In this Sunday reading post, Kent mentioned a recent debate between Jarrett Walker (Disclosure: Jarrett is a friend of mine) and Elon Musk (Disclosure: Elon is not a friend of mine, but is famous for his role inventing PayPal and Tesla). The origins of the debate lie in the following comments Musk made to a journalist:

“I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time.”

“It’s a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

When the audience member responded that public transportation seemed to work in Japan, Musk shot back, “What, where they cram people in the subway? That doesn’t sound great.”

In response to these comments, Jarrett penned a CityLab article titled “What Elon Musk Doesn’t Get About Urban Transit”. In his article, Jarrett refutes what he sees as the two main thrusts of Musk’s critique: First, transit doesn’t exactly meet my needs and, second, transit requires sharing space with strangers. The thrust of Jarrett’s argument is that (1) efficient transit will meet the needs of many people well, but not necessarily anyone perfectly and (2) efficient transit requires a high number of people per unit of area (efficient use of resources y’all).

Musk seems to fundamentally misunderstand how cities work. In my view, many people (what Musk calls “bunches of random strangers”) live in cities because they offer a better life than what is available in less dense environments elsewhere. There’s a wealth of studies showing that proximity to people has advantages both in terms of production, e.g. access to more specialised jobs, and consumption, e.g. access to more specialised services, both of which are what economists refer to as “agglomeration economies”. So while *Musk* might not like the presence of strangers, many people do appear to value proximity, either directly or indirectly.

And, somewhat ironically given Musk’s background, technological developments seem to be amplifying the benefits of proximity to random strangers. Anyone who’s used dating apps like Tinder can probably appreciate the benefits of being in a crowd of strangers. I mean you could use Tinder in the Australian Outback, but who knows what will pop up?

Tinder is but one example of the benefits that follow from “sharing space with strangers”. Apart from demonstrating a basic lack of understanding of why people live in cities, Musk’s comments exhibit a basic ignorance of transit’s main (technological) advantage. That is, transit enables large numbers of people to move efficiently in environments where space is constrained and highly-valued. The flip-side of the coin, of course, is that transit may not be efficient in low-density environments. And while Elon is focused on developing innovative technologies for the latter, he seems to be assuming that everyone (1) wants to live in low-density environments and (2) has the necessary financial means to purchase enough space for individualised, high-speed motorised travel (autonomous or otherwise).

To finish the CityLab article, Jarrett introduces the concept of what he calls “elite projection“. The introduction to this post is worth quoting in full:

Elite projection is the belief, among relatively fortunate and influential people, that what those people find convenient or attractive is good for the society as a whole.  Once you learn to recognize this simple mistake, you see it everywhere.  It is perhaps the single most comprehensive barrier to prosperous, just, and liberating cities.

Reading this post caused me to reflect on whether I had encountered elite projection in my work in Australia and New Zealand. In the Auckland context, I would suggest many Unitary Plan policies are absolutely drenched in elite projection. Notable examples include:

  • Minimum parking requirements (MPRs) — which assume that most people have the means to own and operate vehicles. Data from the 2013 census indicates that approximately 30% of households in Auckland that earn under $20,000 or less do not own any vehicles at all. So let’s be clear that MPRs — aside from their other effects — are likely to benefit the rich far more than the poor.
  • Minimum balcony requirements (MBRs) — which assume that most people will be better-off in apartments with large balconies. Even though construction cost data indicates that requiring such balconies can add up to 20% to the costs of apartments. Money that many most low-income households would rather spend on other things, like food and education.

In my view, MPRs and MBRs are examples of policies arising from elite projection. They take what is normal to people who are well-off (the need for parking and balconies respectively) and presume those who are less well-off will be better off if they are forced to pay for such things via higher housing prices. Of course, it would be wonderful if everyone had enough money to own cars and live in apartments with balconies. In reality, however, not everyone has enough money for such niceties, and imposing regulations that make housing more expensive is likely to make these people worse off.

Planning is not the only profession where elite projection has run amok. In the transport industry, for example, many people view are desperately grasp for silver bullets in their hunt for the Great White (commuter).

Like park-and-ride. Now don’t get me wrong: I fully support investment in well-located and appropriately-sized park-and-ride. The problem I have is that park-and-ride is not a PT panacea, but instead follows from providing high-quality public transport. Until you have the latter you ain’t gonna need much park-and-ride. Even in cities with extensive facilities, park-and-ride rarely contributes more than, say, 15% of the total public transport patronage (NB: Wellington is the notable exception).

Elite projection is, I think, the underlying cause of some people’s pre-occupation with park-and-ride. That is, many of the people involved in decisions about public transport investments tend to be older, wealthier, and travel primarily by car. When considering how they might incorporate public transport into their day-to-day lives, park-and-ride appeals because it enables them to sustain a car-based lifestyle while accessing PT when they need to travel to the city.

For investment in park-and-ride to be effective, however, park-and-ride needs to be strategically located, appropriately-sized, and well-managed (yes, this may mean pricing). Such ideas are well-documented in the transport planning literature. This paper, for example, analyses data from the Netherlands and finds that park-and-ride diverts people from walking and cycling, and that remote sites tend to outperform peripheral urban locations. In a similar vein, this paper analysed data from Canada on the effect of park-and-ride pricing and found that charges were more likely to divert people to public transport (e.g. using connecting bus services) than to drive their cars for the whole journey.

In my experience, decision-makers in Australia and New Zealand tend to down-play such evidence and instead adopt relatively expansive park-and-ride investment programmes. Based on my reading of the evidence, it’s perhaps good to consider whether we should price park-and-ride before we seek to add more?

Even if you don’t agree with my examples of land use and transport policies that suffer from elite projection, you may still agree with me that elite projection is a problem worth tackling (and if you have better examples, then please note them in the comment thread). Assuming that many of you do agree, then this raises the question of what we can do about it? On this point, I again prefer to defer to Jarrett, who notes:

In challenging elite projection, I am being utterly unreasonable. I am calling upon elites to meet a superhuman standard.  Almost everyone refers to their own experience when discussing policy.  Who doesn’t want their experience to be acknowledged? But in a society where elites have disproportionate power, the superhuman task of resisting elite projection must be their work … Like all attempts to be better people, it’s utterly exhausting and we’ll never get it right. That means the critique of elite projection can’t just take the form of rage. It also has to be empathic and forgiving … Again, we can’t challenge elite projection in others until we forgive it in ourselves.  Almost everyone reading this is part of some kind of elite.  But the more powerful you are, the more urgent this work is.  We must all ask ourselves: “Would this idea work for me if I were in a typical citizen’s situation, instead of my fortunate situation?”  Because if not, it won’t work for the city, and in the end that means it won’t even work for you.

