With ongoing industrial action resulting in NZ Bus services being cancelled, it will make it much harder for some people to get around the city.
This post is just a few thoughts and questions in my head about it.
1. Why can’t AT get comms right?
One of the enduring frustrations with Auckland Transport over any time there’s a disruption is that there are incredibly poor communications with the travelling public. It’s one thing during the immediate aftermath of something going wrong, such as disruption on the rail network, but another thing entirely when there’s advanced notice of it, like a strike.
To highlight this point, here is ATs information page about the disrupted services.
Is there a less customer friendly way of doing this? I suspect there’s a large number of people who don’t even know what their bus route is even called and on routes like Dominion Rd they just get on the next bus that comes along. Just listing all the route numbers is even worse for irregular users.
So, I can’t understand why, with just a little effort, AT couldn’t put out something like Peter N has here where the routes not being run are shown on a network map.
Here are those maps in more detail, starting with the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast and as you can see, there’s a relatively small presence for NZ Bus on the Shore these days but includes an important frequent route in the 82 between Milford/Takapuna and the city.
The central Isthmus is where the bulk of the NZ Bus routes are. The blue lines represent where some partial service will run
The West is like the North Shore in that NZ Bus don’t run anywhere near as many services as they used to.
NZ Bus run no services in the South and East.
Staying with tweets, Timmy took that information and turned it into a gif
Auckland Bus routes, with and without NZBus pic.twitter.com/378Cro05jL
— Timmy (@gallicist) December 8, 2019
Both of these show just how much of a hole will be created by not having them running.
2. Just how big is that hole
It’s hard to give an exact number of how many people will be impacted by this but even in December more than 200,000 people catch a bus daily. It will help that university and some secondary school year students are already on holiday.
Based on some other information Auckland Transport have provided me in the past, because NZ Bus run most of the busy isthmus services, around 44% of all bus boardings take place on an NZ Bus bus. Because of the factors mentioned above and because there are some limited services on a few routes the actual impact won’t be as high as that but it still represents a large number of people.
From memory, prior to the new network this NZ Bus services accounted for over two-thirds of boardings.
3. It’s not PTOM
One of the things that has already been blamed for this situation is PTOM (the Public Transport Operating Model). PTOM was introduced by the previous government in 2013 to reorganise how PT is planned and procured by agencies like Auckland Transport. But despite the ideological intentions often ascribed to it, especially as the minister/s who introduced it were known sceptics of the value of PT, it was a positive step forward from what existed before it.
In essence it requires agencies to plan PT routes as part of a coherent network and tender out routes as a package, effectively operating entire routes as a ‘gross contract’ where the agency collects all the fare revenue and the bus company provides services at an agreed rate. This was to stop the ability of bus companies to pick and choose the profitable routes to run commercially while getting subsidies for the rest. There is obviously a lot more to it than that but there is nothing inherently in PTOM that is bad.
As such, I see the focus on PTOM by the bus unions as a case of going after the symptom and not the cause. The real issues at play are:
- Demand for public transport is increasing rapidly, as evidenced by usage having grown by about 75% in a decade. More people using PT means we need to run more services to carry that demand and therefore cost of services increases.
- Even when including the increased fare revenue from usage growth, there’s still only a limited pool of money available to pay for services. As it is, with operational cost increases AT don’t have enough money to keep running the services we already have and so have already been cutting them back.
Solving the wider shouldn’t be about scrapping or even significantly changing PTOM but addressing the wider funding debate.
Perhaps the one thing that PTOM did do though is put most of the PT network through a tender process and many of the routes had never had that, or were seeing previous contracts being rolled over on short term extensions.
4. Pop-up bike lanes?
With many buses not running on the isthmus it will mean many of the bus lanes will be empty. So why not make use of the space for some pop-up protected bike lanes to help give some of those impacted an alternative way of getting around? It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, even just some orange cones would help.
Could you remind me who NZBus is owned by these days? It used to be Infratil, didn’t it? But I think they sold it? Any ideas?
Also – why are they striking?
And also – if NZBus did have ownership of routes in Wellington, they also owned the Snapper fare thingy, right? But Auckland’s Hop wouldn’t work with Snapper, or vice versa. So are NZBus in Auckland running Hop or Snapper – and how come it is all working fine now? I’m genuinely confused.
