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PT doesn’t have to be a left/right issue

One of the more disappointing things about Steven Joyce’s reaction to the CBD Rail Link business case is how political he has made the issue of transport funding. As I noted in my post a couple of days back – the integration of land-use planning and transport is being increasingly understood (they’re mutually dependent in many respects), just that Joyce comes out on the side of preferring auto-dependent urban sprawl to a public transport based compact city urban strategy. Joyce’s preference seems to be based largely on political grounds – that those nasty ARC planners have spent the last 10 years trying to force intensification on people who don’t want it.

While this completely ignores the government’s (both this one and the previous one) contribution to hugely unbalanced outcomes through massive road spending and ignores the fact that most District Plan rules actively encourage sprawl, the whole “public transport is only supported by lefties” argument annoys me. As detailed in the CBD Rail Tunnel business case there are productivity and economic growth (stuff that right-wingers appear to often be concerned about) reasons to spend money on rail. While centre-right parties in New Zealand seem stuck in the 1970s when it comes to their transport policies, it’s interesting to see how different things are in Australia.

Over the weekend there was a state election in Victoria, where the incumbent Labor government lost office to a “Coalition” centre-right government. In New Zealand politics that would probably be a bad result for public transport advocates – but in Victoria it seems quite different. In fact, the Public Transport Users Association, after undertaking a highly detailed analysis of the different parties’ policies, ranked the Coalition ahead of the incumbent Labor government. Somewhat unsurprisingly, they’re both behind the Green Party in Victoria.

With public transport the big issue for many voters, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has given its verdict on the transport policies of the parties going into the State Election, with the Greens coming out on top, followed by the Coalition.

PTUA President Daniel Bowen said that packed trains, slow trams, and infrequent buses had voters looking to all political parties for a solution to Melbourne and Victoria’s transport woes.

And he said the Green and Coalition promises for reform through an independent public transport authority were crucial in their party policies receiving the best marks.

“The Greens scored an A, and have an aggressive agenda to upgrade public transport, with a Public Transport Authority being central to better managing and planning the network. The vision of frequent public transport across Melbourne is welcome, and would provide more residents with a genuine alternative to car travel.”

Of the two major parties, Mr Bowen said the Coalition had come out with a stronger set of policies than Labor, and scored a B.

“The Coalition has a number of positive policies, underpinned by a pledge to buy 40 additional trains, and introduce a Public Transport Development Authority to provide central management and planning.

“While we have concerns over the Coalition’s push for the east-west cross-city road tunnel, the pledge of feasibility studies for rail to Doncaster, the Airport and Rowville, as well as level crossing eliminations are very welcome.”

Mr Bowen said that Labor were promising some worthwhile upgrades, ultimately they fell short of what is needed, scoring a C. “Labor seems to have no overall vision for a fast, frequent, connected network across Melbourne and Victoria, and have ignored community calls for a shakeup of the management of public transport, which has scores of organisations involved but nobody taking responsibility for such essentials as making sure buses meet trains.”

Mr Bowen said that despite Labor deservedly trumpeting Smartbus as a success story, it was disappointing that they had not pledging any new Smartbus routes. Labor also lost points for continuing to push the destructive North-East freeway link.

There’s a quick video providing further information:

I do wonder why things are so different here in NZ. Is it perhaps because the majority of the population doesn’t live in a large city? (whereas a massive proportion of Victoria’s population lives in Melbourne). Certainly in local politics it seems that public transport support (at least superficially) can cross the political divide – just not when it comes to nation-wide politics for some reason.

25 comments to PT doesn’t have to be a left/right issue

  • apl

    Enforcement of parking requirements, lots of land sat-on by governmental roading authorities, big public capital costs, road policing, various taxes and registrations, governmental monopoly, lack of pay-per-use model etc… etc… it’s not really the sort of thing one is accustomed to associating with the right.

  • Sanctuary

    The most annoying thing to me is the lazy prejudice and detachment of a quite well off and untypical media and political elite in all this. By the tone of Kathryn Ryan’s voice in the RNZ Rod Oram interview it was quite obvious she doesn’t use PT and it was equally obvious she didn’t believe anyone else would either. Similarly, Stephen Joyce clearly believes PT to be the choice of the poor and not something anyone would use if they could drive from a satellite suburb.

    The thing is, the rapid growth of use of Auckland’s quite inferior public transport system shows that for urban propulations of Joe six packs PT is quite an attractive alternative. You can have a skinful at Friday night drinks and safely train or bus home. You don’t have to worry about parking at a shopping complex. It removes all the hassle of driving on congested roads in built up areas.

