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The Decline of Car Culture in the West

We’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating. The OECD nations are all driving less, while developing nations are all driving more. Basically, and I bet almost 99% of westerners will be shocked at this thought, but people in China, India, and, yes, Iran, are increasingly more able to do what we used to do without thinking about it: They are outbidding us for oil. More on that later, but first here is a nice summary of the US situation from the New York Times:

Here are some quick points from the article:

1. decline preceded financial crises by 2 to 3 years [but that crisis intensified it]
2. US Vehicle Miles Travelled is now 9% below peak and equivalent to 1995 percent level per capita.
3. it definitely reflects a generational shift:

‘From 2007 to 2011, the age group most likely to buy a car shifted from the 35 to 44 group to the 55 to 64 group, he found.’


4. and seems to be related to new technology:

‘The percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the availability of the Internet, Mr. Sivak’s research has found.’

Perhaps Joyce’s investment in Ultra Fast Broadband will be the complete undoing of the longed for great economic outcomes from his other and much much more expensive idea; The RoNs programme?!

A couple of charts from Advisor Perspectives:

VMD_June 2013

VMD +gas price_June 2013

 

Anyone still think that pushing up the petrol price won’t or can’t influence driving behaviour? More contradiction in government policy; the recent and continuing fuel tax rise is in order to fund their lavish road building programme but those extra nine cents are adding to the incentive to park the car and find another way around. This government is over investing in the wrong mode for the times.

These charts also make it clear that this is no blip; this is a discontinuity. A once in a lifetime shift in direction by our culture. We really, really, need to be designing policy with this fact in the front of our minds. It seems there is a problem here, because if there is one group that haven’t got the memo it’s the older wealthier male, that’s right, the group that makes all these kinds of decisions for us:

The Driving Boom — a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States — is over. 

Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term. The unique combination of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom—from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Millennials — is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.

From the Frontier Group, PDF here  [my emphasis]. And here’s how they illustrate this change to the American Dream:

Frontier Group cover image

Nevermind, cos all that fracking business is going to make petrol as cheap as chips again isn’t it? Er, No. Here is a link to a long [50mins] interview with a Texan Oil Geologist, Jeffery Brown, who explains the technicalities and economics of this in a straightforward language just why, despite all this talk of abundant supply, the price of oil stubbornly stays high and will almost certainly keep going up:

Jeff Brown and JH Kunstler

In short, we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel; not in total, there’s still a lot of oil in the ground, but for the rate at which we are consuming it the corresponding production flow is too low because all the easy to get fields are diminishing. The supply demand balance is now determinedly hitting into geological and practical limits. We have to use less.

But we are aren’t we? Well if that ‘we’ is the OECD then that’s true, the US and Europe certainly are. In fact these two areas have shed about 5million barrels a day in consumption at just the same time that China and India have increased their imports by this amount and then some:

oil-consumption-by-part-of-the-world

The developing world is outbidding the ‘west’ for this most crucial of commodities. Listen to Jeff Brown above for how this can be. Basically the developing countries can put that same oil to more productive use than we can. Because they are only beginning to base their economies on liquid fuels their uses of this valuable resource are more useful than ours. Jeff Brown’s example above is that the fuel an Indian farmer uses to run a pump to irrigate his fields is a more productive use of that fuel than us westeners burn driving to the mall to pick up a latte in an SUV.

While this is true for now these countries will also hit a limit to what they can afford as well, especially as they are beginning to use it less efficiently too [many there are pursuing last century's lifestyle too] and that includes the producing countries, especially when, because of either rising consumption or falling production or both, they flip from being net exporters to becoming net importers. As have the UK, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, and a few others recently.

Egypt seems topical so here’s the oil history, note it’s much more the rising consumption than the decline in production that is troubling them. But still that’s half a million barrels not on the global market for other net importing countries like New Zealand to buy and burn. It basically is not good for social harmony to run low on energy:

Egypt energy data browser

 

From here: The Energy Data Browser

Here’s a brilliant comparison. Italy has been hard hit by recession, in 2011 apparently more bicycles were bought there than cars, but there’s a different story in Iran, despite the US sanctions:

per-capita-energy-consumption-italy-vs-iran

 

Both of these charts are from Gail the Actuary on The Oil Drum, in a fascinating article on the politics of oil, here. And basically illustrate how the old postwar definitions of the world are being inverted.

It is true that the US/Canada are in different shape compared to Europe because of the Shale and Tar Sands resource, as Gail’s charts below show. But while that uptick in US production is significant the really good news is that drop in consumption. Europe’s chart is showing the rapid decline of the North Sea fields swallowing any new production. And remember Shale Oil faces swift almost immediate declines unlike conventional fields and is extremely expensive to extract. The US production honeymoon is only half the story and will not be permanent.

 

united-states-liquids

 

europe-liquids

What matters now more than ever is what sources and forms of energy we have available and especially what uses we put it to. If only the US were putting more of that Shale resource into transitioning away from oil-dependency, and from other fossil fuel sources for electricity, then it would be of even greater value. And here in New Zealand if only we understood our wealth in electrons and our relative poverty in hydrocarbons must shape the way we live more if we are to prosper through the coming century. Unfortunately those in charge are determined to cling to old models despite of the facts.

And the key to people understanding that this shift is necessary and is not to be feared is that prosperity and happiness are not dependant on us all burning ever more amounts of oil and other fossil fuels, in fact quite the reverse is clearly the case. I do believe as a society we are going to power down, but that will not necessarily mean a step back in time to a less comfortable existence, but if we do it well it will mean a more sophisticated society just one based on less brute force.

There is a Saudi proverb I really like [for they too, despite their current riches, face the same problem, perhaps even more so]:

“My Grandfather rode a camel, my father drove a car, I fly a plane; my son will ride a camel”

It seems to me that the son’s camel will be different from the grandfather’s one:

solarcamel_transporting vaccines across the desert

[Solar Camel: delivering vaccines in the desert]

 

138 comments to The Decline of Car Culture in the West

  • Trolling Phil, Patrick?

    I like JHKunstler too. He rarely fails to be amusing, and he swears like a trooper. If any of you are new to him his books are pretty cool (his non-fiction I mean, I haven’t read his fiction so can’t say), but for a freebie try his podcast. His blog is an acquired taste.

  • Bryce P

    And of course sales of passenger cars in China and how that will affect oil usage:
    2001 – 0.7M
    2004 – 2.3M
    2005 – 3.1M
    2011 – 14.4M
    2012 – 15.4M
    2013 – 1st Q up 21.6% 4.4M vehicles in 3 months.

    Holy snappin’ batshit. Anyone still not believe that will affect us?

    • But..but…but fracking and shale sand and magic pixie fairy dust…and Google driverless cars…and rocket boots

    • Malcolm M

      The car market in China and other developing countries is likely to peak at a much lower rate per capita than in the West because
      - there is less parking at residences (apartments are built without a minimum parking requirement)
      - a relatively small proportion of the urban area is allocated to roads (check out Google Earth for a Chinese city), so too many additional cars would cause gridlock that would reduce the mobility advantages of owning a car
      - government has invested enormous amounts recently in subway and intercity rail, to head off dependency of the middle class on cars
      - there is no fuel tax (only subsidies), so there is no dedicated funding stream for road development. Virtually all motorways are tollways built with borrowed funds that have to be repaid with relatively high tolls. These tolls would limit commuting on them to the wealthy.
      - there are still large wealth divides. Once the middle class saturates with car ownership, the next class down has little capacity to afford them
      - food security is a large concern of the Chinese government, and the government has instituted a “red line” to limit urban expansion

      A family car would be a symbol that the family has “arrived” and is a good way to show off wealth and status. But in crowded urban areas their use would be more for family trips, both within and outside the city, rather than for everyday commuting.

      • Yes I agree there is no chance that China and India will ever reach US, or NZ, levels of vehicles per person. And thankfully because it simply is not possible on so many levels, including carbon emissions and oil consumption, or for the quality of life of the people in those countries. But at what level it flattens off or declines is not yet clear, and how much driving will decline in the west too is also unknown. Or perhaps we should properly consider it to be how much of our driving is transferred to these countries from the west. Like say from Italy to Iran as illustrated above.

        Interesting times.

        • Bryce P

          However, on that note, there is a huge amount of growth that ‘could’ exist in China.

          NZ has 599 vehicles per 1000 people and China has gone from 27 to 44 per 1000 people in a very short time. Think about how many cars they would have to own to get to 100 per 1000 people.

          Time will tell.

          • It’s true they don’t need to get even close to our level for the numbers to be absolutely huge….

          • I would expect sheer space to be a limiting factor in both instances, potentially long before reaching our ratios. There are quite simply staggering numbers of people more densely packed in both countries, and so the potential for road space expansion is more limited (centralist state or not) and there are a lot of other people competing for it. Anyone who has been to modern India knows what I mean. I’d expect enormous growth, but a far earlier plateauing off – as Patrick says, for lots of reasons, many interrelated and complex.

  • Starnius

    I wish our ongoing* change to more sensible transport policies was more due to rational choice, than outside pressures, but I guess avoiding the most costly options IS a rational choice.

    *People are starting to make that choice – our government meanwhile is screaming “Noooooo! Where are you GOOOING??? Here’s some new motorways, please come baaack!”

    • Kent Lundberg

      Not sure whether this is rational but this is part of the structural shift aka the Great Inversion, the urban renaissance, etc. From Bruce Katz’s new book:

      “Quality of life is increasingly understood by young people to, particularly those who have delayed childrearing, to mean proximity to restaurants, retail, cultural and education institutions and other urban amenities. They want a vibrant street life, historic neighbourhoods and public transit. In fact, between 2000 and 2009 the share of college-educated twenty-five to thirty-four-year-olds living within three miles of the central business in the nation’s fifty-one largest metropolitan region areas increased by 26 percent, double the the growth rate of college-educated young adults in the rest of the metropolitan area.

  • Ben S

    “Our wealth in electrons and our relative poverty in hydrocarbons…” yup, nice. I can (just about) remember the 70s oil shocks and carless days in AKL – to figure out we needed transport solutions and PT that weaned us off the oil you didn’t need to read the tea leaves, you just needed to take note of the mallet landing on your head. And that was then.Thought leadership is decades ahead of political will in this area but the grassroots are waking up… hopefully the next 10 years will see the seachanges that are so long overdue… I’m starting to believe they will.

