Len's train set

Len Brown went around the campaign denying to all who would listen that he was promising to spend more than $4 billion. I sat in quite a few debates between him and John Banks and everytime John Banks said that Len Brown was promising to spend more than $4 billion he would vigorously deny it.

Yet now in the past few days we have heard nothing else but his $4 billion pipe dreams. It’s actually closer to $5 billion, but who is counting when he denied it all campaign.

He has campaigned on three rail project plans – a central city tunnel, a city-airport link and a city-Albany link – which will cost up to $4.75 billion.

Now the greedy fat cats of the South Island are upset about his plans. I can understand their upset, they would really rather have the billions spent on them. But it is a little bit off after the government dumped $1.7 billion on South Canterbury and another $4 billion on Christchurch and bailed out the greedy farmers in Southland who lost stock from a wee storm to the tune of another $1 billion.

I wonder just how much government assistance there would be for businesses in Aucklnd that lost stock in a storm? I bet it would be zero.

Credit though to the greedy South Island mayors who have seen that the new Auckland City will become a political powerhouse. Tough titty to them though. The simple fact about Auckland is that more than a third of the population live in the new city and more than half of the population lives north of Taupo.

However Len Brown does need to be held to account for his insane rail policies. It is perhaps relevant then to look at some details concerning car vs. public transport.

I found a great article in the Winnipeg Free Press about just this.

Before the Industrial Revolution, food was scarce and gruelling work was done outside. European paintings of the period glamourize women who were very white and more than a little plump. Today, most workplaces are out of the sun, and food is plentiful, so people will pay a lot of money to be tanned and thin like the achingly thin models on catwalks. Following the pattern, as cars have become abundant, fashion has set its sights on the car-free lifestyle.

It’s good to be in a society where such experiments in living are available to those who want them; this writer has no car and rarely needs to venture out of Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood. But public policy, by its very nature, binds everybody. It’s therefore important that romantic visions are tempered by respect for personal choice and cognizant of what new technology will make possible.

Yes, indeed, public policy binds us all, and even the NZ Herald editorial today implores Len Brown to “sell rail to everyone“. Well this blogger ain’t buying rail. It is a 19th century invention that hasn’t much improved, and it is expensive in the building and more expensive in the running.

It’s time to recognize that cars are a wonderful thing, and there is good reason to expect technology that already exists will soon mitigate the objections some have to them.

Cars have made people more mobile than at any time in our history. As author Randal O’Toole has calculated, the average American travels 29,000 kilometres per year, at an average travel speed of 56 kilometres per hour. Twenty-three thousand of those kilometres are by car. For comparison, Americans in 1900 averaged 3,600 kilometres per year at an average speed of 13 kilometres per hour. They were dependent on street cars, steam trains, and their feet.

This mobility increases the options people have for work, culture, and commerce. The American Transportation Research Board has found that welfare recipients with a car in Los Angeles County have access to 59 times more jobs (yes, 59 times as many) as those reliant on walking and transit.

Those are very impressive statistics and are a testament to the freedom a car gives you, rather than the tyranny of public transport.

Minority sports would be impractical without the car. You can play ice hockey in tropical Auckland, New Zealand, and rugby in CFL-mad Saskatchewan. Such diversity is possible only because minority sports’ thinly spread devotees are able to move quickly to a central point for games and practices.

Similarly, large-scale stores such as Walmart and Superstore, which have driven down prices for consumer goods, are possible only because large numbers of people can travel to them easily and take home enough goods to justify an involved shopping trip in a large store.

This is the crux of any issue regarding public transport. Everyone thinks it is a good idea for everyone else to take public transport. But diversity necessitates private transport rather than the constraints of rail.

What’s more, there are good reasons to believe that technology will make cars dramatically better for the environment and less draining on infrastructure.

Driverless cars are already here. Try searching YouTube for “BMW GPS Control.” You’ll see Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson sitting mortified with his hands off the wheel and his feet off the pedals as the car laps a racing circuit at full speed complete with smoking tires.

What that means for transport is that road use will become a lot more efficient. With all the foibles of imprecise judgment and distracted behaviour, humans driving cars at 100 kilometres per hour can manage a traffic flow of 2,200 vehicles per lane per hour. With the precision of computer controlled cars, that figure can rise to 8,000 and you can see how we might not need to widen roads as much as we thought.

Could we really trust robots as chauffeurs? Autopilots have landed passenger jets for decades, and the alternative is human drivers who may be tired, drunk, texting, distracted or all of the above.

