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Hubbard: Speech to the Land Transport Forum 2006

A Speech to the Land Transport Forum 2006

"Transportation in Auckland, One Mayor's Vision." Mayor of Auckland City, Dick Hubbard 15 February 2006

Going Somewhere Faster.....The Vision for Auckland's Transport Network

On 23 January, the Sydney Morning Herald slammed home the headline "A City Going Nowhere Fast".

This was part of an in depth analysis commissioned by the Herald independently to look at the crisis in Sydney's transport network: * "Sydney's reliance on cars is costing more than $18 billion a year through congestion, accidents and air pollution - and threatens to stunt the state's economy" the article screamed. * And the $18 billion was made up of a $12 billion cost of simply 'the cost of time lost stuck in traffic and higher vehicle operating expenses."

Sydney's clogged roads, said the article, delay commuters 33 seconds for every kilometre they drive.

Sound familiar?

I could have written it myself and changed the name of the city to "Auckland" (along with a few key stats).

The sentiment's the same and the magnitude we've previously stated in Auckland - of around $1 billion a year- may in fact be very understated given that Auckland is 22 per cent the size of Sydney.

Auckland's public transport system is less developed than Sydney's.

To proactively counter congestion, many European cities have already thrown a cordon around their centres. They're making public transport more attractive for commuters, while the choice of the private vehicle remains (think of London's tolling scheme).

Last year 1000 towns and cities in Europe - many of them capitals - took part in a 'car free city' day, promoted by the European Union. According to the BBC a Prague commentator said "a single day with reduced traffic, noise and pollution can give a glimpse of higher quality of life for people ...in towns."

It's not just in Europe either. In Asia and USA cities are taking action.

A higher quality of life? Yes - and health.

Even in Auckland, a study shows that vehicle emissions result in 250 premature deaths per year.

Auckland is now regularly exceeding pollution guidelines and 50-80 per cent of this pollution comes from traffic. The Minister of Health must be a party to congestion resolution and healthcare costs must be added to the congestion sums.

And this is in a city where 35 cars are added a day.

Modern large cities have come to the point that a higher quality of life and health may only be possible through more public transport choices and less reliance on the very instrument that gave the world its improved quality in the first place - the private motor car.

The fact that Europe is trying different approaches raises a key question for New Zealand. Can we rely on the fact the private motor vehicle is going to be available and used the way it is today?

No-one - including me - wants to stop people using their cars. But it's already been shown in major cities including Auckland that it's impossible to build our way out of congestion through more roads.

Indeed, we know that what's most unsustainable is the continued growth in the private use of the motor vehicle set against the finite capacity of most major cities - Auckland included - to provide roads to take the growth.

The news coverage tells Auckland that we are not alone in our transport challenges and congestion torment'.

What the rest of the country sees as Auckland whinging, may be part of a serious question as to how sustainable our 21st century city lifestyle really is. In sustainability terms we may be in malfunction mode.

To be clear: I'm not suggesting we give up our cars. What I'm suggesting is that we encourage people to think about alternative modes of travel; but first, they need viable, convenient alternatives.

The good news is: we still have time on our side, but only just. The transport barometer is still slightly on the fair weather side for our city, providing we act quickly, decisively and imaginatively - all at once!

With a huge dollop of common sense, Auckland can stay ahead of this issue, resolving as we go - before European gridlock scenarios overtake us.

To make the case for a vision for transport in Auckland, you need to first understand what's happened to Auckland - how we got to where we are.

Consider for a moment what transport gives us in a city - apart from the obvious: mobility. By thinking about this, it becomes pretty clear what Auckland's transport priorities should be.

Transport is not an end in itself. It's not a privilege or an option. It is the conduit to successful, sustained, economic growth.

A happy, connected city - where people can move around easily for jobs. Where businesses can make logical, efficient choices about where to site. Where goods and services can be accessed with ease. And last but not least where transport choices enable a pleasant, liveable environment.

Taking the observation further: transport corridors actually shape cities. Where transport flows, development follows. Where development occurs, people, jobs and places to live follow.

