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User Guidelines, Logical Fallacies, and Ideas for Future Posts

transportblog aims to foster debate on urban issues facing Auckland, most notably – but not limited to – transport.

Of course the need for transport results from people’s desire to access the city around them. The need for transport is thus intertwined with, and often determined by, the underlying urban form. So while we focuse primarily on transport issues, we often comment on Auckland issues more generally. Sometimes we might even comment on random things that are happening in Auckland, simply because we think they’re interesting.

All of us bloggers are genuinely heartened and humbled by the level of interest shown in our posts. And rarely has this interest been more evident than of late, when a number of (largely unrelated) posts have garnered a large number of comments. Indeed, in the 10 odd years I’ve been following transportblog I can’t re-call the comments section ever being as active as it has been of late. This is generally a good thing.

Now comes the “but”: We’ve also recently received some complaints. Most notably from long-time readers who feel like the comments section is becoming a bit of a bear pit. The most common complaint is that some commenters are dominating the thread with rather controversial views. As a consequence, people feel like the comments section is becoming increasingly difficult and/or boring to read, and that the atmosphere may dissuade people from commenting. This is not what we want.

For this reason we’ve pulled together this post. It has two purposes in mind: 1) to remind people, especially some of our newer readers, of our user guidelines and 2) to highlight some common logical fallacies that have arisen in recent threads. Ultimately I hope this material contributes to a more civil and logical comment thread, which in turn keeps people coming back and solicits greater participation from an even wider audience.

1. User Guidelines

Our user guidelines can be paraphrased as follows (NB: Ones in bold are the guidelines which I consider to be particularly important given recent events):

  1. Commenters are guests and are asked to treat other members of the community with civility.
  2. Members are encouraged to use their real (full) names, especially for those wishing to comment frequently.
  3. Ad hominem attacks are frowned upon. If you disagree with someone, refute their statements rather than insulting them.
  4. General moaning about the Blog is extremely boring. If you there are things you like and/or don’t like about the Blog then put it in an email to us, rather than a comment. Or find another space more to your liking.
  5. Try to use clear and logical reasoning, e.g. Observation 1 + Observation 2 = Conclusion.
  6. Opinions, while welcome, are not facts. When citing facts, commenters should provide supporting references and links, especially when asked.
  7. Do not copy and paste complete copyrighted articles without permission from the copyright holder.  Acknowledge all sources.
  8. The editors decide what is acceptable. We reserve the right to delete comments and suspend accounts as we see fit. Grounds for suspension include (but are not limited to):
    1. Obsessive arguing in a thread or threads
    2. Repeated statements without supporting evidence
    3. Blatant promotion of products and/or services
    4. Use of multiple anonymous identities
    5. Sexist, racist or other offensive comments
  9. We are run by volunteers in our spare time, so we will make mistakes. If you disagree with something we have done, get in touch via email.
  10. Suggestions for improving the blog are welcome, as are guest posts. Please do this via email. Guest Posts cannot be anonymous and will be selected on a case by case basis.

I’ve bolded the first four rules because I think they deserve special mention.

Rule #1 simply implies that the blog is our “house”, and that we’d like it to be welcoming to any Aucklanders who want to participate. While we welcome differing views in comments, we ask that people are respectful of other commenters and our audience in general. Nasty comments about individuals or groups of people are strongly discouraged. After a hard day living the dream in Amsterdam it’s nice to simply come home, kick off your shoes, and relax with some smart people who are also passionate and positive about Auckland.

Like most of you.

That being said, we know that it can be tricky to discern between snark, sarcasm, and cruelty on the internet. As a result, we tend to interpret this guideline generously. If we pull you up on it, it’s generally because we’ve noticed a pattern of nastiness in your comments. Please take that as an opportunity to rethink how you want to come across. Don’t expect us to be consistent – it all depends on a whole range of subjective factors. C’est la vie!

Rule #2 is worth elaborating on a little, because many regular commenters do not use their real names and/or email addresses. Our motivation for adopting this guideline was simple: A growing body of research suggests anonymous comments have a negative impact on the health of online communities. More specifically, anonymity is associated with reduced quality, increased negativity, and possibly even reduced participation (perhaps because negativity scares away other commentators).

To quote from some recent research:

Through our qualitative analysis, we have many findings that support the claim that real identity comments are of higher quality. Through relevance analysis, we found that users who reveal more of their identity write comments that are more relevant to the focal news story (Table 1). Similarly, through analysis using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count tool, we see that more identity revealed yields less swearing, less anger, more affect words, more positive emotion words and less negative emotion words in comments (Table 4).

The results of this research are confirmed by our own (albeit anecdotal) experience. That is, over the last decade or so many of the most argumentative and/or offensive commenters have tended to not use real names or email addresses. Whether this is because anonymity brings out the worst in people, and/or the worst people seek anonymity, we simply don’t know. But the underlying conclusion is the same: When commenting on the blog, anonymity is a privilege rather than a right.

