Friday, April 19, 2013

'Do the Maths' tour coming to NZ

A climate change maths lesson that might just change the world.

It’s simple maths: we can burn less than 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we do the maths to change our future.

In November 2012, Bill McKibben and hit the road in the USA to build a movement strong enough to change the maths of the climate crisis. The Do the Math Tour was a massive success, with sold out shows in every corner of the US.

Now they are taking the tour international and Bill McKibben is coming to New Zealand!

Book tickets or volunteer to help along the way.

'Do the Math' - the movie: official trailer

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tallinn's free buses & trams take off

A promotional clip about Tallinn's free public transport services. Apologies about the music - and disappointing news that since this video was made, the council of the Belgium city of Hasselt has stopped their popular free buses.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cardiff schoolchildren could ride for free on bus services around the city

Pupils across Cardiff could be travelling to school by public buses 
Pupils across Cardiff could be travelling to school by public buses
 By posted on WalesOnLine website 15/4/2013

A Welsh city council is set to investigate if it can afford to provide free transport on public buses for pupils at schools across Cardiff instead of using private coach contracts.

A review has been launched into whether free transport to and from school could be provided to every pupil in Cardiff.

Cardiff council is investigating  if it can afford to fund a trial for the city’s 50,000 schoolchildren to ride for free on bus services with the general public. It is one of six options being  considered as part of a review into alternative ways the council could provide home to  school transport.

Wales’ biggest local authority spends £2.5m a year transporting 5,200 youngsters through 85 private coach contracts. This doesn’t include children transported by taxi.

Councils are obliged to  provide free transport for secondary school pupils who live more than three miles from school or more than two miles for primary schoolchildren.

Labour-run Cardiff also  provides “discretionary” transport for 2,000 pupils who live within the distance limit but  attend, for example, a Welsh-medium or faith school.

Councillor Ralph Cook, cabinet member for transport, said the contracts with coach firms were unaffordable. He wants to see if some, if not all, of the coach routes could be stopped by having schoolchildren travel on regular bus services for free.

As well as a cost-saving, Councillor Cook hopes it will encourage the city’s youngsters to continue to use public transport once they leave school.

“If we were creating a culture of public transport use through taking kids to school I could see a significant benefit, but we are not doing that,” Coun Cook said.
“We are offering a bespoke coach service from home to school - it’s not public transport.
“I have spoken to children and they all tell me they do not use buses because they are not  cool, but they are perfectly happy to use coaches.
“But if you grow up using public transport all the time, whether it’s cool or not does not become a part of it, it’s just  how you get around.”

In an attempt to allay the safety concerns of parents, the council will look at placing school bus escorts who currently ride on the contracted coaches on certain bus routes.

The cost of providing free bus transport for all 50,000 pupils  would be “enormous”, Coun Cook said, but many live close  enough to walk or cycle. Talks will also be held with operators such as Cardiff Bus to see if they would be prepared to transport schoolchildren before and after school at vastly reduced fares.

“It’s in the bus company’s interest to get kids on a bus for  the whole of their school lives  because they then will grow up  to be fee-paying adult passengers,” Councillor Cook said. “If bus companies are able to run their routes now without running significant losses, could they be persuaded to  provide cheap seats to kids? It’s extra bums on seats and extra pennies in the coffers.”

Peter Heath, of Cardiff Bus, said: “From our point of view  we think it’s a sensible move where there is duplicity between a school coach and the local bus network. We carry children of all ages to and from school as it is, so you are just moving children from one designated service to  another.”

Councillor Judith Woodman, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “Clearly they are  looking to save money, but we  do have to put the safety of  children first. As long as it is safe and gets them to school on time, whether it’s Cardiff Bus that provides it is, I think, pretty irrelevant. What we do not want is children having to change bus.”

The council recently axed £52,000 in funding for two discretionary coach services which transported children from Caerau attending St Francis Primary and pupils from St Mellons attending St John Lloyd RC Primary.

As part of the review, the authority will look at whether it can afford to pay for the pupils affected by the cuts to travel for free on existing local bus services.

Another option in the review is for children to pay the fares themselves with the council funding a bus escort to support  them. One of the two options will be trialled this year. According to a report to last week’s cabinet meeting, any wider changes to school transport are unlikely to be introduced before the start of the 2015 school year and would be subject to consultation.


