A little of what he writes is interesting urban design matters, like this and this.
So what is his perspective?
In short he believes (and no doubt will correct me if he sees fit).
- More use of public transport is a good thing;
- More use of the private car is a bad thing;
- The way to resolve traffic congestion is to improve public transport;
- Electric railways are good, the more the better;
- It doesn't matter if users don't pay for new public transport, it is a "good thing" and the way the rest of the world does it;
- Road building is something to be suspicious about because it encourages people to drive more;
- More road transport is bad for the environment, more public transport is good for the environment;
- Land use restrictions, urban boundaries and intensification polices are all good;
- Peak oil will happen and the way to reduce its impacts is.... more public transport;
- Climate changing is happening, road transport is partly to blame and the way to reduce its impacts is.... more public transport;
- Cities with more public transport, especially rail, have better transport and economic outcomes than those with less.
In short, he wants to subsidise public transport users, and wants everyone else to pay for it. He considers more car use as bad.
I take a different view. I don't really care how you get yourself around (or your business's goods around). What primarily matters is that you pay for it.
That means, as far as public transport is concerned, the private sector investing in infrastructure and vehicles based on future projected fare revenue collected from users. As far as roads are concerned, the same basically.
Now the big problem at the moment is that roads are all priced on a common basis, vehicles pay different amounts based on the type of vehicle (trucks pay more, which tends to fairly reflect the wear and tear they impose), but the road and time of day does not change what you pay. The money all goes into a pot which is spent through bureaucratic processes, year by year, on road improvements officials think most benefit road users, and some on public transport.
What that means is that the busiest (most profitable) roads cost the same as the emptiest, when they should cost more when they get congested, so more money can be made from them, and decisions made as to whether to invest in more capacity. In other words popular roads should cost more because space is scarce. At other times, they may cost little to encourage people to use them. Big new roads should be funded on the basis of the numbers prepared to pay to use them, as should railways.
Of course under this scenario precious few railways would be built, because it is clear rail passengers don't value travel by train as much as politicians and planners value them travelling by train. For example in Auckland rail fares would have to treble for services to start to make a financial surplus, by contrast the roads already generate one. Some bus services do too, but others would have to rise by as much as double to make them profitable.
So it is about philosophy. I don't think transport is special. I think it should be treated like the rest of the economy. Indeed, most freight operates with little to no government involvement or subsidy. Aviation and intercity bus (and rail) services operate without subsidy either. Why can people travel between cities without a subsidy, but not within?
You see I don't it is bad for people to travel by car, as long as nobody is forced to subsidise them, likewise by public transport, cycling or walking or staying at home. I make no value judgment at all on it. It's called freedom.
Joshua doesn't share that. He wants to plan the city so you catch the modes he prefers, and he thinks we're all better off being forced to pay for this. I don't believe he is irredeemably irrational yet, he has good intentions. However, I encourage you to debate some of his points.
I believe the fundamental difference is between those who want to tell others what to do, and those who want to get the government out of the way of sending the right price signals. The fact he doesn't think price is the biggest issue says much.
So to conclude, have a think about this:
- If anything else you buy were priced the same year and day round, would you also expect to queue for a long time to get any goods or services at times of peak demand?
- If roads were such an inefficient way of moving goods and people then how come politicians in most countries can tax them well in excess of what is needed to pay to maintain the road network? In New Zealand the surplus is now spent on improving roads and public transport, in the UK most of it goes on general government spending. What railways do you know in state ownership that can be taxed and have their surplus spent on other things?
- If public transport is so efficient, go around railyards and bus depots outside the morning and evening peak times. Notice plenty of carriages or buses sitting around idle. They do that from around 9-9.30am till 3.30-4pm every weekday. Ask yourself why you should be forced to pay for all of this when most of the time it sits around as idle capacity. Before the public transport advocates point out this is what happens with cars most of the time, they should ask who paid for the car in the first place?
Oh and you'll find truck operators and intercity bus companies don't tend to do that, and airlines tend only to have planes sitting around due to noise restrictions at airports at night.
By the way, if you really want to find busybodies who think they know best, and treat economics as something they don't need to swallow, try the Campaign for Better Transport (better from their perspective, not from what the user wants to pay for, or others are willing to pay for). Don't hold your breath for comments on aviation.