Thursday, November 10, 2005

North Shore Busway includes free parking

Last Sunday the new busway opened from the North Shore to Auckland City. Included are 700 FREE car parks for public transport commuters. No doubt the car parks are surrounded by hi-tech surveillance so any theft or damage to cars will be recorded and, hopefully, prevented. It's the only way people will leave their cars all day parked, secure in the knowledge they will be able to use them at the end of the day. This principle of secure parking is also prevalent in all car parking in town, even if you have to pay for it.
Compare this to the situation at Matiatia: what do you actually get for your $6 a day? Will the Council, as landlord, be held responsible for any damage to, petrol siphoning from or theft of your car? If not, why not? Does the $6 not go to insurance against damage claims? Why are North Shore commuters more deserving than Waiheke ones in this respect? Is it because they have us by the short-and-curlies by forcing us to park there as we have no alternative in driving into town like the Shorians have?

My issue isn't so much with parking that has to be paid for by the users or by the whole community (in case free parking is offered) but one of fairness:
1. The half of the Matiatia car park, which used to be free, has always been in Council ownership. So the new charges are actually used to finance the purchase of a block of land that is only partly used (and was already charged for) as carparking.
2. The reason why free parking is offered on the mainland is because people will add the price of parking there to actually driving to town and not having the bother of worrying about safety or bus and train timetables. Since islanders are a captive audience, and perceived as rich, they are expected to pay whatever monopoly price is charged by either the council for parking, Fullers for the ferry service and the ARC for usage of the wharves.

I'm all for bribing people out of their cars and into public transport by subsidies and freebies, to lessen the road congestion. But they should be evenly and equitably spread out.
At the moment Auckland expects Waiheke Islanders to pay for everything: no subsidies for our ferry service; market price for ferry car parking; a wharf tax that covers the cost of maintaining the whole wharf system on the Waitemata and payment of ARC rates that subsidises Auckland public transport we have only marginal access to (BTW why is it that a Link bus trip costs one third of the fare charged by the Waiheke Bus Company for the same distance travelled?).
So, in all, I think you mainlanders get a great deal out of us, so please give us a break.
Here's a deal: we let you pay the wharf charges in return for the island free ownership of the Matiatia land. A win-win situation for everybody!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ferry fare increase

From August 1 Fullers Ferries is increasing fares by double current consumer price inflation. A monthly pass will now cost $260, up from $245. This without any noticeable increase in services: still no all night boats on weekends, still the decrepit Jet Raider, still waste disposal into the Gulf. It's a prime example of monopoly price gouging: there is no competition (Pacific Ferries were soon dispensed with), no alternative land route for islanders, and (crucially for a monopoly to be able to price its goods unfettered) no public subsidy.
In comparison, yesterday, Stagecoach had the audacity to ask the ARTA for a subsidy for the Half Moon Bay run because passenger fares didn't cover costs. Now Fullers in its pamphlet, spinning the price increases, says a "fall in patronage" and an "increase in fuel prices" make it inevitable to rack up fares. I wonder how that will increase patronage - any normal market based business would lower prices to increase demand. But then Fullers has always been exempt from the laws of capitalism. So much easier to soak the rich on Waiheke. (7,000 residents pay $8 million in rates)
There was a spontaneous petition doing the rounds on this morning's boats, but only a reigning in from above will do. But will I hold my breath?

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Stagecoach bus drivers strike compensation

I sent the following to Fullers Ferries (owned by Stagecoach):

I have applied for a refund covering the monthly pass time period affected by the Stagecoach strikes in May. Stagecoach advised to contact Fullers for any refunds/discounts on monthly Waiheke Fullers/Stagecoach passes. Please send the $45 cheque my address.

