A new report from the University of Otago is calling for New Zealand to almost half the percentage of trips taken by car between now and 2050 in order to improve our health and the environment. Titled Turning the Tide – from Cars to Active Transport, the report calls for the share of trips taken by car to drop from 83% to 45% with the difference made up by significant increases to walking, cycling and public transport. It says:

While cars bring convenience and can provide superb access, they also come with costs. For instance, there are the obvious costs of investing in and maintaining increasing amounts of road infrastructure. The tragic loss of life on our roads is moving ever closer to 400 fatalities a year. In addition, there are the less obvious costs, literally the “slowburn” costs – as we destroy our environment with 14 billion tonnes of carbon a year (e.g., close to 300 premature deaths each year due to poor air quality, and mountains of waste including tyres). The negative effects of motorised transport on our physical health is the least discussed but perhaps the most pervasive. Specifically, our automobility-focused land use pattern and transport network means that New Zealanders on average walk for transport less than 10 minutes per day.

Active transport provides an opportunity to maintain equitable access and, at the same time, reduce carbon emissions, and improve health outcomes. By active transport, we are primarily talking about walking, cycling, and wheeling which involves physical effort.

One of the things I find fascinating about transport is that it’s not something people tend to vote for parties on at elections but it’s something that can have a meaningful impact on most other areas of government policy.

In order to achieve this change, the report lists four key areas. Within each of these are a number of more specific actions. These are summarised below.

First, we need to make a commitment to change. National targets, clear accountability to deliver against those targets, and strong governance should be established. This cannot be a half-hearted commitment.  Instead, it must be reflected in senior level governance, with the importance of active transport written in to the Government’s priority setting documents.

We recommend that our national targets should be:

  • double the proportion of walking trips to 25% of all trips by 2050
  • double the proportion of cycling trips each decade so that 15% of trips are by bicycle by 2050
  • double the proportion of trips by public transport each decade so that 15% of all trips are by public transport by 2050

We recognise that these targets are ambitious as this would mean reducing the percentage of car trips from 84% in 2018 to 45% by 2050. While this would be a challenge to achieve, we are convinced that aiming for these targets should be a key component of our strategy to improve our national health and environmental wellbeing.

Second, a nationally coordinated and funded programme of education and promotion of active transport. The advent of social media together with growing social concern about the health and environmental effects of climate change provide the platforms for activity that can effectively compete with the multi-million dollar promotions of the car industry. The initial focus should be to work with schools and workplaces to build active transport into the nation’s daily commutes.

Third, there must be a commitment to design cities for people and not for cars. As a minimum, this means creating more areas in our towns and cities where there is a 30 km/h speed limit. Ideally, we should be creating more areas in our cities and towns where there are no cars during the day. This must be backed with a long-term funding to make this happen.

Fourth, we need to have a regulatory system that encourages the use of active transport. This ranges from changes to the planning regulations to regulations that will increase the safety of active transport.

I don’t disagree with any of those. Under each of the four sections are also a number of sub areas and the report, along with this shorter doc on the key policy recommendations, describes each of the points in more detail.

Reducing car use across NZ, like suggested above, can seem like a daunting task but it is certainly possible as we’re seeing in the City Centre where car use has dropped to below 50% at peak times – although this report suggests it happen over 31 years.

It will be interesting to see how the government officially respond to this, although we are unlikely to hear about it till the next Government Policy Statement.

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68 comments

  1. I think people do vote on transport issues. There is nothing like gridlock day in day out to motivate voters and Labours light rail and Skypath proposals were encouraging if not sadly caught up in the smouldering ruins of the warped NZTA.

    But what we badly need is strong leadership from the PM on climate change and those two words are enough said. Its here that MMP is holding us back.

    And that followed up by local government providing genuinely enticing alternatives to the comfort, convenience and costs of the private motor vehicle. Sadly we are nowhere near that point even into the dimly foreseeable future.

      1. The impression of this government I get is that there are some serious conflicting bottom lines between the party’s that is stopping progress.

        NZ First appear wedded the the farming sector and insofar as real forward looking climate policy is concerned it’s business as usual. But it ain’t and there is no common voice from government at this time, actually more like silence.

