Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: What Now?

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  • Keir Leslie,

    They don’t, but given a set of aims, they’re much better than me at achieving them. It’s easy to criticize them, but try designing a large scale transport network and see if you do a better job.

    Given a set of aims is of course the problematic.

    (PS. if i weren't an old-fashioned command and control socialist, I'd mutter something about hayek and `designing' being the wrong approach anyway.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I'm trying to work out how "fewer buses" results in "more people in the city". Is he going to issue us with jet-packs?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    if i weren't an old-fashioned command and control socialist, I'd mutter something about hayek and `designing' being the wrong approach anyway

    It's not like transport engineers haven't considered whether their entire business is pointless. There are positions within the discipline that suggest that people will decide for themselves where they want to live and work, and businesses will decide where it is profitable to operate from, and you just improve the roads and infrastructure that are being used already.

    Which of course means you get Auckland, exactly how it is. And every other sprawly automobile oriented city in the world.

    I'm divided about which approach is better, personally. I do admire massive cities with mass transit. But I also wonder about the extent to which the time for creating such cities has passed. Most of the world's biggest cities are also the world's oldest cities.

    The following is a total thought experiment, and may not apply, I'm open to criticism on it:

    I've played a fair few large scale world-building strategy games. One thing I have noticed, is that you usually have to build really big cities. But I've also noticed that sometimes a critical point is reached, where there more value in putting all your resources into the big cities you already have, than in trying to build up new cities. It's usually better to channel the output of the small cities into the big cities. So you get a small number of huge developed cities and a large number of small undeveloped ones.

    I wonder if this is exactly what is happening, that people who want what big cities offer go to the already existing ones, making them bigger, and you get a runaway effect - at the same time a constant braking effect on the smaller ones.

    Since NZ doesn't really have any particularly big cities, those people actually leave the country. So what is left is the kind of people who like NZ how it already is, on the whole.

    A similar thing happened in the UK. London is pretty much the big city, where people who like cities go. The rest are much smaller. They're growing, just not as fast. Maybe at some point they could reach a critical mass and have a size explosion. But the bigger city, still running away, could soak up the excess faster and faster.

    This experiment is based on the idea that even running a command economy (in these strategy games I'm usually an immortal dictator), some cities going crazy big, and a lot of others not really going anywhere fast, is a perfectly good outcome. My question is: Is this also happening in reality, just naturally from people seeking their societal niche? And is it bad or not?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    I do admire massive cities with mass transit. But I also wonder about the extent to which the time for creating such cities has passed.

    Two words: peak oil

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    Two words: peak oil

    Quite. Contrary to the pronouncements of Joyce and English, transport modality is sensitive to the cost of petrol where an alternative exists. Rail patronage in Auckland is increasing at a great rate; the 18:16 service I caught home last night was so packed the train manager didn't even try to clip tickets, and I didn't encounter that level of crowding during the first week of university which is traditionally the busiest week of the year. Apparently March is looking like it might break a million passengers. So much for Key's claim in the House yesterday that more people use the Puford route daily than use rail in Auckland - 1m/month is about 35k passengers per day, against a revised-upwards figure of 27k/day for Puford.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Key's claim in the House yesterday that more people use the Puford route daily than use rail in Auckland

    Joyce has been pinged for trotting out that same lie repeatedly. Hope someone on the opposition benches was ready with the rebuttal evidence - or they can just get out of the way.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Does peak oil change the logic of my thought experiment? Or does it make it worse? If oil prices increase, the sprawly cities become less and less attractive, and choke out to the cities with mass transit already in place even more so. So runaway could accelerate.

    I mostly agree that it would be nice if Auckland changed, btw. Despite not actually being a commuter myself, I still would like it if the city center was a more attractive one to live and work in. My point is more to do with extrapolating the past success of the mega-cities out there to something we could achieve by doing the same thing. They didn't have to contend with the outflow of people to bigger cities.