I am guilty of elite projection. That said, I’m going to work hard to try and stop elite projection from causing me to blur the lines between creating a city that works for the royal we versus a city that works for us. Perhaps you’d like to join in this effort? Go well.


(1) As always, this post represents the views of the Author at the time of writing. These views are subject to change as new information comes to light, and does not represent the views of GA nor any current/past employers, colleagues, or clients with whom the Author is associated.

(2) An earlier version of this post contained an image that was offensive to some people. The GA Editors apologise for the offence caused, which was unintentional. For what it’s worth, the Author’s intention was to make fun of himself, in particular the fact that he met and married someone (in Australia) via Tinder. Nonetheless, GA and the Author appreciate this feedback and will seek to consider such issues more carefully in the future.

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  1. We often hear “this is not the Kiwi lifestyle” by which is meant everyone should aspire to a single dwelling on a nice section. I wonder if this is an example of status quo bias that has evolved into elite projection.

    1. Whilst I’d have no trouble attributing some of that mindset to elite projection, I’d be much happier to explain it as some people being uncomfortable with the perceived rate of change in society (NZ and the world).

      IOW: People who are feeling as if they’re losing control of their destiny, tend to go back to times and experiences where they felt safe and in control – Hence “this is not the Kiwi lifestyle”.

      I also believe that the effect of change faster than one is comfortable with also results in a higher incidence of binary viewpoints, with the tribalism that results from that.

      Just something that’s been in my head for a long time now.

    2. What is the “kiwi lifestyle”? 200 years ago the “kiwi lifestyle” was living in a Maori Pa, cooking a hangi and walking all around the place. That lifestyle evolved. That is society.

    3. Why does this “kiwi lifestyle” have to be same in Auckland as in Napier?

      The elite projection is the expectation that living in a single house on a 500 sqm section 10min walk from a transit hub is affordable in the long term for society.

  2. Please provide perspective to statistics. What % of Auckland households earn less than 20,000? 1 person on minimum wage earns more than that.

    1. What Stuart meant to say was that even in the lowest income quintile approximately 70% have one or more cars, some of those live in areas where there are no parking minimums.

      1. Great. But this would be more useful if they removed all those 15 years and older still at school or in full time study.
        Then remove all those not in work by choice (a stay at home parent).
        That is why household income is a better base. For example my brother earns well over 100K, but my sister-in-law does not work.
        I am surprised that there are so few households without cars. Considering the many elderly that can no longer drive and lots of people in apartments don’t have a car.

        1. I suspect it’s down to a number of things – the job that gives you stability may not be where you live and the house you can afford to live in may not be anywhere near where you can get stable employment. There could be a degree of elite projection in that direction too; not everyone has the same flexibility or options that others do when it comes to commuting, which is why infrastructure networks across the whole city are so important.

        2. Are you suggesting that it isn’t just poor people who don’t own cars but rich people as well (e.g. inner city apartment dwellers)? And therefore MPR’s disadvantage rich people as well as poor people? There may be something to that, although I don’t think it really changes the point that the article is making aobut elite projection.

          That data is a few years old now – it will be interesting to see if there are more no-car households in this years’ census.

        3. No I wasn’t trying to argue for or against MPRs. Just the poor use of very selective statistics as justification.

        4. People in study still need transport. I listened to one RNZ interview of a Maori architect who slept at the university because he couldn’t afford transport costs.

          Those on zero income or low (student allowance, etc) definitely should be represented.

  3. Yesterday evening, with a bike and a HOP card, I transported myself from New Lynn to Mission Bay, as my young son was having to much fun and refused to get back in the car with mum. I had to share the road with cars, share the train with young students, and share Britomart to Mission Bay with bikes, pedestrians and cars (bike lanes become bus lanes and T2 lanes and disappear randomly on that route, the design could be a little more unified). I am also not selling flame throwers, so possibly don’t operate on the same frequency as Elon Musk, but he does seem to rather blatantly be marketing his EVs with this anti PT tirade. This is a person happy to do anything to make a buck, Pablo Escobar would have been impressed.

    On Park and Ride, what controls are there that those parking are catching the PT? Are there people abusing this generous resource? Even so, a nominal charge seems reasonable, as you suggest, it will still be many times cheaper than a downtown carpark, and one less coffee a day would probably be a good thing for most people.

    I have lived in an apartment sans balcony for many years, there are a few parks nearby so I don’t feel deprived. Although I have to share those parks with others, yikes!

    1. You’re so brave, going into environments where you’ll come into contact with the unwashed masses! I personally wouldn’t do that without a large pump bottle of sanitiser. 😉

      Perhaps Elon is turning into a modern Howard Hughes – Germophobe and all?

      1. The situation that springs to mind for me is that of the sad mother returning home after dropping her unwilling and unhappy child at school. Driving, she gets home fast to her growing depression. Walking or using PT, she mixes with the unwashed masses and is better for it. The odd smile, the odd funny snippet of conversation she hears, the occasional person she knows vaguely who asks after their mutual friend. By the time she’s home, life has regained balance and she can go about her work, more able to plan a happy home-coming for the child.

        1. I quite enjoy people watching (common trait with photographers and artists), so I quite like PT.

          The chance to think or let your mind wander is one of the undersold benefits of PT, as is the excitement of a growing connection with somebody new (humans being social, etc).

  4. I would say almost all government policy has at least some element of “elite projection”. Your two examples of minimum parking and balconies are also examples of attempting to plan the economy. Even if a person can afford a balcony maybe s/he would rather spend his or her money elsewhere – a free economy would allow for that.

    In regards to other policies (relevant to housing and transport) that suffer from elite projection would be immigration. It seems NZ’s immigration policy served the interests of the elite rather than the entire country and any ill effects were not borne by the elite.

    Also, to be fair to Musk he is from South Africa. So maybe his negative connotations might be justified.

    1. Sure – except the free economy has so far given us very large houses, with luxury fittings, because that means larger profits for builders and developers. The free economy has failed to deliver the basic, middle of the range, affordable housing which is so badly needed.

      1. Which free economy is that? The one with minimum section sizes, minimum setbacks, minimum dwelling sizes, minimum garden sizes, minimum parking requirements?

        The free economy has been forbidden from delivering “the basic, middle of the range, affordable housing which is so badly needed.”. Most developers would rather sell 6*2 bed apartments for $500k each than one McMansion for $2m.

        Let’s allow the economy to deliver the right housing, while at the same time correcting the market failure that has been largely caused by council regulation.

        1. I don’t completely blame restrictive planning regulations (many of which have an elite projection aspect to them) for causing the production of expensive McMansions and a lack of production of more reasonable sized affordable housing but it is certainly a big part of the problem. Fixing the housing market requires a broad set of reforms from both the government and private sector, but it will include removing the sort of planning restrictions Sailor Boy discusses.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Elon Musk is fully aware of how cities work. Musk is looking to be a major player in the self driving electric vehicle market. So it makes sense that if he can make PT look bad then that is fundamentally a good thing for that industry and for Tesla.

