On Tuesday the Greens announced a policy to give tertiary students free off peak public transport. While the policy wasn’t terrible I didn’t think it was great either however the same can’t be said for the rest of their transport policy which was announced today.

There are 5 key areas the Greens are focusing on

  1. A $10.4 billion investment in new public transport projects and rail over 10 years delivering buses and trains every few minutes at peak hour, decongesting our cities’ roads, and reversing the neglect of our rail network
  2. A $2.2 billion dollar government investment in seven key public transport projects in Auckland, including $1.3 billion in funding for the Auckland City Rail Link to start immediately.
  3. A 300% increase in walking and cycling infrastructure including separated walking and cycling infrastructure in New Zealand’s small towns and big cities.
  4. A $423 million increase in funding to regions to contest for projects that will best serve their transport needs.
  5. A Student Green Card to provide free off-peak travel to all tertiary students and apprentices. We will investigate options to lower fares for everyone, and implement smart, integrated options for monthly and annual passes.

The student fares was announced on Tuesday and the walking and cycling policy was announced back in March so there’s little point in going over them again other than to say I improving both walking and cycling as well as PT can often go hand in hand i.e. making it easier to get to buses, trains and ferries by walking and cycling will also help increase use of PT.

That leaves the PT and regional parts of the policy to think about.

I basically read point one as being about creating  proper integrated networks in our major cities. While it isn’t specified I would expect it would involve a combination of improved network planning like what’s happening in Auckland with the New Network, integrated ticketing/fares and higher levels of service provision. The latter in particular is something likely to require additional funding, an issue which I’ll come to shortly.

On the Auckland specific parts of the policy it’s fantastic to see them supporting the Congestion Free Network

CFN 2030A

There are a couple of key points about their support for the CFN though that it’s worth mentioning and that’s related to funding as shown in the table below.

Green CFN Funding

With the exception of the CRL at 60% the rest of the projects are funded to the tune of 50%. In some cases that’s better than what we have now where some of the projects might not get much government funding at all but I do wonder if strategic Rapid Transit Networks should get more funding. This is because RTN networks are the PT equivalent of a motorway and under the current system motorways get funded 100% from the government through the NZTA.

Putting that aside, the CFN combined with the Greens planned spend of $34 million a year on walking and cycling – around three times the current budget – would really see transport in Auckland transformed in a positive way which has the benefit of providing people with much greater choice in how they get around.

The other key part to their policy is around increasing funding for regional transport projects. I’m not sure if this funding is based on the governments recently announced regional roading package (some of which aren’t bad) or off some other figure but it’s clearly about tapping into the complaints from regions about funding being sucked away for the RoNS projects. I do like that as part of this they will move rail and port projects under the same funding criteria so that hopefully the best transport solution for a given problem obtained regardless of what mode it is. Personally I would go further and shift the network planning and management parts of Kiwirail in with the NZTA to hopefully further enhance chances of getting the best outcome and to gain the benefits of planning and project management experience that the NZTA seem to have.

The biggest thing with this policy is how to fund it. To address this the Greens have actually come up with their own version of a Government Policy statement which is really great to see and shows  they’re actually thinking though some of these issues. The graph below is a summary of the spending but the policy contains a yearly break down for each activity class too which is shows how much thought has been put in to this.

Green GPS Funding graph

While I think that it’s pretty good my biggest concern is just how much they could implement as the government seems to be going hell-for-leather trying to get RoNS projects underway and once that happens it will likely be hideously expensive to cancel projects but also if they’re not cancelled they’ll be hugely costly with the construction trying up transport funding for years.

Overall at first glance the policy is fairly good and to me at least is a big improvement on what’s currently happening or is planned to happen.

Note: I’m not sure when the Governemnt or the Labour plan to formally release their transport policies – although for a large part we can expect the Governments policy to match the formal Government Policy statement

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  1. This looks excellent to me. It will correct decades of underinvestment and misdirection of the transport portfolio. There is a huge gap, and this will close it.

    I was about to say they needed some specifics for Wellington, but it appears (from the link) they’re about to announce those later: “We also have ambitious plans for Wellington and Christchurch to be announced in coming weeks..

    (Matt, haven’t they upped walking and cycling from $34m to $100m? The post might need a correction.)

    1. “paving country with $14bn worth of new highways” ..some of which will become redundant, stranded assets long before they reach the end of their useful life. Unless a *really* cost effective replacement for the FF ICE comes along in the next decade or two. Looks unlikely to me. What a waste!

