As well as revealing that the government would be making an announcement on road pricing this week, Mayor Phil Goff also made another interesting comment in relation to transport in his interview on The Nation on the weekend. He mentioned that the funding shortfall from ATAP over the first decade has risen from $4 billion to $7 billion.
You’ve got a $4 billion shortfall for your transport projects, so over the next decade—?
Yeah, I’ve got news for you – it’s not 4 billion. It’s more likely to be 7 billion, because when we put forward – and we did it together with Government – the Auckland Transport Alignment Project—
Okay, so it’s worse than first anticipated?
Yeah. No, let me just explain it. It was based on a 16,000 rise in population by Auckland each year. We’re now growing by 45,000, so we add the population the size of the city of Tauranga every three years. And the Government knows – I’ve given them all the figures on that – they know that with that growth, 800 extra cars on the road each week, they’ve got to work with us to resolve this problem – for the sake of New Zealand as well as Auckland.
Is it going to be good news for your city?
It is. I think it will be good news in the medium-term. But we need something in the short-term. You know, think about that $7 billion deficit I mentioned before. We cannot leave it like we left the City Rail Link. We’ll get the City Rail Link – it’ll really help – but it won’t help for another five years, and in the meantime, the city is becoming more and more gridlocked. We need to bring that expenditure forward, and that is the case that I’m making, and not just me, but all of our Auckland councillors are making to the Government.
There are a few things to work through from Goff’s comments on this.
The main reason stated for this increase is that is that a number of projects will now be needed sooner to deal with Auckland’s current growth. When the Government and Council were working together on ATAP last year, they modelled the impact of various packages of investments. Those models included various assumptions about things such as population and employment growth. The Foundation Report released in February 2016 outlined some of the core assumptions that were used. On population growth, they note that they used the medium-growth projections from Statistics NZ. That projection would see the region’s population rise by around 700,000 to 2.2 million by 2043.
However, as Goff points out, we’re currently growing at a much faster rate than anticipated and we’re even ahead of the high-growth projection. While actual results can vary in the short term, it’s safe to assume we’re still going to need a lot more transport infrastructure, like the Congestion Free Network. Below is how we’re currently trending with our growth compared to the most recent projections.
Interestingly the one area where growth is occurring considerably faster than was projected is in the City Centre, just another reason why it’s important we do more to improve the city centre for people with projects like the Victoria St Linear Park – but that’s an issue for a separate post.
So just what projects are likely being brought forward as part of that extra $3 billion that is now said to be needed? We don’t know what the exact projects are but we can get an indication based on some of the information within the ATAP documents.
ATAP separated out projects to be built over the coming three decades, these are shown below (note: it doesn’t include projects already underway, such as the City Rail Link). Some of the projects currently in Decade 2 are the most likely to be brought forward.
As mentioned earlier, ATAP assessed a number of different potential packages of investment. Before arriving at the final recommended approach, they had boiled things down to two packages with different focus’. One focused on trying to spend a lot more to improve things and one more focused on influencing demand (such as with road pricing). The various assessments showed the latter performing better so ATAP ultimately recommended an approach more closely aligned with it. But not everything from the Influence Demand package was adopted and so it stands to reason that projects that just fell just short of being included in the 1st decade would now be brought forward. Chief among those is ‘mass transit’ across the isthmus, something we now know will eventually be light rail. It’s also worth noting that the Influence Demand package has a PT only harbour crossing as a 2nd decade project and no road crossing at all.
As well as light-rail on the isthmus and given the expected announcement on road pricing, other projects I would hope that would be brought forward would be ones that help provide alternatives to driving and have significant capacity to help deal with the growth. As such, if this extra shortfall was to be addressed then perhaps we could see significant potions on the Congestion Free Network implemented relatively quickly. That would certainly be welcome.