Yesterday I looked at the numbers behind council’s Long Term Plan, the first version of which is being worked on by the mayor for release next Thursday.

As well as the all the numbers regarding the potential funding gap, there were a number of fascinating slides about transport.

Firstly the background documents gave an overview of the key Auckland Plan transformational shifts. The Auckland Plan outlined 7 transformational shifts-

  • Move to outstanding public transport within one network
  • Radically improve the quality of urban living
  • Significantly lift Maori social and economic well being
  • Substantially raise living standards for all Aucklanders and focus on those most in need
  • Dramatically accelerate the prospects of Auckland’s children and young people
  • Strongly commit to environmental action and green growth

The documents show that the first two shifts, regarding public transport and urban living have been identified as the “key drivers of transformation”. Of course these are also the area the Auckland Council has the most control over.

The background information includes this slide describing what is planned over the next 10 years. Is nothing new but helpfully puts the key information in one place.

Auckland Plan

The most interesting information comes from the Auckland Transport presentation given to the workshop on July 7. This outlines for the first time 2 alternative transport networks that are being investigated.

The Auckland Plan Transport Network involves $16b of AT investment in new capital projects over 30 years – funded from Auckland Council, NZTA and Central Government. In addition, AT renewals are estimated at $10b over 30 years.

The Basic Transport Network involves $8b of AT investment in new capital projects over 30 years – funded from Auckland Council, NZTA and Central Government. In addition, AT renewals are estimated at $7.5b over 30 years.

Auckland Plan Map Basis Network Map

We all know the Auckland Plan included a wishlist of pretty much every transport project that had been proposed in recent years. The existence of the “Basic Transport Network” seems to be new though, and this appears to be a severely stripped down version written to fit in with the proposed 2.5% rates rise. I assume these 2 networks have come about in the process of reviewing the rubbish Integrated Transport Program that came out in March last year.

Auckland Plan vs Basic

The description of projects does seem to sound a lot like our Congestion Free Network, which was sent from the Council Transport Committee to AT for modelling as part of their ITP review in August last year. For example we see Mt Roksill Rail spur mentioned for the first time in official documents, as previous documents had referred to the full length Avondale to Onehunga/Southdown project. We also see North Western, South East busways and Upper Harbour busways mentioned.

Also on the positive side The City Rail Link will still proceed under any scenario, which suggests is still seen as the most important project which is of course correct.

It does seem to show though that a wide range of projects are cut under the basic network, which is a mixed blessing. On the negative side this would mean no rail network extensions to Roskill or the Airport, electrification to Pukekohe, no North Western busway and even no Parnell Station for which enabling works have already been done. This would also see the Regional Cycle Network to continue to proceed at a snails pace. Another interesting point is that reduction in road renewals would lead to higher maintenance costs.

However on the other hand, a large number of low value roading projects are also cut or delayed. This includes projects we have often noted are overblown in their current form such as Penlink and Mill Road as well as totally pointless upgrades like Great South and Great North Road. I have no idea what could be achieved  by expensive upgrades of these roads as they are already 4 lane arterials parallel to motorways.

Figures are also shown that highlight what effect the Basic Transport Network would have on the transport budget over the next 4 years, and next year in particular.

4 Year CAPEX 2014 2015 impacts

The effects of sticking to this Basic Transport Network over the next few years would be unacceptable if we wanted to transform our public transport and cycling networks. The long term effects of a lack of investment would lead to ever increasing congestion and ineffective public transport, exacerbating the many problems our city already faces from transport. One example of the effect of these cuts would be on the new bus network. This is currently being rolled out and needs a substantial amount of supporting infrastructure to be successful. This includes suburban interchanges as well as the CBD interchanges and busways that we outlined last week. If funding is cut we will end up having to run inefficient and less frequent services, and passengers will not like to transfer is they are left on the side of the road with no shelter or security.

If the Auckland Plan goal of “Moving to outstanding public transport within one network” were followed then surely investments in quality public transport should be prioritised. Truly transforming our public transport network would mean that over the next 10 years we should move forward with the City Rail Link, North Western, Upper Harbour and South-Eastern Busways and Rail to Roskill, as proposed in the Congestion Free Network. Also at the end of the period we should be starting on airport rail, potentially staged such as first double tracking to Onehunga, and then building towards Mangere. Cycling is also a great way to improve the quality of urban living, so that should also be essential. On the other hand low value roading projects like Penlink have nothing to do with outstanding public transport, and are not in one of 10 priority areas that I outlined yesterday. They also have nothing to do with the quality of urban living given they are located on the fringe of the city. Some arterial roading projects could also undermine quality urban living by turning local streets into major highways, so we should be careful about which of these we fund.

