Monday, March 29, 2010
Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail must roll
The Green Party is urging the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to support the passenger train service between Waikato and Auckland.
“This is a common sense project with massive public support,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Gareth Hughes.
Mr Hughes is in Hamilton for the presentation of Campaign for Better Transport’s 11,000 signature petition in support of the service.
“Every day hundreds of people drive between Auckland and Hamilton. A fast, efficient commuter service could allow them to do the trip faster, in more comfort, and also allow them to work if a wireless internet link was established on board the train,” said Mr Hughes.
A commuter rail service connecting Hamilton with Auckland would reduce congestion on SH1 at peak times. This benefits both the environment and is good for the Auckland region’s economy. ARTA estimates the cost of reduced congestion per person per year is $24,000.
“There is massive public support as indicated by the more than 11,000 people who signed the petition including Hamilton City Council, The Auckland Regional Council and local businesses who support the project and could allow their employees to work on the train, rather than losing profitable work time on the road,” Mr Hughes said.
“This Government is pouring massive amounts of public funds into uneconomic motorways like the Puhoi to Wellsford Holiday Highway or Transmission Gully yet fails to balance this investment with other transport opportunities in rail.”
For ever dollar invested in buses, trains, walking, and cycling, the Government spends seven dollars on roads. Such a one-sided investment strategy is leaving viable rail alternatives to roads out of NZTA’s funding decisions.
“The NZTA needs to stump up with the small amount of funds needed to get this important and popular project off the ground,” said Mr Hughes.
“The rail line is there, the carriages are sitting there, the people want it — what are we waiting for!”
For more information:
Gareth Hughes MP, 027 422 9290
Robert Ashe, Political & Media Advisor, 04 817 6714
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
'Walking Culture' (Canada) looks at Dave Olsen's list of the benefits of free public transport.
From: walkingculture.wordpress.com (23 March 2010)
In an era of constantly increasing transit fares justified by the argument that riders must share the cost of public transportation, Dave Olsen makes the case that public transit should be fully paid through taxes. In an article that discusses how much the private car is subsidized, how ridership drops with every increase in fares, the impact of private vehicles on greenhouse gasses and the cost of fare administration, Olsen provides a list of benefits of free public transit.
“Fare-free transit brings many benefits, some of which include:
- a barrier-free transportation option to every member of the community (no more worries about exact change, expiring transfers, or embarrassment about how to pay)
- eliminating a “toll” from a mode of transportation that we as a society want to be used (transit is often the only way of getting around that charges a toll)
- reducing the inequity between the subsidies given to private motorized vehicle users and public transport users
- reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for private motorized vehicle parking
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollutants, noise pollution (especially with electric trolleys), and run-off of toxic chemicals into fresh water supplies and ocean environments
- reducing overall consumption of oil and gasoline
- eliminating the perceived need to spend billions on roads and highways (now up to $7 billion for the proposed Gateway Project in Vancouver)
- eliminating the perceived need to spend billions on bigger car-carrying ferries ($2.5 billion for BC Ferries’ new super-sized boats and ramps)
- contributing significantly to the local economy by keeping our money in our communities
- reducing litter (in Vancouver, the newer transfers/receipts have overtaken fast food packaging for most common garbage found on our streets)
- saving trees by eliminating the need to print transfers and tickets
- allowing all bus doors to be used to load passengers, making service faster and more efficient
- allowing operators (drivers) to focus on driving safely
- giving operators more time to answer questions
- providing operators a safer work environment since fare disputes are eliminated
- eliminating fare evasion and the criminalization of transit-using citizens
- fostering more public pride in shared, community resources”
This article is definitely worth a read and bringing to the attention of our politicians and transit authorities. There are certainly some good points raised and the comments provided by readers are equally as illuminating.
For the entire article see http://thetyee.ca/Views/2007/07/05/NoFares1/
Monday, March 22, 2010
Taking us for a ride
Letter to the editor of "The Aucklander" newspaper, in response to the paper's feature article on the city's inefficient public transport system.
22nd March 2010
Spot on! The major problems are ARTA and traffic.
Perhaps your reporter could mull over the following points:
1. Public transport should be free. There are a number of models for this in Europe.
2. Public transport should be owned and controlled by the town or city council. Again models in Europe support this.
3. Putting public transport in the hands of private enterprise does not work. The profit motive overrides all others. Again, Europe has models that support this.
