Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scrooge running NZ Bus

The Christmas tradition of free bus travel in Auckland came abruptly to an end this year when posters in buses announced a reduced timetable service, plus no free travel as normal fares apply on the day.
NZ Bus blames the economic situation this year and one must not be a heartless cynic suggesting it's aimed to clawback some losses from the lock out earlier in the year, perish the thought. NZ Bus has a 20% return on capital to recover for Infratil, after all, so no more festive rides, thank you very much.
Needless to say Christmas traditions have never been Fullers forte: I can't remember there ever being any festive cheer in the form of discounted travel on the ferry or the Waiheke bus at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Auckland Octopus on the cards

From the ARTA press release:
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), in conjunction with its partner Thales and its funders the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), today signed the contract to deliver a super transport ticket for Auckland. The ticket will be Auckland and New Zealand’s first, true multi-modal transport ticket. Thales’ strategic partner of Hong Kong’s leading contact-less smart card payment system, Octopus will supply the core central clearing house system.
This is very important news for regular users of public transport in the Auckland region. It is a seamless, electronic ticketing system that lets you use all transport modes at all times for the cheapest fare going, and, hopefully, at a daily/weekly/monthly capped rate. $5 to $10 a day for all your public transport needs sounds about right.
We will have to make sure that Fullers Waiheke service and the Waiheke Bus is included in the system.

Read more about Hong Kong's Octopus card system here.

A useful background to the proposed Auckland system, and an opportunity to discuss it can be found here. But feel free to discuss the Waiheke situation and place in the system here.
To kick off here are some ideas:

1. The Super Gold Card concessions should become integrated too with the Auckland Oyster. This will provide a much better audit trail than we have now where transport companies simply push a button to collect the fare off the Government, no checks on validity can be made as Gold Cards are not linked to fare tickets issued (the last 12 months have been a gold mine for bus and train and ferry companies, with so much suspected abuse and fraud by transporters going on that now plans are in train to limit the fare concessions to the off peak hours only)
2. Why not set up ARTA as a “Pharmac for public transport”, i.e. a bulk purchaser of public transport on the passenger’s behalf? Fares could then be set as a flat fare (or even free for Auckland City residents) for a yearly card.
3. I have personally major concerns, as a Waiheke Islander, that our local transport monopoly provider will do all it can to avoid fare capping or charge a fare comparable to other (subsidised) zones in the city. Fullers has been re branding itself as a tourist service instead of a public transport service with boats routinely taken out of commuter service to ply the charter trade. Commuters are seen as a useful nuisance (as a good cashflow provider in winter) but the $32 return tourists and dirty weekenders are Fullers real market. The Oyster system needs to make sure that ALL transport modes in Auckland are included with the same terms and conditions.
4. A useful price comparison: in Switzerland the national railways company offers an annual season ticket valid on all trains and local transport (buses and trams) in most cities and regions for the price of 3,100 Swiss Francs (NZ$2,250). 12 monthly passes on Fullers cost NZ$3,780.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bill's suggestion taken on board

Some of us, as noted before, are commuters on the weekend too. Fullers prefers to be a tourist service on the weekend so timetabling is much altered to suit weekenders, holiday and merry makers, and commuters are very much an afterthought when it comes to taking them to town in time.
Now a few weeks ago the 8am weekend sailings from Waiheke have started to call in at Devonport. Heaven (again) knows why since barely anyone got off or on at those stopovers, but results in major delays in getting into Auckland. Since the bus services on the weekend are depleted as well, the connections are even more challenging to get to work on time.
One of my fellow commuters suggested to the captain to make an announcement on board instead asking passengers who want to go to Devonport to make this know to the crew, otherwise they just chug on to Auckland. After some correspondence with Fullers management this has now been taken as policy. Cheers, Bill.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The slow boat to Auckland

Every Wednesday (only the Fullers Gods know why) the QuickCat chugs along to eventually do the 8am ex-Waiheke service. The boat never arrives on time and never leaves at 8am, and thus never gets on time to Auckland to connect with the usual other transport modes.
The old lady seems to be knackered, when even Jet Raider can maintain a semblance of meeting a published schedule.
Why they keep flogging QuickCat into doing a service it's obviously not up to is a complete mystery.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A buses' graveyard

Getting on the bus from Matiatia home last night yielded some walking exercise for many people as the bus engine died at the Art Works bus stop. The driver had to call in technical assistance, but I and quite a few others didn't hang around to see how it got solved. Waiheke is the confirmed place that buses come to to die.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Integrated ticketing, Fullers-style

As flagged for a while by Fullers, now Waiheke and Half Moon Bay monthly ferry pass holders can use the Howick & Eastern Bus services too. Fullers sale by Infratil to Souter Holdings, owners of the H&E Bus company, last April made this an easy thing to do.

Press release:
Fullers Group Ltd announces a new customer benefit for Waiheke Island and Half Moon Bay commuters. From Tuesday 1st December, the Fullers monthly pass for Waiheke Island and Half Moon Bay will include an additional benefit of being able to travel on all Howick & Eastern Bus services without having to purchase another ticket.
The Waiheke Island and Half Moon Bay monthly passes can be used for travel across all Howick and Eastern routes and services at any time. Customers simply need to show their current Fullers monthly pass to the bus driver to so that the journey is recorded and Howick & Eastern can charge the journey back to Fullers.
This initiative is symbolic of Fullers drive towards an integrated fare structure. It is hoped that the benefit will open up a wider opportunity for commuters in the Half Moon Bay area who will now be able to more easily combine bus and ferry travel to and from the city without the requirement for separate tickets.
Waiheke commuters are currently able to use their monthly pass on all Waiheke Island and NZ Bus services and now have the advantage of being able to travel to onward destinations around Auckland served by Howick and Eastern buses.
Douglas Hudson, CEO, Fullers Group says, “Fullers is pleased to be able to offer another product which demonstrates our commitment to integrated ticketing. For many years we have been offering the Go Rider pass which can be used on North Shore – Downtown ferries and NZ Bus services in the Auckland region and we have now seized the opportunity to develop another product which will benefit our Waiheke Island and Half Moon Bay customers."
How much Waiheke pass holders will use this extra service is questionable because if you worked in East Auckland, you take the Kennedy Point ferry to Half Moon Bay instead of having to come into town first to then trek all the way east on the big brown bus.
It'd be far more relevant if passes were valid on Ritchies instead. (Rumour has it that Infatil is looking at selling NZ Bus, with Ritchies a prime candidate to take it over)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NZ Bus refunds

The NZ Bus lock out last month has resulted in a refund offer from the company to season ticket holders.
Since Fullers Ferries monthly passes include an all-zone monthly bus pass, Waiheke Islanders can apply too. Just fill in your monthly pass number.
If they refuse, email them that Fullers CEO Doug Hudson his company pays NZ Bus for Fullers monthly pass holders using NZ Buses in the city and are thus deserving of a refund like their other customers.

UPDATE 21 November: I got my $25 refund in the bank. Which values the Fullers monthly pass at about $100 a month. Considering it allows travel the equivalent of an All-Zone NZ Bus pass (at $175) Fullers gets a substantial discount on NZ Bus fares.

Integrated ticketing, funding approved

Via Auckland Transport blog:
Funding approved today for Auckland’s integrated ticketing system

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) says it is delighted the New Zealand Transport Agency Board (NZTA) has approved funding today to move forward on the development of an integrated ticketing and fares system for Auckland’s train, bus and ferry users.
ARTA’s Chairman, Rabin Rabindran says, “ARTA is delighted with this news which means we can now move to finalise contract negotiations with our preferred tenderer, a consortium made up of French electronics company, Thales, in partnership with the Bank of New Zealand and Transfield services.
“This is a critical and long awaited next step for Auckland’s public transport system doing away with a multiplicity of ticket options and opening the door to greater ease of use for our customers with a single ticket.
“For ARTA an integrated ticket is a pivotal investment in the future development of Auckland as a city which ultimately wants to stand on the international stage as having world-class levels of transport in all respects.
“The next step in the process is for ARTA to negotiate the terms of the contract with its preferred tenderer. Once the contract is signed and commercial negotiations finalised, we will be able to provide more details. We expect this to be in the coming month.”
Mr Rabindran says, “We look forward to assisting NZTA as they develop a national integrated ticketing system to benefit public transport users throughout New Zealand through our delivery of an integrated ticket for Aucklanders”.
We will have to make sure that Waiheke Island's transport is included in the system, and at equitable rate as other Aucklanders living the same distance from the CBD.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Integrated ticketing update

Jarbury, who runs the excellent Auckland Transport blog, has tried to update the integrated ticketing progress for Auckland. It seems that rearguard action by the unsuccessful bidder, Infratil, is trying to throw spanners in the works:
Well, for a start it really does seem as though Infratil was completely lying when they said they would accept that decision, and have subsequently been pushing the case (again) that Snapper should get the contract for integrated ticketing, rather than Thales. Secondly, the decision by ARTA and NZTA to choose Thales as the preferred supplier of Auckland’s integrated ticketing system is separate to NZTA’s decision to stump up the necessary funds to actually carry out this project. This second decision was meant to be made by NZTA some time within the last couple of weeks at their October meeting. My understanding is that the meeting took place, but no decision has yet been released.

