The Pullman Hotel – Pulled into line?

Greetings from Barcelona, where I’m currently winding up a 3 week European holiday that has also taken me to Amsterdam, Paris, and Porto. But my thoughts on those cities will have to wait for another day, because right now I want to engage in some bloated, tapas-filled celebration of a more local achievement.

That’s right – our wee TransportBlog community can notch up another sweet (albeit small) civic success on our train belts (NB: Some of our earlier successes are documented here and here).

First some background. Some of our longer time readers may remember this post from approximately 18 months ago, in which I ranted and rallied against a metal post that had been rather brutally plonked smack in the middle of a narrow footpath, as illustrated below. I live and work in the area and this metal post was, frankly, a small but constant pain in the ass head whenever I stumbled home blind drunk from many and varied soirees.

Pullman post gone

 

And just take a look at it now (NB: Photo taken by Kent Lundberg – urbanist extraordinaire and fellow MRCagney worker bee). Note this photo has been taken looking south, i.e. opposite direction from the previous photo.

photo

Boo yah – begone ye post! And look at all those happy pedestrians; no longer do they have to swerve around the plywood box inconveniently placed in their way. Instead they can move freely, and glower at oncoming pedestrians without obstruction.

More seriously though: This is just one more small example of the sorts of positive transport outcomes that can be driven by an educated, informed, and pro-active community – such as that which TransportBlog has – over a number of years – sought to cultivate.

Of course credit needs to go to Auckland Council and/Auckland Transport for taking this issue up with the Pullman. I believe, from my not-so-secret contacts with democratically elected representatives, that Christopher Dempsey of the Waitemata Local Board also deserves mention for pursuing the issue.

In terms of the Pullman Hotel, I think it’s a crying shame you took so long to come to the civic party and acknowledge that you, or the Hotel’s previous owners, had clearly erred in placing this metal post in the footpath. Personally, I believe that “law” is a minimum morality and that their references to having consent for the aforementioned pole were a dereliction of duty to the community in which their Hotel operates.

But now that it’s been put right, I hereby declare that my Company’s embargo on your services has been lifted. Not that I’ll be using it anytime soon, preferring instead the wonderful travel opportunities opened up by the likes of AirBnb (NB: I hope to cover how this so-called “sharing economy” website is revolutionising how we travel and in turn how we utilise our housing stock in a subsequent post).

In spite of this sweet success, there is one obvious outstanding question: What’s the next priority for Auckland’s long-suffering pedestrians? Speak now; the AT/AC God’s may just be listening.

 

 

4th batch of Special Housing Areas Announced

Yesterday the council and government announced the next batch of Special Housing Areas. These are the areas that are able to use a fast tracked consenting processes and for which the Unitary Plan rules (with a few conditions) come in to effect immediately. The intention is that by the faster consents will lead to developers building more dwellings and therefore helping address housing affordability however it also seems like some developers are just pushing for their land to be an SHA so they can sell it for an easier profit. All up there are 17 new SHAs bringing the total to 80 across the region. The Council say the new SHAs represent capacity for 8,000 new dwellings and that all SHAs combined have a potential of 41,500 dwellings. Below is a map of the new SHAs.

Tranche 4 Map

The first thing I noticed is that a decent proportion seem to be brownfield sites which is good however on closer inspection the greenfield sites while fewer in number still represent the majority of dwellings proposed. For example the massive Redhills SHA in the Northwest represents about 3500 dwellings which is almost half of all the new dwellings these SHAs cover. The council’s site has the details and maps of each of the specific SHAs but here’s a quick summary

