Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Forget revolution, progress will do

Grand vision of Auckland's future somehow seems less inspiring while waiting in the rain for a bus.

Promised: new bus routes, new ticketing system and new trains. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Promised: new bus routes, new ticketing system and new trains. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The "revolution of rising expectations" was the buzz phrase academics used when I was at university to describe the clamour for a brighter future in colonial and post-colonial Africa and Asia.

In his pep-talk in last Wednesday's Herald, Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy seemed to be addressing a similar ferment.

"Change is coming fast!" he promised. But then came the let-down. "Like all progress [it] will take time."

How much time? Well, "in three years, transport in Auckland will be different, and by 2020 it will be very very different".

For those of us tempted to offer up a cynical "yeah right", he had stern words. Aucklanders should "move beyond the downward spiral critics". If they'd been listened to in the past, "we would have no antibiotics, no air travel, no smartphones and a whole lot of other fantastic stuff that has enriched our lives".

Just how he managed to leap from getting the buses to run on time to perfecting antibiotics or persuading aircraft to stay above the ground is hard to fathom. But I don't want to be the Jeremiah singled out for blame if in 2020 we're still all standing at leaky bus stops waiting for missing buses, so positive I'll be. All today, anyway.

Having fuelled our revolutionary expectations, what titbits did Dr Levy offer to keep the pot of positivity bubbling while we waited patiently for the new bus routes, the new ticketing system and new trains? Unfortunately, not a thing.

The best we got was an oracular message: "Let us not miss the opportunity right in front of us to extract the huge and unseen potential from our existing investment.

"It is not simply about building more, it is also about getting a lot more out of what we have ..."

If I understand him correctly, he seems to be advocating the sort of "improvements from the bottom-up" approach I've been suggesting to deaf ears for yonks. Here's a few:

•From last week, an instant improvement. Make the journey more user-friendly by removing the advertising overlays from the side windows of NZ Bus vehicles so passengers can see where they're going. A good place to start would be with Dr Levy's Auckland Transport house advertising for the new HOP cards, which, ironically, can't as yet be used on these buses.

•Increase the number of continuous exclusive bus lanes in the congested CBD and fringes - and police them - to speed the flow of commuters in and out of the city and help buses keep to timetables.

•Install large, illuminated "Please Give Way to Buses" signs complete with a flashing arrow on the back of all buses, and educate motorists to let buses have right of way when pulling out from stops. Back it up with a law change. I noticed such signage emblazoned across the back of a Ritchie's Bus recently. In Sydney, all buses seem to have it.

I won't bang on about real-time indicator boards and bus irregularities, they're apparently part of the greater revolution, but better signage at bus stops is urgently needed, plus retro-fitting the Adshel bus shelters across the city to make them rain-proof.

No doubt you have your own suggestions. Let me have them, no more than a paragraph apiece please. I'll bundle them up and pass them on. If nothing else, they'll make entertaining reading while stuck in an ill-lit bus. Oh yes, that's another quick fix. New light bulbs all round.

While Dr Levy leans towards the vagueness of a professional oracle, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith couldn't be more blunt. In Saturday's Herald he confirmed most Aucklanders' worst nightmare. Forget about creating a liveable city. Or building quality housing. The minister says Auckland's housing crisis is about Aucklanders putting quality before affordability.

If we want affordable housing, we have to accept lower-quality developments. "Affordability has been given too little weight."

It's good he's come out and said what has long been thought was the Government's true feelings on the issue. At least he's being honest and nailing the Government's colours to the mast for all to see.

In its belated desperation to get on top of a housing crisis that's been growing since it took office five years ago, National's solution is to strip away as many design, planning and building codes as it can get away with, and whistle up the property developers.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

Read more by Brian Rudman

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 23 May 2017 10:43:30 Processing Time: 376ms