It’s buses for Wellington

March 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Faster, bigger buses have been officially chosen as the future of public transport in Wellington, snuffing out any chance of having light rail in the capital for the foreseeable future.

The Regional Transport Committee – a collective of Wellington’s mayors and the NZ Transport Agency – voted today to push ahead with plans to build a $268 million bus rapid transit network between the Wellington CBD and southern suburbs.

Detailed plans are yet to be drawn up, but it will involve hi-tech articulated or double-decker buses running along a dedicated busway between Wellington Railway Station and the suburbs of Newtown and Kilbirnie.

The route forms the southern part of Wellington’s public transport “spine”.

Today’s decision brings down the curtain on the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study, which began in 2011.

The Wellington city and regional councils jointly-commissioned the study along with the transport agency to find the best solution to Wellington’s public transport needs for the next 30 years.

It began by looking at 88 combinations of routes and types of public transport, which were effectively whittled down to light rail and a bus rapid transit network in June 2013.

At that point, the study revealed light rail could cost as much as $1.2 billion, largely because of the need to build a dedicated rail tunnel through Mt Victoria.

$268 million vs $1.2 billion makes it a very easy decision.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who was first elected in 2010 on the back of campaign promises to push for light rail, said today she had also been swayed by the ability of buses to go further than trams.

Good to see sense winning through.

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The no bus lanes Mayor

October 8th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman reports at NZ Herald:

Len Brown has not built a single metre of bus lane in his first term as mayor of the Super City.

Mr Brown, who says fixing public transport, including better bus services, is his top priority, has splurged $770 million on public transport and $1.2 billion on roads and footpaths in the past three years.

But not a cent has gone on new lanes to improve bus services, which have drawn criticism and seen a fall of 2.9 per cent in patronage over the past year, from 55.1 million bus trips to 53.5 million.

I use buses in Wellington several times a week. Measures like bus lanes can make a huge improvement to public transport. Buses are flexible – their routes can change, their stops can change, and they are far easier to utilize for changes in capacity.

Good public transport needs buses and trains. Those who prioritise trains over buses unfairly do public transport a dis-service.

The pro-public transport blog said it was not good enough that no bus lanes had been built when more were needed. It said bus lanes carried more people than general traffic lanes, made buses faster, more reliable, roads more efficient and reduced operating subsidies.

Mr Brown does not have a strong record of building bus lanes. Manukau City, where he was a councillor and mayor, has just 3km of them, compared with 31km in the Auckland City area. North Shore has 9km. Waitakere – the so-called Eco City – has no bus lanes, only short bus “advance” lanes at some big intersections.

Wellington has some bus lanes. They do make a difference.

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Bus vs light rail for Wellington

September 30th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tony Randle writes in the Dom Post:

The recently released Wellington spine study recommendations on expanding public transport to and through the Wellington CBD found a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option is the best long-term approach compared to bus priority or changing from buses to light rail.

Since then, we have heard mostly the anguished protests of light rail supporters who dispute this recommendation.

I presume these supporters do not plan to pay for the massive cost of light rail themselves!

The transport models for Wellington show the BRT option will increase public transport trips from south and east Wellington by 8.5 per cent while light rail will barely make a 1 per cent improvement.

It reminds me of the proposal to increase train capacity on one of the Wellington bus lines. It would have cost $100 million and only removed 80 cars a day at peak time. I joked it would be cheaper to buy 80 motorists a helicopter!

A key reason light rail fails is the need for thousands of CBD- bound commuters to transfer between buses and light rail at Kilbirnie or Newtown, compared with BRT where they will complete the journey with a single bus trip.

That is a strength of our bus system – not having to swap transport modes.

In economic terms, the BRT option has $90 million in public transport benefits against only $30m for the more expensive light rail option.

The Benefit Cost Ratio of BRT is 0.87 compared to just 0.05 for light rail (a benefit cost ratio of 0.05 is a total waste of money).

Julie-Anne Genter and the Greens correctly point out that some of the roads of national significance have a BCR of less than 1, which makes their economic value debatable. Surely Julie-Anne and the Greens would agree that a transport proposal with a BCR of 0.05 is barking mad!

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Guest post by Daran Ponter on Wellington bus fare increases

September 30th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Wellington Regional Councillor Daran Ponter:


The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) bus and train fares are increasing again on 1 October (i.e. Tuesday), this time to increase the amount paid by commuters by an average of 2% (GWRC Notice).  This demand for a 2% increase in commuter fare revenue for 2013 will result in increases in the cost of Snapper and Mana card fares by 3.8% for Zone 1 fares and approximately 2.5% in most other fare zones.

On average, fares have risen by 8% over the past three years. 

The Greater Wellington Regional Council justified the 1 October fare increases on the basis of “covering rising public transport costs”.  However, the Regional Council’s 2012/13 Year End result shows that instead of a budget shortfall of $3M, the council ran a significant budget surplus of nearly $1.5 million in the transport area (see table below) !

