As of today it is exactly one year away till the end of voting for the next local body election. That means talk about who will and won’t stand is only going to increase in coming months.

Unlike in central government elections, transport tends to be one of the key issues at the local body level which in many ways is unsurprising because voters see and experience the issues locally and it’s an area that councils actually have a large influence over – unlike topics such education, health, the economy or welfare.

For the next election we expect transport to continue to be one of the key topics and as such want to see candidates better informed about transport and what’s happening regardless of their political views. Our hope is to raise the level of the debate higher than it has been in the past. To do that we want to create a resource that all candidates can use to learn more about what’s happening with transport in Auckland and what’s being done overseas. Given the amount of issues to discuss this will be a multi part series.

Transport Trends

The last decade has seen fundamental shifts in how Aucklanders travel. For many decades Auckland has developed in a way that has made it very difficult to get around without driving. As such metrics like vehicle ownership and how much we use private vehicles showed a near constant increase. The increase was such that transport planners and engineers felt confident in predicting this would continue indefinitely into the future.

Around 15 years ago the way Auckland developed started to change as proximity to the city centre returned to being valued. Changes in our urban form combined with a number of key transport strategic investments as well as cultural changes – particularly from younger generations – are completely upending transport models that predict how Aucklanders travel.

The distance we travel in vehicles has flat-lined despite a rapidly rising population and on a per capita basis is the same as it was over a decade ago. The chart below shows how this has changed over time compared with the results per capita.

2014 VKT - AKL vs per capita

A good example of just what impact the change in demand is having is seen on the Harbour Bridge. Traffic volumes today are lower than they were a decade ago. This means they’re well short of the growth predictions the NZTA made as part of the last assessment into another harbour crossing. One strong factor in the change in demand has been the Northern Busway which I’ll cover off later in the post.

AHB Annual Volumes to 2014 - 2

The change in demand for driving is something that has been seen all over the world and has thrown out transport models. The example below from the Ministry of Transport shows how we’ve continued to predict growth in travel that hasn’t been realised.


As a result of the changes being seen the MoT have started to think about what might happen in the future. Below is a brief summary of the four high level scenarios they think could expect. As you can see the modelling in three of the four scenarios expect driving to decrease over time.


The changes in driving trends raise questions about whether we’re investing in the right projects for the future.

Over the same time that growth in vehicle travel has stalled, travel via public transport has increased dramatically – albeit off a much lower base. In the last decade the number of trips on PT have soared from 50 to 80 million and a large chunk of that growth has come from some of the key investments that the council and government have been making.

2015-08 - Total Annual Patronage - decade
On an average weekday there are now over 200,000 bus trips and around 50,000 rail trips

Patronage growth is occurring at levels well ahead of population growth which also has meant that the number of trips taken per person per year has risen from around 37 in 2005 to over 51 in 2015. This is a significant improvement however it remains well short of many of our comparator cities.

One of the stars of the show over the last decade has been rail patronage which has risen from less than 4 million to around 14.5 million. This growth has been generated as a result of investment in Britomart, double tracking, station upgrades, service improvements and most recently electrification. It is currently growing at over 22% per year and on track to reach the 20 million target set by the government for the City Rail Link in around 2017/18.

2015-08 - Rail Patronage

Another huge success has been the Northern Busway which didn’t exist a decade ago. Figures from Auckland Transport show it now carries at least 3.5 million trips per year with many others benefiting from the investment. Now during the morning peak up to 40% of people crossing the harbour bridge are doing so on a bus which is more than double what it was in the early 2000’s.

One area the growth in public transport use been considerably noticed is in the city centre. Research conducted in 2014 showed that the number of people accessing the city centre in the morning peak had increased considerably however the number doing so by car had remained the same. The two biggest contributors to the growth in PT trips to the CBD have been the work to improve the rail network and the creation of the northern busway.

CBD Transport Change

These results are also similar to the census data from 2013 which shows that the modeshare of cars is slowly declining. The question only asks about trips to work however we would expect the change to be more pronounced if it also compared others such as those travelling for education purposes.


What is clear is that transport trends are changing and it’s already having a profound impact on the way Aucklanders choose to get around.

In addition to this there are also changes in trends of what people want to see invested in. In numerous surveys and consultations from council and independent organisations including the AA the general public have strongly supported much greater investment occurring in public transport and cycling. One example is the feedback from the council’s recent Long Term Plan consultation where a huge number of people made it clear they wanted more investment in alternative modes.

