Posted by: Gregory | February 10, 2011

Notes from Auckland

Auckland Trains is a blog that isn’t just about Auckland and isn’t just about trains. Anyone interested in sustainable transport, regardless of location, would likely be interested in the content over there. Two posts caught my eye recently, both pertaining heavily to Wellington.

The first post talks about fares and how they affect patronage. The post reports that for the month of December, patronage dropped by approximately 2%, following the fare increase and rise in GST. The Infratil monthly report exists here, but I’m struggling to connect to it, so I’m referring to the copy of the report at NZSX. From the Infratil report:

The Auckland region is continuing to perform well, while Wellington and Hutt traffic numbers have recently fallen away, in particular patronage seems to have been impacted by Greater Wellington’s October fare rises. NZ Bus analysis of the fare changes have indicated a mixed range of responses. There has been some move from cash payment to Snapper (the discount for using Snapper has increased and a patron previously paying cash could usually lower their cost of travel by moving to Snapper, notwithstanding the fare rises), but changes in travel demand have been inconsistent.

It’s worth noting that fare changes were particularly uneven. Downtown passengers were hardest hit, the fare doubling from $1 to $2. Bus service in Wellington was achieving just over 50% farebox recovery, but when combined with the operational costs of rail, fell to around 47%, leading GWRC to raise fares in accordance with the new NZTA policy. Residents were told to expect similar fare increases on a yearly basis. Auckland Trains predicts a downward spiral:

But if passenger numbers continue to fall, the increases may have to be even larger for commuters so the council can meet the revenue the Government demands. And then there are always oil and pay rises to add to the justification for bus fare increases.

Where does this leave us? As it is, public transport is being set aside in favour of national road-building projects. If passenger numbers fall or costs rise, the government will start asking questions around relevance.

The second post takes on integrated ticketing. Regarding the emerging national standard, the post looks at interoperability between cities and finds next to nothing. In fact, Jon points out that GWRC is taking a wait-and-see approach to implementing anything at all. Even the DomPost is reporting on this one:

Council projects team leader David Lewry said integrated ticketing was at least two to three years away, as it waited to see the outcome in Auckland.

This ties into the patronage fall mentioned before. The system is expensive and complicated. We need to reduce the barriers place in front of riders. Given that the goes only as far as the north edge of the CBD, a second fare to transfer to a bus is hardly an attractive option.

It seems as if GWRC refuses to look at all of the pieces as a network. Snapper works across two participating bus companies (and some taxis), but there is no plan to connect train users. A similar situation exists with the nearly-established real-time information system. Extension of the system to rail is anticipated, but barely into the discussion phase and could easily take years to roll out.

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Responses

  1. Greater Wellington Regional Transport Committee report page 6 point 4:

    http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/council-reports/Report_PDFs/2009_652_1_Report.pdf

  2. A forecast operational surplus of $1.2 million meant that the 2010 public transport fare increase was not justified. Wellington Regional Council raised public transport fares to generate a 3.5% increase in revenue for 2010/11. Greater Wellington has the highest farebox recovery of any public transport operation in the country at 55%, according to figures from the New Zealand Transport Agency. The difference results because of inclusion of some capital expenditure items by Greater Wellington, while NZTA looks at pure operating costs.

    Last year, I said that “the rise would undermine the Regional Transport Strategy’s objective of increased public transport patronage, and will worsen traffic congestion and its negative impact on the regional economy”. There are many opportunities to improve the structure of off-peak concessions and monthly passes, and to deliver better integrated transport options. One such example would be zero fares for inner city travel for commuters arriving on other contracted services.

    “Free connecting buses to rail services on the Kapiti Coast increased rail passengers and freed up park and ride car parks. We should have something similar for inner city fares. …There will be a significant recovery in patronage following the delivery of the new Matangi trains next year, along with planned efficiency improvements to the Wellington city bus network.”

    “Any revenue increase, apart from GST, should be deferred until June 2011, when the impact of service upgrades and consequent recovery in passenger numbers and revenue will be evident.”

    Other related comments:
    100% fare increases: 100% stupid | frogblog
    http://bit.ly/9zmX5V 03:30:51 PM July 16, 2010

    WCC use of downtown levy for free car parking (bottom of profile page)
    http://www.wellingtongreens.org.nz/councillors/paul-bruce/)

  3. Re: integrated ticketing, couldn’t the Council look to the Cable Car as the first and easiest step? Once that’s using Snapper it could be a useful test case for the more complicated negotiations with other providers.


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