Goff’s Busway Tunnel

Yesterday Stuff published what is frankly an odd opinion from Mayor Phil Goff regarding public transport and a future harbour crossing.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff would prefer the city’s second harbour crossing to be built with a busway instead of a rail line.

Goff said the $4 billion tunnel under Auckland Harbour, planned for about 2030, should be built with a busway to begin with.

“Busways are easily translatable to light railways, so the two are quite compatible. You may sequence it in that order. That’s my preference,” Goff said.

Goff said he was keen for a rail line to Auckland’s North Shore, eventually, but a rail line to the airport was a higher priority.

There are quite a few things that spring to my mind from just these few lines.

The busway is an outstanding success and use of it has grown dramatically in the nine years since it opened. It now carries over 4.6 million trips annually which is not all too different to what our rail lines do.

One of the big transport issues facing Auckland and especially the city centre is how we cope with growth in public transport. As it is now many streets in the city centre have too many buses on them and are struggling to cope, let alone what would be needed if public transport use keeps growing like it has been. This is of course the main reason AT were looking at Light Rail in the Isthmus. On top of this is the city’s desire to become more walking and cycling friendly.

The NEX is popular and there can already be too many in the city with not enough space for them all

The northern busway itself still has capacity left for a while, at current rates probably till some time in the 2030’s, but even that means we’re likely to need to look for further ways of improving capacity within the next 20 years which is exactly the timeframe we’re going to be discussing the next harbour crossing. If we’re going to the trouble of spending possibly billions on another harbour crossing it makes no sense to build it as a busway if we’re only going to have to upgrade it again in few years time.

This is becoming an increasing sight on the busway

Goff campaigned on light rail down Dominion Rd and he’s quoted as saying that rail to the airport is a higher priority. I agree with him on that but it doesn’t mean we don’t discuss it for the North Shore. In fact, the two could even link up together to deliver a light rail rapid transit line from Albany to the Airport. That’s a vision I bet a lot of the city would get behind.

I also suspect Goff is underestimating the impact of converting a busway to light rail, especially the disruption it will cause. This won’t be a quick few weeks job but would likely take months or even over a year depending on how it was done and during that time the busway will be out of action. While I’m sure some of the smart people in our transport industry will find ways to minimise that, it will still be incredibly disruptive and we wouldn’t want to have to do both the existing busway and a busway harbour tunnel, even if it was possible.

It’s important to remember though that the timeframe listed, of a harbour crossing “planned for about 2030” is actually incorrect anymore. The recent ATAP work pushed the project back to completion in the 3rd decade (2038-2048), in part due to the work showing it as having a very high cost while having little impact on congestion. The current plans for the next crossing envisage a combined tunnel with road and rail combined. I can’t imagine that would be too save with buses though it and certainly not double deckers.

We believe there’s a strong case to separate out the PT and road crossings and build them separately, starting with the mode that doesn’t currently exist. This is also because a PT crossing would have considerably more capacity than any road crossing would. We also think it’s time we reconsidered the option of that new crossing being a bridge. Like the new Tilikum Crossing in Portland it could be for PT and active modes only, and would considerably cheaper than tunnel options.

 

 

Let’s hope someone tells Goff that a busway tunnel is a bad idea

Missed news wrapup

Every week we receive numerous press releases related to transport and we only tend to comment on a few of them. Here are a couple that piqued our interest but not quite enough for a full post of their own.

Recently Auckland Transport announced they had put the first tender out for the rest of the CRL project (after the early works currently underway). This week they announced they’ve put up the tender for the construction of the tunnels and two new stations.

Largest City Rail Link tender process starts

The largest component of the City Rail Link (CRL) project – the construction of the tunnels and new stations – took a major step forward today with the release of its first tender documents to the industry.

The project is picking up speed with Expressions of Interest sought only a fortnight ago for the design, procurement, installation and commissioning of all tunnel track work and rail systems between Britomart Station and the Western Line at Mt Eden.

There will be two new stations as part of the build of the underground rail line linking Britomart with the existing western line near Mt Eden. The new stations will be near Aotea Square with entrances at Wellesley and Victoria Streets and a station in Mercury Lane, just off Karangahape Road. The present Mount Eden train station will be extended and redeveloped.

Tender documents sent out today are for the tunnel and station works that involve:

  • Aotea Station:  Cut and cover construction of a 15m-deep, 300m-long underground station and plant room box, including platforms, lifts and escalators to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment, full station fit-out and entrances at either end at Victoria and Wellesley Streets.
  • Karangahape Road Station:  Mined construction of a 32m-deep underground station, including platform tubes and 150m-long platforms, lifts and inclined escalator to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment within two shafts, full station fit-out, entrance at Mercury Lane and provision for a future entrance at Beresford Square.
  • Tunnels:  Twin-bored tunnel construction (circa 7m diameter) between the Mt Eden station and the southern end of Aotea Station.
  • The provision of maintenance services for the new stations.

CRL Project Director Chris Meale says today’s development shows the considerable progress being made.

He says that as well as the tenders rolling out for future construction, current works are well underway. The 2m-wide tunnel boring machine simultaneously excavating and installing a new stormwater pipe under Albert Street has finished the first leg of its journey.

The nine-storey-high piling rig working in Albert Street has already dug more than 140 of the 376 piles required.

“What will be a highly efficient and reliable transport choice for Auckland is now visibly taking shape.”

The tunnels and stations contract being sent out today will be procured using a Design and Construct model with a lump sum price based on a bespoke contract.

They also put out a few new high quality images of the stations.

Aotea Station – Wellesley St

Karangahape Rd – Mercury Lane

Mt Eden

Hot on the heels of Auckland Transport announcing it was going to trial two electric buses in Auckland, operator NZ Bus announced they were trialling some BYD electric buses in Auckland and Wellington

BYD’s all electric battery bus, with fast re-charging

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus in Auckland and Wellington

NZ Bus will this week begin trialling its new BYD eBus in Auckland and then in Wellington, as another part of its strategy to lead the transition to electric-powered public transport in New Zealand.

NZ Bus Chief Executive Officer, Zane Fulljames, said that the trial will enable NZ Bus to assess whether this fully electric bus, which is proven in other markets across the world, can meet the challenges of New Zealand’s unique topographical landscape and the specific requirements of bus networks in Auckland and Wellington.

“As a business we are committed to leading the industry towards an electric-powered bus fleet, as was reflected in our announcement last year to invest NZ$43m in Wrightspeed electric powertrain technology to be retrofitted to buses in our existing fleet.

