Usually about once a year, often around this time, the issue of public transport fares comes up, often in relation to Auckland Transport’s annual fare review. Sometimes the discussion revolves around whether we should have fares at all.

That debate was reignited yesterday by Todd Niall at Stuff, initially in an opinion piece and later in the day in an article. In the opinion piece he opened by noting the goal of getting more Aucklanders out of cars before saying:

In December, Auckland tried for one afternoon to do that – by making public transport fare-free.

So why not do it every day? Scrap fares as a powerful incentive to make public transport irresistible, cutting pollution and travel times.

It’s not a new or unique idea. The Estonian city of Tallinn in 2013 became the first European capital to scrap fares for its 420,000 residents.

Luxembourg follows suit this year in a small country of 107,000, that is swamped daily by 400,000 commuters from neighbouring countries.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has just announced free public transport travel for under-11s from September.

Three smaller French cities, and 14 towns also do fare-free public transport.

I think there are generally two key issues when it comes to the issue of free public transport

  1. Can the system cope
  2. Who pays for it.

Let’s quickly look at each of these

Can the system cope

As I commented in the later article, one important difference between Auckland and most European cities is simply the level of maturity of the comparative PT networks. While I’m not suggesting those city’s networks are perfect, or even complete, in Auckland we can’t even get our rail network, which is meant to be the backbone of the PT system, to run frequently off peak or on weekends. There are many other routes that are in a similar situation and many of the routes that are considered “frequent” are only borderline so.

In addition, at peak times many routes, such as Mt Eden Rd, are already at capacity leaving long delays for some passengers even though there are frequent services. We also already have Auckland Transport saying they won’t have enough capacity on some routes for the coming March Madness.

Put all this another way, Auckland is still very much in catch-up mode. And this is all before considering the ridership impact from making PT free.

Yet, the most commonly cited reason for making public transport free is that it will get more people to use it. I don’t know just how many extra people might start using PT if it was free but in general to move more people it means we need more services and/or capacity. That means we need more buses, more drivers and more higher capacity options like the City Rail Link and Light Rail.

It’s also worth remembering that in many public surveys, by far the most commonly mentioned thing people would like to see done to improve public transport is not cheaper or free fares but improved frequencies. Make the system more useful and more people will use it.

What was interesting was to see the reaction to the free PT afternoon before Christmas. I think it genuinely got a lot of people excited and perhaps even trying PT but it’s hard to know how much of that was a one off and how much any increase of use would be sustained over the long term. Note: I’ve already asked AT for some information on how that Friday went but haven’t heard anything back at this point.

Even if you manage to get enough service/capacity on, there’s still the other key issue

Who pays for it

The issue is described by Niall again in his opinion piece. This is in response to a previous suggestion of free PT:

It was assessed by AT’s Commercial Manager David Stephenson for senior executives in a paper revealingly subtitled “Fare Free Public Transport for Auckland – There’s no such thing as a free ride”.

Stephenson concluded that as a purely political goal, free public transport may be a legitimate idea.

“But when free fare schemes are advocated and justified as a means to meeting environmental, social or efficiency goals, the evidence presented suggests the arguments are largely misguided.”

….

Stephenson is right, public transport can never be free. It has to be paid for somehow.

In Auckland, the fares cover only 46 per cent of the cost of services. So we are already 54 per cent of the way to being fare free.

Giving up those fares would cost Auckland $176 million a year, and AT estimates increased demand would cost an extra $60m to meet.

Like most things, quantifying the costs is easy. Totting up the value of benefits to health, the environment, the need to accommodate growing vehicle numbers – that’s too hard.

The fares that people pay go in part to pay for the services and $236 million is a significant chunk of money would need to be paid for some other way, either by council, government or a combination of the two. It’s worth noting that the $176 million doesn’t include the fares collected on ferries which is at about $35 million annually.

But let’s say hypothetically that tomorrow the government suddenly offered Auckland Transport an extra $236 million (plus inflation) annually to spend on public transport but didn’t specify what it was for. The question that would need to be answered is whether spending that on reducing fares, primarily for existing users, is the best way to spend that. Based on what we’ve seen so far with ridership growth, most likely the best outcome would be to spend most of that extra funding on more services and some targeted fare reductions and perhaps extending the Supergold card model to perhaps younger people and those on low incomes and having cheaper fares off-peak and weekends.

One of the issues with this debate is there is a lot we simply don’t know, such as:

  • At what point is our PT network mature enough?
  • What are the optimum fare levels to maximise ridership?
  • What are the social and economic benefits of getting more people on PT?
  • What impacts would any changes in /demand from such changes have on other projects?
  • How much do we save in time and operating costs of not having to run a fare system – Auckland Transport has $120 million budgeted over the next decade to upgrade and then replace the HOP system.

At least for the first question, my guess is at earliest sometime in the next 5-10 years. That’s because within that timeframe we will have had completed

  • City Rail Link
  • Light Rail to Mangere and the Northwest
  • Eastern Busway
  • The first stages of Airport to Botany
  • Improved services with more frequent routes and a more frequent “frequent” definition.
  • The corridor programme to improve bus priority on busy bus routes.

Combined, that should hopefully put us in a good position at least to deal with some of the capacity and service issues.

AT should at least look at the idea as it might help them to understand some of their options better, particularly in light of a more PT friendly government.

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143 comments

  1. Eliminating fares also removes the opportunity to do demand management by time-based differential pricing, ie shift more users to off-peak services by offering much cheaper off-peak rates. This is something that AT should already be doing (surely it’d help with March Madness?).

  2. Purely anecdotal observations from me and my close relationship with a mode of PT but those who rode the trains in Auckland for free were much more likely to be the ones who;

    Vandalised the train
    Were a problem for staff and other passengers
    Were much more likely to exhibit anti social behaviours
    Were more likely to easily engage in criminal behaviour both on the train and on the platform and it’s surrounding paths and streets.

    Anecdotal I know and I could not put my finger on why this is but there appears to be a link between having no financial investment (no skin in the game for want of a better analogy) and subsequent abuse of that environment.

    Of this group gold card users did not fit this category but have a weird entitlement even if bodily fit, to hog seats over paying passengers.

    I am all for reduced fares for those who are low income however, quite why a multiple home owning retiree gets a freebie over some poor family who live hand to mouth is plainly wrong!

    1. Agree Waspman

      I feel a lot safer on the train after key stations were gated. Free fares would encourage loitering on the train – a place to hang out rather than a mode of transport

  3. I mean if it’s funded by a targeted rate (e.g. areas with link buses and rapid transit like busways pay more towards it than people where the last bus in a Saturday is 7pm) then sure. Otherwise you can expect the usual backlash from places like Howick (which might as well be Madagascar as far as PT is concerned) or people to question why poorer areas pay for rapid transit options in the well-off central suburbs.