Where transport is constrained, development is locked up. Seen this way, Auckland's transport and roading is the fundamental determinant for the way Auckland grows from here on.

Transport will determine the core design of our city and malfunctioning transport will give malfunctioning design. The two are intrinsically linked.

And that's the first issue we face. Auckland has been on a slimline road building diet for forty years - perhaps even more. We simply haven't spent enough getting the roads we planned actually built.

The end result is that in 2006, we have too many cars; insufficient public transport capacity. We need to make our roads work harder.

We're congested. And the cost of congestion is huge in time lost, time lost in business, pollution and so on.

Auckland's also strangely unique amongst international cities. We have our number one highway in close proximity to the CBD, and it's also used for short distance commutes. So there's a conflict of use.

Most cities build the other way around - with transit motorways that skirt the central city.

Our alternative routes were planned in the 1950s and 60s. But they have never been built. State Highway 20 will serve as the city by-pass. It will become the new State Highway One.

In the next programming and prioritisation round which is currently under consultation by Transit and ARTA, there's a very real threat that roads like Transit's State Highway 20 - also known as the Western Ring Road - will be delayed or won't be completed through lack of funding. That will be a disaster.

Completion of Auckland's roading network is absolutely fundamental in the arsenal against congestion in our city, and in our country's and city's on going growth. Any delays are unacceptable.

Which brings me neatly to a further issue for Auckland. The key determinant for helping fix Auckland's congestion problems is funding. And we don't have enough of it.

There is a serious gap in funding - the quantum needed, whether it comes from Government or local government or wherever - to: * build new roads needed now and in the future (including some that have been 'on the books' since mid last century), * to maintain existing roads, * and most important of all to underpin our current and future growth with a viable, accessible, reliable, convenient and integrated public transport system.

The size of the funding gap in the Auckland region is hard to determine.

Many have put it at $2.3 billion over the next ten years. $2.3 billion takes into account the amount likely to be raised by petrol tax, the $1.6 billion the Government generously provided to help address the problem in 2003, and all other current sources of funding.

$2.3 billion is a 2006 figure. If we wait till 2010 to begin, it will have grown. $2.3 billion is $230 million per annum for the next ten years, or nearly $175 per year for each man, woman and child in the Auckland region for the next ten years.

Rates will never be sufficient to meet this massive shortfall, whether they be through the ARC or through Councils. Indeed, rates are a blunt instrument at the best of times because general rates tax only property owners.

Nor will the petrol tax be sufficient - as the Prime Minister signalled yesterday. It's already dropped because of high petrol prices. Revenue projections over the next ten years indicate it will drop by around $300 to $600 million from today's 'take'.

We must change this tax from a volumetric (cents/litre) to a percentage tax to remove this uncertainty.

How have we found ourselves in this situation with so much money needed? And why should the rest of New Zealand care?

Ironically, it's partly happy circumstance that has taken Auckland to teeter on the edge of a transport chasm.

Our 'happy circumstance' is our growth. Auckland's very success and attractiveness as an international city has made it grow tremendously.

80 per cent of immigrants choose to make Auckland their home.

Our growth has not been matched by investment in transport and roading meaning for many, many years we're having to play catch-up at a time when our needs are compounding exponentially: * Between 1991 and 2003, 60 per cent of New Zealand's total population growth was contributed in Auckland region. So for every four people added to the rest of the country, six people were added to the Auckland region. * For those who shout 'stop the growth, then' I say - "totally unrealistic". History shows that every year since 1913 - since stats began - Auckland's population has grown at a faster rate than the rest of the country. It's now accentuated by our proactive immigration policy. * We've grown from 11 per cent of New Zealand's population in 1911, to 31 per cent in 2003 - and still growing. * If you project Auckland's population between 2001 and 2026, 560,000 people are added. That's a Dunedin AND a Wellington - compared with the rest of the entire country in the same period where only just over two Dunedins are added.

Cities that grow like this are intrinsically attractive to people: * from offshore, they seek business, investment, opportunity * from other centres in New Zealand (internal migration), they seek jobs, markets and more opportunities.

