The Waterview Tunnel has been an exciting development in Auckland’s transport network. In fact, it is deemed the most significant change since the Harbour Bridge. It is expected to ease traffic flow although it is by no means going to fix the high density traffic problems for Auckland during peak times.
Open days for the tunnel were quickly booked out, but we managed to get some tickets and explore the new tunnel. Surprisingly packed for a Monday morning, the surrounding roads were a mess of double parked and pavement sprawling cars.
The efforts of Alice, the big boring machine and the 11,500 strong team who built the tunnel have been met with great public interest and rightly so.
The tunnel lead up is surprisingly aesthetic, with contemporary coloured walls and a lovely Māori inspired carving. Inside is spacious and futuristic with plenty of exits, deluge zones and even a loud speaker system. Despite being 40m below ground at some points, it feels very safe and well thought out. It will be great to see New Zealand’s longest tunnel up and running in the very near future.
Maintaining and upgrading road networks in an ever growing city is an integral part of keeping things moving. However, it does not fix the congestion problems and at what point does more roads discourage public transport commuting?
The tunnel does address this somewhat, with a shared path for cyclists and e-bikers to ride to work safely, but this won’t affect the majority of commuters.
Alongside these road upgrades we need to see concurrent public transport increases, too.
Car pooling efforts rarely succeed as few people really want strangers in their car and if you don’t get on well, that’s an awkward, very slow drive to have. But one car, one person commuting is very inefficient and the congestion shows it.
Public transport is seen as inconvenient, slow and uncomfortable and the cost effectiveness of bus fare compared to fuel and parking clearly does not outweigh these factors for most people.
Buses are not perfect but they can be convenient. Express buses at peak hours are exactly what we need more of – they are often far quicker than driving and more convenient for many commuters by only stopping at main stops. More buses, more frequently, with more stops alongside these road upgrades will reduce traffic jams far more and that requires a massive image shift to keep up with this ever expanding city.