Just through traditional analysis of transport benefits, which usually underestimate the long term benefits of public transport projects, the economic case does stack up.
But the greatest benefits are really the wider economic benefits to the Auckland CBD, which will flow on to the country as a whole. Greater accessibility to the CBD, without additional need for parking or congestion (which is created when tens of thousands of people try to drive into the city), will enable significant agglomeration benefits. That means more people living and working in the CBD, higher property values, and more economic productivity.
The case for central government investment in the project is particularly strong when we contrast it with the Roads of National Party Significance (RoNS). More than half the $11 billion allocated to these motorways, $6.1 billion, will be spent on three projects that have very poor business cases. For an excellent analysis of the dodgy dealing behind their economic analysis, see Rod Oram’s excellent column last Sunday.
It’s entirely incomprehensible to me how Treasury can back Joyce’s pet motorway projects when their implausible wider economic benefits (that is benefits that might actually flow on to the country) are at best three times less than those generated by the CBD rail loop. At worst, as the Auckland Transport officers seem to recognise, the Puhoi to Wellsford and Waikato Expressway projects will worsen congestion in Auckland because more people will live out of the city and commute in.
It’s pretty obvious that a car based transport system will never give us the same level of mobility in and around cities that rail, walking and cycling can. Why? Because cars take up so much space, so they always lead to more congestion. Don’t even get me started on the space needed to park…
This isn’t about ideology. If the Government actually wants to up NZ’s economic game, they should be investing our transport dollars in the projects that will get us the greatest bang for our buck. When it comes to reducing bottlenecks, four lanes from Wellsford and Hamilton to Auckland just isn’t going to do anything for the million people trying to get around the city. As we can see in the example of Los Angeles, more motorways have attracted new development to the fringe of the urban area, which has led to it being the most congested city in the United States, with some of the most extreme commute times.
Auckland’s population is forcast to increase by the size of the Wellington region over the next few decades. The infrastructure we provide now will shape how that happens. We have a choice, and a huge opportunity, to do things differently. The video below shows how redevelopment of existing low density areas with lots of underused car parks can transform our neighbourhoods.
Tell the Government to fast-track the CBD Rail Loop to kick of the transformation of our largest city! Sign our petition and pass it on.