    1. Elon is a masterful salesman. I doubt that anything that he does in the public eye is unscripted to some extent.

      The thing is, there is a cadre who believe that PT is a terrible waste of money and is a terrible thing to use. I happen to know somebody who lived in London for years, has traveled to major Asian cities on numerous occasions and _still_ believes that PT in Auckland is a waste of time and money. Once I visited this acquaintance sans car (not the norm, due to usually having dog +1 other with me). When they heard that I came by train and bus, they replied in a serious tone and with no sense of irony: You’re brave.

      I’ve spent years attempting to bring them around. This person’s partner often takes the bus to work, they themselves have relied upon PT overseas, yet they’re locked into their mindset. These are the kind of person that Elon was targeting. Were Elon’s comments elite projection, or were they marketing?

        1. No, but they are a rabid National supporter. Probably as strong a supporter as Mike Hosking 🙂

  6. Mixed feelings on this. Totally agree with you on the Elite projection thing – Elon Musk used to be a hero of mine until about 2 minutes ago, when I read his dickhead comments. What a douchebag.

    But I don’t agree on the doing-away-with-balconies thing. I lived for a decade in Europe in intensely urban situations, with no balconies. Being cooped up indoors with no access to the outside world is agony – when all you want to do is get outside into the fresh air, sunshine, wind, snow, etc – much preferable to being stuck inside behind a window. I used to perch myself on the windowsill in a vain attempt to get an inch of outdoors. Quality of life is much improved with a balcony – and it doesn’t need to be large, but it does need to be there. Certainly does not need to be 20% of the cost of the apartment – it might add 5% at most, but will provide 100% more enjoyment and quality of life. For those that say “just go outside”, you can’t sunbathe, or read a book, or eat your lunch on the doorstep outside your flat in the middle of a city. Balconies are essential.

    Park and ride – absolutely agree that there should be a charge. Not too much so that it is an incentive to drive – and an associated thing is the ability to take bikes on trains and buses. Most commuters do not get to go the full distance on PT, and the final leg can be a disincentive if it can’t be done easily. A bike can make the whole journey more feasible, but there needs to be room on the train to allow it all to work.

    1. Regarding balconies, I’ve visited too many NZ apartments where the balconies shade the windows of the lower storey apartment. So the balconies might be nice (thought they’re usually pretty windy) but the rooms are dark and gloomy. I think the solution is:

      – being able to open doors up to Juliette balconies, that take no space, but make the room much more pleasant when the weather is right.
      – adding more small parks as we intensify.

      Unfortunately, the draft Auckland Plan has neatly avoided acknowledging that more parks need to be purchased, as I commented yesterday. And I think that is part of elite projection. If I live in a leafy suburb with my own garden, then I see that the number of parks we’ve always had are sufficient.

        1. Disagree there. People with their own gardens need parks perhaps once or twice a week for longer visits, exercise, etc, and don’t mind a longer walk to get there. People in apartments need parks most days, for quicker visits for a bit of fresh air. Our spacing of parks in most parts of the city provide for the first lifestyle, not the second.

          AT – bless them – agree with me here. In their Roads and Streets Framework (Chapter 5, Land-use and transport catchment), they say that the catchment distance for a park is 400m. Plenty of places in apartment -suitable suburbs that have nowhere like this density of parks.

          These additional parks usually need only be small and in some places all that’s needed is new mid-block laneways to access the existing park. In either case, purchase of property is required.

        2. Midblock laneways, yes, 100%. Please give an example of an apartment suitable address without a park in 400m walk (include any sensible laneways in the calculation of walking distance).

        3. 1/ V quick once-over, v limited in scope
          2/ Excluded schools as they’re no good for people during the day
          3/ Apologies to owners / residents – these are just stabs on a map

          Will any of these suffice:
          1100 Gt Nth Rd, 88 Remuera Rd, 30 Wanganui Ave, 1 Turakina St, 16 Bright St, 20 Sherbourne Rd, 88 Grange Rd, 43 Paice Ave, 4 Goring Rd, 45 Pine St, 60 Halesowen, 20 Arney Cres, 54 Bassett Rd, 42 Armadale Rd, 21 Waiatarua Rd, 46 Huia Rd, 12 Cumberland Ave, 46 Finch St…

        4. Sailor – actually, from a Wellington perspective, much of Te Aro is without access to a park within reasonable walking distance. Someone once told me that the Te Aro flat is the most heavily concerted, un-parked, non-green district in New Zealand. More parks needed down here!

    2. RE: Balconies – I understand that for some they are an extravagance, but like yourself I personally wouldn’t buy or long-term lease an apartment without one. But here’s a question: What size is the minimum requirement? If the minimum requirement is (say) 0.5m wide by 2m long, how was that size settled upon?

      What’s the purpose of the balcony? Is it a place to grow some pot plants and air out your clothes, or is it a place to relax in the breeze on a hot summer day?

      If the balconies are adding 20% to the cost of the build, perhaps it’s time to question if the minimum is dimensioned properly. That being said, I’d rather gut the minimum so that it was little more than a ledge. The market would then decide what sizes to offer, albeit with substantial lag to changing market demands and the intrinsic risk of market segmentation (rich vs poor).

      1. The market is going to offer 35sqm pokeholes and charge $500K for them. It’s incapable of delivering a better outcome, and it doesn’t have to when there is such a shortage.

        1. I’d much rather a 25spm pokehole for 500k than a 35spm pokehole with the required 8sqm balcony for 625k

        2. Yes, or worse, live in a car due to the huge lack of supply. The only thought that occurred to me this morning as Jon_K kind of alludes to below when he says “substantial lag in changing to market demands” is that if the market changes greatly in the future so that even lower income people wouldn’t want these, then these pokehole apartments would be left taking up space….unlikely I guess & they could be redeveloped…but with $$$ & time lag…just shows the market isn’t perfect of course.

        3. One of the happiest apartments I had was just a bedsit. 3.2m by 3.0m, but with a huge window that opened right up, facing south (in Dublin, so sunny) and looking out over a gorgeous garden. Another one was about 5m by 7m, and outside was the most amazing-smelling rose garden.

          Even if we create a glut of housing – and I think it’s unlikely – it won’t be the size that makes these pokeholes undesirable. It’ll be the lack of outlook or building amenity. Provide communal areas, storage facilities in the basement, laundry drying capability, and some nature, and I don’t think the appeal will ever be lost.

        4. @roeland Hey thanks for that link as I now see that Google Street view has updated finally (Oct 2017 in that shot), at least in some central areas, haven’t look much around yet, was getting a couple of years out of date I think, with only construction of the 1st stage of the Nelson St cycleway showing previously.

