The next batch of Special Housing Areas

The council yesterday announced the seventh tranche of special housing areas and for the first time, all are redevelopments of existing sites within the urban area. They say that all up this could allow for up to 1,600 new dwellings in Auckland – if they actually get built. So here are the new SHA’s along with the previous ones announced.

SHAs 1-7

Bute Road, Browns Bay

The site at 4 Bute Road, Browns Bay will be developed for retail at ground level with four levels of apartments above, comprising 54 residential units plus accompanying car parking.
The residential units are a mix of one-bedroom (77m2) inclusive of balconies and two-bedrooms (88m2) inclusive of balconies.

The relocation of the former New World supermarket has allowed for the development.

The proposed scheme has been developed in close liaison with local real estate agents who have identified significant demand, particularly from older residents seeking to downsize and remain in the suburb.

Bute Rd SHA

College Hill, Ponsonby

Mansons TCLM Ltd plans to develop 99 College Hill, Freemans Bay into approximately 40-50 new homes over two-to-three years. The proposed residential development will consist of apartment style dwellings, to supplement the current shortages, including a combination of two-bedroom units and larger three-bedroom units.

The site is zoned a combination of Mixed Use and Single House zone under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Mansons TCLM Ltd has been progressing a consent for the development of the land. This will include earthworks, construction of a basement level and development of the residential units and associated areas.

Mansons TCLM Ltd intends to complete the entire development and have it ready for habitation by late 2017.

College Hill SHA

This one is interesting as one half of the site has mixed use zoning while the other half is listed as single house zone.

Corner Cornwall Park Avenue and Great South Road, Greenlane

Golden Key Development (NZ) Ltd plans to develop 65 new apartments at 115 Great South Road, Greenlane.

The development will include one- and two-bedroom units. The land is zoned Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Golden Key Development is progressing the preparation of the resource consent for the apartment development, which it plans to complete by January 2018.

Cornwall Park Ave SHA

Great South Road, Manurewa

DJI Limited plan to develop 309-311 Great South Road for approximately 24 two-bedroom apartments over two years.

The affordable homes within the development will be priced between $450,000 and $500,000.

Some of the features of the site include the Te Mahia Railway Station – 200 metres away, Beaumonts Park – 700 metres away, Manurewa South School – 15-20 minute walk, and the Manukau Golf Club – 400 metres away.

The land is zoned Mixed Use Zone under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

DJI Limited has been progressing a consent for the initial development of the land. It plans to have the first residential housing ready for habitation by late 2017, with the entire development completed by mid-2018.

Gt South Rd Manurewa SHA

But will any of the residents use the station?

James Road, Manurewa

DJI Limited plans to develop 9 and 11 James Road, Manurewa into approximately 39 new dwellings over two years.

There will be a mix of housing types, matched to current shortages, including smaller one-bedroom units and larger two- and three-bedroom units. Half of the units will be built as affordable homes; these will be priced at between $450,000 and $500,000.

The land, which is currently occupied by homes, is zoned Terraced Housing and Apartment Building under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The site features a train station less than a 3 minute walk away, a bus stop 50 metres away, schools 250 metres away, a hospital 1 kilometre away, and a shopping centre (groceries, gas stations, food outlets) in close walking distance.

DJI Limited intends to have the first residential housing ready for habitation by the last quarter of 2016, with the entire development completed by mid-2017.

James Rd Manurewa SHA

Kingdon Street, Newmarket

New Investments Limited plans to develop 10 Kingdon Street, Newmarket for approximately 60 new apartments over two years.

The development will provide a mix of apartment types, matched to current shortages, including smaller one-bedroom units and larger two-and-three bedroom homes. The affordable homes within the development will be priced at between $325,000 and $350,000.

The Kingdon Street property is well located in a desirable part of Auckland, with innumerable state and private schools nearby, and Auckland University being a neighbour. The development is well located to amenities including parks and reserves. It is well serviced by bus and train transport, providing easy access into the CBD for workers.

The land is currently largely undeveloped with a 2-storey retail building on half the site. It is zoned Mixed Use under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

New Investments has been progressing a consent application for the initial development of the land. This will include ground floor retail, two levels of car parks, as well as residential apartments. It intends to have the first residential housing ready for habitation by August 2017.

Kingdon St SHA

Kirkbride Road, Mangere

Austin Management Limited plans to develop 8 Kirkbride Road, Mangere Bridge for approximately 54 new residential sites.

The development will provide a mix of housing types, matched to current shortages, including larger three-and-four bedroom homes. The affordable homes within the development will be priced at between $480,000 and $550,000.

The land is currently zoned Mixed Housing Suburban and Single House under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Austin Management plans to lodge a qualifying development consent application as soon as practicable to enable the redevelopment of the site. It intends to ready the first residential sections for houses to be established on them by spring 2016. Associated house plans will be established by the end of 2016.

