by Ian Apperley
It’s 3:30 on Saturday afternoon and traffic from the airport to the motorway is back to back. As I drive in the other direction, I am astounded by the queues, sadly now commonplace.
PCGM wrote a great piece last week using his Magic Eight Ball to determine what is going to happen with different transport options. The positive part of me hopes that he is correct. The Black Hat in me sees differently.
Andy Foster was right a couple of years back when he said that a lack of decisions over the Basin Reserve tangle would set transport back years. PCGM suggests that Chris Calvi-Freeman could sort this out but “may not be friends with everyone afterwards.” Frankly, the only way that the Basin is going to see any kind of transport progress is if Central Government gets involved. And the only way that National is going to engage is if they see it as an election issue. That’s important to remember. Because the fight for the 2017 General Election is underway and some movement in the transport space will could be propelled by efforts to win voters.
PCGM thinks that more cycleways are a certainty, but I am not so sure. It still feels as if we are playing around the edges, literally, with cycleways. The real answer is to make the CBD cycle friendly, if we want more people commuting by cycle. The thing is, no one is willing to tackle that because not only will they lose friends, they will also create enemies.
And this highlights a wider issue – instead of a balanced transport strategy, there’s been a single-eyed view that cycleways will fix everything. It’s not going to work. Cycling portfolio leader Sarah Free, in her latest blog, offers little confidence this is going to be resolved any time soon.
Eastern Suburbs parking woes are highlighted by PCGM, but it’s not just Miro and Kauri Streets that are under pressure, it’s the whole area. The Airport’s expensive parking drives people to park on the side streets. When you drive around you figure something out very quickly, it’s dangerous. Roads are narrowed and you have to stick your nose into the oncoming lane to see around parked traffic.
As movie production ramps up, there are more and more cars parked from Miramar South to Miramar North. With a slew of projects kicking off in February, it’s going to get worse. Add to that the fact that we now have multiple rental car companies in the suburb. GoRentals in Strathmore park in all the surrounding streets – dozens of vehicles, which are having an impact on the shopping centre. There are days where the only available parking is 300 meters from the shops. That means people move to places where there is free parking, bypassing local business.
For cyclists in the Eastern Suburbs, the safety risks are increasing. Narrow streets and blind spots are a significant hazard.
The fight over trolley buses is ongoing and once again, the WCC has little sway over the decision to keep them or not. The trolley buses contribute to traffic chaos, because they aren’t fast, fall off the wires, and are bound to specific routes. Weather hampers them as well; in a stiff breeze, wires come down and the network grinds to a halt.
Public transport certainly is a large piece of solving the puzzle. The perception is that it is expensive, slow, not a great experience from a customer perspective, and with planned changes likely to become worse. There need to be incentives for the operators to deliver a better, cost-effective service. Once again, the WCC has almost no sway, because buses are controlled by the GWRC who have been more interested in trains.
The City Council composition is a place where, when it comes to transport, there is conflict. The Greens vs the independents vs the right vs Labour has meant that there have been difficulties getting decisions over the line. Add in Andy Foster, who I suggest will not be able to walk away from his years of transport planning, and we have a veritable Middle East transport situation.
It would be nice to think that we can get the city moving again. Those of us out east have devised our own routes into the city. We travel through Miramar (avoiding the airport traffic) then through the back streets of Kilbirnie, up and over Mt Victoria, to drop down on the quays. At peak times that route is a lot faster though I notice it is becoming increasingly congested.
The reality is that we need a bi-partisan approach to all forms of transport if we are going to see improvements this term.