Rudman on Brown

January 21st, 2011 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman mocks ’s list of achievements, and tells him to focus on buses:

Mayor Len Brown’s curse is self-inflicted – a rash promise before his coronation last November to within 100 days unveil 100 projects he would complete.

“We will see things really fly,” he promised.

With less than 20 days to go, Mayor Len’s immediate problem is not so much getting things airborne, it’s struggling to come up with bright ideas to launch.

This week, he and his retinue managed to scrape together a list of just 52. And many of those belonged in the “got up,” “brushed my teeth” category.

Claiming credit for setting up various advisory panels required by law is rather cringe-making.

So is “recommending the budget”, “monthly town hall meetings”, “regular engagement with local boards” and “spatial plan initiative”, all nuts-and-bolts functions that were going to happen regardless. …

Of course he’s not the first politician to bathe in the glory of tasks initiated by his predecessors. But few are quite as bare-faced as this.

With 48 to go and desperation setting in, what next? No 53: Sun Rises

I can’t wait for the full list of 100 to be published. Maybe once he has, then Len will focus on the important issues and forget the PR stuff for a while.

My suggestion to Mr Brown is that before ordering new ferries for Takapuna or musing about the wonders of the new electric train services, he should, as his first priority, sort out the workhorses of Auckland public transport, the buses.

As Josh Arbury in his Auckland transport blog reminds us, 49 million of the trips on Auckland public transport this year will be on buses, and if the mayor wants to hit his 2021 target, that’s where the main growth will have to occur.

He also notes how little bus patronage has increased this decade, up from 45 million trips in 2002 to 49 million this year.

Why is that? For me, the biggest turn-off is lack of punctuality.

Waiting for the missing bus is a killer. You can’t even fill in the time reading a book for fear that when the bus does appear it will speed past unless you’re kerbside, waving your arms like a windmill.

I always look at the public transport systems of overseas cities when staying in them, to see how well they work and why. Punctuality is an absolute must. Ideally you don’t even want route timetables – you want a train or bus to be frequent enough that you know you will never have more than say a 10 – 15 minute wait.

As important is integrated and electronic ticketing. No cash Everyone just swipes in and off.

20 Responses to “Rudman on Brown”

  1. PaulL (6,060 comments) says:

    I agree with DPF here – frequency can replace punctuality. Nobody in London looks at tube timetables during peak hours – the next train is 3 minutes away. But Auckland, for many routes, won’t have the volume to justify that.

    Punctuality is hard with buses without dedicated bus lanes – they get stuck in traffic like every other vehicle on the road. Some use of dedicated bus lanes could help. I’ve seen some technology solutions – so instead of punctuality, you instead get an electronic “how far away is the bus” sign at the bus stop. That would address some of what DPF is looking for, but given the vandalism some areas of Auckland experience, that could be a very expensive proposition.

    I’d also look at the “greenliness” of buses. In San Fran I think I saw gas turbine hybrid buses. That might make some people feel better about riding them, and being new buses also makes them nicer to ride in (cleaner, generally nicer).

    And I have to say, despite my belief that light rail is a con and no better than buses with a dedicated bus lane, I have to say the trams in Melbourne (where I am at the moment) are really cool. I doubt they’re suitable for Auckland (city needs to be designed for them), but I’m less against them than I was.

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  2. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Punctuality is near impossible with buses. But the following system would revolutionise bus use:

    I want to catch No.10 bus from stop number 157 and I need 8 minutes notice to grab my stuff and get to the stop. So I text “10 157 8” to the bus info number. When No.10 is 8 minutes from the stop I get a text message letting me know. I walk down, wait 30 seconds and get on the bus.

    London has much of the infrastructure in place for this system (GPS on buses, etc) but at present it is only used for the silly status board in the stops. Knowing when the next bus is coming isn’t much use if you have to spend the time waiting in the bus stop.

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  3. PaulL (6,060 comments) says:

    I like that one malcolm. As long as they don’t decide to charge for the damn service. Maybe an iPhone app or web page would be more likely to be free? And potentially more flexible/fancy?

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  4. RRM (12,580 comments) says:

    Bagging the public transport is elevated to the level of a religion up there.

    Two years into my working life In Akl I discovered I could halve my commuting costs by catching the bus instead of driving. Journey time increased by about 15 minutes, from 45 to 60, but that was acceptable to me as it was “a long time” either way.

    Couldn’t sell the idea to anyone else at work though. They didn’t want to know.

