ATAP Still a Load of Wonk. What I Would Have Done

A supposed technical manual short on delivery


We have all seen the media reports about road congestion charging coming in the near future according to Minister of Transport Simon Bridges. We all know Auckland’s traffic stinks and public transport (despite the continued 24% a month rise in rail and bus way patronage continues) to also well stink. What Government Council is trying do is through this Auckland Transport Alignment Program accord is get Council and Government on the same page to advance transport projects in keeping Auckland moving.



For 42 pages of wonk and jargon (sorry Patrick even a technical manual should be easy to read given the media are reporting off it) does not go very far in stage two of its three stage journey much like when it was at stage one back in February (see: Transport Minister and Auckland Mayor Present Transport Accord. Questions Asked #AKLPols)

Stu Donovan over in a Transport Blog comment on the Auckland Transport Alignment Program manage to sum up all 42 pages like this:

stu donovan

Three main messages from ATAP:

1. Time of use road pricing is essential. Do it.

2. Waitemata harbour crossing is a waste of money. Don’t do it.

3. Technology. Cool, especially in long run.

There, saved everyone else from reading the report.



Thank you Stu as that would have saved us 42 pages of pain!


What the stage two of this ATAP also misses is the Unitary Plan. That being this transport accord does not line up with the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan and the spatial applications of the zones in the slightest. Sure there is going to be rezoning when the Panel recommendations come through but last I looked no centres or industrial complexes were being deleted right out so we have a basic idea where residential, commercial and industrial will be.

In shorter terms it seems the ATAP in where to invest transport funds is not lined up with the Unitary Plan and where the growth in both residential and employment sectors will be. Nor does the ATAP really go far into modelling future travel movements which again will be influenced by the Unitary Plan and policies such as Auckland Transport not wanting more than 80% of commuters going further north than Manukau City Centre either on the motorway or rail system.

Working out where to line the transport investment up alongside urban growth is a pretty straight forward exercise both on the demand and supply side. For employment centres we have:

  1. Two City Centres (this includes Manukau)
  2. Nine Metropolitan Centres of varying size, amenity and future investment (Manukau is the 10th that I sent to the top)
  3. Six heavy industrial complexes (Southdown-Onehunga, Otahuhu-Mt Wellington, Highbrook-East Tamaki, the Airport, Wiri and Drury South. You also have the upcoming Takanini light industrial complex as well)

For transport spines we have:

  1. State Highways 1, 16, 18 and 20 that combined connect to or run near all but two of the Metropolitan Centres and all the industrial complexes including East Tamaki
  2. The Northern Bus Way connecting the City Centre to two Metropolitan Centres
  3. The Southern, Eastern/Manukau and Southern rail Lines which connect six of the Metropolitan Centres (including Manukau), the City Centre, and except for Highbrook/East Tamaki and the Airport (for now) the other big industrial complexes (so passenger and freight)

Residential areas typically until recently clustered around the industrial complexes, the Metropolitan Centres and the City Centre itself although recently we have been getting residential sprawl at some distance from these employment centres making commuting that much harder.


Draw this all on a map and you have a very basic puzzle set out with foundations laid out in a transport system across urban Auckland. The catch is:

  • Where will future population and employment growth be
  • How will people get to employment centres now and the future
  • How do we extend the basic system to capture the above

Note: this is also technology silent. Meaning no matter what happens about autonomous electric cars and driverless trains the situations mentioned above remain constant.


As this drawing and extrapolation mentioned in the most three above recent bullet points happened? Yes it has back in 2014 the Ministry of Transport commissioned a report into commuter habits across the Auckland region specifically into the big employment centres and from selected large residential areas. I blogged on this and you can read the series by clicking on the links below:

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Introduction

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #The City Centre

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Major non City Centre Employment Centres Overview

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Major non City Centre Employment Centres Overview 2

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #From Selected Residential Centres

Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Concluding Remarks


An extract from the introduction of that series:

Big city life? Challenges and trade-offs for Auckland city

In May 2014, NZIER released the report Big city life? Challenges and trade-offs for Auckland city(external link). The report aims to help inform debate on Auckland’s urban structure. It examines the impact of the city’s constrained geography and uses a simple economic model to show the effect on housing costs of improving transport infrastructure, lifting house construction productivity, and extending the urban limit.

Big city life? was funded by the Reserve Bank, the Treasury, the Ministry of Transport and NZIER’s public good programme, which supports research into areas of general interest to New Zealanders. You can read more on NZIER’s website(external link).





I drew these initial conclusions from the report (population growth also given for context):

  • Public Transport as mode share is increasing at the expense of private transport mode share for the most (but not all) parts
  • The City Centre draws its workers from itself, the Lower North Shore, inner Isthmus and those close to the Western Rail Line
  • South Auckland is something of an enigma with the bulk of its commutes within itself or to Penrose-Onehunga. It was noted increased commuting concentrations to the Heavy Industrial complexes in the south, the Airport and Manukau City Centre.
  • Manukau City Centre like the main City Centre draws the bulk of its workers from either within itself or within close proximity. However, both Centres have a large catchment with the City Centre attracting workers from the Isthmus, lower North Shore and those near the Western (rail) Line. Manukau City Centre draws widely (and extensively) from all of the Southern Auckland area.
  • Note: Students were not measured so we do have skewering
  • While the workforce is increasing in the City Centre so is our population. Thus relative to proportions the percentage numbers and where they are coming from in their commute to the CBD does not change highly
  • Southern Auckland again does the heavy lifting with it both having the highest population concentration in Auckland as well as population growth (see below).


