Every weekend we dig into the archives. This post was first published in April 2011.

One of the main pieces of transport policy released this year will be the 2012-2015 Government Policy Statement for transport. While the GPS won’t take effect until July 2012, it is supposed to be released to the public by July 2011. My opinion of the current GPS is well known, so it will be interesting to see whether the next GPS is also stuck in the 1960s. Early signs are not particularly positive, and it will be interesting to see what comes out of Auckland Council’s engagement in the process.

Developing the next GPS has been, and will continue to be, a major piece of work for the Ministry of Transport up until the July release date. So to check what the MoT is getting up to, a friend of mine kindly made an OIA request for all documents prepared by the Ministry in relation to developing this important piece of policy. I’m still trawling my way through the list of 20 or so large documents he got in response to the request, and I imagine there will potentially be a number of posts on the issue to write over the next couple of weeks, but one paper that I have read so far – and which is quite interesting – is MoT’s analysis of current transport trends and issues facing New Zealand. Here’s a copy of that paper.

Going through it, there are a number of sections worth commenting on. The first bit that I find interesting is the analysis of the ‘Auckland situation’:I think that perhaps this is the closest we’re ever going to get from the MoT that Auckland’s capacity to build more roading infrastructure in Auckland is extremely limited. In my mind this is one of the most fundamental reasons for Auckland to need to focus on improving its PT system: we simply can’t build any more roads without destroying the quality/amenity of our city. The Ministry seem to have a basic understanding of this – I wonder if they can hammer some sense into their Minister on this matter.

The paper then has an interesting discussion in trends (both recent past and projected future) on car ownership and ‘vehicle kilometres travelled’ rates. Let’s look at car ownership rates first:I must say that levels of car ownership, and the driving factors behind those levels, are one area of transport trends that I don’t have a particular great grasp of – so it’s insightful to see what the MoT’s thinking. Next, with VKT the trend is something I know about a bit more, from following NZTA state highway volume data over the past few years:I suppose that it’s just my inquisitive mind at work, but I would have really liked to see a bit more information on this particular matter if I were making decisions about where to spend transport funds over the next decade. What exact changes in VKT have we seen over the past 4-5 years? How has VKT fluctuated and what seem to be the main causes of its fluctuation? What are MoT’s predictions for fuel prices in the next 5 to 10 years and how might they impact on VKT levels? This is a pretty key issue – as after all, if you aren’t having more cars driving further on your roads then you don’t really need more roads.

Surprisingly little is said about public transport – I suppose because it must be pretty embarrassing for MoT to see PT patronage in Auckland grow by over 20% over the past three years while traffic levels are static – while they continue to oversee billions of dollars being poured into new state highways.It would be nice to know a little bit more about their expectations of PT patronage growth over the next 5-10 years. Particularly if that’s tied in with what might happen if petrol prices increase significantly.

Another section that I find interesting to read is MoT’s assessment land-use changes in Auckland. In particular, it’s curious to see that in this document they are suggesting Auckland’s growth patterns over the past decade have ‘changed’ quite considerably from historic trends; whereas in the papers they put together for the government’s feedback on the Auckland Spatial Plan they made quite the opposite argument:

Finally, a section that I found interesting to read was MoT’s assessment of the connections between land-use and transport patterns and how it seemed (from their research I suppose) that how close to the centre of the city one is has a greater impact on the sustainability of transport choices than pure density measurements:I guess that means those apartments in Flat Bush will end up being the worst of all worlds. I’m not particularly surprised.

Overall, it’s definitely useful to have an insight into the background work that is informing what MoT contributes to the upcoming Government Policy Statement. As I noted at the start of this post I still have plenty of documents to read through and analyse (and I’m trying to work through them chronologically from earliest to most recent) so it will be interesting to see where all this background work has led.

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