A NZ news story.
- One quick note, the Portlanders on this list might want to take note of
"who" is in this article.
From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?reportID=52008 Dawson
Feature - Getting Auckland moving
Why the car is still king
12.03.2001 Cars before light rail? Transport reporter SCOTT MacLEOD looks at
the case for spending more on building roads.
Public transport is meant to be a clean, green, sensible answer to
Auckland's traffic woes. But is it the right solution?
No, say two American transport experts. They are urging a course that seems
sacrilege to the 80 per cent of Aucklanders who believe their city needs
more public transport.
The Americans - Wendell Cox and Professor Randal O'Toole - say the $1
billion the region wants to pump into public transport would be better spent
on more roads.
Their views emerged at a seminar called the Case for Roads, sponsored by 20
Auckland businesses pushing for more motorways.
But some politicians and environmentalists challenge their claims.
What did the Americans say?
Auckland's public transport plans have failed in cities overseas.
Specifically, the Americans compared Auckland with Portland, Oregon, a city
of a similar size which built a light rail system with many of the features
likely to be seen here.
Professor O'Toole, an environmental economist and Utah State University
lecturer, said the Portland train network was designed as part of a scheme
called "Smart Growth." It involved pouring cash into light rail,
high-density housing near stations to encourage the use of trains, and road
islands to slow traffic and discourage motoring.
The plan hit several snags. Portlanders simply didn't like trains and
refused to use them, opting for the comfort and convenience of cars.
What about high-density housing?
Portlanders also refused to live in the cramped apartment blocks that sprang
up near train stations as part of the high-density housing project.
High-density was called "infill."
Councils made laws forcing developers to build apartment blocks within
certain distances of train stations. They were given tax breaks and other
incentives to spur the building boom.
Professor O'Toole showed a photo of one apartment block built right beside a
train station. It had no carparks because its occupants were meant to use
The problem was, nobody wanted to shift into a place with no backyard or
carport. The developers were bankrupted after chewing through $10 million in
tax breaks and cash incentives.
How many more Portlanders now use public transport?
Professor O'Toole said it hardly mattered how much was spent on public
transport - most people still wanted to drive.
In Portland, 92 per cent of trips in 1990 were made in cars. After years of
massive investment in Smart Growth, it dropped only slightly to 89 per cent.
"Portland's light rail does nothing to reduce driving. It costs a lot more
money to force people to live like they don't want to live."
What did the Americans think of Auckland?
Mr Cox is a demographer and transport analyst with a consultancy in
Illinois. He focused more on Auckland's situation, and was not impressed by
the survey that showed 80 per cent of locals wanting better public
He wanted more train services, too, but would use them only if they stopped
by his front door.
Young cities in New Zealand, Australia and North America were different from
those in Europe, where public transport seemed to work best, he said.
Younger cities had a different layout because they had grown up with
motorways. As a result, trains and buses tended to act as feeders into
central business districts while other centres - such as Manukau - were
Mr Cox said 13 per cent of Auckland's jobs were in the central city, and 31
per cent of the people working there already used public transport. That was
unlikely to increase much with a better rail network.
"We have a situation in which public transport is unbelievably poorly suited
to trips in a modern city. We all know that the car is going to be the
dominant mode of transport in the future, as it is now."
So what is the plan for Auckland?
Auckland has agreed to pay Tranz Rail $112 million for control of the city's
rail routes. In return, Tranz Rail will pay the region $2 million a year so
its freight trains can use the lines.
Infrastructure Auckland and the Government transport honeypot Transfund have
pledged $52 million towards the deal, but $60 million still must be raised.
The region will ask Infrastructure Auckland for the extra.
Auckland's councils are yet to decide exactly how they will use the rail
The debate is whether to boost the present heavy train services or opt for
light trains which look like trams and can run in city streets. Buses are
only an option for the Newmarket-to-Penrose rail route.
A decision is expected in May.
Who will run the new network?
The region will seek a transport firm to run the system. It is unclear who
will pay for trains, carriages, new stations and maintenance, but the total
cost of the system has been put at $750 million to $1.5 billion.
Transport planners hope high-density housing will spring up near railway
stations to make them more viable - just as in Portland.
Are the Americans right?
Auckland road planners say the system will work if they meet growth targets
for public transport.
Now, 15 per cent of trips into the central city from the North Shore and
West Auckland are by public transport. The aim is to boost that to 45 per
cent from the west and 35 per cent from the north by 2011.
ARC transport director Barry Mein said it was debatable whether the Portland
system had been such a disaster. Its central business district had been
withering before the boost in public transport. Now, it was "prosperous and
Why might public transport have more success in Auckland?
Mr Mein said Vancouver and Toronto in Canada were better examples of cities
where public transport worked.
They had also seen a spurt in high-density construction near transport
centres, partly spurred by regulations and other incentives.
It was likely that similar measures would be taken in Auckland, but
high-density apartments were already springing up in Newmarket and Henderson
in anticipation of better rail services.
As for claims that Aucklanders are even less likely than Portlanders to
abandon their cars and quarter-acre suburban sections, Mr Mein pointed to
growing ethnic diversity. Many immigrants were used to public transport and
"This is not about whether to have roads or public transport - it's about
having both, about having the choice. That's what the public is telling us,
and that's our strategy."
ARC chairman Philip Warren said Auckland's population would double within 50
years. The council planned to finish building the city's motorways as well
as improve public transport to cope with the extra demand.
How have locals reacted to the American claims?
Many contractors and businesses back the call for more roads, but public
transport has strong support.
NZ Business Roundtable chairman Ralph Norris said the road system was "the
greatest handicap" to transport in this country, and especially Auckland. He
had his own three-pronged solution for Auckland - build more roads, force
travellers to face the true costs of transport, and run roads commercially.
"Auckland's congestion problem is a national disgrace, and I can't
understand why it has not become a huge political issue. Cities with a
population of a million or more around the world don't typically snarl up
the way Auckland does."
But the chairman of the Auckland branch of Forest and Bird, David Bowden,
said cars and roads caused pollution and chewed through parks. Cars also
used expensive imported fossil fuels.
Mr Bowden said the cost of the rail plan had to be put in context - merely
treating the polluted water running off our roads would cost $1.8 billion to
$2.3 billion. "We can't afford not to fund public transport."
Those views were echoed by the chairman of Cycle Action Auckland, Dr Adrian
Croucher. He said people who used public transport freed road space for
trucks and other commercial vehicles, boosting the economy.
New Zealand-born financier Howard Scott issued a strong warning about what
would happen if Auckland bungled its transport choices.
The former Treasury worker said Auckland was competing in an international
marketplace. The talented would simply leave for Sydney if forced to use
transport they disliked.
"It is easier for me to change my city than my lifestyle."
So with all these different ideas floating about, who knows best?
There's one way to find out - wait 20 years and see.