$450m for Auckland Rail

December 21st, 2005 at 6:59 am by David Farrar

The Government has said it is going to spend $450 to $600 million on the Auckland rail tracks it purchased for $89 million.

Now how many people take trains in Auckland? Around just under 9,000 a day which is 0.6% of Aucklanders. If they spend $600 million that will be a spend of $67,000 per passenger. Hmmmn. Think if they spent that much per Aucklander on roads – that would be almost $94 billion on Auckland roads. Even Banksie and Aaron would be happy!

Now some will say that this investment in rail will lead to many more people using the trains. Well yes there may be some increase, but according to an ARC report only 20% of new rail passengers will come from cars, so it will mainly be bus users swapping to trains.

As the AA said in 2001, rail works relatively well in Wellington because 45% of the region work in the CBD. In Auckland it is only 13%.

I’m very unconvinced that $450 to $600 million on rail will help Auckland’s transports woes greatly.

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58 Responses to “$450m for Auckland Rail”

  1. tim barclay () says:

    Wellington is an entirely different set-up with its population strung out along a long thin path and rail is a serious option and the CBD is quite compact. No so Auckland which is spread out in all directions, any rail option cannot deliver anything meaningful ecept for very serious money indeed. I just wish the $600m went back into the raoding system in Auckland, it would pay serious dividends. Auckland is a car city, the Government would be better off subsidising the poor the get a decent car.

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  2. err.. () says:

    To hell with you lot, I live in Auckland near enough to a train station to use it. So do plenty of others. And while only 13% of the population may work in the city centre in Auckland vs 45% in Welly, that’s still enough to generate royal traffic strife on the motorways, especially considering the fact that the city is also the interchange between the Southern, Northern and Northwestern motorways. And, indeed, not that different a number in pure numbers of people from 45% of Wellington, given that Wellington is about 1/3rd the size of Auckland in population terms.

    Taking stress off the suburban-to-central routes would free up the existing motorway network for those difficult people who insist on living on one side of the city and working on the other. They’re the people who actually need a car to get where they’re going, instead of just being poorly served by public transport.

    There are a few major things that could be done in Auckland to help with this, and improving rail is a big one. Firstly, the rail network here is a fucking shambles. It looks like something out of the 1970s. We’ve got an amazing new station in the city served by a severely sub-par network. Once the network itself is upgraded, there’s also the issue of parking or integration into existing bus networks. Adding good, patrolled (preferably free) car parks near suburban railway stations in Auckland would seriously help improve rail use, because there’s a lot of people out of walking range of the train who would otherwise use it.

    Auckland traffic is a horrible way to wake up in the morning, adding a respectable alternative is a great idea. DPF makes the mistake of basing his per-passenger costings on existing use of the rail network, which is silly given the number of huge, obvious flaws which most definitely work to keep passenger numbers down.

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  3. Aaron Bhatnagar () says:

    I’ve got no problems with the govt spending extra on rail in Auckland, especially with services to Manukau City as planned. Rail to parts of Manukau City (and the North Shore) have been neglected for years. However, there isn’t a single silver bullet that will fix Auckland’s gridlock. It will be a variety of solutions like tolling/congestion pricing for the CBD, new roads, buses, new rail, park and ride and so forth.

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  4. Gaz () says:

    Sydney is all spread out like Auckland, and although they have a traffic problem, they also have an excellent public transport system so if you are going anywhere in the city and metro area then you can get there on a train. Their trains also run every 2-4 minutes, so you don’t even need a timetable to use the train – you just go to the train station and jump on (at least close into the city anyway.)
    If Auckland is to have a decent public transport system then they need to include ferries too, like Sydney. There is no point having all the transport funnelled over the harbour bridge.

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  5. Lance () says:

    I hate to agree with err..
    But he is right.
    The rail network is a bloody disgrace in Auckland. There seems to be some half arsed notion that Aucklanders love their cars and will not use public transport.
    Most people I know despise the traffic grid lock and especially when it comes to commuting to work would only be too happy to use a train or DESCNT bus service.
    The reality is the bus I used to catch from Henderson to the Auckland CBD (an Express no less) took between 1 hour and 1.5 hours and cost $15 a day with a concession ticket. The existing piss poor excuse for a train regularly breaks down, is normally late by more than 20minutes, is full to the brim half way along the journey and our local station has no parking… And I mean no parking, none… nothing significant within a k/m or so.
    Using the car is the only sane option.. and that is a seriously insane daily experience.
    I have lived at various times in other main centres in NZ. You have to experience Auckland

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  6. Michael (The Right Wing One) () says:

    Meantime, in the real world …

    If Rail had to stand on it’s own two feet as a commercial enterprise there is no way they would invest $60,000 per passenger. This is a Muldoonist Think Big project.

    The solution to get more people onto Auckland’s Public Transport is more buses going to where people want to go. And buses run on …. roads.

    Before you criticise, my main transport to work is by train. Except when I cycle.

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  7. mikeybill () says:

    Auckland is perfect for rail, and if this country had been colonised earlier it may well have reaped the benefit of the Victorian drive for building railways. It is always difficult and expensive trying to retro-fit major infrastructure projects in an intensively populated urban setting, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

    If there were a decent rail network here it would be well-used I am sure.

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  8. Russell Brown () says:

    The Auckland CBD is the largest employment centre in the country. It accounts for 25% of the jobs in Auckland and 18% of the businesses. 268,000 people enter the CBD on an average day, splitting roughly equally between work and leisure.

    Auckland is never going to have a comprehensive rail network – it’s too late for that – and the North Shore is not going to have rail at all, hence the recent and current investment in improving travel times for buses coming from the shore ($290 million on the new motorway busway project alone, which will include park and ride stations at Albany and Constellation Drive). Buses will be the centre of the public transport strategy, by default.

    But there are rail lines west, east and south (Banks’ Eastern Corridor dream, remember, had a substantial rail component) and if you RTFA you’ll find that the investment is largely in making existing routes work properly. This is capital investment that TranzRail should have made instead of stuffing wads of cash in its shareholders’ breast pockets.

