Auckland Transport made a number of announcements yesterday in relation to trains, some of which will be familiar to readers who follow our posts monitoring the AT board reports.

Ridership almost 19 million readers per year

Later this week, ridership on the rail network over a 12m period is expected to reach 19 million trips. Given it was at just over 18.4m to the end of Feb, this suggests March was huge, possibly over 2 million trips for first time – helped of course by the hugely popular Adele concerts. This also suggests we’ll hit 20 million trips in August or September, more than three years ahead of the target the government had previously set for the City Rail Link and which the Ministry of Transport said would not likely be met.

Transdev have had their contract extended through to January 2020

I’ve lost count of how many times this contract has been extended since Transdev’s predecessors first took over the rail operation in Auckland back in mid-2004 – first as Connex and then Veoila before changing to Transdev some years back. The contract has been extended multiple times over the years, including to avoid disruption during the roll out of electrification and our new trains. AT did initiate a tender for the trains back in in 2015 and even got as shortlisting three companies (Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev) before postponing it all later that year.

Over the last 13 years the service provided has definitely improved but we still have regular bouts of severe customer unfriendliness, for example like list night when, in the pouring rain, my train was unexpectedly terminated at Henderson and I was left to find another way home. Passengers weren’t told of this until after leaving Sunnyvale (one stop before) and no reason was given for doing so.

Improved customer service and ticketing

A handful of major stations have ticketing offices, operated by Transdev, and customer service centres operated by AT that provide PT information and journey planning. Amazingly, these have been silo’d operations with one not able to help the other. At provide an example of the issues that currently exist below.

Currently customers need to queue at one point to buy a cash ticket and queue at another to get journey planning advice and other information on AT Metro services.

Mr Main says, “Bringing the ticket offices and customer service centres together will provide a faster ticketing service and give our customers better service overall. This will be in place by the end of July.”

As you can see, the plan is to combine these together to provide better overall service.

The five stations that have these two offices are Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn, Papakura and Manukau. There is also a customer service centre at Panmure which will be changed to offer tickets too.

More to reduce fare evasion and vandalism

On-board Transport Officers coming

AT are planning to pilot on-board Transport Officers later this year.

New legislation that is expected to by passed by Parliament later this year will mean the Transport Officers will have greater powers to enforce fare payment by all and will be able to issue penalty notices to fare evaders as well as provide assistance to customers.

“We are proposing a pilot with 18 officers working on the AT Metro public transport network. Safety and security on public transport is important to our customers therefore it is important to us. The presence of legally empowered Transport Officers will provide this and provide a deterrent to people who do not want to pay their share and purchase a ticket. Our customers have also told us that equity in fare purchase to travel is very important to them.”

These Transport Officers will be new and not (currently) a replacement for existing on-board staff.

More Stations Gated

Gates will be installed at eight more stations over the coming 18 months. These stations are Otahuhu, Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Henderson, Parnell, Middlemore, Glen Innes and Papakura. They said there were more being looked at for potential gating but they weren’t ready to discuss those yet. It’s going to be interesting to see how they deal with some of these stations, for example will it reduce the number of entrances to stations like Manurewa and if so, what does that do to its usability?

I know many would like to see all stations should be gated but in my view it’s not needed. Gating is expensive and if the target is to reduce fare evasion, then as long as most passengers pass through a gate at one point on their journey they can be effective.

AT said yesterday that fare evasion was estimated to be 4-6%. Based on the figures publicly available, it would suggest AT are missing out on about $2-3 million of fares. Seeing people fare evade is annoying yet regardless of what is done, there will always be some level of fare evasion that occurs. The challenge for AT is to strike the right balance between enforcement and revenue collection. The cost of these new gates and of the transport officers could very well exceed the amount of additional revenue they collect.

AT say all of the initiatives will be complete by the end of 2019

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  1. I think one of the benefits of gating is that it might hopefully improve safety at some of the stations. It will help to reduce the amount of loiterers.

    1. I’ve done a couple of trips checking out the new stations (say Otahuhu) and such & without tagging on and off until the very end & so the total fare is only 1 zone as counts as transfers (on the rail network it says not to tag no and off from memory until at final destination). This will kill this kind of “extra cheap” travel (going no where?!) I guess unless you stay within the gates, not sure if it was legit or not. Even so, if any tagging done within 30mins it’s not too much.

