Well this is positive, albeit a unexpected. AT have announced that due to better than predicted patronage, despite the high fares, they are going to see if they can get a lot more people using the service.  To do that they are dropping the fares as a trial for a month starting Monday. Here is the press release from AT:

Three weeks on from the launch of the new Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services, patronage is showing good growth above initial forecasts with 26% above forecast for week one (317 passenger journeys); 68% for week two (422 journeys) and 56% for week three (232 journeys for three days).

Capitalising on this beginning, Auckland Transport is offering a special price deal for all trips on the Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services to encourage more people to try the service. Special prices are available from 25 February until 24 May 2013.

Auckland Transport’s Manager of Public Transport, Mark Lambert says “It’s been a good start for the new services. We’re looking to stimulate further growth with the special fares helping promote the services and attract more people who may not have been public transport users previously.

“Ferry travel is a very pleasant and time-saving travel option for those working or studying in the city as well as those looking to travel for leisure”, says Mr Lambert

The Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services run two morning and three afternoon sailings each week day.

A bus service departing from Westgate connects with ferry sailings at Hobsonville.

Fare and timetable information is available at www.AT.co.nz

Ferry special offer

See the full brochure here. As a comparison, current adult fares are $12 ($9.20 with HOP) from Hobsonville, $8 ($6.20 with HOP) from Beach Haven and $4 ($2.80 with HOP) for trips between the two.

This is absolutely great to see and hopefully patronage will grow enough that AT will be able to justify leaving fares at this level permanently. I would also love to see AT trialling this kind of initiative in other areas, like offering special off peak fares on train and bus services.

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  1. to me it only shows how much a rip off it was at the beginning… They should have started with prices like this and then increase it if it became too busy.

    1. A ripoff perhaps, but dropping the price like this is a pretty good way of getting attention to it, and motivating new people to come on board (as it were) during the one month trial period with the hope of getting it extended.

      Maybe the initial price was too high, but now it’s like a 25% off discount, or whatever it is depending on the location/ HOP card. People love a discount. And as Feijoa points out, it gets HOP cards into people’s hands.

    2. If more people than forecast are using the service why would you consider it to be a rip-off? I’d actually go the other way and conclude that prices should actually rise because willingness-to-pay for the ferry service is higher than initially forecast. Unless AT are maybe trying to fill the boats and get economies of scale or even justify additional services … that would be an interesting strategy.

      1. Pints of beer in the city nowadays cost 9.50$ and people still get drunk. Is it a rip off? Yes. Is there willingness to pay? Yes
        Unless everybody got a secret pay rise and I’m the only one that don’t know about it.

    1. The Hop discount on the orignal fares was substantial (almost $3 cheaper on the longest trip) — how large do they need to be? That discount would certainly make me buy a Hop.

    2. Totally agree for bus, where cash causes delays so should be disincentivised, but is the same true for this ferry service?

      However I have no problem with promoting Hop through discounts to get them in the ferry-going’s hands. Semantics you might say, but I prefer justification.

  2. Hey I think we should be applauding this more than anything, good to see flexibility instead of stubborn defensiveness by AT. Good to see them trying things, especially seeing whether they can grow patronage and even perhaps farebox recovery by lowering barriers to use. Well done.

    1. AT is paying a huge subsidy on every Hobsonville trip. If they have reduced the fare it is because they believe doing so will reduce the net subsidy by encouraging more patrons. I.e. this should save AT money.

      If you want AT to reduce fares then your are asking them to subsidise the Waiheke route. That would cost AT money. Good luck with that.

        1. I wouldn’t know what it is specifically, however the Waiheke and Devonport are fully unsubsidised and carry the lions share of ferry trips, yet ferries overall are subsidized heavily. That means the smaller harbour routes are being subsidised through the nose to move relatively few people.

          1. The same could be said of buses and even rail in that some routes stages meet costs but overall a subsidy is required. Why should ferries be treated differently? Why should the Devonport and Waiheke services be excluded from the equation?

