Time is running out to submit on the Auckland Plan and 10 year budget. Please do, if nothing else just go there to support the all important Regional Fuel Tax, without which very little can be achieved.

Matt discussed it earlier here.

Now I want to raise what I see as a missed opportunity in the 30 year Auckland Plan. The lack of any targets. Why do I think this is important?

Taking the transport section alone (John covers housing supply here), while the three Directions and seven Focus Areas are spot on, there are no defined ways to achieve the outcomes they identify, so they can be more susceptible to being ignored as vague ‘aspirations’ without compulsion for action by Auckland Transport, other CCOs, NZTA, or Council officers themselves.

Here’s an example, next month Auckland Transport launches an in-service Electric Bus trial with two BYD full e-buses on the City Link route. This is part of a programme that proposes enforcing an emission free only new bus acquisition programme from the next PTOM round in 2023. No new non electric bus ever again acquired in Auckland. In time, as the new e-buses replace the oldest and most polluting current buses the fleet will become completely emission free, which will likely take to about 2035-40. This is a huge and potentially massive improvement for the city.

Mayor Goff represented Auckland at the event and participated in the signing of the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and to ensure that Auckland’s city centre has zero emissions by 2030.

This programme is happening because the Mayor Phil Goff signed up to the C-40 Fossil-Fuel Free Streets declaration, which sets firm targets and dates. Without that commitment Auckland Transport may well have found other uses for its energy, attention, and budget. Found reason to wait and see, talk for a few years about risk, and not being too hasty, etc, etc. If the Council and people of Auckland want action from their CCOs one of the most powerful tools in their armoury is to be very clear and explicit, especially over long time frames. And especially when the people you are trying to instruct are engineers. People who are really good at action and task, often less so at interpretation and nuance.

And the Auckland Plan is at exactly the right altitude for ambitious and significant targets. So much can be achieved over 30 years, step after repeated step. Things that now seem permanent can be entirely replaced over that timeframe, but only if the journey is started upon, and pursued. And the bigger hurdle or these two is the former. The arguments for kicking a can down the road in a highly contested project environment, of delaying the start of a long term change can become deafening in the absence of clear direction and targets.

And with long term aims, which require multi-term commitments such as the Three Directions identified in the plan, it is important to beware of the urgent displacing the important. The day to day occluding the vital.

So what targets do I think we need to add?

This requires more work than I am able to do in my spare time but happily there is a really good recent model that we can use as a guide. The Mayor’s Transport for London Strategy. Everything about this document is great.

The language is plain and direct, the arguments for the targets are clearly evidenced, and the targets are explicit and dated. Nothing vague, no opportunity for anyone tasked to enact it to claim it these are merely ‘nice to have’ aspirations, or hopeful forecasts. These are targets.

So let’s do a quick and dirty Akl version of these, obviously these two cities are very different, but they both inhabit the same planet at the same time so the pressures, technologies, and needs of their citizens, are in fact are the same. The starting point of our systems and of course the scale of these cities are different, but really, in terms of demands on their transport agencies, pro-rata, we can see they are in pretty much the same boat. So with adjustments:

  1. Modeshare. For Auckland, having such incomplete Transit and Active networks it’s probably best to focus on peak times. Currently peak modeshare spilt Transit and Active v Car is about 25/75%. With the work underway we can more than reasonably expect that to make 33/66% in ten years, and easily 50/50% in 30. Are these figure ambitious enough to have as targets? This metric needs work.
  2. Every Aucklander, within their capabilities, to get 20mins of exercise as a part of their journeys everyday by 2041. Yes.
  3. No one killed on or in an AKL bus by 2030. I would hope we already achieve that most years. A good nearer term target.
  4. Zero deaths or serious injury from road crashes in AKL by 2041. That is ambitious (as it is in London too) given current trends. But it is obscene to have any other target, is the year right?
  5. Zero emissions from buses by 2035. Yes.
  6. Zero emissions from all vehicles in the City Centre by 2030. Yup.
  7. Zero emissions from all vehicles by 2040. Ambitious, by with a near term acceleration of mode shift and EV uptake we could get close.
  8. Reduce Vehicle Kilometres Travelled per capita by x% per annum? The quantum here needs work too, but not the direction.

If we’re aiming for something, shouldn’t we say so clearly, in order to move towards it more directly? What do you think?

