Portland’s Streetcar services cancelled due to heat damage of the cables.

On Monday, the Board of Auckland Transport (AT) approved the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), a $37 billion ten-year plan of transport investment for the city.

Councillors had reluctantly endorsed the plan last Thursday, on the understanding that Council and AT would together develop a Transport Emissions Reductions Plan that heads the city in a new direction.

Councillors from all parts of Auckland put a lot of collaborative work into the plan, regardless of what they particularly wanted, or their political leanings. I acknowledge and thank them for this.

However, AT’s Board and Council both know the plan fails to achieve the objectives set. 

I believe endorsing and approving the plan was not the best way forward.

Here’s why, and what I think needs to happen now.

Asphalt buckling in the heat wave in Everson, Wa. Credit: Trooper Rocky Oliphant, via twitter.

A temporary plan

When Councillors endorsed the plan at the Planning Committee meeting, there was an acceptance that the plan was temporary, a placeholder for something better. For $37 billion, Councillors reasonably expected an equitable and climate-ready plan, which decreases transport emissions at least in line with Te Tāruke-a-Tāwhiri, i.e. 64% by 2030.

The RLTP only decreases emissions by 1% by 2030. (Note: this includes the government’s new EV feebate scheme and recent changes to the NZ Upgrade Project.)

As Wayne Donnelly, the deputy chair of the AT Board, said:

We are caught [in] a little bit of an odd timing with this RLTP in a way… We will be meeting about this time next year I think, and there will be a number of things that we’ll be taking into account in terms of looking at this particular RLTP… There is a lot in play over the next 6 – 12 months in which we can sort of assess again this RLTP.

The “lot in play” includes the government’s response to the Climate Commission advice, the select committee work on the congestion question, the Auckland Light Rail process, and all the public transport improvements that might be on offer in the 2022 Government Budget.

On top of this is the Transport Emissions Reductions Plan Councillors have requested be prepared to resolve the problems thrown up by the inadequacy of the RLTP. This is the chance to use every lever available, including urban growth management, road space reallocation and behaviour change.

But did approving the plan simply prevent the enormous revolution that could have brought about the paradigm shifts required at both Council and AT?

We saw in Scott’s post on Tuesday, for example, that Council planning officers are nudging urban growth management considerations in the wrong direction. And then there’s AT, and their misunderstanding of cumulative emissions:

Apparently AT has recently reshuffled the reporting lines for the sustainability approach, which might make a big difference. But will it be anything like enough, in time?

AT directing traffic onto Queen St yesterday?!

Skewing the Conversation

The Councillors needed better transport advice, to avoid fretting about “balancing” the “competing” concerns of transport poverty, freight needs, safety, value-for-money and climate change.

A transformational, sustainable plan could resolve all these challenges simultaneously.

Councillor Angela Dalton illustrated the problem in a NZ Herald article yesterday. She is an excellent advocate on equity and transport poverty:

Transport disadvantage most commonly refers to those with limited availability of transport and those unable to access available modes of transport. Locational disadvantage is the difficulty in accessing a range of facilities and resources because of your geography.

Both seem to disproportionately affect communities on the periphery of our city, those often already disadvantaged, where it is common to experience social exclusion, lower health standards, less transport safety, and higher unemployment.

AT should be addressing these problems sustainably. And they could have explained to her that more road capacity will make these problems worse. That the predicted traffic for Mill Rd is unlikely to eventuate unless the project is built. And that the challenge is to decrease the volume of traffic, not “accommodate” (and thereby induce) it. Cr Dalton said:

The South of Auckland desperately needs a transport corridor that allows for a truck lane, bus lane, car lane, cycle lane – they nearly got one after more than 13 years of it being at various stages in the pipeline, only to have it whipped out of their grasp by the Government’s decision earlier this month to axe Mill Rd.

The problem isn’t the lack of a new corridor. South Auckland has a railway line, Great South Road and SH1. The problem is too much traffic, and the way the space has been allocated.

Last year, I discussed with AT the emissions modelling they undertook to prepare the RLTP. These misguided beliefs are examples of what’s getting in the way of Auckland Transport modifying their own programmes to reduce emissions (without waiting for assistance in the form of new government policy):

“Sprawl roads don’t induce trips.”

“AT often allows for capacity reductions – as long as it’s not on the arterials.”

“AT believes a larger emissions reduction from public transport improvements than what the model showed is not pragmatically possible.”

Exhibit A: The Eastern Busway

On the very day they were voting to endorse the RTLP, Councillors learned that this project would be delayed for financial reasons. Understandably disappointed, Howick’s councillors Paul Young and Sharon Stewart voted against the RLTP because of this last-minute change.

The Eastern Busway is set to deliver major public transport and cycling improvements that are way overdue. But in a more sustainable paradigm, these improvements would have been provided – relatively cheaply – some years ago.

Ti Rakau Drive is already wide, with broad lanes and multiple turning lanes at intersections. There’s plenty of space for bus lanes and protected bike lanes, while keeping one general traffic lane in each direction. Buses may need to share with traffic for short stretches to begin with, but incremental improvements over time would resolve these pinch points.

From a resource, network, access, economic, and climate perspective, this is a superior solution.

Instead, the project uses extensive hard engineering to keep existing driving capacity, and even adds more!

Here’s just one of many intersections along the project, by way of example: 

The Eastern Busway will widen Ti Rakau Drive substantially, giving it more traffic lanes as well as adding cycling and bus lanes. Mattson Rd will be diverted through existing houses, to the left, widening it by one lane on the approach. And William Roberts Rd will be pushed through commercial properties from its current dead end to join the intersection.

