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Was the 2024 Auckland RLTP Competition Rigged?

A note to readers

This satirical post is based on this document. Received from Auckland Transport under a LGOIMA request. the document reveals the ranking process used by the working group for the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP).

It shows how the RLTP working group (Auckland Transport, KiwiRail, NZTA/Waka Kotahi, and Auckland Council) determined the regional priority of proposed transport projects for the Draft RLTP 2024, which will guide investment for the coming decade. The RLTP is also influenced by the GPS, which in its draft form is incredibly restrictive. This presents challenges for the working group and staff in developing the plan. especially when dealing with conflict between local and central government priorities.

Here’s a more visually digestible spreadsheet version I created to calculate the averages mentioned in the post below. Feel free to take a look and let us know what you find interesting about both the criteria used in each category, and how the projects were ranked. I’d also like to thank AT staff for being very helpful with my LGOIMA requests.


Welcome to the 2023 2024 Draft RLTP Auckland Award Show!

We are happy to announce the winners (and losers) of the regional rankings categories! This is a hotly contested area, with world-first newly introduced scoring, criteria, prize value, and categories in the updated 2024 GPS rulebook, courtesy of our new official, M. Wood D. Parker S. Brown, along with updated rulings from our other official W. Brown and his Auckland Council team.

Our judges are none other than: Auckins Tansia (AT), Andy Councilman (AC), Kim Raily (KR), and Nathan Z.T. Anseny (NZTA, previously known as WK).

Our generous sponsor is Mr Larry Gertrude Octavian Ike Mason-Agalia (Mr LGOIMA), without whom this show would not be possible.

And I’m your host, Mr Sharp, here to give a running commentary on what’s happening!

Our contenders for this evening represent the different classes of activities in transport:

  • Public Transport
  • State Highways
  • Local Roads
  • Walking & Cycling

Each team made a number of project submissions to be judged. Thanks to the support of Mr LGOIMA, we have calculated the average score for each category – after of course, the initial project weighting undertaken by our judges.

Heads-up: one of the new rules introduced by S. Brown (a world first in the transport arena!) is making things a lot tougher for our teams! This year, strictly no cooperation is allowed. That’s right: each team cannot work with each other, not even where it makes sense to do so – and that means no prize-sharing either! Who knows why this has never been done before?

Without further ado, let’s look at how the official judges have scored our contenders. And remember, the people’s vote has only recently closed, so there’ll be another round of announcements to get excited about!

Official Competition Portrait of W. Brown

Strategic Alignment Objectives

An exciting one, folks! The GPS and LTP rulebooks have a big say on these categories! Let’s see how the night went…

Objective 1: Public Transport

Award Description

This relates to the use of Public Transport network across a variety of aspects such as bus lanes, stations/stops, station access. It should consider current and future demands. This does not include Operational aspects such as fleet improvements.

Judging Criteria

1. Travel Time saved

2. Route enhancements / optimisation through bus lanes and dynamic lane operations (and similar)

3. Improving catchments of stations, especially those on RTN

4. Network expansion, especially of RTN

5. Reliability of services to be factored (and maintenance of existing catchments)

6. Relation to current and future growth areas to be factored

7. Consequential operational costs to be factored

Winners: let’s hear it for Public Transport! (1.77)

Losers: Local Roads (0.91), Walking & Cycling (0.56), with State Highways (0.27) trailing behind.

Starting off strong in the aptly named Public Transport category, who knew the Public Transport team would take top place and by a country mile! Or should I say… a country bus route.

This is a highly supported team, according to the LTP 2024 Awards people’s vote! A big win for Public Transport to start us off.

You’d feel bad for the State Highways team here, a very poor showing. But considering they haven’t changed tactics since the 2010’s… it’s not exactly surprising. It is a bit weird that Walking & Cycling scored so low: usually they’re best buds with Public Transport for obvious reasons, and march across the line together! Must be an interesting judging process this year…

That’s the face of a winner right there! Quietly excited about rolling away with the first big prize.

Objective 2: Decarbonisation

Award Description

This relates to the emissions created by a project/programmes. It reflects Council and Governments (commitments?) to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050/ 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030.

