Auckland Council has released a very encouraging, 80 page document: the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP).
The TERP describes what is required for Auckland to successfully reduce transport emissions in line with Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan.
To be clear, the TERP is a pathway, not a to-do list. It doesn’t give an exhaustive list of projects Auckland Transport and Auckland Council need to undertake. And this is why we at Greater Auckland are impressed; it works at a more fundamental and effective level than this. As well as setting objectives across many areas, the TERP describes the changes needed to the planning system itself, to ensure we achieve our transport emissions reductions targets by 2030.
Councillors are being asked to approve the TERP at Thursday’s meeting of the Environment and Climate Change Committee meeting. Here are links:
- The full TERP (the 80 page document)
- The TERP summary (a 12 page precis)
- The Global Evidence Base for TERP (full of excellent comparative examples)
- The TERP Committee Report (quick paragraphs for easy reading)
Will it lead to action?
We are hopeful that adopting the TERP will lead to action, because it has the support of the Auckland Transport Board, according to their latest meeting minutes:
And the recommendations to Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee were clear about the governance required:
d) instruct Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to embed implementation of the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway through all of their activities, including future updates to key transport planning and funding processes such as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project and the Regional Land Transport Plan, and land use policy such as the Future Development Strategy and the Auckland Unitary Plan.
i) note that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport will develop a proposed governance and monitoring framework to oversee the implementation of the TERP, for approval by the Environment and Climate Change Committee (or its equivalent) in early 2023.
k) instruct Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to immediately commence implementation of actions earmarked for delivery in the first two years of the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway, including advocating to central government for supporting action.
In addition, following the TERP is the most affordable way forward for our city. Car-dependent transport systems are very expensive but don’t deliver on our goals. With the rising costs of fossil fuels, carbon mitigation strategies, and land – and the economic risk of trade sanctions for poor climate planning – the TERP will increasingly show the most pragmatic pathway to a sustainable future.
The document has three parts:
- What the transport system needs to look like in 2030
- The transformation required
- Pathway implementation
1. What the transport system needs to look like in 2030
This introduces the strategic context, first by walking the reader through the history of Auckland’s climate plans and commitments, and explaining how this fits within Te Tiriti o Waitangi and mātauranga Māori. This is followed by an extensive case for how tackling emissions can improve equity, and a description of how the Pathway was developed.
The goal of TERP is to reduce emissions from transport by 64% compared to 2019 levels.
Section one explains that:
- Every single system lever must be pulled as hard as credibly possible
- Aucklanders must drive less
- A massive mode-shift is required
- Many current car trips can be taken by more sustainable modes
- Cars can still have a place in the system, but they must be more efficient
- Trips need to be shorter
2. The transformation required
In all, there are 11 key areas of action. We’ll look at each one very briefly.
1/ Supercharge Walking and Cycling
This calls for a 10-fold increase in distance travelled by walking, cycling and micromobility.
Proportionately, the small-wheeled modes need to make the largest leap: cycling from around 1% of trips to 8%, and micromobility from <1% to 9%. With a change in planning focus, Auckland can quickly create the conditions which will enable this scale of change. As we saw on our local streets during Lockdown Level 4, there’s an immense reservoir of latent demand, which is currently suppressed by everyday traffic.
To supercharge the active modes, the TERP calls for:
- safe, attractive and accessible pedestrian environments
- an extensive dense, connected network of quality cycle routes, supported by destination infrastructure
- safe speeds
- anyone who wants to cycle to be able to do so
- and regulatory changes that support people to walk and cycle.
2/ Massively increase public transport patronage
Public transport mode share (by distance) needs to increase 7-fold, from 4% of all km travelled in 2019, to 29% in 2030.
This means the number of trips needs to increase by a factor of 5 or 6. The TERP suggests that better uptake of the under-utilised off-peak capacity of existing services – more people riding at times buses are currently less full – means we may only need to triple the number of services.
To massively boost PT use, the Pathway calls for:
- a better-performing and more attractive network (in other words, services should run often, on time, efficiently, and when and where people need to travel)
- fair fares
- improved accessibility across the network (accessible public transport vehicles, and good safe walking and cycling access to routes and stations).
We can absolutely do this: achieving the “ambitious” public transport usage called for by the TERP would, per capita, get us back to 1940s levels – and that wasn’t even Auckland’s busiest decade for public transport ridership!
3/ Prioritise and resource sustainable transport
This item includes three main actions.
First, it says we should prioritise investment by how efficient a transport mode is (hard to believe this idea isn’t already adopted!), and this should be embedded in all transport decision-making and planning. Here we encounter one of the most important aspects of the Pathway: rapid reallocation of street space:
Secondly, it calls for “all projects to repair current network imbalances”. (An obvious example of this? Leverage the road renewals programme, which is a significant chunk of the budget, to progressively make all streets safe for walking and cycling.)
Thirdly, it says that from now on, we should use “vision-led transport planning” or “decide and provide”. This would replace the old “predict and provide” model, which reinforces the car-dependent status quo and is what got us where we are today.
4/ Reduce travel where appropriate
The most sustainable trip is the one you don’t make. Accordingly, this section details how trips can be avoided altogether, through a combination of road pricing, curtailing road-building, reducing air travel (although it looks like more work will be required to show how) and improving digital access and teleservices.
Notably, this item states we should “deprioritise projects and processes that induce light vehicle travel.” This should mark the end of intersection or corridor widening projects, and the common but unethical practice of compromising cycling or walking safety in order to prioritise traffic flow.