Kirkbride Rd SHA

Layard Street, Avondale

Redevelopment of the former Avondale Returned Services Association site and adjoining land will soon commence to provide for more than 150 new dwellings, townhouses and terraced homes of various sizes and configurations.

The development, located between 1 and 7 Layard Street, Avondale, will be known as Rosebank Ridge in recognition of the elevation and views offered by the site.

It will feature a mix of housing types matched to current shortages including smaller one-bedroom units and larger three- and four-bedroom terraced homes. The apartments, terraces and townhouses will be affordable and likely to be priced between $350,000 and $800,000.

The building’s design will assist in the growth and rejuvenation of the Avondale precinct. The developer is currently progressing with a resource consent application.

It is hoped the development will be in part complete and ready for occupation by December 2016.

Layard St SHA

With a number of other developments planned for Avondale the area is going to see a lot of growth in the next few years

Pacific Events Centre Drive, Manukau

Gaze Property Partnerships plans to develop 834 Great South Road and 10 Pacific Events Centre Drive, Manukau into more than 800 news homes including retirement living, potential student accommodation and/or hotels.

The development, called 8 Pacific, will comprise a comprehensively master-planned area of 9.2 hectares. It’ll provide a mix of housing types, matched to meet current shortages and affordable housing requirements, from smaller 2-bedroom terraces, townhouses and apartments through to larger 4+ bedroom homes.

The development is well placed next to the Manukau CBD, well serviced by public transport and servicing infrastructure is already in place. There is significant nearby employment opportunities including the growing Wiri industrial area, the new Wero Whitewater Park and Vodafone Events Centre directly to the north. As well as the parks, reserves and a community hub to be included in the development, being in close proximity to the Auckland Botanic Gardens and the national cycleway will provide strong community and open space amenity.

The land is currently vacant. Construction is targeted to commence as early as possible in the 2016 earthworks season.

Gaze has already lodged resource consent for total land development along with Stage 1 of housing to include 18 apartments and 20 terraced and townhouses. This will include earthworks, roads, parks, a community hub and around 12 super lots for subsequent subdivision and development.

Beyond the land development, Gaze intends to have the first residential housing ready for habitation by the end of 2017. The entire subdivision development will be complete within 2–3 years and housing will continue to be delivered rapidly after that.

Pacific Events Centre Dr SHA

Sunnybrae Road, Hillcrest

Sampati Holdings Ltd plans to develop 3 Sunnybrae Road, Hillcrest over three years.

The site will yield approximately 125 new homes, which will be part of a larger new urban village of commercial and residential that will occur over the next decade.

The affordable homes within the first stage of the development will be priced at around $455,000. The development will provide a mix of housing types, including one-, two- and three-bedroom homes. The development is adjacent to major recreation areas, near good public transport links and has many education facilities within an easy walk.

The land, which is currently being used as a car park, is zoned Mixed Housing Urban under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Sampati Holdings has been steadily progressing the required documentation for the resource consent with the intention to have the first residential housing ready for habitation within 18 months.

Sunnybrae Rd SHA

Takanini Road, Takanini

Glenora Developments Ltd plans to develop 62 to 66 Takanini Road, Takanini for approximately 125 new homes over the three years.

The affordable homes within the first stage of the development, known as Glenora Park Village, will be priced from $350,000 upwards. The development will provide a mix of housing types, including terraced homes and walk-up apartments, and comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom homes.

The development is adjacent to a major shopping centre, near good public transport links and an easy walk from a railway station, schools, a major park and recreation facilities. The land, which currently has a vacant factory with a large yard, is zoned Town Centre under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Glenora Developments has been steadily progressing the required documentation for a resource consent application and intends to have the first residential housing ready for habitation within 18 months.

Takanini Rd Takanini SHA

 

The future cost of Auckland’s sprawl

Auckland needs to be able to accommodate up to 1 million more people over the next 30 years, that’s a lot of growth and means the city needs around 400,000 more dwellings. The Auckland Plan set the high level strategy of having up to 70% of that growth occur within the existing urban area while up to 40% would be outside that. The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) identified large swathes of land outside the existing urban boundaries for future urban land – some of which is already being developed as Special Housing Areas.

The council is now consulting on a Draft Future Urban Land Supply Strategy which will show how that release of land will actually occur over a 30 year period including specifying where and when bulk infrastructure will be built. They say specifically it will

  • help to inform Auckland Council infrastructure asset planning and management and its infrastructure funding priorities and sequencing. It will feed directly into the Council’s future Long-term Plans and the Annual Plans
  • help to inform central government, such as the Ministry of Education, with medium to long-terms projections, location and investment decisions
  • help to inform private sector infrastructure providers with forward planning and investment decisions

Overall this seems like a good idea, concentrating development in areas where it is able to be accommodated rather than developing land completely ad-hoc which could create funding issues for the council and other infrastructure providers. As the document points out, a consequences of ad-hoc development could be that it sucks up enough resources that it affects the ability to improve the rest of the region. What is most interesting about the strategy is this comment:

The analysis done for this Strategy is of sufficient scale and specificity to broadly determine bulk infrastructure requirements.

