Before last week’s distractions, there was an NZ Herald article which discussed key issues with Len Brown over the coming three years. Perhaps the most interesting part of that article was the focus that Len put on looking again at the Council’s budget.
You said your first focus was next year’s budget and taking on board some messages from the campaign. What were they?
The community embraces the need to genuinely address … under- investment in infrastructure and particularly transport, but they want to balance that against the issues of affordability and within a budget that is sustainable. One of the key concerns was to keep a real close eye on debt levels and how much we borrow to achieve that. I have got that message.
You have forecast to borrow $2.8 billion in your first three budgets and a further $2 billion in the next three years. Is that wise?
It’s important for everyone to take stock. We have just received the community’s view in terms of the outcomes. The budget is an important part of it. I will be assessing that first budget and need to present that to council on November 17 … I will certainly be reflecting on that. Secondly, we are down against projections on [capital spending] on this year’s budget, let alone the 10-year budget which is a crystal ball-gazing exercise, quite frankly, and we will be assessing our debt levels and budgetary management every month of every year.
During the first term as Mayor there was obviously a lot of pressure to ensure that rates didn’t increase very much – particularly as combining the rates system was always going to mean serious winners and losers (funny how we only ever hear about the losers). Yet there continued to be some big spending items: fixing up the electric trains deal after the government got rid of the regional fuel tax, getting started on AMETI and many other non-transport projects. It seems like the “out” in the equation for the first three years was for the Council to increase its debt levels – taking advantage I suppose of the greater financial muscle the new combined Council now has.
If there is an increased desire to limit the growth of Council’s debt during the next three years, some pretty tough calls will need to be made around what projects happen and what projects don’t (since it’s capital expenditure rather than operating expenditure that is funded from debt). While that applies to all types of Council spending, as we know transport is by far the largest area of Council capital expenditure.
This is where the Congestion Free Network comes in. We first created this network because we were horrified by how expensive the transport plan outlined in the Integrated Transport Programme is and by how badly it missed achieving the goals and targets set by the Auckland Plan. Remember that for $68 billion in the current plan you get:
A heap more transport greenhouse gas emissions (rather than the sought decline):
Basically no increase in the proportion of people catching public transport into the City Centre:
Nowhere near the PT, walking and cycling modeshare target set in the Auckland Plan:
I could go on but this is getting boring. The basic story the Integrated Transport Programme tells is that if you spend a lot of money on stupid projects, you don’t actually achieve what you want to achieve.
As we explained recently, the real beauty of the Congestion Free Network is that because you’ve provided a complete rapid transit network that is free of congestion, you can stop wasting money on unnecessary roading projects which aim for (but of course never deliver thanks to induced demand) reductions in congestion. This means you can build the Congestion Free Network and still save at least $10 billion from what’s in our current 30 year transport plans.
$10 billion of course sounds like a LOT of money. And it is. Surely ripping $10 billion out of a transport budget – even over 20 years – is going to hurt due to what can no longer be done? Well only if your transport budget isn’t full of excessive projects to begin with. The table below outlines our initial thoughts about how you can reduce the spend on new roading projects over the next 20 years from $21.6 billion to $7.0 billion:
To show the savings a bit clearer it’s quite useful to look at them in pie chart form:
As you can see the biggest chunk of the savings just comes from not doing a project that’s not only a waste of money but will actually make things worse. Then we shave money off big slush funds highlighted for motorways to sprawl that won’t be required (unless someone truly is planning to build the Karaka-Weymouth bridge) or widening arterial roads which don’t need to be widened (they probably just need a bus lane). Puhoi-Wellsford gets chopped back to Operation Lifesaver, AMETI’s cost gets fixed so it doesn’t double-count the East-West Link, we scrub out the unnecessary six laning of the Northern Motorway between Albany and Orewa (why would you six lane when you’ve just built a busway?) and many other projects which are generally not completely stupid ideas but where the solution proposed is vastly bigger than the problem that exists (e.g. East West Link). I suspect the only people who really want everything on that list built are the NZCID and their members who stand to benefit hugely from it all.
The scary thing about ripping nearly $15 billion out of the roading budget was just how easy it was. We barely felt mean at all with many of the cutbacks. We’re still proposing Penlink to happen some time before 2030, we still propose to spend money on widening the southern motorway south of Manukau, we’re still spending $1.3 billion on AMETI, we’re still completing the Western Ring Route, we’re still grade separating the Kirkbride Road/SH20A intersection, we’re still spending $800 million on upgrading arterial roads, $700 million on new arterial roads in greenfield areas, $350 million for rail grade separations – the list goes on.
Auckland Transport is supposed to be preparing a second version of the Integrated Transport Programme in the upcoming months – including consideration of the Congestion Free Network as one of the scenarios looked at in this process. We await with great interest to see whether the Mayor’s enhanced focus on the budget extends to chopping out some of the extraordinary waste of money proposed in the first version of the ITP.
On the topic of the Congestion Free Network, we frequently get asked what we would do about the roading network and what projects we would change to go along with our proposal. We have said before that we think there is still a need for some roading projects during the same time period and that we think there will be plenty of budget over and above what we are spending on the CFN, to allow for the best parts of the roading network to be built. However with this post I want to take this further and see just what we could pare the roading aspects back to.
Our financial analysis of the Congestion Free Network notes that the CFN will cost about $10b to construct between now and 2030. However, that’s actually slightly less than 40% of the $34 billion that the Integrated Transport Programme proposes to spend on new transport projects over that same time period. Here are the projects and associated costs outlined in the ITP:
The colour coding is also important because the ITP looks out to 2040 whereas the CFN only relates to what happens up to 2030 (for now).
We have worked through the project list outlined above to suggest what changes could be made to this package of projects to better align with the CFN. At this stage, our analysis is just at a very preliminary level for many projects, although for a number of key projects our analysis is based on many of the posts made on this blog in recent months and years which have commented on the merits of different transport projects. As noted in what we’ve said previously about the CFN, our intention is to suggest a realistic alternative to what’s in the ITP and also to ensure that we optimise all kinds of projects to ensure that they deliver value for money (for example we’ve made some big savings from doing rapid transit to the airport differently to what’s in the ITP).