  • Pete

    Random reasons for changes: Owning a car petrol used miles travelled by car. People use PT during week and then drive for pleasure in weekend. Moved from V8 Holdens to Prius. More motorways, more fuel efficient trips (most of the day). etc.. It never that simple. Either way price will go up, until a new fuel is found

  • Melon

    This is clear evidence that we need to build more roads so people spend less time burning oil in traffic, right Gerry?

    In all seriousness though, our ‘wealth in electrons and relative poverty in hydrocarbons’ should really make our transport infrastructure spending a no-brainer for anyone who can look ten years in the future. Scratch that – it’s a no-brainer even looking at the current cost and availability of oil.

  • SF Lauren

    Do you have any numbers on how urban driving has changed in comparison to regional driving?

    I suspect a very large reduction in regional driving due to the advent of incredibly cheap air travel. You also having a changing in recreational culture with the idea of “going away for the weekend” either being not at all or flying somewhere much further away.

    • Good question. Have you heard of Google? It’s a very useful tool for searching for information. Using this tool means that your opinions can have a firmer foundation in fact rather than just hunches, prejudice, or expositions of the world seen from your own narrow experience. Highly recommended.

    • John Polkinghorne

      Use NZTA vehicle counts for the highways, or have a look at http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/travelsurvey/

    • Or do a guest post on it. You just have to find information that trained journalists at the NY Times, The Economist and other pretty reputable publications havent been able to find.

      • Bryce P

        Oh I dunno. You can get city vehicle count data from here:

        http://www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/improving-transport/maintenance/Road/Pages/Traffic-Counts.aspx

        and compare it to highway traffic counts from here:

        http://www.nzta.govt.nz/network/operating/counting-traffic/how-we-count.html

        Here is a slightly older air travel report with some good data. I’m sure with a little research you could find a more recent document.

        http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/tourism/pdf-docs-library/tourism-research-and-data/other-research-and-reports/tourism-sector-profiles/nzaviationoverview.pdf

        • SF Lauren

          The thing is I was asking about distance traveled as per the post, not the number of vehicles driving over a given point.

          I thought the author of the post would have some information around this given the post was all about distance traveled. It appears however the reason why the distance travel per person changed was irrelevant or a rather sensitive subject.

          I’ll have a look around and see what I can find.

          • TheBigWheel

            Well SF even without any stats I tend to agree with your assertion that low cost air travel has acted to reduce regional km travelled by car.

            I don’t have the stats either and I challenge anyone to find them.. it’s not obvious to me from any published data what proportion of car travel has been substituted by flying as a result of low cost flights.

            I hesitate to generalise from the particular, but I can attest to that being my pwn personal experience in the UK when EasyJet, Ryanair and co started up. In my case I substituted flying for driving for about 3-4000 km / year.. Or about 20%. I also did (and continue to) fly more than I otherwise would have without the availability (and convenience) of low cost flights.

            This compares to perhaps 50% over the last 10 years or so that I have substituted with commuting by bike and PT.. so maybe it’s not the major proportion? But.. I am a sample of 1.

            I think this question deserves more attention.

          • SF Lauren

            I agree big wheel. Here in NZ the budget air lines started turning up around the late 90s which matches extremely well with the decline in vehicle travel distance.

            Another factor we have is that the car ownership splurge has reached its peak and like most peaks gets followed by a drop, but again like most peaks unless the idea or technology is obsolete it simply stabilizes. You could compare this to the likes of tv ownership.

          • Well we know air travel killed longer distance rail travel here and the US, not so much in Europe. I’m sure the price of filling the car up AND the relative cheapness of flights has affected some long distance driving, but the arrival of cheap flights in the late 90s does not match the decline in driving which did not start until 2004/5 depending on place.

            What does match this decline is the ‘Great Inversion’; the ‘Flight to the Centre’. The new fashionability of more urban living. And a clearly documented distaste for driving and car culture by new generations. Described above. And of course the rise in driving costs.

          • SF Lauren

            From reading the article you posted yesterday Patrick the notable decline started in 1995.

            2004 was the warm up to the GFC. As you know the GFC was caused by too many credit defaults in the previous years meaning the general population had already been in trouble for some time.

          • SF Lauren

            I must say though, from what I read in your post there was nothing to suggest a distaste in driver. From what I read the quotes you referenced said people were not driving as far and not owning as many vehicles.

          • No. You have the wrong end of the stick. Please look at the charts above. The driving decline started in in the US in June 2005, very, very clear above. The reference to 1995 is that is the equivalent point that driving has returned to now, also very, very, clear above.

            The GFC was indeed precipitated by the quadrupling of the price of crude oil from below USD25 to over USD100 through the early 2000s but there was absolutely now breakdown in either the financial markets nor employment until 2007, so that cannot explain the start of the decline in driving, however the price of filling up sure is relevant, as its rise also preceded the GFC [and was, in my view, a partial cause thereof].

          • SF Lauren

            Ahh yes you are quite right. Looking at the first chart it appears things started to change in 1990. You can see there that the rate of growth started to decline and then turned into a recession in 2005.

          • So wrong again. Decline means going down, not rising at a different speed. The recessions are clearly defined on the chart too as the grey shaded bars, so you are now inventing recessions when there were none. Getting trolly again Richard.

          • Mike

            Looking at capacity, I can’t see that the arrival of budget flights can have made that much difference. Most airports are served with only penny numbers of small/medium flights per day, and even the Auckland-Wellington main drag, with 25 flights a day, represents only a maximum of 3,000 or so passengers – say 2,000 cars per day at average occupancy. If the number of main drag flights has approximately doubled since the 90s, that’s an additional capacity of 1,000 cars-worth or so per day. In traffic terms, that’s not a lot of cars.

          • TheBigWheel

            Rumours of the death of long distance rail are exaggerated. I’m curious about what’s going on here.. so I did some digging. Takes a while yes. Anyway here it is..

            Some stats from Europe. First, rail in the UK..

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/73093/rail-trends-factsheet-2010-11.pdf

            UK 2011 1.4 bn journeys or 54 bn passenger km ..massive increase since 1995.. mostly short journeys but long distance has also increased in recent years. Prices have tended to exceed inflation, though of course so has petrol.

            Similar picture for longer journeys in Europe, at least up to a few 100 km beween city pairs served by HS rail.. in effect the TGV, ICE, AVE etc are able to trump both conventional airlines and low cost carriers. In part it’s down to convenience of city centre to centre journeys but also the sheer capacity of a train dwarfs a plane.. SNCF’s fleet of 89 TGV-2Ns have more seats than all the Airbus A380s currently in service around the world. And they drop you off right in the heart of the city at Gare de Lyon. The economics are all down to the speed.. if the TGVs did only 160 k not 320 k then you’d need twice as many.

            Secondly, air travel.. UK again.

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9683/avi0201.xls

            UK 2011 8.2 bn passenger km ..not much change over 2001 but massive inc since, wait for it, 1995. What happened in 1995? Wiki has plenty to say here..

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_transport_in_the_United_Kingdom

            “In 2005 these airlines carried 77.5 million passengers, up from just 4.3 million in 1996… The advent of no-frills carriers has had significant a significant effect on passenger travel profiles, with strong growth in business travel from regional airports, and a significant increase in inbound traffic generated for the purposes of non-UK residents visiting friends and relatives based in the UK. Whilst these carriers have been perceived to democratise air travel, providing the opportunity for lower income groups to travel more often, the main result is actually that middle and higher income groups travel more often, and often for shorter trips.
            The United Kingdom has a low usage for domestic (internal) flights, and after a high in 2005/06, has been in decline… Air’s share of passengers has reduced significantly on certain key routes, for example: for London to Manchester, rail’s market share (rail v air passenger journeys) rose from 69% in 2008 to 79% in 2010, for Birmingham to Edinburgh, rail’s market share rose from 14% in 2008 to 31% in 2010 and from London to Glasgow, rail’s market share has risen from 12% in 2008 to 20% in 2010; although air still remains the leader on many London to Scotland journeys.”

            Also of course low cost airlines have taken biz from traditional carriers.. and continue to do so.

            http://www.eurocontrol.int/press-releases/2012-overall-traffic-falls-growth-low-cost-and-charters

            Now cars.. Just being lazy here and looking at Patrick’s US chart..

            The numbers are massive (which is Mike’s point really, even though of course plane journeys are generally longer than car journeys so the effect of jumping on a Jetstar flight to WN is disproportionate).. 3,000 bn km. Say that’s 600 bn km in UK terms, that absolutely dominates air travel even with all the low cost growth. My personal experience in substituting 20% of my car travel with air makes me an outlier by an order of magnitude or two.

            Patrick’s US car miles curve looks like it’s flattening off from about 1998 through to 2004, even while the petrol price has increased only by maybe 20% at worst or <3% pa in real terms. Are there other factors at play here? There are several candidates.. other costs of motoring (insurance, tax..) technology (mobile phones, email.. emerging social media), social preferences, teleconferencing (more of a trend at work between offices to avoid business travel, as opposed to from home to work to displace commuting) and so on.

            This issue is news in the UK, e.g. on the BBC last year..

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20526328

            The story about the guy who sold his GBP 850 car because he couldn't afford the GBP 2,800 insurance is really instructive..

            'He believes that attitudes to cars are changing among young men: "I think what's changed is that everybody got used to using Facebook or their phones and sitting around, and using public transport. "I don't think that anyone even cares about cars any more." Facebook, Twitter, mobiles, all make it easier to socialise without travelling.'

            Interesting and all suggesting the business case for motorways is just hopelessly overblown. $50 bn plus of the $60 bn?!

        • Please go right ahead, nice charts are good… warning; quite a bit of work in these posts.

        • SF Lauren

          You know full well I cant post charts Patrick as my ip address is blocked.

  • Gary

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    http://aspousa.us6.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=e230969c7ec1dec75cc347eaf&id=e824447fc6

  • JoshR

    Have any of you seen the latest technology in hybrid cars? – Absolutley amazing. We should be Spending big on roads now because that revenue stream is only going to diminish. Govt is doing the right thing! – you folk need to adjust to the times. Petorl cars will be done in dusted over the next decade!

    • So let me get this straight; soon we’ll all be driving on roads funded out of petrol tax in cars that use no petrol, right? Except only those with brand new expensive hybrids and EVs will have these cars the rest will be trying to drive in their existing cars [seen the average age of the NZ fleet]. So what will the next rise in Petrol Tax have to be so the poor can cross subsidise the rich and keep building Lexus Lanes for them to drive to Omaha on? A couple of bucks a litre?