PT Group 2012/13

Actual ($000s)

Budget ($000s)

Variance ($000s)

Last Year

Operating Revenue





Operating Expenditure





Operating surplus / (deficit)






The Year End Report of the PT Group not only shows for the year 2012/13 the GWRC spent $11.5M less than budget on public transport services, it shows it spent less in 2012/13 than the year previously ! The council has banked the 2012/13 transport surplus of $4.5M taking the transport reserve to $9M. 

Clearly last year’s 3% fare increase was actually never needed as predicted PT costs did not increase.  This also means that this year’s 1 October fare increases are simply not warranted. The regional council, through its own policies, has kept prices high and that this year it could actually have afforded to cut fares and still stay within NZTA funding rules!

The Council’s policy of increasing fares every year irrespective of the circumstances is just simply irrational and does nothing to attract people to use public transport.

Significant Drop In Patronage

As concerning is the fact that peak hour patronage on Wellington buses has dropped by 10% over the past three years (from 11,288,335 trips in 2010/11 to 10,214,328 trips in 2012/13). See  In the same period total patronage (peak and off-peak) dropped by 2%.

The Regional Council has been predicting patronage increases of 3-4% per annum, we have gone in precisely the opposite direction.  Peak bus patronage is now less than 2005/06.  Wellington bus commuters now realise that high bus fares mean it is cheaper to drive to work and are obviously doing so in increasing numbers.

These figures seriously bring into question the efforts that the Regional Council has been taking to encourage people onto public transport.  Its PT fare policy needs to be less about revenue and far more focussed on encouraging people and families onto public transport – fares cheaper than cars, wider discounts, especially in the off-peak and a commitment to park and ride facilities for bus commuters.

The GWRC plan for increasing public transport use is failing.  Increasing fares on Tuesday is the worst thing it can do when bus patronage is plummeting.   It is especially bad when all the increased revenue will not be spent on PT services . . . it will probably just end up being banked into the GWRC Transport Reserve.

I think it is wrong for the Regional Council to be increasing fares, in what appears to be a revenue generating exercise.

The policy of both central and local Government is that the fares should cover 55% of the costs of public transport, but with these increases the proportion paid for by fares will exceed that. The other issue is they are putting up bus fares to basically cover increased train operating costs. Bus fares should cover bus costs and train fares train costs.

If you are voting for Regional Council, ask your candidates whether they support an increase in bus fares, which is not justified or necessary.

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Auckland transport projects

June 28th, 2013 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

The PM has announced three major long-term transport projects for Auckland, at a cost of around $10 billion. They are:

  • The City rail link, with construction to start in 2020, or earlier if central city employment grows by 25% or in the year rail patronage is forecast to hit 20 million trips (if before 2020)
  • A second harbour crossing, with a tunnel  planned for around 2025, with route protection to start this year
  • Speeding up the  combined Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and East-West Link project

They are also looking to bring forward three smaller projects -  to complete a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive, widen the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura, and upgrade State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard.

It’s good to have certainty over the harbour crossing. These things need huge lead times, and you don’t want to be debating whether to have one, where it will be, and is it a bridge or tunnel just a few years before you badly need it.

It will be interesting to see the funding details over time. Will they all be funded from the National Land Transport Fund or will taxpayers make a contributions (NLTF is funded by petrol tax and road charges – not general taxation) or will PPPs play a role?

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CBD rail loop to start construction in 2020

June 26th, 2013 at 2:22 pm by David Farrar

John Key has confirmed the Government will make a contribution to the Auckland CBD rail loop, with construction starting in 2020.

The details will be released on Friday, and it seems there will be some other announcements also. What will be of interest is how much the Government is contributing.

I first blogged on the CBD rail loop in 2009, and commented:

The key thing is, it is not a choice between improving roads and public transport. They are not substitutes, but complementary.

Labour and Greens have been trying to say that it is one or the other – that one must cancel the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension to fund the rail loop.

I also noted at the time:

If it can be done for that much money, the economic argument really stacks up.

But the cost has grown from that initial $1.5 billion.

In 2010 I blogged:

I think it is the most sensible of the proposed rail projects for Auckland.

And said:

Let’s assume ratepayers will pay 3/4. Work out how much that is, and consult Aucklanders on whether they are happy with that investment. Then you can talk to the Government about its contribution.

The details of the cost split is critical. I have said people outside Auckland should not be significantly funding the Auckland rail loop. However if the Govt’s contribution can be funded from the approx Auckland share of the National Land Transport Fund (ie through petrol tax paid by Aucklanders), then that is fine with me.

I suspect that is why the start date is 2020. Up until 2020 the NLTF is funding the various road of national significance, and as they get completed, my guess is the CBD rail loop will be the next priority.