        2. The answer is that basically the commuter ferries are a ‘side effect’ of the ferry operators tourist operations. Tourist fares are already subsidising the commuter operation. Without the tourist fares there wouldn’t be the boats and staff, and commuter fares would be service times higher than what they are if they had to cover those costs entirely.

          Another key difference is that the bus routes that are subsidised as a social service are cheap to run, while ferries are very expensive. It comes down to whether, for example, we should be subsidising one ferry passenger to the tune of $15 dollars, or fifteen bus passengers to the tune of one dollar.

          1. I think Belaire would disagree that they are a tourist operator that provides ferries as a ‘side effect’. As for Fullers, the ferries to Devonport and Waiheke run most of the day, every day so how could they be classed as tourist operations?

          2. Belaire are a water taxi company, west harbour may be their weekday bread and butter but the make their money out of charters and servicing Rakino on the weekends.

            The Devonport double ended is the only dedicated commuter ferry boat in the fleet, and even that is supplemented by the tourist vessels. Without the tourist boats in backup they couldn’t run the line with just a single boat all day seven days a week.

            The ferries really do tread a different line. Most commuter bus operators make a little on the side with charters and school groups, but with our ferries it’s the other way around.

          3. There would be a very good argument that Ritchies are in the same category :-). If having multiple income sources enables a business to be profitable then that is good for PT. Those Belaire vessels would be pretty economical to run and would not, I’m guessing, require big subsidies.

          4. I find it hard to believe that the Waiheke commuters are a ‘side effect’ of a tourist operation. The reality is that Waiheke has the highest percentage of PT usage in the country and it would be very difficult to find anyone on the island that has not traveled on the ferries, many are regular travelers added to the large commuter numbers.
            To say that tourism has made the service what it is would have to be optimistic at best.
            Most ratepayers on Waiheke pay transport levies with rates bills not dissimilar to those in greater Auckland. Essentially as long as the operator does not ask for a subsidy AT will not leap up and offer one. The likelyhood of a competing transport provider is low as Fullers has pockets deep enough to protect their virtual monopoly. This has been proven in at least two instances in recent years with any new hopefuls knowing that Waiheke is essentially ‘out of bounds’.

          5. I agree Don. Just because Fullers started as a tourist operation does not mean that the tourist operation is now the main driver of the business. I believe Ritchies started as a tourist / charter coach service and now operate commuter services as well, only using buses instead of boats. H&E also run charter and school operations.

          6. The Fullers name came to Auckland from the Bay of Islands in the 1980s. there was an attempt to start a service to Waiheke Island against the current operator Gulf Ferries / Waiheke Shipping (there were many company names under the same ownership). This attempt failed and the Gulf Ferries ‘bought’ the name Fullers. The Northland operation was split off before the sale and became Fullers Auckland. The Auckland Fullers name became Fullers Gulf Ferries now Fullers Group Ltd. Therefore the tourist operation started by Fullers Northland is not the same as the services in Auckland that were a progression of services which, although having a tourist component, had their roots as serving commuter / PT roles.

          7. Nick that may be true of some services, but not the Beach Haven/Hobsonville service. As far as I understand, the boat returns from the city to Hobsonville after its 9.15 run where it ties up for the day and then starts again, departing H’ville at 3.15pm. It would be easy to increase services during the day as a result, though weekends might be a different story…

          8. West Harbour Ferries are not a water taxi company. They are a ferry company and make very little money from Charters as they don’t really do them and any charters are a by product of providing the ferry service not the other way around. Rakino is subsidised by Auckland Transport as a service to the island and not a lot money made from it. To suggest this underpins the rest of the business is completely wrong as these boats, as any boat does, cost a lot of money to run. They are in comparison cheaper to run than the larger ferries, but still take significant cost and effort to provide a reliable service. This is of course reflected in the subsidies given. AT are just working with a new ferry service and are tweaking things as they go to get it up and running properly. While the figures are encouraging they have a long way to go before it is a viable service and at least they are trying things instead of being glued in a rut as in the past. The 360 boats do go on to do other work during the day but if AT were to subsidise more runs the boat would be made available to do these. The big cost saving for ferries is they really require little infrastructure as the water is already there with no roading, bus lanes, bus stops etc, only a terminal at each end which in the case of a marina is already there and downtown is already there. So just a wharf and landing at one end. Much cheaper than installing bus lanes/expressways or rail tracks.

