Council Transport Survey Results

As part of the Long Term Plan the council received thousands of submissions however on the topic of transport, to ensure they also had a representative sample of the views of all Aucklanders – not just those interested enough to make a submission they conducted a phone survey. The survey canvassed the views of 5,022 people and was carried out by Colmar Brunton with the entire process was peer reviewed by the University of Auckland. Yesterday they released the results of that research. Overall they are interesting but I think they have some major flaws.

The survey had three main aims, to measure:

  1. Aucklanders’ support for increased investment in the Auckland Plan transport network (APTN)
  2. Which of the two proposed funding options Aucklanders prefer
  3. How perceptions differ by travel behaviour, local board, and key demographic groups

Overall results for the preferred transport plan and how to fund it are below.

Just over half of people preferred the Auckland Plan Transport Network which is about building everything regardless of whether it helps improve the transport situation or not. As you can also see support for that plan increases with income so those who earn the most want the most spent.

2015 LTP Colmar Brunton Preferred Transport Option

Now it’s not surprising that this is the result when the council only presented such binary options to people. Below is what the participants were asked.

“Auckland’s population growth means Auckland’s transport issues will get worse over time. There are two options to address this: a basic transport network and a more comprehensive transport network. I’ll explain each and then ask which one you support.

The basic transport network covers the completion of current projects, some priority new projects such as the City Rail Link, and also spending to maintain current roads and the current public transport network.

The more comprehensive transport network also includes the City Rail Link and everything else in the basic network, with many projects being completed earlier, plus a range of new projects. These include new roads, rail, ferries, busways, ‘park and rides’, and cycleways, as well as school and community travel plans and safety programmes.

Over the next 10 years, the comprehensive network will cost around $300 million more than the basic network each year. The additional funding needed each year would either come from a motorway user charge, or from higher fuel tax and annual rates increases.

So, in summary, the basic network will result in greater traffic congestion than the more comprehensive network, but will cost less. On the other hand, the more comprehensive network will result in less traffic congestion than the basic network, more public transport options, and greater economic benefits, but it will cost more.

Do you support the basic transport network or the more comprehensive transport network?”

While I don’t expect the council to consult on the likes of Generation Zero’s Essential Transport Budget, there’s no indication that effectively the council are only presenting the extreme ends of the spectrum. I think it’s inevitable that a more balanced middle ground will have to be found and as we learnt recently, it’s not just us that think that with both the AA and the NZCID also saying the same thing (although without specifying what exact projects they prefer).

When it comes to funding a similar percentage of respondents preferred the extra funding needed to come from motorway tolls and as you’d expect the more people used the motorway the less keen on this option they were.

2015 LTP Colmar Brunton Preferred Transport Funding

The issue I have with the funding option is that I suspect most people vote for it thinking that they’ll be able to minimise their costs either though shifting their travel time (a good thing) or more likely finding alternative routes which will inevitably mean clogging up local roads and hampering any effort to make them better for active modes, PT and local connections.

The report breaks each of these results down by a number of measures and while there are some differences in the numbers across the different measures the overall trend is similar to the results above.

The final decision on what transport plan will be chosen and how the council would prefer to fund it won’t be decided by councillors till next month. However if they do go for an option that requires more funding they will have to go to the government who have so far not been keen on the idea. Today Transport Minister Simon Bridges is reaffirming that scepticism. He too seems to share the belief that the plans presented aren’t effective enough – something he’s said to us too.

Mr Bridges said, the question of funding tools did not arise until there was an effective transport programme.

Perhaps it’s time the council presented a middle ground version that delivers the benefits in the area’s Aucklanders say they want focus on i.e. PT and Active modes.

2015 Long Term Plan Final Feedback

The council have announced the results of the public submissions on the Long Term Plan. We saw a few updates during the consultation including this one from on the results up to 19 February. At that time there had been around 5,000 submissions however the full consultation ended with over 27,000 – that’s a lot more than the 10,000 from the previous LTP.

Auckland Council’s 10-year budget consultation received a record 27,353 written submissions, with the majority of Aucklanders opting to support the advanced transport network, it has been revealed today.

In addition to the written submissions, there were 1,354 pieces of feedback via social media and more than 1,400 Aucklanders attended a Have Your Say event. The previous LTP consultation received 10,084 submissions.

The consultation saw Aucklanders provide feedback on a number of issues including the levels of investment in the region over the next decade and what council needs to do to fix the region’s transport problems.

Figures show that 50% opted for the advanced transport network and 29% supported the basic transport plan. On the question of funding the transport options, 34% supported motorway tolls, while 27% favoured a fuel tax and rates rises.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says that elected officials now had a responsibility to listen to what Aucklanders have said.

“Aucklanders have spoken and their wishes are clear,” he says.

“They want a more comprehensive transport system that will cater to the needs of our growing city.

“The council now has a responsibility to listen to what they have said and act decisively through the decisions we make.

“Yes, it will be challenging to get where we need to go, but there is no doubt in my mind that Auckland is ready for that challenge.

“Our future depends on us having a transport network that is fit for purpose and has the ability to cope with the increase in population that will take place here over the next 30 years.

“So my thanks go to all those who got involved to give us their views. I will do everything in my power to ensure that we don’t let them down.”

Elected officials will now consider the feedback in a series of briefings and workshops ahead of final decisions that will be made on May 7 & 8.

The plan will be formally adopted by the council on 25 June and the final plan, including 21 local board agreements, will be available at www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz along with a summary of decisions made in July.

