Yesterday we posted about the strange drive by Auckland Transport to be allowed to lower Ridership Targets for both the bus and rail networks. Of course what we struggle most with about this is that it follows on from a record March and all reports suggest that April was very busy too, and that this is continuing now into May. And sure enough yesterday our Twitter feed was full of Tweets like these:
And these are just from the rail network [one from each main line]. We are also used to plenty of complaints about over-full buses driving past stops leaving people stranded. So you have to ask if some at Auckland Transport are really aware what is happening out there? It doesn’t seem that the problem is one of trying to persuade people to take Transit but more that the services often just aren’t there to meet the demand.
Our view has long been that once the frequency and speed of services lift that demand will grow fast, that people are largely rational and will choose to use quality Transit services if they are there, yet it doesn’t seem that the culture of AT is ready for this at all. Perhaps there are too many old hands there holding on to that old saw about ‘people loving their cars’. When really for so long in Auckland it’s been an uneven contest between shabby, infrequent, indirect, and plodding Transit services versus underpriced parking and ever-widening motorways incentivising Aucklanders into their cars at all times.
Yet it could be that we have reached some kind of tipping point between these forces: Right now it looks like a perfect storm is brewing between ‘pull factors’ like improvement in services, and Transit use no longer being considered declassé, and ‘push factors’ such as the rising costs of car use, and the inevitable result of that road building; just too many cars everywhere, causing a surge to the stations and stops.
AT really ought to be more concerned about serving the current volumes of Transit customers better and planning how to serve ever more, better still, than lobbying to expect a lower growth rate.
After all this city has the potential to have an amazingly attractive and successful Transit system that can compete with any city anywhere; the potential is there now, but it will be unable to attract the necessary investment without strong ridership growth and a confident CCO in charge.
Yesterday afternoon I had a couple of meetings one after the other, in the city then Takapuna. Leaving my bike in town I caught an 8-something-something along with about 30 other people from outside the Civic and once through Albert St and onto the new Fanshawe St bus lane it was a fantastic express service to Takapuna, I was there in a flash and with no parking issues and able to check my emails en route. Other than an over long wait for the return bus [18 mins- two turned up at once] the trip back was even better, fast, mostly on proper priority, and with that fantastic view from high up on the bus.
Of course it won’t be too long now and I’ll have the option of savouring this view by making this journey at a gentler speed on the SkyPath! The quality of that route will definitely be in all the world’s magazines and website and help put Auckland on the must visit map.