What becomes quite clear from this process is that there are extremely few occasions where we have completely removed a project from what’s in the ITP. Instead, we have often decreased the amount of money we think should be spent on that particular project – because what has been suggested is ‘overkill’ for the problem actually faced. Doing Operation Lifesaver instead of Puhoi-Wellsford is perhaps the best, but certainly not the only, example of this.
A few other important things to consider are:
The ITP numbers appear to have made a couple of pretty massive numerical errors – in relation to the costing of AMETI and the Albany Highway upgrade. We have noted these and would love Auckland Transport to provide us with the correct figures – we’ve taken a bit of a ‘stab in the dark’ in the absence of this information.
For “Auckland wide” projects, we’ve had to think about the extent of what’s in the ITP that would be spent before 2030. Our feeling is that a fairly large chunk of the greenfields expenditure would be post 2030 and a reasonable proportion of the “other urban arterials” would as well. For greenfield areas, this is based off the assumption that the Auckland Plan did not expect much growth in these areas until after 2020 (as there are areas like Flat Bush & Hobsonville to develop in the meanwhile and planning completely new areas does take time) plus our general belief that changing demographic may mean less demand for living on the urban periphery than has been anticipated. For other urban arterials, we note that many arterial upgrades are specifically identified in the project list, so the “general” fund appear likely to come as a next phase of projects. Nevertheless, to be conservative we’ve suggested that 65% of region-wide project expenditure will occur by 2030.
So let’s start with the roading projects:
The headline figure is that we’re able to get expenditure on roading projects down from $21.7 billion to $7 billion – a pretty massive decrease. But perhaps what surprised us the most in doing this exercise was just how easy it was. Often we really don’t even think we’re being harsh in many ways – for example:
Still do Penlink, although only two lanes and not four lanes
Still do AMETI as currently planned
Do an even more significant version of the Lake Road upgrade (to enable high quality bus provision)
Still do the key parts of the SH1 upgrade south of Manukau
Still do many of the smaller arterial road upgrade projects as planned (e.g. Pukekohe Eastern arterial, Tiverton-Wolverton, Albany Highway and many others)
The main areas where we’ve saved money come from a variety of locations, where we really think that we’re cutting out the poor value aspects of many projects yet still doing what makes sense:
Only grade separating the SH20A Kirkbride Road interchange and not widening all of SH20A. With a railway line to the Airport we certainly won’t need to widen the motorway – plus the Airport’s own roads seem like the choke point here. Almost $200m saved here.
Not four-laning from the Airport to Manukau via SH20B. As per above, if we build rapid transit (we suggest a busway, costs in the PT section to come) along this route then we don’t need to widen the existing road. This saves $235m.
Pulling the ‘East West Link’ back to being a more sensible project rather than the community destroying monstrosity options being looked at right now. Truck lanes on Neilson Street and a few clever tweaks to motorway access for around $150m are likely to deliver most of the benefits of a much more expensive project. This saves close to half a billion dollars.
Doing Operation Lifesaver instead of Puhoi-Wellsford. This saves about $1.4b.
Suggesting some significantly cheaper options for upgrades to Great South Road. Goodness knows why we supposedly need to spend nearly a billion dollars on three sections of this road between Penrose and Manukau. This saves nearly $800m.
Significant savings from greenfield areas and other arterials – as described above for greenfield areas and also because we think that based on the huge numbers for Great South Road projects the other arterial costs are also likely to be overblown.
So clearly we’ve saved a lot of money out of the future roading budget. But how much of that do we shift across to public transport and how much is just “not necessary” – and therefore can go towards closing the supposed ‘funding gap‘.
At a high level, the CFN proposes to spend just over $1 billion more on public transport before 2030 than what is proposed in the ITP. It’s just a little more on things like a SH16 busway and a little less due to changes like a busway instead of rail between Manukau and the Airport.
Now let’s put these all together for a comparison:
So overall the CFN is nearly $14 billion cheaper than what’s outlined in the ITP over the same time period – and this is with North Shore Rail included. If you were to push North Shore rail out to beyond 2030, (which we’re reluctant to do but agree it’s one of the latest parts of the CFN built) then the CFN is $17 billion cheaper than what’s in the ITP. Which means the funding gap is gone.
The CFN also has more of a balance between funding public transport and roading – with a 42% roads, 58% PT funding split. This compares to the ITP proposing to spend 72% of its capital on roads and only 28% on public transport. I guess the key point is that we can actually afford a high quality PT system and it can be done without having to drastically cut against road building. Instead the roading programme would focus on smaller network tweaks rather than road projects massive in scale. It’s also worth noting that this is just one suggested approach to dealing with the problem, some of you might have different ideas and would like to see certain projects at the expensive of others.
There was a great article yesterday by Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald – and not just because it seems that he’s a fan of the Congestion Free Network. He starts off by arguing that the year of work and the $1 million+ spent on the Auckland transport funding Consensus Building Group has actually achieved relatively little:
What an egregious waste of $1 million of ratepayers’ money that was. Set up a “consensus building group” to develop a formula for squeezing an extra $12 billion of transport funding out of Aucklanders, which the Government had already signalled it would reject.
The cash would have been better spent on a giant fireworks display. At least we’d have got a bang or two for our bucks.
In October last year before the CBG first met, the Government made its opposition clear. The Ministry of Transport and the Transport Agency fell into step and refused to partake. How can you pretend to have a consensus when the people with the ultimate power of veto boycott the process?
Not only does the CBG report propose devices such as regional fuel taxes and “road pricing” tolls that the Government opposes, but it also proposes rates increases, which the mayor is against. It also demands that any agreement reached would have to bind future governments and councils for the next 30 years. This has echoes of the much-criticised backroom deal the Key Government has just come to with SkyCity over pokie machines and the international convention centre.
Personally I think that it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. It got a lot of important different groups around a table to discuss transport issues in Auckland and I’m sure that influenced associations like the Chamber of Commerce and the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development to place pressure on the government to change its opinion of the City Rail Link. That alone was worth the exercise in some respects. Furthermore, it also probably led to one of the more intelligent discussions about road pricing and its benefits that’s been had in Auckland – with the majority of people providing feedback supporting some sort of road pricing scheme ahead of increased fuel taxes and rates.