Incidentally as far as I know, the Government has never refused to fund the CBD rail loop. They have always been careful with their language, saying there is not currently enough money in the NLTF for it. Unless I have missed something, they have never said never (to paraphrase James Bond).

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The Wellington transport package

June 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The dream is over, for the time being anyway.

A comprehensive study of Wellington’s transport options has concluded what has long been obvious to everyone except Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown: the light-rail system she promoted during her 2010 mayoral campaign is unaffordable.

The light rail scheme would have cost around $3,000 per household!

The study commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council puts the cost of turning Ms Wade-Brown’s dream into reality at $940 million. The alternatives canvassed in depth in the report are markedly cheaper.

The first – providing more bus lanes during peak hours and more priority traffic signals for buses – has a $59 million price tag. The second – a dedicated busway for bigger, modern buses separated from other traffic as much as possible – would cost $207 million.

Buses are often the most effective form of public transport. They are more flexible and cost effective. However the Greens don’t like buses because buses go on roads and roads are evil!

The bus rapid transit will cost under a quarter of the light rail option. It would result in $95m of time savings compared to $56m for rail. And critically it would lead to a 75 increase in public transport usage in the morning peak time while the rail option would not change the numbers at all.

So what else is planned about from a dedicated busway and bigger more modern buses? The Dom Post reports:

A second two-lane tunnel through Mt Victoria could be open to traffic within a decade.

The NZ Transport Agency has today revealed plans for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and widening of Ruahine St and Wellington Rd to connect to the new $90 million Basin flyover.

Yay, a key step in the vision of having four lanes on State Highway One from the airport to Levin.

The plans for the second tunnel show it would sit directly along the northern side of the existing tunnel.

It would provide two lanes for east-bound traffic, along with a separate pedestrian and cycle facility linking to the flyover. On the Hataitai side of the tunnel, Ruahine St will become four lanes, and will also sport a pedestrian and cycling path.

Cool. If only they can get the tunnel to smell better!


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Public Transport charges

February 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Dom Post reports:

A reduction in the discount traditionally enjoyed by those who pre-pay for their public transport is being proposed by Greater Wellington Regional Council officers.

The 2013-14 draft Annual Plan, which will be tabled at a council meeting today, also floats an average rates increase of 2.6 per cent.

Bus and train operators are required to offer a minimum 20 per cent discount on multi-trip tickets and stored value cards.

But changes being proposed by council officers would see that reduced to 17 per cent in zone 1 – an area of heavy public transport usage encompassing the Wellington CBD, Aro Valley and Thorndon.

That would be a silly decision.

If you look at successful public transport programmes overseas, one of the keys is to get almost everyone using cards such as Snapper. In London, almost no one buys tickets for single trips. They all have Oyster cards.

The key to getting everyone onto prepay cards is to have massive discounts on them (ie it is too expensive not to have one) and to have a daily limit on them.

Wellington should move to integrated ticketing, and increase the price difference between pre-paid cards and cash tickets.

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Petrol Tax

December 20th, 2012 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

Petrol tax should not be used to fund the Government’s general spending. Most people would agree on that. For several decades petrol tax was a great revenue earner for the Government. It was impossible to avoid, had low compliance costs and only four companies had to pay it.

National in the late 90s changed this. Previously almost half the petrol tax went into the consolidated fund. It then made a decision to dedicate it to the land transport fund. What this means is that petrol tax is an imperfect form of user pays.

Again I think most would agree those who use the roads should pay for them. Why should someone who works from home pay the same towards road maintenance as someone who spends four hours a day driving on them?

In a perfect world we would have GPS chips that monitor every road we drive on, how congested it is, is it peak time etc and we’d get charged directly for our road use. However that technology is a wee way off, and there are huge privacy issues around that. So we have petrol tax as an imperfect but pretty good rough system of user pays.

This then leads to two issues around petrol tax. The first is whether it is set at the right level to fund the various land transport projects, or are they making a profit from it?

I asked for a copy cashflows for the National Land Transport Fund for the the last three years.  The net revenue from petrol tax, road user charges and vehicle registration fees was $2.51b, $2.63b and $2.69b in the last three years. The expenditure or distributions were $2.93b, $3.03b and $2.67b. This means that spending was greater than income by $420m, $400m and $20m surplus last year. So over the last three years $800m deficit.

That makes it clear to me that the Government is not using petrol tax to fund non-transport projects. If transport expenditure is needed, of course motorists should pay for it. I actually have a view that the petrol tax level should not be set by Government at a set level, but automatically increase or decrease to fund all transport projects that have a positive business case.

Now the second issue is what transport projects are funded from the land transport fund. The Greenies want nothing spent on roads, and it all spent on rail. There;’s never been a road they have supported. Some think there should be no subsidy for public transport – that passenger fares should pay for public transport, not road users.

