europe into parking swamps.

Many cities around the world are now changing course by eliminating the requirements while also investing in compact walking, cycling and public transit oriented neighborhoods. Soon cities in the developing world will follow, providing many new lessons of their own.

At Streetfilms, we realize that while parking is a difficult topic for most to comprehend, it is at the core of the transportation problems of most cities. We all hope this film helps change some minds and enlighten others

Perhaps this is something the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board need to watch after they had the Council submit this on the Unitary Plan.

UP council submission on minimum parking reqs

Bus Network Consultation for Warkworth

Auckland Transport have announced a consultation for bus services to Warkworth.

What does the future of public transport look like for Warkworth?

Auckland Transport is asking people in Warkworth for their input on the future of public transport for the area.

An engagement survey which will help design and guide future public transport options opens Monday 21 July and locals will have four weeks to give their feedback.

The Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) allows for the introduction of a bus service between Warkworth and Silverdale which would run 7 days a week. The RPTP suggests a two hour frequency during the day and hourly at peak times. Buses would terminate at a new Hibiscus Coast Station to be built in Silverdale, where passengers could connect to services to Auckland city (via the Northern Express), or local services to other areas of the Hibiscus Coast.

Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager says the survey is the first step in engaging with the community.

“While we are asking for specific feedback on the proposed Silverdale link, the survey is also an opportunity for people to indicate what other local and long distance services they want.

Any new services would be trialled for at least a year.

“Based on the outcome of the survey we will then develop some proposed routes and timetables and return back to the community for further discussion.

“We understand that this two-step engagement will take some time and a balance between community desire and financial and practical constraints will have to be made. We are confident however that with the community’s input we can put together a proposal to take forward,” says Mr Cross.

Mayor Len Brown says that getting Auckland moving through a highly functioning public transport system is front and centre of the Auckland Plan.

“A public transport system that gives all Aucklanders, including those up to Warkworth, an attractive and realistic alternative to using their cars is an absolute priority. The proposed bus service between Warkworth and Silverdale is an important step towards that goal,” he says.

In addition feedback on the current Kowhai Connection is also being sought.

Any new services are likely to become operational in 2016, subject to the outcome of public consultation and tender process. Changes to the Kowhai Connection as a result of this engagement could be made earlier.

For more information go online to www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork or come along to a public information event.

· Monday 28 July, anytime between 4pm and 7pm at the Masonic Hall, 3 Baxter Street, Warkworth.

· Saturday 9 August, anytime between 10.30am and 2pm, on the New Network Info Bus, Queen Street, Warkworth.

In not sure how well buses will by used in Warkworth but I do think it’s important for the town to have some PT connections to the rest of the region so this is a good development.

Cut projects or Increase Funding

The issue of how we fund transport projects has been in the news a lot recently with discussions of the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP). The Herald have been running a campaign basically suggesting the council finances are perilous and almost saying are bankrupt and trying to shift a lot of the blame on to the City Rail Link. The part about the council’s finances being in trouble was well debunked the other day by David Shand who was a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and chaired the 2007 Independent Commission of Inquiry into Local Government Rates.

Aucklanders should have an informed debate about the state of the city finances, given the $1.4 billion of rates collected annually and the total assets of some $40 billion managed by the council. However, the debate has not been well served by Herald articles which blithely use terms such as “spending spree”, “spending beyond its means” and “crisis point”.

This has led to the usual spate of letters from aggrieved ratepayers who are only too willing to believe that the council’s finances are in a “mess” and that we may be facing “bankruptcy”. There is no “crisis” in the city’s finances at the moment but there are major issues to be addressed.

He goes on to discuss 6 key points about the council’s finances and the heralds coverage and afterwards he notes:

While there has been no spending spree, the city’s finances are not in a mess and we are not presently at risk of bankruptcy, there are some big financial issues to be addressed.

The Herald has referred in the past to the “infrastructure deficit” Auckland faces over the next 30 years based both on coping with future expansion and addressing the past neglect of infrastructure expenditure.

