Auckland’s high public transport fares have been highlighted again with the Herald reporting:

Auckland has the third most expensive public transport in the world, according to a report by Deutsche Bank.

In Auckland you will need to shell out US$122.90, or NZ$174.74 for a monthly ticket to get around the city by bus, train and ferry, says the 2017 report.

Only London at NZ$247 to travel on the tube for a month and Dublin at $187.11 are more expensive than Auckland in the study of nearly 50 cities.

Wellington is the 12th most expensive city at $143.89 for a monthly ticket.

The article is almost a carbon copy of one a year earlier.

The results seem to be based on this site, which crowd sources prices on a variety of items from around the world. That probably helps to explain the weird result as $174 doesn’t match either the price of a monthly pass ($215) or the average price a user would pay if using PT for their daily commute using HOP (e.g. $125 for a 2-zone or $182 for a 3-zone commute). The result for Auckland is now showing at $191 per month which is based on 38 price points while Wellington is at $142 with 10 price points.

While the exact figure might be accurate, the overall trend is. As we’ve discussed before, when looking at some of the more detailed benchmarks, our fares per km are much higher comparator cities and have been for some time.

The graph below shows how the average fares have changed over the last decade. The decrease is caused by the introduction of integrated fares.

The main cause of the problem is ultimately to do with the level of funding provided for PT.

Today, Twyford said the Government had put additional funding into the Budget for public transport and was keen to see what plans AT has to achieve that shift.

“There is a range of things they could do, including providing more frequent services, putting in place more bus priority measures or T3 lanes for example, or reducing public transport fares. I look forward to seeing their plans, backed by evidence, on what will work best,” he said.

The debate between using any extra funding for more services or to reduce fares is always an interesting one, as I talked about less than two months ago. In my view, any extra funding should mainly go towards improving services to make PT more attractive and usable for a wider number of people, however, there should also be some aspects of fares looked at, such as off-peak discounts and concessions to make fares fairer.

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64 comments

  1. We have the most expensive everything in the world, PT would look cheap compared to food or internet or power or rent or houses.

    1. I think Internet is pretty cheap actually. I pay around $80/month for landline, 100MB/sec unlimited fibre and five favourite numbers. I don’t think that’s too bad considering we churn through around 600GB/month of data.

      1. $29 in Uk for unlimited ADSL including line. Not sure about fibre but I don’t even have that option here.

      2. If you are able to look over others pay , you know NZ, (we) are paying at sky high! Where and why are we pay that much? Fiber at most countries already a basic, not luxury any more, but price only at quarter of what NZ pay.

  2. Living in NZ is like living in hell, everything are so expensive, chicken price, pork price, fuel price amongst the top three world price. Living cost in Auckland is at the top of the world.

    Why? Where the money gone and why? Why people living there remain silent? Are they fool or are they don’t care? Are they let people steal their money making PRICE are such expensive? I wish the Government can really look at it if there were people taking big benefit from their residents.

    1. Why does everyone think of fuel? Our fuel prices aren’t that bad and most of the cost comes from tax rather than companies gauging.
      Just did a search for some UK prices:
      Unlimited ADSL broadband: £15 a month including line rental.
      2.27l of milk: £1.09
      Petrol: ~£1.20 per litre

      1. Unlimited ADSL at NZ at around NZ$70 per month, or £36 per month.

        Fuel at NZ at around NZ$2 per liter, but AU at around AU$1.3 or NZ$1.4

        Not high??

        1. Hmmm… let’s compare two countries with unsustainable lifestyles and economies and try to find some wisdom there… hmmmmm. Maybe we all need to pay more for fuel and stop using so much of it.

        2. Well the difference is probably fuel tax. Maybe they subsidise their roads from federal or state taxes more than we do. Either way you still pay.

        3. Four major banks are Australian owned and each sending hundreds of millions of dollars there every year out of the NZ economy. The Aussies treat us as a cash cow to see them thru boom and bust cycles and for a number of years they’ve been in a mineral industry bust.

          1. All four of them are listed on both stock exchanges and generally the ownership in each country matches the relative population. Plenty of the profits stay in NZ.