      • Steve D

        Three words to both of you: Road User Charges.

        At the moment electric cars are exempt from RUC, but it’s a temporary thing to encourage uptake. In the long run, everyone not paying petrol taxes will be paying RUC instead. http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/electric-vehicles-be-ruc-exempt

        • John Polkinghorne

          That’s a very important point, thanks for bringing it up Steve.

        • Yes indeed; but won’t that then screw up their already marginal cost/benefit? That is without the kind of subsidies and incentives like they have overseas to make the very high capital cost of these things balance better with their cheaper running costs?

          I’ve looked real hard at this investment in my own case and worked out that I’m way way better off keeping my old gas guzzler and just putting every effort into driving less than investing 85k on an EV, or even buying a small ICE vehicle. Of course this works better for people who drive a lot, say like salesmen but then they get hit by the range issue.

          And the Prius gets no better figures than a small ICE car. The new 1.4l VW engine looks really good for economy and performance for example [Ford have another good one].

          The groups for whom this makes the best sense are those for whom the capital cost is insignificant, who buy new vehicles regularly, or who have cars bought or leased for them by employers.

          The rich are going to capture these savings. This is also why the only really successful EV venture so far is Elon Musk’s Tesla, as this is the very market he is serving [along with mining subsidies and taking advantage of Californian environmental regs]. If he worked this out before he is indeed a very clever dude.

          • Steve D

            Oh, sure, buying an electric car isn’t going to be a great choice for many people personally unless petrol goes up way further than it is now. I meant that it’s not the government’s problem – as long as you’re driving, you’re paying, one way or the other.

          • Yeah that’s true if and when RUCs are extended to EVs and hybrids, and somehow are calculated evenly for each type of machine.

            But my point is that I don’t share Joshr’s optimism that we can all jump across to these technologies suddenly and keep driving- even if we wanted to.

            And remember a growing proportion of the community, younger people, don’t want to so much anyway.

          • As much as I love them, there are many big problems with electric cars which will eman they are not the panacea a lot of people think they are.

            One is, as Patrick pointed out, the cost of replacing the 1 billion cars (and counting) currently in the world. It takes a huge amount of energy (a lot of it from oil) to make a car. There are something like 7 gallons of oil in a car tyre. You cant just replace that with natural rubber to make even 500m cars. And that is without considering how much water is used to make a car.

            A second is the paucity of concentrations of “rare earth elements” in the world. Currently only China extracts rare earths – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element
            There are now ways of making electric cars without rare earth elements http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/no-rare-earths-next-generation-electric-vehicles
            However that is still being developed.

            Then you have batteries that are heavy and expensive with limited range. Yes there are 300km on a charge taxis in China but they wont be produced in mass numbers any time soon. Lithium is also not so easy to get hold of and most of it is in Bolivia.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium#Production

            IMO (and a lot of other people) there is no replacement for ICE oil driven cars in sufficient numbers to replace our current lifestyle. You might be able to cobble together 10% of the current numbers but you can be damn sure people wont be using those to drive Sebastian and Cynthia to private school every day in the electric SUV.

            Just watch the documentary “Collapse” with Michael Ruppert where he shoots down every alternative power source you can think of (especially hydrogen). It is on YouTube. Scary stuff.

            Electric bikes however! Way of the future! Light vehicles like a bicycle are perfect for an electric motor and the batteries last a lot longer.

          • Yeah a physicist said to me that under 1/2 a tonne [ie scooters and lighter] current battery technology and the weight to power ratio all work fine and make sense. Now.

            After that you are just towing around so much battery weight in order to get any decent speed and range that the math becomes pretty pointless in the wash-up.

            In theory this could all change with a radical technological breakthrough. But a lot of very clever people spending many many millions over many years have not found that yet…./

            On ICE car efficiency potential: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/100-mpg-on-gasoline/

            On electric cars: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/mpg-for-electric-cars/

            On the upside in NZ we do make 80% of our electricity from renewable sources and in fact with effort could make this 100%

          • @Patrick, 5:21pm. Yes, the diminishing value of EVs nice weight grows does work against them. There’s a reason China has so many electric bikes; this from 2009:
            http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1904334,00.html

            In the local context, it makes this even more important:
            http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/05/05/cycling-on-sunday/

        • Bryce P

          I can imagine the outcry now. After all, small diesel car owners are still smarting over RUC.

          • Yes so probably the only way is to switch all cars to RUCs… maybe merit in this? More administratively fiddly? Unpopular; certainly…. I guess though if there is a drop in the price of fuel it might work and be a bit of a PR win, and a way to disguise another tax hike?

          • The I and EU are both heading in this direction (RUC for all vehicles) so it’s logical that we will be going there as well. The sooner the better.

          • John Polkinghorne

            Universal RUC has been considered and, if I remember correctly, there’s general agreement that it will come in eventually. The advantages of the current system for petrol cars are:

            1) Less hassle for the drivers, and less admin for the government (I assume). Simple to administer like GST.
            2) It’s a bit of an incentive to choose a more fuel-efficient car, since you end up paying less tax. Given that we don’t have any other schemes in place to incentivise more efficient cars, this is probably a good thing.

            The down side is that it’s not really “fair” for more efficient cars to pay less tax, since what the tax is actually there for is to help pay for road use, not to decrease reliance on fossil fuels or reduce emissions. The situation will get more complicated when you start to get diesel hybrids (which have to pay full RUC) vs. petrol hybrids (which will only pay a small amount of petrol tax).

            It may also be a (slight) stumbling block which stops people from switching to diesel cars, which are a bit more efficient.

          • Personally I am in favour of petrol tax for its Pigouvian effects… ie as a defacto carbon tax, which I am also in favour of. We should tax ‘bads’; cooking the biosphere for example, over ‘goods’ like personal income, in my view. But this then is separate to a road maintenance tax which could be all by RUC.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax

            My preferred version of a Carbon tax is a zero sum one where all the proceeds of the tax are redistributed evenly to every voter [ie everyone over 18]. So everyone gets a identical tax credit every year from the carbon tax fund that is levied on hydrocarbon use. This has the effect of influencing behaviour by incentivising all individuals and entities to reduce their carbon use in order to minimise their costs [say at the petrol pump] maximise the value of their payout.

            Over time this fund would hopefully shrink away as we approach carbon neutrality, but until then it it would be of great help to people choosing to live less destructively.

            Disclaimer; so not a tax specialist.

        • SF Lauren

          Spot on Steve, I brought this up ad an issue about 5 years ago on the better transport blog when they were talking about fuel tax as a way to pay for PT projects

          Unminipulated fuel tax provides a diminishing return due to technology. Increasing it further speeds up the rate it diminishes along with providing alternatives. We will never know but that 10c/l fuel tax they proposed back then would likely be 20 or 30cents by now without the government stepping in.

    • Love the way the AA ‘can see no justification’ for a price rise. Well other than the falling NZD and rising crude price there the small matter of funding the eye-wateringly expensive new motorways that THE AA LOBBIES FOR.

      Come on AA, do try to keep up.

  • Damn auto correct. ‘The US and EU’

  • Phil

    I love the way you guys are armchair experts in all number of subjects. As someone who has worked in oil trading for 20 years I believe I would know quite a bit more on this subject than you guys. In summery, here goes.
    Peak Oil…it’s a fluid number. An economic recovery moves the day we ‘run out’ closer whilst a plague, new oil field find, or new technology moves it further away. Shale oil and fracking moved peak oils goal posts years away. Of course if you are an oil producer or producing nation you have it in your best interests to talk up peak oil.
    Crude value… It’s a supply and demand process that is more to do with perception than fundamentals. Producing nations and the G20 accept $100/bbl as an acceptable threshold. Too much above this and you get political pressure (mostly from the US) on Saudi to ramp up production. Any fall too far below 100 and you find OPEC making production cuts. Is $100/bbl a fair representation of real supply and demand? Almost certainly no. It should probably be about $70-80 a barrel but speculators understand the magic $100 and help keep it in this range. If you dont believe me then just look at the Brent crude futures settlement price over the last year. Buy at $100 – Sell at $105 is a pretty successful way to make $$$$’s these days.
    Price rises:… New Zealand has no ability to influence oil price. The industry couldnt give a shit if every Kiwi stopped using their cars tomorrow. Things like the NZD vrs the USD, rising freight costs, changing gasoline specifications, and taxation are pushing petrol higher in NZ. Seasonality also plays its cruel hand on little NZ. When its summer in the Northern hemisphere people drive more and that pushes the price up globally.
    Global Demand Matrex:…The GFC of 2008 had a huge impact on oil. Crude fell from $140 a bbl to about $80 almost overnight but since then it has slowly recovered along with world economies. Unfortunately for NZ the real weak economies are not big petrol users. Most of Spain and Greece drive diesel cars and that continues to hit diesel values. Petrol on the other hand is consumed in the US where the economy is improving. It is true that there is real growth in Asia. Many people mistake a slow down in China fuel demand as a negative but actually growth (even less than last years) is still growth, However, as I said, Fracking is a huge game changer and the massive decline of import dependence in the US has for the moment, more than offset China and India demand. Also one should not forget that modern vehicles use a lot less fuel due to improved mpg.
    Alternative Energies:…. Bio Fuel as we currently know it is a huge waste of tax payers money. I suspect this will upset quite a few people on here but Governments legislate to include Bio Mass in transport fuels to buy votes from Framers and Lefty Greens. Pouring 10% Palm oil or Rape seed into diesel and sugar beat into petrol does not make economic sense. In fact its pushing up the price of food stocks in developing countries. Way to go Greenpeace, you just murdered a few million babies in Africa :( If you took away the subsidies it doesnt make financial sense to blend in bio fuel. Of course you would lose the Farmers votes in the EU and US who are quite happy to plant rape rather than corn. You would also lose the support of the Green vote who refuse to acknowledge the error of there ways. Second Gen Bio is interesting and would work well in NZ. This is where you harvest Hydrogen from kelp and use solar power to grow it. We have a lot of seaweed and a lot of sunshine. There is a company in the UK called Cella Energy that is using nano tech to put Hydrogen into transport in a much more usable delivery system. Neste (Finlands state oil company) is one of a few investing billions into second generation bio fuels. They are capturing carbon from waste products (including dead zoo animals) and turning it into a paste like substance that is then refined into oil products. Notably also is ‘leading European airline’ investment in a processing plant that will turn household rubbish into Kerosene. They will soon be able to announce all their flights out of London City Airport are 100% carbon zero. Now whilst this is a great story for a whole host of reasons, the airline receives no tax credits because the Green legislation only supports bio in land transport fuels.
    Toyota Prius and other hybrids:…… These things should all carry a big notice saying they have a carbon footprint twice the size of a V8 Commodore! Anyone who drives such a car not only has no sense of taste (they are freekin ugly) but do more harm to the planet than the guy looking down his nose at you from his V12 Aston Martin. Batteries made in China, Steel made in India, Plastics made in the US. These cars have a massive carbon footprint by the time they are put together and hit our roads. Outlaw them now :D
    Roads vrs Rail:…. This is NZ, we dont have a population base to justify a complex rail system (Its Auckland, not London). People want to travel door to door without inconvenience. Some of you guys wont even break your cycle ride to use the ferry. We are much better off building motorways in urban areas and restricting rail investment to intercity routes. That doesnt mean extra pollution or grinding to a halt on the outside lane of the Warkworth to Omaha motorway as in the future we will have managed our fuel use through new technologies to ensure the car is still king. We may be driving on Hydrogen or recycled Elephants but drive we will.

