A few weeks ago the Auckland Transport board adopted an updated version of the Regional Public Transport Plan following consultation on a few areas. One of those areas AT’s Integrated Fares Policy or Simplified Fares as AT call them and which I looked at in more detail here. Core to the Simplified Fares are a move to a zone based system where you pay for how many zones you pass through not how many services you use.
The consultation also gave some indicative prices and future products that we can expect and many cases (not all) the changes will actually work out cheaper for people.
In addition they will move to a single monthly pass at $200-$210 which is a bit of a disappointment for me personally seeing as for me that would see my travel costs increase (my Zone AB monthly pass is currently $190). Lastly AT have suggested that after rolling out integrated fares they’re also going be looking at replacing daily and month passes with daily and weekly fare caps for HOP uses so they become something that just happen automatically rather than something you have to plan in advance for.
I wanted to look at how do AT’s proposed zones and prices compare to some of the cities we frequently compare ourselves against.
Sydney has easily the most confusing fare systems of the cities I’ve looked at, a great example of what not to do. Fares are effectively banded in to stages based on the distance you travel and confusingly vary depending on mode you use – although this is likely made worse by being poorly laid out. Below is the standard adult price (in Australian dollars) if using the Opal Smartcard. Cash prices are higher.
Trains – trains also have an off peak fare discount of 30% with peak defined as trips starting between 7am-9am and 4pm-6:30pm.
- 0-10km – $3.38 (NZ $3.70)
- 10-20km – $4.20 (NZ $4.60)
- 20-35km – $4.82 (NZ $5.30)
- 35-65km – $6.46 (NZ $7.10)
- Over 65km – $8.30 (NZ $9.10)
Buses and light rail – there are no off peak fares.
- 0-3km – $2.10 (NZ $2.30)
- 3-8km – $3.50 (NZ $3.9)
- Over 8km (buses only) – $4.50 (NZ $5.00)
Ferry – there are no off peak fares.
- 0-9km – $5.74 (NZ $6.30)
- Over 9km – $7.18 (NZ $7.90)
There are no pass options in Sydney but they do have a weekly cap of $60. However many people don’t even need to pay that. Another feature of the fare system is what they call the Weekly Travel Reward where get unlimited travel after taking 8 trips in a week. There is no limit on how long those trips have to be so I understand it’s not uncommon to see long distance commuters taking short trips in the middle of the day to get their trip numbers up. It is explained below.
Melbourne uses a zone based system having two zones within the metropolitan area although in reality the system is more of a hybrid between a zone and flat fare system. The inner zone extends roughly 10-15km from the city centre and applies to both trains and trams. Most tram stops are within zone 1 although a few sit outside it. In addition to this trams within the central city are free. The train map is below.
As metioned Melbourne has a bit of a hybrid system. Trips to the central city are actually just a single flat fare as the Zone 1+2 pass is priced the same as a Zone 1 pass. The difference is that travel only within Zone 2 is at a cheaper rate. I understand this wasn’t always the case but was effectively an election bribe to keep the far flung suburbs happy.
In addition to these fares there are daily caps on weekends and public holidays. Weekly passes are available for the price of 10 trips and if you want a longer pass you can purchase passes from 28 to 365 days for discounted rates. That makes an annual pass just over $1,500 (~NZ$1,650)
Brisbane – or more accurately South East Queensland – uses a zone based system with zones roughly 5km wide radiating out from the centre of Brisbane, although the exact distance varies.
Fares are calculated based on the number of zones you travel though and are charged at the prices below (I’ve only shown the top 10 as that more than covers trips across what would be trips across Auckland). You can see that there are discounts for off peak travel. This is defined as being from 8.30am to 3.30pm, after 7pm weekdays until 3am the following day and all day weekends and state-wide Queensland gazetted public holidays.
Perth uses a zone based system with zones 8-10km wide radiating from the city centre. To put things in perspective, in Auckland the Lower North Shore and Isthmus zones reach about 10km out from the city centre while Papakura would be in Zone 3.
The prices for the zones are shown below and there are a few things worth noting.
- The prices are obviously in Australian dollars and when converted to NZ Dollars the cash price in Perth seems to work out fairly similar to what AT are proposing for the HOP price in Auckland. Users get a discount off the cash price of 15% discount for using their smartcard however it is also possible to get a 25% discount if you have set your card up to automatically top up.
- If your journey is less than four zones there is a two hour time limit (like Auckland) however if it covers five or more zones you have three hours.
- A 2 Sections ticket is available and how Perth caters for short trips such as those which just start and end either side of a boundary. It is applied for trips of less than 3.2km and is only available on a single service i.e. no transfers.
- In addition to the standard fares there are concession fares for various groups and time limits for when the daily and family passes can be purchased. There are no weekly or monthly passes.
Vancouver is another city which uses zones although unlike Perth they aren’t concentric but tied to local government boundaries. Zone 1 would be similar in size to the City Centre and Isthmus zones.
Vancouver is in the middle of rolling out a smartcard system called Compass Card and it is expected to be completed by November. Current cash fares are shown below and as you can see there is a single adult price and also a concession price.
There are 10 trip tickets which can be bought which offer over a 20% saving on the ticket prices and when the Compass Card rolls out these will be withdrawn and replaced with stored value system with tickets working out as equivalent value – much like AT did with HOP. These prices are shown below.
To put things in perspective the compass card cost for each zone in NZ Dollars is roughly $2.50, $3.8 and $5.
As you can see Vancouver also has a price difference for evenings and weekends. They also have monthly passes available for each zone which work out with a break-even of about 40 trips per month. The most expensive monthly pass works out at around NZ$200.
Calgary keeps things very simple with flat fare allowing journeys on as many services as needed for up to 90 minutes of travel across the entire system. This means it can be very cheap for those living out on the edges of the city to the disadvantage of those taking just short journeys.
An adult cash fare is around NZ$3.80. There are also day and monthly passes available – the latter work out with a break-even of around 31 trips per month.
The inevitable question many will ask is if we’re paying too much in Auckland. That unfortunately is something that is much harder to answer as there are many other factors at play. At a quick glance Auckland’s fares will be cheaper than many of the Australian cities I’ve compared but that isn’t the case for all journeys. We’re generally more expensive than the Canadian cities who also tend to do well in areas such as farebox recovery due to solid good patronage and fairly well designed PT networks – like Auckland is moving to. There also other issues that need to be considered such as the balance between fares and subsidies and the elasticity between fares and patronage – some of which Peter looked at in some recent posts.
From looking at these different systems the things that stand out to me are how important issues such simplicity, fairness and integration of the system is. In this regard I think that both Perth and Vancouver seem to strike a good balance. The exercise has also highlighted some interesting outcomes around pass options. I’ll look to do a more detailed post about those in the future.
Lastly there are many more cities and fare structures that just what I’ve covered here but haven’t in the interest of time and space. If there’s one that you really like or dislike add it to the comments.