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.”
- 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?