by Ralph Chapman, Kate Whitwell and Nadine Dodge on behalf
of the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities
The type and quality of urban transport networks within an urban
area have a large impact on quality of life for residents. For
regions such as Wellington, looking to support future sustainable
development of the region and a transformation to a low-carbon
economy, a critical element is planning to support public
transport, walking and cycling networks.
Based on this, we support the overall stated vision of the draft
regional land transport plan "to deliver a safe, effective and
efficient land transport network that supports the region's
economic prosperity in a way that is environmentally and socially
sustainable" (GWRC, 2015, p.7).
The stated goals of increasing public transport, walking, and
cycling mode share are encouraging and well founded: increasing the
shares of trips made by public transport, walking and cycling is
known to have positive environmental, quality of life and public
health outcomes. However, the goals for walking and cycling are too
low, in our view, considering both recent trends in walking and
cycling, as well as the many benefits to be gained from increasing
walking and cycling rates.
For example, the stated goal of 3.7% of journeys to work being
completed by bike in 2025 (p.40) is unambitious, as it is merely
what would be expected if current rates of increases in cycling
continue in the future. Given that these recent increases in
cycling have happened in the context of an almost complete absence
of investment in cycling infrastructure, it is reasonable to expect
that much greater increases in cycling could be achieved with
appropriate investment in cycling infrastructure.
In our view the stretch target of an increase to at least the
4.6% of commute trips outlined in the Targets Working Paper 5
(p.64), and preferably a more ambitious target closer to 10% (and
consistent with active TDM programmes and supportive
infrastructure), should be adopted. Internationally, many cities
have shown that investment in cycling infrastructure can
significantly increase cycling mode share (Dill and Carr, 2003;
Yang et al., 2010). And the health benefits of cycling are highly
significant (Chapman et al., 2014). Given this, a substantially
higher target for cycling rates, as well as plans for cycling
infrastructure and TDM programmes to achieve those targets, is
While it is encouraging to see a section in this document on
climate change and carbon dioxide emissions that recognises fossil
fuel use for transport as a key source of emissions for the
Wellington Region (p. 28), there is little direct reference to the
ability of policies and activities of this plan to contribute to
either emissions reductions (or increases) over time. Furthermore,
the target to reduce absolute CO2 emissions by 10% in 2025
(relative to 2013 levels) is unambitious at best.
UNFCCC and IPCC guidance on emissions reductions recommend that
wealthy countries should be aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions
by around 80% or more by 2050 (UNFCCC, 2007), and cities, as
primary sources of emissions, have a key role to play in meeting
targets such as these. New Zealand is already coming under
increasing international pressure not only to put policies in place
to meet existing targets (central government has a target of a 50%
reduction relative to 1990 levels by 2050), but to increase the
ambition of these targets. In order to ensure these do not place
unnecessary economic burdens on regional populations of the future,
long-term transport infrastructure planning, in particular, should
be making emission reduction policies a cornerstone.
Moreover, we consider it is not appropriate to omit emission
reductions from the key strategic objectives (starting on p.7). The
last strategic objective, the one which appears to mention the
environment merely as an 'add-on' (p.9) short-changes the goal of
emission reduction - indeed, it is prominent in its absence. We
consider this an abrogation of the Plan's responsibility.
We also believe that long-term targets require meaningful
interim targets, and concrete policy measures, to support and
deliver them. Consequently, we believe it is important that the
RLTP set out meaningful interim goals for emissions of carbon
dioxide from land transport. Moreover, the implications of specific
planned improvements (and the overall programme) should be
translated explicitly into quantified contributions to these
interim goals. It is not possible to properly evaluate the draft
RLTP without such data.
In our view, appropriate goals should include a focus on
significantly improving Wellington's environmental impact and
liveability by including strong goals for greenhouse gas emission
reductions and more ambitious (but still feasible) targets for
public transport and active travel mode share increases than are
currently included. We consider that a Plan which does not contain
such goals would be inconsistent with the Land Transport Management
Act (LTMA) 2003 and the GPS 2015, in not being in the 'public
interest' (see p.5 of the Plan).