Well if we trust airlines to land us remotely why not explore technology as a means of unclogging our roads. When I say technology I mean 21st centruy technology not 19th century technology.

On the environment, General Motors have claimed that their Chevrolet Volt, an innovative electric car scheduled for launch next month, will get an equivalent of 230 miles to the gallon for city driving. That’s almost 10 times better than current vehicles. Such an innovation will likely make a mockery of efforts to wrestle people out of their cars. Why bother when technology has just solved 90 per cent of the problem anyway?

We hear public transport advocates calling for integrated ticketing, when it would be far better to have an integrated transport system. That for me means ripping up the tracks, and making them bus/truckways, giving buses the ability to provide end to end delivery of passengers without the need to transfers. They simply pick up their passengers in suburbia then drive to an interchange with the busway and then travel unimpeded to their detination. Add trucks onto the heavy transport corridor and all of a sudden the motorways would move freely.

We don’t need trains, they cost too much, and Len Brown doesn’t have the $4 billion anyway, so let’s get sensible with public transport.

Like the pasty fat women in the paintings, alternative lifestyles will always be idealized by the trendy set. That’s fine, but the private car is not just some gross obsession of the masses. It’s probably created more freedom and opportunity than any other invention we have, and it’s going to get better. Let’s hope that public policy makers can rouse enough of their own enthusiasm to respect that.

And that is the problem. Len Brown and his hangers on are socialists and freedom is not something they want for people, they prefer control.


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  • joes

    I agree that we can’t afford everything that Len has promised. But I’ve asked you previously why you continue to denounce public transport when the figures speak for themselves:

    “Even without the attraction of double-tracking and fast electric trains, rail patronage in Auckland has soared since the construction of the Britomart transport terminal in 2003 – from 2.5 million to 8.5 million passengers a year.”

    In 2002 you were probably saying that britomart would be a waste of money. You probably also think that double tracking and electrification are a waste of money – it would be interesting to see these figures again in a couple of years. And all for the cost of a fraction of say the Waterview connection or Hobsonville .

    Don’t get me wrong,. I think road projects are fantastic – I drive all over the place when I can’t get on a train. But what is wrong with choosing the best of each when the proof is in the numbers?

  • joes

    Hobsonville & Greenhithe are actually comparable to Britomart,, I didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.

  • tristanb

    Mildly off-topic, but apparently many lawnmowing businesses went under due to the bad weather we’ve been having. Hardworking NZers – but no handout for them.

    In terms of transport, it’s the government’s fault for making a “supercity” – wtf did they think would happen?
    If they’re so interested in playing with Auckland local body politics, then the government can pay the price.

  • adolffiinkensein

    Sorry Whale but you really are talking crap here.

    The gummint has NOT dumped $4.0 bil on Christchurch. It has NOT dumped $1.7 bil on SCF investors and it certainly has NOT dumped $1.0 bil on SI farmers.

  • spiker

  • johnqpublic

    Last time I looked, buses, which few people own themselves to drive to work in, thereby making the ones you see around the place aptly fit the descriptor “public transport” I believe, do not fly through the air but in fact, drive along the ground via things called ROADS. Public transport? Build more roads.

  • gibson1014

    Wouldn’t rail north of the bridge be canabalising passengers off the northern busway ?

  • mikeman

    @Gibson1014. IIRC it is actually worse than that, the proposed rail line runs over the busway corridor so the busway will be replaced with the rail line.

    So no more busway at all.

    • gazman

      The Northern Busway was designed to be converted into light rail if and when at some point in the future.

      However it won’t be lost on readers and Whale is definitely aware of this that there are no other rail lines on the Shore anywhere and the busway is designed as the spine for all the other contributing bus services from other parts of the Shore.

      Convert the busway spine to light rail and then automatically you have people having to transfer from one mode of PT to another.

      The main thing the North Shore needs is not a train set to the airport but a replacement / alternative harbour crossing so that we’re not in chaos when something untoward happens with the present bridge crossing – the clipons have a life span of less than 15 years left.

      And that project must be funded by the Government as it is part of the State Highway network.

  • John Gibson

    mikeman – that makes no sense at all.

  • mikeman

    I agree 100% but that is at least one of the proposals.

  • joes

    It was designed so that it could be easily converted to light rail in 20? 30? years, after a new harbour crossing, if (when?) the number of users on the busway justifies the upgrade.

    Not sure about heavy rail though…, it doesn’t appear likely without some more significant enabling works.

  • peterwn

    If Auckland wants trains, the assets/income of the Auckland Electricity Consumers Trust can pay for them. It is that simple.

