An article from the Bay of Plenty Times highlights one of the challenges facing
Rush-hour congestion on one of Tauranga’s busiest roads is returning to levels not seen since the second Harbour Bridge opened eight years ago.
Predictions made in 2006 that Hewletts Rd would be congested within 15 to 20 years of the completion of the $225 million Harbour Link project have come true almost twice as fast as expected.
Tauranga City Council transport manager Martin Parkes said it was safe to say that traffic had increased to the point where travel time delays were probably back to pre-second harbour bridge levels.
“The investment lasted about eight years,” he said.
The original prediction for 15 to 20 years was based on little change in people’s travel habits.
The last line in particular represents one of the primary issues we have with transport planning in New Zealand, we like to build stuff and pretending that it won’t have any effect on behaviour towards how and when people travel. This is also echoed by politicians who love to claim that the next project will solve the problems of congestion and deliver driving nirvana. This was also evident in the article:
The MP for Tauranga and Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the congestion at peak times along Hewletts Rd would be reduced once the new link road between Baypark and Bayfair was completed. It would remove the pinch point at the roundabout with Girven Rd and keep a more constant flow of traffic along Maunganui Rd.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman and former Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said he drove Hewletts Rd nearly every day and found it particularly bad in the morning. It freed up once traffic got past Totara St and was moving towards the bridge.
He recalled the plan floated in the early 2000s to build an expressway around the other side of the airport once Hewletts Rd reached capacity again.
Mr Crosby said four laning SH29 from Maungatapu Bridge to Barkes Corner would take some of the stress off Hewletts Rd although it would always be busy.
Time and again see that perhaps most accurate adage when it comes to transport planning is that what you feed grows and importantly that applies to roads as much as any other modes of transport.
It’s another of Crosby’s comments, along with those from the NZTA and Tauranga Council’s transport department that were perhaps more enlightening and the real reason for this post.
“There is a big conversation coming up about public transport and that is not a quick fix.”
In Auckland, the discussion about public transport (and active modes) has come a long way in the last decade or so. It is now to the point that through ATAP, we have both the council and the government agreeing that we need to be expanding our nascent rapid transit network. This is also known in ATAP as the Strategic Public Transport Network and for good reason, these the routes where high quality, dedicated infrastructure is expected to be provided to act in the same fashion as the motorways do for the wider road network.
But outside of Auckland the discussion about rapid transit or strategic PT networks simply doesn’t seem to exist and seems to be a recipe for repeating the mistakes of Auckland – a place that much of the rest of the country seems desperate to not be. The closest exception to this is of course Wellington with its legacy rail network but even there, talk of even basic PT improvements seems to have died on the vine. Even in Christchurch there has been a deafening silence on any kind of future rapid transit network.
Now the first response some may give is that other places in NZ are simply too small for rapid transit networks, Auckland’s size and growth massively eclipses all other cities in NZ and is expected to continue doing so. By comparison, Tauranga has just 128k people, about the size of some of the larger local boards in Auckland. But while they may be smaller cities, it doesn’t mean they’re not growing.
Again taking Tauranga as an example, most of its urban development is in two linear corridors, to the southwest of the city centre and along Papamoa Beach, seemingly perfect some RTN routes
The concern I have is that by avoiding the conversation now, it will only make it harder and even more expensive to build anything to an RTN standard in the future, potentially stopping it from happening all together. All of this isn’t to say we should go on a massive RTN building spree around the country but that we should at least be looking to reserve some corridors to make them easier to develop in the future. Future growth could even be focused around this infrastructure.
So, a national discussion on strategic public transport networks, what do you think? Who (agencies and cities) do you think should be involved?
As an aside, this comes just days after Auckland’s new Councillor for Rodney, Greg Sayers, claimed the city should take a leaf out of Tauranga’s book.
I represent the fastest-growing ward on the Auckland Council, Rodney, which is also the largest in area. My constituents, compared with other wards, don’t ask for much but when they do, it is out of necessity, not out of some whim.
Rodney’s growth is frustrated by the dysfunction of the Super City. Meanwhile, places like Tauranga have bounded ahead.
Auckland and Tauranga is a Tale of Two Cities. While Auckland is still dithering about a second harbour crossing, Tauranga’s built two. While Tauranga upgraded rail and built a motorway to make its port thrive, Auckland wants to kill its port and the connecting infrastructure.
Tauranga now has the country’s busiest port, while conversely Auckland’s lack of investment has created a property bubble and traffic bottlenecks.
It’s worth noting that Sayers gets some fairly basic facts outrageously wrong, this includes that over the last decade, the Upper Harbour and Waitemata local board areas have each grown more strongly than Rodney each and every year, both in actual terms and as a percentage (the Upper Harbour LB even started with fewer people but now has more). He also doesn’t seem to realise that Auckland has grown more than Tauranga’s entire population in just 3 years -which as of 30 June 2016 was 128,200.