      1. What is the difference between spending a given $100 million on highways, which at least remain there for whoever will still use them, compared to spending the money on shifting people around on PT? Most of the cost to the public, of PT, is of shifting people around, it doesn’t “build something” that people then pay their own way to use. At least car drivers have paid for their own car, fuel, repairs, etc in contrast to the public picking up the tab for PT rolling stock, energy, other operating costs including staff and buildings, etc etc.

        1. Phil, would you advocate “user pays” for absolutely everything? Even motorways that also couldn’t remotely be self-funding (like Transmission Gully)? have you read up on the “Ghost Motorways” of Portugal – built at huge cost, with tolls which most people cant afford to pay (or choose not to). You need to re-think your idea that roads are self-funding, particularly RoNS-type roads.

  2. The thing is with National there are the roads and the PT we currently have plus a few super duper duplicate new highways. With the Green’s policy there are all the roads we currently have plus a few new ones, AND world class PT and Active systems in our cities.

    The time is right to balance our movement choices and opportunities. The current road systems we have built up over the last 60 years will still be maintained and where necessary, extended. Now it is time to complement this with the missing or inadequate modes.

    Very clear to me which plan gives us all more.

  3. One other item I can’t remember being announced earlier – fully funding the Sky Path (which isn’t surprising, but is still welcome).

      1. Bottom of page 11 in the full policy document, under the heading “Safe walking and cycling in Auckland”. “We are also committed to fully funding the Skypath, so people on foot and on bike can cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge toll-free and safely.”

  4. Good post Matt, and good on you for picking up some of the (fairly minor) quibbles with the plan. But generally, it’s fantastic to see this transport policy from the Greens. It is exactly what we need to be doing, and what the public is demanding – an end to the extremely car-centric transport funding of the past, giving people better choices through better PT and active transport provision, and cutting back on the massive road spendup which we quite simply don’t need and shouldn’t waste money on.
    The challenge for us is now to get more agreement from the other political parties, and especially from whatever government we end up with after September. It’s completely nuts that there is such a political divide on this issue, but the fact is that the National government continues to pursue some very poorly thought out and short-sighted transport policies. We need to get buy-in from across the spectrum.

    1. Nice post Matt, and nicely summarised John. This plan is indeed exactly what we need to be doing. It provides choice and balance, is environmentally-friendly, will provide real benefits to the regions (not just certain projects of varying benefits) and benefits our balance of trade by using more domestically-generated electricity and less imported oil. It really is the tonic to bring NZ’s transport infrastructure into the 21st century.

      The contrast with National’s policies could not be clearer. And it is indeed odd (as TheBigWheel pointed out) that National is denying choice and telling people what’s best for them. A future National-led government that returns to its roots might do this in the transport field, but the current National inner circle has been captured by the roads lobby. The only answer is a cleanout via a spell in opposition.

      For these and many other reasons, people for whom transport is the #1 issue should be voting Green in September, and persuading everyone around them to do the same. The choice is clear.

  5. Maybe I’ve missed it but is there somewhere we can go to get further detail on this policy?

    There was a $10 billion total mentioned somewhere and I’m struggling to do the math as to how much is going where.

    1. Could the chart above be any clearer? Basically the Greens plan to simply move most of the New Statehighway budget over to new PT and rail infra, boost regional and Active investment. Otherwise the maintenance of roads stays the same, as does the quantum.

      1. The 2015-2025 Transport Funding chart should be on billboards. It is a clear and savage illustration of the madness of National’s policies, and how well thought-through the Greens’ are. Maintain what we have, and invest in PT and active modes to redress the balance.

        It barely needs to be said that (despite Gerry’s laughable claims) the vast majority of investment over the past 30 years has gone into roads. Time for a change.

        1. Yes but the trouble is, many if not most people think roads are the answer to their congestion complaints. There is more appreciation for PT’s role in that, I know, but roads aren’t likely to lose the election for national.
          The Green plan is a good one. They would be well-served by talking up the idea of moving highway funding from AKL to smaller cities and rural areas. That would have traction, and wouldn’t lose them any AKL votes. I think that’s implicit in what they’re proposing, but it should be clearer – without saying they aren’t funding roads in AKL anymore even if they aren’t. I also think maintenance resonates. They should talk up the importance of maintaining what we have – “fix it first” – over new highways. Good economic efficiency argument there.
          (I forget what comment I’m replying to…)

          1. Indeed, two generations of building only roads has produced an instinct in many people that more roads are the answer. This is understandable.

            Now that the Greens have laid out a logical plan that will benefit many of those people, the task is to make them understand how much better things could be for them personally. This is not easy to deliver in soundbites, and is where the power of persuasion kicks in.