  • Akoranga Drive, Northcote – 107 dwellings however it appears this is a retirement village.
  • Barrack Road, Mt Wellington – 40 dwellings – These are within walking distance of the Panmure Station which is good.
  • Bellfield Road, Papakura – 350 dwellings, this is the former Papakura Golf Course
  • Bunnythorpe Road, Papakura – 10 dwellings
  • Coates Avenue, Orakei – 14 dwellings
  • East Coast Road, Pine Hill – 39 apartments
  • Enfield Street, Mt Eden – 64 apartments over two buildings however interestingly these seem to fall outside the SHA rules by being 5 storeys.
  • Corner Great North Road and Walsall Street, Avondale – 36 dwellings
  • Harbourside Drive, Hingaia – 200 to 300 new dwellings
  • Mokoia Road, Birkenhead – 31 apartments
  • Morrin Street, Ellerslie – 138 units in a retirement village
  • Racecourse Parade, Avondale – 15 dwellings, this land is owned by the council under Auckland Council Properties Limited who will be looking for a developer to come up with ideas for the site.
  • Redhills (Fred Taylor Drive) – Stage 1, Whenuapai – 3,500 dwellings over 10 years.
  • St Lukes Road, Mt Albert – 107 apartments
  • Takapuna Strategic SHA – this is a Strategic SHA where the rules apply to a large area in the hope that it will encourage land owners to develop. It is thought it could deliver 350 dwellings.
  • Tamaki Regeneration Area – 1,200 to 1,500 dwellings
  • West Hoe Heights, Orewa – 400 to 800 dwellings

Of the SHAs above three in particular are very large greenfield developments that are likely to be the same type of sprawl we’ve seen so many times already. For the calculations below I’ve assumed about 20% of the land will be used for road access or public space.

Bellfield Road, Papakura – at almost 27ha the 350 dwellings would mean section sizes in excess of 600m². It’s currently zoned as Future Urban.

Bellfield Rd SHA

Redhills (Fred Taylor Drive) – Stage 1, Whenuapai - this is just the first 200ha of a 600ha development and the 3,500 dwellings equate to sections of approx 450m² each. It’s currently zoned Future Urban

Redhills Stage 1 SHA

West Hoe Heights, Orewa - even larger at over 37ha, the 400-800 new dwellings would be on sites somewhere between 375m² and 750m². It’s currently zoned single house which means sections of a minimum of 500m².

West Hoe Heights SHA

Lastly as here’s a map showing all of the announced SHAs

Special Housing Areas 1 2 3 4

NW Busway update

Along with information about the Downtown open space options, the agenda for the councils Development Committee (19 MB) contains an update on the Northwestern Busway. This seems like especially good timing considering the NW busway is something that has been suggested would be cut as part of the next Long Term Plan.

The busway is currently listed in the Integrated Transport Programme as being built sometime between 2021 and 2031 however the report highlights that it is likely to be needed sooner than that. This is primarily a result of the council’s decision to allow for a lot of greenfield growth in the Northwest. They say that up to 80,000 dwellings could be in the area by 2041 which would equate to over 200,000 residents and that’s just the greenfield growth. On top of this the local board for the area (Henderson-Massey) were perhaps the most progressive of all boards when it came to the Unitary Plan and pushed for many areas to be up zoned above what was originally in the plans. This will likely see a lot more people also in Te Atatu and other locations near the SH16 corridor.

NW Development area

In addition to the residential growth the council expects that up to 60,000 jobs will be in the area by 2041. While that’s a lot it’s nowhere near the amount of people who would be in the area so most people are likely to still need to travel for employment or study and that will put huge pressure on transport networks. All of which means that the busway is likely to be needed even sooner that the current plans suggest. It’s also correctly noted that the North West is quite a distinct corridor to that served by the rail network.

The report notes that modelling suggests that by 2041 there will be 30,000 trips across all modes from West Auckland to the city centre and fringe areas in the morning peak alone. That’s an absolutely massive number and as a comparison only around 20,000 are expected from the North Shore.

The NZTA is currently building upgraded shoulder lanes between Te Atatu Rd and Waterview which will come in to use in 2016 and apparently the NZTA will also build bus shoulders between Lincoln Rd and Westgate by 2018. However it is expected a full busway will be needed and AT believe the best place for that to happen is on the Southern side. The graphic below shows the busway as proposed and the shoulder lanes planed for SH16 in the meantime. It also shows bus lanes on eventually on SH18 as well.

Busway schematic

Based on this the busway would be almost 7km which is similar in length to what the Northern Busway is. One difference to the Northern Busway though is the number of stations, many of which would likely be similar to Sunnynook and provide for local access rather than being large interchange stations (those are likely to be Te Atatu, Lincoln Rd and Massey North). Speaking of Te Atatu it appears to confirm that any future bus interchange would be on the South Western side of the interchange.

