The draft Hamilton Alternatives to Roading Study (HARTS) has made a number of key recommendations for reducing congestion and improving access and mobility around the city.
The HARTS study, which has been jointly funded by Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council, Land Transport NZ, and Transit New Zealand, aims to curb congestion over the next 20 years.
Halving traffic growth would involve undertaking approximately 30% of all trips by modes other than private vehicle, compared with the 20% currently.
The HARTS draft recommendations were presented to senior transport planners and local body politicians in a briefing today. The recommendations include significant bus improvements, enhanced walking and cycling facilities, and travel demand management solutions, along with issues to be reconsidered at a future time.
- The best route to improve efficiency and reduce congestion is the Chartwell Express.
- The next priority routes are the Orbiter, Glenview, University and Ruakura.
- The other routes possibly highlighted for improvements include links to Te Rapa and Rotokauri.
Environment Waikato’s chair, Jenni Vernon comments: “I look forward to seeing the positive difference that the Chartwell Express makes towards improving bus transport in the city. Environment Waikato and Hamilton City Council have just announced plans to launch this service (subject to support funding from Land Transport New Zealand) from early next year.
“The Orbiter will transform Hamilton’s bus network. Buses will travel in both directions around the city in a circular route to make it easier for people to get across the city, rather than always having to come into the central city to get transfers to other suburbs.”
Travel Demand Management
? The most efficient way to reduce congestion in the city involves better travel planning. This travel planning work, which has no capital cost, could involve:
- Extending the use of “walking school buses” – where parents walk their children to school in an organized group.
- Encouraging businesses to promote car-pooling
- Fostering the concept of flexi working hours for business
- Promoting bus travel amongst employees
- Encouraging people to cycle to work
- Walking and cycling are also highly cost-efficient methods of encouraging people to use alternatives to roading, and thereby reduce congestion.
- Bus priority measures, such as bus-only lanes and traffic light pre-emption are currently being investigated as part of Transit’s work at Avalon Drive, and by Hamilton City Council as an integral part of the CBD master plan, and ACCESS Hamilton.
Hamilton City Council’s Mayor, Michael Redman, comments: “Hamilton City Council is responsible for the performance of all the city’s transport networks - it faces huge pressure to improve those networks as a result of the growing traffic congestion our city is experiencing. It is vital that we take speedy action to address these issues.
“We have already decided to take action on major bus and other transport initiatives over the next few months, and we are pleased that Environment Waikato is strongly supporting these improvements.”
Less Cost-Effective Measures
- The idea of simply increasing the frequency of buses across the whole City is found to be less attractive.
- In addition, the HARTS study concludes that providing a ferry on the Waikato River is not viable economically under the present funding regime.
If Government policy around funding for the rail networks improves significantly, then
rail links to local towns such as Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Ngaruawahia and Huntly could be investigated further.
The report suggests that the high priority recommendations such as improving travel planning, enhancing walking and cycling infrastructure, and developing bus routes such as the Chartwell Express, the Orbiter, and some improved services to Glenview, University and Ruakura could be undertaken with a funding contribution from Land Transport New Zealand.
However improving transport (such as bus priority measures and/or the better bus routes) will all require substantial additional funding.
Jenni Vernon says that the funding implications of these initiatives will need to be carefully assessed before any action is taken.
“We need to talk to the public to ensure that people - not only want new services – but are willing to pay for them. To date, most research has been on the wish list of what people see could improve public transport in the city. But now the next step must involve widespread public consultation on what they are willing to pay for these new services.
“This will be considered as part of our long-term council community consultation process.”
In conclusion, Mayor Redman says:
“Residents of Hamilton and surrounding areas will measure us on how effectively and speedily we have been in sorting out traffic congestion. The information contained in HARTS gives the two Councils the confidence to plan for a less-congested future for the city, and to lead the implementation of these plans.”
The HARTS report will be finalised on Friday 7th October, 2005. The report will then be going the Regional Land Transport Committee, and the Hamilton City Council’s Transport Committee, as well as the joint Passenger Transport Sub-committee for consideration.