Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas unveiled a Better transport sooner transport policy on Friday, aimed at delivering more local transport projects, reducing congestion sooner and reforming Auckland Transport.
To achieve this, he said he would increase transport funding, restructure the way Auckland Transport works and implement a new “hybrid” mass transport plan.
“After 5 years of Auckland Council, too many key local transport priorities remain unaddressed. Auckland Transport’s plans are too disconnected from Aucklanders’ key transport concerns. A key part of my plan if elected mayor will be to use existing legislative powers to reorganise Auckland Transport to get it working better.”
Mr Thomas, a member of the Orakei Local Board, said he wanted to change Auckland Transport’s investment approach so local transport projects assumed a greater priority. He has listed the top 3 priorities in each local board area which would be part of his 10-year budget.
To implement his policy, he would introduce an Auckland Transport sub-regional decision-making capability, implementing unused provisions in the Auckland Council legislation to direct Auckland Transport to establish 6 new regional transport boards: “These will be formed with a formal delegation to approve & fund sub-regional & local transports.” Mr Thomas said this structure would save money by replacing the myriad of local board & other regional transport committees underway.
“Auckland Council funds half of Auckland Transport’s budget and, since amalgamation in 2010, there has been too much of a turf war over priorities. This has to stop, and my plan works within the existing legislative constraints to ensure Auckland Council & Auckland Transport work more effectively together so the transport policies that Aucklanders elect their mayor on actually get implemented.
“I’m confident Auckland Transport will implement these plans if I am elected, and I will appoint myself to the board of Auckland Transport if necessary.”
For funding, Mr Thomas said he’d restore the $113 million current mayor Len Brown cut from the council long-term plan transport budget by eliminating non-essential council spending: “This will see $20 million/year moving from the council’s $613m million governance, economic & cultural budget into transport. Lower priority support, co-ordination & planning work & projects will be replaced with greater investment in transport.”
Mr Thomas said he would ask Auckland Transport to work with elected members to reprioritise its $200 million/year capital renewals budget and find at least $20 million in savings by agreeing more realistic renewals standards.
He would also double the “highly valued” local board transport capital fund, used by local boards for smaller transport projects, from $10 million/year to $20 million/year, funding the increase by reprioritising local over some regional projects.
Mr Thomas said he’d lead the development of a new hybrid bus & rail plan that would draw from the city centre access study, which showed this to be the most cost-effective mass transport plan: “I expect some form of light rail may play a part in this plan, but there is currently no agreed business case or funding plan for light rail. Additionally, although central Auckland congestion will be a focus for me, as the Auckland Transport alignment project foundation report shows, the biggest growth areas in Auckland are in the north, the north-west & the south. Spending will need to be prioritised to these areas so quicker progress can happen on projects such as the North-western busway & extended rail to the south.
“Auckland Council will spend more on transport from its current budget with my changes, but if we are to make quicker progress greater investment will be needed. Therefore I will advance a new transport funding plan for Aucklanders, including congestion charging where Aucklanders agree this makes sense.”
Mr Thomas said he was optimistic the Government would agree to congestion charging as part of the transport alignment project.
“Additional funding will also come from accelerating the mixed-use development (retail, commercial & residential) of existing & new transport assets (particularly bus & rail stations and park-&-ride developments) to boost available transport funding.”
Mr Thomas said he’d also give communities greater ability to establish a targeted rate if they wanted quicker progress. He believed his plan would boost prioritisation & funding to the following regional projects:
1, The Penlink investigation
2, North-western busway to Westgate
3, A new Selwyn rail station
4, Dominion Rd upgrade
5, Stage 2 of Ameti (the Auckland-Manukau eastern transport initiative)
6, The Mill Rd extension
7, Rail planning to the south.
Attribution: Thomas release.