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RAM submission to Transit NZ's draft 10-year plan

RAM submission to Transit New Zealand's draft 10-year plan

Innovative alternative to road tolls

RAM transport researcher, Roger Fowler, is today submitting an innovative alternative plan to "extravagant roading expansion" and road tolls contained in Transit New Zealand's 10-year draft plan.

The plan from RAM (Residents Action Movement) proposes a world-class network of fare-free public transport across the Auckland region to entice commuters out of their cars and fix traffic gridlock while cutting pollution, road accidents and fuel consumption.

"RAM, which first proposed fare-free buses in Auckland in October 2004, now calls on Transit to support a free bus trial in the Auckland region," said Roger Fowler.

"Such a trial, or at least a feasibility study into fare-free buses, has gained support over the last year or so from the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Auckland Regional Council, Manukau City Council transport committee, Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis and community board representatives across the region."

The full submission is reprinted below.

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Submission to Transit NZ Draft 2006/2007 ­ 2015/16 Ten Year State Highway Forecast
4 April 2006

Roger Fowler,
Transport Researcher,
RAM (Residents Action Movement).


I wish to add my strong opposition to the intention to embark on a plan of extravagant roading expansion and to introduce tolls on roads, direct road user charges, congestion charges or other road pricing schemes.

As a viable, common-sense alternative to a policy of more roads and tolls, I support the RAM proposal for fare-free and frequent modern public transport to attract a substantial portion of Auckland¹s travelling public out of their cars.

It doesn¹t take much consideration to see how this innovative, yet practical proposal could drastically reduce the need for more roading (and road tolls) and virtually eliminate traffic congestion in the region, and achieve a major cut in road accidents (and death and injuries), fuel consumption, and pollution and related health afflictions.

The first, and key ingredient in this proposal is to introduce an expanded network of modern, comfortable, low-emission fare-free and frequent buses. A world-class free bus service will fix traffic gridlock by taking people anywhere, anytime. Given the sprawling nature of the Auckland metropolitan area, buses would be able to reach every corner of the region, and with new, colour-coded, direct routes criss-crossing the isthmus, and linking up with rail and ferry services, people would be able to easily get about. RAM estimates that Auckland¹s bus fleet would need to be upgraded and increased four fold to accommodate this plan and cater to the increased demand. Coupled with high frequency and quality standards, dumping expensive ticketting and fare collecting systems would maximise the incentive to get people out of their cars, and slash costs and eliminate delays.

Though the cost would be huge, it would amount to a fraction of the estimated soaring costs of worsening congestion (currently over $1 billion a year) and the astronomical expense of building and maintaining more costly roads which will breed more vehicles and more congestion.

Under this proposal, as car dependency decreases and public transport usage increases, planning for improved, integrated and expanded rail services, based on public need, could proceed, to make Auckland a modern, mobile, clean, green city focused on the real requirements of it¹s citizens.

Adopting this plan will give a positive lead to other cities both in New Zealand and abroad as people everywhere seek real, affordable and achievable solutions to transport and mobility issues, health & safety concerns, pollution and the impact on climate change and depletion of fossil fuels.

This proposal fits in well with Transit New Zealand¹s stated Vision of "a transport system that builds a better New Zealand", and to be "a world leader in transport solutions" and is far more likely to attain Transit¹s stated goals to ensure state highway corridors "make the optimum contribution to an integrated multi-modal land transport system" that are "safeŠfor all users and affected communities" with "improved and more reliable access and mobility" and improving "economic development" and "the environmental and social well-being of New Zealand, including energy efficiency and public health".

Transit NZ also includes in its Values policy a worthy demand to be honest, show respect for others and demonstrate "courage in our actions" and to be innovative and to "examine alternatives and challenge assumptions".

I call on Transit NZ to live up to its own Vision, Values and Goals declarations­ challenge assumptions behind the push for more and more costly roads and punitive road taxes, and be innovative and examine the alternatives.

The recent Commonwealth Games in Melbourne have given us a glimpse of how free public transport can have a dramatic effect on mobility in a major city. All Games ticket holders were offered free rides on all modes of public transport during the 11 days of the Games, and these services were greatly increased. All dire predictions of traffic gridlock and chaos were avoided, and even peak hour flows were reportedly "reasonable and efficient". And Melbourne¹s Sunday Age newspaper has attracted overwhelming public support for their recently launched campaign for free public transport for all as a real incentive for people to leave their cars at home and cut congestion.

Here in Auckland, as a response to RAM¹s submissions, the ARC has called for a feasibility study of a free buses trial, and the Manukau City Council transport committee has supported RAM¹s free buses petition. Manukau¹s Mayor, Sir Barry Curtis has proposed a trial for fare-free buses from three south Auckland suburbs, and the general manager of ARTA has indicated that ARTA favours a free buses trial. Support from Transit NZ could help make it happen.

It¹s time to take a serious look at this concept for Auckland, and at least give it a fair trial. Our pollution levels already surpass those of Los Angeles and LondonŠand it¹s getting worse. We can no longer stand by as our environment literally chokes to death.

I call on Transit to invoke its own Vision, Values and Goals statements, and support a genuine trial for fare-free and frequent buses in Auckland, as a positive and realistic alternative to the far more costly and unsustainable option of more roads (which inevitably attract more congestion) and unpopular tolls and other charges that would restrict mobility for the privilege of those who could afford it.

Such a trial would be a major step forward to successfully achieving Transit¹s stated quest for "an affordable, integrated, safe, responsible and sustainable transport system".

[All above quotes from Transit NZ web site and Draft 2006/7 10 Year State Highway Forecast]

ENDS

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