Auckland Transport have just announced a the results of their annual fare review.
2013 Annual Public Transport Fare Review
Auckland Transport (AT) has completed its annual review of bus, ferry and train fares.
An annual review of Auckland public transport fare prices is undertaken by AT in accordance with its service contract obligations with transport operators.
This year, there are no across the board increases in fares, but there are targeted fare changes. The fare changes are designed to align bus and rail fares and, for ferries, to align fares on 10-trip paper tickets and AT HOP cards in preparation for the final rollout of the AT HOP card across AT services during the rest of 2013.
Bus and Rail
Single trip cash fares will remain unchanged across all bus and rail as will adult and child* NZ Bus fares and child AT HOP and child 10-trip fares. Increases to some adult AT HOP and adult bus 10-trip tickets are needed. These will be between 2c and 22c per trip.
Some bus and rail, return pass, daily pass, monthly pass and multi-operator fares will also change in preparation for the transition to integrated bus and rail monthly and daily passes.
There is no general fare increase. Some ferry fares have reduced; targeted fare changes are proposed to achieve alignment of fares for 10-trip paper tickets and AT HOP cards and improved alignment of historic differences in fares for similar distance services.
For example, short distance inner harbour services such as Devonport, Bayswater and Birkenhead 10-trip paper tickets will increase up to 20c per trip but with reductions in AT HOP fares.
Beach Haven, Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry service fares will remain unchanged or be reduced.
Across bus, rail and ferry the discount offered to tertiary students will reduce from a minimum of 38% to a minimum of 35% off the adult single trip cash fare, resulting in individual fare increases of between 7c and 40c per trip.
“Auckland Transport is working hard with its operators to provide greater connectivity and efficiency between public transport modes as well as better integrated pricing structure and price parity”, says Auckland Transport’s manager of Public Transport Operations Mark Lambert.
“We all know that Auckland’s roads are under enormous pressure and increased use of public transport across all modes has to be part of the solution to that problem”.
“Making public transport services customer friendly, and with a fare structure that makes them an attractive choice for people is a priority for Auckland Transport and its operators. Our New Network programme which is starting to be consulted on in June, forms part of that approach”, says Mr Lambert.
The new fares come into effect on 3 June.
For further information: www.AT.co.nz
*Children aged from 5 to 15 years inclusive and full-time secondary school students aged between 16 to 19 years inclusive (provided they are able to show a current Auckland Transport approved secondary school student ID, or are wearing a recognised school uniform. Please note that there will be no exceptions to this policy – proof of school attendance must be provided at all times).
I must say, I find it very odd that cash fares are being left but that HOP fares are being are being increased. Surely a better option would have been to at least increase cash fares by a greater level so to increase the effective discount being provided.
The actual fares aren’t online yet so we will have to wait to see exactly what the changes are.
At an announcement today, Auckland Transport have said that the AT HOP card will be start going live on buses in June with Urban Express buses the first to go live.
AT HOP roll-out planned for buses in June
Following its introduction on trains and ferries at the end of 2012, the AT HOP card has now completed testing on buses. Testing commenced in April, ahead of the planned, public rollout to all Auckland bus services from June this year.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Edmonds says, “This final stage of the roll-out of AT HOP is the largest piece of one of the most transformational transport projects in the city. Auckland has 1100 buses in its fleet and carries 80% of public transport users which equates to 54 million passenger journeys a year. This means the roll-out is significant and must be handled carefully”.
Mr Edmonds says that in order to manage the scale of the roll-out Auckland Transport will be phasing the introduction of AT HOP on buses to ensure the smoothest transition possible for customers.
The roll-out is planned to start with Urban Express bus services in June. Birkenhead Transport, NorthStar, Ritchies, Northern Express, Metrolink, Go West and Waka Pacific are planned to follow through to November.
Howick & Eastern, Bayes, Fullers Waiheke Bus Company, the Airporter and Airbus are planned in the final phase to the end of the year.
”As each bus service begins its roll-out we will be providing more detailed information to customers.” Mr Edmonds says.
“The AT HOP card will bring Auckland in line with many other international cities by providing an integrated public transport ticketing system”.
The AT HOP card can be topped up online, at an Auckland Transport Ticket & Top Up machine or in person at a ticket office. Purchasing an AT HOP card may save up to 10% off single trip cash fares (excluding the NiteRider bus service). An AT HOP card also allows free unlimited access to ride on the City LINK bus service.
Registering an AT HOP card online helps to protect your card from unauthorised use should it be lost or stolen, while also helping to protect the balance stored on the card within 24 hours from the time it is reported missing. Cards can be registered online at ATHOP.co.nz.
