Baker’s Banter—17 April 2018

Anyone using the roads and/or public transport in our part of the world is aware of the need for some serious investment.

The reality is that whilst we have some way to go in terms of modern trains, single seat journeys and more regular services, what we have is significantly better than what used to exist as recently as five years ago.

Similarly, the willingness of people to use public transport is not as evident as the willingness to complain about the very congestion they are adding to. The answer it seems from a political perspective is to introduce increased or new fuel taxes. The Mayor got in first with his proposal for a regional fuel tax, followed recently by the Government who are favouring a national increase, on top of our regional one. I have never been a fan of the fuel tax as I believe it is too blunt as a tool.

The only things I see going for it are, it is quick to implement and will not require any capital expenditure to introduce or consequential operational expenditure to maintain which as would be the case for the likes of road tolls. I have yet to see any detail as to how our non-road using fuel users (farmers, earth-movers, boaties) will be able to simply differentiate what their fuel is used for.

It is going to open up a whole lot of issues, in my view, in regard to trust, responsible and accurate claims. It will become another bureaucracy to monitor the probable huge increase in such subsidy claims. Maybe this is a cunning way of achieving greater public transport use or walking and cycling. Make it so expensive to use fuel, abandon new roading projects to smash the resolve of those attached at the backside to their cars. Finally pushing them to breaking point where they must change their habits. I am all in favour of people changing their habits and in terms of exchanging cars for public transport there is probably a need to use a stick a little bit more.

However in the absence of any detail and the statements from central and some council politicians, what is being proposed are very much urban based, nice to have solutions, that ignore the needs of those feeding into the isthmus area from its extremities or from the rest of the country. In my view the balance is way, way out of kilter.

The isthmus of Auckland is the region’s heart, but like any heart, if the things feeding the lifeblood are congested, not only does that heart start to fail but the first to degrade are the extremities. What is needed is commitment to upgraded public transport options such as extra rail lines, bus and heavy transport lanes. Along with new roads like Mill Road with a funding mechanism that will not take the most from those likely to see the least benefit. A balanced mix of roading, PT and other modes to address needs.

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