Backwards transport policy – long wait for bike racks

1 12 2011

Benefit Cost Ratios or BCR’s are a way to measure the effectiveness of any spending, and are commonly used (and abused) in NZ transport policy. Projects with a BCR of 1.0 mean that for every dollar spent there is a dollar of benefits deriving from it. It is hard to justify any project with a BCR of less than 1.0, not that doesn’t stop the Minister for Transport and Pissing Money Up the Wall, Steven Joyce for trying with the Puhoi-Wellsford Holiday Highway and Transmission Gully which have BCRs hovering around 0.4 to 0.6. i.e. they make absolutely no economic sense. (There are lots of ways of spinning the method and the numbers if it is what the minister wants, or in the case of Auckland’s rail aspirations, what the minister doesn’t want)

You might be surprised to find out which type of transport project have the highest BCRs*; bike racks on the front of buses. They usually have BCRs in excess of 5.0. Which makes this news Wellington Buses Six-Year Wait to Carry Bikes all the more disappointing. In 6 years time the racks, if installed today, would have paid for themselves. Typically each rack is a few hundred dollars up to maybe $2000 installed.The returns and benefits are small, but so are the cost. And in terms of attracting people to public transport all the smart little bits of design add up into a better public transport system.

Christchurch put bike racks in pre-quake. They learnt the lesson that the same route needs to consistently have all buses having racks as people come to use them and rely on them. The easiest way to do this is to install them on all buses at once.

*I suspect cycleways have really high BCRs too, but as a lot of their benefits (healthy cyclists, less cars on the road, less obesity, recreational cyclists spending money at local businesses, etc) are intangible, it is hard to measure.

Come on Greater Wellington – think smarter.



One response

2 12 2011

Couldn’t agree more – but at least its on the agenda. One of the reasons that bikes on buses makes sense is that it makes for very efficient point-to-point transport – being able to bike to a bus stop, take your bike on the bus, and bike to your destination at the other end is one of the fastest ways to get from A to B.

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