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Auckland City Transport Policy


Bruce Hucker for Mayor

Auckland City Transport Policy

1. Introduction

The people of Auckland consistently rate transport and traffic congestion as the number one issue for the region’s councils. There is no bigger issue facing the Auckland region than the state of our transport system. This is testimony to the inability of the key players in the region to co-operate effectively over many years. Roading funds have long been diverted to less populated centres of the country so that the South Island generally has outstanding roads with little traffic while Auckland is bursting at the seams and facing gridlock.

Fortunately the Government has stepped in and significantly increased the quantum available for motorways, roads and public transport. It has also set about reforming the structure for delivery of transport in Auckland. Also, in recent times there has been more co-operation between the region and Government and I have been pleased to be a part of that through my involvement as Chair of the Shareholders Representative Group for Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited (ARTNL).

The Britomart Transport Centre has been a huge catalyst for real improvement and sorely needed focus on getting things done. This was commenced under the leadership of the last Council, on which I sat as Deputy Mayor. Much-needed improvements of the entire rail and ferry networks are now well underway.

However more needs to be done. To achieve the maximum improvements in the shortest time is the challenge before us. The next 10 years will be critical. At the present rates of growth, the improvements to the roading network will still lag behind that growth. We cannot afford to be diverted from our purpose by posturing and hyperbole from our civic leaders.

Auckland City is a key component in the regional upgrades and needs constructive, focused leadership to keep Auckland moving. But there are no easy answers. Every new road or widened road will cut swathes through existing and treasured communities and landscapes. Our task is to ensure that those costs are really justified for the wider benefit of the city and its people, and that we do our utmost to minimise the impact on communities and the environment.

A balance of improved road and improved public transport is required. Arguments of roads first, or roads over rail are simplistic and naïve. Roads and rail serve different needs, but are complementary. We do not have the luxury of thinking that one or the other can solve our problems. We are in such a desperate state that both are required. I commit myself to delivering the needed roading and public transport improvements sooner.

2. Urban form

We need to think about what kind of city we want in the future. The current Mayor’s fixation with roads will lead to a Los Angelizing of the region, with disastrous consequences for our quality of life. We do not want a future dominated by noise and air pollution and motor vehicles.

The Auckland Transport Strategy suggests that by 2021 there could be 140,000 more people living in the city which will put "severe pressure on the environment and the quality of life that now makes the city an attractive place to live and work." Over the next 20 years 1 out of every 5 additional people in New Zealand is projected to live in Auckland City. We are predicted to have the highest number of additional people of any city or district in New Zealand.

But we are located on a narrow strip of land between two harbours. That makes us different to most large cities elsewhere in New Zealand and the world. We do not have greenfields or a large hinterland in which to expand sideways. We are boxed in now by neighbouring councils and the coastline.

Continuing relentlessly to build wider and new roads in this constrained isthmus can only mean less land for living and for business and employment. More and more roads will squeeze us up and eventually out. Our quality of life will diminish.Our pattern of life is changing from suburban to urban before our eyes.

We therefore need to urgently engage in a dialogue about the growth of Auckland City. How we handle this growth and its impact on city form will be a test of our ingenuity. We need to ask what is the carrying capacity of our city and region and how we can extend it while ensuring that our quality of life is maintained.

Good urban design is a key to good urban form. Auckland City requires a strong urban design unit, which I pressed for unsuccessfully in this year's annual plan and budget.

Also, it is wrong to say to communities you will take this much more growth and you this much. We have to talk with each other. We have to negotiate with neighbourhoods which are being asked to take more people about the numbers. The corollary of this is that priority will also have to be given to those communities in growth areas for improved spending on infrastructure, community facilities and open space.

More intelligent planning approaches are also essential. Auckland City has never done a strategic environmental assessment of its central area and district plan policies and rules. I want to avoid problems that are emerging in the CBD when I am approached by residents talking about the impact of neighbouring developments on the quality of their lives: reduced access to sunlight, blocked views, and people living cheek by jowl with their neighbours. Invariably when I investigate the complaints I find that developers are simply exercising their rights under the rules.

