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The false left anti road narrative

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 am, May 28th, 2019 - 26 comments
Categories: greens, labour, making shit up, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, transport - Tags:

There is nothing worse than commentators with historical links to the left reinforcing right wing talking points. The latest example of this has come from Shane Te Pou writing in Newsroom.

My attention to the article was caught by this tweet:

And this is what Te Pou said in his article:

Labour has lost sight of the bigger picture on transport, adopting a default posture of hostility to roads and cars that used to be the preserve of Green Party puritans. Today, both parties of the left act as if they would happily ditch all proposed roads in favour of urban bicycle lanes – the latter being, alongside light rail, the only kind of infrastructure project to pass muster among many so-called political progressives these days. There is an unmistakable hierarchy that casts cyclists and public transport users as virtuous, and the rest of us as climate change deniers, or reckless and selfish at least.  

So is the Government on an anti road crusade? Looking at the latest National Land Transport Programme it could be argued that they should be doing a lot more. In fact the evidence of an anti road bias is scant.

Check this graphic out showing expenditure in different areas:

Get that?  $11.3 billion on road maintenance and construction and safety improvements and a further $1.1 billion on road policing verses $3.1 billion on public transport and a paltry $390 million on walkways and cycleways.  This is hardly being hostile to roads.

Te Pou then said this:

The fact is, slashing spending on new and improved roads on its own is likely to rebound on those seeking to reduce emissions. In a 2009 report on the Real-World CO2 Impacts of Traffic Congestion, University of California scientists found that emissions from vehicles can be cut by 20 percent by reducing congestion and enabling better traffic flow. Conversely, allowing more and more cars to clutter our inadequate roading network – without a commensurate investment in viable alternative means of transport – is a carbonated disaster. The same scientists found that the second way to reduce emissions from vehicles is to transition away from fossil fuels. The practical solutions are clear: transition to electric and reduce congestion. Nowhere in the academic literature will you find arguments for proactively creating congestion through defunding roads, let alone shaming people out of their cars. As their report says, “traffic volume has increased faster than road capacity, congestion has gotten progressively worse, despite the push toward alternative modes of transportation, new technologies, innovative land-use patterns, and demand management techniques”.

I don’t think that Shane has heard about induced demand.  Build those roads and people will drive more and further and there will be more congestion.  It seems counterproductive but the best thing to do to address congestion can be to stop building.

Wired has this description of the phenomenon:

The concept is called induced demand, which is economist-speak for when increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more. Though some traffic engineers made note of this phenomenon at least as early as the 1960s, it is only in recent years that social scientists have collected enough data to show how this happens pretty much every time we build new roads. These findings imply that the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless, and that we’d all be spending a lot less time in traffic if we could just be a little more rational.

But before we get to the solutions, we have to take a closer look at the problem. In 2009, two economists—Matthew Turner of the University of Toronto and Gilles Duranton of the University of Pennsylvania—decided to compare the amount of new roads and highways built in different U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000, and the total number of miles driven in those cities over the same period.

“We found that there’s this perfect one-to-one relationship,” said Turner.

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

Now, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Maybe traffic engineers in U.S. cities happen to know exactly the right amount of roads to build to satisfy driving demand. But Turner and Duranton think that’s unlikely. The modern interstate network mostly follows the plan originally conceived by the federal government in 1947, and it seems incredibly coincidental that road engineers at the time could have successfully predicted driving demand more than half a century in the future.

A more likely explanation, Turner and Duranton argue, is what they call the fundamental law of road congestion: New roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.

Shane’s lack of appreciation for the phenomenon is capped off in his final paragraph:

Let’s cure this ideological anti-road obsession by the Greens and Labour. Maybe it’s time for NZ First to step up. Crappy roads means it takes longer, and costs more, to get places. It places a burden on families and businesses without making the faintest dent in our net carbon emissions. It sets up a faulty choice between economic and environmental objectives when a smart, well-balanced approach can serve both.

Ignoring induced demand is not a smart well balanced approach.