The accompanying report provides a lot more information. First up the demographic breakdown. This is something Peter looked into more closely in this post. I’ve updated his table with the final information which shows that over time the numbers from some demographic groups did improve however some segments of the population are still well over represented. One of the biggest shifts has been in the 15-34 age brackets which likely highlights the great work that Generation Zero did and shows that younger people are keen to be involved when engaged correctly.

2015 LTP Final Demographics

The next table breaks down the results by local board area (where it was available) and you can see that the rural areas, the North Shore and much of the Isthmus area tend to be over represented while the west and south to be under represented.

2015 LTP Final Local Boards

Moving on to the actual results.

Of the people that answered, 54% disagreed with the proposed 3.5% rates increase which was up slightly from the earlier updates. This update doesn’t say whether people think the rates should be higher or lower but I assume most would think the latter (was 79% last time).

More interesting are the areas where people want more or less focus to go on. There are some notable changes compared to the earlier feedback. Previously those saying to spend more on transport only slightly outnumbered those who said spend less. The comparison now shows a lot more people want more spent on transport. The other major change is for parks and community. Previously those wanting more spent were only about half of those saying to spend less whereas now it is much more even. The graphs for the other results aren’t that different to the earlier results.

2015 LTP Final Changes in Investment

Next up the question of which of the two official transport plans people support and preferences for how the Auckland Plan network should be funded. The results seem very similar to the numbers from February. It’s worth remembering that the council tried to push both of these questions as a binary choice yet the results are anything but.

2015 LTP Final network and funding preferences

So what is it people think we should be focusing on? In short public transport and cycling. I wonder what out transport budget would look like if it mirrored the results below. Of course this isn’t that dissimilar to the results the AA released a few weeks ago.

2015 LTP Final Changes in transport Investment

The last question I was interested in was on the public’s views for merging a few CCOs such as Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Ltd to create a single one called Development Auckland.

2015 LTP Final Development Auckland

Now we wait to see if the councillors listen to the results.

The AA and the Long Term Plan

Last week the submissions for the Council’s Long Term Plan closed and one of the more interesting outcomes was the response by the AA and the NZCID. Together they have called for a “Plan C” instead of the all or nothing options that the council presented. One interesting aspect about their press release was the reference to some AA member surveys that have been conducted about the transport plans and which have helped them reach the position they have. Some of the results are in the AA’s latest Auckland Matters newsletter (5MB).

In total the AA say they had over 5,000 responses to an online member survey giving them some good quantitative results and they’ve also set up a 100 member Auckland Panel to give some more in-depth qualitative results – of which just over 50 responded to this survey. To me the summarised responses highlight a few key issues, some of which we’ve been talking about for a few years now and that were a key reason behind us creating the Congestion Free Network. I’m mixing up some of the points that I think are interrelated.

The outcomes of #1 and #6 clearly show that the council and Auckland Transport need to do a much better job at explaining why certain transport projects are needed and how they are funded. This is particularly the case with #6 where little has been done to address notion that the CRL is just about a train line going in circles around CBD.

AA LTP Survey Response 1&6
To me it is so vital for our transport agencies to show how their plans – and in particular the PT plans – form part of a complete network and not just a series of individual projects. It’s not just enough to draw a project line on a map, agencies actually need to show the public what network outcomes the projects enable. As an example the CRL is often shown as just a small line in the central city but what they don’t show is that it boosts and improves train services across the entire network. With a Regional Rapid Transit map like the CFN they could point to the network and say “this is what we’re working towards and XXXX project is needed to enable that”. Instead projects like the CRL get subjected to thousands misunderstanding it and thinking it’s just about people in the CBD.

Moving on and #2, #3 and 7 tell a very interesting story and are perhaps the most relevant to the LTP and what we’ve been saying. People, including AA members want a greater choice in how they get around. They don’t want the only option for them – or perhaps for the person in front of them – to be to have to drive. I think it’s also telling that the AA’s own members don’t think that the current plans being presented are good enough, especially seeing as there’s a huge spend and congestion is still predicted to get worse.

AA LTP Survey Response 2,3 & 7

 

Perhaps it could be summarised as AA members the current plans aren’t good enough and they want more transport choice.

Next up #4, #5 and #9 talk about costs. In relation to the points above, especially #3, I think these results are crucial. Yes the largest proportion of people said they wanting the full plan but clearly not enough to be prepared to pay the kind of costs the council say will be needed to pay for that. I’m sure a few of the economists might have something to say about this point as clearly people don’t see enough benefits in the spending to warrant it. It also lines up with my long held comments that a middle ground option is needed (and of course exactly what the Essential Transport Budget is).

AA LTP Survey Response 4, 5 & 9

I don’t really think point 10 is relevant to this discussion so lastly #10 which is really one of the most important issues. Currently we seem to have both the council and the government (through the NZTA) doing completely different things. The government are currently spending up large on a range of hand picked motorway projects regardless of how important Auckland ranks them. I personally think it’s time that both the council and government come form of agreement around how projects are ranked and funded in the future because at the moment each seem to be doing their own thing. To me Auckland should have the ability to “no we don’t want XX project at this time and we think the money would be better spent on …..”

AA LTP Survey Response 10

As I said earlier, overall many of the comments the AA have made end up being very similar to what we talk about too. In many ways it’s very reassuring that the AA’s members seem to be saying the same thing.

The AA have also put their entire LTP & RLTP submission online and that contains some of the more in-depth information into the survey results. Below are just a few of the parts that caught my attention.

Perhaps the biggest one is this on their attitudes to PT and roads investment. Over 75% agree or strongly agree that better PT would reduce congestion and make the city more liveable and over 60% say it would reduce the need to have a car. In addition 56% agree that more roads won’t solve Auckland’s problems – although many obviously think that there can be some improvements in roads.

