There are currently no core accessibility measures in New Zealand defined explicitly at a national level, but improving accessibility is implicit in many of the national projects, programmes and policies. Therefore although it is not yet clear what the current New Zealand accessibility policies are, the process of measuring the accessibility impacts of current approaches, could provide the foundations for future accessibility policy development. .
There are also current policies and performance measures which are already closely aligned with improving local accessibility including:
· increasing the amount of active travel
· creating safer neighbourhoods
· improving air quality by reducing traffic pollution.
These provide a clear policy context for improving access by non-motorised modes to the local services that attract the most frequent trips. If more of these trips are made by walking and cycling then the consequences of the improved local access will be the delivery of the national policies.
The public transport accessibility aims are less clear. Away from major urban centres in particular, difficult trade-offs need to be made in planning public transport networks including:
· There is a balance between network coverage and fares. Public transport networks all rely on some degree of cross subsidy between services by location and time of day. Higher frequencies to improve journey times need to be traded against the higher costs of provision.
· Good accessibility for higher mobility groups will generally involve longer walks to high-frequency core routes. However, people with lower mobility prefer services that come closer to the origin and destination of their trip. Public transport markets tend towards the latter type of service, due to the stability of demand from this group among other factors. Making mainstream provision available to all mobility groups can therefore reduce accessibility and the competitiveness of public transport for higher mobility groups. However, if core routes can be developed that help to grow public transport markets overall, then the revenue available for public transport increases and this can result in more and better services, thereby improving accessibility. These are complex issues where accessibility policy needs to be significantly developed to allow the components of access that are valued to be measured.
· There is a balance between providing door-to-door demand responsive services and fixed route provision. In rural areas, best value delivery of improved accessibility can often be achieved through supported taxi services/taxicard schemes and community transport development (Scottish Executive 2001b).
Public transport accessibility aims are not implicit in the current national policies in New Zealand. The accessibility planning process can be used to define the role of public transport more clearly so clear accessibility outcomes can then be measured (DHC and UoW 2003). In the meantime the modelling techniques should not make assumptions about what sort of public transport system is needed until policy has clarified the role of public transport in improving accessibility.