Yesterday the Mayor released what he calls his “plan to save public transport” which is part of his final proposal for the Council’s Long Term Plan (LTP). This comes following consultation on the draft version that occurred in March which showed, once again, that people want more done on transport, especially public transport.

Mayor Brown announces plan to save public transport from cuts

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has announced that public transport will be a focus when councillors consider his final proposal for the council’s Long-term Plan (LTP) this week.

The mayor’s proposal would see most Aucklanders pay no more than $50 a week in public transport fares and expand Auckland Transport’s Fareshare scheme to give any Auckland-based business with at least five employees the ability to subsidise a proportion of their staff’s public transport travel costs.

“I’m listening to Aucklanders who asked for more spending on public transport in the LTP consultation. It’s time we got on with making buses fast and reliable. That will ensure a smooth transition to Time of Use Charging, which is needed to decongest our roads.”

Under the mayor’s proposal Auckland Transport would receive $5.8 billion in funding for operating expenses over the next 10 years, and $14 billion in capital investment.

This includes extra funding to protect existing bus routes from cuts and fund essential track maintenance, as well as a package to deliver more dynamic lanes, and other low-cost network improvements.

…..

“We’re going to focus on simple improvements to make our public transport better, faster, cheaper,” Mayor Brown said.

Bus driver safety is also a priority for the mayor, with $6.5 million set aside to rapidly install security screens on AT buses. The prioritisation of bus driver safety follows the mayor’s recent announcement of more funding for safety patrols in town centres and transport hubs.

“Without this funding, it would take up to 10 years to ensure that every bus driver is protected by a security screen. That is unacceptable, and under my proposal, we’ll do 80% of buses within two years,” Mayor Brown said.

There’s a couple of things to break down already.

When it comes to fares, having a weekly fare cap is good but I find it hard to get too excited by it. While it will work out cheaper than the current monthly pass, which is needed, it’s not that much cheaper and for most people will not be making enough, or long enough trips for it to make a difference. For example, around 80% of adult PT journeys are for two fare zones or less and so to hit the cap, you’d need to make at least 12 journeys in a week. As for the Fareshare programme, which is good, that already exists and we covered it last week.

Moving on, the draft LTP provided for an additional $60 million in operating spending for AT, this has been increased to $70 million in this final proposal to “protect existing bus routes from cuts and fund essential track maintenance“. This is obviously good but cutting PT services should never have been on the agenda for the LTP in the first place and the draft LTP never really made it clear that a bunch of services were on the chopping block.

I do however really like the push for simple, faster and cheaper PT improvements. There’s lots of opportunities out there that could have a big impact, such as improving dwell times on trains, off-board fare payment and/or all door boarding on busy bus routes, and many others that could make a big overall difference if only AT would give them some proper attention. All up, $600 million is allocated for “network optimisation, including dynamic lanes and small capital works to make bus travel faster and more reliable

Bus driver screens are also a no-brainer and the only thing that surprises me about this is that it’s taken so long to happen. These are commonplace on buses in most other cities and should surely form part of the bus operators health and safety requirements.

An example of bus driver protection overseas

In addition to the direct PT funding and initiatives, the LTP will include the council’s share of $550 million to remove the level crossings in Takanini.

As well as a focus on buses, the final mayoral proposal will provide funding for council to contribute to the removal of railway level crossings in Takanini. The removal of these crossings and their replacement with overbridges is necessary to realise the full benefits of the City Rail Link (CRL).

“The four level crossings at Takanini see the highest number of rail traffic in Auckland and already contribute to road congestion. This problem will only get worse when the CRL opens.

“So, it is crucial that we get on with the work now. We’re budgeting for our share of the $550 million to make sure it happens, although I acknowledge there is still a lot more required for level crossing removal in Auckland. I’m working with the government on their share, as well as a much-needed change to the funding and delivery model for these projects,” Mayor Brown said.

Level crossing removal has been on the ‘we need to do soon’ list for decades now so it’s great the council is getting closer to actually doing it. I still fail to see how these crossings are costing so much though and the Walters Rd crossing alone is now estimated at over $200 million.

We’re still waiting to hear what AT’s proposals are for Church St East and they currently are in a business case process to assess the rest of the level crossings across the network.

The council’s Budget Committee will meet tomorrow to consider this proposal.

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42 comments

    1. It would be good to see a cost breakdown of how the total figure gets to be this much. Even into such basic categories as Materials, Labour, and Design costs / Council fees, as well as Health and Safety compliance / Traffic management costs. My guess is that H+S would be a substantial portion.

