On Monday Auckland Transport launched consultation for an amended Regional Public Transport Plan and that included a large section on integrated fares – or Simplified Fares as AT call them. Since writing the post AT have released a lot more information about their Simplified fares proposal so I thought I was worth while addressing the topic in more detail.
A key point on simplified fares is that you are charged based on your journey, not what services you use – with the exception of ferries. They define a journey as
- up to 3 trips on buses or trains,
- up to two transfers, as long as you tag on within 30 minutes of tagging off your previous service,
- complete your travel within 2 hours.
And example they give is someone who might travel from Albany to Newmarket taking a bus and a train. Currently it would be treated as two trips and be charged two sets of fares – albeit with a 50c transfer discount. Under Simplified Fares it would be a single journey and only charged a single fare.
Following the introduction of Simplified Fares it will be interesting to see is how they report on patronage and if they change to reporting journeys or if they just keep reporting boardings – preferably they’ll report both.
The zones AT are proposed are as I showed the other day.
As mentioned at the time I think a little more work is needed on the zone boundaries, perhaps having all of them them overlap by 1-1.5km on all boundary lines to help address the issue of short journeys across a boundary being penalised heavily. As an example (below) the 195 and 209 services currently travel down Godley Rd in Green bay and then on and through Blockhouse Bay. If someone was to get on the bus on Godley Rd and travel to Blockhouse Bay they would have to pay a two zone fare.
Another alternative would be for AT to introduce a short journey fare which is how the issue is dealt with in some other cities – such as Perth.
There’s one other feature on the map that’s bound to cause some concern and complaint and that is the boundary of the city zone compared to the current stage one zone. This appears to affect just south of Mt Eden and Orakei train station and is indicated on the map below with a black dotted circle. It means trips from those locations to the city will now pay a two zone fare whereas they current pay just a single stage fare. Depending on the fare levels AT set that could see costs for those users almost double.
One aspect of the information that has surprised me is that AT have given an indication as to the prices they’ll charge for the zones. The indicative fare table is below.
It seems most passengers will be better off with the changes – or at least pay roughly the same as they do now which is a good result from AT. They describe the main impact of the changes as:
- Commuters to and from the city to pay similar fares
- Longer distance trips to be cheaper
- Trips across zones to be substantially cheaper
- A small increase for short trips
For me a trip to town using HOP would drop from 5-stages for $6 to 3-zones for $5. Many other journeys I randomly checked – other than those mentioned above – seem to be in similar situation of becoming cheaper than they are today providing the person is using HOP. Those savings also get much larger compared to today if your trip involves a transfer. AT have a couple of example journeys here including the Albany to Newmarket one mentioned earlier.
It’s a different story if cash is being used and so as I’ve mentioned before, it will be critical that AT look for more ways to get HOP into peoples hands. One suggestion I’ve made in the past would be having bus drivers keep a stash of cards pre-loaded with regular the regular note denominations. If a note is presented they quickly hand over the pre-loaded card and tell the person to tag on and their change will be on the card.
AT have given some more detail about their plans for other fare products such as daily/monthly passes. There will be a single daily and monthly pass priced at $18 and $200 respectively. By comparison currently those passes have a zone based element to them which means there are some lower priced monthly pass options if you aren’t travelling as far. It would be a shame to see those lower priced monthly passes disappear so perhaps AT should look at something like a two-zone pass which as the name suggests is restricted to travelling through two zones.
The issues with ferry fares sitting outside of the rest of the fare system are not new however as happens now AT say ferry travel will be included in the future daily pass. That’s good but it seems that at the at the very least AT should also include ferry travel in the monthly passes. AT have also said they want to introduce ferry monthly passes and family passes.
Overall I think the changes are positive and for most will be cheaper and easier than what exists today. That should be useful for further growing patronage. It’s just a shame they we won’t see them implemented till mid-2016.