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  • rmacculloch

Cullen's critique of Auckland light rail is just copying what the government was told 7 years ago

Seven years ago we invited Ed Glaeser, the world's leading urban economist, who is based at Harvard University, out to NZ. He was our Sir Douglas Myers Visiting Professor. Every piece of advice he gave Auckland City Council and the government in Wellington has been ignored. How do I know? I sat in on the meetings. Toll roads, land-use regulation. You name it, they ignored it. He urged stringent cost-benefit analysis to ensure infrastructure projects were justified. Again it was ignored. Maybe politicians and bureaucrats just came along to his presentations to fill in the day.


In particular, Ed argued against light rail, of the type proposed by our government and Auckland Council to go up Dominion Rd. He wrote an article (below) for the Wall Street Journal called "Detroit's Decline and the Folly of Light Rail". In particular, Ed said:


"The beauty of buses, from a cost-benefit perspective, is you don’t need to lay down massive infrastructure that you’re stuck with forever. If a bus route doesn’t attract enough people, you switch the route. Or you stop running it. It’s flexible in a way that trains aren’t. And that’s tremendously valuable in a world of uncertainty".


Then a few weeks ago when former Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen comes along and copies Ed's advice lock-stock-and-barrel and calls for Labour to ditch light rail in favor of electric buses in Auckland, politicians sit up and take notice. Just goes to show, these decisions seem mostly about who's who in the (local) zoo and little about what is actually good public policy, as recommended by the very best people who have studied the issues.


Sources:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/michael-cullen-advises-labour-to-ditch-auckland-light-rail-for-electric-buses/PTCRODXSOHV6HIV35DKA2NJ4FY/


https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704050204576218884253373312


https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/4/13121058/trump-clinton-infrastructure-economics-glaeser