Yesterday Auckland Transport announced that at the end of the month they are changing some public transport fares after just reducing them less than six months ago when the rolled out their Simplified Fares scheme.

Bus, train and ferry fares will be changing from 29 January 2017.

Auckland Transport is required to review fares annually to ensure they keep pace with operating costs and a portion of cost recovery from fares.

Colin Homan, Group Manager, AT Development says Auckland Transport has a target to recover 50 percent of the cost of public transport from fares, but this is currently at 46.3 percent.

“Compared to many other cities, Auckland short distance fares are relatively low so we have targeted some small increases for fares for some shorter trips. Fares for longer trips, beyond 4 Zones will not change.  We want to promote reducing congestion by making public transport fares attractive for people making longer journeys.”

Mr Homan says public transport in Auckland still represents very good value for customers.  Auckland Transport has added a number of new services over the past year, such as the introduction of 65 double decker buses, the roll out of a new bus network in South Auckland, the addition of 19 km of bus lanes in the year to June 2017, rail service increases on the Western Line, as well as Simpler Fares (which allows customers to take a bus, train or combo and pay just the one fare for the entire journey).

Mr Homan says that over the past 12 months Auckland Transport has reduced the cost of public transport by on average 7 percent through Simpler Fares and encouraging customers on cash to transition to HOP, which represents at least a 20 percent saving.

He says in the year to the end of December 84.8 million trips were taken on public transport in Auckland, an increase of 4.6 percent since July.

“Even though the average fare increase is 1.7 percent, the average cost of travel for customers remains lower than it was at this time last year.”

Main changes

  • AT HOP bus & train fares for 1 Zone, 2 Zones and 4 Zones increase by 5 cents and 10 cents
  • Cash bus & train fares for 1 Zone and 2 Zones increase by 50 cents
  • AT HOP tertiary student bus and rail fares increase by 4 to 8 cents between 1 Zone and 4 Zones to ensure a consistent discount compared to AT HOP adult fares
  • AT HOP Monthly Bus & Train Pass increases by $10
  • Ferry fares reflect a mix of increases and decreases to continue the alignment by distance travelled in preparation for full ferry fare integration
  • AT HOP adult and child fares are at least 25 percent lower than the equivalent cash fare
  • AT HOP child fares are at least 40 percent lower than adult AT HOP
  • AT HOP tertiary fares are at least 20 percent lower than adult AT HOP

Here are a few thoughts I’ve had about this, in no particular order

If you’re paying by HOP, and you should be, the main changes suggested certainly aren’t huge at 5 to 10 cents per trip. For a regular commuter doing two bus or train trips a day this equates to $25-50 a year. Also, note that the 3-zone fares actually come down slightly too. The new Adult bus and train fares are below.

As a reminder, four zones cover all trips from the main urban area to the city centre

But what I do find odd is that this comes so quickly after Simplified Fares rolled out in mid-August. With Simplified Fares one of the aims was have as few people as possible negatively affected by the change. Perhaps AT didn’t get their modelling quite right and went a bit too far in this regard. We’ve certainly been seeing the farebox recovery rate (below) fall in recent months since the introduction of Simplified Fares and the later the New Network in the South.

I also get the feeling some in the organisation might have panicked without giving the changes a chance to settle in. Big changes like the New Network or fares, are not quick fixes and time is definitely needed for the public to adjust their travelling behaviour based on those changes.

One group of customers that have had some wins is users of some ferry services, most notably Hobsonville Point users who see some decent trip savings – 50c per trip for Adult HOP users. This is part of AT’s goal of aligning ferry fares for similar distance trips.

One area I find extremely disappointing is that AT have once again put up the monthly pass, this time by another $10 to $210. Monthly pass customers tend to be some of AT’s most loyal. As a regular monthly pass user myself, I find I’m much more likely to use PT for a wider range of trips when I have a pass than when I don’t have one. AT continuing to push up the price of the pass seems to be part of a wider strategy to stop people using it all together which, in my view, would be a huge mistake. If anything, they should be doing the opposite and trying to make it more attractive to encourage more people to use PT.

A wider issue at play here is the NZTA’s arbitrary farebox recovery target that by mid-2018 50% of all PT operational costs nationally need to come from fares. Whilst that sounds good in theory, it’s a really blunt instrument that is likely meaning we’re not extracting the most value out of our PT system. For example, what if a 40% farebox ratio delivered a better overall economic outcome due to moving more people and taking an the edge off congestion.

