Make a Submission to Support the CBD Rail Link

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There are a plethora of plans out at the moment for public consultation, but there is one in particular that better transport advocates need to submit on in particular.

It is the Regional Land Transport Programme – this lists all the planned transport activities for the next three years and is used to prioritise applications for government funding through the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Submissions are very much a numbers game. If there isn’t strong support for projects as vital as the City Rail Link then the chances of it getting funded diminish severely.

It is easy to make a submission, you can do it online right here. Complete the section titled Your details and then go to section 8 to provide your submission on the RLTP. All the other sections are optional.

There is a general lack of understanding as to why the City Rail Link is necessary, but in short it is vital to avoid the entire rail network from getting congested at Britomart.

Other areas poorly represented in the RLTP are:

  • Dedicated cycling lanes
  • Support for pedestrian safety improvements
  • Extension of light rail from Wynyard to Britomart and beyond
  • Avondale – Southdown rail link
  • Improved connectivity between bus, ferry and rail services
  • Northwestern Busway
  • The need to reduce our dependency on ever more expensive oil

Submissions close 4:00pm Friday 23rd March.  Please take a minute to show your support for better transport.

Get In The Loop

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Auckland is a great big city; so why doesn’t it have a great big city transit system? That’s the question posed by inthel00p.co.nz, a brand new ‘fashion activist’ website.

With designs based on famous subway or metro signs, you’ll stay stylish while making a statement. Plus for every t-shirt sold via this website, they will give $10 to the Campaign for Better Transport! Simply order at their website, and enter ‘CBT’ in the special delivery instructions field. If you have any queries, please contact them directly.

Rally for Rail: 29th October

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The Campaign for Better Transport is supporting Greenpeace and other organisations and joining the Rally for Rail on Saturday the 29th October in downtown Auckland.  Details to be announced, but keep the date free to support the continued investment in passenger rail in Auckland.

Funding Transport In Auckland

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In a Herald article last Friday, Transport Minister Steven Joyce came out with the following straw man argument:

“I don’t think anyone would buy the suggestion that that very, very expensive project should just be paid for by road users,” he said.

In response, Transport Minister Steven Joyce is right,  but no-one is suggesting that the CBD Rail Link should just be paid for by road users.

However Minister Joyce must be aware that public transport infrastructure can significantly benefit road users, and on that basis some level of funding commitment from the National Land Transport Fund, which raises $2.8bn annually from petrol excise and road user charges, is entirely appropriate.

The precedent for this is the Northern Busway. This quarter billion dollar project was jointly funded from the National Land Transport Fund and the North Shore City Council and has eased congestion levels across the Harbour Bridge to the significant benefit of motorists.

Similarly the CBD Rail Link will not only double capacity of the entire rail network and offer significant travel time saving benefits to public transport users, but it will also benefit road users as well by taking a significant number of cars off the roads at peak times.

Contrary to what Minister Joyce says, Auckland City has already established that no roading based solution will offer anywhere near the benefits of the CBD Rail Link.

If Minister Joyce insists on having sole discretion on how our fuel taxes are used, he needs to work constructively to find alternative transport funding solutions for Auckland.

Govt: Case for Auckland CBD Rail Link not yet made

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The Government has done a press release on its review of the CBD rail tunnel:

The review of the Business Case for the CBD Rail Link finds that the case for funding and building the rail link has not yet been made, and that the mix of options for meeting transport needs in the CBD have not been sufficiently explored.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has today released the review which was conducted by the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury in conjunction with the NZ Transport Agency.

“In short, the review says more work needs to be done to determine the full future transport needs of central Auckland before proceeding with a project like the CBD Rail Link,” says Mr Joyce.

“However, the review suggests that in the meantime, it makes strategic sense for Auckland Council to move to protect the route, and I agree with that.”

Specifically, the review found:

• That the estimated construction costs for the CBD Rail Link are largely sound – at a total of $2.4 billion
• That the transport benefits of the project are estimated at $387 million rather than the $1,319 million assessed in the business case
• That the project would have only a modest impact on traffic volumes and likely remove up to 1,400 cars (2,000 people) of the estimated 29,000 cars (41,000 people) travelling into the CBD during the morning peak in 2041.
• That the wider economic benefits of the project as estimated in the business case ($3.3 billion) were very significantly over-stated and were in fact more like $305 million – which was still high relative to the transport benefits when compared with similar large international transport projects
• That the re-calculated BCR consistent with the NZTA Economic Evaluation Manual used for roading projects was 0.3; with the additional wider economic benefits taking it to 0.4

The review suggested that the following steps could be taken by Auckland Council to improve the future case for development of the CBD Rail Link:

• Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur
• Development of a robust multi-modal plan for future transport into the CBD, which includes a thorough analysis of all the alternatives
• Begin implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors to capitalise on the current upgrade and electrification.
• Implement additional park and ride sites and bus feeder services to drive further increases in public transport demand

The review noted that, late in the process, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport provided a new alternative policy case which provided a range of new assumptions and policy considerations to the previous business case.

