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Four wheels good, two wheels bad

Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, March 20th, 2009 - 34 comments
Categories: climate change, economy, Environment, honeymoon, Media, national/act government, spin, transport - Tags:

The Government is taking nearly half a billion dollars out of public transport, cycling, walking, road maintance, and traffic policing to pay for more state highways. Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s reasoning for this – ‘86% of people go to work by car’.

Doesn’t he get that people have to go by car because there aren’t other options? In the age of climate change and peak oil the government needs to be giving people alternatives to driving. Instead they’re cementing the car culture, which will just make future oil shocks more damaging and hurt our environment.

Meanwhile, did you notice Guyon here on Tuesday saying “The government got the headline it wanted this morning…but when you look deeper into the numbers half of it comes from raiding other aspects of the transport budget”? Why did it take the journalists a day, you might ask. It should have been obvious immediately that the ‘reallocation from non-state highway streams’ that Joyce talked about meant money out of public transport. Why didn’t the journalists get that straight away and ask Joyce about it at the press conference on Monday instead of giving him the headlines he was looking for?

The dark, dirty truth is that they did ask him and he told them. Listen to the press conference here. You can hear Guyon ask if the money is coming out of public transport and Joyce acknowledges it is. Yet no-one mentioned it in the reports that followed. Journalists played the story like they had intially been tricked but had caught the government out after further investigation.  Not true. There was no digging here. No heroic investigative journalism. The journalists knew the full story from the start but, for whatever reason, chose not to tell us.

34 comments on “Four wheels good, two wheels bad ”

  1. Stephen Whittington 1

    Sorry, when did we move into the age of peak oil?

  2. randal 2

    the short answer to the question seems to be that the current crop of journo’s is captured already
    they are not really journalists at all
    that might seem a little harsh but the group of people representing the fifth estate have folded completely under the lure of jobs on teevee and possibe public relations positions
    the answer of course is to erect alternative systems of communications
    there is no tablet carved in stone to say that the corporate ownership of the press is the only possible device for the dissemination of news and opinion
    they have become sclerotic and the ownership is divorced from management
    it really is time for a revolution in telling it like it is instead of getting bogged down in pointless beltway arguments and the endless progression of paid dweebs who will bury anything with inantion

  3. Joshua 3

    Yes this government does seem intent on embarking upon a recklessly myopic transportation agenda. 86% of people use cars to get to work because often they have little alternative – surely that should be a sign that we need to invest more in other transportation forms so that we have a more balanced system, rather than as justification to put our eggs even more in one basket?

    There are movements to increase awareness of public transport. The Campaign for Better Transport has made some notable gains in the past few years, in campaigns to re-open the Onehunga Railway Branch and get trains to Helensville. Clearly more can be done, but it’s a good idea to check out their website (bettertransport.org).

    Similarly, I update a blog that advocates for public transport improvements and a more balanced transportation policy (click on my name for the link).

    Clearly the best argument for public transport advocates is that we need a better balanced and more robust transport network for an uncertain future. Why is the government putting all its eggs in the roads basket when most agree that peak oil is inevitable (if indeed it hasn’t already happened)?

    Oh and I am quite prepared to have the biofuel/hydrogen/electric car debate with anyone should they choose to. None of them deal with congestion issues and none of them can be rolled out widely in the next 20 or so years like public transport can be.

  4. gingercrush 4

    Until people have an incentive to use public transport the majority of New Zealanders will not use it. Its as simple as that. Public transport on the whole is inconvenient. In Christchurch its way easier to jump into your car to wherever you’re going. By the time you wait for a bus to arrive you’re already where you wanted to be. Because the timetables etc are shocking.

    Wellington is very workable via public transport and does make a lot of sense. But in Auckland people will use their cars. If you did a poll and asked people would you rather have more roads or would you rather have more spent on public transport. There is no doubt in my mind, the majority of people would support roads.

    And really as much as some would like to think Labour would do better. To me that is doubtful. Sure they were likely to put more money towards Public transport but it isn’t going to be that different from National and they’re still going to build more roads. Only the Greens advocate proper public transport. And they themselves would be dependent on Labour agreeing to change the way we look at transport.

    I don’t think Labour were ready in 2008 and I’m not entirely sure they’ll be ready to do that in years to come. Then there is the question, how will the public react if we started putting so much into public transport that either more is spent on public transport than roading or even we spend the same amount on public transport as we would roading.

    • Joshua 4.1

      Depends what we get out of the public transport spending. If we got a CBD rail tunnel, railway to the airport, the Northern Busway turned into a railway line and extended to Orewa (and the , a Howick/Botany line built…. then I think people would be OK with the money being spent on public transport.