So although the project is supposed to be about public transport, it’s been approached in a way that involves immense road building and property purchase, to keep people driving.

There’s no wonder our road maintenance costs are spiralling out of control – more lanes mean more tarmac to take care of, for years to come.

Altogether, although it improves traffic choice (and is better than motorway widening and extension projects), the project as designed should really be classified as a “Strategic Road” project, not a Public Transport one. The high cost is all about not changing people’s driving habits, except perhaps to make them easier. (Note that Waka Kotahi is likewise a master at using PT funds to build roads for driving, with State Highway 20B being a perfect example.)

In a climate crisis, this is exactly the sort of project that needs reevaluation, with high-quality, evidence-based communications to help explain why. Leadership.

The RLTP allocations

Almost everything in AT’s programme can be critiqued in the same way. There are alternative solutions to all the road-building projects, of course, but it’s more than just that.

This is how AT break down the $37 billion spend over ten years:

The pie-chart hides the business-as-usual paradigm from view – and prevented Councillors having an informed discussion.

Much of the investments that’s coded as:

  • public transport
  • walking and cycling
  • safety

could have been delivered via road reallocation, much more cheaply, with bigger emissions reductions, and lowering congestion throughout the network – e.g. the Eastern Busway.

And the investments that are counted as:

  • Optimisation and Technology
  • Strategic and Local Roads
  • Spatial Priorities

often cost too much for what they deliver and/or fail to deliver the emissions reductions they could – e.g. the “like for like” renewals programme.

Misunderstandings, or misinformation?

In Thursday’s meeting, Councillor Coom asked AT’s presenting team:

On the public feedback – good to see you recognise it supports choice, active modes, climate action… That’s not where you were in the first summary of feedback. Can you confirm this is an all-of-AT acknowledgement of the direction you’re now on?

And she tweeted

Also to note we got AT to shift on how the public feedback was reported

The public feedback on the draft RLTP was firmly in favour of sustainably addressing climate change. Nine of the public’s ten top priority focus areas were sustainable modes: 

Yet despite this crystal-clear direction from submitters, it seems AT staff had told Councillors the opposite was true: that feedback showed public support for addressing climate change was low. WHY??

They’d also presented the same misinformation in other settings, outside the Council umbrella organisations, where people may not have spotted the discrepancy and pushed back.

This is outrageous, of course. And it follows a worrying pattern of misrepresenting public sentiment.

For example, earlier this year, a myth was circulating amongst AT staff that there is low public support for cycling investment. I tracked the source of that misinformation to an “interesting” interpretation of the results from a survey undertaken in December last year. Unsurprisingly, the results actually showed strong support for cycling. Yet the myth persisted and will have affected meetings and decisions, for the worse.

So, should the RLTP have been endorsed and approved?

I believe rejecting the RLTP would’ve required Auckland Transport to properly confront the mindset and cultural barriers in the organisation that are hindering a successful response to climate change. The Auckland Climate Plan’s modeshare and vkt reduction targets needed to be met, not ignored, and those who don’t understand this need help with the paradigm shift, or moving on.

The AT Board and Councillors are clearly trying to create a successful process in good faith, and the Transport Emissions Reductions Plan is an attempt to develop emissions planning that’s fit for purpose. But all that approving the RLTP has done is allow business-as-usual to continue, making the paradigm shift harder to achieve. If any tool available to insist on bigger change was not used, the public has been let down.

The AT Board needs to re-evaluate their heavy reliance on this document. The AT Board Chair, Adrienne Young Cooper said:

In reaching our decision we did draw confidence from the assessment of how the RLTP meets the requirements of s14 of the LTMA – and that is the provisions that set out what the RLTP must actually contain. We are therefore satisfied that the RLTP we have recommended to you for endorsement complies with the legal requirements. Whilst we have made our decision to recommend the RLTP to you, we are acutely aware of the challenges that climate change poses for Auckland and the planet as a whole…

To me, the technical aspects of this assessment don’t pass a sniff test:

The assessment claims the RLTP aligns with the Land Transport Management Act and with the Government Policy Statement 2021.

The Land Transport Management Act says that the plan must contribute to wellbeing and be in the public interest.

The Council has already laid out what they believe is in the public interest. To keep within our Paris commitments we must: decrease transport emissions by 64% from 2016 levels by 2030.

The RLTP doesn’t achieve this. Indeed how could anyone possibly think it is “in the public’s interest” for the city to be an ongoing contributor to climate crisis events like we’ve seen over the last week? Especially as the science shows that our emissions budget is nearly gone – we need to make the emissions cuts immediately.

The Government Policy Statement says:

A plan that reduces emissions by only 1% in this critical decade cannot be construed as a plan that supports a rapid transition to a low carbon transport system.

In the assessment, AT frontfoots this criticism, blithely stating that:

30. Forecast emissions reductions are consistent with:

  • supporting a rapid transition to a low carbon transport system

Is it the word “supporting” that they think lets them off? Are they saying that the official, $37 billion plan for transport investment in Aotearoa’s biggest city is just in a “supporting role”?

Actually, this RLTP is the main player.

They continue:

Fundamentally, investment in infrastructure or services only has a very minor impact on total emissions, whether positive or negative. Even the biggest projects may only account for changes in the order of one percent of total.

This statement is nonsense. Our high emissions are the result of the poor investment in infrastructure and services that we’ve seen, and they can absolutely be reduced with the right investment in infrastructure and services.

The assessment expresses AT’s passive attitude to climate planning, in which they deny the emissions benefits possible from hands-on improvements to safety, systems change and road reallocation. Active management is required, and within their mandate to deliver.

