Hopes the Bay will foot it with the best

Most days Mike Calvert takes a leisurely walk to work, enjoying the city's sights and sounds along the way.
He cuts through Memorial Park from his home in Burrows St and covers the 3km stroll to his office in downtown Tauranga in 35 minutes.
"Some people may see this as a waste of time. I see it as a nice way to relax and get exercise for the day rather than paying money to go to a gym," says Mr Calvert.
On his walking route he meets very few people until he reaches the central city - but Mr Calvert wishes he could see more walkers and cyclists.
His big challenge is to get people out of their cars and into alternative forms of transport to ease the traffic congestion on the city streets.
Mr Calvert is Tauranga City Council's new transportation planner after moving here from the Christchurch council four months ago.
He is preparing a comprehensive report on the future development of the city's transport system that involves not only vehicles but also buses, management of the roading network, parking, cyclists, pedestrians - and even ferries.
His report, to be ready in October, will be fitted into the council's 10-year long term community plan and tie in with the philosophies of the regional land transport strategy - a springboard for vital government funding.
The Land Transport Management Act 2003 places emphasis on social, safety and environmental needs rather than just looking at the need to move vehicles.
"We all know New Zealanders have a love affair with their cars," says Mr Calvert.
"The car is not evil in itself - there are always people who cannot travel any other way.
"What we need to do is to make people think about how they use their vehicles and the consequences of their actions.
"Do they need to travel during the peak hours? Can they walk to the shop instead of jumping in the car? Can they take a bus? If parking is at a premium then driving to work can become a chore rather than the easiest way," he says.
Historically, growing cities have dealt with traffic congestion by building new expressways or widening existing roads.
That approach, says Mr Calvert, creates its own issues - the costs and splitting up communities because pedestrians can't cross the road.
"The philosphy is changing ...

people are starting to realise you can't build your way out of congestion. We have to combine some road construction with other alternatives - such as providing good facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and priorities for public transport."
Up till now the city's bus system has been based on catering for the disadvantaged - those people who don't rely on a car. Now, the mood is to develop the Bay Hopper buses into a full-blown commuter service - which would be funded jointly by Environment Bay of Plenty, city council and central government.
Environment BOP, which currently provides the bulk of the funding, is already talking about increasing its subsidy so more of the bus routes can operate on half-hour frequencies.
Mr Calvert believes it's important to provide bus lanes and priority at traffic lights so buses get a head-start over the cars and keep to their schedule. And the routes can be improved by having bus shelters with maps and timetables.
The improvements won't end there. The buses will have lower floors so it's easier for the elderly to climb on board and there will be areas in the bus for wheelchairs, prams - and even bicycles.
"This makes public transport accessible to a wider range of people," says Mr Calvert.
Tony Lugg, managing director of Bayline Group, says an ideal bus service would be every 15 minutes - and believes this could happen within eight to 10 years.
"We have seen a dramatic increase in people using buses and we just have to keep growing the service. The next hurdle is to get the buses through the traffic," says Mr Lugg.
"If people see the buses going past the cars then they will get in them. If the bus fare is half of what it costs to park in town you know what you are going to do - they will use the bus service," he said.
Mr Calvert is also confident cycling and walking will become more popular.
"People see cycling as a dangerous activity - so let's provide them with more space on the road to make it safer, rather than sharing a lane with 1000 cars passing by an hour."
He envisages a commuter network of walkways and cycleways - along the foreshore of Matua and Otumoetai to downtown; across the harbour bridge from the Mount; through the Matapihi peninsula from Bayfair and Papamoa; a series of rotues in the Kopurererua Valley linking Pyes Pa, Greerton, Gate Pa, the schools and central Tauranga.
"Cycleways and walkways will keep being upgraded as the residential and commercial development takes place," says Mr Calvert.
Cycle Action Tauranga meets city council officials once a month to discuss on-road and off-road cycle lanes.
Currently they are talking about providing a cycle lane on Cameron Rd.
"Our vision is to make Tauranga 'the cycle friendly city'," says Cycle Action chairman Mike Bibby.
"We are seeing a general increase in cyclists.
"I'm picking some of this is through exasperation with cars and congested roads."
Some people may even end up travelling to work on water. Mr Calvert says the council has had approaches from two companies interested in operating a fast ferry service - from the Mount (Salisbury Wharf) to Tauranga (Coronation Pier) and also Omokoroa to Tauranga.
"We have to be careful that a service doesn't fall over and people are left high and dry.
"We have to look at whether you provide parking specifically for the ferry, or you run a shuttle bus, or you integrate the ferry with the existing Bay Hopper service."
Mr Calvert has plenty to consider as he puts together the latest transport strategy.
The aim is to have an improved transport system that makes Tauranga a better place to live.
And the trick is to give all people the ability to travel around easily and conveniently - without having to rely on a car.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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