 

The real problem is the sheer amount of projects the council has on the books from legacy councils. Many of the projects are good and critically needed – like the City Rail Link – while others like Penlink are at the other end of the spectrum. As a result there are two separate but combined issues at play when it comes to the next LTP. We need to:

  1. Make sure we’re building the right stuff – that means we need to review every project to see if it’s actually worthwhile building as what we don’t build can be just as important as what we do.
  2. If there is an funding deficit we need to work out how we address that which will likely mean new funding sources need to be found.

Ultimately the solution is likely to be a bit of a combination of the two however unfortunately in ways similar to the density debate with the Unitary Plan talk only seems to coalesce around one option. Len Brown falls in to the second camp of wanting to find new funding sources but not wanting to make some hard decisions about what should be funded and he reiterated that again yesterday when speaking at the annual conference of the Road Transport Forum.

Auckland needs to work “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Government if it’s to find a way out of a massive budget deficit and fund its much needed transport plans, Mayor Len Brown says.

The city was gearing up for “one of the most important funding debates Auckland has ever seen, and maybe even the nation”, he said today.

It needed to find $300 million-$400 million a year to fill a $12 billion funding gap, which would mean the difference “between steady-as-you-go typical Auckland or whether or not we’re going to seriously invest in infrastructure to deal with the shortfall and to deal with the growth coming at us to build this city as a real economic powerhouse”.

And

“Bluntly, we need to decide do we want a transport package based on current funding sources, which is not at all appealing and won’t deliver the city that we’re aspiring to and we know we need. Or do we find new sources of funding and deliver the transport programme Aucklanders asked for through the Auckland plan and in successive elections.

“Current funding sources would deliver us a transport system that’s half-way there. We need to be bold, innovative.”

funding-gap-analysis

Funding Gap from Keep Auckland Moving

A similar story was told by the Head of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID) which is a lobby group for the construction and infrastructure financing industry’s.

Note: we’ve also pointed out in the past the odd situation where the Council are a paid up member of a group who exists to lobby the council to spend more. Also the councils outgoing CFO happens to be on the board.

Head of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development, Stephen Selwood, said the investment plans for Auckland’s public transport and roads are not great and the city must move quickly to avoid massive congestion within 30 years.

He believes a motorway charging regime is the best option for raising money to cover the $300-400 million annual cost of developing Auckland’s roads and public transport. He said users should pay about $3 a trip.

Mr Selwood told the Road Transport Forum’s annual conference on Thursday that he favours motorway tolls rather than the ring road option used in London.

He said a toll would also help clear congested roads by encouraging some commuters onto public transport while others would car pool.

But Mr Sellwood warned that authorities need to move in the next two to three years or Auckland will face much bigger congestion problems by 2040.

Stephen Selwood has been pushing this idea for some time now. Personally I’m  not opposed to using road pricing, in fact quite the opposite in that if done right it could be quite useful for managing demand however there are a number of problems with what Selwood keeps pushing.

  • Tolling only the motorways is likely to push a lot of trips that currently use the motorway on to local roads which aren’t tolled likely putting a lot more pressure on them. It’s also those local roads that carry the bulk of our bus services so there could be quite a substantial impact to PT reliability.
  • Would our PT system be able to cope with such an increase in demand. Even with the new network and new electric trains there isn’t likely to be enough spare capacity to be able to cope if significant numbers of people suddenly change modes. If we decide to go down the path of road pricing then we really need a concerted effort to get our PT improvements rolled through faster to help in giving us that capacity.
  • Perhaps most importantly is impact road pricing might have on travel demand. The likely result is that traffic volumes (on motorways at least) are likely to fall as people shift to PT or reducing the amount of travel they do. This could be significant as reducing traffic also reduces/removes the justification for many of the roading projects currently on the plans. With those roading upgrades no longer needed it reduces the overall amount we have to spend upgrading our roads and there reduces the funding deficit. There’s a bit of an irony about an infrastructure lobby group pushing a solution that will end up reducing the amount of infrastructure we need – not that they’re probably thinking that far ahead.

I think all three problems have solutions or provide us with good opportunities. Rolling out the new bus network supported by a large network of bus lanes could keep local roads flowing and as well as providing more attractive services.  Before introducing such a charging scheme effort can be made to increase the size of the bus fleet and get started on projects like the City Rail Link while the changes in travel behaviour as a result of tolls can help us work out exactly what projects are needed.

