The much anticipated Auckland Transport Alignment Project final report released this afternoon underlines the scale of Aucklands growth challenge and signals an opportunity to better integrate transport and development in our largest and fastest growing city, says Stephen Selwood CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.
The landmark ATAP process has aligned central and local governments approach to transport in our largest city. Positively, we now have agreement across key agencies as to what the transport problem in Auckland is, what sort of response is required and how much it will cost.
However, the agreed findings are cause for some considerable concern.
Congestion has slowed speeds on the Auckland motorway by 9 per cent in just the last three years. The best case scenario is that congestion across the network will decline ten per cent more over the next decade before road pricing is introduced.
If an additional $4 billion of investment cannot be found, congestion will worsen by closer to 20 per cent.
Even with the delivery of the CRL, AMETI and new priorities in the form of a north-western busway and extension to the northern busway, public transport mode share will barely exceed 10 per cent during the morning peak by 2026.
Despite this growth in public transport, little new capacity has been identified for the strategic road network beyond some limited widening. This means that the next million people to Auckland are expected to be accommodated on the existing motorway network, with only the extension north of uhoi, an East-West expressway across Onehunga and a new harbour crossing in the third decade.
It is difficult to see how Aucklands road network, which is declining so rapidly today, can accommodate the weight of 30 years more growth.
ATAP proposes addressing this problem by levying congestion charges of up to 30 cents per kilometre across the isthmus in peak periods in place of petrol tax. But this does not address the funding challenge and raises significant political and equity issues, which still have to be resolved.
Perhaps the biggest question left open by ATAP, however, is just why a three-fold increase in transport spending in the last decade has resulted in such a rapid decline in congestion performance.
The answer to that question remains outside the studys terms of reference, but is the direct consequence of dis-integrated planning statutes which has allow growth to occur out of step with transport investment.
The Unitary Plan has very successfully provided the development capacity Auckland needs, but was not under any requirement to target that growth into areas where it could be serviced by transport.
ATAP and our wider transport agencies must now meet growth across all parts of the city at once and its not surprising that budgets cant keep up.
The ATAP work provides a compelling need to identify how we can target growth in Auckland to avoid severe transport challenges in the short and medium term.
Government and Council need to be partnering with private developers to up the scale and lower the building costs of new homes near rapid transit to take pressure off locations without transport options or road capacity.
The current allowance of growth across the city will, without concerted focus from all parts of government, overwhelm transport systems and budgets and we must act quickly to avoid undermining the citys productivity and livability, Selwood says.
For further comment, please contact Stephen on 021 791 209