Love affair with cars cools further

By Eloise Gibson

Aucklanders' love affair with their cars cooled further last month as more people opted to ride buses and trains.

As petrol prices hovered around $2 a litre, traffic on the harbour bridge was 11 per cent lighter than a year earlier - the second month in a row it has been down more than 10 per cent.

At the same time, bus, rail and ferry use grew 2.8 per cent - 9 per cent when adjusted for the number of working days.

The Automobile Association and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (Arta) agree petrol prices are pushing people to find other ways of getting around.

In a recent AA survey of 1000 members, half reported making fewer trips in their car, almost a third (29 per cent) said they were walking more and 15 per cent said they were taking public transport more often.

Policy research editor Peter King said there was a gap between what people thought they would do and what they actually did to cut fuel costs.

But at least some Aucklanders have put their good intentions into practice, with Arta and Transport Agency figures showing more people are taking buses and trains.

Arta's monthly business report said rail journeys had risen almost 20 per cent since the previous August.

The chances of getting to work on time by train also improved, with 84 per cent running less than five minutes late in August compared with 79.5 per cent in August last year.

West Aucklanders were the city's most enthusiastic converts to rail. Western Line passengers rewarded two months in a row of 90 per cent punctuality by taking a quarter more train journeys in August than a year ago. The new North Shore busway saw patronage rise 90 per cent on the Northern Express route compared with a year earlier.

Only ferries missed out on the public transport boom: their patronage fell 7 per cent, a fact Arta put down to people taking fewer recreational trips in comparatively tough times.

Auckland is not alone in enjoying less car traffic. Transport Agency figures show average daily traffic fell between 5 and 9 per cent in all of the main centres last month - the fourth month in a row it eased compared with the same month last year.

But a report last month to the Transport Agency by several teams of transport, economic and legal experts predicted private car use would fall until 2011, then begin to rise again unless central and local government moved fast to provide alternatives.

Arta's website says Aucklanders own about 1.5 cars per person.

On a typical weekday morning, 63 per cent of traffic is people going to work by car, most of them alone in the car.

An AA survey of 1000 members showed:

15 per cent said they were using public transport more often.

29 per cent said they were walking more.

50 per cent said they made fewer trips in the car, both during the week and at weekends.

9 per cent said they were car pooling more.

7 per cent had bought a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

- NZ Herald

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