    The Western line is a particular problem. Only 50% of services run on time because the infrastructure is so inadequate. It runs from Britomart, through Newmarket and past Eden Park, and the double-tracking must be finished in advance of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, or we look like idiots. The same line also brings people to the CBD’s major recreational precinct and, soon, its new indoor arena.

    It’s hardly that the roads have been neglected. In the past six years there has been a huge amount spent on fixing the city-fringe bottlenecks, and especially the route through Grafton Gully to the port. This week, the ARC signed off the Western ring-route, which has been on the books for decades.

    But here’s the thing: we can’t afford to simply let private vehicle traffic expand willy-nilly (let alone give the poor cars, as Tim suggests). There’s nowhere for them to go: roadside parking already costs $4 an hour in the CBD, and commercial parking isn’t far behind. If you build the full-size Eastern Corridor project, you’re dumping a whole lot of traffic into the bottom of town with no sensible means of egress from Quay St.

    But mostly

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  9. err.. () says:

    “The solution to get more people onto Auckland’s Public Transport is more buses going to where people want to go. And buses run on …. roads.”

    The problem with this is that it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Buses suffer from the same problems in Auckland that cars do during rush hour – they’re all sitting still in a mile-long tailback from a set of lights somewhere.

    As it stands, there’s no real advantage when it comes to using buses in Auckland over a car for a commuter. It’s not really any cheaper, if you rent a regular parking space in the city. You still get stuck in traffic jams. Plus you have to wait around for them for ages because they’re never on time, and because we’ve got evil Stagecoach pulling their regular UK tricks we have bus drives who are quite frankly a liability on the roads. Plus the buses are old, smelly, badly maintained and usually full of rubbish.

    If you build more roads to allow for an expanded bus network then you also allow cars onto said roads. That has two possible effects:

    1) Traffic improves. People stay in their cars because the bus is no cheaper and it’s an annoyance having to wait for one in the rain.

    2) Traffic doesn’t improve. More people just buy cars and clog up the new roads too.

    Rail is nice because it actually provides additional capacity to the city which isn’t available for immediate use by the constantly expanding number of cars in Auckland. Which means that as long as it is well managed it should be possible to provide a reliable service because the infrastructure is dedicated to providing that service alone.

    The alternative approach to get more people onto buses it to take the London attitude and just make it bloody difficult to drive into the city. Even people who own cars in London don’t drive to work because it’s stupidly expensive and there are many major streets where private vehicles are forbidden. But without improvements to both bus and rail networks this is going to be extremely unpopular, with good reason.

    Ultimately Auckland has to have something done about it, and the first action has to be to improve public transport to make it a preferable option over the daily 1st-gear-clutch-in-out routine.

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  10. Russell Brown () says:

    If Rail had to stand on it’s own two feet as a commercial enterprise …

    And if the roading network had to stand its own two feet as a commercial enterprise?

    Cheers,
    RB

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  11. neil morrison () says:

    I know that an underground system is would be very expensive but I wonder about the possibilty of chipping away at it over time.

    When sitting in traffic I sometimes day dream about how such a system could best be structured – where the lines and stations would be.

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  12. Michael () says:

    RB said: “And if the roading network had to stand its own two feet as a commercial enterprise?”

    You’d be protesting about the $600 million annual profit that the owners take over and above the cost of maintenance and new road building initaitives.

    But because the Government does it, that makes it okay?

    Walked right into that one, didn’t ya!

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  13. Logix () says:

    At last, are some of you starting to get it?

    Unlimited private benefit = Unlimited public detriment.

    Auckland has become among town planners and traffic engineers a world famous example of this principle. It’s amazing however to see just how tribal we get about it. The following equivalences seem to apply:

    Car = Freedom = Right Winger’s Free Market Nirvana

    Train = Compulsion = Leftie Scum Socialist Hell

    Well isn’t reality a bitch? It just has not worked out that way has it? The unlimited private car model has turned out to be a total fraud. The sexy car ad shows the erotic ton of metal swishing along a mythical open road while some bit of eye-candy leers at you enticingly..in the reality you are lucky to get out of second gear while chocking on some truck’s belching fumes.

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  14. Russell Brown () says:

    Sydney is all spread out like Auckland, and although they have a traffic problem, they also have an excellent public transport system so if you are going anywhere in the city and metro area then you can get there on a train.

    You gotta love that airport-to-CBD line they built for the Olympics. It loses a shitload of money, but man, what a brilliant way to arrive in a major city.

    If Auckland is to have a decent public transport system then they need to include ferries too, like Sydney. There is no point having all the transport funnelled over the harbour bridge.

    I always wonder about the practicality of an Upper Harbour ferry, especially with the expansion of commercial premises at the bottom of the CBD. There’d be parking issues, I guess, but it’d be a great way to get in from the northwest. They could build a Pt Chev jetty for me to come back from nights on the town …

    Cheers,
    RB

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  15. Owen McShane () says:

    As someone who actually studies these things and attends an international conference on these matters every year I have to say that Dave has it right.
    About fifteen medium sized cities in the US have invested in public transport mixes over the last fifteen years and the results are clear. Investing heavily in rail almost always leads to a reduction in market share of public transport while investing in rubber on road

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  16. err.. () says:

    “They could build a Pt Chev jetty for me to come back from nights on the town”

    This is another thing that is just fucking wonderful about good public transport. Here in Auckland we’re a bunch of boring gits after work – jump in the car, shuffle home in the traffic. As anybody who has lived in London knows, there you can just walk out of your office and head 50m down the road to the nearest pub for a swift pint or two with colleagues in order to miss the worst of rush hour.

    Then you head home nice and happy, no worries about whether you’ve had too many to drive and need to take a taxi.. no need to worry about whether the car is going to get broken into because you left it in town overnight…

    That’s one thing I really do miss here. Getting drunk in this city is such a hassle it’s almost not fun anymore.

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  17. Marcus D () says:

    My wife is a traffic engineer who works in Auckland. According to the studies she has read the problem with Auckland traffic is not transport into the CBD but instead is the across town traffic, i.e. North Shore to Manukau, Waitakere to South etc. People make a decision to live somewhere far away from their work and then bitch and moan about the traffic problem. I can’t work that out.