Photo of the Day: Auckland’s Civic Theatre

The New Zealand International Film Festival begins tonight, with a sold-out premiere of the The Dark Horse. It’s an appropriate time to take a look at the wonderful Civic Theatre. Each year, the Civic becomes one of the main venues in the film festival, with a capacity of around 2,400 people and hosting the largest events – including the opening and closing films, silent films accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra (this year: Prix de beauté) and more.

The Civic

Photo: Patrick Reynolds

It’s impossible to capture all the magic of the Civic in a single photo, although Patrick’s one here shows a vivid and colourful scene. There are too many sumptuously decorated, Orientalist-themed corners, sweeping staircases, and elements that look amazing whether brightly or dimly lit. Personally, I love looking up at the imagined starscape on the ceiling, especially as the lights go down.  I’m also a fan of the delightfully kitsch electronic eyes peering out from the lions at the bottom of the stage.

I found this piece on the Civic in an old Statistics New Zealand yearbook:

Auckland’s Civic Theatre is regarded as one of the best preserved examples of the atmospheric picture palace in the Southern Hemisphere.

This extraordinary building was built in only 33 weeks in 1929 for £250 000 by the hard-driving entrepreneur Thomas A. O’Brien, then the owner of New Zealand’s third largest cinema chain. He promised ‘the Dominion’s finest theatre built in the new atmospheric style’. He imported Australian cinema architects Bohringer and Taylor, already the designers of over 60 Australian picture palaces, and their team of over 100 plasterers and designers. It was opened on 20 December, supposedly in time to catch the Christmas rush.

Unfortunately, it also caught the beginning of the Great Depression. Thomas O’Brien went bankrupt nine months later.

In the atmospheric cinema craze of the late 1920s, theatre owners vied with each other to create total fantasy environments. Movie-goers could forget their worries for a few hours, entering an illusion of wealth with lavish decor, reproduction antiques, uniformed attendants and beautiful flower arrangements. A typical night out could include a Wurlitzer organ recital, dance troupe, full orchestra, news shorts and a main feature.

The Civic auditorium is elaborately decorated as an Arabian walled garden, complete with twinkling stars in a night sky. The foyer is styled as an ancient Hindu temple, with humorists claiming the strange choice was due to an order for ‘Red Indian’ decor being misinterpreted.

The ‘Wintergarden’ nightclub in the basement came into its own in the 1940s, when Auckland was used as a recreation port by US troops.

Today, as the accompanying photographs show, the Civic is little changed. Major alterations in 1975 saw modern climate control installed, but also the loss of the organ, hydraulic orchestra pit and Wintergarden nightclub to make room for the Civic 2 theatrette.

Built on a public reserve, hence the name, ownership of the Civic reverts to Auckland City on the last day of 1993. Despite a Historic Places Trust ‘B’ classification, its future is currently uncertain, although Peter Wells’ and Stewart Main’s 1989 film The Mighty Civic helped re-awaken interest in the subject.

Other notable survivors from the golden age of cinema include Auckland’s St. James, Wellington’s Embassy (much modified), Palmerston North’s Regent, and Dunedin’s Regent and St. James.

The Civic received a major refurbishment in the late 90s, and is as stunning today as it ever was, perhaps even more so because so few places like this are left. I highly recommend heading along to whatever films in the festival you can make it to, and especially keeping an eye out for screenings in the Civic.

How the Unitary Plan Changed

There’s just under a week left to go if you want to make a further submission on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP).

Further submissions to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan close on 22 July 2014.

These are limited to being either in support or opposition to changes to the plan, as requested in the over 9,400 original submissions which contained requests for nearly 100,000 changes.

Only people or entities with an interest greater than the general public or who represent a matter of public interest can make a further submission.

For more information on who can make a further submission see here.

One of the big disappointments with the Unitary Plan process was the way the councillors and local boards shirked their responsibility and gave in to a vocal group of complainers. That ended up seeing large swathes of the city have its zoning downgraded, in some cases to less than what was allowed for by the existing district plans created by the old councils in the pre super city era. In saying that some local boards were actually smart and went the other way increasing the zoning across large areas, this is particularly evident with the local boards in the West.