        And it still astounds me that as recent as 2017 one local government area, aka Wellington scrapped their electric buses in favour of diesel. About then Central government should have been incentivising clean transport.

          1. Sorry Jezza, I didn’t know I was at your command. Instead of being the comment critic think for yourself!

          2. You’re not, it’s just a bit odd, although not unusual from you to criticise something and provide no useful alternative suggestion.

            I agree the current government is struggling to make meaningful change on climate but that is because there is not a majority of support in the house, this would likely be the same under any other system of electing parliament.

        1. I think the Wellington trolley bus debacle was sold as a short interim period with diesel buses before a new battery powered bus nirvana arrived without the “ugly” overhead etc etc. That short interim period now looks like years and years.

          1. Not really, plan was for 10 electric double deckers 2018 (all delivered), then 10 more in 2020 and another 12 in 2021. Hardly a short interim period.

            NZ Bus were going to convert all the trolleys to hybrids (the Wrightspeed debacle). When that project failed at the prototype stage, they belatedly completed a single demonstration battery electric conversion. They’re currently bickering with GW over cost and trolley conversion versus new single deck battery electric options.

        2. But diesel busses are potentially much cleaner than Electric. All you have to do is run them on diesel made from renewables. Sweden does this, so do parts of California.

          1. “Potentially” is the operative word here. Bio-fuelled diesel buses may be cleaner than buses powered by fossil-fuel-generated electricity, but increasingly electricity is also being generated renewably.

            Electricity generated by wind/solar/hydro will be far cleaner than “renewable” diesel, if this comes at the cost of reducing land available for food production and if it also continues to emit harmful particulate matter.

            I think it is time we moved on from combustion-engines, however they may be fuelled.

          2. Diesel is absolutely not the way to go and infinitely more polluting than hydro-powered electricity that our buses ran on.

            Short of cheating emission testing manufacturers are struggling to lower dangerous emissions from them. Caterpillar has exited the truck engine market as a result.

          3. Agree with Dave and Waspman. Even if the fuel is renewable, there is still the particulate emissions issue and also the inherent inefficiency of a combustion engine compared with an electric engine.

          4. Renewable diesel is much cleaner than petroleum diesel, it cuts Hydrocarbon and CO emissions by about 70%, reduces particulate matter by about 50% and Nox by about 30%.
            If you look at the well to wheel CO2 reductions, you would see that Renewable Diesel is better for the planet than a mass switch to BEV’s. That is because the carbon produced in making the electricity is not counted in vehicle tail pipe emissions calculations. It may not be the case in NZ, but most countries in the world have very dirty power gen (including coal), with no intention to change.
            These days Diesel made from renewables does not reduce the land that is available for food production and is mostly made from waste and residues (used cooking oils, animal fats etc).
            Meanwhile all Lithium battery production is from mining of Lithium (obviously), nickle and cobalt. All of these mining techniques have a large carbon footprint. More of a worry is the Cobalt. This comes mostly from the DRC where labour conditions do not meet the sort of standards that NZ should tolerate and at the Lithium is a finite resource. While batteries may be ‘affordable’ now, projections are that the game is up around 2027, when the squeeze on the metals will make BEV’s very expensive and limit there sales.
            Why would NZ want to go down this dead end route of BE busses, when we could use renewable diesel today and not have any CAPEX to deal with.
            In any event, many bus routes are just not suitable for BEV and the better alternative (esp for Auckland), if you don’t want an ICE engine, would be Hydrogen.

          5. Why not have both? Electric in the cities and town centres, bio diesel otherwise. The hybrid of buses.

          6. The question of the environmental footprint of mass battery-production is a thorny one. BEV’s, like many things, look benign on a small scale but on the sort of scale required to replace all fossil-fuel-powered vehicles the picture may be very different. This is something that battery-vehicle proponents tend not to focus on.
            Would not the same apply to renewable diesel though? Looks good on a small scale but how well does it scale-up to match conventional diesel-requirements? Just how many million barrels-per-day of used cooking oil and animal fat are there available?
            And I don’t think it is fair to say that “most countries in the world have very dirty power gen (including coal), with no intention to change”. Many countries are pulling back from coal and many are significantly ramping up renewable power generation. Biofuels may form a part of this , but I would be very wary of advocating them as a stand-out solution. The other likelihood of course is a return to nuclear generation with all of its downsides.

