The case for two lanes
A suggestion by Auckland Transport that the proposed Matakana link road be reduced from four to two lanes to cut costs triggered alarm bells from Mahurangi community leaders last month. But Warkworth-based transport planner Bevan Woodward argues two lanes will be sufficient …
The discussion in Mahurangi Matters about the Matakana link road (MM August 1), which will connect Matakana Road with SH1, got me thinking about the bigger picture. What do we want for our region and is there an alternative to building more and bigger roads to deal with greater volumes of traffic? Recent research has highlighted that we can’t build our way out of congestion because more roading simply attracts more traffic. Traffic engineers call it induced demand. If you make it easier for more people to drive, then more people will drive.
So we need to think carefully about how we develop our roading network. Rather than putting the vast majority of our funding into providing roads for more traffic, how about congestion-free, no carbon, low-cost, healthy transport choices available to everyone of all ages? This seemingly radical idea can be implemented cost-effectively and is happening all across the world. It’s simply about making walking and cycling safe again, providing connections with high-quality public transport, and enabling e-bikes and e-scooters to flourish.
On our doorstep, we have the example of the very successful Northern Busway. It provides a convenient high-quality service into Auckland City that allows passengers to spend their time reading or relaxing, and when they arrive there’s no car parking hassle. People who choose to drive into the CBD benefit from the Northern Busway because there is less traffic for them. So it’s a win-win approach. The good news is that Auckland Transport is starting a bus service in late September that will connect our region to the Northern Busway service. Next, we need shared paths for walking and cycling between Warkworth, Matakana and Snells Beach. On an e-bike, the commute between any of these towns becomes an enjoyable, gentle exercise of 20 minutes or so. Queenstown’s walking and cycling network is going from strength to strength. Tourists are drawn to areas that offer healthy active transport options and what better way to experience the delights of our region?
So, when we consider whether the Matakana link road should be two lanes or four, I’m thinking that we must not think of this project in isolation but in the context of a balanced network that provides travel choice to deliver the win-win for all users. Hence, I’m recommending that two lanes is sufficient for Matakana link road and the $30 million of savings is used to construct the region’s walking and cycling pathways between Snells Beach, Warkworth, Puhoi, Matakana and beyond. This is what it means to support a plan of balanced investment where people can choose to walk or cycle, use public transport or take the car. It’s the lower-cost win-win approach that is proving its success around the world. And most importantly, it will help keep our region special, popular and liveable.
Bevan Woodward is the director of the SkyPath Trust which is developing a walking and cycleway across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Warkworth-based transport planner