“Trialling BYD eBus technology is about looking at options for the future in terms of our ongoing fleet replacement programme,” said Mr Fulljames.

The makers of the eBus, BYD Company Limited, operate across 6 continents, 48 countries and regions, and 200 cities. They are the suppliers of the largest electric bus fleet in Europe and are in fleets across Canada, USA, Chile, China, Singapore and Australia.

NZ Bus’ trial of its BYD eBus is expected to last up to three months. The BYD eBus may not attract attention as it travels Auckland and Wellington bus routes, given that it looks much like a conventional diesel or diesel-hybrid bus, but people might notice that it is significantly quieter.

In parallel with the BYD eBus trial, NZ Bus is also well underway with the process of retrofitting Wrightspeed electric powertrains to its existing bus fleet at its workshop in Wellington.

“As a major transport operator, NZ Bus has the scale for investment of the kind these initiatives represent. We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation,” said Mr Fulljames.

And finally, Mayor Phil Goff has kicked off The Auckland Bike Challenge

Mayor Phil Goff challenges Aucklanders to get on their bikes.

The Auckland Bike Challenge kicks off today and Mayor Phil Goff is encouraging Aucklanders to join the 2,500 people who have already registered for the free month-long event.

Bigger and better than last year, the Auckland Bike Challenge run by Auckland Transport is now part of NZ Transport Agency’s nationwide Aotearoa Bike Challenge.

The Auckland Mayoral Office has two electric bikes and Mayor Phil Goff is looking forward to getting on his bike during the challenge.

“Living out in Clevedon means cycling to work’s a bit tough for me, but I enjoy getting to meetings and events in the city on my bike, and use it when I can,” he says.

“Cycling’s a great way to get around our city. It’s a joy being out of a car in the fresh air, getting fit and reducing our carbon footprint.”

The Mayor says Auckland Council is committed to helping more people get out of their cars and on to bikes, and is investing in new world class facilities to make cycling safer and more accessible.

“The Quay Street Cycleway, the first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki shared path, the Mt Roskill Safe route and the award-winning pink Lightpath on Nelson Street are very popular,” says Mayor Goff. “We will continue to invest in safe cycleways across the city to reduce congestion and pollution and make Auckland an even better place to live.

“The 2017 Bike Challenge is your opportunity to explore our beautiful city and to see it in a new way. I look forward to seeing you out and about and on your bike this summer.”

The Auckland Bike Challenge is a fun, free workplace competition that encourages people to give cycling a go during the month of February 2017.

More than 270 Auckland organisations have signed up and will compete against similar-sized businesses within the Auckland region and nationwide.

Run by Auckland Transport and supported by the Sustainable Business Network, Healthy Auckland Together and Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the event supports workplaces encouraging staff to ride for at least ten minutes during the month of February.

Rides are recorded online, and there are prizes up for grabs for both businesses and individuals.

There’s still time to register for the Auckland Bike Challenge at www.lovetoride.net/auckland. The website includes a live leader board to track results, information on prizes and easy ways to encourage others to participate.

Council expectations of Auckland Transport

New Mayor Phil Goff is looking to stamp his authority over the Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) in new Letters of Expectation (LOE) to be agreed by the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee on Tuesday. The item to the committee saying that with council now into its third term there is “a need to re-set some of the expectations on the CCOs about their participation and commitment to a whole-of-group approach“. The LOEs are a first step in defining how the CCOs work, they set the high level goals that should ultimately flow though to those organisations Statement of Intent (SOI) and then though to other organisational documents.

The general expectations for all the CCOs are below:

  • CCOs need to take active steps to reinforce accountability to council. This will require strong leadership from Boards and chief executives, to build cultures and behaviours which recognise their organisations’ responsibilities to residents and ratepayers. Greater transparency in financial reporting is an important element of this. Additionally, CCOs need to work with council to develop new performance metrics which genuinely measure our success in achieving outcomes.
  • CCOs need to align their operations with council strategies. A key plank of this is participation in development of the refreshed Auckland Plan.
  • A stronger sense of collaboration in the council group is needed. This means collaborating across the other CCOs, and with council itself, to achieve group outcomes, and to maximise investment opportunities. As part of this, the shared services model and participation in group-wide policies remains important.
  • CCOs should develop a stronger focus on customer service. One aspect of this is engaging more actively with Local Boards.

But I want to focus primarily on the specific expectations for Auckland Transport. Through the letter the council deliver some good strong messages for AT about key areas AT should be focusing on but all done so though a velvet glove using terms such as “we invite you to” and “we welcome a discussion“. Some of the areas the council want AT to focus on conflict with how AT have been operating.

The letter outlines that AT should not just be focused on transport but also their role in placemaking, urban regeneration and improving environmental sustainability. They go on to say:

We invite you to broaden your perspective beyond transport models and engage with Council, its plans, and the other CCOs. This will require a courageous balancing of movement and place, and bold commitment to reallocating road space towards public transport and active modes

This is a substantial message and one, if enacted upon, that has the potential to dramatically change how AT works. As we’ve talked about in many posts, AT often tend to rely too heavily on modelling as a justification for why improvements can’t be made to streets, leaving them hostile for buses, bikes, and pedestrians all in the name of traffic flow. This is reinforced in the next paragraph.

Auckland’s growth means the efficiency of our existing transport network needs to be constantly improved. The bus network is the backbone of public transport, and this needs to be recognised in your priority setting. We invite you to consider expanding bus lane networks, extending bus lane operating hours and removing or modifying on-street parking. We recognise that while it is important that Auckland Transport makes evidence based decisions, these can be challenging as conflicts arise between perceived local needs and network priority. A stronger focus on effective communication, consultation, and problem solving is needed. We would welcome a discussion on how we could support you in this.

The next section gives AT a serve over their silo mentality including mentioning a piece of work not previously mentioned publicly but that we’ve been hearing noises about.

Council would like to see the draft SOI highlight Auckland Transport’s commitment to working with the council on strategic issues and giving effect to existing strategies. Council would also like a commitment from Auckland Transport to operating in a ‘no surprise’ manner through indicating to council as early as possible Auckland Transport operational decisions that are likely to have significant strategic implications. Some specific examples in the near term are:

  • the recent work undertaken by Auckland Transport in relation to the city centre’s transport network has strategic implications for the City Centre Master Plan, and should be resolved through a refresh of that Plan rather than through decisions made just by Auckland Transport

We’ve talked before about AT trying to scale back pedestrian amenity on Victoria St, outside of what will become the busiest train station in the country, all to squeeze more lanes of traffic in. As I understand it, that is just one example that AT were pursuing from a wider piece of work that directly ignored and contravene the councils publicly consulted strategic plans.

