The Null Device

Auckland transit blues

Another horrible example of public transport privatisation gone wrong, this time from Auckland, where the efficiencies of the free market have produced a system that's expensive and inconvenient, and encouraged the public to drive:
City planners impose various pseudo-quantitative performance indicators on the contractors, such as sophisticated GPS systems to monitor on-time performance. But even this minimal nod to public accountability produces unintended consequences. Bus companies fear being fined for missing schedule targets, but are driven by the profit motive to ruthlessly minimize outlays on equipment and staff. The resulting pressure is intense on drivers (some of whom don’t even get paid overtime) to meet unrealistic timetables – a media exposé last year showed this often requires breaking the speed limit. Several times, we’ve watched an awaited bus race by without stopping, the driver shrugging helplessly and pointing at his watch.
Yet Aucklanders still pay for transit – three times over. Once through taxes – subsidies to private transit consume half of all property taxes collected by the regional government. Then again at the fare box. And finally a third time through inconvenience. No wonder Aucklanders take transit one-quarter as often as Torontonians.
The article is written by a Canadian journalist resident in Auckland, and is in response to a debate about privatising Toronto's (fairly highly-rated, by all accounts) public transport system.

There are 1 comments on "Auckland transit blues":

Posted by: Greg Sat Jun 19 11:46:49 2010

I'm amazed that privatization is still taken seriously by anyone in 2010. I think in countries damaged by it there are diehard free-market ideologists, frustrated by reality, saying "our utilities aren't working - we should privatize harder". Privatizing took Melbourne's transport system from one of the best in Australia to one of the worst. Even our water infrastructure is passing into the hands of multinationals. Canadians: don't let this stupid idea spread to your famous transport system.