Aucklands cycleways deliver 10 times better value-for-money than new cycling bridge

Transport bureaucrats get 10 times better value for money from some cycleways than Government ministers will get from the $785 million walking and cycling bridge across Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour, according to new data.

For years, Labour and National have been trading barbs over the terrible value for money of their pet transport projects.

The most recent project hauled in for criticism is Auckland’s new walking and cycling bridge, which officials think will only deliver 40 to 60 cents worth of benefits for every dollar spent on it – effectively meaning the Government is losing on its investment.

Figures released to ACT transport spokesperson Simon Court show that other cycleways, funded by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency are likely to deliver more than 10 times better value for money than the bridge.

Unlike the bridge, which was given the green light by ministers, the decision to fund these projects was made by councils and Waka Kotahi using money mainly from fuel taxes and road user charges.

Court said his figures show that Wellington politicians shouldn’t be left in charge of transport spending.

“You only have to look at the Government’s decision to fund a walking and cycling bridge in Auckland to know politicians should not be in charge of decision-making,” Court said

“It is time to give up on the experiment of leaving Wellington politicians in charge,” he said.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said the “strategic value” of some projects was broader than officials’ strict assessment of value-for-money.

“Governments of both stripes have always looked at certain projects and decided the strategic value and wider benefits made them worth investing in,” Wood said.

The data shows a $258,203 addition to Auckland’s cycling network, joint-funded with local government, is estimated to deliver $6.80 cents worth of benefits for every dollar invested.

Court used Written Parliamentary Questions to request the Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) of each project Waka Kotahi had approved for construction between November 6, 2020, andJune 22 this year.

A BCR compares the cost of a project with the estimated value of its benefits. A BCR of greater than 1 means the benefits outweigh the costs, while a BCR of less than 1 means the costs outweigh the benefits.

The cycling improvements in Auckland had the highest BCR of all the projects released to Court.

The second best value-for-money came from a $2.8m investment in cycling infrastructure throughout the country, which are estimated to deliver $6.20 worth of benefits for every dollar spent.

Other Waka Kotahi investments also delivered a much higher value for money than the walking and cycling bridge. A $7.7m spend on Auckland’s buses was estimated to deliver $4.4 worth of benefits for each dollar spent.

Not all of the Waka Kotahi cycling decisions delivered high value for money. The $170m Ngauranaga to Petone walking and cycling link in Wellington is estimated to deliver $1.20 of benefits for every dollar invested.

Governments of all stripes have struggled to make many of their most expensive projects pass the BCR test, with many delivering estimated benefits well below their costs.

The Waka Kotahi figures support this, showing that many of the smallest investments, like a $1.6m upgrade of Wellington rail lines, along with the cycling and bus improvements, delivering the best value for money.

Court said the Government should get out of the way.

“Each election both major parties propose billions of dollars to be spent on pet projects.

“The current Government has strangled the private sector with higher taxes and red tape. Governments of both stripes have tinkered, subsidised, taxed, and regulated for the past 30 years. Every scheme has failed,” he said.

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