In his column this morning, Brian Rudman covers an area we haven’t been paying enough attention to, how the changes to the Land Transport Management Act will affect the governance of transport in Auckland. Rudman starts out by explaining the situation:
By sheer weight of numbers, elections are won and lost in Auckland, so it would seem suicidal for a government to declare war on a third of the population. But that seems to be exactly what the Key Government is doing.
Of course it’s not the first government to see Auckland as “the enemy”. Labour’s finance spokesman, Michael Cullen, once infamously quipped to a Taranaki election audience that “Auckland now sits atop the nation like a great crushing weight”.
But National’s current behaviour has a pattern to it that goes beyond pre-election hyperbole. Having created the Super City less than three years ago, it is acting as though it was all a big mistake and the aim is now to emasculate the monster it created.
In recent times, the mortars have been lobbed across the Bombay Hills from Wellington in a near-continuous barrage. Last week, at a post-Budget meeting with Wellington businessmen, Finance Minister Bill English warned: “We cannot let 20 planners sitting in the Auckland Council offices make decisions that will wreck the macro economy. We cannot let that happen, and we won’t let that happen.”
This was hot on the heels of the charade of the Auckland Housing Accord. This was supposed to signal the working-out of a mutually agreed solution to the city’s housing shortages. Yet a few days later, Housing Minister Nick Smith was threatening to “intervene by establishing special housing areas and issuing consents for developers”.
The idea that the government is lobbing verbal and policy mortars over the bombays seems like quite an apt description. I suspect that there are much more than 20 planners sitting in the council offices, although perhaps Bill is just referring to the senior staff. Rudman continues:
Sailing below the radar is the most concrete example of the Government’s efforts to sabotage Auckland’s local democracy. The tool being used is the boring-sounding Land Transport Management Amendment Bill, which will become law early next month. It will usher in a significant transfer of power in the area of transport planning, from the Auckland Council to the Government.
The new law strips Auckland councillors of their power to decide how the $459.5 million of ratepayers’ money – 33 per cent of total rates income – spent on transport each year is targeted. Instead, the final arbiter will be the unelected board of Auckland Transport, which will have to follow the Government policy statement (GPS) on land transport. The only sanction the Auckland Council will have to control the board of Auckland Transport – a council-controlled organisation – if it goes feral is to sack it. But the new law insists the board’s first loyalty in setting transport priorities must be to the government GPS, so what would a replacement board do differently?
This is quite concerning, the GPS effectively sets out governments funding priorities and ranges. At the moment they have focused almost entirely on the building of new roads and specifically the Roads of National Significance at the expense of other state highway improvements, local roads and of course public transport. Being fair, the current government didn’t set up the GPS as it was brought in by the previous government. This also shows one major flaw when complaining about it, it can be changed by a future government. A change in government could see funding priorities for which we may be thankful should we ever have an anti PT council.
Its also funny how Bill English complains about a handful of planners sitting in Auckland making decisions that could wreck the economy but doesn’t object to probably a similar number sitting in the MoT offices in Wellington making decisions that will wreck the cities future transport network and economy. But it gets worse:
The new act also ignores another statutory document, the Auckland (Spatial) Plan, which sets out Auckland’s direction and policy, including the integrating of land-use with transport.
Speaking to the select committee on behalf of the Auckland Council, transport committee chairman Mike Lee complained of the impending loss of democratic accountability to Auckland ratepayers, pointing out that Auckland would be the only part of New Zealand where elected representatives would not set the local land transport plan.
He said that by law, the principal objective of a council-controlled organisation such as Auckland Transport was to “achieve the objectives of its shareholders, both commercial and non-commercial”. He said the situation “would in effect be creating two local governments in Auckland”.
It was “appropriate in terms of its statutory responsibilities and as owner, major funder and sole shareholder of Auckland Transport, that the Auckland Council continues to set the long-term direction for transport”.
The select committee did the reverse, noting that it had gone out of its way to recommend changes “to ensure that Auckland Transport may not delegate its responsibilities for regional land transport plans and passenger transport plans to the Auckland Council”.
It did this by repealing the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 clause that says the governing body of Auckland Council is responsible and democratically accountable for setting transport objectives for Auckland.
So not only are we being forced to have to follow the governments transport agenda but our elected representatives won’t even have the chance to set the high level strategy any more. This is effectively taxation without representation and is shameful. To me it also suggests that the government are scared of the amount of power the council has. They were expecting a different result 3 years ago but it backfired so now they are trying to back pedal as much as possible to regain control of the city.
In saying all of this, while it is a concern that the council is being shut out of the process for setting policy, I know that there are many very good people at Auckland Transport who are not about to quickly jump on the more roads agenda. Hopefully they will be able to keep things going in the right direction until such time as a future government can resolve this – although it is very rare for a government to give up acquired power so we will just have to wait and see.
If we did start to see some really bad projects being progressed ahead of much needed ones – well more than they are already – I wonder what ability the council will have to withdraw funding for them? If they say that they won’t provide any rates funding unless the projects proposed meet the councils goals then we could end up in a very public power struggle.
A couple of articles in the herald caught my attention this morning that I thought needed some extra comment.
The first was this piece about people clogging up city fringe suburbs for parking.
Inner-city residents appeal to council to stop selfish park-and-ride behaviour.
Residents of central Auckland fringe suburbs such as Mt Eden, Parnell and Orakei are getting riled at their streets becoming free parking lots for commuters skimping on bus or rail fares.
Mt Eden resident Diane Morton says her previously quiet cul-de-sac near a busy bus route has become a mecca for students parking there for long hours each weekday, leaving little room for her and her neighbours to squeeze back in if they return home before late in the afternoon.
Commuters are increasingly driving cars to streets within a $1.90, one-stage bus or rail trip to the CBD, and clogging up suburbs from Freemans Bay to Orakei, from where trains take just eight minutes to reach Britomart.
People driving to the inner city suburbs just so they can get cheaper PT fares is certainly an issue and it creates two key by products. First it obviously clogs up local streets with cars making things difficult for residents but it also generates more traffic as people battle to get to these free parking spaces. However these by products are really just the symptoms of the real problem which is that the parking on these areas isn’t being managed properly. This isn’t the first time we have heard about issues with parking in a city fringe suburb and the first thing that sprung to mind as I read this was that these areas to have a version of the parking scheme currently being trialled in St Marys Bay which has seen area wide time limits imposed but for which residents are able to purchase permits that are exempt. The article continues:
Mrs Morton said she was often forced to park across her own Bourne St driveway when bringing grandchildren to her home. Her garage was too rundown to store her car and she did not want to turn her front-yard vegetable garden into a parking lot.