        5. You’re welcome.

          And have a look around. Although the imagery is updated, the conclusion is the same as 3 years ago. Almost every last square metre between the buildings and the streets is used for car parks.

          At the same time a lot of those apartments have no park within a 400m walk, and for others the hypothetical short walk may be blocked by barriers like Cook Street. And many streets are designed mainly to get commuters in their cars in and out.

          So, this argument that small apartments are fine because of the gardens and parks nearby. Put it out of your heads. That’s not how it works in Auckland.

        6. The market may offer such and no doubt they will sell. The question is though, will the sales come quickly enough (and without price drops) to satisfy the developer?

          If nobody want’s that kind of apartment, for that kind of price, then eventually the developers will change to attract the market. The issue is that there is a substantial lag in changing to market demands (roughly the time taken to design, consent, build, sell a few apartments and ask why the sales are so slow). It’s during this lag that cynical developers make tiny apartments and “courageous” ones make a range of apartment sizes.

          I said courageous simply because language fails me to find the right word at the moment.

    3. “But I don’t agree on the doing-away-with-balconies thing. I lived for a decade in Europe in intensely urban situations, with no balconies. Being cooped up indoors with no access to the outside world is agony – when all you want to do is get outside into the fresh air, sunshine, wind, snow, etc”

      Then you can choose an apartment with a balcony. I was quite happy without one. I’d walk up to the local park when I needed to be outdoors. Please don’t make your lifestyle compulsory.

      1. Exactly. Surely this is the point of the article. If regulators make everyone’s personal ‘essential’ requirements for housing an across the board minimum standard then the cost of housing will be huge.

        People should have more faith in markets providing better solutions over time. For instance in 1963, Tokyo Precinct residents had 15sqm of residential space per capita. In the last census they had 32sqm.

        More anecdotally, in Helsinki the older apartments were smaller and lacked balconies and saunas whereas newer apartments balconies and saunas are almost universal.

        Given a chance markets will respond. Markets are not perfect -but at least ‘elite projection’ is not one of their flaws.

        1. Did you visit the Tyovaenasuntomuseo in Helsinki, Brendon? And Seurasaari? Very good museums, I thought.

    4. Isn’t that also elite projection – “I personally don’t like apartments without balconies, therefore let’s make it impossible for anyone to have one”? Isn’t it also akin to saying “I can’t do without a car, therefore everyone must have a car?”

      1. David Byrne, I agree very much. One cannot assume what is important, nor what is not important but when I was on a low income in a basic flat my balcony was my favourite place and these were ex-council flats. There were also large windows on two sides of the living room so that any light obstructed from your windows from the balcony above slipped in the side. I believe that the building codes and the sort of buildings allowed have come out of consultation and feedback from the public. If one does want to live in a small box without a balcony for less money there are actually many available already. I grew up in a flat without a balcony as a child, unable to access the park by myself until I was 12. It utterly sucked. Research on kids living in apartments in Auckland’s CBD reveal that most of their active messy play takes place on balconies.

        1. Thanks Alex for this viewpoint. I’ll keep my eyes open. The apartments which are dark and gloomy that I’ve visited (tagged along to inspect because I’m always interested in what’s going on) have been larger upmarket apartments with many large decks. Maybe the must-have list for those bigger apartments hasn’t been as well thought-through as the designs for state housing apartments were?

          These state housing apartments were renovated a few years ago, and I can’t remember exactly what they were like, but I remember thinking during the construction that the windows would get shaded by the new balconies:


          Maybe originally they just had Juliette balconies like in these state housing apartments on Kepa Rd, which I always imagined living in, when I was a child. They would be much sunnier:


          Perhaps the ideal compromise involves having a communal balcony large enough for playing or socialising on, at each level? I’ve always like the Pattern Language idea that there should be a sunny communal staircase-as-seating all the way up the apartment building, which could be enlarged slightly at each level to form a balcony.

    5. Doesn’t have to be a balcony to let the inside in. My wife’s parents apartment in Zagreb is on the 8th floor, has wonder views and no balconies. They have green spaces outside where people gather.

  7. Elon Musk is a business person who owns a car manufacturing company. No one should be remotely surprised with his comments there. He is hardly going to promote a competing form of transport.

  8. Isn’t “elite projection” just another example of egocentric thought process/myopia at work? It’s just that decision-makers on transport initiatives and land use tend to be by their very nature – elite. It’s something we all are prone to and comes through very strongly in comments sections everywhere. Something that is good about Greater Auckland is the commitment to citation and evidence in posts. It is really important for forums like this to work hard at resisting becoming an echo chamber because decision makers do take notice.

  9. The horror of being near strangers? Poor old Elon – never having the pleasure of cruising an interesting shop or going to a nice restaurant.

  10. I also have had the experience of people looking at you as though you’re going to Mars when you say ‘thanks for having me’ and simply walk out their front gate to the nearest tram stop.
    Familiarity is a lot of it – people who have never used transit don’t know what’s possible and are afraid of the unknown. That’s why it’s important to provide good special event transport to recruit new occasional users

      1. The arguments! Three matrons saying “We can’t have you doing that Heidi so don’t bother saying anything more. One of us will take you home and that’s that.” I just shut up now about how I arrived and hope the subject won’t come up.

      2. Yes, I’ve got a lift from a friend as well once.

        The main reason is usually that driving would take a short time, while taking transit would take some huge, indeterminate amount of time. And to be fair, that reasoning is often correct. I’ve taken the bus just often enough to know that a 15 minute drive typically balloons to a one hour journey on bus.

        1. I usually have the opposite experience. If I am taking public transport it is because I know it will be faster.

          A colleague once press ganged me into going from the city to Newmarket for a work do in her car. I had my train journey all planned and was looking forward to it. By the time she got her car out of the parking garage and crawled all the way to Newmarket, I would have been tucked up on my second beer.

          It was infuriating. There are many journeys in Auckland where PT or cycling is by far the quickest option.

        2. You should have challenged her to a race :p

          I often have people offer me a lift from Murrays Bay to Browns Bay, even when they live in the opposite direction. It’s about 7-8 minutes in a car (they always tell me 5). It’s 9-10 minutes on the bus and the bus comes every 15 minutes. In the worst case, the bus is 17 minutes slower. In the best case, it’s quicker than walking back to their car and driving. It’s always more relaxing.

        3. Ok, I should have mentioned those experiences were mostly off-peak. During weekends (and I assume during weekdays off-peak), going from the city to Newmarket will be much faster with a car.

          But Sailor Boy, if I understand you correctly, in a typical case the car driver will arrive in Browns Bay before you even catch that bus. That will be a boring race. It’s highly unusual to have a shorter walk to a bus stop than to where your car is parked.

          I don’t doubt your experiences, but there’s just not a lot of places in Auckland where you get that kind of experience. Most of those appear to be very expensive. See the post about elite projection above.