      1. Because too much people don’t having chance to live in other countries, only look at self piece of land and feel it heaven here!

    2. “Where the money gone and why?” Well, quite a lot of it went on building roads, and if NZTA had its way, a whole lot more would too.

      1. Simply, it’s most people feel and the explanation come out from. Let put this into figure and figure out the number. The Government shall put out all these figures:

        1. How much we spent on buying, shall our buying price is higher, find out why we cannot buy a lower, learn it from others how and why they can get a lower price. Fuel is Global price, we shall at par of most countries.

        2. How much those company charge us, why and why don’t we control them to a fair price? Fuel companies shall charge at a permitted premium instead of whatever they add on top.

        3. Figure out how much tax NZ added on top, compare it with other major countries and figure out why our tax added is higher, why and where the monies gone.

        Don’t just silly believe we are having a better life styles, than you need to pay higher. Look at other cities why they can spend less, we are having much higher living cost than London , New York, Tokyo, Paris, Melbourne….. All those much bigger city than Auckland. Find out why, don’t just believe from what your ear heard, let look around others major cities and compare, mates…

  3. I don’t understand, Matt. We are something like 3rd most expensive country for PT in the world. And you suggest: ” In my view, any extra funding should mainly go towards improving services to make PT more attractive and usable for a wider number of people, however, there should also be some aspects of fares looked at, such as off-peak discounts and concessions to make fares fairer.”

    I disagree. The fares must be lowered as a matter of urgency. They are absolutely preventing mode shift. The fares have fed the “we can’t afford PT” mindset that ends up in equity arguments against fuel taxes, congestion pricing and anything that might move the costs of driving onto drivers.

    The message has to get through: PT fares must be lower, PT funding must be higher, PT infrastructure and services must be better, subsidies to driving and parking must be stopped. All of it is required. Let’s not accept some divided and conquered position.

    1. Personally I’d leave peak fares where they are and focus any reductions on off-peak and also widening the net to anyone who has a community services card for a concession fare (should be the same as a child’s fare).

      1. Why? That’s still the same mindset; that we can’t demand better. Our PT fares are too high. That includes the peak fares.

        1. Mainly because I don’t want to see a National government in 2020. I’d rather see the savings targeted so we can spend more on improvements to the network, no point providing cheap fares if the network coverage is patchy.

          1. OK, so that would suggest the funding should go into anything that is harder to reverse. That makes sense. Are you thinking that increasing bus frequencies requires the purchase of buses, so that’s harder to reverse, for example?

            I can see the merit, but I would imagine that a holistic improvement to all aspects of the network at the same time, including lowering fares, would end up more cost-effective.

            In the end, wouldn’t a substantial shift in mode-share, and the accompanying change in public demand for how investment is allocated, be the strongest legacy to leave behind?

          2. More I’d prefer Labour didn’t try and sink the boat this term and do their best to be around for nine year, that would ensure the opportunity to make some more significant long term changes and for them to survive a change of government.

            Nine years of significant changes and visible improvements will make it very hard for National to reverse any of these.

        2. I think that normal fares are quite reasonable. I used to commute from Meadowbank to Point Chevalier for less than $3 a day (as a student). That’s cheap!
          But more should be done to make marginal trips less expensive (fare caps), encourage off-peak travel, and make PT more competitive for groups (family or group discounts).

          In Europe, some commentators are saying that travel has become too cheap (whether PT or private motor vehicle), so that demand is never satisfied and the apparent need exists to build ever more transport corridors, which then destroy landscapes and communities.

          1. I guess proof’s in the pudding. What’s our mode share split like?

            As for transport corridors, we’re certainly expanding those. I cannot understand why there is not more road reallocation going on (to space efficient modes) to prevent this. It’s a no-brainer.

    2. I don’t think we should decrease fares to increase ridership when as it is our peak trains are pretty much full, our stations don’t have enough shelter and you end up queuing in the rain just to tag off because there is only one post. Seems to me like the infrastructure needs to be slightly ahead of the ridership if more people are going to want to use public transport.