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  1. As has been done already in a number of cities worldwide (not just in London), Auckland needs to state clear, explicit transport service improvement targets together with dates, that are written up in plain, direct language. Ideally the people putting their names to those targets should not only be the mayor but also the Chair and CEO of Auckland Transport. The age of timidity and vagueness around the world is now over and although I dont like the man, we have Donald Trump to thank for that. There is and has never been anything wrong with being bold and direct….as long as you’re not involved in any illicit sex along the way.

  2. I absolutely agree with you. But where will the dirty buses go if they can’t go downtown between 2030 and 2035?

      1. And then sent to central america to become chicken buses? Or is that only the US buses? The splendid colour schemes of central america would never get past the censors here I suppose.

      2. Well, the last lot of Auckland’s old, polluting, smoky diesel buses were sent to Wellington, so that the Regional Council could delete their newish, non-polluting, much loved, electric trolley buses. Please don’t do that again.

  3. 20 mins of exercise as part of their journey: I have enough trouble just getting to work. I don’t need state-imposed exercise deliberately drawing out my journey times, thanks.

    1. I suspect that as a working person, like me, that at least half of your life is state imposed…the state that says we must work to keep the world spinning. 20 minutes should be doable around a medium sized office, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to use a train to commute, a ten minute walk at either end would be quite normal. I prefer to think of walking (and cycling) as freedom from the system rather than a requisite of it!

    2. Yep, even as someone who gets about two hours’ exercise as part of their journey daily, this is the only one of the metrics above that doesn’t look right to me. Increasing active and transit modeshare would accomplish much of the same goal by default – the people who walk/bike or head to a bus stop or train station will get their exercise, while others will get less pollution and enough time returned to their day to get active if they so wish.

  4. What is disappointing is how many double-decker diesel buses we are buying. We are ramping up bus capacity without getting in early enough with the switch to electric. Where can we sell them that drive on the left?
    But most of all – clear, stretch targets. Wouldn’t we all rather get an Olympic Bronze than first place in school sports day? We need targets to aim at and be told “good effort” if we fall a bit short, rather than be proud of ‘walkover’ targets.

  5. In my observations of historic council plans, their purpose is just to demonstrate the council tries to do something (but not doing anything actually).

    Each time they review the plan, they just push the target date later and later, and things gets dropped.

    At the end of the day, nothing still happens despite a beautiful well written plan. I don’t trust those plans anymore.

    1. That comes to my second point.
      Can the target date keep changing? Who authorize it? Who audit them?
      Who is responsible if the target is missed? Do they get fired? Re-elected?
      Will those people still in office by the time the plan finish?

  6. So a plan for thirty years of transport. In London in the 1880’s someone calculated that growth of traffic would leave all roads covered by six foot of horse manure in 30 years time.
    When I was born almost 70 years ago a plan based on what was happening at that time would have concentrated on larger coal depots for ever more steam trains, oil stores for ocean liners and coastal shipping; they probably would have anticipated an end local traffic requirement for horses to be tied up to rails and horse troughs. I think they would have expected a slight increase in car ownership among the really wealthy and a move from the restrictions of trams to the flexibility of more buses. I wonder if they would have thought of the death of trams, the massive increase in car ownership and usage, the end of the rail age and our oceans crossed by airlines?
    Before we think we are more imaginative than those dumb grandparents (OK great-grandparents for most readers) just cast your mind back to 2003 which happens to be when I arrived. Back then I think we would have predicted a new harbour bridge or tunnel before 2018 and a rail link to the airport but the possibility of pizzas delivered by drones? Or impoverished students grabbing Uber because they are late for work?

    I will do as I’m told and make a submission but I don’t remotely expect mine or anyone elses to be anything like reality in say 2040.

    1. No targets, leave it to the market, and what we’ll have in 30 years is something no-one wants to envision.

  7. Considering this is transport, to not have a single target for the primary goal i.e. reducing average travel times, seems stupid.

    Repeat after me: mode is an input. mode is not an outcome. the function of a transport system is to get from A to B. A bus is one solution. A car is another. Focus on the outcome, not the solution. Would you set a police force target as “a police station in every neighbourhood” or “reduce crime by 20%”

    This is why performance targets get a bad name. Solution captured input heavy targets based on 1970s concepts of management by solution not goal.

