Transport Spending in NZ in 2016

More was spent on transport in Auckland during the last financial year (to end of June 2016) than any time in the past, at least in nominal values. Based on the NZTA’s funding data, $1.435 billion was spent in the region in the year to June-2016, up slightly from $1.414 billion spent in the 2015 financial year. Although it’s quite likely that these figures only include spending associated with the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) and not council direct spending, such as has been happening with the City Rail link where the council funded 100% of the early works (which the government will share the costs of in the future).

The graph below shows how much the council and the NZTA say they spent and it’s risen substantially from a comparatively paltry $400 million in 2002. Also on the graph you can see Auckland’s share compared to the entire country which has been hovering around the 35% mark. This is slightly more than Auckland’s share of the national population (over 34%) but below Auckland’s share of GDP (36.6%). Of the over $1.4 billion spent, 51% of it went on various state highway projects and maintenance.

transport-spending-akl-2016

Below is the same data but at a national level, although I only have it back to 2005. It shows that at $3.94 billion, we spent slightly less than the previous year. At a national level, an even greater share went on state highways with 55% of all spending going on them.

transport-spending-nz-2016

So how did other regions fare? Here’s how the 2016 figures broke down by region.

transport-spending-regions-2016

Because regions vary so much, I’ve also broken this down per capita to get a better picture of where the spending occurred. Like last year, the West Coast seems to dominate but this will be mainly due to the maintenance needed on a large road network covering a very low population base. Also like last year, the Waikato comes in second on the per capita stakes but this is more due to the large amount of construction going on with projects like the Waikato Expressway.

transport-spending-regions-per-capita-2016

I’ve also looked at the results based on spending per vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT), as a proxy for spend per travel. This method is probably a little unfair primarily to Auckland and Wellington which have larger uses of public transport than other parts of NZ.

transport-spending-regions-per-vkt-2016

Next, I’ve taken a look at what the money is being spent on however I’ve excluded the small ones such as transport planning as it’s difficult to see them on the same scale as road spending. You can see that spending on new and improved roads increased in the last year while the opposite was true for road maintenance. Combined both road spending was slightly less than last year which is in line with the overall results above. But PT spending was also down too and down substantially. I’m not sure of their reason for this but as you’ll see shortly, it wasn’t the result of changes in Auckland. You can also see spending on walking and cycling becoming more visible.

transport-spending-nz-by-activity-2016

Here is just the cycling info showing how dramatic a change it has seen in the last few years.

transport-spending-nz-on-cycling-2016

Finally, here is the same break-down by activity for Auckland. The thing you notice compared to the whole of NZ one is the difference in the levels of new road spending vs maintenance. Of course, public transport is also more of a factor in Auckland, as you would expect.

transport-spending-akl-by-activity-2016

 

Overall some interesting data on what we spend our transport money on.

Funding Strategic Transport

With the release of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) it once again got me thinking about a funding anomaly in our transport system, the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), or the Proposed Future Strategic Public Transport Network as ATAP calls it.

atap-future-strategic-pt-network

The general way in which we fund transport in New Zealand hasn’t changed for decades, if not close to a century. State Highways are fully funded by central government while local roads and public transport (except rail infrastructure) are funded roughly 50% by central government with the other half coming from local governments (by way of rates) – there are a few exceptions that sit outside of this but by in large it hasn’t changed.

One of the reasons for State highways being fully funded is that they are considered a strategic network. They’re the key roads linking regions, cities and towns together throughout the country. Within cities like Auckland they, primarily in the form of the motorways, do the same thing but also link disparate parts of the city. Here’s what the NZTA say about them:

The state highway network provides a strategic roading link between districts and regions. State highways help to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the entire length and breadth of the country. They link main centres of population to industrial hubs and tourism destinations. State highways also play an important role in delivering public transport solutions. In our planning, we work to build connections with local networks and maintain the functioning of the state highway.

As mentioned above, ATAP has described future strategic PT network to go along with a strategic road network. This is important as it’s a recognition that high quality PT has a key role to play in Auckland’s future. Here’s what ATAP says about them both:

Auckland’s strategic road, rail and public transport networks are the most critical elements of the city’s transport system. It is essential to maintain and develop strong, safe and resilient strategic networks that can cope with increased demand.

Further information in ATAP describes these strategic networks as the “Backbone”, linking major locations and providing for highest volumes of movement. Here is the proposed future strategic road network. Most of the Tier 1 routes are already state highways or proposed to be them (East West Link) with the biggest exception being Te Irirangi Dr and Ti Rakau Dr.

atap-future-strategic-road-network

According to the NZTA as of 2015, across the country state highways make up just 11.5% of all roads (12.7% by the number of lane km) but in Auckland this is just 3.9% of roads (6.6% by lane km). Yet these roads are responsible for a large portion of traffic with as much as 48.5% of all vehicle km travelled estimated to be on state highways. These figures are shown below.