Additionally, it is clearly inconsistent with the direction
greater Wellington residents have said they wish the regional
council to follow with regard to climate change. Eighty five
percent of submissions on the development of the regional council's
Climate Change Strategy stated that they thought future climate
change effects should be a high, very high, or top priority for
GWRC's planning and decision-making processes going forward.
One of the key methodological tools used to underpin this plan
is vehicle kilometers travelled or VKT. The plan itself states that
"VKT have been relatively flat over the past decade …", but then
continues with a statement that VKT " … are likely to increase in
line with growth in population and employment" (GWRC, 2015,
We argue that the latter statement regarding VKT is not
necessarily true. There is a world-wide trend towards VKT becoming
decoupled from economic growth and models based solely on
population and employment growth are less likely to accurately
predict future growth (Millard-Ball and Schipper, 2011; The
Economist, 2012). Even advice on the Ministry of Transport website
comments that 'we can no longer rely on traditional forecasting
models alone to help us to decide how to invest' (Lyons, 2015).
Rather than relying on the 'predict and provide' modelling from
the last century, the Wellington Region should be much more
actively deciding which transport future we want to achieve and
then focus policy and action towards those goals. A 'predict and
provide' approach denies the reality that transport investments are
not merely reactive to transport trends, but are also critical to
shaping transport trends (Hickman et al., 2014; Kenworthy,
Modern transportation modeling must, as a necessity, recognise
the interconnectedness of transport and land use, and the complex
system that is an urban environment. Transport investments
influence both human transport behaviour and land use patterns,
which in turn influence transport outcomes. Given this reality,
increasing road investment can no longer be viewed simply as a
solution to the problems of congestion and slow vehicle speeds, as
is stated in the Plan. Numerous international studies have
demonstrated that increasing road space induces an increase in
driving, which negates the impact that road improvements might have
on congestion (Hymel et al., 2010). Inducing an increase in driving
will also lead to greater carbon emissions, making emissions
reduction targets even harder to reach.
In contrast, a backcasting approach allows policymakers to
determine what transport investments need to be made in order to
achieve the desired environmental, social, and economic goals by a
certain future date. This backcasting approach, which allows for
setting a serious carbon emissions target, would be consistent with
recommendations from the Ministry of Transport's Future Demand
report which concludes:
"Our transport system's nature and scale partly determine the
demand placed on it. Therefore, … when evolving our transport
system we should have in mind providing for the demand we believe
is appropriate (and feasible) rather than providing for the demand
we may be tempted to predict. " (Lyons et al., 2014).
We are concerned that the details of the plan and the strategic
activities currently proposed are not consistent with the stated
vision of the desired transport future for the Wellington Region.
While we support the focus on safety and resilience improvements
for roads and other networks, it is not clear that such a focus
requires that the majority of investment be directed towards
roading, as is currently the case. A critical proviso is that this
network includes all transport network types, and does not
We submit that the list of significant activities be revised to
ensure that a much higher proportion of future investment be
focused on the public transport, walking and cycling networks to
support and increase the latter mode shares. We would argue for a
transition towards a 50:50 modal funding split (i.e. attaining a
balance of 50% to roading, and 50% to other modes) over the six
years of the plan.
The draft Regional Land Transport Plan is well short of this. It
indicates that the vast majority of new investment in transport
networks is directed towards roads: 85% of funding for new
significant activities is planned to go to local road or state
highway improvements, 12% to public transport and only 3% to active
transport network enhancements over the next six years, 2015-2021
(Fig 51., p.161-162).
Leaving aside for the moment any aspiration to cut road funding,
this allocation is inconsistent with the current modal split in the
Wellington Region: roading improvements under the Plan would
receive a disproportionate share of funding relative to the private
motor vehicle's share of trips (the car share of trips has been
measured at 71% across the Wellington Region, while car/motorcycle
trips represent 66% of work commute trips). Even lifting the
combined share of significant activity funding for public and
active transport from its current level of 15% to a level of 20%
would result in an increase from $211 to $278 million over the next
six years. Such an increase should, in our view, be the minimum
reallocation, on the way to a 50:50 split.
