Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Auckland megacity - what does it mean for transport?

According to the "Great" Auckland website, it means a council controlled organisation responsible for "all local and regional transport". However, it says little more. So let's explore that a bit further.

The key responsibilities in transport today are:
- The territorial authorities are responsible for their own local road network. They all raise rates to pay for between 40 and 60% of the cost of maintaining and improving the network, while bidding to the NZTA for the rest (which comes from fuel tax, road user charges etc). This is by far the most important function;
- ARTA, an ARC subsidiary, is responsible for contracting any subsidised public transport services, and registering commercially provided ones (which it has been discouraging through various contracting arrangements). It leads the rail project.

Note that all state highways in Auckland are the responsibility of the NZ Transport Agency, Transit's successor. Whether these will be handed over to the mega city is unclear. Hopefully not.

The megacity will no doubt take a view that the biggest problem with Auckland transport is not that it doesn't manage local roads well, doesn't build capacity when it is urgently needed and doesn't price the network to reflect costs, but rather there are too many cars.

It will want to use your money to subsidise those who don't drive, and penalise those who do. It wont be content with running the roads as a business, whereby anyone wanting property access pays an access fee, and motorists pay for what they use. It may neglect roads significantly, rather like Transport for London which has an appalling record in badly maintaining signs, and making next to no investment in improving capacity.

You see the megacity will own trains, and want those trains to grow. It wont own the private bus fleets so wont care so much about them It wont own trucks or cars, so they wont even be on the radar screen.

Most importantly, it wont own the motorways or be likely to build major new roads.

So the megacity wont do much, other than encourage more cross subsidisation of roads, and public transport dominating transport thinking across the region, even though it carries a tiny minority of trips.

A better solution would be to spin off the roads completely into arms length companies, responsible for providing access to properties and road space for motorists, and charging appropriately for both.

However, politicians wouldn't have control, and it wouldn't be democratic - which of course, is how everything should be - up to a vote.

1 comment:

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