At the councils transport committee the other day there was a presentation about Integrated Ticketing. Much of the presentation was fairly standard with information that most people who have been following the progress of integrated ticketing will already have known i.e. what is Hop, what its advantages are, how it has been rolled out so far etc. (it doesn’t cover the Snapper issue raised a few weeks ago though).

The interesting, and concerning, part comes when it discusses the next steps.

The first three are nothing new but it is the last point that I am most concerned about. Effectively after rolling out the integrated ticketing system we will still maintain one of the key issues with the current set up, that you will still have to pay for another fare if you transfer services. Sure you will get a rebate of 50c off that next fare but you are still having to pay for it. Now in saying this I can accept this as a very short term interim step before rolling out a better fare system and this is what is said about the future stages for Hop.

Combined monthly passes are good but I just really hope it isn’t combined at the bus pass cost which I feel is already too excessive. Personally I use the all zones monthly train pass as I travel 5 stages to get to town however the same kind of pass for bus travel is an extra $20 and if I they matched the discovery pass which allows travel on almost all forms of public transport in the region it would cost a further $40. The most interesting thing from this slide though is the point about moving to a zonal based system. I had heard a while ago that one of the main reasons we hadn’t moved to one is that both the both ARTA/AT and the bus companies are afraid losing money from fares. The problem though is they seem to have modelled it based on what happens currently, not what would happen in the future if both the PT network and fares were designed to make transfers quick and easy.

The last section of the presentation also gives some information about some other activities coming up.

  • Integrated ticketing facilitates more convenient payment of public transport fares for customers, removing a barrier to use – this will grow patronage.
  • Integrated ticketing also removes a barrier for convenient service trip transfers between modes or operators.
  • Integrated ticketing is therefore one of two strategic enablers to redesigning the PT network and bus network to form a time connected and integrated service network.
  • This is currently being designed (target May/ June 2012) for local bus network redesigns & implementation over 2012-2014.
  • Will provide connected & integrated services & timetables; permit removal of service duplication; create resource efficiencies & allowing more service for the same dollars.
  • Other key enabler is a fully contracted bus network, rather than a hybrid commercial contracted model, PTOM from 2012.

May/June could be a very interesting time. Changing the bus network will be a big piece of work but one that is sorely needed and long overdue and as mentioned above, lets hope that we get free transfers sorted out before we start rolling out services that force customers to transfer.

Edit: and here is a video of the presentation

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  1. Sorry for the ignorance, but can you explain me the difference between fully contracted bus network and hybrid commercial contracted model?

    1. Currently we have a mix of contracted and hybrid services. What that means is that if a bus company thinks they can run a service commercially and make a profit then they can do that. Any services they can’t run commercially but that AT wants run are contracted out and a subsidy paid for them. This isn’t at a route level but at an individual service level and leads to the situation of say an 8:00 service being commercial but the 8:10 being contracted so we can’t use the profits from one to help fund the other lowering our overall costs.

      With PTOM, AT will contract out areas. Each area will contain one or more routes and needs to have a full timetable. If a bus company wants to run an area commercially they can do so but they will have to run every single service set out by AT at the start of the contract. It should help to stop the issue of bus companies cherry picking the most profitable routes and asking for a hand out for the rest of them but the down side is that the routes will be contracted out for a long time which is why we need to get the network reorganised before we are lock in any contracts.

  2. I won’t be buying a HOP card for a few year’s yet by the looks of it. Clearly it will be a better bet to just keep buying the normal paper day passes for multiple trips.

  3. It’s important to distinguish carefully between integrated ticketing and integrated fares. The former simply means you can use the same card to pay for any operator, the latter means that your fare is based on the total trip, rather than individual legs. It’s also worth noting that fares comprise of two primary components: The (fixed) flag fall and the (variable) distance based charge. In Auckland distance is bluntly approximated by zones, although other cities (such as Amsterdam) use a more precise per km charge.

    With those definitions in mind let’s consider why your criticism of AT’s proposal is unreasonable. First, integrated fares does not mean that if you transfer to complete your trip then you get the second trip for free. This is what you seem to be implying when you complain that “you will still have to pay for another fare if you transfer services. Sure you will get a rebate of 50c off that next fare but you are still having to pay for it.”

    The system you seem to be advocating for would mean that if you took a feeder bus one stage and then got on a train to the city that you would just pay the bus fare. Such a system would be obviously impracticable and inequitable, because it would mean that what you paid depended on the order in which you made the transfer. Think about the above trip in reverse: Train then bus would cost a lot more than bus then train.

    What is important is to not penalise people unnecessarily for having to transfer, which the current system does by charging you the flag fall and the distance component every time you get on a vehicle. So what AT are proposing is to reimburse you for the flag fall, but still charge you for the distance-based component. This is exactly how Amsterdam works: If you transfer within a certain time you skip the flag fall, but you still pay the distance fare.

    Perfectly reasonable IMO. The only way what they are proposing could be improved would be if AT (or their secret service AFIS) dropped this silly zone based system altogether and instead took a leaf from Amsterdam’s system: Forget zones, charge per kilometre. Voila – no distorting zone boundaries!

