Saturday, June 30, 2018

Today’s excursion

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Today we decided to fill our cars before the new Auckland Regional Fuel Tax begins tomorrow. As the caption in the Instagram photo above says, I saved almost nothing for my trouble, which I would have expected. The naysayers have been barking up the wrong tree.

Ever since the fuel tax was proposed, we were bombarded with moaning about it, that it was going to cost poor people far more than they could afford, that the cost of everything will soar, that the earth will shake and the trumpet sound. Okay, I made that last part up, but only barely: The negativity has been astounding.

I got about three-quarters of a tank today, and the new tax will add an additional $4 to that amount. For a full tank, it would be around $5.34 additional. Yes, that’s money that poor people could use, but many others use public transport and will benefit from the public transport projects the tax will fund, and many people who now drive will be able to switch to public transport.

For the rest of us, $4 or $5 more per fill-up is absolutely not going to break us.

The new tax is funding $28 billion in transport projects over ten years, including $8.4 billion for rapid transit, $3.8 billion on a strategic local road network, $3.3 billion on asset renewal, plus hundreds of millions each on safety programmes, walking and cycling, bus and ferry improvements—all of which is desperately needed. To pay for all this without a petrol tax increase would have required an 11% hike in rates (similar to property taxes in the USA). This is much more affordable for everyone.

There's also light rail to Auckland Airport coming, something the Labour-led Government has prioritised and will fund, in part, through a nationwide petrol tax hike later this year. That, too, has been delayed too long.

The thing is, there is no public transport where we live. I could drive about 25 minutes to a train station, which would get me into central Auckland in an hour plus (up to an hour and a half at some times). If I wanted to go the North Shore, I’d have to switch to a bus and add maybe another hour. I can drive to there in a little over an hour to an hour and a half.

My other option is to drive somewhere to catch a bus. The nearest one I know of is roughly a 15 minute drive from here, but they travel infrequently and only to the two train stations I could drive to faster. So, we won’t get any direct benefit from the spending, but we will still benefit.

The improvements will make it possible for more people to use public transport, and that means fewer cars on the road in the way of people like me who have to alternative but to drive. Plus, as the infrastructure is improved, it’ll be easier to add on services to our area as the population grows, further reducing the need for driving.

So, we’ll benefit indirectly from the spending, and the entire region will benefit with less traffic congestion and easier transit around the city. Basically, everyone wins in some way.

In my caption I said the cost difference was a cup of coffee in a café, though what I saved today wouldn’t buy me a coffee. Even if it did, I wouldn’t mind giving up a coffee, rare though they are, to fund better transport.

Footnote: At today’s exchange rate, $2.079 per litre works out to about 5.32953967 US dollars per US gallon. Approximately.

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