Last Friday Auckland Transport launched their long talked about rideshare trial on Devonport.

A New Zealand-first rideshare scheme called AT Local has launched in Devonport.

Three electric vans and three electric cars are travelling around the Devonport peninsula, picking up passengers and taking them to and from the Devonport, Bayswater or Stanley Bay ferry terminals.

AT Local aims to make the first and last leg of a public transport journey easier, giving the people of Devonport even more incentive to use the ferry services.

This is the first on-demand rideshare service in New Zealand using only electric vehicles, and among the first in the world.

Passengers can order the vehicles on the specially developed AT Local app to pick them up from a nearby corner. Passengers can either schedule a pick up or choose to be picked up immediately.

The vehicles operate within a 3km radius of the Devonport ferry terminal on the lower Devonport peninsula and it costs $2.50 per ride.

AT Local will run for a year as a trial to test whether it’s a viable way to get people to and from the ferry and other local destinations, free up parking and reduce the number of cars on the road.

The $2.50 is an introductory price with it changing to $3 from February.

Below is a map of the area covered.

Below are some of my thoughts on this.

Devonport already a captive PT market

If the congestion on Lake Rd isn’t enough to encourage people to find better ways of getting to the ferry terminal for an alternative then paying for a shuttle certainly won’t make a difference.

It doesn’t address parking

AT claim in their video that one of the reasons for needing this service is that there is limited parking around the ferry terminals, which is true, but they’re also not doing anything to try and manage that. Where parking exists, it is still free and it seems crazy that they’d charge people to be dropped off but not to park at the door. Talk about getting priorities wrong.

No HOP integration

AT have spent years and hundreds of millions to get HOP to where it is today, a transport card that can be used on any PT service in the region. They’ve been incredibly successful at it too with around 90% of all PT trips being made using HOP, although that number is just under 50% for ferries where Fullers have their own parallel fare systems. This new service doesn’t accept HOP.

There may well be valid reasons for not including it, such as the cost to make the changes to the HOP system, but it feels like they’re ignoring/breaking their own systems just to rush this out.

The Fares

Devonport is one of the wealthiest areas of Auckland but even so, I can’t see too many people wanting to shell out $3 (from Feb) for a ride along with another $4.80 for the ferry trip. If I was living there and were going to pay for a service to get to/from the ferry, I think I’d rather use a more fun method such as a lime scooter.

One thing I haven’t been able to find out, is the $3 fare for the shuttle per person or per booking. While I assume it’s per person, it isn’t clear on ATs site.

The costs

The service is going to cost AT and the NZTA almost $1 million tor run for the year. AT say they expect about 1,400 trips a week from the service, that’s about 73k trips annually which means about $220k in fares. That would give a farebox of about 22% which is well below the 50% target other services need to achieve. Personally, I think they’ll be luck to get half that number of trips.

This isn’t to say the 50% farebox recovery policy is good but it will mean more pressure on AT and could mean they increase fares elsewhere to make up for it. Basically this is a nice big subsidy for one of the wealthiest areas.

On a related topic, I asked AT how AT will evaluate the outcomes to see if it’s worth continuing. Here’s what they said

In response to further questioning, they said that the “getting people out of their cars” will simply be a survey
Fix the network basics first

There are always competing demands for funding but in my view, getting the basics right should come a long way before trialling services like this. For example, AT still haven’t built much needed bus to bus interchange shelters. There are plenty more examples out there of what AT could be focusing on improving that would likely drive more ridership than this.

Will any changes be made to the buses that currently run the Devonport routes

Overall it feels like AT are chasing the shiny new object rather than focusing on transport policy and delivery.

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64 comments

  1. Isn’t the subsidy for this service something like $14 per ride? Why do this in Devonport, walking to the ferry or local bus stop isn’t that hard, it’s a small suburb, most of the people who live here are also on decent incomes or well off pensioners. This a huge waste of public funds.

      1. The lady catching the ride in the video is at Cheltenham shops, about 30m away from two different bus stops with two different bus services (814, and 807).

    1. I have been thinking about this. The reason the bus works so well in Devonport is because it gets you to the ferry before it sails and picks you up at the wharf with minimal delay. The bus has been meeting the ferries for many decades. The real problem is the limited bus routes. There are still bits of Devonport that are not very close to the bus, places like Ngataringa Road and the southern end of Seabreeze Rd.
      But the problem is coverage not the fixed timetables. If you want to use the ferry then there is no advantage in arriving earlier than the scheduled bus arrives.
      The money for this trial would have been better spent on completing the bus network.

