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Making ferries make sense

Sunday’s launch of the Hobsonville/Beach Haven ferry seems to have got some, such as the perennial mischief-maker Cameron Brewer, excited about ferries and thinking that they can fix all of Auckland’s Transport problems. On the plus side, he also seems to have become a fan of bus lanes which is something to store away in the memory banks:

“Yesterday’s opening of the new ferry terminals for Beach Haven and Hobsonville Point was a great day for Auckland, but the claim that ferries would play a much greater role in Auckland’s transport future was a bit disingenuous. The rhetoric simply does not match the reality of what’s being planned and budgeted.”…

…”These two new ferry terminals are great but the sad reality is the council won’t be able to pour a heap into new or improved ferry infrastructure simply because of the Mayor’s central city rail obsession which is set to soak up most of the public transport capital expenditure budget this coming decade.

“Spending approximately 80 percent of the 10-year budget on the City Rail Link is not a balanced approach, and will not deliver a strong and mixed integrated transport system.

“This is not good news for ferry and bus users who want serious investment in their infrastructure and services. The Mayor tells everyone he’s going to do everything, but the budget clearly points to one CBD project soaking up most of the money”

“In 2013/14 alone we’re set to spend $180m on the City Rail Link. That’s a lot of ferry terminals or tarmac for new bus-lanes,” says Cameron Brewer.

While the support for bus lanes is great (a pity it comes too late to save the Remuera Road bus lanes from being turned back into T3 tractor lanes) I think Brewer, along with a lot of other people, often miss the point when they state that ferries should do much more of the transport task by building a whole pile of new terminals and opening up a whole pile of new routes. Put simply, the point is that while ferries have an important role to play in Auckland’s PT system, they only work in certain situations.

So what are those situations? Obviously for a start they need to be on the coast – which has the somewhat unfortunate outcome of half a ferry terminal’s walking catchment being water (much more than that if a long wharf is required). The prime waterfront location of ferry terminals also makes park and ride facilities either incredibly expensive to provide in terms of land acquisition or incredibly ugly. Or both. So there’s quite a reliance on good feeder buses, or having the ferry route offer such a significant time savings that it’s worth going out of your way to make the ferry work.

And on that last point there are some situations in Auckland where ferries really do offer a compelling advantage over anything else. Waiheke is the obvious example because there really isn’t an alternative, while Devonport comes to mind as the other immediately obvious location where ferries will always make sense – simply because of this:


These two locations really dominate ferry patronage, as shown in the screenline survey for trips to the CBD in the AM peak period, making up nearly half of trips:ferry-patronage

The relatively slow growth since 2006 seems to indicate that we’ve probably squeezed close to as much out of those two routes as possible.

So how can we make the most out of the potential of the ferry system? I guess there are a few different options:

  • Add more routes from new locations – Te Atatu, Mission Bay, Browns Bay, Howick, Takapuna and various other points around the harbour (including a cross Manukau service) are often mentioned.
  • Build more park and ride spots so that more people can drive to ferry terminals.
  • Continue to invest in current services by offering better frequencies and bringing ferries into the proposed zone based ticketing system so that fares (at least for regular users are cheaper).
  • Improve bus/ferry integration (fares being a critical part of this) so that ferries are used in a similar way to trains and the busway: as a fairly rapid part of the PT network which avoids congestion on the road system completely.

There are possibly other ways in which we can improve ferries, but generally I think the last two bullet points above are what we should focus on – particularly ahead of continuing to look for new routes – no matter how attractive that seems to local politicians.

Let’s take the new Hobsonville/Beach Haven ferry for example – while there’s much excitement about this at the end of the day the service provided is pretty rubbish: barely a handful of sailings and only on weekdays. No off-peak service, no weekend service, eye-wateringly high fares. Too bad if you want to use the ferry to check out Hobsonville on a sunny Saturday – the ferries don’t run. Too bad if you’re a university student living in Hobsonville and want to stay late – the ferries don’t run after a 6:10pm sailing. Too bad if you don’t want to live your life around a timetable: even at peak times it’s over an hour between sailings and 8.05am is the last sailing from Hobsonville to get you into the city in the morning.

