Michael Barnett on Auckland Light Rail- Is He For or Against?

Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, writes in the NZ Herald-

[..] a frequent suggestion – now a mayoral promise – has been the expansion of Auckland’s rail system with new links to the North Shore, to Auckland Airport and an inner city loop from Britomart Station to the western line. [..] Aucklanders deserve to be told what the operating costs of the rail service will be. If it’s true that the current subsidy is $7 per trip (against around $2 per trip in Wellington) and will rise to around $12 per trip, we need to know. If subsidies to run a rail service used by just 10 per of the population keep increasing, the other 90 per cent of tax payers are going to reach a point of saying “enough”.

Mr. Barnett, please just do some superficial research on other such projects in other cities around the world. Even cities with circumstances much more conducive to the concept of light rail have trouble justifying the cost. Talk to Owen McShane. He has all the facts you need at his finger tips.

The main reason I chose to comment on your story though was for its utter weakness.

Are you for or against? For God’s sake man. Take a stand and pick a side and stick to it. Fight the fight honourably. Spare us the six of one half a dozen of the other speeches. NZ is drowning in indecision. We need leadership, not vacillation. And if you as leader of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce do not yet know what a loony idea light rail is in most cases, then I despair for all of NZ business. Do any business leaders anywhere in this pathetic socialist basket case of a country have a damn clue?

Here’s my earlier post on the issue-

Len Brown and Darren Hughes- Partners in Light Rail Deceit
Posted on December 8, 2010 by Redbaiter

Loopy Lenny and the Pink Faced Poof are both intent on building a train set for Auckland. They want a rail link to the Airport, a CBD rail loop, light rail on the surface streets, and a rail tunnel under the Waitemata harbour. They need to sell this idea to Auckland and to the rest of NZ. (because we will probably all end up paying for it) Practiced con artists that they are, and well experienced in how to dupe NZ voters, Len and Darren will continue to lie about three basic factors in their argument for trains. The three lies they will use are-

1) Rail will reduce congestion. A lie. Amounts spent on rail are so huge other roading projects (a far better alternative in terms of cost benefit) must suffer. Rail networks add to congestion.

2) Rail networks have considerably better cost benefit ratios than other forms of public transport. A lie. Such projects are notorious for amazing cost overruns. See 3) below for the other part of this lie.

3) Rail will move x amount of passengers and produce y amount of revenue. A lie. These claims are always false and used to underpin the false CBRs referred to in Lie 2. Experience shows that figures for x and y are always far too optimistic. Often the trains only carry half the estimated passengers and produce less than half the income generated.

Bottom line is rail is impractical, unaffordable and uneconomic to operate. Right now, with NZ’s parlous economic situation, it’s a loony idea that we need like we need collective holes in our collective heads. Want a detailed analysis of this summary? Go here and read the usual excellent stuff from Own McShane- Retro Rail Alert.

8 thoughts on “Michael Barnett on Auckland Light Rail- Is He For or Against?

  1. It could be worse Red.
    The Tosser in Downing Street wants a superfast railway to Birmingham.
    It will cost 30-odd billion quid.
    Just so people might get to Birmingham from London half-an-hour quicker.
    The people in the Chilterns don’t want this montrosity plowing through their scenic hillsides.
    Now, they might be NIMBY’s.
    But 30-odd billion quid would be far better spent on Britain’s already crumbling roads and widening some of the congested motorways.

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  2. Fairfax- If you have a look at Owen McShane’s excellent analysis of similar projects and cost blowouts, you can see that the probability is that the 30 billion is just a wild guess that will probably be at least 30% under estimated.

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  3. The rail to the shore, Airport and the loop is heavy rail, not light – which is quite a different proposition…

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  4. “The rail to the shore, Airport and the loop is heavy rail, not light – which is quite a different proposition…”

    Yes, from what I read even more unaffordable.

