Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Auckland's socialist transport czars

Mike Lee and Dick Hubbard both want you to pay for electrifying Auckland's rail network, whether or not you'll ever use it, you might be in Wellington, Wanganui, Whakatane or Winton, and regardless of whether there are net economic benefits in doing it.
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Both are under the delusion that somehow, a network that the Prime Minister once described as being so good that "most Aucklanders don't live within coee of a railway station", will relieve Auckland traffic congestion. No proper peer-reviewed modelling has been carried out that demonstrates this beyond a tiny margin of error.
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Dr Cullen has said the government (you) will pay the full cost of double tracking the Western rail line and other track improvements that are essential if the system is going to run at any reasonable frequency - while Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) will have to pay for station and train upgrades itself. Fare paying passengers can't even pay for the cost of running the trains (around 20%) so don't even think anyone wants them to pay for the upgrade. Clearly the private sector doesn't think it could attract many motorists or bus passengers so it wont invest. So the question is why should you?
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Well you Aucklanders elected Regional Council Chairman Mike Lee and Mayor Dick Hubbard - they want your income taxes and GST to pay for a big electric railway. They think Wellington is getting a better deal, when in fact it is only getting $65 million of taxpayers money for its rail system (the rest comes from a fare increase, rates and is approved funding from Land Transport NZ from petrol tax). Somehow electrified railways reduce urban sprawl - which is apparently bad -far better to have people live on tower blocks near railway stations (although few MPs or Aucklanders want to do that).
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Lee and Hubbard should butt out - Auckland's congestion is hampered by them both managing most of Auckland's road network not as a business, but as a political toy. If they want to see how public transport can work, they might look at the bus stations partly funded by North Shore City Council along the Northern Motorway. The car parks are filling up every morning as bus services, run by private companies (albeit some subsidised) get patronised - and that is before completion of the busway that will speed them past the traffic congestion approaching the bridge.
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If Hubbard and Lee stopped thinking about flash shiny sexy trains and thought about simple measures to improve the efficiency of the existing roading network, they could make quite a difference to Auckland traffic. If they supported replacing petrol tax with variable user charges it would make an enormous difference. The ARC will hold up the Avondale extension of SH20 because it supports a route that is 33% more expensive with little difference in traffic effect - Auckland City Council opposed the Victoria Park Viaduct duplication project, until Transit changed plans to make it a tunnel, effectively doubling that cost - and you think these bodies are good custodians of your money?
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but they wont support user pays - they are socialists - bent on making you pay for what they want other people to use.
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Nowhere has a new world (North American/Australasian) city invested in new rail and reduced traffic congestion, and spending a fortune on a railway to take people to where only 12% of Auckland jobs are certainly wont do it.

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