Judging Criteria

1. (Relative) Level of direct contribution to the overall reduction of emissions by the Transport system related to the impact of the project o Reduction in Trip length or duration; Mode shift; Avoided emissions

2. (Relative) Level of indirect contribution to the overall reduction of emissions by the Transport system related to the impact of the project o Reduction in Trip length or duration; Mode shift; Avoided emissions

3. Embodied to be considered after others, as this cannot be controlled at this level (supply-chain/national level issue)

4. (If no data available, qualitative assessment to benchmark off those that do referencing project type, scale and other comparable features)

Winners: it’s Walking & Cycling (1.12), squeaking in ahead of Public Transport (1.01)

Losers: Local Roads (0.72), State Highways (0.25)

The Walking & Cycling team narrowly pip Public Transport at the post here! Decarbonisation is a favourite the world over.*

It’s interesting this category doesn’t appear to follow the TERP rulebook from Auckland Council – which as far as this commentator is aware, was never thrown out. It calls for a rigorous 64% reduction by 2030, plus far higher prioritisation of the category overall! Seems our judges felt no urgency on that score? Oh well… there’s always 2027, when this category is guaranteed to be hotter than ever and expectations will be as high as the average temperatures.

*subject to country level commitments

Unfortunately this graph was part of a TERP guideline document that allegedly did not make it to the judges because the delivery vehicle got stuck in traffic… ironically, if it had, they’d have foreseen the advantages of bike couriers for urgent last-mile deliveries.

Objective 3: Safety

Award Description

This relates to the enhancement of safety across modes on the network for all users.

Judging Criteria

1. Expected or likely reduction of DSI’s (KiwiRAP/ALCAM or similar); ideally from Business case

2. Improvements that implement safer infrastructure (evidenced), such as dedicated cycle lanes, median barriers, lighting etc.

3. Consider expected behaviour changes from intervention (if relevant)

4. (If no data available, qualitative assessment to benchmark off those that do referencing project type, scale and other comparable features)

Winners: Once again, Walking & Cycling (1.55) walk and roll away with the title, followed by Local Roads (1.23)

Losers: State Highways (1.10), Public Transport (0.78)

Would you look at that! Walking & Cycling takes another one! Who knew giving people the space away from giant travel machines would make them safer? What scandalous and controversial moves will we suggest next? Making these travel machines go slower?

Interesting to see Local Roads score so highly here – and Public Transport losing by a lot. You’d think more people on Buses and Trains would mean fewer giant travel machines, as in criterion 3? I wonder if the judges were envisioning zero, or thinking about something else? That ‘if relevant’ fishhook in the rulebook may have distracted them from the obvious.

Highly popular amongst young fans and those needing assistance, this type of crossing might be rule-breaking now…

Objective 4: Productivity

Award Description

This relates to the improvement of economic activity, in both quality and quantity. This could capture intraregional freight if (5) doesn’t. It should reflect improvements to current or future growth areas and congestion where possible.

Judging Criteria

1. Expected or likely contribution to Auckland region, relative to do nothing, to:
– improving access to jobs
– improving network resilience
– improving the efficient movement of goods and commuters via optimisation or capacity solutions (can be travel time predictability / congestion related)

2. (If no data available, qualitative assessment to benchmark off those that do referencing project type, scale and other comparable features)

Winners: it’s Local Roads (1.25), closely followed by Public Transport (1.13)

Losers: State Highways (0.88), and in a shock result, Walking & Cycling (0.54)

Local Roads finally takes one! With Public Transport hot behind. This one’s a bit of a shocker, perhaps to do with the criteria comparing the teams – “relative to ‘do nothing’”? Heads are shaking at how poor of a showing Walking & Cycling had despite a powerful performance. Maybe the judges are not aware of best practice? They certainly have scored highly overseas.

An artist’s rendition of productivity in action.

Objective 5: Resilience

Award Description

Reflective of GPS direction for greater emphasis on Resilience and Maintenance. To reflect reductions in risk exposure.