She believed Auckland Council planners were failing to taking parking demand into account in their urban intensification plans.
She had distributed leaflets to her neighbours asking what they thought could be done. She wanted some form of parking priority, although she disagreed with a $70 charge imposed on St Marys Bay householders in a trial scheme which Auckland Transport hopes may become a model for other fringe suburbs.
Right, so unlike some she actually has off street parking but doesn’t want to pay to fix it up so parks on the street instead. She also doesn’t think she should have to pay for on street parking but wants to be given priority to this publicly owned and paid for piece of infrastructure. The reason there is so much parking demand in her area is because it is currently free to park there. The trial at St Marys Bay finishes in July so it will be good to see the official results of that however like many things that involve pricing something that is currently free, I suspect that most residents didn’t really see the benefits of it until it actually happened. It is likely that the same thing would happen if implemented in other suburbs, people will initially complain but once they see the results won’t want to change back.
Of course local body politicians love to get involved in these types of issues. Christine Fletcher makes the point that Auckland Transport need to be given a chance to assess the impacts on St Marys Bay first. I feel that Mike Lee on the other hand has missed the mark slightly.
Council transport chairman Mike Lee said parking schemes were just treating symptoms of a wider problem, which he suspected was caused by excessive bus and rail fares.
“Rather than suburb-by-suburb and street-by-street I think we need to take a comprehensive overview of the problem and it seems to me that recent fare increases are acting as market signals,” said Mr Lee, who is also an Auckland Transport board member. “Not only do we have a decline in public transport use overall, but we also have behaviour which seems to be influenced by getting a cheap fare.”
Yes the level of PT fares is an issue but reducing them isn’t going to magically get people to stop parking in these suburbs. As mentioned above the real problem is that it is free to park in these suburbs currently. Only by actually managing the parking will we solve the problem.
The second article talks about people moving to Hamilton for cheaper houses.
Aucklanders are looking as far away as Hamilton to buy homes as more people find themselves squeezed out of their local real estate market.
Hamilton real estate agents say there has been a surge in inquiries about properties in their market where the average house price is $347,406.
Other real estate commentators say some are even choosing to make the 90-minute commute over the Bombay Hills while maintaining their lifestyle in the Waikato.
In Auckland, the average house price is $628,205 but that will not buy much for those wanting more than an apartment or a unit in the inner city suburbs.
The big problem I have with this is that people seem to completely underestimate how much they actually pay for transport. Yes you can buy a cheaper house but that can more than be made up for by considerably more expensive transport costs, especially if you are commuting back to Auckland for work like one of the couples mentioned.
Carl Hooker, 37, and his wife, 32, decided to hunt slightly further afield than Auckland while looking for a bigger home for themselves and their three boys .
For a similar price, they were able to swap their 100-year-old villa on a small section for a three-year-old mansion on 5.786 hectares.
The couple both still work in Auckland, splitting the weekly commute.
Now that sounds like they commute together to Auckland and it is roughly 120km from Hamilton. As an indication the IRD suggest that a mileage rate of 77c per km which could cover costs for fuel, maintenance and other costs like insurance . At that level a round trip from Hamilton to Auckland is likely to cost around $180 a day or around $900 per week. Even if you only came up to Auckland a three days a week you are already looking at over $500. A quick calculation using the loan calculator from one of our major banks shows that repayments of $500 a week could equate pay for a mortgage of over $370,000.
Perhaps this shows that our banks should really start linking in transport costs to their lending credit assessments. If they did those wanting to get lending to live in far away suburbs would certainly get a bit of a shock.
If your interested in history then a useful resource is Papers past which is part of the National Libraries. They describe it as;
Papers Past contains more than two million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 77 publications from all regions of New Zealand.
Because all of the resources are fully searchable it makes extremely useful and is where I was able find this newspaper page. This week they added the editions of the NZ Herald from 1885 to 1924. While having a very quick look search through I came across what appears to have been a letter to the editor from 1924.
The Morningside Deviation that is referred to is what is now known as the City Rail Link. What I found interesting is that while some of the terminology and language used highlights that this is old, many of the arguments are the same we hear today. In particular the suggestions that we don’t need rail as buses can do the job and that we should instead focus on a harbour crossing.
Many of those that oppose the CRL like to use very similar arguments to what was presented here in 1924. It seems some things never change, we instead need to just get on with the task and finally get this project built.
Note: the first reference to the Morningside Deviation in the Herald appears to have been in 1918. That means that even if we get the CRL opened to the timetable that the council is hoping for (2021) it would have over 100 years since the project was first proposed.
Much of the debate over the Unitary Plan should be over the question of how should Auckland grow. However, this debate has been somewhat derailed by a reasonable number of people questioning whether Auckland should grow at all – or whether it should grow as much. I think it mainly comes out of selfishness and shows a complete lack of understanding from where the growth is coming and something we’ve tackled on the blog before. As a theoretical question, there are perhaps pros and cons of New Zealand’s future population growth being focused so much in Auckland and perhaps there is an argument that central government should do more to encourage people to settle elsewhere in the country.
Of course the next, related, question is whether such an approach would work. Or how nasty you’d have to actually get in order to make a difference as – after all – Auckland’s comparatively high house prices are already a pretty huge incentive to live elsewhere in New Zealand. In yesterday’s NZ Herald, an opinion piece by Warkworth resident Bryan Jackson looked at this issue:
The debate should firstly be about the need or wish to increase Auckland’s population by one million. The UP looks at an Auckland population of 2.5 million by 2043. This would mean 600 more Aucklanders each week for the next 30 years. Is that what you want? Is this population imbalance good for the rest of New Zealand?
There seems to be a fixation in some quarters on growth. And in order to have growth you have to have more people in Auckland. But bigger is not always better.
What are the reasons for not wanting 1 million more people in Auckland? A major reason is the congestion they would cause in our schools, hospitals, parks, on our roads plus the cost of accommodation. At present Auckland’s infrastructure in relation to transport is not coping.
