'Abandoning Auckland only way out'

By Amelia Wade

Anxiety at rising congestion a call to arms for AT, says association.
Traffic starts to build up on the Southern Motorway as commuters head home for the weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Traffic starts to build up on the Southern Motorway as commuters head home for the weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland transport officials are being told to front up and tackle the dire congestion which is driving people out of their own city.

The results of an Automobile Association survey of its members found almost half were reaching breaking point and were considering moving house or changing jobs because of traffic.

"We have bought a section in Tauranga ... Abandoning Auckland is the only way that we can see to get out of this god-awful traffic situation," one member said.

Two-thirds said congestion had significantly worsened over the past five years. The morning peak was heavier and lasted longer, while the traffic even during off-peak hours on motorways and arterial roads was deteriorating.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine said the survey highlighted just how much anxiety was out there as Auckland's infrastructure struggles to keep pace with growth.

"They're worried that their quality of life is being eroded, and they don't see anyone stepping up to address it."

Of the 1300 survey respondents, almost 75 per cent considered transport policy either a very high or high priority for the incoming mayor, compared to about 50 per cent who cited housing affordability.

There was also widespread distrust towards ramp meters and the AA said a deeply held view among motorists was when the impact of ramp meters on arterial roads is considered from a whole-of-network perspective the benefits "don't stack up".

Mr Irvine said local and central government needed to implement a "focused and sustained" campaign against Auckland's congestion.

"The first step should be to establish congestion targets that Aucklanders can see and understand. The second should be to set up a ... taskforce to help achieve them."

Mr Irvine said the taskforce should measure and report on performance against targets, develop with the public a programme of "congestion-busting projects" and carry out post-construction assessments of these projects.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said AT already managed major events from a centre in Smales Farm alongside the New Zealand Transport Agency.

For example, when the digger fell off a truck in Penrose on Monday, the team ran a full operation which included changing traffic lights and bus routes to cope with shifting traffic demands.

Auckland Transport also had a number of initiatives in place to improve congestion through better public transport, including increasing the frequency of public transport, prioritising installing bus lanes and cycleways. Mr Hannan said the agency was working at improving traffic light synchronisation, removing hazards on a number of roads and making sure routes were operating at peak efficiency.

The AA also wanted to see more investment in Park and Ride stations, saying no other step could do more to break down barriers to public transport use. The association also advised making the Northwestern Busway a priority.

Almost 60 per cent said they had no viable alternative to their cars for carrying out personal and work commitments during the day.

Mr Hannan said AT reckons up to an extra 10,000 bays would be required to meet modelled demand for Park and Ride by 2046 and was working to build new facilities and improve current ones.

- NZ Herald

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