Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rudman: People use something they don't pay for

That's Brian Rudman's latest piece of genius. He is pleased that public transport patronage went up a fair bit in the last nine months in Auckland.

Much of that is due to the Northern Busway, and a lesser extent due to greater use of rail services. Not that surprising when you consider how much the price of petrol went up for part of that period, which made public transport more "competitive" price wise.

However, the increased usage isn't from people paying for what they use. The Northern busway cost NZ$210 million (paid for by all road users) and has a lot of unused capacity (empty space that other vehicles could used). Rail passengers moreso don't pay anything towards upgrades to the system, and only pay a third of the cost of running the trains through fares.

For ARTA Chairman Mark Ford to regard it as an "investment" under circumstances where the investment costs more money is a little stretch.

However, Brian is making a far bigger claim saying "These were 3.7 million trips that were not taken in a private car on our congested roads." How does he know what would have happened otherwise? How many train trips were previously bus trips? How many trips were previously people car sharing? How many trips wouldn't have been made at ALL?

How many of those trips would have occurred had the bus and train passengers had to pay the same proportion of cost of providing those services and infrastructure as motorists do?

Brian goes on about the Tamaki Drive bus lane, which he thinks shouldn't be allowed to be used by other vehicles. Far better for trucks and fully loaded cars to be stuck in congestion, rather than the near empty bus lane let a few more vehicles in, right Brian? Those evil car drivers and their passengers should catch the bus!

The real issue in Auckland is congestion, which is a result of supply not matching demand, which is itself a function of price and funding. Pouring a fortune into subsidising public transport is tinkering at the edges, and the most successful example is, funnily enough, the one that requires the least ongoing subsidies - buses.

However, what I really want to know is has ARTA done surveys as to where new bus and train users come from? What were they doing before? After all, if a majority of them weren't driving cars, then isn't this all a great big subsidy for people who weren't on the roads in the first place?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new users are pensioners who can now travel anywhere at anytime for free; and do in vast numbers.