    3. If the system is improved we can achieve both goals. Rail lines cost the same to maintain whether passenger trains are full or empty. If we run more trains and pick up more people, revenue goes up faster than cost. So it should be possible to reduce the fares required if costs remain similar.

      The elephant in the room for NZ is taxation. Overall personal tax take by government (18.1%) is one of the lowest in the OECD. The average is 25%. So there is less government money to spend subsidising things like public transport (or schools and hospitals). And yes road capital spending (1.3% of GDP) was equal highest in the OECD.
      http://www.compareyourcountry.org/taxing-wages?lg=en

      1. Yes, we are eating into our ecological reserves and limiting the opportunities of young people by not paying our way with higher taxes.

  4. Back on my old hobby-horse: why on earth are ferry fares not integrated into the rest of the fare structure? When you have serious traffic congestion on Lake Road and Onewa Road, surely the opportunity is there to beef up ferry infrastructure and the bus feeder network at Devonport, Bayswater and Birkenhead, and try to shift some of the drivers who currently clog those roads onto a bus/ferry combo. And a prerequisite in my view is to make the bus/ferry option attractive by bringing ferry fares down to a level where they are truly integrated into the rest of the HOP system.

    Yes, it might mean that AT or the operators have to get more boats (surely a great B/C ratio compared with the costs of congestion) and to improve the schedules (Devonport and Birkenhead could become part of the Frequent Network, along with bus routes from Devonport to Smales Farm via Takapuna and Milford, and Birkenhead Point to Constellation via Highbury and Glenfield, but these are small change ideas compared with some of the other infrastructure developments which are in play, none of which impact directly on the North Shore. If not this, AT, what IS your strategy longer-term for the North Shore?

      1. Actually, that’s something which has become “fact” through repetition on Greater Auckland, but which doesn’t withstand scrutiny. We know that ferries meet 80% of their operational costs (ie 20% subsidised) while train/bus services meet about 45% (ie about 55% subsidised, more or less). Ferry fares are approximately twice as much as train/bus fares, so if they were halved to bring them in line with train/bus fares, you could expect that ferry fares would meet about 40% of operational costs. That is, the subsidy level per passenger would turn out more or less the same as the subsidy per train/bus passenger.

        And if more passengers were attracted per ferry trip as a consequence, the degree of subsidy for ferries would get even closer to that of trains and buses.

        Obviously, a more sophisticated analysis would provide a greater degree of accuracy, but this back-of-the-envelope analysis suggests strongly that the oft-repeated dictum that ferries are inherently more expensive and therefore fares need to be higher, is actually substantially false.

        I don’t really understand why so many here on GA seem to be so negative on the integration of the ferries into the HOP fare structure. It shouldn’t be a big deal, and might be the catalyst in getting lots of people completely off the congested road network and onto a very time-efficient (and, I’d argue) cost-efficient transport mode, right to the heart of the city.

        1. One of the reasons the ferries have such great farebox recovery is because they can keep using vessels during the day on tourist services and there is a lot of bi-directional travel on the Devonport and Waiheke services. The other commuter services have poor farebox recovery.

          There is probably not a lot more demand for tourist services such as Rangitoto and cruises so there is a real risk the FB recovery could drop dramatically if fares were lowered, with a double whammy of reduced revenue and significant capital costs of purchasing boats just for peak runs.

          In saying that I agree ferries should be integrated, I’d just make the harbour an additional fare stage

          1. Ferries don’t have great farebox recovery. *Two of the ferry routes* have great farebox recovery, the others have awful farebox recovery. It’s the fact that the vast majority of ferry passenger use the two main routes that make the average look good.

            So it’s the routes, not the mode.

            There are plenty of bus routes out there that have over 100% farebox recovery too. If we ran only two key bus routes and a mere half a dozen piddlers, the farebox for buses would look great.

          2. Even more reason then why Devonport and Waiheke ferries should be brought within the PTOM arrangement. As long as the average farebox recovery is good, and it’s all under the same contracting system, then my arguments are still valid. Some bus services perform well, some perform badly. Likewise ferries.

            And let’s not forget that until a few years ago, the rail farebox recover was also “awful” – something south of 25% IIRC. However, with investment and promotion of rail, new infrastructure and new equipment, that has been very significantly turned around – nearly doubled. There is no reason I can think of why the same forward thinking approach to ferries could not yield similar results.