This seems odd.
The case in favour of an independent integrated ticketing operator (independent from the transport providers) collecting fares from passengers and distributing funds to operators, was pretty well made during the recent NZ Bus lockout. Imagine if the lockout had applied to the Infratil Snapper system workforce too, how would any public transport in Auckland have been possible for the 7 days of the lock out?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Starflyte billowing white smoke (but no new pope elected)

From the Marketplace:
Waiting passengers, staff and local residents watched as one of the island's passenger ferries limped into Matiatia with plumes of white smoke billowing from its bow.
While waiting for the fire crew to arrive, Fullers Ferries' staff member Jim Hannan cleared the wharf and waiting room, ushering customers to the safety of the car park, just after 1.30pm on Monday.
"I was on my way home when I heard a bang and saw smoke coming from the Starflyte as she came round the corner of the bay," says Mr Hannan. "So I got everyone to the car park."
Fullers' operations manager Ian Greenslade says on board the ferry, crew had noticed a loss of power as the vessel came through "the heads" - and smoke in the cabin. Staff moved passengers to the outside top deck while a deck hand put out a small fire in the engine room with a fire extinguisher.
Once alongside the wharf, passengers were evacuated and fire crews from three fire tenders took over, opening vents to cool down the engine room.
No one was hurt in the incident.
Maintenance personnel from Fullers arrived and, according to Mr Greenslade, were able to take the Starflyte back to Auckland using one engine, with initial tests showing a problem with the vessel's turbo charger.
A replacement boat from recently acquired 360 Discovery was used to transport the waiting passengers to Auckland.
Mr Greenslade says the Starflyte will be out of action for around a week while parts are flown in from Switzerland. Meanwhile the Quickcat, which has been out of service on survey, is due back this Friday.
The dear old Starflyte obviously isn't up to doing the long Matiatia runs intensively.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Samoa quake tsunami threat

Fullers has cancelled all sailings from noon today until further notice due to a tsunami threat after the eartquake in Samoa.
Fullers information updates here
It is unclear why Fullers isn't using their txt message system. It's been ages since I last got a travel update via txt.

Matiatia wharf was evacuated twice with all passengers transported up the hill to Oneroa.

UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Text alerts have been sent this morning at 9.58am and 11.53am to passengers who have registered for "off peak" messages.
At this time based on advice received from Auckland Harbour Control, the Auckland Harbourmaster’s Office, and after liason with ARTA, all Fullers services are suspended until the Tsunami warning is officially lifted by these maritime agencies.
1.30pm UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Following advice given by Harbour Control and the Harbourmaster’s Office, we will now resume all services as quickly as possible.
5pm UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Following advice given by Harbour Control and the Harbourmaster’s Office, all services resumed at 1.30pm and have been operating as normal since this time.
No more updates are anticipated.

Communication from Fullers regarding the txt alert service:
To provide clarification, when customers sign up to receive text alerts they join groups which are most relevant to the times they travel. This is so that we do not over deliver irrelevant texts to uninterested parties and at times when travel notices are unwanted.
The groups are set up as follows and a customer can join up to 7 groups:
COMMUTER EARLY: First ferry to 7.30am & 3.01pm to 6.30pm (Mon-Fri only)
COMMUTER: 7am to 9am & 3.01pm to 6.30pm (Mon-Fri only)
EVENING OFF PEAK: 6.31pm to last ferry (Mon-Fri only)
INTER PEAK 9.01am to 3pm (Mon-Fri only)
More information also available here
In the instance of today’s text alerts relating to the tsunami warning and service cancellations, the text messages were sent to the INTER PEAK groups.

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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Timetable tweaks

Fullers press release:
- The current 7.20am departure from Matiatia will depart at a new time of 7.15am, Monday to Saturday.
- The current 6.30am service departing Downtown Auckland to Matiatia will depart at a new time of 6.25am, Monday to Saturday.
- The current 5.35pm departure from Matiatia will depart at a new time of 5.40pm, Monday to Friday.
The change to the time of these services is in response to feedback from the Waiheke Ferry User Group, Waiheke customers, and also to reflect a more accurate actual departure time. It is anticipated that with the adjustment of these times, customers will be able to connect more easily to onward transport (i.e. buses and trains) upon arrival into Auckland.
Nothing earth-shatteringly different, and it's good to see timetables being adapted to real earth time rather than hypothetical Fullers time.

Nothing radical is in the works though, such as a half-hour frequency in the evening rush hour by adding a 6pm ex Auckland sailing. They have barely got the boats to the current timetable, let alone one that would really benefit commuters. We'll have to wait for Catamaran International to plug that hole in the schedule.

UPDATE: Not only the early morning ferry timetable is changing, but the bus times are too. So get yourself to the bus stop at least 5 minutes earlier.
I hope the crack communications team at Fullers will get the word out sooner rather than later. (Matiatia counter staff didn't know anything about it and had to consult the bus driver who happened to hang around) Which reminds me that I haven't had any travel updates by txt from Fullers despite the recent spate of boats running late.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ferry patronage static for past 7 years

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) has released its Monthly Business Report [PDF] for the July 2009 year.
On Page 4 is a graph of total patronage on various transport modes over the last 7 years. Ferry patronage is static despite seasonal wave movements between 300,000 and 450,000 passengers a month.
Looking at a past 4 year period (page 8), July 2008 was the third lowest in numbers over the period, which puts the 11.8% rise in 2009 into context.
Also it seems that the introduction of the Supergold Card free travel in November 2008 has cushioned the (mostly) downward trend in passengers in 2007 and 2008, with stronger than normal seasonal figures in 2009. The Government has saved Fullers' bacon, but we are still paying higher fares.

As an aside, the ARTA report doesn't research punctuality for ferries, because Fullers is exempt from that criterion.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too good to last

Only after a week back on the run, Superflyte's propeller hit something in the water yesterday morning so it will have to come out to be repaired, goodness knows for how long. It's not shaping up to be a good start to the tourist season for Superflyte!
As a result, the Quickcat survey has been postponed too and, oh joy, the Jet Raider is now in full throttle service (we missed you last week, so glad you're back!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quickcat on survey

Fullers announced that Quickcat will go on its annual survey from tomorrow, Thursday, "for 3 weeks".
I trust the Fullers definition of "week" in not the same as the "2 weeks of survey by Superflyte", which turned out to be 2 months.
In the meantime, we can again look forward to that old lady of the Gulf, Jet Raider, providing service again, like every Winter.

Not long to go now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

NZ Bus lock-out averted

Infratil-owned NZ Bus management was planning to lock out its drivers tomorrow from 4am in an ongoing wage round dispute. But then came a late agreement today:
Both sides lifted their notices of industrial action after a mediation hearing in Auckland this afternoon during which the bus company made an amended pay offer to staff.
I had expected to walk the 5km to work from the ferry terminal tomorrow morning, but hey, it's going to be a glorious day again and hopefully without the fog which made the Superflyte take an hour to get into town this morning.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Auld Reekie

A, to my knowledge and experience, first for Fullers: a free drink for passengers, on the house!
This was on the 5.30pm sailing from town and offered to passengers for putting up with the wafts from Satan's bottom on Superflyte.
The incident making the national newspaper obviously caused some scrambling for damage control.
I'll be calling Superflyte "Auld Reekie" from now on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Superflyte back, passengers hold nose

Yesterday Superflyte came back into service after a two month survey, which was originally planned only to last two weeks. There was obviously more wrong with her than expected, but since she is ageing a bit it's not that surprising.
Anyway, a warm welcome back, and enjoy her while you can because that other old lady in Fullers' fleet (is Quickcat Kashin to Superflyte's Burma, I wonder) is on the slip soon for heaven knows how long and then we can again endure everybody's favourite vessel Jet Raider.

