This is an important year for Auckland Transport. It needs to catch up on delivering projects funded by the Regional Fuel Tax, where progress has been slower than forecast. It also needs to do much of the grunt work to inform the next cycle of transport budgets that will take effect from the middle of next year, implement important but often controversial changes to streetspace allocation, implement critical safety improvements and speed limit reductions, get back on track when it comes to delivering cycleways, increase public transport use at a time when there are no big projects or changes being delivered to ride the coattails of, and – all while being subject to a CCO review that should ask fundamental questions about the roles and functions of a transport CCO and how to improve its public accountability.

All of which made it quite odd that seemingly the very first thing Chief Executive Shane Ellison has focused on is defending the “AT Local” demand responsive system in Devonport – where people can basically book a ride in a car (like a taxi or an Uber) and then get the trip massively subsidised by ratepayers and taxpayers. Ellison’s lengthy piece is in response to a Stuff article late last year which discussed the extension of this trial and raised valid questions about its value for money at a time when transport funding is clearly tight.

Here’s the crux of the stuff article:

A trial of publicly subsidised $1.3 million rideshare service for one of Auckland’s wealthiest suburbs has been extended.

Auckland Transport (AT) launched the AT LOCAL shuttle in November in a bid to cut car use and boost ferry patronage from Devonport, Stanley Point and Bayswater.

Local residents use an online app to order one of six AT-owned electric vehicles to take them home or to a nearby ferry wharf.

The trial was supposed to last a year, but AT announced on Friday it would run it for a further six months to see how it performed during summer when more people tended to use the ferry.

AT described the trial as a “success”, despite a survey showing most people who caught the shuttle had previously been walkers, cyclists or bus users, rather than its target group – motorists…

…The trial had a slow start and three months in, the number of people expected to use the service on a weekly basis had not even reached half of AT’s target.

The piece continues AT’s focus to date on:

  • trying to be part of a broader transport technology revolution rather than discussing what issues AT felt were necessary to fix through spending millions of public dollars
  • how much people who use the service like it, but then who wouldn’t like a massively subsidised taxi service?

There are a couple of new bits of information worth focusing on.

Subsidies

Apparently the subsidies are lower per passenger than many existing bus routes:

There have been claims that AT Local is a heavily subsidised taxi services in drag. At face value to the average Aucklander, the average subsidy per passenger is now approximately $10.30, will strike them as being high – is it really a great use of ratepayers’ money?

Would ratepayers’ views change if we told them that the cost per passenger on 40 bus routes (among them essential school bus services) are higher, and in some cases much higher than the cost per passenger of AT Local?

There are nearly 200 public bus routes across Auckland and many many more school bus routes. That the subsidy per passenger is lower than some of these is not a surprise but claiming it’s not bad because there are other things worse is not really a strong argument to start with. Further, the average bus trip is about 7km, the maximum trip you could take on AT local can’t be much more than 3km and most will be much less than that so on a per km basis, a better comparison, this is likely to look even worse.

Maybe AT Local could have been introduced as a more cost effective replacement for some bus routes (such as the 40 mentioned above) instead of in a part of Auckland that already has pretty good public transport and is certainly on average rich enough to afford an unsubsidised taxi or Uber to perform a similar job.

Bus use increasing

One of the things I find bizzare about this whole trial is that AT introduced it less than two months after they reorganised the entire bus network on the North Shore and it appears that is working despite the trial.

Some might question the impact that AT Local has had on local bus services. Aren’t those using AT Local those who would have been using the bus services instead?

Evidence to date is clear. AT Local is for the most part creating its own market as there has been an increase in patronage on the two bus routes servicing the local Devonport precinct since AT Local started service in November 2018.  Route 806 patronage is up by 43% and Route 807 patronage is up by 60%.

Further an a recent in-market customer survey highlighted that the profile of AT Local customers showed that 30% of those customers had previously chosen to drive using their own private vehicle. The choice those customers are making, in August alone, took approximately 83 car journeys per weekday off a congested corridor like Lake Road making it less congested, for all those for whom AT Local and the Devonport Ferry does not get them where they are wanting to go.

There are a couple of things to break down here.

So bus usage is up decently, which is great, and some customers are using AT local but concerningly over the same timeframe ferry usage has not increased. The (free) carpark remains full which means, the market it’s taking customers from is walkers and cyclists, as Stuff reported. Paying massive subsidies to reduce the number of people walking and cycling is possibly the worst possible outcome.

Carparking

One of the stupidest things about the trial is that the carpark next to the ferry terminal remains free meaning many people are still encouraged to drive. As AT are trialling AT Local, they should almost certainly be looking to see what impact charging for parking would have on it.

Now I have heard that there is an issue with AT charging for parking at this park and ride which is because technically part of it is on reserve land but they’ve had years to find ways to resolve this but there doesn’t appear to have be any attempt or desire to.


The other slightly new bit of information is some indication about where AT see things going in the future.