Many other ferry timetables are similar. The Gulf Harbour Ferry also only runs a couple of trips a day – though at least it also has a middle of the day service for day-trippers up to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Tickets are only again pretty steep at $27 return for an adult. The Half Moon Bay ferry, which I think has huge potential as it bypasses a hugely congested stretch of Auckland’s transport network, similarly has rubbish frequencies with one service every two hour outside the peak (I guess at least there are off-peak services?)

In terms of improving access to the ferries, I think we’d do well to think of them as being somewhat similar to the rapid transit network. A fairly sparse (in terms of walk up catchment) but pleasant and (theoretically) fast and reliable service because it avoids traffic congestion on the roading network. So bus integration, including free transfers between buses and ferries, becomes absolutely critical here in opening up the catchment of the ferries far wider than otherwise possible. If Half Moon Bay ferries were far more frequent we could have most buses from Bucklands Beach and that northern portion of “southeast Auckland” feeding into the ferry network as much as it feeds into Panmure station and the rail network or Botany town centre and the future busway along Ti Rakau Drive. Park and ride will always be difficult to provide for at ferry terminals – due to their inherent location in high amenity waterfront areas.

So perhaps next time someone comes up with a “we should add this ferry route” argument we might also think about whether that’s really the best use of funds or whether we should focus on improving what we already have – because it seems like there’s a lot of untapped potential in the routes that already exist. But I guess that’s just not quite as sexy as pushing for new routes – regardless of the quality of service which ends up being provided and the rather high capital cost in providing for just a handful of trips every weekday.

48 comments to Making ferries make sense

  • Matthew

    Ferries don’t have to be large. Small ferries like Vancouver’s False Creek ferries (see http://www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca/) could make sense on short frequent runs around the CBD, Devonport, and to Herne Bay and Birkenhead to the west and St Heliers to the east with more new little wharves inbetween.

  • pete

    You read too much into a probably ironic sentence. Cameron is just saying “That’s a lot of ferry terminals or tarmac for new bus-lanes” to mention over investment in just one thing. I would suspect he is somewhat more pragmatic than just ferries and bus lanes?

  • Bryce P

    I don’t understand why the Hobsonville ferry isn’t being run by the same guys that do the West Harbour ferry service. The timetable is quite good and they use a much smaller, more efficient ferry that can make more trips which makes the service more useable for a greater number of commuters.

    http://www.belaire.co.nz/west-harbour/

    • Harvey Specter

      That sort of timetable would be great for hobsonville. However, that must be a 3 boat service. If AT could have guaranteed teh contract would run long enough, it would justify the company making the capital expenditure though.

  • Brewer’s ferry advocacy, like Nikki Kaye’s is simply a sweet sounding tool to attack the CRL, it has no foundation in viability, value for money, nor practicality….. How do they really expect Auckland transport needs to be met with this expensive to operate and extremely localised mode, are they proposing a citywide network of canals? Yeah, that’ll work. Ah the Venice of the south.

    He worked to downgrade the one bus lane of scale in his board area so I think we can treat that sentence as disingenuous at best.

  • Brewer doesn’t really care about PT but is only interested in political point scoring. When is he going to announce that he will stand against Len?

  • Mon

    Instead of park and ride or bus feeders, ferry passengers can also cycle to the terminals. I recognise that this may not be the preferred mode of transport for some but it appears to be a popular option for residents of Beachlands and Maraetai using the Pine Harbour Ferry from Pine Harbour Marina to Auckland city.

  • jonno1

    “While the support for bus lanes is great (a pity it comes too late to save the Remuera Road bus lanes from being turned back into T3 tractor lanes)…”.

    Please remind me what is wrong with T3 lanes. Yes, I get the crude reference to SUVs – I don’t like them either, but it’s not my business what someone else drives. I recall someone pointing out that a car in a T3 lane may need to stop frequently behind a bus at bus-stops, but so what if the overall trip is quicker and lane use is spread more evenly? And three people in a car is a massive advance isn’t it? A win-win situation.