Based on what we saw when the Snapper HOP card rolled out and when the system went live on the trains, there are obviously going to be a lot of communications to go out and that process will start next week. They also said that ticket machines would be going in at Northern Busway stations and that they would be rolling out a network of at least 55 locations where people can purchase and top up their cards if people don’t want to use the online facility. I will post a map once AT are able to provide it.
The process for changing over to HOP sounds like it will be very similar to what happened when NZ Bus launched the Snapper Hop card. There will be free HOP cards for those with existing operator specific cards and the balance will be able to transferred to the HOP card however it will be easiest if the cards are run down as much as possible. If you have a Snapper card and want to keep it for micro transactions then you can do so. There will also be plenty of ambassadors at bus stops to help out too.
It is expected that all bus companies will be operating using HOP by the end of the year and in 2014 Auckland Transport will start the processes needed to move to integrated fares.
Many readers have already noticed that the HOP readers are starting to be installed on buses and quite a few of you have sent in photos of them. Here is one example from Andrew.
What was also interesting and extremely positive, was to see the NZTA at the announcement too supporting the need for integrated ticketing. They have also issued a press release regarding it.
Auckland’s HOP card extension good news for NZ says NZTA
The NZ Transport Agency says the rollout of new electronic ticket readers on Auckland buses will also be good news for people using public transport well beyond the boundaries of New Zealand’s largest city.
“Auckland, because of its size, is the foundation of this extended electronic fare-paying system. We’re confident that this is a well designed system for the city that can be easily modified and adapted for use in other centres,” says the NZTA’s Group Manager for Planning and Investment, Dave Brash.
The installation of the ticket readers on buses from next month means Aucklanders will need only use their HOP smartcards once to pay for a multi-mode trip on all public transport services – ferries, trains and now buses.
The NZTA has partnered with Auckland Transport and its predecessor, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, since 2005 to develop the city’s integrated ticketing programme, with an estimated funding contribution of $59.5m and the development of a parallel national ticketing programme, including the development of a national ticketing standard which enables integration with ticketing equipment and transport service providers in other centres.
Earlier this month, the NZTA awarded its first national ticketing standards compliance certificate to Thales New Zealand after the successful certification of the company’s new ticketing devices for Auckland’s buses. Mr Brash says NZTA investment in the development and implementation of the Auckland Integrated Fare System (AIFS) to create national ticketing standards delivers several benefits for public transport users all across the country.
”The central processing system developed for Auckland can be re-used by other regional councils as part of a national framework. As regions upgrade their ticketing systems, they will be able to purchase equipment which complies with the national standards and plug into the central processing system, ensuring that they will enjoy the benefits of a shared national systems approach, rather than having to pay a premium to develop separate ticketing systems.”
Mr Brash says the national standard could eventually mean people being able to use the same smart card in more than one centre, and the information about travel patterns in different cities collected by the NZTA’s central processing system would also provide a wealth of data that can be used to make better informed public transport decisions.
“Cities around the world with effective integrated ticketing systems have seen strong growth in public transport patronage, a better return on new public transport investments, and better road transport efficiency.
“We are aiming to achieve the same results here in New Zealand. Our growing cities mean more people rely on easy to use, effective public transport to get around. A key feature of successful public transport networks around the world is an integrated ticketing system that allows people to transfer easily between bus, train, ferry on a single ticket, making public transport a more attractive option.”
It’s good to finally have some solid information about this. There were lots of questions asked about the project so if you want to know something, ask and I will try and answer.
The long running saga of Auckland’s Integrated Ticketing project continues, with this story in the Sunday Star Times today:
Auckland Transport’s accounts indicate the city’s integrated ticketing system is $27 million over budget and behind schedule, but the council-owned agency refused to comment on or clarify its numbers last week.
The Sunday Star-Times has been requesting an update on the project for two weeks, but last week spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said no-one was available for an interview.
After saying the project was on schedule, Hunter said Auckland Transport would be holding a media briefing around the start of the AT HOP bus rollout programme “shortly”.
As well as the apparent budget blowout, the article also points out that the legal dispute with Snapper remains unresolved.
Earlier this week, Auckland Council approved only $2m of a $9m request for additional funding for the project from Auckland Transport. It isn’t clear what impact this will have on the rollout.
It is very hard to know how the AIFS project is tracking, with Auckland Transport being so circumspect about what the plan is for the bus rollout. We certainly don’t seem to be any closer to a decision on what the final zone fare structure will be and how transfers will work, let alone family and other types of monthly passes.
The most recent official information we have is from the March Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting, with the following points highlighted for each mode.