Nothing much new on Superflyte apart from a scrub on the outside and a few new flash TV screens inside. They were not in service so far and some are used to promote bar products.
Everybody was welcomed back by a terrible stench on both floors, the engineers must have hooked up the aircon to the bilge. Even the staff apologised on the tannoy, so it must have been serious!
UPDATE: the sewage to cabin connection now confirmed

Passengers were also warned to be on time to buy their monthly passes since "boats will leave on time because there have been complaints about lateness in arrivals".
Nice to know that somebody in Fullers management reads this blog!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Drunk but not in charge

A high seas report from commuter Janet:
Ructions on the 4:00pm from the city this afternoon. I was on this boat myself today.
A well known loud abusive drunk was allowed on board. Ray K was furious about it and remonstrated with the captain for letting him on. He had a real go at him about it. He's well known to Fullers apparently with meek and mild behaviour before he gets on and then he rips loose once he's firmly set foot onboard so Ray reckons they should never have let him on in the first place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

$40 Go Rider weekly passes

I noticed on the bus a flyer announcing weekly Go Rider passes from 30 August available for $40 a week. I haven't seen it announced on the Maxx website.
If true, this is an excellent deal and a template for a future integrated ticketing fare structure:
$40 a week for all your public transport needs with in the Auckland super city, cheap and easy to understand, buy, validate and use.
No need for zoning, no discrimination between transport modes (valid on buses, trains and ferries, including Waiheke) and times of use.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Catamaran International

The big news this week, actually the one of the biggest news items on the Waiheke ferry front for a decade, is the impending launch of a competing fast ferry service to the CBD by Catamaran International.
The company plans to use their 20m catamaran on a full range of ferry services throughout the day and cut Fullers' current fares by 11-20 percent.
Initially, they expect to be able to attract about 10 percent of Fullers’ yearly 1.3m Waiheke passengers.
Mr Kemp says operators that have competed with Fullers have been unable to sustain a service long enough to become viable. However, previous competitors have used similar sized boats to Fullers, he says.
There have been many rumours over the years of a competing service but this one looks quite serious, even if it's not expected to start soon and then quite modestly with a single vessel.
As islanders, we of course look forward to a competitive service, certainly on speed, price and service, three things they are promising to deliver. So we welcome them warmly and wish them the best of luck with the venture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ferry arrival times

I've been away last week so no updates available since then, sorry. A whole week I couldn't use my monthly pass due to a family emergency. It just shows that weekly passes (even daily ones) should be available from a date you choose insted of being locked in an expensive monthly flat rate contract.

Anyway, back at work now. Tue 18 Aug was a shocker of a morning: 8:00am Jet Raider arrived at 8:52:16. Wed 19 Aug was only marginally better: 8:46:15.
Sun 23 Aug saw a 8:33:32 arrival time. Well done, Starflyte captain.

$10 weekend tickets to Waiheke

Under the guise of helping the Waiheke tourism industry, Fullers is now offering online $10 Winter Weekend" return tickets. Never you mind that you have to return the same day, so a weekend on the island is not actually on offer. Plus it does nothing for the accommodation industry. It's just a ploy to get those hordes onto pricey island and vineyard tours (courtesy of Fullers, of course).

But the galling thing is that these tickets are only on offer to New Zealanders, not Waiheke Islanders who might want to spend some quality time in town. Nope, we still have to fork out $32 return. I guess if somebody has to pay for that "generous deal" Fullers surmises that it might as well be Waihekeans.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Free ferry commuting

I never thought I would see those three words together published in a newspaper in my lifetime, but there they were: a shiny advert in the NZ Herald offering Auckland commuters the experience of travelling to and from work by ferry, and for free for a week in September.
If you want to take advantage of this Maxx offer, register here.

But don't bother if you want to commute from Waiheke. Our route is the only one excluded from the offer. You see, we don't need convincing we should use ferries to work, we already do. Some of us have been doing this for 27 years, as was recently impressed on me by the FUG lady.

So, Devonportuguese, Half Moonies, Bayswaterholes, Stanley Bayers, Birkenheadcases and Northcoteries, congratulations with your good fortune. But do think about those who will pick up the tab for your luck: a free week's travel (and massively subsidised runs afterwards) thanks to the Waiheke commuter who is paying over the odds for the whole system to prevent it from collapsing.

Fullers, of course, will pay nothing. It's Maxx (the Auckland region ratepayer) who will.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ferry fares news from around the world

From the BBC:
The success of a government pilot project aimed at lowering ferry fares in the Outer Hebrides has sparked a fresh call for reductions elsewhere.
Fullers owner, Mr Souter, is a Scotsman, so why not follow their shiny example?
In Scotland they use an interesting concept to calculate fares: the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET):
A pilot scheme offering lower fares on all ferry routes to the Western Isles has increased traffic significantly, the first minister has said.
Road equivalent tariff (RET) was launched by the Scottish Government in October last year.
It bases the cost of travelling on the equivalent distance by road.
Alex Salmond said since the scheme started there had been a rise in the number of visitors, family, friends and businesses visiting the isles
Meanwhile in British Columbia, things go the other way:
The B.C. Ferries annual report is grim reading for individuals and business owners in coastal communities.
In the last year, the number of vehicles carried has fallen by more than five per cent. The number of passengers has fallen by almost as much. The losses have been greatest on the major routes, carrying visitors to Vancouver Island.
The annual report cites a number of factors, including the recession, high gas prices, falling tourism and December storms. All of those certainly played a significant role.
And in neighbouring Washington State, it doesn't get better either. Super surcharge anyone?:
The state Transportation Commission is recommending that ferry travelers pay a second surcharge during the heat of summer.
For years, Washington State Ferries has raised vehicle rates 25 percent during the peak season, from May through mid-October. The transportation commission, after hearing Washington State Ferries’ proposal on July 14 to raise fares 2.5 percent across the board, decided to add a 10 percent super summer surcharge in July and August. Like the peak-season surcharge, it wouldn’t affect customers using frequent-user passes, just tourists and other occasional users. For them, the cost of a cross-Sound ticket for a car and driver would jump from $14.45 to $16 each way. The super surcharge would not apply to walk-on passengers
The Office of Fair Trading in the UK is launching a public survey into ferry fares to the Isle of Man by the Steam Packet Company:
The inquiry is looking at the price of passenger and vehicle fares including fuel surcharges and freight charges.
The responses have been excellent.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ferry arrival times and gossip

Jet Raider ex-Waiheke Monday 8:40:50; Tuesday 8:39:40; Wednesday 8:38:30; Sunday 1 Aug 8:40:30 (Quickcat II); Monday 3 Aug 8:39:10; Tuesday 4 Aug 8:39:30

Superflyte was supposed to be on survey for "2 weeks". It's now almost 5 weeks later and still no sign of her. I asked one of Fullers staff about it and he said: "Still some time away!"
UPDATE: A notice on Jet Raider said Super Flyte will be back in service on August 24, its survey found malfunctions in its engine and parts had to be sourced in Australia. The planned survey of Quickcat has been postponed due to this.
I would advise Fullers staff to pray Jet Raider doesn't cark it in the meantime. The old lady doing a 2 month run is asking a lot!

And good to hear about plans to start a cheaper rival ferry service to Waiheke. Good luck to them, they'll have our full support, but we'll have to wait to see before it happens.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday commuting

Commuting on Sundays in Auckland is a challenge, what with a dearth of buses in town, K Road nightlife debris trying to get on the bus, trying to find the right change and trying to stay awake during the trip, it's life as you can see on no other day in town.
But Fullers does a good job with hourly services, and Starflyte even arrived a minute early (8:33:50) so my congratulations. Please don't fine the captain for putting his foot on the accelerator.
No how about a few more boats on Sunday night so a night out in town will be feasible?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Fullers run on time

A flyer was handed out to passengers by ferry staff on Wednesday night - always an occasion for apprehension because it usually spells bad news of some kind, either boat breakdowns (Jet Raider gave up the ghost after two weeks during this year's Superflyte survey - surely a record!) or fare increase announcements.