In other words this is more than just drawing some lines on a map and pulling out the colouring in pencils. The council have actually put work into determining just what bulk infrastructure will be needed to enable the predicted future growth and the result is actually quite scary and raises the question of just how affordable any new dwellings will be – more on this soon. It’s also important to remember that the bulk infrastructure talked about is really just the core of the networks provided by the council and other agencies. In addition to it developers would need to add all of the local infrastructure such as the local street and water networks.

The PAUP identified six large general areas and a few small standalone areas where future urban growth would occur. This covers about 11,000 hectares which they say could accommodate around 110,000 dwellings. The six main areas are:

  • Warkworth
  • Silverdale, Wainui East, Dairy Flat
  • Kumeu, Huapai, Riverhead
  • Whenuapai, Redhills
  • Takanini, Opaheke, Drury, Karaka
  • Pukekohe, Pareta,

The strategy splits up the areas into five year intervals based on a suite of principles. The map below shows these areas along with the key bulk infrastructure they need.

Future Urban Land Stategy - July 2015

 

As mentioned above, the part of the strategy that is most interesting is the high level costs to provide the bulk infrastructure which is done to a decade level. The table below shows this along with how many dwellings each time interval delivers. In total the council have estimated that around $13.7 billion of bulk infrastructure is needed over the 30 year period, this is made up of

  • Transport – $6,700 million
  • Water -$2,250 million
  • Wastewater – $2,200 million
  • Other – $2,500 million

These cost are further broken down by decade along with the number dwellings expected in the table below.

Future Urban Land Stategy - Costs - July 2015

Breaking that down we have

  • 1st Decade – $111k to $140k per dwelling
  • 2nd Decade – $179k to $234k per dwelling
  • 3rd decade – $93k to $120k per dwelling

Those seem like some crazy high costs, especially if you consider them on a per house basis. Next imagine what the land prices for these new sections would have to be to cover the costs if the council were able to pass the full costs. Combine that with the costs to the developer of providing the local infrastructure and these areas are not going to be cheap, losing one of the supposed advantages of greenfield developments.  The reality is only some of these costs are likely to be passed on meaning that existing ratepayers will effectively be subsidising this greenfield growth.

This outcome actually that much of a surprise, research as part of the Auckland Plan looked at potential growth scenarios and found sprawly land use patterns were the most expensive outcomes for the council due to the need to provide so much new infrastructure.

Of course none of this to say that intensification isn’t without its costs however many often those costs are ones which would still be needed for the sprawl development too.

Consultation on the draft strategy closes on 17 August.

Ponsonby Rd Public Realm

Ponsonby Rd has pretty serious pretensions to being Auckland’s premier shopping and cafe strip, and it sure does attract very high volumes of people. However the amenity for these people is very poor. Both in terms of its form but also in terms of its upkeep. Overall I think its fair to say that like many places in Auckland pedestrians are clearly low on the radar for those who have been charged with forming and maintaining this street. Certainly compared to the constant and loving attention AT gives the roadway the footpaths are in a shocking state [see below]. At many times of any day there are as many or more people on the footpaths than in vehicles, yet both the quantity and quality of the public realm that is afforded to people not in cars is more than suboptimal.

PONSONBY ROAD_9128

Yet there’s lots that’s great here and with just a few well executed tweaks and it could be really fantastic. The street is among the best forms of public realm there is; and it is clear the goods and services on offer here and the opportunity for a good old fashioned paseo or passeggiata along this natural sunny ridge attracts all sorts, young and old, and at all times of the day and night. Ponsonby Rd has such great natural attributes and a near constant activation; the dull moments like the bank and fire station or parking lots aren’t too bad or too long. And anyway are likely to be improved. The length of it is worth walking; from K and Gt North all the way to Jervois and College Hill.

But despite these attractors the pedestrian realm is fractured and perilous. Any attempt to use the footpath, and let’s not forget that is the only way to access the shops and cafes, involves a constant yielding to fellow citizens in vehicles. And not just at the crossings of the narrow side streets but also on the many moments where the footpath itself is also a vehicle crossings. Frankly it is outrageous that the previous Council ever allowed a fast food business to run a drive-in facility that crosses the pavement twice across such a busy pedestrian place. And don’t start me on the terrible informal extra road they’ve allowed opposite the top of Franklin.

Ponsonby Rd- lot 3

The Richmond/Picton intersection; we believe all modes would benefit from this returning to a Barnes Dance pattern. Certainly it would be safer and better for pedestrians.

Above: The Richmond/Picton intersection; we believe all modes would benefit from this returning to a Barnes Dance pattern. Certainly it would be safer and better for pedestrians.

And a great city walk is a powerful thing, commercially, socially: as an attractor for local business, it is the ‘public playroom’ for residents and visitors alike. I’m not advocating for more land here, just for the quality of what’s already available to be better connected, defined, and available for people doing that most valuable thing: walking.