  8. I most strongly disagree with the comment by HSB1 – it is not just about getting from A to B but also about how we make the journey. We absolutely need to have a modal split/share target which is missing from the current plan. If we are aiming to get more people on public transport (and correspondingly less in cars) then we need to say so in explicit terms – i.e. if we aim to double the use of PT as a proportion of total journeys taken then we need to say so, otherwise we will not provide the seats for users to sit on – people simply cannot “put their bums on seats” if the seats are not there first for them to use. Although it is good to be thinking these thoughts now, the real debate on transport (Auckland Transport Alignment Plan and AT’s project list) will occur next month as a separate exercise from the Long Term and Auckland Plan consultation ending next week.

    1. I don’t think you understand public services. Public organisations exist to deliver beneficial social outcomes through the delivery of a range of outputs (services).
      The *outcome* of transport is not “people on buses” it is people getting from A to B. The specific MODE is a second or even third order consideration.
      If we stuck to these targets, and tomorrow I invented a zero-cost teleportation device, we wouldn’t use it.
      If, however, the goal was “A to B faster”, then we might focus on buses and trains for a while, then when I invent my teleporter, the exact same plan can adapt to incorporate this new technology.

      Again, my analogy earlier: police exist to reduce crime. Setting a target of “a police station in every suburb” (akin to mode share) constrains their ability to do so.

      1. But is there a point in keeping it abstract, HSB1? We’ve a world of real examples to learn from? Since the places that are having the most success with cutting their transport sector carbon emissions are the ones where a particular decision about mode share was made, isn’t keeping open the decisions around mode just a way of procrastinating?

      2. HSB1, you are correct – if we didn’t have decades of experience from all around the world that the very things we need to do to achieve these high level outcomes is mode shift to PT, walking and cycling.

        If we keep staying so “high level”, then we potentially spend forever reinventing the wheel on every last little decision. As long as the strategy has clearly (and accurately) explained why mode shift is so important to achieving the broad social, economic etc. outcomes, then it’s fine to use that as a target.

        To use an example, it’s well accepted (well, at least in most sensible circles) that we need to reduce carbon emissions to stabilise the global climate so we develop plans for reducing carbon emissions.

        1. I’ll say this: for decades, police forces have *thought* they knew what types of outputs reduced crime. They very, very often got it wrong, and because they were captured by specific solutions, lacked the adaptability to focus on the outcomes.

          The best example of what I’m talking about is the military: commander’s intent. The commander tells you to secure this supply route; he leaves it up to you how to do it, because the chaos of reality makes any detailed plan obsolete as soon as it’s written.

      3. Why would we bother with that as a target? That’s assuming we know absolutely nothing about how transport works, how it is used, how much it costs, etc.

        You’re talking about stategic goals perhaps, but we are beyond knowing that we need to get people from A to B quickly and efficiently.

        The targets are about how we achieve that goal. We know how to achieve it, the target is to monitor how well we are doing.

        And you are quite wrong on “a police station in every suburb” being akin to modeshare. That would be akin to “a bus stop on every street” which is effectively the opposite of achieving ridership.

        A target to double PT modeshare is more akin to a target to double the number of violent offenders prosecuted. They are perfectly valid targets if you’ve already decided you have a problem with low PT use or high violent crime, and want to do somethign about it.

  9. Money Money Money guys since we here are good at getting messages out to…. Biggest issue to hit all of us Kids in new . Zealand … So let me say something pertinent: we have to make true inventions , intellectual property and services FAST in the private sector now!

    We also need to arrange our community to not need so much money and be more productive….. And save

  10. And then there is another completely different answer to lure people to public transport. (see the full details on the llnk below). The model seems very similar to the Vienna price model that has delivered spectacular PT trips results – some 950 million trip per year for a city not that much larger than Auckland.

    “The (NZ) report, completed by economic consultancy Covec in 2015, found rail fares in Wellington should be subsidised by between 55 and 100 per cent, and that the “average” fare should be about $1.70.
    It concluded that, based on long-run marginal costs, which estimated the future cost per passenger of increasing rail services compared with external benefits such as reduced traffic congestion, commuter fares in Wellington should be subsidised by between 55 and 100 per cent.”

    While such a “carrot” model has been successful in Vienna it has been accompanied by a “stick” – that is raising parking prices.

    The whole Vienna model is predicated on a strong desire to combat carbon emissions and climate change. The target for mode share in Vienna is 20% car model share by 2026 cf Auckland where the target is 27% for the city area only and this by 2046. The target for Takapuna is 76% by 2046, down from 82%. If these latter figures are indicative of the target figures for wider Auckland then AT is guiding us towards a congested shambles.