Yet, of course, the elephant in the room issue was that members of the Consensus Building Group weren’t able to question the merits and make-up of the transport package that they set out to fund.
Instead of agonising over how Auckland is going to fund the $59 billion integrated transport programme of the 30-year Auckland Plan, we should be readdressing the efficacy of the programme itself, asking the key question, will it ensure Auckland’s traffic is flowing smoothly in 2041?
The CBG failed to confront this, saying it was not part of its remit, but did admit in the opening paragraphs of the final report, released on Monday, that “even with a significant increase in investment, the forecast performance of key parts of the transport system will be worse from 2031 than it is today”.
A confession that even if their proposals for extracting an extra $12 billion out of Aucklanders are accepted, things will be worse than now. Its draft report, released in late March, was even more candid, admitting that “even with the fully funded programme, road congestion levels will deteriorate with volume/capacity ratios exceeding 100 per cent on most of our arterial road network by 2041 and emission levels exceeding current levels”.
In other words, it’s a plan that if successfully completed is doomed to fail.
In a nutshell, the argument seems to be that if we spend $12 billion more on transport over the next 30 years compared to what we can afford, things will still be much worse than today – but not quite as bad as if we didn’t spend that money.
If we look at AM peak congestion levels, the ITP seems like it’s trying to argue that we should spend $12 billion to reduce the percentage of excessive congested travel from 30% to about 27%. That’s four billion dollars for each percentage point of lower congestion!
As we have discussed many times in the last few weeks, it is this crazy situation that led us to create the Congestion Free Network. The ITP clearly tells us that we can’t build our way out of congestion – so the answer is to ensure that people have a choice of avoiding congested travel.
After describing the Congestion Free Network concept in excellent detail, Rudman concludes by noting the following:
It’s the sort of radical thinking that Mayor Len Brown and his transport planners should be engaged in. Producing a plan that isn’t programmed to fail.
I think I speak for everyone on the blog by saying that the response to the Congestion Free Network has been beyond our wildest dreams. On Tuesday there were over 11,000 views of the blog – a new record eclipsing the day the government finally decided they could no longer oppose the City Rail Link. The main Congestion Free Network post has been viewed over 10,000 times (beyond people looking at it on the main page) already and we’ve had thousands upon thousands of visits via Facebook in particular pointing towards that post.
Radio NZ did a story on the Congestion Free Network (CFN) on Morning Report yesterday morning, including a couple of soundbites from me talking about the network.
Even Kiwiblog has picked up on the CFN, highlighting that while David Farrar doesn’t agree with every bit of the network, he appreciates the effort we’ve put into the CFN. In particular, he highlights a potential next step:
It would be good for an appropriate agency to independently cost their proposals, and estimate what impact on congestion their proposals would have.
Ultimately what pushed us to work with Generation Zero and create the Congestion Free Network was our despair at the Integrated Transport Programme, its gigantic cost and its utterly terrible outcomes. Remember, $60 billion over the next 30 years for this result:
When we dug into the modelling results of the ITP in more detail (aside from making us more sceptical about modelling than ever before), the key cause of this congestion in 2041 seemed to be that the public transport system was still comparatively rubbish:
The critical issue behind the results above seem to be that for most trips public transport is getting stuck in the same congestion as everyone else, plus the added time of walking to the bus/train/ferry, waiting for it and then stopping to pick up other passengers all the time. Hence the need for a congestion free alternative: to make public transport the fastest option – good enough to really encourage people out of their cars and by consequence ease pressure on the roading network.
What we want is to have the Congestion Free Network included as an option when Auckland Transport do their next iteration of the Integrated Transport Programme. We think this fits pretty well with Auckland Transport’s approach to the next ITP – as highlighted in their presentation to the Transport Committee in April:As Matt’s post this morning about roading projects that’ll still happen highlighted, in many respects the Congestion Free Network isn’t radically different to what’s in current long term transport planning documents – it just shifts forward some projects that provide really good improvements to public transport at relatively low cost (especially busway and bus priority projects), suggests a lot less gold-plating of many proposed motorway projects and suggests that we avoid projects which do more harm than good. Rail to the North Shore and Light-Rail along Dominion Road are really the only big projects in the Congestion Free Network which aren’t in the Auckland Plan and the ITP. And perhaps most importantly it shows how a vision of Auckland that is completely unlike any most of us have thought possible before, an Auckland with a vital piece of the jigsaw that we know makes other great cities great and enables them to function well, is completely within reach if only we work towards it clearly.
So we’re going to take the Congestion Free Network to the Council’s Transport Committee and to the AT Board over the next few months to really push for the CFN to be included as an option for testing in the next ITP. We’re also going to continue to promote the concept in innovative and exciting ways. And we’re always open to suggestions about how to refine the CFN further – we are certain that the idea is vital, we think the detail is pretty good, but we know it’s not perfect.
Over the next few weeks GenZed and ATB will try to get straight answers out of every candidate in the local elections on where they stand on the CFN and related transport, urban form, and environmental issues.
We will report back with some kind of list that should act as a voting guide for these issues.
Since the launch of our Congestion Free Network and how much it will cost we have had a few questions around what it means for the funding of improved roads. To try and clarify, we are not against funding going towards road improvements and our estimated budget for The Congestion Free Network is just over 40% of what is currently planned to be spent on transport over the same time frame. That means there is still scope for worthwhile roading projects to occur. In saying this government agreed too, are overkill and are akin to cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. So in this post I thought I would cover the projects we think should be considered to be built alongside the Congestion Free Network – Note: some of this is similar to what we discussed the other day following the government’s announcement.
State Highway projects
There are a number of state highway projects either already under way, or being talked about that have useful components.
Waterview and WRR - This is obviously already under way and in my mind is the piece that finally “completes the motorway network”, despite the goal posts for that target being a consistently moving target. One of the massive benefits to this is that it provides an alternative for vehicles travelling north to bypass the central motorway junction and the Harbour Bridge. It is also for this reason that we need to hold off on any plans for another road based crossing of the harbour as the WRR really needs some time to settle in and have its impacts felt before moving ahead with the harbour crossing project. The causeway upgrade also provides for some improved bus lanes which will be useful as part of our Congestion Free Network.
