Friday, December 20, 2013

The disintegration of the Waiheke Fullers monthly pass - AT's response

This is what I got in response from Auckland Transport, 18 days after sending the initial email:
Subject: Fullers Monthly Passes
Customer Reference Number: CAS-145438

Thank you for your feedback regarding the pending changes to Fullers Monthly Pass services.  At the outset I apologise for the delay in responding to your queries.

The Waiheke Ferry Monthly Pass was implemented some years ago when Fullers and NZ Bus were owned by the same parent company, which is no longer the case.  With the transition to AT HOP, Fullers and NZ Bus along with other operators have taken the opportunity to review the commercial arrangements they have in place with each other for some products that allows travel with different operators on one ticket, as they each transition to the new system. 

While the new system could accommodate such passes, in this case NZ Bus and Fullers have decided not to continue with the city based bus travel component on the Waiheke Ferry Monthly Pass.  Auckland Transport is aware this affects a small number of people who have been utilising the features of this Pass and our contact centre staff will be happy to assist commuters in working out the most cost effective travel option.  However, I can confirm the Waiheke Ferry Monthly Pass will continue to offer unlimited travel on all Waiheke Bus Company services.   

Fares for the Waiheke Island ferry service are set by Fullers, Auckland Transport is not responsible for these fares as this is not a subsidised service.

At this stage bus and train travel in the city may require ferry commuters to have two payment methods for travel – an AT HOP card and a Fullers Galaxy ticket.  Auckland Transport acknowledges these changes may bring increased costs for some commuters however we are currently working with Fullers to introduce more products to the AT HOP card which incorporate Ferry travel including daily and monthly passes.  Customer can sign up to receive the latest updates regarding AT HOP on our website here: http://at.uq.co.nz/signup/
I trust this information is of use to you.  Thank you again for taking to the time to provide your feedback to Auckland Transport
In summary: suck it up, Waiheke rich bitches. If you can't afford to live/commute, move back to the mainland. Fullers again gets off scot-free, with revenue intact and no commercial consequences for pissing all over its customers. Life in the capitalist monopoly world with a compliant regulator is sweet.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The disintegration of the Waiheke Fullers monthly pass

I have sent this to Auckland Transport feedback site. I recommend you do a similar thing.

From 1 January, Waiheke Fullers monthly pass holders will no longer be able to use bus services from NZ Bus on the mainland. This is an AT decision. Despite this cut in service access, Fullers has decided to keep the price of the monthly pass the same.
What needs to happen:
Either - 1. Fullers drops the monthly pass price by between $80 and $140 (the cost of a monthly Hop pass for buses on the mainland)
Or - 2. Fullers or AT gives monthly Hop passes to monthly Fullers pass holders until such time this cock up is sorted by a the issue of a monthly Hop pass valid for all travel including Waiheke.
I don't see why passengers should pay for the dysfunctionality between Fullers and AT.

UPDATE 16DEC: I got an acknowledgement from AT that they have received my query and have forwarded it to the relevant 'business unit' (this is two weeks after sending it off to them). They will try to respond within 10 working days. By then we will have lost our integrated monthly pass. Good work Fullers/AT.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fullers ups all fares at the start of the tourism season

From 1 November all Fullers fares on the Waiheke ferry run will increase by just under 2% (there is one small mercy: dogs will still be carried free). The complete list of changes is in this PDF file.
Since you know us as complete cynics, we suspect they are pre-financing the new ferry due next year (despite strenuous promises by a former Local Board member it will arrive this November) by charging passengers extra that will cover the construction and commission cost. But we also hear the usual protestations of the annual litany of increased labour and fuel costs and increased wharf berthing charges (presumably not covered by the wharf tax already in place). Our hearts bleed every year too.

Meanwhile, still no fare integration with the rest of Auckland public transport (especially trains) and we have seen the introduction of a separate Galaxy card, with its attendant teething problems (one morning my card refused to be read and the Fullers employee looked scoldingly at me as if that was my problem). Why we don't have Auckland-wide, all mode Hop Cards is still a mystery.