The lack of sufficient houses being built is only making the future look bleaker. So where are the additional people to live? One of the aims of the UP is to allow the building of 35sq m apartments. Will you be rushing to buy one? Increased congestion, pollution, noise and crime are definite consequences of another million people living in Auckland.
I have no issue with small apartments, and clearly the fact that most apartment buildings in downtown Auckland are full suggests that people are happy to live in them. But I can see where Mr Jackson is coming from generally – if there’s spare infrastructure capacity elsewhere in the country why not utilise that rather than pumping most people into Auckland where infrastructure is often bursting at the seams.
But then the opinion piece starts to get into the more curly question of “how”:
But why not limit the population growth? Of Auckland’s population increase, 33 per cent is derived from immigration and 66 per cent from births.
Reducing the number of migrants coming to New Zealand each year would be a first step. Short-term visas for migrant workers should be abolished. The number of foreign students should be reduced and they should not be able to receive residency while studying here. If the Government wants 80,000 students a year then it should direct a large number to study outside of Auckland. Over the past 10 years NZ has taken in 7500 refugees. We should have a hiatus period of taking none or they could be directed to live in the South Island. Compounding the position is that both immigrants and refugees then bring family members to New Zealand to settle. This reunification should be abandoned.
Redirecting people away from settling or living in Auckland would be a positive step. A good example is in Invercargill where students pay no fees. The fees at Auckland learning institutes should be increased and those elsewhere removed or reduced significantly.
Another group who could be redirected out of Auckland are those who wish to live in retirement homes. Banning the building of any more in Auckland could be followed by rate or compliance cost reductions to developers who build their retirement homes further afield.
It is interesting how migration tends to get picked on, even though the bulk of population growth is from natural increase. As New Zealand’s population ages I think it’s actually really important we have a steady flow of well educated young migrants coming into the country – after all them and their children are the ones who will end up paying for my pension one day! Sure we could perhaps encourage migrants to settle somewhere other than Auckland, but that seems pretty harsh as often the migrant communities are best established in Auckland, making the settlement process easier and more pleasant. Cutting refugee numbers or disallowing family reunions just seems nasty and unlikely to reduce the growth by more than a drop in the bucket. Further it would impact on our international commitments and regardless, I believe quite a few refugees are settled outside of Auckland anyway.
And how about natural increase – where the bulk of population growth comes from?
As so much of the population increase is likely to come from an increase in births, a decrease is urgent. Incentives need to be provided such as free contraception, especially to those under 20 years of age. The provision of family benefits regardless of whether you have two or 10 children should be looked at.
I’m pretty sure there already is free contraception for under 20s, but it starts to seem like we’re going to some pretty ugly and extreme ends to avoid Auckland growing by quite so much. Is the pain really worth the gain – I’m not quite so sure as it seems pretty easy to end up on a slippery slope to some pretty nasty policies in order to battle against the overwhelming attractiveness of Auckland as a place for people to live.
Whenever a debate appears on here around the benefits of one particular mode or another, inevitably someone will complain about the way buses can be driven. Having customers feel comfortable on a bus is incredibly important so it was pleasing to see that steps are being taken to improve that. The Herald reports:
Operator hopes feedback system will improve passengers’ safety and comfort.
Auckland’s largest bus operator is promising passengers smoother rides from “black boxes” to monitor drivers’ performance.
NZ Bus says the equipment being rolled out initially on its North Shore fleet is primarily for drivers to keep an eye on their own performance.
It will allow them to correct their driving if any of five lights on a vertical console to the right of their steering wheels turns from green to amber or – in extreme cases such as emergency braking or lurching too fast around corners – to red.
The five factors measured by the lights are rider comfort in terms of cornering, engine idling, braking, acceleration and speeding.
But the company can also download data for driver training and fuel efficiency purposes from the telematic machines it expects to install on most of its 1000 or so buses in Auckland, Whangarei and Wellington by the end of the year.
This sounds like a wonderful idea as a way to improve the passenger comfort levels as it allows drivers to actively change their behaviour as they drive. As I started reading the article though my first thought was a concern that drivers union might oppose the idea but I was pleasantly surprised to see them getting right in behind this initiative too.
Although black box cockpit voice recorders in aircraft became controversial among pilots in the 1990s after their use in court action, bus union leaders are giving the project qualified approval, after being assured the company will have a “conversation” with any staff needing to mend their ways before it resorts to any disciplinary action.
Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt believes most drivers will welcome the innovation, which the company says will complement its “Pathways to Safer Driving” programme – in which it is in the midst of providing 18 hours of refresher training across four modules including customer service, and driving and personal safety.
“I don’t think the disciplinary process will be invoked at all – the drivers in most cases will listen to what they are being told,” Mr Froggatt said.
“It will improve the performance of the drivers and hopefully cut down on the amount of speeding tickets they are getting.”
He said monitoring lights coupled with beeps when buses are travelling too fast would help to make up for an absence of a 50km/h mark on speedometers in the company’s predominantly European-made fleet.
I really love the part slightly later in the article where it is mentioned that some drivers are now actively competing with each other to see how long they can keep the various lights green. There’s nothing like a good bit of healthy competition to make things better for passengers. All up it seems like a really positive step so well done NZ Bus and hopefully we will see other bus companies roll out the same, or similar technology to help improve the experience for passengers.
I live in a parallel transport universe. A universe where zombies make uninformed statements about Auckland’s transport issues, which are subsequently published by well-meaning but clueless mainstream media. The zombies’ strategy is to hypnotise people with absurdity and then proceed to eat a few parts of their brains, after which their haplessly brainless victims stumble out into the world spouting transport nonsense.
Yesterday threw up two delicious brain-eating examples.
The first came courtesy of this rather interesting hour-long series of interview on RadioLive. First off the mark was Patrick (cue Irish accent), who took 10 minutes to deconstruct a few of the myths about Auckland’s transport problems in somewhat humorous fashion.
Hot on Patrick’s dainty little high heels was an almost comical, but unfortunately serious, interview with Simon Lambourne, who apparently is the transport spokesperson from the AA (OMG he gets paid?). In response to a question about whether hovercrafts were the solution to Auckland’s transport problems, Simon replied by saying:
“Yeah well I think this person’s actually onto something. If you look at public transport in Auckland, and we desperately need to look at investing more in public transport than we already do, there’s a lot of attention on buses and trains, but hardly anything on actual ferries. Now if you look at somewhere like Sydney, where they really unleash the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network …”
Let’s follow Simon’s advice and “look” at Sydney’s public transport system. A quick internet search reveals the following (approximate) annual public transport patronage statistics by mode:
- Ferry ~13 million p.a.