Then I got this reply:

I understand that you are applying for a refund relating to the disruption caused by the recent strike by Stagecoach drivers. The refund as advertised by Stagecoach is only applicable to customers who hold a Stagecoach All Zone card, as these customers have specifically paid for travel on the buses as well as on our ferries.
As a holder of a Waiheke monthly pass, the cost of the pass purely relates to the ferry service. The entitlement to free bus travel on both Waiheke Island and on Stagecoach buses in central Auckland is provided as an additional benefit by Fullers at no cost to our customers. As such, the cost of the Waiheke monthly pass is exactly the same irrespective of whether or not you choose to use any of the aforementioned bus services.
As a consequence of this, I am afraid that Fullers are not able to provide any form of refund for services lost due to the bus strike, as no monies have changed hands in terms of provision of this service.
We are sorry that we are not able to help you further with this, but I'm sure that you can appreciate that we are not in a position to refund something for which we have not take payment.
Yours sincerely,
Lynda Heard, Office Administrator, Fullers Group Limited

All good and well, but the fearful question now is: how long will it be before Fullers withdraws that "benefit" and in effect will increase its monthly pass price by offloading any bus travel costs on the pass holder?

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Reply from the Waiheke Bus Company

Hi Hans,
I have received a copy of the email you had sent to as has gone through the process so far.
The bus that you mention has arrived at Matiatia approximately fifteen minutes late on the Sat 26th Feb due to a series of events compounding each other.
The driver involved is a new driver at Waiheke Bus Company and has recently undergone four weeks of training before being able to drive a scheduled service with the last week of that training being under the supervision of the Waiheke Bus Company senior staff.
I felt that the drivers training was to a satisfactory level.
Though with the events that occurred on the morning of the 26th (being this drivers first day unsupervised) I feel that these would have delayed even some of our more efficient staff. The driver concerned was unaware that they were able to contact the ferries and ask for them to wait for the bus to arrive at Matiatia.
The driver concerned has now been instructed on this and now knows what to do if something similar should happen in the future.
I understand the possibilities of the situations that could arise from such an incident and would be happy to explain the situation for anyone that requires myself to do so (ie: employer, doctor, etc).

Chad Callander, Manager, Waiheke Bus Company, FULLERS GROUP LTD

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another bus foul up

Dear Sir,
Saturday's bus to the 8:00am ferry sailing arrived at Matiatia just in time at 8:10am to see the ferry disappear over the horizon. The bus driver took an inordinate amount of time to complete the route with the result that half a dozen people were late for work that morning. No apologies, no explanation, hell, not even a free coffee while we had to wait close to another hour for the next ferry.
Please re-edit your schedule publications to include: "All buses will meet ferries, eventually, but it may not be the one you planned on getting."

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Waiheke Island bus foul up

Now that we on Waiheke Island are a major suburb of Auckland, and we contribute disproportionally to the rating base (you didn't think you could get away with your nice shiny mansions on your rock and not pay for the mainland plebs, never mind the potholed roads, pandering to off-island developers and cynical attempts to make you pay for your new shiny reticulation systems, did you?), commuting from the island is a daily reality for over a 1,000 islanders.
Last Saturday, I waited for my usual 7.45 Waiheke bus to the ferry terminal, and dutifully (it was Saturday morning after all, what was I thinking!) arrived at the bus stop at 7.30. By 8.30 I was still waiting there, the 8.00 ferry long gone over the horizon. Asking the bus driver of the next bus for an explanation was useless, of course. So I was reduced to filling in a complaint's form at the ferry terminal. No reply or acknowledgement to date, unsurprisingly.

I did a little digging of my own, and I found out that the phantom bus did exist after all, only its driver decided that my bus stop wasn't worthy of serving, so he took a different route to Matiatia. Perhaps bus drivers feel so alienated in their jobs, what with always having to go the same way at set times and deal with the great unwashed that want to board, that he thought a little creativity in re-routing his journey on Saturday morning would be a hoot.

Well, bugger to you too, mate.

A combined Stagecoach/Fullers Ferry/Waiheke Bus pass costs $245 per month. By all comparisons, this is a first class fare but all you get is cattle class service.

UPDATE 3 FEBRUARY: after a reminder email to Fullers they finally apologised for the mistake. The driver too the wrong turn unconsciously and proceeded to the ferry by-passing Surfdale that morning.