    2. Hans – I don’t understand why AT should set fares for Waiheke? AT does not, after all, subsidise long distance bus trips from Huntly.

      And I can’t see much congestion being caused by people on Waiheke driving to town because ferry prices are too high, so the congestion externalities argument (which rightly or wrongly underpins most of how our PT money is spent) does not really apply in Waiheke’s case. It does, on the other hand, apply to Hobsonville.

      Maybe people who choose to live on Waiheke should either 1) suck it up and accept the consequences of their choices, i.e. commercially priced ferry fares or 2) start their own ferry company to compete with Fullers (assuming the wharves’ are able to be accessed?).

          1. No, not at all. Whilst both may be commercial services, you are comparing a service entirely within Auckland Council’s Mandate verse a network of long distance bus services from all over the North Island that just *happen* to call at Huntly on the way through – providing an icing to the coffers of the likes of Tranzit and Ritchies. Waiheke is quite different. Sure, a good proportion of their trade is in the holiday and sight seeing business, but they have a core commuting sector that also happens to be a monopoly – there is no other realistic way to travel regularly between the two points. At least with Huntly, one has the option of buses, driving all the way on the Southern Motorway, or park up somewhere in the middle and catch a train.

            Let’s look at a couple of aspects on your comment Stu. 1) sucking it up and accepting the consiquences of their choices is a very odd statement to make. If you got a poor prime minister because of your choices, would you continue to suck it up until the next election? By doing so, arn’t you defeating the purpose of the public opinion in the meantime if the Government happens to make an appaling decision in the meantime? Knowing you I shouldn’t have thought so. I can’t see how this is any different. 2) You do realise how much capital is involved in starting a business operating multi-million dollar commercial vessels?

            I think you are taking an unfortunate and rather hostile approach to this Stu, and not one nessesarily consistent with the ethos of this blog!

          2. Hi Andrew – I do think Stu has a point with the “Sucking it up” argument, even though he could have used a more tactful way of phrasing it. After all, it is not like Waiheke had a bridge yesterday, and only ferries today. Or a cheap (for whatever reason) ferry service yesterday, and a very expensive ferry service today.

            So if you live on Waiheke, you either a) grew up there, and never knew different or b) MOVED there, and should accept the pros and cons that come with it: Including expensive commuting to downtown.

      1. Is PT being run to simply reduce congestion or to provide quality PT for people to use pretty much any time? If the latter, then the ferry to Waiheke is a valid PT service. Luckily for the Waiheke residents, there are plenty of local and overseas tourists wanting to visit the island which allows for a regular service. What difference is there between Waiheke and the Airport? It’s a, mostly, tourist destination but we are looking at providing a rail service for both tourists and locals. Why should we provide a rail service to Pukekohe? After all, it’s the residents choice to live out of the downtown area. We subsidise PT, that locals and tourists use, all over Auckland. Why should Waiheke be any different.

  3. A quick check on the published timetables shows the cash fare on West Harbour ferry is $12.00. I suspect the increase of passengers form Hobsonville will come from the West Harbour service which is run by a Fullers competitor……. To maintain a balance the fare subsidy on both should have been increased during the trial period to give an accurate representation of uptake. This assumes that the fare reduction is being achieved by a subsidy increase and is not Fullers trying to affect the other operators viability. I have seen them operate this way several times in the past.

  4. I visited Auckland this week just gone and got a Hop card. It’s very user friendly and the gentleman at the revamped Papakura rail ticket office had no end of patience when I asked him about the system. Maybe a trip to Hobsonville next time. Go the train.

  5. Question for the uninitiated, given Hobsonville and Beach Haven are both a similar distance to the Downtown Farry Terminal, and given that there is a service from West Harbour Marina in direct competition with Hobsonville with no equivilant on the Beach Haven side, why is there sich a big difference in fares between the two destinations and the CBD???

