The Government wants to spend 10 billion – perhaps, tens of billions - of taxpayers' dollars on a "light" rail line running from downtown to the airport via Mt Roskill.
National is opposed. Their plan? Build more roads instead.
What about neither of the above? Instead of more hugely expensive hardware, why not some hard thinking about what really is the problem supposedly solved by more trains or roads, and what our options are to cope with this problem much more cheaply.
It's actually a quite localised issue, in time and in space. For about 20 of the 168 hours in the week, Dominion Rd is congested – a couple of hours before nine each weekday morning, and something similar after work. The rest of the time it is mostly okay. So if we could make more efficient use of the existing infrastructure by spreading the load throughout the day - well, we wouldn't need to spend up to $20 billion on a new railway, or motorway.
And we do know how to do this. There are two parts to it. First, use already-available technology to bring in real-time congestion charging, so that commuters whose decision to enter a crowded roadway will slow down other drivers have a straightforward incentive to allow for this in their decision-making.
Congestion charges can be revenue-neutral, with the proceeds distributed to all Aucklanders, such as by annual rates rebates, which would directly or indirectly benefit just about everyone, including rewarding the vast majority whose travel choices do not cause peak-hour congestion.
Second, open our eyes and brains to what has already happened, with Covid: the remarkable discovery that much white-collar (e.g. downtown office) work can actually be done at home. So, fewer trips, but also the opportunity to break down the old nine-to-five workday into smaller, more transport-friendly segments: all this, I would hope, in the worthy eventual cause of achieving a non-gendered allocation between work in the home and work out of the home.
We need thinking that suits the facts of Auckland. Our city's topsy-turvy topography means, in particular, that grand top-down visions of a sleek, "modern", "integrated" transport system just don't fit the bill.
The marvellous mishmash of flourishing businesses along Dominion Rd now - and along other roads and village centres in Auckland – was not created by government or city planners. These building blocks of good urban form are the fruits of decisions by thousands of creative, entrepreneurial people. These people, and all of us, can also make good, imaginative decisions about our transport options, if we are appropriately incentivised by a sensible pricing structure
Our besotted would-be train-spotters seriously oversell the benefits of "light" rail, such as the downtown-airport link. Who would want to trundle along in a train, stopping and starting at 18 stations en route, when an express bus using dedicated bus lanes can get you there in 35 minutes, as it often got me there pre-Covid?
Of course, trains are quite nice, and people will happily get on and off them along the way. Personally, I am rather sorry the tramlines were ripped up in the 1950s. And I regret the aggressively pro-private vehicle transport strategy that followed.
But that is what happened, and its legacy for us now is a fine network of motorways and arterial roads, including the popular new Waterview road tunnel. This network is underutilised about seven-eighths of the time, and over-utilised for the remainder. We can do something with this.
Even without the patently loony proposal to dig a long tunnel under Sandringham Rd, we have here a proposed "light" rail project that will cost New Zealand's three million taxpayers between three and five thousand dollars each. This for the benefit of about 30,000 Auckland commuters, to improve their access to the higher-paid jobs in the CBD, if that's still what they want to do.
I don't think the numbers stack up, but even if I am wrong about that, surely the smart thing is to consider the - vastly cheaper - alternatives first.
• Tim Hazledine is Emeritus Professor of Economics at The University of Auckland.