Support soars for spending on buses, trains

By Mathew Dearnaley

Poll shows preference for public transport over motorways and roads has doubled in 20 years.

Those supporting priority spending on public transport had grown to 48 per cent, compared with 37 per cent favouring roads.  Photo / Steven McNicholl
Those supporting priority spending on public transport had grown to 48 per cent, compared with 37 per cent favouring roads. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Popular support for spending on public transport has almost doubled over 20 years, according to a poll of 750 New Zealanders.

The poll by UMR Research shows a reverse from 1992, when 43 per cent of those surveyed preferred Government money to be spent on motorways and other public roads, compared with 25 per cent support for public transport as the priority spending candidate.

By September last year, when the latest poll was taken with a 3.6 per cent margin of error, the tables had turned.

Those supporting priority spending on public transport had grown to 48 per cent, compared with 37 per cent favouring roads.

The portion who were unsure or supported equal spending on both categories fell to 15 per cent, from 32 per cent in 1992.

Survey participants were asked by phone of UMR's wide-ranging annual Mood of the Nation review: "If you had to choose, should Government funds by used to improve motorways and public roads, or should funds be used to improve public transport?"

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the poll reinforced what Aucklanders already knew.

"The best way to unlock Auckland is to provide transport options," he said.

"That's why it's so important for the Government to back initiatives like the [underground] city rail link."

Labour and the Greens said the poll showed the Government was out of kilter with public opinion, as did Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee.

Its policy directives have seen the Transport Agency allocate just under 14 per cent of a $12.3 billion land transport investment problem over the next three years to public transport.

"The public seem to be somewhat ahead of the Government, which seems to be dominated by conservative provincial priorities," Mr Lee said.

"It seems to be unduly influenced by the road lobby."

Although an allocation of $1.7 billion in the coming three years to public transport represents a 21 per cent increase on spending from 2009 to last year, about $700 million of that will come from local councils and much of the Government's money will be spent on new electric trains in Auckland and Wellington.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said very little was going to other public transport infrastructure such as bus priority lanes.

Her Labour Party counterpart, Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford, said the poll showed the public understood "we cannot go on building more and more motorways because they just fill up with cars, and people know you cannot have a successful city without a proper public transport system".

But a spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that with $890 million budgeted for public transport in Auckland over three years "it would be grossly unfair to suggest the Government hasn't given this mode of transport the priority it deserves".

"The Government is taking an intermodal approach to funding transport infrastructure while recognising New Zealanders' preference for travelling by private motor vehicle."

- NZ Herald

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