Herald on Auckland transport funding

April 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The first of the group’s two recommended solutions to plug a $10 billion to $15 billion funding gap in the council’s 30-year integrated transport programme fails to meet that criterion. This option suggests that from 2021, the money should come from hefty increases in , a regional fuel tax, tolls on major new roads, further government contributions and small public transport fare increases. The financial burden would, in effect, be widely spread. An advantage of this approach is that it would be reasonably simple to implement. But that does not outweigh the fact that much of the funding would be drawn from homeowners.

Neither home owners or taxpayers should be primarily funding roads and public transport. The users of roads and public transport should fund them.

The second option is better targeted. It envisages the introduction of road pricing supplemented by smaller increases in rates and fuel tax, further government contributions and small public transport fare increases. Motorists would be levied to use existing roads through motorway tolls, or charged to pass through cordons on other congested arterial routes. This would be more expensive to implement but the approach has several benefits, as well as drawing most of the funding from the major beneficiaries.

Most importantly, it would prompt immediate behavioural change by drivers, a feature not associated with the other option. Virtually overnight, there would be less road congestion.

Claiming overnight cures to congestion is silly, but the point about behavioural change is important.

The Super City was established ostensibly to provide the people of Auckland with strategic direction and leadership. If the council can convince them to supply the bulk of the funding on the basis that there will be a dramatic improvement in traffic movement, the Government should get out of the road.

The best way of achieving that outcome would be through a run as part of October’s local-body elections. It cannot be a yes or no vote on the public paying more for transport. Such a vote would always see higher charges rejected. The question would have to be carefully tailored so as not to simply provide a chance for the venting of spleen. In essence, it should be boiled down to a vote on what is preferable – increased rates or road pricing.

I agree with a referendum, but disagree that you only ask people how they want to pay, and not how much they want to pay?

Why not do a referendum on the City Rail Loop, with funding options for it? Tell Aucklanders the cost of it, and get them to vote on say one of say these options:

  1. Fund $2.9b CBD rail loop by rates impost of $250 a year for 10 years
  2. Fund $2.9b CBD rail loop by a of 25c a litre for 10 years
  3. Fund $2.9b CBd rail loop by road charges of $4 a day (assume 300,000 vehicles charged)
  4. Not build CBD rail loop

Not quite as simple as that, but Aucklanders should get to vote on how they pay for the CBD rail loop, if they want it.

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46 Responses to “Herald on Auckland transport funding”

  1. Rightandleft (650 comments) says:

    I am completely opposed to road tolls. We don’t use user pays systems in other public areas, like education, so why put them here? If those tolls are used to build Len’s train-set I’m going to be doubly pissed off.

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  2. Simon Lyall (101 comments) says:

    David, I’ve lost a lot of respect for you over your reporting of Transport and housing issues. Your “pro National” bias seems to show up a bit more than on other subjects. I’ll make the same points that many others have again (and others will too), although I expect your next post will ignore them as well.

    1. The government has ruled out regional fuel taxes several times, including this week: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/133764/govt-rules-out-fuel-tax,-road-tolls-for-auckland

    2. Calling it a “CDB Loop” is an obvious bit of bias (like “Holiday Highway” ). Trains won’t go around and around in a loop. The point is that trains can get in and out of the CBD from both directions without having to “back up” every time. It also means that capacity is increased across the whole Network.

    3. The only reason that the council is trying to fund this themselves is that central government won’t fund it. Instead money is being spent on “Road of National significance” which almost by definition have lower return rates. They reason that are called ROS is that then they *can* get funded despite the low returns rates.

    4. Can we have a referendum on how all of Auckland’s transport taxes will be spent? Of just the bits the government doesn’t like?

    [DPF: You say I am pro-govt biased on this, yet I am pushing for the funding model that the Govt is resisting. I think you are the one with the ideological bias with respect]

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  3. unaha-closp (1,130 comments) says:

    How about the unheard of possibility of rail users paying the price of using rail?

