Last week we covered the transport policy of mayoral candidate Viv Beck. Later that same day, the Labour and Greens endorsed candidate and current Councillor Efeso Collins announced his transport policy, calling it a “Five-point Transport Plan To Unlock’s Auckland’s Potential“.

“We are lucky to live in this wonderful city – with beautiful beaches, awe-inspiring maunga, delicious eateries, and richly diverse communities. But Auckland’s traffic problems are choking the joy out of our city,” says Collins.

“That’s why my plan for better and more accessible public transport is a plan that puts the future of Auckland first.”

Collins’ five-point plan includes: a fully free public transport system, an expanded more frequent network, re-aligning Auckland Transport to Auckland Council’s vision for a better connected city by ensuring two councillors sit on its board, support for electric ferries and integration of ferries into network, and ensuring Auckland Transport’s parking strategy is rolled out equitably and democratically.

“Better and more accessible public transport is a quadruple win: good for the cost of living, for congestion, for climate, and for revitalising our town centres,” Collins says.

This plan is underpinned by the strong intent for Auckland to meet its climate action goals which will require 64% emissions reductions to come from transport by 2030.

So let’s look at those five points.

Free Fares

Free fares is Collins’ key initiative, and continuing focus since the start of his candidacy a few months ago. And it’s something the public do seem to like: Collins cites recent polling showing 73% of Aucklanders support the idea of free public transport, including 62% of National and ACT voters. That poll was conducted by two of the country’s largest unions, who also released a 40-page report on the feasibility of the proposal.

There are certainly some compelling arguments for free PT. After all, from a user point of view it’s hard to beat the price, and if free travel encourages more people to use public transport, it delivers benefits in helping reduce emissions and congestion as well as improving the health of those using PT. There are also operational benefits: faster boarding, improved driver safety, and not needing to run a fare collection system – though there is a downside to that last point, as AT would almost certainly lose rich vein of travel data which can be crucial to monitor the performance of services and help plan improvements.

Free fares would remove the need for ticketing systems like HOP

The challenge I have with this is that for the most part it’s not the cost of fares that is holding back public transport adoption. As we’ve talked about in a number of posts recently, the key thing holding back PT use is the quality of the service. We’re seeing that play out on the system right now, with ridership stagnating well below what it was pre-COVID and even below what it was in previous Level 1 scenarios despite the government making fares half-price.

So it’s hard to see whether free fares will significantly encourage people out of their cars – a challenge in some overseas systems that have also tried this approach. Importantly, the paper mentioned above has this to say:

The examples from some cities, such as Tallinn and Luxembourg, give us important learnings on how not to implement free fares. Both cities made fares free for a share of the total travelling population and failed to disincentivise driving as an alternative.

And there’s the rub, as there’s so far nothing in Collins’ policy that does anything to disincentivise driving – not even a mention of supporting something like congestion charging.

There’s also the issue of how to fund free fares: it will almost certainly require government support. Yet government won’t even provide long-term funding for the current half-price fares, so why would they suddenly support free fares just for Auckland?

So, sure, who wouldn’t want something for free if it’s on offer? But would I prefer that over other potential improvements to public transport? Not really. It’s the kind of policy that we would be better to look at once we’ve got some more fundamentals of the network in place, such as most (if not all) of the currently envisioned rapid transit network, far more frequent services backed up by abundant bus priority along with improvements in access to the network. Effectively, free fares should be the cherry on top, not the main course.

An expanded more frequent network

To be fair, perhaps some of the improvements I listed above sit under this policy point. But as with the other points below, it’s hard to say, as there’s not much to go on other than a couple of words.

It would be good to have specifics – like whether this is further expansion beyond the plans currently in the Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) and if so, just how much further. One example of the kind of thing we’d like to see is a shift to making all frequent services run at least every 10 minutes all day instead of every 15.

Some of the improvements planned with funding from the CATR

Putting Councillors on the AT Board to re-align Auckland Transport to Auckland Council’s vision for a better connected city

On the surface this sounds like good idea, but there is a notable issue with it: we already have councillors on the AT board. After choosing not to appoint anyone to the board in his first term, current Mayor Phil Goff appointed both Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore and Planning Committee Chair Chris Darby to the board in early 2020 as ‘Liaison Councillors”. These Liaison Councillors don’t have voting rights, but the description of the role sounds very much like what Collins is suggesting:

The key purpose of the liaison councillor role is to develop trusting relationships with the CCOs, to allow a better exchange of information. Liaison councillors can act as a key point of contact when specific issues arise, and provide advice when issues are likely to be of high public interest. They can provide the CCO with Governing Body perspectives which may help board decision-making, while at the same time being able to provide Governing Body colleagues with information about the rationale and detail of board decisions.