Criteria

1. Relates to existing corridor, and its supported modes and services

2. Reduction in hazard exposure (natural or man-made)

3. Increases in network resilience

4. Reduces the future maintenance burden

Winners: State Highways (0.95), Public Transport (0.83), Local Roads (0.72)

Losers: Walking & Cycling (0.47)

Wow, a surprisingly poor showing here from everyone, especially given how contentious this category has been. Even so, State Highways crept into the lead, dogged by accusations of undue favoritism from S. Brown after the team’s poor showings in other categories. Not to mention, granting this team the win is a historical and notorious wastage of prize money.

We’re also hearing strong murmurs about how the judging criteria were applied. You’d think Walking & Cycling would be less of a  maintenance burden in the future than swathes of new tarmac? And as for ‘relating to the existing corridor’, wouldn’t you look at what happens if you change the current set-up to enable more modes? Man, this one’s a doozy, and likely to be a long-term scandal. Honestly no idea what the judges were thinking.

Competition Official S. Brown resilient in defending controversial GPS rule changes earlier this year.

Investment Attributes/Policies

Onwards to Round 2. How does each team score for how they might spend the prize money? Let’s find out!

Attribute 1: Complete

Award Description

Finish what we have started before embarking on new large-scale investment

Criteria

1. Must not be a new item. Must be from an existing RLTP 2021 item (whole item or part)

2. Must be an item that is the next stage of a broader programme/project that is currently under design/construction or was completed within the last year

3. Annual programmes do not qualify

Winners: Walking & Cycling (0.54)

Losers: Public Transport (0.27), Local Roads (0.25), State Highways (0.07)

These are some poor showings on the numbers, but Walking & Cycling clearly strides ahead! Turns out the swathe of new offerings from State Highways did not help them here. Clearly W. Brown had a big say on this one, and new projects are not what he wants. Does make you wonder what “new items”, if any, are proposed for the winners?

CRL, to be done in 2026 before any new things? S. Brown would say no…

Attribute 2: Type/Speed

Award Description

A back-to-basics approach of smaller scale, tactical, faster and lower cost solutions

Criteria

1. To consider the speed of delivery and quantity of the item or its sub-components

2. To be mode agnostic

3. To be relative to other items and qualitative; consider the costs associated with the likely delivery speed and quantity

4. These should not be seen as pilot or gold plated in nature (which would score 0 or 1)

Winners: Walking & Cycling (0.96), Local Roads (0.92)

Losers: Public Transport (0.63), State Highways (0.35)

Local Roads almost took it – but after some changes by W. Brown and his team to cut costs and do speedy stuff, we have yet another win for Walking & Cycling! Who knew projects that serve a combined weight of vehicles + people in the kg’s, is easier and quicker than those measured in tons?

At this rate, Walking & Cycling look certain to continue to win big! And with the top delivery speed, surely we’ll be seeing Walking and Cycling projects all over Auckland very soon. Also useful to note that by this ranking, it seems State Highways are the most ‘gold-plated’ team in the field.

Competition Official W. Brown passionately ‘admiring’ a low cost cycleway in 2022

Attribute 3: Efficiency

Award Description

Reflective of the Mayor and Ministers desire for quantitative measures and robustness in government spending

Judging Criteria

1. Use of BCR to be applied where possible (N/A = 0 | <1 = 1 | 1-2.99 = 2 | 3+ = 3) (If older than 2020, then 1 point is removed for 2s and 3s)

2. Programme/previous stage BCR’s to be applied, as per Treasury guidance

3. BCR of programme item relates to be used if specific not available (even if LCLR)

4. Adjustments based on age of the BCR to be subject to discussion and agreement

5. LCLR to be 2 or 3 and subject to working group agreement

6. If no BCR is available, then 0 score provided

Winners: Another win for Local Roads (1.12), closely followed by Public Transport (1.08),

Losers: Walking & Cycling (1.02), State Highways (1)

This one’s close! But Local Roads take the cake. With much stricter mathematical scoring in this category – and yet another process ahead to give each team’s projects a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) – who even knows what these results mean? Not to mention, many teams don’t even have BCRs for their projects! Just a case of judging by vibes?

Does this count as efficiency?