What do you think of the fare changes?

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  1. The 50% argument is ludicrous, particularly in b smaller cities or fringe areas where PT acts as a vital public service for those who can’t drove

  2. Seems a bit short sighted. You would expect them to wait a bit longer (at least another year) and see the impact following:

    – March Madness and the increase in capacity they has been brought on since last year (how many new DD are in service. How many new DD’s are currently sitting idle waiting for new routes!)
    – new routes as part of PTOM process
    – change in cost structure as part of PTOM process

    I would have thought that rather than aim for a steady 50%, you would make changes (such as the fare deduction) and then expect the number to adjust, the slowly trend back to the 50% mark. If you are rigidly tied to the 50% number (as a short term rather than long term goal) it stops you from making bold moves that will have significant impact on peoples decision to use PT.

  3. The average monthly pass user would catch 2 buses a day, 22 times a month.
    So for $200, they get 44 trips @ $4.54
    When the new pass price comes in, this equates to $4.77 per trip -an increase of 0.23.

    Why are they being charged more per trip than any other user?
    The largest single fare increase is just 0.10.

    What gives AT?
    Milking the cash cow much?

    1. Personally I don’t believe in any passes. But I do believe in a daily cap of 2 fares and a weekly cap of 10 fares (it would get difficult to determine if some trips are for more or less zones, but not impossible). So basically if you are a regular commuter you get free use of PT outside your commute.
      Either that or make off peak virtually free.

  4. I think all this shows is the 50% Farebox Target is to rigid to have in every circumstance, the Auckland Network is going through massive changes with Simpler Fares and the rolling out of the New Network with the PTOM contracts, some leeway surely needs to be given on the target due to the circumstances.

  5. Yep, Joyce’s idiotic blanket 50℅ fare recovery was a good way to discourage PT use, not encourage it and dare I say intentionally so.

    Still AT play the myopic accountants game and make cars that little bit more attractive.

  6. The 50% farebox threshold is a Joycean concoction, without any real work behind it as far as I know, please point to any if you know of it. Is 50% funded by users, 25% by other road users, and 25% by property owners the ideal balance for PT operations? Please show your workings. As it stands it looks like an ideological imposition from a planet that assumes financial transfers to unlock economic value are wrong, or at least are wrong for selected outcomes, and not so much for others. Beware able politicians who slide slickly between the financial and the economic; it is no mistake, Joyce is not stupid so when he does it there is a deeper purpose afoot.

    1. The fact it is exactly 50 % says all you need to know about whether there is any working behind it. Whoever thought this up failed the first principle of making numbers up, make sure they have a couple of decimal places on the end of them so they at least look calculated.

      1. It should be a range link the inflation band the Reserve bank aims for. And even then the Reserve bank only has to aim for it on a long term basis (inflation has been under their 1-3% target for a while now).

        Given they are just making up numbers, it should be a target of 50% with a accepted range down to 40% on the basis you want to lure people in to make it more successful.

        1. “on the basis you want to lure people in to make it more successful”

          See, that’s the flaw in your reasoning right there as far as Mr Joyce is concerned.

  7. The 50% thing is stupid to begin with, public transport is a basic right, it should come with no strings attached. Secondly, if not as many people as expected are using these services, how is making them more expensive going to change this, surely less people will catch a bus if they are being charged more for it? Thirdly why are the good people that use public transport being stung because there are less good people that do not use PT? Have you ever seen the protests that go on in Sao Paulo when they mess with the public transport fares? Auckland is incomparable but continuing to penalise those that seek to reduce congestion and pollution is ludicrous. The ongoing issue with public transport is that people don’t compare it to the cost of owning a private vehicle, they compare it to the cost of gas, and in such a inadequate calculation, a car does very well. In any case, having changed the zoning system to make public transport much more attractive, they now set about reversing that positive step. I guess they have to justify that dumb tunnel in Waterview somehow.

  8. None of it will affect me as I won’t be using PT until I get my gold card. Then I will use it as often as I can. But $5.50 for two zones is just going to cause people grief and cause delay as the driver will have to pay $4.50 change. I would guess most cash customers have either a $5 or a $10.

      1. Didn’t they adjust cash fares to whole dollars 6 months ago for exactly that reason?

        I must admit I’m surprised at how big the gulf has now become between some cash and AT HOP fares. Obviously there has to be an appreciable difference in the fares to encourage regular users to move to a card, but two-zone cash fares are more than double the AT HOP equivalent from 29 January onwards.

