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The future of transport blogging

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.

47 comments to The future of transport blogging

  • Matt L

    Its great that you will be able to work from the inside and hopefully affect some good change and as you know I will be doing my bit to keep things going with posts.

  • Chris R

    Congratulations on the new job Josh.

  • Ben

    My personal congrats Josh :D

    Although you have my brain working some serious overtime here on what role you landed and for who :P

    In any case 31st of Jan is a date I’ll be keeping in the back of my min ;)

    Matt L: Looking forawrd to your posts and insights :)

  • Feijoa

    In most cases I’d be commenting “oh no!” as I’ve always enjoyed reading, and marveled at, the analysis and ideas you have continuously come up with Josh. But more importantly congratulations and that is great news that you are going to be directly influencing transport decisions. Can you reveal more about the job and responsibilities? Please tell me it is in Auckland?!

  • Doloras

    Can you at least confirm that this job is in Auckland? I’d hate if you were going to sort out Melbourne or Bogota or somewhere.

    • Yes it is in Auckland. Principal Transport Planner in the Auckland Council transport strategy team.

      • Ben

        AWESOME :D

        Wait, time to play the Dunce Card (not as bad as someone did in the NZ Herald today though). Errr what will you be exactly up to.

        Sorry am really curious at the moment given where I work and my own interestins in urban and transport planning

        • Developing and implementing the council’s transport strategy.

          Of note is that it is for the council rather than Auckland Transport.

          • Ben

            Ahhh I see :)

            Well congrats again from me :)

            For a moment I was wondering if you were going to be working in the office next door to me ;) :P

            Transport Strategy for Auckland Council – hmmmm The Draft Auckland Plan Chapter 9 (I think) – going to be an interesting time ahead.

      • Doloras

        Well, I just hope you’re not fired in favour of Owen McShane when Cam Brewer becomes mayor in 2014. :)

  • Re that map of 2030:

    No Takapuna spur.
    No Avondale – Onehunga link.

    Can we get them by 2031 then?

    Well done on the job. I think overall your prodigious high quality output has been quite a good read. And I too hope that there is enough interest amongst the guest posters to keep some of the momentum up.

  • Congratulations again Admin, you’re exactly the sort of transport strategist Auckland needs. Dedicated and passionate but not ideological. Evidence based planning and quality research and analysis will prevail in the long run.

    I hope the other guys can maintain the standard you have set on this blog. I’ll try to do a few posts myself, but I’m heading back to Melbourne this month to further my own transport planning career so they’ll probably be few and far between unfortunately.

  • Raffe

    Saddened that you will no longer be blogging here, but greatly heartened that you will be working within the council to improve Aucland transport.

  • Richard D

    Congratulations on the new job!

  • Cam

    Great news on the new job Josh, not just for you but i think for all of us who care about the issue. Also positive that the blog will go on with posts by Stu, Matt L and others. It would have been gutting to lose both blogs in one month.

  • Christine Rose

    Congratulations Josh, great to hear you’ll be working from the inside. Don’t let them co-opt you. Co-opt them! I hope Auckland will be all the better for your expertise and sense. Thanks for all the blogs.

  • Christopher T

    Heartfelt congratulations to both you on getting the job and AC for having the nous to appoint you!

  • Jennifer

    Great news Josh – you will be a real asset to AkC. I echo Christine’s comment to co-opt them!
    I am currently up in Hereford Street building.
    Sad to lose both akt and transportblog as they have become daily reads for me and many others. I guess time for bettertransport forum to step up.

  • LucyJH

    thanks so much for your hard work over the last few years Josh. I have always been amazed at your prodigious ability to read official documents so quickly and then write them up in such an interesting way. You will be sorely missed but I am sure you will do a fabulous job at Auckland Council as well. Good luck and thanks again!

  • David

    Thanks for all the great work. It’s good to know that you’ve got the job you want and I sincerely hope you can help implement much of the good sense you’ve preached here of the years. Best of luck!

  • Simon

    Time for me to come out of the woodwork with my first post. Long time reader here, based in Waterview. Just wanted to say a big thanks for all your posts and insights on the SH20 extension and for collating and making sense of the huge amount of info available on this topic. Sure beats NZTA’s updates via old-school letter drops!

    Cheers, and all the very best for the new job.

  • Geoff Houtman

    Excellent news Josh.

    Excellent for Auckland too.

    Thanks for everything so far, and everything for the future!

    G

  • The Trickster

    Congratulations Josh.

    On a selfish note, be a pity for me as I’ll actually have to start thinking deeper for myself when it comes to transport. Also, completely agree with LucyJH – never ceases to amaze me how much you seem to be able to get through in those official documents!

