Our transport plan for Auckland

The Auckland transport plan that the Greens released yesterday got good coverage in the Herald which covered how the MPs got to the launch:

  • Metiria Turei: Small ferryboat chartered from the base of Te Atatu Peninsula to highlight its dearth of public transport services.
  • Sue Kedgley: Train from Mt Eden.
  • Keith Locke: Bike from Mt Eden.
  • Sue Bradford: Northern Busway.
  • Co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman: Walked from Mt Eden.
  • They were joined by new election candidates including Dave Clendon (Helensville) on an electric scooter and Zachary Dorner (Pakuranga), who arrived by bike in a “Dangerman” suit to highlight the hazards of pedalling through Auckland.

And TV3 on the cost of our plan versus the cost of the Waterview motorway connection in Mt Albert.

Here’s what the transport system will look like.  It’s a triple-loop rapid transit system that connects all four corners with the centre of the city and provides access to the major industrial and commercial areas. All local bus services, cycleways, walkways, and parking facilities will be configured to provide access to the loop system. When you get on the loop you can go anywhere in Auckland.

Full details of the transport plan here.

Image credit: The NZ Herald

18 thoughts on “Our transport plan for Auckland

  1. “I think most of the plans have been set aside because New Zealanders have short arms and deep pockets. The earliest documented example I have come across in Auckland is ratepayers voting against a special loan to extend the tram network in 1927.”

    Kevyn, I would have to agree there. I believe that part of it came about thanks to how infrastructure was developed in the 19th Century; we had thousands of route kilometres of rail constructed, as well as thousands of kilometres of roads, and this came at little direct cost to the taxpayers of that era, thanks to the loans that were borrowed, and the fact that land was sold partly to pay for it.

  2. I think most of the plans have been set aside because New Zealanders have short arms and deep pockets. The earliest documented example I have come across in Auckland is ratepayers voting against a special loan to extend the tram network in 1927.

  3. “In particular your comment on the frequency of service off-peak being more important than the price of tickets off-peak, in getting people to accept mass transit is (IMHO) EXTREMELY well taken.”

    Thanks for the comment; Auckland is actually a good example of this. If you notice, most of the rail traffic comes from south of Otahuhu and west of New Lynn. The only line where this isn’t true is the Eastern Line. Funnily enough, the Southern north of Otahuhu is paralleled by Great South Road, with approximately ten minute bus frequencies all day; you have a similar situation with the Western east of New Lynn, where there are approximately fifteen minute bus frequencies all day along New North Road. Of course, this is in spite of bus fares being more expensive than trains.

    People look at overall travel times, and not just the timetabled time from their stop to the stop near their destination. If they have to wait one hour for the next bus, and that bus takes an hour, their travel time is two hours. Why would people take the bus, when the car could take an hour? Ideally, we would want turn-up-and-go frequencies (<10 minutes), however, even fifteen minute frequencies would be acceptable to most people.

    ————————————————————————

    Gerrit, I have to agree with you. IIRC, the $4 million came from a post where the author was attempting to cost some of his ideas. If you look at the blogs that contribute to Transport Textbook, there is plenty of discussion on ideas, and there is an attempt to say that it would cost x billion, and this would be x billion less than the great tunnel that is planned for Melbourne

    “I see TG as a route rather than a road and I consider that establishing that route BEFORE the transport system reaches extremis, or suffers a catastrophic earthquake, is a good idea.”

    BJ, I agree with you there. We need to keep the route in place for Transmission Gully, for the Western Ring Route, for the Christchurch Southern Motorway, and so on so that when it is justifiable, we can construct the road easily. We also need to have wide enough rail corridors for quadruple track, so that we can easily widen the rail corridor if we start hitting capacity.

    “I am bemused by the fact that Kevyn can find so many previous attempts to plan for the future that NZ and Auckland governments have so comprehensively ignored to get to the current unwieldy mess.”

    I have read about half a billion plans that Auckland has come up with over the years, and most of them, I believe, have been set aside due to cost.

  4. Liberty

    Nope, had nothing to do with it, except that in some previous discussions I may have mentioned that loops do a good job of getting people from place to place in an urban environment. The train or bus is then never just traveling to an “end of the line” destination where few passengers are going to go. It never retraces. Run in both directions it gets you to your destination rapidly enough to be useful.

    I don’t particularly care about the “How” in the sense of pre-judging anything good or bad. Bus, train, pogo stick or Saturn V… you know where I come from. I DO however, take into consideration a longer time horizon and a broader scope than most people and I think that it is fair to say that this is true of most Greens.