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  4. lastmanstanding (1,228 comments) says:

    The first problem to be fixed is the appalling road traffic management in Auckland. Having driven in many overseas cities that make Auckland look like a country village I note that the traffic planners have no understanding of the basics such as managing traffic flows. No co ordination of traffic signals having the motorway on ramp traffic lights on and off at the wrong times.
    And the real cruncher is the Auckland Council crazies wanting to increase the population by one million when the current infrastructure not just roads but all the other stuff cant cope with the current volumes.

    Instead the policy should be to encourage existing Aucklanders to move to the provinces and not allow any more immigrants and that’s from either overseas or within NZ. We should be growing provincial towns and cities.

    In the new digital age there is no reason all workers have to travel from home to their physical place of work especially if its an office.

    Hasn’t Brown Hulse et al heard about the new fangled thing called the internet. Obviously they haven’t otherwise they would be encouraging and incentivizing business to have worker working from home or stagger office hours.

    And finally they should be stopping the Yummy Mummies who insist on taking Hermione and Peter the couple hundred metres or so from home to school and back each day and making the little bastards walk to school.
    That alone would cure a hell of a lot of the problems.

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  5. James Stephenson (2,076 comments) says:

    Claiming overnight cures to congestion is silly,

    Not really. The day after London’s zone was implemented saw a 20% drop in traffic, which stabilised after a couple of weeks to a 15% reduction – that’s about the difference between a normal day and the school holidays.

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  6. James Stephenson (2,076 comments) says:

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    Ok, hands up who can’t handle the facts. :D

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  7. Ed Snack (1,773 comments) says:

    Simon, calling it the CBD Loop is entirely sensible, that’s what it is. That it improves the stupidly designed original Britomart station is by the by. The “Holiday Highway” name by contrast was almost a definitive piece of political labelling, like, nobody ever drives North out of Auckland for anything but a holiday.

    But perhaps the most laughable part is the costing at $2.9B, if it does get approved, it will cost a minimum of $6B, if we’re lucky. No matter how many reports you want to trot out, the political aspect is such that only dishonestly low estimates can be used, because if the true cost were to be known, it will never get started.

    I suggest one other option that I can almost guarantee will get a 90-99% tick rating: Fund the $2.9B CBD Rail Loop with someone else’s money (aka Rich Pricks), but not mine.

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  8. gump (1,538 comments) says:

    @Rightandleft

    Our post-secondary education system is user pays.

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  9. Rightandleft (650 comments) says:

    Yes because the bulk of the benefit of tertiary education goes to the recipient in the form of higher wages for life. Primary and secondary education are free to users because they are absolutely necessary for the good of the nation to keep the economy going. Improving Auckland’s infrastructure is something that in needed for the entire economy, same as the roads of national significance. They benefit everyone and should thus be paid for from general taxation.

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  10. enjiner (17 comments) says:

    The problem is that option 4 would be fundamentally dishonest. A more accurate representation would be

    4. Not build CBD rail loop. Spend the $2.9B on massive extensions to the motorway network and stopping development in the CBD.

    Which is fine, if that’s what the population wants. But it’s very misleading to pretend it’s a choice between paying and not paying. Auckland’s transport is stretched to breaking point; Aucklanders are going to have to pay either way. Either we keep public transport as a sideshow and double the size of our motorway network (and our main roads) or we invest in alternatives.

    Both have their pros and cons, but both are going to hit our wallets. Ignoring transportation and hoping the problem goes away is no longer sustainable.

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  11. freedom101 (477 comments) says:

    I cannot understand why National has ruled out congestion charging. This is a very cost-effective (and effective) solution. See this TED Talk on its effectiveness:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jonas_eliasson_how_to_solve_traffic_jams.html.

    What exactly is the National Party’s objection to using congestion charges? Maybe it follows the same logic as refusing to debate the age of entitlement to superannuation?

