Today Auckland celebrates its birthday. What better occasion to take stock of where the city is and to think about what happens next. It’s a great place — but it can be even better. Starting today, the Future Auckland series aims to stimulate debate. It’s not intended to be definitive, or to be a list of fully realised proposals. Instead, it aims to get our readers and leaders thinking and talking our future. About solutions, not problems. About where we’re going, and how we’re growing.

Key Points:

Auckland Transport is aiming for a turn-up-and-go public transport system where there will be a bus or train every 10 to 15 minutes outside peak times, says its chairman, Lester Levy. Critical to that frequency is the $2.5 billion City Rail Link because at present Britomart is a cul de sac allowing only six trains an hour to run. "Once the CRL opens, you can run 12 trains an hour which allows a service of every five minutes," Dr Levy said. The draft Auckland Council 10-year budget allows for the CRL project's main construction work to start in 2018 (assuming the Government agrees to pay half) and be completed in 2023. Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy says public transport needs to become highly integrated. Photo / Jason Oxenham Dr Levy said critics overlooked the opportunities. Rail commuters on long journeys, such as Papakura to West Auckland, would get a significant reduction in trip times. Opening up the commuter rail network would help move 20,000 to 25,000 people an hour. Auckland Transport has also pitched light rail for some highly congested bus routes. Light rail, or trams, on a priority path could shift 18,000 people an hour compared with a bus on a shared path shifting 2500 people and a bus on a priority path's 6000 people an hour. "We have to be smarter and more thoughtful and more intelligent about modes of transport that shift a lot of people in a relatively short time, because it's the only effective way to deal with congestion at peak time," Dr Levy said. "However, we see the solution as a mix of roads, public transport, active transport [cycling, walking] and ferry. "The way of the future is to get all these modes acting as one network linked with each other, and public transport becoming highly integrated, including the fares." A big change was coming for public transport customers. "Frequency, punctuality and reliability of public transport has increased dramatically in the last 18 months to two years but we still have a way to go." New customer services features would include an app which can tell you where the bus is in real time and integrated fares that allow using different modes of transport on a single fare. The bus system was being overhauled and a move towards performance-based contracts for bus operator service would give AT more influence on timetables, capacity and frequency.

Overseas experience

Hazel Cocker, 23. Moved to Auckland from Shropshire, England, in June 2013. Ms Cocker drives from her Onehunga flat to her job as a support worker for disabled adults in Henderson. She used to use public transport when she lived in New Lynn. "I used to get the train from New Lynn out to Henderson. I'd be walking about 6km a day to get to and from work and the trains are really irregular. They're not that reliable. Often they'd be running late, or sometimes they'd come early and just leave ... which I find weird." Ms Hazel recommended having more train services which remained at stops until the scheduled departure time to make it easier for people. She also believed public transport services which operated through the night would benefit the city. A bigger emphasis on services connecting the city to the North Shore would also be useful. "Public transport stops really early here. All the English cities - Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester - all of those places have buses that pretty much run through the night."

Future leaders

Ben Dowdle, 20, arts/commerce conjoint degree student at Auckland University, campaign director of Unmask Palm Oil, semifinalist for Young New Zealander of the Year Auckland is trying to do public transport and roading at the same time and we don't have the budget to do both. We need to have a vision of where public transport is going. We are 30 years behind Australian cities. There are issues in public transport that can easily be fixed. I catch the Half Moon Bay ferry to get to university lectures and I'd say 40 per cent of the passenger are students, too. But the arrival times of the ferry don't line up with lecture start times on the hour. The result is having to get to lectures five minutes late or an hour early. It could be as simple as shifting the timetable five minutes and streamlining the way you get on and off so it doesn't take five minutes to get off the ferry. Really simple stuff could improve our transport system. Flora Apulu, 23, chairwoman of youth advisory panel to Auckland Council, mentoring manager at Genesis Youth Trust, and masters student in youth development For Auckland to be a most liveable city, it must ensure people are connected to the city, including rural areas on the fringes of the city. There's a lot of focus on inner-city transport but in the youth panel's consultation work the big issue in Rodney and Franklin - at the two ends of the city - is that transport is not that good. We need to do more to ensure all young people can get to where they need to be - like a connected city. I travel in a car to the city on the motorway but for people who don't have their own vehicle it's a challenge to get to lectures on current timetables. I have lived out south for a long time and feel it deserves more of Auckland Transport's focus and resources. The south is big - there is Auckland Airport, Manukau Institute of Technology, AUT University's South Campus and University of Auckland Tamaki.

