It may seem strange to welcome last Friday's Rudman's City column in the Herald when that piece was highly critical of the Automobile Association and its position on Auckland's transport needs. In fact, the article is welcome because it adds to the debate this city needs to have about future transport requirements.
Auckland desperately needs to decide how it will tackle its present and future transport needs and it must do so quickly. Every week another 250 cars join the traffic jams in the city, so let's have the debate, make some concrete decisions and get on with it.
Rudman's criticism of the AA's 20-year plan to address Auckland's transport needs missed some crucial points and was mistaken in some areas.
Without laying out the entire AA plan - it will be available to AA Auckland members with their next Directions magazine - the association is proposing a total solution to what is an undeniable and growing problem. Its plan is not far removed from most other proposals - the Auckland regional land transport strategy for a start. Where our plan varies is in the timeframe.
Before we are branded a motorists-only organisation, part of our solution is to invest $6 billion in public transport. Yes, we also need to upgrade our road network and complete the transit plan but public transport proponents should remember that buses, the backbone of any public transport solution, also need an efficient road network.
In regard to timeframes for these projects, Rudman cited the Avondale extension as being completed by 2013-14. But that is not when the project is scheduled to be finished but when the present 10-year Transit plan expires. At that point the project will be under way but far from complete.
Rudman also claimed that the AA had not consulted its members. We have, through independent polls conducted by Research Solutions, which have successively shown overwhelming support from Aucklanders for the association's policy.
The polls found that 89 per cent of not just AA members in Auckland but of all Aucklanders over 15 want the roading network completed as soon as possible, along with an integrated public transport service.
Rudman also ignored the 2003 Auckland regional transport strategy, which clearly sets out the eastern highway as a key strategic project with an earliest completion date of 2011-12.
We have urged AA members to consider Auckland's transport needs when voting in the council elections. We have not suggested in any way how they vote, just that transport is a critical issue.
Much is made of the AA and "our pro-eastern highway buddies". To quote from a letter accompanying the AA plan: "It's been our observation that for too long various factions have advocated single-minded solutions to addressing Auckland's growth needs. This plan is aimed at maximising the contribution of all transport modes in a balanced, responsible and sustainable way."
Whether Rudman likes it or not, within 20 years there will be twice as many vehicles on our roads as now, even with the most optimistic shift to public transport.
Auckland is facing a transport crisis with only two solutions. The first is to leave our transport network as it is and stop more people moving to Auckland. The second is to accept that the city needs a major investment in transport infrastructure to keep pace with demand, let alone relieve some of the problems already existing.
If that amounts to being a doomsayer, so be it. The facts that we, as a city, have to face are not all that palatable to some, but ignoring them is not going to make the problems go away.
Aucklanders should think seriously about the head-in-the-sand alternative being promoted by those opposed to fast-tracking the development of Auckland's transport solutions.
* Stephen Selwood is the Automobile Association's general manager of transport policy. He is responding to the view of Herald columnist Brian Rudman that most of the roading projects advocated by the AA are either under way or soon will be.