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  12. MikeG (411 comments) says:

    When are David Farrar and Rodney Hide going to apply the same level of angst to the funding of RoNS as they do about funding the CRL (L stands for Link, not Loop btw)?

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  13. virtualmark (1,481 comments) says:

    How about …

    the cost of the CBD rail loop should be funded from increased rates on the properties in South Auckland and West Auckland … since those are the areas the rail network serves. And from increased charges for rail passengers. Why should people in Wellsford have to pay for westies to get a better rail service???

    And fair enough, the cost of the Northern Busway should be met by increased rates on the properties on the North Shore. And the cost of any second harbour crossing by a toll on that crossing and the Harbour Bridge etc etc.

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  14. decanker (222 comments) says:

    Best you leave the public transport posts to the informed writers of transportblog.co.nz eh?

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  15. MikeG (411 comments) says:

    Farrar has failed to notice the utter contradiction in the editorial:-
    Firstly it says:
    “Some may benefit from better public transport, but many would gain little or no direct or indirect advantage.”

    and the a couple of paragraphs later:
    “Virtually overnight, there would be less road congestion. Equally, to cater for those induced to leave their cars at home, planners would have to ensure that convenient, quick, reliable, comfortable and affordable public transport options were available.”

    So those that are induced to leave their cars at home would benefit from better public transport directly, while those travelling on the less congested roads would have an indirect advantage – contradicting the first paragraph I quoted.

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  16. unaha-closp (1,130 comments) says:

    2. Calling it a “CDB Loop” is an obvious bit of bias (like “Holiday Highway” ). Trains won’t go around and around in a loop. The point is that trains can get in and out of the CBD from both directions without having to “back up” every time. It also means that capacity is increased across the whole Network.

    No it doesn’t increase capacity across the entire network.

    If we wished to increase capacity from Papakura to Swanson we’d do so by running trains between Papakura and Swanson – bypassing the city entirely. And the maximum would be limited by the capacity of the Papakura and Swanson terminals to “back up” trains – the CBD rail loop makes no change to this capacity.

    It only increases capacity to and from the CBD.

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  17. Yogibear (341 comments) says:

    It amuses me how we all get up in arms about charging people more to use congested roads but price differentiation to smooth demand in our other everyday networks such as telecommunications and energy is quite happily accepted.

    I can’t think of any other network other than the urban transport network that is basically geared for a 45 minute peak load twice per day.

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  18. berend (1,671 comments) says:

    Rightandleft: If those tolls are used to build Len’s train-set I’m going to be doubly pissed off.

    Exactly. All these tolls and charges won’t go to road. They’re just an extra tax, going into the general fund.

    There’s only one condition when I’m strongly in favour of tolls/road charging/whatever: if it is used for ROADS.

    That won’t be the case under Len.

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  19. toms (301 comments) says:

    I would say transportblog.co.nz is where I would point people for a sensible discussion on the CRL.

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  20. Akld Commercial Lawyer (165 comments) says:

    Like a previous poster, I am not sure that the CBD loop label was anything other than descriptive. And I have no idea who first used the term – but as a shorthand way of describing the proposal for an underground rail link from Britomart to the Mt Eden rail station, I thought it was quite handy.

    I do, however, know who devised the Holiday Highway – as an attempt to suggest that the sole beneficiaries would be (rich) Aucklanders with baches at points north. And the reason why Northlanders hate the term is that overlooks the problems with getting freight between Auckland and the North – incl. a rail corridor that does not accommodate large containers.

    Anyway, I accept the basic starting point that public transport has not been able to pay its way (in any accepted investment model) in any city that I can think of. And again, the numbers and population data even pre-Chch earthquakes are all pointing one way. Namely that, like it or not, the bulk of population growth in the next 2/3 decades is likely to be in Auckland.