      1. No the real problem is that the congestion is so bad on lake Road that no one can count on the ferries after about 7.30am. Plus some people who think they are too good to use the bus and too precious to cycle the very short distance to the ferry.

        And of course then people just drive and cause more congestion.

        The only answer is to grade separate the buses.

  2. Good summary Matt – interesting product, but being deployed in the wrong place. Hopefully we will see this type of product, integrated with HOP, being trialled in some of the fringe areas of the city (Waitakere Ranges?) before too long – either to extend the reach of the PT system, or to replace some low performing “big bus” solutions.

  3. So one of the key measurements wasn’t bus usage during the trial? Which could go down?
    Or parking occupancy at the ferry – which, if this was actually reducing the number of people driving to the ferry – would go down, but most probably won’t because others will just take that space who might have bused or carpooled before?

    All this is ‘mini-me’ stuff. “People like me would prefer to go in a small car than have to walk to the bus, so it must be good.” This is a pathetic waste of money and awful display of misconceptions and poor priorities.

    Here’s what they could spend $1 million on: fixing the Journey Planner so it doesn’t direct bus passengers to walk over the Greenlane Roundabout or through a service station or any one of a number of really unsafe routes is suggests, leaving users unfamiliar with the route in the risky position of missing the bus or taking a chance.

    1. If I were anti PT and Mike Hosking I would push bus solutions till the end of time just so I know the take up will always be hugely underwhelming. Devonport is living proof that buses are not attractive to commuters.

      AT have the budget and they need to think much more sophisticated than the most base of PT options (See my light rail option view below). I mean taxi’s, Jesus wept!!

      And where, for example, is alternatives like a complete coastal cycle way on the Shoal Bay side? There is bits and pieces more aimed at walking but nothing to speak of that would convince me to bike and I sure wouldn’t do it on Lake Rd, for my own health.

      1. Yes to light rail and cycle provision. But I love my buses! And ridership growth despite any real bus priority measure investment indicates enough people at least like them.

      2. Why do you think Devonport is living proof that buses are not attractive to commuters? I think it’s more about the geography of the catchment. AT’s changes to the old 779 route means that a bus that didn’t run before now trundles around empty most of the day, but during peak times it is used. I suppose it’s tricky because most of its catchment is ~20 walk from the ferry anyway, and the 30min frequencies mean you have to plan to use the bus rather than just walk/scoot/bike into town. And since the fares aren’t integrated you can save nearly 2 bucks with active modes.

        For me, I used to use the 779 quite often because I was on the end of its run, so getting to the stop saved me a few minutes. Now the run begins where I would get on, so I have to get to the stop about the same time I’d otherwise need to leave for a nice healthy walk to the ferry.

        As for the 814, I’ve always found it to be just as full as busses on the other side of the bridge, so would be interested to know what you’re seeing.

    2. I can’t say I ever noticed anything glaringly wrong with the previous version of Journey Planner but I was using it yesterday. The route it suggested would have seen me arrive about 25 minutes after the one I intended on using but wasn’t sure of the timings for due to having forgotten to grab one of the timetables involved. It’s possible I misread the Journey Planner a little since I was using it during the journey and so was somewhat rushed but my way involved no sideways travel so I am fairly confident it really was the fastest route.

      (Normally this would never happen as I live “by” a staffed train station and so can grab any missing pamphlets but my first leg was not public transport based this time.)

  4. Devonport – precisely the place that needs subsidies.
    Are the local residents here isolated from PT options?
    Looking at the new network for the area they seem to have pretty decent coverage, albeit infrequent services, but much better than other parts of Auckland, and I’m sure some bus priority measures on Lake Rd would make buses more reliable with journey times.

    This will either be used as an incredibly cheap taxi substitute, or just not used at all.

    1. It costs $5 if you don’t use it to/from the ferry. Still fairly cheap, but probably not drastically so compared to a regular Uber.

      1. While in Melbourne I used the Uber carpool feature that they don’t have turned on here. Incredibly cheap and convenient. Why not spend $1M lobbying Uber to turn on carpooling and then we will have a city wide ridesharing service in an instant at no further cost to tax/ratepayers.

        1. Uber is taxi service. What is this ride sharing nonsense?
          I share a ride with my bus driver.
          People have fallen for this PR ride sharing guff.

          1. At the Auckland Conversation last week, Jarrett Walker had some utterly damning things to say about Uber and similar concepts around the world, and how they have turned places that were getting their transport networks on track into congested messes. And that’s in places where the ‘rideshare’ option is turned on.