4. Increasing use of public transport will not come about by widening roads, increasing car parks, or by making life easier for the motorist. If anything the reverse should be applied - make parking difficult, make the main routes bus friendly and car unfriendly, ban cars from the CBD.
In the case of Auckland, there are questions that could be raised about the role of ARTA in the departure of Stagecoach and the advent of Ritchies. These events arguably worsened an already detoriating transport system.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Why have a fare in the first place? It is odd that we pay per use on transit. We don’t pay to check books out of a library. We don’t pay to visit most city parks. We don’t pay when the police or fire department come to our house for a legitimate emergency. Most non-utility municipal services are provided for free to users and funded by taxes. So why is transit different? I suspect it is rooted in the origins of public transit systems when they were private, for-profit companies. But they aren’t that today so why adopt those legacy practices?
It seems to me that there are two basic reasons you would charge for a government service. One is to recover the costs associated with it from users. Two is to ration usage.
For the first, think of something like getting a building permit. The city can charge a fee for this that more or less covers the cost of administering the permitting and inspection process. And only the people who are building something need to pay. Sounds like a fair system, as it were. Toll roads also fall into this camp. Of course, the question immediately proceeds to, if you can recover the full cost from users, why is the government providing the service in the first place instead of the market? A good question that should be seriously considered.
As for the second, one can again think of toll roads and using variable pricing as a way to reduce traffic congestion. There are several practical examples of this in actual operation around the world.
Does transit fit this model? No, especially in smaller cities. It is true that only a segment of the community rides transit and so it might seem logical to make them pay for it. But by itself this seems insufficient to justify it. There are lots of services that are not consumed by everyone, but nevertheless are paid for by everyone. As someone who doesn’t have kids but has a rather large property tax bill, schools immediately come to mind. This argument has seldom held water by itself.
Can we recover the cost of transit from riders? Not even close. Large city systems like the Chicago CTA can recover a significant percentage from fares, but nothing close to the cost of operations. The CTA’s farebox recovery is about 50%. And that’s just for the operating budget. It does not include, due to the vagaries of government accounting (not the CTA’s fault), depreciation, which is a huge expense in a capital intensive business like transit.
The Indianapolis IndyGo system recovers less than 20% of its operating costs from fares. IndyGo charges $2 per ride to collect $10 million a year in user fees (i.e., taxes), largely from the poorest segment of the community. But this is only a fraction of the $55 million operating budget. There are already $45 million in taxes going into IndyGo, just for operations. Despite the illusion of fares, the Indianapolis bus system is almost entirely tax supported today.
Again, if you look at a large city like Chicago you can find overcrowded routes where pricing can help regulate congestion. But in smaller cities, this is usually the least of concerns. The real problem is trying to figure out how to convince discretionary riders to use the system.
Add it up, and just generally transit in smaller cities seems like a bad fit for fares based solely on the inability to recover a meaningful percentage of the cost and the lack of any over-crowding problems.
On the other side, there are big benefits to going fareless.
1. Reduced capital expenses. No fares == no fare collection equipment. You don’t need to kit out buses with fareboxes, rail stations with turnstiles or ticketing equipment, etc.
2. Reduced operating expenses. Collecting fares means you need an entire cash management apparatus. Handling money requires care, proper processes, accounting, security, etc. Get rid of all that and you are saving money. Plus, you don’t have to worry about enforcement. Even on POP systems you’ve got the labor of people auditing tickets. Why bother? And you don’t need to pay repair technicians to service this equipment because it will never break down because it doesn’t exist. That also means no spare parts, which can mean less storage requirements, etc. And with less personnel you probably need a smaller office. The list of savings goes on and on.
3. Improved operations. How long does it take for everybody to board at a bus stop as one person after another swipes a pass or fumbles for change? No fare collection means boarding is quicker. You can even board through every door, not just the front. This means less time spent idling, lower fuel consumption, and faster journey times (a big point in getting people into transit).
4. Better ROI. You are building a transit system so that people will ride it. Fares discourage ridership, especially off peak, non-commute trips. That ain’t good. A transit system is a more or less fixed cost network like an airline. Every seat that goes empty goes to waste. We’re paying to run the buses or trains whether or not anyone is on them. The marginal cost of an additional passenger, up until the point where capacity is maxed, is very low. So why not make sure those seats don’t expire worthless?
5. Marketing. It’s a lot easier to sell something that costs nothing. And any city that did this would get major kudos.
The federal rules around transit are beyond byzantine, so I don’t know if this would be legal or not. If not, we need to change the law.