AA LTP Survey - PT v Roads

The next few results come from the smaller qualitative panel. Most think a good PT system is essential for city pride

AA LTP Survey - City Pride

And most agree that sustainability is important or essential to take into account.

AA LTP Survey - Sustainability

Lastly just a few of the comments from their submission itself. On roads the AA’s stance is unsurprising but what’s good is that they’re showing strong support for the other modes. On PT in general they appear very supportive of continued investment.

As discussed previously, our Members want choice with the transport modes they use, and there is no doubt that public transport has an important role to play in providing a reliable, accessible, safe, and affordable alternative to the private vehicle for our Members. Given public transport in Auckland is still developing, it is crucial that the transport programme protects not only the significant investment in the network over the last 10-15 years, but also current and forecast levels of patronage growth.

On the CRL they are also supportive – although like us believe better information is needed.

On balance, we are supportive of the City Rail Link. We agree that the CRL is critical to complete the rail network. Combined with electrification of the rail network and new EMUs, the CRL will increase network capacity, resilience, and reliability. We also support the early enabling works over the next three years. Tying in the enabling works with the Precinct Properties Lower Albert Street site redevelopment makes sense.

However, we do have concerns that AT has not included any Benefit Cost Ratios, discussion about value for money, or any information about what the benefits of the CRL are in the RLTP. The approach AT has taken towards the benefits of the CRL is too high-level and lacks data and analysis to explain its assertions that the CRL will:

  • “enable a more productive economy”
  • create “flow-on benefits across the whole of Auckland”
  • “fundamentally change the growth and infrastructure landscape of Auckland, in a similar way to the original opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge”.

On Light Rail they say they are surprised it’s suddenly emerged and ask a range of questions including whether there is enough intensification allowed given the proposed Unitary Plan restrictions.

On the New Network they are supportive and concerned about the rollout of it being delayed

AT is currently rolling out the New Network, which is a positive step in rationalising the bus network. However, the BTN will delay the full rollout of the network by approximately five years due to delays in constructing new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau and constructing new busways. These delays may affect not only public transport patronage, but also fare revenue generated, which will cost AT in operating subsidies.

On cycling they say they are comfortable with the strategic direction of AT, they also want more protected cycleways and for AT to release more of their cycling data

We acknowledge that within a constrained funding environment that AT must make tough choices about project choice, scope, and budgets. As a member of the Cycling Safety Panel, our recommendation is for AT to focus funding on good quality projects that reduce the risk of conflict with other transport users and provide safe, reliable and preferably segregated connections. Cycleways like Beach Road are an excellent example of a safe road system for cyclists.

We do not want to see funding made available to projects that expose cyclists to dangerous situations through poorly designed cycleways or cycleways that stop abruptly, leaving cyclists vulnerable on the road network. Nor would we want to see investment in cycleways that does not correspond with strong demand, existing or potential. To that end, we would like to see data provided on cycleway patronage, so that AT can promote the success of the network, and reassure the wider public that investment is meeting cycling targets.

Overall it’s good to see the AA being rational and supportive of other modes and I guess their members telling them so strongly they want choice helps with that.

Essential Transport Budget – the first 3 years

Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero Auckland

On Tuesday Generation Zero launched our Essential Budget, as an alternative to the Basic and Auckland Plans currently being consulted on as part of the Long Term Plan. We showed that Auckland could build the most transformation projects from the Auckland Plan for only $80 million per year, rather than the $300 million extra cost of the Auckland Plan.

The blog about the budget launch showed how we had broken spending down into broad categories. However the work we did behind this was at a detailed project level, using the full 10 year project list from the Regional Land Transport Plan.

Today I will outline the public transport and cycling projects to be built over the first 3 years of the plan, as this is where the most certainty around project costs and timeframes is. Note that almost all roading spend proposed under the Basic Transport Network will still proceed, as this is focussed around renewals, committed projects and safety works.

Under the Basic Transport Plan only the City Rail Link enabling works, and several already committed public transport projects will go ahead in the first 3 years. The only cycling investment to proceed at all will be the Waterview cycleway connection, which was required by Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection.

Project Name Essential 15/16 Essential 16/17 Essential 17/18 Essential Y1-3
City Rail Link 145.4 176.8 77.9 400.1
EMU Procurement 26.8 1 0 27.8
Hobsonville Point Park and ride 0 3.2 0.5 3.7
Swanson Station Upgrade 0.7 0 0 0.7
Waterview Cycleway connection 3.6 3.7 6.7 14

The Essential Transport Network includes a large number of additional projects that would otherwise need the full $300 million per annum of alternative funding to proceed in the next 3 years.F3

The largest single item is the Walking and Cycling Budget which gets over $30 million a year, up from just over $10 million in the current financial year. There is no further detail about what exact projects would proceed, however I would assume that the City Centre cycleways along Karangahape Road, Victoria Street, Quay Street, Nelson Street, Beaumont Street and Ian McKinnon Drive, as well as local connections to Skypath would be major beneficiaries. This would also enable Auckland Transport to take advantage of the government urban cycleways fund, so the money could be further topped up by the government. There is also a small amount of money for pram crossing upgrades, which should go someway towards fixing Auckland’s poor walkability, especially for the mobility impaired.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Walking and Cycling Projects       96.7
Walking and Cycling 30.8 31.6 32.5 94.9
Tactile paving / pram crossing upgrades 0.6 0.6 0.6 1.8

