Which political parties support a toll-free SkyPath?

We asked each of the main political parties whether they supported a toll-free SkyPath…

Labour, NZ First and the Green Party say they support a toll-free SkyPath (ie: publicly funded per usual State Highway investment by Government).

National says it prefers tolling SkyPath (to fund the PPP delivery model estimated to cost $248 million over 25 years) but if that isn’t viable they could consider funding SkyPath as part of a future Urban Cycleways Programme.

We explained to National why the PPP is no longer viable, however we haven’t heard back from yet. We’d really like them to get on board with the only logical solution… a toll-free SkyPath.

Labour commits to deliver toll-free SkyPath!

SkyPath Trust welcomes today’s announcement by Labour that it will provide direct investment to deliver a toll-free SkyPath.

Project Director Bevan Woodward says “SkyPath has been in hiatus since resource consent was granted late last year.  The proposed PPP to deliver SkyPath fell over when consortium partner Downer Construction advised SkyPath was too small and unique to work as a PPP.

“Labour’s commitment of Government investment means we can get on with delivery of SkyPath without the proposed PPP’s 25 years of tolling SkyPath users and revenue underwrite imposed on Auckland ratepayers.”

The Trust’s reasons for supporting a Government funded SkyPath are:

  1. It doesn’t work as a PPP. Downer Construction advised that SkyPath is too small and unique to work as a PPP when they withdrew from the SkyPath PPP consortium in February.  The estimated cost of SkyPath as a PPP is $248 million over 25 years.   SkyPath’s construction by traditional procurement is circa $40 million (excluding localised strengthening costs for the Auckland Harbour Bridge).
  2. It will provide greater traffic congestion relief. SkyPath’s effect on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is to add an extra lane of peak hour traffic capacity. Tolling SkyPath will reduce the number of users and therefore its effectiveness.
  3. It will provide a greater reduction in greenhouse gases. With the Government’s commitment to the Paris Accord on Climate Change, it would be contrary to toll Aucklanders choosing to walk and cycle.
  4. State Highway projects are fully funded by Government. NZTA’s ‘SeaPath’, the shared path from SkyPath to Takapuna, is to be fully funded by Government, SkyPath deserves the same funding approach.
  5. SkyPath is too important to be a PPP test case. SkyPath is the most critical gap in Auckland region’s walking and cycling network, however Auckland Council’s Investment Office has been given responsibility for SkyPath and they only want to do SkyPath as a PPP.  This is because they need a project to experiment as a PPP which they hope could be the solution to Council’s future funding deficient.

For these reasons, SkyPath is not appropriate nor feasible as a PPP.  Responsibility for SkyPath should be taken from Council’s Investment Office and assigned to NZTA, who manage the Auckland Harbour Bridge and are specialists in the funding and delivery of transport projects.

We mustn’t dismiss the Minister’s offer to fully fund SkyPath

We’ve had some push back from Auckland Council’s ‘Investment Office’ staff who are very keen on trying out a PPP, so we sent this open letter to all Councillors…

Dear Councillors,

We are most grateful of your support for SkyPath to date.  Without your support SkyPath would not be a consented, feasible and iconic solution to solve the most critical gap in Auckland’s walking and cycling network.

However we are concerned that Council’s ‘Investment Office’ is being dismissive of the Minister of Transport’s offer to fully fund SkyPath if the PPP’s various issues cannot be resolved.

As you will be aware, earlier this year Downer Construction withdrew from the PPP because SkyPath is too small and unique to work as a PPP.  We subsequently became concerned at the PPP’s estimated $248 million cost over 25 years to be underwritten by ratepayers and paid for by SkyPath users through increasingly more expensive tolls (well above the $2 each way originally proposed).  In a recent update to their Board, NZTA recognised that tolls for SkyPath users are an unresolved equity issue. 

Here are some key points to be aware of:

  1. When the SkyPath Trust met with Transport Minister Simon Bridges, the Minister said that if the PPP issues cannot be resolved then he could fund SkyPath in the next round of Urban Cycleways Programme funding.  The Investment Office has seized on the word “could” and used it to be dismissive of the Minister’s offer.  The Investment Office was not at the meeting and hence are unaware of how genuine the Minister’s offer to fund SkyPath really is.
  2.  It is incorrect of the Investment Office to claim that match funding would be required.  Projects on NZTA’s State Highway network are fully funded by Government.
  3. The Investment Office claims “the project is progressing well has never been in better shape to proceed as a PPP.”   The reality is progress on SkyPath’s development has stagnated since late last year when resource consent was granted.   With SkyPath Trust’s withdrawal, the PPP does not have the right to use the Trust’s intellectual property for the design, engineering and development of SkyPath.  The proposed PPP has no project.

Given the problems with the proposed PPP and the Minister’s response of offering to fund SkyPath, we are committed to a toll-free SkyPath for Auckland.  We ask for your ongoing support and welcome the opportunity to work with Council and Government to ensure the timely and efficient delivery of a toll-free SkyPath.

 

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The feedback we have is that the majority of Councillors support the offer of Government funding to enable a toll-free SkyPath for Aucklanders.   With the demise of the proposed PPP and the offer of funding from Transport Minister Simon Bridges, we are fully committed to ensuring a toll-free SkyPath!

Great news! Transport Minister willing to fund SkyPath

Recent discussions with Transport Minister Simon Bridges have resulted in the opportunity for a toll-free SkyPath at no cost to Auckland ratepayers!

Earlier this year when Downer Construction withdrew from the SkyPath PPP, they advised that SkyPath was too small and unique to work as a PPP.  When we met with the Transport Minister Simon Bridges to discuss issues with the proposed PPP, he advised he could fund SkyPath in the next tranche of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Program funding.

