The 2009-2012 National Land Transport Programme – which details all the projects that will receive funding from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) – has been released today. It’s quite a stylishly put together document, and includes an Auckland section – to make life easy for people like me looking to see if anything unexpected has emerged. The answer to that question is no, as far as I can see there’s nothing emerging which I haven’t heard about before – particularly when it comes to public transport. This is probably because there’s very little in the document relating to public transport. The “highlights” of the three year programme for Auckland are outlined below:
There are a number of maps within the first few pages of the Auckland NLTP document, showing the projects that are expected to begin construction or design within the next few years. I am still to work out the logic behind why some projects end up on one of the maps and others end up on a different one, but anyway below we have the map which tends to show the public transport projects that are going to take place:
Of most interest to me is the inclusion of “Constellation to Albany bus priority lanes”. I’m not quite sure whether that means a full busway between Constellation Drive and Albany, but I do hope so. That would be a a useful project on the North Shore, ad the busway has proven to be a huge success.
If things don’t look too imbalanced towards roading projects quite yet, that’s simply because we haven’t looked at the split of where the money is going to be spent quite yet. Once we do, we see the effect of the government’s road fetishism truly starting to emerge:
Now I realise that rail improvements have been excluded from this (which is stupid by the way, but never mind that for now) but there’s still an unbelievable roads-bias in spending over the next three years. Furthermore, with every iteration of every plan public transport continues to get shafted even more. I’ll discuss that in a minute, but for now let’s look at the above diagram in graph form:
If we look at improvements to infrastructure, we can find out how the investment in new roading infrastructure compares to the investments in new public transport infrastructure. For roads – if we include state highways and local roads we get a total of $1,691.2 million being spent over the next three years. Compared to a mere $172.1 million on public transport. That’s almost $10 on new roads for every dollar that goes into new public transport! Now I realise that figure is probably a tad more extreme than the reality of what we’d see, as we can effectively double the public transport improvements total once regional contributions are included. However, that still only leaves $344 million available over the next three years for public transport improvements (excluding rail).
If we look at previous plans, we can see that slowly but surely public transport funding is being whittled away. The Auckland Transport Plan (published only a month ago) anticipated spending $510.8 million on public transport infrastructure over the next three years – of which half could come from NLTP funds. That would be around $255 million – whereas we can see above only $172 million has been allocated. That’s a $70 million difference, what goes?
Looking at the projects that will actually receive funding over the next three years, it’s a mixed bunch:
It’s certainly good to hear that investigation is proceeding on the CBD Rail Tunnel. Don’t worry about further rail projects not being listed here, as I said earlier rail is now separate from the NLTP. However, what is odd is this obsession with extending the Northern Busway to Orewa. Why the heck is that a priority? There are not many buses that currently operate between Orewa and Albany, the motorway is not currently congested except on extremely rare occasions – so why the heck would you embark on such a completely and utterly pointless project?
I suspect the reason why this utterly unnecessary project is being promoted is simply because it’s the only public transport project NZTA can sink their teeth into without having to rely upon major contributions from local councils – as it’s effectively a state highway upgrade (or at least that’s how the Northern Busway was funded). This shows once again the stupidity of us not being able to compare all projects against all other projects – surely rail to the airport would be a higher priority than such an unnecessary busway. If NZTA really want to build more busways, it would make infinitely more sense to build a Northwest Busway, as that’s an area of Auckland which currently does run a lot of buses and does experience congestion. The benefits of a Northwest Busway would obviously be far more significant than extending the Northern Busway to Orewa, it’s such a no-brainer I must say I sometimes worry about what’s in the water over at the NZTA offices.
Anyway, overall the NLTP is a predictable roadsfest – although in some ways it is even worse than I had predicted. It appears as though Steven Joyce and NZTA are determined to kill public transport in Auckland, even if it is death by a thousand small cuts. Losing $70 million in public transport funding when compared to a plan only released last month is pretty damn depressing.
Update: Oddly, the press release associated with the NLTP says that public transport investment is up by 21%. I guess that includes public transport services (subsidies) and is across the whole country. This figure is misleading when you look at the Auckland context, as the 2008/2009 NLTP figure for public transport infrastructure in Auckland indicated that a continuation of current funding levels would result in $432 million being spent on public transport infrastructure from the NLTP in the 2009-2012 period, while today’s annoucement only sees $172 million being spent on public transport infrastructure. That’s a $260 million cut in funding.