Can any planning organisation accurately predict 25 years ahead how society will develop? By all means plan, but keep maximum flexibility to react to new developments. Fixed suburban train-lines offer little in flexibility. And concerning people commuting to work? If the measurement of productivity is by output, not attendance, then the need for workers/commuters trekking to an office may become vastly reduced.
There has been a suggestion in the news this week that the congregation of workers in the same location acts as a lightning rod for the interchange of ideas and hence better outcomes. Well nothing new in that idea. But the work still has to be done by individual effort, and time spent commuting is time wasted (unless you're on the Waiheke ferry and can use the time productively). So commuting is this week's story.
I see Mike Lee has picked up on the comparative cost of rail transport in Wellington v Auckland. Historically Wellington has been at the rail commuting game for longer than Auckland. You may dispute that but Wellington's topography resulted in two clearly defined linear zones for transport - the Hutt Valley and the Paekakariki lines.
Commuters live close to these lines because hills or the sea dominate lateral expansion. Hence the feed onto commuter trains in Wellington is more efficient. Spud should know because he commuted to school on this system for many years. And believe it or not when he wasn't throwing paper darts or firing wax matches with rubber bands around the carriage he did notice these things.
Back to Mike Lee who is on the Auckland Transport Board and should also know a thing or two about our rail operation. He states in the Herald that only 22% of Auckland rails operating costs are covered by fares. The rest is covered by ratepayer and government subsidies.
The figures are far from inspiring:
Passenger numbers per annum. Auckland 11.4m. Wellington 11.6m
Operating costs. Auckland $139.3m. Wellington. $85.09m
Subsidies. Auckland $107.2m. Wellington. $42.7m
And the Auckland ratepayer bill? $43.3m
Now that's only 'operating costs. What about the capital costs of putting this all together? Is this depreciated annually in the accounts or not?
Think about $4B for the Mt Eden link alone being depreciated over 80 years. That's another $50m each year let alone what would apply to the whole rail network.
The final pearl? Well it has to go to the Auckland Transport spokesperson who said that Wellington operations did not include the cost of running a new Hop card operation. 'Cuse me?' said Mr. Lee. 'I thought the Hop card was supposed to save money?'
Footnote. In projecting the number of workers in the Auckland CBD in 2041, it is useful to turn the clock back to 1988 from now and look at the world then at a similar time frame to the planner projections into the future. In 1988 an IBM PC sold for $1,265 and was powered with a 30mb hard drive and 512kb of memory. The Internet had only recently been invented.