It would be hard to believe that this level of funding cuts would be acceptable overall to the council. We have already seen suggestions that the 2.5% rates rise cap from the election campaign seems to have widened to become 2.5% to 3.5% which may allow a more acceptable range of projects to proceed. Even within this band the council will still have to prioritise projects to fit within a tighter budget. However the exclusion of low value roading projects and the prioritisation of an outstanding public transport network would help us get the right outcomes. Whatever happens we are in for a fascinating 6 months as the mayor and councillors find an acceptable way through, for the future of our city lets hope they do.

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  1. This just highlights the need for PT to become an important Auckland election issue. Without greater central government support we will have to put up with an inferior PT system.

    1. Agreed. Much of the CFN should be built by govt (e.g. Northwest Busway) while most of the crap projects to kick out on order to save money are state highways rather than AT projects. Penlink aside.

      1. Agree. What is stark on the Basic Network slide is that there are two rules at work: one for NZTA, who can plan and borrow freely, and one for AC, who are both under the Wellington thumb AND chose to get elected on a promise of kneecapping themselves. The central government lever is key.

        1. Indeed, TimR. Central government is where the funding and where the influence comes from. The result on September 20 will change everything (or nothing), regardless of what Len wants.

          The current Government has shown and said it will not deliver significant investment, it is all about motorways. If you want real PT investment in Auckland and quality outcomes, your voting options are clear.

      2. My thought is that it is for the regions to plan what I best for them and the growth that is occurring and then for the funding organisations to have the discussion about how this is funded and delivered.

        The issue is more about the myopic view as to what is best, being a single mode (road) which has achieved saturation in the Auckland region and doesn’t scale particularly well. The policy limits of not being able to fund other modes from the same vote need to be addressed before the regions can start progressing the infrastructure that makes sense for them.

        Calling for others to fund everything is frustrating as it displays a lack of engagement and understanding of the nuance involved in the choices we make now that will effect us for years. I’m thinking of the previous choice of motorways over trams, which doesn’t look that fabulous at the moment.

      1. “Government thinks about building 100m of CRL early”. Hardly the sort of story you’d expect here.

        From Transport Blog Twitter feed:

        “Govt hints at early start to City Rail Link via @nzherald

        From the file of you know it’s election time when …”

      2. It is a bit hard to do posts during the day with work commitments however if anyone wants to fund us to have a full time writer and more posts then let us know

        1. Time for another fund raising drive? Would be interesting to see the level of support for paying one of you admins to devote full time to the blog

  2. Council is paid for by asset owners (ratepayers) and so their function is to provide services to help those assets function as a cohesive city. PT, water, etc = yes. Festivals and things that are about *people* = no. If they remember that, they should have sufficient budget.

    1. Bollocks. The council has a broadly agreed goal of improving liveability and should focus on achieving that in the most cost effective way possible.

    2. What rubbish, perhaps you function best in a city with nothing but drain pipes and roads, but most people want to live in a culturally interesting city, as such the enabling of such events is key role of council.

    3. That’s true, we do want council to cover their core requirements (rubbish etc).
      But a city requires vibrancy to attract and retain the best citizens, and also to reflect the diverse range of people that live within it. I’m happy for the council to responsibly spend my rates money to make the city an exciting and stimulating place to live.

    4. Your mere statement that Council should NOT be about *people* shows where you stand, and makes me happy to stand over here, in the diametrically opposite corner.

      Life is not a corporation. Society is not a corporation. Council needs to pay it’s bills, but it needs to never forget that it isn’t ABOUT the bills.

    5. The core services (roads/rail/rubbish/reading) approach has some merits, but the cultural diverse approach that the Auckland Council are using is much more cohesive and inclusive, leading to a better future and a more liveable city.

      A more interesting question is how do we separate low quality spending (Penlink) from high quality spending (CRL) and who decides what the quality level is.

  3. Look at that ‘renewals’ tab. That’s the result of a very wide network of roads. People who are asking for gravel roads to be sealed should pay attention to this. There is a ‘social cost’ to sealing every road.

  4. The basic transport network is not basic at all when it includes astronomically expensive projects like the AWHC which has no merit and will simply destroy all the aims the council is supposedly attempting to achieve. AC/AT need to stand up and stop just accepting crap like this from NZTA, it’s not free, there will be massive financial costs for the city and a pretty massive degradation of the city centre.