- 49,000 plus users
- Cash fares higher than forecast
- System fully operational
- On-line top-up behind forecast
- VRD performance
- Revenue management issues
- Manukau gating
- System fully operational
- Very low number of users
- Fare challenges to migrate to HOP
- Downtown Ferry Terminal upgrade
- Thales programme of works on schedule
- Bus cabling and installations commenced this month
- Pilot for Northern Express scheduled to begin on 21 April
- Bus rollout commences from June
- Complex bus roll-out due to multiple fare products and individual operator cards
The low uptake for ferry users should not be surprising – using an AT Hop on the ferries is more expensive than a 10 trip ticket.
The obvious thing to do would be to make the fare for AT Hop card users the same as the 10 trip ticket price, and do away with 10 trip tickets altogether, but who knows what “Fare challenges to migrate to HOP” actually means.
As for the bus rollout, clearly we are running behind time with the Northern Express pilot still continuing. The chances of a June bus rollout seem remote.
The Auckland Integrated Fares programme has been dragging on now since the end of 2009. A brief summary:
Auckland Regional Transport Authority signs a $47m contract with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries. The initial contract was for the core system capable of being a nationwide clearing house, and the set up in Auckland of the rail and ferry hardware. Despite not being awarded the contract, Snapper announce they will be rolling out their ticketing solution on to Auckland NZ Bus services.
Auckland Transport announce that “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program. Other bus operators were said to be at “different stages of understanding”.
The decision is somewhat surprising as, at the time of the announcement, the Snapper card is not compatible with the Thales Desfire technology.
It is later revealed in Parliament that Snapper met with Steven Joyce on 3rd March of 2010. Soon after the meeting Snapper confirmed in a letter to the NZTA that “NZBus should be free to proceed on its current plan to implement Snapper equipment … in Auckland.” Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee responds saying that ”it is incorrect to say that the New Zealand Transport Agency was instructed by the Minister to include Snapper.”
In a presentation to the newly formed Auckland Transport Committee, Auckland Transport project the following timeline for the AIFS programme:
The “purple” Hop card is rolled out on the NZ Bus fleet, starting with North Star services.
It is alleged that Snapper cannot make its card compatible with the Thales solution by November 2012, claims refuted by Snapper at the time. Earlier, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says that Snapper would be “off the run” if they fail to meet the deadline.
Snapper vows “all necessary steps will be taken to recover losses arising from the wrongful termination”, warning that “Auckland ratepayers would be the casualties, saying the ultimate cost of the decision by the council transport organisation’s board … was likely to the significant”
Auckland Transport announces that non-NZ Bus operators will install Thales hardware on their bus fleets.
Andrew Ritchie, Chief Executive of Ritchie’s, says, “The bus consortium previously chose Parkeon as its hardware supplier and they have proven themselves to be professional and responsive in their approach to the project. However, in the interests of a seamless approach we have now elected to move to the AT Thales solution which will also be used on trains and ferries”.
AT Hop is rolled out on trains. The introduction of the AT Hop card causes confusion over branding that continues to exist, with “purple hop” continuing to be used on NZ Bus services, while AT Hop is used on ferries and trains.
AT Hop rolled out to ferry users. Greg Edmonds quoted as saying “AT HOP for ferries will begin with single ticket fares with at least a 10% discount off the equivalent single cash fare. Auckland Transport and ferry operators are working closely together to enable products such as ferry monthly and other passes, to be available on the AT HOP card in the near future”.
Auckland Transport say they are cracking down on fare evading in their most sternly worded statement to date, here is the press release:
Auckland Transport and Veolia crack down on train fare theft
Auckland Transport (AT) and its operator Veolia Transport are cracking down even further on fare evaders to make it fair on the majority of honest customers. Part of the programme will involve a rolling “blitz” at suburban train stations. The initiative has been trialled in recent weeks before being introduced across the network from today.
At one station 113 people were caught trying to evade paying in the first check; in a subsequent check the number had dropped to 17.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Edmonds says, “Those who steal travel on our trains make it unfair for those who pay their way which means potential increases in rates and taxes to compensate . You must pay to travel on Auckland’s trains. Not to do so is theft.
“Auckland Transport and Veolia have been trialling a rolling blitz on fare evaders at selected suburban train stations and from today we will introduce the programme across the whole train network. The focus of this exercise is to ensure that everyone who gets on a train service has a valid ticket or a tagged on AT HOP card”.
Mr Edmonds adds, “From time to time we do experience vandalism and technical issues with our Ticket and Top-Up machines just as any banking system machine does. If customers are unable to purchase a ticket for any reason, that can be discussed with Veolia’s ticket inspectors.