    Just because both Kathryn Ryan and Stephen Joyce find the idea of PT quaint fron their position of privilege and untypical work patterns doesn’t mean lots of us would actually prefer to use it over driving at rush hour.

    • David

      I’d say Kathryn Ryan sounds pretty much like she usually does and you have no idea whether or not she uses PT. It’s her job to interview her guests, which often involves putting counter-arguments, rather than simply agreeing with them.

      But on-topic, yes it is interesting how certain opinions become associated with certain parties. I read a study of political opinions from the USA that showed that for people who were relatively unengaged with politics, their voting pattern didn’t really predict what they thought about most social issues (abortion, gun control, death penalty, crime and punishment, immigration etc), but for people more deeply involved with politics, all you needed to know was their party to predict their opinions as they pretty much toed the line. It seems that PT is just one of those issues here. So if you are a national party member, you don’t even have to consider the arguments, you just know you don’t like it. It’s kinda obvious, but worth remembering.

    • Matt

      Kathryn Ryan’s a very good interviewer. She takes the opposing side with pretty much everyone she interviews, to get actual answers not just rehearsed talking points. Puts her a cut above most other interviewers, in my books, because she wants to give listeners more information than they could find simply by reading press releases.
      I want to hear her interview Joyce on this topic, because I think after speaking with Oram she’d fillet Joyce very neatly.

  • Chris Harris

    Yes, it’s funny how so many people in NZ seem to be 30 years behind the times, with the assumptions of the 1970s to the effect that PT is on the way down and out in the modern age of the automobile. The turning point for that attitude came in Australia at least with the defeat of the Court Liberal government in 1983 over roads-vs-rail, see my letter to the Herald on Nov 30. What was subbed out of the letter was the observation that the WA Liberals eventually learnt their lesson and presided over the building of the Mandurah line. However, over here it’s still a case of “Ladies and gentlemen we are about to be landing in New Zealand, please wind back your watches thirty years.” Which of course is why I suggest that the 2011 election could shape up to be like 1983 in WA, a watershed, if National persists in stupidly flouting the three ‘rail mayors’, appointing commissioners, and so on, and if the opposition then proceeds to make the election a referendum on civic matters, as they easily could.

    • rtc

      Labout needs to find something to get some traction in the pools, rail could be one of those issues if they wanted. Len Brown won not just because of discontent with Banks but because he was able to put across adventurous new ideas (admittedly the rail tunnel isn’t a new idea) rather than just plodding along with the same old same old that Banks wanted.

  • Ross Clark

    Talking about politics and the CBD rail tunnel business case, don’t forget that Celia Wade-Brown was elected as Wellington Mayor on a platform which included building a light rail line off the current Johnsonville Line into the CBD.

    I am not sure how strong the business case would be for this project – the Wellington Regional Council don’t seem to be so enthused, and I think a lot of its transport-related benefits could be achieved through sorting out some better traffic priorities within the CBD itself. However, it’s now very much on the radar.

    • greenwelly

      Talking about politics and the CBD rail tunnel business case, don’t forget that Celia Wade-Brown was elected as Wellington Mayor on a platform which included building a light rail line off the current Johnsonville Line into the CBD.

      No she didn’t, her envisaged light rail ran only south of the Railway Station,

      It does not include using the upgraded heavy rail line to Johnsonville, (which would be a waste of the 3 years of upgrades- and the J’Ville tunnels were used as the benchmarks for the entire Matangi Fleet, if the line is converted then the rest of the network is lumbered with smaller units than could have been justified )

  • Sanctuary

    it isn’t a left vs. right issue – Christine Fletcher and all the rest of the National party (errr, I mean Citizen and Ratepayers) people on the council have supported the CBD rail loop.

    However, anyone who read Joyce’s piece in the SST will now know this is a deeply cultural issue. Joyce’s mindset is the last hurrah of the white settler class and it’s uneasy, adversial and exploitative relationship with the foreign land they’ve colonised. For Stephen Joyce and those who think like him, New Zealand should primarily be a good place to be exploited for a dollar. For the rest of us, New Zealand is our home and is primarily the place we want to live in. These two different world views are in conflict in the Auckland PT debate because underground rail implies a permanence of place that the settler mindset can’t grasp, and a sense of community and place it doesn’t actually believe in.

    • Doloras

      “Christine Fletcher and all the rest of the National party (errr, I mean Citizen and Ratepayers) people on the council have supported the CBD rail loop.”