    1. I don’t mean to imply that if you travel on a bus for say 1km then swap to a train you only pay the 1km bus fare. My issue is that lets say you wanted to get from Newmarket to Pt Chev. You could catch a train to Mt Albert then transfer to a bus for a trip along Carrington Rd to Pt Chev (providing the network allowed that). In that case you would be charged a 3 stage train fare and a 1 stage bus fare less the 50c discount. Using the Hop discounted fares (which are slightly more than train fares) you would pay $4.05 for the train and $1.50 for the bus, take off the 50c transfer rebate and you are paying a total of $5.05. All up the journey from the train station is about 1.6km however if you wanted to go to New Lynn you could stay on the train, pay no more yet travel an extra 3.5km.

      Yes charging people by how many Km’s are travelled would solve that issue but if you don’t do a route regularly and you want to know how much it will cost you would have to work it out. There are other issues with charging based on purely distance travelled. Say you want to get from Britomart to Kingsland, in a direct line it is about 3.8km however if you used the train (before the CRL), the route it takes is almost double that. Do you penalise people based on the service taking indirect route? There will never be a perfect system but personally I think having zones is much easier for the general public to understand.

      I would also point out that the name of the project is actually know as AIFS which stands for Auckland Integrated Fares System. Leaving the fares till later, possible never would defeat one of the key purposes of the project. One of my concerns around what is happening is that initially we are simply replicating what we have now which is good in theory but my understanding is that trying to do the same thing in Sydney is what killed the project over there. There is no reason we couldn’t have rolled out paper based integrated passes first so that when the electronic ticketing part was set up there was less complexity around it. Also as mentioned in the post the major changes to the network will be rolled out over a period of a few years so its not like we can one day say “here are the great new bus services and the new fares system”, one has to come first.

      I also wouldn’t say that things are doom and gloom but it is just frustration, the project has been talked about for so long and every time it seems to be getting somewhere, something else comes up. It seems very much a case of two steps forward and one step back every time.

      1. Matt L, your Newmarket to Pt Chev example does not illustrate anything apart from the issues with zones.

        As for your objectives to distance-based pricing:
        1. People in Amsterdam seem OK not knowing how much the trip costs; it’s a matter of cultural adjustment – and it happens fast; and
        2. The distance question is easily solved: Simply use GIS to calculate the shortest path between every stop and every other stop.

        And finally, yes AFIS is about integrated fares – but that is the end-point. I’d strongly argue that getting to that end-point is best done by implementing integrated ticketing first and observing the results. Why you may ask? Because integrated ticketing gives you a whole load of tag on/off and journey data that can subsequently be used to design the fare structure itself, in an optimal way. We simply don’t have good enough data to make a real good job of it now.

        And without good data the financial risk goes up, and with that the resistance from operators goes up exponentially. So rest easy, all in good time.

    2. As Matt L says, he’s not advocating that you only pay the fare of the first leg. Instead, he wants you to pay the “flag-fall” only on the first leg and the distance for everything.

      As a quick example, a four-stage bus ride is $5.04 with the 10% HOP discount. One stage is $1.62. If I take a bus trip and conveniently get off at each fare stage to buy something, I will pay $6.48 at present, or $1.44 more than the four-stage price. I’ve covered the same distance by the same mode, but pay nearly 20% penalty. 50c rebate makes a difference, but I’m still paying more.

      If we pick a more realistic example, a four-stage trip split in the middle, I pay 2x$3.06 ($3.40 cash for two stages), or $6.12. A 50c rebate cuts the penalty down from $1.08 to 58c, but that’s still almost 10%.

      The only way that the 50c rebate makes it cheaper to do a split trip than one that’s not split is if one is only covering two or three fare stages. At the four-stage point, any split will cost more than a contiguous trip.

      Examples using buses as feeders are complicated by the different fare structures, but for passengers living only two or three stages from the CBD it’s not particularly attractive to bus to a train station instead of catching a bus all the way through.

      1. And that’s exactly the outcome which distance based-pricing gives you. No zone-based system can be guaranteed to give you the result you want, because you can always think of possible trips that are the samed distance but which cross a zone boundary. Hence his desire for something real is valid; just not universally achievable with a zone-based system. So what he wants is not related to integrated fares, it’s a problem of zone structure (and always will be).

        1. P.s. Also, based on your comment it now seems that the issue is more with the level at which the flagfall is set, rather than the structure that has been proposed? That’s a valid concern; I would have thought that $0.75-$1.00 would have been more appropriate.

    3. Brisbane got integrated fares before we got integrated ticketing. Patronage started shooting up and hasn’t stopped since.

      How it works in Brisbane – you get charged for the journey you make. People want to take JOURNEYS but public transport vehicles only offer trips (rides). Transfers are free in Brisbane and automatic. There is no extra charge for changing vehicles within 2 hours or so.

