In the latest saga that the issue of transport in East Auckland, the local MPs are calling for some of the roads to be turned into State Highways.
Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson is pushing for Pakuranga Rd and Ti Rakau Drive to become state highways.
Together with Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, Williamson says he is “putting all [his] efforts” into convincing Transport Minister Simon Bridges to bring the two roads under the New Zealand Transport Agency’s authority.
Auckland Transport currently looks after the two streets.
It appears to me that the primary reasons they are pushing for the roads to be State Highways are related to them trying to find ways to circumvent the current process so they can get the projects they personally want built – such as the Reeves Rd Flyover.
Speaking at a public meeting on transport, Williamson expressed his belief that more roading options are needed for East Aucklanders.
“I want to make it clear I am supportive of public transport, but it’s such a small part of what people in this area use when getting to work compared to the private motor car.
“We don’t have any state highways, busways, double tracking trains or electrification, It’s now time for proper transport options.”
His comments about the lack of public transport in the east echoed those made by Auckland Transport chief executive Dr David Warburton at a public meeting last year.
He told those present that public transport passengers from South-East Auckland are among the most poorly served in Auckland.
Williamson showed an image of Pakuranga Rd taken from his electorate office showing traffic at a stand-still on a weekday morning.
He also presented data which showed the busy arterial route had the third-highest daily use of any road in New Zealand.
Auckland Transport has two main solutions in the pipeline to unclog traffic on Pakuranga Rd – the Southeastern Busway and Reeves Rd flyover.
Williamson is supportive of the flyover but has some concerns with the proposed busway.
“The plan to drop two lanes in some places will just take space away from other road users.
“Something is wrong here, space is being taken from cars and given to public transport.”
So Williamson’s logic seems to be that because public transport to the east is currently crap not many people use it and therefore the solution is not to improve public transport but build more roads. That’s akin to giving a two year old going crazy on a sugar rush a lollies in the hope they’ll calm down.
It is absolutely correct that East Auckland has some of the lowest public transport use in Auckland and is tied directly to the lack of quality options that exist. The lack of any form of bus priority mean that the buses that buses will always be a slower option than driving. Combine that with not enough frequency and it’s no surprise people don’t use PT much. But that is exactly what AMETI is trying and address by building a busway from Panmure through to Pakuranga and eventually Botany. The first stage of AMETI – the upgraded Panmure Station and the new Te Horeta Rd – are now complete and AT are getting ready to lodge the Notice of Requirement for Stage 2 which will see a busway extend from Panmure all the way to Botany. That will allow buses to bypass congestion and feed passengers on to trains for a very fast journey to town – we already hear anecdotal reports of large numbers of bus passengers from the east transferring to trains at Panmure
AT are also talking of extending bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park – the road is six lanes wide to that point. Combining the bus lanes, the busway and expected higher frequencies from the new bus network – for which consultation is due out in October – those bus lanes will almost certainly be moving more people than are possibly if the lane was left as a general traffic lane.
In the end it seems that Williamson like many other politicians on the right of politics these days are classic concern trolls. They all claim to support public transport as they know that’s what their constituencies want them to say but they oppose any actual public transport that comes to life and never actually provide any alternative options. They also only want public transport after they’ve built the roads they personally want.
Perhaps the only thing in favour of making these roads state highways is I’m aware the NZTA are strongly supportive of the busway plans and want it built faster than is currently planned. We also know that the NZTA don’t seem to muck around as much with getting routes designated like AT seem to. There would be a great irony if Williamson and co succeeded in getting NZTA to take over the project only to see the busway get built faster.