    By the same token, doesn't Auckland choke out the other cities in NZ? Isn't it almost always going to be more efficient to pump money into Auckland infrastructure, because the ROI is higher, due to the high population, with high wages, paying more tax? Aren't we already seeing a runaway effect? When I was a lad, Auckland wasn't so much larger than the other cities. Some of that is down to Auckland being a major Polynesian center. But again, isn't Auckland choking out development in the Pacific Islands?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Prostetnic Vogons Joyce and English have their heads buried in the tar sand. They think that the best Plan B is no Plan B.

    Does peak oil change the logic of my thought experiment? Or does it make it worse? If oil prices increase, the sprawly cities become less and less attractive, and choke out to the cities with mass transit already in place even more so. So runaway could accelerate.

    It helped lead to a justified meltdown in the American McMansion market.

    When I was a lad, Auckland wasn't so much larger than the other cities. Some of that is down to Auckland being a major Polynesian center.

    Auckland gets most of the country's international flights - one of the few things it's actually planned ahead for.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    Hope someone on the opposition benches was ready with the rebuttal evidence - or they can just get out of the way.

    To be fair to them, the last highly-public figure for rail patronage was the one Key used - a figure that was actually better than the old figure for Puford, but Key handily had revised data for Puford that had it higher than Auckland rail. I didn't even realise that the November patronage figure (850k-ish) had been released until I saw it on AKT. I emailed Shane Jones this morning, and asked him to please use the new figures to shoot National down next time they try and claim Auckland rail is less-used than Puford.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    It has been thoroughly debunked on transportblog for the last couple of years, every time Joyce tries it on. No excuses. If the opposition can't be bothered reading in their portfolio area then they are part of the problem, not the solution. And they need to work together.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    Isn't it almost always going to be more efficient to pump money into Auckland infrastructure, because the ROI is higher, due to the high population, with high wages, paying more tax? Aren't we already seeing a runaway effect?

    Depends how Auckand grows. If the city sprawls more, as envisaged by Darth Joyce, there won't be enough money to support quality services to the metropolitan area. We already have the outer areas on tanks for water and septic services, and these are places within 20 minutes' drive of the CBD. People won't stand for that forever, especially if they're being rated like they have reticulated services, and even if their rates are lower they'll still expect high-speed intertubes, quality schools, convenient medical treatment, etc. Those things cost, and reticulated services cost, and even now we don't capture the full expense from developers.

    Pumping money into an ineffcient, sprawling city is probably worse than pumping it into a bunch of smaller cities that are just as inefficient but, due to their smaller geography, can have their sprawl serviced more cheaply. Adding 20k residents to the outskirts of Hamilton or Tauranga or Wellington will be considerably cheaper to handle than the same number on the outskirts of Auckland.

    Auckland's true economic value will be recognised if the central city grows. It's already the highest-value centre of employment in the country, but will hit limits on the ability of new workers to even get into the CBD during peak times within the next 15 or so years. If that happens, as seems to be Joyce's wont, then the jobs will devolve to other business centres around the region (or simply won't come to Auckland at all, instead they'll go to Brisbane, or Melbourne, or Perth) and the economic power of clustering highly-paid people in close proximity will be lost. And we'll be continuing to lament our nation's poor economic performance right to the point where the cost of supporting the boomers becomes so great that most members of Gen Y and the Millenials will simply up stakes and leave because there's no future when taxes are 80% and it's all going on paying for people who happily screwed the country when they had the levers of control.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    It has been thoroughly debunked on transportblog for the last couple of years

    Uh, except that until recently is was a very close-run thing. The figures used by National were actually plausible, depending how one did the counting at Puford. The September annual rail figure made it very, very close, and was the 24.5k figure Key used yesterday if averaged over a 365-day operating year.
    It's the November numbers that finally tip things over the edge, and if this month break the million mark then there'll be something with which Joyce and Key can be shot down for good and all. They'd have to have car occupancy averaging 2 to get close, and still they'd fall short.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Oh, and PS: Jones only took over Transport about a month ago. It's a bit much to expect him to be across every detail just yet, especially something that can be twisted and munged as much as this one.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I'm not going to get into the detail today. As I've said, that has been done competently and thoroughly by others, and there are some fishhooks in the way the figures are derived and interpreted.

