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Comment of the Week

Interest.co.nz picked up on my slight edits to Rodney Hide’s column in the Herald on Sunday. The comments included an absolute pearler from “Boatman”:

The AUCKLAND TRANSPORT BLOG are a bunch of nutters that should be ignored and given no space to air their stupid views at all, which frankly no Kiwi bloke would ever subscribe to anyway.

They should run a poll.

My staff see the the use of the bus as a sign of of personal failure , putting you way down on the social ladder, along with struggling single parents, students and beneficiaries.

Public Transport is seen as being for losers , the ultimate leveler in society , reduced to just a number among the masses waiting for the bus or train.

Both Sociologists and economists will tell you that people have choices, and clearly lots of people prefer the motor car to the train or bus.

For migrants , not wanting to use public transport and live like people in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul or Mumbai is something any sensible person would choose, thats why they come here to live in New Zealand in such large numbers.

Personally, I dont want to use public transport , its too expensive , too erratic , does not take me where I want to go and Auckland is too cold and wet and windy in winter to stand waiting under unprotected bus shelters for a late bus .

The truth is that people prefer using their cars to smelly noisy unreliable diesel trains and busses whose drivers strike at a drop of a hat and cause commuter chaos.

Building a rail loop is just that …. a loopy idea that will only be of use to a minuscule portion of Aucklands population , but will be paid for by people in Whagaparoa and Coatesville.

I dont see why Auckland is being restricted in growth , when we have an immigration policy encouraging people to migrate here , we pack them in and restrict the availability of accomodation , its crazy;

I’m never sure quite how to respond to comments like these – which actually pop up reasonably frequently in the comments threads of various right-wing blogs. On the one hand pretty much every “fact” presented is incorrect and you can go through that pointing every little thing out – public transport use has increased a lot in the past few years, people make logical choices in their transport options and for most people the logical choice is to drive because of past investment, where we invest in public transport we get increased use, we simply can’t provide for population growth by building more road… and so forth.

But really, ultimately, rational debate isn’t going to win people over who think that if you catch the bus you’re a social failure. Interestingly, I think that “bus stigma” is a lot less prevalent in Auckland than in most US cities, thankfully. The success of the Northern Busway really highlighted that with a good service it certainly is possible to get middle-class professionals catching the bus in big numbers.

I suppose the real question is whether it’s even worth bothering debating with such viewpoints? I live in hope that opinions like this towards public transport are few and far between, but then I see the government’s insane transport policies and perhaps some of this ideology is shared by those in very powerful circles?

64 comments to Comment of the Week

  • I don’t think the question is whether it’s worth bothering to debate such viewpoints; I think question is are we actively able to change the perspective that these people have of public transport? What does it take to sell public transport so it’s not seen as the option of last resort? I think we’ve actively taken steps in New Zealand to increase the saleability of Public Transport as an option – but not enough. For the people you’re talking about, the proof will be in the pudding when we’ve made the changes – not before we’ve made them.

  • Matthew

    In all honesty who’d ever read a column written by Rodney Hide? You’d have to be mad in the first place to do so surely?

  • Ash

    Margaret Thatcher: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”

    People such as the commenter may not have ventured beyond our shores (or at best, perhaps to Australia) and probably have not experienced life in a city served by modern, efficient and reliable public transport. He’s never experienced the freedom of not having to worry about where your car is and what the parking bill will be; the savings in car operating costs; the liveliness of streets where cars haven’t discouraged pedestrians, etc. (the recent post “Return of the Walking City” covers this to some extent). Frankly, whilst I might pity the commenter for his apparent lack of experience of the livelier great cities of the world, the lack of vision displayed by those of such a persuasion is disappointing.

    • SteveC

      It’s a cultural thing, in Wellington we lived in Kelburn and I often caught a bus from Karori into town, then when I saw the “people in business” type pics in the paper I often thought “oh, I’ve seen them on the bus”

      when we moved to the Shore, I felt that I had a mission to Auckland by wearing a tie on the bus!

  • Wow. Boatman would love Saudi Arabia … until they run out of oil.

  • Max

    Margaret Thatcher: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”

    Ironically, she said that in a city where buses and the tube are key and popular methods of transport used by everyone from bankers to tradesmen. Apparently, Maggie was just talking of the 1% who could afford a Rolls in the middle of London – if you are part of the other 99%, you are really scum, and should stay out of politics. You don’t count, or more to the point, you shouldn’t count, and shouldn’t raise your voice to your betters.

    It’s just condescension given a transport form. The short answers is: No, one need not discuss with those people. Speak to the middle of the room, not the fringe.

