The car will always be king in Auckland

Policy Parrot says:

And here is the reason why you won’t be seeing much advancement of public transport in Auckland over the next 40 years.

Electric cars.

There is absolutely no denying the car industry is the master of adaptation when forced by laws and by public demand.

And the car industry are survivors.

Firstly – in a world full of public servants and green Taliban types all expressing desire for public transport in modern cities its of no surprise that Auckland Council politicians are easily convinced about trains and tunnels.

Expensive train sets are easy targets for politicking off. The media gets a huge woody over expenditure. The masses are easily excited about new things in a city. People like progress. Politicians promise it in the form of big ticket items.

Accompanying the public transport mantra is the call to make the motorcar extinct.

Urban designers want motorways converted to lofty bike ways or destroyed and replaced with train lines ranked with apartment buildings.

Green ranting loonies want everyone to ride bikes or skip to work wearing hemp suits and eating home grown turnips.

Council officers want a freebie ride to work. 

Others want someone else to resolve their woes and carry them like babies from place to place – Free of course – whilst they whinge about car ownership being expensive and having to get a warrant if fitness (such a pain).

They all believe trains are the answer.

Peak oil is cried from bell towers along with assertions of cars becoming too expensive. This appeals to the aforementioned groups.

But because nobody gives a crap about the cost of the future they mostly lean all over green credentials as the overarching reason public transport is good and cars are bad.

The so called evil tyranny of the car is blamed for pollution and congestion and a dying planet and global warming and dying owls of Mongolia.

Transport blogs to policy planners to politicians all lament the car and promote rail as ‘the future’.

Aggh no it’s not. Public transport is and always will be the poor cousin.

It’s expensive and typically by example from elsewhere in the world it always fails to generate the passenger numbers to be economically viable.

The future is the car.

Unlike trains, ferries, and trams which travel point to point a car can go from anywhere to anywhere. It’s flexible and we decide how, when and why. Nothing can beat the freedom a car provides to us.

Whether second hand or new a car is also relatively affordable. One can buy a perfectly good second hand car for less than $5000 that will last years. That’s cheap compared to that new flatscreen smart TV you bought last month or that trip to Raro.

So will the car go the way of the dodo? Nope. Never.

Will peak oil ever occur? Not if the shale revolution keeps growing and especially not if the oil companies decide to tell us about the vast tracts of oil reserve they own or can develop but won’t because there isn’t need too – right now. So much oil one need not worry for centuries. Oh and it’s dropping in price.

Car manufacturers are survivors. In the last 8 years or so car manufacturers have produced cars that sip fuel so lightly they virtually never need a filling up. This Parrot drives a new Euro diesel turbo that easily achieves 6 litres per 100km around town – and it’s a big motor. Hybrid and electric hybrid is mainstream in most brands.

And then there is electric.

Old Brownlee makes a visit to Tesla and is impressed. He ought to be because if one goes to California one will be blown away by the number of Tesla cars driving around. Everyone has one. And if they don’t they are on the order list to buy.

Electric is in its infancy but its growing and fast. And it produces no emissions. Imagine that. Clean green cars.

Given that the biggest reason to oppose cars is the environmental card it is without doubt that the masses in this country will embrace electric like they do their children.

And they will be able to use the excellent motorways that will continue to be built (cost benefits are outstanding) and travel anywhere to anywhere.

Without a reason to bitch about cars what reasons will exist to promote rail?

Auckland is a car society. It’s always been a city dominated by cars. And it always will be a car city. We love cars. If you don’t believe it look at the stats. More Audi’s per head of capita than any other city in the world. Cars are part of us and our blood.

Public transport is slowly infiltrating but will never have the critical mass to change this city.

And it’s awfully expensive to deliver and run. That proposed downtown tunnel alone accounts for over 10 years worth of public transport spend and it benefits no more users than already use the rail.

It took 10 years to get electrification and longer for the electric rolling stock on current lines and at a cost of $1 billion. That’s slow and more expensive than the new motorways promised by National.

At the rate of expansion demonstrated by affordability/spend rail will take hundreds and hundreds of years to be expanded into parts of our city before it benefits anyone.

And quietly the electric car or its hybrid cousin (ever so frugal on the juice) will continue to advance, be produced and be sold to a hungry Auckland public who want to decide for themselves where they go and how.

Brownlee turning up at Tesla is interesting and this Parrot says its a clever subtle message.

This Parrot agrees with that message – even if unsaid – cars will dominate the future, even if they have to adapt to do so. And electric cars provide a rational solution that suits our preferences.

Car is king. And always will be.

So lets stop pretending there is any tangible threat to cars and ask ourselves if we can live with a city that is dominated with cars and motorways in the future. If cars are clean and smart – this Parrot says yes we can!

And this Parrot bets the public who also love their cars will say yes too.

As for public transport and trains. They will be the folly of this current leadership. Expensive. Go to nowhere. Slow. and nowhere near where we live or want to go. Ever caught a train to the beach, to school, to sports, to your mates place in St Heliers or to work in East Tamaki?