    The arm-wrestle to date (or at least until yesterday morning’s announcements) were about spending the taxpayer’s money on Auckland infrastructure. Anything in this regard involves big numbers. For example, the next phase of the northern busway (judged a success – but kneecapped by poor planning because the park & ride facilities are far too small) is budgeted at over $0.5bn. Even a couple of km of road-widening in Takapuna is to cost $52m and take 4 years (of traffic hell) to complete.

    There is some quite forwarding-thinking stuff in the draft Unitary plan – such as clustering activities in certain regions. But no quick fix and asking ratepayers to vote for a big rates increase will only have one outcome. The solutions are destined to require bold thinking, large expense and a lot of unhappy people. I remain sceptical about the current mayor’s fixation with the trainset – but not about greater use of public transport. Any solution may require a variety of measures – but even things as bold as restraints (price or otherwise) on private car usage in the CBD and like areas won’t account for much if wider planning does not move with the times. For example, the idea that NZ’ers will suddenly change their lifestyle preferences and move to cluster housing seems improbable. Equally unlikely is that someone who works in (say) the food cluster earmarked for the Auckland airport zone might move from their established network of schools and sports / cultural activities to be closer to work at the drop of a hat.

    The shape of Auckland doesn’t aid solutions – by contrast those planning for a remodelled Chch seem to have an easier task with traffic flows coming from all points of the compass.

    Other changes will take time to implement and, in the meantime, the double whammy of population pressures and supressed supply are having a major impact. When coupled with the new rates system, the massive uplift in land values in the last 18 months in areas which are newly popular because they are handy to the motorway and have good or at least improving schools is going to be felt in a painful increases in the rates bill even without the trainset. And the so-called referendum is being proposed against a backdrop of a pending mayoral race with only one serious candidate.

    These are all hard questions and coping with the mass of information in the draft Unitary Plan and major windshifts that could follow is hard work. I expect that the Govt will have a say simply because the amounts at stake call for major taxpayer investment and, when they do, the media and some of those involved will call foul no matter what the outcome.

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  21. Yogibear (341 comments) says:

    What I also find amusing is the whole road vs rail debate. Its like a bunch of 14 years olds arguing over whether rugby or soccer is a better sport, without realising that both sports benefit from each other (traning methods, innovation in coverage, approaches to commercialisation etc).

    Its a fucking network. Bits of it do the job for some of the population, and other bits do a job for other people.

    The most recent work done by Auckland transport using street by street CBD modelling showed that without the CRL the city centre ROADS (which accomodate around 60k DRIVERS per day) basically slowed to less than walking pace.

    Think about that next time you try to drive from Ponsonby to shop at Smith and Caughey at Newmarket.

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  22. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    @yogibear,

    Care to describe the tariff differentials telcos use to manage the timing of demand (as opposed to datacaps, which manage total consumption, not timing)?

    Telco networks are designed to deal with peaks.

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  23. Matt L (6 comments) says:

    First lets get a few facts straight. The consensus building group used the Auckland Plan as the base for this discussion. They were not allowed to question the projects that were in it. The funding shortfall comes about for the entire transport programme and covers both capex and opex.

    Capex is about $30b all up of which $22b is for new or improved roads. It includes the $5 billion harbour crossing that isn’t needed based on current traffic projections, the $2b east west link for which 90% of the benefits could be obtained for about $200m, adding lanes to almost all of the existing motorways and a whole lot of other local road upgrades. The PT spend which includes the CRL, rail to the airport and North Shore plus a whole host of other improvements comes in at a total of about $8b.

    With over 70% of the money being allocated to roading, the biggest benefactors of the extra costs will be drivers so it isn’t correct to state that we are only having tolls suggested to pay for rail.

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  24. Matt L (6 comments) says:

    @unaha-closp

    No we can’t increase capacity across the network without the CRL as due to the current set up, junctions like Newmarket are at capacity so we can’t put extra trains through them.