The “success” [my added quotation marks] of AT Local in Devonport means we see a on demand shared ride services having a future in several use cases;

  • First leg/last leg trips to rapid transit services (a la Devonport)
  • Early provision of transport services in growth areas in Auckland such as in the North West (around Westgate and Kumeu), the North and in the South
  • Replacing bus services with low utilisation (such as the 40 noted above) and re-allocating those buses to fast and frequent bus routes which are in desperate need of more capacity and frequency
  • Providing an alternative pathway to accelerate the current public transport fleet to zero emissions at a lower cost to ratepayers
  • Providing an alternative to the insatiable appetite for park and ride. With the capital cost of park and ride being $18,000 per at grade car park and $24,000 for a anything other than an at grade carpark the maths quickly tells you that an on-demand service could form an effective alternative to fulfilling the never-ending demand for park and ride

AT’s On Demand Roadmap released this week provides more insights on how On Demand might be a valuable piece of Auckland’s mobility horizon. You can find it at https://at.govt.nz/about-us/transport-plans-strategies/on-demand-and-shared-mobility-roadmap/

Some of these focus areas for on demand services might be well worth exploring – especially if they can deliver a better service for the customer at a lower cost to the public. An alternative to park and ride also might be a good way of saving money (although as mentioned, it doesn’t seem AT have any intention of charging for P&R).

Of course AT aren’t the only transport organisation trying out this kind of thing around the world. Unfortunately – and somewhat unsurprisingly given the low passenger to driver ratio – it seems that the schemes almost always provide terrible value for money. A recent Wired article dug into the widespread failures of these schemes, starting with the fact that fundamentally the idea of providing demand responsive transit is not actually new at all:

From Helsinki, Finland, to Sydney, cities around the world have spent the past few years trying to implement AI-fueled, on-demand bus services. Few have succeeded.

Earlier this year, Singapore decided against renewing a pilot for on-demand buses. In Germany, microtransit company CleverShuttle—which bills itself as more of a ride-pooling service than a bus—pulled out of three of the eight cities it was operating in, citing economic and bureaucratic hurdles. In a pilot project with shared rides company Via, bringing underserved residents to public transit nodes, Los Angeles Metro is spending $14.50 per trip—twice what it spends on a regular bus trip…

…On-demand buses have been a thing for decades. Public transit agencies often call them demand-responsive buses, and deploy them to serve users who lack easy access to standard routes because they live especially far away, or may have special needs. Because they reach relatively few people, they’re expensive to operate. They’re inefficient too, often making riders wait undetermined amounts of time for a ride. So cities must strike a balance between making public transit accessible to the largest number of residents, and meeting their budget goals…

…According to the tech companies pushing this solution, making on-demand busing work is a matter of crunching vast amounts of transit data, now made available by location tracking, and using algorithms to create custom shared routes. Data will help agencies reroute buses in real time based on factors like user demand and congestion, says Amos Haggiag, CEO of Optibus, whose software helps cities plan and manage bus routes, both on-demand and fixed. “I do see mass transit, even the large buses, as much more dynamic.” Many of those companies, including Uber, think all buses, not just those in low-ridership areas, should run on demand.

However, this developing technology doesn’t bypass the fundamental geometry that it’s expensive and inefficient to shift people around in small vehicles carrying one passenger, and often nobody when they’re re-positioning. In Los Angeles, the finances of their demand responsive scheme are eye-wateringly bad:

Giving away free rides, the service got up to 1,675 rides per week. With a $1.75 million Metro expenditure for one year – 260 weekdays in that year, Metro is spending $6,730 per day for these rides. 1,675 rides per week translates to 335 rides per day. 335 rides for $6,730 means that each ride is costing Metro $20.09 (that is just Metro’s cost – these also cost FTA and forgo Via’s “risk sharing”).

That $20 cost is for the one peak week so far – week 26. This means that for overall six months so far, the cost per ride is something more than double that $20. Given the current trend, ridership growth should continue. Though even if it were to double, the cost would only drop to $10/ride – still higher than Metro’s system-wide bus ride cost (around $7, given a $1.75 fare and a ~25% fare recovery).

Compare this ridership to a relatively poorly performing Metro line – say the 201 bus, which runs from Koreatown to Glendale. Similar to Mobility on Demand, the 201 bus operates from about 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and provides first/last mile connections to a Metro rail station (Wilshire/Vermont). Unlike the Mobility on Demand pilot, the 201 is not free, but charges $1.75 per ride. Unlike Mobility on Demand’s 7-to-9-minute response times, the 201 runs once each hour. According to Metro stats, weekday ridership on the 201 for the first half of 2019 was 983 riders per day on weekdays. Line 201’s 983 daily bus riders is roughly triple the 335 daily riders that the Mobility on Demand pilot is serving. With free rides and $1.75 million from Metro (plus FTA funding and Via cost sharing), the newfangled pilot is serving about a third as well as a low-performing bus route.