F2

However overall Auckland’s bus network is the big winner. We get $9 million per year to deliver bus lanes, which should deliver significant progress across the city. In November Auckland Transport announced they would roll out 40km of bus lanes over the next 3 years, however the cost of this was only $15 million, so $28 million should get us nearly another 40km. Double Decker mitigation works get $18 million over 3 years, which should help increase capacity on some of our busiest bus corridors. Auckland Transport’s New Network will be able to proceed on time with new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau being built over the next year, as well as a number of smaller projects that will help people transfer between buses across the city. The long delayed Park and Ride at Silverdale can also be expanded. Normally we are not big fans of Park and Ride, however they are useful serving more dispersed areas like the Hibiscus Coast.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Bus Projects       127.1
Bus Priority Improvements & Transit Lanes 9.1 9.3 9.6 28
Double decker network mitigation works 8.3 6 4.2 18.5
Otahuhu Bus Interchange 13.8 3.8 0 17.6
Manukau Interchange (was Manukau City Rail Link) 13.2 4.2 0 17.4
Bus Stop Improvements Programme 4.4 4.3 2.3 11
Wynyard Bus interchange 0 5.3 5.4 10.7
Minor PT capex allowance for bus stops, minor improvements at stations, wharves, provision of PT information etc 2.1 2.1 2.2 6.4
Park n Ride Silverdale-Stg 2 5.9 0 0 5.9
Mt Albert Road bus connection improvements 3.1 0 0 3.1
Real Time Passenger Information System enhancements 1.1 0 1.6 2.7
Avondale Interchange 0 2.1 0 2.1
Mount Albert Interchange 0 1.1 0 1.1
Point Chevalier Shops (bus-bus connection) 0 1.1 0 1.1
Newmarket Terminus 0 1.1 0 1.1
Homai Station Interchange 0 0 0.4 0.4

F5

Two ferry projects are able to proceed. The major one is the “Downtown Ferry Basin Development”. Not much about this has been made public yet, however the RLTP does say this “improvements to provide additional berthage, improved safety and customer experience improvements”. Peak congestion at the Downtown Ferry terminal is well known by ferry users, so this should help resolve these issues. The next stage of the Devonport Ferry terminal upgrade can also proceed.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Ferry Projects 18.2
Devonport Ferry Terminal 0 5.4 0 5.4
Downtown Ferry Basin Development 2.1 5.3 5.4 12.8

While the focus of the rail network is on the City Rail Link, upgrades of lower quality stations at Westfield, Takanini, Puhinui and Pukekohe are able to proceed, the Parnell station will be constructed, we will see more gating of stations and route protection for the very important Airport Rail project can proceed. Rail crossing separation will also be able to proceed. The $5.9 million should cover the replacement of the Sarawia St crossing (outside Newmarket) with a bridge over Cowie St, outside Newmarket station, which is becoming very congested with long waits for cars, and delays for trains waiting at Newmarket station.

PROJECT NAME 15/16 16/17 17/18 TOTAL YEARS 1-3
Rail projects 49.4
AIFS – installation of gates at stations 0 1.6 0 1.6
Te Mahia Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Takanini Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Westfield Station Upgrade 1 1.1 0 2.1
Station Amenity Improvements 0.7 2 2.1 4.8
SMART (Airport Rail – Planning and Route Protection) 2.6 0.5 5.5 8.6
Pukekohe Station Upgrade 9.9 0 0 9.9
Parnell Station 0 0 12.3 12.3
Rail Crossing Separation (including Newmarket Crossing) 3.8 2.1 0 5.9

Overall these projects combine to deliver significant improvements of public transport, walking and cycling over the next 3 years. Best of all this can be done less than 30% of the cost of the total Auckland Plan.

Please visit www.fixourcity.co.nz for more information, and read our full report here. An quick-submit form will be available on Monday so you can easily submit feedback to the Long Term Plan in favour of the Essential Budget.

MoT’s review of capital spending on roads, part 4

This is the fourth post in a series on the Ministry of Transport’s working paper on New Zealand’s capital spending on roads, which was prepared as an input to the 2015/16 Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport Funding. It was released to Matt under the Official Information Act just before Christmas. Previous posts:

In the last two posts, I took a look at MoT’s analysis of benefit-cost ratios (BCRs) for new state highway and local road projects. They’ve found that BCRs for state highway projects have fallen significantly since 2008, meaning that we’re spending more money for road with fewer benefits. Consequently, if the Government were focused on getting the highest benefits out of its transport budget, it would have to de-fund most large state highway projects that are currently underway.

This week, I want to take a look at a slightly different issue: Which regions are doing well (or badly) out of road spending? The MoT report includes some in-depth analysis of “regional equity” in NZTA’s expenditures on road maintenance, construction, and public transport over the period from 2002/03 to 2011/12.

Here’s the key chart. It compares the total revenue that NZTA has raised from each region against the amount of money that NZTA has spent in those regions.

A few things jump out from the chart. The first is that NZTA’s spent slightly more than it raised from fuel taxes, road user charges, and other sources. The second is that there are some big disparities between revenue and expenditure in some regions. In particular: Auckland and Wellington are getting about 20-25% more in NZTA expenditure than they pay in revenue, while Canterbury is getting only slightly more than half as much expenditure as it pays in revenue.

MoT regional revenue vs expenditure chart

Here’s a summary table of which regions are doing well and badly out of NZTA’s funding criteria:

MoT regional revenue vs expenditure table

This can’t be explained by a few major projects or funding calls in one or two years. MoT’s analysis of spending over time shows that “where regions either received significantly more in expenditure or significantly less in expenditure, that accumulation was fairly constant over time. Differences are not due to changes in single years.” In other words, the regions that got less spending in 2002 were also likely to get less expenditure in 2012.