    More roads in Auckland won’t work. People will just buy more cars and they will clog up in no time at all. That has happened in numerous cities overseas.

    I normally bike to work and I applaud the city councils and ARTA for recognising cycling as a viable alternative form of transport. However, any transport solution has to be integrated with all city councils and ARTA agreeing a strategy, a task pretty difficult by all accounts. (As an aside I could never work out why Auckland needs three city councils – surely one is enough as cities bigger than Auckland only have one).

    Still, we have had enough and are moving out of the city. You can’t imagine the relief when we finally made the decision and realised we won’t have to deal with traffic here on a daily basis.

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  18. gd () says:

    Again this debate has turned into a Lets bash the motorists feast.Get a life get over it.Public transport in even the biggest cities is heavily subsidised.The comments about people working and living in different parts of the cities are just pathethic This is a fact of life These people pay taxes plus over half of their fuel costs is taxes.The so called authorities have failed to provide the necessary infrastructure They have failed to plan and therefore planned to fail.Auckland has had 30 plus years of noodies who couldnt organise a piss up in a brewery.The Northern Busway will turn out to be an big expensive white elephant And the socalled experts will then blame the people.Why not actually provide what people want Now wouldnt that be different.And the next bastard who tries to tell me Im selfish for wanting to travel from A to B in my car will get their heaqd rammed up their anal retnetive arse

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  19. anonymouse () says:

    To add to what Owen said,

    Can you drop the kids off at school by train?

    But seriously, Auckland is hampered by a whole pile of Issues, bad geography (critical choke points),

    Half asssed past rail planning, (train drivers having to reverse trains into sidings and then change ends in Newmarket)

    A motorway system dumping into Spag. Junction and leaving half the links unfinished

    It needs money to fix lots of problems, the question is are trains the best solution, or would more frequent/better routed buses work better?

    Has anyone seen what exactly 500M would buy, or is this a case of come forward with ways to spend it?

    500M seems *a lot* of money and I hope it is spent in the best manner, rather than where certain lobby groups decide it should be spent.

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  20. darren () says:

    Auckland’s traffic chaos is the combination of decades of under investment, coupled with its rampant population growth.
    There will be over 2 million Aucklanders by 2050 as tens of thousands move in every year.
    If nothing much is done, the city will soon be a Bangkok-style congested hell-hole.
    Simplistic arguments between car-bashing socialists who want everyone on public transport and the car-loving Tim will not work.
    These futile arguments lead to deadlock, inaction and then gridlock.
    Both more motorways as well as extra buses and trains are needed. And with over 2 million citizens, both can be viable.
    I do wonder whether $600 million on trians will offer best bang for buck, and I feel that there is much trendy lefty social engineering going on here.
    But Auckland’s train system is a shambles, which is why hardly anyone uses it.
    I feel it will be a case of build it and some will come. It will help ease the traffic congestion.
    However, completing the motorway network is essential and something that should have been completed years ago.
    I believe that the western ring route may need to be dual-four lanes rather than dual 2-3 if it is to take much cross-city traffic from the central SH1 motorway.
    A dual-two (four lane) motorway offshoot from the motorway near Otahuhu to where the motorway meets the airport spur road is also needed.
    And the eastern bay corridor.
    It is not just a matter of serving today’s traffic and population needs, but those of coming decades when Auckland will have twice the population it has today.

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  21. err.. () says:

    gd, I fail to see any motorist bashing. The nearest you can see is Logix suggesting that just letting people drive everywhere doesn’t actually work in real life. Which is true. Quite simply, it’s much harder to move large numbers of people around a city in individually controlled vehicles than it is to do it when you group people travelling the same direction into larger ones. That’s pretty obvious. It’s also obvious that much of Auckland’s traffic problem is down to the fact that there are a lot of people travelling in the same direction in cars, with typically only one person in each vehicle.

    I quite agree with you about the planning of this city being a joke for a long time. If you ever want to see what a crying shame Auckland is, get yourself on a boat on a sunny day and go sit out in the middle of the harbour. Looks lovely, doesn’t it? Then you try to approach it from the other direction in the morning and you realise what a total fuckup the place is. It has the potential to be a lovely city but virtually every major opportunity to improve it has been wasted. It’s only recently that there have been any serious attempts to make good use of the city waterfront, for crying out loud! How many other water-facing cities in the world have as dull a waterfront as we do?

    Auckland needs to start moving people to public transport, now. As it stands the growth of the city is based on the assumption of universal car use, which just results in more and more totally unsustainable mixes of commercial and residential districts springing up all over the place. We have so many commercial centres in this city it’s not even funny, and most of them employ people from all over the city, which in turn increases our existing over-reliance on cars to get to work. Moving the city to primary reliance on a public transport system would, ultimately, result in slightly more sensible market-driven growth because nobody in their right mind is going to buy a house in Henderson when their job is in East Tamaki if they’ve got to change trains three times to get to their job. As it stands, people drive that kind of route now.

    Building roads to help people make dumb decisions like that is just asking for trouble in the long run, because you create the unreasonable expectation that people can actually work on the entirely opposite side of a major city from where they live. That’s not a realistic expectation anywhere else, so why should it be here?

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  22. Russell Brown () says:

    Owen: About fifteen medium sized cities in the US have invested in public transport mixes over the last fifteen years and the results are clear. Investing heavily in rail almost always leads to a reduction in market share of public transport while investing in rubber on road

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  23. Lance () says:

    I thank Logix, Marcus and qd for their useful comments, stunning insights and sagely advice..
    Not!

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  24. neil morrison () says:

    err.. you’re verging on telling other people what’s good for them. There are many reasons why people might want or need to work far from where they live. I don’t think public tansport has any tendancy to encourage people to do otherwise.

    I’m a car addict, driving to work when I could walk etc but when my partner and I spent a few months living in Paris we had no problem adjusting to doing eveything we wanted via the metro. And they’re continually addding new lines.