But no, instead it told us of the installation of a new feature on Pier 2: an electronic clock. The aim is to co-ordinate the boat clocks with the wharf clocks so everybody will know what time it is that the ferry leaves. Finally, 160 years after England standardised its timezone due to the arrival of the railway, Auckland ferry time clocks on board and on land will now be GPS controlled. How that will contributes to the sum total happiness of the population remains a mystery, but I can think of one useful feature: it will enable everybody to see, to the second, whether the Fullers publicity claim of 35 minutes to and from Waiheke corresponds with reality.
On Thursday morning I arrived at 8.38.50, which is a 10% delay. Feel free to keep noting down arrival times and mail it to us.
Arrival times are far more relevant to passengers than departure times since onward connections are made or lost by any delays.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Integrated ticketing: creeping closer

From the Auckland Regional Council:
ARC chairman (and Waiheke Islander) Mike Lee heaped praised on the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for achieving a break-through on integrated ticketing.
ARTA and NZTA today announced they will work with an experienced French company, Thales, to develop a system for Auckland’s buses, trains and ferries.
Mr Lee called integrated ticketing a “key piece in the public transport jigsaw” which would enable a quantum leap forward for Auckland public transport patronage.
“Seamless movement between trains, buses and ferries using a smartcard ticket will make public transport a much more attractive option for Aucklanders.”
ARTA began the tender process for the ticketing system last year but it was delayed by an NZTA review, instigated in part by a rival tenderer.
“While the delay has been disappointing, the system has now passed rigorous checks with flying colours – especially in terms of national application.”
“Because of this, the technical work carried out by ARTA and the tenderer is now being picked up by NZTA as the basis of a national integrated ticketing programme, which will allow regions throughout the country to share costs,” Mike Lee says.
“This is a great outcome.”
Central and local government are sharing the project costs.
In February, the ARC was looking at a capital investment of $32 million to fund the region’s share of the system, but Mr Lee said the final capital cost to Auckland ratepayers would now be very much reduced.
“Negotiations between the parties are still proceeding, so we are not at liberty to say how large the reduction will be.”
However, the reduction would be “significant”.
“Great news for public transport, great news for Auckland ratepayers.”
National application would be good as there is little to be gained from developing local unlinked systems when transport is integrated nationally.

My idea would be to have a cap on your weekly spend on your public transport needs, say $50, which you would load on your "Orca Card" and swipe with whatever transport company you want and need to use within the Auckland region. The ARTA would then become the card fare collector and distributor of the loot to the transport companies based on the swipes they collect. (An analogy would be Pharmac buying drugs in bulk and thus suppressing the cost to the end consumer). It would be a transparent system, easy to use, would not lock you in for a long period, and thus attract far more customers than currently use public transport.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TV One news coverage

The Supercity Select Committee hearing in Waiheke Island heard from a variety of islanders on a wide variety of subjects from waste to local community empowerment and public transport.
Shirin of the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares spoke on the campaign's behalf:
First, public transport regulation issues:
ARTA – or whatever organisation replaces ARTA should be an independent body reporting to the GAC, rather than a department.

Integrated ticketing needs to be a priority for GAC. This would allow a competitor to compete fairly on the Waiheke to Auckland run. At the moment, the commuters are the lifeline for Fullers. The monthly pass allows unlimited travel on Stagecoach buses and on buses on Waiheke, making it nearly impossible for another company to compete.

We also need an affordability criteria and a look at standardising fares across the Auckland region – It shouldn’t cost as much to go 5 kms on Waiheke as it does to get from Auckland Central to Henderson.
If the Half Moon Bay ferry is $13.40 return, why is a Waiheke ferry $32 return, for the same distance travelled?

Secondly, ownership of the wharves needs to be clarified and a system whereby a competitor can be guaranteed berthage at competitive times.

Thirdly, Waiheke needs an effective transport management plan which recognises Matiatia as a transport hub for islanders getting off the island as well as tourists trying to access the island. Transport plans have been made before but are not followed.
Over the last 20 years people have been asking for a more flexible bus service - smaller buses with better coverage. It shouldn’t take 50 minutes to get from Rocky Bay to Matiatia, before you even start your journey into town.
Also Matiatia is primarily set up for tourists and selling tours.
The local population don’t need a flash terminal – they need a place which is safe and warm to wait, free parking within easy access to the wharf and a system with flexibility for the different users (people with bags, families with young children, cyclists and motorcyclists).
A plan needs to combine the needs of all users but then needs follow through.

Fourthly, we support greater autonomy for decision-making on Waiheke.
The Auckland City Council continually fails to represent us or act in our interest. We would like a local council to have greater decision making powers in terms of infrastructure and transport decisions. They are a cross-section of elected representatives who live within the community and their authority should be respected.
Local councillors and council workers recognise the importance of sustainability because they also live on this island. This carries through in terms of waste, use of water, management of septic waste. The more decision making that can be carried out locally, the better.

TV One News clip:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All in the same boat

The Select Committee hearing submissions the Auckland Council Bill arrived on Waiheke this morning, and I was pleased to see that the eminent MPs were treated to a ride on the Jet Raider. I imagine it was experience far removed from their spacious and comfortable seats in The House, and I hope it has imprinted on them what the conditions the hordes of commuters they encountered on the gang plank are faced with daily.

C4FFF is making a submission in person to the Committee on public transport issues to be faced by the new Auckland Council.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Like the back of a bus

Maxx, the Auckland public transport hub and website, has launched a competition to come up with catchy slogans on why on earth you want to be on the bus instead of the comforts of your own car. It can include your own picture plastered all over the back of a bus if you are one of the winning entries to be published and driven around town.
So it is also a good opportunity to make a little fun of Maxx and the dire state of public transport in Auckland. After all, the overwhelming majority of commuters use their cars instead of the inconvenient buses, creaky trains or expensive ferries.
So get creative and enter some cringe inducing witticisms that should shake the transport regulator's complacency.

Here are mine:
- I pay Fullers $3,780 a year and I still can't get on this bus.
- One ticket to go on train, bus and ferry. Old people can, why can't everybody else?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Those dark, dark days

Winter is upon us. You reflect while you are shivering on Pier 2, dark, windy and wet. Nothing much changes year to year in ferry transport, really. The old shelter sheds have been replaced by a cavernous, sails-inspired structure that protects nobody against the stiff northeasterly wind or driving westerly rain. To save on power only half the lights are turned on, which makes it too dark to read, even if your paper doesn't blow away. And you are not allowed to sit anywhere on the steely cold benches. No: for over a year there have been "structural improvements" going on on Pier 2 (I'm not talking the addition of a forlorn Esquire cafe hut). The amount of time it is taking to strengthen Pier 2 is not imbibing me with confidence on how long it will take to get Queen's Wharf up to scratch for the rugby party animals in 2011.

And since it is that darkest period of year again, Fullers is treating us with daily rides over the coming weeks on everybody's favourite boat, the Jet Raider. The "Superflyte on survey" is an annual event to show its customers who really is boss, and if you dare to murmur criticism of inappropriate timing, daily lateness and uncomfortable rides in the said nor'easter, there is always the threat of a fare increase.
Happy commuting!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ferry transfer mid-harbour

Cross-posted from CountryMike at Waiheke Radio:
Last night (Thurs 25 June) the 8.45pm Auckland to Waiheke ferry suffered a breakdown that resulted in pasengers being transferred mid-harbour to another ferry. The following is an eyewitness report from one of the ferry passengers.
"It was a normal 8:45pm sailing and I headed upstairs on the Wanderer. Shortly after departure I popped down to the bar for the obligatory Merlot, Without warning I felt myself falling backwards as the boat suddenly lost all power. A cruise ship had just departed Auckland so I assumed we had slowed down to let it pass.
You think something is wrong when the men with the stripes on their shoulders start running backwards and forwards, you know something is wrong when all the lights go out.
So there we were, just off the container wharf, drifting powerless and lightless toward the shipping lane and the path of the departing cruise liner...
I went back to my merlot, placed a few tweats on a rapidly flattening phone, observed other commuters texting and ringing loved ones, watched the cruise ship sail past; more men with stripes running backward and forward, now with torches, “shall I try restarting the genset?”, lights come on, drop anchor.
The Seaflyte returning from Half Moon Bay pulled alongside, we transferred via the wheelhouse and on our way back to Waiheke.
To the Fullers staff and crew: a big thumbs up for a well executed mid harbour manoeuvre in unusual circumstances and cheers for the free beer".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nikky Kaye MP to present C4FFF Accountability Petition to Parliament (updated)

This Monday 29 June, Campaign for Fare Ferry Fares (C4FFF) will be presenting Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye with a petition signed by more than 500 people, calling for accountability on the Matiatia to Auckland ferry route that is currently operated by Fullers (Souter Holdings).
Nikki Kaye will be meeting with C4FFF on Monday and has agreed to present the petition to parliament on behalf of her constituents, as part of the discussion on the Public Transport Management Act.
The petition, now signed by more than 1000 people, calls for a mechanism of accountability so that fares cannot be raised without consultation with the governing transport authority, and for regulation or fair competition on the Matiatia to Auckland route.
C4FFF spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart says with the review of the Transport Management Act looming, this is a key moment to request regulation or accountability of some kind before more residents are forced to leave the island.
‘Our long term future is at stake each time diesel goes up. Our economy is deeply affected by who can afford to commute and live here, and who can afford to visit. Should the future of our ferry link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No! Let’s get some accountability into the equation, before our Waiheke community loses the diversity we treasure so much.’

