This is a guest post from reader Takaite
As 40% of Auckland’s carbon emissions are due to transport, if Auckland is to contribute its share to NZ’s carbon reduction targets this is an area where reductions have to be made. A significant proportion of the emissions come from vehicles on our roads and so I thought I would ask AT what they are doing to address the situation.
AT has two sets of targets. Fuel usage targets are set out in the Sustainability Framework. Carbon emission targets are set in the Low Carbon Auckland Annual Update.
The fuel usage report also provides an indication into the inroads that AT is making into congestion. We would expect fuel use to be dropping very slightly because of the small number of electric cars and also because of the increasing fuel efficiency of modern cars. However, while the importation of new cars is at record levels the age of the fleet is still over 14 years due to the very high imports of used cars.
I asked AT how they were performing against the important targets. I have interspersed commentary amongst their answers.
Auckland Transport’s response to your request for information is as follows.
1) Auckland Transport’s Sustainability Framework of 2017 indicates in Figure 7 that the target is to reduce millions of litres of fuel used from the current level to 1400 per year. (I note that the current usage has increased by 7.7% since 2009, a time during which AT has made the most significant improvements to public transport and cycling). Please advise whether this is still a target.
Figure 7 of AT’s Sustainability Framework is reproduced below.
The figure references an interim target from Low Carbon Auckland developed in 2014, identified in the Appendices of Low Carbon here.
This target was an interim target identified for transport as an assumed transition toward the 2040 target included in the Auckland Plan.
The target is still an interim target and, as highlighted in the Appendix, the targets ‘are aspirational/indicative of the contributions needed to achieve the GHG reduction targets, by 2040’. In this context, it is an interim target until it is refreshed/replaced.
In February 2018, Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee committed to refresh Low Carbon Auckland as part of developing the Auckland Climate Action Plan over the remainder of this year.
Commentary: Of course it is an interim target because the final target is in 2040. Isn’t the sensible way to achieve a long term goal to set small, measurable, achievable targets along the way?
2) If the answer to 1 is yes, please advise what specific measures AT has to meet this target. (I note that AT has no major projects to come online in this timeframe,) As part of your answer would you please identify how each of these measures is predicted to contribute to the achievement of the target.
The regional fuel sales target is a target for all of Auckland to achieve, and meeting the target relies on a range of interventions outside of Auckland Transport’s control. Nevertheless, within available funding, Auckland Transport has initiated a range of actions to reduce carbon emissions from the transport network, including:
- Purchase and operation of new electric trains
- Reorganisation of the bus network to improve attractiveness and efficiency
- Ensuring significant improvements to cycling infrastructure
- Implementation of new bus priority measures, and the introduction of double decker buses
- Working with central government to secure funding for an expansion of the bus priority network and development of a light rail network
- Developing new street design standards to achieve a range of outcomes, including improved public transport use and walkability
- Working to secure a funding commitment to the City Rail Link (now a responsibility of City Rail Link Limited)
- Provision of enhanced smart travel information
- Initiation of electric bus trials
- Initiation of electric vehicle charging trials
- Purchase of electric vehicles as part of Auckland Transport’s car fleet
Commentary: Yes clearly NZTA has a part to play in this because they control the motorways. However this is AT’s target and so presumably when they set the target they felt it was within their scope to achieve it?
The most worrying aspect is that with the measurement 19% ahead of the interim target AT have no major action planned that will bring them anywhere close to the target.
3) I note that the Low Carbon Auckland Annual Update 2017 shows that the city is well behind the required carbon reduction target set by 2020. Please advise whether this still remains a target.
As per response 1 above, the target is still an interim target in the context highlighted, until the plan is refreshed/replaced this year.
4) With respect to question 3, does AT believe that this target is attainable?
Auckland Transport has not undertaken any subsequent specific assessment of the achievability of the target.
Commentary: Outstanding! (We (AT) have given up?)
5) If one of the measures to question two is the proposed Auckland fuel levy please indicate the level that AT recommended to Auckland Council for this to be set at.
The Auckland fuel levy is intended to generate additional funding rather than achieve emissions reductions targets (so falls outside the scope of Question 2 Above).
