Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rudman shows why politics and transport don't mix

Brian Rudman has a cheek to call the Minister of Transport an ideologue when he is one of the true believers of the Auckland rail religion. Rudman doesn't call into question the "business cases" the ARC puts together on rail, or Mike Lee's strong leftwing political background in being mischievous towards the government before he is put out of a job.

Bear in mind a "business plan" for something that produces ongoing financial losses is a curious thing, and that scepticism from central government officials about the veracity of the ARC's work doesn't motivate Rudman to question his fellow true believers.

He damns the proposal for a Puhoi-Wellsford motorway. A project which may not be worthwhile, but only money to investigate it has been approved. Money paid for by road users of course. The same can never be said about capital expenditure on Auckland's railways. Rudman in a rather arrogant style dismisses the only major link between Northland and the rest of the country as a road to John Key's holiday bach. I guess he thinks nothing exists north of Puhoi.

Auckland's Regional Transport Committee, a hodgepodge of political interests, naturally wouldn't think so. Given it is advocating a billion plus underground rail tunnel in central Auckland, which would also run at a continued loss, it is clear it worships at the same church as Rudman and Lee.

Rudman doesn't understand why central government time and time again has said no to pouring taxpayers' money into Auckland local government's railway flights of fancy, except the last government. Maybe he should check his premises, these being the following key features of the religion he subscribes to:

- Auckland rail projects all result in ratepayers and motoring tax payers losing money year after year, but that's ok. It is for their own good, even if few ratepayers will see their property values increase as a result, and motorists wont notice a jot of difference to congestion.

- Auckland rail projects always fail conventional economic cost-benefit appraisal, compared to other public transport projects or road projects. That's because the wrong things get counted. People don't value saving travel time that much (they speed, use shortcuts and overtake because they are mean spirited), accident reductions aren't that important, and it is just really really special for people to ride by train instead of, bus.

- Just because the majority of Auckland rail users come from buses or wouldn't have taken the trip in the first place, doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile subsidising them at $4 a trip.

- It doesn't matter that 88% of Auckland jobs aren't in the CBD, where the railway is focused, it doesn't matter. Just ignore that. It will change when there is a railway, you'll see. Aucklanders who work elsewhere don't matter anyway, and we'll build more railways to serve them.

- It doesn't matter that 7% of Auckland trips are by public transport (most of those by bus), spending over a billion to get it to 15% (by 2051!) is good for you all (although 17% of trips are currently by foot).

- It doesn't matter that between 33 and 45% of peak trips to Auckland's CBD are by public transport, predominantly by bus as it is. It doesn't matter that this split is high by international standards.

- It doesn't matter how much money is spent on rail in Auckland, it must all be good, it must be good, even though the whole network was only worth $20 million to start with and wont be worth much more after $550 million is spent electrifying it. You couldn't sell it off for what has been spent on it, you couldn't sell it off for a quarter of that. However, in the church of Auckland rail, spending other people's money is a core sacrament.

- It doesn't matter that the impact on traffic congestion of Auckland rail is virtually nil. Traffic congestion is good. Car users are addicts and must be weaned off their addiction. They really don't want to drive, many don't really want to own cars, they just haven't learnt it yet.

Brian wants government to treat Aucklanders as adults. Brian, they would be better treated as adults if you let them spend their own money, respected the fact that most Aucklanders most of the time choose the transport modes that best suit them, respected the fact that most of the money you want spend on railways comes from people using roads, and respected the fact that this religion of yours is completely useless for the trips most Aucklanders do most of the time.

Maybe you should go to Penrose/Mt. Wellington, Auckland's second biggest employment hub, and ask workers there what the electrified railway will do for their trip to work?

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