C4FFF members will also travel in person to Wellington to talk to members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee when the Public Transport Management Act goes under discussion later this year – presenting the petition on behalf of the signatories gives them this opportunity to speak.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red hot deals

Amazing how precarious island life is when one of its key infrastructure elements is taken out of action for a length of time. Last Saturday night the Woolworths supermarket suffered fire damage to the extent that the supermarket will be closed for at least 2 to 3 weeks and will not be fully operational, like, probably ever or before a new one is built in Ostend in about 2 years' time.
It is of course hardly a civil defence emergency, and various other market players have stepped up to fill the market demand for shopping services, including Woolworths itself, which is for the first time offering online shopping to Waiheke (the island being the only area in New Zealand deprived from such service before - you could get your groceries delivered to Stewart Island but not Waiheke). The other online shop, FoodDirect, is island-run.

The transport companies are doing their bit too, with Sealink's fortuitous June $50 open return offer (unrelated to the fire) now extended for July too.
Fullers is doing a shopper's fare too (a reduced fare return for the 10am to 3pm sailings, with a free shuttle to the supermarket thrown in). I can't actually find that deal on the Fullers website but it's mentioned in a NZ Herald report. It is also unclear whether this shoppper's fare will be retained now that the supermarket has reopened.

Amazing what competition can achieve.

UPDATE: Now that the Woolworths supermarket has partially reopened the internet service has been cancelled by Woolworths.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Integrated ticketing: still a distant dream

From Computerworld / Stuff:
Auckland local authorities have trimmed the budget for a new integrated ticketing system for local transport and now plan to borrow to fund the project.
Yesterday, the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) decided to borrow $15 million and deliver what its chairman, Mike Lee, descibes as an "economy model" integrated ticketing system to allow commuters to travel across the city on different modes of transport with a single ticket.
However, the plan still depends on further funding being granted by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
"We're putting the ball back in the government's court."
This is an issue that even a super-city structure will have trouble with setting up, implementing and running, given the balkanised set up of public transport systems in Auckland.
Tha aim of an Auckland Oyster Card should be: all systems, all passengers, all times, all routes, all areas. And to include all Waiheke public transport.

The London Oyster card, as an example, isn't perfect in all these aspects either: National Rail surface trains are excluded from the system (with a temporary exemption over the coming days as the London Tube will be on strike)

Fullers to buy Kawau Kat Cruises

Fullers is looking to expand its reach over the harbour ferry business by buying its competitor in the commuting, cruising and touring business. Kawau Kat Cruises offers services from the CBD to Gulf Harbour and Coromandel, apart from tourist cruises to Kawau and Tiri Tiri Matangi.
The National Business Review reports that:
Fullers Group has now lodged a clearance application with the Commerce Commission to buy Kiwi Kat Ltd, which operates Kawau Kat Cruises.
The consolidation in the ferry business continues apace with this further setback to any possibilities of ever getting a viable competitive service.
Let's see whether the Commerce Commission is more than a rubber-stamping watchdog.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Waiheke island public transport survey

The Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares has launched a public survey to gauge usage and opinion of the various public transport modes and infrastructure available to them.
The survey is anonymous and open to anyone who uses Fullers, Waiheke Bus Company and the wharves.

Please feel free to take the survey via this link.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Give us cake or we'll take the bus instead

Half Moon Bay Fullers ferry users group (HMB FUG) were treated to an afternoon of cake and cruise to celebrate 10 years of ferry linking between the eastern suburbs and the CBD.
A report from the Howick & Pakuranga Times:
More than 100 guests boarded the ferry for a celebration cruise organised by the Half Moon Bay Ferry User Group in conjunction with Fullers.
The afternoon was spent sailing to the southern end of Waiheke Island and back to Motutapu, where passengers disembarked to visit the Reid Homestead. A barbecue on board followed and an anniversary cake was cut.
Since the first sailing by City Cat, patronage has grown to the point where most peak-time commuter sailings are close to capacity, says Cheryl Williams who chairs the ferry user group.
The group was formed in collaboration with Fullers in 2006 in response to the need to deal with matters relating to the service.
As a result the group has successfully campaigned for the installation of a shelter, improved car park lighting and the continued service by Fullers.
A monthly pass costs $226 for Half Moon Bay. The distance travelled isn't much less than to Waiheke but a Waiheke pass costs almost 50 per cent more (inclusion of Stagecoach bus service is irrelevant as Half Moon Bay passengers can buy a Howick & Eastern monthly all-zone bus pass for $159 instead and be done with the ferry). The Half Moon Bay service attracts an ARTA subsidy.
So congratulations on the Howickeds and Pakurangutans for their affordable service, not least the successful ARTA screwing down the subsidy demanded by Fullers last year.
Now where is our cake (and affordable fare to go with it)?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Monopoly power horror

This caught my eye in the news today, from the NZ Herald:
The Commerce Commission released its long-awaited report into the electricity market.
It concluded each of the four big generators - Meridian, Contact, Genesis and Mighty River - has been exercising the power the market's design gives them to command unjustifiably high prices, at least during years when inflows to the hydro lakes are low as they were in 2001, 2003 and 2006.
But this did not amount to a breach of the Commerce Act, the commission said. It was a lawful and rational exploitation of the opportunities the market gave generators and they would not be hauled before a court. [...]
Residential power prices rose by two-thirds between 2000 and 2007, or 5 per cent a year faster than general inflation
It would be easy to substitute the company names with the company that holds a monopoly position on the Auckland - Waiheke run, and come to the exact same conclusion - which the Commerce Commission actually did when asked about monopoly practices by Fullers a few months ago, giving it a clean bill of health since "it was a lawful and rational exploitation of the opportunities the market gave" Fullers.
And it is interesting to see that monopoly pricing behaviour is following a general pattern: that sweet spot you are striving towards as a company when you can charge more than general inflation.
To quote Milton Friedman (lest you want to accuse me of leftwing bias):
Monopoly implies absence of alternatives and thereby inhibits freedom of exchange. Monopolies exist because of failure to create a "real" free market, because of "market inefficiency". Dynamic changes are highly likely to undermine monopoly and there is at least some chance that these will be allowed to have their effect."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Public meeting aftermath

A productive and informative meeting was held at the Ostend Hall last Saturday on the transport issues on the island, prompted by a good amount of activism, animosity and law changes over the past 6 months.
Good to see a big variety of people and organisations represented, including FUG, Waiheke Bus Co and Sealink, despite a dearth of politicians and policy makers. A big boo to ARTA for not showing up. As the public transport regulator in Auckland it should be their priority, being at the heart of the problems and the solutions, to step up.
A wide variety of topics got briefly discussed or mentioned or debated and it was hardly a "Fullers-bashing" session some have described it as, and who probably were never there. Despite there being no-one from Fullers, I'm sure they got a detailed briefing on what was said by whom.