The MoT report goes on to take a look at some potential explanations for disparity in spending, such as differences in population, GDP, vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT), etc. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to draw robust conclusions from their analysis as there is likely to be endogeneity, or simultaneous causation, between these variables. (Perhaps MoT should consider using an instrumental variable approach to control for this?)

Here’s one view of the issue, which compares NZTA expenditure with regional population. It tells a similar story – Auckland, the Waikato, and Northland attract more funding than their share of the population would imply, while Canterbury gets less.

MoT regional expenditure vs population chart

One thing that MoT didn’t cover, unfortunately, is the relationship between projected future population growth and spending. It’s reasonable to spend more to enable future growth rather than pouring money into declining regions. This could help to explain the high level of spending in Auckland and the Waikato, which are picked to grow faster than NZ as a whole. However, it doesn’t explain the low level of spending in Canterbury, which is expected to be the second-fastest growing region in the country over the next three decades, or the high level of spending in Wellington, which is not expected to grow rapidly.

Statistics NZ's 2013-2043 population growth projections

Statistics NZ’s 2013-2043 population growth projections

Lastly, it’s also instructive to look at the relationship between NZTA’s regional expenditure and the share of national VKT travelled in those regions. This is a useful measure because VKT per capita varies considerably between regions. According to MoT’s data, people drive less in Auckland (10% less than the national average) and Wellington (almost 25% less than the national average). While major urban areas require fewer roads per capita, they may need more spending on public transport infrastructure and services. Canterbury, by contrast, is pretty close to the national average in terms of VKT per capita.

As you can see, this comparison continues to show that Auckland and Wellington are over-funded relative to their driving behaviour, while Canterbury is under-funded.

MoT regional expenditure vs VKT chart

Because so much of NZTA’s expenditure consists of road spending, this suggests that recent Governments may have misunderstood the needs of New Zealand’s major urban areas. In effect, they have spent a lot of money on roads in cities where public transport, walking and cycling are growing rapidly. Motorway extensions at the edge of town – e.g. Puhoi to Warkworth and Transmission Gully – are not especially useful for meeting transport needs in urban areas. They may be useful in regions like the Waikato where people and freight travel longer distances, but cities are different.

The data also suggests that Christchurch is getting under-funded. As the data series stops in 2012, it’s difficult to tell whether this trend has reversed since the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake, which damaged a fair chunk of the city’s infrastructure. The earthquakes also created space for residents and the city council to push for innovative ideas like a frequent bus network and a network of major cycleways. It would be great to see the region pushing on ahead with these ideas, but past under-funding makes me wonder whether there are institutional barriers to funding projects in Christchurch.

What do you make of MoT’s data on regional transport spending?

Long Term Plan Feedback So Far

The Council is currently consulting on the Long Term Plan (LTP) which is the city’s 10 year budget. A key discussion of this LTP is whether we should implement motorway tolling or increase Rates/Fuel taxes to pay all of the transport projects on the council’s plans – unless we want a scaled back and ineffectual transport system. There are three weeks left to submit on the plan and in the coming week or so we will be covering this topic a lot more. In the meantime the council say they have now had over 5,000 submissions with some interesting results.

In addition they’ve provided some generalised feedback on what the submissions (as of 19 Feb) have said and there are some fascinating results. First up some demographic info and it appears submitters are far more likely to be older European males.

2015 LTP Early Demographics

Further a break down by the local board areas shows the boards with the most submissions being Hibiscus and Bays, Albert-Eden, Howick and Howick while many of the South Auckland boards have the lowest submission levels. This combined with the demographic info suggest that perhaps the council need to be putting more effort into getting feedback from a wider cross section of our city – this is similar to the issues Peter recently expressed when he asked Who’s having the conversation about cities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly just over half of those who answered (52%) disagreed with the proposed level of rates rises of 3.5% and of those who answered what they’d change most (79%) said they’d like to see rates decreased. Council have also broken the results down by areas that people said they’d like to see changes in with only Transport only one of a few areas where more people said spend more than spend less.

2015 LTP Early Changes in Investment

Next the area most relevant to what we’re following and the issue of transport and how we pay for it. The council say that 55% of people support the full kitchen sink approach that is the Auckland Plan. When it comes to how we should fund that just over 50% support, partially support motorway tolls. This is perhaps a little surprising and I wonder how many of the people choosing that option do so because they think they can avoid it through using local roads, travelling at different times or using other modes.

2015 LTP Early network and funding preferences

The council have also put this video together about it

When asked what areas of transport the focus should be the result is overwhelmingly in favour of public transport and cycling investment – note: the herald ran a version of this graph the other day but got the labels around the wrong way. To me this result isn’t surprising and it is similar to many of the survey’s we’ve seen in the past. Frankly it’s insane that we still have some local politicians who are actively opposing these kinds of investments. It would be fascinating to see what kind of transport system we would have if funding priorities were based on results.

2015 LTP Early Changes in transport Investment

The next two question looks at whether the council should take on a more active role in development by merging Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Limited – something I think would be good providing the DNA from Waterfront Auckland was at the core of the new organisation rather than ACPL who have appeared silent over the last 4-5 years. It seems most people agree that it is a good idea but it’s not quite a majority.