The prime opportunity is for this public realm to be stitched together across the various interuptions. Firstly for each of the minor cross streets to have their priority reversed and become extensions of the Ponsonby Rd footpath by raising the surface up to footpath level in a continuous line. This would clearly communicate to drivers the need to proceed with great care when turning, and to yield, as some already do, to the more vulnerable pedestrian. Some of the wider cross streets like Vermont are already narrowed and planted with good trees, but continuous blacktop invites fast and careless driving by some impatient or inobservant drivers. This can be fixed, as can the crossings at the major intersections.

So a group of us have got together to outline a number of improvements we would like AT and AC properly investigate along this well trod path.

1. Raised pedestrian tables on the minor side streets inline with the footpath.

2. Reinstating the Barnes Dance at the Richmond/Picton intersection with Ponsonby Rd

3. Ped crossings at the existing refuges at the mid blocks.

4. Enforce the existing 40kph speed limit.

5. Ban U turns.

6. Implement the Ponsonby Rd plan

There’s a petition here: http://www.actionstation.org.nz/ponsonby-for-people

And I would like to add; complete the return of the London Plane trees along the length of the street so we will get fully a joined up architecture of these great street trees along the route.

Add your thoughts on these or other possible improvements and feel free to nominate other streets that you think would benefit from this sort of upgrade. And note this post is deliberately focussed on the pedestrian realm as the cycling, traffic lane, and PT issues are covered in the masterplan, but also so the pedestrian realm can be discussed in its own right.

How might the RMA amendments and the Auckland Plan impact on the Unitary Plan?

The advertisement below is from the last local government elections. Here Councillor Denise Krum rallies against the draft Unitary Plan, especially the degree to which it enables “intensification”. Denise’s advertisement claims the draft Unitary Plan is “too intense” and will “change our streets forever”. Instead, Denise advocates for greater restrictions on the degree to which property owners can develop their property in the urban area, and more expansion of the city. Denise was subsequently elected.

Denise Krum

Denise is particularly critical of 3 storey height limits, and goes to the trouble of hoisting herself up (some might say by her own petard) in a scissor-lift so as to highlight differences in building heights.

From this advertisement it seems clear Denise does not support the draft Unitary Plan and instead considers restrictions on intensification as being necessary to preserve community well-being. It is notable the advertisement does not contain any references to any research or surveys which support the positions Denise adopts on these issues. Is it too much for me to expect political advertising to include references to evidence supporting the positions being advanced? Perhaps.

When it comes to planning, however, evidence matters. Recent 2013 amendments to the RMA increased the burden of proof with regards to S32 reports, especially in terms of the economic analysis that should be undertaken to support proposed policy provisions. For those who are not familiar with planning jargon, a “S32 report” attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed policies in comparison to potential alternatives. The 2013 RMA amendments requires S32 analysis to identify, and where practicable quantify, the economic benefits and costs of proposed policies. Some smarty-pants lawyers had this to say about the RMA amendments at last year’s NZPI conference (source):

“Arguably the most significant and material change is an expansion and detailed elucidation of the reference to “benefits and costs”, in the context of assessing efficiency and effectiveness … Post 2013s 32(2) requires, in much more detail, the following:

An assessment under subsection (1)(b)(ii) must—

(a) identify and assess the benefits and costs of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects that are anticipated from the implementation of the provisions, including the opportunities for—

(i) economic growth that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(ii) employment that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(b) if practicable, quantity the benefits and costs referred to in paragraph (a).

The task of complying with these requirements is not insignificant. A systematic approach will need to be taken in preparing s32 reports to ensure that they are compliant and address environmental, economic, social and cultural effects, including opportunities for economic growth and employment.”

Ever since the RMA amendments came into force I have pondered how they might impact on the proposed Unitary Plan, especially with regards to density controls? I have also been wondering how the strategic direction established in the Auckland Plan, which I think was developed under the auspices of the LGAAA, would be relevant to the Unitary Plan?

My interest was further piqued when councillors, such as Denise, dramatically reduced the level of intensification that could occur in metropolitan Auckland, since which time house prices have soared. The differences between the draft and the proposed Unitary Plans is highlighted in the map below. Areas of red show areas where down-zoning occurred, which includes most of the isthmus. These are the areas where property prices are high (and increasing), i.e. where market-driven intensification seems most likely to occur.

Down zoning

From this it seems fair to say that proposed Unitary Plan imposes tighter density controls. The question is whether these controls are supported by economic evidence that meets the requirements of the (amended) RMA? And, moreover, how apparent tensions between the strategic direction of the Auckland Plan and the approach adopted in the proposed Unitary Plan would play out in a hearing context?

The economic costs of density controls are relatively intuitive: They forgo and/or displace land use development. This means we get less of it, especially in higher In terms of the economic benefits of density controls, those who are opposing intensification, such as Denise, will need to present evidence to show that levels of density which are common-place elsewhere, e.g. cities in Australia and Europe, will cause significant harm to communities should they be replicated in Auckland.