        4. I should have mentioned that the other person wasn’t going to Browns Bay. They were headed in the other direction. For this particular journey;
          The bus stop is 30m from the edge of the sand at the beach
          The other bus stop is 50m walk from the pub.
          Parking is difficult at both ends.

          It would be very rare that the other person would get to the pub before I left the first bus stop if we were to race, and probably as common for me to get catch the bus before they get in their car. Would probably be about 50-50 for me to win the race, but in the worst case it’s only ten minutes longer once you include parking, and they don’t have to go the wrong way before going home.

          Going from anywhere near Britomart to anywhere near Newmarket is going to be faster by train at any time that the train is running. You are probably ignoring the time to get to and from a parked car in your example. You would often be in Newmarket before your friend left the parking garage.

        5. That’s a very unusual case though:

          – Browns Bay and Murrays Bay are very expensive areas. Especially the part where you’re 30m from the beach. Finding a place with both good PT and even remotely affordable housing is hard.

          – The fact that finding parking is difficult by itself is quite unusual.

          – There’s not a lot of places where you have 15 minute frequencies when you get home from a pub.

          – Dropping someone off by definition means you don’t have to park on the other end. And the norm in most of the city is that at home your car is parked on your own driveway.

          – The PT in the central city is hit and miss, to say the least. Of course if you’re at Britomart, you can take the train to Newmarket. If you’re standing on Cook Street you can’t. Driving in that case will be much faster even if it takes you 10 minutes to get your car out of that parking garage.

          – And cycling may be the fastest option, but the locations of our bicycle infrastructure at the moment restricts it to the rich only. The early part of the 10 year plan will do little to change that.

          You’re part of a small elite. Enjoy the privilege.

  11. “Elite Projection” – what a great term. I love it and believe I have come across such prophesies from prominent people in the past, without being able pin them down so definitely.

  12. Another great article. Elite projection: that is a good terminology which in my opinion to applies to most of the posts and articles on this site. However (a) it applies to me too [minus the influence] and (b) it doesn’t mean most of the articles and comments are actually wrong.

    I enjoyed the quote from Elon Musk – I wouldn’t be investing in his businesses if I had money but his quote sure cuts through the cackle and needs more than a ‘he doesn’t understand cities’ and a nice new terminology to condemn him with.

    I’ve searched and found no reference to IronMan or to Mr Musk’s proposal about tunnels under cities. His tunneling concept almost certainly has innumerable practical objections but the underlying idea is interesting. I’ve been battling with the idea of agglomeration ever since Brendon used the word a long while ago. If you think of say travelling to a local school or dairy then doubling the size of a city makes no difference (other than congested roads blocking your route – ref Birkdale to Takapuna for my grandson’s schooling) but if you think in terms of manufacturing businesses contacting other manufacturers or lawyers or accountants etc you can grasp the idea behind agglomeration.
    Imagine a chessboard with lines drawn between each square then as the number of squares on the board increases you get exponentially more lines (factorial N!). and the centre of the board becomes a dense mass of overlapping lines. This represents potential congestion and cities resolve it by building up in the centre and PT and concentrating similar activities together and by creating satellite towns. Musk’s tunnels are another solution – a third dimension.

    The problem is that Auckland has a poor productivity/wealth benefit from agglomeration compared to other metropolitan cities. Yes Auckland does dominate other NZ cities in terms of housing costs but the productivity ratio is poor compared to say London and other UK cities or New York and other USA cities. It is looking for reasons that I read this website and I suspect effective transport may be the best answer.

    1. Bob -agglomeration occurs in a kind of ‘contacted space’ environment. A place that facilitates more interactions, more connections, more specialisation, more learning….. these environments are cities and have been a global economic driver for the last couple of centuries.

      In my opinion the English having kicked off this process with the industrial revolution, have quite mixed feelings about the whole project -‘dark satanic millls’ and all that.

      While New Zealand imagines itself as an ‘expanded space’ environment -a place of 100% Pure…. farms and natural environments…. So is it any wonder that our ‘contracted space’ environments are unproductive? Historically NZ hasn’t valued them….

      1. City living long predates UK. Marco Polo found cities in China with millions living in them and imperial Rome was big too. The dark satanic mills were not built in cities although cities did on occasion grow around them – see Coalbrookdale for the start of the industrial revolution.

        Your argument involves: interactions, connections, specialisation and learning. I have no objection to ‘specialisation’ but mild objections to the others. The top places of learning are frequently not in big cities: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton. Interactions/connections – obviously some are good but others may simply be a distraction. The big new breakthrough technologies are not always produced in cities – in fact there is some evidence indicating a small town produces people who are focused and not distracted. Newton under his apple tree when things shut down because of the plague. Look at inventions in NZ: jetboat, fastest Indian, electric fence, etc – not invented in big cities. Certainly top sportsmen are disproportionally produced by small towns not cities.

        Where cities win are where connections are essential – music and art. The great innovators in music invariably learned their craft and started their innovations in cities.

        Relevant to Auckland – does increasing its size make it more productive and if so is there a point that it can get too big. Just as you can size up a mouse into and elephant and then experience problems with cooling and waste disposal and an inability to jump.
        Nearing the end of ‘Homo Sapiens’ and the message I’m getting is that improved productivity may be great for the human race without actually being good for the individuals involved. I’m worrying that Welles was right with his prediction of Morlocks and Eloi.

        I do not know sufficient NZ history to dispute your last paragraph. Simply driving through and looking at the architecture I assumed Kiwis valued Dunedin, Oamaru, Christchurch. There is too little heritage in Auckland to make a judgement.

        1. Bob there is a reason that the world is becoming a place of cities and that 85% of developed countries population live in urban areas. It is because both producers and consumers get benefits from agglomerating together rather than spreading out. There is nothing stopping the population from moving out to small farms and villages if they want to. But they don’t do it.

          In NZ and the British culture there is this romanticism of the countryside which I think makes it hard to get the ‘elite’ to focus their attention on solving the problems of cities -especially in NZ.

          I am not accusing you of this Bob -but there are some British immigrants who come here and they buy into this whole NZ is the land of milk and honey -‘NZ is all about its great expanded environment’ and they fight against any horrible ‘contracted environment’ proposals because it doesn’t fit into their view of what NZ should be.

          P.S Yes there is some upper limit to the size of cities -historically transport technology imposed that limit. Auckland is just a mid size city on the global or even Australaisian scene so I don’t think it has reached that constraint point yet.