The assessment then attempts to discredit the value of road space reallocation, which is in fact Auckland’s best chance for a fast and affordable approach to climate investment. Says AT:

General road space reallocation towards cycling and other sustainable modes has also been proposed by submitters as a way of addressing climate issues. This is already occurring as part of the wider cycling programme and projects such as Connected Communities that will provide for bus lanes, bus priority and cycling and safety improvements. As noted, there is no available funding for further reallocation. In practice, it is also likely that gains from deterring car travel through lane reallocation alone would be largely offset by the increase in emissions associated with increased congestion and diversion amongst the remaining traffic. Reallocation of general traffic lanes without additional effective alternatives (which cannot be funded) would also materially reduce the RLTP’s contribution to LTMA objectives around effectiveness and economic, social and cultural public interests. 

We shouldn’t still be arguing this. Road reallocation is well-evidenced – “additional alternatives” aren’t required, we can reduce road capacity, and no, there won’t be an increase in congestion.

Moreover, Auckland Council specifically instructed Auckland Transport to be “courageous” and reallocate road space at least as long ago as 2017. Here’s an excerpt from the Letter of Expectation 2017:

Other cities are vigorously using road reallocation in their decarbonisation plans, because it’s the best value for money, and it delivers results, fast.

As the assessment seems to hinge on the same technical misconceptions plaguing the RLTP itself, where does that leave the AT Board’s reliance on it for their governance?

So where to from here?

Setting up a better-informed team to create a Transport Emissions Reduction Plan was a good move on the part of Auckland Council. To prevent it labouring under the same misconceptions as the RLTP, clear direction should be given immediately. The Board and Councillors must shield the team from pressure to make conventional, non-transformation decisions. Here are some suggestions on just some transport aspects (land use is a whole ‘nother topic):

  1. Treat road safety as a key decarbonisation tool. Despite talking a big talk a few years ago, AT is yet to manifest a comprehensive Vision Zero system. Safety affects all programmes: the freight strategy, operations centre, road renewals, bus contracts, etc. Assume that everything can be overhauled in order to assist modeshift – and decrease emissions – by making it safer to walk, cycle, scoot and roll.
  2. Plan to achieve major vehicle travel reductions via levers within AT and Council’s control (park and ride programme, LTN’s, road reallocation, land use changes, customer service, road optimisation, etc). No need to wait for pricing schemes.
  3. Treat road reallocation as a way to save money, not as an additional cost.
  4. Question “commitments” – take another look at all possible pathways. Programmes can be revamped. Government can no longer justify expanding highways. Contracts can be renegotiated. Defy unreasonable Waka Kotahi rules that impede climate action.
  5. Be an exemplary C40 city.  The C40 network is designed for cities to take climate action because governments are too slow to act. Auckland’s C40 membership is a privilege; follow their advice. The Transport Emission Reductions Plan should include pathways that don’t rely on central government policy changes.

The public are expecting you to lead, not follow.

Finally, some more climate news in the last week, to remind us why this is urgent:

A thread explaining the problems presented by high humid heatwaves, which have become a problem much sooner than predicted, and which ends with:

In Detroit “Heavy rain is forecast to continue for the next six days. This is not normal. We are in a climate emergency.” Credit: Philip Lewis

In Ukraine, temperatures soar. Credit: TUMI, via Twitter:

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  1. A searing indictment Heidi. Thank you for this. So many important quotes to choose from but the final points about Tāmaki Makaurau needing to be prepared to accept climate refugees is particularly salient as we watch Canada hit 49°.

  2. Thank you for positing this Heidi. Someone from AT just yesterday talked about vision zero and how they are in a transformation, and that why Rata Ash being only 5 lanes wide, does not have room for a cycleway and can’t have its speed reduced (again with reference to that 2014 paper that they think says people just ignore posted speed limits if they are reduced).

  3. We are seeing this throughout New Zealand. Transport plans and long term plans now have plenty of words about climate change but when it comes to firm targets for emission reductions and, more importantly, pathways for getting there, the plans instead have embedded within them policies that will often lead to further increases in emissions. In most local authority plans the bulk of transport spending is still going into roads. In Kapiti the goal for transport is ‘users can easily get around the district by their preferred means’.

  4. Thank you for your good analysis of this. It’s shocking to read that AT had to be forced to report on the feedback properly, and makes me question the value of their consultations even more, that mostly don’t seem to result in any action (and often seem to be a justification to do nothing because some submissions rejected any change of the status quo).

    This passage here shows that AT either still don’t understand or choose to completely ignore traffic inducing/reducing:
    “[…] gains from deterring car travel through lane reallocation alone would be largely offset by the increase in emissions associated with increased congestion and diversion amongst the remaining traffic. Reallocation of general traffic lanes without additional effective alternatives (which cannot be funded) would also materially reduce the RLTP’s contribution to LTMA objectives around effectiveness and economic, social and cultural public interests. ”
    “Alternatives” exist, they are just not “effective”, because they don’t have priority. That’s exactly what road space reallocation is about, making the alternatives effective.
    How do we get that into the heads of the planners?

  5. This: “Assume that everything can be overhauled in order to assist modeshift – and decrease emissions – by making it safer to walk, cycle, scoot and roll.”

    Yes! Everything seems set up to make it hard.

  6. Thanks.

    “AT often allows for capacity reductions – as long as it’s not on the arterials.”

    For heaven’s sake; this is beyond a joke.

    1. Pity the majority of staff in AT. Their work is continually ground down by managers cleverly talking out both sides of their mouths at once. Saying what they know the public and politicians want to hear on road reallocation and traffic evaporation, but making sure bullshit like this dominates the processes and the critical documents like this assessment one.

