What is going on with the Transport Levy
There seems to be a bit of a flap occurring after six Councillors legitimately question the impact of the Transport Targeted Rate otherwise known as the Transport Levy. However, our perennial opposition Councillors (the usual three suspects from Howick and Orakei) might have their wires crossed on what the six are up to.
I caught wind of the six Councillors wanting a review to the Levy as well as our Metro rail operational costs (thanks to Councillor and Auckland Transport Director Mike Lee). The rail OPEX situation I will cover further down. In this part I am going to look at what the six Councillors are potentially looking at.
Clow’s Transport Levy Amendment Revived
During the Budget Committee debate on the Transport Levy, Whau Ward Councillor Ross Clow tried to move an amendment which kept the Levy bit shifted the onus more to businesses and less on residents. I was fortunate enough yesterday at the Auckland Development Committee to talk to Councillor Clow on his amendment.
Below is his amendment to the Transport Levy:
Basically Clow wants the average Rates rise to be back at 3.5% with 1% of that ring fenced for transport outright (so 2.5% of the 3.5% for general with the rest heading to transport). However, who shares the load on the actually Levy changes with Clow’s amendment. Residential Ratepayers would be charged $1/week rather than the $2+ currently proposed. To make up the short fall the Business Ratepayers component is set to their valuation of their property.
The amount raises is the same but the amount residents get stung by is lessened with business (who actually are the main benefactors of all transport investment) carry more of the load.
Now I would and am going to propose to Clow and co to go one step further. Businesses take 34 to 35% rather than Clow’s 33%. This allows all rural properties (apart from urban Pukekohe who would be charged the same as their urban counterparts) to be charged only half the Levy rate the urban properties do. Why? They do not get the full services compared to urban Auckland granted, but they do get some (or rather consume some) and are getting some investment back via the Levy (Rodney and road sealing) directly or indirectly. The Public Good argument still applies in my mind for the Rural Sector of Auckland but the 50% discount I propose reflects their situation compared to urban Auckland insofar as we all need to contribute in some shape or form.
So yes if those six Councillors are to back Clow’s option WITH my amendment attached for the rural sector I am all happy for them to proceed. And I hope the other supportive Councillors might be more willing to be flexible this time to with Clow’s (and my) amendment(s) for at least equity sakes!
Councillor and Auckland Transport Director Mike Lee has gone on a tangent again about rail operating costs in Auckland. In short Lee is claiming our costs are high and the subsidy is much higher than Wellington’s system. Transport Blog ran a piece essentially questioning Lee on his claims: Why is Auckland’s rail system so expensive to operate?
I would like to point out two things from that post that technically debunk Lee:
As for the subsidy:
The Electrics started rolling out in April last year starting with the Onehunga Line with the Manukau Line receiving the EMU’s later in the year. You can see as more Electrics roll out (replacing the Diesels) AND patronage surging (12% growth month on month compared the same time last year for that month) the subsidy for rail has begun trending down.
What makes Lee’s claims disingenuous is that we are still phasing the Diesel clangers out (finishes in July apart from Pukekohe) which will knock a lot of the OPEX costs off running our rail system. Not needing to pay leasing, fuel and maintenance costs to Kiwi Rail for the diesels coupled with Electrics being cheaper to run will assist greatly in lowering those OPEX costs. The final move to Integrated Fares and continued patronage growth will also lessen the need for that subsidy.
As for Heavy Rail and how it contributes to the Public Good?
Of course that pretty much doubles with a 6 car set running.
But in effect that is 288 car spaces freed on the roads for those who might need to use the roads (freight being a classic). The more bums on seats with bus and rail the more road space freed up and the less time you will have stuck on the Southern Motorway parking lot twice a day every day. Okay I am being somewhat simplistic there but lets keep it simple. So for those who never or never will take public transport you should be thanking those who have made a choice in doing so unless you want those 288 cars on the motorway with you 😉