    1. But for the majority of PT users that are commuting into the CBD, the people in the central suburbs are only getting a short ride for free, the people in the outer suburbs are getting a long ride for free.

      1. “Turn up and go” means different things in suburbs where there is one bus every 30 minutes vs. someone living on a Link Bus route. I’m not sure why people with less access to it should underwrite people who do have it.

        1. How about each suburb gets to vote whether they want free PT and no new road budget, or paid PT and the odd very expensive new road (e.g. Pakuranga overpass).

        2. Sure, as long as it is related to the costs of providing those services. The buses that serve the outer suburbs often have the highests costs relative to patronage even if the frequency is low.

        3. You mean people don’t use services as much in areas where services are poor compared to areas where services are frequent?

          Colour me surprised.

        4. I doubt that the frequency would be the main reason for the low patronage, I think it would be fanciful that if frequencies were doubled on these routes patronage would be anywhere near double.

        5. The “low patronage” is because there is little PT provision in these areas, and driving is not only entrenched but it’s the only plausible way to get around. Taking money from these areas to underwrite free PT in areas that have always had better PT options is just flat-out inequitable.

  4. Full buses? Seems like a good time to raise fares on those routes at that time of day to make best use of existing resources.

    I prefer no subsidies at all. No free buses, no free public parking, no free public roads for trucks, no free childcare, no free first year of university, no free student loans, . Nothing is ultimately free and it just distorts people’s behaviour. Just give tax money back to people as a UBI so they can decide for themselves what they want to do with it. The government really is no better at spending other peoples money than individuals are at spending their own.

    1. “no free public roads for trucks” – or for anyone surely! If PT isn’t subsidised then surely roads shouldn’t be. Under your model all roads should be sold off to private companies to run and charge for. The private companies should be able to sell off uneconomic road space (e.g. the entire central city) for better use. The money collected by selling off the entire road network and land should be paid back to the people.
      The real reason PT has to be so subsidised is because roads are so subsidised!

      1. Roads aren’t subsidised, there’s numerous revenue streams for the roading network – WOF & Rego fees, fuel taxes, local fuel taxes, road user charges….road users pay more than their fair share of road maintenance.
        PT users pay a pittance towards the PT network. They don’t pay any of the taxes that are used to build the PT network, and are subsidised at over 50% of the fare. PT doesn’t pay for itself and yet they demand more.

        1. Jon – Subsidy = tax dollars collected and used on infrastructure. PT users pay income tax + rates. Just like road users. How do you think any infrastructure is built?
          This may come as a surprise to you, but many people use both the road and PT. Some drive to a park and ride, some drive on weekends, or commute sometimes by car and sometimes by PT.

        2. 50 % of council roads are funded from general rates, if this isn’t a subsidy then I don’t know what is.

        3. The government and council owns billions of dollars worth of roads and land. They extract no profit or return on that investment. This is a subsidy to road users in the same way that if the council gave me some free land to build my house on it would be a subsidy. Or if the council leased land at way below market value to the Remuera golf club that would also be a subsidy…

        4. Some good stuff here: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2012/12/03/myth-busting-roads-dont-need-subsidies/

          From Hamilton: http://hamiltonurbanblog.co.nz/2014/07/who-pays-for-our-roads-parking-and-related-amenities/

          From NZTA: https://nzta.govt.nz/planning-and-investment/planning/transport-planning/planning-for-local-roads/

          “Local roads are funded from several sources:

          local rates
          other local sources such as developer contributions
          central government funding through the National Land Transport Fund and the National Land Transport Programme that we administer.
          The funding that a council receives from us is known as the funding assistance rate (FAR). We set this rate under criteria set by the Minister of Transport. The rate is calculated on a needs basis.”

          In big cities like Auckland, EWellington, Christchurch, 90+% of funds come from rates and general taxation. The NLTF is pretty much tapped out once motorways are paid for. The NLTF will top mup rural areaswhere the population is inadequate in density to pay for the roads.

          Plus remember that over half of the money spent on roads is just to maingtain them and fix all the damage from cars and trucks (mostly trucks).

          So sorry, you are not right. driving is hugely subsidised and trucks even more.

    2. Anybody remember the Max Bradford era (c early 1990s) National Party policy to introduce user pays for the roading system? Roads were to be vested in an SOE, which would be required to earn a commercial rate of return. Dropped fairly quickly when National’s backers squealed about the effect on the economy.

    3. Jimbo, I said nothing about privatisation, just the removal of subsidies to remove distortion. People pay for existing roads through fuel taxes. Trucks don’t.They are heavily subsidised. Lots of new road pet projects are paid for by government funding and are basically a hidden subsidy to drivers. These subsidies discriminate against public transport.

      Jezza, I just threw out the simple examples. . I have no problem with taxes to fund essential services like education and healthcare even if they are terribly run monopolies. You have no other choice, so it isn’t really a subsidy. I have a problem with subsidies that distort human behaviour and give certain business an unfair advantage.

      1. Even without privatisation, road users would need to pay some rate of return on their land use otherwise they are being subsidised. PT users receive high operational subsidies but low land use subsidies, road users receive high land use subsidies but low operational subsidies. If road users do not pay for land use, driving will continue to seem cheap.

        1. Plus that it costs multiple times per person to free state run systems. And this to provide a system that doesn’t work as well for most users.

          Some things work best with competition and privatisation – such as telecommunications and food supply. Experience has shown that health, education and public transport are not in that list.

  5. Cheaper fares, yes, as the balancing act to taking the car you own sitting on the drive and paying steeply for a bus ride is real and higher fares are a turn off.

    As it stands with the current zones and fares I think the current fare level is reasonable without being an incentive and probably at a tipping point. But AT should not give in to temptation by raising fares anymore unless of course they purposely want to lower patronage.

  6. Free fares? I don’t think our PT system would cope.
    Possible solution? It’s been mentioned on here many many times.

    I think a reduction in the monthly passes (currently $215pm) would go a long way to encourage more users, it should be the default PT users ticket (not something you need to calculate if it’s worth buying each month or not based on calendar and working days). And once someone has a monthly pass, they would perhaps be more likely to use PT for non-commuting trips they may have driven for, as they have already paid for the pass.

    Off peak & weekend fares – 50% off. Easy to implement and would do a lot to ease the load of the peak morning and afternoon overcrowded trains or full buses many services see.

    1. Asking for a big front-end investment to get the savings isn’t the panacea, especially if we are talking off peak discounts.