    It affects most of our decisions. It affects the perception of what is economic and what is not. Economics is a subset of ecology, and does not prosper in the long run if it ignores the environment.

    Take for example, Transmission Gully. I argue with my fellow Greens often when we discuss it, because within the next 100 years the ROUTE that is currently anchored by SH1 along the coast, could well be underwater some part of the time. I see TG as a route rather than a road and I consider that establishing that route BEFORE the transport system reaches extremis, or suffers a catastrophic earthquake, is a good idea. Another route in and out of Wellington, is a larger issue than just moving commuters from Kapiti. “Externalities” mutter the economists, and they wave a dismissing hand. Yet this is one place we get differences.

    JGG provided (if you read it a bit differently than you did) a basis for guessing the costs. You may disagree with doing any tunnel but the rough estimate of costing/affordability was what his first point about the tunnels was addressing. Read what he said again in point (i). He is telling you that the basis of guessing at a cost for this bit of tunnel is the cost estimated for a different bit of tunnel someplace nearby.

    What was missing from the announced policy was, as you and Gerrit fairly point out, was this bit of information and several others about how viable it would be in terms of costs. It is likely that the policy committee considered costs when coming up with this… the decision to omit any discussion of them in the release was unfortunate.

    However, this is hardly a set of golden tracks traveled by platinum trainsets. It is a practical attempt to create a working and integrated rather than ad-hoc, public transit system. We didn’t just draw a bunch of lines on a map and say “put trains here”.

    Creating an inner rail “loop” is an important advantage but most of the plan is bus services. I am interested that you claim to be agnostic about these things and yet acknowledge no possibility that ANY rail construction at all could EVER pay back its cost. You DO know a fair bit about the topic so the analysis that leads you to this conclusion is something I would be willing to read [ - in other words, I suspect I might find some holes in it ;-) ]. The other possibility is that there is a philosophical gap that will not ever be bridgeable…

    I am bemused by the fact that Kevyn can find so many previous attempts to plan for the future that NZ and Auckland governments have so comprehensively ignored to get to the current unwieldy mess. Personally I reckon it part of the Kiwi character, and I am trying to get used to it. Not liking it a lot, but it is what it is :-)

    “Given the Greens lobbied heavily in the Land Transport Management Bill process to remove economic efficiency…”

    The problem with “economic efficiency” MAY be the way it is currently analyzed, but I do find this a bit disturbing as it is IMHO wrong to fail to consider EVERYthing. I am not the green representative for anything however, so I don’t know what the reasoning was, nor did I follow that bill’s progress. Maybe someone else can shed some light on what was going on there?

    respectfully
    BJ

  5. jgg,

    You have taken the AUSTRALIAN 4million dollars per Kilometre cost out of context.

    That costing is for twin track above ground rails only, no trains, no stations (and their parking/roading requirements) no signalling and above all , no costing for land purchases.

    BJ,

    While I applaud the Greens for at least having foresight for the Auckland public transport option, the fact that it is not costed even in broad non specific terms is the archilles heal. Costings are freely available for say Austalian train networks and with a little polishing could have easily been presented as a ROUGH guide by a researcher in less then a day.

    This is major Green policy and should have been at least thought on how to sell it to the voters. Even the greens are not naive enough to think ithat the first question on everyones lips would be how much and when?

    They had 6 members travelling on busses from Onehunga to the Airport for about 2 hours. Surely a laptop connected to the internet would have found the Australian costings that would have given a “on the back of an envelope” costing. Crickey, six people for two hours did what?

    Seems like the marketing skills of the Greens let them down again.

  6. jgg, the state subsidises roads in exactly the same way it currently subsidises electricity.

    What costs $4 million/kilometre? Not a complete Seimens LRT, with trainsets and stations. According to Seimens website the lowest system cost/km is several times more than that.

    The Wellington Inner City Bypass cost 1/3 less per km than the North Shore busway even though the busway mostly uses land already owned by Transit.

    What ChCh light rail extension? Chch doesn’t have light rail, it has historic trams running on a tourist loop.

  7. Scott, You will find the answers to all your questions in the 1955 Auckland Master Transport Plan and/or reviews of same (1963, 1976, etc). After all this plan has just replaced “motorway” with “busway”. Banksie’s vote winning “triple bypass” is now a “triple loop”. That’s progress for ya.

    Try this extract from the 1976 review
    http://www.petroltax.org.nz/PDF/AucklandTransportReview1976.PDF

    JPEGs of the m’way plans of 1946, 1955, 1963, and 1976 here:
    http://www.petroltax.org.nz/akmotorways.html

  8. jgg: “This programme will be financed by delaying all major roading projects that are not yet commenced” – which of course would work, but also delay the benefits from those projects, which are across the country, and many involve saving lives and reducing injury accidents.

