I was sad to read, back in late December, that Jon C, who runs the AKT blog, is moving to Australia and won’t be able to continue posting on the blog in the future. This blog and AKT have always been quite complementary to each other – predominantly because I don’t have a hope in hell posting as frequently and getting out to take as many photos of developments around the Auckland rail network as Jon managed. Many a transport story was broken on his blog, plus the insight he enabled us to have into upgrade works around the city was second to none.
What makes Jon’s decision to shift to Australia and discontinue blogging particularly sad, perhaps, is the fact that my days of being able to continue writing blog posts here are also numbered. In the last couple of weeks before Christmas, the dream transport planning job for me came up , I applied for it, and I was the successful applicant. I start in that role on January 31st. It will involve me definitely working to achieve much of what I’ve discussed on this blog over the past few years, inside the system rather than outside it. As I knew when applying for the role, unfortunately in life you can’t have both. Of course, as someone with pretty much no transport planning experience, I highly doubt I would have been able to get such a job without the blogging work I’ve done here.
As I think Jon C has noted in the final few posts on his blog, transport blogging is fun, but is also hard work at times. With a new baby, I have found it more and more difficult to find the time to put together the type of posts that I most like to write. Posts like this and this, which I know got various people at Auckland Transport thinking quite a bit about how they might rework the way the City Rail Link’s cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken.
I do feel that I have achieved quite a bit in my blogging time. Perhaps the best illustration of that is to look at what’s in the background behind Len Brown the day he found out he had won the mayoralty: Yes, that map looks remarkably similar to something I had posted on my blog a few months earlier.
Other things that originally were proposed on this blog, like two-waying Hobson and Nelson Streets, initiating an 020X route and many others, have been incorporated into official plans. Operation Lifesaver, a cheaper alternative to the Puhoi-Wellsford road, was taken up by Labour and the Greens as a way of freeing up funds to build the City Rail Link. I have also generally seen a vast improvement in the quality of our transport debates, compared to a few years ago. Often when a transport issue comes up in the newspaper, I don’t have to write a letter to the editor because there are three or four others saying pretty much what I would have.
Personally, I certainly will miss blogging. While it’s hard work, it is also enormously rewarding and at times, fun. I still get a little thrill each time I have an email telling me there’s another comment. I still particularly enjoy commenters who challenge my way of thinking, but avoid simply acting as trolls. I constantly find myself wanting to be challenged on the big question of whether a greater focus on public transport really is the way to go. What would it take to prove me wrong? What would I argue in a debate if I was arguing on the side of a roads-centric policy? How would I refute that argument? It’s important that I’m able to answer that first question, because if I’m not going to change my mind no matter what evidence is produced – then we’re talking ideology rather than an informed opinion. I have tried not to be ideological about this issue.
Fortunately, this blog will not cease to be updated from January 31st onwards, as I have a bunch of keen and excellent writers to take up the reins. In a way, I think the blog could benefit from being more of a “group effort” – although knowing how challenging it is to keep writing post after post, I’m certainly keen on growing the number of writers to ease the pressure on those contributing. Guest posts over the next few weeks, and beyond, are therefore most welcome. I think that transport blogs have played a pretty important role in the transport debate over the past few years (heck even Steven Joyce mentioned us in parliament once) – and I hope that trend continues.