Some quick transit wins in 100 days
With Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern due to announce her Cabinet today and to go to the Governor General on Thursday it is time to look at the next three years in terms of projects. Specifically I am thinking planning, housing and transport in terms of getting some quick runs on the board. I am not deaf to parts of the electorate being hostile to the new Government, so getting those quick runs on the board with tangible projects will go some distance in the new Government making its mark into the ground.
The Auckland Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan have been successful in providing simplified (although still large) planning and aspiration documents over a thirty year time frame. Both documents get reviewed regularly and heavily influence budget documents like Long Term Plans. With such a road map (the Auckland Plan) and a simplified planning document working out where an urban area will go over the next thirty years can provide confidence for those who live or work in the area.
So for this new Government and especially as a precursor to the next set of projects rolling out Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin Plans and respective Unitary Plans over the next three years will get our urban areas onto a solid footing.
Both Labour and New Zealand First agree to 10,000 new homes a year (Auckland needs 14,700 new homes year to keep up) so we are going to see a mass building program (most likely with prefabs and modular homes) in the larger urban centres. Where those homes will go is why you need the equivalent of Auckland Plans and Unitary Plans rolled out across the urban centres but ones those documents the build can start.
Getting a factory set up in Wiri (given it is close to the rail line) and rolling out your first 1,000 by 2018 with ramping up from there would be a nice old-fashioned photo-op (as well as money where mouth is) and getting people into warm and dry homes.
This is where quick tangible wins can make a noticeable difference right off the bat – and at low-cost as well before we start hitting the big rail projects.
A quick recap:
Make Auckland a world-class city – LABOUR POLICY
Investing in Auckland’s transport infrastructure is vital both to the quality of life of Aucklanders and the economy of our largest city. Labour will invest to make Auckland a world-class city.
Auckland’s population grew 14 per cent between 2008/09 and 2015/16, with a 16 per cent increase in state highway traffic volumes and a 35 per cent increase in public transport boardings in the region.
Yet spending via the New Zealand Transport Agency on new and improved transport infrastructure in Auckland hasn’t increased.
Congestion has worsened dramatically in recent years and costs Auckland nearly $2b a year. Average speeds at peak times have fallen nearly 10km/h since 2014. Delaying projects that would reduce congestion is a false economy. The cost of doing nothing is too high for Aucklanders and for business.
It’s time to accelerate investment in Auckland transport.
• Build light rail from the CBD to Auckland Airport. This will be part of a new light rail network that will be built over the next decade with routes to the central suburbs, the airport, and West Auckland, and will later be extended to the North Shore
• Build a new Bus Rapid Transit line from Howick to the airport, starting with a bus service which will connect Puhinui and Manukau train stations to the airport in one year
• Invest in more electric trains, electrification to Pukekohe, and building a third main trunk line urgently between Westfield and Papakura
• Build a range of significant cross-town bus priority routes including New Lynn-Flat Bush, Point Chevalier-Botany, Silverdale-Whangaparoa, and Howick-Glenfield
• Allow Auckland Council to collect a regional fuel tax to fund the acceleration of these investments, along with infrastructure bonds and targeted rates to capture value uplift.
These projects will ease congestion, reducing wasted time and fuel costs. They will make our biggest city an even better place to live. Getting more people on to high-quality public transport will unclog our roads.
Rail to the airport is crucial for Auckland’s future growth. Waiting 30 years is simply not an option given the congestion that exists on the roads already. A world-class city in the 21st century needs a rail connection from its CBD to its airport.
This policy revises the Auckland Transport Alignment Plan and adds additional projects laid out in the Congestion Free Network plan. In total, there will be an extra $3.3b investment, comprising both new and accelerated projects over the next 20 years.
Light rail network and heavy rail improvements will be brought forward from the second and third decades into the first decade. Light rail to Mt Roskill will take four years to build, with the lines through to the airport and West Auckland completed within a decade. New bus improvement projects will also be carried out in the first decade. In the second decade, we will expand the light rail network to the North Shore.
Costs will be avoided by building the airport and North Western routes as light rail from the start, rather than initially doing bus improvements. Some lower-value projects will be delayed and the cost of the East-West Link will be reduced by adopting an option with a better benefit to cost ratio, saving $1.2b.
Labour will invest a net $2.1b extra in Auckland transport infrastructure. These increased investments and the existing funding gap in the ATAP will be met with new funding sources. A Regional Fuel Tax is forecast to raise $160m a year at 10 cents a litre. Labour will give Auckland Council the ability to use new methods of funding infrastructure, like infrastructure bonds and targeted rates.
Labour’s Improvements to Auckland Transport Alignment Plan
Projects accelerated to the next ten years
• Light rail – CBD to Central Suburbs and airport
• Light rail – CBD to West Auckland
• Bus Rapid Transit – Howick to the airport
• Third rail line – Westfield to Papakura
• Additional electric trains
• Better value for money East-West Link
New projects in the next ten years
•Bus priority route – New Lynn to Flat Bush
•Bus priority route – Point Chevalier to Botany
•Bus priority route – Silverdale to Whangaparoa
•Bus priority route – Howick to Glenfield
Projects accelerated to the second decade
•Light rail – CBD to North Shore
•Further rail improvements
Source: NZ Labour Party
The three transit policies in red coupled with a total rewrite of the three yearly Government Policy Statement (on transport) are examples of some rapid runs on the board that would make noticeable differences to people and goods on the move. The Government Policy Statement on transport dictates how transport investment and priorities are set out over the next three years. I believe the next GPS is due to go online next year and is heavily roads focused. The new Minister of Transport can order a full rewrite shifting the balance back towards a more balanced approach (transit, freight rail and active modes) would “remind” authorities like NZTA and Auckland Transport where the new Government’s expectation in transport sit. It also marks out the next three years of transport projects and which go first.
With the Government Policy Statement in place by early next year getting the first three transit projects off the ground becomes straight forward. Bus lanes along State Highway 20B linking the Airport to Papatoetoe Station (until the full Southern Airport Line is built linking up with Puhinui Station), the Third Main from Otahuhu to Wiri, and more electric trains can be all done by end of 2018 (in the case of new trains 2019). Pukekohe electrification itself can be all squared up by 2021 with the Third Main extended all the way to Papakura, the Fourth Main from Otahuhu to Wiri, and the first stage of the Southern Airport Light Rail Line from Airport to Manukau Station also all done by 2021.
Of course planning for larger projects like the North Western LRT from the City Centre to Westgate would be well advanced but here I am looking at getting those quick runs on the board by 2020-2021. Those quick runs would give a reliable alternative to the Airport using rail and bus while the Third Main detangles the freight and passenger trains on the Southern Line allowing better efficiency and timekeeping of services in that area.
And yes who doesn’t love a good photo-op after a major transit project is completed.
The new Government will need strong determination to get these projects over the line quickly. It can be done with projects like the Third Main and the first stages of the Southern Airport Line offering instant relief to travellers and freight. Eye on the prize and let’s get these projects done.