        2. Brendon: we agree cities are getting more attractive. The economic reasons are no different than they were in the past but I discern a worldwide ever increasing need to move into the biggest city possible. It is that ‘extra’ factor that fascinates me. I suspect it relates to modern media but that does seem a rather trite explanation
          Take the economic argument for agglomeration – remember Geoffrey West’s book ‘Scale’ (you put me on to it). By his maths doubling the size of a city increases productivity/wealth/economic activity by a factor of 1.15. So changing Auckland from 1.5 to 3 million will result in a similar gain to the inhabitants as say Dunedin from 0.125 to 0.25million. However that latter doubling repeated over a dozen Dunedin size cities would give the same benefit as doubling Auckland and maybe with less stress and cost (yes I can see two objections to that assertion). So agglomeration makes economic sense but not dramatically for a city the size of Auckland.

          That is theory but then there is a second issue specific to Auckland – why such a small benefit from such a big size? Something has to be different between Auckland and other metropolitan cities. First consider Auckland’s advantages – port, airport and universities, kind climate with an attractive, comparatively unpolluted environment enticing to the kind of highly skilled people who can work anywhere. Then consider the disadvantages that must be over-whelming those advantages. Well I try but cannot think of anything significant. Even the bureaucracy and congestion are not unique to Auckland if judged internationally.

          By the way it is not agglomeration sucking the population into the city; it is technology removing jobs on farms. Where 100 years ago a farm employed maybe a dozen workers each with a family it now has a single manager and occasional visits from contractors (harvesting and shearing). That is not just fewer workers on the farm but also fewer jobs in schools, pubs, police stations, shops, etc. It is not cities sucking people in it is the country rejecting them. We concentrate on cities getting bigger but the speed the small zombie towns dissolve is far faster – not noticed because commentators such as you and I and the professional planner live in cities (how can you plan for shrinkage??).

      2. And because agglomeration occurs in this ‘contracted’ space, the physics and economics of geometry and space become important. Which is why Jarrett is right and Elon is wrong.

  13. Is there some irony that young people are desperate for freedom, desperate to get out of sight of a local community that knows them well. So they move from a small town where everybody knows one another to an apartment block of roughly the same population where you avoid looking at one another in the communal lift. So free at last and what do they do – use Tinder to try to regain human contact.

    I’m rather old to use a phone that supports apps (tempted to get one so I can track down the next bus) but in my part of North Shore we still retain the old fashioned habit of acknowledging pedestrians and slow moving cyclists as they pass by. Please lets think of Auckland as a collection of friendly villages not as spider’s web with some dark monster (CBD) sucking us in and devouring our souls.

    1. Disagree, While I was living in a apartment on Hobson Street I used to talk to most people when entering the lift. The exceptions would be if someone was either already deeply engaged in conversation with another person, or if someone was on the phone.

      I think this idea that people in apartments dont talk or engage with their neighbours are mainly from the older generation, or people who don’t understand or haven’t lived in apartments themselves.

      Well in my experience anyways. Maybe I was just in a apartment with like-minded people?

      1. Josh: On 2nd thoughts I guess you are right and I was wrong. Young people are still forming relationships and how that is achieved doesn’t really matter.
        Certainly retirement villages are often built as apartments and are very sociable. In North Shore they are being consented and built promptly – maybe AT could learn from Ryman?

        1. I often think it odd that retirement villages, where we place our nearest and dearest, are sold on their sense of community, ease of access to services, social facilities etc etc. And yet when it comes to building this kind of density on the “outside” people through their arms in the air and say it will destroy our Kiwi way of life.

  14. “In my view, MPRs and MBRs are examples of policies arising from elite projection”
    Isn’t all planning effectively elite projection? Is there ever a need to tell people what they can do with their land?

  15. Back in 2014 when I was still relatively new to the train commuting lark, I happened to be on a very, very full Papakura (Pukekohe?) train via Panmure. As far as I remember, I managed to grab a seat and from my spot I could hear this dude talking to his (I assume/d) partner (wife?). He was clearly not happy with the train’s sardine like qualities and asked the question, “Why do we even catch the train? It’s actually cheaper for us to drive.” I never saw this dude again.

    That couple got off the train fairly early on so they didn’t even have a large train fare. Possibly they are/were able to carpool. I’m not sure why the train cost more for them. In my head I guess I always thought the answer was they didn’t face the petrol costs associated with commuting from round here. Indeed, they could even have been wrong about the costs… I really don’t know. The point is that they represent a price responsive kind of commuter. And it’s really only commuters who use park and rides because commuting traffic fills them up… and the nearby roads.

    I am hesitant to suggest that pricing park and rides is good for the overall busy-ness and hence credibility of the trains. Perhaps if a multi-storey car park were to be built for park and ride purposes that be priced but I fear without a corresponding increase in the price of parking at commuter destinations things could get ugly. It would also be useful if the HOP card could be used for the parking costs too… park and rides could be used as a pilot scheme.

    I know this blog likes to criticise the relative contribution of park and riders to patronage figures, but hundreds or even thousands of people all at once changing their behaviour is a problem.

      1. I don’t see why that would be the case? Are you assuming that /all/ of the ex-park and riders switch to feeder services? That strikes me as unreasonable.

        Let’s assume we know that park and riders (PRs) are filling up all the park and ride spaces at the moment, so if we assume they’re parking with the 1.1-1.2 vehicle occupancy figures, there’s 6050-6600 PRs or thereabouts. But there’s also a bunch of people who fill up nearby streets. I think there’s 25-ish park and rides across the network (ferries included) so that would be, say, another 20-40 cars and because these are latecomers I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re not car poolers.* If we add these passengers on that’s another 500-1000 people or something like 6550-7600 PRs.

        The question now emerges… will price responsive people who normally make it into the park and rides opt to park on a nearby street or do they choose to do something else? Car poolers would likely split costs so are probably particularly unlikely to change their behaviour.

        If we’re looking at my numbers here and my earlier argument and thinking both are reasonable, we can afford to have 500-1000 price and security-conscious PRs out there. Any more than that and the park and rides will appear empty, undermining the credibility of the public transport system… it will be a version of the “empty bus” argument wrought large. But this is also still 500-1000 people who currently use public transport who are suddenly going to disappear from the network. And they’re not likely to go quietly.

        And let’s think about the impacts of all these extra cars we’re going to be putting on the road. And people who currently catch a bus to the station, say, who might now think they can drive (depending on what exact pricing level we’re going to be using)… these will be extra road users. Maybe some of them will be induced to catching busses to their stations/ferries (hey, no extra fare) but even if we got 70% that’s still a loss of 150-300 people, which is better but still not ideal. A loss of 150 still strikes me as too difficult to handwave away as “individual choice”.

        I don’t have any particularly objection to pricing the park and rides (aside from anything else it does not personally affect me… I walk), but I really think without noticeable increases in the price of parking (which I am sure you do not object to either) there is no way of pricing the park and rides without large drops in daily ridership figures. Where do the people go?

        *I know for a fact this is not always true, but I assume people like my friend and his brother are fairly unusual and ultimately a negligible presence, say, a 101:100 ratio of people:cars. (And, in any case, said friend does sometimes/usually? make it into the park and ride carpark.) Although, apparently Papakura station is a particularly busy park and ride so perhaps using it to represent them more generally is a bit sketchy.

