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Oh dear – National’s “white elephant” is still growing?

Written By: - Date published: 4:56 pm, November 23rd, 2014 - 44 comments
Categories: national, public transport, same old national, transport - Tags: , ,

There is one thing that you can say about the National party and their media sycophants is that they are routinely wrong about Auckland city.  Auckland really can’t go wrong by simply implementing whatever plan they are currently railing against. For instance this classically wrong cartoon accurately expresses the opinions being put forward in NZ Herald pieces  in the early to late 2000’s.

Back in 2007 when the Northern busway was being put in, they were portraying it as being a white elephant. But the traffic figures at the Transport Blog make it perfectly clear that was simple stupidity.

What actually happened? Although the busway was constructed late, it worked like crazy. By 2012, actual patronage on the busway was almost double what the patronage forecasts indicated:

Northern busway figures projected vs actual as at November 2012.

Needless to say, the pundits in the article have been proven to be completely and utterly wrong. Most were advocating for more roads based on projection of increased car traffic. But the trend both here and internationally isn’t that way. It is towards public transport…

The most recent Census data shows that road traffic is growing at an anemic pace while all other modes are booming:

So despite large sections of very expensive motorway and other roading changes in Auckland being opened up since 2006, it has resulted in a negligible increase in that being people’s preferred mode of commuting transport. The relatively few and much cheaper to implement alternatives in public transport are filled to near capacity a few years after they become available.

But it goes wider than that. The changes that were in the Auckland public transport plan after the National government got tossed from office in 1999 have all been late invariably due to a lack of early funding.

  • The key projects that have been undertaken, such as the Northern Busway and rail electrification, have often been finished far behind schedule. Rail electrification was supposed to be done in 2011, for crying out loud!

  • The successful Northern Busway hasn’t been followed with investment in other essential rapid transit projects, such as the (planned but not yet built) AMETI busway to the eastern suburbs and the Northwestern Busway on SH16.

  • Successive governments have spent billions on Auckland’s motorway network even after it became apparent that demand was flatlining.

From another Transport blog post, it is clear that this shows no signs of diminishing in 2014. The rapid transit network including the Northern busway and the rail network is showing increases in trips of between 13% and 25% across all modes, with an average patronage increase of 16.7%. The Northern busway alone without any significiant increases in services has increased by 12.4%. Even the feeder buses in the throes of changes on various routes show a 6.4% increase.

Auckland Transport patronage breakdown October 2014. Click for a larger image.

The overall increase YTD is 7.7% which is a phenomenal shift in traffic towards public transport.

But hey, this kind of thing doesn’t appear to impact on the short-term thinking of our short-sighted and outright stupid National government. Here is a press release by Simon Bridges, the idiot transport minister from Tauranga, on Auckland’s transport needs.

Auckland Council are welcome to have a debate about future transport infrastructure investment plans, but the Government remains sceptical about the options being presented, Transport Minister Simon Bridges said today in response to the release of ‘Funding Auckland’s Transport Future’, a report commissioned by the Auckland Council.

“This is why the National-led Government is spending more than ever before to help build the city’s transport network; around a billion dollars a year. These include very large projects like the Waterview Connection, the widening of the North Western Motorway, the electrification of commuter rail, and the acceleration of motorway projects on the Northern and Southern Corridors.

From memory, weren’t almost all of those public transport projects started and funded by the last Labour government? For that matter so were most of the roading white elephants.

“Aucklanders would need a very clear sense of what results they are getting and whether the new projects would deliver tangible value for money for commuters.  They also need to have the discussion about how much more Aucklanders are prepared to pay for their transport.”

This is from the government who in 2009 arbitrarily removed the painfully negotiated regional fuel tax that was meant to allow Aucklanders to pay for their local transport projects without having to go cap in hand to the dithering idiots in Wellington.

Aucklanders are overwhelmingly voting with their AT Hop cards. They don’t get on the motorways to try to find a park close to work. Where it is available they are getting on bus or train because you can read on the commute. The glare of the LCD screens in endemic on all public transport in Auckland these days as people catch up on news feeds, email and books on the way to work.

Helping to extend motorways further is pretty pointless. The congestion figures on the motorways and the bridges is reducing because people use the public transport whenever it is available. Even the current public transport projects in the pipeline are going to continue to reduce road congestion.

