The Draft 2009 Auckland Transport Plan has been released by ARTA for public comment and submissions. The plan is “the region’s flagship 10 year transport planning document”, so therefore will have a pretty big effect on how transportation is funded over the next 10 years. It proposes a pretty big amount of money to be spent as well – just under $16 billion in that time actually. $16 billion does sound like an awful lot, but this is ALL the money that will be spent on ALL transport projects, infrastructure development, maintenance and service provision throughout that time. It excludes the construction funding for essential projects such as the CBD Rail loop and rail to the airport (and less essential projects like the SH20 Waterview Connection). If funding for those projects were included, it would be a total of around $22 billion to be spent throughout the next decade.
My feelings on the plan are fairly mixed. There are some positives to come out of it for sure. It’s good that we seemingly now have ONE major plan that identifies what’s going to be built/maintained/provided over the next decade rather than 53 million different plans. It’s also great that ARTA has a much more powerful role in integrating all the other transport providers (Ontrack, NZTA, councils etc.) so maybe we’ll have less squabbling over transport funds and more integrated planning and allocation of funds in the future. That’s a definite positive. It’s also a positive that more public transport projects are being planned than ever before, as shown in the map below:
So we have a fair number of public transport projects detailed there:
- Extension of Northern Busway to Orewa (not likely to be funded within the timeframe as it’s a bit of a silly project in my opinion).
- Waimauku Northern Inland Port (not really public transport but should assist in improving the freight viability of the North Auckland Line. It might take some pressure off getting freight trains through the city too).
- Rapid Transit between Henderson-Westgate-Constellation-Albany (probably a busway).
- Hobsonville/Beachhaven ferry service
- Additional Waitemata Rail crossing (not funded within the timeframe)
- CBD Rail Link (not funded within the timeframe… gahhhhhh!!!!!)
- Southdown-Avondale passenger and freight rail line (this one has been designated for 50 years so I’ll believe it when I see it)
- Onehunga Rail Line extended to port (this one might actually happen within 10 years!)
- Rapid Transit between Panmure-Botany Downs and Manukau City (sadly looks like this is more likely to be a busway than a rail line)
- Auckland CBD-Airport-Manukau City rail link (not sure if this is funded, probably not).
- Third rail freight line Westfield to Papakura (very useful for express passenger services too!)
So there are eleven projects here. Yet if you dig a bit further into the Plan it really does seem like most of the roading projects are the ones with funding locked in, while most of the public transport projects are those which are still sitting in the “maybe, some day” basket. I’ve moaned about what needs to happen many times before, so I’m not going to focus on that too much.
I think that the main problems I have with the Auckland Transport Plan relate to how it serves the 2005 Regional Land Transport Strategy. As one can clearly discover as soon as they go to the website for the Land Transport Strategy (RLTS), a new RLTS is currently being put together by ARC/ARTA. The new RLTS should be a huge leap forward from the 2005 version, which is obsessed with a 2/3rd v 1/3rd split in funding towards roading projects. The new RLTS actually mentions things like Peak Oil, Climate Change and other issues that make it essential for Auckland to invest in a more sustainable transportation future. I think the RLTS will be open for public comment later in the year, and I will generally support it I think. However, when it comes to the Auckland Transport Plan it has used the out-of-date 2005 RLTS as the basis for deciding where money should be spent. Therefore, while it balances things out a little more towards public transport, the bias towards funding roading first still clearly exists.
Let’s have a look at things in a little more detail:
The first thing I notice is “wow those are some big numbers”. The second thing I notice is “yikes, spending on rail infrastructure and passenger transport infrastructure really decreases later on in the period”. By contrast, funding for “new and improved local roads” and “new and improved state highways” stays pretty steady throughout the period. Clearly, the indication is that once the current public transport projects are out of the way the region can get back to funding roads, roads and more roads like it should.
Let’s have a look at how it comes together, compared with the funding ‘targets’ in the 2005 RLTS. To start with, let’s have a look at what the RLTS in 2005 said the funding split “should” be like:
Wow, so for every dollar in public transport we SHOULD spend almost $2 on roads. That’s a very visionary plan to reduce our automobile dependency, congestion, environmental effects of vehicle emissions and energy security in the face of peak oil if I’ve ever seen one. NOT!
Below is how the Transport Plan compares with the RLTS:
On the good side, the Plan is trying to do better (within its first three years) than what was originally planned for in the RLTS. I suspect that later on in the 10 year period the balance goes way back towards roading more than this (when it should be going the other way), but at least it’s a good start. Roading infrastructure for 2009-2012 is actually the same as public transport infrastructure investment over that time. Almost unbelievable. However, the legacy of the terrible 2005 RLTS means that as time progresses the bad old habits kick back in. For the 2015-2019 period we have about $1.7 billion to be spent on roading infrastructure, but only about $140 million to be spent on public transport infrastructure. That’s truly disgusting at a time when we should be nearly finished building the CBD rail loop, be constructing the North Shore train line and looking at building the Howick train line. Maybe ARTA hope that everyone will just look at the first 3 years and be happy about the equal funding public transport appears to get.
Fortunately, we all have the opportunity to tell ARTA to sort this out. A few things need to be changed.
- The 10 year plan needs to be informed by the updated Regional Land Transport Strategy, not by an out-of-date roads-centric 2005 plan.
- The 10 year plan needs to at least mention peak oil, and how it could dramatically affect transportation in the future. The International Energy Agency is looking at a 2015 date for peak oil, and they’re one of the most conservative estimators about this in the world.
- Significantly greater weighting needs to be given to public transport investment. This can come directly from roading investment in the region, which may turn out to be pretty unnecessary in the future.
- The 10 year plan needs to take advantage of recent research done by the NZTA into projected future traffic flows. The linked report expects 2007 levels of traffic flows to not return until 2016, or potentially not in the foreseeable future at all if certain pro-public transport steps are taken. If that’s the case then why are we expanding our roading systems at all?
- Major public transport projects like the CBD rail tunnel and rail to the airport needs to be included in the plan, in recognition of its significant need and also of its strategic importance. Projects like this will never get built if they don’t at least end up in plans.
I will be making a submission to ARTA about this Plan, and hopefully will have the chance to present my submission to them in person in May, when the hearings for this are held.
You can make a submission too, here.