Winston Churchill said: "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us". If you substitute "transport infrastructure" for buildings he could have said, "We shape our transport infrastructure, and afterwards our transport infrastructure shapes us".
Quite simply, the transport problems we are now trying to resolve in Auckland are the result of how our transport infrastructure has been shaped in the past. It is inconceivable that a great (or even functional) city of scale can be developed without thoughtful and significant investment in hard transport infrastructure.
Decades of underinvestment and tepid decision-making have resulted in a transport system in Auckland characterised by peak time congestion; patched-up, almost vintage era trains and inefficient (and unreliable) bus networks. The consequence of this is a substantial (and inexcusable) waste of time and money as people and goods struggle to circulate efficiently and effectively.
The good news is all that is changing. The creation of Auckland as one city has seen legacy council budgets fused and a strategic and integrated view of transport investment priorities. The purpose is now clear and directional - the development for Auckland of an integrated multi-modal transport system, with public transport as the "game-changer". Few cities in the world will see such fundamental change to transport over such a short time as Auckland will over the next decade.
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Decisions have been made, significant funding is in place, project priorities have been agreed, but most importantly a number of significant transport infrastructure projects are being implemented or are about to be implemented. Change is coming! The first significant changes are starting to be introduced and their full effects will felt within the next three years.
This year alone Auckland Transport will invest more than $800 million into hard transport infrastructure projects, including flagship projects like Ameti - which had languished in the planning stages for years and is now being developed at accelerated pace. The electrification of the Auckland rail system is nearing completion and the first of 57 new world class, wonderfully modern electric trains has arrived in Auckland.
The second unit is on the water, arriving in early November and the rest will arrive at the rate of one every fortnight - an incredible leap forward for transport in Auckland.
These transport infrastructure projects, the "hardware" as I like to call them are in my view only "one half of the walnut" - a total focus on build-only projects simply makes Auckland Transport a big engineering enterprise and we need to be much more than that if we are to deliver transport solutions the public in Auckland desire - and deserve.
The other half of the "walnut" essential to making Auckland's transport system world-class is what I describe as the "software". This is the mindset and culture within which Auckland Transport needs to deliver a customer-sensitive transport service, which means providing services that are characterised by precision (reliability and punctuality) and responsive service - we and our partners (the providers of our bus, ferry and train services) have much work to do in this area and I have made it my highest priority to finally get this fixed.
Dr Lester Levy is chairman of Auckland Transport