It’s been a pretty exciting time recently with the release of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and now the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) which is currently being consulted on (consultation closes 14 May). The plans will see many of the things we’ve advocated for over the last decade become a reality in the next decade.
However, as we discovered in February, it pays to look closely at what’s funded. In doing so with these documents I’ve noticed an issue that perhaps slipped through the cracks in the rush to create the new ATAP and rework the RLTP. It relates to the cycling budget.
ATAP has a loot of good things to say about cycling. For example, one of the stated outcomes is
- Support for an increase in public transport and cycling mode-share in Auckland, with flow-on benefits for health, safety, the environment and congestion
And here’s the full section on cycling. It’s listed under the section Walking, Cycling and Local Board Priorities, which combined has a budget of $900 million in ATAP. The emphasis at the end is mine and is important in relation to this post.
Over the past few years investment into cycling (including the Urban Cycleway Fund) has increased substantially, from under $20 million a year in 2013 to around $40 million in both 2016 and 2017. Most investment has focused on providing safe and protected cycling infrastructure, which previously only existed along a very limited number of corridors in Auckland (e.g. the Northwestern Cycleway next to State Highway 16).
Despite this recent increase, Auckland’s safe cycling network is still very undeveloped and will take sustained investment and effort to be completed. International evidence shows that many American, Canadian and European cities with historically low levels of cycling have been able to dramatically increase ridership through sustained investment in high quality infrastructure.
A number of investment areas will contribute to implementing this network over time, including dedicated cycling improvements and those built as part of other projects. The investment levels discussed in this section relate to dedicated cycling infrastructure delivered by either Auckland Transport or the NZ Transport Agency.
A programme business case to guide the next 10 years of investment in cycling was approved by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency in 2017. The analysis undertaken as part of this work emphasised the need to provide complete networks and improve cycling infrastructure in an area-focused way to achieve the greatest gains. This work fed into developing the ATAP Package.
Some significant cycling investments along state highway corridors have been included in the ATAP Package. These include SeaPath, SkyPath and a new walking and cycling crossing of the Manukau Harbour between Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.
Overall, around $640 million of investment in cycling infrastructure has been included in the ATAP Package.
The business case work also suggests additional investment in cycling continues to provide strong value for money. Substantial further increases in cycling investment may create delivery and affordability challenges, but the business case highlights how accelerating the implementation of Auckland’s cycling network provides value and is worth progressing if these challenges can be overcome.
It is recommended that as further funding becomes available, strong consideration be given to increasing the cycling programme
There’s no doubt that $640 million is a lot of money and is certainly welcome investment. It also almost identical to the amount needed in the 10-year Programme Business Case (PBC) referenced above that was approved last year. That PBC would see the focus for improving the cycle network spread out from the city to a large number of suburbs around Auckland. Those suburbs were selected after extensive analysis.
So far, so good.
- Auckland Transport
- Urban Cycleways Programme – $153m
- Walking & Cycling Programme – $338m
- Manukau Harbour Crossing (Walking & Cycling) – $16m
- SeaPath – $31m
- Skypath – $67m
- Other Active Transport projects – $17m
The problem here is that while ATAP says there’s $640 million for cycling, which is similar to the PBC, much of it is going to projects sitting outside the PBC. For example, the Urban Cycleways Programme was meant to have been completed by June this year and includes projects like Karangahape Rd and Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr. Likewise, the NZTA projects listed weren’t included. So in reality only the $338m is for the PBC meaning close to $300m is missing. There’s no information on what parts of the PBC are unfunded but I’d suggest the blue boxes above are a pretty good guess.
Ideally the full $635 PBC would be funded alongside those other projects that have been included. I can understand not including the full amount in the funded section though. The projects that are funded are going to keep AT and the NZTA busy for some time. I also think the agencies need to work on improving their delivery capabilities and quality. The NZTA can seemingly design and consent an entire motorway in the time it takes to deliver a single small cycling project. The RLTP is also renewed every three years so after they got that delivery working well, additional funding can be added in future. However, that $300m for the rest of the PBC should at least be in the list of unfunded projects. If it’s not even included in the unfunded section then it will make it very hard to follow ATAPs recommendation to spend more on cycling if additional funding becomes available.
As I said, I suspect this is likely just an oversight in the rush to complete ATAP and the new RLTP but it’s important that it is corrected. If you intend to submit on the RLTP but haven’t yet, we’d suggest including a comment that you’d like to see the full $635m cycling programme business case funded but at the very least, the rest of it included in the unfunded sections.