      Labour certainly weren’t particularly pro-PT either. Their roads-centric policies has only just begun to change in the last year or so, but even then they were proposing to spend close to $2 billion on the Waterview Connection. Hence my vote in the last election went to the Greens.

      • George Darroch 4.1.1

        Labour and partners spent significantly more on roads than any government in NZ history. Some of these were mad roads, like the Wellington inner city bypass.

        Public transport went up, but not in relative terms – the mix was still the same.

  5. Tim Ellis 5

    Interesting post, Eddie, but I’m not sure that your claim that no journalist followed up with the analysis and simply ran with the government’s spin actually stacks up.

    The first story that the Herald ran on the government’s transport plans was on Tuesday morning. You can read it at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10562036

    Where will it come from?

    $420 million from “non-state highway classes” of the national land transport fund.

    $258 million in new Crown capital investment (likely to be borrowed).

    $283 million from national fuel tax increases of 6c a litre in two instalments, starting on October 1.

    • r0b 5.1

      So Tim, any comment on the wisdom, in this day and age, of removing funding from public transport to build more motorways? It seems to me that it couldn’t get any more wrongheaded if it tried.

      • Tim Ellis 5.1.1

        r0b, I don’t believe that all roading transport is good, and all public transport funding is bad. Clearly there is a trade-off between the two. I don’t actually know enough about transport infrastructure to take a position on whether particular public transport funding is better value than particular roading funding. What I do know is that this government has a set of priorities that it put before the electorate just a few months ago and that voters overwhelmingly expressed their confidence in a National-led government to deliver on its policy priorities.

        • r0b 5.1.1.1

          That’s a weasel worded reply Tim, and well you know it.

          National did not campaign on removing the funding from public transport, and they have no mandate for it.

          By any rational measure of what is needed for the challenges ahead it is entirely the wrong thing to do, and I suspect that you well know that too.

          • Tim Ellis 5.1.1.1.1

            r0b National clearly set out completion of roads as its main transport platform. I don’t believe they went about saying that all public transport initiatives were cost-effective and would be maintained. I did hear Maurice Williamson, in between some of his sillier outbursts, saying there was always a trade-off in transport spending.

            Obviously we need more investment in public and national road transport. Labour had major roading priorities, including the waterview connection, which they hadn’t allocated money towards despite a $2 billion likely cost. Auckland needs major roading investment, and no amount of investment in rail will substantially alleviate the transport issues over the next twenty years.

          • r0b 5.1.1.1.2

            I don’t believe they went about saying that all public transport initiatives were cost-effective and would be maintained

            Sadly, the weasel words continue. National didn’t say the policy of not kicking puppies would be maintained either, do they now have an electoral mandate to kick puppies?

            And there is a difference between evaluating public transport initiatives and blindly cutting the lot.

            Come on, you have a brain, disengage the partisan politics for a moment and consider this rationally, in the context of the challenges ahead. Is axing funding for public transport to build more roads really good for New Zealand? Honestly Tim?

  6. vto 6

    It’s not about public transport at all you noo-noos. It’s about the internal combustion engine, which is the current means of propelling vehicles. Changing the means of vehicle propulsion is the issue – not getting people to use public transport (which nobody really wants to do).

    • r0b 6.1

      Changing the means of vehicle propulsion is the issue

      One of the issues, an important one.

      not getting people to use public transport (which nobody really wants to do)

      Wrong wrong wrong. Proper public transport is brilliant. I’m currently in a big big city (no, not in NZ). Getting about by car here is a nightmare, and anyone who can uses public transport.

      In NZ we’re trapped in a “chicken or the egg” loop. We don’t use public transport because it’s mostly so naff. So there doesn’t appear to be the demand to create a decent system. But if it was a good system we would use it. And we should, and we must. But not under this government.

  7. infused 7

    Indeed vto. There will always be cars, the engine will change of course. Public transport sucks. It really, really sucks. I use to use it all the time, it caused me to quit my job.

    I will never, ever catch a train again until something is done about the speed. It takes an hour to get from Upper Hutt to Wellington. It’s shocking, not to mention, expensive, more expensive than using a car.

    • Kaplan 7.1

      You illustrate the ‘chicken and egg’ concept that r0b makes so well above.
      If the public transport system met your needs you would use it. Unfortunately with investment being taken out of public transport and pumped into roading you are not going to get that opportunity though are you.

      • vto 7.1.1

        chicken and egg bah. You still miss the point. The public transport issue is a subset of the internal combustion engine issue.