The decisions around rail and PT is incredibly short sighted and ignorant of a car industry that is not only determined to survive – but adapting in front of our eyes.

Car is king!


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  • Day Day

    Public transport is for other people.

    • philbest

      Exactly, those “other people” catching public transport will leave the road clearer for ME and MY car.

      Never mind that the same money spent on road capacity expansion would free up very much more space even IF the public transport “investment” ended up “utilised” – which it won’t. And no-one will suffer politically because of it.

      If “induced traffic” would fill the space provided by more road capacity, why wouldn’t it also fill the space left by someone using a train instead? Actually, this is exactly what happens. Google Anthony Downs, triple convergence.

    • Mr_Blobby

      Yes public transport is not for the poor and beneficiaries they all have cars.

  • sheppy

    Last time I took a hideous bus was last summer to Mission Bay as I fancied a beer or 2, I arrived covered in chewing gum off the seat and feeling car sick.
    Fortunately my other half has now learnt to drive….

  • sheppy

    A very good post Parrot BTW

  • Quintin Hogg

    Take away preferential parking for council employees or make them pay for it.
    Close the car park under the old ASB building and other council owned property. If council staff want to drive to work they compete with other wage slaves for parking in the city.

  • John Q Public

    But according to the AK Transport blog, it’s only $10Bn to build the tunnel, a line to the Shore, a branch line West to East, and all the electric trains needed for one every 10 minutes, plus a number of dedicated bus ways.

    I see some merit in Britomart being a through station, but I just don’t beleive the $10Bn part for a second.

  • Shoreboy57

    Just wondering how many cars in the Auckland Council fleet? And of course none would be driven home – all staff use public transport don’t they. Mayor leads by example

  • Francis

    If I want to goto work I have to drive. A surf? Drive. To my kids ballet recital? Drive. Out to the viaduct on the rantan – taxi. To my friends house? Drive.
    The reason is no public transport goes to the places I goto. And even if it does it takes 10 times as long.
    Policy Parrot is right – cars are the future.

  • Jman

    Totally agree.

  • Alloytoo

    Someone has yet to explain how the inner rail loop is going service Howick or Northshore.

  • JC

    Just a quote from the Cato Institute:

    “A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the
    railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.”

    Thats the core of the rail argument.. it fits perfectly into the ideologies of the unions, the environmentalists and the socialists.. and fills the pockets of the crony capitalists.

    Its a perfect circle of corruption where all the ideologies and capitalism meet and everyone of them benefits without needing to move one person from A to B after completion.

    Theoretically we elect politicians to break this circle of corruption by saying “No”, but too often they are an integral part of the circle as in Auckland.

    Beware of a Council that has a “vision”.


  • CheesyEarWax

    Exactly Parrot. Not just in Auckland but around the world. Whether running on oil, gas, or a rotten banana skin shown in Back To The Future movie. No one will ever ever give up their car and use public transport solely, even if imposing artificial costs like taxes and levies to it. There is no other method of transportation that comes close to the car. The Green taliban is always against building roads because they say it will be filled with cars. I’d say that’s a good business case for it because why would want to build it if no one will use it?

  • philbest

    Excellent essay, Parrot.
    Public transport in most cities is already less efficient by all measures, than the cars that are available now. Only in Manhattan and Hong Kong and Tokyo and a few other places does it make any sense. And even then it is immoral if anyone pays the subsidies and costs of running other than riders and the owners of property on the train routes.
    The public believes a whole plethora of myths and lies about public transport versus cars, that is the only reason they still “support” the pouring of their money down black holes.
    Why can’t we just build roads when the cost per person kilometer traveled on them is about 2 cents, versus around 20 cents for public transport? Which “investment” enables more economic activity and will earn the government more tax revenue? Even the alleged “negative externalities” to driving are only around 6 cents per km, and the positive externalities are almost impossibly large to even try and quantify.

  • Michael

    Anyone who thinks the private car will ever be supplanted by public transport is crazy. I can’t get home from the outskirts of the Wellington CBD to home without two changes of bus, or one bus and train, or one train and 30 minutes walking. And that’s in a city with a central hub.

    Auckland’s 5 or 6 employment hubs make it impossible to have cost effective public transport. The best you can do is build good roading infrastructure and put buses on them for the 40% who will be practically able to use them.

  • Johnny T

    Wrong once again on PT Cam. It’s not an either or situation, Auckland needs both good PT and good roads.

  • Ross

    Excellent article Parrot. Just a couple of points that you may agree with:
    First. People will not buy electric cars en mass until they make economic sense. At this stage they almost do. Google Chevy’s Spark EV. They lease in California for $199 a month! That is less that the monthly petrol bill you would no longer pay. You effectively drive for free. The day that deal or similar turns up in NZ I will sign up. Expect it in NZ about 2020.
    Second. The autonomous car. One of the issues that the promotors of public transport always bewail is, “What about those who are unable to drive? The young, the elderly, the infirm?” Again the answer is almost here. Google Chevy’s EN-V concept.
    I’m going to love this future.