I’m skeptical as to whether this evidence exists. Most of the research I’ve read, such as this review by UNSW for Queensland Health, finds no conclusive evidence that higher density development has negative impacts on well-being. In fact, there’s evidence it’s beneficial to many outcomes, such as childrens levels of physical activity and obesity rates. So much for the meme that children need a big backyard to stay fit and healthy!

In my experience living in Auckland and overseas, buildings of approximately 6 storeys seem to have relatively negligible negative impacts on well-being and/or amenity. The photos below illustrate two buildings from Amsterdam and Auckland, but I could have easily added many more photos of multi-storey buildings from Brisbane, Sydney, and Stockholm. While there are large differences in style, I find both buildings quite attractive (the first photo is used under license from myself; the second photo belongs to Ockham).

Amsterdam nightmare

_CM15340 crop-600-600-450-450-crop

For these reasons, I have been somewhat heartened to read the interim guidance on view shafts that was issued by the Commissioners who are overseeing the Unitary Plan hearings process. In this guidance the Commissioners note “the objectives, policies and rules in relation to viewshafts do not meet the s32 requirements of the Act” for several reasons, most notably “amendments were made to s32 in 2013 to require employment and economic growth opportunities (including lost opportunities) to be taken into account and these post-date many if not all of the legacy plans.” The Commissioners go on to note the “PAUP is the first substantive planning process to propose increased levels of intensification to achieve a quality compact city so it is appropriate that the viewshafts are now re-evaluated within that strategic context” and more importantly “… if it is possible to quantify those costs of the viewshaft provisions, then that would assist in decision …

I want to emphasise from the outset that I don’t have a strong view on the relative merits of view shafts. This post is less concerned with the nitty-gritty of viewshafts than it is with understanding how the 2013 RMA amendments and the Auckland Plan may impact on the Unitary Plan, most notably:

  • First, the presence of planning provisions in legacy plans is not strong evidence (in of itself) that those provisions should be retained in the Unitary Plan, mainly because the legacy plans pre-date both the 2013 amendments and the Auckland Plan. Hence, they have not been tested under the current legislative and strategic context.
  • Second, the Commissioners appear to consider that the strategic context provided by the (non-statutory) Auckland Plan, in addition to the Regional Policy Statement, is relevant to the provisions of the Unitary Plan, especially with regards to the development of a quality compact urban form.
  • Third, in light of the 2013 RMA amendments the Commissioners appear to place a higher expectation on economic analysis, especially where proposed provisions do not appear to align with the aforementioned strategic direction of the Auckland Plan.

The Commissioners thus seem to be attempting to strike a balance between strategic outcomes and economic analysis, and do not seem to be placing too much weight on legacy plans. This is heartening because, frankly, the legacy district plans contained many provisions that are of dubious value. Moreover, where provisions proposed in the Unitary Plan run contrary to the Council’s stated strategic direction, then there seems to be an expectation from the Commissioners that this misalignment is supported by robust economic analysis.

Of course, whether this preliminary guidance on view shafts is indicative of the Commissioners’ ultimate position and/or whether it apples to other topics, e.g. minimum parking requirements, is something that will only become clear in the fullness of time. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Professional and personal disclaimer: The views expressed in this post represent the theoretical and philosophical musings of a not quite defunct economist. This economist is not a planner nor is he a lawyer (so don’t expect to be able to sue me for much money). The views expressed herein should not be construed to represent the views of my colleagues, clients, friends, or pets. They do represent the views of my Mum, whom I love very much. Nor do they necessarily represent my own views in the future – at which point my views may have changed in response to further evidence and information. 

SkyPath: Councillor v Advocate

Brewer v Reynolds

 

NBR Radio

In which Councillor Cameron Brewer tries extremely hard to find a possible cost to ratepayers in a privately funded and user pays addition to our transport networks, while ignoring the real cost of $13m to ratepayers for a free-to-use walking and cycle project in his ward [just one example].

Here at transportblog we are very keen on value for money for all publicly funded projects, which means every single transport project in the land. Except one. The SkyPath. To campaign that this project is some kind of burden on ‘the poor suburban ratepayer’ is so silly as to be beyond parody.

Ratepayers’ watchdogs play a potentially valuable role. But they need to be coherent and consistent, oh and factually accurate. Especially when they are taking a ratepayers salary to do it. Here Brewer is complaining about a user pays route but ignoring the fully subsidised one that happens to run through his ward. So either he really has no idea what’s going on or is being more than a little deceitful in order to score some kind of political point.

Don’t get me wrong, I am entirely in favour of both the taxpayer and ratepayer funding of the Eastern Connections route, but also think the SkyPath should be so funded. And it is also clear which route costs ratepayers more. A certain $13 million versus a possible future liability.