  • John Gibson

    It is a little misleading to call rail transport 19th century technology: much of the technology we use every day was invented in the 19th century and like rail transport has been evolved over the last century and a half.

    Just as there is a there is a knee jerk promotion of some things by the left e.g. rail transport & there is a knee jerk rejection of those same things by the right. The best course might be somewhere in between or on one or other extreme. Building the CBD loop might make a lot of sense while the airport line might be a Green fantasy.

  • mikeman

    I agree the city loop is a good idea.

    I even support a longer term push for a rail line to the airport.

    But the shore link makes little sense because a loop is not really an option so a car/bus feeder system would be required. Having to potentially do car/walk -> bus -> train -> bus -> walk to get somewhere is a major turnoff to public transport.

    Call me crazy but unless all of those public links are running at 3-4 minute intervals at peak time it is a HUGE waste of time.

  • johnqpublic

    A couple of times I’ve overheard sturdy British people in their own habitat, complain about having to wait 6 minutes for another tube. If only that was an average wait in Auckland. Have had cause to catch the 045 after 5:00pm a few times. I never know whether the one I end up on is the 20 minutes late 5:05 or the peculiarly early 5:40. Some just don’t turn up at all.

    Reliability is surely the single most important factor with PT. And that’s what costs the big bucks.

  • adolffiinkensein

    Len Brown needs to be very very careful. Look what happened to Mussolini when HIStrains all turned to shit!.

  • Jack


    Well mate, I used to think you were reaonable intellegent until I read this that you said,

    “Now the greedy fat cats of the South Island are upset about his plans. I can under­stand their upset, they would really rather have the bil­lions spent on them. But it is a lit­tle bit off after the gov­ern­ment dumped $1.7 bil­lion on South Can­ter­bury and another $4 bil­lion on Christchurch and bailed out the greedy farm­ers in South­land who lost stock from a wee storm to the tune of another $1 billion.

    I won­der just how much gov­ern­ment assis­tance there would be for busi­nesses in Aucklnd that lost stock in a storm? I bet it would be zero.”

    Bloody hell, just how thick can Aucklanders really be.

    First off, the $1.7 on South Caterbury the government spent should not have been cos iffin they kept their filthy hands off that business it would have been OK. When the government interfered it put the shits up the rural lenders in general so that dropped the value of farms which in turn lowered the value of the company assests and that is why they had to go into receivership.

    The bloody $4 billion into Christchurch was not government money but earthquake insurance which everyone pays into so you bloody caint claim that.

    And as for the money into Southland farms, and you compare them with a business in Auckland, well what bloody business in Auckland creates anywhere near as much overseas funds as a small farm. What about all the bloody money that farmers make that goes into the smelly bloody black hole you call Auckland. You up there arfe only consumers and produce piss all.

    • Gee those consumers that you hate so much are the one BUYING your fucking products.

      Yes EVERYBODY pays into EQC and so EVERYBODY else has now bought Christchurch a new city.

      SCF was run by Mr Magoo and went tits up, but somehow it is Auckland’s fault?

      The maths on the SOuth Island doesn’t work, we should sell the whole stinking mess, as is, where is. Far from myopic South Islanders thinking, Auckland actually contributes more to the economy than beneficiary farmers always with their hand out.

  • Jack


    Yes. All bloody Dorkland does is consume.

    And don’t I remember you shooting your mouth off about an insurance company a while ago? So why the hell are you now bitching about one actually paying.

    I never said anything about SCF problem being Auckland’s fault, but the problem was caused by the bloody government, but I suppose most of the useless buggers come from up there anyway.

    We should have cut that bloody cable years ago and let you buggers sink into your darkness. Just what does Auckland produce that makes anything at all for the country.

    • It might have escaped you when you did economics 101 that producers need consumers in order to make money.

      If not for consumers then the production of producers is worth nothing.

  • Jack


    No the full story.

    Producers need consumers who will trade something useful for their produce and there are billions overseas quite willing and able to do that for our food.

    why you don’t even pay us for the power we send you.

  • toby

    Jack, you’re a moron. SCF was fucked and was on the brink of disaster. If the govt left it alone, it would have collapsed anyway and nobody would be getting their money back. Then a bunch of grizzling South Islanders (grizzling – chief export of the South Island btw) would be complaining that the govt had let it happen. Instead, the govt intervened and exposed the dodgy dealings to all. Now a lot of people will actually get their money back – with interest – because of the govt’s overly generous deposit guarantee scheme.
    Hubbard was a doddery old fool who was robbing Peter to pay Paul.