  • Nick R

    Apparently not the actual words of Thatcher:

    “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.
    Attributed to her in Commons debates, 2003-07-02, column 407 and Commons debates, 2004-06-15 column 697. According to a letter to the Daily Telegraph by Alistair Cooke on 2 November 2006, this sentiment originated with Loelia Ponsonby, one of the wives of 2nd Duke of Westminster who said “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”. In a letter published the next day, also in the Daily Telegraph, Hugo Vickers claims Loelia Ponsonby admitted to him that she had borrowed it from Brian Howard. There is no solid evidence that Margaret Thatcher ever quoted this statement with approval, or indeed shared the sentiment.”

    I agree, that commenter vitriol and viewpoint does appear to be the words of someone who has never left the suburb/small town he grew up in.

  • Get the man an iPhone. I dislike driving because it’s too boring and unproductive.

  • Max

    “My staff see the the use of the bus as a sign of of personal failure , putting you way down on the social ladder, along with struggling single parents, students and beneficiaries.”

    Well, if one has such a boss, one tends to either parrot his words, or fight with him until one quits.

    No wonder this guy is surrounded with “yes, boss” people who think (or claim they think) that students and single mothers are “personal failures”, and public transport is something to be ashamed of.

  • Of course the survey the other day from Horizon showed that 75% of respondents want integrated bus and rail PT improvements. The general support for PT and the CRL shows that this guy is one of the last remaining dinosaurs. About time he went extinct like the rest of them.

    • Nick R

      He doesn’t have to be extinct. We’ve got plenty of suburbs and motorways to go round. If he wants a house out in the burbs with a big section, a place to keep his boat and a grunty Holden to tow it then thats his prerogative.

      We shouldn’t tell him how to live, if he wants that sort of life and is happy to pay for his land and fuel and whatnot the so be it.

      …but it would be real nice if guys like him stopped demanding that everyone else live exactly like they chose to.

  • At the end of the day what that individual thinks or what I thionk is irrelevant. The majority will decide and that is what democracy is all about.

    I think it is a waste of time even debating with those people. We just need to put the info out there and the majority of Aucklanders who are unemotional, non-ideological and non-political about it will decide for themselves. Our population is well educated enough to find out all the info they need to make an intelligent decision.

    Personally I believe that guys comments are at least 20 years out of date and not supported by the vast majority of Aucklanders or, probably, NZers.

  • The success of the Northern Busway really highlighted that with a good service it certainly is possible to get middle-class professionals catching the bus in big numbers.

    Although many including Jarrett believe the the success of transit should not be based on class analysis…
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/07/why-we-should-stop-talking-about-bus-stigma/2601/

  • Ari

    Most people want better PT so that other people can use it and get out of their way on the motorways. I don’t think for a moment that these recent surveys mean most Aucklanders want to commute via PT.
    p.s. the Iron Lady was a working class woman who worked hard and was successful but hardly rich or in the 1%. She genuinely wanted to improve the lives of everyone that wanted to work to improve their lives. Though she may not have achieved that.

  • Daighi

    I’m not entirely certain why, but after living in cities with good rail/light rail/cycling infrastructure I can’t help but feel like a bit of a plebeian every time I catch a bus. I guess the term ‘loser cruiser’ originated somewhere…

  • Jeremy

    self esteem issues with the guy I think. Does driving an old bomb of a car count? would this make me be superior or even feel superior?

  • Clearly the staff of the Britomart offices of Westpac, Ernst & Young, Southern Cross Insurance and the Financial Markets Authority are all down-and-out losers. After all, many of them take public transport.

  • Filde

    Lol, just laugh. And be glad that this strange person has even strayed on to the blog. Goodwork in getting in Stuff too.

  • patrick

    Using public transport is seen as failure? and this blog is full of nutters? just as well he drives I wouldn’t want to share anything with him!!

    • Max

      I don’t like the fact that he drives at all. He’s the kind of person who sounds like he would happily cut me off or overtake me me with 5 cm to spare when I am riding on my bike, just to save 5 seconds. After all, if public transport users are losers in his view, the fact that I ride a bike and must obviously have even less financial success (!) probably makes me so beneath his notice that I literally don’t count.

  • Any guesses what kind of business this guy is the boss of; waddayareckon? I’m picking trucking… Drips of self interest, misdirected of course, but there you go. Clearly lives in the ex-urbs and can’t stand that all the rates on his lifestyle block or similar don’t go on the roads he uses….

  • Kent Lundberg

    Bit of a cheap shot calling the blog “Trainlovers”, Bernard, we’re city lovers.

    • Filde

      Kent, its Gandhi here: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

      Were at the laughing stage so we are nearly half way there ;-)

  • jonno1

    Hmm, sounds more like a windup to me – and a successful one judging by most of the comments above.

    BTW, I was surprised to see Peter M’s reference to “right-wing blogs”. I’ve been soundly bollocked previously for suggesting that this blog has a left-wing bias (if not green even), but in all honesty many of the comments above tend to confirm this view. And in case you’re wondering I don’t categorise myself as a right-winger, although I am a conservative (both fiscally and morally). So I suppose I’m not a left-winger either, heck, what am I?

