Saturday, August 17, 2013

Greece ticket inspection death prompts protest


'Murderers' daubed on smashed bus window during protests in Athens
NZ Herald. Saturday Aug 17, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greek youths clashed with riot police in Athens on Friday as they protested the death of a teenage trolley passenger during a ticket inspection, a death that anti-austerity groups have blamed on the government's harsh economic policies.

The violence came as 1,000 people marched through the working-class Peristeri district after the young man's funeral, chanting anti-government slogans. Some protesters set rubbish bins on fire and threw stones at police, who responded with stun grenades and pepper spray.

At least four people were detained, but no injuries were reported.

Technical school student Thanassis Kanaoutis, 19, fell to his death Tuesday night when the trolley bus doors unexpectedly opened following an altercation with a ticket inspector because he hadn't validated his ticket. The incident is under investigation.

Greece's main opposition party, the Syriza Radical Left Coalition, has linked the death with the country's severe economic crisis, saying the victim was unemployed and died because he couldn't afford the 1.20-euro ($1.60) fare.

Syriza also condemned Athens transport authorities' practice of giving ticket inspectors a cut of the fines they impose as an incentive to address widespread fare-dodging. The party demanded free transportation for the unemployed, low-income pensioners and students.

The anti-austerity "I won't pay" group, which advocates non-payment of public transportation fares, highway tolls and utility bills, hailed the youth as "the first dead fighter for civil disobedience."
Police temporarily suspended trolley bus services in Peristeri, for fear of attacks on transport workers, and closed two subway stations. Youths vandalized buses after Kanaoutis' death in Athens and Thessaloniki, where 13 people were arrested for spraying slogans on a bus.

Earlier Friday, hundreds of protesters marched through Peristeri to the local cemetery. Some stopped a bus on the way, damaging the windshield and spray-painting "murderers" on the glass.
In 2008, the fatal police shooting of a teenager in Athens sparked weeks of rioting across the country.
For more than three years, debt-crippled Greece has survived on huge bailouts from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund. To secure continued disbursement of the rescue loans, the country has slashed spending and incomes, repeatedly raised taxes, increased the retirement age and breaking a century-old taboo pledged to cut 15,000 public sector jobs by 2015.

The cutbacks have deepened a five-year recession so severe that many economists call it a depression and pushed unemployment to nearly 28 percent and about 65 percent among Greek youths.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the death would be fully investigated, and accused Syriza of engaging in "populism bordering on grave robbery."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why not abolish fares altogether?

TRAIN fares are going up ("Rail passengers to be hit by peak-time journey fare rise", The Herald, August 14).

This is no surprise. No matter whether public transport is owned by private enterprise, wholly owned by the state or a mixture of both models the universal constant is that at the end of the day the general public foots the bill. The situation where 4p of every pound raised in fares is taken as profit could in theory be replaced by the identical system with everyone involved doing exactly what they do but with the profit being spent on the general public. Why should a third party profit simply because I want to travel to Edinburgh to do some shopping or fancy visiting my auntie in Auchtermuchty?

It may seem a radical suggestion but, bearing in mind that the public is footing the bill whatever system one adopts, why do we not simply make all public transport free and abolish fares altogether?

An expanded public transport system free to all users would have a massive effect, from reducing reliance on the motor car and the knock-on effect that would have on road congestion fuel consumption and pollution to a stimulation of the tourism industry with there being no hindrance to visitors exploring every nook and cranny of the country.

Who would inflict on themselves the torture of driving the M8 from Glasgow to Edinburgh if they knew they could jump on any train going there every five minutes or so and it would not cost them a penny as it was paid through direct taxation? At either end of the journey they could use any bus they felt like again because it was free. Why would you throw money away on a depreciating asset (as that is what a car is) if a bus passed your front door every few minutes and it cost you nothing to travel on uncongested roads?

There is not the slightest hope of my suggestion of universally free public transport being adopted because there is no profit in it for the Establishment. Worker bees are caught in the trap of being forced to use private transport because public transport is simply not fit for purpose and kept deliberately so.