The next steps for C4FFF is to get the petition to the ARTA and parliament to get things moving under the Public Transport Management Act.
And the survey, which is still available for responses (see link in the blog item at the top of this page) and which will be collated and analysed for public use.
It is shaping up to be an interesting mine of suggestions, criticism and praise, and we won't be shy to share them with the ferry operators, regulators and the media in due course

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Former Gulf News editor dies

From the NZ Herald:
An Auckland man who jumped from the Devonport Ferry on the North Shore on Sunday afternoon has died in hospital.
He has been named as Simon Johnston, 53.
Mr Johnston rushed through an exit door and attempted to jump off the ferry, back onto the wharf, while it was leaving the terminal shortly before 4.30pm on Sunday, witnesses told police.
A Fullers crewman alerted the rest of the crew, then put on a lifejacket and jumped into the water to help.
Mr Johnston was rescued from the sea by the Coastguard and resuscitated, before being taken to North Shore Hospital for treatment to a head injury.
Police interviewed a number of passengers and witnesses at the terminal who confirmed the man was a ferry passenger who had attempted to jump to the wharf.
Simon was until last year the editor of the Waiheke Gulf News, and you can read a selection of his work on the Gulf News website. He was also an accomplished musician who often, after a hard day's work, played his guitar at many Waiheke social events and venues.
If you have any particular memories of Simon, you can share them on his Waihekepedia page.

Friday, May 1, 2009

C4FFF petition

Community Consultation for future fare rises is a must!

Make Fullers Accountable to ARTA and the Waiheke Community.

Future ferry and bus fare increases are going to affect working families, students and all members of the Waiheke community who commute or travel to and from the city. Will you be consulted about the next fare rise? No! Will it affect your life? Yes! Should the future of our ferry and bus link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No!’

We the undersigned, call for the following:

1) A mechanism of accountability to be put into place so that Fullers cannot raise our ferry and bus fares without consulting ARTA or the governing transport authority and the community of Waiheke

2) Regulation or fair competition on the Fullers ferry route

3) Affordable and sustainable public transport for Waiheke for the future


This petition is supported by the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares and the Better Bus Action Group.
If you want to help us collect signatures please print out this petition.

Monday, April 27, 2009

C4FFF calls for accountability by Fullers

Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares (C4FF) has hit out at recent claims by Fullers CEO Doug Hudson (see Marketplace article, 22 April) that it has not benefited from the SuperGold scheme.

In the Marketplace article, Fullers CEO Doug Hudson claimed, ‘Half the GoldCard passengers are now travelling free instead of paying fares of one type or another’. Dr Urquhart responds, ‘That is ridiculous! Fullers are reimbursed at 75% of the standard fare, $25.18 per return, which is above most concession fares, so clearly they are not losing money – we estimate a profit to their bottom line of 20%” says Dr Urquhart.

Mr Hudson also claimed that current passenger levels are about the same as they were a year ago. Dr Urquhart responds, ‘It’s obvious to anyone using the boats that there has been a huge increase since SuperGold was introduced last year. If that is true – we’d like to see the numbers! The problem is we never see the numbers, because Fullers are not accountable to anyone.’

C4FFF wants Fullers to be held accountable to the community, and to the statutory public transport body (currently ARTA). Campaign spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart says, ‘Our long term future is at stake each time diesel goes up. Our economy is deeply affected by who can afford to commute and live here, and who can afford to visit. Should the future of our ferry link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No!’

In response, the group is launching a petition – Your Future is in Their Hands – at 7am Matiatia Wharf on Friday 1 May, calling for future accountability from the monopoly, now owned by Souter Holdings Ltd. Ferry fares have increased by 46% since 2002, and the cost of living has gone up by 26% in the same period (see attached graph analysis). This has resulted in some low income families and young people being forced off the island.

The group will put up a visual display – including graphs and banners – at the wharf, to graphically illustrate the dwindling purchasing power of the ferry users’ dollar since 2002.

Dr Urquhart adds, ‘The first step for the future is to get a mechanism of accountability in place so that Fullers can’t just put up the fares when they want. There should be dialogue with the community and with ARTA – or the governing transport authority – first. We need to have our say right now about the future affordability of ferries and buses on the island, before it’s too late!’

C4FFF is also co-sponsoring a public meeting to address those issues with the Better Buses Action Group. The meeting will be held at Ostend Memorial Hall on Saturday 16 May. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, Hauraki Gulf Cr Denise Roche, ARTA General Manager Peter Clarke, ARC Leader Mike Lee, CEO of Fullers Doug Hudson have all been invited. The meeting will focus on issues of future accountability and affordability and call for submissions on the draft Public Transport Management Plan, due to be released on May 1.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

C4FFF releases SuperGold Card figures

Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares (C4FFF) has released new figures for the government funded SuperGold scheme, showing Fullers Ferries reaping significant financial gains since the scheme was implemented late last year. A total of $756,429 (excluding GST) was claimed by Fullers from the SuperGold reimbursement scheme for Waiheke ferry services between 1 October 2008 and 28 February 2009. This means that 23% of the subsidy that ARTA is claiming from the government is being received by Fullers for Waiheke ferry services. The group estimates that Fullers are carrying approximately 3000 SuperGold passengers each week.

Campaign spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart said that the new owner of Fullers, Souter Holdings – which announced its purchase of Fullers from Infratil on 6 April – will be under continued, strong pressure in 2009 to pass on the benefits of SuperGold profits and low diesel prices to Waiheke commuters.

"Fullers is pocketing a huge benefit from the Supergold card scheme and the falling diesel prices, but they haven’t yet passed on those savings in a fair and transparent way," says C4FFF spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart. "Fullers earnings before tax are estimated to be $5 million as at 31 March 2009. So we estimate that the Supergold subsidy represents a 20% windfall by the end of winter. Far from Infratil divesting itself from an underperforming business by selling Fullers to Souter Holdings, it would seem that Fullers is still doing very nicely thank you!"

"We will be watching Fullers performance very carefully in the coming months. Issues such as transparent and affordable fares, passenger levies, fuel surcharges, safeguarded bus concessions and integrated ticketing must be debated with the community, or we have simply exchanged one monopoly for another."

Dr Urquhart is urging Waiheke residents to attend the public meeting organised by C4FF on Saturday 16 May at 2pm, Ostend Memorial Hall, to discuss transport issues for the island. The group is also offering its assistance for public submissions under the PTMP.

"We want to urge Waiheke Islanders to take an active role in determining the future of sustainable and affordable transport for their community, and we have invited local operators, councillors and MPs to be a part of that dialogue – so come along and have your say!"

People who would like to know more about the public meeting and receive a template submission form for the Public Transport Management Plan, can contact C4FFF for further information.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Super Gold Card loot

C4FFF obtained the official information figures on how much Fullers has raked in from the Government Super Gold Card subsidies.
A tidy sum of $756,000 went straight to Fullers' bottom line as it was achieved and received without any increase in costs for the company: hardly any extra staff or sailing had to be put on the Waiheke run (and it showed in the groaning boats over the summer).
The Herald reports:
Excursions to the island by an average of just over 200 pensioners a day accounted for almost a quarter of the Government's contribution to free off-peak travel on trains, buses and ferries throughout the Auckland region. [...] Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares spokeswoman Cathy Urquhart, who obtained the Government subsidy breakdown from the transport authority, says she is not begrudging senior citizens and war pensioners the freedom of her island.
"That's absolutely fine, seeing them all over the island," she said yesterday. "But at the same time we've got young people having to move off the island because they can't afford the fares. Fullers is pocketing a huge benefit from the Super Gold card scheme and the falling diesel prices, but haven't yet passed on those savings in a fair and transparent way."
Dr Urquhart's group campaigned fiercely against increases in ferry fares in October after Fullers blamed hefty fuel and maintenance cost rises. Although Fullers has since reduced one fare and also partly rescinded increases on other routes, the group has continued to press for more cuts as diesel prices have kept falling.
It issued a table yesterday claiming that the monthly Waiheke fare was now 23 per cent higher in terms of how much diesel it could buy than an average level since mid-2005.
Fullers responded with the usual bleating of other rising costs and the purchase of two inappropriate vessels from Tasmania who can't do the Waiheke run when the wind is blowing. But no response of the hypocrisy of using diesel hikes to increase fares and then denying a fare discount when diesel prices are at 2 year lows.
The drop in patronage that "has now been stemmed" was due to the gouging the company indulged in last year. Ferries were the only public transport mode that lost customers last year. It's not rocket science to find out why.
So now Fullers pockets are lined with out tax dollars, plus monopoly fares. Congratulations, Brian Souter, you bought a money printing press.

