Friday, May 31, 2019

Superflyte, Superflyte, my kingdom for Superflyte

The Winter has not started yet but the Discontent has. Regular like Groundhog Day, Fullers manages to fuck up its service as soon as the tourists have disappeared and the pesky commuters demand getting to work and home on time in a daily and orderly fashion.
But that was never part of Fullers' business plan, who are you kidding?. Winter is for refashioning, engineering (including fitting in engines that actually work), surveying boats, readying them for the Summer season, taking them out of service as they see fit and replacing them with the floating yellow bath ducks they bought from Explore.
But these island peasants keep turning up at Matiatia wanting public transport, those ingrates on monthly passes and, worse, those who demand being carried for free courtesy of the taxpayer. Don't they know that tourists on $40 return fares bring in the dosh which makes it all worthwhile, and those on discounts should really be happy to find a place in steerage class, packed in like sheep en route to Saudi Arabia?
The peasants have been revolting for quite a while - for the best part of the past 20 years - but now finally have awakened the political class and the media to their case, after rumours of threatening violent action, an extinction rebellion aimed at saving Waiheke island life.
Local body bodies, local Councillors and local MPs are now running around like headless chickens, gathering information and 'experiences' (include exact dates and times, please!) to bring to another meeting with Fullers management, only to be laughed out of the office, since everybody knows (or should know) that it is never the fault of the company, but always the weather, the diesel prices, the passenger numbers, the staff morale and sickness, the Labour government and the lack of free market. No amount of 'consultations' or 'demonstrations' will be of any use. If they had been in the past we would now not be on square one again.
There are only two solutions (and if you have any others, I'd like to hear them):
1. The government grows a pair and reforms the PTOM Act abolishing the exempt service status of Fullers, bringing it under the integrated umbrella of Auckland public transport, with all tenders, regulations, support and penalties for non-performance included. If Fullers manages to remain exempt it should lose all its public subsidies such as the Hop fare system, preferential wharf access and gold card subsidies. If they want a pure free market, we should give it to them with knobs on.
2. The Council should own (or franchise) its own ferry service and go in competition with Fullers. Gold and Hop cards should only be valid on this service. (As an aside, the $2m gold card subsidy given to Fullers came in very handily in its market battle with Explore who never properly qualified for it). This should provide a level of public transport enjoyed by first world cities and get us out of being beholden to government-guaranteed private monopoly, and leave the ripping-off of tourists to Fullers.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

International ferry fares 2019 update

An update of our international ferry fares comparison is long overdue. So here it is for January 2019. As you can notice, Auckland still has the second highest monthly ferry passes - after the Isle of Wight, despite Brexit pound problems, and a few years of competition in Auckland from Explore.

Ride length mins
Auckland - Waiheke (NZ)
$350 / $19 a trip
$365 / $26 a trip
Includes Waiheke bus (includes selected bus services in Auckland prior to 2018)
Wellington - Eastbourne* (NZ)
$270 / $12 a trip

Seattle - Vashon (USA)
US$118 / $166
US$3.75 / $4.90 a trip
US$3.75 / $4.60 a trip
US$71.85 / $105 US$5.55 / $8.11 a trip
31 ride
Seattle - Bainbridge Island (USA)

US$109.60 / $160
31 ride
San Diego - Coronado* (USA)

New York - Staten Island* (USA)

Sydney ferries* (AUS)
A$1,280 / $1,562 to A$2,200 / $2,684 a year
A$41 / $53.70 to A$57/ $74.40 a week
A$42.20 / $53.58 to A$52.80 / $67.03 for 10 rides
A$63.20 / $66 a week

Opal capped fare, for all mode travel
Boston ferries* (USA)
US$198 / $279
US$198 / $260.30
US$198 / $242.23
US$308 / $450

All mode travel
Alameda - Oakland* (USA)
US$170 / $240
US$170 / $223.50
US$170 / $207.98
US$8.80 / $12.87 a ride
40 rides within one month, Clipper card fare in 2019
Hong Kong Star Ferry*(HK)
HK$110 / $20
HK$125 / $21.20
HK$125 / $19.61
HK$135 / $25.16

Vancouver Translink (CAN)
C$73 / $99 to C$136 / $184
C$81 / $106.60 to C$151 / $198.70
C$81 / $99.18 to C$151 / $184.90
C$95 / $105.10 to C$174 / $192.50

Zone based, all travel modes
Maine Portland (USA)
US$87 / $123.50 to US$127.50 / $181
US$82.45 / $108.40 to US$125.15 / $164.50
US$82.45 / $100.87 to US$125.15 / $153.11
US$82.45 / $120.55 to US$125.15 / $183