    • TheBigWheel

      Phil.. Whether anyone lacks your 20 years trading oil or my 20 years in rail and energy infrastructure isn’t relevant. Any intelligent, numerate, literate person can enquire into the subject at hand.

      The trouble with your position is that we can’t go back. Even if by some magic you could once again trade oil at $20 a barrel (though “I know you know” it can’t) how are you going to reverse the social and technology trends of the last 20 years. You may not *like* social media, bikes or trains but it seems lots of people do.. and increasingly so.

    • Gary

      Phil, one of the latest articles I read about extracting tight oil and gas was this (there are many more but I do not have time to extract them now):

      “Yet the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and independent analysis confirm that far from the “energy revolution” of the century, the increase in domestic oil production represents a temporary bump in production that will be short-lived. If we recognize the probability the impressive increases we’ve seen in shale gas and “tight oil” production are of limited volume and duration and set policies accordingly, we can reap great benefit; pretend these increases herald a new and ever-increasing permanent condition and we risk setting ourselves up for an avoidable economic contraction when the expected drop in production occurs. Geologist David Hughes, a 32-year veteran of the Geological Survey of Canada, recently conducted a detailed examination of the years-long performance of 65,000 shale gas and tight oil wells. The results were telling.
      In the February 21 issue of Nature Magazine, Mr. Hughes reported that “much of the oil and gas produced [in shale formations] comes from relatively small sweet spots within the fields. Overall well quality will decline as sweet spots become saturated with wells, requiring and ever-increasing number of wells to sustain production.” More ominously, he notes, “high-productivity shale plays are not ubiquitous, as some would have us believe. Six out of 30 plays account for 88% of shale-gas production, and two out of 21 plays account for 81% of tight-oil production.” Even the typically optimistic EIA echoed the concerns about sweet spots and the likelihood high levels of production cannot be sustained.
      In a little-noted press release last December, the EIA projected there would be a considerable increase in tight oil production in the next few years, but then conceded, “The growth results largely from a significant increase in onshore crude oil production, particularly from shale and other tight formations. After about 2020, production begins declining…” But as Mr. Hughes points out, evidence is growing that the production is not likely to rise as high as hoped, and his analysis indicates the drop in production could begin by 2017″

      You can find it in the commentary at the bottom of the following report: http://peak-oil.org/wp-content/files/por130325.pdf

      There have been numerous reports of the production of tight oil through fracking; all of which seem to lead to rapid well decline after a short well life. The last EIA report I saw had tight oil production (including tar sands) at a production cost in the $60-90 per barrel range; which is partly leading to today’s cost. The $70-80 that you are quoting would simply be insufficient to invest in this type of production and it would not be viable. This also does not take into account the environment damage that some fracking seems to have caused; there are many articles about this that found including the legal action that is being taken.

    • Sailor Boy

      @Phil, I don’t drive, many of my friends don’t drive, and we are all willing to make multi-modal trips, by driving to the bus station, or riding a bike there. So the door to door thing is a bit of a myth.

      Also, regarding the cycling thing. If you want to pay to run a ferry service all day everyday and night then that is fine by me, but skypath is cheaper.

    • counterpoint

      All well and good but what is your point? What 20 years of trading oil has to do with it isn’t clear to me because the summary of all that text is… what exactly? Status quo forever? As with Sailor Boy above, I don’t drive and many people I know either don’t drive or drive very little. How directly this is impacted by the price of oil is up for debate, but this spiel about various energy forms doesn’t seem to do much in the way of addressing the main argument of the post, i.e: that the decline in driving can be explained as a generational shift in preference.

      If we accept this argument, then it seems to me there are (broadly) two conclusions we can draw with respect to oil. If the price of oil is a factor in this shift, then it stands to reason that young people are sensitive to oil prices, and any rises will further drive the trend. If price of oil isn’t a factor, and young people simply choose to drive less, than presumably a fall in the price of oil will fail to return young people to their cars, either at all, or only with a significant price drop. Obviously in practise the issue won’t be segmented cleanly like this, but if the statistics shown are in fact a reflection of preference then presumably some combination of the above is at work.

      If we reject the argument, then we need to tell a story about why young people seem to drive less. Perhaps the cost of fuel, the cost of cars, other economic components…. but whatever the story, it needs to have some explanatory power with respect to your final statements, namely

      “We are much better off building motorways in urban areas and restricting rail investment … we may be driving on Hydrogen or recycled Elephants but drive we will.”

      but as far as I can tell, the story told has little to say about why this might be. In fact, when I read it, it seems to be the story of why we ought not to drive so much. After all, driving requires oil, which doesn’t cost $0. Yet we have

      “…no ability to influence oil price … things like the NZD vrs the USD, rising freight costs, changing gasoline specifications, and taxation are pushing petrol higher in NZ. …in the Northern hemisphere people drive more [in summer] and that pushes the price up globally.”

      which I take to mean the price of gasoline is mostly due to factors outside our control. Cars aren’t going away any time soon, but I would have thought that being in the decidedly un-influential South Pacific, making moves away from depending on a commodity influenced by exchange rate, chemical composition, and supply and demand in the world market would be a positive move…

      Finally, what population base would justify a ‘complex’ rail system? This is an old argument that Auckland (or NZ as a whole in some cases) simply isn’t ready yet for investment in rail, or PT, or whatever, even though it’s apparently ready for ample investment in motorways. But I am curious, where is the tipping point at which we would have a population base to justify a ‘complex’ rail system? What would Auckland have to look like before that kind of proposal seemed justified? Go on – give us a short paragraph describing an Auckland that needs rail, or failing that, a number. Cause evidently, 1.5M and rising just ain’t enough.

      Not really related to the main thread here, but I thought I’d highlight this quote, which demonstrates the kind of unintentionally ironic thinking on display

      “People want to travel door to door without inconvenience. Some of you guys wont even break your cycle ride to use the ferry.”

      Yeah, its almost as if breaking one’s cycle ride for the ferry was… how to put it… inconvenient perhaps? If only there was some kind of public infrastructure that could minimise said inconvenience, it might even allow people from, say, Northcote, to cycle door to door to, say, anywhere south of that.

      • Bryce P

        Rolled the comment back 60 years:

        “People want to travel door to door without inconvenience. Some of you guys wont even break your car commute to use the ferry.”

        So we built the harbour bridge :-)

    • Gary Young

      “Toyota Prius and other hybrids:……Anyone who drives such a car not only has no sense of taste (they are freekin ugly) but do more harm to the planet than the guy looking down his nose at you from his V12 Aston Martin.”

      Methinks you are a secret admirer of Jeremy Clarkson. Be honest with yourself and others and come out of the Top Gear closet

    • “As someone who has worked in oil trading for 20 years I believe I would know quite a bit more on this subject than you guys.”
      Thanks for finally disclosing your conflict of interest…

  • Phil

    @ The Bigwheel. Actually I am very fond of trains. I find it a deep shame that people in the UK are trying to halt the HS2 project in much the same way as I will find it a shame when people try and halt the second harbour crossing. I hope for the good of both economies that respective Governments have the balls to push on with the plans.
    Europe has a huge population and a very good existing rail network that is being enhanced. It seems strange that it took years for a rail link to Heathrow to be built or that still today Crossrail isnt finished but they are not starting from scratch like we pretty much are in Auckland. Mayor Robbie (if anyone remembers him) had a great plan in the 1960′s called rapid rail. The public made fun of that project and it was never built. Fortunately he did build mangere sewerage ponds or we would still be swimming in shit. My point is that there are projects that suit Auckland now and in the future. These (IMO) include a second harbour crossing, a rail link to Auckland Airport, and the western by pass. Projects that I do not think give a good return on investment or are worth the hassle are the Northern Motorway extension (unless we move the Port to Whangarae), Skypath, and the underground rail to the Casino.
    What would greatly help manage our global oil reserves would be if our American friends would embrace public transport by upgrading their rail track network. If ever a country could and should have better rail it is the USA. I have travelled on Amtrak right across the US and it is slow and very expensive. Basically the only people travelling on intercity rail are yanks too fat to fit in aircraft seats. This could be funded by putting a European level taxation on transport fuels but this sadly will never happen. Asking Americans to give up cheap petrol is akin to asking them not to have guns or marry their cousins.
    It would be fantastic if NZ had a TGV type 200mph train that went the length of the country but we all know thats never going to happen. How on earth could a population of 4 million pay for such an investment? It certainly couldnt be paid through rail fares. What we can do and afford is improve our roads and road based public transport systems in order to guarantee the growth of our economy. People in Bluff may not like paying taxes towards roads in Auckland but wake up and smell the Bauxite, Auckland is the economy of NZ!
    So yes I like trains and I like Bikes, and I even like social media…but (to steal your own words) “I know you know” we will be driving from Warkworth to Wellington through the new tunnel by 2030.

    • Sailor Boy

      Who is even talking about underground rail to the casino? Thats a bit left field mate.

      Also, I find it interesting that you think that 4b for another motorway over the harbour is necessary, yet a free cycle/walking path, and a 2b rail line to Albany isn’t necessary.

    • TheBigWheel

      Hi Phil.. I agree the UK and larger European countries’ experience doesn’t necessarily translate to NZ. And yes, while HS2 hopefully goes ahead in the UK (despite the opposition of, ahem, Nimbys and an unholy alliance of all sorts) there really is little prospect or need of its equivalent here. Though I would think the AK-HN-TR triangle could use decent speed electric trains.. even 160 k would be great.. BoP in an hour or so.

