Does Auckland have an effective transport programme?

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

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


Or listen here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

pt-patronage-modelling

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

Next, looking at access to employment by car:

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

As for public transport:

pt-access

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

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

freight-speeds

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

AT to reconsider communication

An item for the Auckland Transport board meeting the other day covered off the feedback to the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) that was submitted on alongside the councils Long Term Plan. I intend to cover more deeply the report in the coming days but for this post wanted to highlight just one specific part of it right at the end – and an aspect we’ve long been critical of. How AT communicates its plans to the general public.

Having read through thousands of submissions and attended dozens of Have Your Say events, it is apparent to the team that many of the people making submissions and/or attending Have Your Say Events are significantly misinformed about transport or have good information but still have a particular perspective and have expressed their particular view. This level of misinformation has clouded many of the comments people have made in person and in written submissions. The following are examples of some of the things people believe:

  • Public transport is not subsidised at all
  • Central Government contributes nothing towards transport in Auckland
  • Fare evasion is widespread on the train network
  • The train network is dangerous to personal safety
  • It’s cheaper to travel by car than public transport
  • That AT has no idea what the community needs are around public transport
  • AT is a huge bloated bureaucracy that does nothing
  • AT should be able to do much more with only rate of inflation rises in funding
  • AT funding focused primarily on roads, cars and fixing road congestion
  • Newmarket could be major transport hub and would mean City Rail Link is not needed

It is clear that, in many cases, submitters have not accessed readily available information in preparing submissions. Nevertheless AT, AC, the Transport Agency and KiwiRail have a responsibility to provide informed debate. This includes the effective use of intermediaries and specialist groups like the AA. The Transport Blog and Generation Zero, for example, appear to be able to generate, very quickly, a huge amount of debate using their websites.

Recommendation

  • That AT and the Transport Agency consider how they can improve the communication of their services

I think there will always be a (sizeable) element of the population that isn’t aware of what’s happening with transport and who will never have any interest in finding out. Having said that I also think AT and other transport agencies could do a much better job at explaining the plans, priorities and projects.

Public Transport and the CRL in particular is the best example of this failing. We still see frequent comments from the wider public with such clangers as that the CRL is just about the CBD, that the CBD isn’t big enough, that rail is old technology, that that buses can do the same job but for cheaper, that focus should be on a different part of the region – i.e. rail to the shore – and many others.

It seems to me that one of the key issues is that in many cases AT and other agencies simply don’t want to talk about what’s happening. They see releasing information as a risk, that they

  • might be accused of advocating a political agenda (i.e. for the CRL)
  • may raise public expectations about projects that haven’t been studied in depth that may not happen as initially intended or at all
  • will face public/media/political criticism if projects well in the future don’t happen exactly when they said they would

Yet by holding back on that information or not making it readably accessible they likely get more of the issues they describe above.

To me it will take AT being much bolder than they have been to date if they want to better inform the public. It will mean releasing more or at least bringing to the surface more information and better showing what their plans are. As an example by using something like the Congestion Free Network it provides a high level vision of how PT should develop in the city. Then when it comes to implementation AT could talk much more about how that project enables the overall vision and show the before and after impact on the transport network.

RTN + LRT

This is a start that AT could build off to explain their plans

I look forward to seeing what new ideas AT come up with for communicating better to the public and if they want some then I’ve got a few ideas that could implement.

Submit for an Essential Budget

Last week Generation Zero launched our Essential Budget, an alternative to the Basic and Auckland Plans that Auckland Council are currently consulting on as part of the Long Term Plan process. The Essential Budget prioritises spending on tripling the cycling budget, and important public transport projects such as bus lanes and new bus and rail interchanges. This means the funding gap is down to only $80 million per year, rather than the $300 million seen in the Auckland Plan. It is also a sensible alternative, and accepts the Basic Plan spending on maintenance, safety and committed road upgrades. For more detail see earlier posts about the false choices offered between the Basic and Auckland Plans, and details of the Essential Budget here.

On Monday we launched our quick submission form, that allows people to easily submit directly to Auckland Council in favour of our plan (or the other options), add your own reasons, and mention which projects are important to you.

Our form is available below, or at www.fixourcity.co.nz/submit. Please submit by Monday 4pm, as this is the biggest chance we have in the next 3 years to re-orientate the transport budget to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.


Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero

An Essential Transport Budget for Auckland

Guest Post by Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero

As we outlined yesterday Auckland Council’s transport budget options in the Long Term Plan offered a false choice. Build everything in the Auckland Plan Network at the cost of finding an extra $300 million a year in alternative funding, or delay important public transport improvements and the city cycling network in the Basic Network Plan. The obvious middle ground would be to prioritise the projects that deliver public transport and cycling improvements, and delay non-essential projects to save money.

That’s the reason why we have come up with an alternative budget. Our Essential Transport Budget (ETB) proposes Auckland Council prioritise the essential public transport, walking and cycling projects in the Auckland Plan Network in the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan. By prioritising only the essential transport projects from the Auckland Plan budget, the Essential Transport Budget saves ratepayers $220 million a year over the next 10 years.

