Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Auckland councils have a laugh

$22 billion! The draft Auckland transport plan seeks that amount over 10 years. $2.2 billion per annum, divide it by 1.4 million Aucklanders means $1,571 dollars per man woman and child,

Stuff rightly points out it is "little more than a wishlist", it is hardly a plan. It is like listing what you want if you win the lottery, except Auckland councils want to make you pay for it, whether by rates, fuel tax or general taxation.

Current road taxes are adequate to maintain and make regular improvements to the road network, but any serious major improvements ought to be put through the "toll" test. If it can't be funded through tolls (and road taxes collected from the road), then it probably isn't worth doing.

I've suggested before that a good pilot for private investment of Auckland roads would be to sell the Northern Motorway from Spaghetti Junction to Constellation Drive, allow the owner to toll it which could fund duplicating the congested Victoria Park Viaduct, strengthening the Bridge and a second crossing IF it is viable. Oh and the proceeds from the sale could be allocated to Auckland motorists.

However, in the big picture there is a demand for all sorts of passenger rail network extensions, when none of them could generate enough revenue to cover operating costs. There is ample evidence from the Sydney and Brisbane airport railway lines that an airport railway line does not make sense.

What is most apparent is that this is driven by the public transport obsessed ARC, which has bought into the failed cargo cult ideology that building public transport relieves congestion. You can see it from this statement:

"A rail tunnel under the CDB, for example, would result in more than 200,000 people being within 30 minutes travel of Queen Street"

I'd say far more than that are within 30 minutes travel of Queen Street already. Those people own their own vehicles, and their fuel tax more than pays the cost of the infrastructure they use, and pays to subsidise the public transport they don't use. These magic people are car commuters.

If ever there was a reason for Rodney Hide to throw away any nonsense of a single Auckland council, it is this - a big Auckland council will demand massive cheques from taxpayers for grandiose projects. The question needs to be asked - Is there a role of local government in transport?

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