            I also was of the view that “many bus routes are just not suitable for BEV”, but having seen those (admittedly few) that Wellington has, in operation over some lengthy and hilly routes I am forced to reconsider this view. So far they seem to be working OK and meeting expectations.
            But if batteries are not the answer for large-scale application, if hydrogen as a transfer-medium fails to catch-on, if super-caps or flywheels cannot made to store the quantities of energy required, then what? Back to trolleybuses or some other means of buses continuously receiving reticulated power! Like electric trams, we should never have thrown them away.

          7. The solution is going to be a mix of renewable fuels, BEV, Green Hydrogen and petroleum fuels. As well as mode shifts to encourage more walking, cycling and PEV’s.
            However, the point I was making is that as far as busses in NZ cities, diesel engines running on renewable fuel is probably the best answer.

          8. ‘Lithium is a finite resource. While batteries may be ‘affordable’ now, projections are that the game is up around 2027, when the squeeze on the metals will make BEV’s very expensive and limit there sales.’
            EVs are not completely dependent on Lithium chemistry batteries. If these become too expensive for EV use then other battery types, such as NiFe will likely find EV applications.
            For non EV applications where LiFePO4 are popular there are lower density designs such as Aquion salt water batteries, traditional Lead acid types etc., that are commonly available.
            In any case Lithium is recyclable as it is not lost in expired batteries.

          9. Apologies Bogle. I meant to type ‘Cobalt’ is a finite resource. The Lithium we can probably manage, but there is no chance to solve the Cobalt problem.

          10. Completely agree that biogas and biodiesel from waste are promising to replace current diesel fleets.

            I think for longer FTN routes, especially where they overlap with other routes, or need to quickly turn around (say in the city centre) biodiesel/hydrogen is probably better.

            A lot of the buses in the outer suburbs should be battery electric. They have runs under 30m long and have large areas for staging where they could charge. This is going to be complicated if we can ever get super fast induction charging right.

            If you can charge a bus at every stop, you only need a very small battery, and electric becomes a lot more promising. This will probably work best on dedicated busway type services (AMETI, A2B, Northern Busway)

            It’s going to be a ‘horses for courses’ approach.

      2. Maybe it’s not MMP at fault.

        Maybe it’s not giving children the vote.

        Maybe we could have two houses of parliament. The upper house could be the “Young and Future Generations” Filter for all policy, with right of absolute veto.

        1. A nice idea, but at the same time Children (I believe) have enough pressures growing up, without the burden of politics and all the mis-education that comes with it. We are ‘adults’ therefore ‘should’ be able to make decisions for them. Could actually do more damage than good with families trying to influence their children into political alignment to theirs at an early age rather than allowing them to develop their own thoughts and ideas.

          2 Houses of Parliament could work however, 1 for Climate Change to which any policies that could impact would go through…but of course none of this would happen when we can’t even get basic Policy parties were voted for no through the door.

          1. Most calls for children getting a vote are suggesting their parents can be their proxy.

          2. Giving children a vote is crazy. They are ‘children’ because they are not fully developed and functioning people. The voting age of 18 is appropriate. If you think it should be lower, you have not raised teenagers.

          3. a/ I have
            b/ they showed more ability to plan for the future than some of their grandparents who were utterly limited by what they’d already seen and what’s socially acceptable for their peers
            c/ I’ve already said you could have the parents take their vote by proxy

          4. Btw, children are fully functioning people. I think it’s important to correct your wording there.

        2. I’m not anti MMP, it’s far better than FFP but you can see the clash of acceptance from what is really a sliver of voters versus the larger group and foresight in each party.

          I have no issues lowering the voting age but politics is something Kiwi’s don’t do in general and it certainly isn’t discussed academically unless one heads in that direction. So how kids are supposed to get interested is the challenge.