2015 LTP Final Changes in transport Investment

There are a number of other examples here.

In future posts I’ll look at aspects such as what’s currently being done in transport, what the current plans for the future are and what are some alternative ideas including case studies from overseas.

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  1. With the Auckland Annual Transport Patronage by Mode graph, are the quantities below each of the lines based on going down to the X axis (which is what we expect in a line graph like this) or are they actually a band from the line below? If they are are a band measured from the line below they should be shown as a coloured band rather than just a line. Sorry to be a nit picker, the rest of the the article was very clear and good, I like the change in modal share graph which I hadn’t seen before.

  2. I believed in a balance approach to transport investment in recognition of Auckland to be a true multi-modal City.

    Upgrades such as to the Southern and Northern Motorways are needed especially when safety (Takanini Interchange) are concerned. The original NZTA Option A for the East West Link and redoing Mill Road as a 2 lane road with future improving to allow cycleways and bus lanes beyond 2025 are also needed as we grow.

    What is not needed are projects right out of the 1960s such as the Third Harbour Road Crossing, the current East-West Link Truckway proposal, and the de-facto expressway that will be Mill Road.

    Rail whether heavy or light still forms a critical spine in moving large amounts of people over medium and long distances efficiently. The continued investigation into LRT on the Isthmus as well as the North Shore Line and the Botany Line are excellent starts. The City Rail Link is crucial as we known and something tells me 2018 is looking more “viable” from where I sit. Post CRL though we need to look at where next and although the North Shore Line should really occur at the same time the CRL is being built if we can get it by 2027 that would be great.

    Rail to the Airport is something Council and the Mayor have taken the eye off entirely since 2010. For me I am of the opinion of the Otahuhu to Airport Link as Bryce and Patrick have both mooted due to technical issues with the Mangere Harbour Crossing and double tracking needed for the Onehunga Line. Manukau to the Airport should be light rail by 2030 and part of the Botany LRT system.

    For Heavy Rail to be at maximum efficiency outside of the CRL we need to grade separate 10 of the worst level crossings by 2020, have Pukekohe electrified by 2017 and the Manukau South Link also built and operational for 20 minute frequencies by 2018. The South Link which allows Papakura to Manukau in 14 minutes compared to 30 by bus and over 20 by car in peak traffic would give better accessibility for Southern Auckland to its heart – Manukau which is one of only two central nodes the bus networks gravitate around en-mass (the other being the CBD herself).

    Buses. The South Auckland New Bus Network was the example set on how to set a proper bus network with the East proposal not far off (just missing a Panmure-Pakuranga-Botany-Manukau-Airport QTN at 20min frequencies).

    The rest of the proposed network especially for the West is wanting and to a point it should be chucked and redone.
    As for Interchanges they are slowing getting under way apart from Manukau with what delays have been happening a full inquiry should be ordered by the Governing Body.

    Continuing with buses while bus lanes are slowly being rolled out we need better enforcement and a law change to allow demerit points charged when pinged driving illegally in a bus lane.
    Bus ways are crucial where rail cant go and the North Western Busway needs to happen by 2020 at the absolute latest.

    As for cycling I leave that to others to work with such as Cycle Action Auckland.

    Political speech enough for you?

  3. How about doing a post about how some of the AECT dividend stream could be used to help fund the big intergenerational transport projects that are coming up.
    The AECT elections are about to start and the polls will close end of October as per this document from Election Services who are running the AECT elections.

    Ideally sometime before the polls close on the current election cycle would be good or the door will be closed for 3 more years.

    I’d like to to see some Bios on the members standing, and where they stand on the use of AECT dividends for helping all Auckland grow.

    Notice of disclaimer: my household receives the annual AECT dividend, but I’d gladly waive my rights to that if it can truly help. I’m sure there are many other AECT dividend recipients who feel like that who might like to know which candidates in the AECT elections think that way too.

    1. That AECT dividend is the result of all of Auckland being over-charged for electricity, so in my view the money should be returned to consumers rather than distributed to one half of Auckland. The sooner it is gotten rid of the better.

      1. Maybe but thats also Wellington folks thats being stiffed, as well as Gas users who are on the Vector network.

        For now, if the AECT trustees who are elected are of a mind they could force a change I am sure.