Two biggest free public transit cities seek cooperation

Chengdu & Tallinn working together for free public transport

 Free buses ease congestion & pollution in Chengdu city.
From Tallinn city website:   5.4.2013

At the meeting held on 26 March between the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Mr Taavi Aas and Liu Shoucheng, Vice Mayor in charge of transportation of Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province in China, the latter expressed Chengdu’s interest in the development of contacts with Tallinn regarding free public transport and Chengdu’s participation in European public transportation network projects.

Taavi Aas considers the experience and knowledge of city traffic management of Chengdu, a city with 14 million inhabitants, valuable both for Tallinn and Europe. “The fourth largest city of China - the country leading the global economic development process, is one of China’s growth drivers, and its urban management solutions are of great interest also in the West, be it the development of public transport in general or free public transport in particular, laying restrictions to car traffic, management of city planning or promoting modern entrepreneurship,” said Aas.  

At the meeting with the Head of Tallinn Transport Department Mr Andres Harjo the Vice Manager of Chengdu Transport Department Tu Zhi pointed out that Chengdu’s free public transport experiment is followed with great interest in all of China and so far the experiment has been a success. Combined with limited access to city centre by car (according to the last number of the registration plate each car is allowed to the city centre on one business day only) the free public transport between ringroads 2 and 3 has greatly reduced the number of cars in the city. The free public transport experiment in Chengdu was launched last October and was planned to end on 30 June this year. “Yet the leaders of Chengdu transportation sector implied clearly that free public transport on the current lines shall definitely continue and the only question is whether and to which extent the free public transport shall expand,” stated Harjo.

At the meeting of the Chairman of the Board of Tallinn TV Mr Allan Alaküla and the Vice President of Chengdu City TV CNTV Ma Xiangyang it was agreed that Chengdu TV crew shall visit Tallinn to cover the subject of free public transport and introduce Tallinn to Chinese people as an attractive tourist destination.

Members of the Tallinn delegation who visited Chengdu last week upon the invitation from Chengdu City Council were Deputy Mayor Mr Taavi Aas, Head of the Transport Department Mr Andres Harjo, Development Director of Tallinn Mr Kaarel-Mati Halla, coordinator of development projects of the City Enterprise Board Ms Ingrid Hindrikson and the Representative of Tallinn to the European Union and Chairman of the Board of Tallinn TV Mr Allan Alaküla. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Greens to launch 'Re-connect Auckland' campagn


Green Party transport spokesperson, Julie-Anne Genter MP, has announced plans to launch their 'Re-connect Auckland' campaign at their Auckland office, 17 Mercury Land, Newton on Sunday 14 April from 2pm - 4pm.
Greens invitation: It's no secret that Aucklanders want fast and frequent public transport in to help their city flourish. Investment in better options for getting around by rail, bus, bike and foot made now will futureproof Auckland's economy and quality of life later on. But the government isn't hearing our call. We need to amplify that voice until it can't be ignored, and we want your help. Next week, we're launching the campaign to Reconnect Auckland - to secure government support of the City Rail Link, and get Auckland moving again.

Join Greens co-leader Russel Norman and transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter MP to find out more about the CRL and how the city could get ahead. Refreshments provided. RSVP to ."

Julie Anne Genter MP

  Julie Anne Genter MP

Free public transport in Estonian capital is "officially awesome"

A tram in Tallinn, Estonia (© Richard Sowersby/Rex Features)

If you're sick of scrambling for bus fare or shelling out for gas, consider a move to Estonia.

Tallinn, its capital, now offers free public transportation to residents (sorry, tourists), allowing travel by bus or tram with the swipe of a residency card.

It's the world’s first capital city to offer such a perk, and while detractors grumble about lost revenue and creepy trackability, proponents say it has cut down on congestion and pollution, boosted the economy and enticed new residents, increasing the tax base. Plus, it's saving people bundles. The mayor calls it the "13th monthly salary," contending it will save residents about a month's wages annually.

Other cities around the world are considering similar plans. We hope that includes ours. [Source]
msn report, 4 March 2013. Click to see more on, updated 24 hours a day. 


Estonia's capital gives residents a free ride

  • Estonia Free Ride

A Tallin passenger places her transit pass on an electronic reader on a city bus in the Estonian capital. Tallinn this year became the world's first capital to introduce free public transport for all its residents.

By JARI TANNER: TALLINN, Estonia (AP) 'The Big Story' 4 March 2013

Looking for a free ride? Go live in Tallinn.


Estonia's capital became the world's first to introduce free public transport for all of its residents. All that's required is a transit pass showing you're a registered Tallinner — and the city's buses, streetcars and trams are yours for free.

