The consultation problem: Who submits on the plan? [Repost]

In light of the recent debate over whether the Unitary Plan hearings process is sufficiently democratic, this is an appropriate time to revisit a post I wrote last year on the demographics of consultation feedback. Essentially, local governments don’t hear from all their citizens equally – submissions are weighted towards older, whiter, and probably wealthier people. This is a critical issue for local democracy. As the Productivity Commission wrote last year:

Some existing residents – especially homeowners – benefit from restrictions on the supply of new housing, as these help keep up house values. The Commission has identified a “democratic deficit”, where homeowners have a disproportionate influence in local council processes, including elections and consultation. This creates a “wedge” between local and national interests.

On with the post.

Auckland Council is currently [in March 2015] consulting with residents on its 2015-2025 Long Term Plan (LTP). This is an important document, as it sets out the Council’s budget over the next ten years. This is a period in which Auckland has to make some tough choices, including whether it should raise more money to pay for an expanded transport plan. (The City Rail Link, a key project for the city, is expected to start regardless, but it’s going to be harder to pay for other public transport infrastructure without additional money.)

If you haven’t yet submitted, I’d encourage you to do so via the Council’s online submission form. Or, if you want a more straightforward way to submit Generation Zero has released their submission guide following up their alternative LTP. You can read their plan at fixourcity.co.nz. [Note: submissions closed a year ago; don’t bother!]

The other week, Matt put up a post summarising the data on who had submitted on the LTP as of 19 February. (More data was published on 1 March.) He highlighted a few interesting aspects of the feedback, including what submitters were highlighting as priorities for spending. There is a big desire for more spending on public transport and cycling, which is great to see.

The most striking data was on the demographics of the submitters. Simply put: Council isn’t getting feedback from a representative set of Aucklanders. Some groups are systematically underrepresented, while others are massively overrepresented.

To illustrate this point, I compared the demographics of LTP submitters with Auckland’s actual demographics from the 2013 Census. Here’s the summary table:

LTP submitter demographics vs Auckland demographics

As you can see, there are some groups that show up in large numbers to have their say:

  • Men – 49% of Auckland’s population, but 62% of LTP submitters to date
  • NZ Europeans – overrepresented in LTP submissions by 50%
  • People aged 55 or older – overrepresented by 80% or more in LTP submissions

Other groups are underrepresented by comparable margins:

  • Maori, Pasifika and Asian people – underrepresented by 62%, 81%, and 73%, respectively
  • People aged under 25 – underrepresented by 70% or more.

In other words, Auckland is a young, multicultural city where young people and non-European people don’t have much of a say in Council feedback.

Here’s another view of the data on the age of submitters versus the age of Aucklanders as a whole. The age profile of LTP submitters is almost the inverse of the age profile for the whole population!

LTP submitters and Auckland age structure chart

This poses some serious challenges for Auckland Council (and other local governments, probably). Councils rely heavily upon submission and consultation processes to help inform their decisions about what to build and how to write urban planning rules. It’s not the sole input to decisions – which sometimes causes some people to kvetch that Auckland Council’s not listening to them – but it is an important one.

If the demographics of submitters are biased, we can’t necessarily rely upon consultation feedback as a guide to what the public wants. If half of Auckland is under the age of 35, and almost half are Maori, Pasifika and Asian, while most submitters are middle aged to retired and disproportionately white, should we trust the data? And what could we do instead to gather more representative data?

Fortunately, Auckland Council does seem to be using a few alternative approaches to getting feedback on the LTP. This includes an independent phone survey of 4,200 Aucklanders selected to be demographically representative. Depending upon how they ask the questions, this may be a more valuable source of insight into actual Aucklanders’ preferences than the standard consultation forms.

The Council is also running a series of meetings, recognising that some people prefer to talk about the issues rather than fill in an online form. In a comment on Matt’s post, Ben Ross reported back on the discussion at an LTP meeting in the Otara-Papatoetoe local board:

the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Have Your Say Sessions in which the Pacific (and Maori) people were VERY vocal in making their thoughts known.

