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Council should promote free public transport

Media release
VAN -- Valley Action Network
28 February, 2008

Regional Council should promote free public transport

"A radical shift in transport priorities is needed", says VAN transport analyst Michelle Ducat. "That's the message that Valley Action Network are taking to Greater Wellington Regional Council, with our submission on the Ngauranga to Airport Strategic Transport Study.

"Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector – mainly private motor vehicles – are contributing to potentially catastrophic climate change. The Regional Council must break the vicious cycle of building more roads, for more cars, that in turn need more roads.

"The needs of people to move about in the 21st century are better served by public transport, cycling and walking", Michelle added. "VAN's policy of Free and Frequent Public Transport is just the kind of fresh thinking needed to give people a real choice to leave their cars at home.

"Taking this idea to Council, we're representing thousands of Hutt residents who support it. Our policy was very popular during last year's local body elections – not only with those who voted for us, but with people on the doorstep, in the markets and at the sports field.

"Most people who heard the idea agreed that it makes sense for reducing climate change and serves the people.

"VAN will be seeking to address the Regional Council in person", concluded Michelle. "We'll be watching the response to our submission from Regional Councillors. Will they have the political will to promote this idea, and lobby government for it?

"VAN stands for grassroots democracy. That means keeping ordinary people informed about the often distant decisions of local body politicians. We will publicise the response of the Councillors, especially the three representatives from Hutt City – Peter Glensor, Prue Lamason and Sandra Greig."

VAN's submission to the Greater Wellington Regional Council is reproduced below.



VAN – (Valley Action Network)

Submission to the Ngauranga to Airport Strategic Transport Study

We support the Sustainable Wellington Transport campaign.

Thousands of people make journeys everyday from the Hutt Valley to Wellington. As your study indicates, central Wellington will continue to be the main destination.

Given the plan "to achieve an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system", we applaud all efforts to improve public transport and make cycling and walking more attractive. We also support smart planning that encourages growth nodes that lessen the need for long journeys.

However, the report's analysis concludes that attempting to accommodate the projected growth through improvements to public transport alone will not meet the vision for the corridor, and so new roading will be necessary.

We disagree. The realities of the 21st Century demand a radical shift in our planning priorities.

Last year, the IPCC reported that the effectiveness of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases over the next two or three decades would have a large impact on our ability to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gases at lower levels, and that the lower the ultimate stabilization levels, the more quickly emissions would need to peak and decline. For example, to stabilize at between 445 and 490ppm (resulting in an estimate global temperature 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average – a temperature rise which could trigger runaway global warming) emissions would need to peak before 2015, with 50 to 85% reductions on 2000 levels by 2050. Many describe these figures as conservative.

For stabilization at lower levels the IPCC agreed that improvements of carbon intensity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_intensity need to be made much faster than has been the case in the past,

The Sightline Institute last year took a look at the greenhouse gas implications of building a new lane-mile of highway in a congested urban area. Their conclusion is that every extra one-mile stretch of lane added to a congested highway will increase climate-warming CO2 emissions more than 100,000 tons over 50 years.

We know transport accounts for about 40% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions and that this is growing.

As the new chair of Greater Wellington Fran Wilde said. "The next few years will be critical ones for the region as we face rising oil prices, requirements to reduce emissions and to become carbon neutral, as well as the need for a robust economy." As well, Wellington City Council has publicly aspired to carbon neutrality.

However, the study's conclusion means we are planning for the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through growth in the numbers of vehicles on the road and the building of new roads. It is laughable to suggest the reduction in congestion will result in meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

This is not the pathway to carbon neutralilty or sustainability. This is not planning for the 21st century.

Yet the study does hold the seeds of a possibly greener, sustainable, vibrant city – the workplace of so many Hutt Valley residents - through its acknowledgement of the role of smart planning, more intensive public transport, and imaginative transport demand management.

We need to be bold in our aspirations for modal shift and VAN believes we can achieve this through giving people real choice between public transport and private vehicles. We support the Sustainable Wellington Transport campaign:

* Light rail linking the northern suburbs, hospital and airport through the city centre. Further, we would urge an extension of light rail from the Hutt Valley to achieve seamless, quick commuting. * Priority at lights and more shelter for walkers * More bus lanes, integrated ticketing and real-time public transport information – plans that already exist in this study and in the Regional Transport Strategy. * Safer cycling with good facilities for riding and parking. There are numerous examples around the world where active planning for cycling has made this a realistic option for significant numbers of people. * Smart planning and good urban design * Faster, cheaper broadband, teleworking and flexible working arrangements.

Bold aspirations and good planning have worked elsewhere:

In San Franciso – a city with constrained capacity in the highway system – employment doubled in the downtown area between 1968 and 1984, while the number of cars stayed the same. This occurred mainly through aggressive improvements in the transit system and changes to parking policy.

In Washigton DC, daily vehicle trips fell by over 81 000 between 2002 and 2005 because of and Employer Outreach Programme, using travel demand management strategies like travel information, showers and lockers for cyclists, carpooling, shuttles to public transport, flexible work hours, teleworking.

The Lloyd District nearly doubled the public transport mode share through extending the transit lines into more residential areas and through giving financial incentives to employees to use transit.

VAN goes further. We advocate free and frequent public transport. Other cities like Auckland http://www.stagecoach.co.nz/citycircuit/ , Christchurch http://www.christchurch.org.nz/Maps/CityCentreShuttleService.aspand Invercargill http://www.passengertransport.co.nz/index_files/Page509.htmalready have some free bus routes. Campaigners in Auckland http://ram-auckland.net/wordpress/2007/09/18/the-ram-plan-for-free- frequent-transitand Dunedin http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK0705/S00258.htm are pushing to extend this to free and frequent public transport city-wide, like in some European and North American cities. Fares could be eliminated by diverting a fraction of Wellington's roading budget to public transport. But it's unlikely to happen under current ownership arrangements.

The privatisation of public transport has been a disaster. Private operators have been happy to cream off profits, while the network's been run down. When major investment is needed to maintain or upgrade the system, they demand hand-outs from the public purse.

The government already owns the railway tracks. The Greater Wellington Regional Council is spending more than $500 million refurbishing the trains, buying new ones and building new stations. Public subsidies cover around half the annual operating costs for Tranz Metro. Bus operators get two thirds of their income from the public purse. It makes sense to spend a little extra and take the whole transport network back into public ownership. Then there would be no private operator creaming off profits, and every public dollar could go on reducing fares and improving services.

In 2002, the Regional Council won government backing to buy a half share of Tranz Metro. The deal fell through, mainly due to ideological opposition to public ownership from local councils and business interests.

We say that a fraction of Wellington's roading budget should be used to take public transport back into public ownership and make it free and frequent. It makes climate sense and serves the people.

© Scoop Media

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