    But for a bit of humour, this from George Monbiot’s latest in The Guardian –

    “The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people’s actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.”

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  25. spector () says:

    I’m not opposed to spending money on a rail system either, but to really make it work you need to have plenty of trains.

    I don’t know about the rest of you but I keep fairly irregular hours for work – and life in general – and the fantastic thing about the underground in London, Paris, NY and Sydney is that if you miss one train another one comes along within 3-10 minutes.

    If the trains in Auckland only came every half hour then it wouldn’t work for me and I would keep using a car… but if I suddenly needed to go somewhere, and I knew I’d only have to wait 10 minutes for a train to take me, then I’d be right in there

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  26. Russell Brown () says:

    I’m a car addict, driving to work when I could walk etc but when my partner and I spent a few months living in Paris we had no problem adjusting to doing eveything we wanted via the metro. And they’re continually addding new lines

    This is pretty much the experience of going to any city that has a good rail system. They’re always better. I went back to London for the first time in 10 years and was struck by what an amazing utility the much-maligned Tube system is.

    There’s no realistic prospect of it, but I’m always struck by what a difference light rail down the Northwestern motorway corridor would make: in or out of the CBD from Pt Chev in 5-10 minutes vs 35-50 minutes of stopping and shuddering in a bus, depending on time of day. I’ve tried making business journeys in out out by bus (I work from home), but I just lose too much working time. So I drive.

    Cheers,
    RB

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  27. Linda () says:

    Even notice how the gridlock reduces dramatically during school/university holidays? Travelling for education purposes in a huge part of the problem – not just travelling for work. And university students are more likely to use public transport than workers. Perhaps Auckland and AUT could develop more campuses away from the CBD. And mums could make their darlings walk to school.

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  28. insider () says:

    Russell

    “But mostly

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  29. err.. () says:

    “err.. you’re verging on telling other people what’s good for them. There are many reasons why people might want or need to work far from where they live. I don’t think public tansport has any tendancy to encourage people to do otherwise.”

    Telling other people what’s good for them? Pointing out the bloody obvious, more like. It’s obviously not very feasible to have a major city where large chunks of the population need to travel long distances in opposite, disparate directions every morning and evening.

    It’s not particularly feasible for many people to move into walking distance from work in Auckland because of the low density of the city in general. But providing quality public transport which bypasses the horrors of the morning crawl could go a long way towards giving people food for thought: If life can be this easy, why would I choose to make it otherwise? That helps feed demand for more public transport and you can start moving the city over to objectively better systems of transport management than the current one.

    The idea is not to penalise people who want to drive a long way across the city – they’re already penalising themselves – but to reward those who move their behavior into patterns that are more consistent with a well-structured city.

    In real-world terms we’re a pretty small city. But you won’t find many bigger than us that rely as heavily on cars as we do. In the long run it will serve us well to actually make some decisive moves to increase reliance on public transport over the car.

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  30. Ben Wilson () says:

    I think you need to live somewhere bigger than Auckland for a while to get a grip. I commute my wife into the CBD daily, and it takes 30mins. That’s nothing compared to what a comparable distance in Melbourne was when I lived there, and Melb’s got awesome public transport.

    Our motorway system is awesome – it’s always gone right through the city, and goes right to the extreme end suburbs. You can get just about anywhere in Auckland pretty quick, except during rush hours. Then it’s only quick against the traffic (it takes me 10 mins to get home after dropping her off).

    That 30 mins is spent chatting and chilling out listening to music, enjoying the scenery, in a pleasant airconditioned environment, and having ‘breakfast on the run’. If you plan things and chill out a bit, you have to admit our transport woes are really quite pathetic.

    That said, improving it is cool too. More rail, better motorway interchanges, more bus lanes, clearways, cycling lanes, ferry, better parking at interchanges, denser urban living. These are all things that will slowly chip away at making Auckland even more awesome. Our rail is quite lame so bringing it up to being a contender for viable public transport is pretty sensible. My wife catches it home but won’t risk catching it to work because it’s often late.

    Everyone who carries on about public expenditure on these things will be utterly forgotten in 100 years, when future Aucklanders, our grandchildren and their children, will live in an Auckland that resembles Sydney now.

    Let them build up the rail system. People will use it in proportion to its usefulness. You only have to go to any city in the world bigger than Auckland to realize that usefulness is huge. It flows straight into an improved commuting experience for everyone, as rail users are not on the road. So to apportion the cost of the rail upgrade only to the rail users is completely fallacious.

    People forget the huge array of things they can do to make the commute less of a burden. Starting work earlier and finishing early are easy solutions. Working from home as I do is another. Or doing something constructive during the commute, like reading up on something, or socializing with your work buddies, or catching a catnap. If you’re in a car, you get far more luxury, and if you carpool you get the company too. It’s not that much of a hassle to walk or cycle to the train station or bus terminal, you might even get fitter. If it’s raining, get someone to drop you off or pick you up. On the days I pick my wife up from work, it makes sense to do the supermarket shopping in town, while the traffic dies down.

    Then there’s the even more planned approach of picking where you live. Why live in an outer outer suburb and work in the city? You bring the commuting burden on yourself. Is it for the luxurious house and huge section? Then consider that the commute is the price you pay for such luxury, or do something about it. Monbiot has a point.

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  31. Peter Cresswell (Not PC) () says:

    Now here’s the very best argument for public transport, as given by ‘err’:

    “That’s one thing I really do miss here. Getting drunk in this city is such a hassle it’s almost not fun anymore.”

    I’m sure that’s something about which we can all agree. :-)

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  32. Logix () says:

    As RB’s experience of London relates, I too have lived and worked for extensive periods in overseas cities. HongKong, Singapore, Melbourne, Frankfurt, Haifa, Ekaterinburg and Portland were the main ones. In each case I did not need to own a car, in all of these cities I could move about with excellent freedom and ease.

