Transport is Auckland's big issue

By Mathew Dearnaley

Public transport improvements have been nominated by 54.6 per cent of participants in the latest poll as the best way to improve Auckland's traffic problems. Photo / Natalie Slade
Public transport improvements have been nominated by 54.6 per cent of participants in the latest poll as the best way to improve Auckland's traffic problems. Photo / Natalie Slade

Poor transport remains Aucklanders' biggest bugbear, eclipsing the shortage of affordable housing.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 Super City dwellers found 43.8 per cent ranked transport as the biggest issue facing Auckland.

It was streets ahead of affordable housing, the chief concern of 17.1 per cent of those surveyed, and balancing the city's budget (3.4 per cent).

Those were the only three specific issues suggested to survey participants, although 26.9 per cent of those polled volunteered other problems as their chief concerns, including the cost of living (6.1 per cent), Mayor Len Brown's extra-marital affair (3.3 per cent), rates (3.2 per cent) and a growing population (2.1 per cent).

Concern about transport has eased considerably since a Herald-DigiPoll survey in 2004, when 77.6 per cent of participants said it was the region's biggest headache.

Public transport improvements have been nominated by 54.6 per cent of participants in the latest poll, taken last week, as the best way to improve Auckland's traffic problems.

The $2.86 billion underground rail proposal was considered the most important ingredient by 33.9 per cent of those polled, and buses running every 10 minutes at peak times by 20.7 per cent.

Completing the city's motorway network and building more roads where necessary won top priority from 20.7 per cent and another harbour crossing from 16.2 per cent.

Support for the 3.5km rail link has rocketed from 8.6 per cent of those surveyed by the same polling company before the 2010 local elections, although rail to the airport and to the North Shore were more popular then, before receding in acknowledgment that tunnelling through Britomart must precede any big increase in train services.

City leaders are encouraged by the latest poll results, pointing to substantial roading and public transport investments since the public opinion crisis of 2004, although acknowledging much more is needed.

Mayor Len Brown believes the poll's recipe for tackling traffic congestion shows Auckland is "making progress along the lines that people see that what's needed is a fully integrated solution - not just roading but the whole thing".

Mr Brown indicated he would make funding for the underground railway his second-term priority, starting with council consideration of a taskforce's advice that Aucklanders will face steep fuel tax and rates rises from 2015 unless loans can be raised on a promise yet to be obtained of Government approval of new road charges for drivers.

He promised to rectify a failure in his first term to build more bus lanes, and expected integrated ticketing and electric trains to prove "game-changing" in the way Aucklanders got around.

Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said major reorganisations of bus routes, starting next year in South Auckland with a new emphasis on feeding passengers to the rail network would provide the higher frequency sought by many of those surveyed but a big challenge he intended overcoming was better punctuality and service standards.

- NZ Herald

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