Table B.1 Growth in Population of the Auckland Region 2001-2013
Area Total Resident Population Total Growth
2001 2006 2013 2001-2006 2006-2013
Total Region
Total Auckland exc CBD 1,150,101 1,283,598 1,384,212 11.6% 7.8%
Individual Former Cities or Districts Potentially Impacted by Rail
Waitakere 169,569 187,281 200,826 10.4% 7.2%
Auckland City exc CBD 349,275 374,631 395,772 7.3% 5.6%
Manukau, Papakura & Franklin 362,478 418,446 453,378 15.4% 8.3%
Combined Areas 881,322 980,358 1,049,976 11.2% 7.1%



Source: Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Introduction


And from the concluding remarks of the final post of the series:

Concluding Remarks

This post brings to an end the ‘Auckland’s Commuting Journey – A Series’ run of posts. Previously the series looked at commuting patters to the City Centre, major employment centres outside of the City Centre, and from key residential centres in Auckland. The Richard Paling Report commissioned by the Ministry of Transport showed for the most part where there is good public transport people will use it. This is shown through private mode share continuously dropping for the most part and public transport mode share going up (both along bus and rail corridors). Places not served well by public transport such as the Airport and Highbrook have higher than regional average private mode share which actually grew on the Census’s period. Furthermore subdivisions built prior to 1990 seemed to have a good public transport usage uptake. Compared to subdivisions built post 1990’s (North Harbour, Flatbush, Dannemora etc) the public transport uptake is relatively low compared to their older subdivision counterparts.

Land use and transport use policy from 1990 until about now (although still some legacy affects are there) was neo-liberal based from the USA where cul-de-sacs and cars were king above all else. Auckland (as well as the USA) have finally seen this and are both retrofitting existing subdivisions to be more public transport and people friendly, while new subdivisions (most likely post Unitary Plan in 2016) should return to our past in being more people friendly and accessible to existing or new public transport infrastructure.

The report also showed South Auckland being an enigma with its commuting patterns. While people and students (who don’t show up in the report and hence why Councillors Brewer and Quax are wrong with their interpretations about the 1.7% rail mode share) do commute to the City Centre or beyond from the South (just take an Eastern Line train between 7am-9am to see) the Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Major non City Centre Employment Centres Overview post illustrated South Auckland largely commuted within itself. This is most likely owing to large industrial complexes, the airport, and Manukau City Centre which are all moderate to large employment centres and those centres serving a diverse socio-economic sector more drawn to these centres than the City Centre would provide.


In the end the report showed three things:

  1. Not everything is City Centre based or heading to the City Centre as South Auckland would show. This means our transport (and land use planning) needs to be flexible to more cross city commuting and more localised commuting (especially with the South). The Manukau South Rail Link at a cost of about $6m backed up with feeder buses into Wiri would be an example of a quick win allowing a quick (14 minutes from Papakura to Manukau Station) trip from a major residential centre to a major employment centre. In a sense of irony if jobs were provided closer to home owing to good public transport links then the likelihood of cross city commuting decreases thus congestion on roads, buses and trains lessen.
  2. Where there is public transport people WILL use it so we must continue to stick it out and provide public transport links that work (something the new South Auckland Bus Network should do). Just because 1.7% commute by rail does not mean we should not invest in rail. It shows we should especially as rail is the most efficient form moving people over medium to long distances where as buses (without a bus way) is only good for feeders, short and medium distances.
  3. Our Landuse/Transport integration policy is still out of whack. Something I will highlight in the Spatial Priorities tie over below


First Look at the 10 Spatial Priorities

Through the Draft Long Term Plan 2015-2025 and no doubt the Auckland Development Committee (which would over see the execution) the Council is targeting its finite City Building resources into these ten spatial priority areas. These SPA’s would over time (so a new set of 10 every 5-10 years) would most likely get dedicated attention and resources funnelled into them as Council embarks on the City Building program. By using Spatial Priority Areas I believe the Council is trying to achieve best bang for buck in areas that at the time would handle specific growth challenges within Auckland. Here is the draft outlook at the first ten spatial priority areas:


They are essentially along rail or bus corridors which means we have a chance of marrying up that land/transport integrated planning. The Rail Corridor Census Area Unit used in the research paper can be seen below


So the first set of Spatial Priorities are focusing on Brownfield developments mainly along the Southern Line and Western Line rail corridors with the City Centre and Manukau City Centre also classed as spatial priorities as well.

I will be interesting to see how Council approaches this and something I will ask the Deputy Mayor who is the Chair of the Auckland Development Committee on Thursday after the Committee meets.


Source: Auckland’s Commuting Journeys – A Series. #Concluding Remarks


By the very definition the leg work for the Auckland Transport Alignment Program was already done two years ago. All we are waiting on is the Unitary Plan to be confirmed and actually Central Government hurrying up with the funding to roll out the transport investments according to growth and flow of Auckland.

This is not rocket science as the ATAP makes all this transport planning out to be but rather Government playing catch up with elections drawing near.



Long story short the work was already done prior to the ATAP. All we are waiting on is Government to stop dragging the chain.


Checking an individual subway unit
Checking an individual subway unit