2014-road-lengths

Because of their strategic status, state highways also get a lot of funding. In the current 3-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), across New Zealand state highways are allocated $4.2 billion for improvements and another $1.7 billion for maintenance. By comparison just $465 million is allocated for improving local roads, $1.7b for maintenance of local roads while public transport gets $1 billion, mainly for services – and around half of these figures are paid for by local rates.

A big question going forward is how we’re going to pay to develop that strategic PT network. One fear I have is that the deal for City Rail Link, where the council and government share the costs 50:50, has set a precedent in how we fund the rest of the PT network. Auckland needing to fund 50% of all PT, regardless of how important or valuable it is, while even every minor state highway project gets 100% funding will continue to lead to even more perverse outcomes than we already have.

So, given both the strategic road and PT networks are serving essentially the same purpose, why shouldn’t they be funding the same? Why should it matter what mode is being built if it’s considered a strategic network?

I feel this is going to become a greater and greater issue, especially with the upcoming completion of the Western Ring Route. Once Waterview early next year is completed we will have all the key inter-regional links in place. From that point out any motorway projects within the urban area are just about increasing capacity for local movements.

Ultimately, I think a wider funding discussion is needed. ATAP doesn’t break down the costs of developing transport too much but does suggest that over all modes there is a funding gap of up to $400 million annually. There will obviously be a lot of future discussion about how to close that gap and those discussions could go on for many, many years. In the interim perhaps it’s time for the government and council to rethink how funding is structured. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • The strategic PT network is treated the same as the strategic road network and funded 100% from the NZTA out of the NLTP, this includes rail infrastructure which is funded directly by the government.
  • Perhaps combined with 100% funding, the development of the strategic PT network is handed over to the NZTA
  • Another option could be that Auckland is given bulk funding for transport and Auckland Transport’s role expanded to including the development and maintenance of the local state highway network and local rail network. This would allow all transport projects in the region to be assessed, prioritised and funded under the same conditions.

What do you think, should strategic PT corridors be funded the same as their corresponding road networks and how would you do it?

Road Pricing straight to GPS

As I briefly mentioned last week, I think road pricing is a discussion that’s only going to increase in Auckland in the future. Len Brown has been talking about it for some time and Mayoral Candidate Phil Goff has already said he supports some form of road charging. We also know that road pricing is being considered as part of the ATAP process. With this post I wanted to look into it a bit more.

At a high level there are two main goals in the push behind road pricing. One is a desire to manage demand for roads thereby improving their efficiency, which can deliver a mix of benefits such as reducing congestion and potentially the need for expensive and increasingly contentious projects. In this situation the aim is to use road pricing tools to change individuals behaviour. The second main goal is a desire to use road pricing as tool to supplement fuel taxes and/or raise additional money which can then be fed back to spend on more transport projects. In this situation the aim is to collect as much money as cheaply as possible.

The ATAP process is looking at road pricing from a demand management point of view while the mayor’s Consensus Building Group and subsequent Long Term Plan discussion were examples of a revenue gathering focus. In the recent discussion the tool of choice for revenue gathering has been motorway tolling where people are charged for entering the motorway but there are other solutions too:

  • Cordon pricing charges people for driving past a certain point and Auckland with it’s natural and man-made boundaries is almost uniquely set up for that.
  • A slightly more advanced version and like what happens in London is an area charge whereby there is a cordon inside of which are a number of checkpoints to pick up trips made within the cordon.

As an example the two maps below from a report into road pricing in Auckland from 2008 show the difference – in this case using a double cordon.

Road Pricing options

There appear to be a are a couple of major problems with many of these solutions.

  • Tolling just the motorways opens up the issue of diversion where drivers shift to non-motorway routes – as has already been seen without road pricing and if motorway tolling was turned on I imagine it would only amplify.
  • Cordons can have significant boundary effects, in the example above those living in the inner suburbs, the ones who might have the most alternative options, pay nothing for driving within the area but those further out will pay for travelling over a line.
  • The area charging is a little fairer on the boundary effects due to the scattered checkpoints to pick up on inter-area travel but as we also know, congestion isn’t limited to the city centre and a central area charge won’t stop Manukau from clogging up.

One of the problems with all of these technologies is they can be very expensive to install with multiple sites needing to be set up and maintained to capture the details of all passing vehicles. As a result, collection costs are normally quite high. In the case of the Northern Gateway Toll Road collection costs usually eat up 25-30% of the toll collected and reports indicate similar levels would be expected in these situations. In addition to just how revenue is collected there is also the issue of just how much is charged. Flat tolls can still leave roads busy and congested at peak times.

The holy grail of road pricing these days appears to be to use GPS to deliver dynamic road pricing. With it, people can be charged for how far they travel, where they travel, when they travel and just how busy the roads they travel on are. If the roads you want to travel on are busy then it will cost you more to join in and travel at the same time.

