So what do you do when you’re told you have to cut some of your $826 million budget for capital projects and that in choosing what to cut it can’t apply to public transport projects?

Well it seems if you’re Auckland Transport you start by cutting PT and active mode projects.

Back in May when the council was discussing their budget for this year it was decided that Auckland Transport should reduce capital expenditure spend. At the time Chris Darby managed to get this amendment passed saying that the cuts won’t impact on PT.

MOVED by Cr C Darby, seconded by Cr PA Hulse:
Cr Darby moved by way of amendment, seconded Cr Hulse.
That the Budget Committee:
i) agree that the $5.1 million transport opex increase is dedicated to public transport and the $50 million reduction in transport capex will not be applied to public transport.

But it seems the $50 million isn’t enough if the council wants to keep to Len Brown’s goal of having rate rises next year average 2.5%.

  • On 26 March, staff provided the results of financial modelling in response to the mayoral direction for the LTP 2015-2025. One conclusion from this analysis was that it is not possible to reduce the average rates increase for 2015/2016 down to 2.5 per cent solely by reducing or deferring capex in that particular year.
  • The lagged impact of changes in the capital programme on operating budgets means that reducing or deferring capex in 2014/2015 will have a greater impact on rates for 2015/2016. The Budget Committee therefore agreed on 8 May 2014 to request the Chief Executive undertake an immediate review of 2014/2015 capex programme with a target of reducing or deferring $300 million of capex.

The cuts mean Auckland Transport has to find $100 million (which goes up to $150 million once NZTA subsidies are included). They don’t say all the items they’ll cut but the ones named are all PT projects.

The targeted reduction can be achieved via the reduction of budget across all transport activities. Projects such as Parnell Station, the Pukekohe Station upgrade and bus and transit lane improvements may have to be deferred to the LTP period. The Auckland Transport Board will consider the current capital programme to confirm which projects may be stopped, reduced or deferred to the LTP in order to minimise negative impacts on Auckland Plan outcomes. An updated 2014/2015 capital programme will be provided to the CCO Governance and Monitoring Committee in November.

It seems the only projects specifically named as being deferred are those that PT projects which goes against what the council asked for in the first place. Further projects like bus and transit lane improvements are often some of the cheapest and highest benefit projects. An example of this is the recent extension of the Fanshawe St bus lanes resulted in lots of full buses being sped up in the evening for what I understand was a fairly minor cost. In saying that I can live with the Silverdale Park and Ride (which is having issues of it’s own to sort out first) and can also live with Parnell to a degree.

Here’s the total list of capital projects in the current annual plan.

AT Funding - 14-15 - PT

AT Funding - 14-15 - Parking

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 1

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 2

It seems to me there are a lot of other projects on the list that should be being cut before $2.5 million bus lane improvements, for example Lincoln Rd or Penlink.

For their part the council passed a (much weaker) resolution saying that AT should take into account the councils priorities around PT and active mode outcomes however based on past performance I wouldn’t hold up hope of AT actually listening to that.

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  1. Seems like Auckland Transport were deliberately choosing projects to delay that would most piss off Councillors, perhaps to try and dissuade them from making the deferral decision?

    Pretty lame and petty if that’s the case.

  2. Yeah, poor attempt at manipulation by AT if that’s the case, or are we just seeing senior management express their personal preferences? Equally clumsy.

    Or is this the dark hand of the government agencies at work? We know MoT AKL tend to share or at least express the government’s dislike and distrust of all things rail, and the Parnell Station in particular seems to one they are especially agin. I suspect they don’t like the minute it adds to workers commutes while primarily serving students and urban renewal ends otherwise… Or perhaps it’s that even more pedestrians in Grafton Gully will highlight the enormous mess they and Transit made of that place and those routes….. I dunno.

  3. Aren’t AT required under Joyce’s amended law to do whatever the national policy statement demands (ie: prioritise roads over PT), and only take some notice of what Council tells them to do?