      Of all the European countries, NZ resembles Norway quite closely, in terms of geography and population. Norway has some nice electric trains (ironically paid for by all that oil revenue I expect).. but like here, for most longer trips the choice is car or plane. Norway has some of the busiest domestic routes in Europe. I expect AK-CH and AK-WN would be up the too. I would always fly to WN out of choice, but I feel that NZs regional and national roads could use a heap of investment to iron out hills and corners.. so we all get the benefit of time saving (ref the last post on this blog about its value for longer regional trips), environmental (CO2 saving) and safety improvements. But not at the expense of even basic rail infrastructure maintenance e.g. Gisborne line closing, which is probaly just ideological nonsense.

      The thing is, these longer trips don’t dominate petrol consumption or road budgets. It’s the shorter and especially the peak time commuting trips that drive these factors. The costs of transport infrastructure (how many lanes or lines) exactly like energy infrastructure (wires and pipes sizes) are determined by peak flow not volume throughput (though 50 t trucks push up maintenance costs too).

      I also agree that the airport rail, western ring road and even a second harbour crossing (even a road only one) ought to beat the northern motorway in terms of priority. If the port moves to WH then yes that might change.. and there may well also be a stronger case for heavy rail through the harbour crossing and northwards to the main trunk line as an alternative shorter route to the existing line. By 2030, dunno, maybe? OK, if we put bikes and trains on the bridge. ‘Cos we aren’t going to need 13 lanes.

      On the other hand I’ve had a guts full of AK’s useless third world cycling infrastructure and the Skypath can’t come soon enough. Forget 2030! And never mind the bridge, for just 1% !! i.e. $500 m of the overall AK transport plan to make a decent complete regional cycle network.. all of it no doubt with sky high BCRs.

      A far as the casino rail link goes, I bet (ha!) it makes sense even if all we consider is the benefit of switching 10s of millions of trips from road to rail, using the weird NZTA cost of time numbers.

  • DaveB

    @ Phil: “This is NZ, we dont have a population base to justify a complex rail system”.
    We don’t need a complex rail system. A simple rail system will do, much of which we already have, plus certain missing links and necessary re-instatements. One that is fit for the purpose of providing a meaningful alternative to car and truck dependency.
    What we definitely do not have the population to justify is a vastly more expensive and unsustainable road transport spend-up. And countries with huge populations are also finding mass road transport hard to sustain. With 1 billion motor vehicles in world of 6 billion people, the single-occupant motor-vehicle is a luxury that the richest 15% who currently enjoy it will increasingly have to learn to manage without.

  • Phil

    @DaveB, What constitutes a ‘simple rail system’ to you? For me it is not the the CRL. If people want to go from Downtown to the Casino then they can walk or catch the bus. The time and effort it takes to stroll up Queen Street will do their heart good (saving us on health expenditure) and give them time to reflect that that $6 spend on the pokies will be needed for the toll on Skypath. Similarly I fail to see the benefit of an expensive new route to Eden Park. Whilst the old line via Newmarket isnt perfect, it does get you there.
    If we were to have a rail network spend in Auckland Id have a line that runs from the Airport to Albany and do away with all the expensive underground station stuff. Surely that is a better plan given that the new second crossing tunnel is to have provision for future rail.

    • Chris

      @Phil, I don’t understand your reasoning. Why is the Eden Park-Newmarket-CBD line adequate (despite taking a slow, indirect route) and the CRL therefore not needed, but the Harbour bridge is not adequate and thus the AWHC is needed. The CRL will offer much larger time savings to the population living in West Auckland (saving 22 minutes compared to current options) when compared to the time savings from a second harbour crossing (when you consider that for most of the day, the motorway flows freely and the AWHC will not reduce the distance driven significantly). This makes me think that you value the time of motorists from the North Shore much more highly than you value the time of those commuting from the West. How can you ‘fail to see the benefit’ of these savings, plus the associated reduction in congestion due to increasing rail patronage? Pretending that the CRL will only be used to move from Britomart to Aotea Square is childish, you know full well that the whole point of the link is much more than this (if you don’t quite understand the benefits, please read the countless other posts on this blog which will explain this to you). Your suggestion of rail from Albany to the Airport shows one thing to me, you only support projects which directly benefit you. Anything which you do not see yourself using, you ‘fail to see the value in’, despite BCR showing there is significant value compared to the other projects you constantly propose.

      • Phil this is getting ridiculous. If you cannot be bothered to actually read the tonnes of information about the CRL that has been posted on this blog, then you should not post comments.

    • Gary Young

      “If people want to go from Downtown to the Casino then they can walk or catch the bus.”

      Phil, your reasoning is simply absurd. Using this same logic it made no sense to construct a link from the N. Western to the Northern motorway a few years ago because drivers were already quite able to go from one to the other using Nelson St, Union St, and Wellington St.

      Please try to get to grips with the concept of opening up an entire network by adding a small strategic link.

    • Sailor Boy

      The reason for the CRL is that it triples the number of trains we can run on the entire network.

      Lets say that we build an airport line, but not the CRL. Great, we can then have a train every half an hour to the airport, useless. Or lets say we build rail to Albany, we then have to have it terminating in the centre of Town, at least 500m from the nearest station because it can’t go to Britomart, so it is effectively worthless for anyone going beyond the CBD.

    • counterpoint

      “Whilst the old line via Newmarket isnt perfect, it does get you there.”

      Thinking along these lines, why build an AWHC? After all, imperfect as the current route may be, it does get you there…

  • Phil

    @Counterpoint. The data does not point to a decline in driving. It points to a decline in transport fuels. If you look at the data on the ‘Liquid graphs’ you will see a decline in consumption that matches the GFC and a recovery that shows the US consuming more than the EU. This is also in line with the economic data. Production has nothing to do with consumption. The US is producing more transport fuels now because of Shale while Europe is closing down refineries and importing more product from Asia.
    Generally consumption of transport fuel is down because of economic downturn (less production = less trucks on the roads and less employment = less cars commuting) and also because of improvements in vehicle miles per gallon and a trend to smaller cars. You can get this data strip from looking at car sales stats rather than liquid demand.
    However it is true that higher fuel costs do drive people towards fuel conservation (a happy coincidence of fuel tax) but to think that current fuel prices are unsustainable and the death of the private car is simply insane. People love their cars and even when fuel actually does become expensive we will find a way to drive. For this reason an investment in roads for NZ is the correct route to follow.

    • NCD

      I think you underestimate the generational shift- it is not just less fuel usage- it’s less miles driven. 25% less miles driven by the young.
      http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/transportation-and-new-generation
      “The trend toward reduced driving, however, has occurred even among young people who are employed and/or are doing well financially”
      Of course it’s not the death of the private car, but the trend is clear, and precedes the GFC.

      • SF Lauren

        NCD, you are correct in that distance traveled has declined, however the issue with your referenced post and indeed the main post they have not actually looked into why but rather made some assumptions based on their desired conclusion.

        Now this is what most of us do however the issue is that some of these assumptions have no real backing.

        My assumption is that cheap air travel is whats reduced our driving distance the most rather than smaller social changes.

        For example the average car would drive 14k a year, however of this only about 3k is driving to work if you do. One simple drive to Wellington would make up about 10% of your annual distance and so by simply flying you have slashed 10% of the annual average by just one trip. You could have doubled how much you drive in the city and it would still appear you are driving less just by removing those long trips.

        • TheBigWheel

          SF.. that was my personal experience in the UK, but to my post above, the stats don’t support that generalisation. Short trips dominate total kms travelled by car (and by train).. most of these are within cities. So this is, rightly, the focus of attention.

          • SF Lauren

            I’m sure they do big wheel, however if you remove those long trips, which may only be 20% of all trips you have a 20% reduction. A 20% reduction is pretty darn huge.

            Of note I see the average distance travel in the USA is 20k rather than 14k here. It would seem they rather like to drive there which makes it easier to get some big reductions.

          • counterpoint

            “It would seem they rather like to drive there…”

            It may equally be correlated with settlement patterns in much of the United States, which can be quite spread out. On the face of it, it would seem unfair to suggest that someone in Houston drives more than someone in Manhattan due solely to preference, for example.

          • TheBigWheel

            Yes, remember Houston drivers use 60% more petrol than New Yorkers.. and 700% more than Copenhagers..

            http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/06/15/houston-we-have-a-problem/

    • Sailor Boy

      Yes Phil, we should invest in roads, because all that we have done for 60 years is to invest in roads and so the majority of kiwis now expect to have to drive everywhere.

    • counterpoint

      Some things to think on.

      “but to think [this implies] the death of the private car is simply insane ”

      Whoa there buddy! Who said anything about the death of the private car? I for one very much doubt that the private car is going to vanish in a puff of smoke in the near future. Indeed it would be shame if it did. The point is that car use may be set to decline, and importantly, that this does not spell the end of the world. Indeed, there may well be some benefits to reduced car usage, not including a cost reductions and health benefits (your walking up Queen St example, for one). But let’s be clear, you lose the argument automatically by posing the death of the automobile, because its just not on the table here. We’re talking about a reduction in trips, and alternative forms of (primarily) urban transport, not smashing up cars.

      “People love their cars and even when fuel actually does become expensive we will find a way to drive. For this reason an investment in roads for NZ is the correct route to follow.”

      This is the bit I don’t get. Maybe you see something different in the graph, maybe this ‘generational shift’ doesn’t really exist. But I don’t understand the fatalism in this sentence. The implication that anything other than cars is untenable sits ill with my thinking – because it says we MUST find a way to drive, cost be damned. Tell me a story about how no cost is too high, and how nothing less will do, because to me its just fatalism.

      Again, to make this point exceptionally clear, there is NO implication in anything I say to suggest that we should bring about the end of private car ownership, and I simply won’t accept reading much into this as a rebuttal. This is about investing in infrastructure such that a car is not the only method of transport that can make reliable trips outside of a relatively small number of (most CBD focused) routes. Or to put it another way, this is about acknowledging that cars already get the lion’s share of the lion’s share in transport funding and priority, and that perhaps this isn’t the best use of our resource – irrespective of whether fuel prices are sustainable. I should think the towering price tags of many of the RoNS are testament to that. Investment away from private vehicles does not magically reduce the usefulness of private vehicles, unless you think that money must be constantly poured into motor transport infrastructure and never into anything else in order to provide future benefits, a pattern which looks on the surface much like a ponzi scheme.