In light of this evidence you may wonder why we continue to allow anonymous comments?

The primary reason is because New Zealand is a small and insular place where people who work in transport and urban industries can’t always speak freely on certain issues. So we appreciate why certain people would want to comment using a pseudonym. However, pseudonyms should be used sparingly and sensitively; you should not be using a pseudonym if you intend to comment regularly. Front up and own your comments.

Next up we have rule #3, which simply amounts to “play the ball, not the person”. Easy to say, hard to do, and as a result we try to interpret this rule generously. What’s not OK is ad hominem attacks on people’s motivations and/or character. Just don’t do it. Disagree with them. Call their views stupid, if that’s how you feel. But don’t judge their motivations. Apart from being rude, it’s irrelevant and unable to be falsified. Hell, many people don’t even understand their own motivations, so it’s beyond me exactly how one determines someone else’s motivations when they are sitting somewhere else behind a computer screen.

Rule #4 is something that I have increasingly little tolerance for. Don’t moan about the blog in the comment thread. We’re are not getting paid to write this rubbish – instead we’re simply volunteers who are interested in fostering a conversation about transport and urban issues. All care and no responsibility etc. And we think that it’s a bit rude to complain about what volunteers are doing for free in their limited spare time. Even if a topic doesn’t interest you it may still be interesting to other readers. Filling the comments section with complaints about the topic distracts from the conversation for those who are interested.

If you’re not interested in a particular topic, you don’t have to read posts about it. Definitely don’t moan about it. What you can do instead is read something else that does interest you. For example, you could wait for the next Transportblog post instead – we write two to three posts a day, usually on very different topics.

2. Logical Fallacies

The aforementioned user guidelines are necessary but not sufficient to ensure a quality comment thread. Another important ingredient is logic (and evidence of course). Now, logic is a tricky thing and many people, including myself, are pretty bloody illogical from time-to-time. That’s OK: in the words of Nietzsche, who was wonderfully logical and illogical, we’re “all too human”. What’s less OK is failing to acknowledge or learn from logical errors when they are pointed out.

So what exactly is a “logical fallacy”? Well, people who are a lot smarter than me have spent time thinking about logic, especially in the context of online debate. In doing so, they have identified some common fallacies which crop up rather frequently. Five of the most common fallacies, for example, are discussed in this video.

A more complete list and discussion of common logical fallacies is available here. Aside from the ones discussed in the video, I have noticed one logical fallacy cropping up relatively regularly in the Transportblog comment thread: The so-called “slippery slope” fallacy. This is an:

… argument that a position is not consistent or tenable because accepting the position means that the extreme of the position must also be accepted. But moderate positions do not necessarily lead down the slippery slope to the extreme.

For example, if someone argues Auckland Council should invest more in A and less in B, this is not equivalent to them arguing for zero investment in B. Instead the person is simply commenting on relative priorities, and in particular increasing the priority attached to A. If you are interested in knowing their views on how how much Council should invest in B, please consider asking them.

Be careful not to slip on the slippery slope fallacy; we’re all too human and it’s all too common. Indeed, as the video notes logical fallacies can sometimes arise simply because we don’t fully understand someone else’s view – this is not necessarily anyone’s fault, but simply something that should be clarified to ensure both parties are discussing the same issue.

3. Conclusion

So in between engaging in passionate debate, I’d like to request that all of us try to observe these user guidelines and avoid certain logical fallacies. If issues do arise which we think are detracting from the quality of the debate, then we will try and point them out. We will try and do so kindly, but expect you to respond respectfully.

And when you are commenting, please keep in the back of your mind that while we aspire to be rational, we all suffer from cognitive biases – even if only very basic biases which arise from differences in intelligence. Psychological research, for example, suggests that people of differing levels of intelligence are prone to different cognitive biases. Such biases are termed the “Dunning-Kruger” effect, which Wikipedia describes as follows (source):

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Dunning and Kruger attributed the bias to the metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests that conversely, highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them also are easy for others.[1] The bias was first experimentally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999. Dunning and Kruger have postulated that the effect is the result of internal illusion in the unskilled, and external misperception in the skilled: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”[1]

Basically, less-smart people tend to over-estimate their own intelligence, while more-smart people tend to over-estimate other people’s intelligence. This is not an excuse for either arrogance or ignorance, but it is a plea to not worry too much if someone doesn’t agree with you and/or you can’t get your point across. I think this video from Frozen sums it up nicely, i.e. “let it go”. I always find that eating another croissant helps in this respect.

To finish: If you’ve got this far then you’ve obviously got some spare time. So please use some of that time to make suggestions on possible ideas for future posts. What would you like us to post about in the coming months? Shout it out here and we’ll see what we can do. In between eating croissants of course.

107 comments to User Guidelines, Logical Fallacies, and Ideas for Future Posts

  • nonsense

    Number 2. NZ is small and HR departments are more powerful than the Stasi.

