I’m not quite sure how to approach this particular opinion piece in the NZ Herald today by Eric Thompson. There are just so many plain errors in the piece, so perhaps it’s worthwhile starting with a factual examination of some of the assertions:
Taking money from the $1.7 billion highway between Puhoi and Wellsford and ploughing it into Auckland so that Magda can shop in Newmarket and then pop across to Britomart smacks of pandering to city dwellers when most New Zealanders don’t live in cities and need to drive to get anywhere.
Oh dear the good old “it’s a loop and the trains will go around in circles” argument. This misunderstanding of the City Rail Link is the reason why calling it a loop is silly. Of course as anyone who’s spent more than half a second analysing the City Rail Link will understand, its biggest benefit is opening up the capacity of the whole rail system, allowing us to take cars and buses off the streets and significantly increasing the capacity of Auckland’s whole transport network. Secondly, what on earth is he talking about with the “most New Zealanders don’t live in cities”. One third of us live in a single city, Auckland. Add in the other main cities: Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin and Tauranga and you’re probably looking at well over half the country’s population being within just these six cities.
Moving on, you just know it’s going to be a great argument when Owen McShane gets brought up:
Owen McShane, director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies, said in the New Zealand Herald two years ago: “We are often told that Auckland has poor public transport use compared with cities such as Adelaide.
But such arguments compare the Auckland region with the Adelaide metropolitan area.
“We must compare apples with apples. Half Auckland’s region – including Rodney and Franklin districts – barely have roads, let alone buses.
“A metropolitan area needs a population density of 8000 people a square mile to make rail viable. Hong Kong has a population of 6.5 million at a density of 76,200 a square mile. Auckland has 1.26 million at a density of 5500 a square mile. That’s why we can’t have a rail system like that of Hong Kong.”
It’s a bit of a challenge to work out how the population of metropolitan Auckland compares to the population of the region as a whole. Wikipedia suggests an urban population of 1,354,900 and a metropolitan (assuming this means the whole area covered by Auckland Council) population of 1,462,000. So we’re looking at around 93% of Auckland’s population being within the urban part of the region – so really saying that half the area of Auckland has no public transport is somewhat irrelevant.
In terms of our density (which Wikipedia suggests is 1,247 per square kilometre although Demographia suggest somewhere around 2,200) yes we are definitely no Hong Kong – but very few places are and that doesn’t mean they don’t have functioning rail systems. Perth, Sydney, Vancouver and Brisbane all have either very similar or actually lower densities than Auckland – yet all have very well performing rail systems.
But it gets funnier:
It’s blatantly obvious that rail is dead in the water. Billions and billions of dollars have been thrown at it over the years in this country and it’s still on he slippery slope to oblivion.
But it gets more amusing:
When it comes to the London Underground, that system constantly runs at a loss and is used by the unions as a threat whenever they want more money. Shut that puppy down and London stops – I know, I’ve been there when there’s been a strike, and it’s chaos.
So London’s Underground is pointless because it runs at a loss and is used by unions as a threat when they want more money, but – hang on- at the same time when the underground is shut down the entire city stops. So maybe it’s quite important after all?
It has been reported that the Greens want a compact central city built on efficient transport, and cited Auckland Transport’s estimate that the CBD capacity for employees and residents could triple if the rail link were built.
Are they mad? By adding a couple of hundred thousand rugby supporters to the Auckland mix at the start of the World Cup, the place ground to a halt and fans couldn’t use the rail system to even get to Eden Park.
Of course the obvious point to make is that if we had the City Rail Link in place then the rail system would have vastly more capacity to deal with large crowds like we saw on Rugby World Cup opening night.
I’m not quite sure whether the whole article is just a “wind up” – or whether the author is serious about what he’s saying. With so many blatant errors I must say I’m leaning towards the former. The comments are an interesting read though – an increasingly well educated public when it comes to transport matters seem to be generally winning through.