Some of the twitter responses were scathing:

I think Shane is wrong.  There is no evidence the Government is anti road.  In fact it could be strongly argued that the Government can and should be doing more to create transport options to improve walking and cycling.

26 comments on “The false left anti road narrative ”

  1. Visubversa 1

    Promoted waaay beyound his level of competancy. Stuck in the 1980's. Knows nothing about modern traffic management. We know where you came from Shane, we know where you went, and whose credit card you used when you were there.

  2. Irascible 2

    I've had difficulty finding consistency in Shane's positions on issues of the day. This is one of his veer hard right narratives similar to Pagini spun opinions given credence by the media.

  3. Peter 3

    Newsroom wanting to be considered a serious source of serious information with intelligent opinion should do this: put Shane Te Pou on a one way, no way back, rickety road and give him a bike with a flat tyre and bent wheel and tell him to keep riding.

  4. ianmac 4

    Shane, like Bryce Edwards has managed a huge about face. Simon Bridges must be very proud of their support.

  5. Sacha 5

    Who has been feeding him these outdated notions?

    • Muttonbird 5.1

      This.

      It's well known the National Party has bulging coffers. What to do with all that money?

      I know, hire some ex-Labour 'consultants' to push our agenda…

  6. cleangreen 6

    With all respect to ‘Shane te Pou’ – he needs to observe what road transport is doiing to our climate, with roads using oil to build them with tar and bitchumen and road vehicles all use tyres made from oil also, so we are heavily involved now with using oil for just road transport; – wheras rail uses none of these with no tar or tyres but rail can easily be converted to electric and then rail will reduce all our climate emissions as the government this week was warned that it will miss the target it set to lower the emissios it set in Paris.

    Read this please Shane;

    This week we saw this stark warning to Government that was received on 16th May but it was kept quiet, but now needs the light of day.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1905/S00132/current-2030-emissions-targets-unlikely-to-be-met.htm

    First published in Energy and Environment on May 16, 2019.

    Quote; “Officials have told ministers NZ is not on track to meet is current commitments under the Paris Agreement.
    NZ has agreed under the Paris Agreement to a Nationally Determined Contribution of reducing emissions by 30% below 2005 levels (equivalent to 11% of 1990 levels) by 2030.
    In the climate change legislation Regulatory Impact Assessment, Officials said: “NZ cannot rely on afforestation to deliver the necessary offsets over the next twelve years to meet its NDC, or on major innovations being market-ready and adopted (such as a methane vaccine or widespread adoption of electric or autonomous vehicles).” ; Unquote.

    So; we already know that rail freight can lower freight emissions five to eight times less than road freight, moving the same size and weight of freight, so we are now requesting to Government to use rail more actively now to lower our emissions.

    Government already know that rail is the answer here and the right thing to do when they received the hidden document that the National government had requested from (EY) Economic & Financial consultants for Kiwi Rail in 2016. – That document showed that Rail saved our economy $1.5 Billion Dollars every year then. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11948096

    Quote The benefits far exceed what the taxpayer is spending on rail, KiwiRail chairman Trevor Janes says. The largest contribution rail was making was the reduction of road use, he said.
    “Rail is taking cars off the road and it’s taking trucks off the road. That is saving the country $1.3 billion a year because it cuts congestion for all road users, including other freight movers,” Janes said.
    “Using rail cuts New Zealand’s carbon emissions by 488,000 tonnes a year. That is the equivalent of taking 87,000 cars off the road, saving millions of dollars,” he said.
    “Rail freight has 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight which is useful for New Zealand reaching its ambitious climate change targets.”
    The study found that without rail there would be an additional 100,000 daily car trips on the road each year – the equivalent of 76 million light vehicle hours reduced through rail, and 57 million of those hours were on Auckland roads. Unquote

    National instead kept encouraging yet more trucks onto our roads, so If we continue on this path to use more trucks at 10% more trucks every year instead of using less, who will pay for the carbon emissions if we exceed our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) emissions target?

    Government are now buying overseas ‘carbon credits’ to keep our emission target within the limits and the cost per carbon credit is about to massively increase shortly according to warnings sent in the brief to Government.