  2. This is great news, the current staffing situation is very poor on the trains, many times there are no staff at all, as when a train is a 6-car, the TM is often in the other set. You get all sorts, fare evaders, extremely loud music, vandalism, knocking the windows real loud, all sorts of crazy. Makes for a very uncomfortable train ride. I welcome more staff and more gates. Although I would note you need staff on the gates or many evaders will just jump over them…

  3. I would say that is a very conservative estimate and would put it at more like 10% which would make that figure more like $10m pa. On top of that $10m figure is the costs of damage caused by vandalism which is well known to be related to fare evaders (if they are going to break the law over fare evasion then they are also likely to break the law in other ways – such as vandalism or other anti-social behaviour). Also there is the numbers of fare paying passengers that are put off travelling on PT due to the anti-social behaviour (so that is more revenue missing). Hard to say what the total cost of these are but something like $20m pa would be a conservative guess (and doesn’t include social costs from things like assault).

    1. “Also there is the numbers of fare paying passengers that are put off travelling on PT due to the anti-social behaviour” – totally agree, esp more vulnerable passengers. The only downside is the confrontations that occur with enforcement which can be a put off, but if we don’t do this the problem will just get worse & worse.

  4. Don’t gate Middlemore & Manurewa we are going to have to redo those stations for third main unless its future proofed.

    1. The gating of Middlemore is currently on hold until the third main is done, Manurewa needs to be gated long before the third main gets anywhere near it.

      1. Obviously by the article they are gating it soon, definitely before 2019, and AT don’t put stuff in the media unless they mean it or they would just keep quiet about it.

  5. “Train updates service
    With train updates you can register to receive text or email messages if your train is disrupted, cancelled or delayed by more than 10 minutes.”
    Doesnt that option work ?

    The introduction of gates probably will be for lost revenue purposes 50%, and reduce anti-social activities 50%

    1. Hahahahahahaha…

      Train 14 mins late by the time it arrived at my station this morning, no text alert. Though plenty of txts about lifts not working at Newmarket, and a couple of trains outside my travel time that were cancelled. (I haven’t used Newmarket in YEARS – and the txt alert system asks what time and where you usually travel so they know this too.)

      1. Services cancelled Today on Western, no SMS, seems many of these incidents just slip through the cracks and don’t get an SMS. Onecom hasn’t made any difference either, just changed the wording of the messages to be longer and the SMS now all come from different phone numbers so your messages app gets cluttered in no time…

        1. So much I’ve heard of the SMS thing, yet they still advertise it, completely useless in practice it seems, or people don’t set it up right.

        2. Yeah and they still continue to send embarrassing ones, i.e. saying “NewmarketNewmarketNewmarket” instead of just plain “Newmarket” or saying stations like “Tamaki Station” which don’t even exist. They are also very vague or often incorrect with the reason which often seems to be “Train Fault”, “Train Crew Matter”, “Customer Issue” or “Track Fault”. Sometimes the time or station isn’t even included so you don’t even know when/where its related to.

          It seems that nobody monitors these, because I see the same mistakes over and over.

        3. Need complete overhaul of information system (which I think they are doing/planning anyway). It’s when things are disrupted the most you want the “due” time showing for service the MOST, this is when it doesn’t work at ALL! So clunky old fashioned. When we had tsunami issue on Eastern line a while ago, all “due” times not displayed so saw people leave station, but I heard announcement & saw on Twitter trains on again, but people didn’t necessary see/hear that and gave up.

        4. A lot of people head for the rail bus stops and wait there meanwhile a train goes past… speaking of that, why are there no PA systems, PIDs and better infrastructure at rail replacement bus stops?