Some of the other key areas mentioned include these good points:

  • Work with Council to implement and embed the strategic approach and recommendations of ATAP, including addressing the funding gap.
  • aggressively pursuing strong growth in public transport use and active modes with refreshed targets, particularly through ensuring the new public transport network is successfully implemented with a strong customer focus.
  • ensuring full value is obtained from council’s very large investment in rail electrification by reducing journey times, particularly through shorter dwell times at stations and more efficient rail operations
  • ensuring good progress is maintained on delivering early works for the City Rail Link and preparation for the project’s main works
  • maintaining momentum on delivering the cycling programme, incorporating priority for cycling and walking into projects, and building the case for a continuation of central government’s Urban Cycleways Fund beyond 2018.

I like that the council are being quite specific in some of these, such as that rail journey times should be improved by fixing the station dwell times and that AT need to build the case for the Urban Cycleway Fund to continue beyond 2018.

Perhaps if there was one thing I would add it is that it doesn’t mention anything about implementing the Rapid Transit Network as it is only partially covered by the ATAP strategic approach point. The council should ask AT to look for innovative ways to deliver some earlier outcomes. Examples could include getting a busway to the airport from Puhinui, some prototype NW busway services in place and sorting out Dominion Rd buses prior to light rail.

We know that some sections of the community get upset and some quite vocal about the installation of bus and bike lanes and we know this flows through to AT. Far too often with transport projects (and not just in NZ), politicians are the proverbial road block to getting good transport outcomes. But in this instance the politicians are telling AT they want to be bold so perhaps what’s particularly good about this letter is it helps gives AT the political cover they need to make significant changes to our streets in favour of people.

The biggest question is, will AT listen?

No Councillors on AT Board, perhaps not a bad thing

It was revealed yesterday that in a departure from the past six years, there would be none of the Auckland Councillors will be on the Auckland Transport Board of Directors.

Auckland Transport spends more than $1 billion a year running the city’s roads and public transport network, and for the last two terms councillors Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee have been paid directors on the agency’s board.

Mr Goff said removing the councillors would improve accountability, but he would keep the roles open in case it did not work out.

“The feedback I have to date is that [having councillors on the board] has not been the strongest form of accountability,” he said.

At first blush this seems like a blow for accountability and transparency, especially given transport is by far the single biggest area of council spending. But as is often the case, if you look deeper into the issue it’s not so clear that this is a bad outcome. In this post I’ll look at a couple of these issues. To be clear this isn’t about the performance of the two councillors who have served on the board to date, Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee, but more the issues having councillors in the position creates.

The key argument for having Councillors on the AT board is to provide a more direct link between them and the Council’s governing body. In theory that sounds like a good idea but in practice it just doesn’t work – and that’s not the fault of the Councillors appointed. All board directors have the same collective and individual responsibilities regardless of whether they were appointed or are an elected member. That includes keeping confidential information confidential, particularly as some discussions and decisions can impact land prices. As such the Councillors on the AT Board can’t just go back and tell the Mayor or other Councillors what was discussed. A prime example of this happening came up at the beginning of last year when AT announced they were investigating light rail on the central isthmus. Apparently, the Mayor and Councillors were only told this piece of work had been happening shortly before AT told the public.

As I understand it, some elected members were quite annoyed they weren’t told earlier by their colleagues who sit on the AT Board but those two board member simply weren’t allowed to tell them without breaching their board responsibilities. What’s the point of having them there if the rules prevent them from reporting back to council.

One answer is that it could be to push the council’s agenda. But in cases like LRT, how could they know the council’s thoughts without telling them. Further Because all the important stuff is discussed behind closed doors, we also can’t tell if the Councillors are pushing the approved council agenda or their own personal views.

We’ve been lucky that for the first two terms, Len appointed Councillors who we know have played key roles in supporting the improvement of public transport in Auckland but he or a future mayor could have just as easily appointed someone who is on the other side of the PT supporting spectrum. In that regard having no Councillors on the AT Board and better use being made of the council’s toolkit for managing AT might be a better long term approach – I’ll cover that later in the post.

Another issue with having the Councillors on the board is it gives them multiple bites at the cherry that other Councillors don’t get an opportunity to do, and this goes both ways. In one situation, a Councillor might push a project/stance that the rest of the council votes against. They can then use their position on the AT Board to try again. One case I can remember this happening in was around the debate over mowing grass berms. After council’s governing body voted to stop funding it, Christine Fletcher tried unsuccessfully to get the AT Board to agree to do it. Going the other way, a current example is Mike Lee who disagrees with decision the AT Board he is part of made over airport rail and so wants the Council to overrule that decision.

In my view having Councillors on the board then creates odd situations when those same Councillors then criticise a decision made by AT that they were involved in making, or where AT are criticised for following a policy the board approved.

And AT’s Chairman Lester Levy says this in the article above.

The mayor is my boss

It’s good to have that nice and clear. He also says this about decisions

There are differences of opinions, yes, but there are differences of opinions between normally appointed members.

Of course, none of this is to say that AT should be left unaccountable to do their own thing. The opposite is true but the council have several ways they can improve the accountability of AT. The biggest thing they could do is taking a much greater interest in setting and holding AT to their annual Statement of Intent (SOI). The SOI is the document that lays out each year what AT should be focusing on and what their targets are. From what I see the SOI is far too often not bold enough and most Councillors just seem to rubber stamp it.

There also doesn’t appear to be any serious consequences for missing targets, such as for patronage. Nor are there any consequences for AT’s seeming continual disregard for various council plans and strategies like with the City Centre Master Plan vision for Victoria St that we’ve highlighted recently. The Council beefing up their oversight role would likely reap greater dividends than having Councillors on the board – each earning an extra ~$50k per annum for doing so.

Goff’s decision to re-evaluate the decision in a year’s time seems like a good solution. If it turns out AT start making even stupider decisions then some Councillors could always be added back again. What’s not clear is if the council will then appoint some directors on a one year term to make up the board numbers.

Six years in it feels like now is an appropriate time to shake things up to change how the organisation is run at both a board and management level to ensure we get better outcomes.

Should Auckland still want to be “the world’s most liveable city”?

Indications are that new mayor Phil Goff wants a change to the current vision outlined in the Auckland Plan of becoming the “world’s most liveable city”.

Goff has also indicated that Brown’s slogan “the world’s most liveable city” will be phased out.

“People laugh when they are stuck in hours of traffic congestion about being the most liveable city. They laugh when they see that might be our slogan; but we are the fourth most unaffordable city to live in,” Goff said.