      1. How is a much lower fare for a trip less that a kilometer away straight line distance on services AT already subsidise going to look to prospective future users? Exactly what kind of advertisement is this supposed to portray?

        1. Unfortunately it appears Stu has removed his comment which was in response to this message so I will provide it below as I feel this is relevant to my point:

          Quoting Stu: “That if you live in Birkenhead then it’s cheaper for society if you catch the bus rather than the ferry. If you really must catch the ferry then that’s fine, just don’t expect everyone to subsidise your choice of mode when there’s a cheaper one available.”

          If this is so, exactly why are we subsidising this Ferry AT ALL if there is a cheaper alternative from Hobsonville? I am finding your logic, or lack thereof very puzzling Stu!

  6. Now, can they should captalise and add another service to the morning and evening, eventually increasing to all day services as demand warrants it.

    1. Hopefully they can – the question is whether that ferry is slated for other uses over the day. If it is just lying up somewhere, then hopefully this should be a no-brainer.

      However, that idea may still fail, at least in the short run, if the extra trips require more total extra subsidy than AT has available in the budget for it. Though such unexpected flexibility lets you hope.

      1. No, it’s the other way around. The operator uses the boat for tourist operations during the day and it was ‘just lying around’ at commuter times. The real problem with extending span of service or frequency is that you need to get extra boats and staff just to cover the extra commuters. Even doubling patronage wouldn’t come close to the extra cost.

    2. See above – as far as I am aware the boat sits around at H’ville between 10am and 3.15pm. I highly doubt AT would have invested in this service or run with this operator if there was going to be that kind of restraint on the capability of 360 to increase services, and every conversation I’ve had both with AT and the local board has indicated extra services will be put on as demand grows. Hence the reduction in fare I suppose…

      1. From the posts I have read, more people have complained about the lack of service rather than the cost. Maybe their research says otherwise but I would have thought more services would have been the better option.

        In fact, those that catch from Beachhaven are willing to pay more than the bus service so cost obviously isn’t a deterrent.

      2. Just looking at the numbers, and taking week two of 422 journeys. Assume equal numbers catch the ferry each way, then:

        2 morning sailings: 21 per boat
        3 evening sailings: 14 per boat

        1. Harvey why not go and have a look, have a ride for yourself, then report back? That’s the model here, there are no paid journalist just interested citizens using their curiosity and intelligence, then sharing it.

          1. Unfortunately my day job doesn’t allow it. I went to have a look on the weekend but …. 😉

            I know there are a few that read this that have caught the ferry in the past so, with the exception of passenger numbers, was hoping they could answer.

        2. Between two and three staff on ferry depending on numbers but I would think two given the numbers posted here. Discovery II used to have a TV working but all it takes is one whinger to complain about the tv and it gets turned off. They definitely have a bar on board the 360 boats.

  7. Given the reliability of some of the Fullers ferries the expansion of the Hobsonville timetable could result in boat shortages on other services.

    1. The Fullers ferries are actually pretty reliable. Sure they have times when things go wrong and they are late or timetable shuffled this is just the nature of machinery. I see plenty of buses parked on the roadside waiting for the service team to turn up. But this happens to buses as well it’s just not reported like the ferries are. There’s been more times a bus hasn’t turned up than a ferry hasn’t. I would have to say the ferry has always turned up, maybe late, but turned up. Numerous occasions the hasn’t turned up at all with no explanation from anyone. At least the ferry operators offer an explanation and do their best to get there. If there are more ferry runs put together by AT the ferry companies will put the boats on to do them they make too much money from them not to.

  8. I don’t get the argument that bus is cheaper than a ferry service. if a true comparison was done on all costs including the capital cost and maintenance of roads surely the ferry would be cheaper. Ferrys are over staffed compared to buses so that may be a cost that needs looking at for ferries but all being equal ferrys should be cheaper because they use waterways not roads. Can one of you bright sparks who claim the contrary please explain why you claim buses are cheaper.

    1. I’ll have a go though don’t have anything to back myself up.

      All vehicles pay Road users, either through their petrol or separately for diesel. That in part funds roads.

