Critical Media Group - Ideas that make you think

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to Solve Auckland's Terrible Transport Problems

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Financing rail transport under government

The huge cost of the rail link would cause a $12 billion transport funding gap over the next 30 years unless alternate funding is secured – namely:
  1. Motorway tolls and regional petrol taxes
  2. Cut from community projects, parks and local works
  3. Increases local government taxation
“The options are for an overall rates rise of 2.5% in 2015 and 3.5% for the next 9 years, or a 3.5% rate rise every year plus a $3000 charge upon new houses”.[v]

This is not the best approach to providing services to the poor, or users, or even achieving some level of ‘commercial discipline’ in our urban areas. Our cities are the most important economic systems in the country. If they are not based upon commercial discipline or ‘realities’ or price constraints, then taxpayers are destined to experience a blow-out in costs, on top of the costs that the mayor and councillors have previously imposed upon rate payers. There is actually no reason why residents of Auckland need to pay more. They should only pay more if they get benefits. The only motivation for government officials to embark on such policies is if:
  1. They are so beholden to public pressure that they convey no personal integrity
  2. They are positioning themselves for a litany of kickbacks from business who are destined to be subsidised by such developments, and who will be reliant upon government as ‘gatekeepers’ presiding over these developments.
  3. They get the opportunity to act like Santa Claus, identified as the crusaders for development, without a corresponding requirement to be accountable for their flagrant spending.
This is an enormous spend for a city. It should not fall upon ill-disciplined councillors who have little experience to handle the affairs of such an immense project, and given a blank cheque to meet any indulgent expectation of lobbyists, who ultimately keep these councillors in power. Many councillors are sensitive to the ‘cost backlash’ of such policies. i.e. Labour councillor Ross Clow has called for the project to be deferred until 2020. These is however no reason to defer. The only necessity is for the project to be carried by those people who can afford the luxury of wanting it to risk investing in it. There will be a ready market of people who should pay, who will want to benefit, whether they are:
  1. Residents who want to live in inner-city apartments close to transport and ‘village cities’. Another example is Chatswood in Northern Sydney.
  2. Commercial businesses who want to profit, who are prepared to pay more for property and high rents in order to get access to that greater street traffic that arises from ‘denser living’.
  3. Finally rail system developers who want to develop a long term ‘cash cow’ by offering prospective residents a ‘village community’ and cheaper and faster access to jobs than is currently offered by cars on tollways. Residents in these places will save on bus fares or car parking fares in the city, as well as securing more options and great accessibility to services in other communities.
Labour councillor Ross Clow argues that the budget was gutting suburban areas such as Avondale, which had been waiting 30 years for a new town centre, in favour of “pet projects” like the City Rail Link. [vi] There is really no reason for people to wait if a road upgrade makes sense, but it ought not to ‘make sense’ because it benefits a councillor to say so. There needs to be objective criteria.
This is just an excerpt from a comprehensive essay analysis from Author Andrew Sheldon. The original article can be found on Critical Media Group's website - Auckland Transport Problems

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