So Auckland currently accounts for: * 31 per cent of the population * 32 per cent of New Zealand's employment * 34 per cent of New Zealand's GDP * 2/3rds of the country's top 200 companies - up 40 per cent from 1986.

The size of Auckland means we have a disproportionate effect on the country's GDP.

According to a BERL report, if the region were to contribute GDP only in proportion to its employment, this would equate to a $2.3 billion reduction in New Zealand's GDP.

It was argued until recently that Auckland hit below its weight. Those figures are now discredited.

Furthermore, Auckland's region is more productive on average than other centres in New Zealand.

We are able to contribute a higher proportion of the country's GDP because of business services - which account for less than 25 per cent of employment, but nearly 40 per cent of Auckland's GDP.

Translate this as: in Auckland our output is higher on average per job or person employed than the rest of the country.

I don't cite these figures to boast how important Auckland is in and of itself, but to argue how important Auckland is for the rest of the country's wellbeing.

There is an intimate relationship between Auckland's and the country's economic health. The two are as married as a horse and carriage.

When Auckland's health fails, because of its size and influence, the rest of the country is affected. The rest of the country simply can't dismiss Auckland as a basket case, and expect to carry on as economically robust. It won't happen.

Back to transport, then.

If Auckland's transport issues aren't properly addressed, then Auckland's economy will be constrained.

Growth won't stop, but economic opportunities will be affected. The growth won't be as healthy or as beneficial for either our city or our country. It's for that reason that Auckland transport must command national attention.

Economic opportunities are only maximised if the key ingredients which made the city attractive to investment and business in the first place are retained and improved.

The two leading ingredients in this respect are: infrastructure (roads, transport) and cost competitiveness (international competitiveness - closely related to transport and accessibility).

It's not rocket science.

So what is my vision for Auckland's transport network? It's a common sense vision. It takes as its cornerstone the kind of city and region we want Auckland to be: * a vibrant centre for business and job growth * a city of unsurpassed leisure and lifestyle * a competitive city.

So therefore it follows, Auckland's transport network needs: * the completion of our roading network * alternative ways around the centre of the city 1 easy, fast access to the North South and West other than through the city centre 2 a second harbour crossing * the building of new roads and bridges beyond this 0 With all that, however, we can't build our way out of congestion via roads. No major city in the world can currently do this either.

We also need vastly improved public transport. Transport that is coherent and provides an attractive alternative to the private vehicle that's: * convenient, accessible, reliable, clean, safe, regular, modern, efficient, and cost competitive.

What does this mean? In my mind: * it means buses and trains that travel in bus lanes ie light rail (so that the bus goes first) along major routes at least at ten minute frequencies * it means buses that travel on more routes to every area of the city * full ticket integration between bus, train and ferries in our city * park 'n ride facilities, so that you can still use your car to get to a hub for either bus or rail transport, but ride from there * electrification of our rail system. It's essential this decision is made within the next six months because it drives some important decisions on urban design and intensification - such as growth around transport hubs. (If we stay with diesel, noise and emission problems mean that growth cannot be as contained and intensive around our rail corridors and stations). * Electrification will also allow the building of underground rail under major developments such as shopping centres (diesel does not).

The need to improve rail has been talked about since 1923: * we need a rail loop around the CBD - it's not a case of 'if' but when * double tracking * ferries that reach a much larger number of destinations around the Waitemata Harbour and along the East Coast and visit new or much upgraded wharves and terminals. We are blessed with expansive sheltered waters. Water costs nothing to build and virtually nothing to maintain. * it also means encouraging walking and cycling.

We've been told for so long that Aucklanders are too wedded to their cars to choose public transport. I don't believe that for a minute.

Overseas evidence shows if public transport is cheap and attractive people will flock to it (in San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transport system prompted criticisms for its first five years. It's now the backbone of transport in the entire area).

If we acknowledge we can't build our way out of congestion with more roads, we are also bound to consider road pricing as part of a package of measures.

Road pricing helps shift the balance between private vehicles and public transport. It's part of a civic toolbox of actions we must take. Choice is still retained, but public transport becomes more attractive.