        So, the Vector tax Aucklanders pay is one thats in place so it makes a logical pathway to help fund the transport needs that Aucklanders as a whole need as they won’t see it as a “new” tax or a rates increase or motorway tolling which is where AC came unstuck with last time.

        1. You can argue that for all of the Aucklanders who currently receive it that removing and transferring it to the council is no different to a $400 odd rate rise.

          AT have the money for PT they just don’t want to spend it, preferring to spend on projects like $500 million for a single new motorway – Mills Rd.

    2. Getting rid of the AECT dividend is exactly the same as raising rates for the people who currently receive it – i.e. it will reduce their disposable income. So would it not be more fair to just raise rates across the city? I cant see why it is more fair to target one group of people.

    3. The AECT dividend is a property right owned by those people who live in the old AEPB area. They own the right to that money and stealing it off them is well -stealing. I got shares in my power company when the boards were replaced and I chose to sell them. What possible right do I have to benefit from their income stream?

      1. Its an artifact of (National) Government policies (that locally owned/geographically constrained power company monopolies = bad and that separate nationally owned power and lines monopolies = better) and its a temporary property right, and one you can’t assign, sell or transfer to or from yourself and you have to be connected to the power grid to achieve it (so those power cord cutters won’t benefit), and unlike say your house being in a Grammar Zone, which is pretty much immutable ecept round the edges, this right will go away in 2073 without fuss or bother (become an Auckland Councils asset) anyway. And it can disappear sooner if the trustees vote accordingly.

        Yes its a right that AECT residents enjoy, but inescapable traffic jams and poor PT is another “right” they also enjoy too – but I’d bet they’d enjoy not sitting in traffic jams 365 days a year even more than the paltry $340 a year they get now from AECT – that $340 is not even $1 a day of “rates relief”. So all those folks who say they “depend” on the AECT dividend are probably getting their priorities wrong.

        But in the right hands and spent on the right projects that $1 a day per AECT recipient could easily provide way more than $1 a day worth of “relief” to them that they (and many other Aucklanders such as yourself, who as you say have not real claim to them can enjoy too for no extra cost.

    4. Greg my understanding is that the trustees duty is to the benefit of the AECT beneficiaries not to the greater good of Auckland. Do you really think the majority of beneficiaries would forgo an ongoing dividend ?

      The trust also states that the local body at 2073 will receive the benefit of the trust. How do you know 58 years into the future who the local body will be. We might very well be back to local councils ?

      West Auckland and North Shore voted to get immediate shares (I believe it was around $ 3000 worth ? in 1993 dollars) The AECT was formed and to have a long term dividend stream until 2073. Auckland Council have no rights to this money if the private Trust was to be wound up at this stage if anything the beneficiaries should be the ones that are paid out.

      As mfwic states it would be stealing a property right.

      1. The trustees can chose to benefit who they like, they set and can change the trust deed. They can also vote to disband any-time they like before 2073.
        In any case, who says that giving AECT residents something precludes the rest of Auckland benefitting as well?

        When that happens the deed says that the ownership of AECT goes to the the Auckland Councils in the old AECT area (now replaced by AC).
        There will be no hand out of the AECT to its dividend recipients. What happens then is anyones guess, but the income from the 75 point something% of the Vector shares AECT owns is quite a annual stream and could easily fund the repayment and interest costs on the councils share of borrowing to fund CRL without a problem for example.

        AECT’s only source of income is the Vector dividend stream, it is quite likely that prior to 2073 Vector will be bought out/taken over and no longer be controlled by AECT or its logical successor, either by future government decree or by other events that mean that the AECT trustees choose to sell out. And then what will happen to the AECT hand out?

        $2B (value of AECTs ownership of Vector) invested in Government bonds won’t go very far as far as annual interest income – which could be then handed out as a annual lolly scramble by the elected few to the unelected many.

        And yes, the AECT also fund a few (about 15 from memory) km of undergrounding overhead power wiring a year, but at the rate they’re doing it, it will hundreds of years before all the overhead wires in AECT area are undergrounded.

        As for it being a property right, it was one that was created by a government law change, and it can equally be changed/taken away at any time or cease to exist.

        Meanwhile the 5 trustees spend an awful lot of the money on the running of the AECT. Sounds a lot like FIFA to me.