“The measures we are introducing coupled with on-board checks has proved highly effective in the UK and Australia. We are losing revenue through people stealing our services. Every dollar lost to fare cheats is a dollar less to renew public transport infrastructure.
A recent report from the Ministry of Transport in Victoria says fare evasion cost the state approximately $90 million last year.
AT HOP cards can be purchased from ticket inspection staff on trains and at ticket offices at Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn and Papakura train stations. Train tickets can be purchased from ticket machines at all stations.
Well I rode the trains a few times today and noticed a visibly larger staff presence, in fact it was almost like the old days with staff on trains permanently and checking tickets of everyone on board. On my way into town there were at least two people who didn’t have a ticket. One lady said the machine wasn’t working and another guy said he left his HOP card at home and refused to pay, both were left to continue their journey without paying anything (although I think the first one was told to buy a ticket at Newmarket). One guy who did have a paper ticket brought a hop card from the inspectors though so that is a small positive.
On my way home there were also two people without tickets, one lady who said the machine wasn’t accepting coins and was allowed to continue her journey and amazingly one guy who claimed to have never even have heard about the HOP system. I suspect he was putting it on but in both cases they were allowed to continue travelling without paying a cent. The thing that really annoys me in all of these situations is not even that they have been allowed to travel free but that Veolia staff made no attempt whatsoever to even tell these people about HOP cards, let alone sell them. To me these are the perfect opportunities for Veolia staff to be really telling people about the benefits of HOP cards, especially to those that say they were honestly trying to buy a ticket but that the machine wasn’t working.
Have you travelled on the trains today? Did you notice the increased staff presence and how did they deal with customers without tickets?
On Tuesday night, Campbell Live took a look at the AT HOP card as it stands so far. Click to go through and watch the video.
To me the issues of fare evasion are the most serious and many of the comments made reflect my own observations. Checks can be quite infrequent and even when they do happen, if someone is found without a ticket the staff tend to let the offender off far too easily. Often they give just a warning especially as many of the offenders have learnt what to say to get off, usually blaming the the ticket machine for not working, even when it was working fine. Like is suggested in the story, school kids seem to be some of the biggest offenders, for many of them it is a game to see if they can get away with it.
On the issue with the machines, these seem to be a constant complaint from people. Personally I have found them fairly easy to use but then perhaps I’m just more used to technology than others. AT have said that more are on order but as yet we don’t know when any additional will be rolled out. I do hope that it also includes more tag off posts as in the evenings especially, there are often queues down platforms as people wait to tag off at a single post.
In last month’s board report, AT mentioned that four more stations are being considered to be gated. We know that one of those is Manukau and is happening as part of the MIT campus, after that the next most likely to occur is New Lynn as that has been mentioned before. I have heard that the other two are being looked at, at the moment are Henderson and Grafton (that would deal with a large part of the school kid issue).
One area where I think the story wasn’t exactly far was the discussion around being able to use someone else’s bank or credit card details. To be frank this is no different to pretty much any other online service and I don’t think AT can be held accountable for fraud. Plus in this case, to top up using those methods you have to have a registered card which means providing a whole pile of personal details. That means that if it were to occur, there is quite a strong chance that AT will have a whole pile of information that can be used to track down exactly who has committed this fraud.
It should also be noted that the $110m quoted for the system is for the whole thing, the system is still being rolled out so not all of that is just for the rail system.
While on this topic, there are a few mentions in the report for tomorrows board meeting.
The initial delivery of 200 bus devices have arrived and testing is underway by Auckland Transport and Thales staff.
The tender for the installation of the Thales equipment onto the buses has been awarded and the project team is working on the detailed planning with the bus operators.
Bus passengers using a bus operator specific travel card (e.g. Ritchies, Howick & Eastern) will receive a free AT HOP card on application in addition to the HOP Snapper card users.
Planning has commenced on migrating existing concession card users such as SuperGold, Child, Tertiary and Accessible Concession, across to the AT HOP card.
The implementation of the bus solution requires AT to set up a retail network across Auckland to offer card top up facilities and monthly pass sales. Planning is advanced on agent locations and potential agents. The retail network rollout is aligned to the scheduled bus rollout localities.
And on the recent $5 campaign to get more people using HOP
An on-station campaign was conducted during March to further promote the sale and use of AT HOP cards by rail passengers. During this promotion a total of 8,710 cards were sold, 1,360 by mobile salespeople on stations (one week only) and 7,347 through Veolia sales on-board and via ticket offices.
Perhaps the most concerning is the talk about aligning the fares from each of the HOP products. Cash fares already the same so that leaves any changes likely to be to the level of HOP discount. Based on previous history that is likely to result in an increase in AT HOP fare.