The Essential Transport Budget proposes spending $7.7 billion over next 10 years, $2.5 billion less than Auckland Council’s Auckland Plan Network ($10.3 billion). This reduces the $300 million a year Auckland Council is attempting to raise through alternative funding to only $80 million a year. At the core of the ETB is a commitment to prioritise public transport and cycling projects, and delay non-essential roading projects such as Lincoln Road and Mill Road. This will ensure we start building the building blocks of a turn up and go congestion free public transport network. Over the first 3 years of the ETB walking and cycling would receive $114 million and public transport improvements would receive $621.1 million.

Vertical-Diagram-for-Website-update-2

 

The Essential Transport Budget would allow Auckland to pursue a number of transformational projects over the next 3 years that would be delayed by 5 years and overall funding reduced if we went with the Basic Transport Network:

Buses: The ETB includes funds all of the infrastructure necessary to roll out Auckland’s totally redesigned bus network over the next 3 years which significantly increases the number of frequent services across the city. A number of interchanges are required such as at Otahuhu and Manukau to facilitate bus-rail and bus-bus transfers before Auckland Transport can roll out the southern New Network. The ETB also includes funding for Auckland Transport’s plan to roll out at least 40km of new bus lanes over the next 3 years, which should reduce journey times and improve reliability on on our busiest bus corridors. Busways are also included in the ETB, with work funded to start on the city centre busways, AMETI busways to Pakuranga and Botany, and Te Atatu station which will be the first major part of the North-Western busway.

New FTN Network

Cycling: The ETB includes a tripling of the cycling budget to over $30 million per year. This should finally allow Auckland to make significant progress on build a safe, separated regional cycling network. This $30 million will be further increased when paired with the government’s urban cycling investment panel. Key beneficiaries of this are likely to be the city centre cycleways such as Karangahape Road, which should be able to be fast-tracked with this extra money.

City Centre Priority routes

Rail and Ferry: The ETB includes funding for upgrades of the remaining substandard railway stations such as Takanini and Pukekohe, and upgrades to suburban terminals at Devonport, Half-Moon Bay, Bayswater and Northcote. It also allows for funding of major works at the Downtown Ferry terminal to reduce congestion at peak times, and allow for improvements in ferry frequency.

The Essential Transport Budget accepts the Basic Transport Network as a base budget to work from, and adds the most essential projects from the Auckland Plan. The Basic plan has already been significantly prioritized by Auckland Transport, so there is little further waste we can identify. Importantly the Basic Transport Network includes funding for the City Rail Link, including enabling works starting later this year. Significant portions of the spending on the Basic Network are made up of ‘Renewals’ funding, which is required simply to maintain Auckland’s 7900km local road network in an acceptable condition. This accounts for nearly $2.5 billion over 10 years in both the Basic and Essential budgets, and accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total spending even in the ETB. There are also a number of already committed projects such as the Albany Highway upgrade, roading associated with the North-Western transformation, as well as general operational spend in areas like IT that our Essential Transport Budget has included.

Auckland’s transport budget needs a significant change in direction to both deliver a city that is well prepared for both the opportunities and challenges of the future. Both of the options presented by the Auckland Council as part of the Long Term Plan consultation fail to meet this standard. The Basic Plan under invests in key infrastructure needed to transform our city, such as rebuilding our bus services; upgrading rail, bus and ferry interchanges and building a safe, separated cycling network. The Auckland Plan builds the infrastructure required, however it also builds a large amount of extra roading projects that have no strategic purpose, apart from desperately trying to ‘solve’ congestion. Therefore it comes at a very high cost, at an extra $300 million a year more than the funding available.

The Essential Transport Network we have presented focusses on building just the important infrastructure we need to fix our cities problems, which saves us $220 million per year compared the Auckland Plan. This also significantly reduces the burden of alternative funding, and opens up more possibilities for innovative funding to fill our budget gap in the shorter term while agreement is gained from the government.

Please visit www.fixourcity.co.nz for more information, including detailed project lists. A detailed report of our proposal is available here. Further blogs will be coming in the next few days, including more detail around projects included and excluded, and detail around funding options. We will also be launching a quick submission form in the next few days so people can easily submit in favour of our plan to the the Long Term Plan feedback. 

 

Why we need an Essential Budget

Guest Post from Ryan Mearns, Generation Zero Auckland

For nearly 50 years from the early 1950’s Auckland invested solely in roads, and especially motorways, with all other transport modes being totally ignored. This one sided level of investment was not seen in Australian cities, who invested in mass transit alongside new motorways. From the early 2000’s we finally started to invest in public transport with the opening of Britomart, the Northern Busway and rail electrification. This has shown huge dividends with this high quality rapid public transport largely being responsible for the big patronage gains we have seen.

2015-01 - Total Patronage

However the core bus network is inefficient, confusing and unnecessarily duplicates the rail network. Buses also often lack dedicated lanes so are stuck in the same congestion as single occupant vehicles, which means their is little incentive to catch a bus, buses are unreliable and operations are inefficient as lots of buses as needed to run the slow services.

The 50 years of sole investment in roads has also left our streets designed purely for the movement of cars, ignoring the needs of people who want to walk, ride a bicycle or use mobility aids for local trips. This has resulted in cycling only having a 1% mode share for all trips, and 49% of children being driven to school.

We are now aware of variety of significant trends that affect transport in particular. Public transport patronage has continued to grow quickly, while it has become clear that the level of driving is unlikely to return to the highs of the mid 2000’s. Changing trends are also especially notable for younger people, with teenagers delaying getting their drivers licences, and more people choosing to live without a car, especially in inner suburbs. As this generation grow up, we must ensure we build a city that matches their transport preferences, not transport preferences of previous generations.