This isn’t to say that AT should have nothing to do with demand responsive transit. But it should be a highly niche product that’s only really looked at where existing public transport is clearly unable to meet the travel needs of an area in a cost-effective way. Perhaps it could be a way of providing better travel choice to rural towns? Perhaps a way of enabling people to access West Coast beaches during busy summer weekends without needing to drive themselves out there?

The current approach – especially in rich Devonport – just feels like a very expensive “nice to have” that undermines AT’s arguments every time they cry poor about not having enough money to do important things like improving frequencies on the PT network or getting on with building cycle lanes.

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105 comments

  1. No matter how many times I read this story it never looses it appeal. How can an organisation get something so wrong and persist with it so long?

    For me this project just emphasises that, does AT actually have a coherent plan of what they want to achieve in the transport area?

    When you also look at the seeming obsession with free park and rides that produce a negative return you wonder whether AT has to go back to first principles.

    Does AT need a SUMP (sustainable urban mobility programme), such as being embraced by some European cities, that is transforming the way they travel?

    1. I think it comes back to public institutions like AT being deeply afraid of failure. It’s deeply ingrained in their culture that the worst possible outcome is being publicly seen to fail. This makes them incredibly risk averse, conservative and prone to paralysis by analysis.

      With AT Local they would rather extend it in the hope that it hits an arbitrary ridership target, than admit that it isn’t a good long term investment. If it hits an arbitrary ridership target they can put out a press release that says “the pilot program was a great success, we’re putting it on (indefinite) hold while we analyse the results and investigate potential next steps.”

      There’s actually nothing wrong with experiments that fail, so long as they’re relatively inexpensive and do no harm. That’s why they’re experiments. Public institutions like AT should really do more experiments but they need to be willing to admit failure when it happens.

      1. But it was a failure before it even began, so why begin it? What was the long term future of this? Did AT really think they could or should provide subsidised mini van services to the whole city? Wouldn’t the private sector do that if people wanted to use it?
        Even if the trial was a massive success with lots of previous car users now using the min van it would still be a failure because there is no way they can provide this service to everyone who lives somewhat near PT. Why didn’t they use a couple of brain cells before they decided to fork out $1.3 mil?

      2. Agree. Though part of me thinks if they see this right through then it won’t be resurrected again with the argument that we just didn’t advertise it enough or something.

    2. The previous boss of AT was one of those idiots who can see 9 wrong things and one right one and he would smash the right one so it matched. But I am surprised this new dude is prepared to throw good money after bad.

  2. “…the profile of AT Local customers showed that 30% of those customers had previously chosen to drive using their own private vehicle. The choice those customers are making, in August alone, took approximately 83 car journeys per weekday off a congested corridor like Lake Road making it less congested…” – AT

    Do AT Local trips magically not contribute to congestion in any way? If an AT Local vehicle leaves the ferry terminal, picks up a customer from their home then returns to the ferry terminal, that’s actually twice the vehicle kilometres driven than the customer just driving themselves.

    Of course this is no different to Uber and traditional taxis. There’s plenty of evidence that on-demand services like this actually contribute to congestion.

    1. Especially when the AT Local user would otherwise walk or bike!
      Time the AT people charged for under-resourced parking – so obvious, for a publicly-funded facility which cannot cope with the demand. I bet Wilson Parking would soon have that done!

        1. That parking is hardly an incentive to drive as it is full first thing in the morning. It is an incentive only for people who get up really early.

        2. It can only ever be an incentive to drivers numbering the number of spaces, whatever time of day they drive, and whatever price is applied.

          As you point out, because the parks are unpriced, they fill up early in the morning. This is of course when buses to the ferry are most practical, with peak-hour frequency, and when getting those cars off the road would bring the most benefits.

          If the parks were priced, people who’d like to use the parks later in the day, perhaps gold card users, or caregivers with less mobile dependents, would be able to. And the revenue would support the bus services.

          Everyone is missing out with the current arrangement, except the great able-bodied commuter.

    2. And even if it did decrease congestion on lake road, what is the point? Wouldn’t that just encourage people to go back to driving instead of using the ferry?

  3. The van would need to average ~2 groups of previously car driving passengers at all times to actually decrease driving (as each 1 trip by private car is ~2 trips by chauffeur). Considering only 30% of passengers would have been drivers it would need to average over 6 groups of people at all times. I highly doubt it is achieving that – which means it is actually adding to congestion.
    As for the subsidy; any service that is continually subsidised by $10 a ride should be axed including school buses. Have AT heard of Uber?
    And what is the end outcome for this? Can we all expect to have mini vans driving us around subsidised by the tax payer? Surely it isn’t feasible, AT would be the biggest employer in NZ by a long way. Or is it just for rich suburbs?
    Its all very confusing…

    1. You should say, hasn’t AT heard of riding sharing services that include Uber, OLA, taxis, etc. They all do the same job as ‘On demand’ travel services.