There is profit in selling cars and creating a "keeping up with the Joneses" marketing policy. There is profit in drilling for oil and getting the proles to buy it. There is profit in squeezing hard-earned cash from commuters who have no alternative but to play the game else they don't work. As usual, in everything from transport to nuclear weapons "things is as they is" simply because those at the top of the social heap make a buck out of it.
How often do we have to accept the introduction of measures that accentuate the disproportionate distribution of the wealth of the nation into the pockets of those who already have more than they need? It is time we addressed the main problem in the country. Let us treat the disease and not be sidetracked by the symptoms.
David J Crawford,
Glasgow, Scotland.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

'The Capital of Free Public Transport' to host international conference

On 22 – 24 August 2013 the international summer school “The Capital of Free Public Transport” shall be held in Tallinn, Estonia.

The 150 participants registered in the summer school taking place in Tallinn University include regional, state and European level planners of politics, members of non-governmental associations, experts and representatives of interest groups who are fascinated by the closely intertwined issues of transportation, environment, social cohesion, economy, budget and spatial planning.

Foreign journalists from China, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea and various countries of the European Union shall also take part.

One of the headliners of the summer school that starts with a conference day, is the European Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas. At the conference also Aubagne (France), Chengdu (China), Hasselti (Belgium) and Zory and Zabki (Poland) in addition to Tallinn shall share their experience with free public transport.

The research results of the scientists of KTH Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden regarding Tallinn’s free public transport shall be presented by Dr Oded Cats. The policy of social space development shall be expanded upon by Professor Georg Sootla from Tallinn University.    

“Today many cities and local government areas face the pressure of increasing the cost of tickets of public transportation. Yet this involves a serious risk that the public transport shall be used even less,” the Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar described the main topic of the summer school where he shall make the opening presentation. “As in Europe public transport is subsidized mostly more than 50%, more and more cities are starting to pose the key question – why not introduce free public transportation to justify the current subsidization rate, to increase the usage of public transport and to reduce car traffic.“ 

[Ed: Fare Free NZ will be covering this important event - watch this space!]

Brazil protesters back on the streets over free public transport

Play/stop Video

 Euronews report, 15 August 2013.

The movement at the origin of the recent wave of social unrest in Brazil has been back on the streets of Sao Paulo protesting over transport fares.

President Rousseff has moved to improve bus services in the country’s largest city but many continue to demand that public transport be made free.

Some burned an effigy of the state governor but the organisers from the Free Pass Movement (MPL) say the problem is more than a matter of who is in power.

“The MPL argue the problem is structural, it’s not a case of ‘this government’ or ‘that government’. It’s no good ousting the government if we don’t change how the transport system works. We’re challenging the business community’s interests and the way the system is controlled. Getting rid of the government won’t resolve the problem,” said Nina Capello of the Free Pass Movement.

After hours of peaceful protests there were some street clashes between protesters and police, and trouble as demonstrators got into the city hall.

The turnout was much smaller than in June, which saw wide-ranging national protests over poor public services, the high cost of living, corruption and the misuse of government money.
One million Brazilians took to the streets at the peak of the protests, rocking the country’s political establishment.

Sporadic protests and rioting have continued in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro but the numbers have dwindled from tens of thousands to hundreds.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rapid pace of climate change without precedent

NASA finds the thickest parts of the arctic ice cap are melting faster.

The climate is changing at a pace that's far faster than anything seen in 65 million years, a report out of Stanford University says.

The amount of global temperature increase and the short time over which it's occurred create a change in velocity that outstrips previous periods of warming or cooling, the scientists said in research published in Science journal.

If the Earth stays on its current course without reversing greenhouse gas emissions, the pace of change will be at least 50 times and possibly 100 times swifter than what's occurred in the past, said Christopher Field, one of the scientists on the study.

The changes that are expected ahead will happen much faster than the rate at which species and ecosystems typically are able to adjust, Field noted.

This report, from two respected Earth system scientists, lays stress on the rapid pace of climate change, something unique in the known environmental record. Most previous climate warnings have focused on quantity rather than velocity.

