Changing how people travel (mode shift)

Transport sector: A case study of sector-level reporting

The Government Policy Statement on land transport aims to provide travel options to support highly liveable cities and towns with healthy environments that improve people’s well-being and economic prosperity. Central and local government are working together on several plans aimed at supporting greater use of public transport and walking and cycling as modes of transport.

Waka Kotahi published Regional Mode Shift Plan Wellington, which provides a useful assessment of the initiatives that support increased use of public transport and walking and cycling.

Public transport and infrastructure

Waka Kotahi and councils invest in public transport services through the NLTP, along with other funding sources such as direct Crown funding. The services are run by councils and by a council-controlled organisation (Auckland Transport in the case of Auckland).

From 2020 to 2021, about $900 million was invested into running public transport services, with $200 million invested in building new public transport infrastructure, and $100 million invested in maintaining public transport assets.

Other service improvement investments have been planned through the 2021-24 National Land Transport Plan, including $238 million for implementing the National Ticketing Solution.

How performance is reported

Central and local government organisations report on the performance of public transport infrastructure and services. In general, councils report on a mix of performance measures that assess the use, access, and reliability of the public transport system and how satisfied people are with it. This informs central government reporting.

Not all councils measure each of these dimensions, and the definitions and methodologies for the measures vary across councils. The annual reporting by Waka Kotahi on the NLTF is comprehensive and easy to access. The reporting usefully describes how investments contribute to the priorities of the Government Policy Statement. The reporting also has a mix of meaningful measures.

However, in this reporting, we identified a key issue with how some councils define and assess the reliability of public transport services, which flows through to central government reporting.

Currently, the measure focuses on measuring the proportion of trips completed without a breakdown, where the calculation only includes completed services that left the origin stop broadly on time.For 2021/22, it was reported that 95% and 97% of buses in Auckland and Wellington, respectively, were considered “reliable”. However, this measure does not include trips that did not happen or trips that were not on time. In our view, the measure does not reflect the actual reliability that a commuter might experience. Also, the results of the 2022 Quality of Life Survey9 showed that only 41% of respondents agreed that public transport is reliable.

Walking and cycling

Improving access to walking and cycling is another main way the Government supports changing how people travel (mode shift).

Investments in walking and cycling are made through an activity class in the NLTP. Maintenance for footpaths is part of local road and state highway maintenance.

As well as NLTP investments, there are various Crown-funded walking and cycling improvements, such as individual initiatives under the NZUP (for example, SH73 West Melton improvements).

From 2020 to 2021, about $200 million was invested into building new walking and cycling infrastructure. A further $700 million was invested in maintaining existing infrastructure. $200 million consisted of NLTP funding, with the rest from other sources such as Crown funding under specific NZUP initiatives. Additional walking and cycling investments can be made through activity classes, such as when there are new investments into new roads and highways.

How performance is reported

Local and central government organisations report on a broad suite of measures, including the delivery and maintenance of walking and cycling infrastructure and the uptake of walking and cycling and broader behavioural changes over time.

Councils generally report on the specific details of walking and cycling infrastructure in their annual reports (such as the percentage of footpaths in acceptable condition in a region).10

In its 2021/22 annual report, Waka Kotahi included a mix of meaningful measures relevant to its role. These measures focused on delivery (such as proportion of cycleways, pathways, and shared paths delivered against plan) use/uptake (such as cycling count in main urban areas and walking count in main urban areas), and particular priorities of the Government Position Statement. It is less clear how Waka Kotahi is assessing performance against the safety outcome for pedestrians and cyclists.

Waka Kotahi acknowledges that there are issues with the data quality of these measures, and these issues limit Parliament and the public’s ability to understand performance. Waka Kotahi is doing work to address these issues.

The Ministry of Transport reports on actual time spent travelling by walking and cycling through a calculation on the Household Travel Survey.

8: Activities encompasses strategies, plans, initiatives, and programmes of work.

9: The survey is a council initiative targeting large urban populations to gather views on a range of matters, including public transport.

10: See Auckland Transport’s annual report 2022, which includes detailed information on the percentage of footpaths in acceptable condition.