However the Long Term Plan has presented us with a false choice between two budgets, the Basic Network and the Auckland Plan Network. Both of these have significant issues.

Basic Network

The Basic Plan Network includes only projects which can be funded from existing sources such as rates, other council income and subsidies from government. This represents a 25% reduction in funding compared to what was planned in the previous Long Term Plan.

The Basic Plan includes some projects that are important for the transformation of our city, including enabling works for the City Rail Link starting in late 2015, and the main works starting between 2017 and 2020, dependent on funding negotiations with central government.

It also includes a number of committed projects which are already under construction, or required as part of previously agreed funding commitments.

However there is a major funding squeeze placed on important transport projects, and this is especially stark in the first 3 years of the Basic Plan.

Cycling: There is almost no money included for new cycling projects for the first 3 years of the plan, with the only exception being the Waterview cycleway which was required as mitigation for the Waterview Connection project.

Buses: The Basic Transport Plan would result in the full roll-out of the new bus network being delayed a further 5 years, until 2021, as new interchanges at locations such as Otahuhu are required to allow connections between buses and trains. Similarly Auckland Transport’s plans to roll out 40 kilometres of new bus lanes over the next 3 years will be postponed. Both these bus improvements will means commuters will be stuck with inefficient and frustratingly slow bus services for several mores years. This will be significant drag on public transport patronage, as well as costing Auckland Transport money from higher operating costs and low fare revenue.

Rail: The Basic Transport plan delays upgrades of the remaining poor quality railway stations, which means commuters will be stuck with substandard facilities for years to come, again stalling patronage growth. Grade separation is also excluded from the Basic Plan, so this will lead to more dangerous incidents at our level crossings as rail frequencies increase of the next several years. This also has the potential to restrict peak frequency on the Western Line.

Ferry: The Basic Plan delays upgrades to Ferry terminals, including the congested Downtown ferry terminal. This will means commuters are stuck with substandard facilities, and increases to peak services will be restricted, again affecting patronage.

 

Auckland Plan

The Auckland Plan was confirmed in 2012 as the spatial plan for the new Auckland Council. While it set out a 30 year vision for Auckland, it also failed to make hard decisions around prioritisation of transport projects, and called for a very high level of continued transport investment across all modes. In the short term it also carried on with a significant number of legacy projects that local councils had been investigating, even if these were unaffordable.

The Auckland Plan budget continues the issues seen in the 2012 Auckland Plan, and once again Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have failed to set a strategic direction for the future of Auckland.

The Auckland Plan includes significant investment in public transport such as City Rail Link enabling works and interchanges to allow reorganisation of the bus network. It also invests in the tripling of the cycling budget. However at the same time there is still a large number of business as usual roading projects, designed in a vain effort of ‘solve’ traffic congestion. However Auckland has been pursuing these projects for 50 years, and they have not solved congestion, and they often make congestion across the city worse, not better.

This attempt of the Auckland Plan to fund all possible transport solutions means it comes at a very high cost, around $300 million a year more that funding available from existing income such as rates and NZTA subsidies. This has led to the Auckland Plan requiring significant alternative funding from extensive motorway tolling, or further rates rises and fuel taxes. These alternative funding plans as currently proposed will heap high costs onto vulnerable families due to the current poor state of alternative transport modes across wide areas of Auckland. This is especially true of road tolling where in some areas such as along the North-Western Motorway and the Manukau Harbour Crossing there are no local road alternatives.

The Essential Budget

These significant failings have led Generation Zero and other advocacy groups to come up with an alternative we have titled the ‘Essential Budget’. This will be previewed at tonights Auckland Conversations event, and the full details will be launched tomorrow.

RLTP: Cycling

Yesterday I highlighted the investment in the rail network that is planned in the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP). Today I’m looking at the Cycling budgets. They start off by talking about the growing demand for cycling, especially where new facilities are provided. They also explain the proposed Auckland Cycle Network – which I think is largely a piece of junk due to its numerous holes and comprises.

Cycling in Auckland is on the increase (19), not just as an increasingly popular leisure activity, but for a variety of transport-related trips. Surveys indicate a sizeable latent demand for safe cycling facilities. The number of people cycling is growing fastest where new facilities are provided as part of the Regional Cycle Network, proving that the “build it and they will come” approach is working.

To keep up with this trend and to spur further growth in cycling, Auckland Transport plans to accelerate the construction of the Auckland Cycle Network. The Auckland Cycle Network comprises more than 1,000km of connected on and off road cycle facilities that provide a safe environment to accommodate likely latent demand and encourage more growth in cycling. The network is shown in Figure 23 and has three levels:

  • Cycle metros are separate facilities on main routes, for example the North Western Cycleway
  • Cycle connectors may be on-road cycle lanes, or off-road shared paths, designed to provide safe and direct routes for cyclists
  • Cycle feeders link schools, parks and community destinations to each other and to the network.

Auckland Cycling Network

However it’s the next paragraph that explains the situation we’re in.

The target set in the Auckland Plan is to complete 70% of the Auckland Cycle Network (Metros and Connectors) by 2022. This RLTP contains a programme of dedicated cycle projects and of cycling links delivered through road construction and road maintenance projects. The proposed investment package will not complete 70% of the Auckland Cycle network until after 2040.

