Monday, May 31, 2010

Should public transportation be free

by Paul Rance

From Helium website:

With free public transport, there would seem to be benefits from a green perspective, because you would assume that there would be less people on the road. But it would be a disastrous experiment if most people still continued to habitually use cars. However, it is an idea certainly worth considering, and the more one thinks about it then the lass fanciful the whole idea seems to be.

The gridlock in some of the major cities around the world could be alleviated by free public transport - as long as enough people used the service, and other car users didn't swarm into a city thinking not so many cars would be around! Judging how people will react to new things is never that easy, but anything free does tend to make the eyes light up of most people.

To make free public transport work, there would have to be a system in place which would make using public transport so much a better option than using a car. It's fair to suggest that people should normally have free choice, but it would be a good idea to bring in a free transport scheme for one day a week, and see how successful or not it was. Not allowing cars into a town or city for one day a week doesn't seem so Draconian a measure.

There would be better air quality with less cars on the road, and make a town or city a more healthy place to visit. It would be interesting to see if the cost of providing free public transport could be offset by the increase of shoppers to a town or city. A town or city without cars would appeal to many, though would some people from outside the area think of visiting these towns and cities by car?!

The idea of not so much traffic on the road would give most people a lift. No more frustrating traffic jams, nicer air to breathe, not having to wait several minutes to cross the road, no worries about your car being broken into, and no worries of struggling to pay for petrol. Less traffic would also have the little beneficial effect of making it easier for people to get to work on time.

Ways money could be raised to fund public buses and tube trains could really come indirectly, through the boost to local economies from tourists. Another idea could be encouraging local businesses to advertise on local buses or tube trains. It is something worth at least trying. It might actually work!

Learn more about this author, Paul Rance.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

UK Public and Commercial Services union joins fight for free public transport

Colin Fox

Huge boost for SSP's free public transport campaign

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson

Whilst the political parties at Westminster were all agreeing to decimate public services the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) passed a resolution at its annual conference in Brighton to support the introduction of free public transport to combat global warming, reduce pollution and road traffic accidents and improve social inclusion.
The plan was initially developed by Alan McCombes and pioneered by the SSP in the Scottish Parliament and has been described as ‘the most imaginative and audacious’ policy put forward by any party in the entire climate change debate. I was delighted to accept an invitation from the PCS’s Department for Transport conference to outline our specific policy objectives in detail to delegates.
If Scotland is to meet our target for reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 we must persuade people to use their cars less. Cars are responsible for 80% of the greenhouse gases attributable to transport.
In adopting the free public transport policy the PCS was influenced, as indeed we were, by the remarkable success of the scheme implemented by the authorities in the Belgian city of Hasselt. They introduced free public transport in 1997 in response to chronic traffic congestion. But instead of building more and more roads to accommodate more and more cars they took an alternative route. They abolished fares on their buses, trains and trams. Their aim was to provide people with a better alternative to using their cars. Critics scoffed at their idea and said it was madness, that people wouldn’t leave their beloved cars just because the bus was free. Yet in the space of three years passenger numbers in Hasselt increased tenfold from 330,000 in 1996 to 3.7million.
The SSP aims to replicate that remarkable success this time on a nationwide basis advocating free travel on buses, trains, Glasgow’s underground system, Edinburgh’s trams and for foot passengers on our ferries. We are confident this measure, never conducted on a national basis before, would act as a huge incentive for people to leave their cars at home.
According to the Scottish Government the cost of introducing free public transport would be £500m per annum. This figure arises as the income presently received from fares.
In a debate in the Scottish Parliament in 2006 I pointed out to the then Transport Minister Tavish Scott that whilst this figure did not include the additional cost of extra buses and trains necessary to cope with the inevitable upsurge in demand it also failed to recognise the considerable savings which would arise.
The Confederation of British Industry in Scotland for example estimates the economy losses £2.2bn per year through congestion as workers sit in cars, vans and lorries grid locked by traffic every day in our towns and cities.
The tourist agency ‘Visit Scotland’ also spoke out in favour of the measure by concluding it would also boost the number of people likely to come here on holiday. Similarly the NHS and emergency services say the cost of dealing with road traffic accidents annually exceeds £1bn in Scotland.
Then there is the benefits which the NHS receives in not having to treat the escalating numbers of patients admitted, particularly in summer, with respiratory illnesses cause by traffic fumes and associated pollution.
We would also benefit as a society from reducing poverty as low paid workers can pay anything between £50-£100 per month in travel to work costs.
And to those who might be tempted to argue that spending £500million on free public transport in Scotland is pie in the sky in the current economic climate I would point to the conclusion in Sir Nicholas Stern’s report as the Chair of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Climate Change [ICCC]. Stern was at pains to point out this threat –of global warming and its consequences - is not about to go away and he stressed that every step we must take carries significant costs, but most importantly of all ‘the cost of doing nothing is the highest price of all.’
The Scottish Socialist Party’s National Council on June 12th will discuss plans to work with a broad range of organisations on this policy - trades unions, climate change campaigners, health groups and other sympathetic bodies- in order to progress the policy further in light of the PCS’s support.