          1. Having school principals that don’t put pressure on them to not take part would help.

  2. Great direction, arguably not aspirational enough, but worthwile!
    The targets could have differentiated urban and rural areas. Also, making cities for people needs to address how we retrofit existing environment – here they speak of people with disabilities but do not put as a target to address the current barriers to access.
    But cities for people, yes, please bring that on!

  3. “We recognise that these targets are ambitious as this would mean reducing the percentage of car trips from 84% in 2018 to 45% by 2050.”

    Is this reduction enough? Heidi says that Auckland vehicle emissions have increased by 80% since 1990. If this is halved that roughly takes us back to emission levels in 1990.

    Compare this with what many cities in Europe have achieved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_share

    1. Very interesting link JW.

      Quite depressing to see Auckland is up there with the worst American cities.

      Surely it’s pretty simple to see looking at a modal breakdown in the link that with a shift in mode we don’t need any more roads at all.

      God bless the likes of the roading lobby and the AA. ‘sigh’

      1. Muz, you make an excellent point. If we are halving car mode share then it is most likely that we don’t need any more roads. (And if particularly interest groups do want to drive more, say the Hutt Valley, then it seems entirely reasonable that they pay for it themselves, tolls, local rates, whatever.
        The very significant release of planned road expenditure could be immediately used for rail in the Golden Triangle perhaps; but certainly all other forms of road share where they achieve the greatest benefit. Surely the time of parochial apportionment of spend is past and NZ deals with the crisis in the best possible way. This is a problem bigger than politics.

      2. Out of all NZ cities, Auckland has probably done the most to achieve a “shift in mode” over the last 15 years although there are still huge areas of the city that are completely car dependent. But at least some progress is being made. Go to cities like Tauranga and Hamilton and it’s just roads, roads, roads with basically no consideration at all for alternatives to driving.

      3. Based on 2013 Census? I remember that Question and the quandary that I was in answering it.
        I ride-shared to work and caught the bus then walked last Km home.
        It is often difficult to give an appropriate answer when the census questions are going to be misinterpreted a few years later.

  4. I am currently writing a report calling for every day to be the first day of spring. First we need a commitment to change. Change doesn’t come easily but if we set strong National Goals supported by high quality policies I am sure we can get there. I recognise it is ambitious and there will always be a few back-sliders who prefer other seasons but we could deal with them through re-education and with strong regulation.

    1. High level policy can get transferred into day-to-day operations, miffy. We’ll have more success if change-averse naysayers are encouraged to see how their cynicism works against people’s health and well-being, and is, essentially, hateful.

      A healthy dose of cynicism can keep things real. An unhealthy dose just ends up keeping our children’s development stunted, our youth’s opportunities stifled and our future trapped in carbon abatement costs.

      1. Forgive me Heidi, you see traffic engineering was my dull life until I discovered the joy of taking the piss out of policy documents and most especially policy documents written by academic numpties.

        1. The only difference between this Otago University report and your report is that you are not being paid an academic salary to generate this faff.

          1. But they will be very successful with their’s. They will get at least two journal articles published and probably go to a conference as well. Then in future articles throughout the rest of their careers they will be able to cite their own previous work and have bigger bibliographies. If they are very successful they will be able to create an Institute within their university and use it as a brand for future documents.

        2. Whilst amusing Miffy, you know there are better platforms to perform your dry wit comedy than one about Transport? 😉

          1. Yes but surely innocuous seeming reports that are really seeking to enforce the writers choices onto others is worth a bit of satire even if it is not very good satire. Have a look at the source and you will see they never mention the things necessary to achieve their aims like making kids go to the closest school or making it more difficult to drive in order to make walking in the rain seem a better choice.

          2. And those are the sort of steps that must be taken. The report is not “seeking to enforce the writers choices onto others” but seeking a system that provides a better outcome, for health and climate and equity, and stops ordinary people paying the costs of others’ transport externalities.

            Do you think if they had included the steps that need to be taken that your comments would have been supportive, and helpful in society’s acceptance of the need for the change?

          3. They didn’t list the steps because they didn’t want to scare the sheep and be told where to stick their social engineering bollocks.

          4. No Heidi I wouldn’t have been supportive as I just don’t agree with forcing people to do the things they probably think are needed. But I would have debated the issues rather than taking the piss out of them. I like the idea people can choose a school that provides better for their kid. I like that people who think the benefits of driving outweigh the costs can do so. I like the fact that we consume energy as a means of decreasing poverty. I wish the whole of humanity could live like us.