    • stu donovan

      Godwins law normally applies to nazis, but i wonder if it applies equally to stasi?

      • NickM

        I don’t see why not. Perhaps “Reductio ad Hitlerum” (a logical fallacy neglected in the linked list) could be renamed “Reductio ad Ulbrichtum” or “Reductio ad Honeckerum” in this case? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though…

      • Actually, perhaps the Stasi analogy is more accurate, since the Stasi themselves weren’t the threat, it was the 1 in 5 ordinary east Germans who were part-time informers for them. And there are so many narcs and wanna-be narcs in New Zealand that, yes, people will tattle on you if they think it can get you into trouble. I used to work with mystery shoppers so I know the wanna-be Stasi agent mentality.

  • Feijoa

    An annual review of the worst of Auckland (low hanging fruit) would be cool – calling them out and following up on what is happening. Eg. City Rd with footpath so narrow it causes foot congestion, missing bus lanes, the traffic lighted car park right next to Newmarket train station, bad or missing ped crossings, etc. There have been one off postings, but an annual follow-up would be interesting.

    I’d also be interested in an interview with the bus operators to get their opinion on what needs to be changed or added, slow points, bad stops, missing bus lanes.

    Love the blog and truly amazed at how much analysis, writing and *change* you all accomplish.

    • stu donovan

      Good call! We’ve been talking about how to engage with bus drivers and operators for a while. I’d personally like to foster some mutual insight between drivers and passengers, but haven’t quite figured out how.

      And thank you for the compliments – we do it because we enjoy it, and we enjoy it because of positive/informed commentary from many of our faithful readers such as yourself.

      • Stu there are several NZBus drivers who follow the blog, and when there is a discussion we can add something to we do – just not under our real names, and often worded to sound like it was being said by a bus user not a bus driver. See comment #1 from nonsense.

        But rest assured we are here, and where there are questions we can answer we often do, whether you spot it or not 🙂

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi Greg – thanks for commenting it’s really great to have you and your colleagues contribute to the blog. On the ground experience of what works/doesn’t is invaluable in some of these discussions. I hope you and your fellow drivers know how much I/we appreciate the work you do.

          In the pas we’ve considered running a “thanks drivah” campaign via social media. Whereby passengers would be encouraged to thank their driver in person and vote for them on-line. The winning drivers would then receive a prize. It’s kind of intended to build from the curiously and wonderfully NZ-ild habit of thanking bus drivers when you get off the bus.

          And fostering greater emphathy for the people who get us to work and uni every day. Do you think it’d work? Or do you have better ideas? If so then please let us know!

          • Thanks Stu. A surprising number of people already do say something as they’re getting off, do a little count one day and see how many stops people get off where nobody calls out thank you. I’d rather see a campaign encouraging people to acknowledge the driver when they get *on*, even if it’s just a nod – when 10 people stream past you tagging on and not one of them so much as glances at you then the 11th smiles at you, it’s challenging to be ready to smile back. It’s actually a relief if a goldcard or cash fare gets on at busy stops, I can stand them out of the way then take my time issuing their paper ticket while the hop people load themselves instead of sitting there waiting for senpai to notice me.

            For voting, you’d need to keep it very light hearted as getting votes would be completely luck of the draw and depend on being rostered to do trips caught by people who will vote. It’s a bit like commendations – a large number of us routinely do things like smile, say hello, give directions, make sure people get off in the right place, help with shopping bags, kneel the bus, etc etc, but it’s only morning and broken shift drivers who get commendations for it – the people who take the time to tell someone we did well are all safely home by 5pm. If you can find a way to make it work we’ll try getting it adopted for the commendations too 🙂

          • Ted F

            Thank you Greg. Excuse: I’m one of those preoccupied with the Hop card as I’ve been got at for not tagging and so I need to make sure that I’ve done it right however in future I will try to look your way, thank you once again.

          • Steve Cable

            up to a while ago I was driving for Ritchies, on route services then the NEX, so many people used to say thank you on alighting that it became difficult to acknowledge them all particularly at the terminal

            compared to my experience driving in Wellington (albeit 35 years ago) many more Aucklanders (well at least Shore people) thank the driver

    • Jacques

      Great idea about interviewing bus operators!

    • I think there’s some low-hanging fruit in tuning traffic lights. I think a few Dutch cities are employing engineers who are doing that full-time. I’m wondering:
      – What’s the rationale behind those 5 second right turn phases, followed by a 2 minute green phase for traffic going straight?
      – Do we really need those 2 minute phases when there’s not much traffic, eg. in the evening?

      • Bruce

        Allowing left turns on red lights would certainly help. This would help to keep the left lane clear and would allow buses through intersections quicker. Works well in countries that have it. There are the odd intersection where it wouldn’t be that safe and that is fine they can put a sign up prohibiting it there.

