The Government seems to have changed its mind about tolls as a mechanism to regulate Auckland traffic, though that’s still to be confirmed in the final report of the government-council Auckland transport alignment project (ATAP).
But the huge failing of the whole exercise is in ignoring potential to redirect traffic to suburban centres. The focus is on getting people into the central business district, but then disturbing business activity by using variable toll pricing to encourage non-peak travel.
Yet one of the supposedly significant values of the city rail link, now under construction, is that it will get people not just into the centre but through the centre to many other points around the region.
When the project’s foundation report was released there was a great turnout of new transport minister Simon Bridges, mayor Len Brown & numerous executive types associated with the project. Mr Bridges & finance minister Bill English were along yesterday to “receive” the second report of the project’s envisaged 3 reports. Private show, just the release & report links.
The mayor said: “The good news is that ATAP shows road pricing, where road users pay to use parts of the network, particularly during peak traffic periods, is an important part of the solution.”
That’s been a council position for some time, but the Government had been ruling it out.
Mr Bridges said the second report “has found that achieving a step change in the performance of Auckland’s transport system will require a range of interventions.
“It concludes that, while ongoing investment in new road & public transport projects will clearly be needed, greater use of technology and, in the longer term, road pricing – or directly charging for road use – will also be part of the toolkit.
“The final stage of ATAP will look at what additional projects could be brought forward in the next 10 years to support Auckland’s growth. If the benefits of early investment in these projects are significant, there may be a case for the Government & council to make extra funding available.”
Mr Bridges said exactly how that funding could be provided would need to be considered after the project team provided its final report.
Cllr Bill Cashmore, who’s working with the mayor in the governance of the project, said: “We’ve made such good progress with the Government because we’ve got the process right. Together, we’ve agreed the goals, we’ve agreed the data & the modelling approach and applied common sense to the results.”
The final phase is a prioritised investment programme, to be delivered in the final report in August. The council’s current interim transport levy paid by all business & residential ratepayers expires in 2018, so a replacement for that will be needed.
Cllr Cashmore said the project team would undertake final modelling, apply different budget scenarios and assess the results against the agreed goals before delivering the final report.
“It’s important that the third step springboards into a funding discussion, because this must get sorted before the 2018 Auckland Council long-term plan,” he said.
Mayoral candidate John Palino – a supporter of satellite development to disperse traffic around the region – said the transport project report highlighted the failure of the council’s Auckland Plan and demonstrated a new growth plan was needed.
Mr Palino said: “The ATAP report is an indictment upon 6 years of supposed integrated planning under the Brown-led council. Worsening congestion, high costs & disappointing public transport uptake are the key findings of ATAP work to date. Has anyone stopped for a moment to ask why, in spite of a more than doubling of our transport budget over the past 15 years, things will get so much worse so quickly?
“Growth has been strong recently, but not that strong. Something else is wrong and that is the compact city. The compact city model constrains land and forces intensification into suburbs not designed for it. We cannot and must not intensify established suburbs which can’t handle the growth. Our communities must push back against efforts to impose development in areas not fit out for it. This kind of growth serves no one.
“Growth should be focused into new satellite centres and close to employment where we can model new cities on an identified & planned balance of jobs, homes & travel.
“We must stop channelling trips into the cbd. This is the problem. New centres in our north, north-west & south will reduce growth in trips to the cbd, provide affordable housing and reduce the squeeze on cars & buses into the central city.
“New centres can be fit out with the kind of technology we need to manage transport effectively and deliver thousands of affordable homes.”
However, the project report’s authors have accepted that most of the region’s future transport network already exists, and that changing the investment mix isn’t going to achieve a step change. What the report’s authors said was that the existing network needs to become more productive to support growth: “This requires a combination of better network optimisation, continued improvements to asset management and a greater focus on intelligent transport systems (ITS). It is possible to deliver better results by changing the mix of investments within existing funding constraints, but this will not deliver a major improvement in regional outcomes over & above the current plan (the Auckland Plan transport network, or APTN). However, there are differences in impact at the sub-regional level, and specific interventions can help improve accessibility in the west & south, which were identified as problem areas in the foundation report.”
23 February 2016: Transport alignment starts off-track
Attribution: Ministerial & mayoral releases.