        1. Why wouldn’t parking in CBD and other places people work cost more if more people started wanting to use it because they weren’t using PNR anymore? I can’t see the supply increasing so logic would state the price would go up if demand increased.

          If pricing PNRs causes them to be empty then we shouldn’t charge for their use, however given they often fill up very early I’d be surprised if demand wasn’t sufficient to absorb some cost while still having 100 % occupancy.

        2. Your syntax is completely unintelligible. What were you trying to say in the first paragraph?

          To the second paragraph… The point has nothing to do with whether or not a park and ride would be empty after pricing it. The point is that you can’t price it and expect ridership to remain the same. As I said before:

          “If we’re looking at my numbers here and my earlier argument and thinking both are reasonable, we can afford to have 500-1000 price and security-conscious PRs out there.”

          >i.e. how many people can we price out of the park and rides? About 500-1000

          “Any more than that and the park and rides will appear empty, undermining the credibility of the public transport system… it will be a version of the “empty bus” argument wrought large.”

          >i.e. if we price more than 500-1000 people out, then the park and rides will appear empty which is a problem

          “But this is also still 500-1000 people who currently use public transport who are suddenly going to disappear from the network. And they’re not likely to go quietly.”

          >i.e. but just because the park and rides are still full doesn’t mean there’s no fall in ridership… and that fall in ridership is its own problem, let us now talk about that…

        3. You appear to be assuming the only people who would ever use PNR are those that currently use it or the surrounding streets. I disagree, given how quickly they fill up I imagine there are many people that don’t even bother presently that would use them if they could guarantee a park.

          Sorry, you’re right it’s not the best sentence, although it’s a bit rich given your long rambling comments! I’ll try again.

          You appear to be implying that people who are priced out of the PNR will instead drive to work, especially if the price of parking at work stays the same. However, if they start driving to work it will inevitably increase demand for parking near their work, which may well drive up the price of this parking.

        4. In general, pricing something which is currently free will cause the quantity demanded for it to drop. I do not think park and ride parking makes for a sensible counter-example. We do not argue this for any other kind of parking. Indeed, this blog and its comments section routinely argues the opposite (which is to say, it assumes parking is a normal product).

          Even if somehow you’re right about that, it doesn’t matter. AT ALL.

          >The point is that you can’t price it and expect ridership to remain the same.

          Remember that? Right at the bloody start that was. I will forego AGAIN quoting comments which indicate that I worked from the assumption the park and rides would remain full because last time I did that you AGAIN didn’t read them. Definition of insanity and all that.

          As a general rule… if something is long and has paragraphs which aren’t long, the reason it is long is probably because it has already thought of everything you want to throw at it. Observe:

          “I appear to be implying”…
          …”Maybe some of them will be induced to catching busses to their stations/ferries (hey, no extra fare) but even if we got 70%”

          I’m not implying anything. I have explicitly stated who, what and how many people I think we’re talking about. Every step of the way.

          Let’s say the price of parking goes up (although how parking is not normal if this can still happen escapes me) just due to natural increases. Well, okay, do you think this means everyone is going to return to, e.g., the train? Are the car parks in the city so full already that the increase in the number of spaces demanded by 150-300 is going to necessitate price changes? I don’t think so.

          Anyway, what does an after the fact change in prices do to avoid the problem that I have (actually) been talking about anyway? Even all of those people go back to PT (which I doubt), they /still/ all left en masse didn’t they?

          tl;dr — if you actually wanted to contribute to the discussion we’re having here to day, you’d suggest pricing some park and rides today, some more in a few months and the rest next year. This would avoid the “large fall, all at once” problem.* Sadly, to think of that, you’d have to have been reading my posts. Which is why I have thought of it, but you haven’t.

          *Although, maybe Albany is large enough (1000+) on its own that the grumbling would cause AT to give up, as (I believe) Heidi once said, AT is a Backlash Controlled Organisation.

        5. If you think you have explained anything clearly in your comments then I’d say you have been smoking a bit much of the good stuff.

        6. There was and remains no real reason for you to have so woefully misunderstood my post/s.

          What’s particularly galling about your (not even veiled) indignance is that thinking the issue was “empty park and rides” makes no sense whatsoever given I was responding to Sailor Boy’s comment that “there is 0 effect on ridership.” It’s not just me you’re not reading, but other poor denizens of this comments section.

          In truth, passive aggressive nonsense (especially, the old tactic of “the other guy must be on drugs”) only ever develops when one party finds their position untenable. But just in case your alien syntax is the underlying problem here, therefore making it dumb of me to try replying with conventional grammatical structures, a quasi-apology is in order.

          That is assuming case the, should to have then I attempted obviously find means better for communicating you with a. Ought their communicators way find to with to connect audience a better. Far thus, had I tried this not. On that’s me. Bad my.

          I was going to clarify what I mean by quasi apology, but if I have learnt anything today, it is that that won’t do a single damn thing.

        7. Whirsler, I am also really struggling to understand why you think that park and ride passengers will reduce.

          Let’s take Albany.

          There are 1,000 car parks in the park and ride and 500 on surrounding roads.

          If you price the park and ride low enough that the park and ride is still full, who doesn’t ride?

          The first 1,000 people willing to pay all park in the park and ride. The first 500 people unwilling to pay, but willing to walk from an on-street car park will do that.

          They might be *different* people, but there will be the same number. (ie, those who will only catch the bus if they can drive there and park for free stop catching the bus, those who will only do so if they can drive there and park after 630am will start)

          Parking is a normal good. Increasing the price reduces the consumption, however, that relationship is non-linear. Currently the price is so low that price increases have almost zero effect.

        8. @Whirsler. You probably are being to black & white about it. People below I think have already explained it differently but putting aside more complex economic speak, let just think some logic here: One point is that *some* people that *don’t really* need to use the P&R will then opt to catch a feeder bus. Other new users that *really* have to use the P&R now can. Good example is the Hibiscus Coast P&R, I’m sure there are many using that that could catch a feeder bus but it’s just a bit more inconvenient to them while others say from Puhoi only have the option of driving with to the P&R & catching the NEX to the city or driving the whole way. These are the kind of users you really want to provide this service for (ie NEW users) & they won’t mind paying a little for it whereas someone very close to a feeder bus route now may find catching it is worth saving $10 a week P&R cost say. Who cares about recovering costs in some senses, we just mainly want new users but any profit from a paid parking scheme can be put back into better PT – eg better feeder bus frequencies.

          Panmure P&R could easily capture new users with the new Eastern Network giving some existing users a fairly good feeder bus to the station. Parking may have to cost the same as an additional zone they may travel from eg Pakuranga.