    Us kiwis have become locked into “car thinking”, and Monbiot makes a valid point about how cars are like emotional Faraday cages, we move about in them in the public realm, but we are cut off from the public. As a result we become estranged and alienated from the diverse mass of the people around us, a low-grade fear of others becomes ingrained in our thinking, we place an distorted, extremist importance on our individual rights and personal security…. all at the expense of engagement and the simple pleasure of interacting with our fellow humans.

    Cars force us to experience others as dangerous objects that get in our way and threaten our paintwork. The higher the density of cars, the greater the congestion the more powerful this effect becomes.

    I am NOT anti-car; but I am anti “being forced to use one in a congested city because the city authorities were too stupid to provide an alternative”. Get it?

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  33. Ben Wilson () says:

    Yes, you don’t hear too much about bus-rage. Too many witnesses, and not having 2 tonnes of steel giving you the illusion of safety brings sanity flooding back fast. It can be quite hard to chill out in a car, when people do stupid dangerous things around you. But that’s really a fact about you, not them – you can still choose to chill out, to drive considerately and relaxedly.

    A good mate had excellent advice on that front. He said that you should see traffic as a force, not as people. Rather like waves for a boat – you don’t get angry at them, you just adjust to them, drive around them, drive slower when conditions require it. The road is a river, and you just can’t make it flow faster by getting angry, although you could cause a nasty accident.

    Lots of people make that completely fallacious assumption that tailgating gets you where you want to go quicker, rather than simply making the whole experience more stressful and dangerous for you. It’s so easy to just back off, and if people cut in, back off again, ad infinitum. The real effect on travel time is completely neglibible

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  34. insider () says:

    Ben

    Your river analogy is spot on. In the UK they made the M25 run a lot better by reducing the top speeds through variable limits which change depending on traffic conditions, to make more constant speeds which increased the overall average speed and reduced the speed up/slow down mode of driving. I believe they used hydrodynamics to model it.

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  35. gd () says:

    the Gumint is about to announce that carbon taxes are off the agenda YIPPEE!!!!!!!! Another attempt to rape pillage and burn taxpayers bites the dust But wait there will be others These bastards cant help themselves.

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  36. err.. () says:

    ‘I am NOT anti-car; but I am anti “being forced to use one in a congested city because the city authorities were too stupid to provide an alternative”.’

    This is me too. I find it odd that people consider themselves “motorists”. I’m not. I’m just a person who needs to go places and who uses the most efficient form of transport to get there. Unfortunately in Auckland that turns out to be a car most of the time, which is expensive and annoying.

    I’d rather take public transport purely because it’s actually nicer when done right – you have time to think, read, actually listen to music (which I would assert you can’t do in the car, it’s just background noise that you occasionally give a bit of attention to for ten seconds) and various other things. In London I used to get an hour of reading done every day on the tube, now I have to spend that time with my eyes glued to the back of the car in front. How tedious.

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  37. terence () says:

    David,

    Your numbers are dodgey. Particularly given this little snippit from the Stuff article you linked to:

    The goal is to increase the numbers in Auckland using trains from 3.25 million a year now to 10 million by 2011. Patronage has risen 32 per cent in the past year.

    What you really need to know before you come up with a dollars per passenger calculation is how many seperate passengers will use the rail service over the next 30 or so years (a guess off the top of my head) that the investment in the rail system will have worth. I’d say the umber would be a fair bit higher than your 9000 figure.

    On top of that – because public transport has significant positive externalities – the beneficiaries of the investment are not limited to the users of the network but also include: road passengers who have a faster trip thanks to some people travelling on trains; the health benefits of reduced air polluction; and the reduced number of car crashes etc.

    As an aside, these positive externalities are part of the perfectly sensible explanation provided by orthodox economic theory for tax payer subsidies for public transport.

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  38. nigel201065 () says:

    The biggest disincentive people have to using the bus service in Auckland is the price and the shear inconvienience of it. The only way for you to get people out of there cars is NOT to make it the most unpleasent way of getting about as some have stated, but to make public transport the cheapest option by a big enough margin to overcome the inconvienience. Lets face it if it costs $15 a day for the bus plus on top you have a 15min walk in the rain people are still going to pay $10 a day parking and the $10 petrol but if you take the bus down to say $3 for a day pass then alot of people will see the benifit of getting a little wet

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  39. nigel201065 () says:

    The biggest disincentive people have to using the bus service in Auckland is the price and the shear inconvienience of it. The only way for you to get people out of there cars is NOT to make it the most unpleasent way of getting about as some have stated, but to make public transport the cheapest option by a big enough margin to overcome the inconvienience. Lets face it if it costs $15 a day for the bus plus on top you have a 15min walk in the rain people are still going to pay $10 a day parking and the $10 petrol but if you take the bus down to say $3 for a day pass then alot of people will see the benifit of getting a little wet

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  40. side show bob () says:

    Im sorry but but I can offer no solution to Auckland’s transport woes, I get out of bed, jump on my ATV and Im at work.
    All I can say that if you can not sort out your problems soon many provincal cities will be taking up the slack.Take port Taranaki that is spending 23 million deeping the harbour.This will give the port the ablity to take the largest cargo ships.Why are they doing this?,because ports like Auckland are getting to hard to get to due congestion.Auckland is suffocating.

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  41. Ben Wilson () says:

    Fluid dynamic modelling sounds really cool. I wonder if the germans could use it on the autobahn to get around the mysterious ‘traffic jam from nowhere’ problem.

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  42. Geoffm () says:

    So, are they actually going to run a public transport system to the airport? The rail goes past along Puinui road, but there is no connection to the airport. There is not even a regular bus service. 7000 people work at the airport – plus all those who leave and arrive.
    A sad, expensive joke.
    Geoff

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  43. Ben Wilson () says:

    How many people do you think work in the CBD, Geoffm?

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  44. Libertyscott () says:

    Transport economics (not politics) states that the fundamental problem with both roads AND rail is that users are unwilling to pay for the costs that they impose on what are publicly owned or subsidised infrastructure.

    On public transport: For all the bleeting of “I want an alternative” to driving, most of those people are unwilling to pay for it – you want people who are not going to use it to pay for it (why should an elderly couple pay for you to get to work? why should someone living in Huntly pay taxes for your train?). Commercially sustainable public transport exists in Auckland, with many of the buses and the ferries – bus priority measures CAN work with express buses at a fraction of the cost of rail.

