Last week the submissions for the Council’s Long Term Plan closed and one of the more interesting outcomes was the response by the AA and the NZCID. Together they have called for a “Plan C” instead of the all or nothing options that the council presented. One interesting aspect about their press release was the reference to some AA member surveys that have been conducted about the transport plans and which have helped them reach the position they have. Some of the results are in the AA’s latest Auckland Matters newsletter (5MB).

In total the AA say they had over 5,000 responses to an online member survey giving them some good quantitative results and they’ve also set up a 100 member Auckland Panel to give some more in-depth qualitative results – of which just over 50 responded to this survey. To me the summarised responses highlight a few key issues, some of which we’ve been talking about for a few years now and that were a key reason behind us creating the Congestion Free Network. I’m mixing up some of the points that I think are interrelated.

The outcomes of #1 and #6 clearly show that the council and Auckland Transport need to do a much better job at explaining why certain transport projects are needed and how they are funded. This is particularly the case with #6 where little has been done to address notion that the CRL is just about a train line going in circles around CBD.

AA LTP Survey Response 1&6
To me it is so vital for our transport agencies to show how their plans – and in particular the PT plans – form part of a complete network and not just a series of individual projects. It’s not just enough to draw a project line on a map, agencies actually need to show the public what network outcomes the projects enable. As an example the CRL is often shown as just a small line in the central city but what they don’t show is that it boosts and improves train services across the entire network. With a Regional Rapid Transit map like the CFN they could point to the network and say “this is what we’re working towards and XXXX project is needed to enable that”. Instead projects like the CRL get subjected to thousands misunderstanding it and thinking it’s just about people in the CBD.

Moving on and #2, #3 and 7 tell a very interesting story and are perhaps the most relevant to the LTP and what we’ve been saying. People, including AA members want a greater choice in how they get around. They don’t want the only option for them – or perhaps for the person in front of them – to be to have to drive. I think it’s also telling that the AA’s own members don’t think that the current plans being presented are good enough, especially seeing as there’s a huge spend and congestion is still predicted to get worse.

AA LTP Survey Response 2,3 & 7

Perhaps it could be summarised as AA members the current plans aren’t good enough and they want more transport choice.

Next up #4, #5 and #9 talk about costs. In relation to the points above, especially #3, I think these results are crucial. Yes the largest proportion of people said they wanting the full plan but clearly not enough to be prepared to pay the kind of costs the council say will be needed to pay for that. I’m sure a few of the economists might have something to say about this point as clearly people don’t see enough benefits in the spending to warrant it. It also lines up with my long held comments that a middle ground option is needed (and of course exactly what the Essential Transport Budget is).

AA LTP Survey Response 4, 5 & 9

I don’t really think point 10 is relevant to this discussion so lastly #10 which is really one of the most important issues. Currently we seem to have both the council and the government (through the NZTA) doing completely different things. The government are currently spending up large on a range of hand picked motorway projects regardless of how important Auckland ranks them. I personally think it’s time that both the council and government come form of agreement around how projects are ranked and funded in the future because at the moment each seem to be doing their own thing. To me Auckland should have the ability to “no we don’t want XX project at this time and we think the money would be better spent on …..”

AA LTP Survey Response 10

As I said earlier, overall many of the comments the AA have made end up being very similar to what we talk about too. In many ways it’s very reassuring that the AA’s members seem to be saying the same thing.

The AA have also put their entire LTP & RLTP submission online and that contains some of the more in-depth information into the survey results. Below are just a few of the parts that caught my attention.

Perhaps the biggest one is this on their attitudes to PT and roads investment. Over 75% agree or strongly agree that better PT would reduce congestion and make the city more liveable and over 60% say it would reduce the need to have a car. In addition 56% agree that more roads won’t solve Auckland’s problems – although many obviously think that there can be some improvements in roads.

AA LTP Survey - PT v Roads

The next few results come from the smaller qualitative panel. Most think a good PT system is essential for city pride

AA LTP Survey - City Pride

And most agree that sustainability is important or essential to take into account.

AA LTP Survey - Sustainability

Lastly just a few of the comments from their submission itself. On roads the AA’s stance is unsurprising but what’s good is that they’re showing strong support for the other modes. On PT in general they appear very supportive of continued investment.

As discussed previously, our Members want choice with the transport modes they use, and there is no doubt that public transport has an important role to play in providing a reliable, accessible, safe, and affordable alternative to the private vehicle for our Members. Given public transport in Auckland is still developing, it is crucial that the transport programme protects not only the significant investment in the network over the last 10-15 years, but also current and forecast levels of patronage growth.

On the CRL they are also supportive – although like us believe better information is needed.

On balance, we are supportive of the City Rail Link. We agree that the CRL is critical to complete the rail network. Combined with electrification of the rail network and new EMUs, the CRL will increase network capacity, resilience, and reliability. We also support the early enabling works over the next three years. Tying in the enabling works with the Precinct Properties Lower Albert Street site redevelopment makes sense.

However, we do have concerns that AT has not included any Benefit Cost Ratios, discussion about value for money, or any information about what the benefits of the CRL are in the RLTP. The approach AT has taken towards the benefits of the CRL is too high-level and lacks data and analysis to explain its assertions that the CRL will:

  • “enable a more productive economy”
  • create “flow-on benefits across the whole of Auckland”
  • “fundamentally change the growth and infrastructure landscape of Auckland, in a similar way to the original opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge”.

On Light Rail they say they are surprised it’s suddenly emerged and ask a range of questions including whether there is enough intensification allowed given the proposed Unitary Plan restrictions.