    These are genuine questions; I have no interest in using such a lane but would still like to know what’s supposedly wrong with it.

    • Well they’re better that T2s…..

    • Harvey Specter

      Given they have gone from a buslane to a T# it would be interested to see some stats.

      I would have though the car would be more held up by the bus than the other way around. Are there enough cars with 3 people to create congestion for a bus which is stopping frequently anyway?

      T2 is taking it too far as that increases the risk (due to higher numbers) that a bus will miss the phase of lights etc.

      • Greg N

        The biggest hold up causing issues on the Rem Road T3 lanes are:

        1. Cars illegally parked in the left lane – which AT seldom enforce/do anything about.
        They only enforce the clearway parking, not the T3 lane parking.
        Can’t recall the last time I ever saw a AT warden sorting out an illegally parked car in the T3 lanes on Rem Road, But seen plenty of Clearway parkers get towed.
        The difference between the two types (Clerway v T3) is only where it is along Rem Road.

        2. Left turning traffic blocking the bus(es), especially bad at St Marks Road and Dilworth Avenue.

        3. Cars in the T3 lane trying to avoid a ticket by moving in to the right hand lane ahead of the cameras that record T3 lane violators, who hold up the bus and T3 traffic behind them as they force their way into the right hand lane in time (to avoid the camera).

        (1) will occur whether its a T3 or Bus Lane unless AT change their enforcement ways
        (2) will always happen even if its a Bus Lane (rather than T2/T3)
        (3) will probably always happen as well while they have cameras/enforcement in place – but AT seem to try and put the cameras around bends etc so that they’re not obvious/easy to avoid so that they catch the abusers on film.

        Regardless all the T3 lanes have done is have allowed the rat running traffic in from the side streets so that they now have unfettered access to the Clearway parts of Rem Road, that were previously clogged nose to tail with cars in two lanes, which are now clear of traffic in the left lane as half the traffic using Rem Road is stuck in a single lane further back while the empty T3 lane beside them sits there,unused.by bus or T3 traffic.

        Can;’t say its improved the bus reliability stats much – but maybe someone from NZ Bus can comment on that.

        • jonno1

          Thanks for that Greg N. As you suggest, your points (1) & (3) are enforcement issues, while point (2) will happen anyway, so in all cases T3 actually makes no difference. (I’m not sure of the distinction between the clearway and the T3 lane which I assumed coincided, but maybe not).

          Your penultimate paragraph is interesting though. One could argue that having 50m to merge from a side road is a good thing, but your most telling comment is the tailbacks vs the (largely) empty T3 lane. This can’t be an efficient use of resources (whether bus only or T2/T3).

          Further to intersection blocking, a classic location is the Remuera Rd/Middleton Rd intersection, right outside a police station no less, but with no visible enforcement. If AT chooses the James Cook Cres option for the Sarawia St crossing closure this will only get worse.

          • Greg N

            “…but your most telling comment is the tailbacks vs the (largely) empty T3 lane. This can’t be an efficient use of resources (whether bus only or T2/T3).”

            Sure isn’t efficient for the car drivers – but doesn’t impact the buses one bit until…
            …the tailbacks back up into the single lane St Johns road – which is before the T3 lanes start, then most of the buses from Gi that go along Remuera Road to Newmarket and the CBD can’t actually get to the T3 lanes to make use them as they can only move as slow as the cars ahead of them – cars which can’t use the left hand lane which is free of cars as thats needed for the bus, The same bus(es) that is/arestuck in the St Johns Road traffic jam – right behind them…
            …and thats not a once in a blue moon thing either.
            It happens most weekdays from 7:30am to 9am all through the academic year when schools, universities and the like are all back. [thats March to October more or less].
            Even rat running offers limited relief option due to the road design there.

            Of course, the corresponding counter argument should be to get out of the car and onto the bus – thus killing two birds with one stone if enough do it.