    • Buzz

      Hi Phil, living in England I thought you would have picked up on the decline of the car culture?…
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9946655/Petrol-sales-plummet-to-lowest-level-since-1990.html

  • Ari

    I’ll start by saying I’m not an environmentalist and that I don’t base my decisions on looking after the environment.

    just a comment on hybrids. even if the discredited report commissioned by auto makers were true and hybrids had a higher carbon footprint than a hummer, over their entire lifetime of fuel combustion the hybrid would have a smaller carbon footprint by an enormous margin. to the extent that such an argument is ridiculous.

    and a comment on biofuel. Anyone heard of a little country called Brazil? they happen to run most their private vehicle fleet on ethanol from sugar cane. that industry hasn’t been subsidized for a long time now. It means Brazil is not dependent on fuel imports and it turns a hefty profit too. and it only uses 3% of their arable land. to suggest that biofuel is not economic is a lie. SOME biofuels are.bad, like corn. others are not as bad and much better than oil.

    in NZ, particularly Auckland, I think we should be looking at electric cars as oppposed to biofuel. a fleet of EVs in Auckland would save us a few coal/gas power stations. we have lots of renewable energy that is wasted at night. buy the power cheaply at night and sell a little at the peak times.

  • Phil

    Ari,

    All 1st generation Bio Fuel is a complete waste of time and tax payers money. Including in Brazil. Vast areas of ariable land is given over to bio mass crops which hike up food costs to 3rd world countries. Whilst you and I may be able to afford bread and bio fuel that is not the case for poor people in Africa and others. The USA mandate 20% bio mass in transport fuel (its just been increased from 10%) and in the EU it is 5%. This is causing great hardship globally and the only benefit is to farmers in developed countries who make a bigger profit from rape seed than they would from maize. When you understand the wholesale vale of FAME and the tax subsidies handed out then come back and tell me you still think Bio is the way forward.

    Electric cars are a non event until we work out better batteries. A quick google of the problems on the 787 dreamliner should give you an indication on how far away that is. I personally favour liquid hydrogen as that means the general public can continue to operate cars the way they are used too. Pull into a filling station, connect a hose, and pour in the liquid. Sorted!

    • At last! Something I can agree with Phil about. He may not be able to read a simple chart [yes Phil, there is a clear and huge decline in driving in the OECD, see the first two charts above] but he is absolutely right about biofuels. They are have an absolutely terrible EROEI, steal food, especially from the poor [here corn ethanol in the US is much worse than the sugarcane operation in Brazil], and are little more than yet another way for big Oil and Gas, and big Agri to farm state subsidies.

      Hydrogen I’m afraid to is a non-starter. It is almost impossible to store and requires huge amounts of energy to crack from water.

      Natural Gas ICE engines will return [are returning, especially in trucks], and hybrid and EV numbers will grow, but won’t [I agree!] be a huge game changer unless there is a serious revolution in battery technology. A revolution, kinda like fusion nuclear that always seems to be just out of reach [you know; it's been just ten years away for 60 years].

      • SF Lauren

        Actually they have had the technology to safely store large volumes of hydrogen since the 50s. The issue is that the material required is also used in the production of nuclear weapons and so remains a controlled material.

        The other issue is that it has a slow release rate so it takes a few hours to refill your car.

        As to the cost of separating hydrogen from water. You do that with a simple solar panel or wind turbine.

        As for biofuel, that still holds real potential. One of the issues has been western counties have been buying the materials from poor countries pushing up the food prices in those countries, but that little different from buying food at the supermarket from poor countries.

        Another issue has been that the USA used to flood the market with grain dropping the price to the floor. Now that have a demand to match supply they can no ger flood the market.

        As for fusion power. They are building a full scale test reactor in Europe as we speak. The USA already as a laser based test reactor.

        • Sailor Boy

          We don’t hjave the systems to safely store hydrogen in cars that are likely to crash. But completely agree with everything else.

          • SF Lauren

            Um sailor boy, did you read my first sentence. They developed systems to safely store large quantities in the 50s as part of developing the hydrogen bomb. Its stores it as a solid which you could happily shot or even put in a fire and it won’t explode. Only downside is that the release and storage rate is rather slow and takes a few hours.

            In the example I saw the guy has 3 small tanks, about the size of a normal petrol tank in total, which gave him a range of some 700km.

          • Sailor Boy

            Sorry, I read liquid hydrogen for some reason. You got a link to that car?

    • TheBigWheel

      +1 ..biofuels (from crops) a completely terrible idea, even in Brazil.

      Also +1 ..today’s batteries can’t begin to match the convenience of hosing in liquid with 20-30x the energy density and 100s x the refuel rate. Try driving a plug-in car for a day or two!

      Surely hybrids make most sense in big cars, trucks, SUVs and so on.. best bang for buck is to get gas guzzlers’ fuel efficiency up not put them in minis. Honda Jazz hybrid doesn’t make sense to me.. it hardly uses any petrol as it is.

    • MFD

      “Pull into a filling station, connect a hose, and pour in the liquid. Sorted!”

      Sorted? I think not. Liquid hydrogen is cryogenic with a temperature not too awfully much above absolute zero. Contact with air can liquify oxygen with the attendant dangers and human contact is hugely damaging. The idea that the infrastructure for liquid hydrogen distribution and retail is already in place is pure fantasy as is the idea that the public will be permitted to dispense such a liquid. Let’s deal with realities, please. Studies of potential hydrogen distribution networks invariably involve compressed hydrogen gas or local reticulation from steam reforming plants fed from a natural gas supply.

  • Bob

    The chnage in car use is not merely economic but social. Have a look at the most popular sit coms on TV. Where do the main characters live? Not in the suburbs thats for sure (unless you’re including dysfunctional families like The Simpsons of course).

    • Good one Bob. I grew up with Seinfeld and now the kids watch Girls, Its Always Sunny in Philly, New Girl etc- all very urban-oriented shows. Oh and I forgot Portlandia, a caricature of the trend.

  • Phil

    There is a company in the UK, Cella Energy that are developing a storage and delivery system for liquid hydrogen which uses nano beads to contain the hydrogen. This is breakthrough technology because prior to this the problem was having a heavy tank (like CNG) to store the liquid. People will be able to use a liquid hydrogen in much the same way as they use petrol or diesel today. The benefits are huge as the infrastructure is in place. One day (hopefully soon) next to diesel and Petrol will be a hydrogen pump. http://www.cellaenergy.com/index.php?page=technology Car manufacturers are already shifting from battery electric to hydrogen http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/02/hydrogen-powered-cars so the future is looking bright. Yes Hydrogen is a conductor of energy and therefore you need to harness the energy first but SFL is correct about the way to strip the hydrogen and NZ has plenty of free energy above our heads.
    Now given that we have a future energy source on the near horizon I would return you to my original statement that Peak Oil is a fluid target and should not be used to justify not investing in road transport. I like everyone would like to see more rail and better public transport options in NZ but when it boils down to cost and benefit we are better off sticking with roads as our primary investment. So to finish my post. I would like to invest in rail and cycle paths, and roads but in my opinion the priority should be roads first, hence my support for the second harbour crossing.

    • Fine, we have 13 road lanes across the harbour and nothing else, so we have done roads first; it’s time to catch up on the missing modes now.

    • counterpoint

      “I like everyone would like to see more rail and better public transport options in NZ….”

      except when they happen. The PT wash here is well on the thin side, since the support for any non-road initiative extends only as long as the projects remain on paper.

      What is it about the ‘boil down’ to costs and benefits that makes PT so unattractive and roads so cheap (I presume you’ve seen the price tags for the various RoNS, and the AWHC)? Because simply stating the case isn’t itself very compelling.

      I, for one, have troubling buying into the idea you want to invest in cycle paths with any sincerity.

  • Phil

    Counterpoint. I cycle on average 150kms a week (on a mountain bike with offroad tyres :( ) so its not like I am against cycle lanes. I use them all the time. It is also not that I am against a cycle path across the harbour, just that I believe Skypath is the wrong project. I base that opinion on the costs of the build and the negative impact to local residents given the current ramp proposals. I have always said my preferred option would be the outside Eastern clip on lane to be dedicated to cyclists and peds which would be an almost zero cost option once the second harbour crossing is open. Surely as a cyclist you would prefer a toll free cycle lane and as Aucklanders have waited 54 years 1 month, and 5 days so far, another few years should be worth it.
    I am in favour of a rail link between Albany and the Airport because I believe there is the traffic to warrant this. On the south side there is already a rail track south so a spur to the airport shouldnt be a problem. I imagine many air passengers would welcome a rail option into the city. This is a low cost investment and it would not include underground stations at the Casino or K Road. On the northern side I certainly favour a rail tunnel to be dug at the same time as the road tunnel. It makes sense, the equipment will be on site. I am not sure where you would land grab for the rail north to Albany as the buslane already did that a few years ago. This is an issue that needs resolving because its no point digging a rail link if there is no where to lay the tracks north of Barrys Point Rd.
    As mentioned many times I feel the best return on our investment is improving the roads. If the bridge for what ever reason had to be closed the Auckland (and therefore the NZ) economy would collapse. Investing in a second road crossing is an investment in the future of NZ.
    I appreciate all the green arguments against roads but the best scenario for everyone is for the money to go first to roads and second to other transport options. I fear by the time you see the reality, oil will have run out and we will all be driving hydrogen fuel cell cars :D

    • Swan

      Phil, you are right that given the very weak conventional business case, any support for the AWHC has to include “strategic resilience” as a benefit. However in order to make an informed desicion we need to estimate both the probability of loss of service from the existing bridge and the consequence. Actually there would be a number of scenarios to consider: catastrophic collapse, permanent closure, long term closure, short term closure, partial closure etc. Each of these will have a different probability and associated consequence. We could then estimate an expected cost for both do nothing and an AWHC. I think “economic collapse” is a bit strong though for any event. The ChCh earthquakes would surely have had a greater impact than the closure of the AHB, and I don’t think anyone would call what has happened “economic collapse”.