- Bus ~200 million p.a.
- Rail ~250 million p.a.
Has Sydney really “unleashed the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network”? Perhaps – if you consider a ferry network that carries approximately 2% of total annual public transport patronage as being “unleashed” (NB: Ferries currently carry about 5% of Auckland’s PT patronage). But this has not been achieved without monumental investment in bus and rail, the very same type of investment that Lambourne is lamenting.
That “boom” you just heard was Simon Lambourne blowing up his own credibility. Seriously though, someone needs to tell Simon that it does not matter how reasonable you try and sound when you’re talking about public transport; if you’re working from blatantly incorrect information then you will always be, well, conspicuously wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong, I quite like ferries. In terms of overall deliciousness they rank just below chocolate ice-cream and puppies. Mmm … delicious.
But as previously discussed in this post, the potential of ferries in Auckland has largely already been tapped; there simply aren’t many craggy peninsulas like Devonport left. In other places where they have been considered, such as Te Atatu, the general conclusion (for good reason) is that ferries will struggle to compete with cars and buses in terms of speed and accessibility and therefor would be an expensive way to grow PT patronage.
And even putting these physical realities to one side does not alter the fact that the maximum potential share of total travel demands that could possibly be met by ferries is really, really small in the scheme of a large city like Auckland. So please don’t let Simon (or Cameron Brewer or Phil Twyford) eat your brain: Ferries are not going to solve Auckland’s transport problems (as the evidence from Sydney demonstrates).
Yesterday was the transport zombie gift that kept on giving. Another example came by way of this op-ed entitled “Strategic car parks part of gridlock solution“. The op-ed itself is not too bad, at least compared to Simon’s effort. The author (Neil Binnie) starts off by making the following claim (emphasis added):
Traffic congestion in Auckland is chronic and deteriorating fast. The comments that follow relate to the North Shore and the Northern Busway but the principles may be applied across the city. One issue that has had little promotion is park and ride.
Little promotion? Well, my 2 seconds of internet searching threw up this AT website, which identifies P&R sites across Auckland. These can be summarised as follows:
- Northern Busway – 1,100 car-parks
- Southern line – ~1,000 car-parks
- Western line – 300 car-parks
- And various ferry P&R sites.
We’ve also discussed P&R at length in this earlier post. One such ferry P&R is at Devonport, which is illustrated below. Here we see some of the most valuable land in New Zealand being occupied solely for P&R. How is this not a scandal? And how can an article on P&R not even mention the value of land?
Let’s look at the example of the Northern Busway in more detail. Here we have 1,100 P&R car-parks. Now if we assume that all these car-parks are occupied by cars that carry 1.2 people each, then these P&R spaces might be expected to generate approximately 1,100 x 1.2 x 2 = 2,750 boardings per day (2.5 boardings per car-park).
At last count the Northern Busway was carrying something like 2.25 million people per year, which is an average of 187,500 people per month or 6,160 per day (it’s likely to be much higher on weekdays). So on the average weekday P&R is able to contribute, at most, 45% (2,750/6,160) of the patronage on the Northern Express. Don’t forget, however, that the NEX is only about one-third of the bus services using the busway. When we consider all the other services using the busway, and their likely patronage, then P&R would seem to generate ~20% of total bus patronage in the corridor.
P&R is not even close to being the most important mode of access.
That’s not all, however. One of the often-overlooked issues with P&R is the degree to which it diverts existing PT passengers. When the Northern Busway, first opened, for example, surveys showed that approximately half of the people using the P&R had previously been catching a local bus from their street. Why is this relevant? Well, it indicates that approximately half of the people using P&R were not new to the PT system. That in turn means that half of the P&R provided on the Northern Busway did not contribute to a net increase in PT patronage.
None of this is mentioned in the article, which prefers to argue that “Passenger numbers on the Northern Expressway [sic] have plateaued because parking options are exhausted.“ The article also ignores that just over a year ago Auckland Transport spent $5.5 million to expand the Albany P&R by 550 spaces. Expanding park and ride in many locations is enormously expensive, because land is expensive. So the question Auckland Transport must try to answer is: Where is it cost-effective to do so? Places like Constellation and Albany generally are not cost effective. Silverdale maybe.
Despite all of these omissions the article then finishes with the following comment:
We are told to use shuttle busses rather than parking at a bus station or dropping family off. In practice the buses are so infrequent that it is not an option. For example, there is a bus every half hour from Albany bus station to Torbay shops. .
A bus every half an hour? That to me sounds like an argument for increasing the frequency of bus connections to busway stations, which indeed is what the draft RPTP has proposed to do. Again, these proposals, their potential costs (the proposed network is broadly cost neutral), and their subsequent effects on PT patronage (and the demand for P&R) does not even warrant a mention in the article.
Some of you may think that likening these people to “brain-eating zombies” is a little harsh on my part. Perhaps.
On the other hand, the people responsible for these pearls of wisdom, namely Simon Lambourne and Neil Binnie, have had the temerity to approach mainstream media offering their personal opinions on potential solutions to Auckland’s transport issues; opinions which can be shown to be demonstrably incorrect, or at least highly uninformed, with just 2 seconds of internet research. That, I’d suggest, is deserving of a lampooning.
It’s nothing personal, but I think it’s important to point out that these zombies don’t know what they’re talking about. Simon definitely should know better – after all he’s paid to know stuff about transport.
Of course ferries and P&R should be part of Auckland’s integrated transport system, but they’re relatively small parts – with the potential to contribute, at a guess, a maximum of 10-15% of total public transport patronage. The bulk of Auckland’s patronage will still occur the way it always has – walk-up passengers to bus and rail services It is these people that we need to focus on – they’re the bulk of our passengers and will be for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, the solutions to Auckland’s public transport issues are quite simple. We just need to 1) build the CRL so we can run higher train frequencies across the whole network; 2) establish a more legible, connected, high-frequency bus network ; and 3) implement a simple and “fair” integrated fare system. These three initiatives will provide quite a lot of “pull”. There’s also a need for a few policy reforms, such as the removal of minimum parking requirements, although these initiatives can bubble quietly along in the background providing a gradual “push” for people to drive less and use alternatives more.
