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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 61

Not Sufficient Population

Not Sufficient Population

to enable us to carry out such a scheme successfully. This is a natural objection to raise, but it will no more stand looking into than the objection replied to above. It is not so much a question of the number of our population, as it is of providing facilities for shifting the people we may happen to have.

The whole history of traffic shews that it is simply a question of providing facilities, and that the number of journeys a passenger will make is simply limited by the cheapness, speed, and comfort with which you will convey him. A few examples will prove the truth of this assertion.

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Prior to the starting of the Auckland City Tramways, there were but five small omnibuses on the Western Circuit The tram-cars now carry 16,000 to 19,000 fares per week. This circuit serves only City West and parts of Newton, Ponsonby, Archhill, and Karangahape. The entire population of these districts in 1881 was 20,282. If we add 20 per cent., for increase, it gives us 24,338. Thus it will be seen that the tramcars are doing a trade equal to shifting the entire population over 36 times during the year, or over three times every month.*

When our North Shore ferry boats charged 9d. for a return ticket, they did a very small trade, and that district made but slow progress; when they reduced the return fare to 6d. the trade at once increased enormously, and the North Shore went ahead by "leaps and bounds."

Everybody who has resided in the old country will remember what has resulted there from the reduction of fares, and the improvement of third-class carriages.

I will only give an instance which occurred before the improvements mentioned were made.

In 1862 the fares charged from Victoria to the Elephant and Castle were 3d., 4d., and 6d., for third, second, and first classes respectively. It was a common occurrence for the trains to run with only two or three passengers per train. The then station superintendent—who is now in Auckland—suggested to the directors that they should reduce the fares to one penny for third, and twopence for either first or second class. They did so, and within a week the trains were crowded to excess. This was not the result of better accommodation, but simply reduction in price.

Many more examples could be given, but these should be sufficient.

There are numbers of young people who have been born and brought up within from 30 to 100 miles of this city who have never seen it, and who think of Auckland in much the same manner that page 19 the country yokel of fifty years ago regarded London. If fares were as I propose, would this happen? Would not people, instead of travelling alone as they do now on account of the expense, take one or more members of their families with them.

If the fares for 15 miles round all our large centres were is first and 8d. second class, would not vast numbers of people use the rails, for purposes of pleasure, who never think of such a thing now? Who ever thinks of using the rails for the purpose of spending the Saturday half-holiday? But would not thousands do so if the fares were as proposed? And how many would leave the town for the country, or the country for the town, from Saturday to Monday, for one that does so now. There need be no fear about the population; we have enough to do all we require more than three times over.

Many people have said to me:—"If the advantages of your plan are so great, and so clear, how is it that the Department does not at once adopt it?" I reply by asking:—" Did anyone ever know of a Government Department adopting any reform before they were absolutely driven to it?" And in this instance there are special reasons why they oppose reform.

The favourite plan of the present Minister is to create

See my reply to Mr. Maxwell, paragraph 31; also appendix.

* I presume the Tramway Company did not import these people to trot up and down in their cars. They were here before, and wanted to travel, but had not the facilities, in the shape of cheap fares. Similar results would certainly follow on our railways if fares were reduced as I propose. In England the railways do a passenger-carrying trade which is equal to shifting the entire population of the United Kingdom over nineteen times during the year. Ordinary fares in England are little, if any, cheaper than ours.' With fares such as I propose, they would have to carry them at least fifty times, and would speedily require to duplicate all their lines.