Why Aucklanders sit in their cars for a trillion hours to get to work

Why Aucklanders sit in their cars for a trillion hours to get to work

[Insert tongue firmly in cheek] Let’s face it, there’s zero competition between the blissful independence that your car affords you, versus organising your mornings around a fixed bus or rail timetable. Your car will win, every time. If it takes ten minutes longer than usual to get the kids ready for school because they spilled scrambled eggs down their front and wiped it in their hair - that’s ok - your car will still be ready and waiting when it’s time to go. The bus waits for no one, unless the driver spots you legging it along the street, flailing your arms for them to stop, and even then there’s no guarantee they won’t keep driving…

So choose your car, chuck your packed lunch and gym gear onto the back seat and slam the door shut - thump - the sweet sound of convenience. Sip your double shot flat white and crank the volume on Crowded House ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ - hey now, hey now - but turn the volume down, because that dream is over (if it ever really existed beyond TV car ads). You find yourself amongst hundreds of thousands of people in hundreds of thousands of cars and you’re all crawling along the Southern Motorway. Turn the volume back up and get comfortable, because it’s probably about to take you two hours to get to where you’re going.

[Remove tongue from cheek] Interestingly enough - and this is a slight tangent, but it’s an interesting one - in Da Nang in Vietnam (a city of approximately 1.4 million people), nearly everyone commutes on motorbikes or bicycles. The vehicle occupancy rate is 1.2, so that means on average, there are 1.2 people per bike. In Auckland, most of us are driving our cars to work and the occupancy rate is 1.1. Yes, you read that right, Vietnam gets more people on one bike than we get in one car.

But we won’t be getting people out of their cars until public transport is frequent, affordable and reliable. For that, we need to develop a world class public transport system that’s integrated with how we use the land. If we integrate our land use with our transport, it will drive the need for public transport along those routes. And guess what, if you have a great public transport route that’s frequent, affordable and reliable, it will drive more people to live in that area. Yes, that means we will undoubtedly need to intensify land use and it’s more than likely that in those scenarios, we will be building upwards.  

That’s what the future will invariably look like. Less people using their cars, more people using various modes of public transport and active modes to get to work, and a more efficient use of the land so that public transport is the commuter’s mode of choice. To get there, an integrated land use and transport masterplan needs to be developed - ratified and championed by the city - such that it transcends the political situation, as the plan can’t afford to keep changing with the churn of the Beehive’s incumbents. Auckland needs a long-term vision to get us from mind-boggling rush hour congestion, to a slick, integrated public transport system, that is accessible to all and that everyone wants to use!

Aucklanders have got lots of questions about the cost of congestion to our economy, the government’s plan to increase fuel tax, and saying a sad farewell to our car culture. Wallace Chapman had some similar questions for me, listen to our recent chat on Radio NZ to find out some more here.