Failure to Understand Auckland’s Transport System #AKLPols #nzpols UPDATED

Auckland Transport Alignment Project misses the train

Last week the Council and Government announced the terms of reference for this much hyped transport accord known as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. You can read the presser on it here: Auckland Transport Alignment Program Scope Signed #AKLPols.

In this post I am going to look at the guts of the document of which I am not very happy about.

You can read the document here:

Let’s take a look starting with the beginning for context which is solid in itself.

1      Background

1.1             Planning, funding and developing Auckland’s transport system is one of central and local government’s biggest transport challenges.

1.2             Auckland accounts for 34 percent of New Zealand‘s population and generates 35 percent of GDP. Therefore the performance of Auckland’s transport network has implications for the whole economy. Over the next 30 years, Auckland’s population is expected to increase by roughly three quarters of a million people. This growth will put significant pressure on the city’s transport system.

1.3             Auckland Council has identified the need for additional funding from 2018 onwards to deliver its preferred future transport network and has sought to engage with the Government to enable implementation of an alternative funding system by 2018/19.

1.4             The Government is committed to ensuring Auckland’s transport system is able to meet the region’s needs and recognises Auckland will need significant investment in its transport system in the coming decades to provide for its forecast growth. The Government needs to be confident that investment in Auckland’s transport system will address the region’s transport challenges and provide value for money before it will consider providing Auckland with additional funding or funding tools.

1.5             The Government and Auckland Council have agreed to work together to identify an aligned strategic approach for the development of Auckland’s transport system that delivers the best possible outcomes for Auckland and New Zealand.

3      Purpose of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project

3.1             The purpose of the project is to improve alignment between the Parties over the way Auckland’s transport system should develop, including testing whether better returns from transport investment can be achieved.

3.2             The project will be led by the Secretary for Transport and the Chief Executive of Auckland Council. It will assess alternative packages of interventions and recommend to the Parties an aligned strategic approach, including preferred indicative package(s), for the long-term development of Auckland’s land transport system.

3.3             This project will not replace the statutory decision making responsibilities of Auckland Transport regarding the activities within the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan or the NZ Transport Agency regarding the National Land Transport Programme.

3.4             The Parties would like to:

i.                ensure that the  aligned strategic approach meets both the Government’s and Auckland Council’s objectives, results in best possible outcomes for users of the transport system and delivers the best possible value for money

ii.                have an understanding of the costs, benefits and other implications of implementing the aligned strategic approach and its main alternatives

iii.                receive a set of recommendations on how to implement the aligned strategic approach (including consideration of further work and any changes to statutory documents).


Okay it lays down the framework to which this terms of reference will be approached. Now half the homework has been done with the recent Long Term Plan 2015-2025 complete and 27,000 submitters overwhelmingly wanting investment in public and active transport over roads (apart from maintenance). This ultimately leaves the Government and its Ministry of Transport, and Auckland Council with its Auckland Transport to deliver a time frame of a coordinated response to investing in those transport modes the people in the Long Term Plan wanted. Nothing else needs to be done and Government needs to put its ideology aside as the people spoke. Government’s job is to basically get done what the people asked for not what the Government wants on an ideological whim.

Now to the objectives and where the entire document falls over.

1      Objectives for the Auckland Transport Alignment Project

  1. The Parties broadly agree that the focus of the project is to test whether better returns from transport investment can be achieved in the medium and long-term, particularly in relation to the following objectives:
    1. to support economic growth and increased productivity by ensuring access to employment/labour improves [relative to current levels] as Auckland’s population grows
    2. to improve congestion results [relative to predicted results], in particular travel time and reliability, in the peak period and to ensure congestion does not become widespread during working hours
    3. to improve public transport’s mode share [relative to predicted results], where it will address congestion
    4. to ensure any increases in the financial costs of using the transport system deliver net benefits to users of the system.


The entire document falls over for one reason and the fatal reason; its focus on congestion rather than accessibility and efficiency as a whole.