Final alignment of rail and bus fares is planned for 2 June to facilitate ticket product transition from multiple legacy operator products to the streamlined multi-operator initial suite of AT HOP ticket products:
- single trip paper-ticket cash fares
- AT HOP Stored Value (discounted) aligned bus and rail fares and individual ferry fares
- AT HOP $0.50c transfer discount between bus and rail trips
- AT HOP integrated bus and rail monthly passes
- AT HOP ferry monthly passes
And here is the difference in fares between the two HOP cards at the moment.
While I suspect it is unlikely, I am going to hold out hope that the alignment is done by increasing the HOP discount on both. That would not only be seen as lowering the fares, so a positive thing, but also would help in encouraging more usage of HOP in general.
As we have mentioned before, Auckland is just at the start of some massive changes to PT. Change naturally causes concern for some people and can obviously be disruptive. That is why it is so important that those initiating the change communicate clearly why it is happening and take every opportunity to say why the change is positive. Sometimes I wonder what AT are really up to as they seemingly miss prime opportunities to do this. Take today’s article in the Herald.
Cleaner walking 40 mins to work with bad knee rather than deal with faulty machine and risk increased fine.
Darrell Preston would rather hobble 5km a day on a bad knee than take his chances with the new train ticketing machines.
That is because Auckland Transport has doubled the penalty fare for passengers without tickets to $20, and he says the machine, at his nearest railway station in Papatoetoe, tends to gobble up coins without offering anything in return.
The 60-year-old cleaner says he sets out at 4.55am each morning on a 40-minute walk to central Manukau, where he catches a bus to his job at the Foundation of the Blind’s Homai Campus workshops.
Ok so he, and likely many others, don’t like using the machines. That is fine, we have to accept that not everyone feels comfortable with them but that isn’t what prompted me to write this post, it is AT’s reply.
A spokeswoman for the council transport organisation, Sharon Hunter, said passengers unable to buy tickets from faulty machines could always ask rail inspectors for special permits to complete their trips without being penalised.
Inspectors were easily able to check with back-office staff on whether a particular machine had failed, and they had issued 1535 “permits to travel” since the new system of pre-boarding ticket sales were introduced in October.
That was also when electronic Hop cards were rolled out on rail, signalling an end to on-board cash sales.
Ms Hunter said 887 penalty tickets had been issued since early January to passengers who failed to make any attempt to pay a fare.
Auckland Transport had increased the penalty as a deterrent while waiting for legislative changes to provide for fines similar those in Australia, where fare dodgers are fined more than $200 if caught.
She was unable to provide failure rates for ticketing machines, which also serve to top up Hop cards, but said more machines were on order.
So more machines are coming and if the machine is faulty then the train staff can allow him to still travel which is good. The problem however is that there seems to be absolutely no mention of the benefits that this customer, or others in his situation, could receive by using a HOP card. Instead this could have been the perfect opportunity to remind people that a HOP card, especially one with automatic top ups loaded, could easily solve many of these problems. The article even mentions that an AT representative met Darrell on the platform, what better time to personally show him the benefits of using the card. Of course there is more benefit than just not having to use the machine as of course using the HOP card provides a discount on travel too yet none of this is mentioned.
Now to be fair it might be that Sharon had put this in the reply and that the Herald didn’t print it but I suspect that didn’t happen. Situations like this are prime opportunities to promote the benefits of the HOP system and AT need to be grabbing them when they arise.
From tomorrow the penalty fare for not having a ticket on trains increases from $10.30 to $20. It is part of Auckland Transports plans to reduce fare evasion. Here is their press release:
From this Sunday, 7 April, Auckland Transport’s Penalty Fare for anyone who boards a train without a valid ticket or a tagged on AT HOP card, will increase from $10.30 to $20.00. The Penalty Fare is managed by Auckland Transport’s train operator, Veolia Transport using on-board ticket inspection staff.
Auckland Transport’s Board Chairman, Lester Levy says, “We make no apology for this increase. Travelling on Auckland’s train services with the intention of travelling without a valid ticket or a tagged on AT HOP card, is not only theft of a service but theft from Auckland’s taxpayers and ratepayers who subsidise the service.
“Internationally penalty fares are seen as a civil debt and are used to discourage casual fare evasion and disregard for ticketing rules, the same applies in Auckland”.
Dr Levy says, “To put it simply, you must pay to travel on trains. Auckland trains operate on a pre-pay system which requires everyone to pay their way to ensure we can continue to invest in improving trains, stations and services for the benefit of Aucklanders.
“The Penalty Fare is only one of a range of measures Auckland Transport will be putting in place to deter fare evaders.
“If you have been unable to purchase a ticket for any reason that can be discussed with Veolia’s on-board staff”.