          2. Uber is a taxi service, but Uber Pool is ridesharing.

            They will pickup other people going from / to the same neighbourhood. They will also pick people up on the way. The idea is you walk to the main road and get the next taxi going past, less door to door than a taxi.

    2. Yeah, I think that’s the issue. Not enough frequency on the bus network to get it to critical mass. I think the ridesharing thing is an interesting experiment though, something that should be done even if just to prove it doesn’t work. I still think those last mile trips by Rideshare, Uber and AVs in the future are OK so long as they don’t do the whole trip and just provide the ‘door-to-RTN station’ connection

        1. Other roads all over Auckland have better bus frequency without needing tolls. And other parts of Auckland have integrated fares, which are also denied to Devonport residents.

          These are the very basics of public transport provision and AT is failing on both.

        2. Heidi, absolutely Lake Road may need a toll to pay for a more frequent bus service. However I argue in a yet to be published thread that a better solution would be to toll the Harbour Bridge to pay for a subsequent light rail crossing. Such a move would be a starting point to truly unlock the Shore of traffic congestion. I also suspect the amount being spent on this trial could have produced a much better bus service.

          The Lake Road issue is complex, but the public meetings that I have attended have mostly clamoured for car based solutions e.g. widen Lake Road, build a huge car park in Takapuna so we can drive their if we want to.

          It will be interesting to see how things develop as the Lake Road widening proceeds. I can almost guarantee that the final result will not be an economically sound solution. Unfortunately the result is that other areas of Auckland will have to pay higher fares to compensate for this senseless folly.

          1. If the Shore wants a Light Rail Crossing then let the Shore pay for it. We’re trying to give other areas the busways the Shore has already enjoyed for a decade.

          2. Maybe build it and use a targeted rate on the residents who will benefit from it.

            Tolling national infrastructure like SH1 to pay for a local LRT branch is morally wrong.

            I love how this is the default response to the North Shore getting its own special treatment: “Give us billions of dollars worth more of special treatment instead!”.

  5. It’s probably cheaper just to subsidise uber, zoomy or taxis and put a geofence around the trial area. At least you don’t have to buy your own vehicles, pay for maintenance, or hire drivers.

  6. This appears to be a very expensive band aid on a gaping wound.

    Lake Rd has been a problem for a very long time and it ain’t going away. I think the issues are a little deeper than just people driving to work in the city because not everyone works there It cannot be fixed by turning Lake Rd into an expressway owing to the feeders and Esmonde Rd. And besides which, it would cost a ridiculous amount and thus far all the spending on widening has not really done a whole lot.

    On the face of it Devonport and Bayswater have a great PT options, but only of you work in the city or a reasonable adjoining commute by train or the last resort, bus, elsewhere. But as always people work all over Auckland so they drive.

    Given AC’s money for jam petrol tax, where is the initiative to install light rail up Lake Rd to join Takapuna, maybe even Milford and the bus station at Barrys Point Road. Its perfect, emission free, the grades are manageable, road wide enough and if run properly would be fast and attractive. It even had light rail once.

    The other problem is Fullers. Its expensive to use the ferry alone, $7.00 from Devonport or $14 return, yesss, value not, let alone add a bus fare to that, hence cars everywhere. AT need to take over the routes somehow or another and in my opinion run it with their own fleet as per the EMU’s. Yet another profit oriented organisation holding back the greater good and AT trying to work around it at great cost!

    1. The ferry is $4.80.
      $7.00 would get you the ferry AND a non-integrated bus fare ($6.70 in fact)
      Why do people insist on using the cash fares to trump up their arguments, it’s disingenuous

          1. That Lake Rd is a problem, that PT use is so sub optimal AT are coming up with what is essentially a highly subsided taxi service the try and fix it, that Ferry and bus fares are off putting? What part?

            Seriously if you are a Fuller’s shareholder, I don’t care.

    2. That’s a tram route I could get behind, up Lake Rd, through Takapuna to Milford, along Shakespeare Rd to Smales farm to feed the busway, eventually continuing along the busway to the city once it’s converted to trams.

    3. “But as always people work all over Auckland so they drive.” – always a great go to for Auckland people. Unfortunately pesky facts get in the way.

      AT’s traffic survey found that 80% of SOVs on lake Road in the morning peak were going to the city. So actually the problem is “just people driving to work in the city”.

      And the main excuse I hear ( I live in the area) – “Oh I have a car park at work so wouldn’t I drive”. There should be major disincentives to supply parking to employees in the CBD.

