Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hutt Valley network advocates free transit

Free and frequent public transport
- it makes climate sense and serves the people

World oil resources are growing increasingly scarce. The reserves that remain are getting harder and riskier to retrieve, leading to disasters like the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico – a disaster which could be repeated off the North Island's East Coast if similar deep-water drilling goes ahead there.
Meanwhile, transport accounts for 36 percent of Greater Wellington's climate-changing carbon emissions.

VAN believes that free and frequent public transport is needed if we're going to make efficient use of these limited and increasingly expensive resources, decrease our carbon emissions and reduce congestion on our roads – benefiting everyone.

A third of Hutt City residents commute outside the Hutt for work, so transport is a big issue in our city.
Many residents are all-too-familiar with sitting gridlocked in traffic on the Esplanade during rush hour, wishing there was a quicker way to get out and around the city. Investing in free and frequent public transport would make buses and trains an attractive option, taking cars off the road. Yet on October 1, instead of decreasing fares, public transport operators will raise fares once again – partly due to pressure from central government. There is no incentive to use public transport if it costs just as much to drive.

VAN believes that Hutt City Council should support resistance against fare rises imposed by central government.

Earlier this year, our council sat silently as other city and regional councils made submissions against transport minister Steven Joyce’s plans to make public transport users pay more for services. He singled out Hutt Valley train users as a group who should pay more. The submissions had some effect in watering down this policy.

VAN will stand up to central government against fare increases for Hutt Valley residents. VAN also believes that public transport should be more frequent and reliable. We will advocate for increases in rail services, because trains run largely on renewable energy, and more frequent feeder buses to train stations.
We would advocate for bus lanes which would keep buses running to schedule, and cycleways that would increase safety and promote this emission-free mode of transport. Another issue with public transport currently is that bus companies are privately owned, but get around half of their income from public funds. It makes sense for bus services to be publicly run, because without the profit motive the focus can be on providing quality public transport.

Councils know that free public transport decreases traffic congestion. Many cities overseas have already introduced it. New Zealand cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Invercargill run some free public transport services. Trains will be free in Wellington on Rugby World Cup quarter final day. Wellington Regional Councillor Paul Bruce has called for free inner-city buses in Wellington on weekends.
But at the moment, the council and central government's main focus is on building expensive new roads.
Hutt City Council supports spending over a billion dollars on a single new motorway through Transmission Gully. They also want a $76 million Cross Valley Link road and a Grenada-Petone link worth $250 million more, which will destroy the Korokoro Reserve in Belmont Regional Park. Building more roads will encourage residents into cars, burning more fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions. In the long term, this will not reduce congestion.

Recent official analysis has concluded that the Cross Valley Link has a low cost benefit ratio, meaning the government is unlikely to fund it. Hutt City residents will be left to bear the cost. So far $18 million has been set aside by the council for the Cross Valley Link. VAN will push to divert a small portion of the massive roading budget for the region towards public transport, and make it frequent and free.

If elected, we will:

• Advocate for public transport over more road-building in all public forums
• Scrap plans to waste millions of ratepayer dollars on a new Cross Valley Link
• Press the Greater Wellington Regional Council to increase the frequency of rail services on the Hutt Valley line
• Advocate for more bus and cycle lanes in the Hutt Valley
• Support other authorities and campaigners in the region to lobby the government for more money for public transport
• Oppose any government moves to privatise Tranz Metro or the rail network
• Investigate plans for local councils to directly run bus services, and then move to reduce fares towards zero.

From VAN - Valley Action Network website: www.huttvan.org.nz

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