So the council want 70% of the network completed by 2022 yet that figure won’t even be achieved by 2040 at current investment levels. The map below shows what parts of the network that are meant to be completed within the next decade under the basic transport package which is what we’ll get unless the alternative funding issue is resolved. You may notice that many of these are beside motorways where the NZTA is paying for them.

Auckland Cycling Network completed in 10 years

This position is further highlighted in the financial table which shows that other than the Waterview cycleway there is no money planned to be spent on cycling till after 2018 unless a local board uses their share of ~$10 million Local Board Initiatives budget on it.

RLTP Cycling

Things do look a bit rosier – but not by much – with the NZTA

RLTP Cycling NZTA

At this rate it looks like we’re once again set for some stormy weather over cycling. The only bright spot on the horizon is the Urban Cycleways Funds however even then that will require funding from council

The recently announced Urban Cycleways Funds will inject $100 million of funds nationally to deliver cycleways over the current financial year and the first three years of the RLTP 2015-25. The funding proportion for this fund is one-third local Council share investment, one-third NZTA funding, and one-third Urban Cycleways fund. The proposed budget does not include any new cycling projects in the first three years, which will mean that Auckland Transport does not receive a share of the $100 million national Urban Cycleways fund after 1 July 2015, unless it is for projects funded by local boards from the Local Board Initiatives fund.

RLTP: Investment in the Rail Network

The announcement that AT is looking at Light Rail has understandably received a lot of attention – and will continue to for some time – however there is a lot of other fascinating information in the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) that is worth covering. Like more discussion of Light Rail, I’m going to try and get this information out over a few posts starting with this one.

One area in the document that quickly caught my attention is on what works are planned/needed for the existing rail network to get it working properly prior to the CRL. Improvements are needed to increase the capacity, performance and resilience of the network. Perhaps most concerning is they say that there’s still a significant amount of track and underlying formation that has yet to be renewed by KiwiRail.

The performance of passenger rail services has improved over the past decade at the same time as service levels have increased significantly. Service punctuality (trains arriving within 5 minutes of schedule) has improved from just over 70% in 2005 to around 88% in the year to June 2014. Delays to trains caused by network infrastructure problems have dropped from an average of 1.4 minutes per train in 2005 to just over 0.4 minutes in 2014. However, further improvement in infrastructure performance will be needed if desired levels of reliability and performance are to be achieved by the opening of the CRL.

One factor in improving punctuality and reliability will be ensuring that rail infrastructure is in a fit for purpose condition. While there has been significant improvement in the condition of the Auckland network over the past decade through KiwiRail’s DART and AEP projects, including total replacement of the signalling system, there is still a significant extent of track and underlying formation which has not been renewed.

To get the network up to speed there are four programmes of work planned.

Network Performance Programme – to address existing network performance issues, including catch up renewals to address existing formation, drainage and track issues and replace sleepers.

Network Resilience Programme – to improve current network resilience to provide additional operational flexibility, ability to recover from delays and incidents, make maximum use of the existing network capacity and capability, and improve management of network maintenance and development.

Network Capacity Programme – to enable the operation of regular 10 minute peak EMU services and existing peak freight services following the completion of electrification, and to provide the base for the pattern and frequency of passenger services planned for introduction following the completion of the CRL.

Level Crossing Programme – to remove level crossings on the Auckland electrified rail network to reduce safety risk for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and rail users through closure or grade separation, including safety improvements at existing vehicle and pedestrian crossings.

This has set a few alarm bells off for me:

If there’s still a lot of backlogged maintenance yet to happen that means KiwiRail is likely to need a lot more network closures to get this work done. That could mean that we’re likely to continue to see parts of the rail network shut down during some long weekends and probably the Christmas/New Year period for this maintenance to occur. While AT and KiwiRail might try and minimise the impact but doing the work when the network is quietest, such shut downs will increasingly affect more and more people as patronage continues to grow.

The second concern is the suggestion that work is needed to enable 10 minute frequencies. These frequencies have already been delivered to the Southern and Eastern lines however we’ve been waiting for them for around 5 years after they were promised to happen when the New Lynn station was complete. Now admittedly this could just be me reading into the text wrong however later in the document AT say one of the benefits of the investment is to “Increase capacity to enable the operation of regular 10 minute peak passenger rail services and to cater for expected growth in both passenger and freight services“. In the meantime then until I see a Western Line timetable with 10 minute frequencies on it I will remain sceptical.  What is clear is that we need to get on with building the third main between Otahuhu and Papakura.

The third key concern is that to pay for what’s planned it relies on KiwlRail getting additional funding from the government. If that funding doesn’t happen then it could put the brakes on how well and how quickly the rail network develops and improves.

RLTP - Kiwirail funding

There does seem to be a few issues with this table due to there being nothing in the 2015/16 year and with the negative 2018/19 to 2024/24 column. This table from near the end of the document seems to be more accurate (click to enlarge)

RLTP - Rail Funding

In addition to the KiwiRail costs there are also Auckland Transport’s projects. The basic transport programme that has been proposed doesn’t include much in this regard with the only really notable point being the need to spend $8.1 million on refurbishing some of the old Diesel trains to service Pukekohe. I suspect that’s probably more than the trains are work these days.

RLTP - AT Rail CAPEX basic

This just really highlights that despite all the improvements in recent times that there’s still a lot of work to do even just to get our rail network up to a decent level of quality. Will the government provide the funding that KiwiRail need to get this work done?