    On your point (i) I disagree with the Waterview to Roskill motorway tunnel as much as I disagree with an underground rail loop – both are bad projects with benefits that do not exceed costs. Better to spend money on non-transport things. Uneconomic projects should never proceed, regardless of mode.

    (ii) People DO ask these questions of motorway projects, I know I condemn poor value ones like the Waterview connection, Transmission Gully and parts of the Waikato Expressway. The key is to be consistent.

    (iii) OECD publications tell you nothing about construction costs in Auckland, which is a very expensive city to tunnel. Why do the Greens have NO cost?

    Rail might have the capacity, but when most of it is grossly underutilised most of the time, it’s a waste. By the way I’m no friend of a “road building empire”, I think the state should get the hell out of that as well. My main criticism is that there are no numbers, at all. Nothing.

    BJ- Fair point, yet political parties often put out policies that have some cost. The Greens are offering absolutely none, absolutely no indication as to broadly the travel time savings, for example. This will cost billions, there are people in the Green Party who do pour over transport investment costs (as there should be, as the Greens have helped Labour much on transport policy since 1999) who could have put a ballpark figure in, and should be able to do a quick assessment.

    It is NOT premature to ask these questions. Even if it was just capital cost, operating cost, expected time savings and emissions reductions, it would be a starting point – it would show you’ve thought about outcomes, not just building totems to public transport. These are basic public policy questions.

    If it is your plan, you should have a reason why it is a good plan other than “you believe it to be so”.

    You COULD have a policy of supporting economically efficient investment in transport, with the stated purpose of sustainably reducing travel time (by relieving congestion and improving networks), reducing noxious emissions from transport, reducing CO2 emissions. That’s something I could understand, then we debate the means. The means might be road pricing, some road building and bus priority, it could be your plan, it could be something completely different.

    The difference is I am agnostic about how to achieve it – you’re not. There is no evidence that the cost of rail in Auckland will be returned in economic or environmental benefits.

    What happens if it goes through the appraisal process and it comes out as being uneconomic? Will you scrap it? Given the Greens lobbied heavily in the Land Transport Management Bill process to remove economic efficiency (not just make it one criteria, but eliminating it) as a criteria for transport appraisal I am sceptical about any real interest in outcomes.

    I know it is unreasonable to expect a detailed appraisal, but it is not unreasonable to ask:
    – What are the capital costs?
    – What is the expected operating subsidy increase?
    – What is the expected travel time saving on the road network?
    – What is the expected reduction in CO2 emissions (though PM10 matter for health)?
    – Where is the money to come from for this (new taxes or stop spending on other things)?
    – What is the overall benefit/cost impact?

    Even Think Big had costs and benefits, even though they were wildly wrong.

  9. Policy is what you WANT to do. It isn’t a detailed implementation plan.

    I think that it is clear that this CAN be done (thanks Jgg)

    It is EQUALLY clear that it is not a final, detailed plan… nor should it be.

    BJ

  10. John-ston

    Thanks for giving it a detailed look so quickly. If we were to rate it (and having looked at your critique) I’d give it 8 out of 10 ( loops work when the buses or trains go both ways on them ) and I’d ask which party has done better. Labour has all the advantages that being in government confers and it has provided stuff all.

    In particular your comment on the frequency of service off-peak being more important than the price of tickets off-peak, in getting people to accept mass transit is (IMHO) EXTREMELY well taken.

    We did what we could with what we have. I wasn’t part of that committee (being Wellington based) but I confess to being pleased with what we got.

    respectfully
    BJ

  11. Liberty

    Good questions. If we get some actual power in government so as to get the answers I am sure that we will provide them promptly.

    On the OTHER hand…

    Who the hell do you think is going to pay for doing the preliminary engineering necessary to estimate costs? The Greens? Why on earth would you expect the volunteer workers of the Green Party to have access the statistics, computer modeling money and crystal ball required to answer these questions NOW?


    – What are the sources of trips broken down by:
    – new trips (not an environmental benefit);
    – trips transferring mode from car (congestion/environmental benefits);
    – trips transferring mode from walking/cycling (disbenefits);
    – existing trips transferred from existing services (benefits offset by cost of higher subsidy)?
    – What net environmental benefits arise from the plan, in terms of reduced PM10, NOx, CO and CO2 – monetised?

    I know you know a lot about this, and it is wonderful that you do.