            What the Greens as a party need to hammer is that there is in fact minimal loss (only National’s wasteful, pork-laden RoNS etc.) and much to gain from reallocating resources. As well as the gains in PT amenity, overall efficiency etc. etc., they should stress the reallocation aspects (the Stuff headline today about their policy predictably says ‘Greens spend big’). This policy can be promoted many ways for many different benefits.

          2. Glen I agree, and the key point there is that the existing road networks will not be abandoned or even remain unimproved as the focus now shifts to the complementary networks. As it must.

          3. Indianapolis, similar to Auckland in population, has 3 or more times as much highway lane-miles and arterial lane-miles. Its TomTom Index congestion delay is consistently 15 minutes per hour of driving at peak, versus Auckland’s 40 to 47 minutes.

            What is wrong with people KNOWING that building road space reduces congestion? They don’t just “think” this, they KNOW it.

            It is the certainty of the “building roads doesn’t reduce congestion” activists that is entirely misplaced. They only THINK they KNOW this. it is an “unknown known”.

            Building roads does NOT guarantee so much “induced traffic” that congestion will increase in proportion to the road-building. This is absurd. Traffic increase for the last few decades has ALMOST ALL happened regardless; incomes rise, women join the workforce, and the elderly become more mobile. Cities that have deliberately built less road space have worse traffic congestion, end of discussion.

            Indianapolis also has house price median multiples stable at around 3, like Auckland used to have. These issues are connected. I propose a 1/3 1/3 1/3 rule: 1/3 the major roads space per capita, 1/3 the traffic speed, 1/3 the housing affordability.

            It is all about the total number of GPS co-ordinates that are accessible to each other via the competing transport system. Public transport can only connect a fraction of the proportion of jobs and workers that automobility does, and reducing this disadvantage is impossibly costly. It is impossibly costly to increase the coverage of the urban area by PT (the best attempt would be to throw the regulation book away, sell the PT system, subsidise travelers per person mile and let private para-transit compete for riders) and it is impossibly costly to concentrate jobs and workforces in the small urban footprint served by PT unless you are going to compulsorily acquire all the sites.

            Communist planning was based on shallow assumptions that location of everyone and everything around rail routes was more efficient, which was utter disaster in practice, even under conditions where there was no land market at all and people could be ordered around at whim by planners…..!

            When you have private property ownership, restricting location choices to fewer transport routes inflates everyone’s cost of living space (and the cost of commercial space), to the benefit of the incumbent land owning oligopoly. 100 years ago this was far better understood because it was the cause of much human suffering, and automobility was welcomed as a better solution than Marxism. The Cold war itself was really about “nationalisation of property” versus “automobility”.

          4. PH: the fallacy is that your measures are of traffic congestion, ie vehicles on roads. Now people in many cities (not including Indianapolis, but including Auckland) have the option of not using roads, so many people can (and many of those do) choose to avoid them for their primary commute.

            What would be really useful would be measures of people congestion (lower in Auckland than the TomTom figure because of trains, the busway and being more walkable) relative to the full costs of the system (much higher in Indianapolis if it’s got three times the length of motorway to fund, build and maintain, and which prevents the land it occupies from being used for a more economic purpose).

  6. What’s going on here?! Greens: promoting customer choice and long term risk reduction. National: supply-side big spending Government knows what’s best for you.


  7. National’s response is here:

    Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Green Party owes it to New Zealanders to identify which State highway projects would not proceed under its just released transport policy.

    “With $11 billion removed from planned State highway projects, it’s hard not to conclude it’s all of them,” Mr Brownlee says.

    97 per cent of New Zealand’s passenger travel and 91 per cent of freight movement is done on the roads.

    “The National Government supports public transport and has provided $2.4 billion over the past five years. With the local government contribution that is $3.5 billion spent on public transport, including commuter rail investment in Auckland and Wellington.

    “The Green Party needs to explain which of the following roading projects it would axe first, or if it’s all of them:

    [lists lots of expensive roading projects around the country with the dollar amounts attached to them]

    “Since being elected in 2008 the National Government has been rectifying a 30 year deficit in road transport infrastructure. The Green Party proposal would put us back by decades.

    “The National Government has a balanced land transport policy (www.transport.govt.nz/gps) which gives commuters choice in the modes they use to travel and helps businesses to choose the most efficient way of getting their goods to domestic and international markets,” Mr Brownlee says.


    1. The only thing providing balance to National’s transport policy is the bump stop on the see-saw (itself probably an old car tyre).