Regional Land Transport Plan throws up a few surprises

Today the Auckland Transport board are meeting, I’ve already covered the board report and in this post I’ll look at the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP). As a brief description the RLTP

  • Sets out the strategic direction for transport in Auckland including how AT proposes to give effect to the transport components of the Auckland Plan and AT’s strategic themes within the fiscal constraints of the funding provided in the LTP.
  • Is consistent with the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport.
  • Brings together objectives, policies and performance measures for each mode of transport.
  • Sets out a programme of activities to contribute to this strategic direction. It outlines both the Basic Transport Network and the Auckland Plan Transport Network.
  • Includes transport activities to be delivered by NZTA, KiwiRail, the NZ Police, AC and AT.

The draft RLTP will be open for public submission from 23 January – 16 March 2015 which is the same time as the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP). We already know much of the detail about what the RLTP holds as it has come out as part the discussion of the LTP over the last few weeks. In particular that there are two transport networks proposed, what’s known as the Basic Transport Programme – a severely constrained network that will see many critical projects such as new transport interchanges put on hold – or what’s known as the Auckland Plan Transport Programme which is the everything including the kitchen sink approach. We’ve discussed the plans before including the sticky mess the basic plan produces.

What’s interesting about the draft RTLP is some of the language used and even more so some of the suggestions for Auckland’s future and it’s some of these aspects I’ll cover in this post. Perhaps most importantly is the document suggests that Auckland Transport are starting to realise that yesterday’s thinking will not solve tomorrow’s problems and AT’s Chairman Lester Levy’s says exactly that in his introduction. He also makes a few other bold statements including that Aucklanders deserve better than choosing between poor transport outcomes or paying an extra $300 million a year.

That language carries on through the document and some parts feel like they could have been written by us. While I’m quite cognisant of the fact that these words need to be backed up by actions, the change in the discussion isn’t an isolated case as we’ve started to see similar comments from other agencies such as the Ministry of Transport and the NZTA. That gives me hope that in coming years we’ll see some real improvements in transport planning in Auckland and across the country.

Some of this comes through particularly strongly in the problem definition section of the document – page 30 in the PDF – which lists the four key problems that need to be addressed. The first one identifies that limited transport options are having a negative impact.

1. Limited quality transport options and network inefficiencies undermine resilience, liveability and economic prosperity

Underdeveloped public transport, walking and cycling networks mean that Auckland continues to have high reliance on private vehicle travel and low levels of public transport use, walking and cycling. Private vehicles account for 78% of trips in urban Auckland.

This high dependency on private vehicles means not only that there are long traffic delays but that many people have no choice other than to travel by car. Cars take up space that could otherwise be used to address Auckland’s housing shortage, improve environmental outcomes, improve economic performance, reduce social inequalities, improve health and safety and improve transport affordability. It also increases the risk to the economy from future oil price shocks.

….

Investments in the rail network and the Northern Busway are already making a difference, and Aucklanders have been taking up these new choices in numbers that exceed all forecasts. Annual surveys of travel to Auckland’s city centre confirm that the growth in public transport travel is already making more capacity available on key links for freight and business trips.

While the fourth problem recognises that we’re basically at the end of the era of being able to build cheap roads to expand the transport network. It also notes that expectations of congestion free driving should be a thing of the past

4. Meeting all transport expectations is increasingly unaffordable and will deliver poor value for money

Providing new or expanded transport infrastructure to respond to growth is becoming increasingly expensive and inefficient. Land corridors designated in the past for transport purposes have now been used, and constructing transport infrastructure on land already used for housing or as open space is expensive and unpopular. The Victoria Park Tunnel and the Waterview Tunnel are two examples of roading projects that have been constructed as tunnels to minimise adverse environmental and community impacts, at significant additional cost.

….

It is clear that expecting a high level of performance from the transport network for all modes in all locations at all times and for all types of trips is increasingly unaffordable and will not provide value for money. The level of performance can appropriately be expected to vary according to location, time of day, type of trip and mode of travel.

And it is carried on into the sections about specific modes/projects. Section 6 (page 41) is all about public transport

Everyone benefits from good public transport, including road freight businesses and car drivers. As more roads are built, more people choose to travel by car and soon traffic congestion is at the same level as before the new road was built. However it is possible to build our way out of traffic congestion by building a public transport system that is good enough to attract people out of cars (16).

Not everyone who uses public transport has a choice. For people who cannot drive, or cannot afford a car, public transport opens up opportunities for education, work and a social life. A public transport system that works well for the young, the old and the mobility impaired, and serves the whole community including low income neighbourhoods, builds a stronger, more inclusive society.

And on the City Rail Link they say:

As more and more people want to live in Auckland, more efficient transport is needed. Cars simply take up too much space, and successful cities around the world have each had to solve the problem of how to get ever more people into and around the city as land and space become more valuable.

…..

More people catching the train and bus to and through the city centre will free up parking and traffic space which can be reallocated to make room for the growing numbers of pedestrians. Projects like the Victoria St Linear Park will replace sterile tarmac with spaces which encourage people to linger and enjoy being in the centre of a world class city. The successful transformations of the Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter and Britomart are a model for how vibrant and lively the heart of our city can become.

Can you imagine the Auckland Transport of a few years ago describing a road as sterile tarmac?

