Traffic congestion in Auckland is chronic and deteriorating fast. The comments that follow relate to the North Shore and the Northern Busway but the principles may be applied across the city. One issue that has had little promotion is park and ride.
Twenty years ago "Park and Ride" was a catch phrase and a car park was built at Northcross that held 12 cars! The car park at the Albany Bus Station with room for 1200 cars demonstrates the huge success of proper parking linked to a frequent, efficient bus service. Already this car park is full and people are forced to park a kilometre away in Medallion Drive. What is learned is that people are keen to use public transport if it is practical. Passenger numbers on the Northern Expressway have plateaued because parking options are exhausted.
The obvious question is why don't the other bus stations have similar parking? Of course the Constellation Station has a small car park. There was much more land available but it was sold for commercial use.
The argument at the time was that a large car park would create traffic congestion. That may not be so, since if people are dropped off, there are two traffic movements compared to one if they park.
There is no parking at the other bus stations. Decision-making by local government must be made on the basis of the "greatest benefit to the most people" (Utilitarian Ethics). Affected individuals, on the other hand tend to react on the basis of "would you like it if I did that to you" (Kantian Ethics) and argue in that way to the RMA. For city-wide decisions Utilitarian Ethics must dominate, so for instance, the Auckland Council needs to say we will buy these properties and create adequate parking at each bus station, otherwise the Northern Busway will always be under-used. Affected home owners will not be happy, but the big picture must decide on the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This also applies to Silverdale bus station and the rail corridors south of the bridge.
We are told to use shuttle busses rather than parking at a bus station or dropping family off. In practice the buses are so infrequent that it is not an option. For example, there is a bus every half hour from Albany bus station to Torbay shops. If you live at Waiake the closest bus stop is more than a kilometre away. Low density housing means there can never be frequent shuttle services to the busway that serve all suburbs. Shuttle buses must never be an excuse for not creating a system that works.
The Unitary Plan already targets transport corridors for higher density housing and this is another way to make public transport more accessible to more people.
For people living in existing suburbs, however, there have to be other ways of getting people out of their cars and on to public transport. Adequate, strategically placed car parks is a part of the solution to relieve the gridlock.
Neil Binnie has commuted by bus from Torbay to the CBD for 25 years.