    Finally, as I scrolled down I was concerned that there was nothing from Patrick R, but joy, finally an amusing comment.

    • Max

      “So I suppose I’m not a left-winger either, heck, what am I?”

      According to every extremist ever, you are obviously sadly confused! Can we sell you some snake oil and a real, honest, truthful explanation of every question you can ever ask? We only deal in black and white though. ;-)

    • Jonno – I would class myself as in the centre somewhere. I don’t support any of the political parties and all have things about them that I really don’t like. I also don’t think that transport should be a left or right issue and in many countries it isn’t but sadly NZ has followed the lead of places like the US. One thing I hope this blog helps to do is to lift the level of debate and break down some of the barriers the country currently has.

      • I personally think the whole left/right meme is well past its usefulness… Personally, to use the colour metaphor, and to get to the issues in front of us, I prefer green/gray ie change/no change, but that’s still too binary to that useful…..

        • Max

          And yet humanity will always use such shortcuts to save brain running time… we are constructed to do a good part of our ongoing “judgement” based on decisions we have already made in the past. That is why discussions so often start and end with both sides not having budged one whit. It takes a lot of work to stay open (seen from an individual’s viewpoint) and an even larger amount of work to change the entrenched viewpoints of lots of people.

    • Jeremy

      Classing yourself as left or right is just limiting or robotic. But according to politicalcompass I’m centre on the vertical axis and a bit to the left of the horizontal axis. Having an “image” or “ego” means we have to create a mental list of thing to support our act and vice versa. Having a strong view of yourself is fine, nothing wrong with being superior than someone else if it’s just confidence in yourself.

    • Filde

      Keep your head up johnno1, its good having you here fuelling debate. Patrick has taught us all a lesson or few.

      Personally, I can’t stand the destruction of wealth. It is bad for the economy and for the environment because it means we all have to work much harder. Therefore, I’m a strong subscriber to Milton Friedman’s and Edward Hayek’s economic analysis which would ‘traditionally’ put me on the far right or in ACT Party territory. However, currently the ACT Party and National Party are persuing the most radical ‘socialist’ agenda in NZ politics today by supporting the complete f**kn annihilation of wealth that is the $12bn intervention in the transport market (RoNs). So politically I’m limited to picking one bunch of socialists over another. The least destructive and most trustworthy party out of the main four is Greens. Although misguided on a some things, JAG is brilliant and sincere.

      Naive and simplistic analysis by Rodney Hide unfortuntely does the libertarians no favours whatsoever…

      • jonno1

        Believe it or not I used the old DC trains in my early student days in Wellington (lived in the Hutt). Later when I lived in West Auckland I used the train to Newmarket until I graduated to a company car. I now live very close to a city-fringe station but don’t get out much! In my childhood I lived directly opposite a station and loved the steam trains (I realise some readers won’t know what those are). Lots of heat, steam and brass handles. I’m not so keen on buses but acknowledge their flexibility.

        Interesting that you can be a Hayekian and a Green at the same time – mutually exclusive I would have thought (at least fiscally; think QE). But you’re dead right about National’s socialist tendencies. I’m not so sure that Rodney Hide is a libertarian though, maybe you’re thinking of Don Brash. As for your “main four”, I struggled to think of the fourth, but presume you meant Winston First. With all due respect to the Greens, they’re never been anywhere near power, so can say whatever they like without having to step up (a bit like Labour at present; think “housing affordability”). But I imagine that actually being in government would become a very sobering thing very quickly.

  • Max

    “Hmm, sounds more like a windup to me – and a successful one judging by most of the comments above.”

    Eh, getting riled up can be fun too, especially when you keep SOME perspective to it. Outrage is the fuel of much activism too, not just the fuel for moaning.

  • Christopher T

    Have you considered that Boatman might well be the Hon Gerry Brownlee? I’m sure that he and all his staff in the Ministry of Transport consider buses to be signifiers of failure. Then again, I’m not sure that Gerry has quite mastered the intricacies of the inter webs thing; it might be his parliamentary understudy, Mr Tremain. But what Gerry hates, more than anything, are trains. And you only have to look at Gerry’s girth to realise that what he really likes are cars (Jags, I believe), and specifically cars on big PPP roads.

  • Ian

    Don’t you just love the “Kiwi bloke”? A jug of Lion Red thanks barman. Though seriously, I do like Lion Red.

  • Seams like Hide & co feel threatened by the growth of PT, by respectable people who are are pro PT and walkable, living cities. Support for PT ha grown beyond railfan’s and he finds that a threat to Auckland’s car culture so he writes a column on the way he would like Auckland to stay

  • baw

    They made the comment on Interest.co.nz.

