Popular support for spending on public transport has almost doubled over 20 years, according to a poll of 750 New Zealanders.
The poll by UMR Research shows a reverse from 1992, when 43 per cent of those surveyed preferred Government money to be spent on motorways and other public roads, compared with 25 per cent support for public transport as the priority spending candidate.
By September last year, when the latest poll was taken with a 3.6 per cent margin of error, the tables had turned.
Those supporting priority spending on public transport had grown to 48 per cent, compared with 37 per cent favouring roads.
The portion who were unsure or supported equal spending on both categories fell to 15 per cent, from 32 per cent in 1992.
Survey participants were asked by phone of UMR’s wide-ranging annual Mood of the Nation review: “If you had to choose, should Government funds by used to improve motorways and public roads, or should funds be used to improve public transport?”
I’m always a bit sceptical of polling on issues like this, because you never quite know what slant is being put on the question to elicit a result one way or the other, but what is of most interest to me is how the results have changed over time because the same question is being asked. And between 1992 and 2012 there was a big increase, 25% up to 48% of people who would choose for funding to go into public transport, a noticeable decline from 43% to 37% favouring roads and quite a big decline in those choosing “both” or “neither”.
What’s really interesting is then looking at the extent to which funding is following the preferences of the public, which the Herald article touches upon:
Its policy directives have seen the Transport Agency allocate just under 14 per cent of a $12.3 billion land transport investment problem over the next three years to public transport…
…Although an allocation of $1.7 billion in the coming three years to public transport represents a 21 per cent increase on spending from 2009 to last year, about $700 million of that will come from local councils and much of the Government’s money will be spent on new electric trains in Auckland and Wellington.
There’s a bit of debate over these numbers because, as the article notes, a significant chunk of the public transport funding actually comes from local government rather than from Central Government. There’s also the issue of whether we’re talking about transport funding as a whole or whether we’re really focusing on where the money is being spent in terms of building new infrastructure.
If you look at NZTA’s spend over the next three years you get a better idea about where the government feels its transport priorities lie:And take that one step further to just look at where the spending on new infrastructure is going to go and things become even clearer:The disconnect between what we are getting and what we want in terms of transport priorities is simply startling. Aside from the fact that people really don’t tend to vote in national elections based on transport policies, I’m pretty stumped as to how a government can get away with 97% of its new transport infrastructure investment going on roads when a greater proportion of the general public want to see the transport budget spend on public transport than on roads.
I suppose at the very least this should give opposition parties huge confidence that once there’s a change in government they should have broad support for an extremely radical change to transport spending priorities.