The Herald today reports that the new edition of the Lonely Planet tourist guide for New Zealand doesn’t have particularly kind things to say about Auckland’s public transport system.
Auckland is a more vibrant city after the Rugby World Cup but public transport is a “mess”, says the latest Lonely Planet guide book of New Zealand.
Electronic displays at bus stops “lie” about waiting times, and Auckland Council’s Hop Card – which is facing the scrap heap – is “probably not worth your while”.
While Auckland’s public transport system has obviously improved a lot in recent years, I think it’s useful to have reminders that we have a long way to go – to effectively make up for the decades of neglect the system suffered in the second half of the 20th century.
The opinion of guidebooks like Lonely Planet is important I think, not only because they an important way for New Zealand and Auckland to “sell” ourselves to the world, but also because tourists are a pretty good proxy for other types of people not familiar with the PT system – like car drivers. If we can get the system to be easily understood, user-friendly and seen as a really high quality option from a tourist perspective then I think that means we’re probably going to be a reasonably long way towards having a system that will encourage people to get out of their cars.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing – and it’s something that Lonely Planet’s comments pick up on – is that it’s often the little things that let us down. Of course the Hop Card isn’t that useful, because Auckland Transport went and completely botched its implementation by agreeing to a dirty deal with Snapper. And the card isn’t particularly useful because it only gives a 10% discount on cash fares – in most cities around the world that level of discount is much higher. In fact one of the more recent “initiatives” made the real time information even less useful by displaying it on stupidly small signs that look like parking meters – when one of the real values of a “proper” sign is that you can stay seated in the bus stop and glance up to see how far your service is away.
I’m not sure what it’ll take to fix the small issues that let Auckland’s PT system down.
And secondly, the mythical real time bus information signs are once again a problem that shouldn’t be expensive to fix – just finding a way of ensuring drivers log into the system from what I know. But this has been a problem that has been highlighted for years yet it still seems we are no closer to an enduring solution.