But regardless, here’s my thought process. With so little federal New Start funds available, most cities that want to build say a new rail line or BRT system or significantly beefed up city bus network are going to be paying for most of the capex out of their own pocket anyway. This often means a referrendum to approve a tax. If you’re asking for hundreds of millions if not billions in tax dollars to build something, why not also ask for the taxes to run it?
Frankly, it’s unfair to ask someone to vote for a tax to build something if the money to operate isn’t going to be in the bank. That’s why our transit systems seem to be in a state of perpetual funding crisis. If you are going to build something, you need to build the opex and long term maintenance into the deal up front. It strikes me that asking for a whole lot of money plus a bit more for operations isn’t that must different from just plain asking for a whole lot of money. And you are doing your citizens a service long term by avoiding the downstream crises. And if you have to pay for the whole thing yourself anyway, you can probably avoid many of the rules that might get in your way.
For America’s smaller cities looking to implement significantly improved transit systems, fareless is definitely the way go.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Italy marks Slow Day with relaxing events
Rome -- Italians marked World Slow Day with free public transportation, poetry contests, free yoga and Tai Chi lessons, and mock fines for pedestrians walking too fast.
Bruno Contigiani, 62, president of the Art of Living Slowly Association and founder of World Slow Day in 2007, said Monday's international event was aimed at living at a natural speed and promoting the "14 Commandments" of the association, including waking up five minutes early to savor breakfast and striking up conversations with other motorists during traffic jams, ANSA reported Tuesday.
The city of Caltanissetta offered free public transportation Monday and commuters were given free copies of the "14 Commandments."
Meanwhile, "Slow Wardens" in the cities of Milan and Genoa were on hand to distribute mock citations to pedestrians seen walking too fast or taking too direct a route to their destinations.
A competition was held in Benevento to find the haiku poem best describing the ideals of the day and free Tai Chi and yoga lessons were offered in public parks across the country.
"Let's take this one day to stop and think about all the things we miss out on while we're rushing through our lives," Contigiani said.
Copyright 2010 United Press International
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Public transport for SuperGold Card holders to stay free
A SuperGold Card is held by 540,000 pensioners
throughout New Zealand
By Duncan Garner (TV3 News 16 March 2010)
Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Stephen Joyce have confirmed buses, trains and ferries for SuperGold Card holders will remain free.
Last week Mr Joyce suggested changes could see some of those services threatened, but he has now backed away from that, saying his real message “got lost in translation”.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Check out this YouTube clip from Radio 2WAYFM, NSW, Australia:
YouTube - Transport Revolution! Bullet Trains and Free Public ...
Public transport should be free to, from and within all regional towns in Australia. But let's start with getting some high-speed bullet trains in place.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
"...Free off-peak transport is win/win. It's good for older people; it's good for public transport as it uses spare off-peak capacity, and it's good for the environment as it replaces car journeys.
"People aged over 65 are using free public transport to do their shopping, help family members, get to health appointments and generally keep engaged with their communities...." Age Concern in Voxy
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Free Public Transport
Adam Butler, free public transport advocate, Australia. From his "Be the change you want to be" blogsite.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Yet another excellent reason for free transport:
A larger mass transit system to evacuate massive crowds of people during a civil emergency.
Hawai'i has free island-wide bus services on all scheduled routes.
As you can see in this report - the free buses were mobilized to quickly clear people to higher ground as the Chile tsunami approached.
Compare this to the total chaos as thousands tried to flee Katrina in their cars & clogged the New Orleans 'freeways'.
Hawaii begins evacuation as tsunami nears
- From correspondents in Honolulu
- From: AFP
- February 28, 2010 3:38AM
- RESIDENTS in coastal areas of Hawaii were being told to evacuate as the Pacific island chain braced for a tsunami following the huge 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, officials said.
Tsunami sirens were due to sound at 6am local time Saturday (3am Sunday AEDT) to alert residents of the possibility of destructive waves, forecast to reach the islands by 11.19am Saturday local time (7.19am Sunday AEDT) , according to emergency management officials.
"If you live anywhere in the evacuation zone, you have to evacuate," John Cummings, Oahu Emergency Management Department spokesman, told local media.
"We're going to treat this as a destructive-type tsunami."
It is the first time Hawaii has experienced voluntary tsunami evacuation since 1994. Emergency services have fleets of public buses to provide free transport for anyone needing to leave evacuation zones.