Monday, September 26, 2011

Wacky-Named "Pirate" Party Gains Power in Germany, Calls for Free Public Transportation
by on 09.25.11

Pirate party member Susanne Graf House of Representatives photo
Image: Pirate Party/Susanne Graf

As the rest of the world was celebrating talk like a pirate day, the Pirate Party won its first seats in the Berlin state elections.

In Germany, any party winning more than 5% of the votes is entitled to a share in government. With 8.9%, the Pirate party lands 15 seats in the state government, among them 19-year-old Susanne Graf (pictured above), who will be the youngest representative when session opens in October. Is this the beginning of a new kind of politics? Is the Pirate party walking a green plank?

First and foremost, the Pirate Party campaign program (pdf, German) promises transparency and to give citizens more voice in government.

As a young, technologically oriented party, this could auger a change (which some believe is inevitable) in the way we govern ourselves, a move away from representative government to net-based referendums. While not itself green, many believe this strategy could help take big money out of government, bringing balance back to the human aspect of decision making.

Although the word "pirate" has come to be associated with, well let us just say, the uncompensated use of certain digital properties, the official program of the Pirate Party focuses on equal access to information that is in the public domain, and equal opportunity use of internet technology as well as improved educational opportunity for the youth.

The greenest angle on this approach to equal access in public domains is the call to keep natural areas available for everyone, such as maintaining open access to river banks. Ironically, the debate stirs already over the lack of female presence in the party. Susanne is the only female sitting with 14 males.

The Greenest Planks of the Pirate Party Platform
Probably the greenest plank proposed in the Pirate program calls for free public transport, and activates against expanding highways through the city. Free public transport speaks for itself as a green platform. Thoughts on how to suppress highway construction projects rest on the main Pirate plank: make the contracts transparent, so the big money cannot win behind closed doors, and give people a direct vote on whether such projects should proceed.

Of course, the Pirates advocate nuclear-free power as well. And the campaign program explicitly calls for "sustainable, ecological economic policy."

Pirates Walking Other Planks
The Pirate program offers much more than "open access." It turns the clock back on post-9/11 state controls, fighting against surveillance of citizens and demanding improvements in accountability for police forces.

The platform contains planks designed to open borders, fighting on several fronts against anti-immigrant feelings. Perhaps most controversially, the Pirate platform also demands a change from drug abuse penalization to educational and social supports designed to reduce dependence on harmful drugs. Walking this plank includes the legalization of marijuana, on the grounds that illegal cannabis handlers pose a health risk by selling contaminated products.

Nations around the globe are finding politics as usual unsatisfying in the face of global economic crisis. Sustainability fans know that things cannot go on as they are. The question that now arises in Berlin is: will this youth movement earn respect for a new path forward, a post-capitalist, post-industrial, social-network based politics? Can politics survive transparency? And can it work for a party named "Pirates"?

Friday, September 23, 2011

People Power for the Planet


About The Event

From 11am: Family-friendly cycle ride

Cycle Action Auckland and Frocks on Bikes are organising a big family-friendly bike ride around central Auckland. Meet at 11am at the Wynyard Quarter playground. There will be a limited number of bikes available to borrow for the ride thanks to Cyclists will arrive back at QEII Square in downtown Auckland by 1pm to join in the parade to Albert Park.

From 1pm: People-powered parade up Queen Street

Cyclists, walkers, skateboarders, roller skaters and more from around the city will parade together up Queen Street with signs and banners calling for action to address climate change by moving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels.

From 2pm: Celebration in Albert Park

The people-powered parade will make its way to Albert Park, where there will be live music, entertaining speakers, a vegetarian sausage sizzle, coffee and cold drinks available to purchase (cash only).

You can follow the whole journey, or join in anywhere along the way.

For all parts of the day, we challenge you to come dressed up as your favourite fossil fuel alternative.

Let's create a visual spectacle of human wind turbines, etc.

Or keep it simple and decorate yourself with the unifying symbol for the worldwide Moving Planet day: arrows to symbolise moving away from fossil fuels.

We'll have some face paint on hand at the cycle ride and parade gathering points for the young and young at heart.

Come show your support for moving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels - make your voice heard!

If we don't change them, we'll end up where they're taking us !

Contact: Alan Preston ( a campaign co-ordinator )
Mangawhai Village, Northland , New Zealand
tel: (09) 431 5389
mob/txt: 02102377242

World Car Free day comes to Bay of Plenty

Free bus rides across the region

More than 11,000 passengers enjoyed a free ride on the bus yesterday [Thursday] as part of World Car Free Day activities in the Bay of Plenty. The region's Bay Hopper and City Ride buses were made free for the entire day as a surprise to reward those committed to using public transport.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Public Transport Subcommittee Chairman Doug Owens said that it was a great opportunity to offer a small reward to people who are choosing to act sustainably.

"This was an opportunity to recognise the thousands of people in our community that already know the benefits of using public transport and are making use of our buses. We hope that we created a positive experience yesterday that will increase awareness of our valuable bus networks," he said.

World Car Free Day is an international campaign to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of cycling, walking and public transport.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council incurred the loss of revenue for the day, and Reesby Buses Ltd also came on board to make a contribution towards the Rotorua costs.

The Bay of Plenty Bay Hopper and City Ride bus services cover all major towns and suburbs in the Bay of Plenty including Opotiki, Whakatane, Kawerau, Murupara, Rotorua, Te Puke, Tauranga, and Katikati.