      We don’t have sections, we have zones. It’s not exact but it is much easier to administer and work out fares than asking customers to get pieces of string and a map and start measuring distances while 10 different bus routes fly past them at the bus stop.

      1. Hmm .. patronage stopped “shooting up” about 1-2 years ago and is now in decline, actually. The system being proposed here is identical to the system you describe, except it will be implemented with HOP cards rather than paper tickets.

        Note that distance-based fares are not based on the distance travelled by the vehicle, but the distance between where you tag on and off. So it’s the same for each trip; regardless of the route the service takes.

  4. P.s. I should say that this blog seems to be a “doom and gloom” merchant when it comes to the HOP roll-out. Integrated ticketing is in the short term far more important than integrated fares, simply because it opens up the whole PT system to regular users who have stored value. The transaction costs in the current system that are introduced by having multiple ticketing technologies is a major barrier to increased uptake of PT for a wider variety of non-commute trips.

    Integrated fares are important in the long run, as Auckland transitions towards a connective network where PT trips involving multiple legs are more common. But such trips are such a small fraction of current trips (mainly because of its constrained radial design) that the benefits of integrated fares are probably being oversold. Of course this would change if the network was redesigned in such a way that it enabled, rather than avoided, connections – integrated fares could therefore reasonably be held back until such time as a major network change was being implemented.

    Not that we should wait of course, just that the lost opportunity is minimal if we don’t redesign the network.

    1. as Auckland transitions towards a connective network where PT trips involving multiple legs are more common. But such trips are such a small fraction of current trips (mainly because of its constrained radial design) that the benefits of integrated fares are probably being oversold.

      I think you’re underestimating how much impact a) route-competitive services – ie: buses and trains that run between the same terminal origin and destination points – and b) the transfer penalty, has on inter-modal journeys.

      I know that as a public transport passenger I am very reluctant to break a journey in Newmarket if travelling between Britomart and home (Ellerslie) because of the cost penalty this incurs. I’m quite sure I’m not alone. That’s a cost to Newmarket businesses, for starters, and also skews the stats around journey distances and origins/destinations.

      When buses and trains are operating in direct competition, the cost and inconvenience of transfers becomes a significant issue. You cannot extrapolate from the current situation to one where people are delivered to RTN stations by feeder buses and don’t suffer a cost penalty for the transfer.

      1. Sure, but the feeder buses you describe don’t really exist in many places at the moment. So all I’m saying is that the real value of integrated fares will be achieved by redesigning the network as well. Note also that I’m not saying we should wait unnecessarily long to implement integrated fares, only that it makes sense to implement it after integrated ticketing (because of the data you get).

        All I’m really arguing is that a) integrated ticketing has a better short-term payoff and b) ultimately helps you to design a better integrated fare structure.

    2. I disagree Stu, I don’t think that the transaction cost of having multiple operators is that much of an issue for non-commute trips, after all we already have a totally operator independent fare payment system (cash). Everyone already has the whole network open to them. Whether you pay with cash or you put cash onto the balance of a card and pay with the card is pretty immaterial. Really the only benefit of such cards is a reduction in dwell time due to minimising cash handling. You’re the economist, surely there is a term for something that would benefit everyone if everyone used it, but the personal gain of one person using it is negligible?

      Even without a full redesign I believe integrated fares could be very beneficial, if only for circulation around the CBD and other inner corridors to begin with. For example I can take one bus directly from my home street to the block the office is on with a three stage fare, but this is an express that only has two departures each way on weekdays, neither of which suit. However there are other services that follow almost exactly the same route, I could take a busway feeder, the northern express, then the link. But instead of just a single three stage fare I would also pay a single stage fare and a link flat fare… paying much more for the inconvenience of transferring twice. A plastic stored value card isn’t going to change that situation for me, even if I get a 50c discount each time I make a transfer. If I had my old Melbourne two-hour pass then it wouldn’t matter at all how many buses I used to make that trip.

      Stored value cards are just about revenue collection and don’t have many benefits for the user or at a systemic level, the goal there appears to be about a linear relationship between usage and price. But surely we should only be paying the marginal cost of our extra travel, i.e. a nonlinear increase of cost with increase travel. That’s how I see the benefits of time and zone based passes: once you have bought your regular commute to work or school or whatever you get any additional travel in the time period for no extra charge, which basically just means greater utilisation on services that would have been running anyway. In other words stored value just aims to recover costs, but passes aim to recover costs plus also maximise positive externalities of public transport travel. If you’re a private bus operator I guess you’re only concerned with farebox recovery, but a city should be thinking wider than that.

      I like to consider passes as a subscription model, rather than paying to go some distance you buy time to access the network. In practice the end result is people buy in for a day or a month or whatever to take care of their primary travel needs (i.e. getting to work etc), and once they’ve bought in they can continue to access the network without restriction. It’s like with cellphones, people pay say $50 a month for a plan that covers their basic phone needs and usually there is plenty of additional minutes available such that making a few or even a lot of extra calls doesn’t cost any more (up to a point obviously). I don’t know anyone that pays per minute on a phone plan anymore, they all subscribe to the system for the flexibility of calling whenever they like, for as long as they need.