      How to prevent change and protect the silo.

      1. Caitlin, you are half right. Many of them talk out four sides of their mouths because they are two faced.

  7. The ‘plan’ is greenhouse gases get reduced through the ETS system. People choose where they will make changes based on the costs they pay and benefits they gain and any infrastructure changes will be in response to changing demand. The only alternative to that is to allow enthusiasts to design or transport system to suit themselves and then wonder why we squandered money and potentially still have people driving.

    1. Good comment about enthusiasts designed public transport.The new bus network is okay for moving about your neighbourhood but you need to have the kind of mind that can accept having to change services. Do we need to have more direct services. Motorway buses at peak times or a network must be a balance somewhere. Left brain right brain people are wired differently.

      1. Agree with you Royce. I think it is a bit like saying a second-five should always pass, when sometimes it is better to run or kick . In particular I have concerns that the Northern Busway should not be run closed (as if it is a train track) but run more as an open network. Jarret Walkers recent Blog on this https://humantransit.org/2021/04/basics-should-bus-rapid-transit-be-open-or-closed.html takes the middle ground whilst the publicly available BRT Planning Guide says a closed network on average uses 11% to 66% more buses to provide the same service.
        One problem is who do you discuss this with? AT are sticking to what they have worked on for nearly 10 years, transport planners generally do not have BRT skills and it is too technical for politicians.

        1. The Northern Busway does not run ‘closed’ services. Services continue beyond the busway at both ends …

        2. They started with a fully open service and network, and they’ve been steadily shifting to a more closed service model since and continually improving operating cost and increasing patronage as the do so.

          It’s effectively closed on the route from Hibiscus Coast to the city centre, if not a full busway the whole way, barring one route that hops on and off.

          More people use it and its cheaper to run per person. Why would you want to change that?

        3. The reason to change is capacity which under the current model is expected to be reached in the 2030s. There is a limit to how many people you can board per hour at a bus station. Carrying people through that have boarder the bus prior to the busway increases capacity.

        4. Uh, you have it back to front. The boarding limit is about 12,000 people per hour per platform, or over 80,000 people an hour per direction across all the stations.

          The vehicle movements in and out of stations will get congested before you get to a fraction of that. In fact they did when the bought the new network in, the busway gridlocked until they pulled some buses out and built new stops so they didn’t go onto the busway.

          Trying to merge scores of buses on and off the busway at the stations is the very worst thing you could do for capacity.

        5. All this theoretical stuff is not all that relevant. If half a dozen services a day are a bit crowded it shows AT is doing things right. Simarly if bus congestion is becoming a problem then good management would be to run some express and limited stop services and some peak services to destination other than the CDB. Just don’t let the buses run so full that the drivers start missing out stops. It just needs a bit of proactive management.

        6. Exactly Royce, and that’s what AT have been doing since the busway opened. They’ve been doing proactive management and changing the service plan to avoid bus congestion and overcrowding.

          It would be insane to wind that back for some theoretical idea that doesn’t even make sense in theory.

    2. The ETS system isn’t working, for reasons that will continue to exist. I’m surprised you’ve put yourself in this economists’ camp, miffy.

      Did you miss this section in the Weekly Roundup a couple of weeks ago?
      Why carbon pricing is not sufficient to mitigate climate change—and how “sustainability transition policy” can help. https://www.pnas.org/content/117/16/8664

      It’s obvious to most people that people choose from safe and convenient options available to them, which depends on the legacy systems they are required to use. Carbon pricing in transport is critical for gaining revenue to help change those systems. It’s useful for shifting some people in some decisions. It’s utterly useless for shifting most decisions – because safe and convenient infrastructure for active travel doesn’t exist, and people don’t have that choice.

      1. Yes I wrote “The Emissions Trading Scheme is deeply flawed, it is incomplete and also subject to politics but it has a much greater chance of working than the bullshit being proposed in the paper linked above. The concept that ‘we are out of time and must do whatever works’ is code for ‘we want to use this crisis to advance our transformative agenda’. They are saying why waste a crisis. Cap and Trade systems like ETS are in my view 2nd best to a simple carbon tax. But even cap and trade will get us there with the least pain so long as the carbon price is realistic. But somehow we are losing our way. The Climate commission is helping, they are selling pain instead or relief. Time to get the enthusiasts out of the picture and simply adopt a complete ETS. (or dump it for a carbon tax, but it is probably too late to change horses now.)”

    3. “People choose where they will make changes based on the costs they pay and benefits they gain and any infrastructure changes will be in response to changing demand.”
      And how possibly is that going to work in the real world with the enormity of changes that are required – say if you accept that transport emissions have to decrease by 50% by 2030? With a lead time for light rail of seven years or more, what will people do in the meantime? What happens when city bus stops are absolutely clogged? Where do the affordable EVs come from? If you can’t afford petrol do you just sit at home? At what point when people start to demand more public transport do we build it? Is the survey that Heidi reproduced not reflective of demand?
      Just at the moment it seems that “enthusiasts,” informed by seeing and reading of other cities success may have more to offer than those who should know. In the current environment, (of a 200 year flood; of two floods on the East Coast; of a tornado in Sth Auckland; of a water crisis in Hamilton and Auckland; the threat of flooding in Wellington; a power crisis; all in the last four weeks. How much more evidence do you want that the climate crisis is real?) a 1% proposed cut in transport emissions is just rocks in the head stuff.