  7. Its all electric and I support electric anything and I hate seeing empty diesel buses.
    Its a good trial for ride sharing although that is a concept I find a bit hard to believe will catch on but who knows. I expect I will have checked out before we get Autonomous vehicle ride share so I may never be a believer.
    It would be a good way of delivering workers to their workplace in the the East Tamaki industrial sprawl. So it could operate out of the Botany Town center bus interchange.
    Or another one would be from the Manukau Bus Station to workplaces around Wuri. There is a bus route doing that now but it only has a few riders.
    I wonder if it has GPS tracking like an Uber App. Not that I have seen an Uber App but you could imagine the App telling you where your ride is.

  8. I think this is worth trialing – this is not about an alternative to existing services, but about serving some of the many people who live a long way from the nearest scheduled bus route, and quite a few elderly for whom a 500 metres plus walk is a bit of a strain. Although their destination (a local town centre/library/ferry terminal) is probably already be well served, it is the other end of the journey which is not. So view this as complementary to the main PT system. For many years we have had the Total Mobility scheme for those with serious disability which does a point-to-point on-demand service but only for those who qualify and have a TM card – the new proposal would reach a larger audience amongst those for whom PT is not currently serving their needs.

    1. Graeme, it won’t be complementary unless it is reserved just for people with serious disabilities. I think this service will be a ‘success’ because enough people in Takapuna like cars and don’t think too deeply about the importance of public transport. But in the process it will undermine the local buses and retain and reinforce a mindset of car dependency and resistance to using buses. Through this undermining of both network and mindset, it will prevent Auckland from achieving truly good amenity for wheelchair users on our footpaths and truly good bus services giving full access.

      We can and must do better, and by looking abroad we can surely shed the myths about disability access. People with real disabilities need good services, but this is not that. This is a subsidy for car dependents to continue the way they are without having the hassle of parking.

    2. “serving some of the many people who live a long way from the nearest scheduled bus route, and quite a few elderly for whom a 500 metres plus walk is a bit of a strain”

      Believe me the people using it do not fit either of these categories. They are people who think they are too good to take the bus. Also the unreliability of the 814 after 7am is an issue.

  9. Until the basics of existing PT service provision are achieved – network/service legibility, reliability of services (particularly at interchange points) and the end-to-end performance of service routes, this project neither enhances the customer experience nor the AT brand. Its clear from AT’s reponses to questions on the trial, that the project’s focus is about form, not substance.

    This ‘AT Local’ trial has been in development/preparation for quite some time now, and during that time, far more innovative / effective last-mile transport solutions have emerged and become embedded in the marketplace.

    Auckland Transport is at the beginning of an organisational culture shift towards mode-agnostic transport service provision and the timing of this trial is therefore inappropriate at this stage.

  10. I do hope AT carries out a review in 3-4 months time to see if it’s worth continuing. That money could be much better spent elsewhere.

  11. Unless AT are gathering proper demographic data about people who use this service, it will likely end up being an invisible subsidy for a subset of the population (not that the trial area is diverse anyway).

    1. +100. Given this is a trial, AT should be gathering more than a conventional set of customer data. Demographic info and much more should be required as part of the sign-up process and the basis of decisions on the service’s future should explicitly identify who and what needs this service is *actually* meeting.

      1. I imagine if they were doing this there would have been more substance to the answers given to Matt about how they would measure success. You can download the app and start booking rides straight away, so there doesn’t seem to be any collection of demographic data – other than whatever they might have from your MyAT account, (name, address, age).

  12. For years I used to walk from Achilles Cres to a bus stop on Old Lake Road, rode to the ferry then walk up to Vincent Street. If it was raining I got the 000 service up to K Road (pre link bus days). Waiting for a bus and then waiting for a ferry just sucks. Being on a bus or ferry is fine. This on-demand thing is only going to work if the wait is for a shorter time.
    Lime scooters are no substitute if there is a hill involved. I used one to get to Sunnynook station and that went so well I carried on to Constellation Dr station, that was shit. Going up a hill on any scooter is just crap. You kick and stand and balance really carefully as it slows and stops to get the most out of each push, by the time you get there you are totally fed up with the daft thing. Downhill of significant slopes is worse, abject terror from the knowledge the brakes are more of a trigger for a big forward roll and an ACC claim. On the flat or gentle slope they are great but even then the holes and bumps in North shore footpaths and roads make it a short duration mode.

  13. I wonder what the starting point was when AT started to investigate this matter? If it was a shortage of car parks at the ferry then this could have been fixed by pricing mechanisms. It appears that these are used as a last resort on the Shore, but they remain an option. If AT is worried that a parking charge might cause people to drive the length of Lake Road twice (approx. 12 km) then they could commensurately raise parking charges at the other end, most likely to be the city.