      I prefer the idea of travel cards with soft daily, weekly and monthly caps, after which point it’s free – costs the same as the discounted monthly pass but does not penalise infrequent users or once that can’t free up $200 in advance every month.

      An average commuter should be able to travel for free after hours (as they have hit the daily cap) and weekends (as they have hit the weekly cap on Friday). That’s still not perfect in terms of less frequent users, and won’t shift commute times (something that just is not going to happen until businesses mandate it or become much more flexible), but will hopefully get the ‘free’ aspect of off peak travel possible without any major effort.

      1. The government has already signalled that it wants to put more money towards PT for the purpose of lowering fares, off-peak would be a logical target for this.

        I agree with you regarding caps though.

    2. “Off peak & weekend fares – 50% off. Easy to implement and would do a lot to ease the load of the peak morning and afternoon overcrowded trains or full buses many services see.”

      I am not sure though that it would do anything to ease the major problems for Auckland: too many carbon emissions due to people driving, mostly at peak; and peak congestion causing AT to want to spend more on roads, seemingly at the expense of PT investment.

      As a regular PT user in many parts of the city I am not even sure that the PT congestion you talk about exists. The AT satisfaction serveys don’t suggest it does.

      But I am listening. Build a case. Tell me how cheap off peak are the best solution to the really major issues.

      1. I don’t recall anyone saying they are the best solution, they reality is there is no one magic bullet solution.

        There is definitely capacity issues on some isthmus buses, including the 70 which I use quite often. This of course could be solved with a number of solutions including increasing capacity and improving bus lanes, but off-peak fares would likely help.

        The biggest argument for off-peak fares is that car travel is generally easier off-peak, therefore to get people onto PT and reduce emissions the incentive has to be greater than it is during the peak.

      2. Why not make off peak free? It probably wouldn’t cost that much in terms of lost revenue or in terms of providing more services (I doubt there would be any new infrastructure or buses/trains required).
        The extra usage would require more off peak services which would make PT more attractive to everyone. There would be a lot more 1 car families, a lot less drunks on the road, and a lot more off peak road space for tradies, couriers, etc.

    3. The problem with monthly passes is they are effectively a subsidy for commuters while less regular off peak users have to pay full price. It is like an inverse congestion charge.

      1. Yes, but that makes sense. PT congestion is a good thing really while road congestion is a bad thing.

        We should be encouraging superusers with monthly passes. The situation you decsribe is exactly what happens in Prague where annual passes are dirt cheap. The price of an annual pass might cover the costs of travelling on casual tickets for 1 or 2 months.

        Prague hs the most used PT metro system in the world per capita. So it works.

        1. But how is a dirt cheap annual pass any more effective than dirt cheap single fares? Is it the unlimited use model that attracts people?
          In the Prague scenario it seems like the people who use PT occasionally (non commuters) end up massively subsidising the commuters. The people not working (elderly etc) are subsidising the workers.

        2. ” Is it the unlimited use model that attracts people?”

          I don’t know about the Prague situation, but Vienna which appears to have a similar pricing model seems to work in exactly this way. 950 million PT trips per year for a population of 1.6 million. Annual pass ownership exceeds car ownership. There is a car mode share of only 27% (target of 20% by 2025) compared to Auckland at around 80%.

          If we genuinely want to get most people out of cars most of the time, this seems to be the model.

          Regarding the off peak fare proposal, this is likely to have little impact on peak driving because it provides no incentive to them to change. At our office we have a number of people with gold cards. Have any of them modified their habits to travel to work after 9am? Not one of them because lost earnings would be way more than any savings from travelling using the Gold Card.

          Annual /monthly passes seem to appeal to purchasers because they provide greater potential value. Much like a gym pass perhaps. If I use this pass at least 10, 15 or whatever times per month I will obtain better value than if I buy individual passes. There is an incentive to use it to maximise cost savings. It is akin to car owners use of their cars; I have paid for the car and so my only additional cost is the petrol. I will use it to maximise my investment in it. A monthly /annual pass can break that cycle because their suddenly becomes two investment options: do I travel solely by PT, or do I buy a car.

          Off peak pricing certainly won’t have any impact on Auckland PT fares continuing to be the third most expensive in the world.

        3. Yes, it is the unlimited use model and the convenience. Prague had no gates only inspectors.

          So I could just jump on a tram, bus, metro and just travel. I never had to buy a ticket or even think about it. I just jumped on. Imagine if you had to buy a ticket each time you used your car. How much less would you use it?

      2. Yeah I’m not a big fan of monthly passes either, both because they benefit commuters (who are expensive to service and generally willing to pay for quality) and also because monthlies are not well targeted to discretionary trips.

        I’d suggest a combination of daily / weekly caps plus an annual pass would be better. That would address both issues: discount discretionary trips for many more people in evenings, on weekends, and in summer periods etc. In contrast I know many monthly pass users who don’t but a pass dec thru jan, which is when capacity exists.

        Annual passes also reduce transaction costs for users, which I think is potentially under-rated (one of Uber’s main innovations was ease of payment).

        1. Also monthly passes add complexity for the user. Each month you have to decide whether you are going to use it enough to bother (e.g. over Christmas), you have to purchase it (or it may be automatic in which case you may have to cancel it), etc. A daily or weekly cap would provide the same functionality but without any user input.
          I personally think a daily cap of 2 fares and a weekly cap of 10 fares makes sense. Basically if you are a standard commuter you get any extra trips for free. (Although I would prefer to not have any caps and just make off peak free or close to it).

        2. I think we should have any free fare as such but every cap and all of the above to prevent any distortions. Daily, weekly, monthly caps. Monthly or yearly passes. Discounts for off-peak regardless of payments or pass. Heavy discounts for children, students and seniors. This way we get good commuter and casual use during off-peak & peak. Retain a HOP card type system for good data collection to improve services etc.

  7. I think the missing piece of analysis (which is not really possible to do from the outside!) is what would the world look like after, and what the subsequent spending implications would be.

    Arbitrary and hypothetical, but let’s say there is latent demand that would result in a shift of an additional 30% of Auckland to transit due to it being free. Now we take 30% of the roading budget and spend it on transit – what are the possibilities there?

    Assuming that EXTRA money is needed to run the service is missing the game-changing nature of the proposal – there is plenty of money to radically improve transit, it’s all just allocated to road spending still.

    I don’t know if I support the concept yet, but I think that latent demand could be powerful in changing Auckland if the problem is thought about in the right way,

    1. Yes, excellent way to frame it, dr. I have similar ideas for looking at the city if all the changes required were made (fare levels, bus lane provision, speed limits, enforcement levels, traffic signal phasing, service frequency, parking levies, road rules), calculating the costs and benefits to society on all levels, then working out the business case for each element base on its share of the overall picture.

