Solving Auckland's Transport Woes
Keith Rankin, 29 August 1999
Like 100,000 other Aucklanders, I got caught up in Thursday's traffic chaos. I was also caught by the Mangere Bridge closure last December, when I had to take an overseas visitor to catch her plane.
Auckland's transport problems are complex, and can be solved by neither a new bridge nor a policy based solely on public transport. As Auckland grows, we have to get the structure of the roading network right, and we have to re-emphasise the central business district (CBD) as the heart of the Queen City. Public transport will work in Auckland next century when Auckland becomes a proper city, and not just a network of suburban shopping centres.
We need to build the eastern-corridor motorway, to protect our equity in the Port of Auckland, and to get the big trucks out of the city and the residential roads in the eastern suburbs. Indeed, with the planned expansion of Auckland Hospital, there will have to be a new eastern by-pass to prevent traffic chaos in Grafton. We need our roads to be safe, especially in the hospital precincts.
At present the Ports of Auckland are in head-to-head competition with the Port of Tauranga, which has set up a "land port" in South Auckland. If Infrastructure Auckland - the former ARST - paid cash dividends to all Aucklanders as their share of profits from the port, then we might value the port more and show more concern about the port losing market share to Tauranga.
There is another reason why Tauranga should not be allowed to encroach too much on Auckland's port business. The road from Auckland to Tauranga is one of the country's most notorious for road fatalities and congestion. Diverting the big trucks from Grafton and Ellerslie to Maramarua and Karangahake Gorge will create a major nightmare on State Highway 2.
The Harbour Bridge is not itself a bottleneck. The major bottlenecks to the north and west of the city are south of Victoria Park, and where Takapuna traffic joins the Northern motorway. The solution is to make better use of existing infrastructure to the west, including the Upper Harbour Bridge and the new Patiki Road interchange with the Northwest motorway. That means completing the south-western motorway way to Avondale, linking it with Ash and Rata Streets, and with Rosebank Road.
We don't want this western traffic linking back through a tunnel to a second harbour bridge, requiring a new Spaghetti Junction at Northcote. Rather, a completed Southwest motorway would direct bypass traffic to the Upper Harbour interchange via Hobsonville, or, if going to Wellsford or points north, via the improved Kaipara Harbour highway.
The only other major change needed to Auckland's roads is a new interchange lane from the south-eastern arterial road to the Southern motorway southbound, enabling airport traffic to divert from Onehunga when the Mangere Bridge is closed.
The deficiencies in Auckland's road network lead vast quantities of traffic that is neither going to nor from the CBD to use the central city road system.
For a major city, an unusually small proportion of journeys begin or end in the CBD. Aucklanders avoid public transport because so many journeys are cross-town or through-town, requiring at least two rides. If there is one thing worse than being in a car stuck in Spaghetti Junction, it's being in a bus stuck in Khyber Pass.
Auckland evolved as a conglomerate of suburban centres in part because it lacked an integrated transport system. Now, Auckland needs the Britomart Centre to break that past pattern of growth.
Auckland needs a transport interchange centre near the ferry terminal. Equally, it needs the new commercial developments to revitalise a part of the CBD that has been in decay for a decade. The completion of the electricity tunnel and the Britomart Centre will enable Auckland's centre to grow faster than its periphery next century.
As Auckland grows towards a population of 1.5 and eventually 2 million, which it will do, it is essential that most of the additional journeys be to or from the CBD. It is the growth of the CBD that will provide Auckland with the critical mass needed to run a proper public transport system.
I see the Auckland of 2020 as having a city centre that runs the full length of both Queen and Customs Streets. By then Auckland will have a fully functional "metro" which will include light and heavy rail (surface and underground), a variety of bus and ferry services, and a ticketing system similar to that of Australia's or Europe's main cities.
In Adelaide, a city with which I am familiar, a single ticket is valid for two hours. If you transfer from a bus to a train or a tram as you journey to work, you continue to use the same ticket. A short return trip to the Adelaide CBD only requires a single ticket.
Auckland needs frequent services so as to minimise transfer delays, a ticketing system like Adelaide's, and modes of public transport that run to schedule. Buses that are themselves part of the gridlock problem will not suffice.
The Britomart Centre can stimulate both the supply of public transport that Auckland needs and the demand for it. And the completion of the motorway network can remove much of the crosstown and port traffic that clogs Auckland's arteries.
© 1999 Keith Rankin
Rankin File | 1999 titles