Various islands
Isle of Wight (UK)
£150.80 / $392
£163 / $343.70
£171.50 / $332.52
£205 / $395.60

Vlissingen-Breskens* (NL)

€69.50 / $130
€69.50 / $115.53
€68.81 / $114.48 €2.69 / $4.47 a ride
B-tag card
Den Helder-Texel (NL)

€30 / $55
€30 / $49.87
€30 / $49.90
15 return tickets
Istanbul ferries* (TU)

TL1.75 / $1.18 a ride
TL2.55 / $0.71 a ride

Istanbul card, all mode travel

All exchange rates were calculated on the day of research and are not at PPP level.
* Denotes not an island-only service, passengers have land based transport options.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The reckoning

Time to indulge in some predictions. How will Fullers recuperate the lost revenue over the past 18 months from Waihekeans (Explore traitors and the faithful alike)?

How much money is it?

Let's assume an easy figure of 1,000 monthly pass holders in September 2014 at $355 (and no need for 'special' discounted fares) a pop. That's $355,000 a month. If Explore had not turned up, that would be around $6,400,000 revenue over the 18 months of competition.

As Explore pinched around 25% market share, the revenue from monthly passes was 750 times $325 a month (the eternal "special" fare trumpeted in their media ads) totalling about $4,400,000.

Roughly, Fullers lost $2,000,000 from Waiheke commuters alone when Explore was running. And that's not counting the doubling of its operating costs when Fullers doubled its number of sailings.

Ballpark figures, of course, everything is commercially confidential as they never tire of telling us. You can adapt the amounts but it's certain a considerable sum. And mind you, this does not include the losses in market share in other tickets such as tourist single fares and multi-rides.

On the plus side, Fullers enjoyed 100% of the super gold card cash, despite Explore carrying pensioners too, and was never obliged to share that loot until very late in the day. Fullers owes Winston Peters a big donation for that political help!

For Fullers passengers who remained loyal there was only upside: extra sailings, discounted monthly passes making a saving for them of $400,000 ($30 x 750 x 18) that was able to be spent on Waiheke on other things.

So how to recuperate the lost $2 million?

The time frame for this should be about 6 months, because then the tourist season starts and commuters are just a nuisance taking up space on the boats that could be sold more profitably to tourists.

Spread out over 1,000 monthly pass holders that means about $330 extra per month on top of the current monthly pass price. So expect $685 monthly pass fares ($355 - the discount no longer applies - plus $330). This can be mitigated by upping all other fares, of course, so the cost doesn't get borne by commuters only.

How to sell this?

You may have noticed crude oil prices have gone up recently. Fullers could spin this increase from $30 to $45 a barrel as a 50% increase that needs to be reflected in fares. They have done this effectively in the past anyway when the barrel price went to $250. That's half of the increase covered.

The other half can be accounted for by spinning the costs of taking on 35 former Explore staff. Surely we will not begrudge those lovely boys employment and pay for them?


Monday, May 2, 2016

Back at square one

The golden weather after 18 months of improvements in services on the Waiheke ferry has come to an abrupt end when Explore Ferries decided to pull the plug on its sailings from 8 May. It cited lack of patronage which would not enable them to get through the Winter.
But this simple reason masks a multitude of systemic failures in the Auckland ferry scene, and if they are not remedied we will unlikely see any competing service ever again. This might suit Fullers' shareholders and cashflow very much, but it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs for passengers who can now only look forward to the resumption of the old service attitudes and upped fares. The public transport regulator, AT, is happy to look the other way because it cannot afford to offend Fullers, lest they would need to fund a ferry service themselves and that is the last thing they want to happen.

This blatant favoritism of AT for the incumbent was obvious from the start:
- Explore was forced to dock at Pier 3 - while Pier 2 and Pier 4 were upgraded in no time (for the exclusive use of Fullers).
- At all times AT inspectors were present at Pier 3 to see whether Explore staff made any mistakes. Any passenger reaction and complaints about the conditions Explore had to work under was immediately used as a stick to beat Explore with.
- The ticket booth was miles away from Pier 3 and at Matiatia better hidden than the toilets.
- The exempt service let Fullers double its sailings at short notice and even when they could not meet their own timetable, nothing was or could be done to hold them accountable.
- The extension of the supergold card loot was delayed for over a year, and when Explore offered passage for free in the meantime, nothing was done to make payment retroactive, i.e. make Fullers hand over part of the cash as they did not transport all pensioners as claimed between Auckland and Waiheke.
- Preventing Explore from running a bus service on Waiheke, or even specifying in the Waiheke Bus contract all buses on Waiheke should meet all services, resulting in a useless service to and from Explore sailings (Fullers causing chaos for its own bus services after introducing a half hour service was left unexamined or cared about).