Interestingly some places are already starting to look at using GPS based road pricing to better manage their road systems. Singapore has been at the forefront of road pricing and was one of the first cities to implement it. They currently use a network of around 80 gantries located around the city that record passing vehicles.

Singapore ERP Gantry

An ERP gantry in Singapore

Just over a month ago, Singapore announced it had awarded a tender to replace their current gantry set-up with a GPS based one in 2020. The new system will cost about NZ $600 million and the cost and difficulty of maintaining the current system was listed as one of the reasons for doing so.

This next-generation ERP system will allow for more flexibility in managing traffic congestion through distance-based road pricing, where motorists are charged according to the distance travelled on congested roads, which would be fairer to motorists. It will also be able to overcome the constraints of physical gantries, which are costly and take up land space. In addition, off-peak car users can look forward to new policies which LTA is considering, which may allow them to pay only for using their vehicles for short periods rather than the whole day, or for using them only on uncongested roads. A new On-Board Unit (OBU) will replace the existing In-Vehicle Unit (IU), which can also be used to deliver additional services to motorists. For example, LTA will be able to disseminate traffic advisories through the OBU. The OBU can also be used to pay for parking, checkpoint tolls, and usage of off-peak cars electronically.

In my view, if we’re going to go to the cost and trouble of implementing a road pricing solution – and on the surface at least there seems a valid case to do so – it seems we might a swell skip the gantry phase and move straight to a GPS solution

Another interesting recent system is OReGO in Oregon. While not time of use pricing, it does introduce distance based pricing using a small device that plugs in most relatively modern vehicles. The basic version only charges based on distance and rebates users for the amount of fuel taxes they would have paid however 3rd parties offer GPS tracking and other features. It wouldn’t be a stretch to have versions in the future which enable time of day pricing.

One of the challenges of road pricing is whether it’s only needed in Auckland of if the solution is something that needs to be rolled out to the entire country. OReGO also gives an idea as to how GPS based road pricing could be implemented in NZ – this is also based on a post by Stu back in 2011.

  1. People can get approved GPS tracking devices from AT/NZTA or third parties to install in their cars.  These devices record time/distance/location, for which users pay differential rates.
  2. Users that sign up to the time-of-use pricing scheme would then be exempt from fuel taxes (there would need to be some verification and/or refund process).
  3. People who did not want to participate in the scheme would remain with the current system.  So fuel taxes would operate alongside the GPS scheme but prices would be adjusted over time to encourage the use of GPS tracking.

A voluntary system might not have the immediate impacts on congestion as turning on motorway tolls but ultimately it’s an approach that be required to get public buy in.

What are your thoughts on road pricing and would you sign up it (for those times you’re not on PT or walking/cycling).

 

Auckland 2025- the Last Decade in Review- Part 1

It’s the last day of 2025 so it is a good time to run through the events of the last ten years in Auckland. A decade of profound transformation for New Zealand’s largest city. A coming of age.

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part scenario.

Global megatrends mean local megachange, and Auckland is fortunate to have been well placed and nimble enough to largely come out on the positive side of these forces. We have seen the global trends of the first decade and a half of the 21C accelerate over the last decade, particularly:

  • Migration: Internationally another great age of people movement is clearly underway
  • Urbanisation: Both the developing world and the OECD nations have continued to urbanise and cities have become the economic force of our age
  • De-Carbonisation: The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions everywhere and in every way has been an increasing issue

RANGITOTO

Demographics

The strong population growth in Auckland seen just before this period has continued consistently. Auckland grew at around 2.5% per year from 1.5 million in 2015 to approach 2m this year [cf 2015 pop growth was 2.9%]. This has of course not been without difficulty, requiring the government and the council to work much better together with the private sector to deliver the required new dwellings; hence the huge building ramp-up we are seeing, especially of apartments and terrace houses, but also the demand side controls finally enacted by government to reduce the more egregious forms of speculation. The adoption of the first Unitary Plan which reduced density restrictions in some areas helped enormously; and especially led to the new vibrancy around Rapid Transit stations such as Albany, Papatoetoe, and Glen Innes. Who’d have thought Glen Eden, among other places, would become as cool as it has with all those car yards and panel beaters shops around the station now sprouting apartments?

And although we are along way from the various crisis points we are still at the end of the global movement of peoples we’ve seen over the last decade as another one of history’s great ages of migration picks up strength, New Zealand remains an attractive place to live and Auckland in particular an increasingly attractive place to work. Not to mention all those returning New Zealanders and [smarter] Australians fleeing those seemingly endless destructive weather events across the Tasman. It has been much more difficult in other places, especially Europe, although there too these changes have helped offset natural declines and ageing populations, and are proving quite stimulatory as well as disruptive.

