SuperGold on HOP

In just over a month those over 65 will no longer be able to just wave their SuperGold card to get free public transport. Instead, following changes made by the government, they will be required to have an AT HOP card with a concession loaded. There are currently about 180,000 people in Auckland with a SuperGold card and that is growing by about 7,000 a year and AT say almost 42,000 already have a HOP card with the SuperGold concession loaded. That also means that potentially around 140,000 people won’t be able to travel unless they make the change over the next month.

Auckland Transport have launched a campaign to get those with SuperGold cards on to HOP including introducing a new SuperGold specific HOP card – although those with blue HOP cards can keep using those.

Gold AT HOP

Switching SuperGold public transport use to the AT HOP card will also reduce improper use of the SuperGold concession and permit improved planning of public transport services making the scheme more sustainable, reducing taxpayer and ratepayer costs.

Mr Lambert says seniors using public transport in Auckland who do not yet have an AT HOP card will need to purchase one by 30 June, at a cost of $15 (the AT HOP card costs $10 and it must have a minimum of $5 credit loaded onto it at the time of purchase) The $10 card purchase price is non-refundable.

“We’re working with the Ministry of Transport and directly with seniors’ advocacy groups to make the process as easy as possible for seniors,” he says.

Auckland Transport is making an information pack available to all SuperGold cardholders, advising seniors of the changes and explaining how to purchase an AT HOP card and load a SuperGold concession.

“We have worked directly with seniors in focus groups to ensure the information provided is clear and easy to understand,” Mr Lambert says.

SuperGold card users purchasing an AT HOP card from 9 May will be issued with a specially designed, distinctive gold AT HOP card. However, blue AT HOP cards loaded with a SuperGold concession will continue to be accepted after 1 July 2016. Auckland Transport will be in contact with individuals who have a blue AT HOP card loaded with a SuperGold concession regarding the process to swap out their blue AT HOP card for a gold AT HOP card free of charge after 1 July 2016.

Having a specific SuperGold card is a good idea but oddly though it’s not a replacement for the SuperGold card so those eligible will have to carry both cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Social Development appear to have refused to help AT in the change over. I understand this isn’t the first time the MSD has done this and it appears to me that they want to operate in a silo over the whole thing.

At the same time Grey Power is calling the requirement to buy a HOP card cruel. While I understand why they’re saying it, I personally thing that’s a bit rough given that Auckland Council/Transport go beyond the SuperGold benefits and also cover evening peak travel too. Paying $15 for essentially unlimited free travel is still a very good deal.

I would expect most people who read this blog are likely to already have a HOP card with the concession loaded but

With the discussion on SuperGold I thought I’d also take a quick look at some of the figures around SuperGold which can be found on this NZTA site. It has annual data up to the end of June last year

In total there were 12.6 million trips via SuperGold across NZ in the 2014/15 year and that was worth just over $26 million in fares.

SuperGold trips in Auckland accounted for about 56% of that national total although only 54% of value of fares. For 2015 the breakdown of trips by mode and the percentage of total trips by that mode were:

  • Bus – 5.9m (9.9%)
  • Train – 680k (4.9%)
  • Ferry – 445k (8.0%)
  • Total – 7.1m (8.9%)

Auckland SuperGold patronage

The costs are quite different though due to the high cost of ferries. In the brackets is the cost per trip

  • Bus – $9.8m ($1.66)
  • Train – $1.5m ($2.27)
  • Ferry – $2.8m ($6.24)
  • Total – $14.1m ($2.01)

Auckland SuperGold costs

Sharing SuperGold Subsidies

The issue of SuperGold subsidies has arisen once again, this time in relation to which operators should receive them.

Waiheke Island’s new ferry operator says it cannot keep offering pensioners free passage without sharing a subsidy the Government pays its competitors.

The Explore Group says it will serve notice next week of an intention to charge fares for holders of SuperGold cards, most of whose travel at weekends and after 9am on weekdays on the rival Fullers passenger and Sealink car-ferry operations is reimbursed by the Government.

Explore chief executive William Goodfellow said older passengers, who had received free trips on his vessels since they started on the Auckland-Waiheke run in late October, would receive a grace period “of weeks rather than days” before having to buy tickets.

But after that, they would have to pay $16 for a one-way fare or $29 for return passage.

“The reason we have accepted them to date is that we believed we’d get a fair outcome from the Ministry of Transport for the whole SuperGold Card scheme,” Mr Goodfellow told the Herald.

“We’re doing it simply out of goodwill, because we thought fairness would prevail, but it obviously hasn’t.”

He was referring to a moratorium the Government has imposed against new services joining the SuperGold travel concession scheme while it is being reviewed to ensure its costs “remain sustainable.”

His company had initially expected the review to be completed by the end of last year, but had since heard that would not happen until at least June, and could not wait that long for subsidy relief.

Not only was it letting seniors travel free, but it was also paying a wharf tax of more than $1 each way for each one carried.

The scheme’s annual cost of $18 million after Labour and New Zealand First introduced it just before National swept to power in 2008 has since risen to $26 million, of which Fullers receives a capped payment of $1.5 million.

I’ve never been a fan of how SuperGold works however given it exists I do believe that the subsidy for trips between the City and Waiheke should be shared equally between operators based on the patronage each one carries. This is especially the case seeing as a return fare on the services cost the same and off peak the services are staggered to providing a 30 minute all day service to and from the island. Maintaining a moratorium on new services is absurd when both offerings are competing commercially.

The herald notes that SuperGold payments for trips to the island are capped at $1.5 million, that’s currently around 12% of all SuperGold costs for Auckland which in the last financial year totalled just under $12.3 million. That is made up of $8.6 million for buses, $1.2 million for trains and $2.5 million for ferries.

SuperGold Costs - 2014

Just how many trips on SuperGold trips are to and from Waiheke specifically is unclear however I’ve been able to find how many trips there are by each mode – although only up to the 2012/13 financial year. As expected buses made up the majority of patronage however the thing that surprised me the most was that comparatively SuperGold trips only made up a comparatively low 5.5% of all rail patronage.

SuperGold Patronage - 2013