Public Transport

This was supposed to be in Nexus Magazine, hence it’s talking about student issues. However, the format of my column in Nexus changed, so this wasn’t printed. Not wanting to waste it, I’m publishing it here instead.

Student issues is a broad thing, so I thought I’d go with one small part of it that really makes me annoyed – Public Transport. I am a firm believer in Public Transport. One of the top things that I looked for in my flat was how close it was to a bus stop. While Hamilton doesn’t have the best public transport, I’m going to go slightly more wider picture and talk about New Zealand’s terrible public transport.

I’m an Aucklander, so Hamilton’s public transport, while terrible, was a huge relief in comparison. It’s great to have a public transport system that works with the entire city, rather than just small areas of it. Integrated ticketing (well, sort of) was one relief. I say sort of because the main reason for that is there’s only one bus company, except for maybe two routes. However, I think New Zealand needs to move to a much more integrated system overall.

We shouldn’t have Auckland Transport, Busit, Metlink (Wellington), Metro (Christchurch) etc. Part of NZTA should be a single public transport body. There should be a single integrated ticketing system that would get you on public transport anywhere in the country, plus on things like the Interislander. There should either be a deal done with Naked Bus or Intercity, or a inter-regional public transport system should be put in place.

Public transport is a hugely positive thing to society and it should appeal to everyone. If you’re on the more right side of the political spectrum, it decreases the consumption of oil, meaning there’s more for the future, so this supposedly “end of the -w-o-r-l-d- [please strikeout – Google Docs won’t let me] oil” won’t cause havoc with the economy. If you’re on the left side of the spectrum, you’ll see the environmental benefits of cars being taken off the roads.

Here’s the problem – the current Government seems to have a fuse blown when it comes to public transport. They can only see the benefits to making life better for car drivers. I remember interviewing David Bennett, MP for Hamilton East, on Contact FM in 2010 when having a Auckland-Hamilton rail link was the big thing in local body politics. He said that there’s no need because “it’s not going to be long until everyone’s driving electric cars anyway”. Bill English said a similar thing in Parliament last year. In fact, Labour list MP, Sue Moroney, said to me in an interview that she remembers David Bennett saying during the 2008 election campaign that before the next election (the one last year), everyone would be driving electric cars. National seems to be more thinking about electric cars.

So, yes, this column is called Am I Right? and in terms of politics, this week, the answer is certainly no.


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Posted on May 21, 2012, in New Zealand Politics. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Largely agree… However I’m not sold on a NZTA public transport branch for a few reasons.

    1. NZTA is a misnomer. ‘Transport’ implies all modes, and NZTA is only interested in roads.

    2. Joyce during last term decreed that petrol taxes, road user charges etc – i.e. ALL of NZTA’s revenue – can only be used on roads – strictly direct user pays – despite the well documented benefits of PT for car drivers.

    3.I’m personally a regionalist on transport issues – decisions should be made at the regional level as city-regions are what drive the economy. National level decision making rips the cities off, while excessive devolution equals parochialism. I’m of the opinion that the regions should make transport decisions, and by extension, that transport revenue should be gathered at a regional, not national level. Decision making has always been too centralised in NZ – other countries get around this with federal govt.

    • Yes, NZTA is a misnomer, but it shouldn’t be. Joyce did say NZTA’s funding should only be used for roads. But we’ve got the Doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty which basically says Parliament can do anything they like, and no Parliament can stop a future Parliament from exercising that right. Joyce said that, but it’s not the end of the matter.

      I agree that a lot of decisions should be made at a regional level. There’s no reason why there can’t be NZTA offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin (plus anywhere else that might be a good idea to have one) that deal with the regional public transport, then Wellington can deal with the inter-regional public transport.

      • I agree with you on that first point but frankly I’m not holding my breath. But yeah, the benefits to the road user of PT are huge – a 2006 NZTA study estimated the decongestion value of a single peak-time rail commuter to be $17. Northern Busway – 8,000 less cars crossing the bridge every morning.

        Don’t agree with that second point. I know you don’t like Auckland Transport and local govt in general, but frankly regional NZTA branches would be pointless duplication of Councils – and if the NZTA culture in any way permeated these regional subsidaries, there’d be no change. Run with the Auckland Transport model, yes it’s not very good at tertiary stickers, but strategically it’s doing better than any previous incarnation – I’d be happy to demonstrate how…

        My personal view is that central government, particularly the current lot, being the parochial small-town bunch that they are; is completely out of touch with the urban transport needs. I’d therefore tend to argue that the majority of transport funding for the larger cities should be raised and spent at the regional level.

      • Okay. I can see that. But we definitely need, at the least, some sort of national funding body to ensure that public transportation gets the funding it needs.

        And potentially NZTA, if they were the organisation their name suggests, could fund inter-regional transport. We need something. Right now, we have an overpriced train in terms of public transport.

  2. Agreed on that one. Long-distance rail services are neglected in NZ – Campaign for Better Transport has pushed for a quality Auckland-Hamilton service for years – I trust you’ll be supporting us on that one?

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