Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, January 6th, 2019 - 20 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Economy, local government, Politics, public transport, Social issues, tech industry, transport, uncategorized - Tags: auckland transport, commuting, e-bike, e-scooter, heather du plessis-allan, mike hosking
Since I got back from scooter laden Singapore in mid-November, I’ve been looking at the Lime scooter experiment in Auckland. I have to say that it has been interesting seeing their use go deeply into the culture of the central Auckland area that I inhabit. Overall, and subject to some regulatory / legislative / tax considerations, it looks to me like e-scooters are here to stay.
Lime e-scooters will be on Auckland pavements for at least another three months.
Auckland Council plans to extend the e-scooter sharing service’s street trading licence, which was set to expire on January 14, until the end of March.
The extension would give the council and Auckland Transport (AT) more time to assess Lime’s trial and decide whether Lime and other similar services would be able to operate in the super city long term – and whether any more safety restrictions would be rolled out.
The trial of the e-scooters was granted in the expectation that other e-scooter companies would put in scooters as well, allowing for a comparative trial. That didn’t happen. Onzo and Wave who were expected to jump in as well did not, presumably so they could look at what to avoid.
I seldom use transport for “fun”, which appears to be the only criteria that out-of-touch economically dimwitted pundit parasites like Mike Hosking and Heather du Plessis-Allan ever seem to apply to transport. That plus their natural inherent stupidity probably why they always diss every mode of transport apart from apparently motorways and cars.
I mostly use transport to commute to and from work.
For the last 15 months when I have been in Auckland, I’ve been mostly using a e-bike to commute. I love using the bike, it just makes life so damn easy for me as I’ll explain later. It looks to me like e-scooters, especially rental ones, offer the same for most people at a much cheaper price.
Looking at the e-scooters they don’t look likely to to be able to help drag my aging and a bit overweight 120kg body and assorted computers up the 85 vertical metres over 3.3km route from work to home each day. In fact they look pretty damn pathetic on any sort of steep grade – as I pass Lime scooters being walked up my least favourite cardio-vascular slope.
But I’ve been talking around various people who have been using both their own e-scooters for a while and renting the Lime scooters since they became available. Plus I see them in use just about everywhere around central Auckland and the inner city suburbs. They are obviously a boon for commuters in those areas, and that is what I see most people using them for during the work day.
Renting e-scooters just gets rid of the tedious long walk. They then substitute some other issues, like finding a scooter when you need one. But essentially the rent on a e-scooter is way less expensive than almost any inner-city parking. Which is a huge plus.
But mostly e-scooters achieve what I have found to be one of the biggest benefits of e-bikes. They give a reliable commute speed that you can’t get in a car around the inner suburbs.
Consider my work-day commute these days. I travel 3.3km each way. The total rise between work and my apartment up on the K-Rd ridge is about 85 metres vertically. It takes me between 10-12 minutes to ride it depending on the lights on the roads and cycleways and at any time of the day or night. I often go to work early or work late depending what I’m working on. But it is absolutely reliable for the commute time.
Now I’ve been driving a car for since I was 15, and that was 44.5 years ago. So I’m a pretty competent driver. That same commute that I can cycle in 10-12 minutes is a complete crap-shoot by car. It takes between 8 and 45 minutes.
It mostly depends on the time of day. In the rush-hours it routinely takes between 15-20 minutes. If I drive to work first thing on sunday morning I can do it in 8 minutes. But if there is a rush hours blockage anywhere on the motorways that backfills the inner city roads, as seems to happen at least once a week, it can take 45 minutes.
That is because cars are a complete waste of road space. They seem to exist to jam up the roads. Like me on my car commute, almost all cars have a single occupant and are bulky. Even stopped at the lights they’d take up at least 21 square metres. That same fat footprint is also why I have to pay for parking when I take the car to work.
Whereas a person on a bike would take up something like 1-1.5 square metres and a scooter less than 1 square metre. In a crowded inner city that translates directly into more people for the same area, both on the road or cycleway and when parking. And I haven’t had to pay for cycle parking.
But the biggest turn off with a car is that it is just plain boring in a car stuck in traffic. I can’t read, txt, program, or do anything much except for listen to waffling morons like Mike Hosking and bad music. It is simply dead time for me done. To do it in my work day is purely done for the benefit of my employer. It is dead wasted time for me..
That explains why over the the last 44 years, since I got a license, I have seldom commuted using a car if I can help it. And when I totalled it up, it looks like this.
In other words in aoo of my commuting time, I have commuted with a car less than half of the time. The only reason I have ever commuted with a car is a lack of viable alternatives. Which is a searing indictment of our crap public transport systems in Auckland.