      1. The alternative to pricing is have a government and a climate commission set arbitrary targets for each sector. The Herald has claimed some carbon reductions by the Government are currently costing $1000 per tonne. If we fund expensive reductions like that how much carbon do you really think we will pay to reduce? Through the ETS we can reduce a hell of a lot more carbon at $50 per tonne and achieve much more. Surely we should do as much as we can. The carbon price has to increase to get reductions and it has to cover all sectors but the ETS was designed to do that. So please explain to me why we should choose a more expensive way of reducing carbon over the cheapest way.

        1. Urgency. We need the systems built now.

          Don’t forget that WK’s modelling still claims road building eases congestion and therefore reduces emissions. So using the ETS can lead to more road building. When in fact road building induces traffic and increases emissions.

          But even if they sorted the ETS properly and sorted the modelling properly, it’s just too late. The horse has bolted. We’re fucked unless we get a leader to cut through all the bullshit. The sector bullshit. The economists’ bullshit. The backlash bullshit.

        2. Heidi the mistake you are making is in thinking there is some alternative action we can take to being fucked. That is a given. But if our goal is to reduce carbon then we will reduce more of it through reducing where it is cheapest. If we spend our limited resource reducing a few expensive tonnes then we will end up reducing less carbon. We might not reduce any if we allow the process to be used to further someone else’s agenda. Take CRL as an example. Will it reduce carbon? Probably not if we then fill up the city with more people who will then drive on weekends or have partners who drive. But if we correctly price their carbon then they will either use public transport or buy an EV or reduce their travel. Pricing or a carbon tax are the only realistic options. But they have to be on all sectors and set high enough to bite.

        3. And the mistake you’re making is ignoring the low – in fact, negative – abatement costs of providing *safety* so people can switch to travelling actively.

          It is cheap to change the default urban speed limit to 30 km/hr. Where’s that in the abatement charts? Ignored. Saves us money, in fact, over the piecemeal expensive stuff we’re doing. And with enforcement, will help deliver active mode safety. We already know that speed cameras pay for themselves early.

          It is way cheaper to reallocate road space to active modes and to put in LTN’s than attempting to add cycle lanes the way AT is doing it.

          The reason we’re not doing these things isn’t because its a more expensive way of reducing carbon. It’s not. An ETS wouldn’t help make these decisions. But they would start to provide the actual infrastructure required so that Johnny and his Mummy can cycle to the park for a play instead of having to drive. Can actually make that “Rational Economic Man” decision that you think is what’s driving them.

          The reason we’re not doing these things is inertia.

          Sure, pricing helps. But it doesn’t provide the missing modal options available for a low carbon transport system.

        4. See that is all great stuff if your goal is to improve active modes or improve safety but none of us know what impact positive or negative it might actually have on carbon. You have hope. Changing a lane from cars to cycling might not displace those people from cars to bikes. It might create a few new trips and force others to sit in congestion longer. Some might move away and drive further. If we don’t know why people do what they do then we can’t possibly know what impacts policies have on them. But pricing is well understood. Higher prices result in less used (except for Giffen goods and they probably dont exist and carbon isn’t one of those). Telling folks what to do and building expensive stuff isn’t going to reduce carbon. It will do something but not necessarily what you want. Then we will face higher emissions and smaller cash reserves to address them with. The best thing we can do is demand full coverage for the ETS and demand a carbon price higher than $35 per tonne because that isn’t high enough.

        5. Providing no safe cycling infrastructure, barely anything for walking, and unreliable bus services is telling people what to do. Any theory that relies on people being able to switch behaviours requires the options to be ones they can actually, pragmatically choose.

          You’re being obstinate about this issue. Why?

          Also, planning for climate relies on using all tools, including both:

          – established tools like pricing with easy-to-plug-into-the-model elasticities, and
          – new tools like road reallocation which are well-evidenced traffic evaporation techniques. If you choose not to keep up with the research on traffic evaporation and how all the levers together can assist each other, it’s a bit hard to discuss this.

        6. The trouble with cycling spending is that this Government wants to squander a billion dollars on one bridge.
          The reality is that in order to create active mode shift, there needs to be a connected system. The billion bucks spent to allow rich people in Lycra from Takapuna sip flat whites in Ponsonby could build 300kms of top notch separated cycle paths elsewhere.
          As for the ETS, until NZ price the carbon at a realistic level ($500 per tonne), it’s just lip service to our emissions reduction targets.

        7. This is a $37 billion RLTP budget; a minimum of $7.4 billion of that should be spent on walking and cycling, according to the UN. That’ll get us the city-wide quality connected cycling network we need, especially if done through road reallocation and with LTN’s as required for climate action. The trickiest part of the network is getting across the harbour; it is no wonder it’ll be the biggest individual cost but at less than 10% of the walking and cycling budget it’s still a good spend.

          Alternatively if the remaining $6.715b is not sufficient for the network, we could take a traffic lane on the harbour bridge to provide the connection instead.

        8. The bridge is not the most important connection in Auckland. It kind of only serves Takapuna, Birkenhead and Northcote to the CBD. Anywhere else on the shore and you may as well take the Ferry or go via upper Harbour.
          It’s an offensive spend and thankfully I am already hearing the Government has given up on it.
          I don’t see a lane on the bridge being given up to active mode until the AWHC is open. More voters drive cars than will ever ride bikes and at the end of the day, all politicians have to reapply for their jobs every 3 years.
          I think the active mode contribution to GHG reduction has been overstated, as has the uptake of EV’s. This will inevitably result in some punitive measures in the future (higher taxes on carbon), road pricing etc. It will probably also mean we do not meet targets (we won’t be the only country) as we don’t really want to spend the money we need to reach full compliance. Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.