      Also, the margin cost of a bus travelling a route is small as in most cases, the road is already there. Even for a dedicated bus lane, I think you are over estimating the per trip cost over the life of the road.

      On the other side of the equation, the running costs per passenger mile would be much higher in a ferry (in upfront cost, maintenance and running would be my guess).

      1. Thanks Harvey. My problem is that the roads are a cost ( to construct and maintain) a capital cost that is not factored in the debate over ferry versus bus fares. The waterways cost zero. Roads do not even if the cost is spread over multiple users but there must be a cost for roads per bus trip.
        The road users charges just blur the issue as this is a revenue stream to pay for the capital costs.
        The ferry carries many more passengers than a bus 100s versus 30 odd and then there is the ferry wharfs versus the bus stops capital cost. Ferrys have more staff probably too many but if the ferry is full then the staff to passenger ratio is probably better or similar to the bus driver to passenger ratio.
        My gut feel is that if a proper costing was done the ferry would be cheaper per passenger journey. The trick is to get the usage up and the efficiencies flowing. For example the timetable is limited by the return journey time for the single ferry. However if the ferrys were on a circuit similar to the link buses then the services could be more often with the same number of ferrys. To reduce travel times there could be small circuits that interconnect.ie transfer between ferrys at certain wharfs.
        So wharfs at island bay/ beach haven/ hobsonville/ greenhithe/herald island /riverhead/ western marina on one circuit would link and transfer at say island bay to the birkenhead/ pt chev/northcote point/ herne bay/ teatatu/ circuit. Thats the general concept but would need work to fine tune.
        Brisbanes river ferrys work very well and are very fast and pick up the tourist trade as well .No reason we cannot get that going in auckland as well.

        1. A couple of comments:

          1. I agree it would be great to have a network of ferrys on the harbour. I remember being in Sydney and catching the ferry up the harbour to the Olympic village for a look. It was so fast and connected at so many points.

          2. However, (and I will focus on Birkenhead as that is where I have lived most of my life), get a map of Beachhaven through to northcote point. Day a circle 1km wide around each ferry point you suggest (beachhaven, island bay, Birkenhead and Northcote points). Now draw a 1km circle around every bus stop (on including Rangatira and Birkdale road, through to the bottom Onewa road). That is the catchment of the services (1km being a guess at the maximum distance people will walk for public transport). Now which service is best?? Depends how you judge – if your criteria is the fastest on a vehicle with a bar, then the Ferry will win. If it is to service the most number of people, then the Bus wins hands down.

          You can even extend this to the city. Again, draw a circle around the CBD ferry terminal, and circles around each bus stop in the CBD that the Beachhaven service services.

          Public transport isn’t meant to be a luxury, it is meant to service the greatest number of people in an efficient way.

          1. I see your point and you are right . However if the number of wharves was increased as i suggested then we are splitting hairs over population . Bus feeders to the ferry would also be efficient and increase the catchment. The added benifit would be less buses on the mainroads and motorways and the trips would be faster as there are no traffic lights. Imagine Harvey cross trips to takapuna mission bay and riverhead. Ferrys are not a luxury if they are correctly t designed and built. No dispute on bus for inland routes but i think the bias for bus doesnt stack up against financial scruntiny.

          2. Once you start adding in feeder buses, does your ferry service stack up to financial scrutiny?

            Also, with Ferry’s servicing less area (both a the ‘home’ and and the ‘work end’), buses are still required. Until there is the population density to support both, in my view buses win for this reason.

            With higher density housing in the district plan (especially around the coastal area’s), that day should eventually come.

            Since neither of have numbers, I think we are (?pretty much?) at the natural conclusion of this discussion.

          3. further to Harvey’s analysis, if your criteria is door to door travel time, in MOST cases the bus will win hands down, that said the ferry experience is (mostly) delightful, I find the Kea on the Devonport run to be a noisy, shuddering, often packed abomination, with too little outside space, but the smaller ferries where you can get outisde on the decks are a pleasure, which is why I chose to cycle to the Bayswater ferry over Devo, same time, same distance and fewer hills

          4. Surely the extra time added to a ferry journey each time it has to navigate around shoals and rocks and into a bay, decelerate, pull into a wharf, dock and get out again is much greater than the extra time added to a bus journey when the bus stops? Which would make it tricky for ferries to have large numbers of stops on a route, compared to buses.