    Whereas each tonne of carbon was about $25 to $85 dollars in the past, it will rise to over $850 a tonne in the future, claim the report so we as taxpayers will wind up being bankrupted by subsidising truck freight companies continuing to use roads to move freight.

    So our governments best plan should be to offer the road freight companies an incentive to use rail to move their customers freight to our export ports rather than road freighting it, which causes many negative effects of road noise and pollution for residents to contends with.

    • New view 6.1

      Clean green. The argument of trucks versus rail stands up when talking of road congestion only. Trucks will be electric powered at some stage and all goods moved by train have to be double handled on to trucks at the journeys end creating concentrated congestion in our cities regardless. The double handling creates cost increases for consumers. I suggest if you are going to quote all those figures you should quote the whole story not half of it.

      • mauī 6.1.1

        Surprise, surprise the history of transport shows most goods are typically double handled. Trains are not unique in this respect, and provide greater efficiencies.

        No, the most important trucks cannot be electrified, unless you've figured out some magical way to power 50 tonnes of truck for 500km… Without that you have a trucking industry fully dependent on rail or ships and the price of fuel.

        • Molly 6.1.1.1

          Mercedes and Renault are already trialling electric trucks in Europe, with the target if them being comnercually available within a decade.

      • KJT 6.1.2

        You don't know much about how transport works, do you?

        Typically all but full loads, which are more often railed or shipped in containers anyway, are trucked from depot to depot.

        Whether it is truck rail or ship, it is nearly all double handled.

  7. mauī 7

    It's funny because what I see after decades of giving roads priority funding the queues of traffic are getting longer and slower. But, but, but… a year of the Greens and it's all their fault!

    If he lived in the real world he might blame the developers and councils who thought new suburbs on the outskirts that lock people into car use were a great idea.

  8. marty mars 8

    a dumbarse and selfish – not very great at all

  9. Rapunzel 9

    Mr Te Pou has also turned up on "MagicTalk", the most biased load of bunkum radio you will find, afew months back and made other "reckons" about the "Labour Party" he left long ago, to try to have some relevance.

    Most comentary comes to you through a series of puppeteers with agendas pulling the strings of the puppets who believe they are more than just cannon fodder.

  10. Pierre 10

    I think induced demand can otherwise be described as 'compounded dispersal of destinations' – more space given over to roads and car parking means destinations are dispersed further away from one another. Urban density drops, journeys get longer, more amenities drop out of efficient walking/cycling distance… which pushes more people to drive sad

  11. I think it's that same thing feminists describe in which men in traditionally male groups claim women's voices are "dominating" a meeting, merely by virtue of there being a couple of women's voices in the room. Labour and the Greens are actually willing to do some spending on public transport and pedestrian/cycle ways, therefore non-users of those transport methods see them as "dominating" the spending. The fact it's only a small fraction of the spending is irrelevant to their hurt feelings.

  12. Induced demand: 30 years ago I hardly ever made a day trip from Palmerston North to Wellington because the drive was such a pain in the arse. Now I quite often drive down there, because roading improvements have made the trip 15 minutes quicker and a much easier drive. Despite all the improvements the traffic congestion is about the same, for obvious reasons.

    • Dukeofurl 12.1

      Cars are much better too, and more economical on long distance trips. Who wanted to drive that far in a Hillman Avenger 30 years ago ?. awful seating , noise/ vibration not a patch on todays cars,

  13. tc 13

    Josie Pagani agrees with him ……that sums this whole shitshow that we call 'media' up.

    Paid opinionators singing for their supper…….more mediwonks bs.

  14. Timeforacupoftea 14

    Budget LEAKS everywhere, the poor girl must be feeling sick !

    By the time Jacinda's Labour Pardy share the budget cash out to The Greens and New Zealand First theres nothing left in the pot for themselves like Child Poverty etc.

    This is surely not going to get Labour back in power come election time.

  15. Craig H 15

    Induced demand is an issue, but a complementary path would be to stop centralising everything so that people can't walk or bike as easily as in the past.

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