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Transport package positive but doesn't address congestion

26 April 2018
Transport package positive but doesn't address congestion


"The Government’s announcement of a fully-funded $28 billion ten year programme for Auckland is very welcome, but to reduce congestion beyond today’s levels road pricing and improved alignment of housing and employment with transport is required," says Stephen Selwood CEO of Infrastructure NZ.

"Enabling the Government’s investment is the application of private capital to fund and finance transport projects.

"Debt financing the upfront costs of projects like light rail, Penlink and Mill Rd and paying back public or private debt via tolls and development contributions is a much fairer and more efficient way to grow.

"It is pleasing to see the Government has recognised that pay-as-you-go funding for major investment does not provide the flexibility to invest in city-shaping infrastructure and cannot undo 30 years of underinvestment in our largest and fastest growing city.

"The commitment to Mill Rd and Penlink is especially welcome, particularly if those projects can be brought to market this year. A big gap in the pipeline has emerged, and if contractors cannot see work coming through in the immediate term then they will have to shed skilled and productive staff right at the same time as Australia is looking for labour.

"While the programme is expected to see a major improvement in public transport investment and patronage, it is clear that much more is required if promises to relieve congestion are to be met.

"Under the programme, congestion on Auckland’s roads will remain at today’s levels indefinitely.

"Aucklanders who spend 100 hours stuck in gridlock each year will still spend 100 hours in gridlock in ten years, unless they are lucky – or wealthy – enough to live alongside a priority public transport route.

"Experience in Portland and other cities in the USA suggests that the better off will move into these corridors to avoid traffic congestion, pushing lower income groups into less accessible neighbourhoods and exacerbating the wealth divide.

"Public transport users and the wider public will be pleased to see an expansion of bus and rail services.

"Supporting that shift will be an $8.4 billion investment in rapid transit.

"This is almost double the amount invested in road projects, even though the total programme will be overwhelmingly enabled and funded by road users via fuel tax increases.

"To improve congestion for all users, including for the 90 per cent of total transport demand which take place on roads, three major policy shifts are required.

"First, underinvestment in capacity to meet foreseeable demand must stop. A fourth main trunk rail line will be required in the future, as will four lanes on the Penlink corridor and the extension of the Mill Rd corridor. These investments open up land for housing, have positive economic benefits and should be front-footed, not reacted to when capacity is exhausted.

"Second, there must be a move to road pricing. Vehicle charges which reflect the cost of transport infrastructure and the scarcity of road space, and which sees these funds reinjected back into the system to benefit users, has been shown to materially reduce congestion.

"Third, the sequencing of growth projects like light rail and Mill Rd have to be coordinated with Auckland Council infrastructure and planning to better align new employment and housing with transport. It is the disjoint between where Auckland’s rapid growth has been allocated and where transport investment is going which is the driving force behind weak transport outcomes.

"The steps forward announced today are very positive, but will not alone meet the expectations of Aucklanders for a city which is easy to get around," Selwood says.

ENDS

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