    Do they not know that Bernard Hickey is an avid cyclist?

    • The Trickster

      Not sure what he rides now, but used to know Bernard from a while back. Last I saw him was before he lost the weight heading into a certain bike shop on Dominion Rd. But yeah, he is literally half the man he used to be.

  • Grum

    Last week a tramp got on the bus without paying using intimation to all who looked up. Smelt so bad I thought I was going to puke everywhere. PT is not quite the panacea you pretend.
    Sunday night at around 10 pm my bus was 20 mins late. How do young ladies feel with the prospect of an unreliable night service?

    • Steve D

      I got a phone call at 4 o’clock one morning last month from the Police, saying that my car had been stolen, taken for a joyride, relieved of the stereo, then found crashed on the side of the road. It’s the fourth time, in the two and a bit years I’ve owned it, that the car has needed repairs to be drivable after someone else has damaged it. Between those four times and a mechanical problem it’s spent more than six weeks unavailable to me because it hadn’t yet been fixed.

      In 2010 in New Zealand there were 19,991 vehicles stolen, and 36,750 vehicles were in crashes serious enough to be reported to police. I don’t know how many broken windscreens, flat tyres and dead batteries there were – but I can tell you in the 2010/11 year the AA had 620,606 callouts from members. 42% of them weren’t attended within 30 minutes.

      Cars are a lot of things, but they sure as hell aren’t reliable. They also don’t get any more reliable when there are more of them – whereas PT gets far more reliable if there are more services.

    • KLK

      “How do young ladies feel with the prospect of an unreliable night service?”

      Probably about as safe as they feel walking through a dimly lit carpark at night to get to their car.

      If only adequate money had been spent on that PT so as to make it reliable. One day…..

  • Grum

    Good morning team. Train to Henderson running 12 mins late. 3 for 3.

    • Kefs

      Grum, I think many people who frequent this blog would agree that PT is typically unreliable in Auckland. But it’s because of historic underinvestment, not because there’s something inherently wrong with PT as a mode of transport. Having lived in London and travelled through Asia and Europe, reliability and punctuality of PT can be great if invested in. Of course there will be the odd delay, but that’s no different to the odd delay on the motorway or any of the arterials when there’s roadworks, an accident or simply congestion through sheer volume of vehicles. If you have a problem with buses/trains being late, you should support further investment in PT so that change can occur. Most of us have moved on from complaining about the current state of affairs to discussing ways of improving it. I suggest you do the same.

  • harminder

    This occurred to me while waiting for my bus in the morning (it was right on time as always, so no worries there!). I live 2 mins from a bus-stop and 20 mins walk from the train station. I’d rather take the train as it’s faster, and I enjoy trains more than buses. I do walk there sometimes, but usually not. However, if there was a shuttle service going around the suburb every 5-10 minutes sending people to the train station, I think more people would use the trains. Perhaps that could be one way to boost passenger numbers? The buses could be run by a private company or Veolia, but I’m not sure what the rules around putting in place such a service and fare-setting are. Any ideas/suggestions?

    • Liz

      I’m hoping that this is what is planned with the proposed connection-based network… can anyone confirm/deny this? In London I was about 15-20mins from the train and I caught a bus to the station every day. Lazy perhaps, but much quicker and easier. And definitely necessary for people any further from a station.

  • You misspelled “Comment of the Weak”…

  • Jonathan

    FYI

    On Friday 23 November Members of the (UK) Youth Parliament (MYPs) will be invited into Parliament to sit in the House of Commons chamber for the fourth year running.

    Over 250,000 young people (11 – 18 years old) from across the UK voted for the issues they wanted to see debated, representing a marked increase from the 65,000 ballots received in 2011.

    The sitting, presided over by the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, will be screened as live by BBC Parliament and streamed online via the UK Parliament website.

    All schools across the UK have been encouraged to tune in to watch the debates, which will air at 11.10am and finish at 2.40pm, at which time the MYPs will vote to decide which of the five debated topics will become the focus of their national 2013 campaign.

    The five topics of debate include:

    Make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all. The motion for the debate is as follows: We need to improve pricing structure, cleanliness, frequency, reliability, and treatment of young people on public transport, including those in rural areas.

    Maybe one for your politicians in New Zealand to watch……………………….

  • axio

    To me this reflects the mentality that arose when cars were a symbol of freedom and owning a car was new and exciting as opposed to today when it seems we hardly have a choice. I can empathize with that position, but it is also nostalgia, and what some people consider to be a free lifestyle has changed. In an ideal world all parties could be satisfied – folks who want their section and space can have it, and folks who want walk-ability and amenities can have it too. There is no reason why Auckland can’t support both of these worlds and it would be nice if we all (both sides of the urban design fence) didn’t impose their values on the other.

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