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.