Almost exactly 18 months ago, Auckland Transport launched their AT Metro brand which is what they’re using to define public transport in Auckland. As part of that they also revealed that all buses would have a consistent livery. At the time they said:
Auckland Transport’s General Manager Marketing and Customer Experience Mike Loftus says a single identity will give Aucklanders and visitors a clearer understanding of what public transport is on offer, and how buses, trains and ferries serve different areas.
“Most metropolitan cities have a single brand network that is easy to recognise and enables clear, consistent communication with customers.”
“Currently in Auckland there is no single identity, we have a variety of brands and looks. Customers relate to buses by the operator name rather than the wider public transport network”.
Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Public Transport Mark Lambert says having a single public transport network will ultimately build public confidence in the developing and improving PT system. “Knowing that all the services are integrated and part of the same system will help grow patronage”.
Fast forward to today and we’re seeing complaints from residents from the western North Shore wanting things to stay the same and complaints about the cost of it all.
Ratepayers are likely to be hit with a multi-million dollar bill following an order from Auckland Transport that all buses have to be painted the same colour.
The cost has been called “insane” by a ratepayers ginger group, but the move is being defended by transport bosses who say it will help to market Auckland as a whole.
It’s not known exactly how much painting the fleet the generic grey and blue will cost due to a combination of factors – contracts out to tender, new operators entering the market and buses being replaced – but an industry insider said it would cost upwards of $5 million.
The decision was made in 2014 to launch a “consistent brand” across Auckland’s buses, trains and ferries under the Regional Public Transport Plan.
Ritchies bus company owner Andrew Ritchie wasn’t sure how many buses in his fleet needed the transformation because he was currently tendering new contracts with Auckland Transport. However, each upgrade cost $9000.
“It’s going to cost millions all up.”
Mr Ritchie said the bill would be passed on to ratepayers because the expenses are written into the contracts with Auckland Transport.
“Someone’s got to pay – we’re charging someone and that will come back to the ratepayers.”
Birkenhead residents are set to submit a petition to the Auckland Council signed by almost 2500 people calling on Auckland Transport to change their decision to erase Birkenhead Transport’s 80 years of history with the stroke of a paintbrush.
Organiser Karen Goa said the fleet of 75 orange and cream buses was part of the neighbourhood’s identity which she felt was being lost in the Super City.
There are two issues here, one is whether we should let each operator retain their own liveries and the second is the cost of the change. Let’s look at both of those.
As AT say, cities all over the world work with a single brand and identity and all of which on systems much larger and more complex than ours. In my view having a different colour for every little corner of the city can easily cause confusion. We’ve even seen examples here in Auckland, even as recently as a few months ago when AT and operators shifted buses around during March to try and keep up with demand. That saw Ritchies buses running on some isthmus routes and had all buses been in the same livery passengers probably would never have even noticed a change.
In my view, the
historic putrid colour scheme on Birkenhead Bus buses is like a giant billboard saying public transport is stuck in the past and only an option of last resort. It is not how we want the city to be represented to either residents or visitors.
In a choice of each corner of the city having a unique livery or having a consistent look for PT, I prefer the latter.
This isn’t to say I think the new livery is fantastic either. On single decker buses I think the new blue and grey looks awkward and ill-fitting but on the double deckers I think it seems to sit quite nicely and looks good.
As it happens AT are already in discussions with Birkenhead buses about buying double deckers for use on Onewa Rd services which brings us nicely
There are around 1,000 used for PT in Auckland, at a cost of $9,000 per bus that would cost about $9m but there are many reasons why it won’t be that high. AT anticipated the inevitable claims of wasting money at the time saying:
Costs for the bus fleet will be kept to a minimum through:
- retention of ocean blue for Rapid Network services (Northern Express is already this colour).
- retention of red, green, orange and light blue for existing targeted services of the City LINK, Inner LINK, Outer LINK and Airbus.
- the rest of the bus fleet to be transitioned as part of new contracts and costs incurred through new contract rates.
That last point is the important part here. AT are currently rolling out the new bus network and with it new long term contracts – instead of rolling over existing short term contracts like they’ve been doing. The costs of repainting buses are able to be amortised across many years and would represent a tiny fraction of the amount we’ll be paying these bus companies over this time. And even with the requirement for a single livery, AT has managed to save $3 million a year on just the South Auckland contracts and once they complete contracting for the rest of the city the annual saving will almost certainly eclipse the one off cost of painting buses.
This goes even further though. As part of those new contracts, AT have said a number of bus quality requirements that mean operators will need to be buying a lot of new buses. In fact, the biggest operator in South Auckland as a result of the new contracts will likely need new buses for much of their fleet. The increase in the cost of painting new buses in the AT livery is effectively $0 to ratepayers as the cost would have been incurred anyway.
All up a bit of a storm in a bus stop.