        9. Why is this link not important, Daniel? Because there aren’t many workplaces on the Shore? If it’s not important to people on bikes, then surely it won’t be important to the people on buses or in most of the cars on the bridge? E-bikes mean the distance excuse has gone. And transport planning has moved on from Commuter Bias or Business Bias. because they are highly inequitable. This link is important. All you’re doing is expressing values that are on their way out.

          And you think voters won’t give up a lane. First, what are you basing that on? The Herald? Talk back? You don’t know this. The national conversation about road reallocation for climate action hasn’t been had.

          Finally, stereotyping people who’ll use the bridge in the way you have done is prejudice, plain and simple. No one is commenting on drivers’ clothes or what they drink, nor should they, and nor should they comment on the clothes and drinks of people who ride bikes. These things are irrelevant. Also, they are an incorrect stereotype.

          But stereotypes of this particular kind are known to incite cycling hate, which is dangerous. Don’t do it on this website again.

  8. Looks to me like the Board set aside their concerns to allow the machinery to continue. Smoothed over the crisis. Avoided probing deeply enough to understand.

    You say the Councillors worked hard. I’d say some did. Some made comments in the meeting that were pretty tragic.

    I had forgotten that about C40; cities do need to do it for themselves, and stop waiting for further instruction. And urbanist twitter is showing AT how to make better decisions, day after day.

  9. AT continues to not implement its Parking Policy in terms of demand responsive pricing. Town Centre after town centre still does not have paid parking, despite being full; and those that do have paid parking are not being priced as occupancy hits the 85% peak time occupancy levers.

    Honestly it is outrageous that i can park in the brand new Toka Puia Car Park for $1 an hour. It is now full most days. Why isnt the price going up? It will be because the Local Board is screaming that it will kill the town centre…

    Two key things that will help…

    A portion of Parking revenue for a finished Financial year should be applied as a subsidy to PT ticket costs for the following year. This would at least start to show the link to the public that the more we pay for parking the cheaper PT will get (removing the car subsidy)

    Second, a portion of all revenue should be put aside for the Local Board to spend on town centre/community based improvements.

    Again this is an easy linkage for people to follow and would assist with safer neighbourhoods/more livable neighbourhoods.

    If you think about it. If Gen zero was sueing for Mill road, you could arguably do the same thing for AT not implementing the Parking Policy. Has a huge effect on vkt.

    Until we start charging for Parking, people will not shift to PT. No matter how bright and shiny it is.

    1. Just wait until the parking minimums are removed from the Unitary Plan so developers dont have to provide any. Give it two years after that and communities will be demanding that AT and the Council build public carparks. Perhaps they should start budgeting for it now.

      1. So let them demand it, if AT can make the business case stack up let them build it. I doubt it will, remember Toka Puia was not paid for by AT.

        1. Ha. Neither the Council nor AT have ever let a business case hold them back when there is political pressure. Council’s have always built parking buildings that didn’t stack up financially and AT are building CRL despite the Treasury saying it had a B/C ratio of 0.4 to 0.6. Just wait until the problem becomes apparent and the Council will revert to how all Council’s behaved before parking minimums put responsibility on developers.

        2. You can make anything stack up with a business case. Te Huia for example.

  10. I caught the 70 bus from Panmure station to Pakuranga plaza the other day the work on the busway and roadway is very impressive. Could it have being done cheaper I expect it could of if it was as easy as having less traffic lanes still a new bridge was necessary. The buses were quite full both way around lunchtime. Still if the Eastern busway could be as popular as the Northern one then it would be a good thing to press ahead as quickly as possible to complete it. But in the meantime maybe some buses could run the south Eastern motorway as well. See my comment above.
    As an aside half the shops in the Plaza was empty.

    1. Agree, it is very perfect. The total width of construction is about 100 meters. The road is built to high standards at double the $cost (my guess) has thick layers of base material and double thickness of asphalt so it will last for 100 years.
      When they extend to Botany at their rate or progress it will take at least 5 years.

  11. I agree with you about Te Rakau Dr. It is about 20 meters wide with 4 car lanes and parking space on each side. Walmsley Rd in Otahuhu is about 10 meters wide with 2 car lanes and 2 bus lanes and no parking. The AT enforcement people with cameras do good business on Walmsley Street.
    Both roads are very busy.
    Te Rakau could easily and at low cost have bus lanes built in a few weeks. The bus trip from Pakuranga to Botany is too long at peak times.
    Please councillors also listen to the wishes of the people who use PT and care about the environment.

    1. Yeah Walmsley Road in Otahuhu works and carries a lot of trucks as well as the buses in the transit lane. The work from Panmure to Pakuranga is nearing completion the Bus stop at Botany sort of works although there are a lot of traffic lights but then cars need to negotiate them as well. So it would seem to me to be reasonably easy to set up some temporary bus lanes and traffic light priority for buses along Te Rakau drive. Maybe there is some bus priority there already. Maybe it doesn’t need to be as gold plated as what the engineers would like not great but better than nothing. Anything would be better than waiting 7 or 8 years.

      1. Agree again Royce.
        AT and NZTA won’t do basic, low cost but effective things. Everything takes too long.
        Have they actually ever built some bikeways to any schools in Auckland?
        Pop up bikeways must be very easy to plan and install

  12. It is clear that “Mother Nature” is flexing her muscles across the world at the moment,with some local examples thrown in ,to capture the attention of NZ.
    One has to presume that our planners/politicians are parents/grandparents, surely they can see the dire straits, we are in, and ” fiddling while Rome burns”, is a massive disservice to their future generations .
    Like the ice block ” test” in previous posts, l like the grandchild on grandparent,s knee “test”.(“What did you do about climate change, grandma/grandad?”). If you are in a position of influence,anything less than ,”l was part of the movement for change”, is letting future generations down.

