Auckland, 6 June 2020

Tena koutou katoa,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide views on the Emergency Budget.

The emergency is real.

The emergency is finding a “new normal” that harnesses the knowledge we gained during the crisis, when we paused and were able to better see our world (1–3). The recovery must be equitable, resilient and health-promoting (1–3).

The emergency is transforming Auckland from a “peak-hour traffic machine” (4) into a true liveable metropolis, providing equity of access and healthy environments (5–9).

The emergency is addressing Auckland’s catastrophic road safety record: second highest pedestrian fatality rate per distance travelled, when compared with 29 other cities (10).

The emergency is addressing Auckland’s low levels of walking: about 450m and six minutes per day (11), indicating a sedentary lifestyle related to poor health, disability and premature death (12).

The emergency is addressing the fact that in Auckland, walking is often perceived as complicated or stressful (13,14), deterrents including environments that people perceive as unpleasant (e.g. car-dominated environments) (4,15) or dangerous (15–18).

The emergency is addressing the acute barriers to access faced by disabled people (19), impacting all aspects of their lives, be it education, work, health or participation in their communities.

The emergency is still absolute regarding the action that must be taken in the light of the sixth mass extinction threatening human existence as such (20).

It’s in the light of these emergencies that I would like to submit my feedback. Auckland needs a step change, and not a watered-down business-as-usual scenario.

The emergency budget comes with a series of (non) actions, in the field of transport, for instance. New projects are basically stalled, and improvements for walking, public transport and cycling are cancelled or delayed, just when we need them most. We need not only to realise those planned projects, but we need a complete reset to create the appealing, liveable, accessible and healthy city we aim for (21).

This is a pivotal moment, a historic one demanding a public discussion, and not merely the addition of dollars and cents. During the recent lockdown, many Kiwis realised that busy traffic through their neighbourhoods had impacted on their stress levels and on their sleep, making them “hold super tight” to their children for them not to be injured or killed (22,23). They also rediscovered those “small things” that make neighbourhoods more liveable and inclusive – being able to cross the street without being rushed, seeing friendly human presence, hearing bird song again (22,23). Are we meaning to tell them to forget about that, while traffic-as-usual takes ownership of their streets again? And are we really willing to accept deaths and serious injuries due to road crashes, knowing that they could have been prevented through easy to implement speed reductions?

This is also an enormous opportunity. There is the opportunity to step towards that appealing, liveable, accessible and healthy city we aim for (21), but not only that. Analysing the US 2009 Recovery Act, Smart Growth America recommends investing in public transport as opposed to individual motorised traffic, because investments in public transport create more jobs, on top of providing a system that allows access to the broader population (24). There is also the opportunity to leverage people’s willingness to contribute to their communities – experiences show that a minimal investment can result in important effects for local residents, strengthening communities and resulting in local projects that will change things in the next crisis (or just in everyday lives) (25). Regarding our streets, cities around the world show the potential for taming traffic and providing space through cheap and quickly implemented measures (2,26–32) (for which NZTA has even allocated funds, now). Roads can be closed to through traffic with a big rock placed mid-block, allowing pedestrians and cyclists through. This is a win-win situation, because targeting places where people roam by lowering traffic speeds and reallocating space towards people will help improve attractiveness and equity of access, reduce harm and support local businesses (33). Those measures would be a step change and would mean investments and operation costs that are modest, in comparison to those relative to roading projects. Two considerations should be paramount: firstly, addressing the risks (for instance regarding road safety) and not reacting to past events, that can be due to plenty of external factors. Second, engaging with all, and not (as it often happens) with those who have the most available time and resources.

The step change we need doesn’t rely so much on funding, but rather on initiative and courage, which we have in abundance and need to direct wisely. Therefore, I would urge the Council to engage with the local communities and stakeholders such as Auckland Transport to (1) quickly define local priorities in terms of road safety, access, health, participation and well-being; (2) identify the potentials for action (e.g. road space that can be re-allocated); (3) draft interventions that can be easily implemented and trialled; and (4) put in place a proactive implementation, monitoring and review programme.

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide feedback and your consideration of the present submission.

Tamara Bozovic

MSc Transport planner, PhD candidate with Auckland University of Technology


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