      • Steve C

        include right turn red arrows on a through green where there is adequate visibility to enable users to turn safely

    • Ted F

      Nice reply Fiejoa (and me too). The bus lanes for Dominion and MT Eden Road are important ones as low hanging fruit. Bus ridership is the growth area and the new bus operations being implemented next year in our area are looking like a huge step forward.
      The 6 unit trains for the peak hours also needs a constant boost with AT.
      Talking to the drivers and the bus companies is a great idea and input form some of those drivers in an incognito form would be enlightening.
      You have no idea how impressed I’ve been with the blog and those organising it and thankful for their efforts.

  • NickM

    Seriously, you put this on the blog? Clearly this entry means this blog is all about rules and not about transport.

    J/k 🙂 (see what I did there?)

    Thanks for posting this – it’s always good to have a reminder to strive for a higher level in our conduct. I used to serve as a moderator on a very active worldwide aviation forum, and it was often a thankless task, so I appreciate the work you all do. I really enjoy the diversity of topics on this blog, it is very enlightening. Keep it up 🙂

  • Jonny M

    It would be great to get a few case studies on the experience of other cities rolling out their ‘New Networks’ and how that affected patronage and travel patterns.

    • stu donovan

      Yes! Excellent suggestion. AT has publicly stated that early patronage impacts look positive. We’re also monitoring houston closely. One of the issues is timing: usually 6-12 monthsis required before one can ascertain the full effects. But we’re definitely keeping an eye on it.

  • I just want to back up what other people have said and the great respect that I have for all the work you guys do.

    Without the perspective you guys bring, I would feel so impotent against the arguments for more of the same road centric development I have seen my whole life in NZ.

    I would really like to see more analysis of how housing markets are doing outside of the English speaking world and how transport is affecting that. I realise language is a barrier there but I think it is so important to look outside the English speaking world for ideas.

  • I also agree, respect for you guys for writing this blog.

    That last point reminds me of https://xkcd.com/386/

  • unaha-closp

    2. Members are encouraged to use their real (full) names, especially for those wishing to comment frequently.

    I have been using this pseudonym for about a decade on various political blogs and it is more opinionated than I am, but I’ll start using my own name after this.

    Might start commenting a touch less during work hours…

    • Sailor boy

      What’s the story with your psuedonyn btw? Some are fairly obvious, but Not yours!

      • AnalogKid

        Ooh, ooh, sir, I know that one, pick me, pick me!

        Unaha Closp is an AI drone in one of the Ian M Banks Culture series of sci-fi books.

        I too picked my screen name more than a decade ago and have used it on several forums with very diverse subject matters. I don’t use it as a veil to hide behind and behave as I otherwise would because on those forums I’m often quite open about my real-life identity and situation. I use(d) it because my actual name was already taken wherever online I went, so being AndyWhite352 doesn’t quite have the same appeal.

        And as a mixed-mode commuter (walk-bus-walk, cycle-ferry-cycle and very occasionally door-to-door car) I really appreciate the effort that goes into this blog, keep up the good work.

      • Peter Nunns

        Yeah, I’m a big Iain M Banks fan too… I don’t always agree with U-C, but I always appreciate his username!

    • Stu Donovan

      thanks we do appreciate it. And I should emphasis that we ask people who comment anonymously to do so “sparingly and sensitively”. I mean, if you’re not saying anything particularly controversial then a pseudonym is fine. It’s really only if you were engaging in heated debate/discussion that we’d expect people to use their real names.

  • MFD

    Eating another croissant may not be good advice since each additional croissant requires 92 minutes of walking to burn off…and in the spirit of the post I quote the source:

    http://www.calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-pastriehttp://www.calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-pastries-croissants-chocolate_f-ZmlkPTY4MTg3.htmls-croissants-chocolate_f-ZmlkPTY4MTg3.html

    ..and to illustrate the slippery slope, 16 of said tasty pastries per day would require incessant walking (but not cycling) or a descent into obesity. The website offers no indication of the effects of walking (or cycling) up or down a slippery slope.

    • Stu Donovan

      this made me snort out loud while eating my porridge. Rest assured that I’m going to now go and jump on a train to Rotterdam for a lecture on game theory, where I will exercise the parsnips out of my brain. And also that croissants are a “sometimes food” only to be used when people make angry comments.

  • mfwic

    Bear like porridge, therefore they are Scottish! See I can do logic.

    • MFD

      “Bear like porridge”.

      A source for that would be *really* fabulous.

      • Steve C

        Goldilocks, it’s documented

        • MFD

          Fabulous AND fantastic!
          …but careful reading of the source documents reveal that 2 out of 3 bears tried but did not like porridge.

          • mfwic

            No that was Goldilocks that didn’t like 2 out of the 3. All the bears liked it.

          • MFD

            “No that was Goldilocks that didn’t like 2 out of the 3”

            That’s just a popular myth….and a bear-faced lie.

          • NickM

            A simple like/dislike is far too simplistic a metric for the enjoyability of porridge, and is likely to lead to a mono-modal mindset developing with regard to breakfast options. A 1-10 rating for elements such as flavour, texture, and nutritional value would be more appropriate, along with some way of measuring the intangible of that nice warm feeling which can be generated by a good bowl of porridge.

