Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Expensive transport plan doomed to failure

73 comments
The plan's fatal flaw was picked up by mayoral hopeful John Palino. Photo / Natalie Slade
The plan's fatal flaw was picked up by mayoral hopeful John Palino. Photo / Natalie Slade

What an egregious waste of $1 million of ratepayers' money that was. Set up a "consensus building group" to develop a formula for squeezing an extra $12 billion of transport funding out of Aucklanders, which the Government had already signalled it would reject.

The cash would have been better spent on a giant fireworks display. At least we'd have got a bang or two for our bucks.

In October last year before the CBG first met, the Government made its opposition clear. The Ministry of Transport and the Transport Agency fell into step and refused to partake. How can you pretend to have a consensus when the people with the ultimate power of veto boycott the process?

Not only does the CBG report propose devices such as regional fuel taxes and "road pricing" tolls that the Government opposes, but it also proposes rates increases, which the mayor is against. It also demands that any agreement reached would have to bind future governments and councils for the next 30 years. This has echoes of the much-criticised backroom deal the Key Government has just come to with SkyCity over pokie machines and the international convention centre.

Instead of agonising over how Auckland is going to fund the $59 billion integrated transport programme of the 30-year Auckland Plan, we should be readdressing the efficacy of the programme itself, asking the key question, will it ensure Auckland's traffic is flowing smoothly in 2041?

The CBG failed to confront this, saying it was not part of its remit, but did admit in the opening paragraphs of the final report, released on Monday, that "even with a significant increase in investment, the forecast performance of key parts of the transport system will be worse from 2031 than it is today".

A confession that even if their proposals for extracting an extra $12 billion out of Aucklanders are accepted, things will be worse than now. Its draft report, released in late March, was even more candid, admitting that "even with the fully funded programme, road congestion levels will deteriorate with volume/capacity ratios exceeding 100 per cent on most of our arterial road network by 2041 and emission levels exceeding current levels".

In other words, it's a plan that if successfully completed is doomed to fail.

It's a fatal flaw picked up by mayoral hopeful John Palino. In a statement that has the fingerprints of his campaign boss and former National Party president, John Slater, all over it, Mr Palino says the CBG "should have investigated ... why the mayor's programme costs so much and yet delivers more congestion".

He says the CBG "should have been given the opportunity to consider how we can get better value out of our motorway and public transport systems to make travelling either cheaper or faster - not slower and more expensive".

With excellent timing, the well-informed enthusiasts at the Auckland Transport Blog recently produced an alternative 2013-2030 transport plan, costed at $34.4 billion. Their congestion-free network is centred on a "world class public transport network" and would be fully operative in 17 years.

The network would be built on the existing public transport skeleton, and proposes "right of ways" involving trains, buses, ferries and, in places like Dominion Rd, light rail. "The key point is that by growing this network Aucklanders will have the option to move across the whole city at speed completely avoiding road traffic."

The backbone of the system will be "rights of way" not just for rail as at present but buses also, providing high-frequency services, every 10 minutes or better.

With such an efficient network, Aucklanders will have a true alternative to using their cars. More than two-thirds of the Transport Blog's proposed $34.4 billion will still go towards state highways and local roads, but it argues that with its $10 billion public transport network up and running - at an estimated cost of about $10 billion - many of the more expensive and invasive road projects won't be needed.

The $5 billion-plus new harbour crossing already has a big question mark over it. A Beca Infrastructure report to the Transport Agency in 2011 noted a decline in both traffic loadings and volume on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge since 2005, reversing a history of steady growth dating back to 1960. Part of this was no doubt connected to the 81 per cent increase in bus traffic from North Shore to the central city between 2001 and 2011, which was more than double the 36 per cent predicted in 2004 by the agency.

Matt Lowrie, writing on Auckland Transport Blog, adds that the number of commuters "crossing the bridge by bus increased from 18 per cent in 2004 to 41 per cent in 2011 and we expect we will see similar results from investment in other high-quality alternatives. What's more, it would be cheaper than what is currently planned".

If there is a new harbour crossing, they're proposing a rail-only - possibly light rail - link.

It's the sort of radical thinking that Mayor Len Brown and his transport planners should be engaged in. Producing a plan that isn't programmed to fail.

- NZ Herald

Your views

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

Read more by Brian Rudman

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 22 Oct 2014 16:09:26 Processing Time: 346ms