    1. Yes they are. The rules effectively forced RCAs to give effect to the GPS and give regard to local authority plans. I guess with all the chasing of NZTA money that AT have to do to maximise ‘investment’ they will look at cutting those that are unsubsidised or with poor economics. Now Council could pick these up as 100% local share but that is unlikely to happen given the budget cuts in the first place.

    1. The Reeves Road Flyover is Auckland’s version of the Basin Reserve Flyover – a project that needs to be ‘canned and buried’.

  4. ‘Needs to be canned’ based on what? What metrics are used to define need? Cost benefit or personal preference?

    I’m not for or against it but my guess is that AMETI won’t function well at Pakuranga/Ti Rakau without the flyover rediverting general traffic away. AMETI will struggle as it is because you are essentially adding in a new phase or two at every intersection. This means less time for general traffic which means more congestion and more angry drivers/voters/ratepayers. Is it needed to avoid worse congestion than now, yes. Is it a visual blight, yes, but most drivers/voters/ratepayers don’t care. Will it cause severance to the Mall, yes. Again, most drivers/voters/ratepayers don’t care. If you scrap it, you need to be honest with the tens of thousands of drivers from Pakuranga/Howick who will have a worse commute than before, guaranteed.

    1. No more light phases at most intersections. Buses can simply travel through on the straight through phase for the relevant roads at intersections

      1. SB, from what I understand, the bus lane is an entirely separate road running parrellel to the existing road, so it needs it’s own phase for the buses.

  5. Maybe Ari. But we can not afford to add the missing modes to AKL if we have to duplicate every road and highway first. This is nuts. It’s what we did at both New Lynn and Panmure and is simply unsustainable, unaffordable, and undesirable.

    And I might add gives the lie to the idea that all we need to do is fund roads ‘cos buses use roads too’…. It turns out that they want extra roads before buses can be given any reasonable roads pace first. Our institutions are governed by a Tarmac flavoured addiction with this reflex.

    I do accept that SE AKL is a particularly chronic case, as it was planned by anti-transit jihadis who scrupulously fought any attempt to leave ROWs for any transit system. And behold what do have as a result; the Nirvana of the busiest and most unpleasant non m’way road in the country: Pak Highway.

    However there is every reason to believe that the same outcome there could be provided as is currently working for the Shore. Of the six lanes if two were BUSLANES with proper stations and high frequencies between Panmure and Howick, and Panmure and Botany, then many more people could be moved on that same highway. Which is what the CFN proposes.

    The other four lanes would remain busy and well used, like the Harbour bridge still is, but all growth, all financial stressed and reluctant drivers would have a viable quality option to leave the car at home for more journeys.

    Much more efficient use of our existing assets too. H&E would be more viable and profitable and require less or no subsidy on this route.

    However if we provide another expensive m’way quality section first we are trying to get more to drive, and feeding the expectation that that kind of road might one day stretch all the way to where? Bucklands Beach, Beachlands?

    1. As I said, ‘can and bury’ the Reeves Road Flyover. Either follow what will now be done in Wellington for traffic management in the Basin Reserve area…or better still, do what Patrick suggests and make better use of the existing roads – Ti Rakaui Drive and the Howick-Pakuranga highway.

    2. I don’t disagree Patrick. P Hwy is a massive waste of space for the vast majority of the day. Better use of the existing road ie CFN is what is needed. But there is always a political element involving vested interests.

    1. We should rejoice at seeing more of the EMU fleet arriving.

      Comments of displeasure I’ve seen in social media about the replacement of an EMU with a diesel unit for some unknown reason by friends who don’t follow the transport debate lead me to believe that the battle for mind share of commuters is about to reach tipping point. With increased demand for Rapid Transit services being the outcome.

  6. Is there no way that a Cost Benefit Analysis can’t be used to decide which items to defer. I appreciate that there are differences of opinion on the movement of passengers and cars but surely the PT movement of people has been given a value that should be applicable to such and assessment.
    I feel that they should already have the information to arrive at such a comparison.

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