        Dealing with the subset issue does not solve the main issue, merely mitigate it to a small extent for probably a small period of time.

        One other matter re roads – they have been around for as long as manwoman has existed. Tracks and trails are established and used for decades and centuries and millenia and longer. The means of moving along these trails and tracks changes over time (foot, horsey, buggy, doggy, car, etc) but the tracks and trails themselves do not change to anywhere near the same extent. When the combustion engine is long gone the tracks and trails of today, say state highway 1 for example, will remain and be used by even more people (provided NZ’s population continues to rise to its water level density of Japan and UK). It is wise to maintain and improve these tracks and trails for the population to come.

        For some sandal-wearing reason public transport keeps being thrown into the mix in a vastly overrated manner. It is a mino factor. But keeps distorting the main issues. Concentrate please people, concentrate.

        • r0b 7.1.1.1

          vto – have you ever lived in a city with a good light rail transit system? Or for that matter a country with an efficient national rail system?

          Those tracks and trails that you refer to have often been traversed by public transport. Long before there was cars and trucks, there was the railways.

          • vto 7.1.1.1.1

            yes of course like most I have. And yes they are good. And yes of course those tracks and trails have always been used by both public and private means. That’s all good. But for reasons separate to climate change / peak oil / etc. Public transport is a congestion issue – nothing more (read with my other comments above).

  8. Tigger 8

    Public transport doesn’t have to be about door to door – it can be about creating routes to make using your car less an easier option. Look at central Wellington – a tram through the middle of it would mean I wouldn’t take my car or taxis for cross town trips. And the tram would be a tourist boon as well (Melbourne being the obvious example).

    This government claims it wants some different thinking but it keeps on going down the same paths we’ve been treading for years. Boring.

    • Phil 8.1

      Look at central Wellington – a tram through the middle of it would mean I wouldn’t take my car or taxis for cross town trips. And the tram would be a tourist boon as well (Melbourne being the obvious example).

      Most people avoid central Wllington roads as it is, because they’re already too convoluted in avoiding mixing buses and cars on the same stretch.

      In terms of trams, have you not been to Christchurch?! There’s a really good example of a tram system that is f**king useless with a capital F.

  9. ghostwhowalks 9

    The same path??

    The path they are creating has toll booths all around.

    The reason why the regional taxes were pulled is that the road user charges are coming, and the regional councils will get the backlash because they will have to impose them – the government has raided the cookie jar just as the invited guests were about to be served morning tea

    • Tim Ellis 9.1

      GWW you may have overlooked that both the SH16 Puhoi tunnel is tolled, as it was approved by a Labour Government. The Waterview connection includes a tolling proposal, also developed under a Labour government.

      National explicitly laid out at the last election the criteria for tolling roads: only on new roads where there were other alternative routes.

  10. Redbaiter 10

    “In the age of climate change and peak oil the government needs to be giving people alternatives to driving.”

    Given the whole argument is based on these two flawed and ephemeral concepts, then its worthless.

  11. Ianmac 11

    A great discussion until we read that Labour did/didnot etc. Sigh.
    Tigger put it well:”Public transport doesn’t have to be about door to door – it can be about creating routes to make using your car less, an easier option.”
    Absolutely right.
    And the trails and roads of the past have become obsolete because of the multiple ownership of cars and population growth. Recently I had cause to wait on the footpath of a busy arterial road in Christchurch for over 30 minutes. I counted the number of people in each of the cars. Nearly all had only the driver. About 1 in every 25 had 1 or more passengers.

  12. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 12

    Stedie Eddie – bring it on. For too long we have had socilaists telling us what we should have. We want roads, not cycle/bus lanes. I want to take my family out when I want on nice big roads not on a fucking bus.

    And don’t worry about GW, it ain’t happening.

    When are you softbait lefties going to realise we want freedom & choice and not be told whats good for us.

    • Snail 12.1

      supreme personal choice and so very good for you, PJ, is a plastic back over your head, a friend to inflow carbon dioxide gas as you wear it then seal the (neck) aperture and watch you grow..

      grow in knowledge and terminal transit.. and yes, finally know that IT IS HAPPENING..

  13. Pat 13

    Aucklanders will keep driving cars. When the oil goes or gets too expensive they will still be driving cars, just electric ones. The city is too geographically sprawled to make public transport options attractive to the average commuter.

    So it is high time the road projects were done. The Auckland roading projects have been on the drawing boards for years, if not decades. I well remember my school trip to the ARC in 1983, and they proudly showed us the plans for the Orewa bypass. The one that opened in January 2009.