Here is a report from Scientific American magazine (2/8/2013) on the Stanford University report:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Minto for Mayor: free public transport policy launch

Johm Minto launches Mana's free & frequent public transport policy to end traffic gridlock in Auckland.

Tallinn on track towards 'European Green Capital' title

Recent estimates show that the decision on free public transport services in Tallinn was the right thing to do

 By Pamela Luică for 'Railway Pro' - transport business magazine, 26 June 2013
Estonia is one of the European countries which have lately tried to adapt to new requirements on economic and social growth struggling to answer to development and modernization needs in a new and revolutionary way.
Estonia was the first of the former soviet countries to adopt the Euro currency, being a promoter of the free market, providing facilities to foreign investors and privatising the important sectors of the economy. After these modernisation policies, Estonia has kept going and has launched a new challenge to European countries: since the beginning of this year, Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, has become the largest city to provide free public transport services to its citizens.

Before introducing free public transport services, the authorities have launched a referendum (in March 2012), where 75.5% of the citizens voted “for” the launch of free public transport services and the rest of 24.5% were against.

In 2012, before introducing free public transport services, the authorities implemented a series of measures including the extension of the transport network including the bus lines (in 2012), the merger of the two city companies which provided transport services (in June 2012), the decision of the Local Council on the application of the measure (voted in September 2012 and in force since 1 January 2013) and the implementation of the new payment systems (contactless payment since September 2012).

With a population of 425,000 citizens, Tallinn owns 480 public transport vehicles (buses, trams, trolleybuses) and the budget allocated to public transport in 2012 was of EUR 53 Million. “Total revenues from tickets are worth EUR 17 Million, EUR 5 Million coming from those who are not citizens of the city. In this context, studies showed that free public transport costs the citizens an annual EUR 12 Million”, declared Tõnu Karu, Representative of Tallinn at the European Union, during the conference “Optimisation of railway passenger transport services” organized by Club Feroviar and the Romanian Railway Industry Association.

When adopting the policy on the provision of free transport services, the authorities have considered four aspects related to the social, economic, environmental and fiscal segments. From the social point of view, the stress has fallen on guaranteeing mobility for the residents with small revenues or for the unemployed because the use of public transport facilitates the use of common spaces for the different segments of the society; the economic aspect has focused on increasing the mobility of the work force in the space limits of the city, stimulating the activity of consumers and directing the savings from public transport to other goods and local services. As regards the environment, the authorities have implemented this project to encourage modal shift and to attract the people using individual transportation to public transport while considering the well-known characteristics of urban transport: increased air quality, reduced pollution and noise level, as well as the development of urban areas. As part of the fiscal activity, the authorities in Tallinn see a strong motivation for registering the residency of the citizens in Tallinn, thus increasing the income tax. New financing sources have thus been identified and “since January 2012, a 2% growth of the people registered as Tallinn residents has been noticed (9,000 persons) which increases the city’s revenues coming from the income taxes. Also, the two public transport companies have merged leading to significant operating cost savings; moreover, parking spaces have been extended and parking charges have been increased”, explained Tõnu Karu.

The application of all these measures has already generated an increase in public transport attractiveness as more and more passengers have chosen public transport (the number of people travelling by bus has increased by 14%) and this also included the establishment of new types of passengers in workdays, in the evening or in weekends. Moreover, road traffic in the city centre dropped by 15%.

In order to increase the share of public transport, the authorities have implemented projects to upgrade services. “The satisfaction level of passengers has improved along with the modernisation of the ticketing system as they got used to the new system, the transport timetables are more precise, as 79% of the passengers believe; also, 60% of the people using public transport say they use public transport because it is free. Among passengers, the positive evaluation of different aspects is of 57%-83%. The benefits of free public transport for the environment, the social segment and the economic sector encourage us to continue with what we’re doing” added Karu.
The development plan of the Estonian capital is very ambitious as the authorities plan to candidate for the title of the European Green Capital 2018. Free public transport is the first step in this process. The authorities could also launch debates on the supply of other free public services.

Tõnu Karu, Representative of Tallinn at the European Union, talks in an interview about the increasing quality of public transport in European cities, its role in economic development, as well as the necessity and the challenges brought by the decision of delivering free public transport services.