FREE BUSES PETITION
Traffic gridlock is the biggest single challenge facing local government across greater Auckland.
I was elected to the Auckland Regional Council on the RAM (Residents Action Movement) ticket.
On behalf of RAM, I will be launching a free buses petition at this month’s full ARC meeting (6pm, 15 November).
The petition’s text states:
“To fix traffic gridlock and clean Auckland’s air, we call for a major shift of government funds away from motorways and into buses for the people. We call for the urgent introduction of thousands more buses across greater Auckland which are free and frequent and close to everyone in built-up areas.”
The petition will be presented to the public hearings of the Regional Land Transport Committee in June 2005.
We are asking prominent and respected Aucklanders if they would like to ENDORSE the petition IN THEIR PERSONAL CAPACITY. (We emphasise the personal, not institutional, nature of all endorsements.)
Many scores of widely-respected citizens have already endorsed, and more are doing so every day. It seems that free buses is an idea whose time has almost come.
I’m writing to give you advance notice of the petition launch and, in addition, to ask if you would like to join our growing list of endorsers.
If you would like to endorse, could you please reply to this email as soon as possible.
BELOW is a short backgrounder on economic, political, environmental and network questions raised by the free buses petition.
…but can we afford it?
Yes, we can afford free buses. And without increasing home rates.
The Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy has earmarked $5.2 billion of mostly government funds to new roading projects over the next six years. This is a conservative figure, and doesn’t include road maintenance costs.
It’s estimated that Auckland could buy 3,000 new buses and run them for free over the next six years for only two-fifths of the $5.2 billion that is to go into more tarseal. The government has the money, but is there the political will for a major resource shift from motorways to buses?
HUGE GRIDLOCK COSTS
Independent experts say traffic gridlock cannot be solved by laying more tarseal, which simply grows more cars.
According to the government, gridlock costs Auckland businesses a billion dollars each year. For only one-third of what businesses jointly lose in gridlock, Auckland can run a world-class free bus service which fixes gridlock by taking you anywhere, anytime.
Oil prices are on the rise and oil reserves are running out fast. It’s only going to become more costly to use your car. Switching to free buses for most trips makes economic sense whatever way you look at it.
HEALTH & ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS
Scientists warn that global warming, largely fueled by vehicle exhaust fumes, is already changing world weather patterns. Life on our planet is under serious threat unless we curb the hothouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.
Auckland has dirtier air than almost any other city of similar population in the world. It’s fumey and gloomy, not clean and green, and it’s polluting our bodies. For the sake of our environment and our health, we must create the political climate for a sensible shift to low-emission public transport.
WHAT ABOUT RAIL?
But why not rail? Because buses become operational far more quickly than rail, at only a fraction of the cost. And, given our region’s fairly dispersed population, buses have the flexibility to provide services within easy walking distance of everyone.
There’s a bigger role for rail in the medium term, but gridlock can only be fixed swiftly and cheaply by thousands more buses.
HOW ABOUT CHEAP FARES?
So why not levy cheap fares? Because there must be the maximum incentive to get people out of cars. Anyhow, the costs of collecting cheap fares would wipe out most, if not all, of the money collected.
And making buses free means it’s very difficult for corporate politicians to later put them under the control of market forces, which would kill them as a public service.
This vision of free and frequent buses close to everyone in built-up areas is our region¹s only realistic alternative to unaffordable gridlock.