NZ Bus run the Hop system in Auckland as it is a requirement to run bus services here.
“The unions won’t disclose the claim and counter-claim in their pay talks, but rejected a 2 per cent offer. They also want a reduction in the length of a working day, which with a split-shift can extend over 14 hours.”
Labour campaigned on bringing in Fair Pay Agreements for positions like bus drivers. It’s especially appropriate for a public service. However it’s the 3rd year of their term, they’ve not achieved the 1-2 per year or even any and we’ve still got strikes https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2017/11/05/fair-pay-bus-drivers-jacinda-ardern/
They are not striking . The Bus company NZBus have looked the drivers out . So stop calling it a strike as the drivers were working to rule by noty collecting Fares of any discription and managament didn’t like as no money was coming in to cover costs .
I thought working to rule, was following rules to the letter of the law, such as only driving buses with a current COF, not-running red lights and taking brakes legally prescribed.
I would have thought collecting fares was part of the regular job description.
You and I might think its not a strike. Its a work to rule.
But legally it is a strike.
Previously when NZ Bus drivers went on a “work to rule” they were subsequently “locked out” by NZ Bus.
NZ Bus ran full page ads in the Herald saying how sorry they were, but that they weren’t to blame for the “strike action” of the bus drivers.
Complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority over these “factual” statements subsequently ruled that NZ Bus were legally correct and entitled to call the bus drivers actions “a strike”.
[So their advertising was factual and not incorrect].
So, NZ Bus is simply running the same playbook as last time. On the basis that as it worked before, so it should work again. Right?
Of course the difference is that AT are the organisation actually responsible for the bus services being delivered – NZ Bus and their buses is merely a method to deliver some of them.
However, it seems NZ Bus still thinks its back in the “good old days” when they owned the majority of the bus routes in Auckland and could say “jump!” and AT simply said “how high?” …
Maybe its time AT called the shots and said “Take a Jump” to NZ Bus. And cancel their contracts.
I do not blame NZ Bus, it’s just their driver’s have more pull than other companies. I suggest other companies driver’s fear for their work visas.
Blame the system that encourages the driver to be the price if winning a contract.
Infratil sold NZ Bus to Aussie private equity firm Next Capital.
Thanks Kris – that’s interesting – in my experience, whenever private equity groups get involved in public facility ownership, they almost inevitably try and screw some money out of the lead organisation, and usually end up bleeding it dry. Then they sell off the dry desiccated husk. So unless Next Capital are somehow new Aussie Saints, the future is probably looking a bit grim for NZ Bus Ltd.
Too cynical? Think back to Faye Richwhite, to NZ Rail, to Equiticorp, to Telecom, etc. Or many other examples in the UK, the US, and of course, Russia….
Guy M: Next Capital has form in this respect, since it used to own Go Bus. I’ve no direct knowledge, but I’m not aware that the company suffered from the experience (better-informed input welcomed!), so the future for NZ Bus may not be looking that grim – at least in its relationship with its current owners.
But current issues certainly won’t be adding the value that private equity owners rely on.
“All NZ bus services cancelled”
What a terrible thing to advertise in a headline. The average punter is t going to know there is one particular operator called “NZ Bus Ltd.” They’re going to read that and think all bus services in NZ are cancelled. Idiots.
AT’s Comms have always been rubbish. Over a month ago, I put through a request for a very simle bit of information. “Is NZ Bus allowed to put buses on the road with no airconditioning, or with malfunctining arconditioning”. I have a “case number”. but despite being told that I would receive a reply by 22 November – here we are, thundering through December, and despite a reminder from me – still no response. This followed 3 very uncomfortable journeys in the afternoon heat with crowdd buses with no functioning aircon. Bad enough for passengers, but worse for the driver who might have that bus of 4 or 5 hours.
Ventilation which should be such a basic has long been an issue with buses. Perhaps getting it to work or work properly shaves off profit. Or like every taxi I have used they simply turn it off to save fuel.
At least on the trains its excellent.
The driver does have an opening window for some relief unlike the passengers. Air conditioning is fine when its working well but sometimes you just want to go back to opening windows and roof vents. At least there are 2 doors opening regularly for a bit of ventilation, on long distance buses its one little door up the front that is closed 98% of the time. Imagine the hell of no aircon in that situation.
