The Herald have been running a series since the middle of last week titled ‘World Class Auckland‘. It is looking at how Auckland can improve across a range of topics.

Auckland consistently ranks highly in lists of the world’s best cities but is never number one. So what would it take to turn Auckland into a first-class city?

The Herald’s World-Class Auckland series examines some of the biggest hurdles Auckland faces, from housing and transport to entertainment and education. We look at what we are doing, what we need to do, and why Auckland’s success matters to the rest of the country.

So far they’ve covered

  • Housing – where they effectively said said we need to sprawl more
  • The Environment – where they said sprawl was bad
  • Education
  • Recreation

Today they’re covering Transport. They asked me to contribute with a piece around 300 words however at this stage it doesn’t appear to be published – they said it may go online only but as it’s not there in assuming they aren’t running it. As I’m sure you can imagine it’s incredibly hard trying to condense a reasoned and evidenced based argument into that kind of limit – in fact it’s would’ve still been hard doing do so with five times that limit. As such there’s lots of topics and angles I didn’t get a chance to include but here’s what I sent them.

It’s said that Aucklander’s have a love affair with cars. For many it’s more of an unwelcome arranged marriage – the by-product of decades focused on improving only one aspect of our transport system.

Yet we’re at an interesting crossroads. Despite a rapidly growing population and over $8 billion of investment in Auckland’s roads over the last decade, the stats show Aucklander’s are driving less than they used to.

What has been growing quickly on the back of comparatively modest investment has been the use of public transport, walking and cycling. Investments like the Northern Busway and upgrading the rail network have shown that when offered frequent and reliable services that are free of congestion that people will flock to use them. In the morning peak 40% of the people crossing the harbour bridge now do so on a bus, more than double the pre-busway figure while traffic volumes have actually fallen. On the trains at Britomart passenger volumes are already 66% ahead of what they were predicted to be in 2021.

Auckland Transport’s new electric trains, new bus network and integrated fares will bring the city’s PT system up to a more modern standard. To keep up with demand the next wave of projects already needs to be getting underway. This includes the City Rail Link, extending the Northern Busway, a North-western Busway, the AMETI busway and potentially light rail. Combined these would give Auckland a PT network on par or better than many of our comparator cities and all are possible within the next decade if we prioritise properly.

Decades of decisions made by looking out the front windscreen hasn’t worked in reducing congestion. By investing in our missing modes we can give people realistic choices in how they get around. That will benefit everyone, taking those who don’t want to drive off the road leaving more space for others.

As I said there’s lot’s more I could add to it such as other reasons why investment in PT is justified, why we need to invest in walking and cycling, why it matters what don’t build e.g. AWHC. What are the key things you would have covered and what’s your view on what they’ve covered on transport today?

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    1. It’s not good stuff, Mike. It’s misinformation and half-truths from Matt/NZH. 80 minutes from Henderson to Takapuna? Yes; BY CHOICE.

      I also live out West and also work on the Shore, and I do it under 20 minutes door-to-door via car – that’s because when you go via SH18 you’re going against the flow of traffic so can cruise at 100km/h most of the way, even at 8.30am. If there’s a busy patch as you near Takapuna, or if Matt doesn’t want to pay for parking in Takapuna, he could always park in Milford for free and walk, cycle or bus the remainder of the journey, and this would likely save him 30 minutes each way. Instead, he wants us taxpayers to spend billions of dollars on an inner city rail loop so that he can enjoy a “seven minute time saving” (Herald). That’s right: he wants us all to spend $2.8B so that he can save 7 minutes, when the infrastructure is already in place (i.e. SH18) that enables Matt to save 30 minutes each way, should he choose to.

      And as usual, the media run a story about cycling to work that doesn’t factor in (or certainly doesn’t mention) time spent changing and showering after each journey. According to the Herald, Matt works in a white-collar job; so I’m guessing that he doesn’t cycle 28km to work – especially in summer – in a shirt and tie, and then just sit down at his computer. If he does, then I pity the person he sits next to in the office! So let’s add another 10 minutes each way for showering, and all of a sudden you’re looking at 90 minutes – when you could drive it in 40-50.

      Some of us don’t have the time or inclination to make unnecessarily long 80-90 minute commutes. I predict that I will work an 11 or 12-hour day tomorrow and probably finish up around 9pm; at which point I will jump in my car and – roadworks permitting – I’ll be home in 14 minutes. If Matt wants to piss around using bikes and buses, that’s his choice. I’ve got better things to do; which is why I’ll stay in my car.