Goff, whose slogan is “a city where talent and enterprise can thrive, said like Brown and mayors who might follow him, he wants to stamp his own mark on the city.

This “slogan” was very strongly linked to previous mayor, Len Brown, so in some ways it’s not surprising that Goff wants to change it. But it’s a hard vision to move away from – do we no longer want Auckland to be the best place in the world to live? Or is it that we essentially want to continue down this path, just under a different name? To explore this question I’m going to take a look at the up-side and down-side of liveability – hopefully leading to a few suggestions for a vision for Auckland going forwards.

At its core, the concept of “liveability” is fairly self-explaining:

liveability-definition

By wanting to be the “world’s most liveable city”, we are wanting to become the best place in the world to live, or the place with the best quality of life. Where it becomes tricky though, is that this concept of “liveability” has been captured by a variety of different organisations to try and compare how liveable different cities around the world are – usually with a fairly narrow target audience in mind. Wikipedia explains this pretty well:

The world‘s most liveable cities is an informal name given to any list of cities as they rank on an annual survey of living conditions. Regions with cities commonly ranked in the top 50 include Australasia, North America, North Asia, Northern Europe, and Western Europe.[1] Three examples of such surveys are Monocle‘s “Most Liveable Cities Index”, the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s “Global Liveability Ranking”, and “Mercer Quality of Living Survey”. Numbeo has the largest statistics and survey data based on cities and countries.[2] Liveability rankings are designed for use by employers assigning hardship allowances as part of job relocation, however the usefulness of using such a ranking to determine salary packaging remains unclear.

The final sentence from the paragraph above highlights the key issue – that these rankings are designed for internationally mobile high-wage employees. Not to give an indication of the quality of life for people doing the “daily grind”. Especially not for those struggling on lower incomes. For example, the methodology of the Mercer survey (which is the one most frequently referred to by politicians, perhaps because it’s the one that ranks Auckland highest?) is briefly outlined below:

Living conditions are analyzed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

  1. Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.).
  2. Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services).
  3. Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom).
  4. Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.).
  5. Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools).
  6. Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.).
  7. Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.).
  8. Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.).
  9. Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services).
  10. Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).

The scores attributed to each factor, which are weighted to reflect their importance to expatriates, permit objective city-to-city comparisons. The result is a quality of living index that compares relative differences between any two locations evaluated. For the indices to be used effectively, Mercer has created a grid that enables users to link the resulting index to a quality of living or hardship allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index.

Auckland does pretty well, almost by default, on a lot of the factors that actually have relatively little to do with the Council – like climate, political stability, crime, education, personal freedom, healthcare facilities and availability of goods. Where we struggle, transport and housing being the obvious “big two”, seems to get a little bit swamped by these other factors in the overall scoring. Understandably, it’s difficult to fathom how we can be one of the most liveable cities in the world when people are living in cars.

Because the word “liveability” is potentially tarnished by both its association with the Len Brown and misleading rankings, but the concept of Auckland being a great place to live, work, play or visit seems pretty hard to argue against, I wonder whether Phil Goff’s stated vision (which is by law required to be articulated in the Auckland Plan) will pick up on these more generic words and perhaps highlight the need for Auckland to be a great place for everyone (not just those well off). At its core though the vision will probably be similar, just presented differently.

Dear Phil

Dear Phil,

Congratulations on becoming Mayor. While the margin was a bit closer than some had expected, that’s what happens when you get such a low turnout – who actually votes ends up being a bit different to those who get polled. By the way, we really have to make progress on online registration and online voting to increase turnout. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Of course, I want to talk about transport and housing – Auckland’s biggest two issues.

This is a good time to become Mayor. Much of the hard work has been done: the rating systems have been pulled together, the City Rail Link just needs a few t’s crossed and i’s dotted – and a few years of exciting construction to follow. While you’ll have a few tricky Unitary Plan appeals to get through, the hard work has been done here as well. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sit back in cruise mode. Auckland has added the population of Tauranga over the past three years and it’s struggling to keep up. People are living in cars and garages, buses and trains are often overcrowded, motorways are jammed. Aucklanders are impatient to see progress so your honeymoon could be very shortlived. Here’s some advice to focus on over the next six months – mainly on transport but a few other things too:

RANGITOTO

1) Start working backwards from the 2018 Long-term Plan now 

You might not have been taking that much notice, but the 2015 Long-term Plan was nearly a disaster and only ended up being passed by a single vote. That said, it was really a triumph as it included a massive boost for walking and cycling funding, a major programme of bus upgrades to support the new bus network and – most importantly – the funding for early construction of the City Rail Link that helped in forcing government to come to the party on this key project.

As you put together the 2018 Long-term Plan you’ll need to continue this momentum – now bought into by the government through ATAP. City Rail Link will eat up a really big chunk of your available funding for transport so figuring out what’s also essential in the next three years will define your term. You’ll be pulled in all directions by the different Councillors and Local Boards wanting funding for their local ‘pet projects’ and you’ll need to sit on Auckland Transport to make sure the detailed work they do reflects your priorities and not just Central Government’s.

If we’re honest, you’d be crazy to remove the “interim transport levy” that has helped fund the current transport programme. The previous Council took the political hit over the levy to make your life easier – don’t give that away. Call it something else, change the way it’s calculated, whatever. But by keeping it, in some shape or form, you’ve now filled around $170 million per year of the $400 million funding gap. This puts the ball back into the court of the government.

You’ve got some hard transport funding discussions with the government to come. Have those conversations early, bring something to the table, remind government that there’s a general election next year that will be fought over Auckland’s housing crisis. Start planning it all now.

2) It’s time for a change at Auckland Transport

Auckland Transport has achieved some great things over the past six years. They’ve taken the CRL from a few lines on a map to a project that’s now underway. They’ve embarked on a complete revamp of the bus network that was decades overdue. They’ve introduced the HOP card in a reasonably (more on that soon) successful way and they’re starting to take cycling seriously.

But there’s still an awfully large amount of old-school thinking coming out of AT. Despite excited noises a few years back, the organisation still lacks of vision for how Auckland can be a different place in the future to what it is today. They also continue to struggle to take advantage of being a CCO to push through essential changes that annoy a noisy few (Tamaki/Ngapipi intersection is but one of many examples).

There are a lot of great people working in AT. Passionate people that are incredibly ‘tuned in’ to best practice around the world. But equally, there’s a massive amount of dead wood that just want to keep on doing that same thing they’ve always done, as is so perfectly evidenced by their stupid designs for city centre streets after the completion of the CRL. There’s far too much reliance on transport modelling, coupled with far too little focus on fixing up the models we have to reflect how the world has changed over the past decade.