Although the causes of the dispute between NZ Bus and the union are not directly due to PTOM model, it does seem to expose a flaw in the gross contract system ( I.e where the operator does not take revenue risk but merely collects the revenue and passes it to AT) . I assume that there are mechanisms for AT to impose financial penalties on NZ Bus for cancelling services , but given the media reports that services may be cancelled until Xmas, that such penalties are less than the cost of the wages that are not being paid to the bus drivers. Therefore NZ Bus, possibly with the tacit agreement of AT, may have decided to tough it out with the union. Too bad about inconvenience for bus users..
AT’s comms are the least of our worries, it’s how we even got here.
The very model designed to drive down subsidies to zero, the PTOM , is not to blame? Seriously? GoBus were also recently embroiled in industrial action in South Auckland and like NZ Bus it was wages and conditions. Obviously the Transport Minister and his advice must be wrong then if that is the case if its not aspects of the PTOM!
It is well documented that the tendering system has driven wages and conditions down and certainly not enhanced them. Wellington’s well publicised driver shortages came as a direct result of the PTOM encouraged tendering system.
And if it’s not the PTOM is it simply AT and Greater Wellington don’t want to properly pay for services they want and the blame lies squarely at their feet? Or does the blame lie with the profit oriented private companies who provide the buses (in a system ratepayers are by law stuck with) and are therefore ripping off their drivers? Or both?
And where would Auckland’s bus services be without the exploitation of migrant workers? It’s well publicised that Ritchies were begging the government to relax the rules on migrant workers filling in the gaps as wages and conditions were too low to attract residents of this country.
Or is PT, especially bus based that requires so many drivers, simply unaffordable?
There is certainly a lot wrong with this operating model at least to get public transport users to this point!
There was a six day strike from all Stagecoach drivers in 2005, long before PTOM existed, drivers can be underpaid or perceive their working conditions are poor under any system.
I think a couple of your other comments are more on the mark. AT have taken the opportunity of new players to drive down costs, AT didn’t have to do this.
Also driver shortages are pinching at a time where we are increasing services, I suspect you are right that we would be in a big hole without migrant drivers.
There have been bus strikes for decades, it’s nothing new.
I think what is new here is a couple of decades worth of wage and conditions suppression finally starting to spill over. The race is approaching the bottom. These stop works etc are becoming a little more regular.
Are we comfortable as citizens having public transport that only exists in it’s current form based on worker exploitation, that is hugely reliant on shafting migrant workers from third world backgrounds? Some of these drivers skills behind the wheel are not good but desperate times call for desperate measures all round.
I really do not know how these drivers survive in Auckland. It’s a disgrace!
Perhaps the Government could hand public transport over to Pharmac to organise.
Brilliant, tarted up old buses or converted furniture removal vans, aka generics, that look the same but don’t work the same or work at al. Yessss
You think? I would’ve thought Pharmac would use our money to plan for the basic, comprehensive services we’re missing, based on fair analysis across the system, with political interference only once every few years.
If this problem is not related to PTOM, then it will be solved without any government intervention, right?
At $12 an hour I can’t honestly blame them. They deserve better, providing an essential public service. Meanwhile freight companies get huge subsidies courtesy of the NZ tax payer.
“As it is, with operational cost increases AT don’t have enough money to keep running the services we already have and so have already been cutting them back.”
I remember a few years ago; Auckland Transport fell short of money to look at reintroducing a train station at Mercer.
I see a disturbing trend here of Auckland Transport running out of money. Are train services in as much demand as bus services? Maybe those need to be looked into cutting instread?
Mercer is in the Waikato District and Waikato Region. If AT were struggling to get funds for a station there it was likely from one or both of these organisations.
Auckland Transport will never have enough money. It’s the transit operator in a city with very strong population and public transport growth, ruled by people who are at best indifferent about anything other than motorways and parking.
AT will always be playing catch-up.
Yes the comms are terrible as they keep saying “All NZ Bus Services” when I can see this morning that just some are looking at their app. I totally was under the impression all of those routes were. Do they want people to drive or something?
If I was planning to get to work I wouldn’t know to even use these buses, €*^%#!!## useless
Also train disruption this morning to add to it.
