With the election date getting closer, yesterday the Greens released their transport policy, and there’s a lot to like with it.
Like you’d expect based on their previous policies, the focus of the policy is on reducing emissions and improving safety as well as public health and that these goals can be achieved by making it easier and more attractive to use non-car modes and reducing emissions for the wider vehicle fleet. Their own summary they say:
Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make healthier, vibrant communities a reality while tackling the climate crisis and rebuilding the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. We can deliver fast, frequent, clean transport options that put communities on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Green Party will:
- Sustainably reboot regional economies with a large scale investment in rapid, intercity passenger rail, connecting provincial centres with major cities.
- Invest in urban development by accelerating transformational rapid transit networks in our major cities, including busways, light rail, and commuter rail.
- Provide safe, separated school and commuter cycling routes with the capacity to be used by thousands of people each day, with a $1.5 billion Cycle Super Highway fund.
- Make public transport free for everyone under 18, over 65, and community service card holders; half price for students; and more affordable for everyone else through a nationwide Go Anywhere transport pass.
- Introduce a target date linked to the date set by the UK, likely to be 2030, at which point only zero emission light vehicles (cars, vans, and utes) would be able to be imported into Aotearoa.
- Set standards and incentivise heavy freight to transition to zero emissions vehicles and be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050.
There is more detail on each of these seven key focus areas as well as some more specific details on them for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I won’t cover every aspect above but here are some of the most interesting.
The Greens Regional Rail is what they put out earlier this year and envisages a two stage approach to improving our regional rail network.
Stage one which would take till 2027 and is estimated to cost about $2 billion. It involves upgrading and electrifying parts of the network to enable services up to 110km/h between:
- Wellington to Palmerston North and Masterton
- Auckland to Tauranga
- Ashburton to Rangiora
Stage two is expected to take till 2035 and extends that quality to a number of other places while the routes identified in the first stage will see major improvements to allow for services up to 160km/h. This is expected to cost about $7.3 billion
They’ve included a breakdown of their expected costs and service levels.
Cycling Super Highways
The Greens policy would provide for a massive step up in funding for walking/cycling/micro-mobility with a massive $1.5 billion contestable fund for our major cities.
The say councils will be responsible for identifying eligible routes and paths will need to be at least 2 to 5 metres with the aim of enabling “cycling to become a form of mass transit, supporting large numbers of daily users travelling by bike, ebike, and e-scooter”. Also they include some criteria:
Councils will be eligible to receive funding to build a Cycle Super Highway if the route is:
- Continuous, linking several outer suburbs to the centre of a city.
- Fully protected, either through its own off-road right of way or protected from car traffic on a road.
- Direct, connecting people to where they need to go along efficient routes, not dog-legging through the backs of suburbs.
- Able to start construction within the next three years and be complete within 24 months of construction starting.
- Designed in a way that provides for cycling and walking to be separated
Overall this would be amazing if it was able to be delivered but that’s where the challenge will likely be. That’s because there’s a high-likelihood that some local authorities just wouldn’t bother doing anything about applying for that funding and therefore the fund will go unspent – I’m looking at you Auckland Transport.
Last election the Greens adopted our Congestion Free network and that appears to be the basis for their policy again this time. One major change, and something that we’ve also called for recently, is they’re looking to split the delivery of rapid transit into two stages, much like with the regional rail plans.
In this case stage one would be to fast-track bus priority measures over the coming three years on all rapid transit routes. A case of quickly getting the network in place in a way similar to what Auckland Transport are proposing for the Northwest, and then coming back and putting in the permanent solution. This would mean that by the time the City Rail Link is completed, that the entire RTN network, in some form, is operational.
Stage one would also give time to plan, design and consent the permanent solutions for each of the RTN routes and stage two would see them being rolled out.
The Greens also still support street level light rail over more expensive light metro or heavy rail solutions for the City Centre to Mangere route as well as the Northwest and eventually the North Shore. They also say they’re proposing a more optimised solution.
We propose delivering an optimised above-ground light rail line to deliver a fast, higher capacity service, including:
- A train every 4 minutes at peak times.
- Travel time of 40 minutes from the Airport to the city centre.
- Capacity to carry up to 21,600 passengers per hour in each direction.
- Grade separation for three quarters of the journey allowing speeds up to 100km/h (i.e. not sharing the road).
- Street level services through the city, Dominion Road, Onehunga, and the airport with 30-50km/h top speeds
The advantage of an above-ground light rail line is that it can deliver most of the benefits of a metro system at a substantially lower cost. That means we can afford to extend the light rail network further, faster, including to the north western suburbs and the North Shore.
The savings come from avoiding tunnelling and not building large underground stations which cost several hundred million dollars (compared to tens of millions for surface platforms) and require significant property purchases and disruption. Street-level light rail is also more easily accessible for people with mobility issues.
The Greens are also committing to a rapid transit only new harbour crossing to start before 2030.
The Cycle Super Highway funding will obviously also apply in Auckland and the say that while it’s a contestable fund that will have projects determined independently, they think the following routes would be good candidates.
- A Northern Cycle Highway connecting the city to Takapuna and Albany via a dedicated walking and cycling path over the Harbour bridge and a continuous off-road path north. The entire cycleway is estimated to cost around $600 million, however, only the section between Akoranga and Constellation Drive requires new funding.
- A Southern Cycle Highway connecting the CBD to Newmarket, Ellerslie, Penrose, Manukau, and Māngere. This could connect to the section already funded and in construction between Takanini and Papakura, and the planned extension to Drury as part of the motorway expansion.
- An Eastern Cycle Highway connecting the eastern suburbs of Botany, Pakuranga, Panmure, Glen Innes, and Orakei to the CBD. This would involve completing the final stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki project and building a new cycleway from Glen Innes to Panmure. It could then connect to the shared path under construction as part of the AMETI busway.
- A Western Cycle Highway connecting the western suburbs of New Lynn, Glen Eden, and Glendene to Avondale and the existing connection to the North Western Cycleway.
This seems like a good approach from the Greens
I won’t go into the specifics (go to their policy for that) but here are the maps for Wellington and Christchurch too.
All up they say their proposals will cost $13.6 billion over the coming decade which will come from $10.3 billion in new capital spending and $3.3 billion being reallocated from the National Land Transport Fund and NZ Upgrade Programme by deferring deferring or scaling back some of the projects in them.
Overall the policy is good seems fairly practical, unlike the $60 billion boondoggle promises National have been making.
If there was any criticism is that it perhaps could have gone further. For example, they celebrate the shift in spending over the last three years to focus more on road safety but I’m surprised they didn’t mention the change to Vision Zero and also for this policy, having a focus around that ongoing programme, it’s certainly not ‘finished’. In addition, it would have been nice to see some focus on further encouraging the uptake of e-bikes to make use of those cycle super highways. Finally, perhaps one of the things the last three years has highlighted is that remain some structural issues that prevent/delay progress that need to be addressed and without that happening, much of this might not succeed. Finally, it would have been good with their Go Anywhere card if they had incorporated something like removing FBT from PT as part of encouraging businesses to offer PT passes as options.