You can’t be over all this detail, but you can make change where it matters. Refresh the board and senior management, update the Auckland Plan to give clearer strategic direction about what’s important (and equally importantly, what’s not), encourage a culture change to a braver and more courageous organisation that wants to help make Auckland better.

3) Get the small stuff right

There will be progress on a number of big, exciting transport projects over the next three years for the photo opportunities. The roll out of the new bus network in South Auckland starts at the end of the month. Walk the tunnel under Albert Street as it gets dug out, take the credit for the Northern Busway extension to Albany and kicking off the Northwestern Busway when government eventually agrees to fund it. But there’s also a few key niggles that, if you can sort them out, you will be thanked endlessly:

Sort out the slow trains. It’s crazy that after spending a billion dollars on electrification, our trains run slower than they did before. Don’t listen to Auckland Transport’s excuses – overseas cities run their trains much more efficiently. Demand shorter dwell times at stations, extra drivers to eliminate three minute delays at Newmarket for western line users. Speeding up the trains will not only make us passengers happier, it will also buy you more capacity on the network as train service cycles can repeat more quickly allowing more services to run as 6-car sets. You’re going to need every extra bit of rail capacity you can get.

Sort out HOP card blacklisting. The great hidden secret of the HOP card rollout is the enormous number of people who get their cards blacklisted due to expired credit cards. Get Auckland Transport to fix up their system so people are warned if a payment doesn’t go through. This shouldn’t be rocket science, yet even after months (possibly years) of complaints over this issue it still hasn’t been fixed up. Take the credit for Auckland Transport finally fixing it.

4) Get a better deal out of government

Over 186,000 people ticked your name to become Mayor of Auckland. No other politician in the country has a personal mandate of this scale. Use it.

Solving Auckland’s two biggest issues – housing and transport – is utterly dependent on working together with the government. It also requires government to change the way they do things when it comes to Auckland – which (as I’m sure you’ll know) is difficult for them. You’ll need to push hard to change government’s transport funding processes so they suit Auckland better – ATAP has given you a platform here to build on.

You’ll need to get government to ramp up building more housing in Auckland – the recent Northcote development seems like a great model to apply across Auckland. Get Panuku and Housing New Zealand sharing the same offices and planning where the next 1200 house development will go, and the next, and the next.

Depending on the results of next year’s general election, two-thirds of your term will either be with the current government or another lot that you will be pretty familiar with. Obviously you’ll need to be able to work well with either. Figure out which Ministers truly understand that Auckland isn’t just a larger version of other parts of the country, that it often needs completely different approaches and completely different solutions. John Key gets this – he’ll be your most important relationship.

5) Confirm your vision

One of the biggest pieces of work this term will be reviewing The Auckland Plan – the 30-year vision for Auckland. Naturally it will need to be updated to take account of developments over the last six years, such as the work on the Unitary Plan and ATAP, but there’s also a risk that the forces of dreary try to dominate it and remove visionary elements and targets. YOU CAN’T ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN.

Furthermore, it’s important you stamp your own vision on the region that is aspirational. A lot of cities are taking increasingly bolder steps to improve the cities and the lives the people that live in them. No area is this happening more than in the realm of transport and public urban space. It’s important Auckland does this too. Whether you keep the tagline of “The World’s Most Liveable City” or not, it’s important to have a high level goal to be able to point to and to assess the outcomes of projects against.

Don’t forget you’re also going to need to communicate that vision well to get buy in from the public.

6) Pick a great Deputy Mayor

You’ll be sorely tempted to look for someone new as a “fresh start”, but remember that Penny Hulse has held this Council together over the past three years. She knows everyone and everything. You don’t have a hope in hell of finding a better Deputy Mayor. That’s a lot to give away for “fresh start”.

 

Good luck!

2016 Mayoral Hopeful Transport Policies

We’re now less than one month away from having a new mayor and later this week voting papers go out. Our friends at Generation Zero have once again been creating score cards for the mayoral and council candidates and they’ll be released later this week but in the meantime, I’ve taken a quick look through the transport policies of the main contenders and picked out what I think are the key points.

Phil Goff

Goff’s policy definitely reads better than he’s presented it (from what I’ve seen so far). He makes many points not dissimilar to what we would say, such as “Given the population growth, trying to build our way out of congestion with roads alone will not work.”

His policy seems to show good nuance about transport issues and plans, or at least he’s had good advice on them. The plans contained are nothing revolutionary, if anything they largely mirror what is in current plans from Auckland Transport. Some key examples include:

  • Battery powered trains to Pukekohe
  • Improving Park & Ride but he specifies on outer parts of the network
  • Extending the Northern Busway
  • Building a North-western Busway on SH16
  • Building AMETI to Pakuranga as soon as possible and extending that to ultimately East Tamaki and Manukau.

The biggest part of his policy though is Light Rail – initially mirroring AT’s plan of Wynyard and down Dominion Rd – and he wants to see a business case completed so that the project can be added to the 2018 Long Term Plan. He talks of future projects potentially including converting the AMETI busway, to the North Shore and the Airport.

Outside of the big PT stuff he also mentions a few other areas:

  • Walking and cycling which includes encouraging the government to extend the Urban Cycleway Fund, talks about making it easier for kids to ride to school and says he wants a bike share scheme piloted through the private sector.
  • For ferries he is calling for them to be integrated, by this I assume he means the routes of Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke are contracted and controlled by AT rather than being commercial routes (the other routes are already contracted).
  • He also talks about wanting more electric vehicles and car sharing.

The last and a big plank of Goff’s transport policy surrounds the need to find alternative sources of funding to pay for more transport projects, much like Len Brown has. He wants the government issue infrastructure bonds which would be paid back first by a regional fuel tax introduced quickly and later replaced by GPS based road pricing.

Goff’s transport policy is essentially to continue in the general direction the city is already heading – which is to say generally on the right track.

Victoria Crone

Crone says we need to get more people using public transport and she names a few PT projects she thinks are needed, such as the North-western Busway, AMETI and electrification to Pukekohe but also says the biggest issue is that people can’t get to PT because there are not enough Park & Rides. As we know, increasing Park & Ride isn’t going to have any so appreciable effect on patronage but if she can get private companies to pay for it like she claims, that would help offset some of the issue of them. I do agree with the need to improve feeder services though and a lot of improvement will come via the New Bus Network.

A lot of her policy centers around what she calls Smart Transport. This includes:

  • real time tweaking of traffic lights
  • more variable lane arterials – like AT is trialling on Whangaparaoa Rd.
  • more sensors to track travel patterns

One of the more concerning comments relating to sensors is below and suggests bus and cycle lanes could be under threat if she was elected.