            Thinking specifically about Devonport now: if we don’t do something dramatic to get people off Lake Road and onto ferries, then what are we going to do? Lake Road is literally hell on wheels (and not just at commuting hours, but often during the weekends as well). There’s zero chance that the residents will accept a widening of the road – and that’s hardly a sustainable solution to the problem anyway. So what, exactly, is the solution?

            For most of the ferry destinations, the alternative to the ferry (if indeed there is one) is sufficiently impractical that there is no realistic expectation that people will move to PT en masse except by ferry. There’s a real issue of equity here – why should I, if I live in Beachlands or Gulf Harbour – or, indeed, Devonport – pay PT fares at twice the level that those in the rest of the region pay for a similar travel distance? If we’re serious about cutting PT fares, then why would we not start with the most anomalous examples? And if we’re serious about moving people onto PT, shouldn’t we strategise to make ALL modes more attractive to the public, not just the sexy heavy and light rail modes.

            I see little evidence even within GA of any meaningful support for bringing ferries into the 21st Century and making them a full and worthwhile option for getting around the region. And I can think of no great reason why not. Most of the comment about ferries seems to be along the lines of why things are NOT possible, rather than thinking about how they could be made possible. It feels like there’s a inherent underlying bias against ferries, and I just don’t get it!

            Disclosure: I’m NOT a regular ferry passenger myself, and don’t live in Devonport or anywhere that has a ferry service to the city. But almost everyone I know who does use the ferry swears by its convenience and the calm and stress-free nature of a water journey. And despises Fullers’ price-gouging.

          3. Maybe there is a bias against ferries because there is actually a bias against ferries? They are a limited offering with a niche role. They are boats for a start, they literally cannot go on land, they cannot go to the places where people actually live, work and study. Ferries can only run on water and can only stop at the edge of water and land. There are a lot of differences about how much they cost to run and how much the infrastructure costs.

            “There’s a real issue of equity here – why should I, if I live in Beachlands or Gulf Harbour – or, indeed, Devonport – pay PT fares at twice the level that those in the rest of the region pay for a similar travel distance?”

            I take a bit of exception to this poor me attitude with ferries. All of these places have bus service: the same as any other suburb, charged the same, run the same. What you are really asking is why these places don’t have standard fares for their special, additional water based transit option that most people don’t have, in addition to the bus.

            Don’t want to pay extra for your boat ride? Catch the bus like everyone else! At least those place have the option of an express boat to downtown. I don’t.

            If you want to talk about equity, tell me where the ferry to my neighbourhood is!

          4. I look, for example at Devonport passengers. Yes, they can catch the ferry, and yes, they do have the option of a bus service that involves a markedly longer journey and a change en route. We don’t charge people extra to use their “special additional rail-based option” from Panmure in 18 minutes when there’s also a bus service taking a LOT longer. It’s almost as if people regard ferries as a “premium mode” – whereas for most users, it’s just the most practical way to get from A to B.

            Still not sure what people think the practical solution to Lake Road congestion might be . . . ? Couldn’t cheaper ferry fares play a role? Especially as this thread is about how expensive PT fares are.

          5. On further reflection, I can sense in some of the responses on this issue a feeling that ferries are somehow “special” and that those parts of the city which have them are getting some kind of “bonus” means of transport which somehow justifies a higher price.

            I feel disappointed that Nick rejects the “equity” issue and describes it as a “poor me” attitude. Ratepayers in suburbs served by ferries aren’t getting a rates rebate in compensation for their high PT fares – and not all ferry suburbs are “rich”.

            Quite apart from this, the same arguments could be applied to trains. I could just as easily respond “tell me where the train to my neighbourhood is. I want this premium service and it’s not fair that they have it in Avondale but not where I live”.

            And again on equity: I’m reminded of the shocking trashing on this blog a couple of weeks ago of “rich Waihekeans” who are rorting the system by daring to come to town on the ferry twice a week after they turn 65. Despite evidence later being provided to show that Waiheke actually has the lowest per capita or household income (I forget which) in the entire region. It really does seem to me that ferries are not taken seriously on this blog as a transport mode, and that ferry users are seen as a different kind of animal to the rest of us. None of which is helpful to getting bums on seats.

