This election, more than any other that I’m aware of, has seen transport policy take a major role in the discussion. Since Jacinda Adern took over as Labour leader and announced our Congestion Free Network as a key element of the party’s transport policy, there have been numerous policy announcements from all main parties and significant media coverage of them and transport issues in general.

In many ways, it’s surprising that transport hasn’t featured more in the past. That’s because while much focus tends to go on issues like health, education, the economy, and welfare, transport policy is one area that can positively or negatively impact all of them.

AT the same time as this increased media focus, and perhaps one of the reasons for transport featuring more prominently, the differences between the parties have never been clearer. There’s a lot more detail and nuance to many of the policies but at a broad level we have National promising a huge additional investment in roads while Labour, Greens and New Zealand First are putting a lot more focus on improving public transport and rail. I plan to cover the policies in more detail closer to the election as who know, there might be more announcements yet.

Given the differences above, it was interesting on Friday to see the results of a 1News Colmar Brunton poll asking what the spending priority should be when it comes to transport. The outcome was comprehensive.

As of the time of writing this we don’t know just what the exact details of the poll are, such as how many people were surveyed or where in the country they live but it’s a pretty clear result regardless.

The result also isn’t really a huge surprise as it falls in line with the trend of results we’ve seen in the past when similar questions have been asked.

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  1. Public Roads without Public Transport is senseless. Improving public transport and rail is common sense. National led governments has neglected Public Transport in NZ for over 60 years since they rip out the Auckland tram system in 1956. Congestion Free Network & Regional Rail are the solution for New Zealand’s infrastructure today & the future

    1. No PT is not the answer. Alone PT requires huge subsidies. Congestion tolling is the answer. In the face on congestion tolls the demand for PT rises increasing its efficiency and decreasing the required subsidies.

      1. I think you’ll find that without alternatives that people will just factor a “congestion charge” into their cost. Complain about it and just drive.

        For example, if you work at the airport you can pretty much only drive. If they put a congestion charge onto your travel. You might try share with 1 or 2 other people. But that ultimately doesn’t solve the problem.

        Really we need to provide alternatives although core routes so people can do things like choice not to own a car.

  2. Ports and Coastal Shipping
    Labour will:
    As part of a national freight strategy, develop a national ports strategy with a particular focus on the upper north island.
    Refresh and move to implement the ‘Sea Change’ strategy to revitalise Coastal shipping.

    quote context:

    Seems we might get a much needed port strategy? (Was from Labour)

    1. My guess is the Port Strategy will take about two years to write and it will recommend we have the ports we have now and that those ports do what they currently do. But it will have lots of really nice photos and text in boxes.

    1. It is not clear if the overall effect will be to promote sprawl or intensification. It seems that Labour wants to free up the city for less costly organic growth -whatever is demanded -up or out. I would suggest in Auckland the demand is for more growth in the central isthmus –near the to be upgraded congestion free network.

      Here is the full quote from Labour’s Housing policy.

      “Remove barriers that are stopping Auckland growing up and out

      Labour will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls. This will give Auckland more options to grow, as well as stopping landbankers profiteering and holding up development. New developments, both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, will be funded through innovative infrastructure bonds.”

    2. Also remember that Labour have the KiwiBuild policy. Government built housing will ramp up to 5,000 a year in Auckland. These will almost certainly be transit oriented housing schemes given Labour’s commitment to the congestion free network. This could be transformative to Auckland given at the moment the city is only building 10,000 houses a year -most of which will be automobile dependent.

      Here is Labour’s KiwiBuild policy statement.

      “Build 100,000 affordable homes across the country

      Labour’s KiwiBuild programme will build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over 10 years, with 50% of them in Auckland. Standalone houses in Auckland will cost $500,000 to $600,000, with apartments and townhouses under $500,000. Outside Auckland, houses will range from $300,000 to $500,000.”

      With more detail here

      1. I suppose if we swap between National and Labour, we can swap between building the roads out to the outskirts and building the houses on the outskirts. That’s quite effective sprawl building. :/

        1. I would hope it would be more akin to what Brisbane achieves (see last weeks post regarding the availability of land).

          Get rid of the urban boundary as such, but make it more attractive (easier / lest costly) to re-develop/intensify land uses within existing areas.

        2. 01anthony, Sailor Boy and others, why don’t you like the rural urban boundary? (This ended up longer than I intended, the question is the main thing: you can kind of see why I ask though.)

          I do not think Labour’s housing plans have been well thought out at all. I do think that they exist purely to say they’re building houses. The party seems completely willing to exacerbate sprawl and the consequent environmental impacts of that (including, most ironically, on waterways) as well as the encroachment of housing on to land better suited economically and socially to agriculture. It’s not enough to build houses; “affordable” and sustainable housing (practices) can only come from building a system, but no one is interested in that it seems.

