For the last 6 months or so, a group of people representing organisations from all corners of society have been looking at the issue of how we will pay for all of the transport projects on the councils massive wish list that is the Auckland Plan. Here is the press release:

Tough decisions needed on Auckland’s transport future

A six-month process involving 17 of Auckland’s key transport stakeholders reached a significant milestone today with the release of a public discussion document on the future of transport funding in Auckland.

‘Funding Auckland’s Transport Future’ is the consensus view of community, transport, environment, and business representatives, each with a stake in finding the best solution to Auckland’s transport funding problem.

The Consensus Building Group (‘the CBG’) have concluded that additional revenue of $400 million each year for the next 30 years is needed to help fund the transport projects in the Auckland Plan.

The CBG found that existing funding tools are sufficient in the short-term, however by 2021 Auckland needed to follow one of two possible options capable of generating the required money.

Option 1 identifies a continued reliance on existing revenue sources. This would mean large increases to rates and fuel taxes, tolls to fund major new roads, further government contributions and small fare increases for public transport users.

Option 2 would require a new source of funding, known generally as road pricing. Road pricing can be implemented in a variety of forms and they have identified a motorway network charge or one or more single cordons as the most likely. Option 2 would be supplemented by small increases to rates, fuel taxes and public transport fares, alongside further government contributions.

The CBG has not expressed a preference for one option ahead of the other. However, it concluded that unless Aucklanders are prepared to accept higher rates increases and heavier congestion, it will be necessary to introduce some form of road pricing by 2021.

The CBG has identified population growth as Auckland’s greatest transport challenge.

“In order to cope with population growth at twice the rate of the rest of New Zealand, Auckland’s transport system must undergo change across all modes – roads, public transport, walking and cycling,” says the report.

“If we do nothing, the result will be transport congestion that is excessive, disruptive and costly.”

Research conducted by the CBG shows that introducing a road pricing scheme would help to reduce the level of congestion on Auckland roads, and improve travel speeds and journey times for motorists and freight. However, road pricing must be supported by viable, attractive public transport alternatives.

The CBG is asking Aucklanders to submit their feedback on its initial proposals. Electronic copies of the report and an online survey are available at Printed copies are also available at Auckland Council Service Centre’s and Libraries. Public feedback will help shape the CBG’s recommendations to Auckland Council, scheduled for July 2013.

The CBG has said that this is the beginning of a longer conversation. “If Auckland Council and the government wish to progress our recommendations, they will need to hold separate formal consultation with Aucklanders on the detailed impact and design of any new funding package,” says the report.

As mentioned in the release, there are two options being presented for how to bridge the funding gap.

CBG options

Personally I was a disappointed that the group weren’t allowed to consider whether the projects marked on the Auckland plan would actually be effective or were the right mix. It is quite possible that changing priorities, and mix of projects may allow us to deliver the same level of benefits for a much smaller overall cost removing part of the funding gap.

We will take a much deeper look at the funding options in time but this post is really just to get the discussion going. There is more information on the website set up by the group (which has been updated today) including their report.

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  1. It’s a pretty tough sell to say that we need these extra taxes to fund a $60b+ transport programme when the outcome of that programme is even worse congestion than we have now.

    1. The thing is though that “even worse congestion” is a crude measure of the success of the programme of work. If the measure of success is defined as being the average speed of a single occupant car driving through the CBD, then, yes, you would say the outcome is worse. If the outcome is thousands more people can use public transport, walk or cycle, then the programme of work could be very successful.

      I’m very wary of those calling for even more investment on the basis that single occupant car trips will be slower than they are today. That’s a given.

  2. If we just spent less money unwisely, would congestion be worse than if we spent less money wisely? Perhaps that should be option 3.

    1. That doesn’t make sense. I meant to say:

      If we just spent less money wisely, would congestion be worse than if we spent lots of money unwisely? Perhaps that should be option 3.

      1. Yeah my vote is for option 3, cut out $10 billion of unnecessary projects and the funding shortfall disappears (Harbour motorway crossing and Avondale-Southdown rail I’m looking at you). Knock off the ludicrously expensive and dubious projects, work on the rest within our existing means and then revisit if we actually need to take transport capex up to a new level.

      2. It also worries me that so much money will be spent on transport that other community facilities will be left behind. Can you imagine having any extra million people in the city with very little spending in these areas? How would that equate to Auckland’s livable city status?

        There has to be balance in all things; and may be it would be better to focus the transport spending (with a lower budget) in defined areas rather than trying to do bits and pieces everywhere all at once?

        1. Gary I agree with your sentiment. If we dropped the rwo transport projects Nick mentions (Harbour crossing and Avondale-Southdown line) then would we be having this conversation at all?

