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Auckland’s Traffic and Changes in Travel Behaviour

Auckland’s Traffic Problem and Change in Travel Behaviour


By Shoukot Osman

Introduction

One of the most important events of the present decade in New Zealand is Auckland’s traffic problem. Auckland is facing a serious traffic problem, which is deteriorating day by day. At present, it has a population of 1.3 million with an increase rate of 2% per year where the car-growing rate is about 4% i.e. twice the population growth. In fact people are facing traffic congestion all over the region in motorways and also in arterials. It sounds terrible that the congestion cost is about $1.00 billion a year in Auckland region.

Some of the initiatives that are on track to address the traffic congestion issue and are discussed here in brief with other initiatives that may be considered to get rid of the problem.

Working for a Congestion Free CBD

As part of our planning, priority is given to keep the CBD congestion free by constructing motorways etc, without properly addressing the whole traffic congestion issue with same priority for the region. Construction of motorways to by pass the CBD may help to reduce the congestion to some extent at or near the central city. But it may have adverse effect on the other parts of the city for which we need new arterials and improvement works on existing arterials.

To keep the CBD congestion free why we are not considering diverting the traffic traveling from North of Auckland and North shore (western) area to Onehunga or South Auckland or vice versa using a second Harbor Bridge i.e. trying to divert the traffic at a point away from Auckland CBD. It is much discussed in recent times on different forums though it’s a costly option but may be efficient in reducing traffic. In the CBD, we have about 15% of Auckland’s jobs; so think about the other parts of the region- it is becoming more and more vulnerable.

Other Options

Only one or two options will not work properly for Auckland at this stage as it is already jammed and going to deteriorate with everyday increase in vehicles and population. Just improving the roads is not the only answer to address this problem; there are more other options and ideas that need to be considered now, giving equal priority. As it is already at deadlock stage, what about the future when we don’t have sufficient space to accommodate many roads or motorways. One thing we need to keep in mind that traffic congestion at peak hours is not only at or near the CBD now; it is increasingly spreading over the whole region and is deteriorating with the start of a new day.

To realize the severity of the problem, look at the congestion during peak hours on some of the major intersections, on motorways and on arterials. Think about the congestion time, petrol cost, environmental pollution, and frustration to drivers that may contribute to crashes. So, improvements in other areas are to be undertaken at the same time to get relief from this problem. For example: increase the capacity of the Arterial roads including adding extra lanes, off road bus stop where part of regular lanes are used as Bus stops, improvement of intersection to handle peak hour traffic, massive campaign for public transport and change in travel pattern etc.

Travel Behaviour

It is the time to consider and give priority to change the travel behavior of people to encourage different options of traveling. As a nation New Zealanders are car lovers but the question is why people prefer to use their own vehicle while traveling. The answer is simple - we do not have suitable and enough transportation options for our day-to-day travel. Due to lack of a good public transport system, we have already become dependent on car. In the Regional Land Transport Strategy priority is given on the public transport system and the relevant authorities are trying to present an integrated public transport system for the region. Not only an integrated public transport is enough to attract the people to use it; few more works are to be done to change the easygoing behavior of people.

I try to point out some of the points that are required now to change long adopted behavior. Some of them are currently in place with part or full implementation.

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Public Transport- Bus and train

These are the alternatives when some one doesn’t want to use one’s own vehicle. But we don’t have huge opportunities for these transports. In recent times some initiatives are taken to provide available and attractive services and some projects are completed. But it is not enough to provide services only; it is much more difficult to attract people to use this public transports. For making attractive, these facilities should be cost and time effective. Making it time effective, extra bus lanes are considered and some of them are already started working.

Now the point is if some one can travel to his workplace or to the market using a car spending the same amount of money then why should we expect him to use a public transport. To make the public transport more popular, the following can also be considered:

  • Increase the number of buses/trains at peak hours, if possible in every 15-20 minutes interval

  • Reduce the fare so that it saves money in each single trip including ensuring time table information, tickets etc. are widely available to attract people

  • Integrating bus lanes in new/existing motorways and arterials to make bus trips time effective

  • Make provision of cycle stand (start with 2 or 3) at or near the bus stop/train station so that people can bike to Bus/ train station

  • Improve facilities in train station so that people can wait there in case of bad weather

  • If possible in some cases car park can also be considered to encourage people to travel by train (like Park and Ride)

  • More campaign for changing of travel pattern behavior

In this regard ‘Park and Ride’ is a good concept and now working at the moment attracting more people to avail the facility.