The proposed inequitable allocation of funds under the draft
Plan necessitates a strong rationale, which is not provided.
Furthermore, it is fundamentally inconsistent with the stated goals
of increasing mode shares for public transport, walking, and
cycling. It is well known that demand for travel by mode is
responsive to the investment that is put into that mode. Therefore,
the disproportionate planned spending on roads can be expected to
increase demand for vehicle travel and VKT, an undesirable
With regard to transport goals, we agree that the draft Plan is
moving in the right direction in terms of mode share, emissions
reductions, and a focus on safety. However, we find that the
emission reduction and mode share goals in particular are
insufficient in magnitude to meet either New Zealand's emission
reduction goals, or the level of ambition which is necessary to
keep our global climate stable.
With regard to the methodological framework, it appears that
some of the methods which sit behind the draft Plan are outdated
and have yet to incorporate the latest international (and even
local) knowledge and experiences, particularly in regard to VKT and
travel demand modelling.
The funding allocation proposed in the Plan is the most worrying
aspect, as it appears to be fundamentally at odds with the current
reality and the goals proposed in the Plan.
The NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities would welcome the
opportunity to work with the Council by providing further
information on evidence-based transport policies that can
contribute to emissions reduction, both in the short and
Chapman, R., Howden-Chapman, P., Keall, M., Witten, K., Abrahamse,
W., Woodward, A., Muggeridge, D., Beetham, J., Grams, M. (2014)
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Dill, J., Carr, T., (2003) Bicycle commuting and facilities in
major US cities - If you build them, commuters will use them,
Pedestrians and Bicycles 2003: Safety and Human Performance, pp.
GWRC, (2015) Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 (Draft).
Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington.
Hickman, R., Austin, P., Banister, D. (2014) Hyperautomobility and
governmentality in Auckland. Journal of Environmental Policy &
Planning 16, 419-435.
Hymel, K.M., Small, K.A., Van Dender, K. (2010) Induced demand and
rebound effects in road transport. Transportation Research Part
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Kenworthy, J. (2012) Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Transport Planner
(apologies to Sir Elton John). World Transport Policy &
Lyons, G., (2015) Future Demand. Ministry of Transport,
Lyons, G., Davidson, C., Forster, T., Sage, I., McSaveney, J.,
MacDonald, E., Morgan, A., Kole, A., (2014) Future demand: How
could or should our transport system evolve in order to support
mobility in the future? Ministry of Transport.
Millard-Ball, A., Schipper, L. (2011) Are We Reaching Peak Travel?
Trends in Passenger Transport in Eight Industrialized Countries.
Transport Reviews 31, 357-378.
The Economist (2012) Seeing the back of the car: The future of
driving. The Economist.
UNFCCC, (2007) Synthesis of information relevant to the
determination of the mitigation potential and to the identification
of possible ranges of emission reduction objectives of Annex I
Parties: FCCC/TP/2007/1. UNFCCC, Bonn, Germany.
US Council of Economic Advisers, (2014) The Cost of Delaying
Action to Stem Climate Change. The White House, Washington,
Yang, L., Sahlqvist, S., McMinn, A., Griffin, S.J., Ogilvie, D.
(2010) Interventions to promote cycling: systematic review. British
Medical Journal 341.
This is a submission to the Greater Wellington Regional
Council on the Draft Regional Land Transport Plan. The submission
provides commentary on three aspects of the Draft Regional Land
Transport Plan: the goals adopted by the regional council in regard
to envisioning a desirable transport future, the methodological
framework used to analyse transport problems, and the funding
allocation decided upon to achieve the desired outcomes.
The New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities is an
inter-disciplinary research centre dedicated to providing the
research base for innovative facilitation of the economic, social,
environmental and cultural development of our urban centres. As
well as undertaking research, we make submissions from time to time
to central government and councils on a range of issues relevant to
cities. The Centre is currently running a 4-year Resilient Urban
Futures Programme, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment, which began in October 2012.