    It’s rather simple – roads exist, providing slightly more road capacity for buses is cheap – buses are mass produced and very portable and flexible. Rail lines need extending, upgrading for what is comparatively infrequent use (think how many vehicles use a road in 15 minutes, when 1 train uses a line) and purpose built (i.e. short run high cost) rolling stock that is very difficult to onsell. NEW rail lines make sense with very high volumes of passengers – because the only advantages rail has over buses come from volume, which justifies completely separate dedicated infrastructure.

    Public transport for commuting is subsidised because most of the capacity in infrastructure and trains/buses is expensive and not used most of the time. 66-75% of the rolling stock for a typical urban rail fleet lies idle except for four hours a day, five days a week, and when it runs it tends to run near empty in one direction. That is hienously expensive, but the people who USE it don’t want to pay for this. In essence, peak time public transport should cost a lot more than it does. The question is why should you want other people to pay for your commuting?

    On roads: Roads ARE commercially viable Russell, they make a return on current charges of around $900 million p.a. once maintenance is taken out of the equation. The Nats were going to operate the entire country’s roads as businesses and the extensive work done on this demonstrated that these are profitable assets for the Crown and local government if managed that way.

    Roads face a similar problem to public transport – demand exceeds supply, so you either build too much capacity at the peaks or you price people off it.

    So where does that take us if we run roads and public transport commercially? It changes the face of employment, commuting and land use. It encourages businesses and homes to be located closer together, it encourages telecommuting, home offices and more efficient energy and land use. In other words, less transport use and less pollution.

    Unfortunately – all we get is the “build more roads” argument without road pricing or the “pour money into public transport” argument – both are wrong. Peak time commuting is very expensive and is currently highly subsidised – it should not be.

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  45. Ben Wilson () says:

    So, Libertyscott, with all this rail bashing, how do you explain the obvious fact that every city beyond a certain size has an extensive rail system? Every town planner for 100 years has had collective madness? Every big town in the world should just let their metros and rails fall into disrepair and go for decentralized cities spanning hundreds of miles? If you want a big city without rail, visualize Bangkok 10 years ago…1.5 hours to go 10 miles, and you can’t even see the city until you get within 2 miles because of the smog.

    It is certainly one philosophy of town planning – just let it all sprawl to shit. Many people advocate it. And it will lead to a kind of city. But it’s the kind of city that I put it to you the majority of NZers don’t want. Your argument from ‘the user won’t pay’ is rubbish, I’m sorry. The user will pay, when it’s built. They won’t pay until then, and probably no company will take the infrastructure cost risk. Will you pay to buy all these ferries and buses you’re talking about? 600 million worth?

    My only concern is that the money spent remains in government hands – that this isn’t just a handout to big business.

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  46. Libertyscott () says:

    Ben it is not “rail bashing”. Most urban rail networks, like tram networks, were built when roads were made of dirt and internal combustion engines could not be made efficient enough to put into buses – by contrast, steam and electric rail traction was developed early – so we got trains and trams. New Zealand had trams in all 4 main centres, plus 5 provincial cities – all gone by 1964 because they were duplicate infrastructure compared to roads with buses.

    Rail is generally good for four types of business:
    - Long haul bulk or containerised freight;
    - Medium haul high speed high density shuttle passenger rail;
    - High density urban commuter rail;
    - Tourist trips of particular scenic value or very high cost for equivalent of over 3 full bus loads minimum.

    Ben there is also a huge difference between having a legacy rail system that you maintain, versus building a new one – Auckland is halfway between that, it has corridors that aren’t ideal and needs to spend a fortune to build a half decent system.

    It is NOT shit to say the user will pay – the user wont pay. Rail fares in Auckland would need to increase at least fourfold to recover the operating costs. $38 million in operating subsidies for Auckland trains – not including capital expenditure for this year alone.

    and Ben, companies DO pay for public transport. Half of Auckland bus routes until recently were run commercially without subsidy, with new buses financed through expectations of fare revenue. All long distance bus and rail services are run commercially without subsidy, as are air services.

    A case from an economics perspective (not libertarian) can be made for public transport subsidies in the absence of road pricing, for peak commuter services, when they generate reductions in congestion for other motorists. However, rail doesn’t do that, the costs are higher than the benefits.

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  47. Logix () says:

    I can see where you are coming from, but I get no sense from what you are saying that you are appreciating the synergies that arise when you combine, cycleways, buses, park’n'rides, integrated ticketing systems, etc, in order to concentrate the passengers to the point where high density urban commuter rail becomes economically viable.

    Rail systems do not exist in isolation, and are not necessarily in competition with other modes. Rail has it’s own charateristics that need to be exploited with correct design and proper integration. It’s pretty basic stuff that I’ve experienced in plenty of places overseas.

    Ben’s key point is that it is all very well to say that it is hard to make rail work with the current transport and demographic configuration of Auckland, but the current situation is not static. Auckland will only be more populous in 20 years time, not less, and the current problems will only be worse if we continue with the current car based strategy.

    Auckland roads have had the huge lion share of transport funding over the last 50 years and have delivered failure. What is the sane reason to expect anything different by doing more of the same? By contrast the integration of buses and rail into a functioning system has received a relative pittance, yet this is exactly where most overseas cities have historically invested much, and demonstrably function better than Auckland.

    The simple fact is that the public bus/train structure in Auckland has been run down so badly, that staging a recovery at this late stage is just going to be plain expensive and hard to justify with short-term economics. The job should have been started 40 years ago when it would have been far cheaper and easier. Now Auckland is faced with two simple choices, the pain of building a functioning transport system, or the even greater pain of not doing so.

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  48. Libertyscott () says:

    Logix, I agree that the integration your talking about is important, but the long term trend for Auckland will be less employment in the CBD and lower density housing – despite all the efforts of planners, because that is what people want – and rail will not fix that or serve those people.

