Auckland Transport is to launch new bus livery next week that will eventually roll out across all buses in the region. Once complete there will no longer be the multi coloured mess we have now with every operator having their own competing brand. Where this is going to be particularly useful is in areas where multiple operators run services, for example along Gt North Rd which is served by buses from NZ Bus (Metrolink and Go West) along with Ritchies. Integrated ticketing has made catching the next bus easier and a common livery will help reinforce that the PT network is all part of a single system. As such this clearly represents AT taking greater ownership of the customer experience rather than just leaving it up to the operators.
Auckland Transport is about to give the city’s public transport network a fresh, clear, consistent brand.
Over the next three years the branding will be phased in starting with the LINK services and the Northern Express.
Auckland Transport’s General Manager Marketing and Customer Experience Mike Loftus says a single identity will give Aucklanders and visitors a clearer understanding of what public transport is on offer and which areas specific buses, trains and ferries serve.
“Most metropolitan cities have a single brand network that is easy to recognise and enables clear, consistent communication with customers. Currently in Auckland there is no single identity, we have a variety of brands and looks. Customers relate to buses by the operator name rather than the wider public transport network”.
Auckland Transport’s Group Manager Public Transport Mark Lambert says having a single public transport network will ultimately build public confidence in the developing and improving public transport system. “Knowing that all the services are integrated and part of the same system will help grow patronage”.
The branding will mean common livery across public transport vehicles but differentiated by colour depending on the type of service.
The implementation of the livery is already underway and budgeted for on the electric trains.
Costs for the bus fleet will be kept to a minimum through:
- retention of ocean blue for Rapid Network services (Northern Express is already this colour)
- retention of red, green, orange and light blue for existing targeted services of the City LINK, Inner LINK, Outer LINK and Airbus
- the rest of the bus fleet to be transitioned as part of new contracts and costs incurred through new contract rates
Mr Lambert says Auckland’s bus operators are aware of the changes and are working with Auckland Transport.
The Auckland Plan looks to double public transport trips from 70 million in 2012 to 140 million in 2022. The Auckland Plan’s priorities for Auckland’s transport system include “a single system transport network approach that manages current congestion problems and accommodates future business population growth to encourage a shift toward public transport.”
The new branding will be unveiled next Tuesday 16 December.
This is something we first highlighted at the end of September after it appeared in the Auckland Transport Board report. In addition an image of what the buses may look like was included although it’s possible that there have been tweaks or changes to the designs since September so we can’t say for sure what they’ll look like.
Updated from AT: As you know We have the big brand reveal nextTuesday which is really important to us as part of our public transport and customer work. We would most appreciate it if you could take down the images of the branded buses until the launch.
Possibly related to all of this is this opinion piece from Pattrick Smellie highlighting that some of the operators aren’t happy with the new contracts that AT will be rolling out.
Instead, they argue that AT has produced draft contracts that contain almost none of the elements of the desired “relational” contract model, sticking instead with a pre-2008 “transactional” approach.
Not only that, but they argue AT is trying to lump private bus operators with contract terms that make them bear the risk of things that only AT can control, and which could see them financially penalised if things go wrong.
Especially galling was that AT had drawn up these draft contracts over a three-year period, yet made them available for feedback from bus operators only in September, at which point all hell broke loose.
Concerned not to be tarred with the easy accusation of “resisting change” when they have been seeking it, the bus operators – principally Infratil-owned NZ Bus, supported by the New Zealand Bus and Coach Association – sought expert advice from accountancy firm KPMG and investment bank Cameron & Company.
Both concluded that the draft contracts were seriously deficient, even after some of the most onerous elements were withdrawn.
There was insufficient security of tenure, risks were badly mismatched, and financial incentives were unlikely to work as intended because of the punitive mindset underlying the contracts.
The result was likely to be a cost-cutting, compliance mentality rather than a value-creating, innovative environment in which new investment would be encouraged, both sets of advisers concluded.
However, when final submissions on the new draft contracts closed this week, their basic shape had not altered significantly.
Bus operators now hope that the central government funding body, the New Zealand Transport Agency, which must sign off the new contracts, agrees that they don’t do the job. Transport Minister Simon Bridges is aware of the issue, but not yet engaging actively.
It’s hard to tell if this is just the bus companies having a whinge or if there is something deeper that’s concerning them. One suggestion I saw yesterday was that AT are going to be controlling the advertising both on and in buses. That should hopefully scale back some of the horrid full bus wraps we see regularly on some buses. The problem is that a decent number of our bus operators currently don’t have any advertising at all so this could see the practice become more widespread. Hopefully it’s something we’ll find out next week when the new livery is revealed.