These need to be changed, as would become apparent in a strategic environmental assessment.

Many years ago Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities argued that three things were necessary for our cities to flourish. Cities and districts in cities needed to perform more than one function: residential, commercial, recreational, cultural to name a few.

People needed to be on the streets for a number of different reasons including that they lived in houses and apartments in the area.

Also, we have to get the mix of old and new buildings right to ensure a variety of uses. This is because the high cost of new construction leads to higher leasing and rental costs. The latter determines the range of activities that can take place. This is why Queen Street has become a street of banks and boutiques.

We need to apply these principles in Auckland City.

3. Roads

Upgrading our motorway network is a top priority and huge amounts of work are just completed, underway right now, or planned over the next three and more years. We need to be aware, however, that it is not the only answer and those that pretend otherwise are wrong. Some commentators have said that when the current roading programme is complete, it will increase motorway capacity by around 15%. At the same time traffic volumes will increase by more than 25%. A roading-only strategy will give us more roads, less land for living and the environment - and more congestion for everyone who uses the roads.

Part of the answer is to think about priorities on the roads. Some travel is very reliant on roads and does not have realistic alternatives – moving commercial goods and freight around the city is a good example of this. This type of traffic is typically multi-destination. Getting to and from work or school, uni or tech is often just between two destinations. It is realistic to consider walking or biking if you are close enough or using the buses or the trains. The trick here is to create convenient alternatives for commuters (see below) and to free up capacity for the traffic that must use the roads. .

Transit New Zealand has an agreed plan for the upgrade of the state highway network. It involves creating a western bypass around the Central Business District, from Southdown in the south to Constellation Drive in the north. This is a key priority and careful planning will be required to get the road built as soon as possible while avoiding the adverse environmental effects.
It makes no sense to continue to take all through-traffic via the central city. I am fully committed to showing leadership on this upgrade and to achieving completion ahead of the current timeline.

Transit is also underway with the long-overdue upgrade of the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ). This will provide free-flowing traffic connections to the north, south and west and remove the current bottle-neck. This too could be completed more rapidly and I commit myself to exploring those possibilities with Transit.

The Eastern Highway has been advanced by the current Mayor with a great deal of huffing and puffing. Unfortunately, there is little prospect of it being funded in its present form and if it was, it would have to take money away from public transport.

The Eastern Highway is really a cruel hoax, putting hundreds of residents’ lives into limbo. It is a classic case of parish pump politics and it is outrageous that it has got so far, especially given the burgeoning costs. The environmental consequences of reclaiming a large part of Hobson Bay are excessive and unacceptable. We might have done that kind of thing at the beginning of last century but surely not at the beginning of this one. But something will have to be done to improve access from the east.

While I am firmly opposed to the Eastern Highway, I commit myself to reviewing eastern access options including significantly improved public transport.

4. Public Transport

We now or soon will have have new entities running our public transport networks. The key is the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA). It will be important for ARTA to work constructively with the councils in the region and maximise co-operation as we seek to upgrade our public transport network. Central government is planning a major shake-up of how transport policy is delivered by central government agencies. We will have a new entity managing the rail corridor. All these changes create both threats (such as stalling immediate action) and opportunities (such as doing more, quicker).

I believe that we need to work very aggressively to improve public transport. An incremental approach will not do. The target has to be a world-class, fully integrated public transport system at the earliest possible date. That means that all parties involved will have to lift their game and bring implementation timetables forward.

A seamless, one-ticket network where people can move from bus to ferry to rail without delays and in optimal comfort is the vision we must turn into a reality within the next three years. Failure to do so will see commuter traffic on our roads continuing to choke the lifeblood out of the regional economy.
Ferries

I am very pleased to have been involved in the upgrade of ferry services in the region. ARTNL has done a great job encouraging more frequent services and acquiring and upgrading the ferry terminals. Ferries currently carry more passengers than rail and there is still much scope for expansion of the ferry network. I commit myself to continuing to expand ferry services and ensuring they are fully integrated with other public transport.