By TOM FITZSIMONS - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2010

Private cars should be banned from Wellington's Golden Mile within 10 to 20 years, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says.

She wants the shopping and entertainment corridor devoted to a "premium public-transport route" – featuring European-style electric buses or light rail.

Removing cars would also make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

She would exclude retail vehicles and courier vans from the move, as well as taxis, which were a "form of public transport".

However, retailers and other transport leaders are unsure about the concept.

Millionaire property investor Sir Robert Jones, who plans to put up a mayoral candidate on the single platform of an exclusively pedestrian boulevard for the Golden Mile, said Ms Prendergast might have been influenced by him.

But buses should have no place in such a plan, and even trams were a nuisance.

Ms Prendergast's vision for the Golden Mile – which runs from Lambton Quay along Willis and Manners streets to Courtenay Place – was not enough for him to change his mind about putting up a mayoral candidate because she was looking 10 or 20 years into the future. "Why not do it now?"

Ms Prendergast, who has previously discounted the idea as something Wellington was "too young for", confirmed that Sir Robert's idea "focused my thinking" and she shared his desire for a better pedestrian space.

Her idea would follow planned developments such as opening Manners Mall to buses, overhauling roads near the Basin Reserve and building a second Mt Victoria Tunnel. The council hopes these developments will move traffic away from main city routes.

Ms Prendergast said her vision, which fitted with the council's transport strategy, was about moving more people on to public transport.

"To get people to move ... they have to be sure buses are No1 reliable."

Buses were being held up by cars in narrow parts of the route. Eliminating cars was the way to guarantee public transport's reliability.

She hoped for a new style of vehicle for the area. "Whether it's a modern electric-bus system like they have in Europe or light rail, I'm not sure."

Kirkcaldie & Stains managing director John Milford said closing Lambton Quay to shoppers' cars could also mean closing side streets where his customers parked. Wellington was already well-served by public transport.

Fran Wilde, who chairs the Greater Wellington regional council and the cross-council regional transport committee, said making the Golden Mile an effective public transport spine was crucial, but did not require removing cars.

Ms Prendergast also said a pilot programme using electronic signs to direct cars to parking buildings with vacant spots would start soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'SmartCard' - not so smart

More Public Transport Waste

The latest offering from the NSW State government on our public transport is centred on the chest beating of the Premier about how she has been congratulated for intending to purchase the London based “Oyster” ticketing system.

As reported in the SMH (24th May) when the NSW Premier stood in Parliament during question time on Wednesday clutching a letter from the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, she put it to good use. Mr Johnson, the Premier declared, had ‘’saluted” her for the decision to purchase an ”Oyster-style” transport smartcard for Sydney. Technology from it will be used in Sydney’s version.

Of course he “saluted” her. Mr Johnson’s glee is based on the royalty payments of $3.5 million to Transport for London (TfL), the super-department of which he is chairman.

The fees must be paid because the smartcard developer, Cubic, and TfL jointly own some of the intellectual property to be used. But TfL paid just £1 million ($1.75 million) for the full rights to the Oyster card last month. ”Cubic has proposed to build the systems using Oyster technology,” a spokesman for Cubic told the Herald. ”TfL has ownership of intellectual property on some of this technology and rights to revenue from the sale of it to other parties. Under existing contractual agreements Cubic will be making royalty payments of approximately £2 million to TfL.”

Cubic is contracted to operate the smartcard system for 10 years and is expected to begin in 2012 at a cost of about $1.2 billion to implement.

The original $350 million contract with company ERG to develop the TCard was torn up after many delays and the government is suing ERG for $95 million; ERG is countersuing for $200 million.

The thing that makes me laugh most about this situation is that if public transport was free we wouldn’t be having the conversation. We would be saving tax payers the $1.2 Billion it is costing to implement, let alone the (probably) larger than expected costs to maintain the system.

