Shared transport is becoming less of a novelty and more a normality, with the Government now funding a feasibility study which could pave the way for best-practice initiatives around the country.
Working alongside Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu via the iwi’s commercial arm, the Ministry of Transport will spend $200,000 on the study.
A ministry spokesperson said it would develop a model for how shared transport options may be incorporated into new medium and high density housing developments.
“The model will be in a form that can be practically applied by developers throughout New Zealand.”
The study would also examine the social outcomes that could arise due to this shift, and how such a shift might actually be achieved.
Ngāi Tahu and the ministry have been in talks since late last year on the topic and work is being driven by a steering group including members of the Ministry of Housing and Development, Kāinga Ora and Queenstown Lakes District Council.
“Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu views the private car ownership culture in New Zealand as unsustainable and aims to change this to meet climate change goals and create better social outcomes. This will require effort from iwi, local and central Government, business, and all New Zealanders,” a briefing on the study to Transport Minister Michael Wood said.
“We have made it clear to Ngāi Tahu Holdings that there is no guaranteed financial support from the Government beyond the initial feasibility study, and that working with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu does not preclude us from entering similar work programmes with other parties if there was a strong public policy rationale.”
Some shared transport options within housing developments are already underway, including a 13-unit development in Sandringham in Auckland with one electric car and electric scooter and a 46-unit development in Panmure with five electric cars.
When Ed Leeson was thinking about bringing in shared transport options for Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust residents a year ago, he went in cold.
“We walked down this path we knew nothing about. We went looking for research but the research was non-existent.
“We had no idea whether there would be any uptake – or if 100 cars would be needed.”
Incidentally the outcome was somewhere in between and while Leeson was disappointed the uptake was not higher he still thinks “overall it’s been bloody good”.
About 10 people at the 90-home complex use the two electric cars on a regular basis.
The Trust partnered with Canterbury University, Lincoln University and Otago University to better understand how the use of e-bikes and electric vehicles changed how residents got around.
Otago University researcher Helen Fitt said interest in shared transport was definitely growing.
“Lots of organisations are interested in how this works… and with increasing electrification and better telecommunications we are seeing more options come about.”
“After a consistent period of the status quo the modes are blurring together and the different ways people can access them.”
She said for shared transport to work it had to be practical, supported by local infrastructure, comfortable and socially acceptable.
“We probably can’t continue to do things the way we are… We’re certainly going to see more trials and attempts and it probably depends how effectively we’re able to make those systems work in the commercial and political system we’re in.”
She said breaking down habits and encouraging people to “challenge every trip” they took in their car would take time.
“The question is what do we want our transport system to look like. People think the way things are is because it’s the best way to do things and the evidence really doesn’t support that.”
Leeson has no doubt shared transport will move beyond the realms of trials and helping hands for those living in hardship.
“For the wider community I see it as a necessity. Most new residential complexes don’t have enough parking for everyone.
“The two-car family will become less and less of an existence as people have to travel other ways.”
AA policy director Martin Glynn said when the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2017 removed minimum requirements to provide parking in certain locations, the development of housing without provisions for cars began.
“Which is great from an affordability point of view but what happened is people bought the houses but they still had cars, so the cars just ended up all over the street which was a problem.
“Whether [shared transport] works or not really depends on your lifestyle… and at the moment Auckland is very much still a car city, but things are emerging.”
The National Policy Statement for Urban Development has since removed all minimum parking requirements for developments across the country.