      Yeah, but Cameron Brewer is breaking ranks, and I would hazard a guess that Jami-Lee Ross will come soon. C&R will clearly split between hard-right and “Christine Fletcher” factions on this issue.

  • James B

    “This assumption that by 2021 people will be pushing each other over to get into the CBD every morning seems a little unrealistic. Corporates aren’t exactly lining up to get into CBD Auckland, there are no cranes on the skyline, and CBD office vacancies are at a generational high.

    I love this quote, he criticises Len Brown for making an assumption that the CBD will continue to grow and then makes an assumption that the decentralisation will continue. Telecom and Westpac have both consolidated operations in the CBD and I know of several other corporates who are currently looking to build new buildings including ASB and ANZ.

    “I ran the Newmarket Business Association for five years and areas like Newmarket have really lifted them game as far as a preferred destination for the likes of office-based businesses. Assuming that a bigger regional population will mean a much bigger working CBD population is a big assumption to make,” says Cameron Brewer.

    Message build more businesses in Newmarket to help my mates out.

    Sorry but any credibility that he had as a voice of reason is gone. His ward has possibly the best connections to rapid transit in the city and he wants to deny that opportunity to the rest of Auckland.

  • LucyJH

    I think that it is not just PT – it is a whole lot of issues where NZ is deeply split between the right and left – where in other countries there is no longer such a divide. Right wing people are embracing PT, energy efficiency etc etc

    I don’t know why this is the case but I think it is changing/will change more over the next 10 years. Look at SBN for example – they hardly used to exist but now they have (literally) thousands of members.

  • Jennifer N

    Statements like Cameron Brewer’s ‘businesses won’t decide to move to the cbd because they aren’t located there now’ have about as much traction with me as the earlier one of Stephen Joyce’s ‘people won’t take up commuting by rail because currently 83% of people go to work by car’. Same with his ‘people want to live where they want to live’.
    If planners are allowed to plan, ie with a purpose to fruition, we might actually see improved mobility realising better use of the cbd and more efficient landuse. Maybe then NZ’s economy will have a chance of stabilising.

  • AdG

    It is interesting that more than 18 months ago there was an article in Stuff re Auckland’s traffic woes. A number of leading transport/planning gurus from around the globe (and one local) were asked to comment on how they would tackle the issue of solving Auckland’s transport issues. Salient points from this were:
    Invest in PT, don’t do it half arsed (that’s the worst – most expensive in that you spend on PT but don’t get the full gains because people are still frustrated), STOP providing so much parking that’s still relatively cheap and easy – in my view one of the single biggest aspects we can change with fairly immediate effect.
    Interesting read for those who are keen at:

    The greatest frustration with the decisions that SJ and co make around the roads focus is that it effectively denies people making lifestyle choices to live more sustainably.

  • exactly AdG, and this is why the left/right thing is wrong, because the party of the right, supposedly the party of individual choice wants us to have no choice: Joyce has chosen for us, we will all have to drive and all freight will only be on trucks, no competition between modes. He is doing all the choosing, and sucking all the available capital for the next decade out of the argument. This is what is behind his haste with the roads and delay for rail…. he is pretty sure that the kitty will be bare very soon at the rate he is going and all debate will be academic. His work will be done, and Auckland will have lost another chance at transforming itself into the great city it could be. This is truly a tragedy, and in fact a scandal, it is undemocratic and a resource grab by a small elite very close to this administration. Of course all sold as supporting free and natural choice… the big lies are best.

  • Cam

    @Patrick Yep it’s what SJ and his mates would refer to as “picking winners”

  • Jeremy Harris

    Transport in NZ is completely socialist, no truly “right wing” person would support the current system of central government picking the projects to be constructed and pricing road use as free afterwards…

    No “right wing” person would support, zoning laws, minimum parking requirements, building height restriction and council and central government veto power over private property use (Green party people shouldn’t either) and when the results of these policies cause people to live in a sprawling manner claim, “See people want to live like that, the market works”…

  • ingolfson

    Statements like Cameron Brewer’s ‘businesses won’t decide to move to the cbd because they aren’t located there now’

    Really disappointed that Brewer is now making such noises. After managing business association in Newmarket, why is he suddenly a sprawl-fan who would like more Silvia Park office parks?