I think the current mix of both road and public transport is pretty good. The NLTP plan has $12.3b invested in land transport of which $1.7b is for public transport. Some people would have you think there is little funding of public transport.

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Wellington Public Transport Survey

August 7th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Wellington Regional Council is doing a survey of public transport fares in Wellington, which is a good thing. The survey is here.

Less good is that you do the survey, and then it critiques your answers, asks you if you want to reconsider, before you submit them!

My answers were:

  1. Fare structure should be point to point as well as zonal. Point to point charges you on actual distance.
  2. We should keep the 14 zones, rather than have larger more expensive zones.
  3. Public transport fares should cost the same per km no matter how far you travel
  4. There should be higher fares at peak times, double off peak fares

They commented:

A fare system based on your responses would not be simple & easy to understand, and may encourage more people to use public transport.

The fare system would reflect the costs of providing different public transport services, and may encourage economic efficiency e.g. by reducing external costs such as congestion.

The fare system would not be easy to implement and administer, but would support efficient network design, operations and asset utilisation.

The fare system may improve access to public transport for people who do not have access to a motor vehicle, or cannot walk or cycle for most of their trips.

I’m pretty happy with those trade offs.

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Useful tool

July 9th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I caught a bus yesterday down to Allen Street for a yum char. I remarked to the person I was seated next to that it would be great if there was a plugin for smart phones that tells you when the next bus is for your stop, rather than have to go and look up on their website which stop you are at, and then the schedules.

He remarked that in fact Wellington Metlink website has on its mobile site such a service. It can detect your position, and show you nearby bus stops. Click on the one you want and it will tell you the next buses due there. It even highlights the ones with GPS on the bus, so the time shown for those buses is the actual time, not just the scheduled time it will get to you.

So a handy wee site for Wellington bus users. Very useful to be seated next to someone who as it turned out worked for the NZ Transport Agency :-)

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Wellington public transport

June 2nd, 2012 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

Lane Nichols at the Dom Post reports:

Frustrated Wellington rail commuters will benefit from a massive Government investment in public transport designed to reduce congestion and delays.

The announcement of nearly $900million for national public transport projects will buoy proponents of Wellington’s costly proposed light-rail system.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown immediately called for urgent work to establish a central city light-rail or tram system.

The Government has in fact spent a huge amount on public transport, and rail. I’d be quite keen to see costings of a tram system in Wellington, but we should make decisions based on the benefits and costs.

I’m a very regular user of Wellington buses in the CBD and Thorndon areas, and generally they work very well. Would trams be more efficient?

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Fair fares for Wellington bus users

May 3rd, 2012 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

Tony Randle has analysed the proposed increased public transport fares in Wellington. He finds:

My analysis is that they are unfair because the PT cost increases are due to increased rail costs (to pay for the new trains) so why must bus users be charged more.  My more detailed analysis is attached (I send you the Word version so you can more easily extract elements should you so choose).

 Anyway, I think the it fairer to have rail users pay their share of the costs of improved rail services by increasing the heavily discounted rail fares that are not available to bus commuters.  There is a similar issue with respect to some cities (Wellington and Lower Hutt) paying excessive rates (in the $Ms) to support other areas (Kapiti and Wairarapa) but I have not yet written up my analysis in this area.

Wellington Regional Council seems to have a weird anti-bus fetish. They even tried recently to close some bus lines down, so people would use the trains more.

You can submit on the proposed fare increases up until end of Friday. Tony’s analysis is below.

Fair Fares for Wellington – Bus Fares to Fund Increased Rail Costs

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A balanced approach

November 16th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

On a bus in Wellington yesterday, the Green Party announced it would scrap Transmission Gully, the Kapiti Expressway and the Basin Reserve flyover roading programmes and reprioritise the $2.4billion spending.

I don’t know why the Greens just don’t come out and ban cars, rather than mess around with half measures. Their strategy is for roads to become so dangerous and congested through lack of spending, that people will abandon their cars, which will of course save the planet.

Road Transport Forum spokesman Ken Shirley disputed the Greens’ figures and said that over the next three years National had proposed spending $10b on roads and $7b on rail, despite roads taking 75 per cent of freight while 15 per cent of freight was moved on rail. The Greens were politicising the national highway process because of their love of other transport modes, he said.

This is what I call a balanced approach. You needs both roads and rail.

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett called the Greens’ policy “madness” and said Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway were essential to help develop the economic capabilities of the region.

A sensible chap that Leggett.

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Goff on Public Transport

November 14th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Hosking asked Phil Goff when was the last time he used public transport, not as a photo opportunity.

Whale has the audio of his response, which is:

I use public transport every day, it’s called the VIP service at the moment

That’s a new definition of public transport – a chauffeur driver limo.

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The truth behind the slogan

November 14th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour and the Greens refer to the the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford SH1 upgrade as the Holiday Highway. They would have people think it is a little used road, that only gets a bit crowded on Friday nights. In fact it is far more than that.

