Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Transport Plan Just a Pipe Dream

(This article was original to produced in April 2016).

Auckland parents and care-givers on school holiday duty looking at the coloured squiggly lines on the just released 30 year Rapid Transport Plan may have wondered who left the lid off the pencil jar. And where the piggy banks are that will pay for it.

Aucklanders on the daily commute will be fuming as they sit in the morning traffic jam or cope with the latest rail, bus or ferry delay. The priorities for transport in Auckland are not in 30 years time, they are now. After five and a half years of a ‘Super City’, Auckland Transport’s plans are too disconnected from Aucklanders’ key transport concerns. Len Brown has not provided enough transport funding and your elected members don’t have enough oversight.

Transport decision making/funding is one of the key levers Auckland Council controls that allow more houses to be built. As we read about the struggles of first home buyers in Auckland today, the need to invest better and earlier in our transport is urgent.

To make better progress, I have announced a transport plan which will deliver more local transport projects, increase transport funding by diverting it from less important projects and restructure the way Auckland Transport works.

We need to change Auckland Transport’s investment approach so local transport projects assume a greater priority. In my plan I outline local boards’ top three priorities which will be part of my 10 year budget. It’s pointless going to lengthy expensive consultation on local planning if the results don’t then get put into a funding plan.

I see the pressure our transport network is under as I travel around Auckland. One of my mayoral opponents says he probably won’t be alive to see the results of the 20-30 year plans he will advance if elected mayor. Fantastic. My commitment is to stick around over at least the next 5 years as we make more certain progress on the road blocks holding us back.

I will do away with the two dozen transport committees we have around the region and establish six new Regional Transport Boards. These will have formal delegation to approve and fund sub-regional and local transports. This way greater attention and actual delivery will be focused on our top priorities.

The six 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. They will agree their priorities in consultation with the Auckland Council Governing Body and Local Boards and this will feed into the Auckland Transport approved Regional Land Transport Plan.

To fund my plans, I will restore the $113m that Len Brown cut from the Long Term Plan transport budget. This will see funding transfer from council’s $613m governance, economic and cultural budget. Lower priority support, coordination and planning activity and projects will be replaced with greater investment in transport.

I 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. As a result I will double the highly valued local board transport capital fund, used by local boards for smaller transport projects, from $10M pa to $20M pa.

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 including, where Aucklanders agree this, swapping some of our existing assets (e.g. some of our airport shares) for new transport assets.

Additional funding can also come from accelerating the retail/commercial/residential development around existing and new transport assets (particularly bus and rail stations and park and ride developments).

My plan would boost prioritisation and funding to the following regional projects: Penlink, the North-western bus way, a new central rail station, Stage 2 of AMETI and future rail planning to the south.

Aucklanders want more than a coloured pipe dream for their transport plan. They want better transport sooner and that is what my plan will deliver.

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