Basically the people of Auckland are getting a huge bargain with the SkyPath. Either it costs nothing, or a much lower sum than it would if funded like every road, bus lane, train station, or cycleway in the city. And this doesn’t even begin to calculate the years of free work contributed by those who have made it happen. And all to make up for what is essentially an institutional failure in transport provision. SkyPath is listed as the region’s most import Active route yet our current institutions weren’t able to get started on it themselves, somehow.

Perhaps it really is time Councillor Brewer took his financial expertise into the private sector…?

More on the National Land Transport Programme

Last week the latest iteration of the National Land Transport Programme was announced. This is largely a business as usual plan, dominated by the big spend on a few massive state highways projects. However there are a few things to be celebrated, especially for cycling, and even more in the language and thinking in the supporting documents. This was repeated at the launch too, especially in the words of NZTA CEO and AT Board representative Geoff Dangerfield, and NZTA Auckland/Northland Regional Director Ernst Zöllner.

BRITOMART JULY 15_3344

The high level aims are all strong and commendable. The focus on ‘economic growth and productivity, safety, and value for money’ are incontestably valuable. If they were to add ‘resilience, energy security, and environmental performance’  it would probably be a perfect list. But of course this is really set by the Government Policy Statement.

Dangerfield was his usual clear and persuasive self, setting a high level context and skilfully bating away questions. Zöllner was particularly articulate about both the dynamic nature of the situation in Auckland and the unformed quality of Auckland’s PT networks; especially the incomplete nature of the core Rapid Transit Network. Both noted the strong growth of PT ridership numbers, which will see a rise in the PT opex spend.

Here’s what the agency says about the Transit and Active modes, in the Providing Transport Choices document:

NZTA The role of PT.
And
NZTA Economic Growth through PT

All incontestable good sense, and exactly the sort of points regular readers here would recognise, especially the emphasis on the value of the high quality own-right-of-way Congestion Free networks of rail and dedicated busways.

People using public transport on high-quality public transport services with a dedicated right of way, like the Auckland Northern Busway or metropolitan rail networks, can now enjoy fast, efficient journeys on comfortable modern buses and electric trains, while freeing up road space for other people and freight.

There remains, however, some considerable daylight between this analysis and the actual projects being funded. This is especially the case with the comparatively tiny sum of $176m for Public Transport Capital Works in Auckland out of a total $4.2 billion spend over the three year period in the region [~4%] and $13.9 billion nationally. This sum [half of which is from the Council’s Transport Levy] will bring much vital kit, like the Otahuhu, Manukau City, and Te Atatu bus interchanges. But is a long way from fixing those big gaps in the RTN network. In response to my questions on this they quite reasonably countered that some funding for bus capex is in other budgets, notably under the AMETI programme, as part of the North Western massive highway works, and the Northern Busway extensions.

However the two Busway sums do not result in the construction of even one metre of additional RTN. For the Northern Busway the previous minister deleted construction of the proposed extension from the accelerated motorway package [a loan to be met from future NLTF], so all we are left with is ‘future proofing’ and no one can ride on a busway that has only been future proofed for. On the Northwestern we do get the improvement of bus shoulder lanes and a station at Te Atatu; but no RTN. AMETI is the best of the bunch, but that’s only if the proposed BRT does happen instead of the place-ruining flyover that appeals more to some entitled voices there.

Then we come to the great problem that the National Land Transport Fund is barred from investing in rail infrastructure yet Auckland is now showing the huge value of using this separate network for moving increasing numbers of people completely outside of traffic congestion. And some RTN routes are clearly best served by rail. Just as well the Council has the courage to just get on with the CRL first stage by itself so at least this vital gap at the heart of the RTN is getting a start.

The case for near term investment in PT and especially for completing the RTN can be summarised thus:

  • current demand growth of 20+% on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network,
  • the RTN is showing improved operating cost effectiveness as it grows,
  • the strongly voiced value the agency sees in quality PT networks especially their positive effects on traffic congestion and economic growth,
  • the well known relationship between what is invested in and what then grows in use plus the positive externalities of increased PT use,
  • and the observed sub-optimal nature of the city’s current PT networks in both quality and extent, ie the clear opportunities for improvement.
So despite the good work being undertaken by many in all our transport agencies: NZTA, AT, and MoT, there seem to be structural problems that are leading to important opportunities being missed in our only city of scale. It is this context that I wrote to NZTA Auckland and Northland Director Ernst Zöllner with concerns about two specific projects that embody these issues. As this post is already quite long I will run the letter tomorrow morning in a follow-up post…

LTP 2015-18 approved

Yesterday was really a day of funding news with the other big talking point being the Council finally adopting the Long Term Plan. The budget agreed yesterday is significant as for transport it represents probably the biggest single shift in funding priorities in many generations. Unimaginable just a few years ago, over half of the council’s transport funding (if you exclude renewals) is going towards public transport combined with around 10% going to walking and cycling – not including projects funded as part of other road projects.