Single train tickets can be purchased from ticket machines at all stations. The other option is to use an AT HOP card. The AT HOP card can be purchased for $10 from staff on trains and at ticket offices at Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn and Papakura train stations and loaded online.
Now I do agree with the need to target fare evaders and penalise those that don’t pay but my biggest concern is that even with the $10.30 fare, the enforcement simply isn’t happening. Of the times I have seen ticket inspectors on trains, I have yet to see one issue a penalty when a fare evader gets found out. Most of the time the evader tends to be a school kid who claims that they either don’t have any money to pay for the fare or that the machine wasn’t working (even though it was) and so the ticket inspectors let them off with a warning. A lot of them treat it as a game and laugh to their mates afterwards about the number of times they have gotten away with it. The other common trick is simply to argue with the staff for a while then just get off at the next stop, obviously with the intention of just getting on the next train and doing the same thing again.
Increasing the penalty fare isn’t likely to help with address these particular problems unless the enforcement of it is also increased at the same time. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the staff are effectively powerless to do anything about it. That will change when the MoT finally get around to updating legislation to help deal with the problem but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be a high priority for them.
Last weekend I had a bit of a moan about the services that get put on for events. This weekend there is expected to be another large event in the form of the NRL match with the Warriors playing the Sydney Roosters at Eden Park. As I’m a season ticket holder so will going along and the good news is that Auckland Transport have put on extra trains on to help deal with the extra crowds. Where I think AT are letting themselves down is with the ticketing.
First I think it is worth pointing out that it is up to the event provider as to whether they decide to pay for free PT travel or not. Some sports, like rugby, do this and it allows AT to offer free PT with a match ticket. I think this is the perfect solution however the Warriors management have decided not to do this. I actually think AT should make this requirement for any event over a certain size i.e. anything that will draw more than 15,000 people, in the same way they require organisers to provide traffic management plans.
Despite the stupid position of the Warriors management, to ATs credit, they then decided to offer a special train fare of $5 return. That means that for anyone travelling further than one stage, it is a good deal. The only problem is this little statement.
Pre-purchase your event ticket from Thursday 28 February from ticket offices located at:
- New Lynn (open Monday to Saturday only)
- Papakura (open Monday to Friday only)
So the only way to get them is to pre purchase them at a station that most of the people going to the event aren’t likely to go to. Even odder is that those with HOP cards need to purchase a paper ticket to get the deal. To me it just seems like AT are making it far more difficult for customers than it needs to be.
While on the subject of HOP. The board were told last month that roughly 60% of trips are made using hop cards but that efforts would be made to increase that level. Likely as part of that, they are now running another campaign to sell the cards to users in a similar way to what they did when the system first launched. They are also once again offering the cards for $5 but for some reason decided to keep things quite, only placing the info online without really pushing it. As such there are only a couple more days
Several recent posts have extolled the merits of “better buses” for Auckland. These posts have generally focused on the following issues:
- Corridor infrastructure - as discussed in this post, there are strong arguments in favour of expanding Auckland’s bus lane network so as to improve bus speeds/reliability.
- Network structure – as discussed in this post, Auckland Transport’s draft RPTP has proposed a network of frequent bus lines which are designed to support the rail and busway networks.
- Vehicle technology - as discussed in this post, bus operators in Auckland are just about to trial double-decker buses, while this earlier post discussed rapid developments in hybrid/electric bus technologies.
Improved corridor infrastructure, a better network, and newer/larger vehicles should all drive bus patronage higher. Complementing these bus improvements will be a vastly improved rail network – sporting fast, new trains that operate at high frequencies – and integrated ticketing/fares – enabling people to travel seamlessly across the network irrespective of mode or operator.
The “take-away message”, as they say, is that many more people are likely to be using Auckland’s buses in 10 years time compared to now. And we’ll also be using buses in subtly different ways: Rather than staying on the bus for long trips, more people will be catching the bus for a short distance and then connecting to a faster rail or busway service. On the surface this all sounds like good news.
But hold on a second – all this seems to be overlooking something. More specifically, if we have more people using buses and they are using them for shorter trips, then does this not mean that the rate of passenger movements per bus-kilometre traveled will increase by a disproportionate amount? This in turn means, holding other factors constant, the time buses spend dwelling at stops will also increase. The irony here is that all of the aforementioned initiatives, which are designed to improve the attractiveness of the bus system, will – if they are successful at attracting passengers – tend to place inexorable downward pressure on bus operating speeds.
That’s the vicious cycle on which I think we should focus our collective attention.