    If they believe that they can induce everyone to use public transport by providing the last km option then we have a serious problem. First, from the financial expectations of this trial it is hellishly expensive; and more worryingly such schemes provide an incentive for people to live wherever they like because it seems AT will provide a subsidised service for them.

    The Vienna solution seems more appealing: provide dirt cheap PT fares and allow market forces to determine whether people choose to take advantage of them. Do you choose to live in close proximity to a PT link that is likely to be more expensive because of that; or for whatever reason, choose to live somewhere else and bear your own costs of getting to public transport options?

    One thing is abundantly clear is that the Vienna solution is a way more affordable option for the city and is able to transfer financial benefits to those who live in an economically efficient, environmentally friendly way. Perversely the alternative that AT is pursuing imposes additional costs on those that arguably should be rewarded.

  14. I was thinking about who might use this in Devonport

    ·         Someone who drives to the Ferry? Unlikely. Longer (as you now have to pick up others)  and more expensive (because parking is free)

    ·         Someone who uses PT, walks or bikes to the Ferry – why would we want them to switch?

    ·         Someone who wants to drive to the Ferry but can’t find a park because all the free parks are already taken and instead drives into town – (it’s off peak so who cares?)

    Conclusion – no idea, interested to see who does use it.

    1. Maybe a use case might be someone who arrives from the ferry and there’s no connecting bus that goes near where they live? Although I agree with Matt that this counts as fixing the basics first with a better bus service.

      This looks like another attempt to solve the last km problem that seems to plague so much of Auckland, and maybe in low-density places like the Waitakere foothills it would be a cheaper option to provide public transport than frequent buses or a park-and-ride. But (back to basics again) within the urban boundary there should be no need for anyione to be without nearby frequent public transport.

      1. and back to basics again, if our existing urban areas need higher density in order to provide more frequent services, or more routes, then the last thing we should be doing is putting more houses on farmland on the outskirts.

        1. No, the last thing we should be doing is caving to NIMBY Boomers in inner-city areas. If you do that then you don’t have a choice.

  15. Meanwhile it is ‘not a priority’ for AT to remove the agapanthus from 5m of roadside verge, so that kids walking to school don’t have to step out into oncoming traffic round a blind bend (this response after six weeks of waiting). And I’ve been waiting a month for AT to respond to a request to remove a ‘trucks crossing’ road sign which was placed in a manner to completely block the only short length of footpath on another fairly dodgy road, meaning that people have to walk on the wrong side of a chunky safety barrier instead. Presumably the ‘prioritising’ and ‘time to respond’ aspects of both issues have a financial component. So I’d prefer the money spent subsidizing this rideshare scheme to be spent more wisely on the basics.

  16. I can’t for the life of me workout where all the money is going…..
    they say it cost $1 million,

    From what they have said they are using 3 LDV EV80 (80K each) and 3 Hyundai IONIQs (60K each)
    That’s $420K, 6 drivers at 70K each full time , is $420 K. that’s still just over 800K,

    there is no way they will use $200K of electricity …..

    and then you have the fare income….
    + I’ve heard the IONIQs are “borrowed” from Auckland Council….

    1. You’ve forgotten the cleaning, managing the app, servicing the cars, paying electricity for the cars and probably building charging infrastructure, running the point of sale infrastructure.

  17. Well at least its hasn’t taken 10 years to implement like some other initiatives. And $1 million is not a huge amount so lets see what happens.Even if its a negative outcome we will have learn’t something.
    Meanwhile in the more important part of the city we have a new/old walkway and cycleway rebirth with the closing of the old Mangere bridge. So they have repainted the walkway on the side of the older of the two motorway bridges and by the looks of it installed or refurbished the lighting. There is complete seperation of walking and cycling as the walking is on a raised footpath. The colour of the repaint is off white quite nice really. So some movements spotted on my walk today were 4 walkers, 3 cyclists, 1 moped ,1 city council litter control motorbike there where no scooters lime, electric, push or mobility and two Red Badge security staff. There was no sign of any light rail or horses.
    So not to bad really its worth having a look at and it wouldn’t have cost a million dollars.

  18. AT can move really quickly when it wants to. Remember the bus jam at Constellation on 1 October, the first business day after the introduction of the new North Shore network? Within four weeks, AT divided the car park in two, built a road through it with bus bays and shelters, and completed all sign posting and road marking, so that local buses wouldn’t have to use the Express platforms. I never saw anything in the media about the fix or how rapid it was.

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