The term “Greenwash” is quite well known, meaning situations where companies disingenuously promote their products as environmentally friendly when they aren’t, or over-sell what are really quite modest environmental benefits. Wikipedia defines the term as follows:
Greenwashing (green whitewash) is the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.
An interesting phenomenon that I have seen in transport circles, particularly in Auckland, is what could be called “public transport-wash”, or “PT-wash” for short. It is when road projects have tiny or pointless little supposed public transport improvements tacked onto them in order to help “sell” them to the general public. Road engineers and other people who generally promote big roading projects realise that what people really want is better public transport, so that’s why they add on these supposed public transport benefits that most of the time don’t really exist, or at best are extremely minor compared to the project as a whole.
A classic example of “PT-wash” is the proposed widening of State Highway 16. As noted in the NZ Herald last year, around $860 million is going to be spent on widening SH16 between St Lukes and Westgate over the next decade. In that original article you see the following paragraph:
Bus shoulder lanes would also be extended over the full distance, boosting an existing “patchwork” of peak-hour priority sections.
At the Waterview Connection Expo I attended on Saturday, there was a bit more information on the extent of these bus shoulder lanes. Somewhat unsurprisingly they will continue to abruptly end at each on-ramp, off-ramp or over-bridge, and in general seemed to be a continuation of the “patchwork” of priority lanes that exists at the moment. In reality, we’re probably going to merely end up with slightly wider shoulder lanes that are a bit smoother – and that’s it. Yet the project is being sold to the public as helping to improve public transport. AMETI is another classic example of “PT-wash” in my opinion. A whole pile of massive road upgrades that justifies itself on the basis of adding a few bus-lanes, when really what’s needed is a whole new rail corridor.
I may seem to be overly grumpy and exasperated here, but I really do think that we need to keep an eye out for “PT-washing”, to ensure that we’re not being taken for a ride here. If a project does nothing significant to help public transport then we shouldn’t be tricked into thinking that it does.