Auckland is certainly not alone in experiencing a pretty dramatic drop in traffic growth in the past few years – calling into question massive roading projects relying on massive traffic growth projections for their justification. We have pointed out similar trends in the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe and now – Sydney:
Gavin Gatenby, the convenor of lobby group Ecotransit, said the NSW government’s support of the WestConnex motorway was “about supporting private vested interests that have sunk billions into building motorways”.
“Per capita road use has been falling for the past eight years in all Australian capital cities, as public transport use has surged. Yet NSW decides to invest billions of dollars in motorways before major public transport projects. It’s sheer madness,” Mr Gatenby said. …
Recent motorway projects in NSW — including the Lane Cove Tunnel, the Cross City Tunnel and the Eastern Distributor — had all failed to reach their forecast traffic numbers. …
Why do we keep going on and on about this issue? Because it’s utterly critical. Over the next 30 years Auckland could spend up to $60 billion on transport – in today’s money! That’s a simply staggering amount of cash, which we do not have. Yet all the long-term planning for transport in Auckland still seems to be based on the assumption that traffic growth will continue on and on forever, presumably making the assumption that the massive flat-lining of traffic volumes in the past seven or so years is just a blip.
I don’t think it’s a blip. I think that a combination of higher petrol prices, renewed urbanism, an ageing population and cultural change is having a profound impact on transport that unfortunately the powers-to-be either simply don’t care about or are wilfully ignoring. This absolute failure will have a profound impact if it is not reversed: we could find ourselves wasting billions upon billions of dollars on the wrong projects, we could find ourselves not building what will really be necessary and we could find ourselves imposing harsh and unnecessary additional taxes on Aucklanders to pay for projects which simply aren’t necessary.
I know a lot of people in the transport industry read this blog. Most people I have spoken to about the long term future of transport in Auckland realise that we’re on the cusp of massive change, yet for some reason the same stupid projects keep being advanced and proposed. I’m genuinely at a loss to explain this absolute failure of the transport profession. Is it politics? Is it bureaucratic inertia? Is it having dinosaurs in influential positions? I’m really curious, because as an outsider the whole thing seems so incredibly bizarre.