      That’s the sort of flexibility we need out of a fare system, and that is something that can be achieved with a simple paper print out like my trusty but limited Northern Pass (what I wouldn’t give to be able to take the Links on it).

      Do that with the Northern Pass would bring up zone boundary issues, but I think they are easily overcome with some simple strategies. Number one is the fact that Auckland is actually segmented into zones already due to the harbours and various inlets. There is no boundary issue between Mangere and Onehunga for example, because there is a half kilometre of harbour there anyway that has always divided the two communities. Same on the Tamaki River, the inlet between Birkenhead and Greehithe, and the harbour bridges of course. The second thing is simply to overlap the zones, locating key border interchanges within both zones and extending an overlap the equivalent of three or four stops either side. This still requires some foreknowledge of the zone boundaries, but it is still going to be easier that trying to precalculate a distance based fare to work out if you have enough funds to make the trip. The third thing is that if you have people making short trips just across the boundary zone then they could get caught out paying two zones for a short distance… however if they are travelling a short distance then they are also making a trip that is short in time too, this means in most zone systems they can complete the return trip (or carry on to some other destination) on the same single pass. The only people who would really get caught by border effects would be those that commute from just inside one zone to just inside an adjacent one, with a long wait until making the return trip.

      I’m not sure how we can reconcile distance based fares either, even if the flag fall component is eliminated. If you charge on route length then you penalise people who happen to travel on circuitous routes, or who cover distance going out of the way to transfer. If you charge point to point fares as the crow flies then you’re still going to penalise people who transfer, because transfer nodes are almost never going to be in a nice straight line. I guess the only thing would be to calculate distance as the crow flies between the first origin and the ultimate destination, but that starts to get complicated when you’re considering complex travel patterns of everyday spontaneous travel. Where do you draw the line.

      I think the fare card is real cart before the horse stuff. Cards make it a bit easier to pay but they don’t change when and where people pay, and how much. Surely we could have rolled out the Northern Pass across the region with paper first, or some other integrate fare structure, then worried about tweaking the payment and enforcement efficiency with the cards afterwards. Perhaps I’m a bit biased by my own experiences and preferences, but I believe the Melbourne model of time based passes and a couple of large zones is ideal from the users perspective and most likely to boost patronage and attract people away from driving.

      There is nothing more simple that buying a day pass as you head outside and knowing you can then go about your day travelling where and when you need to without any further expense or hassle. You simply don’t have to think, you just travel spontaneously as you need to. At a monthly level it was even better, having purchased my pass to cover weekday commuting I’d effectively also bought a license of freedom to get around the city anytime, anywhere, any number of times in that month. If I’d had to pay for each trip I made I’d probably have still commuted to work by public transport, but probably got not nearly as much use in the evenings, midday or on the weekends. Actually I think I would have bought a car to use on weekends and evenings instead.

      1. Totally agree Nick, integrated zone and time based fares are the way to expand the take-up and success of the whole network, to lift off peak and counter peak use. It also makes events and services in odd places or at odd times likely to be more used, because of the sense that the season card holder has of ‘free’ travel. When I lived in London it was common for businesses to offer annual all zone travel cards as part of salary packages. Not only did this level the commute costs for all applicants but greatly encouraged attendance to things out in the further suburbs in your own time. So there is in fact an aspect of this system that supports vitality in the wider city instead of the CBD focus of our current setup, as well as keeping the dormitory suburbs viable no matter where you’re working. I am certain that with integrated fares the market would grow quickly (so long as capacity is there) and offset any apparent revenue loss. The focus on ticketing looks like a result of the commercial players involvement, no doubt they are obsessed with the idea of ‘free riders’, an issue that is of no importance from a whole network perspective. In fact it is something to be greatly encouraged; the more value people feel they are getting out of the network will clearly lead to higher uptake.

        Nick’s mobile phone analogy is a good one; the phone companies throw in all sorts of marginal offers in order to grow the market. And it works brilliantly. I didn’t know I wanted texting till I got it, the same with off peak trips after work. Currently PT in AK is overpriced and a crappy old fashioned service. Much more chance of it paying its way if we stop chasing a fee for every little trip and step back and sell the customer mobility and access to the whole city. How to introduce a modern system with the current ownership model I don’t know.

      2. I guess the only thing would be to calculate distance as the crow flies between the first origin and the ultimate destination, but that starts to get complicated when you’re considering complex travel patterns of everyday spontaneous travel.

        I agree with a lot of what you said, but not this. Calculating direct-line distances between coordinate pairs is a piece of cake, programmatically speaking. The algorithms for it are well-known. The vehicles have GPS locators, and using those to establish the tag-on/tag-off points and immediately calculate the correct fare would be well within the capabilities of the system. It’s already doing something roughly along these lines, but with the added complication of tracking fare stages to record the final fare.

        Yes it’s not as easy for the passengers, but if you also have a daily fare cap people will know that they need to have at least $x on their card to be certain they can make a given trip. Update the Maxx website with appropriate tools, toss in some Google Maps, and most people will have the access they need to figure out pre-journey just how much it’s going to cost them.