            I’d actually argue thats simplistic to assume the buses can cope, they couldn’t, and in any case, the better option is to NOT have people in cars or buses going along Rem Road towards Newmarket at all. What should happen is that the said bus users get the bus to the nearest station (GI or Meadowbank), then hop the (super) frequent trains to get into the Britomart/CRL stations/Newmarket.
            Thus:
            (a) making the “peak” traffic flow go the other way which has roads that can (mostly) cope.
            (b) getting the people to where they actually want to go (Newmarket, CBD, or south etc) quicker than a car or bus can

            So longer term, I hopefully foresee a time when perhaps T3 lanes on Rem Road are not actually required at all.
            But for now, we’re stuck with them, even if they don’t actually solve the problems or getting PT moving yet.

          • Greg N

            “(I’m not sure of the distinction between the clearway and the T3 lane which I assumed coincided, but maybe not).”

            Remuera Road is Clearway in the peak direction on both sides for its entire length from where it starts/(or ends) at St Johns Road/Meadowbank Road intersection to Broadway where it ends (or starts) in Newmarket.

            EXCEPT for the sections where there are T3 lanes AND also the section of Rem Road at the Remuera shops, which has some inset parking on one side (AM peak) and full onstreet car parking on the other side (PM peak) – which thus reduces the lanes there in the PM peak from 2 lanes to 1.5 lanes at best.

            Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the entire length of Rem Road (except the Remuera shops part) should be no parking from 7am to 9am AM going towards NM and 4pm to 6pm PM direction going from NM.

            But the Bus Lanes start and stop in parts along this road so the Clearway stops then starts again, and it seems AT differentiate the treatment of car parkers in the T3 lanes from those in the Clearway, even if they are 10 meters apart, on the same side of the road at the same time!

            Someone explain that rule for me please.

          • jonno1

            Greg N, the resource I was referring to was the lane itself, which is not without cost. I’m guessing that the tailbacks didn’t occur prior to the bus lane being installed. Having said that, it all turns to custard at Middleton Rd and Broadway anyway, so maybe returning the lane to cars would only generate false hope.

            There seems to be an implicit assumption that PT solves all problems, however, at the risk of stating the obvious, rail is only point to point while buses, although theoretically more flexible, are pretty well stuck with established routes also. Imagine if bus routes changed every few months to suit perceived changes in demand – there was an outcry recently on this very site about changes to the Link bus routes.

            I appreciate your efforts to explain why T3 is a bad thing (compared with bus-only), but so far no-one has come up with a clear explanation. I have no view either way, it’s just that as an engineer I’m stuck with needing logic rather than rhetoric.

          • Mr Anderson

            Basically if the lane is T3 then you have cars using it, which get stuck behind buses that stop for passengers to board. The cars try to pull into the general lane to get around the buses and then block up the traffic in the general lane.

            So while T3 vehicles obviously “do better” with the lane being T3 rather than bus only, the traffic in the general lane does significantly worse. Plus obviously the bus passengers are probably a bit worse off because some of the lane’s capacity is taken up by the T3 vehicles.

            In short, going from bus to T3 creates more disbenefit overall than benefit. Of course this depends on bus volumes and Remuera Road was close to a negligible impact from memory, whereas something like Dominion Road or the Northern Busway with much higher bus volumes would be ruined by introducing T2/T3 vehicles.

            That’s the practical explanation. At a higher level, Auckland talks a lot about prioritising the improvement of public transport. Taking away bus lanes is therefore hypocritical.

          • Greg N

            “I appreciate your efforts to explain why T3 is a bad thing (compared with bus-only), but so far no-one has come up with a clear explanation. I have no view either way, it’s just that as an engineer I’m stuck with needing logic rather than rhetoric.”

            Well basically Mr Anderson hit the nail on the head, you either give PT complete priority over other modes – or you don’t.
            And in PT land actions speak volumes louder than words.

            But, regardless of whether its a Bus Lane, or T2, T3 etc, unless you clear out the parked cars in said lane you’re not actually helping improve PT either.
            Looking at you AT on this one.

            Follow up answer – painting a white and green line on the road and putting some signs up, does not a PT priority measure make.
            You have to back it with visible enforcement and give people incentives and alternatives to not use cars (like integrated ticketing, integrated modes, seamless transfer, reliable, frequent etc).

