Greens choose “rapid growth” track for public transport

Green Party MP Keith Locke, the Greens’ Spokesperson on Auckland transport issues, has welcomed a report by officials on the future of Auckland’s transport system, and strongly supports taking the “rapid growth” track for public transport contained in it.

The draft report by the Auckland Transport Strategic Alignment Project Steering Group — which has Treasury input, and has a 20-30 year timeframe – has outlined two scenarios for investment in Auckland’s public transport system.

“The least we can do is take the ‘rapid growth’ track, which would see 11 percent of Aucklanders using public transport to get to work in the mornings by 2016,” Mr Locke says.

“If anything, the report is too conservative. The aim of 70 public transport boardings per person per year is just getting us back to where Aucklanders were in 1985. Other cities do much better — the report points out that Ottawa has 160 boardings per person, and 75 percent of the peak hour trips to the Ottawa CBD are made via public transport.

“Aucklanders are already willing to use trains, buses and ferries — the problem is that the frequency, speed and capacity of services is still far from adequate.

“This is why we need an urgent decision to electrify the rail network, and to dramatically increase the number of bus services and bus lanes.

“The report puts a $1 billion price tag on taking the ‘rapid growth’ compared with a ‘steady growth’ model, but that figure could be dramatically reduced if the Government simply postponed some of its major motorway projects.

“Auckland has many good arterial roads. The congestion is mainly a ‘peak hours’ problem. We should be more confident than the report’s writers that public transport will provide most of the solution.

“Planning for Auckland’s future needs to make public transport its primary focus. This is not a motorists vs buses and rail competition. Motorists and users of public transport both stand to benefit. As the report says, 40 percent of the benefits of public transport accrue to road users, by way of reduced congestion.

“The report pays little attention to the importance of public transport in reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, to which cars make a considerable contribution. It also neglects how the likely rising price of petrol will encourage many more Aucklanders to shift to public transport,” Mr Locke says.