With the proposed PPP having foundered, we see Minister Bridges’ offer to fully fund SkyPath as the best way forward. This would avoid the 25 years of tolling SkyPath users and revenue underwrite by ratepayers as required for the PPP.   Over the 25 years, the PPP would cost approximately $248 million.

We are now working to ensure Auckland Council’s support for this approach.   Read more Stuff and the NZ Herald “Government could fund SkyPath”.

Help us get traffic speeds that put our safety first!

Please help us get traffic speeds that puts New Zealanders’ safety first!   Make a quick submission by 5pm Friday, June 16…

NZTA is updating NZ’s speed-limit setting rule, but it is unwilling to put New Zealanders’ safety first.  This is a missed opportunity to make our roads safer, more livable, vibrant and efficient.

Instead NZTA continues to require that speed limits to be safe and appropriate“.  This initially sounds good, who doesn’t want safer streets? And it’s appropriate for traffic to go more slowly on streets where we live, shop, and travel to school.  Unfortunately, we know there’s a nasty fish hook in the phrase “safe and appropriate“.  NZTA’s rule defines “appropriate” as “optimising efficiency outcomes” which NZTA then defines as “economic productivity”. 

This creates a flawed trade-off between safety and speed because it results in dangerous roads with no evidence of increased efficiency nor economic productivity.

You can help!…

Please email: rules@nzta.govt.nz by 5pm, Friday June 16 requesting that the Setting of Speed Limits Rule adopts a “safety first” approach by requiring speed limits to be  “safe as is reasonably practicable given the road function, design, users and the surrounding land use” – This aligns with NZ’s Health and Safety in the Workplace legislation, NZTA’s Speed Management Guide, and will reduce NZ’s appalling road toll.

This approach has proven to work well in countries like Germany, Sweden, Netherlands,Norway and Denmark who now have roads that are both safer and more efficient than New Zealand’s.

 

Background info…

Submission on the draft Setting of Speed Limits rule [2017]

We are impressed by the Government’s various initiatives to deliver new cycle trails and pathways across the country in conjunction with local communities.  This is enabling more walking and cycling, however traffic speeds are a major concern:

  1. Speed contributes to 30% of fatal crashes in NZ[i]. Speed is a factor in every crash, as it determines the severity of the impact and is the primary cause of resulting injuries/deaths
  2. NZ has one of the highest rates of road deaths in the world, up to four times that of Northern European countries
  3. By OECD standards, New Zealand’s roads are unforgiving yet we also have the highest speed limits for urban and rural roads:
Comparison of speed limits between
Northern Europe and NZ
Northern Europe New Zealand
Urban streets 30 – 40 km/h Mostly 50 km/h but some 60 km/h
Rural roads (one lane each way, no separation, minimal shoulder) 60 – 80 km/h Mostly 100 km/h, some 80km/h

If we want to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand’s roads then reducing speed is the most critical place to start.  As Auckland Transport’s website states: “Speed is the single biggest road safety issue in NZ today.”[ii]

That’s why the new Speed Limit Setting rule is so important:  It maintains a fundamental flaw in the current rule that prohibits a ‘safety first’ approach to speed limit setting.   Instead, the rule requires traffic speed to be “safe and appropriate”.  The requirement to be “appropriate” is defined by the rule as “optimises efficiency outcomes” which NZTA describes as “economic productivity”.

This creates a trade-off between safety and efficiency/economic productivity which is flawed because:

1) It means more people die on our roads.   We know that speed is the single biggest road safety issue in NZ today.

2) It deters people from walking and cycling. This means more people are forced to use their vehicles resulting in greater congestion, obesity, pollution, carbon emissions and spending on roading.

3) There is no evidence of a link between traffic speeds and efficiency/economic productivity.  If there was such a link between traffic speeds and efficiency/economic productivity then the countries with safer speeds of 30km/h urban and 60 – 80km/h rural roads such as Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark would have road networks with less efficiency/economic productivity than NZ.   Conversely there is evidence that reduced traffic speeds increase network efficiency due to greater numbers of crashes and improved traffic flows at intersections.  NZTA’s ramp metering is a good example of how slowing traffic increases overall network efficiency.

4) International best practice adopts a “safety first” approach and the trend is to speed limits of 30km/h urban streets and 60 – 80km/h rural roads.  The benefits are broad and the disadvantages are only to those people who like to drive fast.  We recommend such disadvantaged people join a motor sport club for the appropriate environment to drive fast.

5) A guiding principle of NZ’s Health and Safety at Work Act is that people in the workplace should be given the highest level of protection against harm as is reasonably practicable.  There is no trade-off to optimise “efficiency” or “economic productivity”. Why is this same protection not afforded to people on our roads?    Every year 40 – 60 people are killed in the workplace, however 300 – 400 are killed on our roads.  It is time for a ‘safety first’ approach to speed management.

Make a submission to NZTA by 5pm, Friday, June 16 on email: rules@nzta.govt.nz

Request that the Setting of Speed Limits rule requirement for “safe and appropriate speed limits” is changed to require speed limits that are “safe as is reasonably practicable given the road function, design, users and the surrounding land use”” – this aligns with NZ’s Health and Safety in the Workplace legislation, NZTA Speed Management Guide, and will reduce NZ’s appalling road toll.

[i] MoT’s Speed 2014 report which defined speed as “driving too fast for the conditions”

[ii] Direct quote from Auckland Transport’s website: https://at.govt.nz/driving-parking/safer-communities-roads-schools/road-safety/speeding/