The ITP has the project listed at $376 million however AT say they are now working on a business case to understand the full costs and benefits of the busway.

I think it’s great that the busway is being progressed but I can’t help but feel like we missed a golden opportunity to get it implemented as part of the SH16 project.

Getting better public space downtown

The Auckland Development Committee meets on Thursday and one of the items on the agenda (19mb) is an evaluation of Downtown Public Space which is related to the potential sale of Queen Elizabeth Square. Council officers have recommended that approval should be given to sell the square based on the outcome of an options evaluation study has been completed which looks at alternative options. It also references a report from Jan Gehl’s company which has assessed the square and made suggestions what could be done to improve it.

The report from Gehl and Associates say that the square has some good things about it – like its size – but also has some significant issues. These include

  • It has poor climatic conditions, in particular that it’s windswept due to tall buildings in immediate vicinity which also cause it to be overshadowed for most of the day.
  • That there’s a lack of activation by the surrounding frontages.
  • That it’s unintegrated from Queen St due to the bus shelters that exist.

The note that to fix the space we would need to

  • Demolish the HSBC building
  • Redevelop the buildings and provide active frontages
  • Reconfigure the bus interchange

The Council have said buying and demolishing the HSBC building would cost approximately $100 million. Gehl and Associates also made the comment “if other open space options exist within the area it would be worthwhile exploring how they could offer something that is more valuable and attractive than the current QE Square.

The options evaluation report which was by Reset Urban Design starts by looking at the history of the square along its attributes. One of the ones that stands out most for me is that the space is sunny at lunchtime for only 25% of the year. Overall when looking at the existing square it notes the following pros and cons of it.

The positive attributes include:

  • It is next to a major pedestrian route – adjacent to Lower Queen Street
  • At approximately 2000 sq metres, it is a sizable space
  • It is opposite the CPO (Britomart Transport Centre) building

The negative attributes include:

  • It does not support objectives of connectivity and permeability in relation to the public open space network in the downtown area
  • It creates a gap in the building edge on the western side of Queen Street – the main city to harbour link
  • It is subdivided from the adjacent space of Lower Queen Street and does little to support this space
  • It is a residual space that has become the forecourt to a private shopping mall development with poor building edges – it is not a destination
  • Its original reason for being is usurped; it has become a ‘side show’ to the nearby waterfront and does little to enhance the link with the waterfront
  • There is minimal mana whenua or heritage value
  • It has a poor environment – being both windy and in shade for the majority of the day
  • It doesn’t meet the open space/recreation needs of residents, workers or visitors

It then looks at some potential options which are shown below

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Options

They’ve then compared each of these options against the criteria set out in the Auckland Design Manual.

Downtown Open Space Options Report - ADM Analysis

It’s pretty clear the options that perform the best are numbers 2, 6, 7 & 8 which are looked at in more detail.

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Possible open space

The options looked at hint at the direction council and it’s agencies are heading towards and represent some big changes that could come to this area of the city in the future.

Lower Queen St

The bus interchange would be moved to Albert St and linked to Britomart by 24/7 lane. There would still be some buses accessing the area although they would be restricted to just accessing or exiting from Galway and Tyler St. That would leave the area out the front of Britomart as well as half of the existing street to be turned into a pedestrian area that would be bigger than QE2 square is now. The new development which Precinct would build would then have active street frontages and it notes the section on QE2 square space would be a maximum of three storeys. I personally think it would be fantastic to have the area directly outside of Britomart as an open space.

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Lower Queen St

Admiralty Steps

This is the section of waterfront to the east of Queens Wharf (C above). It would need to be brought of the Ports of Auckland and the intention would be to create an urban beach including access to the water.

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Admiralty Steps

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Admiralty Steps visualisation

Lower Albert St

Creating a wide promenade and people space between Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf. It would mean the ferries currently in the area would have to move more to Queens Wharf (more on that below).

