Making an inequity worse

Posted on February 24, 2011


I find it quite frustrating when bureaucracy gets in the way of a good thing.   It is worse when people do things that are wrong, yet claim it is right for reasons of sustainability, or ethics, or equity.

Here’s my letter to the Dunedin City Council regarding their recent and unfortunate tinkering with the city’s Rideshare scheme.   (Note: I clearly have a vested interest here, but the point remains).

I write to you regarding the recent changes to the Rideshare Scheme, in particular the removal of university/polytechnic staff from accessing the scheme.   This was on the Agenda of the  7th February  meeting of Finance, Strategy and Development as “B7 Rideshare Scheme”.

I am a supporter of the Rideshare Scheme.  The premise of incentivising multi-passenger journeys is sound.    I have been a regular user of Rideshare, usually with two in the car, or more if there are people waiting on our corner (both in and out from Sawyers Bay to Polytechnic).

The recent changes, however, have turned the scheme into a farce.   Just before lunchtime today, there were 56 empty Rideshare parks surrounding the Forth St Campus (as you may know, we are now completely surrounded).

This is causing significant disruption.   Today by about 9am there were zero roadside available parks between university and Butts Rd (both full day and restricted time).  The paid parking on Campus was completely full by about 8.20am.  Butts Rd, narrow at the best of times, was close to impassable with cars on both sides.    Yet the Rideshare parks have been almost completely empty all day.

The three main changes to the system have been the removal of University/Polytechnic staff to use the Scheme, the introduction of the fee, and the huge expansion in the number of Rideshare parks.

I am most concerned about the removal of University/Polytechnic staff from the scheme.   A mistake has been made.   I believe the logic in the report to the committee was flawed (7/2/11).  It states “The current scheme is inequitable, since staff at the tertiary institutions can register for the scheme, but staff at other organisations in the city cannot”.  This is correct, it is inequitable.    The outcome, however, is even less equitable.   Now an even smaller subset have access to a resource.     The purpose of the scheme is to reduce the number of cars travelling into the city, not merely to provide parks for students.

If something  both meets strategic goals AND is so good that other people are jealous, then surely an appropriate response is to use that thing as an exemplar.  The current changes have instead broken that good thing.

The wording of the recommendations in the staff report makes no mention of restricting access to the RideShare Scheme.  It is in the text, but not in the recommendations.   The unconfirmed minutes have a fourth motion:    “That a review of the Student Rideshare Scheme be undertaken by staff in conjunction with the Community Resilience Forum to establish the value of continuing with the scheme beyond the 2011-2012 year and reported back to the Planning and Environment Committee”.   The Agenda merely refers to “Rideshare Scheme”.

This subtle name change (from “Scarfie Rideshare” to “Rideshare” or “Student Rideshare”) appears to be the only basis for restricting access to the scheme.   It appears that neither the Polytechnic nor affected staff were consulted on this change – and even if they had been, the ramifications were obfuscated by the sloppy recommendations.

I would urge you to reconsider the changes to the Rideshare Scheme as a matter of urgency.  With full on and off-street parking, the empty Rideshare parks are a glaring insult, especially to those of us trying to do the right thing.   I see no reason why access to the Rideshare Scheme has to be restricted at all. This would solve  both the equity issue, and (in part) the extreme shortage of parks around campus.

PS  I note that the DCC website still states “We provide the Scarfie Ride-Share website as a transportation tool for staff and students at Otago University, Otago Polytechnic, and Dunedin College of Education” (


Posted in: Dunedin