        I bet it must suck to be on a very limited income for whatever reason (and under 65), and have to pay for the occasional PT trip as you go, rather than buying a $10 card and topping it up with additional money. Many if not the majority reading this site won’t be in that situation, but it’s probably the case for more people than we might think.

        Do we actually have the balance right to incentivise cash payers to move to HOP, rather than outright punishing them?

        1. Need to be careful. Zero deposit would allow people to get HOP card for free, touch on, chuck the card (now in negative balance) after disembarking, and then rinse + repeat. Never pay anything, and squander HOP cards as you go.

          This is s something that happened in Brisbane even with a $5 deposit on go cards, so they increased it to $10 there too. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t happen here, especially for long rail trips where the fare is relatively high.

          One alternative is to require a minimum card balance, say $5, but that’s equivalent to a deposit so doesn’t get around the barrier.

        2. Agree Stu – they can’t be free for that reason. but there is no reason a $10 card can’t come with $10 credit loaded onto it. The occasional user might have to stump up a little more the first time they travel, but it doesn’t actually cost them anymore.

        3. Not sure if they still do it but when I was in London, you paid a refundable deposit on the Oyster card. While they probably binned any cards that got returned, at least it gave the card some value so people didn’t treat them as disposable.

          it worked good for tourists who could get the money back and for locals, they had an incentive not to lose the card.

        4. Jezza, they do come with credit loaded on: they go into negative. In fact you can spend up to $11.19 negative with an eight zone fare, provided you had 1c of credit to start with.

        5. Nick – I thought you paid $20 for a HOP card with $10 loaded on at the moment, but I could be wrong. You are right thought about the flaw in my suggestion that you have pointed out.

        6. Random idea (not sure if workable): print cash tickets for 1 and 2 stage fares so they are effectively also vouchers to get a slight discount off the purchase of a HOP card.

          “It’s not too late to save with AT HOP – keep this ticket and present it at any retailer for $2 off your new AT HOP card, and start saving on all your bus, train and ferry travel. Valid before [date 1-2 days after ticket printed], one discount per new HOP card only.”

          Most people won’t avail themselves of the offer, so AT will still get to keep most of the windfall towards the 50% target set by The Powers That Be – but it’d help upsell a few more people on AT HOP for relatively minimal cost. You’d only have to buy one or two cash tickets and see the message before it sinks in that transferring to AT HOP is a good idea.

          It also might lower the barrier slightly for low-income or very occasional users, who instead of being penalised with the cash differential can effectively put it towards a HOP card and get access to cheaper travel from that point on.

        7. Jezza, cards are $10, minimum top up is $5. You can buy a card without topping up (i.e. online) but you need to put the first $5 on before you can use it so effectively you have to add the $5 credit on.

          Further to that, you still get the ability to go into negative balance for the last trip, which for the longest trip is up to $11.90.

          So in practice, it’s $15 for a card with $6.80 (one zone last trip) up to $16.90 (eight zone) of credit on it.

  9. 46.3% is pretty damn close to 50% though right? Why the heck worry about that statistic when there’s so many other that AT could be looking at to improve!!!

    Agree 100% about the monthly pass – It should be the ‘best value by far’ in terms of a purchase. Once a customer / user has made the initial outlay and purchased the said monthly pass, then surely that is an incentive to ‘get the most you can’ for it.

  10. This is quite a considerable backwards step! Yes eventually fares will need to rise with costs etc but now is not the time for this.
    They have a new network to bed in and need to get people using it. If anything they should do the opposite and reduce fares temporarily (more than they did with the IT).
    The worst thing is the punitive charges that monthly pass holders are facing. AT are effectively punishing their biggest users and the ones that are most likely to encourage others onto PT. There really aren’t extra costs to administer these monthly passes (all automated now).
    The farebox recovery SOI is above the midpoint of the upper and lower red lines. As there is expected to be good growth from the IT and NN those can only help improve the farebox recovery so it is very premature of AT to put these fares up. They really should postpone this by a year.

    Side-note – just looking at that last zone map it strikes me that around Mt Albert Station wouldn’t it be fantastic if a new HR line was constructed from there alongside the motorway through to Westgate (and then in the future extended through past Hobsonville to the Shore) in place of the proposed NW busway.
    Would improve frequency for those inner suburbs (Eden Terrace, Kingsland, Mt Albert) while providing a high capacity RT out West (serving a different enough catchment to the existing Western Line).

