Phil Goff –
Most Aucklanders will tell you that the worst problem about living in the city is traffic congestion.
Auckland is a great place to live and that is part of the problem.
Each year 40,000 more people are coming to live in the city and our transport infrastructure simply is not keeping up.
At peak hours, Auckland’s motorways are reduced to a crawl. Trips that should take half an hour can take more than twice that long, costing us loss of work time productivity, leisure, extra fuel consumption and pollution and enormous frustration.
In dollar terms, groups like the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development say that the cost to Auckland and actually to the country as a whole, is around $3 billion a year.
That is totally wasted money.
So what is to be done?
We need the commitment to build new transport infrastructure as soon as possible.
Too often we are reacting years after the problem becomes obvious.
Take the City Rail Link for example. Auckland planners and the Mayor were arguing for this five years ago and the Government has only this year committed to it. And now it will be a further five or six years before it is up and running.
The City Rail Link is important because it will double the capacity of heavy rail to carry passengers and reduce travel time significantly.
Last year rail passenger numbers increased by 22% so that people are ready to use it if it is a reliable and efficient way to travel.
It reduces the number of people competing for space on the roads.
A lot more than the Rail Link is necessary, however, just to keep up with population growth and stop congestion getting worse.
Busways are effective. Ask anyone who uses the North Shore Busway. Today more people travel into the city from the Shore by bus than by using their car.
It raises the question with all the work being done on the North Western motorway out to Te Atatu and Henderson, why there is to be only a bus lane and not a busway, separated from traffic, faster and more efficient?
Light Rail is another solution. Most modern cities with efficient public transport options have either a metro system or light rail. Light rail would travel down the old tram rails serving the Auckland isthmus. It would likely go out to the airport.
In the future it would join up East Tamaki, Botany, Pakuranga and Panmure. The next harbour crossing to the Shore could also be considered for use by light rail.
Walkways and cycleways are also a necessary part of the package. You may notice how traffic congestion lessens during school holidays because there are fewer parents driving their children to school.
Cycling & Fitness
When I was at school, half of us rode our bikes to school. By 1989, that had dropped to 19% of teenagers. Today, only around 3% of teenagers bike to school.
If we had safe cycleways, more families would feel comfortable about their children biking to school. That would take cars off the road and for a society with a growing obesity problem, ensure that our children get more exercise as well!
All of these things will help. But they also cost money and that cannot come out of rates. We should be considering either central or local government bonds to finance major infrastructure, paid for over not one generation but several and serviced by some form of road charging. Central and local governments working together with the private sector need to address this challenge now.
If we do not act, the problem, the cost of doing nothing and motorist and commuter frustration will get worse.
The problem can be solved but it requires vision and determination to do it. As Mayor, it would be my top priority.
Phil Goff is former Foreign Affairs, Trade and Justice Minister and has been Member of Parliament for 35 years. Elected from Mt Roskill, he is today Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Defence and Ethnic Communities. Mr Goff is a Mayoral candidate for Auckland, postal voting for which will be held from September 16 to mid-day on October 8, 2016. Indian Newslink will bring you issues that confront our major cities and opinions of our readers and experts in handling them.