Oh apparently the app info is bullshit. Like the train info just when you need it most. Just some limited services on Dominion Rd etc are running but by other companies in place of NZ bus.
PTOM is an issue in the sense that AT don’t set fair pay and conditions in the tender requirements, which leads to NZ Bus bidding low to win contracts and then squeezing the drivers to maintain profits. Which leads to where we are now, with drivers needing to take action for fair pay and conditions, and NZ Bus punishing them (and us) with a lockout. Any review of PTOM needs to include fair pay and conditions as a standard for all tenders, or companies will just keep squeezing down wages. (See also the difficulties with recruitment in Wellington.)
Agree to an extent. Maybe a more free market approach would be to have massive fines on the provider in the case of a strike. That way the provider would be less likely to bid as low and pay as low. But it may lead to employees striking unnecessarily.
AT could include fair wages in contracts or they could absolutely hammer the supplier for cancelled services. We don’t need PTOM to legally mandate wages, we need AT to negotiate in such a way that wages won’t affect service performance.
This strike is so Auckland.
“Sorry most the bus services won’t run for an unknown period of time. Bad luck, try driving instead”.
In other countries they would at least be trying to resolve this, it would be front page news.
And shouldn’t NZ Bus be fined out of existence for this?
1. Yes, I think collecting fares is part of the job description for bus drivers. So it doesn’t seem accurate to say drivers are “working to rule”. Rather, drivers are choosing not to collect fares and, in response, NZ Bus has opted to lock them out. Personally, I can appreciate both sides: (1) I’d like drivers to be paid better but (2) NZ Bus can’t function if drivers don’t collect fares.
2. On a related point, it’s not quite right to say PTOM is a “gross contracting” model, in the sense that all fares go to AT. Rather, PTOM is a “gross with revenue sharing” model, where revenue is shared between AT and the operator. This model ensures operators have an incentive to collect fares. By not collecting fares, drivers are causing losses to both the operator and AT (and AC).
3. Bus driver strikes happened fairly regularly pre-PTOM. Also interesting that the drivers of other bus operators in Auckland aren’t or haven’t been striking: So at least some drivers have post-PTOM work conditions they feel are reasonable. On this basis, I find it hard to blame PTOM, even if it’s not my favourite contracting model.
4. Does anyone have data on wages before and after PTOM? I think it’s important to have that before jumping to conclusions. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from drivers that the effect of the re-tendering is not as clear cut as made out here, in the sense that some drivers benefited.
5. The inability of NZ bus to keep services running is likely to reduce their chances of retaining PTOM contracts next time they are tendered. Instead, the contracts are more likely to be awarded to operators with less unionised workforces. In the long run, this may mean the bus drivers union do themselves out of a job. I mention this not because I think it is a good outcome, rather a logical consequence of the situation we are in.
6. While the 2% offer is above inflation, Auckland is a god-damn expensive place to live. In an indirect way, I lay some blame for this situation on the stresses placed on working households by Auckland’s housing costs, which are absolutely insane. Adopt policies to reduce costs of housing and these issues will hopefully be less common.
All in all, I just find this sad — and hope that it can be resolved soon.
“Also interesting that the drivers of other bus operators in Auckland aren’t or haven’t been striking”: I wonder if this is because those bus companies aren’t big enough for it to have much effect. NZ bus still must be one of the bigger ones and no one seems that worried about a strike that could go until Christmas.
“The inability of NZ bus to keep services running is likely to reduce their chances of retaining PTOM contracts next time they are tendered”: Is this true, or do AT have to take the lowest price regardless?
“I lay some blame for this situation on the stresses placed on working households by Auckland’s housing costs, which are absolutely insane”: To an extent – but the tight labour market must be a factor too. I doubt people would settle for 2% in a tight labour market regardless of housing costs.
If their contract hasn’t expired, they can’t legally take industrial action.
“do AT have to take the lowest price regardless?”
No. No one is required to take the lowest value contract. You take the best value and past performance is a factor in assessing value.
SD: agreed 100%.
I wonder what the AT Board members think, after hearing for years and years about AT’s resilience plans. Turns out the resilience plans don’t include public transport. Yet they said…
“Resilience strategies need to be customer-centric, creating ways for people to get to their destinations and for businesses to move freight, even in difficult conditions. AT is investing to provide more integrated connectivity… The consequences of not being prepared, either for extreme events or chronic stress, can far outweigh the costs of being prepared.”