    1. Yes this nonsense. State highways are not being analysised at all for valley simply because the gov ‘likes roads’. Additional road lanes across the harbour should be the first project dumped, not only are they unnecessary, but are also destructive, and their removal from the ledger means that the entire ‘outstanding public transport system in one network’ can be fully funded over this period: the CFN.

    2. I think it’s just because AC can’t really comment on future NZTA State Highway projects or the funding of them. There are some other projects such as SH18 3rd laning which we wouldn’t expect to see any time soon but should be considered in AC/AT long term future planning.

  5. I get so frustrated with the constant negative comments and attitude towards penlink. There is quite a lot of development going on with a new world supermarket and shops being constructed in Stanmore bay as well as cabra development of wood ridge estate, not to mention Gulf Harbour. Whangaparaoa Rd is in the top 25 busiest roads in Auckland (AT ‘Traffic Count Data Entire Region June 2014.xlsx) and most of it is two lanes. Its a nightmare to try and cross most of the time and has the potential to be completely shut off if a serious accident occurs from the intersection of Marellen Drive to Viponds Rd, leaving thousands stranded. Is there anywhere else in Auckland this could happen?
    Im not saying it should be built tomorrow, but definitely sometime before 2046!

    1. Using Whangaparoa Rd data collection just before it joins to the Hibiscus Coast Highway is misleading as PENLINK will do virtually nothing for around 50% of that traffic. The level of added intensification to be added to Gulf Harbour is minimal and Whangaparoa residents spoke out against the UP with the result that the vast majority of the Peninsula is classed as ‘single house’. The addition of the Millwater on-off ramps will remove some traffic from HCH.

      1. Hi Bryce,
        There are two collection points that I can see one near Zealandia, which is in Manly and one near Poplar near Red Beach. Both are 22 and 25 respectively sorting by 7 day ADT.

      1. And Northcote Point for that matter.

        But oh wait, there is already a bridge there, ahh, but its not for cyclists or walkers, hmm, perhaps we need to build a road just for them. Cue the “SkyPath”.

        Penlink can have the same – a bridge – but for active modes only, is all that is needed there, doesn’t need a massive road either side either, just an extension of the walking/cycling on either side and job done.

          1. Sorry, that was just my poor attempt at sarcasm. I just think the bridge is a true need for the Hibiscus Coast, and looking across Auckland it should be the last major bridge that needs to be built.

          2. MikeW do you base this ‘true need’ on living there, or some specific research you have done uncovering something that isn’t immediately obvious about the cost and return of building this bridge?

        1. MikeW, I’m assuming that you’re being sarcastic about moving the Naval base. The infrastructure costs when combined with the cleanup costs would wipe out any potential benefits for a significant period and would probably soak up a significant amount of expenditure for a long period.

          Funny thing about the Sydney Opera house, is that Garden Island the eastern fleet base is on the next point over.

    2. MikeW, I understand where you’re coming from. I suspect the negative attitudes towards PenLink reflect the fact it’s been pushed ahead of other projects for so long, simply for political purposes – much like the AWHC for that matter.

      This “pushing” has elicited an almost automatic push-back from those of us who have worked in Auckland for a while and who question it’s strategic value. I note there’s many peninsulas in Auckland that effectively have just one road in/out, e.g. Te Atatu and Devonport, so don’t think that’s a very good argument.

      Personally, PenLink seems to deliver little strategic/wider value compared to other potential transport investments, which from my perspective would suggest it should only be built if the cost to AC/AT is reasonably low. This in turn means a relatively high toll should be applied, and in turn the demands are going to be quite low, and finally implies it won’t be built anytime soon.

      But I don’t have an issue with an earlier start date provided the high toll is part of the equation.

    3. Is there anywhere else in Auckland this could happen?

      Yes. Piha and Laingholme are both isolated at the ends of long, windy, single-lane back roads that can be and regularly are closed by serious crashes. Piha is one of Auckland’s most popular beaches, with thousands of people visiting daily during summer weekends.
      Then there’s Te Atatu Peninsula, which is also stuck off the end of a single road – and it’s across a single bridge. So don’t play the “Oh poor, isolated Whangaparoa is so unique” card, because it’s bollocks. There’s a stretch of about 500m where a serious crash could close the road. Piha and Laingholme have many kilometres of narrow roads (with 100km/h speed limits) that put them at risk, and Whangaparoa Rd is so wide through there that it’d have to be one real doozy of a collision to result in total, prolonged closure. The police try very hard to avoid such things, but on the back roads of Auckland’s west coast they cannot be helped. I’ve done a heap of serious crash road closures, too, so I do know of what I speak in this regard.