The step change in funding has come about in part due to the transport levy now agreed – $99 for households and $159 for businesses. The impact the levy has is shown below as it enables the Interim Transport Programme.

interim-programme

*some of the figures might have changed slightly from when this table was produced

LTP infographic transport levy

In many ways I think Auckland has not been served well by it’s councils (and governments) who for decades have been too scared to make some tough choices and as such failed to invest enough in transport. The budget passing at 10-9 (two who most likely would have voted for it were away) shows that a large number of councillors wanted to continue this trend.

While I understand that people don’t want to pay more rates, the fact the money is going towards significantly investing in modes that we’ve neglected for decades and that are growing strongly is a positive thing. I suspect that if measured based on a return on investment metric we’d be getting a pretty good deal.

We and future generations should thank the 10 councillors from across the political spectrum who were brave enough to look to the future when making this decision. Those that voted for the budget were:

  • Len Brown
  • Arthur Anae
  • Bill Cashmore
  • Linda Cooper
  • Chris Darby
  • Alf Filipania
  • Mike Lee
  • Calum Penrose
  • Wayne Walker
  • Penny Webster

Of course the Herald ran with the story that many would see rates were going up over $1000. The council clarified that today with the following figures.

LTP 2015-18 rates impact

If there’s one area I think people should be upset it’s that the they have to pay GST on top of the transport levy. With around 454,000 households that’s almost $7 million a year extra going to the governments coffers that could be spent elsewhere. It perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if the government would promise to invest that GST back in to Auckland, that’s potentially a lot more cycleways or bus lanes.

Ports Ruling: Big Win for Civil Society

Ports Malc

The High Court has agreed with incorporated society Urban Auckland that the Council and the Port company were in error when they decided they don’t need to consult Aucklanders to expand further into the harbour, here for the full judgement:

 

http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/auckland-council-loses-battle-over-port-2015061918?ref=video#axzz3dUz4yI8c

It is important that the Council accepts this decision and furthermore firmly *encourages* ACIL and the Port company to do so too. The Council alone spent $500,000 directly on this case to defend their earlier poor decision. Clearly this is just a part of their spending on our behalf following the rogue path of our wholly owned Ports of Auckland Ltd. Somehow the Council legal team got captured by the Port’s view of the world and their role in it. I accept the Council has a responsibility to back their officers’ earlier position but enough is enough.

And enough is more that enough with the Port Company. It really is time to part with the governance direction of the current board. They seem to have had two big ideas; first to fight their employees, second to trick and fight their owner. In both cases the courts taken a dim view of their approach. Also in each case I have no issue with the general aim but it is the path chosen to pursue these goals that is clearly crooked and unwise. I support the port seeking to improve their opoerational productivity, and I support the port seeking to right-size its physical footprint. But in each case this board and management have chosen the most confrontational and devious means to try to achieve these goals. And have been found to be sneaky and duplicitous by the courts; in ways that we would abhor in a privately owned company, let alone one representing the people of Auckland. In his written judgement Justice Venning is clear in pointing out that the Ports’ strategy is not clever on any level, especially on one of fiscal prudence:

[188] To the extent that there will be further delay and cost to POAL it has to a degree brought that on itself in the way that it urged the Council to proceed on the non-notified basis in the knowledge of the reaction that was likely to engender. In doing so it took a commercial risk in proceeding in that way.

It shouldn’t come to this. Citizens should not have to take legal action against people handsomely paid to serve them. It takes a hell of an effort and is a vast distraction, and costs everyone a fortune. Board Chair Hawkins has said he would rather resign than not build these extensions. Well the High court has stopped the extensions…..?

There is a lesson here too for other organisations that may lose sight of the fact that they only exist as servants of the people, and not just as facilitators for particular special interest groups. For example NZTA’s habit of deciding what it wants to do in our name without any real consultation, except with those business interests it is close to, should take heed from this decision. The process around what is now called the East West Connections and the Kirkbride Rd intersection give much room for disquiet. But these are nothing compared to what is likely to erupt as the Agency proceeds with one plan for a new Waitemata harbour crossing without any kind of serious process to discover the people of Auckland’s view on all the options. Especially without a real search for innovative solution including options without adding any additional traffic lanes. For despite all the rhetoric around the urgency to ‘solve’ congestion this agency is still rushing to spend billions on traffic inducing mega-projects; the greatest generators of traffic growth and therefore congestion.

So many of the worst features of Auckland’s current infrastructure are the result of public officials or central government deciding what is best for the city without allowing sufficient wider input into these decisions. This port extension issue should be a warning that the people of Auckland will no longer put up with being left out of these decisions.

Links, especially for donations towards our legal case:

Urban Auckland and Stop Stealing our Harbour

The LTP Patronage Targets

Over the years there have been a wide range of patronage targets for public transport. There are high level targets in the 30 year Auckland Plan, 10 years of annual targets in the Long Term plan which are updated every three years and three years of annual targets updated annually in both the council’s Annual Plan and Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. Of course there is also the government’s target to start construction of the CRL earlier than 2020.