Mr Joyce says officials did not assess the new policy case provided as there was insufficient time.

“It appears to contain some things that are specifically related to the CBD Rail Link, and some things that would improve transport in Auckland, regardless of any decision to build the CBD Rail Link.”

“I think the timing of the latest policy proposal underscores the need to go carefully through the spatial plan process and the various transport options; to make sure that together we make the right investments in future Auckland transport projects at the right time.

“In the meantime, we continue to invest $1.6 billion to electrify and modernise Auckland’s commuter rail network to provide for the next stage of growth in rail patronage. This Crown investment will help deliver a modern, fast and superior commuter rail experience from 2013/14.”

Hopefully we get to see the MoT’s report. It looks like the Government’s solution is 29,000 cars.

[Update] Full review here: http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/rail/AucklandCBDRailLinkBusinessCaseReview-main/

Keep Going With the CBD Rail Tunnel

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It is apparent from the latest Government Policy Statement that Auckland’s proposed CBD rail tunnel is a project the Government does not want to contribute to.

However, the Government isn’t saying what the alternative is. Auckland’s population is predicted to increase by a million people over the next four decades – seventy percent of New Zealand’s population growth overall.

Without the CBD rail tunnel, growth in public transport patronage will reach a capacity limit a few years from now.

No other transport option will be able to support the expected growth in CBD travel demand. We know this because the $5m business case in support of the CBD rail tunnel established that alternative scenarios of increased use of private vehicles or buses won’t be able to cope with this demand.

Even the New Zealand Transport Agency, in a recent board paper, acknowledges that “there is confidence by NZTA that the project offers a potential option for further transport investment in the Auckland CBD, that supports the stated aims of Auckland.”

The CBD rail tunnel will connect Mt Eden directly to downtown Auckland, with stations at Symonds St, K’Rd, and Midtown. It will not be operated as a loop or circular service, but as a more direct connection from Western line stations to the CBD. A trip from Morningside to Midtown will take just 8 minutes. Fast journey times such as this will be possible for trips from all stations on the Western line.

For the other lines on the network, the major benefit of the tunnel is that Britomart will become a through station, rather than a dead end. This will at least triple the capacity of the entire rail network during the morning peak.

Even with all this in mind, though, the financial constraints on the Government are very real, and a lot of money will need to be directed into rebuilding Christchurch’s infrastructure, particularly within the next five years.

It is clear that, as part of that, transport infrastructure projects will need to be reprioritised.

But, in the face of spiralling petrol prices and the pressure this will place on public transport, it would be a huge mistake to cancel CBD rail tunnel outright.

The CBD rail tunnel has a projected completion date of 2021, with construction not starting until 2015. The next four years are set aside for securing the project’s designation, acquiring the necessary resource consents and undertaking detailed design.

This preparatory work is relatively inexpensive compared to the construction work itself, and the Auckland Council needs to lead this work if it really wants the rail tunnel to progress.

Of course, by 2015, the Auckland Council will need to make a decision about whether to progress with the actual construction of the tunnel.

By then we are likely to have a far better understanding of Christchurch’s remaining infrastructure requirements compared with the rest of the country. And by then central Government will have realised that transport projects which reduce our reliance on fossil fuels should be a priority for the economy.

Holiday Highway Doesn’t Stack Up

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Last week’s opinion piece by Transport Minister Steven Joyce started out well enough.

“Having the right transport infrastructure in place is an important part of the export job,” he stated. “We need to get our goods to market more effectively and efficiently, we need to cater for more tourists (who bring money here), and we need to make it easier to get around our largest cities (so our people can get to work).”

“Therefore we need to invest our roading funds,” the Minister continued, “paid for by our petrol taxes and road user charges, strategically to deal with the biggest issues in our land transport network.”

So far so good. After all, a record $2.5 billion dollars in the year to June 2010 was sourced from fuel excise duties and road user charges. With petrol currently at $1.84 a litre, excise tax accounts for 48c of this. So this means that for every $100 spent at the pump, $26 goes to the New Zealand Transport Agency to spend on transport. So it is good the Minister has his eye on this money being well spent.

Then the very next sentence read “That’s why the government developed the Roads of National Significance.”

At this point the Minister’s argument falls apart. Minister Joyce does not attempt to explain the reasoning why the Roads of National Significance strategically deal with big transport issues. Nor does he explain why roads such as the Puhoi to Wellsford toll road should be built even though, as Rod Oram points out, the standard benefit-cost formula reveals that less than half of the nearly $2 billion dollar construction cost will be returned in economic benefits.