          • MFD

            Whoa! Steady on there Nick! You seem to have introduced a can of worms to the bear pit and frightened the horses.

            The context of the discussion was the verity of the statement that bears like porridge. Now it seems you propose some sort of ursine focus group to address qualitative aspects of how much they like porridge. Add in the complexities of the various species, age, sex etc plus that fact that bears cannot talk (that’s also a myth) and it could get ugly fast.

            Surely if bears like porridge it follows that they would eat it and there would be evidence out there such as dirty bowls in the woods, scatalogical remains etc. Having established that they do actually eat porridge (peer-reviewed papers please!) one could then establish experiments to rank their preferences (eg. get them to choose between porridge, a salmon-on-rye sandwich, eggs benedict and a small child).

            It really seems to me that you are not taking this discussion seriously.

          • Steve Cable

            but MFD, you yourself are guilty of use of assumptions and received wisdom, do bears indeed poop in the woods? if they’re eating porridge from bowls, then their scatological behaviour cannot be taken for granted!

          • MFD

            Well played sir!

            Mea culpa. The thing is, I was brought up a Catholic and bears shitting in woods was one of those doctrinal/article of faith things that I have been unable to shake off.

            (am I too late to cite Goldilocks for the bowls?)

    • Ari

      I can bearly contain my laughter.

  • I still want to know what “sexual supplies” are.

  • The Real Matthew

    I certainly appreciate the effort that goes into the postings on this blog. The postings are generally researched and detailed which adds a lot of credibility to the blog.

    On the other hand I think the moderation leaves a lot to be desired. As someone who doesn’t always agree with what is posted I have been the subject of many attacks that violate rule #3 of the Terms & Conditions. Not once have I seen any moderator so anything about it. On the contrary the only people I see moderated are Ricardo and Lord Maths who as it happens also don’t always agree with what is posted. I think this blog should encourage those with alternate views. I see debate and discussion as a good thing but when the moderation is inconsistent and you have Patrick Reynolds constantly jumping down your throat it’s not hard to see why potential contributors are hesitant to contribute. Please note I’m not having a whinge at moderation of my posts, I think I’ve had 1 post maximum that’s been moderated and that was a fair time ago.

    I disagree with the notion that we should be so focussed on research. A lot of research is produced these days and a lot of it contradicts other research. It seems to me that research can show pretty much whatever you want it to show. Personally I consider observation to be just as good as most research.

    At the moment this blog is very much Public Transport = Good. Motor Vehicle = Bad. There is much more to a multi modal system than that.

    As for the direction of the blog I’d like to see posts on the following:
    – How poor traffic management creates artificial congestion.
    – Advantages of green light corridors.
    – Case Study on towns that have removed traffic obstacles and have eliminated congestion & how this could be applied to a bigger city.
    – How other cities have built airport links (you will find that heavy rail is not the best solution)
    – How compact cities artificially increase the price of land and shut out a generation of home owners

    • Sailor boy

      I love that in a post about citing sources and not whinging about the blog you have written this comment

    • Nick

      But Matthew I think a lot of people (like yourself may I suggest) get confused by the “Public Transport = Good. Motor Vehicle = Bad” thing. Like lots of people here I hold that view, and I’d also be happy to call myself anti-car. All that means is that I believe that it’s preferable for people to be able to get around by methods such as public transport, cycling and walking where possible, instead of using a car. It would seem fairly obvious why – cars cause congestion, pollution, accidents, and are bad for the environment, and are very expensive to own and run.

      But by being “anti-car” in this way I am not “anti-driver”, or “anti-person who has a need to drive on a given journey”. I own a car. I quite like my car. For some journeys I have to make it is the only practical means for me. Lots of people are in a similar position.

      I’d be interested to know if you agree with this view. If you’re not “anti-car” then presumably you must be “pro-car”, i.e. you want cars to be used as much as possible and for people to move off public transport etc to increase the number on the road. Fair enough. The only other option is you want exactly the same mix between car and PT etc use as we have today, on 11 November 2015. That seems very unlikely, unless for some reason you believe we’ve arrived at the perfect goldilocksian “just right” mix.

      • James

        Are you not guilty of a straw man argument here Nick?

        ” If you’re not “anti-car” then presumably you must be “pro-car”, i.e. you want cars to be used as much as possible and for people to move off public transport etc to increase the number on the road.”

        I am new to this blog and most of it I enjoy. I do however share Mathew’s opinion that this blog is far too anti car. Cars are not the problem, it is the people using them that are. Cars are the best origin to destination means of ground transport available. Cheap, fast and efficient. They are not the best means of moving large volumes of people A-B in peak periods.
        All cities need a mix of both, but I do feel that point is lost of forgotten by some members of this online community.

        • No I disagree – cars are the problem. They are large machines that take up a disproportionate amount of space when transporting just one person – which in Auckland most are.

