Issue #929

LWB Issue 929

All aboard

by Paul Taylor

‘5.50pm bus - Frankton to Arrowtown - rush hour traffic - but here I sit in glorious isolation.’

That was a tweet on the Friday of Queenstown Marathon weekend from our Otago Regional Councillor, committed alternative transport advocate, and general good human Alexa Forbes. It was accompanied by a picture of queuing traffic, taken from aboard an empty bus. I was tempted to tweet back ‘you’re taking up the space of two utes with that bus, all to yourself’, but feared the joke might be lost in translation.

It certainly seems as a population we’ve not reached the point yet where we’ll collectively tackle congestion by enough of us regularly taking the bus or biking, rather than driving. We love our cars. The convenience, comfort and, perhaps as much as anything else, the glorious isolation.

But marathon weekend is probably a good indicator of how busy Queenstown will be in a few years, with the atrocious traffic to match. According to the council’s Draft Parking Strategy, released on Friday, the district is now home to more than 50,000 residents and hosts two million visitors each year. The average day population is 66,000 (16k visitors) and peak day is 102k (52k visitors). By 2050, there will be 84,000 residents. The average day pop. will be 123k and peak day 202k.

Obviously, then, constrained as our road system is, both through the landscape, the design and the funding, unless someone events flying cars, we’re going to have to at least partially embrace this ‘modal shift’. That’s an horrific phrase, I know, and I’m sorry to subject you to it. It’s so council-y, so dull it immediately switches your brain off. If you are still reading, it basically means using other forms of transport; walking, biking, bus, ferry, etc. rather than cars.

It’s going to be a painful transition. Nearly three quarters of Queenstown households have access to two or more vehicles! And 28% have three or more. The draft parking strategy is a first stab at influencing how we get around. Look, it’s a 21-page document, and you should go and read it and make a submission (before 28 January,, but I’m sure it’s not a spoiler to say there’s not much in there about cheaper parking or more on-street parking.

There are loads of legitimate issues with forced modal shift. Tradies with tools, young families, people making multiple stops, commuters coming from further afield; they all need their vehicles more than most, not to mention the winter weather, crap timetables, etc. But that doesn’t mean we should reject it out of hand, just because we don’t like the idea. As an (early) NY resolution, I’m going to start biking and taking the bus as much as I can, free up some space on the roads. Afterall, one full bus transports the same number of people as about 30 or so utes.

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