          5. All I can say about travel times is this. 30 minutes beach haven to city centre by ferry and by bus is 45 minutes. Information taken from my son who travels to the city each day and then goes on from there by train or bus. The bus is slow , stops often, and is subject to traffic lights and waiting for traffic to let the bus in to the flow after stopping to pick or drop someone off. Obviously there would be the ideal number of ferry stops with feeder buses for each wharf to be efficient. My original question still stands on costs per passenger for ferrys vs bus when i see others claim on this site that bus is more cost efficient. the playing field in my view is not equal and a lot of misinformation is stated as fact by vested transport interests.
            My view is that independent modelling should be done on transport options so that the facts speak for themselves.
            Certainly the last 30 years of so called traffic planning hasnt worked and largely because of vested road user interests.

          6. I suspect the times from Takapuna etc would be closer than you think point to point. The herald and Tv used to do travel times for several of their reporters via different modes of transport and I seem to remember there were always suprises especially with bikes. If you took a point half way between takapuna wharf and the bus station the walk time would be the same. The bus would have a lead over the bridge and to fanshaw but after that it slows right down. allowing the ferry to catch up. Point to point with faster ferrys like in brisbane I think there wouldnt be much in it.

          7. it’s more due to the ferry having to take a long way around compared to the more direct route of the bus, consider Takapuna (or anywhere in the East Coast Bays) to Downtown around North Head or pretty much straight to the busway

            the ferry is probably quicker from Hobsonville or Half Moon Bay to the CBD, but then again, not everyone wants to go there

  9. The biggest thing holding back ferries in Auckland is a complete lack of imagination from AT and the people running it. AT have employed people who know exactly nothing about boat/ferry operations and what they are capable of. They are hamstrung by council and the RMA to get more wharves/terminals in place, even getting a wharf repaired takes forever and the consents usually cost more than the repairs themselves. Boat design has come a long way since the current fleet were built and just require someone with maritime knowledge to work within AT on the ferries. Pine Harbour is a good example of fast modern and very comfortable boats that are capable of travelling much faster than they currently do and if this type of approach was taken by AT you would find ferry trip times could be significantly reduced. With a dedicated design and the right type of vessel design and some imagination/thinking outside the box a ferry could dock at a wharf in a very short time. If they then remove the need for the crew to check/sell/clip tickets a ferry could load 150 pax in just a few minutes and be on it’s way with 200 passengers on board much quicker than a bus. It’s just the wharves used are not a good design for ferry operations and all the work is put into making them passenger friendly. Northcote point is a good example. Great for passengers but an absolute arse of a thing to tie a ferry up to. I have seen AT staff that didn’t even know which way the boat points when underway. Quite literally they didn’t know the front end from the back end so what chance is there they can show any imagination in how to get the best out of the ferries.

  10. I agree John, I travelled on the bribane river ferrys and man were they fast . They also had better docking facilties that reduced time. I think ferrys are a great way to reduce congestion on our roads. If we had wharves dotted all along the coast the catchment would be huge. Combined with local feeder buses to each ferry and a new manukau to waitemata canal then the opportunities for tourism and commuter traffic is getting exciting.

    1. Feeder buses won’t work that well. Just looking at the carpark at the albany expressway proves that. The problem is these days not many go directly home. There’s picking up kids, shopping going to the gym etc. Park and ride is the only sure fire way to get people onto ferries and buses. You just need to look at the feeder bus to Birkenhead. Carpark is full and maybe three or four people on the bus doing the grand tiki tour of Birkenhead. As for a canal to manukau it won’t work for ferries as it would take too long to get through tidal locks as there is a significant difference in tides between the two harbours. It has been investigated on more than one occasion an just isn’t practicable. Only the early maoris did this portaging their canoes from one to the other along a route that is now portage road hence it’s name.

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