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Greens pledge to Auckland: we'll unclog your roads

8 August 2005
Greens pledge to Auckland: we'll unclog your roads

The Green Party has today unveiled its plan to tackle Auckland congestion, which advocates moving funding from new motorway projects into a hugely improved public transport system.

"If the Greens are in Government after the election," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says, "we'll be insisting on prioritising national funding for public transport rather than expensive new urban highways.

"As a first step, this will mean earmarking all of the $500 million recently announced for new transport projects to new public transport infrastructure. It will also mean postponing the State Highway 20 western extension in favour of developing a state-of-the-art electric rail system.

"People don't realise quite how expensive new roads are, but for the $1.68 billion price tag of the SH20 extension, we could build a modern, double-tracked electric rail network including upgraded signalling, an underground tunnel loop under the CBD and a rail service from the CBD to the airport."

Ms Fitzsimons said that, if implemented, the Green plan would unclog Auckland roads.

"When people find they can do their daily commute more comfortably, more cheaply, more conveniently and more quickly in public transport, they'll get out of their cars and jump on the train or bus. Overseas experience from smart cities in Europe and the Americas illustrates that where state-of-the-art public transport systems are introduced, congestion is reduced considerably."

Ms Fitzsimons says a transport system focused on providing more public transport capacity to carry more people was the only economically and environmentally viable option for Auckland.

"With the effects of climate change starting to bite and petrol prices increasing all the time, the only prudent thing to do is invest much more in transport forms which are not carbon-intensive. While National's transport policy, and to a lesser extent Labour's, would see the erection of a smoky concrete jungle, the Greens' transport vision involves less pollution, smaller petrol bills, and less congestion."

The Green plan for the Auckland region includes:

* Emission standards for all vehicles.

* More trains and more express buses, more often, in more places.

* New busways, more bus lanes and bus priority at lights.

* One easy-to-use ticket for all services.

* Electric trains with upgraded stations and state-of-the-art signalling.

* Easy connections between buses and trains.

* Cycle and walking networks within and between cities.

* Green and open spaces protected from sprawl.

Green Auckland Transport Spokesperson Keith Locke says the Green plan "builds on the momentum already created towards better public transport in Auckland, with more train and bus services, extra bus and cycle lanes and, soon to come on stream, the North Shore Busway.

"The Greens are riding a wave of public support on this issue. The motorway lobby might be well financed, but the tide of Auckland opinion has shifted towards giving priority to public transport," Mr Locke says.

A recent survey showed 78 percent of Aucklanders wanted the future to focus on public transport or walking/cycling facilities, while only 22 percent wanted it to focus on facilities for cars.

Almost a hundred thousand copies of the Green transport plan have been printed and will be delivered to Auckland homes and handed to commuters at public transport hubs.

Those interested in receiving a copy of the plan (as a PDF) should email mark.servian@parliament.govt.nz.

Green Party Auckland Transport Plan: FAQs

1. How much will this plan cost and where will the money come from?

This plan would cost around $2.5-3b if fully implemented. Some of that money is already budgeted for in the rail upgrade plans. The Greens will fund the remainder by prioritising these projects ahead of major state highway investments, such as the $1.15b Avondale extension of State Highway 20. We will also commit the recent $500m transport "windfall" to public transport upgrades around New Zealand, rather than spend most of it on new state highways.

The rail and bus upgrade delivers far more people-moving capacity at less cost than state highway extensions would. For example, the rail proposals would create the carrying capacity of an eight-lane highway from the South to West! We will also put funding for public transport infrastructure on the same basis as state highways. At present state highways get funded entirely by central government while ratepayers have to cough up for new rail lines and equipment.

2. How long will it take to be implemented?

This is a 10-15 year plan, though many elements can be implemented in the next 5-7 years. If a serious commitment is made, the electrification and double tracking of existing network plus much of the bus investment could happen within 3-5 years, along with construction of the underground line between Britomart and Mt Eden stations. This plan sets a direction for Auckland and would be finished faster than the proposed motorway upgrades.