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  5. Well as far as I’m concerned your focussing on the wrong issue…

    It’s shouldn’t be a debate over roads versus rails, it should be a debate over Socialised Transport (as we currently have) versus Private Transport…

    Puhoi to Wellsford and the alternate Wellington SH development should have evry right wing person in the country up in arms, it is government waste of the highest order and Joyce’s socialist craven political push for these projects is a disgrace…

    As good as the research process McShane follows is, it annoys me for two reasons:

    1). RMA studies, could be called Owen’s Shed Research, one guy posing as an organisation is intellectually dishonest.
    2). He studies transport within systems (around the world) that have heavy if not total government funding, design and tendering and then claims that “people want” to live in quarter acre sections driving an hour each way, of course many do but many don’t… The amount of regulations ensuring this pattern of development happens and government socialised transport direction reinforces it is staggering and externalises cost on others… Parking requirements, zoning laws, building height restrictions, government funded highways add massively to our taxes and rates in a hidden manner… It’s all government driven and encourages and reinforces expensive sprawl based development…

    Looking at places like London, New York, etc, cities that developed to over a million in the West in the 19th century and expanded in the 20th century, you find dense areas of residential, commercial and industrial development intermingled and various forms of transport between them, there is no doubt in my mind that if transport was privatised and costs internalised in this country you’d a massive increase in density in Auckland and a massive rise in PT use… Not to mention the improvements in our environment…

    So essentially I think the argument between the Right and the Left of which is better in our socialised system, roads or rail, is redundant, it descends into the Right saying Roads=Good, Rail=Bad and the Left saying Rail=Good, Roads=Bad, both as ideological as each other and it misses the point:

    What would work best and what form would our city take if people were free to develop their own systems and land as they saw fit..?

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  6. “So essentially I think the argument between the Right and the Left of which is better in our socialised system, roads or rail, is redundant, it descends into the Right saying Roads=Good, Rail=Bad and the Left saying Rail=Good, Roads=Bad, both as ideological as each other and it misses the point: ”

    The essence of rail transport is that for it to work, everyone has to live in high density housing areas and travel to high density working areas and basically conform to a pattern of living as promoted by government planners. Is this a concept that fits well with right wing ideas on individuality?

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  7. Hope I have edited your comment to your satisfaction Jeremy.

    Perfect thanks…

    The essence of rail transport is that for it to work, everyone has to live in high density housing areas and travel to high density working areas and basically conform to a pattern of living as promoted by government planners. Is this a concept that fits well with right wing ideas on individuality?

    That’s not my interpretation or rather an intrepretation I’m not certain of… Looking at the development of light rail in Auckland and LA (two remarkably similar cities – despite scale) tells me that you can have individual free standing houses and rail based transport that is more efficient than car based…

    Both cities developed along tram lines in individual sectioned free standing houses (think of Richmond Rd, Parnell Rd, Jervois Rd in Auckland, when the tram system was privately owned), in LA over 1800 kms of tram lines were built by private enterprise, after WW1 trams declined because of the greater wealth and affordability of cars but also due to massive State and Government highway building programmes funded from taxes (and not just petrol taxes), by the time we realised there were negative side effects, both economic and environmental, to this time of development transport was, and is, state run and draconian pieces of legislation like the RMA had been enacted and a million LG regulations on parking, zoning, building height, consenting, develoment fees, etc, e-bloody-tc were in place, so there is no was of knowing if the trend would be reserved, people weren’t free to choose and private enterprise was largely outlawed from the sector or would be competing with massively, massively subsidised government providers…

    Today we really have no idea of how much of sprawl based development is based on people wants or what is economical, we have no idea of the actual value of projects (many BCR studies might as well be written on toilet paper so they can assume their proper final use) … You can see this in Aussie, rail lines with good BCRs that were privately developed failed (Sydney Airport) while others were economical (Brisbane Airport), same with privately built toll roads, some were successful while others weren’t when on paper they all looked good, basically massive state involvement, political biased funding has completely distorted economic reality…

    So does rail based transport require government planners utulising force..? The answer is I don’t know – I don’t think anyone truly does today… I know our current sprawl based development does and I don’t support either (kind of like our political parties 🙂 )…

    N.B. I mentioned how increasing private ownership would increase use of PT, it would also improve our roads and vehicle use (and environment) in a manner that adds massively to our economy and PT viability, if we simply moved from petrol based road taxes to use based charges, i.e. if you use the SH during peak times you pay more than if you use the same SH at 2 am, this is relatively easy with today’s GPS techonolgy and it makes no sense not to when you pay more for power during peak time, more for the movies on busy Friday nights, etc…

    When promoting a better transport system I try to start by talking about introducing this type of road pricing and by removing parking, building height and zoning requirements – simple first steps…

    My simple point is public transport use is excellent – when it is freely used, unsubsidised and privately operated, to dislike it today because it doesn’t fit this criteria is nonsensical when road and car use is similarly socialised, government dictated and subsidised (and in many cases worse because it’s subsidies are hidden)… People living in the exurbs and driving to work is a logical response when the government has forced them to pay for it already…

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