World Urban growth

The ageing population is a huge issue here too; every year from 2011 another year of that demographic bubble from the post-war baby boom turned 65, the nominal age of retirement. The changes of this politically active and property rich cohort have had a big impact on the city and nation. Two main trends have been observable over the decade; one group have taken advantage of the secular price shift in Auckland property over their lifetime and sold up and headed for smaller centres around the country [providing population offsets there, but also en-greying these communities], the second group have downsized within Auckland; stimulating significant demand for rest homes but also smaller well placed dwellings, particularly apartments, in great locations near amenities. Thus we have seen the apartment boom driven by two very different ends of the market; older cashed up people and younger first home buyers and renters starting out. More on our new urban form below.

Next year of course, 2026, this group will enter a new phase as the first of them turns 80, we can expect further shifts in the retirement sector as well of increased hospital and care costs for the nation as a whole. The aged care sector is booming and the apartment market is diversifying as a result. And thankfully in Auckland the service and tourism sectors are growing strongly to contribute to these nationwide costs. We will need the regulatory changes that saw in the start of this period, the Unitary Plan, to continue to evolve in response.

The ‘Super Diversity’ trend has continued and strengthened, making Auckland a much more dynamic and vibrant place [eg Pakuranga Town Centre now in an intense rivalry with Balmoral for the bragging rights as the leading centre of Asian street style eating]. And a much more internationally connected and economically competitive one too; migrants always bring better and deeper connections back to their home nations for expanded trade and social interaction. Also the creative sector has witness a great outburst of productivity as people bridging more than one culture so often are stimulated to respond to the tensions of that situation creatively.

AKL CITY_6256

 

Urbanisation- and the rise of the Suburban Centres

Called the Metropolitan Revolution and the Great Inversion even before our period began, the stunning re-emgengence of cities as the economic, cultural, and environmental force of our age has continued strongly. The strength with which Auckland has risen to take its clear place as the Primary City of the South Pacific region has caused rumblings in the rest of the country, but happily successive governments have come understand the value of the city’s rise for the whole nation [and new urban policies have benefited our other urban centres too; for they too are having their own Metropolitan Revolutions]. Auckland is competing strongly with the equally resurgent cities of the Australian seaboard; Australian cities helping to soften the blow of the structural decline in the hard commodity extractive industries there, despite the climate impacts all through that continent.

Auckland City Centre population doubled from 20k in 2005 to 41k in 2015, and doubled again to over 80k now. These new apartment buildings substantially changing the skyline, and their new occupants substantially changing the street life below. Wynyard Quarter, the whole of the western side down from the Hobson St ridge, and elsewhere are now covered in new residential buildings and streets buzzing with new retail, hospo, offices, and above all that great resource; people. Architecturally the full range is on show, we all have our favourites [and otherwise]. I particularly like the new 50 story block with the grand atrium linking Fort St through to the new shared space on lower Shortland St, and of course the development of the parking stump [at last!] out the back of high street with new apartments above in the daring light-weight structure. Just a couple of examples.

But of course this growth of the centre is nowhere near the whole story, the strong boom in long dormant subcenters has been as a big if not bigger story this decade. New Lynn has its sixth apartment tower now, and looks unstoppable after the huge boost it received with the opening of the CRL [more on that in Part 2] and the conversion of industrial land to housing. Manukau City, is at last gaining a true identity on the back of its intensification, and even Pakuranga Town Centre is thriving, after that big fight over the now canned flyover; the Busway there is booming inevitably leading to talk of converting it to Light Rail in the future. Albany is now an actual place with residents in quantity giving even that maddeningly planed environment life and character, it has been extraordinary watching it really take off with the Busway extension and those new mixed-use apartments.

NEW LYNN_8503-2

Every Metro Centre has benefited from the removal of Parking Minimums and the rise of ride-share [more on that tomorrow too], the range of small and affordable living spaces all across the city made possible by unbundling them from parking and the improvements in Transit quality has been great for everyone, especially students and the many singles and couples not wishing to share. It has also led to many new entrants in the development business as the cost barriers to entry are lower. Smaller building firms are now building multi-unit dwellings instead of only detached houses, creating a much more varied market.

Local quality and identity is the new groove; made possible by new high volumes of dwellings clustered around Transit Stations. All sorts of places are transforming on this model from Papatoetoe, Onehunga, and Albany and of course all along the Western line, where the transformed access to employment, education, and entertainment made possible by the CRL has led to explosions of activity.

ALTERA + ILICO_3758

The rapid re-greening of the whole city secured through the somewhat controversial Urban Canopy rules in the Heat Island Regulation of the second Super City Mayoralty is now accepted as universally successful. This by-law requires every public parking space to covered by a solid canopy of tree cover or face a sharp penalty was of course resisted by carpark owners, but is well loved by the public and has generated measurable heat island effect reductions and rapidly improved the city’s tree cover with all the additional ongoing positive outcomes urban trees bring. While also making many previously dreary places instantly glorious. Not to mention creating a whole industry for arborists and landscapers, that newly sexy profession. The many passionate debates about tree varieties often pitting the urban food growing movement up against the botanically correct: It is interesting to see how by choosing a consistent kind of tree a community can almost brand their neighbourhood.

