How will we get there?
Traffic congestion in and around Greater Christchurch continues to grow, threatening the environment, and using more resources at an increasing cost. The Greater Christchurch area has the highest rate of car ownership in New Zealand and the number of trucks and commercial vehicles on the road is also increasing.
As the population grows, our towns expand and more people live further away from their places of work, shops and schools, more time is being spent in cars driving. If traffic volumes reach the projected 40-50% increase by 2021, and 320% increase by 2041 how will this impact on traffic congestion? The dramatic recent rise in bus patronage is helping but will it be enough, or do we need more improvements in public transport?
The number of people cycling to work is unchanged from year to year, while the number of school and tertiary students cycling continues to decline. Will this mean it takes longer to get around Greater Christchurch, at greater cost and producing more pollution?
Two choices impact upon our transport options - where we live and how we choose to get from one place to another. If we choose to live close to work, shops, schools then we will have more choices for getting to these locations. If we choose to live further away from services then our choices become more limited and our use of cars will increase. What transport choices do we want for our future?
How will we pay for transport and address the pollution it generates?
The cost of transport is rising for us as a community and as individual car owners. Are we prepared, as car owners, to pay more to keep our cars on the road and, as a community, pay more to build and maintain the roads?
The cost of crashes is also on the rise and contributing to the increasing cost of healthcare, as traffic accident patients require lengthy hospital stays, medicines and help to get well.
Transport poses real threats to our environment, with carbon dioxide emissions having increased by 43% in the last 10 years despite improvements in engine technology and runoff from roads making its way into our streams, lakes and estuaries.
How can we protect transport connections?
Key transport routes in and out of Christchurch, such as across the Waimakariri River to the north and along Main South Road and Blenheim Road to the southwest are already congested.
This is bad news not just for residents of, for example, Kaiapoi and Rolleston who work in the city, but it also delays and increases costs for businesses such as farmers and manufacturers trying to get goods to economically important destinations such as Christchurch International Airport, the Christchurch Saleyards and the Port of Lyttelton. Can we afford to build more roads if they won't solve traffic congestion?
If we choose to continue using our cars to get around and don't plan or build our communities to provide for other transport options, the key transport routes will become even more congested. What options are there for freight getting in and around Greater Christchurch? Do we improve the rail system for getting freight in and out or for getting passengers to and from areas such as Rangiora and Rolleston? Are these options affordable in the long-term and realistic for our transport needs?
We're driving our cars more and more:
While the population is expected to grow by 14% by 2021, traffic growth is expected to grow by 40-50% over the same period. Most of this additional traffic will be on arterial roads, adding to the 24km of road already congested. By 2021 over 78km of roads will be congested. We won't be going anywhere in a hurry unless we change current trends.
We love our cars:
Greater Christchurch has the highest rate of car ownership in New Zealand and we love driving. In the 2001 Census, 77% of us said we travelled to work in cars, 4% were passengers in cars with only 4% travelling by bus, 7% by cycle and 5% walking.
We're crashing our cars:
Greater Christchurch has a high crash rate, with 3 out of every 1000 residents – that's 1,200 people – involved in a crash (often serious) each year. The cost of treating the injured, repairing the vehicles and fixing up the roads and property damaged costs us $200 million each year – what a waste!