All bunged up, nowhere to go

It’s a thought that has prob­a­bly passed through the minds of many frus­trated com­muters on Auck­land roads at some time: the prob­lem with com­mut­ing is other com­muters.

Element - - Transport - By Sam Eich­blatt

Take a few cars off the road and we’d waste less time and petrol sit­ting in traf­fic and, over the long term, have a less con­gested, more pleas­ant city. Ac­cord­ing to a 2010 sur­vey com­mis­sioned by in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy giant IBM, 80 per cent of Auck­land com­muters com­plain of travel stress. Dubbed the “Com­muter-Pain In­dex”, the re­search also re­vealed anger and stress-re­lated health ef­fects of con­ges­tion on 30 per­cent of driv­ers — and that a third be­lieve it af­fects their work per­for­mance.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fresh re­search from the New Zealand Busi­ness Coun­cil for Sustainable De­vel­op­ment sug­gests that were “fast lanes” im­ple­mented around the city, we are ready and will­ing to ei­ther pay to travel in them, or car­pool to drive in them for free (see All Change, Please, on fol­low­ing page).

Mean­while Paul Minett, the co-founder of Trip Con­ver­gence and ex­press car­pool­ing sys­tem The Rasp­berry Ex­press, is aim­ing to tackle the thou­sands of sin­gle oc­cu­pancy ve­hi­cles cur­rently clog­ging roads dur­ing rush hour. A re­duc­tion of 40,000 cars — or ten per­cent — across the su­per city would make a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence, he says.

The way Minett sees it, there are 1.2 mil­lion ex­tra empty seats ply­ing the roads. The trick is putting them to use. He ad­vo­cates a re­think at lead­er­ship level about the way trans­port is funded and run. “Pub­lic trans­port has sig­nif­i­cant sub­si­dies – but when that bus is then held up by cars with three empty seats you have to won­der if we should be do­ing things dif­fer­ently.”

In San Fran­cisco around 10,000 peo­ple share cars to use ex­press high-oc­cu­pancy ve­hi­cle lanes. “And if any­one is likely to share, it’s more likely to be New Zealan­ders than peo­ple in Amer­i­can cities,” he says.

The other task ahead is in­te­grat­ing ex­ist­ing trans­port net­works with new ones – the prin­ci­ple be­hind ev­ery suc­cess­ful pub­lic trans­port story, from Lon­don Un­der­ground to the Brazil­ian eco-city Cu­ri­taba, which de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive bus mas­ter­plan in 1965 now con­sid­ered a model for mass transit world­wide.

Minett sug­gests cir­cu­la­tor buses dis­tribut­ing car­pool­ers around the in­ner city from a drop-off point. For short trips dur­ing the day, there’s also City Hop, a car-share ser­vice in which mem­bers – in­di­vid­ual peo­ple or com­pa­nies – hire cars by the hour from ve­hi­cle lo­ca­tions dot­ted around the CBD.

Bi­cy­cles, which have made huge gains as a faster, cleaner and health­ier mode of trans­port in con­gested cities abroad, can also be fac­tored in. Some Euro­pean cities, says Next Bike’s Ju­lian Hull, are plan­ning to make 15 per­cent of all ur­ban trips a bike ride. Cur­rently in Auck­land, bikes only take us on only 1.5 per­cent of our jour­neys.

Is it the hilly ter­rain? “There are chal­lenges equiv­a­lent to ge­og­ra­phy in many cities fa­mous for bike rid­ing,” he says. Un­like New York or Ber­lin, for ex­am­ple, Auck­land doesn’t have snow on the ground sev­eral months of the year.

Hulls is cur­rently work­ing with Cy­cle Action Auck­land on a Google map called Great Ur­ban Rides, an in­ter­lock­ing se­ries of cir­cu­lar routes for ur­ban cyclists. The coun­cil has be­gun to name the routes and put up signs for them.

A re­cent pa­per by Cy­cle Action’s Max Ro­b­itzsch and Bar­bara Cuth­bert also rec­om­mended match­ing up the cy­cle and rail routes.

They es­ti­mated that three kilo­me­tres is a com­fort­able dis­tance for peo­ple to ride without spe­cial­ist clothes or ex­er­tion. In­te­grat­ing the two by cre­at­ing cy­cle paths to sta­tions, bike racks and trains that carry bikes for free could open the train net­work to a much larger per­cent­age of Auck­lan­ders, as well as get­ting around the is­sue of ar­riv­ing hot and sweaty at work.

All change, please

Had one of those Fall­ing Down mo­ments re­cently while stuck in traf­fic? Ac­cord­ing to new re­search by the Busi­ness Coun­cil for Sustainable De­vel­op­ment (BCSD), you’re not the only one – and a size­able chunk of the dis­grun­tled driv­ers out there are ready for change.

The ShapeNZ sur­vey was com­mis­sioned by the Busi­ness Coun­cil to gauge pub­lic re­ac­tion to sustainable, con­ges­tion-bust­ing so­lu­tions such as in­tro­duc­ing “fast fee” lanes, whereby fees are charged to use a fast lane at peak times, but driv­ers car­ry­ing three pas­sen­gers or more can use it free (and al­ter­na­tive free lanes would still be avail­able).

The sur­vey was con­ducted in April and May this year and weighted by age, gen­der, in­come, eth­nic­ity, re­gion and party vote to pro­vide a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the New Zealand pop­u­la­tion.

Just over 11 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they’d pay to use the ex­press lane, while the same num­ber in­di­cated they’d be happy to car­pool. Nine­teen per­cent said they’d switch to mostly us­ing pub­lic trans­port. Al­ready, that’s a hefty re­duc­tion in the vol­ume of cars on the road – more than the ten per­cent less Paul Minett pre­dicts would make a big dif­fer­ence.

The fast fee lanes are one of the “smart so­lu­tions” pro­posed to an­other se­ri­ous chal­lenge posed by the is­sue of in­creas­ing freight vol­umes on Auck­land roads. Ac­cord­ing to the BCSD, we need to be look­ing at a much big­ger pic­ture. To keep the cur­rent rate of eco­nomic growth steady over the next three decades, the amount of freight needs to in­crease by around 75 per cent.

Over­sized lor­ries on our roads are easy to find fault with, but the Freight Fu­ture re­port, re­leased this April after two years in the mak­ing, re­veals some hum­bling truths. The first is that New Zealand has the long­est sup­ply chain in the world. Our mar­kets are all a long, long way away, most of them in a dif­fer­ent hemi­sphere. A Lon­don or Hong Kong-based man­u­fac­turer can rely on hun­dreds of mil­lions of cus­tomers within a 3000km ra­dius – Auck­land’s barely pro­vide it with 25 mil­lion. To suc­cess­fully sell our wares, we need to be su­per-ef­fi­cient and cost­ef­fec­tive.

The re­port also pre­dicts in­creas­ing de­mands from north­ern Euro­pean buy­ers for sustainable sup­ply chain per­for­mance will be­come a driver of freight in­fra­struc­ture.

Aside from fast fee lanes, sug­ges­tions that have strong pub­lic sup­port in­clude spread­ing the peak by pro­vid­ing ini­tia­tives for more schools to op­er­ate “walk­ing buses” to cut down on school runs (71 per­cent sup­port); a faster broad­band net­work to make work­ing at home more re­al­is­tic (70 per­cent), es­tab­lish­ing freight hubs out­side in­ner cities (76 per­cent) and a net­work of freight pri­or­ity lanes be­tween the golden tri­an­gle of Auck­land, Hamil­ton and Tau­ranga that mo­torists can also use for a fee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.