Joe Hendren

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Why we need an Onehunga to Airport bus service

Attempting to travel between the Onehunga and the Airport by public transport is a pain due to a lack of direct connections.

The airport bus speeds past Onehunga on State Highway 20 on its way into town. Even if it did stop it would still charge passengers the full fare of $15 for going half the distance. While its possible to get off at Three Kings Plaza and bus back, at a total (un)fare of $19.20, the cheapest taxi at $25 starts looking very good.

The Auckland Regional Council/ARTA have improved services to the airport last year, increasing the frequency of the Airport bus to the CBD and through the introduction of the 380 Airporter service to Manukau. ARTA were rewarded with a 13.5% increase in patronage, demonstrating there is demand for better airport services. The Manukau service has great potential as it links up with the rail system at Papatoetoe, which together could offer a more reliable service into Auckland CBD, particularly at peak hour. Unfortunately, there has not been enough marketing and promotion of this service for it to reach its potential. An airport services page on the Maxx website would be a good start at no cost.

Flying back home on Sunday I thought I would try an experiment. How easy would be it to catch the 380 to Manukau and then get a bus to Onehunga from there? While I would normally check the Maxx website to see where the routes best interconnect, I thought it would be more interesting to take the position of a tourist new to Auckland. So I asked at the Airport helpdesk. The older woman behind the counter was very helpful, familiar with the 380 service as she sometimes used it to get to work. She suggested staying on the bus to Manukau and catching the connecting bus from there.

My flight landed at 4.30pm. The 380 arrived after 15 minutes and took roughly 10 minutes to reach Papatoetoe station and another 10 to arrive in Manukau. So far so good. There were about 7 passengers on the bus. Unfortunately being Sunday I happened to strike an hour and a half long break in the timetable for the next 348 to Onehunga, and had to wait 50 minutes for the connecting bus. At least the mall was open at the time. This is likely to be nearly the worst possible scenario as the 348 connection is more frequent at other times in the week.

While the 348 is a lovely fast bus from Onehunga into town, before this it snakes like Slytherin through Mangere and Mangere Bridge for 40 minutes. This meant I didn't reach Onehunga until 6:45pm, meaning a total of 2 hours travelling time. With a straightforward connection between the 380 and the 348 it would take an hour.

I later found out it is possible to get off at Papatoetoe and catch the 348 on St George Street - this would take approximately 15-20 minutes off the total journey time (cost $8.60). Another option, more direct, but only available during the week, is to catch the 375 from the airport and transfer to the 348 on Ascot/Kirkbride Rd.

Despite the two hour commute last Sunday, I would catch the 380 again, but would only try it during the week. Also would like to try out the 375/348 combo as this is the cheapest ($3.20) and most direct route from Onehunga to the Airport. I only wish the 375 ran more often. That said I suspect only transport geeks like myself and students will bother with having to catch more than one bus.

The reopening of the Onehunga branch line for passenger trains next year provides a great opportunity to fix the Onehunga to Airport transport hole. A connecting bus from the Onehunga train station to the Airport would be a great way to encourage more patronage on the line, as well as create demand for the eventual extension of the line to the Airport. The combination of the bus lanes to be built on the new Mangere Bridge motorway crossing and the ability of rail to sail past peak hour traffic on the Onehunga to CBD stretch, will improve the potential reliability and speed of the service. Geoff on the Better Transport forum make a similar suggestion here. That said, the following could make a Airport>Onehunga>CBD service even more viable.
  • ARTA are currently planning for half hour peak services on the Onehunga line, with services each hour off peak. An airport service, if it was to be used for travel to the CBD would require half hour off peak services at the very least. While I appreciate the Britomart tunnel is a troubling bottleneck, could some other southern line services stop at Newmarket until we get a CBD rail tunnel?
  • Move the Onehunga bus terminal closer to the new Onehunga railway station. I am told the Onehunga Business Association have previously resisted such suggestions for no other reason than they want people to walk 10 minutes past their shops. This won't happen - people travelling from the south will stay on the bus into town instead of transferring to the train. Given the recent attitutes of bus companies like Infratil, Aucklanders are plain sick of myopic business owners who demand the public transport system should be screwed up for the benefit of their private profits.
  • Integrated ticketing, or at least a combined ticket for the bus/train journey into town.
I really hope ARTA consider the idea of an Airport bus service to Onehunga that linked up with the train and other buses. It strikes me as a good use of existing infrastructure while we keep the demands persistent for the CBD rail tunnel and an airport rail service.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

2009 Bruce Jesson Lecture: Robert Wade on Wednesday

On Wednesday Professor of Political Economy and expatriate Kiwi Robert Wade will give the 2009 Bruce Jesson Lecture.

What: How to stop the money men from taking over the world (or, when will be face another September 2008)
Who: Robert Wade
Where: Maidment Theatre, University of Auckland
When: Wednesday 28 October 6.30pm

"Taking off from Bruce Jesson’s ‘Only Their Purpose is Mad: ‘The money men take over NZ’, Robert Wade discusses several reforms of the international monetary and financial system aimed at stabilising global financial markets and curbing the power of the financial sector. After considering the easy part -- ‘what should be done’ -- he goes on to discuss ‘what can be done’, nationally, regionally and globally."

"Professor Robert Wade is one of the world’s most prominent independent thinkers about the contemporary challenges facing the global economy. As professor of political economy at the London School of Economics, Wade espouses a heterdox approach to economics in contrast to the prevailing neoliberal / neoclassical paradigm. As an expatriate New Zealander he has continued to contribute to discussions on New Zealand’s economic direction, including in the context of the global economic crisis."