      1. Apparently Uber has never made a profit and probably never will and all the money that have gone into their shares has come from Quantitative easing and could all disappear in the advent of another financial crises. So you could say that Uber uses are being subsidised just like AT ride share. But is it better to use Uber or AT ride share or drive your car hard to tell really. Still as people point out its better to walk or cycle if you are able.

  4. Meanwhile our local town centre is an absolute disgrace and our footpaths are falling to bits. $1.3 million could make big changes to both of those. But our area isn’t rich so I guess we should just put up with it while Devonport gets their free AT Ubers as that is obviously a better use of ratepayer’s money…

  5. Perhaps AT should run one of these vans in place of a lumbering near empty 349 Puhinui Station replacement bus. In the very rare case were passengers would need to be left behind the van could return too pick them up in a few minutes. And it would be electric plus it wouldn’t get in the way of the other buses at the
    Papatoetoe Station bus stop.
    On Saturday the 349 was still running even though the trains had being replaced by rail replacement buses which presumably still serviced the Puhinui rail replacement bus stops. There just burning up diesel for nothing and creating emissions while they are doing it.
    Apart from that I generally support experiments and I do not have the ideological hatred of park and rides which is exhibited by some comment posters on this blog. The thing is an experiment tells you something that a thousand business cases won’t. If you are a busy family person park and rides are essential however for someone who has too much time on their hands like me then we shouldn’t use them. I tell my retired friends not to take up spaces in park and rides but most don’t use public transport preferring to use their cars. One friend tells me he uses $50 per week on petrol. Still we wont be around forever which is probably a good thing.

    1. “The thing is an experiment tells you something that a thousand business cases won’t” I think a thousand brain cells would tell you everything you need to know for free.

        1. Royce, ‘creative parking’ is a result of an ideological refusal to respect people’s right to public space. The storage of private vehicles on footpaths, green space, plazas, etc, is the worst possible use that space could be put to.

          Yes, charging for parking relies on enforcing the rules around illegal parking. But any decent system that tackles our parking problems rely on enforcement. And don’t for one moment think that providing more legal parking, or allowing illegal parking, will satiate the demand for parking. The opposite happens. The best predictor of new parking demand is the provision of more parking.

        2. I lived in a non-traffic warden state in Bucharest, Romania. You can no longer use the footpaths as there are cars parked all over them. The only way to stop them was bollards and even they would often just get driven over or around.

          Traffic warden’s do a great job and deserve all our support. The only people who don’t like them are entitled motorsist who think they should be able to park anywhere regardless of the consequences.

        3. I don’t hate cars, I own one myself. What I do hate is people parking their cars blocking the footpath when I’m taking the kids for a walk in the buggy. I don’t think that is making me sick so far.

        4. Haha, ‘loonies’, ‘car haters’ ..got any more labels you want to throw out there on a Monday. What’s on Breitbart today Royce, anything good?

          Enforcing cars to park where they are supposed to and charging them market price is hardly hating, but whatever gets you through the day!

        5. I guess Royce wouldn’t mind if someone pitches a tent on his berm? Could be a good response to the housing crisis…

        6. People there has to be some middle ground otherwise we end up with a hopelessly polarised society that can’t achieve anything just like we have in Australia with their Bush fire wars with both extremes blaming the other. Park and rides is public transports middle ground.

        7. That’s pretty rich coming from they guy that reduces any suggestion of managing parking to a ‘car hating’ sickness.

        8. Royce, I can see that park and ride for public transport is your personal middle ground.

          It doesn’t make it wise. Except for on the periphery of the city, It still undermines good land use planning, and it still wastes money that should be spent on other things.

          If you’d like to understand this, there are plenty of references there to study. If you don’t want to read them, please don’t let your own personal middle ground prevent the conversation from being evidence-based.

        9. Heidi it’s not me you have to convince I don’t use Park and ride but on one hand you have people who will drive 50 yards to the Dairy and on the other we have you. If we are going to get anywhere in this world we have to met half way. Take climate change we have achieved virtually nothing on this highly politicised subject in New Zealand. James Shaw has tried to build a concensus but its weak as you will be aware. But its where he had to go. Changing people’s attitude to public transport is probably to slow in your opinion however alienating the in your view unwashed gets us nowhere.

        10. Surely the middle ground is charging about (or slightly higher) than the bus feeder service. It would be lower than market rate but people can make the choice.

          Providing it free is not middle ground.

        11. Sorry you people are extreme and you are in an echo chamber. And don’t talk to me about market forces that’s how the world got in the mess that we are in.

        12. Then don’t pretend you want “middle ground”.

          Providing it free is at the other end of the spectrum from charging the market price for parking.

        13. And a few gold coins to store your private property for an entire day is hardly extreme.

          The people getting this for free are having a laugh.

        14. At least Auckland Transport has the sense not to charge for park and ride. They probably have a computer model which predicts revenue loss.

        15. The feeder buses are free with your train or bus ticket if you don’t go out of zone so is the park and ride so fair is fair.