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  25. Yogibear (341 comments) says:

    @bhudson

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  26. toms (301 comments) says:

    @bhudson

    “…Telco networks are designed to deal with peaks…”

    Jesus, do you even believe that shit you just posted? Or did you just fail to put your brain into gear?

    Telcos routine over-subscribe services based on the assumption not everyone will call at once. that is why during major events like earthquakes the phone system overloads.

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  27. Yogibear (341 comments) says:

    @bhudson

    Not quite sure what your point is, but, to take one example, the Telecom Business Time plan charges 5 times more between for calls between 7am and 10pm than they do for calls made outside of that time.

    Its a basic tool that only affects the margins, but it will spread the peak.

    A telco peak is also very different to a transport peak. You say telco networks are “designed to deal with peaks.” I’d venture to say they are not designed to deal with 85% of demand squeezed into a couple of hours per day.

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  28. scrubone (3,074 comments) says:

    I find it incredible that
    a) a political party (or two) actually get away with calling something a “holiday highway” that people clearly use for daily commuting and is the next section of major motorway out of our largest city. It’s incredibly condescending to pretty much everyone north of Manukau.
    b) the Auckland city council is serious about the rail loop. Nice to have? Sure. Will benefit a few rail commuters? Absolutely. Fix for the traffic issues? Are you kidding?!?

    How is putting in a few k of rail going to help anyone in a city where only 15% of the population works in the CBD in the first place, that has traffic issues across almost the entire city? It’s a logical absurdity. The fact that they are apparently (I still find it hard to believe they could be) serious about spending billions on something of such trivial benefit staggers the imagination.

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  29. Bogusnews (449 comments) says:

    I am very much opposed to trains. They are never cost effective in the long term and cost an absolute fortune to establish. NZ has never been able to make trains cost effective.

    One report I read showed that each ticket on this rail loop would have to be subsidized by the rate payer to the tune of up to $70 (worst case) per ticket. When you consider the Ak Council is spending millions on consultants trying to get people to take trains more it seems madness to spend billions on more of them.

    Unlike Simon, I don’t think David F was biased in this report at all. The question of “should we even install a new train set” is never considered by council, and it should be.

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  30. lazza (362 comments) says:

    Yes to all questions suggested for the referendum on Auckland Transport. “Fat chance” … few beauracrats would countenance a question about the prospect that Option 4 (“Why have the Loop at all”?) might scotch their pet “Go Nowhere” scheme.

    But then that is the point of a fair and balanced survey!.

    Try going to Vancouver to see and use a rapid rail from their CBD to the airport in 30 minutes (same distance as in Auckland). Takes us from the North Shore literally hours now. And what would we want to go from The Ferry Buildings to K Rd for any way? One we need, the suggested option we are most likely to be surveyed … We don’t.

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  31. MikeG (411 comments) says:

    @scrubone – “How is putting in a few k of rail going to help…” that is like saying that we shouldn’t have widened the stretch of motorway between Market Road and Gillies Ave because only a small percentage of people work in Newmarket.

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  32. MT_Tinman (3,033 comments) says:

    Neither home owners or taxpayers should be primarily funding roads and public transport. The users of roads and public transport should fund them.

    I agree, noting that I can think of not a single group who do not use roads.

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  33. Lance (2,536 comments) says:

    I don’t about other Jaffa’s, and I am an engineer, but….

    Why does it take 3 years to widen a road?
    This nonsense seems to be happen all other the place, certainly in West Auckland anyway.
    4 such drawn out, eternal roadworks between work and home.

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  34. Doug (407 comments) says:

    A leftie telling Len Brown to stick to his knitting.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1304/S00383/complete-local-projects-instead-of-increasing-taxes.htm

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  35. davidp (3,550 comments) says:

    Simon L>Calling it a “CDB Loop” is an obvious bit of bias (like “Holiday Highway” ).

    “Fixing Auckland’s transport is my top priority. I believe there are three key large scale projects we need to progress to turn Auckland into an internationally competitive city: a rail link to the airport, an underground CBD rail loop and a second harbour crossing with rail to the North Shore.”