But it is the Centre City that has seen the most transformation; Albert St now is giddily vertiginous with so many new tall buildings, the rebuilt leafy and peopled streetscape, and of course the sleek movement of trains below. Everywhere within the broader Queen St valley from the University ridge to the east across to the western slope down to Victoria Park is thrumming with people and largely absent of cars and fumes. And the whole roiling scene now tips effortlessly down to the newly opened waterfront which offers such an irresistable pull: This is so obviously an extraordinarily positive and productive revolution that it beggars the mind what took us so long to achieve it. Perhaps it really did need the right Zeitgeist, or simply enough people of vision in positions of power?

Part 2 up next: Transport.

NB: This ‘History of the Next Ten Years’ is a scenario, not a prediction, a possible future, perhaps even a probable one, but that depends on decisions made now and in the near future…discuss…

QUEENS WHARF_9778-3

Why is Len talking tolls again

Two weeks ago John Key confirmed that the government would cover half of the costs of the City Rail Link and allow for main works to start in 2018. Immediately questions began about how the Auckland Council would cover its share of the expected $2.5 billion cost. Equally quickly Mayor Len Brown was once again raising the issue of road tolling, suggesting it was needed to pay for it.

The government confirmed yesterday it would pay about half the cost of the project, allowing work on part of the project involving a tunnelling machine to begin earlier in 2018.

Mayor Len Brown believes he has the backing of most Aucklanders to introduce higher road taxes and impose tolls to pay for the city’s half of the bill.

But Mr Brown told Morning Report road tolls were part of a range of transport funding options, and in the long term could not be overlooked.

“We know that we don’t have enough money through rates and borrowings, even if we sold things like the airport shares or the port shares, it’s still not enough.

“It is a critical issue with the growth of the city with the transport investment needs that we have and the City Rail Link in the end, with the $65 billion we’ve got to spend over the next 30 years, is only a small part of it.”

Mr Brown said he could not see any other way of raising extra revenue than with a motorway toll.

Quite why Len is suddenly raising the issue of road tolls again is odd for a few reasons.

Long Term Plan

Last year the council spent a lot of effort discussing the Long Term Plan – the 10-year budget. As part of that process they presented Aucklanders with a binary choice of either a programme of works that would build:

  • a basic version funded out of rate rises of 3.5% but that built very little over the coming decades.
  • almost every transport project ever dreamed up requiring lots of additional funding and still saw congestion predicted to get worse than it is today. To pay for the up to $12 billion extra that would be needed the council proposed either:
    • road pricing on motorways
    • a combination of additional rates increases and regional fuel taxes

The important thing though is that both versions of the transport plan included the funding for the City Rail Link. That means the project was never subject to the alternative funding options like Len is suggesting now.

LTP Basic vs AP networks

To realise either of funding options for the Auckland Plan option it would have required government approval and that didn’t happen. So instead the council ended up implementing a three-year interim transport levy of $99 for households and $159 for businesses with the money from it earmarked primarily for PT, walking and cycling projects. There is absolutely no reason why the transport levy couldn’t be continued in to the future which is enough to effectively fund a sensible middle option of something between the two original LTP transport plans.

Just coming back to the CRL, the council’s own LTP documents show the project already has funding budgeted for it over the next decade. It includes the expected contribution from the government – which the council correctly assumed would be on board by then.

LTP approved capital projects list

click to enlarge

ATAP

As you know the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) is currently going on and is reviewing options and timings for future transport projects in Auckland (the CRL and East-West link sat outside of this). In the Terms of Reference it specifically mentions road pricing, saying they will consider (I’ve underlined the important part)

all land transport interventions, including roads, rail, public transport, personal mobility services, walking, cycling, technology, network optimisation and demand management (including pricing for demand management purposes)

In other words, as part of the process they’re looking at what impact road pricing could have but not as a revenue gathering tool like Len wants but as a demand management one. The distinction between the two are important and would likely lead to quite different looking systems. As the name implies a demand management tool is really about trying to optimise the use of transport networks we have by using road pricing to keep roads from becoming congested. We’ve long suggested that if implemented it should be introduced in a revenue neutral way, lowering rates by the amount raised from the road pricing. In our view doing it this way would separate a potentially very useful tool from the more politically fraught issue of raising more money as by tying the two together it’s more likely neither will happen.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of road pricing is that it changes the question from how much traffic do we need to accommodate to how much do we want to accommodate. With it, it will almost certainly change the priority of many projects and it would kill off many projects altogether. For example, spending billions to widen or duplicate a motorway because an (unreliable) traffic model says vehicle volumes will increase in the future likely becomes a thing of the past. Every silly project that is no longer needed means a less extra funding that needs to be raised, easing pressure on Aucklanders and the government.

