It was far from unexpected, but the recent funding decisions from national government were highly disappointing. As set out in more detail and even blunter words at the Auckland Transport Blog (“GPS 2012: Just Plain Dumb”), the funding leans heavily towards state highways (read: motorways, motorways, motorways…) and does so by keeping down, or actively cutting, funding for public transport, local roads, and even maintenance!
We will concentrate on what it means for cycling. There, one could be thankful in a way, because cycling funding was one of the few things that didn’t get cut. Nonetheless, it is hard to feel charitable when the funding remains at less than 1% of the total transport budget (which also covers walking AND cycling). All of New Zealand together will get between 12 and 30 million per year to build cycleways, bike lanes and cycle bridges – a drop in a parched desert. That is a real issue with local Councils wanting to build such facilities to heed the desires of their residents – but who won’t be getting co-funding to do more than the odd project. Further, the “funding range” means that in practice, we are unlikely to get anything like the 30 million hinted at for the upper end of the range – in the past years, walking and cycling funding was generally at about 15 million per year, while motorway construction budgets exceeded even the high end of their funding range – to the tune of 150 million EXTRA a year.
So – disappointing, but status quo for cycling? Not really. With the significant cuts to public transport and local roads funding, Council will find it harder and harder to accommodate cycling in other road or PT upgrade projects, and may even have to defer some of these projects for years until funds can be found. When one realises how many features for cycling some of these projects are proposing – such as the dedicated off-road cycleways in the AMETI projects – that is worrying for cycling as well as for a more balanced transport system in Auckland.
While local Councils, including Auckland, are increasingly realising that people want more more walking and cycling and public transport investment, we wonder why national government is so unwilling to heed this call. It is clearly not a lack of money.