Today, the Herald begins a five-day series of "How your rates are spent" at Auckland Council, taking a deep dive into the $2.4 billion budget for transport.
For every $100 Aucklanders pay in rates, $30 goes towards transport, but that's only part of the funding story to keep the city moving.
Of the mammoth $2.4 billion budget for transport in the past financial year, about a third comes from rates, a third from government subsidies and a third from public transport fares, fines and parking fees.
Most of this spending comes under Auckland Transport with one notable exception - the $4.4b City Rail Link. This is jointly funded by Auckland Council and the Government which set up a company to deliver it.
Last year, the council paid $92 million towards the CRL, despite budgeting $235m for the 3.4km underground rail project.
Overseeing the rest of the budget is Auckland Transport (AT), whose chief executive Shane Ellison has the job of delivering huge schemes like the new $1.4b Eastern Busway, completing hundreds of small projects and managing the city's bus, train and ferry services.
Last year was a big year for transport with the introduction of a 10 cents a litre regional petrol tax. The revenue of $150m last year, boosted by government subsidies, will go towards 14 transport projects over 10 years.
Ellison says delivering new projects is like a 747 aircraft taking off and getting up to cruising altitude. In other words, it takes time to get new transport projects up and running.
Of the big projects on the books last year, AT began a $100m start on the $1.4b Eastern Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga and spent about $40m on downtown waterfront work for the America's Cup which involved disruptive work on Quay St. Work was brought forward on upgrading the ferry basin.
Another big public transport achievement was completing the roll out of the New Bus Network with simpler, more frequent bus services across the city. This helped AT reach a milestone of 100 million bus, train and ferry trips in the year to June.
AT also spent $7.3m removing obstacles, such as building verandas, trees, power poles and signs for the city's growing fleet of double-decker buses.
In June, AT bosses informed councillors its programme of new projects is expected to be around $650m, below the full-year budget of $744m. Ellison is hoping for a better result once the end of year figures are finalised.
Two of the biggest projects facing delays are roads - a $24m upgrade of heavily congested Lincoln Rd by building a T3 lane, cycle lanes and an improved motorway interchange; and $19m of works on the Matakana Link Rd.
Both projects are being reviewed after communities asked for changes and "we are listening", Ellison said.
The delays have resulted in relatively little being spent on road projects last year, although $16m was budgeted for road upgrades in Wynyard Quarter, $6m has been spent completing a three-year upgrade of Franklin Rd and AT has fixed the dangerous Tamaki Drive-Ngapipi Rd intersection at a cost of $3m.
Community outrage led AT to drop a proposal for safety improvements in the seaside village of St Heliers, one of between 500 and 800 small local projects that get built every year costing less than $5m.
AT also experienced difficulty delivering 10km of new cycleways last year, but did complete a $3m extension to the Quay St cycleway, the Ian McKinnon Drive cycleway and a new cycleway in New Lynn.
When it comes to day-to-day running costs, Ellison says a big chunk of the $1.4b budget goes to running bus, rail and ferry services and maintaining the public transport network, including a customer contact centre with at least 100 staff and 75 transport officers providing security on public transport.
AT employed about 1660 staff at a cost of $123m.
Ellison said there has been a real effort by AT in the past year to ensure ratepayers' money is spent well, saying use of taxis is down 11 per cent, international travel down 60 per cent, domestic travel down 27 per cent and consultant spending down 7 per cent, or $5m.
AT is also becoming a victim of its own success, with record public transport boardings exceeding 100 million. With fares covering just covering a third of the cost of public transport, AT's running costs are under pressure and the transport body has asked the council for more money.
Last year, the council and the Government went halves in $184m of works on the CRL, including dual tunnel boxes in a deep trench between Britomart and part way up Albert St, and started work on a stormwater diversion at the Mt Eden end and on CRL improvements to the wider rail network.
When the last concrete was poured on the tunnel boxes, CRL chief executive Sean Sweeney said it was time to begin work on people-friendly improvements along Albert St.
HOW YOUR RATES ARE SPENT - THE SERIES:
• Today: Transport
• Tuesday: Water
• Wednesday: Parks
• Thursday: Economic and cultural development
• Friday: Environment and governance