          I am not at all convinced that allowing the option of “out”, in this land-mad country anyway, can co-exist with the actual development of up. I mean, my understanding of Portland’s development, in a similarly sprawling culture, was accomplished through strict equivalents of rural/urban boundaries. Rational financial incentives of selling dozens of homes instead of just one on the same block, won’t actually create density if everyone buys into socio-cultural myths that clearly exist. Investment policies which allow “locals” to go for the low risk detached homes won’t make investors choose to risk building houses.

          In this sense, absent specifics, it seems dangerous to presume that Labour will generate housing plans consistent with its transport plans. Even worse, we /already/ know that Labour is inconsistent in its attitudes to (im)migrants in general (bad) and refugees (“for every refugee New Zealand opens its doors to, we are repaid in multiple by the contribution they will make to our country.”). Many of us think Labour’s housing plans and immigration policies are inconsistent too (who will build them) but that’s a bit more subjective.

        3. Yes, Whirsler. Greenfields development is what our developers know. Brownfields development requires a more integrated approach to infrastructure maintenance and improvement, and a more complex discussion about equality, sustainable lifestyles, and the nature of society. The shift from greenfields to brownfields is only going to happen if the urban-rural boundary is both retained and strengthened and everyone is in the same discussion about how we make the brownfields development work, with affordable homes at the forefront of the planning. The hard call decisions at a high political level seem don’t seem to be happening, but I don’t know if that’s due to a lack of frank discussion amongst voters, politicians stuck in old mindsets, or if lobby groups are directing the conversations.

        4. “Even worse, we /already/ know that Labour is inconsistent in its attitudes to (im)migrants in general (bad) and refugees (“for every refugee New Zealand opens its doors to, we are repaid in multiple by the contribution they will make to our country.”). ”

          This isn’t inconsistent at all. Labour are talking about the *marginal* effect of one additional refugee and one additional immigrant. Given that we are currently taking 100 times more of one group, this discussion will always be different.

          I think you have misinterpreted my comment on the rural-urban boundary. I meant to imply that the vertical one is far more restrictive and we should remove or relax that one long before we relax the horizontal one.

        5. If you’re saying that we should allow building up everywhere whilst conyinuing to limit sprawl, then yes I did misinterpret your remarks.

          As to the other matter, it makes no sense to discuss marginal immigrants in general because they are so varied. Labour’s immigration rhetoric already conflates very different people so I suppose they might be thinking along those lines, but they still frame one as economic and the other as moral-social. The reality is that expanding the number of consumers occurs in both cases, and in both cases homes must be found… and adding one refugee occurs on top of all prior migrant arrival. And it remains the case that investors are the demand side villains which is problematic… especially if you assume Labour has kept the Little era rhetoric about fairness. (It was better when Labour just blamed foreign investors: can we go back to those heady days?)

  3. And today in Stuff we see this report about Christchurch PT use continuing to drop:

    Of course Christchurch is a basket special case, thanks to the quakes of 7 or so years ago.

    As a indication of how much it has been impacted. The Cathedral Square and surrounds had the 3rd largest employment centre in NZ [pre-quake] at 25,000 people and that number had dropped by 63% by the 2013 Census.

    But the [seemingly ongoing forever] Bus reforms in Christchurch has not been helped by road works and road closures and the long stringy routes they run [from one side of the City to the other] in a hub and spoke pattern with some links between the spokes via the Orbiter buses that run in a ring around the hub.

    There are no protected right of ways – other than train lines, very few joined up bus lanes and the NZTA folks are frantically building motorways to get in and out of the place with no thought what you’ll do to get around once you get off the motorway.

    And any thought or plans to bring in commuter trains is always “too expensive” and/or “they might not use it”, while NZTA throws down yet another $100m or so on more motorway works every other year. While $10m trials of a nascent commuter rail service sit on the shelf awaiting funding.

    Its actually amazing that Christchurch people are still bothering to use the buses at all given the bums rush they’ve been given during the rebuild so far. So says something about the resilience of PT users.
    Maybe they have fewer options to get around, or they actually prefer the bus to the hassle or driving? or maybe they hoping that the services might get better if more people use them?

    And it doesn’t help that the Regional Council (eCan) and the various councils under its aegis don’t or can’t seem to mesh their PT plans very well [or at all].

    Right now its more akin to the bad old days of the 10+ councils we had on the Isthmus [pre-1989 reforms] when every little Auckland council or borough council had its own plans and agenda and nothing got done PT-wise. As the do-nothing option was always the easy option for “their ratepayers” whenever it came to setting the rates each year.