We will use this information to assess the efficacy of bus and cycle lanes throughout Auckland, ensuring we are not turning our roads into unproductive assets.

As well as the three big PT projects mentioned earlier, Crone also wants to focus on four expensive and low value roading projects

  • Penlink
  • Lake Rd
  • Mill Rd
  • Another Harbour Crossing (note to Crone, it’ll be the third crossing, not the second). For the AWHC she’s also pledged to try and convince the government to bring it forward by promising an initial contribution of $150 million, small change on a $5 billion+ project. She has also now said she wants to include some form of rapid transit connection as part of the project and would contribute an additional $600 million for that.

The last of Crones ideas on her website is to get AT to think about the future of transport including looking at autonomous vehicles, on demand PT services etc. This is odd giving the Ministry of Transport are already doing exactly this and this is already being considered as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. In fact, many of the things she talks about are things already happening or are being assessed by ATAP.

Just yesterday she released this post suggesting she wants the price of parking in the city reduced until such time as PT is good enough – no definition of what that is.

Mark Thomas

Thomas’ biggest idea is to push transport decisions for ‘sub-regional and local transport’ projects to a more local level by splitting up the decision making at Auckland Transport into six regional transport boards. The boards would cover the north, west, central, east, south and rural/islands areas. I can’t see how this would be either effective or save money like he claims.

On PT he says he wants a ‘New Hybrid Mass Transport Plan’ but it is not clear how this is actually any different from what AT have been proposing. He does talk about the need to extend the Northern Busway, North-western Busway and extending rail to the South – by which I assume he means electrification.

Thomas says his focus is on getting more money out of the council from re-prioritising first but also doesn’t rule out congestion charging in the future.

He says is top 10 regional projects to focus on are below. Some are okay but others are odd, for example since when is a train station at Selwyn a regional priority.

  1. The Penlink investigation ($200m – PPP candidate)
  2. Supporting extension of the Northern bus way (NZTA principal funder)
  3. A specific option to improve Lake Road (cost not yet clear but Indicative Business Case underway)
  4. A North-western bus way to Westgate (NZTA principal funding)
  5. A new Selwyn rail station (likely cost $25m)
  6. Dominion Road upgrade ($45m)
  7. Stage 2 of AMETI (the Pakuranga to Panmure bus way – $550 in current LTP from 2021)
  8. Rapid transit to the airport (cost not clear, although light rail/heaving rails options currently $2billion – potential PPP candidate)
  9. The Mill Road extension ($400m – potential PPP candidate)
  10. Future rail planning to the south (cost not yet clear)

Chlöe Swarbrick

In my view Chloe has one of the better transport policies and talks about how giving people a choice in how they get around by focusing investment in PT and active modes will also help those who are driving to also get around.

For PT she specifically mentions our Congestion Free Network as something that inspired her thinking and notes it is essentially what is on AT’s plans but she wants to bring the timing of projects forward so we aren’t still waiting for 30 years for it to be completed.

She says on PT she will prioritise:

  • Increasing frequency and continuity of public transport on our current networks
  • Rail to Auckland Airport (light or heavy)
  • Growth of feeder services
  • Rail on Auckland’s second harbour crossing
  • Trialling routes destined for rail with uncongested busways
  • Working with central government to ensure public transport infrastructure is given proper priority – over and above new roads

It’s good to see someone suggesting trialling routes with buses first before jumping to rail, much as Patrick suggested last week.

Chloe says walking and cycling needs to be taken seriously and she “will work to see that all new (inevitable) roading developments are accompanied by safe cycling areas, demarcated from the road, alongside”. Given her comments, while I’m sure it’s implied, I thought she might have also mentioned making existing roads safe too.

John Palino

Palino’s transport policy is contained within his 97 page book on his plans for Auckland. Unfortunately, I think his views are a rambling pile of rubbish and are based on fundamental errors, misunderstandings and a general case of avoiding reality. Ever since I first saw it I’ve had to resist an almost line by line take-down of it. It is clear he is opposed to the very idea of the city and his key policy is to create a new ‘Satellite City’ somewhere between Drury and Pukekohe where all future growth can happen because we shouldn’t change any existing suburbs. It’s not clear how this new city is any different to the previous attempts at the same thing (e.g. Albany, Botany, Manukau, Westgate/Massey North).

Along with hating the CBD, he also hates projects associated with it such as the City Rail Link which is clear he would cancel if at all possible. His transport pledges are:

  1. Free Auckland of a CBD focus and stop attempting to only move people to and from the CBD.
  2. No congestion charges on existing roads.
  3. Toll Roads to be built where there is a sound business case for building them.
  4. Review expenditure on cycleways.
  5. Review parking at Park & Ride stations within the first three months of being elected, and provide a plan for increasing parking within twelve months.
  6. Move forward on roading projects with good cost benefit ratios and need to begin, such as the East West link and the second harbour crossing.
  7. Integrate Transport in a growth plan that eliminates future congestion by allowing the development of new intensive suburbs along the transport spine, providing Aucklanders the opportunity to live close to where they work, or have affordable housing close to existing transport infrastructure.

 

Are there any key parts to their policies I missed or any other candidates with notable policy?

Also note, the Campaign for Better Transport are holding a mayoral candidate transport debate on tomorrow night.

Mayoral Candidates views on transport

The two current main contenders for the Auckland mayoralty are still yet to release any policy but they are starting to make more noise. At a business association meeting in East Tamaki yesterday they talked transport with both leaving a lot to be desired.

Phil Goff

He repeated his vision for light rail in parts of the city.

“The City Rail Link will double heavy rail capacity, but that only benefits the south and west, while other parts of Auckland don’t get that,” he says.

Goff says he wants to explore public-private partnerships and city bonds as a means to fund large infrastructure projects.

He says rates alone should not be relied on to fund projects, which would mean an opportunity for public-private partnerships and an element of “user pays”.

“There’s no money put aside [for light rail]…but the cost of not doing anything is more,” he says.

He says up to $3 billion in productivity is being lost in the city’s congestion.

On funding, Goff says city bonds would be an option to share the cost over generations.

He’d also ensure the council would be unified and prepared when presenting a plan to Government for support on projects.

The biggest issue with Goff’s statements are his claims about cost of congestion are rising faster than rail patronage, having doubled in the last month or so from the more frequently quoted $1-1.5 billion. But even that isn’t correct as highlighted by this research a few years ago which showed those upper limits of congestion are based on assuming roads should operate in complete free flow conditions 24/7 – which in reality would mean a massive overbuilding of capacity. Using a more relevant metric that focuses on network utilisation results in a cost of just $250 million.