There is further issue though – it appears AT have developed a tendency to schedule their board meetings on the same day as key council meetings, such as those for the Governing Body or Planning Committee. A quick analysis shows that of the 17 AT board meetings over the last two years, only one fell on a day where there wasn’t a Council Governing Body or other Committee meeting. Just coincidence?

Improved Ferries

The government has already announced we’ll be getting two electric ferries and AT have just announced they’ll be buying a further five plug-in hybrid ones as well as changing the operating model. So this is kind of underway already, although it’s good that Collins expressly supports it.

Of course we’ll need a lot more than two electric ferries, so is this policy set to achieve that? I’m also a little less sure what “integrating ferries into the network” means, especially in light of the recent announcement. I wonder if this was referring to the Devonport/Waiheke issue, one of which is now fixed, while it seems that the other (Waiheke) sits with the government, who seem to be finally looking at it.


Rolling out the Auckland Transport Parking Strategy

I think it’s good that Collins explicitly states he supports the roll out of the parking strategy, as it’s critical to improving our networks of bus and bike lanes. The one caveat is Collins’ note about the policy being rolled out “equitably and democratically“. Is that code for if communities make a lot of noise against it we won’t do it?

Paying for it all

The big question for all candidates is of course how to fund their initiatives. This is what Collins’ press release says:

But there are also significant financial reasons compelling Collins’ plan. According to research, congestion costs $1.2b per year in productivity, the social cost of car accidents was over $4 billion in 2020 and car pollution alone has been linked to 400 premature deaths per annum.

“Fares-free public transport, along with the other four elements of my plan, will support families and businesses: this is a plan for the people, and for all of Auckland,” Collins says.

I worry that he and his campaign are perhaps mixing up their understanding financial and economic benefits. A boost in productivity from reduced congestion and fewer deaths is important, but it doesn’t result in a new source of revenue to help pay for stuff.

What’s Missing?

Walking and Cycling

Much as with Viv Beck’s transport policy, the absence of any mention of walking and cycling is glaring. Not just because in a climate emergency, sustainable modes are a vital part of the story – but also because these are the modes most amenable for children, and cities that are nice to walk and cycle around deliver a better quality of life for everyone.

Given Collins’ stated support for the parking strategy, I’d have least thought we might see something straightforward like “delivering on the cycling strategy”.

Light Rail

Light rail is going to be one of the main talking points and issues the next mayor will have to deal with. It would be good to see some information about Collins’ views on it.

Roads and Congestion Pricing

As mentioned above, achieving mode shift also requires disincentivising driving, so it would be good to see some commitment from Collins on this.

Trees 

Can we please have a candidate promoting the planting of street trees?


Overall, I’m not that impressed with the policy. The headline initiative just doesn’t feel right at this time, let alone the challenges of trying to implement it. Meanwhile, the other initiatives largely feel like they’re support for stuff that’s already happening – which is definitely important, but a missed opportunity to really supercharge the policy with some inspiring  and practical ideas, and a bigger, clearer vision for how the transport system could restore joy to our city.

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75 comments

  1. Free fares and an expanded more frequent network go hand in hand. Free fares will encourage usage – not only due to it being free but also significant speed improvements from people not having to tag on and off, all door boarding, etc. That extra usage enables frequency, and with more of the population using PT, taking away carparks to make the PT better becomes more politically viable.
    We spend billions and billions on transport infrastructure, maybe spending a small fraction of that on free PT would allow us to get a lot more out of the infrastructure we already have.

    1. Yes, free fares is a bit like a booster button. If we’d pushed it pre-Covid when the New Network was first all put in place, chance are it would’ve increased ridership substantially, and given the Council and Government confidence to push on with more changes.

      Unfortunately, Government and AT’s transport planning around Covid was substandard, AT has departed from strategy in many ways, and the government has failed to provide funding for the things that will actually transform our networks. What would pressing the button do right now?

      Still, fixing those problems needs to happen, and the free fares is unlikely to be a thing immediately. So, let’s be positive about what it could achieve.