Upper Harbour Upgrade SH1/SH18 interchange through to Greville Rd – Improving the SH1/SH18 junction does seem like a good idea but I’m not sure we need the full motorway to motorway ramps as proposed in the most recent study we have seen. There are also a few other small sections in the area that could be addressed, such as the small single lane section westbound between Paul Matthews Rd and Albany Highway. However general widening of the section between Constellation and Greville should really wait until after the busway has been completed through to Albany and we see the impacts of that investment.
Do we really need this motorway to motorway interchange?
SH1 Manukau to Papakura widening – Once again there are some aspects to this project that make a lot of sense, in particular upgrading the Takanini interchange (especially the northbound onramp) and addressing the number of lanes southbound between Manukau and Takanini. At this stage I’m not convinced that widening Northbound or the section between Takanini and Papakura is needed. Again it would also be worthwhile waiting to see what impacts the PT projects have first before embarking on wholesale widening.
SH20A upgrade – Once again there are some parts that seem to make sense, particularly around the grade separation of Kirkbride Rd however the ITP seems to suggest that the road would also be widened, something I don’t see as needed once that interchange is addressed. With the Kirkbride intersection sorted out, the Montgomerie Rd intersection could be cheaply closed. The other advantage to this project is it could be tied in with the proposal to extend the rail network to the airport.
There is one other State Highway project that I am aware of – that isn’t on the ITP list – which may have some value during this time and that is the additional northbound lane between Penrose and Greenlane. The Ellerslie station was narrowed last year to make way for this project. Other State Highway projects on the ITP, like the Additional Harbour Crossing and widening SH20 from Mangere to Puhinui should be at least moved back till after 2030.
Local Road projects
There are some fairly sizeable local roading projects in the ITP, again some are worthwhile or at least have worthwhile components while others or specific parts of them make little sense.
AMETI – AMETI is one of those projects that improved with age, morphing from a version of the eastern highway proposal into a much more multi modal project. Crucially many of the roading elements of the project tend to focus on providing new road connections rather than just larger existing ones. They strongly focus on moving through traffic away from town centres, giving them a chance to develop more people friendly environments. The focus on new connections and bypassing town centres is a good thing and a strategy I will touch on more in later comments.
East-West Link – This is a project that we have looked at a recently. We definitely agree that some improvements are needed in the area, just not to the scale proposed. Instead smaller scale improvements should be considered first such as the ones below.
Truck lanes on Neilson Street?
A signalised intersection providing access into Metroport from Neilson Street?
Widening the Neilson Street bridge over the railway line?
Smaller scale interchange improvements at Onehunga?
South-facing motorway ramps that link into the Southeast Arterial?
Do we really need a $600m mini motorway between Onehunga and East Tamaki?
Other Local Road Projects in the ITP – The ITP also contains other local road projects, such as widening Lake Rd on the North Shore. I’m sure that there are plenty of people in the area that would love to see it however in almost all instances I think we should avoid widening unless the new lanes are at least limited to T2/3 initially. This way there are still benefits that can be accrued from the works however not doing so in a way that undermines the bus network by encouraging more people to drive.
Other Local Road Projects outside the ITP - As mentioned earlier, focusing on providing new connections and bypassing town centres is a good strategy compared to just continually widening existing roads. As such I feel that there are a number of road projects not currently on the ITP should be considered instead of some of the overblown widening projects like what is being proposed for Mill Rd. We have highlighted some of these before including a long talked about bridge across the Whau River between the Rosebank Rd and Hepburn Rd which would provide a real alternative to either the Gt North Rd or Te Atatu Rd interchanges.
Or this route in Pakuranga between Hope Farm Ave and La Trobe St which would amongst other things, allow for a logical third main bus route from the east to pierce right through the middle of the wedge of housing in the area while also providing substantial benefits for drivers, cyclists and walkers.
Now you will notice that I haven’t set costs or timeframes for these projects like we have with The Congestion Free Network and that is for two reasons. The first is that we simply don’t know what some of our suggestions for scaling back projects would cost. As for the timeframes, we are happy for these road projects to be prioritised based on need to fit in with the funding available. There are also bound to be some other local road projects that we would potentially support so please don’t consider this an exhaustive list. Ultimately these projects need to go through a robust analysis, something they won’t all pass and as such may be dropped or scaled back further.
I guess the key point from this post is simply to point out that we are not opposed to roading projects that stack up but that the key is ensuring that the roads we do build are actually what we need.
Yesterday we showed you our vision for the Congestion Free Network – and wow what an excellent response – so today I’m going to talk about the boring stuff like how much it will cost. Before I get into that though, one of our goals in designing the congestion free network has been to keep spending at the same level, or less, than is currently planned. The level of spending has been based off what is contained within the Integrated Transport Programme (ITP) which was also used to inform the debate around alternative funding.
The ITP doesn’t give specific dates for projects but does break down spending by decade. Over the 30 year period of the programme it is expected the city will spend approximately $34 billion on new or improved transport infrastructure, this is broken down as follows:
I have then broken down the funding to match each of the time frames we propose for building the Congestion Free Network, this gives us:
Many of you will also have seen the table below before however I have added some colours to it to show the decade that each of the major projects falls into.
So with the information above as well as a few other studies we can start to put together a picture of how much our Congestion Free Network might cost. Like with the maps yesterday, I’m going to break down the spending by into the groups of 2020, 2025 and 2030.
City Rail Link – The ITP lists this as $2.6 billion but we also know that the figure includes other items such as more electric trains – something also included in EMU line item. The most recent cost figures we have seen suggest that the actual cost is more like $2.2 billion including the extras and even that is likely to come down further, especially after the announcement earlier this week. For this we are going to use the figure of $2.2 billion.
Electrification to Pukekohe – Another project that seems to be over estimated in the ITP (there are quite a few of them). The recent business case suggests that this project will cost $102 million.