I was the sole white person there at the Otara-Papatoetoe LB session last night (didnt bother me one bit) and their views were consistent:
Low UAGC
Better east west transport links especially from Otara to Wiri and the Airport
Upgrade of Otara Town Centre
And socio-economics was a big concern as well

It is definitely good that Auckland Council’s using a few different mechanisms to get feedback on the LTP – provided that it’s all weighted up and reported together. But even if it puts the effort into getting a meaningfully representative set of views on the LTP, it probably isn’t doing the same thing in the multifarious consultations it does on smaller issues.

I don’t have a good solution to this – although I have a few ideas. What are your thoughts?

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.

LTP 2015-18 approved

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

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

interim-programme

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

LTP infographic transport levy

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

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

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

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

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

LTP 2015-18 rates impact

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

The LTP Patronage Targets

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

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

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

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

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets

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

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

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

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets - Charts

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

2015-25 LTP Targets - annual change

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

Future patronage projection

 

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

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.

Does Auckland have an effective transport programme?

Yesterday the Council made a fairly momentous decision to adopt the ‘Interim Transport Programme‘ that enables significant extra investment in public transport, cycling and safety over the next three years. While this decision means a good transport programme can be pursued in the short-term, it doesn’t yet solve the longer term transport funding issue that Auckland faces. I haven’t yet seen the ‘line by line’ budget detail, but I imagine that in years 4-10 of the LTP there are still some significant funding issues (although not as bad as under the Basic, which was particularly light in the first three years).

Many organisations are now saying the Council and government need to work together to agree on a long-term funding solution for transport in Auckland – be it a motorway user charge or something else. This has led to a number of questions for transport minister Simon Bridges in the past few days. Last night’s Radio NZ interview provides a pretty good summary of his response:


Or listen here.

This mirrors comments the Minister made in the NZ Herald a few days ago:

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Government did not believe the council had an optimal transport plan for the medium and long term.

“We are not going to be putting in place funding tools where we don’t think there is a good plan and at the moment we just don’t see that in terms of congestion and public transport,” he said.

He would engage with Mr Brown over the next year or so to come up with a plan that would satisfy the Government.

We have long criticised the 30 year Integrated Transport Programme that Auckland Transport published in 2013, as both unaffordable and ineffective at achieving many of the Auckland Plan outcomes that were supposed to guide it. In fact that criticism led us to create the Congestion Free Network, a plan that would better deliver on the outcomes sought by the Auckland Plan at a far lower cost than what was in the first version of the ITP. To Auckland Transport’s credit, it seems like they’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years reconsidering the first ITP and trying to make it deliver more at a lower cost. Their rapid transit network (from here) looks remarkably similar to the CFN – for example. A full update to the ITP must be coming along at some point (presumably after the LTP is finalised), which will offer the opportunity to assess the 30 year programme in a bit more detail.

However, the final section of the draft Regional Land Transport Plan provides us with some initial information about the extent to which the transport programme might be considered effective or optimal over the next 30 years. Some modelling outputs of key performance measures are shown, looking at PT patronage, access to employment and freight travel speeds. Firstly in the area of PT patronage:

pt-patronage-modelling

The Auckland Plan network is modelled to have an increase in PT use from around 77 million trips at the moment to what looks like around 230 million by 2046. Depending on what Auckland’s population is at that time, we may not be far off 100 PT trips per capita, double what we achieve now. We know from experience that our transport models tend to underestimate patronage so in all likelihood I think patronage will grow faster than this. Either way it’s clear the plan will deliver massive PT growth, and also that there’s a material difference in the use of PT under the Basic and Auckland Plan networks.

Next, looking at access to employment by car:

pt-patronage-modellingSo much for the Minister’s insinuation that the Plan leads to massive growth in congestion levels and a terrible transport future for those who continue to drive. From this modelling we can see a high proportion of jobs accessible within a half hour car commute in 2046 than was the case in 2006, despite huge population growth over those 40 years.

As for public transport:

pt-access

There’s a huge improvement in the proportion of jobs accessible by a reasonable length PT commute, from under 15% to nearly 30%. With population growth this is likely to mean a ‘many times over’ increase in the number of jobs people can access within a 45 minute PT trip (presumably including wait times etc.) While the level of access is still below private vehicles, meaning that PT is not yet a true “mode of choice” under this plan, it’s clear that investment from 2006 to 2046 will make things a lot better.