There was also the little survey that was doing the rounds on a possible later Sunday night sailing from town at 10:30pm and from Waiheke at 11:30pm. This is long overdue but Fullers is owned by a Scottish Presbyterian who would prefer us to be in bed by sundown to be well-rested for the looming working week. Weekend tourists surely wouldn't mind a later sailing back to mediocrity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fullers ticketing to change

I only found out this morning thanks to a casual remark by a fellow commuter but, from next month, the monthly pass will be split into two options: a regular monthly pass you purchase before the 1st and valid for a calendar month on ferries and buses, and a 30-day pass you can buy at any time but only covers ferry travel.
What you need to do is re-register with Fullers (have your picture taken to be issued a new pass) soon as the queues will be massive to register.
It's all to do with swiping technology that will be brought in.
No word on whether the passes will be swipable on the Hop machines on Auckland buses.
Nor on whether there will be any pricing differences between the two options. Will it be another opportunity for Fullers to up the monthly pass price with the fob off that you can always get a cheaper 30 day one?
Also, it's unclear whether you an buy a monthly pass after the 1st of the month.
As things usually go with the introduction of new technology, expect queues and delays for registering and swiping. A relief is that you can actually buy your pass online in the future.
The PR about this major change and upheaval has been woeful so far. See if you can get through the prose on their website.
Now how about that onboard wi-fi they've been promising us for a year now?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Regional Public Tansport Plan recommendations

Auckland Transport has released all the submissions made by the public, local boards, corporations, and others on its Draft Public Transport Plan. Also the Panel Hearings Report.
Reading through the submissions, only a few refer to Waiheke Island, most of them in line with my own submission regards Waiheke's inclusion into the proposed far zone structure and the integration of Fullers into the system. Some older residents are screaming blue murder about a possible curtailment of their Supergold card freebie after 3:00pm.
In corporate submissions, Fullers, of course, makes the point that fares need to be sky high as they 'subsidise' commuter and year round island trips. No proof of this was provided (See the Campbell Live TV interview debacle on the probe into Fullers fare policy and supergold card subsidy loot).
The Waiheke Local Board submission is brief, but makes good points on island bus services and the wharf tax. It is, however, silent on how to tackle Fullers' privileged position and how to integrate its services with the rest of Auckland public transport.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Summer's atrocious service now to be charged to Waihekeans

After an atrocious Summer for passenger experience on Fullers ferries, with several vessels more than occasionally out of service, Quickcat laid up for a Summer rest and multiple smaller boats overloaded to cope with the crowds wanting to share the buzz on the island, the cash flow must have been a bumper one, judging by the TV performance of the company's CEO on Campbell Live the other day, swatting away any criticism of being an overpriced monopoly sucking on the supergold card subsidy teat. Now that Quickcat is back in service, with an expensive engine repaired, the costs have to be recouped lest the Souter kids go hungry, the monthly pass fare in April is set to rise by 10% to $355 $350, according to the Fullers fares website.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Waihekeans should be so lucky!

Via Auckland Transport blog:
Three weeks on from the launch of the new Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services, patronage is showing good growth above initial forecasts with 26% above forecast for week one (317 passenger journeys); 68% for week two (422 journeys) and 56% for week three (232 journeys for three days).
Capitalising on this beginning, Auckland Transport is offering a special price deal for all trips on the Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services to encourage more people to try the service. Special prices are available from 25 February until 24 May 2013.
Auckland Transport’s Manager of Public Transport, Mark Lambert says “It’s been a good start for the new services. We’re looking to stimulate further growth with the special fares helping promote the services and attract more people who may not have been public transport users previously.
“Ferry travel is a very pleasant and time-saving travel option for those working or studying in the city as well as those looking to travel for leisure”, says Mr Lambert
The Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferry services run two morning and three afternoon sailings each week day.
A bus service departing from Westgate connects with ferry sailings at Hobsonville.

