As I went through the details of the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) recently, I couldn’t help but reach the conclusion that cycling funding is definitely the biggest disappointment with this funding plan. But you have to dig into the details a bit to realise why the headline number in ATAP of “a $650 million ten year cycling programme” isn’t actually quite as exciting as it sounds.
But first it’s worth starting with the good news. Skypath and Seapath are funded and will be completed in the next few years. It will finally be possible to walk or cycling across the Auckland Harbour Bridge – and possibly without the toll that had previously been mooted when Skypath was a Public Private Partnership.
The other piece of good news is the overall investment level in the next three years.
With around $90 million a year of cycling investment over each of the next three years, we will be able to make some great progress on expanding Auckland’s safe cycling network – which is still pretty small. But there’s a nasty catch to the bulk of this investment – the dark blue bars. This $150 million should have already been spent by now as part of the old Urban Cycleways Programme. In a way it’s all just a big giant deferral because Auckland Transport hasn’t got its act together and hasn’t come close to delivering its promised cycling programme over the past three years.
Normally with deferrals, because the money’s in the bank still, it shouldn’t count towards budgets going forwards. So I think it’s actually a bit misleading to include this $150 million in the headline numbers for the cycling budget.
Once that $150 million is taken out, the cycling budgets going forwards don’t look nearly as exciting. This has been picked up by Bike Auckland in a recent Radio New Zealand article:
Transport figures show that 80 percent of Aucklanders support investment in cycling.
Just under $500 million will be spent on cycleways over ten years. That includes around $150m on finishing existing projects.
But it’s “more of the same”, Barbara Cuthbert of cycling advocacy group Bike Auckland said.
“They need to look up and realise what Aucklanders want. Aucklanders are telling them very loudly and clearly: they don’t want more investment roads, because roads haven’t sold Auckland’s problems.”
Auckland Transport signed off the plan yesterday after an earlier draft was sent back to the drawing board because it didn’t match the government’s transport vision.
Ms Cuthbert said the current plan still missed the mark.
Auckland will “suffer” if they don’t follow through the government’s intentions, she said.
While the “just under $500 million…” line seems to miss the projects that will be fully funded by NZTA (e.g. Skypath and Seapath), once you take out these projects and the investment that is really just deferrals from 2015-18 budgets, this leaves only around $350 million for the “Walking and Cycling Programme” going forwards. As I pointed out last month, this is barely half of what’s required to properly progress the Cycling Programme Business Case that Auckland Transport’s board approved last year.
My guess is that this funding shortfall means it won’t be possible to deliver any major cycling infrastructure to the areas highlighted in blue in the map below:
Auckland Transport’s reluctance to prioritise cycling funding is particularly strange in the current political environment, with the Government Policy Statement placing stronger weighting on modes like cycling than ever before. It also doesn’t make sense when you consider how popular cycling is with the public, as demonstrated by Mike Hosking’s recent survey of over 15,000 people:
On the bright side, we have three years to fix this funding problem – as in the immediate future Auckland Transport will be busy completing what they should have already finished, while NZTA will be busy building Skypath and Seapath. A big boost in cycling funding from 2021/22 onwards however is becoming a pretty critical requirement of future funding plans.