Will Roading Be the Big Election Issue?

With a rapidly growing population and an infrastructure that has not kept up, the humble motor vehicle is still the transport mode of choice for most people. No matter how much the government tries to tell us otherwise, most of us will not bike to work. It is simply not practical, unless you are one of those fortunate people who never takes anything to work with you and never has to do anything, such as pick up groceries, or the kids, on the way home. For everyone else, the car is the only method of transport that works.

So the car is here to stay, whether or not the government, and city councils, want to accept it. Most don’t; certainly in Wellington, the council is doing everything possible to keep cars out of the central city, but all it is doing is killing off the lucrative retail and hospitality sectors, and the consequences of this will come home to roost sooner or later.

Heather du Plessis-Allan thinks the time is now.

I almost bought a house in Pukekohe the other day.
It’s a fair way out of town, for someone who works in the city. But the drive is worth it, I told myself.

Traffic. That was, in the end, the thing that made me fall out of love with the idea of living in Pukekohe again.

It’s 35 minutes door to door on a good day.

But how much longer will we have good days? I’ve been driving from Pukekohe to the city for 20 years and it’s noticeable how much worse the traffic has got in that time. Fifteen years ago you’d get to Papakura before striking the red tail lights. Now, you can barely get off the Drury onramp.
So how much longer before rush hour is an all-day problem?

My recent experience driving through Auckland on a Friday afternoon suggests that we are already there. 2.30 in the afternoon and all lanes were completely choked. It was a horrible drive and when we got to our destination, all we were told was – “It’s Friday”. Obviously this was quite normal.

Sometimes, in our debates about the merits of public transport over new roads, over whether we should or shouldn’t upgrade 12 highways, we forget there are New Zealanders just trying to get into town for work. And some of them can only afford to live in Pukekohe. They don’t have the luxury of binning that idea and staying put in Ponsonby.
It’s very easy for electric bikers who cycle in from Grey Lynn to praise spending $6 billion on trams when there is no such thing as a daily traffic jam for them.

It’s not just because traffic is steadily increasing. It’s not just because vehicle kilometres traveled is set to climb from around 46 billion to 53 billion in less than a decade.
It’s also because of safety. Of the road upgrades put on ice, the AA reckons three are some the highest-risk highways in the country.

In other words, Julie-Anne Genter will struggle to get to her zero road toll if she doesn’t do something about the roads, and she won’t, because she is ideologically opposed to them.

Refusing to build these roads is an election loser. It might not lose the entire country, but it can lose electorates for sure. Labour’s dying to steal Hutt South from National’s Chris Bishop. Good luck to them given how angry Hutt South voters are about the Melling Interchange being put on ice.

2028 for Melling, but it is not the only roading development put on hold. It appears the Hutt City Council is prepared to lend the government money to kickstart the Melling development. I hope this shames the government into doing something sooner, but I have my doubts.

Then there is Northland. It doesn’t matter how much money Shane Jones throws at economic development in the region. If the roads are not upgraded, no one will be able to get their products out of the area, so it will remain a backwater.

Then there is just the simple fact that, wherever you live, it is much harder travelling by road these days. Traffic everywhere is congested, but trying to force people out of their cars and onto buses that don’t turn up or trains that take twice as long as driving is not the answer. People are time-poor these days, and the car is usually the best mode of transport from a time perspective.

In the end, the Government will probably be forced to resurrect some of these roads. If only to win or retain key electorates.
The pity is waiting until the election means yet another delay for people already trapped in traffic.

A Newspaper.

Even if this government does get the message at the next election, it will now be years before the roading projects they cancelled will see the light of day. Get used to sitting in traffic, because the government may think it will drive people out of their cars, but it won’t. We are all paying extra fuel taxes for absolutely nothing, and it isn’t good enough. The best way to reduce emissions from traffic is to have good roads. Everyone knows that except for this government.