How our public transit system affects the greater development of our Nation
We as a country need more effective public transportation so that TOD (Transit Orientated Development) can occur. The rippling impacts of having an extensive and effective public transit system are plentiful and reach further than the construction and development industry. So lets’ take a deeper look and why our public transit is remarkably important to us as a Nation and explore what it could look like in the future.
Why is public transport important?
- Internationally high liveability is associated with places that are easily accessible via public transit. With less space required for endless parking lots and multi-lane roads, there is more space available for businesses, green space, and community events.
- Build it and they will come! By implementing effective public transit it promotes the future development of the wider area. Individuals are more likely to open storefronts, build houses, and create new experiences to go back into the local economy.
- Public transportation supports health and well-being. Generally, people prefer to live on a ‘quiet’ road with fewer cars zooming around on the road, especially if they have pets or young children. Additionally, studies have shown that people who catch public transport on a regular basis tend to be more active individuals, in good physical shape.
- Public transport helps build independence and confidence in our older and younger generations. By having effective, safe, and accessible public transport systems in place it means that individuals that are outside of the typical driving age can still take charge of their own lives. Empowering them to visit friends, run errands, and be involved in their communities without the assistance of a vehicle owner.
The impact of individual cars
In New Zealand, an overwhelming amount of our population owns and utilises cars as their main (and often sole) form of transit. Our towns and cities are dominated by privately owned cars. In 2018 over 90% of households owned at least one car. With most households owning two or three. Public transport represents less than five percent of the trips taken. Even for short trips, 2km or less, the majority of individuals will opt to use their car instead of engaging in other, more health-conscious methods such as walking or cycling. On average most New Zealanders walk for less than one hour a week. Our reliance on our cars has become problematic and takes away opportunities for Kiwi’s to be active and exercise.
Transport Then, Now and Later
By and large public transport isn’t vastly different from how it was thirty years ago. We now have smarter technologies such as electronic ticketing, real-time service updates via GPS, on-board wifi in many cases, and quicker vehicles. But are methods are generally the same.
Internationally, there is a shift that has been occurring over the last ten or so years. In 2009 Uber changed the way we get from A to B by introducing a ride-sharing service. Since then this mode of transport has boomed, with Uber coming to New Zealand in 2014 and more companies adapting to this ride-sharing approach. Ride-sharing and vehicle-sharing continue to rise along with shared bikes and scooters rapidly popping up on our footpaths.
In a projected study conducted by the Ministry of Transport in 2018, a group of 50 transport stakeholders were interviewed to gather an understanding of how our public transportation may evolve by 2045. It was determined that there were 2 major factors that would cause implications for what the future of NZ public transit looks like. These are; full or partial autonomation of public transit vehicles and the density of our populated areas. From this, these officials established 4 different potential scenarios for what public transit could look like by 2045. Which you can read extensively about here.
The main takeaway from this working paper is that public transport will be important to the development of our Nation in any scenario. Public transit needs to be at the core of the shared mobility future we build towards. Otherwise, we will likely risk facing higher levels of motorised traffic and elevated congestion in our cities.
The government is in support of developing our public transport systems for the following reasons:
- To ensure inclusive access for those who do not drive. Whether their reasons be due to age, health conditions, affordability, or personal choice.
- To reduce the environmental harms caused by individual motorised transport methods.
- To manage city and road congestion.
- To improve urban form and liveability
- To promote healthier lifestyle choices and overall wellbeing.
In summation the future of New Zealand’s public transport system will be shaped and channeled over time by a variety of factors; including technology, social preferences, investments, the development of business models, environmental impacts, and as always, politics. Of course, the full impact of COVID-19 is not yet known and is a developing issue that will have ripple effects, felt for years to come. To start we need to assess what we want our future to look like and how we plan to journey there.