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Hobsonville and Beach Haven Ferry gets a temporary price drop

Well this is positive, albeit a unexpected. AT have announced that due to better than predicted patronage, despite the high fares, they are going to see if they can get a lot more people using the service.  To do that they are dropping the fares as a trial for a month starting Monday. Here is the press release from AT:

Three weeks on from the launch of the new Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services, patronage is showing good growth above initial forecasts with 26% above forecast for week one (317 passenger journeys); 68% for week two (422 journeys) and 56% for week three (232 journeys for three days).

Capitalising on this beginning, Auckland Transport is offering a special price deal for all trips on the Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services to encourage more people to try the service. Special prices are available from 25 February until 24 May 2013.

Auckland Transport’s Manager of Public Transport, Mark Lambert says “It’s been a good start for the new services. We’re looking to stimulate further growth with the special fares helping promote the services and attract more people who may not have been public transport users previously.

“Ferry travel is a very pleasant and time-saving travel option for those working or studying in the city as well as those looking to travel for leisure”, says Mr Lambert

The Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services run two morning and three afternoon sailings each week day.

A bus service departing from Westgate connects with ferry sailings at Hobsonville.

Fare and timetable information is available at www.AT.co.nz

Ferry special offer

See the full brochure here. As a comparison, current adult fares are $12 ($9.20 with HOP) from Hobsonville, $8 ($6.20 with HOP) from Beach Haven and $4 ($2.80 with HOP) for trips between the two.

This is absolutely great to see and hopefully patronage will grow enough that AT will be able to justify leaving fares at this level permanently. I would also love to see AT trialling this kind of initiative in other areas, like offering special off peak fares on train and bus services.

Opening of the Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry terminals

I had the opportunity to go to the opening of the Beach Haven and Hobsonville ferry wharfs today. While readers my know I have had my doubts on the services, primarily due to the limited sailings and steep prices, I do think that the infrastructure put in place does look good and of course cruising up the harbour on a ferry can be a pretty nice way to get to/from work. Our first stop on the ferry was at Beach haven for a quick ribbon cutting ceremony. Local board chair Lindsay Waugh gave a short speech about the project and at one point got a cheer when she said that the ferry will enable people to get to town and connect to the rest of Auckland using the CRL.

Beach Haven Terminal with Hobsonville in the background

Beach Haven wharf with Hobsonville in the background

The Beach Haven terminal waiting area

The Beach Haven wharf waiting area

After that it was time for a quick hop across to Hobsonville to open that wharf. We did get a little delayed though after having to turn back to Beach Haven due to leaving Len Brown behind. The Hobsonville wharf is quite nice, the waiting area is similar to above, albeit a bit larger. It is reached by a wonderful walkway which is lined with boards that talking about the areas natural and human history.

Hobsonville Wharf walkway

Hobsonville Wharf walkway

One thing I quite like is there is a bus stop just behind where I was standing meaning it is only a short transfer to the ferry.

One thing I quite like is there is a bus stop just behind where I was standing meaning it is only a short transfer to the ferry.

Hobsonville Ferry Wharf 4

Lots of people turned up for the opening

After the ribbon cutting it was time for more speeches which actually turned out to be interesting and a little bit insightful. First up we had Auckland Transports new chairman Lester Levy who gave a superb speech. He talked about the terminal but also how AT had to become better at customer service. He also covered off something I have been thinking about (and have mentioned in a few places), talking about how much of a change is happening to transport over the next few years. He is from a medical background and so used some medical examples, he said we weren’t just having a cosmetic peel that would make the skin look better for a while but that would eventually end up looking just the same, instead he said we were having major re-constructive surgery that will profoundly improve the quality of our lives. Some people may just think this is just talk but I have now met Lester a few times and I do think he is genuinely wants to improve transport in Auckland which is excellent and just what we need.

Next up was John Key who along with Len Brown opened the wharf. Perhaps the most interesting thing he talked about, and he mentioned this over at Beach Haven too, was how his son was starting at Auckland Uni this year. He mentioned about how there isn’t a heap of parking at the uni which makes it fairly expensive to park there. He said any student who drives in will soon become a very poor student due to those parking charges so it is important that options like PT still enable connectivity. It was good to hear him say this but I wasn’t 100% sure it wasn’t just another take on the old attitude that PT is just for students, poor people or the elderly. Lets just hope that his son becomes enlightened on urban issues and is able to pass his thoughts on to his father.

John Key Speech

Bit hard to get a good photo due to the light sorry

Len Brown spoke next and most of the stuff he talked about is probably similar to stuff he has said before so I’m not really going cover it in this post. Last up we had Adrienne Young-Cooper who is the chair of the Hobsonville Land Company, the organisation doing the development of the area. Perhaps the key thing she talked about was about how they hoped the development would enable people to live with one less car. She talked about how the costs of owning a car can easily be more than $8,000 per year and how enabling people to have one car instead or two, or two instead of three is something that can really help improve affordability.  That is something this blog really supports and something I think is a key reason why we need to improve our PT system. Hopefully she is also pushing that same message to some of the other boards she is on as amongst others, she is currently also on the board of the NZTA.