          5. I’m forced to drive a lot of trips because people thought the roading extant in auckland was ‘probably needed’ over a quality pt and walking/cycling environment.

            Ideology goes both ways and the status quo is not exempt

          6. “I like that people who think the benefits of driving outweigh the costs can do so.” No one is suggesting that that change. Just that we give motorists some idea of the social costs of driving.

          7. As long as all the costs are transparent. The costs and subsidies that distort the market are all rather opaque atm.

          8. miffy what if the local school was funded in such a way there was no educational advantage to travelling to one further away.

            Parents would then no longer feel forced to drive their children across town to school to get a better education.
            Many parents acknowledge that walking or cycling to school would be better for their children but don’t feel that is an option because ether they not chosen the closest school to home or the number of cars near the school makes it too unsafe for their child to walk/cycle.
            Add in many parents feel forced to drive their children to school because their town is divided in two by a state highway which is not safe for anyone, let alone a child, to walk across. NZTA clearly holds travel times as more important than the safety of town residents when it comes to adding safe pedestrian crossing points on state highways.

          9. Na snobs are snobs.
            Our school has been trying to get a ped crossing over sh16 for years.
            The last meeting the school had involved 2 NZTA reps local board member Phellan (spelling?) and -national party mp- Chris Penk.
            Haven’t heard anything yet.

          10. That’s terrible. AT committed “in full and without question” to not trading off safety for any other consideration such as traffic flow. The kids need a pedestrian crossing, with supporting infrastructure. May be a state highway, but what is AT doing to advocate to NZTA?

          11. About 3/5s of fuck all Heidi. AT have always behaved as though we don’t exist. Twice as annoying since the new bus stop (which we had to pay for with our own targeted rate, thanks AT) has been installed directly across the road from the school. At least the kids have their own bus bay at the school though.
            The good news is I have noticed that the driver behaviour has improved markedly over the last couple of years with a lot of them stopping of at the refuge thingie of their own accord which is good. Kind of makes a mockery of the policy though ha.

        3. Contrary to the impression given by the top of this article, this isn’t a Univ of Otago report. The report was developed by a group of ten leading New Zealand and international experts who work in the active transport field; 3/10 are at Otago. Not all are academics either (like that should be a black mark anyway…), e.g. one of them is a consultant colleague of mine.

  5. This is good to see. The targets are insufficient, but a start. They’ll only be useful, though, if they are brought into day-to-day operations.

    The RCA’s need annual targets for each criterion, a plan to reach it, and an immediate mechanism to get back on track if an annual target has not been met. Interesting, of course, that they’ll have to count people walking if they’re going to know how they’re doing, which will have enormous benefits for design.

    Council, will the next Letter of Expectation to AT require them to have annual targets on each of these measures, a plan including evidence-based techniques to achieve them, like the Barcelona “Superblocks” or the Dutch neighbourhood streets bollarded off from through-traffic, and a mechanism for getting back on track?

    Councillors, too, need to be publicly tracked. And will Council provide an education programme for their councillors who try to prevent moves that will achieve these goals?

  6. One detail I noticed under “D Enforcement and Regulation” is:

    “Fund and prioritise police enforcement of rules to protect people who walk and cycle. Train police to minimise a pro-motorist bias in enforcement and crash investigations.”

    This is great. There are many ways this bias occurs. One is that people who end up dead or unconscious can’t give their version of the story, a phenomenon I’ve seen play out in cases where friends have been hit. Another is the Police’s lack of understanding of the multiple ways crashes and injuries can be prevented. They’ve been encouraged to look for a main way, and don’t seem to understand the system effects.

  7. “Council, will the next Letter of Expectation to AT require them to have annual targets on each of these measures”
    Heidi, useless without consequences. You might recall that I wrote on the fuel usage targets that AT had. They never got close, ever, year after year!
    And you probably remember their response – we need to review the targets. When you see AT respond like this it is easy to see why Miffy treats them with scorn and derision (my words).
    There needs to be a mechanism in the Carbon Zero Act that locks in change and a body that enforces it. And a big budget to help in that respect. Meaningful action!