  • obi

    Congratulations! You often post on “background”topics that aren’t directly related to Auckland. Is there any chance you’d be able to continue with those without creating a conflict of interest?

    • Unlikely I think, but can check it out.

      • obi

        Thanks! I’m thinking about you posts on what is going on in other world cities, and posts about transport theory (for lack of a better word… maybe “transport and urban design best practice” better describes this class of post.) Surely those aren’t relevant to your employment and therefore you can continue to write about them without compromising your employment?

        And I’d like to add my voice to those thanking you for running the site for the last few years. I have no idea how you’ve managed your prodigious posting output while maintaining quality and avoiding too much repetition. If this were sports I’d be testing you for steroids ;-)

  • Newnewt

    I echo Obi’s query about whether you may be able to continue posting on topics which are not relevant to AC, and doff my hat to you for your huge output over the years, and particularly the last few months. I have a much better understanding of transport issues and possibilities as a result of reading your blog. Auckland Council has gained a valuable asset!

  • Lee

    Congrats! I rarely comment, but have followed this blog since the start and before that, Skyscapercity Forums. You’re gonna leave a huge void in the interwebs :(

  • Gian

    Since you’re going to work for Auckland Transport, now I’ll know who to BLAME the next time my bus is late!
    jokes aside, congratulations, I’m very happy for you. And I’m happy that a person like you now works for AKL

  • Congrads Josh!!!

    Hopefully your hard work for the council will be put into action, this is good news for Auckland, and look forward to more post from Matt L, Stu and the crew.

    Cheers

  • Jon Reeves

    Excellent news about the position you are taking up Josh. I am sure you will do well…though you will need to be doing a fair bit of pushing, in the right direction!

  • CM

    Will miss your posts. Congratulations, you’ve achieved so much here and it certainly led to your great new job.

    Sad irony that it’s what ‘made’ you in the transport world, but to progress, you have to leave it behind! Well deserved though.

    Will you be opting out due to confidentiality/conflict, or because you envisage having much less free time?

    As Obi said, unrelated posts on other cities, theory, good websites/articles etc would be great. Completely understand that the political and AT posts will have to stop though!

    Glad to hear this blog will be going forward – it’s made such a difference and is a testament to blogging and ‘people power’!

  • Anthony Blomfield

    excellent.
    Actually considering now staying in New Zealand.

  • rtc

    Wish you all the best in your new role Jarbs, you’ve been a mainstay of transport blogging in NZ so it’s a real shame to see you moving on!

  • Liam W

    Well done on the new job Josh, that’s fantastic news!

    Been reading your blog just about everyday since I was a 7th former back in 2009 and now I’m starting my 3rd year of the BPlan at Auckland – the quality of your posts were a huge part of what made me go down the planning path – fantastic analysis that will be missed by alot of people.

    Glad to hear that the site will remain in good hands though!

  • Aaron S

    Best wishes Josh. Sad that you will be doing less on the blog. Thanks for all your hard work and intelligent commentary.

  • AdG

    Hey Josh, I will very much miss your well researched posts – it appears however that there are others who can continue the good work. I am relieved to know that this site will continue as I use it regularly to cite stats to support my own work. AND congratulations on your appointment – well done.

  • Louis

    Fantastic news Josh, very pleased to hear that you will be taking this job. I hope to write a few more guest posts in the future.

    P:S Sorry I ran out of time to write my integrated ticketing part II post due to holidays but may finish it at some point.

  • Greg

    Congrats, Josh – love the paragraph about testing one’s impartiality to ideology. Nice to know someone with such an open, “persuade me” mindset is joining the team. Speaking of the team: could you (for the less politically savvy amongst us) explain how a transport planner for the Council differs in scope to one for Auckland Transport, and maybe how the two functions (and entities) intersect and interact? In ten words or fewer, of course!

  • Simon

    As I understand the subtleties, AC sets the policy direction and AT implement it, but would like to think that the two sets of planners are working for the common good at the end of the day. We will catch up in February Josh when I start working down the road from you at AT.

  • TerryB

    Hi Josh, congratulations on your new role and thank you for all your invaluable posts down the years. This is one of the most thought provoking blogs I read and I hope you will be able to find a way to contribute in the future. Best of luck in your new job.

  • Seriously, well done. I have enjoyed a lot of the detail about what is going on and many of your thoughtful ideas for the future. You’ve also always been polite, well considered and thoughtful in your responses and debates. There is little more to ask for in someone who I’ve argued against on many occasions.

    All the very best in the new role, I hope you enjoy it, learn a lot and it continues to challenge. It’s never very interesting unless you are constantly challenged in this sector.

  • Congrats on the new job! You are lucky!

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