    2. I think this website is underestimating free fares, especially in a time of high inflation (not just fuel costs). Perhaps many people who write and comment on this website are financially comfortable, it often feels very ‘Middle Class’, but an increasing number of people are on ‘Struggle Street’. In that context, free fares will have more impact than ever, especially once the fuel tax goes back on (assuming it does).

      1. if people are on struggle street, and I agree they are, then surely the way to put more money back in their pockets is to remove their dependence in insane fuel prices through better PT and cycling options.

        A free bus fare is pointless if the bus is too slow, too infrequent or doesn’t go where people need to go. They’ll be back putting their money into filling up the car more frequently than they should be.

        A compromise would have been to make kids free and perhaps off-peak too. Then spend the money on rapid rollout of buslanes and cycleways to entice people out of their cars, into cheaper transport options, while addressing the congestion and environmental issues at the same time..

        1. Can’t we do both? Yes, it’s costly, but strong arguments to say the costs are worth bearing and the benefits (environmental, economic, social) immense.

  2. It would be better to target the all of the potential public transport commuters by keeping half price or lower for all monthly passes.

    Focus should be on keeping seats available on public transport for regular commuters, for morning & afternoon peaks, rather than packing seats to capacity.

    Targeting daily peak time commuters takes cars out of the peak traffic flow, improving commuting for those who still drive and also reduces environmental carbon damage from traffic gridlock.

    Speaking on reducing peek traffic, Pukekohe train services are being suspended for TWO YEARS! Will they be stopping freight trains & Hamilton Huia service as well? Even with restricted speeds it was preferable to take the DMU in morning due to traffic at Drury. Please reconsider keeping weekday peak train services from Pukekohe-Papakura ( 7am till 9am & 4pm till 7pm ).

    Also couldn’t some of the 3 car electric units be converted to plug in electric by attaching a low height battery unit front or rear. Running running north of Swanson and between Pokeno and Waiuku, transferring at Pukekohe.

    A low cost / free service outside of peak times, especially the morning peak rush, as in the current 9am start for Gold Card free service in Auckland, is a better option.

    1. Answering a question from a Twitter DM as to battery charging time.

      If the battery power units were on self propelled rolling stock that attach to the front or rear of the 3 unit cars, they could be swapped & charged on a dual entry siding anywhere along the route.

  3. I listened to Efeso speak at Te Atatu South, and he struck me as a very warm, likeable leader, with the oratory skills – and awareness of humanity’s complexities – to bring the public on the journey of change that we need to take. I haven’t seen that in a mayor or a mayoral candidate for a long time.

    Policy matters, but given the mayor is only one vote among many, leadership of this kind is more important.

  4. I wonder what the total cost of collecting fares is:
    – Cost of building and maintaining the ticketing system (HOP already needs replacement),
    – Cost of card readers in every bus, electronic gates, staff monitoring electronic gates, maintenance, etc.
    – Cost of transactions: credit card fees, contact centre calls, support staff, merchant fees, card costs
    – Cost of time: Buses and drivers sitting around while people get their HOP card out, tag on, single door boarding on buses, resolving issues.
    – Cost of planning: Setting and reviewing fares, advertising fares, zones, transfer costs.
    – Opportunity cost: Less bus usage due to cost, not having a HOP card, reduced frequency due to time costs, expensive travel for families. Buses that are often quite empty could be full providing much more benefit.

    1. At current half price fares I wonder if the cost of collection is more than the amount collected. I used the bus in the weekend with 2 kids, the total return cost was $1.98. For that $1.98 there were 6 tagons, the kids can be quite slow so we probably slowed the bus down by 30 seconds each way. Just the time cost of the driver and bus and diesel would be a good percentage of that $1.98, let alone all the other costs above.

    2. Yea, but the system is not being set up. All that payment infrastructure is in place right now.

      Will you take the bus every day if it is free?

      1. I am not the target audience, although my gripe with using buses is the incredibly slow journey time and low frequency, both could be radically improved with all door boarding and higher patronage.
        Most of those costs are ongoing, and HOP must be close to needing a full re-write now with modern tech (incl paywave, cloud computing, etc), no doubt needing all new card readers etc.

        1. You, a car driver are exactly the tarfet audience of policy like this. Oh the busses are slow, maybe that is the actual issue the? Let’s get the bloody car out the way and implement light priority for busses then.