The road between Puhoi and Wellsford is part of SH1. As a two lane road, motorists will know that traffic flows at the speed of the slowest vehicle on it. We must be one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have at least two lanes each way on our major highway.

That road actually has more people use it every day, than use the entire train network in Auckland. Around 28,000 people a day use that highway, and 27,000 use Auckland trains (UPDATE: In recent months this has increased to 33,000). Is Labour really claiming 28,000 people a day are off on holiday? Also, let us look at where the road is.

Now I am not sure about you, but I don’t think many people go to Wellsford for their holidays. Those driving north to holiday have generally left SH1 well before Wellsford. So why is the Govt looking to make it two lanes each way, instead of single lane? Three reasons.

  1. Better connectivity between the main producing activities in Northland, particularly dairying, forestry and mining, and the major markets for these activities in areas lying to the south of the region and overseas accessed by the ports at Auckland and Tauranga.
  2. Reducing the costs of commodities transported to Northland from the south for consumption or for input to the manufacturing industries in the area, so making Northland a more attractive place to live and to develop employment activities.
  3. Making tourist destinations in Northland more accessible to the large market and population in the Auckland region.

This is all about economic growth for Northland. Northland is one of the poorest areas of New Zealand, despite having significant resources. One of the reasons for that is the woeful transport links.

The projected economic benefits from the road are:

  • Journey Time Reliability $8m
  • Time travel benefits $352m
  • Vehicle operating costs $35m
  • Accident cost savings $133m
  • Wider economic benefits $159m

That’s $688m in net present value. The business case said:

“Taking these two components tourism and forestry into account, an indicative estimate of the value of increased economic activity that might result from the improvement of SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford would be of the order of $30-35 million per annum and possibly doubling by 2031.”

Scrapping the highway upgrade to fund the Auckland CBD rail loop will be robbing (poorer) Paul to benefit (richer) Peter. Auckland (including their metro rail funding) already gets 45.7% of the National Land Transport fund and metro rail funding.  If Aucklanders want a CBD rail loop, then they should fund it from Aucklanders through rates and user charges, not from the rest of the country that already subsidises their rail system.

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The case for buses not rail for Auckland

October 29th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Below I blog some documents from Tony Randle, who makes a strong case that the best way to improve Auckland’s transport problems is a bus tunnel, not the CBD rail loop. Tony has done a 93 page critique of the business case for the CBD rail loop, and found numerous flaws in it. He says that the bus tunnel option has never been properly considered by the Auckland Council, and it should be. His conclusion is:

The Alternatives Paper also hides the fact that the Central Bus Tunnel option carries far more commuters on congestion free PT corridors than the CBD Rail Link option while being cheaper to both build and operate. The Central Bus Tunnel option is much fairer in providing a Rapid Transit service to more PT commuters across more of Auckland than any passenger rail system. In recommending the inferior rail tunnel option, the business case fails in meeting any objective to identify the best rapid transit solution for central Auckland.

He also notes:

The deceptive elimination of the superior Central Bus Tunnel option has reduced the debate on to whether or not the rail tunnel should be built. Aucklanders do not know a Bus Rapid Transit tunnel is the superior third way to improve CBD Public Transport being. The consistent misrepresentation of passenger rail over Bus Rapid Transit is difficult to understand . . . until of course you read the title page and recognise the Auckland CBD Rail Link Business Case was “Prepared for KiwiRail and ARTA”.

So the paper which recommended rail over buses was partially commissioned by KiwiRail? And this is what the decisions were made on, rather than an analysis commissioned by someone with no vested interests?

It is also worth considering the lessons from the Rugby World Cup. One broken down train clogs the entire track. A broken down bus results in a few minutes delay only.

I hope the media seriously look at Tony’s work and we have a genuine debate on what is the best way to reduce congestion in Auckland. The Herald has already done a small story here.

Auckland CBD Rail Link BC Review T Randle – Summary Only 111026

Above is Tony’s Executive Summary. But he has done a huge amount of work backing up his conclusions. And remember Tony is no politician, with a vested interest in the conclusions. Likewise he has not been paid by anyone for his analysis, so there is no issue of it being an analysis to suit the paymaster. He’s just someone who wants the best public transport system for NZ cities.

His full 93 page analysis is here – Auckland CBD Rail Link BC – Bus Tunnel Cost Review final DRAFT 111026. It’s incredibly comprehensive.

He has also provided the detailed costings calculations which Auckland Transport refused to release until ordered to by the Ombudsman- Alternatives Cost Model v4a

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Land Transport GFS 2012

July 28th, 2011 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding is well worth a read. Only 32 pages.

It sets out long-term funding for both road and rail. Predictably the Greens (and sadly Labour also) have criticised it because they hate roads. The Greens do not accept that one needs both roads and public transport. They think it is a choice, rather than being complementary. I guess in their ideal world roads would be so congested and unsafe that no one would use them, and hence save the planet.

