COMMENT:

Say you live in Belmont, north of Devonport. You'd like to catch the ferry to work, but you have to get the kids to school first and you know by the time that's done the carparks near the ferry terminal will be full. It's all too hard. So every day you join the clogged traffic on Lake Rd and hope there won't be an incident on the bridge. You hate it and you can't for the life of you understand why they just don't build a carpark building near the ferry.

Say you live in Silverdale and it's the same with the park and ride at the Northern Busway: always full before you get there. Or you're in Papakura or Swanson or Glen Innes and it's the same at the train station.

Park and rides, right? We ran a week of complaints about them in this newspaper. Auckland just doesn't have enough. The system is "a joke", said the AA, helpfully.

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Back to living near Devonport. What if, instead of endlessly despairing of finding a park near the ferry, you could call up a rideshare service? Something quick, reliable and cheap. That's cheaper-than-Uber cheap. Public transport cheap.

It's about to happen. Kevin Leith, group manager for market and engagement at Auckland Transport (AT), says it has already trialled an electric car rideshare in Devonport and a full service will be rolled out within weeks.

AT Local will be small to start with: three cars and three vans, one of which is wheelchair-accessible. "It'll be simple," he says. "You just order a ride using an app on your phone. Exactly like Uber."

It's rideshare, so you'll share the trip with others nearby; an algorithm in the app will plot which customers to assign to which vehicles so they take the most efficient routes.

Schools should do well with this service. You could walk your kids there, after which, with a bunch of other parents, you jump in the van to the ferry. With fewer cars around the school everyone's a winner. Maybe parents' associations could make it work.

If AT Local is popular in Devonport the fleet will expand and the service will appear elsewhere.

Park and ride? Why even bother when someone else can get you there instead?

Or maybe you have your eye on a different option. Every bike shop in town is stocking up on e-bikes right now, so maybe this is the year you see what all the fuss is about. You can rent-to-buy, if you want to be sure first. Or maybe an ordinary bike will do the trick.

Or is it this: the newest personal transport hire option coming to a street near you is rideshare e-scooters. Onzo, the company that gave us those yellow rideshare bikes, announced on Wednesday it's about to introduce 2500 e-scooters to Auckland.

The system will work just as it does for Onzo bikes: you check the app to find one close by, pick it up and ride to the station, or home from the station – and leave it there, self-locked. Onzo will not be alone with this service: AT is processing an application from one other company, while five more have indicated they want in on the action. Also, there will be more bikeshare schemes.

An electric car rideshare service in Devonport will be rolled out later this year. Photo / Supplied
An electric car rideshare service in Devonport will be rolled out later this year. Photo / Supplied

Do we still need more park and rides? What if you knew they cost, according to AT, at least $18,000 per space?

Do we want AT to go round concreting over the berms and other grassed areas near stations, as has been suggested? It does seem odd, in this day and age, that people are proposing to concrete over the last little bits of greenery that survive in the asphalt wastelands of a carpark.

So why don't they build carpark buildings? Because they cost $24,000 per space.

Okay, but apps and e-scooters are not for everyone.

How about better bus services? On September 30, AT will introduce its new frequent bus network on the North Shore. It's the last major part of a citywide rollout: buses that run at least every 15 minutes, from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. Early morning and night services are also being beefed up and there's a new set of "connector" services on lesser routes too.

As with elsewhere in the city, some of the new routes run all the way into town. Others connect to rapid transit: trains, south of the bridge, and the Northern Busway. That's a critical function of the new bus network on the Shore: to make it easier for commuters to get to a rapid busway station without having to take the car.

Worth a mention: not all big stations on the rapid transit routes have park and rides. Akoranga on the Northern Busway doesn't. But because of local bus connections, cycling and walking, it's very busy.

Despite all this, AT is not opposed to park and rides. It has 5863 spaces now and a strategic plan to add 10,000 more by 2046. The focus will be at the outer reaches of the network, where commuters are likely to live furthest from the station: Warkworth, Westgate and Kumeu, Drury, Pine Harbour, Howick and elsewhere.

In line with this, the Hibiscus Coast busway station got 481 more spaces last year, and Pukekohe got 87. Takanini, Albany, Silverdale and Papakura will also soon get extra spaces. Those new Hibiscus Coast parks, by the way, cost $21,829 each.

But park and rides are not the focus for the future. The aim of the public transport strategy is to "reduce dependence on car travel". Not just in the central city. It applies everywhere – and the method of achieving this aim is to make alternatives to car travel more attractive.

Park and rides help reduce pressure on the roads leading into the city centre, but they have the reverse effect on the suburbs. And the suburbs, remember, are where you find schools, retirement villages, shopping strips, kids' play areas. Places with pedestrians at risk from built-up traffic.

Say you live, not in Belmont but in Henderson. Further out on the Western Line they'll expand the park and rides, but although Henderson itself has a big railway station there are no plans for a park and ride there. Even though within 10 years many thousands more commuters will be living there.

Instead, various council agencies including AT, development agency Panuku and the local board have other plans. As AT's manager of walking, cycling and road safety, Kathryn King, puts it, Henderson proudly calls itself an eco-centre, and that's the identity it is building on. So, lower speed limits and roading changes to calm the traffic, more greenery in the streets, and a dedicated connection to the station from the beautiful Twin Streams biking and walking trails.

Sometimes the things Auckland Transport does are beyond exasperating. But I really don't think its policy on park and rides is one of them.