It seems that every plan has something that gets people up in arms but that in the end turns out to be a bit of a storm in a teacup and for the draft Regional Public Transport Plan it seems that issue has been found.
The issue is around the Super Gold card and what will happen after the new fare structure is brought in. Here are the paragraphs that have got people worried.
The existing fares system in Auckland provides fare concessions for specific target groups. These will be retained during the AIFS transition period.
When integrated ticketing is in place, a review of concession levels and eligibility is proposed, including a possible change to SuperGold card use during the evening peak period (this is not available outside of Auckland) and tertiary discounts (these are often unavailable outside Auckland).
NZTA has sought a review of the evening peak senior concession with a view to its removal, on the grounds that it is nationally inconsistent and unaffordable
It’s unfortunate that any suggestion to change to policies like the SuperGold card kicks up such a storm. All that the plan is really saying is that the existing concession that Auckland currently gives will be reviewed and personally I think that is completely fair. Reviewing all of the various concessions should happen at the same time as regular fares are reviewed. My view is that in the off peak, when there tends to be plenty of spare seats, the perk isn’t such an issue but at peak times our trains and buses are often packed full of people so it really makes no sense to be giving anyone free travel during those times. Mike Lee has said that part of the reason Auckland rolled out the free off peak travel was due to bureaucratic difficulties but I assume that many of these should be resolved with the introduction of the HOP card so why not review the decision again.
Speaking of HOP and SuperGold, surely once the roll out is complete it would be ideal to combine the two cards. It wouldn’t be difficult to print the super gold logo on the cards and could make it easier for the elderly to use them as currently they will have to go to a machine and purchase a ticket using it. Going further I hope that there is eventually a review of how the scheme actually works, at least within Auckland. The proposed fare boundaries cover quite a large area and I feel that consideration should be made to retaining the free travel within the proposed zones but that travel outside of the zones, even outside of peak should perhaps be charged. Doing this would still allow elderly to retain mobility within their communities but prevent issues like what was found to occur with the ferries where people were using the perk for free cruises of the harbour. With the combination of the HOP card it should be very simple to manage.
Of course no matter how good any suggestion is (and I’m not saying mine is necessarily the best), this particular topic more than most is something that will be decided by the politicians and not the NZTA or AT. I really can’t see any politician standing up to the likes of grey power to argue for changes that would limit the use of the card.