Their reaction to the policy statement would have you think Steven Joyce is scrapping all public transport funding. Instead the true situation is:

  • increasing the funding available for new and improved State highways by $125 million for the first 3 years
  • increasing the funding available for public transport services by $140 million for the first 3 years

So of the new funding, 47% goes into state highways and 53% into public transport. Truly the Greens won’t be happy until it is $0 for highways.

Just out of the National Land Transport Fund (petrol tax, road user charges, vehicle registration and licensing fees), public transport will receive between $750m and $1.1b in the next three years. Also up to $90m for dedicated walking and cycling programmes.

But that just the public transport funding from the NLTF. The Government has directly invested $2b into Auckland and Wellington rail.

So it is amusing to hear Labour and Greens call Steven anti-public transport. I think he has provided more funding for it than any other Minister. The Greens just seem to hate the fact that any money goes on highways, as that are by definition evil.


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Train Trips 1 Photo Ops 1

January 30th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has discovered that Len Brown has taken the train to work only once since becoming Mayor – the day he invited the media to come along and see him on the train, where he promised he would “start taking the train to work on a regular basis as part of his commitment to public transport”.

It reminds me of something Maurice Williamson has often pointed out – that many of the noisiest advocates for public transport never use it themselves. They just think everyone should be forced to. I recall the Wellington Green MP who didn’t even have a Snapper card, which all regular bus users have.

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Celia’s car ban

January 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Dave Burgess in the Dom Post reports:

Cars could be banned from Courtenay Place under a proposal from Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

The move would affect about 6500 private vehicles that use Courtenay Place on weekdays. It is aimed at creating a more reliable bus service and lifting bus use.

A shop-owner says it is an “absolutely ridiculous” plan that would hit retailers and was for a traffic problem that did not exist.

I have to say that I don’t think there are huge traffic problems on Courtenay Place, and can’t see what the problem is to be solved by this.

My preference is for the vision of Bob Jones – to have Courtenay Place to Lampton Quay turned into a huge mall, with no buses or cars. I’m not sure it is entirely practical, but would love to see it costed.

Removing vehicles from Courtenay Place would build on the successful opening of Manners Mall to buses, which had created a public transport spine through the central city, Ms Wade-Brown said.

The only thing sucessful about it, is that none of the pedesterians hit so far have been killed.

Any proposal will go out for consultation.

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Editorials 4 June 2010

June 4th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald wants some trams to play with:

On a broader canvas, cities such as San Francisco and Melbourne are closely identified with their trams.

Auckland chose another route when it removed trams from its streets.

Now, more than 50 years later, they are being readied for a comeback on the city’s waterfront in time for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

They can be successful here as well, but only if other developments in the Wynyard Quarter provide a suitable underpinning. …

The Press focuses on water:

The granting of final approval this week to the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme should now let the proposal finally get under way.

The process by which the decision was reached has been long and impassioned and has wound up costing about twice what was originally estimated.

But along the way, the scheme has been rigorously scrutinised. About 2000 submissions were considered by the independent planning commissioners.

It has been much modified in the light of criticism that was made of the original proposal, and it is now much less ambitious than first intended.

In the end, though, the potential benefits have now been weighed by the planning commissioners against any adverse effects it will have on some people, and the final assessment is that the scheme will be good for Canterbury.

The Dom Post talks promises:

Mr Key has now been burned twice in a matter of weeks for taking positions he cannot defend.

The first was the Crown’s negotiations with Tuhoe. Whatever the Government is saying publicly, it is obvious Tuhoe was led to believe that ownership of Te Urewera National Park was up for negotiation. As Mr Key belatedly realised, it should not have been. But the fallout from Mr Key abruptly removing the park from the table has soured relations between National and the Maori Party and created a fresh source of grievance for Tuhoe.

Mr Key’s second false step – actually it was his first – was his pre-election promise, given both to this newspaper in response to a question from a reader and during a TV3 leaders’ debate five days before the election, that Kiwibank would never be sold. The promise conflicts with National’s policy on state-owned enterprises – that none will be sold during this term of government but that sales could be considered in future.

Key has now restated that Kiwibank will not be sold – not just during this term. He had little choice once he realised that his pre-election statements about sale were not just about the first term.

Key has gone to great lengths to keep faith with the electorate. What he is finding now though is that he should have been more careful with what he said pre-election. It is my belief that no leader should ever give a permanent guarantee on an issue. They should give commitments for the upcoming term of Parliament, but should always retain the right to campaign on a different policy at a future election.

The ODT asks if Peter Bethune is a hero or a victim. Some might say neither!

It is possible to feel strongly opposed to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean yet uneasy at some of the actions taken in opposition to it.

That’s me. I joke that the only people I hate more than the whalers are Sea Shepherd.