Of course to really implement road pricing we really need a much more complete range of good quality alternative options but if we know we’re going to do it in the future it should allow us to prioritise what is needed before that happens.

 

In conclusion, the council’s plans have the CRL clearly in the budget even if we had stuck with the no additional funding option. As such it seems that Len was perhaps trying to reignite the debate about road tolls from last year in a bit to push once again for a more build everything approach. But given the ATAP process is well under-way it seems the best option right now is to wait and see what comes from that.  The only other option for why he would suggest it is perhaps to keep the idea in the government’s head so they know the issue hasn’t gone away.

Transport Spending 2005-15

For the year to the end of June the government and councils across New Zealand collectively spent $4 billion on transport – the first time spending has crossed that mark and about double what we spent a year just a decade earlier.

Helpfully the NZTA have just updated their data showing just were that spending and so with this post I thought I’d highlight some of that.

First up here’s how spending has changed over time at a national level. The NZTA figures includes their share of funding for local roads and other aspects such as public transport. In total just under 50% of money goes on local projects (which includes PT) while just over 50% goes towards state highways.

Spending - NZ - 2015

And here’s what this looks like for the Auckland region where over the last year $1.4 billion has been spent. In Auckland the share going to State Highways is slightly higher them getting 54% of the funding

Spending - AKL - 2015

By now some of you have probably already worked out that Auckland received about 35% of the total funding, which is slightly more than its share of the nation’s population – although given the level of growth that’s occurring not necessarily unreasonable. So how did the other regions fare?

Comparing the data to population information a couple of regions really stand out – getting considerably more investment than other regions on a per capita basis. Those are the three W’s Waikato, Wellington and the West Coast. The chart below shows how much we spent per person and includes the money council’s spent. One I expected to be higher is Canterbury given the amount of work going on however this seems to be more in line with the historically trend of the region having a lower per capita spend on transport

Spending - NZ - 2015 - Per Capita 3

The next charts break down the spending by funding activity. I’ve excluded the small ones such as transport planning as it’s difficult to see them on the same scale as road spending. In the NZ chart you can see that overall spending on new and improved roads was reached $1.8 billion last year and was the largest single activity. At the other end of the scale you can see the impact of increases in the cycling budgets starting to come through and become more visible. I’d expect this to continue with the government’s cycleway spending coming through.

Spending - NZ - 2015 - by activity

And in Auckland the spending on new and improved roads is even more pronounced with much of it being the money being spent on the Western Ring Route

Spending - AKL - 2015 - by activity

The NZTA have quite a bit of data available and there are lots of ways of looking at this. Let us know in the comments if there’s some other way you’d like to see it cut or if you’ve done your own analysis.

The National Land Transport Programme 2015-18

The NZTA yesterday announced the what it would fund over the next three years as part of its National Land Transport Programme 2015-18 (NLTP). The NLTP combines funding from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) – which is essentially road/fuel taxes, council rates and from other government funding sources such as for the spend up on regional roads announced last year.

The headline figure is that over the next three years $13.9 billion will be spent on transport which is about 15% more than the 2012-15 NLTP and of which about $10.5 billion comes from the NLTF. Most of the rest comes from local councils through rates. Where the money comes from and where it is being spent is quite well shown in this graphic from the NZTA.

NLTP 2015-18 revenue and investment flows

As you can see above the vast bulk of the funding is going on building new and maintaining existing roads. Of the $5.5 billion for road improvements the majority (almost $4.2 billion) is going towards State Highways. None of this is particularly surprising as it’s a continuation of the trend we’ve seen for a few years now and one that has been continued with the current Government Policy Statement (GPS) which the NLTP has to give effect to. The GPS doesn’t set specific funding levels but it does provide funding ranges for each category. Just how the actual investment in this programme compares with it’s GPS funding range for each category is shown below. You an quite see quite clearly that for State Highways the funding level is well above the midpoint set by the government – although interestingly local roads are at the bottom of their range (note: this is just for funding from the NLTF so doesn’t include rates).

NLTP 2015-18 allocation vs GPS funding range

One area that is at the top of its range is walking and cycling where the NZTA are putting in over $100 million which is on top of the $96 million from governments Urban Cycling Fund.

One aspect I was interested in was how the money is divided up across the regions. A lot was said about how Auckland is getting ~$4.2 billion in funding however when you look at on a per person basis (using Stats 2014 population estimates) it appears Auckland is spending about the National average while it’s the Waikato doing pretty well.