        16. The 2000 Park and Ride spots on the northern busway are full before 7am. You could charge $10 a day and they’d still be full.

          The only revenue loss is not charging for them, you won’t lose any users, just keep increasing the cost until the lots are 95% full. At least that way people might be able to use it when they need to, rather than only using it if they are on the road at 6am to get into the queue early.

          There is $5m a year lost on the busway park and ride alone. That’s enough to fund an extra twenty buses on the road all day, every day. Imagine what those could do for feeders to the stations?

        17. Royce – A very quick calculation I just did.
          A basic park and ride car park costs approx $18,000 to build. If someone uses that park and ride spot 240 times per year (5 days a week for 48 weeks – a very generous amount) – then that driver is being subsidised by $75 per day. So perhaps the computer system you mention that will predict a loss is correct – there’s no way of re-cooping that money. I don’t know the average subsidy provided per bus passenger, but I’m sure it is less than $37.50 per journey (assuming return journey).
          Charging for Park and Rides is required, sooner rather than later, and the charge should vary dependent on the location.
          The park and ride in Orakei, should be more than the park and ride in Papakura or Silverdale for example.
          Park and rides being full by 6.30-7am isn’t fair for the people that do ‘need’ to drive, either from further out of town with no bus feeder service, or those perhaps that can’t walk or cycle.
          Park and ride survey’s have been done in the past, and licence plates of cars parked, are often registered to houses within 1-2km from the stations.

        18. Royce – as you say ‘If you are a busy family person park and rides are essential however for someone who has too much time on their hands like me then we shouldn’t use them.’

          The reality is as a busy family person the park and ride is full by 7am, daycare doesn’t begin until 8am. I would far prefer to pay to park the car and be able to get a park after 8am.

          I can’t for the life of me see how a subsidised free carpark for the select few who are able to get up early enough to grab one really benefits anyone. By the time traffic is at its peak the carparks are full so they are doing nothing towards taking vehicles off the road and reducing congestion.

        19. There is no charge for a footpath or a cycleway but both require large amounts of capital. A park and ride is similar and as you point out it is rationed.You seem to want to charge for ever little service a government or local government provides. We tried that as country with Roger and Ruth and all we got was right royally Rogered and Ruthanised. Give the people a break life is not easy in the big city.

        20. Footpaths, cycleways and roads are all looked after by our rates/taxes as they are available for everyone to use throughout the day. Park and ride is exclusive access for one vehicle at a time per space for the whole day. Bit of a difference there.

        21. Royce – I’m not sure how making PNR free is really giving people a break. All it does is transfer the costs from the user to ratepayer, someone will always be paying.

        22. Jezza if they charge for the park and rides then the person with the most money gets to use them. That is why it’s not fair on less well off people.

        23. I’m not convinced that the current arrangement benefits the less well off. The biggest winners are those that start early or have flexible working hours, a group that is more likely to be higher income earners.

          I’m sure a few less well off people benefit from this but it is a pretty haphazard way of reducing wealth disparity, there will be loads of less well off people who don’t benefit from this but still have to pay for it through their rates.

          I can think of numerous better ways to reduce wealth and income disparity.

        24. A footpath or cycleway isn’t used up by one person per day, there is practically no limit to how many times either can be used, by how many people.

          A park and ride space is 30m2 of public land used exclusively by one person only, possibly two if you are very lucky with turnover.

        25. People who can’t afford to pay park and ride will organise themselves and their time if they can use free park and ride spaces. With regards to the cost of spaces these are paid for by all either through rates or rent to the landlord who then pays rates. So it has being payed for by the community and shouldn’t be then rented out to the person with the most money.

        26. I suppose the next thing you people will want is surge pricing on park and rides and probably on trains and buses when they get full. Let’s leave that that type of gouging for the likes of uber at least their assets haven’t being paid for by the taxpayer or ratepayer.

        27. Royce, if you were thinking rationally about how to lower the costs for the people with the least money, you would look at the huge cost to society of wasting land in key locations. The number of drivers being subsidised at any particular station is low, with a far higher number of people who find other ways to get to the station. Yet the cost of subsidising them is high, and it’s making life more expensive for everyone.

        28. ‘People who can’t afford to pay park and ride will organise themselves and their time if they can use free park and ride spaces.’

          Really! If your job starts at 9 but the PNR is full by 7 the only real option spend a chunk of time waiting, either in your car or outside work, that’s not a great outcome.

          ‘So it has being payed for by the community and shouldn’t be then rented out to the person with the most money.’

          You do understand that money gathered from charges for public facilities can be used to reduce the cost of these facilities to ratepayers I assume? This is already in existence at a number of council facilities.

          ‘I suppose the next thing you people will want is surge pricing on park and rides and probably on trains and buses when they get full.’

          If by surge pricing you mean peak and off-peak rates then yes I think we should have them on PT and it would make sense to make PNR free on the weekend for example when demand is much lower.