2015 LTP Early Development Auckland

The Uniform Annual General Charge UAGC is a fixed charge that every household pays regardless of property value. The lower the UAGC the more impact property prices have on rates and the higher the UAGC the less that property prices affect rates. Councillors on the right of the political spectrum have long argued for the UAGC to be higher so as to lessen the rates burden on their areas (which are often wealthier). From memory they were very happy to finally get the question about what the rate should be on the feedback form however they may not be so happy with the result showing almost 50% want it left as it is and many want it lower

2015 LTP Early UAGC

The last graph is based on whether the council should gradually reduce business property rates from 32.8% of all rates to 25.6% of all rates. The change seems widely unsupported at this stage.

2015 LTP Early Business Rates

It will be interesting to see if these kinds of results carry on through for the rest of the consultation.

The Alternative Funding Discussion

Yesterday Radio NZ aired a panel discussion Len Brown, our Patrick Reynolds and David Shand – who was a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and chaired the 2007 Independent Commission of Inquiry into Local Government Rates. The discussion was focused on the issue that is likely to occupy a lot of space for the next six months or so, alternative transport funding.

or listen here

In the past we have been critical of the giant wishlist the council have been aiming for. Since then and as Patrick states in the piece, Auckland Transport has actually done a decent job of cutting it must of the crap projects. That’s left us with a much more realistic list of what’s needed however the big issue that remains is the same process doesn’t seem to have occurred at the NZTA who are plowing on with many very expensive motorway projects. A more realistic view of what motorway projects we actually need – i.e. having a proper discussion about projects like the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing – is needed. While I don’t think we can completely remove the funding gap, such a process and changing the way we think about funding transport on Auckland could reduce the gap significantly which might in turn change what funding options are best.

Over the next few weeks and months it’s an issue we’ll look at in much more detail along with some proposals of our own.

The 2015-2025 Government Policy Statement Confirmed

Simon Bridges has released the final version of the 2015/16 – 2024/25 Government Policy Statement (GPS) following on from the draft version earlier this year. The GPS is effectively the top dog when it comes to transport funding and policy as in the words of the minister:

The Government Policy Statement on land transport (the GPS) sets out the Government’s strategic and policy goals for land transport, as well as the funding direction necessary to achieve them. It guides not only an investment of $3.4 to $4.4 billion per annum from central government, but around $1.0 billion a year from local government.

The GPSs relationship to other key planning documents is shown below.

2015 GPS - Document heirachy

Very little has changed from the draft version we saw with the Ministry of Transport saying some of the changes are:

  • The upper ranges of funding available for public transport have increased, so up to $115 million more will be available for public transport projects between 2015/16 and 2024/25. This takes the potential spending on public transport to a total of $4.585 billion.
  • The objectives set down in the final GPS 2015 have been amended to ensure they are clearer and more well-defined. A new ‘efficiency’ objective has been added, while the ‘demand’ objective has been clarified so it refers to access to social and economic opportunities.
  • A definition of major metropolitan areas (reflecting the Statistics New Zealand definition) has been added, clarifying those areas which are eligible for funding under the Regional Improvements activity class.
  • The Auckland Transport Package (announced by the Government in 2013), Accelerated Regional Roading Package (announced in August 2014) and the Urban Cycleways Package (announced in September 2014) have been referenced throughout GPS 2015. While funding for these will be provided in addition to funding for activity classes, the packages will be considered and undertaken in a way consistent with other projects funded under the GPS.
  • The role that technology and innovation can play in managing network access and capacity has been reflected throughout the document, including the new crosscutting reporting line which will ensure technology investments (and the returns on these investments) will be transparently recorded.

In other words there’s been some tweaking around the edges but no significant change. That means there is still some massive hypocrisy and double standards contained within the document. As a quick example, while noting that vehicle travel has basically flat-lined and will “remain more muted than in previous economic cycles“, the maximum possible funding for state highways increases by 4%. By comparison almost all talk in the document about improving PT services comes with the caveat of “if justified by demand“. Simplified you could say PT investment has to justify its existence but road investment doesn’t.

Related, the maximum possible funding for PT increases by 3.5% per annum and the MoT say “This rate of increase reflects current and projected patronage growth“. Of course that level of projected patronage growth only exists because of the level of funding being made available limiting services. If Auckland Transport had more funding they could roll out the new network much faster and of course by doing so we would see stronger patronage growth much sooner.

One of the key things about the GPS is the funding ranges it sets. These funding ranges are meant to give the NZTA some (small) amount of flexibility when setting the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) which sets out the projects that are likely to be funded. The NZTA could theoretically use the maximum funding ranges in some categories at the expense of others however overall the exact amounts selected tends to be closer to the midpoint between the upper and lower figures.

GPS 2015-2025 Funding Range

And using the mid-point between the two figures, this graph highlights where the money is going over the next decade.

GPS 2015-2025 Funding Graph

In terms of the maximum extra $115m possible for PT, for the next three years the difference between the draft and the final version over the next 4 years are compared to the draft are just $5 million in 2016/17 and $10 million in 2017/18.

In addition to the table above the GPS also lists the funding outside of the categories above, in other words money the government is paying directly for transport projects such as the governments $100m Urban Cycleway funding that they announced in the lead up to the election. One of the things that’s odd about that particular funding stream is it seems to be broken up into state highways and local roads elements which is something that hadn’t been mentioned before.

GPS 2015-2025 Other Funding

Overall the direction of transport policy has changed little since 2008/09 and the focus remains on building massive state highway projects – most with low value outcomes – while the areas of the transport system that are seeing the most growth get ignored.

