Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why get local government out of transport?

Well the NZ Herald gives a great example:

"Chris Darby, North Shore City's representative on the Regional Transport Committee, acknowledged that a 34 per cent Government increase in highway construction funding over the next three years may give the country a short-term economic development boost."

You might ask what a Regional Transport Committee is needed for, before the last government it was nearly impotent.

Mr Darby condemned the (new government funding) policy statement, which Auckland Regional Council officers have estimated will require 76 per cent of land transport funds to be spent on roads, as "an absolute time warp to the 1950s."

A time warp - even though easily 40% of funds are always spent on maintenance as it is, is it that unreasonably to spend three quarters on road maintenance and upgrades? The rest of the world is building roads, but Mr Darby is a local government planner, and he wants to throw other people's money at modes he thinks Aucklanders ought to be using, rather than letting Aucklanders choose, after paying real prices for using roads and public transport.

ARTA itself admits that 86% of commutes in Auckland are undertaken by car, but only 7% by public transport (most of which is NOT rail) and 5% by walking and cycling. So it is hardly unreasonable for central government to expect 76% of Auckland transport funding to go to roads, roads move over 90% of Auckland commuters, railways move less than 2% and the rest go by ferry or footpath.

"He said it failed to provide against dwindling oil supplies and risked leaving future Aucklanders with redundant roading infrastructure and inadequate public transport to make do with less fuel.

"It will be a long-time liability - what we are seeing here really lacks imagination and I am convinced it lacks examination," he said."

Apparently Aucklanders will move by some other means, and Mr Darby is another commodity speculator who doesn't actually risk his own money on the assertion that oil prices will go sky high. If they don't use roads, will they fly? Railways couldn't physically move more than maybe 9% of Auckland commuters even if almost all those who live near them used them! So who lacks imagination?

What sort of imbecile is Mr Darby if he thinks there will be LESS fuel, not DIFFERENT fuel? Why will roads, the most flexible transport infrastructure there is, be redundant? HE is the person without examination of his assertion, they are the sort of rants of Green politicians, not anything from a transport professional.

So why should he have any say at all? He doesn't represent users, he doesn't represent producers, he represents planners.

What's wrong will letting those who maintain and build roads spend the money raised from taxing those using them. If there is less road use (as there is), there is less money and less road building. If there is more road use, then there is more money, and at peak times roads might cost a lot more (and a lot less at off peak times).

Similarly if there is more public transport use, there is more money to spend on services - oh yes, don't forget that Auckland local government has spent the last few years subsidising rail services and undermining commercial (unsubsidised) bus services, so more fare revenue doesn't mean more services, as it doesn't generate enough money for more.

So isn't it time that local government had its hands taken off one of the most essential sets of infrastructure in the country?


jarbury said...

What did you think of Rodney Hide's support of the Public Transport Management Act last year Liberty?

Libertyscott said...

Abominable, he should have known better. Commercial bus operators should be left well alone, it has resulted in bus patronage increasing in Manchester over the past few years, for example.

jarbury said...

I thought his argument was fairly sound though, that if public money is to be used to subsidise public transport then one should be able to know exactly where that money is going.

Not quite sure why he went with Option C though (although I'm glad he did!)

I wonder if he'll change his mind when Joyce gets into gutting this critical piece of legislation.

Libertyscott said...

It is a sound argument, but not to support that legislation. ARTA/ARC has long opposed competitive tendering, it has been inept at running the tenders and only managed it because it was forced to do so, and Transfund/LTNZ/NZTA held its hand to help it happen.

The issue was not the legislation, but the competence of local government in procurement on this scale in this market. It has to make it attractive to potential market entrants. Env. Canterbury has maintained a 2 operator market for some time, GWRC has trouble attracting competition, but ARTA shouldn't have trouble at all. Sadly it is decimating some commercial bus services with the train fetish, which is not subject to the same discipline as ARTA is contracting itself, being funder and provider.

Cameron Pitches said...


If you are going to personally attack people, at least have the decency to use your real name and not hide behind a pseudonym. I don’t know Chris Darby personally, but his statements seem more than reasonable and considered.

Mr Darby’s condemnation of the GPS is referring to the Government’s slashing of public transport, local roading, performance monitoring, road policing, and the boosting of the new state highway budgets by $1bn. None of the Governments “Roads of National Significance” have been assessed for economic benefits or costs, so I think Mr Darby is right to raise the issue.

The fact is Aucklanders are choosing to use public transport in droves – public transport is the growth area of transport in Auckland while traffic volumes on arterial roads are stagnating. The latest newsletter from ARTA clearly shows this:

The Northern Express carried 1.5 million passengers from May 2008 - April 2009, which is 70% more passengers compared to the year before.

7.6 million trips were taken on Auckland's trains in the last year - the highest number since records began in 1955.
Patronage on the Southern Line, which now has 10 minute peak frequencies, grew 15.7%.
Patronage on the Western line, where 15-minute services commenced in July 2008, grew 16.1%.

There have been 75,000 trips taken on ferry services between Pine Harbour and Auckland, which is an increase of 22% and 47,000 trips between West Harbour and Auckland, which is an increase of 27%

...You also speculate that Mr Darby is “another commodity speculator who doesn't actually risk his own money on the assertion that oil prices will go sky high”.

How do you know this? In any case you must be aware that it is extremely difficult to time the commodities market – experienced hedge fund managers failed to predict the rise of oil prices, the subsequent dramatic drop and now the resurgence of oil prices to $70 a barrel again. So what is your point?

You need to be aware that the number of countries that are able to export oil is declining every year as their own internal economies grow and their oil fields decline. Last year, for instance, Indonesia formerly dropped out of OPEC. It has gone from exporting a million barrels a day a decade ago to importing oil now. Mexico, currently the number three supplier of oil to the USA, is expected to become a net importer in 2012.

You imply that there will be a DIFFERENT fuel that will replace the 30 billion barrels of oil consumed globally every year. Can you expand on what this magic fuel might be? The US Government has axed its hydrogen programme after it finally realised that the problems of hydrogen production (95% from fossil fuels) storage and distribution can’t be overcome. I didn’t notice a flood of electric cars on the market when petrol went through $2 a litre last year either. I did notice a flood of people leaving their cars at home and taking the bus and train though.

The bottom line is there are plenty of roads in Auckland. You can get anywhere by road. The problem is the roads fill up with single occupant cars at certain times of the day. The solution to this problem is not to continually keep widening roads, but to provide genuine choice for people so that they don’t have the hassle and cost of being forced to drive a car as the only realistic way of getting to where they want to go.

It has been shown from projects like the Northern Busway that the significant beneficiaries of public transport investment are road users who enjoy less congestion on the roads as more people take PT.

Before central Government stuck its oar in, local Government had a clear plan for transport in Auckland, with funding assured through the regional fuel tax. Now we are left with delays and uncertainty in critical projects such as electrification and integrated ticketing.

I don’t have any faith the central Government can manage Auckland’s transport any better than Auckland local Government can.

Brent C said...

I think that local government should have all the power when it comes to transport. They plan the land-uses which directly effect transport (or does the government want that as well?). Regional government should serve more purpose, taking over healthcare and transportation as the current systems are failing New Zealand.

Why would local transport issues be passed over to central government when all they care about is building state highways around big cities? Our public transport would get even worse, before finally becoming a social service to the old and disabled (which is currently the case in many smaller cities).

I'm sure that investing in unprofitable public transport is better than contributing to Dubai and its extravagant development. I guess when oil runs out, the rest of New Zealand will again be annoyed that they have to contribute to alternative modes of transport for Auckland.