    Nothing personal about Jones either. His predecessors failed to challenge blatant lying. There is also more than one opposition party in the House.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    As I've said, that has been done competently and thoroughly by others

    Yes, I know. I've followed their work. This is the first time it's been absolutely unarguable that the patronage of Auckland's rail network is higher than the usage of the Puhoi-Warkworth stretch, even in the face of Key's debateable usage figures for the road.

    You can get as pissy about it as you like, but when faced with "statisticians" like Key and Joyce the only way to shut them down completely is to have evidence that's completely overwhelming. This is that evidence.
    As for the Greens, yes, I have been somewhat disappointed by their response to the patronage figures. I'd expected better, but gave up on them actually giving a tinker's cuss about it and doing real homework.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    You can get as pissy about it as you like

    Sorry, just too busy today to do it justice. Please do link to the stuff if you have time, so others can join in too.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey, in reply to Sacha,

    Athfeild being involved in any kind of reconstruction is a bad idea. Architects understand individual buildings extremely well. Not so a collection of buildings and even lesser so a city.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Simpering Actoid ninny Deb Coddington argues that if the well-off white folk of Sumner can organise themselves then why have a government response at all.

    PPPs are surely the answer, she insists. And the good people of Martinborough raised $7000 with a cake stall, so there - the most important thing is it was voluntary with none of that horrible state compulsion and "crowding out" of the private response.

    Why can't governments realise they are not the solution, they are the problem?

    ...

    At least John Key continues to rule out a special tax promoted by Greens co-leader Russel Norman on anyone earning more than $48,000.

    It's just downright insulting to order New Zealanders to donate. The spontaneous benevolence of Kiwis in the quake's aftermath has been outstanding.

    ...

    When the Government commandeers the role of welfare, as it has done in so many aspects of our lives, people shrug their shoulders and cease to give.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Richard CLARK, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Totally disagree about Napier, look to Hastings for an alive vibrant City that works. Napier dropped the ball and depends on retirees and holiday makers.

    Featherston • Since Feb 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    It’s just downright insulting to order New Zealanders to donate. The spontaneous benevolence of Kiwis in the quake’s aftermath has been outstanding.

    And, of course, the spontaneous benevolence will continue for the forthcoming decades, with the nation voluntarily paying for the rebuild.

    Why can’t governments realise they are not the solution, they are the problem?

    Deborah, Reagan's ghost called. He wants his hoary 80's cliche back.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    That post of her’s was embarassing – but some of the rightywhitey comments afterwards – whew!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Sacha,

    Simpering Actoid ninny Deb Coddington argues that if the well-off white folk of Sumner can organise themselves then why have a government response at all.

    Coddington has written some saner columns of late, but this is not one of them. For all its faults, a welfare system exists so that the well-to-do don't have to live behind a razor wire comfort blanket, or have the SAS drive their kids to school.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Coddington has written some saner columns of late, but this is not one of them.

    I agree; it's disappointingly stupid

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    a welfare system exists so that the well-to-do don’t have to live behind a razor wire comfort blanket, or have the SAS drive their kids to school.

    you're assuming that's not what codders-type people want.

    the alternate view is that the welfare state means that 'these types of people' have enough money to get within 5 km of people like herself.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    I don't know if this has been discussed here (I've not read every post), could Civil Defense be creating unintended consequences with its managment of the cordon/red zone.
    Next time there is an emergency, could people take make more risks and/or not assist others if they are trying to remove stock and equipment from their workplaces before the authorities prevent them?.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

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