The graph for freight travel speeds I think mistakenly shows percentages rather than average speeds, but highlights that in the AM peak under the Auckland Plan network speeds stay roughly the same over time, a pretty impressive accomplishment with so much growth projected over this time period:

freight-speeds

Overall many of these modelling graphs included in the RLTP appear to tell quite a different story to what Simon Bridges is going on about. I wonder whether his advisors are still reading the 2013 Integrated Transport Programme, rather than the more recent version? I also think it’s about time that rather than say there’s something wrong with Auckland’s Plans he actually gives a vision for how he thinks the city should develop.

The “Interim Transport Programme”: a game-changer

The big news to come out of last week’s Long Term Plan announcements was a big boost to transport spending over the next three years to be funded through a “transport levy” of $99 per household and $159 per business per year. As Friday’s NZ Herald editorial noted, this was a somewhat inevitable outcome given the Basic Transport programme outlined in the Draft LTP was terrible over the next few years (interchanges to support the new PT network were delayed till 2021, there was no walking and cycling funding for the next five years etc.) while the Auckland Plan network required government agreement on new funding tools, something that wouldn’t be possible in the timeframes of setting the budget from July 1 this year.

The “transport levy” enables an additional capex spend of approximately $523 million over first three years of the LTP period – approximately $170m per year with a bit of inflation for years two and three. This is being called the Interim Transport Programme. Budget Committee documents released on Friday highlight where that extra money will be going – still at a summary rather than project by project level of detail. It generally looks pretty good – here’s a quick overview by part of the budget:

interim-programme

The increase to public transport, walking and cycling is very significant. The report goes on to provide a bit more detail in what can be achieved with the extra funding. Firstly for public transport:

PT-interimSo the new PT network can be rolled out successfully – no more need for stupid compromises like we saw with consultation on the western network. ATs bus priority works can go ahead which should also see significant length of new bus lanes added, the ability to run double-deckers on much of the network and a major programme of improvements to bus stops. What the report says about light-rail is also quite interesting, that further planning and investigation is required before budget can be allocated.

The next area to see a big boost in investment is walking and cycling taking advantage of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund:

WC-interim

A $124 million walking and cycling investment over three years is a huge increase on what we’ve been doing in recent years (around $10 million per annum) and a huge opportunity to make a step change in the quality of infrastructure provided for cycling in particular. This should mean sufficient funding is available to fund Auckland Transport’s exciting cycling programme that was discussed a couple of weeks ago. Together with solely government funded projects, or cycling as part of other major projects, more than $200m is proposed to be invested over the next three years.

Increased funding for eliminating the Sarawia Street level crossing, advancing rail to the airport (SMART project) by making sure the new Kirkbride Rd interchange as allows for a rail line in they future (it’s insane that this wasn’t part of the project from the start), ensuring AMETI can maintain momentum (it was essentially paused for five years in the Basic programme) and providing a major boost to safety funding are also big winners from the extra money that’s now available.

CRLmajorprojects-interimBeyond the first three years of the LTP the funding drops back to what was in the Basic – as the transport levy is meant to be a “stop gap”. However, because some projects have been brought forward from the outer years, there’s now some capacity to add in a few more projects to years 4-10 of the budget. These are listed below:

outer-years-LTP

Probably the most interesting addition here is the $43 million for the Northwestern Busway, which is excellent news and responds to the clear need for this project sooner rather than later. With the bulk of the busway likely to be funded by NZTA (as per funding of the Northern Busway), it seems quite possible the busway could start construction within the next 10 years.

Overall, and without yet seeing all the details of the updated transport budget, it seems that there has been a good prioritisation of “what gets added in” with the extra money available. The extra investment in making the new PT network a success and making a step change to the level of walking and cycling funding are clear highlights and mean that this really is a game-changer of a transport budget for Auckland.

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.

2015 Long Term Plan Final Feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 LTP Final Demographics

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

2015 LTP Final Local Boards

Moving on to the actual results.

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

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

2015 LTP Final Changes in Investment

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

2015 LTP Final network and funding preferences

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

2015 LTP Final Changes in transport Investment

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

2015 LTP Final Development Auckland

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