With "March Madness" on the horizon, we need to reduce congestion in Auckland and to do that we need to get more people out of private cars.

That may sound strange coming from a guy who works at Uber – after all, our business depends on driving cars around cities. But I believe that we can actually use cars to cut congestion and unlock our cities for the future.

While Auckland is in a unique position in time to unlock the true potential of urban mobility, "embarrassing" was one of the first words the Herald's Simon Wilson could muster as the board of Auckland Transport threw out the draft of the regional land transport plan - arguably the body's most important guiding document and vision for what our city could become.

The debacle, with a draft plan that dumped critical public transit investment to the bottom of the heap and slashed the cycling budget by 90 per cent, must be seen as a book-end to an old way of thinking.


For the first time in decades, urban transportation is in the midst of rapid change as technology has improved connectivity like never before.

The Auckland of yesterday places personal car ownership at its core. That comes at a high cost. We have spent billions of dollars building more lanes of highways, idolising road tunnels and prioritising parking spaces over parks.

The result is, as Aucklanders we now endure living in a city with the worst travel times and reliability in Australasia.

We need policymakers to come up with a bold vision to redesign our transport system so that cars don't sit idle 96 per cent of the time, so we can reallocate some of the estimated 20 per cent of our city space that is currently reserved for parking, so we can reduce the millions of hours wasted each year sitting in traffic.

Of course this problem is not unique to Auckland. Cities around the world are grappling with how to make it easier to get around as roads become increasingly congested but yet people still favour personal vehicles.

I believe the answer is a greater and more considered push towards public, active and shared transport, to make it more attractive for people to "ditch their keys".

By making smarter investments in increased public and active transport infrastructure, we can encourage a symbiotic relationship between various modes of transport, be it bus, train, bike or walking, with cars and shared rides making up the "last mile" solution and third alternative.

The good news is we have already taken the first steps on shared mobility. The previous Government's reform of the small passenger services sector went a long way toward removing unnecessary costs for Kiwis looking to earn money by sharing rides.

Importantly, research shows shared mobility works best when it is combined with high quality public transport. In fact, modelling by the OECD's international transport forum found that if all of the private car trips in Auckland today were instead provided by shared mobility services (combined with good quality public transport), the total distance driven by all vehicles would halve, as would emissions and congestion.

The Ministry of Transport is already predicting a future where this could be a reality, with its own forecasts showing shared mobility could grow 60 times between now and 2048 in New Zealand. However, it also forecasts a more modest doubling of public transit usage in Auckland, suggesting room for more ambition.

Link this to funding for greater active transport, such as more cycle lanes and attractive walking paths around our city and suburbs, will mean we can achieve all three benefits of greater physical activity, fewer carbon emissions and reduced traffic congestion.

So what am I hoping for in Auckland Transport's revised regional land transport fund, and the new Government's policy statement for transport priorities over the next 10 years?

Solutions that are bold enough to halve congestion and emissions. Investment and public policy choices focused on forward-thinking public transport solutions, that can be complemented by active and shared transport.

A move away from the "roads first" mentality of the previous century, to unlock the Auckland of the future for its residents and visitors and truly help to reduce congestion.

As we wait for these new transport strategies, I am hopeful policy-makers will set a direction that will get more Aucklanders moving, in fewer cars, delivering a more liveable Auckland for everyone.

• Richard Menzies is New Zealand general manager for Uber.