        1. Thanks Matt, but I don’t think I explained my point very well.

          Sure it is easy to calculate direct line distances between origins and destinations, I don’t see a problem with that, but if you do that for each leg of a linked trip then you end up penalising people for transferring. That’s because people will have to go off a direct line to access interchange points.

          For example my local bus stop to the bus stop by my office is 12.35km as the crow flies. I can do this route if I take the direct express bus via Constellation and downtown. But if that bus isn’t running I need to take a local feeder to Constellation (2.75km), then the NEX to Britomart (10.92km), then a city bus up the hill to the same stop (0.7km). All up that is 14.37km if I have to tag off and tag on at each vehicle change, so I’d pay a 16% fare premium for the privilege of using two transfers, even though the route taken by the buses is almost identical.

          The obvious solution to that problem is to only calculate the fare based on the whole linked journey from the origin to the final destination, and not include the intermediate transfer points. What I meant when I said this is where it gets complicated is you’d need your ticket system to some how decide when people are transferring, when they are hopping off for something then carrying on their way again, or if they are making one trip, getting off then making an onward trip somewhere else.
          You’d have to work in some very generous transfer time allowances, but do that and you effectively be creating a time based pass anyway.

          1. If you do a two-hour cap, for example, you drop the flag at the start of the two hours and then do a distance-based charge for the straight line distance covered between each board/alight pair. It’s the “flag fall” charge that stings with transfers, so by eliminating it for all the first boarding within a cap window you achieve the desired effect of only charging for distance covered.

            Ultimately the only way to go is with some time-based capping along with a zonal fare system. The current fare system isn’t long-term compatible with integrated fares.

      3. Nick, see previous comment: Distance-based fares are based on the distance between the stops at which you tag on/off; they are NOT based on the route-distance that is taken by the vehicle. So you immediately eliminate the “ciruitous route” objection.

        Stated differently, you pay for travelling from A-B-C, not for using vehicle 123 to get there. So you pay the same for making the same trip all the time, no matter what route, modes, services, you use to get there. i.e. A-D-E-C = A-B-C because the start and end point are the same in each case.

        It’s not complicated to implement, again just go to Amsterdam.

        1. This is a really interesting and fruitful discussion about the pros and cons of different ticketing types and the importance of different elements of the integrated ticketing/fares project. I think that Nick’s “mobile phone analogy” is a useful way to guide our thinking about really using integrated ticketing/fares to unlock the potential of Auckland’s public transport network.

          If we think about it, what do we want our ticketing/fares system to actually do:

          1) Make it as quick and easy for people to board the service.
          2) Have the system encourage patronage growth, while only requiring a reasonable level of public subsidy (so broad fiscal neutrality from any changes to the current system)
          3) Reduce the barriers to using the system (making it easy to top-up, allowing use on all services)
          4) Enabling a more efficient and effective system (no transfer penalty)
          5) Provide good data about passenger trips to enable network changes that make the system work better

          I have always liked the idea of most fares “buying time” in a system rather than buying distance. This approach naturally gets us around problems with zone/fare boundaries without the complexity of a pure distance based system. Buy two hours, or a day, or a week or a month and then use the PT network to your heart’s content has a really nice feeling about it. It’s a system that is friendly to new users in its simplicity while also rewarding our most regular customers by giving good monthly pass discounts (for example).

          However, it has the weakness of potentially charging the same for incredibly long trips as we do for incredibly short trips – which seems unfair (although New York’s flat fare is an interesting social equity tool). So we’re always going to need something in the middle.

          I think a zone-based system is the way to go myself. While there will always be some anomalies in terms of being just on the wrong side of the boundary, this can be alleviated to an extent by having “grey boundaries” and also by cleverly locating your zone boundaries in main destination points (like generally happens how with stage boundaries). This way you can “buy” a single trip (two hour), day, week or month’s travel across say 1,2,3 or 4 different zones. Doing this your whole fare system could be shown in a fairly simple table and with smart incentives for weekly and monthly options so we encourage as many people as possible to become highly regular users of public transport.

          But in the end there’s probably no perfect way to do a fare system. Each city tends to tweak things a little bit to fit their own circumstance. New York has a flat fare on its subway, probably for political reasons, but this has been a nice social equity tool as generally it’s the poorer people in places like the Bronx & Brooklyn who take the longest trips. Melbourne has chosen a system with massive zones, presumably to make long-distance rail travel more affordable even if it means that short trips are quite expensive. I suspect that Melbourne’s farebox recovery level (like most Australian cities) is much lower than Auckland’s.

          Auckland’s geography suggests a number of natural boundaries that will be accepted by the general public. I think this means that we can utilise some of the benefits from a zone-based system (simplicity in particular) without suffering too much from its flaws. Whether we should have 3 zones, 4 zones or 14 zones is obviously another interesting debate. There’s probably not a right answer, but we should look at the various different ways it’s done overseas – what works well, what works not so well, what would apply to Auckland’s situation well, what can keep base fares at a reasonable level while not blowing out the total subsidy required…. and take a punt. Certainly whatever we choose will struggle to be worse than the current system!