An urban development agency for Auckland

Last week Auckland Council announced that it would be combining two of its council-controlled organisations, Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Limited, into a new urban development agency:

The new entity, called Development Auckland, will have a key role in helping deliver the council priority of quality urban living and will have the mandate to deal with the challenge of Auckland’s rapid growth through regeneration and investment. The agency will have the capability to deliver public and private development and infrastructure, including housing, across the region.

[…]

Development Auckland will see the merger of two CCOs: Auckland Council Property Limited and Waterfront Auckland. It will allow the council to play a much stronger role in urban development through greater economies of scale, enhanced commercial capability and the ability to partner with others.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who chairs the CCO Review committee, said Development Auckland will utilise the existing scale of the Auckland Council Group to provide a total urban redevelopment package.

The Auckland Council’s Governing Body accepted recommendations that will see the concept of a new urban regeneration CCO go out for public consultation through the council’s Long-term Plan.

The Long-term Plan will be finalised in June 2015. If approved, Development Auckland could be established by 1 September 2015.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out – there are definitely reasons to be optimistic. Waterfront Auckland is, in my view, one of the world’s best waterfront development agencies. In its brief existence it’s galvanised the redevelopment of Wynyard Quarter with a mix of public and private investment. There are the occasional misfires – the tram loop, the design of the new waterfront hotel – but all in all they’re delivering an interesting precinct with good design, reasonable density, and a good mix of uses and public spaces.

Daldy St before and after

Waterfront Auckland has brought people – and businesses – to Wynyard in increasing numbers (source)

So we should get some good urban outcomes by extending the Waterfront Auckland model to a broader property portfolio. But could Development Auckland also help to solve some of the broader challenges facing Auckland?

One of the biggest questions we’ve got is this: How can we build houses and infrastructure for a growing population? This is one of those questions that sounds simple at first – surely we can just get some nails and wood and concrete and slap it all down in a paddock in Pukekohe? However, it’s quite a lot more complicated than that.

It’s not enough to just construct houses in some random field – before the studs start going up, they need to be serviced with transport and water infrastructure. This can be expensive, especially in greenfield areas, and Auckland Council’s not got a lot of money to throw around wildly.

Recent decisions on the Long Term Plan budget and the work done on alternative funding for transport investment make it clear that there’s a bit of a funding squeeze on. While there are opportunities to manage Auckland Transport’s and NZTA’s budgets more efficiently by prioritising high-value public transport and walking and cycling projects, this can only go so far.

Development Auckland could, in principle, ease some of these funding constraints by using land development profits to pay for new infrastructure. US engineer Charles Marohn explains how this system worked in the past:

Once they had the land, private railroad companies then built the railroad lines. They paid the enormous capital costs by issuing bonds – borrowing the money – and then paid back those loans through a value capture mechanism. When the railroad stopped somewhere, that somewhere became a town, and the land in the vicinity of that stop became vastly more valuable. The railroad companies owned, or acquired, the land at each stop before it was built. Thus, by selling that land once the railroad line was constructed, the railroad company captured the increase in value their investment had created.

So in addition to operating the railroads, these private companies were also land developers. Without developing the land and capturing the value their investment created, few railroad lines would have ever been built.

Once the railroad was built and the capital costs recouped through sale of the appreciated land, then the private railroad company could switch to operating the line. They charged fares to move freight and people along the railroads they had built. While some borrowing costs were retired through the fare box, most of the money collected went to covering operations, maintenance and profit.

Marohn goes on to point out that “in the automobile era, the risk taking is reversed. For all but the most local of transportation improvements, governments front the investment capital and take the risk.” Private developers, on the other hand, reap the profits from land development that is facilitated by massive public investments in roads. Building expensive roads to serve low-density areas can be really bad for ratepayers and taxpayers, as Kent has previously highlighted.

Due to New Zealand’s small scale, there aren’t any developers who have balance sheets large enough to fund major infrastructure development and then build houses on the new land that’s been opened up. When land development and transport investment have been integrated, it’s been done by the government. That’s how the Hutt Valley was developed – central government built the railways and then built houses on publicly owned land.

Development Auckland could fill that gap in the market. It would require Auckland Council and other CCOs to give up a little – e.g. by allowing Development Auckland to change planning rules to allow it to intensify its land or by prioritising the construction of supporting infrastructure – but the payoff could be large. If it succeeds, it could mean a win-win for ratepayers (who wouldn’t need to pay for every bit of new infrastructure) and future residents (who would benefit from more housing choices).

What do you think about Auckland Council getting into the development game?

MoT acknowledge changing trends and future funding issues

Last week the Briefings to government ministers (BIM) were published. I’ve already looked at what the Ministry of Transport (MoT) and NZTA have said about transport in Auckland and so in this post I’m going to look at some of the other points mentioned in the documents. In particular what they say about long term trends and funding issues.

Perhaps the most significant aspect in the BIM from the MoT is that they are finally starting to acknowledge the transport world is changing. That demographics are shifting and people are starting to think and use transport differently to the trends that have persisted for around 60 years. Of course these are the same issues we regularly talk about and previously the ministry seem to have taken “it’s a blip” approach the the real world results. As such it was a pleasant surprise to finally see such an acknowledgement from them.

The MoT have split the changes into three areas:

  • A growing and ageing population
  • Uncertain demand for personal travel
  • New technologies driving improvements in safety, efficiency, and environmental outcomes

A growing and ageing population

Along with the talking about the huge population growth expected in Auckland the briefing notes this important point about the biggest demographic group in most western countries.

By 2036, the number of people in New Zealand aged 65 and over is forecast to double to 1.2 million. The ageing population is more pronounced outside of the major urban areas and international data suggests that individuals halve their vehicle kilometres travelled when they retire. This is likely to radically change transport demands in the regions and reduce the revenue base available to maintain the transport network and meet social expectations for levels of service.