    3. There other countries which have trialed free PT and which are not universally successful. I think the Swiss ZZZ (Zurich is an example that is worth looking at. especially their pulse operation which is relevant to our city layout.
      In NZ, fares would enable better central planning if we were all to tag on and off, (fare or no fare) to enable a good understanding of usage/deemand patterns.
      it would be ideal if we were to have at least say a $1 fare per/section.
      (Would free transport mean that passengers would not respect the system and abuse it?)

      I think that we need to be building shelters for people to use on the way to work. in our area (Papakura) we have a well designed bus system which was introduced a few years ago, however the services have recently been reduced as part of the cost cutting excercise. Meaning that you have longer waits at bus stops cos you really can’t afford to miss a buswhen you have appointments or are going to work. The lack of shelters at the bus stops when you exit Takanini station to await the next bus is very exposed especially on the east side. To add insult to injury the cars have priority over the pedestrians in the car park when I feel the pedestrian has the greater chance of catching the next train or bus than the a car driver.
      (It’s not so bad getting wet on the y home but on the way to work it is a real pain if you have to sit around in your wet gar while waiting for the bus, the new shelters on the Takanini platform are a big improvement so thnk you all for that.)

      1. Again I have to pay for a targeted rare for somethibg I will never use.I would have to drive 23kms to even catch one of those large empty buses which zoom around Auckland,wasting fuel.What a waste of money as hardly anyone uses the service out where I live.PT is a misnoma,advocated by those in the central areas with no tjought for yhose of us who have no real opportunity.Seems Efeso just advocates for Sth Auckland and has no idea where Aucklands north goes up to.He wont be getting my vote

        1. Fine, there’s plenty more people that live more centrally that will vote for him and do use public transport.
          ps If you look at it, the more dense areas affectively subsidise the less dense areas anyway. I live in a outer suburb but know that the central city actually subsidises us slightly.

  5. I would rather see the half price fares kept and use the extra money to improve frequency and coverage of PT. For me the current half price makes it feel like value for money but I still have very long waiting times for a service to arrive.

    1. A lot of your waiting time is due to two things:
      1) People slowing down the bus by tagging on and off with single door boarding. Each bus and driver covers less distance per hour which increases costs. A very slow user who can’t find their card or has an issue will cause bus bunching.
      2) Increased frequency can’t be justified due to low patronage.

      Free fares could solve both of those.

      1. No most of my waiting is due to the bus frequency of 30 mins. Halving this would make a huge difference. I hear all the time that people won’t use the bus due to how long they have to wait. I never hear it about the cost. People will pay for a frequent quality service.

        1. Is the bus full at 30 mins frequency? If so it should be increased, if not then increasing frequency will drive a bit more demand but it is unlikely to be enough alone to make twice as many buses full.
          But a quicker journey due to no tag on/off coupled with free fares may create enough demand to justify a bus every 15 minutes. And with the services not sitting idle while people tag on/off, doubling the frequency will not be double the cost.

        2. Jimbo, 15 minute frequency is the minimum needed for the network to function really. Going somewhere requiring a transfer with one or both routes at 30 minute frequency completely destroys the practicality of PT as an option. Frequency shouldn’t be determined by the ridership on a service but by the functionality of the network.

        3. Heidi I think if a bus isn’t used much at 30 min frequency it won’t be used much at 15 either. There is probably something else wrong with the service such as bad catchment, slow journey time, excessive cost, etc.
          If they give every poorly used service a 15 minute frequency without a significant increase in usage it will cost a fortune and surely it is bad for C02 emissions too. Frequency is very important, but it doesn’t automatically turn a bad service into a good one.

        4. “Heidi I think if a bus isn’t used much at 30 min frequency it won’t be used much at 15 either” Your thinking is wrong. From my own personal experience and of other people I know, is that it makes a huge difference. You are also falling into the trap that services have to be full before they are improved.

        5. Agree, Wayne. Jimbo, the success of the New Network was because in simplifying the routes the frequencies could go up, so that transfers made the network function for many more trips. International evidence, Auckland data and personal anecdote all support this. From my point of view, as a carless mum about town with two kids as the New Network was unrolled, it was this improvement of frequency that completely opened up the city to me.

        6. Heidi it sounds like we are going to find out as AC have committed to increasing a lot of frequencies. Personally I think it will have less effect than free fares would still cost a lot as those new frequent services will probably have such a small farebox recovery.

