Matt’s post the other day on the state of Britomart’s escalator and a piece of broken glass that had gone weeks without being fixed seemed to finally spur Auckland Transport into some action – with word filtering through that both things have now been fixed. Kudos to Auckland Transport for finally getting its act together, though a bit of a pity it took so long.
A few comments on Matt’s post (and my initial comment) raised the issue of why we get so angry about this kind of thing. Glass panels can take a while to get fixed sometimes, just as escalators may be relying on a part that takes a while to get shipped in, maybe the person with sign-off powers to pay for the new part couldn’t be contacted, maybe an invoice went missing, maybe someone who normally looks after this kind of thing was on annual leave… a million things potentially could have led to these delays. Why don’t we cut Auckland Transport a bit of slack here?
Well the reason, quite simply, is all about image. A huge amount of public money has been spent, and continues to be spent, on improving Auckland’s public transport system. After decades of neglect, thankfully there is general acceptance (at least within Auckland, central government is another matter entirely) that a sub-standard public transport system is one of the key things holding Auckland back from becoming one of the best cities in the world – the world’s most liveable city, if you’re to use the catch-cry of the Mayor.
A part of this transformation of our public transport system is ensuring that we have more regular buses, trains and ferries, that they’re faster, that they’re more reliable, that they now take you where you want to go when you want to go. But also important is the perception of the public transport system. Is public transport seen as “welfare on wheels” for those who can’t drive, or is it seen as a proper part of the transport system – a transport ‘mode of choice’ that people may well prefer to use, even if they do have a car?
Historically, as I said earlier the public transport system has been neglected. The rail corridors were horribly vandalised for years and years, with one of the best things that has happened over the past few years being the clean up of the corridors – which reflects really well the increased role the rail network has to play in Auckland’s transport system. Whether there’s graffiti on the trains, whether broken things are fixed, whether information boards and other signage are kept up to date… all these little things mean a lot when it comes to the perception of the system.
If we are to attract people to using PT, not just those who have no choice but also those who could choose to drive if they wanted to, then we need to banish that the sad old image of Auckland’s network being so bad the only people who’d use it were those with no choice. We’ve taken a lot of steps towards that goal, but every little thing along the way – every unfixed glass panel, every escalator out of service for weeks on end with no explanation, every information sign that’s months out of date, all undermines these efforts and makes it “feel” like nobody cares about the system.
Back to more positive things though. As it seems Matt’s blog post was so successful in getting Auckland Transport to finally fix up the escalator and the glass panel at Britomart, I wondered whether it might be useful to set up a permanent page for people to leave comments about what’s broken around the transport network, or what’s out of date, or where there’s graffiti or other vandalism that hasn’t been fixed up when it should have been. Hopefully Auckland Transport will keep an eye on the page too and action anything that’s brought up – or we might need to remind them once in a while through a post or two.
This post can be a starting point for comments around what’s broken or what doesn’t work but could be easily fixed (buses not stopping at logical bus stops etc.) while I create a permanent page over the next few days.