There are numerous other statements that surprised me in my skim though but perhaps the most significant was this about the future of access to the city centre

While the CCFAS was designed to address regional needs it also highlighted residual city centre access issues, particularly from the central and southern isthmus not served by the rail network including:

  • Key arterials with major bus routes are already near capacity will be significantly over capacity in the future even with the CRL and surface bus improvements
  • If not addressed now, there will be area-specific problems, including the impact of a high number of buses on urban amenity, in the medium term and acute issues on key corridors in the longer term

To address these issues, work is currently underway to provide an effective public transport solution for those parts of inner Auckland and the City Centre that cannot be served by the heavy rail network, with CRL; that supports growth requirements in a way that maintains or enhances the quality and capacity of the City Centre streets. A range of options are being explored including light rail.

Re-implementing light rail in Auckland would surely be a mammoth task but there could certainly be some benefits to such an idea. This is especially true on some of the central isthmus routes which already have high frequencies, high patronage and a local road network which supports a good walk up catchment. Of course Auckland Transport would need to show just how they could pay for such a thing when funding is so constrained but if it possible it would certainly be one way for them to highlight that they have been thinking differently about transport than they have in the past. Could this be what the secretive CCFAS2 has been about?

Auckland Isthmus tramlines

The old Tram Network

And let’s not forget we’ve suggested a Dominion Rd tram as part of our Congestion Free Network.

RLTP Submission, A Bouquet and a Brickbat

One of the recent plans that people have been able to submit on is the Regional Land Transport Planwhich is put out by Auckland Transport. They have published a the minutes of the hearings that were held, naturally there were a wide variety of submissions that cover all sorts of topics but I thought I would just post a couple that I found really interesting from different ends of the spectrum. The first is from Kiwi Income Property Trust who among other things are the owners of Sylvia Park and Lynnmall, here is the summary of their oral submission.

Kiwi Income Property Trust (Andrew Buckingham) (Douglas Allan) (Gerard Thompson)Andrew Buckingham Douglas Allan and Gerard Thompson on behalf of Kiwi Income Property Trust spoke to their written submission and in particular:

  • Supports overall thrust of RLTP, and in particular supports provisions that address integrated management of land use and transportation planning; proposals to complete the motorway network whilst also strengthening Public Transport; and specific works including CRL, AMETI, works proposed in and around New Lynn, upgrading of Te Wero bridge.
  • Seeks completion of a functioning isthmus rail loop connecting Britomart, southern line and NIMT by constructing a link between the two lines at Te Papapa/Southdown.
  • Seeks implementation of Southdown-Avondale rail connection.
  • Seeks additional emphasis on aspects of land use/transport integration, including the need for concentrated office/retail/education activities in identified nodes and Public Transport corridors.
  • Seeks a consistent car parking policy to avoid discouraging intensification in identified nodes.

KIPT definitely seems to be a company that gets it as they wouldn’t use PT wash in a submission as the RLTP will have a big impact on how people access their property investments. They also manage to cover off many of the points we raise on this website so congratulations KIPT At pretty much the other end of the spectrium is the Upper Harbour local board which manages to be even worse than Orakei local board.

Upper Harbour Local Board (Brian Neeson)Brian Neeson on behalf of the Upper Harbour Local Board spoke to their written submission and in particular:

  • Suggested that the Statement of Priorities is somewhat hollow and meaningless. Safety should be higher up the list.
  • 32.4% funding split for Public Transport is misleading as assumes Government will contribute to CRL.
  • Major projects: rail electrification: does Auckland have capacity to supply power?
  • Strongly oppose the CRL, suggested that the timing is inappropriate and not affordable at this time.
  • Stated that other major projects are acceptable or supported (AMETI acceptable with rephrasing).
  • Include additional harbour crossing, Penlink and Puhoi to Wellsford motorway as major regional projects in this cycle.
  • Major projects next cycle:
    • remove CRL;
    • shift out development of cycleways along SH corridors and SW airport multi-modal corridor, as not high priority;
    • bring forward Puhoi-Wellsford motorway, additional Waitemata Harbour crossing (investigation), busway extension to Hibiscus Coast
    • (designation), Penlink (commencement); and
    • Other projects supported, except red light camera installation.
  • Detailed comments on local projects listed in submission. Budget and timing generally supported, except:
    • Rosedale/Greville busway station: more evidence required as to necessity;
    • Requested that Auckland transport bring forward the: East Coast Bus priority, Albany SH17/Spencer Road intersection (brought forward and phased), Albany Lonely Track Road/Gills Road intersection; and
    • Seeks assurance that agreement with NZTA to progress Coliseum Drive Link will be fulfilled.
  • Requested that the intersection of SH17 and The Avenue in Albany be upgraded with urgency.
  • Requested that parking in the Albany Village be looked into.
  • Requests a left hand turn onto the motorway at en Pickering Drive.