          I don’t think actual surge pricing would be viable in a turn up and go system like PT but it has been used by Intercity buses for years and no-one bats an eyelid.

        29. Heidi the park and ride at Papatoetoe is on land which was the old stockyard at Papatoetoe railway station it has just being repurposed for the use of another type of livestock. I know that because I was told by a friend who has lived here all his life. So what you say however it’s railway land for the last 150 years and it would be very short sighted to sell it as it or use it for other purposes. What happens on the North shore is something else which I am really not concerned about however land at the various railway stations should be preserved for railway purposes. The existence of park and ride station prevent the land being sold for other purposes. However you could imagine a council leasing it to a car parking company like Wilson. We must guard against this happening although it all ready seems to have happened at Parnell.

        30. You could say off peak discount is anti surge pricing. I am sure many cars get left at park and rides at 7 am so they will be available for use when our weary commuter needs it after work to go and do all the other things which need doing before they return home.

        31. Royce, you’re concerned about climate change. So I don’t know why you’re blocking your mind about this.

          The value of the land doesn’t change just because it’s a legacy asset. So on Waiheke, because it had to be bought, people have to pay at least a part of the cost of providing the park, according to DonM. They do because they value the opportunity to store their equipment there instead of taking the bus to the ferry or having to park somewhere else along the bus route and take the bus the last few km.

          Legacy assets should be used to meet the challenges of the day while leaving future generations to have as many opportunities as we do. Inducing traffic through the overprovision of park and rides is simply not good planning for future generations.

          Our challenges are climate, equity, housing, modeshift and safety. For each and every one of these things, the land next to a station is better used for quality walking, cycling and bus access to the station, a few priced carparks, and high-density mixed use development including housing, than for storing transport equipment.

          The land doesn’t need to be sold. It could be leasehold, or Council could become landlords. This issue isn’t about the selling off of public assets. We just need to understand what the land should be used for. And carparks is not it if we’re serious about climate change.

        32. Heidi this is where we come back to where I started from if you take an uncompromising stance that severely Inconvenience the people you just provoke an equally uncomprising response from them. The reaction to climate change is a perfect example of this as is the decomocrat Republicism stoush in USA if people are hopelessly polarised you get nowhere. We need to find middle ground. Charging for park and ride may be the final straw which results in the election of a reactionary local government that gut public transport. We were only saved when the candidate who was put forward was rejected as being too obnoxious by both side of the political spectrum. My prediction for the coalition is defeat for the election think about your stance. In the big scheme a few thousand cars parking free is small change compared to what is facing the world. And at least they are not parking in the city center. People will only be pushed so far.

        33. There price paid for the land on Waiheke was regarded at the time as a good return for those that had owned it for a relatively short period. Has anyone investigated the likely more recent purchases and development of land the non revenue earning PNR facilities in the rest of the city? For reference it should be noted that the land at Matiatia was purchased in 2005.
          Note: Correction on the purchase price. It was $12.5 million not $21 mil.

        34. “Charging for park and ride may be the final straw which results in the election of a reactionary local government that gut public transport”

          Depends on how much you charge.

        35. Seriously Royce, the one main thing AT should be looking hard at before anything else, is how to charge for park and rides. Makes so much sense on so many levels, it’s not an extreme thing to do.

        36. Charging for park and ride is hardly polarizing and hardly a huge election issue. Think you are a bit out of touch! The fact that nobody has backed you up on a website that does tend to have a range of views, even if you don’t believe so (see the continual debates on things from LR to the Port) shows that this clearly isn’t the contentious issue that you believe it to be and it’s you that isn’t in the middle ground.. unless you can show some evidence that it’s both polarising and a real election winner then I think you are just going to be beating that Park and Ride drum on your own….

        37. About 220,000 people use public transport each weekday.

          And there are around 6,000 park and ride bays across the Auckland region.

          Do the math. There is no way park and ride would be an election issue. 97% of public transport users don’t use it, and 99.7% of Aucklanders don’t use it.

        38. The fact is that there will be a number of users who do so, only because the park is free. That is, they are incentivized to drive. Pricing targets these users.

          Charge so the carpark is 95% occupied (rather than 100%), leaving capacity for emergency/ad-hoc trips. Some of the 5% who stop using it will switch to a bus, some will decide their trip is not necessary on a week day or can be done later in the day when capacity frees up. Some trips might even disappear (as happens overseas with congestion charging)

          Pricing on the above will never be such a burden that it makes sense to drop the train and drive into the CBD instead. if some do, their place will be offset in part by the casual user who know finds parking available at the PnR when there wasn’t before.

          Not (or negligible) net loss in train users, more bus users, less subsidy, less driving, more cash for PT improvements.

  6. Living in the area, this is one of the biggest rorts I have ever seen.

    Effectively subsidising Uber for highly paid professionals, when free parking, good bus routes and the highest cycling mode share in the area already exist, is beyond belief. Absolute incompetence.

