No great city in the world is saying, "let's bring in more cars". Congested cities everywhere else are rethinking road space and the number of cars they allow into them. Last week we read about congestion costing us billions. This week the upcoming election brought competing announcements on big transport projects.

Throwing money at transport problems probably won't solve what is a behavioural and cultural problem. That will require a far more strategic and edgy (read disruptive) response. Other more liveable cities overseas have recognised the need to rethink the car.

The big city transport challenge is more likely to be solved not with one more train track or another road but with lots of smaller creative projects aimed at changing behaviour. These deserve some experimental funding and need people, time, ideas and effort.

Other international cities have tackled the car problem with congestion taxes, reduced parking, taxing carparks, turning more roads into shared green spaces, more urban cycle routes, even small vans instead of buses. But smart cities and governments are actively encouraging new modes of mobility - like car share, bike share or ride share.

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Last week employers were lamenting the congestion in Auckland and there's no denying it's a problem. But no one asks who is creating the traffic and let's face it, it's mostly people driving a car by themselves.

We need our transport leaders to understand why we all drive. Is it too cheap, or quicker and easier than the bus?

We need more than a move away from fossil fuels too. Swapping our petrol cars for electric cars won't fix congestion.

The challenge for civic leaders and governments is how to encourage more people in Auckland to drive less. In Sydney, 20 per cent of the city population, 20,000 people, are sharing 800 car-share cars and discovering the economic benefits with savings on petrol, servicing, insurance and registration from reduced car ownership.

Before the Super City, the Auckland Regional Authority researched the staff of many city companies and found a combination of reasons people drove to work - they had a free car park, they'd never tried the bus or train, but in most instances they drove "just in case" they needed a car - 98 per cent of the time they didn't.

A large chunk of the city workforce living close to the city still drives to work despite new cycleways, better bus and train routes. And clogged roads aren't just a transport issue. Transport chair Lester Levy says, "People who drive to work are 5 kgs heavier than their colleagues who don't." So it's a matter of health.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
10 Aug, 2017 3:36pm
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One practical solution for the "just in case" car, or reducing a company fleet, is the cars-by-the-hour service. It is well-used by hundreds of businesses who have got rid of some of their fleet and reduced their parking costs. Many individuals too have discovered they don't need to own a car with this service.

Every car-share car is reported to take 15 privately owned cars off the road. This reduction is of great value when there is a shortage of kerbside spaces in inner city streets from workers looking for free parking.

Auckland Transport research showed when people gave up their own car, they walked, biked and used public transport more, and the money saved on car ownership was spent locally.

Cars are not only ruining productivity but they are impacting on us socially and environmentally. It's time for Auckland to become a more mature city, and that means more of us need to become "#onecarless".

Victoria Carter is founder of the Cityhop cars by the hour service.