    • Phil. Along with the other issues raised above and elsewhere here’s an illustration of one important point that bears on how we best might add capacity across the harbour [or from anywhere to the city]: The big problem with adding any more traffic lanes to the city from any direction is that it simply encourages a thing that we are trying to reduce:

      This chart from CCFAS study doesn’t include ferry and walking and cycling for some strange reason, and with them the mode share for private vehicles to the CBD is now below 50% while the total is at the highest absolute number ever, and growing. See the huge change from 20 years ago with driving at 80%. That marks the high tide point of urban driving in Auckland. That age has already passed, and the new age can only accelerate from here, along with all its advantages.

      And this is very very important because it is only by the reduction of people accessing the city by private vehicle [yet giving them a quality range of alternatives] can all the improvements to the city over the past decade be continued.

      This reduction is the necessary foundation on which we can build better open spaces, more successful retail, and urban working, playing, and living environments that people and businesses, and critically their employees, want to experience. In short a more successful, prosperous, and thriving city.

      And the really important figure on that chart [along with the three missing ones] is the dark blue rail one because these people bring no vehicle onto city streets with them.
      The New Network, electrification, and ticketing changes, will grow that further, The CRL will really make it huge, and rail through Wynyard Quarter and to and through the Shore will make it the biggest mode by far.

      Basically buses are great for removing cars, but too much of a good thing causes its own problems as well as we see now in downtown Auckland. So rail, cycling, walking, and the ferries, are even better. And of course we should invest in what we want more of. And this very definitely includes cycling as transport; not just as recreation or exercise. A network of cycleways from the Skypath along Quay St linking with Tamaki Drive and a Hobson Bay route, and the Grafton Gully route being built now, is vital to this. And as cheap as chips, with a BCR that kills any other project by orders of magnitude.

      Auckland City and it’s satellites will be able to become much better places because of this. This is the revolution coming to Auckland over the next decade.

      What we feed grows. Bringing more cars to the city we don’t want at any price, and especially not for 5billion.

      It would be great to have you on board with this, but it is happening with or without you.

    • counterpoint

      Phil, you have an absolutely terrible reasoning ability.

      “..almost zero cost option once the second harbour crossing is open”

      so almost zero cost once the intial $4.8B is discounted.

      “..as Aucklanders have waited 54 years 1 month, and 5 days so far, another few years should be worth it.”

      Since we haven’t had AWHC for [some number of] years, waiting another few years should be worth it.
      Since we haven’t had the CRL for [some number of] years, waiting another few years should be worth it.
      Since I haven’t been a millionaire for [some number of] years, waiting another few years should be worth it.
      Since I haven’t had a liver replacement for [some number of] years waiting another few years should be worth it.

      What does waiting a few years have to do with anything? Normally projects have to wait for logistical or cost purposes, the waiting isn’t built in for value reasons. As far as I’m concerned, the CRL should have been built yesterday, it isn’t that its ‘worth’ waiting for, its that there is logistically, politically, and financially no way to make the project happen ahead of some minimum timeline, not some ‘because you’ve been waiting you might as well wait some more’ argument. By the same token, any air passengers that would welcome an airport rail service should be prepared to wait however long it takes, since the value of the ‘denied time’ (or whatever the mechanism by which this argument works) is enough to justify putting aside their actual travel needs now. Why should I (or anyone) value cycle access in the future over cycle access now. If waiting 54 years is acceptable, what’s to say that waiting another 54 years isn’t acceptable?

      Anyway, this is all by-the-by. I know what you’ve said about roads because I can read your comments. Now I’m asking you do to the same, and tell me a story about why roads should be the priority. Don’t forget to re-read that previous sentence – I’m interested in a STORY that tells me WHY it should be the case that we invest our money in roads, as opposed to a statement of your belief which, for what its worth, you have managed to make perfectly clear.

      • Stu Donovan

        I note that Phil seems quite happy to accuse others here of being “armchair critics” while at the same time stating an opinion on just about everything under the sun. From the way Phil talks one would think he’s spent 20 years as an oil trader, 20 years as an economist, 20 years as a transport planner, and 20 years as a chemical engineer.

        Hypocritical much?

  • “Why America Is Losing Its Gas Guzzling Ways”
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-america-losing-gas-guzzling-170640504.html

    Americans Foregoing Cars
    Strange as it may seem to many of us who couldn’t wait to get out first car, there is a growing number of people in the U.S. who have decided they don’t want to own a car.
    According to CNW Marketing, the percentage of U.S. homes without a car has hit an a recent high of 9 percent. As recently as 2006, just 5 percent of the U.S. households opted for not having a vehicle.
    What’s changed? The recession forced a lot of people to get rid of their car or truck. There’s also been explosive growth in car-share companies over the last five years. Also, America is becoming more urban and more people are living in cities where they can use mass transit, bike share programs, or simply walk to get what they need. Bottom line: More people are saying they don’t need a car or truck.

  • Phil

    @Stu…even in little enzed it’s hard to imagine people could think you could trade oil without understanding economics, transport, and chemical engineering. Or did you think oil trading meant olive oil?
    FOS much?

  • Phil

    @Counterpoint
    The second harbour crossing is done and dusted. Therefore the spend is not associated with a cycle path. With a second harbour crossing Skypath becomes redundant because you can have a lane from the existing bridge.
    You should embrace this because then you dont have to deal with residents objections or the 800k a year that you would otherwise have to pay the nice yacht owners.
    There is NO ‘need’ for a cycle path, just a desire to have one from a very small proportion of aukland commuters and apparently a large proportion of Warkworths residents. Get over it…We are getting the tunnel…. we are not guaranteed to get Skypath :D

    • swan

      Phil,

      What evidence do you have that the second harbour crossing is done and dusted??

      • TheBigWheel

        Indeed.. reading the Britomart 10th anniversary blog post provides plenty of evidence from previous grand schemes to suggest it’s far from done and dusted. Though it does have both Council and Govt support..

    • Sailor Boy

      We don’t need any traffic lanes across the bridge either we could have 2 lanes for bikes, 1 for pedestrians, 2 for buses, and 2 rail lines i n the remaining 2 lanes, just because something isn’t needed is not a reason to not build it.

  • Here is an oldish article (2010) on Egypt’s urban form, population, and energy predicament that predicts the problems we are seeing there now. Energy is wealth, and how we use or squander it has very real consequences.

    http://mazamascience.com/EnergyTrends/?p=141

  • Eric D

    The CCFAS demonstrated that there are no solutions to central city congestion that involve a second harbour crossing for private vehicles.
    The additional Waitemata crossing, assumed in the CCFAS base case is not essential. It’s not even in the “nice to have” category. It is an unmitigated disaster.
    When SKM estimate traffic speeds of less than 10km/hr they do not clearly point out that any such speeds are unstable. At any time, and for no reason at all, traffic that dense can collapse into gridlock. Instead or forecasting traffic speeds, they could usefully have estimated frequency of gridlock.
    Any additional harbour crossing needs to be public transport only, and probably electric traction only (to keep down the ventilation cost).
    Plenty of room for argument about heavy rail, light rail, or electric bus.

  • Phil

    The second crossing is going to be a car tunnel with provision for rail. Its been in the news, take it as a done deal. All this talk about the crossing and CBD dont make sense. What about teh traffic that crosses the bridge now and doesnt go to the CBD?
    I think this blog should be renamed the ‘anti car rant’.

    • Swan

      I thought you might have had inside information. The announcements to date do not make it a done deal. Remember – parliament is sovereign and cannot constrain itself! Although I note it hasn’t even tried to on this matter.

    • counterpoint

      “What about teh traffic that crosses the bridge now and doesnt go to the CBD?”

      What about it?

      I note that the irony of posturing what is (I believe, correct me if I’m wrong) the single most expensive transport project in the history of Auckland as part of an investment strategy that prioritises costs and benefits. If we are talking about costs, and the AWHC is on the table, then presumably it should take no effort at all to get the CRL over the line at around half the price or less.

      Still waiting on that story…

    • Sailor Boy

      @Phil. What happens if Labour gets elected when AWHC is meant to start. I doubt they would put a motorway only link in assuming they have to work with greens.

  • Phil

    We just bought a very expensive tunnelling tool. The Govt has announced we will need a second crossing by 2020-25 and that it will be a tunnel. The Govt is grabbing the land it needs by the end of the year.
    What part is not a done deal?
    I do not understand how some people could be against this project. We can not rely on the bridge lasting forever. I have some inside information that it will not last as long as some people hope. The best time to build a tunnel is now, lets just get on with it.

    • Swan

      It is not a done deal because no deal has been done. No deal will be done until several more electoral cycles are complete, so it will be a future govt making the desicion to go ahead. With regard to the TBM, consider this. The amount to be saved by using the Waterview TBM will be less than 1% of the project costs at most. However the success of the entire project (from a construction POV) will rest largely on the performance of the TBM. The TBM for Waterview would have been specified specifically for Waterview including the tunnel ID, lining thickness and ground conditions. There is a possibility that the Waterview TBM would be unusable for the AWHC. There is a larger possibility that its lack of optimality will negate any cost savings. So make no mistake, the existence of the Waterview TBM will make a negligible difference to any rational desicion on funding for the AWHC.

      As for property purchases, these routinely occur well in advance of any funding desicions being made.

    • The Waterview TBM will be more or less destroyed during the dig, it’s a one trick pony that will be scrapped afterwards.

    • counterpoint

      “I do not understand how some people could be against this project.”

      Let me offer another take on this bridge affair. First of all, even though it is dead fucking obvious, I must point out that $5 Billion is $5 Billion. This is a large sum of money. You’ve hinted at cost benefit analysis before, a style of analysis that necessarily has a cost component. That is, irrespective of how large the benefits are, the cost still needs to be met. We might perform such an analysis on, say, a transport project for example, and we might even find that the benefits outweigh the costs. But the implication is clear – even for some level of benefits, the costs will need to be met.

      The staggering thing about the AWHC, aside from the fact that (as far as I can tell) it seems to do little to improve transportation outcomes in Auckland, and offers almost nothing in the way of access that was not previously available, is the enormous cost of the project. It costs something in the order of $5 Billion (I believe the cost was announced as $4.8B earlier, depending on how much of a difference you might think $200M makes to the argument). Even if it cured everyone who drove over it of cancer, it would still have a price tag in the order of $5 Billion, and as much as that benefit would render the project astoundingly good value, we would still need to stump up the dough. Dough that could no longer be stumped up for other projects. Re-read that if you need to – there is also a $5B opportunity cost here. That is a large sum of money. In fact, it’s $5 Billion. Dealing with the cost is the cost part of cost benefit analysis.