Buses

The bus system is very important to Auckland City because many of our trips are shorter and are not served by the rail lines. We are lucky to have a heritage of growth of the city along the old tramlines on roads like Dominion Road, Remuera Road and Mt Eden Road. These roads radiating from the central part of Auckland work well for very frequent bus services. Smart traffic management is making it easier for the buses to get around the city and bus terminals and bus stops are improving all the time. More needs to be done to improve the effect that buses have on the environment especially on heavily trafficked roads. Bus passengers are increasing each year and will continue to form an important part of the passenger transport network.

The North Shore Busway must be kicked into life and the delays that have plagued it fixed. I commit myself to working constructively with North Shore City to ensure that there is maximum co-operation at our end of the busway to get it in place as soon as possible. We have to take a regional perspective on transport improvements and reflect the fact that at least some of our travel is to and from other cities in the region.

Other busways are expanding across the city. These need careful monitoring to ensure they are using those dedicated lanes to maximum effect. I am open to allowing high-occupancy cars to use busways to encourage car-pooling so long as the volume doesn’t lead to slower busway times for buses.

The central transit corridor is going ahead and will provide much-needed connectivity between the university, AUT and hospital and the downtown Britomart centre. This is initially to be a busway but I think we should give serious consideration to converting it to a light rail route in the medium term.

Rail

This is where we need to get serious about the future. Our passenger rail system has just raised itself from the near extinct list, with the completion of Britomart spearheading long-term investment in the system. The importance of rail is that it does pass through many of our suburbs and links important places both within the city and in the cities and district beyond our boundaries. Rail offers the potential of a fast, safe, and convenient means of moving around the city and region. Not for everyone, or for every purpose. But it is part of the mix and part of giving people back choices apart from reliance on cars and facing the growing congestion on the roads; congestion that with the best planning even buses get caught up in. It will be a long- term investment, including directing much of the city’s growth to areas served by the railway – the CBD, Panmure, Glen Innes, Avondale and Mt Albert amongst others. The Rail Business Plan has a target of going from the present 2 million passengers per year to 25 million by 2016. That is an ambitious target and it has my full support. I am disappointed that we have not made quicker progress to upgrade the network. Key to achieving those targets will be electrifying the network and purchasing new trains - electrical multiple units – as swiftly as possible. In spite of having years to do so, the Auckland Regional Council has yet to go to tender for new rolling stock and has yet to secure Government funding for the electrification. I believe the Government would agree to its share of that project and the new ARTA should make that a priority. I commit myself to working constructively with all agencies to seek early implementation of the Rail Business Plan.

Pedestrians and cyclists

If we design the right kind of city, it will be pedestrian and cycle friendly. I am fully committed to creating a network of cycleways and walkways across the city.

5. Funding

The Joint Officials Group (JOG) that reviewed the available funds for the implementation of all these plans identified a funding gap after all known sources of funding are accounted for. This gap is to be funded by new methods collectively known as travel demand management (TDM). TDM is basically any combination of tolls, congestion charges, road-user charges and revenue collection direct from motorists. Overseas, TDM is being used successfully in some places and not so successfully in others.

The trick for us is to introduce TDM in a way that secures the revenue required to bridge the funding gap in an equitable way that allows travellers to use cheaper alternatives.

6. Conclusion

The Auckland of the future should be a place where quality is valued. Burgeoning traffic volumes and congestion threaten that future. Only an aggressive, fully-funded, world-class, fully-integrated, public transport network can offer a sustainable future in which commuters get off the roads and free them up for economic activity. Failure to move aggressively to implement that vision will leave us with a disastrous legacy of environmental pollution and economic stultification.

At the same time, we need to think carefully about the projected growth in Auckland City. We must ask what level of growth is sustainable and in the interests of the people of Auckland and our environment.

As Mayor, I commit myself to provide leadership to achieve rapid implementation of the roading and public transport projects within a broader framework of giving serious consideration to our urban form.

Bruce Hucker July 2004

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