Vast chunks of Auckland are simply inaccessible via our train network, and will continue to be for a long time.
Wellington. We need to talk.
I speak as an exasperated Aucklander. I know you've heard from a fair few of us over the years. I can't actually remember a time when the myriad problems of our largest city weren't being rammed down your throat by some zealous press gallery journalist on the 6 o' clock news.
We've become something of a cliche. Just another... you know how it goes. Strange as it may sound, we don't actually enjoy whingeing to you. We'd much rather waste our time debating whether or not pricey private schools should bring in sniffer dogs, military interrogation contractors and - who knows what's next? - bomb squads to school balls in order to keep kids safe from the real world, or despairing over the latest Warriors results. But here we are, still rabbiting on about the traffic.
There is a very simple way to shut us up. We'll quite happily go back to our almond milk triple shot deconstructed organic lattes and leave you in peace. All you have to do is stop twiddling your goddamn thumbs and DO something about our traffic. (Granted, the housing crisis up here could use some serious attention too, but one thing at a time.)
Please. Do something. Anything. Congestion charging. Trams. A rail system that actually serves the whole city. A second harbour crossing. We're well past the point of being fussy about it. They all need to be done eventually, so just pick one and get the ball rolling. Don't keep giving us more bloody roads. Don't leave it another five years. Don't just agree to "terms of reference to establish a project to investigate smarter transport pricing in Auckland". Do something now. Put us out of our misery.
When Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announced on television that there would finally be an announcement this week about Auckland traffic, I felt relieved. When Finance Minister Steven Joyce fronted up to the media, I felt hopeful. When he opened his mouth and said, "Any decision on the use of a demand management tool like road pricing is still some years off," I wanted to scream.
The thing is, as much as we enjoy listening to news reports about the rock star economy - and we're unlikely to miss them, given how many half-hourly news bulletins we catch while we're sitting in our cars driving to and from work each day - there comes a time when the surplus begins to feel like a slap in the face, especially when you refuse to have any meaningful discussion about immigration, dooming us to continue to grow by 45,000 people every year.
This time next election, Auckland may well be jammed with 135,000 more people. Just think, 135,000 more potential whingeing, moaning jafas for you to contend with.
To be honest, I think we're justified in our anger (but I would say that, wouldn't I?). Way back in 2006 - ancient history for a city that has evolved almost beyond recognition in the time since - the Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study suggested road pricing would be successful in reducing the number of road users, and thus the level of congestion, with very little adverse financial impact to businesses. A 2008 study further supported the findings. We've already done the research. We've had some of the answers for years.
Not that you lot have been in any rush to act on them. This week's announcement has come 11 years later, and Aucklanders are still stuck in traffic purgatory. Nowadays it doesn't matter whether it's 5pm on a weekday or 12pm on a Saturday, the motorway can change from free-flowing to Audi-BMW-and-truck soup in seconds. Auckland traffic has no rhyme or reason. You can't "beat" it anymore.
Earlier this week I sat in the car at 6.30am on my way to the airport, crawling through yet another traffic snarl with a few thousand other Aucklanders. My flight didn't leave for hours, but I knew better than to leave home with anything less than an extra hour buffer.
I would much rather have been sitting on an airport express train, reading up about Donald Trump's latest stuff up, like I would have been in most other "real" cities around the globe, but Auckland offers no such civilised, modern option. Don't get me wrong, the trains we do have are wonderful. I take them whenever I can, but vast chunks of Auckland are simply inaccessible via our train network, and will continue to be for a long time.
I know that you've already undertaken research (more research) into solutions to our traffic nightmare alongside the Auckland Council, and I see that you're apparently "very interested" in a "ride-sharing" model used in Lisbon, which sees cabs and minivans take the place of private cars. The question must be posed, however: Haven't the ultimate "ride-sharing" systems already been in place for years? Perhaps the humble public bus needs a snazzy new moniker to be given the credit it deserves before we commit to plans to reinvent the wheel.
I suspect the part of the "ride-sharing" minivans and cabs plan that appeals most may be the part where it results in a reduction in taxpayer subsidies to public transport. But that may just be the cynicism of an Aucklander who's lived through years of Government reluctance to allocate an appropriate level of taxpayer funding to Auckland despite Auckland's outsized contributions to the Government's coffers.
It is estimated that congestion is costing us $1.5-2 billion in productivity losses alone per year. That's a hefty price to pay for years of lethargy and denial in Wellington.
What I want to know is this: How many politicians does it take to turn research into action?
*My sincere apologies to Wellingtonians. I know you can't help the location of the Beehive. Perhaps if our politicians were forced to work in Auckland we wouldn't be having this conversation.