    When I think of the micro projects that Bike Devonport put forward to incrementally improve cycling, that were rejected for a lack of funds, this complete waste of millions of dollars just infuriates me.

    How could they get it so wrong?

    1. That the Cook St cycleway/safety project was refused funding and shelved while this goes on costing 3x as much says everything about AT’s internal structure.

      1. Funding is divided / separated into mode / teams etc.
        So it may be correct that one team doesn’t have funding, ie the cycle team, or safety team for a certain project. But then another team may have available funding for other projects. These teams will fiercely protect their budgets … the system isn’t quite broken, but it can appear that way.

      1. Maybe it’s because the people who decide this value the land on Waiheke? They might realise land on an island is limited and special. But don’t value land next to stations on the mainland because they see it as a wasteland, and there’s always more land further from town to build on?

        1. Part of the reason for charging for parking on Waiheke lies in the $21 mil it cost to buy a chunk of land that part of the carpark is on (the land had at one stage been offered for free!). It was stated at the time this would have to be recouped. A part was leased at far lower than what it could have made as paid parking further indicating ineptitude!
          And yes everyone else in Auckland gets free PNR whilst the greatest users of public transport in the country get to pay more and more!

  7. Can someone explain how this is different to subsidising private bus companies so they can provide affordable services?

    1. The main difference is that in Devonport they are subsidising private bus companies to run services AND providing a subsidised shuttle.

      There is little difference otherwise other than the level of subsidy and as Matt mentioned in the article, these may be a legitimate alternative to running near empty buses in some locations.

      1. This is still public transport that’s contracted out and it’s more economical than running a bus on routes that currently don’t attract a lot of patronage. I don’t see what the problem is here.

        1. Devonport bus routes do attract decent patronage and are still running so it’s an extra subsidy for an alternative service.

        2. Thanks, Jezza. And elsewhere, given the reduction in car dependency required to transform the network – well described by Lester Levy – AT should be required to demonstrate that other proven methods to boost ridership haven’t been trialled first.

          Here, the decisions probably stem from a manager with a misplaced awe of being able to dial up a service. It’s common enough; people are under pressure to show that AT is at the forefront of transport change. To keep their status, job, voice, whatever, they will often try to display tech-savviness with anything they can get approved, and given how few decision-makers near the top of AT are prepared to really look at evidence, silly stuff can get through.

          Yet the decisions on AT Local display a lack of understanding that fixed timetables on fixed routes support a growing public transport network, whereas on-demand rideshare services support delaying the demise of the dominant legacy driving network. And that’s because on-demand rideshare, like park and ride, allow people to avoid change. Which would be fine, if there wasn’t a subsidy involved in this change-avoidance.

        3. I think the problem is that there are almost an infinite number of possible bus routes that don’t make economic sense. I wouldn’t mind a direct bus route from my home to my work, so should AT provide me with a mini van? Where does it stop? (Devonport no doubt).

  8. From Day One, AT Local has been a technology solution looking for a problem and to make matters worse, it has been implemented in the wrong part of town. In contrast, the AT Metro integrated bus, train and ferry ‘New Network’ – the 5-year roll out of which was completed only just recently (Waiheke), is a well-designed piece of public transport service infrastructure that stands up very well globally.

    That AT have duly chosen to divert funding away from its New Network, shows they do not understand what it is they have built and the core value/effectiveness of the NN to achieving mode shift – away from single occupancy vehicles and onto PT…along with more walking and bike/scooter riding.

    AT’s focus on ill-conceived initiatives such as AT Local instead of supporting its far better designed and implemented New Network, along with prioritising PT only for weekday commuting, is incredibly myopic.

    PT is about getting people to their favourite destinations 7 days a week and up until midnight where possible. The NN is the means to do this – its performance-proven and thus worthy of continuous funding.

    It is a far better outcome for Aucklanders, to have AT rescind its recent cutbacks in funding for the NN, than it is for AT to continue funding AT Local.

    As the Director for Washington DC’s Dept of Transportation said recently:

    “You can’t create the mode shift cities are looking for without repurposing infrastructure. Technology alone won’t get us to MaaS”.

  9. Driver cost is the biggest fixed cost, it will need a very high riders per driver ratio to make it cost effective.

    To really make it work, we will need autonomous vehicles.

  10. If AT views this as such a success, then surely we can expect it to be rolled out elsewhere? Why bother running buses around Te Atatu Peninsula to the upcoming “pop up” busway station when we could just summon one of these? Good enough for the people of Devonport, good enough for the rest of us?

  11. This is so wrong. Devonport already has bus services and a really good frequent ferry. They also already have uber, ola, and standard taxis etc. why would you duplicate this?

    This money could of gone towards upgrading 2-hour frequency (or worse) to hourly for [Waimauku, Parakai, Helensville], [Woodlands Park, Laingholm] and Waiuku. Also getting on with long promised buses to Huia and Piha.

    If Warkworth, Wellsford and [Whitford, Beachlands, Maratai] can get hourly service, why can’t the above areas!?