    2. Sounds logical. In fact free PT would probably get enough people out of their cars that they wouldn’t need to spend any more money on roads in Auckland for a long time (other than maintenance and painting new bus lanes). So I imagine it would pay for itself.
      Of course on the flip side the fuel excise tax take would decrease a fair amount.

        1. Can you explain how me sitting on my arse on a bus for longer than I sit on my arse in a car is going to provide reduced health costs?

        2. Go to a PT city like London or New York and have a look at the waist lines of the people, then go to a car city like Houston or Auckland and look at the waist lines of the people, tell me which you think looks more healthy…

    3. “I think the missing piece of analysis (which is not really possible to do from the outside!) is what would the world look like after, and what the subsequent spending implications would be.”

      If the effect of having free PT is only a 30% increase in ridership then something will have gone drastically wrong in the implementation. Vienna with just a slightly larger population than Auckland has ten times more annual transport trips per year. It has cheap public transport, but not free.

  8. Some commenters at the original newspaper article seemed to think the HOP machines could be removed, resulting in a saving and a more convenient entry/exit path for travellers. No, the tag on tag off would need to stay so AT could determine ridership stats.

    If PT became free, Goldcard holders would have no incentive to travel after 9am. They would simply add to the pre-9am peak hour rush.

    1. off peak discounts have modified my behaviour in Wellington, I rarely travel at peak time now the off peakfares apply with snapper.

    2. I can’t see the HOP system staying if there were no fares. It would be very hard to justify the expense of maintaining the system, the cost of enforcement of people using it and also the impact it has on boarding and disembarking just to gather stats.

        1. If they can count pedestrians on Queen Street or cyclists on Quay St then I’m sure it is possible to measure people coming and going from a train station or a bus.

        2. The cycleway counters manage to count cyclists using a motion sensor. I think I remember reading that the trains have a similar system to count passengers… No reason why similar systems couldn’t be installed on buses.

        3. I think the value of this HOP data should not be underestimated. Cards are often registered having home address and age info and you could compare travel patterns in all sorts of ways. Simple counts especially just occasionally done would be of far less value. Also aren’t we just talking about free for at most some groups of people?

    3. If the system copies Tallenn, it was only free for people holding cards that had to be obtained just like a HOP card. If they don’t have one of those cards, travellers still have to buy a ticket.

      I imagine it would be the same here. The “free” PT would only apply to HOP card users – not toiursists. Why would we subsidise travel for tourists?

      1. We do, of course, subsidise tourists in many other ways, and it’s about time we started measuring it. The ideal would be to be welcoming, adopt behaviours that are beneficial (such as using PT, not uber) while also ensuring tourists cover their own costs. Perhaps tourists should be able to purchase a Tourist HOP card for minimal cost, which puts their fares onto the Ministry of Tourism, which can find another way to recoup those costs from the tourists. Residents would have a special resident’s card instead.

        1. We take way more GST off tourists than we give them back in services, I don’t think we need to worry about concerns that we are subsidising tourists.

        2. Pfff… on what analysis, Jezza? Whose going to pay for the mitigation for the climate change their air travel causes? You know that 1.6% of Air NZ frequent flier members choose to offset their travel? The GST they (and we) pay on products they buy here doesn’t even pay for the environmental damage the production of the products caused in the first place. The widespread use of under the table labour in the tourist industry and of below-the-living-wage legal pay rates means the industry creates social problems that our taxes struggle to solve. And that’s before we get into the issues of our ecological places…

        3. I agree that travellers get a free ride in terms of the carbon emissions, however I don’t really see why this would be a reason to charge tourists for PT use in Auckland to make up some of these costs. All that would mean is that the tourists that don’t use PT in Auckland continue to get a free ride.

          Also I’m not really sure its the tourists fault that people are being payed under the table and have poor working conditions, these services are likely being used by New Zealanders as well. It is a failure of regulation and enforcement that this is happening.

        4. Agree. My suggestion is aiming to ensure tourists cover their own costs, not to subsidise anyone. It may not be spot on, but a fault of what I suggested might be that tourists who do not use PT in Auckland might be subsidising those who do, not the other way around. Have another read.

          But the topic is not really central to this post anyway…

      2. Because the cost of running the HOP system, delaying buses as people tag on and off, etc would most likely cost many times more than the tourist subsidy.

  9. An important point to clarify with Tallinn’s “free” public transport. It isn’t, not for the city at least.

    In Tallinn residents are required to get the equivalent of a hop card, and register it. This registration then means that a thousand euros a year is transferred from their income tax to the city council.

    So effectively, it’s a scheme where the central government uses tax money to pay a shadow toll to buy every user an annual pass. The key thing here is that the council running the public transport system has a large external revenue stream that is directly related to the number of users it has.

    Tourists, visitors and commmuters from outside of the council area are required to pay full price.

    Everyone is required to have a card or ticket, and tag on and off as usual.

  10. Does the fare put people off using public transport? I thought it was the fact it didn’t start where you are and didn’t finish where you are going to and didn’t go at a time that was suitable and it requires waiting. I thought the cost of the fare was well down the list of reasons to avoid public transport.

    1. I thought it was mostly because the trains are old and run on diesel and that you needed a different card to ride with each of the different bus companies.

    2. The fare is one component. If you eliminated the fare I suspect enough people would use it to justify more services to then fix your issue.

    3. I thought it was because we had under invested in PT for 60 years, ignored every report that told us it was stupid to under invest in PT for 60 years and we instead spent all our money making travel by car easier for 60 years.

      Plus of course designing a city that only works if you make it easy to travel by car and then it doesn’t work very well.

      1. He’s right though, you’ll still often find that instead of driving half an hour each way, you’re not even able to make the return trip within an entire afternoon.

        The designing the city part, there’s the ‘something drastically gone wrong’ dr is referring to.

      1. Well of course. Because, as above, the city hs been designed that way for 60 years. And it mostly worked while it was an overgrown country town. Not when it is a proper city.

        However, many trips at peak time are now faster by bus. I had a friend in Mt Eden who drove everywhere and was shocked when I got to his place in 15mins from the city at peak times. The bus lanes meant that I flew past all the cars.

        I remember in London getting out of a car and getting on the underground. His English girldfriend had offered to drive us from Wembley to Camden. I realised then why no one drove. It was literally faster to walk.

        It is all a mater of design and prioiry. Theer is no intrinsic quality of Auckland that makes driving more desirable or efficient. In fact, it’s long thin shape is ideal for PT.