    You are also incorrect in saying there is a car based strategy at present, when we are talking about spending nearly as much on public transport as roads – and remember the roads matter partly because buses still carry many times what the trains carry. Roads carry buses and trucks as well as cars, and no urban rail system is going to do anything for them. Remember the money on roads comes mostly from road users, the money for trains comes from road users and property owners.

    I also disagree that roads have delivered failure – Auckland would not have grown as it did without its motorway network. The mistake was in not reforming the bus, tram and rail systems at the same time – local authorities shut down the tram system, were very bad operators of most of the buses and the rail system was left to rot. However, the motorways were hardly a mistake – perhaps not building them with tolls was the mistake, as it would have ensured demand could be managed on them.

    The point is not that Auckland could use a high quality public transport system – it can – it is whether taxpayer investment in trains is the best way to deliver that. The solution to Auckland congestion is, however, not endless supply of transport demand by the state, but management of demand through pricing.

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  49. Libertyscott () says:

    In 2001, the subsidy per passenger trip for Auckland passenger trains was $3.69, for Wellington trains it was only $1.72 and for Auckland buses 96c. These will only have increased, particularly in Auckland. What does Auckland get for a subsidy 4x that of buses?

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  50. Owen McShane () says:

    In his seminal 1996 paper “the Mythical Conception of Rail in Los Angeles” Jonathan Richmond asked why a rail system was built when all expert opinion was against it. He identified a group of myths and delusions which drove a political decision. These same myths and delusions have been argued by the pro-rail folk on this blog. They include for example, the old word city myth, the tourism myth, the progressive image myth and so on.
    Here is a simple challenge. All the pro-rail folk assume Auckland’s population will double ie reach say 2.2 million.
    Given that the population of NZ is likely to increase by only 0.5 million or so before going into decline this is unlikely.
    Also, what is this thing called Auckland. It includes Wellsford just a few kms south of me in Kaiwaka and extends down to Clevedon. My hunch (based on demographics immigration stats and oversease experience) is that metropolitan Auckland (as opposed to the region) is about to go into population decline. South Auckland may resist the trend but south Aucklanders do not tend to commute to jobs in central Auckland. Deomographics is driving a massive migration to the countryside all over the world. Smart growth which drives up house prices and increases congestion drives people out and discourages immigration. OUr Auckland planners are destroying Auckland in order to save it.
    Auckland is already a very low density City and like Honolulu is oriented to the coast rather than downtown. Worse, we have two huge harbours in the middle of the transport catchment which have zero population.
    Rail is about frequency. The Auckland numbers can never deliver the frequency to make rail really attractive or economic. I have cut the numbers on an Auckland Airport link and you get a train about every forty five minutes. Bad news if you just miss it.
    THere is not a transport economist, or traffic engineer who supports investment in rail. Rail provides zero service for our commercial vehicles. Roads do.
    Auckland rail is driven by mythical concepts.
    It will not deliver.

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  51. Owen McShane () says:

    In his seminal 1996 paper “the Mythical Conception of Rail in Los Angeles” Jonathan Richmond asked why a rail system was built when all expert opinion was against it? He identified a group of myths and delusions which drove a purely political decision. These same myths and delusions have been argued by the pro-rail folk on this blog. They include for example, the old word city myth, the tourism myth, the progressive image myth, and so on.
    Here is a simple challenge. All the pro-rail folk assume Auckland’s population will double i.e. reach say 2.2 million by 2050.
    Given that the population of NZ is likely to increase by only 0.5 million or so before going into decline this is unlikely.
    Also, what is this thing called Auckland? It includes Wellsford just a few kms south of me in Kaiwaka and extends down to Clevedon. Most growth is taking place in Rodney and further south. My hunch (based on demographics, immigration stats, and oversease experience) is that metropolitan Auckland (as opposed to the region) is about to go into population decline. The big American cities are no longer growth centres. The growth is now taking place in Micropolises of about 30,000 to 50,000 people. South Auckland may resist the trend but South Aucklanders do not tend to commute to jobs in central Auckland. Deomographics is driving a massive migration to the countryside all over the world. ARC’s beloved Smart Growth, which drives up house prices and increases congestion, drives people out and discourages immigration. Our Auckland planners are destroying Auckland in order to save it.
    Auckland is already a very low density City and like Honolulu is oriented to the coast rather than downtown. Worse, we have two huge harbours in the middle of the transport catchment which have zero population.
    Rail is about frequency. The Auckland numbers can never deliver the frequency to make rail really attractive or economic. I have cut the numbers on an Auckland Airport link and you get a train about every forty five minutes. Bad news if you just miss it.
    There is not a single transport economist, urban economist or traffic engineer who supports investment in rail. Rail provides zero service for our commercial vehicles. Roads do.
    Auckland rail is driven by mythical concepts.
    It will not deliver.

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  52. Ben Wilson () says:

    Owen, I completely dispute there are no traffic engineers who support rail here. I am having one staying over from ozzie between Christmas and New Years who has frequently been hired in to consult on Auckland planning, and has advocated rail many times. BUT, in this I agree – she tells me that rail is typically not forced on a city that doesn’t already have it until the average commute time reaches 1.5 hours (which tallies with my memories of Bangkok). That doesn’t mean it can’t happen sooner if we do it without being forced by many years of suffering. It would, as LibertyScott suggests, be cheaper to do it earlier, and now IS earlier. Earlier than when Auckland is twice the size and the cost of the land 10 or 20 times as much.

    There is definitely dispute about what kind of approach to planning is best. The school of thought that says ‘let the market do it’ leads to a particular kind of city, typically one that sprawls, has many centres, endless motorways, and huge disaffection with the transport system. The kind where you plan something in advance, take some public risks thinking of the distant future, lead to cities that are much more compact, and efficient. Auckland has suffered from lack of planning in the past, but if we really want a megalopolis, we could actually do something about it now. With better public transport it could be huge, without soaking up all the land between Whangarei and Hamilton.