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Cycle and Pedestrians movement

Lots of facilities are currently in place and more projects are underway in Auckland region to increase these types of movement. Both of them have a significant affect in reducing traffic congestion. But the problem is rain and also the winter. If a small portion of the population thinks it better then it will be a contributory factor in reducing the traffic on road. Campaign to motivate people is in progress; massive campaign targeting particular section of people from the society (say school and university students, local shoppers etc) can also be carried out to achieve more success.

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Office Travel Plan

Share Car concept

Road controlling authorities, social organizations etc. could take initiatives to encourage people to travel to and from work using car-share. This has a positive impact on each individual by saving money and subsequently reduction in traffic congestion. It is praiseworthy that Auckland Healthcare runs a computerized database, which makes easier to the staffs to find a match to share a car. Other organizations can prepare and maintain such databases for their own staffs or Road controlling Authorities can encourage people to run such databases.

Another option that it may be treated as a business concept where some private companies (say taxi companies, e-business people etc.) could run such databases. They could help people to find a match for share car facilities by charging fees. To encourage people on car sharing, priority parking can be provided as this also saves parking.

Office Bus concept

Under this travel patterns office authorities could arrange buses for their staffs to travel to and from offices. They can operate this type of services on routes where they have more staffs. They could charge their staffs a monthly or weekly fee to run the buses, which must be less than their travel cost from home to office by using a car. This is the way that office authorities can contribute some extent to reduce the traffic. As a model or example, Government agencies could do it first. The employer can either buy buses for their own or renting them from bus companies for the specific period i.e. at the start and end of office.

On the other hand the government can give some benefit or some types of award to those who implements this type of activities for their contribution to save the environment as well as to contribute in reducing the traffic congestion. To buy buses low interest loan can also be an encouragement to do this. This system could not only save the employer’s time as a whole, it also saves the amount that they are paying for the car parking related activities for their office staffs.

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School Travel Plan

School Bus concept

It is similar to office bus concept where school authority can operate school buses. Some arrangements are currently in place in few schools, massive campaign is required targeting the morning and afternoon trips to and from school. It must give us a significant result in reduction of congestion, as parents are not making trips to school to drop off or pick up their children.

Walking School Bus

Children can bike to school when it is suitable in terms of weather and other conditions. They also can walk to school if possible and can use bus or train services. In the Auckland region, trips to the educational institutions are accounts for 40% of the morning trips. The concept of ‘Walking School Bus’ is an excellent idea from our authorities as a means of transport that has an affect on the traffic of a big city. At the moment about 60 schools in Auckland are operating walking school bus, which helps a reduction of trips to the school. More campaign in this regard is essential to make more school to work for this concept making a significant contribution in reducing congestion in front of schools.

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Conclusion

Each of the options can contribute more or less giving us a total outstanding result. Most of the options discussed above are low cost involvement and funding is required only for campaign and to motivate people at root level. These options will work together with our plan of constructing new motorways, arterial roads, bus lanes, bus and rail sector improvement projects etc. I believe that motivation is required to change the travel behavior, which must have a significant effect on traffic congestion of Auckland.

When each of the options contributes in reducing even a less percent of the total congestion, the total effect must be a comprehensive one, which will not only reduce the congestion cost, also has a positive impact on the environment. It also helps us to present a lively city with more moving people on the streets.

People always try to by pass congestion-points that we are trying to mitigate considering Auckland’s present situation. But what will happen, when we see in near future that international investors and overseas visitors by pass us due to traffic congestion in our big cities.

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* Shoukot Osman, MEngSt (Master of Engineering Studies –Transportation) working in roading and transportation sector as Engineer-Roading


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