  11. I never thought I’d see the day when I agreed with the majority of what Waspman has just posted.

    And all without managing to blame National for everything that’s wrong with PT.

    1. Is that the same National that wanted to spend an extra $11 billion on roads?
      The same National that didn’t fund a new PT project in 9 years (except the CRL that they were the last to support)
      Yeah I can’t see why anyone would blame them…

  12. Another thing that needs to be considered is the cost of taking the fare. Obviously the cost of building and running the HOP system, the cost of ticket inspectors, the time taken to manage cash, the cost of contact centres, and the delays to buses while people pay / tag on / tag off. I wouldn’t be surprised if my bus would be 30% quicker if it was free – so at 50% fare recovery, the real cost may only be around 20%. And if buses weren’t sitting in bus stops so long the capacity of the existing network would be a lot higher.

        1. Data, Jimbo, data. Anyway completely free for everyone at all times is unlikely to happen or be a good idea.

          But certainly earning free trips through use, and subgroups such as kids free or cheaper (still tagging on and off), or at certain times, certainly has value, and should be investigated more seriously.

        2. Patrick, I like the idea of introducing a kind of loyalty scheme to the HOP system. It sounds cool and would be useful.

          Tim, while I suspect that the price of HOP cards does prevent some people from getting them (since they are not travelling frequently), having to have a mobile phone capable of handling an app and which is in fully working order is much more problematic again.

          That being said, while the data argument is very important getting the end user to see the point is more relevant and not, I think, helpfully resolved by appealing to data. Additional functionalities would likely be necessary but other than bike cage access I can’t think what they’d be.

        3. Or do what London does: Google Pay, Apple Pay, Garmin Pay, any contactless bank card, or Oyster Card. All accepted for payment.

        4. It won’t be completely free. It will only be free for residents. Just like you can only get a library card if you can prove you are a resident.

  13. Matt, this is a really mature, balanced post. Well done, as usual. I’d like to pick up on your question: “What are the social and economic benefits of getting more people on PT?” and your comment “extending the Supergold card model to perhaps younger people and those on low incomes and having cheaper fares off-peak and weekends.”

    I’ll list benefits of providing free travel to children below, and suspect the funding should come from the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health and Ministry for the Environment, due to the vast benefits in those realms. And I think we can maturely look at the options of
    – dropping the fares to zero in one go, expecting chaos with extra buses to direct to the most difficult routes, and
    – phasing it in with lower and lower fares so the system can be built incrementally. Either is possible.

  14. Here are some of the many benefits of providing free travel to children:

    – Children from low income families without access to parental chauffeurs would suddenly have access to opportunities that they currently are excluded from.
    – Children who are currently chauffeured around would find themselves using public transport instead – I’ve seen first hand the ripple effect of one child in a group of friends using public transport and managing to pull friends along too. The incentive of free travel would give this phenomenon wings, pressuring parents to think through whether their protective instincts are well placed, when ‘everyone else is doing it, Mum’.
    – Many car trips would be removed from the system, reducing the need for more expensive measures to address congestion.
    – Single parents would find life far, far easier – both financially and pragmatically.
    – Our children would walk far more, as PT use increases walking. This would set them up for healthier, happier lives and cost the public transport system far less.
    – Adults would walk and use PT more too – they can head out on adventures with children and know that wherever the outing ends up, it’s only one adult fare to get them home again. They would also be surrounded by children who are comfortable with the system, so wouldn’t face opposition when suggesting a trip be done by PT, even with the walking involved.

    1. Heidi
      I am not sure what you are saying.
      Off peak should be free. Is this to reduce PT congestion.
      Kids should be free. Is this to take advantage of the space freed up by the above?

  15. Encouraging off-peak use however we do it would be good to fully use existing resources. I’m sure in favour of free for children/students for purely selfish reasons but only with HOP cards. This could be done for just off-peak times initially if funding and or resources are a problem until the funding model is changed. Win win for all.

    1. The initial visible change from free fares for children would be in reducing the morning peak congestion. I think it would be silly to miss out on this major advantage – to drivers and to bus users – by going for off-peak fares for children first. Research showing “the first leg determines the journey mode” also means if parents aren’t dropping their kids off by car, many of them will also find other ways to commute.

  16. There are a lot of unused capacity during off peak in some of the routes, some of the time the bus would be almost empty wasting fuel and driver cost.

    Therefore I don’t see any significant cost or subsidies to give away this free capacity to students and kids.

  17. I am very grateful for the free travel I get from my super gold cards. However a lot of my fellow gold card holders don’t seem to want to use it. I know of several in my street who just seem happy to sit in their house all day every day just making a weekly trip to the supermarket in their car. Still they aren’t causing much congestion and their carbon footprint must be pretty low. However we have a lot of almost empty new air conditioned buses circulating around the south these days especially off peak and at the weekend it seems a pity and environmentally wasteful to me.So maybe cheaper fares would help. But I worry if the fares are changing between peak and off peak that it will confuse or put people of using public transport. Some people with very little money need absolute certainty. For example it might be better for some beneficiaries or minimum wage workers to get part of their benefit or working for families as dollars on their HOP card. I don’t know if you can use your HOP cards to buy smokes. Anyway it could be an option which the social welfare or the IRD could make available.

    1. The HOP card cannot be used to buy anything. Not even refreshments. It can only be used to pay for travel on AT timetabled journeys (ferries, buses and trains). It can be used to pay for SkyBus trips to and from the airport, but those are pre-booked trips only. You cannot jump onto a SkyBus and use your HOP card.

        1. Are you certain? Have you ever done that? I’ve heard on good authority that what you’re saying is completely wrong. And I’m talking about advice from a SkyBus agent in person after I asked him whether that could be done. I’d like you to explain a bit more, rather than a casual offhand claim.

        2. Q: Are AT HOP cards accepted?

          A: You can use your AT HOP card to purchase Adult $17.50 One way on Auckland City Express, and Adult $21 One way on North Harbour Express.
          Note: Standard HOP discounts applied to single adult trip fares are for a limited time only. Other discounts or concessions do not apply to SkyBus services.
          Please refer to http://www.at.govt.nz/athop for conditions.

          Q: Where do I present my AT HOP card?

          A: You must tag on and off on SkyBus as you do on Auckland Transport services. Your AT HOP card will automatically get charged the full fare amount.

          https://www.skybus.co.nz/faqs

          (Took 1 min to find out with Google …)

        3. Yes, I have personally done it many times. The Skybus is how I normally travel to and from the airport, which I do often for work, and I have only every paid by tagging on with my hop card.