We also know that congestion hasn’t actually got much worse in recent years. The recent ATAP foundation report showed that travel time delay has been fairly stable and has even declined in the AM peak.

ATAP - Travel Time Delay

Victoria Crone

Crone favoured an “aligned” approach to her transport plan – that includes investing in all transport modes across the entire region.

She would follow other international cities in investigating innovations like driverless vehicles.

During her speaking period, Crone questioned why the AMETI project isn’t more of a priority for completion.

She also questioned why more park and ride facilities aren’t in use across the city alongside buses, trains and ferries.

“Without park and rides you’re capping the number of people that will use that service,” she says.

However, Crone says the challenge would be on funding the projects.

She is intent on bringing Auckland Council spending under control, including promising to open the books to shed light on how it is spending money.

“The private partnerships [for transport projects] and the Government – the taxpayer – shouldn’t be putting money into a system that’s wasted,” she says.

Crone hit out at the CBD cycleways being constructed when other areas like Rodney are still waiting on sealed footpaths.

I agree with Crone that AMETI should be a higher priority. AT need to hurry up and get on with it but many of her other comments show a lack of understanding of transport issues and seem more aligned with common over the barbecue type generalisations or contradictions.

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

AT need to get on with the AMETI busway

One is the assumption that a lot more park n ride is needed to get more people using PT. Research has shown that adding P&R will often see many existing users change how they get to a station so the actual parking capacity gained much less what is built. It’s also not cheap, even simple P&Rs like the new one at Swanson can cost as much as $18,000 per carpark and if they’re buildings or underground the cost goes up even more. Spending $100 million might add as few as 5,000 carparks and assuming they were all new users it would be equivalent of around 2.5 million trips per year which is around 3% of current patronage. Also if driverless cars do become common soon like she hopes then P&R probably won’t be needed at all.

But it’s the last comment that’s the strangest and shows a lack of understanding of even how transport is funded. Already thousands of people per day are using the new cycleways being built in the city and those are being funded by the council, NZTA and the government through its urban cycleway fund. The NZTA and UCF funding isn’t something that can be diverted to other projects – and if council didn’t put up their share it would go somewhere else. Even if the funding could be diverted likely the last place it would go would be to rural footpaths

 

At the end of the day it might not matter who the mayor is and what their personal transport vision is. The ATAP process currently under way and due to wrap up in August has been about creating alignment in transport between Auckland and the Government – at least at a broad level. This is likely to limit any

Phil Goff: For a better Auckland?

On the weekend Phil Goff announced his bid for the Auckland mayoralty. Several interesting articles on Goff’s bid have been published, for example ones by the Herald and Radio NZ here and here respectively. A more recent article by the Herald is available here, which suggests Goff may be the favourite and exhorts him to “exert control”.

eight_col_PhilGoff

In this post I’ll discuss and interpret some of Phil Goff’s comments on local government in Auckland. The post is split into three juicy topics: 1) Rates; 2) Asset sales; and 3) Intensification. I should note that it’s relatively early on in the campaign, so in some ways this post raises more questions than answers. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

1. Rates

So what is Goff’s position on rates? Well, for starters at least Goff has his figures right: He notes that rates for the average household increased 3.5%, while also observing that some households experienced increases of up to 10%. Basic data analysis is something that seems to escape some journalists.

Now don’t get me wrong: 10% increase in one year is a big jump.

However, one of the things that got lost in the recent clamour is that some of the increase in household rates was associated with adopting single rating system for all of Auckland. This required harmonizing quite disparate rates across Auckland. Naturally, some people found their rates went up, while others found their rates went down.

The good news for Goff, and any other mayoral candidate, is that the difficult process of harmonizing rates is now largely complete. Len Brown has borne the brunt of that central government hospital pass. As such, the incoming mayor – whoever they are – will benefit from this issue dropping off the radar. So how will Goff seek to keep rates under control in the future?

Well, in his interview on Radio NZ Goff talked “prioritizing” projects, i.e. less important things give way to more important things. This really was the thrust of this recent post which I wrote on the effectiveness and efficiency of local government in Auckland.

Unfortunately we don’t know yet what Goff’s priorities are, so it’s hard to assess the size of the potential savings. There are however a number of poorly-performing transport projects which could be ditched, such as PenLink and Mill Rd. Right there Goff could save the mighty taxpayers of Auckland several hundreds of millions of $$$.

One issue Goff didn’t discuss is Auckland Council’s desire to shift the burden of rates away from businesses and onto residents.

This shift, as I understand it, is designed to reduce the costs faced by businesses, so as to 1) reduce prices for goods/services and 2) increase employment, both of which ultimately benefit residents. While this is a policy direction that I happen to support, it has also contributed to some of the recent increase in residential rates. We don’t yet know where Goff stands on this issue, but it’d be interesting to find out because it is one factor that will cause residential rates to rise faster than inflation.

2. Asset sales

Now we start to get into the nitty gritty about how to keep rates under control. One of the more controversial ideas that has been in the media lot lately is the subject of asset sales. It’ll be interesting to see where the mayoral candidates fall on this issue, because it really is the primary opportunity to find more money to invest in things that will make the city better.

In his interview on Radio NZ Goff distinguishes between what he calls “strategic” and “non-strategic” assets. He says no to the latter, especially in the context of Watercare. Auckland Council’s shares in Ports of Auckland and Auckland Airport, for example, also appear to be in the “not for sale” basket.

Now I can appreciate the need to distinguish between strategic and non-strategic assets, where the former are deemed to provide efficient support to Council’s strategic direction and the latter do not. However, I think there’s a need for Goff to outline not only which assets he considers to be strategic, but *why*. This would help shed light on his underlying values, and mitigate against the “slippery slope” arguments that are advanced by some people in discussions of asset sales.

On the other hand, it should be noted that from the interview it seems that Goff’s views on golf courses are relatively well-aligned with our own views here at TransportBlog. I’ve paraphrased the most relevant parts of the Q&A as follows:

  • Interviewer: What about flicking some of the golf courses?
  • Goff: Remuera golf course is worth $560 million and the subsidy for every golfer is $11,500 per year.
  • Interviewer: So we could expect some golf courses to be sold for housing?
  • Goff: I’m going to look at the facts before I make a commitment on that. But I don’t think it’s fair for Aucklanders to be subsidising those people who are lucky enough to be members of a golf course …

FYI here’s what a subsidy of $11,500 per golfer per year buys them.

img_9212

Or here’s another fact just to ram it home: The annual subsidy for golf courses in Auckland is approximately equivalent in value to the annual cost of operating Auckland’s rail network. So when someone tries to tell you that asset sales will not have a meaningful impact on Council’s ability to deliver other goods and services, you should tell them they’re dreaming.

