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The brave new world of carpooling

By   /  June 28, 2016  /  8 Comments

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This one really shows how staggeringly out of touch Simon Bridges is. Yes, Simon, we want you to charge us to use the roads that were paid for by our taxes for public use, to encourage us to carpool, while neglecting to maintain and make use of the rail that our taxes built for public use. Please encourage us, Simon. We can’t do it without you.

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This one really shows how staggeringly out of touch Simon Bridges is. Yes, Simon, we want you to charge us to use the roads that were paid for by our taxes for public use, to encourage us to carpool, while neglecting to maintain and make use of the rail that our taxes built for public use. Please encourage us, Simon. We can’t do it without you.

Carpooling. Are you f***ing serious? The solution to bring this city into the twenty-first century is carpooling?

Aucklanders drive to work because they don’t have a choice. Yes, the passenger rail network is being upgraded and improved, with recently improved frequency, but it’s too little too late. It should have happened decades ago, and is still nowhere near being able to accommodate the needs of the city. The fact that on rush hour trains there’s standing room only, even with only a minority of commuters using them, shows that there is a will, just not a way. Train fares aren’t cheap and there are insufficient link-ups with buses if you happen to live too far from the train station (most people). They need to be more frequent, cheaper, with more park-and-ride facilities and/or a dedicated bus service, eventually replaced by extended rail networks.

But for this to happen there needs to be an almost revolutionary shift in the way our elected officials think. We are so used to Rogernomics, we’re convinced it’s ‘just the way things are’. The idea of privatising the profit and socialising the cost is so ingrained that, although everyone grumbles about such policies, we put up with them. The user-pays model permeates every part of our lives. GST punishes the poor to alleviate taxes on the rich. The working poor pay the highest percentage of their income on tax because of these insidious extra taxes on food, petrol, electricity, cigarettes, nappies. Speeding fines, which we all know do nothing to change the road toll, mostly exist to punish and criminalise generally law-abiding citizens for going a few kilometres over the speed limit, often when it’s perfectly safe to do so. Then there are ruinously high petrol prices, vehicle registration costs and escalating late payment penalties.

The proposed new tolling of Auckland motorways is designed to encourage ride-sharing to reduce congestion, not to collect revenue. Yeah right. Just like speeding tickets are designed to reduce road deaths.

This policy would punish the poorest workers who tend to live furthest from their jobs. What if you can’t afford to pay the toll? You go to work anyway, because otherwise you’ll lose your job. So they add up, you’ll pay them next payday, but your pay cheque doesn’t quite stretch that far because the government that just started charging you to use your own road won’t raise the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.

In a recent blog on the issue of congestion in Christchurch, John Minto suggests “free and frequent public transport”, in both cities – something that has been tried successfully in other countries. The lost ticket revenue of one year of free public transport in Christchurch “is less than the cost of a single kilometre of proposed new roading.”

The local and central government chirp on about it being too expensive to build and maintain rail, all the while spending billions on roads with the promise that if we tarseal the entire surface of the country, we might solve gridlock. How many millions of dollars a day in ‘man hours’ are lost due to sitting in traffic jams? How much pollution is generated? Why is this not factored into government costings? The mindset of these bureaucrats is petty, short-sighted and punitive, and their excuses pure spin.

The future of Auckland is pretty bleak if we put all our hopes into carpooling, electric cars, self-driving cars, cars, cars, cars. Building more lanes and roads just perpetuates the cycle of car-abuse, while maybe easing congestion a bit for a couple of years. Investing in rail infrastructure will have far-reaching benefits for decades, even centuries.

This isn’t just an Auckland problem. There are hundreds of kilometres of largely unused rail lines from Auckland north to the Bay of Islands, for example, deliberately neglected so it can be argued that it’s more economical for freight companies to use the roads, thus risking lives and costing a fortune in road maintenance and upgrades. There are no cons, only pros, to moving the majority of passenger and freight transportation onto rail, but will we ever get a government with the balls to give the trucking lobby and the Aussie roading companies the finger?

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About the author

Sian Robertson


Siân Robertson is a student of linguistics and languages at Auckland University and an organiser for the NZ Palestine Solidarity Network. An activist globally and locally, she has been actively involved in the Mana Movement. She was deputy editor of the carbuyers' Dog & Lemon Guide for several years. She is also an enthusiastic amateur footballer and a mother.


  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Brilliant Sian, you are a visionary unlike our MP’s.