I’m convinced that if we focus on implementing these initiatives, and ignore the noisy zombies with all their absurd ideas about how Auckland would somehow be saved if the city was awash with ferries or P&R or whatever, then we will get quite far, quite fast. We just need to stay the course and get the basics right. I realise that’s not a particularly glamorous message, but I think it’s the right one.
Rodney Hide’s opinion piece in the Herald on Sunday highlighted an issue that’s been bugging me for some time – whether those opposing the City Rail Link on the grounds that “buses can do the job fine” are really interested in improving Auckland’s bus system or not. Here’s what he says about his preference for buses:
It’s not obvious to me that a heavy train having to stop and start and be confined to tracks is the best way to ferry people around Auckland. Buses along roads strike me intuitively as a cheaper and more flexible form of public transport.
Many more people live closer to a bus stop than a train station. That’s because buses go along roads that people live on. Buses can also pass one another. Trains can’t do that.
Because of the flexibility and convenience, more people travel into the city centre by bus than train. That will stay true even if Auckland spends billions on trains at the expense of better roads and better bus services.
John Roughan made a similar cry in favour of buses in the Saturday Herald:
The crossing would have to be under water and probably it would be connected to the northern busway that one day conceivably could be converted to a railway, but that, too, is a solution looking for a problem.
The busway, like the bridge, is fine.
The problem lies in roads closer to home. By car it can take as long to get on to the motorway as it takes for the rest of the journey. By bus it takes too long to get to a busway station. Once on the busway, you can be in the city in eight minutes.
In fact, the North Shore is probably better served by the busway than the rest of Auckland is by its railways, which also have to be reached by bus or car from most people’s homes.
The only reason the mayor invokes rail for the Shore is to answer its ratepayers when they ask why they should help pay for a project that isn’t coming their way. It’s a silly answer to a silly question but this is election year.
Russell Brown from Public Address notes the great irony of John Roughan now being a huge fan of the busway when he absolutely hated the idea back in 2007. I guess we chalk that up as someone won over – or should we?
The simple fact is that all these supposed bus fans have done diddly squat to actually encourage the improvement of Auckland’s bus system. I can’t exactly remember Rodney Hide out there campaigning to save the Remuera Road bus lane from turning back into a T3 lane. Or John Roughan supporting the implementation of the HOP Card – he pumped for Snapper back in 2009 and didn’t that end well?
As for the cabal of local councillors, Cameron Brewer, Dick Quax and George Wood. They frequently like to grandstand against the CRL claiming it is sucking up all of the money for PT, like in this article from 6 months ago.
Mr Quax said the rail project made little sense because it would gobble up 80 per cent of the public transport capital budget over the next 10 years when much-needed bus lanes and ferry terminals received a “paltry” 20 per cent.
They use this line quite frequently these days, despite their numbers actually being wrong – the PT capex budget for the next decade is ~$4b and the inflated CRL price is $2.86b, or 72% of the budget. Despite this, I haven’t exactly seen George Wood talking much about the stalled progress of extending the Northern Busway to Albany, or Dick Quax wanting to see the AMETI busway’s construction schedule sped up. In fact I don’t think I have seen any one of them suggest where a single metre of bus lane should be added or where they think new ferry services should operate from. Yesterday in response to the alternative funding proposals, they once again made vague comments without giving any detail.
I have a nasty feeling that when rail opponents say they support buses they’re actually not quite telling the truth. They realise it’s not viable for them politically (or practically) to dismiss public transport out of hand anymore – so they pretend to support buses on the spurious grounds of “buses need roads too” – when in actual fact they’re just mainly interested in spending as little as possible on public transport so all the money can go back into roads.
So next time someone plays the “buses are better than trains” card, I suggest asking them “so what have YOU specifically done to try and improve Auckland’s bus system recently?” Or “I look forward to your support for introducing bus lanes along desperately needed routes like Great North Road in Waterview, Manukau Road, Pakuranga Road, Onewa Road (uphill) and in many other places”. Then let’s see how deep their love affair with the bus really is.
Last week I wrote a post about how we need to stop underselling major PT projects like the CRL. I was – and still am – frustrated at the lack of useful information being put out by Auckland Transport that can be used to clearly show the benefits of them.
One thing that really frustrates me about public transport projects is the tendency of both our official agencies and many supporters to completely undersell the benefits of them. Auckland Transport is a frequent offender of this and I think that the main problem is that they are a bit gun shy. They are too scared to talk about specific benefits of the project, in particular the parts that really matter to the general public. It is seemingly out of fear that they might not meet those objectives at some point in the distant future, or that plans may change. But by taking this approach they often lose out on much of the impact that they could otherwise achieve.
To make matters worse, even those that support the project often don’t seem to grasp the transformational nature of the project and also undersell it. My post last week was aimed at statements from both the Greens and Labour in support of the CRL which has helped reignite the debate in the public. But without good information in the public domain, it is very easy for wrong or misleading information to spread, especially when it is pushed in the mainstream media. I’m guessing that the Greens Reconnect Auckland campaign is what has triggered off the latest bout of CRL related news stories.
On Friday Campbell Live ran a story about the CRL. I will start by saying it was actually a lot better than most that we get however there were still some glaring mistakes. I’m just going to list my comments about both the good and the bad parts. Click on the image to view the video.
- The old man at 1:40 makes some very good points worth remembering in this debate, that we need to be thinking about the future and the primary one being that Auckland is a growing city. Even using Statistics NZ most recent projections, under the medium growth scenario there will be roughly another 500,000 people living in the region by 2031 bringing the total up to roughly 2 million people. Those extra people are going to place a lot of pressure on our existing transport infrastructure.
- I really had to laugh at the young guy at 1:50 who says he never uses PT, partly because it costs money so he prefers to drive a car. I wonder how much he paid to park his car in the city, let along the costs of running it?
- At 3:00, why does Len continue to use the future inflation adjusted price instead of what it costs today? Also remember that the $2.86 billion figure includes a whole raft of other projects like duplicating the Onehunga Line, extra trains and grade separating some level crossings. It does seem that he is about to say something else that might have been cut though.