      The reason PenLink is so unpopular here is that it’s so expensive, its BCR is so low, and the money could be used to first improve the bus infrastructure that services that part of the region. You’re arguing for a $200m bypass of a 500 metre length of road, effectively. That’s one hell of an expensive band-aid.

      1. > bypass of a 500 metre length of road, effectively

        You could also fix this exact problem with a few short connections between the ends of some culs-de-sac, for way less than $200 million. But it’s a nice illustration of why you should just have a well-connected street network in the first place – Orewa and even Millwater have managed to do better jobs than this.

      2. Yes, you have a point about about those places. An argument to that could be Whangaparaoa peninsula has about 30,000 people compared to TeAtatu’s 12,000. Going by the 2013 census. Im not sure how much development is happening right now there but can say the Hibiscus Coast is steaming ahead.

        1. Still only a 500 metre stretch of road that’s very wide, however. As Steve says, the lack of by-pass connectivity could be fixed with two links: Glenelg to Durness, and Whale Cove to Duncansby. Total cost would be maybe 2% of PenLink, deliver precisely the same network resilience benefits, and have the added bonus of saving a shed-load of money that can be better spent elsewhere on the network. Like on upgrading bus infrastructure, to reduce car reliance on the peninsula.

          1. > That 500m stretch is only part of it.

            It’s the only single stretch of road in Whangaparaoa which both A. could cut off the whole peninsula and B. wouldn’t cut off the peninsula if Penlink were built.

          2. Need to fix the intersections at the mall as well. It’s a bloody shambles. It creates a huge bottleneck.

  6. Thanks for the constructive response Stu. Although I think there is a possibility of a diversion if needed on the other peninsulas. But its not possible at the point I stated on the whangaparaoa peninsular.

  7. That 4-Year CAPEX bar chart is interesting as it doesn’t seem to match the rhetoric in the text. My eyeballing of the two plots shows the following proposed reductions:
    – Renewals ~20% (no real complaint there; the outcome of very limited maintenance is an even worse situation later)
    – Roads ~40% (presumably this doesn’t include State Highway expenditure, which probably wouldn’t really change, so the actual reduction in Akld roading would be much less?)
    – Other PT ~80%
    – Active Modes ~70%? (God knows, the line is now so thin…)

    So in theory, everyone has to suffer a bit of pain, but it seems that walk/cycle/PT have to suffer more? And yet they’re the ones that can reduce your need in the long-run to spend even more on roads and renewals…

  8. “20% (90km) reduction in road rehabilitation and resealing pa” and the Rodney Local Board want $100m spent over 10 years on upgrading unsealed to sealed.

      1. My point was more that any sealing will require renewal years down the track, and based on observations previous renewals aren’t of great quality, or are a bit far behind as it is (one section has needed ‘renewing’ for the last 2-3 years). A targeted road rate for the area would never be removed – and I doubt accepted by the area as the opinion seems to be “we don’t get value from our rates as it is, because it all gets pumped into the CBD”

    1. Does anyone know relative costs of maintaining a sealed vs unsealed road. Sure, the sealing is a big cost up-front. But might it reduce maintenance costs long-term?

      1. Don’t know the exact costs but put it this way, Texas is ripping up sealed roads in some areas and returning them to gravel.

  9. “My point was more that any sealing will require renewal years down the track”

    …and that renewal will be required primarily because of the damage imposed on them by heavy vehicles. The operators of these vehicles pay RUCs, only a portion of which makes its way back to the local bodies who have to pick up the tab for mitigating the damge imposed by these vehicles. Why should this be a cost for ratepayers?

  10. So the deferral of improving Lake Road, Takapuna. This is surely a triumph for common sense. What can possibly be the rationale for such a vast amount of money for a stagnant suburb – Devonport?

    And lets hope the widening of Anzac St, Takapuna has been canned. Simply unnecessary currently.

  11. I like this thread – it shows real numbers, and sound rationale. Sounds like MikeW has a point. Are there other areas in Auckland with single entry/exit points? – sounds like it. Do they accomodate as many commuters? No. Are they developing as much? No. While Whgp may not not have as much development potential left, Gulf Harbour still means there will be even more demand on a ‘beyond capacity’ stretch of rd, and is busier and supports more people than any of the other examples. I also don’t believe you can divorce the development happening in Silverdale from Whgp, the demand that this places on Hib Coast Hwy exaccerbates the issue up the pennisula – the Penlink would benefit both areas, directly and indirectly. As for serious crashes – they do happen, and they so shut off the rd completely. I’d be interested to understand what the population size needs to be before its not ok to completely grid-lock an area through continued development so that people can no longer easily get to work – is there a number?

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