For some time now I’ve been meaning to put together a “FAQ” page to cover the commonly asked questions in relation to public transport. Fortunately Josh Arbury has done some of the work for me in this post over at Kiwiblog:
OK so there are two questions here. The first is “why should rail be subsidised?” and the second is “why should Auckland get a bigger chunk of the pie than it has in the past?”
The answer to the first question is, quite simply, that road users benefit hugely from people using public transport – particularly during peak times, particularly for CBD-centred trips and particularly for long trips. It just so happens that rail trips are CBD centric, are long and a pretty big chunk of them happen at peak times. NZTA has calculated that every peak time rail trip in Auckland generates $17 in decongestion benefits. Benefits that are enjoyed by road users. Here’s NZTA’s table showing public transport benefits: http://transportblog.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/economic-benefits-pt2.jpg
The answer to the second question, as campit has already mentioned, is quite simply that Auckland is growing way way way faster than the rest of the country. Between now and 2030 over 60% of New Zealand’s population growth is in Auckland. Between now and 2050 around 75% of NZ’s growth is in Auckland (in those past 20 years the rest of the country’s population effectively stops growing whereas Auckland keeps growing due to its younger population and the fact that most migrants settle here). Over the next 40 years Auckland’s population will grow by a million people whereas the population of the entire rest of New Zealand will only grow by a third of that. More details on population growth here:
So really a significant majority of the country’s “new transport infrastructure spend” should be in Auckland. No offence to places like Invercargill, but if your population isn’t growing chances are you won’t need too many new roads or too many new railway lines. Of course we need to maintain your existing roads, but the new infrastructure need is likely to be fairly low.
NZTA spends around $3 billion a year on transport throughout New Zealand. That means over the next 15 years (the timeframe for Len Brown’s three railway projects) NZTA will spend around $45 billion on transport. Three rail projects with a combined cost of less than 20% of that total doesn’t actually seem too scary any more when you think about it – especially when ratepayers are obviously going to make some contribution to the projects.
The money is there, we’re just spending it on the wrong stuff and in the wrong parts of the country compared to where the need is.