    5. I’m an AECT trust beneficiary like, I’m sure, half the commenters on this blog. The solution seems pretty obvious to me – transfer ownership to Auckland Council, but spend the money on something that benefits people in the former AEPB area, like power undergrounding, isthmus light rail, the eastern busway, rail station upgrades, that kind of thing.

      Personally, I’d rather things like the local power grid and the ultra-fast broadband network were still publicly owned. They’re inherently monopolies. They provide a boring, fungible public service that no-one wants to shop around for. We don’t have private companies for our water, wastewater and (for the most part) stormwater, why should we for other utilities? Though I guess that ship has long since sailed – we now have privatised monopolies, ludicrously, in service of the “free market” that they have nothing to do with.

  4. We can’t even think about projects until we have defined the desired outcomes

    You don’t start by saying “we need police stations here and here, we need this many cops, each cop needs this equipment.”

    You say “we want to reduce crime by X. That demands interventions A and B. To deliver interventions A and B, we need police stations here and here, we need this many cops, each cop needs this equipment.”

    Without clear targets for Auckland’s transport network, all we have is solution-capture and sub-optimal results.

  5. A good post Matt and well timed.
    My ‘beef’ is that the trends in Auckland have been evident for some 10 years now and maybe more but the ultra slow footed government continue to overwhelmingly apply taxpayer dollars to the single mode of roads. Despite their protestations, apart from some loan monies to Auckland for PT they pretty much ignore the rapid growth of transit in Auckland and its potential benefits in improving Auckland as a beautiful and desirable place to live i.e.
    good public transit is far more efficient in moving people per lane of traffic than multi-lane motorways.

    When I see the MOT forecasts of traffic growth in the forecasts above I also worry about the quality of advice that the MOT is giving government. If that is the best they can do then maybe we should disband the Ministry – it would seem to be serving no important function.
    And maybe the NZTA needs a big stir-up also……………………

  6. What have facts or trends got to do with the election? We need seat-of-your-pants-gut-reaction-inducing-us-vs-them statements with no basis in reality.

    For the last Auckland Election I attended a debate. The result of which was that I decided to not vote – not a single candidate had a clue – either single issue, downright dangerous or just a massive MacGuffin. In the end Brown got the vote because at least momentum would keep things going in the right (or my version of it) direction and God knows what would have happened if any of the other clowns got in. Local govt elections, in Auckland at least, is a farce.

    So I’m going to run, here is my platform and I’m fairly confident that I’d win:
    * Remove all cyclists form New Zealand
    * Remove all footpaths and cycle lanes
    * Remove all public parks
    * Rezone all land for housing and require minimum front and rear lawn sizes, double garages and 500sqm of internal living space (because that’s what everyone wants, we should prevent sneaky developers and communists from cheating us out of this)
    * Speed limits removed from all roads (except your street)
    * Speed bumps removed from all roads (except your street)
    * Upgrade every existing intersection in auckland to a cloverleaf to save everyone time getting to work and school
    * Ban all movement not involving fossil fuels (or electric – I’m the progressive candidate)
    * All shared spaces in Akl to be removed and replaced with bidirectional 4 lane roads (no footpaths, remember – Queen Street will be all Drive-thrus for convenience)
    * 8 new harbour crossings
    * Shut down the train network and convert it into a new 8 lane highway
    * Triple-decker waters edge expressways from Silverdale to bucklands beach
    * Double stacking all existing motorways and removal of bus-express lanes
    * Converting all bus lanes into general traffic lanes
    * New expressways connecting all beaches and regional parks
    * 8000 new car parking spots at all beaches and regional parks
    * Actually regional parks have been zoned for housing, so never mind

    1. I think you are David Rankin. And you forgot about removing ALL speed limits (except for me of course because I am a good driver and I never have an accident).

      1. My previous ‘ Speed limits removed from all roads (except your street)’ covers our individual excellent driving skills already

        Maybe there is overlap in our policies, but I’m a white male so less threatening to ‘middle new zealand’ and so will votes ahead of him.

      1. Nigel – yes of course. David Rankin, Dick Quax, Mark Thomas et al have exactly that vision for Auckland. That’s traffic porn for them.

      2. Hardly, their lack of foresight is clear here – my sources tell me that a single bike lane somewhere in Beijing causing all this traffic back up. We must follow the example in Sydney to traffic freedom!

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