          “Cars are the best origin to destination means of ground transport available. Cheap, fast and efficient.” – Again I disagree – bicycles are far cheaper (like $0), much more efficient (the only machine that is more efficient than walking) and if given the right infrastructure in an urban environment can be just as fast as cars over a short distance (1-5kms).

          Cars are much more useful in a rural or exurb environment where long distances on empty roads are the norm, which is why a lot of NZers think they are great. As soon as they get into an urban environment they quickly lose their advantages.

          “They are not the best means of moving large volumes of people A-B in peak periods.” – Absolutely agree.

          “All cities need a mix of both, but I do feel that point is lost of forgotten by some members of this online community.” – Then you can’t have read much on this blog. It repeatedly and succinctly calls for a mix of private motor vehicles, public transport and cycling. The blog has consistently praised projects like the Waterview connection – a project that is only fixing the mistake made 60 years ago to put SH1 over the bridge rather than the original planned route via Upper Harbour. The problem is in what proportions money on those modes should be spent.

          I suspect you think funding should reflect current use percentages. However, that is not aspirational and will not improve transport in the city. Funding needs to reflect where we want transport to be – I think a 50/50 split between PT/cycling and roading projects would be fair. I would like to see Auckland at 60% private motor vehicle/30% PT/10% cycling and that is entirely realistic.

        • Nick

          Actually James my view is completely different. I believe cars are the problem, not the people using them. People using them are, after all, just people. Like you and I. Going to work, shopping, travelling somewhere with their families etc.

          I don’t think there’s any value in demonising people for using cars. In general, people use cars in a specific situation because they are the most convenient option. The answer is to provide and promote practical alternatives like PT or cycling so that they might be able to make a different decision in future.

    • Frankly, Matthew, I found your personalised attacks on Len Brown (“sexual supplies”?!?) very poor and non-political and I don’t think you’re in any position to complain about other people being mean in this box.

      I also find the “observation is as good as most research” line quite creepily anti-science. That’s the attitude that tells you that the world is flat and global warming can’t be happening because there was a cold snap in Toronto.

    • Matthew, the forum is kept pretty free and open and there is no moderation. Nobody monitors the comments except to read and contribute themselves. If something off hand is noticed any of the contributors can delete it. But someone has to bother with it in the first place.

      One-off things tend not to be noticed or bothered with. However if the same people keep coming back doing the same violations or banging on the same drum again and again, then the likelyhood someone does something goes up. So if one person calls you a name one time then so be it, boo hoo, if they keep coming back with the same crap then they’ll eventually piss people off enough to complain and get something done about it. If Ricardo or Lord Maths get a hard time it’s because they are at it incessantly.

      Again this is all volunteer based, it’s not like there is a fulltime staff vetting everything all day. It’s not “fair” in that sense, but as an anonymous amateur forum you can’t expect it to be.

      On the ‘anti-car’ thing, well the people that write here and run the blog don’t agree on everything but there is a sort of consensus that cars are already very well provided for, usually at the detriment of other modes. There are plenty of people out there who campaign for more focus and expenditure on traffic, we prefer to focus on the bits that aren’t already ubiquitous.

      That doesn’t make us anti-car, it just makes us anti-only-car, or more specifically pro-other stuff. I’m personnally happy to focus on the other stuff.

      As for your list, not really the topics that interest the regulars but we always welcome guest posts if you want to do a little research and write one up.

      • Lord Maths

        Incessant is a strong term. I despise poorly argued policy positions that are solution capture, regardless of whether I agree with the result or not. I am a policy purist. I see too much terrible policy analysis on here (and by the government) and it annoys me. I think PT could be a useful ingredient but the fact is that more PT isn’t a good in itself anymore than more driving is a good in and of itself. What matters is the societal outcome, and too often on TB we don’t think result first, method second.

        • Stu Donovan

          You start your comment with the sentence “incessant is a strong term” (which it is), but then go on to state that the Blog has a lot of “terrible policy analysis”?!? This is an example of you not commenting particularly “sensitively”.

          A more appropriate comment would have been something along the lines of:

          “Incessant is a strong term. I despise poorly argued policy positions that are solution capture, regardless of whether I agree with the result or not. I am a policy purist. I see too much terrible policy analysis and it annoys me. For example, I think PT could be a useful ingredient but the fact is that more PT isn’t a good in itself anymore than more driving is a good in and of itself. What matters is the societal outcome, and too often we don’t think result first, method second.”

          See how that changes the tone of the comment? It’s equally passionate, but far more positive.

    • “Personally I consider observation to be just as good as most research.” – So you prefer anecdata over actual facts?

      Have you ever considered become the Minister of Transport? It sounds like you are almost over qualified.

    • KLK

      “At the moment this blog is very much Public Transport = Good. Motor Vehicle = Bad.”

      There is your problem in a nutshell. This site advocates a multi-modal transport system. The city has had 60yrs of a predominantly single-focused system so naturally, aspiring to the former is going to see an emphasis on the other modes.