Our large older generations halving their car travel would have a massive impact on the demand for new roads in particular. As that happens the demand for Super Gold cards is going to soar. The next section almost had me falling of my seat when I first read it.

 Uncertain demand for personal travel

Around 96 percent of personal travel in New Zealand occurs in private vehicles. Historically, the total distance travelled by private vehicles has increased consistently over time. This consistent growth has been driven by an increase in population and the number of vehicles in the fleet, and an increase in the distance travelled on a per capita basis. However, as shown in figure 2 below, this growth has stalled in recent years.

The average distance travelled per-person in light passenger vehicles has fallen by around 8 percent, from a peak of about 7,600km in 2004, to around 7,000km in 2013. The total distance travelled over the same period has increased marginally (from 39.3 billion kilometres in 2004 to 40.4 billion kilometres in 2013) as a result of population growth. This trend is not unique to New Zealand – it has been observed in a number of developed countries.

2014 Briefing to the Incoming Minister - Travel Demand

There is some debate as to whether this trend is the result of economic factors or a more structural shift in attitudes towards personal transportation. The fact that this trend emerged before the onset of the global financial crisis gives cause to believe that social, behavioural and lifestyle factors (such as the proliferation of smart phones, social media, online shopping and video conferencing) may also be having an influence. A related trend is a reduction in the number of driver licences being issued. In particular, fewer young people are choosing to drive. This suggests that in some groups, the perceived merit of car ownership and use may be declining.

Strong population growth means that overall demand for transport across all modes will continue to increase. Motor vehicles are and will continue to be the predominant mode of transportation in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. However, the rate of growth in motor vehicle travel seen in the twentieth century is unlikely to continue. An ageing population, rising fuel prices, increasing urbanisation, improved mobility and accessibility options, growing health and environmental concerns, and changing consumer preferences all appear to be contributing to reduced per-capita travel in motor vehicles and an increase in demand for alternative transport options

To me this is a huge admission from the MoT and I guess they could only go on so long ignoring the data that was in front of them. I really hope this means we can start to have a more rational discussion about our transport future along with an acknowledgement that we can also shape that future, especially in our urban areas. The last section touches on this future a little however it once again shows the ministry (and we’ve seen it repeated by the Minister) seem to think driverless cars are going to magically change everything.

New technologies driving improvements in safety, efficiency, and environmental outcomes

Technology is everywhere, and it is changing the way we live our lives. It is changing how and when we communicate with each other, whether we travel to purchase goods or have the goods come to us, and where we work. It is changing the demands that we, as a society, place on the transport system and our need for it.

Modern transport systems are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, with increasing levels of automation delivering improvements in safety and efficiency. In the long-term, the use of fully autonomous or driverless vehicles has the potential to revolutionise the transport system. In the more immediate term, the increased availability and reducing cost of information technology will offer improvements in efficiency, safety, and social experience. Technology will play an increasingly important role in helping to improve service levels while managing costs.

Moving on, the long term future of the current funding model is raised and it’s clear the MoT is concerned about the future funding stream for transport. Here are some high level predictions for what the MoT say we may see.

In the next ten years:

  • The historic link between the rate of economic growth and the level of demand for transport will continue to weaken. We will achieve economic growth without an equivalent increase in transport demand.
  • As our population becomes more concentrated in urban areas, local councils with stagnating or declining populations and low growth prospects will find it increasingly difficult to meet the cost of maintaining their existing networks.

In 20-30 years:

  • Gradual improvements in the fuel efficiency of cars will slowly erode the effectiveness and fairness of Fuel Excise Duty as a means of collecting revenue from transport users.
  • Solutions to congestion in cities are likely to become increasingly expensive. This could increase the tension between cities’ and regions under a national funding system.
  • Greater demand for public transport and active modes could put pressure on the National Land Transport Fund, which is collected from motorists.

The first point about the weakening link economic growth and transport demand is something we’ve highlighted a long time ago. This is quite important as the Roads of National Significance are largely based on the idea they will improve the economy. The last point is also an odd one as we know that investing in PT infrastructure can really help bring down operating costs while also boosting revenue due to more customers using the services.

The briefing says impacts of changing trends could have these impacts on the government.

  • We will need to answer difficult questions around the amount that should be collected from transport users, what it can (or can’t) be used for, and how it should be distributed around the country.
  • As expenditure rises and the amount collected from motorists at the pump decreases, regular increases in fuel taxes will be required. This could prompt changes to the way we collect revenue from transport users.
  • Measures to contain costs and transition towards a more sustainable expenditure path will be challenging, particularly for transport providers that are accustomed to continuous improvements to network standards.
  • The government should expect increasing pressure for more funding from both larger cities (especially Auckland), which are struggling to pay for the investments required as a result of population growth; and smaller regional centres, which are facing rising costs with fewer rate-payers to fund them.

There are some serious issues in there and it seems the third one could be aimed at large infrastructure builders hoping for continuous large projects like currently seems to be happening. The current set of projects are already putting large pressure on the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) and this is highlighted in this graphic below where expenditure is greater than the revenue being generated.

2014 Briefing to the Incoming Minister - NLTF

Lastly it’s interesting to see the current transport spend in the context of New Zealand’s history. It’s currently at 1.3% of GDP which is the highest level it’s been for decades and well above the OECD average of around 1%.

2014 Briefing to the Incoming Minister - Historical Spend

Overall it’s good to finally see some sense starting to come through from the Ministry but the question is, will the government listen?