        7. We recently had an increase in frequency of the 743 bus in our area from about 30 min frequency to 20 mins for most of the day, 30 mins very early & later at night and 15 mins at peak times. Seems a lot more useable.

        8. I agree with you 100%. I am currently in my hometown Zagreb; there is a bus that connects the neighbourhood with the city centre. There are many other ways to get there but the bus is incredibly popular because it runs at 8-10 minutes from the morning until 10 pm or so (and then there are several night services until 1 am, the times of which haven’t changed in years so everyone on route knows them). The ticket is cheap – about 4 kunas or $1 – but not free.

        9. Tatjana, do the night buses run both into town and out?

          I ask because that’s why they’ve never worked for me here. Getting from one town centre location to another in the wee hours has been hopeless because – although I’m willing to go the long way around, via the city centre, the buses won’t pick me up on the way in. AT assumes everyone is leaving the city centre.

      2. Heidi. That new network roll out was absolutely incredible, I started to take bus ahead of the Train for some trips as just it was just better. This being everywhere make getting around so much better than what it was. The frequent bus lane, even with cars are very useable PT.

        AT should be praised for actually getting something so right. I think it’s has a noticeable effect on PT planning around NZ.

        1. Absolutely. And the CATR improvements will bring further improvements.

          AT’s response to Covid has been so bad, though, they’re risking it all.

      3. Is there some data you are basing your concerns about tag on and off time delays on? I find it hard to comprehend that this is a major problem. I couldn’t step on or off a bus any faster just because I wasn’t tapping my card on a reader as I go past it. Yes there are occasionally people who fumble this or their card doesn’t work properly but from what I see the vast majority are moving through just fine.

        1. Good principles of network design involve in-line bus stops because the delay to traffic from the bus stopping in the traffic lane should never be sufficient to be a problem to the network.

          That AT doesn’t always use in line bus stops (despite it being their policy) is either because:

          1/ the delays from tagging on or off are excessive, or
          2/ AT is assigning too much importance to the flow of the general traffic.

          Which do you think it is, Translex? The second one would match AT’s consistently atrocious “feedback summary” reasons for why Vision Zero decisions aren’t being made, project after project…

          But perhaps it’s a tagging on and off delay…?

        2. Full in-line bus stops should only be used where there is no room to pull over. I get on busy roads it can be hard to pull back into traffic, but the law should change to give priority to buses first. On most roads it is not an issue.
          The only other reason for them is to cause congestion. While that may be AT (and GA lobbyist’s) goals it is not justified.

        3. Stu, the problem is at the next set of lights, now the bus is 10 spots back on where it otherwise would have been. Inline stops make bus trip times faster, same as any other form of bus priority.

        4. Could we make it compulsory for other traffic to give way to the right turning PT bus! Thus enabling it to get back into the lane quickly.

          There should be an accompanying sign on the back of the bus to reinforce this.

      4. Single door boarding is not as bad as both door exit. For some reason in NZ we have not grown up enough to realise that exiting via the front door restricts those boarding. Front door entry – rear door exit. Its implementation is long overdue.

    2. yup, this policy (which is basically ‘free fares people!’) is just an election trick. I don’t think much thought went into it or PT in general. I liked Viv Beck policy which also wasn’t very impressive but more realistic and it seemed like at least some thought went into it before she announced it. I’m afraid Efeso (supported by Labour) will be like Labour government and their promises of trams (or cycling bridges). So I don’t think that we will see free fares even if he gets elected. And I wouldn’t want to. Prices should stay as they are now (half of the ‘normal’ overpriced services) and they should introduce weekly/monthly tickets that are significantly cheaper on top of that. I know I’m dreaming but it would be nice to have especially with very poor PT quality that we have in Auckland.

  6. Collins’s free fares policy certainly mitigates transport poverty and is worth pursuing, but needs careful implementation. When the City Link service began it was free for a few years. The result was jam packed buses. Students who would previously walk up Queen St from Britomart now took the bus up to Victoria or Wellesley St, meaning there was often no space at all for people needing to get further up the valley.

    Rough sleepers also took advantage of the new warm, dry space to camp out for the day – and who could blame them. But I vividly recall one guy with toilet issues and other drunk and loud passengers who diminished the experience for others.

    These issues will need thoughtful management if free fares are implemented.