He continues to blame the captain of the larger vessel for a sudden change in course and a direct attempt to ram Ady Gil, such that a collision became unavoidable.

The exact sequence of events – who did what to whom – remains masked in confusion amid claim and counterclaim, the only certainty being there was a collision and, consequently, the unsalvageable Ady Gil later sank.

It was no surprise. The whalers have never had a collision with Greenpeace or other protest ships. Only Sea Shepherd who have a long history of trying to ram other ships.

It is hard to know at this distance the extent to which his tearful supplication to the Japanese judiciary on Monday was for their benefit – or that of the world at large.

Many activists tread a fine line in their efforts to invoke sympathy for the cause, often teetering but a small mis-step from achieving precisely the opposite.

Nobody, least of all those who believe Japan’s “scientific whaling” in the Southern Ocean to be bogus and unacceptable, would wish a prison sentence on this singular activist; but there might be those prepared to concede he appears, by his actions, to have asked for one.

I hope he does not get a prison sentence, because that is what he wants.

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Editorials 22 March 2010

March 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald focuses on the environment in Auckland:

Stormwater pipes and sewers, many of them old and not sufficiently separated, overflowed 2500 times in 2008, fouling beaches and leaving them unsuitable for swimming. Aucklanders have been hearing about this disgrace for a lifetime, and paying for it to be fixed for almost as long. Yet progress seems not to be keeping pace with population growth.

For all that, this ARC report, the council’s third since 1999, suggests coastal water is cleaner than it used to be, beaches are usually safe for swimming and streams, though still polluted, are not as bad as before. While car use is rising, so is patronage of public transport. And though we have become fairly diligent at separating household rubbish for recycling, the amount sent to landfills is growing faster than the population.

The Dominion Post calls for more transparency in spending:

Today The Dominion Post reveals that funding for a $3 million taxpayer-funded project to turn domestic Maori businesses into export earners was abruptly suspended last November by Te Puni Kokiri because of concerns about the way public money was being spent.

Among the issues of specific concern to the Maori Development Ministry were: perceived conflicts of interest, value for money and contract compliance.

Documents obtained by the paper under the Official Information Act show the ministry was right to act as it did. But they do not explain why TPK signed off in the first place on a project that its chief executive Leith Comer now concedes was loose and wishy washy.

She is on the right track. Private organisations in receipt of public money have an obligation to account for the way it is spent. Government organisations dishing out public money have an obligation to put proper controls and benchmarks in place. Auditor-General Lyn Provost should be asked to conduct a thorough inquiry into both Tekau Plus’s use of the money and Te Puni Kokiri’s stewardship of it.

I like what some US states have done – every single payment is published on the Internet.

The Press looks at local transport:

The Christchurch City Council shows welcome determination in sticking to its plans to build the new bus exchange under ground.

Christchurch will benefit in the long and short term, even if the NZ Transport Agency regards the plan as not benefiting the nation.

The agency has to live within tight budgetary margins and contribute to projects throughout New Zealand, so it is bound to take a conservative view of the exchange. That is especially the case when the undergrounding is expensive, costing $212 million more than the above-ground option. Also, the Christchurch bus system could operate with the cheaper facility.

But the city council is right to take a longer-term view, and one that will give the city the safest and most efficient exchange with the maximum potential.

Undergrounding would do that. It would mean passengers would not have to negotiate entering and exiting vehicles and more buses could be accommodated. Also, the area above could be turned into a park – in the meantime.

Underground, overground, wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledown Common are we.

Sorry that song just stuck in my head as I read the editorial on overground vs underground.

The ODT looks at water pollution:

Some assurance can be taken by the public from the latest survey of the efforts by dairy farmers to comply with both the law and the 2003 Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, but the results also show there is still a great deal to be done.

Indeed, the level of national non-compliance with effluent discharge consents is still a disgrace, although the situation has improved in Otago – and not before time. …

Public anger against dairy farmers who continue to flout the requirements – along with the damage being done to New Zealand’s carefully cultivated, if misleading, “clean, green” publicity – has grown to the stage where now politicians at cabinet level are taking an interest.

Claims by farmers’ organisations that “most [dairy] farmers” care about the impact their businesses have on the environment simply do not stand up to scrutiny if the survey statistics for the 2008-09 season are to be believed.

On a national scale, only 60% of dairy farms are complying with resource consents and regional plans in the discharge of their dairy effluent, although the figures for Otago and Southland farmers, at 75% and 69% respectively, are above average.

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Banks on Rail

October 12th, 2009 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Auckland City Mayor John Banks calls for an underground rail loop between Britomart and Mt Eden:

Quite simply, New Zealand needs Auckland to work, and for that to happen, it needs to work efficiently. Auckland cannot rely on roads and motorways alone to meet the region’s future transport needs, as the city’s roading network is already nearing the practical limits of expansion.

