Viv Beck Transport Policy – Greater Auckland
We are only about 3 months away from the next local body elections and given the importance she places on local elections, this means that we will start to see more and more discussion of transport policy .
With the resignation of Phil Goff, the mayoral election is probably the most uncertain since the Auckland merger in 2010 and mayoral candidates are starting to publish their politics.
On Sunday, center-right candidate Viv Beck released her transportation policy and there’s a lot to love. In previous elections, right-wing candidates seemed to focus their transportation policy on unleashing a fashion-based culture war. Politics seemed little more than the ramblings of someone’s oil uncle at the last family barbecue with plans for public transport and cycling relegated to being cancelled, scaled back or replaced by unproven fantasies.
By contrast, Beck’s transportation policy seems broadly sensible. Some elements are missing and the cancellation of a major public transport project is included, but this is done in order to focus on improving public transport in a larger part of Auckland.
Auckland mayoral candidate Viv Beck wants to scrap the government’s $14.6 billion light rail project for now and replace it with convenient, cheaper and faster solutions across the city.
If elected mayor on Oct. 8, Beck would push for a citywide rapid transit system, including an entirely separate bus lane along the Northwest Freeway, a transit rapid transit from the airport to Botany, $110 million in northern bus lane improvements and increased bus lanes. on the CBD light rail line to the airport.
Auckland’s rapid transit network – high-speed public transport separated from traffic – is currently limited to trains and the Northern Busway.
Beck said light rail is a bold project, but it’s impossible to see how it could be feasible now, especially given the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. If built in the future, it would likely run from the CBD to Mount Roskill at street level rather than dig a tunnel.
With people telling him that congestion and transportation are the number one problem and driving up the cost of light rail, Beck said there had to be another way to unlock the city faster at a much lower cost.
Beck’s top priority is a $2.5 billion bus route from downtown to Westgate that could be extended to Kumeu.
“The North West is one of the worst-served parts of the city when it comes to public transit,” Beck said, adding that prior to the light rail promise in 2017, northbound rapid transit -west was at the top of the list.
She said plans for a $2 billion airport-to-botany rapid transit bus route also need to be accelerated, saying there are at least 15 years left under current plans.
Immediate work could begin on $110 million in Northern Bus Station improvements, including platform extensions, pedestrian overpasses, bus turnaround facilities – and be completed within three to four years, she said.
Increasing bus lanes to connect the isthmus to downtown would serve the city over the next decade, when light rail, rapid buses or other solutions could be considered, Beck said.
“With the City Rail Link coming into service in 2025 and the full Eastern Busway shortly thereafter, these projects will lead to a massive improvement in the quality of Auckland’s public transport before the end of the decade,” said she declared.
If we are serious about getting people out of their cars to reduce emissions and traffic congestion, it is essential that we make public transport viable across the region. What I love about the policy is that it seeks to achieve this goal and does so by taking existing projects that have been in Auckland Transport’s plans for years and simply moving them forward.
As for light rail, yes, we’ll need it eventually, but as regular readers know, we’re not big fans of the current plan and delaying it might mean there’s a better opportunity for it to come back to a more sensible design. For the Isthmus, improving bus lanes, as well as perhaps options like transit buses, might suffice for a few years while other rapid transit projects take priority. However, the focus should be on improving the connections between Mangere and the isthmus/town.
What is missing
This isn’t a complete list, but here are some quick thoughts on what’s missing from the policy outlined above that we’d like to see.
- Walk and bike
The most notable absence, I think, is any discussion of cycling. It may be yet to come, but I think it is essential that any serious candidate understands what they will do to improve walking and cycling in the area. Even something as simple as making sure Auckland Transport is actually delivering on its current plans would be welcome.
- Other rapid transit lines
Given Beck’s apparent focus on getting rapid transit to more places in the area, it would be helpful to include consideration of options for at least interim solutions for d ‘other parts of the planned rapid transit network, such as the proposed upper part of the cross roads of the port and the lower isthmus.
As with the comment on cycling, it is unclear if the policy released so far is only part of a larger overall policy. It would be nice to clarify that. It would also be good to focus on improving road safety.
Beck has said in the past that she is in favor of planting more trees and what better way to do that and improve the existing urban environment than by planting thousands of street trees.
At least when it comes to public transport, Viv Beck has set a solid milestone in transport policy issues. It will be interesting to see what the other candidates produce, and we shouldn’t have to wait too long with Labor and Green-backed candidate, and current Councillor, Efeso Collins announcing his ‘Vision for a better connected city‘ tonight.