As National’s Transport spokesperson I’ve been experimenting with different modes of transport. Parliamentary life means frequent trips in and out of the city from my home in Remuera or office near the Market Road shops.
The 75 bus that goes down Remuera Road into town is pretty good. Very nice new double-deckers. Most of the time it takes two to three times longer than driving, but at peak hour the bus lanes make it a reasonable option.
I was introduced to the late night service by accident a month or so. At the end of a black tie event at the University I asked a friend who lives down the road if I could catch a ride home with him and his wife. He said, sure, but I should tell you we’re catching the bus. It was ten minutes late, but then again so were most of the taxis.
My preferred option for a meeting in town at peak hour is to Uber down to the Orakei Station and catch the train into Britomart. This works very well, most of the time, so long as a freight train isn’t holding everything up. Building a third rail line through central Auckland would be a priority for us – so that we can cope with both public transport demands and freight.
Cycling isn’t a realistic option in a suit. I rode a motorbike to university every day for six years and learnt that there is scarcely a single day in Auckland when you could be absolutely sure you wouldn’t be drenched on your way home, if not on the way in.
When I was writing books I’d frequently cycle into the public library, but I must say I never looked forward to grinding my way up Wakefield Street to get home. Auckland’s brutal hills and rain mean that cycling, with the best will in the world, will only be a minority commuter option.
Lime scooters, on the other hand, seem a real option for the ‘last mile’. If I’m trying to get home from a meeting on the western side of the city at a busy time, rather than try to battle the chaos of Albert Street or Quay Street, I’ll scoot down to the waterfront and along to the bottom of Gladstone Road.
This is fun and quick (don’t tell Christine Fletcher), but the suspension isn’t great. After going across a few cobble stones and ribbed pavements I’ll wind up with a thumping headache.
The scooters have been fairly controversial. Riders do need to be respectful of other people on the pavement. My view is that we shouldn’t rush to judgment because there are a few hoons. Give it time to settle down.
It is, of course, important as our city grows that we have plenty of good options to get around. The more we can encourage those who have options not to drive on their own, the more efficiently we can use our road network.
But in our enthusiasm to provide those options we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that for the vast majority of trips, for the vast majority of people the car still works best – it takes you exactly where you want to go, quickly, keeps you dry, can carry your stuff and your kids where they need to go.
That’s why in a growing city we need to keep investing in roads, so that we don’t grind to a halt. The Waterview tunnel, for example, has made a colossal difference. There’s plenty more to do.
The Labour/Green’s highly ideological approach to transport has led it to cancel or postpone all the next major road projects for the city, in favour of a hugely expensive Light Rail project. This is a recipe for chaos, and infuriating given all the extra taxes imposed.
When we get the chance, we’ll return with urgency to a more pragmatic and balanced approach to transport investment.