  3. What if we did nothing and let the congestion take its natural course i.e. put off those who may consider moving here and those who already do will eventually reach the conclusion that driving is a stupid idea and either walk,cycle or catch the public transport option …it could work …

    1. Not sure what you base this assertion on. if the purpose because the cumulative 66 year investment into primarily motorways has inno way delivered the congestion free nirvana promised in 1955. What we hopefully now realise is that this balance of investment does not not deliver the promised returns. Time to rethink what the problem is a d what the package if solutions are. Could be that flipping investment pattern on its head could work. Hopefully collectively we are not stupid enough to do it all again. Decoupling economic growth from transport in segment the first place. To start.

    1. That is also a concern I have. You have to take a considerable leap of faith that revenue raised by alternative means will be used for transport projects that are truly worthwhile, and not spent on increasing motorway capacity to support the ongoing inefficiency of single occupant cars at peak.

      1. I’d be happy to pay $2 each time I use an on-ramp while the signals are on as a congestion tax. And then for that money to be split 50/50 between standard and alternative modes of travel.

        1. Except that the signals are often on when there’s no real need. Many’s the time I’ve been the only car on an on-ramp that has the signals going. If the lights aren’t causing congestion on the ramp there’s clearly no need for them to be on at all.

        2. The reasoning for the ramp meter signals is mainly driven by the traffic flow on the motorway rather than the amount of traffic on that one particular ramp.

          In the end I think we will end up in the same box as before with everyone wanting someone else to pay for it.

        3. Agreed, so would I (mostly because I don’t think that I have done that for about 4 months but also because it would reduce congestion by encouraging others to do the same.)

  4. I suppose it’s totally unrealistic to demand that substantial improvements be made to PT before any other steps are taken? But how else will PT stop having to play catch-up?

  5. Regardless of whether we need all the projects included in the Plan, Brownlee immediately refuses to allow the region to pay for it ourselves (except no doubt by selling off some public assets like our port).,-road-tolls-for-auckland

    “Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who hasn’t read the report, said a regional fuel tax, congestion charges and a road tolls as they stand would never be agreed to.

    Mr Brownlee said New Zealanders won’t be paying twice for roads when money has been generated through their excise duty or road user charges, while a congestion charge would not be appropriate on government-owned roads.”

    1. “while a congestion charge would not be appropriate on government-owned roads”

      I’d agree with this. If Auckland wants to charge for people to use roads owned by the Council, then that is fine. But not state highways. First of all is the principle that the Council shouldn’t be collecting “rent” on assets owned by the country as a whole. Secondly, it avoids issues where Northland to Waikato traffic traversing Auckland is charged for using a national asset. Thirdly, it avoids any danger that the people of Hamilton might do away with rates entirely and replace them with a toll booth south of the Bombay Hills.

      I’m not a fan of regional sales taxes either. The things are a menace in the US. I suspect the government don’t want a situation where councils are setting their own fiscal policies, especially if they mess it up and slow regional growth. Central government has an interest in ensuring that the Council doesn’t do anything to negatively impact Auckland growth since central government has to pick up the pieces via the unemployment benefit.

      The Council has existing revenue sources: Rates, Public transport fares, and underperforming assets that could be put to more profitable uses. I’d be happy with targeted rates to support public transport, and with congestion charging on council-owned roads. But I get the feeling that the Council doesn’t really believe that people are willing to pay for public transport improvements and hope to find funding somewhere where it can be hidden to an extent. Take regional fuel taxes, for instance, where central government and petrol companies would likely cop the blame for high fuel prices, rather than the Council. Surveys show the CRL is popular. I question the value of a survey that doesn’t include a bill. Why not test this support via a referendum for a tunnel and associated rates increases?

      1. Maybe they should charge off-ramps near the city then rather than on-ramps. Then the motorway could be left to do its regional thing.

        1. Now that’d be kind of neat. For years those darned ramp signals have chucked congestion onto the local road network. Now, the congestion charging points on the off-ramps will keep the local roads nice and free for local traffic.

      2. Couple of things Obi. The funding shortfall is for all transport projects. You seem to imply these funding suggestions are for public transport only.

        And simple to get around any concern around taxing users of nationally funded assets. Have the cordon at the end of off ramps where the council owned roads start.

        The mayor has already said he will put any suggestions to the public before implementing. I agree a survey without a bill is meaningless. I hope any surveys on these proposals are similarly balanced by a ‘what do you want to do’ type question rather than ‘do you support road taxes’.

        1. Correction: the mayor has said no such thing. I mis read a report this morning. However there will be at least 2 elections between now and any move to impliment this, so if people don’t like it he’ll be, in the words of Gerry Brownlee ‘off the run’.

        2. “And simple to get around any concern around taxing users of nationally funded assets. Have the cordon at the end of off ramps where the council owned roads start”.

          Ha, I love it. And you are of course completely right.

      3. Tolling access to/from state highways through the Auckland region should have absolutely no impact at all on traffic traveling between Northland and the Waikato. Unless they are going out into Auckland.