Mt Roskill Branch – This one is hard for us to say for certain as it isn’t on any plans and as far as we’re aware, not study has yet been done. The project does have a number of things in its favour however. The primary one is that the corridor is already designated and Kiwirail already own much of the land. Further as part of the motorway works in recent years the NZTA has already built many of the bridges with spans ready for the rail line to be placed under them. Perhaps the best example for us to use for estimating the cost is the new spur to Manukau. That was in a similar position as much of the work was done along with the associated motorway construction. It ended up costing approximately $50 million to do around 1.5km of track and a station in a trench. A spur from Avondale to Dominion Rd would be approximately 3.6km in length but wouldn’t need a trenched station. Accounting also for grade separation of New North Rd, we think that a total cost of ~$150 million would be about right.
Electric trains – The ITP lists the cost of trains and the depot at $980 million. We know that the current batch of trains is costing us around $540 million while the depot is another $100 million. The difference between these two figures and the $980 million quoted in the ITP would allow for around 37 more trains which is enough to run additional services needed for the CRL and proposed extensions so we will leave the cost as it is.
Northern Busway Extensions – This comes in two parts. At the Northern end we are proposing the busway be extended to Albany. A recent OIA request by one of our readers put the cost of that at $250 million (we will have a post on this in the next few days). At the city end there is definitely a need to improve bus access through the CBD and the ITP lists another $250 million for this.
North-Western Busway – Fairly extensive bus lanes already exist between the city and Waterview so little would be needed in this area. Between Waterview and Te Atatu much improved bus lanes are being added to SH16 as part of the motorway upgrade already underway. Between Te Atatu and Westgate we are suggesting a proper busway – like what exists on the North Shore. The ITP lists a busway from Constellation to Westgate to Waterview at $450 million. Like the Northern Busway extension, we will use a figure of $250 million for section from Te Atatu to Westgate
Upper Harbour Busway – As per above, the ITP lists a busway from Constellation to Westgate to Waterview at $450 million while we have estimated the Te Atatu to Westgate section at $250 million. That leaves us with the Westgate to Constellation section costing $200 million. Note this is most likely to be bus lanes, not a busway like on the shore.
AMETI/South Eastern Busway - This is a massive road and public transport project. All up it is expected to cost about $2.6 billion of which the busway from Panmure to Botany is estimated at $650 million. The section from Botany to Manukau, which would run down the massive available road reserve on Ti Irirangi Dr is estimated at just over $20 million. We have doubled that figure to give a total for this section of $700 million.
There are a number of roading projects that are needed to support some parts of this network, particularly AMETI and the works on the Western Ring Route.
Airport Rail from North – We feel that for the timeframe we have set only one rail connection to the airport will be possible and actually warranted. Of the two a connection from the north provides much greater due to it also passing by Mangere Bridge, Mangere as well as the employment areas to the north of the Airport. Interestingly the ITP lists it as the cheapest however we suspect the cost doesn’t include another crossing of the Manukau harbour. For that reason we are going to budget $700 million for this connection.
Manukau to Airport Bus from East – As per above, we feel that at this stage we feel that extending the bus route from the East down to the airport would provide the best option. The route from Manukau to the Airport is primarily along SH20B and the ITP suggests that widening that to four lanes would cost $235 million. We will use that as the basis for our bus connection.
Pakuranga to Howick – Much of the rest of this route will have been given priority in earlier stages however the section from Pakuranga to Howick will need priority. This is one of the hardest projects for us to put a cost on as it hasn’t been referenced in other plans or documents. To try and be conservative we will budget $150 million for this section.
North-Western extension to Kumeu – The ITP suggests it will cost $150 million widen SH16 to four lanes all the way from Brigham Creek to Waimauku. We have used this figure for the bus extension
Northern Busway extension to Silverdale – The figure for this project also comes from the report on the Northern Busway extensions mentioned in earlier. This suggests that the section will cost another $300 million.
Improved Ferries – The ferry routes will need additional investment in wharf infrastructure, we have budgeted $30 million for this. The boats themselves would be paid for through the service contracts with the operators in the same way we do for buses today.
Rail CBD to Albany – This would involve a rail only tunnel to the North Shore, conversion of the Northern Busway to rail as well as a spur to Takapuna. The most recent business case for an additional harbour crossing suggested a rail tunnel on its own would cost $1.6 billion however a report last year to the council suggested that rail to Albany from the city centre could be done for $2.5 billion. We have added the spur to Takapuna and want to be a bit safe so are using a figure of $3 billion for the whole thing.
Queen St/Dominion Rd Light Rail – Dominion Rd is one of our busiest bus corridors and so upgrading it for both capacity and place making reasons is likely to be necessary. The route from Britomart to Mt Roskill – where this would terminate – is approximately 8km and being a former tram route, would be very easy to install light rail on. We note that the 1.5km loop around the Wynyard Quarter cost about $8m to install which suggests a cost track km of just over $5 million. That means double tracked light rail from Britomart to Mt Roskill would be approximately $90m. Add in the cost of the vehicles themselves and maintenance and we are looking at a total of approx $140 million.
So where does this leave us? In total we expect that this plan could be built for less than $10 billion and that money would be spread over 17 years. That may sound expensive but is surprisingly cheap when you consider that another road based harbour crossing alone is expected to cost $5 billion.
By comparison, over the same time period as our plan we are currently expecting to spend over $24 billion on transport capital expenditure. The network we have shown in the Congestion Free Network represents just over 40% of the total predicted spending and does so by simply re-prioritising the current projects on the list. That means that some will happen later or some not at all. What is also worth mentioning is that the bill for the list of projects that the government announced support for last week totalled $12 billion.
While some of the projects announced include parts of what we are suggesting, many are further motorway upgrades that will just shift the problem further down the road. But the motorways are only part of the problem, a massive spend up on local roads is also being suggested. Projects like the Mill Rd corridor are hundreds of millions of dollars while the ITP lists the cost to upgrade Gt South Rd (I didn’t even know it needed upgrading) at over $800 million. So one of the questions we need to ask ourselves is if we want a few more upgraded motorways and local roads like our current plans push for?
The projects announced last week that the Government is supporting
Or do we want an Congestion Free Network that will transform the entire city?
In this recent post we highlighted how, despite $60 billion or more of transport spending over the next 30 years, congestion is due to get significantly worse. This is a pretty disappointing result – occurring both in the scenarios when all the projects are funded and also in the scenario when we spend less money and build fewer projects.There’s about $10-15 billion of spending difference between the two scenarios – to achieve what really seems to be a pretty minimal difference in outcomes. As noted in recent posts, most of that spending is in the form of road projects – many of which make little sense.
The real problem for Auckland, compared to so many cities around the world is not the severity of our congestion but the fact that we generally have no alternative. Most public transport trips are on buses which mix with general traffic – meaning they get stuck in the same congestion as everyone else. For most trips, public transport is a poor alternative to driving. Too slow (because it’s stuck in the same traffic jams), too expensive, too unreliable. While perhaps overblown a bit, transport modelling highlights how pathetically slow public transport currently is for many trips across Auckland:
Improving the quality of the alternatives to driving does help free up the roads by attracting number of people away from driving but really this isn’t the main role of Transit networks. All big cities have congestion – and Auckland will be no exception to this rule. But they also all provide alternatives. The streets of Manhattan are congested but most people avoid it by catching the subway. Nobody drives from Parramatta to downtown Sydney at peak times, they catch the train because it’s so much faster. London would collapse without its Underground. These cities all experience congestion, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as in Auckland because an alternative, a network free of congestion, exists.
Decades of research show that you can’t build your way out of congestion. Widen a motorway and it fills up again. Build a new motorway and it fills up. Even the widest motorways in the world still get jammed up at peak times:What Auckland so desperately needs is an alternative to its congested transport network. A way to ‘opt out’ of congested travel. True travel choice that’s faster, more reliable and reduces the burden of getting around our city.
So we, in collaboration with Generation Zero, have developed an alternative plan for Auckland called the Congestion Free Network.
We have a limited congestion free network today: the existing railway lines, parts of the Northern Busway (Constellation to Akoranga) and some stretches of bus lane. In these locations no matter how congested up the roads get, there’s always a congestion free alternative available. But they’re relatively few and far between.
Over the next 20 years Auckland can, for the same price or less as what’s currently proposed in the ITP, construct a congestion free network which covers almost every corner of the urban area. Electrified rail to Pukekohe, busways to Silverdale, Kumeu, Botany to Panmure, Manukau to Botany, rail to the Airport, light-rail along Dominion Road, an extensive ferry network and even rail to the North Shore.
We think that this is a much better approach than what’s in the Integrated Transport Programme. We think that this approach takes the best parts of last week’s transport announcements by Central Government, the best bits of what’s in the Auckland Plan and creates a modern, world-class transport system that Auckland can be proud of. We think that a proper congestion free network will actually be so attractive for Aucklanders that it can be more successful in freeing up the roads than heading down a path towards our own 18 lane motorways.
A plan for a congestion free network must also be realistic. While in many respects we have a lot of money to play with, given the eye-watering sums proposed for spending on transport in Auckland over the next 30 years, we think that there’s probably no need to spend as much money. So we’re going to let you know exactly what transport projects we don’t think Auckland needs and how we can redirect that money towards the projects Auckland actually does need. And have no fear, of course Auckland’s going to have more roads in 2030 than it does today. As we’ve discussed previously a number of roading projects do make some sense – although perhaps not in their currently planned gold-plated form.
We have an idea about what should be in a 2020, 2025 and 2030 congestion free network. We think the projects that make up these networks are affordable, realistic and can deliver a transformational shift in the quality of Auckland’s transport system. But before we get onto what we think, we’re keen to know what you think.
How would you phase in a congestion free network over the next 17 years?
What do you think are the most important projects to have done by 2020?
What do you think should be cut or wound back to free up funding for the congestion free network?
What parts of the congestion free network should be provided by buses and what parts by trains?
What do you think is the role of light-rail in a congestion free network? Or ferries?
Ultimately, the congestion free network is about giving people real and genuine choice. The choice to opt out of being stuck in traffic:
Last week’s transport announcements were in many ways a triumph for Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, as they finally got the government to buy into the transport direction that is set by the Auckland Plan and then given more detail by Auckland Transport’s Integrated Transport Programme (ITP). The ITP is a 30 year transport strategy for Auckland which gives effect to the transport chapter of the Auckland Plan, fills in the details of projects to be built over the next 30 years and then analyses the performance of the transport network over that time frame. Key elements of the ITP reflect the big ticket transport items in the Auckland Plan that were supported by the government last Friday: the City Rail Link, AMETI and the East-West Link and the Additional Harbour Crossing project.
So far this sounds like a great story: Auckland’s come up with a long-term transport plan involving a number of very expensive projects and the government has broadly agreed with that plan. Unfortunately, the ITP is complete rubbish – full of stupid projects which simply don’t make sense and lacking a true vision for Auckland’s transport future. And somewhat surprisingly, even with the eye-watering price tag of $60+ billion the transport network’s performance gets considerably worse over the next 30 years.
Congestion gets worse:Greenhouse Gas emissions get worse (the numbers on the x axis refer to land-use scenarios, with 3 indicating a medium growth scenario):There’s little increase from the current 50% of vehicular trips to the city centre in the AM peak being on public transport:We don’t get anywhere near the target for non-car modeshare during the AM peak period across the city:The prime reason for the failure to meet so many of these targets is that the public transport system remains a relatively poor choice for most trips compared to driving. Therefore people still drive, the roads still get clogged, the greenhouse gas emissions [and all the other dis-benefits of auto-depenancy] continue to increase, there’s little change in modeshare and so forth. Perhaps the situation is best summed up by the graph below – which highlights the continued relative unattractiveness of the PT system in the future:According to the graph above, pretty much no PT trips are less than half an hour long in the future – a pretty terrible outcome. Furthermore, it seems that hardly any employment is located within a 60 minute trip on public transport – another pretty terrible (although less plausible) outcome. Whether this reflects some serious errors in the transport modelling process or whether this is a true reflection of our future I’m not sure, but these results indicate that in 2040 we’re going to be in much the same situation we are now under the ITP: a relatively crap public transport system meaning that for most trips we’re still going to be car dependent. And no wonder, when you look at the funding in the ITP most of it goes to roads.
So much for a transformational shift.