Electronic technologies are now becoming widespread and allow considerable savings and flexibility compared with manual systems.

However, it seems to me absolutely vital that our passenger transport network is sorted out on a major scale before any sort of tolling or road pricing takes place in the region.

And that these funding tools, if they are used, are transparently used to decongest the city by funding more roads and better public transport in turn.

Will we get there? Well there's a huge leap we have to take and balanced investment is what we need - for roads, infrastructure and public transport.

At the moment, we're still severely under-funded to achieve what we need to achieve. A bit more about that in a moment.

Let's pause to consider for a moment how far we've come.

On the 'cup is half full' side of the equation Auckland City Council - which, contrary to popular public opinion is NOT responsible for public transport in our region - is making significant progress. We introduced a 5 per cent targeted rate specifically for additional transport projects.

We complement ARTA (which provides for public transport) and Transit (which builds national highways) in our area - plus all other local bodies (who like us, are responsible for funding arterial roads and supporting public transport).

Someone commented the other day that key roads, arterials and bridges within our city boundaries are likely to be construction sites for the next ten years as we improve access and play our (albeit limited) part in public transport as fast as we have funds to do.

Examples of those construction sites which are making a major contribution to alleviating congestion in Auckland include: * Our central transit corridor. This will connect Downtown Auckland to Newmarket benefiting around 65,000 Aucklanders a day. 0 Widening of Fanshawe Street * With over 40,000 vehicles using Fanshawe Street, its development is essential. * The Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative * This will improve passenger transport and local roads, unlocking economic potential and providing access for developments along the Tamaki edge. * Dominion Road * We recognise Dominion Road as a major public transport corridor - and we're enhancing this.

These projects are designed to increase our roading capacity as well as support public transport. These initiatives are designed to move more people, more quickly. And these are just but a few examples.

Auckland City is also supporting the development of public transport by encouraging developers to site their key investments in areas which are already 'hubs' for public transport. Astute investors will already be doing so.

An outstanding example of this is Sylvia Park. It's beautifully sited at a junction of public transport routes. This is the first development where the developers are building a railway station on site.

If we have willing Councils, a regional council with a strong vision for public transport, and a national road provider which is building roads rapidly, what stands in our way to go the full distance?

It's funding of course. Do we have funds to develop our transport network and roading system?

The answer is: if Government can't or won't fund, we simply have to find ways around this issue.

We must find a way to ring fence control over funding, and use it - transparently - so that Auckland becomes less congested.

There are other funding streams we have scarcely touched.

Beyond that, there's a levy we can all pay. Tolling and road pricing is not about user pays. It's about solving transport issues and providing choice.

It's about choosing roads where sufficient people will trade off a price to pay against benefits - such as shorter trip time.

In return, the funds raised may be applied to encouraging public transport and further reducing congestion elsewhere by building roads. Everyone can benefit. Elsewhere in cities where road pricing works well, the benefits of raising revenue this way are felt transparently by all.

If you're going to do this, you simply have to select the roads well: * so that there is a good public transport system already in place as an alternative * so that there are alternative routes which folk can choose to use if they don't want to pay, but still want to travel by private car * so that there is a direct, measurable result from the 'pain' of being levied in this way by way of lower congestion: and that Aucklanders can see the result with their own eyes, and experience it. How and where money is spent will be of prime importance and beneficiaries of the revenue - be they Local Government or whomever - need to be held directly to account for it.

In my view we've got to get the balance right before ordinary Aucklanders can say "I can live with that" and see the benefits. I know they have done so in other countries.

Therefore, I believe tolling is possible and can be part of a constructive solution for Auckland.

What I can tell you is that no vision for solving Auckland's transport problems can occur without political union, and true political grit.

When I look to my fellow Auckland mayors I would encourage them to 'go all the way' with me to get it fixed. Aucklanders are crying out for the political backbone to get the job done.

All I ask of Auckland is that you give us the chance to get it done and all I ask of Wellington is that you allow us to get it done.

New Zealand's status as a competitive nation depends on getting Auckland moving again. It's as simple as that.

Thank you.

ENDS


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