Friday, September 25, 2009

Disintegrating ticketing (updated 1 Oct)

Rumour has it that Fullers Ferries will end the integrated ticketing arrangement with NZ Bus and the Waiheke Bus Company at the end of October, despite assurances given at the time the company was sold to Souter Holdings in April.
Currently, Fullers monthly pass holders can use their pass on all three transport providers in all zones and at all times.
If this integration is broken up there will be winners and losers:

- current monthly pass holders, who will have to re-assess their travel arrangements, figuring out what their best option is for their particular circumstance and travel needs. Options include switching to 40-rides or workers' weekly tickets for the ferry, Go Rider cards for NZ Bus and season tickets or multi-rides on Waiheke Bus.
- Waiheke Bus Company: it will lose commuter patronage as it may be cheaper to go by car to Matiatia (or carpool or kiss & drop). Fares may have to rise to compensate for lost patronage. On the other hand, it could make arrangements with future ferry service providers as it would no longer be tied to Fullers.
- ARTA's attempts to go to a city-wide public transport integrated ticketing system. It's one further move in the "balkanisation" of public transport in Auckland where operators charge their own fares, set their own conditions, run their own timetables and decide on their service delivery.

- NZ Bus: current pass holders will now have to switch to a fare paying Go Rider ticket (one caveat is that former monthly pass holders will no longer be tied to NZ Bus and can choose other travel companies in Auckland)
- Any new entrant on the Auckland-Matiatia ferry route: the season ticket playing field would be levelled by this move by Fullers, enabling new entrants into the market (and possibly leading to lower fares overall - now there's hoping!). Commuting by car ferry to Half Moon Bay might now even become more attractive and viable too.

The effect on Fullers could be mixed: some commuters might opt for the 40-ride instead of a monthly as it gives more flexibility on travel, number of people who can use the one ticket etc., but earnings per passenger would increase for the company. Demand, of course, could drop off with people opting to re-arrange their travel needs, move off the island (especially students) or use the competition (either Sea Link or any newcomers) as Fullers has given up a powerful commuter loyalty tool.

In practical financial terms, the current $315 pass (enabling you to go unlimited from Onetangi to Henderson, Long Bay and Papakura) will, if you want to keep your current travel options, then cost:
- $315 for the ferry component (it's unclear whether the monthly pass price will be cut, but I would wager this is highly unlikely)
- $210 for a monthly all zone/all modes/all times Discovery Pass; or $110 for a Zone A ($170 for all zones) monthly NZ Bus pass (other ticket pricing here; or $105 monthly city train pass (other train fares here) for mainland transport
- $26.50 for a 4 stage 10 ride on Waiheke Bus (no season tickets available).

UPDATE 1 OCTOBER: In an interview with the Waiheke Marketplace newspaper this week, Fullers CEO Doug Hudson said that "past arrangements [when Fullers and Stagecoach were both owned by Infratil] may end should the ex-owners choose".
Does this offer Fullers a handy spin out of having to take the rap when NZ Bus "unilaterally" pulls out of the agreement?
We are still not reassured the current integrated ticketing scheme will remain in place, despite a possible link up with Howick & Eastern Bus instead (also owned by Souter Holdings). This link up would really be very useless because those buses only go to the eastern suburbs. If you had to commute there, you would save yourself a massive amount of time by going Sea Link instead.

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