    Yes Patrick, AT’s current targets are unacceptable and they need to be revisited.

  11. emission-free is a fallacy, the lifecycle assessments of electric cars show that they will emit lots of CO2 over their life, even with mostly or completely decarbonised means of producing electricity, owing to the very large amount of CO2 produced in the process of mining the metals and other minerals needed to manufacture the batteries. So it probably makes sense emissions wise but is not as much of a slam dunk as the above text makes it sound

    1. In Auckland, emissions other than CO2 are a concern for public health. These fumes are most noticeable from buses and trucks. The CO2 emitted during a vehicle’s manufacture vary with the vehicle, and even more with the article you read :). Most sources seem to agree that if you’re not going to drive your car much, it’s probably better to keep the old one, but if you drive a lot, replacing it with an electric vehicle makes much more sense.

      Patrick’s article is correct as he’s talking about emissions from buses which clearly need to change to electric both for public health reasons (dirty emissions) and for climate change reasons (a bus in daily use will be a good example of a vehicle that emits much more carbon during its life than during its manufacture.)

      Taka-ite’s comment is correct as he’s talking about the reduction in emissions that occur when private car use is replaced with public transport.

      NZ’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory (MfE) shows that our transport sector’s emissions have risen substantially between 1990 and 2015. Emission-free is a fallacy, as you say, but in the light of this MfE data, it’s clear that we must take every opportunity we can to lower those emissions:


  12. You have high-level and low-level targets

    1. Desired outcome: 25% reduction in average travel time to work, live, and play
    2. Impacts to deliver: (based on current knowledge) – 50% mode shift (remember an impact isn’t about the service, it’s the result)
    3. Outputs to deliver: heaps much way betterer buses and trains.

    1. You seem to think in a very simplistic way. And in a completely unreal way. The world is not like this. You only compute one outcome, one effect. This is not either the aim or the impact of decisions in the transport sector. It is a field with many aims and many effects, some direct, some indirect. Luckily this is well known, and this simplistic thinking with its overly simplified military metaphors does not dominate most decision making in urban transport..

      1. So. You. Add. Them. In.

        I love how you think the military is somehow simple/simplistic. There is nothing more chaotic than a battlefield. Nothing. Things move on cycle times of minutes and hours, not days/weeks/months/years like traffic patterns.

        If a system can handle a war, it can handle March Madness. I recommend you look up how George Patton shifted 3A 90 degrees when the Ardennes hit. Now *that* is co-ordination.

        I understand that there are *many* effects. There are known desired outcomes. There are known undesired outcomes. There are unknown desired outcomes. And unknown undesired outcomes. But none of that makes your 1970s-era approach of input capture correct.

        Here’s the killer: imagine we hit all of our targets, but it took Aucklanders 50% longer to get anywhere than they do now. Woul you call that success? If not, then your targets are flawed.

        I’ll give you a non-military analogy. In the 1960s, “radio policing” became a dominant paradigm. The mindset was that the quicker you could respond, the quicker you could stop and deter crime. So, targets focused on availability, response time etc. Did crime rates drop? Nope, because the model was flawed. Same here. It’s *probable* that mode change will lead to improved travel times. But you can’t be sure.

        There’s a basic premise of performance measurement: measure as close to the final outcome as you can. If you have a measure right down the end of the value chain, focus on that, because focusing on the enabling measures consttrains solution development.

        1. OK, so let’s start with the fundamental purpose of transport: moving goods and freight.

          Out primary outcome is travel time.

          However we want to add “constraints” about safety and emissions; we add these in i.e.
          Reduce travel time WHILE <x fatalities and <x emissions

          This is our fundamental set.

          Now, we look at what research we have. It says at current densities, to reduce travel time we need a modal shift. So we set an impact target (because we're affecting the behaviour of those external to the providing organisation) of shifting share from private car to PT of x %

          Now, in order to move that mode, we provide outputs. I imagine there are "carrot" and "stick" outputs.

          Carrots – better trains, buses, etc.
          Sticks – legislation that restricts the use of private cars i.e. congestion charges.

          Now, the end result incorporates almost all of Patrick's targets, but they're correctly organised into a logical, elegant framework that means that if tomorrow we identified a better way of reducing travel time, fatalities, and emissions, we could shift, even if it wasn't a mode share issue.