        9. “If we price the parking just cheap enough that occupancy is still 100% then there is 0 effect on ridership.”

          “I don’t see why that would be the case? Are you assuming that /all/ of the ex-park and riders switch to feeder services? That strikes me as unreasonable.”

          There are no ‘former park and ride users’ occupancy is still 100%, the same number of cars are using the park and ride, so probably the same number of people. They are just paying for the privilege.

          Absolutely agree that the commuter parking buildings need to be more expensive too.

        10. For whatever reason you seem to happy to believe that we have group A and group B. Group A is everyone who parks and rides now. Group B is everyone who will be doing that after pricing them. I’m talking about, and always have been, the people in Group A who aren’t in Group B. Some of them can/will become ordinary riders, sure, but where do the other ones go? They’re lost from the network.

          Ridership /from/ the park and rides will remain steady if they remain full. But unless there is a 1 to 1 replacement of people who stop being any kind of rider with new riders as a result of pricing park and rides, ridership as a whole will reduce. It has to. People will stop using public transport. The questions are:

          0) who are these people?
          1) how many people is this?
          2) how many is too many?
          3) can we price park and rides without causing a loss in people?

          0) Price responsive people who normally get into park and rides but who don’t want to park on the nearby streets (e.g. too far to walk, too concerned about security issues).
          1) I argued 150-300 as a lower bound; but apparently I substantially under-estimated the amount of used-up street parking.
          2) I think 150 people all at once would still be too noisy/create too much backlash.
          3) I originally said, by upping commuter parking prices in town and by pricing multi-storey park and rides if they’re ever built. I also added by phasing in the priced park and rides… a sort of divide and conquer.

        11. Yes, some people may be lost from the network. Others will be gained. Imagine someone who needs to catch the bus at 8am but can’t currently get a park, so they drive. That person may switch to park and ride if we price the car park.

          I think you are actually talking about lost customers rather than a net loss of customers though? The answer to how to deal with that is to grow a spine. AT can’t be dominated by the 100 people who believe they are negatively effected on every project.

        12. It’s both.

          I do not believe that you will find a 1 to 1 replacement for everyone that is lost.

          And, yes, AT’s lack of spine is so great that the absolute loss is a problem.

        13. See my comment above as well but I think there will be a 1 for 1 replacement or very close to that, perhaps even more as any profit could pay for other feeder services etc.
          Seems there is a lot of latent demand for a park & ride, judging by how they fill up and overflow when more spaces are added (OK some not on off peak periods etc). So don’t build more and/or bigger ones but charge for it so it will be fairer to those that **need it more**. Sure some will keep on using it (park their car no matter the cost) even if they sit right on a quality transit line to the station perhaps because the money isn’t an issue to them, but they would be an exception. To me it should be mainly providing a service for those that don’t currently have a service (ie what they perceive as a usable bus feeder).

        14. Using the revenue from the park and rides to put on more services would help with any questions around a net loss but why are we spending so much time on this guys? It was always simple:

          1) Jack up the prices for destination parking.
          2) Start pricing park and ride spaces (at a lower rate; possibly phase this in a few park and rides at a time).
          3) Lay on more services.

          Not one of the three of you appears to disagree that (1) should happen. The only actual concern with priced park and rides anyone has raised is that it will cause a loss of customers (backlash) and possibly (more like probably) a net loss in ridership unless (1) happens first.

          In any world where people entertain (2) they’re going to have at least enough spine to do (1) also, and since they already do (1) periodically we can assume they have more of it!


          If you still care about why I think a net loss is probable, read on:

          If we’re looking at park and rides as an issue of need and we’re defining need as “not near a feeder bus” what we’re ultimately talking about is a proxy for distance. In other words, we’re talking about people who need to catch earlier trains and the like. We’re talking about people who if they tried to drive to the station to park and ride would still manage to find a space.

          Let’s say that there are people who want to park and ride but find themselves crowded out so they just drive to work. Logically, it makes sense for them to park and ride in the new system if the price of doing so is cheaper than driving in. I’m very cynical about the existence of these people. I do not find them a convincing hypothetical public transport user. Part of the reason is that people don’t price the cost of their driving properly. We all know this. And our case relies on this kind of cool rational reasoning. But maybe this lot exists in droves.

          The problem is that we’re also talking about people who are using feeder services right now. These are convincing public transport users. They use it already. And if they’ve got cars I find it convincing that they’d switch. It’s not just about money. Parking and riding is almost certainly more expensive for them, but the greater convenience is something people pay for. In a race, these people are making it to the park and ride before paragraph two’s mob.

  16. The elite in dense cities are living in their 50th floor penthouse with huge rooftop swimming pool, and they walk to their own corporate headquarters next door.

    In NZ elite live in middle of nowhere inside their single level mansion and drive super yacht and luxury SUV.

    1. Sounds like you made that up, Kelvin.

      I am one of the elite. I live not in the middle of nowhere but on the edge. I don’t own a boat or an SUV (I drive a 13 year old saloon car). I may be unusual…so let’s see the data in support of your assertions please.

  17. Why would any normal average good-old true-blue kiwi use public transport!?

    My family of four own 4 cars, a van, a truck, several motorcycles and a dozen or so bikes, a tricycle and a unicycle, several kayaks and a sailboat and we are just your normal average good-old true-blue kiwi family living in working class suburbia in Auckland.

    Funnily enough I take a train to work.

  18. Pricing park and ride: It’s all about elasticity of demand (extent to which demand responds to a change in price). If elasticity is zero, behaviour is unchanged and a introducing a charge just transfers money from the people who used to get something free to the charging authority.

    If elasticity is maximum, any charge drives away all your customers: you still have no income and the facility is unused, which is silly.

    The effect of a charge on use will will vary from site to site. You can find out by experiment the charge that maximises income, site by site. You’ll reduce that if you think there are good public policy reasons for encouraging more people to use the facility. But if elasticity is low (a charge doesn’t affect demand much), that reasoning doesn’t apply: the number of people using the facility is unrelated to the charge, so if you want to encourage more use you’ll have to do it in other ways.

    You might also provide something free or reduce from the profit-maximising charge if, as a matter of policy, you want to leave the money in the users’ pockets. That (by contrast with the point above) applies even if elasticity is low, but it’s a different issue. You might want to do that for distributional reasons in the case of public services where you want to encourage use *and* the users tend to be poorer people. I can’t see that motive applying much to car parks.

    The main point here is simply that you ought to think about these things. Carparks use valuable land, cost money to build and, *to some extent* are taking customers away from local bus services (again, how much is something that you need to research, site by site). The money you drop on them is money that you could be spending on your service in other ways. So the whole business needs some financial discipline. There’s no good reason to think that more is better, endlessly, and there’s no good reason to think it should to be free to the user as a matter of policy any more than hopping on a bus should be free to the user.

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