      That is not anti-car. That is not “motor vehicle = bad”. If you take it that way, then that says more about your prejudices than anything else. Sensitive much?

      While you continue with this mentality, you are going to continue to get the responses you do and, quite frankly, deserve.

      For goodness sakes, almost everyone who contributes here has a car and enjoys using it and wants to continue to do so – something you are repeatedly told. So your “anti-car” rants are as boring as they are incorrect.

    • bjfoe

      Straw man, and reverse black and white (accusing transportblog of black and white). Three more and I’ll shout bingo

    • Mike

      A response to The Real Matthew, above:

      “As for the direction of the blog I’d like to see posts on the following:
      “– How poor traffic management creates artificial congestion.” – What’s “artificial congestion?

      “– Advantages of green light corridors.” And their disadvantages, too.

      “– Case Study on towns that have removed traffic obstacles and have eliminated congestion & how this could be applied to a bigger city.” Which towns are they?

      “– How other cities have built airport links (you will find that heavy rail is not the best solution)” Why don’t you give us the evidence for this finding of yours?

      “– How compact cities artificially increase the price of land and shut out a generation of home owners” And your evidence for this, too?

      Look forward to the guest blogs substantiating these assertions!

  • Steve C

    considering a recent post in “Len’s legacy”, should there be a report button/option as on some forums I follow?

  • Katherine

    I’d like to see a post about the removal of train txt alerts during peak hours, and how the AT website hasn’t been updated regarding this (nor was it announced very widely).

  • Chris O

    I generally enjoy the level of discussion in the comments on this blog. I think the site’s commitment to putting forward evidence-based arguments is reflected in the majority of comments. Though it may not seem that way to some readers, I don’t think the site’s writers are hostile to opposing viewpoints; they just want the arguments to be well-argued and well-supported, rather than simply based on opinion.

    In terms of ideas for future articles: how about an interview with Josh Arbury, Transportblog’s original founder, who left to take up a transportation policy job with Auckland Council? I think it would be interesting to know what his job entails, and what some of the things he’s working / has worked on.

  • Steve Withers

    Have I missed something? Or is this post about something I said? 🙂

    (formerly Steve W (with a space))

    • Stu Donovan

      This post has actually been brewing for a while. Ever since Patrick called me an comatose intellectual sloth I’ve been wanting to passive-aggressively put him in his place. Take that Patrick.

      And write a post which included a reference to Frozen!

  • Lord Maths

    Sorry, but no way I am avoiding a pseudonym.
    I have a decent public persona – but I am a public servant. When I go to work, I subsume my personal self.
    Transportblog actually gets my personal views. Work gets my shaved, modified, professional persona.
    TB gets the better half of me, honestly.

    • stu donovan

      Then all we ask is that you comment sensitively and sparingly. We will place a higher bar on anonymous comments.

      • Lord Maths

        Well, Stu, it you want me to behave “sparingly” you lose a commenter who according to google scholar has more peer reviewed publications on public policy than the entire editorial lineup at TB combined. Your call.

        • Careful, that sounds like the logical fallacy “argument from authority”… I’ve got lots of peer-reviewed publications too, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert on every topic that graces Transportblog (let alone most of them). I also appreciate the quite detailed and insightful analysis that the TB editors undertake in many of their posts, even though much of it will never see the light of day in a journal or conference paper.

          • Stu Donovan

            And because you use your real name we are able to verify your authority. Moreover, on behalf of the Team here at TransportBlog I’m pleased to award you the title of “Right Honourable Authoritative Commentator on Cycling Research”.

          • Thanks! (I think…) I feel duty-bound to point out that my Masters and PhD research were actually on traffic crash clustering analysis and rural highway design/safety models; nothing to do with cycling…

          • Stu Donovan

            Oh that’s fine – we will just have to bestow you with more honours!

        • Stu Donovan

          People who wish to comment anonymously are asked to do so sensitively and sparingly. That expectation is independent of how many google scholar citations one has, or whether one is a Lord. Personally, I think that it’s reasonable to consider “civil behaviour” and “google scholar citations” as independent metrics?

          The more careful/sensitive you are with your comments, the more lenient we are with how much you can comment.

          I’ll leave it up to you to find a balance, and we’ll let you know if we think it’s out of whack.

    • mfwic

      Yes I am with Lord Maths on this one. I have to use a pseudonym so people don’t find out I am an arsehole.

    • Peter Nunns

      Many of the other people writing or commenting on the blog have to manage conflicts between their professional and personal views. I’m lucky to have an employer with a liberal approach to social media and blogging, but even so, I have to be careful to:
      * Not write about things that I’m working directly on – there are a lot of really interesting posts that I’m simply never going to write
      * Not inadvertently release information that’s not already in the public domain – which means having to spend a fair amount of time finding and linking to sources for any numbers or plans that I refer to.

