Auckland needs more buses, not gridlock

Green Party Auckland Transport Spokesperson Keith Locke has welcomed the record spending on that city’s public transport in the National Land Transport Programme, announced today.

“The $115 million allocated to Auckland’s public transport is a 26 percent increase, and a small but significant step in sorting out the city’s endemic gridlock,” Mr Locke said. “Auckland is starting to feel the benefits of the Green Party’s influence on transport policy, with slowly improving and expanding public transport systems.

“The unsung heroes of Auckland transport are the people walking, cycling or taking the train or bus to school or work.”

However, Mr Locke said public transport spending could have doubled if construction on the State Highway 20 extension to Mount Roskill and preparatory work for its further extension had been put on hold.

“More than $11 million budgeted could then have gone into improving passenger rail rolling stock, with money left over for speeding up the double-tracking of the Western Line, preparing for a rail link along the State Highway 20 corridor and improvements in the bus network.

“Roading projects like the Western extension of State Highway 20 do nothing to ease congestion. National’s plan to spend all petrol tax on roads is a recipe for disaster. Will Bulldozer Don be resurrecting such white elephants as the Eastern Highway, which would eat up homes and green space and channel more cars into the city?”

Public transport was still being stymied by an inequitable funding system, Mr Locke said.

“It’s grossly unfair that the Government comes up with 100 percent of funding for state highways but requires ratepayers to come up about half the cost of public transport programmes. This has the perverse effect of encouraging unnecessary roading projects, which is the last thing Auckland needs. The Greens will change this so public transport infrastructure and ratepayers get a fair go.”

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the National Land Transport Programme’s concentration on building more roads, promoted by National and pursued by Labour, was dangerous, short-term thinking.

“Oil prices are rising inexorably, touching US$60 a barrel, yet we are still building roads like there is no tomorrow. Far more money needs to be diverted into expanding public transport, rail and coastal shipping so people and business have viable alternatives as the end of cheap oil beckons and the costs of climate change start to bite.”