  13. Brilliant Heidi.
    We are never going to reduce transport emissions in the immediate future without taking cars off the road. This requires reprovisioning traffic lanes. Every organisation wants to tackle climate change as long as it doesn’t involve them doing anything significant!

    1. Toka Puia is indeed a disgrace. Up until yesterday you could have parked for 50cents per hour with the parking app.

      The Parking Policy isn’t worth a bucket of shit. I fought the building of the TP car park right up to the Ombudsman, and finally AT advanced that as the Parking Strategy was only a policy they were in no way bound by it. And that is the way that they behave – all over Auckland as you suggest.

      And the way to fix it – enshrine it as a bylaw. In a climate emergency how long should that take?

      Parking prices should be reviewed annually as happens with PT fares. And why is evening parking free in most areas as well as Sundays? There is no logical reason.

      Despite Heidi’s gracious words about councilors working together, working together to achieve nothing has little value. Remember a !% reduction is only a target and when has Auckland ever achieved emissions targets?

      1. Thinking out loud here – Has anyone ever added up all the public owned carparking spaces in Auckland?

        Then apply some arbitrary rule of parking must recover 50% of the cost to provide it? (like what public transport is meant to)

        See if parking is stacking up … or is it being even more subsidised than public transport.

        1. It would heavily depend on how you count it.
          Some money from regos goes to councils to spend on parking (I think?) does that count as subsidy? or user pays.
          A lot of street parking is included in the road essentially. Who pays for that? parking, or road user charges / petrol tax.
          Then there’s all the externalized costs, which are even harder to calculate, and attribute to specific categories.

        2. It surely couldn’t stack up. The maintenance of all the on-street car parks is bundled into the roads renewals programme budget. I don’t think it gets split it up into traffic lanes vs parking areas. You only really need 6.4m on a road to provide two traffic lanes but you’ll see that lots and lots and lots of roads are wider than 6.4m. Anything over that and you’re generally providing it for parking. So anytime your rates money gets spent on maintenance of a street a significant portion is going towards maintaining the parking. Not only that but most of that parking will sit empty most days all day. Good use of your ratepayer money?

    2. ‘ Everybody wants to tackle climate change as long as it doesn’t involve them doing anything significant!’

      Fixed that for ya. It’s why everyone says they want action on climate change then jumps in their car and drives to work.

  14. Without a doubt, the council needs to do more. Roads are rated last of the ten priorities from submissions, and no roads and number six. Clearly the populations wants movement in a climate friendly, alternative transport direction. How the council can read those statistics and seemingly ignore them, I do not understand.

  15. “(Note that Waka Kotahi is likewise a master at using PT funds to build roads for driving, with State Highway 20B being a perfect example.)”

    Ah, Heidi but they are skillful in doing so much more than this. They are adept at spending huge amounts of money once people leave their cars and walk. An example is the current Takapuna Streets for people. The plan here is to have wind shelters. Where you ask? From the new car park up to Lake Road. See the piece from the consultation document:

    “Are the wind/rain shelters permanent structures?
    All the shelters are temporary structures to test their effectiveness. These will be replaced with permanent structures if they work.
    There are no wind shelters proposed for Northcroft Street. If they are successful in Huron, we could install these in both streets as part of a long-term solution.
    There are two types of shelters. Some provide overhead shelter and protection from the wind to make sitting outside more comfortably. The others (in front of the Sentinel tower) are to provide protection from the rain for people where there currently is none.

    So what’s in this streetscaping for cyclists – remember there are a many cycle parks in the building? Nothing – no bike lane.

    So what is there for buses – this is a RTN? Worse than nothing! When the Takapuna buses turn from Huron onto Lake AT propose to put a zebra crossing to impeded their flow. (This is just a further downgrading of this route after the proposal to downgrade the Esmonde Road bus lane to a transit lane.)

    Talking of that 82 bus route: if you want to change at Victoria Park to the NEX1 is there a wind shelter there? On what major bus routes do WK or AT build wind shelters? I am not advocating for them, but why does Huron St need them for a car park? For those who don’t know the street it has about 50 houses and a couple of apartments. It’s not for residents.

    And while we are talking about a safe passage from Huron St, how hard would it be for Panuku to repaint the walk way along the service lane adjacent to Madam Woo?

    Toka Puia – a project that just keeps taking and taking.

  16. Great, we’ll researched post, Heidi. Well done.
    Reply to Miffy above. ETS & Carbon Taxes can help though miss the point: Climate Change is a collective action problem and those two are anything but collective action responses. They make the usual laisse fair assumption that the sum of a market of individual responses will all add up to the ‘right’ market response. Bad assumption a little bit of the right policies & regulation will be much more effective.

    1. Simply not true. The ETS creates the ‘missing market’. Missing markets is one of the three ways to ensure externalities are internalised and addressed when people make choices. There is no reason to think collective action is needed so long as people face the true cost of their decisions. Also there is no reason to believe that some authority imposing choices onto others in any more ‘collective’ than a market is.

      1. Such purity in the theory. But it’s so utterly out of touch with the real world, where making choices depend on infrastructure, building infrastructure depends on accepting what needs to done, acceptance lags behind understanding, understanding lags behind science.

