June Word

Our CEO Mark Knoff-Thomas talks more about transport in Auckland

Following on from last month’s ‘Word.’ column regarding what’s likely to happen in Newmarket once Westfield re-opens, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the transport side of things. All of us can help in some way to make the experience better for, well, all of us.

Scanned Image For Word Column 2

Source: ‘Newmarket Lost and Found’ by Dinah Holman. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library

Newmarket was one of Auckland’s original trading posts, and historically was a place that travellers would stop off at to perhaps get their horses re-shod, trade livestock and goods, enjoy some hospitality and then carry on their merry way. We were a major link between the Waitemata and Manukau harbours, and you may have heard our Māori name “Ti Te Tutahi” – Sacred Cabbage Tree Standing Alone – which was one of the area’s significant landmarks and meeting places. Fast forward to 2019 and rather than horses tied up outside traders, or the foul stench from the slaughterhouse, you are more likely to see a snazzy car and smell the delicious waft of an espresso from one of our cafés. We’ve come a long way.

When I look back at some of the historic photographs of Broadway, they all show clusters of buses and dreadful congestion, so in that regard not much has changed at all. However, what has changed since the days of yore is the improvements to Auckland’s public transport network, which in case you hadn’t noticed have been of seismic proportions.

Auckland Transport (AT) gets a lot of flak, including from me. They are a huge beast of an organisation, and are sometimes, as I was recently quoted an “uncoordinated goliath”. Their task is not an easy one, and they have to grapple with multi-faceted and complex issues. What they don’t do well is change, or at least help people change, neither do they always engage meaningfully, nor listen, much. Plus I think their positions on things can sometimes be more ideological than practical. They tend to use more stick, with little or no carrot.

But what they have done very successfully, for the vast majority of users, is roll out a new stream-lined bus network. It has been re-engineered to provide faster and more frequent services in modern, clean, air-conditioned buses – and some even have phone charging ports. They have also beefed up the frequency of train services and these days you can rock up to any train station and a train won’t be far away. You no longer have to wait endlessly. The trains are fast, clean, modern, and reliable. The bus network almost seamlessly connects with the trains and vice versa. Why am I suddenly doing PR for AT, I hear you ask? Well, we’re pro-cars in Newmarket, we love them and have many luxury car yards, carparks and parking buildings to prove it. But we’re also pro-buses/ trains/ scooters/ cycling and walking.

We want everyone who comes to Newmarket to have an enjoyable, stress-free experience – and for some that will mean travelling here by bus or train to shop or dine. As a precinct we are very fortunate in that we have a vast array of bus routes servicing the north, east and south, plus the Inner & Outer Link buses, and we’re home to Auckland’s second busiest train station. Over the coming months we will “resume normal transmission” once Westfield Newmarket opens. We anticipate many thousands of people will want to come and visit, coupled with our usual vehicular and pedestrian traffic. We’re taking a multi-pronged approach to address transport congestion. Currently we’re working on a comprehensive Public Transport (PT) marketing campaign for consumers.

We are also working on a travel demand management plan for our business community to help increase the uptake of PT for our employees. There will be new vehicular wayfinding signage – related to parking or onward destinations – at key decision points in the approaches to Newmarket. New pedestrian wayfinding signage will be installed precinct-wide to help people move about more easily. By the end of this year we will have around 7,000 public car parks. We look forward to seeing you here – to those who can, catch a bus or train, scooter or walk. And for those who need to drive, please be patient & familiarise yourselves with all our parking options. It will be worth it.

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