In the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of residing in a number of cities. Two of these stand-out for the way they have treated their buses with dignity, namely Brisbane (pop ~2 million) and Edinburgh (pop ~600,000). Both of these cities have bus networks that carry over 110 million trips per year, i.e. twice as many bus passengers as Auckland. And for this reason both Brisbane and Edinburgh have had to grapple with gnarly issues that Auckland may need to confront in the future.
In Brisbane they’ve gone for what could charitably be described as “infrastructure intensive” solutions. This has seen them spend not considerable sums of money on extremely high quality grade-separated bus infrastructure in the city centre. One of the most recent shining (if spending money is to be applauded) examples of this infrastructure is King George Square Station, which is illustrated below. This underground bus station connects via a tunnel to Roma Street and Queen Street Stations to the north and south respectively. KGS apparently has a design capacity of about 300 buses per hour, or 20,000 passengers per hour, however achieving this through-put would require modifications to the approaches and platforms.
Edinburgh, for their part, have opted for slightly less infrastructure. Their main trick has been to develop a network of on-street bus lanes on major arterial roads leading into the city, which converge on Princes Street. The latter then becomes a bus/taxi only mall at peak periods, as illustrated below. Edinburgh has in turn developed a network structure that enables them to “through-route” almost all services (NB: It’s worth mentioning that this kind of network structure, which results in relatively long routes, is aided and abetted by Edinburgh’s relatively compact and symmetric urban form and not necessarily something that can be replicated in cities like Brisbane and Auckland).
In terms of what’s best for Auckland, my gut feeling is that our bus sweet spot lies somewhere between Brisbane and Edinburgh. That is, as a relatively large and rapidly growing city we will need some high-quality, possibly even underground, bus infrastructure in our city centre. It’s notable that the two major bus corridor initiatives implemented in Auckland in the last decade, namely the Northern Busway and the Central Connector have piked out completely as they approach the City Centre. Right where you need the priority treatment the most is where we have waved the white flag.
And unfortunately the consequence of failing to provide adequate bus infrastructure has not been pretty: It has exacerbated bus congestion in the core central city area which in turn further detracts from urban amenity. Ironically, the congestion arising from inadequate bus infrastructure in Auckland has prompted some people to (naively) call for banishing buses from the city centre altogether. While our historical reluctance to provide appropriate facilities for buses says a lot about our collective unwillingness to recognise the contribution buses make to the city centre, it now creates an opportunity for us to develop something better – something that can support our existing bus corridors while accommodating those that we expect to develop in the future, as per the new bus network.
But enough about infrastructure! The primary point of this post was actually to identify a range of “softer” initiatives that have been implemented in cities overseas, which Auckland could adopt to maintain bus speeds as patronage grows, namely:
- Wider stop spacing - Brisbane’s high-frequency routes tend to follow a limited stopping pattern, which sees them stopping every 800m or so. Stop spacing is even longer on the the City Glider services, which provide an inner-city cross-town function. This typically means that you sometimes have to be prepared to walk a bit further, but when you do you have access to services that are frequent and fast. Moreover, these services are complemented by all-stop services operating underneath, which typically focus on providing local access and coverage. By way of comparison, light rail lines often tend to have stop spacings approaching 1km.
- Managing cash payment - Many services in Brisbane are “pre-pay only”, which simply means you have to have a smart card in order to board. Edinburgh has taken a slightly different approach: Passengers can still pay with cash on all services, but if you do then you don’t get any change. Instead, passengers paying by cash simply have to throw the money in an automatic cash counter, which then automatically tells the bus driver whether they have paid enough for the fare that they have requested. Again, this drastically reduces dwell times (customers paying by cash board almost as fast as those using a smart card) and also increases revenues.
- Vehicle configuration - This has multiple dimensions, but generally involves vehicle designs that enable much quicker loading and unloading. Key features include double-door entry/exit, so that passengers paying by cash do not block other passengers that are paying by smartcard. Similarly, double-door exit at the back enables quicker unloading of passengers, which is especially crucial when operating a tag-off system – as Auckland is doing. Another common aspect of buses in both Brisbane and Edinburgh is wider aisles, especially towards the front, which enables speedies loading – particularly for people with wheelchairs and prams.
Given that buses have a lifetime of 12-15 years Auckland Transport and the bus operators would ideally be thinking about these issues now, so that they can be incorporated into vehicle procurement and contracting policies from at an early stage. Some of this is happening already – as per the double-decker bus trial noted above. But on the other hand I do wonder if Auckland Transport should develop some form of operational plan (i.e. non-infrastructure) that analyses our current bus system, identifies where time is being lost, and identifies/prioritises some the issues that will need to be tackled to accommodate up to 120 million bus trips per year. Of course, there may be things that Auckland can implement now in anticipation of higher patronage.