            Getting more people in a car as per T2/T3 lane concept, while good, actually just “kicks the can down the road” a little – but doesn’t change things fundamentally longer term.

            And T2/T3 lanes complicate enforcement of the PT lane a heck of a lot more – instead of being able to say “bus” or “not bus” you now have to decide (as an enforcement measure), “Bus”, “Not bus, but car with enough occupants”, “Neither” – which is a much more complicated and variable process, fraught with loopholes you could drive a bus through.

    • Matthew

      “it’s not my business what someone else drives” – I think it is our business what other people drive and how we feel about it depends on the external costs of air pollution, noise pollution, the space it uses up, the amount of natural resources it uses, the danger it poses to every other road user, and also whether it makes our insurance costs go up.

      My feeling about T2 and T3 lanes is that they are a response to congestion. As a motorist I think they often cause as much congestion as they solve as cars without enough people have less roadspace to be in in the remaining lanes. (Mana in Porirua’s T2 experience was like that). They may induce demand if one lane suddenly becomes clear. They have an enforcement cost. And the proper way to decongest a road is to improve other options such as cycleways and PT. I doubt they suddenly make carpooling popular.

      • jonno1

        Your para 1 is an interesting pov Matthew, as your comments also apply far more to a bus than to an SUV. As an analogy, I neither smoke nor buy Lotto tickets, but I’m not going to tell someone else whether they should or should not do so (unless they ask for my opinion of course). To do so would be to adopt a totalitarian stance, and we all know where that leads.

        I’m struggling to follow your logic in your para 2. Don’t the cars with fewer people have more, not less, roadspace available in the remaining lane(s)? Unless you’re saying you oppose bus lanes altogether as they tie up a whole lane for a small number of vehicles. Ditto the enforcement cost – not needed if no “special” lane exists, irrelevant whether it’s T3, T2 or T0. I have no idea how popular cycleways would be if there were more of them – I see precious few cyclists on the existing ones during peak hours, but that may be because they’re not joined up, who knows? And last time I looked buses were PT, so not sure what you’re getting at there either.

        But we can agree on one thing: the existence of a T3 or T2 lane isn’t of itself going to encourage carpooling. That requires commonality of source and destination at the same times of day; tricky to achieve at the best of times.

        • Matthew

          I will tell someone not to smoke as it affects everyone around them. Hardly totalitarianism, just reminding them to not be rude and selfish. A modicum of politeness is needed for civil society. I don’t buy all that libertarian individuality bullshit. Buses are often smelly, and there’s got to be better technology than diesel for buses. As a society we definitely should set limits to how smelly or noisy a vehicle should be. The last thing we need is a private car fleet of Hummers and large SUVs like in Texas, or lots of smelly 2-strokes like Bangkok.

          Bus lanes have a point in that they allow buses (carrying lots of people) to go faster. I think T2 and T3 lanes have pluses and minuses, and their pluses are minor, and their minuses often outweigh their pluses. So I can’t really see the point of them. My use of the word PT included parallel rail.

          Proper cycling infrastructure I think has a lot of pent up demand that isn’t being satisfied (as well as demand that would materialise if safe infrastructure was built), and is an as til now public policy failure, and recently wrote about it at http://wellingtoncycleways.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/on-yer-bike-new-zealand/

        • harrymc

          “neither smoke nor buy Lotto tickets, but I’m not going to tell someone else whether they should or should not do so “.
          But in another post you certainly seemed like you wanted to do just that. But only to beneficiaries of course – and they don’t count do they?

          • jonno1

            harrymc, for the record you are misrepresenting me. I don’t know why you have chosen to do this, and as I recall I explained that at the time. Please do not do this again. Thank you.

            Ironically, I think the context was choices, and indeed not of beneficiaries but of low income earners, although maybe some people are benficiaries because they choose not to work, I really don’t know. But we all make choices that affect our future, some good, some bad. Right now I’m making the bad choice of responding to you when I should be doing some chargeable work that will improve my future lifestyle [starts clock again].

