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Time for the truth about Auckland's congestion problem - AA

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new report from the AA shows that congestion levels in Auckland over the next decade could be a lot worse than the Government is saying, and the AA is calling on Auckland’s next Mayor and central government to be clear with the public about what to expect.

The AA’s 2018 Auckland Congestion Report, which is based on Google travel time data, reveals that while congestion largely held steady last year, Aucklanders still felt the pain. The average motorway user lost 85 hours to congestion in 2018, compared to 79 hours the year before.

More importantly, the report looks at future congestion trends, and highlights that Auckland’s growth pressure is set to continue, with the population expected to increase by 300,000 and the car fleet by up to 250,000 over the next decade.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine says, to make matters worse, much of the growth is going to happen in suburbs a long way from the centre of town, where there are limited work and study options and limited public transport coverage.

"What it all adds up to is more driving - much more," he says. "And that means much more congestion too."

The total distance travelled by vehicles is forecast to jump by up to 20% by 2028, with cars accounting for the vast majority of it. Billions of dollars is earmarked for public transport, and that will see it carry more of the load, but is still only expected to account for 7% of all trips in 2028.

The Ministry of Transport says that, as a result of its 10-year investment programme, congestion in 2028 will be similar to 2016 levels.

But that relies on the whole programme being completely finished by 2028.

"Right now that just looks impossible," says Mr Irvine. "There are still massive question marks around the planning and funding of key projects. Even if these questions were to be resolved soon, big projects like these can’t realistically be built in eight or nine years."

Hence, the AA does not see how the Government’s predicted congestion outcome can be achieved.

"Aucklanders have been promised so much and once again it looks like they’re going to get burnt. What we need to understand now is: if congestion is going to get worse, how much worse? And what’s going to be done about it."

The AA is calling on the next Mayor and the Government to urgently do five things:

1. Include congestion targets in Auckland Transport’s KPIs

2. Get moving with the public discussion around congestion charging

3. Bring forward road projects in greenfields growth areas, and look at widening specific sections of the motorway core

4. Invest in smart traffic lights, dynamic lanes (including on motorways) and peak-period clearways to de-congest existing roads

5. Change zoning rules to allow denser development in high-growth outer suburbs, particularly around bus and train stations

These actions are all the more important, given the question marks around funding and delivery of the current programme, says Mr Irvine.

Meanwhile, alongside the report, the AA has released the findings of a May 2019 survey of Auckland AA Members on congestion issues. When asked how much priority the incoming Mayor of Auckland should place on addressing traffic congestion, 60% of the 2500 respondents said 10 out of 10, while another 25% said 8-9 out of 10. Issues like road safety and providing transport alternatives ranked well behind.

"Congestion is far and away the number one transport concern, and any mayor that doesn’t take it seriously isn’t doing their job," says Mr Irvine.

Mayoral candidates will respond to the AA report and survey at a congestion forum this evening, co-hosted by the AA, Infrastructure New Zealand and Deloitte.

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