      I recently drove over the Napier-Taupo Road, and there were about 6 sets of roadworks – the sort of small scale “clean up the verges” work that used to be done by 3 guys in a MoW truck. Now the setup for H+S compliance and Traffic Management has changed significantly – there is at least 250m of cones each side, plus Stop/Go workers (2 each side), plus 3 or 4 utes and a digger – as well as the 5 or 6 people actually doing the work. I used to do this sort of work myself many years ago, and so I know how physically draining using a kango-hammer can be (hence you need manpower reserves to take over when you are exhausted), but there is now about 3 times as many staff, significant delays (10-15 minutes delay at each roadworks, times 6 roadworks) so the trip took at least an hour longer each way.

      I’m not sure who sets out these new revised standards – but they seem to be an overkill and should be wound back, significantly.

        1. Good point – but in the case of a new Pedestrian crossing, who pays for the land? Isn’t the land already in the hands of the Council?

        2. Depends on the pedestrian crossing and they do seem to heading towards prefabrication. However we are talking about level crossings and the ridiculous cost of land. H and S is loose chsby comparison. See also the outrageous cost of the new rail stations between Papakura and Pukekohe. Again, land acquisition costs. The property bubble pushes up the cost of infrastructure.

      1. That overkill was due to 3 Higgins workers being killed at Matata in 2019, and the company being fined $270k.

    2. Yes, it really is madness. Penlink (which itself is considered expensive) has a much larger bridge that goes over water, it has a very long road including land acquisitions as well as needing connections to a motorway and 2 arterial roads… yet it costs about the same.
      There is nothing challenging, complicated or complex about these rail crossings.

  1. Why Auckland council always find way to spend Tax Payers money? Are they crying ?

    1. NZ is not a wealth country, the fair cap will cost tax payer more.
    2. If the Auckland transport network meet passenger needs, passenger will use it! Why need to cap the fair to lure them? Once before, Auckland council already find out that even half fair cannot bring up customer, so in other words, money isn’t the issue, as according to Auckland council findings.
    3. Auckland has only around 1.5 million people scattered in a big area, the size of the population just like a small village. Sydney has 5+ Million, Melbourne has 6 million, Shenzhen has 20 million, but their area just a fraction of Auckland. Only with population more than few million and within a reachable area, than effective public transport will be possible, otherwise, public transport will just a waste of tax payers money.

    1. Ah, the old “we must grow (and use cars until then) before we can get good PT” argument.

      Considering pretty much everyone in Auckland is already stuck in car traffic, the argument that PT is a waste of money (but building more roads is apparently economical?) is such an old saw. People have been trying to fix that congestion for over 50 years with more cars and more lanes. It ain’t working.

      PT helps drivers by taking cars off the road – look at much smaller (or similar-sized) places in Europe and Asia where PT does a lot of heavy lifting, instead of arguing that we are too small.

        1. Look at the size of the people, they are few times more than Auckland! Forgot public transport until Auckland alone has sufficient passenger to support, otherwise don’t subsidise them by tax payers money!

    2. Auckland is pretty much 2 million (34% more). The urban and adjacent non-rural areas of Auckland aren’t actually that big in area compared to Sydney and Melbourne (or other similar cities) and density isn’t that much different either (no not comparing to China, why would you?).

    3. Cars are also heavily subsidized in NZ in many ways. Take for example supermarkets chains around NZ. When you don’t own a car you subsidize the parking and additionally the fuel vouchers the supermarkets give away.

      1. Don’t be stupid by this kind of mindset,! Tax payers are subsidise everything in country, but it must be reasonable and effective! Public transport in a small population but need everyone to pay for that is not fair! For those not in Auckland, why they need to pay for an defective transport ( not much passenger) !? Auckland Council must find a way to improve instead of spending every NZ people to their ineffective plan.

  2. Light rail must be in the long term plan. We already have too many farting buses, they are not a sustainable backbone to our city’s public transport network. The CRL must have light rail feeding off it to make our city useful.

    Either that or more apartment accommodation in the central city, so we do not have to move around so much, or so far.

    To be considered a city, we need five million people. We will reach that number, and we need to provide homes for our population, safe, dry, warm homes…popularly known as apartments.