NLTP 2015-18 Regional Spend

Just looking specifically at Auckland around $4.2 billion will be spent over three years. I find the press release and other information about this investment quite odd as it seems the NZTA are doing everything they can to avoid saying how much their spending on roads. They focus attention on the $1.175 billion going towards Public Transport (of which only about $176 million is for new PT Infrastructure and services), on the $960 million on road maintenance and the $91 million on cycling yet there is very little focus on the over $2.1 billion being spent on roads, $1.8b of which is state highways.

There are also a few other things I picked up on, including:

  • The term Congestion Free is entering the NZTA’s lexicon

Mr Zöllner says Auckland’s future depends on a strategic joined up approach to both its motorway and local road network, along with critical public transport, walking and cycling networks, to ensure highly reliable, dedicated and congestion free travel.

  • It is claimed that spending $960 million on maintenance will help ease congestion, I’m not quite sure how that will work.
  • That the changes to the Northern Motorway will include the design and consenting for extending the busway to Albany which is good although no actual construction on it will happen within this time. They also say the motorway widening is only to address predictions of large travel demand in the future i.e. there is no proof it will actually happen and of course any predictions of large demand for PT seem to be ignored, especially by the government.

These projects aim to address predictions of large travel delays in peak times within the next decade, and provide alternative travel options.

  • The NZTA are now talking about the package of works to widen the southern motorway between Manukau and Papakura as part of the route between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. As such seem to be lumping in the time savings from other projects such as the Waikato Expressway to claim the works will help save 30 minutes. This is odd seeing as one of the reasons they lost the Basin Reserve Flyover was that they lumped in time savings from other projects.
  • It’s been cut from the online version but in the original emailed version of the press release they claim the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway will save up to 30 minutes, odd seeing as it only currently takes about 20 minutes now except for about four days a year in a single direction.

Road of National Significance, providing a safer, more reliable connection between Auckland and Northland by extending the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) to Warkworth. The project is estimated to cut 30 minutes from journey times in peak periods.

  • This map shows where the NZTA is investing. It seems to me that the symbols are way off in some places and also minimise the impact of massive projects such as Waterview which only gets a single icon for all the North Western work that’s happening.

NLTP map auckland

One of my big concerns about the PT funding in particular is that it simply won’t be enough investment to cope with the increase in demand. The NZTA say they think with this investment that over the next three years PT patronage will increase to 21%. Given we’ve had roughly a 10% increase in patronage over the last year alone and we still have the New Network, integrated fares and the completed roll out of the new electric trains that 21% figure seems a little undercooked.

Lastly I think the NZTA deserve credit for how they’ve made the NLTP data available. Through this table you can select any combination of activity classes and regions and get a list of every single project that will be funded from the NLTF and also download all of the data easily.

Accelerated Project Costs

The government aren’t the only one discussing budgets today as the Auckland Council are holding a session of their budget committee. It will see the council discuss the recently approved Accelerated Transport Programme which has been brought about by the introduction of a $99 levy per residential property to pay for transport. I’m not sure if the councillors who have since written to Len Brown asking to discuss the levy again will be able to do so or not. As we know the Transport Levy allows for around $170 million a year worth of extra investment in Auckland for three years. We already have a rough idea of where the money will be spent, this is shown below.

interim-programme

We also had a decent idea of what projects will be funded and it looks pretty good – although for most of it we didn’t know just how much money had been assigned to individual projects. One part of the agenda for today’s meeting finally gives us that detail. The most interesting parts are in Attachment A & B.

The first attachment lists each project in the council’s overall Auckland Plan Transport Network (APTN). Three separate columns list how much the was budgeted for the project over the next ten years based on the APTN, the do not much Basic Transport Network (BTN) and a third column what will the outcome is under the levy funded Accelerated Budget.

The tables show there has been quite a bit of change among some projects, presumably reflecting additional thinking that has gone one since the LTP analysis was done. As an example some projects have been re-scoped which has resulted in increases or decreases in costs or changes in timing has brought funding forward that was previously outside the 10 year horizon of the LTP. An example of some of the changes are below.

LTP Accelerated Plan project changes example

However changes over the 10 year plan are in some ways a bit meaningless as there will be another LTP in three years that will likely rehash the priorities and also have to deal with changes in funding that will likely result from the proposed Transport Accord. As such it’s only really worth focusing on the next three years and the tables below show just how much funding is proposed for each project over that time. Unfortunately it’s not the highest quality but if needed click through to the PDF linked earlier to get a slightly better version.

LTP Accelerated Plan Budget

LTP Accelerated Plan Budget 2

By the time you read this the council will likely have already discussed this item so feel free to add to the comments if any changes happen.

A Transport Levy for a more balanced Transport Plan?

Yesterday the Mayor Len Brown presented his amended proposal for the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) which follows on from the public submissions and surveys. The most significant change from the draft that was consulted on is in the area of transport. Len seems to have heard the message that the government isn’t about to agree to tolling or regional fuel taxes to pay for the council’s massive transport wish list and that if it is going to happen, it will need a lot more discussion and work between the two parties.