    That’s a big IF. Lots of people don’t want Auckland to be as big as it already is. Typically they are old folks, or people who don’t live here. I see some argument that the rest of the country shouldn’t be paying for Auckland’s transport, but they should realize the same goes in reverse. High quality highways to remote towns are even less justifiable. But I don’t begrudge them that, personally – I think NZ is for all of us, and the more wicked roads and railways the better. Auckland receives priority because it has so many voices and it generates so much income for NZ. That shouldn’t be the rule forever, other towns will get their turn.

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  53. Miles () says:

    To take cars off Auckland’s congested roads, some of us have been trying to catch a train. Trying being the key word. You Wellingtonians have no idea how difficult it has been. You can get a glimpse at my blog about the daily trial.
    http://www.slowtraincomin.blogspot.com/

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  54. Libertyscott () says:

    Ben, the problem is that the “more compact and efficient” city planners seek is counter to what individual people actually want for themselves. Most people want more living space, which means houses not apartments. They want more quiet and privacy, many of them want backyards for their kids to play in safely – you just don’t get that in high density cities. Think how many NZers do their OE in London, and how few want to raise kids there – it is for reasons like that. Regulating to achieve high density also pushes the cost of housing up, simply because people want to live in bigger accommodation – the supply is limited, so the price goes up. It works fine for people wanting to live in inner city apartments (single people and couples who work in the city), but not for anyone else. In addition, it does not reduce growth in car ownership because that is related to wealth – not availability of transport alternatives. There will STILL be congested roads, but with more vehicles on them with more people in less space there are higher concentrations of harmful emissions (lets get off CO2 and talk about particulates and benzene which actually DO affect health directly), and more pedestrians exposed to them. Lower density cities expose people to less of those emissions.

    As for the rest of the country, there are many many high quality highway projects not being done because of the emphasis on Auckland motorways and public transport – these projects are cheap, save lives, travel time and all have high benefit/cost ratios. I don’t believe the more roads or public transport the better – rather that the people using them, pay for them directly.

    Transport is a utility like electricity and phones, and people should pay for what they consume, not expect others to do so, especially given the externalities it generates.

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  55. Brian S () says:

    “Transport is a utility like electricity and phones, and people should pay for what they consume, not expect others to do so, especially given the externalities it generates.”

    Exactly. What I don’t understand is why the left gets into such a lather about motorway congestion, but is unable to countenance the suggestion that the solution is for people to pay for what they consume.

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  56. Logix () says:

    And the now defunct carbon tax was nothing more than a price on the consumption of oxygen. (And I’m still working on a way of getting you all to pay for all that gravity of mine that you are consuming as well. )

    Actually at least part of what the left cannot countennace is the dramatic loss of freedoms and rights to personal privacy that such schemes innately entail.

    Spotted this one? :

    Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

    Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article334686.ece
    (HTip NoRightTurn)

    These schemes are always introduced with the rationale that they will protect our security, but at the same time have grotesque potential to be used against us all by a fascist totalitarian regime. What I don’t understand is why the right, gets all in a lather about economic efficiency and the “free market”, but are unable to comprehend that the solutions they propose are the antithesis of freedom and personal dignity.

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  57. Libertyscott () says:

    Logix, I disagree, in fact my blog has a post (http://libertyscott.blogspot.com/2005/12/big-brother-britain.html) about that very article condemning the surveillance proposal. You are right that the left understands these personal freedom issues more – which is a major failing of the conservative right.

    By “such schemes”, I assume you mean road pricing.

    Singapore’s road pricing scheme runs by having prepaid smartcards in cars which are automatically debited for using the roads – no identification of who you are as long as you have the money on your card, if you don’t you get billed a lot more, as the camera goes off with your number plate, but that is a choice. You are no more identified with the smartcard than you are with a phonecard in a pay phone. You don’t need to ignore privacy – you can design it in.

    However your fundamental point is correct, the free market must coincide with personal freedom and privacy from the state.

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  58. Ben Wilson () says:

    LibertyScott, I appreciate that you have a different opinion on town planning, based on the concept of user pays. That’s fine, it’s ideologically motivated, as is my view.

    I disagree that ‘what individual people want for themselves’ is what you think, because I don’t believe your mechanism delivers them the choice. Individuals will clearly not choose to purchase a railway network. Nor will they submit to massive motorway extensions or indeed ANY public works whatsoever. But they may not have a problem with a system where everyone contributes to these public works, and they then get to decide which ones they use.

    I don’t think it’s true that more NZers want bigger space and land, otherwise they’d all live out in the country. There is a suburban balance point which the majority of people here live in, and there are extremes in each of the other directions – lots of people do choose urban apartment living, others choose rural life. All should be allowed. But dense urban living is not possible with our current infrastructure.

    I don’t follow your emissions argument completely. You talk of concentration of emissions, but not of total emissions, which are obviously way higher if your ideology has its way. It’s obviously far less fuel efficient in the long run and thus actually costlier than having denser cities. But we’re talking the *long* run, which is outside of the planning scope of any private enterprise. You have a point re: concentration of emissions, but the obvious solution from the dense living advocate is that emissions need to be better controlled, transport needs to produce less emissions. Electrics? Mass transit? Bike lanes?

    I think your OE point falls about as flat as it gets. The fact that thousands upon thousands of NZers head for one of the most densely populated cities on the planet with awesome public transport is a testament to the fallacy of the view that NZers don’t want that. They just don’t necessarily want it for their whole life. People do move houses, and it makes perfect sense that young singles and couples live an urban life in the big exciting city. They would do it here if it existed, which is yet another reason to bring it here. When they get older and decide to have kids they can move to suburbia if they think that is better. I don’t see that it’s clearly true, it’s just a kiwi prejudice anyway – billions of kids are raised in densely populated cities without problems. But if we want suburbs, we’ve got them.

    I understand your self regulating point, but I don’t think it’s the whole story. It fails to recognise that huge public works can have benefits that simply will never emerge from private enterprise selling a product, or will emerge in a very substandard way. There is a balance point between planning and just letting it grow, and NZ has traditionally leaned very much towards the ‘don’t plan it’ method. Now we’re trying something else, and I for one want to see what we can acheive.

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