      It is so out of balance that only Gerry or Fox News could see it as balanced. With luck the electorate will see through their spin too.

    2. I think the purpose of Brownlee’s press release is simply to list all of the road projects the government is spending money on, since in some areas it seems to conflate money already locked in with projects that haven’t started yet. Would be amused if JAG & Co responded with a point by point response. Presumably some of the smaller regional projects that might not pass the BCR bar for immediate funding could fight for funding through the contestable regional fund.

    3. There’s a huge non-sequitor there. Just because a large majority of freight is carried on roads, does not mean that the roads themselves need a large majority of spending. After all, a large majority of New Zealand’s import and export freight is carried on oceans…

      Government spending should be directed where that spending has the greatest impacts (according to whatever measures a society values).

      1. Indeed George, and it’s a case that 91% is already on the roads we already have. That doesn’t make a case for why it should stay that way, why should growth have to match recent precident.

    4. The Green’s can respond: National has addressed most of the major motorway deficiencies, and the projects currently in progress will complete the motorway network in Auckland. The other proposed RoNS are scaled inappropriately for the need. Where 2 lane roads will suffice, 4 lane roads have been specified, with no supporting business case. Puhoi-Wellsford will be scaled back, as the number of cars on that road does not require a tolled, 4 lane highway. Instead, we’ll spend the money improving the existing route to Wellsford, providing the necessary bypass of Warkworth, and making it safer for all those who travel. The savings from this scaled back investment mean we can invest more money directly in the Northland region, with a direct benefit to Northland’s economy, rather than on the Puhoi-Wellsford road which is in the Auckland region.

      We’re not against roads or the use of cars. We’re against bad-spending, and prefer to provide choice so that you can choose to travel without relying on a car. A more balanced policy, where we concentrate on maintaining what we have, adding new and upgrading roads where there is a clear benefit, and adding choice by improving public and active transport options is a much more prudent use of the limited funding available. We are not prepared to keep subsidising more auto-dependence and restricting choice.

      1. The answer is already in the announcement – “Unlike National, we will subject all projects to comprehensive economic evaluation to ensure that we are prioritising projects that are best value for money over their lifetime.” So put all Gerry’s low return projects in with all the others and see how they fare!

      2. But all this “choice” of something other than cars, comes at an absurd cost. At least car drivers pay for their own vehicle, for replacing it every few years, for the petrol they put in it, for repairs and insurance, etc etc. The public cost of the roads they drive on, over the ultra long term, tends to converge on 1 cent per person km. Externalities are arguably around 7 cents per person km, but this varies according to the car. Also, most of the bearers of these external costs are also beneficiaries of automobility who would regard the surplus of benefit over external costs borne, as substantial.

        Public transport subsidies, 20c to several dollars (for many off-peak services) per person-km of travel, mount up forever, in contrast to roads which once built, cost stuff-all per person-km of travel on them. No-one is stupid enough to suggest that the Romans could have spent their money on “socially responsible” public transport. Travelers for 2000 years and counting, are grateful that they did not.

        1. Absurd cost? Try looking at the current batch of motorway projects. The cost of capital on the holiday highway will come in at almost a million dollars a week. That’s a subsidy of around five dollars per vehicle projected to use it before you even start to consider paying back the original sum, maintaining the road or the vehicles or externalities.

          And let’s not get started on the rest, five billion dollar harbour crossings, the Vic Park tunnel at a million dollars a metre…

          1. Yes, but other than the selling of assets to pay for the RoNS, roads generally fund themselves from their own users. PT doesn’t even come close. As the good minister pointed out to JAG last week, evey time someone boards a train at Papakura to go to Britomart and back, we all have to chip in $50 on top of that person’s $12 fare.

            Roads generate cash, whilst PT sinks cash. That’s why the Greens will use motorists to pay for PT – use the $$$ generator to pay for the modes that can’t pay for themselves. That’s also why despite the hype, the Greens need people to drive. No money otherwise.

          2. So except for all the current and proposed roading megaprojects, roads pay for themselves? Lol.

          3. Yes Nick, they do. If you don’t believe they generate such income, then you’ll be happy for road users to be excluded from funding other modes.

            Patrick, try to articulate yourself maturely so that you don’t lose your own argument through resorting to insults. You’re a man, not a child.

          4. Yes please Geoff, I would love it if my rates stopped being spent on roads and if it were made illegal for governments to spend taxpayer money, or sell national assets, to build new roads.

            If we can fully hypothecate road funding so it only comes from fuel tax and road user charges I would be extremely happy.

            Where do I sign the petition?