All up it was a really good day and there was quite a large number of people that turned up from the local community. If we could get even a quarter of them using the services then it will be a pretty outstanding success.

Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry timetable

Auckland transport have released the timetable for the new Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services that start next week. As we found out a month ago, there are only two services in the morning and three in the afternoon. The biggest issue is the cost of the services, adult passengers will pay a cash fare of $12 from Hobsonville and $8 from Beach haven with HOP fares a little less at $9.20 and $6.40 respectively. One thing I do like is that the buses that will connect to the Hobsonville ferry wharf appear to have been timed to meet the boats however with passengers having to pay an additional bus fare it isn’t likely to be popular.

Hobsonville Ferry Timetable 1

Hobsonville and Beach Haven Ferry Details

Yesterday Auckland Transport announced that a date had been set for the start of ferry services to Hobsonville and Beach Haven.

Auckland’s latest ferry service, connecting Hobsonville Point in Upper Harbour and Beach Haven in Kaipatiki with the Downtown Ferry Terminal and the Britomart transport hub, will start on Monday 4 February.

The service will be operated by 360 Discovery Ltd and will run on weekdays between Hobsonville Point and Auckland’s Downtown Ferry Terminal.

Auckland Transport’s Manager, Public Transport Services, Mark Lambert, says, “It is very gratifying providing ferry services, with our operator, 360 Discovery, for the major new housing development being built at Hobsonville Point. The services will be useful for work, school and leisure, offering an easy and pleasant link between Hobsonville, Beach Haven and the city.

“The vessel is Discovery II an 80 seat catamaran which is currently undergoing refurbishment ready for the start date”.

Hobsonville Land Company Chief Executive, Chris Aiken says; “The launch of the ferry service is the result of our vision, shared by Auckland Transport, to provide our residents with a fast and pleasant way to travel into Downtown Auckland. We are extremely pleased with the design of the new wharf which adds character and interest to our beautiful waterfront area”.

Mr Lambert says, “Two morning and three afternoon services will operate each week day. Morning services will operate from Beach Haven from 6.50am and will end in Hobsonville at 6.45pm. Adult ticket prices for Hobsonville Point will cost $12 cash fare one way or $9.20 with an AT HOP card. Child fares will cost $7.20 cash fare or $6.48 with an AT HOP card.

“Adult ticket prices for Beach Haven to Auckland will cost $8.00 cash fare or $6.40 with an AT HOP card. Child fares will cost $4.80 cash fare or $4.32 with an AT HOP card”.

Mr Lambert says, “Both Hobsonville Point and Beach Haven will have brand new ferry wharves. Hobsonville at a cost of $3.2 million with a $900,000 contribution from the Hobsonville Land Company and Beach Haven will cost $1.2m.

Mayor Len Brown is confident of strong public support for the new services. “Aucklanders are looking for alternatives. These services will provide commuters from Upper Harbour and Kaipatiki with a convenient and very pleasant alternative to motorway gridlock. It’s all part of our plan to provide transport choices for Aucklanders as part of our integrated transport plan.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse says, “Good public transport in new developments is a top priority for Auckland Council, so we are delighted with Hobsonville Land Company’s and Auckland Transport’s investment and work in this regard”.

The service from Hobsonville Point to down will take 30 minutes. The service from Beach Haven takes 40 minutes.

The Chairs of the Kaipatiki and Upper Harbour are also right behind the new service.

Construction work at Beach Haven means access to the boat ramp there may be restricted or closed during January.

Fare and timetable information will be available on the Auckland Transport website from early next year.

Now I like hearing about new PT services but the details perhaps show some of the complexities of providing ferry services compared to buses. Initially there will only be two sailings in the morning and 3 in the evening, that doesn’t leave a lot of options and means for that many, it will simply not be a convenient enough service. As an example, only working half a day, well you will likely either have to wait for a few hours in town or find another way home. Want to stay for a few drinks or dinner after work would have the same result. I worry that this will struggle to get on going patronage, especially when you also consider the fares that are going to be charged.

Cash fares from Hobsonville of $12 and $8 from Birkenhead with HOP users paying $9.20 or $6.40 respectively. Those are some pretty hefty fares when you consider that the respective fares on HOP for catching a bus would be $6.12 and $5.04. At Beach Haven at least there is also a bus that travels from the wharf all the way to the city with a number of other routes nearby which combined provide quite a high frequency. Even odder is that those from Beach Haven pay less than the Hobsonville folk even though they have a longer trip, perhaps an acknowledgement that there are more bus services to compete with. Based on the press release it appears that the trip from Beach Haven may even end up slower than some of the bus routes as the 972 for example is scheduled to take about 35 minutes vs 40 on the ferry.

Beach Haven Buses

I counted at least 10 buses leaving at Beach Haven between 7-8am on AT’s journey planner

I know some people would much prefer catching a ferry to a bus but I guess the question is how many are prepared to do so given the cost, infrequent service and potentially longer trip time. Perhaps it will attract a few people who wouldn’t catch PT otherwise but I really wonder if we are getting good value for money with this. Hopefully I’m proven wrong and the service is a success along with the likely less subsided buses not being impacted.