To highlight the changes reader Steve D has put together this map showing how the zoning changed between the Draft Unitary Plan and the formal PAUP that was put out for consultation. In the map below the key changes are shown as:

  • Greeen have been up-zoned
  • Red have been down-zoned
  • Orange is new future urban land.

One thing to note is that in the Draft Unitary Plan there was a Mixed Housing Zone. In the PAUP that was split in to two separate zones, Mixed Housing Suburban (MHS) and Mixed Housing Urban (MHU). There were a number of differences between the two and one of the biggest was height limits with the Suburban zone allowing for two storeys and the Urban zone allowing for three. Where a section has gone from Mixed hosing to MHU then it’s considered as being up-zoned while going  to MHS is down-zoned.

Unitary Plan changes from draft to proposed version on Koordinates

What you noticed quite strongly is the amount of down-zoning on the North Shore and large parts of the Isthmus with larger swathes of up-zoning in the West, South and East. Also with hall that future growth in the North West and South the Northwest Busway and rail electrification to Pukekohe are going to be essential

Thanks to Steve for putting this together.

Guide to economic evaluation, part 2: What are the benefits of transport projects?

Debates over major transport investments often get caught up in arguments over benefit-cost ratios, or BCRs. In recent years, projects such as the Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth motorways and the City Rail Link have been criticised for their low BCRs. These debates have often raised more questions than they resolve. So it’s necessary to ask: What is a BCR, how is it calculated, and what does it mean?

The good news is that there is a manual that explains it – New Zealand Transport Agency’s Economic Evaluation Manual (EEM). The bad news is that it’s tediously long and not written for a general audience. This series of posts aims to provide a guide for the perplexed:

In part two of this series we examine a tricky topic – the benefits of transport projects. As in the first post, I’m going to focus on explaining the conventional evaluation procedures, rather than presenting challenges to said procedures.

Transport infrastructure projects are often expensive. The Waterview Connection will cost an estimated $1.4 billion; the proposed Puhoi to Warkworth motorway an additional $800m or so; the City Rail Link an estimated $2.8 billion, although this figure includes inflation and costs to buy and run new trains over a 30-year period; and so on and so forth. For these costly projects to be worthwhile, the benefits of these projects – the “B” side of a BCR – need to be of a similar magnitude.

What does that mean in practice? If we say that the CRL will have several billion dollars in benefits for Auckland, what sort of benefits are we talking about? There are three key things to understand about the economic benefits estimated in transport evaluation.

First, the benefits of transport projects do not translate directly into increases in GDP. Benefits of transport projects are estimated by assigning monetary values to a range of outcomes. But just because the EEM assigns monetary values to benefits does not mean the benefits actually manifest as more “money”. For example, a project that saves people a small amount of time on their morning commute might mean that those people work longer hours. But it’s more likely that they will sleep in a bit longer or read the morning TransportBlog post instead. Naturally, this makes people better off – and hence is ascribed a value – but it doesn’t increase GDP.

Second, there are a number of different categories of benefits, and it’s a bit misleading to combine them all into a single measure. Broadly speaking, there are three main categories of benefits that are quantified in transport evaluations:

  • Transport user cost/time savings tend to be quantified for all transport projects and make up the central component of most transport evaluations
  • Health and environmental externalities are often included to some degree; however, some types of benefits that are harder to quantify tend to be excluded from many evaluations
  • Wider economic impacts such as agglomeration and increased labour supply are typically only calculated for major projects.

This post will cover the first two categories of benefits and, returning to our Ruritanian case study, present a worked example of how one might go about calculating these categories of benefits. I’ll leave the wider economic impacts to the next post, as they require a fuller explanation.

The third important fact about transport benefits is that travel time savings make up the majority of measured benefits. Under conventional evaluation procedures, the main benefit of new transport projects is almost always that they save time for travellers. Other benefits, including vehicle operating cost savings and emissions reductions, are minor by comparison. Moreover, as alluded to above, travel time savings cannot be equated to increased economic activity.

I’ll illustrate this using the Ruritanian case study, which shows that the principal benefit of introducing a new bus lane is likely to be travel time savings for users. But before doing so, I’ll briefly run through several categories of benefits.