For instance to get to my current work, the fastest public transport takes about 30-40 minutes. I either walk half of the distance with a large toe with problems and wait for bus, or I have to take bus that does almost 8km (rather than 3.3km) and often takes nearly an hour in rush hour. That is a pain because there used to be a good public transport from Ponsonby to over to the university. But it got trashed in one of the route restructures.
Now I’d admit that because of my rather diverse skill sets I have a fair bit of ’employee power’. I definitely use it to my advantage – it allows a selectivity of who I choose to be employed by.
Skilled tech workers for the last three decades have been steadily driving the high value and large jobs sector of the tech export economy. This is important to our economy. The high tech sector became the 3rd largest export industry in 2017. It is also one of the fastest growing export areas with the top 200 tech businesses exceeding $11.1 billion in revenue in the last year. It is a sector that, unlike the commodity industries, has been growing in profitability faster than it is growing in revenues. It also directly employs a hell of a lot of well paid people and indirectly pays for a lot of urban jobs. Like most tech workers, I strongly prefer not to have my time wasted in traffic or by having my skills being splattered by an idiot driver. Watching tech people moving jobs, there is a distinct trend to always move closer to their homes unless there is a hell of a job on offer.
I tend to look for firms that are near to where I live and/or where there are cycleways, walkways, or decent public transport routes that don’t involve jumping buses and long walks. I often eliminate possible employers if I have to drive to work and especially if it is on the motorway. They’d have to have some seriously interesting work before I even consider them.
Which is why public transport wasteland suburbs like Albany and Birkenhead are pretty much off my possible employers list. The indutries cluster for cars. Not for public transport that I can read on. There are no bus-lane to most of South or West Auckland and I so I won’t work there unless there is some seriously interesting work or they aren’t close to the cycleways. But I’ll work in Takapuna for a decent job – the Northern busway makes it palatable..
This is an ever increasing trend amongst the kinds of tech workers I work with. We’re really uninterested in the strange archaic transport views of economic parasites like the advertising selling flacks like Mike Hosking or Heather du Plessis-Allan. They’re just part of the inefficient and rather bloated boring crony capitalist local economy. We want to work – not to waste time in commutes. I can guarantee that we bring far more income, profit, and taxes into NZ and Auckland than unproductive opinionated hacks like media hacks who seem to be only interested in supporting old businesses who advertise with them and not exporters.
But what makes working here in Auckland to be viable (rather than offshore) for this overweight and aged programmer and many other technical geeks is the rapid spread of cycleways and separated bike lanes. Either that or better public transport. Then I don’t have to worry about the ever increasing dangerous stupidity of Auckland drivers and crowded roads. That brain and skill set that my employers pay so highly for is pretty safe on a fast cycleway or a bus. It doesn’t pushed into parked car by drivers overtaking too closely and parked fools opening driver side doors. And I can’t get ramming from behind from some distracted commuter talking to their passenger. Like happened to me in a parking lot called the Harbour bridge once.
I’m hardly alone. So what I see when I ride the new cycleways that have appeared in the last few years around central Auckland is a exponential increase in cyclists. Over the last 15 months, the Newton gully cycleway has gone from only having occasional riders on it to having many on it. I now pass or get pass other cyclists all of the time now.
On that cycleway most of the cyclists I see are e-cyclists. That is understandable. There is a bit of steep grade in Newton Gully and it’d be hard work on an unassisted bike. But when I visit people on the north-western cycleway, there are a lot of unassisted bikes.
Bit the other trend is that the e-cyclists are getting older and it isn’t hard to see why. I literally couldn’t ride the Newton Gully from work to home without a machine assist.
Plus it gives me my daily exercise…. And as much as I hesitate to admit it, riding on safe cycleways with a machine assist is also a hell of a lot of fun. Especially when you’re whizzing down Newton gully on a clear cycleway at 55km/hour on a crisp morning, wet or dry. Of course riding up that rise is a pain. But that puffing at the top gives the old heart and it’s stent a great workout.
With separated footpaths and cycleways plus high density batteries to assist the elderly tech heads like me can keep productively increasing our tech exports and paying people to make me decent coffee and turkish food.
But I’m really uninterested in my high taxes going to pay for the truck damage required for our local roads. Pay for cycleways once and expect them to ever need more than minimal maintenance. That is a cost effective and economic way to use my taxes. Whereas roads are a waste of time while car drivers are subsiding truck maintenance rather than fixing problems.
Of course there are a few things that should be more strongly regulated in our e-vehicle era, and a few strange vagaries of our existing legal structures that need fixing. I need to write another post…