        2. You missed my point again stu, perhaps I’m not making myself clear. With my direct express I could tag on in mairangi bay, the bus heads up to constellation, down the busway to downtown, then up the hill to Albert park and i tag off on Waterloo quadrant. With the transfer option I tag on to the 880 feeder in Mairangi bay, tag off at constellation station. Tag on the NEX at constellation, tag off at downtown, tag on to a link or something, then tag off for the third and final time near Albert park. Add up the straight line distance between those three tag on tag off pairs, and it is 16% greater that the one tag on tag off pair of the direct express.
          I’d still be getting a 16% penalty for the luxury of transferring twice, despite running almost exactly the same route. That will always be the case because your transfer points aren’t going to be in a perfect straight line between your origin and final destination.

        3. In my opinion debate over whether we should be measuring straight-line origin to destination distances or route distances misses the bigger point: what are we trying to achieve with our fare system? If our only goal is to fairly and accurately charge for distance travelled then this is a reasonable debate, but if our goal is to be smart with our fares to encourage ridership, make the system easy to understand and ensure a good level of farebox recovery, then we need to think more broadly.

          Put it this way, the more people on weekly/monthly passes the better, right? Because they will use PT much more often, we get their money ‘up front’ and they’re likely to use off-peak and weekend services more often because those trips will seem “free” to them. Given that, surely we should be trying to get as many people onto weekly/monthly passes as possible by structuring our fare system in such a way that really encourages their use (like having unlimited travel passes within 1, 2, 3 and whatever number of zones).

  5. Bring on the integrated fares and ticketing. I’m looking forward to paying only the Discovery Pass price for my current PT use. The Waiheke monthly pass ($350) is already integrated between Fullers Ferries, Waiheke Buses, NZ Bus and H&E Bus. Easy to add the trains, other ferries and Ritchies. And at a discount to the current pass price too, I can’t wait.
    But somehow I doubt Fullers Ferries would want to kill their floating cash cows ($35 return fares currently). So good luck with forcing them to integrate.

    1. That wouldn’t be an issue for Fullers, but rather for the council. If council decided they wanted to subsidise Waiheke ferries like they do with some of the other routes then it would be the council who would have to pay the difference. Fullers simply wouldn’t run it if they had to do so for the same fare as an equivalent length bus trip, no company would or could.

      I can’t see any ferries being included in any integrated fare structure, except perhaps something where you pay a full ferry fare and you get a discount on any subsequent bus or train journeys. The operational costs and structure of the service are just too different from buses and trains. Ferries are very expensive to operate and have a high cost per passenger. Not surprisingly ferries only exist where people are willing to pay those higher costs because the equivalent land trip is highly circuitous or impossible. I personally believe that use of the public transport system should be the same cost regardless of the vehicles used, but I can’t see the council agreeing with me. In practice it would mean subsidising every trip from Waiheke by $30 or so out of the wider pool of collected fares. No council accountant is going to do that when they could use the same funds to subsidise ten bus trips instead. I do realise that things like the Pine Harbour ferry are subsidised by about 50% for political reasons, but that simply wouldn’t be the case if it were anywhere as popular and the Waiheke run.

      1. Brisbane has ferries, buses and trains, and they are all one price, despite the differences in operating costs between modes. Operators are simply paid on the basis of how many route-km they do, irrespective of patronage.

        This might seem like this takes away incentive for operators to grow patronage, but the incentive to grow patronage can’t be done at the route level, it has to be done at the network level, because public transport is all about NETWORKS not individual routes. So growing patronage is the responsibility of the network authority – in your case, Auckland Transport.

        Empirically, this has also been proven the case. The moment fares were integrated (we had not got gocard by then) and transfers made free and automatic, patronage on the network exploded.

        1. I understand that BrisUrbane and I think that a gross contracted model would be an excellent move for Auckland. I’m just saying that fare integration won’t happen with ferries in Auckland even if the entire network is gross contracted including the ferries. They’ll eventually put everything into a single fare structure to operate as an integrated network… except the ferries which they’ll just keep as point to point fares.

          Think about it, the commercial price of the Waiheke run costs $35 return for a 20km distance. An equivalent bus trip of 20km is $11.20 return, on the train it’s $10.80. They are simply not going to cross subsidise one ferry passenger to the tune of twenty dollars above the equivalent bus or train passenger, no matter how equitable or network enhancing such a move might be. That level of cross subsidy doesn’t make sense for AT, they can get a whole lot more value by charging ferry users full price and applying subsidy elsewhere.

          There is negligible network gain from integrating the ferries, except perhaps the Devonport one. The other ferries have such small patronage they are almost irrelevant, and the only other busy one is Waiheke that has no other alternative with or without the ferry. Because it is a captive market with no non-ferry alternative there are zero network effects if you include Waiheke, and likewise zero if you keep charging them full price.