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Lower Albert St

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Lower Albert St visualisation

Base of Queens Wharf

The existing ferry terminal (not the Ferry Building) would be removed. A wide promenade would be extended out from the Ferry building. It suggests ferry operations would be moved further up Queens Wharf

Downtown Open Space Options Report - Queens Wharf base

The council suggest that large parts of the Lower Queen St space would be paid for by the CRL project which will have to put large parts of the area back together after the tunnels are dug. The three waterfront options are being considered together and it’s proposed that the delivery of them is tied in with the Quay St upgrade. They say the sale of the square should be able to cover at least two of the three waterfront options.

So all up we have multiple reports from different companies saying that the existing square isn’t ideal and short of buying and demolishing the HSBC building will always be suboptimal. To compensate for the sale the suggestion is for a series of projects which would improve open space in the area for people. It still seems like quite early in the piece but personally I would much prefer what’s suggested above to an upgraded existing QE2 Square.

Is the baseline transport programme actually OK?

In the Mayor’s proposal for council’s 10 year budget, there is discussion around how two transport programmes will be consulted on early next year once a draft budget has been fully formulated:

  1. A programme which is based on the funding envelope possible with a 2.5-3.5% rates increase. This is referred to as the ‘baseline proposal’ in the document
  2. A larger programme that relies on additional funding, either from higher rates increases or from alternative funding options (like a network charge or congestion charge)

The paper highlights that what falls within the baseline proposal will be the subject of ongoing discussion between the Council and Auckland Transport, based around a system of ranking projects. However, a number of key projects that can be funded within this programme are listed:

  • City Rail Link
  • North Western Growth Area Projects (presumably this means new roads in Westgate and Hobsonville)
  • Warkworth SH1 intersection improvements (an odd one to include as I thought this was an NZTA project)
  • East West Connections (the new name for the East West Link)
  • Lincoln, Te Atatu and Dominion Road upgrades

Later in the document, when each of the transformational shifts in the Auckland Plan are discussed, there’s some further information on key projects which are included in both scenarios:

Whichever transport programme we eventually include in this LTP, there is no doubt that it will reflect the ongoing shift to public transport that this council has been committed to since its inception, with $700 million spent on public transport in the four years of Auckland Council.

The City Rail Link is fundamental in both scenarios. The baseline programme in addition, incorporates significant investment in bus lanes and bus infrastructure to support the new public transport network. Projects such as AMETI include walking and cycling provision. The city centre transport budgets include funding for Wellesley Street bus infrastructure and the Wynyard bus interchange.

One thing that’s really important to note here is that the CRL is no longer dependent upon finding alternative funding sources. It’s in both scenarios, which makes complete sense as the project is listed in the Auckland Plan as the number one priority. Even if the alternative funding options go nowhere, CRL is still budgeted to happen (when it happens is mainly down to central government).

Projects essential to the success of the new bus network’s rollout are also included in both programmes – a big programe of bus lanes, the Wellesley Street bus infrastructure, Wynyard bus interchange, the Dominion Road project and AMETI are all mentioned above, while Te Atatu bus interchange is listed (along with some rail grade separations) as a project that’s come out of some work on spatial prioritisation.

So a lot of the really good stuff we need council to focus on building – both to kick start implementation of the Congestion Free Network (i.e. CRL and the AMETI busway) and to ensure the new bus network is implemented successfully – appear possible in the baseline programme.

If we turn to what’s highlighted as being excluded from the baseline programme – but could be funded if extra money was available from network charges or some other funding source – there’s a rather strange mix of projects listed:

  • A majority of local and arterial roading projects across the region
  • Almost all of the park and ride projects currently programmed
  • The North-Western busway
  • Strategic projects such as Penlink and rail electrification to Pukekohe

Looking back in the project list from the Integrated Transport Programme, most of the arterial roading projects seemed like a huge waste of money, so I doubt we’d miss them. We had things like:

  • Mill Road – $239 million
  • Albany Highway upgrade – $665 million (likely a typo)
  • Lake Road Upgrade – $120 million
  • Great South Road (Otahuhu-Manukau) – $820 million (another possible typo

There was also another $2.5 billion budgeted for “other arterial road upgrades” over 30 years, excluding anything in the new greenfield areas as they were a further budget line item. So while we may miss having some of the arterial roading programme cut back, it seems like there was an enormous amount of waste in it. In terms of Penlink, well I think that was covered off last week in quite a bit of detail – in short, it won’t be missed too much.