    Loop? Who is this obviously biased opponent of public transport? Len Brown.

    http://www.wwf.org.nz/take_action/auckland_mayor/responses_from_the_candidates/response_from_len_brown.cfm

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  36. davidp (3,550 comments) says:

    “Mr Brown says his focus is on uniting Auckland and reassuring people about his plans to build a central city rail loop.”

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Brown-Auckland-is-ready-for-city-rail-loop/tabid/419/articleID/180817/Default.aspx

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  37. davidp (3,550 comments) says:

    “This loop will double the number of trains that can go through Britomart from 30 to 21 an hour, let Aucklanders get around the region more easily and reduce congestion on our roads.”

    No surprise that the speaker is Brown, again.

    http://www.aktnz.co.nz/2010/11/24/brown-cbd-link-in-7-years/

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  38. davidp (3,550 comments) says:

    “Brown said he hopes to get the rail loop completed in seven years. Without the loop, he said Britomart would reach capacity in three years and the bus routes within a decade. ”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/4381232/Compelling-case-for-2b-Auckland-rail-tunnel

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  39. rangitoto (212 comments) says:

    Road tolls for funding trains is a non starter. Toll the actual users of the service.

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  40. davidp (3,550 comments) says:

    The man in this video is obviously biased and wants to build a rail loop:

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  41. Alan Johnstone (1,070 comments) says:

    How about we recognize that Auckland is the economic powerhouse that drives the New Zealand economy and that it gets much less in transport capital spending than it pays in taxes ?

    Let’s add an option 5 to that referendum, Pay for it from taxes raised in Auckland that are presently being spent elsewhere.

    Governments of all colours need to be very wary of screwing over Auckland; it’s size and political power are only growing. In 40 years time almost 50% of New Zealand’s population will live in the Auckland region.

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  42. BlueDevil (92 comments) says:

    That because once they are on the roads they are trapped in Auckland!

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  43. Nostalgia-NZ (4,986 comments) says:

    The arguments against rail not making money are myopic. Reducing grid lock has a broad economic gain, against which rail being profitable or not profitable, pales. I think Lenny should put his money where his mouth is and develop a protocol for the Council staff to car pool, use public transport, work from home where possible, split shifts to avoid peak traffic and so on, then challenge business to do the same and decentralise from the city central – all the while completing park and ride options along with the bus rail mix. Aucklanders need to get a lot smarter with transport and forget about bickering, in other words show central Government on which side their bread is buttered come the next election.

    It’s insane to be increasing a population base while trying to solve historical transport problems over which there is political divide, yet that is the base game in NZ’s strongest contributor to the economy and tax take, it’s vote material of enormous power.

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  44. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    Lens rail loop will not make any difference to the grid lock. Its not the save all they cry unless we rip Aucklands hart out and replace it with semi high rise slums. The rich nimbys will keep them out of burnt arse and similar suburbs. None of us would fancy living in a six story in penrose or avondale with the smell of coconut oil and boiled cabbage. Labors housing politics and len brown would leave a festering wound of derivation for generations.

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  45. wrightingright (144 comments) says:

    There are apparently 69,157,661 passenger trips per year on public transport? I think the subsidy is about a buck per trip? (there about, it varies depending on type and distance)

    We could DOUBLE the current rate of subsidy (and let’s assume that doubles patronage) and after a decade of doing this it would still be MUCH cheaper than the central rail loop! (with far less disruption too)

    I reckon that is a far better plan all round, not saying it is a good plan…. but just showing how awfully bad the central rail loop is!

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  46. Mark (1,403 comments) says:

    Alan Johnstone (335) Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 6:46 pm
    How about we recognize that Auckland is the economic powerhouse that drives the New Zealand economy and that it gets much less in transport capital spending than it pays in taxes ?

    Fuck and I thought it was farming, you learn something new every day

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