Friday, April 3, 2009

After dark rip off

Something I hadn't noticed before, not being a casual ferry ticket buyer, but has apparently been going on for yonks. When you want to take the Fullers ferry from Waiheke later in the evening you cannot buy a ticket at Matiatia wharf because all the staff have gone home for the night. You have to buy a ticket on the boat. But Fullers charges an extra $5 on top of your fare for the privilege.

So if I get this straight: you have to pay a $5 surcharge even though the Fullers saves on closing its ticket counter.
And this is not the case at the Auckland wharf.

Four words (borrowed from Catherine Tate): What a fucking liberty.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Come on Fullers, where's our pay off?

We all remember that breathless and melodramatic press release by Fullers in August last year announcing that due to the eye popping diesel prices, ferry fares needed to rise from $300 to $344. The diesel price was emphasised in their justification to gouge us.

Now that the diesel prices have collapsed over the last three months to levels ($0.97c/litre) seen in August 2005, December 2005 and February 2007, we could be forgiven for thinking that fares could be restored to those contemporary levels too. What is good for Fullers should be after all be good for those customers that keep laying the golden eggs for Infratil.

So, come on, Fullers, the fares should drop to $260 a month if you had any sense of integrity (and were faithful to your own PR spin)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We'll Take You There..Well Actually, We Won't!

Last week I was left stranded and speechless with two fellow passengers as the 5pm ferry left at 459pm by the Max Electronic Board which shows departures. We were actually there at 458pm. We argued with the guy closing the gate - the ramp was already up - but he insisted that he 'had let three people on already' (a quota of late people??) and that the 'Captain's watch' said it was time to go. In vain did we show him the Max time, the other clock time, and our own timekeeping devices! All this while a crew member who could have let down the ramp was clearly in view. Two of us missed commitments on the island. What was especially galling was that this member of staff (Brian) didn't even apologise, not once.
We decided to fill in the half hour between ferries by filling in synchronised complaint forms. In their reply to my complaint, Fullers say 'they agree that there is an issue with the synchronisation of clocks on the wharf' and 'have in fact just discussed this matter with ARTA'. No apology for the rude member of staff. They do promise that they are working on this 'to ensure that there is a standard departure time our customers can rely on', but no timescale for this is given!

I'd really like to know, too, whether the ramp goes up at the point of departure, or a minute or thirty seconds prior. They need to be absolutely clear about this. Is the last boarding time actually one minute to departure? People could be forgiven for thinking that if the ferry departs at 5pm, they can get there just seconds before. It wouldn't do any harm for Fullers to be completely clear about what their boarding processes are, would it? Of course, this would necessitate seeing things from the point of view of the customer, something that monopolies don't have to do..

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


From the AA press release:
Fuel prices were steadier for the month of February compared to January, with a litre of petrol ultimately ending the month just one cent higher than at the start. According to AA PetrolWatch, 91 octane petrol began the month on $1.63 per litre in the main centres, rising to $1.72, before falling to $1.64. By comparison, diesel prices fell from $1.04 per litre to $1.01, after briefly rising to $1.07 earlier in the month.
AA Senior Policy Analyst Mark Stockdale says “international refined petrol prices stabilised during the month after increasing all through January. Refined prices then began to fall in late February and pump prices followed. However, the size of the pump price drop was diminished by a fall in the New Zealand exchange rate, which then put the brakes on another price reduction.”
“While international refined diesel prices, like crude oil, have remained fairly stable since the start of the year, they also began to fall in late February, which led to the lowest diesel pump price since April 2007.”
The lower diesel prices have seen the gap between diesel and petrol increase to 63 cents, from as little as 27 cents during the peak fuel prices in July 2008.
“Diesel users are currently having a good run from the lower prices, after being badly hit in the pocket last year. Currently, a two-litre diesel car will be saving about $1000 in fuel costs over 14,000 kilometres compared to an equivalent petrol-engined car, or $484 when including the cost of purchasing Road User Charges,” says Mr Stockdale.
According to AA PetrolWatch, this time last year petrol was retailing for $1.75 per litre and diesel $1.29 per litre.
So diesel is down just under 3% in the month. Straight to the Fullers bottom line, again.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A "free" bus system

It pays to occasionally look overseas for examples of how other communities tackle their transport problems.
One interesting experiment is the Belgian city of Hasselt (pop. 70,000), whose City Council in 1997 decided to (partly) subsidise bus travel within the city, making it free for residents to use. It's called the zero fare system.
After 11 years of operation, a few national politicians are now demanding a scientific study into the social and economic effects and effectiveness of that system.
The costs are estimated to be "almost 5m euro" (about NZ$12m) a year, borne by the City Council, the regional Flemish Government and national public transport company De Lijn. In cost distribution terms, all Flemish people pay 50 euro cents a year, but Hasselt residents pay 21 euro a year in local tax to pay for the free bus.
The uptake of the free bus system increased 13-fold since 1997, but is in relative terms actually quite limited: only 9.3% of residents use buses for commuting purposes. Other cities without a zero fare system have actually a higher uptake. This is leading to the conclusion that it's not the fare level but the frequency and public transport network density which largely determines whether people will forsake using their cars for commuting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Waiheke Bus "optional" routes

I seem to strike particularly terrible bus drivers on Waiheke. They are either late, don't know where they are going or batty.
On Sunday night getting slow route 3 home to Surfdale I expected to get off at a bus stop in Wellington Road. But instead the driver went straight ahead to Ostend without making the customary detour through East Surfdale.
When remarking to him that he forgot to turn left he said that the detour is "optional" and I should have asked him before we started at Matiatia.
I had never heard of optional bus routes on Waiheke. Are there many of them? Is the Waiheke Bus Company really a taxi company and if you ask the driver nicely he'll drop you off at your door? (Considering the huge fares the WBC is charging, the taxi companies in many cases in price-competitive against the bus!) Or does "optional" mean "when the bus driver can be bothered"?
I was also wondering how long passengers at "optional" bus stops have to wait until a bus appears.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pier 2 Auckland

We mustn't forget the other end of our commuting ordeal, the wharf system in Auckland City, which is maintained and financed by (mostly) the passenger levies on Waiheke travellers. The dispute between Auckland City and Fullers over the wharf tax (which is in practice a "departure tax" similar to what used to be levied separately at Auckland International Airport) is still ongoing and unresolved and still being collected by Fullers and still sitting in a high interest earning account. But that isn't the subject of my entry here.

This morning the 8am Superflyte docked at the western end of Pier 2, where the Halfmoon Bay ferries depart from. It has for years had an impressive double gangway, complete with a somewhat aesthetically pleasing canopy and hydraulic floatation and levitation devices. The problem is that it has been months (I can't recall the last time) since it has last been used by disembarking passengers. All have to use the lower gangway, no matter how heavy the demand is, leading to delays in disembarkation. Why is this? Is it another engineering white elephant like the Matiatia $360,000 sheep run? Does anyone actually know, let alone care? Hello, come in, ARTA?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

C4FFF on Waiheke Radio

Via Shirin: Local radio programme, Vocal Local, broadcasting on Waiheke Radio (88.3FM and 107.4FM), will interview Cathy Urquhart on what's going on with C4FFF.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Free showers on Superflyte too

Not only has the Quickcat ongoing problems with leaking airconditioning units spouting water all over passenger seats (have these people never heard of Legionnaire's disease?), Superflyte now has water leak problems with its system too. The middle gangway upstairs now resembles a dripping forest. At least it goes on the carpet and not on the seats.
Soppy carpet, hmmmmm.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Taking lessons from the other side of the world

In case Fullers are worried about fuel going up anytime soon, they need to look at the Isle of Wight ferries in the UK, who have a simple fuel surcharge indexed to Brent Crude oil (in our case it would probably be Dubai Crude).

It's interesting to note, too, that Isle of Wight residents have a 'Ferry Fares Fair' campaign. The issues for any island community, once fuel prices get to a certain level, appear to be the same.

Fullers could certainly improve their ticketing practices, too. Isle of Wight Ferries not only offer yearly passes, but the ability to pay for them by direct debit!