"I live on a tight budget since I don't have too much work right now," said Mare Tulp, who recently registered as a Tallinn resident. "I need to save money wherever I can, so I'm very happy with the free public transit scheme. This is a good thing for the common person."

Three months after launching the initiative, city officials are hailing the experiment as a success, though skeptics call it an expensive, populist trick ahead of local elections.

The free-ride scheme is the brainchild of Mayor Edgar Savisaar, who wants to reduce congestion and pollution while alleviating expenses for the city's poor.

Savisaar has even dubbed the program the "13th monthly salary" since, he claims, families will be able to save a month's salary now that they can get around Tallinn for free.

Deputy Mayor Taavi Aas says the experiment, which will cost the city some 12 million euros ($16 million) annually in lost ticket sales, has surpassed expectations. Passenger numbers are up 10 percent, while the number of cars on city streets has fallen by as much as 15 percent, according to Tallinn's transport authority.

A recent opinion poll commissioned by the city showed that nine out of 10 Tallinn residents are satisfied with the project.

"People now move around the city more frequently during weekends," Aas said. "This means they also spend more money, which boosts the economy."

City officials say it's too early to tell how much the city's economy has been stimulated in this way.
But the program is expected to boost the city's tax revenue because the registration requirement is essentially winning the city more taxable residents.

According to city calculations, some 40,000 people living and working in Tallinn are registered in other cities and towns. But more than 5,000 new Tallinn residents have been registered since Jan. 1, compared with 3,600 residency registrations during all of last year.

With 1,000 new residents equaling an estimated 1 million euros in city tax revenue, the current registration rate would offset the program's costs this year, Aas said.

The initiative covers buses, streetcars and trolleybuses in Tallinn — a city of 425,000. The only catch is that one must be registered as a city resident and get a transit pass for 2 euros.

Once on board, you must place the pass on an electronic reader. If you don't, expect a fine of up to 40 euros ($52) should a ticket controller emerge.

Installing the system was a breeze in tech-savvy Estonia, birthplace of Skype and pioneer of online voting.

Many European capitals, including London, have similar electronic fare systems, but the difference is Tallinners never have to top up the card with money (out-of-towners do).

The fact that the Tallinn card is personal, essentially allowing the transit authority to monitor every resident's travel pattern, has raised some "big-brother-is-watching-you" concerns. City officials have responded that tracking travel patterns will help them improve transit service.

To be sure, Tallinn is not a trailblazer with free transportation. Many small European towns, such as Hasselt in Belgium and Colomiers in France, have tried it, as well as some Chinese cities. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has mulled over the idea.

But Tallinn is the first capital and the largest city after Changning City in central China to introduce free public transport, Aas said.

He said the project's two risks — insufficient capacity and the risk of derelicts spending entire days in buses — have not materialized so far.

Critics contend the experiment is doomed and will bankrupt Tallinn. Lawmaker Valdo Randpere from the conservative Reform Party, the ruling party in Estonia's center-right government, said the center-left Savisaar is wasting taxpayer money for his "own purposes and propaganda." "There are lots of other areas where the city should invest but doesn't have the money," said Randpere, a former member of the Tallinn City Council. "It all sounds nice, but it's a lot of populism."

Some Tallinn residents groused about the affect the scheme is having on their business.
Andrea Green, manager of a Tallinn-based taxi company Saksa Takso, said Tallinn's free transportation is undermining entrepreneurship and risks taking jobs from cab drivers. He said orders declined 25 percent in the first two months of the year compared with the same period in 2012.
"The city should invest in improving the condition of Tallinn's streets instead," he said.
But for Tallinners on a moderate income, the free rides are a gift.

"It gives you freedom," said Tulp, as she boarded a bus on her way home to a suburb of Tallinn. "It's not just money."
Estonia Free Ride
Popular free public transport in Tallinn city
From 'The Big Story' 4 March 2013:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thailand extends free bus & train services

BANGKOK, 1 April 2013

The cabinet has decided to extend free bus and train services for six more months, while the transport minister has proposed an idea of a free public transport ticket for low-income people.

At the mobile cabinet meeting in Chachoengsao province, the cabinet has approved an extension of the government's free bus and train services for another six months.

The free services currently include non-air-conditioned buses in Bangkok on 73 routes, and third-class train services on about 170 trains per day. The service extension is expected to cost the government 2 billion baht.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt proposed at the cabinet meeting the idea of a free ticket for low-income people, to be used on all public transport services. The idea would be further discussed in future meetings, and no decision has been made on the idea yet.

NNT - National News Bureau of Thailand