Road Traffic Reduction Bill
As a Green MP based in Auckland I would like to support this bill. There are just too many cars in Auckland. This is not about taking people’s cars off them; it is about providing them with options so that they think that for many of their journeys there are other better ways for them.
It is quite clear that the strategies that cities have implemented to date have in effect been traffic expansion strategies. They might not have intended it that way, but that is the way it has turned out. Having traffic reduction targets, timetables, and measures can make all the difference. There is an Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy coordinated by the Auckland Regional Council in partnership with the territorial councils. It has some good parts in it on alternatives to the car, particularly public transport, and there are parts about walking and cycling too.
For a start, traffic reduction targets would lead to an assessment of each new motorway in terms of how much traffic it induces, particularly in the absence of high quality and frequent public transport alternatives in Auckland. There are two important corridors in Auckland, where there is public debate on whether to give the priority to putting motorways down them or whether to use them for rail.
The most well known of those two is the eastern corridor. John Banks and his roading lobby want a motorway built along it, whereas many in the community say that that will hugely increase car use from the south-east of Auckland into the centre. What we need to do is to improve train services along the corridor to at least a 10-minute frequency, or even less. I am sure this bill will mean that the rail option would come first, and that would lead to a huge traffic reduction because getting from Pakuranga to the Auckland City Centre by rail would be much faster and cheaper, and more relaxing and sociable than having to stop-start a car down the roads and motorway as happens to many people now.
The other debate is around the use of the Penrose-Avondale corridor, which was designated for rail use in 1953. While rail use is still on the plans it has been put into the never-never basket while other plans proceed to use part of that designation for the Hillsborough to Avondale extension of State Highway 20. The figures provided by Transit show that that new motorway will induce more car use on the motorway and on the main connectors such as Hillsborough Road and Dominion Road
If the Auckland local bodies looked at the present new highway programmes in traffic reduction terms, the two highways I have mentioned would be put on the back burner, only even considered after we had built a humming public transport system.
A traffic reduction strategy also means that cycleways and walkways are not considered to be marginal elements but very important parts. I grew up in Christchurch at a time when push bikes outnumbered cars. Cycling is increasing in Auckland and it can transport large numbers of people if only we could have more dedicated cycleways such as the one from Te Atatu into the city, and make roads much more safe for cyclists.
Making cities pedestrian friendly is also essential. A high proportion of car trips are for short distances that can be walked. A couple of weeks ago I listened to an international pedestrian expert, Rodney Tolley, at the Auckland Regional Council building. He explained how the centre of Birmingham is booming, and to refer back to Peter Brown’s speech, they are pulling up some of the roads in the centre of the city. More and more people are going into the centre of the city because it is pedestrian friendly.
The best traffic reduction involves an integrated approach to different forms of transport, including car use. We cannot just think of public transport systems but we must also think about the most attractive ways for people to walk, cycle, or drive to and from the bus stop or the train stop and the ferries.
Traffic reduction strategies will also help the Auckland regional transport strategy interface properly with the Auckland growth strategy, which encourages growth around public transport nodes, and, of course, traffic reduction strategies would also improve walking, cycling, and even car access to those nodes. It means that in Auckland our focus should not be on relieving traffic congestion as such, but to do it in a ways that are permanent through the reduction of car use.