          I’ll just clarify that I don’t think it is equitable or a good idea (see my comments above about having time based zones where you can use any service any time). I’m just pointing out what is going to happen regardless of whether I think it is nice or not.

          1. But don’t you think patronage on the ferries might be small because of the lack of a network effect? The Waiheke ferry aside, the fares are similar to bus and train fares, and they have less subsidy than buses or trains. I would suspect costs are similar for buses and significantly lower than trains.

          2. Not really, I think that they are fundamentally limited by their constrained catchment/coverage and the realities of operating costs and service delivery. You don’t have to go very far from a ferry terminal to find a bus route that is quicker and can be run much more frequently, while affording much greater network connection opportunities.

            Ferries are very fuel and labour intensive, the Devonport one works well because it has a short trip length and high peaky patronage flows so they can fill up a large boat on most sailings. Plus of course the alternative is a very circuitous route. I don’t agree that fares are similar, Devonport is $5.70 one way for 2.8km. That’s the same distance as Britomart to Newmarket, which costs $1.80 by bus or $1.70 by train.

            Operating costs per km a way way higher for ferries than either trains or buses, so they only really recover cost where you have a short route with high boardings (or like Waiheke where there is no alternative and people are willing to pay through the teeth).

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bagging on ferries, but their role is a very niche one compared to land transport alternatives and those niches are fairly full already.

          3. Per trip costs for trains in auckland are certainly higher than ferries if you include the cost of capital. It’s not useful to compare per km costs, ferries are useful where the ‘as the crow flies’ route is significantly shorter than the on land route. But you also need to include the subsidy in the cost which is less for ferries than buses. Relative costs of ferries are also disadvantaged by underpriced roads for buses.

            Ferry trips are almost universally multi-modal, so integrated fares and re-oriented network structures would be very beneficial to them.

          4. The “$35 commercial return fare” is $35 because Fullers sets it at that level because it thinks it can get away with that fare level. It is a captive market, for sure, but it is also a monopoly position it will defend within an inch of its life. It is the sweetest spot a private company can be in. It has refused subsidies in the past because it would come with strings attached: tendering of the route, minimum service levels, integrated timetabling etc.
            $35 isn’t the commercial fare, it is the monopoly fare, similar to airfares being 10 times more expensive on routes without competition than on competitive routes (e.g. you can now fly to Wellington for $39, but for $300+ to Masterton for practically the same distance).
            Ferries transport people economically (600 passengers on Superflyte would require 15 buses on land) and you would need to come up with some quotes to convince that it costs 3 times to ferry a passenger than by bus. By your reasoning (taken from the airlines) it would be cheaper to fly passengers to Waiheke than take them by ferry.
            And since Waihekeans are Auckland ratepayers, why are they required to subsidise mainland bus/train travellers and pay a monopoly ferry fare on top?
            Everywhere around the world ferry services are integrated with the rest of PT except in Auckland, and this is why Auckland has the highest ferry fares in the world (

          5. Thanks Hans, yes I realise the $35 is only $35 because that is what the commercial operator has decided is the highest people are willing to pay for the service.

            Once again I’ll just confirm that I’m not promoting the practice or in any way in approval of it, I’m just pointing out what I think is very likely to happen in Auckland. Having ferries perfectly integrated in the fare structure would be ideal in my opinion, I just can’t see it happening when we consider the realities of contracting services and cross-subsidy.

          6. One other point I would like to make. The Supergold card system is an integrated fares system for PT and it includes ferries. If it’s possible to organise that for the oldies it should be possible for the rest of us too. Or shall we have to take this to the Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on age?

            Auckland Transport should grow some balls and call Fullers on its monopoly practices. And make no mistake, Fullers is a floating cash cow: completely written off boats (which are out of service on average two months a year due to age-related breakdowns), unfettered fare structures, staff on minimal training and wages, Council subsidies for wharf maintenance (actually recovered from a passenger levy of 50c a trip – how come no train or bus passenger gets charged on their fares for bus stop and train station construction?).
            No wonder Mr Souter kept Fullers and sold off NZ Bus to Infratil, which fortunately had the happy consequence that Infratil invested in a brandnew bus fleet, otherwise you’d still be trucked around in those Yello Bus Co cast-offs, like we do on Waiheke, but we’re still floating around in 1980s rust buckets.

        2. I don’t think you can compare the ferries running across and down a river in downtown Brisbane to those travelling effectively in the open ocean to Waiheke, Deveonport etc. For one, the sinking of a ferry running to Waiheke is very likely to result in a lot of deaths, I don’t think really think the same is the case for a ferry trundling down the Brisbane river.

  6. Slow progress yes, but I can see why they are going down the small achievable packages rather than big bang everything on a new system on day one, especially given that the commercial / contracted service split is still in place. I see HOP initially giving people one card to use on all operators largely negating 10 trips and cash fares. Once Auckland gets a gross contract model and starts to integrate services with more transfers that is when the fully integrated fares are needed, but before then not so much though it would be nice.