5 great things

1 Britomart and electric trains - Great facilities, examples of world-class public transport already here in Auckland. (Sudhvir Singh of Generation Zero). 2 The Northern Busway - It's broken patronage records and freed up space on the motorway. (Sudhvir Singh) 3 Hop cards - They've made it easier to use the public transport network and cheaper to use buses. (Cameron Pitches of Campaign for Better Transport) 4 Roading projects - Finally, big projects are under way, for example the Western Ring Route, that will have a transformational effect on the network. (Barney Irvine, Automobile Association) 5 Faith in public transport - Younger people want to live without owning cars and individuals are driving less than in 2005-06. (Matt Lowrie, Transport Blog)

5 challenges

1 Carbon pollution and climate change - Auckland's air pollution results in dozens of preventable deaths each year and many days of lost productivity, for example, parents taking time off to look after children with asthma. (Sudhvir Singh of Generation Zero) 2 Britomart logjam - Britomart is reaching maximum capacity as a cul-de-sac station able to handle only 20 trains an hour. What happens when it hits the maximum? (Jon Reeve of the Public Transport Users' Group, on the estimated 2023 completion date for the City Rail Link) 3 Long delays - December's crash blocking three of the four northbound lanes on the harbour bridge for three hours was "totally unacceptable". (Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett) 4 Bigger city - A steadily growing population and limited availability of land for new transport projects. (Barney Irvine of the AA) 5 Money matters - The choice between a basic network which costs (33 per cent) less or investing more to get the advanced transport programme set out in the 30-year vision Auckland Plan. This would need a $2 motorway toll or local fuel tax increasing by 1.2c a year for 10 years and raising rates by 1 per cent a year. (Auckland Council's draft 10-year budget)

25 solutions

Barney Irvine, Auckland adviser to the AA: 1 Agreement between local and central government about a strategy for Auckland's transport. 2 Variable lane directions on major arterials. 3 Remarking lanes at choke points on the arterial network. 4 Better management of roadworks and events and faster incident response. 5 More peak period clearways. 6 Incentives for ride-sharing schemes. 7 More efficient operation of traffic lights A solution for freeing up Auckland's roads by getting rid of the no-right turn arrows on traffic lights is being taken up by the region's transport authority. Not being able to make the run - even when there are no vehicles coming in the opposite direction - has long irked motorists and slowed vehicle movement. Auckland Transport (AT) says the ban is a hangover from 2010 when each council operated its own traffic network. This means some parts of Auckland may have full control of the right turn via red and green arrows and in other parts it's left to the motorist to apply the give way rule on the green light. AT said the control on right turns would be kept at intersections where there was a high crash rate with vehicles turning straight through traffic. However, it was reviewing the operations at some intersections and was removing red arrows "if we feel they are not needed". Turning right on red has been legal in most western states of the US for more than 50 years and some eastern states adopted the rule in the fuel crisis of the early 1970s to save petrol used by delayed cars. 8 Increased travel information, both before the journey (eg, congestion maps, alerts about incidents) and during the journey (eg, variable message signs). 9 Smart parking technologies, for example systems that you access via smartphone apps and that guide you to available parking spaces, which cuts down on congestion because people aren't cruising in search of parking. Sudhvir Singh, director of Generation Zero: 10 The Congestion Free Network - a world-class public transport system for Auckland that's more affordable than the current transport plan and responds to the changing trends in Auckland towards more transport choices. 11 Integrated fares, not penalising commuters who transfer between public transport services, therefore encouraging the system to work as a network rather than as a series of routes. 12 Completing streets for all road users - providing space for pedestrians and separated cycleways on our streets. Cameron Pitches, of the Campaign for Better Transport: 13 Introduce family passes so families enjoy the network at weekends and public holidays. 14 Zone-based ticketing, because passengers are now paying twice when transferring from bus to train or ferry. 15 The City Rail Link, because not only is the number of trains coming in and out of Britomart going to be limited but also all network services. 16 Continue the roll-out of more bus lanes and extension of clearway times to 6.30pm or 7pm to make bus access easier for longer. 17 A real-time information board and Auckland Transport app to accurately tell people where their bus is. 18 Build the Skypath walking and cycling path attached under the harbour bridge. (Auckland Council has 4000 submissions and Generation Zero 10,000 on their website.) Matt Lowrie - Transport Blog 19 Meet the rising demand for safe cycling routes and separation on streets, like the new cycle lane on Beach Rd in central Auckland. As seen overseas, once you put it in, huge numbers of people change to cycles. 20 A rail link to the North Shore will move a lot more people on a single service. Committee for Auckland: 21 The Committee for Auckland, a lobby group whose members include business leaders, has called for encouragement of employers to increase the proportion of workers with access to flexible working hours. It said this would enable people to travel off-peak, as well as enable more people to work from home regularly. Auckland Transport says more than half of Auckland's 260,000 schoolchildren make the school run by car. Between 2006 and 2010, 57 per cent of primary and intermediate children were driven back and forth, though the percentage dropped slightly in 2011. AT estimates a general reduction of about 15 per cent of traffic on arterial roads during holidays, leading to journey time savings of up to 20 per cent. Northern Employers and Manufacturers' Association chief executive Kim Campbell (pictured) said he believed the key to making Auckland's roads more efficient was to stagger school holidays and starting times but did not believe there would be much point in industry doing so. "Schools have the biggest impact, not work, because work goes on no matter what." 22 Introduce tolls to existing transport developments such as the new Waterview highway interchange. 23 Create public/private partnerships to build attractive residential and commercial developments around transport systems, to combat congestion and expand the city's rates base. 24 Consider our CBD waterfront real estate as a high-value investment for all of Auckland - and use it to help fund transport projects. 25 Reform the RMA to reduce the red tape so density and housing targets can be achieved. Now it's your turn What are your ideas for improving Auckland? They could be a way to perk up your local park, or a big-ticket investment for the whole city and beyond. Email: The series Today: Transport Tomorrow: Economy Wednesday: Housing Thursday: Health and wellbeing Friday: Recreation and leisure.