Policy Release: Better Transport Sooner

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas has announced a “Better Transport Sooner” transport policy which will deliver more local transport projects, reduce Auckland’s congestion sooner and reform Auckland Transport.

To achieve this he will increase transport funding, restructure the way Auckland Transport works and implement a new “Hybrid” mass transport plan.

“After five years of Auckland Council too many key local transport priorities remain unaddressed. Auckland Transport’s plans are too disconnected from Aucklanders key transport concerns. A key part of my plan if elected Mayor will be to use existing legislative powers to reorganise Auckland Transport to get it working better.”

Thomas will change Auckland Transport’s investment approach so local transport projects assume a greater priority. He has listed the top three priorities in each local board area which he says will part of his 10 year budget.

To implement his policy, Thomas will introduce a new Auckland Transport sub-regional decision making capability.

He will implement currently unused provisions in the Auckland Council legislation to direct Auckland Transport to establish 6 new Regional Transport Boards across Auckland. These will be formed with a formal delegation to approve and fund sub-regional and local transports. Thomas wants this new structure to save money by replacing the myriad of local board and other regional transport committees underway.

“The 6 boards will be chaired by an Auckland Transport director and be comprised of ward councillors and local board transport leads. They would cover the north, west, central, east, south and rural/islands areas. Each regional board area will need to agree their priorities in consultation with the Governing Body and Local Boards. This will then form part of the next Regional Land Transport Plan approved by Auckland Transport.”

“Auckland Council funds half of Auckland Transport’s budget and since amalgamation in 2010 there has been too much of a ‘turf-war’ over priorities. This has to stop and my plan works within the existing legislative constraints to ensure Auckland Council and Auckland Transport work more effectively together so the transport policies that Aucklanders elect their Mayor on actually get implemented.”

“I’m confident Auckland Transport will implement these plans if I am elected and I will appoint myself to the Board of Auckland Transport if necessary.

To fund his plans, he will restore the $113m that Len Brown cut from the Long Term Plan transport budget by eliminating non-essential council spending. This will see $25m per annum moving from council’s $817m governance, economic and cultural budget moving into transport. Lower priority support, coordination and planning work and projects will be replaced with greater investment in transport.

He will ask Auckland Transport to work with elected members to reprioritise its $200m per annum capital renewals budget and find at least $20m in savings by agreeing more realistic renewals standards.

Thomas will double the highly valued local board transport capital fund, used by local boards for smaller transport projects, from $10M pa to $20M pa with the funding coming from the regional to local reprioritisation.

He will lead the development of a new hybrid bus and rail plan that will draw from the City Centre Access Study which showed this to be the most cost effective future mass transport plan.

“I expect some form of light rail may play a part in this plan, but there is currently no agreed business case or funding plan for light rail. Additionally, although central Auckland congestion will be a focus for me, as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project Foundation Report shows the biggest growth areas in Auckland are in the north, the northwest and the south. Spending will need to be prioritised to these areas so quicker progress can happen on projects such as the North-western bus way and extended rail to the south.”

“Auckland Council will spend more on transport from its current budget with my changes, but if we are to make quicker progress greater investment will be needed. Therefore I will advance a new transport funding plan for Aucklanders including congestion charging where Aucklanders agree this makes sense.”

Thomas anticipates that use of congestion charging as an option will come from the government as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

“Additional funding will also come from accelerating the mixed-use development (retail/commercial/residential) of existing and new transport assets (particularly bus and rail stations and park and ride developments) to boost available transport funding.”

Thomas will also give communities greater ability to establish a targeted rate if they want quicker progress.

Thomas said his plan would boost prioritisation and funding to the following regional projects:

1) The Penlink investigation,

2) North-western bus way to Westgate,

3) A new Selwyn rail station

4) Dominion Road upgrade,

5) Stage 2 of AMETI

6) The Mill Road extension

7) Future rail planning to the south

“My plans represent significant change to current business-as-usual. This is needed as the current approach is not working. Aucklanders want better transport sooner and that is what my plan will deliver.”

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