As an interim step he’s proposed a three year targeted transport levy of $99 for residential properties and $159 for business properties – that’s roughly $2 & $3 per week respectively. That levy is said to be enough to fund just over $170 million worth of extra investment a year or about $500 million over three years.

As a comparison the LTP documents that talked about either motorway tolling or a combo of regional fuel taxes and rates was to raise enough money to cover around $300 million in extra investment a year. As such Len’s proposal represents just over the half of that.

We frequently criticised the council for its build all plan that would have required all that extra funding and called for a middle ground to be found that prioritised the projects that Aucklanders have repeatedly said they want more focus on – public transport and cycling. And of course we weren’t alone in this suggestion with Generation Zero creating the Essential Transport Budget (ETB) that explained this idea in more detail. Both the AA and the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development  (NZCID) also called for a middle ground to be found although they didn’t specify what projects should be included. The table below shows the transport area’s submissions to the LTP said should have more or less focus.

2015 LTP Final Changes in transport Investment

I think that aiming for enough money to fund $170 million and doing so through a targeted levy is probably a good outcome. It means there should be enough money to build the good projects we need while retaining some pressure to ensure the council and Auckland Transport focus on high value projects that will actually deliver good outcomes. I think one area there could be some contention with the transport levy is in the fact it’s the same flat rate for all residential/business ratepayers. That means there’s no differentiation based on property capital value like there is with rates and as such is likely to hit lower income households more than higher income ones.

The council haven’t released the full details about what extra projects will go ahead however Len did mention these ones specifically were included. All figures are over the next three year period

  • Busways to the North and Northwest
  • Increase walking and cycling funding from $14 million to $124 million (including $75 million from the Government and NZTA).
  • Increase the network wide safety programme from $28 million to $111 million
  • Bringing forward some PT interchange projects
  • Electrification to Pukehoke
  • Park & Rides at Papakura, Westgate and Silverdale
  • Tamaki Dr and Ngapipi Rd safety and amenity improvements
  • Improvements to Lake Rd
  • Road sealing budget in Rodney to increase from $3 million to $10 million

That seems like quite a good list but as mentioned we will really need to see the full details first before commenting further. Some of these – such as busways to the North West – don’t seem practical to be built in the next three years so any funding is likely to be around the planning work needed.

Now that some of the council meetings are also being recorded and published online you can now see the debate if you’re interested. The two video’s below include Len presenting his proposal however you can also see the councillors questions in the other video’s available here (Governing Body – Item 11). The transport part is in the first video and as part of it Len also confirms the government is open to working on a transport accord.

The second video above is also interesting as it contains the comments from Councillor Cameron Brewer. I say interesting as Brewer has a history of being quite hostile towards Len and his priorities however he now appears to be quite supportive and even called on Bill English to add a line into the governments upcoming budget for their 50% share of the City Rail Link (from about 17 minutes). He also put out this press release on his support for Len’s rates proposal and the transport levy.

As mentioned earlier the transport levy have given the council three years to work on getting the government over the line. It seems to me that once ratepayers have adjusted to the extra money on their rates bill that the levy is something we could see stay much longer than three years as an easier alternative to implementing other funding mechanisms such as tolls. This wouldn’t necessarily be a completely negative thing either as the reduced funding compared to the tolling/regional fuel tax options would hopefully help AT remain focused on high value projects that will improve accessibility by all modes.

Not everyone is happy though, Michael Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce has called the levy a lazy way to raise money.

“I would hope that the capital raised will go to fast-track the big inter-generational Auckland projects that will make a measurable difference to reducing congestion.”

“The last thing Auckland needs from this proposal is for the ‘interim levy’ – really a targeted rate – to become a permanent fixture in Council’s revenue provisions,” said Mr Barnett.

Auckland still needs to see serious action by Auckland Council to seek new revenue sources other than ratepayers, make smarter innovative use of its $40 billion-plus asset base and achieve efficiency savings by focusing spending on core activities.

“The use of ratepayers this way – while an interim measure – is outmoded and will be seen as unfair to the many property owners who make little use of the transport system or are retired and asset rich but have little spare cash.

It also seems that Transport Minister Simon Bridges isn’t happy with the mix of projects the council has planned based on his responses in Parliament yesterday. He repeated variations of the text below a few times, just which projects he thinks should be prioritised is unknown though.

What I certainly can say is that we are always interested in ways to reduce congestion in Auckland and ways to improve public transport. In fact, what we have seen so far in terms of Mayor Brown’s preferred plan in Auckland does not do that sufficiently in the 2030s and 2040s. We want to work with him, with the council, and with Auckland to make a better, more optimal plan that does deal better with congestion and public transport.

There are also some more comments by Bridges in this article.

Overall the Mayor’s announcement yesterday is a good outcome however as mentioned we really need to see a list of just what projects are in and which aren’t.

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.