New Zealand’s Transport Minister and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announced a $31 billion infrastructure package for Auckland city. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) 2021-31 will invest in the city’s critical transport infrastructure and services. Mayor Goff says that this is the largest capital programme allocated to Auckland transport infrastructure (Congestion to worsen, 2021).
This year’s ATAP is an updated package of the ATAP 2018-28 program, which has allocated $28 billion on rapid transit networks and develop walking and cycling to alleviate congestion and reduce carbon emissions.
Transport Minister Michael Wood shares some ongoing transportation infrastructures projects that will help with the economic recovery and reduce emissions. He says that the current package will grow the rapid transit network and see the construction of Auckland’s light rail plans, the details of which will be announced soon.
According to the AP Infrastructure article, the ATAP 2021-31 will focus on key areas like:
- Reducing public transport fares by 50% for community services cardholders (low-income community members) to begin in July 2022, will significantly increase public transport users and trips.
- More funds for local boards and walking and cycling initiatives to see cycleways completed.
- Funding for buses and ferries to boost public transport by 91%.
- Increase percentages of public transport, walking and cycling on morning peak trips.
- Decrease of 13% in emission per capita compared to the previous package.
- Reduce Auckland road deaths and serious injuries by 65%
- Support the delivery of over 17,000 public housing in Auckland, which will be made possible by implementing the infrastructure budget plan.
Some people are raising questions as to whether the plan can really tackle the city’s big issues. Mayor Goff admitted that the program would not solve all of Auckland’s transport problems, “By itself, ATAP does not solve all of Auckland’s transport problems, but it will allow us to make inroads into the increasingly serious problems of carbon emissions, traffic congestion and housing shortages.”
Michael Barnett, Auckland Business Forum chairman, thinks that ATAP’s rollout will result in more road cones and disruption that can worsen the city’s congestion. At the same time, most of the projects focus on climate change and housing; he feels that it should do more to address the “big, bold projects needed to reduce road congestion where freight and the bulk of general traffic will continue.”
He adds that the ATAP also fails to provide details on long-term critical infrastructure projects like more routes to connect the city, harbour crossing, road congestion pricing scheme, and the light rail funding details.
Then there are also equally pressing issues that Auckland faces – loss of productivity caused by congestions and the ever-growing housing crises that push lower-income Aucklanders and young families out of the city’s fringes due to the lack of affordable housing.
Hamish Glenn, Infrastructure New Zealand Policy Director, says that “The Government needs to identify what role it thinks Auckland should play in the wider New Zealand story and start using transport as the enabler to achieve that, rather than as an end in itself”.
And there are also other bigger questions not tackled by ATAP that needs a more precise national direction from the government.
New Zealand’s national discussion regarding transportation infrastructure needs appropriate modes, and alternative solutions are sure to continue for many years.