Light rail to the airport? We need fewer cars in Auckland not more


Newsroom journalist Marc Daalder has written a piece on the two options for light rail to the airport. The government has chosen tunnelled light rail to the airport and the Minister of Transport, believing it to reduce emissions, has argued he wants to “pull all levers” for decarbonisation.

Daalder quotes from those, including the Greens, who prefer surface light rail. A transport planner, he says, argues that the Minister’s option makes minimal impact on emissions as against the official Auckland target. But Daalder argues light rail on the surface only “reduces emissions by 2.5% of the less ambitious target.” No neither options is actually going to reduce emissions enough in Auckland.

One figure that stood out in his piece was that Auckland has 1.26 million cars.

Think of it! All those cars. And increasing every year. In 2010 NZ had 3.43 million cars registered but by 2020 it had risen to 4.36 million, a 27% increase in ten years.

Now I hazard a guess that the assumptions behind all forward projections are BAU (business as usual). If so, they are assuming we will have in another ten years 27% more, and so on. So by 2050, four decades away, presumably they are thinking of 3.3 times the number of cars on the roads. Assuming Auckland has an average per head car registration (could be higher than normal) Auckland cars would number 4.06 million. Nice. Where would they all fit?

All this of course excludes a discussion of the future of aviation. No doubt the projections are calculated on BAU?  We need fewer flights not more. Electrifying air transport comes with huge challenges, and for an academic of the stature of Professor Simon Michaux to have had to omit aviation from his gigantic calculations of electrifying the world’s transport fleet does say something.

I am afraid even the New Zealand Climate Commission has assumed that the economy will grow normally while we decarbonise. But every time the economy grows, so does the amount of stuff we produce and use. Cars galore are just part of it. Imagine over three times the number of cars in Auckland? Blows my mind. In my view managed degrowth of the material economy is the only real solution to climate change.