Auckland Transport have announced the results of the latest public transport fare review and its good. What’s more they appear to be addressing or working towards addressing many of the issues we have raised in the past.
Auckland Transport has completed its Annual Fare Review which sees ticket prices on buses, trains and ferries change from July 6. From that date adults who use the AT HOP card for their travel will receive a 20% discount off the single trip adult cash fare (excluding NiteRider, Airbus Express and Waiheke ferry services). Child and tertiary AT HOP users will also continue to receive discounts on most services, when compared to the equivalent cash fares. In contrast most cash fares for bus and train and some cash fares for ferry will increase (some AT HOP fares for ferries will also increase).
Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton says the annual review takes into account operator cost increases (e.g. fuel and wages), revenue and patronage movements. He adds that Auckland Transport is also undertaking a strategic review of all public transport costs and pricing, due to be completed towards the end of the year. “Public transport must be seen as a viable alternative to the car if Auckland is to even begin to resolve its transport problems”, he says. “By making travel even more attractive on the AT HOP card we are hoping more people will switch to public transport.”
In March there was a jump in the number of people using public transport in Auckland with 7.3 million trips, an increase of 3.9% on March last year. The financial year to March also saw strong growth overall with just over 71 million trips.
In addition to an increased discount on AT HOP Auckland Transport will remove the 25 cent top-up fee and reduce the minimum top-up amount on the card from $10 to $5, both from July 6. The card itself will also remain at $5 until at least 31 January 2015.
From July 6 when the new fares are implemented, cash fares will be in 50 cent multiples which will reduce cash handling on buses in particular (with the exception of the City LINK child cash fare which will remain at 30 cents). Mr Warburton has also signalled that Auckland Transport hopes to move to implementing an exact fare/no change given policy in the future and will investigate the potential of removing cash fares altogether, as has recently been introduced in Sydney.
Here’s what’s happening with adult bus and train fares
Overall I think this is a very good move by AT. By raising the cash fares but also increasing the HOP discount it does two things.
- It increases the differential between cash and HOP fares which will help make HOP more attractive. More people using HOP is good, particularly for buses as it speeds up boarding time.
- Over 60% of all trips now take place using HOP, that means for the majority of PT users these changes will actually represent a decrease in fares.
That second point is important as I’m not sure if we’ve ever seen an actual fare decrease before – although AT’s transport indicators show that fares had been reducing due to inflation for some time.
Change in the 1-5 stage bus cash fares in 2013 prices over time. The HOP fares (dotted line) show the equivalent HOP fares. The HOP stage 1 bus fare is equivalent to the 2004 stage 1 cash fare and for other stages is cheaper than the 2004 cash fares. (Nominal fares are adjusted based on CPI index to provide their relative cost in real terms)
The one mode that has bucked the trend has been ferry fares which mostly seem to be going up which is probably a symptom of the more commercial nature of ferries.
It will certainly be interesting to see what these change do to patronage. One thing I do wonder though is what the impact on revenue is from the change to HOP fares. Could the difference have been used to provide additional services and would those deliver more patronage growth than what this fare change will deliver?
The one issue I have seen people not as happy about is the ferry fares which mostly seem to be going up. I also like how the cash fares are being rounded to a multiple of 50c which should hopefully help speed up the issuing of change on buses. I’m also sure that people will like the removal of the top up fee, the reduction of the minimum top up amount and the reduce prices of HOP cards – although none of them actually bothered me.
I also like how AT have signalled future changes to further speed up buses by eventually implementing an exact change/no change given policy or potentially removing cash fares altogether. The exact/no change idea is something that I imagine could be fairly easy to implement providing the communications around it are clear. HOP only is probably a little more difficult but perhaps something that could be done on selected services. In my mind perhaps start with the Northern Express and eventually work towards at least the entire frequent network being HOP only.
All up some good changes from AT and ones that should encourage both greater use of HOP and hopefully more patronage too. This should probably be the last fare change before we get integrated ticketing some time next year.