    1. I agree that will be an issue. But if the main issue is that people will use it, it sounds like a good issue to have.

    2. The reduction in security is a big problem for free fares, essentially everywhere inside the hop cordon – railways stations and on the bus.
      I don’t see a practical solution.
      Given financial pressures on ratepayers and inflation effects on both ratepayers and the council, its not good timing to add the additional expense of free fares.
      Typically fares are 50% subsidized, and currently 75%. Are there really many more people who would take PT if it was free? Walking and pretty much cycling are free, yet they’re only attracting a small portion of the population.
      Congestion charging has to be the way forward, although similar to above, timing right now isn’t great.

      1. In PT oriented cities all walks of life use PT as there is no cost effective alternative. I don’t remember London for example being much worse than here. Maybe the increased mobility may improve things for everyone long term.

      2. Free fares honestly could back fire massively. AT have removed Wifi from stations and spent millions installing hop barriers to pretty much stop teenagers causing shit. Meeting points like Henderson used to have significant issues, out in the hop barriers, massive fast change.

        Tauranga recently had free Pt for kids and caused chaos and promptly dropped after a major incident.

        1. Yes, what of all the HOP barrier gates purpose if we didn’t use HOP anymore? I think while free PT would work well in a NZ context with some respects, there will be other issues it brings. I’m more in favour of just a permanent fare reduction, the price now seems about right to me, possible could be even cheaper.

        2. Well Parnell station would not need multiple employees…
          I assume most stations would lose their on the ground staff over time. Which is probably not good.

          A dollar a zone is fine if community service cars give Gold card style Pt access.

  7. He’s comfortably out in front in my mind but I would like to see more made of protected cycling rollout. To me, this is far more important that anything PT related. It solves for short distance movements around suburbs (local workers, school movements) and makes for a better place for children and older people (and parents).
    PT is great for longer distance but it involves a lot of big infrastructure which is costly and has huge embedded carbon.

  8. He obviously hasn’t being reading Greater Auckland. Or maybe he is an astute politician who has found a policy that resonates with voters and knows not to associate himself with loser issues like cycling or walking projects which are perceived to be restricting car access. However like any other politician he will be all over any off road cycleway or shared path and turn up at the opening on his bike. The other Greater Auckland love is restricting parking and at least he is a little bit on board although this may be just to try and differentiate himself from other more car orientated candidates Usually I am not this cynical but I am still trying to get over Phil Twyfords betrayal. Will he be able to implement free fares well I don’t know but I am a little bit worried about unsavory behavior it may attract.

  9. I really wish people would stop using that ugly fake word “learnings”.

    Interesting article though, thanks.

    1. And “free fares” is a bit of an oxymoron also. What we really mean is “no fares”, or “free travel”.

  10. Free fares isn’t smart, you lose the data to know where to provide services, lose revenue which could’ve been used on better services, persuade people who would otherwise walk/cycle to take the free bus, create more safety issues etc.

  11. I’ll continue saying this every single time someone suggests free fares:
    We could double service for the same cost. Is that the trade off you want to make?

    1. You are assuming that there are no other benefits to free fares other than it being free. You are also assuming there are no costs involved in collecting fares when they are actually significant.
      I should time it one day, but I think removing the need to tag on and off would reduce my bus trip from 35 mins to less than 30 mins. That is a lot more enticing for me, but also a lot cheaper for the bus company to run.
      Also while my HOP card is working pretty well now, over the years I have had untold issues with it. And I hear they are a real hassle for kids going to school and for the less technically minded.
      To me the biggest benefit is not reducing the financial cost to people, but removing the time, hassle and barrier to entry of the HOP card.

      1. That’s fine, you think that those are bigger benefits than increased service. My point is that, in so much of the discussion around free fares, people ignore the opportunity cost of just making PT better.

        I also agree that the deliberate policy decisions AT have made makes HOP cards far more of a barrier than it should be. There should be literally 100 times more top up and purchase locations.

    2. You say that as though doubling would hurt?

      It would potentially 10 fold the patronage off peak as free or super cheap makes it potentially more favourable over vehicles.

      But during peak where most of the capacity issues are, I doubt it would increase all that much, those who want the travel time and vehicle cost savings are probably most already clued into that.