How can people seriously be getting excited about a system that does NOTHING to make our trains, buses or ferries run on time? All this does is lock us into the corporatisation of public transport and allows a more efficiently way to take our money. It beggars belief.

Imagine if they spent $1.2 Billion on addressing capacity shortages……none of this non-sense is needed under a free fare system.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Massachusetts - SRTA - fare-free for summer

...Starting June 1, the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority will offer free bus service on its entire fleet for all routes through the end of August.
The authority, which serves New Bedford, Fall River, Dartmouth, Fairhaven and several other nearby towns, is taking advantage of federal stimulus money and budget savings to help its current riders during difficult economic times and attract new riders.
"It helps kids with summer jobs and summer school," said Joseph L. Cosentino, the authority's administrator. "It helps the elderly get out. It helps people that are less fortunate."... SouthCoastToday

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rugby World Cup transport free in Auckland 19 May 2010

Wow!! ... that was quick! - so someone is reading this blogsite after all! (See post below, dated 15 May) ... now, about those free bicycles?


Scottish free-public-transport advocate to address trade union conference

"PCS is one of the most important unions in the country with 240,000 members and I am delighted to be taking our groundbreaking message to hundreds of activists at their 2010 conference.

"Almost 90% of our transport generated greenhouse gases come from cars. If Scotland is to meet our target of reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 we need to persuade people to leave their cars at home. The best way to do that is to offer them a better alternative. The evidence shows that free public transport will achieve that objective if the network is reliable and interconnected. Cities all over the world are examining this approach, cities such as San Francisco, Melbourne and Copenhagen. Colin Fox SSP

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Netherlands & Belgium joint bid for FIFA World Cup offers free public transport and 2 million free bikes

"The greenest World Cup ever", wouldn't that be a great draw-card if NZ offered free public transport and a fleet of free bicycles during next year's rugby World Cup ... and afterwards.

Such a bold move would give New Zealand a leading profile as a practical example for other cities to effectively combat climate change and give substance to the country's "clean, green" image.

See the Reuter's report here:

The joint Netherlands/Belgium delegation, lead by Ruud Gullit, arrive at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Friday to present their bid to host the "greenest ever" FIFA World Cups in 2118 & 2022.

Gullit goes green as FIFA receives bid books

Fri May 14, 2010

ZURICH (Reuters) - Former Netherlands captain Ruud Gullit has promised the greenest World Cup ever, including two million free bicycles for fans, if his country and Belgium win the right to stage the 2018 or 2022 World Cups.

The two-nation delegation, also including Johan Cruyff and former Belgium international Paul van Himst, emphasized their point by arriving at the headquarters of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, on bicycles for Friday's bid handover ceremony.

Australia kicked off the proceedings in which the nine candidates handed over the so-called 'bid book', a huge document containing details of their plans for hosting the event, to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

They were followed by England, with David Beckham presenting the document to Blatter, and Netherlands/Belgium.

FIFA will decide the hosts for both tournaments on Dec 2 and the 2018 finals are widely expected to go to a European country.

Australia, England, Japan, Netherlands/Belgium, Russia, Spain/Portugal and the United States are bidding for the 2018 or 2022 finals while Qatar and South Korea are bidding for the finals in 2022 only.

Blatter said joint bids would be treated with the same consideration as single bids.

"We will not make a difference if there is a combined bid or a single bid," he said, having in the past been quoted as saying bids with two nations were less likely to be successful.


Most delegations turned up in limousines but the Dutch and Belgians, led by former Netherlands and AC Milan forward Gullit, made a more unorthodox entry.

"It will be the greenest World Cup ever with an environment protection plan the world has never seen before," said Gullit, who is president of the bid.

"The games will be played in 14 truly green stadiums. The compactness of our countries is a great asset -- due to the short distance the next game is never far away and we will offer the fans a network of free public transport and two million free bikes.

"In the Low Countries, everyone can go to the stadiums by bike, just like we arrived this morning."

Beckham emphasized England's passion for football and the country's cultural diversity.

"Football runs through our veins," he told Blatter in his speech. "We are all brought up on it.

"As a player nothing could possibly beat playing in front of your own fans in your own country at the World Cup."


Other countries brought on political heavyweights, with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov representing Russia and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, son of the Emir of Qatar, putting the case for the Middle East country.

"We consider it a great privilege to be representing the Middle East," said Al-Thani, whose country has promised to build 12 air-conditioned stadiums if it wins.