6) Please provide information how the proposed Esmonde Road flyover will contribute to achieving fuel usage targets and carbon emission reduction.
The Esmond Road high occupancy vehicle lane project is still at an early stage of investigation and no designs have been finalised. While we expect this project will have a positive effect, no specific analysis of fuel usage impacts has been undertaken so far.
Commentary: This question has little relevance and I just wanted to find out what was happening.
10) How does AT believe that the spend on roads in 2017 ($430 million compared to $336 million in 2016) is helpful to achieving the targets referred to in questions 1and 3?
Auckland Transport has not generated any analysis on this issue. However, we note that the roading expenditure referred to includes both road renewal and new capital improvements. Road renewals are important to maintain the current levels of service of the network. The road improvement category covers a range of activities that occur within the road corridor, such as improvements for public transport, safety and walking and cycling as well as general vehicle movement.
Commentary: The questions that follow are to ascertain whether AT could have made better spending decisions and diverted this money towards investment in public transport. I will explore this issue more fully in a subsequent post.
7) Does AT conduct the planned pavement maintenance programme according to a schedule e.g. a road resurfaced every seven years, or is it done on a needs basis?
The Pavement maintenance programme is undertaken on a needs basis, cognisant of risk, cost and levels of service sought.
8) Does AT believe that any of this planned pavement maintenance programme could be deferred at no economic cost; that is the resealing is not more expensive when it is conducted?
We do not believe this is the case. Deferral frequently brings higher cost and we do not consider this to be in the wider public interest.
Commentary: It would have been much more reassuring to read, “we have empirical evidence” rather than “we believe”.
9) Why did the planned pavement maintenance programme spend increase so much from 2016 to 2017?
The period identified reflects pre-implementation of One Network Road Classification (ONRC) and at that point these budget were dictated under the 2015/18 Long Term Plan. Network condition surveys undertaken in 2015/16 in preparation for the 2017 budget, indicated an increase expense was warranted to maintain the existing levels of service in support of achieving the Long Term Plan targets.
Commentary: The surveys that “indicated an increase expense was warranted” seem a very soft reason for spending an extra $38 million.
11) The most recently proposed AT budget has been criticised. Does AT believe that moving some of the current expenditure on roads to public transport is necessary to achieve the targets in question 1 and 3?
Auckland Transport has worked with other agencies as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) to develop a capital programme that meets a range of objectives, including transport emissions reduction. The ATAP reports can be found at: https://www.transport.govt.nz/land/auckland/atap/. Our draft Regional Land Transport Programme can be found at https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/have-your-say/topics-you-can-have-your-say-on/transport-consultation/Documents/draft-regional-land-transport-plan-2018.pdf
12) AT often speaks of a carrot and stick approach to encouraging people to use public transport. Please supply the most recent documents /records of discussions where AT has addressed “stick” approaches.
Auckland Transport has not generated any specific analysis of ‘stick’ approaches..However, Auckland Transport does undertake a number of demand management initiatives. For example, Auckland Transport is working with other government agencies on the potential for congestion pricing to improve transport outcomes.
Commentary: In most businesses when the operation fails to meet some of its targets,(in this case fuel usage and carbon emissions), the normal response would be to consider all steps to correct the situation.
15) Does AT believe that the target mode share for vehicles of 76% for Takapuna in 2046 is consistent with AT achieving carbon emission targets?
There is no target mode share for vehicles specifically applied to Takapuna.
We assume the 75% figure you are referring to was derived from consultant advice on projected short-stay parking demand in Takapuna, and simply expressed what the estimated demand would equate to in mode share terms.
Commentary: Business activity is expected to triple by 2046 and the population increase four fold. Is Takapuna going to be a hell hole where the town centre is clogged by motor vehicles if 76% of the trips are by car?
The results of these questions show that AT in the area of congestion and carbon emissions has performed as badly as they have done in the area of safety, highlighted in the post of a few weeks ago. This is of course against a backdrop where the government of the time seemed to have little commitment to making real change regarding carbon emissions.
It is a concern that AT still seems to have little in place to make an immediate difference to either congestion or carbon emissions. The big projects like the CRL or the light rail lines are still years away and public transport ridership increases are not matching the increase in travel trips in Auckland.