In terms of park and rides, we’ve highlighted on many occasions in the past that these are not a panacea for improving public transport and in many cases may be both poor value for money and could undermine other goals such as cost-effective feeder buses or development opportunities around train stations. A small park and ride development programme is probably appropriate, focusing on stations that serve areas where feeder buses just aren’t viable (i.e. rural areas). Beyond that, however it’s hard to see a major programme being fundamentally essential.

That leaves the Northwest Busway and Pukekohe electrification. While these are both critical projects – particularly if Auckland is going to sprawl to the northwest and south over the next 10 years – it’s debatable whether they are projects that should be mainly funded by the Council. It is central government which owns both the rail network that would be electrified between Papakura and Pukekohe as well as State Highway 16, which the Northwest Busway would be built alongside. Sure there may be some costs to the Council in relation to stations, new trains and bus interchanges, but I would have thought the bulk of both projects should be paid by government.

In summary, it seems like it may well be possible for the council to proceed with a pretty good transport programme in the near future without relying on additional funding sources – including making significant effort towards implementing the Congestion Free Network. This is essentially what we’ve been saying since the CFN came out over a year ago, so it’s nice to finally see. Of course the devil will be in the detail of what projects are and are not in this “baseline programme”, but at the very least it’s great to see CRL’s in – and therefore no longer requires alternative funding options to be approved before it can proceed.

What is the CFN? Transport Debate Summary

1.AUCKLAND THE CFN

At the 2014 Election Transport Debate organised by the Campaign for Better Transport I was charged with summarising our Congestion Free Network as an introduction to the candidate’s speeches. Here is that short speech:

What is the CFN?

The CFN is a deeply considered answer to the question of how Auckland, our only city of scale, can best compete at all levels this century.

It is a world class Rapid Transit Network to go with our world class Highway Network.

1. It is designed for maximum economic efficiency; evaluating capital costs, operating costs, and long term value. It is a fully integrated top tier network; using busways where they are best option and extending the existing rail network where that adds more value, and ferries where they offer their particular advantage.

2. It builds on what we already have; it extends and complements our existing systems. It is the key to getting the highest value from earlier investments, especially our widespread road and highway networks. And it unlocks hidden capacity in the existing legacy rail network, and enhances its operational efficiency. It is about working our physical infrastructure harder and smarter as the city grows.

3. It facilitates better quality of urban form and supports higher quality of life and therefore the international competitiveness of the city, the nation’s gateway. It also complements the growth in Active travel; cycling and walking.

4. It greatly strengthens the city’s resilience through diversifying movement options in ways that are consistent with changes in technology and social trends and helps protect the city’s functionality against shocks in price or supply of imported fuels.

5. It greatly enhances freedom and choice for businesses, residents, and visitors alike. It supports the entire city, not just inner areas, including future growth areas on the urban fringe. It will make the choice to not partake in congestion in Auckland a truly viable one for more people, at more times, and for more trips.

It essentially is the answer to the question of what is needed next?

And it is not just a ‘nice to have’ but rather a carefully costed and highest value complement to the last sixty years of investment in motorways. It will unlock the motorway system for higher value users, in particular freeing it up for its vital role in the freight supply chain. In short to gain the next level of value from the urban state highways we need to invest away from them to keep them flowing efficiently. It also is what is needed to gain the agglomeration economies that flow from city shaped development.

And wonderfully It does not require anything other than a reprioritising of projects already identified for Auckland, and is achievable well within existing budgets. It takes no money away from other parts of the country’s transport share nor is it dependent on novel sources of revenue. It does however require an understanding that Auckland is at a new stage of development. One that requires more than just the single mode of movement and therefore while maintaining the existing road systems, investment in new infrastructure must be strongly directed to completing and optimising the missing modes. And this programme shows just how within reach this is.

In short it’s genius.

But because of how we control our transport spending it does need government to be willing to partner the city in investing differently than we have been. Nothing short of the success of our biggest city and the level of its contribution to the whole nation is at stake.

