I have just arrived in Auckland, ready for our Green Party conference and AGM. On the flight from Christchurch I ended up sitting beside a young woman who was a passionate supporter of market forces driving our economy and an especially strong supporter of the $11 billion that will be spent on Auckland motorways. As you can imagine we had a robust discussion and time passed quickly.
The woman believed that the motorways were necessary to not only speed up traffic but to boost the local economy. I suggested that a balance between public transport and motorways was needed and that the balance currently was weighted obscenely towards the latter. She responded with the claim that if something doesn't return a profit it shouldn't exist and public transport isn't worth investing in. I tried to explain how investment in public transport may have an initial cost but was a fraction of what was being spent on roads and if more people used trains and buses then the demand for motorways would lessen.
The women looked increasingly uncomfortable when I described my experiences in other cities around the world when arriving at their airport and then traveling into the city centre and compared it to Auckland. Is there a bus or train that takes me quickly and economically into the centre of the city?
My experience this evening was typical of other trips I have had here recently and must be the same for many others. My flight from Christchurch to Auckland took 1hr 15min, I was one of the first off the plane, my luggage was amongst the first to emerge on the carousel and I went straight to exit. I had arrived in the evening so I had a half hour wait for the next bus which would be the cheapest option at $16. I was tired, the bus would take at least 45 min to get into the centre and then I would have to get another bus from the centre to my motel. I was looking at at least 1 1/2 hours of waiting and travelling time for a 14km journey. A taxi would be the fastest and most direct but, depending on traffic, could cost between $50 and $80, obviously too expensive. There was only one choice, and the one recommended by other travelers, a Shuttle and at $35 not cheap but much less than a taxi.
As I stated earlier, I was out of the airport shortly after arriving and went directly to a shuttle. I then waited for twenty minutes for the Shuttle to fill with enough passengers to maximize the fare for the driver. I was lucky to be one of the first to be dropped off and the journey took about forty minutes, but if I had been the last it would have taken considerably longer.
I compared Auckland with two Australian cities to get a reasonable comparison. Melbourne does have more than double the population but it runs buses every ten minutes, for the same price as Auckland and for a similar distance, and takes between 20-30 minutes. The longest a journey would take in Melbourne would be 40 min compared to over double that time in Auckland. Perth is a similar size to Auckland, it doesn't run buses but the Shuttles are plentiful and cost $15 (Aus) for the 20 min journey.
When the demand for public transport in Auckland is increasing at a rapid pace, it seems nonsensical to cut funding and subsidies while increasing spending on motorways. The return on an investment on an efficient PT system appears to be far greater than a return on roading but this Government prefers BMWs to buses and sees our future is in roads, not rail.