  • Harvey Specter

    The key to supporting more ferry’s is that it must cater for a area that doesn’t currently have public transport and/or it provides a quicker trip than the current public transport. This should be the test to determine if a new service gets supported by AT.

    This is currently the case for Devonport, Waiheke, Northcote and Birkenhead points. I dont know the others other public transport options so cant comment.

    From Beachhaven it is not the case, though if Onewa road was not a T3, then the Ferry would be quicker.

    • You should also include the Bayswater and Stanley Point ferry services in there. I have been taking the Bayswater service now since November and it is fantastic. Also woefully under-utilised. It has good patronage but I really think it can be ramped up. It only has 30min frequency now but that could easily be increased to 15mins at peak times as with Devonport.

      For people living on the peninsula between Bayswater Ave and Esmonde Road, the Bayswater service should be a no-brainer. It is closer than Devonport and there is a Ritchie’s bus from Takapuna down Lake Road that meets every ferry. Cycling is also a great option but there are a huge number of empty carparks there even at peak times.

      One mode of transport I would like to plug is electric bikes. I recently bought one and they are really are fantastic especially in combination with the ferry. Hills become a non-issue and it is really easy to sustain speeds of 20-30kmh regardless of terrain. Mine cost $1700 and will do about 30kms on one charge.

      If you have been using hills as an excuse in Auckland not to bike then be aware the days are numbered for that excuse to hold water!

      • Greg N

        “One mode of transport I would like to plug is electric bikes. I recently bought one and they are really are fantastic especially in combination with the ferry. Hills become a non-issue and it is really easy to sustain speeds of 20-30kmh regardless of terrain. Mine cost $1700 and will do about 30kms on one charge.”

        Yes I am thinking of getting one too, what brand did you buy, and from what shop? I calculate I could cycle to work and back – but the dreaded hills along Rem Road are a nightmare for most cyclists and then theres the buses in the T3 lane, but once you hit Remuera village its pretty much flat riding (or slight grade) to Newmarket so a Electric bike might do the trick of flattening the hills.

        So I’d be very interested in hearing of your experiences with one (a Guest post perhaps?)

        • I bought my ebike from Bute bikes in Browns Bay. Chris there is great and the product is a whispr bike which has been specially designed by the head franchisor for Whispr in New Zealand especially for NZ conditions. It is called a Smart Motion bike: http://www.electricbikes.co.nz/content/view/96/125/

          However, I have no interest in plugging that particular bike and there are a lot of great ones around. It really does make hills a non-issue. I have had heaps of people try my bike and every single one has immediately started thinking of all the places they could go on it. Anything within 3 kms is a perfect destination for an ebike.

          I would like to do a guest post. Do I just write that and send to the editorial team for review?

  • Mon

    Carpooling is a great option where PT is not available…

    • Luke C

      Would love to see the stats on carpooling. That is supposedly the driver of these T2 or T3 lanes (rather than being bus lanes), however I’m sure it is very rare outside of workmates/flatmates giving each other a lift which they would do anyway.
      The real point is that most people should have a PT option available.

      • Carpooling is great in theory… but in practice it always struggle to show up. Perhaps this is because it is essentially a contradiction; private space made public. When is your car not your car? When is has a stranger in it. Also without the passengers living or working together it loses convenience [the great advantage of the private car] and is that carpooling; taking the partner to work?

  • S

    I would like to see higher frequencies on the existing routes. I think that there is lots of potential for the Birkenhead ferry, for example, if they would only increase the frequency – it’s a bit rough when you find that you have to wait, as I have, another 50 minutes for the next sailing simply because I didn’t have the timetable memorised. Combine this with more frequent bus feeder services to match and integrated ticketing that makes it easier to make connections, and I think that the ferry might be seen as more attractive to more people.

    • Mr Anderson

      Given the Birkenhead ferry terminal’s location on a point (so probably 75% of its walkable catchment is water) and at the bottom of a pretty steep street (therefore making pedestrian access rather unattractive as you need to walk up the hill at the end of the day) I’m not sure whether it has much growth potential. Even with feeder buses everything close to Onewa Road will be better off using the Onewa Road bus services, which are WAY more frequent (and probably faster) than the ferry could ever hope to be.