      1. Andrew – just because you disagree doesn’t make the views of others “misinformation and half truths”. And the fact that the PT system exists means that choice exists. You feel free to do what you do, using heavily subsidized roads and imposing significant externalities, and let others do what they want, OK? By keeping off the roads they’re actually making your driving easier, so be grateful! And perhaps think twice before making rather silly remarks about showering….

      2. Angry much Andrew?

        Yes I do what I do by choice, I never said otherwise and made that clear to the herald. I do occasionally drive if I have something (and I use SH18) I need a car for but most times I don’t and that time on the train and bus allows me to do other things. Also unless it’s school holidays 20 minutes at peak is BS. The times I’ve driven at peak it’s usually 40-50 minutes as it slows down coming down the shore. Other reasons I chose to do what I do is I often have meetings in town and/or and meeting friends or attending events so PT means I don’t have to worry about parking etc.

        As for the CRL, yes I would benefit but I would be one of hundreds of thousands a day who would. It’s hardly a case of me wanting a $2.5b subsidy for my commute. Oh and the government have shown they will happily spend billions on saving less time for fewer people with many of the RoNS projects.

        As for cycling yes I shower at work but also remember that doing so means I don’t have to spend time doing that at home. I pretty much roll out of bed, put some clothes on and get on my bike.

        Again I never said anyone else should be forced to do my commute, do what works for you. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to improve other options.

        1. I imagine you will be making use of the W5 from Swanson Road (near Sturges Rd Station) to Constellation + N6 from Constellation to Takapuna once the new network is out then? You should be looking at about 60-70 minutes.

  1. I don’t have any particularly constructive comments to add to your post, but would rather draw attention to some of the comments on this topic over at WOBH. Here’s a selection:

    Slater has a heart for the poor, if it supports his narrative: “And so investing billions in a transport mode that very few people use is bonkers. Particularly because the CBD is filled with high earners. In the meantime south Auckland’s lower socio economic population have nothing to get them to the places they actually work. Aren’t these the people public transport is supposed to benefit?”

    Alloytoo understands transport better than AT’s modelling: “I will go out on a limb here and assert that about half the bus lanes in this city are completely unnecessary and contribute to congestion.”

    To which CheeseEarWax replies: “But AT doesn’t care about motorists, their aim is to make car users as miserable as possible in order to make their public transport strategy viable.”

    Edward_L doesn’t notice that there is high demand for PT and that more frequent services would solve his problem: “I gave up public transport after getting pneumonia. Too many cold wet dark mornings, where the bus didn’t stop because it was full.”

  2. The role of public transport in promoting a healthier, more socially-aware and even a more democratic city is proven – the World’s best cities have culture and social energy that can’t be explained by travel times or household income. I think its important to remember that, when discussing transport matters.
    Even our 2 million tourists being able to get around easily – they take their views back home and spread the good (or bad) news about Auckland.

  3. “Auckland consistently ranks highly in lists of the world’s best cities but is never number one. So what would it take to turn Auckland into a first-class city?” Who wants to be number 1? That is like being the guy who bought the worlds most expensive watch. It doesn’t tell the time any better and costs a fortune. Auckland is great like it is. Just maybe some road pricing on the CBD cordon.

    1. although road pricing has relatively high collection costs compared to simply removing regulations which result in an excessive supply of parking. Compared to road pricing removing MPRs seems to be a free win? 😉

  4. I would only consider Auckland to have a decent PT “system” once CRL is built and there is rail to the North Shore and rail to the Airport (along with electrified to Pukekohe and Kumeu). There also needs to be a busway along the NW motorway route. Coupled with the new bus network with probably double the number of buses in total (and the Skypath). Then and only then could we say we have a good PT system.

    1. $30 a barrel doesn’t solve the space problem of where to park your car and the cost parking in the CBD is bound to go up!

      1. precisely.

        The more general point is that the cost of fuel is a relatively small component of the total generalised (monetary and non-monetary) costs of vehicle travel. Consider the costs associated with a journey of 30mins at 40km/hr = 20km:
        – Cost of fuel = 20km x $0.30 per km = $6
        – Cost of maintenance/depreciation = $0.50 x 20km = $10
        – Cost of parking = say $10 for a half day?
        – Cost of time = 0.5hrs x $10 per hour = $5

        In this context, a halving in the price of fuel (at the pump) might reduce the generalised cost of the journey by say $3.

        In fact, I’d say that the impacts of movements in fuel price are generally dominated by wider aspects of transport policy, e.g. parking and investment policies.