Laugh. Feeling had, perchance, Board? I certainly am – I don’t see any good governance going on at all.
Resilience is important. And I’m not meaning the misuse of the word as is happening in NZTA currently as a buzz concept to get hideous motorway projects over the line.
Do you really think most people have no idea about the route number of the bus they regularly use? It’s on the front, side and sometimes the back of the bus in big illuminated signs. I think it’s a bit unreasonable to critisise AT for listing the route numbers affected by this disruption.
Maybe they do know their own bus number; it depends on the route, a bit. I often bus to town along GNR from Pt Chev and I can remember the number 18 but all the other ones I’d be guessing at.
For most people, they’d check the list, see their bus is cancelled, and then what? The maps Peter N has made are user friendly and allow you to see geographically what your options are. The list of cancelled numbers might help you figure if you’re affected – it doesn’t help with finding a solution.
Right now, Journey Planner shows a moving warning across the top, that NZ Bus services are cancelled. But then when I put in my journey details, it provides a whole lot of options. The first one says:
Out 46 mins
Leave at 11:51 Arrive by 12:37
Bus leaves at 11:58 from Meola Rd/Moa Rd, 243 Meola Rd
Great, eh? It’s only if I need to press on the “See Travel Plan” which I normally don’t, that I would see this service is cancelled.
Remember that often, I see a warning about cancelled services and it doesn’t affect me.
If they have managed to attach the fact that the service is cancelled to the service in the Journey Planner, why can’t they attach it to the service in a place where it’s helpful?
I think AT need to be asked by their board why their communications are so poor.
I noticed this yesterday. You can open the notifications in the AT Mobile app, which tells you that (long list of numbers) is cancelled, but they will still show up in search results. Surely they don’t mean the journey planner? D’oh.
I guess for most trips on the isthmus, all results will include at least one cancelled service, rendering the journey planner useless.
In an earlier version of the Journey Planner, you could filter the results by operator. If they’d simply kept that feature, we could still use the Journey Planner.
It’s a sad situation – I feel sorry for the bus drivers who are ending the year with no wages, as well as the thousands of Aucklanders who do not own cars and rely on buses to get around. Having said that, I believe that public opinion is mostly siding with the drivers – we want them to be paid better, and I certainly do not detect any hints of grudges against the bus drivers from the Auckland public.
I, too, believe most people probably know the numbers of the busses they catch. However, this may be an artefact of where people are catching busses. If you can catch perhaps as many as 4 different busses and there are no other busses running by the stops you use, why would you remember the number of the bus? Do any people like that exist in Auckland? Not out South, East or West. Why? there are no routes like this. Maybe North. Maybe Central/Isthmus.
For me… the maps are much less convenient. I don’t use busses very often and while I am over the next fortnight catching more than usual, they’re to an area I’m not overly familiar with. It takes the work of a moment to scan that list (less, if it was a properly formatted list), and a bit longer to read the map. I suspect whoever made the list is more like this… and too lazy to make a functional list.
To the general question of AT and communications… It’s a failed organisation from top to bottom in this regard. On Friday I’m trying to catch a (5-something pm) train from Britomart and we’re told there’s a change of platform. I go to the new platform and they put out another few announcements. But then the time of departure goes by. Then we’re five minutes late. Then it’s ten minutes late. And I hope it was only that late when we noticed another train going our way on the /usual/ platform… but maybe it was fifteen or twenty minutes. This entire time… we’ve heard absolutely nothing.
Now… let’s say there’s a directive from AT that the station staff have to shut the hell up when something like this happens. Okay, yeah, that’s a /hugely/ problematic policy and it’s a Big Deal (if true). But think that through for a minute… what that means is not a single person at Britomart took it upon themselves to defy a monumentally stupid directive (that I just cannot bring myself to believe exists) and tell the customers something (anything at all!). These are people who work customer facing, customer service roles who are completely incapable of performing the job. They couldn’t even bother with “sorry for the delay, but we’re not sure what’s happening”.
AT’s communication failings are not just systemic, but also the result of personal incompetence by individual staff members too. (Which is also a problem with that list of bus routes being horizontally presented rather than vertically arranged.)