The targets are important as they are used to monitor how AT are performing – not that I’m sure anything happens if the targets aren’t met. We’ve talked before about patronage targets. In particular how following the drop in patronage in the 2012/13 year AT pushed for the targets to be lowered which the council agreed to in 2014. That left the ridiculous situation where the rail target to the end of June this year was only 12.1 million trips, an increase of just 700k over the year before despite the roll out of electric trains happening. As it happens patronage is currently at 13.5 million trips and predicted to reach 13.8 million by the end of June.

AT pushing to have the targets reduced has also been used by the Ministry of Transport to justify their position that Auckland won’t meet the CRL targets of 20 million trips prior to 2020. A bit of an own goal really.

On to the point of the post. Just over a week ago the council agreed on new patronage targets that would go into their Long Term Plan which were revised from the earlier drafts. You can see the figures that were agreed by the councillors which are slightly different from those originally on the agenda.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets

As you can see, by 2025 the target is for patronage to be 110.7 million trips which is a bit short of the 140 million trips by 2022 the Auckland Plan envisioned – although to be a little bit fair some projects like the CRL were expected sooner. Given the time-frame and PT growth I think we can expect in Auckland through all the changes planned I think that 110 million tips is a bit light. Based on current population projections it would represent a per capita usage of less than 60 trips per year (currently we’re just over 50).  As an example over the next few years the last of the electric trains will roll out along with the New Network and integrated fares. Those alone should see big boosts to patronage numbers and as the charts below show. The problem is only the rail network seems to have any step change factored in.

Of course around 2022 or 2023 we should also see the City Rail Link open and again we should see significant boosts in numbers, especially on the rail network. One of the reasons for this might be because while the LTP’s are a 10 year document, the focus is only really on the first three years till the next revision.

So here are the charts showing the changes and how they compare to the previous targets from the 2012-22 LTP plus the 2013 and 2014 versions of Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. As mentioned only the rail network sees any significant change from figures previously expected and if we meet the new target the CRL patronage target will be achieved some time around 2018.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets - Charts

And below is an indication of the how much change is expected in each year. I find it odd that patronage would drop off just as the new network is likely being completed as that alone should provide a big boost from more people transferring from bus to train.

2015-25 LTP Targets - annual change

Slightly related, a presentation I saw recently contained a version of this next chart showing what level patronage could be at over the next 30 years out to 2046. I think it shows quite well the impact the CRL and light rail – even though buses will still dominate the modes.

Future patronage projection

 

What do you think of the targets, are they ambitious enough?

Submit on the design for the Nelson St off-ramp

The Nelson St Cycleway is one of the most exciting projects currently underway in Auckland and will make use of the old disused motorway off-ramp to give people on bikes another way to access the city. The council are now looking for feedback to help shape the design of the ramp so it’s not just an old ramp.

Nelson St Off Ramp - Current

Auckland Council would like your input on the potential streetscape design of the disused Nelson Street off-ramp.

The off-ramp will be transformed into a new cycleway and walkway by the end of the year, forming part of the Nelson Street Cycle Route – a joint project of the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.

Councillor Chris Darby, the political urban design champion, says “This new walking and cycling route will provide speedy access into the city centre, accompanied by stunning views across the city and harbour. It will be one of the new beacons for biking in Auckland.

“Attractive surface finishes will make it even more distinctive and grab both local and international attention. It will add an important link to our emerging city-wide cycle network and trigger more people to walk or bike when they make their daily travel choices.”

Transforming the off-ramp – closed since 2006 – was one of the projects highlighted in the council’s City Centre Masterplan in 2012, and received strong support.

The route aligns with the shared long-term vision of the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council to build world-class cycling infrastructure that promotes cycling as a safe and convenient mode of transport.

Barbara Cuthbert, Cycle Action Auckland chair, says “It will be a ‘must ride’ route and loved by Auckland visitors, families, roadies, cruisers and people riding to work and shopping in town. I can see it featuring in tweets already, raising the profile yet again for cycling in Auckland.”

The new cycleway will begin at Upper Queen Street, travel along Canada Street and connect to the off-ramp via a new bridge that is currently under construction. The route will continue down Nelson Street, with phase two next year connecting to Quay Street. It will also connect to the north-western and Grafton Gully cycleways, providing easier and safer access to, from and within the city centre.

The online form asks Aucklanders how they might use the cycleway, and their preferences for the surface treatment – bold, subtle, modern, classic, fun, abstract, or incorporating words or lyrics. It takes two minutes to complete and is available at www.shapeauckland.co.nz until 22 June 2015.

The feedback will help shape the design, along with input from iwi and consideration of safety and technical requirements. This will be included in the off-ramp when it is opened at the end of the year.

The main question is shown below.

Nelson St Off Ramp - Questions

This is the concept from the City Centre Master Plan of 2012 (which doesn’t feature a very useful cycle path and I doubt trees would be practical simply on weight grounds.

CCMP - Nelson St Off-ramp

If only takes a few minutes to complete the survey