Park-n-ride, Hosking, and public transport

A guest post.

Mike Hosking has a good take on the park-n-ride debacle and the general subject of public transport and the war on cars, in?A left-wing Newspaper: Quote:

??the scandal of Park n Ride, is the same as the scandal with the cycle lanes, which I will return to momentarily.

That scandal is the ideological criminality that’s driving us out of cars.

There was a survey a week back, the largest survey yet of public transport users, and the biggest response was two fold; 1, they want more services, and 2, they were only on public transport because there was no parking – and in that is the crime.?The reason there are no parks is because councils have deliberately killed parking, they have cornered the market in yellow paint and gone about the place putting lines on the sides of roads, then they have amped up charges and put in bus lanes and cycle ways, and every time they do that they smile because they know, having profoundly failed to convince us that public transport is good news, they have?had to set about forcing us out of the car?? (my emphasis)? End quote.

Besides the malicious new anti-car initiatives Hosking describes, it is also false that Auckland has ?spent too much money on roading?,?the inadequacy of its roading network long since, is a major cause of its outlier-high congestion.

Activists (including politicians) assure us that public transport is ?superior? and that if only enough public money is spent on it, it will be so wonderful that people will happily use it instead of their cars. But this is out of touch with reality; everywhere that there is a higher PT mode share, appalling traffic conditions are a major driver of that higher mode share. Just as Communism ?works? by making everyone poorer rather than by lifting the poor up, public-transport-oriented planning makes PT ?competitive? only by sabotaging automobility?s superiority and giving everyone longer and longer travel times, equally long by car or PT.

The voting public are actually deceived into supporting PT spending in the hopes that ?it will reduce traffic congestion? ? most people have no intention of using the PT, they expect ?other people? to use it, leaving the roads clearer for themselves. But if building more road space ?induces traffic?, why wouldn?t every commuter switching modes also ?encourage someone else to take the space they have left?? The false assumption is based on PT being a superior option, which it is not, unless automobility can be made sufficiently bad. Quote:

??The trick to public transport is accessibility, and they don’t have any.

Which brings us back to our Park n Ride fiasco, at its very core, public transport is about efficiency, what is efficient about turning up to a park n ride to only have to go round and round and round and end up in a paddock down the road because there is no space.

What then is the efficiency of having to turn up an hour early to wait for your bus, so you can get a park, you are adding to your commute time, you are spending longer driving and parking and waiting – before you even get on your transport to work – than if you’d stayed in the car in the first place, it’s insanity.

Auckland Transport, the geniuses who cocked all this up to start with, when they had it brought to their attention by the AA, who say quite rightly this is a joke, instead of accepting it as such, replied with, “no” we don’t need more parks, what we need are more buses, buses to get you TO the buses?

??When that doesn’t work, will it be a ride n ride n ride? Just how many buses will we eventually have to board to get to work?? End quote.

And just how efficient on?any?grounds, would this be anyway? PT vehicles must start out their route empty, and fill up with riders at a slow enough rate that no-one is left fuming at a stop as already-full buses drive past them. Then they must reposition, empty, to the start of their route. Their actual ?loading rate? as a result, is down around the average level of occupancy of cars, and this outcome is guaranteed to worsen on average as ever-more ?feeder? services are provided to locations with less ridership.

PT vehicles, including buses, trains and ?light rail? (which is not ?light? at all), have a very high dead-weight mass per passenger, as the need for chassis strengthening rises exponentially with the increase in the number of riders between the axles. This dead weight must be constantly decelerated and re-accelerated for stops. The steeper the terrain, the more this dead weight counts against PT. The fiscal and energy ?efficient? of PT is vastly over-rated; people have a mental image of a full PT vehicle at cruising speed, compared to a single-occupant car; which does not represent the reality of the entire system.

A significant proportion of PT routes perform worse than the average for single-occupancy cars. Possibly no PT service in the world is as efficient as the most economical cars, or as?any car?with?3 or more seats occupied. In the USA, only Manhattan?s PT services beat the average for cars, and possibly Chicago?s CBD at rush hour. Everywhere else in the USA, PT is less efficient than automobility by every possible standard of measurement. The Johnsonville rail line in Wellington, though, may be one of the world?s?most wasteful?PT systems, likely matching some of?the USA?s absurdly inefficient ones. It is quite possible for a PT system to cost $1+ per person-km of travel on it, when automobility averages at about 50 cents and efficient cars are below 30 cents.?Average?PT systems cost somewhere between 30 and 50 cents per person-km.

The policy focus on ?increasing PT mode share? is the wrong metric anyway. Urban efficiency depends on several things:

Trip?time?? which is a factor of?trip length?and?trip speed

These factors depend, in their turn, on:

  • Co-location?(of trip origins and destinations)
  • Network capacity where the travel is required?– the less co-location efficiency there is, the greater the need for capacity, as more and more travellers compete with each other for more of the time, for the available space.

Co-location efficiencies depend, in turn, on:

  • Dispersion (or concentration) of trip destinations ? the greater the centralization, the greater the number of travellers competing for space, as they are all funnelled into convergence on the same geographic destination.
  • The real-estate affordability of more efficient location decisions. The greater the centralization of trip destinations, the steeper the real-estate ?price premium? for co-locating. (It is false that allowing greater density of development compensates: the rule proven by real-life experience is that site values are elastic to allowed density of development).

There are good objective, rational reasons why cities employment naturally disperses unless heavy-handed planning attempts to obstruct this process. Ironically, clustering efficiencies increase with dispersion, as different types of clusters are given a chance to evolve at multiple locations. There are excessive diseconomies to forcing non-complementary economic activities to share the same limited geographic space, especially in the case of economic sectors that require low-cost space to function efficiently.

It has been said in humour, that some countries (like Egypt and Uganda) are not a country with an army, they are ?an army with a country?. NZ?s cities are not ?cities with a public transport system?, they are ?a public transport system with a city? in which all objective economic and social indicators are subservient to ?increasing PT mode share?. Ironically, dispersion and housing affordability (which go hand in hand) greatly increases the opportunity for walking and cycling, which cost nothing in public subsidies (of course reasonable planning right from the greenfields stage, of footpaths and cycle-friendly networks, helps ? it is fair to criticise bad planning in the past, but this does not alter the inherent efficiency of dispersion). The policy of concentration, unaffordable housing, ?pricing out? of efficient locations, and ever-longer commutes from the least unaffordable locations at and beyond the fringes, with ever-more transfers and/or park-and-riding, is the exact opposite of ?a trend towards efficiency?.

– Phil Hayward