Light Rail – A warning

With the election of a complete green nutter in Wellington as mayor, and with Len Brown appointing Penny Hulse as deputy we are going to see increasing calls for councils to pick the pockets of ratepayers to pay for light rail projects so “other people” can catch the train.

New Zealand doesn’t have a monopoly on silly ideas and as is usual it isn’t hard to find examples of such stupidity elsewhere in the world. Take Detroit, for example, of silly politicians spending money on white elephant projects like light rail.

Detroit has become a place Hollywood directors come for great wreckage shots. One quarter of the city’s 140 square miles are deserted. Detroit public school students boast the nation’s worst reading scores, the products of a corruption-ridden school system that recently flirted with bankruptcy. Detroit bested Baltimore in 2009 to take the dreaded “murder capital” title. It may also be the worst place in the country to have a heart attack: prepare to wait half an hourfor an ambulance.

In a town lacking essential services, what do local leaders and federal politicians have in mind for helping the city? What’s needed to hoist Detroit back to its 1950 heyday, when it was America’s fourth largest city, with more than double its current population?

Why, light rail, of course!

The words used by Detroits city officials are alarmingly similar to Len Brown’s and Celia Wade-Brown’s.

I love the quote in the middle of the video – “You simply cannot have a Manhattan without a subway, but its not the subway that built Manhattan, Manhattan built the subway. Light Rail is not going to build Detroit”. Basically businesses built those things to meet a profitable demand. There is another quote 4:02, “People like to get from point a to point b as quickly as possible, so the bus system, particularly in citied like Detroit, is going to be far more effective in serving the needs of the low income than developing a transit system.” That is particularly relevant to the people most poorly served by public transport right now, the citizens  of the South and West of Auckland.

But it isn’t like Detroit hasn’t had already had an experiment in light rail before, they have the under-utilised “People-Mover”. It operates at just 2.5% capacity.

If the insane inner city rail loop and Len Brown’s other $5 billion of rail promises are built, especially the link to the airport, then someday, this absurdity in Auckland might be a tourist attraction, but that is all it will be.

At least already Len seems to be getting the message that despite his promises there isn’t bottomless pits of money and that if he doesn’t work with government then his pet projects aren’t going to get built. He has had to cave in on the Puhoi-Wellsford highway. That’s his first, of what is likely to be a Len-slide of failed promises.

“Clearly the Government have got the bit between their teeth in terms of Puhoi to Wellsford,” Mr Brown said. “It’s a road of national significance. I’m not going to get myself overly involved in that debate.”

Hmmm…Len’s public transport supporters won’t be happy with his capitulation over a roading project they wanted canceled.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.