  • erentz

    Is there such a split? I mean Labour wasn’t exactly pro-rail either (it did a bare minimum). I’d say they’re still not even pro-rail — or they’d be announcing some bold transformative visions. And now most people in Auckland seem pro-rail. And most people around the country (I’m totally guessing) would prefer to see money for transport in Auckland go to rail rather than motorways. It’s really just Joyce and the National Party, backed up by some special interest groups, and the mostly harmless segments of society that are always slow to embrace change (and they will always be there).

    This is why I made the prediction a while back that Joyce and the Nats will end up on the wrong side of this debate, and if they cared about their jobs they’d have made the move to support rail when it was still politically feasible to do so. Now they’re digging themselves deeper and deeper saying the most ridiculous things. If I were Key — lots of things would be different — but to start with I’d recognise this, dump Joyce as an idiot, kill the holiday highway — fund project lifesaver, and fund the CBD tunnel. And I’d appoint someone who could be pimp rail — I’d steal the show from Labour (who should be doing this and possibly eventually would get around to it). This is probably why you’re seeing conservatives in Aussie back public transport. They’re better politicians.

    • Matt

      Labour did far, far more than National has done. What you call “a bare minimum” is still millions of miles ahead of what National has done, which is less than nothing. Labour legislated a fuel tax to let Auckland pay its way for public transport projects, National canned it. Labour funded track upgrade work, signals work, new train stations… It could’ve done nothing, which would’ve be the true “bare minimum”.

      They could be more enthusiastic, certainly, but their credentials of supporting rail projects for Auckland aren’t imaginary. We got more done in nine (really only in the last three) years of Labour than had been achieved in the preceding two decades, and all the work that’s happened since the 2008 election was started under Labour.

      • erentz

        In my mind they did the bare minimum required to establish a pretty crap rail system in Auckland. They could’ve built a great rail system over nine years. They weren’t ignorant, they made a decision to only go as far as they did when they did. I’m not saying “Bad Labour” for building what they did build, but I see what they achieved as so far to one end of the spectrum of what was possible that it’s the “bare minimum.” (especially when they had the support they did, and the greens on their side, etc, it’s not like they were answerable to the same special interests National is)… anyway now’s their chance, let’s hope they really make something of it.

        • Matt

          Auckland had a crappy rail system. Nobody used it, the stations were rubbish, etc. All of the patronage growth, station refurbishment, track upgrades, happened under Labour. But only when Auckland finally asked for the funding because ARTA came to the realisation that this was important, which is the key point: Auckland had to ask, rather than Labour volunteering.
          Compare that with the current lot (and past National governments), who won’t give us money even though we’re asking for it.

  • I was very frustrated by the last Labour gov who I felt were far too cautious… but be careful what you ask for, as now we have a ‘get things done’ Transport Minister, only he still thinks it’s 1956…. and the brave new world of the automobile is the way forward…. Also while not letting Labour fully off the hook this is an idea that’s time has so come with such certainty fairly recently… the reality of resource depletion has only really set in since 2008. Sure the signs were all there but oil was crazy cheap for much of the Clarke gov. But they really should have had electrification all done and the CBDRL underway by the time this Trucking Nutter got hold of the reins…. alas. And yes it’s time for them to catch up and get with the programme… and sort the regional rail lines too…. Marsden Point needs connecting….

  • LucyJH

    @ Jeremy. You said: No “right wing” person would support, zoning laws, minimum parking requirements, building height restriction and council and central government veto power over private property use (Green party people shouldn’t either) and when the results of these policies cause people to live in a sprawling manner claim, “See people want to live like that, the market works”…

    Do Green people support those things? I don’t recall them voicing support for that…in fact, as far as I’m aware the Green Party is the only political party which regular criticizes minimum parking requirements and makes the point that our sprawling development is not inevitable but is a result of planning/funding decisions we have made in the past.

    I think any reasonable person would support council and centrla govt veto power over private property use in some cases…But then, wouldn’t you? For example, if your neighbour (in an urban area) decided to just store his sewerage on property – wouldn’t you like there to be laws stopping him from doing that?

    • Matt

      Lucy, he worded it kind of awkwardly but his meaning was “If you’re really ‘right-wing’ you can’t support those planning controls and then say that sprawl is a result of ‘the market working’”, because those very controls interfere with the market. They ensure that there is no option to go for quality high-density living because it’s not available. If you don’t want the “quarter-acre pavlova paradise” your only other choice is poorly-constructed in-fill with lousy transport options unless you drive. That’s not a market response any more than requiring multi-storey, multi-dwelling construction is allowing a proper market response.

      The Greens absolutely support those things, but they don’t claim that the sprawl is the result of a market response unlike the Minister of Trucks.

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