            The mode of travel provided for any suburb should be the most practical mode for the people it serves and to encourage them to use PT. If it’s faster, great, but let’s not penalise people for that speed – just as we don’t penalise rail passengers. Some suburbs have alternate modes (trains and buses); others have ferries and buses as alternatives – I don’t want to penalise anyone at all for their mode of PT use.

          6. I’m just sick of the moaning from Devonport. How they have traffic on the road and they are forced onto ferries because somehow their buses don’t exist so ferries are the only option. Newsflash, most neighbourhoods have heavy traffic, most neighbourhoods have indirect buses that get stuck in the same traffic.

            As for the question of what is to be done about Lake Road. Nothing, it’s like every other main road in Auckland, it gets congested from all the people driving on it. There is nothing special about lake road at all.

          7. Well, that’s one point we agree completely on – I would do absolutely nothing about Lake Road (or Onewa Road, for that matter), unless it was to install a LR line down the middle). But the fact remains that they’re a powerful lobby, and if there aren’t more sustainable options put to them (ie enhanced ferry operations etc) they may succeed in having less sustainable outcomes agreed by politicians who are conscious of the challenge of the next election.

            But I think it’s quite unhelpful for us on this blog to demonise people living in a particular suburb as being “moaners” (Devonport) or “rich rorters” (Waiheke) etc, as if they were somehow a homogeneous like-minded mass. As a political strategy, we need to get as many of these people on board as possible for the “right” kinds of outcomes, and not alienate them or dismiss their perceived needs – even if their perceptions are incorrect.

          8. @DavidByrne – Good point about being near a train line & it being a premium mode.

            Regarding Lake Rd, they have decided with those improvements to cycle & bus lanes which will go someway surely in easing congestion.

          9. David – most train lines have multiple stops and thus are able to service much larger catchments and thus operate as the core of a network with buses being able to connect. Ferries on the other hand offer what is very much a premium service as they generally just run point to point. If there was a train that ran express from Henderson to Britomart I would expect people to pay a premium for this service.

      2. Does anyone know the relative capex and operational cost of a ferry vs bus? Note the Kea has a capacity of 400 pax so probably 7 bus equivalents

        1. A double decker bus has capacity of about 100 people.

          Ferry is much higher per unit and I think it would have to be very full all the time to approach the operational efficiency of a bus.

          This suggests a ferry costs about $8m: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11532028

          A double decker bus is $800k: https://at.govt.nz/about-us/news-events/double-deck-buses-for-east-auckland/

          A ferry with 400 passenger spaces also requires a minimum crew of three, vs. one for the bus.

          In terms of fuel consumption, a bus has about a 300hp engine, a ferry could bet five or ten times that.

          1. So comparing one ferry with four double deckers:
            The ferry costs about 2.5 times more to purchase but has a much higher lifespan
            The ferry needs three crew compared to 4 for 4 buses
            The ferry uses say twice as much fuel but won’t have to pay road charges.
            All up must come out about equal?

          2. That comparison only stacks up on a per passenger level if they are all full, all the time.

            But outside of about an hour a day you’re running the same vehicle even with a handful of people on board.

            For example, say you want to run a route every fifteen minutes, with an hour round trip for arguments sake.

            With ferries you need four $8m boats with a crew of 12 on the payroll, or with buses you need four $800k buses with a crew of four on the payroll.

            Actually if you want to run that service all day, seven days a week (say 18 hours a day) you’ll need to triple the crew, given each can only work about forty hours.

            So it would depend on what you are trying to do. Ferries are quite good at infrequent peak capacity, but very expensive to provide frequent service. Which is why we most of our ferry routes only run at peak times and don’t try and do regular frequency.

  5. Move away from Steven Joyce’s idiot anti PT “Farebox” recovery system.

    It was created to disincentive PT although it was framed to look like responsible financial governance to keep the Hoskings of this world happy.