        4. Yes, I do it many times too. However – there IS a problem – at the Domestic Terminal, no-one sells the HOP card, so if you are from out of town, you cannot start off with a Hop. You can wait until you are in town, and then try and find one then, but you will probably already have bought a return ticket. Or, you could take a shuttle bus to the International terminal, where there is apparently somewhere that may sell you a HOP.

          Its a bloody shambles. Sort your act out AT.

          In other, real world cities, you can buy the appropriate PT card at every major station. Oyster cards, etc, available to tourists who don’t want to be ripped off or use private transport. Make public transport easy and available and people will use it.

        5. Yes: Retailer: i-SITE International Airport
          Top-ups? Yes
          Loads Monthly/Day Passes? Yes
          Sells AT HOP cards? Yes
          Location Address Ground floor Arrivals area Auckland International Airport
          Operating Hours Monday – Sunday: 6am – 10pm

        6. Having the HOP retailer at the international terminal and not at the domestic terminal is in line with having no HOP retailers at Intercity or at the Strand Station. AT haven’t sorted out that people arriving into Auckland from other parts of the country will want to get around town by bus. But let’s see if we can get that changed.

        7. Heidi – agree, and it also highlights the absurdity of having two terminals at an airport as small as Auckland, it just means things like this have to be duplicated.

  18. “It’s also worth remembering that in many public surveys, by far the most commonly mentioned thing people would like to see done to improve public transport is not cheaper or free fares but improved frequencies. Make the system more useful and more people will use it.”

    Making PT cheaper or fare-free wont make more people use it. The services have to be made more everyday life-relevant for patronage levels to increase. The focus must thus be on service ‘convenience’ provision.

    When the focus of the transport agency is on providing services that are convenient and relevant to everyday life 7 days a week and 365 days of the year, the design, build and operate silos disappear, along with the walls between customer experience and operational imperatives.

    With no focus on service ‘convenience’, Auckland’s PT services continue to operate at low levels of performance – this despite the substantial investments made in the improvement of the infrastructure and the integration of bus, rail and ferry services since 2012. In 2019, we are past the point where we could easily kid ourselves into believing that we should be grateful for what we’ve got because the infrastructure is “far better than it was before” and “once the CRL goes in, things will be sweet”. Thats just as misguided as thinking that adding extra lanes to the Southern Motorway between Manurewa and Papakura is going to make things better. Its not. It doesnt fix the real problem(s).

    We cannot keeping thinking and believing that building kit alone is the answer and that offering things cheaper or for free is going to make people use services and infrastructure more. PT services in Auckland will continue to be provided in a siloed manner and customer experience and operational imperatives be seen as separate, until the focus is placed on providing service convenience.

    Focus on service convenience and you automatically ensure user safety and security – both during the day and at night.

    Focus on service convenience and the existing infrastructure quickly becomes more user friendly and user attractive.

    Focus on service convenience and the users become happy to pay what they’re paying currently for short and long journeys.

    Focus on service convenience and the rationale for providing discounts to encourage greater offpeak travel on weekdays and on weekends, becomes financially sustainable – due to a range of non-fare convenience services provided across the network that can be made profitable, even at current total network patronage levels.

    In summary, rather than look to making access to PT services free and expect that building and delivering kit will fix problems, place the priority instead on service ‘convenience’ provision. Its the great leveller that brings about true user satisfaction with the services received, brings all parts of the service provider / service delivery partners together (even wayfinding) and it creates real-world collaboration and innovation – for the benefit of all.

    1. Agree, but with our increasing gap between haves and have nots, and our fares expensive by world standards – fare adjustment through an equity lens is an urgent step.

      1. Heidi, the one zone $1.90 and two zone $3.30 fares are very reasonable, especially when you can take up to 5 trips on buses or trains, tag on within 30 minutes of tagging off your previous service and complete a single journey incl those 5 ‘legs’ within 4 hours and all for either $1.90 within one zone or $3.30 within two zones…and the zones are pretty large as we know. That’s good value for money.

        Priortise service convenience provision and the perceived or actual fare inequity issue, narrows significantly, to the point where it can be addressed in the most realistic and situation-specfic manner.

        Where the Auckland PT fare system currently is counterproductive, is for weeknight and weekend travel. It costs myself, my wife and our two adult daughters (18 and 23 respectively) $26.40 to go from Mt Roskill into town and back whereas taking the car and parking it in an AT car parking building is $10-12 max. The cost of parking out in the suburbs at AT-operated facilities on weeknights and on weekends is cheaper still…free even! The ‘inequity’ and the disaparity thus is the significantly lower cost of car parking compared to PT on weeknights and on weekends when you’re travelling in groups – families especially.

        When you focus on PT service convenience provision and the non-fare revenue that such convenience generates, then the current inequality between PT and car use is greatly reduced. You dont price people out of their cars, you price/service compete against car use on weeknights and on weekends.

        Once the focus is on service convenience provision, PT fares can then be made lower for people travelling in groups on weeknights and on weekends. Halve that 2-zone $26.40 return cost for a group of 4 adults, alongside implementing service hours that are convenient to users and services that consistently and conveniently interconnect, and you’ll get more bums on train and bus seats where and when it really matters.

        1. Make that a family of 6 with the children being on a child fare from Papakura and driving is much more cheaper than PT regardless of parking. A whooping great $53.60 if my maths is right. Aka City Farmers Parade

        2. Exactly Grant. Patronage across the AT Metro network will not grow until the hunt for the great white commuter ends and proper incentives are put in place to increase patronage on weeknights and weekends – that is where the money is. The New Network bus services now run at decent enough frequencies across Auckland and the rail frequencies can be pushed up to what was publicly promised from several years back. Lower fare offerings for groups of 4-6 people travelling on weeknights and weekends must be implemented. AT continually are not serious about increasing revenue from both fare and non-fare sources – a mindset that’s completely at odds with other transport agencies I have worked with overseas – in cities with a similar population size and with a similar PT network setup.

        3. Then again, is one vehicle with 6 people in it really what PT is aimed at? I think the real target is single occupancy behicles. Your example is a massive outlier.

        4. @goosoid Would you rather they fill an near empty bus already running or hop in a car and contribute to our carbon emissions & congestion? It’s a waste to have to take the car simply due to cost to the user.

        5. “Where the Auckland PT fare system currently is counterproductive, is for weeknight and weekend travel.” That’s one area in which it is counterproductive, I agree. But how about the whole difficult realm of parenting and getting kids around town?

          Moving around with kids by car is a hassle in many ways. One big stress for me was leaving my child at a friend’s place without their car seat, for example, because you usually don’t just for a play; it’s a hassle to take out of the car. But then occasionally, I’d find out that the family had been left in the difficult situation of having to drive somewhere unexpectedly, but didn’t have a child seat with them. Or I would leave the car seat and then it was left behind by mistake when they decided to drop my child home instead.

