Why public transport?

datePosted on 06:00, January 28th, 2009 by Anita

In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing many signs of improvements of public transport infrastructure: in Wellington the new trolley wires on my way into town, on the train to Palmerston North all the maintenance work being done along the track, apparently the Auckland train infrastructure has been having a spruce up, and of course the Johnsonville Tunnels. Even some of the most backward regions of no public transport and thinking about it. I reckon it’s wonderful to see, and (for a change :) it makes me miss that last government, and particularly the Greens influence.

Late last year the Greater Wellington Regional Council kicked off a consultation exercise about the basis on which fares are set. On bus trips while looking at the posters advertising the consultation meetings I wondered about why we actually have public transport, and why it’s so important. For me the point has always been twofold; firstly it gets me places, secondly it is so much more environmentally friendly than private cars. For others it’s keeping congestion down, or being able to go out for a drink after work.

Winston Peters, however, has reminded me of the most important role of public transport. Since the arrival of the Super Gold card off peak buses are full of the over 65s; visiting friends, going to the Bot Gardens, picking up a grand daughter from school, going shopping, visiting a neighbour currently in hospital, chatting to strangers on buses. A couple have said they’re getting out more, seeing their friends and family more. One told me she’s eating much better now that she goes to the greengrocer at the Mall a couple of times a week rather than buying frozen veg from the dairy.

The point of public transport is inclusion – anyone can catch a bus, anyone can visit the doctor, anyone can see their friends and family.

11 Responses to “Why public transport?”

  1. Rich on January 28th, 2009 at 09:18

    Yeah, but if public transport’s only for those who are too young/old/poor to own a car, then it will always be a rundown, poor quality service.

    We should be aiming at having the majority of urban travellers using public transport (or walking) as happens overseas (and much more in Wellington than other parts of NZ).

  2. Uroskin on January 28th, 2009 at 12:04

    Try coping with a monopoly “public” transport provider: http://fullerswatch.blogspot.com
    Blog contributions welcome.

  3. insider on January 28th, 2009 at 13:07

    In what way is an empty bus or train travelling a predetermined route more environmentally friendly than a car taking a similar number of passengers door to door?

    Trains and buses can be more enviromnetally friendly but not always. Sit at a the railway station and watch the trains to the Wairarapa or Upper Hutt in the mornigns and assess teh energy use per passenger. I suspect the answer will not be what you expect.

  4. BeShakey on January 28th, 2009 at 15:07

    In what way is an empty bus or train travelling a predetermined route more environmentally friendly than a car taking a similar number of passengers door to door?

    Its silly to make that comparison. The issue needs to be looked at at the network level. There are also advantages to having a complete and coherent network, which will sometimes require some services operate in an inefficient manner, but which improves the efficiency of the entire network.

  5. Rich on January 28th, 2009 at 15:51

    Achieving good public transport goes beyond providing buses and trains. It also involves changing where we live and work so that people can make their journeys other than by car.

    Which means not developing in edge of city areas like Albany, Flatbush and the Kapiti Coast. Sadly, the Nats RMA policy is going the opposite way, as is the attitude of most councils.

  6. Anita on January 28th, 2009 at 17:01

    insider writes,

    Sit at a the railway station and watch the trains to the Wairarapa or Upper Hutt in the mornigns and assess teh energy use per passenger. I suspect the answer will not be what you expect.

    A train doing a full run and returning empty to pick up the next load will be more energy effective than the commuter taking private cars. Empty return trips are figured into energy efficiency calculations.

  7. Anita on January 28th, 2009 at 17:04

    Rich writes,

    Which means not developing in edge of city areas like Albany, Flatbush and the Kapiti Coast.

    Or identifying areas for development and connecting them to the public transport network.

    Sadly, the Nats RMA policy is going the opposite way, as is the attitude of most councils.

    Everything I hear about National’s plans for the RMA is awful. But I have no idea how we could resist the changes, they’ve done such a good job of demonising the RMA for a long time :(

  8. imperial zeppelin on January 29th, 2009 at 08:44

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but ‘public’ transport was never developed for the benefit of the public. What is referred to as public transport was a by product of a transport system put in place for the benefit of business.

    Rail links were laid to facilitate the movement of goods, not the public.

    Trams and the like were likewise, not so some altruistic venture, but for the purpose of ensuring that industry’s workforce got to the factory and mill on time.

    With the invention of the car, industry saw an opportunity to maximise profit through dismantling the mass transport systems and encouraging individual modes of transport.

    Take away industrialisation and there would have been no publicly funded mass transport system…or car manufacturers.

    Take away the car and there would have been no ‘out of town’ supermarkets, mega stores etc.

    Rather than being able to access remote retail outlets selling chemical pap and plastic junk as well as necessities, I’d far rather have my butcher, baker and candle stick maker back, and all just right down the road thankyou.

  9. Lew on January 29th, 2009 at 09:51

    IZ: How would they get their goods to sell to you, without transport infrastructure? And where would you work?

    Documentary history suggests the early 19th Century wasn’t all tea and cakes. You have the time and education and opportunity to wish you could go back to it by dint of the industrial revolution whose advances you deride.

    L

  10. imperial zeppelin on January 29th, 2009 at 10:00

    Thinking further on this, agitating for development of public transport assumes that the current distribution of population and current job/ career habits will persist.

    In fact it encourages the perpetuation of our society in it’s basic current demographic form. Is this realistic or even desirable?

    Surely the desirable goal would be to be free of any need to transport ourselves relatively large distances for little or avoidable reasons. (Why travel 10km or whatever for a loaf of bread and a pint of milk if we can arrange things differently? Why travel large distances to a job if we can be productively and more meaningfully engaged within our own community?)

    And I’m thinking, when and why did the whole idea of a holiday come about? Was it another side effect of the mass transport systems and were they sought merely because we needed a break from our daily grind? If so, what does that say about the level of fulfilment present our daily existence? Why would we seek escape from worthwhile and rewarding ways of life and why do we allow our present situations to persist and be passed on from generation to generation?

    And now I must, ironically, go catch a bus to town. Ta-ra.

  11. imperial zeppelin on January 29th, 2009 at 18:22

    lew,
    don’t confound technological advances and the organisational structures underpinning the industrial revolution.

    Nothing wrong with transport infrastructure. It’s a question of better and worse infrastructures.

    And I’m under no illusions about the early 19th C. I have no wish to go there. Why throw away the advances we have made?

    Technology and systems of organisation although not necessarily mutually exclusive, are separate issues.

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