Given that Fullers are a private operator of our only public transport to the CBD, it doesn't seem at all unreasonable to me that they look at these options. Transport options shape our community. I'm still hearing tales of young people who can't afford to live here - the most recent was a couple who moved back to the CBD - with the money saved on commuting, they plan to save up for a deposit on a new house - on Waiheke! Of course, commuting from Waiheke may still be too expensive. It's this sort of social impact we need to be aware of.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Update on "The appalling bus ride"

I received a letter from Fullers Waiheke Bus Company management today regards the racist behaviour of one of their drivers. It says they "have spoken with the driver concerned and are happy with the outcome." No specification what the "outcome" was. It certainly wasn't giving him the sack because I have seen him drive a bus last Monday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free showers on the ferry

I was on the 4.00 on Anniversary day and could not sit at a window seat upstairs because all the air conditioning units were leaking on to the seats and tables. Very 'Third World'. A staff member came and had a bemused look at the situation but nothing was rectified. Brent

C4FFF response to the February price changes

From the press release:
This is a victory not only for the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares but the whole community. Many commuters took the time to write to Fullers and their elected representatives. Mike Lee was very vocal in his support for the campaign. Denise Roche and Nikki Kaye also actively helped. FUG contributed by keeping a communication channel with Fullers open.

I am delighted to see these reductions, it gives much needed relief to hard pressed commuters and the island economy. I note that Fullers say that they are rethinking how they set fares in future and this is also very welcome news. I hope this will mean much wider community consultation on fare levels, and a fuel surcharge if appropriate.

Remember that, even with the current reductions, the cost of ferry travel is still pricing lower wage earners off the island and impacting negatively on the local economy. This issue needs to be addressed by a cooperative effort involving ARTA (Auckland Regional Transport Authority), ARC, Fullers and the Waiheke Community. Options include fostering competition, regulated pricing and/or route subsidies. C4FFF is now focused on promoting a constructive and robust debate during the public consultation phase of the Draft Public Transport Management Plan for Waiheke due to commence in May or June this year.

Monday, January 26, 2009

February fare changes

The monthly pass for February will cost $315, only a $4 drop on the Dec/Jan pass prices, which in turn only represented a partial $25 fall from its lofty heights of $344. It still means a 5% price increase on 12 months, which is higher than CPI 2008 inflation. Such are the joys of a monopoly operator: the cost plus plus plus mentality.

Single fares will remain at current prices. I never thought Fullers could feasibly drop the single fares as it would cut into the Supergold Card bonanza it is enjoying at the taxpayer's expense.
Meanwhile diesel prices are at 5 year lows. The golden weather continues for Fullers.
We wish Mr Morrison, CEO of Infratil, owners of Fullers, a speedy recovery. You know you can count on your loyal customers to come up with the dosh to pay your health bills.

UPDATE 27 JAN: It's official now: the commuter fares are the only ones dropping by a few dollars. 10 rides are $125, worker's weeklies at $83. The 40-trip is $415, which is the biggest drop from $448.
The Fullers leaflet accompanying the changes states rather ominously:
This reduction is in response to recent fuel price decreases. Fullers is also undertaking a general review of the way its fares are set. We expect this new approach to our fares to better reflect our operating environment, including international fluctuations in the price of fuel and the influence of exchange rates. As a result, fares will be more frequently reviewed and changed.
We shall have to make suggestions and submissions on future fare policies. And thinking outside the box is necessary.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rock the boat

3:00pm from city via Devonport. Boat choc a bloc by the time it reached Devonport. Many people had their luggage on the seats (the offenders were mostly Waiheke people). No announcements from Fullers to remind passengers about taking up seats with luggage. Staff too busy trying to sort out who was drinking illicit (i.e. not purchased from Fullers) alcohol.

Party island

Stonyridge organised one of its dance parties on Saturday night, always a tense time for Fullers as it doesn't really control the numbers that will turn up, with sometimes disastrous results. Not that they object to selling more ferry tickets than they can actually transport since your ticket is not actually a guaranteed seat on the boat of your choice, just a vague promise to get you to Waiheke at some time in the future.
Things seemed to have gone smoothly, the 6pm Saturday Quickcat from town was not very full, just a happy band of party goers trying to dodge the still leaking airconditioning units: at least one booth of seats was blocked off by staff to prevent party frocks getting prematurely soaked.

This morning (Sunday) a few dozen were snoozing on the first boat back home, but I didn't hear anyone being stranded. I heard Stonyridge, sensibly, chartered a vessel for its clients.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quick Quick Slow

I don't know what it is about Wednesdays but Fullers always decides to put the Quickcat on the Superflyte run at 8am ex Waiheke. My fellow wag commuters tell me that Superflyte is used for "maintenance training" at that time, whatever that means (new staff being trained how to pour wine in rough seas? How to ignore using the upper gang plank?).
The downside is that the 8am service is consistently late in arriving (it was 8:45 this morning) mainly due to the non-use of the upper gang plank to speed up embarkation at that busy commuter time. Lack of staff?

As an aside, a Belgian newspaper reports that the Belgian railyways infrastructure company Infrabel is going to be asked to repay 1 million euro in Government support back to the Government because it failed to comply with a plan to improve the punctuality of train traffic (only 90 percent of schedule trains arrive with a delay less than 5 minutes!)
They have ways of making the trains run on time! How about ways to make Auckland ferries arrive on time?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Groaning numbers (2)

I travelled on the 11am to Waiheke via Devonport this morning on a beautiful sunny day, ideal for day trippers. The numbers getting on Superflyte were substantial but not overloading. A good number were added at Devonport and there were very few seats left anywhere.
The trouble came at Matiatia where 3 buses (one of them an extra direct one to Onetangi) were really insufficient to transport the massive crowds. There was standing room only on all buses and surely some passengers were left stranded.
The disembarkation was via both ramps, I'm happy to see, but the large number of elderly passengers with mobility problems made it a still very longwinded process.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Groaning numbers

From Cathy: The 5:30pm from Auckland left at 5:36pm today, due to the sheer numbers getting on and off. It's my feeling that they can't handle the numbers operationally at the moment. I wouldn't mind, but there is rarely an apology for the late departure. With the Supergold subsidy plus all all the tourists, they must be doing very nicely thank you. We are paying a hugely inflated price for a crowded and untimely service at the moment!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

$360,000 and useless

From Lynette: I came back on the 1pm ferry today after spending the morning at Auckland Hospital with an elderly friend. Being one of the smaller ferries it was unable to use our very expensive upper walkway at Matiatia. I would call it a cattle race but you would never have cattle so high up in the air.

Quickcat 3-day breakdown

The Quickcat finally gave out on Sunday night (4 January) and is expected to be back tonight (Wednesday). Nothing like sharing the Jet Raider with screaming children and people with suitcases full of unwanted Xmas presents. Needless to say the timetable has gone out of the window. You can now safely turn up late at the wharf but don't make time-sensitive appointments at the other end. Tuesday 6:30pm Auckland sailing left 20 mins late.

No word on what the actual fault was on Quickcat. My hunch is that the aircon finally ran out of water, so free showers were no longer on offer to passengers. See, 2009 is barely 7 days old and am already my cynical old self again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The appalling Waiheke bus ride

When you come across subtle racism you don't often tend to notice it immediately, but when you're confronted with a blatant example, it tends to blow me away.

And that is what happened last night on the 6.45pm Onetangi bus.
The bus driver - Alan Davies who last year stood unsuccessfully for the community board and often makes submission at Waiheke community board meetings and is the Waiheke Island Grey Power branch chairman - took it on himself to check everybody's credentials to see whether they qualified for a discounted bus fare. So far so bureaucratically good, I hear you say. There was a mix of Waiheke high and Australian students wanting to get on, they did without trouble and got a student fare after showing their student ID.

When we got to the Red Cross, a Japanese student showed his Japanese student card but Mr Davies was unimpressed and insisted on a full fare, saying: "Only New Zealand high school student cards are valid for discounted fares". The student was bemused, got off the bus and decided to walk instead. Note that the Australian students earlier at Matiatia had no problem (they were young and pretty, always a good tactic).

Then at Blackpool, a mother and daughter got on and the daughter told Mr Davies she was a Waiheke High student but didn't have her student card on her. He let her board at a discounted fare without a murmur.

So do I conclude that Mr Davies is doing a sterling job in keeping the Yellow Peril off our Waiheke buses (and isn't that what we fought for in the War?) and can use discretion and racist attitudes in determining who rides on his bus and at what price?

Hence I have laid a formal complaint with the Waiheke Bus Company about this.