    1. Yesterday the Herald reported that this government put up 2200 sq km of Taranaki land for potential oil and gas drilling. It certainly has many fish hooks in it and may well discourage exploration but the fact it’s even happening is utterly confusing.

      I believe Jacinda Ardern sees climate change as her generations nuclear-free moment but the question is why with a PM so passionate about this subject are we getting these kinds of announcements?

      1. My view is that carbon credits have being counter productive to reducing climate change. Climate change can’t be taxed out of existence. The Govt should lead by example rather than trying to force other people to do all the work. So electrify the buses and improve public transport build the cycle ways and improve pedestrian experience.
        Improve Govt buildings and fit solar panels to all schools. If they think more of the electric should be renewable then they should start up a new generating company. In fact just threatening to do that would probably be enough to get the existing companies to build more renewable’ s. I believe that if they walk the talk the private sector will follow. Even if you don’t believe in climate change I am sure most people could see the advantage of switching away from oil for transport better health less wars etc. Don’t focus to much on the animals at this point we need them to raise our overseas funds so we an afford to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Here endeth the lesson according to Royce.

    2. ‘There needs to be a mechanism in the Carbon Zero Act that locks in change and a body that enforces it. And a big budget to help in that respect. Meaningful action!’
      This is so very true but, but, with the Minister of Transport assuring us that money doesn’t grow on trees that ‘big budget’ looks either a non starter or a distant future item.
      In meantime does carbon zero action start with individuals asking how to reduce their personal carbon footprint and making appropriate lifestyle adjustments?

      1. ‘In meantime does carbon zero action start with individuals asking how to reduce their personal carbon footprint and making appropriate lifestyle adjustments?’

        Completely agree. The built environment certainly impacts how easy it is to make these adjustments but ultimately it is up to us.

        1. Useful comment, Jezza? Ummm…

          The built environment, the regulatory environment, the tax environment shape, the democratic and governance environment, the education environment… every choice we make is shaped by the environment we live in.

        2. Bogle, climate change does start with us, but we all know about it and collectively are we making any progress in NZ? Most people think no.
          There are many things on which we are reliant on govt. We can only ride light rail if we have it and this applies to many alternatives to cars.
          So yes individually we need to do more, but the govt needs to do way, way more.
          Recently I saw an answer to an OIA request that the SSC has given no instructions to any govt Ministry on how they should reduce emissions. It is disgraceful. If the govt can not get its own house in order what hope for everyone else?

  8. Meanwhile, down in Wellington, the various Northern Corridor motorway projects continue apace. And these spawn the “need” for further Hutt Valley roading projects, the Grenada-Petone link, and 4-lanes-to-the-planes. All guaranteed to increase car-travel, not decrease it.
    We have got rid of our 100% electric trolleybuses and have only a token operation of battery buses now. And we await an announcement from policy-planning group “Let’s Get Wellington Moving” which is widely expected to recommend continuing with the status quo.

    We are going backwards down here, big-time. Making the same mistakes Auckland made 50 years ago.

    1. and expanded parknride at numerous stations currently underway as token pt wash, reducing the walkup catchment where we should be looking to transit oriented developments.

      The capital is going backwards.

  9. Long term targets like this will always fail for short term elections.

    Like many corporate boards, targets longer than their current term are ignored by governments. Targets need to have immediately measurable targets, so every year they are held to account.
    I.e. walking trips proportion increase by 1% per year until make up 25% or all trips.

  10. The targets are indeed aspirational. The hard work is moving towards them. Requires some political fortitude:
    a) transport costs better aligned with real costs, eg
    ai) congestion tolls
    aii) remove ratepayer subsidy
    aiii) air pollution & full health system costs excise tax
    b) RMA freed up from density & zoning constraints (esp for increasing walk trips)
    c) full segregated cycle facilities (improve safety perception)
    d) fully protected movements for peds & cycles at traffic signals (improve safety perception)
    e) public transport networks that provide both full coverage for the transport disadvantaged, rapid transit for commuters, & on-demand services where fixed routes would run at too lower frequencies

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