I’m not sure whether the government’s advisors have highlighted the flaws in what they’ve just bought into. Perhaps the government felt that after giving the thumbs up to the City Rail Link it also needed to balance that with support for an eye-watering number of motorway projects, even though the big picture of what all this spending leads to doesn’t really make sense.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to discuss in detail an alternative to the government’s transport package and the Integrated Transport Programme. A far better alternative that’s around the same price but will deliver far superior outcomes. An alternative that will truly give Auckland an alternative to the congested roading network, an alternative to rising greenhouse gas emissions, an alternative that will make achieving the modeshare shift targets far more possible and which will finally deliver upon the promise to make public transport the ‘mode of choice’ for longer trips.
We call it the Congestion Free Networkand we look forward to sharing it with you.
The intensity of the Unitary Plan ended up distracting us a bit from the discussion around alternative transport funding, although perhaps that was intended. Submissions on the funding options close today so this is a quick recap and explanation of my submission. Submitting is very easy, just go to the Keep Auckland Moving site and scroll to the bottom of the page. If you want you can just change the appropriate check boxes, fill in your details and submit.
First a quick recap. When the government merged the various councils to create the now Auckland Council, they required that a 30 year spatial plan be developed that would guide the city. Effectively it is the vision for the city and it became known as The Auckland Plan - this was then used to guide detailed rule book that is the Unitary Plan. However transport seems to be one area that politicians can’t help but get distracted by and the Auckland Plan deviated away from just providing the high level strategy, goals and objectives to listing specific projects. Seemingly too scared to anger anyone, it seemed like every single project ever thought of was added in to one massive wish list with just some horse trading to decide which projects should have the highest priority.
The problem though is that this wish list wasn’t cheap and estimates suggest that after taking into the expected funding available from existing options, there would be a $10-15 billion shortfall that would somehow need to be addressed. Raising that kind of money isn’t going to be easy so Mayor Len Brown set up a consensus building group (CBG). The CBG was made up of members from a wide variety of organisations including Cam from the CBT and the intention was for them to come to an agreement as to how we could raise the revenue needed. Despite the rhetoric from certain politicians, this wish list wasn’t a massive spend up on rail or PT but around 60-70% of the funding was actually going to roading projects.
At the same time, and in conjunction with the work going on with the CBG, Auckland Transport created the first iteration of the Integrated Transport Programme (ITP). One of the key things the ITP did was to effectively take the massive transport wish list from the Auckland plan and put it through some modelling analysis to see the impact the projects would have. Unsurprisingly the results weren’t pretty and the results showed that even if we spent the extra $10-15 billion above what we already were planning congestion would continue to get worse.
Unfortunately the CBG, they weren’t allowed to re-litigate what projects were on the list and so had to look at funding sources in isolation to seeing whether projects on the list would actually make things better or worse. Had that been able to occur, it is likely that many of the projects on the wish lists would have dropped off or been put off significantly. The CBG started the process with a list of potential options which were:
tax increment financing
regional fuel tax and road user charge/diesel levy
tolling new roads
road pricing on existing roads (i.e. some form of network charging or congestion charging)
additional car parking charges
airport departure tax
From there they whittled it down before announcing two options to meet the funding shortfall. It is also noted that the road pricing in option 2 is likely to have a much greater de-congestion benefits than option 1 as it would more effectively manage travel demand.
But, there is a lot more to this than just how we pay for these projects. As we have shown recently, there are some significant shifts occurring in our society at the moment. Per capita vehicle ownership, kilometres driven and even the number of people getting driver licences are all in decline. Further these trends are likely to only get stronger if we implement the measures above in a bid to raise money. The very process of raising enough money to cover the transport wish list, especially with the road pricing option, is likely to remove much of the demand and therefore the justification for many of the roading projects. This brings up the question of whether we should just go ahead and implement these measures anyway, even if just in a cost neutral way.
We have also seen recently that the way we measure congestion hasn’t been ideal. We have traditionally compared traffic speeds on a road with what is possible in a free flow scenario however we should really be comparing traffic speeds with the speed at which a piece of road is at its most efficient and moving the most vehicles. This is a significant shift in thinking and has some potentially massive impacts as most projects are justified based on time savings. Projects like the CRL which add significant capacity perform much better that a project which shaves just a few seconds off a drivers time but that doesn’t actually make a road more efficient.
With this in mind, here is a summary of the feedback I am providing.
Of the two options presented I support option 2.
We should consider implementing road pricing in a cost neutral way in advance of the need for additional funding mechanisms so we can more accurately measure the impact it has on the transport network.
Before any additional funding scheme is implemented, all projects need to to be put through a robust process to properly determine their economic impact along with the impact they will have on the entire transport network, not just on the specific area they are located in. The projects then need to prioritised according to which ones have the most positive impact.
Additional funding should only be obtained for projects that will make a positive impact to the transport system and the exact impacts need to be made clear to the general public.
Assessing projects based on the how fast they can move a single occupant vehicle is not a good measure of success, we should instead be taking into consideration projects that add the most capacity to the network.
As mentioned earlier, the consultation period closes today so if you are interested in how we fund our future transport needs then please make sure you make your voice heard.
There was an excellent op-ed in the Herald yesterday by Auckland Chamber of commerce chairman Michael Barnett related to the Integrated Transport Programme as well as the debate surrounding the issue of funding. The herald piece missed off the last few paragraphs so here it is in full from the Chamber of Commerce website.
If a business plan was signed off by the Board of a listed company knowing that it set out an investment programme that would deliver a negative result, there would be one outcome – they would lose the confidence in their investors.
The just released Integrated Transport Programme predicting worsening congestion in Auckland even if we find the extra $400 million a year needed to finance the Auckland Plan’s transport projects falls into that category. It charts an unacceptable future for Auckland.
The document that was signed off by the Boards of both Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) should concern Aucklanders and have them look at our political masters, who signed off a 30-year Auckland Plan from which the transport programme has been compiled. Isn’t their job to provide the leadership for building a thriving Auckland, and for which transport is set out in the Plan as an enabler?
The one saving grace of the Programme is that it is honest. It plainly states that even with the $25 billion invested to build by 2021 projects like the Central Rail Link in the central City and AMETI and East West Link in south Auckland, within 30 years Auckland’s road congestion will be worse than current levels in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, which already have much larger populations.