- At 3:15, the Puhoi to Wellsford road is currently budgeted at $1.7 billion but from memory that is in 2009 dollars. Comparing the 2009 cost of that road – for which the shorter and easier section alone is now costing $1 billion – with the 2021 cost of the CRL is hardly a fair comparison.
- At 4:00, perhaps the most shocking error on the entire report. It is suggested that there are only 4 trains per hour on the network and that the CRL will increase that to 7. Where the hell does that information even come from. As pointed out in my post last week, the CRL enables us to run a train on each line every 5 minutes, that’s 12 per hour per direction and totals 48 trains per hour heading through the CRL, one in each direction every couple of minutes.
- At 6:00, Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett talks about how he wants the Wellington to region to receive a share of funding equal to its population. What he is obviously not aware of is that historically Wellington on a per capita basis has had a much greater share than Auckland. Auckland has historically, and continues to receive less funding that it provides in taxes. He also raises the point that Wellington has been waiting decades for Transmission Gully. If he thinks projects should be funded based on how long they have been proposed then the CRL still wins as it was first mooted in the 1920s and was the reason the main train station was moved out of the CBD in the first place. Further if we were to base transport spending on the expected percentage of growth over the next 20 years, for Wellington to get Transmission Gully, Auckland would need to get around $18 billion to receive a similar level of investment.
Then there was yesterday’s opinion piece by Rodney Hide on the CRL. I’m not going to cover it again as I did that yesterday but am going to talk about some of the comments in response to it. Unfortunately reading comments on Herald opinion pieces is often a hair pulling exercise but can be useful to see what misinformation exists out in the general public. So here is a selection.
Waterfront (West Auckland)
08:59 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
It’s like the inner city rail link.
What a complete waste of money. How do people get to and leave mt Eden for this proposed train line. There is no parking planned at mt Eden so how do people get there from outer suburbs? Walk?
More buses before trains.
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Trains going round and round the CBD doesn’t help me nor anyone I know get to work.
I was working in Albany and living in Henderson.
Or, try going from Henderson to Carbine Rd.
Or, Waiuku to Henderson – like my son.
12:50 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Who benifits from inner city rail. Not the suburban rate payers; it’s the inner city rate payers that get all the goodies, that contribute most to all the grid lock. Why not wack up comercial rates on the CBD to fund the project. The nat’s have their corporate taxes so low right now that they can well afford it
Clearly these people have the impression that the project is just about building a line that goes around in circles around the CBD, not a link that will improve the entire existing rail network and allow for it to be expanded. AT really need to get a map out showing how the rail network will operate after the CRL including how the lines will through route allowing for a range of trips.
MikeyB (New Zealand)
09:01 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
And the rail lopp will only allow three more trains in per hour.
I wouldnt be surprised if those at AT were getting back handers from the involved construction companies
The first part of this comment obviously came straight from the Campbell Live piece and highlights how important it is that AT gets information out about how many trains we will actually have on the lines.
Silver Fox (East Tamaki)
09:07 AM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Very good points Rodney. The rail enthusiasts are dreamers, mostly without common sense. Let them pay the real cost of transporting them by rail. As for transporting goods by rail, another dream. Do they ever consider how the goods are to get to and from the rail head and the heaps of vehicles sitting there for hours on end to pick goods up, that is after the paperwork to actually find the goods. NZ rail eventually put articulated trucks on the road in the 50′s to speed up goods cartage.
Ahh, the old chestnut of making train users pay for the upgrades themselves. Why is it that people continue to think that roads magically cover all of their costs? The reality is they don’t and huge amounts of money spent on them every year comes from sources other than fuel taxes.
12:37 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Rather than plowing even more money into public transport there should be money spent promoting the benefits of telecommuting. That is having more people working from home.
If more people did this then this would go along way toward reducing the need for people to travel into work at peak traffic times. Choosing instead to either travel to work only when they have meetings that cannot be conducted online or stay at home and conduct their work affairs from there.
If more and more business adopted telecommuting as an option I am sure that over time the pressure on our transport system would ease quite significantly.
Many businesses now allow staff to work from home yet it makes very little impact. One of the huge benefits to working in an office with other staff is the ability to bounce ideas around much quicker and easier than is possible if everyone is in remote locations. This can have huge benefits for businesses.
Therecanbeonlyone (Auckland Region)
12:38 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
(in response to the first comment talked about)
Kind of agree will you on this, trains in Auckland have a limited operational area. There are no train tracks over the shore, or out east. Buses are the only option for these areas. Maybe the money would be better spend on dedicated bus lanes (like over the shore) or dedicated bus roads (like Crafton bridge).
How I believe there is a place for trains in the public transport plan, where they are integrated with buses. Apart from the Papakura, Manuwera & Homai stations, I have not seen many other train stations that have a regular bus service near them. Perhaps the buses could transport commuters to the nearest train station and the trains could carry them from there
Yes trains have a limited area of coverage and that is being expanded on by the RPTP which was adopted by Auckland Transport. While AT has stated this as part of the RPTP, perhaps they need to mention this in any material relating to the CRL as well.
phil lindsay (Queensland)
12:41 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Developing effective rail in Auckland requires lane acquisition of land for tracks and parking. Auckland is not laid out for rail, more so because rail has not been developed over the years.
However extensive work has been done to develop its road net work. Therefore it is logical, and has been for decades, to develop of comprehensive bus network linking suburbs to each other and to the city.
This would require land for stations only. An intelligent city will work to its strengths, it does not mindlessly follow other cities. I have never understood why Auckland did away with its central station when it did, poor money into Britomart, and for decades has failed to develop the obvious.
If you build it they will come. If there is an effective bus service linking suburbs and the city it will be used, but it has to be put in place first.
This seems to ignore the issue that there is only so much space on the roads to handle buses, especially in the central city which is why the CCFAS found the CRL was the best long term option. It also ignores that the rail network had/has been sitting as a vastly underutilised resource. The CRL is about maximising that resource rather than having it sitting around just for a few freight trains.
And I will end on this one.
02:56 PM Sunday, 28 Apr 2013
Will never bother with the trains and can’t be bothered with buses either.
My plan is to wait till a lot of other people do, they the roads I drive on should be less clogged which is better for those of us that need our cars to get around for convenience and comfort.
At the end of the day, a lot of people will still drive and that is completely fine as people shouldn’t be forced to use trains or buses. As this person notes, their drive will likely be made easier thanks to the investment.