And after all, who really wants to have a hour long commute each way to live in some greenfield site at the back or beyond in the manner that appears to be National’s prefered development plan. The flood of people and the massive rises in house prices are in the areas that people want to live. That isn’t at the ends of the motorways. It is in a ever growing circle within 5-15 kms in the now “inner” suburbs of Auckland like Mt Roskill or Glenfield. The places characterised by relatively short commutes on public transport to transport hubs and work.

Building on greenfield sites out past Henderson-Massey or in South Auckland at 20-40km range is completely useless when the costs of putting the roads, public transport systems, and much of the long run infrastructure falls so heavily on taxpayers and ratepayers.

In effect it amounts to a subsidy that the National government is forcing on taxpayers and ratepayers to pay for greenfield developers and their affluent (because who else can pay for the long car commutes?) customers and a boon for their donating buddies in the car and roading industries.

44 comments on “Oh dear – National’s “white elephant” is still growing? ”

  1. Sacha 1

    Even the government’s transport experts are beginning to acknowledge reality, unlike a succession of Ministers:

    It makes no sense at all to invest so much right now in the wrong transport infrastructure for the next century, as if it were the last one. V8 fantasies from 1960s boys who never grew up.

    Especially when separated public transit like Auckland’s Northern busway has shown its value so easily – about half the people crossing the Harbour Bridge in the morning peak are now on buses, freeing up road space for the remaining cars, taxis and delivery trucks.

    Adding the long-delayed core rail link to the picture will vastly increase traffic on all the region’s lines – to a train every 5 minutes during peak times, and 10 minutes at others.

    People will still drive, sure – but they’ll have other options. Thought the right-wingers were all about choice?

    • lprent 1.1

      People will still drive, sure – but they’ll have other options. Thought the right-wingers were all about choice?

      That is what they say. But apparently not when it comes to handing out lucrative contracts to grateful crony capitalist friends.

      I simply can’t see any other rationale for wanting to build out almost all new housing in the boondocks.

      The crazy thing about it in Auckland at present is that the only housing that commands a premium in rentals, outside the CBD student hutches, over the cost of capital is in larger apartments (>= 50 sq m) and semi detached housing. It is a pretty clear market signal about what people *want* to move into.

      National appears to have largely ignored it. Probably too burnt from their monumentally stupid decision to deregulate the building regulations in the 1990’s that caused such a large issue with leaky buildings a decade later.

      But everything that I have seen indicates that National still thinks in terms of building 3 bedroom houses in the back of beyond. They are what was designed for a specific type of ‘family’, two parents and two or three kids. But that is a rather unusual type of family in Auckland these days

      We have an ample stock of houses of that type in Auckland (3 bedroom standalones on a section). The reason we are still having issues is that we are stuffing all of the families outside that form factor into 3 bedroom houses because there is a massive shortage of everything else. They are inefficient users of land and largely a waste of time for DINKies or empty nesters or even solo parents.

      For people in their first decade(s) of work, most don’t have kids these days until they are close to 30 or above. There is a pretty large shortage of the inner suburb apartments (with parking for weekend cars and public transport for the commute) that they want.

      Similarly those people who have had kids, or like me and Lyn have had none at all, and who don’t need or want a 3 bedroom house. How in the hell would we ever have time to maintain it.

      At most we’d like a 2 bedroom apartment at about 75 sq m with no internal stairs – something that is almost impossible to find in Auckland outside of the luxury apartments in Parnell or downtown.

      It is the mixture of housing that is wrong in Auckland as well as the public transport systems.

      • Sacha 1.1.1

        I’m saddened by the lazy rentier-capitalism tendency here. It does not bode well for New Zealand.

        It is far easier for property developers to stick to sprawling single level dwellings and get the Council to pay for most of the infrastructure, with a token ‘development contribution’ to add a park or two and maybe a local library. Who cares if another big motorway, business park or sewage plant is needed, right?

        Naturally, our current government is outraged by that unreasonable imposition on the freedom of capitalism and they will put an end to it shortly, along with other features of the Resource Management Act that reigned in the worst of our incompetent business sector.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Thought the right-wingers were all about choice?