"It's a first for the region. If we are awarded the World Cup, rest assured that the imprint left on our area of the world would be everlasting.

"In the same way that the World Cup is set to open its doors to Africa later this year, we hope that they will open to the Middle East in 2022."

Shuvalov said: "In hosting the World Cup, it is our entire country as well as our football that would make progress. And with all due respect to the other candidates, I am convinced that only Russia can succeed."

Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the 2002 event while England were hosts in 1966, the United States in 1994 and Spain in 1982. The other candidates are bidding for their first World Cup.

A FIFA inspection team will visit all the candidates before the final decision is made.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The horrific costs of urban sprawl & traffic congestion

The Public Health Advisory Commitee (PHAC) has released an illuminating study into the linkages between urban environments and New Zealanders' wellbeing.

It highlights the urgent need to seriously challenge the supremacy of the car culture/road lobby, vehicle emissions and urban sprawl, and to reconstruct healthy, people-friendly cities.

This report contains some horrendous facts:

  • Physical inactivity accounts for almost 10 percent of New Zealand’s 20 leading causes of death. It is a contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes, which together cost the health system over $500 million per year.
  • The social cost of pedestrian injuries and fatalities is estimated to be $290 million per year (based on 1996–1999 averages). The social cost of all road traffic injuries was estimated to be $3.7 billion in 2008.
  • Air pollution accounts for over 3 percent of New Zealand’s 20 leading causes of death. Motor vehicle pollution, which is more common in urban areas, causes an estimated 500 deaths per year, an extra 540 cases of bronchitis, and an extra 250 hospital admissions for acute respiratory and cardiac conditions in New Zealand in adults over 30 years. Vehicle emissions can cause or exacerbate respiratory and cardiac illness, which costs the health system and economy an estimated $415 million per year.
From 'Healthy Places, Healthy Lives: Urban Environments and Wellbeing' report to the Minister of Health prepared by the Public Health Advisory Committee. April 2010.
The full document is available on the PHAC website:

Wellington Councillors want free buses to combat climate change

Congratulations for those Councillors advocating free buses for Wellington!

This visionary proposal, with improved services, would have a great impact on dramatically reducing traffic congestion and exhaust pollution, as commuters leave their cars at home and get about the city with ease.

A report from today's 'Capital Times' newspaper follows:

Free rider

THERE should be free buses in inner Wellington.
This is a suggestion from Greater Wellington Regional Councillor, Paul Bruce, who would like to see the move incorporated into the Wellington City Council’s 2010 climate change action plan.
Submissions closed last week on the plan and Bruce, deputy chairperson of the Regional Sustainability Committee, says it provides an opportunity to make real change in the city.
He says free weekend parking brings shoppers into the city, but costs $400,000 in forgone parking revenue and all those cars contribute to unwanted climate change.
Downtown space is at a premium and free transport and fewer cars would enhance the village atmosphere, he says.
WCC councillor Celia Wade-Brown says the climate change action plan “lacks urgency”.
She wants free public transport on the ‘golden mile’ on Sundays as a start, and changes should be staggered so not to anger retailers or force customers to other shopping centres.
“We have to take people with us otherwise we will get thrown out.”
Wade-Brown also wants the council to fund a feasibility study into light-rail.
WCC Transport & Urban Development Leader Andy Foster’s view is that the extensive work being done on the whole public transport system by the GWRC could allow for some free public transport in the future.
“There are already a large number of buses going through the city which are not full, and having more effective feeder services from places like Karori and Island Bay would free up the city.”
If a more effective ‘hub and spoke’ system were in place, says Foster, a free city circular route might be feasible.
“These could be very important changes to public transport and [the hub and spoke] approach would make light rail work well.”
Foster adds that free parking would be a delicate balancing act, as not having it would be a competitive disadvantage to city retailers.
He points out that transport is key part of a response to climate change, but it is only one of many approaches.
“We are making a lot of progress in the context of a government, which if anything is hostile to sustainable transport. We’re not anti-car, but people want to drive and park anywhere. That’s not sustainable,” says Foster.

A breath of soiled air

Steel plant contaminants and traffic fumes: a 'dangerous mix' warns local resident & Fare-Free New Zealand editor.

['The Aucklander' newspaper article: 13th May 2010]

Otahuhu residents are fuming over Pacific Steel's push to keep pumping smoke into their skies. Doctors talk of possible illnesses from pollution.