Sure accessibility to employment and labour is mentioned but for the rest it focuses on congestion and even that is narrowed down to just jobs. Congestion is a consequence and an effect. That consequence and effect (congestion) comes from lack of accessibility and travel efficiency four our journeys. Thus congestion is mitigated, avoided or remedied if the populace has accessibility to reliable and efficient modes of transport for the length of the journey and this is where the project should focus on.

So rather than “to improve public transport’s mode share [relative to predicted results], where it will address congestion” it should read: “to improve public transport’s mode share through greater accessibility and travel efficiency.” Doing this eliminates objective “B” or rather reframe it to measures around accessibility levels, travel time and travel efficiency.

How you could re-frame the entire set of objectives entire is set up a tiered system of goals which there must be accessibility and travel efficiency.

So how about a transport system that caters for all classes of commutes (both work and leisure):

No resident in urban Auckland should be no more than by car or public transport:

  • 15-20 minutes from a Metropolitan Centre (or City Centre if Central Auckland)
  • 10 minutes of a bus stop or rail station (this includes walking and cycling)
  • 15 minutes from a major transport interchange
  • 10 Minutes from a Local and/or Town Centre (double if walking)
  • 7 minutes from a park (walking or cycling)
  • 55 Minutes from the City Centre from Papakura or 45 minutes from Albany/Westgate
  • 30 minutes from one of the five industrial complexes (INCLUDING the North Shore (Wairau Valley))

Note: this does not preclude YOUR place of work or leisure point but simply the nearest one to you.

What I have done is basically created a set of spokes and “hubs” that would be interconnected via the transport system to allow choice in local, sub regional and regional choices for work and play. Remembering:

  • shuttle buses are great feeders into other public transport modes
  • Buses for short distance and medium distance if a busway is near by
  • Light Rail for short and medium distances
  • Heavy Rail for large mass movement either over medium to long distances or shuttling between two big stations like Britomart and Newmarket

Work your transport system around that and the rest falls into place including freight movements. Because once people can access a fully multi-modal transport system that is travel efficient your system is then freed up for freight to move both by road and when required rail.

So if we want to go more three-dimensional in our thinking around a coordinated approach to transport in Auckland then the current version of the project will not go there and we will continue to have an inaccessible inefficient transport system that causes congestion.

Data shows that fewer Ame

3 thoughts on “Failure to Understand Auckland’s Transport System #AKLPols #nzpols UPDATED

  1. Western worldview and its acceptance of dichotomy has affected this statement. We are trying to solve a problem with one type of solution. Fixing the transport system needs integration with housing and industrial and office centres. Where people live greatly affects transport options and congestion. Building apartments around major transport hubs such as the emergence of the transformation of New Lynn has enormous potential to house 750,000 additional Aucklanders and avoid increasing congestion on our roads If rail services the hubs well and feeder services feed the rail hubs we can reduce congestion on our roads. Greenlane to Penrose office parks housing 5,000 the current office workers next to the rail hub at Ellerslie is another good example of the potential to reduce congestion If even 20% of the workers in these office blocks (1,000 people) would invest in a high rise apartment over the railway. Kiwirail are ready to sell airspace over the rail network so the intensification of Auckland can take place where our rail hubs already exist. Open space and sports facilities are needed in close proximity to these high rise developments to ensure quality of life. The Auckland CBD has shown us how it can be done. Most people living in apartments in the CBD live there because they work or study there. That eliminates the need to travel by road. The Central Rail investment would enhance their quality of life and their ability to access the greater CBD area without vehicles. I look froward to your comments.

  2. Good comments. Agree that the emphasis on congestion is a missed opportunity.

    What is missing is any recognition that the transport system also needs to result in reduced carbon emissions. The end date for this strategy is just 5 years from the govt target of a 50% carbon reduction (compared to 1990) by 2050.

    1. Fair point with the carbon emissions. Also to take that to its full conclusion is missing the recognition of pollution, air, noise, water and light.

      If the transport alignment took those pollution factors into account and reducing them to a target like GHGs then naturally like my main argument with congestion carbon emissions also drop right out – both the gas and the soot.

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