      • Bayswater has great potential. I think a 30 minute off peak frequency for all routes should be considered

      • S

        Perhaps you’re right. I do remember, though, that the carpark near the ferry terminal is always very full during the day, and people clearly want to use the ferry service. This might be partly because the bus services are so unattractive in comparison – crowded, bumpy, and rather than dropping you off at Britomart they drop you off on Victoria St. It might also be because the ferry catchment is not well served by the bus services, which stop twice at the Highbury shops (a 20 minute walk, give or take, from the ferry terminal) and then continue down Onewa Rd.

      • Mr Anderson

        Yeah certainly the ferry at Birkenhead serves a catchment that’s difficult to logically serve via bus. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not one which I think will grow much in popularity due to its geography.

        • The only way to grow it would be to provide a good frequent bus to the wharf. probably need to take carparks into to accommodate the turning though….

        • Mr Anderson

          I guess my point is that there’s no real gain from attracting people north of Onewa Road because they’re likely to just use Onewa and its pretty good bus service. So you’re looking at a fairly confined catchment no matter what you do.

          • S

            Patrick: There is already room for buses to turn around at Birkenhead Wharf. When I lived in the area, I often used the connecting buses, especially when the weather was poor. But there’s no point increasing the frequency of bus services if the frequency of ferries isn’t also increased. Also, the connecting buses at present head north once they get to the Highbury shops, which probably isn’t where most ferry users would want to go.

            Mr. Anderson: When possible, I preferred to take the ferry over the bus simply because it was so much nicer. The only real advantage that the bus has over the ferry in that area is that it is more frequent. I think that there’s potential for attracting people from the east and west of Birkenhead. There would be some competition from the Northcote Point wharf, but they’re served by the same ferry anyway, and the Northcote wharf is closed in bad weather, which has always struck me as being quite a disadvantage…

  • Charles

    On a sunny day there is probably no better way to commute than by ferry. However this does not mean that Auckland should pursue developing it ferry’s network at any cost. Ferry are very expensive in both capital and operating cost especially compared to other modes.

    A typical bus cost about $400,000 to purchase, whereas a ferry with similar capacity would probably be double the cost.

    The operating cost of ferries are very high, I have heard it is somewhere between 5 and 10 times that of a bus. Essentially you have to move a vessel that is heavier than a bus which is subject to more friction, therefore you need a bigger more powerful motor which burns more fuel. The crewing cost are also more, as you require 2 crew member if the vessel is able to carry over 49 people. The Annual Survey requirements are also lot more onerous and costly as compared to maintaining a bus in good condition.

    Ferry require wharfs, jetty and pontoons which are expensive to build and maintained.

    Another concern with ferries is that I think none of the existing ferry fleet meet the latest EURO emission standards. The new buses in the fleet are EURO 5 standard whereas I doubt there are any ferries operating in the harbour which would meet any of the EURO standards. It would be interesting to know the emmision ratings of the ferries in the Auckland fleet.

    Ferry services make sense where there is a bigger enough demand and it can offer a travel time advantage over other modes. The services between Downtown and Waiheke, Bayswater, Devonport, Stanley Point, Pine Harbour, Half Moon Bay, West Harbour meet these criteria. Currently Gulf Harbour sevice would probably meet these criteria but once PenLInk is built it will probably be far quicker by bus. Hobsonville may but it may be quicker by bus to the North Shore to join the busway at Constellation station to get to the city.

    The services between Downtown and Northcote, Birkenhead, Beachaven probably do not meet the criteria for being the quickiest.

    In respect to other locations suggested around the harbour a bus or train would be quicker especially once you consider where infrastructure can be provided for ferry services, the length of the wharf, the physical limitation in the harbour due to water depth, speed limits of 5 knotts in narrow channels and Meola reef. A ferry needs about 2m of water at low tide to be able to safely operate.