AT don’t organise platform changes at Britomart, that’s the train operator which is Transdev I think. There’s such a multiplicity of organisations involved with Auckland PT it’s often difficult for the user to accurately apportion blame when things go awry.
Zippo: whoever is responsible for individual parts of the complex service-delivery jigsaw, ultimately the operational buck stops with AT. That’s where user concerns should be addressed.
Agree, AT contracts Transdev so AT are ultimately responsible if there is an issue.
The one exception I would make is Kiwirail. While AT is a customer of Kiwirail, they also have their own interests that don’t always match AT’s and AT only has so much control over this.
The platform change /was/ communicated. The problem was when there were two services sitting with doors open at Britomart bound for the same destination for /several/ minutes… and no communication. Which was to leave first? Why was there a delay? Was one of the trains cancelled? How long was the delay likely to be?
It’s actually possible the train I wasn’t on, was there before I arrived. I hope not… especially since (a) when I arrived it should have long since departed and (b) it left after us.
Whether or not Transdev is the direct employer of the individuals at AT doesn’t matter to the wider point… there are individual level problems/incompetence with the (AT branded) staff. In terms of who is ultimately responsible for the systemic communication problems I agree with the other comments that the buck stops at AT. Transdev obviously need to up their game too.
it’s pretty unfair to blame this solely on NZ Bus. We only hear about this due to practically 99% of the drivers being at NZ Bus being part of the First Union. It would be practically pointless to take the same action as a non Union member which most other operators have a larger proportion of – suspended/fired best case scenario with no effect on the employer.
If other operators had this amount of drivers refusing to take fares, it is likely the same situation would occur – suspending them until further notice.
Realistically the problem falls on both AT and the operator.
AT only gives a fixed amount for a contract with very few ways of gaining revenue due to their penalty system despite their “bonus” system (requires > 98% service delivery that only gives a maximum bonus of 5% of the contracts value). This leaves with very little profit/investment/capital gain/ which is required for the maintenance, facilities, fleet upgrades etc and therefore the driver’s wages is the one where the biggest savings are taken.
On the otherhand, the operator has already accounted for the value of the contract and the desired profit/return and therefore cuts to the profit should be made and used for a fairer driver wage.
Like most jobs in this country, bus drivers are paid a pretty pitiful wage, for a high responsibility and at times stressful job.
Like many things in the coj try they need to be paid much better. If that means more subsidies so be it.
And yes another example of AT’s woeful communication. One would think that comms would be very very high up the list of priorities for any public organization.
And this from AT a few minutes ago ;-
“NZ Bus industrial action continues”
“Auckland Transport is disappointed at the continuing industrial action between First Union and Tramways Union and Auckland bus operator NZ Bus, which has seen NZ Bus services cancelled. We respect the important role that both bus drivers and bus operators play in making it easier for Aucklanders to move around our region. Like you, we’re frustrated that there’s been no resolution to this dispute.
AT has been working to replace bus services on some of the routes such as the hospital run and on Dominion and Sandringham Roads. We’re sorry if you’ve been affected, but we can’t get involved because this an employment dispute between the employer NZ Bus and the unions. AT does not employ the drivers or own the buses.
We hope this dispute will be sorted out as soon as possible so NZ Bus can get its buses back on the road. Remember that buses operated by companies other than NZ Bus are running as usual (that’s about 65-70% of all AT Metro bus services), and the trains and ferries aren’t affected.
You can go to the AT Mobile app to see what alternative services you may be able to use.
Thanks for your patience.”
What hospital run? The 14w 14t buses from Henderson rail station that go to Waitakere hospital along Lincoln Rd have been cancelled. No other bus goes this route. Great.
They are talking about the “321” , that runs from Britomart to Auckland Hospital . Greenlane Hospital outpatients clinic and then to Middlemore Hospital plus all the private hospitals in between .
This from AT at 3.45pm today The Buses are Back Tomorrow ;-
NZ Bus industrial action has been withdrawn
Auckland Transport has received official confirmation from First Union and Tramways Union that all industrial action has been withdrawn.
All NZ Bus operated services will resume normal service Friday 13 December.
We’d like to thank all our customers for being extremely patient during the disruption.