After a bit of a drought in transport news coming out of anywhere, it is almost something of a relief to see the Herald running a couple of articles today, on ticket-gates and the Manukau Harbour Crossing Project.

Regarding the ticket gates, surely they must be an inevitability. Auckland’s train system currently operates on a highly antiquated system of fare collectors wandering around the trains working out who got on where, who has paid and who hasn’t paid, who has over-ridden and so forth. Apparently trains are often so full that the fare collectors can’t even get around them. Then people end up with “free” rides, although of course those who choose to buy monthly passes get no such luxury. So therefore, of course having ticket barriers and being able to largely (I say largely because it’s surely going to be a long time before all stations are gated) do away with the current system, is a good idea.

I suppose that the main problem is that operating an effective “barrier” system is quite a lot more complex than you’d think. It means that people need to be able to buy their tickets from somewhere other than the train. While this may be easy enough at Britomart – where surely a few automatic ticket machines could be installed (and the current ticket booth actually staffed!) – it’s going to be damn difficult to make it possible for people to buy train tickets at other stations. I would guess that a minimum of one automated ticket machine at each station would be necessary, and considering the current state of many railway stations vandalism and so forth is going to be rather problematic I would think. Another issue, when one thinks about it, is where on earth will the gates go at Britomart? The only place I can think of with anywhere near enough room is all the way down at train level. There are other entrances to Britomart as well…. so you are going to need a pretty significant number of gates for the project to be worth it. Perhaps people will realise it might be a heck of a lot cheaper just to have more staff on board – although clearly that would be a shame as a gate system is pretty essential eventually if we want to drag our train system out of the 1950s.

Regarding the Manukau Harbour Crossing story, it is good to see the project progressing well. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have various issues with this project, in that it’s pretty much designed to induce traffic and only provides a half-hearted attempt to help public transport in the form of bus lanes. It’s also interesting that seemingly half the bridge has been built, while at the same time Auckland City Council haven’t actually finalised how the part of the project through Onehunga Bay is going to work. There are a few “dreamers” out there hoping for trenches and the like, but to me it seems pretty unlikely there will be much change – considering a large chunk of the project is already being built!

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