To be honest I am pretty speechless that this would come out of a local board. There are of course plenty of other submissions, some I feel are good and others bad and I will do a post giving a more general coverage of the feedback shortly

LTP and RLTP submission

Here are the key points from my submissions to Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) and Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP). The LTP sets out everything that Auckland Council intends to spend its money on over the next decade – including what it will spend on transport matters. The RLTP is an Auckland Transport document, setting out general funding requirements over the next 10 years but with greatest specificity about the next three years. Remember that submissions close tomorrow at 4pm and you can do your own easy submission here

Long-Term Plan:

I support the proposed funding split in operational expenditure between public transport and roading of approximately 50/50 however I note the following:

That the proposed funding for PT subsidies doesn’t match the RLTP which predicts operational costs to stay largely the same over the same time period. It appears that the council have largely just carried forward the current operational costs based on predicted patronage numbers. This indicates that we aren’t expecting to see any increase in efficiency of our public transport network which is one of the aims of both Auckland transport, the NZTA and the central government

These costs also don’t match the wording on page 42 of volume one and page 87 of volume 2 of the LTP which says that the operational subsidy for public transport will increase by $73.5m over 10 years.

I think that these numbers need to be clarified and matched to what is in the RLTP. This is likely to cause the proposed operational expenditure on public transport to decrease significantly. It also means the split between spending on roads vs public transport will no longer be balanced. I would like to see the funding level and split to stay the same which would allow for Auckland transport to invest in additional services which would further help to increase patronage in the region.

  1. The LTP needs to take account of the patronage targets that have been agreed to by the council of reaching 121 million trips by 2022.
  2. The LTP will need to take into account the changes in the priorities of projects as a result of the various changes that have been made to the Auckland Plan, specifically:
    1. The bringing forward of the completion of the AMETI project
    2. There is no mention of how the East West link will be funded
    3. Potential investigation into a NW Busway
  3. I recognise that a number of projects that have been listed as roading projects will contain a significant public transport components in them. More work needs to be done to split these costs out so the public are accurately informed of the costs.
  4. I support that the LTP has provided funding for the City Rail Link however I am concerned by how it is being addressed in the LTP.
    1. It is noted that the funding for the CRL is dependent on the government contributing 50% of the costs and if that doesn’t eventuate then the project will be reassessed in the 2015-2025 LTP. I feel that as the council has confirmed the project as the top transport priority for the region that it needs to have more certainty around it. In the event of the government not contributing to the project then the council be looking to fund it solely and do so by delaying or cancelling or scaling back other, less important projects first.
    2. The council is giving the impression that much of the funding pressure that will be placed on ratepayers is a result of the CRL when there is a considerable amount more money being planned to be spent on roads.  The language in the document needs to be clear to the public where the majority of the money is planned to be spent
  5. There are a number of projects that I feel the timing or scope of should be adjusted:
    1. The Auckland Plan proposes considerable greenfield development in the south, this will likely to make electrification to Pukekohe necessary before 2022.
    2. There is likely to be a requirement for further bus priority along Wellesley St which would require available funding.
    3. Integrated ticketing will likely mean a lot more transfers between public transport services. I feel that some money should be budgeted at key interchanges for infrastructure upgrades to make the process quick and easy for passengers.
    4. There is likely to be strong growth on the rail network to stations other than Britomart or Newmarket. To help avoid fare evasion funding should be made available to install fare gates at other key stations e.g. Henderson, New Lynn, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura.
    5. I also support funding being made available to progress the development of walking and cycling across the harbour bridge.
Alternate funding Options

I believe that the need for alternative funding has been driven largely by the council not being willing to prioritise and cut projects which has led to it having an ever increasing ‘wish list’. I feel that the council needs to do more to work within the existing and not inconsiderable level of funding that is planned to be spent on transport in the region over the next 30 years. I feel there is a problem with how these options have portrayed, particularly that the public impression is that the funding is to pay for a large amount public transport projects.

I note that the majority of the funding is actually destined to pay for roading projects and I feel that this should be made clear before any final decision is made. In saying this I do believe there is a place for some of the alternative funding options that the council has proposed which could both help to raise additional funds and change behaviours which could significantly change the use of alternative transport options. I believe that of the options presented the following are what should be developed further by the council:

  1. Tolling New Roads – This should be a requirement for any new road built in the region and analysis of the impact tolling should be required to take place as part of the development of the business case for these roads.
  2. Road pricing on existing roads – Serious consideration needs to be given as to how this would be properly implemented. I note it has the ability to provide a high level of income for the council by spreading the charges out over a large base of users.
  3. Additional Car parking charges – I support this but believe it would also need a change to the current policy around minimum parking requirements as it would be unfair to charge people a fee when they haven’t had the option to remove the number of car parks that they have.
  4. Visitor taxes –  Visitor taxes could be useful but I feel it would have to be clear what the funds were being used for and should be ring fenced to pay for infrastructure that will improve the visitor experience e.g. rail to the airport
  5. Airport departure tax – As with visitor taxes it needs to clear what the funds are for and should be ring fenced to help pay for infrastructure that visitors will be highly likely to use like rail to the airport
RLTP

Summary:

Giving effect to the Auckland Plan:
–   Implementing the patronage targets of the Auckland Plan’s transport chapter
– Achieving the ‘transformational change’ for transport envisaged by the Auckland Plan
–   Prioritising projects in a way that implements the Auckland Plan (generally, not just its transport chapter)

Alignment with Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan:

–   Resolving inconsistencies with the LTP over public transport services funding
–   Resolving inconsistencies in the funding split between public transport and roads compared to the LTP

Project Specific: –   Investigating a busway along SH16 between Waterview and Westgate

–   Ensuring that infrastructure to support the reorganisation of Auckland’s bus network is funded
–   Funding the full integration of public transport fares
–   Removal of a number of projects from the RLTP that actively undermine the goals of the Auckland Plan and of the programme generally

