Guest Post – Auckland transport?and reducing road congestion

Matthew Newman is the CEO of South Auckland Motors and Southern Autos and a real good bastard. He’s the bloke that arranged my Isuzu utes. He comments on Auckland’s transport issues.


  1. Auckland’s population is growing at historically fast rates; circa +40,000 in the 2015 year, with mid-range growth assumptions seeing a population of 2.2 M by 2035 (currently 1.7M)
  1. The region’s vehicle fleet is growing by around 200 (net) additional vehicles per day, or 70,000 annually
  1. Unlike Sydney, Melbourne and London (as examples), which have symmetrical, ‘circular’ urban topography, Auckland has a rectangular central isthmus, with long narrow ‘outliers’ to the north and south
  1. The topography in these other cities (identified above), lends itself to a ‘bike wheel’ rail network, with lines radiating out from the centre, coupled with ‘circular’ supplementary lines which ‘link’ the ‘spokes’ .
  1. As a result, the majority of residents are no more than a 10 minute walk from efficient public transport networks. They work, are well supported and for the majority of commuters, are their ‘default urban travel option’
  1. The OPPOSITE is the case in Auckland

Barriers to utilisation of public transport in Auckland?

  1. Geographical, distance and time barriers to the principal networks as identified above
  1. The rail network from the south is limited to 1 line. 1 line to the west (plus the Onehunga trunk) with none north of the bridge (alternative is the busway)
  1. To utilise these networks and materially reduce roading congestion requires vast numbers of commuters to:
    1. Drive to their train or bus station
    2. Find a park
    3. Pay for the park
    4. Assume the risk of damage or theft of their vehicle whilst parked
    5. Wait for the service
    6. Pay for the service
    7. Walk or taxi from where they exit the train or bus to their final destination
    8. Brave the ‘elements’

And then REPEAT this laborious process for the return journey

The barriers to ‘system’ utilization are simply too great for the vast majority of Auckland commuters for it to be considered a viable, convenient, reasonably priced or efficient alternative to the private motor vehicle.?Until such time as the above criteria are satisfied, it would be manifestly ‘unjust’ to impose congestion charging on the long-suffering Auckland population.?

And will do little to reduce congestion, which one assumes, is its raison d?etre??

A public backlash is guaranteed and justified!

The solution ? an additional element to current policy mix

‘In suburb’ shuttles as ‘feeders’ to the main networks:

  1. Researched overseas
  1. ‘Market tested’ in Auckland
  1. Pilot, including funding model, designed
  1. Piloted in 1, 2 or 3 suburbs with high-density commuter populations for a minimum period of 12 months
  1. Learnings adopted into a policy ‘final design’
  1. Policy roll out
  1. Time frame for design, pilot and roll out 2017 – 2022

?Operating concept?

  1. 8-12 seater shuttles deployed in ‘commuter land’
  1. Circulate at 5-10 minute intervals at peak times; 6.00 – 9.00 am and 4.00 – 7.00 pm
  1. At 30 minute intervals outside peak times.
  1. ?Surplus capacity? to then operate ?Uber like? within the wider transport network
  1. Pick up points no more than 5 minutes? walk from any residence
  1. When full, deliver passengers to the main train/bus networks and/or passenger destinations.
  1. Replicated in key ‘destination’ zones
  1. Off peak to operate at, say 50% of peak capacity

This approach overcomes the key ‘barriers to utilisation’ identified above and therefore stands a real chance of materially improving travel times around the Auckland region?

Other comments?

  1. Capital costs are low – $50,000 per vehicle at, say a fleet of 5000 units, is $250 m. Life span 7-10 years. Plus storage and servicing infrastructure (the private sector and or individually contracted drivers will mitigate the latter) A private contractor ‘model’ is an option to mitigate capital cost.
  1. Compare $250m against conventional public transport options. $Millions become $billions in the ‘blink of an eye’
  1. Operating costs are high, yes. 5000 drivers at say $50,000 annually is $250 m plus ancillary costs, but I expect revenues to accelerate quickly
  1. However, to fully assess the ideas true ‘cost effectiveness’, requires a ‘cost of travel time and inconvenience of the status quo’ (let alone in 5-10 years? time) be included in the financial model.
  1. Financial justification will quickly follow to supplement materiality of congestion mitigation.

I am happy to present this idea and/or be part of a process that critiques and improves it.?

Any government, local or national, would be most unwise to dismiss this idea out of hand simply because it either:?

  1. Threatens current investment in existing public transport networks (principally large buses South and West of the harbour bridge)
  1. Hasn’t been thought of, or doesn’t fit neatly into the current ‘solutions paradigm’

To close

  1. Sadly, current policy and strategic thinking, will deliver unacceptable outcomes for current and future generations of Aucklanders?

Principally because their philosophic underpinnings are rooted in ?more of what we have done in the past? rather than a looking outside the square and adopting a ?customer (commuter) mind-set?

  1. Failure to a greater or lesser extent is guaranteed under current policy settings.
  1. The consequences of continuing to fail are significant. Principally significant drag on PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH, coupled with a growing deterrent to business investment.
  1. Without productivity growth, our ability as a nation to meet the ever growing expectations of our citizens to provide 1st world living standards and services, will be severely constrained.

Matthew Newman

CEO South Auckland Motors/CEO Southern Autos – Manukau

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