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Published: 2004-08-04 00:00:00

Hamilton needs to find an urgent solution to road congestion as it is “choking to death” in the same way Auckland is, this week’s Regional Passenger Transport Subcommittee heard.

Commenting on a survey of the feasibility of Park and Ride in Hamilton, Hamilton City Council representative Grant Thomas said the city needed to think outside the square or be forced to spend $30-40 million on more bridges.

“I think we all have to have a mind change. We can’t continue as we are and if we have to take draconian measures like forcing people to park their cars on the outskirts of the city and get in on buses or light rail, then we have to do it.”

He said congestion on the roads was accelerating at such a speed that Hamilton needed to look beyond the square. Auckland City had a similar debate about congestion and nothing was done, he said.

Environment Waikato recently commissioned a study to investigate the travel characteristics and patterns revealed in the 2001 census. A total of 50,217 people gave Hamilton urban area as their workplace, with 78 percent resident in the city and 22 percent living outside the area.

The survey showed that there appeared to be little scope to introduce an attractive park and ride scheme as a fundamental change was required in journey to work habits and in the ability of the public bus system to cater for this travel.

Non-CBD workers were concentrated on the western areas of the city in Te Rapa, Frankton and hospital areas. Of those who travelled to work, 71 percent drove a private or business vehicle to work. Seven percent walked or worked at home, and 5 percent cycled or were passengers in cars.

A significant number of commuters travel from outside Hamilton – 25 percent of the total drivers. Most come from SH1 from north and south.

The number using public transport dropped from 5.5 percent in 1986 to 1.8 percent in 2001. The number cycling to work declined sharply from 10 percent in 1986 to less than five percent in 2001. The number of people working from home doubled between 1991 and 2001.

In contrast to many New Zealand cities, public transport patronage was dominated by travel to and from tertiary education facilities so that the initial focus of investigations into park and ride feasibility would be better placed on education trips than purely on work travel.

City representative John Gower said it was important to look at ideas that might not be successful now, but which might be in five years’ time.

Chairman Neil Clark said he was enthusiastic about the study being done.

“We would be hugely embarrassed if we don’t learn from the experience of Auckland. We should be looking 20-30 years ahead. In some ways it’s already too late and we need to give this urgency.
“There is no excuse if we don’t get on with it and I would hate to be accused of ignoring our responsibilities.”