3. How can Aucklanders be sure that the Greens will be able to deliver it?

The best way Aucklanders can be sure the Greens will deliver is to give their Party Vote to the Green Party. The Greens have punched way above our weight on transport so far in our working with Labour over the past three years. We have delivered a 350 percent increase in public transport funding and the first ever dedicated fund for walking and cycling, and transformed the laws governing transport to reduce the bias in favour of big roads and bring a more sustainable and integrated approach.

4. What makes you think Aucklanders want public transport spending instead of spending on new motorways?

Various surveys have shown strong support for public transport investment. In one North Shore survey, respondents were presented with three different transport planning scenarios. 49 percent chose one with a public transport focus, while 29 percent favoured more of a pedestrian/cycle friendly bias, while 22 percent wanted a cars-first focus. Just over 60 per cent strongly agreed or agreed with spending more on public transport than cars, with 25 percent strongly disagreeing or disagreeing. Sixty-three per cent agreed or strongly agreed that public transport should have priority over cars and 75 percent agreed or strongly agreed that traffic congestion affects the environment.

Most people are horrified when they hear that even if we built all the proposed motorways for Auckland, traffic congestion will still increase. The only way that will change is if driving becomes too expensive for some people. We think Aucklanders deserve an alternative - one which offers hope for the future rather than yesterday's asphalt dreams.

5. Why are the Greens releasing a special transport plan dedicated for Auckland?

Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and has a 50-year-history of trying to solve its transport problems by building roads. Auckland has congestion problems far worse than any other city in New Zealand and the worst air pollution from vehicle emissions. This plan aims to show Auckland that there are positive practical alternatives to more of the same. National wants to "spend all the petrol tax on roads", which would mean the end of public transport and doom Auckland to congestion and pollution until petrol becomes so expensive people cannot afford to drive. We think Aucklanders deserve a positive alternative now. 6. What experience do the Greens have in developing transport policy?

The Greens have worked closely with the Government on transport since 2002. We have helped deliver a new framework for transport policy at a central Government level. In developing this plan for Auckland, we have built on the direction outlined in the latest Regional Land Transport Strategy Draft, and our knowledge of trends in transport around the world. The strength of our work is shown by the fact that the Auckland Regional Transport Authority has independently developed a rail plan which also proposes many of the measures we suggest.

7. How will you create bike and walking access across the Harbour Bridge?

There are various options including lanes suspended from the bridge. With the Greens' energy policy, these won't be competing with proposed 400kV transmission lines either!

8. How will you manage bus priority across the Harbour Bridge?

In the first instance, this can be done by controlling access to a single lane with lights at peak times so that buses get a clear lane for a period of time - a bit like a bus priority light. After a period, at peak times one lane each way could be made a bus and high occupancy vehicle lane, which would send a clear signal about priorities.

9. Have the Greens already achieved anything in terms of transport policy?

The Greens have worked with Labour to:

* develop the New Zealand Transport Strategy;

* pass the Land Transport Management Act;

* create the first ever integrated Auckland Regional Transport Authority;

* secure a 350 percent increase in public transport funding;

* deliver our first every walking and cycling fund (which has just doubled in size to $6m);

* ensured the national rail network is back in public hands.

We are eager to build on this strong foundation.

10. Who will the plan be delivered to, and how? The plan will be delivered to around 100,000 households throughout the Auckland region by Green volunteers and will form part of our negotiating platform with Labour after the election.

11. Won't Labour just ignore your transport ideas if the two parties form a coalition government?

Any new Government represents a fresh start. The Greens will negotiate hard for this plan, not just because it is a good idea but because it represents the best hope for Auckland's future.

12. How can people find out more information relating to the plan?

A fuller version of the plan is available at our website, www.greens.org.nz. You can also email greenparty@parliament.govt.nz for details.

ENDS

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