Attribute 4: Urgency

Award Description

Immediacy of addressing identified problem/s

Judging Criteria

1. Reflect the expected delivery date and when identified problem is fully addressed (N/A = 0 | 0-3 yr = 3 | 4-6yr = 2 | 7+yr = 1)

2. AP’s to score 3 by default as they deliver continually and not in full. Working group to adjust 3 if deemed too high for a specific item

3. (If no data available, qualitative assessment to benchmark off those that do referencing project type, scale and other comparable features)

Winners: no surprises here: Walking & Cycling (1.26), edging out Local Roads (1.18)

Losers: Public Transport (0.89), State Highways (0.79)

Another mathematically clear-cut criteria puts Walking & Cycling narrowly in the lead as the quickest to deliver solutions, with Local Roads following close behind! Who knew the team responsible for the nimblest vehicles and people-powered movement could be the speediest to solve problems? No big lumbering projects dragging on for years, just cutting to the chase and popping-up all over! Makes you wonder what else Walking & Cycling could do!

Cheap, attractive, and quick-to-deliver cycle lanes in Christchurch. Could we do it here?

Attribute 5: Key Outcome – Maori (sic)

Award Description

Binary score to ensure that projects that contribute directly to Maori outcomes are recognised. (This may also be used for additional criteria after Consultation)

Judging Criteria

1. Item ‘Seeks to make a positive contribution to Auckland’s distinctive Maori identity and Maori Values’

2. Secondary assessment provides chance to add greater detail / amendment based on this in the context of other factors such as phasing/staging and complementary projects

3. This will reflect each organisations respective Maori outcome plan, and the Treaty of Waitangi

Winners: ?????????

Losers: ?????????

Uhhh, it appears that this category is not currently scored! Mr LGOIMA received this statement from the judges:

The fifth criterion in Investment Attributes / Policies has been reserved to qualify and score Key Outcomes; this was equally weighted. For the Draft RLTP this scored the items against Māori outcomes, like the 2021 RLTP, and aligns with relevant Policies from each organisation.

I do wonder how this has been judged, as only one project had a score! What is the internal organisational process? How does it relate to the proposed projects? That might be a question for Mr LGOIMA to ask our judges at the after-event mix and mingle!

We don’t really know what picture to put here with no winner, so instead we say Mānawatia a Matariki!

While we wait for the judges to compile the full scores, a quick look at who cleaned up in the categories. Truly stellar work by Walking & Cycling, will this see them atop the podium?


A big prize?

The scores are in, and it was a cracker of an evening for Walking & Cycling who came first in the most categories, taking home the gold in five (5) events  – while Public Transport received the highest overall score (8.37), thanks to a string of silver medals!

Congratulations to both of these teams, who are old friends from way back and will no doubt be celebrating together!

Also at the winners’ table will be Local Roads, thanks to a solid performance that saw them medalling in every category (including two wins), landing them second overall in total score.

But what a torrid night it was for State Highways, who came dead last on both counts: few medals, poor score. Bad luck, team, I’m sure your late 20th-century winning streak wasn’t a fluke or anything…

Hopefully soon we’ll see the results of the people’s vote!

In the meantime, let’s look at the huge prizes the winning teams will surely be going home with for now.

Traditionally, the prize money a team takes home depends on the maximum prize allocations for each team, and these are different-sized pools. No, that’s not fair, especially as some teams are still playing catch-up on decades of being locked out of the game, but that’s just how it’s done here in New Zealand!

And remember, Official S. Brown, made some proposed updates to these allocations earlier in the year, so let’s have a look at what those mean  for our big evidence-based winners tonight.

Drumroll please…


Oh… that doesn’t look right? Surely that’s not fair? The teams and their coaches are shaking their heads, this is quite the upset. Maybe the prize money chart is upside down? Or was it run over by one of the official’s limos on the way into the award ceremony?

Seen dashing out of the awards event. Image: Wikipedia

What a chaotic end to the evening! Those prize pools really put the whole game into question. And if past experience is anything to go by, there’s bound to be an appeal. We can only hope for some urgent corrections. For now, it’s fair to say the ranking exercises were the winners on the night.

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