5/ Safe, low-traffic neighbourhoods for people
As well as calling for a network of low-traffic neighbourhoods across the region, this item makes the case that we should “put universal design and access by sustainable modes at the heart of council group strategies and plans”. This is quietly transformative. Imagine the hours (and angst) saved when accessibility advocates no longer need to fight for obvious needs like pram-ramps at kerbs and sufficient, well-placed, suitably-spaced mobility parking.
6/ Build up, not out
This one stands out, given Council’s recent response to the NPS-UD housing reforms. The TERP recognises that building a more compact city means people are closer to everyday needs, and thus don’t need to travel as far – a straightforward way to reduce emissions.
This item calls for planning that supports sustainable transport, reduces vehicle travel; restricts new sprawl; develops intensively around places with good access to opportunities.
7/ Electrify private vehicles
Electric cars (EVs) feature in the Pathway, and their benefits are noted: lower greenhouse gas emissions, increased energy security, improved public health through reduced air and noise pollution. The TERP uses the assumption that we will be able to electrify 32% of our light vehicle fleet by 2030.
This is a higher uptake assumption than used for central government’s Emissions Reduction Plan. The ceiling on expected uptake is due to cost, vehicle availability, and the infeasibility of upgrading the electricity infrastructure by 2030 to serve more vehicles than this.
The clear-eyed awareness of the cost of EVs leads to the next action…
8/ Enable new transport devices
This item recommends the uptake not only of e-bikes, e-scooters and e-cargo bikes; but also microcars, e-motorbikes and e-mopeds. The Pathway suggests making more devices street legal in New Zealand, and incentivising their uptake.
9/ Low-emissions public transport
Succinctly, the TERP calls for electrification of 100% of trains, 70% of buses and 75% of ferries by 2030. Notably, we’ll be needing to electrify most of the bus fleet at the same time we’re trebling its capacity.
10/ Efficient freight services
The TERP calls for a 50% reduction in freight emissions by 2030, and presents a multi-pronged approach to achieve this:
- Shifting the last mile delivery to electric vans and e-cargo bikes, which can be enabled or incentivised with safe bike networks and low emissions zones
- Multi-modal logistics hubs to enable the above shift and also to enable people to pick up their own parcels as part of their personal travel (eg by bike or on foot)
- Dynamic routing and eco-driving training for truck drivers
- Electric and low emissions trucks
- Shifting longer distance freight from road or air to sea or rail.
Not mentioned is one very obvious low-hanging fruit: less freight in general, with a shift to a economy focused on activities, services and products that involve much lower transport emissions.
11/ Empower Aucklanders to make sustainable transport choices
While somewhat abstract relative to the other points, this is a very important section. It describes deep and ongoing engagement with the people of Auckland, to ensure we get a just and equitable transition, bringing people along for the journey.
3. Implementing the Pathway
This final section of the document is where things get granular. From page 60 onwards, it details specific outcomes and which organisation is responsible for them. This section also offers more detailed objectives for each of the 11 focus areas, so we can track progress towards the goals.
Page 66 reveals a vital part of the Pathway: Creating a supportive transport planning system, which explains the need for significant reform:
The TERP also explains why the strategic intent is often not reflected in the actual investments chosen:
Finally, the Pathway wraps up with a rationale for how to prioritise projects and plans from now on. The text accompanying the diagram below discusses how “broadly, walking and cycling infrastructure is cheaper to provide and use; generates less whole-of-life emissions and is more efficient at moving people compared to other modes”. It notes that while journey times by car are superior, this highlights “the need to make sustainable modes more competitive”:
In addition, the TERP recognises that modes with the largest “required relative change in trips” should be prioritised in planning. The biggest proportionate leap to be made is by small-wheeled sustainable modes – cycling, scooting and micromobility. These hold great potential to replace car trips but currently lack safe and connected access across most of the city’s network, hence the need for prioritised planning.
Using these principles, the TERP suggests a 3-step analysis of all transport projects, to ensure they align well with the desired outcomes:
- Wherever possible, have all options to produce mode shift or Vision Zero outcomes been incorporated into all proposed actions and expenditure?
- Where these mode shifts and Vision Zero outcomes are to be delivered, have actions been prioritised by mode?
- Has prioritisation considered how best to amplify the effect of other spend, activity and policies? For example, does spend leverage ‘network effects’?
Applying these filters should result in better value-for-money from transport projects, and an end to silo-bound improvements for ‘safety’ or ‘network’ that miss the opportunity to advance mode-shift and reduce emissions. Following these principles should lead to more holistic streets that work better for everyone.
Summary: An Excellent Piece of Work
The Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway is a robust, evidence-based and visionary document, with the potential to transform Auckland into a fantastic city – with safer, quieter and more joyous streets and neighbourhoods, giving communities a chance at living good lives even in an uncertain climate.
Alongside the government’s Emission Reduction Plan, there is now a chorus of consensus about what needs to be done to decarbonise transport in a way that reaches our required goals. There’s no reason not to get on with these actions.
The Auckland Transport Board’s endorsement of the TERP is heartening, and likewise the Councillors can be expected to approve it on Thursday – this will be consistent with their membership of C40 and their earlier decisions on the Auckland Climate Plan, including initiating the TERP.
The next step will include using the TERP to rethink all planned programmes and projects, to form an investment and action plan worthy of this beautiful city.
The incoming CEO of Auckland Transport has an exciting time ahead, with a well-defined job for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau, and a Council backing the mahi.