    But while I’m sure it will get better in Christchurch, there is a tremendous opportunity cost of blindly following the current cars first plans.

    And in the meantime could it be that Christchurch actually becomes the “next” Auckland with regards being a heavily car dependant city, congested to the hilt – when it could have been so much better with coordination, and a little more haste and lot less speed on the rebuild plans without considering PT.

    1. In fairness the $10 commuter rail plan wasn’t a great option as it used Addington as the central station, something that makes the old Auckland station look quite sensible.

      The Labour party proposal of starting with services from Rolleston that terminate where the old Christchurch station was makes a lot more sense to begin with.

        1. There is a number of places where train stations would be in biking distance of large agglomerations of educational/retail/health services -not just the CBD, also Riccarton Mall, Christchurch public hospital, Canterbury University. What might work best to get commuter rail up and running in Greater Christchurch is design the train stations so they are really user friendly for mobile phone app based bicycle ride share schemes. That might solve the last mile/not ideally located train stations problem.

        2. Without really know much about what was planned and only from my long ago memories of Christchurch.

          Wouldn’t a spot on Moorhouse be better for town and the hospital?

          I recall Blenhiem Rd being a pain to cross on a bike.

        3. In my little Christchurch train/bike redevelopment dream if there were train stations in Riccarton -Kilmarnock st/Mona Vale Av -then there would be a bike underpass at Deans Av to Hagley park. Same for Blenheim road from Addington train station. Possibly something similar at a Moorhouse Av station -although more buildings there so might not be possible.

          Depending on which direction you are coming from and which part of the CBD would determine best station/route to use.

        4. Until very recently the shifted centre of gravity for Chch has been Riccarton and Addington – right where the train line runs. So really, the best chance to trial a commuter train service was during the past couple of years. As more businesses move back to town, that is less convenient. But then there are brand new Major Cycleways (with signalised crossings of Deans in North & South Hagley Parks) that will get you into town by bike in less than 10 minutes (and a city-wide bike-share scheme is about to be rolled out too)

    2. Christchurch public transport is abit of basket case and it shows little vision by ECan. But before we can write off ECan total lack of vision, Christchurch CBD for the last 6 years has been abit of a waste land. With the Crossings, The Terraces and other CBD inner city projects now coming online, bus ridership could start to improve especially with the Christchurch Bus Exchange being the central hub for city, regional, inter-regional and long distance bus and coach services, being the first of the Government fund anchor projects.

      It was interesting to note, the concept of developing a light rail system for Christchurch in the early city redevelopment concepts of 2012, was written off by Jerry Brownlee as total waste of money.

      Since National has been in charge of the Christchurch rebuild, we have seen National’s ‘car only’ policy as the main means of transport which as per usual National policies being short sighted. I agree with Greg N comment – “Christchurch actually becomes the “next” Auckland with regards being a heavily car dependant city, congested to the hilt – when it could have been so much better with coordination, and a little more haste and lot less speed on the rebuild plans without considering PT.”

      Christchurch could have a Rangiora to Rolleston and Lyttleton suburban rail network but ECan as been against it due to theor bus and car vision.

    3. Two weeks ago the Prebbleton Branch was severed, to make way for the new Southern Motorway. No commuter trains will be running to Prebbleton.

      Right now, Lyttleton station is being demolished, and the site, including carpark, to be used by the port instead. No commuter trains will be running to Lyttelton.

      It’s like a last minute push to make things difficult if there’s a change of government.

      1. Not to mention the demolition of the former Woolston station island platform (did KiwiRail finish that yet? I heard they stopped half-way through when they ran out of money for the project) and the redevelopment of the old Moorhouse station site with, of all things, a car sales yard! Is it just a coincidence that so many former railway-related sites in New Zealand have ended up being re-used for road-related businesses?

        The Lyttelton station has been in a tough spot (in terms of reinstatement potential) being inside the port security zone. It long ago had its platform truncated and platform-side track removed and it would have been difficult to reinstate any commuter or public passenger rail services to the site. Even when KiwiRail have run the cruise ship charter trains from Lyttelton they’ve had to transfer passengers between ship and train in busses with extra staff on hand to monitor the tourists and satisfy the port’s security requirements. The most recent Lyttelton station never really stood much of a chance, being opened only months before the Lyttelton road tunnel, and unsurprisingly closed less than 9 years later. Given the ease with which Lyttelton can be accessed by road these days, including a bus service, it is hard to see how a viable case could be made for the return of a passenger rail service to a Lyttelton terminus.

    4. Yes, Christchurch such a missed opportunity from the little I know about it, would be interesting what a Labour-Green-NZF government would of done with it.