    Also not to mention the cutbacks on many NN services, especially in the Central and South – could of been avoided.

    1. That money could have paid for every bus in Devonport to run every ten minutes all day long.

      “in August alone, took approximately 83 car journeys per weekday off a congested corridor like Lake Road ”

      Wow, so for something that runs 16 hours a day it’s managing to reduce lake road traffic by a average of five cars per hour.

      1. I’d like to know how they calculated the 83 car journeys, might LGOIMA it. Like someone else mentioned, an AT Local trip only removes a car journey if it carries more than 2 people who previously drove. Even then it’s a tiny reduction. Wonder how many trips they would reduce if they offered a subsidised overnight electric bike share scheme?

    2. John D that’s the real point. Buses are just once every half hour into Devonport, which is ridiculous for an arterial route like Lake Road. Fix public transport in the area (including ferry fares) and the trial would make less sense.

      1. AT Local is a sop to George Wood, the local board and all the Audi driving local residents because it’s politically too hard to add bus priority and protected cycle lanes to Lake Rd

        1. And add Chris Derby unfortunately; one of his last public comments was that the scheme just needed more publicity. The futility of this scheme is often canvassed in local papers, what more is needed.

          I bet that if AT advertised it it wouldn’t come from the operating budget so the subsidy wouldn’t blow out.

        2. Yes Chris Darby too. Let’s not pretend that AT listens to the wider public let alone more learned public transport enthusiasts over narrowly interested local politicians.

  12. I live in manurewa, and wouldn’t it be great to have this service connecting to the local train station(a half hour walk away) but somehow it’s easier for AT to cart obviously rich white Devonport residents then the admittedly poorer brown residents of south auckland.

    1. Trouble is, now they think they’ll be applauded for shifting the rates-wasting debacle to a lower socio-economic area, when in fact they just need to can it.

      1. I agree totally Heidi, and I’m not despising the good people of Devonport, just the all round incompetence of unelected the AT idiots

    2. That’s the big question. If this was/is a “success”, what was the next step? One for every suburb? Or just a permanent implementation for Devonport alone?

      Where did this fit into the overall PT strategy for wider Auckland?

      1. Unfortunately this won’t be the biggest debacle for AT in Devonport. Coming is the modification of Lake Road with a price tag of $50m plus. Yep, in a Auckland suburb that is likely to suffer the most from rising seas AT will do its very best to increase traffic and hence emissions.

        As David B says, Devonport has buses at only 30 minute intervals. Wouldn’t a rational approach be to increase the frequency and see whether this solves the issue?

        1. As long as they don’t also expect a whole lot of PT budget too. They whined for a road upgrade so that’s what they get. If somewhere else gets some great PT instead don’t complain Devonport.

      2. Maybe – if it were a success – AT were planning to ask the Devonport ratepayers if they would like to fund the $1m p/yr to make the service permanent?

        Then they could move on to the next trial-suburb?

  13. Devonport has a population of around 5k. So this service would cost approx $260 per ratepayer per year or $5 per week to roll out across the whole region (based on $1.3 mil per year per 5000 residents). That is actually a lot less than I suspected – maybe even worthwhile?

    1. Actually that would be around $750 a year per household so probably not a vote winner.
      Some of that could be offset by shutting down local bus routes but not much.
      Although to be fair I don’t know how much of that 1.3 mil was operational and how much was one off (like developing the app for example).

    1. It shouldn’t be used anywhere. We shouldn’t pretend that we can supply PT to far flung areas and encourage people to live their because they have cheap PT.

  14. Looks like a classic case of “fast fail” tech-optimism misapplied in a public-sector environment – rather than the constant overriding need for experiments to pay their way in a limited timeframe or get the chop, they can limp on indefinitely because a) there is no direct “sensory feedback” between money spent and results gotten, as you get in a functioning business, hence the moment of truth can be postponed as needed and b) there is every incentive internally and externally not to be associated with outright failure when public money is involved.

  15. AT spending horrific amounts on taxis is nothing new, as has been previously highlighted in these media articles:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.rnz.co.nz/article/0e2b4d46-f22c-45f1-843b-887abe552b47

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11620181

    Rather than continuing to run the AT Local shuttle van service in Devonport where there isn’t the need for it, AT would be better to redeploy the concept to Pukekohe to replace the largely unused bus services there which generally run empty throughout the day.

    There isn’t a traffic congestion problem in Pukekohe, meaning the bus services are not an attractive option with the long winding routes they take and most bus stops having no seat or shelter. The on-demand AT Local concept with a shuttle van would be much more appropriate to cater for the numbers presently using the buses in Pukekohe.

    Also providing a weekday peak period commuter rail service using a couple of DMUs between Waiuku and Papakura using the GVR line (which isn’t generally used by the GVR at these times on these days) along with building rail stations at Drury and Patumohoe, would attract far more people onto public transport in this region rather than running buses on the same roads which people can drive their own cars on in greater comfort.

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