    For example the proposed ferry wharf location for Te Atatu was at the end of Bridge Avenue, which is south of the motorway. It was not at the northern end of the peninsula as most people presume. A simple look at google earth image and the tidal charts it would show that it would not be practical to site a ferry wharf at the northern end of the peninsula.

    Te Atatu Peninsula would be served better by investing money in providing bus priority lanes on Te Atatu Road on both side of the motorway interchange so that the buses are able to by-pass the congestion on Te Atatu Road to get to the motorway.

    Ferry do have a role to play in Auckland public transport mix however it is important not to over estimate the role they can play and under estimate the operating costs. Ferry only make sense where they are the quickiest mode.

    • Gian

      good points there. Just few things I’d like to add.
      1- crewing costs can be lower. you need 1 crew per 50 passengers per bus, 2 per 50 etc. The bigger the ferry the less the crew.
      2- highways, streets, roads are expensive as well, buses don’t fly.
      3- buses bring noise and pollution directly at our doorsteps, and being big and cumbersome they kill people.

      I don’t know much about recent ferry propulsion, but as you said they probably need more fuel but they don’t need to stop-start all the time that is the worst thing for fuel consumption on buses.

      and one more thing, ferries can make money out of things they can sell onboard. I’d probably buy a cofee every morning and a beer every night during my commute

      • Harvey Specter

        A quick reply with no facts, just more questions:

        1 – I thought ferries needed more staff if they were over a certain size.
        2 – Ferries need wharves. What is the cost to provide a road/wharf per passenger mile.
        3 – Guns dont kill people, people kill people ;) – same would apply to buses – how many bus related deaths are there?
        3 – by bringing noise and pollution to your doorstep, it actually makes it more convenient to catch. A few posts here have refered to driving to the ferry terminal which means that it doesn’t enable a family to get rid of the second car.
        4- that stop start is picking up people which is actually a good thing. A ferry goes from A to Z directly. A bus goes to A to B to C … to Z which is a lot better if you live and/or work somewhere along the route, not at the end points.
        5 – Agree – I think we need to talk to Ritchies/NZ Bus about installing mini bars. Maybe even a massage service like Virgin Atlantic. Anything else you want for your ratepayer funded service? ;)

  • Kevin

    I know this thread is a few days old now but having used the Beach Haven Ferry for the first time this morning I thought I’d add in my impressions.
    I took the last ferry into the city and it was blissful, I’d guess only 20ish people on board. As most would arrive at work after 8:30 if they took this service it seems this isn’t the best option. Rumour has it that AT are considering changing the timetable to sort this out.
    The scenery on this journey is wonderful and the staff very friendly. In comfort terms comparing this to the bus is like comparing a horse and cart to a feather bed. (Indeed many buses still have cart springs which leads to their awful ride.)
    It’s a great addition to transport options into the city and once they sort the timetable it will make total sense and provide a viable alternative to the car for trips into the CBD for both leisure and work.

    • Harvey Specter

      I agree that Ferries are a lovely way to travel when the weather is nice, BUT I think you are missing the point.

      Mass public transport is about providing a cheap alternative, that is efficient and services the most amount of people and on three counts, the Ferry service fails. It is more expensive to the consumer that the existing option, while requiring a subsidy from rate payers, using a form of transport that is more expensive to run, which is not running anywhere near capacity, is not significantly quicker (what is the actual journey time for Beachhaven to the city?) and it only goes between 2 points (3 actually).

      What criteria do you use for measuring the success of mass public transport (and ignore the personal aspect that you are benefiting from a rate payer subsidy for a higher quality service).

  • Kevin

    On that basis I am indeed missing the point. I only posted on here to provide feedback on the new ferry service from someone that used it.
    My criteria for selecting how I travel includes comfort, not just cost and travel time, even if the bus is a little quicker it isn’t when it has stopped at every stop and dropped you far away from where you want to be.

    • Harvey Specter

      Sorry – your feedback/experience is interesting.

      I guess there is two elements to this, and we aren’t talking about the same on.

      • Kevin

        No worries, I’ll try and provide more feedback on patronage next time I use it in a few weeks time (I don’t often travel into the CBD during weekday peak hours)

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