Chch commuters feel the pain

SAM SACHDEVA AND DAVID WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2010
commute

Commuter Patterns

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Christchurch commuters are unhappy with increasing traffic, but have no interest in public transport, a new survey shows.

Residents in 23 cities around the world were asked about their commuting habits, including 937 people in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The average, 22-minute Christchurch commute is one of the shortest trips of any international city, the IBM Commuter Pain Survey shows.

Most Christchurch motorists (76 per cent) travel alone, compared with 74 per cent in Auckland, and 50 per cent in Wellington.

The city's motorists were more concerned with increasing traffic than those in Wellington and Auckland, with 49 per cent saying traffic had got worse in the past three years.

However, Christchurch residents had the least interest in public transport of the three New Zealand cities, with only 27 per cent interested in improved public transport systems, compared with 51 per cent of Auckland drivers.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was not surprised by the survey results.

"The private car is king in the city," he said.

Parker said the September 4 earthquake and recent problems with the city's buses had deterred people from using public transport, while a "hiatus" in rising energy costs had kept driving costs down.

Parker believed interest in public transport would rise as petrol prices and traffic congestion increased.

Light rail or tram-trains would provide alternatives to buses and could help "convert" commuters, Parker said.

"In order for public transport to work, it has to generate its own appeal and stand as an attractive alternative ... and looking at the modes which we use is one way of doing that."

Rail transport would help connect outlying areas with the central city and "revitalise" the city in a way that buses did not, he said. Parker planned to discuss the matter with councillors next year.

SURVEY

Beijing and Mexico City residents face the most stressful commute, with a "commuter pain" rating of 99/100, while Stockholm workers have the most relaxing journey, with a rating of 15.

Christchurch is 17th equal with a rating of 23, less stressful than Auckland (rating 28), but more stressful than Wellington (rating 17).

76 per cent of Christchurch commuters drive to work alone, while 7 per cent cycle, 5 per cent car pool, 4 per cent walk, and 4 per cent use the bus.

The average Christchurch commute is 22 minutes.

Call to fund 'active' travel

The Government needs to encourage walking and cycling to fight health problems, Canterbury transport leaders say.

The regional transport committee, which includes the mayors of the Ashburton, Waimakariri, Waimate and Hurunui districts, wants Transport Minister Steven Joyce to spend more on "active" transport.

A draft letter, signed by Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioner Rex Williams, said a "significant barrier" to walking and cycling was the Government's policy statement on land transport.

The policy statement would be reviewed next year.

"The committee strongly believes that increased levels of funding in active transport would, at relatively low cost, deliver significant improvements to public health, reducing health costs to government and the community and improving workforce productivity."

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ECan commissioner Tom Lambie said a safer environment for cyclists would encourage more people not to use cars.

In the latest government policy statement, which sets out transport funding for the next three years: $4.59 billion will be spent on state highways; $770 million on public transport services and infrastructure; and $55m on walking and cycling facilities.

Canterbury councils had sought $18.5m over the next 10 years for walking and cycling facilities, but got $2.8m.

Joyce said yesterday the Government supported active modes of transport and agreed they could bring health benefits.

Active transport would be considered alongside other transport priority areas for the next policy statement, Joyce said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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