    2. Ever get the feeling you are living in some kind of weird Alice-in-Wonderland dictatorship? Where any attempt to engage in logical discussion gets a response from cartoon-like characters such as a grinning cheshire cat? Or the King of Hearts. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

      1. Especially when the government isn’t proposing any alternative, it’s just endless whinging about Len Brown’s choo-choo trains. What’s the government’s plan? Do nothing, or come up with the money from somewhere else? Nah, easier just to complain about the people who are actually trying to do something, and try to convince Aucklanders that motorways to Tirau and Wellsford will do something for traffic in town.

      2. yes it’s depressingly obvious this “Government” ran out of ideas within 100 days in office. Ever since then they’ve kept themselves busy thwarting ideas that don’t fit into their ideological frame, like the CRL. In my opinion the notable features of this Government are its bizarre fixation with asset sales and sub-economic highways, and its extraordinarily negative attitude towards democratically elected local governments in Auckland and Christchurch.

        Not that I think the world is ending – mainly because most NZers are simply getting on with their lives as best they can. Onwards!

  6. ” New Zealanders won’t be paying twice for roads ” – Sorry but THEY WERE NOT paid for by excise duty nor road user charges.

    Even those roads that can be claimed technically to have been paid for %100 from said sources were infact indirectly subsidesed with money earmarked for local roads.

  7. I am more worried about what mess Auckland will have to end up with if it compromises than if the thing is ever built at all. One only needs to look at the original plans for Britomart and then consider we probably ended up with fewer bus stops than we had in the old Transport Terminal to see what downsizing usually means around here..

    1. Perhaps you’d like to increase the cost of registering a birth in Auckland as well, and also add an internal migrant’s tax for residents newly arrived in the city from elsewhere in NZ? I’m pretty sure that at least half the projected growth in Auckland’s population is not immigrants, but ‘natural growth’ and internal migration. Not sure that this is a helpful suggestion, particularly in a country whose economy would be in tatters if it wasn’t for immigration (partially) offsetting the exodus to Australia. That immigrant want to move to Auckland is a blessing!

    2. Yes, we could have a few toll booths to catch people entering the city. I suggest a couple to catch international entries i.e. Airport & Port and then a couple to catch those travelling by car at say the Bombays and Warkworth. Trains could be exempt.

    3. No, just a levy on immigration, as it is a largely controllable factor – take it that your definition of economic success is over inflated house prices? Nordic countries for example have tended to have much lower population growth than New Zealand yet still manage to have economic growth, a high wage economy and affordable housing.

      People mostly leave because the wage differential is high- those wages will not increase by in large as the exodus to Australia is being replaced by labour from either lower wage economies or “lifestyle seekers”. There is also evidence that Auckland is a transit lounge for Australia – people get their NZ residency and move to Australia after a few years for example. In the future a lot of jobs (ICT for example) will not be location/population dependent, so small countries will be at an advantage, i.e. high immigration and the infrastructure pressures it brings are not essential for success.

  8. We already pay roughly 60 cents petrol tax, so if allocated properly there should be enough. Personally I don’t mind tolls, but they would need to be done well and certainly not by the same people that implemented the Puhoi toll system. There are a few items on the list that could removed, and a few others added. The city rail loop business case certainly needs a good going over, hard to see this been of much use to many people! Harbour cycle crossing with private backing seems a no brainer to get underway..

    1. You know the 60c/l doesn’t go straight into the Auckland councils pockets but rather off to the government to be spent around the country.

    2. Cyclist – I applaud your support for a cycle crossing. However I think we need to incentivise this extremely positive choice of transport to truly bed it in. I believe some sort of council rates rebate should be provided to those among us who choose to reduce pressure on our roading system by opting to cycle. And I would like to see a module added to the driver licence education process that promotes safer driving and empathy toward cyclists in general.

      1. Thanks, I agree an incentive for bikes would be good…. A few new bridge crossings would work for me. Obviously those that are already on the right track will alsomappreciate the lifestyle and environmental benefits.

  9. Will the government allow the council to have toll booths(or whatever).Or will they block it.Is it currently allowed for the council to do this?

  10. IMO, selling road pricing as a revenue raising measure is stupid. It needs to be sold as a revenue neutral, efficiency enhancing measure. I think this may be what Brownlee is implying when he says motorists shouldn’t pay twice.

    1. Swan – They have started from the position that we have a funding gap and so looked at ways to plug that gap and road pricing is one of those options.

    2. Swan I completely agree with your take on road pricing, but tend to disagree with your take on Brownlee. His comment strikes me as typical National tut-tutting at what they perceive to be “silly” local government ideas.

  11. How about a ‘VIP Toll’ that you pay a significant annual fee for and then you can drive in bus lanes, priority lanes, priority light phasing and free public transport?

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