          You would think that the freedom of just doing everything by public transport would have to be much easier than bothering with car seats. Certainly just being able to walk onto the bus without needing equipment, and talk with the children throughout the journey instead of concentrating on driving, is wonderful. And some of the reasons it’s not easier are the usual things that affect other users, such as poor pedestrian amenity, and poor frequency of services, especially when transferring – but perhaps to a more extreme level when it’s a lack of safe infrastructure when crossing roads, etc.

          But then there are other reasons that using PT is way harder for getting children around town than taking the car is. One of the biggies is that other families just aren’t doing it. In organising an outing, making it work by public transport is a ‘concession’ the other families might make as a one-off, but they’ll probably let you know it’s a hassle. You can offer to take a child home by public transport but since the child is going to picked up by someone else later, the child needs their seat with them for the return home… it ends up being just hard to combine public transport and car use. Something radical is needed to shake this up so that taking kids by public transport is a normal activity. I live in an area where it should be possible for almost every trip, yet people with kids seem to be as car dependent as anywhere in Auckland.

          And then there’s the cost. If you’re taking a child somewhere, going home, picking them up a few hours later and then going home, and you have 2 other children with you, this will cost you $32.60, even with a HOP card (for a 2 zone journey). If one of those children isn’t yours, and you have to pay cash, then it’s $36.84. Higher prices for carparking are irrelevant – the car wouldn’t be parked for long enough for that to apply. And yes, once the child is old enough to go by themselves, the fares would go down to only $3.88 – but that’s not likely to happen if they haven’t been doing it by bus with their parents up until that point.

          Show me a parent prepared to pay $32.60+ to enable their child to visit a friend for a few hours. Improved pedestrian amenity, service, safety will increase the chances that some of these car dependent families might consider letting their child travel alone when they’re older. But for most families, something much more radical is required to make the use of public transport normal.

          I believe reducing the cost radically, with free kids’ travel, could be that radical move.

        6. Question about that last point: how common is it for children to travel alone on a bus? Or from what age does that happen? I don’t think I have ever seen a child unaccompanied by an adult on the bus in Auckland outside the school run.

          And a hassle, well, it just is. You have to hurry and watch the clock so you don’t miss the bus. We’re not talking about talking to your kids vs. concentrating on driving here. We’re talking about drive 20 minutes and spend one hour at your destination (or at home) vs. spend 1 and a half hour waiting for and sitting on a bus. Many places are simply unreachable. The poor pedestrian amenity you mention is a big problem with small kids — you’ll often find your bus stop on the wrong side of a big arterial.

          (you mention going back home in between. You’re lucky to be able to do that at all within a few hours).

        7. Roeland, I see kids taking the public bus alone from about the age of 8. It was a pretty young boy I spotted and photographed for my Outer Link post … possibly as young as 7? And there was an (unrelated) girl there of about 9. Both were taking the public bus home from school, the only two at the bus stop. In the most car dependent areas of Auckland I imagine you wouldn’t see kids using the bus until 11 or 12?

        8. Yes we try to send our children (normally in groups) on PT as much as we can so we don’t spend our whole day as a taxi service as some (normally mothers) do. Sitting in cars, getting fat, stressed & lethargic, choking on fumes and choking up the roads with often unnecessary trips. It’s often scary to let them go by themselves, but as they age and get to know the system better it becomes a bit of an investment. Multiple children, very short or longer distance is the killer cost wise it seems with the fare zones unless it’s a “lucky zone”…I guess it balances out in that way. It’s amazing what is close to the southern train line for sport venues for example….other times it is really bad and big long waits for transfers are needed.

      2. “fare adjustment through an equity lens is an urgent step.”

        Respectfully Heidi equity is best handled by our taxation system, and the significant changes to the working for families package was a step in that direction last year.

        When we look at our transport system surely our first concern must be the quick and efficient movement of all passengers. Overlaid on that situation has now become the issue of carbon emissions. As you are aware from my post about emissions, fuel use in Auckland in 2016 was about 8% above 2009 levels. (I don’t have a figure for last year as I suspect it is embarrassing for AT to publish it.) If Auckland wants to achieve Carbon Zero targets it will require more than just poorer people riding buses. I also don’t think that it is helpful to see PT as poor people’s transport.

        Would it not make more sense for car users to help pay for the cost of the more carbon friendly PT solutions? Provide a stark alternative: pay for the true cost of driving, or pay less and take more environmentally safe options.

        Road tolls won’t happen any time soon – a political nightmare and not a single brave politician in sight.

        I agree with you that there should be a gradual reduction in PT fares so that the infrastructure can cope with it. I think you have spoken of around a 15% increase per year – perfect!

        I think the outcome of reduced PT fares is likely to be that the less well off are likely to be the recipients because they cannot afford cars. So more dollars left from their income – yes a great outcome. But I am not concerned that an accountant of judge who rides PT is advantaged as well. AT doesn’t do the stick approach, so for the meantime it is the carrot to help save our environment.

  19. Equally, in Europe many argue that transport is generally too cheap, including public transport. People use it to such an extent that new infrastructure has to be built continually, often with adverse effects on the environment, and more energy used. Yes, it’s good to make public transport more attractive in comparison with individual motor vehicles, and it’s good to connect people and places, but that can lead to mobility consumption that is destructive and has many adverse effects. Getting people used to not having to pay for transport sets a precedent that many then take for granted as a ‘right’.
    Prices for transport, both public and private (as well as other modes) has to be set at the right level. I don’t think the market does that very well, so it is mostly a political question.

    1. I believe that it is important to look at the wider picture in terms of PT pricing because it all plays a part.

      The AT Parking Strategy is almost completely unhelpful in promoting PT use. (I say “almost completely” because I don’t want someone to find the one exception if I say, “completely.”)

      Here’s some of what it says for off street parking, “Principles …Pricing policies should be consistent with the organisation’s strategic objectives by supporting visits to the CBD, promoting public transport use, discouraging commuter trips at peak time ….Prioritising short stay parking over long stay parking etc

      I have had a look at all of the AT Parking websites and cannot see how any of their pricing achieves any of this. What disincentive is there to long term parking if rates are capped after 5 hours? (Civic) What is there in charging the same price between 7am and 9am that discourages peak commuter trips?

      https://en.parkopedia.co.nz/parking/auckland/?arriving=201901151700&leaving=201901151900
      The Parkopedia site is always my favorite place though to consider just how little AT is promoting public transport use. Why is AT always so much cheaper than most of its competitors?

