Efeso Collins spells five-point Transport Policy for Auckland

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Auckland Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins (Photo by Peniel Fa’amausili)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 28, 2022

We are lucky to live in this wonderful city with beautiful beaches, awe-inspiring maunga, delicious eateries, and richly diverse communities. But Auckland’s traffic problems are choking the joy out of our city,” Mayoral Candidate Efeso Collins has said.

Mr Collins has been rated well in opinion polls but with two others (Leo Molly and Viv Beck) also in the race, it could be a close call.

Elections to local government will be held from September 16 to October 8, 2022.

Five-Point Plan

The spiralling cost of living, increasing violence, retail shops targeted by young offenders and transport bottlenecks are among the pressing problems faced by Aucklanders.

Mr Collins has put forth his five-point Transport Plan saying that it puts ‘the future of Auckland first.’ The Plan includes (1) a fully free public transport system (2) an expanded, more frequent network (3) re-aligning Auckland Transport to Auckland Council’s vision for a better-connected city by ensuring two Councillors sit on its board (4) support for electric ferries and integration of ferries into the network and (5) ensuring that Auckland Transport’s parking strategy is rolled out equitably and democratically.

According to him, better and more accessible public transport is a quadruple win: good for the cost of living, for congestion, for climate, and for revitalising our town centres. This plan is underpinned by the strong intent for Auckland to meet its climate action goals which will require 64% emissions reductions to come from transport by 2030.

Advantages of free fares

‘Greater Auckland,’ a web resource, said that free fares is one of the key initiatives of Mr Collins since the start of his candidacy a few months ago and that seems to have caught wide attention. He cites recent polling showing 73% of Aucklanders support the idea of free public transport, including 62% of National and ACT voters. That poll was conducted by two of the country’s largest unions, who also released a 40-page report on the feasibility of the proposal.

“There are certainly some compelling arguments for free public transport. After all, from a user point of view, it is hard to beat the price, and if free travel encourages more people to use public transport, it delivers benefits in helping reduce emissions and congestion as well as improving the health of those using public transport,” a comment said.

Efeso with Labour List MP Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, former Minister and barrister Matt Robson and members of the Sikh Community (Facebook Photo)

There are also operational benefits: faster boarding, improved driver safety, and not needing to run a fare collection system, though there is a downside to that last point, as Auckland Transport would almost certainly lose a rich vein of travel data which can be crucial to monitor the performance of services and help plan improvements.

Another comment runs along the following lines: “The challenge I have with this is that for the most part, it is not the cost of fares that is holding back public transport adoption. The key thing holding back public transport use is the quality of the service. We are seeing that play out on the system right now, with ridership stagnating well below what it was pre-Covid and even below what it was in previous Level 1 scenario, despite the government making fares half-price.”

Some European examples

According to ‘Greater Auckland,’ it is hard to see whether free fares will significantly encourage people out of their cars, a challenge in some overseas systems that have also tried this approach. “The examples from some cities, such as Tallinn and Luxembourg, give us important learnings on how not to implement free fares. Both cities made fares free for a share of the total travelling population and failed to disincentivise driving as an alternative. And there is the rub, as there is nothing so far in Mr Collins’ policy that does anything to disincentivise driving, not even a mention of supporting something like congestion charging.”

There is also the issue of how to fund free fares: it will almost certainly require government support. Yet, the government will not even provide long-term funding for the current half-price fares, so why would they suddenly support free fares just for Auckland?

Another comment was that while everyone will be happy to accept something free, what would people prefer free rides over other potential improvements to public transport?

“Not really. It is the kind of policy that we would be better to look at once we have got some more fundamentals of the network in place, such as most (if not all) of the currently envisioned rapid transit network, far more frequent services backed up by abundant bus priority along with improvements in access to the network. Effectively, free fares should be the cherry on top, not the main course.”

About Efeso Collins

Efeso Collins was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and his experiences living in the city have shaped the values that he said will place front and centre as Mayor of Auckland.

“I will be a Mayor for all of Auckland and that means being inclusive, collaborative and willing to listen to all perspectives. I want to bring a sense of hope back to the whole city, as we navigate the pandemic and come out of the sharpest part of the Covid crisis. I will be a champion for public transport, housing, and local services. I will build a city of which all of us will be proud and I would love for you to join our movement #forthepeople to make that happen,” he said.

Mr Collins said that Auckland has been home all his life; from growing up in a state house in Ōtara to graduating from University with a master’s degree in Education, this city has been wonderful to his family. His father drove taxis and his mother worked on a factory floor to support us through school and University.

Wide experience

“I have worked in research, youth development, owned businesses including a small consultancy firm and most recently represented Aucklanders as a local Board Chairperson and City Councillor. I know what it is like to be a flatmate, tenant, first-home buyer and landlord. I am a husband and dad to two beautiful girls and committed to building an enduring legacy for them and their generation,” he said.

Mr Collins said that while many people may have known him as an advocate for South Auckland, he regards himself as a champion of all communities.

“It is our local areas where the children go to school, where we can enjoy recreation at our pools and parks, connect at our local library or head up the road to grab coffee with friends and colleagues that gives us a true sense of community. It is our town centres and villages that give Aucklanders a real sense of belonging and my mayoralty will be as much about enhancing our local neighbourhoods as it will be about creating a vibrant city centre.

Politics of Collaboration

“Let us imagine a new Auckland where it is easy to get around, thanks to reliable and affordable public transport, where long-term housing security is an achievable aspiration for everyone, and where we reduce climate emissions while creating sustainable businesses. Let that new city be a place where we are connected by great events that celebrate our diverse cultural vibrancy, where we close the digital and social divide and create safe and caring local communities,” he said.

Mr Collins wants to bury the tired politics of old, which seeks to categorise and divide people, placing one side against another. Instead, let us engage in a politics of listening, collaboration and authenticity that places the aspirations of Aucklanders front and centre of all we do – because when it is with the people, it is for the people, he said.

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