    “I don’t want to have to wait at a bus stop in the morning”… I could have spent that time putting petrol in my car or something.
    “I’m sure [= I have no idea] there aren’t any bus routes out my side of town”
    “Costs half as much as petrol for your car? That can’t be right.”

    Just hopeless. It is a city of drama queens.

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  5. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Paul, yeah they’d no doubt charge a separate fee for it, thus knobbling it’s uptake. But worst of all it would be designed by a committee involving the drivers unions, the council, their iwi representative, the software company, a 3rd party software auditor, two people from the regional council, someone from the labour department, someone from the dept of maori affairs, and four people from the human rights commission.

    Hence it would be a complete mess. Not unlike the Snapper system. Compare and contrast Outlook with Gmail.

    Then after about 5 years, the regional council will spend $25M to buy a decent system development in China by three blokes with four old pcs.

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  6. adze (2,133 comments) says:

    Often the worst thing about public transport are some of the other passengers. I’ve been a regular user of Wellington’s buses since I moved here 8 years ago and I tear my hair out every time a bus driver lets on someone who is 1) obviously drunk, and 2) still has booze in their hand.

    That doesn’t include 1) noisy/profane youths 2) people with humvee-sized prams who would rather ask you to move rather than fold the thing up 3) “staunch” dudes who eye everyone up 4) LOUD CELLPHONE CONVERSATION GUY.

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  7. PaulL (6,060 comments) says:

    Heh. Or from a guy called malcolm who took some time off work and built it, and then sold it to them. With four old pcs and 3 university students.

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  8. kowtow (13,220 comments) says:

    When Napoleon B escaped Elba it was called the 100 days……..Napoleon Brown anyone?

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  9. AlphaKiwi (694 comments) says:

    Monthly passes are coming out next month. Another small step in the right direction.

    When I moved back from China, I thought I would have to buy a car. However, since I left Auckland in 1994, bus services have improved a lot. The bus lanes and other general improvements have convinced me that not buying a car was the right thing. I’m saving tons of money. If I had had a car, I would have to complain that I’m subsidizing the buses, but since I’m not going to be able to change that, I might as well take advantage of those subsidies, and know that I’m not taking other people’s parking spots and road space.

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  10. RRM (12,580 comments) says:

    I don’t think integrated ticketing across buses/trains/ferries is the keystone people think it would be. Most people have their route sorted out, and they know which bus they catch in the morning and which bus they catch in the evening.

    All that’s really needed is cashless payment, e.g. Snapper cards. It wouldn’t really matter if the ferries or some bus companies had their own different system, it is no hardship to have a ferry card AND a bus card in your wallet. But getting people on and off quickly without fannying around for change is vital.

    [DPF: If you only use transport to get to and from work maybe. But if you want people to use public transport for other stuff – Saturday sports, catching up with friends, shopping etc then you do want an integrated system – preferably with a daily price cap]

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  11. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Heh Paul, ideas are everywhere. Making something out of them is a whole ‘nother thing. I’ve been involved in IT in a peripheral way in the past and I have a lot of friends in IT. I tell that idea to anyone who will listen and they always say “Good idea”, but as yet AFAIK, no one has done it. Actually they probably have it in China 🙂

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  12. Owen McShane (1,193 comments) says:

    For once Rudman may be right that buses need more investment. But his is why in those US cities that invested billions in retro-fitted rail the market share of public transport goes DOWN.
    To pay for the trains buses are starved of cash. Some cities even close down the most used bus routes because they compete with rail.

    The Wednesday Herald (pA&) reported on “Mayor’s 100-days List” and printed the whole “so far” list.

    One the face of it, the list seems reasonably balanced between Auckland Central and the rest of the Council territory.
    Items such as No 38 and several others probably reflect the input by Penny Webster and Local Boards.

    However, closer examination that the items that cost real money (as opposed to setting up committees etc) are heavily concentrated in the Central City area.

    It would be worth putting together a budget of central and peripheral budgetary commitments.

    This bias is heavily reinforced by the reporting in the Herald.

    And of course by the Mayor’s own reporting of his own achievements.

    Tuesday’s Herald (A7) also runs a story on Mayor’s target to double public transport use.
    He claims that the $2b spending on on rail would “put most of inner Auckland within 500m walking distance of a station.”

    Property values are driven by accessibility and if this is so the main beneficiaries of this spending and downstream subsidies will be the central city landowners. So they should pay their fair share.