5.CFN v ITP cost

Starting with where Auckland’s nascent Rapid Transit network will be once the current upgrade of the legacy rail network is complete, the following maps show, in broad terms, how we can efficiently leverage off this resource to build a world quality and right sized extremely efficient Rapid Transit Network for Auckland over 15 years. Please note this only shows the top tier, separate right of way and high frequency Rapid Network. It is supported by and integrated with the New Bus Network, and other services. And of course it is designed to complement and operate separately from our widespread driving systems. Freeing them up for more efficient use.

CFN 2015

CFN 2020

CFN 2025

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

For more detail on each route see under Our Proposals above.

Stuart’s 100 #17: A Greater Auckland?

17: A Greater Auckland?

photo

What if we felt like we lived in an Auckland that was greater than the sum of its parts?

This is perhaps one of the reoccurring themes in my 100 days project. It reflects the public discussion and debate happening in Auckland around our future growth challenge, and how best we should invest public money in supporting that growth and our existing communities.

The parochialism of old Auckland was notorious. It was one contributing reason for the governance reforms and creation of the one council.

Only being concerned with one’s own lot in life is not a great basis upon which to debate the future of a city. Neither is only being interested in one’s own patch of the city to the extent of actively fighting against investment or even just change in other parts of the city. These aspects of Auckland seem to relate to a deeper issue around the way this city has grown and developed over time.

It says a lot about the urban geography of Auckland; how the way we have shaped the city then shapes how we feel about each other and the city in which we all live. How do we view a sense of a community? Do we relate to any sense of a greater Auckland, or not? Is there any sense of an Auckland that is greater than the sum of its parts? And what might this all mean for our future?

Arguably one of the best things that has happened through the creation of the one council has been a growing sense of one Auckland While we won’t always and shouldn’t always speak with one voice, a common understanding that we are generally better off together than apart seems a good basis to understanding of why we are all here together living in and around this beautiful Tamaki Makaurau.

Waterfront crowds_8068

Events and public festivals and celebrations that attract big crowds from right across Auckland are one of the few occasions where we all have the opportunity to come together and have a sense of being a part of and connected the other 1.5 million odd residents in this increasingly diverse city.

 

Mayor’s Long Term Plan proposal released

This morning the mayor released his proposal for the Long Term Plan, which outlines the 10 year budget for the city. This is the first stage in a 9 month process.

Long-term Plan timeline

  • August 2014 – Mayor’s LTP proposal
  • December 2014 – Auckland Council adopts draft LTP
  • January and February 2015 – Public consultation on the draft LTP
  • April 2015 – Public hearings
  • June 2015 – Local boards adopt local board agreements and governing body adopts final LTP.

The proposal is available on the council website here. The proposal does not have a huge amount of detail, and more based around funding outlines with some major projects mentioned. Today I will just do a quick outline of the document, and we will follow up with more analysis tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.42.39 AM
Rates increases are 2.5% for the first two years, and 3.5% after that.
Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.44.35 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.29.40 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.29.56 PM

 

Here is what the document has to say about transport. Note that capital expenditure of $469 million, compared with $826 million in the 2014/15 Annual Plan. However this is going to be cut back by $150 million as we noted yesterday. This seems to be a mixed bag. Great to see City Rail Link still included. On the positive side good to see Penlink, other arterial roads and most of the oversized Park and Ride strategy cut back. However difficult to see how Lincoln Road is such a priority for upgrading, it is hardly lacking traffic lanes at the moment! Disappointing to see the North-Western busway pushed back even outside the 10 year timeframe. I’m sure this can be staged appropriately so we can see some good progress over the next few years.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.45.24 AM

Transport represents the most significant proportion of our total budget – almost a third of our operating costs and over 40% of our capital budgets. The funding envelope in the baseline budget is a significant reduction in the capital programme in the current LTP and has an even more significant shortfall on the aspirations reflected in the Auckland Plan.

This baseline proposal includes major projects such as:

  • The City Rail Link
  • North Western Growth Area projects
  • Warkworth SH1 intersection improvements
  • The East – West connections
  • Lincoln, Te Atatu and Dominion Rd upgrades.