          Rail replacement buses are not going away, there will always be disruptions or maintenance line blocks. So why the hesitation to invest in these stops? Many of them are just a pole with maybe a timetable zip tied to them… some even lack the “rail bus stop” sign so the drivers just drive straight past like you are not there…

  6. More heavy-handed punitive measures with planned gates and ‘officers’ – all at great expense that “could very well exceed the amount of additional revenue they collect”!
    Why bother??
    It’s time to get serious about attracting the bulk of commuters onto decent, user-friendly public transport – make it free at the point of use and share the cost fairly among all who benefit: which is all of us! And especially businesses who will benefit the most as traffic congestion become a terrifying memory!
    No fares= no ‘fare evasions’,
    No cash box= no attacks on drivers,
    No ticketing = drivers can focus on driving
    No fares= no extremely expensive ticketing systems.

    1. Roger, yeah, but naah. If you’re not going to police it, may as well make all travel free for everyone. And as that is never ever going to happen, then it needs to be policed. Last time I was on a train in Auckland I was way out on the Western line and there were a whole bunch of kids just playing the system, getting on without paying, telling the inspector that the machine wouldn’t accept their money, and there was nothing he could do about it.

      Do it once, do it properly. People that have paid full fare quite reasonably get really hacked off with others who quite clearly are rooting it.

      1. @ Roger. Having watched fare evaders who ride the rail network for free treat their free rides with all the respect of a public toilet I concluded when they pay, they have some respect for the deal.

        Idealistically it’s great but in practice it doesn’t work.

    2. Roger, I agree with your basic premise on this, i.e. subsidise the service to share the costs among all who benefit, not just passengers. However I would stop short of making it free. Much cheaper, certainly, but not free, for the reasons other commenters have given.

      The advantages that you cite apply more to buses than trains (e.g. Drivers handling cash and tickets) , however a low fare-policy would benefit trains as follows:

      Low fares = less incentive for fare evasion,
      Low fares = possibility of single flat-fare everywhere so very simple ticketing-system, no tag-off required
      Very-simple ticketing system = no need for train-staff to handle cash etc

      Last time I was in Los Angeles the standard fare for a single-ride anywhere in the huge metro area was $1.50 (I believe it has gone up to $1.75 now), and an all-day pass was only $5.00. These sort of fare-levels make evasion hardly worth it, and less of a loss if it does occur.

      1. Tagging on and off provides fantastic data that in turn leads to better service improvement.

        But I agree, fare evasion control absolutely must be on cost-benefit basis.

        Gating can generally only happen with a whole lot of other upgrades that improve station quality, including staffing, so there are other benefits to this…

        1. Tagging off is an unnecessary imposition on passengers for no direct benefit to them. In my experience, those administrations that do not require it are often those that have got a good handle on passenger flows already, and have made the necessary service-improvements already. E.g. many major cities in Europe that I have experienced. I don’t think I have ever had to tag off anywhere, except in NZ (which is very slow in making significant service improvements).

          Far easier for the passenger to pre-purchase unlimited travel within a zone and not be charged for every bit of every journey, plus a penalty if they forget to tag off.

        2. Melbourne, Sydney and I think Brisbane all have tagging off. The tube in London does as well. The BART in San Francisco had tagging off when I was there 10 years ago, but most other American cities seem to have a flat fare.

          I only find tagging off a hassle if I have to queue for it.

        3. Ugh, you want me to pre purchase a ticket every time I travel? I’d rather have the card charge the lowest fare for whatever zones I happen to use.

          That’s the benefit for the passenger, not needing to plan in advance or overpay.

        4. Don’t be silly Nick. You pre-purchase travel within a chosen area for a specified time-option – be it a day, week or month. This way, you know exactly what your day’s, week’s or month’s access to the system will cost you, without hard-to-keep-track-of deductions for every single journey. This may be a smart-card which you can top-up and re-use, or it works just as well with a cardboard ticket + magnetic stripe. Single-journey tickets or deductions are of course available if that’s what you want.

          Jezza, I believe you are right that more and more cities are moving to the tag-off requirement, but many still seem to offer zonal fare/ fixed-price options too. In Brisbane a couple of years ago I seem to remember buying a train ticket at the airport which entitled me to a day’s travel on the network. Though I may have had to present it to get out of gated-stations which I guess is equivalent to tag-off, but no individual-journey deductions applied.

        5. Yes, I think I used something like that last time I was in Brisbane (a few years ago now). You effectively have to tag off at a gated train station but not a bus or all other stations.