But it offers no solutions. At the moment Auckland cannot even fund the transport infrastructure investment programme we have agreed and want to do, let alone the further initiatives needed to head off the worsening congestion long-term.
Auckland needs and deserves the certainty of knowing we have a transport plan for the long game.
As I view our situation, at all levels, the decisions that need to be made right now are business-like leadership decisions – and the ground has never been as well prepared as it is now for a leader to step up to the plate and make the big calls required.
There are four things that need to happen – and fast.
First, while Aucklanders debate how to fill the $400 million a year shortfall needed to finance the immediate Auckland Plan transport projects, Auckland Transport and NZTA – our transport infrastructure and service providers – need to be demanding and seeking a much improved business-like performance from the existing transport system.
Train and bus services must be re-organised to run on time and become reliable; they must lift their game and not leave passengers waiting at stations and stops. Auckland Transport must quickly introduce integrated timetables between train, bus and ferry services, provide secure parking for cars at suburban bus and train stations, and ensure train fares are paid. They must micro manage a much improved performance from the bus and rail systems.
With some trust and certainty that these micro improvements make a real difference, I am confident thousands of Auckland commuters would leave their cars at home – and would be keen to do so.
Second, the funding shortage debate must be brought into the real world.
The debate has quickly revealed a preference for a user pay approach – network tolls or a cordon – rather than increasing rates. There are two parts to the debate – to find revenue to ensure major projects are built within the Plan’s timeline, and to bite the bullet with congestion management scheme by 2021 to head off the predicted worsening gridlock.
However, we are starting this debate without knowing what we are going to invest in or what level of return we will get from making this investment. We are not planning the funding solution in a business-like way.
The business case for the major projects has not yet been done, so there is no informed way to confirm what the measurable benefits of the projects will be.
It is remiss, surely, to promote a debate on options to raise the $400m/yr to invest with no idea of the likely return. It is like going to a banker seeking a loan for a million dollars without disclosing what the money will be used for.
Of course, the first question the bank will ask is: What do you want the money for? And the next question will be to determine whether the return on the investment is sound – does it stack up?
Third, there is no way of knowing what the rate of return to the economy has been from the billions of dollars invested in Auckland transport infrastructure in recent years – either roads or public transport – the work to make this assessment has not been done.
In general, returns on investment will depend on the nature of the projects themselves.
Judging from improved traffic flows where new motorway links have been built, suggests that the investment has been value for money. The Western Ring Route corridor benefits were calculated to be $1.40 for every $1 invested and something in the order of 1500 jobs.
Similarly, shifting Auckland’s main railway station into Britomart has seen a big jump in passengers regularly using rail.
But even though some $1 billion a year has been invested in improving Auckland transport infrastructure since about 1990, there is no firm, quantitative basis for claims about the impact of this investment on Auckland’s economy and growth. We don’t really know what it has done to boost Auckland growth and productivity.
Fourth, we must stop talking about the cost of transport infrastructure and manage it as an investment.
Auckland’s contribution to New Zealand in dollar terms is significant. A 2006 study indicated that some $18 billion in revenue being paid from Auckland against which about $14 billion was returned to Auckland in services and investment.
There is no argument from Auckland about the huge central government investment going towards the Christchurch rebuild. But when you look deeper into the NZ Inc performance, you see that its economic engine room – Auckland – which generates a third of the nation’s GDP and provides a third of its employment, is still performing well below the bottom line.
Next week’s Budget is expected to confirm NZ Inc is on an official track to budget surplus by 2014/15, a stable government (i.e. business-like leadership?), and low-levels of public debt compared to our peers in the Northern Hemisphere.
And if we deduct the cost of the investment NZ Inc is contributing to the Christchurch earthquake recovery, then the country as a whole is doing fairly well.
Assuming the business case for Auckland’s major transport projects show a positive return for the Auckland economy, it is then reasonable to ask why central government shouldn’t underwrite a fair share of the investment – which is what it is, an ‘investment’ in Auckland and New Zealand’s growth-led future.
The scale of the investments required is clearly beyond Auckland Council’s rate payers. A substantial central government input will be required, and that is the call our Mayor and Councillors should be focusing on – encouraging government to do what it is obviously going to have to do.
They have a choice. They can let Auckland’s transport congestion get progressively worse and only act when the problems become intolerable, or they can take a business-like response and plan, invest and advocate for investment in delivering a long-term solution.
We all know the problems. We all know the solutions. We all know what actions are needed. And we know who should be in charge of taking the decisions.
And dare I say it again – it’s urgent!
As Michael kind of notes, the real problem and funding gaps stem from the Auckland Plan. The Auckland Plan is meant to be the vision, the document that lays out the out level outcomes that we want to achieve and rough strategy we need to get there. For the most part it does this very well however when it comes to transport, the politicians couldn’t help but fall out of the sky and start naming individual projects that needed to happen. This left us with a massive wish list and more than a few projects that are likely never to be justifiable and/or that actively work against many of the goals set out in the plan. Because these projects were specified in the Auckland plan, they were then fed into the Integrated Transport Programme unsurprisingly poor results.
Those same projects also created a funding gap of $10-$15 billion. This led to the creation of the consensus building group (CBG) who were tasked with finding the best solutions to bridge that gap however the CBG were unable to question the projects on the Auckland Plan wish list. To me that leaves the entire exercise seeming almost like a waste of time.
As Michael suggests above, we need to actually go back to the start and work out which projects we can build that will lead to a positive outcome. It is likely to mean that many projects on the existing list simply get chopped off or replaced by different ones that provide a better overall outcome. We also need to acknowledge that we simply cannot solve congestion by building more roads. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t improvements to the existing roads that we could make to make them more efficient but it won’t solve the long term issue, as Patrick said yesterday what we feed grows. Only with a proper reassessment of our transport projects can we really then start to have a conversation as to how much extra funding, if any, is needed. At that point the work already done by the CBG will come in handy.
Overall I think it is an excellent piece from Michael and there is only one small part that I don’t agree with him on which is the part about ensuring carparking at train and bus stations, an issue Stu addressed last week.