I welcome the proposal by Auckland Transport to use light rail to relieve congested arterial links between the isthmus and the City Centre.
The City Rail Link will more than double the capacity of trains into the City Centre and will be good for South and West Auckland, but would not help suburban areas such as Mt Roskill, Sandringham, Epsom and Royal Oak, which are not served by railway lines.
Bus passenger numbers are almost at capacity on roads such as Dominion Road, Sandringham Road, Mt Eden Road and Manukau Road and cannot be increased much.
Light rail can increase three-fold passenger numbers carried per hour compared to buses, and travels at higher speeds with significantly less pollution.
With Auckland’s population estimated to grow by a quarter of a million in the next ten years alone, our roads will become gridlocked unless there are radical changes such as developing light rail.
Across the road from my electorate office, for example, the Three Kings quarry site is to be developed and 1500 new homes built. That means, on a small site, 3000 more people and around 2000 cars will add pressure to our roads.
Intensification of population in Auckland is inevitable but unless it is preceded by new infrastructure, our quality of life will suffer.
Decades ago, Mayor Dove Myer Robinson called for a light rail system.
Now the transport experts are telling us that there is no viable alternative to light rail for relieving congestion in parts of the city.
What we need are proper costings for light rail and clear options for funding it. It cannot just be an extra burden on ratepayers alone.
The huge irony is that the light rail would run on the routes followed by the old trams, which were scrapped in 1956.
As a comparison with Melbourne (which kept its trams) shows, that was a foolish and shortsighted decision, for which we are now paying.
The vision of Auckland becoming the world’s most liveable city will not be achieved without a radically improved public transport system.
That requires increasing investment in transport infrastructure, not cutting back.
Phil Goff has been a Labour Party Member of Parliament since 1981, elected from the Mt Roskill Constituency, except in 1996 from New Lynn. He has held several ministerial positions in Labour-led Governments and later as Leader of the Opposition. He is now the Spokesperson of Labour for Auckland Issues, Defence, Disarmament, Veterans’ Affairs and Ethnic Affairs.