What all of these comments really confirm to me is that Auckland Transport need to be working to get some good, clear information out about the project so that people can properly understand it.
I’m a proud Aucklander.
My job often takes me overseas. I’m actually writing this from Brisbane. And often when I fly back to Auckland I find a small tear forming in the corner of my eye. I’m happy not just because I get to see colleagues, friends, family, and Baby Kuku (see below). I just generally love being home in Auckland.
I also find that every time I get back to Auckland something new is happening. I stumble across new cafes, new stores, new buildings etc. Houses on my street are being renovated and painted and generally tidied up. Even if the city is not perfect, it feels like things are heading in a positive direction. It just feels good.
Recently, however, the NZ Herald has started to run a number of very negative articles about the Unitary Plan (UP). In this recent post Matt outlined a number of ways in which these articles have tended to misrepresent information about the UP in an attempt to create “bad news” stories. This concerns me.
For all its talk of “multi-storey” development, the Herald has not – as far as I know – provided any examples of what 4-6 storey buildings look like overseas. Let me assist. The photo below, for example, shows a 6 storey building (including the attic) in Amsterdam. As Maurice put it “be ye not afraid.”
Now I accept that the UP is not perfect.
But the trade-offs involved are complex. Auckland is growing (nice problem to have), development needs to happen somewhere, less development in one area means more development somewhere else, different development patterns have different implications for infrastructure costs, and so on.
Raising height limits, for example, reduces the need for greenfields sprawl, and vice versa. The UP tries to find a balance between these types of issues.
From what I can tell the Herald is having none of it. This latest article by Bernard Orsman spends a lot of time taking things to a whole new level of uninformed emotive negativity. The views of a local resident and landowner, for example, are paraphrased as follows (emphasis added):
Statements like this provide little comfort … they confirm her worst suspicions that the council is paying lip-service and acting like the Government of Cyprus to steal property rights for a bankrupt agenda.
Even when you ignore the bizarre connection to Cyprus, this comment is simply illogical.
Let’s get this clear: Raising height limits enhances property rights, because it enables landowners to develop their properties more intensively. Repeat after me: “Raising height limits enhances my property rights“. To claim that the UP proposes to “steal” property rights is, in this context, completely illogical.
What’s more frustrating than the comment itself, however, was that the journalist does not subject it to any critical examination. There was no reflection on the tension between the resident’s property rights and the rights of her neighbours, nor how they might be resolved in a manner that was fair and efficient for the city.
Hypocrisy underscores much of the emotional rhetoric. The local residents, for example, felt:
“We are the landowners. We are supposed to have ownership of that land, but we have this group of people who have come to Mt Eden and made sweeping changes …”
At this point I had to laugh. Was the journalist not tempted to point out that all the UP does is enable development rather than require it. So if all the landowners don’t want to develop their land then that’s fine. If some of them do, then they can – up to four storeys. Sweeping? Hardly.
I guess it’s just easier to encourage NIMBYs to squeal like entitled little piggies. Not good enough, in my opinion. But then the article finishes with what struck me as truly awful journalism:
Hate speech is coming to a street near you – if you live in a quiet piece of suburbia, like Poronui St in Mt Eden, and object to your neighbourhood being rezoned for apartments and infill housing. In a sign that the council is losing the battle to persuade middle-class suburban Auckland to adapt to a new way of life, it has appointed 28-year-old councillor Michael Goudie to counter more conservative views.
Not only that, but wise heads like deputy-mayor Penny Hulse are turning a blind eye while Goudie promotes an anonymous blog article, We Hate Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard) that labels a “sea of grey hair” opposing a new planning rulebook “selfish, arrogant, narrow -minded and parochial people” who should “just hurry up and die”.
In one fell swoop the article seems to be implying:
- If you object to the re-zoning proposed in the UP, then you will be subjected to hate speech.
- That the Auckland Council is, first, trying to persuade people to adapt to “new way of life” and, second, that they are losing that battle.
- Councillor Michael Goudie has been appointed by Auckland Council to promote the UP. But Goudie, sanctions hate speech and is tacitly endorsed/supported by Penny Hulse.
Weasel words like this are a red-flag for me, and they are often used by extremists like the Tea Party movement in the U.S. As Michael Higgins notes in this entertaining and impassioned debate with a Tea Party advocate, the general strategy is to ”get a large crowd, whip them up, and try and discover what is their greater fear. Work on that and feed it right back and you get a frenzy” (1:05).
The greatest fear held by some of Auckland’s residents seems to be multi-storey development, and the Herald is now dutifully whipping this fear up into a frenzy.
Now I appreciate that the Herald needs to sell newspapers, and the negativity they push may achieve that end. I also understand readers of the Herald tend to be older and more conservative, which in turn is likely to be reflected in the types of articles that are pursued by Herald’s editors and journalists.
Basically, I understand that the Herald has a commercial prerogative to reflect the views of their readers.
Nonetheless, I think the Herald’s coverage of the Unitary Plan has now crossed some sort of ethical line. Their negative and imbalanced reporting on the UP is certainly not what a responsible newspaper would do, nor is it – I suspect – what decent Aucklanders want.
Most decent Aucklanders would, I think, recognise the UP is too important to be exploited for political or commercial gain. To do so would be akin to crapping in your own backyard – because your actions will, in the long run, harm the community around you (that you rely on for your business).
By not providing more balanced reporting on the Unitary Plan I think the Herald is betraying the future of our city. Emotive words perhaps, but that’s nonetheless how I feel.
At the end of the debate, Higgins suggests his Tea Party opponent should “be proud to be a decent American, rather than be just a wanker whipping up fear” (4:12). I’d like to send a similar message to the Herald.
Be proud to be decent Aucklanders, rather than just wankers whipping up fear.
One of the things that prompted me to write a post explaining why I want intensification in my neighbourhood was due to the seemingly one sided debate coming out of our major newspaper. It seemed almost every single article that discusses the Unitary Plan had a negative slant to it and I can only recall seeing one story even slightly balanced. Since that time this negative trend has continued and I’m interested to know why. Is it just the herald pandering to its readers who are more likely to be the type of people opposing the plan? Is it the reporters and editors pushing their own personal views through the stories? I have even some of them asked through twitter to provide some balance but so far all we hear is silence then more one sided articles.
Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
Luxury homes picked for infill plan
Planning rulebook pinpoints future land to contain urban sprawl and where thousands more can be housed.
Billionaire Graeme Hart’s clifftop mansion is among luxury homes, schools, churches and golf clubs being set aside for possible infill housing and apartments in a new planning rulebook for Auckland.
Schools, including Kings Prep in Remuera and De La Salle College in Mangere, were unlikely to be replaced by houses, said council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley, but it was still a possibility.
You would almost think from reading this that the council was actively eyeing up these properties to force houses on them yet it isn’t till halfway through the article that it is even mentioned that this is based off the Capacity for Growth Study which looks at what would be possible under the existing rule books. In other words the owners of Kings Prep could develop the site tomorrow if they wished.
Wednesday 24 April:
Kiwis still crave slice of suburbia
The “suburban dream” of living in a standalone home is still alive and well – a finding that could harm Auckland Council’s push for more terraced housing.
As the council looks at how to deal with the city’s growing population and housing crisis under the Unitary Plan, a study it commissioned on current housing intensification could be damning.
Residents from medium density developments in three city suburbs were interviewed about their living conditions as part of Auckland University’s Future Intensive: Insights for Auckland Housing.
We will cover this study in more detail but from having a quick read of it, it appears the herald have been very selective with what they have reported on. For example the report also says this.
Overall, the case study developments indicated a reasonable level of satisfaction with the experiences of living at medium densities, and meeting a range of household needs that included bringing up children and caring for the elderly. In part, this positively supports proposals to increase the supply of higher density housing promoted by the Auckland Plan. However, we also recognise from our research that complex interactions between urban planners, developers and potential buyers (owner-occupiers and investors) profoundly influenced the physical characteristics of medium density developments. these interactions produced a specific built form that may, or may not, exhibit good design elements and may, or may not, promote long term ‘successful communities’…
Despite the positive responses to living at higher densities, for whatever reason, the aspiration of living in detached suburban housing remains strong for both New Zealand born and ‘new’ New Zealanders. However, this aspiration needs to be understood in relation to the reasons given for living in their present accommodation: such as ‘proximity/location’ and ‘affordability.’ In this respect, the suburban ‘dream’ might simply be unrealistic and unaffordable. thus, keeping in mind the low national median income of New Zealanders and Auckland’s high house prices, it can be surmised there is a disjuncture between the desire and aspiration to live in a standalone home and affordability considerations. Nevertheless, the aspiration for suburbia (no matter how unrealistic) is a barrier to the promotion of visions for a compact city that needs to be better understood.
Well I want to drive a Ferrari but that doesn’t mean I can afford one.
Unitary Plan deadline will stay – Brown
Some councillors say timetable is too tight and council is playing ‘Russian roulette’
The Auckland Council is sticking to a tight timetable on a new planning rulebook, despite claims it is a rushed process and misgivings about high-rise apartments and infill housing on more than half of the city’s residential land.
A group of councillors, led by George Wood, yesterday tried to extend the timeframe for the rulebook – or Unitary Plan – beyond the local body elections in October.
Most councillors voted for a compromise solution that will include further engagement with Aucklanders after the May 31 deadline for feedback on the draft plan.
So if the majority councillors supported a compromise solution why report so much on the minority that are opposing it?
Review for four-storey Orewa limit
A controversial decision to cap Orewa and Browns Bay apartment living heights at four storeys is up for review during debate of Auckland Council’s new planning rule book.
The Hibiscus & Bays Local Board put forward the limit in its area plan.
However, the council’s draft Unitary Plan proposes heights of up to six storeys in the seaside centres, with adjacent terrace housing and apartment areas at four storeys.
Who decided that the height limit was controversial and what were the reasons the council rejected the local boards suggestions? Presumably council officers had looked through the local board proposal but the whole subject is presented as if the council is just forcing its views through.
Four-storey rule sparks congestion fear
It will not be possible to drive to Devonport if plans to intensify neighbouring Belmont proceed, a public meeting heard last night.
About 100 people turned out at the Devonport RSA for a meeting on heritage provisions in a new rulebook for the city, but questions quickly turned to Belmont and the effect that four-storey apartments would have on Lake Rd – the congested route into the seaside suburb
These are just a few examples and unfortunately there are many more. About the only article even remotely balanced seems to have been this one on 15 April.
Locals demand quality housing
Intensification plan accepted, with concern.
Lynette O’Brien supports intensification of Papatoetoe so long as it is not like the “concrete jungle” of stucco townhouses in Shirley Rd.
The two rows of featureless townhouses will deteriorate into a ghetto, predicts the local pharmacist, who believes in the future of the once-bustling middle-class suburb of Papatoetoe.
“I support the model of change, but the crux is quality,” said Mrs O’Brien, who wants Papatoetoe to build on its heritage.
She was one of about 20 locals at a community meeting to discuss a new rulebook for the city that asks Aucklanders to adapt to high-rise apartments and infill housing to squeeze another one million residents into the city.
Seriously what will it take to get the herald reporting some balance, like people who want intensification. Showing examples of where it has worked and where people are happy with it as well as issues like intensification for the elderly.
Edit: And almost on queue they are at it again this morning. I have been to a number of local events where the vast majority of people attending don’t object to the plan but there is no reporting on that
‘Not in my back yard’
Council plans to allow multi-storey buildings over half of Auckland have run into a brick wall of local opposition. Super City reporter Bernard Orsman surveys opinion in a typical suburban street, where locals are horrified at the proposed changes.
Poronui St hardly looks like a battleground. It’s a quiet cul-de-sac of middle-class suburbia, tucked behind Mt Eden’s self-styled shopping village.
There are dozens of streets like it around Auckland, in character if not in property values. Apart from a few apartments and townhouses, it consists mostly of well-kept villas and bungalows, whose pretty gardens benefit from rich, volcanic soil.
But in a sign of the discontent spreading across many suburbs, the residents of Poronui St are now mobilising to save their homes, sunlight and views of Maungawhau (Mt Eden) against plans for intensification in the new rulebook – or unitary plan.
The plan is a 30-year blueprint for the city that sets out to squeeze a further one million residents into the city over the next 30 years. Instead of urban sprawl, the model is for a “compact” city, with 280,000 new homes in the existing urban area and 160,000 new homes in rural areas.