As an aside, Auckland really needs to take a leaf out of Brisbane and Edinburgh’s bus book. As these cities have shown, appropriately sized and designed bus infrastructure will reduce the impact of buses on the city centre. Sure, some negative impacts remain, but that’s more the result of the eternal tension that exists in urban environments between mobility and accessibility, between movement and exchange, than something that is intrinsic to buses per se.
Be interested to hear what other initiatives people think could be used to make Auckland’s buses better …
A Norwegian friend (whom I affectionately refer – and defer – to as the “Socialist Dictator”) recently alerted me to this article entitled “Why you should travel young“.
If you are looking for a delightfully introspective, relatively insightful, and genuinely motivating article on the virtues of travel then I’d encourage you to read this article. Why? Because it makes points that have been resonating in my bones for a while now, but been unable to articulate. For my part, the pleasure I derive from travel relates to its ability to simultaneously make you feel more aware of both yourself and the world around you.
Having read the article I was then sufficiently motivated to add some of my own biofuel to the travel fire started by Patrick’s post on his recent trip to Antartica. The destination for my own recent travels were nowhere near as glamorous, although it was probably more sustainable and definitely more readily reached (at least for those of you whom reside in Auckland). So I’d like to ask you to join me for destination “Waitakere Ranges.”
Now I know what most of you are probably thinking: “Been there done that”. But, if I may be so bold as to have a follow up question: Have you ever walked the Hillary Trail? If you have, then well done; you may want to read on for nostalgia’s sake. If you have not, then you should read on to find out why a four day, three night hike is something that all Aucklanders with a love for travel and a reasonable degree of fitness and knowledge of the outdoors should do.
Before we get onto the trail itself, I wanted to answer the question of “how does one get there?” A question to which my emphatic response is: The Western Line. That’s right, you can “hop” on the train right to Glen Eden, from where a short (and fast) taxi ride will take you right to the start of the track (Arataki Visitor centre), as shown below.
But that begs another question: “why would you take the train rather than drive?” Well, for me the main reason is that I don’t actually own one of these so-called “private automobiles”. But for those of you who are burdened by a car there’s another good reason to leave the car at home: The Hillary Trail is not a loop track. Thus, unless you want to leave vehicles at both ends, or spend time getting someone to drop you back to the start once you’ve finished, then a combination of public transport and taxi is actually a fairly good option. In the photo below I provide a demonstration of the correct posture to use when one is trying to “tag on” to the start of a hiking trip wearing a pack.
Once the logistics of getting to the start of the track have been sorted then all you really need to do is walk. 70km in fact, as per the route map shown below. The Hillary Trail route takes you from Arataki Visitor Centre to the Karamatura, Pararaha, and finally Craw Campgrounds on the first, second, and third nights respectively. On the final day (which is a long one!) you walk out to finish at Muriwai Beach, where an icecream and a swim provides a fitting end to an awesome hike.
Now I realise that sounds like a lot of effort. And it is: The Hillary Trail is not without its challenging sections. But the “pay-off”, as they say, is huge: Even though I have lived in Auckland for all my years and been in the Waitakeres on a good many occasions, I found that there was nothing like hiking the Waitakeres from top to bottom to get you a more connected sense of how it’s various coves, beaches, and ranges fit together.
It also really rams home the extraordinary biodiversity that Auckland has sitting on it’s western door-step. That’s enough talking from me; to finish I’d just like to share some of my many photos taken from from the Hillary Trail itself. I’d suggest you do it while you’re still young . No ifs, no buts.
P.s. My random “travel highlight” was wandering out to the public reserve at Whatipu only to be showered in freshly baked scones that were leftover from a gathering of the Orpheus Society (NB: The Orpheus is the name of a ship that sank entering the Manukau Harbour and has the unfortunate honour of being New Zealand’s most deadly maritime disaster). Then, to cap it off, Mr Bob Harvey himself – one of the instigators of the Hillary Trail concept when he was Mayor of Waitakere – wanders over to have a chat about life in general. Viva!
Day #1: Settling in for the night at the Karamatura Campground
Day#2: Close to Whatipu, looking west towards the northern shore of the entrance to the Manukau Harbour.
Day #2: Looking east along the northern edge of the Manukau Harbour
Day #2: Volcanic peaks around Pararaha Campground
Day #3: Hiking north along the beach towards Anawhata
Day #3: Isolated and inaccessible beach (Mercer’s Bay), just south of Piha
Day #3: Nikau groves just north of Piha
Day #4: Lake Wainamu, just south of Bethells Beach
Day #4: Looking south over Te Henga and Bethells Beach