      Don’t be silly. The political-right are about giving the illusion of choice while actually preventing anyone from having a choice and that lack of choice will result in higher profits for the private sector. As lprent says in the article:

      In effect it amounts to a subsidy that the National government is forcing on taxpayers and ratepayers to pay for greenfield developers and their affluent (because who else can pay for the long car commutes?) customers and a boon for their donating buddies in the car and roading industries.

      National, as they’ve shown time and time again, will always find a way to subsidise the rich from everyone else’s taxes.

  2. srylands 2

    It would be very sad it PT patronage wasn’t growing given the amount that has been spent on it.

    But as the NZIER made clear last week, the future is in private cars, and ride sharing. Investment in Auckland rail is not smart.

    Over the next 30 years there will be more cars, and people will live ever further from their work places – i.e longer commutes – mostly by road.

    You should read the report if you have not already done so.


    • Sacha 2.1

      Way more has been spent supporting non-public transport modes over many decades, and more to come as governments like this one prioritise sprawl that we all get to pay for. But don’t let that disturb your ideological fantasies about ‘freedom’ and self-driving cars, etc.

    • lprent 2.2

      NZIER pretty much produce what they are paid for. In this case who did pay for it? The roading lobby probably by the look of it.

      The idiots who wrote that report are basing most of it on the type of technology that hasn’t been even remotely taken to implementation phase. If you hunt around you can find virtually the same kind of reports from the 1960s predicting much the same kinds of things by the 1990s.

      Unlike you (clearly you don’t write code or work as an engineer), I actually work on technology that does this kind of stuff. Just not for cars. I think that from what I know of the current state of robotised technology (which is what this is), we are about 20 years away from proving it for the type of wide scale release required for driverless cars.

      FFS I have been watching Auckland coop taxi’s introduction and development of their dispatch technology for their taxis for more than 20 years. I’d have to say that is a sobering experience for a techhead like me. They have a web and app hooked to the GPS in the cars and it sometimes works. But trying to book a taxi in central Auckland at rush hour is often a horrendous experience. And each tech update causes massive resistance from those who have to purchase them.

      Technologies like this take many decades to implement and they seldom work if there are existing incremental alternatives available.

      For instance where in the hell are these things meant to park and recharge after the rush hours? The authors of this fluff piece expect that somehow the existing parking will handle it. FFS Parking is at a premium in all locations that people are meant to go to with the cars at present, and there is no spare space to fill between parked cars now. So who is going to pay for the parking buildings?

      Has anyone figured up how much the grid would have to be increased in urban areas to just handle the charge costs during the day.

      The nett effect is that there will have to be an immense capital injection to put in the infrastructure

      However, if we assume that it does miraculously happen, then all of the things that they are describing apply even more for improving *public* transport than they do for private transport.

      Basically this economics science fantasy is a just a diversion that any engineer will take one look at and just start ignoring.

      But even as economics, it doesn’t make sense. They are comparing the upgrade costs for installing a previously inadequate public transport infrastructure with a sunk cost system (motorways). So naturally being liars with numbers they use compare a low capacity startup system with a already saturated existing system.

      Of course the per passenger costs on public transport are high. Just as the odd car travelling down the north western motorway after it was built had massive per passenger cost. The cost per unit goes down because the fixed costs are spread further as the number of trips go up. That is obvious in their graphs but the inadequate author who wrote it somehow managed to not point that obvious point out

      Basically Nick Allison, the author, is a technological idiot and I’d have to say that he appears to be useless at economics as well.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      But as the NZIER made clear last week, the future is in private cars, and ride sharing. Investment in Auckland rail is not smart.

      About the only thing that the NZIER made clear last week was that they’re a bunch of idiots who haven’t got a clue about what they’re talking about.

      • lprent 2.3.1

        Yep that was my assessment as well. You notice that it was entitled as a “NZIER public discussion paper”. Not even a report. The overall quality reminded me more of a intern level…

        Umm reminds me I have to shepherd one of them tomorrow…

  3. srylands 3

    and BTW the changes you cite are large percentage changes on tiny numbers. All the Aucklanders I know – except for people who are too young to drive – wouldn’t be seen dead on a bus. That won’t change. PT will be useful for small numbers of people, mainly the poor who can’t afford cars. But in the long run it will be cheaper for the rest of us to buy them cars!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Rambling libertarian rejects* reality. Read all about it.

