Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Greens: Reciting the rail mantra while reality passes them by

The Greens constantly push public transport as the ideal transport system for every city, every passenger, every transport case.

See what I mean:

Motorists' petrol taxes should go to increasing public transport, they say.
Hang everything else and get the Auckland City Rail Link built, they say.
Scrap the Kapiti Expressway plan and build more public transport, they say.
Scrap the Puhoi-Wellsford highway, they say, and build more public transport.
Scrap Transmission Gully, they say, and build more public transport.

Their mantra, a never-ending refrain, is more rail, fewer roads—and if in doubt, get motorists to pay more.

“Rail, rail, rail, rail, rail.”

You’d think by their constant worship at the altar of rail that the environmental case for public transport was overwhelming! 

That city’s could develop no other way.

That rail really is the “highly energy-efficient means of commuter transport” the Greens website says it is.

But it’s not.   Rail is far from the most efficient means of commuter transport, as figures from the U.S. government bureau of transportation statistics figures and the U.S.Dept. of Energy Transportation Energy Data Book demonstrate.  Brad Templeton looked at the figures from these sources and produced this handy graph, below, which shows that the average passenger uses less energy to travel a mile in the average car (with an average load of 1.57 passengers) than if he travelled in a diesel bus, a trolley bus, a heavy rail train, or a light rail train—and only marginally more energy than if he travelled by jet plane.

So if the Greens’ real goal were saving energy then instead of reciting the rail mantra at every opportunity, why don’t they simply encourage more car pooling?  After all, technology makes that easier and easier with every app.

But they don’t.  Because that’s not the Greens’ real goal, is it.

Hat tip David Willmott, who says the case for roads is still sound.


  1. Agreed, encouraging carpooling would be the most efficient policy since it all comes down to ridership. It's worth noting, as Brad Templeton did, that in Asia and in Europe the numbers stack up better. And of course Brad also said "Yes, you should still take transit".

  2. That poses the question, what is the Greens real goal? We all know the answer to that.

  3. Wouldnt the better comparison for a commute scenario be between single occupancy car and commuter rail? Which the rail option is less than half.

  4. "encouraging carpooling would be the most efficient policy"

    Most efficient for whom?
    Most efficient according to whom?

    Be clear about this. All that matters is that the mode of transport chosen by a person is the most convenient and valuable to that person, according to that particular person, at that time.

    "Wouldnt the better comparison for a commute scenario be between single occupancy car and commuter rail?"

    Depends on what basis the comparison is made and by who it is made. In the end it is all about what is most valued by a person at the time he makes the decision to travel. Anything else is busybody noise making.


  5. I love trains and will watch a train go by sniffing the air for the waft of diesel. When in Hong Kong I love the trains because they go where I reasonably want when I reasonably want.

    In NZ I would use it if it I could park and ride without the car getting broken into. Or if it went where I want to go when I want to go.

    Its the scale effect - we are too small to see rail as a solution to city travel. Even in Wellington which has a nice valley layout that creates narrow channels of traffic the trains are only important for a couple of hours a day.

    Greens = stupid.

  6. But cars allow individuals to have more independence. And thus in effect, they allow local households and communities to more effectively self-govern. We can't have that. Public transport fosters individual helplessness, that then makes people beholden to 'public service providers' - and in turn, more willing and passive tax cows, turning to government for their needs like a helpless child must turn to its parents.


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