WCC Elections Promises Promises on Transport; the policy so far is boring, and makes me channel my angry old man

“As the avenues and streets of a city are nothing less than its arteries and veins, we may well ask what doctor would venture to promise bodily health if he knew that the blood circulation was steadily growing more congested!”

Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow

With voting papers in the wild, the campaign for Mayor and Councillors is largely over. All the policies are on the table, and that’s disappointing because except for a couple of candidates the promises are just rhetoric and empty-headed, either a 1950’s approach to the city, one that is hopelessly idealistic, or just naive.

I’m still undecided on who to vote for. I have a rough idea, but as I over-analyse the tonnes of data and hundreds of thousands of mostly empty words, I can see why people don’t vote. It’s either a spur of the moment thing where you vote on a face then and there or, it’s the path to hell where you try and unpick promises.

The highlight of the campaign has been the bus disaster and all these wannabe Councillors and Mayors telling us that they can fix it when none of them can. None of them. If the WCC could have fixed anything in the last triennium they would have, they tried, and they largely failed aside from some minor concessions that Sarah Free drove herself mad getting out of the GWRC.

There is nothing innovative in any candidates’ policies concerning transport that I can see. It’s all either “build the road” or “build the cycleway.”

Some candidates, seriously, the 1960’s called, and they want their transport policies back and the other half? You should start a new religion. And that’s one of the problems, we’ve polarised transport. Well, I say we, but it’s not the residents that have done that, it’s the increasingly frantic lobby groups across the entire spectrum.

Anyone who promises anything around LGWM is full of it. That poor bastard was born a terminally ill Frankenstein that was tortured and tormented by a range of politicians, to get political mileage, before it fell over and died. Then they all stood around poking it with sticks saying “There, I knew it was going to die.”

So, promising any tunnel, or mass transport, or CBD cycleway, or bus prioritisation measures, is just nonsense. Council has almost zero control over central government flip-flopping and inaction on the state highways.

Frankly, re-reading a lot of the transport policies by candidates, it’s utter garbage. Collective pork-barreling of the highest order and we, the residents, should be maddened by that. Caught between the neo-Luddites and the coal-smoke-breathing dinosaurs we’re being short-changed as a city.

Where’s the innovation? Where’s the looking to outside cities that have made things work? Outside cities I might add that are like Wellington, not some autonomous car nirvana or flat town where all cars have been banned instead of e-bikes. FFS, it’s not about cars, or bicycles, or buses, it’s about our behaviour.

We look at this issue, like Climate Change, from different corners of a boxing ring, determined to slam our ideology into our opponents rather than realise we’re all in the same damn ring. Until we sort out how we even engage with each other, we’re going nowhere fast, and it’s no surprise to me that traffic is getting more congested, it’s just the ecosystem reflecting our total stasis on agreeing on how we move forward together.

I do think it is really important that we make an effort to engage with people we disagree with. If we want to depolarise our society we have to find ways to talk to one another…

How the left and right misunderstand each other – Jenny Condie

That is the kind of thinking we need. Working out how we work together first rather than leaping into the usual rolling maul thinking we are going to win this time. It’s not about winning; it’s about how you organise yourself to progress with innovation.

Some year ago, Ben Wilde, Mike Riversdale, and I organised a series of community events where we tried to unlock ideas from the city on a range of problem areas. We posed the transport issue, and people came up with ideas and then self-selected what they wanted to work on.

Imagine this; without screaming and shouting, endless argument, and social media pile on, four problem areas in transport appeared and all had a unique pilot solution, that could interact with each of the others, developed to showcase how they could improve transport.

There was an area that looked at how to manage the flow of cars around the city. There was an area that looked at how to better support, count, and manage cycling not only on roads but also on tracks around the city as part of an extended network. There was an area that specifically looked at the massive problems that the airport generates in terms of all modes of transport and how it stresses the system. There was an area that focused specifically on getting people back onto public transport.

Those volunteers, from the community, of all ages, worked for nearly seventy-two hours for no recompense, along with massive support from the Council officers, and came up with some very solid ideas.

Now. I’m not a paragon of virtue; in fact, this late in the campaign I am quite grumpy. This is not about me. This is about the fact that we can engage when we put our mind to it and work together on all the important things, rather than try a religious zealotry approach to kill off what we don’t agree with.

Are cars going to go away? No. Are we going to need more cycleways? Yes. Do we need to “fix” the buses? Of course. Do we need more roads for the increasing population? Yes. Do we use those roads appropriately right now? No. Are our roads safe? No. Could we use the harbour ferry system better? Yes. How about more motorised mopeds? Sure. Speed limits? Why not. Parking or congestion charging? OK.

Right, so we need to treat transport as a complex system within our wider ecosystem.

Here we are, a city that celebrates the fact we are all very clever, the seat of government, with a high average income, and we think that we all need to travel into the CBD every day to go to the office between 0900 and 1700.

That’s not smart. That’s old thinking.

In fact, for a city that is this smart, we sure can be stupid sometimes…

That loads an ecosystem to heart attack point twice per day and jams the entire town up. How about we smooth that out and let the capacity spread a bit. How about Council champions more people working flexibly, remotely, and in their community centres? Why has no one come up with a decent policy statement on that idea?

How about we take all the travel data that all the many different central agencies, local governments, all the other pseudo-travel groups, and make it free. Give all that data to whoever wants it, for nothing, and let them come up with ideas on what we can do to improve transport after analysing that data.

Oh we can’t sometimes, because the 1950’s dinosaurs, being innovative, sold it. Now, if we want it back, we’re going to need to pay.

Why are we not analysing the complete disruption that is occurring now with travel at a city level, right around the world, and understanding what that means for models that were developed potentially decades ago, probably were based on crap data, influenced by ancient thinking, and then throw the whole lot out and start again with what we know today.

Transport has been disrupted. The old models won’t work, that’s another reason we are going nowhere.

So, where’s the policy? Where’s the innovation? I don’t see anything that interesting across the candidates. And frankly, that’s probably ok, because the residents are going to vote on partisan lines when it comes to transport and we’ll get what we deserve.

Where’s the vision?

I might vote for Don.

One thought on “WCC Elections Promises Promises on Transport; the policy so far is boring, and makes me channel my angry old man

  1. There’s lots to nod about in this.

    Two points: It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you build it, they will come – so candidates saying “I’ll build X” need to back that up with why they reckon we should welcome the resulting behaviour change. More space and infrastructure for private cars, and more driving? More space and infrastructure for All The Other Things, and more of that?

    Secondly: “Bridges Both Ways” is full of stuff that will warm the cockles of a true democrat’s heart – and his fellow HackMiramartian hearts! Highly recommended – lift the quality of public engagement, bring more power down to said engaged public. https://www.transparency.org.nz/bridges-both-ways-report/


Comments are closed.