    Rail must be used better and I lived in Toronto for three decades so rail is the way to move around that city of near five Million people about the sized population of NZ currently!

    I would leave the west side home of Toronto and at the street level catch a tram to the rail station where the day pass would transfer to all transport systems of road and rail and use this pass all day for my job, then at night catch it home by rail again safely all for four bucks a day!!!!!!

    Send a request to the minister to do what I DID DAILY FOR THREE DECADES AS A KIWI WORKING ABROAD.

  2. Helena says:

    We’re still waiting for our ten bridges to not a lot in Northland, Simon. Here’s a suggestion for you on how to solve Auckland’s road problems.
    I love this video and music’s not bad either.
    The upside to just having roads is that they can be maintained to Government “she’ll be right mate” standards and cars can just bump thru the potholes. Cheap. Rail, on the other hand, would require maintenance, eh Simon! Not cheap. No guesses for which option this Government goes for.

    • Bert says:

      I would like to write comment on the transport issue but like Simon Bridges, it would just be a waste of space. Full of his own self importance and the clown prince of parliament.

  3. Strypey says:

    It’s great that you want to promote public transport Sian, and I agree that the decision-makers of Tamaki Makaurau could do a lot more to make it cheaper and easier to use, and more attractive than driving (eg free wi-fi on all trains). I also agree that charging people to use public roads is fundamentally wrong, and disproportionately affects people with lower incomes.

    But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Imagine every car being driven to work had three passengers who are currently driving their own car to work. That would eliminate 75% of rush hour traffic, and reduce the carbon emissions and air pollution created by work journeys by the same amount. This is not trivial, and I welcome your suggestions for other ways central and local government can encourage and support car pooling. Allowing full vehicles to use bus lanes could be one way.

  4. richarquis says:

    My father and grandfather both ran roading contracting businesses – Building roads, footpaths, tennis courts, etc. Given that, they were both dyed-in-the-wool National supporters. Imagine their horror when I, a bookish child who just wanted to write poetry, came and derailed the family dream… You can bet that I, as a Labour/Liberal (you choose the word you like) minded voter, did NOT get along with them any better as an adult (in fact, probably worse) than I did as a child.
    So my dad, still alive, continues to support National, despite the fact that the free market structure was responsible for stealing his business out from under him. Keep propping them up, and soon enough they’ll prop you back, right? Right? Wrong.
    The right wing never did shit for him, despite his loyal support for all his voting life.

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    Excellent article.

    These thundering articulated monstrosities on our roads , tearing up roads that should never have been subjected to that sort of use, these irresponsible grid-locking’s of the public roadways because of politicians thinking of only the short term make a complete mockery of many of Europe’s and England’s rail systems.

    In fact , – with Germany’s autobahn system and England’s ‘ tube’ systems ..these stand as living testament to not only successive political incompetence in this country but also the myopic, self centered ,egotistical core of the the typical NZ politician.

    Now as for Bridges, … whose father was a minister – and a good one at that – I am shocked.

    For here is the son known as Bridges ‘ bridges’ … the clown … the clown of the north. No wonder Winston was smiling.

    You see… that’s the problem when you work for a ‘ do nothing , absent without leave bullshit govt ‘ such as National.

    They like to jolly us all along with such statements as :

    ” We believe in a minimal govt that hands core services over to private company’s because it is more efficient”….

    When the reality is its all about handing out lucrative contracts to their private company mates.

    Meanwhile , as you said… slapping on GST to the hard working public and making damn sure the corporate boys pay little to no tax at all.

    ” She’s right mate – just slap the costing onto the middle and working poor class” – make the peasants sit for hours in traffic snarls – and for good measure flood the place with immigrants just for good measure to really make it hard for the bastards”

    ” Wont affect your helicopter ride from Cleveland , Waiheke or Rodney , now will it mate ”….

    ”So who gives a shit about the peasants ? ”…

    ” Meanwhile we can all get rich at those idiots expense – and they will be none the wiser … the poor slobs ”….



  6. Jack Ramaka says:

    Unfortunately the boffins in Wellington do not know anything about public transport systems, Auckland is straining under increased immigration from overseas and internally, and the City can not cope as we have a shortage of houses and public transport infrastructure.

    The population is growing but the infrastructure is not being provided for by Auckland City Council or Central Government fuzzy logic I reckon?

  7. Andrew says:

    Sian, it’s a nice thought but the low population density and scattered work places of Auckland make rail a most impractical option.

    The electrical vehicle: Best not invest in 19th century technology at this point!

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