    1. The problem with having a NW line join the Western line at Mt Albert is it would likely forever restrict the capacity of the Western line and NW line to 10 min frequencies as the combined western lines probably wouldn’t be able to have more than 5 min headway in the CRL.

      Any NW line should have a separate entry point into the CBD.

        1. If I recall correctly the initial plan was for 15tph each way at peak so 4 minute headway (on average), with the long term plan to go to 24tph in each direction so 2.5 min headway.

        2. So whats your problem with a NW rail line then? The only looser is Grafton that can be fixed by an Onehunga to Mt Eden (or Henderson) service. Then NW to east and west to south, once the NS line is built you can have NS to east, NW to south and West to airport.

        3. ‘Then NW to east and west to south’ – I agree this pattern is workable, but it makes the grade separated east link into the CRL at Mt Eden a waste of money and makes for a circuitous route from K Rd to anywhere on the Southern line.

      1. I seem to remember a train every minute on the Piccadilly line in London. Is there a reason we can’t achieve that – AT being overly safety conscious?

        1. I’m pretty sure I can remember the arrivals board showing two trains in the next minute and one 2 minutes away.
          They might not have been scheduled for every minute, but they regularly arrived within a minute of each other.

        2. Yes, I think I’ve seen that as well on occasions, I imagine they do bunch together at times like all public transport. There are multiple running patterns on the Piccadilly line so they would get out of sync at times.

        3. The highest service level on the London Underground is 35/36 tph on the Victoria line, but any comparison with London’s tube lines – where all trains on any particular line are identical; no level crossings; in normal service all lines are completely segregated from everything else (with a couple of exceptions), and with few branches; trains are timed to the half- or quarter-minute; all trains are driver only and most are automatically driven – is a bit remote!

  11. A single metric of fare box recovery encourages operator to run inefficient.

    The metric should be revised to combine fare box recovery with patronages growth.

  12. ;-D Up the price for Hop also its too cheap really 1.85 to get to work is not fair to ratepayers. If you go to work by bus from Zone one you can afford abit more than that 1.85 is a joke , to most people paying a lot in Auckland for transport needs.

  13. So they’re bumping up fare prices to get to 50% recovery of costs. What are they doing to reduce operating costs and to make PT an efficient, customer based service?

  14. If we had an effective Carbon Tax or Congestion Charge paid by motorists then this could be used to fund PT. I believe that in the not-too-distance future our politicians will recognise the incredible benefits of PT and users will actually be paid to use it.

  15. One thing I don’t understand: Why run the CityLink on its own fare structure? Any who transfers already gets it for free so is unaffected, and anyone who doesn’t transfer would still only be paying $1.85. I think that’s reasonable for people who avoid a walk and/or taxi trip to the top of town.

    Kind of undermines integrated fares to have the CityLink on its own fare system doesn’t it?

      1. Hmm I guess there are two things holding that back, firstly the fact that ferries aren’t integrated yet (Inner Link very useful for getting from the ferry terminal), and maybe that the Inner Link is used by a lot of residents and maybe people using parking buildings? I would hazard that most people on the Inner Link didn’t get there by bus or f

        For the outer lin, kust the difference between where you get on and where you get off. So either one zone or two.

        1. Understood. But it’d simply be the same as for ferry users who are connecting to other bus/rail service that depart from Britomart.

          Seems a little picky-and-choosy if you ask me.

        2. I think it’s more like throwing them a bone until the ferry fares are sorted out. Sure its the same for all other buses and trains, but the inner link is clearly designed to be *the* inner city distributor shuttle.

  16. “the addition of 19 km of bus lanes in the year to June 2017” is given as one of the reasons for increases.
    I would be fascinated to know how many kms has happened until now? I would be more interested to know how this compares with the kms of roads that have been widened in the year so far and will be widened in the year to June 2017.

    Judging by my continual experience of connector services on the Shore being adversely affected by congestion we are going to have to make better efforts if we want to encourage more to use public transport.

  17. The fare recovery target is complete bollocks and in my opinion is holding the utilization and effectiveness of public transport back. Remove this (or drop it significantly) to allow other funding sources, therefore increasing the subsidy and watch PT usage soar!

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