One of the most interesting piece of information in the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan – along with the fabulous new bus network – is a first look at the possible zone boundaries for Auckland’s new integrated fares system. This is shown in the map below:
Setting zone boundaries and coming up with the preferred number of zones must be one heck of a difficult task as there are so many things to balance:
- The fewer zones you have, the easier the system is to understand
- The more zones you have, the less likely fares will change much from their current level and the lower chances there are of massive arbitrary jumps in fares
- The lower the fare is for each zone, the less farebox recovery there will be
- The higher the fare is, the more people who will be put off catching PT by the cost
Auckland does have the advantage of a natural geography which splits the city relatively neatly into different parts. The west, south and east of the isthmus all touch pretty close to a 10 kilometre radius from the city centre – forming a natural boundary between a second a third fare zone.
Probably the thing which stands out the most in the draft zone map is how the upper North Shore falls within an area two zones from the city, even though it’s well beyond the 10 km radius from downtown. While that’s a great deal for those people, that seems as though it would be likely to come at the cost of higher fares for everyone else. A similar argument could be made for the southern part of the south zone – although there’s potentially a more valid socio-economic argument for trying to keep that area within a three-zone ride of the city. We get a few weird outcomes from what’s proposed:
- Should Orewa really be the same number of zones from the city as Mangere?
- Should Albany really be the same number of zones from the city as Pt Chevalier or Orakei?
- Should the south zone really be quite so massive – Bucklands Beach to Papakura all within one zone seems potentially a little bit generous?
As I said, getting the zones right is an almost impossible task and there will always be winners and losers. I think most of the proposed zone map makes excellent sense (a city zone, an isthmus zone, a west zone etc.) just there are a few little changes that could probably make it a bit fairer.