2.     Giving Effect to the Auckland Plan

Page 5 of the Draft RLTP notes that the Draft Auckland Plan was given consideration in the preparation of the document. Since the publication of the Draft Auckland Plan, a number of amendments have been made to it that are relevant to the RLTP. The wording of the Auckland Plan seeks a “transformational shift” in public transport most particularly, but also has a number of targets that relate to reducing Auckland’s automobile dependency. These include:

  • Public Transport patronage of 121 million trips by 2022
  • Public Transport patronage per capita of 100 by 2040
  • 70% of vehicular trips to the city centre by public transport in 2040
  • Increasing the proportion of people living within walking distance of frequent public transport from 14% to 32% by 2040
  • Increasing proportion of non-car AM peak trips from 23% to 45% by 2040

While most of these targets have a 2040 implementation, I consider that some progress towards achieving them will need to occur over the period covered by the RLTP. Currently the RLTP does not clearly highlight how these targets will be achieved (understandable as many of the targets were not on the Draft Auckland Plan and therefore not able to be incorporated into the draft RLTP) or even worked towards.

The ‘transformational shift’ in transport the Auckland Plan seeks to create is also not carried through into the RLTP to the extent that is necessary. The wording of the Auckland Plan highlights that Auckland’s population growth over the next 30 years will mean that a fundamental shift in the way Aucklanders get around is required – quite simply, it is impossible (and increasingly undesirable and expensive) to continue to build additional road-space to cope with traffic growth. Therefore, a much greater use of public transport as well as the optimisation of the existing transport network, is necessary.

The RLTP, while focused on projects in the next three years in particular, should prioritise those projects based on which ones best contribute to achieving the ‘transformational shift’ envisaged by the Auckland Plan. The prioritisation of project must also complement other goals of the Auckland Plan (not just transport). In particular:

  • Providing a transport network and making transport decisions that encourage intensification in places identified as suitable for such development
  • Undertaking high-level investigation in proposed Greenfield suburban areas to ensure a different outcome to the ‘car dependent urban sprawl’ that has typically resulted from previous urban expansion

As well as the Auckland Plan, the RLTP must by law give effect to the Regional Land Transport Strategy. The 2010 RLTS proposed a 50/50 funding split between roads and other forms of transport – a funding split that should be given effect to by the RLTP.

3.     Alignment with Auckland Council’s “Long Term Plan”

There are a number of areas where the Draft RLTP does not align with Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan. This misalignment causes confusion around “what will actually happen”, particularly in relation to the funding available for public transport services and the funding split between roads and public transport. The proposed public transport subsidies in the RLTP stay relatively flat over the decade while in the LTP funding almost doubles and it appears that the LTP has just increased current costs in line with patronage increases which is not likely to reflect what will really happen.

4.     Project Specific Comments

I believe that a number of changes should be made to the RLTP’s project list, to better align with a more sensible strategic direction for transport, and to better give effect to high-level documents such as the Auckland Plan and the RLTS.

Projects to be added:

  • Investigation and design of a busway along State Highway 16 between Westgate and Waterview, to support the significant urban development proposed for the northwest part of Auckland. This work needs to occur as soon as possible, so that it can inform NZTA’s proposed upgrade to the motorway.
  • I understand (from AT Board Papers) that significant changes to the operational structure of Auckland’s public transport network are likely to occur over the next three years. There will be infrastructure requirements arising from these changes, such as bus priority measures, relocation of bus stops, road widening to eliminate bottlenecks for buses, key interchanges (both between bus and rail, and bus to bus). To ensure the success of the changes to the PT network, funding needs to be set aside for necessary infrastructure improvements.
  • To properly take advantage of integrated ticketing, implementation of a zone-based fare system is necessary. This may require some funding in the short-term to cover any revenue loss while the system is being fine-tuned.

Projects to be removed:

  • The Hayman Park carpark. This project undermines general policies in the Auckland Plan to encourage alternative transport options to metropolitan centres and also undermines investment in the Manukau Railway Station.
  • Poorly located park and ride proposals. In inner areas (such as Sylvia Park and Avondale) extensive areas of parking can seriously undermine efforts to align land-use and transport outcomes, while adding relatively few passengers to the PT network.

5.     Conclusions:

Some changes to the draft RLTP are necessary to ensure that it aligns more clearly with the ‘transformational shift’ for transport articulated in the Auckland Plan. In particular, targets in the Auckland Plan relating to reducing Auckland’s car dependency need to be embedded in the RLTP and form part of the project prioritisation process – projects contributing to achieving these targets should be ranked higher, projects undermining the targets should be ranked lower. Auckland has traditionally suffered from having a disconnect between the strategies, policies and goals of its transport documents, and where the money is actually spent. The draft RLTP continues this unfortunate trend, by ignoring the transformational targets it has been set and continuing to spend the bulk of its money on road-based projects.

This submission suggests changes to the RLTP that would ensure it better meets its requirements to give effect to strategic documents like the Auckland Plan and the 2010 Regional Land Transport Strategy. Overall, I note that factors influencing transport patterns are changing at a relatively rapid rate. Rising fuel prices, changing demographics, the need to reduce carbon emissions and the Council’s desire for a compact city mean that our future transport demands may be very different to what has happened historically. The Auckland Plan must be robust and resilient to these changes.

These are really important documents relating to the funding of transport activities in Auckland over the next three years in particular. So make sure your voice is heard.