Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NZ in Tranzit enjoys its third birthday

It is now three years since NZ in Tranzit started. An obscure blog on an obscure subject (for most people)  it has done much better than I ever expected. Page views to-date are just below 112,000

There is a Dalai Lama quotation floating around on Facebook, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito"  (BTW I presume he means " in the room"  :-)

Well that sums it up!  Mosquitos can't change the world, they just irritate others. That is about the best one can hope for.

And perhaps a lot of buzzin' around helps show "there are options"  - that is to say the great monoliths of ECan, City Council and Metro [or public transport authorities anywhere] - the politicians and planners - don't have all the answers and indeed in the larger world of public transport are often notoriously poorly informed.

Up to about four months ago the blog had received about 50,000 page views, with kiwis about just over a third of these, the single biggest sector; yanks also about a third; assorted Canadians, Germans, lots of Latvians [I think they have a similar word to "tranzit" in their language!] and various poms and Australians forming a third third

In recent times blog readership has escalated rapidly but mainly through a massive increase in USA based readers, rising proportionately much faster than kiwis.  As I support better public transport everywhere if I can play even a small part in that process in the USA, well whoopee!

I imagine many of these are people keen to find out more about busways and bus rapid transit. This is probably linked to the hundreds of kilometres of bus rapid transit lanes (and it often doesn't amount to much more than lanes!) proposed, planned or already built or being built in high density areas such as Oakland, California; Hartford, Connecticut; Washington DC (Montgomery County); Chicago; Atlanta; New York,; Nashville and even some of the more" transit progressive" smaller (Christchurch size) cities such Eugene Colorado and Maddison Ohio.

However outside a dozen very big cities public transport in the USA doesn't have the social status, political support or funding levels it gets in her other sister countries  (the old "settler colonies") such as Australia, New Zealand or Canada.

And no disrespect to US readers; being a mosquito in the USA is not my real interest.

So it is the 32,544 page views from people based in New Zealand that counts for me. Realising of course many of these have been no more than a glance and an - "oops, wrong place" situation it will still leave enough genuine readers in 36 months to make it feel  it is all worthwhile. Yet you do a get a sort of reasonable idea of what moves people, even when comments and written feedback is minuscule. The huge concern that is being felt about what Metro is planning in Christchurch - a chop and change transfer system based on insufficiently frequent connecting services and a long record of indifference to co-ordination and integration between routes - is obviously evidenced by the unusual aspect of a NZ in Tranzit posting on this subject rising in six weeks to the second most viewed NZ in Tranzit post of all time. This DESPITE this being a local issue and not being busway related!

I see that Daniel Bowen has just stepped down as President from the Passenger Transport Users' Association in Melbourne, which has over a thousand members but - it (like so many organisations) only about a dozen of these are really active. I imagine in Christchurch without the larger concentration of car less people natural in a large city, a similar organisation might get 72 paid up members and perhaps 3 or 4 disparately motivated really active members. As a public pressure group it would have minus-mosquito power. And none of the freedom or erratic power of the unexpected, the pithy, or humorous of a an individualistic blog, with a quirky flavour, some odd-ball ideas for sure but also enough knowledge, nous and research to occasionally hit the mark or shift opinion and have genuine influence.

Blogging is a weird form of journalism, almost underground and unseen, more suited to a mole ... or a rabbit  .....only briefly emerging  from underground...but it goes places no other newsmedia could or would bother.
The ability to see what countries readership is coming from (though not on each specific posting) and the amount of page views per item - continuously updated - and the fact that it is a magazine format yet never grows old (I still get comments on articles written three years ago) gives it some unique advantages. If printed out all the blog postings would probably create a 1000 page book! Although I have never shied from sharing some of the strangeness of living in a city that suffered major earthquake devastation  it is interesting to see that specific or strongly earthquake postings (or pages) do not pull any significant extra readership at all. In contrast a posting about some of the factors that go into making bus stops work (surely the ultimate dry subject) has been continuous and all time best seller!

What is in the newspapers or television is more or less news and opinions shared by all. But the depth of news or opinion's in newspapers rarely rises above the superficial. We are a society steadily moving towards "snacking" on tiny knowledge bytes - and that can be very dangerous when most fields need much deeper reading to even begin to interpret what is going on. As with a newspaper columnist writing a blog is (and should be) highly personal, quirky, a particular slant on things, but ideally backed by some special knowledge or reading, It cuts the cake a different way, exposes the unseen or not yet thought about, it is can turn the rubber mould inside out and see a completely different story. It is esoteric knowledge that will mean most to those involved in that field of activity, and can like the Dalai Lama's mosquito upset the body (politic) enough to have some small influence far beyond its size - much more I have found that submissions made to reviews, of which I have made many over the years without ever seeing a single positive response (nor to most other submissions - by the time it is out for "consultation"  usually a project is 98% signed, sealed and delivered).
Added influence particularly as I send out invitations to various council or community groups around Christchurch and NZ (just once or twice a year, don't want to bomb people) to read the occasional posting relevant to some issue these groups are involved with, sometimes factually refuting nonsense. As underground media, nobody can be sure who around the board room table is reading it!

However the larger goal - to get people thinking more about public transport, and more grounded in reality,  and to raise alternatives and options, and awareness of comparable projects and costs elsewhere, is probably the greatest role NZ in Tranzit can play. Its is my tiny, tiny, contribution to fighting the rapidly escalating  devastation of global climate change and the spiritual impoverishment implicit in too many cars, not enough walking, talking and not enough  real community street life. People watch Shortland St or Coro or whatever as a substitute for the life they are not living. Turn off the TV and get on a bus, it is still out there, human life in all its awesome diversity.

Think global; act local.

Thanks for your readership and to those few who participate or send letters of occasional support (more comments and letters and debate most welcome)....and yes, the mask is flung aside, three years down the track, in truth  not a bird, never a bird,  not a mosquito, but ....but ... still the same old-  same old, of three years ago - dwatted wabbit!! He pops up everywhere!

The elusive blogster only once ever photographed, in 1968 - so suave -  cool - so blue - and not likely to go away in a hurry, though now disguised with a much larger waistline! 


  1. It would be quite wrong to assume a blog has more influence than a public pressure group. In Christchurch all you have to do is look at what CAN and Spokes are achieving with cycling, and what CBT is achieving in Auckland.

  2. Yeah, good point but they have had to work bloody hard against constant set backs just to get this far (and not in anyway downplaying the Spokes commitment I can't help feeling that the improved response post earthquake is in some part a Green smokescreen - the Government pushing the cheapest option to look green rather than financing bus ways and commuter rail options). Probably the best thing a group like that could do is get good quality info consistently to all major players, politicians, resident groups etc. If other people in Christchurch are interested in such a group perhaps they might like to comment too.