Cr Owens encourages others to consider the bus as a win-win option for getting around.

"Taking the bus is not only good for the environment, it also takes a lot of hassle out of your day. In addition there's no need to pay for a park, and plenty of time to text your friends and have a read of the paper," Cr Owens said.

"World Car Free Day was a great opportunity to encourage people to use public transport, but the biggest challenge now is to encourage people to make it part of their everyday routine," he said.

"We hope that those who received the free ride yesterday will continue to keep taking the bus and encourage friends and family to join them too," Cr Owens said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Push to make public transport free for kids under 19 years

San Francisco -- A growing number of city leaders want to make riding Muni (San Francisco public transport) free for kids 18 and under, but doing so would cost $6 to $13 million annually.

Supervisor David Campos said the cost should be viewed as an important investment.

"It's one critical step we can take to improve the quality of life for all families in the city, and to support and encourage a new generation of transit riders for our future," said Campos. He introduced a resolution Tuesday that has the backing of the majority of the Board of Supervisors and would call on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to provide a free transit pass for young people.

But that's a tough proposition since the agency, with a $781 million operating budget, is already facing a $23 million deficit.

Muni's youth cash fare is 75 cents, and the monthly youth Fast Pass is $21. Children under 5 already ride for free.

Muni estimates that 36,000, or about 15 percent, of the system's weekday riders are under 18. Included in that estimate are kids who sneak aboard. A 2009 study found that about 10 percent of the passengers in the peak after-school hours between 2 and 4 p.m. didn't pay. Unknown is the age breakdown of the fare cheats.

Cable cars would be excluded from the proposed free-Muni program.

The idea of free transit for youths is not new - New York City and Portland for example, have variations of such a program. And over the years, the idea of free Muni has been floated.

But proponents say the need in San Francisco is particularly acute now, given that Muni has more than doubled the cost of the youth Fast Pass over the past two years and the San Francisco Unified School District is cutting its school bus program by 43 percent over the next two years.

Gabriella Ruiz said her family, who lives on a fixed income in the Bayview, feels the financial pinch and would welcome the prospect of free transportation.

Ruiz, a 17-year-old freshman at San Francisco State University, and her younger sister who attends high school, pay cash to ride Muni and every day they scrounge to come up with the money rather than shell out the combined $42 at the beginning of the month to buy the more thrifty passes. When money is short, she said she sometimes boards the bus using an expired transfer. "It would be good if Muni was free and we wouldn't have to worry," she said.

Ruiz was one of several dozen people, among them city supervisors, community activists, public schools superintendent Carlos Garcia and Joel Ramos, who serves on the transportation agency's governing board, who rallied on the steps of City Hall Tuesday in support of the idea.

Muni chief Ed Reiskin offered no promises, but said his agency is "very open to discussion."

Money will be the key sticking point.

Muni set aside just $1.4 million this fiscal year to provide free passes for a limited number of eligible low-income students. Campos and other proponents hope a three-year trial could be funded by sources that include the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the San Francisco Unified School District, the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission and even private donors.

Muni could lose $6.4 million to $7 million in revenue if youths rode free, according to a report issued Tuesday by Board of Supervisors budget analyst Harvey Rose.

On top of that, Muni officials estimate that the lure of free service would boost the number of young riders by 10,980 a day, which would require the agency to provide more service and could lead to more graffiti that needs to be cleaned up. Those costs would add another $6 million or more to the tab, although the budget analyst questions whether Muni actually would add more service to handle the additional riders, given the agency's past handling of capacity issues.

The analyst outlines several potential benefits, the costs of which are hard to calculate Among them: Enabling youth to get to jobs at more distant neighborhoods, reducing the need to use private automobiles, which cause congestion and pollution, and cutting truancy to the extent that students miss school because they don't have bus fare.

E-mail Rachel Gordon at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free student buses transform city

Fare-free bus services for university students in Lawrence, Kansas, have resulted in 138 percent increase in ridership and freed up the roads, as described in the following report. 
Many other cities have experienced similar dramatic advantages after introducing free public transport services. New Zealand cities can learn from these experiments to reduce traffic congestion and move towards a sustainable environment. Editor

Every day, bus drivers provide an instrumental service to students and the community as they travel routes to and from campus.

Unlike other public transit systems, KU on Wheels finds itself carrying more passengers. This is due a great deal to the University going fare-free for the last three years. Students now pay a flat fee as a part of their student fees.

This led to KU on Wheels, in association with the City of Lawrence, winning the 2010 Federal Transit Association Ridership Award. The award was based on ridership increasing 138 percent in the first year of implementation, according to the Kansas Public Transit Association.
As a result of the increased ridership, the busing system helps traffic flow and makes campus greener.

By Marshall Schmidt
The University Daily 18 Sept 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Man's Greatest Mistake

Man's Greatest Mistake: "It is an issue that cuts across many aspects of modern society, it costs billions, it kills millions and maims millions more, it is a key factor behind the obesity epidemic, it criminalises hundreds of thousands of citizens, it eats up vast tracts of land, it is an anti-social menace that blights communities, particularly poorer communities, and it is deeply socially divisive. It is so resource hungry that it pushes up the price of food and other world commodities, it even causes developed nations to go to war."

'via Blog this'