The full detail of the list will be the subject of discussion between Auckland Transport and ourselves over the next couple of months as part of fleshing out the draft LTP for consultation. The basis of that discussion will be the criteria by which we rank projects and getting a shared level of comfort with that process. Naturally I would want to see our strategic shifts towards public transport active modes strongly reflected in those criteria. However, the basic transport option is not what I believe Auckland wants or needs. It is an investment programme that will not solve our existing transport problems and in fact will see them get worse. Under current funding arrangements what we can afford involves foregoing a significant amount of transport investment that Aucklanders have told us they wanted through the Auckland Plan. We wouldn’t be able to deliver a range of projects including:

  • A majority of local and arterial roading projects across the region
  • Almost all of the park and ride projects currently programmed
  • The North-Western busway
  • Strategic projects such as Penlink and rail electrification to Pukekohe. I beleive Aucklanders want all of these projects and have an expectation that the entire transport programme contained in the Auckland Plan be delivered in the 30 year timeframe.

 

The plan also outlines a number of projects that will proceed as are needed to support growth including Special Housing Areas. That is something we have noted previously so is good to see this mentioned. Seems to be a little bit of a grab bag of projects though. Will need more than the Te Atatu busway station to support growth in the North-West, and not sure Drury station is a priority amid other capital cuts as will only be served hourly when Papakura station is so close and will have 10 to 15 minute frequencies.

Some examples of these projects are:

  • Watercare’s central interceptor project
  • Grade separation at Avondale
  • Tamaki Drive shared walking and cycling path
  • Work with mana whenua on redevelopment of Ruapotaka marae
  • Otahuhu aquatic centre and library
  • Improved public transport between Mangere/Otahuhu/Sylvia park
  • New Takanini library
  • Grade separation at Walters Road, Takanini
  • Te Atatu bus interchange
  • Westgate stormwater ponds
  • Lake Road, Takapuna streetscape
  • Train stations at Drury and Paerata
  • Manukau transport interchange
  • Ormiston library and community centre. 

Grade separation at Walters Road has been the hold up for Addision/Glenora station so hopefully that should allow that station there to proceed.

Overall I think need to wait for more detail to see effect of transport projects, and it will be interesting to see if Auckland Transport prioritises public transport within this reduced spend or keeps building lots of lower value roading projects.

Deferring Transport Projects

So what do you do when you’re told you have to cut some of your $826 million budget for capital projects and that in choosing what to cut it can’t apply to public transport projects?

Well it seems if you’re Auckland Transport you start by cutting PT and active mode projects.

Back in May when the council was discussing their budget for this year it was decided that Auckland Transport should reduce capital expenditure spend. At the time Chris Darby managed to get this amendment passed saying that the cuts won’t impact on PT.

MOVED by Cr C Darby, seconded by Cr PA Hulse:
Cr Darby moved by way of amendment, seconded Cr Hulse.
That the Budget Committee:
i) agree that the $5.1 million transport opex increase is dedicated to public transport and the $50 million reduction in transport capex will not be applied to public transport.

But it seems the $50 million isn’t enough if the council wants to keep to Len Brown’s goal of having rate rises next year average 2.5%.

  • On 26 March, staff provided the results of financial modelling in response to the mayoral direction for the LTP 2015-2025. One conclusion from this analysis was that it is not possible to reduce the average rates increase for 2015/2016 down to 2.5 per cent solely by reducing or deferring capex in that particular year.
  • The lagged impact of changes in the capital programme on operating budgets means that reducing or deferring capex in 2014/2015 will have a greater impact on rates for 2015/2016. The Budget Committee therefore agreed on 8 May 2014 to request the Chief Executive undertake an immediate review of 2014/2015 capex programme with a target of reducing or deferring $300 million of capex.

The cuts mean Auckland Transport has to find $100 million (which goes up to $150 million once NZTA subsidies are included). They don’t say all the items they’ll cut but the ones named are all PT projects.

The targeted reduction can be achieved via the reduction of budget across all transport activities. Projects such as Parnell Station, the Pukekohe Station upgrade and bus and transit lane improvements may have to be deferred to the LTP period. The Auckland Transport Board will consider the current capital programme to confirm which projects may be stopped, reduced or deferred to the LTP in order to minimise negative impacts on Auckland Plan outcomes. An updated 2014/2015 capital programme will be provided to the CCO Governance and Monitoring Committee in November.

