Separating Aucklanders from their beloved cars – easy right?
In a nutshell
- Auckland's rapidly growing population is placing pressure on the city's infrastructure and transport system. To ease the pressure Auckland Transport have undertaken construction of sustainable infrastructure, supported by a program of behaviour change.
- TRA’s role is to help AT get people using this infrastructure. A particularly challenging and specific area of focus for AT revolves around driving the uptake of “active modes” of transport. Getting people out of cars and replacing these point-to-point journeys with walking or cycling.
- We first identified the major mental barriers stopping people from walking and cycling, and then helped AT and their agencies create behaviour change campaigns. These campaigns are focused around three guiding principles: the injection of emotion; creating positive memories; and normalising behaviour.
Think again. We all know that traffic in Auckland is an issue. You only have to try and get from Epsom to Britomart at 8am (or pretty much anywhere, at any time) and you will know this to be true. Fist clenching, pulling your hair out, mind numbingly, steering wheel bashing-ly true. Transportation, and the way people move through and about the city is one of several things at the heart of this.
The city that can’t keep up with its growth
Much of the blame for the endless traffic jams that stretch seemingly into eternity, and the continuous compression of mythical ‘off peak’ travel times, is largely down to one thing – population growth.
Auckland’s net population growth over the past 12 months is somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 people. That’s the capacity of Eden Park now calling Auckland home, placing stresses, strains and demands on the city’s infrastructure. And that is just one year’s worth of growth!
Quality of life, ease of business and an innovative reputation all see New Zealand positioned as popular end destination from a global migration perspective. As new migrants arrive on New Zealand shores, the majority are choosing to make Auckland home. Auckland’s multi-culturalism, ethnic diversity and foothold as New Zealand’s only really sizeable city are just some of the factors that see Auckland win out against the rest of New Zealand.
The second component in Auckland’s population growth can be attributed to an increasing trend in urbanisation; New Zealanders are choosing (or becoming increasingly pressured) to leave the regions and settle in cities largely due to the greater number of employment and business opportunities. With Auckland being our biggest city, it’s capturing more than its fair share of these relocators.
50,000 new arrivals to Auckland a year is hard to comprehend – yes it’s a big number, but what does it actually mean? To give you some perspective, Auckland Council estimate that this kind of population growth represents 961 additional residents arriving and 400 new homes being built on a weekly basis; a new street being created every second day; and around 670 vehicles imported via Ports of Auckland daily. Our office overlooks the car yards at the port and trust me - I can vouch for this number.
Congestion on the roads, slow travel times and stress impacts our personal lives, family time and wellbeing. But it also reduces the productivity of Auckland and ultimately impacts the GDP of New Zealand.
The challenge for Auckland Transport
Auckland Transport (AT) are the organisation tasked with the difficult job of fixing our city’s growing transportation problems, and in doing so are confronted with two alternatives.
On one hand, AT can continue to build private vehicle orientated infrastructure and get caught in a never ending game of chasing-their-tail. While appealing at an individualistic level (“this will make life easier for me in my car”), this option overlooks the collective and greater good for Auckland as a city.
Alternatively, AT can look to implement a program of behaviour change orientated around the development of more efficient and altruistic infrastructure. And in doing so direct people to more desirable, sustainable and beneficial travel options when it comes to navigating Auckland.
This second option will help see Auckland Council achieve its long-term objective of making Auckland the most livable city in the world. A global city that holds its own and stakes a claim in and amongst the likes of Tokyo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Fortunately, in recognising that admirable yet ambitious objective, AT have settled on the latter – sustainable infrastructure supported by a program of behaviour change.
This is where TRA comes in
While Auckland Transport develops the infrastructure, TRA’s role is to help them get people using it. Unfortunately, in this instance the adage “build it, and they will come” only gets us some of the way there.
A particularly challenging and specific area of focus for AT revolves around driving the uptake of “active modes” of transport. Getting people out of cars and replacing these point-to-point journeys with walking or cycling.
Sounds easy, but we’re up against years of unconscious, habitual, system one behaviour as well as a social and cultural context that sees people reach for their car keys well before their bikes or walking shoes.
When it comes to transportation, the decision-making criteria Aucklanders (and Kiwis on the whole) adhere to differs wildly to that of residents in the cities we so wish to emulate. In the likes of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, when considering a journey, the first question people ask themselves is “Is it possible to cycle or walk?” No? “Well how about public transport? Can I bus or take the train?” The last resort is to take the car. Contrast this with New Zealand, where upon going just about anywhere our natural instinct is to grab the car keys without a second thought to possible alternatives.
The issue that AT face is that while yes, everybody (for the most part) walks, most of this is light recreational walking rather than being used to replace a car journey or point-to-point trip. Cycling, on the other hand, sees only 27% of Aucklanders participating at all, and just 11% doing it with any noticeable frequency. While many of us may be happy to lace up our walking shoes, and occasionally jump on a bike, we only really see these activities as for exercise or recreation – we can’t yet see how they can fit into our daily lives and how they can start replacing motorised transport.