Rowena Orejana reports:

Great white puffs of smoke spew from the side of the Pacific Steel factory in Otahuhu. A few hundred metres behind, a bonfire is set and black smoke billows out to the sky.

Roger Fowler, Mangere resident for 30 years, gazes at it from a distance. "It's hard to determine whether that fire is in the compound of Pacific Steel but it makes my point. When you combine the air pollutants from the company with pollution from other sources, you get a dangerous mix in the air we breathe."

He says doctors have raised serious concerns about the number of respiratory ailments in the community. "That isn't necessarily all attributed from the plant. But contaminants have no DNA. We wouldn't know if they are from the plant, the traffic congestion or from other sources," he says.

Mr Fowler is angry Pacific Steel is asking Auckland Regional Council to renew for another 20 years its consent for discharging air contaminants.

"South Auckland has been used as a dumping ground for dirty industries for years," says Mr Fowler, claiming these industries would not be tolerated in other suburbs.

Some 73 submissions opposed the application. However, only Mr Fowler attended the council hearings. He suspects others were put off attending by delays which lasted almost a year.

Mr Fowler says the buffer zone between the steel plant and residential area has diminished over the years.

"An early childhood centre is about to open in a few weeks followed by a Tongan Community Centre. A fruit processing plant and three large market gardens are also located just beyond the boundary fence of the Pacific Steel plant."

Backyard gardens are also becoming increasingly popular. "It is evident that airborne toxins can be ingested through the soil and vegetables. Should local residents be warned to stop consuming home-grown produce?"

Pacific Steel's general manager, Ian Jones, maintains the company has been environmentally responsible. Recently, it invested $6 million in cleaning the site, improving emissions and capturing dust.

"From a global perspective and comparative benchmarks, Pacific Steel is one of the lowest carbon-emitting steel manufacturers," he says, pointing out the firm has recently received an environmental choice accreditation. "This accreditation recognises our processes. Our products can be used in Green Star buildings," he says.

Green Star is a national voluntary, environmental rating scheme developed by the Green Building Council and the building industry. "We recycle 98 per cent of our input materials," Mr Jones stresses.

If not for Pacific Steel, scrap metals would have been shipped to Asia to steel manufacturers then shipped back to New Zealand. Those manufacturers do not have the same environmental standards as Pacific Steel, he says.

The 20-year consent is critical to the company to provide long-term security to its investments as well as to its clients.

Mike Harvey, a consents officer with the regional council, proposed a 15-year permit.

"It is considered that the environmental effects that may be generated by the activity could be minor or could be adequately avoided, remedied or mitigated by the imposition of conditions," he told the hearing, which ended on April 29.

It was chaired by former regional council chairwoman Gwen Bull, now an independent commissioner. The decision is expected by May 20.

By and large, says Mr Fowler, the community just wants the strictest safeguards in place to protect people's health.

"I want my grandchildren to be able to grow up and thrive in a healthy environment."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Much green talk. No green progress.

If rising middle classes of emerging economies were to emulate the consumption patterns of rich countries, two planets would be needed by 2040

The reports also show the growing weight of the developing world not only in the global economy but also in global chemicals production, resource extraction and use, and transport demand. It highlights the rapid growth of automobile ownership and e-waste generation and trade as major challenges. UN Report via Share the Worlds Resources

London traffic jam leaves UK without a Prime Minister

An ominous start for the new regime?

The UK was without a Prime Minister for 40 minutes today as Conservative Party leader, David Cameron was held up in London's traffic gridlock on his way to present his credentials to the Queen, after Labour PM Gordon Brown's sudden resignation.

News 12/05/2010

'Business-as-usual' could render much of world uninhabitable

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another bus driver bashed for his cashbox

Auckland bus driver, Sudeep Singh, has been the latest victim of an ugly assault. He was repeatedly bashed in the head and his cashbox stolen last Friday night in Otara. Singh said his turban protected his head and saved his life. [NZ Herald 11/5/2010]

The Tramways Union has called off a planned stopwork meeting at the Wiri bus depot after NZ Bus promised safety improvements.

There have been many robberies of city bus drivers over the past year. Auckland rail workers were also on the verge of major stopwork action, before Veolia Transport promised safety upgrades following a recent robbery attack of a female train manager.

But the best safeguard to ensure the safety of public transport workers is to make these services fare free - so there would be no cashbox to steal. No disputes over fares, no tickets to issue... and the drivers would be able to focus on their primary task - to get their passengers to their destinations safely and promptly.