  8. There’s no doubt that the Greens are ahead of National in their thinking, but I am worried about that North Shore line. Not only is it starting way too late but Is it just me or are all of those stations located in the wrong places? A station should be walkable for most people, so that they can walk to a train station within 10 or 20 minutes.

    In the CFN map above, the Shore stations are all located on the Northern motorway, not within walking distance of any residential areas. They should be located along the two corridors where people live and work – that is to say Northcote-Birkenhead-Glenfield-Rosedale-Albany on the western side and Devonport-Belmont-Takapuna-Milford-Forrest Hill-Browns Bay on the eastern side of the motorway, to get each station within about a kilometre of most houses. It’s pretty hopeless if your closest station is always a bus trip away!

    Hopefully we’ll see some refinement of the plan soon enough, because it’s a big improvement on what we have now from Wellington and AT and really it’s the best option we have to move forward with. I want to see it do well, because with their current priorities Wellington and AT are jointly making Aucklanders poorer and poorer by forcing us to purchase and drive cars to get anywhere.

    1. Also need to be realistic though, far more expensive to do that, and the rail/busway can act as a catalyst for development in the area.

    2. Dave if we were starting from scratch every line would be different and intimately connected with rich walkable concentrations living, working, and playing. The CFN is an expression of the ‘art of the possible’, basically apart from the branch to Takapuna the Shore Line is the Northern Busway, and will rely on bus feeders, cycleways, and park + ride. Which are services that need improving for it as it is….

    3. Given the development patterns of the Shore, for the most part a PT trip is always going to include a bus trip (a handful of centres like Takapuna and maybe Albany notwithstanding). This is actually the case in most metro cities too, more people get to london tube by bus than walk.

      But that’s fine, when you have a frequent rail line or two you can focus your buses on providing frequent local bus services. We could quite easily have a bus through every neighbourhood every ten minutes all day. This bus would take you one way to the nearest rapid transit station, the other way to your local centre, and connect with other suburban buses along the way.

  9. The Shore is geographically constrained. There are literally no good places other than the motorway to put a rapid-transit line that I know of.

    Because there are few of them, rapid-transit lines are beyond easy walking distance from most places. The key is in linking them all up with good high quality local options.

  10. A good effort from the Greens on transport . However lets face it they will not win power and the best we can get is their numbers increased sufficiently to have some bargaining power. ( that will be an interesting discussion ) . In terms of issues transport isn’t rated highly by the electorate as the game changer ,especially outside Auckland. So that only leaves the option of sending National a powerful message by pushing the transport message and strategically voting in some electorates so that the Nats lose a few seats on this issue. However apart from this blog no one is really pushing the transport issue hard enough for it to be a game changer.

  11. Nice to see them copy New Zealand First policy, announced a month ago, with regards to supporting the extension of electrification to Pukekohe. However, NZ First “Railways of National Importance” goes further with electrifcation being extended to Hamilton.

    New Zealand First has already announced policy to provide public tranport to populated areas not currently served by buses or trains. Also, all major roading projects will be re-evaluated against criteria to measure whether the roading expenditure would be better spent on public transport/rail services to deliver better outcomes.

    NZ First has delivered on many of its policies over the past 21 years, including the single largest public transport win for New Zealand – Super Gold Card which is used by 631,000 Kiwis.

    At least now we have New Zealand First and Greens with transport policies well superior to National, Act or the crazy one from Conservatives (above ground light rail?)!

    A great advantage of NZ First is that there will be no “hidden” agenda’s or secret social engineering policies being sprung our country with them. What NZ First campaigns on is what you will get. The majority of New Zealand remember the Greens “anti-smacking” law which was never, ever, mentioned in their election campaign. I hope the Greens have no new unpopular social engineering policies lurking in the dark shadows.

    1. https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/transport-policy has long had the policy “Support completion of electrification of the North Island Main Trunk Line, and investigate electrifying the rest of the rail system over time”, but there’s a limit to how much can be fitted in a statement comprehensible to most journalists. This statement focussed on Auckland, where the most transport problems are.

    2. Please Jon this is not the place for mud slinging and point scoring. Both NZF and Green have good transport policies, leave the non transport stuff to another forum.

      1. Agree with keeping non-transport stuff out of here, unless it demonstrably relates to transport (eg demographics and land use). Perhaps when NZF makes announcements Jon Reeves could keep us informed?

      2. +1. Both NZF and Greens have plenty to offer and may well be needing to play together in the same sandpit some day in the future, achieving common goals while also representing their respective voting bases. So guys, please demonstrate to us that you can work together.

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