        1. Stu’s correct. Economic and transport researchers have universally found that demand for driving is highly “inelastic” to fuel prices. Most of the estimates I’ve seen in the literature suggest that a 10% fall in the price of petrol will lead to only a 1-3% increase in driving in the short run. (And vice versa.)

          Moreover, there is some evidence that the elasticity has declined in recent years, indicating that people’s driving behaviour is now less responsive to fuel prices than it used to be. This would be consistent with the hypothesis that other factors (e.g. parking prices and people’s subjective value of time) are increasingly important to travel behaviours.

          1. Actually you are wrong. Diesel is relatively inelastic as this is an industrial transport fuel – except in Western Europe – and farmers tend to run tractors, freight companies run trucks etc regardless of pump prices. Mogas – petrol to you – is elastic as this tends to be private cars – except in the US where many trucks also burn mogas – and people can decide to drive or take public transport a lot more discretionary. Cheap ‘petrol’ means people will take the car to work and they will drive to Grandma’s for sunday lunch. It also means they may drive the family across continents on vacation rather than fly.
            With the massive fall in crude prices in the last 10 months there has been a huge increase in global demand for mogas. This is because of increased private vehicle use which will become the norm again with sustained low fuel prices.
            So that inelasticity you are talking about may apply to land transport fuels across the board (including diesel) but it is not true for petrol.

          2. “Actually you are wrong.”

            No, I’m not. First of all, both of the papers I referred to specifically looked at prices and demand for _gasoline_, which is not used to fuel tractors. You would know that if you bothered to read them even in passing. Second, your wild hypothesising has exactly zero credibility if you aren’t able to provide citations to peer-reviewed research.

          3. Local Resident I think you are confusing two economic concepts. The concept of “generalised cost”, of which the cost of fuel is a small component, is somewhat independent from the concept of “price elasticity of demand”. with respect to changes in fuel.

            In terms of generalised cost, I am correct to note that fuel costs are a relatively small proportion of overall private vehicle travel. In terms of elasticities, you suggestion that the demand for private vehicle travel is elastic w.r.t the price of fuel contravenes the general evidence.

            Feel free to provide some evidence for the positions you are adopting, but until you do all I can say is that your statements are either incorrect and/or go against the empirical literature on this topic, as Peter notes.

          4. Peter agreed. People’s driving habits now have little to do with fuel prices but more to do with ‘is this trip necessary’, especially in Auckland. Even if the price of fuel dramatically dropped I humbly suggest very few people in Auckland would wake up and decide to go driving all day – too much hassle with the congestion.

          5. Really Peter….really??? As you know what I do for a job and you must remember how you people scoffed 18 months ago when I said oil prices were going to fall… you should be the last person to question my commentary on fuel. The data you are referring too – and I do not need to read it – is based on small price movements and certainly not the unprecedented change in oil value we have seen in the last 10 months.
            Whilst it is fair to say that in some countries where a large percentage of the retail fuel price is tax the price has a smaller impact on elasticity it is absolutely wrong to think of this as the norm. Global gasoline demand is through the roof. Have a read of this article which was written based on WTI at $52 average – today it is $42.45/bbl
            We can discuss lots of things but please – on the subject of oil pricing – listen to a professional.

          6. “As you know what I do for a job…”

            I have no idea what you do at work, and as you’ve chosen to post pseudonymously, I can’t exactly go and verify your alleged credentials. Consequently, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to provide citations to research.

            “The data you are referring too – and I do not need to read it – is based on small price movements and certainly not the unprecedented change in oil value we have seen in the last 10 months.”

            You appear to be unaware of the 1970s, 1980s, and 2000s, where real crude oil prices rose from $20/bbl to over $100/bbl, fell back, and then rose again to over $100/bbl. A sudden movement from $100 to $50 is hardly “unprecedented” in that context and certainly not outside the range of variations observed in the empirical studies I cited, which cover the period from the 1970s to the 2000s.

            The Forbes article you refer to suggests that US gasoline consumption has risen by perhaps 4% year on year in response to a 50% drop in prices. This implies an elasticity of -0.08 (4%/-50%), which is actually on the _low_ end of the elasticities in the published literature.

          7. pfft… the problem with Data Peter is it is useless if you do not know how to interpret it. A million bbls a day of extra demand, 34% of which was gasoline is a huge shift in consumption. Options vol on crude went from 14% a year ago to 45% which is a seismic shift in standard deviation.
            There are good reasons why oil analysts and reporters get paid $40k a year and oil traders millions

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