It seems the only projects specifically named as being deferred are those that PT projects which goes against what the council asked for in the first place. Further projects like bus and transit lane improvements are often some of the cheapest and highest benefit projects. An example of this is the recent extension of the Fanshawe St bus lanes resulted in lots of full buses being sped up in the evening for what I understand was a fairly minor cost. In saying that I can live with the Silverdale Park and Ride (which is having issues of it’s own to sort out first) and can also live with Parnell to a degree.

Here’s the total list of capital projects in the current annual plan.

AT Funding - 14-15 - PT

AT Funding - 14-15 - Parking

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 1

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 2

It seems to me there are a lot of other projects on the list that should be being cut before $2.5 million bus lane improvements, for example Lincoln Rd or Penlink.

For their part the council passed a (much weaker) resolution saying that AT should take into account the councils priorities around PT and active mode outcomes however based on past performance I wouldn’t hold up hope of AT actually listening to that.

Send a message to Len Brown about Auckland’s Long Term Plan

This Thursday the mayor is releasing his first proposal for Auckland’s Long Term Plan, the 10 year budget for the city. Last week I blogged about the budgetary pressures the council is facing, and the risk of large cuts in public transport investment. However there is still potential for Auckland to progress the Congestion Free Network and important cycling investments in a rates constrained environment if we prioritise those projects and push back some of the very expensive roading projects with limited benefits like Penlink.

Generation Zero are running a mini campaign this week to encourage people send Len Brown a message that the budget needs to invest in public transport and cycling. Their email ask is at down below, and you can send an email to Len Brown using a simple online tool here: generationzero.org.nz/long_term_plan

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Hey, all the work we’ve done together to push for separated bike lanes, the Congestion Free Network, and the frequent bus network all hinges on one big decision this Thursday.

Mayor Len Brown is right this moment making up his mind about what projects get prioritised in Auckland’s 10 year budget known as the Long Term Plan.

Tell him now to: make the CRL the number one priority; prioritise the city wide rapid transport network; triple the cycling budget; and not proceed with expensive projects with little regional benefit.

There’s real pressure on the Mayor to hold rate increases in his budget to between 2.5% to 3.5%. Transport infrastructure represents nearly 50% of the budget so this funding is the most at risk. This means as a city we need to make some serious decisions about what we prioritise to fund over the next 10 years.

The choice has been made simple for him by his advisors. He’s been advised that he can not deliver all the projects in the Auckland Plan, therefore he needs to find a middle ground.1

That middle ground is the Congestion Free Network.

The Mayor therefore needs to do four things with the Long Term Plan:

  • Make funding for the City Rail Link his number one priority.
  • Prioritise the construction of the city wide rapid transport network including new busways and rail links as seen in the Congestion Free Network.
  • Ensure there is a tripling in the funding for cycling to $30 million a year so Auckland Transport can complete the City Cycling Network.
  • Make sure only road projects with large regional benefits proceed by excluding expensive projects such as Penlink and Mill Road.

Click here to send a message to Mayor Len Brown right now urging him to follow our four recommendations.

The long term effects of a lack of investment would lead to ever increasing congestion and ineffective public transport, exacerbating the many problems our city already faces with transport.

Truly transforming our public transport network over the next 10 years means moving forward with the City Rail Link, North Western, Upper Harbour and South-Eastern Busways and Rail to Roskill, as proposed in the Congestion Free Network.

On the other hand low value roading projects like Penlink2 have nothing to do with an outstanding public transport network.

Excluding these low value roading projects and prioritising an outstanding public transport network would help us get the right outcomes.

The choice is simple. The Council has already put in writing that their objectives over the next 10 years are to move to outstanding public transport within one network, and to radically improve the quality of urban living.

If Auckland wants to truly transform itself into a liveable low-carbon city it needs to prioritise high value projects that deliver on the Council’s own objectives.

Send a message now to tell the council to deliver on it’s own objectives: generationzero.org.nz/long_term_plan

The future of our city is in our hands.