        2. Can you expand that just as elegantly to include other primary goals, or does it become cumbersome? Examples are:

          – teenage happiness (from having independent access to their city)
          – public health (from good activity levels, good air quality, good psychological behaviour during travel)
          – good geographical and spatial awareness in children as they grow (from walking as their main travel mode)
          – clean waterways and harbour (taking water that has percolated through the ground and originally run off surfaces that did not collect deposits from vehicles’ emissions)
          – social connection (through society’s activities being closely spaced, not spread apart by roads and parking spaces)
          – agricultural land beside the cities remaining intact, generation after generation (not taking the brunt of car mode-induced sprawl)

          I’m sure I’ve left plenty out, but you get the idea. These things are impacted by the transport system. So they have to be added in at the first stage. Can you show me how it works with these as well?

        3. Also, are you sure that reducing travel times should be the ultimate aim? Surely the ultimate aim is a successful city or country, right?

          This is an important question because when you look around the world it is usually the more congested places with longer travel times that are the more successful cities. Detroit’s travel times have been reducing, but that’s hardly a sign of success.

        4. Heidi, you’re committing the cardinal crime of scope creep.

          Teenage happiness is irrelevant. Import 5000 hot Russian 16yos and teen happiness will skyrocket.

          And agricultural land remaining inviolate is also flawed. If it’s more valuable being used as housing, and we can grow potatoes somewhere else, it’s better. You’re again… solution captured

          But what could I know.

        5. HSB1, I’ve been in discussions recently with middle-aged engineers and operational researchers about how our training in optimising solutions is a contributor to feelings of being overwhelmed and to depression. For some, it’s because they try to optimise too many day-to-day decisions, which works OK when you’re younger but becomes increasingly impossible when you have multiple roles to fill and families to raise.

          Thanks for this discussion; it’s helped me to remember that our training in optimising solutions is also requiring us to overly simplify the real world just to allow our techniques to have a chance of working. None of the goals I listed are irrelevant, and they are only the tip of the iceberg of social and environmental goals we have or should have as a society. Dismissing them ignores swathes of knowledge and cultural capital built up by people working, researching and thinking in many environmental and social fields.

          Patrick is right, you’re thinking in an overly simplistic way. There’s more fun to be had in applying your abilities to include multiple objectives and in learning about findings from other fields. Stop cutting out most of humanity in a callous disregard for our needs while optimising an overly simplified framework of analysis.

        6. “There is nothing more chaotic than a battlefield. Nothing.”

          You’ve clearly never been to a residents consultation meeting about parking.

  13. Thanks so much for this, Patrick. I’ve spread it to community groups. I also took your proposed targets, played around with them until they were bold enough for my liking, and used them in my submission to the Long Term Plan. 🙂

      1. OK. Here is what I wrote, with the specific targets I decided on shown with asterisks. The 3% reduction in vkt is probably not sufficient, but it’s a start.

        “The seven focus areas are generally good. But they are lacking targets. The plan must reintroduce specific targets such as:

        Modeshare. Currently peak modeshare split Transit and Active v Car is about 25/75%. With the work underway we can more than reasonably expect that to make 33/66% in ten years, and need to have a target of ***75/25%*** in 30.
        Every Aucklander, within their capabilities, to get 20mins of exercise as a part of their journeys every day by 2041.
        No one killed on or in an AKL bus ***or train*** by 2030.
        Zero deaths or serious injury from road crashes in AKL by 2041. That is ambitious given current trends. But it is obscene to have any other target.
        Zero emissions from buses by 2035.
        Zero emissions from all vehicles in the City Centre by 2030.
        Zero emissions from all vehicles by 2040.
        Reduce Vehicle Kilometres Travelled per capita by ***3%*** per annum.

        Transport and Housing are intricately linked. To achieve the above targets, no more greenfields housing can be built.”

      2. Hi Patrick,

        – I decided on a modeshare for the 30 year time frame as reversed from what it is today, so 75% active + PT and 25% private car
        – I added in that no-one should be killed on or by a train by 2030 (in addition to by a bus)
        – I chose a reduction of vkt by 3% per annum. That still means 40% of current vkt per capita in 30 years’ time, but I thought it was a start, and ambitious enough as it was.

        Otherwise I just put your suggestions for figures.

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