Transport user benefits

The central component of most evaluations is an estimate of the effect that new transport infrastructure or services will have on the time and monetary cost of travelling. Over in boffin-land, all of these factors are combined together into a figure called “generalised cost” (GC).

GC is a composite measure that covers all of the monetary and non-monetary costs of travel. It can be thought of as the “utility cost” associated with a trip:

GC = Travel time + Vehicle operating costs + Tolls + Parking Costs + PT fares + user amenity.

This measure is that it allows monetary and non-monetary costs to be converted to equivalent measures and compared. So, for example, the EEM provides conversion factors that allow you to place a dollar figure on an hour spent travelling. These values are in the range of $15-25 per hour for most trip purposes. While the EEM used to ascribe a higher value of time for car users than PT users, NZTA decided to equalise the value of time for different modes.

“User amenity” is a quite broad category that attempts to cover all of the subjective factors that people take into account when using transport. So, for example, the EEM provides values that allow you to estimate the value that people place on (say) each minute spent contributing to a traffic jam, or having a real-time board at a bus stop, etc.

Panmure Station 1

Panmure Station was built to provide a better transport experience for passengers

With that in mind, the following table summarises the components of GC and describes whether or not they are monetary costs. It distinguishes between household travel and business travel, as workers’ time does have a monetary cost when they’re travelling on employer business. However, business travel only accounts for a small share of overall trips.

Generalised cost component Household travel (e.g. commutes, retail trips) Business travel (e.g. freight)
Travel time Non-monetary Monetary
Vehicle operating cost Monetary Monetary
Tolls, PT fares, and parking costs Monetary Monetary
Trip amenity Non-monetary Non-monetary

Health and environmental externalities

Contrary to popular belief, NZTA doesn’t simply ignore environmental and health outcomes in its evaluation procedures. Indeed, the agency has progressively been attempting to build additional health/environmental elements into its evaluation.

As a result of their work in this area, which has included the development of new modelling approaches and commissioning of reports on the benefits of walking and cycling activity, the EEM now contains recommendations on how to value:

  • The benefits of reduced CO2 emissions from transport behaviours
  • The benefits of reduced emissions, and reduced road noise, which have an effect on amenity and health within affected areas
  • The health benefits of walking and cycling travel.

In practice, it’s not yet standard to value all of these benefits for all projects. Conventional evaluations usually include benefits from reduced CO2 emissions, as they tend to be closely related to vehicle operating costs. NZTA recommends valuing carbon emissions at $40/tonne – a value that seems high relative to current Emissions Trading Scheme prices, but which is low relative to other transport benefits.

Other emissions and noise impacts do not tend to be valued for many road and PT projects, as they’re hard to robustly estimate. Their effects depend upon a whole range of factors, such as population density around roads, topography, weather patterns, and so on and so forth.

Most people aren't that keen on vehicle emissions. Emphasis on "most".

Most people aren’t that keen on vehicle emissions. Emphasis on “most”.

Likewise, health benefits of active transport only tend to be considered for walking and cycling projects. These benefits aren’t necessarily small in value – the EEM states that each kilometre spent walking generates $2.70 in social benefits, which can add up quite quickly. This is potentially a problematic exclusion for evaluation of public transport, as people tend to walk to access bus and train routes. For example, given the size of the average walk-up catchment, each bus user could be walking an additional kilometre or more each day.

Back to Ruritania: Calculating the benefits of a new bus route

In order to give a sense of how these values come together in an evaluation, we return to our Ruritanian example. If you recall, transport planners in Streslau, the capital city, are trying to evaluate a new bus line between two suburbs (A and B). The road between the suburbs is getting increasingly congested, as it’s limited in size and lacking in public transport alternatives. At this point, they’re seeking to determine whether putting in a dedicated bus lane would be a good idea.

While this is a hypothetical exercise, I’ve tried to make it as consistent as possible with New Zealand evaluation practices to give a sense of what an evaluation might look like.

The first step for Streslau’s transport planners is to determine which categories of benefits to measure. After a bit of discussion, they’ve decided to hew to the conventional evaluation procedures, and focus on quantifying reductions in generalised costs of travel and carbon emission reductions. They’re also going to consider whether there are likely to be any health benefits associated with walking to bus stops.