      S Rylands thinks no-one here can see what effect building more roads has. Or perhaps he can cite somewhere on Earth where reality conforms to his paycheck.

      *and peddles trite sophistry to right wing politicians, seemingly oblivious to the hypocrisy of a libertard sucking on the public teat.

    • McFlock 3.2

      You might exclusively associate with fuckwits when you visit NZ, but almost 15 million passenger trips in the year to oct ’14 suggest that you didn’t fucking read the post.

    • Sacha 3.3

      Most major cities in the world feature a wide range of people on their public transit networks.

      Auckland had a tram network until the 1950s that supported over 100,000,000 trips per year – until a National government in bed with foreign oil companies gutted it. We still haven’t got back to that level yet, despite a hugely-increased population.

    • lprent 3.4

      srylands enhances his reputation as an delusional fool. Go and have a look in Auckland buses and trains. For that matter look in Wellington or Melbourne ones.

      Young people (by my standards) are overwhelmingly the people who are in them.

    • Tracey 3.5

      now our australian resident pretending to also live on the kapiti coast is an expert on auckland travel habits in the city…

    • Draco T Bastard 3.6

      But in the long run it will be cheaper for the rest of us to buy them cars!

      60 people traveling on the motorway. 72 by bus, 72 by car. The 72 by bus use 20 tonnes of material in the bus and about double the fuel of a single car or around 1/10th of the fuel per passenger of a car with one person in it. The 72 by car use 72 tonnes of material in the cars and a lot more fuel. Those 72 cars would also use a lot more resources being transported around the as well.

      From this we can see that it’s far cheaper to have everyone using the buses for free than it would be to buy everyone a car.

      That’s real economics rather than the delusional bullshit taught in school and university.

    • lprent 3.7

      But in the long run it will be cheaper for the rest of us to buy them cars!

      Not really. Here is the fastest way to reduce congestion on the roads… Same number of people in several different modes of transport.

      Seems pretty simple to me. Simple enough that even you could get it…

  4. karol 4

    Most major cities in the world feature a wide range of people on their public transit networks.

    And so it is in Auckland. I can afford a car. But I prefer to use public transport as much as possible. At peak times, it’s much better on a bus or train from West Auckland – can read etc, instead of sitting in a car, having to pay constant attention as the queue of traffic inches down the road.

    And people on the North Shore – not known as the poorest area of Auckland, are increasingly using the busway. It’s great in peak times – bus whizzes down the bus lane past all those poor people stuck in the slow moving traffic on the motorway.


    PT will be useful for small numbers of people, mainly the poor who can’t afford cars.

    hhahahaha… in Auckland it’s the opposite. Many people out west say they put up with the slow car commute because it’s cheaper than using public transport.

    • lprent 4.1

      How? They must have a source of really cheap parking…

      Where I work outside the CBD, you can still get all-day parking for $8/day. But the prices in town and in the main urban centres around the city are rapidly passing $15 for earlybird.

      When I was looking at jobs out in Albany, the main reason I didn’t take a proffered job was because there was simply no parking when I went to the interviews and it was too damn far to walk from the bus station.

      In my tech area, most of the work is steadily moving back into near to central city because otherwise they can’t get techheads willing to work for them. It simply costs too much to take a car because of parking anywhere and it is too aggravating driving.

      • karol 4.1.1

        Well, that’s what they say. But maybe they get some cheap parking for their work. Next time someone says it, I’ll ask. There’s been at least one person on TS say that they drive to the CBD fro m west Auckland because it’s cheaper.

        Mind you, the trek from Swanson/Ranui to the CBD is quite expensive by public transport and quite time consuming. But I don’t know how people put up with the daily car commute.

        • Tracey

          didnt transport blog recently do an analysis of car plus parking versus public transport out west?

        • adam

          The price for the train in west Auckland is silly, the zones are all FUBAR. There is one ride which is a 5 station ride which cost $5. Baldwin road to fruitvale road. Which is ironic, I argued against zones at the last round of submissions – saying it has silly anomalies and will stifle growth in passenger numbers. Glad to see passenger numbers are still growing, but they need to now remove the zone barrier and follow South Australia into a single flat fare.