      If that turns out to be false, maybe a different approach peak vs off peak is required in terms of costing…

      1. Remember the Bus co’s were forcing the drivers wages and conditions down. Driers shifts ended in the central city and were stood down there until the afternoon shift started. An added burden on a meagre wage, now the Co’s are faced with driver shortages and they are n+ot increasing the wages fast enough to attract staff.

  12. Folk have short memories. Pre-Covid, AT was struggling to keep up with peak demand on major arterials. Bus drivers pay and conditions are so poor that bus companies cannot hire new drivers on current wages and many existing drivers are leaving the industry. No point making fares free, increasing demand during peak periods and not being able to respond with additional buses, where there is no-one there to drive them. It is notably that nowhere in this policy is the issue of paying bus drivers a decent wage mentioned.

  13. Can Mr Collins promise that if fares are free, he won’t increase council rates to
    help pay for them ?

    1. There’s been way too much concern for keeping rates low over the years, and that concern is responsible for putting our kids in the position of inheriting a run-down, costly-to-maintain, unsustainable and non-resilient city.

      Value for money is important. For that, we need to halt sprawl and transform the transport system away from car dependence.

  14. I went and heard his policy announcement in person and overall I was happy with the policies. He did refer to a connected up cycle network. Talking briefly afterwards it didn’t seem like any approach was decided upon. I would have liked to see some more policy spelled out here as the how to is just as important as the why.

      1. Yeah exactly, the research cited in that blog post says $1.2b is a fiction based on an impossible ideal, and it’s more like $250m.

  15. There are plenty of disincentives to driving. One of them is rising fuel prices. But the bigger one is the shambolic nature of Auckland’s roads. I live in South Auckland, I *have* to drive quite a bit, in terms of transporting my 14 year old daughter around Auckland for her sporting commitments, where PT isn’t a viable option, but in terms of my commuting choice the train wins hands down. And that’s mainly because the southern motorway, so often, gets so snarled up. The reliability of the trains isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good, and far better than the reliability of the motorways.

    1. And I think you will find one of the main reasons for falling PT ridership is covid and other winter ills. Firstly, a big chunk of our population are sick, and not going to work (whether by PT or car). And related to that, a significant number of people that I know want to avoid PT because of the greater risk of getting covid (compared to working from home, or driving)

      1. I think I’d rather take the risk of getting covid than dealing with the insanity of the Southern Motorway, haha.

  16. My one concern with free fares is it might lead to joyriding, antisocial boarding or people even using it as a form of shelter.

    Why not just make it ridiculously cheap instead? That way the AIFS equipment and systems aren’t wasted and it discourages abuse to some degree?

    1. Good idea.
      When I go to the office to work (rather than WFH), I train from Manukau to Britomart. Normally $5.50 one way, currently $2.75. Make it $1 each way, that would still be REALLY cheap, effectively free by modern cost of living standards, and addresses some of the concerns you and others have raised. And at least still raises a bit of revenue.

  17. This policy (which is basically ‘free fares people!’) is just an election trick. I don’t think much thought went into it or PT in general. I liked Viv Beck policy more which also wasn’t very impressive but more realistic and it seemed like at least some thought went into it before she announced it. I’m afraid Efeso (supported by Labour) will be like Labour government and their promises of trams (or cycling bridges). So I don’t think that we will see free fares even if he gets elected. And I wouldn’t want to. Prices should stay as they are now (half of the ‘normal’ overpriced services) and they should introduce weekly/monthly tickets that are significantly cheaper on top of that. I know I’m dreaming but it would be nice to have especially with very poor PT quality that we have in Auckland.

  18. Has anyone else noticed what COVID-19 has done to private vehicle use? Making public transport free may only be a stop gap measure but it is vital in helping a large proportion of the population to stop needing a car. For these less privileged this is an immediate issue. Efeso Collins has walked a far more impressive path to this mayoral bid, than all the other candidates put together. The postcode lottery / institutional racism is something that needs to be addressed in Tamaki Makaurau, and he is the only one capable of not denying it, having lived it. For Auckland to evolve we the greater city needs be represented better, and Light Rail was a mayoral issue in the 1960s…in 2022 it is about teaching the population that a city can function without a car boot!

  19. Remember the Bus co’s were forcing the drivers wages and conditions down. Driers shifts ended in the central city and were stood down there until the afternoon shift started. An added burden on a meagre wage, now the Co’s are faced with driver shortages and they are n+ot increasing the wages fast enough to attract staff.

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