The table below summarises the values that Streslau’s transport planners are planning on using. As Ruritania’s also a developed country, its valuation parameters are pretty similar to those in the EEM.

Valuation parameters Value ($)
Value of time ($/hr) $15
Vehicle operating cost ($/km) $0.40
Greenhouse gas emissions ($/km) $0.02
Health benefits of walking ($/km) $3

The next step in the evaluation is to determine the level of demand for the new PT service. There are a number of approaches to doing so, including integrated transport modelling, surveys of potential users, or desktop analysis based on known factors and historical growth rates. I’m not going to cover demand forecasting right now – that’s a knotty topic for a future post!

For now, all you need to know is that Streslau’s transport planners have reached into their black box and estimated that roughly one-tenth of the existing trips between the two suburbs will switch modes after the introduction of a new bus line. Changes between the Do-Minimum (the current state) and the Option (the new bus line) are summarised in the following table.

Daily travel demand between A and B (in Y1) Do-Minimum Option
Car trips 50,000 45,000
PT trips N/A 5,000
Average walking distance to PT stop (m) N/A 500

Likewise, it’s necessary to forecast the effects of the change on transport speeds. The road between the two suburbs is roughly 5 kilometres long. At present (under the Do-Minimum) it’s quite congested – traffic flows at an average rate of 25 km/hr.

After further rummaging around in the black box, Streslau’s transport planners have determined that the introduction of the new bus line will result in travel time savings for all users. Drivers will have a bit less road space, but congestion will drop due to reduced vehicle traffic. The net effect is that car speeds are forecast to increase to 30 km/hr after the introduction of the new bus line – saving the average driver roughly two minutes per trip.

Buses will also be faster, but some of the effects will be offset by the need to stop and pick up passengers. As a result, average speeds for buses will increase to 27 km/hr, saving the average PT user almost one minute per trip. (In this simple analysis, I have ignored PT fares and PT user amenities such as real-time message boards, assuming that they approximately offset each other.)

Estimated travel distance and time Do-Minimum Option
Distance (km) 5 5
Average car speed (km/hr) 25 30
Average bus speed (km/hr) N/A 27
Change in TT for car users (min/trip) 2.0
Change in TT for new PT users (min/trip) 0.9

In short, the new bus line is expected to remove 5,000 cars from the road every day, while improving travel times for remaining users. This is expected to result in:

  • Cumulative daily travel time savings of roughly 1,500 driver hours and almost 100 bus user hours (remember, these travel time savings are valued at $15/hr)
  • A cumulative daily reduction of 25,000 vehicle kilometres, which is expected to reduce vehicle operating costs by $10,000 every day and reduce the social costs of carbon emissions by $500 each day

The total estimated benefits of the project are reported in the following table. For the sake of simplicity, we have assumed that benefits are experienced only during working days. As there are approximately 250 working days in a year, the total annual benefits of the new bus line are expected to be approximately $8.5 million.

Almost two-thirds of these benefits actually arise from travel time savings for car users. This is actually fairly common for public transport projects, as the removal of some cars from the road gives everyone else a much easier ride. For example, some of the biggest beneficiaries of the City Rail Link will be people commuting by car to the city centre or through Spaghetti Junction.

Estimated benefits from a new bus line Daily benefits ($) Annual benefits ($m)
Time savings for car users $22,500 $5.6
Time savings for new PT users $1,111 $0.3
Reduction in VOC $10,000 $2.5
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions $500 $0.1
Total $34,111 $8.5

Finally, Streslau’s transport planners want to understand whether there are likely to be any significant health benefits. We’ve assumed that bus users walk an average of 500 metres to their stop. As we are expecting an estimated 5,000 bus trips per day, this means that bus users are walking a cumulative 2,500 kilometres every day.

Walking catchments to stations. (Source: Human Transit)

Walking catchments are larger when street grids are well-connected (Source: Human Transit)

That’s a surprisingly large number! At a value of $3 in health benefits per kilometre, it adds up to an additional $1.9 million in annual benefits. In other words, including these benefits raises our estimate of the benefits of Streslau’s newest bus line by 20%. That’s potentially a big category of benefits that’s being ignored in many PT evaluations.

Next time: But wait! What about these “agglomeration benefits” I keep hearing about?