However, even that benefit-cost ratio of a 40c return for every dollar invested may be out of date, with the recent announcement that the new highway will be a toll road.

The fact that the road will be tolled (for an amount as yet unspecified) will have a dramatic negative effect on the number of people willing to use it. A study for the Waterview connection in Auckland, for example, concluded that if that new $1.6bn motorway is tolled at $2, then just 50% of motorists would consider it economically worthwhile to use.

Without any statistical evidence, the Minister maintains that these projects are “crucially important to our country’s economic future.” Yet in 2008 another report commissioned by the NZTA on the Puhoi – Wellsford motorway concluded that, “the economy of Northland is relatively weak” and that “regional economic issues are unlikely to make a significant contribution to the viability for implementing the strategy.”

That roads are self-financing is another erroneous ministerial argument. Just because $26 out of every $100 goes to the NZTA does not mean this money is well spent.

Furthermore, a report commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency (October 2009) found a shortfall of $1.5 billion per year between what is collected from the state highway network and what is being spent on it. Local roads require another $1 billion per year of ratepayer funding.

There is no reason why petrol excise tax should not be spent on public transport projects, provided, of course, that the costs and benefits stack up, in particular for motorists. The Northern Busway in Auckland is a good example where NZTA funds have been successfully applied – motorists have benefitted greatly from 1.8 million passenger trips now being made annually, largely at peak times, and the Harbour Bridge now carries more people than ever before.

The CBD rail tunnel will provide extremely positive economic returns as identified in the recent $5m independent business case. Depending on the discount rate applied, the benefit cost ratio lies somewhere between 3.5 and 6.6. In practical terms, for example, the journey from Morningside to Mid-town Auckland will take a mere 8 minutes.

The Minister is found of repeating the statistic that 84% of people in Auckland use a car to get to work. What he doesn’t say is that for trips to the CBD at peak times, less than half of all commuters use a car, according to a recent survey by the ARC. And the Minister’s implication that future transport funding should be in proportion to how people currently travel is a rejection of the huge growth currently occurring in Auckland rail – with over 9 million trips now being made annually, a figure which has quadrupled in recent years.

So far in his term as Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce is yet to commit any new funding to passenger rail capital projects in Auckland. All spending to date on Auckland’s rail network has been from budgets established years ago now. New electric rolling stock is to be purchased via a loan at commercial interest rates from the Government.

The Minister questions why “some people get so wound up about investing in roading projects”. The answer to this is that “some people”, including expert transport advisers and economists, can see that some roading projects are simply uneconomic. Some projects are economic, of course. The Victoria Park tunnel has a good benefit cost ratio, and as such has a good economic basis to be funded. However, over the next 2009 – 2012 funding period alone, some $3 billion dollars will be spent on new state highway infrastructure. Minister Joyce owes it to the economy, as well as motorists and ratepayers, that this money is well spent.

Auckland Rail Hits New Record

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Yesterday Mayor Len Brown held a press conference at Britomart, with a “major announcement” for Auckland rail.  It wasn’t quite the announcement I was hoping for – contract signed for electric trains or funding for the CBD rail tunnel sorted – but nonetheless, it is significant and it further strengthens the case for more investment in passenger rail:
Mayor Brown and Tish Bhattti

Auckland Mayor Len Brown presents Tish Bhatti with a MAXX gift bag, that includes a pass to ride on any public transport free for a month

The number of Aucklanders using rail has reached a record high, with nine million trips made in the last 12 months.

Rail patronage has increased 14 per cent on the previous 12 months, which is equivalent to an extra 20,000 journeys being made each week. Since Britomart Transport Centre opened in 2003 annual patronage has increased from 2.5 million to the current levels of 9 million per annum.

The nine million record comes in the week after large numbers used public transport to get to the U2 concerts and the Santa Parade.

To mark the achievement Mayor Len Brown met rail commuters at Britomart this morning and presented a pass for a month’s free public transport travel to a randomly selected passenger.

Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton says the number of people getting on trains is increasing quickly.

“A number of improvements have been made to services and rail infrastructure.

“For example in the past year 6 new or upgraded stations have opened, including major new stations at Newmarket and New Lynn. The Onehunga Line was also reopened after 37 years and Kingsland received an upgrade to ready it for Rugby World Cup 2011.

“Timetable improvements have seen a 25 per cent increase in services and some trains have been extended from four to six carriages.

“Another major factor in the increasing patronage is the popularity of public transport for getting to events.”

Auckland Transport acknowledges the key role Veolia Transport Auckland, who run the passenger rail network, has played in achieving the record patronage.

Patronage is expected to reach 10 million by the end of 2011.

Full PR is here.


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