      However, blogging under my real name also means setting a higher standard for my arguments – because I might have to defend them in a different context. (Or explain why I’ve changed my mind.) This is good for blogging. It keeps me honest.

      To be blunt, I think that your use of a pseudonym makes it easier for you to make wild assertions or argue strenuously for difficult-to-defend positions. You’ve implied that you wouldn’t be willing to say the same things if your name was attached to them. I strongly encourage you to take a different approach – apply the same standards of proof and discourse as in you would in a paper you were submitting for peer review.

  • regan

    Given the environmental costs of transport movement and infrastructure how about a post on whether a resource consent should be required for driving a car?

    • Tony

      Given the environmental costs of gravel roads how about a post on whether a resource consent should be required for their continued use?

      • SDW

        In one way they already do – stormwater discharges have a maximum consent time frame of 35 years – hence roading authorities are required to get a new consent every 35 years to operate the road. Hence, when stormwater standards are improved based on current knowledge, the operation and maintenance of gravel roads must be brought into line (i.e. increased treatment of contaminants through filters, planting, use of different materials to maintain them)

        • Tony

          Ah thanks, I was hoping to find out more about that.

          I wonder what conditions might be in the consent and whether they’re being met and when the next consent period starts. I shall have to inquire.

          I also wonder if they have an air discharge consent.

  • NickM

    A thought for future posts:

    Radio NZ does an interesting media watch segment each week (entitled “Media Watch”) where they look at how certain things have been portrayed in the media, especially where things have been misrepresented. A regular posting along the same lines here, with a focus on transport and urban policy articles and segments, would be cool.

  • Ossu

    Thank you for all the great work you guys do. I found this blog 6 months ago and now i’m addicted.

    I would be interested in a blog about clear zone times along arterial roads which affect bus routes and what we can do to lobby AT to improve these corridors and extend bus lanes. I get the 274/277 buses to/from work and get very annoyed by parked cars around MT Eden village. The evening clearway time is 4.30 to 5.30 which is ridiculously short. I tweet AT about it a lot but wondering if you have more information about this and how we can influence AT. Note – I wrote to AT about this in my submission on the New Network for Central and East.

    • Peter Nunns

      That’s an excellent idea for a post. We’d welcome a guest post on the topic if you’d like to take a stab at it!

      I, too, am annoyed by the Mount Eden clearway time limits. It’s especially bad considering that the airport bus runs on this road – I’ve had a few nervous trips to the airport for early evening flights as a result.

      • Stu Donovan

        yes, I think that 1-hour bus lane on Mt Eden Rd would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.

        Such a ridiculous time span, which leaves 1,000 bus passenger per hour stuck in traffic simply so 5-10 drivers can avoid a slightly longer walk to the store.

      • Ossu

        Thanks, I’ll have a think about it and let you know if I think i have come up with a decent guest post. You guys set the bar very high.

  • Reader

    Just a word of thanks from someone who doesn’t generally comment (point #2). Fascinating analysis, interesting topics, always something good to read. Keep it up. 🙂

  • Thanks to the team for all your work over the years – TransportBlog is one of a handful of “must read daily” sites for me.

    I hope I can get away with keeping the (limited) anonymity that my current pseudonym involves – it’s more to make it clear that I am not commenting in any professional or work capacity, than to seriously prevent anyone finding out who I am. I comment fairly widely in NZ under this name and occasionally via my IRL name as well. I’m aware also that using a pseudonym puts more of a premium on the “sensitivity” side of things, ie, resisting the temptation to be a jerk because I’m not posting under my full name – which is actually a useful spur not to be a jerk full stop, and apologies to anyone who I’ve been a prat towards on here.

    • Peter Nunns

      Nah, you’ve been great. No worries at all. I get the sense that a lot of commenters are trying to keep public and internet personas a little bit distinct. I’m lucky that my employer is pretty liberal about blogging, but it was not always thus.

  • Yeah I think Stu is being aspirational about real names; anyway the psdenomns people pick usually betray them pretty eloquently. For example my actual name is the Real Lord Mfwic….

  • Ari

    Thank-you to all you people running this blog. It is a really worthwhile contribution and does make a difference. Keep up the great work. I don’t agree with half the stuff that gets posted, but at least it is mostly evidence based and the other half of the stuff I do agree with. The blog has definitely changed my mind on some matters because of the robust discussion that goes on.

    To be honest, half the time I read the comments to find out what “the usual suspects” are going to say. It brings amusement to my day to see the feeding of the trolls.

    I don’t use my full name because I happen to work for a large transport agency in Auckland and I have very different views with them on various matters. If they found out I was posting here, I would get some stern warnings from HR for various reasons. My family name is also one-of-a-kind and I’d rather it not show up on more google searches than it does already.

    • Stu Donovan

      Thanks Ari, and it’s a pleasure to have people like you stick with us for so long. I remember some of the early debates, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone’s views benefited from that engagement!

      And just between you and me, I don’t agree with just ~25% of what I write — once I read it 6 months later :).

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