          • karol

            Yes, the zone boundary is at Fruitvale. So it’s cheaper for me to walk to New Lynn Station from where I live, even though Frutivale is closer. At least, it was cheaper, before I got my gold card.

            The gold card is a major incentive to use public transport (after 9am weekdays, all times at weekends). I think the idea of free, or very cheap public transport for all should be looked at. The Greens’ policy of Green Cards for free travel, off peak times, for students and apprentices is an excellent one.

            • adam

              I do have to laugh a lot though, even with these silly blocks, like overpriced fairs, and delays in developments – Public transport keeps growing. Even if half the money needed was put into the system, public transport would flourish.

              The fair system, and the continued rises under the super city does annoy me though. A flat rate, with cheaper rates for students, apprentices, elderly, mothers, and disabled would be the way forward.

              Actually for disabled, the current put the cripple through the wringer system to get a discount pass is off putting at best (I was going to write rude words here). I know many, myself included, who won’t be put through that system again – because it is painful and some what degrading. For example asking people with no legs if they now have legs, – or blind people if they can now see – Or if you have a degenerative condition, if there has been some regeneration? So polite, such a nice way to have a dig.

              As a friend said, they would rather spend millions on remodeling cars so disabled can drive, than spend a few thousand creating disabled friendly public transport options.

      • Sacha 4.1.2

        “In my tech area, most of the work is steadily moving back into near to central city because otherwise they can’t get techheads willing to work for them”

        This is really important. In creative industries relying on staff who are globally in demand, lifestyle and professional enrichment count. If a worker can’t easily be part of communities that count to them for both work and play, then they will live in any other world city.

    • Tracey 4.2

      also, the misinformation about the loop is scary. at the moment trains bottleneck at britomart which is what prevents the trains running more often than they do now.

      this govt stubbornly sticks to urban sprawl housing without the associated piblic transport.

  5. Tracey 5

    was at te ata tu penninsula yesterday. leaving aside the plethora of leaky homes it is a prime example of urban sprawl without PT. the waterview tunnel wont remove the fundamental problem in aucklans sprawl… by tge time you drive twenty mins to the train, coupled with longer train gaps cos of britomart bottleneck, you might as well drive

    • karol 5.1

      When I drive down through Waterview during the morning peak time, I despair. How is that upgrade going to improve the gridlock of cars queuing back through Avondale to New Lynn, in order to get on to the motorway?

      Te Atatu needs a busway like the North Shore. Funny how the wealthiest suburbs got a busway long before the (what was once) working class suburb of Te Atatu Peninsular?

      • Tracey 5.1.1

        been thinking the same thing. it will give people a better west to south drive off peak BUT wont change much of the trip to the city.

        did the harbourview walk yesterday… today i drove past the ngapipi rd walkway and road repair in orakei. my partner and i commented on the huge difference in quality between the remuera orakei effort and the waitakere one.

        you also cant drive fifty metres these days in mt eden epsom remuera for judder bars… safety of children much more important in that part of town?

    • Sacha 5.2

      The redesigned bus network in 2016 will change that equation – a bus close to your home every 10 minutes, connecting to the nearest station on the rapid network, then shuttling back to do the same again rather that sitting in that traffic glugging towards the cbd.

      Just need to make sure we build more rapid network services and infrastructure like the Northwestern and Dominion Road busways rather than silly and expensive 1950s motorway frills like building a cloverleaf interchange for Albany, 4-laning Mills Road in Manukau (or adding a daft flyover for the Wellington mid-city Basin, for that matter).

      • Tracey 5.2.1

        my partner is from christchurch but has now lived in auckland for twenty three years. about twenty years ago, or so, we made a joint submission to auckland council about considering turning sandringham and dominion roads into one way streets to ease congestion.

  6. halfcrown 6

    We live south of the Bombay’s (Waikato). Both of us are very seriously thinking of using the rail network next time we visit Auckland. Can anyone tell us which is the best station to drive to and then park our car We were thinking of Pupakura, but if someone has a better suggestion it would be appreciated.


    • Tracey 6.1

      pukekohe is the farthest out of auckland, i think papakura is next. if you come on a weekday park at pukekohe then you miss the afternoon congestion coming back from papakura to drury.

    • tc 6.2

      Just check they go regularly to pukekohe or papakura may be a better option as time is time whether it’s in traffic or on a train.

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