      What I have outlined above is probably a huge part of why so many drive to the city rather than take PT – it is simply cheaper!

      Even if off peak fares are halved, say after 9am, two people driving to the city from Albany for a couple of hours and returning, will pay $8.00 in parking – by bus (4.80 x 2 x 2)/2 = $9.60.

      The situation is worse in the evening when PT is competing against parking at $2 per hour. On an economic basis why would people catch the bus if they had a car?

      One part of AT is working against the other. Until this issue is addressed there may be little merit in adjusting PT fares – is the expression, “urinating into the wind?”

      Some of you will recall that the Mayor wrote to AT asking whether the Parking Strategy was fit for purpose. I had hoped to post the reply here because I requested this in an OIA request, but it has barely been a month. Hopefully we will see an answer soon.

      AT needs to do much better with car mode share. Let us hope that this year they make a start. I suspect transport may follow the same pathway as the plastic bag moment. I note from media reports that many consumers are now contacting their suppliers and saying, bags was a start, now what about other plastic. Once the Carbon Zero Bill surfaces I think people rather than politicians will demand change. New networks have not proved enough, pricing needs to be part of the change

    2. “in Europe many argue that transport is generally too cheap” – can you please provide a citation. In my all years living in Europe I have never once heard soemone complain PT was too cheap.

      Your sttaemnet just makes no ense. An expansion of a PT network is never seen as a failure.

  20. The Stuff article misses the key point.

    1) The issue should be about providing free/cheap public transport for all transport disadvantaged in society (students, low income) who do not have car alternatives.

    “Equality of access to employment and services, increased cohesion and decreased isolation are significant social benefits that public transport investment can provide.”

    We allow low density car dependent urban sprawl though the RMA so we should pay the consequences, and not leave transport disadvantaged as an externality.

    2) “PUBLIC” transport is just that, public transport. A comprehensive coverage network running 24/7 (between all O/Ds, say max 10min walk) should be provided for the transport disadvantaged before providing subsidized high frequency core routes for commuters with jobs. (the comprehensive coverage network this can be a time dependent mix of on-demand(to/from fixed network) and fixed route services with 30 min headways.)

    3) The government should rewrite the GPS and PT funding rules to achieve this in the first place. Taxpayers should probably fund most of the comprehensive coverage network as the benefits are mainly social. (this could be direct crown funding to NZTA)

    4) If Councils want to fund PT enhancements over and above this then they can fund through farebox recovery, rates and road user excise tax.

  21. Why don’t we wait until we have an extensive tram network until we put a free tram zone into the city? After all, isn’t there a plan to turn most key bus routes into trams in the future? We can always do temporary free trams, like Melbourne when there are major events.

  22. If you made the trains free, you’d better ramp up security to the maximum and give them real powers (transit police).

    The most likely outcome would be middle class flight from train services, as they became a hotbed of crime and antisocial behaviour. A mass exodus back to cars – highly counterproductive.

    1. Hasn’t happened in French towns or in Tallin.

      It isn’t open season on PT. You still need a card like HOP and to register with the transit authority as a resident. See Nick R’s email above on Tallin.

      If you don’t have that you still have to pay. So toursists and casual users still pay.

      1. I don’t know, never been there so have no idea about their culture or enforcement. Have you?

        I don’t know if our feral underclass (as often witnessed in the CBD) is a phenomenon unique to Auckland, but i can observe that i’ve felt safer in many major cities around the world (including those with much higher headline crime rates). Unleash these people on Auckland public transport, and no-one else will want to use it. Just ask Shane Cortese.

  23. I should add that Auckland’s public transport system will only survive and thrive if it has the support and patronage of the middle class – that’s where the votes are, and hence the money. Noone wants to be subjected to unpleasant/intimidatory behaviour, petty crime, or even assault when they’re travelling.

    Shear it of that critical support via a decline in people’s perceptions of the service, and we’ll end up with the 80s/90s mess again. There are already issues with antisocial behaviour on trains particularly, that need to be resolved by additional enforcement.

    The most important thing is for PT to be aimed squarely at providing an efficient and pleasant for the middle class. Lose sight of that goal, and you lose the war.

    1. Brutus, you are absolutely right and the figures show that you are right – 57% of all PT train and bus trips are made by adults. Forget focusing on getting kids on buses, if we really want to improve ridership then adults are the target market.

      Get more adults on PT by making it cheaper, because in some parts of Auckland price does matter. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the greatest growth in Auckland PT is coming on the Shore because incomes are higher. Generally more populated services give patrons a better sense of security.

      I note that 67% of all kids journeys are one zone or less for which they pay up to 99 cents. I am struggling to see that this is much of an impediment to travel. Having said that I am a strong advocate of 1 zone, from Albany in the North to Manukau in the South.

      You may have read above about the extraordinary success that Prague and Vienna have had with their pricing models for PT. Prague is cheaper because the country is less wealthy, but the concept of discounted monthly, and in the case of Vienna, yearly passes is the same. A cheaply priced pricing model can have enormous success – Vienna with only 27% car mode share; and I believe that 2/3 of all Prague inhabitants ride PT every day.

      1. In theory, the annual pass idea would be another way to solve the huge costs a family faces trying to use PT. The problem, as I’ve highlighted, is that to get one child somewhere with the supervising adult, several children (also under that adult’s care) need to go as well. Passes could mean the cost of all this extra travel doesn’t push them to use the car instead. (And btw, with so many parents working, many parents not working on a particular afternoon are often looking after several children, including from other families. We’re not just talking big families.)

        However, the family is unlikely to purchase the passes in the first place unless the child is using the bus daily to get to school. Most children in Auckland should be close enough to walk or bike to school. The passes would need to be priced low enough to make it worth it for twice-a-week type travel. But then this would give an advantage to the out-of-zone children who do use the bus every day; yet these kids are typically from richer families. That’s not ideal. You’ve proposed before, I think, that children’s passes would be priced at half the adults’, based on Vienna’s system. Perhaps Vienna and Auckland’s attitudes around independent travel are different – I think we need a different solution for a different urban form and a different social make-up in our city.

        Taka-ite, I’ve had 10 years of taking kids around town almost solely by bus and bike after 8 years of trying to do so but failing at it because I still owned a car. Your pass idea – if it encourages people to not own a car – would be successful in bringing change. But please think a little more widely about the huge effect on adults’ travel from changing how children travel. Looking at today’s statistics is the sort of head in the sand thinking that you dislike about AT. The radical change needed to get families using PT regularly is obvious to someone who’s regularly around town with kids by bus and regularly interacting with families who won’t make the switch. I don’t think it could be obvious to an adult who is not doing this, even one thinking as progressively as you are about adult travel.

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