    The opposite seems to be happening here in Wellington, especially in the northern suburbs where the plan to have a far greater use of transfers, including between bus and rail is occuring before a single payment card, let alone integrated fares are rolled out.

  7. I think you are right, they are not being bold when it comes to integrated fares. The bus companies are likely being conservative also. Plus it sounds like they don’t ever have any intention of including ferries, which are the least subsidized mode. Ferries are also very much a mode that would add aloe of value in a network context.

  8. It does seem to me that they have not factored in any behavioural change that is surely likely in their post-integration costings. Take out the penalty and transfers are bound to increase. Odd.

    1. Quickly and cynically, who gives a damn?

      In a more considered response, Snapper in Auckland will probably remain as a payment service but without being tied to public transport it’ll become much less a mechanism that people frequently carry. I would expect Snapper to exit Auckland within five years unless National pulls a fast one and forces the issue later this year.

      NZ Bus will not exit Auckland, even if they are forced to “real” HOP instead of “bastard” Snapper/HOP. It’s too lucrative. If they threw their toys and got given the boot when contracts come up for renewal, the company will fold within a couple of years because there’s just not the money in other markets.

  9. It’s a pity international experience doesn’t seem to rate in these discussions within AT. In Italy PT patronage rose 7% in the short term and 34% in the long term with intergrated ticketing in a zone-based system. Increases of this magnitude will be necessary to achieve the government’s goal of only 50% PT subsidies. Yet the privatisation model they have thrust on councils tends to work against integrated ticketing.

    1. I think AT is well aware of the advantages of integrated fares, I do think we have to take into account that they are operating under a National government who probably listens to NZ Bus more than they listen to AT. If AT rocks the boat, NZBus will go running to mummy Brownlee and Key and knowing National we’ll have some law passed banning integrated fares all together. Slowly but surely, we’ll get there but when dealing with a petulent anti-PT government, slowly and surely is better than going backwards.

  10. On the issue of the Waiheke ferries, one thing to remember is that with PTOM, AT will set all of the details including deciding just how many sailings there will be each day and what time they are and the price. Fullers will only be able to keep it as a commercial route if they run every single route fully commercially with no chance of a subsidy. Also the longer contracts that come with PTOM will likely see Fullers more willing to invest in new boats as at the moment the argument is they wouldn’t do so due to the contract rolling over each year.

    1. There is zero chance that Fullers will give up its monopoly route to Waiheke, or have its fares regulated, or timetables imposed, or be pressed into a properly working fleet of ferries. In the past, ARTA, the Commerce Commission and now AT have never been inclined to take them on or had the balls to investigate the uncompetitive practices on the Hauraki Gulf.

  11. Interesting conversation.

    One other problem with per-km origin-destination charges is what happens when you go home within the transfer time? Do you get a negative fare for the return trip? Same question with V shaped journeys, does the second leg result in a negative fare?

    The concept of adding up as the crow flies distances is inconceivable. If you are going with as the crow flies distances, it would be the distance on the multi-leg journey, perhaps with some exceptions for the cases which I outline above.

    Regarding Brisbane’s flat/negative growth, that could be due to the 15% p.a. fare rises.

    Brisbane’s previous fare strategy was pretty much optimal. No periodicals, 50% frequency user discount after 10 journeys Mon-Sun. Zone based, 60 minute transfer window between touch off and touch on, 23 zones. Melbourne’s 2 zones causes people to drive further to park at stations within zone 1 and too high fares for very short trips. Brisbane’s problem is that the fare levels leave a lot to be desired, and now the frequent user discount has been increased to 100%.

    Periodicals are generally discounted below the level of the 10 journey per week commuters which causes revenue loss, or higher base fares which causes patronage loss. Put simply, periodicals are an archaic practice even if few jurisdictions have had the guts to remove them.

    I also disagree with Stu. If you are going to introduce a new fare system, don’t program the existing fare rules into it, program what they should be. There is no reason why the fares need to be same for the luddites who continue to use the old system in the parallel period.

  12. I think you should not “buy a pass” e.g. Northern pass rather then you use your hop card to get to the CBD for example like we can do now. but when you go over the price for a north pass $9.00/5.10 it is bought automatically can you can use it for the rest of the day at no extra cost then all you need to do is top up your card and go. so the best ticket/pass is bought for you with out you having to request it.

    Example (In Child fairs) Forrest hill to Britomart
    Tag on at forrest hill and tag off at Smales Farm $.90
    Tag on Smales Farm (NEX) tag of at Britomart 2.40

    Total outbound cost $3.30 Debited from hop card

    Tag on Britomart (NEX) tag of at Smales Farm 1.80 (Capped at Northern pass Prices $5.10
    Tag on at Smales Farm and tag off at forrest hill $0.00

    Total Trip cost $5.10 Debited from hop card

    Any other travel for that day free (In that passes area)

    All so this would be the same for a week pass e.g. you buy day Northern passes per day until it would of been cheeper to “buy” a week one and then it is bought for you no extra cost.
    This is like what is used in london and I think it works well

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