          They used to have a day trip ticket in Auckland, not sure it survived Hop and integrated fares?

  7. “Our customers have also told us that equity in fare purchase to travel is very important to them.” Say it in English AT.

    I am guessing AT have finally hired brain surgeons who have told them that paying passengers HATE watching fare evaders travelling the vast part of the network for free! Well done AT for finally recognising this even if you have to use ridiculous corporate speak to hide fare evasion in flowery terms like “equity in fare purchase to travel”

  8. Good to see more stations being gated. Hopefully this time they actually go through with it and we see all these stations gated by September 2018. This post from three years ago talks about gating 8 stations (including Parnell which isn’t open yet) by the beginning of 2016. To the best of my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong) of those 8 only 2 (New Lynn and Manukau) have actually been gated. Also it would be good to see Panmure gated soon as it is one of the busiest stations on the network and will become much busier once AMETI is completed

    1. I think Panmure has a very high proportion of users that pass through Britomart, so they are picked up there, which is why it isn’t as high up the priority list as it’s volumes would suggest.

  9. “AT said yesterday that fare evasion was estimated to be 4-6%”
    Where do they get this figure? TIs would find that 4-6% of those checked are fare evaders, TIs are on around 2% of trains and the worst fare evaders can spot TIs and wait for the next train.

    I agree that it is not cost effective to gate every station but strategic gating is good value, having either the departure or arrival station of the bulk of rail passengers (without leaving convenient station for tagging on like the current ones Grafton, Parnell, Remurea and Orakei) will slash fare evasion on reduce the pressure on fare paying passengers.

  10. Matt, what time was the train you say was unexpectedly terminated at Henderson?

    I have looked through the logs for last night and can’t see any Western service prematurely terminated at Henderson, except the two that are timetabled to terminate there (the 19:20 and 22:10 Britomart-Henderson). Are you sure it was not one of these you were on?

    If you had to “find another way home”, this suggests you were on the last service of the evening which is indeed the 22:10 Britomart-Henderson terminating. If so, this would explain why “no reason was given”, as everything was running as-timetabled.

    1. Yeah the whole Henderson thing is a bit daft, there is even more services in the morning and another one in the evening which start/end there. I get the depot is in Henderson and its more convenient for crew rostering/rotations or whatever, but if your going to Sturges Rd, Ranui or Swanson then it doesn’t help at all.

      1. Most trains starting or finishing at Henderson Depot go to Swanson first. There are only a few that start/finish at Henderson and miss Swanson. For the last train of the night from town to go no further than Henderson is not particularly helpful to customers. One would think it could easily continue to Swanson then run empty back to the depot.

        1. Yeah, beats me, I asked the Maori warden and he said every night people get caught by it and have to find alternative transport.

          On Fri-Sat night the last train at 12:40am goes all the way to Swanson… so why can’t the ridiculously early finishing 10:10pm weekday one too…

  11. Would gating allow later services on the weekend between gated stations? It is a serious pain that that the last rail service on the Western line from Britomart is at 12.40am on Friday and Saturday. How about another two until 1.40am?

    1. 12:40am is pretty good, I am often going out on a Thursday night (last train service 10:10pm) and having to get the 153/154 bus at 12:00am which takes me 3-4x longer to get home.

      There is the N13 Niterider, which sort of goes near some stations but not others, but only has 90 min frequency – and of course takes significantly longer…

      There was a 1:30am train service for some events, so they can do it I guess?

      The NEX goes to 12am weekdays and 3am Fri-Sat nights, and that is the Shores equivalent of rail, so why isn’t the rail network following suite.

  12. How many staff is too many?

    Drivers, Train Managers, security at stations, staff at gated stations, now plus Transport Officers????

    I really don’t understand why train managers or the security guards or the AT staff at the stations can’t be ticket enforcement too? The armourguard contract for monitoring all the stations must be worth huge dollars!

    1. Why would that be? The notion that people who live further from the city are not active as late is a bit backward. I’ve seen more people on last Swanson train between Sturges and Swanson than I’ve seen on early morning and counter-peak trains in the same area.

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