    By all means keep improving the bus and train options. But finish the motorway projects as well.

    • jarbury 13.1

      I’m sorry but the myth that Auckland is too spread out for public transport to be effective is just wrong. Brisbane and Perth both have lower population densities than Auckland does, yet have 4-5 times the number of public transport trips per capita per year.

      The reason Auckland’s PT usage is so low is because the system has been neglected for so long. The demand is there – just look at usage of Auckland’s rail system increasing from 2.5 million trips a year to 7 million trips a year since Britomart opened. Where a half-decent PT alternative is offered, Aucklanders will use it. It’s another myth that Aucklanders for some unknown reason will just not use PT.

      Peak oil isn’t the only reason why investment in PT is so critical – there’s also the congestion issue. Auckland is reaching the size where building more roads simply does not fix congestion. Is the Southern Motorway through spaghetti junction any less congested now than it was before the extra lane was added in 2003 – I think not. Building more roads just induces more demand, not helping congestion at all. Once again I point to the fact that 2 tracks of railway can carry as many people as 12 lanes of motorway, I know out of the two which is cheaper and less likely to destroy the value of our cities (clue: not the 12 lane motorway).

      And regarding the “choice” argument that many right-wingers put forward, I want to have the choice of a variety of transport options to get to wherever I want to go, and not be “coerced” by the state into having to drive everywhere.

    • QoT 13.2

      Absolute rubbish. Speaking as an Auckland-raised Wellingtonian? I LOVE public transport. I love walking everywhere (I love the Republic, I love Democracy). But if I moved back to Auckland? Yes, I would buy a car.

      Not because Auckland is “spread out”.

      Not because roading projects have been delayed.

      But because the trains are consistently late, the buses are rubbish, and it takes 45 fracking minutes to get from what passes as a central suburb into the CBD. Not that that has ANYTHING to do with the number of people insisting on driving their cars individually along major bus routes every morning or anything …

      Unless your actual argument, Pat, was that Aucklanders are stupid? Do you write for the ODT?

  14. r0b, There are two problems with your argument “And there is a difference between evaluating public transport initiatives and blindly cutting the lot.”

    1. Key has sworn black-and-bkue that they aren’t actually reducing spending on PT but simply not increasing it as fast as Labour would have.

    2. The NLTP reveals that they don’t have to take the money from PT because over recent years the increase in subsidies available to local authorities for both PT improvements and road improvements has exceeded the increase in rates that councillors have been prepared to impose. NZTA has several hundred million of allocated but unspent subsidies sitting in investment accounts. That’s what the Nat’s are going to raid this coming financial year.

    Although none of the Nats have mentioned it there may also be an intention to return the method of funding multi year projects that was in place for three-quarters of a century before the LTMA came into force. Scrapping the requirement for NZTA to have all the cash in the bank before approving the first years payments on a multiyear project would release a further couple of hundred million currently sitting in NZTA investment accounts.

    I don’t think we have been spending too much on PT but what has been spent on roads has been in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. All Aucklanders and PT advocates should read the Road Safety 2010 Strategy discussion documents and working papers released for public consultation in 2001.and work out for themselves what the target of 6.1 deaths per billion vehicle km travelled in 2010 computes to now that we know that oil prices and traffic growth didn’t return to 1990s values as expected in 2001 when it was estimated that 6.1 would produce 300 deaths. The expected increase from 33bn vkt to the 50bn vkt needed to reach 300 deaths hasn’t happened and that should have been obvious even as early as 2004 when the approved strategy became government policy.
    http://www.landtransport.govt.nz/strategy-2010/strategy-appendix-03.html

  15. Joshua 15

    I know the road toll is bad and it’s good to do what we can to prevent road-related deaths, but when one considers that poor air quality in Auckland (almost exclusively caused by cars) apparently kills as many people a year as the road toll arcross the whole country you have to wonder whether we’re over-prioritising road safety compared to other ways in which lives could be saved.

  16. r0b 16

    1. Key has sworn black-and-bkue that they aren’t actually reducing spending on PT but simply not increasing it as fast as Labour would have.

    Has he? Oh well that must be all right then. Meanwhile in other news, funding for new roading projects will come from sources including “$420 million from ‘non-state highway classes’ of the national land transport fund” – that’s real money from real public transport initiatives.

    NZTA has several hundred million of allocated but unspent subsidies sitting in investment accounts. That’s what the Nat’s are going to raid this coming financial year.

    The funding was allocated to planned PT projects. Now the piggy bank has been raided by the Government, so the projects can’t happen. So I’m not at all sure what point you are trying to make here (and you contradict your own first point).

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