It is now up to politicians at all levels to remedy this market failure and tackle this private monopoly head on with some urgency. The Local Board needs to lobby all players involved to ensure a satisfying outcome for islanders and visitors alike. City Councillors need to seriously look at the dysfunction, incompetence and obvious favouritism at Auckland Transport. National politicians need to abolish the 'exempt status' of Fullers and bring it under the umbrella of the PTOM system, so services can be regulated, in case it remains a monopoly, or tendered for, in case there are other companies interested in providing the service.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Auckland Transport consultation on RPTP

Auckland Transport is consulting on aspects of its Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). This is our submission:

There is a glaring and unjustifiable omission from the proposed zones: Waiheke Island. We are Auckland City ratepayers and we have every right to be included in the zone system, especially since one of the public transport companies on Waiheke is subsidised by AT and one company accepts (single fare) Hop cards. Waiheke Islanders should have the ability to travel from Waiheke to the City centre on one fare, just as is ­proposed for travellers on the mainland going the same distance. Travellers using their Super Gold Card already enjoy this integrated privilege and it should be extended to all island travellers. The fare structure should be the same as for Manukau South to the CBD, i.e. Zone 4. Using a zonal Hop card on any travel mode (bus/train/ferry) should not make a difference to the fare for the distance travelled.
Regards the proposed zone fares, Zone 4 indicates a $6-$6.50 range (compared to a $9.50-$10 cash range). This seems a fair ferry fare. Currently both ferry companies charge a ‘tourist’ premium on their single fares of around $20. For Waiheke regular travellers and commuters, who have access to multi-ride and season tickets, the fares are already at the Zone 4 cash range.
In the ‘proposed fare products’ you need to delete the reference to ‘inner-harbour ferries’ and include Waiheke ferries too. The Hop single day and monthly passes (plus any others planned) should be available on Waiheke too, as it is/will be in any Zone 4 area.
In summary:
-          Waiheke Island to be included in the proposed zone system;
-          Island-serving ferry and bus companies integrated in the city-wide fares system on an equitable (distance) basis;
-          Seasonal Hop passes covering all transport modes city-wide, including all ferries.
I understand that AT has had historical trouble (as did its predecessor, the ARTA) in reigning in Fullers’ monopoly and has still not succeeded in integrating that company properly by abolishing the PTOM exemption. This not the public transport regulator’s only failure. The Fullers monopoly now seems broken on the ferry service (no thanks to AT) by the Explore Group. But Explore is not even mentioned in any plans to be included in the Hop fare system (let alone getting a proper working berth on Pier 2). Why these oversights and shortcomings? And when are they going to be remedied?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Competition, but not as we know it

Two months of full competition on the Waiheke run and it has certainly not been without hitches and newbie pains.
The Explore Centurion boat is performing below par due to diesel engine problems, taking 40-45 minutes to get there, causing the Explore evening rush hour timetable to be amended. The 5:15 ex-AKL now sails at 5:35 and if you counted on getting the Fullers bus meeting the 5:30pm Fullers service at Matiatia, you are out of luck as you can see the buses pull up the hill to Oneroa before you have docked. I guess Fullers can't believe its luck sticking it to all you apostates leaving the Fullers Death Star.
Hopefully, the new Explore boat will be in service soon so Centurion can be retired to back-up service.
Also, the precipitous drop in diesel prices has yet to show up in a drop in fares - watch the reverse not be the case in the future, of course. Passengers need a fares war sooner rather than later. We've been waiting for 14 years now. Bring it on.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fullers, Explore, Sea Link finally competing for Waiheke

For years we have campaigned for an end to the Fullers Ferries monopoly on the Waiheke Island service. And all of a sudden, two competitors have turned up in the same weekend. Welcome Explore, which will provide a 7 day service (although not very late at night, and also no island bus service), and Sea Link, which only runs at weekends for tourists. All also offer very different fare structures and deals, check their websites, which makes it a little byzantine to figure out what is best for you and your travel needs. A proper fare integration in the form of monthly flat rate Hop Passes for all buses, trains and ferries, is still a long way off. But it's a start and prices have started falling already, as they should in a proper market. Here is the full current timetable for sailings by all operators. Matiatia will be busier than usual - and that's even without the proposed marina clutter.

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:
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.