The key thing is, it is not a choice between improving roads and public transport. They are not substitutes, but complementary.

The number of trips made on Auckland’s transport system by 2051 is expected to increase by 65 per cent from 3.2 million to 5.2 million a day.

Plans for an underground rail loop from Britomart southward underneath the CBD to Mt Eden have been debated for nearly a century.

Initial economic evaluation of the CBD tunnel shows that it attracts a higher return than many major roading projects of a similar scale, particularly as rail can shift much larger numbers than any other mode.

So long as it is cheaper per than Labour’s plan to spend $1 to $2 billion on a single tunnel to help then retain Mt Albert!

The Western Ring Route, State Highway 20 and incremental improvements to other motorway networks and roads are critical. However, these improvements and the new Central Connector and development of the bus lane network will meet future demands only if we complete a fully integrated transport system, including a CBD rail loop.

The capacity of Britomart at peak times would potentially more than double to 40 trains per hour, if it were a through-station. These are compelling reasons why we need to push through Britomart, up under Albert St, beneath Karangahape Rd and on to Mt Eden and Kingsland.

Because of its higher capacity, rail is the most effective and efficient way of providing for Auckland’s growth in travel demand, especially to the congested CBD.

So why a loop?

This CBD loop is no ordinary transport project. This project looks ahead 100 years, to the kind of centre a true super city aspires to.

Super cities all over the world have strong centres and with vision, good design and a sound business case, this project unlocks the potential of Auckland’s centre by enabling much greater access from all parts of the region. This will reinforce the existing role of central Auckland as a regional destination for workers, students and residents and it will cater for the projected growth in the size and intensity of the centre of Greater Auckland.

Enhancing access through a CBD rail loop is critical to the central area’s contribution to lifting the entire region’s (and therefore the country’s) economic performance.

This rail loop is more than a rail link. It is a transformational economic development project at the centre of the new Super City.

So what is the cost?

The currently estimated cost of a CBD rail loop is between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. If the rail loop is not constructed, we do have a good handle on that cost, which includes further road and motorway construction to meet demand (at least $3.3 billion for roading and additional parking capacity, according to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority’s latest estimate).

If it can be done for that much money, the economic argument really stacks up.

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Transport Spending

August 27th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has announced:

An $8.7 billion programme of investment in New Zealand’s transport system has been detailed today with the launch of the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP).

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says this is the largest ever investment in the system and represents a 17 percent increase from the previous three-year period.

That’s close to $3 billion a year which is not bad.

The $8.7 billion includes investment of:

  • $4.6 billion in the state highway network (up 19%)
  • $1.9 billion in local roads (up 14%)
  • $900 million in key urban public transport networks (up 21%).

As anyone sane knows, it is not a choice between public transport only or roads only. You need to invest in both.

The $900 million in public transport investment is in addition to the $1.85 billion in capital investment currently being made into the Auckland and Wellington commuter rail networks.

Ouch. Thanks Michael.

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Regional Fuel Tax looks to go

March 13th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A planned regional tax that threatened to add up to 10c to every litre of fuel will be scrapped. …

Transport Minister Steven Joyce will ditch the tax when he announces changes to transport funding next week. He said yesterday that a package of announcements would be made, including funding alternatives to the controversial 10c-a-litre tax introduced by Labour.

The Government was not convinced the regional tax made sense, Mr Joyce said. The tax and other increases to fuel levies planned for the next three years would mount up for motorists.

“In the Auckland region, by 2011 there’d be a 14c-a-litre extra tax and so we really wanted to have a close look at that.”

The fuel tax plan gave regional councils the power to charge up to 10c a litre on petrol and diesel to fund roading and public transport projects. Many councils around the country have already put a lot of work into the scheme and have all but spent the potential proceeds.

Keep cost increases down is laudable, but like the newspaper I am unsure where the funding will now come from.

I’m possibly one of the few advocates for a greater fuel tax. Why?

Well all proposed new roads get evaluated a cost:benefit formula. Now I have not checked recently but I think we only fund projects that say have a 3:1 or even 4:1 or grater benefit to cost ratio.

We also then have the Government hand pick certain roads as more important than others, because of limited funds.

So what I would do is to specify all roads over a certain benefit to cost ratio be automatically funded. 1:1 might be too low as there is some uncertainity over the calculations, but say fund everything over 1.5:1. And then have the fuel tax automatically adjust to be able to fund those projects. That way there is no cherry picking, we get better roads, but also motorists are paying the full costs of a roading network.

I would not fund public transport from the fuel tax. I support public transport but beleive it should be funded from general taxation as a competing priority like other public good expenditures.

Funding them both from petrol tax turn it into a battle of roads vs trains (for example) and it is not a choice. Unless we stop growing we are always going to need both more roads and more public transport. They complement each other – they are not substitutes.

Anyway I will be interested to see what the Government does.

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