    The problem is that political parties, unless they are already in government, do not have access to the resources to do more than guess at answers to these detailed AND PREMATURE questions.

    Worse, the way you offer them appears to be a play to kill the discussion, and this attempt to solve the problem that is Auckland transit.

    Calling the plan childish BEFORE analyzing it, (and as you yourself have identified several questions that need to be answered for the analysis to take place we know that you have insufficient data with which to analyze it), is more sophistry than good sense.

    We are not children to be dazzled by your purported logic or your brilliance. Some of us are pretty damned bright ourselves. Take a deep breath and treat this as a tentative proposal which needs these comparisons and costings done before final decisions can be made.

    That is what happens if we get some actual as opposed to imagined/hoped-for/dreamed-of clout in government… we don’t “just build it no matter what” as Muldoon would have. It gets adjusted, costed, estimated, planned and argued as any project of this size ALWAYS does now.

    Expecting it to be a completely finished proposal with the inputs of a dozen engineers and statisticians is less realistic than you accuse US of being.

    No?

    respectfully
    BJ

  12. Gerrit, small world; I sometimes post on the Transport Textbook, and one of its linked blogs, Vic Rail (authored by Riccardo).

    In terms of my response, it is in detail here

    http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=361&p=2660#p2639

    I would give the overall plan a 6 out of 10. Too much money is going to be spent on routes that service suburb to suburb connections – needless to say, they will be guaranteed failures like the Cumberland Line in Sydney and the Yeerongpilly to Corinda Shuttle.

  13. Sigh – This programme will be financed by delaying all major roading projects that are not yet commenced.

    re costs

    (i) the estimated cost of a tunnel linking Britomart to Mt Eden is approximately equal to that of the proposed Waterview motorway tunnel.

    (ii) I wish some of these authors would ask similar questions about motorway projects.

    (iii) In general terms you can find answers to the above very specific questions by reviewing OECD publications.

    (iv) $4 million/kilometre is about 1/5th – 1/10th the cost for a motorway of considerably less the capacity. Wellington Inner City Bypass had a total cost of $62m for a 1.6 km road – of which around $10m are property costs, including building restoration. Cost per km of the ChCh light rail extension is about 20% of the $4m figure.

    Re subsidy –
    it all comes down to whether you see public transport as an intrusion on the state subsidised roading empire or as a fundamental part of civic infrastructure.

    JGG

  14. Some basic questions:
    – How much to build?
    – How much subsidy per passenger trip and per passenger km?
    – Who should be forced to pay for it?
    – What are the sources of trips broken down by:
    – new trips (not an environmental benefit);
    – trips transferring mode from car (congestion/environmental benefits);
    – trips transferring mode from walking/cycling (disbenefits);
    – existing trips transferred from existing services (benefits offset by cost of higher subsidy)?
    – What net travel time and vehicle operating cost savings arise from the mode shift – monetised and by average time saving per vehicle km?
    – What net environmental benefits arise from the plan, in terms of reduced PM10, NOx, CO and CO2 – monetised?

    Meanwhile it would be nice if we have the relative benefit/cost impact of at least two alternatives:
    – Implementing disaggregated road pricing on the existing system and allowing the development of commercially viable public transport on the resultingly far less congested (and more expensive) roads;
    – Bus based alternative instead of expanding rail. (which the plan actually says “BRT is much faster and cheaper to build than rail”).

    Curious to note this plan effectively implies finishing SH20, implies taking away road capacity to give to buses (which will create enormous congestion) parallel to railways.

    However most curious is nowhere in the policy detail is cost. Appalling.

    It’s worse that a Muldoon think big project, it is a childlike “wouldn’t all this be cool” idea, as if money is no object.

  15. Looks good on paper,

    Any costing?

    Well you could start here

    http://transporttextbook.com/?p=16

    Cost is around A$4.12 million per kilometre (according to the Australians) for above ground double track rail, assuming no property acquisition. Stations are not included.

    Nor are train sets.

    Have a look at the underground options!! Now if cost is not a barrier to not implementing the plan, we would need to see where the money is coming from, what the timetable for spending will be, etc.

    How will this affect any other infastructure priorities?

  16. May the lovely sky train of green policy reach its happy destination, but never stop pootling along.

  17. Great. I still would like to see some links to actual data and at least some passably justifiable estimates of service uptake.

    I like the LOOK of this plan. It appears feasible and considerable thought has clearly been put into it.

    Unfortunately my time was shot on the previous discussion and my attitude needs some adjustment now. I REALLY want to see some data.

    respectfully
    BJ

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