Recently Auckland Transport and Ernst and Young hosted a seminar on the economics of urban transport. Sadly we didn’t get an invite but at least AT have videoed the presentations and put them up online.

First we have Paul Buchanan who is an international transport economist. The presentation is here.

There were a couple of things I found really interesting:

  • His points on the use of travel time savings to justify projects as well as the failure to take into account land use changes as a result of the investment. Travel time savings are something that makes up the bulk of the benefits in projects like the RoNS and it suggests we need to radically change how we view our economic analysis.
  • That we have to think stronger about how the impacts of safety as measures put in place in the name of safety often can have unforeseen negative impacts.
  • The importance and impact that CBDs have on the economy.
  • The importance of not only having a good natural environment but a good urban one to make it attractive to potential employees. This is something we are just starting to get with the improvements that have been happening in the CBD like the shared spaces.
  • The development impacts that cars, buses and trains have on development patterns. In particular the upward spiral of development and demand that rail can generate that simply isn’t possible with cars.
  • We have to be careful not to put too many buses into our city centre so that we don’t choke it and make it an unattractive place.

Next we have local economist John Williamson who gives a bit more detail on the things in Auckland and how they compare to the rest of NZ. You the presentation is here.

And last we have Joanne Ogg of Ernst and Young who talked about the move to their new offices right above the eastern entrance to Britomart. What I found interesting was once again more evidence of a generational shift that is occurring where young people are increasingly wanting different transport options and how rail in particular is key to that. My wife would fall into that category and chose the area we did because of the easy access to the train station simply because we want transport options available to us.

What I think these talks highlight is how important it is that we focus on the city centre if we are really keen to get good long term economic growth. Central to that is the need to be able to move more people into and out of the area at key times while at the same time making our street level environments much nicer places to be which will mean reducing road space. The only way we can really do that is through projects like the CRL. I wonder if any of those present were from the NZTA, MoT or Treasury because it seems like they could sure do with learning a bit more about this stuff.

Share this


  1. Re travel time savings I remember during the rugby World Cup talking to some tourists who were going to Eden Park on the train. I think the train trip took 35 mins and it was about a 60 mins to walk. I didn’t have the heart to tell them how close it was out of embarrassment. 30 mins you should be out in Swanson not a few minutes down the road. Our public transport infrastructure is still miles behind world standards which again is reflected in Mercer report.

  2. We need a government and officials with a more accurate and sophisticated understanding of the economy. Their current economic-performance-is-only-at-the-end-of-a-shovel ideology (then on a truck of course) is plainly wrong when it comes to Auckland. Fully a third of the economy and growing. And a place that could contribute more high quality growth if unleashed from their simply ignorant one-size-fits-all prejudices.

  3. very interesting progression of world->Auckland->a corporate tenant (Ernst+Young). I wonder how many other recent corporate moves have considered Passenger Transport Accessibility, and how much of their findings have been fed back to Auckland Transport.

  4. Excellent video’s – its seems even more obvoius than ever – we need the National Government to sit down and watch them.

  5. In Melbourne CBD where employment has grown at the expense of the suburbs. There is no reason Auckland would be any different. The Federal Transport Minister has quoted the statistic that a rail line carries as many people as a 10-lane freeway (and without the problems of parking and creating congestion on other parts of the road network).

    In Auckland it is really up to businesses such as Ernst and Young to lobby the government on the CRL. The Council only have their “bucketful of influence”. Perhaps it needs a letter campaign from major CBD employers, each sending a letter to Nikki Kaye, Gerry Brownlee and John Keyes.

    1. Actually that undercooks the comparison, it’s closer to the same capacity as twelve motorway lanes… except that once you get motorways that are six lanes each way they drop in efficiency (weaving and merging to get on and off), so it’s more like a fourteen or sixteen lane motorway.

  6. Read how the well the rail is doing in Sydney:

    Life in the slow lane: Afternoon peak hour travel on Sydney’s major roads getting worse, as report reveals city’s slowest-moving road. Read more:

  7. Let’s hope some of Paul Buchanan’s graphs of density vs economic output are included in the CBD access study. These graphs are fundamental to the CRL business case, and indeed to any major PT investment. I am surprised so few people on this forum have commented on them.

    He said that London’s Crossrail project did not get up by the traditional time savings analysis, which had a BCR of 0.9. The economic analysis approach that took it “across the line” was that it was because it would allow another 100,000 people to work at CBD densities, which allows career specialisation and with it greater innovation.

    Any city or nation that does not provide sufficient employment density for this specialisation will become a net purchaser of such services, whcih will be provided from cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, London, Hong Kong or Singapore, where there is greater depth in the employment market for specialists. There will also be a net movement of bright young professionals to these cities to advance their own careers. So ultimately the CRL is about the balance of payments for knowledge industries.

    1. Great comment, in particular this: “it would allow another 100,000 people to work at CBD densities.” After New Zealand’s Got Talent, watch these videos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *