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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Aucklands Transport Dilemma Part 1: Transport Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Today I overheard yet another comment about Auckland's Awful Public Transport system. The comment (unreliability of buses) was negative as they are always are, and the commenter, as they so often do, knew the obvious solution to the problem. In this case the solution was to make all buses free, thereby increasing the number of users. The free buses would be funded by charging cars for the length of time spent in the city.

Ummm... Yeah...

Is it just me, or does everyone else continually hear comments like this? I am no fan of Auckland's public transport system, but surely the situation is as bad as it is for a reason other than beauracratic and governmental stupidity? If it was as easy as doing what all the casual commenters suggest, then surely someone would have done something? I'm sure that transport planners aren't completely stupid. I'm sure the problems are more complex than they seem.

Coincidentally enough I recently went to a talk by Dr Wayne Stewart from Opus about Auckland's transport problems. It was very interesting. It introduced me to a lot of ideas I wouldn't have thought about if I had actually been seriously thinking about the issue. Some of these ideas explained why the simple "obvious" solutions like the one I overheard today won't work. All these ideas made sense to me. I wish I could find a reference, but I can't. I will just have to rely on my somewhat sketchy memory.

I have been having trouble with this and there is a lot of information, so I will divide it into parts. Better to write it crappily now in a series of manageable posts, than never write it. All the ideas in this series will be from Dr Stewart's talk I have tried not to mangle them, but mangling is inevitable.

The main gist of the talk was that transport does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, it both creates and is created by other factors, most importantly city form, and socio-cultural aspects. If you want to understand and try to solve the transport problems you need to consider these other factors as well.

Makes sense to me. I was a little taken aback by the fact that people might actually be considering the transport problems in a vacuum.

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