Meanwhile, back on Waiheke, we can look forward to another week of dread in the run up to 1 March. Will Fullers up its monthly fares by $30 in anticipation of paying off the lost revenue due to the 6-month-long out-of-servcie Quickcat? If they do, there is no poin in contacting Mr Lambert to get a similar deal as the North-Westies. Auckland Transport is ball-less when it comes to Fullers.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend madness

I really should have known better but it was unavoidable today but to take the 11:00am sailing to Waiheke with the huge hordes of tourists. Luckily it was Superflyte, it even left on time and didn't make that useless and annoying detour via Devonport. So far so good.
The trouble started on Matiatia wharf where the throng of tourists really don't have a clue where to go or what to do. The signs are abominable and mostly lacking anyway and the East German style public address system announcing what gate to proceed to for the preferred experience is unhelpful.
Why are there no proper destination signs at the bus stop line up? It wouldn't cost much to clearly indicate where line 1, 2 and 4 go to and where the touring buses are. Do we really need to teach Auckland Transport how to suck eggs?
Loading up the regular buses took forever (about 30 minutes before they actually started moving) due to passenger confusion and endless questions to the driver. Why can't Fullers sell return tickets to various points of the island and include it in the ferry fare? This would make boarding buses faster due no more fumbling with wrong change.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fullers' Supergold card subsidy is $1.5m a year

From the NZ Herald:
"A regional breakdown of the costs released under the Official Information Act shows $10.7 million was spent on seniors travelling on Auckland ferries, buses and rail. That included the maximum amount of just over $1.5 million to Fullers for seniors travelling on the Waiheke Ferry - funding which was capped in 2010 after blowing out to $2 million a year."
 $1.5m is about 7% of the national Supergold card budget.
"The Waiheke ferry cap, adjusted for inflation each year, meant Fullers has received no subsidies for some of its Gold Card passengers. Fullers Group chief executive Douglas Hudson said the cap usually ran out between four to eight weeks before the next subsidy round each year, and the company absorbed the full cost of the free fares for that time. "It does cost Fullers to carry those SuperGold cardholders once the cap has been reached," he said."
That is a nice attempt at spinning themselves into the victim position. One could view instead the $1.5m as an annual bulkfunding exercise to transport 65-plussers (and hangers-on) to Waiheke.
"However, we are comfortable with the degree of 'free' service we provide because we believe that overall, the advent of free ferry fares for SuperGold cardholders has been beneficial for the Waiheke economy."
The economic benefit has certainly accrued to Fullers but the wider impact on the island is disputable: many are day trippers who bring their sandwiches and tea flasks, sit on Onetangi beach for the day and make sure they're back home for tea. I haven't heard any Waiheke business being overrun by oldies, like Fullers (and its buses and tours) are.

In general terms, the Supergold card has been a boon to those fortunate enough to get their hands on one (and to the NZ First Party, which introduced it), but just imagine what that $10.7m transport subsidy could contribute to lowering the fares for everybody and thus make public transport a more attractive alternative and impact in a significant way on the city traffic problems.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Summer madness continues

That awfully nice lady at the Fullers sales counter way back in late October told me the monthly passes for November and December would be discounted by $30 as an "early Christmas present". The pleasantness continued in January when the fare was kept at $325.
But February loomed - and still no sign of Quickcat returning to service - and I was dreading that nice nice lady would take away my Christmas present. When my fellow passengers bought their February passes, the price had indeed gone up to $355. I held off to late on January 31st to buy mine and I was incredulous that I was charged only $325. I asked the young man at the Auckland counter twice to confirm it and yes, he assured me, that was the correct fare.
Cue to chaos, no doubt, when the Fullers CEO made a U-turn on the fare rise, and now everybody who bought an overpriced pass can claim a refund. Make sure you do!

Meanwhile on the water, Saturday morning's 11am sailing from town had about 5 boats on the run to cope with demand. Many people arrived on Waiheke after midday. A glorious Summer season, marred by you-know-who.