  4. The Waimakariri electorate is a battle between incumbent National MP Matt Doocey and Labour’s newcomer Dan Rosewarne. Here is quote of them discussing Greater Christchurch’s transport situation

    “Traffic is the other big growth headache, as anyone who has to negotiate the northern motorway at rush hour can attest. Doocey championed plans for a third southbound lane near the Waimakariri River bridge and wider highway upgrades are well advanced.

    “Congestion’s a big issue but people see the solution,” he says.

    “If you’re driving past the Belfast western bypass and know it’s going to open in a couple of months, it kind of calms your anxiety. The northern corridor has been on the books since the 1960s. It opens in two years.”

    Rosewarne isn’t convinced.

    “[A third southbound lane is] just going to move the congestion to another place in the city. You’re still going to get backed up on Cranford St, you’re still going to get backed up on Johns Rd.

    “There is starting to become a place for rail … so we don’t end up with the same mess that we see up in Auckland.”

    Labour has pledged $100m to public transport in Canterbury (if you missed this, it was announced by former leader Andrew Little three months ago). Rosewarne would like it to be more.

    “People in the Canterbury region are only allocated $60 per person out of the land transport fund to cater for public transport. In Wellington it’s $200 and in Auckland it’s a lot more. I want to put a case to the Government – where’s our share? Right now we are probably where Auckland was at in the 1950s.”

    1. “Right now we are probably where Auckland was at in the 1950s” – in regards to PT Auckland was actually really good. It was just before the ripping up of the trams and building of the motorways. Nothing everything from the 1950s was bad.

      1. Depends a bit on what year of the fifties, I suspect the comment is in relation to what Auckland did in the fifties rather than what it was like at the beginning.

  5. For what it is worth I think for Christchurch it was removing trams and relocating the university to Ilam which has set back agglomeration in Christchurch, at a similar time to when Auckland’s CBD got cut in half by spaghetti junction motorway and Auckland’s trams were removed. In Christchurch the square used to be the central hub -that was why so many cinemas were located there and since fell under bad times/went out of business.

    Since the earthquakes -Brownlee had a chance to fix up public transport -light rail or create a CBD rail loop. But all such proposals got ridiculed. Within the 4 avenues used to live many thousands of people -especially in the northeast corner -I lived in a little 2 bedroom townhouse 15 years ago in Kilmore street. But much of that housing was lost to the red-zone and the government has been slow to get residential housing back into inner Christchurch.

    1. Here is Labour’s central Christchurch electorate candidate reporting on the government rebuild of Chirstchurch’s CBD.

      “Webb isn’t shy in pointing out the Government’s shortcomings with the Christchurch rebuild. He says the East Frame is the best example of a missed opportunity: the Crown-led inner-city housing development was meant to be finished by the end of 2014, but nearly three years later there are no homes in place.

      “That was exactly the right timing [2014], we needed people to be building houses in the inner city because that was exactly when all of the insurance started coming on stream, houses were being demolished, people were having to get out of their homes.”

      Webb says there have been delays and problems with most government-led “anchor projects” – major projects such as the convention centre that were part of the city’s rebuild blueprint.

      The real success stories are the areas led by the private sector, such as the western side of the Avon River where a number of law firms have relocated.

      “That’s the private sector getting off its arse and making things happen, unconstrained by, I really don’t know what the constraint is – it appears to be that the government wants all of the upside and zero risk, and wants to offload all of the risk onto contractors at bargain basement cost.”

  6. This is a timely article as yet again there were major issues on Aucklands train network.

    My train this morning was delayed by 10 minutes after the driver tried to take off with a door still open. Stop mechanism works well. A little too well it turns out. Wouldn’t happen if AT had already sorted out their ridiculous door opening/closing procedure.

    This afternoon I’ve heard reports of delays on the train network due to a single plastic bag on overhead wires. You can’t make this stuff up. Is our train system so lacking in resiliency that it can be derailed by a single plastic bag?

    Congratulations AT you’ve done it again!!

    1. The Herald Editors are such lying pieces of shit.

      Title of the article: “Funding questions over Labour’s $5b trams for Auckland ”

      Content of the same article: “Labour has promised to fund its Auckland Transport package by a combination of increased expenditure, cancelling or scaling back existing transport projects like the $1.8b east-west road through the city’s industrial belt and giving Auckland Council the ability to set a regional petrol tax.”

  7. Looks like the best shot for ekeing out a fourth term is to frame it as a zero sum game and convince your supporters that the only way to get what they want is to deprive everyone else of the things they want.

    Oh, and rely on your supporters to prevail because they’re better resourced in money, time and sheer self-interestedness

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