Now is the time for a sustainable transport future

Posted on March 8, 2011 by

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Looking down High Street while cyclists cross the intersection of Colombo and Hereford Streets,  CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0002 via Chch City Libraries

Time to go back to the future? The streets of 1910 Christchurch offer clues for the streets of 2011 Christchurch

Although I usually refrain from using increasing petrol prices as a solid reason for supporting investment in public transport (people assume it is your strongest, even only, argument), substantial increases, particularly at times like these, can’t really be ignored.

It’s not just the petrol price increases but everything else that is happening right now that pushes home the need for a more sustainable transport plan than what we currently have. Without a doubt, the cost of living has increased for many New Zealander’s in the last year or so and the increase in GST to pay for tax cuts certainly didn’t help, and was poorly timed (I usually try to stay politically neutral but I think it’s something we are really paying for now).

In Christchurch, the earthquake has really brought all this home. Not only has the earthquake added another financial headache (not just for the city but for the whole country really) but it has also shown, in my opinion, the folly of a car-centric city. Traffic is a nightmare, and as we rebuild the city we are going to have to think about whether we want to have a city built around the car (again) or a city built around more sustainable transport modes, where quality public transport moves masses of people efficiently between key points,where it is easy to cycle and walk and where our first thought is a city for people, not for cars. Even before we trot out the same old arguments, you have to ask yourself, with the increasing costs of living that we are experiencing and the indications that petrol prices will only get worse, surely it is a no brainer to go with the later option with the unique opportunity we now have.

Visiting oil economist Phil Verleger has warned that prices could top $2.50 a litre within weeks if action is not taken to intervene in the oil markets. – The Press

Getting back to the petrol price issue, even the AA seems to be admitting that high petrol prices are here to stay. This, of course, doesn’t mean that cars are redundant but rather that if we develop a sustainable transport package focusing on active and public transport modes, we will become a truly world leading and sustainable city, even more so as the vehicle fleet itself becomes more efficient. Not only is this the prime opportunity to do this, it would also go a long way toward aiding the economic and social recovery of Christchurch.

Petrol prices are almost at the record high levels we saw back in 2008. It’s another reminder (but certainly no the only one!) that we must start to think more carefully about how we develop our transport infrastructure. With the current circumstances, that time to start is now.

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