Petrol prices have hit a two-year high with 91 Octane rising to $2.02 a litre. According to the AA, the average car would cost between $120 and $140 to fill, $20 more than it would have a year ago.
While I think the price of petrol shouldn’t be used as a major reason for promoting investment in public transport (congestion, lifestyle and long-term costs are a much more stable argument, amongst others) it will be interesting to see what happens to public transport patronage figures over the next year, particularly as there seems to be a warning that this time it is unlikely to go down much, if at all.
One of the positive spin-offs in such a situation could be that there is more vocal support for improvements to the public transport system. Not just for big solutions like light-rail, but mainly for speeding up the roll out of bus lanes, increased frequencies, park/cycle and ride, suburban interchanges, more frequent services, more capacity and so on.
I guess we will have to wait and see but I certainly would not mind making a bet right now that patronage will increase substantially on last years levelling off. At the moment there isn’t much funding to go around (one of the reasons they are now going to charge for first time metrocards) but I can’t help but feel this is the elephant in the room for 2011 that could change some attitudes, at both local and central government level, and kick-start some serious improvements and projects.
Check out this article from The Press. The government could certainly ease the ‘belt’ a bit if they invested more wisely in transport infrastructure!
**Edit** An interesting article on Stuff today. Particularly like this bit:
Rather than waiting for prices to drop, motorists should change their driving behaviour. The AA says that by driving smoothly, pumping up tyres and closing car windows, fuel consumption can be cut by 30 per cent.
Or people could walk, get on their bikes, catch a bus, ferry (or if in Auckland or Wellington a train), buy a scooter or maybe just get a cheaper to run car? In the later case, if they did all that the AA suggests above (and car-pooled when possible and used the aforementioned active and public transport alternatives whenever was suitable) then they would shave off quite a bit more than 30 percent!