    The last plan we had for our city was ambitiously sensible, we cannot lose that ambition, even if we have some anti-Auckland people in Wellington at the moment. We are more than them, they cannot defeat us.

    bah humbug

    1. Matiu – you’re right that we need Light Rail, I completely agree with you there.

      But i completely disagree that we need Auckland to have a population of 5 million. We can’t even keep pace with Auckland having one million, let alone five times the population.

      1. Also, there are plenty of cities with a population < 500k that have multiple tram and light rail lines.

        1. Yes wealthy cities and capital cities where they can make others pay for it. Face it, public transport is hellishly expensive. It costs a fortune to build tracks and tunnels and stations, then it costs a fortune to run because it requires major subsidies. If people had to stump up for the operating costs themselves then tickets would be too expensive. How much public transport can we afford? Look at the rates in Wellington, they are ridiculously high and still they haven’t spent on the water pipes they were supposed to.

        2. If it costs a lot to provide vehicles and operating and storage space for public transport, it must cost a lot more to provide the same for private transport, if you count it correctly. A new road through Auckland would be fiendishly expensive, wouldn’t it miffy?

        3. Cars and petrol are pricey too. As is the value of my time, lost sitting in traffic. There there are the externalities, like the ongoing availability of liquid fuels, the many costs of climate heating, the DALYs…

        4. The differences are your car only has to travel when you do and people expect PT to run continuously so it is there when they want it. Some people think it is ok to ride a train from Hamilton to Auckland and expect the public to pay $65 to cover the cost of each trip they make. PT promoters all seem to agree that PT is great if other people pay for it for them.

        5. Lol, amongst the current news of roads of national significance and roads of regional significance, you’re talking about user pays?

  3. Auckland Council & Auckland Transport need resolutions for a better public transportation system.

    I agree AT must push simple, faster & cheaper PT improvements that will make a big difference using public transport, such as improving train dwell times, letting the bus pull out from stops, give way for changing lanes, traffic light priority, more bus lanes, etc.

    .

    1. And if it involves removing car parks will the Mayor support it or turn around and claim he wasn’t consulted. These minor improvements frequently run up against nimboid opposition and get abandoned. Will this plan be any different?

  4. I find this announcement not too bad. That cap only good of your on an adult fare (which is fine) and live quite far from your work really but would be good for any additional unplanned trips for those not on the monthly fare.
    Can we still talk with the driver with those screens? Can’t see a hole for sound, be a bit sad otherwise.

      1. “Excuse me driver I’m [new in town/elderly/disabled/a child] can you please tell me if this bus goes down [name of road] and will you let me know when we get there? Thank you”

        1. In the UK it’s on all buses but I’ve never had an issue conversing with drivers if needed.

    1. Agree, Grant and Scott. We’re people, first. There’s no need to design an inhumane system. There are so many ways to improve efficiency without having to design out the basics of human interaction.

      Design the system to work for diverse needs and it provides for is all as our needs change over like.

  5. Let’s wait for the Council to meet, debate and decide on the LTP. Coming up soon. Then we will know how far the Draft RLTP is adrift from Council’s expectation. The horror of an RLTP that is set out including the GPS restrictions imposed by the Triumvirate of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus (we know who you are) will be available to the public shortly, with all the low-priority NZTA spending and little of the high-priority AT spending, which is elbowed out by GPS dictate.

  6. I assume this is what they’ll be taking to consultation: https://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2024/05/20240509_TICCC_ATT_11409_EXCLUDED.PDF

    AT can, and should, design the RLTP to be “in line” with the GPS only where NLTF funding is requested. Council should be using its money more wisely, not on high cost projects like the Takaanini bridges. Using the TERP to reform both the transport planning and the investment planning process would have created an RLTP that innovatively used Council funding to make the necessary transformational changes, and the government funding for some operations and renewals of already-changed streets.

    The TERP provides enough guidance to be able to cope with the GPS and still meet the 64% climate target.

    1. TERP – yes please. A huge opportunity to get our city moving, breathing.

      is it still going ? is it still a thing ?

      1. It is indeed still alive. Because of its quality, it will survive. There’s no better NZ document available to help guide transport planning.

  7. I think weekly fare caps are an excellent idea. It means that people aren’t paying for weeks that they might not be using PT (holidays etc).
    Any cost reduction is a good thing and 12 trips is only doing 2 per day 6 days per week. It’s even less if you chuck in a few more random trips (to the gym, pub, shops etc). It will likely encourage more offpeak usage which is an excellent thing to get better returns out of PT investment.

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