New study into PT in Auckland

An interesting opinion piece in the Herald this morning from Dr Imran Muhammad of Massey University.

Momentum must begin with fresh look at the problems facing Auckland’s network.

Auckland is renowned for its congestion and has some of the worst levels of public transport provision in a western city in the developed world. Eighty-seven per cent of Aucklanders travel to work by car and get stuck daily in traffic.

Just 7 per cent use public transport to get to work. Why is this the case, and why are some buses in Auckland always empty?

Ask anyone on the streets of Auckland, and the response is often that Auckland public transport does not meet their travel needs.

And if public transport fails to serve the large number of commuters travelling during peak hours, how can it benefit shoppers, students and low-income people who travel during non-peak hours?

Historically, the function of public transport has been to provide mobility for people without access to cars. Fifty years ago this meant the great majority of urban dwellers, but by the 2006 Census only 8 per cent of Kiwi households were without cars.

But the future risks of this dependence on cars – increased social and economic costs and environmental impacts – mean cost-effective and less polluting alternatives must be found to efficiently serve the urban transport needs.

There is a real need for good-quality public transport in Auckland.

He also notes some of the problems we are facing, all things that this blog is trying in some way to help address:

Institutional challenges in Auckland may include, but are not limited to, conflicting priorities at central and local government levels, political ideologies that influence transport strategies and funding systems, limited opportunities for genuine community involvement, lack of co-ordination between different public transport modes and the pro-automobile mindset embedded in societal, professional and institutional culture.

And lastly:

In 2013, I will start a project, funded by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fast-Grant, to develop a new approach that enables in-depth understanding of the nature of institutional challenges for public transport in Auckland.

I am particularly keen to work collaboratively with political parties, central and local government officials, professionals, civil society, activists, researchers and primarily with the diverse and exciting communities of Auckland to create positive change that will assist in developing a first-world public transport system for Auckland; Aucklanders desperately need such a system.

Dr Muhammad will have a big job ahead of him and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with but I think perhaps the most important thing is we are starting to see some interest in new research on public transport from universities which is extremely positive. I also note that he has previously been involved in looking at public transport planning including being involved in this paper for the NZTA which looks at the best practice way to develop PT networks which uses the same principles used in our new bus network redesign.