  6. Not trying to derail the debate, but comparing the cost of a monthly pass is a fairly stupid way to measure cost. Some systems, like Brisbane, don’t even have monthly passes.

    Better to look at average fare per passenger or — even better — per passenger kilometre. That way you get a sense for how much the average passenger pays to use the system.

    1. Yes the monthly pass in Auckland is a poor option for most people, anything less than a four zone commuter travelling return every working day is better of not on the pass.

      1. Agree – I’ve tried to justify buying a monthly pass several times over the years, but only for a very short period did my work circumstances justify that, despite travelling pretty long distances. It’s almost as if there’s an active strategy by AT to discourage their use.

    2. Waiheke ferries have a monthly pass at $325 per month and you can only use it now on the local bus service . In the days of stagecoach owning both the buses and ferries until they sold up and pulled out of the market and if you worked it right sometimes on the train .

  7. Yep. $215 a month and still can’t catch a ferry without paying on top of that. Ah the old Discovery monthly days….

  8. Increasing the subsidy to lower the fares isn’t solving the problem though is it? The problem is the out of control high costs of AT.

    PT fares in the rest of NZ are much lower because PT is planned directly by the council, free of the cumbersome likes of AT with ranks full of $100k+ salaries and hundreds of consultants. They also have publicly-accountable oversight. AT does not.

    AT should be scrapped entirely, with Auckland Council taking back PT planning, with oversight, transparency, and a complete lack of consultancy input.

    1. When was the last time you used PT in Wellington? The fares are ridiculously high and it’s like going back 50 years with little cardboard tickets, cash only on the train, no integrated ticketing, no ticket machines, just unbelievable, it makes AT look very good.

    2. Careful what you wish for. Public transport under the direct control of politicians? Hmmm. Sounds like the bad old days to me. It may work OK when the Council (as now) is broadly supportive of a pro-PT strategy. But if Council was anti-PT, then AT would suddenly become the voice of reason.I do recall that one of the reasons for forming AT in the first place was because transport decision making had become too politicised (and also, too fragmented with eight bodies making decisions independently of each other).

      And as for the $100k-plus salaries: if you want experienced engineers to make engineering decisions, and experienced planners to make planning decisions, then that;’s what you have to pay. It would be no different under Council. If you’re happy for incompetent people to make transport decisions, then by all means, let’s cut the salaries at AT back. Otherwise, you have to pay what the market expects.

        1. Two comments:

          (1) I think we’re forgetting here that AT staff aren’t able to unilaterally just get on with implementing strategies. First, they have to be funded (which is something that we on GA tend to forget – and it’s not their fault if through the RLTP process insufficient money is made available to them.

          (2) If things are genuinely handled incompetently now, then how on earth will that be helped by cutting salaries to below market rates? Will that attract better quality applicants? I look around the wider engineering community in Auckland and see that there is so much work chasing so few people that there is a constant move of staff from one employer to the next, and salaries inflating accordingly. AT would pay below market rates to its staff only at a huge risk to being able to get anything at all done.

          I find it somewhat disappointing that on this otherwise quality blog, there is so much trashing of wide groups of people for incompetence/greed/self-interest/whatever, as if the whole group’s needs/views should be discounted because of the actions/words of a few. Not all Waiheke pensioners are rorting the system, not all Devonportians (is that a word?) are “moaners”, and not all AT staff are totally useless (in fact, from my own knowledge, a very large number of them are extremely competent and highly committed). But it seems to be blog etiquette that it’s OK to trash anyone with wide, sweeping statements that don’t have any evidential backing whatsoever.

          Sorry, my pet gripe. Can’t help standing up for treating people fairly.

  9. Well this month I stopped using PT after 2 years of taking the train. The monthly pass costs too much and PT takes too long. Now I drive to the city for twice the price but in half the time. That is an hour a day which I can do other things with. Maybe in summer I’ll go back to PT. Not sure.

    1. That’s the major problem with Auckland PT, it’s just too damn slow in most cases. The other day I was on a Western Line train at Newmarket heading to Britomart. We arrived at Newmarket, all the doors opened and then we sat there going nowhere. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the train continued on its way to Britomart.

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