The Bruce Jesson Lecture is organised by the Bruce Jesson Foundation and the University of Auckland.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama gets Nobbled with Nobels

Barack Obama got the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize because he is not George W Bush. It is hard not to come to this conclusion given he was nominated for the award after only eleven days as President of the United States.

That was my immediate reaction. Yet if this was the case, would Hillary Clinton have been a shoe in had she won the Presidency? Would John McCain have received the prize for his patchy but mostly good record in legislating against torture? As there are some doubt as to the likelihood of these alternative scenarios, I no longer see my initial reaction as a sufficient explanation.

I suspect Obama gained his nomination based on his campaign for President, and the positive response of the American people to his message of 'hope'. Indeed the Norwegian Nobel committee pretty much cite his 'hope' campaign slogan.

"Only rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."

The committee also congratulate Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons".

Obama's speech in Cairo may have been an important change in tone with regards to relations with the Middle East, and his abandonment of an unworkable 'missile defence shield' in Eastern Europe is welcome. That said it still feels like he received the award for his performance in the opening credits, when the major plotlines of his Presidency are still to be revealed.

Obama patently fails to meet one of the criteria set for the Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel wished to acknowledge the person who has done the most for 'the abolition or reduction of standing armies'. Obama has increased troop numbers in the war in Afghanistan and is currently considering a further increase, despite the many examples of unsuccessful 'conquest' of the country. Why send armies to defend Hamed Kazai's dodgy record of electoral fraud and legislation that appears to condone the rape of women within marriage?

A real peacemaker may have instigated a process that sought to bring the waring factions - even the Taliban - into a negotiated settlement, perhaps even a form of shared government, safe in the knowledge that not many guerrillas manage the transition into long term legislators, and can fade away as a result.

It is unfortunate for Obama that the 2009 Peace Prize is likely to be compared with the 1973 award which was controversially won by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho for negotiating the ceasefire in the Vietnam war.

The ceasefire was signed on 23 January 1973, which would have been only a week before nominations would have closed for the Nobel award for that year. Like 2009, the 1973 award was also described as a work in progress. Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho refused the award on the grounds that peace had not really been restored in South Vietnam, and he was right - the ceasefire failed to hold and the war did not finally end until 1975. Le Duc Tho increased his standing by refusing the award, whereas Kissinger accepted with 'humility'.

Yet in the same year, Kissinger "helped" a military coup in Chile that violently removed a democratically elected government. Clearly the Peace Prize is for pieces, and not the whole of ones actions.

Given that Obama has said that he does not feel he deserves "to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize", I wonder if he may have done more to increase his standing had he refused it "at this time".

Many Americans have high expectations of Obama as President, as do many others across the globe. Many politicians are keen to keep in check the expectations of the electorate, yet I am coming to the conclusion Obama attempts to use high expectations to his advantage, even with the inherent political risks of disappointment.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has increased the stakes again.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

40 years of Monty Python and an anacdote from Idle

It was forty years ago today, a parrot sat on a perch to play...dead that is.

Oh alright, it was technically yesterday, but Britain will always be hours behind New Zealand.

On October 5 1969, one of my most favorite comedy series ever, Monty Python, first aired on TV. I wasn't even alive, but I don't know whether this means I had the same existential status as the parrot.

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the surviving Pythons, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin have put together a documentary covering the history of Monty Python and the Python team. A not surviving Python, Graham Chapman, died in 1989.

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (the Lawyers Cut) screened in a UK cinema for one night on the 29th of September. Hopefully it will make its way here - having it on TV over Christmas would be good.

While this is being touted as the first time in 20 years the surviving Pythons have come together on a project, the team did a few sketches in an interview show hosted by Robert Klein in 1998. The Pythons apparently bought Graham Chapman along in an urn of ashes, which Gilliam 'accidentally' spilled on stage and attempted to clean the remains of Graeme with a Dustbuster. Cleese dipped his fingers in to taste it. Wonderfully tasteless!

Almost the Truth may be similar to the book, "Autobiography by the Pythons". While of course this was an very amusing read, I was interested in the mock military training young Eric Idle was forced to endure at boarding school in Wolverhampton in the early 1960s. The indoctrination started from the age of 11.

"Since I was head boy (by default) the school insisted I must be head of the CCF (Combined Cadet Force), which I didn't want to be. At the end of military training they made the mistake of sending us off on a Civil Defence Course which showed just exactly what happened when a nuclear bomb went off, and as a result I had become violently pacifist. During the Easter hols (1962) I went on the Aldermaston March, the annual Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally. We marched from Aldermaston in Hampshire to Hyde Park behind banners, signing protest songs, a distance of 54 miles."

"When I got back to school, the padre called me in and said, 'You're a hypocrite, Idle, you're the head of the CCF and went on the Aldermaston March'. I said 'Well I resign', and he said 'You're not allowed to resign'" (p. 40)

In response young Eric adopted an entirely reasonable attitude to enforced militarism and the insistence of its patently pathological underlying values.

"I refused to go to Military Camp at the end of term. It was just a sort of 'fuck you' to the school because they couldn't throw me out. I'd been accepted to Cambridge, I was on the Aldermaston March, I didn't take any of their fucking CCF seriously. I just went off in my own world and that was reassuring, that was really good for me because I could finally say 'Screw you'"

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