Getting fast & furious about trains & buses

Auckland public transportI’m just back from a trip to Germany via Hong Kong, and as much as it was a holiday, I can never switch off my professional reflections.

The efficiency of people getting around CBDs in these countries struck me.

Trains, subways, buses; the transport culture is just about the complete opposite of Auckland where we are all still so addicted to the car.

Yes, yes, I know the old argument that goes around in circles that once the trains and buses here are more frequent, modern, and on time, things will change.

But we’ve been harping on about this for decades. Significant change to transport in Auckland always ends up in the “one day, maybe” basket.

We seem to totally overlook the double-whammy benefit of using trains and buses; that we can (a) get places more quickly, and (b) use the travelling time productively.

I’d say 75 percent of the people on the subway in Hong Kong were on a smart phone or tablet, a great many of them getting up to date with the news or other work-related activity.

That looks to me like a great stride towards being more productive with our time than sitting in a traffic jam.

Once our bus stations, train stations and public transport systems are better utilised, imagine too the businesses that can spring up around them; coffees on the go, media and advertising at all these locations, etc.

Has anyone done a detailed cost/benefit analysis of these benefits?

Productivity is critical to our economy, anywhere and everywhere we can find it.

A colleague told me today how he drove into the CBD from an inner city suburb this morning for a meeting, and another colleague travelled in by bus.

The one in the car was late and disorganised, stressed about finding a park, and worried about overstaying his meter limit.

The bus traveller was on time, had lined up appointments in adjacent buildings to follow, and was totally relaxed.

So who was using their time more efficiently?

I wonder how much we kid ourselves that we are more efficient and getting places faster by using the car, especially on shorter trips around the city.

A culture change is required, regardless of the timeline for new trains, subways and buses.

5 thoughts on “Getting fast & furious about trains & buses”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Have been without a car for a couple of months now and began taking the bus out of necessity; but have ended up much preferring it for exactly the reasons you’ve put forward.

  2. I’ve been in the camp that always thought patronage would increase when public transport got better. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    Your article struck a chord with me and now I absolutely agree that we must change our thinking. Public transport will reflect demand by improving as patronage improves.

    It’s a very similar argument to whether the media reflects society or leads it. It does of course reflect society, although it also influences (not leads) it.

    Time to find a bus/train timetable methinks.

    Cheers, Brandon

  3. We Aucklanders say we are tied to our cars because there has been no viable aternative to get around quickly and efficiently. Yet my observations in Hong Kong show that a clean and fast subway/rail system can change the way people work and increase the number of shoppers and workers going into the CBD.

    The heart of Auckland city has lost shoppers to the suburban malls and many office towersin the city have high vacancy levels. This impacts on the Council’s income through rates.

    A world class subway/rail system will make coming into the City much more attractive for shoppers and commercial and residential tenants. The capital benefits (and so the local body rates) will provide real financial and social benefits to Auckland and central government.

    Come on Len Brown and the Government! Stop the bickering and overplanning. Bring about real change to Auckland’s productivity, act now to accelerate the development of the Auckland City rail project.

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