On the New Network they are supportive and concerned about the rollout of it being delayed

AT is currently rolling out the New Network, which is a positive step in rationalising the bus network. However, the BTN will delay the full rollout of the network by approximately five years due to delays in constructing new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau and constructing new busways. These delays may affect not only public transport patronage, but also fare revenue generated, which will cost AT in operating subsidies.

On cycling they say they are comfortable with the strategic direction of AT, they also want more protected cycleways and for AT to release more of their cycling data

We acknowledge that within a constrained funding environment that AT must make tough choices about project choice, scope, and budgets. As a member of the Cycling Safety Panel, our recommendation is for AT to focus funding on good quality projects that reduce the risk of conflict with other transport users and provide safe, reliable and preferably segregated connections. Cycleways like Beach Road are an excellent example of a safe road system for cyclists.

We do not want to see funding made available to projects that expose cyclists to dangerous situations through poorly designed cycleways or cycleways that stop abruptly, leaving cyclists vulnerable on the road network. Nor would we want to see investment in cycleways that does not correspond with strong demand, existing or potential. To that end, we would like to see data provided on cycleway patronage, so that AT can promote the success of the network, and reassure the wider public that investment is meeting cycling targets.

Overall it’s good to see the AA being rational and supportive of other modes and I guess their members telling them so strongly they want choice helps with that.

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  1. (This is much too long. Don’t read it all.)

    Nothing here is a surprise. The responses of the larger group are consistent with well-established feelings of citizens about government. But first a shot across Auckland Council’s bow:
    The LTP is a huge, technical, and somewhat obfuscatory document. “Understanding” it is a herculean task for the average person, and most don’t bother. It is pointless to ask what they think of it. AC’s own questionnaire that they sent to everyone had nothing but loaded questions, influencing answers that were based on no information, or skewed to getting the answers they wanted. It was a shameful way to gather input. On the other points:

    Citizens virtually always say they don’t have enough information. Usually it’s because they aren’t paying attention, but it also is a failure of government to provide it. (In my cynical moments I believe that is the way government wants it.) Further, no one “trusts” government with their money. That’s universal.

    Question: Would more information make much difference to the results?

    Suburb v. CBD is a very common dynamic. People have short memories. They forget that their own neighbourhoods were made possible by massive public investment in roads and other infrastructure. They forget – or don’t know, or don’t care – that downtowns have been neglected through the years of suburban growth. They also fail to realize the size of the population in and around downtown, and density of employment. Transportation solutions are naturally expensive in such an environment.

    People always want choice, in everything. They want the option of taking a bus if the car is having its WOF that day. And they always perceive PT as relieving congestion. The LRT system in Phoenix was finally approved by voters when congestion in suburbs got bad enough. Polls showed that people voted for it precisely for that reason: that their commute would be easier when other people use transit.

    The most basic thing: everyone wants more service but don’t want to pay for it.

    No doubt there are some encouraging signs in the results of the survey, especially the small group, but I would venture to guess that AA members, and those who choose to fill out a survey, are more aware of issues and therefore a biased sample. But if these are the people who vote, hopefully they will support some of these positions.

    1. I got this AA survey, so yes the results are definitely biased as a result 🙂

      Mind you if the ignoramuses that were on my table at the LTP consultations for my local board the other week were to be the yardstick of the average ratepayer, then its a wonder anyone in AA’s survey supports any part of the plan.

  2. I got the survey, too, and made a case for the CRL in particular, better public transport in general as the city heads to 2 million people….and for more central government involvement – demonstrating they actually understood what is at stake.

    As for the general public responses, it’s sad to see the NZ Herald’s endless carping about largely imaginary “waste” has any traction. Also this “get their house in order” mantra is disappointing evidence the average person has no idea what is involved in smashing together 5 cities into one in a handful of years….never mind doing it in an environment where the elected Council has virtually no control over the “council controlled organisations” (pure Orwellian nonsense, that).

    The AA stance is actually pretty good…..for a car lobby.

  3. Good on the AA for doing this work so thoroughly, then shaping policy according to their members’ views. Admirable.

    The public are way ahead of the current government on this, and perhaps there will come a time when it alters a numbers of voters’ decisions? I guess it will take a huge and crazy road project as we saw recently in Victoria… like an new Harbour Crossing, for example….?

  4. I think it’s important to acknowledge how far the AA has moved with respect to Auckland’s transport planning. It wasn’t that long ago that their primary (perhaps only) focus was building more motorways. Good on them (and NZCID) for reflecting the results of the survey in their submission.

  5. I do think that the lack of basic information on the budget choices presented was a big issue in this consultation – it lacked a detailed costed breakdown of the proposed budgets! Good to see AA taking a progressive approach, and highlighting clearly the big issues (incl central govt’s silly attitude to the crl). I wonder who’s left to support National’s transport policies now.

  6. Glad to see the last two graphs just presented the results. How often do we see some asshat assign numbers 1 to 5 to not important thru essential and then calculate an average? Marketing students are even to that sort of rubbish at university. And trying to tell them they are ordinal is just a waste of time.

  7. I took part in the survey too. I made reasonable length comment about the case for road tolling. I’m actually surprised as far as I’m aware that no one seems to be talking about how tolling a road/the motorway in this case should impact vehicle usage and actually solve a lot of the congestion by altering the behavior of drivers. Surely we would have more PT use, car pooling, cycling etc etc and people not making unnecessary trips. My thinking is if it can even just pay for itself the we are all in a win win. Would need to be well thought through with consultation so no one is adversely affected. Great talk on this here, with an actual case in Stockholm: where Jonas Eliasson reveals how subtly nudging just a small percentage of drivers to stay off major roads can make traffic jams a thing of the past. Quite interesting part of it is public perception of accepting the toll introduction before and after.

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