Official: More People Using Cars - & It’s Killing Us



New Zealanders are car crazy.

While the latest Auckland train and bus patronage figures show an increase, an official snapshot from 2006 released today shows more people than ever - at least in 2006 - were driving to work  -  while walking, jogging, and cycling declined. The census found similar patterns for all travel as well as travel to work.  It remarks how NZ’s public transport usage is low compared with countries such as the United Kingdom, where approximately 15% of commuters used public transport. Hopefully the more updated figures show things have changed. They need to.

The census report  says Aucklanders obsession about using cars instead of walking, cycling or using public transport is literally killing us:

LOS ANGELES smog. Are we far behind?

LOS ANGELES smog. Are we far behind?

“Commuters’ increasing use of cars can have significant environmental consequences, particularly in highly populated areas.

In Auckland, vehicle traffic has a huge impact on air pollution. Auckland Regional Council’s monitoring has identified concentrations of pollutants (such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particles (PM10)) at urban monitoring sites around Auckland that exceeded both the National Environmental Standards and Ambient Air Quality Guidelines. The regional council calculated that approximately 80 percent of nitrogen dioxide in Auckland’s air comes from transport and that concentrations increased in the decade to 2006 due to an increase in motor vehicles on the roads. Researchers estimate that vehicle-related air pollution results in 253 deaths per year in the Auckland region.”

Here are the main points from the snapshot of people’s behaviour in 2006. Some help the argument that public transport is what Auckland and main centres need more of - and why it is now increasing in popularity.

  • Between the 1996 and 2006 Censuses, an increasing proportion of people used a car to travel to work.
  • Approximately 25% of commuters to Wellington’s four cities used public transport, compared with only 4% of commuters to the Auckland metropolis from surrounding districts.
  • 1% of people travelling to work in Christchurch from surrounding districts used public transport. Christchurch commuter patterns were similar to Auckland (reinforced by geography and public transport options).  Most South Islanders who lived outside Christchurch but worked there drove to work (84% or were a passenger in a private or company car, truck, van, or company bus), and very few took public transport (1%). In contrast, 4% of people who worked and lived in Christchurch took public transport, 6% went by bicycle, and 5% walked or jogged.
  • Over half of people who walked or jogged to work lived within 2km of their workplace.
  • People who travelled to work by company car tended to live further from their workplace, with 19% living more than 20km away.
  • Three-quarters of people who cycled to work were men.
  • Women were more likely than men to use public transport (58% travelled to work on a bus or train on census day 2006). However, women who had children were less likely to use public transport to get to work (3% of women with children compared with 9% of women with no children used public transport); of these, the majority drove to work (57%). Women with children were also less likely to cycle or walk than women without children.
  • Professionals (21%) or clerks (20%) were the highest users of public transport, perhaps because workplaces for these occupations were mostly located in the largest cities where public transport is more readily available. Higher proportions of younger people used public transport to get to work on census day 2006; over half of those who used public transport were under 35 years.
  • Outside the largest cities (Auckland metropolis, Wellington’s four cities, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Dunedin) few people used public transport to work (1%). In the North Island however, rural or small town commuters who travelled to a major city had higher rates of public transport use, especially those travelling to Wellington city.

commuteBut in these recessionary times, the trends point to a different picture - in March for Auckland there was a 26.7 per cent increase in train passengers
In all that month – 802,623 rail passenger journeys were made.
For the nine months to March 2009: 5.6 million rail passenger journeys, a rise of 16.1 per cent.
Bus passenger numbers are up too now the students are back. In March, patronage was up 20.6 per cent, or 830,747 boardings. And ferries, despite the row over Waiheke prices, saw patronage up 1.2 per cent, or 4306 boardings.

So we are safe to argue more people are now getting out of their cars and using public transport. But painfully, no doubt these official government figures will help the government argument we need more motorways!

And can someone explain why it’s takes three years for the stats department to process and publish such information!




  1. Cambennett says:

    That data is from 2006. Since 2006 public transport usage has grown by about 30% due to various imporvments like double tracking the western line and the opening of the northern busway. Motorway usage has decreased slightly, i don’t have the exact figure for that, however according to transit it has declined.

    I’m surprised you featured this as it’s based on 3 year old data and shows a trend that is not consistant with what actually happening here and now in 2009.

  2. Jon says:

    Fair enough but it’s an interesting snapshot. I have now broken out the latest figures which had just been a link to show that things are changing as you correctly say.


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