      Your own case for AWHC is “but we need it”, and most other business cases for it are essentially that with details. For what it delivers, this is a gargantuan price tag, and on that basis alone it surely deserves more scrutiny. There are plenty of other opinions on the transportation merits of various crossings, both as blog posts and in the comments, so I won’t cover that angle here.

      “The best time to build a tunnel is now…”

      You’ve said on many occasions that those who support Skypath ought to simply wait for this colossal white elephant to be built, citing the argument that one wait is as good as another. This runs counter to just about any economic analysis that I’ve ever come across, which would consider delays as a cost, since no project in all of human history has or will offer the faintest glimmer of utility while it is being deferred. By your own quote, the project is set to come online around 2020-2025, 7-12 years from now. Thus anyone who wishes to cross the bridge by walking or cycling has to wait for this period of time and in the interim either buy a car, catch ferries, or do what I currently do and avoid going to the shore for any reason.

      In other words, the best time to build anything is now. Sure, in practise there are details that affect the timing of public works, but any and all public project are worth exactly fuck all to anyone until the day they open and therefore deliver whatever benefit they’re supposed to deliver. Waterview isn’t worth shit to me today, and it won’t be tomorrow or the next day. The only day that I can realistically care at all about whatever benefits might come of that project is opening day, and no sooner than that, and this reasoning surely applies to all public projects from the point of view of the public.

      • Number 1 issue: Four or five billion dollars cost.

        Number 2 issue: Does nothing for traffic through Spaghetti Junction or onward to any of the other motorways, in fact the last schemes reduced the number of lanes heading southbound to the other motorways from four to three. Widening the motorways south or west of the city is an almost impossible task.

        Number 3 issue: It does increase the number of lanes feeding in to Fanshawe and Cook Sts by two or three each way, two streets that can’t take any more traffic. So triple the traffic capacity leading to the CBD, but widening city streets is an impossible task (unless you want to start knocking down rows of skycrapers), as is building four or five new jumbo carparking buildings to store the vehicles in.

        End conclusion: A five billion dollar project with no strategic transport benefit that only increases peak time commuter traffic capacity to a downtown area that cannot handle more traffic. If our goal is to get more commuters to downtown on weekday mornings then there are a lot cheaper ways to do that, ones that don’t require gridlock.

  • Phil

    What do you people imagine will happen when the bridge reaches its end user date? Or do you think magic dust was sprinkled all over it and now it will last forever?
    On one thing Counterpoint and I agree….the best time to build something IS NOW.

    So build the tunnel NOW and then you can have the cycle path earlier….EVERYONES happy

    • Well as NZTA say that with maintenance the Bridge’s life can be effectively considered indefinite, there is no issue there.

    • Sailor Boy

      Yes, build the skypath now. Finished in 2014, glad to see you support it.

    • counterpoint

      “the best time to build something IS NOW.”

      I can’t actually tell if you got the point I was trying to make, so I’ll spell it out here – you can say this about any project. If the project delivers benefits, those benefits are more beneficial now than in the future, pretty much without exception. We can’t always realise these benefits immediately for various reasons, the most obvious of which is that projects have a finite construction time. If you want to say this about AWHC, then logically you must say it about all other projects. What I think you’re looking for is an account of why the AWHC in particular should be built now, rather than the fact that if it should be built, it will offer more utility if its built sooner.

      As for maintenance, Patrick beat me to it, but essentially I see two ways this can go if you disagree

      1) NZTA are lying.
      2) Maintenance will extend the life of the bridge, but will have a total cost more than $5B, and is therefore a worse deal than a new crossing.

      I’m not a civil engineer, and I lack the expertise to criticise the claim that maintenance will extend the life of the bridge. So unless I learn some detail to the contrary from a source that seems reliable (ie: tells a credible story about why the claim is false – something I suggest you have a go at), I’m prepared to accept this claim at face value. The second claim seems like a tough one to meet, since you would presumably need to show that the total costs of a new bridge/tunnel are comparable or less than the cost of maintenance of the current bridge. Given that even new projects need to be maintained over their lifetime, and that the capital outlay is in the order of $5B, it seems like a high bar to get over.

      You’ve said many times that

      “…the best return on our investment is improving the roads”

      typically without any qualifiers. If we accept this claim as true, there must be some breathtaking benefits around the corner for AWHC, given the cost. The implication is clear in all your writings – PT is simply too expensive.

      [On driving]

      “People love their cars and even when fuel actually does become expensive we will find a way to drive. For this reason an investment in roads for NZ is the correct route to follow.”

      [On Skypath] (emphasis mine)

      “… [I am not] against a cycle path across the harbour, just that I believe Skypath is the wrong project. I BASE THAT OPINION ON THE COSTS of the build and the negative impact to local residents given the current ramp proposals.

      [On the CRL]

      “This is NZ, we dont have a population base to justify a complex rail system.”

      “If people want to go from Downtown to the Casino then they can walk or catch the bus.”

      [On rail]

      “What we can do and afford is improve our roads and road based public transport systems in order to guarantee the growth of our economy.”

      “…in the future we will have managed our fuel use through new technologies to ensure the car is still king.”

      [On intercity rail]

      “We are much better off building motorways in urban areas and restricting rail investment to intercity routes”

      [On high speed intercity rail]

      “How on earth could a population of 4 million pay for such an investment? … It certainly couldnt be paid through rail fares.”

      [On your charm]

      “…the only people travelling on intercity rail are yanks too fat to fit in aircraft seats. … Asking Americans to give up cheap petrol is akin to asking them not to have guns or marry their cousins.”

      Oh you card, Phil!

      So given the pretty clear implication that transportation outside of private vehicles is simply unfathomably expensive, explain why the option that includes (what I understand to be) the biggest single project in the region is the cost effective one.

  • Phil

    you know the worst thing about you guys…you’re boring :( Now dont take that as an indication I couldnt argue point by point with you, just that you have deaf ears and I cant be bothered. Next time you are puffing away in your lycra and the guy cuts you up in the Aston it could be me… and like the guy in the car, I couldnt care less about your never ending socialist rants against progress.

    Bye losers :(

    • Farewell Phil, you will be missed. :-) I need a laugh in the morning.

      Be careful threatening cyclists online. Last guy did that Chch got a visit from the boys in blue.

      Go try Kiwiblog. Those guys love to attack “socialists” (I cant believe you still think that is an insult) and no evidence or logic needed, so will suit you perfectly!

    • counterpoint

      “…just that you have deaf ears…”

      What the actual fuck? Not that you have any credibility to lose at this point, but is this your best gambit to get out of the discussion – playing the “no-one will listen” card? An ambitious move, considering that I personally requested elaborations on your opinion on 6 occasions

      [July 5, 2013 at 3:27 am]

      “But I am curious, where is the tipping point at which we would have a population base to justify a ‘complex’ rail system? What would Auckland have to look like before that kind of proposal seemed justified? Go on – give us a short paragraph describing an Auckland that needs rail, or failing that, a number.”

      [July 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm]

      “Tell me a story about how no cost is too high, and how nothing less will do, because to me its just fatalism.”

      [July 6, 2013 at 1:14 am]
      “What is it about the ‘boil down’ to costs and benefits that makes PT so unattractive and roads so cheap?”

      [July 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm]
      “Now I’m asking you do to the same, and tell me a story about why roads should be the priority.”

      [July 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm]
      “Still waiting on that story…”

      [July 8, 2013 at 9:16 am]
      “So given the pretty clear implication that transportation outside of private vehicles is simply unfathomably expensive, explain why the option that includes (what I understand to be) the biggest single project in the region is the cost effective one.”

      Of course, we all know that this shouldn’t be taken the wrong way. It’s not as if its an indication that

      “…I couldnt argue point by point with you…”

      just that no-one in the entire world has the fortitude to hear you and your opinion out.

      I mean for fucks sake, why even bother announcing your exit?

    • SF Lauren

      Interesting, it seems the unchecked venomous rage sent against someone else who questioned the approved agenda has been driven off just like the others.

      I think a few of you need to take a chill pill when someone says something you may not agree with and don’t go attacking them with pedantic little side issues.

      It takes two to bring the conversation down, trust me, I know.

      • counterpoint

        Unchecked venomous rage? I’m not going to try and defend myself against claims of bringing the conversation down – I’ll leave this to readers to decide for themselves. Similarly, it would be pointless to try and spin my previous comment as some kind of polite banter, as it clearly isn’t. But what is it about my comments (or anyone else’s for that matter) that constitutes “unchecked venomous rage”? Which are the parts that constitute “pedantic little side issues”? The implication is that the discussion is a hate-fest, yet by and large the comments directly address some specific issue brought up in the course of the discussion.

        Perhaps you agree with Phil. If so, why not bring something to the debate?

      • Wow if you think the language on here was “unchecked venomous rage” dont ever go and try to argue for public transport or cycling on Kiwiblog or Whaleoil.

        I tried once and the sheer volume of hate and abuse directed my way can only be described as well “unchecked venomous rage”.

      • Sailor Boy

        I don’t think that a $5b motorway is a side issue.

      • SF Lauren

        I certainly wasn’t suggesting that Phil was using the language of a born again Christian, just that with a more polite tact you could have got some useful information out of him.

    • Sailor Boy

      Phil, this is a classic way to get out of an argument you know you can’t win. The kids I teach to sail do exactly the same, read into that what you will.

      The fact that you can’t make a convincing argument is not our issue.

  • Hi Patrick,

    Finally got a chance to read this. Nice work bringing a whole lot of different aspects together.

    I thought some New Zealand centric figures would be appropriate:

    You can see how real petrol prices were actually higher in the early 1980s. Overall oil consumption has plateaued for all sectors combined and this is shown as well for the residential sector.

    I agree that the RoNs are effectively a waste of money in terms of how society is changing. Vehicle kms have plateaued in NZ since 2007. It appears that 40 billion kms per year is about the limit. http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/TMIF/Pages/TV001.aspx

    Oil consumption stats taken from: http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/energy/energy-modelling/data/oil

    Petrol price stats taken from: http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/energy/energy-modelling/data/prices

  • […] “The Congestion Free Network will not only lead to a higher quality & better functioning city, but is also more affordable than the ineffective integrated transport programme. Investing in the ‘missing’ public transport network before further expansion of the road network will almost certainly turn out to be much cheaper & more efficient for Auckland, as well as being more in sync with the times. […]

  • […] to be much cheaper and more efficient for the city and the nation, as well as actually being more in sync with the times. In particular, many of the most expensive and invasive road projects will prove to be unnecessary […]

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