Personally, Goff’s views on rates and asset sales seemed fairly reasonable to me, even if more details are needed (NB: The same goes for all the mayoral candidates of course).

3. Intensification

Now let me present one psuedo-question in the Radio NZ interview and the subsequent response from Goff:

  • Interviewer: There’s more talk today about intensification in some of those inner-city suburbs, such as Mt Eden.
  • Goff: I don’t see us putting up tower blocks in some of those really nice areas. What I see us doing is working down the main arterial transport routes, looking at places like New Lynn and Panmure. Those are the ideal places where you might want to put 3-4 storey intensive housing, plenty of public open space and making sure it’s good urban design. I don’t think that you start to encroach on the most beautiful parts of the city, before you, say, let’s follow the transport routes so that people can be close to where they are moving to.

There’s some good stuff in what Goff says, e.g. on concentrating development in areas where transport infrastructure exists and the need to focus on urban design, both of which have been somewhat lacking in earlier iterations of Auckland’s development.

There are also, however, some very unfortunate words and attitudes underlying Goff’s comment. Here’s the part I was most concerned by: “I don’t see us putting tower blocks in some of those really nice areas“.At this point my little red alert warning signals started to go whoop whoop. More specifically, in this comment Goff strays into very dangerous territory my friends.

Let me explain why.

First let’s consider what Goff is trying to say. From where I’m sitting, it seems that Goff is saying let’s not intensify in areas that are “nice”. Why? Well, the obvious implication is that intensive development is not nice?!? Goff meet Ockham. More specifically, if Auckland is to progressively change the discourse around housing, and thereby lance the housing boil that threatens our entire economy, then we need large numbers of apartments and town houses to be built. And we need them to be built all across Auckland’s central suburbs, where people want to live, not just in a few places like Panmure and New Lynn.

Second, in this sentence Goff implies that he will seek to undermine normal market forces. More specifically, if an area is “nice” then people are going to want to live there right? Goff seems to be saying that as soon as an area becomes “nice” then Council is not going to allow development there. By extension, Council will presumably only allow intensive development in location that are not nice? Where there is no demand to live? Great, Council can zone away its heart’s content, but it won’t ultimately change anything, all we’ll get is higher property prices in areas that are unable to be developed further.

Which brings me to the third issue with Goff’s seemingly innocuous statement: Goff’s use of the word “nice”. What does this imply for the areas of Auckland that are not like Mt Eden? Goff seems to think Council can identify a couple of not nice places and direct all the “poor” people (who can’t afford to buy a nice big ol’ villa on a large section in Mt Eden) to live there. Think again. Question: What if people all over Auckland come forward and argue their neighbourhood is nice just the way it is?

Answer: Goff either has to 1) tell them that they’re wrong or 2) roll back the intensification planned for those areas. That’s right: In arguing that we shouldn’t intensify certain areas because they’re “nice”, Goff has unwittingly created a rod that any NIMBY anywhere can use to beat back proposed intensificatio – on the grounds that their area is already “nice”. End result? Whole-sale down-zoning in response to self-interested parochial interests.

Now, in Goff’s defence, he is not alone in slipping down this slippery slope.

In fact, the interaction between planning regulations and political economy has been studied elsewhere. This interesting article from Los Angeles, for example, discusses how their planning regulations prevented intensive developments from occurring in areas where there was demand. Sound familiar?!? These regulations were found to have a massive negative impact on development capacity in Los Angeles, as illustrated in the figure below.

FrameWORK_Housing_ZoningCapacity

For this reason it is not surprising that Los Angeles has had the “fastest increase in home values since 2000” and “has become the least affordable major city in the country“.

In a nutshell: The more Goff is inclined to pick “winners” and “losers” when it comes to what types of housing can be developed in which areas of Auckland, then the more expensive and segregated Auckland is likely to become. Personally, I struggle when residents and politicians effectively say “we want the kinds of people who live in apartments to live over there, because this area is too nice for them“. That’s the definition of snobbery.

The discourse surrounding this issue is even more farcical when you realise that many of Auckland’s older suburbs are already peppered with 3-7 storey apartment buildings. Like my apartment building, which is over 100 years old. Like many apartment buildings in Auckland that were built before regulations and locals made it too difficult.

And let’s be honest: The debate we’re having is not about “tower blocks”: It’s about whether you should be able to build a 3-7 level building in Auckland’s extremely valuable and desirable central suburbs. You know, like the kinds of development that one finds Sydney and Melbourne. To which I say abso-bloody-lutely.

End result? I think Goff needs to think more subtly about intensification.

4. Conclusion

Overall score for Goff’s initial foray into local government issues? Well, I’d give him a 2/3. When it comes to rates and asset sales, Goff stated some reasonably coherent positions, while also appearing open to debate and discussion. Which is good, because after all he’s only one vote on Council so at the end of the day we shouldn’t overstate his importance.

While Goff is shaping up to be a good centrist mayoral candidate, it looks like housing and intensification may be areas for improvement.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Goff naturally wants to win, and winning involves appealing to people from across the political spectrum – many of whom like Auckland the way it is and don’t want it to change. But allowing more housing, and more intensification in particular, is the single most important issue facing Auckland right now (yes bigger than transport).

For this reason, Auckland’s next mayor needs to champion Auckland as an integrated city, not a collection of self-interested suburbs.The reason we should sell Remuera golf course is the same reason we should allow for more development in Mt Eden: Because it’s in the best interests of Auckland as a whole. Both now and into the future.

I would like to elect a mayor who doesn’t apologise for the need for intensive development in central areas. A mayor who engages with the concerns of existing residents, but doesn’t compromise on the underlying reality facing Auckland and the city’s growth. Development is not a disease that needs to be quarantined in not so “nice” places. Multi-storey buildings already exist in Auckland’s inner-city suburbs, like they do in Melbourne and Sydney and almost any city of similar size.

Indeed, I’d personally argue that Auckland’s lack of density, and the consequences for civic life, is a primary reason why Auckland struggles to retain its young people. The life of cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London, and Amsterdam is what attracts young peolpe like me. I think our approahc to housing needs to be framed in that context: If you want your grandchildren to live in this hemisphere, then you’ve got to allow for more intensive development in Auckland.

Goodbye, goodluck, and godspeed to you my fellow Auckwooders. May Goff be with you.