      2. Miffy, I only studied economics to 300 level so you might need to explain to me how the demand curve is going to work for say reducing flying. At the moment the carbon charge for a flight Akl -Wgtn is about $1.60. How high does the carbon charge need to be to significantly reduce demand? 10x higher? If the carbon charge is 10x higher how will many in lower economic groups afford petrol? Will it be economic for Genesis to run their dirty energy plants at Huntly?

        1. Wrong question John. If you did stage 3 then you will already know the whole point is carbon gets reduced where the opportunity cost is lowest. That might not be flying to Wellington. Who cares where it occurs. The point is the carbon price gets increases until total net emissions are reduced to zero. The reduction might not even by in New Zealand. If you did stage 3 then borrow a copy of Hal Varian’s Microeconomic Analysis, it covers externalities fully. If you don’t like maths then get his stage 2 text Intermediate Microeconomics it covers similar ground without the calculus.

        2. Lol. Yes, Economics even at Stage 3 probably did leave students believing “the whole point” is x… ignoring the enormous co-benefits of repairing the transport system’s and society’s dysfunction. How economic theories have been applied has conventionally been to simplify things to an impractical level like this.

  17. Thank you Heidi,
    “Buses may need to share with traffic for short stretches to begin with, but incremental improvements over time would resolve these pinch points.”
    What do we need to do to make the merging of buses to the traffic flow from bus stops smooth by the traffic lane halting to allow it to merge.
    The compulsory give way to right turning buses by following traffic needs tob e implemented not just talked about.

    1. Choosing the right type of bus stop for the situation is important. Where this is a problem there should probably be an inline bus stop. Delays to drivers will be trivial compared to the benefits – unless there’s something about the bus or system design that’s slowing passengers getting on or off (or that’s delaying the buses so there are more passengers per stop).

      And yes, the delay to the Accessible Streets legislation is unacceptable. It’s impacting public and active transport in multiple ways. Really annoying.

  18. The Canadian town I included in the post for its record temperature, Lytton, broke Canada’s records for high temperatures, for three days in a row.

    Today, it burnt to the ground in a wildfire. Here’s hoping that everyone got out – they had been given an evacuation order but not a lot of time.

    1. Heidi, quite right, the problem is already of immense proportions.

      I see that Brasil is still hell bent on destroying the Amazon which will probably end everything, so maybe we don’t have to worry.

      It’s a difficult choice for the people of Brasil. Do they reelect a climate criminal, Bolsonaro, or Lula who is just an out and out criminal.

  19. soon they will run out of abbreviations for their plans. Was any of them even followed in the past. I’m sick of their plans I want something build not just pay millions to next generations of consultants.

  20. Heidi, again thank you,
    As i see it the inline bus stop holds up the subsequent buses when the whole q stops for however long the loading takes. I would rather see the of lane bus stop with priority joining for buses at all times.

    1. Yes that works in some situations, too. And that legislation would’ve fixed it. I think we need to ask some questions about the delay.

      Of course, reducing traffic takes the pressure off either system.

  21. Thanks Heidi.
    $37B / 10yr transport spend and for a 1% decrease in emissions for transport.
    no funds available for road space allocation (which will save money)
    councilors being advised “low public support for walking and cycling investment”
    Im thinking our councilors and their roading authorities are the wrong tools for the job. Auckland just purchased a ticket to the wrong future.
    Thanks again Heidi – how do we get to 64%/2016 reduction by 2030 ??

    1. I think directing the question to me rather than AC/AT is the point of the question, and you can probably answer it as well as me. 🙂 But I’ll answer anyway, for others reading. In addition to the basic ideas I listed above, there’s more detail in these:


      We need leadership. Critical to the process is first class engagement, with a proper conversation about how decarbonising transport will provide a system that’s cheaper, quieter, provides more access, is safer and much more healthy and equitable.

      And the leadership needs to be advised by people who understand the political economy of car dependence and how it is manifested in our transport sector. They can quickly discover the problems by working backwards from each bad decision and seeing what was in place that caused it. But a more informed team that already knows what the problems are and can advise how to fix them is needed.

  22. “Simarly if bus congestion is becoming a problem then good management would be to run some express and limited stop services and some peak services to destination other than the CDB.”

    Try to keep up. This is already happening, with the NX2 travelling to the Education Precinct.

  23. Who in AT signed off this fundamental and old-fashioned misunderstanding that traffic is a liquid, not a gas?

    “gains from deterring car travel through lane reallocation alone would be largely offset by the increase in emissions associated with increased congestion and diversion amongst the remaining traffic.”

    Imagine being a board member or councillor realising you’ve been fed such horseshit to make crucial decisions with?

    Still seems like only firings can urgently fix that deep organisational sickness. No time for gentle navel-gazing amongst senior managers.

    1. That’s the question that needs to be asked, Sacha. And this is one of so many things they approve that are eye-rollingly archaic. There are many things they could unravel quickly if they just had enough nous to ask a few pertinent questions.

      One persistent failure has been Board appointments. There’s no one on the Board with an understanding of the technical changes that the transport sector has to make. Being an expert in either transport or climate change is insufficient. They need someone aware of the specific barriers to safety transformation or climate action within transport. They are currently looking for someone with a background in audit and risk management, but don’t seem to understand that this desperately needs broadening to the new risk management of the climate disaster and climate law risk era.

    2. Who knew going carbon neutral was as easy as reallocating a few lanes. I will stop worrying about climate change and why our carbon price is only $35 per tonne. Turns out all we need to do is create a few empty cycle lanes and create a big queue of cars.

      1. Oh Miffy. So much sarcasm.
        Don’t you realise that all we need to do to fix the whole world is get rid of all the cars and force everybody onto bikes and trains. Easy.

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