    But the plan is to have it regionally funded.

    What percentage of residents outside the”inner city” will be within 500 metres of a station, and what benefit will they receive?

    Almost certainly less than zero because spending on central city rail in similar cities overseas has reduced the funding available for buses and roads which genuinely benefit the wider region.

    Why should anyone in Wellsford or Maraitai contribute a dollar and would the inner city residents be so keen if the rate was charged according to direct benefit?

    Will this be a targeted rate or a flat rate?

    The list includes a designated rail route to the Airport even though five minute analysis shows such a rail connection will be a dog – just as the rail link to Sydney Airport and the proposeal to connect Oakland to San Francisco Airport are dogs.
    A designation for an HOV lane probably makes sense. But rail is a non starter.

    Seems the Mayor and his advisers have learned nothing from the experience of Montreal and Toronto.

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  13. PaulL (6,060 comments) says:

    Malcolm, I have a very good understanding of the IT industry. I haven’t seen a system like that out there, but what I know is that if you look hard enough you will find one of anything. The trick is the local implementation, and with stuff like this a competent local firm will always out compete foreigners – it’s too dependent on tweaking for local anomalies. You can also hire offshore developers for peanuts, if you have the talent to manage them – there are job exchanges on the internet you can get them from.

    The other thing I know is that for every Bill Gates there are a hundred bankrupt people, people working 100 hours a week in a small business that will eventually go bankrupt, and people spending large portions of their time and life on ideas that will never come to anything. Of course, I don’t know which are which, and nor do most other people. So I wouldn’t say don’t do it. But I would say that for me, a regular IT salary is a more reliable proposition….I’ll be keeping my day job 🙂

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  14. campit (480 comments) says:

    @Malcom, virtual bus stops indicators are already online, and accessible on mobile devices:

    Monthly passes are coming out next month. Another small step in the right direction.

    We already have monthly passes available via GoRider. The cards coming out in March are a limited temporary solution while NZ Bus transitions their ticketing system from the aging GoRider / Wayfarer system to Snapper (branded as Hop in Auckland).

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  15. abusskandar (2 comments) says:

    Indeed, Auckland has a long way to go before sorting out is public transport system. Try living out West where you can quite literally count on one hand the number of buses passing my house each day. I know there’s a market out there. All you have to do is try to get through Titirangi from 7.30 to 9.00 or 16.00 to 18.00 every day to know this. Having lived in Switzerland for six years, that land of watches, fondue and ever so efficient public transport, it’s shameful that Aucklanders continue to rely on (and worship?) their cars. In Switzerland, the only shame one ever had to face when taking a bus/tram/train was a face-off with the ticket inspector. There are different levels and types of shame across the world and believe me, being on any kind of public transport in Switzerland without a ticket and then being caught by the ticket inspector = immediate social outcast. Being hauled off the bus/tram/train (usually full at that) at the next stop is a most heinous experience. And why is that you ask? Because you’re a fare cheat? Possibly. Because you’re a stupid foreigner who doesn’t know the rules? Maybe. No, the real reason for your public vilification is quintessentially Swiss: it’s because your transgression disrupts the schedule. If there’s one thing I learned not to mess with in Switzerland it’s the schedule (in fact anything to do with time – they are manic about it). If the bus on line 3 says it leaves this stop at 15.13, 15.13 it must leave. I’ve seen people start staring at their watches when it’s a minute late. At two minutes, the muttering starts. At three minutes, the phone calls start. The worse thing about this was that after several years, I started doing the same thing. In a roundabout way I guess what I’m saying is this: the Swiss respect their public transport. It is a quality product, modestly priced, comfortable and usually on time. Aucklanders don’t respect public transport and how can you when it’s constantly late, runs twice a day from where you live and is horrendously overpriced?

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  16. campit (480 comments) says:

    Oh, and Josh Arbury’s legendary blog is
    Every post is a thesis on how a good pt system should work

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  17. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Thanks Campit, very interesting – I had that idea quite a few years ago in London and have been looking for it ever since. Good to see it has been done. Do you find it accurate and does it make the bus service a lot more usable for you?

    PaulL – I know what you mean :-).

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  18. nickb (3,765 comments) says:

    Who even reads Brian Rudmans articles?

    He seems like the kind of guy that would google search his own name.

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  19. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Wait? Is the love souring? Could my 2011 prediction be incorrect?

    Say it ain’t so, Brian!

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  20. hubbers (284 comments) says:

    Massive FAIL Len.

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