Monday, July 18, 2011

National Government plans big funding cuts to public transport systems

NZ in Tranzit - news/opinion

It is widely expected that heavily insured (including Earthquake Commission) Christchurch will be able to get back on its feet after an exceptionally violent (at times)  and prolonged sequence of  (to date) 7,500 earthquakes. 

So too will some countries recover quicker than most in the face of the expected oil shocks ahead.  Those countries who are prepared or who can access transit resources more easily [when the whole world cries out for them] will prosper where others lose ground. and see their living standards fall.

Clearly smaller low density countries with minimal existing alternative transport structure could suffer most.

In a queue of thousands of public transport systems crying out for skilled planners, operators and engineers and specialised rail, light rail and bus vehicles and equipment these small countries with their relatively tiny shopping lists and lower transit expert salaries to attract workers may struggle to compete.

These countries that seem most likely to do best will be those that have "insured" themselves [mitigated the impact of earth shattering oil shortages] by putting in place in advance the infrastructure that allows them to switch, particularly to far greater public transport usage, seamlessly, without overcrowding, delays, insufficient vehicles and lack of skilled engineers and planners etc.

A government that can not see that the more or less permanent upward trend in oil prices ahead need to be planned for now would have to be remarkably stupid!!

Public transport is very difficult to do well, but addresses the "triple bottom line" - work day commuter services boost and supporting concentrated economic activity and city and regional buses foster high spending (in NZ owned businesses!) by independent tourists ; public transport offers a part solution to environmental damage (including gross congestion and land wastage, reducing climate change emissions and lowering high levels of respiratory disease in those exposed to city street levels of  exhaust fumes); public transport addresses social needs - not least mobility support for independent youth and student traffic; the mentally and physically handicapped (many not obvious) and retired and aging members of society.

A government that can not see that public transport plays a major economic, environmental and social role, which will be increasingly called upon as the average age of the population gets older would have to be fairly shortsighted and indifferent to its responsibilities.

But who?? But who on earth could such a Government be?

Ok Ok no more clues!

Yes, thanks everybody that rang in, phones were ringing off the hook, you ALL got it right !!

You know it - we are talking about the current Government lead by the National Party.

Defying all indicators of steady and ultimately irreversible oil price rises that will severely impact upon all costs the National Party is opting to blow over a billion dollars a year on super highways, as well as normal highway maintenance and upgrades

This despite the levelling off of traffic on state highways during the last five years.

It was revealed by journalist Neil Reid in yesterday's Sunday Star-Times that John Keys, Bill English and Stephen Joyce etc intend to reduce Government funding of public transport by as much as $17 million in the next year. Auckland transport campaigner Cameron Pitches says this brings transit funding down from 1.8% of the government transport budget to a mere 0.7%.

Green Party spokesman on Transport Gareth Hughes, who drew attention to this strategy, estimates as much as $87 million could be shifted from the public transport funding pool in the decade ahead.

This despite there clearly being well over 500,000 people paying taxes or family of taxpayers (or those who have paid taxes all their life) who depend upon buses, taxis and trains

What a steal!!

With 8.1% New Zealand households having no access to a car (and probably as many depending on public transport to get kids to school, spouses to work in one car, and older people to social activities and medical appointments because they prefer not to drive) this is essentially taking money out of the pockets of the poor, the blind, the intellectually handicapped, the low paid, the struggling parents to build bigger roads for trucking firms.

Not least strengthening roads for milk tankers to our sly dairy farmers who contribute virtually nothing in taxes to the country's tax pool and get their own children transported to school for absolutely no fare whatsoever, the $162 million rural school bus tab entirely picked up by taxpayers (mostly urban tax-payers! -  sometimes alongside this paying for their own kid's city school bus costs!).

Ironically public transport use is rising steadily across the country, and this despite the fact that New Zealand is virtually without any real committed, up to date or substantial policy of public transport, and with only a few of the bigger centres offering comprehensive services. Ironically too, we still have the competent bus builders, railway workshops, experienced drivers, planners etc but already richer economies, for example Queensland and West Australia are pulling them away from NZ. At the same time the Government is starving our skilled engineers in railway workshops out of work, and failing to develop the fall back security of homeland production resources, by buying Chinese.

The new trends of bus lanes, curbed or segregated busways, bus rapid transit, effective regional services and light bus network, revolutionizing how people move in South America, China, and many developed cities and rapidly developing economies, are being ignored just at a time we should be building such an infrastructure.

The new economies with their excellent work force, student and recreational mobility will leave our country, busy building hugely expensive dinosaur motorway extentions in the dust.

A modern evolution that could well leave a naive (and of course smiling) John Key waving from his bright red and yellow noddy car far behind!

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